Beautiful Blogger Awards



*** BLOGGER ATE MY POST. I was trying to do some formatting (the numbers), and instead of ending up with neatly formatted numbers, IT ATE 90% OF MY POST. This was originally designed to go up on Thursday night. It has taken me that long to quit sulking like a teenager and sit back down to write it…. the problem is, I’ve never been good at revisions. I get really bored writing the same thing twice, so I’m sorry if this post lacks pizazz or whatever. It was hard to feel original when I was sitting in front of the computer thinking, “Wait… how did I say this before? I think I said it better the first time. What was that word again?” So, there. You’ve been warned.******

For the record— this is the first award I’ve ever won for my writing. Okay, I know it’s not a REAL award, but that didn’t stop me from hopping around my house like a hyperactive Chihuahua when I was first tagged… and then repeating the same hyperactive happiness when I was tagged again. So, thank you Oregon Sunshine and Ffyyahchild . You guys made my day!

I’m supposed to tag others, but I’m not sure who I am going to tag in response. I’ve been putting off responding to this until I can figure out who I am going to forward it to, but enough is enough! I’ll decide who I am going to poke a finger later.

So, for this award I am supposed to tell you seven things about myself that you do not know. So, let’s see…. I mean, I don’t know anyone out there all that well yet, so this should be easy! I want to make it interesting, though.

Alright, here goes!

1. I was twelve years old when I started reading romance novels. My mom thought I was too young to be reading the Sweet Valley High series— little did she know that I was staying up late at night to gawk at books with half-naked women and men with bulging loincloths on the cover. It’s not that I was particularly interested in romance— in fact, I was still in the stage where I thought boys were icky and would become angry when anyone ever told me I was going to get married one day (Hi, Bean! Love you, Bean! It’s not nearly as bad as I thought it was going to be!)

The problem was that my mom had been reading the books for years. Like me, she is a fast reader. Thankfully, there was a used book store just down the street. The used paperbacks were only .50 cents, and if you brought the books back in you could trade them in 2-for-1. About once a month my mom would throw together a box of already-read-books and head down to the store to switch them out. Usually she kept the books tightly locked up in her bedroom, but the day before the trip they would sit in a jumbled heap in our living room, calling me with their siren call. “I’m a boook,” they would sing. “An unread book… who knows what lives between my pages? Who knows what worlds you could discover?” Every month I’d try to resist their lure, but I would end up edging closer and closer to the box, finally sneaking one out of the box and studying the back cover.

Brianna McChickFace was a violet-eyed, titian-haired tempestuous beauty. But she didn’t think so– she thought her eyes were too big with too-long lashes, and her creamy bosom was too large, and her legs were too long and shapely. Besides, she had vowed never to be dominated by a man, and would lead her clan to victory on her own, despite her total lack of military training or even basic common sense! That is, until she met Lord Allistair BigBulgeson. His manly ways and bronzed acres of chest dominated her inner core of femininity, causing her to to flounce about and behave like a spoiled, screeching brat— which, thanks to her tightly rounded heiny and overly-perfect shape caused Lord Allistair to “shout with laughter” instead of smacking her. She had vowed for years to never to be dominated, but within 28 pages she would surrender herself, her virginity, and her self-respect to a fiery passion that lit up the Scottish night…

“Put that down!” my mom would say, smacking it out of my hands. “You don’t need to fill your head with trash like that. I’ve told you to leave my books alone.”

Is it really any wonder that I snuck out late one night to steal one of the books?

It was the most terrifying/exhilarating thing I’d ever done, and by the time I’d finished inching my way back to my bedroom, I was almost sweating with fear. Armed with a flashlight, I threw the covers over my head and for the several hours over the next few nights, I read in gaping disbelief before stashing the book firmly beneath my mattress. Sure, I knew how babies were made, but this was on a whole new level. At one point, I remember reading a couple of lines, then peeking down my shirt, then reading a couple more lines doubtfully. My nipples were supposed to do WHAT? I poked a finger hesitantly at my nearly-flat chest, red-faced, waiting for the fiery torment of unrelenting passion to course through my body. It didn’t. Not only did I not feel the urge to fling myself with a longing cry on the nearest available man, I didn’t really feel anything at all. For years after that little experiment I hid the secret fear that had a pair of defective breasts.

2. I was fifteen years old before I quit being mad at God that he’d made me a girl instead of a boy. I hated being a girl. Everything I wanted to do (run, jump, pull-ups, wrestle, adventures, traveling at night, etc) could be done better as a guy. I hated the idea that I couldn’t be a fighter pilot simply because I had the bad luck to be a woman. I hated that so much sexism seemed to exist in the world, and I hated that the girls around me seemed to be so apathetic about the whole situation. I hated that the boys I used to be able to beat fair and square in a fight/wrestle/game of chase were now beating me with ludicrous ease, simply because the “benefits” of puberty were so obviously weighed in their favor. Seriously… I went through puberty and I developed a big butt, huge hips and the ability to bleed every month. They developed the ability to run faster, lift more weights, and have bigger muscles. Umm, hello? Unfair much? It didn’t help matters that I didn’t even “like” boys until I was 14. Prior to my freshman year in highschool, the idea of kissing a guy was as appealing as kissing a goldfish.

3. Bruce Springstein. His name made no sense to me as a kid, and as a result I could never remember it. Spring BruceStein? Stein SpringBruce? Bruce SteinSpring? Spring SteinBruce?

4. Okay, this is next one is a doozy— this is one of my most closely guarded secret phobias, and I need you all to never, ever, EVER taking advantage of what I’m about to reveal. Promise? No, I mean do you PROMISE promise? I don’t want you just mouthing the words, I want your word that you won’t use this information against me. Okay? I have your word?

Imaginary sticky jump ropes.

No, I’m being serious here. Imaginary sticky jump ropes. They are my kryptonite. When I was 5 years old I couldn’t find a jump rope to play with during recess so I decided to just pretend that I had one. The only problem was, my imaginary jump rope wouldn’t work properly. Every time I tried to swing it in a loop over my head, I wasn’t able to get enough velocity and it would sag in the middle in a flaccid, useless pantomime of a jump rope. I tried several variations to make it work, but I never found the right way to make the imaginary jump rope swing properly. Even worse, if the jump rope touched my skin, it would immediately adhere to it. Apparently my imaginary jump rope was covered in a sticky, gooey, honey-like glue that would cause it to stick to whatever it touched.

If I grabbed it with my hand to take it off my forearm, it would stick to my hand.

If I tried to hold it down with my foot to peel my hand away, it would stick to the bottom of my shoe.

If I flipped my foot around to make it come off my shoe, the ends would waggle wildly and it would usually flip up and hit some other part of my body and adhere there.

If I could manage to make them stick to my shoe, I would usually quietly slip out of the shoe and abandon it in the house until I forgot that the imaginary sticky jump rope was supposed to be there. Sure, I looked a little silly hobbling around with one shoe on/one shoe off, but it was a small price to pay.

This may sound like just an amusing anecdote, but those imaginary sticky jump ropes plagued me for years. YEARS. I don’t know what this says about my psyche that my imagination became so real that I was unable to control it, but there you go. What made it even worse was that one day my sister saw me on the sofa, writhing around and picking at the “imaginary jump ropes” like some kind of meth addict. She asked me what was wrong with me, and in my stupidity I told her.

Older sisters are not known for their kind, loving natures.

