Grinding… and the Corners of My Mind.

“It looks like you’re grinding your teeth at night,” said my dentist.

“I assure you,” I said, knowingly. “I am not sleeping long enough or soundly enough to do any grinding of any sort.”

“Anything on your mind?” He asked, ignoring me. I thought about unpacking the corners of my mind right then and there in the dentist’s office, but I have an entirely different doctor for that, so I sat back in the chair and got fitted for a night-guard.

As if being a forty-something retainer wearer wasn’t enough, I am now a forty-something retainer and night-guard wearer. I apparently must look too damn hot when I’m going to bed, because the forces of the universe are working to make me look less and less appealing at bedtime. Bring it on, people. Bring it on.

I asked M if I’m grinding my teeth. “No, but I do,” he said. “That’s why I wear that extra thick retainer.” My first thought: This man and I are MADE FOR EACH OTHER. My second thought: How did I not know that? I cannot imagine how I didn’t pick up on his nighttime teeth activities, what with a seven year old and a cat between us in bed. I made a note to be more attentive. I made another note to move the seven year old. The cat stays.

While at the orthodontist with the seven year old (palate expander) and the thirteen year old (Braces, round two. Jealous?), I learned that the thirteen year old may not have brushed his lower gums in about two years. The orthodontist suggested he have his teeth cleaned every three months while in braces, rather than every six months, which is all our insurance covers.

I looked at the thirteen year old. “Listen buddy,” I said. “I don’t have time for this shit. You can either fork out for the extra cleanings, or you can start brushing your lower mouth.”

“Does this mean I also have to start brushing in the morning?” He asked. He and I have gone back and forth on whether or not morning brushing is actually a thing.

“Yes,” I said. “It does.” He just shrugged and smiled at the bewildered orthodontist, who I could feel judging me.

It’s no wonder I’m grinding.

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Can you please take a picture of someone else and say it’s me? (Or, how to panic about your author photo)

The good news is I wrote a book. The bad news is the publisher wants a photo of me. 

I hate photos of me. I have always hated photos of me. I don’t mind looking in the mirror, but show me just about anything other than a photo of me. I think I had kids just to get out of the picture and behind the camera. In fact, I would rather go to the dentist while simultaneously having a flu shot AND a pap smear than have my picture taken.

Needless to say, I don’t have any pictures of me around the house that I’d want to use. We are not an official pictures type of family. The only recent professional photos we have are from the boys’ bar mitzvahs, and I learned a few things from those:

1) if you want to look good in a picture, keep your young, dewy, nubile children out of it; and

2) parents who spend their time worrying about what their kids will look like in the picture, will often end up looking like something the cat dragged in, peed on, then dragged back out again. 

Desperate, I reached out to some friends in the know and found a photographer to come to the house and take pictures of me. 

“Please tell me you are not coming alone,” I said to him. “I am going to need serious hair and makeup help.” The photographer offered to bring a hair and makeup person. 

“Also a trowel and a bucket of spackle,” I added. I think he thought I was kidding. 

Then I went online and Googled: How to take a good author picture. I gathered a few tips:

1. Avoid loud prints. Given that I have pretty much spent 30 years avoiding all prints of any kind, one point for me! 

2. Stick with navy, grey or black: DONE, DONE AND DONE.

How hard could this be? 

3. Think of your most natural setting. 

What now? 

My most natural setting? Did the photographer really want to climb in the minivan and snap a picture of me yelling over music I have not chosen, while holding trash for children who can not hold trash for a second longer than they have to? 

Or, did he want to come over at seven AM to find me in the kitchen, sleep mask shoved up in my hair, bra-less, clad head to toe in sweat-material,  feeding children who may or may not eat what I’ve made because the egg is not crispy enough, these pancakes taste different, and what did you put in this smoothie? 

I am thinking about a friend whose author picture is in front of a beautiful wallpapered wall. Being a white-wall person, I don’t have any pretty papered walls. Being a white wall person also means that none of my walls are white anymore – they’re more of a smudgy, shmutzy grey. 

Who wants to to see that? And how do I find a clutter free corner of my house? 

This is all too much. Maybe if I tell the photographer I am having a root canal and a pap smear tomorrow, he will give me more time. If that doesn’t work, I have decided to wear a navy mou-mou, stand in front of my vegetable garden and have my picture taken with the cats.

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The Things I’ve Ignored 

My incredibly big, thrilling, news is that I wrote a novel and it’s getting published. I’ve tried to think of ways to write those words, ways that don’t sound like I’m announcing that I just got a puppy, made the cheerleading team, or won the state science fair (none of these things have ever happened to me), but I fail – because there is something so childish, so wide-eyed about the way I feel right now. 

I tried explaining it to some of my middle school students who are impressed by both everything and nothing at all. I told them that it’s so important to do what you love, even if you can’t do it full-time, even if you have to take breaks (loooong breaks), even if you feel like you’re doing it into a black hole, only for yourself and that nobody will ever know you spent hours doing it. Then I started crying and they all shifted in their seats uncomfortably and we moved on to something else, probably run-on sentences. 

