Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Exercising is my favorite activity. Not!

            “I bought a Wii-fit yesterday.”

            “Really?” Gloria asked. “I’ve been thinking about getting one. Do you like it?”

            I dunked my bread into the olive oil/pepper mixture and popped it into my mouth. I nodded. Saturday lunch at the Macaroni Grill with girlfriends. Life doesn’t get much better than that.

            “What kind of stuff can you do on it?” Linda wanted to know.

            I swallowed the bread and took a sip of sweet tea. “I tried the Yoga program, and then did some skiing. Oh, and there was this cool game where you’re in a little air bubble, and you have to float down the river without running into anything and popping the bubble.”

            “Do you fall into the water if your bubble pops?” Marilyn asked.

            “Uh huh,” I answered and we all laughed. “Of course, if my avatar wasn’t so fat, my bubble wouldn’t have to be so big. It might be easier to do. I only made it 25 yards before falling in.”

            “Why did you make a fat avatar?” Gloria frowned. “Isn’t that bad for your self-esteem?”

            “Wii-fit makes your avatar for you,” I explained. “The board is actually a scale that calculates your weight and your body mass index. Then it makes your avatar look like your body.”

            The three faces staring at me wore identical horrified expressions.

            “My avatar is shaped like a pear,” I confessed. “A very large pear.”

            “You’re kidding.” Gloria got right to the point, as she always does. “You paid money for that?”

            “Well, I just kind of try to ignore it,” I replied, dipping another piece of bread into the oil and handing the bread board to Gloria. “Since I stopped teaching to write full-time, I’m not very active. I sit at the computer a lot. I just wanted something that would help me get some exercise.”

            “Does it give you any encouragement?” Linda tried to hide her smile, but wasn’t very successful. She is much more disciplined than I am, and she actually goes to the gym regularly. I like her in spite of that.

            “Sure. It tells me I’m doing a great job. It even tells me how many calories I burn during my exercise session.”

            “How long did you exercise yesterday?” Marilyn questioned.

            “About 30 minutes.”

            “That’s good,” Marilyn congratulated me. They all knew me well enough to know that that was 30 minutes longer than I’d exercised any day this month. “You must have burned quite a few calories in that time.”

            “Absolutely,” I answered enthusiastically. “The Wii-fit is very good about telling you how many calories you burn in your work-out sessions.”

            My friends smiled at me, and waited for it.

            “I burned exactly…15 calories.”

            “No way,” Gloria spluttered.

            “Way,” I solemnly swore.

            “You can burn more calories than that walking up the stairs,” Linda exclaimed.

            “I know, right? Hey, anybody want to share dessert with me? They have an awesome cheesecake.”

            Gloria grinned. “You’re nuts, girl.”

            “I don’t see why we shouldn’t splurge a little,” I chuckled. “I’m so not worried about calories anymore. I can burn off 15 calories on my Wii-fit any time I want. You should really get one.”

Monday, September 27, 2010

Leaping off a Cliff

            “Why aren’t you at school?”
            For a moment, I was a child again, caught in the act of doing something wrong. I froze.
            Lucy looked at me sternly. Apparently you never lose that “teacher look” no matter how old you get.
            It was 11 o’clock in the morning on a Thursday, and I clearly wasn’t teaching. Darn it, nothing got past Lucy.
            “I...I’m not teaching this year.”
            Her eyebrows rose and she waited me out.
            “Well, I’ve always wanted to write and now seemed like a good time,” I answered tentatively.
            “How long have you been teaching?” she asked.
            “Eight years.”
            “You taught 7th grade for eight years?”
            “Yes, ma’am. Except for the one year I taught eighth grade.”
            “I see. You taught English?”
            “Yes, ma’am.”
            “I taught history and government to high school students for twenty and one-half years.”
            “Yes, ma’am.”
            Lucy is highly regarded in the field of education, to say the least. Teachers who taught with her still rave about her formidable classroom management skills and her extensive knowledge of American history and government. I am a relatively new member of the Georgia Beta Kappa chapter of Alpha Delta Kappa, a teachers’ service sorority. Lucy is largely responsible for starting our group many years ago, and that’s how I became privileged to meet her.
            My heart sank. I greatly value Lucy’s opinion, and the thought that I might be disappointing her by leaving teaching made me feel sick.
            She sat still for a moment and then extended her hand to me. I moved up next to her bed and took her hand in mine. She pulled me close so she could look into my eyes, and quite possibly, into my soul.
            “You should write, if that’s what you want to do.”
            I sighed happily. She didn’t feel that I had let her down. I relaxed and smiled.
            “It’s important to do something you like,” she said. “I wish I had.”
            Now wait. What?
            She nodded at me, her eyes wide and serious. “I hated teaching.”
            My jaw dropped and she grinned at me.
            I bent down and kissed her cheek. “I love you, Lucy.”


