20/20 Vision Is For Suckers

Do you have a favorite doctor? I’m not talking about your favorite M.D. who takes care of you the best at their medical practice. I mean, do you prefer the laser-eyed-mole-chasing Dermatologist over the pinprick-scratch-test Allergist? Or the “take a deep breath” (100 times until you’re dizzy) Internist vs. the “slide down to the end of the table, you might feel a little pressure” OBGYN?

My favorite doctor has always been the dentist. Mostly because I have never really been told anything bad during my appointment. I am blessedly free of cavities (ok, ok, there was one, but I’d like to think it was a fluke), and have skated by with barely any scolding over my sporadic flossing habits. In fact, I am usually able to shine like a braggy, obnoxious star pupil when I exclaim with pride that I am not a coffee or tea drinker, nor do I favor soda outside of the occasional movie theater cherry coke. I get my pearly whites all buffed and sparkling, then walk out with a new toothbrush and things are looking good.

Perhaps you aren’t really a doctor type of person. Like, if I came over to your house and was in need of some Ibuprophen and inquired as to where your medicine cabinet was, you might give me a quizzical look to say “Why would I need an entire cabinet for medicine??”

I see your point.

But, here’s the thing, I grew up in a very medicine-friendly household. Not like substance abuse medicated or anything, just the kind that felt strongly about the benefits of a 6 month supply of Tums, a 3 month supply of inhalers, nose spray, cough medicine, 3 varieties of aspirin and a couple boxes of Sudafed, (when it was still available over the counter and crafty kids had yet to realize it was a key component in Meth making).

Sometimes, when I was older and found myself tossing and turning at 3 am unable to sleep, I’d creep into my parents room and whine to my mother about my insomnia. She’d kindly drag herself out of bed and into the kitchen, where she’d cut a Benadryl in half and hand it to me with a glass of water. Now, mom, before you get defensive, I was very grateful for this instant fix! I feel like it’s the equivalent of doctors suggesting that you give your baby a touch of Benadryl before a long flight or car ride in order to calm them down. So, whether it had a placebo affect on me or not, I always fell into a sound sleep immediately after that middle-of-the-night dispensing of medication.

By the same token, we were also a family that would head to the doctor for pretty much anything that ailed. For the mere price of a copay (thank you insurance), we could at least obtain peace of mind, if not a friendly Z-Pack. Hence my lengthy list of doctors at the beginning of this wayward rant. I assume most people struggle to maintain a general physician, with nary a need for an additional Grey’s Anatomy entourage.

For example, a friend of mine once told me that, growing up, if she complained to her mom that she didn’t feel well, her mother would reply, “Are you bleeding?” If not, there was no doctor to be seen. This so affected her psyche, that when her parents did try to offer her medicine or take her to the doctor, she thought she must be terminally ill and adamantly refused any sort of treatment.

So – the overall truth is that I was born and bred to find a sense of calm upon entering a physician’s office, and a sense of purpose behind dutifully taking my assigned prescriptions. It all goes to instantly soothe the beast inside of me called, Hypochondria. My fear of impending illness or disease, for both myself and those around me that I love, is so intense that I’ve succombed to panic attacks just thinking about the big What If’s. When I worked in a hospital during college, my mom’s first question to me, knowing my fears, was,

“Doesn’t it bother you being around sick people all the time?”

And I responded “Actually, I feel really safe constantly surrounded by doctors. Should anything go wrong, I’d absolutely be in the right place!”

It seems that I’m a medical lifer. Scrubs and white lab coats, icky tongue depressors and those weird plastic moldings of our internal organs just seem to put me at ease. Only one doctor do I really loathe, and he comes with one of these.

*Insert dreaded da, da, dum music here.

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The eye doctor is a certain brand of torture. They employ all kinds of ancient pain techniques that involve blinding, blowing, straining, gouging, searing and overall frustrating that leave the so-called patient (aka. Prisoner Of War) feeling adrift in a sea of misery. Left at the utter mercy of your Opthamolo-hitman until they release you from your hazy world.

My vision has been terrible for decades, so at this point, trips to the eye doctor are too many to count. Maybe my anger and anxiety are the result of my first pair of glasses being delivered just weeks after I attended a Bryan Adams concert—wearing a bejeweled tie and broad-brimmed black hat, no less (blame it on the vision problems?)—and, subsequently, was too blind to see him clearly when he romanced me with (Everything I Do) I Do It For You. C’mon, that is a TOTAL catastrophe and grounds for the seeds of hatred to begin.

Or maybe it all started after I begged my parents to finally let me get contacts on my 13th birthday. I thought they would transform everything in my benign seventh grade life, and I would reappear as a majestic butterfly to expertly bat my newly glasses-free eyeballs at Steve Dugger to win his affection. Too bad that, by the time I was finally able to jab those transparent half-orbs into my eye-sockets, I was affronted with a mirror reflection that was basically ⅔ eyebrows. For years I’d been hiding those hairy caterpillars behind the rims of my standard, 90’s oversize frames and, TA DA, now they were front and center for the world to ogle. I don’t blame Steve for deciding Missy Scheer was the hot one!

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It could be because of that whole, lazy-eye, had to wear an eye-patch like a pirate situation, but let’s not get into that again.

But, if I’m really being honest with myself, the true fear stems from embarrassment, pure and simple.

