Sunday, May 20, 2012

Hoochie Mama?

It's hard to believe that I'll be 35 tomorrow.  When I was a kid—and even in my early twenties—35 sounded ridiculously "grown up," and 40 seemed positively ancient.  Yet here I am, feeling perfectly fine about the milestone.

I probably wouldn't be making much of a fuss about it at all, except that we're going on a cruise in a couple of weeks and my birthday is a convenient justification to go out and shop for some new clothes  (hey, I'll shamelessly take any excuse I can get). 

I haven't been out shopping for myself in positively ages, so I decided to do it right.  I found a babysitter and reserved an entire morning to go out to a local strip mall, my primary mission being to find beachy, sexy clothes to wear on our upcoming vacation. 

When I arrived at the shopping center, I was disappointed to find that I'd been "out of the game" for so long that most of the stores weren't there any more.  But I spotted one trendy shop still in business, so I headed that direction and told myself the trip would still be a great success.

As I neared the store, I caught a glimpse of the displays and stopped in my tracks.  The establishment had turned to the Dark Side—it had become a "hoochie shop."

Unidentifiable hip-hop music pulsed from within the store, where headless mannequins modeled scraps of fabric that didn't seem to serve any particular purpose.  Sequined bras and transparent lace leotards hung proudly in the windows, and neon posters shouted in capital letters that the clothes were "ALWAYS ON SALE!!  $19.99 OR LESS!! (some more)." 

I warily crossed the threshold (I had come too far to turn back now) and was instantly sized up by an employee.  She looked me up and down, scowled at my frumpy yoga pants and ratty tee shirt stained with unidentifiable child goo, rolled her eyes dismissively and walked off in search of someone who might actually buy something. 

I couldn't decide whether I should be offended or glad. 

I probably would have just turned around and left then, but a little devil appeared on my shoulder, urging me to look around.  After all, it reasoned, there might be something worthwhile hidden in the back.  I acquiesced and ventured deeper into the store.

Upon passing a rack of clingy dresses with giant cutouts in the sides, a little angel appeared on my other shoulder and shouted, "I just don't understand what kids are wearing these days!" 

I was immediately shocked that this thought had popped into my head—when had I become such a stick-in-the mud?  I told the angel to shut up and stop making me feel old, and the devil on the other shoulder gave me a high-five and asserted that I was damn sexy and could pull off any of the outfits in the store.

Well, except perhaps this one...even the little devil said "WTF?" when it saw this.

 This just seems like a waste of a perfectly good security tag.

I gaped at the fluorescent orange "dress" for a couple of minutes—as if staring at it would miraculously cause it to make sense—then I shook my head, walked away, and ran smack into a display of bedazzled bras. 
 Is it just me, or does this bra seem to already have nipples on it? 
(poorly placed, too)

Once again, a little battle raged inside my brain.  The angel was reacting with disbelief.  What a ridiculous piece of clothing!  What would you even do with one of those? it demanded.

The devil immediately fired back, reassuring me that I could definitely wear one of those if I was in the right environment (although the devil neglected to say what that environment might be).

The internal debate was making my head spin, and it was unclear which side was winning.

Hoping things would improve, I continued deeper into the store.  When I rounded a corner and came upon garments that I thought were tube tops but were actually skirts, the angel angrily yelled, Where's the rest of that skirt?

The devil kicked it and and accused me of turning into my mother.

I was getting a headache and finally decided it was time to leave, so I lifted my chin, threw my shoulders back, and proudly marched out the door.  I thought I caught a glimpse of an employee laughing at me as I left, but then the little devil told me that I was being stupid and ordered me to get my head out of my ass.

Back in the parking lot, I was unsure of what to do next.  I didn't have a lot of time left, so after some consideration, I decided to hit my "standby store"— Ross Dress for Less.  It's my default for finding shoes and dresses on the cheap.

I wandered in and immediately felt my stress evaporate.  No one was glaring at me or sizing me up; in fact, I'm pretty sure they're trained to ignore you in that store unless you're urinating on the bedding or shooting meth in the toy department. 

I zeroed in on a rack of summery dresses, picked up several—along with some cute denim shorts and a few breezy tops—and headed for the fitting rooms.

Now, in my humble opinion, whoever designed the dismal lighting in fitting rooms should be shot.  I don't know how women can be expected to buy anything when our bodies look like lumpy masses of tapioca pudding in front of those giant mirrors.

I usually prepare myself for this when I go out shopping—so as not to be horrified when I finally disrobe—but it had been quite a while since I had really shopped for myself, and the disturbing effect when I tried on the dresses caught me off guard.

Every lump was magnified; every roll was brought into sharp relief.  Thighs that would probably look fine in normal lighting appeared to be coated in cottage cheese under those horrible fluorescents.  I found myself discarding one garment after another in frustration.

It didn't help that the devil on my shoulder was hurling insults at me, blaming me for letting my body get this way and insisting that I do something about it, pronto.  The angel was disturbingly silent.   

I sadly brought the garments back out of the fitting room and handed the entire lot to the attendant.  I didn't have time to try anything else on, but I didn't want the trip to be a total failure, so I decided to swing by the shoe department on my way out to see if anything appealed to me.  After all, at least my feet weren't too disgusting.

As I crossed the store, I spotted this highly airbrushed ass staring at me from a box in the health and beauty section.

I went over to take a closer look.

On the front of the package, shiny letters announced that the cream inside would smooth skin and banish cellulite.  I was intrigued...after the close-up view of my cottage-cheese thighs in the fitting room, I was just about desperate enough to try anything.  I picked up the box and turned it over in my hands. 

The instructions stated that the cream should be applied liberally to all areas that need slimming.  It went on to suggest some areas, just in case you were legally blind or couldn't think of any yourself.  I did the mental math and realized that, for best results, I would probably have to fill a bathtub with the cream and soak in it every day for a month.

That seemed rather impractical. 

In fact, I doubted that the discount cream would do anything at all, but the devil on my shoulder was jumping up and down excitedly and shouting that I should buy it, so I set my jaw and purposefully marched to the checkout with my bottle of miracle cellulite cream in hand.  The angel hung her head in shame as I paid the six dollars and ninety-seven cents for the product.

As the cashier bagged up my purchase, it occurred to me that I had hit a new low; not only had I failed to find anything flattering for my cruise; I had actually bought myself discount cellulite cream for my birthday...and I'd been excited about it.

The angel shook her head at me as I did the walk of shame back to my mom-mobile.  I strolled past the hoochie shop on the way, and suddenly it seemed like a good idea to remember the place...just in case I truly hit bottom and decide to try my luck in a brothel during the midlife crisis I plan to have when I hit 40.

Perhaps I should have just gone to the spa.



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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

My Memories & the Eiffel "Cow"er

As we wrapped up our trip to Paris, I found myself longing for some souvenir of my crazy adventure.  I had been fantasizing about finding a quaint little boutique where I could buy some ridiculously expensive French hand lotion made out of rare water lilies that only bloom on the sixth full moon of the year...when it rains.  I figured Paris would be the perfect place to find such a rarity, and I kept my eyes peeled for cute little shops.

Unfortunately, said quaint shops were not to be found.  Instead, we were repeatedly confronted with junky tourist stores that were asking sixty dollars for tacky bedazzled hoodies that were made in China and emblazoned with the words "I heart Paris."  When we wandered out of touristy areas in search of more authentic shops, we were harassed by scary-looking wandering salesman who were hawking plastic keychains featuring miniature, neon-colored replicas of the Eiffel Tower (only four for a dollar)!

I had hoped we'd fare better at the more "official" gift shops, but when we went in we were surprised to see they sold crap like this abomination, which I've dubbed "The Eiffel Cow-er."

