Monday, January 31, 2011

The Granddaddy of Them All

Writing my iPod story yesterday made me think of my Most Moronic Moment of All Time…Ever!  Only a few people know about this story, and, really, I should keep it that way, but it’s just too funny not to share. And since I am totally brilliant most of the time, I think that highlighting a few of my shortcomings here and there only serves to make me more lovable and charming, right?  Kind of like Lucy…but with fewer dresses and way better hair.

This story takes place at least 20 years ago when my then boyfriend, now husband, and I were newly dating.  He was a bit older than I was back then…Ha!  Still is…just wanted to see if you were paying attention.

Anyway, I was at the tail end of my college career and he was establishing himself in his real-life career.  A friend of his was getting married and moving out of his apartment and was looking to get rid of his microwave. 

Keep in mind, this was over 20 years ago.  There were no cell phones, laptops, wiis, etc.  Home computers were just starting to make their way into, well, into people’s homes.  This was so long ago, in fact, that I typed, yes, on a typewriter, ALL of my college papers.  (If you just asked what a typewriter is, then you’re too young to be reading this and I officially hate you.)  Back then, people had a TV, a VCR, and a microwave, and if they were really living large they had an Atari “gaming system.”  Oh, yes, it was that long ago. 

Microwaves were a relatively new invention back then, and since I was a single gal living on my own (without a lot of money), I was more than happy to take his friend’s used one.  My then boyfriend, now husband (I guess I’m going to have to give him a name eventually, but I better let him pick it) comes over and sets the microwave on the counter. 

A few days later, I go to use the microwave, only it doesn’t work.  Hmm, that’s strange, why would he give me a microwave that doesn’t even work?  I don’t say anything to him because, after all, he was nice enough to give it to me and, quite frankly, I’m a little bit embarrassed for him that he has given me something that doesn’t even work.  I mean, we’re newly dating, what am I going to say? “Thanks for the piece of crap, broken down, useless, second hand, junky microwave.”  I don’t think so.

So I do what I do best in situations like this:  I keep my mouth shut. 

Time passes and he’s over at my apartment one day and he asks about the microwave.

Shoot!  What do I say?  I give him my most charming smile and say, "Well, um, er, you see, the thing is, well, it’s just that, um, the microwave doesn’t work."

And he says, “What do you mean it doesn’t work?”

And I say, “What do you mean what do I mean?”  (Twenty years later and we still have lots of conversations like this.)  “It doesn’t work,” I say again.  “I push the button and nothing happens.”

“Hmm, that’s strange,” he says.  (You’re telling me!)  He’s a handy guy so he pokes around a bit, pushes the button, and voila, it works.  Magic!  Be still my beating heart…he is such a stud!

 “Um, Jane,” he says.  Now it’s his turn to er, um, well…”Jane, it wasn’t plugged in.”

 Me:  “You have to plug it in?  But it’s a microwave.” 

Him:  “Yes, Jane, but you still have to plug it in.  How else did you think it would work?”

Me:  “Well, it’s microwave.  Aren’t there, like, little micro waves in the air that make it work?” 

I swear I’m not making this up…and I swear that every day I thank my lucky stars that he didn’t go running for the hills right then and there.  I really and truly thought microwaves worked on micro waves!

Now, dear reader, if I may take a teeny, tiny moment to defend myself.  I know what you’re thinking:  Put the shovel down now, Jane, and step away from that very large hole you have just dug for yourself.

But in my meager defense, very few people had microwaves back then, and the one we had at my dad’s house was built in, thus no cords, no plugs, no nothing.  How was I supposed to know that a microwave had to be plugged in?  Seriously people, I can’t be expected to know every darn thing now, can I?

So there you have it.  My Most Moronic Moment of All Time…Ever!  If you dare, I invite you to share yours.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Now That's More Like It!

The husband went away for the weekend to kill innocent birds…er, I mean, he went on a very sporting, very nature-balancing hunting trip.  (Hey, we can’t always agree on everything now, can we?)

He called a little while ago to say that he was on his way home, and that he’s going to stop at Bass Pro Shops, and he asked me if I needed anything.

Excuse me?  Did I hear him right?  Did the man that I’ve been married to for 18 years…the one person on this planet who is supposed to know me better than anyone else, well, on this planet, just ask me if I needed anything at BASS PRO SHOPS?!

Me:  “Um, yes, honey, as a matter of fact I do need something at Bass Pro Shops.”

Him (excited, but a tad bit perplexed):  “Wow!  You do?  Really?  Well, what is it?  What can I bring you from Bass Pro Shops?"

Me:  “I need a new hunting vest.”

Him (even more perplexed): “You do?  Hmm, what do you need a new hunting vest for?”

Me:  “Well, my husband of 18 years just asked me if I needed anything from BASS PRO SHOPS, so clearly it’s time for me to go a’ huntin’ for a new husband!”

Him:  “Got it!  One big, fat, shiny diamond, not bought anywhere near Bass Pro Shops, coming right up, dear.  See you in a few hours.  Love you, bye.”

Now that’s more like it!  Do I need anything from Bass Pro Shops?  Where does he come up with this stuff?

Maybe I'm Not a Moron After All...Yeah, Right

I started running, off and on, a few years ago, and last year I decided to take it seriously.  I was growing an extra layer of marshmallow fluff that I was not the least bit happy about. 

I’ve tried the whole gym thing, but they’re overcrowded, besides which you have to get there 10 minutes early to get a bike, weights, a decent spot, etc., etc.  Do the math…if you are actually (and miraculously) able to carve out an hour into your busy day to exercise, and you then have to spend 10 minutes driving to the gym, 10 minutes setting up your crap at the gym, and then 10 minutes driving back home from the gym, well, your hour of exercise just got cut in half.  No thanks!

