Sunday, November 29, 2009

Sugar & Me

Tonight, we decided to have a family night, which means we order pizza and watch a movie. I loaded up on pizza grease and then sat down to watch Marley & Me with the fam. Huge mistake. Prepare for total emotional meltdown.

I'm sure most of you know about Marley & Me. It's a movie starring Owen Wilson and the woman Brad Pitt dumped, based on the book by John Grogan about his relationship with his yellow Labrador Retriever, Marley. I believe Owen Wilson attempted suicide right after this movie, and now I know why.

Current Husband and I had a Marley, but her name was Sugar Magnolia, after our favorite Grateful Dead song. She, too, was a yellow Labrador Retriever, and we got her about a month after we were married. She was also a Bad Dog, but we loved her. Sometimes we didn't know how much we loved her, because we were so pissed off at her, but we did truly love that dog. The parallels between Sugar and Marley are many. Indulge me while I take a walk with my dog down memory lane.

Sugar loved to chew things. She ate drywall and paper towels and garbage. She ate dead squirrels or rabbits or birds she found outside. She ate the flowers in my garden and the fence. She chewed on shoes and purses and table legs. When we had Oldest Daughter, Sugar chewed up and ingested many toys and stuffed animals, and her favorite thing to eat was baby socks. As soon as the baby kicked off a sock, Sugar would gulp it down. We soon found ourselves with a back yard full of baby socks that had made it through the dog's entire digestive tract. She ate a t-shirt I bought on our honeymoon and part of a quilt made by my deceased Mennonite grandmother. We came to understand that it was impossible to keep everything off the floor, and if it found its way to the floor, it would eventually become a steaming pile in the back yard.

Sugar loved to run. She would catch sight of a small forest creature or a large dog or a flying Frisbee and she was gone. If she was attached to a leash that was attached to your arm, that was your problem, not hers. She loved to see the front door opening and pick the exact moment to bolt through the space and run away down the street. She would come home a few hours later, exhausted and panting, and smelling of swamp and feces and dead animal, but she came home happy. We would always chase after her down the street, worried she would get hit by a car or ruin someones yard, but she would elude us. We found later that if we stopped chasing her, and started running in the opposite direction, she would follow us. She seemed to think that if there was something more interesting than chasing her going on, she had to be a part of it.

Sugar also failed dog obedience class. She would sit and lay, but beyond that she was wholly uninterested. She wouldn't heel, she wouldn't stay, she wouldn't come. She had a real problem with going through the garbage to get people food. Our instructor said that if you give a dog something with hot sauce on it, the dog would be deterred from eating people food. CH took a piece of steak and smothered it in Tabasco sauce, salsa, crushed red pepper, and cayenne pepper. Sugar ate it, drooled profusely, and begged for more.

The next night at obedience school, the dogs were supposed to show a trick they learned to graduate from class. For Sugar, learning to stay would be a huge accomplishment. CH walked her out to the middle of the circle of puppies, told her to stay, and walked away. As he got to the outer edge of the group, the instructor starting yelling, "Call your dogs! Call your dogs!" Sugar, as was her routine in every class, has started pooping in the middle of the room. However, the aroma of jalapenos, salsa, and cayenne pepper was too much for the other dogs. They had to have a taste. Chaos ensued, and we were handed Sugar's GED for dog class and asked not to return.

Sugar also liked to stare. She liked to stare at us as we went to the bathroom, when we talked on the phone, when we had sex, and particularly when CH was watching TV. She would sit across the room from him and just stare at him endlessly. It was very unsettling.

But Sugar also liked to stretch out on the bed between us, and lick us endlessly, and she could chase a ball all day long. She loved our babies (she was around for all three), and she was loyal to a fault. She was always willing to go wherever we would go, and she expected nothing in return but a fresh bowl of water and some food. And an occasional rawhide bone.

When she died, Sugar left a void in our lives that hasn't yet been filled. She was our first baby. And it is unfair that these animals that love us so unconditionally have to live such short lives. Are you crying yet? Because I am. Damn that John Grogan and his touching dog movie. And damn those casting people for making us think we have to look like Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson at 40. And damn the screenwriters for making us think people who write can live in restored vintage farm houses on the outskirts of Philadelphia worth at least half a million dollars and drive Volvos.

Excuse me, I have to go and give Current Dog a hug. I suggest you do the same with your current pet.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Assassination Vacation

This post was started in Dallas on the evening Sunday, November 22, but was delayed due to Youngest Daughter's ingestion of a 12-ounce bottle of Coke, which turned out to be the equivalent of letting her do a line of blow. Current Husband and I don't let the kids have soda unless it's a special occasion. This night turned out to be very special. YD was like Robert Downey Jr., on- AND off-set in "Less Than Zero". She spent the next five hours in the hotel room jumping on the couches, the beds, the carpet squares, her brother, her sister, her father and me. She was simultaneously asking to ride the elevators and use the ice machine, power-changing the channel on the 42-inch flat screen TV, and translating the hotel guest guide in Arabic. We survived, the blog did not. This is the delayed story.

We're on a vacation of sorts, and we decided to take the kids to a popular attraction. Was it Disney? Six Flags? The Zoo? Oh no. I took a page out of Sarah Vowell's book, Assassination Vacation, and took my impressionable young children to see the Sixth Floor Museum in the Texas School Book Depository Building in Downtown Dallas. On November 22. Because if one is going to show the children pictures of the 35th president getting killed, one should do it on the exact date so they get the full emotional impact.

It's important to take children to traumatic landmarks, because the subliminal message is: The world is an unpredictable place. If you don't listen to your parents, we can't be responsible for what might happen.

