Happy 2015!!

Jill and I were talking last night about Chinese New Year predictions. Chinese astrology predicted that 2014 would be a challenging year for me. I’m a Rat, according to Chinese astrology (shut up, that means something way better in Chinese astrology than it does in an American back alley). Since 2014 was the Year of the Horse– and Horses and Rats are  not compatible– I was told that 2014 would be kind of a tough year. Lots of challenges, lots of unexpected bad news. I should hunker down, be careful, and wait out 2014. Oh, and hang out with Tigers whenever possible, because Tigers protect Rats.

Dave is a Pig (again, I’m just talking about Chinese astrology here), so although his prediction for himself was pretty good, he couldn’t do much to protect me from my bad fortune year of 2014. You know who is a Tiger, though? –Jill. Aaaaand right as the Chinese New Year began last year, we learned that she would be moving about 750 miles away. My first indication that 2014 would indeed be a challenge.

I was told specifically to look out for injury or illness in June and December: last June, I jacked up my knee while running and strained the ligaments in my right hand while opening a bottle of club soda (if that isn’t the most embarrassing, old-lady injury in the world, no?). My knee healed quickly, but my hand took months. MONTHS, my friends– and what happened in December? The flu ruined our Christmas plans. I had a great opportunity come my way…. only to have it yanked away for reasons beyond my control. I broke a shot glass that had sentimental meaning to me. I broke a beautiful little hand-painted bowl my friend brought me from a Bangladeshi market. I lost a $100 gift card. I blame 2014.

Yesterday, we had a couple of little incidents not go our way. As Dave and I said, “2014 wants to be a dick allllllll the way to the end, doesn’t it?” –So while 2014 wasn’t my favorite year by any means, I’m still starting 2015 with three beautiful, healthy children and our healthy extended families. And my Davey. Which makes all of 2014’s misadventures trivial.

For real, though: can 2015 be not so challenging?? Let’s hope so. I’ll update you when I get my prediction for 2015, later this month. In the meantime, here’s to you and yours for a happy and healthy 2015– no matter how many gift cards you lose.

    The Best Gift

    camaroA bit of holiday illness derailed our original plans. Well, I shouldn’t say “derailed” but rather, “adjusted.” We had our usual out-of-town holiday celebration, followed by a bigger-than-usual Christmas Eve. Then, in place of Christmas Day at my mom’s house, we had a crazy day of displacement: after morning gifts under the tree, we saw a movie, went swimming and had dinner at a restaurant. (What??? Weird.) As it turned out, though, this kind of extended our celebrations in a good way, with my brother-in-law bringing his family in for a visit and then– finally– our big Christmas Day celebration happened yesterday. We’ve been having a lot of fun, spending a lot of time together, giving and receiving lots of great stuff. The best thing I received came yesterday, when my brother Jeff handed me a small wrapped package. “I found this for you,” he said.

    Some background: when I was in college, I had the most ridiculous and awesome, bright orange, 1976 Camaro. I loved that car so much. It was absolute nonsense on four wheels. It looked like a zoot suit; the hood was long and the trunk was short and it guzzled gas and it went really freaking fast. I had had it for about three months when my college roommate borrowed it, and crashed it. (That particular roommate also stole a bunch of my stuff, and would even steal things back after I had reclaimed them from her. She used to cross out my name in my books and write her name below that. You know that one roommate who was sorta crazy? This was that roommate.) I still remember that awful feeling of having let down my parents, and all the work my dad had put into that car to make it safe for me, and what a terrible person I must be to have betrayed their trust by lending it to an idiot. However, my parents, in an angelic act of forgiveness, fixed the car and gave it back to me. I still can’t explain how much that gesture meant to me.

    I drove my orange Camaro until I was 25 years old, when some kid named Brett T-boned me on my way to the gym one Halloween. That was the end of the Camaro, and the end of an era. To tell you the truth, I’ve never since had a car that I loved as much as that car (the Saab likes to mess with me too much to take the top slot). I actually called my dad in tears to tell him that the car had been totaled, and then I called a bunch of my college friends who were like, “WHAT?!?! NOT THE CAMARO!!!” It was towed from the accident spot to my place, and subsequently towed to the wrecking yard. I don’t even recall my dad ever seeing the car after the kid hit it.

