Elf on the Shelf

Disclaimer:  If you think the “Elf on the Shelf”  is the greatest thing since sliced bread- then beat it sucker- this post ain’t for you.  If you’re a relatively new parent and considering purchasing an Elf on the Shelf- then let this post serve as fair warning.  And for those of you like me that have stuff to do, I don’t know, like earn a living…you’ll appreciate this (I hope).

It all started out so innocently about 7 years ago.  My eldest was a lonely only and just 3 years old.  I was still bathed in the hope that I could be the mother I always longed to have; create cute family traditions, wear an apron and greet my children with cookies and milk when they got home from school.  Ahh…what a fool I was.  I don’t know why I thought the fact that a child had grown in my womb would somehow change my crass and cynical personality.  But, when your little one is still just being naughty by not eating her peas, or saying no all the time, you somehow think you can still achieve the unattainable.

The most wonderful time of the year was swiftly approaching and I was starting to feel the anxiety of creating the best Norman Rockwell holiday season for my small family.  My boss lady/dear friend and I were having lunch at a beautiful gourmet restaurant, surrounded by the city’s most fashionable.  I was telling her of the trials and tribulations of the terrible 3’s (the terrible twos are just a myth- created by someone who couldn’t find some good alliteration to go with the number 3).  And then she so kindly offered some friendly advice that she had just learned of from a friend of hers:  The Elf on the Shelf!  It was the latest and greatest parenting tool that you could only find in the most elite boutiques.  The Elf would magically appear just after Thanksgiving and then keep an eye on your little ones and report back to Santa.  An easy peasy way of getting your little ones to behave- right?  Wrong!!  Mind you, she’d never done this with her own child, who was practically grown at this point, so she was blind to the terrible horrors she was about to unleash into my life.

For those of you unfamiliar with this little demon spawn, let me explain.  You (the parent) are supposed to read a cutey patootie booksie about a cutey patootie elfie that the jolly fat guy himself has somehow sent to your house – but don’t tell your friends because they might not be as special as you and have their own private elf.  Each night after your little one is so sweetly tucked into bed… after fifteen trips to the bathroom, 47 bedtime stories and 75 billion other excuses for not sleeping….you’re supposed to REMEMBER to go move the fucking elf to a different location.  Then, oh what fun, when they wake up each morning they get to search the house to find this little motherfucker hanging out somewhere.

Well, soon word began to spread, the elf was no longer available exclusively in high end boutiques.  Every fucking card shop, drug store and convenience store was selling these little shitbirds.  And soon, moving the little fucker- which I could barely remember to do anyway, was no longer good enough.  Pictures were popping up on Facebook with the elf getting into mischief, eating cookies and spilling milk, taking a shit on the toilet, or tearing up long rolls of toilet paper.  What the fuck??  I thought this little shit was supposed to make my kids behave by reporting back to Santa- not SHOW my kids how to misbehave.  And besides all that, I can barely remember to move the blessed thing each night to a new location- much less give him creative activities.  You know who has to clean that shit up??  Me- that’s who!!  Like I need one more thing to do in my life.

And how many times, have my children asked forlornly, “Look mommy, the elf is in the same place as yesterday. Do you think he forgot to go see Santa?”  The answer is too many to count.  Fuck- knife to my heart- just one more item to add to my long list of parenting failures.  “Oh no, sweetheart, I think he just found that spot so comfy he decided to go back to the same place.”  Yeah, they only buy that lie one time- but when you’ve forgotten for 3 or more nights in a row, well let’s just say the magic starts to wear off.  Even they stop looking for him- the bastard.

Now, I know, I have a lot of very talented friends.  They love to post cute things their little elf is doing around the house on Pinterest and Facebook.  Some of them even find time to move the little motherfucker several times a day.  I’m happy for them that they get such a kick out of tricking their children and creating more work for themselves.  But, stop making the rest of us losers feel bad.

And on top of it all, I’m now hearing that having one elf is not good enough.  Oh no…-you must have an elf for each of your children so they can take it with them when they’re grown and shove this beautiful, consumer-driven tradition down the throats of their own little ones.

Today is the day after Thanksgiving, and I’m going to have to have that little shit show up sooner or later.  I look forward to the days when my children can look back and laugh- or perhaps they’ll just be crying in therapy.  Either way, at least I won’t have to move the fucking elf anymore.

Locked Out

For the past 10 years, my best girlfriend and I have escaped our families and gone to the mountains.  We eat, drink, smoke, talk, do puzzles, giggle and generally everything we can’t do on a day to day basis.  I know you think “doing puzzles?”  But, if you have small children you know that completing an actual puzzle is a monumental task.  This annual retreat is full of sweat pants and granny panties, no make-up and no cell phones; full on nitty gritty girl time.

