Sunday, February 28, 2010


I think I may be addicted to caffeine. There. I feel better. (No I don’t). Or maybe I’m not addicted. Maybe I just like it a lot. Maybe I love it – a hot cup of joe first thing in the morning before I speak to anyone, that’s the best. Pete’s is my favorite, but I have also been known to take in Green Mountain, Seattle Drip, Bokar, even Folgers. (I will only drink Starbucks if I’m really desperate. Too tangy.) This little quandary has been on my mind for the past couple of weeks – do I have dependence issues? I hear that if you even have to ask yourself that question, it’s probably the case.

According to Wikipedia (my guide to finding answers to anything), there are three types of addiction – positive, negative and neutral. Positive addiction is where the benefits outweigh the costs, and you can deduce what the other definitions are.. but what’s interesting about the explanation is that Mr. Wikipedia gives examples of drug, alcohol, over eating, gambling and porn as common addictions, but nothing about coffee, which disturbs me.

My search continues:
Because everything on the Internet is true, I have found a couple of pieces of information that back up my assertion: yes, I do have a problem. On the word of one website, one common way of defining addiction to a particular commodity is the individual's longing for the item. Let’s see here, I can’t function without it in the morning. By afternoon, if I haven’t had a Diet Coke, Go Girl or reheated stale morning coffee, I can expect testiness, lack of focus, time standing still. And if I am out of coffee or any other caffeine type substance, I go into full panic mode.

I recall a particularly embarrassing incident where my husband, Pants and I were at our cabin in the mountains hosting a nice couple from our hometown. We woke up, thinking we were well equipped with the necessary ingredients to make a great breakfast. I opened the freezer to retrieve my trusty Peet’s canister and what was noticeably absent was the grainy brown dirt. There may have been a few crystals at the bottom, but I happened to lick those up with my thumb before I went into triple star terror. What was most humiliating about my “hitting bottom” was that our guests weren’t even coffee drinkers which would have made this train wreck a little more acceptable.

“We have decaf, sweetie.” Pants tried to console me, but I wasn’t listening at this point. He stood there, stunned, watching me pace like a caged animal in the kitchen, opening cupboards, slamming doors.

The decaf was left over from my pregnancy two years prior. And decaf doesn’t cut it. Never has. While knocked up, I was forced to suck down that dreaded imitation crap and it was like doing laps in a hot tub. Or drinking non-alcoholic beer. What’s the point? I drink coffee to catch the buzz.

Pants quietly left the cabin, got into the car and drove the 10 miles into town to get the coffee. Meanwhile, I had bitten my fingernails to the nubs.

And our houseguests never came back for a return visit.

My family members, friends and coworkers know that I need a steady stream of caffeine intake throughout the day. They even enable my addiction by planning meetings, get togethers and engagements around it at local coffee shops and establishments where they know I can obtain a caffeinated drink without incident.
The fridge at my work has a lifetime supply of ground coffee beans, Diet Cokes, ice teas and Go Girls. If we go low, I don’t even have to point it out. A grocery run is eminent. Everyone knows what will happen if I go cold.

So, do I have a problem? I think perhaps. I have tried to kick the habit a few times and those incidents have ended in disaster – headaches, bad moods, the utter lack of productivity in the morning, even a few ended relationships. I have tried water. I have tried decaffeinated tea. I have tried wheat grass juice. All very bad ideas that lead to bad choices throughout the day, especially in the areas of inner personal relationships.

But I would like to hold on to that little piece of hopeful information I pulled from the Internet – that my addiction happens to be positive. Because my family, friends and coworkers surely know how life would be if I actually kicked the habit.

Purely negative.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Mean People Suck, That Includes the Man Who Invented High Heels

My barometer for mean stretches pretty far. Pretty far. Allow me to explain myself. As I type these words, I am currently seated in an airport terminal – hooked up to wireless, plugged in as it were.. ah, modern day conveniences.. and this woman is sitting across from me, four people over. As I walked up to plug in, she gave me what I would define as a mean look – furrowed brow, mouth turned down, eyes judging me (I knew I shouldn’t have worn these boots with this suit). This could very well be an exaggeration, but for the sake of material, let’s say it’s not.

I have now focused on her implicitly, catching sidewinder glimpses of her hoping that the grimace she gave me was just the natural physical expression of her face, that she was born with that awful scowl. That has been known to happen before, my Pollyanna outlook has some merit to it. “Things are not always as they seem.” I’m running off at the fingers right now, but this warrants some explanation. I remember a time when I was 12 or 13 – coming into my own as a young woman – and Mother Turd and I were in Los Gatos wandering around town trying to find my long lost God Mother who disappeared when I was 3 after a falling out with Mother Turd. (A long story for yet another blog entry). We were sitting on a bench eating ice cream, defeated and exhausted from our search and a man was sitting across from us, sunglasses on, eyeing us.. I could tell. He wouldn’t stop looking in our direction, and considering my mother’s old age, he couldn’t very well be sizing her up. Had to be me. So, I started flirting. Not overtly, mind you. Just trying on the flirtation like a training bra (which I had yet to own at that point, by the way).

