Redundant, I know. You've heard it all before. But let's put it this way: even the GPS gets confused. I can't believe the screen doesn't just go black like she's giving up. The GPS screen refreshes itself manically as it tries to re-adjust to the roads she thought were there but aren't and the roads she didn't know were there but are. There are just so many roads. And none of them at right angles. So much veering. I've missed so many turns because GPS says "turn right" but there's no place to "turn right" so I just keep driving - when I should have just "leaned." And none of the street signs match the street names that the GPS thinks they have so even if I can figure out that I'm supposed to "lean right" instead of "turn right," I miss it anyway because the street sign says Huntington and the GPS says Lennox. You can't give a road more than one name!!! It makes street signs completely irrelevant!!!
And since there are no signs that say "Kristin Go This Way, 1 mi," the GPS and I just hold on and try not to drive off the road (which could totally happen). At one point, the GPS shows that I'm in a rotary and instructs me to take the 2nd exit. And I'm like "I'm in a rotary?" Then I get honked at. Sorry about the preposition (then honked at I get?).
I find the 2nd exit (hurray!) and enter an expanse of asphalt with roughly 4 lanes of traffic. I say roughly because there aren't actually any lane lines. It's just a free for all; people are driving anywhere they want. Four lanes worth of people are driving anywhere they want. This is what it would look like if we gave our car keys to toddlers. Is there no urban planning here (no)? Did Benjamin Franklin design this road and they want to keep it historically accurate? Are lane lines a regional cultural thing and I'm trying to impose my midwestern values upon people who don't need lane lines? Will I die here on this road? I have no idea where to go so I just choose a car to follow so I can pretend that I'm in a lane. So I can foist some order upon the anarchy to assuage my own rule-following compulsion. And then I get honked at again (back off, dude! I can drive anywhere I want!).
I need a snack but I don't dare get off the race track. I'll never get back on. There's no place to stop anyway which is actually a big problem; when traveling from our house to the airport, you have to pack food like a pioneer. There's very little food at the airport - a few Dunkins and a dirty Fuddruckers. It's not called Dirty Fuddruckers, it's just a dirty Fuddruckers. And there's nothing on the hour-long drive from our house to Boston unless you want Dunkin Donuts (duh), McDonalds, Wendy's, The Steak House, Jimmy's Steer House, and Casual Male XL (I know it's not food but just in case any of your XL male friends need some casual wear on the way to the airport, I thought I'd mention it).
So there's nothing to eat and I'm hungry and people are chasing me and honking at me and I just have to get out of this place. I'm making a mad dash for the state line. I feel like Thelma and Louse. I hold out my hand for Liam to grab and he takes it even though he doesn't know what I'm doing.
And finally.........crossing into New Hampshire..........
......... a rush of vehicular tranquility.
So many well-marked lanes.
Not a car in sight.
I put it on cruise control and choose one of the many empty lanes to hang out in until I reach home.
And though it will be my home for just a little while longer, it strikes me that this may be the first time I've called it that.
20 March 2012
Dear 22 Year Old Woman of the Modern World,
Yesterday, I turned 44. And it is frickin' awesome. I hate the word frickin'. It is so frickin' trashy. But someone recently asked me to ease up on the swearing (and I was like dude that WAS easing up on the swearing).
44, coined Double Quatro by my friend Colleen, is a lifetime away from you, 22 -year-old woman. And you think 44 is.........well, you don't think about it at all because it has nothing to do with you or anything else that is seemingly important or exciting. But if someone asked you to think about it, you would be polite and you would not say "old" but you may intimate "irrelevant" or "out of touch" or "interested in quiet things" and the whole time your subconscious would be saying "I will never be 44. I don't want to be 44."
But I am telling you, 22-year-old woman, that right now you are only half you. There's a whole half of you that is yet to be revealed and there's only one way you can get at it.
You have to age.
When you are 22, you are all about "who will I be?" And "how will I get there?" But when you are Double Quatro, it's all about "Here I am! Don't ya love it?" I become more and more myself with each passing year, shedding question after question, culminating in a quasi-superwoman with intuitive powers and a first class ticket to contentment. I know what makes me happy. I know why my son misbehaves. I know why my husband yells at me on my birthday. When something hurts, I don't push through the pain, reaching for the goal - I stop and ask why it hurts. And then I fix it.
