Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Don't Open It!

I like opening presents. I rip into them with vigor, as if I've been kept in a basement somewhere with no food and you've just handed me a tater tot neatly wrapped in holiday print. I mean to say I shred that paper up. My grandma (when she was alive and her skin wasn't so thin with old age that it would itself rip apart when it came in contact with anything with an edge, like wrapping paper) used to unwrap gifts with such painful meticulosity that it was near torture to witness. Living through the Great Depression had made a big impact on her, and she was, no doubt, thinking of ways in which to reuse the wrapping paper as she was unwrapping it: cut and fold for a new coaster set, iron and tape onto pillow for festive pillowcase, tape together with last year's saved tape pieces to make curtains, etc.

She'd turn a pair of scissors on its side and slide them under each piece of tape.
"Come on, Grandma! Open it! Open it!"
The scissors would move at a snail's pace along the edge of the gift; the tape being removed with surgical precision.
Not my actual grandma.
"Open it, Grandma! Come on!"
Down one side of the box.
"Come on, Grandma! Open it! Open the present!"
Having freed one side, she would rotate the gift to gain better access to the next side.
"Open it, Grandma! Open it!"
Slowly, slowly, the scissors would slide under the paper, catching the tape. 
"Oh, for crying out loud, Grandma! Open it!"
She'd turn the gift over, exposing its underbelly, inspecting it for tape.
"Mom! Dad! Tell her to open it! Open the gift, Grandma!"

And this would go on for hours, it seemed. When the paper was finally removed, in one piece, mind you, Grandma would take great pains to fold it into a neat square. This would take about as long as the unwrapping.

I don't play like that. Like I said, if there aren't pieces of wrapping paper flying through the air in an almost dangerous fashion, well, then- I'm not really unwrapping presents.

The upcoming unwrap-athon, while less a production now that (a) I'm divorced and (b) my family decided not to exchange gifts, has still brought to mind the glee that is ripping paper from a package and greedily grabbing at what's inside. (So wish I didn't just have a flash of the SNL "in a box" skit right then. It makes my words seem And...wrong. Onward...) Anyway, I had a thought tonight like this. "What would you," meaning me, mind you, "not want to unwrap on Christmas morning?" I'd like to entertain this thought for a bit.

1) A human head.
Not an actual human head in a box gift.
First, it would be quite the surprise, to say the least. I'm not sure I'm up for that kind of surprise on Christmas morning. Plus, whose head would it be? And would it be all gooey and bloody at the bottom of the box? If so, I'm guessing it would have to be wrapped in foil or a baggy or something, and that would just look cheap. No one likes a cheap-looking gift. Then, how to I get it out? Do I grab it by the hair and pull or turn the box over for the unwanted thump?

2) A bag of poo.
Any poo would be gross. Human poo being the worse, really. Bird poo would be okay, I guess, as far as poo in a box goes, but I still wouldn't want it. I wouldn't know what to do with it, and I fear what my gift-giver might be trying to tell me. What would one be trying to say with a gift box of poo? It can't be good. No. No, I don't want to unwrap a box of poo at all.

Not my actual Cabbage Patch doll.
3) Somebody else's old cabbage patch doll.
Because it would just make me all mad that I threw mine away years ago. The face of someone else's cabbage patch doll would be all, "Hey! Remember me?! No, not really, because I belonged to such and such a girl in such and such a town and you threw yours out, you big dummy." Not that I'd know what to do with my old cabbage patch doll if I had it. I guess I'd put it in a box in the basement, but it would be in MY box in MY basement and I'd always know where it was if I ever wanted to look at it. Which I wouldn't, really. But that's not the point.

4) A jar of olives. Or even a pretty box with a single olive in it.
Two olives in a box would be obscene. Because we all know olives are the devil's testicles.

5) A big ol' stinky block of blue cheese.
If you want to see me throw up on Christmas morning, because you're some kind of Christmas morning people hater, well, then- gift me some of that nasty-ass blue cheese. Seriously. If olives are the devil's testicles, then blue cheese is the yeast infection of his girlfriend. (Did I just type that? Seems like I did. Wow. Even I'm grossed out a bit by that.)

6) A slip of paper with Matthew McConaughey's phone number on it.
An actual douchebag.
Why? Because I'd be tempted to call it. And then I'd get all worked up and angry because I have an irrational hatred towards Matthew McConaughey and his love of his self-proclaimed "man smell" and then I'd say something all jerky and then I'd have to call him and make amends and I'd have his number so I'd have to do it and just thinking about it makes me so mad that I've written this big old run-on sentence and that makes me mad, too- and it's Matthew McConaughey's fault.

7)  A dirty diaper.
Because one time, when my niece was a baby, I brought her into the changing station at West County Mall. I folded down that hollow plastic table-thing that you're supposed to place a baby on and trust that it won't detach from the wall, which it looks like it could at any minute, and put my niece on there. She had what was referred to in our family as a "poo-nami." I mean, there was an explosion of poo. I did that awkward holding of both of her feet in one hand and struggling with the other to both keep her exploratory hands out of her poo area and fumble around the diaper bag for wet wipes. I found the container of wipes was empty. Fuck. I can't leave the pooey baby on the unstable plastic thing to reach for toilet paper. I was stuck. Then, I noticed what I thought was a complimentary dispenser of wet wipes on the wall. How ingenious!, I thought. A little slot in the wall with what looked like a tiny portion of a wipe sticking out. I dug my hand into the slot and immersed my fingers deep into some other baby's pooey diaper. It was not a wipe dispenser. It was a dirty diaper thrower away-er place.

As far as lists go, 10 seems like a better number than 8. And I could, no doubt, keep listing. But it's in the eleven o'clock hour and I have presents to wrap. Happy holidays, everyone.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Writer's Block Produces Random Thoughts...Again

Let me save you some time. If I were you, I'd go ahead and log off. Come back when I really have something to say. If I ever really have something to say, that is.

See. I'm in the last few days of a teacher's semester. So I have...what...nothing to give in the personal writing department. No ideas. No drive. No energy to make my fingers attack the keyboard like they usually do. I'm surprised that I'm showering and feeding myself on a regular basis, actually. The fact that I'm not accidentally showing up to teach wearing last night's food-stained nightgown and having forgotten to wash the toothpaste from my brow-zit is a modern miracle. I'm running on fumes and my writing ideas have all but vanished.

In fact, I've logged on here a few times in the last week, stared at a blank screen with its blinking cursor, and thought, "Aw, to hell with it. I've got nothing."

I'm a little afraid I'll actually forget how to tap into that part of my head that usually is dictating so quickly what it wants me to write that I can scarcely type fast enough. I'm afraid winter break will get here, I'll be faced with oodles of time to write, and I'll crank out some bullshit that will have my 21 blog followers running for the virtual hills. Un-following me. Hiding from me, actually. Please, Lord Jesus, don't let The Playground In My Head find me and force me to read some hideous crap. Please, oh, please...

So, with that said, it's time to tap right into the monkey mind. A quick list of unedited words and phrases. I'll reach up in that space and catch whatever flies by- and this pretty much does nothing but keep the machine well-oiled.  So, once again...there's nothing to see here, folks. Nothing to see. Excuse me while I *humpf* climb up through my ear *humpf* and -whew! it's dark in here!- just a bit further back- past this floating image of a tater tot and- will you look at that? it's my dead classroom pet, Big Anthony. what is he doing here? back and back and I'm ready to step into the cash box. let them fly. I'll grab what I can.

-i thought i was getting a text message. i felt my coat pocket vibrate. it was actually my stomach. i wonder if my stomach is trying to text me. if it uses any little emoticons and tells me it's hungry, i'm kicking its ass. if my stomach has an ass. which it probably does.

-there's a saint that's known for her stinky holes. at least, that's what i was told by a christian brother during one of my many summer stays in philadelphia. only he had a thick hispanic accent, so it was more like "hair steeeeenky halls." i guess this lady was dying, and had some stinky holes. and they plugged the holes with flowers. and the flowers turned into diamonds the next day. now, that's what i'm talking about.