Seriously?  WTF is this?!

Sorry, Paris—in the category of "Places with Great Souvenirs," you officially get a "fail" in my book.

Even on the Champs-Elysées, a place supposedly known for its great shopping, we encountered either high-priced brand-name stores like Hermès, or copycat crap stores that were the Parisian equivalent of boardwalk shops.  It was very disappointing. 

But all was not lost.  When I got home and began looking at our beautiful photos, I realized I had the best souvenir ever—gorgeous pictures of our trip that I can cherish forever.

(And to think...this picture of us at the Louvre won't even go rancid after a year like rare hand lotion!)

Now, I'm pretty good at taking lots of pictures; unfortunately, what I'm terrible at is actually remembering to do something with them.  (Pay attention...I'm about to do a Misadventures in Motherhood "first!")   

Drumroll please...

This is why I'm excited to be sharing my experience with the My Memories software with you!  (Yep.  I just endorsed a product. Go figure.)  See, the nice folks over at My Memories contacted me back of last year (I'm a procrastinator) to ask if I'd be willing to do a review and giveaway of their software.  I usually turn down things like this because, well, I write a humor blog, and it's difficult to make a product review funny.

But in this case I made an exception.  You see, I am a complete nincompoop when it comes to scrapbooking.  Oh, I got quite excited about the fad when it first became all the rage, and I ran out and purchased all the scrapbooking paraphernalia I could get my hands on.  I started about five different scrapbooks, but I always got distracted and never managed to finish any of them.

At some point I realized that I just don't have the discipline to sit there and cut out frames and embellishments and all that stuff.  Consequently, I am now the proud owner of several cleverly-themed but poorly executed scrapbooks containing two pages each, as well as a giant rubber tote of unused and picked-through scrap crap.

So when My Memories asked me if I'd like to review their digital scrapbooking software, I thought...what the heck?  Perhaps this will solve all my scrapbooking dilemmas!  So I decided to take it for a test-drive and see if it could spruce up my Paris pictures a bit.

Now, if you've been living under a rock and have somehow missed all of the reviews of the My Memories Suite that are floating around on the web already, I'll start by confirming what everyone else is saying: the software is AMAZING.  And it's not just because you can whip out a lovely-looking, suitable-for-framing collage in five minutes's also because it takes all the guesswork out of the equation.  

For those of us who are a bit obsessive and feel compelled to compare fifty different triangle-patterned background papers to find the one that perfectly coordinates with that sparkly embellishment we paid $7.50 for, we can sit back and relax because they've done all the work for us.  All we need to do is drag and drop our pics into the pre-designed layouts.  (Of course, we are still free to go batshit crazy if we want and scroll through the gazillions of backgrounds and decorations to design our own layouts, too.  The options are virtually endless—it's an OCD wonderland, people!) 

And, you can save $10.00 on this amazing software right now by using the code below!  Feel free to share the code with friends and family, and spread the fun!  (By the way, with the discount code, you can get this amazing software for less than $30!  And you get a coupon code for $10 in free scrap downloads when you purchase, so really, this is an AMAZING deal). 

Copy & Paste code: STMMMS44062

And now for the pièce de résistance.  Here is where I get to show off my mad digital scrapbooking skills (I'm kidding...I don't have mad skills; the program makes it easy.)  Please enjoy my scrapbook from Paris!  Here you'll get to see all the gorgeous pics that I didn't include in my previous entries because I was too busy posting embarrassing pictures of myself in front of a space-age toilet!

So clicky clicky the pic below and enjoy!  Then scroll down and leave me a comment!  (To all the fabulous email subscribers...depending on your email program, you may need to visit the actual blog to view the album).  Enjoy!

Whew!  I'm happy to say that I'm finally done posting about Paris!  Now I can go back to the regularly scheduled fare of making fun of my husband and enumerating the reasons why I suspect my children might actually be small mutant baboons.

Thanks for looking!  Please leave me a comment...I'd love to hear from you!

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Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Potty and the Pussycat

I was there—I was finally in Paris!  It was the morning of my first full day in France, and after the horrific travel adventures I'd had on the trip over, I was happy that we were venturing out on foot.

I was also chomping at the bit to put my high school and college French classes to good use.

We decided to visit the Eiffel Tower first.  It was a chilly day, and the walk over was invigorating.  As we got close, my husband was practically sprinting to the monument, but I stopped him to remind him that we were supposed to take pictures of me wearing my friend Bob Butterbottom's yoga pants at the Eiffel Tower.  (See the cute little cow on the pants?  They're comfy too!  You can buy them here!)

I'm an awful model, and picture after picture came out looking dreadful.  I have no idea how to "pose," so after twenty minutes of painfully cheesy photos, I decided the following one was somewhat usable and stopped torturing us both with the project.

  Can you imagine me on America's Next Top Model?  
They'd laugh me off the show. 

With the embarrassing photo shoot out of the way, we excitedly proceeded to the Tower!  Surprisingly, it looked just like all the pictures I'd ever seen of it, except for one thing—none of the pictures ever showed the mobs of people waiting for hours to go in for a tour.

We spent quite a bit of time viewing it like this and feeling like cattle while we waited for the line to move.

 At least it made for a neat photo. 

By the time we were finally through the doors I was just dying to try out my French.  Coincidentally I was also dying to pee, so I thought it would be a good time to test out my skills.  I walked up to someone who looked official and politely said in smooth French, "Où est les toilettes, s'il vous plait?"

He answered, "Go up one level and they're on your right."  I smiled.  "Merci!" I said, a little too cheerfully.  When I got to the bathroom it occurred to me that he had answered me in English.  Oh well...apparently I had "tourist" written all over me, but I didn't care—I had successfully navigated my first real interaction with the natives. 

After pottying, we took pictures of the view and milled about on the various levels, reading the informational plaques and occasionally wondering what some weird looking building in the distance was.  The view was lovely.

I just wish I knew what I was looking at!  There were so many buildings!

Lunchtime came, and I was excited to try out my language skills again.  I easily ordered in French, and when my husband sat down next to me at the table I was feeling downright smug about my ability to communicate.  

Of course, it's usually when I'm feeling confident that I make a gigantic ass out of myself and am reminded that I'm a blundering idiot.  Therefore, I probably should have expected what was coming.

That evening we went out to a nice restaurant.  I was translating the menu for my husband when I felt an odd—yet somewhat familiar—tickle on my neck.  I turned around to discover a cat curled up in a little bed right behind my head.

 Le chat.

My husband asked me if it was real.  Judging by the amount of fuzz and dander lining the little basket and considering it had just brushed me with its tail, I was pretty sure it was a real living cat.  It was also breathing, which would be a heck of a neat trick if it was stuffed.

I leaned in close to the snoozing animal, swelling with affection as I remembered my years of having cats as pets.  My husband looked at me with annoyance.  We were at a nice French restaurant, and instead of gazing lovingly into his eyes and cozying up, I was cooing over a ratty-looking fuzz ball. 

"Hey honey, what are 'haricots verts'?" he asked.

"Do you think we're allowed to pet it?" I answered.

He rolled his eyes.

"I'm going to ask the waiter if I can pet the cat," I said decisively.

My hubby sighed.  "Whatever," he said and went back to frowning over the menu.

I thought about the best way to ask.  I wanted to say, "Is the cat friendly," but I couldn't remember the word for 'friendly.'  The closest I could come was "amorous."  I couldn't remember how to say "pet the cat," but I thought I knew how to say "stroke the cat."

I shouted "Excusez-moi!" as our waiter passed by.  I smiled and stammered something that roughly translated to:

"The cat—it is amorous and wants the stroking?"

