Category Archives: texas

The School of Life: My first trip to a crystal store

I know this will be special. I tell this to my Instagram followers and my daughter Darcy as we sit in the car and stare at the awning of the store. The Golden Orb. I make a video in which I sing “The Golden Orb. Love and Light” and quickly post it to my IG stories. Followers surely will want to know what I’m up to. This video, or the audio from it, plays not once but twice while I’m inside the store. I try in vain to silence it as I browse Rose Quartz. A woman looks at me. She is puzzled. When the video plays a second time without my even touching my phone, I know there is fairy magic afoot.

It happens as I am checking out. My own voice singing from within my purse. The cashier narrows his gaze through glasses that make his eyes look small. He has a ponytail.

And when Ponytail peers at me, I know he can see my heart. I scramble to silence my phone. But the Instagram story keeps repeating, “The Golden Orbs. Love and light.” My own voice sings from inside my bag.

I feel shame. My voice (or throat chakra) is what I’m here to address. I tell this to the wisp of a woman who greets me when I enter the store. But throughout my shopping trip, my voice is loud and clear. It’s just in my bag.

Wisp wears a large sweat shirt and purple prayer beads. Her Pinterest-worthy nails finger the crystals in the bag I’ve brought.

“Ooh! You’ve brought me some goodies,” her eyes dart from the crystals to my daughter. I clutch Darcy closer to me. No, Wisp, you may not bake her into a gingerbread cookie.

Ponytail helps a braless woman. He gives me side-eye and knows I will offensively mix narratives. Suddenly, I feel an urge to take off my own bra. A sports bra. A garment at odds with all the love and light that the Golden Orb represents.

Wisp takes my crystals out of the bag and asks earnestly, “Do you need me to tell you what these are?”

I bristle immediately but repress an audible scoff. Of course, I know what they are. Amazon told me what they are. Wisp, I’ve been a student of life longer than you’ve had your moonblood. But being snarky isn’t an option. Who knows how far Wisp has gotten at Hogwarts?

“Yes,” I reply, “I know what they are. I just need to know how to charge them.”

An easy tutorial follows. Cleanse them. Then set in the moonlight to charge.

Ahh, I say to myself, I wasn’t cleansing them. I add sage in both spray and twig form to my order. I’m now $21 in and Darcy has only begun to feel her way through the neurotically sorted rocks.

Good thing it’s pay day.

Darcy lands on a statue of a baby dragon holding a gem—in short, her spirit animal. She demands some gold (pyrite) for her dragon and I acquiesce. Darcy is satisfied. She thinks that now she has more money than her brother.

“My dwragon will protwect it,” Darcy closes chubby fingers around the nugget.

Wisp sees us and glides over, “You still okay over here?”

“Yes, I’m looking for blue stones for my throat chakra,” I say without irony and hold up a lapis lazuli. Ponytail overhears. I know I will earn his respect now. Yes, Ponytail, I know about aligning the ‘chakra khans.’

But the blue stone I hold is not the blue stone I am looking for.

“That’s more of a third eye blue,” Wisp takes the lapis lazuli, “You need less blue for the throat.”

Foiled again. How many blue chakra khans are there?

Wisp hands me an aquamarine and all I can think is—That’s GREEN, Wisp! Is she sabotaging my chakra khans? Does Wisp see blues I do not?

I settle on celestite because Wisp says something about angels. I add the stone, another blue one, and at Darcy’s behest, a very large blue stone for Jackson.

“Because he’s a big boy,” she says as she hands it to Wisp without waiting for my approval.

By the time I check out I’m $58 in damage. Not bad considering there were necklaces and candles and fairy dust bath salts that I wanted, nay, needed.

I arrive home to a husband who is bemused and maybe disappointed with my spiritual purchases. I know this because he tells me to leave when I offer to sage his office. Fine, I think to myself, I’ll wait until you are out of town. I can’t have your Negative Ned attitude around when I’m clearing energy.

I sage the den. It is a workspace for me, a playroom for the kids, and a place where both our pets sleep. I read the directions for “smudging” carefully.

Start at the door.

Go counter clockwise.

Don’t neglect the corners.

I begin smudging, moving the smoldering twigs through the room. I hear an obnoxiously punctuated, “What. Is. That. Smell?!” from C.K.’s office. Why is it that he has the nose of a bloodhound when it comes to scents I like?

I repress a sigh. Be quiet, Ned.

“I’m burning sage,” I sing back cheerfully.

“Well…could you not?”

The sage has gone out by now. I’ve neglected one corner of the room. And I’ve forgotten to open the door to escort the bad energy out. I wave my arms to the lingering pot/cemetery smell toward the door. But I’m too far. I won’t make it. Suddenly, as if with intention, the pug busts through her doggie door.