We stay in a little cabin in the mountains of SC miles from any kind of real civilization.  The closest place is a gas station about a mile down the road.  Its really more of a convenience store/gas station/hamburger joint with an antique, home furnishing and jewelry department.  The burgers are the greasiest, best burgers you’ve ever tasted.  And since there is no cell reception, they have a nice pay phone outside for convenience.  Its really the only time in my life I ever have an opportunity to use a pay phone anymore- so that’s a nice trip down memory lane…but we’ll save that for later.  The convenience store/gas station/hamburger joint/antique, home furnishing and jewelry store is really one stop shopping for all your mountain needs.  Honestly, the person who came up with this place is a pure genius.  “Yes, I need gas, a beer, some beef jerky, a burger and a shabby chic refurbished chest of drawers.”  Done and done.

Now the clientele are what you might call “mountain folk”.  Let me apologize in advance to any mountain folk who are reading this.  But really, what are the chances?  You can’t get cell reception there- so I’m pretty sure the internet connection ain’t too great either. This is supposed to be a funny story- so keep your moonshine drinking, jug blowing, banjo pickin’ hate mail to yourself- and get a sense of humor already.  (please don’t hurt me)

I’m sure there are many beautiful mountain gals out there, let’s not forget the beautiful Charlene Darling on the Andy Griffith Show.  She could’ve easily taken the crown for Miss Appalachia.  I know she was gaga for Andy- but really, Barney would’ve made a good catch too.  He was young, employed, breathing- what more could a girl ask for?  But alas, I’ve never laid eyes on anyone as good lookin’ as Charlene Darling in this neck of the woods.  So, needless to say, the best part of visiting the gas station/convenience store/hamburger joint/antique, home furnishing and jewelery store is that for a few minutes each year, no matter how bad I look, how fat I am, how much my roots are showing…. I am the prettiest girl in town.

I believe it was our second year on this annual retreat, when the unthinkable happened.  We mustered up the energy to walk the five feet from the bed to the rocking chairs on the porch.  We were still in our pajamas, I had slippers on, she had only her socks, we’d settled in to play cards, drink coffee, smoke ciggies and enjoy the morning.  Eventually, one of us had to go back in to get something and we realized our fatal mistake- we were locked out!

Remember, no cell service, no landline, no keys to the car, no fucking keys to the cabin, a mile from the gas station- SHIT!!  We both decided this qualified as full on EMERGENCY situation. I mean we could die from exposure!! What the fuck were we going to do????  So I had a brilliant idea.  We throw the coffee table through the window.  It seemed like a perfectly logical idea to me, how else would we get in?  But, as she always does, (bless her heart) she talked some sense into me.  And suggested we walk for help.   So we grabbed our smokes and began the mile long walk to the gas station/convenience store/hamburger joint/antique, home furnishing and jewelery store seeking aid.

Now, we had a long rocky dirt road to walk down hill first before we even reached the paved road.  Remember, I had my slippers and she only had socks on.  So we compromised and I gave her one slipper.  Thus, we began our journey with only one slipper on for each of us.  Still in our pajamas, with one slipper on each foot, we casually walked the mile down the country lane with truckers and bikers whizzing past us.  No one seemed to find it unusal that two women would be walking along side this road dressed in pajamas- which by the way also means- NO BRAS- boobs were bouncing all over the place.

On a side note, I’ve known this chica since college.  We were in sorority together.  And anyone who’s ever been in a sorority knows there are certain rules of conduct one must uphold at ALL times- whether you’re in college or not.  There were very specific rules about smoking cigarettes.  Apparently, these rules were written before the whole lung cancer scare began- what a bummer.  Anyway, two of the biggest rules pertaining to cigs were that one should always roll your ashes into an ashtray in a ladylike manner- never tap!  You know, those disgusting women who tap there cigarettes- such trash.  They’re also the same women who wear tank tops with no bras and feather their hair- yuck.  The other rule was to NEVER walk down the street smoking a cigarette.  Honestly, what could be more unladylike then walking and smoking?

Well, she decided having a smoke while we walked seeking aid for our full on EMERGENCY would be a fine idea and offered me one as well.  Always the lady, I politely declined.  And she was all, “what the fuck?”  I gently reminded her that in our sorority a lady never walks down the street smoking.  Again, she talked some sense into me, waving her arms around and said, “Who the fuck are you trying to impress?”  She was right, we were walking down a road in the middle of nowhere, in our pajamas, with no bras, one slipper on each foot…really I don’t know why I thought smoking was going to hurt my reputation.  So smoke it up I did.

We finally reached the gas station/convenience store/hamburger joint/antique, home furnishing and jewelery store and realized we had no money for the pay phone.  There was a Southern Baptist church right next door (sorry I forgot to mention that early- but really who the hell cares).  Again, I apologize in advance to my Southern Baptist friends, but hey, I’m a cradle Catholic and we don’t understand all your jibber jabber.  It was a Sunday and the parking lot was packed.  I thought we would definitely find someone to help us in there.  But, again, always the sensible person- she convinced me that if we went in there they’d be trying to save our souls, laying on of hands, speaking in tongues, handling snakes, baptizing us in giant pools of water- you know everything but helping us get back in the cabin.  And she was right- we had no place in a church that morning.

