Monthly Archives: December 2010

Compared to What?

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People like to tell me I am very positive, upbeat, happy despite it all. I always think to myself “what other choice do I have?” I mean, I guess I could be a miserable, negative bitch who only sees the bad in this life. I suppose that is an option. Maybe I could whine and complain about the way life has kicked me around. But that wouldn’t change anything. That wouldn’t bring back the people I love or protect the people I love or ensure bright futures for the people I love. I choose option A, which is to take what I am given and be grateful, be happy, see the glass as half full….no matter what the glass is half full of.

My BFF called yesterday to tell me she found a letter I had written to her when she was living the single girl life in NYC and I was living the all american dream in upstate ny. I had a house, a husband, a pre-schooler and a baby. In the letter I was telling her about my life thus far. I am sure it sounded just fascinating to her at the time…..

 Back then, for fun, my husband and I would pack up the kids and go for a drive in our 1984 Volvo station wagon. Sounds all sorts of upper middle class I know, but actually, everything on it was broken. It was 1999 and that car had been to the party. Anyway, we would hop in the car and just drive. For hours and miles. Never having a destination in mind, always taking the back roads and stopping at any cool place we could find.

Once we found the most spectacular monastery and church deep in the woods and high on a hill just in time for a beautiful service in the round cathedral. Another time we “found” Pennsylvania accidentally. And yet another time we found ourselves in Albany, our state capital. Now, we were broke because we were young and house poor.So, many times we would find gas stations that served sandwiches and charge our lunch to the gas card. Beacons of common sense we were not.This particular road trip when we stopped for gas, we were dismayed to discover that the gas card was maxed out. Ut oh. We had no gas and 4 hungry humans about 2 and a half hours from home. For my next trick, ladies and gentlemen, I will now perform the Bouncing Check. Watch closely as we drive around to three, count ’em THREE different grocery stores and cash checks for the amount allowed so as to gather cash, get gas and feed the family….

I know, I amazed myself with this one because we had never formally been to Albany before and we had NO idea where the grocery stores even were!! Imagine, this was before GPS, or internet on the cell phone…we were doing this bare handed and without a net!! Impressive. Anyway, after this amazing feat of gathering money, we set out to find a public park to eat and enjoy the beautiful fall day. I was grateful at the time to have been able to find the groceries that cashed checks, I didn’t even know to be grateful for the fact that the stores wouldn’t know about my actual lack of funds till the following day. I couldn’t do that trick today because everything is processed in real-time. The pit falls of an instant society…

 We drove all over Albany looking for a place to park and eat. The longer we drove the crankier we became. After about an hour of looking, as the baby started up with her hungry scream, which always made me sweat, I said “just pull over here!!!” And we did. I unloaded the kids and the food onto the grass, not taking much notice of exactly where we were. I saw grass and a place to park and that was good enough for me! As we began to eat our late lunch and I began to nurse the baby, I finally slowed down enough to take in our surroundings.

We were having a lovely picnic lunch in the middle of a development. We were on a strip of grass in between two streets of houses. You know the kind that the developers put there simply to separate the streets. A narrow strip of grass not intended for picnicking families. I brought up this fact to my husband and we started laughing so hard we couldn’t finish our lunch. About that time,  a man came out of the house directly across from us, gave us a funny look and began to mow his lawn, which made us laugh even harder. The kids started to laugh and next thing we know, we all have to pee. Like NOW!!! There is no “hold it” when it comes to a laughing 4-year-old. There is also no tree in the strip of grass. Again, making do with what we have, I open the car door and position her so that she doesn’t pee on herself or me, laughing hysterically as I do. It doesn’t get better that this, I think to myself.

I wish I was one of the families watching this from their house. I would have died laughing. Or maybe called the police….but after our picnic and bathroom break, we piled back in the car and headed home….

