Wednesday, December 24, 2008

And Now: A Holiday Guest Post

This one comes from my big sister...

I know you've all been anxiously awaiting the sequel to "The Toenail F." Boys and Girls, gather 'round for another chapter in Hetherington Holiday Mayhem. For those of you who are new to this exciting holiday tradition, my cousin, Big T, and I exchange just about the grossest handmade gifts that you could conjure up. He started it all with a toenail charm necklace, followed by a matching toenail ring. There has been a cat litter ornament with Tootsie Roll embellishments, and another ornament with various items composed of DNA such as newborn umbilical cords, boogers, teeth, etc... Last year he presented me with The Toenail F. He saved his toenail clippings for a full year, and then formed them into a beautiful letter F (for my last name) and framed it. This year it was my turn.

Just about the time I needed to start planning my attack, my daughter and about 6 other extended family members got the gift that keeps on giving - lice. At first I was horrified, as any mother is when presented with parasites on her child's head, but then it hit me. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. When life gives you lice before the holiday season, make lice cufflinks for your cousin. Being the nurse in the family, I became the designated nit picker. I became quite skilled, I am proud to say, and collected each little critter in a ziploc baggie. My poor sister-in-law, who has long, beautiful, blonde hair was in tears when we found it in her hair. She was grabbing at those little guys and smashed a couple of them before I could get to them. I had to calmly beg her not to mangle them because I needed them for a craft. She cooperated after that little discussion.

Next, I needed to find just the right cufflinks with a nice white background for maximum contrast. Finally found the right pair on Ebay and had to have them shipped all the way from Hong Kong. Good thing the lice were free, because this was starting to get costly in shipping. I was so excited when I found the little manilla envelope in the mailbox with the Chinese stamps on them! It's craft time! Amazing what one can do with a bag of dead lice, some Modgepodge and toothpicks.

Big T was a little nervous to open his special gift at the family gift exchange the other night, but I think after the shock wore off, he kinda liked them. He even wore them in the buttonhole on his collar for all to see and enjoy. He has 367 days to start planning his retaliation....

Monday, December 22, 2008

Hetherington Holiday Mayhem

Over the past several Christmases, my sister has been enjoying a holiday tradition that she likes to rub in my face all year long. She invites my dad over to her house and she and my nieces make Christmas cookies with him. Last year they called me at work, giggling and listening to carols, bragging on and on about how much fun they were having with Dad.

Well, this year she was nice enough to include me, and thus begun the holiday hilarity of my weekend.

Dad was feeling a little under the weather, so we weren’t sure what to expect from him in terms of creativity. As you can see from the picture above, he more than delivered. He turned a gingerbread man into an alien, a Santa Claus into a Krusty the Clown-esque snowman, and an ornament into a very lifelike clock.

Given Dad’s less than healthy state, it was no surprise that last night—at our extended family Christmas dinner—Mom asked, “Who knows how to carve a turkey?” There was no way we were letting Dad get germs on our birds. The only person to raise his hand in the room was, my hero, Mr. Wonderful. Of course he knew how to carve a turkey, he watches 5-27 hours of the Food network each week.

The turkeys were carved and all was well in the world. Until dessert.

As a side note, it should be known that my 8- and 10-year old nieces are deathly afraid of human vomit. Simply saying the word “throw up” is equivalent to describing the Charles Manson murders in detail.

The two of them were perched on the couch when my cousin’s 2-year old started to choke on his pumpkin pie. He was still talking—no airways were cut off—he just needed a little sip of water to wash it down. Unfortunately, his dad didn’t move fast enough, and as my nieces watched with mouths agape and eyes bulging, poor little Lucas tossed his cookies. My cousin, being an expert in the field of motherhood, simply reached out and caught it on her dessert plate.

The nieces screamed. The room erupted into moans. Mr. W murmured, “Ooooh no…” And my mother started laughing so hard at everyone else’s reactions, that she locked at the knees and began doing a bladder handicapped run down the hallway to the bathroom.

Given that she wet her pants a smidge on Thanksgiving when my brother flew Mr. W’s remote controlled helicopter into the china cabinet and broke an antique glass, I was fairly confident that she’d ruptured the seal this time as well.