Perfect. The pug has adequately escorted any bad energy out of the room. My virgin smudging was newbsauce but I’m all about acceptance today. I bless the room and say a prayer. It will be a place of positivity and creativity.

About an hour later, C.K. ambles over to his easel. The easel sits in a smudged corner of the den. He fiddles with some brushes he hasn’t touched in years. I am satisfied. Positivity and Creativity are really in the room now.

Consider yourself smudged, Ned.

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Walt the Crossing Guard isn’t there…and I’m beside myself

We’ve arrived at a sad hiatus in our tales from the school drop-off/pick-up carpool lanes.

I’ve written about him before—our beloved crossing guard at Jackson’s elementary school, the Godfather of School Intersections. Actually, my first post about Walt was largely satirical. He had reprimanded me, wielding his whistle like a whip. But I wrote it in the beginning of the year. I was hurt. I follow traffic laws. I go slow in school zones. I was just waving to a friend. I was going to turn. Sheesh.

Since my initial post, Walt has become the subject of adoration and fascination. On rainy days, he wears full body slickers, a neon raincoat, and an umbrella hat. Yes, an umbrella hat. And he makes it look downright sensible.

 

During the week before Christmas break, he wore a different head piece each day (antlers, Santa hats) and tiny holiday lights around his neck. Walt hung a small speaker from his chair and played Christmas music everyday. The music was a nice touch; it certainly added to the yuletide spirit. It was a small speaker too. And his chair sits close to some ornamental shrubberies. So you walk to the corner with your kid and hear a faint “Hark, the herald angels sing” and you think  Are the bushes singing about the Lord’s birth?

And you feel like a 21st century Moses.

He planned that.

Then we found out that Walt paid the cafeteria debts for all the kids in arrears right before Christmas. I mean, where is Charles Dickens or whoever wrote Polar Express when you need them? We need a new children’s holiday book!

Remember those Rankin Bass holiday movies? The ones with stop-motion animation, like Santa Claus is Coming to Town?  And the animated Frosty one? We need a Rankin Bass holiday movie about Walt.

Remember the guy directing traffic during the musical break in Frosty the Snowman? Walt is NOTHING like that fool.

The children don’t stop for the traffic. The traffic stops for the children. The traffic definitely stops for the children when said children are being led a by a magical snowman who thinks it’s his birthday.

Then there was the time someone (someone!) called the district on Walt. His crime? Moving cars through the intersection efficiently. Getting kids to school on time. Making parents less stressed out.

Wow! Someone call the cops. This guy is making drop off easier.

How did Walt the Crossing Guard respond? With 400 traffic cones. If he can’t direct the traffic, he is gonna make sure parents don’t park where they will clog the intersection…or a solid quarter mile radius in every direction around the intersection. And I bet Walt has the cones in his garage. He’s been putting like fifteen around his VW bug everyday since August. (Or his scooter…the one with the foxtails hanging off of it)

Walt’s cone placement has got to be the most thorough placement of cones I have ever witnessed. We’re talking like one cone every two feet. He should rent out his services for Coachella. Millennials need a crap-ton of cones. It will remind them of youth soccer and then they will know where to go.

And now this. I can’t take it. I’m barely recovered from the sugar crash of Easter candy, the post-friends-departure melancholy, and the shame at the number on the scale after I ate all the aforementioned candy, and Walt is nowhere to be found.

The kindergarten teacher has been there all week, waving a flag with the gusto of the World Cup lineman. But does the wave mean “Stop”? Does it mean “Go”? I think it means “Pay attention! There are children in the crosswalk!” While I like this teacher (and she looked fierce in her cold shoulder tunic the other day), she is not Walt. Furthermore, teachers should not have to do extras like direct traffic. It’s downright magnanimous of this teacher to volunteer to be crossing guard. Who would ever want to deal with beastly people like me anymore than they actually have to? And at 7:30am! I can’t even stomach myself at that hour.

Anyway, we come to find out the sad news. Sorry in advance but the levity of the post is about to take a left turn. Walt is taking time for himself. He’s had deaths in his family. I won’t go into detail but suffice to say, no one should suffer that much loss. My heart absolutely breaks for him. We all miss him already.

I was really down the other day because Walt isn’t there anymore. I had to ask why.  I myself only exchanged niceties with him. Perhaps that for those thirty feet in the crosswalk, our children are safe if he is there? Is it because I see him twice a day? Or maybe it’s the weird cocktail of sympathy plus relief (the glad-it’s-not-me kind) that accompanies tragic news. That combo can make you feel pretty shitty.

