It’s a Jungle Out There

animal-photography-animals-daytime-1260803Sitting in the petri dish of a playground at a nearby fast-food chain, I watch my grandkids jump around like just-released-into-the-wild baboons. Like every other adult in the room, I hoped this stop would be a fun diversion, a place the kids could play while I read War and Peace.

Kids on playgrounds are fascinating the same way the Spanish Inquisition was fascinating: lots of violence, torture, crazy zealots and tattletales. Sitting with the book I won’t be able to read, and eating cold French fries, I’m the Jane Goodall of the toddler kingdom, as I study their animal-like behavior.

There’s a hierarchy to the madness, with the older kids sitting at the top of the pyramid. They push toddlers out of the way and block slides until little kids cry.

The next level down are kids between the ages of 4 and 8. Not quite ready to be the bullies on the playground, they tail after the leaders hoping to be included in any dastardly plan.

Toddlers make up the lowest level of the playground food chain. These cute little kids are a pain in the asset as they try to establish a presence without being trampled by oblivious 10-year-old boys. I’ve witnessed several toddler smack-downs, including my granddaughter who started a fistfight with a little boy over a pretend steering wheel.

The fast-food playground smells like a mildewed diaper pail. It also has a fine layer of mucous coating every possible surface. Everything is sticky. Bacteria gleefully thrives.

There’s a logjam of kids at the bottom of the slide, backing up traffic and causing overall mayhem. Older siblings shepherd brothers and sisters through the throng of screaming and thrashing little bodies, in search of fun and excitement, while being screamed at by their mothers.

I watch kids scramble through the maze of colorful gerbil tubes, listening for the sound of my granddaughter’s screech as she fights her way to the slide, where she refuses to go down, triggering an uproar in the playground ecosystem. Her brother finally convinces her the slide is fun and they both tumble to the bottom. They run back up and do it again.

I hear snippets of conversations. “That boy is taking off his clothes.” “She put ketchup in my ear.” “Look! I can fly!” But when the Lord of the Flies Preschool bus pulls up in front of the building, that’s my signal to skedaddle.

Easier said than done.

As soon as I announce it’s time to leave, my granddaughter scurries up the tunnel, refusing to come down and throwing poo at anyone who approaches. I send her brother up to get her and hear his bloodcurdling scream as she kicks him in the head, and climbs higher into the hamster maze. He finally drags her down, both of them crying, before she steals someone’s shoes, and runs toward the restroom.

Security tackles her and wrangles her back to the playground. She’s covered with either BBQ sauce or blood and tries to scuttle away as soon as I put her down. Chaos has erupted. We duck tranquilizer darts as we run serpentine to the exit.

I finally wrestle them into the car, wearing the wrong jackets and without socks. I spray them down with Lysol and have them take a big swig of hand sanitizer. I just survived a primate attack. Jane Goodall would be so proud.

 

Originally published in the Davis Clipper – https://davisclipper.com/it’s-a-jungle-out-there-p5616-103.htm

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Hang Me Out to Dry

After happily drying our clothes for a decade, our dryer hit its tweenage years and started giving us the silent treatment. It would only work when we said magic words or used pliers to wrangle it into submission.

I wasn’t ready to plop down several hundred bucks for a new dryer, so I suggested we string a clothesline in the backyard for fresh, sunny, natural drying. But with all the snow and the rain and the wind and the snow and the snow, I finally gave in.

clothesline-cold-depth-of-field-166592One weekend, the hubby and I got in the car, girded our loins (I think that means we buckled our seat belts) and drove to the gargantuan furniture/appliance store where we were immediately attacked by suit-coated salespeople.

They swarmed from everywhere. I thought, at first, they were zombies and impaled a couple of them with the leg of a kitchen chair before I realized my (understandable) mistake. One of them valiantly latched onto us, and the rest of them staggered back into the bowels of the store.

Our salesperson/creature had mainlined 17 Dr. Peppers and hopped around us like a crazy ding-dong until we reached the appliance center. There were washers and dryers as far as the eye could see, which isn’t far because I’m pretty nearsighted. But trust me, there was a huge dryer selection.