She immediately told my dad, and the two of them proceeded to harass me endlessly. “STICKY JUMPROPES!” they’d cry out gaily, wadding a lump of the imaginary ropes in their hands before flinging it at me. “STOP IT!” I’d squeal, doing my best to dodge their throw. Sometimes it worked, and sometimes the jump ropes would hit me squarely in the chest. Long after they’d forgotten about their little trick and had returned to watching the television, I’d be stuck on the sofa, sweating and miserable, unsuccessfully trying to free myself from their sticky tendrils. And for the record, NO, I am not insane. I just had a little bit of an overactive imagination.

5. Speaking of overactive imaginations, I have CRAZY dreams. I know some people have dreams that flit about and make no sense— not mine! Not only do I remember my dreams every day, but they are epic in length, color, plot/storyline, and oftentimes have background music. When I have a particularly good dream, I have trouble figuring out if it’s a real memory or if it was something that I made up while I was sleeping. The only downside to my fantastic dream life is that I have some pretty terrible, bloody nightmares. Oh well. Par for the course, I guess.

6. I did not enjoy my childhood all that much, and think that the best years are still ahead of me. I look forward to the future.


7.
I don’t like riding tall horses. I’m always worried that something will happen while I’m out on a flat trail and my saddle will magically disappear, and I won’t be able to mount bareback and will be stuck leading my horse back all the way back to the stables.

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Merry Christmas and a Ha-PEE New Year

The last time I peed my pants I was 23 years old.

I was not drunk. I was not high. I wasn’t even asleep. I was standing beside an old truck in the beautiful rolling hills wine country of Northern California, miserably watching cars fly by as the pee travelled down my legs, soaked my jeans, and even filled my mud boots.

I’ll have you know that human urine is a very good catalyst for introspective moments. Why am I here? What am I doing with my life? What is the meaning of truth? Do I wait for the pee to stop before emptying my boots, or should I see if I can overflow them?

Like I said, I was 23 years old and living in Northern California. I was working part time as the livestock manager of a Morgan/Warmblood breeding farm situated in the hills/mountains between Santa Rosa and Calistoga. It was beautiful, the horses were beautiful, the land was beautiful… LIFE was beautiful. It was my first Christmas far enough away from my family that I wasn’t obligated to attend. Rather than suffering from homesickness or depression, I was absolutely THRILLED. I determined that this was going to be the first Christmas of my life without family squabbling, stress, or name-calling. I printed off a homemade flyer and pinned it up on the employee wall at Olive Garden, where I was also a server.

FIRST-ANNUAL LONELY DESPERATE PEOPLE CHRISTMAS PARTY!
Not sure what you’re going to do for Christmas? Missing your family? Sick of your family and looking for escape?
Come hang out at my house! Bring a sleeping bag if you want to stay the night.
We’ll watch Christmas movies, eat cookies, and have a great time.
Everyone’s welcome, but leave all drama at the door.

I pinned it up on the wall at work, stared at it for a moment, then as an afterthought I scrawled on the bottom, “Sorry guys, but no pot allowed in my home.”

I was, after all, living in Northern California. My coworkers at Olive Garden seemed to consider cigarettes and joints completely interchangeable. I’ve never been anywhere that was more lax in their drug usage policies. For instance, when I asked one of my coworkers if she was going to join me at my Lonely Desperate People Christmas party, she tipped her head to the side, thought for a moment, and then said in her tiny, sweet little voice, “No, no. I don’t think I should. I’m going to be dropping acid the day before, and I may not be good for company yet.” She leaned forward conspiratorially. “You know how it takes a couple of days to find your rhythm again.” Uh… No? No I didn’t? “Thanks for the invite though!” She swirled around, and bounced off, blonde ponytail with its little blue ribbon swinging in a perky rhythm. I stood their gaping at her. Did she just say “dropping acid”? The day before Christmas? Wasn’t that something only angry, twitchy drug addicts did? My co-worker was 19 years old and extremely petite, with a smattering of freckles across her nose that made her look about twelve years old. She looked like should be out there playing with puppy dogs and giggling about stinky boys, not planning in advance to “drop acid”. I felt naïve, gauche, and had the sudden overwhelming urge to call up her parents.

At any rate, back to me peeing my pants.

My note generated some interest, and Christmas Day found my tiny living room decorated with a couple of coworkers, all of us determined to have a Merry Christmas despite (or perhaps because of) the lack of our families. For the first time in a long time, Christmas was fun. We watched Elf and The Christmas Story, we drank eggnog, and we laughed hysterically. We chased the horses out of my garden on more than one occasion (danged 2 year olds and their ability to push through fences!) and had a rousing good time.

The morning of the 26th I waved goodbye to the last of them, and then set about to go feed. Not surprisingly, we were getting low on hay. With 60+ horses, a couple of donkeys and some oversized pigs, hay goes fast. I counted the bales, sighed, and realized that I wasn’t going to be able to make it stretch to the next day’s big delivery. Besides, if the delivery was late were late… No, no. It was better to play it safe and head down the mountain to pick up a couple of bales. The feed shop might be closed, but they knew us well enough that I could just add it to the tab.

With a disgruntled sigh, I headed over to The Ball Scratchin’ Truck.

I wish I had a picture to show you The Ball Scratchin’ Truck. The Ball Scratchin’ Truck was a big, patchwork-colored truck, lifted to a ridiculous height on oversized monster-truck wheels. It was the kind of truck you usually saw big ol’ redneck boys driving—the kind that you rolled your eyes at when it passed you on the road, and made jokes about the driver’s genitalia size and obvious need to compensate. The panels had been replaced here and there with panels from other vehicles, the paint was mud-encrusted and rusty, and getting in and out of the darn thing was such an ordeal I occasionally wished I had a rappelling rope and harness. The ranch owner had purchased it dirt-cheap as a ranch-only vehicle, but ever since our hay truck’s brakes had failed (shooting it halfway down the mountainside before it crashed into a tree) it was the only truck we had capable of making the drive down the mountain. Even that was questionable, because in addition to lifting the truck to a stupid height, some idiot in the past had decided that a truck that size needed an itty-bitty little racecar steering wheel— you know the tiny little metal doughnuts you occasionally see on a barely-street legal Civic or Miata? Yeah, it had one of those. To make matters worse, the power steering had failed.

I don’t know how many of you out there have ever driven a vehicle without power steering, but let me tell you— power steering is important. Turning the wheel of a car that doesn’t have power steering requires a lot of muscle. Turning the pathetically tiny wheel of a gigantic, lifted truck that doesn’t have power steering… well, let’s just say that it was more than borderline dangerous unless I took the turns very , veeeery sloooooowly. Rounding one mountain curve in the Big Ball-Scratchin’ truck required me to make approximately 8-10 complete revolutions on that ridiculously tiny steering-wheel, and each revolution was a true test of my strength in a time of my life when I was used to tossing hay bales and carrying huge serving trays. Usually, after just one trip up and down the mountain, I was ruined for the rest of the day. My triceps would be burning and the muscles on my forearms would be trembling and exhausted.

Annoyed that I was going to have to make the trip down the day after Christmas, I didn’t even bother dressing nicely. I threw on the pair of mud-encrusted jeans I’d fed in the day before, a pair of mud-encrusted galoshes, and wiggled my way into a stained sweatshirt. Nobody was around to see me, but somehow dressing like a slob made me feel liked I’d made my point about how I felt about the trip. At the last second, I realized I was going to be heading by a Starbucks on the way down. I brightened, and grabbed the new Starbucks card that I’d received as a Christmas gift the day before (bless you, Doug. Bless you.)