You may ask, "Why go to Dealey Plaza for Thanksgiving?" My parents live in the southernmost part of Texas, near South Padre Island and the Mexican border, which is a 22-hour drive from our home in the Quad Cities. It's been six years since our last visit south, because it has taken that long to forget what it's like to travel over the course of two days with children. So we loaded up the van, packed the juice boxes and snack packs, fired up the DVD player and charged all DS's and iPods, and pulled away from the curb.

The first eight hours weren't so bad. Then the batteries started running low on all of our diversionary tactics. That's when the touching began. With two children, you can guess who is touching whom. With three, it becomes the Bermuda Triangle of Touching - one never knows where it began or where it will end, and the trail of evidence seems to mysteriously disappear. CH and I also discovered that somewhere along the way, we taught the kids to speak loudly and carry a small, quickly concealable stick. I made CH pull over in Oklahoma, where I erected a barrier of pillows between the children, and then threatened them with physical violence through my clenched, frothing teeth. This bit of exemplary parenting was rewarded with my third Starbucks espresso beverage of the trip.

Finally, we arrived at the Dallas hotel, our halfway point. We unloaded the van, gave the children Ambien-laced cookies, and waited. (Just kidding, Department of Human Services!) The next morning, we woke them in time to make the complimentary continental breakfast and let them gorge themselves sick on cereal, fruit, yogurt, and English muffins, because three meals are unnecessary when one is free and bathrooms are scarce. It was time to go to Dealey Plaza.

As we approached the Texas School Book Depository Building in downtown Dallas, I got the butterflies in my stomach that only a seriously ill presidential-historian-pop-culture junkie will. I am a Kennedy freak. I rate my obsession with the Kennedys up there with my odd proclivities for the stories of Charles Manson, Patty Hearst, Jim Jones, John Lennon, Watergate, domestic terrorists, Jane Austen and the Twilight saga. (And skinny vanilla lattes. And food. And red wine. Okay, I have an obsessive personality.)

The kids had that lead feeling in their stomachs that only the children of a person who lights up when a National Historic Landmark sign for a Presidential Library passes will. They know they are in for a few hours of Mommy Telling Them About History. And not eating or drinking or going on rides or going to the bathroom or being allowed to talk about anything but history. Fun!

We got out of the car and I breathed in Dealey Plaza air. I could touch the building Lee Harvey Oswald touched. I could see the Grassy Knoll, and where those shadowy bastards who were never caught parked in the railroad yard. I put two cameras in my bag and we walked through the portal doors to the early 1960's.

The first thing I saw was a floor-to-ceiling color photo of JFK and Jackie in the convertible, waving, just before the first shot rang out. Jackie was in the bright pink suit and pillbox hat, red roses on the seat beside her, and both of them are smiling and waving. I was geeking out. I took a picture of the kids next to the wall and said, "...and this is right about when Mrs. Connally says 'You can't say Dallas doesn't love you, Mr. President!' and then he gets shot the first time." I was thinking the kids didn't look appropriately impacted by this statement when I noticed the sign: "Cameras are not allowed in the museum." WHA?!?!??!?

Why are people not allowed to photograph the JFK assassination exhibit!? I think it is a conspiracy. Do they fear that the information inside the museum will make it to the outside, and then the truth will be known? Do they think if I have photos of the museum it will deter me from returning and bringing my friends? Are they worried that someone MIGHT make their family pose with Lee Harvey Oswald or Jack Ruby for their Christmas card photo? Because I had no intention of doing something that crass. (I saved that for the Grassy Knoll, of course.)

While the other two children looked alternately bored and confused, Youngest Daughter got into the spirit. She did the audio tour with me, where we donned earphones and listened to a guided tour of the museum. However, she became impatient around the Cuban Missile Crisis and started moving ahead. She would turn her little First Grader face up to me and say, "I'm going to The Race to Parkland Hospital, okay?" and I would have to say, "Oh no, honey, the President has to be shot first, at The First Shot Rings Out, just wait a minute."

It started to dawn on all of the children that this was a real person when they saw the little movie where Caroline and John-John come out with Jackie and John-John salutes his father's casket as it goes by. So sad. Of course I am crying, which traumatizes the children further. CH uses this opportunity, in a totally selfless act, to take the kids to the Hard Rock Cafe for beer (for him) and Cokes (for the kids) and nachos and to watch the Dallas Cowboys game. Oldest Daughter stays with me, because she wants an iTouch for Christmas, and she knows who buys the gifts.

I wander around the exhibit for another hour, retrieve my historically deficient family, and make them stand and look at the large "X" on Elm Street where the limo was when the fatal shot rang out. We then walk to the Grassy Knoll, and past all of the Conspiracy Theory nuts who bring out their tri-fold cardboard displays and self-published books and ask for tips. CH theorizes this is to fund pot smoking in their mother's basements, because it is not being spent on quality displays or fancy clothes.

As it was the anniversary date of the assassination, there were a lot of people milling about Dealey Plaza. Oddly enough, on the way back to the car, we saw about 100 people getting ready to do a bike ride on the path of the assassination, and they were all dressed in tweed and looked Scottish. When I asked what they were doing, they said, in a Scottish brogue, "The Tweed Ride. It's something we do." Oh.

When we got back to the hotel room, I asked the kids what impressed them the most. Oldest Daughter said, "That the government kept operating, and the next president was sworn in right away." Hello, iTouch! Middle Son said, "That it isn't for sure that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone." You, too, may get an iTouch! Youngest Daughter said, "That Dallas, Texas has so many Scottish people." Okay, that may be worth a Puppy in My Pocket Standard Poodle Newborn Center. CH said, "That the Cowboys managed to win that game." No sex for you, CH.

