Dec 6, 2008

Post-Surgery Commentary

I just came out of the hospital about a week ago, and shazaam, what an experience! Have you ever had a surgery before? I haven’t, which everyone at the hospital found “incredible for someone as old as you.” What does that mean? They thought Moses is my contemporary, which is so not true, but I did date his much younger brother, Shmoses. What a gentleman!

Anyway, about surgeries. My two sons, Joe my husband (remember, that’s a pseudonym – his real name is Hunky), and my parents have had surgeries, but the hospital experience that I remember the most was when Cindy Brady had her tonsils out. You watched The Brady Bunch, right? (If you’re too young, stop reading this now. You sicken me.) Cindy was scared of the hospital, but after the surgery, there she was, happy as a lark, sitting in her hospital bed eating ice cream with doting Mike and Carol watching over her. It was marvelous and genius writing! So that’s what I was expecting. [Side note to old people: Was it Cindy or Marsha with the tonsils? I can’t imagine it was Jan. She had that fake boyfriend and all those Marsha-envy issues. What a loser.]

So you see why my pre-surgery expectations were that when I woke up, my family, Mr. and Mrs. Brady, Alice, and Sam would be surrounding me and everything would be all happy again? Actually, that’s pretty much how it was, except that only my husband was there. The Brady family had another gig. The surgery went terrific and I felt fantastic for hours . . . until the anesthesia wore off. That’s when all hell broke loose. But let’s not get into ugly, graphic details. On the positive side, the hospital nurses were great. They were helpful and nice.

I also had a TV in my room. It was 5 inches wide and placed 12 feet from my face. Obviously a cruel hoax played by a young person with vision. I didn’t know if I was watching the Spanish channel or Geraldo Rivera on FOX News.

Another disappointment: I specifically requested a young male roommate, but woke to found there was a woman next to me. She was a loud talker. I’m a loud talker too, but not in churches, cemeteries, or hospitals. This woman (who I couldn’t see because of a thin curtain draped between us) AND her noisy visitors all sounded like they were talking through megaphones just beyond the curtain to annoy me. Their voices were garbled too, like when Charlie Brown’s teachers talk to him. When she finally said goodbye to her visitors, I tried to clap obnoxiously but only managed to pull out my IV and knock down the nurse-calling device, the only link between me and the outside world. I couldn’t get to it, so I knew I was screwed. When the visitors left, the darn woman decided to put the TV on really loudly. I wouldn’t have minded if she was elderly, but unless I see a hearing aide, I don’t want to hear it! Hey lady, don’t worry that I just came out of surgery. Of course I want to listen to you watching that annoying soap opera on that 24-hour SOAP channel. What’s it called? I can't remember the name.

Maybe it was the medication, but suddenly angry thoughts filled my head. When I packed for the hospital the night before, I had debated whether to take my harpoon tranquilizer gun that I use when saving wild animals in Africa. In retrospect, I realized I made the wrong decision. If I had brought my harpoon gun, I’d have used it for evil. No, I wouldn’t shoot the woman. I could never harm someone, but I’m sure that shooting the power button on the TV would deliver the right message without exchanging words. Words can leave lasting scars.

Anyway, if you know me, you know I pray all the time, so by 8:00 p.m., my prayers were answered and they released the talker. She went home with her talky husband to her surely barky dog, who she also talked about all evening long.

Then they brought me a really nice roommate who was sadly in a lot of pain too. I was tied to my IV and a catheter and she was bound to her bed too. We must be about the same age because we were similar in action. We kept hitting the nurse call button several times in a row, not knowing a single push was all that was needed. We both wanted the lights off and gasped in surprise every time the nurse switched them on at night. And we'd drop things from our beds every now and then, both knowing it would have to remain on the floor. Our only reaction to losing something off the bed was a slight sigh. We had an unspoken understanding that those items were lost to us forever. We didn't speak to each other. We were in too much pain. But now and then we'd let out a chuckle at our own misfortunes, and I know she and I both found comfort in understanding each other without speaking. She was really a highlight of my stay.

I was offered real food as time progressed. I was tired of broth. I don’t cook well, so I was looking forward to a well-cooked hospital meal. What I didn’t know was that I would be too nauseous to want to eat for the whole week. The smell of anything they brought from the cafeteria made me sick. I figured they couldn’t mess up oatmeal, but they must have hired a blind chef to mix it in the sugar. I tried half a teaspoonful, and felt like I was eating oated sugar-mush. It was horrible. I almost vomited, but thank God I didn’t because I had dropped the vomit catcher on the floor the night before.

Anyway, I’ve said enough about the hospital. It’s been a long week. Lots of downs and a few ups. I am ready to be normal again, but when things got bad yesterday, I spent the whole day in the hospital and learned that my larger fibroid had actually grown in size. It seems that it is a fighter and is reacting adversely to the docs trying to kill it. It was attacked in surgery, bruised, and therefore became swollen, massive, and very angry. When you are pregnant and have a large mass in your body, you fall in love with it. This large fibroid is different. I feel like I’m carrying Satan’s spawn (or Voldemort – for you younger people), and I’m hoping Harry Potter and Hermoine will come and save me from its evil. I know it’s too late to ask for Dumbledore’s help. He died in the fifth book. So right now, the fibroid is winning, which is why I am not doing well, but I feel confident that I will prevail by the time I write my next posting. Otherwise, if you start reading my blog next week and find out that the fibroid is writing, you’d better just shut down your computers and throw them out the windows. It’s really smart and diabolical. I’ll bet it knows how to write a computer virus.

