Monday, April 29, 2013


I am on day four with my German brethren. 

We are one world, right? 

Sure I never actually think like that until I am half way around the globe with a life boat in the form of my three year old niece Iris.

“I think the museum will be good, Lizzie.” My sister-in-law told me as she was leaving with her students for their bike tour of Munich.  “Iris will like the museum.  There should be some paintings with animals.  It seems like there is a lot of 19th century work.”

While my English major did not afford me copious amounts of economics classes I could apply later in life, it did afford me a couple art history classes that I enjoyed.  I was actually able to enjoy one of the classes twice, after I earned a D+ and the opportunity to “repeat/delete” a class during my freshman year.

Can we all just take a collective time-out on the concept of “repeat/delete”?  If I had a nickel for every moment and decision I’d like to “repeat/delete”...

About 90% of my first dates: REPEAT/DELETE.

Third glass of wine: REPEAT/DELETE.

Booking an Economy seat to Europe instead of ponying up for Business: REPEAT/DELETE.

I just asked some of my younger brethren here at the hotel bar about the “repeat/delete” concept and according to them, there is a three-strike rule here at their school in Munich.  Here, they have instituted a “three-peat/delete”. 

Even better! 

Onto my day:

Our jaunt through the art museum was brief.  Or as Iris described it as we moved from collection to collection: “I go there, I go back”; roughly translated: “Weren’t we just in this room?  Let’s go back to the hotel already!” 

Afterward, we found ourselves in a café for lunch.  While my BI, AKA: Baby Iris, may not be a lover of fine art, she does consider herself a toddler, non-Jewish, yenta.  She is always trying to engage everyone, talk to everyone, connect with and ultimately get the dish on everyone by staring at them longingly and peppering them over and over with “Hi, Hi, Hi…” until they are forced to at least offer a smile or as was the case with the young couple seated next to us in the café, say hello and engage in some conversation.

“You are American?”  The lovely German girl started.


How the hell did you guess?  I said Dankeschon at least three times when I ordered.

“Where are you from in America?”  She continued.

“My niece is from New York and I am from California.” 

Iris was now staring at the German girl, smiling and dancing around in her stroller, quite pleased with herself for having once again caught a live one.

“Oh, where in California?  Anywhere near Malibu?”

“Actually, yes.  A little town over the hill from Malibu called Westlake Village.”

“Yes, that’s south of Santa Barbara, right?”

Who is this person familiar with my may-as-well-be-a-one-stop-light-town from half-way across the globe?

“Yes, exactly.  So you know California well?”  I asked.  It felt good to talk to someone here who knew my home.

“I love it there.  I visited in 2005.”

I love it, too.  More every day I’m here.

“It is nice.  You have to come back soon.”  I offered, like the governor has me chairing up tourism for him or the guest room in my house might actually be open for her visit.

“I hope to.  Where is your niece from in New York?  New York City?”  She continued the conversation.  Iris can sure pick 'em.  

“No.  My brother’s family lives near Albany.”

“Oh, I know Albany.  I work for a company in Russia and I transport bone marrow from Russia to New York.”

Bone Marrow...from New York.  Holy Law & Order: Special Victims Unit! Ok, now you are definitely not staying in my guest room the next time you are in California. 

“Oh.”  I had no idea what to say.  “That’s nice.  Bone marrow from Russia is nice.”

I looked at Iris, still dancing and smiling away.

What the hell did you get us into?

“Ok, Iris.  Should we go back to the hotel?” 

“Ya, back hotel.”  Thankfully, Iris was ready.

“It was nice talking with you.”  I gave my impromptu lunch companions a smile over my shoulder as I hurriedly pushed the stroller away.

“You, too.  Enjoy your visit.”  She smiled back.

I looked over my shoulder about every 15 steps on my way back to the hotel.


Lake Constantine.  Grapes in the foreground.  Swiss Alps in the distance.  Beautiful.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Why does everything have to be in German?

I got to spend a nice chunk of my first morning in Germany with my niece Iris; just the two of us. 

“Ok, so I’ll take you two up to the bookstore and I can go take care of a few errands?”  My sister-in-law Michele asked me. 

Which was apparently code for:

“Your asses better be sitting together right here in the children’s section on the second floor of this bookstore  when I get back.”  

“Yes, that’s fine.  Take as long as you want.  We both have our phones,” was my response. 

Which was of course code for: “Just hit me on my celly, girl.” Or better yet: “See ya when I see ya, wherever I see ya.”

Unfortunately, because we reside on opposite coasts, Michele and I haven’t had a lot of opportunities to decode one another since she joined our family.

