Saturday, December 17, 2011

Why You Want Me Around if You're About to Die

“Do you help your victim first or call 9-1-1?” My CPR instructor asks.
“Call first!” I say confidently.
“Do you love your person?” She says to me, eyebrow raised. A classroom full of people look at me like I’m an idiot.
First aid fail.
Help first. Help first. That is my mantra.
My work informed me I needed to be CPR certified by today or I couldn’t work. I work with kids and seeing that I can barely put on a bandaid correctly I better figure out what to do if they are unconscious from a basketball to the head. And I won’t lie, the idea of learning how to use a defibrillator is sort of intoxicating.
Despite my out of gate “Obviously I’m not in the healthcare field” response, I love my instructor.
She’s teaching us how to use and epi-pen, that pen you jam in someone’s leg if they are having a sever allergic reaction.
“Why do you inject it in the thigh?” A classmate asks.
“It needs to go in the meatiest part of the body,” my instructor says.
“I know. I know. We all know that’s not the meatiest part...”
Class laughs like fifth grade boys.
“But you’re not going to ask someone to bend over. Unless it’s Brad Pitt. Then by all means...”
“I know someone who uses the epi-pen three times a day. It’s totally addictive,” another classmate says. Yeah sure, you know someone...
“Oh yeah. This stuff is a good time. Great stuff for a weekend. This is Friday isn’t it? Rave it up,” Our instructor says.
Then we get to practice stabbing each other. It’s awesome.
Then we got to watch one of those instructional videos. First of all the video had NOT been formatted for this screen so we only saw partial titles. I don’t know why, maybe it was the mandatory CPR class at 9am, but I found this very entertaining: Roduction, ompression, Oking (That was my favorite).
The actors in industrial video... Oh such terrible acting. I totally should have booked this job. I would have kicked ass as the emergency supervisor in the factory. But I must admit the chick who played that part was good. I’m pretty sure she had a backstory that she was in the love with the new employee she was training or at least they hooked up the day of the shoot. And during the epi-pen reenactment the dudes really looked like they enjoyed the required ten seconds of rubbing the injection spot.
Then it was time for the real work. CPR.
I’m not going to lie. I rocked this. Two hundred required compressions.
“Don’t pull a Conrad Murray,” someone said.
LOL I almost lost count.
The video showed a... how do I put this nicely... a gross, hairy guy with his shirt ripped open getting CPR’d.
“Now unless it’s Brad Pitt or Tom Cruise...”
Or Ryan Gosling.
“Do NOT take off their clothes, “ Our instructor says caressing the mannequin. “If it’s Brad, you are checking for injury. That’s your story.”
I love her.
We learned the breathing. Create airtight suction around their mouth and blow.
Although not require anymore, FYI.
And last but not least, we learned the AED.
Now this is not an Automatic Explosive Device like I suggested (Star student).
But the Automated External Defibrillator.
Whoo Hoo! That was my favorite part. Though we didn’t get to do any real practice. Whatever. Helpful tip: Have a shaved chest. Otherwise I’ll have to do it for you if I have to defibrillate you and it won’t be cut free.
“You are their heart machine. You are their lung machine. You aren’t? They have zero chance of survival,” The instructor says.
No pressure.
So I learned how to stab Epi-pens, give life saving french kisses, do chest compressions on naked hot chests, break a chest wall if you’re helping a choking pregnant lady and shock some life into people.
But seriously. If you’re unconscious you want me there. I actually know what I’m doing! I think I may go prowling the malls today looking for anyone is medical distress.

** if you are in LA area and need CPR certification, let me know! The class and instructor seriously rocked.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Baby Apocalypse

It’s the end of the world. Zombies have taken over. You’ve found yourself a rag tag group of people to try to survive with. And part of your group are a few women who back in the pre-apocalypse days were stay at home moms and won prizes in the bake sale. You think “Great. These bitches are dead weight. They got nothing to offer.” Wrong. They will be the best members of your team. Way ahead of the machismo bad ass wannabe that can’t wait to see the zombie brains explode. Y’all should know that guy is going first. Moms are your ticket to survival.

Let me make my case:

1. Be quiet- Every mom knows the value in this. Disturbing a sleeping baby is criminal. Disturbing a walking zombie is death. Moms have the art of silence perfected.
2. Pick your battles- Any mother knows that you can’t fight every fight. That will kill you. Same goes for zombies. If you can avoid a fight, do it.
3. Know your way out- A mother who takes their children always knows her exit strategy.
4. Keep the idiots close- Keep them close so they don’t fuck up your zombie survival plan. Moms keep the idiots close all day long. We got this down.
5. Be prepared- Always have a gun and a secondary weapon. You can’t solely rely on the gun. You will run out of bullets at some point. Mom’s know this. Their diaper bag is filled with anything needed for any worse case senario.
6. Be efficient- One shot should be all that needed to kill the zombie. One and done. As a mom that’s my motto. I say "no" once and that is it. Done. (Though double tap to be sure. See number 11.)
7. Always check the backseat-Check for Zombies. Checking for kids. Practically the same thing.
8. Be ruthless- You got no time for compassion. Zombies sure don’t. You got to get the job done. As a mom, you can’t be weak. You must be strong. Ruthless or those little fuckers you spawned will eat you alive.
9. Have some stamina- I been running after my toddler will the energy of twenty men on coke all day long. Zombies got nothing on that.
10. Do not confine yourself to a small place- Don’t be an idiot. You’ll get cornered. This goes for zombies and evil genetically related toddlers.
11. Double tap- Make sure that zombie is dead. Don’t trust the one bullet and done. Double tap. Same goes with kids. That came out wrong. What I mean is never take anything for granted. Double wipe. Double check. Double everything. Moms can never be too sure about anything.
12. Travel in a group- It’s a numbers game. You stand a better chance if you’re in a group. There’s not just you the zombie has to focus on. Someone else more weak will go down. Same goes in groups of parents and kids. Most likely there’s a mom worse than you and a kid worse than your kid. Makes your day.
13. Blend in- It’s not pretty, but works. Smear some zombie guts on you and maybe you’ll just blend. Mom’s are used to this. We smell like our kids poo and pee and spit up daily. I think it must be part of how the children bond with us.
14. Warm up- You don’t want to pull a muscle while taking down a zombie. That’d be a pretty lame way to die. Moms have learned this lesson after straining themselves while crawling on the floor with their three years olds.
15. Have a plan. Know where you are sleeping- Moms nest. That’s our thing.
16. Dress comfortably- Whether you’re dealing with zombies or kids: It’s is not a fashion show. I perhaps am too good at this one. Don’t have any extra fabric. Be able to move. Good shoes. Doesn’t matter what your clothes look like. It’s going to get dirty.
17. Don’t go anywhere alone- In a zombie war this is crucial. In our mom lives it’s unavoidable. I don’t remember the last time I’ve been in the bathroom alone.
18. Be healthy- Eat well. Stay healthy. The only way you’ll survive. Us moms have got Michelle Obama breathing down our necks about how to feed our kids. All right already.
19. Travel light- Only bring the essentials. Now only some moms will be good at this one. The ones who know what they are fucking doing.
20. Don’t get attached- Attachments, as in being attached to people, will only slow you down when the zombies have taken over. You might think this would be a mom’s weak point. I throw away my kids art work. You can’t be too sentimental or you will be horribly disappointed.

And moms know the most important thing...

21. You are never safe. NEVER.

Case closed. Any mom worth their salt would survive a zombie apocalypse. Make sure you have a few in your group.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Erin McKean, rockstar lexicographer, gives me great insight!