I licked my ice cream slowly. I crossed my legs. I smiled in his direction. I dangled my flip flop off of my big toe. He kept looking our (my) way. I was sure he found this little Lolita display quite seductive. This went on until my mother turned around and asked what the hell I was doing. Nothing. Just lickkking myyy iccee crreaaam…. I let out a flirty little laugh and looked towards my potential suitor once again. And then, he got up (I’ve really done it now, I thought. I have gone too far with the flirting because he is going to come over here and ask my mother for permission to take me away to his polygamist compound where I will become his seventeenth wife and have to push out my first kid at 13. Knowing Mother Turd, she probably would have given him some walking around money for his offer). As he arose from the bench, he grabbed his white cane, tapped the side of the bench to gauge his surroundings, and gingerly walked away using the cane as a guide.

I use this specific experience as a reason to give people, this woman sitting across from me, the benefit of the doubt – that perhaps I am not interpretting peoples' actions accurately, that perhaps her face is normally like that, or she is having a bad day or just found out her kid is in trouble with the authorities. But now, as I steal another glance to support my assertion, she is giggling with her husband, boyfriend, dude, and she is quite pretty and her facial expression is inviting, that is until she sees me looking at her again. (Damn, caught.) And then the scowl reappears. So, now I have come to the conclusion that it’s me she doesn’t like and now I don’t like her because she is “mean”. I have categorized her. She’s dead to me, Fredo. (For the women reading this, the phrase is a quote from the Godfather, which I had to learn the hard way. If you know this already, use it. And if someone uses it on you, cite the movie. This will increase your cool quota two fold. Do not under any circumstances ask who Fredo is like I did. You will forever be branded a lame-o by your male friends.)

“Mean”, ah yes, who else is in my mean file? The clerk at the Shell Gas Station off of Freeport. When I fill up and use my debit card, the number 9 always gets stuck (now you know one number in my four-digit pin). And so, I am forced to get out of my car, walk in to the cashier and pay at the counter. (I can’t believe I am actually complaining about this, but let’s get on to Mr. Mean). So, invariably, I give him my card, smile at him in a way that almost forces a smile back. This doesn’t happen. Ever. And it drives me crazy. On bad days, he doesn’t even look up at me. Sometimes I find myself with my ear about two inches from the counter looking up his nostrils non-verbally begging for a smile, validation, anything. Nada. Mr. Mean is not there to make friends. One day, Mr. Mean told me that my card was rejected. Impossible, I said, run it again. He responded that he ran it twice. The gas had already been pumped so I owed him something. I asked if he took checks. Head nod. I asked if he had any dishes that I could wash in the back. Another stern head nod. Then he pointed to the ATM.

That blasted machine charged me $3.50 to take out my own money. Mr. Mean and the ATM machine were permanently lodged in my mean file.

Moving on. I have a tendency to ramble. I know this comes as a surprise for most, but on occasion, I start talking and I can hear myself telling my mouth to make sense or wrap it up, but it’s a compulsion. I can’t shut up, and the more I talk, the uglier it gets. For instance, a conversation may start out about public pension sustainability and end up as a marital dispute I had with Pants last Saturday. If I end up on this kick, I advise people to politely offer the following:

“Can you clarify? I am not following.”
“You have a lot going on in your head, how do you keep everything straight?”
Or my personal favorite, “You’re funny.”

What I dislike immensely and what will likely get you into the mean category on a very permanent basis – you know who you are, but knowing how mean you are, I can assume that you are probably not reading my blog – do not say the following to me, ever:

“Um.. (throat clear) what the hell are you talking about?”
“You know, I don’t know what you’re on, but you are making zero sense.”
“Do you live in some fantasy world that none of us know about?”
“You’re kind of dumb.”

Let me be clear: the aforementioned responses have been used on me on a number of occasions, and yes, some even in a work setting. Okay, maybe not the last one. Maybe that came from my 2 year old. And I would never put him in my mean file.. that is until he is 14 and cusses at me in Spanish for asking him to clean up his room before playing futbol outside.

And just in case you were wondering, there are over a dozen people that fit the last mean file category.

Now on to my favorite. The a-hole who invented high heels.

I am certain this was a man for two reasons. First, a woman would have invented pillow shoes that slip on and off in all earth tone colors and would expand automatically during pregnancy. Instead, we are left with stuffing our oversized bread loaves into little party hats. Sorry, grandma, but your big sour dough loaves do not look good in those pay less pumps.

