I am a smartphone addict and the world is going to hell.

 

nomophobia-1

Nomophobia — the fear of being out of mobile phone contact.

A drastic change happened in my life this past year. I ditched my trusty old flip phone from the dinosaur age — the one I never texted on and barely used to even make phone calls — for a damn smartphone.

What the hell was I thinking?

Now I’m addicted to this soul-sucking piece of plastic and it feels sad. First sign I had a problem? If a few hours went by without checking it, my hands would sweat, my heart would pound and nothing would ease the subtle yet unnerving feeling I was missing out on something, anything (ohmygodsomethingishappeningIjustknowit!) unless I checked my phone.

The problem is, once you get that fix, you want another hit over and over again just to maintain.

Slide1

Before I went to bed at night?  Gotta check Facebook.

First thing after I had my morning coffee? Gotta check my email. And Twitter. Instagram. WordPress.

On my lunch break? Phone.

After the boss walks back into her office? Phone.

On my cigarette break? Phone. (Yes, I smoke the phone.)

While I’m on the phone? Phone.

It’s true, I’m cheating on my phone with another phone and sometimes I use them both at the same time and I don’t even care!

Now my life is a big, fat texting, emailing, messaging, instagraming, tweeting, facebooking hot mess of insanity.

I’m caught between desperately craving this fake pseudo-social interaction bullshit of likes and comments and tweets and twits, and realizing it’s all empty and useless for the most part.

Yes, it is.  Empty. Waste of precious time.

But Darla! you say, It keeps us connected! It’s social! C’monIt brings people together! The internet isn’t all bad! Some of it’s good!

No, it is not. We are all pathetic.

Fine, I’m pathetic. Because I’ve fallen for this crap. I remember when it all started too.

One day last semester I was sitting on a bench outside of class with other students, all of them looking down at their evil little phones. I was waiting for class to start so I did the natural thing we used to do in the olden days: I waited.

After a few minutes of pleasantly sitting there doing nothing, a 21-year-old classmate of mine asked “Darla? What’s wrong?”

“Huh?” I snapped out of my daydream.

“What’s wrong? You’re like…just staring off into space….” she laughed.

Oh my fucking god.

The other night my husband and I were sitting on the living room couch in the dark and both of us were hunched over, looking down at our respective tiny glowing rectangles. After a half hour of silence, we realized the TV wasn’t even on.

The TV wasn’t on! Has the world gone mad?

Last year, we used to pride ourselves on the fact we never texted. Now we’ve actually texted each other while in the same house before. Sure it was about dinner and I was very tired and didn’t want to get up to walk over to the next room to talk with my husband, but still.

We’ve fallen hard and fast for this addiction, and guess what folks, it’s real and it is sucking the life out of all of us.

Social communication has been reduced to bite-sized morsels of superficial bullshit we gobble up and spit out over and over again like monkeys pressing a button for food. Release the treat! Give it to me again! It’s never enough! Buzz! Buzz! BUZZZZ!!!

What have we lost? Eye contact. Long, meaningful conversations. The sense of touch. The ability to connect with another soul without a stupid machine wedged inbetween every interaction.

This summer I worked at a doctor’s office. My favorite parts of the day were the little moments I truly connected with a patient who is sick or dying or just lonely. Sometimes I’d rest my hand on their shoulder or help them up or give them a pat on the back and a smile. I looked into their eyes and I asked them how they were today and I actually wanted to know the answer.

The thing that surprised me most was the response. All people — young, old, women, men — their faces would suddenly soften, like a wall was slowly crumbling. Sometimes they’d start crying or telling me stories from the past or relating their dreams and fears to me. It was like a dam busted open wide. Because I actually took the time to talk to them face to face. Imagine.

And it made me think how little we actually communicate with each other today. Genuine communication about the stuff that goes on deep down inside of all of us. How much we all desperately need to know we’re not alone floating around out there, caught in some vapid interwebular net of flavor-of-the-month popularity.

But all things in moderation, right? So I’m starting to put the stupid phone down. I actually have to tell myself not to check it. I have to resist the urge all day.  I’ll admit, it reminds me of when I quit drinking coffee, it’s that much of an addiction to me.

Last week I went a few days without my phone. (I still texted my husband once though so I did cheat a little).

But I found I didn’t miss it, that hollow feeling of craving something I know is ultimately bad for the soul.

