Category Archives: Husband

Celebrating My Vanity With My Vanity License Plates

I have a vanity plate. By definition, it sounds like a shiny serving dish that I often use to admire my beautiful face, but fortunately I’m not quite that self-obsessed. It’s actually a personalized license plate, so anyone who happens to be tailgating my 15-year old minivan will know it’s me and not some other broke mom who can’t afford a newer car. Here is my license plate:

For those of you familiar with me or my blog, you will instantly know that it’s a tribute to my children Jake and Mary. But others may be wondering, “What about Emily? Remember? Your first born? What is she? Chopped liver?”

Emily’s there too. See?

I typically call Emily “Em.” The only Em I’ve ever heard of is Auntie Em from The Wizard of Oz. Other than their names, there’s probably nothing my daughter has in common with the plain, elderly woman screaming “Dorothy! DOROTHEEEEE!” Except for maybe the screaming.

I ordered my current license plate about three years ago when Jake was a toddler and everyone was accusing me of ignoring my only son. My personalized plate at that time was this:

The definition of this plate was “Emily and Mary’s Mother.” However, you wouldn’t believe how often I’d be filling up at the gas station and someone would ask, “Are you really Eminem’s mom?” I was just a little hurt that someone would think I was old enough to be a the mother of a rapper that had been around for quite a while, but then Kim Basinger played his mom in 8 Mile, and although she’s nearly a decade older than I am, she certainly doesn’t look it. In actuality, Eminem is only 10 years younger than I am, and since I didn’t experience precocious puberty, I wasn’t a birth mother candidate. I often wondered if Eminem’s real mother might want to buy the plate from me, but I never got the call.

This was the vanity plate I owned before I had children:

Prelay is the term used when an editor edits sound on tape (before that newfangled digital thang was invented). I would prepare sound effects and music that were on tape and lay them onto the multitrack tape so the mixer could dub them together. At least that’s how I think they got the term.

However, if anyone asked what Prelay meant, I would jokingly give this definition: “Dinner and a movie.”

Apparently, the folks in the vanity plate censorship department at the DMV thought the same thing, so when I applied for the plate, I had to give a definition of Prelay. I did not tell them it meant dinner and a movie.  If that was the case, I probably would have been driving around with a plate that had seven random letters and numbers instead of something that made me look easy.

Naturally it was wise for me to change my dinner and a movie plate to something more G or at least PG rated. Otherwise, whenever my car would be covered in dust, instead of hooligans scribbling “Wash Me!” they would have written “Tramp.”

1973 Mercury Capri

I ordered my first personalized plate when I was just 16 years old, and with my minimum wage ($2.65/hour) job at Kentucky Fried Chicken I bought a 1973 Mercury Capri for $950.My vanity plate read:

It stood for “Cathy’s Capri.” The car was a stick shift, which I thought was cool, although I had no idea how to drive a stick so I always grinded the gears. It also had Bondo covering its tail end, which didn’t bother me so much since I wasn’t the one who had to look at it. I was a total dweeb, and if there was any question about that, people could just look at my lame personalized plate to be convinced that there was no doubt.

I love sitting behind cars and trying to figure out their personalized license plates. I have seen many variations with HOT or SEXY or BEST. Isn’t it great that drivers have such great self-esteem? I’ve never seen a LOSER or STUPID or IM*UGLY, even though they fall into the required seven letters or less category.

It would probably not be a good idea to order the plates SPEEDER or DRUNK or COPSUCK. Even if you obeyed all the traffic laws, I suspect you’d be spending lots of time in traffic court for minor infractions like “contemplating a rolling stop” or “looking down at a breakfast burrito.”

I always wonder what happens to couples who are going through an ugly divorce but own personalized plates that have their initials, followed by a heart and then their spouse’s initials. Are they level-headed enough to order a new license plate right away, or do they cry and want to scratch out the last three letters every time they see their cheating scum-of-the-earth’s initials?

(Don’t worry, Sweetie. If you’re reading this I don’t mean us. I was just using this as an example)

For the time being, my children are quite well behaved. But if you happen to be driving behind me and see the first four letters of my vanity license plate scratched out with a jackknife, you can guess that Jake has probably been sent off to military school.

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Filed under Financial Insecurity, Humor, Husband, Parenting

Amateur Night

Sober alcoholics have a nickname for New Year’s Eve: Amateur Night.

It’s when the normies (what those same sober people call normal drinkers) who usually have a glass or two of wine when they go out to dinner or a few brewskies in front of a ball game go out for one night of the year, start drinking over dinner, continue for the rest of the night, then pop open a bottle of champagne at midnight. The next morning they’ve cancelled their trip to see the local parade, and instead they’re moaning in bed and racing to the bathroom every 15 minutes to puke their guts out.

Then they make their first New Year’s resolution that they will most likely break before year’s end: never again.

Sometimes they’ll do a shorter version of the same song and dance on St. Patrick’s Day with the green beer, or on Cinco de Mayo with a few pitchers of margaritas. There’s a good reason that the Highway Patrol works overtime with extra sobriety checkpoints on these holidays. It’s because of the amateurs.

I was invited to a New Year’s Eve party with old friends I was looking forward to seeing, but ended up at another bash with a bunch of my daughter’s friends and their parents who have all become good friends of mine. Definitely a quality problem being invited to two parties on the same night. Everyone should be so lucky on New Year’s Eve.

