Fantasyland

Courtesy: Disneyland

We’ve been married a long time—long enough that it requires less calculation to say how long we haven’t been married than how long we have, when anyone asks. And we’ve been married long enough to drift apart, a casualty of shifting interests and temperaments, patience and desires. It’s common, I suppose; it’s just not widely advertised.

Oftentimes couples wives try to pinpoint what happened, if there was a single incident that pulled the loose thread that unraveled the sweater. Did I change, or did he? she’ll wonder. (Translation: is it my fault, or his?)

In our case, he changed. In our case, it’s his fault.

Because what kind of animal doesn’t enjoy going to Disneyland?

Oh, he liked it just fine, early on—at least he said he did. But now I can’t help wondering, was it all an act? The smiles, the offers of a Dole Whip, the sitting statue-still while a lady clipped our silhouettes, her hands flying like a Benihana chef’s? Or did he like it just fine for a date, because he knew I liked it, his teeth gritted behind that smile? No, that can’t be. I can spot insincerity from a Space-Mountain-on-a-school-holiday-line away. Besides, he’s not very good at acting.

I don’t understand how he’s blind to the memories, why Disneyland doesn’t hold the slightest sentimentality for him. It was, after all, where we took our firstborn on her second birthday. Is that when it happened, when he became a man I no longer knew? Kids under three were free, so he couldn’t argue with the price. Was it because that free admission ballooned into half a paycheck by the time we left? Or that he had to carry our daughter for hours when she was too tired to walk? Still, it was nighttime by then and the scorching July sun had set. To this day I don’t know what he was complaining about.

Over the years our family’s size and Disneyland’s ticket prices increased concomitantly, and we visited less often—or maybe it was my husband’s grumbling that kept us from going. Anyway, while we were gone they became crafty, those Disney folk. For instance, rides no longer exit into brilliant California sunshine; now they dump you directly into themed gift shops so that when your Pirates of the Caribbean adventure is over you find yourself wading through tricorne hats, eye patches, and flasks. But where I see crafty, my husband sees money-grubbing, children-stalking henchmen. Potato, potahto.

We will probably never go back—not because our girls are grown, but because Disneyland recently raised their adult ticket prices to $99. Without parking. Without food. Without Advil.

So I’m left with my memories and my silhouette cutouts. Come to think of it, maybe there weren’t any flasks in that gift shop after all—maybe I’m just fantasizing about what would have made a day at Disneyland with three small children bearable: a flask filled with something stronger than a Dole Whip.

Me, Only Better

It’s been said we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with. For the sake of argument, I’ll pretend that’s true (though really I don’t, because I spend an awful lot of time with the Target cashier and know nothing about her). Now, if it was true, and we could choose those five people…well, now we’re talking.

Who would your five be? Here are mine, in no particular order:

Carrie Heffernan from “King of Queens.” Is she a little brash? Maybe. Sarcastic? Perhaps. But you’ve got to hand it to her—the girl speaks her mind; in that regard, she’s my alter ego. And I know for a fact she uses MAC lipstick.

 

Mother Teresa. To counteract the Carrie Heffernan qualities.

Erma Bombeck. A healthy mix of the two.

Betty Crocker. I love watching “Top Chef,” but “lemon vanilla crème with mint puree and hazelnut sable” for dessert? C’mon–give me brownies any day.

Bill Gates. Not for his philanthropic nature or even his business sense. For his technological know-how. Recently my husband told me to stop using data on my iPhone because we’d almost reached our limit. He texted this to me, which I found ironic—I thought texting was data. I rest my case. Actually maybe I don’t need to channel Bill Gates. Maybe an average fourth-grader would do.

Linda, Row Your Boat Ashore

Okay, so there was no boat and no shore. But I still rowed this morning.

It’s supposed to rain this weekend in Southern California, which makes us natives want to cocoon and get all cozy—unlike our East Coast brethren who, at the prediction of more precipitation, are probably ready to book a flight out. Going anywhere.

Rainy mornings make me want to knit, bake, and drink hot tea. Too bad I don’t have a rocking chair—and hair long enough to stick in a bun, like that old lady in the Tweety Bird cartoons. I even set out butter to soften for a new recipe* from Pinterest.*

There were just two flaws in my plan.

One, it wasn’t raining this morning.

Two, I’d signed up for a 7 a.m. rowing class. A rowing class with a $15 cancellation fee.

So I pushed aside my fantasy of remembering where I’d put my circular knitting needles and drinking hot tea—I actually don’t like tea and would much rather have a Diet Coke anyway. The butter, however, was still softening.

