Thursday, December 13, 2012

Spirit-Led Self-Gifting

There are so many reasons to love the holidays.  Families and loved-ones coming together, peace on earth, good will toward men, self-gifting…self-gifting?

I’m not sure how I missed it before but the phrase “self-gifting” is new to me.  Just the phrase, mind you – NOT the concept.  As a child, I watched as my dad would hand new but deeply discounted ratchet sets that he purchased from Sears to my mother and say:

“Hey Catholic, will you wrap this up and put it under the tree for me?  It’s from Santa.” 

As I think about it, he may be considered an early pioneer in this self-gifting phenomenon.

That was the 70’s.  In 2012, giving to your own self is actually predicted to supersede giving to others around the holidays.  The U.S. National Retail Foundation’s annual holiday consumer spending survey cited that consumers are expected to spend the most on non-gift, I mean “self-gift” items for the first time in the survey’s 10-year history. 

One for you and one, two, three for me!!!

Isn’t there supposed to be something wrong with that?  Isn’t it supposed to be better to give than to receive?  Or is it possible that it is actually better to self-give, then give-give just a little bit less?      

A 1990 article in the Journal of Consumer Research explored the concept.  Among their findings:  “…self-gifts are a form of personally symbolic self-communication through special indulgences that tend to be premeditated and highly context bound.”

If I may venture a translation on behalf of some of my fellow Americans filling their own stockings this holiday season:

 “highly context bound” = I got a job.

“premeditated” = After not having one for a while.

“personally symbolic self-communication through special indulgence” = Every time I wear this blouse, swing this golf club, rev this car engine, watch this TV, sit on this couch or open this ratchet set, I will be reminded of what I have overcome.

A different kind of spirit led giving...but spirit led, none the less.

25% off a 58PC Craftsman Universal Ratchet Set available at Sears now.
Not a "hell of a deal" by some  people's standards but a discount, nonetheless.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Will the real St. Nick please stand up?

December is here!  I love this month! 

My husband says this month makes people crazy, makes everyone move faster and try to do more and that's how things get screwed up. 

I feel just the opposite.  This year I do, anyway.  

I feel like if I stop and I listen very closely, there is a stillness around me. 

Maybe it's because the election is over.  Maybe it's because recent consumer reports are smiling.  Maybe it's because we haven't heard tale of a natural disaster on U.S. soil for a month.

Maybe it's because I saw an interview with Warren Buffet  earlier this week and again he said everything was going to be ok.  And whenever ol' Uncle Warren says everything is going to be ok, I can't help but believe it.

Maybe this stillness around me is just the sound of everyone else caught up in their own shit. 

Or the sound of everyone collectively inhaling and exhaling deeply, for the first time in a long time.

I hope that's what it is.

And I hope for a moment we can all just be glad in it.  All of it.

Looks pretty jolly to me!

Monday, November 26, 2012

What do you think?

"Just ask them what they think," my mother told me through the phone line, like this latest parenting dilemma of mine really is simple child's play.

"What do you mean, 'ask them what they think'?"

"When they ask you, 'Mommy, is there such thing as Santa?', respond by asking them what they think."

"Oh.  So you want me to 'flip that shit' on them like Leon on Curb Your Enthusiasm?"

"Lizzie, I don't know what you're talking about but certainly don't swear at them.  You just don't want to lie to them.  You want them to figure it out on their own."

I giggled to myself.

My parents don't have HBO.  It took every fiber of my Dad's being to trade in his "rabbit ears" antenna for a monthly subscription to basic cable ten years ago.

"Well, how did that work with us?"  I finally asked her.  I'm the middle of three children so I was expecting my mother to share three data points from her own case study comprised of her own children. 

"Well, I don't remember what happened with your brother.  I think the older girls up the street told him and he probably told you, but because Jaque was five years younger, I told you and your brother I'd kill you both if you told her."  My mother answered, matter of factly.

"So you didn't actually use this method on us?"

"I think I eventually used it on your sister and she figured it out on her own."

"Huge help, mom."

"I try."

Completely unconvinced that this was the right approach, I decided to use it anyway.  Not unlike most of my parenting tactics.

"Mommy, is Santa real?"

The question was first lobbed out by Vince in Kindergarten.  KINDERGARTEN!  I was so upset.  I knew immediately that as soon as he knows, Nick knows and it's all over in my house!  No more magic!  No Santa means no Easter Bunny!  No Easter Bunny means no Tooth Fairy!  They hadn't even lost a single freakin' tooth yet!

"What are you even talking about?" I barked back at him.  Fortunately, his brother was not within ear shot.

"I just don't understand how Santa can go all over the world on a sleigh and go down chimneys."

This is SO Jeff's side of the family.  A bunch of engineers trying to actually MAKE SENSE of the world around them instead of MAKE BELIEVE like regular freakin' people! 

Then I remembered my mother's line: "Well, what do you think?" I asked.

"I don't know."  He paused.  "I really want that giant T-Rex, and the microscope and the spy gear and Star Wars legos…"

By some miracle, the conversation turned to what Christmas is really about: all the shit he wanted. 

In the end, the Christmas of 2010 was a fantasy replete with elves and reindeer and my main man with the red suit and the white beard.

Last Christmas, they turned up the heat a little. 

"I think it's you, Mommy.  I think you're Santa."  Nick stared at me point blank when we were getting ready for school one morning. 

I almost threw up.

You CAN'T lie to them.  My mother's words echoed in my head.

"Why do you think that?"  I finally mustered.

"I don't know.  Is it you?"

"What do you think?"  I asked him, trying to hide my panic.

"Do we still get presents if we don't believe in Santa?"  Nick smiled his sweet, dimpled smile at me.

Oh, Jesus.  What have they been watching?  Oh, hell.  Just go with it.

"Gosh, I don't know."  I widened my eyes, shrugged my shoulders, and tilted my head in my best yikes-that-would-sure-suck way. 

In hindsight, I know it was wrong but I wasn't ready.  They got the message and backed off quick. 

The charade happily continued.  The stockings were hung by the chimney with care.  St. Nicholas devoured his cookie and glass of milk (mommy forgot the giant carrot for the reindeer but who remembers that?).

