Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A Birthday to Truly Celebrate--Reprise

Battling a bout of The Crud, as well as seeing Son #1 off to his new digs in South Carolina, left me no time or energy for a new blog post this week. With yesterday being my birthday, I'm sharing a a post from last year, updated to reflect my new--and debatably improved--age.

I had a birthday yesterday. Well-meaning friends and family refer to ones like this as "special" or "big." People actually in the midst of hitting such an age call it a "Holy shit, how could this be when just yesterday I still needed a fake ID" kind of birthday.

Although my family offered to throw me a party, I declined. Some birthdays are made to be celebrated and others, simply to be had. I told them I'd rather take a raincheck, one that could be used, say, fifty years from now. Because that, my friends, will be a birthday to truly celebrate.

So, let me take this moment to cordially invite all of you--to my 100th birthday party!

Please save the date: October 25, 2061.

No need to RSVP. It's quite likely I'll have no clue if you're there or not. I may not know where I am either, but I plan to have one bodacious good time.

If you don't recognize me, just look for the four-foot-tall, prune-faced biddy wearing a strapless red dress and eff-me heels. Or else a floral shift and bunny slippers. I'm 100. I'll wear whatever I damn well want, thank you.

No gifts, please. Instead, I ask that all guests purchase Xeroxed copies of one of my unpublished novel manuscripts. These will be personally signed by the author, of course, although I may need some assistance with the inscriptions. ("What was your name again, honey? Oh, you say you're one of my children? Uh-huh. And what is my name?")

I can't spend my entire evening signing autographs though. I will be too busy doing tequila shots. At 100, I figure I can rekindle all those bad behaviors I left long behind in my wayward youth. If someone passes a doobie, I'll probably take a hit or two.

For dinner, I will eat an entire bowl of dill pickle potato chips and three pieces of chocolate cake. No one will blink an eye. If anyone dares, I will growl, "What the hell's wrong with you, sonny? Quit gawking and go get me another tequila shot!"

We will play loads of games and my guests will declare me the winner of every one, even if I nod off in the middle.

I will kiss all the babies and all the good-looking men in the crowd. I may invite the hottest guy there back to my private room, in the nursing home.

Who knew there was so much to look forward to, in our golden years?

If you want in on the festivities, please leave your name in the comments section. My mom is already compiling the invitation list; Glo does like to plan ahead. She promises to bring enough tequila for everyone. But the dill pickle potato chips? Those are mine. I'll be 100, and I shouldn't be expected to share with anyone.

Bring your own damn chips.

Wow, turning 100 is so liberating. I can barely wait.

I'm buying the bunny slippers tomorrow.

Do you want to celebrate or commiserate about your next big birthday? What's on your gift wish list? And I lied--I totally want presents too--so, what will you bring me?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Miles on the Minivan

I stared at the blank page for twenty minutes. Little chance of any thoughts forming into articulate sentences, not with the pulsating music from the next room where Son #1 sat working on a new song.

He'd been at it for hours. Sigh. At least one of us was a writing wiz tonight.

He hasn't been a devoted musician all his life. He flirted with piano and guitar lessons when he was very young, but he soon grew tired of practicing and I grew tired of nagging. He abandoned the interest in music and moved on to other things, one after the other.

And so it goes with so many childhood activities.

Between my two sons, we dabbled in nearly every kind of lesson and organized activity on God's green and synthetic-floored earth. We tried music: piano, guitar, clarinet and choir. We played sport after sport: gymnastics, swimming, soccer, baseball, basketball, football, weightlifting and rowing. We ran through the endless gamut of school clubs, from Power of the Pen to Quizbowl. We gave art lessons a shot and took part in a dozen plays. We enrolled in weeks and weeks of summer camps, ranging from glass-blowing to horseback riding (which resulted in lots and lots of envy from their office-dwelling mother).

We exhausted every available creative, academic and athletic opportunity in which our children took a trifling interest--and exhausted the family minivan and its driver along the way. We filled our children's days with sidelines and structure, yet ensured they still found time to play with Legos, read Harry Potter and watch Star Wars.

We wanted them to learn the meaning of discipline and teamwork. We wanted them to exercise their body and their brains. We wanted them to grow up well-rounded.

But mostly we hoped, through their exploring the world around them, they would find something--that one special thing--that struck them straight in the heart. And we were compelled to help them discover it.

What if Beethoven never touched a piano? Or if Steve Jobs never sat down to a computer?

Even so, as we exposed our children to all these opportunities, we never knew what might stick for good. Who could really guess what might be a passing fancy, become a lifelong hobby or lead to a fruitful career?

It's difficult to categorize these two young adult sons of mine. At 20 and 22, they both have an interest in history and the Beatles (thank God). They each love a pick-up football game but enjoy an occasional theatrical production, as well. They did indeed grow up to be well-rounded.

But as far as that one special thing? That much is still proving to be a surprise.

My son who once far preferred making music to playing sports now rows in college; he talks of coaching. The son who spent most of his youth on the ballfield has recaptured a brief childhood interest in music and sits right now in the next room, perfecting a song on his keyboard.

