Friday, September 28, 2012

Successfully Raising Short People Since 2002

I like to think of myself as an involved parent.  Even though I work full-time I am still able to attend most school functions, help nightly with homework. . .*

*Although the math is getting a little sketchy.  "If a bus leaves Memphis at 3:00am traveling 65mph due east and passes a car traveling 45mph. . ."  This math/reading skullfuckery makes me more uncomfortable than Ann Romney at a Mapplethorpe exhibit.

. . .take my short people to church youth group, Cub Scouts, violin lessons, and any number of medical professionals, and still find time to chill with the shorties over a coloring book or yet another viewing of "The Avengers".*

*Watch Jeremy Renner and Chris Hemsworth again?  Oh...if I must.

Sure, at any given point in time my apartment may be trashed harder than Tommy Lee's room at the Chateau Marmont, and my short people might be bouncing off the walls like Capuchin monkeys after a cocktail of Red Bull and Mountain Dew. . .*

*Otherwise known as Honey Boo Boo "go-go" juice.  "You'd betta redneck-o-nize!"

. . .but by and large, I am a good mom.  I set reasonable limitations, demand proper etiquette and grammar, and  (despite the veritable plethora of snark I spew on my blogin person I am actually so freaking upbeat and happy-go-lucky I make Zooey Deschanel look like Sylvia Plath so through sheer osmosis, my short people are pretty damned happy too.  I wasn't always this way. . .I mean, I was always a good mom, but more in the Stepford-homemade-meals-around-the-kitchen-table-soccer-mom kind of way, not in the Taco-Bell-in-the-backseat-driving-from-daycare-to-the-dentist kind of way.  Since my divorce I am a "traditional" parent in the same way that Panda Express is a Chinese restaurant.  That is to say, not so much.  But, despite life being a little more frenetic, I'm finally happy, and the short people are too which goes a long way in my book.

My ex husband, Gil, has never been terribly involved in the boys' lives except for the odd spurts of hyper-involvement which generally preceeds a ham-handed threat to sue for custody.  The first time he pulled that shit I felt like I was walking around trapped in an IMAX version of "Dazed and Confused"; I was terrified that he would find some way to take away my reason for living and then I remembered that he was the cheapest son-of-a-bitch on the planet and would never actually spring for an attorney.  As my eyes slowly opened after ten years of drinking my way through a shitty marriage I finally saw Gil for who he truly was.  It was both a terrifying and freakishly enlightening moment, like I had just found out the ingredients of a ten-year Soylent Green diet.*

*"It's peeeeeeeooooooople!!!" 

Over the last two weeks he's been calling daily to "check on the boys", dropping by the school to introduce himself to other parents and teachers, downloading articles on our son M's autism, and offering to pay for violin lessons and a private tutor.*

*Cue sound of my stunned ass hitting the floor.  

At first I got all excited because I thought maybe he was dying but then I remembered the last few times Gil acted this way and my bullshit detector started beeping like Charlie Sheen's house arrest bracelet. Sure enough, Gil called the school to inquire as to how many afternoons the boys were attending the after-school care program and sent me a link to an article stating that 50% of custody cases against working mothers are now giving custody to the father, along with an email informing me that Four works from home and can be there for the boys 24/7.*

*I've stopped learning the names of Gil's wives.  It seems far more expedient to number them.  Oh, and for the record, his name isn't really "Gil".  That's just the name my friend Jess came up with: it's short for "Massengil" because he's such a tremendous douche.

I was skeptical of Gil's "50%" custody statistic until I read the accompanying article.  If you can stomach it without totally losing your shit, the link is HERE.  Are you freaking kidding me here?  So, let me get this straight:  a man walks out on his family or is so sadistically abusive that a woman has to run away, then she is forced to go back to school/work so that she can feed and clothe her children without government assistance and then she gets punished for it?  I may be just a scootch too close to the topic at hand but I haven't seen judgment that bad since Justin Guarini made the final two on "American Idol".  What the hell are these courts thinking?  Do they think that all working mom's WANT to be away from their children as much as they are?  Do they think that we LIKE spending every spare moment working, commuting, and praying to God that this month's paycheck is going to cover rent and utilities?  That's like saying your poodle LIKES dog food; if it's the only thing available at the 24-hour canine buffet then what fucking choice does he have?