The waiter gave me a rather perplexed look, frowned, and said, "Euh, no, no, please no touch.  Thank you."  He shuffled off.

My husband looked at me like I had two heads.

"You asked if the cat was amorous?

"I couldn't remember the word for 'friendly.'" I said defensively.  "Besides, the guy knew what I meant."

"Yeah, and they're probably having a big laugh about you right now in the back," my husband countered.  "What are 'haricots verts'?"

I'm sure I was beet red at this point.  I felt like a complete ass, but there was no way I was going to let my husband think I didn't know what I was doing.  I explained that haricots verts were green beans, and then I turned back to the kitty, who apparently sensed he was being talked about and wanted to be privy to the conversation.  He had lifted his head and was squinting at me with disdain.

Of course, all cats sort of look at people with disdain, so I didn't take it personally.

It wasn't until my husband smacked my leg and said, "I'm over here!" that I stopped fussing over the cat and turned my attention back to dinner.

 But seriously...a cat at the table?  Who wouldn't be preoccupied? 

I made it a point to be sure to interact with my husband more than the kitty.  And to minimize my embarrassment, for the rest of the evening I limited my French to phrases I was sure I knew. 

We actually had a lovely dinner, despite our furry distraction.

The next morning, I made my mind up to redeem myself from the previous evening's embarrassment.  We were headed to the Louvre, and when we arrived, I made a show of picking up the French brochure instead of the English one.  I made it a point to speak to employees in French (people were still answering me in English though), and I ordered in French in the cafeteria.

 We posed for pictures in the courtyard of the Louvre.  

Afterward, we went shopping, and I successfully talked to a couple of salespeople.  Things were going remarkably smoothly.  Walking through the streets of Paris, hand in hand with my sweetheart, I was just starting to feel confident in my French skills again.

It was right about then that we encountered a rather odd looking restroom out on the street.

It was a futuristic silver dome, and my husband quickly identified as an automatic toilet.  Apparently it did everything from flushing for you to washing and sanitizing the entire inside before the next person used it.

I didn't need to go to the bathroom terribly badly, but we'd discovered that half the bathrooms in France are clogged, broken or filthy, and you can't be guaranteed toilet paper, a door, or even a seat in some cases.  And you usually have to pay to use these sad facilities.  Therefore, I decided I should take the opportunity to go while I had a sanitary—and free!—bathroom to use.

 I was pretty psyched about a clean potty, even if it did have bizarre symbols on it.
I stepped inside and the door closed in front of me, encasing me in a windowless metal pod.  I'm not usually claustrophobic, but this did feel surprisingly confining.  I was just telling myself to relax, silly, when a female voice came through a hidden speaker, jabbering in rapid-fire, incomprehensible French.

I had no idea what she was saying, but I assumed it was something along the lines of, "Welcome to the crazy-ass high-tech Star Trek toilet.  You see the potty; notice how clean it is.  We French are awesome.  Thank you."

I took that as my cue to sit and pee. 

When I was done, I stood up and looked for the 'flush' button.  I couldn't find one.  I searched around the toilet and in the general vicinity, but there was no obvious 'flush' mechanism.

I remembered my husband saying that the whole thing was automated, so I thought perhaps it was waiting until I washed my hands to flush.  So I walked over to the sink and pressed the button for water.

No water came out, but the French voice returned, urging me to do something I didn't understand.  I cocked my head and tried to catch a word or two, but I was getting nothing.  This toilet was clearly not meant for anyone not highly proficient in conversational French. 

I pressed the 'water' button a few more times, and every time I did, the French voice cut off in the middle of its spiel and started the urgent message from the beginning.  I could feel my heart racing as I began to panic.  I couldn't get the water to turn on, I had no idea what was going wrong, and I was being verbally admonished by a scarily pleasant-sounding femme-bot.

As I whacked the 'water' button with increasing force, I vaguely wondered if the pod would go into "lock-down" mode if I continued.  I pictured being stuck inside until the authorities came to arrest me for tampering with public facilities, and I decided to quit while I was ahead.

I turned around and punched the "open" button on the door.  I was a little worried that it wouldn't open—since the toilet hadn't been flushed—but it immediately released me back into the street, where I grabbed my husband by the arm and hauled him quickly away.

"What happened?" he asked.

"I don't know.  I couldn't figure out what to do.  The water wouldn't turn on.  I guess I panicked and just left."

"You just ran out?"

"Yep.  Oh well..."

He laughed and gave me a squeeze. "Only you would find a way to mess up using an automatic bathroom!"  He kissed the top of my head and took my hand.

What can I say?  They didn't prepare us for the "potty pod" in high school French.  Despite all my best efforts, I really was turning out to be a typical ignorant American.

I guess that's why, when it's something really important—like safety—the French don't mess around.  They just post a really obvious sign, like this one I spotted in a shopping center. 


Fortunately, the rest of the trip was mercifully disaster-free, and I considered it nothing less than a personal triumph when, on our last night there, we went to a super-fancy restaurant and the waiter actually responded to me in French when I asked where the bathrooms were!

(Of course, I didn't understand a word of what he said.  I nodded and said "Merci," and then I ducked around the corner, went up to the greeting station and asked the person at the desk, "Um, where are your bathrooms?"  But no matter; I consider it a victory that I was even spoken to in French in the first place.)

So all in all, I deem the trip a success.  I may have had a terrible flight over and made an idiot out of myself in Paris, but at least I've got some great stories to tell.

Oh, and I'm pretty sure I'm going to name my next cat "Amorous."

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Friday, April 6, 2012

Fight or Flight ... to Paris!!

I sat at the airport, fighting to gulp down the firmest (and most expensive) "pretzel bites" I had ever encountered.  I had spent the whole week vacillating between frantic worrying and manic excitement, and I was aware that I was eating way too fast.  I couldn't help myself...I was a bundle of nerves!  I was taking my first international flight, by myself, to meet my husband in Paris!

My carry-on suitcase kept falling over at my feet and crashing into the legs of passersby.  "I'm sowwy..." I said again and again, as I fought to swallow the concrete in my mouth and simultaneously haul my suitcase upright.

It's not surprising the damn thing couldn't stand up straight—my carry-on was most certainly packed over capacity.

See, I'd had a small...situation...with packing.  

My husband had insisted that I not check any bags.  After all, I had a layover in Zurich, and all manner of mishaps could happen to my luggage between here and Paris if I didn't keep it with me at all times.  So I had bought myself a rolling backpack to hold the stuff I'd need for the plane, and the rest I attempted to cram into a small carry-on suitcase.

This would have worked out fine if I hadn't broken my tailbone recently.

See, the first leg of the flight was seven and a half hours, and there was no way my sore bum was going to tolerate that much abuse without the specially-designed butt pillow I had purchased at a medical supply store. 

The only problem was that it was huge.

No, they did not have any smaller ones, and no, my butt is NOT that big.

The ass cushion presented a serious packing dilemma.  It definitely would not fit in my backpack, and even when I squished it up and stuffed it into the suitcase, it was nearly as large as the bag itself.

 Hmmm...maybe some undies could go in the hole...

Even with the bare minimum packed (I was in danger of having to wear the same pair of pants the entire trip by the time everything was stuffed in the bag), it barely fit.  I had to unzip the expandable section and sit on the suitcase to get it closed.

But none of that mattered now.  I was going to Paris!  In a matter of minutes they would be calling my section...oh, wait...they were calling my section.  I chucked the remaining pretzel bites—which by this point could have served as substitutes for Lincoln Logs—threw my backpack on, and dragged my painfully overstuffed suitcase onto the plane. 