Fine, my soul, not yours. It’s just me. I’m sure you’re not addicted, right? First step is admitting you have a problem. Just resist the urge to tweet about it. Like I’m about to do with this post.

Sigh.

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Are you addicted to your phone? How many times a day do you check it? Be honest. If you’re not addicted, let me know any tips for quitting, like say, putting the phone on a table and smashing it to smithereens with a hammer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jeezum Crow! I’ve been Freshly Pressed!

Or as my mom would say:

You’ve been what now? Is this that evil computer thingamabob? You really should pick up a phone more and call me. I could be lying here dead in my rocking chair after having a heart attack while knitting your afghan. You know the one I’ve been working on for months in spite of my arthritic fingers. Oh how they hurt so! And this is all you care about? Freshly Pressed! I’ll give you Freshly Pressed! Jeezum crow! Where’s my friggin’ coffee?”

Not my mom, but pretty damn close.

Forgive me for writing a post about how I was Freshly Pressed, but I couldn’t help myself.  It’s been an eternity since my last FP. Why, I can’t even remember how long ago! (2 years, 3 months, 4 days)

And to know a post about my cranky  80-year-old mother and her dark cutting edge humor would be featured up there on the front page is somehow fitting. After all, I got my obnoxious sense of humor straight from her.  While my late father had the dry slow-burn wit, she has always embodied the brutally honest, in-your-face Mainah charm.

So I’d like to take this moment to thank her for letting me know life’s way too short to worry so much and almost everything in life can be funny, even death.

As we all know:

Tragedy + Time = Comedy

Or in my mom’s case:

Tragedy + Time – Sanka = Endless Blog Fodder

Love you Mom! Thanks for giving my blog so much material. I know you will never read this but I’ll be sure to tell you about it tomorrow while I’m “fixing” your remote again so you won’t miss the upcoming Dr. Oz Show on colonoscopies.

My mother. Yes, I was the daughter of Laura Ingalls.

My mother. Yes, I am the daughter of Laura Ingalls.

As you can see, the plaid apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. (my beautiful mom and gram)

Thank you WordPress for featuring her, my extra-sullen grandfather and his depressed dog in the post, Happy Impending Death Day! 

********

I’m still on my summer bloggy break and hopefully will be back to posting more once the hellions are back in school. In the meantime, here are a few more “Mom” post gems if you’re interested and like to take frequent guilt trips:

I’m So Glad We Had This Talk, Mom

I’m So Glad We Had This Talk Again, Mom

I’m So Sorry I Missed Your Call, Mom

I’m So Glad We Went Out to Eat, Mom

I’m So Glad You Read That Book, Mom

 

Why Tony Bennett Never Calls My Mom

My 80-year-old mother has a very full, active life. She knits. She reads. She waits for the mail.

**crickets**

**crickets**

Oh — and she constantly complains to me about receiving prerecorded scam phone calls.

“He called me again the other day!” she scowls at me over her coffee mug.

“Who? Your boyfriend Tony Bennett?” We both laugh. This joke never gets old for either of us.

He's quite dreamy.

He is quite dreamy.

“No! The ro-but!” she yells.

“Oh! You mean you got another robocall?”

“Yes! The RO-BUT!”

Greetings, earthling! This is not Tony Bennett.

Greetings, earthling! This is not Tony Bennett.

“So did you tell him off?” I giggle because I already know the answer.

“He says to me ‘Good morning Senior Citizen!’ First off — how in the hell does he know I’m a senior citizen?! UP YOURS BUDDY! That’s what I told him too!”

“I’m sure he learned his lesson then.”

“And then he has the gall to say, ‘Congrats! You’ve won an all-expense paid trip to the Bahamas! All you have to do is press number five on your phone!’ And I says to him, ‘Oh yeah? How ’bout you press THIS buddy! Huh? How do you like them apples? Is there a number I can press to tell you to go to hell? Jeezum crow!'”

Phones have always been a source of aggravation for my mom, and not just because Tony Bennett never returns her calls. Yesterday she told us a story about how when she was a child, her family didn’t even have a phone. My stunned kids asked how they communicated without texting and she explained how they had to actually walk to the neighbor’s house to talk. This blew their little minds. People used to talk back then? My little mind was blown as well.  People used to walk back then?

