Monday, December 23, 2013

In The Midnight Hour, He Cried "HO! HO! HO!"

As a parent, I am hard-wired to protect my offspring.  As such, I attempt to lead them away from sharp objects, insist that they eat a (relatively) healthy diet, and discourage any extreme sporting activities that may or may not get them on "Ridiculousness" one day.*

*Except for dodgeball.  Dodgeball is the sport of kings, my friends.

But despite my half-assed Herculean efforts to shield my short people from the evils of the world, every year I found myself leading them to a quiet stranger, encouraging them to sit in his lap, and begging them to whisper in his ear what they REALLY want, while he calls them a "Ho".  The dichotomy of my "Stranger Danger" OCD and my willingness to thrust my offspring onto a strange man's crotch is almost as ironic as a hooker named Chastity, but hey! 'Tis the season, right?  Thankfully, my shorties have no reached the age where they've called shenanigans on the whole Santa thing, so I no longer need to schlep them to the mall for some quality begging and low-grade pedophilia.*

*Actually, I think my son M. may still believe but is keeping that on the downlow so he doesn't lose playground street cred.  Props to you, Little Man.

I truly thought that my days of mall Santa-ing were as long-gone as disco and MySpace, but like a drug addict or a stripper, I just keep getting pulled back into the lifestyle.

"Why did I agree to this again?"  I asked Gina as she navigated the mall parking lot in quest of an empty space.

"Because," she replied "you adore your precious godson, and you wanted an excuse to go shopping."

I shrugged.  "Well, yeah. . .there's that."  Just then, "Monster" came on the radio.  "Ooh!  Crank it!"  I cried, waving my hands at the speakers in excitement.

Gina regarded me with confusion.  "Wait. . .I thought you HATED Rihanna."

"But I loves me some Eminem, yo."  I grinned.

"I'm surprised you don't like Rihanna more,"  Gina smirked.  "you two have so much in common."

I furrowed my brow in thought.  "Because we're both singers?"

"Nope."  Gina said curtly.

"Because we're both fabulous trendsetters?"  I pondered.

"Not exactly."  she drawled.

I thought for a moment.  "Because we both have colossally shitty taste in men?"

"Aaaaaaand Bingo was it's name-o."  Gina replied, scootching her BMW into an empty parking spot.

While I gathered my belongings, Gina opened the back door and began extricating her 18-month-old son, Milo from his carseat.  As we made our way to the mall entrance I couldn't help but notice the glazed expressions and incoherent mumblings of everyone emerging from the mall doors.

"Mother Mary in a mojito, what's up with these people?"  Gina asked, clutching Milo protectively to her chest. Is there a gas leak?  Or have they been possessed?"  She grabbed my arm, terror in her brown eyes. "They've been possessed, haven't they?  They're pod people!"

I gently extricated my forearm from Gina's viselike grip.  "All right, let's take a deeeeeeep cleansing breath before you go all J. Love Hewitt on me, Ghost Whisperer.  No one has been possessed.  This is typical holiday mall behavior.  Be not afraid."

"Thanks, Jiminy Cricket", Gina muttered.  "But I don't need you to be my voice of reason right now.  Just cover me when I go in."

Gina reached for the door handle and we were immediately slapped in the face with an aura of cinnamon, pine boughs, and desperation.  All around us milled wild-eyed patrons, clutching their newly-acquired possessions and going all Marshawn Lynch on any foolhardy mall-walker who ventured into their path.  The smell of the Cinnabon mingled with the essence of Starbucks eggnog lattes and panic sweat that seemed to surround us in a cloying miasma of capitalism and holiday panic spirit.

"Dude, I'm tripping balls over here."  Gina gasped in terror.  "How are we going to make it to Santa Land?"

I shook my head slowly.  "I really don't think that's the core problem here, Geen."  I concluded.  "I think the greater question is 'How are we going to get out of here alive?'  I haven't seen a mall more jacked up since 'Dawn of the Dead'."

Undaunted, Gina squared her shoulders.  "We can do this.  We just need to call upon The Great One and ask ourselves WWJWD?" 

I stared at Gina in confusion.  

"What would Joss Whedon do?" she explained with gravity. 

"Oh, well that's easy."  I concluded.  "He'd kill off the most beloved person in the mall and then close it right when things were getting good."*

*R.I.P. 'Firefly'.

Huddling together for protection, Gina, Milo and I pushed, shoved, and elbowed our way to the center of the mall where were confronted with a display of such holiday wonder that it took our breath away.  Fake snow surrounded a carefully crafted, colorful cottage with a golden, velvet-lined throne.  A towering pine dripping with decorations towered over the cottage and everywhere you looked there were stars and twinkle lights and ornaments of every shape and size.  As we stood there in awe, a phalanx of brightly-dressed elves began to weave through the crowd, singing and dancing and spreading holiday cheer to the masses.

"This is. . .AMAZING."  Gina gasped incredulously.

