Wednesday, September 30, 2009

I'm One Degree from Neil (still six from Kevin Bacon)

Cracklin' Rosie get on board
We're gonna ride til there ain't no more to go
Takin' it slow
Lord don't you know
Have made me time with a poor man's lady

It's almost the end of the ride - the last day of Neil Diamond month! We made it! Cracklin' Rosie is one of my favorite Neil songs (even if she's a store bought woman who is a poor man's lady), because it's just a happy song, damn it. Rosie knows the way to make Neil happy. And if Neil ain't happy, ain't nobody happy.

I have to share that through writing about Neil this month, a lovely gal from the 'hood in Nebraska (and fellow Twirp Queen, for those of you who know what that means!) came forward to tell me that she MET Neil!!! So I now have only ONE degree of separation from Neil Diamond! So eat THAT, J. K. Rowling! You may have seven published books in multiple printings and be adored all over the world while you sit in your Scottish castle and count your billions of Euros, but can you say you are only one degree from Neil?! Until I see the proof I won't believe it.

Facts about Neil I know that J. K. Rowling does not:
-He had a huge white drum set from Hot August Night that sat in my friend's basement
-He has a turtle-topped desk
-Hi ex-wife Marsha (who got the biggest divorce settlement in history at the time of their divorce for over $300 million) was burned at a concert in Las Vegas from a hair dryer and my friend's dad treated her
-His son Mikah had a trampoline in the backyard, which my friend jumped on with him
-Neil is a nail-biter

So take that, you Hermione-creating tramp! (I'm not sure where all of this pent-up J. K. Rowling anger is coming from today...I am going to blame it on the Dark Lord.)

Have a great last day of September! All together now, for Neil - sing it with me -

Play it now, play it now, play it now my baby!
Ba, ba ba ba ba! Ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba.....

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Sweet Caroline, my calves hurt!

Where it began, I can't begin to knowing
But then I know it's growing strong
Was in the spring
Then spring became the summer
Who'd have believed you'd come along?

With Neil Diamond Month coming to a close, I'm feeling pressure to get some other songs up. What is Neil Diamond Month without Sweet Caroline? Huh? Or Soolaimon (soolay...soolay...soolaimon!)? Or who can hear Heartlight and not think of E.T.? How can I not write about Coming to America and call myself a fan? These are the things that keep me up at night.

Another thing that keeps me up at night is pain, particularly when I exercise. I try really hard not to exercise because my body seems to not like it. When I was an asthmatic kid, I was told not to exert myself. Okay. (And don't think for a second that my high school friends didn't LOVE to razz me about my trifecta of asthma, my speech and debate letter, and the Flock of Seagulls haircut. Don't even get me started on your haircuts, girls!)

Last spring, Mommy got punished. (I realize this is an older bit I wrote last year, but it was very traumatic and bears repeating. And I can make it work with the song, so zip it.)

I'm not talking about "Oh, is Big Daddy going to spank me?" kind of punished, but actual, public, physical punishment. Mommy attended a Boot Camp workout with a bunch of crazy people, and it took four days to sit down without crying out in pain.

I should have known what to expect by the person who invited me in the first place. She's a clean, organized mom who is uberfit and very energetic, like the head cheerleader/prom queen/track star all rolled into one. I say this with the greatest affection, because I have witnessed her drinking beer and eating dessert, so she's not scary-perfect. She sent a chipper e-mail to a group of moms from the school, saying, "Hey, let's all get together and exercise! One of the moms is a trainer, it will be SO FUN and we can all do it TOGETHER!!"

After deleting the e-mail that was clearly not meant to come to me, I got a follow-up call from her: "Julie, you have to come, it will be fun! You are always talking about getting in shape; this is a great way to do it with a bunch of people of varying fitness levels! It's only an hour, YOU CAN DO IT!"

And then I said yes. Because I have absolutely no spine, and if someone asks me to do something, anything, my first response is to say yes and then spend the rest of the time trying to figure out how to get out of the commitment. I knew full well that I was the weak link in this fitness chain. I'm the mom who wears workout clothes so people think I work out. I'm the mom who will sometimes drive the block and a half to school because it is too cold to walk or it might rain.

After I said yes, I remembered that this session was to be called "Mom Boot Camp," not to be confused with "Making S'mores" or "Singing Around the Campfire" camp. This was not a "Mom scrapbooking party" or a "Mom candle party" or a "Mom sex toy party." This was a "Work your ass off until you cry like a baby" party, and I had already RSVP'ed.

Another friend, who is secretly at the same yoga level as Madonna, e-mailed to plead with me to come to Boot Camp, as she was purportedly out of shape. I met her in the park that fateful morning, me in my dumpy tank top and black sweats, she in her skin-tight Lycra shirt that showed off her sinewy guns. Damn her. Cheerleader Mom showed up next, fresh from her MORNING workout (yes, I mean before Boot Camp!), so damn her, too. Then Trainer Mom showed up, chewing a bar of steel and spitting out bullets. Damn them all!

