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Jeez, Thursday! Back Off…

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You know when you have a million things to do and you suddenly realize (with great panic) that you’ve been sitting still and staring into space for the last five minutes, doing nothing at all?

Or maybe you’ve found yourself responding to emails and chats one minute, then the next, you’re standing over your radiant space heater, leaning your head on the cubicle wall for just one moment of frickin’ peace?

That’s kind of been my day, so needless to say, the conditions weren’t exactly primed for an easy evening with my kids.

Because I had a moment of insanity, I decided to drag my children to Target tonight after work. This timeframe is also dangerously close to dinner time. (Super-moms may be rolling their eyes at that last line and feeling pretty superior right now because they would NEVER drag their tired and hungry kids to the store at the end of the day. Luckily, I have never had any claim on the title of ‘Super Mom’ so feel free to enjoy your moment of superiority, ladies.)

You can guess the joyful time the three of us had in the cereal aisle. Hashtag – meltdown city.

In the checkout line, I caught a dad staring at me. His kid was little, so maybe he was thinking, “Oh crap…they aren’t done with the fits by that age? Frick.” I felt bad for depressing the guy.

It’s a miracle I did not attempt to leave my kids in the parking lot. If you would have happened to pop on by, they would have been the creatures saying rude things to each other and putting on a great show of pure shit-storm chaos.

Violet would’ve been the crying, floppy, shrieky one, screaming at her brother and Jackson would have been the boy laughing, poking and mimicking her, causing her fury to boil over into further unladylike fits.

If CPS had been called, I think they would have waited in the car before approaching them so they wouldn’t have to deal with their antics. I imagine that the CPS workers would have done rock-paper-scissors to decide who had to approach the wildlings who had, by now, taken over the Target cart corral and made it their own personal jungle gym slash perch of terror.

Beware, cart boy! These kids are insane and they would like nothing more than to attack from above and steal your robotic cart-pushy-thing. You and your skinny khaki pants are no match for their sheer cunning and maniacal determination to get you riled up and push all of your ‘angry-face’ buttons. May God have mercy on your soul.

But I managed to stifle the urge to abandon my children to their own fate and drove them home instead. TV was taken away for the evening. Further drama ensued. Is it 8:00 yet?

I found my wine glass and decided to make dinner while the two crazy-pants’ were doomed to read by themselves on their beds. Taco mountain was served. Dinner time!

Did you know that I love peach-flavored Jolly Ranchers (which I haven’t seen since high school) yet the thought of peach-flavored yogurt makes me want to hurl? It’s true. And tonight at dinner, between the sloppy table manners of my offspring and rancid smell of my eight year old’s toes, this very thought sprang to the front of my mind and I thought, “I have to blog about that!”

So now you know. I have specific preferences when it comes to the artificial flavor of peach.

::sigh:: That feels better.

I really should be tackling a pile of work, yet here I am, writing innocuous things and Googling the word “innocuous” to make sure I used it correctly.

Hmm. Apparently it means that I would be writing harmless things that would not offend anyone. We’ll see about that. Who knows if the Target cart-boy is a Blogorama reader. He may not have appreciated my jab at his stupid pants.

Here’s to you, oh curious reader. I hope your evening is full of peace and a lack of shrieking children. It’s been nice to have you here again and I’ll see what I can do about coming to visit you more often.

 

Love,

Jenny

 

Cozy Thoughts and Confessions of a Thumb Sucker

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I’ve got this thing with sock monkeys.

Not quite to the level where my affinity would ever, EVER, justify the wearing of this little number.

In fact, if something is made from fleece and has attached feet, I can guarantee you that I’m OUT.

But nonetheless, I do own at least three sock monkey themed Christmas ornaments, a fleece blanket, (wait – TWO fleece blankets) and my preferred slipper choice for the last four winters have all been sock-monkey themed.

To me, a sock monkey is the perfect symbol for silly-coziness, which is something that is unbelievably comforting to me.

When I was little, I had a sock monkey named George.

For some reason, my brain tells me that he was handmade by my great grandma Harriet. I have no idea if that fact is true or not, but I have believed it for so long, it might as well be. (Hey, dad! Now I see how you do that! Awesome!)

George was a sock monkey that had button eyes, a little cap and a nice, skinny tail. I was in the throes of my thumb sucking phase. (Right-hand only, conducted when resting or watching TV, everyday until I was eight, people. EIGHT! Thank God for braces…)

George was my go-to thumb sucking counterpart of the moment. Before him was Kermie the Frog — not to be confused with the actual “Kermit the Frog”. To me, Kermie was just as good, even if he was not quite authentic.

Then came and Potbelly the Koala. I think I even incorporated one of my mother’s throw pillows for a short time. Most likely, the lace-trimmed, beige, couch-pillow became part of the routine after one of my animal accessories had been confiscated with the false hope that it would persuade me from inhaling my own body part in a disappointing, drooly fashion that could only be considered as awkward and parentally-embarrassing in Dr. Spock’s opinion.

My childhood vice was all about combining texture with the sweet spot that existed right above my upper lip. There was nothing that could compete with the sheer, peaceful bliss that accompanied my thumb sucking sessions. Not the American cheese slice that I had folded into as many tiny squares as I possibly could (to make the before-dinner snack last longer) or the amazing burst you could get from a Gobble Stick (R.I.P. you delicious, cheese-filled wonder-snack).

With Kermie, I managed to rub the fur tight off his right arm, leaving behind this strange mesh fabric that felt amazing to three-year-old-me.

Potbelly the Koala was only as important as his rough tag. Unfortunately, his tag was sewn into the seam that ran along the bottom of his body, so I’d have to turn him ass-up, legs out, to properly access the taggy goods. It’s one thing to see a child sucking their thumb while cuddling their stuffed animal. It’s another thing entirely to see them taking advantage of a poor stuffed marsupial in that fashion.

