Take My Wife…Please

My dad was a mild-tempered man. He made Jimmy Carter look like a rowdy spitfire.

In fact, I only remember my father snapping or lashing out on the rarest of occasions during my childhood. I remember him getting upset one time when his three monkey children were blowing really big, loud bubbles in their glasses of milk at a Howard Johnson’s. I remember him—we all froze–slapping my brother when he had been breathtakingly disrespectful to my mom. I remember Dad trying not to clonk my brother and sister’s heads together during their constant bickering (*typed the angel child who docily observed from the corner*).

And I remember him pulling the car over to the side of the road one time when his three monkey children started a game of yelling “FART FART FART” as loudly as they could, escalating the game as only a herd of “Holy Chachi, but has anyone in the history of the world ever been as funny as we are?” pre-adolescents could.

With the car idling on the side of the highway, the message we were given was, “We. Do. Not. Use. That. Word. In. This. Family.”

Because Dad’s displays of ire were so rare, they carried force. To this day, not only do I refrain from blowing bubbles in my drinks; I don’t go to Howard Johnson’s or drink milk.

And, for sure: I don’t use that word I’m not allowed to use, even though my dad’s been dead for 6 ½ years (like, what’s he going to do if I mutter the offending word—reconstitute his ashes into bodily form so he can then pull his gravestone over to the side of the cemetery and give me a lecture by a shepherd’s hook holding a basket of plastic geraniums?).

Fortunately, my husband was raised in a home with similar standards of manner. This commonality is largely responsible for the success of our marriage. We chip away at the crossword puzzle, hug each other when Ruth Reichl releases a new memoir, sigh contentedly when we put garlic scapes and kale in our eggs, and are generally, mutually, quietly couth.

When we’re not busy licking each other’s necks.

Truly, though, we don’t use the verboten term (“der fartein”) at our house…to the point that our kids first heard it from a neighbor boy (who also regards Garfield as the epitome of fine humor). Rather, after much casting about for a suitable synonym—it’s not that we want to ignore the realities of the body; we just don’t want to get grounded or lose our telephone privileges—we landed upon the word “toot,” which, frankly, gets waaaaaaaaay too precious waaaaaaay too fast. But in the absence of a better choice, it’s what we use.

All of this is preamble to the household crisis that reared up last night, as Groom and I carried out our nightly ablutions (that’s how the couthies roll; we ablute).

I stood at the sink, scrubbing my teeth, when Groom stepped up next to me, ready to spit. As his presence neared, so did a certain–how you say it in your country?–stank.

“Hey, uh, so did you just toot? Because if you didn’t, then you need a shower,” I noted, sniffing delicately, adjusting my bustle.

Sometimes when you’re brushing your teeth and sniffing delicately and adjusting your bustle all at the same time, you get a little toothpaste up the nostril, which set me to honking and snorting so loudly that I nearly missed Groom’s response of, “I did toot. I don’t need a shower. Oh, and, by the way? It’s time for a new line. You use that one every time. It’s officially old. If you’re going to call me on my reek, you need a new line.”

Not only was I struggling to get toothpaste out of my clogged nostril, now I was struggling to get this latest piece of information into my hollow skull. Whaaa? One of my tried-and-true, patented humor lines (carefully calibrated to a point of understatedness wherein the humor reaches shore gently, almost unheeded) was old? Was this how all the classic Vaudevillians felt when the moving pictures came to town? Suddenly needing to up their game and add a little soft shoe to their seltzer bottle gags?


Reeling, I realized with great rapidity that I lack the “better line” that my audience now demands. Without that hackneyed line in my repertoire, I have no way to convey to my beloved life’s partner—with freshness and originality—that he stinks, and if it’s not a gaseous emission, then he has larger problems.

I’ve been mulling on it, but all I’ve got so far is,

“Did you toot? Because if you didn’t, then you might need to write a letter to the folks at Right Guard about the fallibility of their product.”

AND

“Did you toot? Because if you didn’t, then you might want to check your knee pits for skunk nuggets.”

AND

“Did you toot? Because if you didn’t, then it’s time for us to get a pitch fork and turn over the compost heap inside your pants.”

AND

“Did you toot? Because if you didn’t, then I think your torso might be caked in dried fecal matter.”

Clearly, I’m hurtin’ here.

HELP.

Whoops. Sorry, Dad. What I mean is:

HELP. Please.

(if you don’t, you’re a big fart-head)

If you care to share, click a square:

Shove Me to Snivel

Ever since I had kids, and my head got full of other voices, I tend to figure things out when I’m running.

During the hour or so a day when I’m alone, when my body’s motion is overcoming my Fatigue of Brain, thoughts gel. As feet turn over, I think forward.

