Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Flat Tire

The freeway shoulder we were trapped on was no wider than the width of our small car. Wedged against the low concrete barrier, the boy and I peered out of the car windows to the river and train tracks far below the bridge we were on. The boy appeared unfazed by our precarious predicament and went back to playing his hand held video game. I was very much fazed by this predicament and began one of those secret silent internal prayers.

The trees were flying by at 60 miles an hour when the husband and I knew the tire was flat. Aided by my loud, reactionary recommendation to, “Do something!” the driving husband managed to limp our car from the far left lane of the freeway to the shoulder on the right hand side of the freeway. The car was rolling on the rim and was not making pleasant noises. We could see that the upcoming exit was quite long, shoulderless, downhill and one big curvy blind spot. Aided by my loud, spur of the moment conclusion that “Oh this isn’t good –ALL the stopping spots are bad!” the husband decided the skinny shoulder was at it’s widest just before the exit. This is where he would have to change the flat tire. He expertly eased the car to within a few inches of the side of the bridge we were on, aided of course, by my loud helpful screams of, “Ahhhhh…YOU’RE GOING TO HIT THE CONCRETE WALL!”

The husband waited for a break in traffic, got out of the car and ran like a track star back to the trunk. As he began unloading the jack and the mini-spare tire, a semi truck exited the freeway, covering the husband in freeway dust, vibrating fear right through me and leaving the boy completely unfazed. The dusty husband, jack and mini-spare in hand, waited again for a break in traffic and then ran up to the flat front left tire. For the next half hour, the husband kept one eye on the speeding traffic and one eye on his tire changing duties. He alternated 20 second intervals of tire changing with running, in calculated self preservation, for the marginally safer shoulder. And each time he ran, he was aided by my muffled, involuntary, inside the car sputterings of, “Oh, I don’t like this one bit!” and “Holy crap! That was a close one!”

In a somewhat incoherent panic, I turned to the unfazed, video game playing boy in the back seat. “This …it’s..bad…really, really……… not…good.”

Without looking up he muttered, “Why?”

My eyes widened to their limit and I shook my bossy finger toward him. I firmly informed him that his father could be hit by a semi truck at any minute. And that would be very bad.

The unfazed, video game playing boy then said, “Oh, it could be much worse than that, mom. A semi truck could hit dad and then hit our car, pushing us up over that small ledge right there. We could be pushed off the bridge and fall all the way down to the railroad tracks. We could then get run over by an oncoming train that just might possibly cause an explosion. That explosion could cause the bridge to collapse and create a crater that we would fall into only to have the bridge pieces fall down to bury us forever. OR…maybe we’d be thrown into the river where we would drown before anyone could get to us."

The husband got back in the car in one dusty, greasy piece. He started to drive away, aided by my new conservative, mini spare driving requirements. The husband turned to me and said, “Well, that was pretty bad, wasn’t it?”

 I shrugged my shoulders and non chalantly said, “Oh I don’t know…..seems to me it could have been much worse……”

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My recent Johnny Cash obsession has led to a Highwaymen obsession. Willie, Waylon and Kris along with Johnny performed in the late 1980's and 1990's. Check out live versions of two of my favorites.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Onion Gave Me Away

It is not my intention to cause alarm. I do, however, feel you should be warned.

The teenagers….they know.

They have found out our secret.

The jig is up.

I first became aware of this issue during a typical suburban carpool. The teenagers in my car were all enrolled in driver’s education classes. They assured me they were all very good drivers. As I approached an intersection, I turned on my signal. I jokingly asked the girls, “So how far before an intersection should you turn on your turn signal?” The girls all yelled out in unison, “100 feet!”

“Really? 100 feet?” I blurted out, surprised and wondering to myself how far 100 feet was.

I was informed that my signal was turned on 50 feet before the intersection. The car full of teenagers pursed their lips and shook their heads in disgust. They told my teenager not to worry. Their parents were all bad drivers too.

I knew those teenagers were wrong. I was a good driver. I had years of experience. Besides, they’re lucky I turned on my signal at all. It’s not like there was anyone behind me.

I sat in the passenger seat while the teenager drove to her driver’s education class the next morning. As we approached the school where her class took place I saw that we were in a long line of cars. Every car obeyed the speed limit. Every car used their turn signal. Every car carefully negotiated turns, avoided tailgating and stayed between the lines. Every car had a “student driver” sign in the rear window and was driven by a teenager.

After dropping off the teenagers, the parents ripped the student driver sign off the rear window and jumped into the driver’s seat, desperate to reclaim the control they had lost. And then they floored it. The gas pedal. And they dialed. Their phones. And they reached for it. Their coffee. And they raced out of the parking lot ignoring their partially airborne car that had just been launched off of the speed bump they had ignored. They turned the corner onto the main road flying right past the strongly suggestive stop sign. And their right tire strayed over the white line as they sped 10 miles over the speed limit down the road 6 feet off the bumper of the car in front of them.

I looked at those speeding drivers in front of me with pursed lips, shaking my head in disgust. And as I reached down to change the radio station button I thought to myself, “Those teenagers were right. Their parents really are bad drivers.

Later that afternoon I called the teenager out of the house to help me unload my newly purchased groceries from the trunk of the car. When the trunk lid was open the teenager and I both stared at the mess before us. The bags were turned over and much of their contents were strewn across the floor of the trunk. I rebagged the groceries. Except the onion. I was too short to reach the stray onion that had lodged itself in the farthest reaches of the trunk. As the taller teenager stretched her arm to reach the onion she looked at me with pursed lips, shaking her head in disgust. “So how fast did you take that last corner, mom?”

My jig was up.

The teenager thought I was a bad driver.

As we both hauled groceries into the house I realized that I had to make some changes. I was ashamed. I mean really? What kind of modern car trunk doesn’t have one of those grocery catching nets installed? I’d have to get me one.

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Speaking of onions, I made a tasty new sauce the other day based on a recipe from Mario Batali’s great cookbook, Molto Italiano-327 Simple Italian Recipes to Cook at Home. It was on page 341. Turkey and pork meatballs made with fresh bread crumbs, rosemary and hot red pepper flakes are baked first and then simmered for an hour in this sauce.

¼ cup olive oil (I used a bit less)
3 red onions, thinly sliced (yes, 3)
6 cloves of garlic thinly sliced (I used 8)
1 TBL hot red pepper flakes
1 cup dry red wine (I used beef broth)
1 sprig rosemary (I threw in some dry…1 tsp?)
2 cups basic tomato sauce (there is a recipe on page 71 of the book…I got lazy and just used canned plain sauce-probably close to 4 cups worth, some thyme and some garlic)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the olive oil in a large ovenproof skillet or stockpot until almost smoking. Add the onions and garlic and reduce the heat to medium. Cook until well browned, at least 5 minutes. Add the red pepper flakes and wine and rosemary. Bring to a boil and cook until the wine is reduced by half. Add the tomato sauce and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the meatballs to the sauce and place the pan in a 350 degree oven for one hour. Season with salt and pepper. Topped with Italian parsley if you wish. (We served ours over linguine.)

