Category Archives: Family

Fear And Loathing In Fatherhood

Fear And Loathing In Fatherhood

Fatherhood.

I know less about fatherhood than I know about….well….motherhood. And I know next to nothing about motherhood.

Don’t tell my kids.

But, it’s Father’s Day so it seems that something needs to be said about those stalwart men out there.  These co-creators of our offspring who, despite conflicting DNA urges to run screaming from the village encampment, are now expected to bond, relate, nurture and practically breast feed the little darlings.

So here’s to the dudes out there who are trying really hard to pony up in this brave new world of fatherhood.

I’ve actually pondered (because that’s what I do…ponder) how much the role of father has changed and how quickly.

Now, I’m no spring chicken (and I’ve never understood what that meant anyway) but it seems to me there has been a pretty drastic change in the expectations put on dads since I was, well, a spring chicken.

Why, back in my day, fathers were rarely seen and often heard. And if you heard one, you ran away and hid because you were in a world of trouble.

Dads were put on earth to teach you things.

See, son, this is the peritoneum….

See, son, this is the peritoneum….

Important things, like:

  • The difference between a flat-head and Phillips screw driver
  • How to tie a solid knot
  • The correct way to gut a fish
  • The exceptionally high cost of water because Jesus Christ how long can it take to wash your privates and get the hell out???
  • If you’re a boy, having the MOST UNCOMFORTABLE AND POTENTIALLY LIFE-ALTERING discussion about sex in the history of discussions about sex or anything else for that matter
  • If you’re a girl, absolutely no discussion about anything. Ever. EVER. ASK YOUR MOTHER
  • The exceptionally high cost of electricity because what the hell are you doing that requires so much God damned light? Reading? Light a candle!
  • The fact that the odometer in a car does not change if the wheels don’t turn. A rather painful lesson when you’ve gone on a joy ride when your folks were in Florida on vacation and you did NOT know they wrote down the mileage and you said you just started it so it wouldn’t get too cold and you thought that was good for cars and no I didn’t actually drive away in it and, wait, what was the question?
  • How to eat a meal without letting your teeth hit the fork because that drives them insane….as a people
  • How to bait a hook without puking

And, they gave these straight-forward life lessons as impatiently and with a level of irritation normally reserved for much more heinous violations. Like terrorist attacks.

The biggest gift here though is bestowing upon us the opportunity to recount these lessons while impersonating them at every Christmas gathering for the rest of our lives.

Modern fathers still need to do all of the above. After all, I still know how to gut a fish, even if I don’t do it all that often.

(Though I have been sorely tempted on more than one occasion to reenact the fish gutting scene from Office Space. If I ever do, I will have my father to thank for the precise way in which I gut aforementioned fish.)

He’s actually not doing it right….

He’s actually not doing it right….

But, in addition to these lessons, they are now expected to look their kids in the eye in order to give them their full attention. They are expected to listen to their weird little stories that really don’t end up with a point. They have to at least pretend to laugh at their jokes that make absolutely no sense, have no comedic timing and an utter lack of irony.

So, hat’s off to you, modern day Dads.

Champions of childhood.

Protector of our prodigy.

Subjugator of our spawn.

We lift our collective glasses of chilled Chardonnay to you. Please keep teaching them weird stuff that would never even occur to a Mom (myself included).

And continue to bestow upon many generations the gift of mocking you at family functions. That gift alone is priceless.

Letter To My Pre-kid Self

Letter To My Pre-kid Self

Dear Pre-kid Irene,

Hello sweetie! How are you doing? Right about now you’ve just gotten back from a month travelling around Thailand. And it was an awesome trip, right? But, for some reason, with all the travel you’ve gotten to do, this time you came home feeling a little less fulfilled than you usually do.

Now, I’m not going to tell you exactly what happens next because that would just be shitty. It would be like telling you the end of a movie, reading the last page of a book or letting you know that, as awesome as it looks in the trailer, the 2014 version of Godzilla is actually a little disappointing.

What I will tell you, is that you will be a mother one day. And, believe me on this, you are not in the least bit prepared. But, have faith, because no one is so at least you are not in the remedial class alone.

So, my independent girl who is swathed in a light of freedom that you are not taking nearly enough advantage of, let me tell you just a couple of things.