After just ten or fifteen minutes of chasing Iris around the children’s section of the second floor of the bookstore and snapping pictures of her, she was done with the second floor. 

I can’t remember if she said:

“We go café.”


“We go other floor.”  (Read: third floor of bookstore has a café.)

But my response was:

“Ok, Iris.  We have to get the stroller.”  Because I basically consider myself her personal valet for this trip. And yes, I have been watching Downton Abbey.

“Ok, I walk.  I do some walking.” 

“Ok but you have to hold my hand.”

And I’ll be damned if that little shit who wasn’t walking at all like fifteen minutes ago was trying to pull her hand out of mine the whole way to the elevator.

“Iris, you have to hold my hand.”  I tried to give her a stern voice.

“Ok, Lizzie.”  I swear she rolled her eyes at me when she said it.

When we got to the third floor and the elevator opened, I asked:

“Is this ok?”

“Ya, ya.”  She was already trying to bolt on me again.

Once we cleared the elevator threshold and the open staircase that runs along the side of the bookstore, I let go of her hand (and yes, I am writing that detail in on the off chance that my sister-in-law ever reads this but it IS true).

“Café.  Café.  Café.”  Iris started repeating. 

I looked around and up and eventually saw a small café tucked in the corner at the end of the floor.  We headed in that general direction.

“Pope on book.  Pope on book.  Pope on book.”  She suddenly started repeating.

What the...?

I looked around and my eyes finally caught on a table full of books featuring big pictures of Pope Francis on the cover.  While I knew she and her mother attended church, I didn’t realize Iris was such a fan of the new head of the worldwide Catholic Church.

"Oh, yeah, Iris.  That's the new Pope." I said, like she needed any validation from me.

We quickly arrived at the café, which was indeed very small and quite full of older people who I assumed would not be too keen on this fine, American duo as a side-dish for their morning coffee.

“It looks kind of crowded, Iris.” 

“Ya, crowded.  Crowded café.”  She concurred.

We started to walk back toward the other end of the bookstore.

“Other café.  Other café.”  She suggested.

“Ok, but you have to get in the stroller.”

“Ok.  I get in stroller.” 

And I hoisted her in, buckled the seatbelt, and we were off.  First to a sidewalk café where she had warm milk (that I ordered cold) and I had a small cappuccino (that I ordered large).  We then started a walk around the city.  We walked down a few different alleys and side streets off the main thoroughfares but essentially traveled in circles close to the aforementioned bookstore, passing it at least three times on our journey.

Well over an hour soon passed and I figured Michele had to be done with her errands soon.

“We’re going back to the bookstore, Iris.  You can do some walking.”

“Ok.  Back to bookstore.”  She was less than enthusiastic.

As we walked off the elevator on the second floor and headed toward the children's section, I found a comfortable bench near the cook books.  I pulled Iris out of the stroller.

“You pick a book and we’ll read it together.”  I told her.

I pulled out my phone and saw I had missed a call from Michele about 10 minutes prior.

That’s odd.  Why didn’t I hear the ring?

I checked the ringer and it was indeed in the "on" position. 


I called her.


“Hi, Michele.  Are you done with your errands?”

“Yes, where are you guys?”  She sounded concerned.

“The bookstore.”

“Where have you been?  I was in there and looked all over.”  She was very concerned.

“Walking around the city.  Iris wanted to go out and walk around.”

“I’ve been looking all over for you.”  Read: The valet was officially in trouble.

“Did you try calling?  I only show the one call ten minutes ago.”

“Yes, several times.  Where are you in the bookstore?”

I started to explain and she cut me off.

“I’m on my way.”  She hung up the phone.

Because I have been a neurotic mother myself for more than seven years now, I knew to just settle in and get ready to take my licks.

“Iris, did you pick a book?”  I turned my attention to the real culprit who was about four feet from me looking at a low shelf of books.

“Ya.  Dis one.”  She walked over and handed me a book with a colorful picture of children playing outside in the grass on the cover.  “What it's about?”  She asked.

I scanned the cover closely for an answer.

Why does everything have to be in German?

“It’s about kids playing in the summer.”  I decided. 

Worked for her.

“I sit in your lap.”  She pointed at my lap and I hoisted her up and in.

We opened to the first, text-heavy page that fortunately had images of ice-cream cones, suns, cherries and other summertime items here and there.

“What is that, Iris?”


“What is that, Iris?”


Before long, Hurricane Mama blew in, looking completely exasperated.

“I’m sorry, Michele.”

“I was so worried.”

“Have you been done a long time?”

“Yes.”  She made her way over next to me on the bench.

“I didn’t know how long you would be.”  I offered, meekly.