“Imagine! When I was a teen, we didn’t even OWN a phone!” my mom said to my kids, a look of sheer terror spreading across their faces.  “If I wanted to get together with my friend, I had to walk three blocks to her house and hope to God she was home! And heaven forbid if there was an emergency, we’d have to walk all the way over to my aunt’s house on the other side of town because she had the only phone! She was always so smug about it too. Oh how we hated her and her stupid phone!”

Such a bitch.

Such a bitch.

Back in the 1940s, my mom’s father was an accountant for L.L. Bean — the actual man, not just the store itself. My grandparents and my mom lived in a house right next door to the famous hunting store. It was the same old house I grew up in as well. We were so close to the retail floor, I was able to sit at the kitchen table, eat my Cheerios and tell the New York tourist trying on the camouflage flannel long johns she should probably go up another size.

But I’m sure my grandfather didn’t think living so close to his workplace was such a good thing when the poor man didn’t even have a phone to screen calls from his pesky boss.

“And get this!” my mom continued.  “Whenever my dad was home on his days off and L.L. needed him to come in to work? He’d just throw open his office window and holler at my dad across the yard, ‘Hey Daniel! Get over here! I need you!'”

“Wow, that’s just insane,” I said. “You had windows back then?”

“Darla! Yes we had windows back then. We weren’t cavemen for god’s sake.”

“So Mom — why do you still phone me all day long when I live right next door to you?” (We currently live in a side by side duplex house and she calls me approximately 15-200 times a day to tell me her remote’s broken.)  “Why don’t you just yell at me through the window like L.L. Bean did in the good old days of yore?”

“Good point. Makes sense. Well, I’ll have to start doing that. And maybe that gall-darn ro-BUT man will stop bugging me. Then I’d free up my phone in case Tony calls!”

Never give up hope, Mom.

Good plan. Never give up hope, Mom.

___________________________________________________________

 

 

 

Happy Impending Death Day!

Slide1

Our culture doesn’t do so well with death. We don’t like to talk about it or even think about it.

Except for people who were born and raised in Maine. We’re more down-to-earth types who treat death like it’s a bad dentist appointment. Yeah it’s gonna happen to you one day so you might as well suck it up, deal with it, and move on.

My 80-year-old mother cheerfully sat down with me last week to go over her old family photo albums again because, “I might not be here tomorrow.” She has told me this every single day for about 15 years.

Anytime I try to plan something with her, she gives the same response.

“Hey, Mom! Want to drive up to Bar Harbor and see the ocean this August?”

“Sure! But I might be dead by then.”

“Hey Mom! Wanna go to L.L. Bean’s with me this weekend?”

“Sure! But I might be dead by then.”

“Hey, Mom! Want to go out to dinner tonight at that Italian place?”

“Sure!”

“What — you’re not planning on dying later today?”

“Well, I’m hoping I die during the meal. Serves them right. They don’t serve Sanka. What kind of a place doesn’t have Sanka?”

So once again last week we sat down to sift through old family pictures because she might die at any second.  Her albums are full of faded sepia toned photos displaying the typically stern, emotionless faces of my relatives from the early 1900s.

I’m convinced the photographer must have yelled out the directions, “Frown! Frown harder! Look miserable! You’re sullen! No, I need more sullen! Dour! Do dour! Great! Hold that pose! Yes! You’re sad! Profoundly sad! Hold it! Hooold it! Perfect!”

Basketball is just so 'meh'. (My grandfather is the particularly ecstatic boy sitting in the front to the left)

(My grandfather is the particularly ecstatic boy sitting in the front to the left)

And most of my relatives died young of a horrible disease.  It’s a miracle I exist at all. My mother points her shaky finger to every person in the photo, tells me his or her name and how they died like she’s rattling off her grocery list.

“This is Charlie, died of tuberculosis. He was 35.”

“This is Charlotte. She died of tuberculosis. She was 15 years old.”

“Oh, and this is Sarah. Died of tuberculosis. She was four.”

“What happened to the dog?” I ask. “Please tell me he made it at least.”

Welcome to the early 20th century when even the dogs looked depressed. (My grandfather is the one holding the dog)

Welcome to the early 20th century when even the dogs looked depressed. (My grandfather is the one holding the dog)

After a few more photo albums filled with tuberculosis, my mom likes to throw in a zinger, probably to see if I’m really listening.