It’s actually become a household joke, this thinking while running, to the point that, when I get home from a run, I sidle up to Groom and ask, “So, do you want the download now, or should I wait ’til later to lay it all on you?” Generally, the thoughts that comprise our debriefing have to do with: 1) What we should get his mom for her birthday; 2) Why I think we should get new carpet on the stairs; 3) What I should have actually said as a rejoinder when our neighbor suggested I put a camera in the shower with me and then post it to YouTube; 4) Why I love Philip Roth so much; 5) Which weekend we should hire a babysitter so we can ride bikes to the brewpub and play Cribbage on the patio while drinking Big Boat Oatmeal Stout.

It was no joke the other day, however, when Groom and I both took advantage of a kids’ birthday party at the local nature center to go run and bike on the trails there. He biked; I ran. He hummed along and dreamed of the Thai-grilled chicken he planned to cook that night; I,

on the other hand,

contemplated why so many days, of late, have felt long and sad and down,
down,
down.

Why, as I whisper thanks to the universe about how beautiful, smart, and healthy my children are–as I actively savor the rich comfort of my marriage–do I feel like my heart is catching itself in a sob, like I want to curl up and cuddle my own belly, like the hours would fly if I were left to my own devices, yet they trudge in the company of others?

Even more, why am I recently suffering occasional insomnia, where I wake up at 3:15 a.m. and finally get back to sleep five hours later? Why, when I wake up, do my thoughts pace around a dread about going back to work in August, around fears about travel and breaking daily patterns (two things which have been a source of huge excitement, traditionally) if I should get a sabbatical next year? Why have I, a flowy person who hates predictability, become anxious about far-off possibilities?

Out-of-whack sleep patterns, plus the unrelenting togetherness of summertime, when no one in the family gets up and heads out anywhere, ever…well, they’ve conspired to make me feel desperate every third day or so.

Part of me thinks it’s hormonal, that I’m heading into a kind of peri-menopause that is shifting my innards just enough to cause a whole-being shake.

But since I’m only, *cough cough*, 24, it couldn’t be that.

Here’s where the running helped:

I realized the other day, as Groomeo biked at the nature center, and I ran for a long time, that I’ve always had two ways of dealing with stress:

1) Don’t let it accrue in the first place. Example: if someone at work puts out a call for a meeting, my habit has been to view that meeting as extraneous to my existence, pack up my work bag, and head home for a long run and Thai-grilled chicken. Second example: if someone is groaning about not having finished a project on time, I think to myself, “Maybe do the project when you first know about it, Weezer. So glad I did my project two months ago. Now I’m heading home for Thai-grilled chicken and a run.”

2) When it does land in my gushy lap, I process the stress promptly and throughout my entire body with a rapid and intense weep. Three minutes of sobbing every few days have continually kept me balanced and skipping. I’d actually never realized this–merely thinking of myself as a big, wussy crybaby–until my mother-in-law pointed out the beauty of this tendency, with a smidgeon of envy, a few years ago. She noted, in relation to her own long-delayed grief over having had a child who had died a few days after birth, “The way you allow emotion to blow through you is so healthy. When something is happening, you feel it then, at that moment, and then you release it.” Her wise observation heartened and awakened me to a previously-unrecognized gift.

Due to these naturally-evolved strategies, I’ve managed to trip fairly blithely through my days.

As I considered this the other day on my run, I had a flash of “Whoa, Nellie Olson (and Michael Landon in his turn as Pa), but I’ve got it: I’ve been feeling internally weighed down and low because I haven’t been crying. Everything in life is going along so swimmingly, from kitchen remodel to love of husband to amazement at children, that I’ve neglected my crying time.

I’ve neglected to register how stressful it is to have a work crew, however cool they are, in our house all day, everyday. I’ve neglected to give myself credit for being the sole wage-earner in a household of four. I’ve neglected my need to holler, “Hell, people, could I just be alone in my house now so that I could sit down during daylight and read a book?”

Because everything is so wonderful, I haven’t let all the tiny indignities register. I haven’t let them add up into a good wail, albeit for no good reason.

As I ran the other day, I finally got how much I am craving–emotionally and mentally, but also physically–a really good sob.

Naturally, right as I cottoned to this fact, I stumbled across my beloved Groomeo. There he was, suddenly, in the midst of many kilometers of trails. He biked towards me as I ran towards him (evidence of our Kismet). With me punching my stopwatch and him hitting his brakes, we merged for a chat. Within a minute, as he kept his bike from toppling down the steep and rocky hill, I’d poured it all out on him, ending on a weepy note. “And I think I just need to start the crying right now,” I laughed, as I burst into tears and hugged on his sweaty shoulders.