M always jokes that no matter what is going on, I will always make time for reading and running and while that’s kind of true, I’m not necessarily proud of the things I’ve ignored:

My desk is a hot mess. It’s always something of a mess, and I prefer it that way, but there are piles of things I’ve ignored while I’ve written this book, things that have now stood up on their hind feet and begged for my attention.

First among them is blogging, which doesn’t take up physical space on my desk, but which I’ve had to put aside to make room for characters and plot and dialogue. I’ve missed it. I’ve missed you. 

Second among them is thank you notes. Not my thank you notes, but thank you notes for a certain bar mitzvah boy. I took a look at the handful he’d written and they looked like a serial killer had broken into my home and written on his stationary. A serial killer with some significant small motor skill issues. When I first saw those notes, several months ago, I thought, I cannot send those cards out. People will start for feel sorry for me. And then I promptly forgot about them. 

There is also a pile of papers onto which I stuck a post-it note, with the words – kids medical. I have no idea what is in this pile. We should all live and be well because it’s possible I’ve let our insurance lapse. 

There are corners of this house into which I’ve shoved piles of things I promised myself I’d look at later. There are recipes I clipped which I may as well just throw out.

There are returns I’ll never make of clothes I should never have bought. (It seems that during a particularly tough writing patch I developed a thing for metallic pleated skirts. I don’t know when pleats returned, and I have no idea who decided that pleats + metallics was a good idea,  but if any of you want one,  I apparently have about 14.)

We can all only do so much. I am returning to the blogging world, and because I now have quite a bit of editing to do, and thoughts of another story swimming in my head, that’s all I have time for. 

The metallic skirts are first come, first serve but I guess those Ted Bundy thank you notes will just have to wait. 


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Bucket List: Bronx Camping

It’s been a lot colder here than it should be for late August – early September… so much so, that we had to scuttle plans to go camping last weekend. Never to be deterred from the pleasures of sleeping in what essentially amounts to a very large Ziploc with my children (and apparently the cat) we decided to pitch a tent in the backyard.  I may or may not have made it the entire night. 

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Limp Mode

I ran into a friend this morning. I saw she was on foot with shopping bags. 

“Need a ride?” I asked. 

“No way! I’m not getting into that car!” She replied, casting a derisive eye on the many dents of my blue minivan. 

“It wasn’t my car!” I yelled as I pulled away in shame. 

My friend was referring to my recent 200 mile trip home in a tow truck. As you can see below, the car in question was not my car. 

The car in question belonged to my friend, A. The car in question is also brand-spanking new, which we all know my car is most definitely NOT. Earlier this week, A, and I were driving our daughters home from camp. Camp is seven hours away and we drove there without problem. About 4 hours into the drive home, all the lights on the dashboard went on, including the light that could either have been a) the battery, or b) the engine. It’s gone on in my car several times, and I still couldn’t tell you which it is. 

I suspected we should probably stop driving, so I urged A to pull over and call AAA. She wisely told me that we did not need to be stranded on the side of a two-lane highway in Nowhere, Pennsylvania, waiting for AAA to show up, and that we should keep driving until we could get off the highway. At some point the car informed us that things were getting far worse, as it promptly refused to drive over 40 mph, if that. We made it off the highway and pulled into a Valero gas station, where the attendant directed us to the auto shop across the street. 

AAA sent someone who told us that because it was 4.55, the car could not possibly be looked at until the next day, at the earliest. We explained what was happening in the car and he said,

“Yup. Limp Mode.” 

“Huh?” We asked, sure we’d misheard him. 

“Limp mode,” he said nodding to his sidekick, who added, “Limp Mode, alright.”

Limp mode? That sounded suggestive, dirty, and downright unpleasant, but that was all lost on these guys (and a succession of other men who chimed in over the course of the afternoon). (It is worth noting that all the men were quite helpful, even if one had a distracting swollen cheek and black stuff oozing out the corner of his mouth.)

Inside the auto shop sat possibly the least helpful human being in North America, and that includes Florida. As it was now 4.57, she told us that not only could she not help us, but that there was not a single person in town, or in any of the neighboring towns, who could help us. 

“There’s a rental car company in Bumfuck,” she said. But it closes in three minutes.” Big smile. 

I could see this was going nowhere quickly, so we called AAA back and began to do the math. We could either shell out for a hotel room, towing, and possible a rental car while we hung out in Nowhere, PA and waited for the car to be fixed. Or, we could shell out to have the car towed 200 miles home (actually 100 miles, because I got 100 miles covered in my AAA plan. Go AAA Plus!) I thought about the toothless Valero attendant across the street who looked like he wandered off the set of Deliverance. Whenever I went in to stock up on Twizzlers and BBQ potato chips, he smiled strangely and looked at me the way my husband looks at a chicken dinner. I thought it best to get out of town. 