  1. Being pregnant is the scariest thing on the planet. It’s also pretty cool. But mostly it’s just scary because the bigger you get the more impossible it seems to get that thing out of you without dying.
  2. Don’t listen to your husband when he tells you shit about delivery he has absolutely no clue about. “Oh, the human body shuts all other functions down when it gives birth.” Really Mr. Science? Needless to say that is utter crap and you need to know that terrible stuff will happen in front of complete strangers. You do not have to apologize as much as you do when that time comes
  3. When you do have to get the giant bulge out, you do not actually die. There are moments when you wish you could, but you don’t.
  4. You will hallucinate due to lack of sleep. Just enjoy the ride and pretend you just took mushrooms like that time when you were camping and you saw Nixon’s face in that leaf. Don’t question, just go with it.
  5. Parenting is like getting a bikini wax. It’s excruciating when it happens, sending you into a sweaty fight or flight reaction that can, in some instances, result in the punching of a Russian esthetician (sorry Svetlana). But, after it’s over and all the irritation subsides, it’s pretty awesome.
  6. You will feel like a giant fish-out-of-water when you are around other parents and be under the mistaken impression that everyone has this parenting thing down except for you. Listen to this absolute truth: 99% of the other mothers are either on Prozac, drunk, or looking to get their hands on any mood-altering substance to survive this. The 1% who make the rest of us feel like shit are all assholes and you don’t want to party with them. You will be buying drugs from their kids one day.
  7. Speaking of partying….all that blow you did in the 80’s will actually serve you well once they hit puberty. I suspect our sense of smell is not as keen as it was before those years in San Francisco and that will literally save your life as it should dull the assault on that sense.
  8. Everything will go excruciatingly slow and way too fast at the same time. It must be some weird parental worm hole or a tear in the space/time continuum because it makes no sense, I know. But you’ll feel like you are swimming in Jello during the tougher times and then the nuggets of amazing times will fly by in a blur. I have no idea how to fix this. Just thought I’d let you know.
  9. Believe it or not, you actually end up not sucking as a mom. And, not sucking is pretty high praise when dealing with such an impossible task so take the not sucking and wear it like a badge of honor.
  10. Don’t let your responsibilities define you. You are more than your kids. You are more than your aging parents. You are more than your financial limitations. Do not lose yourself in the often overwhelming weight of what you are on the hook for. If you ignore all of the above, please remember this.

And with that, I send you on your merry, innocent way.

Oh, one last thing. A little later in the year, on September 11th, some terrible things are going to happen. The world survives and so do you.

Much love,

Irene the Elder

Don’t Overthink, Just Say It – #7 In The Achieving Emotional Grace Series

Don’t Overthink, Just Say It – #7 In The Achieving Emotional Grace Series

 

“Too often, the opportunity knocks, but by the time you push back the chain,
push back the bolt, unhook the two locks and shut off the burglar alarm, it’s too late.”

~Rita Coolidge

 

 

Today I’m going to tell a story to illustrate a concept that is very simple but remarkably difficult for many of us to act on. It’s not a particularly funny story, I will warn you. But, it’s a story that I think of so often that it is clearly one I should share.

The first house my husband and I bought was in West Seattle. The house itself was a 1920’s Tudor with a cracked foundation and smelly basement that would have been perfect as a serial killer’s lair. We both worked at home as consultants at the time and the floors sloped so much that if I pushed away from my desk I’d roll to the other side of the room.

But, we loved that house. And, we loved the neighborhood even more. We could walk to dinner or the funky old theater for a movie. We could hear the fog horns of the ferry boats at night. We had a spectacular view of the Olympics if we got on our roof. But, the very best part was our neighbors.

On one side of us lived an older gentleman who lived alone. He had a pool in his backyard (a rarity in the rainy NW) that was never used and fairly green. On the rare occasion that we saw him, he seemed gruff and annoyed. But, we decided to have him over for dinner one night to be neighborly and found that he was a nice, quirky gentleman who simply had lost his wife several years earlier and didn’t quite know what to do with himself. He was sort of our little version of Boo Radley.

Then, behind us, sharing an alley, was Ginny and George, the sweetest elderly couple you could ever meet. Ginny sported the tightest perm I think allowable by OSHA standards and would call me several mornings a week to arrange an “alley date”.

“Irene, honey,” she would whisper, “Meet me by the trash bins in the alley in 5 minutes.”

“OK, got it….who is this?”

“Oh, Irene. You are a hoot!” She would cackle.

When we finally met up at the agreed upon drop point, she’d regale me with gossip of the other neighbors, update me on her grandkids and alert me to the fact that her husband, George, would be getting his prostate exam later that day.