As someone who used to drink a lot but no longer drinks at all, New Year’s Eve can sometimes be a little uncomfortable, unless of course I’m staying home – which my husband did. He’s had a week-long ear and sinus infection and if I dragged him to the party, I know he’d be tapping his watch at me before 9:00, and that wouldn’t be fun for either of us. So he was the one who stayed home, and yet he was also uncomfortable. Double bummer for him.

The party was a potluck, and it was a smorgasbord of everything from pizza to lox to brownies to potstickers. Of course the kids woofed down the pizza and baked goods, and about 18 of them were running around, jumping on the trampoline, dancing in unison with the Wii, and blowing horns well before midnight.

There were 10 couples chatting about what it’s like to be new middle school parents, how we spent the holidays, and the new movies that came out this week. A good amount of wine and champagne was being poured (for the adults – not the kids), and yet I don’t think one grownup became even slightly blitzed. The kids and I toasted with Martinelli’s Sparkling Cider, while the majority of their parents clinked with champagne, and it took a good ten minutes to get around to hugging everyone after shouting “Happy New Year!” No one picked a fight, made a pass at someone else’s spouse, passed out, or loudly slurred the phrase, “I am not drunk!”

I’m quite sure my friends didn’t make a quick u-turn in the middle of the street when they saw the flashing lights signaling a sobriety checkpoint or throw up in their shoes. And my guess is that they’re waking up this morning a little later than usual (after being up well past midnight) and they’re bright eyed and bushy tailed enough to cook their kids a stack of New Year’s Day pancakes.

I was thinking of writing my New Year’s resolutions for today’s blog, but I figured every other blogger in America was doing that. I’m just glad that one of my resolutions is no longer to quit waking up with a hangover. I haven’t had one in over 16 years. And the added bonus of that is that I have found some wonderful friends who are responsible drinkers even on New Year’s Eve, and don’t care that I’m toasting with Martinelli’s.

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Filed under Anxiety, Friends, Humor, Husband, Illness, Parenting

America’s Got Talent – But What About My Son Jake?

Just like Sleeping Beauty, when each of my daughters was born, a good fairy floated down over their angelic heads and bestowed upon them the gift of song.

The gift appeared early with Emily when she was two and she sang non-stop. She got the Christmas solo in preschool and by the 2nd grade she landed the lead in every school musical. In middle school, as an incoming 6th grader, she won the school talent contest when she sang “Shy” from Once Upon a Mattress and her microphone went out. Her voice continued to ring to the last seat in the auditorium.

Mary is four years younger and we were concerned about her following in Emily’s footsteps. How could she compete with her sister’s reputation? But we needn’t have worried because Mary developed her own voice, which was as powerful and clear and pitch-perfect as Emily’s. After playing the leads in the same musicals Emily performed in, Mary is now singing leads in a middle school performing arts academy.

And then there’s Jake.

If a good fairy hovered over his head when he was a wee infant, I’m not sure yet what gift was bestowed upon him. The gift of joke, perhaps. Maybe the gift of never shut up. He chatters on incessantly about absolutely anything. If Jake’s around there is no such thing as silence. The only exception is if he is meeting someone new, and no matter how many times I’ve coached him on saying, “Hello. Nice to meet you,” he just silently hides under my pants.

Jake ran toward 3rd base instead of 1st in tee-ball and he kicked the ball more than he dribbled it in basketball. Although he’s performing relatively well in school, he’s still a bit squirmy, so it’s doubtful that he’ll make any kind of kindergarten honor roll this year.

The elementary school holiday show was a couple of weeks ago, and it was the first event I went to since I had shingles.I was so excited to see Jake and the other kindergartners sing “Dreidel Dreidel Dreidel” and “Ten Little Angels in the Band.”

Jake's in the front row on the right

Because Jake’s one of the younger, shorter ones, he was in the front row. We’d practiced the songs a dozen times, so I knew he could sing them. And yet, when the other children started singing, there was my Jake – swaying and moving his mouth silently to something that had nothing to do with the tunes the other kids were singing. He looked like Ray Charles, if Ray was singing the wrong song.

It looks like Jake will not be inheriting his sisters’ talent for singing.

Although Jake did not acquire the gift of song, he constantly sings a little ditty his friend Griffin taught him:

Jake's self portrait

A B C D E F G

Gummy bears are chasing me.

One is red. Once is blue.

One is chewing on my shoe.

I have to run for my life

Because the red one has a knife.

Ahhhhhhhh!!!!!

I was thrilled to death recently when I heard my husband laughing hysterically, calling me into the living room to watch Jake. Jake was wearing his new elf shirt and two different Christmas socks. He had built himself a small dance floor with his big plastic waffles and was singing the rap song “Who Let the Dogs Out?” and dancing in a way that was half Michael Jackson, half complete spaz. I caught it on my smart phone and posted it on YouTube. If you’re looking for it, it’s called “Jake sings Who Let the Dogs Out?” and would you believe there is a second video with the exact same name? Ours is the funnier one with more hits. It’s just a minute long, so I encourage you to check it out. Just click on this link:

Jake sings Who Let the Dogs Out?

It looks like the good fairy did bestow a gift upon my infant son Jake: the gift of spaz.

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Murdering a Holiday Tradition

This year's Christmas tree

My husband and I murdered a holiday tradition on Sunday.

We bought an artificial Christmas tree.