Mr. SalesCreature launched into his spiel. “I want you to have the dryer that your future washer will adore. Not the washer you have now, but the one you’ll want in two years.”

I explained we weren’t looking for an appliance matchmaker, but he continued.

“You don’t want a dryer that will be mocked by your future appliances,” he said, as if he weren’t talking nonsense. “You want a dryer that will raise the standard of your home.”

He’d obviously never seen our home.

He guided us to the Drying Machines O’ The Future, detailing all the dryer features we never knew we needed. Throwing out terms like Wrinkle Shields, Quad Baffles and All Major Credit Cards, he described a Utopian laundry room where unicorns came to raise their young and clothes never smelled like mildew.

We then learned about laundry pedestals; the crazy 12-inch tall invention that raises your washer and dryer by, well, one foot.

“Why do I need my laundry machines on $300 pedestals?” I asked. “That seems like it’s setting a bad precedent for other appliances in my home.”

“You won’t have to bend over to get your clothes,” he said, jumping in place. “They even have pedestals with a tiny washing machine to wash small loads, or to store cleaning products!”

“Wouldn’t I have to bend over to reach that?” I asked.

He blinked, then started again with the benefits of appliance pedestals, but I interrupted.

“Look,” I said. “We have $300 in cash, $200 in collectible stamps, $123 in Kohl’s cash and $67 in pennies. What can we get with that?”

His face fell. He waved his hand in a vague direction that could have been behind him or downstairs, then walked away. We wandered until we found a machine that could dry our clothes. We purchased it and ran from the building, making no eye contact with any sales-zombies in the area.

The new dryer is beautiful. It’s shiny. It’s not coated with lint-covered laundry detergent. It actually seems kind of haughty, so I’m glad we didn’t buy it a pedestal.

We assure our old washing machine that it’s still a valuable part of our family. We hope positive attention will keep it working for a few more years, but it’s also in the tweenage stage, so I’m expecting tantrums and/or the silent treatment at any time.

First published in the Davis Clipper: http://davisclipper.com/opinion/hang-me-out-to-dry/

Darth Vader/Donald Trump

I’ve sensed a disturbance in society. A dark shadowy figure looms across the country, demanding loyalty from all those around him. A powerful force instigates unrest, encourages outrage and hate, and challenges his followers to embrace their inner rage to find their true destiny.

This person could be Darth Vader. This person could be Donald Trump. The similarities are eerie. Ever since Trump assigned Jar Jar Binks to take over the Office of Silly Walks, I’ve noticed his connection to the Star Wars universe and his uncanny resemblance to Darth Vader.

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I’ll present the facts. You decide.

  • They both have helmet head
  • They both have a thing for the Space Force
  • They are both seduced by power
  • They both lead a staff of brainless clones
  • Both try to destroy those who rebel against them
  • They both surround themselves with wacky characters
  • They consider themselves the center of the universe

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(If you look very closely, you’ll see a black hole at the center of the universe. That’s Trump’s soul.)

  • They both love the sound of their own voice
  • They’ve either tried to boink or kill their daughters
  • They have a love for long, flowing capes and ties
  • Neither of them give a shit about endangered species
  • They both answer to a bigger bad guy
  • Neither understands sarcasm
  • They wear suits that demonstrate their inability to fit in with society
  • They both demonstrate personality disorders
  • They’re both proficient at swinging a lightsaber/golf club
  • The Death Star is powered with coal and is coated in Russian asbestos.
  • They both reconnected to their inner goodness and light. Wait. Only Vader has done that.  I guess Trump still has time. . .

Summer Vacation Blues

I remember summer vacation. Used to be, the school bell rang and we’d dash from our seats like cheetahs chasing a tasty gazelle. We were free! Three months of laziness!

Now. Boo. The kids are out of school, enjoying three months of freedom they won’t appreciate–and us 9-to-5ers are trying not to cry as we look out our office windows at the sunshine and the joy and the warmth and the happiness going on without us.