Now, as a vertically-challenged person (I'm 5'1" on a good day), I always need help lifting my carry-on bag into the overhead compartment.  Picture a blond, pale-skinned Snooki—sans heels—trying to heave an overstuffed carry-on that's half her size into the overhead baggage bin, and you've got me...except without the horrible hair and the bad makeup and the slutty clothing and the obnoxious attitude...

Actually, never mind, don't picture Snooki.

Anyway, I always end up holding up the boarding process while some poor shmuck behind me is stuck helping me stow my bag.  Thankfully the embarrassment usually only lasts a couple of seconds, and most people are pretty nice about it.

Unfortunately, this time the kind gentleman who offered to help me was stymied by the fact that my bag seemed to be too tall for the overhead bin.  It just wouldn't fit.  People murmured and grumbled as the guy next to me sweated and grunted and shoved.  I could see stewardesses gesturing in my direction, and I knew what was coming,  They were going to ask me to check the bag.

My voice goes all high-pitched and screechy when I'm stressed or embarrassed, so I'm pretty sure everyone in coach heard me when I shouted, "Wait!  I know what the problem is! It's my giant ass-pillow!"

I stood on my tip-toes, unzipped my bag and noisily wrestled the humongous piece of medical equipment from my carry-on, which was still precariously balanced over my head on the edge of the storage compartment.  

I'm pretty certain there was an audible sucking sound when my suitcase finally released the pillow, but I can't be entirely sure because I was too distracted by everyone staring at me as if I were a performing circus elephant that might, at any minute, fall off its ball and land in a pile of its own poo.  (I guess now I know how Snooki feels, at least.)
I heard a few murmurs of "What did she say?" so I held up the pillow to clearly display it to all the curious passengers.

"I broke my tailbone, and it's a long flight, so..."

I saw sympathetic looks and nodding heads.  One passenger even blurted out, "Oh, you poor thing!"  I signaled to my gentleman helper that he could probably easily stuff the suitcase in the overhead compartment now...and sure enough, it slid right in.

Crisis over.  *sigh*

I tucked my backpack under the seat in front of me, settled into my seat—ass pillow in place, of course—and opened the hermetically-sealed package of blue dryer lint that the stewardesses mistakenly referred to as a "blanket." 

(On a side note...I'm not sure exactly what airplane "blankets" are made of.  Like pork rinds, they seem to be made of embellished nothingness, and are therefore a complete mystery to me.  But my sister bought me a Snuggie one Christmas, and the first time I washed it, I swear I peeled enough airline blankets from my dryer's lint screen to service at least three people.)

I threw the mystery-fabric over my lap, settled in, and dug out my cellphone to snap the following picture:

I was going to Paris!  (You can see how excited I am—I've gone all blurry from anticipation.)

The seats next to me were blessedly vacant, so after a moment's hesitation and a brief internal debate about the importance of being environmentally responsible, I stole the little plastic bags of Snuggie lint from those seats too, piled up all the pillows, and built myself a little sleep nest.

The plane was to arrive in Zurich early the next morning, at which point I'd have a brief layover, and then I was to finally arrive in Paris at around 10:00 in the morning.  I was significantly exhausted from the stress of the week, and I was looking forward to getting some good rest on the flight over.

I smiled as the pilot cheerfully introduced himself over the loudspeaker, dutifully listened to the safety precautions—nodding as the stewardesses assured us that "even though your mask may not inflate, air is flowing,"—and watched a few obnoxiously loud movie previews.  Then the lights went out, the pilot wished us a pleasant flight, and I swallowed a sleep-aid pill and snuggled into my nest, looking forward to waking up to the sun rising in Zurich.

I was therefore completely surprised when I was awakened in the middle of my personal snore-and-drool fest by the pilot's voice booming loudly through the cabin.

"Ahhh...excuse me, ladies and gentlemen...I'm so sorry to disturb you, but..."

I looked around—it was still pitch dark outside.  What the heck?

"You may not be aware of this, but two of the bathrooms on the plane have stopped working.  We are about four and a half hours into the flight, and at this point, we feel it is a better choice to turn around and head back to base, then change planes.  We're truly sorry about this inconvenience, and we assure you we will do everything possible to get you to your final destination as quickly and smoothly as possible."


My sleepy brain attempted to process this information through its drug-induced haze.  We were more than halfway there.  Most people on the plane were asleep, and there were certainly still enough bathrooms left—since the plane wasn't even close to full—so why were we turning around and flying four and a half hours back?  Wouldn't it just make more sense to continue?

Now, I have no idea of what goes on in the inner workings of airlines, but I've watched plenty of episodes of Lost, and I know that some strange shit sometimes happens on flights.  Perhaps the pilot suddenly realized that if we continued on that same aircraft we would all crash onto a mystical island with smoke monsters and talking dead people.  In that all means...get us the hell off that plane!

Not digging this idea.

But anything short of that seemed just ridiculous.

The passenger across the aisle and I exchanged meaningful looks.  "Why would they turn the plane around just because two bathrooms are broken?" she asked me in a conspiratorial whisper.  I didn't know, but the adrenaline had kicked in again as I realized that I would now miss my connecting flight.  My phone wouldn't work internationally, and since we were going to arrive back at our starting point in the middle of the night, I knew my husband's cell would just go to voice mail (which he may or may not remember to check).

I spent the flight back alternately sulking and worrying.  I didn't bother stuffing my giant ass pillow back in my carry-on when we arrived back at the home airport.  Screw it...if they were going to yell at me for having an extra gigantic pillow on my person, they were going to get one hysterical cry-fest. 

I called my husband's cell, left a crazed message on his voice mail, and then texted him about ten times to tell him I would not be arriving in Paris at 10:00, and that I had no idea how I would get in touch with him when I finally did arrive.

We hadn't planned for this possibility—I didn't even know what hotel he was staying at (which, upon reflection, seems like a rather important detail that we definitely should have gotten ironed out before I left).

A very, very nice woman next to me told me that her phone did work internationally, and that when we arrived in Zurich I could call my husband from her phone.  Thank God.  I made a mental note not to let her out of my sight.

The airline had to round up a new pilot, crew, and plane (per regulation), so we all sat despondently and waited anxiously, trying to ease our nerves with meaningless conversation.  It was the middle of the night, so everything in the airport was closed.  All we could do was to sit, sit, sit, sit...and we did not like it, not one little bit.  (Thanks, Dr. Seuss)

After an eternity of waiting, we finally boarded the new plane.  The seating arrangement was the same, and this time I didn't even hesitate before angrily tearing into every airplane blanket within arm's reach.  I reconstructed my sleep nest, paid no attention to the new pilot's "We're very sorry...blah, blah, blah" speech, completely ignored the safety warnings, flipped the little television the bird when the movie previews came on, lay down and angrily folded my butt pillow over the top of my head to block out any extra sounds.

The pillow, mercifully, did not smell like butt.

Thank God for small favors.

I was awakened by a service cart smashing into my foot.  I opened my eyes and squinted into the sunlight as a flight attendant asked me for my trash.  We were preparing to land.

Once we were off the plane, I stalked the international-phone-woman down the ramp and glanced at the clock as we entered the terminal.  It was 2:00 in the afternoon.  I was halfway through my first day in Paris, and I wasn't even there yet.

The kind lady let me use her phone and I called my husband.  He had—fortunately—checked his messages, and he was fully aware of what was happening.

"Don't worry!" he said cheerfully.  "The airline has already made arrangements for you to transfer to another flight.  I have all the information right here online.  You'll be coming in on flight " blarg...and I'll meet you there."  My brain was so addled from sleep and stress that I didn't remember any of the information; all I knew was that he would be there to meet me, and I that was all I really cared about.

I proceeded to the service desk, where they promptly issued me a new ticket and pointed me in the right direction.

