Tag Archives: New Jersey

Mouth Party in the Pantry

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My Gramma (the one I liked, I mean… the other was my “Grandmother” – said with an Oliver Twist sort of accent) made the most amazing gooey awesome mouth-party brownies on the face of the earth. These were not boxed brownies. They were not pot brownies. They were not even the bizarre yet delicious zucchini brownies I made this summer. They were Switzerland and the beaches of Kauai all in one.
I liked these brownies so damn much that I ate them whenever the opportunity presented itself. We would stay with my Grandparents for a few weeks each summer, so my time was limited. Otherwise, you’d be watching me on live television as the jaws of life cut my 400 pound self out of my house.

At dinner, someone would say “please pass the rolls.”

I’d helpfully pipe up, “I’ll get the jam!” and sprint from the table.

The golden love nuggets were kept in the pantry, next to the jam. I sat in the pantry for a few minutes and ate one. mmmmmmmmmm.

“I have to pee.”

The bathroom was right across the hall from the pantry. Two more brownies. And dinner was only half way through.
“Oh, I forgot to wash my hands!”

Back into the pantry. Really. That’s where I spent most of the vacation.

By the time my Gramma brought those delicious suckers out for us to eat dessert, I was full (almost). It was an addiction like no other. I dreamed about the brownies. They invaded my mind like a lost lover. Of course, being twelve, my lost lover was some boy who made eye contact with me one time. If I had just been more brave. Maybe he was my soul mate. We’ll never know. Because, I didn’t bite into him like I did those brownies!

In high school (I was in a boarding school) my Gramma sent me a care package for my 16th birthday. I was so excited, but I heroically saved the box for the actual day. I’m not sure if that was an exhibition of self-control, or just a desire to wait because we all know that birthday calories don’t count and I was gonna eat that whole damn box.
It was here.

My birthday.

I was gonna eat the shit out of those brownies. My two best friends were in a fight with me. My boyfriend was a sex-brained arsehole. My parents completely forgot it was my birthday. Those brownies were going to drastically improve my day. I tore the packing tape off in anticipation. Oh the smell. They looked perfect.

I lifted one to my mouth.

What?

Did the brownie just move?

What the hell?

I felt like I was in that scene in The Lost Boys where the rice becomes maggots and the noodles become worms. I dropped my beloved to the floor and watched in horror as a hundred ants bounced off of it. Did I tell you I was in Jersey? It’s not the garden state. It’s the ant state. The ants had penetrated the care package, not to mention my soul. I believe at that point I had a toddler sized meltdown, but I don’t remember. I suffered some sort of brief brownie craving psychotic break. When I came to I found myself trying to salvage crumbs from the dearest love of my life, who had been ripped from my teenage world like the victim of a drive-by shooting.

Yeah.

I’m not proud.

I ate at least 50 ants that night, and cried as I threw the rest of the golden box of love into the trash.

In a perfect world, I would now post the aforementioned recipe in this blog, and you would all understand the levels I would sink to in order to consume such perfection. But, alas, my Gramma has been dead for over fifteen years. Some part of me just always thought she would be there. Making me brownies. Laughing at my jokes.

Restocking her pantry when I wasn’t looking.

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Moonshine and Hickies

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We were young.  He was not my first boyfriend, but he was the first (and last) to write me a song.  He was the first to be insanely silly.  We were innocent together, and I laughed more than I thought was even allowed in a teenage relationship. My regular group of friends didn’t understand my new relationship, he was not a part of that group.  Not that we were cooler, by any means.  We just thought that high school was a time for drama and end-of-world scenarios.  I needed a bright light.  They could see it.  He didn’t wallow.  He bounced.

Like Tigger.

We bounced through our time together, listening to music, telling stories, as I gradually corrupted his sweet soul by introducing him to the alcohol of my homeland.  Siddiqui.  Moonshine.  We got loopy together, and boy, if I thought he was silly sober, drunk was like stand-up comedy hour.  I was so crazy in love, having so much fun, that I smuggled booze OUT of Saudi Arabia for him to have the opportunity to taste a beverage that could make you blind and possibly tear an actual hole in your liver.  If you aren’t familiar with Saudi Arabia, it is a dry (Muslim) country and alcohol is highly illegal.

To bring into the country.

From outside the country.

I’m sure there’s not even a law about bringing it out of the country because that doesn’t  make sense.  Why would anyone be that stupid? You can buy the real stuff on the other side.  Stuff that will probably not eat the bottom out of your cup. Stuff that will only make you blind if you drink 8 bottles in a row.  But, I thought I was just so damn special, I wanted to share the often lethal crap I drank at home. The question was, how to smuggle it out.