So I broke up with Gym and decided to give running a try.  It seemed to be a logical choice since I could do it at my convenience, not Gym’s.  Here’s the rub though:  I hate running!  Really and truly hate, hate, hate it!  But I had to do something; I hated the marshmallow fluff even more.  
Surprisingly enough,   I actually stuck with it for all of 2010 (a true miracle, let me assure you), and at the end of the year I vowed to keep it up in 2011. We’re about a month in and all is going well.  I am currently running twice a week and walking twice a week.  (I figure there’s seven days in a week, so if I exercise four of them, then I am exercising more days than I am not…mathematical genius, I know!)
In order to fit in two runs a week, especially with these short winter days, I have to do a weekday run from work.  It’s not my favorite run.  It’s loud and it’s not one bit pretty; but it’s convenient, and during the week aesthetics takes a back seat to convenience.  I can literally walk out my classroom door, walk off campus (and out of sight of anyone), and I’m off and running.
Last Wednesday was my “work” run.  It’s about 3:30 and I’ve got my running shoes all laced up, my visor firmly planted on my head, and my music ready to go in my pocket. 
Once my warm up walk is done I’m ready for my music so I pull my iPod out of my pocket and turn it on.  Only it doesn’t turn on.  It’s not charged, which means the only music that I’ll be listening to is the sound of my own two feet pounding the pavement, accompanied by the very loud traffic from the very busy road.  Dang it!
Oh well, no use crying over uncharged iPods and all that jazz…the run must go on!  I pull my iPhone out of my other pocket to switch my RunKeeper app from walking to running (this is about as technical as I get people, as you are about to see).  I “slide to unlock” and what do I see beneath my right thumb? No!  It can’t be!  A beautiful little iPod icon! O-M-G!
How is it that I could have run, consistently, for over a year, and not know this?  I mean, I put some serious miles in last year, people!  How many times have I run with no music because my iPod was not charged?  I can’t even tell you, that’s how many!  All those times that I was forced to listen to nothing but the pound, pound, pounding of my feet.  It didn’t have to be that way!  How could I not have known this?
I mean, I knew my iPod music was on there…duh!  I downloaded it…I’ve used it for ring tones for crying out loud…I totally knew it was there…only I didn’t!  So much for mathematical genius…I haven’t even been able to put two and two together to get four.  I didn’t realize I could take my headphones and plug them into the HEADPHONE HOLE and listen to my iPod music on my iPhone!  I offer no excuses, people, truly I don’t.  I totally cop to being a complete and total moron!
But wait a minute, enough beating myself up…I have music!  Who cares if I didn’t know it before?  I know it now, and, yippee, I have music for my loud, ugly “work” run.  And even better, I no longer have to have my iPod in one pocket and my iPhone in the other.  I’m feeling lighter already!
I’m reveling in this little discovery when I realize I better hurry up and run already.  I’m fighting daylight here!   I click that beautiful, little orange iPod icon and then have a teeny tiny moment of panic…I don’t really have time to figure out what songs to pick…I need to get running, and NOW!  So I click “shuffle” and hope for the best!
The first song that comes on is Kenny Chesney’s Thank God for Kids.  Now what is the relevance of that you ask?  Well, I have been having a doozy of a time at work lately, and things are not looking like they’re going to get any better.  It’s only January and there’s already talk of bigger class sizes for next year.  UGH!  So, of the hundreds of songs that could have come on, this is the song that comes on?!  It’s my all-time favorite feel-good-about-kids song ever, and the fact that it came on at that exact moment seems to me to be more than a coincidence.
Could it be that I’m not really a moron after all?  Could it be that the universe aligned itself just so at that exact time on that exact day so that I would hear that exact song and feel thankful that I get to spend my days with kids?  (Actually, it’s not the kids that are getting me down…it’s the system and the powers that be that don’t know a classroom from a bathroom and so we all get pissed on…but that’s beside the point right now.)  The point is, I think there may have been larger forces at work here, people!  The point is, I think, maybe, I’m not a moron after all...yeah, right.    

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The One That Started it All

Now that I've been a "successful blogger" for all of one month I thought I'd pay homage to the story that started it all.  (And by successful blogger I mean I've committed myself to writing it, and five very kind and generous friends have committed themselves to reading it.  Voila...success!)

So here's the story that started it all.  I originally posted it on Facebook, and it was called "The Water Cooler Story." (For those of you who have already read this, there is a little follow up at the end if you're interested.)

The Water Cooler Story

The thing about teaching that many people may not be aware of is that it’s pretty isolating.  I can literally go days with only the following adult conversations: “Can you open the kiln door for me?”  “Are we still on for music this Friday?”  “Would you like me to run a set of these copies for you?”

When you work in an environment that’s ruled by bells and little people you get a bit starved for the water cooler banter that occurs in most workplaces.  I think that’s why I’m drawn to Facebook (drawn to, obsessed with…whatever).  To me, it kind of feeds that need to share those little, insignificant snippets of our lives with each other. 

Where am I going with this you ask?  Well, here’s a little water cooler story I’d share with you if I had more than five minutes to go to the bathroom, check my mailbox, give Johnny a snack, dash off an email to a parent, and get my butt out to yard duty on time.

My husband has long been fascinated with “the next big thing” type people.  As such, he is currently reading The Accidental Billionaires, the book about the founders of Facebook.  Curious as to what all the fuss about Facebook is about, he broke open his laptop one day, typed in Facebook, and started poking around. 

After a while he said, “You’re on here, right?”

“Yep.” I replied. 

“Well, then, why can’t I find you?” he asked. 

I explained to him that I pretty much have my privacy settings set in "lock down" mode. 

“Then how do you have any friends?” he asked. 

“Well, someone has to actually know someone with whom I am already friends before I will show up anywhere.” 

“Hmm. Then how can I be friends with you?” he asked.

“Like I said, honey,” I replied, “You have to know someone who knows me.” 

He looked at me, astonished, and replied, “But I’m your husband!” 

Hey, it’s one thing to marry the guy…quite another to let him be my Facebook friend.  ;-)

Thanks for bellying up to the water cooler with me! :-)

The follow up:  One of the comments I received after I posted this story was that I should start a "water cooler" blog.  I thought this was kind of funny because, at the end of last year, I did, in fact, set up a blog.  It was all too overwhelming at that time and so I pretty much forgot all about it...until I wrote that story and received that comment. 