The Big Engine That Couldn't looked for an escape hatch, but the session was starting. We all ran around the park, past the group of City workers spreading mulch at the play set and anticipating the show. We then progressed to the park picnic tables, hereafter known as the Den of Pain, to climb up the tables in rapid stair steps and then down into lunges, triceps curls, dips and push ups. This was followed by sprints up a hill that has a 10% incline, and then over to the tennis courts to do Navy Seal crunches and jumping jacks.

Hands, touching hands
Reaching out
Touching me, touching you...

Let me make a few small observations. First, I don't do sprints unless the ice cream truck is at the top of the hill, so I didn't. Another mother in pain joined me as we pretended to power walk up the hill while the suckers sprinted it. Second, I don't have triceps, I thought those became extinct during the dinosaur age. Third, anything the Navy Seals are doing should not be on my list of activities, and therefore I threw my legs up in the air and waved them like I just don't care. Finally, anyone who has survived one vaginal childbirth, not to mention three, knows that all the Kegels in the world won't get you through a session of jumping jacks dry. It is just a fact. In my one moment of comfort, I was doing push ups on the picnic table benches, and every time I would rise, I would see a Nazi symbol and a "f*ck you" carved in the table, no doubt by an empathetic teenager. Indeed.

I'm not sure how I got through that hour and fifteen minutes, but I lived to tell about it. The rest of the day I flaunted my post-workout body for my husband, throwing in terms like "feel the burn" and "quadriceps" and "optimum heart rate." The next morning I woke to a world of pain I hadn't known since labor. Who injected lead into my legs? Why do these children need me? How can I get to the hospital?

And when I hurt
Hurtin' runs off my shoulder
How can I hurt when I'm holding you?

I do not belong in something called "Mom Boot Camp." I am too old, too soft, and too weak, and not one of those women brought snacks. Someone needs to remind these fitness-obsessed moms what reckless abandon looks like. And that is exactly why I went back. With donuts. And that time, good times never seemed so good.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Shilo is going to kill me

Young child with dreams
Dream every dream on your own
When children play
Seems like you end up alone.

I've never been a big doll person. When I was a child, and my mother was concerned that I wasn't playing outside with the other kids, I would say things like, "Who needs friends when you have a book, Mom?" She would smile and walk away, and then a half hour later I'd find her sobbing at the kitchen counter with a rum and Coke.

I didn't play with Barbies, I didn't play dress-up, and I didn't want to be a ballerina. However, I did have an imagination, and along with it, my imaginary friend named Tony. I don't remember Tony, but my parents do, and I'm sure in their minds it is categorized as "That Creepy Tony Phase" when they considered calling in a priest.

This is one thing Neil Diamond and I have in common. Neil had an imaginary friend growing up, and she was the inspiration for the song "Shilo". Before Neil could have his pick of the real babes, he had to make up an imaginary chick. I wonder if he would dress in a size 4T sequined shirt and tight black pants during his playtime with Shilo? These are the questions I want answered. With visuals.

My youngest daughter has a HUGE imagination, and is waaaaayyyyy into playing dolls. She is a Girlie Girl with a capital "ME!" She has a full battalion of American Girl dolls inherited from her older sister, a Bitty Baby, a box of Barbies, a box of Littlest Pet Shoppers (our name), a box of Polly Pockets, and boxes of Puppy in my Pocket, Kitty in my Pocket, Jungle in my get the picture. She doesn't just have one imaginary friend - they are ALL her imaginary friends.

Why does she have so many little creatures at her disposal, you may ask? It's because she must rule everything around her. If she cannot bend the rest of us to her will, she goes to her room, dresses in her best princess outfit, builds a circle compound on the floor of her little people, and runs them ragged. It's like Jonestown, except Jim Jones is dressed in pink satin and feather boas and won't share the Kool-Aid with anyone else.

Shilo, when I was young
I used to call your name
When no one else would come
Shilo you always came,
And we'd play...

A few weeks ago, she had a friend over. The friend walked in the door and was immediately whisked to Jonestown, sequestered, and pinked out. The Imaginary World commenced. I could hear them busily setting up the scene. I took the opportunity to pilfer some of the kids' Nutter Butters and read a book. Soon, the girls came into the room requesting snacks.

THEM: "We're hungry."
ME: "How do we ask for food?"
THEM: "We're hungry NOW."
ME: "How about a please?"
THEM: "Please." (They then exchange a knowing glance and giggle.)
ME: "What?"
THEM: "Oh nothing!" (More giggling.)
ME: (Playing nonchalant) "So what are you playing?"
THEM: "We are playing this really fun game where we are sisters and we live alone in a house because both of our parents have died in a car crash. We are princesses and we can have whatever we want!"
ME: (Figuring out my odds if they both turn against me) "But isn't it sad to not have parents?"
THEM: "Oh no, it's very fun! We always have dinner in our best dresses and never say please and eat in the living room!"

I gave them their snack and made them sit at the kitchen table, but I did not turn my back to them.

They were hit with Disney Princess Syndrome (DPS).

