Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Toenail F

Big Sister here again! I heard from Mel this am, while she traversed the roads of Yellowstone National Park with Mr. W by her side. She's having a great time, sends her love, and approved today's topic....The Toenail F.

What is a Toenail F, you might ask? Let's start at the beginning. We have this cousin, Big T. He is one of the funniest people I know, and is a very talented artist. He is no blood relation - he married into this circus family of ours, but you would never know that. He's just as crazy as the rest of us.

So, he ran some marathon or something, and was showing us at a family gathering, that his toenail was hanging by a thread. It was pretty gross looking, but it takes a lot to get to me, since I am a nurse. I made some flippant remark about giving it to someone as a gift, since we do like to do that sort of thing in our family. My dad got a bellybutton one year for Christmas.

Christmas comes that year, and I have long forgotten about Big T's toenail. I open this very cute little gift from him and his wife, and pulled out what appeared to be a pretty, shiny seashell necklace, hand painted with my initial. Just as I was ooohing and ahhhing over it, my cousin couldn't contain herself anymore, and said - "That's Big T's toenail." He had done a nice job of making his DNA look like a festive little charm. My retaliation the following year was a clear glass ornament, filled with kitty litter, and carefully molded Tootsie Rolls. You get the picture. My 40th birthday rolls around sometime after that, and I got a beautiful matching ring, to the toenail necklace. All I'm missing now is a bracelet. At the rate this guy loses his toenails, that should be coming soon.

One day, soon after they had their first son, I was rummaging through my purse, and saw a baggie. I figured one of my girls had stuck something in there, so I pulled it out, and there was a note in the bag from the newborn baby, about how he wanted me to have this special gift from him. His bellybutton. A little shriveled up brownish umbilical cord. A declaration of war.

I began saving anything I could find. Sorry girls, the tooth fairy has enough teeth - hand 'em over. My sister-in-law hiked Mt. Whitney, and lost both her toenails. "I'll take those, please." "Look at this giant booger I just got out of my nose, Mom. It looks like a slug." Hold on, let me get a ziploc. I had some surgery, and asked the doctor if I could please have the stitches he removed for something I was making. First time anyone ever said that to him. That crown that I had been wearing on my front tooth - I paid for it - what was the dentist going to do with it once I got the permanent implant? After about a year of saving, I was ready to make the masterpiece. I glued all the gathered items, including the bellybutton that he so graciously gave me, and adhered them to a Christmas ornament. I carefully wrapped it in a Tiffany's box, and could barely contain my excitement to watch him open it. I'm pretty sure I saw him gag. It was awesome.

This past Christmas, I knew I was screwed. Big T places a box on my lap, and my heart is beating fast, out of sheer terror. Behind the tissue, is a frame with the Toenail F. At first glance, it is a very elegant piece of art. I wasn't sure what it was a first, but it didn't look too bad. The he explained that he had been saving his toenail clippings for a full year, and mixed them with some type of gluish stuff to create his textured F. F is the initial of my last name - he's big into initials I guess. Someday when he is a famous artist, I can say that I have an original, and I am certain there will never be another like it. I have 5 months to plan my attack. Any suggestions?

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Keys to the Kingdom

Wow! Do I have some big shoes to fill here for a few days. Well, actually we do wear the same size shoe even though she does have a good 3 inches on my height. All 3 of those inches are in her legs, so that pisses me off, and her tiny little butt could fit onto one of my cheeks. She may have gotten the leg/butt gene in the family, but at least she didn't hog the boob gene too. We don't look that much alike, but people can tell we're sisters. Mostly by the matching voices. That can be fun on the phone. She doesn't like to admit it, but we do have some telepathic brain thing going on, that causes us to do things like buy matching electric mixers for bridal showers.

Now let's talk about that for a minute. Big Whoop - so I forgot to turn in that stupid registry paper at the Target check out line. I did remember to get a gift receipt. It's the bride who has stand in the return line - not my sister!!! I'd like to see if she remembers to turn in her paper someday, when she has 2 bickering children in line with her. I tried to call Target's Guest Services to see if they could remove the purchased registry item over the phone. I don't know why they call it that, because frankly there is no service offered. I guess that's why some people choose to shop at Nordstrom. Whatever...

So, the day of the shower, my dear little sis is in a scary mood because her hair would not cooperate. It's her own darn fault, because she didn't shower that morning. She was at the fabulous Mr. W's house, and probably had other things more important on her morning schedule.... I thought she should have been in a much better mood considering he had just used the "L word" the night before. No bad hair day or twin mixers should have ruffled her with that little joy cloud floating over her, one would think.

So, she goes to gather her gift, and mentions something about an electric mixer, and I noticed that the size of her wrapped gift looked slightly familiar. I uttered a subdued little "Uh Oh", and she growled over at me, "Shut up. No you did not get her an electric mixer." Then I had to confess that I had committed the cardinal sin of not turning in my registry paper. You would have thought that I had goosed Mr. Wonderful by her reaction! She called me a jackass, and embellished with an F adjective too! She just encouraged me to enjoy this all the more, so I made sure to sit our matching packages right next to each other at the shower, to emphasize their sameness. I complimented her on her impeccable taste in kitchen ware. I even threw in a "Wonder Twin powers activate - take on the shape of an electric mixer" comment just for good measure. She did crack a smile at that one.

