Please Don’t Make Me Angry. You Wouldn’t Like Me When I’m Angry.

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I’m not a happy camper this morning. I’ve had a frustrating day and it’s only 1030.

The day started out with great promise. My husband brought me home my first pumpkin spice latte of the season. It was yummy. I don’t know if it was $6 yummy, but it was yummy.

Today was the day my refrigerator was supposed to get repaired. For those who don’t know, on July 15th we came downstairs in the morning to discover our refrigerator spewing water out the dispenser, and our kitchen, laundry room, part of our dining room and family room under 2 inches of standing water. (see previous posts for the saga of the flood http://kbjackson.com/ten-reasons-why-a-kitchen-flood-aint-so-bad/ and http://kbjackson.com/dear-diary/)

At the time of the flood, a repairman came out from the company where we acquired the fridge. Let’s call this company, oh, I don’t know… “Sneers.”

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So the repairman comes out, tells me he’s been doing the job since the 1968, back when the colors du jour were “harvest gold” and “avocado.” He says he’s never had so many issues with a fridge brand as he’s having with these “newfangled computerized Japanese-manufactured refrigerators.” Swell.

tumblr_mdkiu3ehfF1r48hglo1_500 I’ll bet that refrigerator lasted 50 years

I should back up a bit.

We bought this fridge brand new 2 years ago following another fridge debacle. When we moved into our house 4 years ago, we had to buy a new fridge since our old one was thrown in as part of the sale of our old house. (I’m not a great negotiator- I threw in our patio set also.)

So 4 years ago I went to Sneers and bought a Kenmore refrigerator, exactly like the one I had left behind in Huntington Beach. The salesman talked me into an extended 3 year warranty even though I knew my husband would kill me if he found out. I personally like warranties. He thinks they are a scam, and you never get your money’s worth. (He may be singing a different tune now.)

For the first year and a half of owning the Kenmore, I noticed that the ice maker had a tendency to jam up. Sometimes it was fine, sometimes it churned and churned, with nothing coming out. That is, of course, until I lifted up the flap of the door dispenser, jabbed the frozen chunk with a knife to break it up, and then suddenly it was like an avalanche. Sometimes that wouldn’t work either, so I would try to pry the ice maker out of the inside of the door, but many times it was so adhered it took herculean strength to get it out.

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On the evening of my husband’s 20th high school reunion alumni night, I found myself engaged in a battle with the icemaker again. He and his friend who had flown into town for the reunion were about 20 minutes from leaving when I went all “Incredible Hulk” on the icemaker and used my brute strength to yank it off. ( I have a broad back. It comes in handy sometimes.) The momentum of the release caused the icemaker to fly up into my face, hitting me square in the mouth. @#$%$@&!!!

I went into the bathroom and realized I had put my lower teeth completely through the area between my bottom lip and my chin.

I came back out and my husband stared at me with wide eyes.

“You ok?”

“Nope. I have a hole in my face.”

“Oh. What are you going to do?”

“I am going to drive myself to the walk-in clinic.”

“Oh. Ok. We’re gonna go now, then.”

O_O

(In his defense, I once made him drive himself home from a dinner party with the stomach flu so I could eat the filet mignon I had just ordered before he started puking. I think we’re even.)

I drove myself to the walk-in and got 5 stitches.

When Jeff got home that night he looked at me and said, “You got a soul patch.”

SOUL-PATCH-IS-DISPLEASED

The next evening I got to meet all of his high school friends and his ex-girlfriend for the first time with stitches in my face. I debated on which was a better look- the band aid across the chin, or just the stitches by themselves. I decided to skip the Band-Aid.

We were mingling at the reunion and my husband leans over to me and says quietly in my ear, “You look pretty tonight. And a little like Johnny Depp.”

As you might imagine, the teeth through the chin was the final straw with me and the ice maker. I scheduled the Sneers repairman to come out.

He took one look at the fridge and said, “Yeah, that’s what I thought. A lot of the doors on this model came from the factory warped. It allows enough air to get into the ice to melt it a little, then refreeze it. We have to replace the whole door.”

Thank goodness for extended warranties, right?

He ordered the door and said he’d be back in a few weeks.

A giant door arrived at my house just before my appointment. When he showed up, he opened the box and said, “Did you look at the door?”

“No.”

“Well, it’s the wrong door. For a different fridge.”

He sighed, either at my incompetence for not checking, or at his own people for sending the wrong door. Probably both. He hauled that door out and rescheduled me. He made me promise I would check and see if the door was correct before he came back out.

A few weeks later, a new door arrived, I opened the box enough to see that it was the right door. He called me the morning of my appointment to make sure I had gotten the door and it was correct.  The repairman arrived, opened the box and then looked at me.

“This door is dented. ”

“You didn’t tell me to look for dents. You told me to make sure it’s the right door.”

Long sigh.

He went out to his truck with the dented door and didn’t come back for a while. I thought maybe he was trying to decide how he was going to kill me.

When he came back in he said, “I don’t want to come back here. I got my supervisor to issue you a credit. Go buy yourself a new fridge.” And left.

So I did. Two years ago, I bought a brand new fridge. State of the art, the salesman said. Highest rated, the salesman said. Know what he didn’t say? Likely to go haywire and flood your house. He didn’t say that.

So when the repairman came out following the flood, and handed me a $750 repair estimate and a strong suggestion to buy a new fridge, I panicked. I couldn’t make that decision at that moment. State Farm wants the parts. They want to go after the manufacturer and get all of our (and their) money back for the $10,000 worth of repairs the flood has necessitated.

The repairman told me that he strongly advised declining the repair and paying the $130 for his visit. He told me that they would apply the 130 to the repairs if we chose to make them. He also said that if I repair the fridge, I should consider buying another warranty. The new fridge, because it was a replacement, was under the original fridge’s warranty. So it expired one year ago. He said that if we repaired the fridge, we would likely see him again. This was not encouraging.

With those dire warnings in my head, I went refrigerator shopping.

Have you looked at the prices of appliances lately? I didn’t see a single fridge under 2 grand. The fridge I bought 2 years ago is 700 dollars more now.

I decided we would take our chances. We would get the repairs done and buy a new warranty and cross our fingers.

Last week I called Sneers. The woman I spoke with barely spoke English. She said her named was Judith, but I’m pretty sure she’s lying.

I explained the situation to Judith, and she offered me an appointment for today, 8 am to noon. I didn’t have a choice, I needed to take it, otherwise it would be during the first week of school.

I said, offhandedly, “Make sure he brings the parts.” Ha ha.

She said, “I will make a note that you’d like him to bring the parts, if possible.”

“Um, no. Not ‘if possible.’ He needs to bring the parts. There’s no other reason for him to come out here. You already have in your system the problem and the parts needed. ”

“I will do my best.”

“I don’t think you understand. I don’t want him coming here without the parts. Someone already came out. Now I need them to come back and make the repairs.”

“Ok, ma’am. If you choose to refuse repairs again, you will be charged $130.”

“No. I already paid $130. That needs to be attributed to the costs. That’s what the repairman said. You apply the 130 to the repairs.”

“You won’t decline the repairs. It won’t be an issue. You will get your $60 credit.”

“No. Not $60 credit. $130.”

“You get $60 credit. I put that on your account.”

“Never mind. I will talk to the guy when he gets here. With the parts.”

“Ok ma’am.”

So you’ll forgive me if this morning, when the repairman came out and told me 1) he doesn’t have the parts he has to order them, 2) He wants me to pay $500 up front 3) their policy has changed and I now only get $60 of my initial service call credited to my repair bill and 4) he can’t schedule me for another 2 weeks, I got a little peeved.

First of all, when he got here, he had no idea why he was here. There were no notes in the system at all. I said, “But you have the parts, right?”

He looked at me, surprised and said, “I don’t know.”

He went out to the truck- no parts.

I went on to explain my conversation with “Judith” and also my conversation with the previous repairman. He told me that I had to pay up front for the parts before he would order them, and that he wouldn’t leave with out it, or I’d have to decline the repairs and pay another $130.

I started to feel my heart rate pick up and my breathing grow shallow. I was trying to be nice, but I was having more and more of a difficult time doing so. My pumpkin spice latté was starting to churn in my stomach.

I said, as calmly as I could, “That’s not going to happen.”

He started to look a little scared. He could see I was beginning to get a crazed look in my eyes.

“I can’t leave without payment.”

“You haven’t done anything. Why did they even send you here? Why are you here?”

The look of alarm on his face made me feel a bit of compassion for him. He said quietly, “I don’t know.”

