If You Want to Make God Laugh…

Last week, I won two symphony tickets by calling our public radio station and answering a trivia question. The question was:  “What song was inspired by the Battle of Fort McHenry?” Fortunately, I’m a fast Googler. I looked up the answer, called the station and timidly asked: “The Star Spangled Banner?” The tickets were mine. For a moment, I felt as though I’d won the lottery. Amadeus and I were going on a date, a bona-fide, honest-to-goodness date.

We always struggle financially. Amadeus carries the weight of the world on his roof rack as he drives to work each day. He’s been an angel, letting me stay at home and try to figure out how to contribute to our income in a gentle way, one that utilizes my writing skills and keeps fibromyalgia from pinning me to the ground. It’s been hit or miss at best. As I’ve mentioned, I’m disciplined when it comes to typing words onto a blank screen, but rather awful at the business end of things. My writing career is the longest work in progress since the building of the pyramids. I stay panicky and stressed. I want so badly to succeed, to help us stay afloat, because there are sharks beneath the water’s surface, and they’re all holding bills between their teeth.

We worry that we’re going to lose our little condo. Amadeus is retiring at the end of the year, and we fret about that too. We recently sold my car, because I seldom drove it, and the repairs were costing more than we could afford. Side question to the makers of the 2001 Kia Sportage: How much Super Glue did you use when you built that little cracker box from hell?

So nowadays, I stay at home. A lot. I write and do domestic things haphazardly, the way, say, Queen Victoria would do chores if she weren’t dead and hadn’t had 750 servants to do them for her. Though I’m not venturing out much, our house is often bursting at the bricks with friends and family, and our modus operandi is always to accommodate. We make coffee and feed people when we have trouble caffeinating and feeding ourselves. Spare beds and a sofa are offered to those who need them. Our ears are always available to listen and our shoulders are ready, should anyone need one to cry on. At the same time, we’re constantly worrying– about keeping the lights on, about buying groceries, about paying the mortgage. Magically, though, we always seem to have just enough. Magically, we always have something to offer. Our lights glow brightly. We stay quiet in our poverty, and as cornball as it sounds, love seems to carry us a long way. It’s quite a balancing act, but somehow we’re pulling it off.

But those tickets were a godsend. For a little while, I’d get out of the house. For a few hours, I’d be a middle-aged Cinderella, and Amadeus, my silver-haired prince. I dreamed of the two of us sitting in the comfort of our local arts center, escaping our reality, rubbing elbows with little old ladies who wore opera glasses and tiaras, like they do in Marx Brothers movies.  The tickets could have been to a pudding wrestling competition, and I’d have been just as thrilled. I was also secretly considering it to be my birthday present, because this year, we’re just not going to be able to do much. So you see, I was pretty excited.

On the day of the concert, I took a long bubble bath, applied makeup, did what I could with my hair, and picked out a swell outfit. I even dragged some high heels out of the closet and dusted the cobwebs off of them. I put on jewelry as I imagined sitting next to my sweetie in the cheap seats. Once I was appropriately accessorized, I wobbled my way downstairs in those shiny shoes, and Amadeus went out to start the car.

Well, Amadeus went out to try to start the car. The car, however had other plans. The car laughed at us demonically and said, “You stupid fools! How dare you think I’m going to coöperate with you?” Chug, chug, chug. Wrr-rrr-rrrrrrrrr. The battery was deader than the above mentioned Queen Victoria. A Honda Fit, indeed. Fit for what?

I called my daughter’s boyfriend and he said he’d zip over to give us a jump. Amadeus, handsome in his symphony-going clothes, went to find the jumper cables. The clock was ticking, and at some point I realized that we’d never make it to the arts center before they dimmed the lights. I called a few friends to see if anyone wanted our tickets. I posted them on Facebook, hoping to give them away to someone, but there just wasn’t time.

My daughter, her boyfriend and the Grandpea all arrived. I sat on the step in front of our house and kicked off my stupid shoes. There was no point in risking a high-altitude nosebleed at that point. As we waited for the car to juice, we all sat around outside talking for a bit. The Grandpea put on my shoes. They matched her pink tutu and pet monkey perfectly. She shuffled around in an adorable manner. “I’m Mimi! I’m Mimi!” she shouted, though no one was fooled for a minute.