About this time, Iris slid off my lap and walked back toward the low shelf, removing any and all buffer between her mother and me.  A move I did not appreciate and will not soon forget.

Michele continued, “I looked all over the book store, then I went out into the street.  I was almost crying.  I thought you had all been kidnapped.”

Me, the kid, AND the stroller the size of a Smart Car?  I thought to myself.

“I know it doesn’t make sense but I just couldn’t imagine where you went.”

“Iris was done with the bookstore pretty quickly and I figured you and I each had our phones.  I guess now we know we can’t rely on them.”  I tried to sound pragmatic and of course, blame the kid.

“You’d think we could in the city.”  Michele was calming down.

“Next time, we’ll set a rendezvous time,”  I suggested.  I’m sure at that point Michele was thinking there won’t be a next time.

So, until next time…

Auf Wiedersehen

Our beautiful dining spot.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Europe, Meet America

Walking through the giant, glass sliding doors at the entrance of Los Angeles Airport’s Tom Bradley international terminal, I actually felt a little lighter.  At first I thought it was the backpack.  My husband’s snazzy travel backpack that invites you to slide your laptop into a nifty compartment that you can unzip at the top and sides to fold out flat on the scanner at the security checkpoint.  You know, so you don’t have to actually pull your laptop out of the bag and place it into a bin (imagine the complete agony that would have been?).  

But it wasn’t that feature of the backpack specifically that was making me feel lighter…maybe it was the notion that here I was, a 40 year-old working mother of two with a backpack on my back heading toward a plane that would take me half-way across the globe ALONE. 

Doesn’t it sound so romantic?  So totally care-free?  So positively twenty-something?

But that wasn’t it either.

Once I made it through security and commenced looking for lunch, I realized what it was.  It was an old, familiar feeling.  That magical traveler’s feeling.  That feeling of being neither here nor there. 

What I had left done and planned for Jeff and the boys was done.  Laundry, grocery shopping, dry cleaning, meals, Stitch groomed, rescheduling piano lessons, washing car, filling gas tank… creating a trip calendar with the boys’ activities and a daily color key corresponding to my location on the world map in their room (obsess much?)…I could literally do nothing else for them to insure my absence was any easier for them.

And what was to come when I finally made it to my destination, whatever it was, would come.

In that moment, between here and there, all I could do was be.  Eat lunch.  Find a bathroom.  Shop for a book.  Read.  People watch.  Or, as was my unfortunate case at Gate 130 awaiting my flight to Frankfurt, listen to the overgrown American man in the shorts, dirty white ankle socks and Crocs, make himself belch, over and over and over again, until I thought I would dry-heave, while his wife sat by and did absolutely nothing.  Perhaps she's used to it.

And I’m proud to be an American…

And now I am finally there.  A ten hour flight and two hour train ride later, my official journey with my sister-in-law and niece commenced in Freiburg, with a look inside a beautiful church built in 1200, a sausage, and a beer (what else?).

Monday, April 22, 2013

Praisin' The Lard

You know when it's 8:57 a.m. and you find yourself sandwiched between your two, very most favorite, little guys in a semi-circle diner booth that is brimming with pancakes, bacon, waffles, omelettes, coffee, and Eggs Benedict; and you are looking at a dude sitting across the diner with a handle bar mustache, wearing this t-shirt:

It's going to be a darn good Sunday.

And it was:

Almost The Whole Gaggle:
Uncle Lloyd, Jeff, Rancher Tom, and Vince
(And Becky and Lucy)

Late Comers Nicky and Me
Please don't kick me, Lucy. Or bite me or buck Nick off,
or rear up or sneeze...

The Stand-off
(Mad Mama Cow right before Rancher Tom "tags" her baby)

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Seat 38E

I am preparing for a big flight next week, something I don't do that often these days.  It has me thinking about some of the more noteworthy flights I have taken.  

The below is an excerpt from my as yet unpublished memoir.  The excerpt is about a last minute flight I took from LA to NY for business, just before Christmas 2010.


I found myself standing over an older Asian woman snacking on an orange in 38D as I attempted to shove my carry-on into the overhead compartment above her head.  I stood in the aisle a moment.  Just long enough to confirm that she would not be getting up so that I might easily slide into my middle seat.  I stepped over her; and somehow, the giant poster board wrapped in saran wrap that she held in front of her was unharmed. 

Once I had buckled up, she made a welcome offering of her half-eaten orange.  The orange that she had peeled, pulled a few slices from, and was chewing on following taking her seat here in the bowels of this Boeing 777 that from the looks of things probably made its first commercial flight about the time I failed my first driver's license test back in 1988. 