George was similarly taken advantage of. With George the sock monkey, it was all about the junction where the tail had been sewn onto his slender, stuffed body. In fact, I ended up rubbing his tail right off. Through the threads and through the fabric – POOF! No more tail. My mother attached a bumpy piece of dark, brown, calico fabric to George’s back. Not just where his tail had been. Nope.The patch covered up nearly his entire back.

And yet, it didn’t stop me and my quest.

I began to utilize the top corner of the fabric and was desperate to keep George in my life.

Then one day, my mother made Georgette.

Georgette was a brand new sock monkey that my mom had surprised me with after a nap. Or at least, I think I had been sleeping before she walked into my room on Dallin Street with a new, plump and clean sock monkey in her hands.

Georgette was fatter than George. She had a sweet, little apron attached to her clean, socky body and a hat that matched George’s in style, yet not drooly grime.

She was beautiful and my mother had made her just for me.

I took her in my hands and promptly threw her across the room and screamed, “I HATE HER!”

This is the part of the story where my mother’s heart either broke into a thousand pieces or hardened into a Fortress of Solitude. I really don’t know what she did or how she handled my lack of appreciation. I was much too busy burying my face into my pillow and screaming because I would no longer get to have George.

George was disgustingly crusty, and his sock-body was too weak to handle the washing machine without dissolving completely. It was time to add him to the burn pile and pray that he became a real monkey and scamper away with all his monkey friends. (Yes, I absolutely LOVE the story of “The Velveteen Rabbit”, by the way. And no – we did not have a burn pile. I grew up in the desert suburbs. Those were not normally allowed.)

I’m not sure when I warmed up to the idea of Georgette the Sock Monkey, but I have seen photographic proof that I, indeed, stopped hating her. In old, out of focus pictures that I took myself with my mom’s fancy automatic camera (a Canon Joy) you can see Georgette posing in with a rose in a vase, or you can see her just hanging out on my bed with my throw pillows. Sometimes I’d dress her up in my Cabbage Patch clothes to keep her from getting bored with her apron.

Georgette was the last animal that I remember being bonded with as a kid. Soon my baby sister was born, my thumb sucking stopped, and Georgette got added to the top of the hutch of my dresser with all the other stuffed animals I collected, yet was never interested in enough to actually play with*

Sock monkeys are now still a soothing sight and I don’t think I’ll grow out of them soon. Do I need another sock monkey magnet/t-shirt/pair of pajama bottoms? No. I think I’m good. Ok, well, maybe the pajama bottoms but only for when it’s SUPER cold or I have the flu.

*One time I decided to decorate my hutch with Christmas lights. You know, the giant C9 bulbs that were meant for outdoor use only? I laid them across the laps of my stuffed animals and came back from an evening errand with my parents to a strange burning smell. I’ll always be sorry about that, random teddy bear wearing a hand-knit sweater. Sorry about branding you with a giant red Christmas light. My bad.

My Evil Twin Takes Over and Goes a Little Crazy

I have started this blog post to you, oh, curious reader, for weeks.

It usually goes something like this:

Version 1:

Hey guys! What’s up! Have you heard the news? This loser’s getting divorced!

Inner thoughts to myself: Um. No. You can’t just drop a bomb on people like that. Try and make it more of a gentle update.

Version 2:
Hi everyone.

I know I haven’t updated the blog in a while but life’s been a bit of a clusterf**k.

Have you heard about my midlife crisis? You know, the one where I lose my mind and decide to leave my husband after 13 years? Yeah. I haven’t been too keen on writing anything about that lately. In other news, have you heard about twerking? What’s that all about?

So…yeah. I’ve got that going for me.

As soon as I get the nerve to look you in the virtual eye admit to you all that, yes, I have chosen to divorce my spouse of 13 years, I chicken out. I realize there’s no way in the world that I can explain my situation to you, no matter how many stories or explanations I attempt to tell you.

Even away from my church/God-centered circle of friends and acquaintances, quitting a marriage is seen as one of life’s biggest fuck ups.

Quitter. Failure. The one who gave up. That girl who didn’t fight for her family.

The new identity that comes with this choice is a heavy one, albeit, accurate.

This blog has always been a place where I could go and be 100% me.

I could tell you all about my opinions on raising suburban chickens (over it) and my thoughts on one piece bathing suits (gah). Even if I was polarizing or making fun of something you love (TOMS shoes) you’d still love me, and read my posts, and sometimes, even sometimes, I could get you to share a post or leave a comment.

But I get it.

Showing someone love and support when they’ve stepped into some serious shit is a really tricky thing.

Especially when they didn’t just step in a little bit of shit. This gal took off her shoes and rolled around in the stuff!

I know it’s hard to be around someone who stinks so bad. (Look out! It could be contagious!)

At first there was a small army who came out in mass to see what could be done. There was a day I had six different phone calls, emails, texts and Facebook messages from family and friends who were trying to find out just what had I let happen to my life.

Now it’s pretty quiet.

I don’t mind the silence all the time, honestly. Talking about how much you suck and looking into the faces of people you love and care for while you systematically watch them lose respect for you is a pretty lame thing.

People keep telling me that I’m not the same person I was a few months ago and that’s absolutely true. I have made decisions that will resonate with me, my family and people I haven’t even met, until I leave this earth. There’s nothing I can do that can rewind the clock and change things, despite what I sometimes tell myself.

I’d really like to get back to this blog space, even though it is such a blatant picture of what my life once was and now what it isn’t.

But this is Jenny’s Blog-o-rama, and I’m still Jenny. I may not be the Jenny you know and love anymore but I still exist. And I still love to write.

Human. Hurting. Sorry. Embarrassed. Angry. Fed up. These are also parts of my new identity.