I went back to the blog and was surprised to find that it was still there...I never even named it!  Of course, it took me two days to remember/send for, etc., the password, but once I  finally figured it all out I  thought, What the heck!  I'm going to give this a go.  Enough people have told me I'm a good writer over the years that, well, maybe they're right.

So I had the blog, but I needed a name.  I loved "water cooler blog" and wanted to use some variation of that for the title, but everything using those words was already taken.  Then I recalled that this very story (my water cooler story) included the term "ruled by bells" and since that's pretty much how I feel most days I thought, Perfect!  I typed it in and it was available...Double perfect! 

However, since I'm not just writing about my job, I thought that maybe the title wasn't so perfect after all. I mean, I knew this blog would also include stories about my mom, and "ruled by bells" didn't fit that part of it.  Then I thought about it some more and I had the realization that most of my dealings with my mom involve phone calls, and well, a phone is a kind of bell, right?  (Additionally, one of my favorite books of all time happens to be The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, which is, coincidentally enough, about a woman losing her mind.) So, finally, the title seemed like a good match, and thus my blog, and hopefully, one day (soon!),  my writing career, was born.  (Yes, I realize that the title doesn't match up with my family stories, but as the saying goes, "Two out of three ain't bad.") 

Another little quick follow up:  My husband said it was pretty dumb to be on Facebook and not have anyone be able to find me.  Thinking he might be right (man, I just hate admitting that) I decided to change my privacy settings.  I was a bit nervous because, as you now know, I don't just let any ole' body in to my Facebook world.  But I clicked the save button on my new privacy settings anyway and I waited for the deluge of friend requests.

Well, guess what?  It's been about a month and I've received all of two, yes 2, friend requests! 

And that, my friends, is how this blog came to be.  Thank you for taking the time to read it!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

No Germs, No Fleas

Thursday night and my mom calls.  It’s a bit strange for her to call at that time; usually she calls on the weekends.  Then again, the pot of water on the stove was about to boil over; the toast just popped out of the toaster (yes, when I’m out of dinner bread I serve my family toast…don’t be a hater); and the timer for the chicken just went off, so really, it’s no surprise at all that it’s her.

What is surprising though is how excited, and relieved, she sounds to hear me. 

“Jane?! Oh, I’m so surprised to hear your voice.”

”Really, mom, why?”

”I keep wondering if your safety is at stake.”

(Oh no, this does not bode well.)  I’m fine, mom.”

“You don’t go answering the door to just anybody do you?”

 (Guess I better not tell her about answering the door to the Girl Scouts last weekend!) 

“No, mom.”

“That sounds like a pretty wimpy ‘no’ Jane.  Oh, all I’ve done is given birth to a couple of wimps.  You really have nothing to defend yourself, Jane.  If you had a big hulk living with you then I wouldn’t worry so much about the goblins getting you when you answer the door.”

(Uh, oh.  This is going from bad to worse, so I try my hand at a very strong, very non-wimpy voice).  NO, mom!  I DON’T answer the door to strangers.  I’m fine.”

“It’s just that you’re not that big.  I'm also worried that someone is going to be envious of your deep beauty.”

(Oh, for crying out loud!  And do what, exactly?  I’m fairly certain that no one is, in fact,  jealous of my ‘deep beauty’ and even if there were a couple of people out there who were, I’m pretty sure it’s a jealousy that they could live with without wanting to do me any harm.  Oh, brother.  This is too much, even for me.)

“You’ve kept yourself so hygienically spotless over the years, Jane…no germs, no fleas, and I just worry that you can’t defend yourself.”

(No germs? No fleas?  I try not to laugh out loud as I think of ways to try and end this call.  Oh, yeah, dinner.  I start to make a bunch of loud cooking noises.  Thankfully, she gets the hint.)

“Okay, Jane, I’ll let you go now.  But don’t worry, I’ll call you every night…but I don’t know if it will be or .”

(Great! I guarantee you my phone will ring tomorrow night at precisely one of those times.)

I hang up the phone and I have an ah-ha moment (and if my husband reads this entry I’m betting that he will have the same ah-ha moment). No wonder I’m such a freak about locking doors and feeling safe.  My husband constantly gives me a hard time about keeping our house "locked up like Fort Knox" but I just can’t help myself.  It all makes perfect sense now. 

Funny how these nonsensical conversations with my mom end up being so enlightening. 

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

What a Week…and It’s only Wednesday!

Testing is done…for now anyway.  Yay!  I admit I was still feeling a little bit of residual frustration with the whole process.  Then the following little ditties happened and I fell in love with my job, and my kiddos, all over again (you’d be surprised how often this happens).

Monday:  It’s recess time and I have the last straggler (we’ll call him Kaden) in my room finishing up his work.  This is my 11th year of teaching, which means my body is programmed to go to the bathroom at approximately every Monday through Friday.  Seriously, we’re talking clockwork here, people. 

Speaking of clocks, it’s getting dangerously close to so I say:
“Okey dokey, Kaden, let’s get ‘er done, I have to go to the bathroom.”

And he says, in a voice full of 6-year-old disdain (can 6-year-olds even do disdain…probably not…but his tone clearly indicates that he thinks he is superior to me). 

Anyway, Kaden says:

“Well, I usually just wait ‘til the end of the day to go to the bathroom.”

No wonder that kid can’t sit still!  Wait a minute…if he waits until the end of the day, as he alleges, then why does he ask to go to the bathroom so many times during the day?  Hmm…something’s not quite right here, folks, but you know what?  I don’t have time to figure it out.  It’s ! 

Tuesday:  Lunch in the cafeteria is hamburgers, and as we’re lining up one of my cutie pies (let's call him Corey) says:

"Mrs. J., I got a question about the hamburgers.  Do they come with cheese in them?"

Me:  "Um, I don't think so sweetie.  The menu says hamburgers, not cheeseburgers."

Corey:  "That's okay, I brought my own cheese just in case."

He marches over to his backpack, pulls out a piece of cheese, displays it proudly and says, "See, I brought my own cheese."

I'm speechless. 

10 seconds later

Corey:  "Mrs. J., I got another question about the hamburgers.  Do they have ham in them?"