After all, this wasn’t his fault.

I said, “This may be the dumbest thing I have ever heard. Can you get me the number of someone that I can talk to about this? I’m gonna pay for the parts so you can get on with your day, but I want you to know, I am NOT ok with this and they WILL hear from me.”

As soon as he left, I was on the phone with Sneers.

The woman I spoke with was not budging. I felt myself getting more and more worked up as I talked with her. I kept saying, “Why did you send him here?” I never got a convincing answer.

She said, “You declined the repair. We had to send him out to diagnose the problem. It was a month ago.”

I responded, “That’s just not true. He didn’t diagnose anything. He had no idea why he was there, he couldn’t find any info on the original visit in your system, he looked at my original estimate form, and then went to his truck to see if he had the parts that I had explicitly told “Judith”  he NOT come without. He did not have the parts. He didn’t DO anything! Why would you have me sit here all morning waiting for some guy to show up and say ‘Yup, the other guy was right. That’ll be another $130 please.'”

But she wasn’t budging. I could feel myself crossing the threshold of rationality.

I finally got her to agree to have the tech manager call me back.

Sydney came down later and said, “You really let whoever that was have it.”

I said, “Yeah, I’m getting ready to write a blog post about how mad I am.”

She said, “What happened to the post you were going to write about random acts of kindness?”

“That’s going to have to be another day. When I’m not so pissed.”

I think I’m gonna sic Jeff on them. The most I’ve ever gotten out of a customer complaint is a box of cookies from Time Warner after their supervisor called me a bitch and made me cry. Remember, I’m not a great negotiator.

Last year, Jeff called DirecTV and complained because we weren’t getting channels he thought we were supposed to. I think he negotiated free TV for life and the customer service rep’s firstborn.  If I have him take on Sears, he’ll probably end up with a new fridge, a riding lawnmower and a whole Kmart.

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Confessions Of A Soccer Mom… Demystified

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First of all, I’d just like to point out that googling “soccer mom” images is not for the faint of heart. I didn’t get very far before I decided I was better off creating my own non-pornographic meme. (And in other news, I’ve recently learned how to create memes.)

Also, why is this man wearing this shirt?

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The soccer mom. In most people’s imaginations, she’s either the mini van-driving, mom jeans-wearing, orange slice-toting type or the hot chick who shows up to the field in her Italian heels and her tight team t-shirt that has become the stuff of legends and fantasies.

I hate to break it to you, but most of us fall somewhere in between.

I am 19 years and 4 kids into this parenting thing, and aside from a small brush with soccer when Sydney was 5 (my husband’s boss talked us into putting her onto an all-boys team he was coaching) I managed to avoid being a true soccer mom until very recently.

This spring Zoe tried out for and made a select soccer team. She had done 2 years of rec soccer and decided that she was dropping the ice skating lessons and softball to do soccer year round. This is her sport.

Year round select soccer is no small commitment- financially or time-wise. But she’s my first kid who is really invested in a sport, and I want to make sure to support my kids in anything that they feel passionate about.

Zoe played in several tournaments this summer, along with a week long camp and regular practices twice a week. Her final tourney of the summer was this past weekend. Originally they were supposed to play in a tournament closer to us (about 15 minutes away) but that tournament wanted her team to play up a level and the coach didn’t feel that was in the best interest of the girls. He signed them up instead to play a tournament on an island just west of Seattle.

When I found out about the change I remember thinking to myself, “You probably should book a hotel.” And then I forgot about that very wise thought. I remembered again about a week and a half before the tournament. Turns out the island only has 3 hotels on it, and concurrent to the tourney were several weddings, a large memorial, a wine festival and a bike race.

There was no room at the inn. Or anywhere within 45 minutes of the field on which she was supposed to report at 730am Saturday morning.

The island can only be accessed two ways from our home- by ferry from downtown Seattle, or by ferry up north, and then driving down the peninsula, across a bridge onto the island. When I found out all the hotels were booked and the closest available was 45 minutes away, I looked into taking the ferry every morning. In order to make an 8 am game, We had to leave our house at 430am. That just was not going to happen.

I gave in and booked the hotel that would require a bit of a morning drive.

The next day, when I picked Zoe up from soccer camp, she couldn’t locate her bag. By the time everyone but the coaches running the camp had cleared out, all that was left was a #10 bag, while Zoe is #40. We guessed that #10 had misread the bag and grabbed Zoe’s by mistake. The coaches reassured us it would be returned and we gave them the #10 bag for safe keeping until camp the next day.

At the end of that practice, I asked the coaches if they had located #10 (she’s on another team from my daughter) and they pointed her out to me. She was loading her stuff into the #10 bag they had returned to her.

I went over and asked her if she knew anything about Zoe’s bag. She said,  “I realized halfway home that I grabbed the wrong bag.”

I said, “So what did you do with it?”

She said, “Oh, I brought it back later.”

I said, “Who did you give it to?”

She looked blankly at me and said, “No one. I left it on the field.”

” You left her bag on the field at a public park overnight? With all her stuff in it?”

She just looked at me. The two coaches looked incredulous. I was steaming mad.

The coaches once again tried to reassure me that someone would have grabbed it and it was probably in the lost and found.

I called the club manager- no bag. I called the parks dept- no bag. The lady at the parks dept said, “But I do have a note here that a #10 bag is missing.” Which means the mom of #10 was conscientious enough to report her own daughter’s bag missing, but not to NOT leave my daughter’s bag unattended all night.

Suddenly it dawned on me- Not only were her goalie gloves, practice jersey and customized team track suit in that bag, so was her blue uniform. And she had a tournament in one week. A tournament that I had just paid $300 for two nights in a hotel room for her to play in. I started going sideways. I wanted soccer mom #10’s head on a platter.

Thankfully, this past Monday, a coach reported the bag had been found, and he just hadn’t gotten around to telling anyone. I was too relieved to be annoyed.

Wednesday after practice Zoe and I were discussing the tournament. She told me that her assistant coach, Brittney, wasn’t going to make the tournament because she had nowhere to stay.

I said, “We booked two queen beds in our hotel. Email her from my phone and tell her that she’s welcome to stay with us if she wants.”

After she returned my phone I said, “What did you say in the email?”

Zoe said, “I put hey in the subject, and then said you’re welcome to share our hotel room for the tournament.”

I looked at my email inbox and suddenly my stomach dropped. Instead of Brittney’s email that was queued up, her head coach’s email was. And he’s not a she. He’s an attractive and married “he.”

My voice shaking I said, “Zoe, I think you just invited Rich to stay in our hotel room. From my email account.”

“What?!? Oh my gosh!” but she was laughing. I was not laughing.

I started loading my sent messages, praying that that was not the case. Thankfully, she had sent it to the right email. If she hadn’t, it would have made for a very long and awkward year.

We left Friday afternoon for the trip south. We sat in traffic  through two ferries before we finally made it on.

image This was my instagram post.

This was Zoe’s:

image My husband says her constant use of duckfaces is a sign of poor parenting on my part.

We got onto the peninsula and headed south towards the hotel. The hotel itself was fine, but I don’t know about $150 a night. It had a water view…

image Can you see the water through the seagull poop on the window?

…If you could look past the ugly parking lot and billboards.

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We decided to head back north a bit to the mall to get pedicures and dinner. We ended up at Red Robin so that I could watch the second half of the Seahawks game. Zoe videotaped my reactions to the football game and then put them to music with a new video app on her phone. She asked me questions about when her father and I started dating. I gave her the edited version, of course, but she was fascinated by the dramatic story. (It wasn’t that dramatic, but to a 9 year old who sees her parents as always having been married, it was like a soap opera.)

We stopped off at Walgreens to grab some water and snacks. I also got myself some new earrings. Yes. Earrings from Walgreens. Tell me you would know these are drugstore earrings if I hadn’t told you:

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Look- they’re even lead compliant. That’s almost like 25 k gold, right?

Bargain price? $2.99. I will let you know if my earlobes turn black and fall off from wearing them.

Zoe got to witness her first “late night run for liquor” as two young men came in to purchase Hennessey. That was fun.

After we got back to the hotel I attempted to set a wake-up call. Apparently I didn’t do a great job, because the call was supposed to come in at 8am, and we woke up at 830. I wasn’t too concerned, though. I had checked the game schedule 3 times. Her team gets split into two smaller teams for tournaments. Her team was scheduled for what I thought was 11 and again at 410. The poor other team had to be at the field by 730 and again the next morning at 830.

