Monday, May 31, 2010

Don't Get Angry, Get Artsy

The other night, I was a bit perturbed with my husband. The question why is irrelevant. It was my innovative solution that's the focus here.

By the time the clock struck 8 p.m., he was passed out on our bed, snoring 10 decibels louder than his normal angelic sighs. After trying unsuccessfully to poke and prod him awake to give him an earful, I decided I needed to get creative. And by "creative," I mean, crayons.

I bounded with glee into the living room and pulled open the top drawer of our distressed wood wine rack. Hallelujah! A whole arsenal of pristine Crayola products, still untouched by baby hands. I decided a blue crayon might look nice.

I tiptoed up to my husband, who was lying on his side, half of his face exposed. The blue crayon made contact with his upper lip amidst my hysterics, but . . . damn it, it did not leave a mark.

Now, the average temporarily disgruntled wife might have thrown in the smock at that point, but clearly, I'm not average.

I skipped right back out to my stash and pulled out a washable Crayola marker made specifically for chubby baby hands. Green. That would make a nice moustache!

And, oh yes, it did. Not only did I design a gorgeous green moustache on my husband, but also some wiry whiskers on his one exposed cheek. He started turning over as I muffled my roars, doubled over by the bedside.

Then, I got crazy. I flicked on the bedroom light and whipped out my cell phone camera to try to preserve the evidence.

"Babe, stop! Whater you doing?!" he huffed sleepily, tugging the down comforter over his head.

The photo shoot did not go well despite my multiple attempts to capture his moustached mug shot. Hence, there is no photo to accompany this post, so you'll have to use your imagination, just like I did!

The following morning, I heard my husband in the shower forever. The thought of him wiping away the whiskers was as satisfying as a hot turkey sandwich and fries.

Finally, he emerged with a sly grin on his face.

"Babe, any idea how I got a green moustache and some sort of whiskers on my face last night?"

"You came home like that," I told him.

"Oh, really?"

"Yep, I guess your friends did it."

"Um hmmm," he smiled.

The truth was that getting artsy was the only thing that could get me through the night.

So, next time you contemplate going to bed angry, I recommend highly going to bed artsy instead. I think it could solve 99% of marital problems.

As for my husband, he now knows my Picasso pranks are not just empty threats. I have finger paints and playdoh just waiting to be cracked open and I just purchased a baby wiffle bat and a dozen water pistols "for the beach."

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Letter From My 2nd Grade Teacher

Back when I was a baby, my mom made me a phenomenal baby book, full of her handwritten notes about everything from my favorite foods to my tendency to hum while eating. She saved every report card I ever brought home and any comment a teacher ever expressed about me. Here is one letter that I recently found, from my 2nd grade teacher.

It reads:

July 3, 1983

Dear Stacey (sic),

Hope you are enjoying this summer. It is certainly hot! I hope you get to swim a lot. Swim for me too!

I want to thank you for being such a great person in my class. The class was a great class and I miss all of you so much.
I thank you for all the gifts you've given me - great and small over the year - but mostly for being such a lovely, responsive girl. I am sure you will always be doing well in life. It will be my pleasure to watch you grow up and it has been my pleasure to have known and loved you this past school year.

Much love to you,

Mrs. Mims

First of all, this is the nicest (and only) letter I've ever received from a former teacher. Although I never had the opportunity to reply to Mrs. Mims back in 1983, I would like to take the opportunity to do so now:

Dear Mrs. Mims,

I am totally enjoying my summer, thanks for asking! You're damn right, it's hot! (But summer in Philly typically is a roaster). You'll be happy to know that I've been swimming a lot and I'm even teaching my one year old son to swim too. Every time we do a cannonball into the pool, we yell out, mid-air, "This one is for Mrs. Mims!"

Thank you for your kind words about my presence in your classroom. Truth be known, all I can recall about 2nd grade is making a gigantic bed of down winter coats with my three best friends and laying on the classroom floor, bundled up, as if we were bracing for a snowstorm. (I still enjoy a good down comforter to this day!)

Yes, I agree with you, the class was a great class and I miss you too. None of my other teachers ever allowed me to snuggle up on the floor that way, and my college professors especially did not appreciate it.

Mrs. Mims, I have absolutely no idea what sort of" gifts" you're referring to in your letter of July 3, 1983, but I imagine I might have made you a gorgeous lanyard keychain or perhaps a masterpiece of Snoopy lying on top of his dog house. As far as me being "such a lovely, responsive girl," well, you're making me blush! You'll be happy to know that I am doing well in life. (I think).

I'm sure you had all good intentions of wanting to watch me grow up, but the truth is, Mrs. Mims, your letter of July 3, 1983, was the last time I ever heard from you. No worries, though. I have had plenty of wonderful people in my life who have watched me grow up.