So we went into the gas station/convenience store/hamburger joint/antique, home furnishing and jewelery store and asked to use the phone.  The teenage boy behind the counter offered us his cell phone.  What??  A cell phone that worked out here in the middle of nowhere?? Apparently, only one carrier had conquered this highly lucrative market.  Being a full on EMERGENCY, we immediately dialed 911.  And then before they answered- hung up.  Because you know, a 911 call coming from a gas station/convenience store/hamburger joint/antique, home furnishing and jewelery store is never suspicious.  So of course, they called back and we had to explain the whole EMERGENCY.  The dispatcher kindly suggested we call a locksmith.  God bless the dispatcher- she was a GENIUS!

So we used the PHONE BOOK- I know- where the hell do you even get one of those things?  And called a locksmith.  Of course, he was in church handling snakes at the time and said it would be at least an hour before he could come.  We told him to meet us at the gas station/convenience store/hamburger joint/antique, home furnishing and jewelery store.  So we sat outside and patiently waited in our pajamas, no bras, one slipper wearing, cigarette smoking glory.

Upon his arrival, with his mountain wife in tow, he suggested that he follow us to our destination in his van.  Then we had to explain that we had no car and could we pretty please have a ride?  Hesitantly, he agreed and we sat on the floor of a locksmith van.  Keys, picks and other tools of the trade jingling all around us as we directed him back to the cabin.

In just minutes he had us back in our humble abode and we wrote him a check.  He had saved us from this life threatening EMERGENCY and we were ever so grateful.  The landlord now keeps the key in a coded lock box outside the door.  Please God don’t let me ever forget the code!

By the by, I don’t smoke anymore.  Just want to make sure y’all know what a lady I am.

Jazz Hands

Since the day I was born I have had one ambition in life: to be an actor.  Okay, I’ll admit, I don’t remember my exact thoughts on the moment I left the warmth of my mother’s vagina.  I’m sure my ambitions at that moment were something more like, “I need a boob to suck on, ASAP!” and “Someone please wipe my ass!”  In fact, I’m sure I know more than a few guys who that’s still their prime ambition.

I am certain though, that as soon as they brought me home from the hospital, I looked around that crap hole and thought, “there has got to be something better.”  And as I got older, I found myself more and more in the land of make believe- which is the essence of acting.  Thus began my lifelong love affair with the theatre (that sounds so gay- and I don’t mean that in a homophobic way- I mean it in my 4th grade mind sort of way…ugh, you know what I mean!!).

Every chance I got, I’d be in the school play, take acting classes, go to drama camp; I was and still am a total Drama Club Nerd.  I even went on to major in Theatre in college.  One semester, my dear old Dad asked me what classes I was taking.  So I told him: Acting, Voice, Movement, Ballet, Yoga, Feminist Theatre, African American Theatre and Spanish.  “Jesus Christ, what the hell am I paying for?” was his supportive reply.  But, he paid the bills and continued to let me pursue my pie in the sky dream.  Despite all his shortcomings, he has always believed in me.

Well, as every former and current Theatre major knows, directors only cast their favorites.  And guess what?  I was not a favorite.  I am proud of the work my alma mater pursued, many avant garde pieces featuring people covering themselves in oatmeal and swinging from giant rings.  I would have LOVED to be in these productions, but alas I was never chosen.  They did very little traditional theatre.  However, they did do one musical while I was there, West Side Story.  And no, I was not in that one either.  Not that I’m bitter or anything (well maybe a little).

However, one of my dearest friends, Brady, was cast as the starring role of Tony!  Brady was born for musical theatre.  He could dance, sing and act.  He made me laugh to no end and we got into trouble in many an acting class for giggling.  Brady was also gay.  I know, a man in musical theatre being gay is really just too shocking to believe, but its true.  My best girlfriend, Brady and I were quite the trio and when he took to the stage as the macho Tony, she and I could barely contain ourselves.  It was just too funny to see our flamboyantly gay friend in such a macho role.

Gay men truly are a girl’s dream come true.  They can charm the pants off of you.  And the best part is, the last thing they want is for your pants to come off at all.  They tell you your beautiful, they’re supportive, they listen, laugh and gossip with you just a like a girlfriend- except better.  Now, just the other day I had a girlfriend argue that they can be very bitchy too.  But, in my experience, I’ve found some of the greatest support and love from the gay men in my life.

Brady was definitely one of those men.  Brady was not only a talented stage dancer, but he could ballroom dance like nobody’s business.  When you danced with Brady, he would twist and turn you in all the right directions.  Even if you’d never danced a step in your life, he could make you feel like the belle of the ball.  In my experience, most straight men cannot lead at all.  I guess its because they just don’t teach boys to dance properly anymore.  However, I am lucky to have married a man who loves to dance and can trot me around the dance floor as good as any gay guy.

This idea that gay men are just better dance partners struck me the other night as a gay man lead me around the dance floor.  His arms were strong and his stance commanding.  It reminded me so much of dancing with my dear friend Brady.  BTW, I was rehearsing for a play- I know- I finally convinced someone I was good enough to cast.  Its only taken 39 years, but hey, at least I’m persistent.  (God, please don’t let me fuck this up).

The play I am so blessed to be a part of now is a burlesque musical revue in the style of 1930’s and 40’s Hollywood movies.  Brady would have eaten this shit up with a spoon and licked the bowl!!  The directors have truly inspired me and reignited my love for theatre, which I had been sorely missing for too long.  And guess what?  They’re gay too.  Like I said, musical theatre….gay men, shocking I know.