I was still pretty groggy. I needed caffeine to wake up, and I had been awoken at 2am by the woman in the room next door who thought it was perfectly reasonable to talk at regular decibel levels in the middle of the night. After a few minutes I banged my fist on the wall trying to get her to shut up. It didn’t work, but my hand still hurts. I gave up and turned the fan on to drown her voice out. I went to sleep with ill feelings towards the woman next door.

Zoe got dressed into her grey uniform, which, unfortunately, seems to have permanent pitch stains from sitting on a log at the last tournament.

image I washed it three times.

We ate breakfast at the hotel (side note- just because the breakfast is in a hotel, doesn’t mean it’s ok to wear your plaid fleece bathrobe in public, dude. Pull it together.)

I didn’t get coffee because I knew there was a Starbucks on the way. When we got there, however, there were 10 cars in the drive-thru line. I looked at the clock- 945. She needed to be at the field by 1030, and we were 45 minutes away. I was going to have to sacrifice getting coffee until we were closer and I was sure I could get her there on time. I’m responsible like that. At the next stoplight I looked at the email again, and saw that the game didn’t start at 11, it started at 1130. Bonus! I was actually EARLY! I was going to have time to stop for coffee after all.

I followed my gps directions to the park where the tournament was being played. I never spotted another Starbucks. I asked the guy directing traffic in the parking lot and he said, “I don’t know either I just got here and I could sure use some coffee myself.” This wasn’t a good sign.

I made a U-turn and headed back out to see if I could find coffee. After all, we were early and had plenty of time. I started driving. And driving. And then I drove some more. This is what I saw:

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Trees, trees, and more trees.

No sign of civilization anywhere. No Starbucks, no Mcdonalds, nothing.

I looked at my clock. I wasn’t sure I could get her there on time if I didn’t turn around. So I turned around.

By the time she walked onto the field I was twitching from the lack of caffeine, but feeling generally good about the fact that I had gotten her there on time. And then I spotted them. The blue team. And she was in grey. I walked up to the coach, and looked at the girls warming up. They were the other half of her team.

“Um, where is she supposed to be?” I asked.

He looked up at me and said, “Here. 3 hours ago.”

No. It couldn’t be. But it was. I had mixed up the two team’s schedules. My stomach dropped.

Her coach was nice enough to agree to let her play in the game. As the girls warmed up I stood there in shock, still trying to figure out how I had screwed up so badly. One of the balls came flying at me, and I turned to the side to avoid being nailed straight on. The coach said, “Now girls, what mom SHOULD have done there is trap the ball with her chest.” And then he snickered.

I sat down with the parents, who all looked very surprised to see me. I explained the situation. I texted some of the moms who were out getting coffee, but was too late- they had already left. One of the dads looked at my crazed face and said, “Don’t be pissy with me, just because you didn’t have enough time to coffee before a game that you were already 3 hours late for.”

They won the 1130 game 5-0. I heard that in spite of Zoe not being at the 8 am game (which her coach was quick to point out he had to leave his house at 3 am to catch the ferry to get there for) her team had won 2-1.

I did finally get my coffee- at 2.

The afternoon games were less stressful, especially when some of the parents broke out the booze. This was a side of soccer I had never experienced. One of the moms poured wine into my now-empty Starbucks cup.

image Hard to be stressed when you’re drinking wine with a straw

At one point my phone was down to 3% battery, so I went to my car to charge it. It was warm, so I turned the car on and ran the A/C. I watched some guy pick his nose up to the second knuckle. I read my kindle, and waited for my phone to charge, one tiny percentage point at a time.

I guess at this point I should mention that this island community is known for being very, oh, how shall I say, hippy-ish. Organic. Lots of Subaru Outbacks, if that helps you picture it. This is the sign they had at the tournament on every trash can, so I felt guilty every time I needed to throw something away:

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I have nothing against the environment (I like breathing oxygen and drinking clean water as much as the next guy), or even environmentalists- Until they rap on my car window and yell at me for killing the earth.

First, I should point out in my defense that my one year old car I’m POSITIVE SURE is emitting less icky stuff into the environment than his 15 year old Subaru wagon. Second, it was not idling for an HOUR, as he claimed. It was like 15 minutes. I only made to 7%. After he got done ranting and raving at me for my personal destruction of the planet, a woman who had been sitting under a canopy directly behind my car said not only did she not smell any fumes, she didn’t even know my car was on. So there. All I wanted to do was charge my phone so that I had enough battery life now that Candy Crush has finally added new levels. Is that too much to ask???

He came up to me a few minutes later as I was walking back to the field. He asked me if I was the woman he had just yelled at. I said yes. He apologized for the way he talked to me and then, near tears, said, “it’s just- the environment.” The good thing about hippies is that they have higher estrogen levels.

Except the women. Which brings me to the scandal of the afternoon game.

As soon as the game started, this child stood out. At first I thought, well, short unflattering hairstyle, but maybe she’s just a tomboy. And then I saw her close up. It was a man baby! (I said that in my Austin Powers voice, could you hear it?) It wasn’t a man. And we weren’t sure it was boy, either. But it looked like a boy. Her name was “Tyler” which is slowly becoming unisex, but still tends to be mostly a boy name. It kind of reminded me of “Pat” from Saturday Night Live.

One of the parents, an enormously buff dad with a cockney British accent decided to take matters into his own hands. (Eww, not literally) He went and asked. Flat out, he asked. “Is that a boy? Do you have a boy playing on your team?” The answer was, no. It was a girl. I remained unconvinced. And then I saw Tyler’s mom. Apparently the androgynous looks don’t fall far from the tree.

I will also say that watching that team, which was local to the island, shoving, pushing, grabbing and tripping our girls made me realize hippies can get competitive too.

That night after a team dinner, Zoe and I drove back to our hotel. Another family was staying a block away in another hotel, and they invited Zoe to come to their room to swim. As we walked down the street she said, “Your breath smells like ocean.”

“That’s not my breath. That’s the ocean that smells like the ocean.”

She started humming and said in a sing-song-y voice, “We’re walking down the street. We’re street walkers!”

“No. we’re not street walkers.”

“Yes we are!”

“Sweetheart, a street walker is another term for hooker. This is a Navy town. You can’t walk around in a Navy town at night talking about being a street walker.”

That night my “friends” next door must have been tuckered out from their late-night jabber fest. All I heard was the sound of snoring. Really loud snoring. Like he was in bed with me snoring. At first I rolled Zoe over to see if it was her snoring, that’s how loud it was. Nope.

I want to start a movement that hotels have to post wall thickness along with the list of amenities they offer.

The next day we weren’t quiet as we checked out of our room at 730. Karma can be a biotch, man.

We got to the field and one of the team parents was doling out mimosas and bloody marys. A bloody mary at 9am? Sure why not.

image They decided blue solo cups were better than red, for team spirit.

Zoe’s team didn’t win their morning game, so they didn’t make it to the championship game. The other part of her team did, though, and she asked me if we could stay and watch.

One of the girls came down with the stomach flu and started puking right before the game. Somehow she managed to pull herself up and play that game. I don’t think I could have done it. It was pretty impressive.

As we left the field and headed towards the ferry, I almost hit a man. He came from out of nowhere. Zoe saw him and shouted at me. Turns out she didn’t know I was going to hit him, she was just squealing because the sight of him was something else.

image teeny tiny running shorts.

I decided I wasn’t going to make it an hour in the ferry line before using the bathroom. I stopped off at McDonalds and then before my eyes, this:

image Nothing much, just walking my pony to McDonalds.

I swear this island is weird.

image Ferry ride back to Seattle

So, there you have it. Not so glamorous, huh? I’m sorry if you were hoping for something more salacious. I’m not a very good soccer mom. I mixed up the schedule, so she missed her first game. I almost accidentally invited her coach to sleep in our hotel room. I drank a stiff bloody mary first thing in the morning. I got yelled at by a hippie.

Eventually I will get the hang of this soccer thing.

We head into league play next week. If I hear or see anything more interesting, I’ll let you know.

Until then, I’ll leave you with this:

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Is This The Real Life? Is This Just Fantasy?

 

roflbot Yes, that’s me. I’m a natural blonde. (And yes, I cut my own bangs.)

I have a confession to make. I have a secret fantasy; A deep, dark alternate life that exists only in my mind.

Don’t get me wrong- I am very blessed to have the life that I have. I have 4 healthy, amazing kids that I adore and who sometimes like me. I have a husband who keeps me laughing and still thinks, after 20 years together, that I’m all that and a bag of chips. And a tub of ice cream. (He also thinks I’m crazy, but when has crazy ever interfered with a man’s pursuit of a woman? AmIRite?)