You know, I’m pretty stoic. In fact, I’m often so happy that I wonder what’s wrong with me. The world is falling down around us, and still, there’s always a part of me that feels thankful and chock-full-o-joy. But yesterday, I have to admit that my emotional climate was less than balmy. I was disappointed, and a  deep, low-level depression was creeping in and making my body ache. I had my game face on, but the mouth part of the face was turned down a little at the corners.

After about an hour, my daughter and her entourage left. Amadeus took our remaining money for the month and went to buy a new battery for the car. He drives over sixty miles to and from work each day, with many stops in-between. Jump-starting his battery throughout the day just wouldn’t do.

While he was out making the purchase, I tried to shake off the sadness. Mind you, this wasn’t just about our plans being canceled. I’m a big girl, and I can handle those kinds of curve balls. This was just cumulative exhaustion, another letdown in a series of setbacks. Every day, we put on our combat gear and work our way through our situation. We keep our sleeves rolled up and we plug away. But yesterday, I decided to let myself feel sad. I knew that if I just went upstairs and snuggled beneath a quilt for a little while, I’d be okay.

The house was quiet. I lay there like a slab of sad, little boohoos hopping up and down in my chest. At the same time, I was ashamed of my melancholia. How can I ever complain? I’ve got a loving family, great kids, a fantastic husband. Our house is filled with music, writing, art and happy, shimmering, low-level  chaos. We have clothes on our bodies and shingles over our heads (for now). Even if we’re eating PB and J, I’m always aware of how friggin’ lucky I am. So we didn’t get to go out. Big deal. Boo hoo. Wah wah. Thank goodness we found out about Amadeus’ car when we did, instead of at 7:00 a.m. this morning, when he was about to take off for work.

Downstairs, I heard my son and his new girlfriend walk into the house, chittering non-stop happy talk, the way those who have just discovered each other tend to do. I tried to ignore them. Damned happy people.

Four minutes later, my cell phone rang. “Where are you?” my daughter asked.

“Oh, I’m just lying down for a minute,” I told her in a zombie-like voice.

“Well, I’m downstairs,” she said. That sweetheart. She’d come back, just to cheer me up. She reads me like a book, that one.

As I arose from my tomb of gloom, Amadeus came home and went upstairs to find me. He opened one bedroom door as I was making my way out of another. We met in the hallway and smiled. As we headed downstairs, the Grandpea saw us and she smiled too. She put her soft little arms around my neck, which reminded me that I was still on her top-ten list of favorite people in the world. Soon the house was buzzing again, filled with laughter and craziness and joy.

Later, Amadeus said, “I’m sorry about the symphony.” Instead of blowing it off as I’d normally do, I put my head on his shoulder and told him about my disappointment. Being a guy and all, he didn’t quite get it. “You should have found someone to go with,” he said.

“It wasn’t about the symphony,” I explained. “It was about the company. It was about getting to go out with you. I’d imagined sitting next to you in the theater, listening to the music. I even imagined walking around with you during intermission. It was just an opportunity to go do something with you at a time when we aren’t able to do much of anything. Plus, it was my birthday present to myself.”

Once I voiced it– once I gave myself permission to feel gloomy and bratty, the cloud began to lift. I always, always say, “It’s okay,” about life’s little downturns, and I always mean it. But this time, for just a little while, it just wasn’t okay. And once I acknowledged it, once I cried and pouted privately for a few minutes, everything was okay. There was a baby in a bright pink tutu rolling around on our floor with her mama. There was my son and his girlfriend sitting upstairs, doing God-knows-what. There was the guy I love, sitting in the living room as sweet and solid as a candy-coated cinder block, watching football and winning pretend millions at an on-line casino. My daughter’s boyfriend, who’s been around for about seven years now, came back over to our house and quietly took a place on the sofa, smiling at the goofiness of it all. I smiled too.

Tweakin’, Tootin’, Twitchin’

After investing thousands of dollars in hypnotherapy and acupuncture and undergoing years of extensive counseling, I’ve finally worked through some of my techno-phobia.* Thanks to those who have pushed the little PayPal button on my sidebar. I spent some of that dough on a domain and parked it in a little reserved space at WordPress. This little broom closet of the Blog World is now officially moonbeammcqueen.com.