-for as long as i live, i will never understand my dog's obsession with licking her own butt hole. it's seriously, seriously gross. you never see humans doing anything that nasty. we pretty much leave our holes alone. in public, at least. except for our nostrils, but even nose-picking comes with a little bit of social shame when caught. and i've never, ever seen a human compulsively lick his or her butt hole. then again, i've never been to the back rooms of those seedy dance places, so who's to say what goes on in there. if butt hole licking is what's happening, well, then- (1) that's super nasty and (2) i'm glad it's happening behind closed doors.

-please, oh lord, don't let a parent of a current or past student or any member of my family over the age of 41 read the comment above. and if they do, don't ever let them reference it in a conversation with me. ever.

-sometimes "i'm sorry" is too shallow a phrase for what needs to be said, so silence is put in its place. and the silence is weighted down to let you know it's there and different from normal silence. and both parties stand and hold onto each other like rhesus monkeys and in the nothingness that is made of words not being spoken, "i'm sorry" lingers.

-i still remember the cologne of my first real crush. this goes back to 6th grade. he doused himself in polo, liberally applied from that emerald bottle with the gold nozzle. being 12, he had no idea what the phrase "a little goes a long way" meant, so each item of clothing was saturated in the musky scent. sprayed, i'm sure, were his wrists, behind his ears, his tiny bare chest, his bony little legs, and his feet. my first slow dance with him resulted in the faint smell of polo cologne all over my vintage chiffon dress. once home, i balled that dress up and shoved it into my face, breathing in all things crush.

-right now there are 5 candles lit in the room in which i'm typing. it is late. my cd has stopped playing. my dog is in her crate. i just had to speak words that i didn't want to, but know i needed to, and- well, there are natural consequences to everything, aren't there? perhaps i took it a bit too far. perhaps i should have stopped at track 5 and not let track 6 begin to play. sorry about that, i had said. sorry about that. i was just...i was...stumbling over my own actions. look behind you for the safety mattress, i tell myself. i tell us both. the ones stunt doubles use. fall into that, if you can. it will hurt a lot less.

-once i lit a candle and placed it in the center of our dining table. i was perhaps 7 or 8 years old. god, i said, if you are there, make that candle flame flicker. the candle flame flickered. okay god, i said, if that was really you, do it again. it did it again. then i realized candle flames naturally flickered, and there was no way for me to tell if god was doing it, or if the candle flame was just doing what flames do. and that rightfully pissed me off.

-if i did have a monkey, i'd be the kind of lady that dressed it and took it everywhere. and, naturally, i would lose some current friends, because monkey dressing and taking around is a bit odd. but, i'd also gain some friends. because, who wouldn't want to see a monkey all dressed up in outfits? i'd eat with it and we'd probably sleep together, but not in any weird porno way. that's sick and i'm disappointed in you for thinking that, to be sure. it would be in that i'm just laying here cuddling with my monkey who is wearing adorable footie pajamas way. which you may argue is no less sick then the weird porno way, but i would argue that it is indeed good, wholesome fun. i'm aware that one day my monkey would become an adolescent and claw my face off and then who would be laughing then? not me. i'd have no face with which to laugh. and not the monkey. it would get shot, i'd imagine. that, they'd say, is the bad part of the story. the end part. but, boy, wasn't it fun while it lasted?

-if i close my eyes and listen to the air blowing through the various vents in my house, i can nearly convince myself that my house is in flight. i mean to say, it sounds much like airplane noise without the *ding!* return to your seat sounds. or the people shuffling through their in-flight magazines or yacking on about their destination. and this is why i put my headphones in as soon as i have a seat on an airplane. i know people are interesting. most of them, anyway. but i'm here to tell you, i want nothing to do with them while we're all sardined in a gargantuan metal suppository barreling its way through the air. i just want to listen to music and read until i get drowsy, then sleep until the peanuts arrive. i like the honey roasted. i stick my tongue in the foil bag when the peanuts are gone and get all the sweet and salty dusty bits.

-damn, if i don't hate doing the responsible thing sometimes. i mean, damn. and ouch. more ouch than damn, i guess. no, they're pretty much equal.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

"I Don't Know About You, Maret"

Picture this.

I'm on a date. Seems good. We're at a restaurant, sharing Greek tapas. I'm dressed appropriately. Not whored up, because in my late 30s, I know better. Not matronly, because as a single lady, I know better. I've got that "can still pass for something desirable but not embarrassing herself" kind of attire.

My date is smiley. I'm smiley. We're enjoying each other's company.

Then, I go and say something like, "Today, in class, I had a few extra minutes with the kids, so I started acting out scenes from the book we're reading- The Giver- but I acted it out as a cat. You know, 'Meow, meow, freezing and sledding down a hill, meow! Christmas lights! Meow dying?' And then they started acting out cat scenes, too."

My date shakes his head. "I don't know about you, Maret."

Oh, man. I've heard this before. Many times. In fact, if you and I have ever dated, you've probably said it to me. But perhaps it was, "I don't know about you, Bridget Hengen." Or, "What am I going to do with you, Bridget Bauer?" No matter what you called me, I know what it meant. I know what it means.

I exposed you to the playground in my head.

Not everyone is comfortable playing in there. Some prefer to stay in their car, with the window cracked so they can hear what I'm saying. Sunglasses on and hat pulled down over their brows so as to not be recognized by more respectable acquaintances, but still wanting to observe my playground antics. Some hop out of their cars, but lean against the chain link fence, unwilling to play but wanting a closer look. Some have stood on the swing and really picked up some momentum as I hung from the monkey bars by my legs, reciting Wham lyrics at the top of my lungs.

I'm always in the playground. I climb the slide, barefooted for a better grip, and etch funny names into the roof of the metal dome: Grumpus Mc Crabbyputty. Pat McCooter. Albert Puhols. This is where I record the things that make me laugh.

Slide down the slide with squeaking skin on metal and run across the blacktop to the large oak tree and you can see where I etch all of the things I think about. "What if we still used our belly buttons to eat?" "What if, for a greeting, we got real close and touched our eyelashes, batting them quickly together, instead of shaking hands?" "Weird. Guys show their nipples in the summer and it's culturally okay. No milk is meant to come out of them. They're just...pinkish disks right there on their chests. Man nipples. Weird." The tree is wide. Like, a block-wide. And my questions and thoughts are scratched into its smooth surface. I like to walk around it and run my fingers over the indented letters. It feels good.

Lay yourself flat on the ground and roll. Eventually you'll come to a hill. Tuck your arms in and close your eyes while continuing to roll faster and faster. Let yourself get dizzy and if you feel like laughing, do so. This is my hill of giggles and you can run up it and roll yourself back down as many times as you like. Only a few of you have rolled down it with me. Some of you have watched me, and smiled. Appreciated how happy I can be. Some of you have decided, at the moment of watching me gather grass on my clothes, that I just wasn't the girl for you. That's okay. There's no need to watch someone have so much fun if you'd rather be doing something else. No hard feelings.

It's true that I get up and go to work everyday. I pay bills and put gas in my car. I participate in staff meetings and know how to behave like a mature adult. I'm in bed by 10 each night, including weekends. I've given talks to large groups of adults and they see me as one of their own. This is all true. But, at the same time, my playground is active. I'm there, too.

And if you spend enough time with me, I'll invite you in. Or at least give you a glimpse of what I'm doing there. Some of you will want to play, but will be too afraid that something bad will happen to your briefcase if you set it down long enough to play. Some of you might have forgotten how to play. Some of you might have never learned, and think it's too late now. For some of you, you'll have so much fun that I'll have to urge you to go home when the sun starts to set and the cicadas begin screaming. You'll not want to miss dinner, and I'll have to remind you of this.

Either way, this is where I'll come to play long into my 70s, my 80s, my 90s, if I'm lucky. Olly olly oxen free! Ready or not, here I come! It's here that I can lie on my back and look up at the night sky, letting the warm summer air blow strands of hair across my cheeks and tickle my skin. It's here that I can run until my lungs burn and fall to the ground laughing. It's here where all things life and living are loved and where I thank God for giving me a brain that dances with possibilities and wonder.

"What am I going to do with you, Maret?" You're going to enter the playground and play. Or watch from the fence post. Or sit in the safety of your car, taking a peek from your car window. Or put your car into drive, undo the emergency break, and drive away. Perhaps you'll take a look at me in your rear view mirror. Perhaps you won't.