Friday, September 30, 2011

Hempfest, Tattoos and a Little Bit Hammered

The man was clearly hammered. Smashed. Plastered.

Certainly, most intoxicated.

And he was standing right in front of the door to the bar.

“Gewwd afternoon ladiessss.” he politely slurred. As the teenager and I approached the entrance to the bar the man’s eyes widened. “Don’t you ladies know it’s only 3 in the afternoooon?”

“Oh, we’re not going to the bar.” I told the man.

He seemed relieved. And then he gestured toward the teenager, “I th-thought she was a little young for a bar.”

The man backed up as the pony tailed teenager and her unassuming forty something mother walked past him, walked past the bar and walked next door to the tattoo parlor. And when that man saw the teenager and I walk into the tattoo parlor, his eyes widened again, he steadied himself against the wall and he started muttering to no one in particular.

I told the owner of the tattoo parlor that he had missed our appointment two nights before. I told him it was the first time I had been to a tattoo parlor at 10:30 on a Saturday night. I was surprised to find his shop closed when I arrived.

Looking a bit sheepish he chuckled awkwardly, “Um…yeah…we were working Hempfest, you know, in the city, and…..well, we just got so busy…...SO busy….and I didn’t get back to the shop until like, midnight or something. I’m sorry, you know, it was….it was…..Hempfest.”

There were quite a few people in the shop that day. All were inked up. All were staring at the teenager and me. All were waiting for my response.

“Well yeah….wow….Hempfest. “ I said. “Never been myself but I bet you do get a lot of business there.”

The shop was completely silent. The really, really tattooed guy in the corner smiled at me. The slightly less tattooed lady next to him smiled at me. The owner smiled at me and finally said, “Hey, let’s get that advertisement taken care of. I was going to write you a check but Joey took the shop checkbook. I can give you cash though. I’ve got Hempfest money from Saturday. Is that ok?”

The teenager and I walked out of the tattoo parlor having successfully sold an advertisement for her high school soccer program. As we walked back to the car, the teenager held a tattoo picture in her hand. I held a wad of Hempfest cash in my hand. The hammered man was still in front of the bar and perked up when he saw us. He swayed a bit and walked toward us. He lifted one shaking hand and pointed at the teenager. “I’ll tell you summmthing. She! She…is tooooo young for a tattoo!”

“Yes, yes she is.” I told the man. I put my arm around the teenager to steer her around the hammered man. I saw the pale, untouched, ink free skin of my arm. And I must say, it looked a little bit naked.

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Guilty pleasures of late: The Johnny Cash movie (and soundtrack) Walk the Line with Reese Witherspoon and Joaquin Phoenix. The Rob Lowe autobiography, Stories I Only Tell My Friends. And toasted pesto, turkey and havarti sandwiches on sourdough bread. I enjoyed all of these things. You should check them out.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

11 Years Flew By

No matter how hard they tried, the five-year-olds could not stand still. Every child sported combed hair, a brand new outfit and an oversized backpack that slid off of one shoulder. The teacher at the head of the line greeted each child as they arrived. She was kind and soft spoken and safe. The children already idolized her. When the teacher announced that it was time to go into the school the children stood up straight. The teacher told them to say goodbye to their parents. Today was the first day of kindergarten. It was time to start their new life.

No matter how hard they tried, the parents of the five-year-olds couldn’t stop that lump from forming in their throats. Every parent sported a brave face, a churning stomach and a tear in the corner of their eye. They watched the teacher and wondered how she could tolerate being around that many five-year-olds at once. When the teacher announced that it was time to go into the school, the parents took a deep breath and hid behind their cameras. The teacher told them to say goodbye to their children. Today was the first day of kindergarten. It was time to let go.

Most of the parents turned to their children and waved. Most of the children turned to their parents and waved. It was a special moment for them.

Hiding my tears and putting on a big smile, I turned to wave to the then 5 year old teenager, my first born, my sweet ‘punkin’ pie. I saw her turn around to wave. But she looked right past me. Her eyes and her wave landed on the five-year-old neighbor girl who was in line with her. I heard the teenager yell to her friend, “Hey Isabella! I’ll see you at recess, ok? We can play together!”

And that was how elementary school began.

It was a September day in the year of 2000 when I watched the five-year-old teenager walk into her new elementary school. Hers would be the first kindergarten class ever to attend this school. Many years later, when the teenager was in her last year of elementary school, the boy would begin kindergarten at the same school. And after 6 more years, it is now time for the boy to move on to middle school.

I find myself with a stack of 11 elementary school yearbooks in my hall closet-every single one the school has ever printed. I remember the day the ribbon was cut to open the school. I remember holding the newborn boy in one arm and reaching down to grab the five-year-old teenager’s tiny hand so she wouldn’t get lost in the crowd.

And then…somehow…11 years flew by.

It will be a June day in the year of 2011 when I watch the boy walk out of that elementary school for one last time. He will be sporting uncombed hair, dirty basketball shorts and oversized feet that are bigger than mine. I will look at him-my last born, my sweet little precious- and try to stop that lump from forming in my throat. As the boy and I walk home together for the very last time, we will be surrounded by children who now seem to be so small and parents who now seem to be so young. I will think, “That used to be me. Until…somehow…11 years flew by.”

And that is how elementary school will end.

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The teenager's high school marching band played this super fun song recently for our hometown parade. They were awesome! Listen to this version. It's pretty good too!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

I'll Take Two

The Great Salt Lake was to my right and the Wasatch Range was to my left on the day I bought my dining room table. The grinning salesman, in a fine tweed suit, said, “Of course we have tables that seat 12! This is Salt Lake City-the land of the large family!”

The salesman assured me that the table was well made, of sturdy oak, and would last more than a lifetime. The salesman assured me it was a practical choice, perfect for creating years of wonderful family memories.

“How many children do you have to sit at this big table?” the salesman asked me.

“Oh, I don’t have any kids,” I replied, “but I do have 12 place settings of china I just got for my wedding. They are going to look fantastic sitting on this pretty table.”

More than two decades later, that table continues to be just as sturdy and practical as the salesman promised. The table has held up well, despite the destructive behaviors of the children and pets the husband and I eventually acquired. The same cannot be said for my sofa. After more than 20 years of helping to create wonderful family memories, it was shredded.

Two bickering kids were on my right and a mostly disinterested husband was on my left on the day I replaced that sofa. The grinning salesman, in casual Friday apparel, said, “Of course we have a wonderful sofa for you!”

I asked the salesman if the sofa was well made, of sturdy materials, and would last more than a lifetime. I asked the salesman if the sofa was a practical choice, perfect for creating years of wonderful family memories. I implored the salesman, “Please tell me this sofa will not get shredded.”

The salesman paused and then looked me in the eye.

“No. I can’t say that.”

“What? Why? I have 3 cats, 2 kids and 1 husband! I need a sofa that will hold up for a long time.”