Did I sense that they smelled bullshit when Mommy's stocking was stuffed but Daddy's wasn't on Christmas morning?  Yes.  But fresh loot in hand, they stayed mum.  After all, Daddy can be naughty and there are only so many hours in the day.  

This year.  Forget it.  I can already feel the walls coming in on me and it's not even December yet. 

We wrote our letters to Santa last weekend, which are somehow getting more and more specialized.  Vince wants a Spiderman costume just like the one Spider Man wore in this year's blockbuster theatrical release The Amazing Spider-Man.

"Can he even get the goggles right, Mommy?"  Vince asked as he squinted his eyes and demonstrated with his hands how Spiderman's goggles, as Vince refers to them, are meant to sit on his face.

"I don't know."

"He can make everything, right?"

"I guess."

"But aren't those elves so little and they have so much to make." 

Now he's trying to make heads or tails of the freakin' assembly line in the workshop.  Too many episodes of How It's Made on the Science Channel. You think you're doing something right by turning on a little educational programming...after making them watch presidential campaign coverage, pretty soon he's going to be asking me about Santa's Medicare and Social Security benefits.

"I don't know."

"How small do you think they are?"  He continued.

"Who?  The elves?"


"I don't know.  Maybe like a midget.  I mean little person."  

This needs to stop.

"Maybe include a picture of the costume with your letter."  I finally answered.

"That's a good idea, Mommy."


The worst yet was this past Sunday when we were attempting to decorate the tree.

"Mommy, is Santa really real?"  Nick asked, truly by way of making conversation.  He bridged to the topic from a conversation about his three favorite ornaments from Grandma.

"Honey, what do you think?"  Going on three holiday seasons of rehearsals, I delivered my line impeccably.    

"You keep asking me what I think.  I want to know what you think."   

Why are they so smart?

As he said the words, I literally got off the couch and ran into the kitchen yelling back to him, "Oh, wait, honey, I have to, I'll be back, give me a second…"

I stood in the middle of the kitchen for few seconds trying to figure out my next move.

"Anybody want popcorn and hot cocoa?" I yelled to them.

"Yes, mommy, yes, yes!"  They both yelled from underneath the sea of ornaments and other decorations in the living room.

"Ok.  Coming right up!"

As I type this, I know in my heart that Santa and I have successfully dodged our very last bullet.

For those unfamiliar with this kind of magic, get yourself a taste of Leon from Curb Your Enthusiasm here:  

Even more holiday magic:

Louis Winthorpe III (Dan Aykroyd) from Trading Places...a movie I look forward to
watching with the boys several years from now once we've come to terms
with this whole Santa thing.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

She's Back!

I ventured out with my new bandage today.  Not quite three days post-surgery, I was feeling no pain so I felt it was time.  First stop: Starbucks (though I did recently do the math and determine that I could join a nearby tennis club for about my monthly iced coffee/Chai tea latte bill). 

Oh, well.  I'll quit tomorrow.  I told myself.

What can I say?  Old habits die hard. 

My favorite barista was chatting with someone near the door as I walked in but I was on the phone with my girlfriend Heidi so we didn't exchange our usual hellos.  I gave my order to a less favorable cashier who then passed it on to an even less favorable barista (he sings incessantly in the morning as he makes drinks.  Like nobody is there.  And it isn't before 9 a.m.).  Anyway, I was fairly deep in conversation the whole time so I didn't get to assess any reaction to my bandage, if it even existed. 

My next stop was the liquor store to buy some rye whiskey.  Not for me.  For Jeff.  I don't drink whiskey and I can't even have a glass of wine until five days post-op.  Such bull shit.  Even though my father is certain that the no drinking rule is really meant for raging alcoholics instead of mild alcoholics like me, I have decided it's best to abide by the rules.  It would be one thing if it was a limb or my back that was hacked up but this is my face we're talking about.  It may not be my money-maker but it's still my calling card.
I had to ask one of the store staff for help finding the whiskey.  The nice young man maintained epic levels of eye contact as he scoured the shelf for Rittenhouse then went to check the store's inventory.

"We're completely out of Rittenhouse," he said as he walked back down the aisle toward me.

"Can you recommend something similar?"

I left with Bulleit after the feisty silver-haired gal at the register glared at me for answering my phone in the middle of the transaction.  She had to ask for my driver's license twice. 

Jesus how about a little sympathy?  I thought to myself as I walked out the door, iced-coffee in one hand and the other clenching the neck of a bottle of whiskey dressed in a brown paper bag.

Now I REALLY hope I don't run into anyone I know.  

My next stop was a nursery to pick up a few plants to continue to fill in my ongoing front yard project.  The first man I asked for help looked to be about the age of most of the men and women I sat in the waiting room with (and the cashier at the liquor store), waiting for test results then finally reconstructive surgery on the day of my procedure.  Also like them, he was white.  Needless to say, he was less than impressed with what I was bringing to the table.  Bandage-Shmandage!, his eyes seemed to say as he pointed to the five-gallon, red flax plant I was looking for that I had walked right by before I stepped into his office (read: cashier's desk tucked inside a shed lined with bags of manure).  He broke for lunch immediately following our conversation leaving me in the hands of two younger men who were equally unimpressed as they answered more of my inane questions and were sent on wild goose chases for agave plants that were not currently in stock.
My big adventure was cut short when a big gust of wind blew and I swore dirt got inside my bandage.  I began to imagine all manner of infections, flaming red flesh and buckets of pus oozing out of my face.

Skip Whole Foods.  Go straight home.

I told myself as the young men at the nursery helped load my car. 

But it's just one more stop.  

I thought of the to-do list I had solidified in my mind before I left the house.

At least stop at home and have Jeff check your bandage.

I finally convinced myself.

I walked into the house to a puking Nick (apparently his Thanksgiving-eve stomach flu had not completely run its course), a cranky husband ("Why can't they entertain themselves?  Normal kids just go outside and play!"), and a needy Vince ("Mommy, I'm bored!").

I ran to the bathroom, looked in the mirror and smiled at my bandaged up reflection.

Yup, you're still there.  Right where you were when I left the house - smack in the middle of my face!  And the best news of all is nobody gives a shit!

