Archive | April, 2010

Say Cheese!

30 Apr

Yep. That’s me. I’m guessing 1st or 2nd grade. It’s okay. I know it looks like Cindy Brady and Fire Marshall Bill had a love child who grew up in a settlement on Plymouth Rock (nice collar).  And does anyone else think I look like I’m secretly summoning all kinds of unspeakable evil to come forth and do my bidding?

Don’t feel sorry for me because my hair is accessorized with yarn, either.  It was the 70’s, and it’s obviously very fancy yarn. You can tell by how thick it is, and because it’s exactly the same cornflower blue as my dress. As far as I can remember, yarn like this did nothing other than decorate hair (and sometimes bicycle handlebars). What else could you possibly do with it? Macrame an owl to hang on the wall of the den? Nope, too blue.  Braid it into a belt? Yeah, that might’ve happened. But only if you mixed in every other color of the rainbow first.

I love this picture, all the way down to the pinking shear detail on the right side. It’s bad ass. The hair and clothes lure you in with sweetness and light while the eyes and smile say, “Mess with me and I’ll unleash all the demons of hell before you can even think Holly Hobby.” This little girl would kick your ass. Just sayin’.

So, what brought this on?  I got an email the other day with a link to the new book, Awkward Family Photos by Mike Bender and Doug Chernack. It got me digging around and thinking about all of the crazy shots taken of me over the years. You’ve seen exhibit A.  But there are others.

Like the time in 4th or 5th grade when I decided to cut my bangs right before picture day at school. It didn’t go well. Well, I take that back. I did an excellent job of removing my bangs, and I mean all of them, right back to the scalp, but it ended up looking kind of different than I expected. Lesson learned. Pay to have your hair cut. Got it. I couldn’t find that one (thank God), but it’s out there somewhere.

And the one, more recently, where I was in a group photo with my husband’s family, taken at the beach. Everyone looks very nice; we’re all in khaki shorts and white shirts, very J.Crew meets the Hamptons.  It’s a great family shot. Right up until you look a little closer and see the inordinate amount of dark orange eye shadow that I have on.

It looks like I’ve been playing in my mother’s bronzer or like I have a contagious and frightening rusty mold growing on my eyelids.  It’s awesome.

For the life of me I can’t imagine that I looked in the mirror and said, “Yeah, I want this saved on film forever,” but there’s a picture to prove it. In fact, there are even Christmas ornaments with this picture on them to prove it. Luckily they’re small. I keep hoping that make-up mimicking dark copper eye fuzz will become high fashion, making me the only one in the family who saw it coming. Exactly.

So take another look at that adorable little hellion in her pretty blue smock, and keep your fingers crossed that you don’t see her in your nightmares all weekend. Then, for some real winners, check out this link: Mike Bender: ‘Awkward Family Photos’: 7 Weirdest Family Pictures (PHOTOS, POLL) Who knows?  Maybe you’ll recognize someone.  Maybe that classic moment when your crazy Uncle Hector’s wig moved just before your dad snapped the picture made it into the book.  You might already be famous and not even know it.


Say What?

28 Apr

No one likes getting older. I’ve yet to meet a woman who can’t wait to turn 40, or someone whose skin tingles with a warm, fuzzy feeling when it’s finally time to make that colonoscopy appointment.  (“This afternoon, on a very special Leave it to Beaver…”)

But it happens to all of us. Whether you’re easing into your 30’s, slowly realizing that your body can’t handle hot wings, curly fries and a six pack of Milwaukee’s Best three times a week, or you’re passing into your 40’s and find yourself waking up slack-jawed with drool oozing down the side of your face at 9:30 pm most nights, blinking at your kid as you fumble for the remote, it happens.

And sometimes, even if you do come to grips with all of those adjustments that your aging body is throwing your way year after year, your fun new failings can have strange effects on others.

For example, my gradual hearing loss is a constant source of frustration for my daughter. It’s hard for her when she’s talking to me. Poor thing. Sometimes she has to stop shouting from upstairs, come all the way into the same room as me and actually turn off the music that hangs around her, thumping and blaring like a raging storm cloud of rock and pop.

And even then, if she’s not looking at me, there are times when I honestly still can’t hear what she’s saying.

All of this has led her to believe that I am faking.

At first I was offended. Who would lie about something like that? Then I was hurt. Have I failed as a mother? What kind of person does she think I am? What other stuff does she think I am lying about?  And then I was angry. How dare she?  Are you kidding me? Grounded for life!  But mostly, I was just confusedWhy would I do that? It didn’t make any sense.

This battle has raged on, sporadically, for almost a year. Sometimes it ends in laughter, sometimes, well…not so much. It usually depends on the tone of her accusation.

But something occurred to me today; a lightbulb blinked on, answering that nagging question of why.