It has been a pleasure to have known you and loved- (I think that's going a bit too far now). It's been a pleasure to have known you too. And, just a little tip- if you write that you "love" a student in 2010, you'll probably be arrested immediately as a suspected pedophile. I'm just trying to watch out for you.

All the best,

Stacy (no "e" in my name, k?)

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Ride Above and Beyond Rejection

Rarely do I drive anywhere these days without my son in tow, bopping in the back seat or pointing out trucks and trees that catch his discerning eye.

When I do find myself alone in the car, I, for some odd reason, want to push the outer limits of my speedometer. Run my gas tank not just down to empty, but dangerously beyond. I want to feel the rush of seeing the "---" when I push a button to reveal how many miles more I can drive before breaking down. I want to blast my music. Open every window. And the sunroof. Pass cars aggressively. Floor it.

Don't worry. It's not that I (always) do these things, but I consider them. Being alone in the car is a bit of freedom, both physical and mental.

So, last week, when I took off for Lancaster, PA, to attend a two day writers' conference, I wanted to put down the roof of my car (even though it's not a convertible) and let the wind whoosh through my hair. I had big plans.

I passed sprawling farmland, horse n buggies, and homemade pretzel shops on my way to meet some of the most prestigious authors, agents, and editors in the literary world.

I listened intently in each seminar I attended, jotting down copious notes. One big time literary agent from NYC scoffed as he answered a question from one of us lowly writers in the crowd.

"It's just annoying," he leaned into the microphone on the table in front of him. "I don't understand why some of you actually feel the need to respond to a rejection letter. It's like you reject the rejection letter."

Ok, note to self: don't reject the rejection.

What's true in dating and job hunting is also true in writing.
1. Rejection sucks.
2. But it's a useful learning tool.
3. Reject the urge to wallow in rejection.
4. Remember that the most successful people in the world have experienced rejection.
5. Be patient and persistent.
6. Do what you were meant to do with your life, and
7. If all else fails, put down your car windows, crank up some tunes, put your foot on the gas, floor it, and enjoy the ride.

At least that's what I told myself to do as I rode alone in an elevator, straight back down to reality, after getting rejected brutally by a very bright yet aloof vice president of the Children's Division of a major publishing company. We had a lovely conversation. Really, we did. She told me my idea was terrible, in so many words.

And, guess what? Life goes on. I had nothing to lose but a great opportunity to pitch an idea that I concocted at 3 a.m. the night before.

So, don't feel sorry for me. Rejection is part of life. You know I'm going to hitch up my horse n buggy and keep on ridin'' . . . and once I get that green light, I'm going to gallop off into the sunset. You can bet on that.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Eat Your Breakfast, Beeatch

How long was this chick going to glare at my baby before my mother bear claws came out?

Start your watch. Ready?

9:15:01 a.m. - My sister and I and our two angelic boys, ages 1 and 2, sit down in a posh restaurant inside the lobby of a hip hotel in NYC, where we had just spent the night. We realize that everyone in the restaurant is either an NBC executive, C-list actor, or ad executive, all preparing for a huge NBC fall show presentation across the street, called the NBC Upfront.

9:15:02 a.m. - My son points out the lovely chandelier overhead and his face lights up. "Daht," he squeals. A woman in her late 30s at the table next to us looks as if she just sipped some spoiled milk. But she's staring at my baby. She looks back at her friend. Then my baby. Her coffee. Then my baby.

9:15:03 a.m. - "See that bitch over there?" I mouth/whisper to my sister. "Yeah, why does she keep staring over here?"

9:15:04 a.m. - We place our drink orders. My boy is hungry and I start fishing frantically through my purse for some sort of "breakfast" before breakfast. She stares. She glares. Now her friend is staring too.

9:15:05 a.m. - I pull out a toy truck, a tiny baby book with my son's teeth marks on the corner and finally, banana and brown rice in a pouch. My sister's eyes dart between me and "Frau Farbissiner" (Ms. Miserable) at the next table. "She's still staring."

9:15:06 a.m. - "Go grab a bagel at the buffet, don't worry about her."

9:15:07 a.m. - I change my tactic of ignoring Frau and I meet her steely eyes head on. I don't know whether this bitch has a bum ovary or just a bad attitude. How could she possible detest my lovable son and adorable nephew (who, by the way, has the sophistication and vocabulary of a middle aged man)? It's not like they're launching banana chunks in her direction, and at this point, if they were, I would count to "20 Mississippi" before I intervened. You know what? I don't care what her story is.

9:15:08 a.m. - I tell my sister, loudly now, "If she looks over here one more time, that's it."

9:15:09 a.m. - DING DING. I glare over at her and say loudly and obnoxiously, "They're pretty cute, aren't they?" I smirk at her and then fluff my son's curly mop of hair. She looks bewildered and pathetic. "They're actually NBC executives, preparing for the Upfront today," I added, just for my own amusement.