DPS generally occurs in little girls between the ages of three and seven who have been exposed to more than three Disney movies. The symptoms include a rash of regal behavior, breaking out in song, feverish outfit changes, and coughing up scenarios that include the subtraction of parents and the addition of princes. According to Walt Disney, the only way to be a Disney princess is to be an orphan, or at the very least, lose your mother. I give you Cinderella, Snow White, Rapunzel, Sleeping Beauty (whose parents are alive, but she is removed from them), Belle, Ariel, and Jasmine.

If you are lucky enough to lose your mother, DPS tells you that this small bump in the road will surely be followed by beauty, charm, smarts, grace, character, the ability to manage conflict and take the high road, and eventually the trifecta of a prince, royal wedding, and a kingdom.

My daughter has seen all of the Disney Princess movies, and all of the Barbie movies with the same recurrent, motherless, marry-a-prince plot. She seems to watch me with thoughtful, calculating eyes.

Shilo when I was young
I used to call your name
When no one else would come
Shilo you always came
Come today

No, Shilo. Stay away. I saw the movie Child's Play. I'm going to write the next Disney movie. It's going to show a motherless girl who could have been a princess, but she is in prison for dealing meth. She works in the laundry room and no one tells her about periods. It will be called "Shilo and the Girls in Block B." The plot twist is that the mother lives, manages Shilo's release, takes the high road, forgives Shilo and teaches her how to be a princess without a prince. Because that's what the REAL, LIVE moms do.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Holly Holy Computer Hell

Holly Holy eyes
Dream of only you
Where I am, What I am
What I believe in
Holly Holy

I am on a religious quest to resurrect my computer from the dead. It is a Holy Computer Terror. I'm in Holly Holy Computer Hell.

Last Friday was progressing as most days do - I woke up late, unnecessarily stressed out my husband and children, had too much coffee and procrastinated my paid work. After lunch, I looked at the clock and panicked because my kids would be home in 2 hours and I hadn't yet started working. (The paid work. This does not include things like laundry, cleaning, meal preparation, bill paying, mothering, dishes and whoring, all volunteer work. But that is another column.) I sat down at my computer, and suddenly, my whole world changed.


ME: "Yeah, yeah, we all have problems. So Go Already!" (Yes, I talk to inanimate objects. Really. I do.)
COMPUTER: (Pop up) "You do not have the required fonts to run this site. Click here to download fonts."
ME: "Uh, I don't think so!" (close pop up)
COMPUTER: "President Obama wants at-home moms to go back to school! Click here for information on your degree!"
ME: "Computer? You've never popped up on me before. What's going on?"
COMPUTER: "Click here for most complete details on Kim Kardashian! Click here to make over $500K working from home! Click here to see how you can own Google!"
ME: "Kim Kardashian!?!? WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON!!?!"

Now I was scared. Everything was on my computer. My writing. My database and all work associated with my freelance jobs. All photos of my children. My iTunes music. Since it is Neil Diamond Month, I turned to Neil for divine guidance. While I am a Methodist and Neil is Jewish, I feel that despite our differences, he has some kind of other-worldly power that I am willing to tap. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

ME: "Neil! My computer seems to be dying! What do I do?"
NEIL: "Well baby, did you do any backup? You should always back up your hard drive! Holly Holy, woman, do you know nothing?!"
ME: "Yes! Yes, we did back up the computers! Thank you, Oh Soulful One! But it was two weeks ago, and I just downloaded all of our family photos since Christmas about three days ago and wrote the first half of my Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. What can I do?"
NEIL: "I think you're going to have to dig, dig deep into your spiritual font and find a holy spot to pray for your computer recovery. You need to sing. Sing a song. Sing a song of songs. Sing it out! Yeah!"

With a shake of his tight satin-swathed hips, my computer was fixed. It was a miracle.

Call the sun in the dead of the night
And the sun's gonna rise in the sky.
Touch a man who can't walk upright
And that lame man, he's gonna fly

Okay, there was no miracle. No lame man started to fly. No sun rose in the dead of night. Neil Diamond did not show up in a Geek Squad car in a sequined yarmulke and touch his divine, soulful finger to my keyboard to reboot my life. I summoned Current Husband (CH) over from his computer.

ME: "Come here. I think I have a virus."
CH: "No you don't. You just don't have enough memory."
ME: "There is a McAfee pop up that says I have three Trojan viruses."
CH: "It's wrong. You don't have a virus."
ME: "Instead of e-mail I am getting messages about how Quad Cities Women Are Losing Belly Fat, and How To Meet Local Single Men Who Fix Computers. Click here."
CH: "GAH!" He stops working and comes to my side of the table, where in a few keystrokes he has the computer telling him things. "See - your computer has no memory, McAfee doesn't have enough room to run, and now MSN did an unnecessary upgrade and your computer sees it as a virus."
ME: "But is says it has a virus. Shouldn't I listen when it says it has a virus?"
CH: "No, you should listen to me when I say it doesn't."

So here I am. I've been forced to uninstall iTunes. I've taken all photo-related software off of the computer. I now have 30% free space on my hard drive. And yet, I can Find Out How To Buy Foreclosed Homes in My Area, or Meet Other Desperate Singles Within 100 Miles, or Get A Degree in Animal Husbandry Online, but I cannot get my work database to open and I'm not getting all of the e-mails I should. It doesn't bring me flowers, it doesn't sing me love songs. I am screwed.

