Wednesday, May 30, 2012

How to Suck at Memorial Day

This Memorial Day the short people and I opted to just hang out because we were too cheap and lazy overwhelmed by familial love to venture far from home.  Unfortunately, the weather sucked donkey balls, but not to be deterred, I decided to do a traditional Memorial Day barbecue lunch for the boys and me.  Huge mistake.  First of all, I don't cook.  I can cook.  I'm actually quite a good cook, but I simply choose not to partake in any activity that could be construed as "work".  Secondly, the only American barbecue cookbook I had was one given to me by an individual who is obviously unaware of my seething hatred of all things Rachael Ray.*

*I'd like to cover her in EVOO and light her face on fire.

No problem!  I mean, we're talking about some burgers, some hot dogs, maybe a little potato salad. . .how hard can that be?  Yeah, you can probably guess where this is going.  So, without further ado, I present my list for how to celebrate Memorial Day:

1. Boil potatoes for salad.  Overboil, burn hand with steam, curse like a longshoreman with Tourette's, and drop potatoes on floor.  Recook potatoes, dice, mix with a shit ton of mayonnaise and herbs, and place in Tupperware container.  Forget Tupperware and allow it to stand at room temperature for hours until potato salad develops bacteria the size of raccoons.  Ponder the risk of an agonizingly painful bout of botulism before scraping potato salad into garbage disposal.*

*Bonus points if one of your short people is there to lecture you about wasting food.

2. Form hamburger patties. Promptly drop one on the floor. While picking up and returning to grill, notice your child watching you with quiet disapproval.  When you remind him that he once ate nachos off of the floor at 7-11 try not to be offended when he suggests that their floors are cleaner.  Consider mopping floor.  Spray Febreze on floor and skate around in your socks instead. Forget burgers until fire alarm begins wailing. Simultaneously calm hysterical child with autism while whacking at smoke alarm with Rachael Ray's book.*

*Huh. . .I guess it IS good for something.

Scrape black, industrial-grade carbon from burgers and place on buns. Cut burger in half to find them so undercooked that they leap from the plate and begin cavorting on the ground like otters.  Make emergency run to McDonald's.

3. Suggest "fun, old-timey" activity of making homemade ice cream.  Borrow hand-crank ice cream maker from friend. Spend three times what you would on a pint of Ben & Jerry's in ingredients and start cranking.  Continue to crank. Suggest short people help crank and then notice they got bored five minutes ago and are now engrossed in an episode of "Good Luck, Charlie".  Turn off TV.  Endure ten minutes of whining.  Return to ice cream.  Crank.  Crank again.  Continue cranking while "ice cream" remains as runny as the food on Strom Thurmon's lunch tray. Realize that perpetual motion does not in fact create frozen delicacies, freezers do.  Further realize that hand-crank ice cream makers are probably what caused the Great Depression.  Make emergency run to Baskin-Robbins.

4. Suggest alternative "fun, old-timey" activity like a sack race.  Realize the only bags you have are from H&M.  Watch children hobbling over grass with pink and silver garment bags bunched around their ankles.  Realize someone is probably watching as well and placing a call to Dick Cheney as said activity could probably replace waterboarding at Gitmo.  Scurry children back inside while watching over shoulder for approaching CPS agents.

5.  Locate roadside stand operated by man who has obviously spent more on tattoos than dental hygiene.  Buy fireworks. Fill children's heads with stories of noise and color that will rival a Zepplin laser-light show.  Place fireworks on ground.  Light fuse and scurry away to a safe distance.  Watch as fuse goes out.  Relight fuse and run away again.  Watch fuse go out again.  Continue to do wind sprints back and forth with Bic lighter like a deranged Olympic torch bearer until fuse finally stays lit.  Race to safe distance and cover ears dramatically.  Watch as fuse burns down, firework emits a pale cloud of smoke the size of a nectarine and emits a quiet "Pfffffft..." like a ferret passing gas.  Worry children will be disappointed.  Turn around to see children went back inside ten minutes ago and are now downloading pictures of iCarly from the internet.