She thinks I’m faking it to make her life miserable.

Of course.  It makes perfect sense.  Because last year, just after her 13th birthday, a little man inside her head reached up and flipped the switch that controls her ability to reason.  And then this evil little troll (to me he looks like Russell on Survivor) took an eraser and, looking back over his humped shoulders, laughed just before he wiped all of her common sense from the chalkboard in her brain.  And now, there is nothing in there but iPhone apps and the Smashing Pumpkins.

If you could look in her head, I swear you’d see me spending my days huddled in a dark corner at home, laughing as I concocted new ways to make her life miserable.

Sometimes I forget.

So from now on, when she accuses me of faking, I will take it as a compliment.  After all, anyone who would literally fake hearing loss to annoy and agitate their teenage daughter is taking it to a completely new level. Who knew I had so much game? It’s actually genius.

And I’m really sorry, but you’ll have to excuse me now. I have to get back to work; there’s a dark corner with my name on it.

Reality Check

26 Apr

I spent this Saturday at a writer’s conference.  No agents this time, just a few editors from publishing houses, other writers, some illustrators, and lots of good information.

It was very different from the last conference I attended. There, the intimacy of being publicly critiqued for two grueling days created an immediate bond with the other authors; it was like we had been to war together, dodging bullets and taking hits, pulling each other back up from the sludge every time we got hammered by the instructor.

This weekend’s conference (aside from lunch, where I did sit with some cool people) felt like work.

Halfway through, I found myself eating cookies to stay awake and wondering if I even belonged there. It was designed for children’s authors, and yes, I have written a children’s book, but somewhere between the quilted vests and homemade bags, I began to feel like I might be the only one who thought Carrie Bradshaw’s idea for Cathy and the Magic Cigarettes was funny. “Sex and the City” Three’s a Crowd (1998) – Memorable quotes

But I stayed and listened and took notes, anxious for the end of the day, for the dangling carrot: the critiques of our written work that would be handed out as we left. Like Ralphie, I knew mine would get an A+++++++.

As we filed out, I snatched the bright orange folder with my name on it and walked quickly to my car.  I climbed in and like a woman hiding alone in the shadowy corner of the parking lot, secretly bingeing on four double cheeseburgers, I indulged in my drug. I opened the folder and began to read the critique. This was the moment I would be discovered, where I would suddenly become a success in this glutted world of writers.  I had been submitting my manuscript for 5 months after all. How long could it take?

It was not awesome.

The work was good, but needed some adjustments.  So, like Ralphie, I trudged home, pouting the whole way.  I tossed the offensive folder on the counter, went to the fridge and grabbed a beer.  I joked to my friends and husband about adding vampires to make it marketable.  The agents and editors just didn’t get it.  It couldn’t be me.  It couldn’t be my work.

But, of course, it was.  And after a full day to breathe and take it in, and a very long bike ride yesterday, I can see it now.  The critique is spot on, and the manuscript isn’t ready.  Yet.

Writing is fun.  Struggling to get published is not. Revising and editing, critique and rejection is painful, and can take years.  It hurts. It feels like someone just called your kid an ugly mutant.  But it’s invaluable, and essential to push to the next level, to grow. And I’m learning that, over and over. This weekend brought it right back home. It is hard to get published.

And that is why it is special.

Core Values

22 Apr

Our daughter just got back from a week long field trip with her school.  The kids camped at a state park; they went on hikes and explored tide pools and learned about nature and the environment.  They had counselors with weird names (Uncle Traveling Matt, Sharky, and Waste Beard the Pirate) and sang silly songs and did all kinds of cool stuff.

She had a great time and I’m really glad she went, but I’m not 100% on everything she learned.

Reducing food waste is the latest thing. Check out: 10 Easy Ways to Reduce Food Waste – Save Money and Food –  I get it. Take care of the environment. Reduce, reuse, recycle. I’m a fan. But by the time she got through with her stories, I was beginning to think we’d somehow raised a Kool-Aid drinker.

Visions of my husband and I decked out in head-to-toe camo, low crawling over hard ground to cut through the barbed wire surrounding some sprawling compound in the middle of nowhere popped in my head.  I saw myself grabbing my daughter by the arm, her weird peasant clothing and Crystal Gayle/Dracula hair making her hard to distinguish from the hundreds of other cult members wandering in the dusty courtyard.

How did this happen? How did our outspoken, independent child come home from a field trip as a Kool-Aid drinking cult member?

It took my husband and I half the night to convince her that she wasn’t hurting the environment by composting her apple core.  Apparently she was supposed to eat it, seeds and all.  Like, every time.  That’s what they taught her.  Nice.

We actually paid extra for this.

