Monthly Archives: January 2012

and so it goes


the Things 3 are all home today for various complaints.

Thing 1 is just plain exhausted. he gets up at 5:50 each morning to breathe over his breakfast. after that experience is over and his autonomic nervous system makes sure he doesn’t choke on said breakfast and then takes care of his digestion, other synapses in his brain fire to enact the large motor skill known as standing up and walking. he does this without fail, complaint or apparently consciousness in the dark at 6:30am to his bus stop which is about 100 yards away.  when he gets tired, his leg jitters. he’s about 120# and less than an inch shorter than i am (doesn’t matter how much less he weighs, a*hem; it’s all muscle on me anyway, right? RIGHT?!) and so when that leg starts going, it has a tendency to make his head bounce. he has a beautiful head; it is covered with lush (really, Patrick Dempsey-lush) chocolate-brown hair under which bright green eyes twinkle, observe or glower, depending on the mood he’s in. he’s more than 13 now, 14 is right around the corner. his voice is cracking due to his raging hormones (which really don’t make him too rageful, Things 2 and 3 will have that covered, i’m afraid) and we’ve had to buy new shoes for him every 10 minutes. but the dancing legs tell me i’ve got a tired manchild on my hands and he needs his rest. plus, today marks the end of the quarter and he’s doing fine in all his subjects.

the phone just rang. it was a 202 number. Washington, D.C., which is no big deal really because it’s nearby and my husband has a meeting in The City today, so it could’ve been him. nope. i just hung up on Anne-1202 from Political Opinions of America.  REALLY. as if i’m in the frame of mind (ever frankly) to “participate in a short survey about our nation’s pathetic and deplorable condition.” (they didn’t actually say that, i cut off cyber Anne-1202 right after she stated her the name of her sponsoring organization.) if it doesn’t allow me to talk about the state of politics that would make a longshoreman blush and hide, i don’t want to be a part of your survey. simply pressing 1 for “never agree” or 5 for “always agree” isn’t quite visceral enough for me.

Thing 2 is home because he is now 11. yesterday was a big day for him and i think he’s mourning the loss of his first double-digit year. he also has an upset stomach and “a really bad >ack sniffle ack< feeling in his lungs.” whatever. he actually looks worse than he’s trying to say he feels. strep tends to bypass his throat and go straight for his belly and three kids in his class are out with it so, we’re gonna hang tight. he is in that stage of life where he’s starting to need showers. his sweat is no longer that sweet slightly dirty smell which emanates from little boys (that’s all i have, so i don’t know if girls’ sweat smells like cinnamon or jasime or cereal). he is very compliant in the morning for the most part; the process still requires a bit of light tampering with is ultra-straight hair and gentle caresses to get him to open his almond-shaped eyes. when they are open, they are like patina’d copper; dark green with flecks of copper and they sparkle almost all the time. he can be moody like his mom, but he’s generally very optimistic, imaginative and playful. always eager for a hug or a moment to be nearby on the couch. tragically, when he does sit by me on the couch it means i have to stop watching “Tabatha’s Takeover” or “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” because, well, c’mon. “i hear worse stuff at lunch and at recess, mom; besides, they bleep it out on TV.” i shudder. beneath his eyes and across the bridge of his nose is the most delightful patch of perfectly placed freckles.

Thing 3 is home because he’s been coughing at night. just at night. i think it’s allergies again because the bloody winter here has been anything but wintry and that means some pollens are probably coming out. today it’s going to be 60˚ and well, at the end of January: i consider that to be meteorological treason and Thing 3 and i plan to talk to the D.A. and have winter brought up on charges of fraud, conspiracy and extorsion to force spring to spring against its will and a commission of a big, fat disappointment. i can hear the birds outside. thankfully when he’s unwell, Thing 3 is the most cheerful, cuddly and kind kiddo. he’s an early 8 and his sweat still smells sweet and clean like dirt. say what? i like the smell of dirt; true earthy dirt actually smells –to me– very clean. his eyes are the perfect shade of periwinkle, my favorite color in the entire universe and he’s starting to get that little kid/stork body. he is likely to be the tallest of the three. and probably the snarkiest.