I don't need Neil. I don't need Geek Squad. I don't need a degree in Animal Husbandry. I do need CH, but he's washed his hands of me for now. I need a priest.

Holly Holy Sh*t. I am going to have to buy a new laptop.

Friday, September 18, 2009

I Am...I Said

(Let me preface this story by saying that I know lots of incredibly kind, efficient and fabulous doctors. This is not about that kind of doctor.)

I am
I said
To no one there
And no one heard at all
Not even the chair

One of Neil's more philosophical songs, "I am...I said" was actually written while Neil was sitting in his doctor's office. He was living in Los Angeles, and had unhappily just picked up a rather nasty case of pin worms (thus the line "I've got an emptiness deep inside"). He had been waiting well over an hour for his doctor and read all of the copies of Parenting and Field and Stream and Women's Day, turned to the person next to him and asked "Are you sick of waiting? I am." and realized the person was dead. Who heard him? Not even the chair.

I can relate to Neil's frustration.

As I've already written, I attended the U2 concert last Sunday. I brought my cell phone. I brought my concert tickets. I brought my belt from college. I did not bring hand sanitizer. (And why would I, when my intention was to get down and dirty with The Edge, not protect him from H1N1?) So somewhere in those now-blurry 15 hours in Chicago cabs and restaurants and bars and limos and among 70,000 people in Soldier Field, I managed to pick up some kind of throat virus.

On Monday, I thought my sore throat was due to 6 straight hours of screaming on Sunday night. On Tuesday, I thought I was getting what I deserved for my debauchery. On Wednesday, when I started having trouble swallowing, I thought about how getting old really bites. By Thursday, I was sure I had strep throat. I called and made an appointment with my doctor.

It was 8:30 a.m., and they told me to come over at 9 a.m.. They made sure that I could indeed get there by 9 a.m., clearly the doctor was going to be on a tight schedule today. "Yes," I said. "I will be there."

I got to the doctor's office at 8:50 a.m. I haven't been in to see my doctor since last spring, when he diagnosed my walking pneumonia as asthma and looked at his nurse on my way out while outlining big crazy marks around his ear when he thought I wasn't looking. The receptionist eyed me warily from behind the glass partition, as if to say, "What disease have you brought to spread to me, you wretch?" I noticed that my doctor's office had a new decorator - there were a multitude of helpful signs posted on the walls that had been printed from a computer and scotch-taped to the walls. They were typed in all capital letters and had lots of personality.




Of course, sitting near the signs was a woman eating a donut talking on her cell phone while her toddler stuck his arm in the saltwater aquarium in the office. These did not seem to be unreasonable requests, it was the delivery that needed work.

As I walked up to the window to check in, I noticed another sign. It read:
"IF THE WINDOW IS CLOSED, WE ARE ON THE PHONE WITH ANOTHER PATIENT. DO NOT INTERRUPT!!!" Okay. I stood there for a moment and watched the old crone behind the closed window, who was not on the phone, take a drink from her cup that said "Dunkin' Donuts" on the outside, but said "Whiskey Sour" on the inside. This was clearly the author of the helpful signs. Our eyes locked as she took a long pull from the cup, carefully set it down, and then opened the magical glass door.

Her: "Name?"
Me: "Stands With Fist."
Her: "Who are you here for?"
Me: "Dr. Thinks I'm a Hypochondriac."
Her: "ID."
Me: "What?"
Her: (Pointing to another sign that reads "YOU MUST PRESENT A PHOTO ID UPON CHECKING IN!") "Your...Eye...Dee!!!"
Me: (Rifling through my purse for my driver's license, worried it is still in my jeans pocket from the concert) "Wow, I've never been asked for an ID here before!"
Her: Silence.
I find my ID and she scans it in their computer. I'm beginning to feel like I'm being processed at a meat-packing plant. She gives me back the ID and looks at me expectantly.
Her: "I need your $30 co-pay."
Me: "But I usually don't pay that until checkout, right?"
She sighs a big whiskey-filled sigh and points to another sign. "YOU ARE REQUIRED TO PAY YOUR CO-PAY UPON CHECK IN!!!"
Me: "Wow, things have changed around here." She doesn't answer me, takes the check, and tells me to sit and wait. The glass door slams shut.

I look around the room and realize I am playing musical chairs with this season's viruses. Take the vinyl one to the left, I've got pink eye. Take the orange cloth one, it's Hepatitis C. The row of blue chairs, H1N1. I sit in the blue chairs and add my special throat virus to the mix. It is 9 a.m.

I am I cried
I am Said I
And I am lost
And I can even say why
Leavin' me lonely still.

It's 9:30. The check-in woman is on her second drink and third cigarette. The woman on the cell phone has broken up with her boyfriend, talked with her sister about it, and reconciled with him. Her child has eaten three of the tropical fish. I have read 43 pages of my book. I decide to approach the closed glass window again. The woman looks at me, annoyed, and hopes I will go away.