Don't get me wrong, I love my job. My work is challenging and fulfilling and makes a genuine difference in people's lives.*

*And my coworkers are rad as shit.  ((fist bumps))

But if you think for one second that I wouldn't give anything to spend more time with my children then it's time to crush the tinfoil on your helmet because the crazy is starting to leak in.  It is easy to look at a working mother in the abstract as someone who isn't in the public eye handing out organic juice boxes at the T-ball game or volunteering for the bake sale/book fair/gangbang school fundraiser de jour but the list of things we do behind closed doors is longer than the transcripts of the Manson trial.  Yeah, it makes Gil look like a walking remake of "The Courtship of Eddie's Father" when he makes a cameo appearance at the Cub Scout Banquet when I'm on the road for work, but no one sees that I ironed their uniforms, helped them earn every patch on their chest, spent countless hours teaching them the Cub Scout pledge, attended every mind-blowingly boring pack meeting, stood outside for four weekends in a row in selling shitty popcorn, and spent hundreds of dollars on hats, scarves, handbooks, camping trips, and scouting supplies. . .no, all I'm judged on is one missed evening.  One.  Whereas Gil has been M.I.A. for months and is practically canonized for sainthood for finally showing up.  To me that's kind of like waiting at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, taking a Tonya Harding billy club to some poor bastard's patella at mile 26, and traipsing across the finish line to jack his medal.  That is a dick move, my friends.

Do I think Gil will make a play for custody?  Absolutely.  Not because he is suddenly awash with fatherly devotion but because he knows it will hit me where it hurts.  Do I think Gil will actually TAKE custody of the short people?  Not a chance in hell; because the bottom line is: he has no goddamned clue how to be a parent.  Parenting is serious business, folks.  We live in a world that is more fucked-up than Gary Busey on a three-day weekend and it is up to us to help our children navigate the minefield of life without winding up living in a basement asking coeds to put the lotion in the basket.  What Gil, and apparently 50% of the family courts in America fail to realize is that single working mothers are, first and foremost, mothers.  We are the ones who had to step up when the other one stepped out.  We are the ones who left abusive marriages with the change in our pockets and the clothes on our backs and created a better life for our children.  We are the ones who are awake at 3:00 a.m. making an asparagus costume while packing lunchboxes and tending to a vomiting toddler.  We are the ones who haven't had a social life or a new car since the Bush Administration (Sr., not Jr.) and don't see either one in the foreseeable future.  We are doing the best that we can.  Wait, let me repeat that because goddamn it, it bears repeating.  We.  Are doing.  The best.  That. We.  Can.

It is easy to look at parenting from a narcissistic "I could do better" lens but the point is that being a parent is a hands-on experience.  God knows I read all the books and did the whole "When I have kids I will never..." spiel, and guess what?  I did every single one of those things by the time the boys were two.  Parenting is like hang-gliding or bungee jumping: you can read about it and watch all of the YouTube videos in the world but it isn't until you step off of that cliff that you know if you're truly screwed.  And while I've been careening against that rock face for the better part of a decade, Gil is yet to even peer over the edge.

I don't intend for this post to turn into a whole ex-husband bashing tirade. . .*

*Although he makes it so damned easy.

. . .nor do I want it to turn into a "Who's Better: Working or Stay-at-Home Moms?" debate because quite frankly we need to cut that shit out.  Being a mom is tough enough without us constantly tearing each other down and arguing over who are the coolest Sneetches on the beaches; we should have each other's backs because despite my seething white-hot hatred for that sociopathic Hobbit Hillary Clinton she was right about one thing: it takes a village to raise our kids.

Parenting is not something you can pencil into your schedule.  It is not something you can cram into a two-week time frame to make up for years of neglect.  It is loud, and sticky, and smelly, and frustrating, and both the hardest and most rewarding job in the world.  And it is the one job you absolutely can NOT fuck up.  So, whether you are a stay-at-homer, a part-timer, a full-timer, or even an out-of-towner, all I ask is this:  be there.  Even if you can't be there physically, be there with a phone call, or a note, or Skype, or a text, or something.  Just be there.  Jesus, if they could bring Tupac back from the dead for the VMA's you sure as hell should be able to find a way to shoot your kid an email from time to time.

Just be there.

Much love to all of my fellow moms and dads out there who are fighting the good fight every day.  And an extra hug to those of you with a child on the autism spectrum.  Trust me, it gets easier.  Always remember that our children are not problems to be "fixed"; they are lives to be celebrated.


Monday, September 24, 2012

I Want to Kick Gotye in His Girly-Nads


"So, how are you doing?"  Kelly asked, popping a french fry in her mouth.

I shrugged, fiddling with my napkin.  "Better.  The first couple of days kind of sucked as evidenced by my little 'Girl, Interrupted' moment on your couch. . .and I had the requisite incoherent sobbing moment on the phone with Curtis.  I think I scared the shit out of him.  He said he's flying up to Portland."

Kelly chuckled.  "Should I call him and let him know you've crawled out of the Bell Jar?"

