Like Me, Only Prettier

When I was in college, I knew a boy named Ron. Well, I knew several boys named Ron and when I say “knew,” I do not mean in the biblical sense. Anyway, I remember first seeing Ron in the cafeteria when he was a brand new student. He was blond and attractive and he was collecting old baked potatoes from people’s trays. He found this wildly funny and I found it wildly weird. But he was cute.

As time went on, we connected somehow. I was “taken” already–having committed to a relationship with my now-husband–so I was a safe partner to just hang out with. (My boyfriend lived in another town, three hours away.) He knew I wouldn’t get any ideas about dating him since I was off the market. I was happy to just laugh at this wacky boy.

I remember mostly riding in his red car, going to the ice cream parlor. I remember how amazed he was that I was a virgin.

And I remember very clearly the conversation we had one day in the cafeteria. At one point, he said something like this:

Ron: I just wish I could find a girl who is really smart and really funny. Someone who can make me laugh and who likes to have fun.
Me: (Half-joking) Oh, you mean someone like me? Only prettier?
Ron: Yes! (Relieved that I understand.)

The thing is, those kind of back-handed compliments used to really hurt my feelings. But the older I get and the saggier my eyelids become, the more grateful I am that I always treated myself first as a really smart, funny girl. I always felt I had a secret when male eyes would flit over my unremarkable face, overlooking me in favor of my Beauty Queen friends.

The secret is this–if you could actually read, you wouldn’t judge this book by its cover, you idiot!

A Final Update

Husband returns home at 7 p.m. and is ambushed by YoungestBoy asking, “Can we go down and see our kittens?”

The kittens that we promised the neighbor we would adopt.

They return twenty minutes later and YoungestBoy says, “We are going to get the mama cat and two kittens.” Husband looks at me and says, “Mom and I have to talk about it.”

Later, YoungestBoy says, “We have to get the mama cat and the kittens so that the kittens don’t run away back to find their mama.”

Husband raises eyebrows at me. Apparently, we are soon to be the proud owners of three cats. Yes, count them. One. Two. Three. One for each of the boys, I guess.

(Remember, husband said “no more cats.” Of course, that same night he got the Chinese fortune cookie that said, “Someone will give you something.” Who said fortunes don’t come true?)

An Update

My husband came home for a short time and told me that J____ had stabilized. Unfortunately, not for long and my husband returned to the hospital. He just called me to say that the man died.

I think of his wife, now a widow. She did CPR on him this morning to keep him alive until the ambulance came.

They were married a long, long time. They liked to square-dance until she hurt her back. They raised children and doted on their grandchildren. For fun, they took their huge R.V. on vacations, when they weren’t going on cruises. He served in World War II. None of this will be a comfort to her right now, but I hope that as the days pass, the memories of their happy life together will surround her like a soft hug.

(DaycareKid went down for his nap at 1 p.m. as usual. Babygirl is awake. It’s going to be a long time until 8 p.m.!)

Monday, Monday

My husband is a pastor. So, he takes off Mondays. I think he feels guilty about taking a day off when I don’t ever have a day off, so between naps, he tries to do things to help me. Before he started his Superdad/Superhusband Day, he decided to go have a nice quiet breakfast in a restaurant and read.

Here at the homefront, the phone rings and a crying, hysterical voice says, “I’m trying to reach Pastor. This is C____ W_________. J_______ just had a heart attack and they are taking him to the hospital.” I tell her all right, I’ll give him the message. Call his cell phone. No answer. Call the restaurant and the woman checked with every solitary man there (“does he have an earring?” Uh, no!). He wasn’t there. He arrived home shortly and I gave him the message and off he went.

So, he will not be taking YoungestBoy to play at the park and hit some balls.
He will not be taking Babygirl for a walk.
He probably will not be mailing that package for me at the post office.

And this day just keeps getting stranger. I ran YoungestBoy some bathwater and when I returned downstairs, I found Babygirl asleep on the floor. At 11 a.m. Then I went into the boys’ room to sweep and when I returned to the family room, DaycareKid was all curled up facing Babygirl. Asleep.

They did not have lunch yet. Their naptime isn’t until 1 p.m.

Apparently, today is a test of my flexibility. I may not be able to do a backbend anymore, but I sure can swing with the punches!

Garage Sale Signs Put Up By Idiots

Will someone please tell the idiots who put up the sign that read “7-Family Garage Sale” that I did three u-turns trying to find the garage sale?

It helps if the signs actually direct people (with money in their purse, ready to spend) to your garage sale.

I did find have success at one garage sale, though. I bought a Playskool “Sit’n Spin” which is 30 years old, though it looks brand new. Babygirl can’t quite figure out how to spin around, but she does swing from side to side and say “wheeeeee!”

YoungestBoy had a baseball game schedule for 10 a.m. and when he arrived at 9:40 a.m., it was just ending. The coach called my husband’s work number, late, after he left work yesterday to notify him on the time change.

Are people trying to annoy me?