One of my writing projects I've been working on is a play called Definition. The main character is a lexicographer. Maybe this should be embarrassing to admit, but... I find that job fascinating. An editor of the dictionary. That sounds extremely important with lot of responsibility.
I've always been into words. I look forward to my word of the day email. I love playing "dictionary" at family gatherings. When I was about 10 I was obsessed with cool words and phrases. I still have all these old poetry books where I circled stuff I liked. I guess it's no surprise I enjoy writing. So when my play idea first dropped into my head I was very excited. Then I realized quite quickly that as much as I admired lexicographers, I know nothing about this profession and this character I'm writing is smarter than me. Now I'm no dummy, but I'm going to need some help here.
I found some articles online which were helpful, but found the most valuable information on a TED talk (I love TED talks!) given by senior editor at Oxford, Erin McKean .

Please watch! It is so worth your time. She talks about how we need to redefine the dictionary and how we interact with language itself. Fantastic. I learned a lot watching this, but I still wanted more. So I tried a shot in the dark. I emailed her. I pushed send and figured Erin, who I've dubbed the rockstar of the word world, would have much better things to do than respond to some playwright in LA.

Then she emailed me about a week later. Whoo hoo! I thought I'd share a few of her answers to some of my questions. Thanks again Erin!

What is a typical day for a lexicographer?

EM: t depends on the day, and the skills of the editor. There's planning
meetings, there are rote tasks (pulling lists of entries by category,
such as chemical elements, or checking all the currency entries to make
sure that they're up to date -- this was a big deal after the Euro was
created), there is new-word finding (people talk a lot about this, but
the truth is that there are so many more new words than most paper
dictionaries have space for, so it's mostly not finding new words, but
winnowing them out!), there is definition writing, there is checking
pronunciations (usually experts do this, but everyone pitches in). If
there are biographical entries (common in American dictionaries, but not
in UK dictionaries), they have to be updated.

A big part of dictionary work is pouring old text into new bottles --
for instance, taking a big dictionary and creating a new smaller edition
(like a desk dictionary) out of it.

Are their any inside jokes within the dictionary world?

EM: We usually call everything by short names: etymologies are etys,
definitions are defs, and pronunciations are "prons" -- which is also a
common misspelling for "porn" online, so there are some jokes about that.

People who write definitions are either "lumpers" or "splitters" -- they
want to cram as much meaning as possible into a single definition, or
they want to have a different definition for each possible shade of

What is the most satisfing thing about your job? Why do you love it?

EM: I love words, but I really love systems, and the idea of systematically
describing all the words was very, very seductive. I have wanted to be a
dictionary editor since I was eight years old ... but I also love

I have had co-workers for whom is was more of a job than a vocation;
they were usually people who loved literature or research, but disliked
teaching, so they didn't enjoy university life.

Words are infinitely changeable, and the task of trying to pin them down
is both frustrating and exhilarating.

*** And while writing the interview email to her I told her paranoia was taking over while I wrote it thinking about my sentence structure, spelling and grammar. She was very sweet and assured me that lexicographers were not grammar nazis. They are too interested in variation and how people really use language.

Research is awesome! I love it. Thank you Erin McKean! Now back to the rewrite...

Saturday, August 20, 2011

I Bless the Rains Down In Africa 2.0

To celebrate my one year anniversary of writing for the fantastically hilarious I am reposting the article was most fun for me to write. I added a few new bits and pieces for the occasion.

I Bless the Rains Down in Africa

“I loved traveling with my kids!” A business man next to me says as me and my two kids wait in line at airport security.
I look for signs of a stroke, but he seems to just be a fucking insane person. I smile and move along peeling my four year old Frankie off the stanchion pole. I take inventory for the hundredth time this morning. Diapers. Wipes. Snacks. Movies. My computer. Books. Coloring book. Crayons. CDs. Old Disc-man. Changes of clothes. Sippy cups. Child one. Child two. Got em. It’s my first solo trip with my love monsters and I’m a bit freaked. But I am as prepared as I can be. I can do this.
“ ‘Daddy’s gonna kill Ralphie’,” Frankie says to the woman behind us.
Frankie has been quoting A Christmas Story and singing Deck the Halls at the top of her lungs since we arrived to LAX. It’s March. I’m thinking this is her nervous tick. Zoe, my little zen Buddha baby, is cool as a cucumber.
We make it through security, our first hurdle, just fine. Except for the fact that it’s really hard to close up a stroller and lift it onto the conveyor belt of the x ray machine one handed while holding a 18 month old and everyone around you acts like they don’t see you struggling. I think it might be against policy for TSA workers to be courteous human beings.
We get to our gate armed with happy meals. The kids are... happy. Content. Staying in one place. Frankie downs her milk. Zoe eats all her food. This is going well!
“Okay, time for the bathroom stop before we get on the plane,” I announce. Frankie scrunches up her face momentarily, but then gives in.
“Okay!” She says.
We go to the bathroom, cram ourselves, stroller and all, into the handicapped stall and she sees the toilet.
“NO!!!!! It’s the magical potty!” She screams.
Ever since she used one of those automatic flushing toilets, she is deathly afraid of them. I don’t blame her. They sound like jet engines and seem to have the vacuum power of a black hole.
But I have an idea. We go to the family bathroom. Perfect. There’s a little potty just like the one at her preschool. This is where things really go to shit. I am in a full on wrestling match with a four year old forcing her pants down and trying to make her pee. I scream. I beg. I plead. Nothing. Zoe looks on amused. I even call Papa, “MAKE HER GO!”
He helplessly talks to her, but there’s no use. The public bathroom is not happening. I take a deep breath. Okay, let it go. When she’s got to go. She’ll go.
We board the plane after waiting an excruciating thirty minutes (Note to self: Getting to the airport too early with kids is worse than having to rush. “Look at that trashcan! Is that a toy?? What’s that man doing? What’s that girl eating? Girl, what are you eating? Lady can I touch your shoe? Oh look she has a princess backpack!” Can someone say overstimulation? ). I hope we have the row to ourselves, but no. A older man sits next to us. I scrutinize his face. I’m dying to use my line on that passenger that gives me the “I have to sit next to two kids” look: If you didn’t want to take public transportation then maybe you shoulda chartered that jet. But he sits down pleasantly.
“ ‘A crumby commercial? Son of a bitch!’ “ Frankie quotes another classic Christmas Story line to the man.
The man chuckles. I actually feel a little sorry for him. This guy doesn’t even know what he’s in for.
I can’t seem to get anything organized. Everything Frankie wants she can’t have. Zoe is smearing her breakfast bar all over my jeans and to make me more annoyed the flight attendants start their spiel. Okay, let me say this. You can’t make up for being a shitty airline with lame humor. That’s like giving permission for the shittery. Oh there’s nothing to eat and my legs are scrunched up to my armpits forming blood clots, but that bit with the seatbelt was so cute. So it’s cool. No way. Let’s just face the reality that this is not going to be the greatest four hours of our lives and joking about the pilots lack of experience is not making me feel any better.
Finally we are at cruising altitude and Frankie can use her approved electronic devices. Let the attention span of a gnat commence immediately. She watches about five minutes of a movie before she wants to watch another one. She loses all her crayon in the first fifteen minutes. She launches her hair band into the row ahead of us. And Zoe, officially the laziest baby in the world who would lay in my lap all day at home if I let her, all of sudden wants her freedom. Not to mention she flings her sippy cup and lambie into the aisle every chance she can get. Bet the guy next to me didn’t know he be on baby crap retrieval duty, did he?
I look at the time. Three and half hours to go.
“Mama, I got to go potty,” Frankie says.
“All right let’s do this,” I say.
I make this nice man next to me get up (I’m sure he could use a few minutes away from crazy town) and make our way to the bathroom. I jam all three of us into it which is comical in itself.
“NO!” She proclaims.
And once again I’m in a wrestling match with my four year old only this time we have no space to thrash and I’m holding Zoe who once again coos with delight. We pour out of the bathroom and go back to our seat. I am livid.
This happens two more times.
We even have the whole front section of the plane chanting: “You can do it! You can do it!”
A woman with sad sparkling eyes says,” I just went it was awesome!”
A man who seemed to be giving the “van down by the river” speech ended with “It’s so cool to go on a plane!”
Frankie rolled her eyes. Dude, she’s four. She’s not an idiot.
We come back to our seats the third time and I am defeated.
“Are you doing okay?” The flight attendant asks me sweetly.
I want to scream at her, “NO! Take them. Do you guys have a playroom I could throw them in? And by playroom I mean, baggage area. Dogs are their right? So it’s okay. They love dogs.”
But instead I say, “ ‘Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue.’ “ I couldn’t help myself. She just looks at me confused and walks away. She must have skipped the day in flight attendant school when they watched Airplane.
I really wish I could get lost in a Toto song right now. I could be in the middle of a nuclear holocaust and Africa would bring joy to my melting heart.
I watch Frankie squirm in her seat. She has to go. Bad.

