Thursday, October 30, 2008

Neither the High Road nor the Low Road

Sometimes, you read something or you hear something and you get pissed off. If you’re me, that happens fairly frequently. I have a very low tolerance for things I think are stupid or wrong or discriminatory or just plain ass-backwards. Sometimes, in response to these things, you want to write nasty emails, post nasty blog entries, or throw mud in the offending person’s general direction. Sometimes, it feels good to let it all out, to make your voice heard, to one-up the person who has offended you so.

And then there are times for being nice. My mother always used to say to me, "You know, you’ll catch more flies with honey than with vinegar." Well sure you will, but who wants to catch flies anyway? I really prefer to stalk flies with a rolled up magazine and smash them into teeny-tiny little bits while yelling, "Take that, sucka!!" And yes, it does make me feel powerful to kill something 1/100th of my size with overly-zealous force. So much so that sometimes, I do a little victory dance after I kill a fly. I’m not ashamed to admit it.

For about six months when I was 14 years old, my mother decided it was time to get involved in the Unitarian Church. We’re not a family of church-goers generally, and I was suspicious of this decision. She and my father attended the services and my brother and I went to Sunday School. As it turns out, she wanted to enroll me in Sunday School at this particular church because they had a very progressive sex education program. And when I say very progressive I mean that some of the things we talked about and viewed were my first experience with pornography.

Anyway, my mother didn’t last long in this type of organized religion. This is probably a clue as to how our family views religion in general. If my mother couldn’t stomach the Unitarians, she probably will never be able to be a member of any organized religion. She tried to belong, but she was too realistic for the granola-crunchy members, too smart for the new-age members, and too bossy for the church leadership.

Every service ended with members sharing some piece of good news about their families or anything, really. Our last Sunday in church, one of the other mothers of teenagers in the church stood up to expound on the virtues of her children. At great length. Little Tommy had scored a touchdown in football. Little Suzy was on the honor roll again. They had both won awards for creative writing, or art, or music or some shit like that. Everybody politely clapped (and rolled their eyes). Except my mother.

My mother blew a gasket. She marched up to the lectern and grabbed the microphone. She said, "I would just like to tell everyone about my children. They did absolutely nothing spectacular this week. They were completely normal. They haven’t won any awards and haven’t done exceptionally well in school. But I’m still proud of them. Thank you." She dropped the microphone and walked out.

Like I said, that was our last Sunday in church.

But I learned something from her behavior that day. Sometimes, you need to take a few breaths, count to 10 and NOT say the first thing that comes to your mind. Into a microphone. In front of a large audience.

But sometimes you do.

Bottom line . . . sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don’t.

The question is, do I feel nutty today? Well? Do I?











Nope. I still don’t know. But I'll tell you one thing. I don’t like being classified as a Mommy Blogger. I may be a mommy and a blogger. However, calling me a Mommy Blogger is like making cake using only flour and eggs. And it takes a whole lot more to make a cake. Particularly a Pointlessly Hypertechnical cake. Those are some damn complicated pastries.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Early Voting

I voted last night. I guess it was to take advantage of the early voting that is now available. I waited in line (for almost half an hour), was told for the fourth time my last name is misspelled in the system (and, yes, I am absolutely sure there is an R in my last name. Pretty sure it came over on the boat from Denmark that way. Thanks for asking again, though), and then cast my ballot. Actually, to be precise, my daughter cast my ballot because she loves pushing the buttons. We all got our "I Voted" stickers and were home for dinner.

It was a fine experience but I do not think I will vote early again. Sure, I only waited for half an hour and on voting day during the last presidential election, I waited for an hour and a half, but early voting left me feeling empty inside.

Part of the thrill of voting (and yes, I still think it is thrilling to vote - just to have a small part in the running of our country is amazing) is going home after voting to watch the television coverage. The direct link between my vote and the election results is right there, right away for me to experience. Last night was just a let down. I went home and wanted to see where my vote was in the rankings. Would my candidates win? Would it be close? How many stupid things will the commentators say? Will the clusterfuck happen in Florida again? Or any other state?

Without being able to watch the end of the voting process - the election results - it feels as if I was just pretend voting. I know they assured me every vote will be counted, but I feel as if I was just a half-assed participant. I wanted the immediate gratification of either knowing that, finally, our country is going to make a turn-around from the train wreck of the last eight years or that, it will continue on this track of destruction. I wanted to yell at the TV. I wanted to call all my friends and scream, "What is WRONG with people? Who could possibly vote for that idiot?"