(I would like to take this opportunity to note that unbeknownst to me, The Edge, my next husband, was in Dallas a few days later at the Thanksgiving Day Cowboys game. I am quite sure that he not only would have preferred to attend the Sixth Floor Museum with me, but would have given interesting theories on the Grassy Knoll shooters while noting how stunning I looked in front of the Who Was Jack Ruby? display. But I digress.)

But for me it was being present in a place about history that irrevocably changed the world. If you asked people how they felt in the days after the assassination, many of them said they felt like the world was ending, or that it seemed the future was uncertain, and yet, here we are. Still okay, and able to bore our children in National Historical Landmarks. It gives me hope that someday I can look proudly on as my children force my grandchildren to trudge through the September 11 Memorial in New York or Pennsylvania and make them respect the past and embrace their future. And reward them with sugary drinks that will make them lose their minds. It is the Circle of Life.

Friday, November 20, 2009

It's Whoreticulture Friday! Issue 6

Whoreticulture: The industry and science of whores and whore-related topics. Whoreticulturists work and conduct research in the disciplines of OB-GYNery, Brazilian waxers and shavers, adultery, personal hygiene mavens and easy women. The word is composite, from two words, whore, from Greek meaning "harlot" or "dear", and the word culture. Like NPR's Science Friday, Whoreticulture Friday exists to educate and spark discussion on the science of Whorology. Whoreticulture Friday is not for children. Or squeamish people. Or Mother-In-Laws.

Today's topic: Breaking (New Moon) Mom
WARNING: Potential spoilers below. Read at your own risk!

I looked across the low ripples in the water, black in the darkness, looking for him.

He wasn't hard to find. He stood, his back to me, waist deep in the midnight water. The pallid light of the moon turned his skin a perfect white, like the sand, like the moon itself, and made his wet hair as black as the ocean. I stared at the smooth lines of his back, his shoulders, his arms, his neck, the flawless shape of him...

"Holy shit! I'm in the ocean with Edward!" I said, surprised, even though I was writing it.

"AAAH! YOU Again!" Edward used his perfectly sculpted hands to try and cover himself. "How do you keep getting in this story?!? Where is Bella?"

"She's sitting on the bathroom floor, freaking out, and I think she's going to shave her legs again. You know, Edward, I'm an old pro at this. Do you want to do a test run? Just to be sure you don't kill Bella, of course..." I winked at him.

"You are actually rather frightening, and I don't scare easily," Edward said, as he backed away. "And your body is...different...from Bella's. Not as appealing. But there is a confidence there that is intriguing. Perhaps I SHOULD be sure I can control myself with her..." Edward stopped, contemplating.

HA! He was more of a man than he gave himself credit for. Now was my chance. I had to act quickly, before the Cougar venom I slipped in his post-wedding deer kill faded away.

"Ooops!" I gave myself a small cut opening the condom wrapper. (Hey, I don't care how cute Renesmee is, I am DONE carrying ANYONE's spawn, even if he is a superhot sensitive Cullen.) Edward looked suddenly ravenous. He moved toward me, and his breath came rougher now. I dropped my towel to tend to my cut, exposing myself to him. His Michelangelo-like body came to a screeching halt. The clouds re-formed and the angels stopped singing.

"No. Absolutely not. No I don't think so." Edward averted his eyes, started whistling a tune from WWI and looked up at the moon, glowing silver across the rippling water from his abrupt stop. He looked a little sick, actually. Was he okay?

"Edward? Edward are you out there?" Bella called from the house. "Who is out there with you?"

"It's a Cougar, love, nothing to be alarmed about," Edward called. "Less dangerous than werewolves, really." He then whispered to me, "Listen, I think you should go. Do you need the boat?"

"Did you say a Cougar?" Bella called. "Because the whole house is full of them. They're making margaritas and just put The Notebook in the DVD player. Something about being a part of your Team? What should I do with them?"

"Er, let them enjoy their drinks, love, I'll be in in a minute!" He turned to look at me, winced, and then immediately looked at the moon again. "How exactly did all of you get here from Rio?"

"We're peri-menopausal, Edward. The erratic hot flashes make the water a refreshing necessity, and the irrational rages make us capable of things we couldn't do as stable, rational 30-year-olds. The pack is here, Edward. I'm sorry, but I am a part of your world now. I can't live with you, because you are a fictitious character, and I am technically still stalking The Edge, but I can't live without you. But I can't admit to my friends that I love you, because you are, after all, in a YA novel and 17 years younger than me in human form. Thank goodness we have that 'Oh I was actually born in 1901' loophole or I'd be picking out my prison bitch with Mary Kay Letourneau!" I laughed.

Edward sighed a glorious sigh that sounded like my kids leaving for Grandma's and "here's your Cold Stone Gotta Have It" and the bean grinder at Starbucks all wrapped up in one. Oh, if only he could play "Where The Streets Have No Name" on guitar!

"How do I rid myself of you?" he asked, still naked and waist deep in water. I found myself thinking about how his skin would never pucker. And he wouldn't have that George Costanza problem in the water, either.

"Let's do one of your famous compromises - kiss me and I'll leave, I promise."

"And you'll take the Cougar Pack with you?"

"Done. Now get over here, you undead bastard, and kiss me!"

