Snowday Roulette

The forecasters at the weather service have shaken their magic 8 ball and predicted snow. Not much, only a dusting, but a child can still dream.

In the last two weeks, Northern Virginia has been beset by snow, freezing rain and sub 40 degree temperatures, or as we used to call it in Michigan, January. A snow day isn’t the enormous disruption for me that it used to be. The days of mopping melted snow from the kitchen floor while warming cocoa are only a memory. These days, the Dude verifies that school is canceled, then sleeps until noon. When he gets up he makes pancakes and pretends he’s on vacation while I nag him about doing his homework.

The Dude bounces into the kitchen, grabs a handful of mini-marshmallows and gives me a hug. I pretend for a moment that this hug is somehow related to me, personally. I’m delusional, but with a seventeen year old son, this is as close as I get to filial affection without handing over money or car keys.

“It’s going to snow tomorrow.” He picks me up until my feet are off the ground. He finds this amusing, saying that turnabout is fair play. One of these days when he does it, I’ll spit up on his shoulder and we’ll see how funny it is.

“Thank you, senõr accuweather.” I remind him that the end of term is near, colleges do change their minds, and perhaps he might want to do his homework rather than play Snowday Roulette.

“One must keep the snow day holy.”

“I wouldn’t count on a day off, Dude. I give it a 20% probability.” The chance of snow is 100%, but the amount is in question–1 to 3 inches–which happens to be the exact number of inches that result in equal numbers of parents threatening the end to the world as we know it (necessitating the closing of school before the first flakes have even fallen) and those who routinely walked miles wearing snowshoes to get to school in their own youth while carrying tasers to fend off marauding polar bears. The only issue that both sides agree on is that everything is the school board’s fault and they all must be excoriated on Facebook. I scan my feed as soon as I hear the weather report. It’s almost as entertaining as television on Bravo.

The Dude isn’t deterred. “Twenty percent. I’ll take those odds.” As if to demonstrate his surety, he pops a mini-marshmallow into the air to catch it in his mouth, and misses. The cat looks on with disgust. The Dude loves marshmallows. I hide bags of them in out of the way cabinets so that I always have a spare or two.

“Do me a favor, Dude. Please don’t ever go to Vegas.” He lifts a brow at me. I know it sounds trite, but he can actually do it–raise one brow. I’m pretty sure he started practicing in utero. Snark is hard-coded into his DNA.

“It’s supposed to be cold. Really cold. It’s too dangerous to be outside.” He knows that cold is my personal kryptonite. “I only worry about the little ones.”

“Very thoughtful of you. Perhaps if you actually wore a coat…” I know this is crazy talk. He does own a winter coat. I think it still has the tags on it.

“Coats are for wussies who have no game. Only those strong enough to survive the cold will mate. It’s evolution at work. Ask Darwin.”

“Cold shrinks the equipment and makes one’s nose run. Neither is conducive to romance. Ask Dr. Drew.”

And with my words of wisdom, he and another handful of mini-marshmallows are gone, probably to play Call of Duty instead of studying his Spanish.

Between his dubious application of both statistics and Darwinian theory I’m beginning to wonder if going to school is helping or hurting him. If it snows enough to require a school cancellation, however, that means my husband will probably stay home as well, meaning I can’t binge-watch Scandal while “doing housework.”

The snow arrives much later than anticipated–not until the afternoon. I watch the flakes tumble, sugar-coating the pine trees in the backyard. I have the house to myself, but no punchline. A small shift in probability and I would have a humorous anecdote about my family interrupting my day, keeping me from this blog as they did all last week, and it hits me. They don’t keep me from my work. They are the very soul of it, and when they are home, safe from the storm, my story will come to life again.

Because last time it snowed, my husband parked the car in the front garden. My son and his friend arrived just in time to help us push it back onto the driveway. Neither one of them was wearing a coat, so I made them cocoa. Luckily I have a few marshmallows left. It could be an interesting afternoon.

Haiku Resolutions

In 2015
No more procrastination
Starting on Monday

I hereby resolve
To spend less time on Facebook
Than my teenage son

I’ll be more patient
Before I tell you you’re wrong
I will count to three

And from here on out
I will not drink my red wine
Straight from the bottle

I solemnly swear
I’m done binge watching Scandal
The third season sucked

Before I shower
I vow to take a brisk walk
To the coffee pot

I found my hand weights
I will put them to good use
As my new doorstop

My New Year’s diet?
I will not eat any carbs
Before 6 a.m.