Our neighbors on the other side of us was a lovely young family – Patrick, Catherine, Declan, Meagan and a cat named Finnbar who terrorized our dog.

Catherine, the mother to Declan and Meagan, was a very sweet, smart and beautiful woman who had been battling colon cancer for quite some time. When we first moved into our house and got to know them, Catherine was in remission and was very healthy. We had numerous BBQs, put up a new fence together and lent each other tools and flour. All that neighborly stuff.

A year or so after we moved in, we seemed to see less and less of Catherine. We didn’t seem to see her husband Patrick as much either and the sound of kids playing in the back yard had diminished as well.

Patrick came to our door one afternoon to let us know that Catherine’s cancer had returned and, this time, it was not a good prognosis. They had tried another round of chemo that had been brutal and had decided enough was enough.

I started to see Catherine sitting on their front stoop in the sun, looking weak and thin but smiling and very happy. I would sit with her sometimes and visit. We both loved reading and I would bring her whatever book I had finished and liked.

We never really talked about her illness. We didn’t avoid it, it just never came up. Only every day topics. Nice and normal.

Soon Catherine no longer showed up on her front stoop. I went over to see her a couple of times, bringing the latest book, but she was bed ridden and in a sharp decline so I would leave it with her mother, who had come to help out.

Then one day Catherine showed up again on the stoop. This time she was in a wheelchair. She was extremely thin and pale, but she was still smiling. She waved me over and I sat with her for a moment.

“Thank you for the books. I wish you had come up to talk with me.”

“You weren’t feeling well and your Mother said it was best to let you sleep.”

She laughed. “Jesus, the last thing I want to do right now is sleep!”

“Well, next time I will force my way in then!”

“Please do!!!”

About then Patrick and the kids came home so I went on my way and let them have their time.

A couple of days later Patrick came to our door to let us know that Catherine had passed away. She was only 35 years old and left a husband, two small children, a cat named Finnbar and a neighbor who would never forget how lovely and kind she was.

I was so concerned about saying the wrong thing or insinuating myself into a terrible time for that family, that I never told her how much I liked her and how sad I was that we would not be able to become closer friends. Because I knew, if circumstances were different, we would have become very good friends.

But, we forget that we don’t have all the time in the world. And sometimes, those opportunities are gone before you even realize they are there.

I wanted her to know that, even though I only knew her for a short time, she made a very big impact on me. And, in the end, isn’t that what we all want? To have made a difference to someone.

Catherine did leave me something: the regret I’ve always felt at holding back what I should have said has ensured I never made that mistake again.

And that has been a tremendous gift.

“One doesn’t recognize the really important moments
in one’s life until it’s too late.”

~Agatha Christie

I Was Plucked By The Original Jersey Girl

I Was Plucked By The Original Jersey Girl

So, with all the woes of the world, let me tell you the issue I am most outraged by and feel there needs more public awareness around.

My eyebrows.

I realize this may seem like a small issue to many of you but we all need a cause and mine is that weird strip of hair over each eye that most of us have.

I have a hate/hate relationship with my eyebrows. I wish it were the style to just shave them off – I’d be first in line for that fashion trend. I know that it would be like not having a belly button though.  We’d all look like something out of Alien Autopsy.

See, even Anne Hathaway looks creepy as hell.

I started out with nice big bushy Gorbachev eyebrows that met enticingly in the middle of my forehead.  Regrettably, this was before the whole bushy Brooke Shields look was totally awesome so I felt like a caveman amongst a sea of thin browed goddesses.

My 6th grade school picture.

As it happened, one summer my mom’s older sister came out to Oregon to visit from New Jersey. Let me just give you a little snapshot of Aunt Del.

Her real name was Ismania De La Parra. Really. But, justifiably hating her name, she went by Del.

She was about 4’10 with breasts that probably measured about the same. And she was what the word flashy was invented for.

Aunt Del had unnaturally pitch black hair with two streaks of gray shooting out of her temples. And, she played it up by having a ultra teased bouffant style that added at least a foot to her 4’10” frame.

She wore entirely too much makeup, tight clothes and high heels. She had a terrible temper, swore like a sailor and did it all with the purest Jersey accent you have ever heard.

I believe she was the Chilean predecessor to Snooki’s guidette.

My father barely tolerated her, my mom sighed and rolled her eyes a lot (which she did a lot just in general), but to me she was an exotic flower that made my heart beat fast.