Edward moved toward me, miraculous in his erudite, sensitive vampire glory. He was a Quarter Pounder with Cheese, lettuce wraps at P.F. Changs, cupcakes from Maggie Moos. His sweet breath washed cool and delicious over my face, like a Mega Mocha MooLatte from DQ. This was it...come to Momma....

"JULIE! Are you coming to bed or not!?!" Grr. This was not Edward.

"Damn it, CH, I told you never to bother me when I'm blogging! You ruined the moment anyway. Go stick your head in the freezer for a few minutes and you might get lucky."

Foiled again. But I'll always have Eclipse...

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

New Moon Cougar


Edward's soft voice came from behind me. I turned to see him spring lightly up the porch steps, his hair windblown from running. He pulled me into his arms at once, and then immediately stepped back in alarm.

"Oh no, honey, it's Julie." I set down my coffee mug and van keys.

"Julie? I thought you were Bella. But now I see that you are older and fill out those mom jeans a bit. And your smell is all wrong. You smell...bitter."

"That's what forty years and three kids will do to you, Edward. You should probably cave and change Bella now, before her varicose veins and incontinence kick in. It happens earlier than you think."

"What ARE you?" Edward stood in all of his sparkly glory, hair perfectly disheveled, British accent adequately hidden, and he seemed confused, yet intrigued.

"I don't have those submissive, self-confidence issues your young girlfriend has. I'm a Cougar, and my pack has moved in. There is WAY too much testosterone in Forks, and my coffee group of experienced, hot, perimenopausal mothers has been created to meet the needs of the man beasts in this region. Now give Mommy a kiss, you bloodsucking fool, or I'll spank that perfectly sculpted butt!"

If it's news to you that New Moon opens in theaters this Friday, you might as well stop reading now. It's true, I am one of those crazy people who are obsessed with the Twilight Saga. I've read the entire series, including the Midnight Sun post on Stephenie Meyer's site, multiple times, and Oldest Daughter and I have watched the Twilight movie a number of times, which I hated at first (it's not like the book!) and then grew to love.

I'm going to take issue for a moment with the Twilight Haters. I sent out an e-mail to a bunch of moms I know about doing a group outing to see Twilight, and I got a couple of replies making fun of me for liking a young adult book. Another acquaintance on Facebook commented that she was quitting Breaking Dawn because she couldn't take any more, and a couple of people (including me) commented that she shouldn't quit now, she needed closure, and another woman jumped on and said, "I didn't read the books and I'm glad I didn't, because from what my students tell me, they are really bad and young girls shouldn't be reading them. What a horrible thing for people to follow."

To these people, I say SUCK IT.

First, why anyone would make fun of someone for reading a book, any book, is beyond me. Oh, by all means, go back to your Dancing With the Stars and Nutty Bars (Nutty Bars...yum) while I READ something. But the people who are ribbing me don't bother me, because I am never above giving someone a hard time about something. It's the chick who gives a book review and opinion on a BOOK SHE NEVER READ! I bet she's great in bed. "I am not trying that because I heard it's dumb. And I heard orgasms are overrated. And I won't kiss you because I heard bacteria causes H1N1. Why don't we just not have sex and I'll tell everyone you're inadequate?"

Second, over 20 million readers just might be on to something. And the Twilight movie alone grossed over $380 million so far. So I'll take solace in the fact that I am not alone in thinking there is something to this that isn't just screaming teeny-boppers.

Third, Edward is perfect. Women love him because he is educated, artistic, hot, protective, and has the appropriate amount of self-loathing most men are missing. Am I a New Moon Cougar? Jacob/Taylor seems a little young and green for my conscience, but my friend Liz and I had the Edward/Rob discussion a couple of weeks ago.
ME: "So I would say the Edge is top on my list, and probably Seth Meyers, and Bradley Cooper is pretty hot, Vince Vaughn is sort of off the list now..."
LIZ: "What about Robert Pattinson?"
ME: "Well, he's cute, but he's only 23, so it would be weird."
LIZ: "But he's cute."
LIZ: "I wouldn't kick him out of bed."
ME: "Okay, if he asked, I would help him out. Because it would be like community service. And he IS British. And legal."
LIZ: "Barely. But I'd do him."
ME: "CH isn't going to like this."

So go enjoy New Moon. Because it's ENTERTAINMENT. It's Fun with a side of popcorn. Cougars unite, and get down with your teeny bopper self. (But if you scream while I'm trying to hear the dialogue, I will shove Milk Duds up your nose.)

A friend turned me on to Jen Lancaster's books a few months ago, and I've never turned back. She is absolutely hysterical, and she too is obsessed with Twilight. Her post yesterday about New Moon made my day:

The song playing is my fave from the New Moon soundtrack (yes, I have it, but I don't have the action figures, so I still have my pride.) Happy New Moon!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Happy Spot

All of you mandatory reporters and Department of Human Services folks can sharpen your pencils and get out a new manila folder, my family might be back on your radar in the next week.

I blame it all on Current Husband (CH) and his plan for cable domination.

CH had one of his "There HAS To Be A Better Way" moments and cancelled our cable, thinking we could figure out how to watch everything we like on the Internet. To his credit, the kids are watching much less TV and reading more books. To his great dismay, I've been missing Project Runway and Mad Men. This is to his dismay, because during the scheduled times of my shows, I walk around the house with a glass of wine and a cleaver and mutter under my breath about missing the things in life that bring me joy. Because of him. But at least he isn't pretending to send one of the kids up in a "science balloon" or pimping me out to Wife Swap, so there's that.

But I digress.

