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Friday, March 30, 2007

Scatterbrains Anonymous

March 29

My name is JaneFay and I am a something-aholic.

I am not sure if there is a name for what I am, but there must be a 12-step program to cover it because Step One is really a statement about MY LIFE:

I am admitting I am powerless over (in my case) EVERYTHING and my life has become unmanageable.

I love that word: Unmanageable. If one of those survey people called me on the phone right this very moment and asked me to describe my life in one word I would say without hesitation 'unmanageable'. It is much more dignified than 'disaster'. Fancier than 'a mess'. Less wordy than 'out of control'. And much more proper than 'cluster f#ck'. So unmanageable it is.

Since 12-step programs are all about numbers and I'm kind of partial to them myself, I'm going to give you a list. A numbered list of how I know my life has become unmanageable (that word is SO hard to type).

1) The last entry in my check register is February 1st. Yes, 2007 but I have debit receipts over an inch thick in my wallet that need to be recorded and balanced and all those things that a person of my occupation should have no problem taking care of once a week during a coffee break. The only reason I have not been sent to debtor's prison is because I can periodically peek at my balances online. Thank you internet.

2) Although it is almost April, I have not even started filing our taxes. I have a vague idea where my W-2 is and I have amassed quite a pile of things that came in the mail stamped 'important tax documents'. Just thinking about the organizational planets that will need to align to get all that information together at one time boggles my mind. But I do have Turbo*tax. If I can find it.

3) I have not called my mother in over a month. This only gets incrementally worse with each passing week. True, she could call ME, which she said she was going to do over FOUR weeks ago and hasn't but she will have forgotten that. She will only remember that I haven't called HER. I have to plan this for a time when I can throw back a few stiff belts to numb the ear chewing I will get.

4) I have, right there on the counter by the back door, TWO library books that were due back March 10th. I could have gone online at the time and renewed them but I was naive enough to think I would get them returned soon. Now I am over the fine limit and have been locked out of the system. Libraries may be a free service to some but not to me, I believe in paying for what I get. One fine at a time.

5) This week there has not been a single meal with any nutritional value cooked in our kitchen. That says something. The fact that it still looks like a frat-boy bachelor pad and we are always one dishwasher load short of catching up says even more.

6) There is a pile of baby gifts sitting on my china cabinet. The baby is almost 3 months old. My brothers had birthdays last Sunday, their cards are sitting next to the baby gifts.

7) I vaguely recall signing off on my daughters' school schedules for next year but I have no idea what they are taking. Hopefully, the high school doesn't let them take calligraphy, break-dancing, conversational Swahili and floral arranging all at the same time. The special fees would kill me.

8) The pile of unwashed laundry is equaled only by the washed stuff that is not yet put away. Technically I am only responsible for doing the laundry, 'they' are responsible for putting it away. The one exception is Homer's underwear. When his boxer drawer runs dry he has a special way of signaling it. Yesterday was whitey tightie day. TWENTY-year-old whitey tighties that are not as thick as one would hope. I wish I knew where he kept them stashed. Needless to say, there are no winners in this battle.

9) Last Sunday afternoon, in the middle of the day, the big, huge, multi-sectioned Sunday newspaper - even the coupons - DISAPPEARED! Right out of our house. Evaporated. Poof! Has not been seen since. I am a little worried because every night I sleep in the very spot it was last seen. I mean, makes you wonder.

10) In the 'way' back of my car, I have two milk crates full of newspapers that need to be dropped off at the recycling bin. Since the time those crates were put in my car, we have amassed the equivalent of two more milk crates full, which cannot be put in the back of my car since they are not in milk crates. I have some standards - one being no loose newspapers in the back of my car. I will take the high road here and hardly mention the fact that we have been paying the county since JANUARY for a recycling bin that has yet to be delivered. And in case you think you are so smart - NO, last Sunday's paper is not there anywhere.

11) Also car related: The oil change light has come on, signaling the need for $30 and 30 minutes of my time. It has not been cleaned and vacuumed inside since...hmm... maybe October. There is reject Halloween candy under the front seat and some kind of detritus on the back floor mats that, when wet, gives off the most heinous funk you ever smelled - kind of a cross between wet dog and sour milk. Also along for the ride: a pair of size 6 dance shoes that need to be mailed back, a pair of jeans that need to be exchanged, and a 6-pack of various blankets that get dragged into the car on cold mornings but never taken out on warm afternoons. I may have mentioned that I have a fairly small car, which, thankfully, has limited crap capacity or it could be worse. Much worse. To prove it, I'm going to take you on a tour of Lola's SUV sometime.

12) Every time I brush my teeth, I have to look at the nastiest, most stained, cancer-ridden sink you have ever seen. I actually bought a new sink TWO AND A HALF YEARS AGO but since this is the master bath and no one but Homer and me use it....well, you know how that goes. It is on my list, though. For after I gain control. After step 12. Really, I just need to find a meeting of um...... what do you think? Scatter-brains Anonymous? Geez, I hope I don't have to start my own chapter 'cuz you know that means, well, it means that it probably won't happen any time soon.

Happiness is.....