Me: "Um, no, hon, hamburgers are made from beef, not ham."

Corey:  "Oh, you mean like taco meat?"
(Good grief, I don't know what kind of meat his mom uses for her tacos!)

He’s obviously a picky eater if he’s bringing his own cheese so I say, "Yes, Corey, it’s exactly like taco meat."
Today:  So we’re back to Kaden.    
It’s reading group time and, as I do practically every 30 seconds, I quickly scan the room to make sure everyone’s on task.  I notice that Kaden is full-on under his desk.  Well, his bottom’s still in his chair but his head is practically in his lap and I see scissors!  Not good!  (How he could even make his body fit under there like that is beyond me…oh, to be young and limber again.)  But wait, back to the scissors… whatever it is that he’s cutting, he clearly doesn’t want anyone to see.  Double not good!
Me:  “Kaden, come here, please…with your scissors.”
Me again:  “What are you cutting?”

Kaden (very nonchalantly): “Oh, I’ve got this dead skin on my lip….”
I don’t even let him finish his sentence.  In my head I’m going, ‘NO, NO, NO, NO, NO!  EW, EW, EW, EW, EWWWWW!!!!!!’
I calmly take his scissors and he tromps on back to his seat. 

Do I dare ask what tomorrow will bring?  One thing's for'll be funny!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Super Bowl…what Super Bowl?

I’m a woman and I’m a football fan, so sue me! 

I must also confess to having the worst record, in my family at least, for picking teams.  I was actually doing pretty well this year though. You see, I picked the Jets.  Why the Jets, you ask?  Well, Mark Sanchez used to play for USC, and, well, I know people who went to USC, and, well, well, those are good reasons to pick a team, right?  So, on a whim, at the very beginning of the season I picked the Jets to go to the Super Bowl.  And, darn it, they almost made it!  Until this past weekend, that is.

Another little confession:  I also picked the Bears, as in Bears vs. Jets for the Super Bowl, and guess what?  Both teams lost.  What can I say?  I’m an epic loser…but now I have a teeny, tiny problem…I’m a football fan without a football team! 

I can’t just sit there come February 6 and watch the Super Bowl and not have a team to root for.  That would be completely un-American!   My choice, as you know, is the Green Bay Packers or the Pittsburgh Steelers…Wisconsin or Pennsylvania…Aaron Rodgers or Ben Roethlisberger…green and gold or black and gold.  That’s it!  Colors.   I can pick my team based on colors.  Let’s see, my high school alma mater was green and gold…but, oh no, my kids’ current school is black and gold.  What to do, what to do?  Sorry kids, I’m going with green and gold.  Green Bay Packers it is!

Whew!  Glad that’s all settled.  I tell my husband my pick and he writes it down on our official “pick paper.”  It’s all very scientific around here, folks. 

Then my husband comes home yesterday and says, “Um, I have another option for Super Bowl Sunday and I just wanted to see if you guys were really and truly going to watch the Super Bowl game.  I mean, Jane, your Jets are out now, so, you know, are you still planning on actually watching the game?  Are the kids actually planning on watching the game?” 

My response is something along the lines of: “What? Huh? Watch the Super Bowl game? Of course I’m going to watch the Super Bowl game.  I watch it every year.  We watch it every year.  What are you saying…you don’t want to watch it with me this year…for the first time, in, like 20 years?!”

His response goes something like:  “Well, you know, I have this really great ‘option’ (why does he keep calling it that) and a lot of times, well, you know, a lot of times we start the game and then about halfway into it you guys all leave and I’m left sitting there all by myself watching the game…all by myself.”

“That’s not true,” I say, “we always watch all of the game right there with you, right kids?”

Their response goes something like:  “Well, mom, actually dad’s right, we do kind of come and go and we don’t actually sit and watch the entire game.”

Me:  “What?”  (Oh, these kids, they just take his side every time, I swear!)  “I always watch the entire game, and I have done so for the past, well, for the past as long as I can remember.  It’s Super Bowl Sunday, for crying out loud.  What else would I be doing on Super Bowl Sunday but watching the Super Bowl game?!”

Him:  “Well, I was invited to play in a poker tournament (ahh, the ‘option’) and, well, I think it would be fun.  But, you know, if you guys are going to watch the game then I’ll stay here and watch it with you guys.  But Jane, what if you were, like, at a spa or something getting, you know, a massage and a pedicure? You wouldn’t really be interested in watching the game then, right?”

Me:  “Of course I’d be interested in watching the game.  I watch it EVERY year!” 

Wait a minute, did he just say massage…and pedicure…and spa?  Is he bribing me?

Me again:  “Poker tournament on Super Bowl Sunday, huh?  Sounds good to me dear, have fun!”

Monday, January 24, 2011

But I Love Driving Carpool

My son recently passed his behind-the-wheel driver’s test, and even though my husband and I are both sticklers about good grades and passing tests and all that jazz, I must confess that this was one test I was kind of, sort of, well, really and truly wishing my son would fail. 

My friends thought I was nuts to be making such a big deal about it.  “Think about it Jane, no more driving him around everywhere.  No more carpool,” they said with joy (and a little bit of envy).

But here’s the deal:  I actually love driving carpool…especially with teenagers.  Perhaps it’s a sign that I don’t get out nearly enough, but some of my best laughs have been while driving carpool…with teenagers.  I wish I could share with you all the funny shenanigans we have been through these last couple of  years, but most of the laughs have been from those spontaneous, you-really-had-to-be-there moments.  I think there are a couple, though, that I can maybe (well,  hopefully) do justice to.

Carpool Shenanigan #1  I pick up the kids one day and it’s my two kids, plus “the neighbor boy” and a friend of my daughter’s.  “The neighbor boy” is actually David, my son’s best friend.  We moved into our current house about 10 years ago and they became instant best friends.  David is hilarious in a very subtle, wry sort of way.  (For example:  At a recent cross country banquet, the boys’ coach said, “David looks at me out of the corners of his eyes and I don’t know if he’s thinking, ‘Drop dead, coach’ or ‘Sounds great, coach.’”  That sums up David’s sense of humor perfectly.)