Friday, September 24, 2010

The Intervention: The first step is admitting you're addicted to Mafia Wars and Farmville

            “So how did the writing go today?” My husband smiled at me. He’s so supportive of my new career.

            I grimaced a little. “I didn’t do much writing today.” OK, so that’s a lie. I didn’t do any writing today.

            “That’s OK,” he said, patting me gently on the shoulder. “I’m sure it’s hard to come up with such wonderful articles every day.”
            I nodded a little guiltily.

            “Did you do some research instead?” he asked. “Find anything helpful?”

            I have been reading lots of blogs and looking into advertising strategies that don’t make my friends on Facebook want to unfriend me. I also bought a copy of Writer’s Market and have been sending articles to magazines.

            “Mmmmm,” I mumbled. I picked up my glass of iced tea and sipped, taking my time.

            “I didn’t hear what you said.”

I knew that, but I sent him an apologetic smile anyway. Not having him hear what I said was kind of the point of the whole mumbling thing.

“Not really,” I finally admitted.

“Don’t worry about it,” he was quick to reassure me. “Did you need to go idea hunting? I think that taking your laptop to Starbucks or Panera Bread is a great way to find new ideas. The weather was gorgeous today. Even going to the park would be beneficial. Anything that gets you out of this dining room has to be good.”

I looked around my dining room/office. Then I noticed that my neck and shoulders were stiff and my wrist was sore. Suffice it to say that my butt had been glued to the chair in front of my 24 inch monitor for the entire day.

“You didn’t go anywhere, did you?” He stood behind me and rubbed my neck. “What did you do today?”

Darn it, I couldn’t think of a way to evade the direct question. “Social networking.”

My husband is not stupid. “Don’t tell me you played Mafia Wars all day?”

“Of course not,” I answered indignantly. “I also harvested my crops on Farmville and served the customers in my café.”

He swiveled my chair around, got down on one knee in front of me, and took my hands in his. “Honey, you have a problem.”

“Don’t be silly,” I answered. “I can stop playing Mafia Wars any time I want to.”

“I think you may need help.” He was very serious and concerned about me. Isn’t that sweet?

“That’s ridiculous. I don’t need help.” It crossed my mind that it was lucky I had taken a shower and gotten dressed this morning before I had turned on my computer. Otherwise, I might very well have been sitting here in my pajamas when he got home from work. That would have been bad.

“I’ll write tomorrow,” I promised him.

“I know you will,” he replied firmly. He pushed down the lid of my laptop and unplugged it.

“Where are you taking my computer?” I felt a little dizzy, and there were butterflies fluttering in my stomach.

“Consider this an intervention.”

“I don’t need an intervention. I need my laptop. How do you expect me to write without my computer?”

Wordlessly, he handed me a legal pad and a sharpened #2 yellow pencil.

“You’re kidding, right?”

“Nope,” he answered cheerfully. “It worked for Emily Dickinson and Mark Twain. It’ll work for you.”

Apologies to my MW family, my Farmville neighbors, and my Vampire Wars clannies. I have to write today. Really.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Time for Bed, Part II or Turnabout is fair play

            “We’re going to bed now, Mom.”

            “OK. Sleep well.”

            My sons, now 24 and 16, looked at each other and rolled their eyes. “It’s almost midnight,” the older one announced.
            “Uh huh,” I answered absently. “Good night.”

            “You should go to bed now, too,” the younger one suggested.

            “I will in a couple of minutes.”

            “You have a dentist appointment tomorrow at 8 AM.” The older son was looking at my calendar hanging in the kitchen. “You’re also having lunch with Dawn and then you’re volunteering at the high school PTA meeting tomorrow night.”