Since we no longer have the Toxic Twins that are Disney and Nickelodeon in our home, the only TV the kids are really interested in is PBS. My youngest has been enjoying catching up with Clifford the Big Red Dog. The other day, in between giving children a ride on his Big Red Back and accidentally ripping up Mr. Bleakman's garden, Clifford wanted Emily Elizabeth to scratch his Happy Spot, which would make Clifford's leg move. This entertained my youngest daughter to no end. She couldn't get enough of watching Clifford move his leg when scratched.

A few days later, I'm in my bedroom folding clothes. CH is laying on the bed, enjoying football and watching me be his domestic slave, when our daughter runs into the room, jumps on the bed, and starts scratching CH's back. Suddenly, I stop folding CH's boxers and look up in horror. What did she just say?

YD: "Where is it, Daddy?"
CH: "Lower, it's lower..."
YD: "Is THIS your Happy Spot?"
CH: "No, lower...that's got it!"

And then CH starts shaking his leg and Youngest Daughter shrieks in glee. She jumps off the bed and runs from the room to find someone else's Happy Spot. She is happy. CH is happy. I am alarmed. I decide to kill CH's buzz.

ME: "Um, honey, what is that all about?"
CH: "She liked that Clifford show, so she finds the Happy Spot and I'm Clifford."
ME: "You DO know how this is going to sound at school, right?"
CH: "Uh, NO."
ME: 'I spent the weekend in bed with Daddy rubbing his Happy Spot!"
CH: "Oh no."
ME: "Oh yes."

Every Monday morning, the first graders do a chart that shows what they did over the weekend. It is like a flower, with the main activity in the middle and the activities associated with the main activity branched off. Here is how I pictured Youngest Daughter's Weekend Chart: Rubbed the Happy Spot - with Daddy - in his bed - his leg moved - he's a dog - our special game.

I had to take action. The only way to get Rubbing the Happy Spot off of the school chart was to come up with a better activity. And this is why you could find my family at the IMAX theater this afternoon watching the last Harry Potter movie, with my youngest daughter in a formal dress and her favorite fake Uggs, an owl hat someone knit for her, three boxes of candy on her lap, and a Sprite in her hand. Because money might not Buy Me Love, but sugar will buy her silence, and if diversionary tactics keep the DHS off my doorstep, my work here is done.

Clifford The Big Red Dog using some kid's head to rub his Happy Spot.

Friday, November 13, 2009

It's Whoreticulture Friday! Issue 5

Whoreticulture: The industry and science of whores and whore-related topics. Whoreticulturists work and conduct research in the disciplines of OB-GYNery, Brazilian waxers and shavers, adultery, personal hygeine mavens and easy women. The word is composite, from two words, whore, from Greek meaning "harlot" or "dear", and the word culture. Like NPR's Science Friday, Whoreticulture Friday exists to educate and spark discussion on the science of Whorology. Whoreticulture Friday is not for children. Or squeamish people. Or Mother-In-Laws.

Today's topic: Happy Endings
The Urban Dictionary definition of a Happy Ending is:
When a masseuse feels inclined to finish your session w/ oral sex or manual release (usually for an extra twenty dollars). "I was in China Town getting a rubdown and the girl gave me a happy ending; is that cheating on my wife?"

Again with the trip to Arizona. Bear with me, I'll get it all out of my system soon.

So four of the seven women decided to got to a spa (the other three chose to make margaritas and sit next to the house pool in sunny-and-88 weather) and let trained professionals rub lotion all over our mostly-naked bodies for money. I love massages, but I've found over time that there are things one should know before getting naked and crawling under the towel:
  • Leave your underwear on. I'm just saying that because I don't want to be the person after you if you are all buck naked on the table, and who really knows if they wash those linens between massages.
  • Don't eat spicy food, beans or eggs shortly before your massage, because I will guarantee you will end up gassy. And nothing ruins a massage faster than some misplaced flatulence. And if you are trying to hold it back, guess what? They are massaging the muscles you are clenching in desperation to hold back the methane. You're busted.
  • Shave. Really, this isn't Europe. You either need to be freshly shaved or haven't shaved in three months, but don't be bringing your prickly stubble up in there.
  • Don't be shy about specifying what level of pressure you want, because otherwise you may get Kevin Kick Your Ass or Lenny The Light Toucher. And you might be a Mikey Medium Massage, and leave disappointed.
  • Don't start a conversation unless you want to spend your entire massage talking. If you need to talk, see a real therapist, not a massage therapist. But it's your dime.
  • Know about a Happy Ending, in case you get asked. (I did not, thank God. More on that later.)

So the four of us are sitting in The Quiet Room, purportedly set up to get us in the mood for all of this bodily manipulation. We are brought water and neck warmers. The neck warmers are little C-shaped pillows full of eucalyptus or lavender, and are slightly hot. You wrap them around your neck, hence the name. Friend D was the last one to get into The Quiet Room because she was having a body wrap. When she arrived, the spa owner asked D if she wanted a neck warmer, and D, seeing that we all had them, said yes. The owner came back shortly and sheepishly handed her what looked to be a beanbag kittycat, and it was not fresh out of the wrapper.

OB: "Is that...a CAT?" (laughter)
Friend A: "It looks like it belongs to a baby - did it come out of someone's car?" (more laughter)
ME: "Or did she just imply that you are a pussy?" (gales of laughter, because I am the writer of this story, so I get the biggest laughs)
Friend D: "Um, guys? It smells like bacon."