He kept his wheels from spinning down into a ravine, and I lightened my heart, assuring him, “Oh, this is just the start. I need a real Kleenex-depleter of a cry some night here, soon. I think I need to find a really sobby tv series or movie and have it unlock all these little stresses I’ve let build up. Too damn bad I’ve seen Slings & Arrows, eh? The last episode of the final season of that one had me tearing through four tissues, at least. Hmmmm. What will do the job?”

And that’s where I leave you now, Gentle Readers. I need a cathartic bawl. I’m not looking for something cliched or sentimental, so no Nicholas Sparks, please. What gives me the best yowl is usually a moment of tremendous beauty (such as the last few episodes of Slings & Arrows, wherein Shakespeare and modern life prove one and the same, in scenes of startlingly gorgeous theatre; or in the closing scene of the Glee pilot, when those uppity kids sing “Don’t Stop Believin'”; or when Robert Duvall in Lonesome Dove and Anthony Hopkins in Remains of the Day slice me in two with profoundly-felt, frozen emotion)…or a moment of stilted adoration, per Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy.

I actually Googled “top sad movies” last night and have been tipped that Atonement and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind might toss me over the desired edge. But I dunno. What I need now is help in achieving a breakdown.

What shows or films have rendered you a pathetic heap of tears, chocolate, and crumpled tissues? What has cracked you open?

If you care to share, click a square:

Seems I’m the Type That Was Heard on High…or, In Your Case, Read While High

A few weeks ago, after two terms in my English classes (both writing and literature), a student sent me this email:

“Thanks for your engel pacience

First reaction? Clearly, my work here is done.

Second reaction? Less clearly, something like “BWAHH?” coupled with an impulse to mock.

Third reaction? Clearly, I should never try to convince myself that my teaching makes a difference. If I’m being realistic and honest about how little impact I genuinely have on students—as evidenced by a five-word email containing no fewer than three errors, written by a student who had just finished 21 weeks under my tutelage–then my motivation for walking into the classroom needs to be restrained to this feeling: if I am in front of a large group of people, I’m going to need new shoes. A lot of new shoes. For a very long time. Even if I’m teaching the class online. Yes, that’s the ticket. If I can’t create better writers, then I should at least fail in my efforts while wearing awesome shoes.

However.

Since the error-riddled email was sent by a community college student, there had to be a story behind the misspellings. What’s more (we’re having a Jocelyn’s Rare Maturity Moment Here, so put your hands in the air, raise the roof, and yell “woot-woot”): taking into account that story makes all the difference.

Here’s the rundown on the author of the email:

–she’s almost 44 and is nearing the completion of her first higher-education degree, the A.A., something it took her 25 years to decide she wanted to earn

–she has seven kids, ranging in age from 8-24

–she’s been married five times, with each marriage resulting in additions to her brood. She now explains it thusly, “Once I counted out how many years of my life I had been pregnant, breast-feeding, and changing diapers. All that to learn at the Environmental Science class last semester that our planet Earth is heavily overpopulated! I have got an ‘A’, but it’s too late anyway, my youngest is 8 and I can’t put him back where he came from.”

–each of her husbands hailed from a different country, with the group of them spanning four continents

–she describes herself as “spacey,” as she often forgets to get off the train at the right station, to take food off the burner, to pick up a kid from daycare (or, um, to proofread)

–due to her spacey-ness, she decided not to get her driver’s license until she was 32, for fear that she’d forget she was driving while in the middle of doing it

–she is originally Polish, spent her early childhood in Chile, is a Swedish citizen, lived almost 1/3 of her life in Germany, and has been in the U.S. (Nevada, specifically) for two and half years.

–she is fluent in four languages

–over twenty years ago, in Sweden, she became involved in the Hare Krishna movement and still regards that time with great fondness

–she hopes to get a wolf-hybrid puppy

–she and her fiancé (there’s an optimist!) have signed up for a MUFON (Mutual UFO Network) course to become UFO investigators. She would like to “relieve the mystery” of some UFO phenomena. When advised by her *cough cough* English teacher that writing a college-level research paper on the topic of UFO’s would not be *hack hack* the best choice, this student responded quickly and admirably and ultimately turned out a solid paper on *better-but-still-sigh-inducing-simply-because-it’s-way-overdone* global warming

–she loves plain vanilla ice cream with tons of Hershey’s pure cocoa powder and cinnamon spice on it

–her very presence in an online class ramped up the energy of the other students; grammatically-clean or not, her messages in the Discussions area always supported, answered, and calmed her classmates

So.

The teacher learns her lessons:

By and large, I won’t transform my students into precision-writers.

Often, poorly-written sentences grow directly out of life circumstances.