The flight to Paris was a blur.  Somehow the sleep I had gotten on the other two plane rides seemed to have done absolutely nothing for me, and I passed out almost immediately upon takeoff.  I woke up in darkness to the captain's voice thanking us for flying with Unmemorable Airlines.  He announced that we were landing and that the local time was 6:15 p.m.  It felt like three in the morning.  I couldn't wait to see my hubby at the gate.

There was only one problem:  he wasn't there.

I wandered about for a good twenty minutes, and when he still hadn't arrived, I approached the "help" desk, explained the situation to the employee and asked if my hubby could be paged.  I was answered with a curt, "No.  We do not page.  He eez probably in zee cafe.  Get a coffee and calm down.  Can I assist zee next person?"

Well, that was helpful.

I wandered off aimlessly and tried to figure out my next move.  I had no idea how to find my husband, and the new arrivals were clearing out quickly—there was no one around who looked sympathetic enough to help me. 

Then I spotted an internet station.  Hallelujah!  

I inserted my credit card and logged into my email.  There was a message from my hubby!  It was my flight change information—when I was landing and where he would meet me.  Uh-oh...the information was all wrong.  He was expecting me at Terminal 2, and I was at Terminal 1.

(Now, in the retelling of this, my husband asked me why I didn't just go to Terminal 2 and find him.  The answer was simple: I didn't think I could.  I was so sleep deprived and stressed out that I didn't realize I could access Terminal 2 from where I was.  I thought I had to go back through the airport to get to another terminal, and when I had tried to do that I had been stopped by security.  I was so tired I didn't realize I could just walk around the outside.)

So I composed a frantic email to my hubby, letting him know that I was waiting for him at Terminal 1.  I figured he'd be checking his phone for any communication from me when he couldn't find me.

I pressed send, then stared wide-eyed at the screen, tapping my foot restlessly and bouncing up and down like an overanxious chihuahua.  I kept hitting the "refresh" button, waiting for a response. 

Finally: a reply!!

I frantically opened the email to read this:
This is an automated message.  Sugar Pie is out of the office on business and will be back in the office on blah, blah, blah...  He will contact you as soon as possible when he returns.  Thank you. 

I started to cry.

I logged out and sat down on a bench, trying to figure a way out of my mess.  When I looked back at the blatantly unhelpful "help" desk, I noticed a different employee was standing there, so I decided to inquire again.  This time the lady was nice.  Perhaps she took pity on me because I really was beginning to resemble a sleep-deprived, confused, sweaty cast extra from Lost.

"Um, my husband's waiting for me at the wrong terminal.  Is there any way you can call over to Terminal 2 and let him know I'm over here?"

She nodded and dialed, then babbled something in French and waited.  A couple of seconds later she smiled at me and gave me a "thumbs-up."  I just about jumped across the counter and kissed her.

"He knows you are here and is on his way," she said kindly.  "It is a twenty minute trip from that terminal.  Is a very big airport.  Sit down.  He will be here."  

I sat gladly and breathed a sigh of relief.

In about twenty-five minutes, my husband came rapidly striding into view.  Had he always been this handsome?  He was looking around frantically, and I stood up and waved.  He ran over to me, wrapped his arms around me and smothered me with kisses.

"Oh my God, I was so worried," he mumbled into my hair.  He looked me over, and it occurred to me that I had never seen him look more relieved—not even when our children were born and turned out to be perfectly normal-looking humans beings and not the hideous creatures from Alien that I'd had nightmares about birthing.

"I am so, so sorry," he said.  "I can't believe you had to go through all that.  It's just terrible.  You must be a wreck.   Come on...we'll get a cab and go back to the hotel."

I snuggled up to him in the cab and tried to clear my head.  I was finally Paris...and all I wanted to do was cuddle up to him and go to sleep.

Still, he insisted that we get some decent food, so I changed my clothes, put on some makeup so I didn't look ill, and wearily dragged myself out to a restaurant.

I don't even remember what I ate, just that it was French.  I remember the dessert, though...mostly because I have a picture of myself with it.  It was some berry sorbet that had liquor in it, and I'd never had it before.

Its sweet creaminess was unbelievably comforting, like an ice cream cone on a hot day or a bowl of chicken soup when you're really sick.  I perked up enough to smile for a photo before pretty much falling asleep at the table.

 A little makeup works wonders.

After getting some real food and having that sweet treat, I was finally able to relax and look forward to the next day's activities...although I was still too tired to be excited, per se.

But I was in Paris, where I'd always dreamed of going...and I was there with my wonderful husband.

At least the drama was finally over.   

...For the moment.

(To be continued....)

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Friday, March 16, 2012

Freaks of Nature

Well, I have just returned from my weekend in France, and my head is spinning with all the crazy stories I have to tell.  Regardless of where I travel, I seem to bring my own special brand of bad luck with me, and France was certainly not immune to my misadventures.

I have one small problem, though—every time I attempt to blog about my foreign foibles, my train of thought gets derailed by mental images of blossoming begonias and sprouting snapdragons.

See, I seem to have a strange affliction that hits me every spring; I become inexplicably obsessed with the overwhelming urge to plant stuff—lots of stuff.  I call it my "rooting" instinct, and after attempting to write several stalled blog posts about my disastrous plane ride overseas, I realized that I would simply not be able to write about Paris until I got some of this flower fixation out.

I suppose—if there were a term for my botanical dysfunction—I would be classified as an FSA: a Flora Shopping Addict.  My obsession begins every year in late winter when my urge to sprout overwhelms my already questionable sense of reason.  My compulsion drives me to stare endlessly at the glowing computer screen—well into the wee hours of the night—ordering seeds and consulting my flow charts to sort out critical issues like whether I should pot the lobelia with the petunias or with the impatiens.  Will that be too much sun?  Will the lobelia dry out?  Will they fail to thrive in a shady basket of impatiens? Would verbena be a more aesthetically pleasing pairing?  If so, which colors? Etc...etc...

I get a particular sense of triumph from buying hard-to-find seeds through the mail and sprouting them under grow-lights in my basement.  In fact, the rarer the plant and the more complicated the germination, the more likely I am to become absolutely obsessed with growing it.  Every spring, my basement ends up looking like Dr. Frankenstein's workshop—complete with eerie glowing lights and strange-looking, oddly-greenish living things.

But as luck would have it, there are some plants that are simply not available to grow from seed.  So it never fails that every year I become obsessed with some crazy, exotic plant that sounds like an absolutely brilliant idea on the internet but turns into a disaster once it's been installed in my home.

For example, two years ago I decided I simply could not go on living without having my very own weeping redbud tree.  What the heck is a weeping redbud? you ask.  Well, I would have asked the very same question until I stumbled upon a picture of one in some obscure forum for rabid gardeners.

I was immediately entranced.  The whimsical-looking branches and beautiful blossoms were so unique that I knew the tree would instantly become the centerpiece of my yard and the envy of my neighborhood!

Unfortunately, this is not what MINE ended up looking like.  I paid $130 for a tree about a third of this size.  Said tree nearly caused my husband and our neighbor irreparable spinal damage while being installed, and then it lived for about three weeks before drying up into a creepy pile of twisted sticks that could have starred in a Tim Burton film.

I called the nursery that sold me the plant and told them that my tree had long surpassed "weeping" and was now clearly in "inconsolable" territory.  A tree doctor made a house call.  After carefully placing a stethoscope on several spots of the trunk and holding a mirror over the various limbs to watch for condensation, the doctor confirmed that the tree was indeed not breathing.  He would not attempt mouth-to-trunk resuscitation due to the high probability of losing an eye to the sharp Edward Scissorhands-like branches that protruded haphazardly in all directions from the dead monstrosity.