Its gonna take a lot to take me away from you...
There nothing that a hundred men or more could ever do...

She is squeezing her legs shut. Dammit why did I let her guzzle that milk!

I bless the rains down in Africa...
Gonna take some time to do the things we never ha-ha-ha-ha- ha- have...

We’re in our final decent. I make peace with the fact that it’s going to happen. We land and pull up to our gate which of course is not ready yet. The man next to me jumps away from his seat. He knows.
“Mama,” She pleads looking at me with big eyes. I want to cry. I flash back to when I was a kid and I peed my pants at Disney world.
“Oh sweetie. Just go babe,” I say. I shove Zoe’s blanket under her dress. A full minute later she is relieved. I go into survival mode. Change her clothes. Pile up the pee soaked ones. No plastic bag, but who cares at this point. We exit plane. I have breakfast bar in my hair. I’m covered in spit, pee and boogers. You might think it would be hard to retain my M.I.L.F. title, holding pee soaked clothes but judging by the guy’s face in 13B I’m going to go ahead and say I rocked that shit anyway. Hey I’m smiling. I made it. Soon I can relax my hold on my wild child, set down my now clingy baby and have a beer.
The flight back was much better. Frankie wore a pull-up and I got her a giant bag of popcorn that kept her busy for awhile. I dosed Zoe with some Benadryl and tethered her sippy cup and lambie to the arm rest. Pretty smooth sailing. There were only two snafus. One, Zoe stole a tee shirt from a store at the airport and I didn’t notice until I was folding up the stroller at the end of the jetway. She was quite proud of herself. It wasn’t even a cute shirt. And two, we were delayed about ten minutes because some jackass didn’t want to put on his seatbelt. Man, I got stolen goods on board. I even got a few minutes with my Ipod and had some alone time with Toto. I didn’t even cringe when the pilot landed and said, “Weeeeeeee folks! We finally made it. Now I’m going to take what’s left of the plane back to the terminal.”

Sunday, July 17, 2011


I used to keep a cookie sheet under my bed and burn stuff on it.

Before you freak out (mom), my pyro stage did not last long. I was much too afraid of burning the house down. I loved the idea of burning stuff. Striking the match. I loved the smell, the disintegration of the paper, but then I would panic when a piece of ash flew upwards and I’d extinguish it before I could get my full pyro high. The cookie sheet was probably back in its rightful place before my mom’s next batch of peanut butter cookies. But I think I was onto something then.

Burning something is freeing.

Years later things are different. Now I keep my negative feelings under there. I remove them from my brain before bed, tuck them carefully under the box spring, but instead of burning them I store them up like it’s a deep freezer. Preserving them. So in case anyone asks I can say, “See here’s all my baggage.” Freezer burn and all.

Not super healthy I’ve realized.

My 10 year old self was wise. I got out the old cookie sheet, sat quietly in the backyard and set some shit on fire. I emptied the metaphorical freezer I’d created under my bed. I wanted my dreams to be free, to be infinite, not burdened with the past. I still panicked a little bit when the ash flew upward, but for different reasons now. I didn’t realize how much I was holding on.

So I let it go.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Newspaper Blackout

An Austin Kleon blog was forwarded to me and it fueled me with inspiration. It's titled: How to Steal like an Artist. I mentioned in my previous blogpost his log book idea I started doing. But after meandering around his site I found another fun thing to try.

Newspaper blackout poetry.

It's become a fun stress releasing hobby. It's easy. "Grab a marker and a newspaper and blackout the words you don't need." At first I was worried that it wouldn't be "right." (Yes let's go back to that fun chestnut of a creativity blocker.) Then I let that go and just went for it. I do it to find out what it's going to tell me and there is a great satisfaction you get when the poem emerges.

Here's a few that I came up with:

Feel free to share some of yours with me!

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Mid 2011 Check In

I'm going to stray from my usual story telling format and do a little mid year review. This is as much for me as it is for you. If I write this down I must follow through. I feel like I need to sort out my brain a bit. Seeing what's going on written down seems to make all the files in my head collate. (Collating is one of my favorite things by the way. I can collate anything and feel loads better.)

I'm in rewriting mode for my sci fi/dystopian young adult novel. I'm dilgently going chapter by chapter forcing myself not to rush, to take my time and look at every freakin sentence. I finally realized how after a couple pages I start to skim. It's slow going, but getting good stuff done.

Also, my newest picture book, Grambo, will soon be available on Be There Bedtime Stories! The illustrations by the fabulous, Betsy Hamilton are beyond incredible. I cannot wait for the world to see!

What I'm Reading
I'm almost done with The Magicians by Lev Grossman. An amazing read! I was told "if you liked Harry Potter you should read this." I was obsessed with Harry Potter and this is Harry Potter with drugs and sex thrown in. Next on my list are: The Pillars of the Earth and Game of Thrones.

New endeavors!
I've decided to start a log book, an idea stolen from the poet, Austin Kleon. I've also decided to start doing morning pages again. (Writing fifteen minutes every morning stream of conciousness right when you wake up.
I started to make book boxes for my kids and godson. I will collect books for them and on their 13th birthday I will give them their book box. A start to their library and I'll put them in a really cool box too. Hopefully this will turn out awesome not really lame and they will look at me "like great a whole crap load of books, thanks mom/godmother." Hopefully they will love books like I do and be super stoked.

A lot of change in my life is coming. So I'm trying to embrace it all. Focus on making a happy home, keeping at the work I love and keep open to all the possibilities.
So that's about it. Feel free to please comment about what you are up to. I'd love to hear!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Close Quarters

When I was fifteen I had to live in a twenty feet by twenty feet area with my parents and eleven year old brother. I also was pretty sure Charles Manson was working on our kitchen floor.
It was February of 1992. I was in the throws of adolescence and lucky for me, our house was being remodeled and what this meant was, I was forced to live in the dining/living room with my family. There could be no greater hell I could imagine.

Let me give you a lay of the horrific land:

I can imagine the ad in the paper:
A charming room for rent. Perfect for the tight knit family. Furnished with two double beds next to each other in an old dining room. Have a privacy obsessed teenager? Phone/work area within ear shot of anywhere in the unit! Fridge humming inches away from your beds. Perfect for your midnight snack cravings. A cozy T.V. area ideal for family bonding. A cute 3/4 bath. What more could you need?