I know the kids don’t remember this trip to the state capital but I will never forget it. Granted, it wasn’t your average trip, but we weren’t your average family by any stretch of the imagination. But really, in that situation, what choice did I really have but to laugh? What was I going to do? Have a panic attack? Cry? Get angry? Over what? I have faith that no matter what or where, we will be taken care of. And we are. 3 years after that, and one more baby in tow, we decided to drive to Ithaca and go hiking in November, with no coats. Common sense was still eluding me at that point. Half way into one of the most beautiful state parks in upstate NY, it began to hail and snow. I used what I had to keep us warm and we  laughed all the way back to the car at our luck and our stupidity. Maybe if we hadn’t been laughing so hard at the hail we would have realized we were lost, and avoided The Losing of the Shoe and The Pricker Bush Escapade of 2004.  

The glass maybe half full of farts but who doesn’t laugh at a fart?

Spencer The Addict

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Spencer The Addict

They say we are only as sick as our secrets. I don’t know if this is his secret or mine….

Spencer spent the first 8 years of his life outside. When he was in, it was mainly in the mudroom. Then, he spent a year at my mother’s house in the village, where he accidently broke her knee, but that’s a story for a different day…. And when we moved in here, Spencer and Emma came home. They became urban dogs. They began their transformation at my mother’s house where they had to learn to walk on leash and how to steal food off the counter rather than eat fish out of the creek. They developed a whole new set of skills. Emma eventually learned that she was now a kept dog and she would be fed and walked. She just had to be patient. Emma is a good, smart dog. Spencer is a fart.

Don’t misunderstand, Spencer always had a tendency toward theft. Even when we lived in the woods and he had his fill of critters, he would take every opportunity to steal people food. He did the typical “turkey pull” where the dog pulls the cooked turkey off the counter. The difference being, he pulled it down and swallowed the 14 pound bird whole. He may be part snake as his bottom jaw unhinges and he’s a sneaky, sometimes slimy mutt. I’m not kidding, for a 120 pounds, this dog is fast!!

Spencer eats anything and everything he can. He loves garbage, dead animals, and candy. He is a chocoholic. Every year we had an easter egg hunt with about 30 kids and their families. I made a huge ham and turkey dinner and I knew better than to let the dogs in the house. I put the 20 bags of candy in the mud room not knowing that Spencer was what he was which is insane. He ate 10 bags of easter candy, tinfoil and all. Of course the entire world told me he would die as chocolate is deadly to dogs in large quanties. What he whole world didn’t know he was a coon hound’s disease survivor so I figured he’d survive this too, if only by sheer stupidity and will power. At the same time, if the chocolate had killed him then, after taking care of his paralyzed ass, I would have been severely pissed. Lucky Spencer didn’t know that chocolate was poison. The only effect the chocolate had on Spence was a sugar high, followed by a sugar low and then at of diarrhea. He likes to go all out on the holidays. Thank you easter bunny. Bawk Bawk!

Obviously from that day on, I knew there was no more being careless with food. Spencer had an addiction and me, being the codependent enabler I am, stepped right up to the challenge of keeping him sober or at least keeping him from eating us out of house and home. But for that year that he and Emma lived with my mother, I became lax. We could actually sit down to dinner without one of us having to keep lookout for a sneak attack from the dog. We would actually leave bread on the counter, a bowl of candy stayed right where we put it.

And then they came home. And I do believe Spencer was bolder and less apologetic than before. He felt entitled to help himself to whatever he wanted. The kids and I began to live like we were in prison. We eat with one arm around our plates and our eyes ever shifting back and forth waiting for that hot doggy breath on our legs, signaling that he is about to take what is ours. Bringing groceries in is a 3 person job now. One to stand guard in the kitchen, one to stand guard at the car door and one to actually bring the groceries in. When heating something up, there is no way to put it down and answer the phone, or the door. If the kids aren’t there to protect the food, I can’t get the door or answer the phone. Or if I do, it is with food in my hands. Bowls filled with meatloaf, hot pans of lasagna, plates of brownies, that how I greet guests to my home, not because I am suzy homemaker, but because if I turn my head, that damn dog will have scarfted down every scrap.