"I know,"  I whispered breathlessly.  "It's like Disneyland, only without the latent misogyny and anti-Semitism."

"Although,"  Gina stated with a judicious tilt of her head.  "it really isn't accurate.  According to the Bible, Jesus was actually born in the fall, not the winter.  And the tree?  Totally improbable.  Jesus lived in the Middle East so in reality we should be hanging ornaments on a Jerusalem artichoke or a date palm.  The whole wreath, pine tree, and winter solstice rituals are actually throwbacks to paganism, not Christianity."

I glared at Gina with disgust.  "Well, thanks for that, Betty Buzzkill."  I grumbled.  "What's next?  Gonna tell me the Easter Bunny is a Scientologist?"

"Nope, pagan symbol of fertility."  Gina smirked.

"Oh yeah?"  I cried. "Well, what about Santa Claus, huh?  SAINT Nicholas?"

Gina smiled smugly.  "Based on the pagan god, Odin; a red suited man with a beard that used to leave candy and toys in the shoes of good children."

I frowned sadly.  "Well. . .shit. So, basically, my entire childhood has been a lie?" 

"Pretty much."  Gina sighed with a consoling pat on my shoulder.  "But onward Christian soldier, you still have thousand of years of existential guilt that can never be taken away from you."

Before I could reach over to smack Gina's perfectly coifed head the crowd around us erupted in cheer. We turned and watched as the jolly fat man himself wended his way through the throngs of children to seat himself ceremoniously upon his throne.  Squinting at him carefully, my eyes suddenly flew open in surprise.  "Holy crap,"  I gaped in astonishment.  "Either some of that legalized Mary Jane smoke has drifted over the Washington-Oregon border or that Santa Claus looks exactly like Jeff Bridges."

Gina tilted her head and peered over the shoulder of the man before her.  "I can't see."

I tugged at Gina's sleeve until she had a better vantage point.  "Here!  Look at him from this angle!"

Gina angled her head in the same direction as mine and let out a low gasp.  "Whoa. . .The Dude DOES abide."*

*So much love for my friends.  So.  Much.  Love.

As we wended our way to the entrance of Santa Land our mouths dropped open in shock at the indeterminably long line of visitors already queued up for soem quality lap time with Kris Kringle.

"Oh, for fuck's sake."  Gina muttered.  "That's it.  As of today I am officially an atheist."

"Ha!"  I countered, jabbing her slender arm with my forefinger.  "Santa is PAGAN, remember?  Suck it up and get in line with the rest of the Crazy Train, suckah!"

With a hearty sigh Gina shifted a now sleeping Milo to her hip and we made our way down the Green Mile to the end of the line. And I have to say, aside from a rather Heironymous Bosch-like odyssey through a labyrinth of velvet ropes and arcane direction signage, they kept that line moving at a healthy clip and before long we were walking up to the man himself.  A few paces before approaching the throne, however, Gina stopped in her tracks.

"Oh my God!"  she hissed in my ear. "Can you SMELL that?"

I rolled my eyes.  "Geen, we've been standing in a mall neck-to-nuts with the unwashed masses for the last fifteen minutes.  My olfactory senses are officially maxed out."

"It's HIM!"  Gina whispered frantically, jerking her head in an oh-so-not-subtle gesture toward Father Christmas.  "He REEKS of cigarette smoke!"

I threw my hands in the air.  "So, Santa likes to have a smoke and a couple of shots on his break, so what?  If I had to spend all day in an itchy red suit having children scream in my ear and pee on my leg I'd be doing crystal meth by my lunch hour."

Gina shook her head emphatically, backing slowly away.  "No.  No way.  There is no chance I'm putting my son on Jolly Old Saint Nicotine's lap."

With a huff of frustration I blocked Gina's egress and plucked my affable godson from her arms.  "Don't worry, Milo."  I cooed.  Auntie Jen won't let you double-dip in Mommy's crazysauce."

As we approached Santa, I saw Milo's eyes widen in wonder and he wriggled with excitement in my arms.  In that moment I recaptured those amazing days when my short people were that innocent, that trusting, that believing in fairies, and elves, and the pure magic of Christmas.  Looking at Milo's beaming face I felt my eyes fill with tears knowing that while Gina had many more years with him, in only seven short years mine would be graduating high school. . .then attending college. . .getting married. . .and bringing their own little ones to see Santa.  I suddenly longed to have my babies back; for just one more day to cradle two soft, cooing infants in my arms.

I walked toward Santa, the joy and majesty of Christmas in my heart, and a beloved child in my arms.  I saw magic.  I saw good will.  I saw glory.  I saw Christmas. . .

And I saw The Big Lebowski grinning back at me from his throne with yellowed teeth and a cough like a District 12 coal miner.

My smile wavering, I leaned down, gently kissed Milo's forehead, and before I handed him over I whispered sweetly in his shell-like ear.

"Remember your safe word."