Somehow I always take it personally when I can’t read the lines on that stupid eye-chart. It’s a test I can’t study for (though, full disclosure, I did memorize the board once when I was tired of guessing wrong and just wanted the torture to be over) and am always doomed to fail. As if every time the doctor says “And can you tell me what this line says” I’m forced to scour my mind for a realistic answer…

“E, S, T…um, 2? Are there numbers in here? Are you going to take away my license? Do I need a seeing-eye dog?

And the doc will just keep forcing me to plug away, moving to the next line as if they don’t notice that I’ve started sweating so profusely that I’ve pitted out the shirt I’m wearing. As if suddenly the line will become completely clear.

“Ah, yes! I see it now!  The first one is a rooster, then Justin Timberlake, some cowboy boots, a measuring cup and some mac & cheese.” 20/20 vision! Hand me my pilot’s license.

Let’s not even GET into the process where they ask you which one is better, 1 or 2. 3 or 4. 5 or….come on!! Now you’re just shitting me! You’re gonna go back into your little perfect-vision lounge after this appointment and laugh with your cronies about how many times you got that gullible little twit to guess! “And it was the same one the whole time! Hahahahah!”

I realize the further I get into explaining this phobia of mine, the more crazytown I sound. I once told a friend that I had plenty of neurosis…she wondered at the time, what those might be. DING DING. Here you go.

Apparently, stressing out over going to the eye doctor is just going to be my lot in life, because I’ve heard your vision just get’s worse as you age. And I’m too afraid of someone peeling back my cornea and buzzing lasers into my brain to get any sort of Lasik surgery.

Instead I’ll just wail all my sorrows and horrors to you fine people.  And maybe the next time you find out I’m heading to the eye doctor, you’ll offer to buy me an ice cream cone afterwards.  For now I’m just going to schedule my next dentist appointment so I can feel better about myself.

All Hallows Eve (aka) My Favorite Day Of The Year

If you know me, you know I love Halloween.

If you don’t know me, I’ll probably end up sharing this tidbit with you long before it’s conversationally relevant or seasonally appropriate.

Like, when work functions demand you play that awkward game where everyone has to “share something unexpected with the group.” My fallback tends to be, “Halloween is my favorite day of the year.” My birthday is in early November, but I truly have no interest in it, (and I’m not just saying that in a whiny way where I really expect you to make a big deal out of my bday even though I swear I don’t care). So, I request that anyone who really loves me should participate in Halloween instead. Just pretend October 31st is my real birthday and, instead of presents, wrap yourself up in a costume of some sort and come on over!

Ridiculous? Probably. But for some reason, the ability to get dressed up in a random costume and eat copious amounts of chocolate, or as an adult, consume mass amounts of liquor, is incredibly appealing to me!

The biggest nerd flag I fly is that I’m a sucker for anything that feels magical. And I mean, Harry Potter Hogwarts magical, not “what card am I holding?”  pull a rabbit out of a hat magic. When someday my kid asks me if I believe in witches and wizards and unicorns and flying hippogriffs, I won’t have to hesitate when saying, yes.

But in the essence of not embarrassing myself or those around me, I try to limit this excitement and childlike obsession to 1 month a year when it is somewhat accepted by society. Enter, All Hallows Eve.

Dressing up is a big deal. It’s not enough just to slip on a pair of cat ears or a clown nose and call it a day. I have extreme appreciation for the kind of creative detail and planning that goes into the perfect Halloween costume, and will always have a big soft spot in my heart for those who go down the rabbit hole with me on this occasion.

That being said – I feel a certain amount of stress over choosing the perfect costume. One that is crafted as much by hand as possible, with the right amount of clever mixed in with pop culture, immersion-blended with some unique imagination. But, most importantly, does not have the word “sexy” in front of its name. You are not a “sexy” pirate, or a “sexy” Rainbow Bright Doll, or a “sexy” nun. These things are counterintuitive and wrong and I will not stand for it! (whew!)

And so, in honor of the upcoming occasion, (and because I’ve yet to figure mine out this year and I need some inspiration) I give you…

My top 10 costumes:

10. A (Good) Witch: Notable only because it was the first costume I can remember wearing and the first birthday I celebrated in Halloween-style. I was turning 3 and all the kids dressed up in costumes to attend. I was decked out in a perfectly ragged witch costume, though apparently I was vehemently adamant to anyone that would listen that I was a GOOD witch, and rung in my new year with a pumpkin shaped cookie cake. My mom used chocolate chips to create a smiling jackolantern face, and I’m thinking that I’d be pretty damn pleased if someone wanted to make me that exact same cake every birthday for the rest of my life!

9. 70’s Rollerskater: I’m convinced this was a clever costume for 2 reasons:

First, because I found the perfect pair of old-school roller-skates in a thrift store. They were shiny white with neon orange wheels, and I paired them with expertly feathered hair, ill-advised skin-toned tights and a violently short pair of polyester track shorts that I wish I could say were actually from the 70’s, but were really from Abercrombie and Fitch.

Second, this was the first year I lived in Chicago and I kept those death-trap roller skates on ALL NIGHT. I mean, this girl maneuvered them in and out of bars with beer soaked floors, cabs that lurched us through the night and straight into 6” deep rain puddles and what had to be the worlds steepest climb of apartment stairs.

I managed to stay on my feet and off my ass for 99% of the evening, and didn’t wimp out even when my ankles were screaming “UNCLE!” Sometimes costumes take real dedication to pull off, and a night spent on 8 little wheels proved that.

