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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