I am and will continue to be amazed by the people who choose to avoid eye contact with me at church or in the store, and those who reach out to me to say “You’re an idiot, but I still love you. Cheers to your crazy-assed life.”

Who knows where you fall into the spectrum.

Maybe you’re reading this for more gossip-worthy tidbits to share at the next girl’s night?

Maybe you’re just an old friend who likes to stalk my blog every now and then to see if I mention anything about you or our old life together? (Hey there!)

Perhaps you’ve never even met me, yet you stumbled here to my blog post by mistake and are super-glad to read about someone else out there that sucks even worse than you do. It’s pretty thrilling to realize that you are not the worst person in a room, am I right?

But there’s a lot about me that’s stayed the same through all this.

Here’s a small list, in case you were wondering:

I still am into the whole ‘God-thing’, despite my life choices that appear to not jive too well with that statement.

I still adore my children, despite the fact that I only have them under my roof every other week now.

There is no one else I’d want to parent my kids with and no one else who could love them like their dad. I am happy that they have him in their lives and that I never have to worry about them when they are away from me. He’s a kick-ass dad and together, we made two of the most incredible, little humans this planet has ever seen. They will grow strong and be covered in love, and they will go on to do amazing things for the world and the people around them, despite the failing of their parent’s marriage.

(Seriously, if you come at me with the whole “you’ve ruined your kids’ life” thing, I will punch you in the vag. Back off, bitches.)

I still hate sushi, coffee, and most vegetables.

I still think the whole organic food craze is annoying and, in most cases, irrelevant to my daily life.

I have no idea how you’re supposed to act around a person like me, but I can tell you that I still like laughing, going to movies and hanging out with people. Don Draper is still the sexiest guy on TV and if you just want to talk about Mad Men with me, and avoid all deeper life questions, I’m totally cool with that.

If anything, I just wanted you all to know that I’m going to be writing here again, and if you hear me mention “my new place” or the fact that my kids are “with their dad this week”, you’ll know why.

I won’t be writing about the gory details behind things. I know this touches so many other people, and it’s not my place to tell their story or shine the light on them when they just want to lay low, heal and move on with their lives.

So, yeah. I guess that’s about it. I hope you are all doing well and that life has been full of rainbows and sunshine for you. Despite the shit storm that my life has been under, there have been some really great moments of love and laughter.

I hope those continue to grow and I can’t wait to share more of them with you here.

Splash! Some Dumb Things I’ve Done To Impress Boys

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I was having a conversation with one of our delightful new interns this morning about the dumbest things I have ever done to impress a boy.

“I’m very competitive. I can out-dumb ANYONE when it comes to boys!” I challenged.

If you’ve read any of these old blog posts, you know that I am 100% right.

I honestly didn’t know that adjusting your likes and dislikes to impress a boy was a “thing” until I saw the movie “Runaway Bride”.

I was 19 years old, engaged to be married, and surprisingly, my ridiculously young headed-for-marriage age was not my only issue. I distinctly remember the scene where they realize that Julia Roberts’ character, Maggie, always changed the way she ordered her eggs, based on who she was engaged to.

My eyes flew open at the screen as I remembered that I too, had converted to the “I’ll have my eggs like his, please” way of dating. For the record, I ate my fair share of eggs over-hard with the yolks broken for YEARS! That is not how I like my eggs, but I was so desperate to show this boy just how similar we were (we weren’t) so that maybe he’d try dating me again. This tactic had a fail rate of 100%.

For the record, I like my eggs fried (over medium) or like this amazing egg beauty above. Hard boiled with a soft yolk - thank you, Pinterest for changing my breakfast world.

For the record, I like my eggs fried (over medium) or like this amazing egg beauty above. Hard boiled with a soft yolk – thank you, Pinterest for changing my breakfast world.

I was always the ‘chaser’ when it came to early adolescent dating, so presenting yourself as an ideal, date-worthy candidate was something I could have majored in because I had done it so many times. Here are a few of my cringe-worthy attempts to win the heart of that special guy.

Summer 1992 – It’s just like swimming, but for Jesus.

I alluded to an old example of my boy-impressions-gone-bad a while back, and I think I’m finally ready to bring you all (hey, mom) up to speed.

The main man of my awkward Jr. High/early high school time (3 years, folks…that’s like a million years in teenage time!) was Aaron S. We cleverly referred to him as “N” (the last letter in his first name) so we could write “J + N” on everything from our hands, binders, homework and Kleenex boxes without being too obvious.

Ha! I actually kept a straight face when I wrote the ‘without being too obvious’ part of that last sentence. No, no, no, dear reader. I was the QUEEN of obvious. Everybody, at all times, was able to tell who I was into at any given moment.

I met Aaron at youth group on St. Patrick’s Day when I was in 7th grade. We were on the same team and had to form a leprechaun out of chewing gum that had been thoroughly processed by the team members’ mouths. It was gross. It was also an idea I think I stole when I worked in Jr. High ministry later in life.

From that moment on, I was smitten. He didn’t go to my school, which was a minor setback when you are 12 and you can’t exactly go drive and see your friends whenever you wanted. School was pretty much the only pool of candidates that I had for my crush-dom.

So, that night I agreed to come back to youth group with my friend who had invited me for many months to come. She was stoked to have scored a ‘new-to-church’ friend — I was stoked to see Aaron’s glorious face every Wednesday night, so it was kind of an even trade.

I later learned that Aaron didn’t just go to youth group on Wednesday night. OH NO! His papa, a giant guy that had once had his jaw wired shut, was the head pastor. WHAT?!

I learned early on as I leaked / shouted my hormonal interest in the boy that A’s parents had put up a protective wall of ‘you can’t date until you are 16’ around him. They were good. But I was ready to wait for guy, and to show it, I would begin working on my extra shiny Jesus-loving exterior.