“Oh! And this is your great-great uncle Fred,” she smiles brightly and points to a handsome young man sporting a snappy blazer and smoking a cigarette.  “He was a pilot and flew his plane straight into the side of a mountain, killed instantly.”

“Wait — are you sure it wasn’t tuberculosis that got him?”

“Darla!” she scowls at me. Then she clears her throat. “Well, actually yes. The coughing is what made him crash the plane.”

My eyes bug out.

“I’m kidding! Kidding! Oh no, the poor man just slammed straight into a mountain! Boom! Never had a chance!” my mom yells, throws her head back and cackles.

And they say death isn’t funny.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When God’s Your Facebook Friend

Slide1

[It's early morning. I'm folding a mountain of laundry. A bolt of lightning cracks overhead and a blinding light fills the room. I drop my husband's underwear to the floor, shield my eyes and squint at the ceiling.]

Me: What the…?

God: [voice booms] IT IS I!

Me: God? Is that You?

God: [yells] YES! OF COURSE IT’S ME! [mutters] Didn’t I just say that?

Me: Wow, oh wow! You finally show up! I have so much to ask you! Let’s start with the wars and the poverty and the sick and the dying and the pain and the suffering and the–

God: I know, right?

Me: So will humans ever learn to choose love over fear, compassion over hate?

God: Tsk-tsk. Oh no. Oh no, no, no. That shirt doesn’t go with those pants, dear child.

Me: Huh?

God: And your makeup! Please! The color is all wrong! [sighs] Atrocious. Have you not seen my recent Pinterest featuring Rihanna’s latest look?

Me: But back to the pain and the suffering. Why do we have to suffer God? Haven’t we learned enough?

God: By the looks of your hairstyle, no.

Me: Tell me the future. Will humans survive? How many years do we have left? Is this planet toast? Will global warming do us in?

God: George Clooney is getting married.

Me: I…I don’t understand.

God: Yes, I was just as shocked as you.

Me: I….

God: What people don’t realize is he was actually married to actress Talia Balsam from  1989 to 1993.

Me: Huh. Good to know. So anyway, is the world going to end, God? Is it too late? Can you tell me anything about the future at all? Is there hope for the human race?

God: Beyoncé will get a new haircut.

Me: Um…

God: Three of them in the next year. She’ll go from pixie to shag to a very sassy bob.

Me: Forgive me, God, but uh….I don’t really care about that stuff.

God: Oh of course you do, dear child! It’s all you people down here talk about!

Me: You people? Well, not all of us. And if we do, you sorta created us so…

God: Create you? {scoffs] Ha! No, I’m not responsible. Nope. Nuh-uh. Can’t blame me for that one.

Me: You did. All of us. You created everyone. And you gave us all free will.

God: Ooooh. Yeah. I guess I did, didn’t I?

Me: Yep.

God: Well, this certainly is depressing.

Me: It is.

God: Hey! I know what will cheer us up! Selfie time!

Me: No–uh, I really don’t want to–

[God holds up gold iPhone, leans in close. Phone clicks.]

God: [looks down at phone] Ah! Nope, do-over. I look way too fat.

[Holds up iPhone, more clicks.]

God: [frowns] Still awful. No worries!  It’s salvageable. [taps screen] Hmm…go to Instagram…maybe change the color tone here…add some soft focus there…ooh! We look sa-weet in Orton! I’ll post it on your Facebook wall. Because peeps be jealz! Because right?

Me: Right. I guess.

God: I know, right?

Me: Right.

God: I know, right?

Me: R-right, sure whatever–look, we done here? I’ve got some folding to do.

God: [stares intently down at phone, dismisses me with a wave] Yeah, I’m good. Huzzah!  Already 5.5 million likes on our selfie!

Me: Great. So..thanks for dropping in…

God: [taps phone] Huh? Hey, no problemo. [frowns] Gah! So frustrating! Have you gotten past level 352 on Candy Crush yet? I don’t think it’s possible, I mean, seriously?[groans] So can you send me some lives? I’m outta of lives again.

Me: Sure, anything for you God.

God: Oh, and I give it 3 years max.

Me: [gasps] The world will end in 3 years?

God: What? No! George Clooney’s marriage.