I fix it with my intuitive superpowers, my years of experience and my authenticity.
The other day, a man approached me in the Fed Ex parking lot.........he ran out of the store and motioned for me to roll down my car window. I thought I must have forgotten something and he must be running to return it to me. Then he held his card out to me and said,
"Hi......I saw you in the store and I thought you seemed like an interesting person. Here's my card if you'd like to stop by my shop sometime."
A landscape architect and a sculptor. I think he's trying to sell me some art. He says "I'd like to, you know, get to know you...........and.......I swear.......I've never done this before." And still, because I'm exceedingly modest, it takes me a little too long before I finally say to myself, "Omigod. Is he trying to get wit' me? I guess clean hair really does make a difference."
I'm a woman nearing her mid-forties with mom-body and bi-weekly clean hair (only if my head is itchy) and someone who is not legally bound to me wants to get wit' me.
In that moment, sitting in my car, I figure out that he must have seen something. Something else. Something real and interesting and content that registers as attractiveness. And it makes me swell with pride. It makes me want to call my 22 year old self and say "Guess what? There's more! Apparently, your looks only count for a portion of your attractiveness! No, I'm serious! You'll find out when you're 44!"
Oh 22-year-old-woman, being "pretty" doesn't cut it anymore. Now, being bold is the most important thing. Being authentic is the most important thing. Making an authentic statement about who you are is the most important thing. Not that I do that successfully 100% of the time; a greasy pony tail, uggs and baggy yoga pants are not an authentic statement of who I am. Except that I am authentically lazy. But it gets easier and easier to figure out what to say and how to say it so that the puzzle pieces all fit together.
And not that my authentic self didn't exist when I was 22........she was there. It's just that no one is completely confident at age 22 that what you are is the best thing to be. Is there something better that I should try to be? Should I pretend that I like experimental jazz better than Barry Manilow? I've spent 20 years chipping away at the repressive shell of youth, building a better, happier person. And it feels awesome.
But don't get greedy, 22 year-old-woman. If you had all this at age 22, you would be a freak.
You'll have to wait, and age, just like the rest of us superheroes.
16 March 2012
After posting What is Soccer About, Anyway?, Liam got a lot of positive attention for the way he cared for his fallen teammate. A confusing phenomenon for him considering the praise was coming from people who weren't actually at the game.........they, of course, came from the blogosphere. But the support and encouragement made an impact on him. And providing that comfort and care to hurt players (which happens a lot at 3rd grade games) is now something he does very consciously and consistently.
At the last game, the tears came from a kid on the on the other team, a kid with GLASSES who got smacked in the face with the ball. Ouch. Liam ran to his opponent's side and put his arm around him. And then do you know what happened?
..........other boys from Liam's team also ran over and patted him on the back and asked if he was ok. And ultimately walked him off the field. A little pod of 9 year olds, consoling him and gently escorting him to the side.
It was a beautiful thing to watch.
After the game, Liam re-told the story of the injured opponent (because now he knows this is special behavior). Then a fellow teammate appeared on his heels. He got in my face, jumped up and said, "Yeah! Me too! I mean, Liam was there first but then I came and I helped that boy, too!"
I don't what he's been saying to these kids, but somehow Liam has managed to convince them that caring is cool - a phrase that seems like it could only come out of the mouth of a nerdy youth pastor trying to get down ("Jesus is jammin'!") - but it holds true, nonetheless.
Caring is cool......
They've won only a single game since the season began in October. And the ref often stops recording the goals scored against them to ease the humiliation. But a much bigger set of skills may be taking root......
That being said, this area is not known for its kindness, even among children. So maybe this caring is cool thing won't last. But I'm comforted by the idea that maybe people will think of Liam after we move away and they'll say "Yeah, he was that nice kid." And then they'll turn and do something nice.
Because caring is cool.
13 March 2012
When I saw the title of this book, stacked neatly on a table labeled "New in Paperback!", a zing of electricity shot through my body and an old-fashioned car horn went Aaaaa-OOH-ga! Aaaaa-OOH-ga! It was one of those moments when all the vibrations of the universe align and I saw, in one simple sentence, that someone else was feelin' me. Without even opening the book or reading the blurb, I thought to myself "Maybe this guy could be my friend......"