Depressed over my expensive dead pile of sticks, I distracted myself by spending the rest of the summer fussing over getting my hands on an exotic breed of impatiens plant from Rwanda.  It was gorgeous, extremely rare, and I was in love.  After several months of non-stop internet searching and a few emails that bordered on stalker-ish behavior, I finally found someone who was willing to ship me one of these rare gems.

This is what the beautiful plant from Rwanda looked like when it arrived on my doorstep:

I was over the moon for my unusual little plant.  I fussed and fawned over it, moved it around for extra air flow and optimal humidity, and made sure it had a healthy level of self-esteem by telling it on a daily basis how absolutely gorgeous it was.  I ministered to its every need, experimented with different fertilizers and potting mixes when it seemed unhappy, and rehabilitated it over and over again by taking cuttings and rooting new plants when the originals drooped and shriveled.

But despite my tender care, after nearly a year of love and attention to every possible need this unique plant might have, this is what now adorns my windowsill:

 Not exactly an award-winning specimen. 

My husband's response to my heartbreak and frustration was, simply, "For God's sake, don't you think there might be a good reason it only grows in Rwanda?!"


My hubby tolerates my infatuation with bizarre and unusual plants with open distaste.  He can't possibly fathom why I'd want to get some exotic plant that requires me to worry, bother, and persistently fuss over it.  In his view, we already have two children who have those requirements, so why would we want to make our lives even more complicated?

I understand where he's coming from―I really do.  Yet for some odd reason, the weirder the plant, the more likely I am to go nuts over it.

This year I have taken a fancy to the idea of getting something called a "Three-in-One Angel Trumpet Tree."  Now, the fact that the photo on the website looks like it may have been heavily Photoshopped should be a clue that this could turn out to be a truly terrible idea—especially since I live in a zone in which said Trumpet Tree would need to be brought indoors for the winter.

But, as I said before, all rational thought goes out the window when my rooting instincts are in heat.  I mean, just look how gorgeous it is!  I want it!  I want it now!  And the website says (and I quote)... "There is no sensation more unforgettable than that of an Angel Trumpet heavy with blossoms releasing its intoxicating scent." 

I mean, heck, people...according to the internet there's a good chance this tree will be better than SEX! 

Of course, there's also the distinct possibility that when the tree comes in for the winter, I will be put outside in its place.  Especially since my plants have been getting more "action" than my hubby lately.

 He's not too thrilled about it, either.

But all is not lost—after much consideration, I now have a fool-proof plan:  The next time my husband gets worked up over some crazy specimen I'm ogling, I will lift his spirits by appealing to his sense of practicality.  After all, he is an engineer, and he sees little value in things that are pretty just for pretty's sake.  He likes things in our home to have multiple uses, so I've come up with the perfect solution―I will propose the purchase of the following rarity:

This freak of nature is called the Stinking Corpse Lily.  It's the largest known flower in the world; it's very rare, hard to locate, it smells like a decaying/rotting carcass, and—here's the kicker—I think it might just make for the perfect "time-out" chair for when our kids misbehave!

Sitting on a dining room chair for five minutes will be a thing of the past—we'll just duct tape our kids' butts to the Stinking Corpse Lily!

As an added bonus—according to internet sources—the reservoir in the middle of this monstrosity can hold seven to eight gallons of water.  So there will be no more cries of "I need to get out of time-out to go potty!"  This "giant stinker" will be the perfect place on which to plop our little stinkers, for it will serve as a time-out chair and potty seat all in one!  Now, if that's not practical, I don't know what is! 

Of course, I suppose it would probably be a wise idea to make sure it's not carnivorous first. 

It's brilliant!  What could possibly go wrong?

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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Strange Brew

I'm not a big fan of the mall—mostly because I tend to have horrible experiences there.  I frequently get hoodwinked by enthusiastic salespeople who sell me junk I don't need and never use, and I have had enough dressing room blunders to write an entire book of anecdotes on fitting room mishaps.

For example, when I went to the mall around Christmastime, I was confronted with the following dressing room horror show:

(Yes, that is a used Band-Aid, a packet of ketchup and an open safety pin.  I'm not sure what the pregnancy-test-like thing is.  I can only imagine what was going on in this fitting room before I arrived.) 

For these reasons I generally avoid the mall, but when my husband's aunt recently offered to accompany me there to get some new clothes for the kids, I just couldn't resist.  I had been lying around nursing my broken tailbone for so long that any opportunity to get out of the house was irresistible.

We had a plan—we would start at one end of the mall and work our way through the department stores, purchasing clearance clothing for the kids for next season.  All was going well until, as we strolled through the corridor between Macy's and Boscov's, I heard a friendly voice chirp, "Would you like to sample some tea?"

I turned and found myself gazing at the most amazing tea shop I had ever seen.  Wonderful, fruity smells wafted from the store, and I could see all manner of decorative teapots and pretty cups sparkling on the shelves.  I heard heady, new-agey music pulsing inside, and I began wandering in that direction in an awed trance.

Now, I think I should probably preface this next part by saying that I am not really a tea drinker—I prefer coffee.  I do love a good iced tea in the summertime, but I'm just not a fan of hot tea (unless I'm at a Chinese restaurant; for some reason I always end up drinking ten cups of the addictive concoction they brew in there).

Nevertheless, my curiosity was piqued by all of the sparkly tea paraphernalia, and between my good mood and the alluring music I just couldn't stop myself from wandering in.  I happily sampled the tea being offered.  It was delicious, and I readily agreed when the salesperson asked me if I'd like to try another.

I was led to a table with some science-experiment-like equipment on it.  I noticed little dried-up balls on a plate; they resembled owl pellets and I had a flashback to middle school science class. 

I screwed up my face and wondered if I was going to see some rodent bones.  Fortunately I needn't have worried; they were just tea balls, and the saleslady—we'll call her Betty—directed my attention to a clear glass teapot with what looked like flowers and moss growing inside of it.

Betty explained that this was called "blooming tea."  According to her, impoverished workers in China hand-roll dried flowers into these blooming tea balls for our American enjoyment.  She stated that the workers get paid, "A penny for every twenty they do...or something like that."  I thought this sounded like a lousy endorsement for buying owl-pellet tea balls assembled via slave labor, so I passed on those. 

I then continued my tea-sampling orgy, trying iced tea, fruit tea, jasmine tea, white tea, herb tea, and Chinese tea (which didn't taste nearly as good without the accompanying pork fried rice).  I was particularly fond of the iced tea, and Betty explained that it was a mixture of two different blends.  It was completely caffeine free, she said, and therefore it would be perfect for the kids.

I envisioned myself having a Martha Stewart-ish moment, mixing up delicious pitchers of fruity iced tea for the family in the summertime.  Heck, if I couldn't impress my family with my lousy cooking, at least I could make some yummy tea.  I immediately told her I would take some.

At the counter, Betty removed two giant metal tubs from a rack on the wall behind her.  She began scooping contents from each tub into two different bags while telling me all about the health benefits of fresh tea.

"We have doctors sending their patients to our store for holistic remedies," she said proudly.  "The tea is so fresh and full of nutrients, it can even cure migraine headaches and other physical ailments."  I immediately grew curious and began telling her about my chronic muscle and nerve pain, which I take painkillers and muscle relaxers for on a daily basis.

"Oh, we have a tea that's great for muscle spasms!" she replied.  "It's got these special cherries that have relaxing qualities.  It would be very helpful for your problems."

I told her to go ahead and add some of that to my purchase.

By this point, my daughter Clara was getting restless.  She had been sitting in the stroller for at least twenty minutes while I sampled teas and talked about health remedies, and she now wanted to get out of the store.  Unfortunately we couldn't leave just yet, because scooping and bagging my teas was taking Betty longer than I'd expected, so I purchased a sugar spoon from the counter and handed it to my daughter.