One weekend while she was visiting we went camping. And, because I used to get car sick on these trips, my parents gave me some motion sickness drug that would knock me out for most of the weekend and wear off just in time to clean the fish they caught while I was comatose.

I still don’t think I ever had motion sickness. I believe this was their version of pharmaceutical babysitting and forced servitude.

At any rate, we piled into the station wagon with Aunt Del’s steamer trunks and headed to the hills. I promptly fell into my usual stupor.

Next thing I really remember was climbing out of a fuzzy drug-induced sleep on a cot in our tent and seeing Aunt Del stooped over her make-up mirror putting on fake eyelashes.

She looked over at me, shook her head and said “We have got to do something about those eyebrows, honey.”

I was still very groggy and confused as she started to go through her tackle box and finally found her tools of choice – a small scissor and a huge tweezer.

She pinned me down and went to work. It was an excrutiating experience that felt like it took hours. There was a lot of brow geography to cover. I sneezed a lot, yelled, squealed and teared up. She was relentless.

When she was done I felt like someone had taken a lawnmower to my forehead. She threw a mirror in front of me and I gasped. I had two barely visible lines over each eye. This was not a subtle change.

This “after” picture also perfectly captures my sense of confusion and dread.

When my parents got back to the campground after fishing, they took one look at me and shrieked. My father was livid with Aunt Del. A loud Irish New Yorker vs. a shrill Chilean Jersey girl. Trust me, it could make your ears bleed.

Everyone got over it eventually. Everyone but me that is. My eyebrows NEVER GREW BACK.

And now, we are back to the full brow look and here I sit, woefully inadequate and never being able to time the brow zeitgeist correctly.

And thus ends my tale of woe as I wait for the day someone discovers a cure for the thin-browed of our world.

Think I’ll hold a telethon.

Andy Williams, Shelley Winters and Me

Andy Williams, Shelley Winters and Me

I will blame this maudlin exhibit of nostalgia on two events from this past week: I had a birthday and my imaginary childhood husband passed away.

I could launch into a monologue about the Depression and the Great War. But, while I may feel that old, in reality I’m not.

Instead I will now launch into a monologue about being a little kid in the 60’s during the Not So Great War.

A few houses down from us lived a family by the name of McRuffian.

(This is not their actual name but I figured I’d made it pretty far in life without being sued so thought I’d keep that going. Plus, I’m totally loving this whole fictitious name thing. Our milkman was named Milky VonLactose. See…nothing but fun!!!)

I’m not sure how many kids the McRuffians had but there seemed to be a herd of them running around and terrorizing the neighborhood like a scene out of Clockwork Orange.

In fact, in our house, one of the worst things you could hear from our parent’s mouth was “Don’t be a McRuffian!” It snapped you out of whatever inappropriate and cruel behavior you were participating in immediately. The very name turned your blood to ice.

It seemed to me that Mrs. McRuffian was never fully clothed. I only saw her in a slip. I’m sure she wore clothes at some point but I, honestly, have no memory of it. In my mind I will always see Shelley Winters – disheveled and lusty.

A bitch is no match for a lady except in a brass bed, honey, and sometimes not even there. ~Tennessee Williams

To me, she was exceptionally intriguing. Oozing sexuality when, in reality, I think she was just tanked early in the morning. And, probably with very good reason.

But, to my romantic sensibility, that house was the Minnesota version of a steamy Tennessee Williams play. Drunk, sexy mother raising a house full of men’s men.

I wonder if she called her husband Big Daddy….

By the way, I know there was a Big Daddy somewhere in that house but I can’t come up with a single memory of him.

Mickey McRuffian was my first kiss….and it grossed me out because I thought he was a troll.

Anyhoo, my best friend was Matt Snottowski (see, again, so much fun!!), one of 11 kids that lived down the road from us. He had a perpetual stream of green snot running out of his nose but he let me boss him around so you all have him to blame for how pushy I am. He was my childhood enabler.

We played house a lot. I’d put on my mom’s apron and put some Andy Williams on our giant console record playing machine.

(Go look up “records” in the Google, kids.)

Andy Williams, to me, was the perfect husband. He seemed clean and looked like he smelled like Christmas. He sang of romance and wore the hell out of cardigan.

I’d greet my phlegmy pretend husband at the door to the sounds of Moon River as he carried a paper sack that was supposed to be a briefcase. He’d put the “case” down at the door, sit down on the couch and say “Get me a beer.”

