Gus has been in musical theater camp this week, and loving every minute of it. He’s learning the choreography to Michael Jackson’s Thriller, and on Friday night his group will perform "It’s A Hard Knock Life" from Annie. Watching him practice with his little imaginary floor scrubber and his big Broadway angry orphan gestures just makes me want to … JAZZ HANDS!!
I love it.
Patrick does not love it.
Patrick finds the singing and angry orphan gestures ridiculous and infuriating. Every time Gus opens his mouth to sing for me, Patrick runs in front of him and tries to change the subject to golf. He says he wants to be a doctor and play a lot of golf when he grows up; he likes golf, he says, because “It’s relaxing.” My brother-in-law got him hooked on Putt-Putt at the beach, and when Pop-Pop took all the boys to the Five & Dime to pick out treats, Patrick got a brand new set of red and turquoise “Golf Sticks”, which he keeps by his bed at night when he’s not practicing his swing. Planning for the future. That's my boy.
Gus, meanwhile, is already trying to weasel his way out of going to college. “I’m just going to live with you guys,” he told me last week. “I don’t want to have to get married or get a job or anything like that …”
Every day they give me glimpses of where we’re going. Tiny flashes of what might be. I don’t want to box them in. I hold them to nothing. I'm just watching and waiting to see.
So this vacation of ours. It was my kind of vacation.
Beach + House + Time (Shrimp)(scallops)(wine) 2cheese. And still. Still it took me time to slow down and relax my way into it.
I think it was the second day at the beach--in the afternoon--when I got that overwhelming sandbaggy fatigue you get after being in a car for 15 hours, and you know you should be out at the beach APPRECIATING and RELAXING in its sunny splendor, but your bones feel like they've been hollowed out and filled with lead, and the only solution is to climb under some covers and surrender to a mid-afternoon nap.
So I went downstairs into our little bedroom, while the three boys played upstairs.
THUMP THUMP THUMP.
Nothing I'm not used to at home.
I can hear the boys upstairs playing while I nap downstairs at home, too. No reason I can't fall asleep while they play. I'll just close my eyes--
(Shriek. Maniacal laughter) THUD. THWAP.
I can do this! I'll just ignore the fact that my heart is trying to claw its way out of my chest--
Breathe. And jam purple earplugs so deep into my ear canals they are shooting out of my nose.
Repeat the Breathe Bomp Stomp for 40 minutes. Resent all children everywhere.
Cue: Sound of running feet.
SOUND OF LARGE BOX OF WOODEN BLOCKS BEING RELEASED DOWN A STEEP WOODEN STAIRCASE LOUDEST SOUND I'VE EVER HEARD. EVEN WITH THE EARPLUGS. THUNDER IS NO COMPARISON.)
I don't get up. I don't even move. I seethe! But I don't move. After all, those #$%^%& BOYS were the ones who threw all the blocks down the stairs. They can clean them--
Sound of people asking if Gus is all right.
I get up.
That was not the sound of blocks falling down the stairs.
It was the sound of Gus falling down the stairs. On top of his electric guitar. And hitting every stair on the way down. Larry got to the top of the stairs, just in time to watch him complete his descent and roll off into the den.
Fortunately the guitar broke his fall and he came out of it with little more than a bruised ego.
Saved. By rock and roll.
(Please advance to the next slide.)
I'm told not everyone will be able to relate to my column in this month's issue of Her magazine. If you're among them, you should count yourself lucky and buy a new lipstick to celebrate. Especially you gentlemen. That way I can identify and congratulate you.
I should note that the comment in my column about my parents coming to visit has less to do with them (they are lovely people) and more to do with the fact that every vehicle and appliance we own breaks down the minute they cross the threshold of our home. There's just something about my mother standing in my driveway clutching her suitcase in one hand and the broken-off handle of my minivan in the other that makes my lips BURST WITH PRIDE.
While we're on the subject of Her magazine, I have to admit, I don't always understand the way women think. And by "don't always" I mean "hardly ever". And by "hardly ever" I mean "WOMEN ARE INSANE." So! From time to time I like to walk among the people, and pay a little visit the Her Confession booth. It helps me keep my finger on the pulse, and see what's really on women's minds.
What kills me, though, is that I can't RESPOND to the confessions.
Take this little gem, for example:
You don't have the COURAGE?
Honey. You don't need courage. You need a doctor. Possibly two doctors. One for your downstairs and one for your upstairs, to help steer your brain in the direction of the POINT, which is NOT that your coworkers can't locate the source of the odor, but rather: you have an ODOR!
A TERRIBLE ODOR!
GET RID OF THE ODOR!
Ten glorious days of vacation, and I’m struck once again by the feeling that we are doing this wrong. This life thing, I mean.
Whose idea was this? Two weeks off and FIFTY on. Ninety-six percent stressing ourselves out and 4% sand in our shoes. We call this the American dream?
THE PIE CHART IS BROKEN.
This is the American dream:
I WANT MORE BEACH.
More sun. More books.
