Wednesday, December 29, 2010


"You are such a brute," Jacqueline remarked coolly as she stepped her long, silk stockinged legs from the taxi.

He looked neither left nor right, remaining typically expressionless. Deadly dark eyes silently commanded the driver to continue on to his destination.

"Good evening, Madam," Rico bowed as he opened the door for her.

"Rico," she said curtly.

She trailed a faint smell of cigarettes, booze and Shalimar.

Once in the elevator, she quickly punched penthouse.

The tiny bell announcing her presence alerted the butler. He quickly scrambled to the slowly opening door.

"Madam?" Giles greeted her with a solemn questioning look.

He reached for her coat as she strode by, barely catching the mink before it hit the floor. In the next second, she took off her leather gloves then slammed them to the floor.

"Leave them," she commanded.

"I am done."

This is for Magpie #46. Thanks Willow.

Monday, December 27, 2010

'Tis the Season

Another Christmas under the belt. Hooray. WWIII was averted, barely. The only good thing about the holiday season around here so far is occasionally being able to sleep in. Darn it, I feel like I am Bah Humbugging, when everyone on my SpaceBook page seems to be happy and full of cheer. I tried to be like them, but it just didn't work out for me. In this case the social network peer pressure failed to elevate my Scrooge like holiday mood.

It started with a Christmas Eve blowout with the wife. I was in the mood to hang out at home, and watch old black and white movies. She, on the other hand, wanted to go downtown to see a new release movie. Instead of registering my disappointment then pleading for us to have a nice quiet evening at home, I went along with her desire to see a movie on the big screen. We were going to see The Kings Speech. Unfortunately, we started sniping at each other immediately after getting in the car. Apparently, I was taking my bad energy with me, and she wanted me to leave the evil one at home. Fat chance.

After several events en route, wrong turn here, road construction there, parking garage full all the way up to the 6th floor, we solemnly arrived at the movie theater. We could have used Rudolph's red nose to light our way.

We went inside the movie theater. Phyl went to buy the tickets, and I, as was my custom, went to get myself a Chai tea. Before I was able to order, Phyllie appeared like the Ghost of Christmas Past rattling its chains, "The movie doesn't play until TOMORROW."


Glumly, we tromped back to the parking garage. After climbing all six flights of Mt. Everest stairs, we drove home. "I should have known we weren't in the flow," was all she said.

I remained silent thinking anything I might utter would undoubtedly be perceived as negative.

After liberating the poodles from their kennels, I sat down to watch a Christmas movie. The title escapes me now, but I was beginning to get into it when the phone rang.

"Hi mom, are you going to get the kids their Christmas jammies? I know you like to give them their Christmas pj's."

After a moment of hesitation, I quickly jumped at the chance to change my negative energy. If I couldn't change it, at least I could share it with the rest of the merry holiday shoppers. With all their frantic shopping for their own loved ones, no one would know it was me bringing the dark cloud of nastiness as I drifted by.

I tried one last ditch effort to get Phyl to participate, "You want to go with me? I am going shopping for the kids Christmas pajamas."

One look on her face told me that was a no go.

When I first entered Kohl's department store, I expected the radar package detector at the door to scream my presence. I felt like a Harry Potter Death Eater in holiday drag. No alarm bells went off, so I stealthily headed to the kids department for a little shopping therapy.

After about 30 minutes of looking for the perfect Christmas pajamas, I had an epiphany. The black clouds of delusion parted, and I realized I had lied on the self assessment survey I took only a week prior.

I am a guinea pig for a local university psychology program. Actually, I will receive some valuable in-service credit towards renewal of my teaching license when I complete this course. The class is supposed to assess how I dealt with stress both before and after reading a book on the subject. So far, I haven't actually seen the book, but I have taken several on-line surveys designed to get a baseline of the coping strategies I use when I am stressed.

I felt pretty good about my responses up until the moment I was visited by the Ghost of Christmas Present. I realized without any doubt I had lied about "Using shopping to alleviate my stress." Despite being reassured every time I took the numerous previous surveys that there were "no right or wrong answers," it appears I was quite adroit at lying to myself.

Right there in the department store's children pajama aisle, I realized my Negative Nelly status was being transformed into a Jolly Santa.

Note to self, next time I take that darned survey, mark 5, strongly agree I use shopping to avoid stress in my life. I wonder what the guys in the psych department will do with that discrepancy? Do they have a curve that includes holiday stress? Hmmmmm.