March 24

If you are old like me I might have some good news for you. I was reading this article on MSN the other day about middle-age and happiness. Like most everything on MSN, the article was only posted for a fleeting moment and my subsequent efforts to track it down proved futile so I was a little sketchy on the details but it got me thinking.
I know, haven't I learned?
First, I was thinking about where all those articles go after their 15 minutes of MSN fame. I mean they are there for sometimes all day and sometimes only 5 minutes. And sometimes they come back a few days later. Like this one did. But now it's gone again so I'm still going to have to paraphrase it and you are going to have to believe what I say, but only for the sake of this story. I don't stand behind anything beyond these pages. I am not Wikipedia - just someone with too many opinions.
So, the gist of that story was that once the average American turns 18 he gets less and less happy UNTIL he hits the age of 45. Then, believe it or not, life turns around and he gets happier until, well….that’s where I was a little unclear, but I'm not making this up. I do remember that there were supposed to be at least 15 years of upswing but I’m not sure when it's all supposed to level out, assuming that centenarians aren’t a total heap of euphoric bliss. But maybe they are. Personally, I was just excited to learn that I have at least another 12 years of increasing happiness.
One thing I do remember is that the researchers who did the study were economists and their focus was on the contribution that financial security makes to happiness.....I think. The results seem a little backwards to me. Don't you typically get more financially secure as you move from age 18 to 45? So, it seems, you would get happier, not more miserable.
Whatever. I am not here to analyze their methods or dispute their conclusions. In yet another example of Jane, the absolute average American, I can truthfully say that age 45 or thereabouts was the armpit of my life. A hamster armpit. Runningrunningrunning. In the dark. On a poop-covered hamster wheel. That was my life. And since I have to agree that I have become much happier in the last few years, not solely due to pharmaceuticals, I can't dispute their conclusions but I can, as is my way, make this all about me.
SO, I have completed my own research of one and come up with my own personal list of Why Life is Better after 45 (In no particular order, just the way they rolled out of my pea).
And I'm going to leave my list up forever so you can look at it ANY TIME YOU WANT, MSN.
1) I can sleep. All night. Solid, coma-like, roll over on the cat and not care sleep.
2) I have quit wasting my time questioning authority. I have become part of authority and I know that there is usually a darn good reason for rules, laws and all that stuff that tells you what to do in life. This would not include Dubya & Co, who I do not consider to be any kind of authority. Sorry for letting my blue underwear show.
3) I think I have mostly emotionally divested myself from my job. I try to focus on what I can do and can change and forget about what I can't. There's a whole lot left of me when I get home at night.
4) My family makes me less crazy. This would be the family from where I came not the family I have helped create. I can't change them and they aren't going to change me. I can live with that. I hope they can, too.
5) I am really enjoying our kids. I am not so worried about every choice I make scarring them for life or sending them straight to rehab. Or worry that I am being selfish or too lenient. They are comfortable enough to express their opinions of my parenting techniques. I am secure enough to consider their point of view before invoking the 'Because I'm the Mom' power.
6) I don't care what I look like at the gym. I don't have to worry about my outfit matching or my butt looking big. If I had an awesome tush then I wouldn't have to be there, would I? I don't do my hair to work out either. Or to go to the grocery store although I usually try to calm it down from 'psycho mode'. No sense scaring the little ones. I could even wear footies and Birkinstocks if I wanted to. I don't want to, thank God, but the day's probably coming. At Target I could be Crazy Jane, the lady wearing a leopard headwrap, high heels and too much lipstick and no one would care - really. Did they ever or was that just our imaginations?
7) I don't have to worry about getting talked into taking my top off at drunken parties. Yeah, I know that hasn't happened in years but it's still a load off my mind.
8) I can drive the car I want. I have a cute little crossover, I think it's called. The gas mileage is delicious and it is big enough for any chick trip my friend and I can invent. It is not a mom wagon. It is not the family car. It doesn't even whisper mid-life crisis but it feels sassy to me.
9) I sweat the small stuff less than ever before. I still cuss at other drivers but I don't put as much heart into it. I have really let up on old people. I guess it's because the The Ghost of Driving Future visited me the other night. In my coma.
10) I feel less pressure to be the perfect person. I am still battling the shoulds with the coulds, but I feel like the coulds are winning more often now. Exhibit A: messy kitchen in sight while I do this.
11) Instead of worrying what bad thing is coming next, I realize how lucky I am to have made it this far in life without running into any crisis that I couldn't weather. Yes, what didn't kill me has made me stronger but I think I'm really strong enough, God. Trust me.
So there you have it. If you are under 45, you have something to look forward to.
If you are over 45 you probably have something to add to that list.
I can't wait until 60. I'll be dancing through the mall...in my leopard headwrap....dancing to old disco tunes on my ipod. Woohoo. If I just keep telling myself that....

Motherly Love

March 22

Today as I was giving Junie a ride to meet up with her herd, I asked her if she had her cell phone.

J: Yes, I have my cell phone I put it in my pocket and yes it is charged and remember that time when you were taking me to Whitney's house and you told me THREE times to put my phone in my pocket and I didn't and you dropped me off and I called you on Hannah's phone and asked if you could come back and bring my phone and you said "NO" and when I got home you yelled at me and called me a 'Little son of a B-word' and smacked me and took away my phone and gave me one of those phones that only calls you and 911?
Me (confused and carefully examining her totally serious face): Did you say that was that like a dream?
J: No, it was just my imagination running away with me cuz I like to see if you are really still paying attention or if you are totally gone somewhere else you know cuz that happens alot where I could just say anything and you would never even know.
Me: Well, it is true then.
J: What is?
Me: You are a Little Son of a B-word.

The Cur-sed Piece of.....