It's up to you.

Friday, December 3, 2010

I Think You Might Be Stalking Me

You might be stalking me right now.

Hey, it's a free world, right? And if stalking me keeps you from, say, lingering way too long at the counter to chat it up with the Starbucks barista who shifts her eyes nervously back and forth hoping someone will come save her, well, then- I feel I'm providing a civic duty.

If you're stalking me because we, I don't know, dated in the 80s or 90s, well, I get that. We probably had a great time going to the mall together to get matching perms or going to see a Pink Floyd laser light show. Maybe we made mixed tapes for each other. That's fine.
If stalking me on the internet keeps you from thinking about those good times 10, 15, even 20 years ago and somehow thinking that if we could just meet up again, it would be like it was when Duran Duran was on the radio. And not the oldies station- well, then it's a good thing. Because we'd meet up again, sure. And it would be weird. And the reason we broke up then would be the same reason we'd brake up now. Except we now look older and more pathetic.

If you're stalking me and don't even know me, well, there's nothing really here for you. Seriously. Half the stuff I post is pure dribbly junk that only one co-worker lady (hi, Deb) seems to enjoy, and I don't even have any racy pictures of myself on here. In fact, I don't really have any racy pics anywhere. Except that one of me in a bikini that was taken when I was a nanny and accompanied a family to Florida. I was sitting in the sand with the youngest, a baby, really, and turned to look at the camera. It's unfortunate that the way in which I was sitting and the augmentation that happened because of the turning made for an unexpected Sports Illustrated shot that ended up in this family's vacation photo album. Awkward. I mean to say really, really awkward. Still.

Anyway, there's nothing to look at here. And if there were, I must say, I'm more on the side of thirty-something plain than 20-something Kardashian. Google image search might be a better arena for you. But, if you feel at home here, I can't stop you. Go ahead and stalk.

I've recently installed a web-tracking thing that allows me to see the visits on this blog. Don't worry- I can't actually see who reads this blog, but I can see the browser (i.e. or and sometimes the city (i.e. Montville, New Jersey or Sterling Heights, Michigan.) For those of you with dial up or those using your i-phones and whatnot, I can't see much. No city. Nothing. You could be anyone, anywhere. But there's one of you in a sunny state- and I don't know who you are- that reads my blog. A lot. You're bordering on stalking, buddy. Wish I was more interesting for you on here. Must be kind of boring. Sorry.

If you're stalking me on facebook, well- I have no room to talk there. If I'm friends with you on facebook, I've probably stalked you, too. So, no hard feelings.

You know what I mean. It's the, "Oh, I think I'll look at some of her pictures" and then some time later, you're way deep into albums I posted over a year ago. If you broke into my house and started rifling through my photo albums, waking me up in the night to say, "Hey! I like this one!" I'd be thoroughly creeped out. Not seeing you do it, I'm kind of okay with it. Kind of.

I mean, in my early days of facebook, I got my stalk on. Big time. I've seen all of your trip pictures. And wedding pictures. And work pictures. And holiday pictures. If I was on a roll, I may have even clicked over to your friends' pictures. People I don't even know. Smiling on a boat and eating lobster. Holding their newborn baby. Giving a thumbs up at Disney World. I didn't care who they were. I was in a picture-viewing maze that led me so far from my home page it's a wonder I ever made it back.

I don't have time for that shit anymore.

Perhaps we're not friends on facebook, but you looked me up, anyway. Is that her? I can't tell? Man, I don't remember her looking like that at all. I've done that. I can't blame you.  It's when you think of a person you kissed in 8th grade and decide to go ahead and type their name in the search bar. Yikes! The years of beer drinking really got to him. Whoah.  Perhaps I'm the girl you kissed in 8th grade. Perhaps you took me to prom. Maybe we dated when one or both of us really shouldn't have been dating. Maybe we had screaming fights or you cheated on me or told me that you got bruises on your shoulders from a stripper that leaped off stage and landed on you. (Yeah. I remember that. Still one of the more bizarre breakup stories I have.) Maybe you loved my mom and dad or couldn't stand my dog or wished I'd stop smoking or wished I'd start drinking. Funny that I'm a part of your past or that you were part of mine. All of you. The you-s of my past. The you-s that may or may not be stalking me.

If you are stalking me on facebook, I think you've picked the right gal, there. I've often thought that I would stalk myself on facebookfacebook, you might want to consider it. I don't think you'll be disappointed.

With that said, keep your stalking to the internet world. Following me around and giving me a good, creepy watching would be a huge letdown, I'm afraid. Right now, I'm sitting on my couch, Rufus Wainright ("I Don't Know What It Is") is playing from the tiny speakers in my laptop, my dog is sleeping next to me, and I'm wearing a non-sexy bright green flannel jammy set with blue and pink starbursts on them. My hair is in a ponytail, my makeup is washed off, and there's some zit cream on a whopper of a pimple on my chin.

When I'm done with this blog, I'll probably go down and fold my laundry. Then get on facebook for a bit. Then maybe check out a show on Hulu or read a book. It's 8:45 on a Friday evening, and this is how I roll. Nothing to see here. Eventually I'll get my journal and write up a little gratitude list. I'll take the dog out one last time and go to bed. If my gentleman caller calls, or if I feel like calling him, we'll chat it up for a bit. Weird jokes and sarcastic jabs in between topics like what happened to famous Nazis and how was work today. Nothing much to overhear, really.

I guess I do have some time tonight. Maybe I'll go search for what's-his-name. That boy I had a crush on in 7th grade science class. Or that girl who said she was born without a tailbone and who wore a paperclip in her mouth, swearing it was a retainer. Yes. Yes, I have some stalking to do...

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Things I Don't Get About Football no particular order.

1) There are too many damned rules.

I don't understand the rules of football. I never have. I probably never will. Because there are too damned many of them. I've had football-watching boyfriends. I've even had football-watching husband(s), and there were weak moments brought on by initial infatuation which would find me curled up on the couch during Super Bowl season and legitimately saying things like, "So...why did that guy get a flag?" and "Okay, now how do you score a point?" No man ever silently thought, "Aw...isn't that cute? My girl doesn't know jack-shit about football." I'm pretty sure, if they could get past the point that I was interrupting a game with girl-chat, they were wondering how long term a relationship could really be if we couldn't even enjoy a football game together. And perhaps we could have. If I could just wrap my head around all the damned rules. I swear, for every rule that was explained to me, 10 more followed. It makes me think men (and some women, to be fair) are all on the autism spectrum with some type of football savant. Listening to a guy explain football rules is one step shy of listening to Dustin Hoffman, as Rainman, rattle off Judge Wapner tv listings. It's just...freaky.

2) Football has weird-ass words that piss me off.

Line of scrimmage. Scrimmage. Scrimmage. Just saying scrimmage makes me crabby. And what the hell is it? As far as I can tell, it's always moving. And sometimes, on tv, it's a glowing yellow line that dudes run through. "Is it really yellow on the field?" I asked. Seemed like a legitimate question. Now I know asking that question was akin to my gay friend asking if the sticky strips on a sanitary napkin didn't hurt when it was pulled off. Pure ignorance. With good intentions. I get it.

"Well, see, the line of scrimmage has (something to do with and here's where I zone out and then I come back in when I hear these words:) a down. See?" A what? A "down." The word "down" makes me think of this:

which just makes me think of those football guys in those shiny Olivia Newton John "Let's Get Physical" kind of outfits ("uniforms," I'm told they're called) and I picture these guys hopping up and down on a down comforter like this and swatting each other with pillows and feathers are flying and helmets are clashing and I can't tell if it's some kind of weirdo gay love scene or just really, really funny.

Either way, I don't get the down thing. I know there are four of them. At least, I think there are four of them. And they move. Or maybe they don't. But I know everybody wants some.

3. The "Are you fucking kidding me?" factor.

I googled "football terminology" and found the Glossary of American Football on Wikipedia. Okay, I think, Wikipedia speaks to the common folk. I think I can get a handle on things here.