She avoided me for most of the shower, which was fine with me. That is until, the saving event of the day occurred - our accident prone mother. She is just coming off a broken foot from a collision with a pool skimmer at the Indian Gaming Casino, and a broken, sliced open nose from a misinterpreted curb, so we thought she had met her quota for the summer already. Instead, we noticed that our mom had been missing for a while at this very elegant shower, in a posh neighborhood overlooking the Rose Bowl. Someone said she was in the master bedroom, and a few of us thought that would be a nice opportunity for a little tour of this beautiful home. What we didn't quite expect was that our mother had inadvertently locked herself in the master bathroom, and couldn't get out. That would explain her absence. When we entered the room, someone said, "Your mom is locked in the bathroom." "Of course she is," I blurted out. If someone was to get locked in, it would be our mom. The door was some fancy schmancy pocket door with a complicated latch, and we all took turns giving her advice and trying strategies from the outside. She mentioned there was a phone in there, and we thought it might be nice if she called the fire department herself. She also noted that there was toilet paper in there if she needed to write us notes. A. We could hear her through the door just fine. B. She had a phone - she could call us on our cell phones. C. Did she have a pen in her underwear? Don't ask me how, but after a few phone calls, and all of us taking turns yanking the door, the bride pushed her way through the crowd, did some special little tweak, and out popped our mom.

Thank God for Mom, because now my sister was so irritated with our mom, that she forgot all about the twin mixers!! I was off the hook, and the day ended happily ever after. The bride and groom can mix together if they so choose, my sister is over her mixer snit, and our mom will never lock another pocket door as long as she lives. Never a dull moment in our family.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Elder Princess

My big sister is 10 years older than I am. She has two kids, a husband and a cat. She’s a C or D cup (I’m barely a B). The only thing I have on her is about 3.25” of height.

Growing up, she was usually very nice to me—letting me tag along with her and her friends—despite my tendency to embarrass her. When I was about 2 or 3, I pooped on the living room floor when she had some boys over after school. At 4 or 5, I told the guy she was dating that my parents didn’t like him (which was the truth). I peed on one of her boyfriends who tickled me. I shushed the people behind us in the theater when she took me to see The Last Unicorn movie. And yet, she’d still take me with her to the mall and let me borrow her clothes and eat her rootbeer lipsmacker. (Okay, she didn’t like that last one, but I remember sneaking into her room to do it on several occasions in preschool. It was like chewy, waxy candy goodness.)

I think the reason she kept me around is similar to why a sculptor keeps a lump of ugly, brown clay in his studio. With enough work, it might eventually turn into something really cool. I’m pretty sure she thought if she molded me throughout my childhood, someday I’d be just like her.

The funny thing is, now that I’m a grown up (relatively speaking) I find myself molding her right back. I encourage her to travel, I talk to her about politics and environmental issues, I loan her books on positive thinking and meditation. We seem to have developed quite a symbiotic relationship. So much so, that on Sunday when we attended a bridal shower, we showed up with the same gift.

Why did we have the same gift? Well, Mrs. I’m A Busy Mom didn’t remember to take her gift off the bride’s registry, so when I looked online it showed up as having not been purchased. I called her a jackass and cursed at her as we drove to the shower, but by the end of it we were practically arm-in-arm, making fun of my mom, giggling hysterically.

I am leaving tomorrow to attend a wedding in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Unlike my trip to Minnesota, I’m not bringing a laptop. So my blog is running the risk of going dark for a few days…however…I have decided to give my sister the keys to the kingdom.

Yes bloggy friends, I handed over my username and password and have invited her to post whatever her heart desires while I’m away. I have no idea what she will say. She might reveal more embarrassing stories. She might write about the woes of running the PTA. She might bag on me for cussing her out on the way to the bridal shower.

I can tell you this, though: Whatever she writes will be very entertaining. The sense of humor I have today comes largely from her.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Shock Value

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve had a great affection for shock value. There’s nothing like watching people’s jaws drop at the mere mention of a joke or something you did (that you shouldn’t have done, of course). One of the easiest targets for my gasp-inducing antics is, and always has been, my mother.

The best part about getting her goat, however, is that she doesn’t usually react with a wide-eyed stare or the old hand-covering-mouth-in-horror schtick. She says things like, “You’re making the sperm in my neck hurt!” Which translates to: “You’re making me tense and it’s hurting the bone spur in my neck.” But her mouth works faster than her brain and you never know what’s going to come out of it.

When my brother was a senior in high school, he decided to take an older girl to his prom. My mom did not approve. I was about 10 at the time, and of course, planted myself outside of the kitchen to eavesdrop on the “discussion” that ensued. I don’t remember what my mom said, but I do remember her stumbling on her words when my brother finally shouted, “Mom, if I had a Velcro dick, I’d leave it at home with you!” Stealthy brother knew if he could stun Mom enough, she would most likely stop arguing.