Baconcat poses two problems. First, we are not relaxing, we are laughing so hard some of us could be slightly wetting ourselves, and therefore maybe their Quiet Room furniture. Second, D is a vegetarian, so the smell of Baconcat is not bringing her to her Happy Place so much as her Vomit Place. However, she cannot remove Baconcat because D is so polite that she wouldn't want to upset the owner by banishing Baconcat to the floor. So she endures the smell of old meat around her neck. In the form of a pussy. With an OB-GYN in the room. It's sort of metaphorically funny and upsetting at the same time.

The door to The Not-So-Quiet Room opens, and there stand the men giving the Swedish Massage to Friend A and me. One man is well muscled, dark, and mysterious. He says, "Who likes it rough?" with a swashbuckling, winking demeanor and a Russian accent. Friend A shoots out of her seat, throwing her neck warmer on the floor. "ME!" and she trots off down the hall. The other man negotiates his way around the corner in his walker and adult diaper and says, "Why am I here? Cindy?" Clearly this man was mine.

(Okay, so he wasn't really using a walker or wearing an adult diaper, and he actually seemed like a very nice guy. And he gave a great massage. But is that funny? No. And I'm an entertainer, not a historian.)

So my guy takes me to the room, and the massage commences. One problem I have during massages, other than the fear of having gas, is where to put my arms. If I am laying on my stomach, it feels like they should go off of the table and lay on some little armrest, but these things do not exist. I ended up resting my arms on the headrest, sort of up over my head. So we are about halfway into the massage, and Grandpa Jim walks behind my head and starts massaging my shoulders, but the problem is that it makes him lean over me a bit. Since my arms are over my head, my hands seem to be inadvertently rubbing him in the crotchal region. As I contemplate what to do, my eyes snap open, and I am looking directly at his black stockinged feet, which is a little weird. He doesn't wear shoes? And then I realize I am more concerned about the fact that he is shoeless, rather than the very real possibility that I am rubbing his nether parts. I move my arms by my sides, and Father Christmas and I have no more problems.

However, when Friend A comes out of her massage, she is full of information. We go to a gelato place next door to (figuratively) debrief her.

We learn that the Russian has massaged Roger Moore, as in Bond, James Bond. We also find out he is a go-to guy for a number of porn stars and the gay community. My friend breaks the no-talk rule and asks the Russian if he's ever given a Happy Ending. He says that he did have a client once who mid-massage grabbed his hand and put it on the genital region, but the Russian said he politely but firmly pulled his hand away, and said "This massage is over." He said he couldn't be rude, because when he sees the client's face, all he sees is a $100 bill, so he has to be discreet. But that's as close to a Happy Ending as he was willing to admit. But they're out there.

On a random side note that will only fit under the umbrella of Whoreticulture Friday, I have to say that somehow over the weekend the phrase "strap-on penis" came up (No pun intended! And after 25 years of conversation, your topics tend to expand by Day 3 together) and one gal said she wants to wear one. Not sexually, mind you. She just wants to wear a penis around all day and see if it makes her act like an ass. And kick her dog. It's something to consider.

And thus concludes stories about the Arizona trip, because the rest of what we talked about is secret and private. (See girls, I kept most of it in the vault!) Happy Whoreticulture Friday, and have a great weekend!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

I am Ted Kennedy

So you may have gathered by now that I was on a trip with my high school friends last weekend. Assuming anyone reads this blog, I'm going to bore those of you who weren't there with yet another story about how great it was. It was total blissed out margarita soaked relaxation. Again, I'd like to point out that these people have seen me in more compromising positions than I'd like to admit. They've seen the sick, the sad, the experimental makeup phases, and making out with teenage boys. And that was just last weekend.

So, when people have seen you so bad, you want them to see you look good. Okay, maybe it isn't THEM I want to see me look good, because somehow they love me just as I am, but after 25 years of photos with these people, I want just ONE photo to put on my mantel where I don't stand out as "the one with the good personality". Pretty much all of these gals look hot without even trying, but last weekend, I tried. After reviewing a number of group shots in Scottsdale, I've had a Come To Jesus moment - it's not gonna happen. The one constant in all of our group photos is that I look like various stages of Ted Kennedy in a wig.

Let's explore this for a moment.

By virtue of being the tallest person in the group, I am also by default the heaviest person as well. There is a price to pay for height, and I'm not one of those skinny tall people. Because I love food. And wine. And chocolate. And sloth. I let myself go to the Foodie Dark Side a couple of years ago because Current Husband didn't seem to mind, and was happy to take the journey with me. We found lovely little restaurants who worship at the altar of butter and cream, and surrounded ourselves with people who can really cook. Au revoir, Hamburger Helper! Adios, Taco Bell! Ciao, Olive Garden!

The result of all of this debauchery? Hello, Muffin Top! Welkommen, varicose veins! Wie gehts, triple chin!

Last weekend's trip has been in the planning for over a year, so in January this year, I went on the cliched New Year's Resolution diet. For once, I was not going to sport three chins, puffy cheeks, and bulbous nose in every shot. (I'm not exactly sure how losing weight would change my nose, but work with me here.) I was looking a lot like Ted Kennedy's "go drinking and whoring with my nephews in Miami Beach and have one of them accused of raping a girl while I was passed out in the living room" phase, which isn't kind to the camera. Or the physique, really. (Or your reputation, if you're actually Ted Kennedy.) After nine months, instead of having a baby, I dropped one. I lost 20 pounds, moved down a size or two, and felt pretty MILFy.

I get to Scottsdale, and meet friend #1 off of the plane. She is tall and lovely and skinny, and has nary a line on her face. It's just one girl, right? The rest of those bitches can't look this good, can they? Oh yes. Yes they can. As they started showing up, my hopes for Skinniest Girl in the Picture faded. Because let's be honest, you never really get over those dormant body image issues.