6.  Walk back inside and apologize to children for shitty Memorial Day.  Listen as 9 year old says "I know what we should do to REALLY celebrate Memorial Day."  Spend remainder of day placing handmade red poppies on soldier's graves.  Hug your children.  Remember the sacrifices of the brave men and women who fight each day to keep us safe and free.  Count your blessings.  Count them again.  Never forget.

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Red Dress Playlist: "Witchy Woman"

A while back, I started a self-improvement project, inspired by Jenny Lawson, the GreatBloggess. To read about the origin of my project, look here. For the short version, each week I will set out to conquer something that is holding me back from being the person I want to be. A relationship, a memory, a fear. . .anything that makes me less than I am. I will attack each challenge wearing my red dress as a cape for inspiration and as a symbol of the superheroes we all are inside. My goal is to undertake the daunting task of taking one crazy, neurotic, and mentally unstable woman and molding her into a productive member of our crazy, neurotic, and mentally unstable society.

I am a cynic, by and large.  I rarely take anything at face value, have a somewhat "OK, prove it!" type of assholery about me, and am the first to go all Snopes-dot-com and call bullshit when something seems too weird to be true.  However, after witnessing such bizarre phenomena as double rainbows, Indonesian tsunamis and the success of Taylor Swift it has come to my attention that yes, there are perhaps things in our universe that cannot be explained by science or logic.  

Seriously, WTF!?!?

Therefore, my red dress challenge this week was to think outside the box; to embrace something I have always found to border  on the ridiculous.  So I swallowed my pride, opened my mind, and went to see a psychic.

The psychic I found was located in the back of a New Age bookstore about a mile from my hotel.*

*I'm travelling for work this week and am currently in a town that has the grand distinction of being the "Topless Espresso Cart Capital of the World".  Huzzah!

I was expecting a Madama Zolga kind of character, like Anne Bancroft in "Love Potion #9" and instead was faced with a crop-top wearing chain smoker with hair that was jacked to Jesus like Ellen Barkin in "Drop Dead Gorgeous".*

*I have the cinematic aesthetics of a dime-store hooker.

My psychic, Sharon, told me that she "became" psychic seventeen years ago after being unconscious for three days following a horrifically botched surgery.  She claimed that a spirit guide presented himself to here in her altered state and taught her the power of harnessing spiritual energy.  I suggested it may simply have been the result of a shit ton of pharmaceutical grade pain killers, but Sharon was adamant.  She placed her hand over mine and stared deeply into my eyes for several long moments.*

*Which were moments of sheer physical torture to me as I enjoy being touched and stared at about as much as an agoraphobe with Asperger Syndrome.

"I sense the color green has significance for you." she nodded sagely.

"  Well, I guess so."  I racked my brain frantically, "I mean, I like green, but..."

"It's a man!"  she suddenly cried, "His NAME is Green!  And he will have great significance in your life!"

"Huh, OK.  Green. . .holy shit, my gynocologist is Dr. Green!  No offense but based on how long it's been since anyone has been spelunking in my Cave of Mystery I'm pretty sure things have grown closed down there.  Doc Green won't have much to work with."

Sharon tilted her head and regarded me quietly.  "You like cheese".

Wait...what?  Did I seriously pay this woman $15 to wax eloquent on my love for all things Gorgonzola?  You don't have to be Dionne Warwick's psychic friend to know that I like cheese; just look at the size of my ass! So, just to test her abilities I replied "I'm allergic to dairy".*

*I'm not really; but I am intensely allergic to bullshit.  Too bad they don't make an Epi-pen for that.

Not to be deterred, Sharon countered "You may be allergic but your spirit still hungers for it.  It is a carry over from your past life."

Seeing as how I was such an ardent admirer of cheese products I could only infer that she had just implied that in a past life I was either a mouse or French, either one of which filled me with white-hot rage.  Then, just as I was about to stand and excuse myself before Sharon's spirit guide went all Patrick Swayze on her ass she softly grabbed my hand.  "It isn't your fault" she said.  "He forgives you."