My sister is a huge fan of using me as her shock-inducing device. Like in college when she brought up something at a family dinner about me writing “I love you” across myself in Hershey’s syrup for my boyfriend. Again, Mom got that look and yelled out the cats’ and my siblings’ names before getting it right and yelling at me.

Anyway, given the joy that her reactions bring, it was no surprise that I decided to share with her the story of how Mr. Wonderful told me he loved me.

He and I went to Katsuya for dinner Saturday night (DELICIOUS, btw! I highly recommend—and be sure to get the warm crab roll in rice paper.). After dinner, he asked me what I would like to do and I told him I thought it would be fun to play pool. So off to the Jerry’s Deli bowling alley we went.

We were about midway through our second game and well into our round of beers when he sunk one of my balls. (I was solids, he was stripes, just in case you want to better visualize the story.) I thanked him for giving me a freebee, squeezing him around the waist and he said, “You have to put one of my balls in now.”

Enter: Shock value.

“The only place I’m putting one of your balls is in my mouth,” I said.

“And that’s why I love you,” he laughed. Ah, those three little words...

We were crossing a street when I recounted the story to my mom and sister. My mom tripped not only on her words, choking, “What?! What did you just say?!”, she nearly took a digger on the pavement as well.

Teabagging, Mom. Balls. Oh come on! I was TOTALLY kidding! And I told her as much and reassured her that I am saving myself for marriage. I don’t even know what a ball looks like. Warm or cold.

As far as Mr. Wonderful goes, as soon as he said the words, I slipped into a semi-conscious state and had a series of hot flashes. But later, as we finished off round two of Coronas, I couldn’t help but say, “I can’t believe the first time you told me you loved me out loud was because I said I’d put your ball in my mouth…”

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Friends in Blog Places

What a weekend! The excitement started Friday afternoon when I received the Rolling Stones' Shine a Light CD in the mail from the endlessly witty, incredibly talented and painfully beautiful Dingo. Why did this gorgeous creature take time out from blogging, running, and saving the world from Odd People to send me a CD? Well, there was this contest on her website. And thanks to my extensive experience writing for my high school yearbook, I won it. I wrote a caption for Dingo’s picture and out of all the choices submitted, Dingo’s Cougar Mom chose mine. Hooray!! (Notice my lame attempt at doing rocker bull-horns-hand...)

Saturday, the awesomeness continued when I went hiking with my bloggy, ass-kicking, outdoors-loving pal, Alysha. As you can see, it was a lovely morning, although temperatures were in the high 70’s to low 80’s at least. So we didn’t quite make it to Josephine’s Peak…and we were a little stinky on the descent to the car…

After we returned, things got really thrilling. We met up with someone who has eluded us for weeks. He wouldn’t tell us his real name (until we beat it out of him) or any juicy details on his day-to-day life, but in the picnic area of Descanso Gardens, Alysha and I finally came face-to-face with GeekHiker. It was like meeting the Wizard of Hiking. And let me just say, there’s a lot less geek there than he claims, ladies. He’s smart and funny and has a pair of dimples to die for. AND he and Mr. Wonderful have a few things in common. But I can’t say what. Because GeekHiker made me sign a contract vowing not to tear any holes in his enigma-ness.

If it weren’t for the Internet, my weekend could have been stark and sedate. Well…maybe not entirely because Mr. W finally said the L-word OUT LOUD to me when we were playing pool Saturday night…but that’s a story for another time…

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

And Now: My Most Embarrassing Story

I didn’t get asked to the prom. My best friend and I were both left dateless in the dust, and had to resort to inviting guy friends from the grade below us. It was slightly humiliating, but better than missing the biggest event of our high school careers.

My mom handmade my dress, which at the time was exactly what I wanted—forest green velvet, fitted and long, with a heart-shaped bust and spaghetti straps, and a big ‘ole slit up the front. It matched nicely with my other friends’ long, navy blue, crimson and various other velvet ensembles. It was the grunge era…apparently heavy fabric in May was cool and cutting edge…

Dinner and the dance itself were relatively fun. I remember taking and posing for a lot of pictures and having a decent time with my date. I didn't get food in my teeth or spit when I was talking to him. Although, I think he wanted to hang out with some of the younger attendees more than he wanted to be with me.

Afterwards, a big group of us went to “Prom Plus.” When I was a freshman, a local girl was shot in a hotel after the prom. This rocked our town and prevented a lot of our parents from letting us go out into the great, wide open after the dance. Thus, the PTA or some other concerned group put together an after-prom party with karaoke, a casino, sumo wrestling, a Velcro wall and all sorts of other activities that didn’t involve guns, drugs or sex.

At 6:00 a.m. my group left Prom Plus and headed over to a friend's house to crash out for a few hours before going home. There were about 12 or 14 of us spread across various pieces of furniture and splayed out on the floor. I was wedged between my best friend and a guy named J, sharing a blanket, staring at the ceiling, unable to sleep. I could hear my friends A and D talking and laughing in the other room and decided it would be much more fun to go goof off with them than continue trying to will myself into slumber.

So I sat up.