I told the kids that the fibroid had grown and explained why, and then I heard my middle son talking on the phone to his friend. He said to another 14-year-old, “You know how I told you my mom has a fibroid? Well, she bruised it and it grew.” I laughed so hard to myself. What a cutie. I'll bet his 14-year-old friend doesn't even know what a fibroid is. And he probably thinks I fell and bruised it. My husband's reaction to this charming story was “Cute? He’s dumb as a rock!” I disagree. I’ve seen some pretty bright rocks, like Rock Hudson. And he was gorgeous. (Are you young people still reading this? You'd better google "Rock Hudson.")

Anyway, that’s almost it from here. Two final things. First, my entire church prayed for me at every mass last Saturday and Sunday, BUT by mistake they said my name was Rita. There’s probably a Rita out there who is just having the best week of her life, and she has no idea why. Darn Rita.

Second, I know my husband and kids probably won’t read my blog, but I have to say they have been fantastic. My husband has been so helpful and supportive, and only left my hospital room apologetically upon my insistence that he get some food. He’s the best. He and the kids have waited on me hand and foot all week. Thank you Joe. Thank you, boys. Thanks to all the great friends who cooked meals, sent things, checked on me, and called. Thanks to the kid who I'll call "Daniel" who called at 10:45 at night last night to ask if I could have a Indian New Year party for him. I really enjoyed our chat, Mr. Daniel!

Third (out of two), Mom, Dad, and Annabel, I can’t thank you enough for being so concerned too. You weren’t trying to get in my will, were you? If so, think again. Cash speaks a lot louder than your blah, blah, blah. Regardless, you are always there for me, and I am so grateful!

Fourth, thanks to Jill (another pseudonym), my friend who is not a doctor but has watched enough episodes of ER for me to trust her medical counsel whenever I have ailments. I had to call her quite often this week, including at 3:00 a.m., but she hung up on me, yelling, "Stop calling me, Jackie! I hate you." I'm sure she thought it was a prank call. Come to think of it, I'd better try calling her again right now. I'll call collect so she'll know it's me.

Anyway, as my husband said, everyone has been SO nice that he’s planning to schedule a surgery right around Christmas. We can’t wait! Thanks for reading. I’ll keep you “posted.”


Nov 25, 2008

Quickie Mart Woes Don't Dampen Thanksgiving Celebration

Things are not going well at the quickie mart. As you know, Manager Patel left for India, and, unbeknownst to him, I reduced our inventory to just five products. In retrospect, maybe that wasn’t a good idea. Sales have dropped dramatically, and most of our regular customers have not come back. It’s like a ghost-town in the store. Is it because I chose the wrong five items? I’m not sure.

Sometimes new customers come to the store and act surprised when they see so few items. I explain our new gimmick -- how we offer better service because we aren’t wasting our time stocking the numerous products that other convenience stores sell. People respond in disgust. They look at me like I’m crazy. It hurts my feelings. Some curse at me or call me stupid. I retort with, “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but birds will never hurt me,” and then they curse even more. A nun gave me the finger the other day! I think it was a nun. Maybe it was a woman wearing a burka. Regardless, it’s horrible. This anger apparently reflects on the overpopulation of our suburbs. Get too many people in an area and they start getting angry. Look at New Jersey!

Now I am losing sleep over the lack of business and don’t know what to do. I fear that Manager Patel will unleash the wrath of Shiva on me when he returns.

To compound my issues, some upstart kids set up tables in front of the store, selling products for cash. Cookies, I believe. Anyway, those kids did so well in their sales (I couldn’t resist buying some Thin Mints myself) that others have set up tables of wares – canned soda, crafts, shirts, and magazines – right on our store sidewalk. It’s a veritable open-air market out there. And very crowded. I like it so much that I do my Christmas shopping there are lunch time. But I think the crowds outside are hurting our business inside. I don’t think people even notice that there’s a small store here.

One afternoon, I was sleeping at the register when a friendly youngster came into the store to buy some cigarettes. When he woke me up, I told him my problem and asked him what he’d do in my shoes. He said maybe I should change my plan of selling only five products. Out of the mouths of babes! Can you believe a kid can be so stupid? No wonder he smokes cigarettes.

Anyway, I will have to figure something out. But right now, I don’t care. I am closing the store for the long weekend – Thanksgiving! This year, I was going to try baking that new recipe, a duck inside a turkey, but I don’t have to! My neighbor, Jenny, is bringing us a full turkey dinner to help us out before my surgery. I am so excited. Thanks to her, we will have a delicious meal this year and I won’t have to grocery shop or slave in the kitchen all day. She said this will help give me time to get things done before my upcoming medical procedure. What a lovely woman.