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(I’ll never smile again.)

Something’s wrong with society. Well, that’s obvious, but something ELSE is wrong with society. Imagine how productive and enthused we’d be after a whole summer of playtime and rest!

So who do I petition to make this happen? My overlords didn’t even crack a smile at my suggestion. They’re obviously stone people who don’t remember being young and frivolous. They probably eat the full-sized shredded wheat blocks—with no sugar.

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(Shredded wheat in its natural habitat.)

Hear me out, dear overlords!

What if we just have the month of July off to romp and play? No one does business in July anyway! I’d wear shorts everyday, hike each morning, eat fresh foods from farmer’s markets, bask in the sunshine and spit watermelon seeds at my grandkids. I’m tearing up just thinking about it!

I’d come back to work in August, ready to hit it hard. Well. Now that I think about it. I probably wouldn’t. I’d spend August wishing I was still sitting by the pool, drinking margaritas and reading trashy novels.

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(This is where I want to die.)

Maybe it’s best I don’t have the summer off. Once I tasted that freedom, I’d only daydream away the hours, longing for a simple life where I could sleep in a hammock and live on grilled vegetables. But a gal can dream, dear overlords. You can’t take that from me.

You Know You’re the Mother Of a Teenage Daughter If . . .

Thank goodness children live with you for more than a decade before they become teenagers, because if couples were handed a teenage girl right off the bat, no one would ever have children again.

Plan on enjoying the first 12 or 13 years with your adorable little girl. Store up all the fun you can because once they hit a certain age, it takes all your strength not to get into a car and drive and drive and drive and drive, as far away from your teen as possible.

You’ll know you’re the mother of a teenage daughter if:

  • You’ve ever wished to be stricken with a severe, yet curable, illness that required a week-long stay in the hospital–just to avoid having one more “discussion” with your daughter about ear gauges.

hospital

(“There’s nothing wrong with her. We’re just giving her a small staycation”)

  • You consider installing a mood ring in your daughter’s forehead, so you’ll know what to expect each time you see her.
  • The emotional atmosphere in your home runs from ecstatic joy to eternal doom.
  • You feel it’s an accomplishment to make it to bedtime without pissing anyone off.
  • Clothes and shoes from your closet disappear for days at a time, then show up in random places–like the backyard or the laundry basket.
  • Learning how to take deep breaths has been the only thing keeping you from jumping off a bridge.
  • You’ve ever said, “The second you turn 18, you can pierce, tattoo, surgically enhance or remove ANY part of your body.”
  • Your eye liner is ALWAYS missing.
  • There are leftover packages of food based on the diet of the week.

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(Mom! I told you I was only eating broccolini for the rest of my life! You never listen to me!!)

Good luck traversing the unpredictable, moody, scary and frustrating journey with your daughter. (Spoiler alert: it gets better.)

Would You Care To Dance?

In an alternate universe, I’m a prima ballerina. I’m performing jetes and arabesques and other fancy-sounding French words. I’m twirling across the stage in a flowing costume. I’m curtsying to my adoring fans while they toss roses at my feet.

However, in this universe, I’m a . . . what’s the opposite of ballerina? Whatever that is, that’s what I am. I’ve fought a lifelong battle with grace and gravity. My family watches in horror as I ricochet off doorknobs, fumble down stairways and trip on carpets.

I tried really hard to be a dancer. I enrolled in classes when I was 5, and wore pink leotards and white tights, creating some serious panty lines. My mom pulled my long hair into a bun so tight I looked constantly surprised. Every week we’d butcher a series of ballet steps while my dance instructor tried not to handcuff us to the barre. She often sipped from her “dance thermos.”

I’d cut up the Arts section of the newspaper, snipping out photos of Ballet West dancers to glue into my scrapbook. I had ballerina paper dolls, ballerina coloring books and ballerina dreams – but a giraffe-like body with knobby knees that bent in several different directions.