By eating the core, she fervently explained, her eyes glazed and her voice full of conviction, each person’s food waste would be reduced. Right. Good for the environment. Bad for the person. FYI: apple seeds are poisonous. Yes, Apple Seeds and Cherry Pits are Poisonous. Morons.

Not that the occasional core or watermelon rind will hurt you, but I’m pretty sure if you survive the cyanide from the seeds, your intestines won’t appreciate that much fiber on a full-time basis. Maybe it’s just me.  Maybe I’m old fashioned.  Maybe the environment really is worth a lifetime of gastro-intestinal issues.

So this year in celebration of Earth Day, instead of planting a tree or learning how to compost, I’d like you to wash down your tofu burger with an apple core chaser.  Mmmmm…sounds yummy and fibrous.  Come on, everyone’s doing it and it’s for the environment.

This place can work a nerve.  All the sunshine makes people stupid.

As for us?  Let’s just say there’s one teenager who’ll be seeing strawberries in her lunch for awhile.

Whale Pants

20 Apr

The other day my husband and I were in Brooks Brothers (it’s hard for me to admit that I was there, but he likes their shirts for work).  And in the true spirit of you can dress her up but you can’t take her anywhere, I started laughing at the embroidered trousers that were prominently displayed near the front of the store.

You know which ones I mean.  The really terrible ones (available in corduroy and cotton) with the embroidered designs scattered all over them.  They’re hideous, no way around it.

To my husband’s credit, he is rarely embarrassed by my junior high shenanigans, and this was no exception. As I ran my fingers across the pink flamingoes, flawlessly stitched on the shockingly green pants, I asked the salesman, “Come on, seriously. Who really buys pants like this?”

I don’t even remember what he said, but by the time we got home I had a theory of my own.

Wealthy women buy these pants for their husbands as punishment.

It makes perfect sense.  I can see her now; an aging June Cleaver type, perfectly dressed for a day of shopping, her pearl necklace (a gift from Ward on their last wedding anniversary) resting on her slightly wrinkled neck. She enters the store and with a practiced smile greets the young salesman.

He can smell the sale, mingling in the air with her expensive perfume.  She has come, once again, to pick up a few things for her husband.  To her, the thought of Ward shopping for himself is comical.  In fact, the thought of him doing anything for himself after all these years is down right hysterical.  She secretly wonders, some days, how he manages to wipe his own ass.

She sees the pants lying on the table, the perfectly creased, bright green fabric dotted with tropical pink birds, and smiles.  Her thoughts become muddled; she is overcome by a sudden giddy sensation.  She pictures Ward headed to work in these pants and her stomach flips, like being at the top of a ferris wheel.

“May I help you with something, ma’am?”

“Oh, yes,” she says, smiling at the young man, her eyes gleaming with mischief.  She caresses her necklace with slightly arthritic, freshly manicured fingers.  “I’ll take these, please.”


I ran through my theory and my husband laughed.  Then he pointed out the best part. The guys who wear these pants couldn’t care less. They probably don’t even care if they’re wearing pants at all.  They’re too busy watching Sports Center. “Bring me some more bourbon on your way in from the kitchen, would you, dear?”  Now who’s laughing. Touche.

These hideous pants come in all kinds of colors and disastrous designs.  You’ve no doubt seen them on some unlucky bastard; whales (the standard), golf clubs, crabs, Santa heads.  I even found a pair with skulls embroidered on them, for when Ward feels gansta’, I guess.

Apparently there is a whole history surrounding these god-awful trousers that can be traced back to the 1980’s and the emergence of preppies. Check out:  Castaway’s Islander Log.  Some nonsense about an ironic lack of self regard.  Huh.  I didn’t get that. To me they just look like grown men with cute little crabs stitched on their pants.

I don’t care what they say.  I still think June buys them to punish Ward for a lifetime of gilded servitude.  Just take a look at her face.  There’s more behind that smile than a perfectly glazed bundt cake.  And even if Ward doesn’t ever catch on, some of the rest of us have.

That’s Not Chocolate

16 Apr

There are few moments in life that are truly pure.  Exchanging vows on your wedding day? Maybe. Watching the birth of your child? Okay, probably.  Being there when one of your dogs poops right on the other one’s head?  Absolutely.  That’s pure, baby.  Like winning the karmic lottery.

We have two English Setters. Their names are Fripdee Ba (my daughter named him when she was three) and Pepper.  They’re pretty special.  Yes, we love them as members of the family, but when I say special, I mean window licking special.

Pepper is extra special.

He has lots of nicknames.  One of them, because of his assigned seat on the short bus, is Lenny, after Steinbeck’s lovable, but not so bright, character in Of Mice and Men.

Another one is Bunny, because of his hair.  It’s wispy and thin and in some places is so ethereal it’s like touching a dandelion puff. If you even look at it sideways it twists into a matted mess.