I’ll no longer curse
Or keep my voice soft enough
So my son won’t hear

No need to worry
I won’t write stuff about you
Unless I’m pissed off

But I’ll keep writing
If I can make someone laugh
Even if it’s me

Let love win and the rest will take care of itself

I was raised as a Catholic, but my religious beliefs have always been a little…squishy. A pastor at one of the non-Catholic churches I attended said technically, I was still a Catholic and a heretical one at that. He said it kindly and with humor, at least that’s how I remember it. These days, most would consider me to be an agnostic. I can’t put God in one tidy box. I prefer to call my particular brand of faith Episcobudditarianism.

My very Catholic mother rocked Christmas. We had two trees; the fancy tree, color-coordinated with our green and gold living room, and the kids tree, which had everything we could load on it. My siblings and I would sing along to classic Goodyear/Firestone holiday albums while we made ornaments for the Carols and Candles service using the eggs from L’eggs pantyhose (drilling the hole in those suckers was hard. They were also quite resistant to glue.)

Over the years, while I wandered through literal and spiritual homes, my Christmas spirit remained firmly in place. When the Dude was little, we used to cover the house with lights, inside and out. The more garish the better. My husband maintained some sense of reason, otherwise we would have had a blow up snow globe in the front yard that projected a Mannheim Steamroller laser show.

With the dude getting older, he’s not really interested in much beyond eating butter cookies, so it was up to me to bring on the Christmas. I was more than up to the task. And when my mother-in-law, in the grip of advanced Parkinson’s, began to fail, I promised my husband I would keep bringing the Christmas. I baked more, decorated more, sang “Sleigh Ride” until he begged me to stop.

Early in my marriage, my mother-in-law and I didn’t connect the way either of us wanted to. We both held on to our resentment and let it get in the way. As her memory faded in more recent years, our relationship shifted into something more loving and open. Her illness was awful, but it gave us a do-over. I wish we’d done it sooner. As she entered hospice care, I thought about my own parents, who I didn’t get to see this Thanksgiving due to the weather, and my siblings, with whom I share so many of those happy holiday memories, the ones I can still page through on demand, and wanted to have them all with me–even my brother who always woke us all up at the crack of dawn.

The hospice nurse said my mother-in-law could hear everything around her, so I played the Pandora holiday channel on my IPhone while I sat with her. A week before Christmas, she passed away.

On Christmas Eve, my husband, my father-in-law, the Dude, and I, went to service at the National Cathedral. Since one has to buy a ticket, it’s the only place I don’t feel like we’re taking someone else’s pew.  It’s an impressive space, built for contemplation and anonymity. So there I was, in the nation’s church on one of the most important days in Christian faith, and I’d been “bringing it on” by playing with cookie dough and glitter. I needed to do something to honor the woman who raised my wonderful husband since it took us far longer than it should have to reach a level of mutual respect and affection.

I looked at the cross and wondered what the heck I actually believed in. I wasn’t looking for a religious awakening, just something absolute that wasn’t bound into any one -ism. They gave us all candles to hold as we sang Silent Night. I lit my taper from my father-in-law’s candle and thought. “Let love win, and the rest will take care of itself.”

I may never be able to categorize my religion, any more than I can describe my career plans or my actual hair color. I do, however, know what I believe in.  And there’s nothing wrong with a  little glitter and cookie dough, too. Just saying.

Happy New Years to you are yours.

Holiday Haiku from the cats

Human–thank me nowIMG_0292

I’ve killed the evil red ball

One less ornament

Holiday ribbon

Makes for a festive hairball

On your yoga mat

Humans don’t get it

You can keep the **** inside

Just leave me the box

The lights on the tree

Aren’t blinking in unison

I will remove them

Go on–laugh it up

While my food bowl goes empty

Kiss dessert goodbye

The coats on the bed

Are the perfect place to sleep

Screw their allergies

Sorry mantel crecheIMG_0666

But I have dibs on this space

Kick it to the curb

I don’t care, grandpa

The dog stays at home capiche?