It is 9:33. She opens the glass window.
Her: "Yes?"
Me: "Um, didn't I have a 9 a.m. with Dr. Doesn't Have a Watch?"
Her: "Yes, but his first appointment was late, so he's behind."
Me: "Doesn't he start seeing people at 8 a.m.? That person was 30 minutes late?"
Her: "We'll get to you when we can." The glass door closes.

It's 9:34. "Ms. Stands With Fist?" someone calls from the doorway. Obviously, I am being removed from the waiting room because I might give the other people waiting the idea that they can be proactive about their appointment. I am processed with weight, temperature, blood pressure, and a synopsis of why I am there. She asks if I have been exposed to any germs lately. Other than the obvious answer of 'every waking moment' I tell her I was at the U2 concert Sunday night. She marks on the chart 'yelled too loud at concert.' She clicks her pen shut, smiles, and says, "Okay, the doctor will be with you shortly."

It's 9:51. I've made a grocery list, a Christmas card list, and my will. I hear a noise in the hallway. The doctor walks in. He looks nervous, but smug.
Him: "So what seems to be the problem? Were we yelling too loud at a concert?"
Me: "Well, I was at a concert, but that was on Sunday, and I can't swallow."
Him: "Hmmm. Let's take a look." He looks, and concedes it does look a little red and swollen for four days later. He takes a long Q-Tip and tries to jam it through the back of my neck from inside my mouth.
Him: "That was a strep swab. It should take about 5 minutes." And he leaves.

It's 10:17. I can hear the popping of champagne bottles in the hallway and the muffled sounds of a conga line. I have been abandoned.

And I'm not a man who likes to swear
But I never cared for the sound of being alone.

It's 10:20. I realize why they now require ID's and pre-payment at the window. It is because patients like me finally crack after an hour and just leave, hoping NyQuil and Tropicana can solve whatever problem they have. I decide to take a stand. I walk out of the exam room and see a post-it note on my door that says "Negative." I'm not sure if it is referring to my strep test or my attitude. I see popped balloons, confetti and garter belts on the floor, but no staff. I walk up and down the hall, determined to make human contact. Finally, a door opens, and my doctor walks out of it. He sees me, and tries to go back inside. I make eye contact, and he knows it is too late.

Me: "I see a note on my door that says my test was negative. Can I leave now?"
Him: "Um, no, not until I order at least one unnecessary test on you."
Me: "I don't have time for another test, I was supposed to be at a hostage negotiation 20 minutes ago."
Him: "Oh. Well in that case, just drink lots of orange juice and take NyQuil. It's viral, it ought to go away in a week." He leaves.

I run from the building, still unable to swallow, but grateful to be alive and on the outside. I get in the car, pop my 400th cough drop in my mouth, and go home. Am I going to look for a new doctor?

"I am," I said.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

You Don't Bring Me Flowers

Barbra says:
"You don't bring me flowers,
You don't sing me love songs."
Neil says:
"You hardly talk to me anymore,
When I walk through the door at the end of the day.
I remember when..."

I'm feelin' you, Barbra.

My Current Husband (CH) and I attended the U2 concert in Chicago Sunday night, where I made it perfectly clear that if I had a shot at The Edge, I was taking it. He is definitely Numero Uno on my "list," followed by presumable booze hound Vince Vaughn and current hottie Bradley Cooper. I don't even see those three guys drinking or bowling together, so don't ask me how they find themselves on the same list. (Vince would probably drink with anyone, but you get my point.)

Number One on CH's list? The first woman who would give him the remote, get him a beer and a sandwich, and rub his back. 'Not Much of a Talker' would probably be a big turn-on as well. 'Doesn't Blog About Him' would be even better.

We get to our hotel room in Chicago and check in at around 3 p.m. We are meeting another couple for dinner at 5, and I've found myself needing a belt. The jeans I'm wearing to impress The Edge are a little big, and the belt I brought is from college and was made for jeans that go around the waist, not the lower hips. I mention to CH that I would like to walk a couple of blocks to a store that sells belts. When CH does not answer, I look around the corner and he is asleep, remote on his stomach, the Cowboys game on TV. We have now been in the room for 4 minutes and 17 seconds. I sigh and sit down next to him. I change the channel to a forensics show about how to cover up evidence in a murder. I take notes.

CH wakes up at 4:40 and wants to know when we need to leave for the restaurant. I tell him I've been waking him up every five minutes since 4:15, and we are walking out the door in five minutes. He gets in the shower. Sadly, he is ready in five minutes, just in time to help me cinch the belt I've managed to pull through to the first hole. The belt has created a tourniquet around my hips, giving me additional muffin top and the beginnings of a rash. The Edge's wife is very beautiful and slender, so I'm hoping he's sick of all that.

We meet said couple and go to the restaurant. We eat delicious food. We drink delicious drinks. We share a fabulous dessert. We drink more delicious drinks. I start to get that "I'm king of the world!" feeling. I should remember that feeling comes just before the Titanic sinks. We go to another restaurant and have two more rounds of drinks. (In Chicago, this means we could've bought one of those cute little Cuban cars for the price of eight drinks.) The years are melting off with every sip, and thanks to the magic of vodka, suddenly I am 22!