Most of all, I want this election to be over. It has been a long campaign season filled with ups and downs. I am tired of the attack ads. I am tired of daily flyers in the mail maligning one candidate or another. I am tired of hearing from strategists and commentators and talking heads and people who apparently do not have jobs other than to appear on news talk shows during a presidential campaign. I am tired of looking at John McCain's face and hearing Sarah Palin's whiny-ass voice.

It is probably crystal clear who I voted for in this election. But, I will say there were two races where it was a difficult decision. The Gordan/Krupa race is a tough one because, frankly, I think one is a shell of a person puppet for her party and the other is totally under-qualified. I literally did not make a decision about the state's attorney's race until I was standing at the polling booth reading their names. I know both of the men running personally. They both have their good points and they both have really, really negative aspects. And, no . . . I won't tell you which one I picked.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

So . . . That's Her Excuse

My daughter loves Notes from the Trailerhood Katie. I mean, everyone loves Katie, but my daughter really, really loves her. Katie's like Santa Claus in our house - the threat and the bribe to get my daughter to do things she doesn't want to do. Such as: "If you don't take a nap, we can't go over to Katie's house." It really, really works, every time.

As you may know, Katie and Dazoo (who is also in my daughter's top 10 people list) are renovating a house. Because I am indebted to Katie for her caretaking of me during the sprained ankle incident, I have gladly offered to help in any way I can. Well, also . . . they promised me I could take part in knocking down a wall and that's really, really exciting to me. I love destroying shit.

I digress.

Anyway, yesterday Katie and I had made tentative plans for me to help her and Dazoo at the house. I told my daughter about these plans (forgetting a three-year old probably didn't know the meaning of tentative) before her nap. Then she heard me call Katie after nap and leave a message. Only then did it dawn on her that we may not be seeing Katie that day.

As we were in the car running errands, my daughter and I talked about this:

Daughter: I want to go to Katie's HOUSE!

Me: I know, babe, but Katie's not there right now. I left her a message and we have to wait until she calls back.

Daughter: But I want to see KATIE! I want to see Katie, RIGHT NOW! (repeat 5 times)

Me: Listen, babe. I left a message for Katie. I can't make her call me back and I can't make her be at her house. She's a grown-up. She makes her own decisions.

Daughter: NO! She's NOT a grown-up!! She's SHORT!

I love Katie dearly, but . . . alas, this is true. She is short. I mean, if my almost three-foot tall three year old calls you short, I think you have to accept it as the ultimate truth.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Mommy Fail, Tattletale

Okay, so . . . I have not been reaching my goal of being the perfect mother lately. I've been hanging by a thread in the perfect mommy competition. Which is fine by me, really, because I don't really want to be the perfect mommy. However, I think I need to step up my game a little bit because my daughter called me out this morning.

It all started last night. The daycare had a "Parents Night Out" thing where you could bring your kids from 6:30 to 10:30 and they would entertain them, give them a snack, and watch a movie. This was the first time I have taken my daughter because this is really the first time I have felt that she is old enough to handle an occasional later bedtime. And when they said it was from 6:30 to 10:30, I thought, cool - I can pick her up at 10:30 like all the other normal parents. In fact, I heard one parent say to his kid as we were leaving, "I'll see you are 10:15 or so!" I felt completely justified going out and staying out until 10:15 or so, assuming I would not be the last parent there.

Well, I was wrong. Not only was I the last parent there and they were standing in the front hall holding my very tired daughter, I showed up smelling like cigarettes and beer. (Now in case any of you perfect parents are reading this, I suggest first, go to someone else's blog and second, yes, I was at a bar and had a drink or two and people around me were smoking. Get over it. Damn perfect parent police.) Anyway, I am sure the teachers had a little laugh at the bad mommy and I felt really bad that she was the last one there, but . . . everyone needs a night out. And it's not like I showed up at one in the morning drunk off my ass with someone else's clothes on. Jeez.

Anyway, this morning I was still feeling a little guilty and spending some real quality time with the kid. As is her usual line of questioning in the morning, she asked, "Are we going to school today?" Nope, it's Saturday. "Are we going to dance class today?" Yep, we are going to dan . . . SHIT.

Bad mommy forgot to wash her dance clothes. I looked at the clock. One hour before we had to leave for class. I rushed to her room and began throwing clothes out of her hamper. Now, ordinarily, I would have evaluated the clothing in question and determined whether we could squeak by with wearing a dirty leotard and tights. (Come on now . . . everyone has done it.) As I got down to the dance clothes in the hamper, it all came back to me.

Milk. Milk down the front of her leotard and tights. Not only was there a faint stain, it didn't smell that good either. No problem - I can wash and dry a load of laundry in an hour. I ran downstairs and started the laundry.