Monday, December 16, 2013

Algebra: A Weapon of Math Destruction

I am something of a Renaissance woman.  That is to say, I work full-time, am successfully raising two exemplary short people, and still find time to have an active social life.  While these are all good things individually, combined they leave me more exhausted than Rosie O'Donnell bending over to tie her shoes.  I know they say you can't "have it all", but to that I call bullshit.  Here in the good ol' U.S. of Type-A we can have anything we want if we work hard enough!  Except, in my case, a working knowledge of basic math.

This wasn't always the case with me.  I was fine with math until the alphabet got all up in that business, at which point my brain hit the wall harder than Amanda Bynes trying to find the toilet at the Viper Room.  I do believe that the knowledge is in there somewhere, and I believe that if I can find a neural pathway that hasn't been damaged by years of reality TV and Turning Leaf Chardonnay, I CAN learn math.*

*Of course, I also believe that dogs walk on their hind legs when we aren't around and that Nathan Fillion secretly reads my blog.

Unfortunately for me, my number "smarts" are not yet at a workable level.  And of greater misfortune, my short people now have math assignments with X's and Y's and squiggly arrows that make me more confused than Jessica Simpson on "Celebrity Jeopardy".  So, they come home each day, red-cheeked and ambitious, pull their binders from their backpacks and ask the age-old question, "Mommy, can you help me with my homework?"*

*SPOILER ALERT:  The answer is "no".

Don't get me wrong, I'm all about supporting education and that our children are our future, and shit like that; but at the end of the day, when I think about something hard I want to slam down on my kitchen table and do until I'm satisfied, algebra ain't it.  Last night the boys and I sat down with their assignments and after fifteen minutes of squinting, muttering, and more eyebrow raising than Spock watching a "Girls Gone Wild" video, I admitted defeat.

"Should we call Poppo?"  my son J. asked.

"Yes!"  I cried.  "Wait. . .no.  I don't want your grandpa to know that his hard earned money paid my tuition so I could drink wine coolers at the Theta Chi house."

"What about Brandon?"  J.  mused.

I snorted.  "Dude, his knowledge of math makes me look like freaking Good Will Hunting. Try again."

J. tilted his head in thought, then beamed.  "I know!  We can call Coulson!"

I shook my head solemnly.  "Good idea, Sweetie, but we just aren't at the stage of our relationship where I'm ready for Coulson to know that I'm functionally retarded."

J. threw his hands in the air in frustration.  "Well, then what am I supposed to do?"  he whined.  "YOU'RE no help!"

He had a valid point.  When it comes to math, I am no help.  If you need someone to write an essay, memorize historical facts, or analyze statistical data, I'm your gal.  And even though my grasp of science is shakier than an IKEA bookshelf, I can still fake it like a whore when the rent is due.  But math?  No.  Just. . .no.  But part of that, I believe, is that I tend to stumble through life like a drunken blind man, navigating obstacles as they arise and trying to maintain appearances and as such, I am a master at the art of bullshit.  And sadly, bullshit has no place in math.  In math, everything is black and white and even though Cady Herron astutely avows that "the limit does not exist" there are hard fast rules and finite limits in math.*

*You have to speak fluent "Mean Girls" to hang with me.  Oh!  And on Wednesdays?  We wear pink.

The bottom line is: math makes the rules.  If educational subjects were like high school, then math would be the nerd getting bullied by English and P.E., only to come back with an AK-47 and open fire on Social Studies and Chemistry behind the bleachers.  You may knock it down but it will ultimately come back to kick your ass.  So, thus emboldened, I took J.'s math book in hand and gave it another go.  And once again, the information was about as well-received as Paula Deen at the Apollo Theater and I found myself feeling a little like this:

"Sorry, Kid."  I sighed, handing the book back to my son.  "But, hey!  Education isn't everything!  There's no shame in being a carny; the circus life is a grand and venerable profession."

Of course, J., being my son, refused to budge and continued drilling me like he was EXXON and I was an Alaskan oil field.

"Seriously, Mommy?"  he finally sighed.  "I'm eleven. . .you're, like, what?  Fifty?  And you have a Master's Degree!"

"But not in math!"  I cried defensively.*

*And for the record, I am only 43. . .smarmy little bastard.

J. raised his eyebrows and stared me down.  "Mommy, just because your degree is in Special Education does not mean you can act like you have a learning disability."*

*Well played.

"J. look at this!" I argued, pointing at the math problem in question.  "It has X's, and Y's, and. . .and. . .more zeroes than San Diego ComiCon!  I can't WORK with this!"

With a disappointed shake of his blond head, J. took back his book and started walking out of the room.

"I'm calling Poppo!"  he called over his shoulder.  "Which fraternity did you say you were drinking wine coolers at?"






Tuesday, December 10, 2013

the Dating Game

I know that most of my writing tends to be about my friends, and my amazing short people and the random acts of awesome that surround me on a daily basis, but I don't want to lead you astray lest you think that (despite the occasional bout of depression) my life is some brilliant melange of fun and laughter and fabulous people and non-stop shenanigans but. . .OK, it totally is.  Sorry.  I don’t want to rub your noses in it, but my life is freaking rad.  I know I tend to wax eloquent about the American Horror Story that is my dating history, but I've found that, in truth, it's a lot like Betty White: just when you think it’s dead it has a sudden resurgence in popularity and men start crashing in like Miley on a wrecking ball.

