The Portal to the Underworld is on My Street. Probably.

There’s a hole in the sidewalk on the opposite side of the street. I’ve probably walked past it a thousand times, since it’s on my way to and from the kids’ school bus stop, which we’ve used since the fall of 2005. That’s a lot of oblivious walking past what is, clearly, the entrance to hell. Or a fairy realm. One or the other.

I did a Google to try and figure out what might have caused such a hole. It’s oddly smooth and doesn’t look like a normal age-related, wear-and-tear kind of hole. It’s really more a vortex than a hole. All the better to suck the unsuspecting down to hell. Or the fairy realm.sidewalk hole

Turns out that there’s a poem related to sidewalk holes that is apparently popular amongst the 12-step crowd. I’m pretty sure that’s a different hole, though. There’s no obvious whiff of booze emanating from the hole on my street.

Before I really starting thinking about the demons (or fairies) that might be living under the sidewalk, I permitted my daughter to poke around in there with a stick. I’m scared to think of it now, but nothing happened. Hell is obviously not stick-activated.

But I try not to be evil around the hole.  You know, just in case.

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I Don’t Like to Brag, But . . .

I am the Coolest Mom in the World.  I’ve suspected as much for a long time, but now I have proof.  Thanks to Lifehack.org and their post “17 Signs You Have the Coolest Mom in the World.”

One of my friends on the Facebook posted the link.  (Although neither they nor their mother are the Coolest in the World.  I own that.) and it got me to wondering.  Was it possible that I am the Coolest?  Clearly, I’m Cool.  But Coolest?  Only one way to find out.

So I clicked over and read those 17 signs.*  And, yep, every last one of them described me, with the exception of #8 (Your mom always calls and asks how your life is — and she genuinely cares.)  But that just doesn’t fit yet, since my kids still live with me.  I don’t need to call them.  Unless using my “intercom” system – shouting up the stairs – counts.  But I mostly use that to tell them dinner is ready, not to check on their lives.

So the next morning I casually left my iPad open to the Lifehack article and oh-so-casually shoved it in my teenage daughter’s face when she came downstairs.**

“See?  See?  Scientific proof that I am cool!  In fact, I’m the Coolest!  Read it – I dare you to dispute any of them!  It’s on the internet!  It’s science!”

My daughter sighed in that dramatic way only teenage girls can pull off and took my iPad.  She started reading and looked up with a gleam in her eye.

“No.  Sorry.  You’re always telling me you’re not my friend, you’re my mom.  So, already, number one, no.”

“Ah, but read number two, sweet child,” I tell her.

She does.  “Damn,” she says.  And that’s all she says as she reads the rest of the signs, except for the occasional “Well, that’s true” and “Yeah.”

She finishes the article and hands me back the iPad.

“I told you I was the Coolest Mom in the World.  Now we have proof.”

And she comes over to me and hugs me and tells me “I always knew you were, Mom.”

‘Cause she’s the Coolest Teen Daughter in the World.

And then “Can you bring me Chipotle for lunch?”***

 


 

*  The 17 signs, per Lifehack.org:

1. Your mom is one of your best friends.

2. But your mom makes sure she puts her role as mother over her role as friend.

3. You can always count on your mom to be there to listen.

4. Your mom is your biggest cheerleader.

5. You and your mom have the best inside jokes ever.

6. You and your mom always stick together at family gatherings.

7. Your mom always puts family first.

8. Your mom always calls and asks how your life is — and she genuinely cares.

9. Your mom always keeps a watchful eye. . . but she doesn’t hover.

10. Your mom lets you make mistakes, but she’s always there to help you get back on your feet.

11. Your mom knows that she’s just an older, wiser kid at heart.

12. Everyone loves your mom.

13. Because your mom is hilarious.

14. Even when you’re mad at her, you still know how much you care about her.

15. Your answer to “Who’s your biggest hero?” is always “my mom.”

16. You can’t imagine who you would be without your mom…

17. …because your mom is one of the most important people in your world.

(http://www.lifehack.org/articles/communication/19-signs-you-have-the-coolest-mom-the-world.html)

**  I admit, not letting her eat breakfast before I accosted her was very un-cool.

*** The answer was no.  No mom is that cool.

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Writing “Retreat” – A Weekend in Haikus

A couple of weekends ago I went on a “writing retreat” that I organized by, and for, myself.  Here is that weekend encapsulated in eight short poems.  Enjoy.

 

The Plan

Amish country trip,

Just me, my iPad, some wine

And no excuses.

 

My Teenager, An Hour Before I Leave

It’s only two nights!