As I came back into the living room, I heard her open up her fake princess cell phone. She said, "I'm calling my teachers, Mama." OK, whatever . . . . Then I hear, "Hello? Yeah, hi . . . my mommy forgot to wash my dance clothes . . . um-hum . . . they really dirty . . . um-hum . . . we be little late. Bye-bye."


I said to her, "Did you just call your dance teachers and rat me out?"


"Gee, thanks."

"That's OK Mama, you try harder next time."

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Fortune Conundrum

So, let's say you eat dinner and after dinner you receive a fortune cookie. Let's say that happens on Tuesday. However, instead of eating the cookie and reading your fortune immediately, you throw the cookie into your briefcase for later.

Of course, then you forget about it.

Then let's say on Thursday at around 3:45 pm, you are starving because you forgot to eat lunch. Then you remember Tuesday night's fortune cookie is still in your briefcase. Granted, it is pretty much reduced to crumbs, but . . . hey, it's still a cookie, right?

So, then you eat the fortune cookie and read the enclosed fortune. The enclosed fortune says:

A pleasant surprise is in store for you tonight.

Which night is the cookie referring to - Tuesday or Thursday? Because, if it was Tuesday, I missed the pleasant surprise and, frankly, it must not have been that pleasant since I don't remember any surprises from Tuesday night aside from the dog pee puddle on the dining room rug.

BUT, if it applies to Thursday, I may just have something to look forward to tonight when I go home, which would make my day infinitely brighter . . . even if for just a few moments.

On the other hand, I should be careful what I wish for . . . the dog could leave an even bigger present for me tonight.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

10 Things They Don’t Teach You in Law School, But Should

Someone asked me recently if, given the choice, I would attend law school again. Somedays, the answer is hell, no. Other days, I reflect on how much I love my job and say that I would, if law school itself was somewhat different. In a lot of ways, law school was merely a means to an end. I wanted a graduate degree, I wanted a professional degree, and I've got it. Do I spend time fondly reminiscing about the good times from law school? Absolutely not.

So, here are some of the harsh realities I learned only after leaving law school and actually practicing law:

(1) None of this really matters. Seriously. Most of the crap they teach in law school has absolutely nothing to do with the actual practice of law. I would say about 98% is completely irrelevant. Of all of the classes I took in law school, there is only one I use daily - Legal Research and Writing. And, since most of the "research" part was based on non-electronic paper book research, I don’t use much of that at all. (And, by the way, my worst grade in law school was in the class that taught the type of law I currently specialize in.)

(2) You will lose. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow. But someday, you will lose a case. And it will hurt. And it will be completely unfair. And the system will fail you and your client. There is no one in the history of the law who has won every single case. No matter how much you win or lose, you realize there is always a loser and sometimes, both parties lose.

(3) Real life is not the Socratic method. You don’t get to argue with everyone in real life. You don’t get to make your point in a clear and precise manner in a controlled environment. People won't always listen to you and take you seriously. In fact, you may be laughed at or ridiculed. Now that’s being a real lawyer.

(4) You have to payback those student loans. Now, sure . . . I probably knew somewhere in the back of my head that I would have to repay the money I was living off of in law school. However, there is nothing like receiving that first loan payment notice six months after graduation and realizing you could have purchased a nice starter home with the amount of money you owe for student loans plus interest. Right now, my student loan payment is the same amount as my mortgage payment. The education that keeps on educating.

(5) After five years, no one will give a flying fuck if you were on law review. Or graduated at the top of your class. Or won moot court. You want to know why? Because success at the actual profession is significantly more important than pretend success during the education for the profession.

(6) The only thing you have is your reputation. Believe it or not, it does matter what other people think of you. I have seen cases succeed and fail based on the judge’s impression of the lawyers involved. I have seen lawyers not receive high profile cases because of the perception that they are idiots. Watch that people. Ever hear of Sarah Weddington? After law school, she couldn't find a job to save her life. One male partner in a big law firm actually told her he didn't work with women lawyers. Many years later, after Weddington successfully argued Roe v. Wade, she sat on a judicial nominating commission. That male partner was one of the candidates for judicial appointment. Let's just say he didn't get the appointment. Lesson learned.

(7) Be nice to the little people. No, not midgets (unless you have a very specialized practice.) I’m talking about the non-lawyers in the room. Be nice to the court’s staff and to the members of the clerk’s office. I can’t tell you how many times law clerks, staff attorneys, clerks, and court reporters have done favors for me because I am nice to them. Being rude to a court reporter could cost you big time in the end. Need that transcript ASAP? If you’ve pissed off the court reporter, you might as well type that sucker yourself.