After a fun cab ride to Soldier Field, and a round of beers before we get to our seats, the lights go down. The Edge is coming. The music starts, and I'm standing up yelling, "I'm up here, Edge!" but he does not seem to hear me. CH and people sitting around us do. Soon, they too are yelling at The Edge, "For all that is holy, get her out of here!" but the Edge does not hear them either. I start saying things to CH like, "The Edge would leave right now to get me another beer." The concert ends, and with it, my chance to be Mrs. Edge.

So CH and I leave Soldier Field with 70,000 of our closest friends, and try to get a cab. Cab drivers are running over people who jump in front of them with their hands up. Full buses are driving past us. People are riding horses and Vespas and unicycles and roller skates and jet packs past us, while we fall into a large group of people trudging toward downtown Chicago like a bunch of cattle. My belt is cutting off the oxygen to my brain, and my shoes are starting through their second layer of foot skin. I say to CH, "The Edge would've gotten us a cab." CH isn't laughing at these jokes anymore.

Neil says:
"Was it good for you babe?
Are you feelin' alright?"
Barbra says:
"Well honey just roll over
And turn out the light.
'Cause you don't bring me flowers, anymore."

Fast forward one hour and perhaps two miles later. CH and I are on opposite sides of Michigan Avenue. It is 1 a.m. Some crazy woman on my side of the street is screaming things at him like, "You are the worst husband! You are supposed to take care of things like this!" and he is yelling at her, "What do you want me to do!?" and she is screaming back, "Well not abandon me in downtown Chicago at 1 a.m. without any money, you $&**&@#!" She doesn't seem to realize that he hasn't abandoned her, he is perhaps afraid of her. A limo driver pulls over and motions her across the street. I go, because maybe The Edge is in the limo.

Limo driver: "You shouldn't be yelling at each other like this. Let me solve your problem. I will give you a ride."
Me, bloodshot eyes narrowed: "We are at the Hyatt on Wacker - how much?"
CH: Silence
Limo driver: "$30 for you, pretty lady."
Me, jerking thumb at CH: "We have $16 between the two of us. Give him the money, CH." And I get in the limo.
CH: Silently hands over money and gets in limo. He is angry, but tired.
Limo driver: Contemplates how to get crazy/cheap woman out of limo. Decides to drive her away.

So there we are. Married 14 years. Riding in a limo down Michigan Avenue in downtown Chicago at 1 a.m. with the skylight open and fresh out of a most amazing U2 concert. And we are looking at each other like two roosters in a cock fight.

Barbra: "Baby I remember, all the things you taught me..."
Neil: "I learned how to laugh, and I learned how to cry..."
Barbra: "I learned how to love, even learned how to lie..."
Together: "So you'd think I could learn how to tell you goodbye...."

I am thinking bad things about CH, which is funny, because two hours earlier I was in my happy place, thinking rainbows and ponies about him. We get to the hotel room, and he is asleep in less than a minute. I get a text from some concertgoers from the Quad Cities, telling us to come downstairs for one last drink. I am thinking he isn't bringing me flowers anymore, I'm getting those bad shoes back on and going downstairs. I take his debit card. I leave the belt.

I go to bed at 3 a.m. As my head hits the pillow, I know everything I've done for the past 4 hours has been a really bad idea.

I wake up at 8 a.m. I know we have to leave within the next 45 minutes for a 4-hour trip in the car to get our three children. I am unwell. I start thinking about all of the things I said to CH after midnight. Ouch. Suddenly, I hear a noise. It hurts my head, but I open my eyes. It is a glass of ice water and an Aleve. It is not coming from the hand of The Edge. It is coming from the hand of CH, who was so abused only 8 short hours ago. He is laughing at me.

He doesn't bring me flowers. He doesn't sing me love songs. But he brings me aspirin and water when I need it and has a short memory. I'm keeping him.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Forever in Blue Jeans

"Honey's sweet,
But it ain't nothin' next to baby's treat...
Forever in Blue Jeans."

Again with Neil and the sex. Did I have a problem with my mom shakin' baby's treat for Neil when the song was released in 1979? No. Is there an issue with me being the sweet honey in my tight blue jeans in 1982? No. Would I be upset about Neil crooning to my 12-year-old in her tight cutoff jean shorts? Hell yeah.

I try to be a cool mom, really, I do. (Actually, it's more about my desperation to cling to my youth, but looking like I'm trying to relate to my pre-teen daughter seems less pathetic.) I listen to 3OH3! and Linkin Park. I took the kids to see Coldplay. I read the entire Twilight series and watch the movie with my daughter regularly.

But the other day, when she came down the stairs to go to the high school football game in cutoff jean shorts and a black tank top, the line was drawn. I cracked.