so our water filters arrived today and during the experience i endured to replace the refrigerator filter … reading instructions always helps and i’m an ass for not reading them — you should have seen me: i was lying on the floor because the filter is on the front lower left of our model to access the old filter. directions are for losers, i say. well, i’ve got one hand on the fridge filter and i’m bracing my legs against the cabinet doors directly across from the fridge (it’s about 4′ across, it’s a very narrow kitchen i have) to help me push even hard against the little button that releases the filter. i can’t push it in any farther; Thing 1 is crackle-voice telling me, “mom, the fridge is banging against the wall.” and instantly a surge of pride overwhelms me because his telling me that means my leg muscles are still ass-kickingly strong. but pride doesn’t extract the filter.

after about five full minutes of this, i called in reinforcements: i put on rubber gloves for traction; and got out Mom’s Trusty Tool: the sacred salad fork for desperation; and asked Thing 1 to brace against me to help me push the fridge. even his probable verbal suppression of a litany of epithets he’s heard on the school bus didn’t inspire the filter to budge. “how ’bout we read the instructions?” he crackles. (Things 2 and 3 are supposedly reading in their rooms.)

“no. i’ve seen your father do this. i can do this.” eventually i submitted, examined the instructions and double checked them for accuracy in their french and spanish versions and laughed aloud at my idiocy. stubbornness (wow, did you know “stubbornness” a triple double-consonant word? – talk about coinci-irony in a word that clearly won’t give up…) is apparently one of my finest traits. my parents would likely both claim and deny any responsibility for giving me that one.  after i triumphed (it took all of 40 seconds once i got my hubris in check), i had to program the fridge to expel 3 gallons’ worth of water before it would be considered potable. i tossed the first gallon down the sink and realized as i was about to toss the second gallon that i could put it and the final gallon in the fish tank which was running low. (people would come to our house convinced that our ceiling was about to collapse because the water fountain sound coming from the front of the house where the tank is was so profound… i wonder how long many of them didn’t say anything about it, fearing for their / our lives.)  

and then i read about how to dispose of the old filter. can’t be recycled. can’t be recycled. can’t be recycled. and it got me thinking. in this First World world of ours, we filter water to make it safer to drink so we don’t ingest the chemicals used to make things we use in our First World that leach into the soil and hence the aquifers and then our water supply; then those filters can not be recycled so they end up in landfills with their plastic coverings likely containing some chemical that will seep into the earth and continue the cycle. i think about landfills a lot. about what i contribute to them and because of my family’s authentic genetic programming for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, i can fairly easily attach myself mentally to concepts and thoughts and behaviors. so almost on a daily basis i think about landfills and the wonderful movie “Wall-E” which i absolutely adore from the hero’s clunky 1970s-looking embodiment to the Steve Jobs -inspired “Eva” his robo-love. and i think about my Things’ future and their planet and how even though the U.S. is enacting laws and making changes and doing what it can –on paper– to protect our environment and our planet for our kids’ great-grandchildren, there’s a big part of me that wonders if what we’re doing is enough because we’re sharing this blue planet with 7 billion other people and our First World isn’t the Only World anymore.

i could go on and on and on and on about this but i won’t do that to you; i’d like you to come back. my sense is that just bringing this up is enough to start your wheels turning.

and so it goes… maybe i shoulda taken that phone survey. i hope Anna-1202 calls back.

thank you.

lake effect winds and the newspaper boy


i’m not particularly proud of this story, but it’s about 32 years old so i’ll cut myself some slack and tell it anyway because if i do it right, it could be pretty funny. but i’m still at this moment, having trouble making my fingers tap the keyboard with any pride. that said, it’s completely true.

it all began, as most of my recollections do, in buffalo. i was about 12. that makes my older brother about 16 and my younger brother about 8. given that our household was not your typical (or maybe considering the period -more on that in a future post-, it was) household and that i grew up with a fair amount of chaos i can say that as kids, we got away with a lot of mischief. now i can’t go an’ blame my mom or dad about this because frankly, i knew what we were doing was just not appropriate. but… when the cat’s away (or uninvolved) the rats will play.

in the 20th century there was a phenomenon known as a “paper boy” this was a human person not made of wood pulp of pre- to post-adolescence age who operated a daily “route” to deliver newspapers to people’s homes per their paid subscription. often these paper boys (who were usually boys) had a large canvas bag sidling the hip opposite the shoulder where the strap was slung filled with newspapers. often they would ride their bikes and fling a paper where it would ultimately land on a front lawn or break a window or in the pattern of a lawn sprinkler — it didn’t matter where it landed really, just as long as it made the property line of the subscriber. those kids on the bikes with their bags were the standard, often careening onto the lawns or into the streets or parked cars in the opposite direction of the flung paper due to the laws of physics.