(8) Judges are people too. What they teach you in law school is that judges are somehow other-worldly - that they possess special powers of intellect and judgment. They teach you to always address a judge by "judge" or "your honor," even if you are in bed with them (Okay - only one professor told us that, but his wife was a judge, so . . . .) In reality, many judges are very smart and very fair minded. However, they are also real people with families, stress, bad hair days, and stains on their ties. Be respectful but you don’t have to genuflect for christ’s sake.

(9) Your clients will probably hate you. If you went into the practice of law because you thought it would be all about warm-fuzzies and "helping people," grow up. Some of these people need your help and will benefit from your help but will be completely ungrateful the entire time you are helping them. That's the thanks you get, every day. Because, in the end, when you can't blame anyone else, you can always blame your lawyer.

(10) How to tell people to fuck off nicely. Law schools need to teach people to negotiate and discuss problems calmly and like adults. Hanging up on people, calling other attorneys to tell them another attorney was "mean to you," and name calling is not professional. Get over yourselves and act like grown-ups.

Monday, October 20, 2008

AHHH! My Mind's Eye!!!

My grandfather has a very unique first name. So unique, in fact, I have never met anyone else who has the same name with the same spelling. Consequently, when I see an email in my inbox this morning purporting to be from someone with that name, I opened it.

And, no . . . I did not stop when I saw the subject of the email was, "Mine is Bigger." Sometimes, my grandfather says completely benign things that look weird, but he doesn't really mean it that way. He's 90 years old, for christ's sake.

And then, even when I read the body of the email, it took me awhile to understand what was going on:

Augment your rocket with lots of inches utilizing the unequaled cure.

Go now to and take a look at the meritorious theraputics within reach.

God Damn spammers. Why on Earth would they use an old Swedish guy's name on an email like that? That sort of set the tone for my entire day.

Friday, October 17, 2008

I Wish I Was Congested

There are workmen in my office constructing some new cubicles or something. They are constructing these things right outside of my office door.

I don't mind the noise.

I don't mind the mess.

I don't mind that they have completely blocked my doorway.

I don't mind the mindless dumb-ass chatter.

I DO mind the skin-peeling, eyelash curling, fingernail biting, nasal passage burning BO.

One of these guys has the worst body odor I have ever, ever, ever smelled. I closed my door because of the body odor. The odor lingered in my office. I sprayed hair spray to cloak the odor. The odor broke through. I sprayed myself with Febreeze. The odor killed it and attached itself to my clothing.

I am THIS close to shoving kleenex up my nostrils.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

I Have a Really Good Explanation for That

I bought a new shirt on Monday. Because this new shirt is kind of sheer, it came with a coordinating camisole. As most women know, camisoles introduce a complex underwear question into the morning dressing routine - to bra or not to bra?

On Tuesday morning, I decided to wear the new shirt and camisole and decided to go with the bra option. Unfortunately, because laundry hasn’t been done by the laundry fairies recently, my bra selection was down to the few uncomfortable bras I still own. But I forged ahead and decided to wear a bra I know is very uncomfortable, thinking that perhaps I had overestimated the level of uncomfortableness of the bra.

Turns out . . . I hadn’t.

But, I hung in there almost all day with the bra. However, around 3 pm, I couldn’t take it any more . . . I had to get that thing off. So, I grabbed my keys and went to the bathroom in my office building, which is outside of our actual office walls. I grabbed my keys because to get back into the office, I have to have my keys.

After shutting myself in a stall, I removed the offensive undergarment and put the camisole and shirt back on and . . . ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh . . . breathed a sigh of relief. Comfort at last.

But now I had an even bigger problem. I am standing in a bathroom stall holding a bra, wearing an outfit without pockets, and carrying no purse or briefcase. Panic sets in. How the hell am I going to make it back to my office without revealing to everyone that I just took my bra off? I tried to squish the bra into my fist. It didn’t work. I carefully folded the straps into the bra and made it as compact as possible. However, it was still painfully obvious that I was carrying underwear in my hand.

I took a deep breath and made a mad dash to the outside door of my office. DAMN! I hadn’t thought about using my key to open the door and I had my bra in my right hand - the hand I usually use to open the door with my key. I tried to fumble the key in the lock with my left hand and failed miserably. Then I tried to keep the bra in my right hand and open the lock at the same time. DAMN! I dropped the bra in the hallway.

Totally flustered, I grabbed the bra with my left hand, opened the door with my right hand, and sprinted to my office. Relieved to have made it without being spotted, I dropped the bra in my briefcase and sat down at my desk.