Jesus and I were hommes, sure, and I learned about him every day at my teeny Christian school from six to seventeen. But I had never gone to church regularly or did things like listen to Christian music. I had a Bible, but I usually only cracked it for doing my Bible class homework. Which, for the record, may sound like it’s easy (Just write “Jesus” and it should work) but it was not! Our weekly Bible quizzes in high school were enough to stress you out faster than you could say ‘ex nihilio’. (Shout out to our amazing Bible teacher, Mr. Wright! You’re awesome!)

Anyway, the first step in Operation Spiritual Awesomeness was raising my hand when the youth pastor, Sean, asked if anyone would be interested in getting baptized that summer. At that church, there was a built in pool that got covered up with gymnasium/stage flooring when it wasn’t being used for the holy purpose of spiritually bathing your sins away. It was super cool, in a Transformers, sort of way.

Another highlight was that usually, the head pastor, A’s super-dad, would come over to the youth building and do the devoted dunkings himself. PERFECT! This would make an amazing impression on the family and we’d be picking out fonts for wedding invitations in no time!

But before you got baptized, you had to go to a class and be put through the wringer to see if you really knew what you were doing. We don’t want any fake baptisms going on here now, do we? Cowardly, I grabbed my best friend, Jaime and dragged her to class with me. She wasn’t so sure about the whole thing, but since teenage girls rarely do anything by themselves, she humored me and went along with the whole thing.

Our Bible class knowledge scored us a gleaming “You’re Ready for Baptism” stamp of approval, and the date was set.

Normally, a child’s baptism would be a big deal for a religious family. Alas, my parents tolerated my spiritual whims but never were on the sidelines with a big pair of foam prayer hands shouting “Hallelujah!” at me as I waltzed by in all my holier-than-thou glory. They agreed to go to the baptism, though, and I thought it would be a wonderful time for the future in laws to get to know each other.

In the meantime,  I blissfully went forward with the planning of how exactly I would hold my nose as I went underwater and what I would wear that would allow me to get wet yet still maintain my strict codes of morality. One false move in the garment department and things could be over before they even waited four years to get started! (I had an ongoing internal countdown that would remind me how long it was until his 16th birthday.)

When the day finally came, and all the grown ups piled into the youth room to witness the spiritual milestones about to take place, I scanned to room and realized that not only wasn’t’ my main wannabe-squeeze there, his entire family was nowhere to be seen either. What the…? Sadly, I learned that A and his family were all gone on summer vacation that Wednesday. None of them would witness my moving outward pledge to the Lord. What a jip!

I went forward with the dunking anyway because I never could let down a crowd. I got a cheesy certificate to remind me of my grown up decision and hung it on my wall next to all my Jonathan Brandis  posters.

Lesson learned. Baptisms: 1. Jenny impressing a boy: 0.

Totally Tuned In

Music and movies were a quick go-to area of flexibility in my ‘to impress a boy’ quiver. I listened and spent more money on tapes and CDs that he liked than I did on my own music, and was sure to play his favorites whenever he was in the car.

One of my proudest moments was when I finally admitted, on a long car trip up to Washington state, that no, in fact, I did NOT like Pink Floyd. I actually rather despised them. Their music made me want to shove pencils in my ears and cry a thousand tears. Maybe I had come to the point that this guy would never, ever date me again, so I could finally admit such an unheard of truth, but it was a major milestone in my relationship life.

Even now, in my early, blooming thirties, I really enjoy changing the station and making a mature “BLECH” sound whenever I hear Pink Floyd, just to continue to reinforce my point.

Adidas = Love

I came across some old photos of me wearing anything and everything that had to do with soccer, even though I had never played. Getting kicked in the butt by Jennie M. in elementary school after she told me to squat down and hold the ball (a la Charlie Brown) had quickly reinforced that the sport was not for me. But I was sure my sporty gear would show this soccer-star that I was prime date-meat. It didn’t work. Even after I drove 7+ hours to watch one of his college soccer games.

I’m not sure if I’d classify painful heels, murderously uncomfortable undergarments or hold-your-breath dresses to the list, but they were definitely worn with the sole purpose of looking as hot as possible, and therefore, to impress a guy, so perhaps I should add them to the list.

Have you ever compromised some of your likes and dislikes to impress a romantic interest? Please tell me I’m not the only one to get baptized for a boy…Does that baptism even count? Meh. I think I’ll call it good, but let me know if we need to plan another event or something. You know how I love me some spotlight : )

Drive

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Hey. It’s been a while, but I’ve managed to conjure up a long one for you. You may want to save it for some relaxing vacation reading by a nice cool pool, lake or whatever…enjoy! – Jenny

I was 17 years old when I was ordered to see a judge.

It was Thanksgiving break and I had woken up early (at least to a college freshman) and driven down to some courthouse in LA by my dad.

I had received yet another speeding ticket and this time there was a judge who wanted to scare me straight, although I think the drive to the courthouse with my father was even more frightening than the meeting with the judge.

We had directions from MapQuest, a relatively new gimmick at the time, that my mother faithfully researched and printed out for us. They were wrong, and we got lost. Or they were right and I failed to read them correctly from my lofty (yet unwanted) post of ‘navigator’. Who knows.

Being my dad’s navigator was (and still is) the least desirable place to sit in any vehicle for any human being. I would sooner be on a dirty train to Darjeeling than in the plush, air conditioned comfort of “Navigatordom”.

Fortunately, the world has blessed me, my mother and any other poor soul who must guide my dad from point A to point B with satellite navigation. That inventor has my deepest gratitude. Unlike me, the little voice inside the GPS-wonder won’t start crying when it gets asked, “RIGHT OR LEFT? RIGHT OR LEFT, GOD DAMMIT?” Although I admit that I would enjoy hearing the computer-voice snark back to him, “Simmer down, sir! All I said was to merge with traffic in two point five miles! I’ll let you know what to do as we get closer! Do you need me to drive?”