Generally, I’d rather read a poorly-written sentence from a vastly-interesting human being than a perfectly-constructed one from a nob.

Being an unbending stickler who operates out of condescension would make me a nob.

As I contemplate next semester, then, I–optimistic in the fashion of my quintuply-married student’s current fiancé–internally shake out and fluff up a load of commas and apostrophes, in the hopes that some student might need them.

In the absence of that, though, I’ll just shore up my “pacience” and prepare to lend an ear to every last “engel” who couldn’t run spellcheck because she was too busy relieving the mysteries of the universe.

If you care to share, click a square:

I Did Not Either Go Back Three Days Later and Stage These Photos, So Hesh Up with Your Badgering Questions Already

Check out my science experiment this week:

When a body falls in the forest, and no one’s around to hear it, it does make a sound, and that sound is “Great Johnny Appleseed, but OWWWWWWWWWWWWW!”

This scientific breakthrough happened the other day when I was out for a run on one of my favorite sections of The Superior Hiking Trail. I love trail running for multitudinous reasons, but one of them is that the varied terrain breaks a run the hell up, so that I can be out there for more than an hour and not even realize it’s time to turn around (contrast this to a run in town, where I spend the last mile counting down: “Fifty-Second Street. Fifty-First Street. Fiftieth Street. Ah, hell, is this only Forty-Ninth Street?”) A side benefit of trail running (aside from rock-hard quads capable of opening a No. 10 can of peaches) is that the varied terrain provides all good reasons for sloggish runner to go rewy, rewy slowly.

With all those roots and rocks jutting up, caution is clearly in order.

What is The Suck, however, is when a sloggish runner who is “running” in a way that actually resembles a quick hike because she is being so very careful about rocks and roots

still takes a mo-fo of a tumble, thanks to biffing her toe on a semi-exposed piece of Nature.

Yup, the other day my body hurled–backwards, by the time I finished pirouetting–into the prickly brush, making contact with at least three more squads of rocks as it gradually skidded to a stop.

“OWWWWW!” does, indeed, echo loudly in an empty forest. As do a few of Yosemite Sam’s finer expletives, particularly those ending in “-frackin’sassafrass.”

Taking stock, as I lay there, I first checked for witnesses (it being several weeks before the local trail ultra-marathon, I’d already passed a couple of gel-squishing 135-lb full-grown wiry males out on 40-mile training runs). Fortunately, no one was around, so there was no need for me to spit the ferns out of my mouth to facilitate a sheepish explanation of, “Em. Lost a contact lens. Oh, and also: I ran 50 miles yesterday, so I’m only having a short 20-mile recovery run today. But keep at it, you pusses.”

Alone in the now-silent woods, I felt around for my head.

Praise Marie Antoinette: it was there!

As well, I still had roughly four limbs extruding from my torso, and as luck would have it, two of them hung out above my waist (Hey, wait. a. minute. I actually have four appendages hanging out above my waistline alone—although two of them are capable of hanging just to my waist while the other two can stretch nearly to my knees. It’s your guess which two are my breasts).

All that new math aside, I felt around and sighed in relief when I realized I also still had two hands–thanks for doing the feeling around, dudes!–along with some leggish things stretched out in front of me. When I bent the leggish things, I saw one of the kneeish things there in the middle was properly scraped up and having a good bleed.

Yes, I realize one of the biggest drawbacks of social media is that anyone with a boo-boo can broadcast it to the world. I also realize this could totally be Conan O’Brien’s knee.

Here’s the moment in a mini-crisis when I often surprise myself: in my general self perception, I tend to think that I’m infinitely open to getting wound up and milking the drama from any possible moment (such as the time, on a day called yesterday, when I got a hangnail and was convinced its removal would require radiation). In reality, though, I actually tend to keep my spirit together in moments of crisis or OWWWWW (case in point: one of my all-time favorite students was raised without advantages, so she spent her mid-twenties learning things most of us mastered as kids…you know, like reading and writing; she also didn’t know how to swim, so I determined to teach her. The first time we were in the pool, her natural athletic abilities kicked in, and she was stroking around in no time. We headed for the deep end. Did I mention she has a seizure disorder? Yea, okay, so in the deep end, the movement of the water and the weird fluorescent lights brought on a seizure, and while I would have thought I’d get all shrieky and limp when faced with her jerking, sinking body, all I really felt was a sense of calm resolution and “NOT ON MY WATCH” wash over me, as I swam to her, dove down and grabbed her, swam her rigid form to the edge, and called repeatedly for the distracted life guard to help me pull her out and to get flotation devices to put under her head so she didn’t crack her skull).