Ahh, sweet relief. I could last two hours at work, go home and get rid of the bra. No one would ever know.

Well . . . somewhere between 3:15 and 5 pm, I forgot about the bra. Instead of going home for dinner after work (because the food fairies haven’t filled the fridge), I decided to take my daughter out for dinner at One World. We had a lovely dinner and then the waitress brought us the check. Knowing my three year old had limited time left in her good behavior container, I asked the waitress to wait so I could hand her my credit card right then and there.

I opened my briefcase, pulled out my wallet, and FLIP! Out came the bra . . . flying across the table and landing on the floor. Stunned, I grabbed it quickly and shoved it back into the briefcase. "What was THAT, MAMA?" yelled my daughter. Subtle, babe.

Turning to look at the waitress, I said, "I have a really good explanation for that . . . ."

The waitress said, "That’s OK . . . ." and walked away.

You know, sometimes I live in this fantasy world that I have everything under control and my life is absolutely normal. Then I am reminded that I don’t and it isn’t.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

10 Jobs I Would Love to Try . . .

. . . if I didn’t have these damn law school loans to repay.

What do you want to be when you grow up? I didn't decide to become a lawyer until after I graduated from college (although my parents will tell you I had been training for it all of my life.) Every once and while, I dream of doing something else . . . something more creative or that would allow me to move to Canada and support myself if this election goes the wrong way.
Here they are:

(1) Architect. I have always wanted to be an architect but I was kept down by "the man." Even when I was a little kid, I was building or drawing houses. Even now, I could study house plans for hours and hours and think about exactly what I would change about every room and every corner.

(2) Interpreter at the United Nations. And not because I love Nicole Kidman. I just always thought it would be really cool to be able to speak several languages and meet people from all over the world. I also would really like to know about all of the stuff they talk about at the U.N. I’ve always been nosey, and the U.N. is the perfect place to learn the big secrets. Plus, I like the idea of traveling in and out of the country every day for work.

(3) Book Store Owner. Not like the owner of a chain book store. More like the owner of a really cool independent book store with an independent coffee shop in it. It would be a place filled with dark woods, overstuffed furniture, and no mass-market paperbacks. I imagine myself reading all the time, shelving books, talking with intellectual customers about the latest Pulitzer Prize winning novel, and snobbishly laughing at the guy who just came in the store to ask for the latest Danielle Steele novel.

(4) Fashion Designer. I know, I know. You people who know me personally are probably thinking, WTF? Admittedly, I am not a fashion plate. But I always loved designing and sewing clothes for my Barbies so I think a career in haute couture is not so far-fetched. Too bad real people won’t let you shove pins into their empty rubber heads to keep their fancy hats on.

(5) Writer. OK, so I am really a writer in real life. But this is not the kind of writing I am envisioning when I say "I want to be a Writer." I mean the type of writer who has already written a best-seller so she could afford to live on an island in Puget Sound or on the Outer Banks and spend the next 10 years contemplating the next best seller. I picture days of walking on the beach, drinking coffee on the deck, shopping at the local farmer’s markets, drinking wine by candlelight, traveling to do "research" and . . . POP . . . out comes my next two million dollars in advances.

(6) Nurse. That’s a lie - I don’t really want to be a nurse. I deal enough with bodily fluids now in my real life. What is appealing about being a nurse is wearing scrubs to work. I can’t tell you how envious I am of those people who don’t have to make any clothing decisions in the morning other than "which pair of comfy pajama pants and shirt should I wear to work today?" No ironing, no suits, no high heels, no nylons, no fancy underwear required. Sounds like heaven to me. Too bad you have to deal with sick people. I hate sick people.

(7) Life Coach/Non-Sexual Dominatrix. Alright . . . before your imagination gets the better of you, what I really mean is someone who comes into someone else’s life and tells them in no uncertain terms what they need to do to make their lives better. I wouldn’t be one of those hand-holding life coaches. Oh, no. Quit yer bitching, stop the whining, and throw some shit out, literally and figuratively. I think everyone could use a good slap in the face every once and awhile. I would love to be paid to be the slapper.

(8) Pastry Chef. No explanation really needed here. Pastries are the most wonderful things ever . . . who wouldn’t want to be surrounded by them day after day?

(9) Brangelina’s Nanny. I was a nanny once. I enjoyed it. However, I always thought it would be super-exciting to be a nanny for a really famous person’s kids. You would get to do all of that traveling, see the world, live the life of a movie star without having to be in the focus of the cameras. Of course, you would probably have to do some really weird shit and end up raising six spoiled brats with limited input from their parents . . . but, seriously. Don’t they employ several other nannies too? In that case, I would want to be the head nanny.