"Nah,"  I grinned, picking up my sandwich.  "Curtis likes to be the white knight.  Besides, I am DYING to see him and short of selling my eggs on craigslist there's no way I can afford a ticket to California any time soon."

Kelly raised an eyebrow cynically.  "Sweetie, not to be harsh but at your age those eggs would be giving off sulphur fumes.  They wouldn't get you a bus trip to Salem."  I flipped her off amiably and stirred my iced tea.  "So, what was the dealio with Dylan McRenner?  I never really got the whole spiel the other night."

"He and his ex wife want to try to give it one last try for their daughter.  They'd decided to get back together in October for Katie's birthday and give her the holidays as a family."  I smiled.  "She's going to be thrilled."

Kelly frowned and picked at her burger.  "Are you sure?  I mean, if they didn't get along before isn't it just better that they stay apart?"

"It wasn't that they fought all the time,"  I said.  "They got married because she got pregnant with Katie.  They love each other, but were never really IN love.  Then she cheated on him, he moved out, they got divorced. . .but they still get along and communicate really well.  They're friends."

"But is that enough?"  Kelly asked incredulously.  "I mean, wouldn't Katie rather have two parents that are madly in love with each other?"

I shook my head.  "Kell, kids don't care.  If you ask any kid if they'd rather have happy parents living apart or miserable parents under the same roof they'll pick miserable every time.  Kids don't care if you're romantically fulfilled, they just want you THERE."

"I guess."  she said, chewing pensively.  "But it sounds like his heart really isn't in it.  So, are they just going to disappoint Katie all over again, or will she be glad they at least made the effort?"

"I don't know."  I replied.  "They decided this whole arrangement about a year ago.  . ."



"We decided this whole arrangement a year ago."  Dylan muttered, staring at his hands.  "It just seemed like we owe it to Katie to give her a shot at a real family."

"You do,"  I agreed.  "you're doing the right thing."

He laughed bitterly.  "Yeah, it felt that way a year ago.  But things happen."  He looked up at my face.  "You happened."

I shook my head.  "This is your daughter, Dylan.  She is the one relationship you CAN'T screw up on.  You need to do what you think is best for Katie."

"But when do I get to do what's best for me?"  he cried.

"When she's eighteen?"  I squeezed his hand reassuringly.  "She comes first, D.  She has to always come first."

Dylan flashed his crooked smile.  "You know this would be a lot easier if you just yelled and called me an asshole."

"Oh, believe me, it would be a hell of a lot easier if you WERE an asshole."  I agreed.  "Then I could just talk trash with my friends, listen to shitty Kelly Clarkson songs, and lie on my couch watching Lifetime movies."

He peered at me critically.  "Wait, how is that different from what you do now?"

I leveled him with an icy glare.  "You are not allowed to be funny."  I said  "We're having a moment."

"Yeah."  he chuckled "I'm gonna miss that.  I just wish. . .I just wish I knew I could still see you.  Just. . .meet you for lunch or. . .something."

I let go of his hand slowly.  "But you can't.  You know you can't.  Not if you want to make an honest effort at this."

"I know,"  he sighed, rubbing a hand through his hair.  "Rachel and I agreed we would try this for a year.  I want so badly to ask you to wait for me. . ."

"But you can't."  I interrupted.  "You know that.  It's not fair to anyone involved to ask me to do that."   Dylan agreed and we sat in silence for a moment.  "Tell you what."  I laughed.  "Call me in a year and we'll see where we are."

Dylan shook his head sadly.  "You'll be gone;"  he muttered "someone else will come along and find you."

"I don't need to be found."  I replied "I found myself a long time ago."



"Did you really say that?"  Kelly gaped "Dude, that's some serious Dr. Phil shit right there, yo."

I snorted disdainfully.  "Pfft!  Dr. Phil?  Bitch, please.  I totally got that line from 'Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew'.  Anyhoo, the sentiment is the same.  It's nice to have someone to share your life, but I don't need someone to complete my life.  Sometimes we all need that reminder; especially when we're blinded by things like chiseled biceps and an ability to quote Judd Apatow movies."

"So, that's it then?"  Kelly asked taking a sip of her Diet Coke.

"I thought so," I said, spearing a cherry tomato on my plate.  "Then he called me last night in Vegas and said he told his ex he wasn't going through with it."

Kelly sputtered on her Diet Coke and did a classic spit-take over the remainder of my salad.*

*Dude, seriously?

Wha -- WHAT!?!?"  she shrieked.  "So, are you guys back together?  What the hell!?!?"

I pushed away my soda-bedaubed plate with disgust.  "I told him to take some time alone.  I think he needs it."  

Kelly gaped in shock.  "B-but, but he knows how to fix things. . .and. . .and kill flies. . .and he looks like Dylan McDermott and doesn't think your friends are mental. . ."*

*Yes, he does.