I shook my head and smiled, "No, thank you."

She nodded her head and offered a small smile as she brought the orange back in and pulled another slice for herself. 

Germy produce aside, I liked her already.  I gave her a name: Clarice.

The good news was that the other aisle seat to my right (38F) appeared to be open.  I scoped my neighboring middle-seat passengers in the back of the bus.  Based on the way they kept shifting in their seats and looking over their shoulders, I knew they were thinking exactly what I was thinking. 

But I was closest and feeling spry.

"Excuse me, I think you're in the wrong seat, ma'am."

My attention was diverted to the flight attendant now addressing Clarice.  She slowly shook her head no.  I could tell she was confused.

"Let me see your ticket.  I think he is supposed to be in this seat," the flight attendant continued, gesturing toward a young man (shit-head) standing behind her with a back-pack.

Are you kidding me?  Does it really matter if he sits in 38D and she sits in 38F?  They're equally screwed and I'm now screwed just a little bit more.

Clarice commenced reaching in her sweater pockets as I unbuckled my seatbelt, awaiting my cue.  When she stood, I grabbed her poster board and moved out into the aisle opposite shit-head.  She looked panicked for a moment.  I gave her my best "it's ok" nod and wide-eyed smile and stood in the aisle waiting for her to situate herself in 38F. 

Of course, I had no intention of stealing her poster - just wanted a smooth transition.  I took a look at the poster.  There were two faces that appeared to be sketched in pencil, a young Asian boy and girl who looked to be in their early teens. 

Perhaps her grandchildren? 

I wondered if she sketched them.  Maybe the drawings were a gift from her host in Los Angeles, or a gift for her host in New York.  I handed the poster back to her and went the long way to my middle seat, walking through the back galley kitchen, so I could inconvenience shit-head, who was now comfortably situated in his seat. 

I had no qualms making shit-head get up right after he had sat down.  But Clarice, I preferred to see her settled in, relaxing with her poster board.

I closed my eyes before take-off.  I seemed to drift in and out as I always do on planes, head bobbing like a fool.  I opened my eyes in time to miss the drink cart but catch Clarice in the middle of a denture adjustment.  It was the tops.  Literally and figuratively.  She had popped the full plate of upper teeth out and was holding them in her right hand - not completely on display, they were less than an inch from her mouth and with her left hand, she half-heartedly shielded my view.  I closed my eyes and attempted to shake the image from my mind.

Somewhere over the Rockies, I awoke to a fishy odor.  Clarice had already taken the first bite of her hand-roll when I cast a glance in her direction.  

They don't have sushi back here.  What the hell else is she packin'? 

At that point, I began to scan the overhead compartments in the rear of the plane, imagining a live chicken bursting out at anytime.  Like the ones that hung out on the back of the jalopy bus heading to and from the 4-0-77th on M*A*S*H

I closed my eyes and began to wonder what Clarice's story was.  My mind drifted to The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan's book about four Chinese immigrant mothers and their daughters.  Specifically, the scene in the movie adaption of the book where one of the mothers is pushing her infant twin girls in a make-shift, wooden wheelbarrow.  They are following a pilgrimage of Chinese who have left their homes behind in an effort to save themselves from a Japanese invasion.  I think it was Japan.  Let's just say my world history fluency is right up there with my geography. 

Anyway, I recalled the moment when the wheelbarrow collapses, and the mother is in tears, finally broken herself.  As the movie goes, she gently places each of her babies at the foot of a tree with her blistered hands.  She then wraps all of her worldly possessions - a few pieces of jewelry, a few coins - along with a note in a small bundle and places it on top of them.  In that moment, the poor, desperate mother felt that she would surely die and hoped that someone else - some kind stranger - would save her daughters.  Something she no longer had the strength to do.   

With this image fresh in my head, I didn't think twice when Clarice - no - when My Hero started slapping her face.  Over and over.  All over.  Cheeks, forehead, chin...  

Must be her beauty regimen.  Maybe I can pick up a tip or two.  Chinese women do tend to have such beautiful skin.

It then became abundantly clear that my nap was not happening.  I opened my laptop but found myself unable to focus as My Hero began to rummage in her bag for something. 

What could it be?   

She began to open a small blue package but I couldn't tell what it was from the corner of my eye. 

I went about my business reading and responding to email until My Hero stopped moving around and had laid her head back. 

She must be sleeping.

I turned to look and at first glance in the back of the dark plane, I saw this:

Which of course scared the hell out of me until I realized it was this:

Still disconcerting in the back of a dark plane but less so when I remembered this:

My creepy friend Heidi while our families vacationed together in Tahoe

Ultimately, my time (the impromptu, extremely uncomfortable, cross-country flight seated in 38E) with Clarice served as a reminder of how interconnected we women so many ways...especially our vanity!