It was a foggy day, and not many people were out on the road. As I suspected, the feed barn was deserted. I backed my truck up to the stack, grabbed my hay hooks, and loaded about 15 bales in the back of the truck. Lest you think I’m some kind of superwoman, the process took almost an hour, included a lot of swear words and sweat, and I rudely stole all the bales from the top of the stack.

I slipped a note under the manager’s door to let him know who the mysterious thief was, then headed over to the gas station to fill up. Not surprisingly, the Ball Scratchin’ Truck got about 7 miles to the gallon… downhill and BEFORE it was loaded down with hay. I was already low on gas, and there was no way I was going to be able to make it back up the mountain without filling up.

I hopped from my ridiculously high driver’s seat to the ground, unscrewed the gas cap, reached into my back pocket….

And realized I had forgotten my wallet on my kitchen table.

Crap.

I didn’t have a mirror around to check, but I’m pretty sure that my face “blanched” when I realized what I had done. I didn’t have my checkbook. I didn’t have my credit card. I didn’t have any way of getting back up the mountain (that’s the problem with living in the sticks—you can’t hitchhike home even if you wanted to). The ranch owner was a doctor who was in the middle of a 48 hour shift in the emergency room, so she wouldn’t be home for over a day. All of the friends that I knew well enough to call in a situation like this were hundreds of miles away— I just hadn’t lived there long enough to develop those kinds of friends.

Crap. Crappity, crapcrap.

I stood beside the truck, brainstorming. What to do, what to do… I glanced around, and there, in the distance, I saw it.

Starbucks, thy coffee and thy proximity have saved me! I reached into my pocket, and pulled out my gift card, and gave a huge whoop of relief.

In my muddy coveralls and stained sweatshirt, I half-jogged, half-galumphed my way down the block. Pausing in the parking lot, I took a moment to perform the Get-the-Mud-off-Sacred-Indian-Dance-Stomp. A few of the clean, well-dressed customers heading back to their cars took a moment to stare at me getting all jiggy in the parking lot, but I was past caring. By the time I finished, a sizeable pile of mud and dried manure was scattered all around me. I stepped gingerly over the pile, gathered up my confidence and took my place in line. It was a surprisingly long line for the morning after Christmas, so it took a bit before I reached the counter.

“Welcome to Starbucks. Would you like to try a Peppermint Soy Latte today?”
“Uh, no. No, thanks. Actually, I have kind of a weird question. I have this gift card here. Can you tell me how much is on it?”
“Of course! My pleasure. Let’s see… it has $15 of available credit. What would you like to order?”
“Well, uhm,” I stood there for a moment, feeling my face get red. “Actually, see, the problem is that I’ve run out of gas, and, uh..” I fidgeted. “I forgot my wallet, and this is the only thing I have, so I was wondering if I could just get cash.”

The barista gave me a sympathetic look. “I’m sorry, I can’t do that. I wish I could, but it’s against company policy.” I gave her a pleading look, but she seemed immune to my desperate situation. “So.. Are you going to order anything?” She glanced behind me at the line that was stretched nearly to the door.

“Oh, uh. No. No thanks.” I stepped out of line, and leaned against the wall. What now?

I sat there for a moment, and then my only option was to try to get someone to buy it off of me. Glancing down at my dirty, hobo-looking outfit, I sighed. Figures. I’d obviously brought this on myself. If I’d cleaned up, worn something cute and actually brushed my hair, I would have remembered my wallet and the Starbucks would have been deserted.

Stupid wallet. Stupid me. Crap. Crappity, crapcrap.

I stood there for a moment, eyeballing the line and trying to decide who seemed like the most approachable person. I didn’t want to get kicked out of Starbucks for harassing their clientele, so I wanted to make this work on the first try. After a few moments deciding, I opted on a woman in her mid-40s who had a sweet, approachable expression.

Swallowing my nervousness, I stepped forward.

“Hi!” I said brightly.

“Uh, hello,” she said, eyebrows suddenly lowering as her expression became guarded and distrustful.

“I have a rather strange question to ask, and it’s okay if you want to say no.” I tried to give her what I thought was a winning smile, but she shrunk back as if I was snarling at her. “I work at a ranch up the road and, uh, well I’m kind of low on gas. I forgot my wallet on my table, and all I have is this Starbucks gift card. They won’t let me cash it in for money, so I was kind of hoping you could let me buy your drink with the card, and then maybe you could reimburse me with cash? Is that okay?”

She stared at me in guarded silence.

I stared back at her, and smiled nervously. “It’s okay if you don’t want to, but..” I trailed off, hopeful.

She stared at me in silence, then heaved a huge, exasperated sigh. “Fine,” she snapped, then heaved another put-upon sigh.

I couldn’t believe this. She was acting like I’d asked her to hide a bag of weed so the cops wouldn’t find it on me. “Look, if you’re uncomfortable,” (and it was obvious from her crossed arms and angry body language that she was), “I can ask someone else.”

“No, I’ll do it,” she snapped, previously friendly expression suddenly replaced by an angry watchfulness.

To this day, I have no idea why my request made her so angry. During the interminable wait in line, she ignored me angrily, only occasionally glancing at me with a distrusting expression. I tried (and failed) to make small talk with her, and I asked her twice more if she wanted to back out of the deal, but each time she snapped that she was comfortable doing it… which she obviously wasn’t.

We made it to the front of the line, she placed her order and I meekly handed over my card to the cashier. The woman spun around angrily and headed to the counter to wait for her drinks. I waited for my receipt, then followed her to the drink counter. She seemed surprised to see me, and gave me a rude look. Her body language all but screamed, “What are YOU still doing here?”

“Uh, I was, ummm…” I paused, nearly drowning in the stiff tension and uncomfortable feel of the situation, “Umm… my money?” I nearly choked on that last part. The woman stared at me, as if I were a distasteful beggar. “The refund? I bought your drinks, and in exchange, you were going to refund…” I stared at her in growing frustration. Seriously, was she going to make me beg? Reaching into her purse, she begrudgingly pulled out the refund, dropping it into my hands from a distance, as if I carried infectious leprosy.

“Thanks,” I snapped, irritated that she made it seem like I was stealing her money. I turned around and headed out of the Starbucks. Eight dollars might not buy me enough gas to get home, but I was willing to chance it rather than spend another minute in that particular Starbucks.

I was right about one thing— eight dollars didn’t buy me much in the way of gas, but I figured if I put the truck in neutral on the downhills, I just might make it home. I crawled up into the front seat, turned it on, maneuvered it onto the highway, and started for home.

I made it to the base of the mountain before the truck overheated.

I’d like to say that I reacted to the overheating in a positive, patient, Christian manner. Let’s just say that I didn’t, that it involved a lot of angry “Oh, COME ON!”s, and quite a bit of tire-kicking. Hey, at least they were big tires. They were able to handle the kicking.

Walking down the highway, I made it to a little rise where I was able to get cell phone reception. I called a few people, left a few messages, and sat down to wait.

It was then that I realized I really had to pee.