My hands shook a little as I picked it up - I'm not kidding about this - and I think I whimpered a little. And then I RAN around tables and chairs and old ladies who couldn't figure out that I was trying to get by them to find Mike because I couldn't handle the discovery all by myself. I needed someone else to see this and jump up and down with me and and sing "It's not me! It's not me!"
I need to tell Wade Rouse that just the title alone gave me solace.......because, yes, there is comfort in knowing that a neighbor sitting just 10 feet away from my lot line would hear me scream if I were attacked - maybe by this mystery animal called a fisher cat that is not a cat. There is comfort in knowing that the proper response to hearing gunshots on the playground is to call 911 - and not casually ignore them while we wait for our children to emerge from their nature program in the woods. And there is comfort in knowing that I am not the only person who feels this.
In this memoir, Wade Rouse is chasing a dream fueled by Henry David Thoreau's Walden. He wants to create what he calls "Wade's Walden," a rural utopia that will save him from the rat race and his frustrating city job and fulfill his yearning to become a full time writer. He calls his decision to move to the country either the bravest decision of his life or the worst mistake since his botched Ogilvie perm. Did I mention that Wade is gay? Gay in the country is so much funnier than straight in the country. It's like Lucy and Ethel with an extra layer of sociopolitical humor (coincidentally, Wade often solves problems by asking himself, "What would Lucy do?").
Wade and his partner, Gary, leave culture, cable and consumerism behind and strike out for a town in rural Michigan, a place with fewer people than their former spinning class. Wade is a self-described Starbucks-swilling, pashmina-wearing, catch-a-Parker-Posey-independent-film kind of guy who finds himself shopping at feed stores and attending church potlucks (which trigger some unwelcome church camp memories). He wears a cashmere turtleneck and a $300 scarf to go ice fishing. And a pea coat that makes him look like he should be having tea with Gwyneth and Apple in a London cafe....... again, for the ice fishing. And he uses lip balm and breath spray to fend off a blood thirsty raccoon.
There have been times out here in the sticks when I have actually thought, "I need a sassy gay friend." Someone to make this sleepy town a little more interesting. Someone who could fill the void with color, design, pattern, diversity, a little counter culture and a lot of catty humor. And someone to help me with my outfits. Someone who would smack me and say, "Get out of those yoga pants, girl!"
Wade and Gary......I love you guys. Will you be my friends?
09 March 2012
It's already well-established that both Mike and I have gone down the open house rabbit hole regarding the preening of our house. But today I had a moment of clarity, a "stop the madness" moment.
After yesterday's showing, carefully scheduled for the day after the cleaning ladies were here, I went into our bathroom and spied the accessories shelf in our shower. Something was wrong. I opened the shower door and saw that one of the shampoo bottles was facing backwards! So that all you could see was the busy writing of the ingredients list and the consumer warnings! I SPECIFICALLY bought one bottle each of Aveda Rosemary Mint Shampoo and Rosemary Mint Body Wash for their uncluttered minimalist faces and I was furious with the cleaning lady for being so callous as to put the bottles back in such an ugly fashion when she KNEW we were showing the house!
And then an image of Faye Dunaway in "Mommie Dearest" flashed across my mind, her red lipstick screeching "NO MORE WIRE HANGERS!!!" Omigod, chillax dude.
Don't you wonder how we got like this? Here's a story that might help explain.......
The year is 2003 and Mike and I have just put our first house on the market, an adorable pink stucco Spanish style dollhouse that will surely fly off the shelf. We prep for our first open house (in a completely normal, un-neurotic way) and, given that it's 2003 and the height of the housing boom, we fully expect to see hordes of people lined up down the block like we're selling tickets to a Norah Jones concert (remember, it's 2003).
We pack up baby Liam and leave for the afternoon, planning a long, bumpy car ride so the baby will take his afternoon nap in the car. When you have a baby, it's daunting to leave the house for more than 90 minutes so we packed the whole kitchen and his whole bedroom for our 90+ minute journey. It's like setting out on the Oregon Trail not knowing if you'll starve or run out of water or run into a cougar or whatever. But it works and we have a great day! No cougars and plenty of snacks and naps and we are so confident in our little pink house that we're sure we'll come home and find an offer sitting on the table.