8. 80’s Aerobicizer: Originally I had intended for my costume to be Olivia Newton John in Xanadu, but that required more rollerskates and I just wasn’t up for it. So I went with Olivia Newton John in Let’s Get Physical instead. (Though even that is kind of a mouthful, so 80’s Aerobics dancer it is.)

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oh, OLJ, this was a risky move

And while the key costume items mainly consisted of a sweatband and leg warmers, the real kicker was the assless leotard. I SWEAR I wore two pairs of opaque tights underneath! Oh, and I was 24 not, like, 8 when I wore this. Though, now that I think of it, a Little Miss Sunshine costume would be pretty amazing!

7. Jem & The Rockers: We’re just moving right along with an 80’s theme, huh? Well, this was when I was about 8 and my mom concocted a brilliant fuchsia shredded dress that sure gave that little animated rockstar a run for her money! Then my Aunt surprised me with a homemade cardboard guitar that was completely covered in pink glitter. I might have cried 8 year old girl tears of joy!

6. Elvis: Ok, I have never dressed as Elvis myself. But last year that’s how we decked out our then 18 month old, and it was kind of an amazing homemade feat. I usually wouldn’t brag, but take a look for yourself and let me know if you think this earns me a little mommy pride?

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enter, The King!

5. A Piece of Pizza: Pizza Hut pizza, to be exact. Including a real, cardboard pizza box with a hole in it as my hat. Clearly as a 5th grader I was not at all concerned with what people thought of me, because there might have been some questions when the elementary school parade was taking place and, mixed in with all the princesses and pirates and superheroes, was one random, awkward slice of pepperoni pie. This oversize triangle even had sad little strips of felt mozzarella cheese hanging from it’s belly. Truly delicious.

4. Ziggy Stardust: So, in addition to my intense love for Halloween, I also have a little obsession with David Bowie. And not even for the right reasons! I shamefully didn’t learn to love his music until I was in my 20’s. My crush with this man started much earlier (and this will come up later in the countdown) when I saw The Labyrinth for the first time, but has extended since then. So I was honored to pay proper homage to Bowie’s incredible, glam-rock, androgynous alter ego.

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Oy vey.

3. Super Jew: I still stand by the fact that one of the easiest costumes to concoct on short notice is that of a homemade superhero. Dawn a ski mask, tie a sheet around your neck, grab a plunger as your weapon and, TADA! Creepy Toilet Man is here!

So my sophomore year of college I decided to craft my costume around an oversize Jewish star necklace an Israeli friend had bestowed upon me. My clever roommate Audrey deemed it the “Super Jew Necklace” and even non-Jew friends used to borrow it sometimes for a little extra power. I paired it with head and wristbands bedazzled with glittering jewish stars and a cape that I believe said, “The Chosen One”. No one at the parties we attended that night had any idea what I was dressed as.

2. Chippendales Dancer: Sometimes I want to copycat this group costume because it was that excellent. I mean—3 girls wearing flesh colored t-shirts under plastic man-body chests, with penciled-in facial hair and sock stuffed pants—it was the perfect blend of innovative, hilarious and totally creepster. We were invited to do “shows” on the tops of every bar we visited, and in lieu of dollar bills we accepted free drinks. My children are going to be VERY embarrassed someday when these pictures resurface.

1. The Goblin King: This is the yet-to-be costume. The ultimate of all costumes that will require months of planning and practice in order to make it right. And if you haven’t watched The Labyrinth yet, lemme tell ya, you’re missing a magical musical Jim Henson tale with a lot of puppet goblins and weird M.C. Escher stairs. Sounds pretty awesome, right??

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I didn’t say it was pretty, just that it was my favorite.

One fine October 31st, I’ll dawn my intricately homemade Goblin King costume and know that it will never get better than this. My favorite movie character on my favorite day of the year. Eating too much candy, drinking too much spiked cider and watching my kid start his own top ten list of costumes to adore and rehash at length someday:)

Here’s Looking At You (I sure am)

One of my biggest pet peeves is when people pretend they can’t see glaringly obvious body malfunctions.

“Oh, I didn’t even notice you had spinach stuck between your two front teeth.”

“What pimple? I can barely even see your dainty, dirt-free pores.”

“Don’t be silly. No one else will even notice the, ahem, Gatorade stain on your white skirt.”

Not only do I NOT BELIEVE YOU, but my opinion of you has now plummeted a few notches for the impertinent lie. These kinds of things are not subtle, and you aren’t doing me any favors by “pretending” that you didn’t notice that I had my shirt on backwards all morning. As a friend, it is your duty to shield me from as much awkward embarrassment as possible, therefore, when you see me looking crazy – for the love of all that’s good, TELL ME.

I’m even happy to have complete strangers helping me get through the day in one piece. See a dark, stray hair blemishing the back of my white shirt while standing behind me on the train? Feel free to pluck it off. Notice while sharing the elevator that I’ve got mascara smudged underneath my eyes? Please, go ahead and give me a little clue. I won’t be mad atcha! It’s a true kindness and deserves a badge of honor to deliver the truth, albeit as kindly as possible, to those around us so that they can avoid these needless pitfalls.

But, the truth is, I notice a lot of details on people. Perhaps more than the normal human being. For instance, today while in a meeting, I became engrossed in the fact that 3 of the 4 men at the table had an intense amount of dark hair on their arms. Like, seriously, they were all in the third phase of werewolf transformation. It looked like they would need a comb to keep it in check.