The first few things I read have my head spinning faster than a pigskin (a totally grody term) snapped out of the hand of that one football player who has all of the crazy hair. I think he might wear gold and black and white. And his name is something like Mele Kalikimaka or some other Hawaiian Christmas song. Anyway, I'm reading about 3-5-5 defense, 3-4 defense, 4-3 defense, 4-4-4 defense, 46 defense, 50 defense and I'm starting to get that I'm pissed and I'm about to throw my computer feeling. Which is what football does to me. It makes me feel like an angry, angry idiot.

Here's a little "think aloud" of my reading of the A-11 offense. My thoughts appear in red italics.
A-11 offense Offense? I'm already offended. Isn't A-11 a steak sauce?
An offensive philosophy I'll say. designed to appear as if all 11 players are eligible receivers That sounds gay to me. . The offense exploits a loophole in the American football rulebook to technically make the formation a scrimmage kick , Seriously. What the fuck did I just read? Who's exploiting whose loophole and what the hell is scrimmage doing showing up in here? and the offensive line is spread across the field I have no idea what you're talking about, but I'm about to spread someone across the field. Ew. That also sounds dirty. Damn it. Football is so dirty, no wonder all the guys like it., all wearing numbers of eligible receivers 1-800-gay-love, in an effort to confuse and deceive the defense. I'm confused and possibly deceived right now, and I didn't need anyone to kick me in my scrimmage to make that happen. It was banned in 2009. Well, it's about fucking time. It was probably banned because no one understood it.

4. Terms that I get, but it just seems like too many for one sport.

Quit hogging all of the terms, football. I get your holding (also a little gay sounding) and end zones (gay) and punting and spiking. I even get your fumbling and two-point conversions. Your spikes make sense and interceptions don't seem like a tricky concept to understand. Tackles are the clusterfucks I see that make whistles blow and dudes high five each other or start drinking heavily. All that makes sense. But, seriously. That's too much. Too, too much. Then, add all of the scrimmages and receivers and kickers and defensive so-and-so's and quarterbacks and linemen and it's like we have a cast for CATS out there. For crying out loud.

5. Are you ready for some FOOT-BAAAAAAAALL?
Well it's Monday night, a new week has begun
I turn on my tv for some pigskin fun
I see a Super Bowl season here on ABC
The biggest game each week is their...specialty 
I gotta get ready, make everything right
Cause Monday night football's comin' on tonight

Are you ready? Are you ready? 
Are you ready, ready?

I'm really happy if all your rowdy friends are comin' over tonight, Hank Williams, Jr. But, I can't say how much I want to punch you in the pigskins for getting what may be one of the worst songs in American television history stuck in my head on a yearly basis. Not only do I sing it anytime I'm having a friend over (i.e. "All my rowdy friends are comin' over tonight!"), but each time football season rolls around, I can't help but asking people if they're ready for some football. And then I turn into Hank Williams Jr. And that's neither pretty nor good for my social life. I blame American football. And you, Hank Williams Jr.


There are a few football-related things that have slipped their way into the "like" category in my head. For example, I find few things as entertaining as having you give me the name of a city and seeing if I can come up with the NFL team name. I'm not kidding. It's a skill I developed in my first marriage while trying to pass the time when a game was on. "Give me another!" I'd shout. "Okay...New York," he'd say. "Aha! You try to trick me! JETS! AND GIANTS! Another! Another!" I can play this game for hours. No joke. Try me sometime.

And, I seem to like the Eagles. And the Vikings. The Eagles, mostly because my great-uncle Joe lives in Philadelphia, has a wildly bizarre east-coast accent, and thinks fondly of his "Iggles," and it's somehow rubbed off on me. I will cheer for them in my own, quiet way. The Vikings I like despite their purple and gold shiny outfits. Purple and gold were my high school colors, so try as I might, I see a bunch of Catholic school girls out there playing football. But, they seem to be able to play well. I will root for them, too.

Besides that, I like the name Favre because it's spelled funny, and I like not liking Michael Vick, even if he is going around and talking to kids about not teaching your puppies to bite the shit out of and kill other puppies. He still seems like an asshole to me. Dolphins and Seahawks sound like pussy names, but I admire guys getting on those teams and playing anyway, like they're real men. Packers...come on. But, again. Admiration.

So, despite the fact that I recently told someone that "I'd rather eat a dirty diaper than sit through a whole football game," I'm starting to think there's hope for me. If I had a really patient teacher, and I mean one who could also make it fun to learn- like I get some sort of prize each time I catch onto some rule or some such thing, or we act out football plays with little hamsters or something cute like that, I think I could do it. Maybe I could even play a game, which I've never in my life done.

I'd get out there and punt and tackle and leap from scrimmage line to scrimmage line, running right through the invisible yellow parts, straight toward the end zone, without any interference or off-sides bullying or whatever. And I'd kick a two-point conversion and then I'd do a victory dance and thank Jesus Christ who made it possible for me to be such an awesome football player.

But then I'd really just want to come inside and cuddle up with some hot cocoa and a good movie.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Poop, Grammar, and Thanks

Teddy asks, "My pet reindeer, Blitzen, keeps going to the bathroom in my house (ON MY FAVORITE CARPET!), no matter how many times I tell him to do it in the backyard! HOW DO I STOP THIS MADDNESS?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!"

If the alternating series of question marks and exclamation points at the end of your question are any indication of the state of madness in which you find yourself, I am positively concerned. I can tell you are in immediate need of assistance. Luckily, I have the answer.

Your reindeer is pissed at you and his behavior needs to be corrected, lest he begins pooping in your bed, peeing in your house slippers, and making sweet, sweet love to your lady behind your back. He has clearly initiated reindeer revenge, and things will only get worse. Believe you me.

What's needed here is a little reverse psychology. Reindeer are stupid and will fall for this every time. They will also look at the ceiling if you tell them the word "gullible" is written up there. "Oh, man!" they'll exclaim upon finding a plain old ceiling overhead. But, tell them again a few minutes later, and they'll do it again. Dumb, I say.

Let's talk about this "favorite" rug of yours for a second. What's so great about it? I mean, really. What? Did someone special give it to you? You'll break up. Or they'll die. What? It matches the things in your room perfectly? Think again. Decorating isn't your strength, now, is it? It's okay. But let's be honest here before you get all bent out of shape about the rug. One day you won't want that rug anymore. It will look dated. You'll bring a girl over to your place for the first time, and you'll notice her eyes going straight to that rug upon entering. Her eyebrows will go up in surprise and she'll fake a "Oh, wow. Look. At. That. Rug. It's....interesting." You'll kick yourself for not giving it to Goodwill. This will be your only date with this girl.

Not only that, but one day you yourself will die, and guess what's not going with you? That rug. Even if you get buried with it, good luck getting it out in one piece if you come back from the dead. All the dirt you'll have to claw through. Who needs it? So, forget about the rug. This isn't about the rug. It's about that asshole reindeer you're living with.

Back to the reverse psychology. Institute a new house rule that all potty-making must be done on the rug. Sure, he'll call your bluff at first, but do not hesitate, when your bowels start a-grumblin', to scurry yourself over to that rug and let her go. Watch your reindeer's face with great satisfaction as you do so. "Wait! Wait!" he'll scream. "Oh my God! Why are you doing that? You'll mess up the rug! What- are you crazy?" Yes. Yes, you are. And you must be one step ahead of the reindeer in this department. Reindeer poops on the rug? You poop on the rug. Reindeer bites the mailman? You bite the mailman harder. Reindeer tosses a spoon down the garbage disposal? You toss your laptop. You must keep him in a constant state of alarm.

I guarantee if you follow this plan, your reindeer's behavior will change. Of course, you run the risk the following future scenario: A reindeer asks for advice on my blog. It seems he lives with a human who constantly poops on his favorite rug, bites the mailman, and throws electronics into the garbage disposal. He's in desperate need of some assistance.  He wants to know, "HOW DO I STOP THIS MADDNESS?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!"

Drew poses the question, "how do i tell my new english teacher that saying "you're doing it wrong." is incorrect grammatically? D:"
...says the guy who seems to have an aversion to capital letters.  Just pointing that out.