I stopped Kelly with a wave of my hand.  "All true, and all things that will still be there down the road.  But he hasn't really been out of a relationship for any extended period of time since his divorce.  That first year that I was on my own was tough and it was lonely as hell sometimes but I learned so much more about myself and what I was capable of.  It was an amazing experience and I think he needs that right now."

Kelly shook her head in awe.  "Look at you, being all grown-up and shit. So, will you still see him from time to time."

"Of course!"  I nodded.  "He's a great guy and I care about him. . .a lot.  He just needs this time to sort some stuff out in his family and his life."

Kelly pondered this quietly.  "So, can you still use him for sex?"

"Ummm. . .no."

"Can I?"

"Whore."  I said, flicking a crouton into Kelly's lap.

Kelly snagged the crouton and lobbed it back like Kirby Puckett shagging a line drive. "Frigid bitch."

"Hey!"  I cried  "I DO have a certain level of morality!"

Kelly snorted with derision.  "Yeah, you gotta get rid of that.  Morals are a real cock-block."

"I'll bear that in mind, Jenna Jameson."  I countered and we continued our meal in affable silence.



Do I know what's down the road for me?  For Dylan?  For. . .any of us?  Not really.  What I do know is that either way, we're all going to come out on top.  After an initial pity-party and the requisite "nobody-loves-me-I'm-going-to-go-eat-worms" debacle, I realized something very important.  If a man as bright and funny and kind as Dylan saw something in me, then someone else will too.  If Dylan and I ultimately wind up together, that could be great.  But even if we don't, he will always be my friend, and that's pretty damned great too.  And the most important thing I've learned over the past five years is that while it's nice to have someone to share life with, I no longer need someone to complete my life.  For the first time in a long time, I am no longer searching.  I am complete.


Friday, September 21, 2012

The Red Dress Playlist: "Wakin' Up in Vegas"

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.  

Sometimes I think I peaked in elementary school. . .well, socially speaking, that is.  When I was eight or nine I was the Alpha Bitch of the playground.  Kickball?  Oh, hellz yeah I'm Captain.  Gathering with my homegirls for a reenactment of last night's "Little House on the Prairie"?  You'd best believe I'm playing Laura.  Every.  Damned.  Time.  Even in middle school and high school I pretty well skated by with a relatively small but mighty group of compadres; in no small part due to the fact that I participated in the more high-profile activities like cheerleading and drama.*

*Yes, I was a whore for attention from birth.  I am of the firm belief that every child at the park standing atop the jungle gym screaming "LOOK AT ME! LOOK AT ME!" is a future blogger.

But even though I always had friends; many of them male, I never had "boyfriends".  Literally, never.  For the most part I never saw the point.  I would sit for hours listening to my girl friends sobbing and starving themselves and screaming on the phone to their boyfriends and then listen to them say, "You should TOTALLY get a boyfriend!" which to me was kind of like when someone takes a swig of expired milk, and then says "Jesus, this is disgusting!  Try it!"  As moronic as I was at sixteen, I didn't see an intrinsic value in finding a horny teenaged boy to define my status.

By the time I got to college, the thought of a boyfriend became more appealing, but at that point I was losing my social skills faster than an autistic kid after a shot of Nyquil.  I gained weight, I lost confidence, and a few traumatic events my sophomore year stripped away my entire sense of self and catapulted me headlong down a decades-long spiral of alcohol abuse and eating disorders.  I was deeply entrenched in both when I met my ex-husband and  my fucked-up mind and body were an enticing cocktail for someone with his innate need to control and manipulate.  I was floundering through my first year of law school with no self esteem or sense of direction and he swooped in and told me he'd take care of me.  Huzzah!  Done and done.  We married the next year and at age 26 I could honestly say he was the first real "boyfriend" I'd ever had.  I loved him. . .or thought I did. . .but in truth, I think I just wanted so desperately to be in love and to feel love that I projected those emotions onto him and spent the next nine years losing what was left of me to be the person I thought he wanted.

After we divorced, I gradually emerged from my shell and returned to the confident and outspoken woman I'd been in my youth but it took time, therapy, a DUI, and a shit ton of antidepressants to get there.  Since I got my sorry ass sober, returned to school, and started this blog, I now find myself surrounded by bright and interesting people and for the first time in a long time, I have FRIENDS again.*

*Ever scroll through the contacts on your phone and feel genuinely stunned that all of those people like you enough to actually give you their fucking phone number? . . . No?  Just me?