Additionally? Another one of the guys had exceptionally pretty lips. They were perfectly bowed on top and plump on the bottom. The kind you would draw on a comic book superhero to accompany his sexy five-o’clock shadow. This of course sounds super creepy, like I’m one of those hillbillies in Deliverance saying “You got a purdy mouth.” Shudder.

It’s just that I happen to be fascinated with the details, and constantly soak them in when in the company of others. While listening to you talk I might easily notice that your hair is wonderfully shiny and looks really soft. Or that the freckles on your arm are in the shape of a spaceship.

Have you ever really paid attention to people’s hands? A big, bulky guy, buying vitamin B tablets and Muscle Milk next to me at Walgreens, might have baby-size hands that are smooth and callus free.

Or the woman in line at Snappy Salads who’s tapping obnoxiously on the plastic sneeze-barrier will have an extra lumpy knuckle, one she clearly chews on when she’s anxious or upset. And now it’s all calloused and protruding and a foot away from the edamame I’m now thinking of leaving off my salad.

Hands can be hilariously missized for the overall height of a person. When I was in 5th grade I took an art class where we were learning figure drawing and the method of proper proportion. My teacher explained that a person’s hand was, on average, supposed to be the same size as their face.

Try it. Line your palm up with your chin and spread your palm over your face like a catcher’s mitt. Does your middle finger almost meet your hairline? Congratulations, your hand is fairly proportional. As for the rest of you, who’s hands barely cover your nose, don’t worry too much. I doubt thaaaaat many people will notice the anomaly (aside from me, of course).

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This kind of microscopic attention to detail is even worse when it comes to things I tend to self-obsess about. For instance, I have never had nice skin. I battled acne for 10 years before going on Accutane in 2008, and I’ve yet to wake up in the morning without leaning into the mirror to inspect my entire face for anything foreign and unwanted that might have sprouted up overnight. Thus, I am terribly fascinated with women around me who are blessed with flawless skin. I’ll be listening to you tell a story while simultaneously following the smooth sweep of your brow and relishing in the beautifully soft, unlined curve of your cheek. I’ll sigh wistfully at your invisible pores and wonder what kind of under-eye cream you use before bed.

I also have a weird thing about eyebrows. Mine, if left unattended, would take up half my forehead. Like I got drunk and pasted a fake mustache too far up on my face. I spent many years trying to tackle them myself and ended up with all sorts of questionable question-mark shaped icons tacked onto my head. But then an eyebrow-waxing magician changed my life and I haven’t looked back since.

That being said, now I’m always curiously looking at the exact definition of other girl’s eyebrows. Do they have a really defined arch? Are they filling in with a curiously mismatched pencil? Are they battling some errant hairs that seem to be rebelling from the pack and sticking up? An old boss of mine had eyebrow hairs at least an inch long that curled away from his forehead. I can’t tell you how desperately I wanted to just reach up, and pluck them off.

Understandably, sometimes this kind of thing can get a girl in trouble. I was talking to a co-worker today and she mentioned how she accidentally made an office enemy after being caught one too many times giving another woman the elevator eyes. Anytime they were in the same room together, she would find herself staring at this other woman’s clothing. But while she was truly appreciating her sense of style and grace, all the other woman saw was some snotty bitch giving her the once over.

Therefore, I try to be sly in my perusal, or at least offer an immediate compliment if caught. I swear I’m not judging. Well, 90% of the time I’m not judging. Mostly I just end up fascinated with the slight nuances that make us all individuals. And I store them away as minute fodder for a character I might create one day.

In the meantime, I cross my heart pinky swear that I’ll do my best to let you know if something funky is going on with your appearance. Or anything you can control, that is. I can’t do nuthin ‘bout that gnarly, chewed on knuckle. Ew.

No, It’s Not A Sex Tape

But, my husband and I DID star in a video. Now let me explain before you start getting the wrong impression and thinking we’re some wild, swinging, key-party couple. It was only 1 video. It’s not like either one of us is Hollywood bound. No hidden, on-camera talent was discovered. In fact, neither of us is really even that photogenic! (Sorry Honey) Wait, I don’t have to be sorry, he doesn’t even read this blog:)

It’s all my sister’s fault. At the time she was wrapping up her undergrad as a broadcast journalism major at the University of Lincoln. (She’s now a successful social worker with a masters—if that’s any indication of how far her broadcast career took her). As a final project for one of her classes she was required to film a music video. Immediately she knew the song, Please Forgive Me from the amazing David Gray album, White Ladder. Beautiful lyrics mixed with a pulsing, toe-tapping, get-stuck-in-your-head backbeat.

Next up was a theme for the video. Her vision was of two people passing through life and always missing each other. A shot of feet walking past each other, or people crossing paths with no recognition. Not until the final frame, when the song goes into this amazing musical fade out, will the couple meet face to face. And it will feel like a reunion, even though they’ve never met, and the camera will pan out and catch them in a dramatic, moving 360 degree turn.

Doesn’t sound too shabby, right?

The only problem here is that my sister is NOT A VIDEOGRAPHER. I’m not crushing any dreams right now, it’s just the truth! And what she discovered was that, in order to cobble together a 5 minute and 36 second video (geez, Laura, could you pick a longer song?!), over 5 hours and 36 minutes of film had to be taken! Oh ya, and she also had to find two willing schmucks to star in her debut film.

Enter Jennifer and Mike.

Dating about 4 months at the time and freshly off our first “I Love You’s” we were prime for emanating those uber romantic vibes. Not to mention the fact that I was leaving for the summer to be a camp counselor in Wisconsin, so this video was like a touching farewell. Something we could cling to over the days and weeks we were apart, missing each other so dearly, sitting in front of a tv screen with our fingers grazing the face of our beloved and whispering “I miss you so much!”