Despite the drama, the disappointment, and the uncomfortable silences, I really enjoy the mysterious vagueries of dating.  For me, dating is like Vegas: you take your chances, throw down your money, and maybe you end up with a big payoff, or maybe you wake up next to a dead hooker.  Either way, it beats sitting on your couch watching "Agents Of Shield" and eating Wheat Thins.  Even breakups aren't that bad because in the long run it's always for the best.  It's a little like being the owner of a New Orleans Home Depot before Hurricane Katrina: You hate to see it coming, but you know it’ll benefit you in the end.

Which is not to say that all dates are successful. We've all had those evenings where we walked into a situation whistling Dixie and come out more pissed off than Carrie Underwood with a Louisville Slugger.*

*And while we're on the subject, did anyone else catch "The Sound Of Music: Live" the other night?  Holy crap.  I haven't seen acting that stiff since Jose Baez delivered the Casey Anthony defense.

God and the Baby Jeebus know that I've spent more than one occasion sitting across from some guy who smells like Drakkar Noir and misogyny and has the interpersonal skills of Boo Radley while I sat there more out of it than Diane Sawyer at the London Olympics.  And as my friends Curtis and Gina can attest to, my last two "relationships" are something that could only have been scripted by Quentin Tarantino and Stephen King after snorting an 8-ball of Colombian marching powder.  But still, I enjoy the dance. . .the thrill of the hunt, if you will.  There's always that hope; that belief that the next guy will be "The One" and we'll go skipping off into the sunset like Adam Lambert on his way to a Cher concert.

But while I enjoy dating and could absolutely see myself in a long-term relationship, I don't know if I see myself ever getting married again.  I'm not ruling it out if the right guy comes along, but my experiences (both first hand and observed) have not shown marriage to be all that successful in sealing a relationship. You see, I love men.  Love them.  I love how they smell, I love how they take up space, I love how comfortable they are in their own skin. . .and as such, I can’t ever see myself reaching the point where I hate a man enough to tell him, “Hey, Babe.  Why don’t I take half your shit and we’ll never have sex again, ‘kay?”.  Because that’s what marriage is: roommates with better insurance.  I think that if two people want to be together then they should be together and when they don’t want to be, one gets the blender, the other gets the toaster, and the lawyers can stay the hell out of it.  Because marriage does not make you committed; it does not make you faithful.  If you believe that then it's time to crush the tinfoil on your helmet because some of the crazy is starting to seep through.  Shit, during my ten-year marriage my husband got more strange ass than a TriMet bus, and after his third wife I believe he’s having the marriage certificates written on a dry erase board.*

*That dude is more self-absorbed than SpongeBob in a hot tub.

Despite my militant fatwa on unholy matrimony and a dating record that sucks harder than a Kardashian at the Essence Awards, I still believe in love.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not actively hunting men down with a torch and a pitchfork like an angry villager from some circa-1930's monster flick, but I do put myself out there.  I talk to strangers, I smile at men in the grocery store; I live my life, do what makes me happy and believe that the right people will drift in and out of my periphery at the right time.  And, for the most part, they have.  Because the bottom line is: you can't fight the universe.  Eventually, you just have to sit back, do your thing, and don't you worry, don't you worry, child; 'cause heaven's got a plan for you.*

*Or, as a last resort, there's always an escort service.  For the record, I have no problem with prostitution as long as no one gets hurt. . .but I understand you have to pay extra for that.

And maybe that plan involves the man of your dreams falling into your waiting arms, maybe that plan involves you living with a friend in some surreal Grey Gardens existence, replete with head scarves and multiple cats, and maybe. . .just maybe, that plan involves you having such a rich and fulfilling existence surrounded by family and friends that you don't need or care about finding "The One".  Maybe that plan involves you waking up one day realizing that being alone is not the same thing as being lonely.  Maybe it means taking pride in your appearance and your actions not because you are trying to make someone else love you but because you love yourself so goddamned hard.  Maybe it means looking in the mirror and seeing that you'd found "The One" all along.  So, yes. . .I still believe in love.  Because I love myself more than any man ever could.

And I get to sleep in the middle of the bed.  Bonus.


Sunday, December 1, 2013

"It's Not You, It's. . .No, It's Totally You"

As mentioned in my last post, my friends mean the world to me.  If you are part of my posse there is nothing I will not do for you.  Nothing.  Which is the absolute sole reason I found myself in my friend Gina's car the other day on the way to my personal concentric circle of hell:  Michael's Arts and Crafts.

Despite being a relatively creative person, when confronted with aisles of scrapbooking supplies and silk flowers I become stabbier than a Manson youth at a Beatles concert.  And as the average Michael's clientele look like a casting call for "The Hills Have Eyes". . .*

*Only with more Crocs and Winnie-the-Pooh sweatshirts.