The salesman tilted his head to the side. His facial expression softened a bit. I think the corner of his mouth was trying not to smile.

“For goodness sakes, ma’am, I’m going to be honest with you here. You have 3 cats... 2 kids... and 1 husband...your sofa is going to get shredded.”

My new blue sofa was on my right and my other new blue sofa was on my left on the day I sat down at my sturdy dining room table. I looked from the dining room into the living room and saw those 3 cats with claws and shedding fur and those 2 kids with dirty knees and sweaty socks and that 1 husband with the open Mountain Dew bottle and greasy Carhartt jeans.

And they sure looked fantastic sitting on those pretty sofas.

Check This Out!

Always a fan of authors specializing in humorous, honest essays about every day life, I was thrilled to read Sloane Crosley's new book, How Did You Get This Number. I laughed at Ms. Crosley's first book, I Was Told There'd Be Cake. I still have a few pages left in How Did You Get This Number, but have thoroughly enjoyed what I've read so far. You should check out the link above and both of Ms. Crosley's books. You'll be happy you did.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Nice Show, Mom

I was a wide eyed witness to the entire event.

I watched him callously shoot the man and then laugh about it.

I watched the man fall to the ground where he lay motionless. For a brief moment, the world stood still. And then I watched the man get right back up and point his gun toward me. I drew in a quick breath. My boy, with quick reflexes, and clearly competent, raised his controller and killed the man for a second time.

And again, the boy laughed.

I told the boy killing was no laughing matter. I lectured him on death and reality and video games and real blood. The boy assured me he would never laugh if he killed a real man. He told me he knew the difference between video games and real life. I said the game was a bad game. The boy said it was a fun game and thanked me again for buying it for him for Christmas.

The boy tried to teach me to play his video game. He showed me how to navigate the battle scene. I told him that I thought the architecture of the buildings was stunning. He showed me how to hide behind a large tree. I wondered what kind of tree it was and said it looked much healthier than the ones in my yard. He showed me how to pull the trigger and kill a man. I asked him if the man had a wife or a mother or life insurance.

The boy told me it wasn’t any fun playing video games with me. He said I needed to “just go with it” and stop talking so much.

It was clear the boy and I were on different pages.

I was eating my lunch, flipping through the channels when I found the TV show about video games. I learned about the most popular video games, the new releases and the exclusive secret tips that were guaranteed to improve my score. I knew I had found the answer. The boy and I would watch this show together. We would be on the same video game page. We would bond.

I beamed proudly when I sat next to the boy and turned on the show. The boy stared silently at the TV as the games were reviewed. I listened intently, trying to memorize the video game lingo. When it was time for the first commercial the announcer looked into the camera and spoke directly to my innocent boy. “Don’t you dare get off that couch. Don’t you dare change that channel. You absolutely aren’t going to want to miss what we have coming up next! We take a look at the absolute HOTTEST video game sex you have ever seen! I’m talking realistic, smokin’ hot babes here. So get yourselves ready and we’ll be back in 2 minutes.”

Practically frozen in place on the couch, I managed to slowly turn my head to look at the boy. I opened my mouth to speak. “Uuuummmm…..I…….”

The boy casually leaned forward and grabbed the remote. “Yeah…I got this.” He turned the TV off and got up off the couch. “Nice show, Mom. Nice show. I think I’m gonna go in the other room and play my video game-the one with the shooting and lots of pretend killing. That OK with you, Mom?”

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My new favorite book is Restore. Recycle. Repurpose. With the subtitle.
Create A Beatiful Home, this Country Living book by Randy Florke has tons of great pictures of every room in the home. Written from a "green" perspective, this book is full of old stuff, flea market finds and a whole bunch of really cool ideas. It's been super fun to peruse. You should check it out.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


I knew I had lost.

I stared at her through the door made of bars. My pounding heart, residual evidence of our struggle, attempted to burst from my chest. I glared at her through those bars, my eyes full of enraged humiliation. The very core of my being was stinging with fear and despair and hopelessness.

I saw her fingers brush her tousled hair back into place. I was pleased to see her examine a new scratch on her arm. It took her five minutes to pick up the junk basket I had knocked over, straighten the throw rug and hang that picture back up on the wall. I watched as she swept up drifts of my black and white fur and introduced it to the interior of that horrid Dustbuster. I may have been brutishly stuffed into the cage of doom, but I most certainly did not go willingly or peacefully.

And now, I feared the worst.

I began my death howls the minute she picked the cage up. I managed to intensify them to a terrifying, otherworldly kind of low scream as she took me to the car. As she drove, the hum of the engine was drowned out by my spine tingling and horrifying display of evil, guttural moaning. I impressed even myself. It was my best work ever. She peeked at me through the bars with a look of surprised fear in her eyes and exclaimed, “Holey, moley! How in the heck do you make those sounds come out of your body?”

I snickered inside.

I let out one final bellow when we walked into that detestable, foul smelling place. The lady up front turned around and cheerfully said, “This must be Max! What a precious honey. Don’t worry sweetie, we’re gonna get you all checked out.”

I was pretty sure I hated her. And I knew for certain that I didn’t want to be "checked out". I needed a new plan.

I went completely silent. I rolled myself into the smallest ball I could and pushed myself against the back of the cage. If no one could see me or hear me, then perhaps they would forget about “checking me out”.

I saw the lady peering into the cage. The nerve. I wasn’t about to look her in the eye. I turned my head. She peeked in the other side of the cage. I turned my head again. She went back to the first side. Quickly, I turned my head again. Then she gave up.

My plan was working.

But then she called my name, “Max. Come on back now Max. We’ll have a good look at ya.”

I scrunched and balled myself and closed my eyes as best I could. I politely refused to come out of the cage. The lady brazenly called me “such a sweetheart” when she selfishly dismantled the entire cage and lifted me out. I was picked up and petted and talked to in a soft, soothing voice. I responded by making myself as stiff as a board. I knew for sure I hated that lady.

I’m not really comfortable talking about what happened to me next. I’m too ashamed. Let’s just say it involved the lady taking me to a secret room. There was a thermometer and the wrong end of my body and an idiotic barking dog who seemed oblivious to his own caged situation. He couldn’t stop laughing at me. Even when the hated lady told me I was a healthy and very handsome 10 pounds I refused to look her in the eye.

When I returned from the secret room, the hated lady tried to look into my eyes and my ears. She tried to press her fingers all over my body. I made myself so stiff that she asked me to relax a little. Of course, I refused. She punished me by giving me 3 shots. And even though I was most unhappy with those shots, I refused to mutter a sound.

When I got home from the detestable, foul smelling
place, I hid under the bed for two days stewing in a jumble of anger, embarrassment and side effects from those darn shots. For those two days, however, I was able to plot my revenge. And on the third night, I arose from my under bed cave. I glanced at the clock and saw that it was 2:43. I glanced out the window and saw that it was dark outside.