Or maybe it’s Walt’s authenticity that we will all miss. A person who is so unabashedly himself, like Walt is, refreshes us in a world of Instagram filters, Facebook updates, and Pinterest boards.

Walt is a character. He is who he is. Take or leave it. (Let’s see how many more clichés I can fit in here.)  Walt is like that little elf in Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer who wants to be a dentist.  I mean, I wish I had the stones to put fifty cones around the perimeter of my cul de sac and wear an umbrella hat and blow my whistle at cars when they drive into the cul de sac to turn around.

I think I’m going to try and be more like Walt. Not the cones in the cul de sac. Just the whole authentic thing.  I mean, people would think I was nuts if I directed traffic in a cul de sac.

So until the return of the Walt, I’m going to keep him in my prayers.

 

 

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The Yahoo Mom Group…you know what I’m talking ’bout.

I’ve written a short story version of this and submitted it to McSweeney’s. If I get published, we will all be famous.

Stop. Collaborate. And listen.

These words, spoken by lyricist and philosopher and house renovator Vanilla Ice, are basically the main tenants of any good Yahoo or Facebook group for moms.

We help each other find and vet services and contractors and landscapers.

We support each other when someone writes the classic vulnerable mom post.

 I lost it today in the Chick-Fil-A parking lot.

 We all did, sister. Mommin’ ain’t easy.

 We forgive each other when someone asks who the HVAC guy in the neighborhood is…for the hundredth time.

But every once in awhile, there’s a post that evolves into a lively discussion but eventually goes semi-rotten. A dialogue so intense and laden with passive aggression that the post begets so many other threads and side conversations via text and snarky asides at school dismissal.

That conversation happened in the last 48 hours on my beloved mom Yahoo group. It was about children. It was about safety. It was about what moms everywhere know…this is how things should really work, dammit.

Because if moms know one thing, it’s that moms are always right.

[Names changed to protect the innocent.]

It all started with Debra. She decided that she would create a list of suggestions (read: rules) on how carpool at our elementary school should work. Debra doesn’t work for the school. But she knows what we all know. The drop off and pick up carpool lines are a shit show.

This shit show was mitigated for a brief but peaceful period by our crossing guard. I wrote about him earlier this year. But I have since changed my opinion and he is now directing traffic in the menagerie. (I can’t go into this right now so read the other blog post here.) I call this time of efficiency and tranquility the Golden Age.

We’ll get back to the crossing guard in a hot minute.

Debra’s initial “suggestions” post was followed by the expected “murmurs of agreement.” A few bipartisan, concerned mothers cosigned Debra’s list of rules. A resounding yes to what we all already know. Carpool is a dang shit show, y’all. Someone’s gonna get hurt.

The murmurs of agreement, however, quickly gave way to more complaining and add-ons to the original list. And because we’re really lucky, the accusations began.

You know who’s to blame for this? The dads!

 Totally. They are always in a rush.

This accusation holds some water. I’ll admit that the times when some expletives have left mouth during carpool, it has been because a dad cut in front of me. Ford Tough! Outta my way. Wife’ll kill me if these kids are late.

(sings) Jesus, take the wheel…take it from that dad.

After the group impugns a faceless group of fathers, there is the juicy gossip part of the thread. This time, someone (a dirty whore someone) told on our beloved crossing guard for directing traffic. He’s not to direct traffic. He’s ONLY to cross the children safely. And if he does it again, he’s going to be fired. The Golden Age has officially given way to the Dark Ages.

What? The crossing guard? He’s the God of drop off!

It’s the first time I’ve felt safe in my own neighborhood in years.

I bet an old person called.

Be vigilant. The traitor is among us.

In the small world of mom social media groups, if there’s anything worse than a dad who doesn’t read the damn school emails, it’s the old people. They sit there in their houses, watching The Price is Right, drinking that Hate-or-ade. They hate us because we are young (cough middle-aged) and beautiful (cough access to botox).

After the group slanders the old people—the people who are surely not on a Yahoo group because they are too old—people start with the proposals. But proposals come from people who have absolutely NO INTENTION of following through. Someone (never the author, no) should call “the city” or “the district” about getting a “sign.” The author of these emails is the person who wants to delegate. She acts like she calls “the city” all the time. Just call “the city.” They will handle it. So easy. Like ordering from Pizza Hut. I just used my “the city” app and ordered new street signs last Tuesday. Duh. If only one of your morons would listen to my brills idea!

Well, when I call “the city” tomorrow, it will be to erect a bronze statue for you, fellow mom. I’m sure they already have one in the works. Or they don’t. Because you’ve never called “the city” in your life. If you had to deal with the death by minutiae that is calling “the city,” you would never suggest it on a mom email thread. Sit down!