. . .this is SO not my milieu.  But as Gina was bound and determined to Martha Stewart all of her holiday decorations this year, I leaned into the strike zone and took one for the team.

"So, do you still want to try to visit Kelly in February?"  she asked, turning her BMW onto Kruse Way.*

*For those of you who don't know, our friend Kelly recently moved to Southern California.  I've tried to blog about it but every time I do I wind up crying like a fat chick at a Clay Aiken concert, so. . .no.

"Absolutely."  I replied.  "If you book the tickets then damned right I'll be on the next flight, payin' cash, first class, sittin' next to Vanna White."

Gina chuckled.  "Well, in your case, Nelly, you'll be sitting next to Vanna not-so-white, but I appreciate the gangsta flow."

"So, what exactly do you need from Michael's?"  I asked, choking down my disdain at the sound of the word.

"I need ribbon,"  Gina mused as we turned onto Interstate 5.  "gold and silver. . .and silk poinsettias.  But red.  Not rose or burgundy, I need a true red."

"Like this?"  I grinned, kicking off my leopard pumps to show her my freshly lacquered toes.  "Do you love it?  The color's called 'Bastille My Heart'."

Gina flicked a glance at my feet and scowled.  "That's not red, that's maroon." 

I pulled a foot closer to my face.*

*My eyesight may suck, but I'm still as flexible as a Cirque de Soleil performer on diazepam.

"You're on crack."  I concluded.  "This?  Is totally red."

Gina rolled her eyes.  "Jen, that is less red than anything on Jessica Simpson's bookshelf".

I paused in quiet awe for a moment before rewarding Gina with a s-l-o-w c-l-a-p.  "That was beautiful".  I whispered reverently.  "How long have you been waiting to use that one?"  

"You have no idea."  she responded as a weary sigh emanated from the back seat. I turned to regard Libby, the quiet young woman behind me, her shoulders slouched, and her pretty face masked by a silken curtain of black hair.  Libby is Gina's younger sister, and after a particularly painful "incident" with her boyfriend, Gina had flown Libby up from Colorado to try to yank her out of the Bell Jar.

"Seriously, Libs,"  Gina said gently, "you need to let this go.  It's over.  You're better off.  Just move on."

"It's NOT over!"  Libby cried.  "He didn't break up with me, he just said he needs to take a break to get his head together!"

Gina sighed.  "Yeah, I know, you told me that.  But 'taking a break' means something totally different to men than it does to women."

Libby began to cry again.  "But how am I supposed to KNOW what he really means?"

Gina pulled her car into the parking lot of Michael's, shut off the engine, and turned to face Libby head on.  "You aren't supposed to know."  she stated firmly.  "You CAN'T know because you're twenty-six years old and haven't put in the sweat equity to figure that shit out.  That's why I brought The Cryptex."

"The Kotex?"  Libby snuffled.

Gina took a patient breath.  "No, The CRYPTEX.  Dude, seriously, did you not see 'The Da Vinci Code'?  The Cryptex is the holder of secrets, the all-seeing, all-knowing key to what is true.  I offer you. . ."  Gina smiled and waved her hand toward me, "The Cryptex."

Libby wiped her eyes on her sleeve and regarded me warily.  "Why do you think Jen has all the answers?"

Gina smirked.  "Trust me, Libby, she may look like a hot mess, but this chick is Google Translate for men.  Type in anything they tell you; every pick-up, break-up, and shake-up line and Jen will tell you what it really means.  She's like The Whore Whisperer."*

*I choose to take this as a compliment.

Libby leaned forward pensively and locked her gaze with mine.  "So, when he said he needs a break to get his head together?"

"Tough love time?"  I asked.  "Because if you can't handle the truth better step off now, Tom Cruise."

Libby took a deep breath and braced herself.  "I'm ready."

"It means he wants a break so he can get his 'head' somewhere else."  I gravely intoned, watching as painful acceptance washed over Libby's delicate features.

"I think I knew that."  she whispered sadly.  "No. . .I KNOW I knew that; I just didn't want to believe it."

Gina reached over and stroked Libby's hair.  "I know it's tough, but trust me; the next time some guy feeds you a line like that, call Jen.  She's got an insane bullshit filter."

Libby smiled weakly at me.  "Show me some more?"

Gina grinned and tossed back her glossy black hair.  "OK, how about my personal favorite: 'You deserve so much better than me'."

"Pfft!  Easy."  I laughed.  "'I think I can do better'."

"Hmm,"  Gina mused with a furrowed brow. "what about, 'I'm not ready for a relationship.'"

"'. . .with YOU'."  I countered.

Gina narrowed her dark eyes.  "'It's not you, it's me'?"

"'I don't find YOU attractive'."  I replied seamlessly.

"'I just need some space right now'."

"'. . .without you in it'."

"'I still really care about you'."

