Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Greatest Gift of All (is sometimes something really weird)

With the appearance of the November issues of women’s magazines on the shelves, the December issues cannot be far behind. As always, the November covers focus on being thankful and on losing weight while eating holiday meals. I’m sure that, as always, the December covers will use the word, ”gift” to refer to something that money cannot buy. And losing weight. Of course I am thankful for my family (unless I am irritated by them) and the best gift I have ever received really was something that money cannot buy. Which surprises me, I love things that cost money!

In 2005 I went to rehab. Now called Las Encinas Hospital, the facility I went to was originally, The Southern California Sanitarium for Nervous Diseases and was described as, “a general medical sanitarium for chronic conditions including the psycho-neuroses and for fatigue states,” Much as I wish I’d just stopped by to rest up and get out of a “fatigue state,” I was there for thirty days with the idea that once those thirty days were done I wouldn't drink anymore. If you stop a moment to picture a mental hospital (I mean, let’s call a spade a spade here) that was built in 1904, that big, creepy Vincent Price-type building you’re picturing is pretty dead on. Also, I was there in January and it poured rain the entire month! Okay, most of the month but it felt like it rained the entire time.

After “detoxing” I was moved to one of the “bungalows.” I was supposed to have a roommate but the girls they kept assigning to live with me couldn't stay sober long enough to get out of the lock-down building and into a bungalow so I had the place to myself. There’s a lot of “togetherness” in rehab what with all of the groups and activities and meetings and all so I liked the solitude of my creepy little bungalow in the rain.
My husband visited me every day and my children came by often. My parents came to see me once and when the front desk confiscated the glass vase my mother was carrying and handed her back the naked, dripping flowers I had to explain to her that I wasn't allowed anything I could harm myself with. Because she was still confused as to how a small, glass vase could be harmful I elaborated, explaining that I could break the vase and use the shards to slit my wrists. My mother spent the rest of her visit peering into desk drawers and looking under lampshades, afraid that I’d become suddenly and creatively suicidal.

One night while I was in line for meds at the nurses’ station, my husband appeared and told me to come to my bungalow. He had a surprise for me. I told him he’d have to wait a few minutes, I wanted my meds first. I was an addict, after all, if I couldn't drink I certainly didn't want to miss an opportunity to ingest a mind-altering substance no matter how weak and unsatisfying it might be. I could sense his impatience with me but he waited until I got my meds and we ran through the rain to my bungalow. (In case you think the whole rain thing is hyperbolic, it was actually raining that night. It’s totally part of the story.) Inside my bungalow was a damp cardboard box and lying on my bed was my equally damp cat! Icky Cat and I cuddled together, both of us grateful to be together again. Although my husband sneaking a large, wet yowling cat into Las Encinas probably sheds light on how my potential roommates kept relapsing on meth even though they never left the grounds, I have never loved him more or received a better gift since.

So, yes, November magazine covers, I know what I am most thankful for. And when December hits the newsstands, I’m ready to reveal the greatest gift I have ever received. And to learn how to lose weight over the holidays.

Happy Halloween You Sexy Little Mermaid

It’s almost Halloween, ladies, what are you dressing up as this year? A sexy firefighter? A slutty schoolgirl? Or maybe a kitty cat (which is, as we all know, a leotard with ears and a tail—meow!) Judging by the commercial options available, once we take off our Disney Princess outfits we all like to slip into something naughty on October thirty first. Offensive as this idea is, no scanty costume is as disturbing as that of an otherwise wholesome childhood character gone rogue. Let’s start with Naughty Nemo.

Yes, Nemo the clownfish from the Disney movie. Quoting the website’s description of this costume, “Enjoy ocean life as a sassy fish in this Naughty Nemo Costume! ... Have them saying Nem-OH! in this sassy fish costume!” So much is wrong here! First, why didn’t the copywriter do a “search and replace” to avoid repeating the phrase “sassy fish” in such a short description? And second, who is this costume for? Is a die-hard fan of the movie in the same demographic as someone who wants to walk the sidewalks Halloween night as a scantily clad fish? And whose idea was this costume and is he on a registry somewhere?