To which I replied “Get your own damned beer and get me one while you’re at it.”

Clearly, I was ahead of my time.

(Oddly, I started this post right before Andy Williams passed away this week. So, a tip of my fedora to you, Andy! Perhaps we will marry in another life. And I bet you would get your own beer.)

Confessions Of A Chronic Over-sharer

Confessions Of A Chronic Over-sharer

“Everyone is wise until he speaks.”
~ Said by someone who has self control

Let me explain. As if I have to….

I come from a thick-skinned, sarcastic clan of Irish hooligans with excessive body hair who are masters at saying the wrong thing at the wrong time.

I’m the youngest of six kids, raised in a predominantly Irish Catholic family with a dose of Chilean for spice. Though, according to my father, the Irish DNA can kill any other DNA with just a pithy quote from Oscar Wilde.

We lived in the frozen tundra of Sartell, Minnesota in the ‘60s amongst a community of over-breeders. The entire town seemed to be populated by about eight families of fifteen kids each. My parents were barren in comparison.

I went to St. Francis of Xavier Elementary School and thought Richard Nixon was cute. I feel I need to share this shame to illustrate my compulsive need for constant and full disclosure. I also had a mad crush on Glen Campbell and Andy Williams. But that doesn’t feel nearly as shameful as the Nixon thing, hindsight being 20/20 and all. And, to answer your question, yes, I have odd taste in men.

So, you get the picture. As a typical youngest child, I do a lot of stupid stuff. It doesn’t help that I inherited my father’s inability to keep words and actions inside our brains from making awkward public appearances.

Like the time I pantomimed male masturbation in front of my family during a game of Cranium.  As they all looked at me with gaping mouths I knew it was not the most appropriate choice to have made. And yet this didn’t occur to me until I had already simulated self-love in front of my parents.

In case you are wondering, I was acting out Master and Commander and I did win the round.

I have a rich familial history of this sort of behavior. Just to clarify, I don’t mean the public masturbation but the lack of editing oneself. I come from a long line of proud Irish impulsivity. And my father was the clan leader.

I can just imagine the insensitive blurting that occurred during the Potato Famine. There is a good chance we were actually kicked out of Ireland and just told people it was because of our insatiable need for starchy root vegetables.

I was mortified at my wedding when he asked my ultra-athlete sister-in-law if she still menstruated. This is very logical and appropriate wedding conversation for those of us who are afflicted with this disease. However, normal people may find it a bit unsettling. I’m sure it was a fleeting curiosity in his head and when he opened his mouth to take a bite of poached salmon, it simply fell out.

I don’t think my father was trying to insult or shock, I just think he didn’t really give a damn how his comments landed. I suspect he’d always been like this in his life so I won’t attempt to blame it on the insensitivity of the elderly.

Since my mother does not suffer the same affliction, she tended to sit in stunned silence. So, lacking any real counter-balance in my life, I started my career at a young age.

An early example: My first confession.

We had a super groovy macramé and guitar priest named Father Kramer at our church who I thought was the next coming of Bobby Sherman. Being the super cool dude he was, he decided it was a much gentler experience for children to sit in his office rather than the confessional to unload our myriad criminal acts.

As I sat swinging my feet on his big red leather office chair, he asked me if I had any misdeeds I felt I should confess to him and, of course, The Big Guy. It just so happened that I had bitten my sister Julie’s finger the week before. I maintain to this day that if you don’t want to get bit by a shark you don’t shake chum in its face so she should have known much better than to put it within biting distance. I drew blood.

After telling Father K this story, he looked at me solemnly and shook his head.

“You know, Irene, there is never a call for violence. Do you think you made the right choice in this situation?”

Not a second passed before, out of my little mouth tumbled:

“Well, shit Father, no one is perfect.”

My memory goes dark at this point either because I was literally smitten down by the very hand of God or all the drugs I’ve done subsequently have simply erased it. Either way, I do not recall getting punished for saying this so it only fed my belief that I was not in the wrong. This, in turn, helped to mold me into the solid overly honest and awkward adult I am today.

And I’m OK with that because, as we all know, no one is perfect.

Ode to a Brave Husband

Ode to a Brave Husband

Look Mama!
I bagged me a keeper!

This week’s blog is all about my lovely husband “Jim” (I still don’t believe that’s his real name). Today  we celebrate our 17th wedding anniversary.