Yesterday, we enjoyed an added bonus to the “call the city” reply. This one came from someone who styled herself as Ms. Husband’s First and Last Name. We’ll call her Nancy. Nancy works at another school and thinks we moms should have our principal call their principal because their carpool line is far better than ours.

Sit down, Nancy! A cattle drive is more streamlined than our carpool. We know other schools probably have better carpool lines. Also, the school mentioned has like double the students. Logic would dictate that they probably have a decent system. With almost 1,000 elementary children going to and fro each day, that’s not a carpool anymore. That’s straight up crowd control. I’m surprised they haven’t hired the Hells Angels to keep order over there.

The best part about Nancy is that she actually called her response a “quick fix” and a way to stop all the emails. I repeat, sit down, Nancy!

Then comes the climax…where conversations like this always go. And my personal favorite. Like I get the popcorn out after this reply is sent. A working mom invariably gets all fired up about her clogged inbox. We’ll call her Janice. Janice sent the “everybody stop hitting reply all email.”

This response was followed by some #shade. And I read the replies to Janice while shoving popcorn in my mouth. Same as when I watched Get Out. Shit just got real. Southern-style real.

I mean, come on, Janice. If we can’t see the “reply all” button, maybe you should look a little harder for the “delete” button. Also, if you are emailing everyone, aren’t you part of the problem? Sit down, Janice!

Then the emails come full circle. Debra, seeing the mess she’s made, emails again. Like Victor Frankenstein looking at his mottled monster in horror, she must email again. She must reiterate the main point of her original email: safety, cars, children.

But maybe Debra hasn’t read Frankenstein. Spoiler alert: The monster has children and joins a yahoo group. So sit down, Debra!

I got the fully fictionalized version of this published in a REAL literary journal. Read it. Do it now!

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The “Jesus was an American” Assembly

 

I haven’t written about Darcy’s new preschool yet. And because she really loves her teacher and the school is such a sweet place I’ve stayed away from writing anything that—while I would mean it as humorous cultural commentary—would come off as hurtful. Truly, it’s a lovely little school.

Let me just set the scene though. I’m a solidly Northeastern girl who grew up Catholic, went to Catholic high school, and then onto Catholic university. Despite attending Methodist church for the past few years, Catholicism is really the dominant religious tradition in my mind. So the “bible” churches or nondenominational churches in Texas are a whole new world for me. While I love my faith and the faithful people around me, this is culture shock…big league culture shock.

Just as someone who went to church/school in Texas would likely feel if they walked into a Catholic school on the Feast of St. Blaise. Why are they blessing throats? What’s with the candles to the throat? How does one get to be a throat blesser? If you grew up Catholic, this feast makes perfect sense…especially if it’s school musical season. Get your throat blessed by St. Blaise! It really helps! But if you didn’t grow up in this culture, I can imagine it would be jarring.

So Darcy’s school is Christian. Just Christian. No denominations. I have elevated this school to “Super Christian,” like “Super Tuscan” wines or “supermodels.” Most of the time I really love her school. But there’s a small percentage of the time where I do a double take and say, “Yep, file that under Super Christian.”

Like when Darcy corrected Jackson for stating (correctly) that J is for Jackson.

“No, J is only for Jesus!!!” she yelled. Calm down evangelical TV pastor. We know J is for Jesus.

Or like when Darcy came home and randomly blurted out, “Baaaaddd decisions against God.” Turns out, the class was reading a story about sheep who didn’t obey God. But I felt the need to clarify something, “Wait, were you saying that to a kid in the class that misbehaved?” She didn’t. But for a second I was all Calm down, handmaiden.

Yesterday morning was the Veteran’s Day assembly, a ripe mixture of patriotic and religious narratives that simply cannot be ignored. It was an excellently produced pageant I have since dubbed “Jesus was an American.”

We began with the preschool singing some patriotic songs. I knew none except for “My Country Tis of Thee,” a song whose lyrics I still insist should be “of the icing.” Because icing is part of cake and cake is awesome and so is America.

My daughter’s class was downright adorable. When they finished, the classes were ushered off the stage as quick as their little legs could carry them. Darcy held up an index finger to my parents and I as if to say “#1.”

Maybe it was America is #1. Yes.

Jesus is #1. Agreed. Number one in my book.

Darcy is #1. Nailed it.

I saw that chubby finger and smiled at how she’s my little Texan baby.

Then came the pledges. You read that right. Plural. As in four pledges. Here’s what I pledged:

The Pledge to the Bible. Didn’t know this one.

The Pledge to the Christian Flag. Yes, there is indeed a Christian flag. It may be the same as the Crusades flag. My recollection of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves fails me here.