I walked into her bedroom and jumped up on the nightstand. I knocked a magazine to the floor. I knocked a lotion bottle to the floor. I banged the lamp into the wall with my head. I walked onto the bed and touched her lips with my paw. I started meowing and sat down on her head. She groaned my name- half asleep, half awake. When the man on the other side of the bed threw a sock at me I started laughing.

Revenge was going to be so much fun.

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The Slightly Exaggerated family has recently become infatuated with the History Channel's shows Pawn Stars and American Pickers. Part history, part really cool old stuff and part amusement, both shows are definitely worth checking out.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Squish My Sauce

The very millisecond that my hand touched his bottom was the exact moment it became a very uncomfortable situation.

The young man was a super fit, 16 year old, high school track star- and a teammate of the teenager. I was an over 40 mother with an eager, outstretched arm, and a hand that was fully cupping a 16 year old boy’s rear end.

I knew it was wrong.

But I did it anyway.

He was going to squish my sauce.

I really couldn’t stand for that.

After spending Saturday morning at the boy’s cold and rainy soccer game, I was to spend the afternoon at the teenager’s cold and rainy track meet. I arrived at the track meet, still chilled, drive-thru burrito in hand. I sat down in the stands on a cold metal bench, directly behind the track coaches. Wishing I had remembered to bring a blanket, I took my burrito out of the bag. In the bottom of the bag were 4 tiny plastic cups of hot sauce. As I searched the crowd for the teenager, I removed the lids and laid out my 4 cups of hot sauce on the bench beside me. I was unwrapping my burrito when I spotted the teenager, who had just landed flat on her bottom in the sandy long jump pit.

I grabbed the first cup of hot sauce and poured a good third on the top of my burrito. I liked the hot sauce, and I knew that today, that hot sauce was going to help keep me warm.

The burrito was fantastic. The hot sauce was warming me up. As I watched the teenager get ready for her hurdle race, I poured some more sauce on my burrito. I was glad I had gotten 4 tiny cups worth. Today, especially, I would need it all.

The super fit, 16 year old track star, a teammate of the teenager, walked down my aisle toward where I was sitting. He wanted to talk to the track coaches sitting in the row in front of me. He stopped just to my right and leaned forward to get the coaches attention. They began speaking to each other. The super fit, 16 year old track star sensed that his conversation was going to be a long one. He decided to sit down next to me. He decided to sit down directly on my remaining 3 1/3 tiny plastic cups of hot sauce.

I watched as time then slowed down. I knew I had entered an alternate slow motion reality. I saw the teenage boy begin to sit. I turned my head to the right to see his bottom approaching my precious, my sauce. I turned my head to the left to see that I still had a fair amount of burrito left. I turned to the right again, toward the almost seated track star. I felt myself panic. I felt myself acknowledge an inappropriate attachment to my hot sauce. I felt a brief moment of confusion and shame, knowing full well what I was about to do.

I saw the track star’s bottom approach my hot sauce. I saw my arm shoot out. I saw my hand, for some reason open and palm up, attempt to protect my hot sauce.

And the very millisecond that my open and palm up hand touched his bottom was the exact moment it became a very uncomfortable situation.

I yelled out an unintelligible, “Ahhhhhhrrrrkkkk….ahh mah …ht sce!!!”

He jerked up a tiny bit and then and hovered the most uncomfortably smallest amount above my hand.

He turned his head to the left and looked at my hand. And then he looked at me. He said calmly, “OH. WOW.”

I yelled out a semi-intelligible, certainly embarrassing mini shriek, “Ahhrkk….it’s my HOT SAUCE! I’m sorry. I didn’t want you to get it on your…um….shorts. I’m sure that would have been uncomfortable.”

The super fit, suddenly supremely suave, 16 year old, high school track star turned to me and said, “Ahhhh….whatever….all my events are done…’s no problem. Who knows? It probably wouldn’t have bothered me… all……..I mean………………thanks.”

I did finish that burrito. And I used every last one of those rescued hot sauce cups. The teenager was pleased with her track meet. Until I told her I had grabbed the bottom of her teammate.

The supremely embarrassed teenager says only her dad is allowed to come to the next track meet. He’s sitting all alone. And he’s eating before he gets there.

Check This Out!

I’ve put it off for months. My mother-in-law gave it to me for Christmas. But finally, I’ve read, The Shack by William P. Young. Now, keep in mind, I’m not a joiner. I don’t like jumping on the bandwagon. I’ve avoided reading this book for many, many months.

However, YOU, yes YOU, should read this book. If only, because, the husband hasn’t yet and I need someone to talk to about it. So, if you’ve read it. Tell me what you thought of it. I’d really like to know. If you haven’t read it…hurry up and do so.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

She's a Kicker

I don’t think it would have been accurate to think of the woman as elderly. I’m sure that would have offended her. Perhaps she could have been labeled as older. Mature might have worked as well. For certain, I knew she was a sensibly dressed grandma.

I stood at the very end of the field, down near the goal, watching the boy’s new soccer team warm up for the first game of the spring soccer season. The grandma lady walked toward me and planted herself near me. Her salt and pepper hair was short and curly. Her black jacket was simple and waterproof. Her hair was covered with a clear plastic rain scarf that tied at her neck. Her square black handbag hung from the elbow of her bent arm. Her black rimmed eyeglasses were oversized and sprinkled with rain mist. The pants she wore were polyester knit, I’m convinced. The boots she wore were rubber. They came up to her knees and were covered in ladybugs and shovels and daisy flowers. I watched her raise the arm that didn’t support the handbag. She waved to one of the boys on the field. She yelled out, “Make grandma proud sweetie. You try your very best! You hear grandma, now, sweetie, you hear me? And don’t forget to KICK THEIR BUTTS!” And then that sensibly dressed grandma took a wadded up tissue from her hand and wiped her misty glasses.

As soon as the grandma had spoken, the boy’s new coach turned abruptly toward the sideline where we were standing. He stiffened up, raised his eyebrows and turned a tiny bit pale. His eyes focused on the grandma. As she shoved her wadded tissue back into her hand, she acknowledged the coach, “Hey, coach! Good to see you! You don’t have to worry. I’m going to be better this year! See? I’m way down here at the end of the field away from all the people. No one should get hurt!”

Despite my efforts to do it quietly, the grandma heard me chuckling at the confusing absurdity of the situation. She turned around and faced me.

“Oh honey, I’m blocking your view. Let me move further down the field.”

“Oh please don’t bother.” I told her. “I’m a wanderer during the game. I can’t sit or stand still. I get too nervous for the boy.”

The grandma laughed and said, “Well ok, honey. As long as you keep moving we’ll probably be ok. But I don’t recommend you stand next to me for too long though. “

“Really? Why is that?”

The grandma glanced toward the coach and then turned her head back toward me. “You’re new to this team aren’t you?”


“Well...I’m a bit of a kicker.”

After a short, fairly uncomfortable pause, I managed to mutter, “………uh…what?”