I know you want me to stay,

But must you vomit?

 

The Setting

Right in Walnut Creek,

an ultramodern hotel.

Kinda weird, but nice.

 

Work Ethic

I’m busy writing,

So I cannot like your post

On the Facebook now.

 

Provisions

I am getting sick

Of Trader Joe’s cheese, apples,

And cookie butter .

 

Writing; It’s a Process

Surely all writers

Take breaks ev’ry now and then

To play Candy Crush?

 

The Upshot

Wrote for eight hours straight,

Only have twenty pages.

Novels are hard work.

 

Did You Have Fun?

I saw two buggies

And heard the horses’ clip clop

From the hotel room.

 

To My Family

Thanks for supporting

My writing pretension and

My decompression.

 

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This Old Nerd

Today is my husband’s birthday.  Last Saturday night I prepared his birthday meal (assorted cheeses, penne alla vodka, truffled lemon Caesar salad, chocolate souffle) because I will not be with the birthday boy tonight.  No, my 47 year old husband will be spending his birthday evening playing Dungeons & Dragons.  Seriously.

Now, I knew he was a nerd when I married him.  But I thought it was more of a “I was a nerd in high school but now I’m a good catch” kind of nerdiness.  You know, the kind of guy who owns the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy in both print and film and is still grateful that a girl is into him, but not actually, actively nerdy.

I was mistaken.  Once a nerd, always a nerd, I guess.  And while I’m grateful beyond expression for my husband’s guy friends,* I wish they weren’t equally nerdy.  Because they are supporting each other in this intensely geeky endeavor.

My husband has already dropped $36 on a new D&D Player’s Handbook.  And Lord knows how much he will spend every other Wednesday night at a local microbrewery with a bunch of other grown men pretending to be elves, dwarves, and wizards.

Oh, well. He may be a nerd, but he’s my nerd.  Happy birthday to my warlock!  I love you!



*  They’re an awesome group of men.  They have each other’s backs in a way that I think is unfortunately fairly rare for guys today.

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You Know You’re a Hoarder When . . .

I know you’ve all been wondering where I’ve been lately.  Well, this post’s excuse is:  we bought a house!

Yes, we finally found “it” – the house that had all the right rooms in all the right places, didn’t have any unpleasant odors, was in the right(ish) location, and just plain felt right.

The only hitch – and there’s always a hitch – is that the sellers don’t want to leave until after the school year is over.  So we don’t take possession until mid to late June.  Which is fine, except that it means we have to sell our current house while still living in it.

Big deal, you might say.  People do that all the time.  In fact, that’s the norm.  Why, this even gives you four months to sell your house.  It’s perfect!  Win-win!

But we’re slobs.* Complete and total slobs.  And we have three cats, one of whom will flood the house with urine if we try to put her in a carrier or  otherwise remove her from the premises.  Plus a guinea pig, who, while very cute and the originator of some extremely interesting noises, is also the progenitor of some extremely unpleasant smells.

But “Keep Calm and Carry On” as the British (and tchotchke manufacturers everywhere) say.**  This is war.  Us vs. Clutter.

It’s recommended that you put 1/3 of your stuff in storage when trying to sell your home.  So we methodically went through the house and boxed shit up.***  Our family room was pretty much filled with boxes for a while; we looked like squatters.

I would estimate I put about 1/2 to 2/3 of our stuff in boxes.  I don’t know if that’s evidence that I’m an overachiever or that we’re hoarders.  I admit I do enjoy the process of purging.  I’m (not so) secretly hoping some of these boxes never get opened.  Or even get “lost” in the move.

One really fun part of packing up the house was finding things I’d lost, or forgotten we even had.  For example, in tidying my husband’s jeans and short-sleeve shirts last week, I found a black t-shirt that I’d been accusing my teenager of having stolen months ago.****  I literally shouted with joy.  And possibly did a happy dance.

Somewhat less exciting was finding a set of “Magic:  The Gathering” cards from about 22 years ago.  My husband and I bought it before we were married and played twice (he won both times, probably because he’s a cheater and a big ol’ nerd).  I declared the game stupid and annoying and then proceeded to pack it and take it with us through three moves.  I have no explanation for this example of pack-rattery, except that I was clearly saving it for the day when I would have a friend with a son who was totally into MTG and would value this vintage set.*****

A couple weekends ago I helped my teenage daughter tackle her room.   I saved her room for last.  Because I was afraid.  And, in my defense, it did take four hours to go through her stuff.  But we threw out eight large bags of dried-up makeup, Alternative Press magazines, and assorted miscellaneous crap.  The following weekend I spent four hours supervising a couple of guys in moving all the boxed-up crap into a rented storage unit.  It took four trips.  Yep, four pickup truck-loads of stuff we can live without for at least four months.  And then yesterday it took two plumbers four hours to clean tree roots out of our storm sewer line.