            “Busy day,” I replied. “I hope I can fit some time in there to write.”

            “You really need to get some sleep.” The older son nodded agreement with his baby brother.

            “I have to ice this guy before I can go to bed. The idiot attacked me 23 times for no money. This one is personal.”

            “Is she speaking English?”

            “It’s some Facebook app,” the younger one answered, looking over my shoulder at my laptop screen. “Looks like Mafia Wars.”

            “Sounds violent.”

            “I know, right? I think she’s addicted.”

            “Good night, boys.” I spoke firmly and used my mom voice.

            “Mom, you really do need to go to bed now.” My younger baby, 6 feet tall, gently patted me on the shoulder. “You’re going to get sick if you don’t get enough sleep.”

            “We’re just worried about you,” the older baby, who wears a nicely trimmed beard, added.

            “Oh for heaven’s sake!” I asked my mafia family to take care of the idiot for me and turned off the computer. “All right, already. Are you happy now?”

            I stomped up the stairs.

            “I’m really getting tired of having to go through this with her every night,” the older son whispered to his brother at the bottom of the stairs.

            The younger son was in complete agreement. “She’s an adult. You’d think she’d be smarter than this.”

            I hid a smile as I turned at the top of the stairs to look at them. “Good night, gentlemen.”

            “Good night, Mom. Love you.”

            “I love you, too.”

The picture was taken in April 2010 in Savannah, GA. I'm in the middle. The handsome young man on the left is my older son PJ and the handsome young man on the right is my younger son Alex. And yes, we have actually had the conversation I wrote here. Too funny.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Can't get your kids to bed? Try my solution!

Good night, good night! parting is such
sweet sorrow,
That I shall say good night till it be morrow.

“Mom, do you have to do that? It’s annoying.”

I face my husband, who is absorbed in something internet related at the kitchen counter. “I hear some noise within!” He chuckles and goes back to surfing.
My sons glance at each other over the Wii controllers and roll their eyes. They
ignore my Shakespearian dramatics and pretend they don’t understand that I want them to go to bed. It’s a school night, for heaven’s sake.

            I do beseech thee

            “We just have one more lap,” the older son states, frantically driving the car with his wii-mote. “I keep losing this level, but I know I’m going to win this time. I’m on a roll.”

            His little brother hoots, “You’re not on a roll. You’re on fire!”

            “Sh…” the boy looks over his shoulder at me, “…oot, Mario’s on fire.”

            A thousand times good night!” My voice no longer has the sweet tenor of Juliet’s lingering sigh to Romeo. My apologies, Mr. Shakespeare.

            “Sure, Mom. Just a minute, OK?”

Thrice the brinded cat hath mew’d.
Thrice and once the hedge-pig whined.
Harpier cries ‘Tis time, ‘tis time.
I make cauldron stirring motions and cackle wickedly.

            My husband clears his throat. “You boys know she means business when she starts with the witches from Macbeth.”

            “Uh huh,” they answer him absently.

            Macbeth himself now takes the place of the witches, and his voice booms out:
I will be satisfied: deny me this,
And an eternal curse fall on you!

            “It’s not nice to curse,” the younger son points out. “We’re going, all right?”
            “Why can’t she just tell us to go to bed like a normal mom?” they whisper to each other as they drag up the stairs.
I flop down into the chair next to my husband and channel King Lear.
            How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is
To have a thankless child!
My husband claps and whistles. “Another fabulous performance, my love.”

“Thank you, thank you.” I gently wave the back of my hand at my audience, queen style.

“Do you suppose they’re going to remember to brush their teeth?” he asks.

Know that we have divided
In three our kingdom: and 'tis our fast intent
To shake all cares and business from our age;
Conferring them on younger strengths, while we
Unburthen'd crawl toward death. 

“You can’t abdicate the throne,” he protests.

           “Watch me.”