You're actually a bit in the wrong (noun) to blame your teacher for using the word wrong (adverb),  no matter how wrong (adjective) that may seem. "Wrong" can be used as a noun, adjective, or adverb. I'm guessing you would prefer to be told that you're doing something "incorrectly." In that case, keep up the resentment and try a couple of the following suggestions.
(1) Next time she tells you that you're doing it wrong, respond by saying "YOU'RE doing it wrong." Then sit back, cross your arms, and smile. Perhaps stick out your pointer finger just a tiny bit and wave it back and forth, like you're making tiny z's in the air.  
(2) Wear a shirt to class that reads, "I'm doing it wrong. My English teacher is doing it incorrectly."
(3) Next time your teacher says, "You're doing it wrong" you say, "You're doing it again." When she says, "What?" then you say, "Exactly." 
(4) Tell her, "Yeah? Well, I wrote the same thing on facebook last night, and I didn't get a squiggly line under it. So, who's wrong now? Huh? Who? Yeah, I thought so."   
(5) Ignore her comment, but compliment her shoes. This will make her confused and slightly uncomfortable. While she's trying to figure out what to say next, snatch your paper, roll it up, and lightly tap her on the head. "Voila!" you can yell. Pivot on your heel, turn back to give her a wink and a snap, and then be off. 
Amy asks, "Is it ok to send a " thank you" note via email, text message, or facebook??"

If you give my sister a present and watch her open it, it's very likely that you'll have a thank you card in your mailbox by the time you get home. During the holidays, she lines up various styles of notecards and has them ready to go. Open a gift. Write a note. Open a gift. Write a note.

I'm lucky to remember that the sweater I'm wearing is something you actually gave to me as a gift once. "Nice sweater," you might say. "Oh, this thing? I only wear it when I don't have anything else clean. I can't remember where I got it." Then I wonder why (a) I don't get the warmest reception next time we see each other and (b) I never again receive a gift from you. 

With that said, I think a thank you email, text message, or facebook post is a delightful idea. "thx 4 the gft crd 2 tivoli. u rock!" I guess if the gift is of a personal nature, you wouldn't really want to be putting it out there on facebook. But then again, who would give you gifts like this, but your husband. And then a simple, "Hey, thanks for the special lady-wear" while passing the toothpaste in the bathroom should suffice. 

Here's the deal: don't you say "thank you" when you receive the gift? "Oh, for me? Thank you!" Then you open it, followed by, "Oh my goodness! I love this [insert gift]! Thank you so much!" (That's twice now that the person has been thanked.) When the gift-giver and you part, you probably thank them again. "It was nice seeing you! Thanks again for the [insert gift]!" (That's three times.) Do you think by the time the gift giver gets home he/she will be building up a resentment about not getting thanked? A resentment that only a thank you note could fix? As in, "Hey, wait a minute. Did she thank me for that [insert gift]? I don't remember her thanking me. What a bitch. She better write me a thank you note, is all I'm saying." I mean, you thanked the person once. Twice. Thrice. What do they want you to do, take an ad out in the paper?

It would be like if you called someone on the phone and began with "hello." Then a few minutes later, you said, "Hey, did I say 'hello' to you? Because I want to make sure you heard me. 'Hello.'" Then a few more times during the conversation, you said "hello." Finally, a few days later, you write them a note saying "When I spoke to you the other day, I really wanted to greet you. Hello, from the bottom of my heart." It's too much. One hello is enough. As is one thank you. A verbal one. That's why God have us ears. So we could hear people thank us. He didn't give us eyes to help us read thank you notes. He gave them to us so we wouldn't bump into things.

Anyway, if you must follow up a thank you with a thank you, I applaud your venture into using modern technology.

p.s. A "thank you" below or on my facebook page is quite enough.


Thursday, November 25, 2010

You Ask, Maret Answers

Carly asks, "I wonder if it would be better to spend Thanksgiving day working on a huge history project, or pushing it off to Black Friday. But, because of shopping and such, should I push it off to Saturday? But then, why not just wait until Sunday? Of's not REALLY due until Thursday, so I could take a break over the weekend and come back full speed on...Tuesday. Advice?"

Oh, Carly, Carly, Carly. There are certain things in life one need not ever do. One is work on Thanksgiving. Unless you're working at undoing your belt buckle or working a big belch from your chest cavity. You may also choose to work on getting the last of the whipped cream out of the can, risking being sprayed in the face by those little bits and blasts of air. But then you can work on not getting upset when everyone in the family laughs at you. 


You can work on trying not to call to attention the fact that grandma has indeed fallen asleep at the dinner table again. Or work at waking her up by placing an odiferous spoonful of garlicky mashed potatoes by her nose. You can work at not focusing on the fact that you just found out your uncle's unsightly new girlfriend has knee trouble from "deep knee bends on the job." She was a dancer, see. It's only now that you notice her breasts sag down to her belly button and her hefty weight makes her shift uncomfortably in her chair. Your appetite is gone.


You can work at counting Aunt Trudy's drinks and work at placing bets on when she tries to gather the children up and take them on a teary tour of family photos in the long hallway to the bathroom. "Thish wuuuush your grrreat, grrrreat un. cle Ed. warrrd. Blesh his hearrrt. He died in the fluuuuu epi. epi. epidemmmic of 1918."  


You can work at avoiding Uncle Joey, who likes to explain that he has recently built an underground bunker to prepare for the uprising of Mexican farm workers who will invariably come find him in southern Illinois and slaughter his entire family. Ole! 


You can work on walking in front of the television during high-anxiety, intense football moments. And then work on running out of the room quickly as the screaming of insults begin. 


You can work on taking care of the blackheads on your nose that you didn't realize you had until you went into your parents' bathroom. The one with the interrogation-quality lighting made more disturbing by the amplifying mirror attached to a metal arm on their bathroom wall. You could work at trying not to swing the mirror over and inspect your face, but you won't be able to resist. Work on the blackheads, instead. You'll find it to be momentarily satisfying. When you come out of the bathroom with your nose reddened, you can work at not caring if your family thinks you've suddenly developed a cocaine habit. 


The point I hope I'm making clearly is that there are acceptable things to work on during Thanksgiving. But none of them are actually work. Which brings me to your history project. 

Let me tell you a secret. No teacher wants to really grade 20 or 40 or 80 history projects, depending on how many students he or she has. Not turning one in would be a temporary disappointment, sure. But in the long run, everyone wins. You don't have to do one, and your teacher doesn't have to grade it. "Look," you can explain, "you and I both know I'd get an A. How about we just skip all of the work part, you and I?" Sounds reasonable to me. Perhaps you slip your teacher a Starbucks gift card right into the palm of his/her hand while you're having this conversation. It can't hurt. It's worked before, let me tell you.


And consider this: what so-called "history" is so important that you need to do a project about it? Huh? That's why God invented the internet and Google search. If your teacher wants to know so much about WWI or the Civil Rights Movement, direct him/her to Wikipedia, for chrissake. You don't need to put that shit on a tri-fold poster. It's already on the web. "Ever heard of the web?" you can say, in a mocking tone. Your teacher will feel dumb and you will feel smart, and herein lies your "A." 


Go forth on this day that God made for us to slaughter and eat fowl and then indulge in a level of greedy shopping that only Americans can truly appreciate. Go! Go, I say. Embrace all that is in front of you, and leave this "history project" to those without the internet. Happy Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Three-Minute Fiction

 The assignment? From NPR's "Three-Minute Fiction": write a short piece beginning with the sentence "Some people swore that the house was haunted" and ending with "Nothing was ever the same again after that." Here's what popped out of my monkey-mind.


Some people swore that the house was haunted.  That tearing it down would’ve been the right thing to do. Ladies gossiped about it at the corner hair salon on Sundays: “I hear she’s putting it on the market. Can you believe that? After what happened in there? Good luck selling that house, is what I say.”  Scissors snipped and locks of various colors, none of them natural, fell to the floor. Heads shook disapprovingly and tisk sounds were clicked from heavily made-up lips.

“Do you even think they were able to clean up all of the…you know. How does one go about getting all of that…you know…out of the carpet and such?”

Arched brows furrowed as the ladies combed their mental files straight from the pages of the “Hints from Heloise” column in the paper.

“Vinegar? Does vinegar take that out?”

“No, no, no. That’s for ink. What you want is hydrogen peroxide.”