"'I care enough be kinda bummed if I heard you died in a fire, but not enough to actually call you'."

"'Let's just be friends'."

"'I'm boning someone else'."

Libby threw her head back in laughter.  "How do you do that?" she chuckled.

"Years of experience, my dear."  I smirked with a shake of my head.  "When you've been Steven Hauschka-ed into the FriendZone as many times as I have, you learn how to read between the lines."

Libby's smile wavered as she picked at the hem of her sweater.  "I don't think I can just be his friend."  she whispered sadly.

"Then don't be!"  Gina cried.  "I mean, if he's a great guy and you just really enjoy hanging out with him without all of the mushy Katherine-Heigl-rom-com crap then, yeah, you can still be friends.  But trust me, if you're just remaining 'friends' because you think there's a chance he'll fall so desperately in love with you that he fills your office with roses or chases you down in an airport then fuck that noise.  Most guys won't even give you a ride to the airport, let alone chase you down in one."

I nodded in agreement.  "She's right, Libby.  Besides, after seeing you do the whole Sylvia Plath thing for the last forty-eight hours then I can guar-an-freaking-tee you that there's no way you can just be friends with this dude.  And you'll never get over him if he's still in your periphery so you need to just go all Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and press delete."

Libby gazed at me with watery eyes.  "Are you still friends with your exes?"  she asked plaintively.

I shrugged with a grin.  "The good ones.  Actually, some of my closest friends are guys I was involved with in the past.  You can still be friends with the ones you respect. . .the ones that still make you laugh and you know you can trust with all of your baggage.  The rest of them I basically told to eat a steaming bowl of dicks and cut my losses."

"But what do I do now?"  Libby begged us.  

"Now,"  Gina replied firmly, "you stock up on Ben & Jerry's, listen to some shitty Adele music, and cry like a little bitch for a few days.  It's all part of the process."

Libby buried her face in her hands and I reached back to pat her shoulder.  "Buck up, my Brave Little Toaster."  I told her.  "Trust me, in a few years you'll have built up the requisite rhino hide of cynicism and hopelessness and this shit will no longer faze you.  And in the meantime, keep going to places like Michael's and WalMart. . .you'll feel so much better about your life choices."

Gina glared at me as we climbed out of her car.  "I suppose it is for the best".  Libby admitted begrudgingly as we slogged through the rainy parking lot.  "I mean, he did tell me he was just super-busy with work and school right now."


He told her. . .

He told her he was "busy". . .?

Should I. . .?

No, that's a translation, and a lesson, for another time.

Dr. Phil, signing out.


Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thank You For Being A Friend

By and large, I am not a cheesy Hallmark Hall of Fame kinda gal.  I don't cry over youtube cat videos, I don't get misty-eyed over sappy music, and the whole "30 Days Of Gratitude" thing on Facebook makes me want to throat-punch a dolphin.  But while I am not one to wax eloquent over the myriad blessings in my life, I am appreciative each and every day. Because my life is amazing.  Seriously.  Not a day goes by when I don't look at my home, my job, and my family and think "Who did I blow in a former life to be this lucky?"

My family really is rad as shit.  My dad stepped in to be the short people's father after my debacle divorce and he has been the ideal of everything I hope they grow up to be.  My mother raised us to find the fun in everything and to be the type of woman who would never be dependent on a man and I thank her for that every day.  And my sister, Holly, has been my best friend, my worst enemy, and everything else a sibling should be.  She is the mirror to my past and I love her with all my heart.*

*Even if she did drag my sorry self out of bed this morning to take a Barre3 class. . .at 6:00 am.  My perky ass thanks you, Holly, but my screaming hamstrings kind of hate your face right now.

But while my family is the center of my universe, today I find myself thinking of my other family. . .my chosen family.  My friends.  So, at the risk of going all Leo Buscaglia and running around hugging and crying and shit, I did want to take this day of thanks to thank all of my friends who have been there for me and whom I will always be there for in return.  You guys rock the hardest.

KELLY - I know why you had to go, I know you needed to be somewhere where you could get back on your feet, my brain all of this, and yet my heart just can't accept it.  Since you moved, I feel like someone has torn off my right arm.  Promise me that if this school isn't a good fit you'll come back home.  Promise me that if living with your parents makes you want to go all Menendez brothers you'll come back home.  In fact, just promise me you'll come back home, because I miss you so much it hurts.

GINA - Thank you for always being the voice of reason and the mature adult who has probably kept Kelly and me out of the Big House when our shenanigans escalated.  I am in constant awe of your ability to seamlessly balance work, marriage, and your beautiful baby boy.  I am in even GREATER awe that someone as classy as you would want to  hang out with a dipshit like me; but I'm glad you do. 

CURTIS - I don't even know where to begin.  You are, beyond all doubt, the best friend I have ever had.  You're that 3:00am friend.  You know, the one I can call at some ungodly hour and I know you'll be there for me.  Partly because you're an amazing human being and partly because you're as big an insomniac as I so I know you'll be awake anyway.  I love you more than you will ever know.