The Pledge to the Texas flag. This one is so redundant in its wording and yet I can’t seem to get it. At least I’m not just moving my lips and awkwardly looking around to see who notices that I have no idea what I’m saying. I was doing that for a LONG time.

Then, finally, the American Flag Pledge. Yes! One I know. Now I don’t feel like a terrorist. She doesn’t know the pledges! Take her down!

At this point we have been pledging for like 8 minutes. At least now, I understand while Darcy prays by saying the end of the Pledge of Allegiance. She’s conflated praying to God the father with pledging allegiance to the Stars and Stripes. But with four pledges and only four years of life, who could blame the confusion?

I stood between my parents. My mother didn’t know there were four pledges and false-started the Pledge of Allegiance three times.

“Not yet,” I kept whispering snidely.

My dad was on the other side of me, all basking in the red state glow, “You would never see this in New York.”

And then mom was all like, “A Veteran’s Day assembly? We had one every year. It was in Newsday.”

So while Mom was indignantly reminding everyone about Davison Ave School’s amazing Veteran’s Day assembly and Dad was all Making Jesus Great Again, I was in the middle figuring out how we could scoot from this event early. Darcy had, after all, finished her part of the performance.

I know I sound awful with my wanting to skedaddle. Here’s the deal though. I taught high school for seven years. I sat through countless assemblies—Veteran’s Day, 9/11 Assembly, Honor Society Assembly, Leadership Assembly, Graduation, Baccalaureate Liturgy. I don’t do assemblies and I don’t do lunch duty anymore. I go to an assembly if my kids are in it and then I have to fight every fiber of my being that wants to leave or play Candy Crush.

And I was hungry. I wanted pancakes. Mom and Dad promised to take me to The Original Pancake house for breakfast. This celebration of the American military stood in between me and pumpkin spice pancakes.

But my daughter’s class was seated right behind us. Drats! So I had to console myself with deep thoughts about America and how great it is to be American and how free I am to sit here and think about pancakes when I’m supposed to be thinking about America.

And then came the keynote. A 16-year Navy SEAL veteran whose title was “Master Chief.” He was there all the way from Tennessee to share his story about his commitment to God and military. And my first thought was “Yes, this guy has been ‘in the shit.’” I immediately imagined him yelling at his battalion or squad or whatever and saying things like “Stay frosty!” and “Get some!”

The children sat on the stage as he addressed them. It reminded me of a part of the Methodist worship service where the pastor calls all the children up to the front for a mini-sermon wherein he/she makes the scripture relatable to their age and stage. Do you like animals, children? Oh, ducks, you like ducks? Well, God created the whole world and everything in it. That means God made ducks.

Master Chief had lots of good reflections and stories. But I was surprised that he broke from the Veteran’s Day façade of “Thank you for your service. As far as the whole our-taxes-pay-you-to-murder-death-kill-our-enemies…Let’s not go there. But thank you for your service.”

Well, Master Chief was going there. He told a story about how his squad was taking fire and how it all happens in slow motion when you think you might die. But his faith carried him through and he stood up with his machine gun and started firing back. This Rambo move was the reason his squad was able to get out of the firefight.*

I only caught some of his story because I was using the restroom for the second time. But I filled in the gaps in my mind with Master Chief killed Bin Laden and Master Chief killed all of ISIS and Master Chief was Quinn from Homeland.

My dad wondered aloud if this ultimate sacrifice/price of war was a bit much for elementary school kids.

“Dad, everything here is a ‘bit much.’” I whispered back. Hello? Did he miss the four pledges?

Also, did he miss the music teacher conducting the audience through the Star Spangled Banner? That happened, by the way. The music teacher conducted the audience instead of the choir during sing-alongs. She wore a lovely sparkly wrap from Chico’s that fell off her shoulders as she waved her quivering forearms at us. And while no one is a better choir conductor than Whoopi Goldberg in Sister Act, this lady is a close second place.

And you know who didn’t think Master Chief’s Rambo-ISIS story was too much? The lady in the last row. She wore an American flag dress jacket with sequins all over it. I imagined her admonishing the dry cleaner about how to properly clean such a garment. She looked like she was about to coach the 1980 US Women’s Gymnastics team in Lake Placid. It’s the height of the Cold War. The only way to stop the Commies is with sequins and sticking the effin’ landing.

*At no point did Master Chief refer to himself as Rambo. Because when you’re a frickin’ Navy SEAL Rambo, you don’t have to use weak ass Hollywood references.

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A Brave New Pug

Thatcher had surgery yesterday. She had a small skin cancer tumor on her chest. The vet, who I really like, used phrases like “mastic cells” and “clean surgical margins” And I used phrases like “cost” and “bill.”