It’s hard to pick the worst example of this misuse of children’s characters but slutty Cookie Monster is way at the top of that list. The costume’s description was mercifully limited to fabric content but did feature the headline, “Cookies! Umm Numm Numm!” And probably the best clue as to the costume’s complete inappropriateness is the “suggested products” list which was a collection of clear plastic stripper shoes and thigh high boots. Whether Mommy is to dress as (nudge, nudge, wink, wink) Cookie Monster while Trick or Treating with her little Bert and Ernie or whether Mommy’s costume is just for alone time with Daddy so they can play “One of These Things is Not Like the Other” is unknown. But as my Grandpa used to say, “That’s just not right.”

So, ladies, this brings me back to my original question. What will you be for Halloween this year? Smart. Let’s all just be really smart.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

"Fun Size" Candy Bars Not Having Fun

I'm busting out some fiction 'cause sometimes that's how I roll. Enjoy this glimpse into the life of yucky candy inspired by the appearance of Halloween in the aisles of every store I go to. Rebecca     

     Some already sat with their Styrofoam cups of lukewarm coffee.  Penny had forgotten the cookies.  She was having trouble keeping her commitment.  The rest of the group was wondering if she was “back out”.  Cigarette smoke drifted in through the church basement door.  Soon they would deposit their butts in the sand filled coffee cans and join the others.  They sucked in all the nicotine they could get until the meeting started.  It was sad and pathetic.  But then, so were they.
     “Hi, I’m Smartee and I am yucky candy.”
     “Hi Smartee.”
     “Now that Halloween is over I know many of us can breathe a little easier.  As many of you know, Halloween is one of the toughest times of the year to be yucky candy. This is a participation meeting and remember there is no cross talk.  First, I’d like Waxed Paper Orange Thing to read the treasurers report.”
     “I’m Waxed Paper Orange Thing and I’m your Yucky Treasurer.”
     “Hi Waxed Paper Orange Thing.”
     “Last week we collected twelve dollars, we spent two dollars on chips and nine fifty on Yucky literature, leaving us with fifty cents.  Thank you for letting me be of service.”
     The other Yucky Candy applauded wildly.
     “Thank you Waxed Paper Orange Thing.  Are there any Yucky announcements from the group? Yes Peep.”
    “There is a Yucky step meeting this Friday at the senior center,” said Peep, “it’s a non-smoking meeting.”
     The group applauded as Peep sat down.
     “Thank you Peep,” said Smartee, “unless there are any non Yucky announcements we’ll get started.  Who would like to go first?”
     “I’ll go,” said Penny, “I’m Penny and I’m Yucky Candy.”
     “Hi Penny”, said the group.
     “Okay, I know it’s pretty obvious that I’m not really candy, I mean, I’m a penny, duh.  But I started coming to Yucky Candy meetings two years ago when I saw what was happening to pennies on Halloween.  People would buy candy, shitloads of it but they would run out, you know.  And what do people do when they run out of candy and they still have little bastards ringing their doorbells?  They look around their houses for shit.  First they take stuff from their own kids trick or treat bags, then they start looking through their cupboards.  But the really lazy dudes.  They just reach in their pockets and start handing out pennies.  It’s fucking humiliating man.  First the good candy, you know Milky Ways and Snickers, I don’t have to paint you a picture, then Nerds and Bottle Caps and shit like that, then me, a penny.  It’s fucking weak, man.  Bottom of the barrel fucking weak.  Two years ago when I was sharing bag space with an unwrapped caramel and some other nasty dusty shit I started coming here.  I owe you guys a lot.  Thanks.”
     After the group finished their applause, Waxed Paper Orange Thing spoke
     “I’m Waxed Paper Orange Thing and I’m Yucky Candy.”
     “Hi Waxed Paper Orange Thing.”
     “Thank you Penny for sharing.  I had a really tough week.  Halloween is the worst for me.  I mean you guys know.  Look at me.  I am everywhere at Halloween.  But who really knows me?  Who really knows my name?  Me and Waxed Paper Black Thing, we show up in October spend some time and then we’re forgotten for a year.  And kids know.  When a Waxed Paper Orange Thing or a Waxed Paper Black thing get tossed into their trick or treat bag they know we’re not name brand.  They know we came from some cheap ass giant bag of generic shit.  And that’s how I felt when I started coming here.  Like cheap ass generic shit.  But, in these rooms I have found strength.  I know I’ll never be traded for M&M’s, but I also know I’m not the only Yucky Candy out there.  Anyway, thanks for letting me share.”
     The group knowingly applauded.
     “I’m Box of Raisins and I’m Yucky, shit I’m not even Yucky Candy, I’m just Yucky.”
     “Hi Box of Raisins.”
     “First, I’d like to thank Waxed Paper Orange Thing and Penny for their share.”
     Penny and Waxed Paper Orange Thing acknowledged Box of Raisins with a nod.  Of all the Yucky Candy members, Box of Raisins appeared to have suffered the most before joining the group.  The corners of his box were tattered and frayed, the group could only speculate as to the condition of his contents.  He was also one of the few to attend other meetings.  They had heard that he regularly went to the Yucky Fruit step studies.
     “As most of you know,” began Box of Raisins, “I was out there a long time before I found this group.  Sometimes for Raisins we go through a lot before we finally hit bottom.  I mean you start out in, say, a little kid’s lunch.  You get taken back home, put back in a lunch the next day, fished out of the trash by the teacher, given to another kid who forgot a snack, taken back home and put in a cupboard.  Then, like Penny, I could totally relate to what you were saying man.”