I completed my last minute shopping, and headed to deposit the Christmas jammies at the daughter's house. After a short exchange about her Christmas Eve activities, I headed back home.

I pulled into the garage. I gave myself a pep talk, "No more Negative Nelly. Go in there and have a good Christmas Eve."

It didn't take me long to realize I would never make a good motivational speaker. I couldn't motivate myself.  Well, I did admirably well in delivering the motivational speech to myself, it's the follow through that desperately needs assistance.

When I opened the back door, I could hear the TV blaring. I entered the living room. Phyl sat motionless in her LaZboy recliner with the remote aimed at the TV like a shotgun. Eyes narrowed, laser like, as they scanned the menu.

I tiptoed past the front of the television just as she selected her show. It was the comedienne Monique. Her raw language did not suit my recently hyped up Ho Ho Ho mood. Somehow listening to the language I hear from my students every day brought out Mz.W, aka Thug Nasty.

Mz. W is the persona I use for work. Once, Mz. W appeared on vacation when there were some naughty gangsta children in need of correction. Phyl immediately banished Thug, and the rest of the vacation was saved.

Not so easily done for this Christmas Eve.

I did not miss a beat as I headed into the kitchen to retrieve the tape, scissors, and a hastily made Christmas cheer concoction. After I gathered up the goods, I headed for the spare bedroom. I still needed to wrap the presents for the kids before the morning.

I sipped, wrapped, and mentally went over the day's events. Again, I gave myself a Merry Ho Ho motivational speech.

I ventured out of the back bedroom, and was headed into the war zone. 

Apparently Monique's performance was over, and now it was time for Vin Diesel. I believe it was the movie Fast and Furious, at least that was what I was witnessing on the flash of TV I saw as I furiously replaced the tape, and thankfully the scissors.

I decided it was time to refill my cheer glass.  After the refueling, I grabbed the original version of A Christmas Carol movie I had purchased for Christmas Eve festivities.

Back in my bedroom bunker, I sipped and watched the movie on the tiny TV. I contemplated the numerous times I had seen the movie. I also thought about how many other people had seen the same 1938 movie, or were watching on this Christmas Eve as I was.

I also thought about the synchronicity of the events in the movie as compared to my own circumstances. I could really relate to Scrooge. I did not identify with his stinginess because I am very generous, but I did identify with the feeling he was portraying. I felt like I was separate from what was going on around me. I tried desperately to get on the Merry Ho Ho float, but nothing seemed to work. I could not grab the magic ring.

About a half hour into the movie, my standard poodle, Lula Mae, busted open the door. Tito, her sidekick, was in tow. Both dogs were extremely intuitive about the events going on in the household. It was only a matter of time before they left the living room in search of their other mommy. I guess I had left the door slightly ajar, thus their breaking and entering had occurred.

I welcomed them into the darkened room. Lula put her paws up on the bed, and looked at me beseechingly. Tito gave me a quick drive-by lick, and then he was gone. Lula stayed. I invited her up on the bed with me, and together we watched the rest of the movie.

Without saying another word to Phyl, I decided to call it a night. I went to bed.

In the early hours of the morning I was visited by The Ghost of Christmas Future. At least that is what I prefer to call it. 

I got out of bed, and headed to the shower. 

I like to think of taking a shower as both a physical and a metaphorical cleansing. On this fine Christmas morning, I was not able to wash away my resentment.

Unfortunately, it grew. And it grew. And it grew. To epic proportions.

By the time I finished getting ready to go to breakfast at my daughter's house, and talking to my son who was in Santiago, Chile, I was loaded with nukes.

While I was happily chatting away with my son, Phyl sat in her LaZboy chair, and listened to the conversation. It was she who had now turned into the Negative Nelly. As I lied to my boy, "All was well. I am having a quiet Christmas," Ebinezer, aka Phyllie, lobbed in snipes in a Grinch like voice, "Liar."

When I got off the phone, all the pent up hell inside me broke loose.

We call these types of events in this household, bringing out the BIG energy.

Phyllie and I have, as all couples have, had arguments in the past. This one was a doozy.

I am not proud of myself for unleashing on her like I did on Christmas day. As a matter of fact, I am ashamed I let my little frustrations act like plugs in a volcano. I allowed them to build up until they could no longer contain the red hot lava of hurt, and resentment any longer.