The day I auditioned, I had two major signs from God, Allah, the universe or whatever you believe in.  The first signal I got was my audtion time: 4:20.  Now, for those of you that know the significance of that time then you know what my favorite past time used to be.  For those of you that don’t, well I’m not going to be the one to fill you in.  Suffice it to say, it is a lucky time of day for me.  I even have a clock on my desk that has no battery in it and I have it set for 4:20 all the time.

The second big NEON SIGN that came at me, was from my best friend.  She called to wish me luck at the audition and remind me that that day was the 3rd anniversary of Brady’s death.  Brady joined the army to help pay off student loans.  He served valiantly in Iraq and Afghanistan. And I believe he fell victim to PTSD.

Now Brady always loved to drink and party.  He was the life of every party.  But after returning from the war, alcohol and drugs became his best friend.  Even after suffering from pancreatiis and being told by every doctor that if he continued to drink he would die, he did.  He was in a toxic relationship with a man who took full advantage of every penny Brady had saved.  He went AWOL on more than one occasion and was punished by his hire ups.  But still he could not put down the bottle and that is what finally killed him.

When she reminded me about that, I knew this was it.  I knew Brady was smiling down on me from heaven and I channeled every bit of his Jazz Hands into my audition.  I am so blessed to have had him in my life and am reminded of him now every day in rehearsal.  I feel his support, and dry sense of humor coming out in all kinds of ways.  Thank God for Brady and his beautiful Jazz Hands.


This morning, I’m sitting in Starbucks after meeting some other marketing peeps catching up about who to know, what to do, what bullshit works, what doesn’t.  Its been a while since I’ve visited this particular coffee shop.  I haven’t purposefully been avoiding it, but based on my last experience, I probably should, and sitting here has brought back one particular “flash” back.  Don’t get me wrong the service is great, and my Peppermint Mocha fancy pants $5 overpriced coffee is delish (don’t ask me what size because I still don’t understand the whole tall, grande, super gigante, snooty size system they have).  But, the last time I was here, was a visit I will never forget.

I’ve been selling advertising in a local magazine for many years.  And about a year ago or so, I had the final layout of the magazine to proof.  I found myself a nice quiet corner to sit and get my work done.  It was a very cold day- which in Charleston, SC means its below 60 degrees.  I mean, I had to put on a sweater and everything.  So we’re talking super cold.

Like I said it was a cold day for our little sub-tropical paradise and everyone was bundled up.  A gentleman came in and sat at the table next to me.  He was wearing those super short running shorts; you know, the kind Richard Simmons wears.  And I thought, “gosh, he must be cold” and went right back to my work.

He was reading the newspaper, and every once in a while I would glance up and we would make eye contact. He never smiled or said anything and he would return to his paper and I’d return to my work.  As I sat there working, things started to change and when I say change, I mean CHANGE.  I glanced up and noticed part of his BALLS hanging out of the bottom of his shorts.

“Okay, stay calm”, I told myself, “surely he doesn’t know his balls are hanging out of those ridiculously short shorts”.  I quickly averted my eyes and returned to the work at hand.  I put my hand on my forehead to shade my eyes so I wouldn’t accidentally look at him.

On a side note, I have a major staring problem.  It can be anything unusual or out of the ordinary and try as I might I just can’t help but stare.  One time in 6th grade, we had a new student come to our class.  He was fresh off the boat from China and did not speak one word of English.  He was also 14 years old and wearing a lettermen’s jacket that had a big old Chinese letter on it.  I was completely fascinated.  I’d met people from foreign countries before, but never anyone so new and different.

His name was Ying Hua and our teacher introduced him and asked us to all make him feel welcome.  He sat two rows behind me and once he entered the room, I could NOT take my eyes off of him.  I literally was turning around so I could get a good look and soak it all in.  And soak it in I did!  I remember his shiny black hair, cut in a bowl hair cut, he had red shoes and the lettermen’s jacket was gray- and if I could read Chinese I’m certain I could tell you exactly what letter that was on his jacket.  But, as we all know, staring is rude.  Poor Ying Hua, as if he didn’t feel out of place enough, here was this weirdo girl turned around staring at him like he’d just come from Mars.  Well after what seemed like an eternity (to him at least and not nearly long enough for me), I’m sure it was less than a minute, my teacher quickly corrected me and told me to STOP staring at him.  Okay- hint taken.  I turned around but every chance I got to  steal a look in his direction I did.  This is just one example of my staring problem, I’m sure there are many others, but that’s not what this piece is about.

Anyway, back to inappropriate shorts man.  I was about half way through proofing the magazine and I looked up just to have a little mental break.  Well now I notice it is not just his balls hanging out- but the tip of his penis is peaking out of his shorts as well!  “Surely, he just doesn’t know,” I told myself in a desperate effort to calm myself.  So the hand returned to the forehead and I went back to proofing.