Jenny said she would have invited us to eat at her house, but she is still a little upset that my husband set her house on fire at her last party. On one hand, she's trying to help, but talk about being negative! She got to stay in a hotel for five months because of that fire, but does she thank us for that? I guess she takes out her personal issues on her neighbors. She also brought up the ceramic-birdbaths incident. For goodness sakes, it was snowing! How was my husband supposed to know he was driving through her front lawn? And then through her back lawn? Anyway, Jenny said she’s happy to bring over Thanksgiving dinner provided my husband continues to honor her restraining order. I can live with that.

At Thanksgiving, I will surely be thankful for Jenny’s generosity. She may be quirky, but she’s a great woman. I’m also grateful for my wonderful husband of 20 amazing years, my terrific children, my parents, and, of course, Manager Patel. I hope you have a happy Thanksgiving with the people you love.

Please keep me in your prayers, as I have my fibroid procedure on Monday. Thanks for reading. I’ll keep you “posted.” (Very clever, wouldn't you say?)


Nov 8, 2008

Why I Haven't Written a New Post

Ladies and gentlemen,

I have to apologize for not updating my blog. See, I work full-time at local quickie mart, and I really got wrapped up in doing a complete inventory of my store. Things got ugly. We were supposed to have 1,000 packages of Beef Jerky, but instead we counted 2,000. Plus, we were 1,000 packages short on fried pork rinds. It took me an entire month to create “Yummy Pork Rind” labels on my computer to stick on the packages of Beef Jerky. Plus, I had to buy poster board and a Sharpie marker out of my own money to make a sign that says, “All sales are final.”

Inventory is a recurring problem in the fast-paced quickie-mart world. There are so many small items that somehow disappear between the thefts from the kids who walk in and the stuff I stick in my own pockets. It’s very frustrating, especially for me since I am in charge of inventory. My manager told me he’s fed up of this problem, and if I don’t fix it by the time he returns from his one-month trip back to India, I will be fired!

Would you write a blog if you thought you’d be fired? No, I had to focus on work. To my good fortune, I’ve come up with a brilliant solution that will surely impress Mr. Patel when he comes back. I have reduced our entire inventory to just five products that are top-sellers or necessities: toilet paper, beef jerky, fried pork rinds, gum, and, of course, cigarettes (I had to do something for the children). I am sure this reorganization will please Manager Patel and surely lead to my promotion.

The other reason I haven’t written is because I haven’t been feeling so well. I’m in pain all the time. No, it’s not from 20 years of marriage. It’s worse. It’s real, physical pain. I say "real" because my psychologist said the pain I pretend to have in order to get attention doesn’t count.

The pain is due to a fibroid, a benign tumor, on my uterus. Oh, if you’re a man and feel squeamish about hearing that word (uterus), just substitute a word that’s not so offensive. How about “can of beer?” Anyway, I went to the doctor, and he said the fibroid is larger than my can of beer. In fact, it has expanded my can of beer to the size of a 12- or 14-week pregnancy. Heck, if the thing keeps growing, I’m going to name it and throw myself a baby shower! I’m preparing for the worst by registering at Babies R Us.

Anyway, forget all that. I just want this pain to be done with. The doctor said I can have a traditional hysterectomy or try some new-age procedure that is much less invasive and has been very successful in lab rats (unfortunately not so successful in non-lab rats).

Regardless, four out of five dentists recommend the non-invasive procedure, so I’m going to do it. Here’s how it works. They’re going to shoot something plastic (possibly recycled Wal-Mart bags or ammo from generic versions of Nerf guns) into the fibroid, and that will kill it slowly over the next three months. I should be back to my regular self within weeks. The fibroid will decrease in size, but the mass will remain in my body, perhaps as a memorial to what once lived there. The plastic pieces will circulate in my body until I die. Upon my death, I have asked to be thrown into a recycling bin. Now you see why this option is so attractive as compared to a boring hysterectomy. It's got . . . pizzaz! All that plastic all over the place. It's like a party in your body. Who wouldn't want to have this done?!

I certainly do! The procedure takes an hour and a half, and I’ll be in the hospital overnight, which means I’ll have control over the TV remote. I hope they have sliced pears for dessert while I'm in the hospital. I hear their sliced pears are to die for. I will settle for pear halves.

Oh, finally, did I tell you that it was my birthday last week? I turned 44. Sadly, I feel like I’m 64. People who take care of themselves, eat right, and exercise always feel younger, but I don’t do that stuff. That’s why I feel older. I did do some jogging on my birthday morning when I heard that the new Dunkin Donuts down the street was giving out free donuts to the first 20 customers. I felt like a 50-year-old as I sprinted through the front door of the store and up to the counter! It’s good to feel young again.

My family made my birthday spectacular. They are the best. They decorated the house, gave me such thoughtful presents, and made me feel special, showering me with false compliments and false praise all week! They know how to make me feel loved. My friends sent cards, called, or stopped by with gifts, which I immediately sold for cash outside the quickie mart.

Sometimes, when people start getting older and a birthday approaches, they feel depressed. They begin to ponder life, where they’ve been, how much they've accomplished in life, and what they wish they'd done. I don't do those things either. I just went out to a lovely dinner with my family and later watched TV in bed while eating a piece of German chocolate cake. Mmmm. It was a great birthday!