My hope is that it will take us four hours to sell this damn house.

So it’s not on the market yet, but we’re getting there.  The realtor has pointed out a few little cosmetic things to change and then we’ll be all set.  Except for the “keeping the house clean enough to be shown on a moment’s notice” part.

I’m stocking up on Swiffer pads.  And wine.


 

*  By “we” I mean my husband and children.  I was merely being polite by including myself.  Given my druthers, I would be completely, totally, anally retentively, tidy.  I’ve had to lower my standards quite a lot over the years.

**  Funny story: The whole “Keep Calm and Carry On” thing never really happened.  Although the British government printed millions of copies of the (now) iconic poster in anticipation of widespread air strikes, the poster was hardly ever displayed.  Most people didn’t even know about it until 2000.  And now it seems you can’t avoid it.

*** And, this time, by “we” I mostly mean me.

****  Sorry, honey.

*****  Enjoy it, G.

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A Sorry Excuse For Clubbing

Both of my daughters, at one time or another, have been into the Disney-owned website Club Penguin. Club Penguin, for those of you fortunate enough not to know, is Disney’s way to take over our children’s brains if somehow they have survived the Princess siege. Children assume the identity of a cute, cartoonish penguin and explore an icy island. They do things like “throw” snowballs, “dance” in the disco, “drink” coffee, “eat” pizza and “dress up” their penguins.  Why this is more fun than actually throwing, dancing, drinking, eating and dressing up, I have no idea.

There are mini-games that don’t seem fun and a secret organization called the Elite Penguin Force (or “EPF,” because schoolkids need acronyms) which I’m pretty sure is a front for Disney’s world domination team. (C’mon, you know they have one.  World Domination – Walt Disney.  You see it, don’t you?)

Kids on Club Penguin also get to adopt little cartoon pom-pom creatures called Puffles. Puffles, as I understand it, are pets for the penguins, though I’m not quite sure why a bird would need a pet. In any event, each color of puffle has a different personality and can do a different animation move. Over and over and over again.  The same one move.  Must be a kid thing . . .

In order to prevent kids from kicking the penguin habit, Disney throws lots and lots of themed “parties.” (Seriously, it’s like the department store Kohl’s, with its One Day Sales – 365 of them per year.)  Disney just adds a teeny bit of new content and some sparkly window dressing and calls it a party, but it’s still the same basic idea. Which I obviously still don’t get.

Sometimes kids do get bored and take things into their own hands.  For example, I remember my older daughter telling me about a phase where it was all the rage for one penguin to “adopt” another penguin. Yep.  The penguin avatar of one child would pretend to adopt the penguin avatar of another child.*  As I recall, I had a couple of problems with that.  First, how in the world is that fun?  And second, well, it’s just creepy as hell. Imagine your 8 year old inviting a friend over to play “Foster Family.” Not cool, am I right?

Anyway, a few weeks ago, my kids asked me if I remembered the names of any of their Puffles. Needless to say, I did not. They’re lucky if I remember their names on any given day. I’m middle-aged now, girls, the mind’s not what it used to be.

So they reminded me that they had Puffles named …

Mr. Detergent … and …

The Baal Shem Tov.**

At first I laughed and praised them.  What creative children! How clever!  How quirky!  Then they reminded me that I had actually come up with these names.  They just agreed to them. Maybe they were humoring me, I don’t know. They’re good kids; it’s possible. But more likely is that they also found these names to be hilariously funny.*** That warped sense of humor can be attributed only to me.  I’m so sorry.****

Not only are my kids extremely odd, they’re also quite bright and slightly manipulative. Which is how I found myself propped up in bed last night playing “Puffle Wild” on my iPad. My 10 year old realized that the game – one of countless Disney apps created in furtherance of their world domination scheme (see above) – is nearly identical to Candy Crush***** and that she could use Mommy’s CC addiction for her own benefit.  It’s really not nice to take advantage of a junkie.

In my defense, I only played for as long as it took me to get her a new, antlered Puffle. And a cute rabbit-eared one.  But I can feel myself starting to waver even now. If I run out of lives on Candy Crush, you’d better believe I’m going to waddle on over . . .

Damn you, Disney.

 


* I’m not exactly sure how that worked.  They would just say “I adopt you,” I think.  It’s not like there was paperwork or inefficient bureaucracies.  Now that would have be fun.