The sensibly dressed grandma then explained, “Yes, honey. I admit it. I’m a kicker. I kick people.” She then pointed up the sidelines. “See that lady in the purple jacket? She was sitting next to me in the final game of last season...well, I kicked her 5 times in the first half alone.” The grandma lowered her head in what I thought was a bit of shame…until I saw the small grin of amusement that she was attempting to hide.

“You actually KICK people? Why……?”

“I’m not sure why. I guess I can’t help wanting to get into the excitement of the games myself. By kicking from the sideline, I feel like I’m helping those boys out. Sometimes people get in my way.”

I had no clue how to respond to that.

“Oh, honey. The game is starting. You’d better start your wandering now...before I get myself going here......”

Said the sensibly dressed grandma.

Check This Out!

The Slightly Exaggerated family recently watched a few Alfred Hitchcock movies. Despite being older movies, both Rear Window and Dial M for Murder kept the teenager and the boy captivated. The teenager handled the suspense by yelling advice to the characters in peril. The boy gave the movies the best review he has ever given, “Uh….yeah. They were pretty good, I guess.” The husband even looked up from his car magazine to watch. And I thought they were so fantastic that I now have all of the Hitchcock movies in my Netflix queue.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Fancy Clothes

I was wearing my fancy clothes when I caught the little girl staring at me. I was feeling fantastic and I knew I looked good.

Perhaps, I thought, she had noticed that.

I was visiting the city for the day. All alone, I strutted the streets of downtown in my hip, city girl uniform of black high heeled boots and black pants and dark wool coat. My regular, comfortably frumpy uniform of worn yoga pants and hooded sweatshirt and the teenager’s fuzzy slip-on shoes sat crumpled in a heap on my bedroom floor. My fancy clothes had transformed me into a new woman.

It had been a fabulous day in the city. The black clad, more urbane, cooler version of myself had shopped in stores where I couldn’t afford a thing. I took my time in stores that had nothing to do with cars or sports or electronics. I ogled the spatulas in the kitchen store for over 20 minutes. No one rolled their eyeballs or huffed with impatience or begged me for a thing. No one was so hungry they were going to die. No one had to go to the bathroom 3 minutes after I asked them if they had to. No one burped out loud-twice-because they literally would have exploded if they hadn’t. No one bickered. No one touched breakable things. And no one thought it was funny to see who could squeak their wet shoes on the store floor the loudest. I was on cloud nine.

I held my head high as I took in the downtown life. I saw the sculptures and the art and the intricate oriental rugs. I went to the market and smelled the flowers and the fish and the bread that was just out of the oven. I felt like a giant among the skyscrapers. I watched an entire rainbow of races and cultures around me and knew that I belonged. I knew I was smart and edgy and hopeful. The day was good. Life was full of promise. The world was beautiful. And it all started when I put on my fancy clothes that morning.

I was dressed in those fancy clothes when I sat down on the park bench to eat a street cart gyro for lunch. I was bloated with confidence and attitude and a tiny bit of haughtiness when I first saw the little girl and her family in the park. I smiled at the little girl when I caught her staring at me. I mindlessly nibbled at my oversized gyro and took in the beautiful scenery. I reached for my napkin when I felt the first drip of tzatziki sauce run down my hand. I thought it would be a good idea to rewrap my gyro to stop the drips.

It was not a good idea.

An impressive flood of white, tzatziki yogurt sauce that had been pooling in the bottom of the wrapper was set free when I tried to rewrap my gyro. My lone napkin was no match. The bottom part of my coat, my entire thigh and knee and one of my boots were now sporting copious amounts of white sauce, bits of cucumber and garlic and a few stray lettuce and onion strands. I tried to brush my hair out of my face and streaked it, and the side of my face, with the dripping sauce that now covered both my hands. My self-assured, bloated attitude was immediately deflated. My lone napkin had turned to mush. I sat on that park bench, stunned at my predicament and a little bit lost as to what to do next. My fancy clothes were filthy. In one instant I had become a befuddled, bedraggled mess.

I looked up at that moment to see the little girl and her family walk past me as they left the park. The little girl stared at me with eyes that couldn’t get any wider. She grabbed her mother’s hand and said loud enough for me to hear, “Mommy, look at that lady. Her clothes are so dirty. Why is she so dirty mommy?”

The mother tried to hush the girl. “Shhh. That’s not polite honey. Homeless people don’t have any place to wash their clothes like we do. That’s probably all she has. Now let’s get going.”

I was wearing my fancy clothes on the day that lady called me homeless.

I guess she didn’t notice that.

Check This Out!

Try this tzatziki sauce the next time you find yourself in need of some.

1 pint plain yogurt
1 hothouse cucumber, unpeeled and seeded
1 TBL plus ½ tsp kosher salt
½ cup sour cream
1 TBL white wine vinegar
2 TBL lemon juice (1 lemon)
1 TBL olive oil
1 ½ tsp minced garlic
1 ½ tsp minced fresh dill
pinch ground black pepper

Place the yogurt in a paper towel or cheesecloth lined sieve and set it over a bowl. Grate the cucumber and toss it with 1 TBL of the salt. Place it in another sieve and set it over another bowl. Place both bowls in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 hours to drain. (Some Greek yogurt is thick enough that it needs little draining.)

Transfer the thickened yogurt to a large bowl. Squeeze as much liquid from the cucumber as you can and add the cucumber to the yogurt. Mix in the sour cream, vinegar, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, dill, ½ tsp of salt and the pepper. Refrigerate for a few hours.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Down the Drain

I suppose you could say that I nagged the husband to unclog the pipes. The resigned husband however, had determined that it was simply the least time consuming chore on the honey do list. And that is how he found himself surrounded by the slime and gunk and hair that inhabited the pipes below the backed up sink.

The husband did a fantastic job unclogging the pipes. The sink no longer backs up and my toothpaste spit drains like it did the day I first brushed my teeth above it. I did feel a little bad for the husband, having to confront the slime and the gunk and the hair. It really was most unpleasant.

That didn’t stop me however, from clogging up the garbage disposal a few days later. Again, it might be possible that there was a bit of wifely nagging that took place. And again, the husband did a fantastic job of rescuing the mutilated Beefaroni lid that had taken the disposal hostage. I did feel a little bad for the husband, having to immerse himself among the slime and the gunk and the twisted Chef Boyardee metal.

When the teenager dropped her brand new, not inexpensive, earrings down the drain of the downstairs bathroom sink the very next day, I assumed they were gone forever. I couldn’t bring myself to do any more nagging. But the husband was, by now, feeling confident in his skills with drains and pipes and slime and gunk. Yet again, he lumbered off to the garage for his tools.

When the husband recovered the earrings, the teenager told him he had done a fantastic job. He told her it better not happen again because he was done with drains. And for a third time, I felt bad for the husband having to endure the hardship of the slime and the gunk and the missing earrings.

As the teenager walked away with her slimy earrings, the husband suddenly cried out, “Hey, I think I found a tooth!”