(10) Reality TV Star a la Rachel Zoe or Kathy Griffin. I just want a camera crew to follow me around day after day and capture the seriously crazy shit that happens to me and record some of my more brilliant witizisms for posterity’s sake. I already know what my theme song would be . . . . Too bad I am such a private person. I don't suppose people would watch a reality TV show where the star's face was blacked out, along with her kids' faces, her family's faces, and all of her friends. What? I would let them show the dog and the cat.

I didn't think so.

Monday, October 13, 2008

I'm So Proud

My three-year old daughter's first independently written word:

Unfortunately . . . I think it is "DOODIE."

Friday, October 10, 2008

The PH Children Fail Picture Day. Miserably.

A couple of weeks ago, the kids' school had picture day. I wasn't holding high expectations for the outcome of picture day (mostly because I have more natural unposed pictures taken by a real professional photographer), but I think it is fun to have the memories of school picture day. Well, the picture day gods and my children had other ideas.

My son was a massive failure at picture day. In all of his Totally Toddler 'Tude, he absolutely refused to participate in the individual picture. He thought it was a much better idea to rip down the set than sit on the silly box and smile. Stupid fake fall leaves . . . he's no sissy boy! Where is his Monster Truck picture background, dammit!! At least get the boy some dirt to play in, for crying outside!

So, no picture of the boy. Not even a picture of a teacher's hands restraining him from behind while he wriggled on the box and knocked over the fall leaves. Nada.

However, they did manage to get him in the class picture, although from the look on his face and his teacher's face, it looks like his teacher was physically restraining him in the picture.


I had higher hopes for my daughter, you know, her being a girly and whatnot. Well, she tried her hardest. But, ultimately, big fat fail. Her face looked liked someone fed her a Sour Patch Kid and then told her to smile. She looked a little like this:

But that wasn't the best part. Oh no . . . the best part was seeing her bright pink Hello Kitty underwear peeking out from in between her legs as she sat spread eagle on the pretty box amid the fall leaves.

Epic fail.

I asked the photographer for a do-over, at least for my daughter. (I didn't feel like paying the damages of her attempting to photograph my son again.) She agreed after I pointed out you could see her underwear. On do-over picture day . . . she's wearing pants.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

90 Year Old Mojo

My family has many traditions, but one of the most important is giving toasts. Toasts occur at every dinner party were there are more than four people. Most adults are expected to give a toast. This is easier than it may sound because most adults have already had three or four shots before their toast begins. And they have been forced to learn and sing Swedish drinking songs. You would be surprised how easy public speaking is when you are tipsy and already embarrassed.

At my grandfather's birthday party, all family members were expected to give a toast. I have reproduced mine below. I don't go for the sentimental crap other people go for in toasts. You know, the "what-a-great-man-how-I-have-learned-so-much-from-you-and-am-honored-you-breathe-the-same-air-as-me" kind of toasts. Not my thing. Plus, I don't like to cry in front of a room full of people I don't know.

Anyway, here it is. Needless to say, I brought the house down. I rocked the Casbah. I got seven or eight elderly people to use the word "Mojo" in a sentence. Correctly. There is no end to my oratorical prowess.

In the summer before I turned 16, I spent a month with my maternal grandparents. One of the tasks we were to accomplish that summer was me practicing my driving skills. Most of the time, my grandmother let me practice with her Honda Civic. For some reason I will never remember, one day we decided to take my grandfather’s car downtown to the pastry shop. (Of course, I remember why we wanted to go to the pastry shop, what I don’t remember is why we took my grandfather’s car.)

At this time, my grandfather was driving a maroon Toronado. As a kid, I thought this car had mythical properties. I seriously and honestly thought my grandfather was the only one who owned a Toronado - that somehow the car manufacturers decided to make this one car for him and just him. Of course, now I know differently, but there is a small part of me that believes his specific Toronado had mythical powers, even if all others were just normal cars. Anyway, here is a picture of the type of Toronado he had:

It was enormous . . . had a huge front end, giant doors, and was really wide compared to the Honda Civic. Anyway, I safely drove the Toronado downtown and parallel parked (yes parallel parked . . . my grandmother could be a real bitch sometimes) the boat/car in front of the pastry shop. After selecting our pastries, I got back in the car and checked the mirrors. Nothing. So, I started to pull out of the parking space and . . . BOOM . . . was hit by a bus.

Seriously. Hit by a bus.