And the force of moving from my back to an upright position caused a catastrophic shift in my body. One that made a noise. A noise that escaped somewhere between my knees and my waist, on the backside. Suddenly, the entire room was awake.

“WHO was that?!”

I couldn’t speak. I was rapt in silent, horrified, mortified laughter and profuse full-body blushing. My shoulders shook, tears collected at the corners of my eyes.

“IT WAS MELISSA!” my best friend screamed, surely to clear herself of any possible blame.

“That was like an alarm clock, you woke us all up!”

“Damn, what’d you eat?!”

Boys were saying this stuff. I was in a room with a bunch of guys, including my poor younger date. And they had just heard the sound I had a silent room.

When I was finally able to breathe, I explained, “I didn’t mean to, I just sat up…and I don’t know what happened.”

The laughter and ridicule eventually died down and after a couple more hours we all left to go home. When I opened the front door of my parents’ house, my mom was waiting.

“Well, how was the prom?” she said, smiling with that knowing, motherly pride.

“I farted.”

All class and feminine charm, I am. Yes folks, I will forever get to remember the pinnacle evening of my teenage years as being punctuated with a very poorly-timed toot.

That night, all of us who had attended prom together met up to see Beverly Hills Cop 3. We were getting ready to leave when my friend said, “I need to get gas in my car.”

And as expected, one of the guys chimed in, “No you don’t—Melissa has plenty to spare.”

And now you know everything there is to know about me.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


Readers, I’m going to let you in on a little secret.

I have a big mouth.

Yes, I know you are all shocked. You would never guess that someone who spews criticism and lectures and tales of her (and others’) antics all over the Internet could possibly be a yammerhead, but I am.

And people are catching on. Last night, I had dinner with my brother, sister-in-law, 9-month-old and 8-year-old nieces, and their 3 dogs. I don’t get a chance to see them as often as my other family members, so there’s usually a lot to catch up on when I stop by for a visit.

I think I was recounting my Minnesota wedding trip to them when my brother pointed out that Miss Loo (the 8-year-old) was staring at me intently, taking in ever word. She looked bored, but couldn’t bring herself to tear away and go play.

Finally, as I was wrapping up and getting ready to leave, Loo turned to me slightly annoyed and said, “Auntie Lissa, you sure have a lot of stories every time you come over.”

I believe that is child code for: Shut the heck up already.

Monday, July 21, 2008

I Yam What I Loathe

I know some parents who, when their children begin having children, have no qualms about criticizing and outright badmouthing their kids’ parenting skills. This has always been a hot button issue for me. I find it infuriating that anyone could put down their own child when that child is doing the best they are capable of. When they’re learning their way, getting through the challenges of new parenthood with whatever skills they have. I find myself wanting to yell at these people, “You were a new parent once, too! And you weren’t perfect, so lay off!”

But maybe the critical parent has something else going on in their head. Maybe they see some potential in their child to be better—and rather than gently encouraging, they communicate it with aggression or tough love. Maybe they are frustrated because they know their child’s life could be easier or better, even, if that child adjusted their ways.

Or maybe they’re worried about how their child’s choices reflect upon them. How, by being associated, they could somehow be culpable or judged themselves for their kid’s missteps.

I don’t know what the reason is.

But amidst my vehement distaste for that behavior lies a blushing, squirming, shameful hypocrite. I am, and always have been, an outspoken critic.

If I think someone is doing something wrong, I tell them. I see people with great potential, incredible charisma, talent, intelligence, and instead of exploiting their arsenal of ability, they squander it. They make choices that don’t move them forward. They settle. They sell short.

Maybe to them, that’s not the case. But my discerning eye deems it so and feels frustration that they don’t see what I see—possibility, promise, a chance for something better.

I don’t want to be this way. I don’t want to have thoughts of shaking and yelling at, or disassociating myself with, certain people. But I’m not sure how to truly accept what I want to condemn. I find it so very, very hard to just say, “Well, that’s the way they are. Gotta just let it be.” I’m sure there’s a fantastic codependency fable wrapped in here somewhere…

So if one cannot be supportive of another’s actions, what’s the best course to take? Detachment? Disappointment masked by a façade of pleasantries? Or do the critics have some duty to at least try and make a difference? Even if the outcome is—as it has been when I’ve witnessed disparaging parents—sheer disgust?

Friday, July 18, 2008

Hen Row

So my childhood girlfriend just moved into the apartment next door to me. She’s a sexy singleton, who’s also a very nice girl…we’ll call her Charlotte. Anyway, our little fourplex is now solely inhabited by women. The landlord’s daughter, let’s call her Huffy, lives in the front unit. Next to her is our resident Golden Girl, we’ll call her Bea. And then there’s Charlotte. And lucky me on the end, furthest from the street.

It’s a great little complex and I love my neighborhood—which is part of why I haven’t moved in nearly 6 years. Oh yeah, and my rent is only $950 a month. A steal.