In the 80’s we used some nasty liquid chemicals to clean our contact lenses. (Seriously.  We had to clean them.  They were so expensive that you made one pair last a year.) We had these little containers that they would sit in, and you’d pour some bubbly acid over them to allow them to marinate overnight, magically cleaning them and prepping them to be popped back into your eyes the next morning.  This was all entrusted to a teenage brain.  I don’t even know what AoSept was, but it was not a nice liquid.  Once, in a moment of sheer brilliance – while attempting to become a pot head (a career move that didn’t pan out) – I mistook AoSept as saline solution and squirted into my dry eyes.  This is the same developmental brain that is trusted with driving, often while texting, always while day dreaming.  Makes you want to stay home.  I screamed like someone had ripped my eye right out of my head, and shoved a cup full of salt in the raw open hole.  Still, it was probably not as bad as the moonshine we drank in Saudi, so logically I decided to smuggle it out in an empty AoSept bottle.  It was a plastic, squeezy thing, and I spent the better part of an evening gradually sucking the Siddiqui up from a glass and into the container. Fortunately, I was smart enough to empty it out first.  Like swapping poison with poison.

Somehow I made it all the way back to New Jersey with my AoSept-Moonshine.  I felt so mighty, above any school rules, displaying it with my other toiletries in my dorm room.  I felt I was truly “winning.”  (see Charlie Sheen?  “winning” is often correlated with behaving like a stupid ass.)  My boyfriend was impressed.  Well, he was probably just drunk, but I translated that into impressed.  And then we got horny, as teenagers do.  I mean, that kind of horny that ONLY teenagers can manage.  Like being satisfied with a quick squeeze, or a brief grope, or a bare skin sighting.  That was all it took!  Confusing, and exciting, and confusing again. Weren’t the teenage years a blast?  Especially when a giant constellation of zits would pop up just from being groped one too many times in a particular area?  Or when a hickey appeared the next day, but you couldn’t remember receiving a hickey because you were drinking too much contact lens fluid?  That was fun. This was that boyfriend.  I never had so many hickies in my life (other than the ones I had given myself as a kid, as I practiced what I thought would later be considered “kissing”).  I’m not even sure why hickies are a part of the whole sex category.  I mean, you put your mouth in one spot and suck on it until you cause vascular damage?  Is that where spider veins come from?  Are all those damn hickies we got as teens waiting beneath the surface until our 30’s and 40’s to pop up in an even less flattering, and far more permanent form?

I cry, UNFAIR!!  Where’s the humanity?

I want my spider veins to be a result of Johnny Depp’s stubble irritating my skin too much.  Not that I have spider veins.  Or Johnny Depp.

We were teens.  Add some 180 proof alcohol.  Slap on some hickies.  Life was good.  We were at a boarding school, parents were not around.  Life was even better.  There was a school event taking place.  Everyone was there.  Except me and my hickey giver.  We snuck into my dorm room to do what we did best.

After rolling about and having the safest sex around (the kind with your clothes on) for nearly long enough to wear holes in those clothes, or at least create a friction fire, there came a sound.  No.  I didn’t fart.  I was more embarrassed of such things in those days.  There was a sound in the hallway.  Everyone was supposed to be at the event, everyone besides us and other random couples who were probably doing the same thing that we were.

Whatever.

Probably just the wind.  Or an ax murderer.

Back to business.  We don’t want this fire to burn out!

There it was a again.

Footsteps.

Voices.

We sat perfectly still.  I mean, layed.  My door was locked.  What were we afraid of?  We were afraid of being kicked out of school.  Of having our smoldering pants detected.  Of being caught being teens.

“It’s okay.  I locked the door.  We can relax.”

Relax?  Well, not exactly.  We continued trying to suck each other’s teeth out.

And then there was a new sound.  More voices, footsteps, and a jingle jangle that distinctly resembled keys on a key ring.

We froze.

Our hormones were having a hard time switching from sex thoughts to fight-or-flight thoughts.  There was a ridiculously long moment in which neither of us could even move.  This must be why the people having sex in horror movies always get killed.

And there it was:  the key in the door.

“What do I do?”  My hickey giver started running around the room in circles, looking for a place to hide.  Of course, there was nowhere.  I was such a slob that my closet was crammed full of dirty laundry.  I spun my head around.  There was a window.  Maybe I should push him out.  I looked out, and besides the fact that it was one story up, there were people outside.  People.  Tours.  Prospective students.  I guess a current student falling onto their heads might be a bit disheartening.

“Just sit there and act like nothing is happening,” I suggested, displaying impressive skills at thinking under pressure.  Yes, my instinct in the wild would be to play dead.  I’m that sort of person.

He did.  He sat on the bed.  Probably with a pillow on his lap.  I sat at my desk, trying to look normal, pretending that my hair wasn’t all over the place and my clothes weren’t smoking.

The door opened.