There was only one way a fifteen year old girl would react to this:

Excuse me while I vomit. Sharing a bed with my brother?? One phone? One bathroom? All I wanted was privacy. A place to be awkward and daydream all by myself sans judgmental audience. This was going to be the longest few months of my life.
I lived in a Walton’s episode every night.
“Good night Beth,” mom said.
“Goodnight mom,” I mumbled.
“Good night Ryan,” dad said. “Good night Ellen.”
“Good night Lee,” mom said.
“Good night dad.” Ryan said. “Good night Beth. Good night mom.”
“Good night everyone,” I said a bit too loudly.
I had about as much privacy as a prison inmate when it came to phone calls. Thank God the bathroom had a lock and it did not help that the disaster zone filled with construction workers that resembled serial killers were held back by the flimsy wall of plywood and tarp. Our house may have been being remodeled, but my insides, my brain, my body was in its own remodeling state. Adolescence was like the Measles. Potentially fatal, but all anyone can notice is how crappy you look. I just wanted to be able to disappear. But we might as well have had a spotlight installed on the ceiling.

Beth is sleeping smashed in between the wall and a thick barrier of down pillows. A spotlight illuminates her.
What the--

Mom mans the spotlight wearing a huge smile.

Morning darling!

DAD (O.S.)
Would you like some bacon?

Pan to dad making some bacon on a hot plate. Ryan sits in the background watching T.V. (He had to deal with this too. He did the best he could.)

Oh is that a zit?

The spotlight pinpoints on the pimple on Beth’s face.

Oh and your friend Steve called. He might come over!

Beth is horrified.

Well I survived. Looking back. Eh, shouldn’t have been that bad I guess. But at the time it was torture. Now living 2000 miles away... well... sigh... (in a barely audible mumble) I sort of miss those close quarters. Not THAT close, but you know what I mean. Don’t expect me to repeat this, but ... I like those knuckle heads that are my family.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Note Boyfriend

(This is a smidge true and a smidge fiction. I changed the names to protect the guilty.)

I was the picture of adolescent horror, but I had no clue. It was the morning of my first day of sixth grade. I sat in front of my mirror picking my blonde permed hair into the perfect halo. I adjusted my pink-rimmed square glasses on the bridge of my nose, folded the collar of my turquoise turtleneck dress down and added the perfect finishing touch. A extra long “pearl” necklace. I looked like a thirty-year-old business woman in an eleven year old’s body. All I needed was the brief case. The smile was undoubtedly pre-teen though, under bite and all.
I was terrifically uncool.
“Triangles or squares?” my mom yelled from downstairs.
“They are actually rectangles,” I corrected coming downstairs with my backpack.
“Rectangles it is,” she said cutting my sandwich and handing me my lunch.
“Bye mom,” I said heading for the door.
“Wait for your brother. He’ll be out in a second. Ryan? Triangles or Squares?”
“Tell him to hurry up,” I said walking outside.

Then the first thing that ever really happened to me, happened.

I froze. On the porch was a red rose with a note folded in perfect triangle attached to it. It said my name. B-E-T-H. Definitely boy handwriting. I scrambled to pick it up, ran behind a bush that I’m pretty sure was not tall enough to hide my hair, and unfolded the tightly bound ruled paper
Dearest Beth,
My name is Adam Harris.
I sat in front of you last year in Mrs. Kline’s class.
I think you’re neat. I think you’re the prettiest
girl in school. Especially in that blue dress you wear almost everyday…

“Oh my god.” I could barely breathe. I kept reading.

You’re the smartest too.
I’ve been waiting all summer to see you.
Let’s hang out at recess. I’ll write you a note.

I didn’t think I had ever talked to him, but that didn’t matter. Adam Harris. A boy.
“We had the same initials!” I thought to myself. “I’d better get to school. Oh gosh. Oh no. He’s going to be there. Oh god…”
I took a step onto the sidewalk and was nearly mowed over by the latest fashion trends.
“Nice dress Beth. Didn’t you wear that last year?” A familiar voice mocked. Amanda Wright. The most popular girl in school. She laughed with her minions as they ran away.
I didn’t care. Adam liked my dress.
“Beth, wait up!” my little brother ran up. “What are you doing? Is that a flower? What do you have that for?”
“Ryan, shut up!” I said. I stuffed the rose and note into my backpack and continued on with my brother trailing behind me.
“Sooooorrrrry,” Ryan whined.
But I beamed.
In school relationships were like the love affairs on soap operas my babysitters liked to watch. Beginning with strangers exchanging glances across a crowded playground, an innocent chance meeting at the drinking fountain, falling in love by Social Studies and broken hearts by Gym class. I desperately wanted to be part of that cycle.
A note boyfriend.
The bell rang.
“See you after school…with your booooyyyfriend,” Ryan teased running off to join his class.
I didn’t care. Nothing could get me down that day.
Adam. There he was. His messy brown hair covered his face. His red converse propped up on the seat in front of him.
My mind was going a millions miles a second.
“He’s not looking over here. He’s staring down at his desk. He must be nervous too. I don’t know if I really want to see him or if I really don’t want to see him. Should I sit by him or should I…Just go, but don’t sit that close. I’m gonna sit down two seats behind him. Go! I’m walking. I’m walking. He hasn’t looked up yet!”
His eyes hadn’t moved. Slowly I took in my breath. I strode passed his desk. I took a deep drunken inhale. He smelled like dirt and orange peels. Just what I imagined. And I sat. Staring at the back of his head. He didn’t move an inch.
“He had to have known it was me,” I thought to myself. “I have his favorite blue dress on.”
Then Amanda Wright sat between us. Perfect.
“I just got a note from Brandon we’re meeting at the swings after school,” She said to her crony across from her.
She wasn’t the only one with a note boyfriend. I had one too. Recess was at 10:20. It was our first possible interaction. I could barely see around Amanda’s perfectly feathered hair to see if maybe Adam was writing a note. 9:30. Nothing yet. 9:49. Nothing. 10:11.
“Maybe I should not talk to him on the playground,” I thought. “I mean...” “PPSSSTTT!” Amanda’s hand crept over her shoulder holding a tightly folding paper triangle. “Here geek.”
A note. I stifled a squeal. I opened it.

Will you meet me by the bars at recess? Circle yes or no.

I took a deep breath and decided my fate. I circled an undeniable yes. I carefully folded the note and passed it to Amanda who in turn passed the note back to Adam. The deal was done.
The bell blared. The class stood together in a unanimous sigh of relief and we bolted outside for our twenty-two minutes of freedom.
“Wow! Adam’s already out the door,” I thought.
I walked out slowly. I had heard you’re supposed to make a man wait. I sauntered out to the blacktop. He was standing with a few friends. I walked with my sights set through the buzz of recess: home base and playtime and no tag backs, very careful not to trip as I made my way over to him. His friends hurried away leaving us alone together. I had butterflies in my stomach, but I greeted him with a huge smile. He looked nervous. He had his thumbs in his pockets, his feet kicked the ground.
“Hey, listen, I’m sorry. They paid me to do it,” Adam said not looking up. “They thought it would be funny…” He laughed a bit. Instinctually I began to laugh with him. Until my ears caught up with the words.
Instantly, my feet bolted to the ground. Our eyes locked. His eyes faded from our reflected future to a hard eternal gray. And life had screeched to a halt. I froze time and the playground became full of granite faces. A wax museum. Statues of boys playing kickball, girls ring around the rosy surrounded me. I studied his face for a glimpse of humanity, but his eyes were carved out of sharp glass and his mouth a crudely chiseled smile.
Life was easier when cooties were rampant.
I took the time to cherish these last moments of safety I had. Then I released him from the rock I cast him in and he ran. I sank into the gravel under the bars. And the bell rang again.
I did not want to go back in that classroom. I knew they were laughing. I wanted to scream…You don’t know! He just got scared. He just got nervous!
The day was a blur. Spelling. Irreparable. I-R-R-E-P-A-R-A-B-L-E. Lunch. I sat alone and hid behind my foggy glasses steamed by my soup. Science. Gym. I could have done without the jelly ball smacking me in the face during dodgeball. Finally, school was out.
I could only hope…that they would forget. Maybe laugh at someone else tomorrow. I walked passed my teacher’s desk as my enemy ran out in front of me. But before I can cross through the threshold. She closed the door and knelt in front of me. Her eyebrows curled with deep concern. She smelled like magazine pages. More paper than perfume. She told me of ancient love stories and of a world when love was good and real. Her speech was peppered with phrases like: “Your time will come.” “You’ll bloom like a flower.” And…”There are plenty of fish in the sea.” All I wanted was to get out of there. I looked back at her and she was sitting at her desk, proud. Still lost in her own memories of love. Looking like she became teacher of the year.
Ryan was waiting for me sitting on bench outside.
“Where have you been?? Making out?” Ryan said making slurppy kissing noises.
“Leave me alone,” I said walking the opposite way of home.
“You have to walk home with me. Mom says!” He said pouting.
“Just go! I’ll be there in a minute,” I said.
Ricky started to protest again, but stopped when he saw the tears in my eyes. He ran off.
I wiped the half formed tears and shook the sadness out of me. I opened my backpack and took out the rose and twirled it in my hands and played out my dreamt reality.
“Thanks for the flower, Adam. I love it. The note was really nice too. I know you were kidding earlier. Don’t worry about it. Really? Thanks. It’s ok. I understand. Of course I’d like to go out with you. Where? I don’t know. Anywhere…