Second, the higher the heel, the better your butt looks. I don’t care if your derrière is the size of Mount Hood. You put a pair of 5 inch Jimmy Choos on her, that woman is going to look like Kim Kardashian going. This has "man invention" written all over it.

And for these reasons, I curse the day Jimmy Choo got into the business. I have done a small bit of research on the subject; high heels were around during ancient Egypt, 3,500 B.C in an effort to show stature and wealth. And I am not naïve to think that little ol’ me will somehow turn this eternal fashion statement into a thing of the very very distant past. But I can offer up my distaste for the guy who originally invented them, whoever that Egyptian may be..

I bring to this debate a unique perspective. I was born with what doctors called a club foot. No, this is not to describe my leg as being a baseball bat resting on a stump. When I was born, my achillies tendon was shortened which stunted the growth of my foot resulting in a major size difference between my two feet. One foot (the “normal” one) is a size 7 in women’s. The other is a size 5.. or 5 and a half if you take in the fact that the width of the “clubby” (thanks 4th grade friends, for the nickname) is about the width of my right thigh.

As you can imagine, this has made the otherwise pure joy of shoe shopping a living nightmare for me. Here are some of my regular challenges:

• Can’t wear pumps – little to no heel on the “clubby” means I can’t keep the damn shoe on.
• Can’t wear high heeled sandals – the toes on my clubby don’t reach the cute part where my perfectly manicured toes are supposed to just peek out and say hi.
• Can’t buy one shoe of each size – those a-hole shoe makers have some rule that you can’t buy just one shoe. “What do you expect us to do with the other shoe?” How about find someone with my problem, only opposite? (Incidentally, I tried this once. Some organization out of San Francisco had a program where people with different sized feet traded shoes. Well, I never found anyone, and if I did, would I really have the same taste as them? My luck, it would be some 80 year old who has a penchant for house slippers. No thank you.)
• Can’t wear 3 inches or above unless you want to see me do a face plant on the sidewalk.

According to another Grade A Rat’s website (Manolo Blahnik), high heels are considered 5 inches or higher. Medium heels are at 2.5 to 3.5 and anything lower would be considered flats. Are you kidding me? Really? How can I even compete in this market? I might as well just give up and hit up the Birkenstocks store because I am out, ladies. I can’t keep up the façade any longer. My knees hurt, my clubby aches, my toes are tired of being crammed into shoes that don’t fit. (Cotton in the toes after 8 hours becomes frankly, down right painful).

So, if you see me walking around in a pair of Larry’s Comfort Shoes, just tell me I look nice. Compliment my suit, don't even glance below my waste. Look, I know my booty won’t "pop", I get that. I am willing to accept that tiny defeat, and I am willing to do it in exchange for better comfort and Mr. High Heels being put into my mean file… eternally.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Dr. Laura Makes Me Feel Bad About Myself

I have found recently through work or play that when I am in my car between the hours of 12 and 3 on weekdays I tune in to Dr. Laura Schletsruinlives radio show. I don’t know why. I guess you could call it an unhealthy habit.

I can’t recall how many times I have happened upon her self promoted, self help verbal scathing radio show, but once I am there, I can’t stop listening. I liken this phenomenon to watching a street fight or a mother scolding her kid in the grocery store. Turning the channel might be the wise thing to do, but I can’t. My morbid curiosity takes hold and strangles my cogent decision making ability.

As I listen to Dr. Laura’s caustic advice, I feel empathy for the caller – why would anyone dial that number, albeit a toll free call. Being humiliated in front of millions of travelers isn’t worth the advice au gratis.

Like today, this woman could have easily been my husband calling:

“I’m Dr. Laura Schletshangthecaller, hello Lori, welcome to the program.”

“Hi Dr. Laura, thank you for taking my call.”


“So, I have been married for six years and my husband and I have a two year old. We both work and I have a problem with his lack of help in the morning in getting our child ready for the nanny and..”

“I have to interrupt you right there. I used to be a feminista back in the day,” (She really said this.) “and when my husband and I decided to have a child, I made the selfless decision to quit my job and change dirty diapers and support my family by staying at home. I relished in this time to bond with my child. If you can afford a nanny, you can afford not to work. You are being selfish by leaving a two year old with a total stranger, and for you to expect your husband to chip in 50-50 is ridiculous. Pay your stranger nanny to come to the house at 6:00 a.m. if you want to continue to abandon your child, but don’t expect anything more from your husband.”


“It is irresponsible to leave someone else to bond with your toddler. Good luck. Next caller.”

As I turned the rearview mirror to survey my sleeping son in the backseat, I was forced to ask myself if he is truly happy and if my working is going to implant permanent scars on his impressionable wits. And during the five minute commercial break, I filled myself with enough self doubt to call in sick for the next 16 years of his life. Instead, I decided to change the station… but then…

“I’m Dr. Laura Schletshearitforalltheidiotsintheworld. Hello Daisy, welcome to the program.”