[bolt of lightning flashes, God fades into a pinpoint of light and disappears]

 

 

 

Book Giveaway: The Todd Glass Situation

 

image: Simon & Schuster

image: Simon & Schuster

Growing up and trying to navigate your way through this big scary world is tough for any kid.  But what if you’re also challenged with having ADD and dyslexia? And happen to be gay? Veteran comedian Todd Glass understands what it’s like to feel different and experience the pain of hiding a true identity for years.

In his funny, honest and heartfelt memoir, The Todd Glass Situation, he details his quick rise to stand-up comedy fame and the struggle he endured for decades keeping his life as a gay man secret.

It took the recent spike of suicides among young gay people and a close brush with death to give Todd that extra push to finally be true to himself and everyone else. One night he was finishing up the closing set alongside other comedian friends including Sarah Silverman, when he suddenly felt short of breath and nauseous. Soon the medics arrived.

“Sir, I don’t want to alarm you,” the EMT says, “but you’re having a heart attack.”

I don’t want to alarm you? If he didn’t want to alarm me he should have told me I was fine. Telling someone they’re having a heart attack is very goddamn alarming. “We’re going to take you to Cedars,” he continues. “Is there anyone we should call?”

Right. If I’m dying — which is suddenly starting to feel like a real possibility — I should probably tell the person I’ve been sharing a life with for the last fourteen years. I look through the faces around me until I find Sarah’s. “Call Andrea for me, ” I say, trying to wink. At this point it looks more like an involuntary facial tic.

Sarah winks back. “Don’t worry, I’ll call…Andrea.”

We both knew that “Andrea” is actually Chris, my boyfriend. But there’s no way in hell I’m going to say his name in front of everyone.

I mean, that might make people think that I was gay or something.

Here I am, forty-five years old, possibly at death’s door, surrounded by friends–and I still can’t be honest about who I am.

How the fuck did I get here?

Todd’s book successfully explores these serious issues with keen insight and humor. He details his childhood years and how he discovered at an early age he had a knack for making people laugh.  As a teen he was already a professional stand-up, opening for musical acts such as Patti LaBelle and comedians like Jay Leno. I was intrigued to learn how he climbed the stand-up comedian ladder to success, honing his act over the years while picking up valuable advice from other comedians along the way.

Being funny requires allowing yourself to be vulnerable. You must be fearless when putting your true self out there. At its center this book is about one thing: Being yourself no matter what the bastards say.

Other Things I Learned From Todd Glass:

  • Always embrace all aspects of yourself and let them shine.
  • Screw what other people might think of you.
  • If you’re gay and someone asks you, “How did you know you were gay?” ask them how or when they knew they were straight.
  • I sincerely hope one day there will be no “closet” for anyone gay or bisexual to “come out of”. Because it’s dark and stuffy in there, and smells like mothballs and needless repression.
  • Humor is incredibly powerful and the greatest comedians, like Todd’s idol George Carlin, are truth-seekers. As Todd pointed out in the book, Oscar Wilde once said, “If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh, otherwise they’ll kill you.”
  • If you’re having a heart attack, always make sure Sarah Silverman is in the room.
Getting Doug with High

image: Getting Doug with High

________________________________________________________________

182940_446039868823211_1482428845_nTodd Glass is a stand-up comedian who has performed on Late Night with Conan O’Brien, Chelsea Lately, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, and The Jimmy Kimmel Show, among many other programs. He’s also the host of The Todd Glass Show, a popular podcast on the Nerdist Network.
–Simon & Schuster

________________________________________________________________

I was given a copy of the book, The Todd Glass Situation, by Simon & Schuster in exchange for writing this review. All opinions in this post are my own and not Todd’s, Simon’s nor even Schuster’s.

BOOK GIVEAWAY!

Dearest Maineiacs — YOU can win a copy of this book simply by responding with a comment below.  Yes, it’s just that easy! Did you ever feel different as a kid? Do you like humor? Do you know what a book is? Are you also good friends with Sarah Silverman? Let me know!

I will pick a winner by random.  All valid entries must reside in the US or Canada (sorry to my one reader from Uzbekistan)

*Deadline to enter is noon EST July 4th*

UPDATE: Congrats to Debbie Harbeson! She was randomly chosen to win this book. Hope you enjoy it, Debbie!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unexplained Mysteries of My Universe (Part 3)

∗ Why is it that I can go on errands for the entire morning, spending hours out in public, then later that day as I’m going on my walk I suddenly think,
Holy shit — did I remember to put on my pants today?