But although I now feel safe and secure enough to forge friendships, it is still painfully difficult for me to do so.  Where as a child I used to collect friends like Larry King collects wives, now I don't even answer the phone when it rings because I know it means I'll have to actually converse with a living, breathing human being.  And as for meeting NEW people?  Oh HELL to the no.  I don't have time to meet new people, I'm too busy avoiding the people I already know.  I mean, it was easy when we were younger: your mom drove you to the party that lasted until a specified time, you knew everyone there, then Mom picked you up and you went home.  Now there's so many. . .variables.  You have to mapquest the party's location, find a babysitter, you don't know who in hell will be there, and then there's the open-ended question of "When can I leave?"  Invariably, I wind up hunched in the corner. clutching my Diet Coke and wishing to God I were back home on the couch eating Wheat Thins and watching "Toddlers & Tiaras".  It's just too much work.*

*This probably goes a long way toward explaining why I work in the field of autism research.  These are my peeps.  ((this is where I'd normally insert a fist bump but we're not big on touching))

Unfortunately, my socially backward behavior has not greatly improved vis-a-vis the outside world either.  Sure, I may appear affable and friendly on the outside as the counter girl at Chipotle is bubbling excitedly about the latest campus political rally but inside my brain is screaming "Quit 'rocking the vote' and just make my goddamned burrito, Bitch!"  I know that I need to get a handle on this shit one day because there's only so long I can wander soloistically through life humming Walt Whitman's "Song of Myself" before I find myself living alone hoarding Thomas Kinckaide art.  There's a fine line between snarky bitch and crazy cat lady and I'm straddling it like a Ukranian gymnast.  No one wants to die alone; and let's face it, xenophobia only pays in high-stakes Scrabble.

So, for this weekend's Red Dress Challenge, I am undertaking a truly terrifying task.  On Friday afternoon I will be getting on a plane to travel to Las Vegas to spend three days at the "I 'Heart' Radio Music Festival" with 24 other people; only two of whom I know well.  We will be sharing hotel suites, intermingling our toiletries on the bathroom counter, and wandering the Strip with one another for the full 72 hours.  Suffice to say I'm feeling touchier than a priest at a Vatican summer camp.  The only thing saving me from full-blown panic mode is knowing that the bulk of our time will spent ogling the likes of Usher, P!nk, and my homeboy, Pitbull.*

*Look out Mr. 305, 'cuz Miss 503 is gonna keep it real up in heah!

So, I throw myself on the mercy of all of my socially gifted readers.  Advice?  Good thoughts?  Prayers that I don't act like a total asshole or freeze up so badly that they have to drag me around like it's "Weekend At Bernie III"?  Help a sister out, y'all.  Because even though I have never met most of you in person (and probably won't answer the phone if you call), in my own quirky, Boo Radley kind of way, I really do consider you my friends.


P.S.:  If you don't hear from me by Monday, send bail money.  ;)

Monday, September 17, 2012

Mother Nature Can Suck It

Historically, I do not have a good track record when it comes to the great outdoors.  While I am an avid fan of National Geographic magazine and a lover of all things HGTV, the thought of actually leaving my home to interact with nature makes me more anxious than Howard Hughes during cold and flu season.  My angst is not totally without provocation; I submit into evidence the following:

  • 1979:  Girl Scout camp.  I fell into Lake Cleawox and got some weird inner ear infection from what I am still convinced was toxic runoff from the Hanford nuclear power plant.  
  • 1981:  Camping trip with my aunt and uncle.  Someone didn't check the expiration date on the Miracle Whip and my cousins and I spent the next 48 hours calling out the names of the states in our duffel bags.
  • 1986:  Cheerleading camp.  We had a "sleepout under the stars" on our last night.  Do you know what fire ants like?  The smell of Aqua Net hair spray.  Keep in mind that this was 1986. . .yeah, I think you can see where this is going.
  • 1992:  Attempted to learn rock-climbing with some friends in Central Oregon.  Flash forward to the shot of me sliding 60 feet down a jagged rock face and landing on top of a  drifter named Tad who smelled of patchouli and unemployment.
  • 1998:  While living in Phoenix, Arizona I arrive home one day to find a three foot rattlesnake in my hall closet.  After shrieking like Maria Callas in late-stage labor and clambering atop my kitchen counter with my ex-husband's 9-iron, I called Maricopa County Animal Control to be told that I should be careful not to hurt it as they would come and trap it "humanely".  At that point I was ready to go all Elin Woods on that slimy bastard because, fuck snakes, but I waited patiently. . .for three hours. . .on the counter.
  • 2005:  Woke to a sharp stinging feeling on my forehead and JESUS CHRIST THERE'S A GODDAMNED SPIDER ON MY FACE!!!  I may or may not have raced around the bedroom shrieking and hysterically flailing my arms like I was having a seizure.  I will neither confirm nor deny this rumor.
  • 2011:  Squirrel.  In.  My.  Bedroom.  (for the full story, see here)

So, by and large I have reached a cease and desist order with Mother Nature.  As long as she keeps her shit out of my home, I will no longer attempt to hang at her crib.  So, it was with no small amount of displeasure that I noticed a group of her homies had taken up residence in my living room.