Mind you, this wasn’t one of those impulsive decisions you get while strolling down the Costco aisles (I know that just like me, every one of you have some kind of massager you just couldn’t live without). We weighed the cost of one artificial tree compared to a lifetime of tree lot evergreens, as well as the carbon footprint we leave every year by assassinating an innocent living thing for our own two-week enjoyment, and decided to do the eco-friendly thing.

Here’s our typical holiday tradition:

One or two weeks before Christmas, the whole family would wander down to the local Christian church where we are not members (we’re heathens) and check out the freshly-cut trees. The criteria? – not too short, not too dry, not too bald. We always aimed for the $50 tree, but ended up with the $75 one. We contemplated if we should buy the $10 stand/water dish or try to find the one in the garage that makes every tree lopsided. Then some guy who looks like a weekend carny would tie the tree to the top of the minivan. I tipped him $5, the whole time thinking, “I was a Girl Scout. I know how to tie a bowline and a square knot. I can do a lot with the five bucks I just gave away.”

We’d drive the tree home and open the front door, hoping the dogs wouldn’t bolt for the street as my husband carried the tree inside, spraying a trail of pine needles along the way. We’d adjust the stand and pour the evergreen mixture and water into the stand dish, wondering why we always paid extra for the potion even though the tree seemed dehydrated in minutes. We also had to keep the pets from drinking it, which was an impossible task. You’d think that evergreen potion would make dogs less thirsty.

Then my husband or I would string up the colored lights. If it was him, he was done after two strands. If it was me, I wouldn’t stop until I had eight strands up and the tree glowed brighter than kryptonite. Unfortunately, at some point in the next two weeks, at least one strand would burn out, leaving a chunk of the tree in a blackened shadow for the rest of its existence.

The tree would get dryer by the minute. After a few days we would hear random kerplops as a brittle branch gave way and a heavy ornament fell to the ground. Every year we’d lose three to four of the breakable ones. Most of the time I save them in an ever-growing zip lock baggie with every intention of gluing them back together. I never do.

Then on New Year’s Day we’d throw a large bag over the tree and my husband would carry the condom-covered carcass to the street where it might sit for weeks. The sanitation workers only haul it away if we shove it in the green bin, which we are only able to after the tree completely turns to kindling.

And that’s our annual Christmas tree tradition.

No longer.

I looked online at artificial trees to see what kind of cost we were looking at. Target sells them in the range of $80 to $800, which made me want to immediately rethink my plan since there’s no way in hell I’m going to spend twice as much on a tree as we do for our whole Christmas.

We decided to check out Sears, for the simple reason that it happened to be the anchor department store at the mall we were at. They had two trees available – the $200 tree that was on sale for $125, or the $300 that was marked down to the low price of $150. I like a good deal, so you can guess which one I chose. My bet is that Sears never sells that tree for $300. They just say they do to persuade suckers like me to buy it.

We bought the 7.5 Foot Just-cut Blue Noble Fir Pre-lit Tree. It has multi-colored lights that never burn out, and apparently is so easy to put together that even our 5-year old could do it if he had the ability to read the instructions. The tree is called “slim,” which is usually a word I like very much, especially if someone calls me “slim,” but on a Christmas tree it sounds more like an insult. However, we have a smallish living room, and a slim tree would probably be a smart choice.

Mary and Emily were gone when we bought the tree, and Jake seemed to take a greater interest in the box rather than the tree itself. When the girls returned home and saw the tree, Mary was horrified. How could we choose a tree without her? How could we get a fake tree? It didn’t even smell like a tree.

Mary was outnumbered. Emily didn’t want to murder another tree. So instead, we murdered our holiday tradition.

Merry Christmas to y’all and I hope you celebrate wonderful old and new traditions this holiday season.

I can't get a photo of the lights without it looking blurry. Sorry.

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Hibernating

I'm in here somewhere

I’m hibernating.

It’s not my natural state of being, so I am completely out of my comfort zone.

I’m typically the whirling dervish Mama Bear nabbing a teddy for Jakey Bear, collecting warm fur blankets for Mary Beary and gathering wheat and dairy-free nuts and berries for Emily Bear so the den will be sweeter smelling for all of us during our long winter’s nap.

But somewhere in the midst of my busy-ness I hear Papa Tom Bear pathetically pleading:

“Sweetie, just stop. You’re sick. Go to bed.”

My husband normally doesn’t have a pathetic bone in his body, and he don’t beg fo’ no one. But he’s worried about me.

After two ER visits, a 9-day stay in the hospital and a diagnosis of shingles to my eye and left side of my head, I am finally home with strict orders to rest.

The sad thing is, rest is the only thing that makes me feel better. The pain in my head ranges between 1 and 4 on a scale of 1 to 10, it looks like I’m wearing a Star Trek Klingon mask over half my head, and the IV on my left hand gave me phlebitis, a blood clot that made my hand and arm bruised, swollen and unable to move without a boatload of pain.

phlebitis

My husband tells me that the phlebitis is God doing for me what I can’t do for myself. It forces me to stay away from work, typing, and chores. It also teaches me humility as I ask for help with simple tasks like tying my pants, fastening buttons, and opening lids. My mother-in-law drove me home from the hospital and took care of me my first day home. In the middle of my first hot bath in forever, I had to call her in to ask if she would shave my right armpit. I’m not sure if I was more grateful or embarrassed.

I am tired all the time. I stumble out of bed around 9:00, eat a couple of bites of something and park myself on the sofa. By noon I’m back to bed. I get up again around dinner time, then return to bed a few hours later.