     Penny and Box of Raisins exchanged a smile.
     “Halloween comes.  They run out of candy, they go through the cupboards and ‘oh look’ they find a Box of Raisins.  Into some kids bag you go and the whole nightmare starts all over again.” Box of Raisins paused.  “Yucky Candy saved my life, saved my goddamn life.  Thanks for letting me share.”
     After the applause, Fruitcake volunteered to share.  Fruitcake seemed unusually agitated.
     “I’m Fruitcake and I’m Yucky,” he said.
     “Hi Fruitcake.”
     “Like some of you I’m not even candy, man, I’m just fucking yucky.  What, like I’m gonna go to the Yucky Cake meetings?  Can’t.  You know why?  Because cake isn’t fucking yucky man, cake is good.  They don’t even have to have a group for yucky cake because it doesn’t fucking exist except for me.  I’m a fruitcake, a fucking joke!  I give you Halloween candy big props man, you made it through.  But now it’s fucking November.  Merry fucking fruitcake Christmas!”
     Fruitcake began to cry.  He was usually so tough, a rock for everyone, literally a rock.  But as Christmas approached he always had a really hard time.  He had been coming to the group for years.  The group assumed it was the same fruitcake.  They had heard the rumors, the jokes about how there was really only one fruitcake that just got passed around from year to year.  Tough life, a fruitcake.
     “I’m Hollow Chocolate Bunny and I’m Yucky Candy.”
     “Hi Hollow Chocolate Bunny.”
     “I’m in a really good place right now.”
     “Yeah,” said Fruitcake, “You’re fucking Easter candy dude!”
     “Fruitcake,” said Smartee, “I’m sorry there’s no cross talk.”
     “Sorry man,” said Fruitcake.
     “I’d like to thank everyone for their share,” continued Hollow Chocolate Bunny, “so, yeah, I’m in a really good place right now.  I went on the Yucky retreat and it was super awesome.  We all got mantras.  So now when I feel bad about being hollow and everything I just say, ‘Your expectations are not my responsibility.  I’m hollow and that’s okay’.  Because at the retreat I really learned a lot about myself.  And I learned that I was feeling super guilty about being hollow.  That I was, like, ‘owning’ everyone’s disappointment in my lack of solidity.  And I just could not take that on.  I had to make that someone else’s problem.  So, right now I’m feeling really good about being hollow.  So next time there’s a Yucky retreat you guys should totally go.  Thanks for letting me share.”
     After the group’s applause, Smartee spoke.
     “First, I’d like to thank everyone for sharing.  I can relate to so many of you.  I know most of you know my story but this Halloween marks my tenth birthday so I wanted to share.  For years I didn’t really know I had a problem.  I thought I was social candy, you know, like Sweet-Tarts.  But then I started to notice I was different.  You can buy Sweet-Tarts in regular stores anytime you want.  They are always available, socially acceptable.  But Smartees?  Halloween only.  Like Waxed Paper Orange Thing I came to realize I was a different kind of candy.  You can only buy Smartees in weird bulk packages and only once a year.  I’m not normal candy like Sweet-Tarts, Normies as we like to say.”
     The group chuckled softly.  Smartees continued.
     “I’m Yucky Candy. Thanks for letting me share.”
     The Yucky Candy applauded wildly, nodding their affirmation.  Smartee spoke again.
     “Do we have any newcomers here?” he said.
     In the back of the room an odd looking visitor stood.  He was pale orange, a little dented and slightly spongy  looking.  Peep and the Granola Bar sitting next to him noticed a sickly sweet odor as he stood.
     “I’m Circus Peanut and I’m Yucky Candy.”
     “Hi Circus Peanut.”
     Circus Peanut winced at the loud enthusiastic greeting.
     “I’ve never been to anything like this before and I’m really nervous.  But a few days ago I think I finally realized that I’m Yucky Candy.  Like for most of you, Halloween is really hard for me.  I mean I’ve never had a wrapper, no one is ever happy to see me, but I think I finally hit bottom.  I was spending a lot of time with lots of candy.  Not so much in trick or treat bags or cupboards but in a dish.  I hung out with mints, peanuts, jelly beans, lots of different stuff.  Then last week as everything else was disappearing from the dish I realized, I’ve been sitting here for years.  Seriously, years.  Christmas candy, malted milk eggs, orange slices, candy corn; year after year and there I was.  Just sitting in the dish getting hard and stale.  Going nowhere.  Then, a few days ago it was just me and a starlight mint.  You know those, there’s a lot of them in baskets at Mexican restaurants.  Anyway, someone picked up the mint.  And it finally hit me.  I am Yucky Candy.  So I came here.” Circus Peanut hesitated, unsure as to what to do next, “Thanks for letting me share.”
     He sat down during the group’s applause.  The Granola Bar patted him encouragingly as he sat.
     “That’s all the time we have,” said Smartee, “I’d like to thank our Yucky treasurer Waxed Paper Orange Thing and Penny for coffee set up.  I’d like to welcome our newcomer, Circus Peanut and I’d like to thank everyone who shared.  Now after a moment of silence for the Yucky Candy in and out of these rooms I’d like you all to stand and join me in the Yucky affirmations.”
     The group stood and recited the Yucky affirmations together.  Circus Peanut looked around at this room of Yucky Candy and other Yucky misfits and felt more at home than he ever had.  He thought of a Maple Cluster he once knew and a couple of Boston Baked Beans.  They belonged at this meeting too. But he knew they would have to come to the realization themselves that they, like he, were Yucky Candy.