I am considering doing an intervention and sending him to rehab.

Spencer Goes To A Birthday Party

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Spencer Goes To A Birthday Party

He’s looking for the cake…

If any of you are doubting the truth of my stories of Spencer, I now have witnesses. I had my annual Holiday/birthday party for the kids. Lots of people, LOTS of kids and LOTS AND LOTS of food. Spencer was in heaven with the whole kid/food combination. I warned everyone who came in about Spencer and his thieving, and Cecelia and her sneak attacks. I told Spencer stories and he layed there basking in the attention…

Children love Spence. He is huge and smelly and awkward and very funny and he farts. He’s like a clown dog. And he tolerates little kids trying to ride him or crawl on him. He loves it. Rub his tummy and he smiles…teeth and all. But all the while, he is keeping one eye on any dropped or unattended food. He casually walks by the garbage can and takes a peek, snatches the plate of cake and walks on into the living room to eat while enjoying the tree and the little kids playing. Now if he could just get someone to bring him his smoking jacket and pipe he would be all set sitting regally on the blue velvet sofa. Ass.

As I am standing in the kitchen talking with a friend, behind me Spencer is unattended in the dining room. And in front of at least 5 other people, Spencer takes a HUGE wedge of cake off a plate that was on the table and inhaled it. My friend tried to warn me. She pointed and yelled “DOG!! FOOD!!” and that was all she could get out before the cake was gone. The other guests were amazed at the gracefulness. He didn’ knock the plate off the table. They were impressed with his technique. That’s when he knew he had them all in the palm of his paw. Now he knew that they would bow down to honor him and treat him with the much lack respect previously afforded to such a funny fat smelly mutt. And he sashayed away with attitude…until he took one step on to the laminate flooring and his entire back end went down. And he kind of crawled/dragged himself to the rug, hoisted himself up, shook it off and turned left into the family room where he slid on his belly all the way to the couch. Impressed all the guests. But also made them feel compassion for this dog who is obviously on his last legs. He’s like a movie star past his prime but thinking he’s still got it.

Now, after the party I was cleaning up and putting away all the food. I took the garbage outside, did the dishes, wiped down the counters and let Spence catch the crumbs. After all, he put on a good show. But I either accidental left the fridge ajar or Spencer has another cool new trick. When I got up the next morning, all of my chicken wing dip was gone, half of a cheesecake, carton of eggnog pierced and spilled all over the floor. All of the saran wrap that I had used to cover the food was gone. And I haven’t seen it yet. And I kinda hope I never do.

So added to the list of Spencer tricks is refrigerator opening. I have to think he could be a very useful mutt. He could be trained to help people (lazy people like myself) Work for his meals. But his compulsion is so grand he wouldn’t be able to get me a snack without eating the entire thing before actually getting it to me.

I sat him down and explained the state of our economy and how it coincides with the diet that the vet wants to put him on. See I have no money to buy dog food and he needs to eat less. Serendipity!!

And for Christmas morning I will give him the gift of my grandmother’s cereal bowl for his new food portions and he will most likely give me back the saran wrap, used twice. We love each other and really think about a thoughtful gift for the Holiday. And if I am truly as loved as I think I am, he will leave it right where I will step in it with my bare feet. It’s love, dysfunctional love, but love none the less.

I See Famous People

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Kenny G...he's alot shorter in person....

I am not a star chaser. I don’t watch tabloid TV or read the magazines at the check out.I do not get celebrity crushes. I mean, I will if I have to. If I am pressured by friends to pick a celeb I LOVE I can. But it isn’t going to be your average Brad or Leo. But that doesn’t mean I don’t LOVE to play 6 Degrees….ya know, where you know someone who knows someone who knows someone famous. I LOVE doing that. I also LOVE to spot “celebrities” on the street.