Or I shred your pants

Dearest Santa Claus

The human lies–I’ve been good

Just send some catnip

Like the humans say

Climb high, and I’ll reach the stars

Up the tree I go

Cocktail party – yay!

I will sit amongst them all

And lick my privates

Opening presents!

How should I know if they’re mine?

Cat’s can’t read, Einstein

I will shed my fur

On your new cashmere sweater

Until you pet me

If that’s what it takes

I’ll wish you Merry Christmas

Now go fill my bowl.

Happy Holidays from Hunter, Sasha, and the Mobyjoe Cafe

The tree, the ficus and the journey towards an ampersand

xmastreeThey were exchanging gifts before they had exchanged the words, which made choosing difficult. To give too much, or too little might ruin everything. If they got it just right, it might cement an ampersand between his name and hers.

Him&her, her&him. Us.

She’d wrapped the Ficus in blinking lights, thinking it festive, but it shed leaves in protest. Fending off the cat was indignity enough. To prove its point, the tree chucked a bauble at her feet.

He bent down and picked up the ornament, his face reflected in the surface, smile broad and open. “I don’t think the plant is feeling it.”

“I knew I should have decorated the palm instead.” She played with the bow on the box. She wasn’t the careful sort, more inclined to rip through the wrapping like a toddler than worry the tape as not to tear the paper. The moment, however, hovered in the space between before and after, and she didn’t want to rush to conclusions.

I hope he likes it.

I hope she likes it.

“You need a real tree,” he said, and she agreed.

They walked into the velvet evening. The city hushed as if it had stopped to watch the snow fall. The lot wasn’t far, only a block or two, and they followed the floodlight like the homing star. She breathed in cold and pine and hope as they wove between the trees, looking for their future hidden among the branches.

“This one.” They’d pointed at the same tree.

It’s a sign.

Definitely a sign.

They carried the tree back to her apartment, each holding one end of the trunk. Snowflakes settled on her hair, melting into tiny gems, her face bright and rosy as she turned back and smiled at him.

He matched his pace to hers, not wanting to push too hard, or hold her back, asking her from time to time if the burden was too heavy.

“I’m stronger than you can imagine,” she said.

“I don’t doubt it.” His imagination was infinite.

He let her choose which end to carry, so she opted for the end with the branches. He would try to carry most of the weight, it seemed his way, but she could bear the scratching needles. Ever prepared, she’d worn gloves. The bag holding the stand dangled from the trunk, the contents jostling with every step. She could almost hear sleigh bells.

They crowded into the elevator, the three of them, then pushed their way out, down the hall and through the apartment door. He stood the tree while she set the Ficus free. It shivered with pleasure, shedding a few last leaves to remind her to never, ever impose in that manner again. It sneered at the prickly new neighbor. Sucker.

The pine wouldn’t dignify the Ficus with a response as it received the lights and ornaments with open arms.

When they had finished, they lay under the tree and gazed up through the branches. Unwrapping boxes could wait. They had ampersands to exchange first.

Photograph : Christmas 2013 by Ed Suominen © 2013 Creative Commons/Flickr

“What I am Thankful For…”

IMG_0749When the Dude was the little dude, every Thanksgiving I’d get a heartfelt letter scrawled on ivory handwriting paper. The missive was accompanied by a colorful turkey made from his handprint, a pilgrim or two, a tank, Dustin Pedroia, and sharks chasing Peyton Manning in open water.

Reading over prior year’s “thankfuls” I was struck with how little he’s changed. Although he might have a few new items to add to his list, the core is largely the same.

First  is the expected–my family, a house, my cats, decent food. “Decent” food? Really? It must be because I made him eat vegetables.

Next comes the really important stuff. I know it’s important because every word is spelled correctly; The Red Sox, The Patriots, Dustin Pedroia and Tom Brady, Star Wars, and Macaroni and Cheese, but only the orange kind, not the stuff Mom makes with four artisan cheeses. That version is merely “decent.”

Third, we get to the kiss-up phase, where he says whatever he thinks the teacher wants to hear. My country, the galaxy, freedom and liberty, and English. At least I think it says English.

The end is always the same. I’m thankful for Christmas. In his minimalist period, Christmas was the only thing he was thankful for.