Ten minutes later, she reappeared, wearing slightly different black pants. “Did you pee?” I asked as she wiped tears of laughter from the corners of her eyes. She tried to play coy at first. But after much harassing, she admitted that not only did she break the seal, she had a full flood on her hands…or rather, feet…by the time she reached the bathroom.

My family is all getting together again on Wednesday, so there may be more stories to come. And my sister will be writing a guest blog about this year’s disgusting gift exchange with our cousin’s husband.

Yes folks, it’s the most wonderful time of year in the Hetherington household… I hope we all survive it.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Fading to Black

Two weeks before I graduated from college, I received a phone call from the ad agency I interned at asking me to come in for an interview. They were creating a junior copywriter position and thought I might be interested. $30k to write every day?! Heck yes I was interested!

I got the job and spent almost 4 years learning the ropes of agency life. Around year 3, things started to change. Our biggest account was Microsoft and when they made the decision to consolidate their agencies, we were left in the dust…with about $6 million less coming into our office.

I watched coworkers get laid off. It started with higher-ups who were far enough removed from me that it didn’t really sting. But wave after wave, it crept closer. And it began to hurt. Then it hit one of my favorite people in the office.

I had bonded with this guy and several others—spending long lunches with them, hanging out on weekends, even traveling to Vegas to see U2. The thought of not seeing him every day broke my heart.

Slowly, the unraveling continued and eventually I was laid off. I felt somewhat relieved—I was ready to work for new clients. But I also found myself mourning my past life. Change didn’t agree with me.

On an almost visceral level, I missed the carefree days at the agency. When we could get ice cream after lunch and throw a super ball around my office. I missed the feeling that everything was right and okay. I missed being excited and having fun on a daily basis. The halcyon days had faded to black.

I’m the first to tell the people around me that change is a good thing.

“With it comes growth and opportunity.”

“When I was laid off, I wrote a manuscript for a novel.”

“It was the greatest four months of my life.”

The truth is, I also cried a lot.

I’m at a point again where change is crowding in around me. The stable life I knew last year is rocking back and forth, preparing to go topsy turvy like a pendulous theme park ride. And I don’t want it to. I don’t want to grieve for the good days gone by. I don’t want my heart to ache because I miss old coworkers. I don’t want to sense the prickles of fear that the fresh, limitless sense I had with Mr. Wonderful has given way to familiarity and a need to shelve the romance and focus on the logistics of our future.

The past few weeks of ups and downs have left me feeling like the dance floor I was waltzing across has fallen away, board by board. Change is after me. And I’m scared. I don’t want to get off my tiny square of hardwood because I know it so well. I know the dance I was doing made me happy. And the thought of learning new steps just makes me want to cry.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Look into Our Eyes and We Will Kill You

In an attempt to get them out of my bed and prevent cat hair inhalation while I'm sleeping, I gave the children early Christmas presents. You would think they'd be really grateful for their new nests, but instead they've decided to try to vaporize me with their super laser cat vision.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Yummy Yummy Yoga

Until yesterday, I hadn’t been to yoga class in about a year and a half. The last time I went was the first, and only, time I ever went to the studio solo. It was the day I had my incident with sweaty, naked guy.

Given that I still like Mr. Wonderful a lot when he is sweaty and naked (What? No, Mom I’ve never seen him naked. I’m talking hypothetically about after we get married.) I figured it would be safe to take a class with him. So we braved the chilly morning air and headed to Golden Bridge Yoga in Hollywood to get our chakrasses handed to us in the most difficult Basics class I’ve ever attended.

The moment we entered the studio, I was in love. It’s a huge building with exposed beam ceilings, brick walls and the smell of incense wafting everywhere. The front desk is connected to a store that has just about everything zen you can think of. Candles, yoga clothing, handmade jewelry, books on positive energy. I could’ve spent hours in there.