Mkay. Let’s just say that my now husband isn’t usually the overly emotional or dramatic type. He was not consulted about participating in this video, just enthusiastically volunteered.

My sister’s first question when I agreed to a day of filming was, “Does he have any shirts that don’t have stripes?” I think the answer was, “no.”

Our shoot began at a downtown business park. She had us criss-crossing through brick pillars, not looking at one another, and she stood back with her old-school, 20lb, on a tripod video camera and took various shots of our feet and swinging limbs. All the while yelling at me, “Jennifer, stop smiling! Look lovelorn and lost!” Mike didn’t have any problem with the no smiling rule. Half hour in and he was already bored.

Problem with this location was that, since it was company property, the establishment seemed to frown upon random kids videotaping anything on the premises. A uniformed guard eyeballed us warily for a little while and then, kindly, escorted us to our car.

Next up, a huge park with rolling hills and gardens. Director’s instructions to me? “Jennifer, sit on this bench and pluck the petals off this flower, all the while staring off into the distance as if wondering when you’re true love is going to arrive. Look stoic, but hopeful.”

WHAT? You seriously expect me to pluck petals off of a flower while my boyfriend looks on and random passersby point and stare, and not dissolve into fits of laughter? She must have tried to shoot this portion of the video a dozen times. My face constantly in an unattractive scrunch, trying to hold the laughter in before it burst free into tear-filled guffaws.

And, now that I think about it. I don’t even think I was sitting on a bench. I think she had me on my stomach with my legs kicked up in the air, like I was getting high school senior pictures taken. Would YOU have been able to keep a straight face?

Now, as all industrious film students are aware, you don’t always shoot things in order of appearance. So the final 360 shot followed the flower petal plucking. The director stuck us in the middle of a public park and requested that we kiss each other while she moved her clunky camera to no less than 15 different spots around us.

Kiss each other. In public. For, like, a half hour. Did I mention that my husband isn’t much of an exhibitionist? He’s wonderful and loving and all for PDA’s…minus the P portion. Plus it was hot outside and I think there were bugs, and tarantulas and lighting and any other thing you can think of that would make the situation even more awkward than it already was.

By this time we’d been running around town for about 4 hours and my loving counterpart was ready to call it quits and beeline home for a beer (or 20). But Laura was worried that we didn’t have enough film to finish the video, and she was hoping to get some more guy-centric shots.

We headed to a local man-made lake where the plan was to have Mike skipping rocks across the water. This was to add some literal imagery to the video to pair up with the lyrics:

Throw a stone and watch the ripples flow

Moving out across the bay

Like a stone I fall into your eyes

Deep into some mystery

Beautiful, right? Well, the only looks I was getting from my boyfriend were far from mysterious. He was getting closer to throwing that stone deep into my skull.

We wrapped up with a few more shots of us walking towards each other on a bridge and a full-frontal of me lip-syncing the entire song so that Laura could fill in blank spots with visuals of my sweat-stained face pretending to know the words to a song I had just heard for the first time that morning. I’m a natural.

I think, in the end, she got a B+ on the video. Nothing to scoff at. Their one complaint was “Why is only the female lip syncing throughout the video? How come you don’t have the guy as well?” Laura didn’t think it was worth explaining, “Well, at that point, if I had asked the guy to do ANYTHING else, all the film and video equipment might have ended up at the bottom of the lake.”

I said my oh-so-romantic goodbye’s to Mike and headed off to Wisconsin with a heavy heart. But I was excited about the fact that in a few weeks, a VHS tape showing us in all our lovestruck glory would arrive for me to watch, in private, on a random TV in the camp auditorium one night after dinner. I popped it in and sat 3 inches from the screen, eyes welling up at the music and heart swelling up from missing him so much.  It was a masterpiece.

I immediately packed up the video and sent it to Mike’s apartment, then waited with bated breath for it to arrive and him to call me and say how amazing it was. He told me that he loved it, thought it was great, and that he missed me very much.

One of those things was true.

About 10 years later it came to light that Mike had never watched the video at all. Said he couldn’t bear to cringe his way through those 5+ minutes and just faked the reaction for my sake. Oh, well. At least the missing-me part was true. And at least that video didn’t show up at our wedding, as I seriously feared it would. Pretty sure I’d do some cringing if I had to see it now, too.

Either way, I’ll send out a big “Thank You” to my sister for the hilarious memory, if not the catapult into stardom.

The Search Is On

How did we exist before the invention of Google? I mean, did we really get all of our questions answered by parents, librarians, store clerks or the smart looking guy waiting at the train stop? And then you were under the blatant scrutiny of the question answerer to openly judge you for whatever question you, the asker, were posing. Therefore causing an excess of personal editing and a general loss of the knowledge you were seeking.

 With Google at my fingertips, I have an extensive—and private!!!—tool at my disposal to get all manner of random questions answered instantly. Looking over the search history on my computer is a very intimate, albeit slanted, visual of what is going on at my head at any given time. Slightly alarming? I’ll let you be the judge.

  • How many calories are in a Cadbury Egg?

Yes, yes. I know that Easter is over. But this delectable treat is delicious year-round. In fact, in college my mom used to buy Cadbury Eggs in bulk to store in her freezer so that she could send them to me during finals. I tell ya—pretty motivational studying material! (Thanks, mom! xoxo) But when you’re sitting at your desk, giving in to a 3pm chocolate craving, it’s helpful to know how many calories you’re in for, if only to dissuade yourself from repeating the same (wonderful) mistake the following day(s).