After taking a moment to collect myself there under the sugar maples, I realized I was only bleeding from three places (knee, shoulder, hand) and couldn’t do much about it until I got home. So why not enjoy the rest of my run, as I had to cover the ground to get back to my car anyhow?

I hit the backtrack button on my Ipod, having, during the fall, missed out on the last few informative sentences of the Savage Love podcast (sentences that, upon relistening, went, “I have no problem with you having a centaur fetish; I just feel sorry for you because it’s not a fantasy that can ever actually get played out in real life. ‘Cuz the closest you can come in real life is a guy in a centaur costume, and when everything interesting is packed inside a costume like that, it’s never going to be fulfilling.”). Thusly heartened, I started to run again.

Four minutes later?

Wearing a cap, and being careful to watch the path for roots and rocks, I didn’t notice the birch tree blocking the path—suspended between two other trees—just at head level.

(why didn’t any of the paparazzi skulking in the foliage call out a warning to me?)

BLAMMMMM. My forehead plowed into the thing at five Large American Miles Per Hour.

Frick.

I was actually thrown several feet into, you got it, another stand of ferns. I actually didn’t know what had happened until I found myself sitting there. Gently, I shook my head and tried to focus my vision. Oh. My. Lawsy.

My eyes had been knocked loose. Even after a minute of trying to clear my vision, everything was blurry and out of focus. I would never see right again. How would I read? How would I drive?

Then I saw my glasses sitting next to me on the ground.

Never mind.

Once I put them on–gingerly, as my noggin was a’screamin’–the world got clearer and, once again, I found myself in a moment internal inquiry: “Do you need to have a little cry right now? Because it feels like you might need a little cry.”


Again, however, Self turned all calmish and replied, pretty quietly, “Naw. I don’t think that’s going to help. I think we should get up now and go to a place of Band-aids and hugs.”

So we did.

When I got home fifteen minutes later, ready to tell Groom about my wee trail adventures, he pre-empted my story with a, “Are you okay? You look really rough.” I’d known my skull was rattled and that I was worried I was going to go all Natasha Richardson or Sweet Baby Lime on him, and I knew I was bleeding, but I hadn’t realized how much dirt was covering my body. Seriously, some women would have paid hundreds of dollars for a mud wrap like I had just gotten for free. Later, when I rinsed off, I realized I might have needed Ibuprofen, but, damn, my pores were tight.

In the days since my wrassle with the woods, my neck has been stiff and painful, even mid-way down my spinal column (my neck extends very far). Plus, the jarring of my top and bottom teeth against each other during the impact chipped a nano-tidbit off one of the lower teeth. I need to file that baby.

Maybe into a fang.

What I’ve learned from all this is that emory boards (and mojitos) are wonderful tools for coping.

Even more profoundly, I’ve learned that Nature and exercise are, like the thing I tripped over in the forest, the Root of All Evil.

If you care to share, click a square:

Can’t Touch This

 

On my first day of college twenty-four years ago, I heaved into my arms a laundry bag holding Kermit the Frog (a stuffed version, mind you; the live one was on location in Hollywood), Howard Jones cassette tapes, and aerosol cans of Aquanet. A bit tremulously, I walked into my freshman dorm.

Naturally, the dorm was located on the far outreaches of campus, and my room was on the top floor, farthest away from the main doors. Any exercise I got in the ensuing nine months was due to the trek I had to make to get back to my room (or from the repetitive elbow lifts associated with hefting a beer).

That first day, though, because the dorm was teeming with parents, the college put on the shine a little bit and actually opened up the sole elevator. That one and only time, we were able to step aboard with our heavy loads and enjoy the quick trip up four floors. Once the last parent drove away at dusk, however, the elevator was shut down with a clank.

As my laundry bag and I stepped into the mythical parentally-inspired elevator that day, I joined another nervous-looking student and her handlers. Small talk set in, and my fellow student, one Shannon, asked, “So are y’all from Minnesota?”

People. I. could. hardly. believe. the. glamour. of. my. new. life.

This person had a Southern accent.

I was going to be attending school with students who were, like, cosmopolitan.

By extension, this meant I, too, was glamourous and cosmopolitan, kind of like how my shoulder pads always felt just a tidge bigger when I watched Joan Collins on DYNASTY. It was glamour enhancement by association.

As the weeks and months ticked by, my first impression was born out: not only did Shannon have a Southern accent, but she also had attended a private girls school (just like Phoebe Cates did in 1983’s PRIVATE SCHOOL!! It was so handy to have seen a movie that gave me insight into the realities of Shannon’s life before college: clearly, her days had been full of handsome lads–like Matthew Modine–from the neighboring boys’ school playing cross-dressing pranks on the girls, all to a soundtrack of Rick Springfield and Bow Wow Wow!!!); even more, when not engaged in peeping shower scenes to the tune of “I Want Candy,” Shannon had actually been part of debutante culture and knew what the word “cotillion” meant!!!!! Holy exclamation point, but the girl was chichi!!!!!!