The apartment next door used to house this nice Christian couple—a woman in her mid-fifties and her socially awkward, ten years-younger husband. The husband was sort of like our faux superintendent. He took out the trashcans and brought them back down the driveway after pick-up. He watered the communal hedges along the fence. I think he even changed Bea’s outdoor light bulbs a few times. But then his wife decided she wanted a divorce, leaving us with a vacant apartment and new caretaking responsibilities.

I have tried to be watchful of the property’s duties, but given that I come home later than the other tenants, the trashcans are usually always curbside or back in their usual spot before I have a chance to take them out or bring them in. I water my plants, but the community hedges are closer to the front units, so I’ve never dragged the hose up to give them a drink before. The only other thing I’ve fixed in my 6 years there was a burnt-out light in the laundry room. I never call the landlord for anything. And because of this, he once told me I was the best tenant ever and that he loved me.

Soooo it came as a big surprise when Charlotte told me his daughter had bad-mouthed me to Bea. Apparently, Bea (who could talk your ear into the fetal position) was telling Charlotte that she and Huffy discussed chores when the Christian couple moved out and somehow my name came up in a question (such as, “Maybe Melissa watered those hideous hedges”) and Huffy said, “She Never Does ANYTHING.”

The fact that Bea passed this information on to Charlotte makes me think she agrees with it—and I feel that it is all completely unfair because no one ever asked me to do anything! I would be happy to take out the trashcans if they weren’t already on the street when I got home from work. And I could definitely water more than just my plants if I knew when the dang things needed a little H2O.

What I really think here is that the landlord’s daughter hates her life and is angry at the world. Maybe she resents me because I’m gone every weekend at my darling boyfriend’s house and she’s in her apartment, with her kids, and no boyfriend or husband, with the curtains drawn. (Bea told me once she saw “cat doody” in Huffy’s windowsill. I don’t even wanna know what that place looks like inside.)

Instead of throwing a dozen eggs at Huffy’s front door, I instead went to Lowe’s. And bought a bunch of flowers to plant in the sad little bed between Charlotte’s and my apartment. And last night when I was beautifying the property, Huffy came home. She walked past me in the driveway with her daughters and I gave her my biggest look-at-me-not-
doing-anything-now-beeyatch smile and said hello. And today after work I’m going to go buy a little sprayer gun attachment for the garden hose. So I can water the communal hedges…and maybe accidentally shoot Huffy in the face.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Nerd Girls Rule

Mr. Wonderful IMed me yesterday to tell me Newsweek ran this story about chic female nerds. Apparently the media is now recognizing that it’s hot to be brainy. I love this not only because I admire intelligence (and wit, of course) more than anything in a person, but also because I am a nerd girl. I was on the yearbook staff in high school. I work for a tech company where we play Scrabble at lunch. And I’m psyched my eyes are starting to go bad because it may mean I’ll finally be able to get a pair of hip little plastic-framed glasses. Rock on dorkette sisters.

What else made me happy today?

That The Today Show ran a segment about Richard Louv’s new book on Nature Deficit Disorder. Being an avid outdoorswoman, I’ve long found it sad that kids today aren’t getting outside and experiencing the joys of hiking, camping, and simply being in nature. I would love to see Louv’s book, and the growing awareness of this issue, help facilitate change among our youth—and maybe more importantly, their parents.

And finally, I am twitterpated over the fact that The Dark Knight opens this weekend.

Last week, I bought tickets for Saturday afternoon for Mr. W and I. (The Friday night shows at the ArcLight were completely sold out!) I’m kind of surprised by how much hype there is around the movie, but I’m sure it’s all for good reason. Like the batsuit, that’s a good reason. And Christian Bale—who, by the way, I watched last night in Empire of the Sun and he was fantastic. And the dearly departed and phenomenal Heath Ledger. I’m sure it’ll be sad watching his last performance on the big screen. But I don’t think I’ll shed too many tears when I have that sculpted rubber suit counterbalancing my dismay.

I wonder if Mr. W is prepared for the sighs and “gimme some o’that”s I’ll be muttering throughout the movie. Or the fact that when we get home I’m going to ask him to paint his face with shoe polish, drape a black bed sheet around his neck and bust in through a window to attackingly save me from the evil villains of Gotham City. Of course, I will be so startled I will fall unconscious and require bat-to-mouth resuscitation.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

This Day and Age

For most of my life, people have thought I looked younger than I actually am. I was a scrawny, late blooming kid, so I was almost always mistaken as a tween in my teens. My twenties were filled with continual cardings at bars and restaurants. Even when I hit 30, a woman in Hawaii mistook me for a teenager—thinking I was my older sister’s daughter.

But lately, my years have been catching up with me.

When I was 29, people thought I was 23. Recently I asked a stranger to guess my age and he said 29…a mere 3 years younger than my real age…and really I think just an attempt to flatter. 26 would’ve been a fantastic compliment, 29 seemed like he just didn’t want to say 30.

On Saturday, I was hanging out at my sister’s house playing Wii Fit with my nieces. I had never played before, so the game took me through a series of fitness assessments in order to set up my player profile. First it asked for my birth date and height. Then I had to stand on the balance board thingee and it weighed me and calculated my body mass index. So far, so good.