“Hi Dr. Laura. Thank you for taking my call. I am wondering why I like older men.”

“How would I know that? I know nothing about you.” (The sensitive touch, so moving.)

“Well, I am a young woman and I have gone out with men my own age. I just find them completely immature. I like men who are 10 and sometimes 20 years older than me. I find I have more in common with them.”

“Honey, let me tell you what they have in common with you. A tight body and nice skin. There is nothing you can do that will give you more maturity or experience than someone their own age. Bottom line, you have serious daddy issues that you need to deal with..”

Another commercial break. Another self actualizing breakdown in the car headed towards Sacramento.

I am that woman. I married a man 13 years older than me. I am his third wife and although I would like to think that my husband can bounce a quarter off of my sweet turd cutter, the real reason we are hitched is because he acts like he’s 25, and I can still “party” like I am 18. A perfect match. A perfect marriage. It’s true, just ask our friends (preferably during our uninhibited pool party barbeques).

Never the less, that grade A wench has again made me feel as if I have some serious daddy issues. I wonder what Dr. Laura would say to the fact that my best friend is a 71 year old male.

In fact, there’s a lot that Dr. Laura makes me self conscious about besides my penchant for old men and the fact that I have abandoned my child in lieu of a career. She also has me thinking twice about public school, my religious convictions (or lack thereof), and my definition of spousal quality time. Here’s another topper:

“I’m Dr. Schletsruinyourpatheticlife. Hello Dale, welcome to the program.”

“Hi Dr. Laura. Let me start off by saying that your son and husband should be grateful for you.” (This guy thinks he’s going to get a softer version if he butters up the ice queen first. Good luck with that, Dale.)

“Thank you Dale. How can I help you today?”

“My wife is upset that I have been looking at porn on the Internet. She wants me to go to counseling.”
“Why do you feel compelled to look at porn, Dale?”

“I like looking at naked ladies.”

“Why aren’t you satisfied with looking at your wife, Dale?”

“Um, I have been married for 20 years. I just…”

“Dale, if looking at porn bothers your wife, why would you continue to do it?”

“She’s usually asleep when I….”

“Get yourself some counseling, Dale.. Next caller.”

Here’s where I begin to go nuclear. I am so close to pushing that radio scan button on the AM dial, but I just yell instead (and wake up my son in the backseat). First off, why would it bother Dale’s wife if he looked at a few sets of tatas? Does it not matter where you get your appetite as long as you eat dinner at home? Help me understand how this is a bad thing.

But as I drive down Hwy Lonely, Dr. Laura’s judgmental declarations swirl in my head, I become angrier.I have almost had the 1-800 half dialed with one hand as I drive with the other, ready to give her a piece of my feminista mind. But I can’t. That’s what she wants. She can’t wait to hear from me, an irate caller, unsure of herself, calling to defend her choices in men, mothering, career, exotic material.

I hang up the phone. Angry at my cowardice. Angry at Dr. Laura’s influence over people’s lives. Angry that I am even allowing her in.. that I am questioning myself, my moral construct, my LIFE. I truly can’t stand this woman.

But as I pull in to my driveway, I notice that it’s 2:50. I have 10 more minutes of this raging lune. And while the car idles, and Yack is squirming in the backseat, I continue to listen. And the fact is, I will do so diligently when I am in my car between the hours of 12 to 3 pm on weekdays.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Bird Boy of India

Since the original premise behind this blog was to give motherly advice, and since I have blogged on anything but up to this point, I figure it’s about time to address this intimidating subject. My son, Yack, is 2 years old. His Nena – the angel from heaven who is helping my raise my son (it takes a village) - is from Guadalajara. She speaks Spanish as if ribbons of white chocolate are streaming out of her mouth. I am jealous. It sounds so much better than the sticatto twang that comes out of mine. Nena is also my son’s God Mother, a decision we made internally the minute we met her, which was about two months before Yack was even born. She is everything I am not: nurturing, patient, diaper savvy. I love Nena. I would not be the mother I am today if not for her.

The only downside to having a Spanish speaking second mother is the fact that I don’t understand Yack half the time. His first word wasn’t mama or dada, it was pelota. I had to look that up. I have also had to look up the following words in my trusty pocket dictionary:

Ventana – window
Cameon – truck
Palomitas – popcorn
Coma la mierda – I’ll leave this one alone.

I predict a very touchy situation when Yack is 12 - I will ask him to clean his room, he will sputter a flurry of foreign words I won’t comprehend and I will be forced to admit that my son is more cultured that I. Think back to when we were kids: wouldn’t you have taken advantage of telling your parents to kiss your ass if they truly didn’t understand a word you were saying?

If only there were dirty word dictionaries. Someone get on that. I will even let you use my idea for a title, “The White Parents Users Guide to Understanding your Latino Teens”.