I don’t always sleep. At 3:00 in the morning they call that insomnia, but at 3:00 in the afternoon it’s called… I don’t know what. During the wee hours I grab my iPad, which doesn’t seem to know if it should be horizontal or vertical while I’m lying down, so the screen often resembles a prop plane in a tailspin. I post my progress on Facebook and I’m amazed at the outpouring of well wishes. My friend Gabe responded that Facebook saved him while he was recuperating from back surgery. I read about everyone’s Thanksgiving dinner, their Black Friday shopping experiences and how they’re now setting up their Christmas trees. I press the “Like” button often. It’s comforting to virtually experience their lives, even if it is only in a sentence or a photo.

The afternoons I lie in bed in and out of sleep and listen to the sounds of my family going on with their lives without me: Emily chatting and giggling on the phone with her friend; Mary singing Adele’s Rolling in the Deep at the top of her lungs; Jake dragging his 3×3 foot plastic waffles across the living room floor, building an elaborate house; Tom yelling at the dogs for snagging his lunch. Even though I’m not participating, I love being home to experience it, even if it is just audibly.

The phone rings a lot, mostly with people offering to help. We’ve received two roasted chickens, baguettes, a variety of salads, tuna salad, two turkey roll ups, a dozen deviled eggs and a pumpkin pie. I tell people we’re fine with meals, but when my friend Sam offered to bring baked ziti for dinner tomorrow night, I caved. I love a good ziti. We’re still accepting rides to and from school, and it’ll probably take me all spring to make up the car pool commitment.

My friend Lisa offered to spend a couple of hours cleaning my house. It is a testament to a very good friendship for her to not only sincerely make such and offer, but for me to actually take her up on it.

Mary gave me a hug the day I came home from the hospital. “You’re so skinny, Mommy!” she remarked. I’m embarrassed to say that I was thrilled by that comment. I lost 10 lbs., and I still don’t have much of an appetite. But I would definitely trade the reduction of two dress sizes to get my old life back.

About a week ago, I started to become a little more lucid and asked my husband to bring my laptop to the hospital. I spent about two days drafting my blog Shingles! – More Painful Than Childbirth and somehow thought that it would magically transpose itself from my brainwaves to the Internet. I didn’t really factor in the effort of actually typing the thing – especially with one hand.

I typed a little. Slept a little. Typed some more. Slept longer. I finally finished it and was just checking the typos when my body shut down.

I remember my husband telling me a story of how he was watching a women’s triathlon with his ex wife, and there were two contestants running neck and neck more than a mile ahead of any other runner, when only a matter of yards away from the finish line, both their bodies shut down. My husband imitates something that looks like a headless chicken flailing, rolling, and flapping its limbs helplessly as the other participants ran past them to win.

This is how I felt on the last few typos:

Small i. Need capital I. Where’s shift? Hold shift. Keep holding. Where’s I? Hold shift. Tap I. Almost. Almost… got it.

I uploaded the blog around midnight, then slept through the night and most of the next day. The day after that I was released from the hospital, and I slept most of that day as well.

So now I sit here, my first time typing longer than a few answered emails. I’ll upload it, have a few bites of dinner, then go back to bed.

This post is longer than I would have liked, but I just don’t have the energy to go back and edit it.

It might be a while before I post another blog.

I’ll be busy hibernating.

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Filed under Anxiety, Friends, Humor, Husband, Illness, Parenting, Recuperating

Shingles! – More Painful Than Childbirth

My boss is kind enough to be one of my regular blog readers, so he took pity on me two weeks ago when I posted 10 Luxuries I Can Now Afford Since Once Upon a Time Got Picked Up for a Full Season and threw me another bone: four days of extra work on the TNT series Perception, starring Eric McCormick from Will & Grace, premiering summer 2012, but dubbing this week.

I could really use the cash and immediately started canceling some commitments, rearranging others and basically increasing my mega dose of caffeine. I had already written and was ready to post my next blog My Ex Husband is Getting Married Today for Friday 11-11-11. I threw on my cape, readied myself for a good night’s sleep sometime the next week, and started forging ahead. I’ve pulled this kind of task off many times before. But I was suddenly lambasted by a foe I had never before encountered.

Shingles.

I’ve had my share of pain in my life. I’ve broken my leg, cracked my coccyx, champed out stitches and suffered three experiences of childbirth ranging from all natural, to give me the epidural now!, to what the hell do you mean it’s too late for the f#%*ing epidural?

But nothing so far has prepared me for the sheer agony of shingles.

For those of you who may be unfamiliar with this ailment (myself included), it’s a painful rash caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox and is usually initiated by stress or a weakened immune system – which I guess is proof that I was unable to retain my Super-working-volunteer-mom status solely on a diet of Zipfizz and zero carb Monster energy drinks.

The Shingles started in my eye, and after being diagnosed with a migraine, a lacerated cornea and an ulcerated eyeball, the unbearable pain swirled through my eye and entire left side of my head, screaming for doctors to just murder me, because even though they wanted me to rate my pain level between 0 and 10, it had already zoomed past 12 on the agony Richter scale.

This cacophony of torment kept me incapacitated and hospitalized for a week and a half. I floated in and out of pain, sleep, and delusional pain meds for nearly a week, with an oozing eye covered in blisters and too swollen to see through. I resembled Sylvester Stallone in the first Rocky film when he begs his trainer to “Cut me, Mick!”