“Yes, that’s right. Hydrogen peroxide.”

A row of coiffed heads nodded in agreement as a blow dryer whirred into action.

“Well. That would be a lot of hydrogen peroxide to clean up the mess she found in that house. Can you imagine?”

This was shouted over the sound of three screaming blow dryers. No one heard. It didn’t matter much. Each woman was busy picturing donning yellow rubber gloves and vigorously scrubbing the remnants of their own husband’s brains out of their own plush beige carpeting. 

Suddenly, the salon door opened; the holiday bells attached to the handle ringing in mock joy.  In walked the subject of the ladies’ gossip; her arm linked with that of the local pizza delivery boy, 22 years her junior. “Can you fit me in for a quick cut?” she asked. “The house just sold and Peter, here, and I are going out to celebrate.” She smiled, winked, and gave the young man a swift tap on the rear as the dryers were silenced, the scissors paused, and one by one red mouths fell open.

Nothing was ever the same again after that.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

In The Beginning...

Genesis 1

The Beginning
 1 In the beginning God created a small sofa. 2 Now the sofa was formless and empty, there were no blankets on it yet, and the Spirit of God was hovering in the cushions.  3 And God said, “Let there be blankets,” and there were blankets. 4 God saw that the blankets were good, and He separated the ones with arm holes from the others. 5 God called the ones with arm holes “snuggies,” and the others “blankies.” And there was regular sleep time, and there was nap time—the first day.
 6 And God said, “Let there be a coffee table upon which to place things near the sofa." 7 So God made the coffee table and made it a glass top table and later He would realize that it would need to be cleaned with Windex often and this would piss Him off, but He was not concerned with such things yet. And it was so. 8 God called the table “that table.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the second day.
 9 And God said, “Let there be an outlet near the table so as to plug in a laptop.” And it was so. 10 God called the outlet "that thing with the slots in it that I plug the other thing into,” and the laptop He called “a mac” And God saw that it was good.
 11 Then God said, “Let the laptop forever be open to facebook, hulu, and” And it was so. 12 Facebook produced hours of procrastination from other things that needed to be done: parting of seas, sending his Son down to cure lepers, and gettin' all up in peoples' business with fiery bushes. And God saw that procrastination felt good. When it involved facebook. 13 And there was evening, and there was morning—the third day.
 14 And God said, “Let there be Starbucks nearby with a drive through so I can still wear my flannel dog pajamas and have toothpaste blobbed on the big zit on my cheek and I won't have to be concerned about running into any ex-boyfriends 15 and let the Starbucks have someone who knows what in the hell they're doing be in charge of making the drinks so it's not bitter.” And it was so. 16 God made two great Starbucks—one on Delmar and North and South and one on Price and Olive. He also made the stoplights. 17 God set them to turn green, 18 as soon as He approached them. And God saw that it was good. 19 And there was evening, and there was morning—the fourth day.
 20 And God said, “Let me return home with my coffee to my laptop and facebook and let me have a woobie.” 21 So God created a great creature that resembled a pig with an underbite, but was really a little dog, and God was aware that this dog looked funny. And God saw that it was good. 22 God blessed the dog and said, “Don't lick your ass, because it grosses me out and don't chew on my furniture, you nitwit.” 23 And there was evening, and there was morning—the fifth day.
 24 And God said, “Let the heat produce warmth through the vents and let the heating bill not be too high when I receive it.” And it was so. 25 God made the heat kick on when it got lower than 68 degrees inside. And God saw that it was good.
 26 Then God said, “Wouldn't it be cool to have some friends?.”
 27 So God created mankind in his own image,
   in the image of God he created them;
   male and female he created them.
  Although some were born male and wished they were female and some were born female and wished they were male and that would have to super-suck. But that's when God said, "Oops! I royally screwed up there. Sorry. I will invent re-assignment surgery for you. Ta-da!"
 28 God blessed the people and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number. Get checked for STDs before being fruitful and it's a really good idea to make sure you're actually in love with the person you're about to increase in number with. Because this guy might be just saying he loves you just to be fruitful with you or he might be into you at first and then all of a sudden be incapable of connecting in any way possible and then you'll be all, 'Well. This sucks.'”
 29 Then God said, “I'll tell you what. This is sounding complicated, so I give you therapy. And a few 12-step groups for good measure."30  And, seeing as He almost forgot about food, God said, "I give every green plant for food.” And people balked a bit because they wanted processed tangy cheese powder and things of that nature, but they'd get that in due time. And it was so.
 31 God saw all that He had made, and it was very good. And He lay down on the couch and covered Himself with a blanket. And He logged onto facebook and He took a sip of his vanilla latte. And He texted the guy He had a crush on and then He let go of the outcome. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day. And it was good.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

I Should Be Dancin'. Yeah.

The Bee Gees have a song that gets my rump moving every time I hear it.  In a falsetto voice, Barry Gibb wonders what I'm doing on my back, and tells me that I should be dancin'. Yeah. Dancin'. Yeah.

And Barry's usually right. I should be dancing.

And most of the time, I am. I'm not opposed to breaking out in a little dance move as I'm standing outside of my classroom door at 8:14 in the morning, waiting for the bell to ring and the students to flood into the hallway. I've been known to allow my feet to cha-cha while eyeing the produce or my shoulders to shimmy while perusing the dairy. Yesterday, I began a little spontaneous tap dance while my assistant principal was trying to have a word with me. A kind word. But not necessarily a tap dancing word.

I like to get my dance on.

I know that dance floors inspire fear in some.  I imagine some people view those parquet sections of flooring no different than, say, a large space filled with rows and rows of dentist chairs and drills. Please, God, no! Don't make me go out there! That's never been me.

I come from a long line of Hengens. We think we're stage performers, when really that was never our calling. We're secretly singers, dancers, and comedians, hiding behind the facade of teachers, nurses, and, that I think of it, most of us are teachers. Which is kind of like being a stage performer. And comedian. And, despite the educational value of it, I throw a bit of singing and dancing in there, too. My dad, also a Hengen, doesn't much care for getting his dancing and singing groove on. Which is probably a blessing, seeing as a singing, dancing, funny guy makes for an odd therapy session. My dad's a therapist.

Back to the dance floor. Here is a place for improvisation to come alive! My sister and I have ironed and folded imaginary laundry on the dance floor. We've hit home runs and run the bases. We've played volleyball and golf. Sure, it gets a little tricky, what with the concerned looks of other dancers, but we don't let it get to us.

I've slow danced cheek to cheek with an elderly man after a Sinatra concert. I've wrapped my shawl around a church parishioner and wound myself closer, only to fling myself back into the crowd. I've been picked up by the waist, "I've Had the Time of My Life"-style and flown in a circle, arms out, dress tucked in like a diaper. I've been 1950s jettisoned through the open legs of a dance partner, and pulled back up, much to the detriment of my dry-cleaning bill. I've hand-held with a chain of dancers and hava nagila-ed myself in a dizzying, snaking, fast-paced motion around, on and off the dance floor. I've danced with my father, my eyes closed, remembering when I'd stand on his feet. No leading was necessary. I've Time Warped, Electric Slid, Bunny Hopped, Alley Catted, Cha-Cha Slid, Twisted, Shouted, Stayed Alive, and Survived, Gloria Gaynor-style.

At home, without the predictable song line-up provided by deejays, I don't have to succumb to the "OH MY GOD! You HAVE to dance to this one!" as "We are Family" begins playing.  I can spin my own tunes. At home, I am the fourth Beastie Boy. I am Prince's backup singer. I am a Foo Fighter. And my dancing is not limited to a square underneath multiple sets of feet. I am swept from one room to another, sometimes up on the couch and back off again. I can pivot in the kitchen and roll my shoulders in the hallway. I can bust out an old-school move in the living room and fall back on the bed in my bedroom.

My whole self seems driven to move. To dance. To be alive.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Meow To Your Mother: I'm Prepared To Die

Big cats. Little cats. Fluffy cats. Bald cats. Cats with whiskers like curb-feelers and cats devoid of any facial hair. Cats that mew and cats that chatter. Purring car engine idling on a Sunday afternoon cats and cats whose sides rise and fall as they nap in the afternoon sun. Cats with pink padded paws that alternately push and knead on the surface of your belly.