My list is pretty short; family, friends, music, words, NPR and my Roomba. Oh–and my cappuccino machine. I’m a simple gal with simple needs.

I don’t get the Dude’s thankful letters any more, so I would have to guess at what he’d include. Frappuccinos and a full tank of gas (provided by someone other than him), Call of Duty, college acceptance letters, his “bros”, streaming television, doughnuts and Saturday.  The Red Sox and the Patriots. His handprint would take up the entire page. He wouldn’t include the tank, but Peyton Manning being devoured by sharks might still make the cut.

I have to wonder what he’ll be thankful for next year, when he’s been away at college for three months. I’m thinking he may be more appreciative of my “decent” cooking. I’ve never served up hot chili Fritos, not even once. Personally, I’ll be thankful to have him home, leaving his dirty socks in incomprehensible locations and interrupting my writing to discuss the baseball trades and the Pats Superbowl prospects. And my cappuccino machine. Some things never change.


Taylor Swift is my imaginary BFF

handsheartI just turned 50, at least that’s what my driver’s license says. I don’t feel particularly mature, and whatever wisdom grace bestows by virtue of age alone seems to have passed me by (I was probably playing Bejeweled at the time).  Denial, however, doesn’t appear to be a legitimate excuse for ignoring doctor’s orders, so I had a colonoscopy.

I won’t go into details, but the morning before my procedure, I had to find a way to occupy my time in five to seven minute snippets. This clearly is what BuzzFeed was invented for. That’s where I ran into Taylor Swift.

One would have to work hard to avoid Ms. Swift these days. I would guess that even survivalists hunkered in a bomb shelter in Nevada whistle “Shake it Off” while cataloging their supply of freeze-dried rations–and not in an ironic way. I had no idea, however, that in just one morning, she’d wormed her way into my psyche.

I arrived at the outpatient center and nurse walked me through what they’d do to me. The risks were minimal, she assured me, and my husband was there to take me home afterwards, since the anesthesia might make me a little woozy. That was her term for it. Woozy.

Apparently I talked under sedation, and it went something like this.

Nurse : You’re fine, but we want you to take it easy today.

Worried Me : But what about tonight?

Confused Husband : What about tonight?

“Do I have to remind you of everything” Me : We have plans, remember? We have that  party to go to–at Taylor Swift’s.

My husband lives in a cultural shoebox, and even he knows who Taylor Swift is. Ever hopeful, he attempted to reason with a woman under the influence of some pretty powerful drugs.

Rational Husband : Honey, you don’t know Taylor Swift.

Undeterred Me : That doesn’t matter. Taylor Swift is friends with everyone. Haven’t you seen that thing she does with her hands?

I put my hands together in the shape of a heart.

Wondering if this is normal Husband : No, I can’t say that I have.

Not to trusted with a credit card Me : I have to wear something purple. I don’t own anything purple. After we leave, take me to the mall, okay?

He took me home. I slept for four hours.

I had no recollection of this conversation, yet when my husband told me about it, I felt a sense of loss. Somewhere in the universe, Taylor Swift was having a party, baking cookies with Lorde and Lena Dunham, and I wasn’t invited. In the days that followed, Taylor stalked me, staring back from the cover of Time Magazine, dancing through a Long Island mansion in an interactive video/ad for American Express, and in countless HuffPo videos of children singing in the backseat of the minivan.

My 50 year old reality was still very real. My son got his first college acceptance, then his second, and his third, and I realized that he truly was leaving the nest in the fall. I was rejected for yet another job. My gray roots were showing, and I pulled my hamstring tripping over my son’s size 12 sneakers. I could make a heart with my fingers all I wanted, but was still 50.

While putting the laundry in the closet, however, I realized that I owned not one, but two purple garments. So I invited my friends over for lunch. We didn’t bake cookies, but I told them about my post-op ramblings, and they reminded me that I’ve said much more ridiculous things without any sedation required. They also reminded me how lucky I am to have my very real friends, and if this is 50, 50 rocks.

Except in six months I have to have another colonoscopy. This time I’m going to tape my mouth shut, just in case. Mark the date Taylor, I’ll  be waiting for that invitation.

Photograph : Hands, Heart by mafleen © 2013 Creative Commons/Flickr