Friday, September 17, 2010

7th Graders: You Have to Love Them

“I said, that’s enough!”
            Two pairs of eyes question me. “What?”
            “Please stop chasing each other around the classroom. Why don’t you use your lockers and head to your next class?” In seventh grade, hormones rule. Literally.
             “Do we need our math books today?”
            “I don’t know. You should probably take it just in case.” I teach language arts. Unfortunately, my psychic ability has blanked out today and I can’t connect with the math teacher down the hall.
            “It’s too heavy.” One voice had a whine to it that only teenage girls can achieve; the other cracked slightly before settling into the bass range.
            “Kimmy, I’m sure if you ask nicely Diego will be happy to carry your book for you.”
            “I will not.” Diego is indignant. “She can carry mine.”
            Kimmy puts her hands on her hips and prepares to read me the “independent woman” riot act.
            I sigh. They’ve caught me perpetuating a gender stereotype. Sometimes I feel so old.
            “Fine. You should each carry your own books, then.”
            “But what if we get there and we don’t need them?” Kimmy complains.
            I rely on another oldie but goodie. “Better to be safe than sorry.”
            “What does that mean?” Diego is still learning English and hasn’t yet picked up all the trite clichés.
            “You’re so stupid,” Kimmy fires at him.
            “No he’s not,” I interject firmly. “He’s still learning English. Why don’t you explain what I mean to him as you walk to math class?”
            “I’m not walking with him/her!”
            They both frown at me.
            “There’s the late bell.” You cannot imagine the relief I feel. “Saved by the bell” might be a cliché, but it’s a cliché that has deep and heartfelt meaning for middle school teachers.
            They move toward the door. Kimmy gestures. “Ladies first.” She smirks at Diego.
            He stands behind her and glares at her. “Just go through the d*** door,” he answers. I make a mental note to teach euphemisms and “school language” one more time…with feeling.
            They block the doorway. My next class is practicing dog barking and rooster crowing noises in the hall. They are surprisingly realistic and highly annoying.
            “OK, both of you. Out. Now!”
            “What’s her problem?” Kimmy whispers to Diego as she pushes another student out of the doorway so she can leave.
            Diego shrugs and puts his arm around Kimmy. Together, they shoulder their way through the crowd, laughing. The dogs and roosters file into the classroom and sit down.
            “Mrs. S.?”
            “Yes, Josh?”
            “Why do we have to sit in these assigned seats? I hate sitting next to Terri.”
            “I hate sitting next to you worse,” Terri fired back.
            “Great,” I respond with a pained smile. “Then you’re both equally unhappy. Problem solved.”
            “Mrs. S.!!!”
            I chuckle. Teaching seventh grade? You have to have a calling.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Punk Rock and Parents

            “Hey, man.”
            My husband smiled back at the pair of clean-cut college boys. “Hi.”
            “We just saw you come out of the green room.”
            Chris chuckled. The smoke – I’m pretty sure it was tobacco – billowed around us. It didn’t overpower the smell of stale, spilled beer, though. “We know someone in the band,” he answered.
            The Masquerade in Atlanta was sold out. My mother would call the Masquerade a “dive”, my description would be decidedly less polite than hers, and those in the music business call it a “popular venue”. The mom in me wanted to know why all these college students weren’t home studying on a Wednesday night. Didn’t they understand that their parents were paying a fortune for them to go to Georgia Tech or Georgia State?
            The band, Bear in Heaven, exited the green room and took the stage to a thunderous ovation from the crowd. The floor shook as the kids jumped up and down in rhythm to the first song. The strobe lights flashed, and the room pulsed with energy.
            One of the boys leaned closer to my husband. “So which one of the band members is your son?”
            Alex, our sixteen-year-old son, choked on his chewing gum and had to be slapped on the back. His father glared at him before turning back to explain that he was not – and he repeated the word not – old enough to be the parent of any of the Bear in Heaven band members. He wasn’t chuckling anymore.
            “My friend is Jon’s sister,” I explained to the young man, jerking a thumb at Theresa, who was bouncing up and down behind us. Her red hair flashed in the strobe light, and she sang along with her brother.
            The young man nodded at me and then sneaked a quick glance back at Chris. “I guess this isn’t a good time to ask you to introduce me to the band, huh?”
            I laughed. “I guess not.”

No matter how old you are – or aren’t – you’ll like the techno-punk sound of Bear in Heaven. Check out their music on Amazon.com or in a record (excuse me, CD) store near you.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Did you really just call me a HOUSEWIFE?