I paused quizzically.  "Who forgives me?"

Sharon smiled softly.  "Your son.  He wouldn't have survived and neither would his brothers.  He died so that they could live.  It was meant to be; he's safe now."

I stood frozen to the spot.  Because what Sharon didn't know, what she COULDN'T have known is that when I became pregnant after years of fertility treatments, we discovered we were carrying triplets.  At around ten weeks the doctor noticed that while Baby A (my son M) was developing normally, Baby B (my son J) and Baby C (the baby I called Will) were struggling.  Baby C's heart rate was erratic and he was constricting Baby B's umbilical cord to where he was slowly starving to death.  The doctors had said that Baby C would never survive past twelve weeks and that if we didn't do a selective reduction then all three babies would die.  After an agonizing period of crying, fighting, and praying for a miracle, we made the decision to try to save the babies we could.  Even after Baby Will was taken from us, I was still on bedrest for weeks and my sons M and J were born at 27 weeks, weighing only 3 lbs. and 1 lb. 9 oz. respectively.

"How can he forgive me?" I whispered through my tears.  "I can never forgive myself."

Sharon smiled gently, patting my hand. "Because it was God's will.  HE was God's will."

God's will.  He was.  He was God's Will and I will love him until the day I die.  

So, do I now believe in psychics? It's hard to say, but I am definitely more amenable to the idea.  I do believe in spirituality.  I do believe that some people are just more consciously aware than others.  And I do believe that when our loved ones leave this earth they are never truly gone.  I see my grandfather whenever I hear violin music, I see my grandmothers when I smell honeysuckle or taste an apple fresh from the tree, and I see my son Will every time I look into the eyes of my beautiful children and know the sacrifice he made for their survival.  Love never dies.


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Conversations With Jess: Don't You Forget About Me

JESS: How was your Mother's Day?

ME: Relatively uneventful.  J drank so much root beer that he power-luged all over the patio and M totally lost his shit in the middle of Target.  Typical day.  How about you?

JESS: We got a sitter and went out to El Fuego.

ME: Oh shit.  You didn't drink tequila did you? Jess? TELL me you didn't drink tequila!

JESS: Guilty as charged, mi amiga.

ME: Oh my God.  Did "she" show up?

JESS: You mean "Bad Jess"?  Oh yeah, in all her splendor.  The last thing I remember is singing "Rolling In The Deep" with some guy outside the 7-11.  And I think I may have ordered the first season of "Sanford & Son" on DVD.  I'll know when the Visa bill gets here.

ME:  Am I going to start seeing you at AA?

JESS:  Why?  So they can tow my car?

ME: Wait. . .what?  That's Triple-A, you dipshit!  AA is a totally different club altogether.

JESS: Pfft!  I'd have to see the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse playing Mario Kart in my living room before I'd quit drinking.  I don't know how the hell you did it.

ME:  I didn't have a choice.  You don't get it because you aren't an alcoholic, whereas I was sinking vodka faster than the Lusitania.

JESS: Ooh!  Obscure maritime reference for the win!

ME: I am a veritable font of motherfucking knowledge, yo.

JESS: Indeed.  So how's that guy you're seeing.

ME: Meh. . .I broke up with him.

JESS: So, what was wrong with THIS one?

ME: What's that supposed to mean?

JESS: All I mean is, you complain about being the crazy cat lady who lives alone eating Soup For One and collecting Anne Geddes posters and yet you dismiss perfectly decent guys for stupid reasons!

ME: They aren't stupid!

JESS:  OK. . .Paul.

ME: He had a Nickelback CD in his car.

JESS:  Kevin.

ME:  He put mustard on his french fries.

JESS:  John.

ME:  He always said "irregardless", I mean, c'mon.  That's not even a word!

JESS:  OK, I'll give you that one.  Tom.

ME:  He always wore Nikes.

JESS:  He WORKED for Nike!

ME: yeah, but. . .still.

JESS:  I give up.  You're smart, you're funny, you aren't physically repellent, and you have a near effortless ability to create a masterpiece of verbal profanity that would make a prison guard blush.  You deserve a decent guy so stop pushing them all away.  Not all men are like Gil.  If they were, the human race would die off.