I glanced around, but the unfortunate fact was that the particular stretch of highway I was on was fairly open and flat and there were no bushes to squat behind. It was also semi-populated with large, expensive houses, so even if I was willing to pee in the open, I’d probably be peeing on someone’s front lawn. Hiding behind the truck was out of the question, as the ridiculously high lift made it impossible to use as cover. I was too far away from the nearest store to be able to walk, and while I even considered squatting by the side of the road in plain view (who cares if they saw my heiny? Nothing could be more embarrassing than abasing myself in front of that woman in the Starbucks), I figured that with my luck I would probably be seen by a police officer and be arrested as a sexual deviant. I’d probably be classified as a sex offender and have to spend the rest of my life knocking on people’s doors to warn them that I was moving into their neighborhood and to keep their children away from my large, shiny, white heiny lest they be scarred.

Besides, I’d finally gotten through to my friend, Doug (That’s Doug of the miraculous Starbucks card.. Bless you, Doug… Bless you) and he was on his way to give me a ride. How long would it take?

An hour later, I’d moved past the “Wow, I’ve got to pee” stage, well beyond the “bouncing-in-the-seat” stage and into the “crossed-legs- autistic-rocking, the-whole-world-looks-yellow-I’m-gonna-pee-my-pants-right-now” stage. I’d even broken down and walked over to the only house I could see and knocked on their front door, but nobody answered. I’m secretly glad that they didn’t. What would I have said?

“Hi! My name’s Becky! I’m a total stranger, dressed in smelly, stained clothing that’s covered in dried horse crap and I want to invade your home and piss in your toilet! Nice to meet you!”

No, no, it’s probably better that they didn’t answer.

I made my way slowly back to the truck, pausing every couple of steps to cross my legs and hunch forward in an attempt to keep the pee from escaping. I’m sure I looked ridiculous, but it worked.

Standing beside the Ball-Scratching truck, bouncing on my toes and crossing my knees, I realized I was out of time. It was either pee in public or pee in my pants.

With a sense of relief, I unbuttoned my jeans, reached for my zipper….

And it stuck. Seriously. No joking. It started to come down, and then it jammed. Completely, utterly, and permanently jammed (I actually ended up tossing those jeans because of the broken zipper). Dancing in a desperate circle, I tugged at it impotently. “C’mon, c’mon, c’mon, c’mon…. WORK! WORK! NO, nonononono…” I tried to peel my pants down over my hips, but I just wasn’t fast enough.

And that was it. Like a two year old child, I peed my pants.

I stood there in that beautiful, classy, wine-tasting, millionaire countryside and I let loose. For the first few seconds I fought it, but after I realized the damage was done, I decided I might as well enjoy the sensation. It was a cold morning, and I’ll tell you what— that pee warmed me up in no time.

I’m not recommending it as an alternate heat source, but I just thought you might like to know.

I thought you might also be interested in knowing that while peeing yourself as a child is embarrassing, peeing yourself as an adult is more than just humiliating… it’s educational! Did you know that when every time you pee you produce about 24 gallons of liquid? I didn’t get a chance to measure it as I stood there wetting my pants and filling my boots on the side of the road, but I’m pretty sure it was somewhere between 20 and 25 gallons. Whatever the exact amount, it was a LOT. By the time I was done, I had moved past embarrassment and into the realms of being impressed with myself. I really wish there’d been some way of measuring. I think I peed an Olympic World Record amount, if there actually was a Urine-Output summer event. At the very least, I should have received some sort of honorable mention in the Guinness Book of World Records.

Cleaning up was disgusting, so I’ll spare you the details. I lucked out when I found an abandoned old pair of jeans wadded behind the front seat of the car. By the time Doug pulled up in his late 80’s Buick, I was standing by the side of the road in a wrinkly, somewhat moldy pair of jeans, no shoes, and red-faced with frustration. He pulled over to the side of the road, his glance taking in the Ball-Scratching truck, my bare feet, obviously borrowed jeans and my steely expression.

“Merry Christmas?” he said with a smile.

“You have no idea,” I said, as I crawled gratefully into the passenger seat of his car.

Just Another Quiet Morning

The DragonMonkey woke up early yesterday. Of course he did. It was Sunday.

I tried to ignore the hollow THUD-tink-tink-tink of his bottle as he launched it across the room, rebounding it off the door and watching it bounce on the hardwood floors. He’s got a heck of a throwing arm for only 18 months old, but that’s understandable. Ever since he was old enough to cling to the side of his crib, his early morning ritual has consisted of waking up, standing up, and then immediately emptying his crib. It’s always the bottle first, followed by the blankets, and finished by whatever stuffed animal we tossed in his bed the night before. If we haven’t rescued him from his prison by that point, he begins a deep, insistent primal scream. I have no idea what the significance of the crib-emptying procedure might be. All I know is that I won’t be surprised if I walk in there one day and find that he has tied the sheets to the blankie and escaped out the window.

At the sound of the bottle crashing against the door, I glanced over at The Bean. He was snoring lightly. It’s annoying how he can sleep through anything. I considered, for a moment, nudging him and asking him to wake up. Just as quickly I discarded the idea. The DragonMonkey in the morning is a cheerful little thing… a cheerful, NOISY little thing. There’s no way I would be able to sleep through his early morning screeches and noisy play, so I might as well let The Bean slumber.

As usual, the DragonMonkey is all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. I creak open the door to his room and stand in his doorway, exhausted. He stares back at me, bouncing up and down, babbling incessantly. “It’s morning! It’s a new day! Wasn’t the last 12 hours of sleep absolutely fantastic? Don’t you feel refreshed?” he seems to say. I stare at him, bleary-eyed, then pick him up and set him on the changing table. I wince at the sight of his full-to-bursting morning load of poo, then yawn as I mechanically change his diaper. He babbles nonsense at me, simply THRILLED that it’s morning and I am here to interact with him.

I resolve, for the 565th day in a row, that tonight I will allow myself to go to bed at the same time as him tonight.

I know I won’t, but it makes me feel better to pretend.

I toss him a full bottle, which should hold him off for about ten minutes, and then go to pour my morning coffee.

It helps. Slightly.

I refill the cup, then head back to flop down on the sofa. I used to love mornings, but lately they’ve been coming a little too early for my tastes.

I sip my coffee slowly, wearily poking at my sleep-blurred contacts, urging them to behave.

Somewhere close by, one of my neighbors starts mowing their lawn. Really? Mowing the lawn before the sun has cleared the horizon? Technically it’s against city ordinances, but I shrug and decide to let it pass. With a little bit of effort, I can force my brain to ignore the noise, to let it fade away into the ever-present background of light traffic and chattering voices that makes up an Orange County good-morning symphony. It’s not exactly a peaceful sunrise in Montanan wilderness, but it will have to do.

The coffee warms my system, slowly jump-starting my intestines. I set the coffee down, and eyeball the hallway. Maybe I can make it to the bathroom without the DragonMonkey noticing? I slide my bare feet along the hardwood floors, doing my best to avoid the creaky spots, but it’s to no avail. Just as I reach the bathroom, an angry, babbling wail emanates from behind his half-shut door.

With a sigh, I enter his room, grab him, and set him down. He takes off down the hallway in his red footie pajamas, tiny feet pit-pattering loudly. I grimace again. Seriously, does he have hooves or feet? Sometimes I wonder.