Almost 60 bucks/month, not including when my extremely
compassionate family adds to the order...such a freakin' waste. 

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving

"I can't believe it, Mommy.  I am finally a Native American!  Finally, I am a Native American!  It's been three years, three loooong years.  Two years being a Pilgrim.  A stinkin' Pilgrim!  And one year being a grey squirrel.  Now, I finally get to be a Native American!"

Nick had unbuckled his seatbelt as we pulled into the garage and was flailing around the back seat, alternately colliding with his brother and pausing to check himself out in the rear-view mirror.  He was completely thrilled at how the first day of rehearsals for this year's Thanksgiving performance went.

I had to think for a minute about the previous three years of Thanksgiving performances which admittedly were a bit of a blur.

He was definitely a Pilgrim in pre-K.  I still have that cute picture of the two of them standing together in front of their classroom door: Nick as Pilgrim and Vince as Indian.  They were only 4. So cute.  I love that picture.  What was Kindergarten?  I have no recollection of the performance at all.  I was working so much during that time.  And last year, first grade, I vaguely remember the squirrel tails.  And what the hell does a squirrel have to do with Thanksgiving?

"I remember the squirrels!"  I told him.

"Grey squirrels, Mommy, and I had to do that stupid dance."  Nick rolled his eyes at the thought of turning around and shaking his squirrel tail (read: ass) in front of all the parents in his class.

"Don't stay stupid.  What were you again, Vince?"

"I was a turkey, Mommy.  Don't you remember?"

Why can't I remember a year ago?  I need to dig up that video.

"Vince was a turkey.  I was a grey squirrel and Vince was a turkey."  Nick wanted to be sure that I had the full picture clear in my head, which I still didn't.

"Yeah, Mommy.  I have been a Native American twice and a turkey once."  Vince announced from the back seat with a proud smile, very pleased with his range as a performer at the tender age of seven. 

Now they were both hanging over me as I sat in the driver's seat, parked in the garage. 

"Oh I know, Vincie!"  I smiled back at him.

"This year we get to do it in the Multi-Purpose Room." Nick explained the promotion up from the classroom performance that apparently came with being a second grader.

"On the stage." Vince added.

"Yeah and its three classes: mine, Vincie's and another one." 

"Well, that worked out for us.  We all get to be together!"  I told them.

"And we're singing a bunch of songs.  It's kind of a lot to remember," Vince said.

"I'm sure you can do it.  You'll have lots of practice." 

The day of the performance was here in the blink of an eye.  Where in the world is the time going?

Three classrooms of second graders giggled their way into the Multi-Purpose Room and stood on risers on the stage.  Pilgrims and Native Americans galore! 

Jeff was on still shots and I was on video. 

The children sang along to the completely antiquated but totally charming elementary school "house" sound system.  Song after song about turkeys narrowly escaping their Thanksgiving table fate and meal preparations gone wrong separated by brief introductions for each number recited by individual second graders. 


The final number brought the house down.

We heard the first few notes of Lee Greenwood's 1979 hit God Bless the U.S.A. and the children started singing right on cue, until they realized the music had stopped and started again and they were no longer in sync with the music.  But to their credit, they took it in stride.  After a brief moment of intent listening, they were able to find their place and commence singing along to the music again, until the song started itself over again, then again, and again, and finally the recess bell sounded.  All the children shifted and grumbled on the risers in a collective WTF? while all the parents and grandparents giggled and shifted a little themselves, wondering how this one was going to wrap itself up.

Vince's teacher attempted to adjust the sound system to no avail when finally another teacher stood before the children.

"You all know this song, right?"  She asked them .

"Right!"  They answered enthusiastically.

"So, let's do it!"

And they did. 

Sixty beautiful, little voices sang a capella about their pride in their country and what it means to be American.  And even if the children didn't all fully comprehend the meaning of the words they were singing (we aren't a very culturally diverse group here in the distant suburbs; the vast majority of us hail from families born into our country's freedoms generations ago), I'd like to think most of the grown-ups did because there wasn't a dry eye in the house.

And it didn't matter if we were dressed up as Pilgrims or Native Americans or poultry or potential road kill,  time seemed to stand still for just a few moments and we were all just grateful.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Lee Greenwood performing his famous song in 1985:

And of course Whitney, RIP:

Friday, November 16, 2012

I Heart Ho-Hos

I just received word from my little sister than Hostess is liquidating and selling off assets:

"Does this mean I will never get to witness you dissecting a ho-ho again???"  She asked.

I've always eaten the chocolate coating, then the cake and cream filling but apparently not for long!

I'm getting choked up just thinking about it.  How did it come to this!?!?!

Twinkies appear to be grabbing the most headlines which is complete bullshit but I'm fine with it as I've already begun to make my case to Jeff to mortgage everything we own and make a bid for Ho-Hos.

"Honey, Hostess is liquidating all of their assets!"  I told him in my best "opportunity is knocking" tone this morning.

"Yea, I heard something about that."  He responded as he took the final bite of his Laura Scudder's Peanut Butter, Organic Strawberry Fruit Spread, and Ezekial Bread sandwich (yes, his freakin' clean eating initiative continues).

"What about my Ho-Hos?"  

"You better stock up now.  You know, those things have a shelf-life of like a decade."  This was an obvious insult to Hostess' over-use of perhaps unnatural or unhealthy ingredients in their fine cakes, which I promptly  ignored.  

"What do you say we make a play for them?"  I asked.

"What do you mean?"

"I bet we could put together a competitive bid.  I am already deeply committed to the brand.  It's a natural."

"You're kidding?  Or have you completely lost your mind?"

"Just think about it.  Everything comes around.  Pretty soon we'll be hearing that hydrogenated oils are the secret to longevity."

"I doubt that, honey."

"Do me a favor.  Just think about it."

And I've already done some research.  According to Hostess' data, the company produces 100 million Ho-Hos a year. How is that not a cash cow?  

Plus all the Ho-Hos I can eat?

Move over Little Debbie!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Final Countdown

So the date for my MOHS procedure to remove the basal cell from the side of my nose is now officially looming. 

Next Wednesday, November 21st.

One more week.