    Yesterday, however, I opened the little package to find the hood emblem from my beloved Camaro. Jeff had found it in Dad’s garage; evidently Dad had taken it off and kept it and I never knew. It is from my Camaro without a doubt: I remember Dad taking such car of that car for me that he even took apart the emblem and repainted the stripes. It’s all cracked and chipped from the collision too. So quite naturally I cried, and then I tried to show it to Dave a few minutes later and cried again. I love it so so so much. Discovering, out of nowhere, that Dad kept this seemingly inconsequential little thing is the best gift.

      Merry Christmas!

      Silliest, funniest, most fun dad in the world. Merry Christmas, Dad.

      Silliest, funniest, most fun dad in the world. Merry Christmas, Dad.

      Wishing the best of holidays to you and yours. As always, remember to raise a glass to my dad tonight. (Blue Moon, if you have it. Or Guinness. Otherwise, as my dad would say, “I’ll take whatever you have.”)

        They Should Bring Back Punch-Out.


        CAM: Here Mom, try to play this.

        JULIE: What is it?

        CAM: Well, it’s called Crossy Road. See this little dog? He wants to cross all these streets.
        CAM: So you help him cross… like this… avoid the cars… go over these logs in the stream…..
        JULIE: Frogger?
        CAM: No, it’s called Crossy Road.
        CAM: It’s updated Frogger.
        JULIE: It’s Frogger.
        CAM: But updated.
        JULIE: To a dog? That’s the update?
        CAM: Love you, Mom.

          Let’s be honest here.

          If we’re going to start World War III over a movie, we should pick one that doesn’t look like total and utter shit. Sony, please look up from your hacked emails and take note.

          Confidential to Aaron Sorkin: always helpful to be reminded about closet misogynists.



            I Feel You, Angelina Jolie.

            This photo is not at all representative of my experience.

            This photo is not at all representative of my experience.

            So Angelina Jolie has chicken pox. (Note: remember that time you got sick, and CNN featured a story about the nature of your illness? –Me neither.) When I read this headline, my first, unadulterated reaction was to shudder, and to wish her luck. You see, I got chicken pox when I was a freshman in college, and it was a terrible experience. Like, unrelentingly, unbelievably awful: I was stuck in my dorm room, covered in itchy blisters and I mean covered. Inside my ears, on the soles of my feet,  all over the inside of my throat. One of my eyes swelled up, and the school nurse had to come over to see if I was going blind. She looked at me, winced, and said, “….Do you want to go home?” I called my mom, who said, “Do you want me to come and get you?” –But home was six hours away. I couldn’t handle the thought of traveling like that. So instead, I stayed at school. (Also: my mom called multiple times each day for several reasons: to see how I was doing; to offer to come and get me; and to beg me to take pictures so she could see how gross I looked). My roommate was an absolute superhero, guarding our door from about a million curious girls in our dorm (who, like my mom, wanted to see how gross I looked). Plus, she brought me food and didn’t care that I had turned our room into a sickness tent. (At least, if she cared, she never said anything. Now that I think about it, I’m sure she cared but she was just really nice.) I discovered that the best place to have chicken pox is on your scalp– because you can scratch your head to your heart’s content and not care about the scars. If I ever lose my hair, my scalp will probably look like the surface of the moon. And I had nightmares, every night, that there were bugs crawling all over me.

            And then it went away and I was fine. And THEN, much later, both of my sisters caught chicken pox– can you believe that, in a family of five children, not one of us ever had chicken pox as kids? Betsy was in her twenties and had a very bad case, and Jill, that lucky brat, had a supermild case that just gave her an excuse not to go to work for a week. My stupid lucky brothers never caught it, and then the vaccine came out so now they’ll never get it. (If you’re keeping track: that’s braces, eyeglasses, and chicken pox– which my sisters and I all had, and our brothers never did. Jerks.)

            When I had my own kids and the varicella vaccine came along, I was all, “Yes. Yes. Yes. As soon as humanly possible.” I’m really grateful that my kids will never have to go through that. But anyway: I feel for you, Angelina Jolie. Pro tip: you can scratch the ones on your head allllllll you want.

              In Search of Sushi Socks

              This is the sort of thing they ask for.

              This is the sort of thing they ask for.