Having said that, I must admit there are moments when I imagine my life played out in another way.

Remember those “Choose Your Own Adventure” books?

Courtesy Snarkerati.com
Courtesy Snarkerati.com

I loved these books: The ability to chart the course of your life one decision at a time, and if it ended badly, you could always start over again and get a different outcome.

But real life isn’t a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book. You CAN choose your own adventure, but once a path has been chosen, there are no re-dos; No UN-choosing the path.  If you don’t like the outcome, there’s no going back, only going forward. And with you comes the baggage that you accumulate along the way.

I’m sure I’m not the only person who thinks about a different life they could have lived. One of the advantages of being a writer is that I have an outlet for my hyper-active imagination.

Last week I told Katy of “I want a dumpster baby” blog (http://www.chicagonow.com/i-want-a-dumpster-baby and https://www.facebook.com/IWantaDumpsterBaby?fref=ts) that looking at her spazz dance pics that she posts from her Chicago office elevator makes me want to go get a job in an office with an elevator.

iwantadumpsterbaby Just one of many examples- see how cute she is in her non-yoga pants outfit? She’s wearing heels and jewelry- in the daytime!

 

I wasn’t kidding.

I’ve been a stay at home mom for nearly 19 years. My last office job (telemarketing for a timeshare- don’t hate me)was in 1994. To give some of you young folk perspective, Bill Clinton was president, OJ had killed his wife but hadn’t yet gone on trial, and “Friends” had just debuted. We’re talking a VERY long time ago. And even when I did work in an office, I worked on the first floor, so I never rode the elevator. (I did, however, make out with my not-yet husband in the stairwell.)

The office elevator is just a small representation of my alternate fantasy life.

I’ve been a West Coast girl my whole life. Born in Southern California,  raised in a small farm town in Washington state, the furthest east I have ever lived was the five years spent in Utah. My hope in going to Utah was that we’d continue heading east, sort of like a reverse Lewis and Clark. (In this scenario, I play Sacajawea- see my previous post about my love of all things Native http://kbjackson.com/a-review-of-the-lone-ranger-and-other-ramblings/) The promotion that came, however, sent us back west to Socal. In fact, the home we bought was only blocks from the house I had lived in as a small child.

I love the West Coast. It’s all I’ve ever known. Maybe that’s part of the allure to me of the East Coast- the unknown.

About this time every year, I find myself longing for the East Coast city life. I start playing Billy Joel and Barry Manilow’s “Weekend in New England” on my iPod, craving brisk walks through crisp leaves to my office, dinner parties in my luxury metro condo and the buzz of city life.

Alas, my home is my office, I live in the suburbs of Seattle, and I’m more likely to be hosting playdates than cocktail parties.

My community is nationally ranked as one of America’s most livable. And it bears repeating, I have a great life. But- If I were living a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book and had the opportunity to spend one day trying on another life for size, the following is what it would look like:

I wake up early in the morning, refreshed and excited for the day. I remembered to wash off my makeup the night before, so I don’t have mascara smeared down to my nose. I look around my bedroom and see no baskets of clean laundry in need of being put away.

I get on my cute running clothes and there is no back fat or side boob oozing out of my sportsbra! Also, I am not on my period.

I take a nice run through the park, the leaves are changing, and the air is cool. My lungs do not gasp for air, my knee doesn’t ache and my neck and back feel strong, not like I am collapsing my spine with every step I take.

Morning Run FreeVerse Photography NYC “Morning run” by FreeVerse Photography

Following my 5 mile run, I go back to my condo with the lovely view of the city.

Spectacular-Apartment-New-York

Which city? I don’t know. New York, maybe. Probably Boston. I’m Irish, you know. I thought about Chicago, but I hear it gets colder than a witch’s tit there and the wind will knock a 200lb man to the ground in an instant.

Besides, you’re missing the point. It doesn’t have to be any specific city, it’s “THE CITY.” Like Metropolis. Or Gotham.

I shower and change into my sophisticated, yet sexy work outfit. I even put on heels. I’m going to my “office job at the high rise with the elevator.”

I wave goodbye to my building manager who tells me I’m his favorite resident.

managerinlobby I bring him home baked cookies, you know.

I don’t need a taxi. I could justify taking one, but it’s a beautiful fall day. I can walk. I am one with “THE CITY. ” Besides, this gives me an opportunity to grab a coffee and pastry (I earned it- remember I already ran 5 miles today) and chat with the café owner. Just because I live in the big city doesn’t mean people don’t know each other. I’m a regular. People know me here.

I walk the few short blocks to the giant high-rise where my company/law firm/publisher  is located. The security guard asks about my mother who visited last month. I ask about his uncle battling cancer. We exchange witty repartee.

I get into the elevator. It’s sleek and modern, with Nat King Cole or Frank Sinatra crooning through the speaker. I am on my way up to a high level floor, because all of the best city offices  are on upper floors. I am not suffering from an extreme fear of heights. Or of falling out the window of a skyscraper.

The receptionist greets me with a smile. We are friends. We have inside jokes. We make plans to go out for a drink after work.

I go into my office. It’s like something Katharine Hepburn would have had in a 1940’s glamour film.

CGPExecutiveOfficeView1

I feel sophisticated and powerful when I am in there.

I don’t know what my job is. Whatever it is, I am highly proficient. A co-worker leans in  and congratulates me on landing that account/winning that case/ getting my book published. I happily work through the morning, drinking my coffee, eating my pastry, and not letting anyone down. I can do my job uninterrupted. I actually complete tasks.

Around 1130 my friend pops in to ask me to go to lunch. Of course I will! Because I have time to do my job, take care of myself, AND still have time for my friends.

We eat a lovely lunch, we laugh and we make plans to spend the weekend at so-and-so’s house in the Hamptons/Cape Cod/Martha’s Vineyard.

house in the hamptons

The afternoon flies by. My boss calls a meeting in the conference room where I make some sort of stellar presentation and everyone thinks I’m a genius. I get an “atta girl” from my boss.

Soon it is time to leave work. I call my man, who has had an equally successful day and is in great spirits. He would love to meet my co-workers and me at the fun trendy bar down the street.

Multi-ethnic friends eating at restaurant

Cocktails, hors d’ouevres and laughter flow freely as we regale each other with humorous stories. My man not only tolerates my friends, he engages in uproarious conversations with them. Soon, though, he gives me that look. The one that lets me know he’s ready to go. A wink and a smile. Butterflies.

We share a taxi back to my condo, where my white carpet is spill-free, my countertops aren’t sticky, and my floors aren’t littered with cereal crumbs.

The-Mandarin-Oriental-Boston-Luxury-Apartment-or-Condo-for-Sale-at-BostonLuxuryResidential_com_

 

We sit together, wrapped in a luxurious velour blanket on the balcony and look out over the sparkling city night.

Seance In The City Medium Jesse Bravo NYC New York (photo by Jesse Bravo)

or

boston_1 Boston

We talk of our hopes and dreams. We make plans.

At that moment, there is no place I’d rather be.

 

 

 

Jesus Wouldn’t Have Rice In His Beard And Other Tales Of Back To School Shopping

back-to-school-shopping-fantasy-reality-article

I took my kids to the mall yesterday.

We were leaving church, which is halfway between our house and the mall.

I thought to myself, “I could actually get ahead of the game- no last minute labor day back-to-school shopping! I’ll be like those moms who smugly show up to the teacher meet and greet with their bags of baby wipes and tissues, and the superior knowledge that my children’s drawers and backpacks are fully stocked. No midnight runs to Walgreen’s the night before school starts! This is my year!”

“We’re going to the mall.” I declared.

Parker: “To Toys R Us?”

Me: “No, to buy clothes. For school.”

Zoe: “We should do that another day.”

Me: “No. This is the day. We’re doing it.”

I ignored the moderate protests and turned up the music in the car.

I parked by the Sears because it was the only part of the lot where there was availability. This should have been a major red flag, but I chose to ignore it.

Since we had to pass through Sears anyway, I decided to take a look at their refrigerators. We still haven’t decided whether we are going to repair the parts which caused the massive flooding of our kitchen (http://kbjackson.com/ten-reasons-why-a-kitchen-flood-aint-so-bad/ and  http://kbjackson.com/dear-diary/) or replace the fridge completely.

The refrigerator salesman popped up behind me out of nowhere and bellowed, “Can I help you find something?”

I said, “No.”

He asked, “Not buying today?”

I began to tell him our refrigerator saga and my current dilemma when I caught some movement out of my right eye. I turned just in time to see that Parker had crawled up into a fridge and was attempting to close the doors. Zoe appeared to have boosted him up and was on the outside helping shut him in.