March 21

Upon learning of his daughter’s impending major-life-happening, Homer did what any red-blooded American father would do. He whipped out the video camera.
The male techno-creed dictates ‘your children will do it, therefore you must videotape it’. He imagines one day handing over to his daughters a heaping milk crate full of the 8mm tapes which document ALL their major-life-happenings. In response the girls will fawn all over their father and assure him that he was, indeed, the more documenting parent. Exhibit B will be the empty baby books that were MY charge. In my defense, I was just too busy keeping them from putting steak knives in the power outlets and razor blades up their noses – sue me. Besides, Daddy was always there, Handycam complete with date stamp at the ready, to record the momentous occasions and quite a few less, umm…responsible activities – ones usually orchestrated by the videographer. Have I ever mentioned the cat swimming races? I will just say if you ever have occasion to make a wager, put your money on Cattoo. I think Catwon’s fur is too long which kind of messes up his sidestroke. I will also say that these things tend to take place when I am not at home or not sober (kid-ding). But please don’t call the SPCA – they would have no patience to sort through 100+ unmarked videotapes to find the incriminating footage. At least I’m hoping they wouldn’t.
Anyhoodle, Homer bought an 8mm video camera back in the early 90’s when it was all the latest technology and he diligently read all the instructions and zoomed and night-visioned things and was unable to give it over to anyone else lest they take video WITHOUT FADING IN AND FADING OUT! Hitting the stop button without fading was a mortal sin. So said Video-Pope Homer I. He made us crazy. No event was ever so urgent that everyone couldn’t…….pause……while……the man……gets…. the…..camera…..running. No trip was too short, no car was packed too full to EVER consider leaving the video camera at home. Homer was our video Marcus Welby – always with his little black bag.
Ten years and 84 tapes later, the camera suddenly met its demise – launched down 10 concrete steps by an 8-year-old school boy all hepped up on Christmas and too much sugar. The repairman shook his head as he pulled the plug. Time for a replacement. Formats were argued over. Homer’s grand plan in buying a new digital 8mm camera was to enable us to transfer the old tapes to digital as well as acquire new footage in a familiar format. Great. Fine. Except Camera-2 was not made of the steel and stone that Camera-1 was. Although it heralds the same branding, Camera-2 would appear to be made of thin plastic held together with flimsy welds. It has been to the repair shop THREE times. With each $100 repair bill I implore Homer “Buy a new camera to record the major-life-happenings! Save this one for converting the old tapes!” Because I am pretty sure the conversion won’t happen until I either break a leg or am bedridden for a month and that’s not something I can plan for. Hope for, but not plan for.
Here I should point out that Camera-2 has never become Homer's trusty companion. The bond isn’t there, but periodically when the time is right, he brings it out. Usually it is when he can’t make it to a momentous event and so he hands over the camera, without caring about fading in OR out, and asks that I record the event. I would gladly do just that except THE FREEGIN CAMERA NEVER WORKS FOR ME. It carries the same curse as the VCR. It is probably operator error as much as camera error but I am not taking MORE than 50% of the blame. I suspect the camera has a high-tech sensor that shuts down the system when it detects anything important to be videotaped. Whatever, in my eyes it is worthless.
So, through that long and circuitous story we emerge back at the Why house Sunday night. In case you missed Part 1, Junie is about to be kidnapped by rabid cheerleaders and we need some footage to show to the police if she is not promptly returned. Homer presents Camera 2 and plugs it into the charger. I say “What do you plan to do with that Cur-sed Piece of Sh it?” No emotion. No bitterness. I have come to terms with the CPS. It refuses to work for me and I refuse to respect it.
Homer’s eyes widen. “Cur-sed Piece of Sh it? What strong language for an inanimate object.”
I say, “The CPS never works. Why don’t we snag Omega’s little video camera after she goes to sleep?”
He insists on going with the CPS, secretly thinking that this is probably nothing that the Y chromosome can’t overcome.
I’m telling him: CPS. Just saying.
So at 4:15 am, the posse arrives and as they are about to dash down the (very clean) hall, Homer says “Stop! Wait, my camera isn’t working”
Big hairy SUR-PRISE.
They pause, he fiddles. Finally, knowing we are dealing with the CPS, I say “Go ahead” to the posse. Meanwhile, Homer thinks he has it. Good. Whaddayaknow. The kidnapping takes place, I take a few stills, just for insurance and they are off! He pulls the camera from his eye.
“Did you really get all that on tape?” I say amazed.
“Well, I’m not sure, it says ‘cleaning cassette’. What does that mean?”
That means, dear, you are holding a Cur-sed Piece of Sh it.

Yay, rah, rah

March 20

I have (mostly) recovered from yesterday and the weekend. It was a crazy up and down roller coaster of a weekend when put to the standards of my oatmeal-flavored life.
Since it was an unseasonably gorgeous weekend I opted to spend Saturday and much of Sunday shaping up the outside of the house. I cleaned out some more flower beds, swept the patio and pulled out, and dusted off, the patio furniture. I tidied the yard and trimmed vines and got things looking downright spiffy. I thought ‘spring has sprung’! Woo, hoo! Color me READY! This would be going up the roller coaster.
But all this came, of course, at a price. Inside the house, the weekly damage control was left undone. Well, too bad, there would be rainy days to put toward that mess. I applied my policy of ‘never do today what you can put off ‘til tomorrow’ – going down here.
By Sunday afternoon I was feeling pretty, darn self-satisfied. I was ready to sit back, put up my feet and admire my work. Outside, of course, where it was tidy.
Then the phone rang. It was a very perky high school cheerleader calling to ask if they could kidnap Junie early the next morning and take her to a breakfast for the new cheer team. Very cool, this is the absolute top; Junie has been working her little 14-year-old heart out toward this ultimate goal – being christened a high school cheerleader. It is her sport of choice. And if you do not think cheerleading is a sport then you have never tried a round-off/back-handspring/full or a scorpion with a double down. They are the kind of skills that make cheer moms wish their daughters had chosen to play football.
So, here I am thinking OH! OH!, she will be SO excited and I can’t say a word……. and I am SO not good at keeping secrets.

“But go on, Perky....You will be here at 4:15? AM? Ohhhh…kaaay…… I should just open the door for you and you’ll go get her out of bed? And blindfold her. Uh huh. No, I won’t tell her. Oh, NO problem. What could possibly be a problem?”

I’ll tell you what the problem would be; the house is a mess and there is virtually no path from front door to Junie’s room. Or worse yet, what if they come in the side door? That would lead them through the kitchen which….okay, I am screwed - this is the bottom part. Could I put Junie to bed on the patio and just send them back there? No, it’s definitely not warm enough yet. Well, forget the leisurely Sunday rest; I guess I will be cleaning the house because, yes, darn it, I am still afraid of what high school cheerleaders think of me.
For SIX freakin’ hours I clean the house – motivated by the fear of being judged a crappy housekeeper by silly 18-year-olds in short skirts. Okay, it was a safety issue, too. If strange people are going to be stumbling around my house in the middle of the night then it is probably my responsibility to clear the way. The intense labor also helps me keep my mouth shut with ‘the secret’ firmly inside. God does work in mysterious ways.

Ten o’clock pm – the house looks good, the kid is in bed, I am exhausted and headed there. Yay me, I didn’t spill the beans. I set the alarm for 4am and get 5 hours of sleep. Wake up, turn on front lights and wait. Cheer ambassadors arrive as promised – one girl and one boy, by the way, neither of which seem to give my housework a second look. Well fine. Just remember I had YOUR wellbeing in mind.

It really was fun to watch. Imagine you are not quite 15 and sound asleep in your own bed when two faces, you know only as senior-class critics at 2 weeks of grueling tryouts, now appear over your bed. Lights on! Wake up! Put on the blindfold, you’re coming with us! Personally, I would have wet my pants, thus securing my place on the school bedwetting team. Little Miss Unflappable took it all in stride.

I hope she isn’t always that compliant with kidnappers but I do have to give the kid credit: she demanded a bathroom break before leaving the house which she used instead to brush her hair and apply mascara. As she pointed out “There’s never a good excuse to look bad.”
Yep, I bet her more insecure classmates will still be in therapy 30 years from now. Myself, I need 3 more hours of sleep…. And the therapy. Of course. But, dang, is my house clean!