The student giving the tour looked at us in shock.  The family touring the school looked like they could smell the smoke of our friction fire.  No one commented on my hair.

“Um.  Oh.  I didn’t know anyone was in the dorms right now.  I’m sorry.”  Said the poor student, struggling to come up with a way to make this seem like a normal part of life at our school.  Like we had been studying.

“Hi!  Welcome to Blair!”  said my giver of many hickies.  Tigger.  Always personable.  Outgoing.  I was just happy he didn’t stand up to shake their hands.

“Uh.  Yeah.  Welcome.  We were just talking.  Where is everyone?  Are we missing some sort of event or something?” I wisely pretended.  I’m sure they were fooled by my 16 year old acting abilities.  This was a school where boys weren’t even allowed into the girl’s dorms.  If we had any functioning brain cells we would have just thrown a dress on him and pretended he was a chick.  Anyway, the family looked embarrassed and the student giving the tour looked embarrassed and we looked like we’d been caught with our pants down.  Our work there was done.

No one had noticed my AoSept.  Winning!

Livin’ on a Prayer

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…continued Part Deux: The New Jersey leg:

Jersey.  The home of Bon Jovi.  The birth place of the original mall rat.  The place I chose, out of anywhere in the world, to go to high school.  It seemed as good a choice as any (I never claimed to be terribly smart).  Actually, it turned out to be a great choice and I went back last week to visit the school and some old friends for my high school reunion.  It was nothing like Romy and Michelle’s, which I have to admit slightly disappointed me.

The bus from New York pulled in to our stop in New Jersey (yes, after I had experienced that bathroom as well).  My friend Heather, and I, started snorting and giggling, recalling many a party at the Inn at Panther Valley and one particular night of too many wine coolers.  Do people still drink wine coolers?  Some people avoid whiskey or gin because they got sick on it once… for me, it’s wine coolers.  Well, and Wild Turkey, but that’s another story.

What could be worse than overly sweet wine with bubbles in it to get a teen drunk and digestively unbalanced?

On that fateful evening our other friend, Christine, had experienced some sort of wedgie war with the boy who Heather was lusting over.  Apparently it was a massive-earth-shaking crush, because none of us could recall his name.  He had floppy soccer player hair though (that’s usually all that matters).  Christine showed us her torn undies (this signified her loss), finding it hilarious, but Heather did not agree with the humor and decided to walk into a lake (obvious choice).

Oh, the drama of high school.

Meanwhile, while Heather took her lake walk and Christine nursed her inevitably chaffed crack, I was regurgitating my wine cooler(s) into a hotel sink, because someone was using (making out in) the bathroom.  Thanks a lot horny teens.  Partially digested pizza and too many wine cooler bubbles in the sink, not really going anywhere because it was just too –  may I be graphic?  Chunky.  Those damn wine coolers were not full of my kind of bubbles, my shiny pink bubbles of happiness.  No.  Although they were pink, they were pure evil… but unlike my lake friend, at least I was dry.

A long-time friend picked us up from the Inn and we began our weekend of high school reminiscing.  Some people stay in their hometowns and can visit their old crime scenes when the mood strikes.  I can’t do that with the place I grew up, or my high school.  So, getting to go back is a serious head trip.  The flood of memories threatens to send one into a teen mood-swing as quickly as a showing of Pretty In Pink on TNT.  My self-confidence actually plummeted once or twice while I was there.  I dove head first into a bag of Nacho Doritos.  Doritos?  I haven’t eaten those in years!  I remembered being twenty years younger, uncomfortable in my skin, uncomfortable in my words, and generally – well – uncomfortable.  Suddenly, Current Me felt that my boobs were too big.  My stomach was gigantic (well, that could have been all the beer and perhaps the Doritos).  I no longer had teen acne, but the increase in hop consumption was seriously inspiring some whisker growth.  My teeth needed to be bleached.  I absolutely must work on reducing that fourth chin.  Wow.  Hello teenage years.  You aren’t so far away after all.

I saw the field where I was first face-licked (a.k.a. kissed)… but the track nearby was amazing and new (and there was no face-licker in sight).  The pool I raced in, and once attempted to do flip turns in while drunk, looked about the same, other than it was now located next to squash courts and downstairs from a gym worthy of Lindsay Lohan, if she were to become addicted to exercise instead of everything else.  I walked by the window of the dining hall where Heather and I laughed so hard that she wet her pants.  Not to mock her.  I wet my pants many times too.  These days my bladder control is much better.  We saw the window well that Christine fell into (sober).  I don’t think she wet her pants.  At least not that time.  The pain distracted her.