Back in the judge’s office (is it OK to call them ‘chambers’?) I was nervous, yet cocky at the same time. When the judge asked me, “Do you realize that I can take away your license?” I remember thinking “Yeah right! I’m only 17. In a couple days I will be 18 and many of this drops off my record!” (Which the judge had previously mentioned).

I apologized to the judge (somewhat half-heartedly) and endured a cold-yet-fuming father all the way home. (And yes, I think we managed to get lost on the way home, too.) I don’t remember because I was completely obsessed with just getting home to hang out with all my other friends  who were also home for break. Yay, friendship!

Later on I received a letter in the mail from the then-Governor, Pete Wilson, because I had received three speeding tickets within a year. Or was it 6 months? Not sure. I still have the letter somewhere, but it was just full of ‘shame on you’ text that his secretary had written and contained no real penalties. Of course I wasn’t paying for my own auto insurance at the time, so I’m sure my poor mother would have much to say about how much my speedy road trips were really costing.

Driving is one of my absolute favorite pastimes.

Driving always symbolized that I was getting to escape one place and trade it for another.

All my family was out of state, so every vacation was to either Las Vegas or Phoenix. The roads were straight and the speed limit was lax, and when we all figured out that a child (me) with extreme motion sickness should not be allowed to read in the back seat, these drives became relatively uneventful.

Normally, I’d hurl on any road trip that was over 30 minutes long (or past the bustling metropolis of Acton on Hwy 14) but soon we curbed this annoying habit and we were good to go.

Check out this handy visual I made for you! Home = no problem. Acton = time to start puking. And yes, I miss Hwy 14 every time I have to drive Chico’s janky Hwy 99.

A typical family road trip followed these basic steps:

  • Drive through the Air Force Base to shave off 30 minutes? Check.
  • Stop for food around the halfway point? (A McDonalds that resembled a train car)? Double check.
  • Only pee at the restaurant? Absolutely. Rest stops were gross.
  • Beg my parents to go visit the giant Cabazon Dinosaurs from Pee Wee Herman’s Big Adventure movie? Every time.

We actually did stop and visit them once when we were driving with my friend Monica. They were really cool, albeit, blazing hot inside. No A/C inside those dino-babies.

As I got older, driving became my thing.

My car, an unassuming silver 1992 Hyundai Sonata with a sneaky V6, was surprisingly, the most reliable vehicle out of all of the clunkers my friends owned (or didn’t own). This meant I was often the one elected to drive on our many outings. (Oh, and the free gas credit card from my parents also helped.)

Growing up in Lancaster, CA  these outings were usually all about escape! We’d venture 30 minutes to Santa Clarita to visit our teacher for a card game or old VHS movie night (Oh yeah – party on, kids!) or 45 minutes to Magic Mountain. Sometimes we’d push the curfews and scream our way to Beverly Hills so we could try and eat at our favorite fifties diner, Ed Debevic’s (Now closed for 10 years – boo!).

When I started college 7.5 hours away from home in balmy Chico, California, my driving was, once again, a huge part of my life. Even if you didn’t count all the I-5 trips home (any 3-day weekend I could muster) I was one of the rare students in the dorms that had a car, so late night trips to Winco for ice cream and candy to console a friend’s broken heart became my duty.

Vent-Driving 101 – An Introduction and Case Study

If you know anything about me from this blog, you know that there were a few boys who played a big role in my girl-chases-boy phase. This phase was probably about 14 years long and often ended up with me finally getting the picture: No — That boy does not want me to chase him any longer!

Once I had my driver’s license, my go-to venting/crying/radio-blasting/purging myself of all things “HIM” was done behind the wheel. Is it smart to drive when you’re freaking out and blubbering about that one time he smiled at you over bumper pool? Is it the safest idea to go racing down a highway while simultaneously gazing at the yellow sticker he gave you from McDonald’s that said “SPECIAL”? No. Absolutely not. Get yourself together, woman!

But vent-drive I did, and damn, I was good at it, too. The first time, I vent-drove, I had recently received my license and was on my way “to the sunset” (Dramatic much?) and I got pulled over for speeding. As the CHP approached me, he got a front row seat to my ugly cry-face behind my gas station sunglasses and my passenger seat full of used tissues. Plus, I had never been pulled over before, so I was majorly scared about getting in trouble. And wasn’t this just PERFECT? What a crappy day…getting pulled over made things even more dramatic! I felt like I was in a movie :)

The CHP could see I was upset and told me that it wasn’t a good idea to go around driving in that condition. Then he told me to scamper along home with just a warning. He had a teenage daughter too and hated to think of her vent-driving and heart-broken like I was. Mwuh ha ha! I mean, “Thank you, Officer.” {Sniff-sniff}

I think I turned around and went to the beach instead, which was probably about two hours from that pull-over point. (I know. I know.  I was a big-time brat. I can still be really bratty when the occasion calls for it now, too. Look out.)

But again, I love me some dramatic moments and shaking things off via vehicle is still my number one choice. Getting out of Chico and cruising up to Lake Almanor (Curvy roads have nothin’ on me if I’m behind the wheel – Puke problem, be gone!) or driving over to to see family in Reno. Both journeys have been very therapeutic for me.

When I used to commute to work, that drive home was just the antidote I needed to belt-sing away my stress from a crummy work day, which were the majority of my casino-worker days.

These days, it’s trickier to just hop in the car and drive.