It started innocently enough; the short people and I took advantage of the unseasonably warm weather and the fact that my downstairs neighbor was back in rehab to leave our balcony door open.*

*Ordinarily the stench of Hood River Vodka and Columbia Gold drifting up from her place is enough to make my apartment smell like Tommy Lee's hotel room.

One night I was lying on my couch watching "Dance Moms" reading Ayn Rand, when I looked up and saw a fly buzzing around my ceiling fan.  Huh.  OK.  A little annoying, but not a huge deal, right?  Yeah, that's what I thought until the following night when I was watching "Dance Moms: Miami" contemplating feminist theory and I noticed that Senor Fly had invited a friend over for the evening.   Now this simply would not do.  You see, my natural reaction when I see anything with wings that is neither a Boeing 747 or a maxipad is to smack it like a dime-store hooker, but these babies were too far from reach.

Don't get me wrong, I'm all about animal rights and being cruelty-free and all of that hippy-dippy crap. . .*

*No, I'm not.

. . .but I only support the rights of the cute animals.  Dolphins?  Otters?  Naked mole rats?  I'll go to the wall for them any day.  But if it's a showdown between me and a buzzing, stinging projectile it's gonna get all Arab Spring up in here.  Every.  Damned.  Time.

By day three the flies appeared to be multiplying at an Amityville rate.  They hovered above my couch like it was Occupy Ceiling Fan.  You would think that turning on the ceiling fan itself might act as a deterrent to my new house guests.  You might think that. . .but you would be wrong.  Rather than being alarmed by the sight of five giant, rotating fly swatters careening toward their fragile exoskeletons, the flies saw the fan as their own personal teacup ride; thus turning my living room ceiling into The Happiest Place on Earth.

On day four I stood aloft my coffee table, staring down the Fly Girls like Dirty Harry.  Oh, it's on like Saigon, bitches.  Dylan McRenner watched me from the couch with detached amusement.

"Maybe this is just karma for all of the insects you've brutally slaughtered over the years."  he smirked.

"I'm Lutheran,"  I replied, eyes still locked on my prey, "we don't believe in karma."

"What DO Lutherans believe in, exactly?"

"Potlucks and guilt."  I climbed down slowly from the coffee table.  "You may want to step aside because I'm about to bust out a CostCo sized can of Smack Down.  I didn't scratch and claw my way this far up the industrialized food chain to commune with Mother Nature in my damned living room."

Dylan chuckled from his vantage point on the couch.  "So, I'm guessing you won't be joining me on my next camping trip?"

I shuddered visibly.  "Unless 'camping' is code for 'flush toilets and room service', then no."

"What's your beef with the outdoors?"  he asked "You obviously don't have a problem with dirt, I've seen your car."*

*Yeah, yuk it up, Funny Man.

I sighed and plunked down on the couch beside him.  "Nature's just so. . .unpredictable.  It's like, any minute:  BAM! Tsunami, dust storm, rogue spider web to the face. . ."

"So, it's a control thing."  he concluded, nodding sagely. "Maybe you have a subconscious fear of the unknown and nature is just one giant ball of chaos.  You don't like the outdoors because you can't control it."

"Interesting theory, Dr. Phil.  Another would be that I don't like the outdoors because that's where the snakes and bugs live and I would like to keep it that way."  I stood and planted my hands on my hips menacingly.  "So, bearing that in mind, I'm about to get biblical on these motherfuckers.  Are you in?"

Dylan sighed and shook his head slowly.  "All right, Lord of the Flies. . .lead on."

I squealed with glee and raced from the room to amass my arsenal.  When I returned, Dylan looked at the items in my hands with confusion.

"Are you going to style their hair?"  he asked, gesturing toward the hair dryer in my left hand.

"Pfft!"  I snorted disdainfully.  "Obviously this will be used to corral the flies into formation."

"Obviously."  he nodded  "And the wrapping paper?  Are you planning on giving them a  hostess gift?"

I regarded him patiently.  "I will use the hair dryer to scare the flies into a specific direction.  When I do, you will be waiting with the vacuum cleaner turned on high and the upholstery attachment engaged.  Since that attachment is only about three feet long we will first connect the wrapping paper roll to the end of it so it will reach the flies and the magical powers of Dyson technology will take care of the rest."  I beamed triumphantly, thrilled with my pest-control acumen.

Dylan glanced at the ceiling briefly, then looked at me.  "I spy with my little eye, something beginning with 'C'."