(I thought Hilary Jordan's Mudbound was an excellent read, by the way. Have you read it?)
I want more of this ridiculousness.
Okay, maybe not that much more of it. One night on the Ocean City boardwalk was plenty. But more family? Yes please.
I keep saying I need more time to think. But as it turns out? I need more time to NOT think. I did a lot of not thinking on this vacation. It is superior to thinking, I think.
You know what else is superior to thinking? Eating shrimp every day. And lobster and scallops and clams and muscles and butter OH GOD I WANT TO GO BACK. And yet it feels good to be home. Good to be back in a routine. Good to be sleeping in my own bed. Even if the dog is sleeping on top of me.
I understand. I get it. I know that life can't be all sand and kites and peel-and-eat shrimp. But still, as I attempt to ease back in, I'll be angling for more slow, more steady.
Yesterday, the CNN blog ran a piece called The Tipping Point.
Apparently more than 85% of us have left a lousy tip to punish waiters whose service wasn't up to snuff. I don't necessarily have a problem with that, though I personally won't tip less than 15%. Fifteen percent is my minimum, man-you-were-having-an-off-day tip. I almost always leave 20% and round up. Some people leave more. Great. Waiting tables is a terrible gig. It's gross. It's exhausting. It's too often demeaning. Hunger tends to bring out the worst in people. TIP YOUR SERVERS.
Lately I've heard a lot of grumbling about the practice of tipping. Some people resent the hell out of restaurants for not paying their servers enough to live on, and there's an argument to be made there. But as long as servers get paid $2.13 an hour, I'm going to do my part--and then some--to make up for people like JALISKA.
I’ve been in airports this week. And I’ve been reading the US Weeklies and Stars and Peoples. And you know what I think would be awesome? If everyone would stop cheating on their spouses!
I know, right? Fidelity: WHAT A NOVEL CONCEPT. Someone should totally invent that.
Is it just me, or is the philandering becoming more and more commonplace?
I mean, we are now living in a world where Al Gore is cheating on his wife with another woman.
Al Gore is NOT EVEN STRAIGHT.A friend of mine told me a story over lunch the other day about a friend of hers whose husband was carrying on affairs for YEARS. This couple has three or four kids, the husband was allegedly “the perfect father and husband” someone “you’d never suspect”, and yet, in listening to how it all went down, I like to think I would have caught the signs.
I won’t go into the gruesome details of what this guy did, but let’s just say it would be like if Larry was creeping out of bed at four in the morning and slathering on cologne to “go tutor a student in biology.”
“Can’t she be tutored during school hours? Or after school?”
“Well, she has special needs.”
“And the condoms in your pocket?”
“This girl is a VISUAL LEARNER. GOD, AMANDA. STOP BADGERING ME. I’M A TEACHER. THIS IS MY CALLING. HOW DOES MY BUTT LOOK IN THESE KHAKIS?”
I used to look forward to reading trash on airplanes, but now I'm just sickened by Hollywood. No one in that place can keep their pants on or stay married for more than six or seven minutes at a stretch. Even the people who aren’t married can’t stay married. Susan Sarandon and Tim from the Shawshank Redemption? WHAT HAPPENED? You guys are supposed to be different.
At least we still have Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn.For the moment.
Not three minutes after I arrived at work yesterday, I heard shrieking laughter coming from the office of our CEO.
My modeling application had been received!
The laughter was not coming from the CEO, however; it was coming from the manager who had forwarded him my photo.
She was REVELING in the CEO's response.
REVELING like a New Year's Eve REVELER, I tell you. Because the CEO--for whom I have worked more than three years--did not recognize me in this photo one bit, and had thus just delivered a very honest response.
I won't beat around the bush.
He CIRCLED MY NOSE to indicate "a problem area" AS I PREDICTED HE WOULD; and said (WAIT FOR IT):
"There is nothing special about this girl."
The manager called me into the CEO's office.
"He CIRCLED YOUR NOSE!" she said, tears streaming down her face. "He says you're nothing special!"
He didn't even like my body that is not mine! Or my hat!
The CEO, at this point, was mortified, though I assured him there was no reason to be. "But just so we're clear," I said. "Do you or do you not want me to come in for some test shots?"
I'm still not sure whether he realizes that only the face on that picture is mine. That even the chin and the jaw are extra. Larry is very concerned that people won't get that. Because so many of you just read this blog just for the pictures.
Just to be clear, this is not the real me:
In real life, I am actually an attractive and appropriately dressed woman.
A woman who will be attaching this picture to my fake resume when I apply for our next job opening.
The ad agency where I work is conducting a “new faces” model search for some of our clients. Models were asked to send their photos and specs.So I applied.
Ho! Ho! Ho!
I responded to the ad via email, with the following message:“I want to be a model! What do u think? I’m 5’ 9” and a 36DD! I weigh 125 lbs (but it’s all boobs, SWEAR!) Hee hee. Thanks for lookin.’”
The manager who is screening the submissions for my boss recognized me instantly. And promptly accused me of LYING about my bust size.