My daughter’s friend is Karen, and we have literally known her for her entire life, including her time in the womb!  David and Karen are both great kids, and I’m glad they are in my kids’ lives, but that Karen, well, she’s a talker.  Not that that’s a bad thing, mind you, I’m a talker, too, but seriously, this girl’s in a chatterbox league all her own. 

So we’re driving home one day and she’s yakking away (her ability to talk non-stop is really quite amazing).  We pull up to her house and she’s still talking.  She gets out of the car and she’s still talking.  She’s standing on the curb and she’s still taking, until…David looks at her out of the corners of his eyes and starts to close the door!  She shuts right up and the look on her face is classic “deer in the headlights.”  In fact, the look on all of our faces was classic “deer in the headlights.”  We couldn’t believe he’d just shut the door on her like that!  Of course he was kidding (well, that’s his story anyway).  We all laughed and listened to the rest of whatever it was that Karen was saying, closed the door for real, and drove away and laughed some more.   

Carpool Shenanigan #2  I pick up the kids one day, and my daughter’s, well, let’s just say she’s not in the best of moods.  I’m sure the fault was all mine.  I probably had the nerve to tell her something like just get in the car and don’t worry that your brother nabbed the front seat (or something equally horrible that we horrible moms say to our poor, sweet, misunderstood children).

As luck would have it, the song Just the Way You Are by Bruno Mars came on the radio at about the same time that she rolled her eyes at me (again) and said “You’re so lame” (again).  If you’ve never heard the song, here are a few of the lyrics (I hope I'm not breaking any rules here, but they were on the interenet right there for anybody to just copy/paste): 

Oh, her eyes, her eyes make the stars look like they're not shinin'
Her hair, her hair falls perfectly without her tryin'
She's so beautiful
And I tell her everyday
And the chorus goes:
“When I see your face
There's not a thing that I would change
'Cause you're amazing
Just the way you are”

Well, I changed her, she, etc., to my, I’m, etc., and proceeded to sing at the top of my lungs:

My eyes, my eyes make the stars look like they're not shinin'
My hair, my hair falls perfectly without me tryin'
I’m so beautiful
And I tell myself everyday

When I see my face
There's not a thing that I would change
'Cause I’m amazing
Just the way I am

Did I mention I'm a horrible singer?  Well I am!  And we are all laughing hysterically, except, of course, my daughter, who is trying very hard not to laugh hysterically, only I know she’s trying hard not to laugh, and she’s knows I know she’s trying hard not to laugh, which makes us all laugh even harder!  By the end of the song she’s at least smiling and I’m feeling pretty good about myself…there’s just something so satisfying about getting the best of your kids every now and then now isn’t there?  And now those days have come to an end and I'm feeling anything but satisfied.   

I know I should be proud of my son for passing his test, and I know I should be relieved to not have to rush around town driving everyone around anymore, but I’m not.  I’m sad that these fun teenagers will no longer be a part of my daily routine (in a way, they signaled the end of my work day, and the laughter they provided served as a great transition between work and home).  I’m sad thinking about all the laughs I will miss out on.  And most of all, I’m sad that my son has taken yet another step in his journey away from us. 

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Sometimes Crazy Can Be a Little Bit Charming

When I was a little girl I hate, hate, hated that my mom was different.  I hated that she slept all the time, I hated that she wore her hair funny, I hated the time we went to Vons and she bought $200 worth of canned goods because she was worried about some random disaster happening, I hated how slowly she drove (seriously, everyone teased us about this), I hated that she always drove OVER those concrete parking-spot markers, I hated that she always had to check the oven again and again (and again) before leaving the house…followed by checking that the door was locked again and again (and again).  It really is a wonder we ever got anywhere at all! 

Now that I’m all grown up, though I wouldn’t mind having a nice, normal mom, I can see that sometimes her craziness can actually be quite charming. 

She called the other day to ask about my aunt, her sister.  My aunt is one of those wonderfully amazing people who you just feel better having known.  Though we’ve always lived on different coasts, and though we haven’t really spent all that much time together,  when I was growing up I definitely felt a special connection to her (still do, in fact).  She was the one person who totally understood what I was going through with my mom.  I didn’t have to explain anything to her, I didn’t have to feel embarrassed or ashamed around her; she just “got it” in a way very few people can.

From about the time my parents divorced to a few years ago, my aunt was the one to send my mom “fun” money.  You know - a few dollars here and there so that my mom always had a little something in her wallet to do something fun.  My aunt was, very sadly and tragically, diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s a few years ago, so needless to say, life as she knew it came to a screeching halt.  As a result she was no longer able to send my mom money. 

Not wanting to upset my mom, and, more truthfully, not knowing how she would react to the news, I decided not to tell her about my aunt’s illness.  I just didn’t know how she would take it, and the last thing she needed was to be sent into a tailspin over something she could do absolutely nothing about.  (If my mom worries about me starting grease fires while cooking, imagine what this kind of news would do to her.  I wasn't taking any chances!) 

So, she doesn’t know anything’s wrong with my aunt, and only very rarely does she ask about her.  But she did the other day.  She said she needed a few extra dollars; she wanted to buy a new pair of shoes and a few odds and ends.  “And you know, Jane,” she said, “I do like to have an orange soda every now and then because I’m worried about keeping my weight up.” 

That’s right, she said UP!  Though she was much thinner when she was younger (weren’t we all?!), she has been in the plus sizes for many years, and in all honesty, she should be worried about keeping her weight down, not up!

I couldn’t help but smile to myself.  I just found it so charming that while most women are worried about losing weight, here’s my plus-size mom worried about getting her orange soda so that she can keep her weight up.  “I don’t like to get too thin, you know, Jane.”  You just can't help loving someone like that, now can you?

I tell her I’ll send her a check.  I mean, who am I to deny her the simple pleasure of an orange soda every now and then so that she can keep her weight up?  Not me, that’s for sure!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

In This Country

My son has had this funny thing going on with his eye for a while now (yes, that is, in fact, the technical term for it).  Anyway, we saw his regular doctor and he referred us to a specialist.  So his appointment date arrives and we’re at the office and we’ve done all the paperwork, we’ve talked to the nurse, and now we’re waiting for the doctor to see us. 