I thought for a moment.  "Critters?  Ceiling fan?"

"No, 'crazy'.  Seriously, Jen, this idea is just one household appliance away from turning into an 'I Love Lucy' skit."

I smiled sweetly and patted Dylan's shoulder.  "That's just because you're looking at this situation like a firefighter.  Your natural inclination is to rescue and protect, while every strand of my DNA is screaming out to search and destroy."

He chuckled briefly.  "Oddly enough, that's both disturbing and arousing."

"Hey,"  I shrugged "I'm a Renaissance woman.  I can bring home the bacon and bludgeon you to death with the pan.  We've come a long way, Baby."

"There's only one hole in your plan."  Dylan said cautiously.  I raised an eyebrow inquisitively and he continued.  "You see, flies have 360 degree vision, which means that sneaking up on them with a Salon Selectives blow dryer is relatively impossible.  And they have a reaction time of less than a tenth of a second; hence their ability to dodge a swatter like Keanu Reeves in 'The Matrix'."

I stared at him blankly.  "How do you know this?"

Dylan shrugged, giving me that 'aw shucks' grin.*

*Damn, that boy's a fine little grinner.

"I dunno."  he replied "Just like I know that female fruit flies can live for up to 48 hours after their heads have been severed."

"Wait."  I cried "Back.  Up.  They can live?  For two days?  Without a. . .head!?!?"

He nodded.  "They continue to fly, walk, and even mate.  But apparently without the ability to smell their partners pheromones they remain relatively disinterested."

I shook my head quizzically.  "How do they know they're disinterested?  They fake their orgasms?  They leave the TV on during foreplay?"

"I don't know"  Dylan laughed "maybe they stare at the ceiling and think of England.  My point is, for whatever reason I know a little something about flies.  So, please. . .put the flame thrower and the machete away and let me try something."

I snorted disdainfully and watched as he walked into the kitchen and unearthed a small plastic glass from the dishwasher  He squeezed a hearty dollop of honey into the bottom, topped it off with bubble solution from M's SpongeBob bubble blower and set it on the coffee table beneath the fan.

"There!"  he smiled happily, obviously delighted with his DIY project de jour.  

I stared blankly.  "Honey?  Bubbles?  Are you inviting them to a rave? Hang on, let me see if I can find them some Ecstasy and a glowstick."

"It's a trap."  he explained, gesturing to his masterpiece.  "The flies are attracted to the honey, they fly into the bubble solution, but it's so thick and gooey that they can't fly out.  My grandma used to do this all of the time."

I squinted with distrust.  "Isn't your grandma the one who wears safety goggles and thinks your name is 'Skipper'?"

"No, that's Aunt Betsy.  Trust me, Jen.  This will work."

Unfortunately, for me trust is a nebulous concept.  Historically, the words 'trust me' have always ended in an astronomically nightmarish mind-fuck of David Lynch proportions, so  that is a phrase that will make me run faster than Usain Bolt after a triple espresso.  Nonetheless, I smiled, thanked Dylan, and left the jerry-rigged flytrap on the coffee table with minimal expectations.   So imagine my overwhelming sense of awe when I awoke the next morning to see this:

"Holy CRAP!"  I shrieked, gazing at the fly corpses with unbridled glee.  "It worked!  It really WORKED!"

Dylan laughed.  "I told you it would."  He smiled and handed me a coffee cup.

I stood, transfixed, shaking my head.  "I guess it's true."

"What?"  Dylan replied.  "That it's OK to trust people?"

"No."  I said, sipping my coffee thoughtfully.  "That you really can catch more flies with honey than with a Dyson. . .or something like that."

"Admit it; you're ridiculously turned on right now, aren't you."  he grinned, snaking his arms around my waist.

"I don't know about ridiculously,"  I countered, "but if you cut off my head I sure as hell wouldn't be thinking about England."



Monday, September 10, 2012

House Hunting With Jeremy Renner

When I decided to show what a wicked rad grown-up I was and buy a home this year I thought it would be like an episode of "My First Place" or "Property Hunters International" where I would be whisked to exotic locations while a smarmy, well-dressed, European homosexual regaled me with a veritable plethora of palatial homes.*

*Although, in retrospect, most legitimate grown-ups don't have collages of the Avengers on their bulletin board or use phrases like "wicked rad".  Lesson learned. 

Little did I know that I would soon be buried deeper than a Chilean coal miner in a mountain of paperwork, mortgage approvals, and so many obscure realty acronyms that I was left stammering "I'd like to buy a vowel?"   Before long my home search quickly devolved from a jaunty traipse through the suburbs to the type of odyssey that would make the Donner Party cringe.