I have managed to keep quite busy and somewhat successfully suppress the memory of the pre-opp appointment I had with my chosen surgeon about a month ago.  In addition to being trained in MOHS, this particular surgeon also does "plastics": boobs, lips, tummies, eyes, noses…noses…

My alarm sounded an hour earlier than usual for my 7:15 a.m. appointment.  The plan was to give myself an hour to drive the 40 miles to the office.  Yes, there are plenty of very well-qualified dermatologists who are trained in MOHS right here in my own backyard but this particular doctor has treated my father and two friends to terrific results.  Nothing but nothing beats a personal referral for anything: restaurant, hair-dresser, gardener, babysitter, surgeon…surgeon…

Jeff was out of town on business so my brother-in-law, who fortunately lives nearby, won the privilege of arriving at my door at 6 a.m. to feed breakfast to my Vince and Nick, get them showered up and deliver them to school by 8:25. 

I raced out to my garage carrying my purse, laptop, jacket, scarf and KIND bar that was meant to serve as my breakfast.  Of course I was already running late.  I had dilly-dallied and allowed myself to get distracted by campaign coverage while I drank my coffee.  This brand of story-telling only comes around every 4 years…I couldn't help myself!

"Bye, Uncle Todd!  Thank you!  I'll call you from the road!"  I yelled to Jeff's brother as the door slammed shut behind me.

When the clock on my dashboard read 7:00 and I was still at least a half-hour from their office, I called them to apologize.  The receptionist was positively lovely.

"Ok, Elizabeth.  We'll be here whenever you get here.  Drive safely."

"Thank you."  

That's how all doctor's offices should respond to tardiness.  I thought to myself as I made the first of three wrong-turns once I exited the freeway.  That was a response grounded in "wellness".

No real surprises as I entered the quiet lobby.  Pretty much just me and a few old, white guys who had apparently made the call to sacrifice their epidermis and go ahead and grow old under the California sun. 

In line behind one of the aforementioned patients, I saw that the receptionist had some pretty heavy-duty bandages on her nose.

Nose job?  I thought to myself.

When she was ready to help me, I stood before her head-on and could tell her big bandage sat to the side on the tip of her nose.  I also saw that she had a separate bandage further up on the side of her nose.

Must be a skin thing.

Once I had given her all my paperwork I couldn't help but ask.

"Was that a basal cell?"

"Yes."  She went on to explain that the bandage was some special bandage with magic healing powers because the location and size of her basal cell had required that they do a skin graft. 

A fucking skin graft?

"I'm sorry.  Did you say skin graft?"

"Yes."  She answered nonchalantly.  "They took the skin from up here."  She pointed to the bandage further up on her nose.

Mother fucker.

"Oh.  I see." 

I think I'm going to throw up.

"So how long ago did you have the procedure?"

"Four days ago.  Today is my first day back."

I guess that's not so bad.

"Well, you seem to be doing great."  I had to say something to compensate for the look of utter horror on my face.

"The doctor is the best."

Because I was late, I was sent to an exam room in no time at all.  I was quizzed by another female staffer in a white coat.  Are they Nurses?  Physician's Assistants?  Are they Administrators of some kind?  What are they?

"So you've had other basal cells in the past?"  She asked.

"Yes, but this is the first one on my face."  Like she cared"And I had a pre-melanoma removed right here."  I lifted my shirt to expose a scar just below my rib cage.

"So you've had melanomas and basal cells?"

"PRE-melanomA.  Singular."

She gave me a closed-mouth smirk and nodded her head knowingly.  A bowl of patronizing with just a dash of kindness.

I want the lady from out front with the bandages.

"The doctor will be with you as soon as he's done with his current patient."  She was off.

There I sat and listened to a fundraiser for a local university radio station while flipping through a stale tabloid.  There was a quiet knock at the door.

Why do they do that?

"Come on in."

So awkward.

A reasonably tall, beyond middle-aged man walked toward me with his right arm extended and introduced himself.

Limp shake.

He turned away toward my chart which was on the counter next to my exam chair.

"So, you have a basal cell?"  He asked.

"Yes.  On my nose."  I pointed to the area where the biopsy had been done a few weeks prior.

He turned toward me and leaned closer to my face to examine the area. 

He leaned back away from me.  "When did you break your nose?"

Excuse me.

I looked at him knowingly.  This wasn't the first time I had been asked this question.

"You did break your nose."  It was a statement with just a hint of a question.  "When did you break it?"

I guess we've moved on from my basal cell.

"My nose took some accidental hits growing up.  I have an older brother.  There was no big moment where we went to the doctor or anything."

"Do you have trouble breathing?"

"No.  I do have a drip on my left side but no trouble breathing."

And the truth was I actually went to another "plastics" guy that was right in my own backyard to see if straightening out my septum would alleviate or minimize the drip about a year ago.  He couldn't make any promises about the leaky faucet but could make my nose look at least slightly more main stream.

The doctor moved in closer and craned his neck looking first at one side of my profile, then the other.

"So was it playing sports?"

Sweet mother he wasn't going to let this go.

"I'm not sure.  Probably messing around wrestling.  Or swimming.  I remember being kicked in the nose hard while swimming when I was younger."

Now he was shining a light up my nose and staring up each nostril.  Had he NOT come SO highly recommend by my father, and two different friends, I probably would have cut him off sooner. 

He's a perfectionist.  We're in LA.  I told myself.  This is a good thing.  I took a deep breath.

He stood back.  "Straightening your septum is not a minor procedure.  We would have to break your nose and re-set it."

Holy Mary.

"You know what?  Let's just focus on the basal cell for today."

"I understand.  You are a busy person.  You have young children.  If it doesn't bother you…" He trailed off as he went back to my chart on the counter.

If it doesn't bother me?  I own mirrors, asshole.  I realize I have a nose to be reckoned with, even if it wasn't crooked.  Since junior high (because that's when most amazing life experiences begin), I have been party to unkind and uninvited editorial regarding my nose but guess what?  My nose has gotten me this far in life.  Forty years we've been in this thing.  Realistically, I am half-way there and don't think the rest of my life will be appreciably better with some other version of it sitting smack in the middle of my face.  And I see that you're wearing those ridiculous Sketchers shoes under the guise of comfort but really to make you appear about two inches taller so you can suck it!