We have a family vacation that will involve a good 10+ hours of driving (yay!), but belting out your troubles to your favorite Civil Wars/Alison Krauss/Phantom of the Opera soundtrack (Don’t judge me) is a bit harder to do with an audience of children in the car. Or a husband who’s head may explode if he ever witnessed the hot-mess that is, me BELTING “The Music of the Night” or one of my many “My Fair Lady” movie soundtrack ditties. I know we’re supposed to be ‘ONE’ and all, but there are just some things I will forever draw the line on. Scream-singing in the car is just one of those things best left to some alone time.

What do you like to do to shake off stress?

Does driving soothe you or add to your problems?

PS: Curious about the three dumbest things that ever happened while driving?

Mom, you can stop reading this now. Kids, you may read this only to know that there is nothing you can do that will surprise me. But don’t even think of trying to top me. To the rest of you, I implore you not to hold these driving-sins against me. I am much less reckless now that I am a mom with two kids in the car at almost all times :)

1) Attempting to remove the glass insert to my custom installed sunroof. While driving.

Just picture a giant glass window the size of a cafeteria lunch tray, flying backwards through the air, then — a huge glass-explosion, as it disintegrates into the road. Two seconds later, a motorcyclist came up behind us. It still makes me shiver to think how close we were to killing someone that day. The rest of the damp Seattle-outskirts summer (an El Nino summer, by the way) seemed like a small price to pay for the stupidity. Did I mention I was trying to impress a boy?

2) Driving my sedan (same car as above) over a rusty, springy bed-frame in the desert while the entire car-load of sleepover girls were only wearing their bras for tops.

I can’t even begin to explain this one, but I managed to get my car caught up in the springs, despite climbing under the car to jiggle it free by hand, and yes, I am completely aware how inappropriate that outfit-choice was at that time. When I eventually gassed the car free, I managed to damage something that covered up some other part underneath my car so every time I pulled into a driveway or parking lot, my car scraped unceremoniously loud and caused everyone to look and say, “What an idiot. Look at that big plastic thing hanging down under her car.” I think I told my parents I broke it on the washboard dirt road of my friend Rob’s house. This was not true. I apologize for the mistruth although that horrible road probably could have damaged my car on it’s own too.

3) Four-wheeling at night, in the rain in my ‘86 Bronco II over a giant boulder.

Once again, I was trying to impress a boy (make that three) with my fearless girl-power skills.

Had I ever been 4-wheeling before? Sure.

Had I ever been the driver on these 4-wheeling expeditions? Nope.

Did I try to get one of the boys to drive instead and get denied by all of them? Absolutely. Those chickens!

So, after a few donuts around some power line guide wires, I was feeling pretty confident. Eat my dust (mud) cute boys! Then – BUMP! – my Eddie Bauer-edition beauty was off the ground and rolling on a huge boulder that had been lurking in the grass. Good bye, drive shaft. Hello, broken car. Hello, humiliation and the beginning of weeks and weeks without a vehicle which at that time was torture.

But the next thing I knew, I was riding in the passenger side of my broken beat-up car while a pair of blue eyes smiled at me from the driver’s seat. This boy, who I had just met that night, said he would drive my Bronco II out of the mud, back up the ravine and to the main road so we could get it towed to town. (AAA has a thing about rescuing dumb girls who break their car in a mud pit.)

Even though it was a dumb choice and I had made a mess of things, I had him. And it would be OK in the end.

Running Hates Me and the Feeling is Mutual

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Have you ever done something completely uncharacteristic or insane to impress the people around you?

I have worn ridiculous clothes, participated in lame activities and even gotten baptized* to capture the ardor and attention of those I hold dear to my heart.

Lately, I’ve added a new activity to my life that has been inspired by some close friends. And by “lately” I mean, the past two days, because frankly, who knows how long I’ll be able to keep up this charade.

Perhaps you’ve heard of this torture I speak of? In some cultures it’s called “running”. In other cultures it’s called “escaping”, “fleeing persecution” or “chasing dinner”. I prefer to call it a four-letter word that would make the mothers in my life turn purple.

It’s a well-known fact that I have never run a mile without stopping to take a break and walk.

Never.

Well, maybe in high school softball, but I was crying at the time, so I’m not sure if we actually ran a mile, or if it just felt like it. I probably blocked it out. What I WISH I could block out is the memory of our softball coach (who, I assume, would have much rather been coaching the football team and not messing around with some sissy girls) and his very unique huddle position.

To any of those old BCHS softball team players out there reading this, do you remember how our coach used to stand in the huddle? He’d be wearing those classic blue BIKE-brand coach’s shorts, a tucked-in BCHS polo shirt and his well-trimmed mustache. Then he’d take the softball bat and balance it on the ground between his feet and up and under his man-zone like it was some sort of tripod. Then, with hands-free to gesture to different areas of the field, he would chat about the things we needed to improve upon and how we needed to stop being big babies about having sliding practice on a field littered with broken glass and desert gravel that STILL has left scars on my knees. So much for my knee-modelling career, Coach! Ugh.

Anyway…I chose to play softball in high school to impress my boyfriend and because my older friend Monica said they needed players. Turns out the baseball team my boyfriend was on traveled to all the same schools we did for away games, so we got to hang out.

Random fact: I chose the softball number 19 because it was the closest thing to my boyfriend’s number (61). I justified my choice by saying if I did a handstand, my number 19 would turn into 61! Ah, dumb young love!

But back to my new-found torture – running.

Oh, and if you think this will be one of those blogs where it starts out all “Oh, I hated it but now I love it! Whoopee! Running is awesome!” then you’d be very wrong and I’d be forced to ask you, “Do you even KNOW me?!”

I’ve always love the drama of running; the idea of getting outside and escaping the stresses of the day. The symbolism was not lost on me and I freaking love symbolism. (I have been known to get all googly-eyed over stargazing and sunsets, as well.)