              In some ways I’m grateful that I always have to stretch to find things that my children would like for Christmas; it’s way better than having a trio of brats bent on conspicuous consumption. However, it’s also difficult: the items they do want tend to skew pretty extreme. For example, one year Gabby’s list included “a window” (her Grandma Kathy painted her a pretty little window scene, which is hanging on her wall. Pretty smart, right?). And this year, the J requested “giant eyeballs” which, again, Grandma Kathy has found a way to provide (Kathy is always up for a Crazy Gift Search, actually. She’s really good at it).

              This year, Cammy is getting a major electronics items that he dearly wants, but thinks he has no chance of receiving. Addie J is getting big-kid bedding which she has been talking about (but also doesn’t think will be coming). And Gabby…… wants photorealistic sushi socks.

              Sushi. Socks.

              This post is mostly me, bragging about what a champion I am, because I found a place with photorealistic sushi socks in stock, and they shipped this morning.

                Self-Censoring and Scary Elves

                Sometimes I have a problem shutting up, okay? Especially if I think that what I’m about to say is funny, I have trouble keeping it to myself. Case in point: a few years ago, I mentioned in passing how I feel that grown women should never refer to themselves in the third person, and especially not as “Mommy.” This did not go over well. Later, after the storm of “You’re a mean person” subsided, my husband said, “You ought to have known that a person who refers to herself as ‘Mommy’ is going to have no sense of humor about it.” He had a point; yet I could not stop myself. Because I think that a grown-ass woman sitting in an office and saying something like, “Mommy is going to be very popular when she comes home with these cookies,” is funny. (Picture it: a grown woman, in a professional setting, wearing her Ann Taylor best, discussing how “Mommy” is going to bring home cookies. See? It’s funny.)

                You all know how I feel about Elf on the Shelf. Well, my Facebook feed contains numerous photos of an Elf from one particular household (note to all my Facebook friends who have an Elf: I’m not talking about you. This is like a Friends of Friends situation. Another note to my friends who have an Elf: why do you have an Elf?). As God is my witness, every single photo from this specific home looks like a still from a horror movie, and for sure that is not the intent. Their elf looks evil, the shots are blurry as though the photographer was in the act of running away, everything is sketchy– yet it’s FOR THE CHILDREN. So it makes me laugh. I said to Dave, “I can’t comment about the horror movie…. can I?” And he wisely responded, “This person is not going to have a sense of humor about it if you tell them that their Elf scenarios look like scenes from Chucky movies.” However, here’s the thing: if the intent had been to create creepy Elf sendup photos, this person would be winning Facebook. Every day. And I would be sharing and celebrating and there would be memes and it would be great. Since the intent is rather the opposite, though: the m0re of these unintentionally dark-sided photos crop up, the more I feel like this:

                So I’m trying, really hard, to censor myself. And I really truly hope that my feed ceases to show me these photos, because my resolve is fairly thin.


                  Friday Bullet Blog

                  • Did you all know what it means to “five-star” someone? One of my students was talking about it and I had to ask. Then I said, “Is that something I should have already known?” –They all said, “Yes.” Just me?
                  • So I didn’t watch “Peter Pan” last night. Instead I snuggled with the J, tried vainly to read my book, and had a passive-aggressive war with my husband over whether the electric blanket should be turned on in advance of bedtime. (Spoiler alert: I think yes.)
                  • However, I’m seeing a whole bunch of absolutely magical clips of Christopher Walken, talk-singing all his numbers and phoning it in in the most delightful way, and now I wish I had seen some of it in real time.
                  • Speaking of my students: a former student emailed me with a non-school-related question, and then included this GIF, as a reflection of their feelings about Finals Week:


                  • ….Which is exactly how I feel about the fact that, yesterday, I learned how to do curtsey lunges– and then today, I learned about the pain that comes from doing curtsey lunges. Circle of Life.

                    Know What I Miss?

                    I miss my dad, randomly tossing out quotes from “Christmas Vacation” at this time of year. He was always good for a hilariously timed, “Shitter’s full!!” when you least expected it. It never stopped being funny. This is for you, Dad. I can just see you now, arms folded, little grin on your face, musing, “Look at that: Meister Brau,” while you chuckle.

                    Never not funny.

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