Sunday, October 28, 2012

Spanning Two Thousand Years, A Text Message Changes Everything, Book #3

At the beginning of October, I was going away for a week and was looking on Amazon for novels to add to my Kindle. (I was going to say “e-reader,” then I realized that I published a Kindle book that’s sold on Amazon so let’s just call a Kindle, a Kindle, shall we?) And, yes, I know I could be going to the library and I know that Amazon destroyed traditional publishing and now they’re evidently destroying everything else, but this is my blog and Amazon is my big, mean boyfriend that I just can’t help going back to over and over again no matter how badly he treats my family. He’s been so good to me and no one else understands him the way I do. Anyhoo, as I was reading book descriptions, I realized that there are certain fiction devices and synopsis buzzwords that make me look at the next book faster than Lindsay Lohan and Amanda Bynes can get behind the wheel after a few cocktails. Let’s look at the top three.

1. Any plot that hinges on or changes due to something found in a trunk, a mysterious manuscript or a long lost letter. If the protagonist finds something that starts me on a downward spiral of story-within-a-story long, lost bullshit, I’m out of there. An old diary on a shelf always reads like a way for the author to integrate his/her great idea for a short story that Ploughshares and The New Yorker just won’t publish. I once read someone's writing class assignment where a woman found a manuscript in an attic and within the manuscript was a letter and in the letter…I don’t want to work that hard. Trunks and attics should be labeled with Louis Carol, Alice in Wonderland-type “Drink Me,” “Eat Me” tags that simply say, “Plot Device.”

2. Spanning. Whether spanning generations or war torn third world countries, I hate to see book descriptions that begin with “spanning.” In full disclosure, I occasionally read a novel that spans, but there is something about the use of that term in a synopsis that exhausts me before I even begin. It makes every book sound like Anna Karenina and not in a good way. The church I go to has something called the Easter vigil. Although use of the word “vigil” should have been an extremely obvious clue, the first time I went to it I had no idea what to expect. It began in total darkness at five o’clock in the morning and the first words from the pulpit were, “In the beginning.” Knowing that (it being Easter and all) Jesus had to die then rise sometime before noon and in the New Testament, and that the first sentence in the Old Testament of the bible is, “In the beginning…” I thought, “Holy shit, I’m going to be here forever!” That’s how “spanning” feels.