Your friend,

P.S. If you are a friend and have not sent your expensive gift yet, it's not too late. I will accept presents until Thanksgiving. (After that, I will reject them.)


Oct 29, 2008

A Special Note To "Disappointed in Quebec"

I received this letter last night from devoted fan and reader "Disappointed in Quebec." God bless this person. I felt an immediate response was necessary since she checks my blog so frequently. See below.


The blackout was about as long ago as the dark ages. When are you going to post again? I have been checking your blog no less than 10 times a day and am continually disappointed. Please write something soon.

Disappointed, Quebec

Dear Disappointed in Quebec,

First, thank you for writing. I am always happy to hear from yet another satisfied fan. I looked you up on Facebook and was very impressed. You seem like a terrific person. Lots of hair, and I must say that explanation of how to keep your gums healthy was quite impressive! I couldn't stop reading. You stated in your description that you cannot read very fast, so I am typing my response slowly.

Anyway, I'm confused that you think the last post I made was about the blackout. I have actually published three different posts since that one. Don't fret, though. I have some possible solutions to help you.

First option: have you checked your Internet connection? If you have dial-up, that's probably the issue. It's much slower than cable.

Second: Have you considered that you live in a different time zone than I live in? You are in the Canadian Time Zone (CTZ), and that might explain why there is a delay in receiving the posting. If you'd like to receive the posts quicker, you might consider moving.

Third: I learned that Canada is the last time zone to be updated on the Internet, right behind Antarctica, where there is a very high Internet-saavy penguin population. I verified this information with industry leaders Bill Gates and those Google guys.

Fourth: Are you sure you're looking at the computer? Sometimes the microwave looks an awful lot like the computer. My suggestion is that you try to type in a search and see if the smell of reheated food is eminating from the "computer." If it is, I'll hazard a guess that your dinner is ready.

Please write back and tell me if you find the missing posts.

But, Disappointed, there's another issue we need to discuss. Why are you disappointed in Quebec, eh? Who could possibly be disappointed in Quebec? They have great Ice Follies shows, beautiful money, they pronounce everything with weird accents, and do you know that Quebec is also known as the Rice and Duck Capital of the World, a title claimed by Stuttgart, Arkansas, but wrongfully stolen from Quebec. (Look it up, it's true.) So, please reconsider your disdain for that great city.

Thanks again for writing, and, if all else fails, I'll bet you'll find one of the missing blogs by the weekend. Maybe Daylight Savings Time will provide an extra hour or two for your Internet to catch up. Have a great evening.


Sep 21, 2008

Blackout in Mayberry

Sorry that I wasn’t able to write my blog last week. We had a giant wind storm and lost power long enough to lose the food in our fridge. Our power has obviously been restored now (or I wouldn’t be typing), but there are still thousands in the area without power, and it’s been almost a week!

When the electricity went out, we lit candles, chatted, and waited for the winds to die down. You get pensive during a storm. We talked about how fortunate we are to live in such a great neighborhood. Everyone here is kind, caring, and just so nice. They’re always helpful and these young parents are so devoted to their babies. There’s a smattering of us with older children too, and everyone gets along. I feel like we have a little utopia right here on our street.

You learn a lot about humans in the aftermath of a storm, especially when you start looting. The first thing I learned is that most of our neighbors are trusting and never lock their doors. How charming! On the east-coast, everything would be locked down, and people would have their loaded weapons pointed out the window at prospective trespassers. Too paranoid for me!

Next, I learned that people don't realize that expensive alarm systems are rendered useless without electricity. Our neighbor across the street is single, lives alone, and barely makes the bills, but she just bought an alarm system to protect her pride and joy -- a collection of French impressionist art. I know she worked hard to purchase all those valuable pieces, and I felt sad for her as my sons and I took each painting off the wall while she went out to buy an emergency radio. I told them to remember this lesson: never get attached to “stuff,” like this poor, crazy woman did. It’s funny how people get so out of perspective that they live and work for their “things.” I felt much better when we got home and hung her paintings on our living room wall. They didn’t look as good in her house.

I also learned that some people have great talents that they are afraid to share with the world. My best friend, Jenny, lives across the street and is practically a sister to me, but until we snuck into her house while she was outside helping an elderly neighbor, I never knew that she has a great talent for photography. I was ready to shut down her computer, the kind I’ve always wanted, when I noticed the most captivating pictures of her children on her screen saver. The photos were like art; she captured feelings, expressions, joy. As I carried her flat-screen monitor to my back door, I wondered if Jenny ever backed up her hard drive. I’d hate to think she’d lose all those photos because of a lack of foresight. I decided to print some out for myself before wiping out her hard drive, but my sons forgot to steal the printer. Kids! You can talk till you’re blue in the face, but they just never listen! I was still happy about my new windfall, but it hurt me to think that Jenny’s budding talent was thwarted due to a storm.