Monday, April 15, 2013

A Skirt Full of Balls

Just chillin' with my girl Venus.

It’s been five months since my bowling career went belly-up.  And no, I wasn’t asked to leave (as predicted); I left of my own volition.  

With some friendly coaxing, I decided it was time to try something else.  Something that’s part exercise, part social engagement, part looking cute, and part competition.  Oh, and part drinking wine.

I joined a tennis league.

I had started playing and taking lessons back in January.  Before I knew it, moms at my sons’ school were coming out of the woodwork.

“I play tennis.”

“I play, too.”

“I wanna play.”

“You know I used to play?”

“We should play!”

“I’m just getting back into it, too!”

“Do you do that clinic on Thursdays?”

“That coach is good but I do ‘privates’ with this coach.”

I was soon asked to join my club league (not because I have actual talent but because they needed an actual warm body). 

At this point, I’m not quite sure why I said yes.  

I think I thought it was the logical thing to do.  It’s exercise.  It’s something of my own vs. my young sons’ many activities.  My husband has his golf that makes him so happy.  I need a hobby.  I can have tennis.  I can play it for many years to come.  The better I get at it, the more I’ll enjoy it; and what better way to practice the game, than to compete?  Competition is healthy.  That is what my BRAIN told me when I uttered those fateful words to my friend:

“Sure, I’ll try out for the league with you.”

And this is what my HEART told me, verbatim, and what I spewed all over my husband through my mobile phone, as I drove home from my first match Saturday (I couldn’t wait until I got home because then the kids would see/hear me modeling the WORST kind of behavior):

“It was hell.  The match was hell.  We got our asses handed to us.  My partner kept asking me for strategy.  This was my first real match and I had never met her before!  By the time I figured out how I should best manage the game, how I could best serve our team based on both our and our opponents’ collective strengths and weaknesses, it was WAY TOO LATE.  I was too busy running a constant stream of snarky comments about everyone on the court through the first set.  Anyway, this was supposed to be fun.  What happened on that court was the opposite of fun.  Why did I join this league?  I have far more fun taking group lessons and playing with my friends.  How many more weeks do I have to endure this?  And I can’t quit now.  What would I tell Vince and Nick?  ‘Well, mommy decided she didn’t like losing with strangers so she just quit after one match.’  That’s a terrific example for them!”  

And now for what my GUT told me.  The very same words I uttered to my husband Saturday night, after I showered and got myself ready; rode along with he and the boys, and my father-in-law for nine holes of golf; and drank a big glass of wine:

“I know exactly how Vince feels.  When Vince strikes out or misses a play or the other team is in the lead, and I see the frustration begin to grip his little body, I tell him: ‘Don’t get upset.  It’s just a game.  Have fun.  Just stay positive, try hard and do your best.’  That can be a really freakin’ hard thing to do.  Not doing well SUCKS.  Losing SUCKS.  Disappointing yourself SUCKS.  ”

“Now we know where Vince gets it.”  Jeff smiled.

“I know.”  I paused.  “I really want to do this.  I want to get better.  I want to work at this thing that is independent of you guys and my work and I want to get better.  I want to feel what it’s like to work hard and win and even sometimes lose at something that is just for me.  I want to feel physically stronger and faster.  I want to stretch myself with this.”

“Then stick with it.”

We sat in silence for a few moments.

“I have my next match Wednesday."  I paused and processed what could transpire that evening.  "We’re probably going to need more wine.”

Friday, April 12, 2013

The Great American DirectTV Shut Down

“So is that his wife?”

“No, it’s his girlfriend.  She’s hot.”

Of course she’s hot.  Graeme McDowell makes big checks.  Doesn't take a rocket scientist to make heads or tails of that deal.

I briefly look at the young woman on the TV under the green ball cap and make note of the long French- braid that hangs down to the side over her left shoulder.  I go back to my dinner dishes over the sink.

Is that a French braid?  What is that?  I think it has a special name.  Did she do her own hair?  Do girlfriends showing up at these stupid tournaments get hair people?

“You know, Tiger doesn’t even play in this?”  Jeff calls back to me from the couch.  Clearly he is thinking out loud.

“Oh, yeah.  Since he’s back to number one?”

“Well, this is the Par 3 contest.  Of course Tiger plays in the Masters; he just doesn’t participate in the Par 3.”

“Got it.”  I try to be a good wife and entertain his favorite subject; then it dawns on me.