Go ahead and judge. But yes, with an 11-year-old pug, I have some concerns about spending good money to remove skin cancer that seems not to bother the dog at all. It wasn’t all about the money though.

I have concerns about putting my 11 year old pug under anesthesia too. Her face is pushed in. I bought her like that. It’s a “feature of the breed.” But with great beauty comes breathing problems. If a spec of dust gets up in that short nose, she walks around snorting and having an asthma attack until I cover her nostrils and she remembers she can breathe through her mouth. Now add general anesthesia to this and you’re living on the edge with my sweet puppy’s life.

This is not hyperbole. When I had Thatcher spayed, I signed a document saying I wouldn’t sue the vet for pug’s untimely death by anesthesia.

Aunt Voula from My Big Fat Greek Wedding

But I was brave and pug was brave too. She knew that whether this was big “C” or just her twin (a la My Big Fat Greek Wedding), it needed to come off. C.K. and I prefer the narrative that the tumor was her twin. C.K. thinks it adds to the drama of pug’s life. First we take away her ability to have children. Then we take her twin.

When we got to the vet yesterday morning, pug knew the game. Little claws tried in vain to grip the tile floor and scramble to the exit. No breakfast and now this.

Not. happy.

The vet tech–we’ll call her Brenda–came out to explain the procedure and tell me when I could expect to pick my dog up. Thatcher is sweet and Brenda petted her and told me so. Brenda then said sadly, “I had a pug. He was fifteen when I put him down a few months ago.”

Thatcher and I exchanged a knowing, conspiratorial glance, “Is this Brenda for realz?” Brenda, why would you mention the pug’s mortality at this juncture?

I fumble the response (surprise!), “I’m sorry to hear that. She’s eleven. I’m hoping to get fifteen years out of her too.”

Thatcher is absolutely flabberghasted at my response. Ears cocked to the side, her eyes bulged and she looked at me as if to say, “What am I? A car? A good coat?”

Brenda adds that her pug was fat. My pug, always happy to participate in fat shaming, looks proud and self-righteous now. I’m skinny. I will live forever. You will have to remove twelve of my twins before I’m through, mom.

Beware the cyclops pug!

“He was so food aggressive,” Brenda continues. “It’s how he lost an eye.”

What the? Why does the office always turn left in the most brilliant ways? This conversation goes from awkward to “pay attention so you can blog about this!!”

I contort my mouth to hide my smile, “Oh! What happened?”

“The wolf. He got into a fight with the wolf.”

A Lisa-Frank-esque Wolf. Brenda would approve.

Let that set in.

Here’s where my first-person-investigative-journalism skills failed. I got so uncomfortable that I just abruptly said my goodbyes and left. I know I should have stayed. I’ve deprived everyone of what was probably a great story.

You have a wolf? An actual wolf or a dog that looks wolf-like? Is that legal in Texas? Where do you live? What do your neighbors think? Do you let the wolf out to hunt? Does the wolf have emotional issues because he’s a lone wolf?

When I picked Thatcher up, she looked thoroughly exhausted but happy to see me. “Thank you for coming to get me from the place where rapey things happen in the name of science,” she grumbles.

Brenda raved about  how great Thatcher did. She gave me the pain pills. “I split them in half for you,” Brenda beamed. You’re a saint Brenda, owner of wolves and fine motor skills genius.

Then Brenda presented Thatcher  with her “Certificate of Bravery.” This is real thing. It is full color with a picture of Thatcher and printed on card stock. I provided a picture in case you didn’t believe me. Basically it’s a surgery diploma.

As you can see, it even has black pugs on it. The office created it just for her. C.K. and I joked about how they must have been sifting through Google images for cartoon pugs. “Who screwed with my Clip Art? I can’t find the black pug pictures anywhere!” Since black pugs are rarer than the usual fawn with black muzzle, I appreciated this effort.

This certificate, while sweet, is wholly unnecessary. This next statement should be obvious but Thatcher is dog and therefore she is illiterate. She also probably can’t grasp the concept of bravery.  Thatcher is also NOT a Millennial.* She has no need of this worthless parchment.

But because I AM a millennial (an old one by some definitions), I hung the certificate on the fridge after I made Thatcher take a picture with it for my Insta.

*Dear Millennials,

I can make jokes about Millennials and trophies because I am a Millennial. The oldest  Millennial in fact. The Original Gangster Millennial. The Gandalf of our generation. Did you think you were the first child to be terrible at organized sports and still get a shiny trophy?

You’re not. I am. Welcome to the 80s. 

Love, 

Me.

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My dentist, book clubs, and Jump Rope for the Heart

I’ll be honest. This post is just one big lead up to how much I dislike Jump Rope for the Heart.