I open the bathroom door, and right on cue Fat Cat gallops down the hall on her own set of cat-hooves. Like most cats, she has one purpose in life: To drink out of the bathroom faucet. She comes tearing around the corner as if her tail was on fire, scrabbling for a purchase on the floors like a real-life cartoon. When she’s not close enough to hear the sound of the door opening she can actually be summoned by the sound of me peeing. I don’t understand this fascination she has with the bathroom sink, but whatever. She puts up with the DragonMonkey pulling her fur, so I figure the least I can do is let her drink out of the sink. Besides, my pee summons cats. It’s not the best superpower in the world, but I work with what I’m given.

At the sight of Fat Cat shooting past him at full speed, the DragonMonkey bursts into shrieking laughter and decides to join us.

Suddenly, the bathroom seems very, very crowded.

Fat Cat jumps up on the rim of the toilet to escape the clutching hands of the DragonMonkey… and then inexplicably decides that her safest bet would be to walk in circles on the toilet seat, rather than jumping out of reach onto the bathroom counter… which is the whole reason she’s in the bathroom in the first place.

The animals in my house aren’t exactly known for their dizzying intellect.

The DragonMonkey thinks this is a grand turn of events. Fat Cat? The magic splashing machine? Mommy? ALL IN ONE ROOM? Hallelujah!!! He screams with laughter, and lunges at the toilet.

“NO! NO TOUCH TOILET!” I say, for about the 472nd bazillionth time this month. I swear, one of these days I’m going to set fire to the toilet and save myself this hassle. We can all just poop in the backyard.

The DragonMonkey steps back at my raised tone, lip quivering.

Fat Cat ruins the discipline moment by yowling. “MRWORWW???? MEOW? MRRROWR? IS THE MAGICAL FAUCET POURING ITS DELICIOUS ELIXIR YET???” She dances in a happy circle around the toilet seat as I reach down to grab her and plop her on the sink.

Between my legs, two little grabby hands suddenly dart forward. I abandon Fat Cat and reach down in a highly impressive (to me, anyways) reflex action, imprisoning two little wrists before they can reach the toilet seat. “NO! NO TOUCH TOILET!” The DragonMonkey, startled, yanks hard on his wrists and ends up falling backwards onto his bottom. He pauses, trying to see if this situation is worth crying over. “No,” I tell him sternly. “If you have to think about it, then I am not going to buy your tears.”

From behind me, Fat Cat begins her happy dance again. “MRowWWWR? Mrrroewr? MEOW? Mrrt? MRRRRTTTRRT?????!” The Dragonmonkey perks up. I raise a finger at him sternly, giving him my best “don’t-you-cross-me” face. Turning around I grab Fat Cat, and try to shove her out the door.

She slips back inside before I can fully close it, and immediately leaps up onto the toilet seat, just as I begin to try to sit down. “MRROWOR? Were you going to sit here? MRRRTTT? Where’s the elixir? MROWR? Yaaay! MRORW! Magical dripping elixir water at any second!”

The DragonMonkey bolts forward with a happy shriek, anxious to grab Fat Cat.

I stand back up, holding my baggy sweatpants with one hand, and the back of the DragonMonkey’s pajamas with the other.

The sounds of the melee travel down the hall.

“NO TOUCH TOILET!”

“MMRROOOWRRT? MEEEEOWW?””

“SQUEEEE! EEEEEE! EGOBLART KITTTY! EAAAAAGH! HEEE HEEE HAAAA HAAAA EEEEEEAAAGH!!!”

“MMROOOOEERT? MEOW? MRRRRT?”

“Don’t you dare… GET OUT OF THERE! FAT CAT GET OFF THE TOILET! FAT CAT, MOVE! Dragonmonkey, for the last time, NO TOUCH TOILET! BAD! VERY BAD!”

“EEEEE HAHHAHAHAAAA KITTY! EGOBLAERT EDJUBIT KITTY! EEEEEE!”

“MRRRORT?”

I miss being able to poo in peace.

Riding Horses: Part 1

It was one of those days that everything fell right into place.

I was magic. I was golden. I was a Ray Hunt-Alec-Ramsey-horse-whispering-goddess.

This doesn’t happen very often, but when it does, I ride the glow for days. I know that every time I get the chance to spend time with horses I dream of having one of those Avatar-mind-meld experiences. I will hop on my faithful steed, bareback and brideless, and together we will turn smoothly in a breathlessly perfect rollback and ease off into the sunset in a smooth, collected canter.

It rarely goes like that.

Usually, it starts off with me grabbing the wrong-size halter. By the time I realize it’s too small, I’ve already got the darn thing halfway on the horse.

I now have two equally icky choices.

I can release the horse and trudge back to the trailer in my too-tight boots and 90 degree weather, grab the halter, and trudge back to the pasture. I’ll spend the next ten minutes sweaty and miserable, hunting down a horse that now knows FULL WELL what I am up to and won’t come anywhere near me.

Or I can force the halter to fit, knowing that it’s selfish, lazy, and speaks volumes about my lack of work ethic and follow-through. It also means that I have big chubby thighs, large pores and nobody loves me. At least, that’s what I tell myself in an attempt to inspire myself to return to the trailer.

In case you can’t tell, I usually force the halter on.

The horse and I plod back to the trailer, both annoyed at the too-tight halter.

I struggle to look professional as I plop a 3,000 lb saddle on his back, but the stirrup swings free and socks the gelding in his ribs. He retaliates by smacking me in the face with his tail.

By the time I’ve hauled myself into the saddle (glancing around sheepishly to see if anyone caught me using the saddle horn like a complete greenhorn), the two of us are sweaty, grumpy, and about as far away from communicating as we can possibly get.

The frustration usually gets even worse when I enter the arena. I’d like to say that the problem is the horse’s, but it’s not. The horses I ride up in Bakersfield are all extremely well trained, and under a better rider’s hands, they glide from rollbacks to flying lead changes, head lowered and collected like the horse in my dream.

Under my unschooled hands we can do the same things, but it’s awkward and rocky.

“jehdfkn?” I ask with my legs.

“Huh?” says Whiskey, the good-natured 8 year old grey gelding I’m riding.

“JEHDKlower your HJKFD?” I ask again, my commands muddied to the point where I am not even sure I know what I am asking.

Whiskey tenses slightly, leaning a little heavier on the bit. “What in the world are you asking?” he seems to say.

“JEHDKJFD LOWER-YOUR-HEAD FJDKL:DFIENDK!DJ!” I ask loudly this time, this time relying on the legs, reins, seat, and an overly-dramatic pull on his bit.

Whiskey sighs, swishes his tail irritably, and flexes at the poll. Geez, woman. Quit screaming and just ask clearly!

I decide to try to bring him down to a mincing pleasure horse jog. I think slowly about what I’m about to ask him, then move forward. I lift my hands, steadying him with the bit. I touch him with my calves. I shift in my seat, and my inexperienced hands inadvertently throw in a couple of other cues, garbling the message again.

“Lift lower fast-slower your head legs please?” I ask.

Whiskey braces for a second, then speeds up. “Faster?”

“NOOOOO!!!!! NOOOT FAAASTER!!!” I go overboard with my response, and Whiskey stops suddenly and heavily on his front end. I’m thrown forward slightly.

I peek around, but everyone else is busy and doesn’t seem to notice my complete inability to speak horsese today. Where’s the Rosetta Stone when you need it?

I settle in my seat, touch the reins lightly, and roll my calves again.

Whiskey stands there, stubborn and grumpy. No. Not moving. You’re an idiot, and I’m not moving.