ME:  OK, OK.  Don't get all "Hallmark Hall of Fame" on me.  It's too early for me to handle this Danielle Steel level of intimacy.

JESS:  Fuck you.

ME:  That's better.  Gina got all sappy on my this morning and I don't want to cry twice in one day.  It totally kills my gangsta street cred.

JESS:  Gina can't help being sweet.  She's the Molly Ringwald.

ME:  The what?

JESS:  The Molly Ringwald!  Haven't you noticed that in any given group of friends, everyone falls into one specific "Breakfast Club" persona?  The princess, the athlete, the brain, the criminal, and the basket case.  Gina's our princess.  She's the Molly Ringwald.

ME:  She IS cute as hell.  This year she was on, like, every page of her law office's brochure.

JESS:  That's just because she's the only one who works there who wasn't alive when a Roosevelt was president.  Their old brochure looked like a print ad for Polident.

ME:  She's also gorgeous.  And she never farts.  And she doesn't snort when she laughs.  And she can wear a bikini without her stomach looking like a Shar-Pei puppy.  And her hair always smells like the ocean.  Holy shit, she IS the Molly Ringwald.

JESS: How do you know what her hair smells like?

ME:  Shut up.  So how about Alex?

JESS:  Seriously?  This is a man who TiVo's "Jeopardy" and celebrates Stephen Hawking's birthday.

ME:  Anthony Michael Hall. . .got it.  And Max?

JESS:  Easy.  He's the big goofy jock who tapes guys' butt cheeks together and parties with people named Stubby.  He's totally the Emilio Esteves.

ME: So, how about you?

JESS (snorting):  I'm Mr. Vernon.  I'm the one who keeps you assholes from getting arrested.

ME:  So, wait. . .if you're Vernon, Gina is Molly, Alex is Anthony Michael, and Max is Emilio, that means I'm either the criminal or the basket case!

JESS:  I didn't make the rules.  Hate the game, not the player.

ME:  Oh, I'm not disagreeing with either one; just contemplating if I'm more of an Ally or a Judd.

JESS:  Well, personally, I'd say you're less likely to spend the day sitting at your desk scraping dandruff on your paperwork and more apt to be running up and down the halls of your office screaming "I wanna be an Air Force Ranger!", so I'd go with Judd.

ME:  Eat my shorts.

JESS: What was that?

ME: I said: Eat.  My.  Shorts.

JESS:  You just bought yourself another Saturday.

ME:  Oh, I'm crushed.

JESS:  You just bought one more.

ME:  Well, I'm free the Saturday after that.  Beyond that, I'm gonna have to check my calendar.

JESS:  Good, because it's going to be filled.  Instead of prison, you'll come here.  I'm got you for the rest of your natural-born life.

ME:  So?

JESS: You just got yourself another one.

ME:  Do you really think I give a shit?

JESS:  That's another!  Are you through?

ME:  Not.  Even.  Close.  BUD!

JESS:  Oh my God, Jen, I love you so hard right now.

ME:  This is why we're friends. . .demented and sad. . .but friends.

JESS:  Shut up, Bitch, and go fix me a turkey pot pie!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Red Dress Playlist: "C'mon Get Higher"

A while back, I started a self-improvement project, inspired by Jenny Lawson, the Great Bloggess. To read about the origin of my project, look here. For the short version, each week I will set out to conquer something that is holding me back from being the person I want to be. A relationship, a memory, a fear. . .anything that makes me less than I am. I will attack each challenge wearing my red dress as a cape for inspiration and as a symbol of the superheroes we all are inside. My goal is to undertake the daunting task of taking one crazy, neurotic, and mentally unstable woman and molding her into a productive member of our crazy, neurotic, and mentally unstable society.