Monday, April 25, 2011


I would guess I was around age nine when I was accused of assault with a deadly weapon. I wasn’t formally charged or anything, but when you’re nine any adult might as well be wearing a cop uniform.
It was a Saturday. I was dragged to my brother’s tee ball game. I took refuge on the playground with my best friend Megan. I could not handle another five year old tapping the ball, letting it dribble off the tee and barely clear home base or just miss the ball completely. We were on the swings. The ground was covered in millions of pieces of gravel. I absent-mindedly kicked them with my dangling feet unaware of how if it was asphalt, maybe this would have gone differently. Then again it could have been worse that way. Asphalt tends to come off in chunks on the edges.
What did we talk about at nine years old? What was on the forefront on our minds?
“I got some new earrings at Claire’s last night,” Megan said pointing to her earlobes.
“Cool. Orange cats,” I commented.
I imagine it was something like that.
I heard the sound of a gravel hitting gravel in front of me. Megan and I looked up to see a boy, younger than us, hanging on the domelike jungle gym. He tossed bits of gravel at us. His face was blank. It didn’t seem too malicious. Just your garden variety rock tossing. Megan and I ignored him and resumed our cat and saturday morning cartoon banter. The boy started throwing the rocks into the air above his head. When they landed it sounded like hail.
I remember thinking, “He’s going to hurt himself.”
Seconds later, he abruptly ran away.
“Do you want to see Splash?” Megan asked me. “My mom and dad have the video at home.”
“Really? The mermaid movie? Okay.” My stomach fluttered. I was pretty sure that was rated R.
“Which one?!? Tell me which one!” I heard an angry woman’s voice yell.
Megan and I looked to our left. Storming toward us was a beet red woman. The jungle gym boy trailed behind her. We froze. I tried to steady my swing with my foot, but my legs were too short and the gravel was slippery.
The woman stopped in front of us breathing heavily. “Come here,” she said to the boy. The boy stood next to her. “Tell me.” She said to him.
He looked at both Megan and I, deciding. His eyes landed on me. “Her, mom,” he said pointing at me.
My heart was pounding. The boy’s mother pulled his lip down and showed me the blood. “Where are your parents?” she growled.
I looked into this kid’s eyes, but he betrayed nothing.
I couldn’t speak. I had no idea what to do. I could only hear Megan’s breathing. She sounded like she was just getting over a cold. I subconsciously looked over to the field my brother was playing on and without warning, this woman, this stranger, grabbed my arm so hard I thought she might have pulled it out of it’s socket and dragged me off the playground in the general direction of the baseball field. Megan followed behind along with the boy. Why did he say that? I was terrified. She pulled me harder so I would keep up with her pace. No one had ever treated me this way before. I was so scared I would be in trouble. I felt completely powerless. This was new. I’d gotten in trouble plenty of times, but never something I hadn’t done. My parents wouldn’t believe me. I had no idea how to handle myself. The walk seemed to be miles. At the most it had to have only been a block or so. I began questioning my own memory. Maybe I did do it. Did I? I was going to be in so much trouble. I was never going to get to see Splash. Could she call the cops on me? She never let go of my arm. She held me so tightly I thought I’d have bruises. I don’t remember my feet moving. I couldn’t feel them.
She said nothing to me as we walked. My parents came into view. They were cheering. Maybe my brother’s loser team was on the upswing. My dad glanced my way and the smile fell from his face. “Beth?” This was it. I was in trouble.
Then the woman started screaming, “Your kid threw rocks at my Bobby! Look at what she did!” Bobby, the stupid fucker, showed him his lip. “She could have killed him!” The woman started to speak again, but my dad interrupted her.
“Get your hands off my daughter,” he said in a tone I had never heard before.
It seemed for an instant that she had forgotten she was holding my arm. She let go suddenly. My dad pulled me over to him protectively. I couldn’t speak. I was shaking.
“She didn’t do anything,” Megan said breaking the silence. “The kid is lying.”
My dad looked at me. I nodded. He then looked at the woman. He didn’t need to say anything. The truth hovered in the air, undeniable. She walked away with her lying son in a huff. I realized I was holding my breath. When I let it out, I cried.
My best friend had my back. That was no surprise. That was in the job description. But my dad had my back too. Maybe that shouldn’t have been a surprise. But it was. If adults say something it must be true. That was what I had always believed. But my dad knew the truth when he saw it. To see an adult really get it wrong, was astounding to me. But to see my dad get it really right, now as a soon to be cynical teenager, that was the miracle.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Kiss