We walked through the neighborhood and got to chat with all the neighbors. When they, too, went to assist others, we were able to get all sorts of nice stuff – a Chihuahua, a sports-car, a Great Dane, some really well-behaved children (their parents should be proud), and this little grandmother who was just so adorable that we had to have her.

Now our entire neighborhood has electricity again, and things are back to normal. Yes, I have a house full of people, and I’m not sure where I’ll store all this new stuff, but we’ll get it all sorted out. That’s just the way it is after a storm -- work, work, work. I’m a little disturbed to see that the grandmother keeps drinking something out of a silver flask – not a good influence on a house full of children, but I’ll worry about it in the morning. As I go to bed and watch the blades of the Gonzales’ ceiling fan gently move the air in my bedroom, I feel a sense of peace to have such great people around me and to be blessed with so many new, material things and those sweet children, who I am now proud to call my own. With so many people in the house, Christmas is going to be very expensive, but I have faith that we will be provided for -- I heard the weatherman say we’re expecting a stormy winter.<>

Sep 7, 2008

Hijacked on Vacation!

Sorry for the delay in posting my blog. I went on vacation and, guess what -- my laptop got hijacked! No, armed gunmen didn’t do it. It wasn’t a South Jersey terrorist-cell either. It was far worse. So horrible I can’t talk about it. I’ll write about it though . . . it was . . . nerds! Anonymous, angry, probably single nerds who wrote hacking software to overtake my Internet Explorer and establish some other page as my home page. No matter what I tried to do on the Internet, within seconds, the website I typed in would close and the nerdy website would take over. I couldn’t access e-mail, weather, or I felt alone, disconnected from the world.

Sure I was on vacation, but how could I possibly have fun without Internet access? What next, my cell phone? Is this how cavemen had to live? The next few days were a fog, a living h---. All I had to fall back on was sun and sand, family, friends, liquor in abundance, beautiful weather, lots of laughs. It was stressful.

I couldn't focus on fun. I did what anyone would do after a hijacking. I waited for a ransom note. Remember when Mel Gibson went postal on that guy who kidnapped his kid in that movie Ransom? I figured I’d do that. I walked to the Cape May Vacation Handgun Store store to purchase an arsenal of weapons, along with some really cute beach souvenirs. Luckily, I took my sons with me, so they were able to help me carry the handguns back to the hotel. Then I lay in wait.

It took me a few days to realize that no one was actually kidnapped and that no ransom note was forthcoming, so I changed my strategy. I went back to the Handgun Store and was told there is a no-return policy. What am I going to do with 15 different guns? Thank goodness Christmas is coming, and I have a large family! Anyway, I did what anyone else in my circumstance would do. I put away the laptop and decided to deal with the issue when vacation was over.

When we got home, we went right to school and work, so the laptop remained on the back burner for a while. My husband is a software engineer, so he got a powerful spyware package. He purchased the Super Duper, New, Sensitive, Sometimes-Vulnerable 007 James Bond Super Edition Spyware. We loaded it, but it didn't do anything. I called all kinds of places to get help and figure out what to do. I dialed 411, Information, but they couldn’t provide any information to help solve my problem. They just kept asking "what city" my Internet was hijacked in. I called the airport's information desk to see how they deal with a hijacking, but they treated me as if I was crazy, so I hung up.

Finally, after breaking down my husband through weeks of whining and complaining, he spent yesterday working on my computer and removed the problem. So now I’m back on track and ready to write. Did you miss me? I missed you, anonymous reader.

Actually, I know the vacation sounded horrible, but it was great! Cape May, NJ, is a great beach spot. You can walk from the beach to hotels to everything you want on the island, and it’s less than a mile to almost anywhere.

One of my favorite pastimes is when we rent a bike for six. There’s five of us and four seats at which you can pedal. This year, for the first time, I was chauffeured around by my husband and boys for most of the hour we rented the bike. We basically ride to a convenience store to get slurpees and then back. I encouraged them to pedal faster with inspiring words like, “You call that pedaling? My dead grandmother can pedal faster than you.” When they got fed up of my taunts, they made me pedal -- and to illustrate how slow I am, the boys each jumped off the bike while it was in motion, ran ahead, waited, and jumped back on. (That part is true.) I thought we were moving at MACH 10, but when I saw my dad pass me in his wheelchair, I realized it was more like .5 mph. So I ate a little crow, but it was wonderful. I saw my parents, my sister's family, and I spent time with my husband and boys. Life doesn't get better than that. Anyway, I'm back on the saddle, so look for a new entry next Sunday.

I do want to warn you to make sure your computer security doesn't expire, lest you fall prey to hackers too! Have a great week!


Jul 26, 2008

Single Parenting Isn't for Me

My husband and son just left this morning for a two-day, out-of-town soccer tournament. Having them depart was very difficult. And by that, I don't mean it was sad, I mean that it was literally difficult for them to leave because my son locked the car keys in the trunk just as he finished packing up the car. This occurred the night before departure, around 11:00 p.m., which is over two hours past my bedtime. I tried my spare key, only to find that it's a valet key that won't open the trunk. All the luggage, the tickets, his soccer uniform, everything important was trapped in the trunk! I was tired and cranky, but I had to find a way open that trunk.