“There’s SPACE between your boobs,” she said. “You are so not a double D.”
“I can’t believe you are criticizing MY BODY THAT IS NOT MINE.”
(Actually, I can totally believe she is criticizing my body that is not mine. Keeping people's egos in check is like the second bullet point in her job description. Right after, "delighting in Amanda's inability to do math in her head.")
“I thought it was some little photo you had taken for Larry. You said you used to have blond hair!” she said.
HAVE. YOU. MET. ME? Amanda, the girl whose body is not that body? The girl with the iPhone hot glued to her palm? The girl whose idea of perfect happiness includes unrestricted access to 99-cent photo retouching software? Have you not met my cousin Tina? Or my DAD? Or my MOM?
See also: Have you not met Larry?
Do you guys know what Larry would do if I gave him a frisky black and white glamor shot of myself in a red furry Santa hat? Let's just say NOT HIS CUP OF TEA. Simply imagining the look on his face is enough to ensure I'll be giving him Amazon gift certificates for life. And maybe a pack of guitar strings. And a shirt with a collar.
Anyway. The upshot of the model search is this:
My manager is putting me through to the next round! (I'm GOING TO HOLLYWOOD, BABY!) Tomorrow we'll see if the CEO lets me come in for some test shots or, better yet, criticizes the width of my nose (guaranteed) and the "strange dimple situation" happening around my jaw line. Ideally, he will "like everything but the face."
Keep ya posted!
P.S. Once again, I'm pimping the Old Booth Photo App for no other reason than It Iz Aw Sum. I went ahead and purchased the Premium Edition, where anyone can become one of Santa's little helpers. Instantly!
I would like to thank my neighbor Brent for posting this Unsafe Driving video on his Facebook page yesterday. What a pleasant way to ease into the morning. A quiet house, a hot cup of coffee, sunlight peeking in through the gingham curtains, and INNOCENT PEOPLE GETTING KILLED BY DISTRACTED DRIVERS OVER AND OVER AGAIN FOR SEVEN HEART SICKENING MINUTES.
I did not watch all seven minutes of the video. I think my soul blacked out around the 3-minute mark, and I've been suffering from post traumatic stress flashbacks ever since.
It's just too much. Much too much too much. I don't even want to tell you to watch it. Because it feels like a sucker punch. This video feels unfair in some way that I can't put my finger on, and if your life has been affected in any way by a car accident YOU SHOULD NOT WATCH THIS VIDEO. Just don't go there.
But I will say this. After watching three minutes of that video,
My cell phone stayed in my purse.
I did not futz with the radio.
Or speed up just a little to make the yellow light.
And I will no longer let my boys play with their toy cars. Or even utter the word CAR in a voice above a whisper, lest a Honda Civic come flying through their second story window to strike them both dead in their sleep.
Years ago, Larry and I had a conversation about driving, wherein we wondered if some day human beings would look back on the insane act of operating a motor vehicle and be all, "People used to do WHAT?"
What an enormous leap of faith we take every day. Getting in our cars. And walking around outside of our cars while other people are still in theirs. Then we throw cell phones and smart phones and DVD players (and crazy bloggers who video tape themselves driving though SURELY NO ONE IS THAT STUPID) into the mix, and it's just ... ridiculous. Driving the way we do is ridiculous.
Somehow we've convinced ourselves that because phones and foods and radios and children exist, there must be a safe way to text, talk, dial, eat, surf, dig through a diaper bag, break up a fight, search for a Kidz Bop CD, jot down a phone number, and just generally run our lives as usual while traveling 40, 50, 60, 70 miles per hour in a 4,000 lb hunk of steel. Yay for multi-tasking!
I've caught myself trying to justify and rationalize my choices. Well, yes, I talk to Larry on the phone while driving ... but I would never send him a text message. Sure I'll drink a cup of coffee, but I would never try to balance a Big Mac on my steering wheel AND drink a coke like that lady (does she not know that shit is POISON?) Yes, I'll whip out my Kindle while sitting at The World's Longest Red Light with 15 cars in front of me, but I wouldn't do that if there were zero cars in front of me (because I am a responsible line leader!). I would put on lip gloss while driving, but I'd never attempt mascara. I mean, sheesh. I'm vain, but I'm not THAT vain.
And therefore I'm immune to killing someone. Because I'm a fundamentally decent person who steers clear of high fructose corn syrup.
In writing this, it finally dawned on me what I don't like about the video. (Besides THE WHOLE HORRIFIC THING.) In the first three minutes, at least, it portrays the drivers to be careless, ugly people. Selfish, foolish, risk-takers with feathered haircuts, who needed to be taught a lesson. And life teaches them that lesson at the expense of someone innocent and good. Like a young girl, and her first love. A mother, and her son.
The video divides the world into careless drivers and innocent victims, when the truth is so much more frightening. Really, we're all one and the same.
Amanda O'Brien is the author and sole proprietress of Blabbermouse, a blog she launched in February of 2005.