JENNA - How have we not known each other forever, because, seriously?  You are the one who shows up with cookies after a shitty breakup, the one who taught my short people inappropriate hand gestures, and the only person I know who could convince me to scale a wall and jump off of a building.*

*Yeah, that happened.

You are magical, my friend.

JOHI - God bless the interwebs for bringing you into my life and God bless you for being so wicked rad that I will never let you leave.  I can't think of anyone I would rather tour Chicago and buy shoes with.  You are every bit as beautiful on the inside as the out with just the proper dash of asshole to make you fabulous.  xoxo

KANSAS KELLY - My twin.  My fellow autism momma.  And the woman with as majestic an ex-husband as mine.  We've been through some shit, mah deah.  But somehow it's easier to get through when I know I have someone like you holding hands through it all.  Take care of you.

DYLAN - Although things didn't work out with us, I will be eternally grateful to you for restoring my faith in true love. I am so glad to still have you as a friend; you are a good man. But you're still a lousy cook, Dude.  I'm just sayin'. . .

BEX - Screw customs, screw immigration, we WILL find a way to get you to the States.  And when we do, Johi and I will take you wildstriding to Taco Bell where we will dine like kings. Huzzah!

KEVIN & EMILY - You two give me hope and rekindle my belief in the fairy tale ending.  I love you both with all my heart but seriously!  Enough with the snake pics on Facebook or at least warn a bitch first!  One day I will make it to your Shire and mingle with you and the rest of the hobbits.  

BRANDON - My buddy, my headache, my science project.  We have the weirdest friendship on record but somehow it seems to work for us. I'll always have your back, Kid.  And yes, I will continue to "Mom the shit out of you" for the rest of your life so suck it up, Buttercup.

JAKE - I would still adore you even if you didn't hook a bitch up with free concert tickets on the regular.  Your blend of down-home country boy and anal-retentive control freak is like a one-man show of "The Odd Couple" and I love every minute of it.  

ABBY - So, you have issues.  Don't we all.  What I love the most about you is that you own your shit and aren't afraid to call other people out on theirs.  You abilities as a writer are only surpassed by your ability to give hope and clarity and kindness to others.  You are a blessing.

BISH - Whether we were spitting mashed potatoes at each other at formal sorority dinners or skipping class to drink shitty champagne at University Park, I have always known you were a kindred spirit.  Even though months can go by without seeing or speaking to you, when I see you again it's like no time has passed.  That is the sign of a true soulmate.

MISTY - I still consider you my friend.  We each had hurt feelings, all of which were valid, but I'm over it and hope you are too.  I miss you.

If I've left anyone off I am truly sorry but it's a little hard for me to think right now when I'm crying like a little bitch.  Yeah. . .you broke me.  Looking at every name on this list makes me feel so happy and yet so vulnerable.  I have given a piece of my heart to all of you, and with that comes the risk that it will be crushed.  I don't trust easily, but I trust all of you.  Thank you for honoring that trust. Thank you for trusting me with your hearts in return.  Thank you for the gift of your friendship.  Thank you for being you.

Happy Thanksgiving.


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Honkyville, USA. Population: Me

Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while know that I love my fair city with the burning fire of a thousand white-hot suns.*

*Which is ironic, considering the fact that, in Portland, we don't SEE the sun nine months out of the year.

Portland, Oregon is a weird and wonderful, caffeine-infused, skinny jean wearing bastard and I love it like Warren Jeffs loves young girls:  passionately, inappropriately, and with whispered apologies to the thing I will most likely offend and ultimately destroy.  But while I love urban downtown Portland, the suburbs?  Not so much.  Don't get me wrong, some of them are lovely.  Sellwood is classically elegant, West Linn and Wilsonville are thriving up-and-comers, and Hawthorne is just one vegan, organic, free-trade coffee shop away from being a 'Portlandia' sketch.  But I admit to getting a little twitchy when I have to cross over the river and through the 'hood, and Gresham?  No.  Just. . .no. 

But while the thought of inhabiting a quirky brownstone on NW 23rd street or a spacious loft in the trendy Pearl District fills my fecund heart with glee, neither option is terribly conducive to raising short people, so hi-ho, hi-ho, 'twas off to the 'burbs I go.

I chose my suburb for the following reasons: (a) It is consistently named "Best School District in the State of Oregon".  Yeah, you heard me. . .the entire damned state.  And considering my inability to add anything requiring more than ten fingers and that my knowledge of history in based on what season of "Buffy" it was when some major political shit went down, I was counting on the public school system to pick up the slack so my kids wouldn't be wearing a Taco Bell uniform and a hair net when they're forty.  (b) My house is walking distance to two amazing natural foods stores and a plethora of restaurants.  Now, this might not seem like a good reason to relocate but you need to understand that I watch a lot of Food Network programming.  And after every show, I need to eat. . .copiously and immediately.  This is why I don't watch 'Breaking Bad'; it would not end well.  And (c) My suburb has a rep for being full of rich, classy bitches and I thought "Hey!  Maybe some of that shit will rub off on me!"*

*Which obviously has not happened. . .as evidenced by my effusive use of the words 'bitches' and 'shit'.