Dropping Yack off (thank goodness his name is not Jack) and picking Yack up from Nena’s everyday makes me reflect on the role I play as the working mother. I feel a little like Disneyland Dad, wherein I have to make every moment with him meaningful. We cram every possible fun activity into a 2 hour period before he passes out at 7:3o. This practice is typically more beneficial and fulfilling for me than for Yack. Sometimes he just wants to be left alone. I can’t let that happen. He typically falls asleep in the middle of our ball throwing in the living room or tennis racket guitar jam sessions on his highrise bed. I have to shake him to keep him going if I think we haven’t had enough “we” time.

On weekends, I have a tendency to cram as much “fun” time as possible. We hike in the mountains (he has outgrown the backpack, but I think I can get another 3 months out of it), we play in the snow (he isn’t too keen on the cold, but I am getting him used to it by forcing him to dodge my high flying snowballs), we go wine tasting (he is starting to enjoy the free dark chocolate samples when we are sampling the ports), and he absolutely loves going to conferences with me (those hotel babysitters are actually licensed, who knew?).

I am the kind of mother who feels it’s important to expose your child to as many experiences as possible so he can grow up to be a well rounded, well adjusted kid. For instance, on Fridays I try to bring Yack into work with me so he can learn the value of a dollar. I set him up in my office on the floor with some crayons and paper and tell him to do what mommy is doing, and keep to it up for the next four hours. Sometimes he gets antsy, but I politely remind him that it wouldn’t be called “work” if it was fun.


I know what you’re thinking, and you’re right: this mom thing is really growing on me. I am starting to understand my full potential.

Our next adventure with Yack will be a trip to Burning Man at the end of August. Now, I have never been, but have heard quite a bit about it from friends and family. In fact, my husband has gone a couple of times. (We will refer to him in this particular segment as The Birdman of India). My continued reluctance to bite the bullet and attend this desert hippie fest lies solely on the fact that I attended UC Santa Cruz. For those who are unaware of UC Santa Cruz’s surroundings, let’s describe it this way: take a pinch of Burning Man and add it to a bowl of redwoods and ocean, hand stir until smooth. Pop it in the oven for 30 minutes, or if you have an outdoor solar oven, even better. Wait to consume until cool and then let the rush pour over your soul. Warning, though. Don’t call home in an effort to impart. Mom and Dad may not appreciate your experience as much as you.

So, many may be wondering why I would want to take Yack to this dirt hugging love fest. My reasons are twofold. First, I want to prove to my impressionable son that Nena isn’t the only one who can teach him things. Sure, she may teach him how to count to 20 in Spanish, to tie his shoes and use the toilet, but I can teach him about the true meaning of bartering for a meal, how to use body paint, and how to make jewelry out of dried fruit. These are all skills that will be important to his overall growth. He will look back on this when he runs into these similar situations later in life and think, “I have to hand it to Mom. She taught me how to deal with this issue – I now know how to give a massage for a pancake.”

It’s like an endless classroom, this Burning Man. I can’t wait.

Yeah, yeah, yeah.. it’s six months away, but the anticipation is eating me whole. In fact, tonight I got on the website and reviewed the Burning Man guidelines for kids. It had some useful parenting tools for our trip. For instance, they highlight that that children have needs that are different from those of adults (news to me). They require special care and attention (this I pretty much had figured out). In order to meet these needs, the first and most important requirement is that parents communicate with their children (like how? Yell? Whisper? Sign? Please be specific). Burning Man is like a kid's cartoon (Yo Gabba Gabba – this image gets me really geared up for our trip). While its content is not nearly as violent as most children's entertainment, it certainly is jam-packed with novel images and new experience (nothing compares to Yack’s reaction to our movie night selection last week: Scareface). This is why we ask all parents to consciously take the time to talk with their children about each day's experience (I think I’ll put together some charts and graphs). Such daily debriefings can be very rewarding — far easier, in fact, than trying to discuss the more hermetic worlds of school or television (what does hermetic mean? I am going to have to look that one up). This is because Burning Man is an experience that both parent and child can actively share and create. (Watch for us in our Cruise America RV Rental).

While perusing the Burning Man website, I did come upon a rather disturbing piece of information I wasn’t quite prepared to read. I am pretty sure this won’t deter the Bird Man of India and me from taking Yack, but it did make me step back a minute and rethink our choice. The notice read as follows: In the spirit of radical self reliance it is your duty at our event to assume complete responsibility for your child at all times.

You mean there are no Nenas at Burning Man? Hmmm....

This could be trouble for you, little Bird Boy of India.