Me (in shock): Gasp. "Uh-uh!"
Daughter (sounding bored and irritated): "What."
Me (rising hysteria): "I can't do it!"
Daughter: "What."
Me (voice goes up an octave): "I'm trying really hard, but you aren't leaving the house in that!"
Daughter: "What."
Me: "My job is to protect you, and I cannot unleash you in public in that outfit. I'm trying, but that is just out of my comfort level!"
Daughter: (sigh.) "What's wrong with it."
Me: "At best, you are going to get a yeast infection. At worst, you are going to get violated. You have to pick: Cut off short jean shorts and a t-shirt with sleeves, or longer shorts and the tank top."
Daughter: "Mom, everyone is going to be dressed like this."
Daughter: "Whatever." She leaves to change.

She came down the stairs a few minutes later in a longer pair of shorts, and after refusing my multiple requests to wear a hoodie to the game in 80 degree weather, we left. When I picked her up, the other kids at the game had done their job - my daughter was covered in gold glitter, had a gold ribbon in her hair and tied to her flip flops, and was wearing gold Mardi Gras-style beads. There were no dollar bills in her waistband, and she was happy. So I bit my lip and cranked up the Linkin Park and took her home.

Now the dilemma goes the other way. So that I may pretend it is 1987 and The Joshua Tree just came out and I'm 18 and listening to "With or Without You" for the millionth time (before "Friends" ruined it), Current Husband and I are going to a U2 concert in Chicago on Sunday. To lure The Edge into being my second husband, I went out to buy new jeans. My choices were Curvy Low Riders, which make you look like a Krispy Kreme storage facility with a coin slot, or Skinny Jeans, which looked great on 1984. If I came around the corner and my daughter saw me in Skinny Jeans, this is how it would play out:

Daughter (in shock): Gasp. "Uh-uh!"
Me (sounding surprised): "What?"
Daughter (rising hysteria): "You can't do it!"
Me: "What?"
Daughter (voice goes up an octave): "You aren't leaving the house in that!"
Me: "Why?"
Daughter: "I cannot unleash you in public in that outfit. There is no flippin way."
Me: "What's wrong with it!?!"
Daughter: "Everything. I don't want to hurt your feelings but those jeans are staying home."
Me: "But Skinny Jeans are in - everyone is dressed like this."
Daughter: "I DON'T CARE IF EVERYONE ELSE'S MOM LOOKS STUPID, YOU ARE NOT GOING TO THE CONCERT IN THOSE JEANS! (quieter) ...and the other kids will talk about me."
Me: (sniffling) "I guess, if you think so." I leave to change. I'm stuck with Current Husband. No Mrs. Edge for me.

So Neil, I may not be Forever In Blue Jeans, at least not in Skinny Jeans. And my daughter has a new "three inch inseam" rule on her cutoffs. It is an impasse. But I think as long as we both follow some "Don't Humiliate Me" guidelines in our wardrobes, we'll be alright. As always, Neil says it best:

"And if you pardon me,
I'd like to say
We'd do okay
Forever in Blue Jeans."

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon

"Girl, You'll be a woman soon.
Please, come take my hand."

Okay Neil, I'm trying not to listen to the actual lyrics of this song, because they kind of creep me out a little bit. But with your soulful voice, I can ignore the shades of pedophilia that seem to be lurking around in there.

When I hear a girl is going to be a woman soon, I think of the hypothetical middle schooler who gets her period and her terrified, "so-not-ready-for-this" mother and the hormonal confusion and unpredictable manic-depression-like atmosphere that lies ahead for them both. I am, of course, speaking hypothetically, because if I weren't, the middle schooler in question might hypothetically kill me in my sleep. There's a lot of estrogen in my house right now. And in the words of Forrest Gump, "That's all I have to say about that."

But it does harken me back to my days of middle school and becoming a Woman.

Seventh grade. Shirts with Peter Pan collars and a thin ribbon tied in a bow around that prissy collar. Monogrammed sweaters. Knickers. Penny loafers. The introduction of Izod polos. The band Asia singing about things being in The Heat of the Moment. My friend Liz's mom, driving us around in her wood-panelled Jeep Wagoneer, with said Asia cassette playing in the tape deck, six or seven pre-teen girls piled in at one time, with no seat belts to be found, sitting on each other's laps or flying around in the back. Nancy Reagan Just Saying No. When women were expected to ride horseback in white pants during their periods. Ahh. The early Eighties. It almost makes me nostalgic.

We pre-women saw the highly informative "Growing Up and Liking It" films the year before in school. The very name sounded like it should be said with a German accent and shades of coersion. "Achtung! You vill grow UP, and you vill LIKE IT, ja?!" I remember the films showed us how to use fancy belts with our feminine arsenal, and we were past the belt age, so there was a question of credibility. Once you've lost credibility with sixth graders, they move on to mocking you. Nothing was gleaned from "Growing Up and Liking It," other than relief that technology had produced adhesive pads and tampons and that wool circle skirts had gone out of style. Because who was going to fit those bulky belts and clips under skintight jeans, Def Leppard-style?

I remember in seventh grade, after the Big Event, I took brown lunch bags to school with huge maxi pads in them and stuffed them in my locker. I refused to put anything feminine in a purse, because boys might rifle through your purse or your backpack, but they didn't care much about your lunch. And you could always tell who was having their period because those girls would leave during the middle of class to use the bathroom so they could get some privacy while they freshened up. There was a code, and we were all in the process of cracking it.