other paper boys, let’s name one in particular Johnny D’-something-ia, for example, were enterprising fellas and had fashioned a radio flyer pull wagon into a full-fledged newspaper delivery crate on wheels. i mention his last name because while i wasn’t a Mc-something or an O’-blah-ahan, i was an Irish kid in a predominantly Italian neighborhood and he lived somewhere nearby. i prefer Italian food. the Irish food i’ve had is not very appealing.  

my dad worked for the morning paper whose paperboys were middle-aged men with 5am shadows and tobaccoffee breath. they would drop their pallets of about 500 bound copies of the daily edition on a street corner. they sat behind the wheel of large delivery trucks making stops to these street corners in the dawn’s early light. so when drivers with probable names like “Mitch” and “Goose” and “Scotty” were dropping inch-long cigarette ashes in the footwells of their bouncing trucks, Johnny was sawing logs and likely dreaming of Chevy Camaros, Farrah Fawcett or throwing the winning ball to O.J. Simpson (hey, O.J. was a hometown hero then). middle-aged men still dream like that too, don’t they?

let’s say for example that this particular Johnny’s box was about 2′ high by 3′ long and say 2′ wide.  i wanna say that it held an entire pallet’s worth of papers. but remember i judged that capacity with younger eyes and something four feet high met my chin.

this box was emblazoned with a home-drawn version of the competing newspaper’s logo on its sides. this kid was proud. it was his job! this newspaper was the evening paper. so it was likely printed in the morning; batched and put on pallets in the late morning and then delivered to those street corners or maybe to a newspaper boy’s route in the early afternoon. (i’m sure my dad, if he’s still daring to read my blog, will correct me.) i had no job.

so if you’ve been keeping score with this blog, you’ll know that my childhood home rested near the edge of Lake Erie. the winds coming from that lake were profound and they would crank up capriciously.

we had a dog named Toby that my aunt gave us by surprise one snowy morning for our father’s birthday. my mother hated that dog; my father liked the dog. i still recollect with a fair amount of sadness how either Toby or my mother managed to survive their existence with each other. being around my mom made Toby behave in a nearly feral way. my mom offended him whenever she could.

anyway, Toby loved us kids. we loved him too. he was a mix of beagle and either husky or malamute for he LOVED the snow and to pull our sled through the snow on our ways home from the penny candy store. and like huskies, he tried to run away as often as possible.

Toby hated the newspaper boy named Johnny. they had a very complicated relationship. it wasn’t so much that Toby was allowed to roam free about the neighborhood, but given his affection for my mother, he managed to get out quite a bit. hmm… maybe she let him out hoping he’d get hit by the car he eventually survived. being chained to a steel cork-screw stake in the backyard apart from all the action didn’t help either, i’m sure. sometimes Toby would just get loose and we’d go after him.

same time every day, Johnny would come around, tossing his competing newspapers this way and that all while pulling that massive wagon. he would often park it, right in front of our house, to hoist open the lid of the wagon while watching us sit with Toby. he’d restock his bag and do his thing. he would use bricks to weigh down the papers as he left the lid open…. leaving his box of competing newspapers vulnerable.

vulnerable to the wind. that’s all. just sayin’…

this happened every day. sometimes we were home, others we were at piano lessons or grocery shopping or at mass with our grandparents (don’t ask). but we knew it was going on. it had for years.

you’re smart. you can see where this is going, can’t you?

my older brother could get our younger brother to do just about anything. one day, my younger brother on the advice of our older brother decided to have a chat with Johnny. now Johnny was about 14, maybe 15 years old, tops but he was small for his age. my younger brother was about 8 or 9. as i look at my Thing 3, who’s 8 at the moment, i can’t for the LIFE of me envision him going up to a 15 year-old kid and doing what my brother did. well, actually i lie. i can. eight-year-old boys with older brothers have moxie on loan.

the chat we intended for them to have was quite simple and it went along the lines of: “we don’t like you parking your box of newspapers from the competing company in front of our house. we want you to go somewhere else and do it.” i’m sure, as i consider Thing 3, that the message wouldn’t have been quite as smooth but maybe just as effective. i can see him looking back at his brothers as he cranes his neck and squinches his face to say, “what? i’m supposed to say what?! why don’t we like this?”