Who knows where their lives will truly take them. Maybe further along these same tracks, or maybe down another. What's for certain is, if we'd labeled them and limited them early on, they wouldn't be enjoying the lives they have now.

And the beautiful strains of music from the next room tonight? Maybe not such a terrible distraction after all, for either of us.

Perhaps all those miles on that minivan, long since retired, were well worth it.

Did you follow your early childhood dreams or go another route? Are you raising the next Beethoven or Steve Jobs? Is your minivan worn out too?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Of Pawns and Cat Kings

Searching for a new pastime to stimulate your mind and raise your heart rate? Look no further than an exhilarating game I call "Medicating Your Cat."

If you don't own a cat, run out and get one. If you've no time to cat shop, feel free to take one of mine. (Send me your address; I'll be right over.)

Once your cat is procured, choose teams and positions. Simply explained: A cat's role is always king or queen, while you must play pawn. For a more challenging version, include multiple cats, particularly those with anxiety and social disorders. (This encompasses most of the feline population.) Regardless of how many cats you own, all will play for the opposing team.

The rules are as follows: A cat exhibits some inappropriate, unhealthy and likely unhygienic behavior, e.g., peeing in the bathtub or puking wherever your bare foot happens to step. To win, you must discover the cause, treat any underlying conditions and finish the game relatively unscathed.

A typical game transpires much like this, recently played out in my own household:

One of my cats begins by attacking members of his own team (much like politicians in a primary election). This particular player is named "Lennon," in honor of the man who penned "Give Peace a Chance." The irony does not escape the snickering crowd which nicknames him, more suitably, "Demon Cat."

I attempt to stop Demon Cat through a variety of maneuvers, most notably the popular Squirt Bottle Play. But, oh, he's a clever competitor! In one match-winning strategy, he stalks the squirt bottle from across the room and smacks it clean off the table.

As the game progresses, the other players succumb to Demon Cat's bad sportsmanship. When the cat known as NUTS (Neurotic, Unbelievably Timid and Stupid) begins puking blood on the arena's new carpet, I consult the team physician.

Herein lie my most challenging game duties, as pawn.

First, I must capture NUTS and transport him to the doctor. After three days of failed tackles, I finally manage to corner him. As I shove the snarling and lashing creature into the cat carrier, I question my sympathy for this downed player.

Second, after the team physician flips a coin to announce any sort of diagnosis, I must open my wallet and allow it to bleed dry. (Sideline action: As I drive away, the doctor chortles and books a week in the Caribbean.)

Third, I must administer the ordered treatment. NUTS is prescribed twice-daily antibiotics and anti-nausea medicine for ten days. In addition, the physician also recommends a daily pill for Demon Cat--to be administered indefinitely.

This medication is best described as Kitty Prozac.

I spend a week chasing down one neurotic feline and another one clinically diagnosed as "aggressive." Throughout my repeated attempts to capture NUTS and Demon Cat and pry open their jaws, the crowd roars. Ringo, the amiable golden retriever mix, watches my moves from the bleachers with a desperate, salivating hope that I'll drop a pill. If only I were trying to medicate the damn dog--then this game might be as simple as his tiny brain.

By day seven, I manage only three doses in each cat. And in an arena where I once couldn't walk without tripping over three or four lounging players, not one cat can now be found. The entire team has virtually disappeared from the playing field. Well-played, you friggin' felines! Far more impressive than your seven lives is your apparent sixth sense.

Demon Cat gradually begins approaching me again-- preening and purring--but only when I neglect to close the bathroom door. I briefly consider carrying Kitty Prozac with me when I pee. But wrangling a cat while sitting bare-assed on the toilet seems vaguely wrong. (And the crowd mutters a collective "Eww.")

Meanwhile, the team physician calls to say the bloodwork he did on NUTS also indicates a thyroid issue. NUTS will require two more daily pills, FOR THE REST OF HIS LIFE.

In addition, the hit-or-miss doses of Kitty Prozac will do Demon Cat no good; his medication is reliant upon a cumulative effect. The by-far-second-best medical tactic, the doctor notes, is something called a "Nurture Collar." This is a contraption infused with maternal hormones which theoretically calm aggressive and anxious cats.

I frown. I am merely a not-so-bright pawn, but I know my own middle-age experience with female hormones is not such a favorable one. Regardless, I hand over my credit card to the team physician. I leave with a vial of likely never-to-be-ingested pills and a plastic purple collar.

As expected, NUTS will have nothing to do with the thyroid pills, even when crushed and hidden in canned catfood or tuna. Beaten, I again consult the doctor, whose final suggestion is a liquid compound. It's chicken-flavored! And it is available, by special order, for only $50 per vial! I hyperventilate just for a moment before agreeing. Because this is sure to be the game-winning play!

Apparently NUTS has grown street-smart with his recent excursion into the outside world. He isn't fooled by my mixing the medicine in dry catfood, in wet catfood or even in canned tuna. But just as I'm ready to forfeit, I finally score! I dribble .5 ml of this Liquid Gold into a pile of fresh roasted turkey--which NUTS promptly devours!