After a while (not too long of a wait I might add) in walks this, for lack of a better term, old man.  I mean, he looks pretty old, even to me, and once I hit 40 my definition of old became very generous.  My son and I look at each other like, “Oh, great, is this guy for real?”  I’m wondering if this guy can even see well enough to tell what’s going on with my son’s eye.  Oh well, don’t judge a book by its cover and all that jazz.

So the doctor walks in, he opens his mouth to start talking, and he’s a genuine, good old-fashioned Irish man, complete with a genuine, good old-fashioned Irish brogue and he’s hilarious.  He’s calling my son by his Irish name, he’s calling me mummy, and he’s a complete and total riot!  My son and I are now looking at each other like, “Oh, wow!  Is this guy for real?”  We’re both dying to laugh out loud but we figure it’s best to remain respectful since we don't really know the guy.  I’m absolutely positive that my face mirrors my son's: Eyes watering with a clenched smile that’s dying to escape.

The appointment goes well.  Turns out my son’s eye problem is pretty simple to solve so all is well.  Then the doctor turns to me, looks at me closely, and says, “Have you always had one pupil that’s bigger than the other?” 

Um, beg your pardon?

"Yes, your right pupil is larger than your left.  It’s not all that noticeable, but it’s there." 

Hmm, I said, interesting. No I did not know that.  Is it a sign of something serious?  (Another thing about being over 40 – you start to think cancer awaits you at every turn.) 

"No," he says, “Nothing serious.  It’s more of a cosmetic thing.” 

Whew, what a relief.  And as I walked away I thought, Hmm, I don't know what goes on in Ireland, but in this country men typically comment on the size of a woman’s boobs, not her pupils!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Sometimes There's Just No Arguing with a Six-Year Old

Student:  Mrs. J., are Martin Luther King, Jr., and Barack Obama related?

Me:  No, sweetie, they’re not related.

Student:  Are you sure?

Me:  Yes, hon, I’m sure.

Student:  Well, I think they’re cousins…they look a lot alike, don’t you think?

Now what am I supposed to say to that, except, Happy Martin Luther King, Jr., Day everybody!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

How Embarrassing!

My son and the neighbor are at my house yesterday afternoon working on a project.  I’m on the computer and out of the corner of my eye I see them walk out the door.  Time passes and it’s time to rally the troops for dinner so I call next door to have them send my son home. “Um,” my neighbor replies, “The boys are at your house.”  “Oh yes, that’s right," I say,  "I forgot that after they finished their project I sent them outside to tap the keg for the strippers.  Silly me!  I’ll send your boy right home.”  Not skipping a beat, my neighbor replies,  “No need.  I’ll be right over to get him.  You did say ‘strippers’ right?”  How embarrassing!  Our detached garage is morphing in to a teen hang-out and they were, very safely, out there playing video games.  (Hey, they had just completed an Honors Chemistry project, who am I to deny them a game of Black Ops to relieve a little stress?)

Of course, just the day before, it was the neighbor’s turn to be embarrassed.  I went to pick the kids up at their school after their respective practices, only their son was not there waiting with my kids. “Where’s David?” I asked.  “I don’t know,” my son says, “I saw him turn around shortly after we started running so I thought maybe he had a club meeting or something that he forgot about.  His backpack’s not in our usual spot so I guess his mom must have picked him up.” 

Now remember, this was the day before the “I don’t know where the kids are” incident, which means I still have “responsible parent” status, which means I’m not going to just leave without knowing for sure where David is.  We call his cell phone, but he’s not answering, so we call his house. His mom answers and says that she has not, in fact, heard from David.  She says that though it’s odd for him to just disappear like that, she is not actually worried so she tells us to go ahead and leave; she’s sure he’ll call her soon (and she assures us that she will let us know once this happens).  I'm still not 100% comfortable just leaving so we make one final attempt to find him…my son checks the library and goes back to the track to check there one last time.  No David.  No David backpack.  So we head home. 

We are about a block from our house and his mom calls and says, “Guess where my knucklehead son was?  He had to go the bathroom ‘real bad’ so he turned around and when he got back to the school he moved his backpack and was stretching somewhere else!” 

Shouldn't there be some sort of "poop policy?"  Perhaps I'll make an “I’m pooping, please don’t leave me” sign in the event of future “evacuation” situations. 

Oh boy, I can't wait to see what tomorrow brings!

Monday, January 10, 2011

It’s No Sweat off My Back

Just got off the phone with my mom.  Before I continue, I must take a moment to say that the point of this blog is not to host a big ole’ fat pity party.  Poor me…my mom’s mentally ill…my job sometimes makes me nutty…my family refuses to change paper towel rolls!  No…the real reason for this blog is to practice writing so that I can one day sell something…an article, a book…my first born…my soul…anything so that I can make a little money and do some real traveling.  Not to sound morbid or anything, but once I hit 40 I started thinking there was a real possibility I could die never having been to Europe, or Washington D.C., or New York City, or the Pacific Northwest, or any one of the many, many places I hope to see during my time here on Earth.  Of course, I’d be dead, so I wouldn’t really know I never got to see all those places, right? But still, it got me thinking.  Sooner sometimes really is better than later.  And so, with that slightly morbid yet completely realistic thought, I came to the conclusion that the only way I can ever hope to make even one shiny penny with my writing is to practice writing, and the only way to practice writing is to write about what I know, and what I know is my mom, my job, and my family.  So…

Just got off the phone with my mom.  Sometimes she will call and say, “Jane, I just wanted to call you to let you know I am still alive.  I have not passed yet in case you were wondering.”  I will say, “That’s great mom.”  We will say our goodbyes and that will be the extent of the entire conversation.

Other times, however, she wants to talk.  Notice I didn’t say she wants to talk to me.  Rather, she wants to talk at me.  And, really, it’s no sweat off my back to sit and listen to her.  So I often “engage” in long, one-sided conversations, where my only contribution is “Hello” and “Goodbye.”  And I am happy to do so.  I can’t take her in and care for her myself; I can’t see her on a regular basis; I can’t even live in the same city as her.  But, sit and listen to her for a while?  No problem.  This I can do.