The morning wasn’t entirely a bust, because I rowed my little heart out—and I mean exactly that. During a 500-meter sprint, I felt like I might have a heart attack (it’s not like I’ve ever had one for comparison—I just knew). On the bright side, it gave me something to think about as I rowed. Usually I spend the entire sprint with my eyes glued on the meter timer, simultaneously swearing at it for being broken and at the studio’s owner for shoddy equipment maintenance. And this morning what I thought about was how far away the fire station was, and how fast could they get there.

Ta-da! Over 7000 meters rowed!

Ta-da! Over 7000 meters rowed!

That’s the problem with being the oldest in a class of four—I will not be beat. Not by some 35-year-old punks, and not by my own traitor of a heart. So I sprinted those 500 meters and beat my last time by eight seconds. Eight seconds may not sound like a lot, but try this: grab hold of two objects equaling a thousand times your body weight then push them and pull them as fast as you can for two minutes. Puts mere seconds into prospective, doesn’t it? And maybe rowing isn’t equal to a thousand times your body weight, but still…

The rain is supposed to come later this afternoon. I still haven’t found those circular needles, and I still don’t like tea, and I put the butter back in the ‘frige because, well… Just because. But if we need to row out of a deluge, I’m ready.

*See “About Yours Truly” page. Sometimes new recipes from Pinterest just don’t work anyway. Why waste the butter?

And For Dessert, Maalox With A Pepto Chaser

How far would you go to prove a point? My knee-jerk response—and maybe yours, too—is, “As far as I need to.” After all, right is right. Right? And if you have to prove it educate along the way, so be it.

But let’s think about this. Rationally.

Suppose you believe fat people are fat because they eat too much and move too little. Sounds logical, right? Simple math.

Is it so logical and so simple you’d be willing to gain 43 pounds over the course of three months then attempt lose that weight over the next three months to prove your point?

Me neither.

But that’s what British TV personality Katie Hopkins did. Katie believes fat people are bankrupting the British healthcare system, and that any talk of genetics or endocrine issues is rubbish; they just need to eat less and move more. Period. And to prove it, she would intentionally gain weight and then lose it.

Hmm. Intriguing premise. Not the politics, or the losing-weight part—the idea of eating whatever I want. I began salivating at the thought, images of cartoon gumdrops and giant carnival suckers and drippy ice cream sandwiches floating through my head like a Candyland game.

Well, it was intriguing. Until I tallied the numbers. Quicker than you can say, “No thanks, I’m full,” the premise went from intriguing to plain nauseating.

Katie began her journey consuming 5000 calories a day. Poor baby—she couldn’t gain weight so she began “circuit eating” with a trainer, who bumped her calories up to 6500 a day.

6500 calories. A day. She averaged 400 calories an hour, 16 hours a day.

It wasn’t just hearing the daily calorie requirement that got me—it was the calorie count in context. I went on Fatsecret.com and put together a daily menu totalling close to 6500 calories. I can’t even say, “Here’s how the meals look” because there are no meals—just nonstop eating. So here’s how the day looks:

Breakfast: IHOP Belgian waffle with syrup

Eggs Benedict

Midmorning: 2 cups of Cap’n Crunch Cinnamon Roll Crunch

Lunch: 2 Big Macs

Medium fries

Coke

Afternoon: 2 slices sausage pizza

Dinner: Large Panera macaroni and cheese

Caeser salad

Chocolate chip cookie

Dessert: Slice of German chocolate cake

Midnight Snack: 1 cup of Baskin-Robbins Pralines n’ Cream ice cream

Now, eat that every day for three months. I’m salivating again, but this time it’s that weird behind-the-ears salivating, like just before you’re sick.

But Katie did it. And she proved her point about calories in/calories out by turning around and losing the weight in three months—except for 11 pounds because her family thought she’d been too thin.

This certainly wasn’t a controlled experiment; just one person’s way of proving her point, of putting her—ahem—money where her mouth was. And for that, I admire Katie’s moxie.

Maybe not her cholesterol reading, but her moxie.

Life In 140 Characters Or Less

“They’re all the same. Just hurry up and pick one.” #SuperLottoPlus #NotGonnaWinAnyway

                                                          -Me, to the person in front of the Chevron Mini Mart line who’s staring at lottery tickets the way I stare at a bakery case.

Seventeen Years Ago, Plus or Minus a Day

door-349807_1280February 17, 1998. A Tuesday night. Or did it happen just after midnight, making it February 18? I don’t know. The medical records document every IV started, every vial of blood collected, every consent signed.

But they don’t document when I lost my daughter.

The process began Tuesday night. I know this because at 10 o’clock my daughter’s eyes fluttered open—an encouraging sign from her ICU bed as she awaited transfer to a trauma center for the euphemistic explanation of “a higher level of care.” But when my husband whispered, “Erin, you okay?” into her ear, she shook her head, and closed her eyes.