Yes, I am the one who is filibustering in the Senate on the left.

I still look like Ted Kennedy, albeit in his "Victoria Reggie yachting on Martha's Vineyard" stage, so perhaps it's an improvement. Okay, so I'm Ted Kennedy in a wig. Don't get me wrong, I know I'm not "fat" (whatever that means anymore). I'm very happy with my current figure, it's the camera that hates me. At least I'm funny. Because doesn't every girl grow up hoping she's the funny one instead of the beautiful one in the pictures?

Yeah, that's what I thought.

And then it gets better. Tomorrow's post: Friends don't let friends rip off skin tags.

Monday, November 9, 2009

A Love Story

Whenever I'm alone with you
You make me feel like I am home again
Whenever I'm alone with you
You make me feel like I am whole again.
However far away, I will always love you.
-Robert Smith, The Cure

I am back from Scottsdale and a long weekend with my girlfriends to celebrate Club 40, and truly, I am almost at a loss for words. (And we all know how rare that is!) How do you describe what it's like to be with people who have known you for nearly 3/4 of your life? In front of whom you will go to the bathroom? Or change your clothes? Or prance around in a bikini? (Knock it off, CH, it's not Whoreticulture Friday yet!) Women who have seen you through:
  • Bad boyfriends (we did determine that I didn't have boyfriends so much as guys I stalked)
  • Bad haircuts (I give you the 'Flock of Seagulls' shave from 8th grade)
  • Bad fashion (knickers, OP shorts, full Dallas housewife rhinestone jewelry)
  • Bad decisions ("...but his girlfriend is away at college!" OR "He may live in a trailer with his mother and have mental problems, but he should be okay to buy us beer at night, right?")

Lucky me! I have six of those people! It's like I won the friendship lottery! Except that it isn't like that at all. It's more like being married, or having children. It's damn hard work, and when you stick it out and put your heart into it, it turns into this lifetime commitment of knowing when someone has your back.

My friendship with these women has been much like having my kids. When it's fresh and new, you're unsure of what to do or whom that other person will turn out to be. You're a little awkward. You make mistakes. You hold their head when they are throwing up and you hold their hand when they are sad. You kiss their boo-boos. You get angry when a boyfriend treats them badly. You get mad at their bad choices. You call them on their BS, and then you forgive. You cry at their weddings and births, and then you cry at their breakups and bad luck. You listen. You try to make it all better. In return you get hugs and love in spades. And you think they are the most beautiful, talented, smartest people you've ever known, and by some miracle, they think the same of you.

It's magical. It's rainbows and ponies and falling stars. And then it's awkward, because you go home and you tell your Current Husband (CH - that one is for you, Jen) about some of your conversations, and he becomes alarmed.

ME: "So then I was telling them about how often we have sex, and..."
CH: "You talked about that?"
ME: "Of course! So then I was talking about that position..."
CH: "You talked about specific POSITIONS!?!"
ME: "Duh! You can't talk about sex without talking about positions! And a couple of us had these hilarious stories about dogs in the room during sex..."
CH: "I can't hear any more. I'll never be able to see any of them again."
ME: "Listen CH, you'd better just understand that they know EVERYTHING. But I, too, know everything about them. So it's like a balance of power. They'll never use it against you."
CH: "That's not really the point, Julie. Isn't that between us? Is nothing sacred?"
ME: "It's all sacred, and it's between us and these six other women. And probably their husbands too, because they will probably report it to their spouses like I am with you. And their co-workers and friends, because the husbands will probably tell some of the juicier stories at work. But we'll never meet those people, so don't worry."
CH: "You aren't leaving the house anymore."

So thanks for the mammaries, girls. And know that you make me feel like I am young again. And however far away, I will always love you.
(See? This blog wasn't as bad as you thought it would be. Stay tuned for the next blog, all about breasts, skin tag removal, 350-pound guys in Mexican restaurants, and Heather Cox from ESPN, who is tall and lovely.)

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Leaving Spouses: Man v. Wife

After more than a year of planning, I'm leaving my husband.

For a woman. Actually, for six of them.

There will be nudity and drinking and sharing of beds. Innuendo is all but certain. I will be shaving my legs and painting my toenails. (Oh yes. It's THAT serious.)

My high school posse all turned 40 this year, and we've been planning a trip to celebrate. Anyone with children knows how hard it is to plan a trip with their schedules in mind, but imagine SEVEN mothers with 15 children between them trying to coordinate a weekend in the year that everyone has free. It was difficult, at best. But we made it happen, and now I'm leavin' on a jet plane. Don't know when I'll be back again.

In preparing to leave for this trip, I've found myself contemplating the differences between a man leaving versus a woman leaving. It is Tuesday night, and my flight leaves at 9 a.m. Thursday morning. I've arranged all rides, RSVP'd all parties, dances, babysitting gigs, and meals. I've forwarded my itinerary to Current Husband, and typed out a schedule for him, which has been e-mailed to him and posted on the fridge.

Schedule for the rest of the week:

7:25 Child 2 and Child 3 to friend's house to get ride to school
7:30 Drive Child 1 to middle school
7:45 Most Excellent Wife to airport
8:55 MEW flight leaves
3:30 Kids home from school (Child 1 has cell phone)
5:30 You can take kids out, or there are leftover pork chops

Cereal for breakfast
7:30 Friend picks up Child 1 for school (Friend phone number 555-5555)
8:20 Child 2 and Child 3 to school, they will eat hot lunch.
3:30 Kids walk home from school (Child 1 has cell phone)
6:30 Dinner at friend's house. Child 1 to middle school dance. Take red wine on counter, chutney dish in fridge, flowers will be delivered.