  • Couch cleaning tips

Upon moving into our new house, one of the immediate decisions made was that our current sofa and chaise should be banished to the basement. They were the first we had ever purchased as “adults” living in Chicago, and had since seen their fair share of hard living.

Multiple overnight sofa sleepovers? Check.

Late night sessions of Rock Band? Check.

Comfortable participant in a stadium seating experiment? Check, and success for Superbowl XXXVIII!

These couches were also the mainstay of our foray into parenthood, only further mushing the almost non-existent stuffing, and adding new stains of the formula, banana and apple sauce variety.

Midnight sessions of VH1 videos while new baby didn’t sleep? Check.

Father and son naps during weekend golf tournaments? Check.

Subsequent fort, trampoline and lemme-show-you-how-many-times-I-can-climb-back-and-forth-over-this-sofa game? Every chance the kiddo got.

 But even though it’s being banished to the basement, I’d still like it to at least appear presentable to the untrained eye. What did I find out was one of the best tips to clean off dirt and stains? Baby wipes. How appropriate.

  • How do you change your actual home address?

I’m not talking about submitting a form to the Postal Service telling them that I moved from one place to another and need to get my mail. I’m talking about the actual, physical address written on my door. I don’t want it anymore. After a burst pipe, leaking toilets, holes in my ceilings, nails driven into other pipes and hail damage that is going to cost us a new roof, I’m a little worried that my house is cursed. It doesn’t help that 666 is in the address.

Now, I’m not really a superstitious person, but I’m also not going to say that I DON’T believe in ghosts because then I’m just gonna end up with some whiny, old, misplaced spirit moaning through my hallways. So, here we are, not even 6 weeks into our new place and the hits won’t stop coming. We’re beat up and scared of the elements and basically tiptoeing around a house that supposedly passed it’s inspection with flying colors. Could switching my address to 668 change the chakra or juju or whatever is inhabiting the walls of this building? I don’t know, but I’m hell bent to try.

  • Why do guys wear wood bracelets?

This was a bit of a useless search, as I don’t think there is a valid answer that exists online (or in nature), but I really wondered if it was a sudden fashion trend I wasn’t aware of? Several times in the past few weeks I’ve encountered grown men wearing elastic, wood-beaded bracelets. The kind you’d maybe see on college kids returning from spring break in addition to the cliche pooka shell necklace.

 My husband had one of those necklaces when we met. He wore it religiously and had a tan line from it on the back of his neck. At first I tried to pretend it was cool because, let’s be real, I was already trying to stalk him into dating me. But once that initial rope, I mean connection, was cinched, I prayed daily that the necklace would “accidentally” snag on his coat or my hand…or a pair of errant scissors. So this random resurgence of cheesy tropical jewelry on men is baffling to me. Especially when it’s paired with pressed chino’s and an IZOD button-up. What kind of regge-prep-school is this place I now live??

  • How much should a 20 month old be eating?

I know this certainly varies by child, but mine seems to be training for a future career as a professional eater. He’s constantly walking around saying, “eat” “eat” even if he just finished a meal. The other night we watched him put away a veggie patty, hot dog, carrots, broccoli, rice, two pieces of string cheese, some graham crackers and two cups of milk. You’d think he was on some sort of bender after a month long cleanse consisting of only lemon juice, maple syrup and cayenne pepper. (I tried that once, for two days, decided it was poppycock and reverted to eating like a horse). Mostly I was just looking for some sort of assurance that his intestines weren’t going to rupture if I continued allowing him to ingest the caloric intake of a 40 year old man.

  • Pheobe from Friends + Banana Hammock

Did you know that Tuesday, April 9th was “Name Yourself Day”? Nobody else did, either. Except that my job revolves around producing new, interesting content all day every day, so I’m constantly scrounging around for little nuggets of inspiration. What came to mind when I thought about naming oneself anything in the world? Princess Consuela Bananahammock. Never heard of her? Where WERE you in the….wait….gimme a sec to Google search when Friends was on the air….

I should probably start deleting my search history on a more regular basis.

An Illustrious Career Path

I don’t mean to brag, but….I’m kind of an amazing gift wrapper. Now, now, don’t be jealous. It’s a skill one must hone over time. The precise measuring, cleanly folded corners, perfectly aligned overlap, the use of only 3 pieces of tape, expertly covering the seam with your decorative ribbon. It’s quite the science, I assure you. Then again, your first job probably wasn’t as a holiday gift wrapper at the local jewelry store in your town.

For a girlie-girl who just turned 16, this was actually kind of a dream situation. I got to eyeball all kinds of sparkly, diamond-encrusted little baubles and then wrap them up prettily in silver foil paper. All the while I’d be dreaming of the day that I’d be the recipient of such a gift, oohing and aaahing as my dashing young hunk clasped that twinkling tennis bracelet around my wrist.

“Ohh honey, I’ve never received anything so beautiful before in my life!”

“My darling, it pales in comparison to your breathtaking beauty”

Smoochy smooch smooches.

Did I also mention that I read a lot of romance novels around that time and was still in the market for a boyfriend?