            “So what do you do?”
            I’m…overwhelmed by the magnitude of the question. My mouth hangs open, my eyes cloud over, and I’m sure the poor person I’m meeting for the first time is wondering if I’m going to start drooling. He looks marginally embarrassed, as if he’s asked someone incapable of tying her own shoes if she’s a brain surgeon. His eyes frantically search the room, but he can’t seem to catch somebody’s – anybody’s – attention. He’s not going to be rescued.
            Luckily, this is when the neurons in my brain start to fire again.
            “I’m a personal assistant.”
            “Really? That’s great. Who do you work for?” His words rush out; he’s thankful that I can actually hold a conversation.
            “My children.”
            “Excuse me?” He’s sure he must have heard that wrong. It’s loud in the room and he leans a little closer to me. I hope he doesn’t move any farther into my personal space. The baby spit up right before I left to join my husband at his company get-together and I didn’t have time to change my shirt, not that I could have put my hands on one that didn’t need ironing if I had found the time. My scent de jour bears no resemblance whatsoever to Elizabeth Taylor’s White Diamonds, but I’m pretty sure you couldn’t see the dried-up spot on my white blouse unless you were actually looking for it.
            “I coordinate daily education functions along with extracurricular activities, healthcare needs, and dietary requirements. I also provide counseling services and fashion consulting. I’m in charge of facilities maintenance as well. Believe me, it’s a full-time job.”
            “It sounds tough.”
            “It certainly is challenging,” I answer, “but my job is not without its rewards.”
            “Who did you say you worked for again?”
            “My children,” I announce clearly.
            “Oh. Then you’re a....”
            My eyes narrow as I dare him to say it. I wait. I wanted to see if he was smart enough to climb out of this hole or if he was going to dig deeper.
            “…mom,” he says with a wide grin that makes him look younger and less tired.
            Good answer. I grin back at him.
            “It’s nice to meet you,” he says, shaking my hand. “I’m here with my wife. She’s a mechanical engineer.”
            I nod toward my husband, who was working the other side of the large room. “Project manager.”
            He leans in closer now, close enough that I could see that he had a small orange spot on his tan polo shirt. “I’ve been wondering what to say if anyone asked me that ‘what do you do’ question.”
            I laugh. “So you’re a…dad.” I point to the orange stain that is proof positive. “Strained carrots or sweet potatoes?”
            “Probably both,” he admits.
            “I don’t know why our job doesn’t get the respect it deserves.” I shake my head sadly. “I’m always so defensive when anybody asks me what I do.”
            “I usually lie,” he admits. “But I’d like to borrow your answer from now on, if you don’t mind. I’m tired of having to justify devoting my time to raising my children.”
            “You’re preaching to the choir, my friend. By the way, please call me Vicki. Sometimes it’s nice to be known as someone other than Peter and Alex’s mom.”
            He laughs. “I’m Roger aka Ashley and Megan’s dad.”
            “It’s really nice to meet you,” we say at the same time. And I, at least, sincerely mean it. Maybe I wouldn’t fuss so much the next time my husband asked me to attend one of these boring business evenings. He still owed me, though.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Popular Culture Illiteracy: Does this tragic deficiency affect someone you love?