I went to the dentist yesterday. I love the office but they are a chatty bunch. The dentist, Dr. Rooster-in-the-hen-house, is a friendly, older man with a sanguine face and a deep abiding respect for people who floss. He sets the tone for the hospitable atmosphere.

These toothbrushes are pregnant. They’ve been “impregnanted.” So much to say. So little time.

The hygienists and assistants were particularly loquacious yesterday because they’d all attended conference. The office staff took a team building seminar–a class that seems wholly unnecessary for this group. And my hygienist was all “We took a team building seminar and talked about our personalities, but we never took a personality test!”

So she’d taken it upon herself to send a personality test via group text. (Of course they have a group text. Try to keep up.) She cleaned my teeth whilst interrogating everyone about their results. To my surprise once again, most people had not only taken the test, but were willing to share their results and comment on the test’s accuracy.

“Have you taken that personality test? The Myers-Briggs?,” she asked me.

My mouth is open and there’s a hook scraping the inside of my lower jaw. I was only paying attention to their conversation to take my mind off the scraping sound echoing through my cranium. And I was trying make sure my mind didn’t go to that dark musical place: Steve Martin singing “I’m Your Dentist” from Little Shop of Horrors. This song is an ear worm. I didn’t want it in my head for the rest of the day.

Too late.

So I grunted an affirmation. Yes, I have taken the Myers-Briggs. Then I think how absurd it is that some countries don’t even have access to running water and Americans are worried about what four letters correspond to their unique snowflake selves.

Then came the air suction thingie and the tiny water gun. What happened to filling the little dixie cup and letting the patient sit up for a hot second? When I finally did sit up, the hygienist commented that since I closed my eyes, I got to relax. I think this is something that people with adult children say to people with younger children.

“Must have been nice. Getting to close your eyes for awhile. Not think about anything.”

Completely aghast, I said nothing.

Are you crazy? I’m happy you’re stewarding my dental health but that wasn’t a massage. And it certainly wasn’t a nap. I closed my eyes because the light you shine in my mouth rivals the sun in brightness. Even with the fake Oakley sunglasses you give me. 

And I’m always thinking, always worrying. It’s kind of the hallmark of having anxiety. Here’s where my mind went yesterday morning: Jackson’s book club and Jump Rope for the Heart and how I’m failing at both. All interrupted by show tunes.

Anyway, while plaque was getting scraped off my molars, I thought about Jackson’s second grade book club. When we were rifling through his backpack this morning, I saw a rather thick chapter book.

“Have you read this one yet? It’s long.”

His eyes dart around, “Uh, no.”

“Okay, well you have time, but start reading it.”

He won’t. I thought of how Jackson may not have read any of the Book Club selections this year. After all, the librarian didn’t assign Captain Underpants or another graphic novel that employs toilet jokes as its main source of humor. So Jackson is basically treating his kid book club the way all adults treat adult book club. Maybe the librarian should just give up on the discussion. Just serve some some small bites from Trader Joe’s and let the kids gossip and drink Chardonnay with ice in it.

(NB: That’s a joke. I’m not actually suggesting the elementary school librarian serve alcohol. And she is a responsible person and wouldn’t even joke about kids getting loaded.  She a fine teacher and an even better person. Her Myer-Briggs letters are better than mine.)

My spa appointment/teeth cleaning was also interrupted by Jackson’s last words as I dropped him off at school. They are the same last words everyday for over a week.

“Have you done the Jump Rope for the Heart yet?”

Don’t. even. get. me. started.

Jump Rope for the Heart is one of those programs where the participant gets money donated and then promises to do an exercise on a given day. Like on Facebook…when you see your FB friend’s Go Fund Me page and it reads like this:

“Hey, I’m going to do a marathon in Santa Monica. I’m training so hard. Donate to Muscular Dystrophy so I can go run this marathon.”

And you’re like, “Is my money going to research for Muscular Dystrophy or am I funding your vacation to Santa Monica?”(Notice how it’s never the Big Mud Run of East Bumble.) Either way, is this tax deductible? I hate to be that person but unless it’s one of my charitable causes or a really good friend, the tax deduction is the only thing that’s going to get me involved.

So replace Muscular Dystrophy with Heart Disease. Replace marathon with kids trying to jump rope. And finally replace trip to SoCal with worthless trinkets from Oriental Trading Company. Will Jackson actually jump rope for sick hearts? I don’t think so. Therefore, Jump Rope for the Heart is my homework.

And now that he’s in second grade with all his second-grade-sass, Jackson told me that I don’t care about saving lives. And this past weekend, he reminded me that my father had open heart surgery.