And so I packaged delicate parcels for about 3 months until Christmas passed and I “wrapped up” (haha, get it? should I take these jokes on the road?) my first job. It had been a good experience. I made friends with some middle-aged women and got to wear dress clothes to school on days where work immediately followed, constantly inviting questions from my fellow classmates about whether I had just come from, or was going to, a funeral. I even used my employee discount to buy a tiny Swarovski Crystal porcupine. I wonder where that little fella is today?

Employment options for the 16 year old set are somewhat slim-pickin’s. That’s not a judgment, I understand that most employees aren’t super gung-ho about a bunch of ornery, hormonal, first-time-on-the-clock teenagers in charge of the well being of their company. I mean, my bestie and I used to go apply for jobs TOGETHER. We’d walk into some sort of retail establishment, request applications, and then simultaneously fill them out side-by-side while checking in with each other about certain, baffling questions.

“Wait, are you putting down that you babysat before this? Does corralling my snotty nephews count as previous employment?”

“Um, what is our area of study at Millard North High School? Like, stuff, right? Like, reading and stuff? Is that what they want to know?”

“Hey, why did you just spell your name like that? It looks so funny with that “fer” at the end. Hey, Jenni-FER. Hahaha, why is that so funny? HAHAHA”

Thus the confused clerk or manager or current employee watched the two of us fumble, stutter and laugh hysterically throughout our application process. Oh, ya. HIRE US.

Surprise! They did hire us, three different times! My first three jobs (after that quick foray as a holiday wrap-artist) were hip-to-hip with her, making that $5.75/hr minimum wage I was earning so much more enjoyable. First up, I introduce to you: Jennifer, your hostess with the mostess at Fill-up’s restaurant.

Did the name confuse you? Don’t worry, you’re not the only one. The restaurant’s attempt to resemble an old timey filling station was lost on most of the patrons as well. Overall it was an eating establishment with a bit of a personality disorder, attempting to attract families with young, messy, noisy children as well as patrons would would want to belly up at the bar and drink ‘til they were singing Piano Man in rousing unison. Is it any wonder the restaurant closed after only a few years in business?

Either way, she and I hit the scene as their newest silverware-rollers, window-washers and waitstaff-villains, constantly berated for either over, or under seating their sections. What I remember most about the job was how one of the owners (a trio of brothers) fell in love with Dana and let her sit down on the barstools while folding napkins…a luxury not bestowed upon us other lowly fools. We also had access to the kitchen, and depending on the night and what cooks were working, we could sneak back and steal pepperoni from the prep-bins. Clearly I was learning valuable lessons about business ethics, hygienic food prep, and workplace flirting.

Having checked “restauranteering” off our list of future careers dabbled in, it was time to hit up another well-worn adolescent pastime. Retail. Yes, folks, we were ready to take on that gum-chewing, hair-twirling, snarky-raised-eyebrow, big-sigh-because-I-hate-dealing-with-customers persona that accompanied many teenagers in the retail hemisphere. Good news is that we picked a store that any human over the age of 17 would be loathe to walk inside, so at least the angsty, pierced, brooding clientele was similar to that of the staff. Welcome to, Gadzooks.

Our boss was a munchkin from Oz. I’m not saying she was an actual little person, but she couldn’t have been much past 5’1” and her voice was similar to that of Michelle from Full House. There was no real dress code, (just show the world your individual personality!) so she mostly wore mismatched pajamas and denim overalls. I guess her personality was that of a very tired, rural toddler.

Primary responsibilities included:

  • Folding mass amounts of graphic t-shirts spouting inspired jargon such as, “Old, ornery & obnoxious” “I’m not a gynecologist, but I’ll take a look” or “Nice new girlfriend, what breed is she?”
  • Sitting on top of the halved-out Volkswagon Beetle and greeting people walking into the store with “It’s a crazy, cool day at Gadzooks! How can I help ya?!”
  • Untangling mass amounts of neon string bikinis left in a pile on the dressing room floor where 15 year old girls just spent a half hour posing for each other and taking photos.

The last hurrah, and the job with my longest tenure during those teenage years, I fondly refer to as “the bagel shop”. 300 sq feet, one glass bagel case and a long prep counter were pretty much all it consisted of, and can I tell you? My mouth actually started watering when I thought about the toasted, chocolate chip bagels I devoured for breakfast, the towering turkey sandwiches on jalapeno cheese bagels for lunch, and the colossal rice krispie treats devoured for dessert every single shift. I barely even remember working…most of my time was spent preparing delicious eats for myself.

Our boss was a 22 year old guy named Jed who worked 90 hour weeks and was really just looking for a little company. He’d do all the real work—mopping floors, restocking bagel bins, slicing onions and tomatoes—before we even arrived for our shift. Once we got there it was time to play, and we’d sit in one of the booths for a game of chess or blackjack or scattegories, only hopping up on the off chance a customer came in for an everything bagel with schmear.

Additionally, he was totally willing to buy us cases of beer and leave them out back by the dumpster to pick up on the way to Friday night parties. He also made good with the smoothie shop ‘round the corner, so we could always exchange bagel sandwiches for delicious blueberry, banana kiwi smoothies on hungover Saturday mornings.

While all of the above paints the picture of a couple girls who maybe didn’t have any work ethic whatsoever, I’d now claim honestly that both of us are dedicated and enthusiastic about our professions as adults. But it sure is nice to think back sometimes on those days of lowly, grunt labor where you really were just workin’ for the weekend.

And there is also the fact that I can now slice bagels symmetrically without ever cutting myself. Finger-space my closet to such perfection that even a district manager would approve of. Blindly roll a basket of silverware in under 10 minutes. And, of course, blow your mind every holiday season with the stunning perfection of my gift-wrapping skills. Did someone say, it’s the thought that counts? Nope. It’s the packaging.