By the way, Babygirl has started yelling “Mom!” at me, usually from another room. It’s lovely how advanced the youngest child of the family is.

And now, only fifteen minutes until bedtime, thank heavens, or I might actually bash my head into my brick fireplace until I fall unconscious.

Look Out!

I can only hope that no boys are reading this. And by boys, I mean anyone who has a penis, no matter how old. I like to refer to the male human as a boy. My propensity to do this used to really annoy the colllege boys, but I can’t help it. If I’m a girl–which I am–then they are boys.

All that to say that this upcoming week will be that glorious time when I turn into the Evil Mel. I will be looking into the corners of the cupboards in search of something even remotely cookie-like. I will probably stomp my feet at least once and scream, “THIS IS DRIVING ME CRAZY!” I will think I am ugly and fat and, don’t bother telling me differently, I will know that you are lying to me because I do have a mirror, by the way, and don’t be condescending to me. I will cry for no reason. I might grit my teeth so hard that they ache. And don’t lie and say that avoiding chocolate helps premenstual syndrome. I know better. And no, I won’t share. Give me those M&Ms back.

It doesn’t matter that I am aware of my cycles and these patterns. I will just be irrational. I will probably pick a fight with the women on the message board where I hang out. I will stub my toe on a shoe and scream out, much louder than necessary, just because I have so little self-control. I will seriously consider whacking off all my hair because it is so hideous and unstyleable.

Of course, my husband has gone to visit a woman who is dying and tomorrow he’s taking YoungestBoy to a baseball game at 10 a.m. and then he has some volunteer work to do at the pool and then he’ll have to visit the dying woman again. And that means I will be in this house, with these kids, for an entire Saturday again, so help me God.

So if you hear some shrieking and some foot-stomping, don’t worry. That’s just me enjoying my womanhood. Now look away.

This won’t be pretty.

Why Anne Lamott Makes Me Want to Cry

A miracle occurred today. I attended an Anne Lamott lecture, the lecture that has been sold out for months. Only, a friend of ours found out that a teacher had gone home sick today and that teacher donated her ticket to my cause. And I didn’t even have to pay.

I had seriously considered lurking outside of the building, sneaking inside, nonchalantly pretending I had a ticket. Or something. But God smiled down on me and preventing me from breaking the law and got me a free ticket.

The college student who introduced her read an introduction that was lifted directly from a book jacket or something. I recognized it. When she walked in carrying a big leather bag and her sweater, I wanted to cry. I felt like some fourteen year old girl swooning at a Clay Aiken concert. The entire room–150 of us–applauded as if she’d already done something amazing.

And she had, really. She wrote books. She writes books. That’s amazing, no matter how you look at it.

She wore black. A black t-shirt. Faded black jeans. Sensible black shoes. But a foresty-green headband on her dreadlocked hair and a matching greenish scrunchy holding the back into a crazy ponytail. She put on her sweater and said “I get hot, I get cold.” And then she took it off.

She read ten pages of her new book. Ten pages about Sam, her now-14 year old boy, a boy who sounded so much like my own boys, like my Shane specifically, with his propensity to whack bushes with a big stick. I laughed in recognition and comfort. (She also mentioned at one point how being at home with a baby is so boring that you want to hang yourself. That is so true some days.)

After she read, she talked about writing, about the process. I’ve read her books and I know. I know what to do, I know how to do it. I just don’t do it. I don’t write because I can’t see the whole road–and she pointed out that all you really need to see is what is in the headlights. You can make an entire journey in the dark, following the illumination of just the headlights.

Then she took questions, but only a few. They were excellent questions, but I wanted to know the following things:

1) Favorite authors, favorite books.
2) What first? An agent? A publisher? How do you actually get someone to say “yes” to your novel?
3) Will you write for Salon again?

I also wanted to tell her that my dad died, too, when I was in my early twenties. “Hard Laughter” spoke to my heart. I wanted to tell her that I have boys who smell and brandish sticks like swords and that some days I am so bored I want to climb out of the bedroom window on a rope of tied-together-bedsheets. I wanted to tell her about the miraculous way I got a ticket, thanks to Beth Stevens’ illness. But all I did tell her at the book-signing afterwards was, “You are the only author I ever wrote a fan letter to.” And she smiled and said, “Well, I’m sure that I would have lifted it up for a blessing, but I never answer letters anymore.” And I smiled and took my book and went home.

I had a fantasy on my way to the lecture that she and I would go out for coffee and chat and she’d definitely want to be my New Best Friend. But she mentioned during her talk that she hates to travel. She hates to mingle. She likes to be alone. She has a boyfriend, a son and about four good friends, but other than that, she doesn’t like to leave her house. She certainly does not like to eat with anyone.

And, of course, neither do I. So, she doesn’t want to be my New Best Friend, but that’s not why she makes me want to cry. She makes me want to cry because she makes me feel normal, validated, uncrazy. She’s a little farther along the path than I, and I can see her bobbing lantern up ahead in the dark and it gives me assurance that there is a path and not just a drop off in the dark.