In theory, it shouldn't have been that difficult.  I basically know what I want: something in the same school district, at least three bedrooms as right now the short people and I are crammed tighter than Kirstie Alley's Spanx, and preferrably somewhere where our neighbors are neither registered sex offenders or cooking crystal meth in their garage behind the push mower and the old Christmas decorations.  When working with a normal, functional adult, this is a relatively simple task.  With me?  Not so much.  (A) I'm pickier than a vegan having Thanksgiving dinner at Ted Nugent's house, (B) I can squeeze a penny so tight it makes Abe Lincoln cry like a little bitch.*

*Rationally, I know that my new job and pay raise puts me in a position where I can now comfortably support my family and purchase a small home.  But there is a small part of me that still remembers life post-divorce/pre-graduation when I would wake up nauseous wondering which was more important: water or electricity, because one of those bills was not getting paid.  That kind of fear doesn't fade easily, y'all. 

And most importantly, (C) despite logging countless hours of valuable HGTV research, I don't know jackshit about what to look for when searching for a house.  I tried to explain this to my realtor/high school friend, John, when we met for coffee the other day.*

*John may not be smarmy or European; but he is a well-dressed homosexual, so I'm 2:2.

     "How can you NOT know what to look for?"  he sighed, throwing up his hands in exasperation. "Didn't you read the pamphlet I gave you?  And the booklet?  AND the checklist conveniently titled 'What To Look For'"?

     I sipped my latte and shook my head meekly.  "I tried, John, I swear to God; but it was so freaking BORING!  Seriously, who writes this stuff?  It was the literary equivelent of watching paint dry."

    John rolled his eyes.*

*Drama queen.

    "Honey,"  he said patiently "it isn't InStyle magazine.  There are no pretty pictures or stories about how stars are 'Just Like Us'."

    "Hah!"  I cried triumphantly "That shows what you know!  'Stars, They're Just Like Us' is in US magazine, not InStyle!"  I gloated over my victory until I noticed John struggling to remain composed as the veins in his neck began beating out the bass line to Toni Basil's "Mickey".

    "Fine."  he said at long last.  Then why don't you find a way to make a home inspection checklist that you'll actually READ and will hold the attention of someone with obviously latent ADHD."
    "Maybe I will."  I taunted. 

    John snorted derisively.  "Yeah, good luck with that, Freakshow."*

*On second thought, I take back what I said about him being smarmy.

OK, game on.  If there is one thing I am it is competetive as hell and as my parents can attest to, the best way to get me to do something is to imply that I can't.  So, I went home and thought carefully about what interests me.  Blogging?  Yeah, but if I started printing out home inspection checklists and mortgage assessments on my blog my readership would drop faster than Willard Scott on a greased flagpole.  Shopping?  Sure, but again, spending money on useless (but pretty!) materialistic things isn't really condusive to a discussion on financial equity.  Reality TV?  Hmm, interesting thought, but seeing as how I only watch reality TV because I can muli-task on a shit ton of other stuff while watching it, I wouldn't say it actually HOLDS my interest.  Rather, it's like a refreshing sorbet that cleanses my mental palate before I can shut off my brain enough to sleep.  So, what's left?

I settled in to look at my movie collection and choose some quality viewing while I mulled my latest project.  Hmmmm. . ."The Hurt Locker"?  Too depressing.  "The Town"?  Too Ben Affleck-y.  "Ghost Protocol"?  Too. . . then it hit me.  Of course!  What is the one thing I can always count on to make me feel better and hold my interest?  It was right there in front of me, lovingly embodied in my DVD collection.  Jeremy Renner.  That man could read the Portland Trimet bus schedule and as long as he did it with his shirt off he'd have my complete and unwavering attention.  So I raced to my computer, dusted off John's pedantic Realty Guide, and got to work creating my masterpiece.


I raced to my next meeting with John, eager to show off my newly attained acumen.  I whizzed through the latest home, tapping on walls to check for dry rot, commenting on the water-spotted ceiling in the foyer, and waxing eloquent on all things flagstone and granite.

     "Holy House Hunters,"  John cried, shaking his head in wonder.  "You actually read the damned brochure, didn't you?  Sweetie, I'm so proud."

     I shook my head like a chihuahua with Tourette's.  "Even better!"  I cried "Jeremy read it to me!"

John looked at me with cautious bewilderment. . .*

*I get that a lot

. . .and then stared in stunned silence at the photographic masterpiece.

     "You. . .you made realty porn."  he whispered, awestruck.   "I feel both appalled and aroused.  Is that weird?"

     "Pfft!  Babe, that's nothing."  I laughed, throwing a concillatory arm around his shoulders. "Wait until I show you Chris Hemsworth's guide to adjusting your mortgage."