3. Numbers and other indications of this book being part of a series. If I see something that says, Jenny and the Baseball Team (Teen Whore Trilogy #2) I feel pressure. I feel an obligation to read the first novel in the Teen Whore Trilogy before I read this one and then I feel the pressure of the third novel hanging over me. Suddenly I’m not reading for pleasure but I’m stuck back in school taking some horrible Teen Whore Literature class that I can’t get out of.  Starting with Book #2, I’m the new kid who starts school in October—not so far into the year that I couldn’t blend, but having missed the first month would always be a step behind. And what if I like the series and I’m stuck waiting for months and years for the next installment. Hell, I’ve already got “Downton Abbey” for that.

I read some fantastic books during my vacation and have many more loaded up on my Kindle and ready to go. Don’t tell anyone but perhaps there was even a bit of “spanning” involved.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Let's (Not) Drink to the New Year

In an effort to occasionally post something on my blog as I deal with my neck surgery, I have pulled some things out of my vault. The following post is an essay I wrote for a contest in 2011. In it is a scene reminiscent of Meg's visit to Casa Arboles in, "Living Through Charlie." I believe in that saying, "write what you know." The prompt for the essay contest was "I never thought I'd..."

Let’s (Not) Drink to the New Year
My friend, Roger likes to say that when I couldn’t remember who’d been eliminated on an episode of “America’s Next Top Model” I knew I’d hit bottom. While that’s not entirely true, I do know that Tivo allowed me to get away with being a blackout drinker far longer than would have been possible in the pre-DVR era.
            In my case, how I started drinking isn’t nearly as interesting as how I stopped. It rarely is. Parties in college, dates in bars, the bachelorette party, moms’ night out dinners, exotic cocktails on exotic vacations, a glass of wine while fixing the family dinner. Four glasses. A bottle. Two bottles. I think we can all agree that by the time Mommy can drink two bottles of wine every night and get up without any serious hangover symptoms to drive the carpool in the morning, that Mommy might have developed a bit of an alcohol problem. But like everything I do, my drinking was very organized. I had rules.
            I never drank before five o’clock. Other than an occasional mimosa with the girls at brunch, daytime drinking is simply unseemly. Besides, I was so efficient I could get through both bottles between five and ten thirty pm anyway. I never drank and drove. Ever. If the other middle school moms wondered why I was so anxious to drive the kids to the dance but never offered to pick them up, they never said anything. On the nights that my job as a Drama teacher had me working until ten o’clock, ten simply became the new five. With my superb organizational skills I kept the whole high functioning alcoholic thing going for quite awhile.
            I entertained a lot during my drinking years. I served red wine on Halloween, champagne on Christmas Eve, margaritas in the summer and vodka martinis in the nineties. Even now I can appreciate the beauty of the beverage as an accessory to a fine dining experience. I own thirty six pieces of hundred-dollar-a-stem-wedding-gift crystal. Even if I subtract the water goblets that’s still over two thousand dollars worth of booze vessels, right? I had to fill them with something.
            But drinking takes its toll. And keeping all of those balls in the air began to get harder. That’s where “America’s Next Top Model” comes in. My oldest daughter loved that show and I loved to watch it with her. Well, actually, I loved being with her and I loved watching “America’s Next Top Model,” but we weren’t necessarily watching it together. She tells me I discussed the show with her and I’m told I enjoyed it. I wouldn’t know. I was in an alcohol-induced blackout. The truth is I was recording the show and watching it the next morning when I was sober. That was the only way I knew which Tyra-wannabe had been sent back to the Midwest town she came from. Acknowledging what I was doing and why was my “rock-bottom.”
            Yeah, I know. My rock-bottom is lame. I should have crashed a car or started drinking on the job. I should have lost my kids, my house, my husband. Or maybe just starred in a youtube video eating a cheeseburger off the floor of a Vegas hotel room. But the damage caused by addiction isn’t always so obvious. Every day high-functioning alcoholics secretly reach that point where they just don’t think they can do it anymore. Or worse, they know if they don’t stop they’ll do it forever.