Enter Ryan.  

Ryan showed up an hour later and confirmed that the car was, in fact, in Limp Mode.  A was a trooper and gamely drove the car onto the back of his tow truck, and climbed down. Before she could say anything, I called shotgun and jumped in the front seat. She and I both get carsick, but I can’t imagine she suffers anywhere near as much as I do, and besides, I’m taller. Taller people get to choose where they sit. The front seat also gave me a better view of Ryan and a better position from which I could pepper him with questions. 

Here is what I learned: 

1. Ryan had never been to New York. (New York is less than 3 hours away.)

2. Even though he spoke with a strong southern accent, Ryan was born and bred in PA. (I really don’t know how this happens, although I think it may have something to do with all the country music I was forced to listen to.) 

3. Ryan lived in West Virginia for a while and worked in a coal mine. He started to complain about all the safety regulations, but I knew EXACTLY where that was going, so I quickly asked him another question and learned that…

4. The furthest Ryan has driven is Colorado. 

Ryan drank a lot of Mountain Dew and at some point he pulled out of tin of tobacco. For a while my grandfather smoked a pipe, and I actually love the smoky sweet smell of tobacco, but I’ve never seen it chewed before. I tried not to stare. I tried not to crane my neck and gape as Ryan rolled down the window and spat. There was a little piece of me that wanted to taste it to see what all the fuss was about, but I didn’t think it would mix well with my steady diet of Twizzler and BBQ potato chips. (They are the cure-all for car sickness, as long as you eat them continually, without pause, on the journey.) 

We pulled into a rest-stop at the Delware Water Gap and peed. Ryan was giddy with excitement. New York was moments away. I realized that were were headed over the Tappan Zee and not the GW Bridge, and that poor Ryan would not get a shot of the Manhattan skyline. He’d have to settle for downtown White Plains. As it turned out, Ryan had no plans to stick around. Once we’d arrived, taken the car off the tow and paid him, he chugged a couple of Red Bulls and headed back to PA. 

It was close to midnight and we were all fried. At home, I put my eight year old to bed, got undressed, and was glad no one was there to see three potato chips and a third of a Twizzler fall out of my bra. 

Still no word on what was really wrong with the car. Limp Mode, indeed. 

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Diner Coffee

Every time someone calls me a snob (something of a thrice a week phenomenon at its slowest), I mutter to myself: “diner coffee.”

That’s right. I’ve travelled. I’ve tasted. Hell, I even lived in Seattle. You can have your espresso-based drinks with foamy whatever-milk. Give me a steaming mug of American diner coffee. In fact, give me 3 mugs of it. No milk. I like it best when I don’t even know my mug is being filled and I can pretend its one loooong cup of coffee.

M and I were on the Jersey Shore this weekend with some friends when I fell upon this:I don’t know what makes diner coffee Jersey-style, but I do know this stuff is roasted in Asbury Park, which brings me one step closer to Springsteen. (Asbury Park, by the way, is definitely worth a visit, even if you don’t worship at the shrine of Bruce.)

The last time I was on the Shore, I ended up on TV. This time I found some coffee. I’m brewing a cup of it in the French press this morning.

Stay tuned. 

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My One Day. 

I was supposed to have one full day this summer – one full day with no children. Four finally shipped off to camp yesterday and the baby (ok, she’s six) and I are headed out of town tomorrow afternoon. She was supposed to do her last full day of camp while I basked in the rare solitude of summer. One day. 

It’s been a pretty hands on summer so far. I’ve spent hours at the pool. Took an eleven year old to see Miss Saigon for her birthday (I may have forgotten that 2/3 of the play is set in a strip club brimming with hookers) and packed and unpacked the beach bag more times than I can remember. I have supervised the making of slime (what’s up with that shit anyway?) and made vats of pasta. As I may have mentioned, I’ve spent a lot of time gardening, but not much of it has been alone. In short, I’m a little on the tired side.  

I had plans for today, big plans. Plans that involved hours alone, including a long run and time at the keyboard. (I admit, we may not all celebrate in quite the same way.)

But the baby woke up in the middle of the night with a fever. She woke up in the middle of the night in my bed because that is where she went to sleep. She figured if it’s just the two of us, she may as well skip the middle man and jump into bed with me. Before she woke up, I slept alongside her, her toes wedged in between my ribs. 

So, my One Day has turned into this:

That long run never quite materialized (and frankly, I’m a little too tired to make the most of it) and while I’m getting time at the computer, I’m doing my fair share of mothering, which includes watching Barbie movies on an endless loop and making cups of tea. Say what you want about Barbie, but that girl can seriously do anything. In just one morning she has piloted a space ship, designed an entire fashion line with the help of some fairies, and turned into a mermaid while winning a surfing competition. I, on the other hand, have yet to get dressed.  

There’s always next year. 



Filed under Summer, summer camp, television, Uncategorized