He finally took me through the nuts and bolts of the actual business at hand: getting these unhealthy cells off of my body.

 1. Hours long MOHS procedure that would take place right there in a regular exam room where small slices of skin would be removed and analyzed until the area was unhealthy cell-free

 2. Move to surgery center down the hall in same building where "graft" procedure would take place

 3. All done with a local anesthetic

"You'll wear the bandage for 8 weeks but that's just the beginning of the healing process."

"I understand."

"And based on your previous surgeries, you tend to scar so it may be even longer."

"I know."

"So you understand everything?"

How many times have you been sued?

"I understand."

I laid there in the exam chair, which was really more of an exam barcalounger, and recalled the 1993 Mel Gibson movie The Man Without a Face.  

I was getting nervous.

My thoughts were quickly interrupted by the low murmur of the doctor's voice.  He wasn't talking to his nurse.  He was talking to himself.  To his Dictaphone.  He was ticking off a list out loud:

"Patient understands procedure involves skin graft procedure." 

"Patient understands that longer term scaring is possible based on patient history."  

And the grand finale:

"At time of consultation, patient is seemingly healthy; 5 foot, 10 inch; 130 pound woman with a crooked nose."

I guffawed out loud in my barcalounger. 

The nurse giggled, too but tried to cover it with a cough. 

He pressed pause and leaned over to look at me.

"Are you ok?"

"Yes.  I'm fine.  I was laughing.  I laugh when I'm nervous."

And then I cry.  Back at the reception desk.  While attempting to make my surgery appointment.  There, a different but equally lovely woman without bandages passed me tissues, then peanut butter cups from the candy file drawer.

"I'm sorry."  I told her.  "I know it's not a big deal.  I know I'll be ok."  I couldn't stop crying.

"It is a big deal and you will be ok," she assured me.

Then she went back to the candy drawer and grabbed me another peanut butter cup.

"Thank you."  I wiped my nose.

One more week.

And why am I using a doctor with seemingly zero bedside manner to perform this procedure?  Because the last time I used a doctor with seemingly zero bedside manner to perform a procedure, I got two babies.

One day old.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Day After

So I am reading two books that touch on certain aspects of the state of our United States right now. Swagger by Lisa Bloom and How Children Succeed by Paul Tough.  It is my role as mother that prompted me to read them.  It seems the further I get into mothering these boys of mine, the more years that go by, the more questions I have about how to do it right…or at the very least keep them out of juvenile hall. 

How do I instill a work ethic in them? 

How do I make them want to achieve?

How do I make them understand the concept of simply doing the right thing?

How do I instill in them a social conscience?  Not "be nice to be nice" (as far as I'm concerned, "nice" and a buck and a quarter gets you a cup of coffee) but try to instill the importance of using a portion of your time or money or both to help others who can't help themselves?

How do I help them discover and develop their passion in life and try to chase THAT passion 40 plus hours a week instead of a paycheck or someone else's version of how they themselves should live their life?

The nice part about picking up these two particular books, one based on a personal recommendation from a friend who is also a mother who has raised three boys, the youngest of which now a freshman in college; and the other upon the advice of a dear friend who is not a mother but a very accomplished woman with a very active desire to keep herself aware of our country's issues, is that these books awoke in me a consciousness about ALL of our nation's children.  From the child whose mommy dropped him off at school "before the bell" today in her work-out gear with a kiss, hug, and a back-pack full of completed homework and a healthy lunch, to the child who might not make it to school at all today, not because she's sick or even because she doesn't want to, but because there is no mommy or daddy or auntie or grandma or big brother or sister or anyone to get her there.

And this morning, watching the post-election fodder on the broadcast news and reading about it across social media, the children I find myself thinking about most aren't MINE.  They aren't even OURS.  They're THEIRS - the children growing up and learning in countries that seem to be handily kicking the collective ass of the U.S. in a lot of important areas. 

"It seems like the office of the Presidency isn't what it used to be."  I first pondered to myself while sipping my coffee, then finally said out loud to Jeff.

"How do you mean?"  He asked.

"The country isn't what it used to be."

"Well, I don't think anyone would argue with you about that."

A few more sips of coffee.

"I think maybe the only potential upside is we'll become less of a terrorist target.  Kicking people when they're down isn't nearly as fun, right?"  I am cynicism at its absolute worst when I am worried about something I feel I have no control over.

"I guess that's one way of looking at it."

"Does that bug you when you think about Vince and Nick's future?"

"Of course but what can you do?"

The million dollar question.  What can I do? 

I had to ponder the question for awhile.  I know I can read more.  I can definitely become more informed.  I guess that's something.  For now.  I can be more aware and that awareness will inform how I perhaps augment my sons' public school education.  

For now.

But what about all the other children?

And I'm still left with all these other questions about how I can raise my children right.  Questions that I haven't found answers to in any book.

Questions like: 

How do I make them understand that it doesn't matter what "others" think?  Unless they have committed to sharing a life with said "other".


How do I make sure they don't fall in love with and impregnate some twit who hates me and then try to go off and build a life with her?

Oh crap!  That was my outside voice again, wasn't it?

And please don't get me wrong, I recognize that we enjoy liberties here in America, especially as women, that many, many countries do not offer their citizens.  I just wish more of us, myself included, would get off our asses and exercise our freedoms to the benefit of ALL OF OURS.

Maybe it starts with awareness.       

Article examining more aspects on the state of our union from July 2012:

I am sure there exists more timely reports (though culling together global data is difficult) but a report published in 2009 about how OURS stack up against THEIRS in Math, Science and Reading:   

Monday, November 5, 2012

Twenty Again!

"So when do you take off?"


"3:55.  Ok, it's 2:15 now.  So I'm 3:35 then?"

"I think so.  You were a half-hour before me taking off, right?  A half-hour ahead of me leaving for Seattle and a half-hour before going back to LA."

Deep breath.  "Ok."

I could tell my best friend from college Heidi was unsure about her flight time as soon as we gave our dear, So-Far-Away friend Julie her final hugs good-bye and pulled our bags into the terminal yesterday.