I was getting close to finished and sat up straight to stretch my back and look around and then I SAW IT!!  The thing I can NEVER UNSEE!!!  He was sitting two feet from me with his shorty shorts pulled down and his penis pulled out just going to town and looking right at me!  What the fuck???  I stood up and yelled, “OH MY GOD!” and quickly pushed passed him, scared out of my wits and went running to the safety of the effeminate barista.  In broken, breathless words I yelled, “there’s a man masturbating upstairs!!”  Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the gentleman (yes, I use the term loosely) go darting out of the shop.  Actually, it is sort of impressive that he could go from masturbating with a full on hard-on to sprinting in a split second, so I guess I should give him props for that.  The barista turned to his fellow coffee coworkers and yelled, “He’s BACK!”  He’s BACK???  What the hell?? This man is here on a regular basis beating off?? Does he have a coffee fetish?

They called the police and an officer came to interview me for all the details….what did he look like, how tall, who were his parents, where did he go to school, is he saving for retirement?  Shit, I don’t know how to describe this man at all!!  All I know for certain, is that he was wearing shorts and his PENIS was out!!  I really can’t tell you anymore than that.  Despite my staring problem, I was not looking at his face and so that information was not emblazoned in my mind.  The officer went on to tell me that this particular gentleman had pulled (no pun intended) this stunt in several other area Starbucks.  So, I guess he did have some kind of coffee fetish- weird huh?

We’re Not the Rockefellers

My dad grew up poor, dirt poor, poorer than dirt, maybe middle of the earth molten lava type poor.  He was born during the Great Depression, the son of a plumber and a nurse in Charleston, SC.  The Holy City, as locals call it, had still not recovered from the “Late Unpleasantness.”  For you Yankees or foreigners, that’s Southern speak for the Civil War.  There was little money to be had and even less opportunity for any kind of advancement.

My Papa, (pronounced paa paa- like what a sheep says except with a p; that’s Charlestonese for grandpa), was not a very good plumber.  In fact, I think he hated every minute of it.  My father was his right hand man on most jobs and Papa dubbed him “Colonel Brokem” because apparently all he did was break shit.  They didn’t always have enough to eat and sometimes my dad would sneak over to the Star Gospel Mission (run by those heathen Prodestants) for a free meal.  He was poor, but he wasn’t stupid.  Well, apparently, that never sat well with my Irish Catholic Papa because if he found out, Dad would get an ass whooping like nobody’s business.

My Mama (again pronounced like what a sheep says; Charlestonese for grandma), hated being a nurse.  She graduated first in her class from nursing school, despite the fact that she had smacked the head nun in the face at some point, according to family lore.  I think Mama (not yo’ mama- remember like baa baa) and I must have had a lot in common, because I often find myself wanting to smack people across the face.  To date, I can report I’ve been mostly successful at refraining from doing so, mostly.  Anyway, my Papa used to say that the only part Mama liked about being a nurse was pulling the sheet up over a person’s face.  That means they were dead and she could go home.  I always like getting off work early too.

So like I said, they were poor and like all parents Papa wanted a better life for his children.  He knew the way to a better life for my father was to go to college.  At that time, all you needed to get into the local municipal college was a recommendation from your high school principal.  Being good Catholics, my father had spent his entire educational career in the parochial system;  being beat up by nuns and told how he was going to hell for even thinking about anything at all.

On a side note, he has always insisted that that was the main reason he made sure we did not go to Catholic school.  Although, I’m pretty sure it was more the fact that you actually had to pay for it when we were coming up, and the man was thrifty.  Okay, thrifty is too nice a word, let’s just tell it like it is, he was cheap.

Anyway, as senior year came to a close my Papa marched my father over to Father Manning’s office to request a recommendation for college.  Apparently, not only was my father good at breaking shit at home, but he also had a reputation for being down right stupid at school.  Father Manning told my Papa that he would not write a recommendation for my dear old dad because he was too stupid for college and suggested Papa continue training him in the plumbing trade.  God bless my Papa, because he insisted on the recommendation on the grounds that my father had to go to college because he was too stupid to be a plumber.  Remember this was  the early 1950’s and really nobody gave a shit about your self esteem or crap like that.  Sometimes, I think we all need to be a little more frank about shit like this- honestly, telling people the truth can be all the motivation they need to stop acting like a complete asshole.

In my dad’s defense, he went on to be a commissioned officer in the Navy, a high ranking government official and traveled the world has a high paid bullshit consultant.  So, for being so “stupid”, he did pretty good for himself.

My father made all of us painfully aware of his poor upbringing to make sure that we were thankful for every single cent he ever spent on us.  He never understood the fact that teenage girl’s needed to have the “right clothes” and try to “fit in” for their mental wellbeing.  All he could see were dollar signs.  He constantly behaved as if we were two pennies away from the poor house and as he said about EVERYTHING…”if we buy that we’re going to lose the house!”  Really, we’re going to LOSE THE HOUSE, because you won’t buck up an extra $20??

I remember one time I needed a pair of sneakers, so he decided Sam’s Club would be the perfect place to go buy my new kicks.  I don’t know if you’ve ever been shoe shopping at Sam’s, but shoe selection is not their strong suit.  If you’re in the market for giant industrial tubs of peanut butter or huge bags of rice that could feed all the people in China then they’ve got your back, but shoes, not so much.