Friday, February 5, 2010

The Brown Snap - A Case Study

It can happen in the blink of an eye. You could be at the Browns, enjoying a tasty beverage in the beautiful backyard garden, amidst the geraniums and tulips, discussing puppy rubs and butterfly kisses, and then suddenly complete mayhem – monsoon-like. Clouds overhead, rain – no, hail – pouring down. Guests scrambling for cover, picnic napkins draping over heads, car keys clanging about. The sound of engines peeling away from the curb. There’s no time to think. Just get the hell out of there. Disappear. Make yourself ghostlike. Because you, my friend, have just experienced the wrath of the Brown Snap.

Studies have shown that there are no determinable causes to trigger the Brown Snap, or even where or how it originated. Some researchers have dubbed it as the eighth wonder of the world. But if one were to truly dissect its most recent occurrences – say within the last three decades, the data might be able to show how it erupts and consequently, give those who find themselves in the throws of its rage time to react or more aptly prepare against sustained damages.

My first memory of the Brown Snap happened around the age of six, although I would argue that I likely experienced several before then. I forget what I did to piss off my dad, to instigate the Brown Snap. Most likely something simple and kid-like. Pick one: throwing a tantrum, throwing food, throwing a curve ball. And I remember the quickness of it all, the shear fury in his eyes. He went from sweet loving, pony ride dad to crazed growling get-out-of-his-line-of-view dad. Since we had a no-hitting rule in our house, his outburst methods were limited. Although, he did find a way to inflict physical harm. Cut to the permanent finger bruises I still have on my upper arms or the invariable ringing in my ears from shaken-child syndrom.

What’s poignant about my father’s Snap is that it didn’t just happen when I was misbehaving. It also surfaced when I was beating him at certain “family fun” board games. One minute my little blue round ball head would be racing around the board to home base, the next minute it would be flying in mid air towards the ceiling fan. And just like that, as the dice lay on the floor next to the dog and the cards strewn about in chaos, the game was over.

Another solid case study is my brother, Turd. He somehow acquired the curse in spades – truly the worst I have ever seen. A couple of instances which are lacquered in my psyche bear repeating.

Turd and I were hiking up the Rubicon Peak trail in Tahoe about 10 years ago. It was a beautiful winter day, so we were forced to wear snowshoes. The trail happens to be a two star challenge. Something to get your lungs working, but standard and easily doable. About two-thirds of the way up, Turd, who happened to be packing a too few many el bees at the time, stopped, knelt over and snapped. When he arose from his vertical fetal position, he growled quietly, took off his snowshoes and hurled them into the fresh, unchartered snow. He then proceeded to berate me for taking him on what he coined as a “death march”. I wasn’t quite sure what Turd was going to do at this point – his snowshoes were 50 feet up the hill (a hell of an arm), which meant that he had to not only continue hiking up the mountain, but he had to do it in his non-waterproof Bay Area gravel Velcro hiking shoes – the ones you wear to Starbucks on Saturday mornings after an urban “hike”.

Sure, I offered to help, but this is futile. Those who have been recipients of the Brown Snap know that there is nothing you can do – you cannot offer assistance or solace or even words of encouragement. And you certainly can’t snap back. This will make the perp angrier and can elevate the Snap intensity.

Another Turd Snap incident occurred several years later on a trail up in Auburn, California. Like the previous Snap, this too arose during a beautiful day outdoors. It was spring. The air was clear and crisp. The birds were singing. The mountain bike trail on which I graciously took Turd was again, a two star challenge - a little up hill to make the downhill worth it. And the ride couldn’t have been more enjoyable.. until…

We were exactly 6 minutes from the car, and Turd stopped dead. He bent over his bike (oh, boy, I have seen this before), breathing a couple of hateful breaths – those breaths that should be traveling out the mouth, but end up coming out of the nose… similar to that of a Grizzly before he attacks.

And before I could run, Turd’s mountain bike was in the air and coming straight for my head. Luckily, I dodged and weaved to get out of the way as the blur of titanium and tires landed inches away from my feet. Like a trapped rabbit, I froze and waited for the rash of obscenities to be launched my way for taking Turd on another "death march".

“Well if you just hopped on a treadmill a couple of times during the week, these outings would be more enjoyable.. for you and for me.” This turned out to be the wrong thing to say and the Snap lasted twice as long as it would have otherwise.

One would think that my mother would have escaped this syndrome since she married into the family, and it appears as though the Snap originated on my father's side. This would certainly answer a lot of questions – that the Snap is hereditary, therefore more acceptable and perhaps manageable, but this is not the case.

One recent Brown Snap outbreak happened within the past year at a rare family gathering. Our cousins from Colorado were visiting – a once in a blue moon type of event (although I would prefer more frequently, but I understand fully why they stay away). Mother Turd was in the kitchen washing dishes and drying dishes and cleaning the floors with a toothbrush while simultaneously telling us that dinner was ready, but brother Turd for whatever reason, wasn’t ready to eat. Perhaps Junior Turd needed attending to. Mother Turd and Brother Turd found themselves nose to nose, sharing a few choice words about respect and timeliness and the next thing you know, two Snaps occurred simultaneously. Fortunately, the chances of that happening are rare, albeit horribly dangerous.