**  The Baal Shem Tov (“Master of the Good Name”) is the pseudonym of Rabbi Yisroel ben Eliezer, a Jewish mystic born in 1698. He is considered to be the founder of Hasidic Judaism. He bears no resemblance whatsoever to a brightly-colored pom pom. At all.

*** Needless to say, “Mr. Detergent and the Baal Shem Tov” would be an excellent name for a band.  Or a book.

****  Unless you also think I’m funny, in which case, I’m sorry for you, too. But feel free to call me the Baal Shem Vits (“Master of the Good Joke”).

*****  Seriously, it’s a wonder they’re not being sued.  But who would take on the Disney Corporation, now that I think about it?  They’d rub you out faster than you could say Jiminy Cricket.

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No, Seriously. WTF?

If you read my blog regularly, you already know that my 10 year old daughter got trapped in the bathroom Thursday night when the door decided to stop opening. You know that it took three firefighters to rescue her (and our cat) from the bathroom. And you know that my husband is out of town and missing all the “fun.”

Well, now there’s more.

Last night, my daughter and I baked some cookies to take to the fire station to express our gratitude. I took the last batch out of the oven, turned the knob to “off” and left the kitchen. About an hour later, I went to put a pot of water on to boil and thought the range top seemed oddly warm. I opened the oven door, and sure enough, the electric element was glowing red hot. I double-checked the oven knob. Yep, turned off. I switched it on and off a bunch of times, hoping, I guess, to convince the oven to shut off. No go.

So I put on oven mitts, walked the range forward enough to reach the plug and killed that sucker. Of course, in the overall scheme of things, it’s not so terrible. The oven was old and we’d been thinking about replacing it anyway. But what gives? Maybe I’ve been discussing Harry Potter too much with my daughter, but I think I’m jinxed. First the bathroom door, now the oven. I shudder to think what might come next. The Cruciatus curse?

I just hope it waits until my husband is home. And, I, preferably, am not.

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WTF?

It’s Day 5 of my husband being out of town. It’s around 7:30 pm, the girls are doing homework and I’m playing Candy Crush on the couch. (Don’t judge.)  Suddenly, my older daughter announces “You know, your younger daughter is calling you desperately from upstairs.”  I put down the iPad, run upstairs and discover that my ten-year-old is somehow locked in the bathroom.  With a cat.

Now, our bathroom locks from the inside.  Plus, my daughter didn’t even lock the door when she went in.  The mere act of closing the bathroom door somehow angered the lavatory gods sufficiently to make the door inoperable.

OK, stay calm.  Think this through.  Aha!  I have screwdrivers!  I know how to take doorknobs off!  I am Woman, hear me roar!  So I took that sucker off, but no amount of roaring was going to coax the latch out of the door jamb.

At this point, my older daughter informed me that the downstairs toilet was plugged up.  Well, I’d have to prioritize.  So I called the fire department, explained the situation and gave my address. Then, while I waited for the engine to arrive, I plunged the toilet.  It took quite a while, but at least that problem responded to my roaring.

Meanwhile, my younger daughter was in pretty good spirits.  She was still able to play on her iPad, which she’d brought into the bathroom with her.  I think the cat was pretty freaked out, though.

The fire truck arrived, lights flashing, and parked in front of my house.  I’m sure my neighbors were thrilled.  Three large firemen in uniform trooped up my stairs and examined the situation.  They debated the merits of various approaches.  (If I might toot my own horn for a moment, they praised my attempt to solve the problem myself.)  Then they shimmied the door trim off, popped the latch, and freed my daughter and our cat.

Now my daughter is terrified of closing doors.  And I’m left wondering why this stuff only happens when my husband is out of town.

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It’s Like a Rainbow For Your Ears

My husband has been out of town eight nights in a row so far and I’ve barely slept a wink.  Not so much because he’s the love of my life and I miss him terribly, but because once it’s time to fall asleep I miss his noise.  Okay, not actually all of his nighttime noises, some of those are unpleasant, but specifically the sound of his CPAP: his sleep apnea machine.

My husband used to snore.  I mean, he used to SNORE.  The first night I spent at his apartment when we were dating, I woke up in the middle of the night to this terrible, horrible sound.  I’d fallen asleep next to a lovely man, but sometime during the night he turned into a snorting, spluttering, gasping beast.  I sat up in horror and tried desperately to contrive an escape.  He had a roommate at the time, so I couldn’t just move to another part of the apartment. And he’d picked me up at my place; I couldn’t drive myself home.  I was literally trapped. My panic was starting to rise as I blearily contemplated the hours I’d have to spend with this …… thing. That’s when my husband woke himself up, saw me sitting bolt upright and screamed.  I’m not sure how much sleep either of us got after that.