When it asked me to demonstrate my balance skills, I thought I had it in the bag. My normal, standing-still balance was almost perfectly centered. However, when I had to shift to match up with some moving bars on the TV screen, I was definitely far from skilled.

Based upon my performance and the previous body stats, the game calculated my “Wii age” as 51. Fifty-one! Twenty-one years older than my actual age.

“I want a do-over!” I shrieked over my nieces’ laughter.

So they let me go through the setup process again. And this time, my age was determined to be 37. Still 5 years too high… My sister hopped on the balance board after me, determined to beat my score. She is 10 years older than I am, but after she went through similar tests and exercises, the game aged her at 34—8 years younger than her real age. What the hizell?

It’s weird when you still feel like a kid inside but you see saggy tummy skin and crows feet staring back at you from the mirror. And now, thanks to the wonders of technology, we have video games to contribute to our lackluster age self esteem.

The same day I played Wii, my sister and I went hiking with my 13-year old niece, Nanny Dobie (Note: That is not her real name but when she was 2 years old, she called herself that for a period of time). We were complaining about the cellulite gene in our family, when Nanny piped up to my sister and said, “What do you care? You’re married—it doesn’t matter what you look like anymore.”

Ah the sage musings of youth. Maybe I’ll keep the wrinkles, back fat and further-developed grey matter after all…

Monday, July 14, 2008

Stark Contrast

People always say, “actions speak louder than words” in relationships. This used to drive me crazy. I’m a writer, after all, I think words are extremely important. And heck, actions can be interpreted different ways, right? And really, isn’t the expression of words an action? It all seemed so muddled.

The Last One started out saying all the right things. On our second date he confessed that he’d been waiting for a girl like me his entire life. He didn’t even know me yet. He said he didn’t want to see anyone else—he was going off because he only wanted me, the girl of his dreams. I met his mom that night, and in front of me he gushed to her about how cute I was. A couple weeks later I listened to him leave a voicemail for his friend, wherein he bragged about the incredible girl he had met.

The night he held my hands across the table at dinner and told me that if we "ended up together, he would promise me a life of adventure,” I caved in and slept with him. (It was only sleeping, Mom, shhh don’t cry.) The next night, I waited for him to call. I felt vulnerable and uncertain. Had I jumped the gun? He’d said all the right things… He called eventually, after he had “tied up some loose ends.” Although he’d been the one to ask for exclusivity on the second date, he hadn’t found the time to “call it off” with all the girls he was dating—so the day after we slept together, he took one to dinner to “let her down easy.”

The day before he moved out, we were looking at pictures on my computer. “That one would make a good engagement announcement,” he said. I was giddy. The very next day, sobbing into his hand, he told me he was going back to Orange County and he wasn’t sure what it meant for us.

A week and a half before we broke up—and I found the letter about his relationship with the married girl—we were on vacation in Washington and Oregon. We were ambling through the Mt. St. Helens visitor center when we came upon a little boy telling his dad about “hot lava shooting out of the volcano!” Adorable. The Last One grabbed me around the waist and said, “I want to have one of those with you.” Little did I know that he might have one with another already. (The results are still out on that one, by the way.)

Words, words, words. If only I’d plugged my ears.

When This One came along, I was both fascinated and afraid of his verbal restraint. I found myself wondering how he felt. But then I told the questioning voice in my head to shut up, and started to listen with my eyes and my cheeks and my lips and hands.

I can hear his respect in the way he shows up on time, doesn’t mention exes, makes plans for us instead of just trying to get down to business. (That just made me chuckle as I typed it.) I can hear his affection in the way he reaches over while he’s driving to grab my hand and kiss it. His gifts—flowers, an Easter basket, my favorite candy, a Batman toy—speak volumes. His willingness to spend time with my friends and family is a shout of sincerity. But perhaps the loudest action of all is his silence. His ability to listen.

I love him for being quiet and talking to me without hollow promises and regurgitated poetry. I love that for the first time ever, I don’t need someone’s mouth to tell me how they feel about me. And it’s really nice to finally understand what everyone was saying when they told me actions spoke louder. They were right.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Looking In

I remember a passage in Melissa Bank's book, The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing, where she describes seeing her life through a window—and realizing how small it looks.

Tonight I was walking back into my apartment from the laundry room, when I glimpsed my kitchen window. I don't think in the six years I've lived here, I've ever actually looked in that window. It's high up, at the back of my fourplex—not a place I generally hang out. But for a moment as I stared up at it, it was like looking into someone else's life. It felt foreign.

A couple of succulents line the windowsill above the sink, pumps of fancy soap and lotion a friend gave me for my birthday sit next to them. The freezer door of my fridge shows a sense of humor, covered in silly magnets and photographs of friends and family. On the wall next to it, a bulletin board holds invitations and thank you notes, a St. Patrick's Day necklace, and my half marathon race number.

I stared in, objectively assessing. It looked to me like the kitchen of someone on the verge. Someone trying hard to live life to the fullest. Someone who loves plants and people. Who would one day like to look inside and see a whole lot more.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

An Overdue Thank You Note

Dear Cheating Ex,

Thank you.