Wow. I’m a dotcom. It feels good. I love dots.  The painting above is by Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama. She loves dots too. The photo below is of Javier Bardem. You can just stare at him if the rest of this post proves too boring.

I’ll never be able to express my appreciation to those who feel moved to donate to this site. You’ve invested in whatever the hell it is I do here, and it means more than you can imagine. I’m still not exactly sure why it’s advantageous to be the mistress of my domain, but I suppose I’ll find out.

Making the switch to dotcomdom proved to be much simpler than I’d anticipated, but still, it all makes me as uneasy as a rabbi at a pig roast. There may be glitches and bumps along the way. If there’s anything screw up-able in all of this, I’m sure to find it. I’m nervous.

If you’re a follower of this blog—WOOHOO! Er, ahem–I mean, thank you so much. A reader informed me that she had to re-click the “follow” button due to my dot com switcheroo, and you may need to do the same.  If you have to re-subscribe, I apologize in advance for any grief it might cause you. Please let me know if you encounter any problems. Not that I’ll be of any help, but I’m a terrific commiserater.

Being a rather insecure woman, I sometimes ask Amadeus for his assessment of my appearance before we go out. He sighs and acts like it’s nonsense, but I value his opinion. As I tell him, “You’re the one who has to look at me.” Then he says, “You look fine,” and we drive off to McDonald’s.

It’s the same with this blog. In the coming days and weeks (and, knowing myself, months) I’ll be tweaking and tuning and making a few changes to its appearance. Just the prospect of tackling this project gives me hives, but it’s time to reorganize and attempt to make this site more reader-friendly. I’d love any feedback or suggestions you might have. After all, you’re the one who has to look at it.

Horn Tootin’

Sara, at kyllingsara has given me an Awesome Blog Content Award. This is a wonderful accolade, because although she’s fairly new to the world of blogging, her site is riveting. She’s a fearless, talented writer, and it’s impossible to read her posts without being deeply affected.  I urge you to visit there. Thank you Sara!!!!

RedFlameFire nominated me for a Versatile Blogger Award! I’ve mentioned RedFlameFire here recently. Her blog is another that I’m drawn to for its heart and intelligence. Thanks so much, RFF!

Lastly, but not leastly, Ann Marquez at Calliope’s Tablet has bestowed upon me a One Lovely Blog Award. This one has special meaning (not that the others don’t). Since the first day she commented here, Annie has been an ardent supporter, cheerleader and friend. She’s a published author who devotes a great deal of time paying it forward by sharing her thoughts, opinions and experiences with stressed-out writers like me. The time has come for Annie to concentrate on her own writing again, and this award was one of her last gestures of kindness before going on blog hiatus. I heart you, Annie. Thank you. By the way, you can find a nice review of Ann’s book, Journey into Probate and Back, here.

I LOVE receiving these awards. I’m horrible at determining who to pass them on to. It’s like trying to decide on the best dish at a Chinese buffet, or being forced to choose the cutest Beatle. Since I recently posted an extensive list of Blogs I Love, I’m going to give it a rest for a little while. When some of this construction dust clears, I’ll compile another list, rent a ballroom and roll out the red carpet for more fabulous bloggers. I can’t wait to see you at the after party!!

The rules of these awards usually dictate that the winner divulge a number of facts about him/herself. I almost never do this, because I’ve been blabbing about myself on this blog for about five years now, and it often seems that the needle on the Divulge-O-Meter can’t possibly move further into the red.  When you’ve resorted to telling the world that you can bend your tongue into the shape of a three-leaf clover, you’ve pretty much reached the bottom of the barrel as regards self-trivia. I finally did manage to scrape some factoids together, though I’m thankful the rules don’t specify that these tidbits have to be interesting.

1: Though my husband Amadeus loves football, I remain fairly clueless about the entire concept of large men in tight pants and hardhats crashing into each other at full force, all because of a little brown leather spheroid. I used to occasionally become bored sitting beside him while watching this phenomenon, until I mentally began turning everything the sportscasters said into sexual innuendo.  I do this all the time now. When commentators start discussing tight ends, positions and what great hands a player has, I just smile. Note: this works especially well during post-game  re-caps.