Then I look down to check.

So for a split second it’s this insane moment of panic. Like maybe I woke up, took a shower, got dressed, put on makeup, got the kids ready for school and rushed out the door with no pants on. (I always remember my shoes, of course. Because if I didn’t that would just be crazy.)

But if in fact I actually did forget to wear pants that day, wouldn’t the draft tip me off? Or the reactions of horror from all those people at Home Depot?

I fear how senile I’ll be once I’m in my 80s.  That old lady in the power tool aisle wearing only slippers? It’s probably me. You’ve been warned.

∗ Why is the veggie drawer at the bottom of my fridge? Surely I’m not expected to expend the energy required to bend down to get my vegetables. It’s bad enough I have to remember to eat the vile things.

Not worth it.

Not worth it.

And the stuff in the crisper never stays fresh. Do they call it a ‘crisper’ because it shrivels and turns black the second I shove it in there? Let’s cut to the chase and call it “The Drawer of Decay”. I basically have to eat that entire head of arugula while I’m walking from the grocery store to my car or it’s as good as rotted.

This is why I don’t eat enough veggies.  Because I’m not quick enough. And I lack the adequate abdominal strength to bend that far down.

“Oh, really? You want me to cook some of the zucchini? Oh well, you obviously have forgotten I have no ab muscles to speak of.  Yeah, it’s just a big bag of marshmallow fluff between my ribcage and my hips. It’s useless. Hell I can barely reach over to grab that cream cheese and bacon and you expect me to do calisthenics to get to some zucchini?”

I suppose if I have to eat this crap I might as well make it more accessible. I think I’m going to rig it so when I open up the fridge stalks of broccoli instantly shoot into my face from a cannon. Then I might be willing to eat them more.

Probably not.

∗ As every parent knows, when your kids are quiet something’s up and it’s usually not good. I used to panic when it was quiet, but my kids are a bit older now and I wonder why I’m so much lazier with my panicking. I do half-assed panicking: a lot of worrying, but no action.

I think,  Are they okay? Are they still alive? Maybe not, maybe something happened. And here’s the worst part: I wait. I listen. Sometimes for a long long time to see if the silence lasts.

My kids might be in trouble and I actually choose my own selfish craving for quiet over possibly rescuing them from harm. What if they’re up on the roof? What if they took my car for a joy ride? I should be finding out, right? I shouldn’t still be lying here on this couch like a slob. Because that would be wrong.

I really should put this book down.

I really should put this book down.

So after about 20 minutes or an hour or three I get up to find out if they’re okay and always find them listening to music on their headphones in their bedrooms.

Still — I probably should have gotten up off the couch at least by the 30 minute mark. This is when the mommy guilt comes and I end up sticking my face in front of my broccoli cannon for punishment.

∗ Why is it we actually have the ability to replace our body’s entire skeleton every ten years, and renew all of our skin every 28 days, yet my cellulite never goes away?

∗ What is up with my 7-year-old daughter’s hair? It’s got a mind of its own.  I shampoo, condition, comb, brush and prune it. I pull it back in a pony tail, I braid it,  I shellac it with Spackle and various plastic polymers. Yet within seconds it’s back to looking like a big pile of tumble weeds.  And brushing out the tangles? Pure hell. Combing out her hair is like pulling thorns out of a lion’s paw.

Of course, I’ve tried letting her brush it herself and she does a great job. At brushing only the parts she sees in the mirror. So her front is perfect but the back would make a cozy nest for an entire family of rats.

When I tell her this, she shrugs and says, “But I can’t see the back!” So in her mind no one else can, either.

If only I could apply this logic to my gigantic, pantsless, bacon-fed, cellulite-riddled ass.

 

 

 

La la la la! I Can’t Hear You!

untitled (15)

Today at breakfast my 11-year-old son informed me he had good news and bad news. Not only was he finally allowed to bring his recorder home from music class but he was going to take his first puberty class at school.

I’m still trying to figure out which was the good news.

Later that afternoon after he slid into the backseat of the minivan and played a few notes of “Hot Cross Buns”, I immediately began plotting how and when his recorder would meet a tragic fate. As soon as we came to the first stop sign it was clear I wouldn’t have to wait very long for the “when” part.

“Hey Mom!” he yelled, in between rapid huffing and puffing and what sounded like a mockingbird having an asthma attack.  “Guess how puberty went today!”