People were milling about everywhere and a lot of them were decked out in real deal yogi clothes—solid white pants and tunics, with head wraps and knit caps. I’d never seen anything like it. They assembled on the main floor like a devoted congregation preparing for Sunday mass. At the front of the room was an ornate stage with a gong and tapestries and pillows. This was the Guru’s teaching pulpit.

Mr. W and I made our way through them, upstairs to the Basics class, and were pleased to find only 3 other students in attendance. We spread our mats next to one another and very quickly lost ourselves in the beginning stretches. Eyes closed, listening to the chanting below me, focusing on my breath, I quickly remembered how replenishing yoga can be.

Being in class is different than doing yoga in my living room. The energy isn’t the same. Or rather, there’s more energy. On the wooden floor, with bells and gongs ringing in my ears, I could feel myself reconnecting to a forgotten peace. I stretched until my limbs shook, recalling my desire to be stronger in body and spirit. It was so nice to have that familiar feeling back.

Every muscle in my core and upper body is sore today. It’s fantastic. And I can’t wait to turn this practice into a habit again. Even if it means seeing the occasional sweaty, naked guy.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Calling All Composters

If you read me regularly, you know that I drive a Prius. I recycle. I wash the plastic silverware I use at work so I can reuse it. There is a picture of me in a scrapbook somewhere and I’m hugging a Sequoia tree. Yes, I’m crunchy and green and I want to save our planet.

So when I found out about this electric, indoor composter, I was smitten! It’s mega expensive but I figured there are lots of girls out there who spend $400 on a purse, so why shouldn’t I spend it on something that will help reduce landfill waste and give my plants lovely nutrient-rich compost? I even told family members to give me money instead of gifts this Christmas so I could use it toward my coveted purchase.

Then Mr. W read an article in the L.A. Times about how noisy these indoor composters are. The story likened the sound to having a Lincoln driven into your living room. Sadly, I do not have a garage in which to place something like this, so the kitchen is my only option and well…I don’t want to be woken up all night by a loud-ass composter.

So now I’m exploring my other options.

There’s this one that comes with a whole kit, and this one that’s on wheels for easy transporting to the garden, and this one that’s enhanced with solar power. They all seem great and I have NO idea which one to choose.

Do any of you have any experience with this? Or know someone who does? I’d love some sage advice!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


It is very clear to me where I get my dorky gene after reading my mother's response to yesterday's post:

Dad was more disturbed about you spending the night at Mr. W's house than witnessing all that.

But I assured him "Twas the Night Before Christmas, when all through the house, there was Melissa asleep on the couch."

Clever and cheesy go hand-in-hand in the Hetherington family...

Monday, December 8, 2008

Just Another Morning in Hollywood

Sitting just down the hill from the Hollywood sign, Mr. W’s house is often shaken by news helicopters; the tranquility is disrupted by crazy, singing neighbors; the cul de sac sometimes clogged with lost drivers, searching for a road that leads to the famous sign. It’s a great street, however it’s right in the middle of a city that’s far from quiet.

Even the wildlife is loud. On more than one occasion, we’ve been woken by deer in the front ivy, squirrels in the peach tree and the neighbor’s noisy dog. But what woke us at 4:30 this morning is something I would have never expected, and have never experienced.

We were sound asleep, probably still in somewhat in food comas from all the cheese we had before dinner, when suddenly a cacophony of chaos commenced outside the bedroom window. A car barreled up the street, followed by the chop of a helicopter and several sirens. Full blast. Mr. W jumped out of bed and ran to the window. My heart leapt into my throat and I choked, “What’s happening?!” I didn’t know whether we were having an earthquake or being attacked by the Taliban or what.

“It’s a car chase,” he said.

I peeked my head through the blinds and watched, astounded, as 4 police officers with guns drawn screamed at the driver, shielding themselves behind the flung open doors of a squad car. “Put your f*@%ing hands on your head!” they were all yelling. Right outside Mr. W's window.

“Oh my God,” I whispered to Mr. W, “If someone gets shot I’m going to freak out.” I had never been witness to anything like it before.

Three more police cars were scattered down the street with their lights flashing, and as the helicopter spotlight swiped the cul de sac again, I watched 4 more officers creep up the street to provide backup to the screamers.