The husband emerged from the bathroom, small tooth in hand, raised it above his head toward the light and reiterated his discovery. “I’ve FOUND a TOOTH!!”

The teenager and I stared in disbelief at the tooth above the husband’s head.

After some delay we heard a cry from the living room, “Did you say a tooth? I lost a tooth in the drain a while back. That’s MY tooth!”

The boy sauntered in and grabbed the tooth from the husband’s hand. He looked the tooth over and announced with certainty. “Oh yeah, this is the one I lost. It fell down the drain. This is my tooth. Wow dad! You should take apart all of the drains! Who knows what we’ll find!”

The husband looked a bit pale.

The boy, running up to his bedroom, yelled back down to the teenager and the husband and I. “By the way, I never got paid for this tooth. You’d better let the Tooth Fairy know….there’s got to be some interest coming to me or something…..”

Check This Out!

The teenager recently read The Color Purple by Alice Walker. I have never read the book but the teenager claims it to be well worth the time. After she finished the book, I showed her the 1985 Steven Spielberg movie that was based on the book. If you’ve never seen the movie, you must. If it’s been awhile since you’ve seen it, watch it again. It is such a good movie. It was so enjoyable to see again the performances of Oprah and Whoopi Goldberg and Danny Glover and really, every single actor in the movie. All were phenomenal. Two thumbs way up.

Check out one of my favorite scenes. You might want to wait however, if you haven't seen the movie. It gives a few things away.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

One Lucky Man

The husband is one lucky man. He knows this because I point it out to him when I get the chance.

When the TV promos for “Hoarders” or “Kate Plus 8” or “The Real Housewives of (anywhere)” blare into our living room, I say to the husband, “See? It could be worse.”

The husband mumbles back in agreement, “Why, yes it could.”

And when the TV promos for “Pimp My Ride”, “Monster Garage” and “Overhaulin'” blare into our living room, the husband is kind enough to remind me as well. “See? It could be worse.”

I always wholeheartedly agree, “Why, yes it certainly could.”

I approached Valentine’s Day this year with that same tolerant, observant practicality that the husband and I have mastered. While never one to be extravagant in my gift giving, I do find it important that the husband not go empty handed on Valentine’s Day. I found a card for him at the grocery store that wasn’t too corny and didn’t make me gag and roll my eyeballs. And because it was such a special day, I forced myself not to look at the price. I put the card in a bag with a very special car magazine and a few other items I had purchased for the husband.

When the husband was brushing his teeth on Valentine’s Eve, I secretly took the bag with the card and other items down to the dining room. The husband went to bed. I stayed up very late learning about AP European History with the teenager.

The husband’s alarm went off at 4am on Valentine’s morning. He took his shower and went downstairs to eat breakfast. I was sound asleep. He was greeted at the seat where he sits by a grocery store bag. Perplexed, the husband opened the bag and pulled out a few random goodies, a very special car magazine and a few receipts. He reached in toward the bottom of the bag and pulled out a pink envelope. And then he pulled out a Valentine’s card that wasn’t too corny. The card was not in the envelope. The card wasn’t even signed.

When the husband went to leave for work awhile later, he tapped me on the shoulder and whispered, “Happy Valentine’s Day. And thanks for the car magazine.”

The shame shot through me and I sat bolt upright in bed. I was immediately awake. “OH NO!” I cried out to the husband. “I forgot your stuff! I took it downstairs and just left it on the table! I got too tired……”

I rambled in embarrassment to the husband about the wrapping paper I was going to use and the nice ribbon I was going to tie the magazine up with and the witty and loving repartee I had planned to write inside the card.

The tolerant husband assured me that we would somehow survive this difficult hardship. He also said, “I did find it a bit odd that the card wasn’t even signed…”

Yes, that husband sure is one lucky man.

Check This Out!

The teenager was given an amazing opportunity to play a few basketball games this past weekend with a local Special Olympics Unified basketball team. Special Olympics Unified Sports is a program that combines Special Olympics athletes and athletes without intellectual disabilities (partners) on sports teams for training and competition. The teenager went in a bit nervous, not knowing what to expect. She came out having loved every minute of it.

Both the teenager and I found the entire day inspiring. Every person we encountered, from the Special Olympics athletes and parents to the coaches and volunteers, was positive and supportive. The basketball was good and the competition was fierce. The parents cheered. The athletes played their hearts out. But mostly, it was a whole lot of fun. It was how kids’ sports should be.

If you ever get the chance to watch or be part of any Special Olympics event, I cannot recommend it highly enough. You should most definitely check it out.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

You. Are. My. Son.

We were separated by the blue curtain. Two mothers, two sons.

I sat on the right side, next to the boy who was lying on a gurney with a swollen, purple and very painful knee. She sat on the left side, next to her son who was lying on a gurney with his head covered in blood.

I was not doing well. My mouth assured the boy that it would all be ok. My brain screamed at me, “Urgent Care, AGAIN! What is wrong with you? What is wrong with that boy? Do you know what too many x-rays can do to a person?” My heart tightened up, my stomach churned. I took a deep breath and wondered how many visits one could make to Urgent Care before Child Protective Services was called. I wished I was in pain instead of the boy. I kept shaking my head in resigned disbelief and brushing the boy’s hair off his 11 year old forehead.

The mother on the other side was not doing well. The curtain, of course, could not contain her crying. It could not contain the whimpering of her son. The curtain could not contain grief.

“You are my boy………my son……..… Look at you!”

Her son tried to answer. “Mama…”

“NO!” she shouted. “It is MY turn!”

I saw her worn shoes begin to pace the edge of the curtain. Then her shoes turned and stopped. “I TOLD you not to leave the house. I TOLD you. Do you know what it’s like to worry about someone every single minute of the day? Do you? I worry about you with every cell in my body. You are my son… the name of Jesus....... YOU. ARE. MY. SON.”

I turned to my boy with the swollen knee and grabbed his hand. He held tight. His eyes had grown large.

The mother on the other side lowered her voice a bit. “Why do you think I work two jobs? It is for you. You are 16 years old. I want you to be happy. I want you to always be safe. I want you to be better than you ever thought you could be. But here I see you…, no….I can’t even see you….your head is covered in blood. I don’t see you at all. My God…….you are my son and I can’t even see you.

Oh why would you leave the house when I told you not to……?”

I could hear her start to cry again. The boy and I stared at each other, silently.

The curtain was pulled back on the other side and I saw many feet. A doctor told the whimpering, bloodied boy that he was in bad shape. His hand was probably broken. His nose was probably broken. He most likely had some broken ribs. His jaw was no longer aligned properly. And his head was in really bad shape. There was so much blood, the doctor said, that he couldn’t yet tell how many wounds he had.

At least two nurses began to clean up the bloodied boy. I heard things like “matted hair”, “too many to count”, “I can’t get this one to stop bleeding”, “wow, I finally got one eye open” and “we’re going to need a lot of staples”.

I heard the doctor ask, “Do you want to tell me how this happened?”