Now, it couldn’t have been that bad of an impact because the bus didn’t even stop. But my grandmother and I got out of the car and looked at the damage. The driver’s side bumper was bent into the frame. Given the later damage I would cause to other cars, this wasn’t really that bad. However, it was my first car accident and in my grandfather’s mythical Toronado, no less. I burst into tears.

My grandmother, who never had patience for tears, told me to stop crying and assured me it wasn’t that bad. But I was so upset, I couldn’t drive back home. She drove the car home and I ran to the guest room to hide from my grandfather (after all, I had seen him yell at grandchildren for walking barefoot on oriental rugs . . . what would he say about his Toronado?)

After a few minutes, there was a knock at the door. It was my grandfather. He said, "Come with me" and took me to the garage. I started crying all over again. When we got to the car, he said, "Look. I have been analyzing the damage and I have concluded it was not your fault based on the bend of the fender into the frame. By comparing the angle of the fender and the size and location of the dent into the frame, I have concluded the only way for this accident to have happened was that the bus hit you . . . you did not hit the bus. It was not your fault."

Now, I don’t know if that experience made me a better driver, but it did make me a better lawyer. I can tell anyone exactly why something is not their fault.

The second portion of my toast was a story from my grandfather’s second wedding, which was eight years ago. As I was leaving my apartment building to go fly to the wedding, my landlord saw me with the suitcase and asked where I was going:

Me: I’m going to Seattle for my grandfather’s wedding.

Landlord: Really? Wow . . . how old is your grandfather?

Me: 82.

Landlord: REALLY? Man, I hope I have that kind of mojo when I am 82 years old!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

10 Things You Might Want to Know About My Vacation

I'm beginning to think I am a masochist. I just spent the last five days on yet another family "vacation." Yes, I mean "vacation" because it doesn't seem like a real vacation (sans quotes) if I come back more tired and pissed off than I was before I left. This the third such family "vacation" in a month. Man, it is a good thing I get along with my parents because they have been at each of these events as well.

But now I am ready for some alone time. I am not going anywhere for a very long time. I don't care that the holidays are coming up. I don't care that gas prices have come down. I don't care that airfare has come down. I don't want to leave home again. I don't even want to go to East Peoria. Anyway, here's the short summary of some of the events that occurred on my vacation. Expansion posts are forthcoming, but for now, this is just a teaser.

(1) Airport Security. In retrospect, I should have prepared my daughter ahead of time for airport security. This is because, when I asked her to remove her shoes at airport security, she asked, "Why?" In the rush and heat of the moment, I replied, "Because you might have something in them." To which she replied, at full volume, "I DO have something in my shoes, MAMA!" Let me tell you, the TSA has no sense of humor that I am aware of and now thinks my three year old daughter is the next Richard Reid.

(2) Rain. If you are enjoying the rain today, blame me. I brought it back from Seattle with me. It rained for five straight days on our "vacation." That being said, I still prefer the weather out there to the weather in the Midwest.

(3) 90 Year Old Mojo. Apparently, there was a room full of people at my grandfather's birthday party just waiting for the right word to describe my grandfather. Apparently, I provided it to them in my toast. After I spoke, I had to listen to a room full of other 80 and 90 year olds talk about my grandfather's Mojo. *Shudder*

(4) I Have a Step-Family, Who Knew? My grandfather and his wife got married eight years ago. His second marriage, her fourth. I sort of forgot that she has five kids, all of whom are married and have children. Technically, they are my step-family. In reality, they hate my family. No wonder I haven't thought about them for the last eight years.

(5) Happy Birthday x3. I understand singing Happy Birthday in English. I understand singing Happy Birthday in Swedish. What I do not understand is singing Happy Birthday in Dutch for the one Dutchman in the room. And it wasn't even his birthday. Dutch is not an intuitive language. Even though we had the words in front of us, it turned into a sad jumble of mumbling crap. FAIL.

(6) Airplane Etiquette. We did not have many friends on the airplane after my daughter yelled, "STOP THE BUS, I'M GOING TO THROW UP." In her defense, it is a phrase from a Fancy Nancy book and she wasn't referring to the airplane ride or her weak stomach. However, no one sitting around us knew that. The good news is they gave us lots of room during the trip.

(7) A Glimpse of My Future. I got a glimpse of my future and it wasn't pretty. My Aunt M. organized this entire party thing. And she was bossy, bossy, bossy, bossy. I was (not-so-kindly) reminded that I can be just like her when I plan an event. Like the recent family disaster in Galena. Crap. I've gotta learn to take a step back and stop telling people what to do. Yeah, right. I'll just stop telling them what to do in that shrew-like voice.