I had had a particularly annoying day that included the return of the dreaded “wonky-head-itus” that I had juggled for three months last summer. (Think ‘vertigo’ but not as bad, and without an explanation, cure, etc. Just spinning and dizzy feelings that jump out at you when you’re driving, typing, walking, microwaving, etc. They come and go throughout the day, every day, until they just randomly leave.)

Anyway, I had been talked into playing a 9:30 co-ed company softball game because they needed the girls to be eligible.I was feeling better after it was all said and done which was a welcome change. After the game I pulled into the driveway and thought, “Holy cow. I think I’m going to go for a run!”

I was wearing my black Pilates pants (think wannabe Lululemon pants but much cheaper), my black company softball tee and the deciding factor – an actual sports bra! When in the world would I EVER being wearing one of those? And tennis shoes, too? It was all too perfect.

I walked in the house to find my husband on the phone talking about motorcycles. (Conditions were continuing to be even more perfect for a run down the street.) I told him I was going for a walk-run and he looked at me with a look that said “Are you wanting a divorce?”. Apparently previously storming out of the house for a late night walk to cool down after an argument has permanently typecast my activities. I assured him I was fine and quickly left to avoid more questions and before I could lose my nerve.

I was going to DO THIS!

I grabbed my phone and my son’s Storm Trooper earbuds. Runners listen to music, right? Psh, I’ve got this. Wait a minute. I don’t have any pockets. Am I just supposed to hold this thing? Wow. It’s really dark outside. Wearing all black is not the wisest choice.

But I’m running! Oh my gosh! This is really happening! I am such a bad-ass! Won’t all my runner friends be so proud of me? Is that a raccoon? Yikes! Nope. Just a dark stain on the road. I really wish there were a few more street lights on this street. The light from my phone and JT’s lovely face on my music screen should be enough to guide me though, right? And if I get attacked or pass out, my last name is printed on the back of my softball shirt so that will help identify me, despite my lack of identification, birthmarks or tattoos.

As I was skipping music tracks, I heard a loud noise. Phew. It was just me wheezing and gasping for breath. Is that normal? I hate running? I’m turning back now and getting out of this stupid sports bra. Is this a long enough run to brag about to my runner-friends? Damn, I hope so.

After a few more walk breaks and then making myself “finish strong” with a paltry jog back to my driveway, I checked the clock. 10 minutes. THAT’S ALL? I feel like I just left a lung on the side of the road for a whopping 10 measly minutes? Jeez, running! I hate you even more!

The next morning, I measured the distance with my car and learned that I had limped out a one-mile trek. WOW!

The next night, I talked myself into trying again. At that point, running down the street, albeit in pain, was better than cleaning the bathrooms, so off I went. I managed to run a longer distance before stopping to catch my breath, but it still took me just as long. This bugged me.

Is spent a good 10 minutes cry-texting some of my running friends about how much I hated running. None of them told me that it would get easier and that I would grow to love it. They said they loved it but that it was still hard.

What was wrong with these people? Why did they like this crappy thing? What was wrong with me? Why didn’t I like it? Why have I always been so horrible at it? (Memories of me trying out for the track team in Jr. High to impress a boy (surprise-surprise) and ending up tripping on my face at the turn right before the finish line came back to me as I cried dramatically on the new rug in front of the TV.)

My husband was off the phone now and realized I was doing my whole ‘after-exercise’ crying thing. He gave me a hug and I told him how much I hated running. I told him how much I hated that ugly line that was forming on my stomach and — look! — there a new line even lower now too! Good Lord! Just kill me now!

Let me just say that my husband has NEVER been one of those guys to say, “Ah, shucks, honey! You’ve had two over 8-pound children. You work a full-time job plus a stressful side job. You are juggling weekly softball games and little league games for the boy. When in the world would you even have time to work out? You look fabulous the way you are and I’d still do you.”

Nope. My husband is the type of guy to honestly look at you and say, “I know you aren’t satisfied with the shape you’re in.” The end. That’s it. (More tears from me and dramatic stomping for good measure.)

Husband, attempting to change the subject: “You want to watch Survivor with me?”

Me: [Sniff] Ok. Let me go rinse off real quick. (Even though I only ran for 10 minutes, apparently it’s enough to get sweaty as if I just did a big-girl workout.

The night ended with TV watching (as straight as I could make my stomach so as not to continue the ever-growing crease) and some crunches.

Lord, help me. I’m not cut out for this crap.

* The blog about the time I got baptized to impress the pastor’s son and his family, is available for your cringing pleasure here.

Confessions of a High School Streaker

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I have a mental list of people that I would consider as possible suspects, in case I ever get murdered or kidnapped. (Doesn’t everyone have this list?)

Some of them are old co workers who excelled at giving off a creepy vibe or always had that weird look in their eye. A few are old schoolmates or acquaintances who seem really into me, although I haven’t talked to them in person since I was seven. I have shared this ‘persons of interest’ list with my husband, so if I do happen to go missing, be sure to talk to him and ask about it.

One of the people that has been on my potential future kidnapper list is a strange man who used to live around the corner from me when I was growing up in the Antelope Valley. Today I could have sworn I saw him driving the same beat up old car he always had in his driveway, but this time he was in front of me on the Esplanade. The license plate was the same old-fashioned blue background with yellow text-style plate we Californians has in the 80s. The license plate frame said ‘Valencia’.

Right then, as I was coming back to work from my lunch break, I was 16 again and traipsing down the street in my underpants.

Allow me to back up a bit.

The year is 1996 and although my high school years were completely free of alcohol, drugs or learning the art of smoking a cigarette, my friends and I decided to dabble in the art of Truth or Dare. No joke — we were amazing at that game and we were more than capable at accomplishing debauchery without booze, drugs or tobacco. I’m not sure that’s a good thing.