I ended up with the dorkiest, ugliest, off brand sneaks you’ve ever laid your eyes on and I cried in the line to pay for them, I cried on the way home and I cried every time I had to wear those stupid sneakers.   And did my father care that I didn’t like these shoes?  Not one iota.

In college, cell phones were in their infancy.  My very best friend and roommate was the daughter of a highly successful urologist.  And therefore in my opinion- RICH!!  She had one of those fancy cell phones.  Now for those of you that are under the age of 30- you may not know this….but cell phones didn’t always fit in your pocket.  No, hers was in a giant leather bag that you had to carry around with you and plug into the car every time you wanted to use.  Have you ever seen those old war movies, where the army guys in the heat of battle would call into their COs on the giant wind up phone?  Yep, it was pretty much like that.  Oh, how I envied that bag phone.  I vowed then and there that I knew I would be successful in life when I was able to buy my very own bag phone!  Even though, I’ve now got my nice little smartphone that lets me do a billion more things than that bag phone, I’m still yearning a bit for the posh notoriety that came with carrying that giant bag.

Anyhoo, I decided I couldn’t wait until I could buy one for myself.  So I put together the pitch to my father on why it was so important for me to have a “car phone”.  Yes, back in the olden days we didn’t even call them “cell phones”, they were “car phones” because of course the only time you’d need to use it was inside your car.

The pitch included all the important talking points: safety, safety and of course safety.  I didn’t dare mention the word “cool” in the pitch at all.  I knew very well that my father did not give a shit whether we were cool or not.  But, as you can guess, the pitch went no where.  It started out, “Dad I’ve been thinking I need to get a car phone…..” end of conversation.  He just completely freaked out and said, his favorite retort for everything I’ve ever asked for, “No! What do you need that for?  We’re not the fucking Rockefellers!”

So, no, I did not get my car phone and am fully aware that I am in no way or will ever be a Rockefeller.

My Purple Dress

As every parent knows, your greatest dream for your children is to provide a better life than you had.  Luckily for me, my parents made this task extremely easy.  Not that they were bad parents, they loved me and I always felt that, which is the most important thing.  But, there were just a few items that might’ve made things a bit more enjoyable.  So my top three rules I try to follow to achieve the aforementioned dream are as follows:

1.  Stay sober (well, not exactly all the time, I am Irish after all).

2. Clean the house (at least every once in a while).

3. Provide 3 CONSISTENT squares a day (alright, mine aren’t always square, sometimes triangle, rhombus, octagonal, but ALWAYS three)!

My parents had a mixed marriage, Catholic and Methodist; I know, quite shocking.  They were married in 1961 and being the good, obedient woman of her day, my mother readily converted to the cult.  However, I don’t think she really bought into the whole Catholic thing hook, line and sinker.  She taught us the prayers she grew up saying and ACTUALLY READ THE BIBLE.  If you’re Catholic, you know, we don’t exactly do that.

But, she made sure we went to Mass every Sunday, signed us up for CCD and got the big four sacraments: baptism, confession, communion and confirmation .  For you non-Catholics, CCD is sort of like Sunday School for Catholic children who go to public school…except its not always on Sunday.

You may remember from an earlier post that I have two older sisters.  Things must’ve been going pretty well for them when they were receiving their sacraments, because I’ve seen the pictures.  At first communion, they both had pretty little white dresses and the requisite bridal veil.  I’m still not sure why the cult insists on making 7 year olds look like their getting married when they’re having their first bite of the holy host, but whatevs.

My parents marriage went downhill pretty quickly after my birth.  Hmmm….always made me wonder if it was my fault?  But, they’ve assured me time and again it was not.  Remember, they weren’t great at cleaning and staying sober and shit, but they were good at loving me.

So by the time my first communion rolled around, they were in the thick of their divorce.  Ahh…what happy times those were.  They went from yelling and screaming at each other right in front of us, to standing in the front yard speaking in hushed tones, while we waited inside.  Yeah, it was great.

Anyhoo, first communion is usually held in the Spring somewhere near Easter.  My favorite color was purple (still is) and I had a beautiful, flowing taffeta purple Easter dress.  It had a satin ribbon around the waist and twirled out when I spun.  I remember it quite vividly and how much I loved it, until I hated it.

Being in CCD, we all received our First Communion together at Mass in front of the whole congregation.  Well, of course, I’m 7 and have no idea what any of the cult’s customs are, because really for any kid in any religion, church is just one long torture session.  But, you’d think after 20 some years of marriage, my mother would have had a handle on the situation.  I guess my Dad could’ve clued her in, but remember, he was drunk.  (Again, its okay, don’t feel bad).

So the big day rolled around, and all of us girls and boys made our way down the aisle hands folded in a prayer like stance.  All the boys wore little suits and ties and the girls had the most beautiful white gowns and flowing veils- even little white gloves.  ALL THE GIRLS, except me.  I had my purple Easter dress on…ya know, the one I loved.  Except now, I despised it.  Why the fuck didn’t I have a beautiful bridal veil and white gloves?  There’s proof of this disaster in pictures somewhere.  The whole second grade communion class together on the altar, with me sticking out like a sore thumb in my purple dress.