2: My daughter has joined the Air National Guard. She aced her entrance exam, killed on her physical, and today she swears in. She’s a great swearer.  She’s doing it for the sign-on bonus, the college program and the benefits, trying to build a secure future for her daughter (the Grandpea). Still, she’ll be at basic training for 5 months. The Pea will be with her daddy, but the separation will be hard on all of them us. She’ll no doubt be spending a lot of time here at Camp Mimi.

3: I’ve learned so much from Amadeus. I love his easygoing nature, the way he interacts with the world and the deep impact that music has had on his life. He’s a good, good man, and his presence enhances my life immeasurably.

4: I’m related to a bandleader who was the musical director for Ed Sullivan, Jackie Gleason and Kate Smith.

5: I believe that there are few songs more beautiful than the Grandpea’s rendition of “Skidamarink a Dink a Dink.”

6: For five years, I lived in a trailer out in the middle of Nowheresville. We had no phone and no running water. Chickens would barge in through holes in the cabinets and lay eggs in strange places around our aluminum abode. This was during the period that my ex-husband and I refer to as our “Green Acres” marriage.

7: When I was a little girl, I had freckles, and I hated each and every one. My mother assured me that they’d fade as I got older, but I didn’t believe her. I tried everything short of washing my face in battery acid to get rid of them. This included eating burnt toast and scrubbing with lemons, like Jan Brady did on “The Brady Bunch.” Nothing worked, but Mom was right. Time took care of them.

8: Amadeus and I don’t have cable television, and we seldom miss it. We’ve become addicted to retro TV. Many of our evenings are spent with Perry Mason, The Untouchables, Peter Gunn and The Fugitive, unless the weather’s bad, in which case our evening is spent cursing at the bad reception.

Twitching

Please forgive me if the preceding paragraphs are as blah and zig-zaggy to you as they are to me. You see, I am deep in the throes of withdrawal. I have once again given up my addiction to those cylindrical tubes of joy, cigarettes. Goodbye, happy yellow package. Goodbye my peace-pipe smoking, Native-American friend.  

The decision to quit was motivated more by finances than health concerns, but the end result is the same. I’m bitchy, twitchy and foggy. It’s difficult to form sentences and my eyes keep going out of focus. I’ve been sleeping a lot, and I swear, I’m hallucinating. Earlier today, as I lay curled like a Cheetoh on the sofa, sweating and drifting in and out of consciousness, I glanced over at my husband and realized that he looked like a 6-foot tall Bic Lighter, though I kept this information to myself.

I’m determined to kick this addiction. Though I’ve tried and failed in the past, this time I’ve figured it all out mathematically, and I believe I can do it.

Estimated cost of cigarettes per year: $2,817.36

Gym membership per year: $530.00

Annual savings: $2,287.36

Of course, this doesn’t include the retainer for the trial lawyer I’ll need after I go insane and kill the first little old lady who runs over my heel with a grocery cart. Anyway, there’s a fitness center within walking distance of our house. I plan to treadmill and resistance train and Zumba my way through withdrawal, and save thousands of dollars in the process. I’ll keep you posted on my progress, once the tremors subside.

Good Godzilla, this is a long and rambling thing. Sorry. I hope you have a safe, happy and memorable Memorial Day weekend. Oh, and thank you for visiting moonbeammcqueen.com!**

*Techno-phobia: A deep and abiding fear of 21 century gizmos. 

**No tobacco plants were harmed during the making of this post.

The Grandpea: An Update on the Most Incredible Child Who Ever Lived

It’s hard to believe that the Grandpea is now two. She’s smart and funny and beautiful, and I’m not just saying that because she’s my first, only and favorite grandchild. Babies are magic– toddlers are magic and mayhem. When the Pea and I see each other, she laughs and wiggles with excitement (so do I, but it’s not as cute). “Mimi!!” She claps her hands and hugs my neck and plants one on me. Can you imagine a better greeting?

She wobbles over the threshold and happily destroys my house, giving me a refresher course on toddler terrorism. She’s a 25-pound wrecking ball. She orders Theo the Wonderdog® around, because he’s one of the few living beings in our condo that’s smaller than she is, including houseplants. She assumes a deep and commanding boss-the-dog voice. “No Theo, NO!!!!!” Theo just sits there looking puzzled, because he’s simply been lying around doing nothing.