Still in a lot of pain, but definitely on the mend, it looks like I’ll be released from the hospital sometime tomorrow. I’ve got some vein bruising from my IV, so I can’t use my left hand. But my husband brought my laptop and reading glasses to the hospital today, so as I groggily hunt and peck the keyboard with one hand, I have composed:

10 Things I Learned From Having Shingles:
1. I am capable of lying in my own urine all night without realizing it. That’s how out-of-it I can be.

2. I can go 10 days without a bowel movement. My record was broken today after just five minutes experiencing my first-ever enema.

3. Hospital food isn’t that bad, particularly when you have no appetite. However, I realize that I actually like Jell-O.

4. I am eternally grateful for having good medical insurance. I don’t know yet what my out-of-pocket bills will ultimately be, but without insurance, that fear of living in an IKEA box could be a reality.

5. Without paying for Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig (both wonderful weight loss systems from what I hear) I managed to lose 8 lbs. in a week. This shingles weight loss method however is not recommended.

6. My lily-white mind-altering-chemical-free head makes me a very bad candidate for pain meds. I’ve never been into recreational drugs and haven’t had any alcohol in over 16 years (I seem to have more than made up for it with my insane caffeine intake), so Demerol, Dilaudid and Vicodin all gave me the dry heaves, and narcotics that helped the pain gave me weird and vividly real nightmares where cats and rats were chasing me, or that I was the star of my own Fellini film.

7. Commercials ultimately pay my salary, but I am oh so grateful to Dish TV for not forcing me to watch them. Because St. Joseph’s Hospital doesn’t have the luxury of Dish or TiVo, I was bombarded by not only the worst choices of daytime programming, but I was also forced to sit through the identical dozen or so lame commercials every 15 minutes. On the plus side, I was usually too incoherent to pay much attention.

8. I am officially burnt out on Law & Order SVU. I used to be a fan, but after finally getting some of my mind back, I was treated to an entire Sunday with SVU marathons on two different channels so I could switch back and forth whenever there was a commercial. I happened to catch a long stream of episodes where chest-beating outsiders came in for pissing contests with the regulars. And frankly, you can only see so many rapes in one day before you start feeling like Malcolm McDowell being sickened by ultra-violence in A Clockwork Orange. I finally turned it off for good with a bad case of the heebie jeebies and the uneasy feeling that no woman is ever completely safe.

9. No, the clock hasn’t stopped. It just feels that way because pain time moves so much slower than real time.

10. No one is indispensable – even me. I enjoy being a very VERY busy mom, and have a certain amount of narcissist pride that I can pull off anything if I set my mind to it. After my shingles experience, I know I can’t always do that. I missed my kids’ nighttime prayers and school activities, yet another one of my son Jake’s basketball practices, my daughter Mary Belle’s 11th birthday, and whatever teen angst my daughter Emily was going through this week. I dropped volunteer commitments that I take very seriously and social engagements with friends who may never be reunited again. I bailed on my husband, just as he was turning in the comps for his Ph.D., which was incredibly bad timing. My ego might tell me that I’m the best dang dialogue editor in the whole freakin’ universe, but when it came time for me to abruptly bail on not one but two shows, my boss found a couple of equally talented freakin’ great dialogue editors to step in at a moment’s notice to make sure they didn’t miss their dub date.

Yes, I can disappear for a week and a half (and I may still be out of commission for a few weeks) but the world keeps spinning on its axis. Others pitch in and save the day.

It will take me a long time to thank them all.

But I’m going to try.

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Filed under Anxiety, Career, Debt, Financial Insecurity, Friends, Humor, Husband, Multitasking, Parenting, Surgery, Teenagers, Volunteering

It’s the Great (Squashed) Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!

Toy Story pumpkin limbs

My mother-in-law Lina has this extremely sweet tradition in which she invites my kids over to her home a few days before Halloween to carve and decorate pumpkins. Last year she discovered these nifty Mr. Potato Head-like decorations in which you can stick eyes, nose, mouth, ears, hands, legs, and accessories like mustaches and hats into your pumpkin. It’s also way less dangerous than handing my 5-year old an X-Acto knife, and since you’re not removing the pumpkin guts, there’s no mess to clean up.

This year she expanded her collection to Toy Story pieces, so Jake created Buzz and Woody pumpkins with outstretched arms and legs that made the pumpkins look like they were shouting “Hee Haw, Partner! Let’s go wrangles us some Ghouls!”

They decorated six large and two small pumpkins, and the collection sat on our living room rug all week like a miniature pumpkin patch that had been invaded by Andy’s playthings.

Tonight, my 15-year old invited a dozen of her friends over for a scary movie night, so I decided to arrange the pumpkins around the house to create a festive setting.

I went to pick up Woody, and I noticed that he had a white mustache. Funny. I didn’t remember that being one of the Mr. Potato Head accessories. It also looked very fuzzy and life-like – something you don’t see in the animated Toy Story series, much less on plastic limbs and body parts.

I touched Woody’s mustache, and it felt a little like hair, but also a little wet.

Then reality hit.

It wasn’t a mustache at all. It was a big hunk of hairy mold, which nature (or the Great Pumpkin) had strategically placed right under Woody’s large nose.

Moldy pumpkin

EEEEEEWWWWWW! Gross!

I glanced over at Buzz. He had grown a big black beard not only on his chin, but also around his sunken eye balls.

Oh my God! There was mold everywhere!