As an adult, I’ve asked my mother about this debacle.  She blames it on the women’s movement and says she thought the cult had moved past that tradition.  Really?  The cult has 2000 years of tradition that they keep intact and she thinks a little old thing like the “women’s movement” was going to change what a bunch of old men at the Vatican think?  Honestly, I think she was just a little too preoccupied to pay any attention to what I was wearing.  So I forgive her.  But, I’ve made damn sure that my girls have a beautiful white gown and bridal veil!

So I guess the 4th item should be:  Provide appropriate clothing for monumental moments in life.

Wonder Woman

When I was little I wanted to be Wonder Woman when I grew up.  I was completely engrossed in the TV Series featuring Lynda Carter.  She embodied everything I thought a woman should be: beautiful and sexy while strong and powerful.  It was the 70’s and the feminist movement was in full swing.  To my four year old eyes, she was the perfect blend of Gloria Steinem and Farrah Fawcett (whom I also wanted to be- but we’ll save that obsession for another day).

I had a Wonder Woman bathing suit and even, the creme de la creme, Wonder Woman Underoos!  In my humble opinion, the greatest invention of the 1970’s was the Underoo.  You could be a regular kid on the outside and be hiding a hulking super hero right under your clothes.  But honestly, how many of us ever kept that shit under wraps?  Underoos were meant to be worn and shown off in inappropriate places like riding your bike around the neighborhood, in a public park or at the grocery store.

Now, if you’ve never had the pleasure of watching the Lynda Carter Wonder Woman series, then your life is certainly not complete.  You may remember that boring old Clark Kent had to duck into a phone booth and change into his Superman costume. I mean really, he’s the man of steel and he had to go “change” in a phone booth- gimme a break.  He sounds like a big old pansy boy in my opinion.    Anyway, good old Wonder Woman was way cooler than that.  All she had to do was hold her arms out straight, airplane style, and spin.  Then her everyday persona would magically change into the ultimate sexy crime fighting superhero, Wonder Woman.

I had no greater dream than to be able to spin my arms around and transform into this amazing being.  But, being a mere mortal, I lacked this ability.  So I did the next best thing.  I’d get all suited up in my bathing suit or Underoos and wrap a towel around myself.  Then I would spin as fast as I could yelling, “Wonder Woman” and let the towel go flying off and “Poof!” I was Wonder Woman!  Fending off bullets with my gold wrist bands and flying my invisible airplane.  I was bad ass.

So when Halloween rolled around, of course I would be no one other than the queen of the Justice League.  I made sure everyone knew it and insisted that my mom get me the coolest Wonder Woman outfit around.  We were having an actual PARADE at nursery school and I saw this as my chance at stardom!  Of course, the parade was just us wearing our costumes and walking around in a circle while the played Monster Mash- but hey, it was a parade nonetheless.

So, my mom did what every mother who had suddenly been forced into the workforce by the feminist movement did, she went to the drugstore and bought me a nice plastic costume, complete with suffocating mask.  These costumes were quite common place in 1978.  It was made from a nice sheet of plastic, similar to a Twister board, that you would slip on right over your regular clothes.  It usually was only printed on one side, so the other side was completely white.  Apparently, you were only supposed to show your front on all Hallow’s eve.

Well the big day rolled around and I proudly marched into nursery school with the cool smell of freshly made plastic pressed against my face ready to wow the socks off everyone in the room.  And then it happened.  My whole world came crashing down.  There was another fucking Wonder Woman in the parade!!!  And no, her costume did not come from the drug store.  Her mom actually took the time to sew an exact replica of Lynda Carter’s amazing costume.  That BITCH!!  How dare she steal my thunder??  I was so pissed.  But, I hid my tears behind the smiling plastic Lynda Carter mask and marched around the circle, ate my cookies and juice and sucked it up.

By the way, who the hell ever thought juice and cookies would make a good combination? Its really quite terrible.  And they’re still doing it in day-cares and preschools across this great nation to this day.  But, I digress.

Broken Window

My parents split when I was 7 and it was tough.  I don’t mean Kramer vs. Kramer tough, but tough nonetheless.  There is a silver lining to divorce in that if done right, you get to spend more time with your parent (back then it was usually weekend Dads) than you would have if they stayed together.  When they were married, he was mostly on “business trips” or had “important meetings” he had to attend every weekend.  Once they were divorced, he had no choice but to take me on the weekends and spend time with me.

My sisters are both much older than me, so they did not have this lovely opportunity.  Not to make him out to be a saint or anything…he was far from it.  I do have lots of special memories.  Although, his probably aren’t quite as crisp as mine, since he was pretty much drunk all the time.  But, hey, drunk people are fun!

In 1983, Dad was forced into early retirement at the age of 49.  Ronald Reagan was downsizing the federal government and as a high ranking IRS bullshitter, he got the ax.  I was 9 years old and he decided a good, long summer vacation would be great for both of us.  We took a whole month and drove his beat up VW Rabbit down the backroads of the east coast to see the biggest hustler in the world…Mickey Mouse.  Now, I know you think I’m going to start talking about the magic of Disney- but I’m not.  Because this post is about a broken window, idiot, hence the name.