There was that word again. Instantly, my mind seized up. **DANGER! DANGER! RED ALERT!** Abandon all innocence! Kiss it goodbye! It’s all over now!

I tried a distraction tactic. “Hey, how ’bout you play some more music? You take requests? Know ‘Smoke on the Water’?”

“I SAID guess how puberty went, Mom!”

“Guess how you and Bert went?”

“No! Puberty!”

“Phew, a birdie? Yes.”

“NO! PUBERTY!”

“What? I can’t hear you.”

“PUBERTY! PUBERTY! PU – BER – TY!”

Worst chant ever in the history of the world.

“Oh yeah? So how did that…uh…go?” I asked and held my breath.

“Terrifying,” he sighed from the backseat. “Absolutely terrifying.”

Truer words have never been spoken.

“Okay, ” I said. “That’s okay. It’s good we’re talking about this.  This is what I’m here for. We need to communicate because it’s healthy. Yeah. Very healthy. Sooooo very healthy….” Now it was my turn to sigh.

“So today we found out about uteruses! All girls have one,” he said.

“Riiiiiight….”

“And the uterus gets really big when the baby grows.”

“Yes, it does. Big uterus. Yep, indeedy. Big big uterus.”

Silence.

“So…” I peered into the rearview mirror. “Any other questions that you have for me? Because I would be…” I slowly dragged my hand down my face and took a deep breath. “Because I would be happy to answer any y’know…” I cringed as a few more gray hairs sprouted on my head “…any questions you may have. About where babies come from. They told you right?”

“Huh?”

“The teacher told you how the baby gets inside the uterus?”

“I don’t think so.  I must have blacked that part out. Maybe she’ll tell us tomorrow.”

“Hmm…well, tell you what. You can tell your father all about what you find out in puberty class tomorrow and he’ll answer any questions you might have, and I’ll listen to you play “Hot Cross Buns” as much as you like the rest of the day. Deal?”

“Okay,” he said and the car was once again filled with the Devil’s elevator music.

Sometimes being a mom requires making the tough choices.

Actually, this was an easy one.

I think.

Ask me again tomorrow after my first puberty class is over.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Getting to the End is the Point

The month of June will forever spin the threads of two momentous occasions together in my mind.

Graduation and Father’s Day.

The last time I graduated college in 1993 there was no pomp but plenty of circumstance.  The day I received my degree I simply opened my mailbox, ran my fingers under the edge of the thick manila envelope and slid my diploma into my hand.

I lifted up the heavy silk cover: Bachelor of Arts it read in fancy font. I stood there in the driveway looking at it for the longest time. Finally I snapped the cover shut, walked into the house and tossed it onto the stack of papers spilling over my desk.

I was lost. Even worse, I was hurt. I didn’t care that I had missed attending my graduation ceremony held over 3,000 miles away.  What was the point now? So I barely finished college. So what?  My dad was dead. He didn’t get to see me graduate. He didn’t get to see anything I did anymore.

At a deeper level I knew that wasn’t true, but I was determined to remain angry, to continue to feel cheated and hopeless. Why should I bother chasing my dream when the world proved to be so cold? I had no motivation because my biggest cheerleader was gone forever.

So I spent the majority of my early twenties lamenting my pain, my loss that no one else could ever possibly understand. Losing my dad was my excuse for everything. Doubts took root in my mind.  I gave up. I would never succeed. I would never become the person my dad thought I could be. My world was dark so why should I waste energy trying to create sparks?

Ah, but life has a strange way of seeing things through whether you’re on board or not. Fate intervenes and things correct themselves. Lessons are eventually learned no matter how hard you try to refuse their gifts. Threads in the tapestry connect and the circle closes.

It always closes.

A few years ago as I sat in the back of my first college class I felt that old familiar fear creeping in, threatening to suffocate that tiny spark.

But this time I had my cheerleader again. He sat in the empty chair next to me. I felt him there in every classroom for the past two years whispering, You can do it, Punky. He was seeing everything I was doing after all.

And I had to do it right this time. I wanted to show my dad I could do it. That I could finish this and see it to the end. I had to close the circle I had carelessly left open and frayed over twenty years ago.

Last month as I crossed the stage in my cap and gown in front of a thousand people, the sparks inside me creating a supernova of joy exploding in my heart, I had one thought:  I did it, Dad. I actually did it.