            It was October and my oldest daughter’s senior year of high school. Her college applications would be finished in December. My drama students would perform four plays for the annual “Winter Program” the last week before Christmas break. I went to the nearest rehab facility and informed them I’d be checking in on January first. I guess I thought you could make a reservation there. Like a spa. Apparently most addicts aren’t that well thought out, the “intake coordinator” wasn’t quite sure what to do with me. But once he saw that I was almost more upset about not being able to schedule my rehab than I was about admitting my alcoholism in the first place, he made a suggestion. While he couldn’t exactly save me a spot, he could recommend a psychologist who could. I saw the doctor and put “check into rehab” on my January first to-do list.
            I revealed my plan and my diagnosis to my husband and children. “The bad news is that Mommy’s an alcoholic and plans to celebrate the new year in rehab. The good news is we’re having spaghetti for dinner! Dig in!” They were quite surprised. I’m sure you’re wondering how no one else in the house noticed that I was drinking two bottles of wine every night. How could my family live with an alcoholic and not know? They didn’t know because I didn’t want them to. And like everything else I do, I covered well. It was my full time job. The perfectionist in me took great pride in being the best closeted alcoholic I could be.
            The hospital I chose to go to is in Pasadena, California. I bring that up for two reasons. The first is that you may have seen it on TV. In the years following my stay, the rehab facility and its head doctor have become quite famous. The facility itself was pretty much what you’ve seen on TV but with fewer field trips and no puking super models. We had way uglier furniture back then too. The second reason I’m mentioning the city name is that January first is a tough day to get around in Pasadena. That Rose Parade really ties things up. My husband drove me to the famous hospital to meet the famous doctor on a street that runs parallel to the parade route. The giant floats and I both headed east. The floats to a park where they would be put on display, their flowers slowly wilting away until the ugly armature underneath is revealed. And I to a hospital where I would reveal mine as well.
            I am led to my room. It was kind of like a college dorm except one of my roommates was passed out and the other had left clothes all over the floor. Actually, I guess it was exactly like a college dorm. The nurse went through my bag and took my hairdryer and my cell phone. She told me that both could be “checked out” from the desk during the approved hours. I was grateful that I would see my blow-dryer in the morning. I didn’t want to detox with bad hair. After she left, I sat and watched the clock. For the first time in many years, five o’clock would come and go and I would be sober.
            My fellow addicts and I learned a lot about each other in those twenty eight days. And other than the fact that you can’t buy heroin at BevMo, we were more alike than different. In addition to our “process groups” we enjoyed art therapy and recreation. While the young, scary court-ordered guys chose to play basketball, we lady alcoholics favored afternoons of croquet. In a bizarre twist the same nurses who confiscated a glass vase from my seventy one year old mother, happily handed out large wooden mallets, pointy metal hoops and heavy balls every day. (They may have found Mom’s flowers but fortunately my husband was craftier when he snuck my cat in for a visit. I guess a squirming, yowling cat in a box is just easier to keep under the radar.) The chardonnay drinkers usually lost the croquet games to the prescription pill addicts but, frankly, they were a lot smarter than us. The elaborate scams they’d run to feed their habits were pretty impressive and no match to gals who only had to drive to the grocery store to feed ours.
            On January 1, 2011 I will have been sober for six years. How have the nondrinking years been? Good, great, horrible, wonderful, stressful, amazing- the typical ups and downs of the years of a growing family. But I’ve been here for them. I’ve been present. I feel all of the feelings whether I like them or not. And what are we here for if not to feel all of the feelings and to be present with one another so we can share them?
            Now that I’ve had six years to watch “America’s Next Top Model” while sober, I’m not sure I was missing all that much. But I do know this- somewhere tonight at 5:00 somebody’s mom is going to go into her kitchen and pour herself a drink. Not because she wants to but because she has to. I never thought I’d become an alcoholic. No one does. But sometimes we do.       

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A Nice(r than usual) Post About Marriage

In honor of my twenty eighth wedding anniversary next week and because I have to limit my pre-neck surgery typing, I'm reposting a guest entry I wrote for a friend's daughter's blog while she took time off for her wedding and honeymoon. You will notice two things- I make a lot of math references because she's a math teacher and I'm being less snarky than usual. Enjoy!