Breakfast in fridge
1:30 Child 2 to Bowling Alley for birthday party, gift is on desk, invite on fridge if you need parent phone #.
3:30 Pick up Child 2 from party
Order pizza, number on fridge
5:30 Child 1 babysitting for People (phone number). They will pick her up.
11 Child 1 returned home from babysitting

Bagels in fridge
Leftover pizza for lunch
6:40 MEW flight arrives at Moline airport

Here is the preparation when CH is leaving for trip:

"Where is my stuff? Bye!"

In my next life, I hope to come back as a man. Either way, I am definitely getting myself a wife.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Instant Halloween Karma

Halloween is over, and now I'm stuck with 800 pieces of candy and probable Type 2 Diabetes. I don't even want to know how much unrefined sugar I have flowing through my veins. And I'm still creeped out by Mark David Chapman, but I'll get back to that.

I'll be in Arizona at the end of this week and gone for 10 days in Texas for Thanksgiving, and I'm doing NaNoWriMo, so this month is going to be tough, and I apologize in advance for the crappy sloppy seconds writing the blog is going to endure. For those who aren't familiar with NaNoWriMo, it's a writing marathon where over 100,000 writers commit to writing a 50,000 word novel in the month of November (National Novel Writing Month). I've written 896 words so far. You need to write about 1700 words per day to keep up. Ouch. (For any NaNoWriMos who need a writing buddy, I'm Snarkypants.) I may post some of it here, if I'm not too mortified.

So Halloween is over. This year, my seventh grader still wanted to Trick or Treat with a friend. Since I'm still trying desperately to keep her young and immature, I looked around for a costume at stores, as a homemade costume would be mortifying at her age. I did not go the store route, because costumes in her size all had stickers on the front that said "IMPREGNATE ME". Hey preteen girls! Would you like to be a sexy cop? Or a sexy chef? Or a sexy crossing guard? Or a sexy S&M film star? And then next year you can be an incredibly unsexy baby momma working at the BP store selling lottery tickets and cigarettes to your meth dealer and GUESS WHAT! THAT costume isn't just for Halloween, it's for the rest of your life! Yay for you! She ended up being a Barbie, and we live in interesting times when the tamest costume you can come up with for your daughter is Barbie.

My son wanted to be Uncle Sam. So easy, right? No. The store costumes available to him were Mass Murderer, Blood-covered Zombie, Serial Killer, Ultimate Fighter, Dark Side Superhero or Star Wars. Hello, Goodwill. We ended up putting red stucco tape down the sides of white basketball warm up pants, duct taping a navy blue blazer from Goodwill, and cutting up a serial killer beard to make an Uncle Sam goatee and eyebrows. He won the costume competition at the school's Fall Fun Fest (not to be mistaken for a Halloween party, because that is too pagan and devil-worshipping for the public school day), but now the expectation for next year is even higher. I'm guessing he will want to be the Invisible Man. You can do that, right Mom?

I like to dress up to walk with the kids, because they think it's fun and it gives me a chance to indulge my complete immaturity. My youngest daughter was dressed up as Dorothy, from the Wizard of Oz, so I talked my good friend into being Galinda to my Elphaba. She's a partner in a large law firm, so it usually takes two glasses of wine to make her stop thinking about umbrella policies and liability claims, and by the time we were walking around the neighborhood, Galinda was waving her wand over the adults and telling them all of their wishes would be granted at midnight. She became Sexy Good Witch, and she did not take off her crown or my old prom dress until well after midnight. I told her to wear it home and make someone's wishes come true; it wouldn't be the first time that dress was hitched up around someone's hips. (Just kidding Mom!)

So Galinda and I are preparing to sweep the neighborhood, and this boy comes up the walk at her house looking like a Vietnam Vet. She gives him a King-Sized Hershey bar and he looks at her with dead eyes and says, "Just one?" And she says "Happy Halloween!" and shuts the door. We gather our children and leave the house.

A few blocks later, we see Vietnam Vet kid, and he is waving a silver gun around, demanding candy from people at their doors. Everyone is looking a little frightened, and we all notice how the kid is probably 11 or 12, is trick-or-treating alone, and has no adult supervision. He gets the candy at the door, turns and smiles a little evil smile and saunters to the next house. We are troubled, but forget about it as we are chasing six kids across streets where adults still insist on driving large trucks that say "Stump Removal" on the side and gun their accelerators every time a small child gets in the way.

We trick-or-treat at my house, where Current Husband is dressed up as The Edge, clearly hoping to get lucky. We get candy, and I drop off the dog, who has been dressed as The Cowardly Lion and has eaten about 25% of the brown yarn off of his mane and three dropped Starburst in their wrappers. CH says, "Have you seen the guy who killed John Lennon?" Uh, what? CH got a good look at the kid when he came to our door, and he was wearing a camouflage jacket that had the name "LENNON" on the front. CH said the kid waved his weapon around and was singing Imagine on the way down the walk. WHAT!?!? The kid was dressed up as Mark David Chapman, Lennon's assassin!!! Aaaah! As a huge John Lennon fan, I was going to have to find this boy and steal his candy. And take his most likely real gun. And micro-chip him.

Galinda and I swept the rest of the neighborhood, but we didn't see Mr. Future Juvenile Delinquent again. But as I ate my 15th Reese's Peanut Butter cup, accompanied by a lovely Shiraz, Watchin' the Wheels go round and round, I consoled myself with the fact that Instant Karma was gonna get him. And knock him in the head.