Thongs are for feet

March 18
About a month ago, I wiped out one of my first posts on my Space so I could use the location to hide my address book. No big deal, I knew if I flushed one blog into cyberspace, two more would quickly fill the hole it left. Besides it was one of the first things I wrote and surely not very important in the giant scheme of things. Right? Umm, wrong, maybe.

Because I am the kind of snoop who likes to snoop on the people who are snooping on me, I peep at my statistics from time to time. There I noticed that I had a visit from someone who Googled ‘thongism’. Huh? I hit the link and it took me to my guestbook. Odd. I went to the Google results – yes, there was a snippet from my old blog. I hit the cache button and there from the sewer of the internet I plucked ‘Why Thongs?' the very first dang thing I ever put on my Space. Now, I really haven’t been in business long enough to be running golden oldies, but I feel a certain responsibility to bring this back into the fold. I mean if the internet is keeping it, I guess I might as well, too. So, because I’m lazy today, and Karma conspired to deliver me from my laziness by letting me peek into the cybertoilet, I give you the #6 Google search result for Thongism:

There has been a sure sign that we are approaching the end of innocence at our house. Over the weekend Junie bought herself some thong underwear. Aaaah!!! I am blaming her sister, Lola, who converted to thongism a few years back. Ick! I swear I am going to stop doing their laundry. My biggest beef, besides the shiver it sends up my spine when I think of string up my crack, is putting them in the washer. There is NO safe place to grab!! I usually grab them with a dirty wash cloth (I give little thought to where that washcloth MIGHT have been, I KNOW where that thong was) just like picking up a dog turd.
See that's why they put those big wide waistbands on men's underwear - so that women know where to touch it! Yeah, I know I sound like the old, out-of-touch fossil that I am but I have spent so much of my life pulling underwear OUT of my crack that I think it is just counter-intuitive to put it IN there.
I know that underwear is a personal choice, most of which I can understand - even the need to go commando. Be shocked - I've done that myself - but only by necessity. I'm a boycut brief woman myself and I won't say that I am too old to change, I will just say that some rear ends need more than one layer of fabric between them and the world (you're welcome).

Riding the Peace Train

Setting: Tuesday morning in the master bathroom. Homer is in the shower. JaneFay is putting on makeup.
Jane (rambling, as she often does): ..speaking of cats, I was listening to Teaser and the Firecat on my ipod yesterday which I hadn't listened to in forever and then I got in the car and there was a remake of Peace Train on the radio. Isn't that a weird coincidence cuz that song is like over 30 years old?
(Shower noise. Sound of undercarriage being scrubbed but.....no response.)
Homer (finally): I'm pretty sure you aren't going to be able to help me with this......but....
Jane: Way to build me up, hon. I appreciate that you have such confidence in me. (Jane is thinking Homer is going to ask who sings the remake, knowing that she has NO idea. Jane is planning to throw out the name of some imaginary band like, say, Beveled Rodent that, of course, Homer won't have heard of, making Jane seem like the musically savvy one. Jane is wiley like that.)
Homer: Yeah, sorry, what I meant was..... I can't think of what Peace Train sounds like and......
Jane: .....and you don't think my singing will be able to get the tune across?
Homer: Something like that.
Jane (top of lungs, mascara for microphone): Peace..train..sound-ing louder.....Riiide on the peace train...Hoo-ah-eeh-ah-ooh-ah....Come on the peace train........I've been crying....
(Jane, so amazed at her ability to pull the lyrics out of her head that she is unable to stop.)
Homer: Okay, okay. Wow! I was wrong. I do know that song.
Jane: And the tune.
Homer: And the tune.
Jane: I believe it was the mascara microphone.
Homer: No doubt.

Pi Day

March 15
Pi Day
Did you know that yesterday was Pi day? 3-14 get it? Pi is 3.14.......
Probably doesn't sound important but pi day means PIE day at Junie's junior high. Pies brought to math class on Pi day are worth extra credit points. Junie has never met an extra credit point that she didn't want, especially if they can be BOUGHT with Mom's money instead of EARNED by actual school-type work.

So she calls me at home the night before last. What? You think she should be home, sleeping in her own bed on a school night? Silly, you don't know Junie, do you? Whole 'nother story - maybe later.

Anyhoodle, she calls at 8 pm-ish and asks if I can buy 5 Hos*tess fruit pies for Pi day. I use my best irritated-mom voice to run through the why, and is it really necessary? and who am I, your slave? part. Finally, I tell her I can't because I have no idea what they are.

Me: "Are those from the Twin*kie family?"
You can tell we are not a Host*ess household. I did experiments on Twin*kies in college biology and I haven't forgotten.
She: "I think so. We're going to the grocery store in a bit, I'll see if I can find one and then send you a picture on your phone."

Really? I'm thinking that I have her RIGHT where I want her.

She (calls later): "Albert*son's has them for a dollar. They are in a rectangle package and they say blah, blah, blah......"
That's what I'm hearing because I am just waiting for her to stop talking so I can say....

Me: "Since you are there looking at them, why don't you just BUY them?"
She: "Because I only have FOUR dollars. It takes FIVE pies for extra credit."

The girl has some logic going. I mean if I am going to make a special trip to the store and then make a drop at her school in the morning on my way to work, it would be MUCH more worthwhile for me to be hustling FIVE pies instead of ONE pie. Right? Yeah, whatever, you must be 14, too.

So, because I don't want to cause her to sponge off her friends by making her use her last $4 for her own extra credit, I consent to do the deed, as assigned. Sometimes I hate myself for not being able to stay ahead of teen-logic. I would drink myself silly but that would eliminate the last tiny defense I have: my wits. I would wake up with size 7 cheer-shoe imprints all over my body.

So I trip to the closest Albert*sons and look for the Hos*tess shelf. First I look in the bakery. Nothing. Hmm. I check the snack district. No. The Wonder*bread aisle? Cookie department? Not even close. Could they be with the cleaning supplies? I finally have no choice; "Sir, could you please direct me to the Twinkie display?" His look is a cross between 'I'm so stoned' and 'You're kidding me; you don't know where we keep the Twinkies?' I'm uncomfortable. I expect that he will tell me that what I am looking for is right under my nose, dummy! I bite my lip. I look around. No, not seeing them.