I was deathly afraid my mom would say “war-sh.” It was annoying enough that she seems to work in talk of washing into conversation, but for her to use the Iowan slang, “war-sh” instead of the normal "wash" terrified me. (I’m not sure why though. I’ve found out since many moms say this except for ones from New York of California). I was fifteen and I was waiting for my first date, James, to pick me up and war-sh was all I could think about. My mom hovered in the kitchen making dinner while I waited with my face pressed up to the window in the living room. I racked my brain for topics to steer clear of: dishes, clothing, b.o. I was sweating so the b.o. might be a problem. I imagined James walking into my house meeting my dad who was half watching the Cubs game.
My mother pulling meatloaf in the shape of our high school mascot, the Trojan, out of the stove. “Hi James. Beth you better war-sh up!”
And my brother wearing his Michael Jackson glove, “Hey James. What’s your favorite Phil Collins song?”
Okay, I would not allow this to happen. I was not going to expose the ususally hidden strangeness of my family into the open. My Dad would probably lop off the trojan’s head to have him bring home for left overs. I made a quick phone call.
“Hey mom. I’m meeting him at the Tivoli!” I called to her.
She popped her head out of the kitchen looking a bit disappointed. “All right. Ten o’clock. I’m waiting up.”
I waved a quick goodbye happy to take any contingencies she set.
The Tivoli movie theatre was only four blocks away. Meet me in front, he said. Everyone would see us there. I turned the corner there he was. Long, blonde hair. Cigarette in hand. He hadn’t seen me yet.
“Hey!” I yelled a bit too loudly. He turned toward me as he flicked his cigarette to the curb. For a moment I was completely mesmerized. The way he looks at me…into me.
“Let’s go in,” he said.
His fingertips tickled my palm as he dropped the ticket into my hand. I headed to my usual seat in the 22nd row when...he quickly grabbed my arm.
“Why don’t we sit here?”
Fifth row from the back.
The back.
A place reserved only for… for lovers.
“Ok,” I said. I sat in my seat afraid to look at him. The only guy I’d gone to the movies with alone was my Dad. This was decidedly different. I had no idea what to do. Then as if mocking my panic the light suddenly faded to black.
Oh God it’s starting, I thought to myself.
James grabbed my knee. “Kinda a chick flick, but it should be good.”
Don’t panic, I thought.
And the movie began. I experienced the movie as a berage of color, sound and movement. My eyes fixed, unfocused on the flicker of film and the rattle of the projector filled my ears. All I could think the entire time was how I could still feel his hand on my knee. Those words went through my mind like on a digital screen: His hand is on my knee, his hand is on my knee, his hand is on my knee!An imprint forever left on my virgin skin, only touched before by mom medicating a scrape. My mind searched for a way to preserve that moment. A rush of anticipation filled me. I left my hand hanging over the armrest less than 2 centimeters away from his. My body pulsed with a tingle I only had felt before when I used to play with He-man and She-ra. My body was the epicenter, feeling the quake start to rumble.
“Beth, you ready to go?” He said.
The credits were rolling. The lights burst on unmasking my blushing face .
“Let’s go. I’ll walk you home,” he said.
We walked and we talked the movie and about Nirvana and The Pixies and school. Mental note: Buy those tapes tomorrow. He didn’t treat me like everyone else. We reached the front of my driveway
He leaned in.
Oh God, what do I do, I thought. Do I open my mouth? What do I do with my tongue? My shoulders tightened. Relax, Beth, relax. Here it goes…his lips touched mine…
Suddenly we were falling…weightless, a million miles an hour through phantasmagoria. There was nothing else, but us. He was familiar and sweet. I couldn’t feel where my body ended and his began, like we were dipped in bronze and we have finally come to life. Our lips hummed together. Our breaths in unison. I felt the warmth of our bodies curl around us, pressing us closer and closer until my skin sheds a layer of innocence and--
“I had a great time tonight,” He said.
“I had a great time too. Bye. Goodnight.” He walked down the block, his long blonde hair catching the snowflakes that were starting to fall. The air tasted fresh and new or that could be the junior mints he had during the movie.
True to her word my mom had waited up for me. She didn't press me for detail just went upstairs relived her daughter was home and finished the "war-sh." I sat in the kitched eating the left over trojan head and replayed the kiss over and over. He leaned in…a wave crashing on the shore, he washed away my lips like footprints left on the sand and I was submerged.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

9 x 7 = Comfort

In the sixth grade my biggest wish was to see the inside of a semi’s cab and nine times seven was keeping from this.
I never could remember nine times seven. I still can’t. I seriously just had to do it on the calculator on this computer. I mean I can figure it out if I didn’t want to throw everything off my desk because it was taking so long. 63. Whatever. Ugh. Math has never been my thing. And in sixth grade our teacher Mrs. Langely gave us timed times table tests every week. Once we passed our 1’s we’d move on the 2’s etc. and if you made it through 10 we got the prize. THE prize. We would get to tour in the inside of her husband’s semi cab.
Looking back at this I realize this may sound stupid. But kid you not every single one of us in her class could not wait. I don’t know about everyone else, but I know what it was for me. I loved the idea that you’d have this cozy little home on wheels. This place where everything you could possible need was within reach. The thought of it still makes me sigh. I loved playing the game I called raft on our big guest bed. I’d pretend I was on a raft far off at sea and had to get everything I would need to survive on it. I remember designing a room for myself when my parents were remodeling the house. It was a room within my room that I could read in and have hot chocolate. Cozy. The architect was not on board with it though something about support beams and well he didn’t get it. Then I put together a proposal for my parents to make the dank, mildewy, nasty fruit room in the basement my own personal hideaway (I was really big into writing out proposals for my parents when I wanted things by the way. I loved making charts and presentations and visual aids. It worked with my puppy project. I put a whole report together of research on breeds, a chore schedule. To close I drew a picture of my family with a question mark next to us. Who was missing? I think I saw tears in my mom’s eyes. That locked it for me. Seriously I think I would have been a great business woman.) Alas the fruit room bid did not work out. Apparently the old furniture and boxes put in a better offer.
So seeing proof this space existed was really exciting for me. But damn it all if nine times seven was getting in my way. I had done every other test. I had only the nine left. I skipped it at one point and just got ten out of the way, because I might suck at math but you’d have to be an idiot to mess that one up.
Every friday Mrs. Langley would say."Ready go!"
We all would scribble away. I felt the penetrating eyes of Mr. Multiplication staring down at me. In my mind he sounded like Mr. Belvedere, “Now Miss Hilsabeck I know you know this.” Grrrrrr. But then after weeks of failure. It happens. Quite by accident. I didn’t mean to look at Tyson’s paper (and even if I did he never had the right answers) and there it was. 63. I DID IT! Now I know I cheated. Shame on me. But something in my brain would not let me remember that answer and it hasn’t since so that’s a dysfunction and therefore I deem the cheating fine.
So I got to see the cab. And it was worth my moral discrepancy.
The day of the semi’s arrival (no jokes) I had butterflies in my stomach. Mrs. Langley (who remains one of my favorite teachers of all time) was excited too. She took us outside and there it was. Comfort on wheels in. When it was my turn, Mrs. Langley helped me inside the cab.
“So proud you did your nines!” She said. I felt a little bad. Then I panicked she would ask me the equation that was my kryptonite, but she didn’t. Whew. The sleeper cab was all I dreamed it would be (minus the pink fluffy pillows). A cute bed. Fridge next to it. Drawers for clothes and my sticker book. A T.V. What more do you need? I think I was drooling because Mr. Langley said. “Pretty cool huh kid?” Then gestured to his lip.
“Yeah. Pretty cool,” I said.
As I exited I noticed Mrs. Langley’s picture taped up on the dashboard. I guess not everything he needed was in reach. Hm.
So even though my ticket to paradise was stolen I cherished it all the same. Thinking about it. I still long for a place of my own. Even within my own house. That place I can have everything I need. The place I can feel all safe and cozy.
I’m one of those nut jobs that wants a bomb shelter.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

All Skate! All Skate!

It’s raining. I’m standing in line with a huge crowd like I’m at a hot new club, but instead of sleazy wannabes and whored out women I’m surround by junior highers and a few scattered chaperones. I’m at the roller rink. I can’t wait to get in. The chaperones ogle me because it’s fairly obvious I don’t fit in either group (Note: I thought these people were chaperones, but when the rink was cleared for advanced skaters and they glided out with ease I realized they hung out there).
I was meeting a new group of friends there for a fun friday night adventure. But so far I was the only one there over 14 and under 40. I looked around for my friends casually and noticed the young couple behind me (Rollerskating dates! Cute!) were looking at me with extreme pity. I suddenly was jettisoned back to Junior high where the worst thing in the world was being ditched. Old thoughts wandered back into my head. Do they think I’m pretty? Where are my friends? I look like a loser.
I slap myself silly in my mind and remind myself that I’m 34 years old and no longer need to impress the cool kids. When I kick ass on that rink, I’m doing it for myself not Brandon in eighth grade who laughed at my perm. Though if he was there, he’d frickin’ die to couple skate with me. So there Brandon.
When I near the front I find a familiar face (Take that, couple behind me that thinks I’m a loser). We talk excitedly about how it’s been twenty years since we’ve done this and as we put on our spray disinfected skates I begin to wonder if I can even do this anymore.
The rest of the group comes and we hit the rink. And it’s just like riding a bike. It’s pretty thrilling to tell you the truth. The wind in your hair. The speed. Justin Beiber. What more do we really need? I don’t know how to break, but hey slamming into the wall always worked before.
I remember when I’d go to birthday parties at the local rink as a kid and the birthday gal would get to ride in a giant skate around the rink. I wonder if they still do that?
“Couple skate!” The announcer says. “Pairs or triples only!”
I grab a couple of my new friends hands and sail off. I haven’t felt this free in a while.
The song ends and my friends and I part ways to skate at our own pace.
The referee whizzes by me.
“Keep it moving,” He says to a awkward boy hanging onto the wall.
Suddenly I feel a wave of sadness. I remember something else. I remember the loneliness I would feel when I was that age. I remember going to the rink so I wouldn’t feel that way anymore. I could blend in to the fast moving crowd and still be alone if I wanted, but with a roomful of people. I let that feeling take me over for a minute. I still feel that way sometimes of course. My troubles then were just... very different.
Then I fall into a fantasy I had countless times when I was 13: That a boy would want to skate with me.
It goes something like this-
Boy: Let’s face it. You’re the hottest girl in this place.
Me: You speak the truth.
Boy: Couples skate with me.
Me: You got balls kid.
Boy: So? You coming?
Me: Okay.
Meanwhile all his little friends are jealous and I’m giving him mad street cred. Well, that was an embarrassing part of my brain I just exposed you to. Have fun with that. I’m going to have to write that into something...
My friends and I spend hours skating to the latest pop hits. I was hoping for a throwback to rollerskating’s hay-day and hear a little “ Oh Mickey your so fine,” but no luck. There was plenty of Michael Jackson though.
“Clear the floor,” The announcer yells because some girls necklace broke and beads were everywhere.
As I leave, they are starting the Hokey Pokey. It’s nice to know some things never change.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