I accept my win with mixed enthusiasm. It seems this cat will be eating better than I do, for the rest of his life. (As will the rest of the menagerie, all of whom circle my feet every night when I prepare NUTS this post-game feast.)

As for the Nurture Collar, Demon Cat wriggles out of it within two days. I head to the doctor's office to buy another. I sigh. I hand over my credit card once again.

I figure it's not really a useless investment.

If I can't keep the damn thing around Demon Cat's neck this time, I'll wear the magic soothing collar myself.

Because I'm clearly the one in need of medication.

Who wins the game between Pawn and King in your house? Is it just my vague recollection, or is attempting to medicate your cat much like coercing your husband to go to the doctor? And all you non-cat owners--call me for a special delivery, please?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Hair Today, Goon Tomorrow

"So," she asks, dipping your head under the faucet, "are we just trimming it up tonight?"

You've obsessed over this for weeks: Whenever you've spied a college student with a thick flowing mane, a model with a cute pixie or an actress on a TV legal drama with a fabulous bob. Every time you saw an attractive woman with great hair, you thought, "Wow, if only I had hair like that, I'll bet I'd look just as hot!"

You gaze up at your stylist. "No, I'm thinking something different this time," you finally answer. You attempt to explain what you have in mind, biting your bottom lip as you consider how this monumental decision could potentially ruin the next eight weeks of your life.

But she simply cocks her head, glances at your hair and nods. And you realize this woman with your head--with practically your entire life--in her hands, is a paid professional. She makes her living by making women beautiful. Surely you will live to have no regrets.

Forty-five minutes later, she brushes the clippings off your shoulders and removes your apron. You gather the type of courage generally reserved for a job interview or a root canal, and you peer into the mirror. You look... gorgeous!

Well, not all of you, perhaps, but at least your hair. Yes, that looks amazing.

You beam. "I like it!"

"Yeah? Good," she says, with not an ounce of the desperate relief you are experiencing. Whatever calming and confidence-building drugs that hair stylists must be required to consume, you definitely want in on that shit before your next appointment.

You hesitate as you grab your checkbook. "So, you think I can do it just like this myself, right?"

"Oh, sure," she says over her shoulder, as she motions to her next client. "Just make sure you use plenty of Product."

You contemplate the word "plenty." Hmm. Is that a tablespoon or a quarter-cup? You'd prefer an exact measurement. Using your own judgment in the care of your hair has never proved entirely successful.

"And when you're blow-drying," she continues, "be sure you hold the dryer nozzle underneath the roots of each section of hair as you lift it up, like I did."

"Uh-huh." Your mind races to recall that particular step of tonight's appointment. This memory is fuzzy, since you spent much of the hair-drying segment shouting about the injustices of parenthood. Or the injustices of your job. Or both. Who needs a therapist when you have a hair stylist?

"And then, don't forget," she adds, "to spray it again."

Again? Wait. Were you supposed to spray once already before this step? You bite at the cuticles of your newly painted nails.

"That's it, really," she says as she begins to shampoo her current client's hair. "Except you'll probably need to scrunch it a bit. Just a tiny piece at a time. Then, take a look and decide whether or not you want to use a curling iron on any section. But with the right amount of Product and drying and scrunching, you should be all set. Unless you need to spray it again."

On the drive home, you repeat this set of instructions to yourself, over and over. It is an all-consuming lesson. You nearly run a stop sign, stopping just short of t-boning a minivan as you murmur the mantra, "Product, dry, lift, spray, scrunch, curl, spray again."

After a sleepless night, you rise early. You run methodically through every step of the process. Your fingers begin to ache from scrunching.

You finally step back and survey yourself in the mirror. You squint. Huh. Is this how it looked last night? Perhaps you're simply not objective enough. You scrunch and spray one last time, shrug and continue getting ready for work.

Just as you're headed out the door, your son--who for twenty years has appeared oblivious to a single one of your outfits or hairstyles--stops in the hallway to stare at you.

"Um, hey, Mom, your hair looks a little, well, funny."

You fight a swirling stomach of despair, as you realize even this most lowbrow of opinions is likely on-target. You glare at him and mutter how he'll need to fend for himself for dinner tonight.

But you have no time for further reflection; you are already late for work. You shuffle to your car. You spend your drive-time peeking in the rearview mirror, scrunching some more. For the next eight hours, you hide inside your office, with the door closed.

Before going to bed that night, you shower and wash out the copious quantities of Product and hairspray. You collapse in bed with a wet head.

In the morning, you peek in the mirror. At the sight of your Bed Head, you sigh.

Yet maybe it's not so bad, just like this, you consider after another look. A little flat in one area, but a tousled, carefree kind of look. Sort of like Meg Ryan in whatever-the-hell that one movie was.

She and her son probably both loved her hair like that.

And if they didn't, you can bet neither one of them spoke a word about it that night, over their bowls of SpaghettiO's.

So, did your last haircut turn out just like that photo in the magazine? Are you hair-challenged, too? What kind of gossip do you confide in your hair stylist?