I touch the reins lightly, and roll my calves a little harder.

Whiskey peeks back at me beneath his white lashes, laughing. It’s obvious you’re a moron. Make me.

Obediently, I pop him with my heels, and he lunges forward into a fast, bone-jarring trot.

And so on, and so on. It takes a good 20 minutes before Whiskey finally figures out that “Jduidjk LWR ur HD jkldfsi!” Means “Collect, slow down, and round up nicely.” I don’t blame him at all. It’d probably take me 40 minutes to figure it out if the situations were reversed.

By the time we figure out how to communicate at a trot, we move onto loping, and we start all over with the failure to communicate.

By the time we finish the ride, I’ve remembered the basics of horsese, and Whiskey has learned that humans are morons.

It frustrates me that I’m not better at communicating than I am. I know I’m a bit hard on myself, but if there’s one thing I’d like to be gifted at, communicating with horses would be it. I’m stuck in that awkward in between phase between being a complete newbie and being a good rider. I know I could push past this, but I’m at a disturbingly horseless point in my life, and once a month just isn’t enough. I know enough to understand how bad I am, and it’s frustrating to no end. I hate getting up on well-trained horses and feeling their response times slow down, their mouths go sleepy and their sides deaden up. I hate knowing that I have a horse who is trained well-enough to be able to do everything I want and not having the knowledge to bring it out. I’d like to hop on a horse and leave it better for having ridden it. At the moment, the best I can do on a good day is leave it in the same condition I found it.

Not last Sunday, though.

Last weekend I went up to Bakersfield for my monthly return-to-sanity-by-horseback-expedition. If I am going to remain sane here in Orange County, this monthly trip is a necessity.

I arrived at Bunnygal’s house with my sister on Friday night, and bright and early on Saturday morning we all headed down to the river where she keeps her horses. Don’t be fooled by the nickname I’ve given her— Bunnygal is one of those women you can see in a grocery store in a pair of shorts and flip-flops and STILL know that she’s good with horses. She’s not very tall, but she seems a whole lot taller, especially when she’s on the back of a horse and reminding it how to be a good citizen. She sun-weathered, fit, and has zero patience for foolishness. She has a tendency to help me push the limits of my riding, which is a good thing because I have a tendency to not push hard enough. She does it in a no-nonsense, get-things-done kind of a way, probably because that’s exactly what she’s doing— getting things done.

“Go saddle up Whiskey. I’m going to ride Rocky,” Bunnygal says, speaking around the cigarette that dangles helplessly from her lips.

I nod obediently, glancing over my shoulder at the squealing, bugling, muscular stud that’s crashing into the fence as I walk by. It’s not Rocky’s fault. Normally he’s placid and good-natured, but all the girls on the ranch are in season. They’re almost painful to watch, tails cock-eyed and squirting, pushing and rubbing against the pipe panels as if they can break their way through to the bay roan stud that’s calling from a couple hundred feet away. Gelding though he is, Whiskey has picked up on the excitement and he prances on the way back to the trailer, barely contained by the too-small halter I’ve wedged on his face.

I saddle up in record time so I can watch Bunnygal handle Rocky. It seems like a miracle that she’s willing to enter his stall at all, much less bully him into sheathing his equipment and standing still for his saddling. There’s a bit of a ruckus when he slips out of his bridle, hollering and rearing as the breeze carries a fresh dollop of scent from the mares. I drop all pretense and gawk. Bunnygal bellows out a command for me to get on my horse, slips the bridle on, and hops on Rocky’s back. It’s amazing me to how quickly she springs up, especially since me and my bad knees are hobbling over to the plastic, embarrassing blue Stand of Shame (otherwise known as the mounting block). It’s even more amazing to me how quickly she regains control of Rocky once she’s on his back. The fire in his eyes is replaced by a steady work ethic, and by the second turn around the arena they are a fluid pair.

Meanwhile, Whiskey and I are busily annoying each other in our corner of the arena.

Bunnygal and I work our horses down (or rather, she trains Rocky and I undo all her training on Whiskey). We pause a moment beneath the shade of a tree, and she looks over at me. “Wanna ride Rocky?”

I pause for a moment, then follow her lead to push my comfort zone. “Sure!” I say brightly, ignoring the feeling of I’m-over-my-head- dread that curdles in my stomach.

We switch horses, and I scramble up into the saddle in a way that was never intended. It’s mostly arms, body weight, and momentum, and it’s a good thing that Rocky’s not tall, because I never would have made it. My knees ache slightly, but I’m on board.

“Go light with him,” Tammy warns. I sit quietly in my saddle for a moment, then lean my hips forward an infinitesimal amount. Rocky starts out obediently, each movement smooth, sleek. Powerful. It’s like riding a large cat. I can barely feel his footfalls. After the goofy movements of the gelding, Rocky feels like he’s not even the same species. I turn around with a surprised grin at Bunnygal, and she smiles back.

“Reach forward with your outside leg, slide the reins up his neck, and lay them against his neck. The farther forward you slide them, the quicker the turn. Make sure you’re ready.” Most of Bunnygal’s most helpful advice are short, understated sentences that experience has taught me to really, really, really believe. I settle myself in my seat, and ask Rocky to turn around.

There’s a sudden surge of power beneath me. Rocky dumps all his weight on his back end and gracefully pivots in place to face the other direction. It was so smooth I didn’t even have time to think about it. One second I was asking, the next second I was facing the other direction. Rocky stalks lightly in the other direction, and beneath his soft breathing I can feel soft, deep sounds rolling around his chest. Stallion sounds. I’ve never ridden a stallion that didn’t grumble deep within his chest, and Rocky was no exception.

Steadying my seat, I follow the guidelines Bunnygal set out for me, and ask Rocky to turn around. He does it again, this time spinning so quickly in place that there’s an actual divot in the earth where his hind feet planted. I look back at Bunnygal, my grin even wider. There’s something to be said about riding a cutter.

“Wait till you try Cotton,” she said with a sly grin.

Where I am Now: Two Years Ago

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

“For the last time, I’m not wearing white.” I crossed my arms sullenly, and could actually feel my chin starting to jut out with anger. “I’m four months pregnant and getting married in a courthouse. I don’t think we’re fooling anyone.”

My mother lowered the white linen dress, returning my stubborn look with one of her own. “It’s your wedding, Becky. What do you want to wear, then? A pair of Levis and a tank top?”

I actually had to bite my tongue to keep from responding honestly. Well, actually, yes.

“I just… I don’t know. I don’t want to wear all white. It’s important to me. ” I pulled my baggy shirt tight against my swollen stomach, making it appear absurdly large for my barely 4 month pregnancy . “I think we’ve missed the boat on white.”

My mom slowly returned the dress to the hanger, then brightened immediately. “Cream? What about cream?”

*****

We’d broken the news to my parents on Easter Sunday. After all, who can get upset on Easter, after a beautiful church service, right? My parents had invited The Bean and I on an afternoon cruise around the San Pedro harbor, and we figured the timing would be about right. The Bean was a nervous wreck; even more so than I was. Crouching at the top of the boat, he hid behind the mast and sucked down forbidden cigarettes one after another like they were the oxygen he needed to survive. He smiled guiltily at me when I caught him for the second time. “I’m quitting, I’m quitting. I just need to settle my nerves. This is the last one.” Extending my hand, I dragged him down behind me to the cockpit to face my parents. I cleared my throat nervously.