I hate all cats.

-unlike cat lovers, who don't mind showing their cat love to the world. Puffy cats on sweatshirts. Librarian cats on canvas totes. Santa cats on holiday cards. Metal cat charms dangling and clinking from a pudgy wrist. Cat lovers wear staticky fur on the butts of their velour pants with no shame. Bintsy has a beautiful coat!

Cat tongues are fingernail-sized emery boards- scratch, scratch, scratching their little cat anuses then coming to rough up the exposed skin above your sensible shoes. Isn't he such an affectionate kitty?

Cats' skin is doughy like my second grade teacher who smelled of powder and wore her glasses dangling by a gold chain over her matronly bosom. Take your pointer finger and poke at a cat's side. It will just keep going and going, merely making an indentation in a vast plane of furry flab. This is disturbing, to say the least.

Cat tails are- and you know this to be true, so just admit it- a creepy entity unto themselves. They move independently of the actual cat- flicking this way and that. Curling up and uncurling with a thwack on the wooden floor. Nothing should move that much without a purpose. Nothing. It would be like if your ear were in constant motion. Folding and unfolding itself. Waving about like it's waiting nervously for its long-lost friend to exit the plane and head down the walkway.

Cats don't need you. They don't even love you. Take away their food and see what happens. They'll leave, that's what. They'll leave and go to someone else with food. Is that the kind of relationship you want? Is it? I didn't think so.

What's up with that spraying nonsense? I mean, I know a cat's been here because its vile hair tufts are still swirling on the ground and it smells like my grandma's drawer of old undies with the shot elastic waistbands. I don't need to smell cat piss dripping from my screen door to know a cat came by. But that's what they do. They mark places. A calling card shot straight from their asses, if you will.

Cats are drug addicts and their owners are pushers and pimps. If my mom would have come home and rolled me up some joints as an after-school snack, I'm sure many of you would have concerns about that. Cats, however, are frequently doped up on cat nip and left to pounce at imaginary mice and teeter their way around the apartment. What deep secrets do you have to drug about, kitty?

I would punch them right in their kitty faces if they weren't so damned cute. And if I wasn't afraid I'd get the shit scratched out of me.

Cat thoughts gone.
Cat thoughts out.
Peace out, kitty thoughts.
Swing you by the tail.
Go to jail.
Bars made of kitten arms
(they bend but they don't break!)
Get outta here, stinkerpuss.

My message to cat-loving friends who will momentarily defriend me on facebook and start sending me all things kitty: This was a bit of free-writing I did in class today with a few kids who selected the topic "cats."  We had 30 min. to write. Don't shoot my monkey mind. It just...came out this way. I? love? cats?

Friday, November 5, 2010

I Dare You to Dare Me

Dare me to do something.

Come on. I dare you to.

Dare me to do something that you really want me to do, like go get the mail. Or pick up the dog poop. Dare me to wash the dishes or fold your laundry. I won't be able to resist.

I've been dared to scale uneven stone churches and perch myself on their verdigris rooftops. Dares have sent me leaping from rocky cliffs into uncertain waters with the promise of stinging skin from the slap of the surface.

 I've taken dares from a cell phone, with the dare-er watching 8 flights above in a hotel window.
"I dare you to set your cell phone down and dance in the middle of the street."
And I danced.
"I dare you to go hug that sign."
And I hugged.
"See that guy approaching on a bike? I dare you to go hug him."

I know no power like that of three little words: I dare you.
All caution is thrown to the wind. An "Oh, yeah? You don't think I will, do you? Do you?" attitude sweeps over me and a fiery compulsion is set in motion. I'll show you whose getting dared to do what.

I stop at all things illegal, that God. Although I did steal Christmas presents from the "bargain basement" of Famous-Barr one year. One a dare. I was twelve. And hearing, "Oh! You shouldn't have! How did you ever afford these cameo earrings or this lovely tie tack or these gold hoops?" was enough to leave a guilty-sour taste in my dare-accepting spot. No more stealing.

But I could still be dared to take part in otherwise questionable behavior. Accepting the dare to take off my shoe and wiggle my toes within eyesight of a known mentally ill homeless man with an obvious foot fetish comes to mind. I was in high school, and dared by a group of classmates while riding on the Bi-State bus three seats over from "Shoe Man." It was risky. It was distasteful. It brought me a level of ick which took days to wear off. But, I did it. Dare accepted.

Being dared + teenage stupidity = dumb situations, but great stories years later. Had Jackass been around when I was a teen, I might have been the gal shooting myself in the buttock with a pellet gun. Or waking my dad up with a pair of cymbals. If I dad been dared, that is.

It occurs to me that I never accepted a dare that wasn't a milli-thought away from something I would have done on my own, anyway. The dare acceptance made the action your fault all of a sudden, not mine. "What? You're mad at me because I threw a drink in your girlfriend's face? But, her friend dared me to!" I had no choice! I was dared!

If you brought me a steaming pile of dog shit in a baggie and dared me to eat it, you better believe I wouldn't. I wouldn't have in my dumb years, and I wouldn't now. Sniff it? Yes. Poke at it with a stick? Perhaps. Put it in someone's mailbox? Not at my age. But there was a time.

Getting older has limited the number of dares I accept. Perhaps, as an adult who hangs around exclusively with other adults, I'm not being asked to take a dare as much. I'm sure my middle school students would like to test the boundaries of my dare-acceptance, but seeing as I pack each class full of intellectually-stimulating discussions of fine literature, there will never be a chance for them to find out just what I will and won't do. Plus, I know the middle school brain: "I dare you to not give us homework!" "I dare you to text my mom and tell her I'm in trouble!" "I dare you to let us go outside!"

Eh. Dares for sissies. You can do better.

Dare me to do something really out there.  Give me a dare that will make my stomach turn.
Dare me to get close.

Dare me to love you.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Good Grief?

Good grief? Really? I'd like to know what's so good about it.

I'm certainly not the first person to experience grief. My guess is that some of you (my 18 followers, that is) are experiencing grief right now, have in the recent past, or will in the near future.

And grief blows.

Blah-ditty-blah denial, anger, sadness, acceptance. The only fun I see in there is the denial phase. The inner voice that justifies about anything to keep from feeling the grief.  "Oh! Look at that! Our house is getting foreclosed on? No. That's not right. Not happening. Nope. Not at all. We just felt like getting rid of 2/3 of our shit and moving into a dingy little apartment! We didn't need all of that stuff anyway! Oh, look! I'm closer to work now! Isn't that great?!" (*smiles in a Stepford wives kind of way*) How can somebody so blatantly deny the truth? Because they don't want to feel the grief, that's why. Because grief sucks.

I'd like to propose redoing the phases of grief. You know. Re-marketing it a bit. Something like:

denial, ice cream party, rage, movie night, winning lottery ticket, sadness, cupcake, surprise love letter, acceptance

Yeah. If it went more like that, I think we'd all be a bit better about swiftly moving through the process.

As it is, I'm in the sadness phase. Verging on acceptance, but apparently I have a little more "crying so hard that I actually dry heave the 2 crackers that I ate yesterday" phase to get through. Which I think is a sub-category of the sadness.  Totally okay if it were sandwiched between the cupcake and surprise love letter phase, but some jackass designed this grief business, not me. As it is, I've been in the "everything you eat will taste like cardboard and sawdust, and every swallow of food will land on a teetering pile of vomit resting at the top of your throat" phase. Which has brought me "Wow, you look great!" comments a few months ago, but now bring the, "Are you sure you're okay? You look a little..." I know. Ghouly. Not girly. Ghouly. And not sexy-ghoul. Emaciated ghoul.

Again, totally avoidable with my grief plan, which would include cupcakes. Red velvet cupcakes. From The Cupcakery.

I appreciate the tenacity of grief. I really do. It has a kind of Body Snatchers way of attaching itself to things that don't really belong to it.  You know what I mean. It's when you can't get the coin into the parking meter and you fall to the sidewalk in guttural sobs. Or when a receipt flies out of your car window while you're driving on the highway, and you begin award-winning tears as you watch it flutter and twist and turn in your rear view mirror. I'll never get that receipt back again, you wail. It was such a good receipt.