Thank you for giving me an out. For moving out but leaving all of your stuff in my apartment and writing your email password down in your address book so that I could hack into your Yahoo! inbox and find that letter to her about the paternity test and your undying love. Your infidelity allowed me to finally cut the ties between us and get out.

I couldn’t break the cycle before. I kept thinking things would change. I kept thinking it was my fault because I wasn’t understanding enough, fun enough, patient enough, when really I should have been saying enough is enough. I should have known in Cambria that my disgust with your continual spitting (seriously, who does that) and irresponsibility and ex-girlfriend baggage, paired with all the tears I shed, were big fat warning signs that I needed to flee the situation.

But I stuck it out. My pride wouldn’t let me leave. I told too many people that you were my match. How could I go back on that?

Thank you for making me reconsider. For prompting me to go to counseling to “fix” all of “my” issues—and changing your mind about coming with me even after you promised to make a go of it. Therapy provided me with clarity and a renewed faith in what I deserved from a relationship. It helped me see that I didn’t need to be fixed. And I didn’t need to keep trying to fix you. I needed to believe that the right person was out there. Just not in you.

Thank you for sneaking in to get the rest of your stuff after I told you I knew the truth. I’m glad I didn’t have to see you or talk to you. I’m also glad that you never wanted to forge friendships with my friends. It made the separation a lot easier. It was like one day you were there and the next you were gone and I could go back to my life as it had been before I met you.

Thank you for filling me with so many hurtful, downright icky memories of our time together. Focusing on the negatives helped me wade through the pain at the end. I was able to spike the dismay right back across the court every time it was served to me.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you for not proposing to me in Paris. I cannot imagine how much uglier the situation would have been if there’d been a ring involved. If only you had the guts and decency to break up with me when we returned from that trip.

But I feel no more anger towards you—the things you did or didn’t do. Because every stinging word, heart-wrenching action, and betrayal led me to where I am today. You gave me the gift of freedom. And now, a year after we officially ended, I am happier than I think I’ve ever been. I am with the best person in the world. He fits me to a T. He lights me up inside. He is everything that you are not. And I’m so, so grateful to you for leading me to him.

A few nights ago, I had a dream you and I were on vacation together. I came back to our hotel just as you were leaving. Leaving me again without a rightful explanation. And I shouted after you, ”Please don’t do this! Don’t leave.” But, even in my semi-conscious state, I caught myself and remembered that your departure was the best thing. Because Mr. Wonderful would be there when I woke up.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Found: Missing Person and Self Awareness

Monday morning, after posting a Missing Person report on this blog Sunday night, I indulged my growing concern, and emailed my friend’s husband. I was worried about her wellbeing but also frustrated that she didn’t want to talk to me.

I clicked back and forth to my email window, wondering what was taking him so long to respond. Then I read Nilsa’s comment on my post. And this part really struck a chord in me:

If it's more about you and your wanting to share how good life is ... well, maybe she's not in a place to share your joys right now. And though it's surely hurtful to realize that, isn't it better than forcing a person into doing something they don't want to do?

She was so right. It wasn’t about me. It wasn’t about the fact that I needed or wanted to talk to her—it was about what she needed. And if radio silence was it, I had to respect that.

Later in the evening, another concerned friend called and told me she had finally spoken to the Missing Person. She was in a dark place, feeling out of the loop, and had just decided it was easier to cut off communication for awhile. I felt terrible.

All this time I had been focused on what was lacking—what I wasn’t receiving from her—when really, I should’ve been giving, giving, giving. I should’ve been concentrating on the abundance I could try to create for her.

So I put together a list of funny, upbeat songs and burned her a CD. Then I wrote her a letter about how I missed her and hoped she was okay, and reminded her that I was always there if she ever needed to talk. As I was sealing the envelope, I saw a new message in my email inbox.

My Missing Person had returned.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Patriotism at its Best

I spent the 4th down in Dana Point, CA with a bunch of my family. After hearing last year’s harrowing tales of broken watches and knocked out teeth, my sister’s family and I couldn’t help but venture to Orange County for the infamous Dana Point Harbor water fight.

When we arrived at the point, we discovered a beautiful sun-tarped sanctuary that my parents and cousins had arranged, complete with red, white and blue streamers and linens. The barbecue was already smoking, there was fruit and crackers and dip adorning the tables, the sun was shining, the air was warm. It was perfect.

Then it got even better when I looked over and saw our lawn-neighbor wearing these.

Did she make them herself? Did she special order them for the holiday? Were they substituting for bathing suit bottoms—and was that why she had them hiked up so high? Did she have any idea just how much joy she was bringing to my entire family by wearing them? Of all the people I saw throughout the day, this woman had the most spirit and all-American pride of anyone.

We took 3 runs on the boat. The first being a quick cruise through the harbor, armed with about 7 supersoakers and an on-boat hose with a spray gun. We defended ourselves relatively well, although I accidentally smacked my brother-in-law in the head with a squirt gun, and we were all completely drenched when we got back to “camp.”