Johnny didn’t agree with my brother. Johnny was, truth be told, cut from a tougher cloth. we might have been like Irish linen: fresh, strong and breezy, suitable for sport clothes and tablecloths and cleaning dishes whereas Johnny was cut from say, burlap. he was scrappy and clearly enterprising, but not very flexible.

this tete-a-tete between my brother(s) and the dog and Johnny went on for a few months, growing in intensity from time to time with stares and mutterings.

our pride was bruised. this kid, with his hundreds of competing papers, openly thumbed his scrappy nose at us and our family’s livelihood on a daily basis. we wanted revenge. it was humiliating.

i guess.

so one particular day, vengeance was ours. it was very windy. it was stormy and it was our moment. for likely the 728th time, Toby saw Johnny throw the competing papers and walk up our street. grab, throw, walk. grab, toss, walk.

to a dog, this must’ve been very offensive. or … it looked like a lot of fun.

Johnny pulled his cart up to our driveway, parked it and looked at us spitefully. it might’ve not been spitefully actually. he could’ve just been squinting because he needed glasses because i saw him wearing them later on.

Johnny had his thick white pad with him this time. that pad meant he was collecting fees for the paper service. these visits with customers usually took a few minutes so time was on our side.

without notice, my younger brother took off down the front yard hill, into the wind with his hair blowing wildly and arms outspread as if to prepare for liftoff. Toby was running along barking and looking around as if to say, “this is fun! right?”

Johnny, who was about 100 feet from his cart, looked up from our neighbor’s driveway and saw my brother and Toby on the approach. Johnny started whistling and yelling at my brother to call him off, Toby must’ve thought he was calling him because he perked up, switched direction and galloped toward Johnny, which was an unwelcome move.

my brother was still on the bee-line for the wagon. the wind was picking up and the sky was getting crowded with birds, clouds and leaves.

with time being of the essence (whatever that means) i got up to help my brother and be there with him in case things got physical. when we got there, i grabbed the bricks and we turned the cart just so the wind could scoop into the box and get an edge of the front page section, giving life to dozens of gray-tone newly unfolded newsprint sheets.

a cyclone of Dear Abby, furniture ads, real estate announcements, legal notices, want ads, Family Circus, Peanuts, obituaries, sports highlights, arson reports, classifieds, op-eds, stock market analyses, theater reviews, movie listings, letters to the editor and more grew wings and went up, up, up and up and away amid Johnny’s cries, thrusted by the pressure of his feet pounding on the ground as he ran from the barking Toby. Johnny was undignified, red-faced, arms flailing, shrieking and spitting tear-laden obscenities in Italian and English and ultimately pointing at me and my brothers who were, i am ashamed to say about 30′ away on our front hill, laughing our butts off. the papers were everywhere. we were pretty undignified too.

Johnny didn’t seem so much like burlap anymore. i didn’t feel so much like Irish linen.

from a strategic standpoint, our achilles’ heel in all of this was revealing to Johnny who we were and what our dad did for a living. we are lucky our actions didn’t make either paper’s City section. when my dad found out, oh my god. my mom was hysterical. i’m sure we were punished or yelled at or somehow disciplined but the consequences didn’t last long as i grew up with a fair amount of chaos. that level of intensity which was followed by an almost magical calm was familiar to us.

Johnny’s mom ran his route with him for a few weeks after that. i could see that they were in dire straits financially and didn’t enjoy the benefits we had of a dad who worked at an executive level and a mom who could stay home with us in a big house that faced Canada. their clothes were dirty and she was overweight, pushing a stroller alongside the massive newspaper bin. i think there were newspapers in the stroller. so … um…

they needed the money that Johnny earned on his route. i felt pretty bad about the newspaper a-go-go. but kids are kids. we are impulsive and we don’t think about the next moments or the larger-picture consequences our actions have on others. he didn’t continue his route — or at least the way he ran it when we engaged with each other — after that summer.

i remember that i looked for him around the neighborhood to apologize, half hoping that he’d ignore me or call me something profane in Italian.

thank you.

shopping cart from hell


we’ve all been there. trying to act smug and steer it anyway. ikea has the worst ones.

so today, i went to Costco. we’re out of mayonnaise and toilet paper. don’t ask. (i happen to be listening to Pandora’s 80s mix right now and New Order’s “Leave Me Alone” just came on. New Order… does it get any better than them? i mean really. ….)

ok. back to Costco. so i park my massiveMobile (Costco does have great parking lots, i have to say). i get out my eco-shopping bags, my freezer bags, my Costco card, because they won’t let you in there without one. try it. the little retired ladies, former librarians probably, at the double-wide front doors with their red vests will throw you down faster than you can say “banana split.” if they can’t click that headcount clicker tallying Members Through The Door you may as well be in line at Spago in L.A. with clean hair, sober, employed and wearing cotton: it’s not happening.