And since I couldn’t find what the appropriate gift was on the list for a 17th, I’m going to give the gift of words.

For anyone who knows me, maintaining that level of consistency for that long without just wandering off is a rather large feat.

And, anyone who knows me will also agree to the super-human accomplishment by “Jim” for having lived with me every freakin’ day…for 6,205 days…148,920 hours…8,935,200 minutes. Not that the poor man is counting or anything.

I only hope the three goats, basket of root vegetables and the plot of dirt he got from my village elders was enough to make up for it all.

So, I thought, given his obvious insatiable thirst for pain and discomfort, maybe he deserved a little shout out on this, the anniversary of his decline into madness.

We’ve traveled the world together, had the mad rollercoaster that is twins, moved too many times to count, fart and pee in front of each other. What story would be a good one to really capture the essence that is “us”?

The one that comes to mind is the Incident of the Bee in the Bathtub. So that is the one I’ll tell, as a tribute.

(The knocking-himself-out-on-a-ceiling-fan story will have to wait for his birthday.)

By the way, this story does nothing but paint us both as complete morons.

Back before we went down the slippery slope (covered with rusty razor blades) of parenthood, we used to do monthly getaways to quaint bed and breakfasts all around the Puget Sound.

On this occasion we headed to Victoria for our romantic getaway, staying at a lovely Victorian B&B across from a bucolic, grassy park.

We checked in and, as childless people tend to do, we decided to take a bath in the middle of the day! We were that filthy.

The large Jacuzzi tub was positioned right next to the bed, in a large bay window that overlooked the park across the street.

Once you are sitting inside the tub, you could not be seen from outside. But, you sort of had to slide in on your stomach to avoid showing the world your kibbles and bits. And so we slid like Army grunts into our soapy haven without detection from the outside world.

Once in the tub, we noticed there was a lovely wedding happening in the park so we soaked and watched all the hazy loveliness of new love blossoming across the street as we sipped champagne.

As we relaxed, we both started to hear a loud buzzing noise and noticed we were beginning to be dive bombed by a very large and annoyed wasp. We swatted it away and thought for a minute he had found something else to occupy his time. But, it would seem he was just getting started.

Over the next hours (OK, it was probably 90 seconds) we were terrorized relentlessly by this little asshole. I don’t know what we did to piss him off so much, I believe wasps by their very nature are just pissed off, but he went after us with a vengeance as if we had killed his family and burned down his dry cleaning business.

(Cue The Benny Hill Show theme music….now!)

Our swatting and flailing grew to a fevered pitch. There was water splashing all over the place, we were slipping and sliding all over, hopping and dancing around trying to get the damned thing to stop terrorizing us.

Finally the water must have gotten it because we saw it floating in the suds as we stared at it, panting from the exertion.

As we high-fived each other on our exceptional wasp survival skills we realized that we were standing, buck naked (or is it butt naked…I’ve never known), in front of the window for all the gentle citizenry of Canada to see.

This of course, is humiliation enough. But we also realized that there were quite a few people at that wedding who were no longer paying attention to the exchanging of vows happening in front of them.

We both waved to them and slowly sank back into the tub, where, “Jim” was stung by the dead bee anyway.

So, Happy Anniversary, “Jim”! You are a brave fighter of bees, a tolerable scrabble player, fair armchair electrician, and a man with the cohones to be married to me. Well done!

And perhaps, some day you will reveal your true identity.

K-Mart Nipples

K-Mart Nipples

This title can go in so many directions….if you went in the dirty direction then shame on you. You know who you are….

When Jim and I were in our darkest hours of depression and sleep deprivation with the whole twins thing, we found ourselves having a psychological breakdown whilst lying on the floor of the baby bottle aisle at K-mart. Let me back track a bit here.

(That, for those of you not in the “writer’s biz”, is called leading with the end. Please keep up.)

(Actually, I just made that up. I don’t really know what that’s called. But, I think that’s a great term and one that everyone should use from this point forward. You’re welcome.)

We brought the boys home from the hospital at a mere 4 lbs. each and with a heart monitor strapped onto one of them because he threw up in his sleep.

Throwing up in ones sleep is not necessarily reserved for babies, by the way.  I now see I should have been on a heart monitor myself throughout college and am lucky to be here today.

We had two old chairs that we called the porn chairs because they were permanently stained with creepy white splatters because of all the spit up.