The next logical step would be to find an all-night locksmith. I looked in my town's Yellow Pages under “all-night locksmiths,” and found that next to each listing is a drawing of the locksmith's face. Unfortunately, I recalled seeing many of those sketches at the post office on the "Most Wanted" wall. But at 11:30 p.m., I was so tired that the idea of having an ex-criminal help me open the car trunk suddenly seemed appealing. I called, and a couple hours later, he showed up -- apparently straight from the big house. No apologies for being late. He smelled bad and looked scary. He never made eye contact and spoke only a few words, but like a graceful ice dancer, he performed a magical, mesmerizing ballet that culminated in an open trunk. Thank you, nice criminal, ex-murderer guy. I had to admire him for turning a negative (committing crimes for a living) into a positive (capitalism!). By 2:00 a.m., we were asleep, and then my men woke up soon after dawn, leaving our house half empty. [Or half full, depending on how you look at it.]

I didn’t want to keep feeling sad, so I planned a fun-filled day with my other two sons. We went to buy school clothes, out to a fancy lunch, stopped in at the library, and then I surprised them by taking them to mass on Saturday night instead of Sunday morning. I may be a mom, but I still know how to get wild and change things up.

After church, I took my older son for driving lessons, with my youngest patiently waiting to get home in the back seat of the van. I’ll call him Victim #2. Let me tell you this: if you ever feel depressed or like you need some sense of purpose, take your teen – or any teen, really – for a driving lesson. In 45 seconds, your child will put life in perspective and make you appreciate being alive. I told my son to turn left at a yield sign. He approached the curve much faster than I wanted. My feet applied the air brakes, but that didn’t help. My son disregarded my warnings “turn, turn!” and “brake harder, brake harder!” Seconds later, we jumped the curb on the other side of the turn and the car came to a halt just short of a little evergreen tree. A set of tire marks on the street and curb were the only clues of the journey we just took. What’s that boy-scout saying? “Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but skid marks.”

I continued the driving lesson for another 25 minutes since my heartbeat had already sped up. My physical trainer told me that I should engage in an activity that keeps my heart beat elevated for 30 minutes straight, and I knew that this must be what she meant. She said I should be sweating throughout the workout, and I can tell you that not only was I sweating, but so was Victim #2 in the back seat. When we got out of the car, we kissed the earth, like those British who survived the Mayflower's journey across the ocean to Plymouth Rock.

But, just like those Brits had no idea what they would face in the days ahead, we too had no idea of the adventure that lay ahead right in our own garage in the minutes to follow. As we shut the car doors, a beastly, humongous bird the size of a pterodactyl swooped into the garage and became entrapped by our barky little dog. I was screaming in fear as the bird’s mighty wings flapped overhead. It was obviously panicking too, looking for an escape. The son who had the driver’s lesson didn't see the bird and assumed that I had found yet another spider, so he ignored my shrieks and walked nonchalantly into the house, eager to play some computer game.

The victim son, more concerned about calming his hysterical mother, tried to shoo the pterodactyl out of the garage, but the creature was flailing about, unable to navigate the straight path out of the garage. (And they say animals are smart.) Flashbacks of me, a teenage girl, entrapped in the house with two large black birds that got in through the dryer vent and kept crashing into walls and windows, played over and over in my head. I took another look at the pterodactyl and decided that running away, abandoning the brave young child, and finding solace in a martini would be the right answer, but try as I may, I couldn’t find the vodka.

Luckily, that young son, as if he were a guardian angel sent by all the dead friends I ever knew when they were alive, was able to scare the bird out of the garage. “It was just a little robin, Mom. It flew away,” he said calmly as he walked into the house. Phew! Crisis averted! He saved the day. Or maybe I saved the day. Who remembers the minute details? Anyway, I’m just glad my husband and son are coming home tomorrow night. No more birds, driving lessons are over, and thanks to the teenage son, I am reminded of how happy I am to be alive. Now, seriously, where is that vodka? <>

Jul 21, 2008

Aging Rapidly

I used to be excruciatingly thin when I was a young girl. But then “age” hit -- specifically 43. My birthday came and, overnight, I turned into a moose. When I said, “Supersize Me” at my last trip to McDonald’s, I had no idea it would actually happen.

Now I don’t know what to do. Why is it that women gain weight in all the wrong places? I look at young girls and wonder what happened to me. Forget my new additions of cellulite and bulges, but on top of all that, many other changes are taking place. True, I already had the unibrow from my foreign ancestry, but now I sport whiskers and a healthy mustache. Oh, and let’s not forget the many long strands of wiry gray hair that are intertwined with the true black hair on my head.

I’m jealous of men – they age so beautifully. Their gray hair mixes perfectly with the hair of their youth, creating a sophisticated salt and pepper look. When they wear glasses, they look intelligent, alluring, even seductive. My glasses make me look like Red Riding Hood’s Grandma. “What big eyes you have. “ All I need now is a goiter to complete the package.