The Pea is joy and mischief, innocence and destruction. She kisses and hugs and ruins our rugs. She’s one of the happiest people I know. She also throws temper tantrums better than anyone I know, but she calms down easily and we move on to other matters. Toddlers are so easily distracted.

I love seeing the world through her eyes. She walks Theo and laughs hysterically as he leads her around on his leash. It makes me wonder how the world appears at her eye level, because frankly, when I walk Theo, all I see is a tiny mutt who likes to pee a lot.

There’s a lot of inventory in this world, and she’s taking it all in, item by item. She’s a baby inquisitor, asking question after question about trees and paper clips, caterpillars and carpet tacks. To every answer, she says, “Oh, okay.” Example:

Grandpea: “What’s that?”

Me: “It’s a spatula. You use it to turn things over when you’re cooking, like pancakes or eggs.”

Grandpea: “Oh, okay.”

My God, that laugh! That smile! Amadeus thinks she’s swell too. Her delight in the smallest, simplest things melts our hearts. It’s hard to imagine that there was ever a time that we were fascinated by a piece of tape. She’s the sunshine in the windows, brightening our house with her presence. We’re always a little happier and a lot more exhausted when she’s here. She’s much more fun and peppy than our adult friends, and we’re unburdened of the demands of imposing parental rules and regulations. We color and sing and sit on the patio listening to birds. We play guitar and discuss politics, and I never make her eat her green beans. She loves us.

Bossing the Dog, circa October 2011

She also loves her Hello Kitty shoes, her soft, polka-dotted blanket, Elmo, orange juice and baths. Her mom allows her to chomp on ice cubes, which disturbs me. She loves her thumb, her wrinkled right thumb, which plugs up her little mouth when there aren’t ice cubes in there. I see orthodontia in her future. She loves cell phones, which she flips open with expertise. “’Allo?” she asks, very French, very sophisticated. She props the phone on her shoulder and has extremely serious discussions with non-existent callers, which lets me know that my daughter’s  given her high-level training in the art of the long drawn out conversation.

The Pea has a strange, fierce obsession with singer Brad Paisley, whom she calls “Peasley.” If his fan club had a toddler division, she’d be president. I’m not quite sure how her Paisley mania started, but she knows all the lyrics to “Mud on the Tires,” and several of his other hits. It’s impressive, considering that she’s still working on the “ABC Song.” Without fail, at some point during each visit she begins chanting, “Peasley! Peasley!” I open the laptop and pull up a YouTube video or two. Or seventeen. I once played her an entire Brad Paisley “Live on Letterman” concert. She curled up in my lap, stuck her thumb in her mouth and watched her cowboy-hatted hero for a solid hour. Somehow, he comforts her.

Our favorite activity is story time. When I’m at her house, she goes to the shelf and brings me her entire library, one tome at a time. We lay in her little youth bed among her twenty thousand stuffed animals and read about Loraxes and coyotes and a boy in a boat. One night, she presented me with a new book, one that her mommy ordinarily keeps hidden. It seems to be her very favorite, and it’s become one of mine as well.

Here it is:

Go the F**k to Sleep, Written by Adam Mansbach

She wasn’t supposed to find it, but find it she did. Now that the Grandpea is at the parrot stage of childhood, the reader faces the challenge of finding substitutions for some of the words. Believe it or not, it’s a gorgeously illustrated lullabye of a book that just happens to prominently feature the word “f**k.” It also happens to be hilarious. Reading it reminds me of what my daughter’s going through these days– the exhaustion that goes hand in hand with being a working mother; the frustration of waiting for your little one to drift away to the Land O’ Nod because you’re dreaming of carving out about fifteen minutes of sweet, precious alone time before you conk out too. You’re depleted, your patience is gone, your baby’s bouncing like Jello-O on a spring, and though you’re stroking his hair and softly reading his fifth bedtime story of the night, a part of you longs to shake him like a pom pom and scream, “JUST GO THE FLOCK TO SLEEP!!!” Oh. That’s one of the words I’ve substituted. Flock.

Anyway, for your listening pleasure, here’s Samuel L. Jackson in all his thespian glory narrating “Go The F**k to Sleep.” Warning: He doesn’t substitute. I’m going to go call the Grandpea now. I just want to say, “’Allo.”