Heidi has always been the most together of the three us.  A wife, a mom of two very active girls ages 5 and 11, a high-school teacher.  Heidi is very busy to be sure but seems to juggle it all with the most grace.  She is the most present of the three of us, a very savor every moment type of person.  This is why I found her sitting totally engrossed in a book, sipping a peppermint latte in the virtually empty baggage claim area Friday afternoon.

"Heidi."  I called as I walked toward her. 

No response.

"Heidi."  I raised my voice a few octaves as I got closer.


"HEIDI!"  I finally yelled.

She slowly turned to me.

"Oh, hi!"  She smiled.  Happy to see me but there was somehow surprise in her tone and her manner.  She was that in the moment, that able to enjoy just a few minutes, alone, even at freakin' Alaska Airlines baggage claim.
She stood up and we hugged.  Even though we are just a couple-hours drive from one another in southern California, I hadn't seen her since early August. 

I giggled to myself as I canvassed her set-up for the 25 minute window between our flights' arrivals.  It was signature Heidi.  She had taken up a four-man bench with a couple magazines, her book, her purse and her phone.  And I know what she was thinking when she finally nestled herself into the ripped, black vinyl bench after collecting her checked bag.

Yes!  At long last!  No students to attempt to get to listen to me, no kids to shuttle from A to B and do homework with, no dog to sweep up after, no house to pick-up, no dish-washer to empty, no dinner to make.  Just me and my latte and my book.

In hindsight, I think I may have actually ruined her moment.

I had missed Heidi.  And I was worried about her lately.  Her brother-in-law had just passed away under strange circumstances, adding a layer of stress and responsibility to her husband and therefore Heidi in recent weeks. 

How different we are, I thought to myself as Heidi gathered her things.  Had the shoe been on the other foot, had I arrived 25 minutes ahead of Heidi, I would have been chain-dialing my best friend from highschool Julie who we were visiting for the weekend, making sure I was either in her car or on the curb, purse on my shoulder, roller bag at my side, waiting eagerly for Heidi.  Then on to the next thing, the next move, the next stop, the next step, the next "do".  

My phone rang.  I looked at the display.  It was Julie.

"Where are you guys?"

"Alaska baggage claim."

We stepped outside and quickly found Julie and her husband Greg and her dog Speedy curbside.  I turned to Heidi and smiled.

"She said the whole family was picking us up."

It was a warm welcome indeed!

We were loaded up and on our way to Julie's to briefly drop off bags (and husband and dog) and "make a game plan" in no time flat. 

Julie is the most creative of the three of us and certainly the most fashionable, which is a title perhaps most worthy of bragging about, in all of our books. 

Julie had goody bags prepared for each of us including little journals where we were to make lists of what we wanted to do or rather buy while in Seattle. 

Is Seattle a global shopping mecca: no! 

Is Seattle an actual city compared to the suburbs where Heidi and I had laid our family's roots down: hell yes!

Comparatively speaking, there were options galore there and we knew Julie had her finger on the pulse of all of them. 

Holiday party outfits, accessories, boots…"sweaters and pictures for my new bathroom"…in Heidi's case… however we intended to indulge ourselves as working moms with two days to burn was quickly documented in our journals.

"Ok, ladies.  Are you thinking consignment shopping, department store, discount?  What are you thinking?"

"All of the above."  Heidi quickly replied.

"Ok, ok, how about challenges, ladies?  Shall we make a note of any fashion challenges we are facing?"

This is but one of the many reasons why I love my Julie so.  Our friendship has a born-on date of 1989.  English class in our junior year of high-school.  We were both new to the school, she in her crop-top fresh from the local, Catholic high school and me in my Bermuda shorts fresh from a family move from Minnesota.   She made me sign a friendship contract after a week.  And when we get together, the clock immediately turns back.

I turned to a fresh page in my journal.

I hadn't seen Julie since August either.  And I missed her!  And I worried about her.  She and her husband had been in the throws of baby making the scientific way for several months and I know how that can wear on a marriage, especially the mommy hopeful, who is undergoing hormone therapy and being poked and prodded and questioned at regular doctor visits.

"Okay, what do we want to do first?" Julie asked.  "Are you hungry, do you want to shop first, do you want to grab a glass of wine?"

"Wine."  Heidi and I said, in stereo.

And so it began. 

First stop: a wine shop with yummy appetizers in Ballard.  Brief stops at a boutique, then a consignment shop on the way back to our car. 

Then a long dinner, the very best kind of dinner in Queen Anne, the kind with wine, then appetizers, then more wine, then a few tears.  Then a main course, a bowl of pasta I didn't share a single bite of, then more wine, then Greg joined us and our brief but rowdy celebration grabbed the attention of several patrons. 

"Did someone get engaged?  What are we celebrating here?"  A woman asked on her way out.

"Old friends and new beginnings!" Julie told her.

Then yet another appetizer sounded good, especially with more wine and more laughter and a bar-side photo-shoot.  And we were the last patrons standing at 11:30.

And it continued the next day.  The shopping, the sharing, the confidences, the fears…a little nausea…a lot more laughter, a tiny bit more wine.  Our weekend bender days are sadly long over.  We compromised that night and had two deserts instead.

We woke early Sunday and showered and packed up, determined to make as much as we could of our final day together.  First a coffee, then back over to Ballard to the Farmer's Market and local shops.  Even with that extra hour from daylight savings, it just wasn't enough.  We knew it wouldn't be.  Maybe that's why Heidi refused to look at her itinerary.  Maybe that's why I also refused to look at mine.

Now inside the terminal, Heidi hurried up to one of the automated stands and tried to check in.

"Shit!  It's not letting me check in.  Something's wrong.  I think I had my departure wrong.  I'm going to go find someone."  She was off.

I checked in and read my boarding pass.  SHIT!  Of course.  We were both wrong.  I left at 3:35.  SHE left at 3.  

Fortunately, Heidi was finally able to print her boarding pass and quickly check her bag.  We stood in the TSA line together.

"I'm such a moron."

"I'm such a moron!  I don't know why we travel together.  We shouldn't be allowed to."

"They said my bag and that means ALL MY MAKE-UP won't make it."

"Oh, shit."

"Yeah, nice Monday."

She made it through her screening first.