I finally shake mute-boy by the shoulders. "Cmon buddy, where have you hidden the FRUIT PIES?. I need a fix bad. Let me make my connection, make a buy and get outta here before the heat busts in!"
Okaynotreally, but I'm feeling just about that hard up.
"The Twin*kies?" he finally says too loudly, "They're at the end of Aisle 5 (DUH!)". Okaaay. Go to the end of aisle 5. Well, why didn't I think to look between the fresh meat and the frozen food. Makes perfect sense. Cuz that way you can bake 'em with your fish sticks or stuff 'em into your meatloaf.

There are 3 blackberry and 7 chocolate pies left in the pitiful display. It is 9:45pm and apparently most of the pie-addicts have beat me here. I have been cautioned against both these particular flavors but, screw it, I am NOT going through this humiliation at yet another grocery store. I decide on 2 blackberry and 3 chocolate. I put them in the bottom of my basket and quickly cover them with less-embarrassing things like Depends and Lotrimin. I use the self-checkout and escape through the side door. The things we do for love

I have fallen

Maybe I told you that I gave up sugar-based products for Lent. That was the idea, anyway, but I'm pretty sure that when God said "Jane, go forth and live with Catholics who scowl at you until your little Protestant heart makes you relent and offer up some type of Lenten sacrifice" he had NO IDEA that some bound-for-sainthood individual would ever invent something like the CHOCOLATE FOUNTAIN! And that he would be aided and abetted by the person who thought to put small cream puffs upon the skewers which lie next to the CHOCOLATE FOUNTAIN or the teenage girls, with zero thigh-fat, who voted this to be the official dessert at the annual team banquet. Lord, weak doesn't begin to cover it. I was outnumbered, outsouled and in WAY over my head. In my defense I will say that I think the 2 pretzels and 2 strawberries that I dipped SHOULD, in fact, cancel out the four little creampuffs. Which leaves just the chocolate. The only excuse I have for the chocolate is that it was all warm and meltey and chocolatey and flowing in THREE, count 'em THREE TIERS! The pretzel was strong but the flesh was weak.

Swimming in the Dough

YES! The wardrobe changeover is starting to pay off – this morning I found $4.03 in the pocket of a pair of khakis that I haven’t worn since last fall. It doesn’t sound like much but it was $4 that I found AFTER the girls had left for school, so it is $4 that I still have in my possession! Woohoo. I am a simple woman, easily entertained with spring clothes and $4. Escalating the excitement: the weatherman says it is going to be SEVENTY degrees today. SEVENTY!!! Our weatherman has not said SEVENTY since last November.

All that talk of tropical weather has perhaps messed with my head. Last night I dreamed we set up the swimming pool. Don’t get excited and start planning parties at my house. It’s just one of those 15 foot above-ground metal-frame contraptions that the girls bought 4 years ago. Homer and I thought it was the dumbest thing ever but since we believe in letting life’s lessons, which include buyer’s remorse, take their course, we stood back and let it happen. We did steer them away from the inflatable-ring, tub-o-jello kind of pool, since we live on the side of a hill, and we were foresighted enough to imagine what 9000 gallons of water would look like running through our neighbors yards. ALL the way DOWN.

Anyway, ahem, cou*we were wrong*gh! I think we might have actually used it more than the kids. Which is only fair because you can imagine who gets to set it up and fill it and change the filters and buy the chemicals and test the water and clean the darn thing and then take it down. If you said Homer, you would be terribly wrong and not my friend. But my hard work does entitle me to bring a date so; again Homer slides in on my coattails.

But, alas, a $300 pool does not last forever. After four summers (very full, bake in the high-altitude, hot sun and dry air summers) of heavy use we now have a dilemma. The plastic liner is showing its age and I don’t think the filter pump will pump us through another year - it was starting to sound like a feral cat might be caught in there. I realize that replacing parts could quickly send you down that ‘I could have bought a whole new pool’ road. Which is also an option, but this summer the girls will be 15 and 17. Maybe they will be MUCH more interested in going to the neighborhood pool, where they can hang with their friends and toss back their hair in that carefree manner and giggle and do all those teenage things that make laying in the hot, torrid sun, eating Banana Boat tainted Doritos with warm pop seem like what life is really all about.

The rec pool doesn’t hold the same appeal for us parental units. Homer swears that a pre-bedtime dip makes him sleep like a baby in the summer – the public pool closes at 8 or 9 and they like you to wear trunks. As for me, there is something that soothes my soul about laying on my water lounger in the pool with my tankini pulled up to expose my fish-belly stomach so it can catch a few rays – because darker looks smaller, you know. Well, the public pool doesn’t like water lounges or fish bellies and, can you even believe this? They serve NO MARGARITAS and they even have this rule against bringing your own! Mexico is SO much more evolved in some respects.

So last fall as I was dismantling the ol’ watering hole, with mounting despair over its condition, I decided that it was the time to plant a seed. I made my report and cautioned the girls: “sorry, kids, you know the pool is getting quite old and, well, nothing lasts forever but it had a good life and we can remember the good times we had with it and know that we will always have it in our hearts”. Okay, that might be the dying-pet talk but I love anything with more than one use.

Anyhoodle, I was thinking….and that is often where I go wrong.… if they had all winter to save up their hard earned money we could perhaps be financially ready for the spring pool sales!

Well, in my excitement about SEVENTY degrees and my pool dream, I threw the matter out for discussion at the breakfast table this morning. Surely they must be as excited as I am? Have they thought at all about a new pool? I bet Target will be getting pools in any day (oh, who am I kidding, they’ve probably had them out since they took down the Christmas displays). What do you girls think? Huh? I was all smiling and excited and, I remind you this was before 7 am - before 7 am Daylight Savings Time! Yes, happy I was, no ecstatic and hopeful and then they put the knives through my heart.

Lola: “Remember, 1) I'm saving my money for my dream Jeep and 2) I will be working or training or out of town most of the summer. What would I get out of a backyard pool?”

Junie(again with the numbers): “1) I plan to spend most of MY time at my friends’ who have REAL pools and 2) You are pitiful to be trying to squeeze money for your filthy pool habit out of your children.”

Me: “Are you serious? C’mon guys! Didn’t we have fun? What about our whirlpool games and the lazy river? Wasn’t it fun to swirl the water round and round and then watch your dad try not to chum in his little innertube because he can’t handle any spinning motion? And, and…I can’t do my Shamu imitation without a pool! Shamu out of water is just…..pitiful… and NOT very....fun…..or alive.