“Um, so… you guys got any plans for Friday the 11th? About 3 weeks from now?”

My mom’s eyes narrowed, picking up on my nervousness immediately. “Why?”

I glanced over at the Bean, who was doing an impressive impersonation of a mute.

“Well, uh, we were wondering if you guys might want to come to the wedding.” I glanced at the Bean again, hoping he would chime in. He gave me a quick hand squeeze and a tight smile, so I figured it was up to me to forge on.. “You know. Uh, our wedding.”

My parents froze, glancing at us, our tightly gripped hands, our obvious nervousness. They waited half a beat for us to finish with the punchline, not understanding that we’d just delivered it.

“Wait. What? Are you serious?” My stepdad looked confused; my mother looked aggressively curious.

“Uh, yeah. Actually. We’re serious. We’re getting married on the 11th at the courthouse. We, uh, wanted to know if you wanted to come.”

My parents stared at us in disbelief, silently, still waiting for the punchline.

I took another deep breath, and figured I might as well give it to them.

“Oh. And, uh, we’re also pregnant.”

I watched the understanding dawn on in their faces, as if I had been speaking in a foreign language and had finally brought out a translator. “Baby? A baby?” My mom’s face lit up like a light bulb as she leaped over to hug me and my stepdad gave a short bark of a laugh. As far as reactions went, it couldn’t have gone any better.

How did the reaction go with my potential new-inlaws? I have no idea. After the way The Bean chickened out in assisting with my parents, I dumped the responsibility of informing his parents squarely on his lap.

Besides, I felt like I had already survived more than enough embarrassment/awkwardness where they were concerned.

Oh, what’s that?

You think YOU have embarrassing meet-the-parents stories?

No.

No you don’t.

You can NOT top my story.

I double-dog dare you to come up with something that can surpass the awkward feeling felt by all as we:

A: Sat in the living room
B: Avoiding each other’s eyes
C: While trying to make banal nice-to-meet-you conversation
D: In desperately loud voices
E: In an attempt to cover up the extremely loud, rhythmic squeaking of the sweet little next-door lesbian couple who decided to (of course) that very moment (naturally) have some REALLY LOUD, athletic, strangely long-lasting sex.

I’m waiting… Anyone? Anyone?

Does anyone out there have a meet-the-parents story that’s worse than that?

Is that a hand I see in the back of the room? No? You were just scratching your nose? Oh, sorry.

Anyone?

Wow, that’s a surprise. Nobody raised their hands. What a shocker.

Yeah, so the next time you think you’ve been in an awkward situation, I want you to think of me. Remember me huddled awkwardly on my slightly stained sofa, pulling my long sleeves over the Sea Bands that were helping to hide my pregnancy-induced nausea, answering questions about my job and my schooling in a desperate near-shout, and doing my best not to tap my foot along with that old-fashioned Murphy Bed rhythm.

I can’t remember who it was that suggested we head out to dinner, but you should have seen us all leap to our feet in unanimous agreement. You would have thought we’d all been goosed. I’m pretty sure none of us was actually hungry, but we almost had a traffic jam as we fled down the apartment stairs, bumping shoulders as we spilled through the narrow doorway into the thankfully-silent courtyard.

We made it to the restaurant in record time, and just about the time my nerves were starting to settle, I moved my hands wrong and my about-to-be-Father-in-Law (not that he knew that) saw the Sea Bands.

“What’s on your wrist?”

I froze. It took everything I had not to pull my sleeves down in an obviously guilty gesture. “What these? These are Sea Bands.” In an attempt to seem nonchalant, I pulled my sleeve up, flashing them at him before quickly rolling the sleeves down. My almost-father-in-law looked at me, his husky-blue eyes intent.

Aren’t those for nausea? Aren’t they the things you wear while on a boat?”

I gave him a watery, wavery smile. “Uh, yeah. Yeah they are.” My brain raced for an explanation. Maybe he’d just ignore my vague answers?

Ha. Ha ha ha. I crack myself up sometimes.

“Why are you wearing them? Are you sick?” He stared at me, eyes studying my expression. I felt like I was being interrogated by the CIA.

“Well, uh, I do have problems with nausea from time to time.” Actually, it’s all the time. “It’s just a side effect.” Of being pregnant with your grandson. Surprise! “It’s not that bad, though. Just a little side effect…” I trailed off, hoping he would get the hint.

“Side effect of what?”

“Of, uh, a condition.”

“A condition? Like, a sickness?”

I could feel myself starting to sweat a little. In desperation, I ventured off the path of half-truths and into the scary territory of outright lies.

“A side effect of some medication.” I fixed my eyes on him, hoping he’d get the hint.

“Medication? What kind of medication?”

Obviously, this man did not take hints well. And with that we began a verbal dance.

“It’s just some new stuff that the doctor put me on.”

“What’s the name?

“I can’t really remember… it’s some new stuff.”

“Do you remember the classification?”

“I’m not even sure it’s going to work out for me. I don’t’ really like the nausea side effect, so I am probably going to ask him to find something else.”

“ What does it treat?”

Just as I was frantically searching my mental database for another vague non-answer, my dear, sweet, heroic potential mother-in-law happened to glance over. She took in my wide eyes, and the intent, bulldog expression of her husband, and she pounced. “DAVID! Leave her alone. What are you asking her? Nevermind. Leave her alone.” She gave me a small smile. “Just ignore him. He always asks too many questions. Was he interfering? Sorry, it’s none of his business.”

I gave her a shaky smile. “Oh, it didn’t bother me. No worries. Do you want some bread? Do you like living in Arizona?” And with that, we were back on neutral territory.

Can you blame me for having The Bean take point on breaking the news to his parents? He says it went smoothly, and since I don’t really want to know if it didn’t, I left well enough alone.

Besides, I was in the process of dealing with my family, where we currently experiencing a complete and utter breakdown in communication.

Here is what both the Bean and I distinctly remember saying that Easter Sunday: “We love each other. We’re getting married. Would you like to come? Oh, and on a completely separate note, we are pregnant.”

Unfortunately, what my side of the family heard was: “I’m pregnant. I’m frightened, and I have no idea what I should do! Please give me advice! Otherwise, I guess my only recourse is to marry this complete stranger…. Gee, I hope this isn’t a bad decision. Oh, well! Here I go!”

It took forever to calm that furor down, and by the time I had finished solving that issue, we had another problem to face:

Unfortunately, no matter how much she protested that she loved the idea of a courthouse ceremony, my Mexican mother wanted a wedding. Somewhere along the way our simple civil service with two witnesses had morphed into 20 friends and family, some who were traveling down the night before, and all who would require feeding and some sort of entertainment afterward. I didn’t really feel like planning a party, but even I had to agree that I was under some obligation to feed them.

So I threw the only kind of party I know how to throw: I went to Costco and loaded up on Hebrew National All-Beef hotdogs, Kirkland brand generic cola and purple/orange soda, hot dog buns and a couple of bags of chips. I stopped by the store and picked up a couple of stacks of firewood. Voila. Party planning complete. It may not have won any classiness awards, but I knew that people wouldn’t leave hungry.

That left us with: The Dress.

******

My mom slowly returned the dress to the hanger, then brightened immediately. “Cream? What about cream?”