The bloodied boy tried to speak. “This dude jumped me on the trail. He had brass knuckles on. He lit into me. Pretty bad, I guess.”

The doctor asked, “Did you know him? Why would he beat you up like this…..I mean…I gotta be honest. You ARE in pretty bad shape here, buddy.”

“He said he beat me up because I beat up his brother yesterday.”

The crying mother spoke up. “Oh Jesus, help me. Seriously? Why would you beat his brother up? Why would you beat anyone up? Haven’t I taught you better?”

The bloodied boy paused and then finally answered.

“...........because he was talking trash about you Mama.”

The mother groaned loudly. “Oh for goodness sake, son. You are better than that! We are better than that! Why do you care what people say, what people think?”

“Because, Mama. He was going to kill you. He said so. I couldn’t let him do that, because, I mean, you are my Mama……….You. Are. My. Mama.”

And all the curtain rooms at Urgent Care went silent.

For a long moment.

Finally I heard the doctor say, “Legally, I may need to call in the police, ok?”

The bloodied boy tried to yell out, “No!” The mother on the other side of the curtain cried. And a new voice, a deep voice, suddenly spoke up and pointedly asked, “I want you to tell me exactly what kind of car they were driving. And tell me their names. I need names.”

My boy with the swollen knee and I looked at each other in disbelief and with raised eyebrows. We were still holding hands when we heard the bloodied boy speak.

“It was a tan Buick, Uncle Matt. And I can tell you exactly who they were.”

When the doctor pulled back the curtain on our side the boy and I instinctively dropped our hands.

“So, how are we doing?” the doctor cheerfully asked.

“Oh, the boy here has banged up his knee a bit.” I replied. “But other than that, we are doing fine, just.. fine…”

Check This Out!

Listen to this great song, Rolling in the Deep, from the always amazing Adele when you make this Chili-Lime Chicken.

This is how the recipe came to me.

3 TBL olive oil
1 ½ TBL red wine vinegar
1 lime juiced
1 tsp chili powder
½ tsp onion powder
½ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp paprika
1 pinch cayenne pepper, or to taste
salt to taste
black pepper to taste
1 pound chicken breast halves

Combine all ingredients, except chicken, in a bowl and whisk until the oil and vinegar are emulsified. Add chicken to bowl, cover chicken with mixture, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a few hours. Grill chicken over medium high heat until the juices run clear.

This is how I made it.

I tripled the marinade ingredients and added a bunch of chopped garlic (at least 8 smallish/medium cloves) and 2 chopped Anaheim chiles (use hotter if you wish). I used a whole cut up chicken and a boneless breast (for the teenager). I only marinated for an hour or so in a big plastic freezer baggie. (I would have done much longer had I planned ahead.) Then I dumped the whole lot into a large roasting pan and cooked at 375 degrees for 45 minutes….or so.

I served with rice made with chopped fresh garlic and chicken broth and a bit of salt and pepper. The boy ate this version. The husband and the teenager and I then mixed in black beans, lime juice and more chopped up Anaheim peppers. I then added TONS of cilantro. Sadly, I am the only cilantro fan in the family. On top of it all I spooned the juices from the chicken. It was super fantastic. Next time I might quadruple the marinade ingredients….

Thursday, February 3, 2011

We Wii

I watched the boy launch himself toward the teenager. He attacked her with an aggressive combativeness I didn’t know he possessed. I watched helplessly as he struck her over the head and across the face. He pounded her ribs and her stomach and her back, over and over, until she could no longer stand up straight.

The teenager was not one to be taken down that quickly, however. She gathered what little strength she still had and focused it all on the boy’s neck. She narrowed her eyes, drew back her arm and swung at the boy’s neck like a capricious lunatic.

And in one fell swoop, the boy went down. Perhaps, without his head.

I was speechless, appalled and in a state of shock. I blamed myself. Only the worst kind of mother could raise children who could summon such violence at a moment’s notice. Our family needed help.

I looked over to the husband for guidance. I wondered if he blamed himself as well.

The husband was grinning from ear to ear. He leapt off the couch and ran over to the boy and the teenager. “That was the most AWESOME thing I’ve ever seen! Can I play next?”

We used to be such a nice family. Before we got a Wii, that is.

I watched as the husband began to play his game. I waited for him to show the children a more civilized way of playing. Within seconds however, the husband, still grinning, had begun taunting the boy as he swung his Wii Remote violently and expertly through the air. The husband cheered when the boy fell off the tower into the water.

It was obvious I would have to be the one to model for the family proper manners, genteel graciousness, and behavior more becoming a nice family like ours.

At least that was my intention. Before I put that Wii Remote in my hand.

I don’t know how much time had passed, but the next thing I remember was screaming like a madwoman at the teenager, “Oh yeah baby! Bring it! Bring it! Hot Mama ain’t going down!”

Our nice family spent our entire first Wii day bashing each other in the head. The teenager punched the boy’s lights out when she boxed. A sword wielding boy would force the teenager off a cliff to her death. A simple pickup game of basketball would cause the teenager to yell out, “Oh yeah! You got schooled baby!” A scenic bike ride would find the children “pedaling” so fast and furiously they would knock each other down. Even a simple game of bowling caused the cats to run upstairs and hide under the beds. Before long, the husband began to consider himself a true archery expert. I began to consider canoeing the worst sport ever invented. And this was all before the teenager even discovered the pink stroller in the Mario Kart game.

I woke up the next morning with my first Wii hangover. I was a bit ashamed of my behavior the day before. I vowed to myself that it would never happen again. And then I giggled to myself as I remembered the good times our nice family experienced. It didn’t take long to justify the unfortunate Wii behavior to myself. In fact, I decided to get out of bed and play a round of Wii tennis before the rest of the family got up.

15 minutes later my nice family was all lined up, sitting perfectly still on the couch. Not one of us could lift our aching arms above our heads without wincing. The teenager complained about the sore muscles she didn’t know she had. The husband complained about feeling old. The boy wondered out loud who was going to pour him a bowl of cereal because he knew he couldn’t lift the box. I gingerly leaned over and grabbed the Wii Remote. “Um…guys,” I said to my nice family. “Do you think it’s possible to play Wii Frisbee golf from the couch?”

Check This Out!

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is a Holocaust movie. And yes, it has some sad and depressing moments. But it’s a good movie, a beautiful movie, told from a perspective not often seen in Holocaust movies. The two boys in the movie-one on the outside of the fence, one on the inside of the fence-will draw you in and make you think. I haven't read the book the movie is based on, written by John Boyne, but the movie is certainly recommended.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Criminal Behavior

I suppose it could have been worse. The fuzz could have hauled me down to the pokey. They could have treated me like a guilty perp and put me away for good in the crowbar hotel.

As it was, I stood before the husband and the teenager and the boy. Their glaring and accusing eyes penetrated my vulnerable and, I swear, innocent self.

I couldn't take their disapproval. I bleated out, “Come on! This isn’t my fault!”