The code changed the older we got. It was like becoming fluent in a language. We moved past the awkward secrecy of having a period and relied more on the buddy system. If your friend said "Check Me" and turned around or walked a pace or two ahead of you, it was your duty to look closely, yet subtly, at her rear to make sure she hadn't leaked during school. We would speak of Aunt Flo, Mother Nature, Swimming in the River, etc. One of my high school friends had an incredibly heavy period, so we all stocked our car glove boxes with Super tampons, something none of the rest of us used at the time. Whenever we would drive around 'the square' in our hometown on Friday or Saturday nights, we took her Supers out of the glove boxes and waved them out of the car windows while yelling "RALLY!!!" It was our bonding ritual. (A shout-out to my Fremont girls - RALLY!) To this day, when a woman talks about her period with another woman, there is an understanding that they are now friends.

Neil sings "Girl, you'll be a woman soon. Soon, you'll need a man." But, shockingly, I disagree with Neil. Sure, men are great. But when she becomes a woman, she's going to need her sisters to ignore her maxi pad brown bag lunches, to check her for any disastrous leakage, and to stock her brand of tampons 'just in case.' She will also need a Tylenol, and a glass of wine, and maybe some heavy dessert. So when that time of the month comes around to say "Hello, Again," steer clear of the men. Girl, you'll need your women more.

Friday, September 4, 2009

It's Neil Diamond Month!

I have to say, bringing Neil into my first post ended up being a window into my very soul. Neil and I are quite intimate. Not in the Biblical sense, although most of our interactions were on Sunday, but his records played in our house all the time. I've been to two of his concerts, not completely by choice, but they were good concerts nonetheless. My mom was a little bit pre-stalker with Neil while I was growing up. Was it normal for a 10-year-old to know all of the words to "Jonathan Livingston Seagull" or "Forever In Blue Jeans"? No. But I have never claimed to corner the market on normal.

And so, this month is going to be Neil Diamond Month on this blog. Let's all grow our hair into a man-bob and look at each other with smoldering eyes and talk about our feelings, and see if we can touch some deep, dark Neil Diamond place in our souls. What's that you say? Barbra Streisand was a 70's icon? Donna Summer? Kenny Rogers? Willie Nelson? Patience, my friends. Patience. I'll find a way to bring us back the the 70's, and The Way We Were, when we Worked Hard For The Money as The Gambler at the Whiskey River.

Since it is indeed September, and September is now Neil Diamond Month, it's fitting to start with the song "September Morn." September Morn is the lead song off of one of Neil's more obscure and less commercially popular albums, titled...wait for it..."September Morn." (Not as obscure as the album "Velvet Gloves and Spit" which features "The Pot Smokers song." I'm not kidding, I wouldn't mess with you over Neil Diamond trivia.) He sounds a little needy in this song - he starts by seductively begging his audience to "stay for just a little while" and then goes into the chorus of "We danced until the night became a brand new day."

Clearly, Neil is a man, because at this point, he had four children. A woman would say, "Listen, it's been fun dancing, but I have to beat it, I have lunches to pack and the kids need to be at school in three hours." He says he just wants to talk, but sister, please. He's been dancing all night, and now he wants to TALK? But alas, the listener learns that Neil isn't in the modern day, he's looking back to a more carefree time, when indeed we could dance the night away and Dime Draws meant that we could drink 10 beers for a dollar.

Dancing and talking until dawn, dime draws, irresponsibility...September Morning can still make me feel that way too, Neil. You're so sentimental.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Hello again.

In the words of the legendary poet Neil Diamond, "Hello, again, Hello."

I'm channeling Neil today as I begin to blog again, after a year or so off. For those of you who haven't seen "The Jazz Singer" from the 1980's starring Neil Diamond (as Jess Robin, aka Yussel Rabinovitch), I weep for you. You are, by definition, "Love on the Rocks." You should consider "Coming to America." Because what other classicly 80's film saw it's lead actor nominated for both a Golden Globe AND a Razzie? It's just that good, and that cheesy. Much like Squeezy Cheese on Chikin in a Biskit crackers. Oh yeah. THAT good.

So perhaps my time off from blogging is akin to the scene in "The Jazz Singer" when Jess's father, Cantor Rabinovitch (played deftly by Sir Lawrence Olivier) learns that Jess is a pop songwriter and perhaps won't take over as the family blogger when his father dies. His father comes to see Jess where he is living with his agent Molly (Lucie Arnaz) in California to get a record deal. Cantor Rabinovitch tells his son to come home and blog like he used to, and Jess says "No, I am busy drinking wine, being a songwriter and nailing my music agent." Distraught, Jess's father tears his clothing over his heart, and says, "Your blog is dead to me."

Okay, it didn't really happen that way in the film. But to honor Neil, and to kick off my blog again, I am wearing a peasant shirt of silver sequins open to my navel and very tight black pants, so get out your lighter and let's get ready to rock this blog in the coming year!