As even more months ticked by, turning into sophomore year, I ended up living in a sextet with ChiChi Shannon, during which time I discovered she was outrageously down home. Certainly, she was from a different background, but most importantly, she was just a girl, moving into womanhood (er, womynhood; any chick worth her Birkenstocks attending a small, liberal arts college in the 1980s would never co-opt “men” into a word for creatures as fabulous, independent, and distinct as womyn). As we made Ramen noodles together, cried about roommate frustrations together, walked to class together, I got it. In all the essential ways, we were the same.

And so college spun on to graduation in 1989.

Since then, I have kept in contact with a slew of college pals, attending weddings and reunions, raising kids in parallel lives.

Shannon has not. In fact, after a few years, she never attended a reunion or had much contact with anyone. She got busy living in D.C., doing things like trying to get medical coverage for children. Nice excuse. So no one had seen her.

Until a few weeks ago.

Then, she—bravely–set foot on campus for the first time in twenty years at our, get this bit of irony, 20-year Reunion.

When I spotted her and launched into the requisite hugging of her body and licking of her face, she finally managed to gasp out, “I’ll never forget that you were the first person I met freshman year. We got into the dorm elevator together, and I knew it was a different world when I learned you were from MONTANA. I mean, wow, I didn’t know people from Montana. I couldn’t believe I was meeting people from Montana. I knew college was going to be something.”

There it was. We were back in the elevator together, open to mutual dazzlement.

That single moment from my first day of college, ultimately, summed up my entire college experience–and continues to sum up why the Reunions are so amazing. A group of smart, talented people, all very different, are drawn together by the excitement, the potential, of mutual dazzlement. And it never fails to deliver.

Invariably, at Reunion, I end up rubbing my eyes with my fists, trying to clear away tears of laughter. Invariably, I end up meeting people with whom I graduated but whom I never knew during college. Invariably, I end up wishing I’d known them all along and that they lived next door to me now–so that I might dash over, ring their bell, and yell “Hold me, College Boy!” when the world becomes too much. Once the embrace would break, a little awkwardly, I’d ask for a bagel. With strawberry cream cheese. If they have it. Please.

But because the magic of Reunion is tied into it happening infrequently (clearly, the excitement of seeing me everyday would wear thin quickly; for one, the cost of cream cheese would add up, day after day, year after year, as, for two, would my semi-creepy insistence on a deep, emotional hug with someone who lives next door and really just wants to mow his lawn), I revel in its intensity, in the spurts of conversation with people who had Paul Wellstone as a professor, who mainlined No-Doz when writing papers, who constructed shantytowns on campus in anti-apartheid protest, who filed into the chapel to listen to Garrison Keillor tell stories.

By Sunday, after three days of conviviating wildly, my heart is full, and I stand back from my life, once again, and can’t believe its glamour: because I am allowed to know such people.

Then I realize I’m hungover and haven’t slept but twelve hours in three nights, and it’s time to go home. Plus, I need a latte. However, for the next few months, whenever the world gets to be too much, I can simply click on the mental slideshow of that weekend, and I will feel the dazzle.

Dimming the lights now. Click:

At some point in the next few months, Beautiful Man here and his family will travel to Madagascar to adopt two more children. When my dad died six years ago, this Beautiful Man empathized with my grief. When he was 18, he had never drunk before. We remedied that. Nowadays, he certainly doesn’t drink, but he rides horses.

Poopsie on the Left was my roomie through college; I did a semester in Ireland with her; I lived with her after we graduated; I did a reading in her wedding; I learned huge amounts about the world during her divorce; she has, on occasion, held my heart in her hands and kept it from splintering. Five years ago, at our last reunion? She was piecing herself together post-divorce; at the same time, the fella on the right here was imminently divorcing. Now? They’ve just signed the closing papers on a condo in Chicago.

The chica on the left has done everything cool in the world, including living and working in Antarctica; the one on the right is my bestest dance partner ever. During the course of the weekend, inspired by the notion of a BIG LOVE life of polygamy, where we all get to share a communal backyard with a pool, I began suggesting possible Sister Wives to Groom. These two made the cut. The one on the left here could change theh oil in my Mom-Van, which is always a boon in a Sister Wife.

I have no idea what was so funny. But it probaby involved the punchline “Pigfu**er.”

During college, I never did that experimental thing of loving on girls. Good news for the frustrated: twenty years later is not too late to start kissing girls. I know a guy here in town who recently got divorced because his wife realized that very fact.