Somehow or other, though, our sleepover shenanigans almost ALWAYS ended up with us daring each other to run up and down the street in our underpants. Not very creative, if I think about it now.

Our neighborhood was a quiet one with personal mailboxes for each house positioned on the good conditioned neighborhood sidewalks. There were lots of cul de sacs and it was very rare to see a dumpy house. Most people there had lived there for a long time. It was a great place to grow up.

In high school, we were serial sleepover participants and if it was a Friday night, you could almost guarantee that we were all at Becky’s house around the corner, getting our soda/chip/sugar-high on ‘til the break of dawn. We also excelled at Phase 10 competitions that would involve the non-stop hits of the Oldies on K-Earth 101.1 FM. Good times.

If it was one of our larger girl-gatherings, you could be pretty sure that less than half a mile away, in the other subdivision across 25th St. West, there was another sleepover taking place, but with a group of rowdy boys from our class.

The guy-hang out (something tells me they never called them ‘sleepovers’) was within walking distance and it was the ongoing task of our girl-gaggle to sneak over and attempt to hear the boys talking about how into us they were. Well, at least that was my goal. See? I’ve always been into myself, especially when other people are into me too.

The one time we caught the boys actually outside and within eavesdropping range, they were playing basketball and talking about lame things like video games and sports. It was not the riveting ‘Whose cans are the best in class?’ or ‘How adorable are those cheerleaders, anyway?’ topics that we were hoping to stumble upon.

We ended up stomping back to our sleepover and decided to act as cool and carefree as we could, all the while, glancing furtively over our shoulder to see if the boys had just so happened to try sneaking over to spy on us.

A few times, we actually were wrapped up in doing girl stuff (talking about the boys and trying on each others clothes) and we were surprised by the guy-group. They had snuck over to our neck of the neighborhood and were chucking apples at the tent we had set up in the front yard. (In our neighborhood, this was a completely safe thing to do and we didn’t run the risk of waking anyone up in the house with our high-pitched shrieking.) Why apples? I have no idea. I just figured it was a weird boy-thing.

I will always feel proud of my quick witted deduction when I analyzed the apples that were being thrown at our tent.

“Wait a minute. These apples are Golden Delicious apples. Vinny had a Golden Delicious apple with him at lunch today! It must be the boys!”

Quickly we checked our hair and outfits and burst out of the protection of our tent. We eventually hunted them down a house away, crouching behind a cinder block wall. It always did feel nice to be the ones being pursued.

It was this truth, that at any time, the boys could possibly be hiding around a corner, that added such a thrill to Truth or Dare: The Scantily Clad Edition.

The Game

Late at night, we’d dare one of the girls (usually Becky — the bravest streaker in the bunch) to run across the street, touch the other sidewalk and then we’d let her back inside the house. The dare-posse would hide in Becky’s bedroom and watch the dare-victim scamper across the road in everything from bra and underwear, bra and pajama-boxers, etc. Sometimes we’d even make our streaker wear high heels and a garter we had lying around from an old French Maid Halloween costume. (Note to self: NEVER buy my daughter a French Maid costume. You never know what lascivious acts those accessories may induce.)

I will not go into the details of how Becky earned the nickname “Bucky” but I can assure you, I was too embarrassed to even watch her claim her infamous title after she dropped her robe on the sidewalk and strutted fearlessly to high school glory. Man, was she awesome! No one else ever had the guts to bare all.

An Unexpected Audience

One evening, we got a hankering to walk from Becky’s house to my house. Usually we drove my car, but we purposely chose to be active that evening. Not something we did often. We were fully clothed and chatting about how the objects of our affections came ‘this-close’ to actually being as awesome in real life as we had built them up in our heads.

As we walked by the creepy-guy’s house (technically, I think it was his handicapped mother’s house and he just happened to live there with her) he was in the front yard and approached us by walking toward his front gate. Picture an older man with a comb-over wearing a tight, white, undershirt tucked into short 70s denim shorts (not cut-offs). He also wore socks pulled up straight (too short for knee socks) and fast-food worker-ish black sneakers.

Creepy neighbor: Hi there.

Us (avoiding eye-contact but responding because we had good manners): Hello.

Creepy neighbor: You have any sleepovers lately?

Us (Confused because we were totally naive to the fact that ANYONE could have easily seen us): What? No…

We kept walking and turned the last corner onto my street before we realized — OH MY GOSH! THE CREEPY GUY IS TALKING ABOUT OUR STREAKING CONTESTS!

Then two beats later we realized — Wait a minute…he doesn’t live anywhere near Becky’s house! OK, sure, he lives on the walking path between our houses, but he doesn’t live in a place where he could have looked outside and seen us scuttling about. Nor is his house on a path that he could have been driving by her cul de sac that was located in the back part of our subdivision.

We were beyond freaked out.

I’m pretty sure that we had already given up our tawdry ways before we had our Megan’s Law candidate encounter, but it surely helped put the final kabosh on any future nude activities.

Even this past summer, nearly 15 years later, when Becky and I went for a walk in my old neighborhood, his house still gave me the chills.

I’m really hoping that wasn’t him driving down the Esplanade in Chico.

If you are one of my offspring, please read this:

I’m glad that you have somehow managed to find my blog and that your reading level has improved to get you this far into the post. Be sure to write down your reading times so we can add it to your homework log!

Now, you may read about some things that mommy did when she was in school that may shock you. I hope you take them as examples of stupidity and not examples of awesomeness.

Although they certainly seemed awesome at the time, there is nothing commendable about dangling your teenage body (or any aged body) out as bait for potential creep-encounters. I will continue to pray that you will grow up with more sense and personal dignity than I had when I was a teenager. Now get back to your homework/music lessons/SAT prep tests.

Love you, forever,

Mom

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