But instead, we return home and find something much worse. The sightlines from our front door reach through the living room, across the hall and straight into the bathroom at the back of the house. I stand in the doorway and something catches my eye.............is there something on the toilet?
I stand there and I don't walk toward it because I know what it looks like but my subconscious is saying "If you stay here, it won't be true!"
"Mike. What is that? On the side of the toilet?"
We stand there together and look from far away at the dark brown growth attached to the side of the toilet. We get closer (please, no).....and, yes, it is confirmed that a half-dollar sized piece of poo is hanging off the outside of our toilet and visible from our front door.
Rapid-fire yelling ensues:
Who did this? How does this happen? Was it us or was it them? Who would do that that? Who would take a dump in a stranger's house during an open house? Did the realtor drop a log on his way out the door? How many people saw this? It wasn't us, right? We would know if our poo flew out of the toilet, right? Don't be silly, we would never do a doodie in our house while it's on the market! I would sooner walk to the McDonald's and stink up their bathroom! WHO DID THIS???? And is anyone going to buy the poop house now?
That explains a lot, doesn't it?
You'll be happy to know that the adorable pink poop house sold after 14 days on the market. Perhaps the buyer just needed to mark his territory first.
But the experience left an indelible mark on these two home sellers. And now I must go......the McDonald's is a much further walk from here so I need to plan ahead.
06 March 2012
Although we've taken 18 months to paint and polish our house to our liking, getting it ready for a showing is another level of perfectionism that both Mike and I ascribe to.......I mean suffer from. And ascribe to. But suffer from. In other words, we are a realtor's dream come true. And we are bat shit crazy.
For two weeks, we go on an accessories/home improvement buying binge that looks like the high-speed hijinks reel from The Benny Hill Show. Cue Yakety Sax........get in Jeep.....drive crazy down the driveway......run into Home Depot.......exit Home Depot with a case of CFL lightbulbs and a ficus......speed through parking lot......enter Target........exit Target and fill back of Jeep with Euro shams.......drive in circles......run into Marshall's, HomeGoods, and Crate & Barrel Outlet.......reverse tape......run backwards out of Marshall's, HomeGoods and Crate & Barrel Outlet......tape forward......exit store with cart full of nurses with big boobs. Pat tiny bald man on the head.
The "Perfection Compulsion" is so strong that the car seems to drive itself. I don't want to go back to the Crate & Barrel Outlet! The house is perfect! Take me home, damn car! But what if there's a lap throw or a martini shaker that will tie everything together and make this house seem like it will make all your dreams come true? What if?
Mike symbolically shakes me by the shoulders and says "You have to STOP! You're going down the RABBIT HOLE!"
He should talk.
When it's time for the showings to commence (me in reflective vest directing traffic at the end of the driveway), he utters a series of statements that make me think 2 things: 1) This dude is crazy. And 2) How lucky am I that this dude is as crazy as I am? (love)
MIKE: You didn't fluff that pillow.
ME: Yes, I did.
MIKE: It doesn't look fluffed.
ME: I swear, I fluffed it.
MIKE: Fine, I'll fluff it.
MIKE: Those shams look like shit.
ME: What are you talking about? They look fine.
MIKE: The designs aren't going the same direction. The designs on all the shams have to go the same direction. Like this (grabs pillow to educate me about sham design direction protocol).
MIKE: This apple has a bruise on it!
He shows me how to smooth the bedding without defluffing the comforter - the comforter has to be fluffy - by grasping the edges of the faux top sheet (too complicated to explain here) between thumb and forefinger and doing this subtle shimmy shake thing with the sheet so that you're essentially vibrating the lumps out of the bedding (without defluffing. must be fluffy).
When we make the beds, we are so detail-oriented that we look like two surgeons operating on a preemie.
From a state of near perfection, it takes exactly one hour to get the house ready for a showing. I go around with an oversized duffel bag, filling it with random shit that would take too long to put away. The duffel bag, along with my laundry and the untamed paper tiger, will go in the trunk of my car (later that day, I will look in the duffel bag and I will find the phone).