It truly was a wonderful experience, we would only drive for 2 or 3 hours a day and then stop at luxurious hotels (ahem, motels) that had all the amenities a 9 year old could dream of…  a pool, a vending machine, a bed with magic fingers- it was freaking awesome!  We ate fast food, stayed up late and watched CABLE TV (it hadn’t come to our town yet).  It was a great adventure that we were sharing, just the two of us.

Of all the special parts of this trip, including the fucking magic of Disney, there is one memory that will stand out in my mind FOREVER!!  We stopped at a gas station in a podunk town outside Savannah.  It was hot!  The drippy, humid, steam rising from the highway kind of hot.  My dad left me in the car (for you youngins, you used to be able to do that back then- or maybe he was just drunk) either way he went inside to pay.  All the windows were up and the doors closed- because you know, who cares if your kid dies of heat stroke.  He had more important things to worry about like getting a cold beer and some beef jerky for us.

Now, before I go any further, you need to know that there was a problem with the window on the passenger door.  When you rolled it down (with a crank- no we were not rich and didn’t have fancy power windows), it would sometimes slip down in the door and you’d have to push it back up very carefully with your hands.  So instead of getting that fixed, I was given strict orders to NEVER roll that window down.

As I sat there roasting in the 100 degree Southern heat, watching the Spanish moss sway in the breeze, I decided I could take it no longer.  And I did it.  I ROLLED DOWN THE WINDOW!!!!  Just as I was taking a breath of fresh air and starting to regain consciousness, Dad came bounding out of the gas station yelling at the top of lungs, “I told you not to roll down the fucking window!! What the hell is wrong with you??”

Well of course, I thought he was a total lunatic and just rolled my eyes.  “I was hot.  What did you want me to do, open the door?”  Then I started to roll up the window and it happened.  The crash heard round the world.  The whole window slid down into the door and smashed into a million pieces…and we hadn’t even made it to Mickey yet.

Well, of course, he was mad.  This was my fault entirely.  How dare I want to cool off?  How dare I be so stupid as to not just open the door?  How dare I break the fucking window???  So we stopped at a hard ware store and did the responsible thing, duct taped the whole window closed so that no rain could get in.  Of course, he also couldn’t see out that window, but at least the beautiful vinyl interior would be protected.

A few weeks ago, my car was in the shop and I asked him if I could borrow his car for the day.  Being the great dad he is, he gladly obliged.  As I was getting into the driver’s seat, he lodged himself between the car and the open door and said, “Now, I have to tell you one thing about this window.”  Oh for the love of GOD- not AGAIN!!  He explained that sometimes it doesn’t always roll back up when you roll it down and kindly suggested that I not roll it down.  Thanks, Dad.  Believe me, I will NEVER and I mean NEVER roll down one of your windows again.

Diving In

Ok…deep breath…hold my nose…and jump!  My first blog post into the deep end; we’ll see if I sink or swim.  I’ve been babbling away (like a flipping brook) on social media for years about anything and everything:  the aggravations of parenthood, my bad cooking, running, and not running, Catholic guilt, my secret desire to be Jewish, my acting career and the lack thereof, middle-aged acne, my television addiction and just about anything that pops into my head.  So now its time to start laying it all out there.

I’ve titled the blog “Swimming Upstream” because that’s how I feel about my life.  Always swimming against the tide in hopes of something better just over the next waterfall.  Sometimes I make it and sometimes that damn water just pushes me back into the pool.  But either way, I figure I end up where I’m supposed to be.  (Wow- that sounds so deep and whatnot).  But, mostly its because I’m a Pisces and I just thought it would be neat.  I’m pretty much a nerd at the end of the day.

Today is a great day, one where the planets are aligned, I’m feeling rested and super creative.  Not all days are like this- but you’ve got to grab hold when you can.  Thus, the start of this blog!  My energy has been super charged lately, ran a 10k on Saturday, I’m rehearsing for a show, starting a new job I created from scratch, raising a family, raising a husband, raising my voice….well you get the picture.

I was born a poor black child….wait no…that’s the start of my favorite movie (The Jerk with Steve Martin- you really should see it).  I was born a middle class white girl in the suburbs of DC.  There we were, my two sisters, an alcoholic father, a depressed mother, chain smoking grandparents and me all in one big fucking mess of a house!  A perfect Norman Rockwell painting, if he were smoking crack, that is.   Don’t get me wrong, we all loved each other, in that crazy, “you get on my fucking nerves and I’d like to kill you” kind of way.  But it was normal to me and taught me to laugh at the world around me, inside me, above me, below me, next to me…”if you can’t go under it, you’ve gotta go over it.”

You’ll find this blog full of random references to pop culture and other trivial things that make sense to me, to others but maybe not to everyone.   You’ll have to forgive me, but I’m a bastion of trivial knowledge and it comes out in the most unusual times.  Not always appropriate or opportune…but usually hilarious.  So I look forward to sharing them with you.

So, put on your swimmies and come wading in the pool with me.   Your beer goggles may help too.