Trip #2 on the boat took us far out past the jetty on a whale hunt. We were lucky enough to see a gaggle of sea lions. Wait, that’s not right. A school of sea lions? A pride? A posse? I don’t know. Anyway, they were all lopped on top of one another on a buoy. Very cute.

When we caught sight of the whale watching yacht, my cousin sped up to follow it in hopes of spying Moby Dick, and sure enough we were able to see the blowspout spray and dorsal fin of this blue whale. It was quite amazing.

On the way back to shore, we played with a pod of 6 or 7 dolphins. I was tempted to jump in the water and try my dual-dolphin skiing skills, but with my luck, I would’ve accidentally grabbed onto the back of a great white.

The biggest highlight of the day, however, was watching my dad in action during our last harbor cruise and H2O battle. Some of the younger kids had made off with the supersoakers, so we were left with a few puny-stream guns and a couple of buckets. As you can see, saltwater turns my father into Rambo. My sister and I decided we would like my parents to send out this pic as their Christmas card in December.
Happy belated 4th everyone!

***Please note that I took Geekhiker's advice and cropped Shorty Short Shorts' head off. ***

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Missing (a) Person

One of my dear friends has done a disappearing act. I haven’t heard from her in nearly a month, despite several emails and a couple of voice mails.

This isn’t the first time she has seemingly vanished. We’ve had fights over our 20-year friendship that have caused her to go mute on me for weeks. When she was pregnant with her first child, I think a mild depression settled upon her and she kept herself holed up, nearly unreachable, for several months.

I don’t know what’s preventing the communication now. I don’t know whether she is down and needs a shoulder to cry on. Whether she needs support to get through a tough time. Whether she's incredibly busy and can't get to a phone. Or if I did something to upset her and she’s too mad to tell me what it was. I’m at a loss.

She moved away from Southern California a couple months ago, and I’m wondering if part of her assimilation-to-her-new-life process includes cutting ties with her old life. I’m hoping this isn’t the case because I have so much I’m dying to share with her. I want to tell her how Mr. W IMed “I love you” to me. I want to talk to her about what’s going on with friends and family. And find out whether we can plan a girls’ weekend in the fall. I want to know how she’s adjusting to her new house. Whether she has made any new friends. How she’s been spending her days. How her little ones are doing. But it seems that any attempt to reach her is just not getting through.

The stalker side of me even looked on Facebook to see if she’d been talking with anyone else. She seems to be active on there, but just not with me or our local friends. I don’t get it.

So what’s next? A singing telegram? An email to her husband? A flight to the state where she moved? Or continued silence…?

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Anyone Can Have Fun with an Empty Amazon Box

When I asked her what she was doing in there, Zoë said, “Playing that this is my tourbus. I’m heading to pick up my bandmates.”

“Oh yeah? What’s your band’s name?”

“Whisker Sisters. We cover Scissor Sisters songs.”

I turned to Monty. “Dude, what do you think about all this?”

“I’m moving out and changing my name to Kung Fu Panda.”

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Flailings and Flappings

In these past few weeks of summer, I have learned something new about Mr. W. In addition to being thoughtful, an amazing cook, a wealth of knowledge on many subjects and a fandamntastic kisser, he’s also extremely entertaining to watch if there is a fly, June bug or squirrel in the vicinity.

Typically subdued and suave, Mr. W turns into a swashbuckling gazelle when something unwanted is in his house or yard. He bounds about, arms flailing, mouth cursing, trying with every ounce of his being to capture or scare off the home invader.

It is a complete crack-up and unbelievably endearing. I might actually consider planting insects and rodents in his house, just so I can watch him perform. I say “might” because I’m not entirely sure I can deal with another episode like the one that happened on Sunday.

We had just finished lunch when he stopped at the sliding glass door to inspect some sort of intruder. “I think there’s a wasp in here,” he said, backing up to the kitchen to procure an entrapment device. I was about 15 feet away, sitting idly on the couch.

Mr. W reached up and attempted to trap the wasp in a glass but it buzzed away and landed on one of the exposed ceiling beams about 6 feet away from the couch (still a safe distance from me). This called for the big guns. Bug spray. When he positioned a chair under the beam and shot a stream of raid at the little buzzer, it flew in a wide arc, around the living room, and before I could flee, it charged towards me, and as I whipped my head to shield my face, a blonde lock reached out and grabbed the wasp.

“IT’S IN MY HAIR! IT’S IN MY HAIR! IT’S IN MY HAIR!” I said calmly, coolly, collectedly. Just like when that necklace attacked me.

I was standing with my hair flipped over and my face cocked to the side as far as it would turn to get away from the lethal insect. The next thing I felt was furious brushing, as though someone was swatting me in the head with a broom. But alas, it was just Mr. W trying to whap the little bastard away with his hands.

When he finally dislodged it, it fell to the couch and he drowned it in a storm of aerosol repellent. “Is that even a wasp?” he asked, covering it with the glass and examining its unusually long blackish body. I’m pretty sure it was a wasp hybrid. Perhaps part dragonfly or pterodactyl.

Eventually, he relocated the choking wasp to the backyard and drenched the couch in upholstery cleaner. My hair is recovering nicely, thanks for asking.