I lowered my eyebrows, feeling my face return to the sullen lines of my high school years. “No cream or white unless it’s got some other colors on it,” I snapped. “I just want… A dress. Not a wedding dress, but just a dress. It’s a civil service, and we’re roasting Costco hot dogs at the beach afterwards. I’m not even buying name brand soda. We’re looking for a regular dress. You know. Something to feel pretty in. Something I’ll wear again. Something that’s not going to make me look like a stuffed sausage in 60 yards of lace and sequins in a color that makes no sense.”

In a tacit agreement to keep from wringing each other’s necks, my mother and I decided to look on opposite ends of the store.

Reasons Why I Hate Living In Orange County

For the record, I fully expect this list/series to have many, many entries:

The Spoiled Kids

aka: The Prostitots

The Bean and I celebrated our 2 year anniversary recently. Part of his gift to me was watching an angry, teething DragonMonkey while I went out to have a pedicure. It’s been almost a year since I had a pedicure. While I still enjoyed the pampering and the end result of my silky smooth feeties and my sexy, red, flower-painted toes, the experience was ruined slightly by the kindergartener wriggling in the giant spa-chair beside me.

“Mommy, I want Blue, not Pink.” She squirmed at the edge of the ridiculously oversized chair, feet dangling in the water, hands picking at the buttons on the remote. The back of the spa chair buckled, groaned, and writhed impotently, all of the massage functions set to the highest settings.

“But Sapphire, blue won’t look good with your dress, sweetie. You need pink.” Mommy-Dearest dropped the trashy magazine slightly, peering at her daughter over the top. “You need your nails and toes to match your dress. That’s why we’re here.”

I buried my face deeper in a trashy magazine of my own, trying not to gape. REALLY?

Sapphire stuck out her lip in a spoiled pout, but subsided into an uneasy agreement. She kicked at the water slightly, accidentally splashing the manicurist who squatted beside her. Mommy Dearest said nothing, probably because she saw nothing. She flipped the pages in the magazine slowly, engrossed.

Ignoring the splashing water to the best of her abilities, the nail lady did her best to distract the petulant child. “The pink will look very pretty!”

Sapphire pursed her lip, and heaved a long-suffering sigh. She wanted blue, and now she was being forced to wear pink. Life was SO unfair.

“It will look so pretty on your hands and toes! Do you want me to draw a flower for you?”

Sapphire sniffed, nodded slightly, but still refused to answer. I peered in horror from around my magazine at the sight of a fifty year old woman crouching subserviently at the feet of the demanding five-year old child, rubbing scented lotion on stick-thin legs. “Your hair looks so pretty! It’s so sparkly!” Sapphire’s fingers reached up to touch her intricately braided hairdo, each individual braid covered in a glittery sparkle that looked like it was desperately trying to rub itself off any every nearby object. “It’s your birthday, right? Are we painting your nails to match your birthday dress?”

“No,” sneered Sapphire in a remarkable impersonation of a seventeen year old, completely at odds with her dimpled child’s hands and baby soft face. “I’m going to a concert tonight, and my nails need to be pretty too.”

EVIL POOP

A couple of weeks ago the Bean and I were enjoying a rare moment of rest. We’d put the DragonMonkey down for a nap with with a nice, delicious bottle of warm soymilk (GAG) and had retired to our bedroom to make sweet, passionate, energetic love.

Ha. Ha, ha, ha. Yeah, right.

We were both lying flat on our backs, absolutely still, terrified that any sound or movement we might make would cause the DragonMonkey to rise from his crib and continue his angry, screaming reign over the household. We glanced at each other every few moments, with shy, hopeful smiles. Could this be it? Were we really about to get a chance to lay down on a Saturday afternoon like those relaxed, happy, “normal” married couples you always see on tv?

The sleepy stillness was shattered by a horrified scream from the DragonMonkey’s room. I didn’t even have a chance to think how to react. Before I’d even realized it was the DragonMonkey making that sound, my body was already lunging off the bed, responding to deep primitive call of my ancestors that lingered in my bones. Save the baby. It was one of those sounds that pierces straight through to your heart, stripping away any superficial veneer of civility, turning you into a rushing mass of angry she bear, a charging cow, a get-your-hands-off-my-child-or-I’ll-rip-the-skin-of-your-face-off-with-my-teeth kind of a mother. There’s a difference between the whine of a sleepy child and a scream of terror, and the DragonMonkey was definitely screaming.

Save the baby. Every second counts in an emergency, and your ancestors are the ones that responded fast enough to save the baby from the jaguar, or the hyena, or the flood. Those that failed never got a chance to passon their genes. Like the evolutionary winners that we are, the Bean and I both bolted upright, shoving past each other through the doorway in an effort to save our son. I’ve never heard a sound like this out of my son in all the time I’ve known him. It was one long, continued wail of terror. Obviously, he was on fire. I mean, what else could make him scream like that?

What else, indeed. The Bean and I opened the door to the bedroom, staring at the carnage, and then back at each other.

The DragonMonkey stood quivering, desperately pressing himself against the far wall of his crib. His back flush against the crib, palms flattened and fingers splayed against the wood, he leaned back in terror. His free hand pointed in horror, index finger trembling as he directed our attention to…

The pile of sh** that lay on the opposite end of his crib.

Hey guys, I’m sorry about the cussing, but that’s what it was. I’m just following the etymological rules.

When you go to the bathroom and flush it down the toilet, it’s Number Two.

When you’re changing a diaper, it’s Stinkies or Poopy (Do you have a poopy diaper? Go show Daddy! Daddy wants to play with you!)

When it gets all over the place during a diaper changing, it turns into Crap. (BEAN! Get over here and help me! The DragonMonkey’s hands are in the way…now he’s smearing CRAP everywhere! It’s all over the place! I’m covered in CRAP! Hurry up! HE’S REACHING FOR HIS HAIR!)

When you are torn from a lazy, warm, Saturday afternoon nap (Oh, ode to the gentle breeze! Ode to the lazy, drifting, golden dust motes!) to race into your son’s room, only to find out that instead of napping he has pulled off his diaper, squatted in the corner of his crib to squirt excrement everywhere, slipped and fallen in it and THEN decided to be terrified of it— Well, that’s when it morphs into sh**.

What else could we do? We stood in the doorway and laughed.

The DragonMonkey was less than amused at our reaction. He lifted his leg accusingly, waving it at us as his screams slowly faded into a normal sobbing. Didn’t we see? Couldn’t we see what was smeared all over his leg? He pointed at the pile of sh**, and then back to the smears on his leg, as if explaining it to an exceptionally dense person. There was EVIL POOP on his leg. And EVIL POOP in a threateningly little pile in his crib. Get him OUT OF THERE, before the pile came to life and lunged at him! This was no time to laugh!

Like the sweetly maternal person that I am, I was all for leaving him in his crib to go grab the video camera (if he’s going to pull stunts like this, I thoroughly plan on accumulating the evidence and showing it off at his future wedding). The Bean looked at me in mild disgust, and pointed out that our son was completely covered in excrement, and didn’t I think it might make sense to wash him instead of trying to capture the memory?

Sometimes, I feel sorry for the DM, having me as a mother.

At any rate, we managed to clean up the mess, although any chance we might have had at a nap was destroyed beyond repair. I suppose it could have been worse. The DragonMonkey could have been enthralled with his own crap, instead of terrified, and chosen to FINGERPAINT THE WALLS like one of my friend’s son keeps doing.