As an aside, I noticed shoes tonight. Several women were wearing these shoes that reminded me of bowling shoes crossed with “earth shoes”, like the blue suede ones I wore in fifth grade that had the toe higher than the heel, so you were kind of tipped backwards on your feet at all times. And I thought, I need to get out more because apparently fashions have changed while I’ve been wearing my red Keds.

Scattered

I finished typing a 72-page statement for Al, my private investigator boss. Although just saying “private investigator” sounds all glamorous and exciting–involving, perhaps, stake-outs and hidden microphones and gunfights–Al investigates worker’s compensation claims. In this case, he took a statement from a 72-year old former truck-driver regarding his hearing loss. (“What?” Oh, excuse me, that’s my dad’s old joke.)

The funniest thing I ever heard while typing for Al was the time he was interviewing a burly, Harley-Davidson-riding, construction worker. All of the sudden, Al says, “What type of work did you do, sweetheart?” to the guy. Silence. Then a little nervous laughter. I guffawed and rewound the tape so I could laugh more. Then I played it for my husband. Then I mocked Al and laughed harder.

Anyway, this most recent guy said he was in the Army Reserves in the 1950s. In the summers, he would report for duty in Eastern Washington and his unit would build a bridge over a gully or canyon. Then, another unit would come and blow it up. He said, “That just about broke my heart.”

Huh. Tax-payers’ dollars at work. Although, I’ve been puzzling over that and I guess that’s probably the most logical way to learn bridge-building and demolition.


BREAKING NEWS
I just had a telephone call from Barb, a church woman we know. She works at the college where Anne Lamott is appearing tonight. Last Friday I saw the notice in the newspaper, advertising tickets for $20 and when I called on Monday, I was informed that this even thas been sold out for months.

Well. Then why was it in the newspaper? Huh? Huh? Tell me that! Al (the private investigator) tried to call in a favor and get me a ticket. No dice. So, my husband thinks of this woman at church who works at the college. He called her today and she has a ticket for me! I feel like a stalker or something because I was seriously thinking about going and lurking outside the auditorium with hopes that I might sneak into the building. The only catch is that the appearance is not on the campus near my house (just a few miles away), but in another town probably half an hour away.

Fire-starters

Yesterday, a set of twin boys came over to play with my twin boys. They played basketball for awhile, but then disappeared around the corner of the house. When I finally investigated, I found them trying to use a small magnifying glass to start a fire. They had very carefully constructed a cement block fireplace, used newspapers and had dry leaves ready to add. “But Mom, we weren’t trying to start a fire!” TwinBoyB has successfully created flames in the backyard already–a few weeks back–but with a giant dinner-plate sized magnifying glass that was my dad’s. I immediately confiscated it. I remember trying to start fire myself with that magnifying glass and trying to sear insects. Still. I am a kill-joy. A party-pooper. There will be no campfires in my backyard.

It kind of reminded me of when the twin boys were over and all five boys created a potion by peeing into a bucket.

Kindergarten Program
YoungestBoy could not be more “look-at-me-look-at-me” outgoing. During the kindergarten program Tuesday night, he was completely animated, bobbing his head to the songs. When the audience applauded, he pursed his lips and did a little “golf-clap.” I was so happy I video-taped him. Also, I saved the day for the mom standing next to me. The program was about to start and she pulled out a tape and said to her husband, “Oh no! I’m out of tape!” I said, “Hey, do you want a new one?” I happened to have a brand new, never-opened spare tape. I love it when I can do that sort of Supermom thing. Turns out that it was Brian’s mom. We met before on the day of YoungestBoy’s birthday party because Brian came to YoungestBoy’s party–and then vice versa because they share the same birthday.

Stupid Starting Over Girl

I mentioned previously my addiction to “Starting Over,” the reality day-time television show. Josie gave birth. Gushed over how she was so happy because she was the only one who could feed her baby. Then, the next thing I know, the baby has a bottle in its mouth. I hate that I’ve become so zealous about breastfeeding, but honestly. You’re poor, you have nothing, but you do have breastmilk. Use it. Dingbat.

Dinner Plans
It’s Thursday. What does that mean? It means I have forgotten to figure out what to cook for dinner. This also means that my husband will be extra-hungry, because on the previous days this week when I actually made a decent dinner, he was full. That’s how it works around here.

When I Say “Jump”, You Say, “No!”

See this?

This is a metaphor for the relationship between my twin boys. TwinBoyB is the jumper, the instigator, the rabble-rouser. TwinBoyA is the receiver of the jumping. And this reaction remains the same as it did when he was three years old:

I Cringe When I See . . .

1) Men’s feet in sandals. Hairy toes. Enough said.
2) The boys’ toilet.
3) Some unidentifiable mushy, stinky object in the refrigerator vegetable drawer.
4) Photographs of myself.
5) The electric and water bill.

What do you see that makes you cringe? I’m sure more things will come to mind now that I’ve begun this train of thought.

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