So far, I’ve been a good mom and responded with deep, cleansing breaths and then ignoring him. But soon, I might lay it on. No, I don’t care about lining the pockets of the AHA’s Board and CEO just so you can “collect ’em all.” And PopPop’s heart disease is hereditary–he’s German and can’t resist Boars Head cold cuts.

Furthermore, Jump Rope for the Heart is a constant reminder that I still don’t have my double unders in CrossFit. That’s it. Double whammy.

Love you, Dad.

 

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You, Sir, are kicked out of “The Menagerie”

“He just blowed for you,” Darcy said from the back seat, eyes wide and still confusing her prepositions. Were we in trouble? He doesn’t look happy. Well, I pissed off the new crossing guard at Jackson’s school this morning. He’s a man in his 60s with a handheld stop sign and a whistle he’s not a afraid to blow with wild abandon. I treat him with distance and respect.

But I was tired this morning. And I was waving at a friend on the corner.

I didn’t notice him signaling me to turn right and so I got not one, not two, but three blows. The last blow was exasperated. It felt like a higher pitch although I’m not sure that’s possible.  It was the sound the whistle makes then the blower smokes too much and thinks everyone is an idiot.

This is basically the face I got this morning.

We made eye contact and his eyes were filled with contempt. Neon clad fingers pointed at me forcefully then directed me to turn right. The disdain was palpable. I wasn’t looking at my phone, I promise. I wasn’t about to hit a stroller.

But there is NO ROOM FOR MISTAKES AT DROP OFF!!!

Therefore, I must declare publicly that the new crossing guard at Jackson’s school is officially kicked out of The Menagerie.

I suppose I should explain what The Menagerie is. First you should know this: a writer’s mind is a vivid honeycomb of anecdotes, fantasies, dialogue, and clouded memories. And this massive cellular structure is all dripping in the honey of self-doubt and sarcasm.

Back to The Menagerie…

(Also, I know there are some of you who are confusing the word “menagerie” with “menage a trios.” Not the same. You have a dirty gutter mind.)

Simply put, The Menagerie is a group of people who I enjoy interacting with but would never really be friends with. I’m pretty fascinated by people even if I don’t always like them. The characters in The Menagerie have interesting stories. They are usually older people and therefore their stories a gilded by a veneer of fiction I find endearing. Their stories, their quips, and their motivations all provide fodder for my creative work. Write what you know, the adage goes.

Other current residents of the menagerie include my amazing landscaper who told me that he used to eat the squirrels he hunted in my area before they “put in all these goddamed houses” and the ex-CEO of Aeropostale who sat across from me in the adult education watercolor class at Bronxville HS. She wore Chanel shoes and Hermes scarves but borrowed my watercolors.

“Have you painted much before?,” I asked.

“No, but I have some experience in design. I just retired.”

“Oh, really? What did you do?”

“I worked in retail. At Aeropostale.”

My face must have looked confused as I tried to square a classy lady like herself folding $8 shirts at Aeropostale. So she clarified, “I was the CEO.”

“Oh?” I said. Duh, I am sitting in a school in Bronxville. 

“Can I borrow your cerulean?”

Can I borrow your fucking Birkin bag? <– I didn’t say that.

Anyway, I thought the new crossing guard would be perfect for my mind curio cabinet. He drives a red scooter that he parks in the fire lane and surrounds with small orange cones from Dick’s Sporting Goods. That’s so idiots like me don’t hit the scooter. Or the idiots who drive the fire truck make sure to steer clear when they are pulling their emergency vehicle close to the school to save our children from burning flames or from ISIS.

Also, he wears one of those Sons of Anarchy helmets. The small black skull caps that look like they will do NOTHING if you get into an accident. That kind. And attached to the back of his helmet are three foxtails.

I am not kidding.

He also plants his pop-up chair in a neighbor’s yard. Not on school property but quite literally in the middle of someone’s lawn. There is shade here. I shall have it.

And one time, I saw him put his own body in front of a turning car. I think he even slapped the hood of the car so the driver would stop. Apparently, this driver decided she would turn right while he was crossing another party. He walked to the car and hollered at the driver. I can’t remember what he said but I’m pretty sure he muttered curses as he trudged back into the crosswalk. In my mind now, the crossing guard yelled the drill sergeant’s lines from Full Metal Jacket.  Something to the effect of… I didn’t know they stacked shit that high!

The point is…that four way intersection belongs to him…on school days…between 7:15 & 8:15am and then again between 2:30 & 3:30.

I don’t know much more about this guy. And after this morning, I will never find out. He’s the type who never forgets a face. I am now in the idiot category.

If you’d like to read about another group in my menagerie, check out my story of The Sippin’ Sisters.

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