A few minutes in, the instruction changed to “Get on the f%&#ing ground!” Then we heard strange moans and mumbling coming from the driver. He sounded like Frankenstein and I had to wonder if he was drunk.

We couldn’t see past the tree in Mr. W’s front yard, but somewhere just beyond it, the driver had laid himself out on the asphalt. Finally, the officers made their way around the car, never lowering their weapons. The moaning continued, and as the officers wrangled the driver to the backend of the squad, I could make out what he was saying. “I’m so scared! I’m so scared!” Duh, buddy. Maybe you shouldn’t have run from the cops then.

Though the noise of police radios and processes continued for quite some time, we were able to crawl back in bed and doze after we knew all was well back on the street.

“I hope the Prius is okay,” I whispered as I cuddled up against the safety of Mr. W. “Man, my dad would’ve loved this.”

Friday, December 5, 2008

Shock and Awe

I was amazed yesterday morning when I woke up and heard that AT&T was laying off 12,000 employees. 12,000. That is, by all rational accounts, a buttload.

When I got into work, Mr. Wonderful IMed me and said he had received an email from the president of his company alerting him to an 850-person layoff. Then moments later, he wrote back saying, “I know who they’re laying off now: Me.”

My heart stopped. He had been planning to go freelance in February, but still! What a shock!

He said he had to meet with HR and I waited anxiously, chatting over the cubicle walls with my coworkers, until he returned.

What he told me upon that return, changed my shock to awe.

Mr. W works for one of the big movie studios. And he was under contract for his position, which means they have to pay him through the duration of that contract. Which means he’s receiving benefits and salary through October 2009. Rat bastard.

He can go freelance now with a huge cushion under him. Why the studio would want to do that, I have no idea. Essentially they are paying him not to work. Makes no sense whatsoever. But he is psyched about it.

My company (one of the big guys on the Internet) is laying off about 23% of its workforce next Wednesday. I’m feeling pretty secure about my position, but I’m not at all looking forward to the aftermath. In addition to losing people I care for and enjoy working with, if I am one of the ones left standing, I will inherit the workload of others who were let go. Sorry, I know—stupid reason to complain. That’s a fortunate “problem” to have. Oy, I hope the economy turns around in the New Year…

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

We Know Better

I saw a clip on the Today Show this morning that hit a very sensitive nerve with me. It was about the health of our nation. A recent study revealed that the health of Americans has not improved at all over the last 4 years. This makes no sense to me because we know better.

Back in the 1960's people were eating Crisco and chain-smoking while pregnant—but they were ignorant of the harm they were causing. Now, we know better.

We know that smoking is killing us. We know that it not only fills our bodies with carcinogens, but damages the bodies of people around us.

We know that eating fast food, processed food or too much food is not good for us. This way of living has not only caused 1 in 4 Americans to be obese or overweight, but impedes the health of people who are not yet overweight. Cheeseburgers and Big Gulps are not the kind of fuel we need in our bodies. And if we continue feeding ourselves like this and feeding our children like this, we are eventually going to be living in world of diabetic orphans.

We know that tanning causes skin cancer, yet we avoid using sunscreen and some of us still hit up tanning salons. I see no reason why tanning salons should keep their beds around. Switching everything to spray tan (which we could discover some day is also bad for you...) seems completely acceptable to me.

We know that we should jump on medical issues as soon as they arrive. Some of us may not have healthcare coverage at the moment...and that's a whole separate discussion. But for those of us who do have health insurance, we need to take the time to get checked out regularly. There are so many things our doctors can detect long before we're even aware of them. And if we've discovered a lump, a spot, a twitch that doesn't seem quite right, we need to trust our intuition and get it checked out.

We know better. And I wish we would start acting on that knowledge.

To see where your state ranks among the healthiest and unhealthiest in the U.S. check out this page.

Monday, December 1, 2008

You Know You're a Crazy Cat Lady When...

Your dear friend sends you a hilarious gift a few weeks before Christmas because he sees it and you're the first person he thinks of...

Yes friends, that is the entire Nativity made of ceramic cats...including little baby Jesus Cat in the manger.