Some women age gracefully, but they are the same women who seemed elegant and timeless even in their youth. Take my mother. She’s 73 and looks terrific. As a young woman, she had natural grace and style. She held herself like a lady. She even washed her hair. When I was younger, I was gangly and awkward, like a calf learning to walk. I’d knock things down when in close quarters. I was banned from our town’s annual Delicate Pottery and China Show after I bumped into a the Ceramic Chihuahua exhibit, which then fell upon the Tea Cups from Alcatraz display and so on. It was a domino effect that somehow set the place on fire.

Come to think of it, my father has aged well too. He’s 83 but looks like he’s in his early 60s. The fact that I am not aging well leads me to believe that maybe I was adopted. Wouldn’t that be a horrible thing for my parents to spring on me just when I’m battling the cellulite crisis? And how will my real parents feel about me when I look like this?

But I am not a complainer. Others may give up, but when I identify a problem, I don’t stop until I find a solution. I plan to turn this situation around in no time. I am already working hard to get rid of the weight. I do leg lifts to get myself out of my four-poster bed every morning. I sprint to the bathroom since my bladder is no longer functioning as well as it used to, and then I take a brisk run down the stairs to prepare my bacon, eggs, hash browns and toast. I heard tea is very good for the health, so I drive to the local Starbuck's to order a Chai Latte. I was considering riding my bike, but how would I be able to sip the healthy tea and drive home safely simultaneously? Can’t be done.

When I get home, there are three different types of exercise programs that I watch on my VCR. Each is more grueling than the other, and I will make a decision about which one to do in a few weeks. I know the one I choose will be great because everyone on the program looks fantastic.

I also heard you should drink lots of water to stay healthy, but that presents a problem for me. Water is so blah that I actually hate it. No worries. I’ve invented a revolutionary new system to get my water intake for the day. I add lots and lots of ice cubes (which melt into water) to each glass of soda I drink. I found that I have to drink 12 cups of soda a day to get the right amount of water for my body weight. Yes, it's difficult to drink so much soda, but I am disciplined if nothing else. I won’t drink diet soda because research shows that artificial sweeteners are bad for your health.

I used to have dessert before bedtime, until The New England Journal of Medicine reported that it's not good to have fatty sweets in your stomach all night. Now I eat dessert before dinner.

My family is very supportive of me, despite my weight gain. My husband said he’d love me no matter how large I get, and he pointed out that it’s in my favor that his vision is worsening every day. One son asked if I was having another baby, but after he regained consciousness, he retracted his question. Once I thought I heard another son call me “Lardicus” behind my back, but when I confronted him, he told me he was teaching his younger brother about Spartacus, the Roman slave who led an uprising against his captors. I’m so proud that my children are interested in ancient Roman history.

I’ve taken care of the gray-hair issue by purchasing a jumbo, black Sharpie permanent marker. In just 15 minutes, I go from gray to black, and it’s permanent. No dripping chemicals or messy clean-up. Plus, the fumes drive men giddy when they are close to me, which makes me feel very attractive. If you are a blonde or brunette, you will not look as good as I do. Yellow markers don’t look good on blonde hair, and brown permanent markers are hard to come by.

In any case, this is my plan for the rest of my life, I guess. If all this work doesn’t appeal to you, don’t sweat it -- honestly, in the end, we’ll all be dust anyway. Just try not to look too dusty while you’re alive. Thanks for reading
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Jul 12, 2008

How to Be a Great Parent, Like Me

A lot of our parenting styles are rooted in our childhood experiences. As a young girl, I was pretty plain vanilla. I was not too girly, too athletic, or too anything. I was shy, extremely thin, and sometimes confused for a boy, but I was also oblivious and quite happy. I learned early to go with the flow.

See, I was the youngest of three girls, with two older sisters who were talented, pretty, popular, smart -- you name it, they had it! They got great grades, great guys, and they had great hair. I had a bit of a mustache and a unibrow. My best friend was my Winnie the Pooh teddy bear, and sometimes even he distanced himself from me. But who cares? I had spunk!

We grew up in Maryland. All the neighborhood kids gathered at our house to be around my sisters. We played sports, rode bikes, and engaged in spirited games of Mahjong or intriguing discussions about different styles of literature -- typical kid stuff. I excelled at little and was always the last kid chosen when picking for impromptu baseball games, team races, etc. My mother told me it was because I was special, which is what mothers must say when their kid is a dud.

So some thirty years later, when I had kids, I used those experiences of childhood to shape the kind of mother I am today. When my then-first-grader came home from school saying the kids were teasing him for being short, I told him he was special. When he failed the first test of his life in second grade, the dreaded telling-time clock test, I told him not to worry because he was still special. When my kids got hurt, I’d kiss them on the forehead and tell them they were special. All this positive reinforcement following times of trouble and stress has shaped my kids into failures. Now they equate negative outcomes with feeling special. One son just got fired from his first job at the quickie mart, and he's happy as a lark. Another failed the ACTs, and he's still smiling. Oh well, my bad.

My sons are pretty interested in sports, not thwarted by my own disabilities in that arena. I compare myself to Venus and Serena Williams’ dad, who never played tennis, but, like him, I am very instrumental in my sons’ sports successes. (I understand that he compares himself to me, as well.) I teach my boys what I know and then coach from the sidelines, always being supportive. One time in a soccer match, the ball was deflected off my son’s foot and went into his own goal. I cheered, "That's my boy!" proud that he scored. When my kids played baseball and made it around all of the bases, I was the one jumping up and down in the stands yelling “touchdown!” The boys are so humble about their accomplishments that they tell me it’s not necessary for me to come to their sporting events. Isn’t that adorable? What good kids.