In the center of our living room pumpkin patch sat the largest pumpkin of all. A few days before, it stood about 18 inches tall and was about two feet wide. Now it was still two feet wide, but it was only about two inches tall. It had flattened like a soufflé.

I ran to get two trash bags – one to salvage the Mr. Potato Head decorations, the other to get these nasty squashed squashes out of my living room as fast as humanly possible. As I picked the pumpkins up, they disintegrated in my hands. I had an image of zombie brains as they’re turning to mush.

I managed to scoop up most of the mess, but unfortunately a huge ring of giant pumpkin goo had affixed itself to our rug. I grabbed a spatula from the kitchen and started scraping it like you would a stubborn cookie that refused to leave a cookie sheet. It refused to budge.

I explained the situation to my husband who was so happy to create a scapegoat for his sudden allergy flare up this week (he’s allergic to mold). Although he’s a Virgo, he’s not your typical clean freak, but in seconds he was rolling over the gooey circle with our rug shampooer.

So now, instead of having eight festive Toy Story pumpkins decorating our house this Halloween, we have a bag full of Woody and Buzz’s limbs, body parts and accessories, and a green bin outside with grass clipping, fruit rinds, and a thick layer of pumpkin mush.

You might think that the moral of my story is to wait to decorate your pumpkins until it’s closer to Halloween – especially when you live in sunny Southern California.

No. The moral of my story is, if you see a pumpkin decorated like Woody, and he suddenly grows a thick white mustache, be sure to snap a photo before you run to clean up the mess. A picture’s worth a thousand words, and I could have posted that single shot rather than spending 667 words talking about it.

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Clean Up Your Own Damn Dish!

Our home is typically in a state of perpetual disarray, but there is one room in which I try to keep a semblance of sanitation – the kitchen.

It should be easy. My motto is “If you set it down, ask yourself: Is this where it goes?” Obviously a dirty dish would not be expected to spend its lifetime rotting in a kitchen sink, yet according to my family, this seems to be its intended home.

Last week I was working beaucoup hours and my wonderful husband saved the day (correction… days) by cooking dinner every night. I’m sure in his head he was keeping up with the dishes, but when I came up for air on Friday afternoon, I was greeted by not only dishes in the sink, but also many meals-worth of dishes throughout the house.

There were multiple glasses surrounding the loveseat/throne where my husband parks himself after work. In the kids’ bedroom I found three plates with dried ketchup, but not much else on the plates since the dogs finished off anything edible (which makes me leery – what’s the culprit in ketchup that even my dogs won’t eat?). Emily’s room looked like a frat house with about a half dozen glasses, two six packs of empty soda cans, and a couple of crusted soup bowls with spoons what would need to soak in a boiling cauldron for days.

I’m kind of a freak about conserving water, so I gathered all those water glasses scattered throughout the house and started dumping them all into our potted plants. When they were drenched, I moved on to the herb plants outside. Unfortunately one of the inside dumps came from my son’s sippy cup. I was a little confused that the water was taking its sweet time coming out, which is certainly against the law of gravity as I know it. A few seconds later, out gushes the not quite liquid / not quite solid mass of three-day old milk. I swear… I almost puked right on top of that curdled mess.

It really didn’t take that much time to clear up all the dishes, which makes me wonder why my loving family didn’t just clean them up in the first place.

About a year ago, I had enough of cleaning up everyone else’s dishes, and I hung the following note over the kitchen sink:

Don’t leave your dishes here


Please rinse them and

put them in the dishwasher


Yes, I know you’re

tired

running late

in the middle of something

planning to do it later

not in the mood

feeling special

too busy

 

PLEASE TAKE CARE OF

YOUR DISHES NOW!

As you can see from the photo, the paper is wrinkled and warped from water spray, and there’s a big hole where the exclamation point should be. You might ask yourself if my sign is worn from a year’s worth of water spray from my family doing their own dishes.

Nope. I think it’s mostly from me.

When I was married to my ex-husband, I didn’t hang up a note. Instead, I suffered for years with a slow-burn resentment about why day after day he didn’t just rinse his coffee cup and put it in the dishwasher. I decided to teach him a lesson.

I covered the entire sink with a layer of plastic wrap.

Did he get the hint?

No. He just thought I was crazy.

That part was probably true.

Today, I fantasize about covering the sink in plastic wrap, but my husband this decade will probably think I’m crazy too. So instead, I put up this sign that is obviously invisible to everyone else but myself.

How hard can it be?

Pick up your dish.

Rinse your dish.

Put it in the dishwasher.

I am so sooooo grateful to have a dishwasher. Frankly, it is a great use of storage for dirty dishes. And the best thing about it?

When the dishes are clean, it’s my daughters’ chore to put them away.

Ahhhh… indentured servants.

Another great reason for having kids.

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The Show Biz Hiatus Dance

Sorry folks.

I’m a little busy with my day job this week, meaning the one that pays the bills (or at least some of them). I’ve got a dozen ideas rolling around in my head, but I just don’t have time yet to jot them down via keyboard and upload them into cyberspace. So in the meantime…

For those of you new to Very VERY busy mom, I started this blog on North Hollywood/Toluca Lake’s Patch.com, the hyper-local newsite owned by AOL.  This was my very first post and appeared on May 4, 2011. I thought I might reprint it here, since I’m now currently on the opposite end of The Show Biz Hiatus Dance.