Being the peacemaker in the family, I took it upon myself to step into the middle of the dual Snap and try to conflict manage our way to the dinner table. I can’t recall verbatim what happened next, but I can tell you that Mother Turd stormed out of the kitchen, picked up a director’s chair (the canvas chairs that fold in two even when you are sitting in them) and heaved it towards the wall. Funny, this time it didn’t fold in two, and funny, this time it almost decapitated my step son. Due to his 5-day a week basketball conditioning, his reflexes were stellar, and he ducked. And the chair leg landed against the living room wall creating a hole the size of a light bulb right below an Ansel Adams print, which given my parents’ frugal taste was likely not an original.

There is a silver lining to this pandemic that yes, it will pass. But you need to wait it out. There’s no cure. You just need to be perfectly still and be completely compliant – even ignorant. Sometimes you must pretend that it never happened. Talking about it, dissecting it later will only lead to responses of denial, lack of control, answers like, "its in my blood, I can't help myself".

It’s troubling that science has come so far in certain areas, but has let us down in others. We are very close to finding a cure for AIDS, for Alzheimers, even several forms of cancer. But like the common cold, the Brown Snap doesn’t have a cure. And until we discover its origin and be able to answer some very simple questions, like, is it contagious? Is it a virus? A bacterial infection? Is it in our DNA? We will be no more closer to a cure.

And until that happens, I go about my days a little on edge.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Was it really that difficult?

You did it, brother Turd. I asked you to provide some upscale clip art to my new blog, and you came through. Bravo! A spitting image of me. The only thing I would correct would be the length and thickness of my hair (longer and more full bodied).. and perhaps the shading of my nose..

An Open Letter To My Brother

Dear Turd -

I find it difficult to broach this particularly sensitive subject with you, so I am going to refrain from beating around the bush and get to the point: I have boundaries and I would ask that you recognize them and subsequently respect them.

I can see you shaking your confused little head as you read this so I will offer a few points of clarification: First off, now I know that my past behaviors may not reflect the fact that I have boundaries, but believe me, they exist. And secondly, for the love of… I have a business to run. I am well respected within my political community. People rely on my moral compass to guide them to good decision making.

What I am trying to express is this: if one of my most respected clients were to happen upon my newly created blog and see the shenanigans that you have contributed to this respectable forum, who knows what could become of my well oiled reputation that I have worked so hard to build in what can only be described as a dog eat female dog world.

Allow me to remind you of what the great Warren Buffet once said, (or Buddhist Philosopher Daisaku Ikeda, I don’t know which), “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you'll do things differently.”

Bottom line: I certainly don’t need any help from you.

This is not to say that we haven’t tested our boundaries in the past. I recall several run-ins with the law (you) and several verbal vomiting episodes at family gatherings (me). I also can’t help but feel a little nostalgic about our fond childhood memories: the gentle urging of our dear mother to blanket Ms. Fox’s house (our second grade teacher) with 13 rolls of two-ply in the dark of night, or the artful ways in which we utilized fake snappy snot in crowded farmers’ markets – another parental influence. And oh, we mustn't forget the many uses of peanut butter. But let me remind of you one thing: I am an adult now. Those days are over.

And when we had our little chat – I would go so far as to call it half way delightful – about starting my blog, and you willingly offered your assistance with the clip art, I didn’t in my wildest dreams believe that you could come up with something like that.

You have one more chance to redeem yourself. And you better make it good. After that, I am cut and pasting sunsets and beaches off the world wide web.

Now get to it.

- The more mature sibling.

Note to the reader: If you are easily offended (or are hardly ever offended unless something is just too over the top), do not click on the following link:

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Wedding Pants

I married my husband, Pants four years ago. It seems like just yesterday when I was traipsing down the isle full of anticipation, excitement and joy.. captivated by all eleven attendees' expressions of love, awe and hope that I chose wisely this time around.

And I am proud to report: So far so good.

As I ponder our last four years together, I am reminded of that memorable rainy day in Sonoma when Pants and I tied the knot. It was important for me to have a non-conventional easy-bake wedding for a couple of reasons. One, I did not want to perpetuate the Roast-Brown's-bad-choices-on-her-wedding-day theme, which could have gone that way had we opened the guest list up to the riffraff. (That's not to say that my choice in Pants was a bad one, on the contrary. But it certainly could be argued that his choice in me was perhaps a tad impulsive.) And second, I am more of the salvation army variety. The less we spent on our wedding, the more we spent on my dual disc brake, full suspension Trek mountain bike. So, how, you ask did we (I) make such challenging wedding decisions? Observation, of course. So, for those who haven't taken the plunge yet (or can't - overturn Prop 8!), allow me to offer some unsolicited advice if you are contemplating the jump off that cliff.