This buddy here is descended from elves and has the best taste in music ever. One of my best memories of him from freshman year is of him walking around campus, a little boom box on his shoulder (not that he couldn’t have managed a bigger one, for he might look lithe, but he is VERY STRONG), listening to The Replacements’ song “Kiss Me On The Bus.” I also remember him pointing out to me, as a fellow Titian, this quote from Gulliver’s Travels: “It is observed, that the red haired of both sexes are more libidinous and mischievous than the rest, whom yet they much exceed in strength and activity.”

You don’t know the half of it, Mr. Swift.

The guy to my right here graduated a few years before I, but he was back on campus with his band to play one night of Reunion. Even my shoulder blades were sore the next day, from the thrashing around. Incidentally, I nominated him as a candidate for Brother Husband. He could play calming music for all 27 kids at The Compound. If he really wants, we’ll even let him be Prophet.

Kum-by-yah. My Lord.


I look at my Girl (in the middle) and two of the daughters of my college pals, and I’m forced to muse: “Crikey. In nine years, they’re going to get on an elevator with someone who has a Southern accent!”

Did you ever notice how 9-10 year old girls really like hearts and pink? And butterflies and San Diego?

By the time Paco and his compatriot get to college, we’ll be hauling their laundry bags out of our hovercars and stocking their mini-fridges with stashes of Tang and freeze-dried ice cream.

———–

Click. Lights back on now. The slideshow is over.

Time to go to work now–powered by a happy, flowy feeling of gratitude.

Maybe I’ll meet someone with a Southern accent today.

For–as I learned when I was 18–anything is possible.

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Ode to Sampson: I Type At You, My Vigor Diminished

Do not even ask me to hold a kettle ball for you right now, much less to swing it around and jack up my triceps.

As long as we’re on the point, incidentally, how come you’re always asking me to hold your kettle balls?

At any rate, I couldn’t heft even the lightest of your ubiquitous kettle balls, for I am vewwwwy weak, and all my muscles are shrively.

You see, the source of my strength underwent a heat-induced chopping today, and, no, I am not referring to hot flashes, although I understand that particular pleasure loiters just around a very dark corner and down a long, menacing alley.

Rather, it’s been, like, a kajillion degrees here during the hours of ye olde daytime, and the humidity has been at ninety-seventy-twelve percent. With such conditions in force, what sweaty, limp, and crabby redhead wouldn’t trot in to see a perky stylist named Rosie at the nearest air-conditioned Aveda salon?

…all of which (em, right about here, please do a little smeary motion with your hands in front of your face, and also make a little “woo-dee-woo-hoo” noise down in your larynx, the effect of which is time transport, back to the year 1997 or so) reminds me of a story about my bestie girlpal named Pamm.

See, back in 1997, Pammy had some ovarian cyst problems. And it wasn’t even humid then.

Her ovary was cystic to the point where mean doctors with anger issues planned to attack her with three-foot needles and lance the boil.

In a certain way, and thanks to laproscopy, it was to be a fairly non-invasive surgery.

However, since Pammy’s body manages to turn everything from bee stings to dairy ingestion into cause for high drama, she was justified in worrying about complications.

Once you anticipate complications, even before you get to see Doc Lancelot, you get a leeetle bit, um, nervous. Anxiety-ridden. Barfy in the mouth.

Pal that I am, my solution to Pamm’s emotional angst the day of her surgery was the time-honored technique known as “I am distracting you now, so look at these dancing puppets!”

Specifically, my distraction before the surgery was to tap into another body-based angst, one termed in the medical books Eff-All If I Wasn’t Born With No Metabolism. Indeed, Pammy and I had always been able to bond over the fact that someone in a Honda Accord could drive by, eating a cake donut, and we’d gain four pounds.

So here’s the puppet I trotted out for her during her pre-surgery anxiety: knowing she had to drink a gallon of vile bowel cleanser before the lancing (in case her intestines suffered a nick), I urged her to weigh herself first…drink the stuff…do a lot of reading of The New Yorker whilst on the toilet…and then weigh herself right before the surgery. “Nothing,” I hollered at her, “will ever again give you such rapid and dramatic weight-loss results, even if it’s hawked to you on a late-night infomercial by one of the trainers from THE BIGGEST LOSER, a show that isn’t even on tv yet because it’s only 1997! Empty your bowels, Love, and then take those numbers from the scale into the operating room with you!! Do it!! Glory in the power of those pounds peeling off…er, flushing away!!!”

Damn if she didn’t lose six pounds that afternoon. The poo came out, and Pammy went supermodel, moved to Brazil, and married a soccer player.