The Hiatus Dance as a tv sound editor

Man is the only earthly being that senses the concept of time, and as long as he’s been aware of it, he’s been slicing that time into “before” and “after” sections. Nine months of an anticipated due date is followed by decades of annual birthdays (which progressively become fodder for mock and ridicule). Our Gregorian calendar divides our years into B.C. and A.D., which more recently can be dissected into “Before Children” and “After Divorce.” And for many of us who are seasonally employed in the entertainment industry, our world is split into two distinct segments: “working” and “on hiatus.”Last week I was working.

This week I am on hiatus.

Work = money and no time. Hiatus = time and no money. And as Kipling said, “Never the twain shall meet.”

For over a quarter of a century, I have been a television sound editor, working primarily from September through May. I get a few breaks around Christmas and in the spring, but most weeks it’s 50 – 60 hours working on a strict deadline. And then faster than you can say “Nielsen ratings,” I’m unemployed.

Brisco County, Jr.

My busiest week on record is a total of 112 clocked hours, so when I say I was working every waking minute, it’s not much on an exaggeration. You know you’re working too much when you want to dial “9” before making a phone call, or instinctively grab a toilet seat cover when using the little girls’ room. My hardest month was May of 1994, when I was in the midst of May sweeps for my show The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr., while simultaneously cutting the pilots for ER and Third Watch.

ER

After working 16-hour days for a couple of weeks, I went to work on Friday at 6:00 am and worked straight through until 1:15 Saturday afternoon. Then I went to a wedding.

Third Watch

I was younger then. Today that would kill me. And believe me, I would be praying for death.

Today’s 50-60 hour week should feel like part-time work. But now that I have three kids and a very busy life outside of work, it’s become a hard task to gracefully master. I’m lucky to have a husband who doesn’t work in the industry. He has a normal 40-hour week (albeit an early one – 6:00 am – 2:00 pm) and picks up a lot of slack. If we have home-cooked meals, he’s the one who prepares them. He’s often the parent who picks up the kids from school, takes them to appointments and helps them with their homework. It’s really hard to feel like a martyr when your husband is the one cleaning up the midnight flu vomit. But even he can’t do it all when my workload is heavy.

When I’m on a show, we eat a lot of Costco ready-made meals. I have to just accept the sticky floors and the thick layer of dog hair that accumulates in every corner of the house. Lack of exercise has made my hips even more Jell-O-like, and I blame sleep deprivation for making me forget the names of my children. My responses to Evites are posted in this order: “YES!”…. then “Maybe”… and finally a day or two before the event, a very apologetic “No.” I have a half-dozen saved phone messages from my 10-year old daughter pleading “Please come home Mommy! PLEASE!” and I have to create auto replies for my emails saying that it’s not that I’m out of the office, it’s just that I’m too busy to look at them.

Joan Cusack running in "Broadcast News"

When describing my work schedule to the 9-to-5ers, I compare it to two different movies, which is appropriate since I work in entertainment. The first is from the 1987 film Broadcast News where Joan Cusack has less than 60 seconds to leap over and under file cabinets, drinking fountains and small children to deliver videotape before the station is forced to cut to black. This hilarious scene shows the urgency and panic of working under an impossible deadline, and it’s similar to the nightmares that wake me up when I really need to be getting my beauty sleep.

The Slave Galley in "Ben Hur"

The other film is the rowing of the galley slaves scene in the classic film Ben Hur. I think of this scene whenever one of my at-home mom friends suggests that I make it a point of taking time to relax. This would be akin to a shackled Charlton Heston, rowing at top ramming speed, turning to the guy with the whip and asking “Can’t I just pause a moment and take a little ‘me’ time?”

I have it easier than most. Working in post-production (and for this season working completely from home) I have a certain amount of autonomy and flexibility as long as I get my show done.

Chained to work

Those who work in production are not so lucky. They get up at 6:00 am and travel to whatever location they’re shooting that day, and they are literally slaves until after the last scene of the day when the director yells “Cut.” They might finish up at midnight and do it all over again the next day. Granted, the crew has meals brought to them, but so do prisoners in San Quentin, but at least the convicts get a full night’s sleep.

And then there’s hiatus.

I actually get an adrenaline rush just thinking about hiatus.

Ahhh... hiatus!!!

My to-do list is miles long, and ranges from big projects like cleaning out my garage and painting the house to simple little things like picking my kids up from school on foot, or taking a moment to brush my matted dogs. I’m looking forward to reading a book. Yesterday I went to the YMCA and took my first Pilates class in four months. Unfortunately, today I’m walking like I just road a horse from Bakersfield. I also spent two hours at Target strolling down every single aisle – and I did it with my four-year old. As anyone with a preschooler will immediately attest, this should have been the equivalent of an afternoon in hell. Instead, I had a great time, although a variety of squirt guns and squishy balls magically appeared in my basket.

You used to know who was on hiatus, because you’d all see each other in the unemployment line the following Monday, but now (mercifully) you can file online. Marie et Cie and Aroma Café bustle with new summer regulars who finally have time to socialize or start that screenplay they’ve been talking about forever. The 12-step rooms are packed with those who finally have time to work on their addictions, or who are under the misconceived notion that they’ll get their big break by pitching to a celebrity during an AA meeting.

The workaholics have a big problem. If they don’t have a family or a hobby, the transition from 180 mph to a dead stop is just too extreme. They’ll end up like the stereotypical housewives – eating bon bons and watching Oprah, or in the case of the men, eating ships & salsa and watching ESPN.