I opened my mouth, and the torrent was unleashed. It was like Mount Vesuvius on Christmas Crack. If Santa had heard me, he and all his elves would have sneaked back into our house, and retrieved all the presents, had there been any to retrieve. 

Weirdly enough, that is not one of the reasons why I blew my top. Phyllie and I decided not to buy presents this year. We we did buy each other one gift. She got me a great Skagen watch which I have been wearing for a couple of weeks. I got her a nice pair of boots. I know, very romantic, but hey, we LIKED our gifts.

Back to Mt. Vesuvius.

I put Scrooge to shame with my torrent of Bah Humbugs. When I completed my rant, I asked Phyl if she was coming with me to breakfast at my daughter's house.

She chose not to come. Of course.

I arrived for breakfast with a false smile on my face. I delivered the presents to the children, my daughter and her boyfriend. 

Everyone wanted to know where Phyllie was. I told them she wasn't coming because she did not feel well. Before breakfast was served, I asked my daughter to broker the deal. "Please call and invite Phyllie over. Maybe she will come over if you invite her."

Thankfully, a detente was called.

Both Phyllie, as well as myself, conducted ourselves as adults in front of the children. I was glad she chose to come over. Despite all evidence to the contrary, I did not want to wage war on Christmas. 

After the official celebration, we decided to take the dogs for a walk. It was a glorious, albeit cold, day. We had to visit several parks before we could find one where they both could run with reckless abandon. When the dogs tongues hung to the ground, and they refused to chase the stick one last time, we headed back to the house.

We decided to try for the second time in as many days to see The Kings Speech. We got ready, headed downtown to the only theater showing the movie just in time to find the rest of the world had come out of their Christmas fogs as well. The movie was sold out.

We got back in the car, and headed home again. The streets were so eerily quiet compared to the day before. Apparently the only place, other than at home playing with new gifts, people could be seen on this day was at the movies watching their favorite flick.

Again, we missed the flow, the magical current of bliss we imagined everyone, except us, floating along on singing songs of merriment and joy. We had started to mend the tectonic plate shift which occurred in our living room. The great divide needed a river of cement poured into it before it would stabilize. We needed more time.

The time came the day after Christmas. 

We started our day off like we generally do on weekend mornings. We got up, took the dogs for a run in the freezing cold, came back and then had some breakfast. We acted as if nothing in the past 48 hours had been real.

After showering, we got into the car and headed for the third time to the movie theater downtown. The trip went smoothly. No bumps, no snipes, no bruises. We found our regular parking spot on the second floor of the parking garage. Phyl bought our tickets, I got my Chai, she got her popcorn, and together we agreed on side by side seats.

The movie was worth the wait. We were inspired by the story of the King who stuttered. I figured if he could overcome such a daunting obstacle, and go on to deliver such an important speech, I could let go of the petty hurts and missteps of the past few days.

After the movie, we went to dinner at a restaurant where the slowly drifting snow flakes piled up on the pines just outside the window by our table. As we chatted about the movie, unpacked the events of the last few days, and planned our New Year's resolutions, I thought what a picturesque setting for a delicious meal.

All was right with the world again. We were in the flow.

Maybe the events of the previous two days weren't real. Maybe all the shit occurred in an alternate universe.

I have this strange idea it's true.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

My Life is a Country Song

Yesterday was the first day of Christmas Vacation 2010. The grandkids arrived bright and early in the morning. I was in eager anticipation of the day we would share.

Then it began.

I always get these bright ideas of what to do with the kids in order to keep them busy. On today's agenda was making Christmas ornaments. The grandkids love crafting, and so do I. One of the ornaments we were  going to make together required pictures. Of course we had to take some fresh ones.

Both B and Rach found the Santa hats that are normally atop the statues of lions just outside my front door. I believe everyone should participate in the season, and the welcoming lions look extra festive with their Santa hats perched over their frozen wavy manes. Between the hurricane force winds, and blizzards lately, I decided a few nights ago I needed to bring the hats indoors. Frankly, I was surprised the lions still sported the hats for this long. Usually, the neighborhood hoodlums like to steal the festive hats by now just for kicks. Maybe the blizzard last night swept the little buggars off to visit the land of Oz. I know I had my ruby slippers on when I clicked them together three times and chanted, "I think I can, I think I can." We can only hope.