So today she calls and says: “Jane, I think I’m going to be around a little while longer after all.  I’m planning to be around until I’m 75.  That’s when I think I will pass.”

She sounds like she’s in a good enough mood so I joke, “Really mom?  Already planning on checking out, huh?  Why 75?  Is there some significance to 75 I should know about?”

“Well,” she says, “I’m 72 now, and so in 3 years I’ll be 75.  And, you see, I have this really lumpy bed, and sleeping on this soft, lumpy bed makes time go by very slowly.  So I think I can only last three more years.  Now, if I had a nice, firm bed then time would just fly by and I think I would live a lot longer.  But for now, since I have this lumpy bed, I think I’ll only be able to make it another three years.  I used to think I’d make it to 80, but not with this lumpy bed.  Seventy-five is all I can do with this soft, lumpy bed.”  (The really funny thing is that the standing joke between my dad and me is that she will, in fact, out live us all!)

This is clearly going to be one of those phone calls when she just wants me to listen, so I happily oblige.

She then goes on to talk about the clothes I sent her for Christmas.  You may think dealing with her is painful, and, well, some days yes and some days no. In some ways it’s actually quite easy.  In some ways, she is like a child in that her needs are really quite simple.  Sending her clothes, for example, even a simple pair of pants and a matching jacket from Target, thrill her to no end and will keep her happy for weeks. In fact, she has already called me three times to thank me for the “Christmas Outfit.”  A $10 gift card to Burger King will also bring her great joy.  Give her something, anything, and, like a child, she is happy (she is also very appreciative and will likely send a handwritten note, in addition to a phone call or two, to tell me thank you…yes, even for Burger King gift card). 
She then goes on to talk about an upcoming appointment with her psychiatrist and how she wants to wear the jacket I got her to the appointment.  It’s got a “fur” lining that she says makes her “feel pretty.”  “You know how I like to sit on my throne and look like a star,” she goes on to say.  She rambles from topic to topic (a hallmark symptom of schizophrenia) and I listen attentively.  After a while she says, “Well, I just wanted you to know my plans of being around longer.  I know last time we spoke I told you I was going to pass sooner, but I changed my mind and I didn’t want you to worry. I’ll be here three more years.”

She signs off “Mother.”  (Funny, I don’t call her mother, my sister does; I call her mom.)

"Bye mom.  Love you,"  I say and we both hang up.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

I Bet You Don’t Have Messages Like This on Your Answering Machine

During the same week that I received the phone calls that lead to “The Grease Fire Story” and “The Reno Story” (both listed below), I also came home to several answering machine messages from my mom.  Sadly, the more I hear from my mom the worse I know that she is doing; this was a particularly bad week.  I have transcribed one of the messages below.  (I can see the questions forming in your brain even before they reach your lips:  Why on earth would you post this, Jane?  It’s not one bit funny.  In fact, it’s downright sad, not to mention a little bit frightening.  What’s the point?) I ask that you please read it, and below I will explain myself, and if you still have questions or doubts, feel free to leave a comment. 

Picture me arriving home and pushing the play button on my answering machine…

“This is Mother Bee Sally Bee I’m sending a portrait of John and it’s uh one of those million dollar portraits and I’m afraid Dopey Darlene the in house nutcase is going to steal it out of Patricia Rutgers office because she I had it in my hand and it was all addressed in uh one of those priority mail boxes box you know for the mail man I told the mail man to take it down to Patricia Rutgers mail box the canasta box the cribbage box the mail box the mail man he didn’t do it and if you leave anything in front of Darlene she’ll take it she pulls the telephones out of the cords or away from the desk we don’t have any good everyone’s real rough on the telephones and Belinda Buchanan the receptionist telephoned Alison the um lady janitorette she banged the receiver of the phone down this morning she said there were rats in 301 but that’s okay I’ll stay here I don’t want any more good time psychiatric hospitals because that skinny Mexican doctor beat me to within an inch of my life and I had to stay in the hospital three days and it took 6 months to recover my broken foot every time I go to the psychiatric hospital they do 16 electrode shocks which is $100,000 they take my money okay I’ll talk to you later I hope Jane mans the desk phone or mans the telephone but look for a package um I got the right zip code this time love Sally Bee Mother”

(Just a little background: My mom is in a nursing home, for lack of a better term and, for the sake of privacy, I have changed everyone’s names.  The portrait she mentions is of my son.  There was a time, long ago, when my mom was actually pretty functional. After my parents divorced she maintained an apartment; she also enjoyed painting and she was a classical pianist.  The "million dollar portrait" did arrive, and it’s sad.  I’d post it here but it just doesn’t seem right.  My poor son.  He was a good sport about it though; I’ll give him credit for that.)

Now to the reason I chose to post this…it’s two-fold really.  First and foremost, you really and truly never know what’s going on in a person’s life.  If you saw me in the grocery store on any given day, you would never in a million years think that this is the message I would be listening to as I put away my groceries. 

Second, everyone has baggage of some sort. You can look at a person and think, ‘Oh, look at her, she is so put together with her perfect body, her perfect designer jeans, her perfect husband, her perfect kids, and even her perfect dog.’  And you know what?  You'd be talking about me!  Ha!  The truth is you'd be talking about no one and you'd be wrong to jump to those types of conclusions based simply on appearances.  I don’t care what a person looks like, she’s carrying some baggage. 

Now she may be sportin’ the latest Louis Vuitton carry-on (a part of me actually feels kind of sorry for this person because, really, if all of her baggage can fit in one little carry on then she really hasn’t done much living); she may have the sensible “JC Penney Special” $49.99, 16-piece matching set (I think a lot of people probably carry this type of baggage, and sometimes they're lugging the entire 16 pieces, and sometimes they're just toting a bag or two); or she may have the no-name, bulging-at-the-seams, have-to-sit-on-it-to-close-it, doesn’t-even-come-close-to-matching set (God bless that person, that’s all I have to say).  Whatever…it’s all baggage and we’re all carrying it.  Some of us carry it better than others, and some of us carry more than others.  I, for one, have a lot of baggage, I know that, but I like to think that I carry it well…and it most certainly matches! 