Someday when I’ve become a famous writer, someone will write my biography. It should be fairly easy, because I’m a pretty simple person. I spend my days teaching language arts to 13-year-olds, parenting two sons, occasionally connecting with my husband when we’re both not working, and trying my hardest to put words together on a page that make sense and have meaning. I have dear friends with whom I share common interests. I have never been known to turn down an offer that starts with, “There are cheap plane flights to wherever. Want to go?” Hey, I’m already packed. However, there is one nasty little secret I have that may not be obvious to a biographer who doesn’t dig down deeply enough.
            You see, I am pop culture illiterate. It’s demeaning for a teacher to have to admit to being illiterate in anything, but there you have it. Ask me a question about the latest music trend or what’s on TV and my woeful lack of knowledge is exposed, hanging limply like an American flag on a hot and humid Fourth of July for everyone to see.
There are a variety of sources that I blame for this shameful ignorance. Cable TV is number one on the list. You have to admit that the majority of the shows being offered through this medium are insipid. I have been known to press the channel changing option on my remote through all 200-some channels (for which I pay about $50 a month) without finding anything more interesting than an old black-and-white rerun of The Beverly Hillbillies. My mom tells an adorable story about how “watch Bev’ly Hillbillies” was my first sentence back in 1962. By now, I’ve seen each episode, well, let’s just say “a few times”.
I lack the stamina required to keep track of the latest, most popular shows. As much as I’d like to talk about the contestants on Dancing with the Stars with my colleagues and students, I simply cannot watch for longer than fifteen minutes. I lose interest and wander away to do something I like better – reading a book or cleaning the toilet, for example. Yes, it’s pathetic, I know.
A while back, my appalling deficiency in popular culture facts hit me smack between the eyes. I listen to the news talk radio station on my way to work, so I can keep up to date with political and economic news. I know that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran is trying to blame his people’s lack of confidence in the latest election result on the US. (This would surprise me except that I teach 8th graders who always blame someone else for anything they don’t want to take credit for. The correct terminology here is “I didn’t do nothing.” Not that I’m implying that the President of Iran is as morally developed as a 13 year old, mind you.) I worry about the nearly 10% of people out of work here in Georgia and how the federal government is planning on making changes that, in my educated opinion, will make the problems in the economy exponentially worse. I got all of that, but following these news items was a bulletin about Jon and Kate’s breakup and how it would affect the eight children.
Excuse me?
 Did you know that there is actually a TV program called Jon and Kate plus Eight? I kid you not. Apparently, it’s a reality show that follows the life of this couple – Jon and Kate – who have a set of twins and a set of sextuplet infants. After hearing about their break-up ON THE NEWS, I overheard people in the car repair waiting room, the grocery store, and the doctor’s office arguing about what should be done to help the children during the tragic breakup of their parents. Some people advocated getting Jon and Kate some counseling. Others thought it was a shame that Kate would have to be a single mother of 8 small children, but agreed that Kate and the kids would be better off without the loser. I heard that the break-up was Kate’s fault, Jon’s fault, or due to the pressures of having 8 babies or being under America’s spotlight 24-7.      All I can say is, “Huh?”
So I remain a pop culture ignoramus. I can’t even tell you that I’m hip to today’s music. My son played a song titled “I’m on a Boat” the other day in the car. It’s a Saturday Night Live parody of rap music, and he was right – it is funny when seen as a commentary on today’s popular rap. Even teaching vocabularily-challenged 8th graders, I can honestly say that I have never heard the f-bomb dropped so many times in three minutes. A work of f***ing genius, that song. Yes, I’m being sarcastic. Obviously, rap music isn’t my bag. (Stop that smirking. I can use the terms “hip” and “not my bag” if I want.)
I can hold my own on Jeopardy questions about classic country, classic rock, and a genre depressingly called “oldies”. Ask me why Jo cut her hair in Little Women, how old Mozart was when he wrote his first symphony, and what Maya Angelou titled her autobiography. But please, don’t ask me questions about Jon and Kate or which rap star has a number one hit with “Milli.” (It’s Lil Wayne; I looked it up.) As pathetic as this is, my current plan is to remain pop culture-challenged. I’m illiterate and content to remain so. I’m going to go reread Jane Eyre now.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

So what is the proper etiquette for cell phone usage in the ladies' room?

“Hold on just a minute, OK?”
            The sound of tinkling came from the stall next to mine.
            “Ah, that’s better. No, you’re right. I don’t know what he was thinking.”
            More tinkling.
            “Giving you a new set of steak knives for your third wedding anniversary is outrageous.”
            There was a pause, then the sound of toilet tissue being unwound from the roll.
            “I don’t care if you needed the knives; that’s not the kind of gift a man gives his wife for an anniversary.”
            Foot shuffling and an exasperated sigh.
            “Hold on again, will you?”
            “What? Oh, I’m in the ladies’ room at Neiman-Marcus. Yeah, at the Lenox Mall. No, it’s OK. I’m almost done.”
            I racked my brain for the proper etiquette for this particular situation. I was finished and I wanted to go wash my hands. What would Miss Manners have me do? Flush and apologize for interrupting the woman’s phone conversation or simply wait? Tough call.
            “Well, I suppose if you really like the steak knives, then there isn’t a problem. It just seems to me…”
            She finally flushed; I did the same. Unfortunately, she simply raised her voice over the loud whooshing.
            “…that you should at least tell him that knives aren’t a very romantic gift, so he understands that you’re upset.”
            She came out of the stall and stood at the sink next to mine. She flashed a brief smile at me in the mirror and then held her right hand under the water and applied soap. She rinsed off the soap, and pushed the button on the hand dryer with her right elbow.
            “I can hear you. I’m just drying my hands. What did he say when he gave them to you?”
            I waited to see if she was going to come back and wash the left hand that held the hot pink cell phone firmly to her ear.
            She didn’t. Instead, she pushed open the door with her backside and gestured to me to go ahead of her out the door. “I think he’s taking you for granted. You don’t think he’s having an affair, do you? That would be….”
            I waited for a heartbeat to see which way she was going to go, and when she decided to take the Men’s Casual Wear route, I set off at a brisk pace toward the Fine Jewelry department in the opposite direction.
            What a drag. The Neiman-Marcus restrooms used to be the nicest ones at the mall, too.