Homer: “Honey? Honey! It’s okay.
Me: Is it?
Homer: We can still get a new pool.
Me: We can?
Homer: We don’t need those fickle children. The dream isn’t dead……….it’s just coming out of your pocket.

Of course it is.
There goes my $4.

Not my kind of Whitman Sampler

Hang with me through this first sentence.
Oh, imputation it shall be when foreordination conspires to lacerate ourselves on the fleshy posterior and spawns our progeny to imagine we resemble buffoons.
Yeah, um, what I meant to say was “It’s a bitch when Karma bites us on the butt and makes us look foolish in front of our children”.
Case Study: Lola called me into the computer room last night with a big dose of distress in her voice.
“Maaaahhhm, I need your help.”
Oh, child you are that flatters me to think I can be of assistance.
I’m tired, on the cusp of dreamland but I’m the mom, it is my job.
I, what reckless optimist that did bound to her side.
I look at the computer. I look at her textbook. Oh, my mother-lovin’....NNNOOOOOO! The fight or flight response kicks in. Every piece of my soul screams “RUN!!!”
But, alas, my heart perceives that I must not abandon my pledge.
This wasn’t supposed to happen until college. Homer and I have diligently contributed to her college savings plan so that this would not happen in our charge! We planned, we budgeted, oh did we sacrifice from the heart that she should attend college out of state and not bring this havoc into our home.
But she is only a high school junior; it’s too early to send her away.
It waxes apparent that thy anticipation of preparedness has been for nil.
BECAUSE: She is required to write an essay on *choke* Walt Whitman.
Not simply on Walt Whitman but specifically his Song of Myself poem.
For those of you as poetry-challenged as I, Whitman is considered the Godfather of unmetered, unrhyming poetry where this means the other thing and mostly sounds just like Cousin Larry when he's had too much hooch and gets to rambling on with the squirrels. For those of you that love this stuff, move along and no one gets hurt.
But....was I not just talking about this? Remember the whole ‘Woodchuck Rant’? This is one of the things I CANNOT DO! My cerebellum does not run this program.
Sadly, this offspring before me is of like intellect. Oh, useless be the embraces and kisses that will heal not thy deficits.
I’m not heartless. I did give it a go. I really did. Until my brain spun out of my head, whacked into the wall and fell to the floor with a sick thud. Bummer.
With apologies fair lassie, that your matriarch should be so simple.
I fear at this point all I can do is excuse the grade she gets on this project and lend my support to any non-poetry extra credit that may be made available to her.
And so I ponder the filthy lucre that may be salvaged by relieving intended obligations for lodging and provisions.
Translation: We're gonna save a butt load on college room and board

Not your average JaneFay

1 - I can jiggle my eyeballs really fast. I have only known one other person whose talent equaled mine and he died. I miss freaking people out with our tandem jiggle.
2 - When I do laundry, I sing ‘Camptown Races’ in my head, but instead of the words, I substitute numbers. I can’t help this.
3 - I cannot stand to touch (or wear) pantyhose. I have made career choices based on this aversion.
4 - I purposely avoid stepping on cracks whenever possible. I am very ground-focused when I walk or run. I don’t think it is an esteem thing, it is an OCD thing. Also probably a self-preservation issue – I lean toward the clumsy side.
5 - I do not buckle my seatbelt until I put the car in DRIVE. Backing down our driveway at 30mph, I am a brain-injury waiting to happen.
6 - Family legend has it that I used to eat onions right out of the garden as one would eat an apple. Although I still like the flavor of cooked onions in food, I am repulsed by chunks of onion or the smell of raw onion. The odor of potato salad makes me dry heave.
7 - Not so weird but, I am very claustrophobic. If I'm driving alone I need my car window open just a little – rain, freeze or shine. I can’t breathe in thick crowds. I will scuba dive but only with open water above me – and I must be able to see it. Just hearing about cave diving makes me panicky. I cannot consider myself or my loved ones being buried in boxes. This has probably helped me stay a law abiding citizen – a prison cell is beyond comprehension. I’m getting all freaky just writing about this.
8 - I will not eat dried or baked fruit products of any kind – jelly, jam, fruit pies, filled donuts, raisins. Or anything in the goop family - mayo, mustard, salad dressing . Make mine PLAIN, please.
9 - Growing up, I played the bassoon. It’s still my favorite instrument because it is quite odd and very sassy. Wish I had one.
10 - I am oddly enchanted by things I think I can’t do. I like to get close, examine them, and let myself get sucked in. When my husband tells me I should do something I haven’t done before (he has endless faith in me), my immediate response is that “I can’t”. That sets off an inner challenge. It usually turns out well, but I am hella pissed that I still can’t wakeboard. Maybe next summer