This Friday, Melissa White (whom I have known since before she was born,) is getting married. She has asked me to write a guest post for her blog while she gets her nails done, practices aisle walking and whatever the hell else girls do in the few days before their weddings. Fortunately for Melissa, I love, love, love weddings and giving unsolicited advice so I’m super excited to write this post!

I married my husband Bill on July 29, 1984. Although 1984 was a regrettable year for fashion, it seems to have been a fine year in which to have gotten married. And July 29 is evidently an awesome day to get married. I share a wedding anniversary with such notably happy couples as Prince Charles and Princess Diana, Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt, and Pamela Anderson and one of the dudes she married. What are some of the things that have kept Bill and me together for twenty eight years? One reason that we’re still together is that we haven’t gotten divorced. Unsolicited tip number one—stay married by not entertaining other options.

(First, a caveat for the random reader- if you are in some sort of self-destructive, hellish marriage, for God’s sake stop reading this blog and see a professional! I’m not advising you, I’m advising Melissa anyway.) I have been the wedding coordinator at my church for the last six years (times three weddings per month, times twelve months per year, times six years—you do the math, ‘cause you’re a math teacher and all) so I pretty much have the ceremony memorized. At the risk of revealing a matrimonial secret, the priest gives the same homily at every wedding. One of the best lines in it refers to the times when the bride and groom will hurt each other, not if. Because you will hurt each other. You will fight and you will argue and sometimes you will hate your husband’s guts and wonder how cereal can possibly make that much noise while it’s being chewed and you will want to beat your husband with the spoon he’s using to shovel it into his mouth because his chewing is drowning out the sound of your soul. Okay, maybe that last thing only pertains to me.  But stay. Work it out. Take the option of divorce off the table. Keep that table clear so there’s room for better options. Use those. But 50% of all marriages end in divorce, right? Divorce is a really common and accessible out. Well, yes and no. Divorce is common and accessible but that 50% statistic is kind of inaccurate. You’re a math chick, you should appreciate this—in your demographic, you actually have a better than 80% chance of staying married!

The reason we’ve all heard that 50% of all marriages end in divorce is because a lot of the people that get married are idiots and they bring the average down. When you add everyone’s marriages together including teenagers, Dr. Phil guests and Kim Kardashian, then divide or multiply or whatever you math teachers do, you get 50%. But for a college graduate, over the age of 25, getting married for the first time, who has an already established source of independent income (sound like anyone you know?) the divorce rate isn’t 50%, it’s 20%. And the other good news is that the divorce rate has been on its way down since 1980 and continues to fall. So if you have an 80% chance of succeeding now and your chances are increasing every day, those are some really good odds! It’s also a really good thing to tell someone when they tell you that half of all marriages end in divorce. Because they don’t.

What if Mat’s a totally different person in a few years? He will be. He should be. You should be too. I don’t know why anyone is surprised when his/her spouse changes over the course of a marriage. Being married doesn’t freeze time (insert obvious joke here) and a person who doesn’t continue to grow and learn wouldn’t be all that much fun to be married to. I would even argue that you don’t have to change in the same directions, just “complimentary” ones. Learn new things, pursue your interests, fulfill your dreams, pick up weird hobbies. Don’t be afraid to be alone and explore things on your own. Boring people have boring marriages- come on, you know who they are. Don’t be boring. If you keep developing as an individual, you will strengthen your bond as a couple.

So, what did we learn? Change but stay married and the odds are in your favor even though you will hurt each other. This is not the kind of advice you’ll find in Cosmo, The Secret, The 17 Day Diet or any other publications the cool girls read but it’s worked for me. I wish you many, many years of happiness with the least amount of hurt and loud cereal chewing possible! Congratulations!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Tell the Pod of Dolphins to Move a Little to the Left

I like hiring people to do things I don’t want to do as much as the next vain, narcissistic gal. I live in Southern California and after worshipping movie stars and making bad financial decisions, personal “outsourcing” is kind of our deal. But even I was surprised to discover that the latest fad in paying-for-shit-you-should-do-yourself is hiring a professional photographer to take your vacation photos. If I’d read about this in Star Magazine in an article called, “Katie Hires Photog to Airbrush away Suri’s Tears while in Paris,” that would be one thing. But the article I read was in the Wall Frickin’ Street Journal!