Is that when I lost her?

What went wrong? I asked the doctor on February 17. Nothing went wrong, he said. She’s too unstable. I didn’t do the lumbar puncture. One of her pupils has blown.

My daughter was careening towards brain death but nothing went wrong? Semantics, I suppose. Because when a 14-year-old girl walks into a hospital with a hacking cough and a nagging headache then leaves ventilated on a gurney in the back of an ambulance on the way to a trauma center, something most decidedly went wrong.

Maybe I lost her sometime during her medically-induced three-month-long coma. Eventually she opened her eyes, but in my mind that doesn’t count. By June she tracked objects, and by September she smiled. But those don’t count either.

Nothing counts, because nothing brings us back to February 16, 1998.

Hollywood, I’ve decided, is to blame, because I believed with all my heart—thanks to their wrapping-problems-up-in-an-hour world—that this could be fixed. That even when the situation crawled from days to months, one glorious morning Erin would sit up, rub her eyes, and ask what happened. We would be thrilled, but not surprised.

Along the way, though, something went wrong, and Erin didn’t follow the script.

In word math, “hospital” plus “loss” equals “death.” In Erin’s case there was not a physical death but a death of plans: plans of signed yearbooks and karaoke, of babysitting money and boyfriends. And that’s where her plans stop—or, rather, that’s where I stop them. Which means her plans never included driver’s ed or prom, children or a mortgage. They simply could not.

Here’s another word math equation: “trauma center” plus “medical experts” equals “cured.” In reality that equation needs one of those little equal-sign-with-the-line-through-it symbols, because there aren’t always cures. Or answers, or prognoses.

Most days I face forward, and see the people Erin helps: the students being taught by a teacher she inspired not to quit after his daughter was murdered by a former pupil—that teacher later nominated for Disney Teacher of the Year. Or the disabled people in Third World countries finally seated in wheelchairs of their own, no longer dragging themselves across dirt roads or relying on family members to carry them piggyback, thanks to Erin’s fundraising efforts for Free Wheelchair Mission.

Other days—days decreasing with the passage of time—I think back to that night seventeen years ago today when the doctor said that nothing went wrong. And I think how mistaken he was.

Because something indeed went very, very wrong.

What Happened the Morning I Didn’t Check My Email

I’ve been waiting for two emails most of my adult life. Okay, maybe not. Maybe for four months and ten days, respectively—but it feels like most of my adult life.

Since checking my phone every two seconds wasn’t making them appear any faster, I took a stand this morning: it was time for that inbox to release its chokehold on me, to take its scrawny fingers off of my scrawny neck. At least until after lunch.

But could I do it? Go a whole morning without checking email? Because that also meant not looking at Facebook or Pinterest or the weather just in case—whoops!—I hit the mail icon by mistake. Plus, I knew seeing the inbox’s number creeping up would make the challenge unbearable.

I called his name so you could see how handsome he is, but he didn't hear me. Sad.

I called his name so you could see how handsome he is, but he didn’t hear me. Sad.

So instead of scrolling through friends’ cat videos on FB while I ate my oatmeal, I watched Wayne, our Welsh Corgi who turned 13 in January, through the kitchen window. Wayne waits for the pool filter to come on every morning at 8:30 but he seems to have gone from hard of hearing to deaf within the span of a week, so now he looks for the bubbles to percolate instead of listening for the hum of the motor. He walks slowly, and his hind legs have a weird scissoring motion. The poor boy has arthritis, I’m sure.

After breakfast I went for a run, and noticed tiny lily-of-the-valley blossoms I hadn’t seen since last spring. The sun felt warm on my shoulders, and I marveled at our 83-degree mid-February weather.

Back home—after stopping at Chevron for a 32-ounce Diet Coke—the scent of the Molton Brown Gingerlily bodywash my daughter bought for my birthday filled the shower, and I stood under the water far longer than was beneficial for either my dry skin or the drought.

Lunchtime. In a supreme demonstration of self control, I didn’t even wolf.

Finally I swiped my phone, certain my virtuousness was about to pay off.

Nope. Nothing. Oh, lots from Banana Republic, Gap, Amazon, Pottery Barn, Petco, et al, but not the ones I’ve been waiting for.

Still, I felt victorious. I’d been mindful in my morning—present for those lily-of-the-valleys instead of cutting my run short to check my phone; watching my own dog instead of someone else’s pets. I’d conquered the inbox.

And hey—so what if I ate lunch at 9:45?

The Rules

In honor of Valentine’s Day and dad’s of daughters, please enjoy!

A Simple, Village Undertaker

The Rules For Dating My Daughters...Thanks to Carla.

If you have a short attention span, simply read the last six words of rule six, which sums up all the rules very nicely.