Yesterday at noon my mother called me at work (she and my father are visiting for a couple weeks). The phone rings. I check the caller ID.
Me: Hello (Trying to keep the ‘now what?’ out of my voice).
Usually she calls to ask where I keep something. But it doesn’t come off like a simple inquiry. It sounds more like an accusation that I don’t have said item and when I am able to direct her to the item, I get the sense that if I kept it in the logical place (ie. where SHE keeps it) she would not have had to waste our time with this call.
She: Hi. pause, sigh. You’re probably not going to want to hear this.
OH…FRICKIN...NO….. She has flooded the basement/killed my father/dumped out the liquor/invited missionaries in/what else? Think, OMG, what has she done? Wait…..she called on her cell phone. Maybe that’s because I have no house….. That’s it. She has put hot ashes in the garbage and burned down our house. Never mind that we don’t have a fireplace, you don’t know this woman.
But…..waitjustadarnminute…… Isn’t that the phrase I used to use when I called her at work to impart some bad news? As in: ‘Mom, you probably don’t want to hear this but your son is skateboarding down Broadway in your wedding dress.’ Could this be a joke? That’s it. She’s messing with me.
Me: Hear whaaat?
Come on, tell me you’re kidding.
She: I have CatTwo locked in your bedroom.
Me: WHY? ;-)
She: She has a rat in there.
Okay, she’s been drinking the liquor. On the other hand, CatTwo is pretty good about bringing home her share of the bacon. Our neighbors down the hill have a bad, nasty woodpile where I have seen some ‘big mice’ on occasion.
Me: Can’t you pick it up with a shovel.
She: pause It’s still alive.
Me: Alive. Not a question.
She: Yes, I don’t think it’s even wounded. It moves really fast.
Me: Any idea how she got it in there?
She: I let CatTwo in the house. I guess it was in her mouth.
Me: (yeah, I know I shouldn’t have said it) And you didn’t notice a big ole RAT hanging from her mouth???????
She: I’m sorry, I was making the frosting for your bars. Of course, my fault, Alpha has a team potluck tonight and Mom volunteered to take the brownie baking off my hands.
Let me think, I’m only about 3 days behind at work. I have two reports due the next morning. One half-finished, one not started. Homer would be no help. Even if he could get away from work, I don’t think he could hop fast enough to catch a rat – being injured and all.
Me: sigh I’ll be home in half an hour.
I pack up my reports and other work, brief my boss and head out. I’m driving home, trying to plot a strategy. I take mental inventory of my bedroom: 67 pairs of shoes on my closet floor, multiple boxes of stuff jammed under the bed, the dressers have great hidey holes underneath, the man-closet has backpacks, hiking gear and half his wardrobe on the floor. I start to feel defeated. This is going to be an all day project.
Arrive home. Status update: Cat and, presumably, Rat are still in bedroom. Mom has armed herself with a hammer, traded her Crocs for boots and has tucked her pants into her socks. I deem the sock idea a good one. I grab the mop and a huge plastic container. I’m thinking if the cat would just catch the rat again, I’ll pick up the cat and put them both in the container, put on the lid and escort them outside. That was a bit optimistic.
My dad announces that he’s going to take a shower – DOWNSTAIRS. This is so totally NOT his problem. Thanks, Dad.
So we head to battle. A rat SWAT team of two. It takes about an hour of picking stuff off the floor and carefully poking things out from under the bed. We gradually get braver. At last the rat is exposed! Much excitement! Cat pounces, rat runs, Mom jumps, hammer flies, hits my knee! Before I blacked out from the pain, I see blur of gray run towards the bathroom door. From that point, it didn’t go so well for the rat. I will spare you the grisly details but let’s just say the rat is no longer in the house. CatTwo is rather confused and a bit slighted. Mom goes round blaming the woodpile owners (she’s going to call the health department), blaming the cat, and blaming herself for letting the cat in, although she swears if the rat had been in her mouth, she would have noticed. What! You think she had it in her pocket, Mom?
Anyway, I am left with a room in total disaster. What the heck, might as well make lemonade. I trip off to Bed, Bath and Beyond to pick up the bed jacks that I have been planning to install. No, Jane, no browsing. I LOVE that place - the coolest stuff. Wow, the vacuum fits under the bed now. Well, I guess I better clean under there before I put all the stuff back. Hmm, who put all this crap under there? Sort, fill large garbage bag and reorganize. One thing leads to another and hours later my room is immaculate. And organized. Woo hoo.
I finished off with sniffy clean sheets and totally washed bedding (to banish the rat cooties) just in time for bed. I say good night to parentals and head to the bedroom. A thought hits me. An evil thought. She wouldn’t. She WOULD. Would she? She’s used some pretty drastic tactics before – but it’s been a long time.
Me: Uh, Mom?
She: Yes.
Me: You didn’t coax the cat and rat into my room just to get me to clean it. Did you??

Monday, March 26, 2007

Turns out you CAN be too careful.

I was watching 20/20 one Friday night. I use the 'watching' term loosely because I tend to turn on the tv just for noise and to pretend it's my friend while I clean, cook, fold clothes - all those chores that send other family members scrambling to anywhere they won't be asked to help. God forbid.
Anyhoodle, I actually watched this time. John Stoessel was doing a great show on fear and worry and unintended consequences. One example (and I quote here):

"Most of us, when we have a new baby in the house, make an extra effort to keep the house especially clean. I was no exception. But now there's research suggesting that kids who are exposed to more endotoxins — mild dust, bacteria, pollen, like kids who go to daycare or have pets or live on farms — are less likely to develop allergies and asthma."

Hallelujah! There's something they didn't put in the baby books. I am proud to say that my children do not have allergies or asthma and they have ME to thank for that. They grew up in a house with a cat, a dog, and many, many (dust) bunnies. They also went to daycare, they did. I'm going to pretend I knew this all along and failed to keep the house immaculately (not even close) clean because I was preparing them for a life of good pulmonary health! I hope my mother and mother-in-law also saw the show. PFFTHT!!!

I found other validation in that show, as well. I tend to be a pretty laid back parent - the bad kind that has a trampoline in the back yard. I know that in most cases what could happen probably won't. I have friends who are strung tighter than piano wire trying to anticipate every danger that might befall their child. It seems to me that when accidents do happen they tend to come from places you never suspected. Or the risk is calculated. You know that bicycles can be dangerous but they also have benefits - transportation, exercise, fun - that in my mind override the fear (ditto with the trampoline). I have tried to be a vigilant helmet-mom but sometimes even I forget to wear one. Well, according to the 20/20 report, helmets aren't all that effective either. This guy they interviewed did research and found that when you wear a helmet, drivers are less careful around you. They also found that helmet wearers tend to take more risks. And, in places where the law requires helmets, head injuries have not dropped because now there are fewer cyclists on the road.

"When people don't cycle, they're not getting exercise," he said. "We know that not getting exercise and being sedentary is incredibly dangerous. You get heart attacks, you get strokes … proven killers that kill thousands of people. So when people make helmets a requirement, with the best intentions, it may actually kill more people."

I am also a big fan of prescription medicines. They can do great things. I know that many have side effects. But if you read the fine print you will also find that people taking placebos experienced side effects. My mother wouldn't take Claritin because of the possible side effects listed on the package. She never experienced any of the side effects because she never took the medicine, even though Claritin was found to have proven benefits for allergy sufferers (her mother was a clean freak, by the way). Score: Fear 1, Mother 0.

Here's what they had to say about that:
"You may have seen the warnings about anti-depressants (causing increased suicide in teenagers). The FDA demanded that a black box be added to every package. The unintended consequence? Prescriptions to anti-depressants dropped 20 percent. And with fewer teenagers taking the medication, many experts say they are seeing more teen suicide."

I read an article a few years ago that bit me to the bone. It was about a toddler who pulled on the cord of an electric frying pan and was covered with boiling oil. I realized that there, but for the grace of God, go I. At some point I probably left a cord dangling. It is pretty dang hard to always be vigilant, always one step ahead of a toddler, child, teenager. It's hard to know how to balance caution and the business of being a kid.