After I walked back to my seat with my diploma in hand, I glanced up into the stands searching for some sign of my dad. Did he see me now?

Laughing and cheering, I stood up with my classmates and ceremoniously turned my tassel from the right to the left. Of course, I knew the answer.

And my circle closed.

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Congratulations to all my fellow graduates.

And thanks Dad, for being there with me every step of the way.

Happy Father’s Day.

 

 

I’ll Take 30 Tiny Bags of Pretzels, Please.

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I was in a big metal tube about 35,000 feet above New York City last week when it dawned on me. There were not enough pretzels.

After the nice woman gave me a polite smirk that I’ve no doubt was the first thing she was taught at flight attendant school, she handed me two little bags, each one filled mostly with puffed air and pretzel dust.

Not enough. Because I wanted to cram them down my gullet so I might choke and pass out. Anything to take away from the realization that I was only a few feet of scrap metal away from a free-fall from hell.

Was I the only one on this plane thinking about the fact that at any second a bolt might come loose? That a portion of the rickety floor beneath my flip-flops might break off and I’d suddenly find myself spiraling down through the clouds still strapped into my seat and screaming until my lungs exploded, my pretzel bags clenched in my fists?

This is why they hand out bags of snacks. To distract us.

“Sure, we could all perish at any moment — but we have tiny cookies!”

Oh boy, you have Sprite, Diet Coke AND Coke? Oh, and I even get a tiny plastic cup full of ice? I’m sold! Flying is normal! People do it all day long! It’s perfectly sane!

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Me likey tiny snacks. Tiny snacks make it all better.

 

Certain parts of the flight freak me out more than others. The take-off. The landing. The time in-between.

After we took off from JFK airport to Orlando and the plane made a sharp bank to the left, I immediately realized this was a bad idea. My inner ears inflated like balloons, my brain slid from one side to the other and I almost asked the flight attendant if the pilot would kindly stop this ride and let me off. Surely I’d have better luck floating in the ocean with the life vest that looked like it was made of Ziploc bags and duct tape.

My husband assured me things would be better once the plane leveled at 45,000 feet because my ears would pop. Oh goody.

What he didn’t realize was that would only give the freaky Twilight Zone monster enough time to stabilize himself on the wing and pull out that last wire connected to the engine.

 

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More pretzels! Dear god I need more pretzels!

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It amazed me how no one else on the plane seemed to realize the constant potential danger we were in. My favorite thing the pilot says on every flight: “Ladies and gentleman, we seem to be having some mild turbulence. Please fasten your seatbelts.”

Mild turbulence? Oh you mean when the cramped tube we’re trapped inside starts to violently shake and rattle? Or when it drops suddenly, the engines sputter and it lurches back up?

“We’re going through clouds,” my husband assured me. Clouds? Clouds are making the plane almost break apart? If this is what the plane does when it encounters puffy white mist I would very much like to opt out of landing it on concrete at 300 miles an hour.

Nothing is more heart-thumping for me than the moment the landing gear drops and makes a loud grinding noise. You can never tell if the wheels cranked out all the way. Maybe they popped out only half-way. Maybe there’s only one wheel. Can a plane land on one wheel? That guy landed on the Hudson, surely this Doogie Howser pilot could pull it off, right?

No matter the outcome of the landing gear, I make sure I always have my iPhone all prepped and ready to take video of the event for CNN.

Another thing that irked me was how often I was told to enjoy this experience.

“Enjoy your flight!” the cheery flight attendants said as I boarded every plane. Enjoy my flight? Oh there will be no enjoying. A hot fudge sundae? That I enjoy. A good night’s sleep? Much enjoying going on there.

The only time I finally felt any slightest bit of enjoyment was once the plane came to a complete stop at the gate. Even the landings were filled with anxiety. One pilot slammed on the brakes so hard we all flung forward in our seats. I guess there wasn’t enough runway.

You’ve probably already figured out I did survive all four flights last week. However, I will never fly again. I will drive everywhere from now on. I realize this will make my lifelong dream of going to Italy harder to accomplish.

And I know all about the statistics stating flying is safer than driving.  But I prefer to do my dying on solid ground. It’s more stable. Not to mention less motion sickness, inner ear implosions and Twilight Zone monsters.

And the pretzels down here are bigger.