On more than one occasion, I have used those six words shortly after being introduced to a young man, prowling around my home. Simple, yet especially effective when combined with the amendment to rule nine. You mess with them...you have to deal with me.  You do not want to exercise that option. You mess with them…you have to deal with me. You do not want to exercise that option.

Rule One: If you pull into my driveway and honk, you’d better be delivering a package, because you’re sure as hell not picking anything up.

Rule Two: You do not touch my daughter in front of me. You may glance at her, so long as you do not peer at anything below her neck. If you cannot keep your eyes or hands off of…

View original post 590 more words

Happy Hallmark Day

Driving through a parking lot this morning I had to stop several times for people rushing in front of my car. Wild-eyed men-type people.

Then it hit me: tomorrow is Valentine’s Day. They were going to See’s.

Once I was out of elementary school and no longer decorating shoeboxes for my Valentine “mail,” the day lost its charm. I get the sentiment—it’s the hype I hate. It feels manufactured, like See’s and Hallmark are in cahoots. Oh—and Target.

I was in Target on December 27 and they had Valentine merchandise displayed. Hand to God.

We last went out for Valentine’s Day about 20 years ago. My husband made reservations at a small upscale Italian restaurant I loved. We arrived and were told they were running late, that we’d be seated—hopefully—within an hour.

How is that even possible with a reservation?

So we went across the street to In-and-Out. We sat there, all dressed up, eating our cheeseburgers and fries. Best dinner ever.

Here’s how I’ll spend tomorrow: I’ll go for a short run pending knee cooperation, then I’m scheduled for a rowing class later in the morning. I’ll take a shower, then bake peanut butter cookies with Dove chocolate hearts pushed into the tops just because I’m not a total Debbie Downer. If it’s not too late, I’ll do some weeding because it’s supposed to be about 85 degrees. Dinner’s still a question mark. Ordinarily we’d go out on Saturday anyway, but everything’s going to be packed so maybe we’ll just see what time Gonzaga plays and order pizza.

Sounds like a perfect day.

It should have been a sign--I never did like these candies.

It should have been a sign–I never did like these candies.

Chrysalis

Courtesy CC/Flickr

Courtesy CC/Flickr

There was a girl I knew once. She was fourteen years old last time we saw each other. Her quick smile revealed lavender and pink rubber bands on her braces, I remember, and you got the impression she was like every other bubbly blonde on every other high school campus.

But this bubbly blonde was different.

This bubbly blonde had a 4.5 International Baccalaureate GPA and dreams of joining the space program, a fact illustrated by the dog-eared NASA application packet on her bedroom desk.

I knew her well. I knew the raised scar on her wrist was from a curling iron burn, and that she used too much hairspray on her bangs. I knew she was a rotten basketball player, and that she loved Mississippi mud cake. I knew her well, though perhaps not as well as I thought.

The last time I saw her was seventeen years ago, in a hospital. She was a patient there, I her visitor. You needed that scarred wrist to identify her; a ventilator hid the lavender and pink rubber bands, and her bangs fell flat. State-of-the-art medical equipment crammed her private ICU room, and she appeared small and inconsequential in comparison. Doctors shook their heads—either in disbelief or nonbelief, I’m not sure which—when they heard about her intellect, her plans.

Months later she emerged from a medically-induced coma, and people waited—waited for her to talk, or at least acknowledge a visitor’s presence. She did neither.

Over time she learned to use hand controls on her power wheelchair and an iPad for communication, because the devastating illness that stole almost a year of her life also stole her ability to walk and talk.

What, her friends and family wondered, will become of her?

Over still more time she returned to high school and graduated with her original class, near the top of her class. Later she was honored as Free Wheelchair Mission’s Ambassador of the Year after delivering sermons on their behalf, lifting hundreds of individuals off the ground “through the gift of mobility,” as Free Wheelchair’s tagline says.

How, you may wonder, does a nonverbal person deliver a sermon, anyway? The simple answer is, by typing with one finger and having the message read aloud. The complex answer is, with a lot of grit and grace.

Because drooling is a problem for someone with little motor control. So is being front and center when, I imagine, you’d rather sit in the back of the room. I said I didn’t know her as well as I thought, because the girl I knew would never have opened herself to public scrutiny, to curious looks, to outright stares.

The bubbly blonde is gone. Maybe she didn’t disappear in that hospital; I don’t know—maybe she just grew up. It happens. Her evaporated NASA dreams, I’m sure, disappoint her. But her earthly contributions now, today, impact more lives than if she’d traveled in space.

So why does a fourteen-year-old girl—a girl I haven’t seen in seventeen years—continue to haunt me? Because that girl was my daughter.

But so is the young woman that girl has become.