We even did the old 3 mile loop that we used to abuse our younger selves with – only we did not run like we did as kids, we walked.  And we were all a tad hung over, so we walked slow.  We gazed at the green lushness and the beautiful homes as we approached the Friday the 13th lake.  It really was in the movie.  There was no sign of Kevin Bacon and his short shorts, but there were mosquitos (it would have been nice if he WAS there, we could have used him as bait).   Christine was a great alternate attractant, second only to Kevin and his short shorts, allowing Heather and I to focus on not peeing while we walked.

We told stories of our experiences in high school, and our lives now; kids, husbands, jobs, parents, boob size, wrinkles, electrolysis.  I knew when I’d had too much beer because I started to become that person who says, “I love you, man!” to everyone.  After repeatedly hugging and picking up a few friends with my imagined Hulk-like arms (not exactly the person I pictured myself as 20 years later) …

I decided to switch to water.

Unlike in high school, I was the first to retire for the evening (morning by this point).  I was so pooped.  Now that I’m pushing 40 I don’t fantasize about great parties or amazing dates, I fantasize about sleeping.  And not with someone.  Just sleeping.  Sometimes I wake in a puddle of drool and it makes me alarmingly happy.  Sometimes that drool is a result of my Johnny Depp dream, but normally it’s just a sign of unbridled relaxation.

Ahhhh.  SLLUURRRRRPP!

No.  I never drooled in high school.  I was far too concerned that somehow, someone would see.  As I matured I switched zones of leaking water.   I no longer pee my pants when I laugh, but now I drool.  Hmmm.  Not sure which is a more desirable trait.

Both of them obviously make me exceedingly attractive.

Even Jon Bon Jovi drools.  Or at least his wife does.  He’s probably more of a laughing pee-er.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

yup. Either drooling, gagging on wine coolers, or shouting, "I LOVE YOU GUYS!"

Flip-Flop, Plop-Plop, give the dog a bone.

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(Part I: New York)

My daughter’s little six-year-old arm hung out the window, waving a pitiful wave, as she cried, “BYE MOMMY!  I’ll miss you!  wahhhhhhhhhhh!”

Airport departures are not what they used to be.  In the olden days, I would have been the one actually departing, on an airplane, and she could watch the plane leave.  It’s much harder to have her drive off (well, she’s not actually driving yet) and leave me on the curb.  After she departed, I entered the airport to begin my own departure.  Three hours early.  Sigh.

Security makes me paranoid now, even though I am an old hat at crazed security.  I start obsessing over my little tiny shampoos and lotion and whether or not they are in the appropriate plastic baggies.  What if one sprung free?  Will I be escorted from the airport, burned at the stake for dropping a shampoo in my carry-on, all loose and not contained in a Ziploc?  But, as usual, I made it through the lines.  I made it through the bagel and coffee line.  Now I could focus on my trip.  My twentieth high school reunion.

But first, to New York City for a whole 36 hours.  Somehow I managed to get on a bus to Port Authority all by myself.  This was a moment of pride for me because I was sure I’d end up in Detroit.  I talked to the bus driver.  I talked to the first two ladies on the bus.  I double checked with all of them that this was the bus bound for Newark.

“Well.  Actually, we’re in Newark right now.”

Oh god, I’m such a dip shit.  “Oh yea, I know that, I meant to say Port Authority.  Gee.  I must need some caffeine.  ha.  ha.”  That was a lie.  I’d already had too much caffeine in the airport.  I’m just stupid sometimes.

We drive and drive and mostly sit in traffic waiting for our exciting turn in the Lincoln Tunnel.  Waiting.  Oh man it’s like 96 degrees.  The pathetic air conditioner on the bus can not match my overpowering armpit smell.  Or is that the boy in front of me?  He looks like he could be European.  Yep.  I’m gonna blame him.  Not my natural deodorant that only works for 30 minutes (that I applied over six hours ago).

Stinky Europeans.  

As I smell my own body odor, and that of the boy in front of me, I can hear some loud ass voices from the back of the bus.  Awful, arrogant, obnoxious duck-like sounds.  Without even looking, I know they are from Jersey.  I have learned this from the intelligent rants on The Jersey Shore.  I turn up Eddie Vedder’s Ukulele Songs.  If music could get you stoned it would be this music.

We finally arrive, but no one tells me.  The bus stops and a few people stand up.

“This isn’t Port Authority is it?”  I pose my question to a couple who look like they could possibly be New Yorkers.  I don’t know what that means because everyone is New York looks totally different.  All I can be sure of is I seem to be the only one not wearing designer flip-flops or stiletto heels.  I’m wearing Keens, because they are comfortable and sensible, and protect my toes from bombs and missiles and stilettos.

They look at each other, quizzically, perhaps because I am a raging dork… or perhaps they don’t speak English.

Finally, after a kind of weirdly long pause, the husband answers that yes, it is Port Authority, and I have just enough time to jump off the bus.  Whew.  Maybe they just wanted to see me run in my functional shoes.