ESPECIALLY when I visit New York City. That is my favorite all time game. I find people who could pass for celebrities and I get all excited and tell who ever is with me “LOOK!!! There’s Richard Dreyfuss!!!” or “Aretha Franklin on your left!!!” or “Captain Hook coming through!!!!”. When I first started doing this I was with a group of my students who I had convinced that we were sitting next to Leonardo DiCaprio in costume for his next big role as a homeless guy. As we exited the subway I turned around and yelled to my kids “It’s the guy from American Idol!!!” “WHERE” they yelled excitedly….”OVER THERE NEXT TO TINA TURNER!!!!” “WHO’S TINA TURNER????” they yelled back which about killed me!! I HAD to think of some new references if I was going to be traveling with these young kids…

That trip with my students I spotted Johnny Depp, L.L. Cool J (who I do seem to spot alot when I am in NY), Eminem, Harry Belafonte and Geena Davis. Now, did I really see these stars or did I just see people who kind of resembled these stars I will never know. I never approach famous people. I don’t want their autograph, I don’t really care at all to break the illusion that these famous people are more than human. They live on the movie screen or tv and so I will keep them at arms length. I don’t want to know that they smell funny, have blisters or runny noses. I like my celebrities pristine and at a distance. That is why I don’t read or watch their life story on A&E. None of my business. But if they are going to put themselves on the same street as me I am going to make sure who ever is with me knows.

My students eventually caught on to my silly game. And they started pointing out celebrities. That was funny!! They were pointing out characters from movies like “There’s Forrest Gump!!” or “There’s Leighton Meester!!!” I had no idea who that was… some girl who likes gossiping or something…but the kids seemed excited.

But the following summer, I was in the city with my BFF. We were lost in Brooklyn after me playing my “I see famous people” game all day and her not playing along. We were having a good time being lost at almost midnight looking for a club where a friend was having a record release party, when all of the sudden, these two incredibly handsome guys on bikes were in our path. We decided to ask these beautiful men if they know where this club is. And as we approach, I realize that one of the men is Murrary Bartlett who played Cyrus Foley on my soap Guiding Light!!!! I grab my BFF and whisper “he’s on my soap!!!” Ofcourse she doesn’t believe me. And these guys were so incredibly attractive that she couldn’t even look directly at them. Me, I was flirting shamelessly with Cyrus, I mean Murrary. They gave us better directions and we went on our way. But I did turn around and look him deep in the eye (as the music swelled and the camera came in for a tight shot) and said “I LOVED you on the show….” To which he replied “Aw, thanks!!!” and I turned back around and ran right into a street lamp. I walked it off though, it was all ok.

I didn’t take a picture with him or get his autograph because I am not one of THOSE people. My BFF did NOT believe me because all the way from the Bronx to Brooklyn I had seen every single star I could think of to name (and a few I couldn’t…I would just point and say “FAMOUS PERSON!!!!”) She refused to believe me. And after we got home and I googled him and showed her…she still didn’t believe me because she never looked at them because she was terrified if she did she would be overcome with carnal desire and embarrass herself. HOW FRUSTRATING!!! I finally have a meaningful conversation with an actual famous person (shut up…soap operas totally count) and no one was going to believe me!!!

I told my students and they were less than impressed. Sometimes it is so hard to be me.

I just went to the city with my other BFF and my 16 year old and her BFF. We all played the game together. I saw Mia Farrow and Janet Jackson and Soupy Sails and Bruce Willis. It was AWESOME!!!!! Kenny G played Happy Birthday for my 16 year old and Enrique Iglesias was our waiter (he was kind of an ass though, but nice eye candy) I kept referring to him as Ricky Martin.

There is no reason why NY can’t be filled with famous people. There is no reason why I can’t point them out. You should too. It makes waiting in line for hours to get lunch or tickets or a subway much more tolerable. They are there, just waiting for you to spot them. Just don’t get all weird about it. Point and whisper, do NOT approach and ruin the illusion. And if one of the celebrities gives you directions when you are lost, watch out for lamp posts.