None Shall Pass.

so i get out my card and out of the corner of my eye i see a woman with crazy hair wildly stare about the lot as she deposits the cart she used nowhere near the corral. i mean, in the middle of the lot betwixt four spots, on the grid lines.

in retrospect, i regret not yet having read the book Blink because if i had, i know i wouldn’t have done what i did.

i decided to get her cart and use it. i thought, do the right thing; finish the job, close the circle, be responsible, pick up where she left off… the little voice, the one that had clearly read Blink and any number of Stephen King novels as it turns out, said to me: the cart corral is on the way in to the store; i don’t need to do her a favor. her hair is crazy. she practically ran away and crossed herself when she let go. she lined it up on the grid. maybe she cast a spell on it. 

there was a corral right behind me, not 15 feet from my car. when we first moved to Va. in 1981 they didn’t have them anywhere. my father was convinced that the reason we had them in buffalo was because the mob there wanted the kids who could walk your gorceries to your car scrubbed out because they didn’t need protection being junior members of Local 1919, an’ all.

>Spandau Ballet’s “True” just popped in on Pandora… swinnnnngg and a miss…<

so being smarter than the smart voice, i took the cart and almost immediately regretted it. it shanked hard right. now before any of you golfers out there call me on saying a shank is a left curve, i’ll be happy to remind you that i’m left handed. so for me, a shank is to the right.

it was subtle, this cart. no apparent wheel wobble like those that look >and sound< like wheel on a   semi that just heaved steel-belted death into your path of travel on the interstate. it looked innocent enough.

two steps into my stride this cart took a near-180˚ turn after i endeavored to move forward.  immediately i felt like jerry lewis in The Nutty Professor. warily looking around the parking lot, my hair, previously in a neat pony tail was now flying about my face. pbbbpting it out of my mouth and using all the surface area of my gloved left hand to clear it from my eyes, i realized the cart and i were heading for the the double-wides. i had tunnel vision and everything felt so far away; we (the cart which had its own personality and i) were about 1.5 miles from the entrance.

with their extra layer of skin on them, my hands were protected from imminent blisters. trying to maintain my cool composure, i eyed the cart corral and was desperate to unload my hearse. my right forearm now searing from its vise-like management of the cart felt like it’d been holding the halyard line from Stars and Stripes in the America’s Cup in a category 3 gale.


oof. there goes the back. my posture now resembling a hyena’s and come to think of it, if i weren’t wearing sunglasses my eye that was still open and not pinched from the stress would’ve too, my hands began to sweat and if i could’ve felt my left hand i’m sure i would have brought it to my teeth to pull off the gloves at the fingertips.

suddenly i was that crazy-looking woman who unloaded the cart wherever she freaking could. i took her place. i got to the corral, slammed that cart into the others with a vengeance that was mine alone and put my mitts on the first one i could.

it didn’t budge. peering about myself for a camera crew and some dapper dude in a bad suit with hair like Jimmy Johnson’s and holding a huge microphone with a fuzzy cover on the head, i felt like one of those women in the PMS ads that ask in the voiceover, “Is the day not going your way…? Does nothing seem to feel right…?” what they forget to ask is, “Are you about to take hostages?”

well, if it doesn’t work the first time, you’re all hunched over, your hands won’t slip out of their leather gloves because they’re all sweaty now, your hair is in your face and you can’t see out of one eye, do the rational thing: PULL HARDER.

swearing helps.


it didn’t today.

no crowd gathered. people were busy scurrying for cover.

after the third pull i gave up. the smart voice was rolling on its back laughing itself stupid pointing at me as it was sampling spinach ravioli inside the warehouse.

so i tried the next cart and it released beautifully. i fixed myself up, dusted myself off and started all over again. and forty-five minutes, three BPA-free water bottles, 24 glue sticks, two roasted chickens, seven sonicare replacement toothbrushes, four pounds of frozen strawberries, and 36 eggs later i was out the door.

i forgot the mayonnaise and toilet paper.

>The Romantics “What I like About You” just started. dance party.<

thank you.