Somehow I find my friend even though he blends in nicely with his designer flip-flops and we catch a cab to his apartment.

The rest of my time is a tour of beer (yay), gay bars, and designer stores… all while wearing my toe protecting Keens.  Oh.  There were some awful toilets along the way.

My god.

New Yorkers seem all high and mighty with their awesome theater, music, culture, art, and incredible food… why can’t they master the clean bathroom?  Designer flip-flops and filthy slimy bathrooms?  It seems like a recipe for disaster to me.  Take my advice, New Yorkers, either clean those bathrooms or start wearing Keens.  It is an accident waiting to happen.

Like a mom, I carried my wet wipes with me everywhere.  I hovered over toilets.  The air squat.  This is really why women do lunges and squats at the gym all the time.  We are toning and prepping for our inevitable toilet hover.  If you are not strong, you will have to sit.  Or hold on to something.  I was just so glad that my daughter wasn’t with me because I’m not yet strong enough to hold her over the toilet, without her pristine booty touching the lid, while she goes to the bathroom.  I didn’t wash my hands.  I used my wet wipes because it seemed cleaner.  In Colorado we have nearly zero diversity and rarely wear heels, but our toilets are nice.

The two gorgeous men that I stayed with had a lovely bathroom, and I could sit to pee -a nice change after doing the hover.  But, when you are a guest in a studio apartment, sleeping on the couch, how do you make doo? (I don’t mean while sleeping on the couch.  That’s just weird.  At least I could toot though, because they had two dogs who were willing to take the blame.  And after that much beer, bad smells are bound to erupt from your colon.) The nice smelling boy’s bed is right next to the bathroom.  There is no fan in there, it’s one of the first things I noticed.  Agh.  I must not have pooped when I was younger, because I don’t remember these things stressing me out ten years ago. Suddenly travel is all about toilets.  And art.  I had one full day in New York City, and we spent a good chunk of it at the Museum of Modern Art.  It was beautiful.  The Monets, the Picassos, the Degas, and the bathrooms.

Thank you art people of the world.  You not only display pieces of art I have only seen in books, pieces that I can stand in front of and absorb the size and texture and color and emotion of, but you also are considerate enough to provide clean bathrooms.  Finally!

I hit the gift shop later, where I purchased a few items to decrease my guilt levels resulting from abandoning my daughter.  I found craft projects, postcards, books and toys, but no t-shirts.  At least no t-shirts that said,

“I took a dump at the Museum of Modern Art (and it was nice – so nice that I could have worn flip-flops).”

(…to be continued, part II: back to Jersey, 20 years later)

Personally, I love pigs.

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My first experience with a cop in the United States was in high school.  Just like most of you out there, I had grown up hearing, “Ahg, don’t they have something better to do than to give me a ticket for going 5 miles over the speed limit?”  My mom claimed tears as the number one defense mechanism required to escape tickets as a woman.  This from someone who claimed to be a feminist.  “Or lie, tell them you’re on your way to a funeral.”  All sound advice for a child.  Remember, this was before Cops became a huge hit on television, and spawned numerous other hits like “Cops in Snow, Cops in Heat, When Good Cops Attack.”  Cops was our first reality show.  I remember actually seeing someone I knew on Cops, once. The most surprising part of it was that he was not a criminal, he was a cop!

So there I was, in rural New Jersey, with a boy, in a car.   Totally innocent situation, right?  It was probably about one a.m.  We actually were just sitting there talking.  Of course, that was not the case ten minutes before.  But, the cop didn’t know that.  There was a “rat-a-tat-tat” on my window.  After realizing that Jason was not out there with a chainsaw, waiting to hack me to bits, I rolled down the window.

“Well, what do we have here?” said the female cop.

If I hadn’t been so drunk I probably would have been terribly nervous.

“We’re just talking.”  I said, profoundly.

“Well, I need to see some ID. And a driver’s license, sir.”

He actually had a driver’s license.  All I had was my ID card that I used in Saudi Arabia, to get me in and out of the gym and pool area.  I handed it over.

“Well, little lady.  Saudi Arabia?  Huh. You expect me to believe that you are from Saudi Arabia?”

“I am.  I am here for boarding school.”

Hmmm.  The wheels were turning.  My arrogant self could hear them.  We did have a rather annoying school full of kids from all over the world, so she believed me.  Instead of recalling my training from ten years prior, I failed to tear up and reverted to my natural defense mechanism…

sarcasm.

“Okay darling, well, I think we should give your parents a call and see how they feel about you being parked in a car, during the middle of the night, with Bob here (yep.  Changing his name… because I can do that!).”