The whole thing smacked of a bad mushroom trip. You knew there was a time when you weren’t high, but you could not recall what that might have felt like.

Blah blah blah, you were tired, twins sort of suck, we get it.

One of our little bundles of joy was personally out to get me. I was convinced that this one had a bone to pick with me from some previous life and, by God, he was going to make me pay for whatever past transgression I was guilty of.

Every time we tried to feed him it was like a bad Lucha Libre match, but without the fun masks. He squirmed and cried and did that weird rigor mortis stiff thing babies do that both pisses you off and freaks you out.

We decided it was the specific nipple on the bottle that this little prince was having issues with, so we went on the hunt for the perfect nipple like we were on the Crusades in search of the chalice.

We had heard the lore of the perfect nipple but didn’t dare to dream it really existed. It was whispered about in dark alley ways, spoken about in hushed tones at Mommy and Me classes. We wanted in on this…bad.

To our great despair, K-mart was the only store in our fairly small town that had a decent supply so we bravely headed out the door.

The scene went something like this:

Jim: My God, I’ve never seen so many nipples in one place. Am I hallucinating again?

Irene: No. If you were hallucinating, they would be human nipples, which would scare the shit out of us. This, my friend, is nirvana.

Jim: OK, you start at that end and I’ll start down here. Yell when you find the right one.

Our desperation began to build as we pulled nipples down one by one, only to reject it and throw it over our shoulders to the ground. We did this with increasing violence until we met in the middle of the row, where we became aware that we were standing in a large mound of nipple packages.

The twitches of maniacal, unhinged laughing began….

Jim: Clean up on aisle 10.

Irene: Wouldn’t it be intense if these actually were human nipples?

Jim: There is something terribly wrong with you.

Irene: YA THINK????

And the damn bursts as we fall to our knees in the rubble of nipples, and can’t recover ourselves for a good 20 minutes.

I can only imagine how odd the scene must have looked if we frightened people bad-ass enough to actually be a K-Mart shopper.  But, crowds gathered at a safe distance to see how we would play this out.

My memory fails me a bit after this. At some point we must have found what we needed because the baby is now a kid so he must have eaten at some point.

And, I don’t recall any government agencies coming to my door….yet.

If Lazy Were An Olympic Sport – My Time With Elite Runners

If Lazy Were An Olympic Sport – My Time With Elite Runners

The other day Jim happened to mention to me in passing that he had signed us up to crew for his sister for a 100-mile ultra-marathon.

“Really?” I asked.

“Yep. It’ll be fun!”

“Fun? Really?”

“Yes. Fun. We’ll hike into remote areas of the Sierra Mountains and bring her stuff she needs.”

“Stuff like a ride in a car to whatever her destination is? She knows there are cars, right?”

Then he just rolled his eyes at me and mumbled as he left the room.

Why would someone run 100 miles (yes, I said MILES, not pansy-ass KILOMETERS) in the wilderness unless you were being chased by an axe murderer?

Or you are part of the Donner Party….who were probably too weak to actually run the 100 miles. Unless one of the fatter ones was trying to get away.

I tried to get into the mindset of someone who would do this for the challenge and the fun of it. This is not an easy task for one such as me. I don’t push my endurance, I lay on a soft bed of Egyptian cotton with it.

These are the elite lunatics who do shit like climb Mt. Everest, helicopter ski and cliff dive. They, like James Bond, have a taste for danger.

By stark contrast, I’ll take my rape whistle with me to take the garbage out. And I live in a very nice neighborhood. I do not flirt with fear and danger.

I blow my rape whistle at it.

Jim’s not a ton tougher than I am. He once ran, panicked, in our front door and double locked it because he saw a raccoon in our front yard. He swears it charged him. But, since raccoons do not have opposable thumbs, I wasn’t sure what the purpose of the double lock was.

We are simply a cautious people.

But, I gamely went along, cuz’ no one is going to call me a pussy, however accurate it might be. Plus Jim double-dog-dared me and no one walks away from THAT!

At the orientation meeting with all the runners I found myself in a sea of the sinewy. I know I have more body fat in my left butt cheek than all of them combined. A few looked kind of like Dobby the house elf in really good gear.

Give me my race bib, bitch.

These are a steely-eyed group with laser-sharp focus. Like me at the Nordstrom Half-Yearly Sale. So, I totally get them.

As is my way, I was much more concerned about my performance in this run than I was about our runner. I considered this the Olympics of project management.