My point is next time you feel like judging someone, don’t.  Next time you think someone’s life is better than yours, I’m willing to bet it’s not.  My point is go out into the world and not only be yourself but be honest with youself.  And above all else, show someone a little extra kindness today.  Afterall, she may be going home to "Mother Bee Sally Bee."

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

I’m Running off to Vegas to Become a Blackjack Dealer

I love my family, truly I do.  In fact, I will go so far as to say I adore them.  I have an amazing husband and two wonderful kids.  BUT…every now and then I have this fantasy of running off to Vegas and becoming a blackjack dealer.  The reality, unfortunately, is that I am over 40 and I have really small boobs, so I think it’s pretty safe to say that this fantasy will never come true, but hey, it’s my fantasy, right?  So in my mind I picture myself strolling in to work, dealing my cards, and strolling right back out again.  No fuss,  no muss, no one bugging me, no one asking me questions, no one demanding nothin’.  It’s just me and my cards.  The best part about this fantasy is that if anyone were to dare bother me, I’d have a pit boss named Guido who would swoop down swiftly and “take care of them” if you know what I mean.  Now, if my family is as great as I  just said they are, then why do I have this fantasy you ask?  Well, get a load of this story…

My family is the absolute worst about changing toilet paper rolls and paper towel rolls.  I am, literally, the only one is the house who does it.  Pitiful, I know, but true.  I have tried everything to make this an easier “chore” for them.  For example, there are always extra toilet paper rolls in the bathroom cupboards, and I go to the trouble of unwrapping the paper towels right when I buy them and place them easily accessible in our pantry.  Still, no one changes them but me. 

So last night, upon noticing that the paper towel roll was almost empty, I went to the pantry, opened the door, bent down, picked up a new roll, and placed it directly adjacent to the stand that houses the current, almost-out paper towel roll.  I mean, come on, how much easier can it be for someone to change the roll once it’s officially out?  A new one is right there!  Well, imagine my surprise when I come home from working in my classroom for a few hours and notice that the old roll is now empty (but still  in the stand); the new roll has clearly been used a couple of times; and it’s still next to the stand!  Not a single person could see fit to take the old roll, throw it away, and replace it with the new roll…all of which would have taken two seconds and could have been done in the same arm motion…the reason I know it could have been done in the same motion is that I tried it out myself!  Okay, fine, I now concede defeat and will officially give up any hope of help in this area and will gladly (oh, yes, gladly) change any and all empty paper rolls in this house!  So there!

Now that was within the first three minutes of entering the house…it gets better.  As I said, I have just come home from my classroom (it’s early Sunday afternoon).  I don’t see anyone hanging out downstairs so I venture upstairs to see what everyone is up to.  My daughter greets me with, “Mom, what are you making me for lunch?” and my son says, “Mom, are you going to do laundry today?  I am out of boxers.  See, I have to wear my cross country shorts” (he then proceeds to pull up his shorts’ leg to show me the yellow running shorts, like I really need to see them).  I look and my husband and say, “Can you believe this?”  He agrees it’s not the best greeting and says, “Come on guys, you can take care of those things yourselves.”  My son’s response…are you ready for this?  He says, “Well, then, what do we have a mother for?”  Ouch!  It’s an, ‘Oh my gosh, did he really just say that?’ moment.  It’s an ‘Oh my gosh, I’m so running away to Vegas to become a blackjack dealer’ moment!  And it’s for sure an ‘Oh my gosh, that kid better be glad Guido’s not around’ moment.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Technology is Stupid

One morning recently I was listening to the rain falling outside my window and, for some stupid reason, I decided to hop on my phone to check The Weather Channel app.  Shockingly, it said it’s raining!  (In my defense, the animated rain falling from the animated clouds is kind of cool.)  I thought to myself, technology really is stupid sometimes, and it reminded me of a similar moment a friend of mine recently had with her husband, so here’s my Technology is Stupid story.

My friend Lauren was in LA with her husband Richard.  (In my world, LA is anywhere south of Thousand Oaks and north of Irvine.)  So, they were somewhere in that LA abyss and they were driving to a mall.  Richard was trying to check the traffic app on his phone, while he was driving, which was upsetting Lauren to no end.  Seeing he was upsetting his wife, Richard proceeded to try and tell her how to check the traffic app for him.  So now, not only is he trying to negotiate an LA freeway, but now he has added handing his phone off to his wife to the chaos, along with explaining to Lauren how the app works.  Mind you, Lauren is still sportin’ a flip phone (gasp!) and could really care less about traffic apps and pretty much anything else that has to do with “smart phones.”  She thinks it’s all pretty much useless and silly.  Frustrated and seriously feeling that her safety was at stake at this point, she snapped:  “Put the stupid phone down, Richard, and look out the window…there’s traffic.  See?  It’s right there, you don’t need your stupid phone to tell you we are stuck in traffic!” 

She’s right, of course she is, but Richard is a bit stung by the outburst (he was, after all, only trying to be helpful).  Needless to say, they drove the rest of the way to the mall in silence.  Still mad when they arrived, Lauren decided she didn’t even want to walk with Richard into the mall, so she proceeded to mess around with her purse for a minute or two; he, on the other hand, had immediately hopped out of the car and started heading toward the mall entrance.  Feeling enough time had passed, Lauren got out of the car and took off in the opposite direction, figuring they would just meet up at the store they were there for in the first place, which, ironically enough was, you guessed it, the Apple store.  So Lauren gets to the Apple store, and there’s no Richard.  She hangs out for a while and still no Richard.  Realizing things have gone too far, she calls him (yes, on her archaic flip phone).  Turns out, he’s at the entrance to the mall waiting for her!  So…a big fat fight over some stupid technology.  In the end they were, luckily, able to enjoy a good laugh about it.

Every now and then I catch myself in situations like this and I think about Lauren and Richard and I am reminded that you don’t need technology to tell you it’s raining.  You don’t need it to tell you there’s traffic.  You simply need to look out the window!