“Fine.  I’m sure they couldn’t care less.  Here’s their number (I pompously included the country code).  You’ll have to call them in about eight hours though, because it’s tomorrow there.  They are already at work.” (and, yea, there weren’t cell phones back then – imagine a time without cell phones or the show Cops. Weird.)

Can’t you just see the total lack of respect?  My shoulders were moving like I was a Jerry Springer guest; I was feeling PRETTY impressive.  My truth was even more confusing than a lie!  I loved it!

“Um.  Okay.  Maybe I will call them.  Anyway, it looks like nothing is going on here.  Get her home, Bob.”

See, I fared rather well.  But why did I feel so agitated and defensive?  I’m sure that female cop was just looking out for me, making sure I wasn’t being raped in the woods, or kidnapped by some pedophile.  I mean, it was New Jersey.  Strange shit went down in those thar’ woods.  Not quite Deliverance shit, but still some kinda shit.  I mean, Friday the 13th was filmed there for a reason.

Why do we teach our kids to disrespect the police?  Start listening to yourself.  You’ll say stuff like, “Damn cop. Why on earth would they pull me over when there are banks being robbed?” and then five minutes later you’ll say to your kid, “See the police man (or WOman)?  If you are ever in trouble, call them.  If Mommy falls down and doesn’t get up, you want them to come.  If someone almost runs you over on the way home from school, call the police.  If you are lost and scared, find the police.”

Do you see the hypocrisy?  We tell them WE are above the rules of other people.  That WE can speed through a school zone because WE are a parent with a child at that school and WE don’t want to be late.  Of course, WE would never run down a child crossing the road there, because WE are perfect.  How are our children supposed to understand that cops are there to help?  Or to realize their intention is to keep kids safe from some creep in the woods.  (sorry Bob, you weren’t actually a creep.  creepy scenario.  maybe you were a creep.  eeeeek!!!)

No.  All cops are not good.  You’ll see stuff on the news EVERY single night about how crooked they are.  But, just like teachers (see how easily the name Mary Kay Laterno comes to mind?), do you ever hear about how amazing they are?  Do you ever think that every single day, while that one cop is screwing off and giving them a bad rep, there are hundreds and thousands, extracting children from burning cars, breaking up violent domestic spats, being shot at for simply doing their jobs, and saving kids – kids like yours.  When my neighbor’s baby stopped breathing, she came straight to my husband.  He held that little guy, checked for breathing, did CPR, all while I ran around like a chicken with my head cut off – corralling my daughter and my dogs while calling, wait for it… 911.  My husband just kept working.  He didn’t even look flustered.  They are trained for this.  They don’t judge the situation first, they save lives first.  Unfortunately, this baby had not been breathing for too long.  My husband kept working until the “on duty” first responders came.  A woman scooped the baby out of my husband’s strong arms and into the ambulance.  The mother spun in circles, wondering why they weren’t in more of hurry.  You know why our neighbor brought her baby here? Because she knew that my husband is a hero.

He saves lives.  At least he tries.  Which is more than most people do.

He also gives people tickets when they speed through a school zone.

He was in “cop-mode.”  I was in  “loony-chicken-protective-mother-keep-dogs-out-from-under-foot-mode,” which was quickly followed by “smudge-my-house-like-a-crazy-hippie-mode.”  FYI: if you have an emergency, do NOT call me.

Stop being so self-absorbed, people!  Look at what you do all day.  Do you risk your life by sitting in your cubicle?  Are you so important that running over a 7-year-old to get to work on time seems rational?  Would you call the cops if you were in trouble?

Take a minute, next time you’re pulled over for some slight infraction of the law.  yea.  Go ahead.  Turn on that brain.  It still works, even though you’ve been killing it with Kardashians.  Why did they pull you over?  Did you do something illegal?  Accept it.  You made a mistake.  Everyone does.  Who cares?  But this man, or this woman, who is doing this job because they care about helping people (because, trust me, it’s not about the money) is trying to keep people safe.  They are not after you.  That’s like being homophobic and thinking that Elton John wants to bone down on you because he’s gay and you’re a man.  They are not targeting you because you are driving a Mercedes.  They are targeting you because you are driving a Mercedes really fast (probably stalking Elton John) and they’d rather give you a ticket than pull yet another body from an accident.

Get over yourself for a second and be a good person.  Try it.  Thank them.

Thank the police, and set a good example for your kids.  They may need a cop one day.  Are they going to call one if you keep bitching about that ticket?

This (diet coke filled, boy crazed, jean wearing) American Life

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I was fortunate enough to go to a boarding school for high school.  This was not because my parents were rich or I got an amazing scholarship, no.  It’s because my parents worked for a company that paid for it.  Maybe you think that a fifteen year old is too young to leave home?  Well, let me tell you, I was nervous, but I was ready.  My raging teen hormones had reached a level that was seriously conflicting with my mom’s menopausal hormones.