When we go on walks they sniff stuff and chase the little lizards that scramble around in the underbrush.  They rub their backs on some bushes and shy away from others.  And they pee on everything, sometimes even each other (I told you, special).  But never, in all the years we’ve had them, have I ever seen anything like this before.

This morning they were both sniffing around the bottom of a bush when Frip decided he had to poo.  He does this a lot when we walk, which is why I always have a pocket full of bags.  Usually it’s no big deal. He grunts it out, and I wrap it up.  Only today, my most special child got in the way.

Just as Frip hunched over, Pepper leaned in to sniff something and WHAM!  Direct hit!  Every bit of that gooey brown sludge spurted right onto Pepper’s head. It piled itself into a slimy tower of turd behind his left ear, then finally slid to the ground, leaving a dark skid mark down his face that was pretty impressive. The best part was that Pepper didn’t even react.  He didn’t even move. He just kept right on doing what he was doing. Sometimes blankness is a gift.

When he finally looked up, the dark spot on his fluffy white head was threatening to push me over the edge.  Maybe it’s because I grew up with brothers, or maybe I’m just a jerk, but this literally made my day.  It was funny.

He looked up at me with those big brown eyes, and to be honest, I’m not sure if he didn’t know he’d been pooped on, or if he just didn’t care. Special.

Like any good mother, I took him home right away, not only to scrape the sticky chunks of turd out of his baby fine hair and clean him up, but also to take a picture.  This is brotherly love at it’s best.

It was, without a doubt, the funniest dog moment I’ve had in years.  I’m not sure how they’ll ever top it. Unless, of course, Pepper really does start licking the windows.

Spotted: Woo-Chick on Idol

14 Apr

Idol was on last night, and as usual I was watching.  Just like everybody else, I love a good horse race, and this one never disappoints.  But I’ve begun to notice something over the past couple of months.  There’s a bona fide, for real, no-foolin’ Woo-chick on Idol.

You might think I’m talking about one of the contestants; maybe Siobhan in another one of her wacky outfits, or my favorite, Crystal, who is soo going to win. You might even think I’m talking about someone in that mob of shouting fans that seems to delight in booing Simon even more than watching the show.  Nope.  As far as I can tell, none of them have the Woo.

I’m talking about Kara.  Yeah, you know it’s true. That wild child is just a few tequila shots from topless.  Bet on it.

Can I be the only one who sees this?  Every time she gives a critique, I expect her to throw back a shot, slam the glass on the table in front of her and nod, smiling at the other judges as she asks, “Who’s next, bitches?”

I mean no disrespect.  Seriously, to me Woo-chicks are just about perfect.  They look great leaving the house at 9 pm, have your back in a bar fight around midnight (probably by threatening some skank with the business end of 4 inch Pradas) and are up the next morning, in time for an early brunch with their boyfriend’s parents at the club.

Don’t just take my word for it.  Let’s do this scientifically.  According to an on-going study at the International Center for the Development of Rock and Woo, the top three ways to spot a Woo-chick are:

# 3: Any self-respecting Woo is never more than a few days from big hair.

Check.  Kara’s hair may be smooth and flat some nights, but she can’t resist the call of her peeps for long.  Even when it’s smooth, it wants to be big. Watch and see.

# 2: Woo-chicks aren’t usually the girls you’ll see dancing on tables and getting naked at a party, but if the moment is right, no real Woo would waste an opportunity to bring the house down.  Especially when her honor is in question. Sexy, yes. Slutty, no.

Bingo. Kara DioGuardi has decided to pose nude in this month’s Allure magazine. Check it out:  Kara DioGuardi naked: ‘A side of me they have never seen’ (except for that one time on ‘Idol’) | .  Not to mention how she effortlessly schooled Bikini Girl (so NOT a Woo-chick) last year on stage, flashing quite a bit of skin to millions of people in the process.  I bet she resisted at first, did a few shots with Randy, then smiled and said, “Let’s do this!”  She made the Woos proud.

And the # 1 way to spot a Woo-chick is, of course, by the way she rocks.  These girls are in it; hands raised, hair flying and heads bangin’.  The secret handshake of this elite sorority is actually devil horns, or in the case of extreme rock and Woo, the double devil horn; when there’s just too much rock for one hand.

Check. Kara loves her music, and I’m pretty sure I’ve seen her throw the horns up, her arm pumping toward the sky as she’s jammin’.  It’s all she can do some nights to stay in her chair.  Get some, girl.

I love her and her big-haired Woo.  I want to party with her.  You just know she’s DJ’ing the front of the house, then headed to the back for the keg stand contest.  And I’d rather watch her sitting on the edge of her seat next to Simon, fighting back the urge to dance on the table every night, than have to listen to Paula drone on about how wonderful everyone is.  Wait, Paula who?

Exactly.  So, hey Kara, thanks for keeping it real.