Jim and I were ready. We had our Ziploc baggies (a staple for any and all project management work) packed and marked appropriately. We were like a SWAT team of efficiency.

However, the weather sucked ass. Usually, this is a very hot run so I don’t think anyone was really prepared for the freezing temps and driving rain that hit us.

You may think that we would not complain about being cold and wet as we stood waiting at checkpoints but you’d be so wrong. Yes, you could say we had it pretty easy in comparison to the runners, and I could punch you in the head with my frozen hand. But none of this would deter us from bitching about it anyway!

Because, after all, this was all about us.

But, as the day went on we found ourselves talking to other race crews, watching runners come through checkpoints, and really getting into the spirit of camaraderie that this sport fosters.

After all, every one of these deranged individuals had family and friends cheering them on and I found myself cheering for all of them as well.

It’s kind of like the Special Olympics for super fit nutjobs.

While I am well aware that this is a race and someone has to win, it did seem like no one really loses. If you have the gigantic balls to even sign up for this thing, you’ve gone beyond the average out of the gate.

I, on the other hand, do not possess balls of a gigantic or any other nature either literally or figuratively.

But, in the sport of relaxation and self-indulgence, I am the ultra-marathon equivalent.

Can someone cheer for me now?

I Hope They Don’t Serve Peanut Butter in Heaven

I Hope They Don’t Serve Peanut Butter in Heaven

I know I’m a little tardy on a Father’s Day tribute but I chose to write about porn last week instead so now a word about my Dad.

(By the way, I believe my father would not only support the porn decision but would have been surprised had I gone another route. And then he would have whacked me upside the head for being late because that’s very rude.)

My Dad seemed to be in a pretty crappy mood for a large portion of his life. Or, at least the portion of his life when I knew him. I try not to take that too personally though. He was Irish and that can tend to explain all sorts of things. And he was raised by the Christian Brother’s Catholic Church in New York City during the Depression and, since he only had peanut butter and bread to eat for long periods of time, he most likely had scurvy….which would explain everything that the Irish part didn’t.

I began to grasp the real reason he was so cranky in the past several years since I had kids. He and my mother produced six offspring.  I never did get them to fess up about their reason for this terrible lack of judgment. Did they actually intend to have six or was it the no-birth-control Catholicism? Either one paints them as lunatics.

When my father passed away 7 years ago, no one was especially surprised. For one thing, he was 84 years old so not exactly taken down in the prime of his life. Also, he was supposed to have died several times prior to this and didn’t, I believe, so that he could keep us slightly off kilter and nervous at all times.

My father’s wishes were to be cremated so me, my sisters and my mother found ourselves in a hushed conference room with soothing colors and quiet background music at the funeral home discussing the receptacle we would pour Dad into for his final burial. My father was a very no-frills, pragmatic man so an ornate urn was out of the question upon risk of being haunted for the rest of our lives with a litany of ghost rantings about wasteful behavior.

As you’d expect, we were all quite tired and punchy from emotion and worry about our mother and how she was going to fare through all this so we weren’t thinking particularly straight. As the nice young funeral boy (I believe that’s on his business card) went somberly through the absurdly large catalog of options for housing ashes, we all started to get the giggles. I can’t quite remember what may have started it (I think it had something to do with “veteran” vs. “veterinarian”, him being the former and not the later) but pretty soon there wasn’t a dry eye in the room and not for the correct reason. Our barely contained hysteria went something like this:

“Let’s just put him in a velvet Crown Royal bag and call it a day.”

“Is there some way we could fashion him into a fishing lure?”

“I say we scatter him all over the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland. Do we need a permit for that?”

The bad news is that we tend to be loud laughers and one does not normally expect to hear loud female cackling coming from a funeral home as if we were doing Jell-O shots at Senior Frog’s. We were gently escorted to the parking lot to avoid bothering the other, more appropriate mourners.  I don’t know if we were really 86’ed from a funeral home, but knowing how proud Dad would be if we were, it’s what I’m choosing to believe.

Here are some facts about my Dad:

He hated peanut butter

Used to have me believe he was a spy in the war and still had the recording devices and cameras embedded in his eyes and ears

Had a wicked, some would say cruel, sense of humor

Loved animals

He cheated at board games

Scared the shit out of us

Taught me how to skin and gut a trout

Smoked cherry-vanilla tobacco in his pipe

Hope you’re having a hoot, Dad, and they don’t serve peanut butter in heaven.