“Get out of the refrigerator!” I yelled, startling the salesman.

He handed me his card, said, “Seems like you’ve got your hands full. Give me a call if I can help,” and then scurried away. I was unsure if the help he was offering was regarding my appliance needs, or if he was offering to help me make my kids “disappear.”

I glared at Parker and Zoe and marched them towards the escalator. I could hear the commentary of the salespeople behind me, but I used my motherly ability to tune them out.

We got out of Sears and Parker told me that he wanted an electric lime green fleece pullover like Lucas, the boy who lives across the street. He refused to look at almost anything else. The exception? Shirts with toys attached. I’m sure some genius marketing exec is really proud of himself for this one.

156638276_-iron-man-captain-america-hulk-thor-t-shirt-boys-tee-toy .

“I want this shirt. I like pterodactyls.”

“Since when?”

“I just do.”

He doesn’t like pterodactyls. He likes the idea of getting a “free” pterodactyl toy with the purchase of an ugly shirt.

.4a94777a19523_55289n Don’t be silly. I know this isn’t a pterodactyl. I didn’t actually buy the pterodactyl shirt.

I was getting hungry, but the food court was at the other end of the mall. We ran the gauntlet.

“Oh look! pretzels!”

“I want Cold Stone!”

“Let’s go into the Disney store/Lego store/Game Stop so I can show you what I want for my birthday.”

“Your birthday is in two months. We’re not going in there. I’m not looking at toys. We’re looking for school clothes. If we don’t find something soon you’re going to be wearing that pterodactyl shirt and jeans that are 4 inches too short to the first day of school.”

“Fine. But can I get an oatmeal raisin cookie?”

“Sigh.”

JUSTICE

Zoe: “We have to go into Justice.”

Parker: “I hate this store. This is a stupid store.”

Me: “I don’t disagree with you. But you can’t leave.”

Zoe: “Claire got turtle stuff here. I want turtle stuff.”

Me: “I don’t see any turtle stuff. Ask the girl.”

Oh. They had turtle stuff. I may have accidentally forgotten to buy some of the turtle stuff she put into my hands.

image

Zoe: “I want this shirt. It says ‘Choose to be amazing.'”

Me: “It’s too small. And it’s the last one.”

Zoe: “So?” (Is there a more aggravating word uttered by preadolescents than this one tiny syllable?)

Deep breath. Me: “Sooo, you can’t buy a shirt that’s too small.”

Zoe: “I can make it work.”

Me: “No. You can’t.”

Parker: “This is a really stupid store.”

Me: “Shh. I know. It’s almost over.”

We got up to the counter.

Zoe: “I want that shirt with the paint splatters all over it but it’s too high.”

Me: “Oh well.” (no sympathy.)

Justice Girl: “It’s buy one, get one free. If you buy this jacket for $42, you’re only getting the turtle earrings for free, and that’s like $4.”

Zoe: “Oh good! Then I want that tank top that looks like it has paint splatters all over it.”

image This is what gloating looks like.

Justice girl: “Ok. But that’s only $17. You should also get the yoga pants that go with the jacket.”

Zoe; “Good idea!”

Me: O_O

Justice Girl: “So you’re going to get lots of Justice bucks to spend after August 31st!”

Me: “That means I have to come back here.”

At this point Parker decided it would be really humorous to start foaming at the mouth and panting like a Zombie.

Me: “What’s wrong with you?”

Parker: “Unh Unnhh.” Drool. Drool.

Me: “Fine, I’ll take you to go get food. Maybe after that you’ll start acting like a human again.”

We got to the food court, which was a total madhouse. Parker marched straight to Sbarro.

Parker: “I want pepperoni pizza.”

Me: “Looks like they’re out of pepperoni. Can you have cheese? You usually order pepperoni and then pick them off anyway.”

Parker: “No. I want pepperoni.”

Zoe: “I want Chinese”

I looked at her.

Me: “What are you eating?”

Zoe: “Some sort of meat. That lady over there handed it to me as I walked by.”

Me: “That’s not Chinese. It’s Japanese. Go find out what you just ate.”

Zoe walked down while I ordered Parker’s pepperoni pizza, and walked back to where we were waiting for it to finish cooking.

Zoe: “It’s teriyaki chicken. Does panda Express have teriyaki chicken?”

Me: “Panda Express is Chinese. Teriyaki is Japanese.

Zoe: “Well I want teriyaki chicken.

Me: (for the 100th time that day) “Fine. You and Parker sit here with the shopping bags and I’ll go get your teriyaki chicken.

I walked down to the Japanese food. I noticed that every single person crowding around the Japanese place was Mexican. There were at least 15 people speaking Spanish around me. All of the kids working the Japanese food counter were not only Japanese, they had very thick Japanese accents and were speaking to each other in Japanese.

I marveled at the diversity I was witnessing at the food court in general. You have to understand, the county I live  in was almost completely caucasian while I was growing up. I remember in high school reading demographic statistics that showed the minority population of my county and then trying to count white people until I ran into a minority because I didn’t believe there were even as many as the report stated. Now, I was looking over a food court that looked more like the United Nations. Indian, Chinese, Black, Japanese, Native and everything in between. It makes me happy that my kids get to be exposed to people of different cultures and ethnicities in a way I wasn’t as a kid. Plus, I had no idea that Mexican people were such fans of teriyaki. You learn something new every day.

Suddenly the guy working the grill started slapping Styrofoam containers up onto the counter.

“Chicken teriyaki. Chicken teriyaki. Chicken teriyaki. Chicken teriyaki,” he shouted as he scooped chicken into each box. Apparently the woman doling out samples was doing a great job of luring customers in for chicken teriyaki. Either that, or it was actually the only item on the menu.

I brought Zoe’s food back to the table.

Zoe: “Who’s the cutest guy in the food court?”

I looked around.

Me: “I don’t see any guys I consider cute.”

Zoe: (pouting) “I know.”

A minute later-

“Look! That looks like Jesus!”

She pointed to a man with long, scraggly hair, a long scraggly beard and dingy clothes standing in front of the teriyaki joint. He looked homeless.

Parker: “It’s not Jesus. It looks like Shaggy.”

Later, as we left, I looked over at Shaggy Jesus. He had rice in his beard.

We made our way back through the mall to the center area, where Parker was lured by the fountain.

I looked over at him, and he appeared to be clutching something in his hands, his eyes were closed and his lips were moving silently. I wasn’t sure if he was making a wish or praying.

I whispered to Zoe, “What is he doing?”

She said, “I think he’s making a wish.”

Suddenly a small blonde toddler with no shoes on came up to the fountain next to Zoe and tried reaching into the water. He was soon followed by two mall security guards who came over and asked us if he was with us. We told them he wasn’t. We looked around but saw no one to whom he seemed to belong.

They told us they’d been watching him run around the center of the mall for 10 minutes, and after 15 minutes they had to call the real cops if the parents didn’t show up.

One guard said, “My guess is he escaped from the play structure at the other end of the mall. He doesn’t have shoes on.”

He sent the other guard in the direction of the play area. A few minutes later the radio warbled something and the guard responded. He muttered, “Should have known it was the dad. It’s usually the dad.”

We followed the boy and the guard toward the play area and soon we could see the other guard walking with a man. The man quickly walked towards the boy shouting, “You! You!” He picked him up and turned back towards the play area.

I felt my empathy for the dad dissipate a bit. It happens. I’ve lost my kids at the mall before. And Target. And Wal-Mart. And… well you get the gist. Kids can be like Houdini. But a two year old who gets lost shouldn’t have the first words he hears from his daddy be an accusation. Hopefully later those words were soothed with lots of hugs.

We never found the lime green fleece pullover. We never got any actual school supplies- no pens, pencils, papers, notebooks. The good news is I didn’t lose my kids, and although my fantasy of this:

branson-landing-shopping

Ended up looking more like this:

TiredMom

I did manage to get a lot of clothes for them. I still have to shop for Nathan, who has grown 5 inches this summer (no exaggeration) and about 3 shoe sizes.

Aww crap. I forgot shoes. I still have to buy them shoes.

Remind me some time to tell the story about the labor day weekend I worked at a shoe store.

backtoschool

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You Gotta Have Friends- A Review of “You Have Lipstick On Your Teeth”

You Have Lipstick on your Teeth

When my friend and fellow blogger Rebecca over at http://frugalistablog.com/ announced that she had been published in ANOTHER book, my first thought was “That bitch!”