"Look, Clara!  Lollipop!"

Clara picked up the sugar spoon, took a couple of sucks, and then promptly dropped it on the floor and started to cry.  I groaned.

"Oh dear!" Betty said.  "Would you like me to rinse it off with some water?"

"No, no...I'll just buy another one."  I gave Clara the new sugar spoon, and she successfully managed a few more sucks before dropping that one too.  She started to wail.

I told Betty I needed to get on my way, so I asked her if she could start ringing up my order.  That's when I looked at the counter and noticed that I had several mostly-full bags of tea, and I had not a clue how much any of it cost.  I buy tea about once a year—for my husband for Christmas—and I'm used to buying it at Target, where an $8.00 box of teabags will last us until the following holiday.  I realized that I was most likely looking at a forty dollar tea purchase, and I started to sweat.

As she started weighing everything, Betty asked me what I was planning on storing my tea in.  After all, she said, tea will degrade if exposed to light or air, so I needed something both air and light tight.

"Oh, I'll just put them in the ceramic canisters on my kitchen counter."

"Well, see, that won't work," explained Betty, "because light penetrates ceramic.  Only metal will block the UV rays, so you need to use something like these handy tea tins that you can purchase right here at the store.  You'll probably need two, because you have a good amount of tea here, and you don't want it to lose its freshness."

I looked at the obviously overpriced tea tins and tried to figure out if I could avoid buying them.  Clara was still mourning the loss of her second sugar spoon and was nearing meltdown status.   

"Fine, fine...just ring them up too," I added, anxious to get out of the store.

"Okay, and, um, how were you planning on brewing the tea?" Betty asked.

"Uh...with my one-cup coffeemaker?"

"Oh, well, this is whole-leaf tea, see, so you need a tea ball or other brewing device.  We have some right over here..." and she walked me to one of the walls full of fancy tea accoutrements.  I quickly selected what I hoped was a modestly-priced brewer and pulled out my credit card.

As Betty rang up my order I watched the growing total with alarm.  I silently prayed that my bill wouldn't exceed sixty dollars.

"That will be one hundred and five dollars and eighty-two cents," Betty chirped.

I'm pretty sure the blood drained from my face at this point, and I sensed the beginnings of a panic attack.  I felt like a complete idiot.  I hadn't, at any point, even asked how much the tea was.  After all, how much could tea possibly cost?  It's tea!!

Apparently it costs quite a bit if you purchase a POUND of it.

I quickly thought about my order and tried to figure out if there was anything I could put back.  Short of emptying the meticulously-weighed-and-measured tea back into its original tin and returning it to the shelf, there seemed to be no solution...and I just didn't have the time to wait for Betty to re-measure a different quantity of tea.

I sheepishly offered my credit card, stared at the floor and shuffled my feet while the ridiculously long receipt printed out.  Betty bid me a friendly farewell, and I hustled out of the store with my tail between my legs.

Once we were out of earshot of the saleslady, my husband's aunt laughed, clapped me on the back and shouted, "Well, she sure took you for a ride!!"

My face burned with embarrassment.  

My palms sweated all over the steering wheel as I drove home.   I realized I was going to have some major explaining to do.  Not wanting my husband to arrive at the house and be surprised by a ridiculously huge credit card receipt, I called him at work to explain myself.

"Um, I made a little, um...oopsie," I said in my most timid and remorseful voice.

"Uh oh...what did you do now?" my husband asked.

I sheepishly explained that I had been tricked into purchasing a pound of tea and accompanying paraphernalia for a hundred dollars.  I tried to explain how the saleslady had used her wiles to con me, but I was interrupted.

"Wait a second.  You don't even like tea!!  I'm the only one who drinks it!  So you spent a hundred dollars on something you don't even like?!"

I started to share my fantasy of making iced tea for everyone this summer, thinking that I could cheer my husband with talk of refreshing fruit tea, but he interrupted me again.

"What the hell else did you buy?" he snapped.

"Um...just some tea tins and a brewer," I said sheepishly.

"Well, we're going to return the tins.  We don't need them—we have canisters on the counter that will work just fine."

I relayed Betty's assertion that light penetrates ceramic, so the canisters won't work.

"Wait, wait... I call 'bullshit' on that!!" my husband hollered.  "Seriously?  I mean, think about it.  Ceramic isn't light-tight?  You mean if I sit in a glazed ceramic container on the beach I'll get a sunburn?  That's freaking ridiculous!" 

I stared at the floor.  "Well, we can return the tins if you really want to."

He huffed.  "We'll figure it out when I get home," he said before hanging up.

I swallowed and took a calming breath.  At least the worst was over.  I stared at my glossy bag filled with overpriced tea and vowed to drink it every day for the next year if I had to, just to prove that it wasn't a complete waste of money. 

That evening I brewed my first glass of iced tea from my stash.  As I scooped the tea out of the bag, this twig came out with the dried berries.

I estimate I probably paid about $1.00 for it.  On the bright side, since it's a gourmet twig I'm sure it's one of the freshest twigs I'd be able to find anywhere.  Too bad I couldn't bring myself to brew it. 

After disposing of the stick, I installed myself on the sofa with my iced tea and tried to look like it was transporting me to previously unachieved levels of ecstasy.

"So, how's your ten dollar glass of tea?" my husband asked sarcastically.

"It's good, actually."

"Well, it better be.  We've got enough tea to last us the next ten years."

I had nothing to say.  I was significantly admonished and completely embarrassed.

"Well," my husband said, "All I have to say'd better write a damn funny blog post about this!"  

Well, at least that's taken care of.   

Now I think I'll have a cup of tea.


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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Broke Butt Mountain

Most people have love-hate relationships with their bodies, and I'm no different—although it's not for the reasons one might think.  I don't hate the stretch marks that I bear as a result of having my children, and I don't get too upset over the venetian-blind effect that characterizes my tummy every time I slouch our bend. 

No—my issue is with my backside.  For some reason, having children has caused my bum to go all flat and droopy.

Now, I expected that my belly would be a bit loose after stretching to accommodate the equivalent of a small watermelon.  I also knew that my boobs would begin their migration to what will surely be their final resting place—just north of my belly button.  But I never thought my bum would go from "bootylicious" to "bootylifeless."

I first learned of the unfortunate situation plaguing my backside when a friend happened to catch a shot of my rump at a child's birthday party.

Exhibit A:
Where's the beef?

After seeing this photo, I quickly dispatched with the offending jeans and replaced them with a "booty-enhancing" pair with flappy back pockets.

Unfortunately, the problem wasn't just aesthetic.  My butt seems to have lost all of its functionality too.  Lately, my hindquarters seem to be incapable of performing even the most basic of duties—like, say, holding my jeans up.

I discovered that one of my comfiest pairs of jeans was failing me when my husband recently assaulted my derriere during my daughter's diaper change.  I was bent over—busily tending to my squiggling little girl—when my hubby stealthily crept up behind me, stuck his finger in my butt crack, wiggled it and yelled something resembling "blalalalalaa!!" in a high-pitched voice. 

Seriously—he could have just told me my butt was sticking out.  It would have been a lot less traumatic for all involved.

Needless to say, those jeans were donated to Goodwill.  It cheers me to think that some other gal can now unwittingly flash her butt crack every time she bends over...and for only six dollars (what a bargain)!  I have since been guilty of buying those dreaded high-waisted jeans that most women avoid.

But there's one side effect of my new condition that I never could have anticipated: I no longer have any padding on my bottom to protect me when I fall.  Not that I fall a lot, mind you, but on a scale from "graceful" to "clumsy," I certainly come in closer to the "clumsy" end.