Back to the hats and the grandkids. Once the kids spied the hats on the sideboard, BINGO, the photo shoot was on. It was a bit difficult for me to get good pictures of Brenden because he does not like to have his photo taken. He typically makes all kinds of weird faces as he skips, dances, whirls then hides his whole face under the hat. No skin off my teeth buddy. You will be the one to reap the rewards a little bit later in life. I did manage to get a few good snapshots. I tricked him into telling me a story, and I was able to capture some good angles.

Rachel was a bit easier. She took only a little prodding. After a few initial shy moments, she took to striking poses like as if she were auditioning to be the next model on Project Runway.

With the photo shoot behind us, I headed to the computer so I could order the prints online. This is where I believe we entered an alternate universe.

The next two hours were filled with a weird series of events. I managed to get the pictures downloaded from the camera card then onto the computer. I even was able to get them uploaded to my Picasa Web albums. I sent a few invites to friends and family to view the little cuties. I always include my daughter because she gets a bit nervous with me at the helm. Poor thing was stuck at work, and we were having all the fun. I had just pushed the send button, when things went black on the computer. Dun, dun, dun.
I tried everything to get my internet connection back. Nothing worked. I decided we needed to lock and  load ourselves into the car in order to get on down to Walmart. I was in a hurry to have our prints so we could proceed to the ornament making phase of today's activities. I was positively twitching with excitement.

I told Phyllie of my computer woes, asked her to check out the connection, but in the meantime we needed to get our pictures. 

After getting on the snow gear, the kids and I braved the icy roads. We arrived at our local Walmart in record time considering the snow plows had not yet gotten to our side of town. No worries.

I made a bee line to the photo-mart inside the store dragging the grandchildren in tow. I refused several requests to "get me this, or that." I was a woman on a mission. When I located the proper equipment terminal, I was even able to find the correct hole to put my stick into despite the bewildering array of options. One child sat on the stool with me, whilst another occupied himself by twirling like a dervish immediately behind us. Despite numerous attempts, he was unable to pin down the little old blue haired lady trying to scan her old family photos into her own prompter.

Yes, I am the grandma who only kinda has control of her brood. I think the intervening years between having my own children and taking care of the grandkids have not been kind to my multitasking prowess. I don't sweat the small stuff anymore. My rules for being out in public follow the KISS model. One, stay within eye shot. Two, don't steal anything, and I DO check pockets before leaving any store. Three, try not to get run over in the parking lot. I do not wish to incur my daughter's wrath if I happen to return a smushed child to her at the end of the day. It is a good day when the rules are followed.

Somehow I manage to figure out how to order the chosen photos we need for our project. The processing was a snap. Inside of ten minutes we were back on the road again.

When we got home, time sped up to mach ten.

Two days ago the kitchen sink backed up. It did not stop my maniacal cooking even though I am sick of washing dishes in the bathtub. I called the plumber first thing Monday the morning. Along with the clog which needed to be cleared, I knew we also needed another garbage disposal. When Phyllie and I went over the days itinerary, she willingly volunteered to do the errands while I stay with the grandchildren. While the children and I took photos, Phyllie took the packages to the post office, dropped another by UPS, bought the wine for the dish I was cooking for dinner, and went to Homo Depot to buy us another garbage disposal.

As the children and I walked in with our photo bounty, Phyllie arrived with the garbage disposal. I immediately noticed it was not like the one we had, but she also had all the extra piping needed to get this new one installed. Her face lit up like Tim the Toolman Taylor's did every time he discussed his motorized equipment.

"This thing will chew up a corn cob!!!!" she announced over the din of the children fighting about which movie they would watch first. I knew I should not have let her loose on Home Depot.

The dogs began barking from their kennels as if they were in danger of being left in purgatory for the rest of the day.

And before I could get my coat off, the doorbell rang.

I couldn't decide what to do first. I poked my nose out the door to tell the plumber to hold on because, "It's a bit dangerous at the moment. Hang on, will ya?" His face looked a more than a little bit apprehensive.

I scolded the children for fighting. I pulled out the oldest trick in the book, "If you can't decide which one to watch, I will take ALL of them away from you, and no one will watch ANYTHING. Got it?"

Silence. One blessed moment of silence.

Next, I headed into the bedroom to get the dogs out of their kennels. I shepherded them into the backyard. Knowing we had a visitor, the two stood vigil at the sliding glass door. Tito began his olympic style high jump moves, immediately impressing the plumber. "Boy that guy can jump, can't he?"