I guess my point is that it was good to hear that you can worry too much. I always felt that I was missing the parental-worry gene so maybe I wasn't supposed to reproduce. My husband is even worse. I don't seriously take credit for raising my children to the good place they are today. I know that it is as much luck as parental care that has made them good, happy, productive kids thus far. I just hope the good luck stays with us.

Saturday, March 24, 2007


Heading home from a family outing yesterday, Homer made some Homerish comment which escapes me now. Lola asked me if I don't sometimes feel like I am a single mom with 3 kids. I chuckled and said yes. She said that she often feels like she has a big brother instead of a dad. She didn't say it with any particular emotion, merely an observation, but it must have made an impact on Homer.

This morning as I was mixing up some muffins for breakfast he walked by me and said "Wow, I must be growing up. I was going to spit on your cheek just now but I didn't". I just stared at him dumbfounded. He says, "Well, not like a lugie or anything, just a little love lick". This came less than 5 minutes after he pantsed me. I'm pretty sure my oldest child is 50, not 17.

Just wanted to unload that.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Be JaneFay Cleans Out the Drain

Be JaneFay Quotient: 8.5 on the Gag-Me scale

THE BACKGROUND: Two years ago, while in Cabo, JaneFay bought one of those pretty Mexican talavera sinks. She loved the intricate painting and the fact that it was different from anything she has. It also didn’t escape her that all the gook that accumulates in her sink would certainly go unnoticed in all that visual noise. Less cleaning is always a good thing. So she carefully packed her prize, along with a matching toothbrush holder, soap dispenser and wall lizard (JaneFay got caught up in the bartering process) in her carryon and brought it all home whereupon she packed it away and pretty much ignored it. For two years. Not because her sink doesn’t need to be replaced. If that sink were human it would be in Hospice care. It has lost half its finish and the original color is indeterminate. It now contains permanent samples of every shade of hair color she has ever used and she thinks something may have died in the overflow. It is time to replace it. Yes it is, but that is not what today’s lesson is about.

THE PROBLEM: It seems the sink cancer must have spread down to the popup mechanism in the drain. One day it no longer popped up. JaneFay tripped off to the Depot only to discover that repair parts would be nigh onto $20. Well, since she was planning to replace the faucet, complete with popup, she thought, why throw good money 'down the drain'? JaneFay’s a little tight that way. Instead she bought one of those little rubber drain plugs for $1.29 – a temporary fix, but surely she would start ‘the sink project’ soon.

Well, days quickly turn to months and JaneFay discovers that an unguarded drain is pretty much a magnet for bobby pins, Q-tips and makeup bottle tops. The drain gets slow…. and slower….. and finally all but stops. JaneFay is totally disgusted. When a drain doesn’t drain well the scum from every hand wash and tooth brushing adheres to the sink as it s..l..o..w..l..y goes down. I’m sure you all get the picture. Vomitrocious with a capital V.

THE ACTION: JaneFay uses her better sense and determines that Plumber-in-a-Bottle would probably not be effective against metal and plastic objects since those are the very things of which plumbing is made. That leaves one alternative. Manual clean out *spine shiver*.

In retrospect, JaneFay recommends you get a bucket at the very beginning of this project. A big bucket. You should place the bucket under the trap BEFORE you start loosening the pipes because, well, it’s darn hard to hold water in your hands and grab the bucket (just a..scootch,scootch..TINY bit out of reach) at the same time. So bucket in place, you should start to loosen the connections around the trap. Note: the trap is the part below the drain that does the u-turn. Hopefully, you have the plastic kind of pipes, like JaneFay does, which can be loosened by hand. Otherwise you need to go get some kind of a tool in which case JaneFay also recommends you put on gloves since tools and plumbing often conspire to shave skin from your knuckles. JaneFay knows how long it takes knuckles to heal. Another caution: trap connections are crazy. Lefty is not always loosie, depending on your angle. JaneFay’s advice is to try one way and if that doesn’t work, try the other way before you apply brute force and naughty words. Next, remove the trap and clean it out. They call it a trap because stuff gets trapped in there. Try not to make that retching noise too loud, it scares the kids. Good news, JaneFay found three missing earrings and 22 cents! Reattach the trap. Same process but in reverse with the alternate caution: Rightie may not be Tightie. You will figure that out after going round and round and round without feeling anything catch.

With trap reattached, run water full force and check underneath for leaks. Make adjustments if necessary. It’s important that your pipes aren’t skewed a little, this will cause leaks like JaneFay’s. It’s also important to make sure you leave all those little washer... ring thingys in place – turns out they are NOT decorative. Adjust, tighten, reach up and turn off water….. notice that the sink… is full……it’s not draining AT ALL! Check to see that little rubber plug is not in. Determine that clog must be farther down the line. Oh, my. JaneFay’s lunch is going to be lost for sure! She removes the trap once more and also the length of pipe that attaches to the stub on the wall. Oly, Mother of Maude, JaneFay nearly passes out. Repeat clean out process that was used on the trap, but don’t examine it this time. Seriously. Nothing that may be caught in there is worth retrieving. Off to get a piece of wire, and a good stiff swig of root beer. JaneFay highly recommends you also grab a bandana soaked in your favorite perfume and place over your nose cuz, believe her, the smell is going to be worse than when Uncle Murray ‘meditates’ in there after Christmas dinner.

Make a little hook on the end of your wire and poke it in and out of the wall pipe. Oh, no, the hairspray cap comes out sporting a 6 inch trail of indescribable heinousness. Dump in bucket, poke, repeat. When you’ve had enough of the smell of plumbing pitch and, now, vomit, take the bucket and quickly dump it down the toilet. Sit on the lid and flush before anything comes to back to life and crawls out. Take a few deep breaths – through the bandana …. you did turn on the fan, didn’t you? Reattach the pipe parts. Examine your life, as JaneFay did, make mental restitution for all the people you have wronged and hope on hope that when you turn on the water, IT ALL GOES DOWN!

While your vision clears, turn on that tap again and leave it running for five minutes. Relax, close your eyes, embrace the sound of the rushing water and realize why plumbers get $80 an hour. Pour a little bleach down that sink to kill any creature offspring that may still be in there. Clean up the mess under the sink. Note that black sewer gook has properties similar to Magic Marker.

Next time: The importance of using an undercoating when painting over sewer crud stains.