1. Money spent on a wedding is money not spent on a honeymoon (or your child's college education, or ovulation kits when you are trying to make your child - yes, they are that expensive, or a spa day away from your spouse which you will definitely need once you "land him").

2. Have only your best friends and family there. Everyone else is chip dip that has been sitting out in the sun on the buffet table way too long. It certainly adds to the ensemble, but ends up giving you a big stomach ache later. This is regret. Learn to recognize it and analogize accordingly.

3. Don’t buy an expensive dress. You wear it once and someone will inevitably spill something on it. This happened to a friend of mine. Her dress was pretty pricy and someone spilled red wine on it, Jackson Pollack style..She pulled it off, though. And I have to admit, there’s no price I wouldn’t pay to look as hot as she did that day. For the record, J Crew has some nice dresses. I bought mine a size larger and then had a tailor take it in right before the wedding. I ate a lot, I eat a lot when I get nervous and was slightly on edge by this lifelong commitment I was about to make. So, as it turned out, the tailor didn’t really have to take it in at all as a matter of fact. And even though it appeared as though I were smuggling a punch bowl under my gown, I felt like royalty for the low low price of $278 (included shipping and handling).

4. Give your husband a gift. S/He has likely spent a small fortune on your ring which serves only two purposes in life 1. to signal to other potential paramours that your fruit has already been picked, and 2. to protect against the plague. You don't believe me? Look it up. In terms of a gift, I recommend a flat screen or a night in Vegas.. something that says I love and trust you.

6. Write your own vows. Say what you mean – Tell her/him in front of everyone that you are willing to put up with his irratic driving if it means s/he puts up with your bathing challenges.

Which reminds me, don’t do any beauty-stuff that you haven’t done anything before on a regular basis. Perfect example – I went in for microderm abrasion right before my wedding. I don’t know if you know what this is, but it feels like someone is sandpapering your face. And it looks like it too. While my face turned a crimson red (what do I have to be embarrassed about?) my wrinkles were still there, so were the blackheads around my nose. The only difference? Red face in a wedding dress. Use your ever reliable oil of olay. It’s worked for many a decade, and it will work just as well on your wedding day.

7. And lastly, don’t listen to your family under any circumstances. You can do this by implementing a number of useful stress relievers. Example: If you are not fully ready 45 minutes before the ceremony and your mother screeches at you to step it in to high gear, grab your yoga mat, your Morf squeeze ball, or mojito and smile and say, “no worries, mom, I am on my way”. And a word of caution: if your stress relief happens to be alcohol, know your limits. Just a nip, that's all you need, anything else will be disasterous – how can we forget Amanda during her wedding in Sixteen Candles?

A Blog is Born

Before I begin, it should be noted that names have been changed to protect the guilty.

I phoned two people for their advice when I impulsively thought about starting a blog. Granted, I already had my mind made up, which is a typical practice: Make a decision and then call people who you think will validate you and tell you how innovative and strategic you are. And with any plan, it doesn't always turn out that way , but I have a knack for picking up signs to support my decisions.

So I called my brother first. The conversation went something like this:

Me: "Hey turd, it's your sister."

Turd: "Make it fast, I am helping Junior Turd get ready for school."

Me: "Do you think I should start a blog?"

Turd: "About what?" Cut to background noise: Junior Turd yelling about lost shoes.

Me: "Oh, I don't know. About my being a mother, and the advice I can give to other mothers out there." (My husband was taking our two year old to the nanny's which gave me a well deserved moment to reflect on my many mom accomplishments.)

Turd: "Well, Sis, you know very little about that subject. How about what not to do as a mother?"

Me: "Thanks, bye. Just make sure you send me some good clip art for my webblog."

Here's how my second call went with my cousin from Colorado:

Carilee: "Are you drunk dialing me again?"

Me: "It's 8 a.m. in the morning. I am driving into work."

Carilee: "Well, we are talking about you, aren't we?"

Me: "Do you think I should start a blog?"

Carilee: "Most definitely. It could be about the nuances of parenting. The things people don't talk about, like how am I supposed to respond when my sister shoves $36 dollars down my son's pants (Her son - we will call him Chatty - is 4 years old).

And for the next 20 minutes, Carilee told me how she had discovered the $36 bucks - she was putting Chatty to bed and as she changed him out of his clothes and into his pjs, a twenty, a ten, a five and a one came pouring out of his fly. When asked where this small fortune had come from, Chatty just smiled and said, "Auntie Downtown." She then explained to Chatty that they needed to give the money back, that Auntie Downtown probably needed it. Chatty agreed but was adamant about keeping hold of the one dollar bill.

In the span of a car ride into work which entailed the aforementioned phone calls (hands free, voice initializing, of course - yes, Oprah, I signed the No Fiddle Farting around on your phone while driving Pledge), my blog was born.