Hey nature!  This is a stupid trick!  Menopause should be dependent on when your child leaves home.  If they stay forever, at least you’ll be able to think, “gee, I never had to go through that damn menopause crap.”  After all, you’ll have to find some bright nugget if your kid is still at home on their 50th birthday.

I sat down before my prospective school catalogues.  They were all on the East Coast, except for a Catholic all girls school in Washington State.  Yea.  Right. Like I would consider that.  I started taking note of the ratios of girls to boys. Once I had narrowed the stack of catalogues down to the few that had at most a ratio of 1:3 I began to look at the stock photography.  Well.  Sure, I can lay on the grass in New England like anyone.  BUT, can I do it in a uniform? Ew!  I was totally grossed out.  Out of the stack went a few more catalogues.  I was down to two.

Blair Academy and Suffield Academy.

Essentially the same schools, just slightly different New England locations.  One was in New Jersey and one was in Connecticut.  Did I mention that I had the option to go anywhere in the world?  You’d think that at a time like this your parents would step in and tell you that “you are an IDIOT! Go to Spain!  Go to Italy!  Go to Aruba!”  Instead, they left the decision up to me.

I was an American teenager living in Saudi Arabia, and I have to admit, I missed the idea of being American.

The idea of being American to my teenage self: hanging out with Cory Haim and Cory Feldman, drinking can after can of diet Coke, going to the mall, wearing current styles (not the styles of 6-12 months ago.  Madonna was already on to her pointed bra stage when we were sporting lace gloves and perms), listening to boom boxes while people break-danced on a piece of cardboard next to me, going to fast food restaurants (with my boys, Cory and Cory), and for some reason imagining boy after boy hanging on my every word.

I was going to be an American in America!

I poured over the catalogues again.  Suffield or Blair.  Blair or Suffield. This was a big important decision.  I put it off.  I turned 15.  Time was running out.  I grabbed those catalogues a final time.  My best friend was going to Suffield.  This should be a no brainer.  BUT. Suffield didn’t allow jeans as a part of their dress code.  How the hell were boys going to fall madly in love with me if I couldn’t wear jeans?  Really?  Sorry BFF.

It came down to you or the jeans, and I chose the jeans.

The ratio of girls to boys wasn’t too shabby either.  I was outnumbered 3 to 1.

I packed my 15-year-old valuables, which consisted of my vast tape cassette collection and  jeans.  We flew to New Jersey.  We got lost at least ten times. Then, in our rented van, “Red Red Wine” came on the radio.  I stopped listening to my parents argue about directions.  I looked out the window.  There were gorgeous giant trees.  There were rolling hills.  This was actually quite beautiful. Maybe I’d learn to drink some red wine at a place like this.  We pulled up the “driveway” along with the exquisite cars of the other parents that were making giant pools of drool fall from my dad’s lips.  I unpacked and settled in.  My parents left.  Without shedding a tear, I might add.

I was free.

I was at boarding school!

I ate raisin-ettes by the crateful, danced to Two Live Crew with my best friends, I fell in and out of love (sometimes in the same day), and sometimes I scrounged up enough change in the couches to buy a diet Coke.

It’s official:  I was American.

Not quite all I hope for.  As I traveled back and forth across the word, writing love letters to my boyfriend of the moment (who was NEITHER CORY) I started to see the reality.

No one I knew could breakdance.

Most people ate McDonald’s DAILY, and it showed.  Sometimes the ratio of boys to girls means there’s more boys around, but our of that 3:1 ratio, 1/3 are red necks, 1/3 are gay, and the other 1/3 are not even close to resembling a Lost Boy. Americans really did have a tendency to be loud.  They often exhibited a certain arrogance.  While traveling, they were unattractive in almost every way (myself included – never could handle that red red wine – memorably demonstrated on a flight to Amsterdam when I released that red red wine in a most unglamourous fashion).  What had I done?

The important thing here is that I got my wish.  I was born American and I had returned to my country of origin.  But I missed my shwarmas.  I missed the random garbage smell that would knock you over from a mysterious direction.  I missed the incense.  I missed the women in their black abayas casting sheepish, curious glances our way.  I (almost) missed the stares of the Arab boys, because in Saudi I was different.  I was blonde.  That was enough.  In New Jersey, I was one of many (yes, I know you are weeping for my hardship).  But I kept my bubble strong.

With denim.

I wore jeans almost every day for three years.  And while I never saw either of the Corys, but I did see Lou Reed.  Americana personified.  Black leather, sunglasses, in the rolling hills of Jersey.

Good thing I was sporting my jeans.  I’m sure it mattered to Lou.