My friend Alex is an engineer and a male.  As such, he is a very linear thinker who believes that every effect has a cause and every problem has a solution.  Nothing makes him lose his shit faster than if you tell him something occurred “for no reason”.  As such, Alex has made it his personal raison d’etre to help me to conquer my irrational fear of heights.
“Were you in a plane crash or something?” Alex has asked me. “Fell off a building? Was assaulted by a Harlem Globetrotter?  C’mon, Jen.  Nobody is afraid of something without some predicating traumatic event.”

But I am!  I am terrified of heights for absolutely no reason whatsoever.  And it wasn’t always that way. I mean, when I was a kid I used to climb on top of our garden shed and do upside-down swinging knee drops from a 15 foot cherry tree, but back then it wasn’t called “extreme sports”, it was called “being a fucking idiot”.  But I’m not totally inhibited.  In fact, just the other day I was at Taco Bell and ordered my Burrito Supreme with the FIRE salsa!  I live life on the EDGE, yo!
I tried to explain to Alex that anxieties develop over time as a result of stressors in our lives.  As we age and experience more things like illness, death, divorce, and reality TV we can begin slowly acquiring such compensating phobias as fear of heights, fear of snakes, fear of public humiliation, fear of closed spaces, and fear of leaving home.*
*Got it, got it, need it, got it, need it.
Sadly, this argument wasn’t powerful enough to assuage Alex’s disapproval, so he decided that I would “get over that shit” by having him and his lovely wife Gina take me rock-climbing.  “You’ll love it!” Alex grinned. “Rock climbing is just like hiking!” Yeah, sure. . .hiking with crippling fear of death and dismemberment as your body careens from the side of an 80 foot wall.*
*And while we’re on the subject, comparing one activity I hate with an equally unpleasant one does very little to state your case.
I’m not totally oblivious to rock-climbing.  This is Portland, Oregon after all, where 90% of the population tools off in their Subaru Outback every weekend to dangle off the side of a rock or some other hippy-dippy, weekend warrior bullshit like that.  And the health club where I used to work had the notable distinction of housing one of the largest indoor rock walls in the Pacific Northwest.  But although I worked at the club for a little over two years, the closest I came to the rock wall was walking past it on the way to get a smoothie and yelling “Tell Darwin I said ‘hi’!” at the assholes rappelling down its sides.
As I did not wish to humiliate myself in a former place of business, I agreed to meet Alex and Gina at their rock gym across town.  The first thing I noted when I walked in was the smell.  It was like chalk. . .and incense. . .and ass.  I briefly pondered making a trip to Target and returning with enough Febreze to spray the ever-loving shit out of this joint, but Alex had a mission, and within ten minutes I was harnessed, tied, and being wrenched up a wall by a 90 pound hipster in a Che Guevara tee shirt.
At first I was OK. . .I was focused. . .I was zen. . .then I looked down at the distance separating me from the ground I so dearly love and I began howling like a beagle at a Yanni concert.*
*You know what’s apparently hi-LAR-ious to a room full of hipsters? A 41-year-old white chick dangling from a rope and flailing like an epileptic at a laserlight show.
“Just relax!”  Che Guevara tee yelled to me. Yeah, well, I’ll tell you what, Patchouli McTreehugger, when my pasty ass is dangling 75 feet above terra firma then “relax” is just NOT in my fucking vocabulary, ‘kay?  But I did manage to at least keep my shrieking to a minimum, and after ten more minutes of psychological warfare, I was slowly lowered to the blessed, chalk-stained earth.
Did I overcome my fear of heights.  Not quite, but I did learn a few things. 
1.       Rock climbing is not about strength, per se.  Sure, being strong helps, but what is more important is proper technique, balance, flexibility, and clear focus. If your arms and legs are shaking like Michael J. Fox after a quad-shot latte, then the strength of your upper body won’t mean jack squat.
2.      The concept of extreme sports like rock climbing and naked bungee jumping is just another component in the vast conspiracy contrived to make me feel like I'm aging faster than a tuna sandwich in a glove compartment in July.
3.      My friends are assholes.
Do I think I’ll be returning to the rock gym?  Not a chance in hell.  But I may see if I can still do that swinging knee-drop thingy.  Never know when you might need to bust out a bad-ass ninja move.