“Wait!  Is this the tournament?  Is this the end?  Are we shutting Direct TV off this weekend?”

“This is the tournament.”  He looks back at me and smiles.  “But if play continues into Monday, we’ll shut it off Tuesday.”

“I can’t believe it’s here.”

And I can’t believe it’s here.  Jeff and I have been talking about the no Direct TV challenge for a couple months now.  He kept referring to a golf tournament a ways off, saying that we would shut it off after that tournament.

“There’s nothing you need to keep it on for?”  He kept asking me the past couple weeks.  “Housewives?  SVU?  Dateline?”

 I tend to go heavy on the depravity with my programming choices. 


“Snapped?  Are you sure you’re not going miss Snapped, baby?”  He is mocking me and laughing now.

For the uninitiated, Snapped is about women who, well, SNAP!  And off their husbands.  The typical “Snapped” episode starts with images of smiling couples clad in white dresses and tuxedos and ends with images of bullet casings, blood stained-sheets and a mug-shot. Sometimes it’s over money, sometimes it’s for a lover, sometimes it's over an affair (woman scorned), and sometimes it’s a combination of all of the above. 

Man, I’m going to miss those crazy bitches.

Recently, Jeff pointed out to me that “watching that shit right before you fall asleep every night can’t be good for you”.

While he’s no psychotherapist; and I have not been plotting his demise.  Nor have I been daydreaming about following in the footsteps of my favorite Housewives and wiping out my retirement for a Bentley and a Birkin bag...or pulling the weave from the head of any woman, friend or foe.  I must admit that his words stuck with me.  

I asked myself: 

Might more wholesome, more uplifting programming serve me better?  

Could a smidge of inspiration and/or good will toward men have a positive impact on my outlook in general?

We’ll find out next week, after the Masters at Augusta National…and a Snapped Marathon that runs from 12 p.m. to 1 a.m. on Sunday.

I sure hope that golf match goes into overtime.  I gotta go make some room on the DVR for some of my favorite girls!

More on Snapped:

Why would you do something like set up a scholarship for underserved kids
when you could be seen carrying this for a mere 150 Large ($150K)?

 More overpriced "bags": 

Monday, April 8, 2013

Members of the Rodent Family

The squirrels are out in droves and they’re killing me. 

My favorite is when I am running late for morning drop off at school and the little fuckers think it’s time for a game of chicken.  Sometimes, I’ll see one on the curb, about 30 feet up.  He’ll raise himself on his haunches and look at me.  I look at him and I assume we’ve come to an understanding: that I am an 8 cylinder SUV that seats up to 7 comfortably and he is, well, a three pound rodent with a bushy tail.  I'm wrong.  Suddenly he jumps into the street and I’m all over my brakes. 

The boys' consciousness is temporarily raised in the back seat: “What happened, mommy?”

“That STUPID squirrel just tried to commit suicide!”

“You said a naughty word.” From Vince. 

“What’s suicide?” From Nick.

“Nothing.  Forget it."  I quickly change the subject.  "How do you spell subtrahend?”  An actual second grade spelling word; I’m sure they’ll get as much use out of it as I have over the past 40 years.

I don’t know if the squirrels in our neighborhood are particularly slow-witted or if our squirrels just generally act like a bunch of asshole teenagers.

I imagine three or four squirrels under a bush in the front yard of one of our neighbors, having just downed four or five acorns. 

“Dare you to cross the street.”  All-show-no-go-squirrel says to his squirrel buddies.    

“I’m not doing it; you do it.”  One squirrel buddy responds.

"No way!" Replies another.

“I'll give whoever does it the rest of this acorn.”  The dare is sweetened.

“You guys are a bunch of WUSSIES.  I'll do it!”  Alpha-squirrel throws an empty acorn top over his shoulder and positions himself, prone, at the edge of the bush, watching the street for the next car.      

 The dumb-shit squirrel chant commences.  “Cross! Cross! Cross! Cross!”

“Here comes a car, here comes a car!”

Alpha squirrel hesitates just a moment too long before he leaps from under the bush and SPLAT!

“Mommy, what was that sound?”

Both boys are now prone in their booster seats, their heads turning left and right to look out every window. 

“You didn’t see that kid kick the soccer ball?”  I cringe.

“No! Did you hit it?” 

"This is what I told you can happen when you kick the ball in the street."

Acorn top whistling:

I wanna party with these two.

Friday, April 5, 2013


“Are you calling to tell me you’re running late?”  I answered the phone in my car quite happily because I myself was then officially 30 minutes behind schedule. 

“Yes, the stupid dermatologist was running late and now I have to go home and put foundation all over the zits on my face that he injected with cortisone.”