Okay, now do the smeary hand thing in front of your face again, and make those woo-dee-doodle sounds in your throat, ’cause we’re flashing forward to the epoch known as Right Now.

HI! How are you? Dizzy? Choose a focal point on the wall, and stare at it to center yourself. It’s 2009 now and, most importantly, Bush is out of the White House. Isn’t it nice here?

Back in 1997, my buddy Pamm lost weight from her innards. Sort of like that–but not–today I lost some weight, too; it didn’t happen because I had a cyst but because my entire self was spontaneously combusting thanks to that tart named Summer. Check out my “hell, but I need to cool down before I strangle the innocents” rapid weight loss technique, which I believe the French call Une Chop de la Tete:


Yup. Lost two pounds.

From my head.

Point of pride: only one of the dropped pounds was from poo (it squozed out of my ear when I laughed too hard at a passing clown).

The other lost pound? Entirely follicular.

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If Imagination Were Actually Given Full Rein

By jinkies and holy Marco Polo, but I’m tired.

We got back from our two weeks of travel the other night, and as of today, I almost feel hydrated and centered again. Mos’ def, travels full of weddings and college reunions are hot-doggoliciously fun, but coming home from them requires a state-licensed detox program: detoxing from, yes, a progression of drinks, but even more, detox from public love, intense conversations, sleeping in a new place every night or two, and, during all that, teaching two classes online (surreal moment: answering questions about the newly-updated Modern Language Association’s research citation guidelines while sitting in a McDonald’s Playplace in New Hampton, Iowa).

Compounding my sense of “Who am I?” and “Mommy, won’t you just hug The Jocey, for she is tapped out?” these last couple of days is the fact that we came home to a deconstructed kitchen (ooh, yes, there will be photos or video to follow, as it’s amazing to see the bones of one’s house and smell the air that’s been trapped in that wood since 1913!).

Thus, even though we’re home now, the regular flow of our daily living is, quite literally, being redirected, with us doing dishes in the bathtub and cooking dinner on the front steps on a camp stove. The fridge is next to the piano for the duration of the remodel, so everytime I take out the jug of milk, I also tickle out a wee bit of “Heart and Soul” on them ivories.

Speaking of heart, soul, and things I’ve fallen in love with, I have to share one of the fifty-thwillion highlights of our trip. Our last day in St. Louis, we went to The City Museum, a place so awesome that, as one of my friends noted, “Half of this stuff is normally illegal in the United States.” Quite simply, I would say it’s a place for both kids and adults, but it is absolutely on my list of the Top Five Things I’ve Ever Dragged My Kids To.

This is me, now, holding out a beckoning finger, inviting you to save the $12 entry fee and come on inside:

Sorry if the background noise overwhelms my voice. I am generally a wilting violet, you know, the sound of whose speech barely reaches beyond her own lips, so it was difficult for me to crank up my personal decibels, lest I collapse in a waifish faint.

For me, the best thing about this little snippet is that Groomeo is holding a magic wand (the glue had yet to dry) during the whole thing. Certainly, he has always held me sway with his magic, but to see him darting in there like some Mystical Fairy hired by Butt Pushers, Inc., brings out his charm for the entire viewing public.

Ostensibly, I’m showing you the outside of the museum here. But my hidden agenda was to make you yack. Didja? Huh? Didja barf? If so, what did you clean it up with?

These questions, along with memories of museums and imagination gone wild and hugs and laughter, will sustain me as I crouch beside the bathtub tonight, scouring a skillet that I’ve lathered up with Pantene.

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This Gives Me Even Greater License to Drink, Right?

I’m at my 20-year college reunion right now, so typing time is tight. I’ll simply say the beauty of attending such an event is this: I am assured I’m not the only one my age with a paunch and thinning hair. However, to my credit, and unlike many of my peers, I have not chosen to grow facial hair as a counterbalance to the loss of head-top hair.

In other news: the contractors working on the kitchen remodel have lost the plans–you know, the ones that were full of hand-written notes about small changes; as well, even though they filed for a building permit three weeks ago, it hasn’t come through yet, so they’ve been working without one now for two weeks. Any steps of the process that require inspection, such as some work on the heating pipes they did, cannot happen until the permit comes through; thus, progress has slowed. Also, the architect feels pretty sure the bathroom he designed is fine (we’re adding in a half-bath, too), but he’d feel even better if it were measured one more time…so in the interim, that means the cabinet-maker can’t start making the cabinets, as any change in bathroom size will affect cabinet size.

In short, the remodel, with its various derailments, seems right on track, ja?

And all of this means I should drink a whole lot of Surly Beer at the class of 1989’s social hour tonight, right?

Help me with my rationalizations here, people.

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