A Lutheran walks into a Catholic Church...

I’m not Catholic and they're going to find me out.

I had already gotten fingerprinted as you all know for my new job as substitute teacher, but I still needed to do the seminar and I was panicking. I wasn’t worried about brainwashing. Though secipable to most charms, the religious kind I have a force field against.

I went over and over in my head the sign of the cross. Forehead, belly button, shoulder shoulder. Does it matter which side I touch first? My husband tells me not to worry. “You were raised Lutheran. It’s practically the same.” Yeah but you guys memorize shit! I’m fucked.

I walked into the church school grounds and found that the seminar would be held in a class room that’s across from a portable fireworks selling booth. Well they got to make money somehow. I sat down with the glaring red white and blue wooden giant fireworks booth to my left. Little exploding fireworks with smiling faces stared at me like they were saying just wait until you see what you’re in for. People started coming in. The mixture was...interesting. Chola girl. A lady that wouldn’t stop hacking. An old mexican man. Well they were all mexican except me. A woman came in, sat in the front row and took out her brand new spiral notebook. Kiss ass. The hacking lady between hacks asked me if I was going to be a nun? Um no. Am I really sending off that vibe in my motorcycle jacket and Chuck Taylors?

The instructor came in and welcomed us. She openedwith a prayer. Which I tried to take seriously until she started blessing carnival clowns and the Taco Bell owner down the street. I got through my first sign of the cross with flying colors. Whoo Hoo!

Then she told us the purpose of the seminar.

Now I thought this seminar was about how religion is a part of this school and this was a refresher course. Oh no.
“This seminar will teach you how to deal with predators.” She said
Crap. This is about molesters.
She passed out workbooks that we had to fill out as we went. Great. Do we get a molester seminar certificate at the end too?
“At the end of this seminar you will be qualified to perform Catholic duties.” She said.
To perform Catholic duties all it takes is knowing about child molesters.... hmmm. I look around. Does anyone else see how crazy that statement was? And this program has been around since the 80’s. How can I break it to her that this obviously didn’t work.
We had to watch a video. Great way to spend a Saturday I’m telling you.
“It’s hard to watch she says, but God has a plan,” she said.
The video was horrible. Kids recounting their molesting stories. Molesters themselves telling how they did it and why. Disturbing. But she whispered half way through the video that the holy spirit is with us so we’re fine (uh huh, sure).
After the video we break up into small discussion groups or more appropriately named the Sick Bastards Discussion Group. One woman retold stories she had heard. Really stuff I didn’t need to hear. The hacking lady said, “one thing I know is that molesters aren’t disfigured.” Okay, what?? Then one woman went on and on about how molesters play favorites with kids and that’s not cool. The other kids must get mad (Are you serious??). Another woman says that she thought she granddaughter’s teacher is a molester, because the teacher said kids are special. Okay, that might be taking a bit of a leap. They looked to me for a comment. All I could think of to say is that’s sick how they threaten the kids. The hacking lady looked to me and said, “If they threaten to kill their mom and dad, they should just say it’s okay. They’re going to heaven.” I smile and nod. Whoa...
Break time. I’m got the red punch (which was sadly just red punch).
We watched another video when we got back. A molester talked about how he liked slender fair children. A mexican lady whispered, “Prejudiced.”
The video continued. A gigantic fat predator told how he found his victims because he was a rollerskating teacher. I imagined him skating beautifully to “Oh MIcky you’re so Fine.” It made me want to hurl. He even had his own roller rink. Um what? That’s not weird or anything. No red flag, parents?
An Archbishop came on to make his necessary appearance. Of course I thought he was going to talk about how he got into being a pedophile, but he was essentially making his statement for the church. “We must protect children. Make no mistake. Child abuse exists.” I imagined him adding, “Expect priests and definitely not me.” He said all the right things. “This has been happening for a long time. We passed the buck.” Surprised me he said that. I’m sure he said off camera, “Except priests. Priest are awesome.”
The video ended and the teacher asked us what we can do to prevent such tragedy.
“Don’t go to skating rinks,” The hacking lady says.
“Well no, but be aware of who your kids are around,” the teachers says.
“Exactly,” the hacking lady says. I roll my eyes.
“If you have kids of your own, you shouldn’t tickle them anymore. Sends the wrong message,” The teacher says.
Really? That’s sad.
“Now when you teach your kids about their body. teach them the real names. Let’s hear some,” the teacher asked.
Penis. Vagina!. Butt! Elbow. Vagina! Breasts! Vagina!
Seriously. They said vagina at least 12 times. I looked over and the mexican man was asleep.
“Maybe instead of hugging the kids you teach you can high five or fist bump.” The teacher says.
The hacking lady raises her hand and says “I think it’s wrong for teachers to fist bump. That is wrong.” Then her cell phone rings. Lil’ Wayne is her ring tone.
We ended with a prayer. There was a lot of dear lord, dear gods. Improvised prayers are the best. I tease, but I really like prayer actually. In the middle of the longest run on sentence ever she said something that spoke directly to my life. It gave me chills.
I got my molester seminar certificate which was in spanish. So I think I passed. The instructor called my name “Beth Navarro” with accent and all, but when she saw I was a white girl (I just married one of you), her face fell. I’m pretty sure she wished she could take back the accent. The gang-banger looked like she wanted to kick my ass. I wanted to get out of there, but the carnival had started and I can’t turn away good sausage sandwich. I ate it as I walked to my car and passed a hummer limo parked in the front. I was in the Twilight Zone. Now I’m qualified to perform catholic duties and it’s making me hungry for some communion wafers.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Don't Act Like a Criminal

I am so weird around cops (and those of you who know me, yes I do realize this is ironic). I substitute teach occasionally and I just got hired on at a new school. The hiring process requires lots-o-paperwork and a thorough background check making sure I’m not a criminal or pedophile (The school is also a catholic school and required a seminar I had to go to. THAT is a whole other blog entry. Stay tuned). So included in this barrage of red tape I had to go through, I had to go to the police station to get fingerprinted.

I know. No big deal.