"Yes, now can we discuss the plumbing issue? Here is the new garbage disposal. Please check the drain and install this new one, Okay?"

"Hmmmm, well it is like this here. The one you bought doesn't match the one you already have. It's gonna take some changing the pipes down here."

I had a flashback to the conversation with the secretary of the plumbing company earlier that morning. "It's a flat $75 per hour."

"Phyllie, come over here and listen to this. Please explain what you were telling me to Phyllis."

She listens none too patiently. "So what's the problem? Get 'er dun!!!" Phyl can't figure out why the plumber was hesitating about installing her wood chipper.

"Okay. Here, let me draw you a picture explaining what I need to do."

We look at each other, shrug our shoulders, and simultaneously announce, "We don't need a picture. You are the professional. Just make it work."

Roger The Plumber goes to work dismantling the old plumbing job under the sink, all the while mumbling something softly to himself. I think I know what he was saying. Crazy bitches.

He doesn't know the half of it.

Just as he was lying prone under the sink, with various pieces of pipe scattered about, Rachel announces she is hungry. "I want some Raviolios, please."

"Me too," chimes in Brenden.

Of course. Right away. Thankfully, the plumber was gracious enough to leave his legs spread strategically enough apart so I could tip toe between them in order to get the necessary supplies out of the cupboard. I finally get the cans opened, microwaved, and placed on the table.

"Come and get it."

"Thanks grandma. Can I have some juice please? And can I have some milk please?"

Sure thing.

I  deftly fill the cups. I even naively think I get the spill proof lids on correctly. Then I discover otherwise. As I tip toe between the plumber's splayed out legs and awkwardly placed the cups down on the kitchen table, the contents of both immediately splash across the kitchen table.

"Holy shit. I give up. I give up." I am in full meltdown.

The grandkids faces are frozen in fear. Phyl, who was eating her own sandwich safely in the living room, comes to the rescue.

"Here, let me help. Stand back, I can do this."

I head off to get towels. She quickly rescues the laptop which was foolishly left on the table. In seconds flat she has the table cleared. The children are in shock.

The plumber announces sheepishly, "I need that other part, could I possibly retrieve it for him?"

"It's out in the garage. Give me a second, please."

I turned to head back into the garage to retrieve the box which had the missing part the plumber needed when the phone rings.

Just like a Ninja, I snapped up the ringing phone, saw it was my daughter, and grumpily answered it.

"Hey mom. I have a something I need to talk about."

"Well, in the last 15 minutes I ..." and I listed off the events. "You better make it quick."

"Okay. Sounds like you have your hands full. I will call you later."

Smart girl.

It was on my way back to the kitchen chaos when it hit me. I could hear Trace Adkins singing, "You're Gonna Miss This" country song playing in my head.

Though not all the lyrics were particularly applicable at that moment, the stanza about the plumber was dead on.

That was when I realized I was livin' large. It was that exact moment when time stood still. I mentally stopped the insanity, if only for a tiny second, and just took in the scene. I sighed in a deep breath then started laughing like I was insane idiot. After my stomach started to hurt, I calmly announced, "I gotta write this down. This is good stuff man, good stuff."

Once the bumper car ride of life stopped, there was a strange, even eerie calm which came over everyone. Even the house refused to make a noise.

The excess tidal wave of fluid was mopped. The children happily slathered Raviolios all over their faces, some even made it into their stomachs. The plumber plumbed. Phyllie finished her sandwich, and I got out the computer and began searching YouTube for Trace.

Brenden then offered the best comment of the day as he ate his lunch. He calmly uttered to no one in particular, "That's why we call her Crazy Grandma." 

"I am going to make myself some lunch. I have not eaten anything yet this morning, and I am a raving bitch. Sorry. Hey, can I get you a soda or something?"

Roger The Plumber pointed to his stomach and said, "Does it look like I have missed many meals? No thanks. You go on ahead and make yourself some lunch. I will just get this job done for you, Ma'am."

I warmed up a bowl of soup, found the song on YouTube, and got it going for inspiration. The children were swabbed for any remnants of spaghetti sauce before being shuttled off to watch their mutually agreed upon video. Phyllie took to her favorite easy chair for her afternoon nap. Snoring quickly ensued.

And I began this post.