Ever think about flushing your cell phone so you can't be called while you're....you know, busy? Check out this funny article by Amy Borkowski in the NY Daily News: http://www.nydailynews.com/lifestyle/2007/12/31/2007-12-31_cellibacy_60_days_without_a_cell_phone.html

Monday, September 6, 2010

Baby Birds, Baby Spiders, and Little Boys

“Mommy, I’m hungry.”
            “Me, too. It must be time for lunch.”
            My three year old son nodded and scooted around the kitchen on his red kid-propelled Porsche, singing a little made-up song to himself.
            “Come here a minute. I want to show you something.”
            He rode his car to my side and I bent down and picked him up.
            I pointed out the kitchen window at the bird feeder we had hung from the pine tree. “Look at the mother cardinal feeding her baby.”
            The mother bird perched lightly on the bird feeder and carefully chose a safflower seed.
            “It looks like she’s eating it,” my son commented with a frown.
            “Just watch.”
            The baby cardinal waited on the deck railing right next to the feeder. His mom flew over and popped a seed into his open beak.
            “Why doesn’t the baby just feed himself from the feeder?”
            “Good question. The safflower seed that we put in the feeder has a very hard shell. The baby’s not strong enough to crack the shell to get to the seed, so his mother does it for him. Then she feeds him the seed.”
            “Cool.” We watched the mother cardinal feed her baby again.
            “How about that spider? Does the mother spider feed her baby like that?”
            On the outside of the kitchen window, there was an elaborate spider web. I wasn’t big on washing windows. I was big on science experiments.
            “No. The mother spider will make an egg sac that has baby spiders in it. We’ll watch her do that in the fall. Then she’ll die. The babies will hatch later and float away on the wind, looking for someplace to build their own webs.”
            “The baby spiders never see their mother?”
            “Nope. That’s just the way it is with spiders.”
            I put my son back on his car and he zoomed away.
            “Do you want peanut butter and jelly or a cheese sandwich?”
            I got two small plates out of the cabinet.
            I made a cheese sandwich and put it on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles plate. My son climbed up onto one of the chairs at the kitchen counter, and I handed him the plate. I started to make my own sandwich.
            “I want to make your sandwich,” my son said, impatiently waving his hands at the loaf of bread and the stack of cheese.
            “OK.” I pushed the materials and my Cinderella plate over to him.
            He carefully placed two pieces of cheese in the exact center of the bread, and then covered them with the second slice of bread. He centered it on the Cinderella plate and, beaming with pride, handed my lunch to me.
            “Great job,” I said. “That looks delicious. I didn’t know you knew how to make sandwiches. Do you want some milk?”
            He nodded and took a bite of his sandwich. “Mommy?”
            I refrained from saying the “don’t talk with your mouth full” line just this once. “Uh huh?”
            “People aren’t like spiders or birds, are they?”
            “What do you mean?”
“Moms and kids feed each other. We take care of each other.”
Luckily, I was facing away pouring milk into two Tupperware cups. I quickly wiped away the tear and swallowed the lump in my throat.
“That’s right, sweetie. We do take care of each other.”
            I sat down and took a bite of the sandwich he had made for me. It was the best sandwich I have ever eaten.

Dedicated to PJ