Evidently in addition to having lots of extra cash and a love of frivolous self-indulgence, one of the main reasons vacationers are hiring photographers is so their pictures look good on their “social media” sites. That means Facebook, right? People are paying for professional Facebook pictures? I looked at my Facebook “news feed” and unless my “friends” are traveling with kittens, political posters and inspirational quotes about their mothers, I’m pretty sure they only post crap they find on the internet and photos they’ve taken themselves My-Space style in their bathroom mirrors. I feel a little better not knowing anyone who has ever engaged in this new practice but all of the evidence won’t be in until Christmas cards arrive later in the year.

Yes, families are having professional photo shoots done while on vacation and using them for their Christmas cards. Disney theme parks will even open the doors early for you and your brood so you can tromp through the gate in your white shirts, blue jeans and bare feet before the other sixty thousand guests arrive. Gosh, what fun! You get to wake up super early, dress the kids, keep them clean and smiling, pay $350 an hour and pose for pictures all over a theme park! That’s just about every one of my least favorite activities crammed into one fun-filled morning! And just as everyone reaches the end of their patience and Mommy starts looking for some McXanax, the photo shoot is over and you can start waiting in line after line after line for your never-ending day of amusement park hell. “Stop whining Naveah Heaven Haven! Mommy’s creating memories!”

The pictures accompanying The Wall Street Journal article are pretty fantastic. Most of them are typical vacation photos—a couple riding bikes, snorkeling, lying in a hammock, filling out missing luggage forms at the airport— but it’s the photographer standing waist deep in the ocean, his face and his identity obscured by a moldy fishing hat and a telephoto lens like a perverted Loch Ness Monster that makes the shot. Nothing says, “Relaxing Vacation” like a guy in Bermuda shorts popping out of the bushes every time the honeymooners go in for a kiss. We’re only a wedding magazine article away from inviting the photographer to shoot a little video in the bridal suite as well. What a souvenir for the happy couple to share with Grandma when they return.

Evidently for an extra fee, you can have your pictures photo-shopped and airbrushed. Okay, I love airbrushing! I mean, really, look at my headshot, obviously I’m a fan. If I could be preceded by a soft focus lens as I traveled through my day, I would totally do it. But there’s history in unflattering vacation photos. I went swimming in the Amazon River and the picture of me looking like a drowned rat as I emerged is indicative of what a person looks like in 400% humidity after cavorting with piranhas. In a picture of my 90 lb. daughter attaching tar paper to the roof of an orphanage in Tijuana, the heat rising from the roof is so omnipresent it’s almost another character in the shot. Much as I’d love every angle of my ass to look Shape Magazine cover perfect, that’s just not how it is in real life no matter where I vacation.

As I was ranting and raving about the stupidity of this article to my daughter who is home from college (she’s working for me for the summer, listening to Mommy rant and rave is in her job description,) she said, “I should send you this article I read online about the Six Jobs You Won’t Believe You  Can Outsource.” Why yes you should. And she did.

Who knew how many options there were for paying people to do shit for you? You can rent friends and dates and cats and hire people to wait in line for you. For the right price, you can even get fake paparazzi to follow you everywhere like you were Justin Bieber on the 101 freeway. You can pay a stranger to ask your spouse for a divorce or break up with your significant other (which sounds like a decision that will bite you in the ass for years to come.)  But one of my favorite outsourcing indulgences (not “favorite” as in “That’s so awesome!” “Favorite” as in, “Wow that is pure evil genius! High five Horrible, Awful Human Being Who Came Up With That!”) is an alibi service. The alibi service describes itself as, “a cutting edge full service discreet agency providing alibis and excuses for absences as well as assistance with a variety of sensitive issues.” Basically they will make shit up for you and provide evidence to support your shit—not unlike writing fiction.

I could see renting a cat and maybe paying some dude to stand in line at the post office to make a Zappos return, but the rest of this stuff is ridiculous. If anyone wanted me to vacation with a photographer, I would totally hire the alibi service to lie about why I couldn’t go.

Perhaps the two of you who follow my blog noticed that there was no entry last week. Evidently the vertebrae in my neck are not being fooled by the hair dying, spray tanning and my other look-young-forever efforts and the resulting revolt has put a damper on my ability to type (the vertebrae/hand connection makes sense if you Google-image search it.) I am doing a full Steven Hawking here learning voice recognition so bear with me. A little surgery here, a steep learning curve there… I’ve got to take some time off but I’ll be back soon.