It's never about the receipt. Or the parking meter. It's the tiny weed that you pull and are surprised to find just how deep and far that weed really extends, just an inch or so underground. Trust me. Find your weed and pull it. Just a little. Pull it from the hollow in your stomach. Pull it until you feel yourself begin to unravel.

That's the one. The one attached to grief.

Are you ready to feel?

I'm heading this one straight on.  Party's over. The lights are on and the doors have been opened. Secondary party guests have been sent home, poorly rinsed tupperware containers in their hands. Desserts that they didn't want, but neither did I. Goodnight! Drive safely! It was great seeing you! And it was.

Now I lock the door and breathe deeply before turning around to see who's still there. Bankruptcy is sitting on my sofa, fingering the change in his pocket, looking a bit guilty. Busted. Infertility is in my bathroom, rummaging through my makeup. Without permission.  Abandonment is nowhere to be found, but I know he's here somewhere. Separation is looking through my photo albums, pulling pictures for her own collection. I know she has no intention of giving them back. Divorce is sitting at the desk in my kitchen, reading and rereading the letter telling him what to wear and how to behave at the county courthouse this Thursday. The Death of my Dog is curled up on my new dog's bed, looking up at me like only a dog can. Why did you do this to me? It asks. It knows why.

Okay, everybody, I say to my remaining guests.  Party's over.  Let's talk.

Friday, October 29, 2010

What Your Grandma Did

I would. Wouldn't you?
I mean, why wouldn't you?
What? Are you- what?
Afraid? Embarrassed?
Please. Your grandmother did it.
I saw her.
Don't act like you didn't, too.
It was after school.
The day we made the face masks
out of paper plates and paint stir sticks.
I was FDR and you were-
who were you?
Go figure.
My mask ripped. Yours was intact. But uglier than mine.
Let's go to my grandma's, you said.
She lives down the street, you explained.
She loves to have company, you lied.
We saw her through the window
silhouetted by light cotton floral drapes.
At first, we weren't sure about what we were seeing.
Is she?
I think so-
But, could it be?
I don't think so-
Right. Wow.
One of us was impressed.
One of us was mortified.
Neither of us could believe it.
(Although all along I suspected it.)

I dared you to ring the bell.
She was your grandma, after all.
Your finger approached the buzzer, then withdrew, then approached again.
Go on, I said.
You pressed it.
The curtains were drawn just enough that if I held my head at an angle
and pressed my nose to the glass
I could see a sliver of your real grandma,
not the silhouetted one.
And I could see the buzzing of the doorbell had startled her.
She wasn't angry. Just surprised.
Not caught, really.  Just interrupted.
For a moment I thought she would continue on
and leave us to fend for ourselves on the porch.
But she stopped.
I saw her stop.

When she opened the door,
I tried hard to act like I hadn't seen her.
We both did.
Nice to see you.
And how have you been?
I see your azaleas are doing really well.
Thanks for noticing.
I was a little afraid to enter the house.
I made you go first.

Inside, we ate stale pinwheel cookies
from the opened package
your grandma dug out of the pantry.
We sat in silence,
listening to the sounds of our chewing
and the ticking of the cat-faced clock on the wall down the hall
and the air conditioner kicking on.
And off. And on. And off.
I chewed and smiled and allowed my eyes
to timidly roam the room.
National Geographic magazines fanned out on top of a marble-topped coffee table,
an orange and brown afghan draped over a scratchy brown recliner,
coasters made of cork and framed in wood, a metal tv stand,
a blue braided rug, a brass floor lamp topped with a shade still wrapped in plastic,
a pair of pink terrycloth slippers near the front door,
a paper napkin folded neatly under a nearly-empty coffee cup.
And your grandma.

At her funeral
the stories sprang from mouth to ear to mouth to ear
Did you know that one time she?
In her kitchen?
At the supermarket once!
Well, that I had heard.
On the way home from giving birth.
Every Thanksgiving.
You don't say.
Doesn't surprise me a bit.
That's the kind of old gal she was.
And your grandma,
visible only from the waist up
in her nicest navy dress with the pink embroidered flowers,
bible clutched in her hands which were resting on her unmoving chest
lay flat on her back in a shiny black coffin.
And when I turned to look at her
I could have sworn she was smiling.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Right There Below Our Eyes

Sometimes I look at someone's nostrils, or mine even, and think, "Whoa...that's weird. There are two holes in the middle of that face. Just right there in the middle of that face." Like straws. Big, old open straws just sucking air in psssssshhhhh and out psssssshhhhhh. Big, old straws with tiny hairs inside (or not so tiny- see memory image of mine from an old man's funeral circa 1994. That man had some massive silvery wires protruding from his nostrils. While in the casket. Couldn't someone have trimmed those things?)

The relationship we have with our noses is funny. I've seen people cradle their chin in their hand and tap their nose with their pointer finger. Tap. Tap. Tap. Helps them think, I think.

I've seen a little kid strapped into a grocery cart, mashed food in his hair, one shoe on and one several feet down the cereal aisle, mom comparing calories or nutrition value or somesuchthing while holding up a box of Kashi in one hand and some name-brand organic shit in the other. I've seen the kid insert his tiny finger into his nostril while staring me down. No shame. I've seen his finger root and root and root even as I squint my eyes disapprovingly, scrunch my nose, and shake my head in a no-no way that surely he must recognize. I've seen him keep on digging, occasionally pulling his finger out and holding it inches from his face. Nope. Still empty. Back in it goes.

I've seen adults do the same. In their car. I've seen the quick pick, the flick pick, the twist and root, the rub side to side, the hold and blow, and the old-school hanky swipe. I've seen it all- exposed by the false sense of security provided by a see-through driver's-side window.  They are see-through, don't you know.

Once I saw a picture of a guy whose nose froze and fell the hell off.  He was climbing an icy mountain- a big one- Everest, I think- and fell face first into the snow. There he remained until his friends found him. Not really his friends. Because I think he was essentially left for dead at first. But eventually, he was found. With a big burnt-marshmallow looking thing where his nose used to be.

So, he comes back to the states and his doctor is all, "Oh, yeah...I can fix that. I'll just take some of your ear and make a nose out of it...on your forehead. When it's all ready, we'll cut it and twist it around where your old nose used to be."  No shit. This guy grew a new nose upside down on his forehead. 

I'd like to have a nose upside down on my forehead. I mean, not where anyone could see me. Or maybe I would. Either way, in the privacy of my own home, I'd do things like see if I could gargle with it, or make bird sounds like those plastic bird whistles that you put water in and blow into. I'd put little flowers in there, like mini vases (that's "vases" like "faces," not vah-zus, by the way.) I would never let a gnat land in, on, or around my upside-down nose.

I try not to look too long at my nose, say, when I'm putting on makeup. I kind of work around it. Not that I have anything against it- it's just that I don't want to get mesmerized by the weirdness of it, that's all. Not that my nose is any weirder than anyone else's. It's small-ish with an Irish upturn that looked a lot cuter on me as a 3-year-old than it does now. Now it just looks like I might have been holding it up with my thumb, making a "nanny, nanny, boo-boo" at you behind your back and got busted. Only my thumb's not up there. But, that's okay. At least I have one.

I am a bit impressed by the flexibility of our noses. Reach up there and twist it around a bit. I mean to say, wiggle it from side to side. Flatten it. Bend the cartilage and squeeze the nostrils. Now try to do that with your elbow. Ha! Not so easy, is it? That's because the elbow is dummer than the nose. Or at least has less cartilage. I like to take my thumb and pointer finger of my right hand and play nose ski slope. It goes like this: My thumb rests in between my nostrils while my pointer finger is placed on the bridge of my nose- right between my eyes. Then, in one smooth swoop of a motion they're off! and they speed towards one another- the two fingers, that is- meeting at the tip of my nose. This can be done 5 or 6 times in succession and I believe you will find the results to be meditatively satisfactory. At least, I do.

Tonight, when I go to bed, I will inhale deeply through my face holes- the kind of inhaling that makes my tummy quiver. After holding in my breath for several seconds, I'll allow the air to rush back out with such force I may even feel it on my hands resting below. Bizarre face holes, I'll think. And I'll be happy to have them.