As a child, I went to see “Giselle” at Kingsbury Hall. The ballet is pretty grim. A disguised prince breaks the heart of a peasant girl who kills herself then becomes a ghost who has to dance the prince to death. Dancers are pretty melodramatic.

For weeks after the ballet, I wore tutus that draped toward the floor and floated when I jumped. I channeled Giselle through my 7-year-old body. Picture a little girl evoking the devastation of betrayed love while falling on a sword that ends her life. I’m pretty sure I nailed it.

When I was 12, I was finally able to go en pointe. That’s French for “Standing on the tips of your toes until your toe-knuckles bleed and you’re crippled for weeks, all for the sake of those beautiful satin slippers.”

The purpose of pointe shoes is to give the illusion that ballerinas are weightless wisps, floating gracefully as swans or nymphs or any type of ethereal and doomed young women. In reality, learning to dance en pointe is similar to putting your toes in a vise, then running a marathon. 

But I didn’t give up. I continued to practice daily in the hope I’d channel Anna Pavlova, the acclaimed Russian ballerina who died at the age of 49, probably from gangrene from her pointe shoes.

Because I’m writing this column instead of performing in “Swan Lake,” you can correctly surmise that my ballet career fell flat. I tried out for Ballet West’s “Nutcracker” a couple of times, to no avail, and after years of practice, I hung up my pointe shoes and succumbed to gravity.

I never transformed from gangly giraffe to graceful swan. I never glided across the stage, hoping to lure a young prince to his death. (At least, not as a ballerina.) I never received standing ovations for my role in “Coppelia,” the ballet of a young woman pretending to be a mechanical doll. (Because that makes total sense.)

But. In that alternate universe, I’m soaring, twirling, spinning, leaping and gliding en pointe, hearing the crowd bellow “Brava!” as I take a bow at the edge of the stage. And because in this alternate universe, I’m graceful and lithe, I don’t fall into the orchestra pit.

Originally published in the Davis Clipper–http://davisclipper.com/life/would-you-care-to-dance/

 

Middle of the Night Musings

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It’s 3 a.m. I’m awake. Again.

My mind quivers like a raccoon on Red Bull, forcing me to think about a) Christmas shopping, b) the end of the world, c) my Halloween costume and d) wondering if I should throw Ringo the Dog outside because he’s been licking himself for hours.

I’m also hot. Temperature hot, not hot hot. I stick my foot outside the blankets to let the cool air brush across my toes. Sometimes Ringo will lick my toes if they’re left outside the covers.

I get chilly and wrap myself up in blankets like a middle-aged, insomniac burrito.

I engage meditation techniques. Inhale. Exhale. After eight seconds, my mind wanders to the state of the economy (dire). I wonder how I’ll survive as a homeless person. Will I die of cholera alone on the side of the road?

I’m hot again. I throw the blanket off because my fingernails are sweating. I carefully roll over, hoping not to wake Hubbie.

I start worrying about the diseases l could contract—like that brain-eating amoeba or Polyglandular Addison’s disease that causes instant death from sudden emotional distress. I could have that. I could be dying. Will my grandkids remember me if I die from Mad Cow disease?

Now I’m cold. I pull the covers up to my chin. Should I get a flu shot this year? What if a pandemic wipes out everyone who didn’t get a flu shot? Who will feed Ringo? Who will Tom marry after I’m dead?

I will not look at the clock. I look at the clock. 4:15.

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What was that noise? Could I call 911 before a burglar attacks me? Would he be mad that we don’t have anything worth stealing? What if we have a rat infestation? I pull my foot back into the safety of the covers.

Are my clothes outdated? What will technology be like in 20 years? Will my grandkids have to explain things to me? I need to stop eating sugar. I should start writing a diary. I REALLY need to fix my car’s tire. What if I forget and I my tire blows out on the freeway?

What if I never sleep again? What if I have a paralyzing illness caused by insomnia? What if I’m paralyzed when the zombies attack–and I can’t get away? I jerk awake and realize I’ve drifted into a dream/awake state. I look at the clock. 5:06.

I’m awake. Again.