"Bye, Lizzie!"  She yelled from the other side.

"Good luck!  Run O.J.!"

She turned and smiled at me before she ran for her gate.

I was able to write my thank you notes on the plane.  To Julie for hosting us and being amazing in general.  To Heidi for actually planning the trip and being amazing in general.  And to my Jeff for encouraging me to go and making a life with me that I love to miss AND come home to.

When will I see them again?  I thought to myself as my plane touched down in Burbank. 

It doesn't matter.  I told myself.  They're always with me.  

This wasn't my favorite picture from the batch. It was Julie's. But I'll give it to her.

And a favorite, melancholy song to miss old friends to

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Doing Inventory

When I walked into my kitchen this morning, I found my Vince sitting next to his Grandpa running an inventory of his Trick-or-Treat stash. 

And the sun wasn't even up yet.

Three Musketeers, Kit-Kats, Snickers, Baby-Ruths (love!), Twix bars, M&M's, all lined up side by side in their own little piles.

"Bobo (Grandpa), get a paper and pencil so we can write this down."  Vince demanded of his #1 staff accountant.

"Ok, hang on."  I don't think I have ever heard Bobo utter the word "no" to his grandsons.  Not even before his first cup of morning coffee.  He was back in a flash, ready for dictation.

"One, two, three, four, five, six.  Six Kit-Kats.  Did you get that, Bobo?  Six Kit-Kats."

"Yeah, I got it, boss."

"One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve M&M's.  That's A LOT of M&M's!  Did you get that, Bobo?"

"I got it.  Twelve M&M's."

"One, two, three…"

Even after the costume preparation; the pictures; the parades; the parties complete with cookie decorating, web and mummy making crafts, skull-coloring, and cupcakes.  Even after the running door-to-door collecting treats, and the complete euphoria of running into classmates IN THE DARK, IN THE MIDDLE OF THE STREET, ON A SCHOOL NIGHT!!!  Even after dumping mountains of candy on the living room floor and negotiating the last trade of the night, while sneaking one last piece when mommy wasn't looking.  Even after at least a small portion of the damage has been brushed, flossed and rinsed away and they were finally fast asleep. 

Even after all of that.  There was still some Halloween magic to be had!

Happy November!

If you have a few moments, my favorite Halloween story of all time by one of my favorite writers of all time David Sedaris:

My little Red Arrow and his brother Hawkeye pre-parade...
...some of us choose our costumes based exclusively on weaponry.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Accidental Heroin Overdose

When you start your Saturday night with an accidental heroin overdose, a memorable evening is already in the can.  When you chase that overdose with a couple too many cocktails, great friends and the cutting completely loose mayhem that every truly great costume party can bring, your evening goes from merely memorable to party-of-the-year status.   The kind of party that finds you reflecting and laughing out loud as yet another absurd moment from the night pops into your mind, right after you kiss and hug your kids good-bye and pull out of the school drop-off line the following Monday morning.

Saturday Morning a.k.a. A Giant Step Back:

 "I don't know if we should go."

"Honey, we're going."

"We don't even have costumes."

"We'll go up to the attic after we have our coffee."

"But your mom is here."

"My mom is fine."

My husband Jeff LOVES a good costume party.  LOVES THEM!  And he loves movies.  Almost ALL MOVIES, especially anything by Quentin Tarantino.  AND in spite of his partially Italian Catholic roots, he does not live his life governed by guilt.  If he wants to go to a Halloween party, he's going to a Halloween party, even if his mother is visiting from Indiana and it's her second to last night in town.

"And besides," Jeff continued to rationalize.  "She'll be with the boys.  She comes here to visit them not us.  And she'll be back at Christmas."

"I suppose."

Man, I hope Vince and Nick carry a little of my family's Irish Catholic guilt into adulthood.

The costume choices up in the attic at T-minus 8 hours until party time were A. Dog The Bounty Hunter and his son Leland from the popular cable series Dog The Bounty Hunter or B. Vincent Vega (post accidentally shooting Marvin in the face in the back of the car in broad day light) and Mrs. Mia Wallace (post accidental heroin overdose) from Jeff's favorite movie of all time Pulp FictionAnd the decision was easy.  All we needed was a new, crisp white shirt for me and some new fake blood for both of us.  Somehow, even the syringe that Jeff had rigged to stand out of my chest was still intact from the costumes debut performance at a Halloween party in 1999, five years after the film's theatrical release in 1994.  

Now we could spend more of our Saturday preparing Vince and Nick's Hawkeye and Red Arrow costumes, before their afternoon soccer game.

Jeff and I stopped at a liquor store on the way to the party Saturday night.  It served mostly as a test drive.  I was very confident that no member of our distant suburban community would remember these off-color, pop culture icons from the mid-90's.  And much to Jeff's delight, I was wrong.  Sure the twenty-something kid at the register had no idea who we were but the two, mildly unsavory patrons we shared the store with at about 7:30 p.m. were very satisfied with our tribute to the legendary film, almost twenty years later.

And then we went to the party. 

And then we left. 

About twelve hours later.

To say this busy, working mom NEEDED a fun night out, an escape of sorts, would be an understatement.  To say that this busy, working mom NEEDED to fully immerse herself in the character of Mrs. Mia Wallace with the exception of substituting three vodka tonics, a beer bong, and a shot of tequila for heroin, would of course be a gross overstatement.  Literally and figuratively.  But it happened.  And now that the nausea has passed, it was sooooo worth it!

My sincerest thanks to Laverne, Shirley and The Queen of England for picking up the pieces.  And to Mr. and Mrs. Day of the Dead for creating a beautiful playground for all manner of middle-aged merriment and misconduct! 

Mrs. Mia Wallace with a basket of corn bread muffins,
not quite in character yet but the bar was just a few steps away. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

10 Pounds of Shit In a 5 Pound Bag

Waking up to a gray sky and a little drizzle this past Saturday morning was magic.  Over the course of the last week, the southern California temperatures again climbed to the triple digit range.  Hopefully, marking the region's final f-you to fall.

That morning, I pulled on some sweats and walked downstairs to find all my boys cozy on the couch, deeply entranced in Puss n Boots.  Clever movie, if you haven't seen it and you're looking for kid content.