My foot fell off the brake and I almost rolled into the car in front of me.

“Wwwwhat did you just say?”

“I have FIVE, HUGE ZITS on my face that won’t go away so my doctor injected them with cortisone.”

“That’s ridiculous.  It can’t be that bad, Heidi.”

As featured on my blog before, Heidi is my best friend from college.  The one that somehow brings athleticism, kindness, humor, a genuine love of nature, a no bull-shit approach to life, and fierce loyalty to the table.

“It's horrible!” She was laughing as she attempted to defend her highly aggressive course of zit treatment.  “I have had a couple of these zits for like two weeks.”

I won’t lie.  I wasn’t completely unhappy to hear Heidi say that she had FIVE allegedly GIANT ZITS on her face that wouldn’t go away, to the point that her dermatologist agreed to inject cortisone shots into each of them, one by one, in an effort to shrink them down.  

I have to go home to put foundation on the zits. 

Her words replayed in my head as I felt a smile stretch further and further across my face. 

Is Heidi really going to meet me for brunch today with a complexion that resembles some sort of patch-work quilt?  Can she really look that bad?  After more than 20 years of friendship, has this day finally come?

I realize I sound like a pretty big asshole.  I mean, she is my best friend from college.  We have a huge history together: fraternity parties, roommates, dating, break-ups, first jobs, engagements, careers, weddings, pregnancies, babies, family vacations...that one time in college when a mutual friend of ours said to me:

“Liz, I don’t know how you can hang out with Heidi as much as you do.  I mean she’s beautiful.  She’s perfect: that smile, those legs.  I think every guy on this campus would do anything to go out with her.  I mean, don’t you feel kinda inadequate?”

Or something like that, I mean who can remember exactly what happened almost twenty years ago… in the beer bar in the Student Union on May 7, 1993 around 6 p.m. when you were ditching your Shakespeare class for the second time in two weeks?

“How bad can it be?”  I asked Heidi, trying my best to sound concerned versus gleeful.

“Dude, it’s baaaad…alright, I’ll hurry,” she paused.  "I can’t believe we haven’t seen each other since New Year’s Eve!”    

“I know!  Alright, drive safe.  See you when I see you.”

And we were off.  She from Orange County and me from Ventura County for our mid-way-ish, Los Angeles County rendezvous for brunch, pedicures, AND CATCHING UP!

And catch up we did, and laugh and lament, and ponder and plan, and royally stuff ourselves with pasta and warm crepes stuffed with pears, and, of course, the requisite, celebratory glass of Prosecco.  

And try as I might have, I only saw ONE of the FIVE, GIANT ZITS which wasn’t even GIANT. 

Alas, Heidi remains beautiful inside and out (though I did notice the pedicurist break a sweat in her attempt to buff away the two, rather unsightly calluses Heidi has on the tops of her fourth and fifth toes…ON BOTH FEET!)   

Oh, look! There she is now...looking ugly, doing ugly things! 

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

An Early Recap of the Big Dance on the Eve of the Final Four

Spring Break 2013 found me, my Jeff, my Vince and Nick, and my Stitch at the home of my father-in-law’s in Arizona.  Much to our shared delight, Jeff’s Uncles Chris and Tim had also flown in from Indiana for the visit with Vince and Nick’s Great Grandma in tow.  That’s right, one, two, three, FOUR generations of Pieri Madness had come together for March Madness. 

The odds didn’t seem to be stacked in our favor, with a female to male ratio of 1:4 (including large dogs), but Great Grandma and I managed to steal a few decidedly female moments during the visit.  Sitting together and talking while sipping merlot or in Great Grandma’s case, merlot cut with water (Holy Communion style) or merlot cut with Coca-Cola (Holy stomach-ache style), Great Grandma shared, in impressive detail, just a few pages from her 85-year story. 

“So, grandma, how are you?”  I asked her on the first night, only half-expecting her to mention the pain she felt in one or both of her knees or the work of keeping the two-story, five-bedroom family home she still lived in or the difficulty of the mid-western winter she had temporarily escaped for this trip west.

She paused a moment and leaned back in her chair.  “You know, Liz, I just feel bad about Liza.”

“What’s wrong with Liza?” I asked. 

Liza is Great Grandma’s youngest granddaughter.  She lives in the same town back in Indiana and I have only met her once, almost three years ago now.  A beautiful, healthy girl with dark hair and dark eyes.  A Pieri, through and through.

“Liza is great.  I just wish I was younger for her.”

Of course.  

While I first met Great Grandma only fifteen years ago, and see her only during special visits, my limited observations have led me to believe that Great Grandma was put on this planet exclusively to do for and nurture her family.  It seems to come to her as naturally as breathing.