People get a very distinct look on their face when you tell them you live in my part of Portland.  Generally it's that cool appraisal paired with a smug grin as they're picturing you diving all Scrooge McDuck in your pool of ducats.*

*But don't be fooled by the rocks that I got; I'm still, I'm still Jenny from the block...

In truth, I am your typical paycheck-to-paycheck single mom who tries to "pass" in my community every day.  Honestly, most days I'm amazed that the border patrol doesn't pick me off on Country Club Road when I come tooling by in my hoopty ride, but maybe they figure I'm with the Merry Maids.  My community is very wealthy, very safe, and very, very white.  Like. . .albino white. . .like, Robert Pattinson glistening in the sunlight white.  Par example: last week my friend Brandon and I were standing in my yard talking and I noticed my neighbor being all scowl-y and skulk-y and shooting Brandon the stink-eye.

"Umm, Martinez?"  I asked Brandon.  "Is there any reason besides your Boston Red Sox cap that my neighbor would be going all George Zimmerman on your ass?"

Brandon rolled his eyes.  "Jen, when was the last time anyone saw a Mexican in this neighborhood that wasn't pushing a lawn mower?"  

Touche, my friend.

Living in my community every day you gradually become blind to the fact that we have as much diversity as a snowglobe.  Kind of like when you make microwave popcorn and you sit on the couch and eat it, then you fall asleep watching 'The Kardashians' and wake up six hours later and go out to get the mail and come back in and you're, like "Wow. . .it really smells like microwave popcorn in here" but you didn't notice before because you were in the house eating the popcorn and 'The Kardashians' were on and when did Rob get so fat and seriously, Khloe needs to cut her losses and move on and where did Kendall get those shoes?  And. . .wait. . .what were we talking about?  Oh yeah. . .we're white.  Very, very white.

And there is no crime in my 'hood.  Zero.  Zilch.  At least none of any significance.  In fact, a few weeks back some dude walked into the store where my friend Nathan works and asked him to call the cops because some guy went all 5-1-5-0 on his face outside of a nearby bar.  Nathan called the po-po because he's all upstanding and shit and when they showed up to take the beat-up guy's statement they sent five police cars.  Five.  Which basically constitutes our entire police force.*

*And did I mention the cops in my 'burb drive Range Rovers?  Because. . .yeah.

I guess they weren't too taxed from a day of citing people for excessive air-kissing or wearing white shoes after Labor day to send out the SWAT team for this guy's stolen cellphone.  You don't know what kind of back-up you'll need to take one drunk guy's statement in an organic grocery store.  Vegans be cray-cray, yo.

In much the same way I turn a blind eye to the glaring lack of melanin in my community, I am oblivious to the lack of crime as well.  That is, until our local paper comes out and I have the opportunity to peruse the police blotter.  I present to you, some excerpts from last week's issue.

She should see what they're saying about her daughter on Instagram.  #whore  #nudeselfies  #lowselfesteem  #daddyissues   #sixteenandpregnant

First of all, there is nothing delightful about scarecrows.  Nothing.  Scarecrows are just oversized, handcrafted clowns and seriously?  Fuck clowns.  Secondly, are extra patrols REALLY necessary when someone has gone out of their way to rid the earth of scarecrows?  I think not.  And thirdly, we have no farmland in my 'hood, so WHAT KIND OF TWISTED MOFO HAS MULTIPLE SCARECROWS ON THEIR PROPERTY!?!?  I think the 5-0's time would be better served checking this dude's basement for roofied coeds and jars of lotion.

Oh, never mind.  That's what was in the basement.  As you were.

See, there's her first problem.  Everyone knows you don't "invite him over to get his stuff".  You sell the electronics on Craigslist and leave the rest on the lawn.  Pfft!  Amateur. . .

Someone was obviously absent the day Dick Van Dyke taught us all to "Stop, Drop, and Roll".

Has Martha Stewart been in the area?  Because we all know about her penchant for yard decor and criminal malfeasance.  That bitch's fingers are stickier than a Vietnamese whore in a peanut brittle factory.  But still. . .it would be interesting to know what she could do armed with nothing but a ceramic mushroom, a hot glue gun, and a dream. . .

Honestly, I'd be less terrified of seeing some dude who looks like 'Lil Wayne skulking around my Ford with a crowbar than some poor man's Yanni reenacting his "Live At The Acropolis" tour in my cul-de-sac.  That shit ain't right. . .

So, while it would be nice to expose my short people to something more ethnically diverse than Taco Bell, you can see why I live here.  In summation:  great schools, good food, no crime, rich people, and thanks to the work of one good man with excellent night vision and a flatbed truck. . .no scarecrows.

Now, if we could just do something about that pesky yard gnome outbreak. . .