(8) Make-Up Lesson. I learned never to let my youngest cousin, who is 21 years old and majoring in theatrical make-up artistry, do my make-up for a party. At the end, she said, "OK, you are done. I could have done a lot better if I had my heavier concealer." Gee, thanks.

(9) Eligible Bachelor. Who knew I would meet an eligible bachelor at my grandfather's 90th birthday party? Very eligible, in fact - tall, handsome, well-dressed, well-educated, funny, under 50, and Swedish (like really Swedish - born in Sweden, lived there until 13 years ago and everything! I thought my parents were going to tie our hands together at the dinner table.) Too bad he lives thousands of miles away. Sigh . . . such is my life.

(10) My Brother and Sister-in-Law Suck. Again. Not only did they not come to the birthday party, they didn't send a card, flowers, or even a toast to be read, like my other cousins who couldn't be there did. Asshats.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

We're Off to See the Wizard . . .

No, not the wonderful Wizard of Oz, but my maternal grandfather who is turning 90 years old on Saturday. We are flying tomorrow and spending a long weekend with my beloved family. All I can say is that I am kind of glad my brother and sister-in-law are not going to be there. I had enough of them last month.

Anyway, my cousins and I referred to my grandfather as the Wizard of Oz for many years when we were kids. He doesn't so much look like the Wizard of Oz, but he behaved like him when we were little. In some ways, my grandfather was the least "grandparenty" of my grandparents. He was not fond of little children and much preferred to work instead of do grandkid stuff. (My mother has confirmed that he was like this when she was a child as well.)

In the three houses my grandparents lived in that I remember from my childhood, my grandfather always had the largest room as his "library" which was wall-to-wall dark bookcases, maroon velvet curtains, and dark oriental rugs. He could most often be seen sitting behind his giant desk working. As kids, we were never allowed into his library, unless we were bringing him a message from my grandmother that it was time for him to make the before dinner cocktails. Even then, we were only allowed to walk into the room in stocking feet - no shoes and no bare feet.

Being the oldest, I often was elected to go into the library and tell him the message. Even on weekends, he wore white shirts and bowties (he always wore bowties, I have never seen him in a long tie) and dress pants. He would look at me over his reading glasses and invite me to come closer. After telling him the message, he would pat me on the shoulder and say, "Tell her I'll be right there." That was my cue to leave the room.

So, to my cousins and I, he was like the Wizard of Oz - separate, mysterious, and powerful. It was clear everyone in my family viewed him as the supreme head of the family. When my grandfather talked, you stopped talking and you listened. Babies were removed from the room if they were noisy. Children were sent outside. Adult guests were not invited back if they were discourteous to my grandfather. (Unless, of course, if they married into the family . . . then they were tolerated.)

He ruled from his spot at the head of the dining room table. All table manners had to be observed when he was around. No one ate until his plate was full. No one drank until he had taken his first sip. No one else gave a toast until he had given a toast. I remember being glad the kids' table was at the opposite end of the room from him.

I don't mean to convey that my grandfather was mean or that their house was so staid and dim. Some of my best memories come from their house and of the wild dinner parties they threw. Adults getting too drunk (my family still tells the story of the nuns who were too drunk to drive home from one of their parties), people telling off-color stories, singing drinking songs, doing shots, playing charades or cards, and becoming weepy when singing the Wiffenpoof Song.

As I became an adult, my view of him changed. He became more interested in what I had to say and I became more interested in him. We have a very close relationship and I am amazingly lucky to have him still with me at the age of 90. For the last 20 years, he has been working on the "Family History" and writing down the history of his family and my grandmother's family. Because so much of our family history took place in Sweden, it would have been lost to us but for his determined effort to chronicle it.

Anyway, to honor my grandfather, I hope we sing this song at the end of his 90th birthday party on Saturday. Here it is:

The Whiffenpoof Song (start with glasses raised)

To the tables down at Mory's,
To the place where Louis dwells,
To the dear old Temple Bar
We love so well,

Sing the Whiffenpoofs assembled
With their glasses raised on high,
And the magic of their singing casts its spell.

Yes, the magic of their singing
Of the songs we love so well:
"Shall I, Wasting" and "Mavourneen" and the rest.

We will serenade our Louis
While life and voice shall last
Then we'll pass and be forgotten with the rest.

(Now glasses are put down, everyone joins hands, and sways in time with the music)

We are poor little lambs
Who have lost our way.
Baa! Baa! Baa!
We are little black sheep
Who have gone astray.
Baa! Baa! Baa!

Gentlemen songsters off on a spree
Damned from here to eternity
God have mercy on such as we.
Baa! Baa! Baa!