I've suffered several major falls in the past few years, and one time I actually succeeded in herniating a disc in my back.  I now deal with back pain on a daily basis, and any type of injury exacerbates things terribly.

It was for this reason that, when I announced that I was planning to try snowboarding, my husband shot me a look that could have melted steel.

"Do you really think that's a smart thing to do?" he asked me in disbelief.  "You'll kill yourself!"

"Well thanks for the vote of confidence, sweetheart!!" I responded, stomping off in a huff.

Now, if anyone knows what a stubborn idiot I can often be, it's my husband.  He can tell right away when I've got some crazy idea in my head, and he also knows that there's not much he can do about it.  This didn't stop him from trying to talk me out of snowboarding, though.  After much arguing, he realized he wouldn't be able to thwart me directly, so he sought to wear me down by calling everyone we knew and complaining on a daily basis about how unreasonable I was.

My sister also joined the chorus of concerned voices.  She had offered to teach me to snowboard, and when she arrived at my house she wasted no time in soberly warning me of the dangers I faced.  She even insisted that my husband and I come in a separate car just in case I was in too much pain and couldn't continue at some point.

I responded to her concern by rolling my eyes and grumbling.

I probably should have recognized that people were honestly trying to help, but by this point I was so annoyed with everyone that any suggestion concerning my safety was immediately disregarded.

When my husband asked me how my back was feeling on the way to the mountain, I fumed and huffed and told him I was fine.  I just about bit my sister's head off when she suggested I get a helmet from the rental shop, and when a small argument erupted over whether I should start on the bunny trail or one of the beginner slopes, I had to restrain myself from forcibly ramming my rental board up someone's backside.

I had sufficiently angered pretty much everyone in our party by the time we all had our gear, so it was decided that we should stop talking and just head out to the slope.  I quickly became giddy with excitement—I had made it!  I was on the mountain, and no one was going to stop me from having fun!

I smiled for the camera, strapped on my board and promptly slid into a ditch, where I spent the next ten minutes flopping about on my back like a wounded beetle trying to right itself. 

My husband spent a few victorious moments laughing at me, then made some half-assed attempts to drag me from the rut with his ski pole.  Eventually I swallowed my pride and took the board off.  I walked back out to the middle of the trail and started again.

My next attempt was significantly better and resulted in only a few falls.  Before long I had made it to the bottom of the hill and was mounting the lift to try the slope again.  I was excited to be getting the hang of it, but I had to admit that my sister had been right about one thing—I was falling a lot, and by the time an hour had passed, I was feeling quite beat up and sore.

My back was hurting in the usual places, and my shoulders and neck were cramping and burning.  Nevertheless, I pushed on—learning to snowboard was exhilarating!  My hubby stuck with me as I repeatedly tumbled in the snow, even though he would much rather have been swishing down the advanced slopes on his skis.  I was extremely grateful for his company, especially since I had been such a crabby-ass earlier.

Things were going along swimmingly until I caught the back edge of my board wrong, tipped over backwards and fell down hard on my woefully un-cushioned butt.  Pain exploded in my rump and I curled up in a ball in the snow, rocking and moaning "Owwww...." 

My husband took the pause in activity as an opportunity to snap some scenic pictures.  He captured some photos of the mountains around us, then turned the camera on me and said, "Smile, honey!"  I struggled to my knees and slapped a smile on my face.

 I think I did a pretty good job of hiding the fact that I had just sustained a massive tailbone injury.

"Great!" my husband shouted.  "Ready to get going?" 

I wobbled to my feet and told myself that I was fine, even though I was nauseous from pain and a bit weak-in-the-knees.  We were due to meet up with my sister in the lodge in an hour, and I was not about to let her see me admitting defeat.  And I was certainly not about to say that I had to stop and go home early. 

I struggled through another half an hour of falling in the snow before telling my hubby that I needed a break.  We went back to the lodge and he worked on getting me some food, while I rested and took some pain medication and muscle relaxers.

When my sister arrived, she was thrilled to hear that I still had my snowboard (I had threatened to switch to skis if boarding sucked), and she couldn't wait to go down a run with me so she could see my skills.

My hubby was more than excited to be relieved of the task of babysitting me, and he quickly took off by himself to do some serious skiing.  After he left, my sister looked at me sorta funny and asked, "Do you have any idea what you look like?" 

"What do you mean?" I asked.  

"You mean he didn't tell you?" she asked in disbelief.  "Here, I'll show you," she said, and she took this picture of me: 

I looked at the picture and affected an expression that I hoped communicated horror.  Inwardly I was in way too much pain to give a whoopdie-doo about some errant hair.

"I can't believe he didn't tell you that your hair looks ridiculous!" my sister exclaimed.  "I mean, how could he just let you sit here looking like that?!" 

I shrugged, but inwardly I thought that it was likely that my husband was afraid to give me any suggestions after my earlier displays of bitchy behavior.  I put my hat back on and my sister gave me an approving look.  She declared I was once again fit for public viewing, and we headed back out to the slopes. 

I suffered through several more runs down the mountain on the board before deciding that I just couldn't endure any more falling.  Besides, it was now absolutely impossible for me to latch my own board on—every time I sat on the ground to fasten the straps I was struck by excruciating pain in my bum.  I was thus stuck awkwardly waiting for my sister to bend down and attach my board each time we got off the lift. 

Common sense says that I should have just quit at this point, but I had packed my skis in my car, and I didn't want to leave the mountain before getting in a few good runs, dammit!

I took off my rental gear, limped to the car, retrieved my skis and got suited up all over again.  Unfortunately I was in worse shape than I'd anticipated.  My shoulders were on fire, I had pain shooting through my hips and back, my neck was a mess of knots, and I had a massive headache.  I also felt like I had a red-hot coal embedded at the base of my spine.  I went for a few clumsy runs on my skis and finally cried "uncle."  

I hobbled to the lodge on shaky legs and put my head down on a table.  I breathed slowly, trying not to throw up because of the pain.  My hubby found me, saw the state I was in and kindly offered to pull the car around for me.  By the time it pulled up I could barely heave myself into it.  

Once we got on the road I said in a shaky voice, "Um, I think I may need to go to the hospital.  I think I may have actually seriously hurt myself." 


I waited for the "I told you so," but it never came.  

Instead, he just quietly said, "Well that sucks."  
(Have I mentioned that my husband is wonderful?)

As it turns out, I had broken my tailbone in my fall.  Stupidly, I had then proceeded to snowboard and ski with a fractured tailbone for another six hours, just because I didn't want to admit that I had hurt myself.  

I told you I'm an idiot sometimes.

The next day I could barely get out of bed, and my husband took care of the kids by himself.  He didn't complain once.  When he came to check on me, he was tender and loving, and when I beat myself up for being stupid, he hugged me and said, "It was just one of those freak accidents.  There's nothing you could have done about it." 

Well, I suppose I could have just skipped snowboarding in the first place.

I have spent the last couple of weeks taking painkillers and doing a whole lot of resting (hence why this post is so overdue...I've found it rather difficult to collect my thoughts on regular doses of narcotics).  The docs say that tailbone fractures take a long time to heal, and that my rump could take up to six months to fully repair itself.  I guess I won't be snowboarding again anytime soon. 

But oddly enough, I sort of want to do it again.  It was truly exciting to learn a new skill, and I was actually getting fairly good at it by the end of the day.  My hubby's pretty sure I'm insane, but I think I would snowboard again if I had the chance. 

Except, perhaps next time I should don some ass armor to protect my flat bottom before hitting the slopes.  Anyone know where I can get a butt helmet?
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