The prosecutor husband walked a circle around me, his hands clasped behind his back before he asked his questions. “Did you or did you not flee the Sears store with a Lands' End wool coat that had the store security device still attached to it? And did you or did you not somehow manage to evade all security officers, all cameras and all beeping door machines when you fled the scene with said coat?”

Again, I bleated out, “Yes I did. But…”

The husband continued, “You claim to have paid for this coat that still has the security device attached. How, may I ask, did you pay for the coat?”

I lowered my head in shame. “With a stolen credit card.”

The teenager and boy jury quickly drew in a breath and shook their heads at each other.

The husband was not done. “And now you want to go back into that same store and have them remove the security device so you can wear your coat out in public. And your only proof that you didn’t steal the coat in the first place or just grab one off the rack, is your receipt that shows you “purchased” the coat with a stolen credit card?”

I muttered a quiet, “Yes.”

The teenager yelled out, “You’re so screwed, mom. They're never going to believe that story.” The boy added, “Please don’t make us go back to Sears with her, dad. I don’t want to be a criminal too!”

I don’t know why the security device was never removed from my new coat. I don’t have any idea how I was able to walk out of the store with it. But I did. And I was not at all happy when I put my coat on the next day and found the security device still attached. The teenager informed me I couldn’t wear the coat out in public like that. It would embarrass her. “What if someone SEES you?”

A few days later I was checking the credit card charges online and found two that I had not charged. The credit card company said my “information had been compromised” and they would have to cancel my card. “If anyone tries to use your card information, ma’am, the vendor will be notified that this card has been stolen.” Of course, this was the card I had used to purchase my coat.

I forced the entire family to accompany me back to the Sears store. They made me enter first. If the beeping machines went off when I walked through, they assured me they were going to run back to the car and leave me there to fend for myself.

There was no beep.

I walked up to the register. The family lurked many feet away in the women’s leisurewear section. They offered no support. I handed the cashier my coat and told her my problem. She asked for my receipt. As I handed it to her, I heard the boy blurt out, “This is it. She’s going down!”

The cashier punched a bunch of buttons on her register. She paused and said, “Hmmmm. There seems to be a problem.”

I paused and consciously forced myself not to pee my pants. I eked out a nervous smile and said, “Problem…?”

Time came to a standstill as I waited for her to explain.

Finally she said, “Oh, it’s just this register. It’s taking forever for things to go through today.”

And then she removed the security device and handed me back my coat. “I’m so sorry you had to make the trip back to have that device removed. I’m sure it was an inconvenience. So, I’ve given you a 10% credit that I put back on your credit card for you. You make sure to have a nice day now!”

As I walked out of the store, the family who was now willing to be seen with me, started talking. The boy asked, “So, you’re not a criminal any more mom?” The teenager said I was now allowed to wear my coat in public. And the husband bragged, “Wow! She even gave you money back! That’s great. I told you it would all work out just fine.”

Check This Out!

I recently watched the documentary Young@Heart. I laughed, I cried and I cheered as I watched the elderly ensemble prepare for a concert in which they sing covers of rock songs. It's well worth a look. And I dare you not to tear up during the prison scene. Check out the official trailer here.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Lunchbox

I smelled it before I touched it. Yet still, I touched it. Because that’s what mothers do.

The boy was quite adept at taking a lunch box to school and failing to bring one home. And I was no stranger to washing and bleaching that same funky smelling lunch box when it miraculously reappeared on the kitchen counter a few days later. Neither of us however, was prepared to handle the lunch box that went missing in the middle of December. When it miraculously reappeared after the holiday break, in the second week of January, it had transformed into its own living and breathing being.

When I picked the boy up from school, he was holding the lunch box by his pinkie finger, his arm outstretched as far as he could manage. His other hand was covering his nose. “Here mom, I found my lunch box!”

The acrid stench was immediately overwhelming. As the boy and I walked home from his school a green cloud of poison accompanied us. The other mommies steered their children away from us. Small dogs growled at us and backed off in fear. Flocks of birds left the trees, deciding to fly south after all. For the first time, the scary teenage boys in the neighborhood looked a little bit scared of me. I’m pretty sure if I had put the lunch box down on the ground it could have walked home itself.

Let me be very clear. I was a pro at handling foul smelling lunch boxes. But this was more than even I could handle. I coughed, gagged and made an embarrassing spectacle of myself. In terms of first world, suburban mother hardships, I had hit the jackpot. This was truly a terrible thing for me to be going through.

I knew the lunch box was done for. There was no other way. Even if I managed to clean that noxious, certainly harmful, container without choking on my own lung, I would never truly feel comfortable giving it to the boy again. No good mother would take that chance.

I quickly abandoned the lunchbox on the front porch. When the husband came home I would force him to acquire a hazmat suit and dispose of the lunchbox in a manner that would ensure that I would never encounter it again.

When the husband walked into the house an hour later he announced to the family, “Hey! The boy dropped his lunchbox on the porch. I brought it in for him!”

The husband seemed unfazed as he put that awful lunchbox on the clean kitchen countertop. There was no gagging spectacle. There was no hardship. There was no terrible experience.

In shock, I made sure the husband knew exactly how I felt about that lunchbox.

The boy nodded in agreement as he played his video game, “Yeah, Dad. You’d better huck the thing. Mom thinks we’re all going to die.”

The husband grinned just enough to offend me and said, “I don’t smell a thing.”

That grinning husband then proceeded to unload the contents of that vile lunchbox onto the clean countertop. He unloaded the just-about-to-burst-pressurized-full-of-green-foam-Rubbermaid-juice-box. He unloaded that nice thermos container that oozed the leftover casserole the boy had taken to school so many weeks earlier. He unloaded the plastic baggies full of now unrecognizable scraps and crumbs. The husband then took one last look inside the lunchbox and sniffed a big sniff.

“Wow! Look at those colors inside there. And yeah…I suppose it might smell a little bit.”

I insisted the husband throw the entire lunchbox out. He said it wasn’t that bad and accused me of being wasteful. I told him it was not safe for the children. He said that a modern dishwasher could sanitize anything. I told him I didn’t care and that the whole thing grossed me out. He told me that I would never survive in the slums of India. I told him that he was probably right about that one.

When the garbage men took our garbage away the next morning they took with them that dreadful lunchbox. The husband eventually put it in the trash, but only when he realized he really would have to clean it himself. The boy promised to bring home his lunchbox in a timely manner. I cleaned the countertops more times than necessary. I opened the windows in the house to air out that awful smell I was still smelling. I added “buy new lunchbox” to my “to do” list. And then I sat down and Googled “slums of India smells”.

I mean really, how bad could it be?

Check This Out!

Far from the slums of India comes the somewhat humorous, often varied Argentinian band, Pario la Choco. A little bit reggae mixed with a little bit of everything else, Pario la Choco is a nice change of pace from what you are listening to right now. Many of their songs feature brass more than this one does. If you like that sort of thing, as I do, look up some of their other songs too.