29782_1418517336388_6576130_n Yes, I cropped everyone else out- wanna make something of it??

No, I’m kidding. Mostly. Success couldn’t happen to a greater person. I’m a little jealous, but I’ll get over it.

 

I first met Rebecca through a friend of mine from high school, Christin.

314844_10151032339934089_1039377631_n Everyone say hi to Christin!

My first impression of Rebecca was that she is larger than life. (Not physically. In real life she’s tiny.) We bonded over Vietnamese food about our love for “Little House on The Prairie” and Sue Heck from “The Middle.” Rebecca is the kind of girl who is unafraid to dance on a nearly empty dance floor if she likes the song that is playing. She doesn’t just absorb the energy of a room, she creates it. She is one of the funniest and most FUN people I have ever met. So I am truly happy for her.

I downloaded the book to my kindle the day it came out, but it took me a couple of days to find a moment of peace and quiet in this house to actually sit down and read it. My husband had to force me to put it down so that we wouldn’t be late for our dinner reservations, and then griped at me when I turned my bedside light on at midnight so I could read some more. At dinner that night I said to my friend, “You’ve got to get this book!” She ordered it when she got home.

There was a period of time when not only did I not wear lipstick, I really didn’t have the kind of girlfriend in my life who would tell me when I had lipstick on my teeth. I had kids willing to do that, but they were less discreet.

You know those women who say, “I’m not good at being friends with women. It’s less drama to be friends with guys”? Until not too long ago, I was one of those women. I’m not saying I haven’t had female friends- I have. But women require more emotionally out of friendships than men, and I struggle with emotional intimacy. It takes me a long time to get to a place where I can truly open up, and it takes a special kind of female to be patient with emotionally stunted friends like me.

I had my first child at 22. Soon after my second, we moved out of state to Utah. We lived there for 5 years, just long enough to start forming deeper friendships. And then we moved. We spent 5 years in Southern Cal. And then we moved. I valued the friendships I formed, but self-preservation prevented me from going too deep. I kept mostly to myself, and my family. I told myself I didn’t need any girlfriends. They’re too much work anyways.

Unexpectedly, I formed a close bond with a group of women through my church in Southern California. Together we helped each other through unexpected pregnancies, fertility struggles, miscarriages, job uncertainties, parenting fears, deaths of loved ones, marriage crises, the birth of a beautiful boy who has Down syndrome, and, most recently, one of our own being diagnosed with breast cancer. We did life together and I really began to understand the value of having girlfriends. (Also the value of what heels and a great pair of jeans can do for your butt.)

When we moved back to Washington 4 years ago, I reconnected a bit with old friends, but found myself still keeping my distance. Through Zoe’s friendship with a little girl named Rylie at the beginning of her kindergarten year, I met Rylie’s mom Jami. Jami is the kind of friend a girl like me dreams of- a fanatic football and MMA watcher, fun, girly enough to get Pedi’s with but with none of the drama-filled breakdowns. She’s the real deal. I can be myself with her and she accepts me for who I am. She makes friendship easy, and I am truly grateful.

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I have also become part of a group of women at our church here. We came together as a part of the Thursday morning Bible study. In January, a beautiful, sassy  woman with a fanny pack full of chemotherapy strapped to her waist joined our group. Shonda came from Kentucky and had a kick-ass attitude about life and cancer. She showed our group how to laugh in the midst of fear and pain. One rainy spring morning we decided that although we had no control over the weather, or cancer, or anything else that was bringing us down, we could choose to overcome. We chose to overcome the icky weather, icky cancer and all things icky by creating our own sunshine. We sprayed on floral perfume, we ate pineapple sorbet, and we laughed.

1002326_10151719085974089_1235154146_nMe, Liz, Lisa, Shonda, and Debbie O. (Missing that day were Debbie M, Maure and Jen)

We called ourselves “the Sunshine Girls.” We chose to follow Shonda’s example of hope in the face of adversity and laughter in the face of trials. We celebrated, we mourned, we laughed, and we cried. Together. The day after Shonda’s 40th birthday, she showed up (mildly sedated), plopped herself down and said, “Y’all are going to love this!” She proceeded to tell us about how her treatments and illness were causing some unpleasant side effects, specifically in the bodily function area. She and her husband were on their way to pick up her birthday cake when she realized she urgently needed to find a restroom. Immediately. She was cracking herself up as she told a story too graphic for publication, and had us laughing as well. At the end of her story she said, “If it weren’t for the cancer, everyone would think it’s hilarious that I pooped my pants on my 40th birthday. I’m so glad I have friends who can look past the cancer part to laugh with me, because it’s damn funny!”

On the morning of July 22, three of us went to see Shonda in the hospital. We knew her time with us was short. We whispered our goodbyes in her ear, told her we loved her, told her we would take care of her hubby and kids, and that it was a privilege being her friend. We stood in that room with her daddy and his wife, and her husband and his mom. We took turns telling funny Shonda stories, stories about Kentucky, stories about our kids, who are all friends, and their crazy adventures. In the midst of our laughter, Shonda slipped away to Heaven. Her husband said, “You girls gave her the out she was looking for. You brought laughter and gave her the chance to leave on her terms.” It was a beautiful moment, one that will be a part of me forever. And I almost missed out on it.

You see, I avoided close friendships with girls most of my life to protect myself from intimacy and from pain. Yet God, in His infinite wisdom, brought this amazing woman into my life, gave me the opportunity to walk this journey with her, and allowed me to be there when she took her last breath.

“You Have Lipstick On Your Teeth” is a lot like the best friendships: Hilarious moments, tough times, lessons learned, and more hilarious moments. Edited by Leslie Marinelli of http://www.inthepowderroom.com/blog/ and her own personal blog http://www.thebeardediris.com/, “Lipstick” features 39 funny, poignant, and well written true life stories by a variety of bloggers. Leslie’s opening piece, “Beauty And The Beast: Keeping Abreast Of Sibling Rivalry” is, hands down, the funniest coming of age story I have ever read. I laughed so hard I choked on my own spit, and then coughed and cackled through a second reading out loud to my husband. (“Buckwheat in a scissor hold”)

There are stories of women with kids, women without kids; Women who are single, Women who WISH they were single sometimes. There are stories of struggle, stories of bad choices, of trying to teach friends, and then realizing how much we can learn from them. There’s good advice- Don’t get Botox while under the influence of alcohol, and always make sure that when shopping for bargains, you know which country’s Olympic fan gear you’re ordering. (“Oh for the love of God, would you just leave me and my three dollar Canadian Mountie hoodie alone?”)

These are the stories you can only share with your closest friends, and yet these authors were brave enough to share with the rest of us. These are real life, not like what you might see on an episode of “Sex and The City.” (Oh, who am I kidding? I never watched that show. I know nothing about fashion, and my experience with cosmos isn’t exactly what I would call pretty.) These are some of the smartest, quick witted, sharp-tongued women I have ever had the pleasure to read the private details of their lives.

Vagina like a cauliflower? This book’s for you! Need to set boundaries on your husband’s gross habits? This book can help. Your urethra can’t seem to get its act together since pushing giant heads down your hoo ha? Good old Frugie will see you through!

This isn’t a book for one type of woman, it’s a book for ALL types of women. It will make you laugh, and it might make you tear up. If you’re like Frugie and me, you might want to wear some depends or at least a panty liner. It’s THAT funny.

You Have Lipstick on your Teeth

http://www.amazon.com/Lipstick-Teeth-Things-Friends-Powder/dp/1490963413/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1376353681&sr=8-1&keywords=you+have+lipstick+on+your+teeth

Buy it. You know you want to.

PS- When I went looking for a couple pics for today’s blog, I realized how many very good girlfriends I have had. Here are just a few:

sunshinegirls The Sunshine Girls after Shonda’s memorial

382516_10151679509649089_240970835_n 457599_10150968520893278_262663198_o 285610_10150973456474089_1532004222_n 545140_10151029936274648_1243926704_n

1013691_10151655447014089_927370275_n

335132_10150540577389089_1397214344_o My Socal Rock Harbor girls

 

 

 

 

 

I’m Gumby Dammit! And Other Moments From Nathan’s 15th Birthday

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15 years ago, our son Nathan was born in the caul. For those of you who don’t know what that means, you might want to google it. I’m afraid if I gave an anatomical description of it, I will lose half of my readers. Let’s just say that he came out “still protected.” Medieval legend says that being born in the caul is a sign of good luck and being destined for greatness. I don’t doubt it for a minute. This kid is by far the luckiest one of our family. We found out he was a boy through an ultrasound on  St. Patrick’s Day 1998 and my doctor, Patrick, insisted when he was born that all of these signs pointed to the fact we should name him Patrick. We didn’t.