We recently were captivated by the Wimbledon finals, so I decided it was time to teach my sons all I know about tennis. That took all of 10 minutes.

We played today, my middle son against my younger son and I (teamed up together). The game was not going well. The middle son, Raphael, was beating us 5 games to 4. The stage seemingly had been set for us to win, but here we were, doing poorly. It didn’t make sense. We were playing on the shady side, while Raphael's good eye was in the sun (he has a temporary eye patch). In addition, Raphael's two-handed backhand wasn't working since his broken left hand was in a cast. And finally, the boy was tired and breathing hard, despite having taken his asthma medication that morning. Yet, here were were, losing!

The score was 40-30, with Raphael preparing to serve to me. Set point. I called a time out, ostensibly to express concern about the hives that had just developed on his hand when he retrieved a ball that had landed in a patch of poison ivy. In truth, I needed to interrupt his winning streak. I realized I had to break him mentally, if nothing else. This I did in the spirit of teaching my child about competition. Above all else, I am a mom first. I recently learned how to talk smack, so I criticized Raphael's looks. I observed out loud that he was having a bad hair day. I asked if he bought his tennis shorts on sale at the grocery store. I tried to think of something else, but I had exhausted my arsenal of put-downs. There was nothing else I could do but play hard. Focus. Focus.

It was an intense moment that played out in slow motion. Raphael tossed the ball high up in the air. He swung hard downward with his Chrissy Everett Junior Pro racket that I gave him for Christmas and released the ball in its fury towards the box. I could see it coming. I positioned myself for the stroke, swung hard, stepping into the ball, and . . . missed it. Ace! Raphael won. My teammate, my younger son, emitted a groan.

Kids take sports a bit too seriously if you ask me. In any case, it just goes to show that you can be a great parent and teacher, like me, even if you were just a mediocre kid. I realize my son won the game, but it was because of me that he developed that ability. So really, it was a win for both of us. I call it a tie.

Before I end, I’d like to thank you for the great outpouring of appreciative mail. Please read some of the wonderful comments I have received by clicking on Comments below. Disregard any negative comments from Jane from NJ, who, I am happy to report, is now back on her medication! Thanks for reading


Jul 2, 2008

Protect Your Kids from Harmful UV Rays

A lot of people are concerned about the effects of the sun on their children. What hours of the day are the worst UV rays emitted? What kind of sunscreen should my child wear? A chemical mixture in a plastic bottle is not the right answer.

A simple solution is available.

Step 1: Begin plying your children with caffeine and sugar around 7:00 p.m. one day, soon after dinner. A trip to Starbucks for their first espresso is highly recommended. Make sure you take your camera to make lasting memories. Take some kind of photo ID too, in case the barrista or a local police officer questions if you are the parent.

Next, take the little ones to the ice cream shop. I like Friendly’s, but I don’t know if mentioning a particular store is fair to others, so let’s just call it Bob’s, though we all know I mean Friendly’s. I highly recommend the banana split, which cost just under a dollar when I was a kid, but now is priced at $25. Don’t worry about the money. You want to save your kids from skin cancer, don’t you? Make sure you get extra sprinkles. They’re free at Bob’s.

Step 2: Now your kids are going to be fully awake for the next several hours. You have to ride this wave and keep them up until the break of dawn. Play tag, take a moon-lit stroll, and talk to them about how seeing the sun wake up is one of the most wondrous gifts in life, yadda, yadda, yadda.

Step 3: Allow the kids to fall asleep soon after sun-up and wake around 7:00 p.m. Studies show that children need between 12 and 24 hours of sleep per day.

Step 4: Announce that it’s morning. Punish any children who differ based on the long shadows, the positioning of the sun, or the appearance of the moon. If everyone isn’t on board, you will never be able to protect your child from UV rays. Plus, who wants a child who questions and talks back. Better make him a conformist now or that creative streak will come back to haunt you in the teenage years. Now that the insubordination has been squelched, serve breakfast and embark on a typical day.

There are many advantages to this new schedule. For example, your childrens' skin will no longer be exposed to any harmful UV rays. In addition, you’ll be able to grocery shop and run errands at all-night big box stores or convenience stores; and that element of danger coming from avoiding freaks on the loose at night-time will make your children run to you in fear, in effect making you bond and become closer.

School is an issue for you? Time to look into home schooling. It’s the latest rage and studies show home-schooled children are smarter, faster, and stronger than both public- and private-school kids.
If your spouse complains that the sleep/waking patterns are crazy and are breaking up the family, you will need to look for a new spouse. You don’t want to be around a whiner who doesn’t support you anyway. May I suggest a younger model who works the night shift? Good providers can be found at UPS, customer-service call centers, hospitals, and in the IT field. The buffet is open. It’s up to you to choose. Remember, the first rule of parenting is that your children come first.