Preschool Tim And The Communal Bathroom

How do 3 year olds substantiate a relationship? Does it start with fond glances over a box of chocolate milk? A shared love of all works by Dr. Suess? Perhaps fleeting laughter over the antics of that silly classroom hamster? Whatever the initial spark, Tim and I were committed. We sat together on the brightly tiled, Hebrew alphabet rug and raised our voices together in song…”alef beit veit, gimel dalet hei”. I don’t think Hebrew qualifies as a love language. Too much phlegmy “chcchhing” involved.

These days I look at toddlers, my own spastic 16 month old included, and find myself unduly fascinated with the level of intelligence that can spout from approximately 40 inches of human. It’s already a scientific wonder that all those organs manage to fit inside such a compact body, but add in any sort of verbal wherewithal or cognitive function beyond drooling over shiny objects and I am completely dumbfounded. They can form compound sentences! Scamper off to the potty unassisted! And, apparently, fall in love with each other from 9am-12pm every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

We had a song, Tim and I (or maybe it was a poem). “One, two. I love you.” Catchy, right? We used to chant it to each other while tucked into our coat cubbies at the end of the day. As each of us huddled into the 2’x4’ wooden container housing our jackets and lunchboxes, we would gaze deeply upon one another and repeat our Shakespearean sonnet in unison. His eyes were a dark, chocolate brown, rather oversized in a tiny elfin face.  And he had freckles speckled haphazardly across the bridge of his pug nose and dotting his baby cheeks. The kind of freckled constellation that a mother swoons over, and a 13 year old kid later tries desperately to scrub from his adolescent face.

For the most part, I believe our flirtation was pretty above-board. We walked side-by-side during our classroom field trip to the grocery store, where he manned-up honorably and partially blocked my view during the disturbing meat-grinding demonstration. He used just the right tone of voice when helping to instruct me on the art of hammering nails into Styrofoam, not too patronizing with just enough focused praise. Overall I think it was a lovely little romance, and might have blossomed into a long-term, kindergarten relationship if one small advance hadn’t flushed it all down the toilet.

Unisex bathrooms are confusing. Even to adults. I realize it can be a space saver at small restaurants, or a lazy attempt at keeping the line moving when it’s apparent that women take at least twice the amount of time to do their business than men, but for the most part I think people are cool with gender specification when it comes to the ol’ potty. As a 3 year old I was just at a loss. Most likely it had only been a couple months since I had even started using the bathroom by myself, and let’s be honest, I’m sure some panty pooping still crossed my mind now and again as a matter of convenience. But add in the fact that I was bopping into a bathroom where a strange and unfamiliar urinal posted sentry across the wall from the sad little porcelain toilet, and I was sunk. At what age does one learn propriety? Or more importantly, performance anxiety? First you want me to know when it’s time to go, then I have to request permission to use the bathroom and then I have to try and tinkle with a random dude in the room? Help!

It was a place of uncertainty – a tiled and whitewashed underworld that smelled of bleach and offered a bleak view of mis-aimed toilet paper and yellow splatters of urine. I held it in as long as possible before grudgingly trudging towards the bog of eternal stench. If I was lucky, there would only be another little girl finishing up before my turn. I may not have been used to bathroom gossip at the time, but I was certainly more at ease with those of my own kind. I’d pop open the buttons to my corduroy jumper as quickly as possible and squat ,hunched forward, knobby knees knocking, staring at the reflection in my polished mary-janes while peeing like a racehorse. There was a precise system to be followed, and the quicker I could finish, the less likely a chance that some random snot-nosed boy would saunter into the bathroom, hand already poised to unleash the dragon.

Then, one day, it happened. The worst case scenario. A moment so ingrained in my mind some 30 years later that I can almost smell the tinges of cleaning product and feel the prickles of sweat on the back of my neck. No sooner had I taken a seat with my Sesame Street panties slung low around my bobby-socked ankles, then in walked Tim.

Some people say all romance is lost in a marriage once couples stop closing the restroom door. But that still doesn’t mean someone is literally watching you pee. Someone you love, who “1, 2 I loves you” right back, staring quizzically at you while your bladder unloads. I was traumatized. Pinching off mid-flow, I scrambled to pick myself up and put myself back together while his freckles seemed to pulse behind my scrunched-closed eyelids. Of course, he seemed totally unphased and continued to watch as I went through the motions of washing my hands.

“Hey” he said when I finally turned to face him.

“Um, hi” I muttered, not making eye contact and desperately looking at the door.

“You look pretty today. So…you wanna kiss?”

Hold up. What?

I was 3 years old and my little jewish boyfriend was trying to get to first base in the communal pre-school bathroom.

All vestiges of romantical feelings for tiny Tim were gone. Following that mortifying moment, the spell was broken and I did my best to avoid eye contact of any sort throughout the rest of our minute acquaintance. He would forever remain locked in my memory as an awkward toddler boy propositioning me in the bathroom. A memory that would be regurgitated in my mind throughout college when awkward frat-boys attempted to proposition me in foul smelling bars, just before last-call, in a last-ditch effort to sling a girl home to score. It’s an early, yet valuable lesson to learn I suppose. Don’t trade sexual favors in public restrooms. Don’t date men who are wholly devoid of social timing. Always pee in private.

I guess you can’t fault a guy for trying.