So I shouldn’t have been surprised when, twelve years later, he was diagnosed with sleep apnea.  Fortunately, he adjusted pretty quickly and fairly well to his new CPAP machine.  Yeah, it ain’t the sexiest thing in the world, but neither was the snoring/gasping/slugging him with a pillow routine we’d fallen into.  (Neither were my Winnie the Pooh pjs, but that’s another story.). And that background whooshing noise turned out to be quite soothing, at least for me, since it wasn’t accompanied by air being forced up my nostrils.

When my husband goes out of town, which fortunately isn’t often, I really miss that whoosh. What to do? Interwebs to the rescue. After a certain amount of research, I discovered and downloaded an app simply called “White Noise.”

We all toss around the term “white noise” fairly casually, but it actually has a very specific scientific meaning.  Noise is “white” if it consists of equal intensities of a wide range of sound waves.  But it turns out that noise comes in a rainbow of colors, including pink, blue, violet, grey, orange, black and green.  They all sound different and they have different uses, like climatology, medicine, and pest extermination.  I had no idea there was this whole rainbow of noise out there. And frankly, I still don’t really understand all the distinctions.

Despite its name, my app offers pink, brown, violet and blue noises along with the white. Needless to say, I tried them all, along with sounds like “Rain on Car Roof” and “Boat Swaying in Water.” There’s even “Clothes Dryer” and “Crowded Room,” I guess for gregarious sleepers.

My current favorite is a mix (yes, you can mix the sounds!) of “Brown Noise” and “Camp Fire.” It’s very cozy on these cold winter nights.

I’d still rather have my husband home. And before he leaves on his next trip, I’m recording his whooshing and uploading it to my app.

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Egad!

I made a New Year’s resolution. No, not to eat healthier (although I’m trying, I really, really am). Not to exercise more (though, of course, I should).   I’m not even going to try to be kinder to my fellow man or live more mindfully.  I won’t do a colon cleanse or try to caress squirrels or wash my feet in kale juice.  Let’s be real; I’d never do any of those.*

No, my resolution is to flat-out embrace my love of gadzookery, which is the use of archaic words.

I love old, under-used words.  They’re so evocative and often so useful.  I really think you’ll love them, too.  Which is why you’re going to help me keep my resolution.

Here’s the plan: every so often, I will write a blog post introducing – no, reintroducing some archaic, but entirely awesome word. Then you, dear readers,** will try to use this word in your everyday lives. As often as possible. Together, we will spread these formerly archaic words across the globe. And I will get the credit and the glory! (Insert evil laugh here.)

Okay, to start this off right, I’m going to give you TWO, count them, TWO, words today. (That’s twice as much anachronism for the same low price.  And no shipping and handling.)  Today’s words are fortnight and nuncheon.

FORTNIGHT. A lot of you probably already know this one, but I wonder how many of you use it regularly. A fortnight is, simply, two weeks. How the hell did this word ever fall out of favor? Don’t we ALWAYS talk about two week increments? Paychecks.  Maybe mortgage payments.  NFL scandals.  Fortnight sounds so much better than “biweekly” and it’s not as confusing, either.  I can never remember the difference between biweekly and semiweekly.  Doing a quick Google doesn’t help, either; most sources agree it’s confusing and recommend avoiding them both.  Enter “fortnight.”  Here, I’ll use it in a sentence:

My cleaning lady used to come once a fortnight, until she suddenly stopped coming at all, possibly because of my lack of housekeeping skills.***

See how useful????

NUNCHEON. Okay, this one’s less common, but still awfully applicable to modern life. My husband claimed that I made it up, but I swear that I didn’t. Nuncheon means a drink or a light snack in the afternoon. That’s all.  In Yiddish we’d call it an after school nosh. Again, here’s a sentence to demonstrate how easily you can fit this into to your everyday conversations:

I scolded my daughter for eating an entire loaf of King’s Hawaiian Sweet Bread for nuncheon; it was supposed to be her dinner.

So if you’re on board with my plan to colonize the English language and make everything old new again, express your plaudits by shouting****huzzah

Thanks.

Fare thee well. And Godspeed.


 

*  Squirrels are notoriously difficult to caress.

**  Yes, all three of you.  Hi, Mom!

***  This is true, by the way.  She simply never came back after her third visit.

****  Snuck another one in, didn’t I?  PLAUDITS:  enthusiastic approval.  Jackie’s plan to take over the world English language was met by universal plaudits.

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