Something’s fishy

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I wonder if my parents ever danced?  I think not.  The gene pool of engineers, artists, and fishermen did not benefit us in the rhythm department.   I did ballet for a couple of years when I was little.  I LOVED the blue eye shadow my mom put on me before class.   That was pretty much all that I loved.  Oh.  And the mouse ears!  I was good enough to be one of at least 100 mice in the Christmas production of the Nutcracker.  I had the job of waking up Claire.  Until the night that I became preoccupied with my floppy ears during the performance and forgot to wake up that snobby bitch.  I’m sorry, that may sound mean.  She WAS the dance instructor’s daughter.  I was demoted to just a mouse. A mouse who did not have the feet for dancing.

Besides my feet being genetically uncooperative, I have the build of a logger.  I have the grace of an elephant.  And I tend to break a toe at least once a year, by tripping over rocks or walking into walls.  I started crying at night because my feet were sore (and the jealousy over my sister’s toe shoes got to be too much) and I was allowed to quit.  That was at the ripe old age of 8.  After that, I didn’t even want to dance until junior high, unless you count the occasional moon walk.

In junior high I discovered tap.  All the cool girls did it.  They had snazzy outfits, and shiny shoes, and crimped hair.  For some reason, the tap teacher never returned my calls.  I thought she didn’t like me.  In reality, I think my mom never paid the sign up fee.   I watched the junior high girls perform in the talent show, tapping through Corey Hart’s I Wear My Sunglasses at Night.   They were so cool.  Their moves were flawless.  It was like watching Cirque Du Soleil. Can you tell that I have not yet actually seen Cirque Du Soleil?  I mean, junior high tap dancers?  Not quite the same level of talent.  Those girls were probably just as uncomfortable as I was in my early teen body, except that they were on stage in front of the whole school.  They probably tripped, and slipped and totally messed up the timing, but to me the performance was epic.

I went to a couple of painful school dances in junior high.  And the first high school dance that I attended?   A senior asked me to dance.  To Stairway to Heaven.  He was not a sexy senior.  He was shorter than me.  He was kind of greasy.  I felt undeniable claustrophobic in his too tight embrace after about nine minutes of that song.  God that song is painfully long.

Fortunately for me, in high school I discovered the dead fish.  This became my signature dance move for the rest of my dancing days (and apparently kept many creepy boys away… probably the not-so-creepy ones, too).  It involves a shoulder shrug, limp arms, straight legs – that flex only a bit as you bounce up and down.  Picture a mosh-pit, for one.  That is my dance style.  Sometimes I break out of my comfort zone and move my arms like on I Dream of Jeannie. It’s quite a sight, I’m sure.

When I was a senior I used my dead fish dance moves to survive the winter blues of a New Jersey boarding school.  At the end of study hall, I would race up a flight of stairs to my friend Heather’s room.  She was actually one of the famed tap dancers from junior high.  It didn’t take her long to forget her once choreographed moves.  I can do that.  Make people forget how cool they once were. While the other teenagers would go hang out after studying, putting the moves on their love-interests, we would put on some Madonna, and do the dead fish.  We danced and danced, emerging from our winter funk… stopping only when the laughter overtook us and we thought we might pee.

Bathed in cheap lamp light, tears of laughter running down our cheeks, beads of sweat forming on our brows, arms limp at our sides, bouncing up and down to Madonna.  If anyone saw us from outside her dorm room window, I’ll bet we looked as cool and talented as those junior high tap dancers.  Or people thought we were stoned (probably more likely).

Since it was working so well for me, I carried on this particular dance style through my college years.  I would go to the clubs, and before there was even time to get properly intoxicated, I would be out there, sporting my combat boots, flannel shirt and a beaming smile, doing the dead fish.  I attracted some odd dance partners, usually ones that seemed to be on heavy drugs.  They looked at me like quizzically.  Probably wondering what kind of drugs I was taking.

Just high on dead fish, baby!

Once everyone else was drunk and dancing, I usually bailed.  A dead fish needs her space.  I wish my dead fish partner lived a bit closer. We are both mommies and massage therapists, now separated by the borders of our countries.  If she were in my neighborhood, I’d walk over to her house right this minute, some freshly downloaded Madonna on my iPod, and we’d demonstrate for our daughters how to effectively dance away the winter blues (and most boys, besides the druggies).

When winter comes, and family is taxing your resources, and you’ve had a cold on and off for two months, and your toes refuse to warm… just do like I do. Call your sister and vent.

Then!  Break out the dead fish.  Drop those arms, put on some excessively cheese ball music, and dance with only slightly restricted abandon.  My bubble is always ready for a mosh-pit of one, or two (good bouncy walls to crash into, without injury).  Be warned though.  It might make you smile.  Or accidentally blow your nose just a little upon landing.  It’s probably best I never made that tap dance team.  I don’t know if they could have handled such awesome moves.