Although he looked quite a bit like Winston Churchill as an infant (see above picture) he quickly grew to be an adorable and sweet little towheaded boy.

image image

For those of you who don’t know, Nathan is the only one of our four kids not born in the middle of October. Sydney, Zoe and Parker’s birthdays fall between October 13-19th. This year we are spending that week (known in our house as hell week) in Hawaii, and since Nathan is the only one who won’t be celebrating his birthday in Hawaii, I decided to bring Hawaii to his birthday.

imageimage

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image My mother made this little Hawaiian Nathan paper doll

He spent his day the way he wanted to- his friends had spent the night before and they played video games all morning, followed by going to see “Pacific Rim” at the theater. I dropped the boys off with their fandango tickets and $60 cash. My husband met them there. He said they went to get snacks and came back with one icee and three straws. I said, “But I gave him $60. They could have each gotten their own!” My husband’s theory is that one of them figured out that the large Icee was bottomless and thought sharing was the best way to go. He described how during the movie they would take turns keeping the icee in their cupholder, and then he would see a hand reaching for it. Whomever had grabbed it would then have to figure out which of the three straws was his.

Leading up to his birthday I had asked him if he wanted to go out to dinner or have dinner at home. He chose the latter. His tradition the past several years is to have the “World’s greatest sandwich.” Some of you may have missed that post, so here it is, recipe included. http://kbjackson.com/how-not-to-make-the-worlds-greatest-sandwich/

Thankfully things went much better this time, and I managed to make (with the help of my mother-in-law Toni) 11 World’s greatest sandwiches with no injuries or fires of any kind. It was a birthday miracle.

After dinner came gifts. Nathan tends to be a quiet kid, who is never comfortable being the center of attention.

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I finally got his birthday wish list on Tuesday, which gave me very little time to get his gifts. Another reason I love Amazon and prime shipping. Of course, one of his requests was for cash, but I didn’t want to just give him cash, so I ordered two different items (yes, from Amazon) to make it more interesting.

The first was a pinball machine. The object was to get all three mini pinballs into a certain hole, and then you were to press a “win” button to release the drawer. I had put two gift cards inside, so the only way he could get to them was to play the game.

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It was pretty hard. He was getting a little annoyed that he had to work so hard to get his gift. At one point he decided to go get a screwdriver and planned to pry the whole thing apart to get to the goodies. I convinced him to try again. Later in the night he was able to get the balls in and the drawer released. His persistence paid off.  But he was still peeved.

My other genius idea to give him cash was a puzzle box. When it arrived I realized that the box the puzzle box came in was even better a gift than the actual puzzle box. Clearly this was created by non- English speaking people.

image “Enlighten your IQ! The best welcome gifts for the children!”

image “Intellect game?” “Skillful devise” “Iron bead moved to the end with open up the lid”

image “Into the coin.” Or, perhaps you meant coin into the bank?

image “Stimulation fun game!”

Nathan tried for a while before getting very frustrated and setting it down to move onto his next gift. My father, the engineer, decided this was a challenge which he would like to pursue. He spent quite a bit of time trying to maneuver the “Iron bead moved to the end with open up the lid” before he started bashing it against my kitchen table. Defeated, he set it down.

A while later, Sydney was sitting with the puzzle box and pulled off the lid. She said, “Papa I think you already solved it, you just didn’t know it. Either that, or it never got set originally and all this effort was in vain. Maybe it was open the whole time.” I said, “There’s a life metaphor in there somewhere.”

My mother said, “Katie was always good at solving puzzles.”

I said, “I don’t know that I would say that. Although I am one level away from beating Candy Crush.”

Sydney asked, “Then what happens?”

Jeff said, “Then I get clean socks.”

Nathan’s next gift was a face bank. When I saw it on his list I had no idea what it was. This is what it is:

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qqQ_cajpPmo

Above is the video I took as we tried to figure out how it works.

His big gift of the night was a Selk bag, otherwise known as a wearable sleeping bag. I have yet to understand under which circumstances he plans on wearing this thing, although he told me he slept in it last night. He awoke during the night in a panic over how hot and sweaty he was, so hopefully he didn’t break it trying to escape it.

I picked green because it was the only color other than pink that was available on Amazon prime shipping. The net effect is that when he wears it, he looks just like Gumby.

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The final portion of the birthday extravaganza was the ice cream cake he had requested. Unfortunately it was about 95 degrees in my kitchen and once I took it out of the freezer we were in a race against time to get it sliced.

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Parker was having a difficult time controlling his compulsion to blow out the candles.

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But Nathan outsmarted him by covering his face as he leaned in to blow them out.

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I think his birthday was exactly the way he wanted it. Hopefully he won’t hold a grudge about having to work for his gifts. I may never give cash or gift cards without a challenge ever again. Hey, there’s nothing that says I can’t enjoy watching them struggle to open their gifts from me, is there?

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“I’m Gumby dammit!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ouch! And Other Thoughts During Yesterday’s Mountain Bike Ride

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Yesterday my husband decided he wanted to go for a bike ride. I haven’t been in a while; a really long while, actually. I decided to go along. The following are my thoughts during yesterday’s outing.

> This can’t be my helmet. This strap is so tight I have created 3 additional chins. ( It was not my helmet, it was Nathan’s. You know it’s been a while if you can’t even recognize your own helmet.)

> Ooh, mountain biking is so much more fun than running, and yet still a good workout.

(One minute later)

>Ho boy, I am out of shape.

> Was that a bug? Did a bug just go up my nose? It did. A bug just totally went up my nose.

> Clearly my innate klutziness not only extends to mountain biking, it is exacerbated by the random holes, rocks and tree roots.

> Ouch!

> Oh good. Downhill. Too fast. Too fast. Toooo FAAST!

>Please, God, don’t let me crash in front of these real mountain bikers. They’re already annoyed that I’m here.

> Wait- what are they looking at? What are they- Aww dammit, I knew should have worn a sports bra.

>Oh look! My husband can still do wheelies, intentional or not!

> Ack! another bug up my nose. Don’t you guys have any sense of self-preservation?

> Don’t hit that rock. You’ve got plenty of room on either side. Don’t hit the rock.

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>You hit the rock.

>Is it forward or back on the gears to make it easier to go up the hill? Oh crap. Wrong way. Now my hands are too sweaty to shift back.

>I think I just heard a tree knock. Another one- yes, that definitely was a tree knock. I knew these woods looked squatchy.

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>I’m pretty sure we are on the wrong trail. This has to be a trail for more advanced cyclists.

> Actually I don’t think this is a trail at all. More like a gauntlet.

>What was that I was thinking earlier? Biking is easier than running?

> My hoo ha can’t take another bump. Can’t you trees keep your roots to yourself?

Trail outlined by roots

>Good thing I’m done having children. Pretty sure that last bump made me sterile.

>Ferns aren’t as soft as they look

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>Oof! I’m almost positive that bump just made me pee my pants.

>Bug in my eye! Bug in my eye!

>Oh goody. Only 1.6 miles to the parking lot.

>Hmm. Even tree huggers litter their clif bar wrappers. I thought you people loved the environment!

>Almost there. Try not to crash into the parking lot.

>Phew! Made it! I wonder how long it takes for a bruised undercarriage to heal.

image Sweaty, dirty, bugs in my orafices. But I survived.

 

 

 

 

Cats.You Either Love Them Or Hate Them.

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No, not those kind of cats.

These kind of Cats:

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Last night Sydney had several friends over to watch a movie and eat cheese. You may think I’m exaggerating about the cheese, but I’m not. We had brie en croute (A fancy name for Brie wrapped in Pillsbury crescent rolls and baked), pepperjack, mozzarella, and Beecher’s Flagship, No Woman and Marco Polo. If you haven’t yet experienced the beauty of Beecher’s cheeses, you are really missing out. Flagship is my favorite.

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Sydney and I once took a field trip down to Pike Place market in Seattle to sample the cheese and see how they make it. If you’re ever in the area, make sure you stop by and check it out. It’s right by the original Starbuck’s Coffee.

Wait- where was I? Oh yeah. Cheese and “Cats.”

So last night as we were eating cheese Sydney’s friend Micaela says to me, “I really think you should go back and see “Cats” again.

One of the boys, Alex, who was standing nearby said, “What cats?”

I responded, “Not cats. Cats. The musical.”