Many friends of mine in the industry have a tough time making the work/hiatus transition, especially when they have kids. The ones with a full-time nanny have the easiest time, because they get a long vacation and don’t have to clean up a mess that’s been piling up for nine months. But those with a spouse who stays home with the kids tend to perform a confusing dance of Who’s Job is it Anyway? for the first month or so of hiatus. The hardworking parent finally gets some quality time with his little angels, but completely disrupts the routines established by the long-suffering spouse. The breadwinner thinks he deserves a little downtime but the homemaker resents having him parked on the sofa all day watching Law and Order reruns.

The at-home parent feels like a chump who has to play bad cop with the kids because the good cop/parent is suddenly home, taking back some authority and lets the kids stay up late, have extra dessert, or skip chores. This leaves the other parent dealing with cranky kids the next morning, hyper sugar highs or cleaning tornado-ravaged bedrooms. With this feast or famine style of cohabitation, I’m often amazed that entertainment industry marriages survive at all.

The West Wing

And then there’s the money… or rather lack of it. For those working on a successful show, hiatus is a vacation like one any other deserving American might take, only longer. In the late ‘90’s/early 2000’s I was the dialogue editor on the full seven-season run of “The West Wing,” and I always had an intense summer itinerary with my kids which included touring amusement parks, exploring every park within a ten-mile radius and taking weekly beach excursions.

brothers & sisters

However my current show, Brothers & Sisters, seems to be in a limbo state. It has not been picked up for the fall season, but its set has not been struck either, so I am anxiously waiting for the fall lineup to see if I get to go to the beach or start scrambling for another job. Maybe I’ll be on the next long-running hit show… or I might land a stinker that gets cancelled before Halloween. If the latter is the case, hiatus = beau coup time and a home foreclosure.

So much for the glamorous life of show biz.

Once Upon a Time

Here’s my happy ending –

This season I’m cutting dialogue on the show “Once Upon A Time” which premieres Sunday, October 23 at 8:00 pm on ABC. We did not lose the house, but our credit card debt now rivals those of many small nations. I am still trying to clean out the garage.

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My husband asks: “Where’s MY birthday blog?”

There are three things I love about my husband. One: he is very VERY funny. Two: he is not a butt-kisser. Three: he is very low maintenance.

This last feature really came in handy last Wednesday on the day of his 44th birthday. The poor guy had to go into work at 5:00 in the morning and he had a pretty stressful day. He should have come home to a clean house, his favorite home-cooked meal, a terrific gift of the “Thanks… it’s just what I wanted” category, and his adoring children singing a round of “Happy Birthday to You” in front of a delicious birthday cake.

Instead, he walked in the door, and I gave him the following greeting: “Happy birthday, Honey! I have a meeting at the middle school, then a Neighborhood Council meeting. Can we have your birthday dinner on Sunday instead? I know you said you didn’t want a present, so I didn’t get you anything. Can you fix the toilet? It’s backed up again. Here’s your card.”

I handed him a funny birthday card of barnyard animals farting. The kids and I signed it. Our 5-year old drew a picture of SpongeBob next to his name. Then I deserted my husband with three kids, no dinner and a filthy toilet that was a millimeter away from overflowing.

On his birthday.

Did I tell you he was low maintenance? Another husband would already be filing the divorce papers. Actually most husbands.

That night I came home at 9:30 – a half hour after his bedtime (he had to be at work again at 5:00 am) and my husband asked, “Did you write a blog about me?”

“Huh?”

“You wrote a blog about everyone else’s birthday. Did you write one for me?”

I’ve been blogging for four months now, and it never occurred to me that I have a standard birthday blog. I’d be blogging about birthdays every post if that was the case.

Looking back, I did blog about my daughter Emily last July when she turned 15, talking about how I felt like such a clueless mom. In August I wrote a sentimental story on my sister’s birthday called “Life with my Irish Twin.” And last week for my birthday I ranted about how I hate it when people buy me a birthday gift. But my son turned 5 on September 14, and I didn’t blog about him. I informed my husband of this piece of evidence.

“But you wrote about being the oldest kindergarten mom at the school,” he said.

Apparently in my husband’s mind, this was in the realm of the birthday blog tradition.

My husband, who endured a crappy birthday by picking up the pieces of my overcrowded time management, wanted an actual present other than the farting barnyard animals: his own birthday blog.

So here goes…

Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU to my funny, low-maintenance, non-butt-kissing husband, Tom, who always replies to my Patch blogs with something even funnier than I wrote. Thank you for being a great stepdad to my girls by teaching Emily heavy metal guitar and playing endless rounds of pool volleyball with Mary Belle. Thank you for giving me a fart/burp/coconut-loving son who never stops talking. Thank you for helping Emily make a harp in 3rd grade even though we had just started dating and it would confirm early on that I don’t have a crafty bone in my body. Thank you for not leaving me when I volunteered you for grill duty at our block party on the hottest day of the year. Thank you for practicing calligraphy for months to create a beautiful fairy tale book to propose to me. Thank you for smelling like barbeque in the evening because it means I didn’t have to cook dinner. Thank you for making me laugh, fixing door knobs, killing household bugs, washing our dogs, mowing / edging / pool care, cooking way better than I do, being PACE treasurer, dumping the trash (even when it’s raining), watching CSI with me even though it clearly jumped the shark a year ago, plunging toilets and always saving the day when I overcommit… which is often. You are a prince, and I’m so lucky to have you as my husband.

(Big exhale)

Do I still have to cook you dinner on Sunday?

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