I poured my first cup of coffee and sat down next to them, pondering the morning, the day and soon the whole weekend ahead.  What should we do?  What could we do?  What can we get done?

I am the Queen of the To-Do list.  I always have been.  And my to-do lists aren't normal people to-do lists.  For example, as a wife and mother to young children, you would think laundry and grocery shopping and cooking would be at the top of my to-do lists.  Well, those tasks are on my weekend to-do list; they're filed under "need-to-do".  The "need-to-do's" fall after my "want-to-do's" on the list. 

Why I try to cram my want-to-do's in before my need-to-do's is why I reflect on many of my weekends and say to myself.

"That was like cramming 10 pounds of shit into a 5 pound bag!"

Sometimes in a bad way like:

"Now you're exhausted and cranky and no fun for your family; and tomorrow is Monday and you have only yourself to blame!"

But sometimes in a good way like:

"That was a really yummy black rice and butternut squash recipe you made and those little white rose bushes out front and topiaries near the front door will make you smile every time you pull in the drive-way AND you still had time to go the park and play catch and kick the soccer ball with the boys AND you hosted family Saturday night for dinner AND visited old friends Sunday night for dinner and had a couple perfectly blended cocktails.  That, ladies and gentlemen, was a WEEKEND!"

And it's Tuedsay and I'm still reflecting on it! J

And while going to Lowe's for soil, shrubs, mulch and landscape lights after my sons' morning soccer game, then spending the afternoon pulling out, digging, planting, and spreading; along with running to the market before our dinner guests arrived doesn't necessary fill my husband with the same feeling of nesting satisfaction that it does me, he did get an appreciative wife out of the deal.   

"Win-Win, I say!"

A new, free errand/to-do app for the obsessive need-to-do/want-to-doer in all of us:

Friday, October 12, 2012

Willie Nelson v. Kermit the Frog

"Mommy, come out here!"

"Mommy, come!"

"Mommy, it's a perfect rainbow!"
We had just finished homework, piano practice and a completely fruitless, hour-long search for the perfect ninja costume, the perfect storm trooper costume, and the perfect Hawkeye costume.  Mommy was done. 

And who in the hell is Hawkeye, you ask?

Well, when you take your young children to see movies that are the antithesis of age appropriateness, you are introduced to a broad assortment of uber-violent, weapon wielding, cursing, oft-times sexual, completely fictional, and apparently highly aspirational action heroes.  Action heroes that in spite of your four decades on the planet, you somehow never even knew existed.

Hawkeye is not the lookout guy with the glasses from M*A*S*H's 4-0-77th, though he is older than me (his only redeeming quality at this point).  Hawkeye was birthed by Marvel in 1966 and became a member of the Avengers team in the eponymous 2012 summer blockbuster.  And he has one hell of a bow and arrow, if you ask Vince.

None and I mean NONE of the ready-to-wear Hawkeye costumes that are available in size 8 are acceptable.

"Did you see that bow and arrow, Mommy?"  He asked over and over, rhetorically, as we skimmed catalogue after catalogue, and website after website.

"It's garbage.  That bow and arrow isn't even metal and those arrows aren't even sharp."

"You can't bring the weapons to school, anyway." I try to appeal to Vince's sense of reason.  The sense of reason he has locked away deep down inside.  I know it's in there.  He's just waiting for the right time to reveal it.

"That just doesn't make sense." He tells me.  "Hawkeye isn't Hawkeye without his bow and arrow."

"Maybe Daddy can make you a bow and arrow?"  I offer, apparently without thinking.

"What is he going to use?  Suction cups?"  Vince rolls his eyes at the ridiculousness of the thought.  I mean what self-respecting, seven year-old would be caught dead using suction cup arrows for his Hawkeye Halloween costume?

"Can Daddy make a bow and arrow out of metal?"

The sad part is I actually took a second to process this suggestion.  As far as I know, Jeff is not secretly supplementing our household income with metal welding jobs on the side but if he was...

"And what will he make the stretchy part out of?"  Vince isn't letting this go.

"I don't know.  A rubber-band?"

Why did I start this?

"What rubber-band?  I haven't seen a rubber-band that big.  Have you, Mommy?"

"I don't know, Vince.  Go ask Daddy.  He's in the garage."

I know that one day his steadfastness, his relentlessness, his "dog-on-a-bone" persistence will serve him well.  But right now, Mommy is tired.  All I want to do is make dinner to the sights and sounds of the idiot box (TV).

"Mommy, come on!  The rainbow will go away!"

I reluctantly press pause on the remote and follow my eager sons outside where we stand together on the wet driveway gazing skyward.

"Look Mommy, it goes from there," Nicky points up toward one end of the rainbow. "To there."

"It's the perfect rainbow."  Vince says.

Jeff is standing behind us in the front yard taking a couple pictures.

"It really is a good rainbow, honey."  My husband echoes his sons' sentiments.

"It is."  I give them all a broad smile.  "I'm glad you showed it to me."  I confess.
I pause for a moment to revel in the first cool, damp evening of fall before I turn and walk back into the house, leaving them to bask in the magic and wonder of pots of gold and leprechauns.

Safely back in the kitchen, I pick up the remote and press play after I check the not quite boiling pot of water on the stove.

"MOMMY!"  Vincie bursts through the door.

"Yes, Vincie."  My tone is one of complete exasperation.  But ain't nothing gonna breaka Vincie's stride.

"Why are there only three colors in a rainbow?" He asks.

"Why don't you ask…"

He cuts me off before I can finish my attempt at deflecting. 

"I asked Daddy and he doesn't know.  He said something about primary colors but it doesn't make sense.  Can we Google it?"

I am officially done.  I raise my voice. 

"Not right now.  I'm making dinner.  Go outside with Daddy and look at the rainbow again before it goes away!"

"FINE!"  Vince storms back out the door in a huff.

Little does he know, mommy is the original DOG and in this moment, Wednedsay night's Modern Family episode on the Tivo is her bone!

Someday we'll find it, The Rainbow Connection, the lovers, the dreamers and me (sort of).

...and the ages old debate continues: 

Kermit vs. Wille 


Willie'sRainbowConnection (start at 2:00)

What do you think?