He said, “Oh, I know. Cats!” And then he did jazz hands. I should mention this “boy” is not a small boy. He’s a very tall, broad shouldered boy, so seeing him do jazz hands was almost as amusing as the time he played Aladdin in a church skit.

Micaela had been at our house the night Jeff and I had gone to see “Cats,” and had witnessed my retelling of the ordeal to Sydney after we got home. But Alex hadn’t heard the story, and neither have most of you. I’ll tell you, it was a night to remember.

First, I should preface this story by saying that I have always loved Broadway musicals, for as long as I can remember. I used to listen to my parents’ record albums of “Oklahoma,” “The King and I,” and “South Pacific” all the time, singing and dancing and pretending to be a part of the story.

When I was about 7 or 8, my grandmother took us all to see “Annie” in Los Angeles. I was hooked. I took an old grey dress that my mother had made for my sister to play a pilgrim in a school play, found myself a locket, and transformed myself into an orphan. I even wrote a note that I folded and placed into the pocket of the raggedy dress. It said, “Please take care of our Annie until we come back for her.”

When I was about 9 or 10, my grandmother flew me back down to Southern California to participate in a two week workshop at “South Coast Reparatory Theater” in Costa Mesa. We learned all sorts of acting techniques.

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http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=john+lovitz+master+thespian&view=detail&mid=95501602246850C1C23895501602246850C1C238&first=0&FORM=NVPFVR

The first was miming. I could blow a fake giant bubble and have it pop in my face like the best of them. I practiced the “mime caught in the box” act for hours on end, my poor grandmother, God bless her soul.

I learned the entirety of the “Jabberwocky” poem from “Alice in Wonderland” author Lewis Carroll. I can still recite quite a bit of it: “T’was brillig, and the slithey toads did gyre and gimbal in the wabe. All mimsy were the borogroves and the momes wrath outgrabe.” It gets a little hazy in the middle, but then I remember the phrase “frumious bandersnatch.” The poem, I think, is nothing but nonsense. I have no idea if there is deeper meaning to it or not, but more than 30 years later it is still etched in my memory.

Our big finale was to learn the song “Give my Regards to Broadway.” I can still sing that whole thing as well. I left that camp convinced I would have a career in the theater. That didn’t happen, as you might have guessed.

scrt005 I don’t remember any of the kids’ names. (I’m the chunky awkward blonde with the bad “Annie” perm in the middle) Please note the jazz hands in the front row. I have to believe he went on to do some sort of performance-based arts.

My love for musical theater has led me to seeing several live performances. And there are a lot of great ones. In my humble opinion, “Cats” is not one of them.

Christmas 2011 my husband gave me two tickets to a spring 2012 performance of the show at the Paramount theater in Seattle. He didn’t do this intentionally. He didn’t say to himself, “I really want to see ‘Cats.'” Frankly, he didn’t know anything about it.

As the time approached to go to the show, I reminded him of it. He said, “So what’s it about?”

I stared at him for a moment. “It’s about cats.”

His eyes got a little bigger. “The whole show is about cats?”

“Did you even look at what you were buying?”

“No. I thought a night out at the theater would be fun.”

“Well, it’s a night out at the theater about cats. I’m sure it will be fine,” I said. “I mean it’s like the longest running Broadway musical ever.”

Wrong. It’s the second longest running. Cats closed after 18 years, and “Phantom of the Opera” has been going for 25. But still- 18 years, 7500 shows on Broadway alone. 7 Tony Awards. It’s gotta be great, right?

I remember when “Cats” was at the height of its popularity. I am pretty sure my mother went to see it, and had the sweatshirt to prove it. You know the one, With the eyes.

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We got dressed up and headed to a very nice steak dinner at Morton’s, where we drank wine and ate like royalty. As we waited for our car at the valet stand, the other valet asked where we were headed and we told him. He got a strange look on his face and said, “My buddy ushers over at the theater. He says it’s an… interesting show.”

Our first clue that we were out of our element was the stream of people moving into the theater with cat tails attached to their rear ends. There were street vendors selling handcrafted cat tails. Some were normal cat colors (brown, white, black, tabby) while others were calico or rainbow.

Jeff said, “Do you want a tail?”

My response was a dirty look.

We got seated in the theater, which isn’t the most comfortable place to sit. Back in 1928 when the theater first opened, either everyone was carrying around a lot less girth (they were) or they had less personal space issues. We were on the first level, about halfway, maybe 3/4 back. A couple about our age came down the row and the man sat next to me. I tried to give him room for his arm, but I felt as though I was practically attached to him.

The show began. Cats came streaming down the aisles and from the balconies onto the stage. I don’t remember much, but I do remember this: for the entire first act the only dialogue and/or singing was one singular, terrible phrase. Jellicle cats.

Jellicle cats. Jellicle cats. Over and over again. Jellicle cats. Whispered, chanted, sung. Jellicle cats. Later on I found out that Andrew Lloyd Webber didn’t make up the phrase “Jellicle cats,” T. S. Eliot did, in his poem from the anthology “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats.” I really don’t care who came up with the phrase. I just never EVER want to hear it again. Ever. And I certainly don’t want to hear it sung.

I kept waiting for some indication of what in the name of all things holy was going on in this show. I tried to follow it, really I did. I consider myself to be capable enough to follow along even complicated literary subject matter. I was lost. I was as lost as a jellicle cat who can’t find his way to the jellicle ball. That’s a thing, you know. At least it is in this musical.

The guy next to me was clearly struggling as much as I was. Oh and my husband, too. Jeff was quietly watching, but the guy on the other side of me kept making comments under his breath like, “Oh for God’s sake” and “What the hell?” I started getting the giggles a little bit, and I think he did too. Not sure if his wife/ girlfriend was enjoying herself.

Just when I thought I was going to lose my mind over that damn “jellicle cats” thing, suddenly the air in the theater shifted. Everyone got extra quiet. Clearly this was a moment. The spotlight was shining on one haggard cat slowly making her way across the stage. I could hear the beginnings of the only tune I had previously known from this show, “Memory.” This was a big moment. It was also an indicator that I had almost made it to intermission.

Jeff leaned over to me and whispered, “That cat looks like __________.” I can’t say the name of who he was referring to, but I will tell you it is an older woman that we were previously acquainted with. His assessment was spot on.

I lost it. The sound of my guffaw echoed out through the theater like a cannon. The guy next to me almost lost it. Jeff could barely hold it together. The more I tried to stop laughing, the harder it became. Tears streamed down my face. I practiced Lamaze breathing and tried everything I could think of to control what was bubbling inside of me and about to burst forth.

The audience cheered at the end of “Memory,” and I cheered because I knew relief was coming.

Jeff turned to me. “I don’t think I can do this anymore.”

I nodded, unable to speak. He led me out of the theater into the night and I felt like I could breathe again.

Jeff said, “I think she’s the one.”

I looked at him, confused. “She’s what one? Who is?”

“That cat. At the end. I think she’s the one he’s going to choose.”

“The one who is going to choose to do what?!?”

“To go to cat heaven.”

I was stunned. “You mean- you knew what was going on in there?”

“No, not really. But I did get that. The big fat one was gonna pick the old lady cat to go to cat heaven.”

I had no idea what he was talking about. All I heard was jellicle cats over and over. I never heard any dialogue. I never heard any explanations. I kept waiting for them, but they never came.

Two women ahead of us were talking about how they were escaping and not going back. I said, “Did you have any idea what was going on in there?”

They laughed and one said, “No! I thought it was just me!”

We walked across the street and decided to hit the Ruth’s Chris for dessert; also booze that would take away the pain of what had just happened.

We took our seat in the lounge area on a comfy couch and I slumped back. I was free.

We overheard the group next to us. They had been at the play also, and, like us, had escaped at intermission. We bonded over our ordeal and laughed at the experience. Jeff kept apologizing, but I reassured him there was no way he could have known.

When our waiter appeared, I was so loopy that anything was going to set me off into a fit of laughter. Unfortunately, our waiter was a little person. A midget. I began the Lamaze breathing again, ordered the chocolate lava cake and an Irish coffee. When he walked away to put in our order, I was afraid to look directly at Jeff. I knew if I did I was not going to be able to recover.

Our waiter returned with our desserts and we, along with the table adjacent, regaled him with the story of our night. He was hilarious and charming and I no longer felt giggly about him, I just thought he was a cool guy.

In the end, I have to admit that night will be forever in my memory as one of the most entertaining I have ever had. I laughed until I couldn’t breathe. I gorged myself on filet mignon and decadent desserts. I met a really awesome little person. And I survived to tell the tale. Or tail, as the case may be.

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