I sweat like a whore in church while I race around making beds and putting out pretty soaps. Looking for signs of the unseemly side of life. Go back - get the panty liner off the sink!! Liam washes his hands and I scream "DON'T TOUCH THAT TOWEL! WHAT ARE YOU THINKING? DON'T TOUCH ANY TOWELS! EVER!" I smell BO. Like actual BO. So much wasted time at the health club when I could have just made my bed. This is why housewives in the 1950's drank so much.
When the realtor arrives, I stand at the door in a tank top and a down vest, my keys in one hand, an armful of dirty towels in the other. I get in the car with my dirty towels and take off my down vest and turn on the AC. My sunglasses fog up. I look down at the temperature gauge.
It says 34 degrees.
The next day......lather. rinse. repeat. Until this house is sold.
01 March 2012
Davy Jones is gone.
My very first crush - the first person I was compelled to stare at obsessively, getting closer to the TV for a better view, wishing I could reach into the tiny Panasonic and hold his hand - is gone.
No matter that I was watching a person that didn't actually exist except through the magic of reruns. No matter. He existed for me. And I loved him.
It doesn't matter where you stand on the Beatles vs. Monkees debate or how you feel about pre-fab bands or whether or not they played their own instruments; the bigger truth is that Davy Jones played a much bigger role than that. He was the manboy who launched a thousand crushes.
And when I say a thousand, I mean ten million.
I cut my musical teeth on the Monkees. Given my memories of the surroundings when I started watching the show, I was less than 3 years old. This must have laid a foundation for a fondness for bubblegum pop that continues to this day, from the Partridge Family to Shaun Cassidy to Andy Gibb to Rick Springfield to Hanson to 'Nsync to Justin Bieber, I love them all. I could listen to "Mmmbop" on repeat and dinner would never get on the table.
The musical montage became the lens through which I viewed the world. I wanted to live my life in a musical montage. I still want to live my life in a musical montage. Every once in a while, maybe on vacation, maybe in a convertible with the ocean to my right, I'll have a musical montage moment..........and I'll play a song in my head. I'll put my hand on my head and smile at the ocean like it's playing along, too. And then I'll throw my head back and laugh with no sound coming out while the scenery races by, my friends and/or lover laughing silently, too. Then we throw things at each other.
Sometimes, a song will come on the radio that perfectly matches the musical montage moment in the car; usually it's a more pensive, happiness-filled moment perfectly matched by "Harvest Moon" or "Only You" or "Life in a Northern Town". And I hold the moment delicately, with no sound coming out of our mouths, so I can savor it. My very own musical montage.
Although the hilarity-ensues-style montage is my favorite. Teen idols getting chased by angry authority figures, bumbling and running until they prevail and outsmart the squares who are cramping their style. The creator of the musical montage figured out that boys are cuter when they're running and laughing. Oh so cute. It breaks my heart, the cuteness of it all.
Liam watches Big Time Rush every morning at breakfast. And every morning, I leave the toaster and run to his side when it's time for the musical montage. And I keep my eyes on Kendall the whole time because he's so damn cute when he's running and laughing. So damn cute. And you don't have to point out that I'm well past the age at which I should develop crushes on fictional people who are less than half my age. If I saw Kendall on the street, I wouldn't look twice. But put him in a musical montage and I'm in love.
For this, you can thank Davy Jones. The imprint of loving him while he laughed and ran away from the squares, accompanied by an awesome pop tune, must have etched a pattern on my being that I can't shake - even after 17 years of marriage and no actual crushes since the 1980's.
A co-worker from long ago told me about her daughter's crush on Leonardo diCaprio; how she was madly, truly, seriously in love with him. And how she didn't treat her daughter's crush lightly. She had done some research on teen idol crushes and found that this is a purely female phenomenon that prepares young girls for real life relationships. Completely unattainable, these objects of desire are a mere warm-up. It's a safe context in which to have your heart broken. It's practice love.
So now that I've had plenty of experience with actual love with real-life people, why do I still race away from the toaster to watch the boys from Big Time Rush?
Such is the power of the musical montage. And the indelible imprint of the first crush. An honor that doesn't fade just because other crushes come and go and then you fall in love with real people who love you back. The first crush is a milestone that travels with you in the form of a personal theme song and an unrealized tattoo singing "Daydream Believer" around the wrist like a bracelet.
Rest in peace, Davy. Long live your tambourine. And your maracas.
Just because you're gone doesn't mean I'll stop loving you.