Maybe it’s because I’m an actor/writer and my imagination is constantly being worked and given mass doses of steroids. Maybe it’s because I haven’t always been the most law abiding citizen in the world (Nothing crazy i promise you. I mean who didn’t steal a gum from the 76 in grade school and stumble drunkenly down the street when they were in their 20‘s. And by “gum” I mean gap clothes and by “stumble drunkenly” I mean... Oh never mind). The origin doesn’t matter. The fact is I am totally nervous.
I go one evening to my local police department, check in and wait in the lobby. What’s happening in the lobby is interesting to me. A woman and a boy maybe 12 or 13 are talking to a sergeant. I eavesdrop. The boy is telling the officer about how he is being bullied at school. His mother is taking furious notes. Fucking junior high. In junior high something chemically changes in kids and makes transform from perfectly good and cute into into tremendous assholes willing to make the innocent eat cat shit. I was a naive skinny girl. I was good target back then. I nod to the kid understanding (I still am skinny. It’s just that super skinny models have made what I’ve always detested about myself okay, So keep on with the cocaine and anorexia ladies).
“Elizabeth Ann Navarro?” a short bald officer asks popping his head out of the door.
I snap back into the real reason I’m there. He used my full name. Really? Nothing worse to make me feel like I’m in trouble. My I walk back into the bowels of the station following this officer clutching my paperwork. He’s making some sort of small talk, but all that is running through my head is: Don’t act like a criminal. I’m not a criminal. Be cool. Act cool. You won’t be found out. There’s nothing to be found! Shut up Beth. Be cool! Remember cops are almost like real people.

Before I know it we are at the holding cells. I freeze. What the hell! Is this a trick? I start backing up.
“It’s through here,” the cop says. “ I like your purse by the way.”
He leads me to the middle of the four cells they have there (none occupied thank god. I did not want to have a silence of the lambs moment). And there is the fancy finger printing station. This is no ink and paper operation. It’s all computerized now. I realize this is where people who’ve been arrested go to get finger printed too. He takes out some sanitizer and sprays down the machine. Well that’s good. While I’m waiting I start to get antsy and start tot want to do very inappropriate things. I want to grab his gun. Why do they have to make that so tempting??!? I want to rub his bald head. I want to get him in a choke hold and noogie him. I want to snap the cord of his radio repeatedly against his back.
My arm starts to raise of it’s own accord. Down arm down! Stop it Beth! But this is what goes through my head when I’m around cops. Welcome to my brain, grab a cocktail and enjoy the insanity.
“I’m ready for you!” He says with a weird grin on his face. I’m wondering if he’s like this when a murderous felon is being arrested.
I imagine him smiling a lazy smile at the criminal he’s caught telling him, he really likes his boots and grabbing his hands to fingerprint saying “Let’s get this show on the road, guy!”
There is something about fingerprint taking that I didn’t realize. It’s sort of an intimate process. He takes my hands. I tense up immediately. He tells me to relax them and make them all floppy.
“Let me look at your fingertips,” he says. “Yeah, those are nice.”
Okay that was sort of creepy.
The starts the fingerprinting process and to my relief unclicks the criminal box on my profile. It’s over in a few minutes. My fingerprints whiz through the system and I’m done.
The cop leads me out and winks saying, “Let’s hope you pass!” He’s joking, but that just speeds up the “Be cool. Don’t act like a criminal” monologue in my head. I leave the police station feeling like I got away with something (God I am so dramatic). What did I learn from this ordeal? Not much except I totally need to book something on Law and Order: Los Angeles or Southland. I am ready people.

Disclaimer: I do not think cocaine and anorexia are okay. It’s a joke people.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


I suck at eye exams. I wish I could study for them.

I arrive at my eye doctor’s office yesterday and I’m nervous like I always am. I know I need a new prescription. My vision is not perfect with my contacts. At night I drive like a grandma if she was a cab driver. I can’t see, but I drive fast anyway, I have places to go. I’m nervous. I fail eye exams as consistently as I failed my algebra tests. And it’s not my eyes fault. Sure, I’m about as blind as one can be without it being legally declared. If you put me out on the streets with no vision aids and I might as well start pandering like a homeless woman. But it’s me that screws up these tests and I sort of think everyone in the office is out to get me. Okay, that’s paranoid and maybe a bit of exaggeration. Listen to the evidence and draw your own conclusions.

So the first thing I have to do is take out my contacts. A very nice female assistant take me to a room to do this. No problem.

“Here’s a new case,” She says and disappears out the door. For some reason I always forget about the logistics of this part. I never remember to bring my glasses (Fail number one). So my contacts are out and I’m standing in this room feeling about as helpless as a newborn baby. I wait for her to come back. Nothing. I look out the door and all I see is a blotches of the bland beige decor and about six blue blobs walking around. The chick helping me is one of those blue blobs. I feel like an idiot. Don’t they know that without my contacts it’s about as clear looking through a fogged up window?? So I sit myself down in a chair and stare at my lap figuring someone will get me when I’m ready.
“Beth Navarro,” I hear my blue blob call from across the room.
I sigh loudly. Don’t mind me. I can make it through your maze of chairs and planters. No problem. I knock over a few magazine hanging off the coffee table to emphasize my point (yeah I know totally dramatic, but I was PMS-ing too).
I walk into the room and sigh again. I forgot about this part. The glaucoma test. The stupid glaucoma test.
“My favorite,” I say. She just smiles and tells me to put my head against the forehead rest.
“Keep your eyes open. Just a small puff,” She says. I can hear her smiling. I am convinced this test means nothing and it’s just to mess with people. “Focus on the red dot.”
I do. I’m straining to keep my eyes open even though I know what’s coming. It’s like holding your eyes open when someone is shaking out a beach towel. Totally against your instincts. This is just torture.
“Oh no, you blinked!” She said all cheerfully (Fail number 2). No shit. You are blowing air into my eye.

After the third time it finally works.

The eye chart exam is where I really suck.

The doctor comes in, makes some small talk about the weather then puts up the eye chart on the wall. I’m pretty sure they put this up here just to humiliate me. I can see nothing. The only reason I know the top line is an E is because on the Snellen charts (fucking Snellen) the top line is always: C,D,E,F,L,N,O,P,T,H or Z. So I got a one and 11 shot and the E looks pretty boxy. See I did do some studying, not that it got me anywhere.
Then they put my prescription in that binocular sort of thing. Ah, I breath a little sigh of relief. But now it’s the one and two game, which I don’t think I could suck at worse.

“One or two?” the doctor asks.

It’s make it or break it time. Come on new persciption. Don’t mess this up, Beth!

“Wait do show me them again?” I ask.

“One or two?”

I debate. “Um, two?”

“Okay. One or two?” He asks again with two fresh choices.

“I’m not sure,” I say. The doctor doesn’t like this answer.

“Try again. One or two?”

“They look the same,” I say.

I think I hear him sigh. I hate this game.

“Try these. One or two?” he asks.

My mind spins: Two looks maybe slightly better, but wait one was good. Two... Um...

“Can I see them again?” I want to get this right. The clarity of my whole entire year is dependent on this, literally and figuratively. I’ve had a bad day and I need some frakin’ clarity (Yes I love Battlestar Gallatica, but I regress)!

“One or two?”

“One. I’m sure it’s one,” I say.

“Good,” the doc says taking the contraption away from my face. I did it. That stupid song starts running through my head, "I can see clearly now the day has come... I can see all obstacles in my way..."

He comes close to my face because he knows I can’t see. “I think your prescription is pretty much the same. If it’s not broke don’t fix it!”

Fail number three.

He sends me on my way. Once again stranded in my fuzzy world left to feel my way through the office to find the room in no man’s land that has my contacts. I failed again. I put in my less than perfect contacts. That will just have to do. There’s always next time. Until then I’m studying those Snellen charts without my contacts.

As for the clarity, I guess you just have to go with what you got. Nothing is perfect. You see what you need to. You just gotta look close enough, ignore the halos on the lights at night and break down and just get the bifocals.