As the oldest of seven children, she went on to marry and have seven children of her own who today range in age from 65 (Uncle Dave) to 45 (Uncle Scott).  Liza, now age five, is the youngest of Great Grandma’s 11 grandchildren.  At age 41, my Jeff is the oldest grandson; he has an Uncle that is four years older than him and a first cousin that is two years younger than his own sons. 

“Liza is fine, she’s doing great,” Great Grandma continued.  “I just wish I was younger so I could do more with her, know that I would be around longer.”

I looked at her across the table and offered a small, sympathetic smile.  I could only imagine where she was in her life and how she must feel. 

“You know I was 39 when I got pregnant with Scott?”  She sort of asked me.

I hadn’t actually done the math but knew Scott was a “surprise”, born several years after her sixth child, Uncle Tim.

“I will never forget that night,” she continued.  Her earlier question was the first in a series of rhetoricals she uses to pepper all of her stories.  Rhetorical questions and the occasional “ok?” are her two, primary story-telling devices.

“Naz and I were in a big fight and I wasn’t talking to him, and we had to go to this party, ok?”

Naz is Nazareth Pieri, Great Grandma’s late husband who passed away just five years ago.

“And Naz was drinking a lot that night.  You know Naz never drank?  Well, that night he just kept drinking because I wasn’t talking to him, ok?”  She giggled.  “He was smashed and he kept having to dance with these two older women that were sitting at our table.  It was so funny.”  She was leaning back in her chair laughing now.  “So that night we went back to our hotel and of course we made up.”

For those of you not paying attention, my simple question of “How are you, Grandma?” had just landed me in the sack with her and Grandpa.

I nodded again and smiled, perhaps a little wide-eyed now.  Fortunately, I didn’t need to say anything because if Great-Grandma’s first gift is her nurturing soul, her second gift is the gift of gab.

The details that followed included three months of wondering, a couple visits to a female doctor who practiced out of her basement in the small town in Pennsylvania they lived in at the time, and finally, a visit to an OB to confirm that yes, she was expecting her seventh child, 11 years after her sixth child, at the age of 39.

“I remember I was so scared to tell the kids.  Of course I told Naz first and then I called Dave who was off for his first year at Yale.  He had two roommates.  One of them was a Jewish kid.  Dave was so happy for me.  He said ‘I think that’s great, mom’ and his roommates thought it was great, too.”

I smiled, thinking of a young Uncle Dave away at school receiving this call from his mom.

“And then we had to tell the rest of the kids and they were all school age so I had gone back to work part time so we were all going in different directions, ok?  Some of the kids were in high school, some in junior high and some in elementary.  They had sports and other activities they were doing.”

I shuttered thinking about just how busy that household must have been… and here I think I’m exhausted at the end of the day after baseball practice and two sets of homework.      

“I remember Naz came home early one day and we sat all the kids down that afternoon after school to tell them.  One by one, they all came over and gave me a hug.  They were all happy about it.  And then I remember Tim, he was ten or eleven at the time.  He came over and gave me a hug just like the rest of them then he asked me, ‘Mom, are you sure you went to the right doctor?’  It was the cutest thing.” 

Great Grandma laughed and laughed as she remembered the moment.  I imagined how sweet it must have been.

The next night, we all made S’mores over my father-in-law’s backyard fire pit, under the stars.  Vince and Nick were the official marshmallow roasters.

“Great Grandma, do you like yours golden brown or burnt on the outside?”
“Oh, I suppose golden brown,” she told them, then looked up at the sky.

“You know Naz and I used to look up at the moon on clear nights and we’d ask each other what kind of face is the moon making tonight.  ‘Is it sad?’,  ‘Is it happy?’…”  She smiled as she gazed skyward.

“Boys, what kind of face do you think the moon is making tonight?”  I asked them.

Vince and Nick temporarily abandoned the magic of poking the dancing flames with their metal hangers-turned-marshmallow-skewers and we all looked up.  The moon was not quite full, sort of oblong in shape.    

“I don’t know.” Nick said.

“A silly face,” Vince offered.

“A silly face, huh?”  Great Grandma paused as if she were examining the moon’s face more closely.  “I think you’re right.  It is a silly face, Vince.”  And she laughed and laughed.

And so, above the din of two TV’s (indoor and outdoor) streaming bad call after missed spread after failed pick, I watched a different kind of Cinderella story unfold. 

And it was one for the record books.

A special note from Great Grandma at the end of our visit pinned to Nicky's bulletin board.
He was more excited about the 10-spot in the envelope...maybe one day he'll treasure this more.