9:15:10 a.m. - That shut her up. She didn't throw any more daggers our way. Glare at me? Fine. Mess with my son and my nephew? You're risking life or limb.

9:16:11 a.m. - We realize Frau is not speaking English. She probably didn't understand a thing I just said. But the beauty of nonverbal communication is that one's intentions are abundantly clear. I understood her and she understood me. And, I'm pretty sure she got my real message:


Friday, May 7, 2010

Dear Mom,

I know that I drove you CRAZY when:

I doodled off the pages of my coloring book and right up my bedroom walls.

I hid from you in the department store clothing racks while you yelled my name in a panic.

I did aerobatic back-flips off our swing-set while you waved a finger at me from the kitchen window.

I stayed out in a snowstorm until 3 a.m., singing and dancing with my best friend while you canvassed the neighborhood for us.

I…. maybe I shouldn’t even mention skydiving!

I know that I made you PROUD when:

after my first 3 years of almost complete silence, I started speaking in full sentences.

I had a starring role in the first grade play, even though I forgot my lines.

I sang and danced in the front of movie theaters as an "opening act."

I brought home excellent report cards, with the occasional note about getting kicked out of class.

You know that you drove me CRAZY when:

You made me eat vegetables and yelled at me when I passed them under the table to our dog.

You cut my bangs unevenly and brushed my hair so roughly that I threatened to call the Child Abuse Hotline, or Gram.

You eavesdropped on my conversations with boyfriends.

You refused to let me go on spring break to Cancun when I was 17 and I missed out on 7 nights of wild foam parties and body shots of tequila.

You might not know, but you made me PROUD when:

You treated everyone with kindness and compassion.

You valued other cultures.

You made me laugh every day.

You cried over the cheesiest television shows.

You blasted loud music and danced around the house.

You believed in me.

You massaged my feet when I was sick and brought me toast cut in triangles.

You made me wonder.

You bought two car seats for your car when your first two grandsons were born.

You cultivated a beautiful marriage.

You spread love, every day of your life, simply by being you.

Happy Mother’s Day.

Love always,


Wednesday, May 5, 2010

A Real Renaissance Woman

It is midnight on a tiny cobblestone street in Florence and my grandmother is perched on a moped, posing for the "paparazzi" like a 1905s Italian movie star.

She smiles. She's serious. Now sexy. She's working her shawl like a superhero would finesse a cape.

Behind the cameras, we, her grandchildren, giggle, loving every second of this impromptu photo shoot. Here we are in Italy, just the girls, three generations bound by one spirit. And here's Gram, showing us you're never too old to hop onto a random moped just for fun.

We decided to travel to Rome and Florence for all of the obvious reasons: The Coliseum, the Vatican, the Prada, the Gucci. Gram packed turkey sandwiches and snacks, kissed my grandpop good-bye, and jetted off to Rome with my sister and me.

We arrived at our hotel nine hours later to meet up with my cousin. My aunt decided to surprise us all. She showed up at the hotel as we screamed with excitement. The girls had arrived!

The Italians were warm and inviting. Everywhere we went, Gram was treated like a rock star. Men sent her complimentary bottles of wine at dinner; women introduced themselves while shopping. Maybe it was her sheer effervescence from being on a once-in-a-lifetime vacation with her three granddaughters; maybe it was her resemblance to Sophia Loren.

Whatever it was, Gram's spirit wowed us too.

Gram had undergone two heart surgeries in the last few years, yet nothing was going to slow her down. Up at 7 every morning, she would roust us out of bed, lace up her brand-new Nikes, and take us out on the town all day and night.

Exhausted after walking miles, Gram was still the life of the party back in our hotel room. Whether she was posing for funny pictures in her floral robe or telling us old stories, Gram kept us laughing in our beds until 2 a.m. She was in her glory.

We toured Rome and Florence, saw the most spectacular sights, and met some wonderful characters along the way. But the most unforgettable part of the journey was the journey itself: my family discovering the world together; the matriarch instilling in the rest of us a thirst for life, adventure, and simple thrills. Like laughing about the good 'ol days while making new memories. Like eating pasta in the finest Roman restaurants but missing South Philly. Like sitting in a piazza basking in the sun, remembering summers in Ventnor.

Like hopping on a moped at midnight on a tiny cobblestone street in Florence, reminding your grandchildren that life is meant to be lived.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

So Long, Lucille

Lucille. Lucille. Lucille.

Yesterday, we said a painful goodbye.

I heard disgusting squishing sounds as you made your exit and I felt the pressure of the doctor battling you as if he were an exorcist. You were a formidable enemy, Lucy. But, bitch, you're long gone now.

"Do you want to see Lucille?" the doc asked.


No chance was I going to peak through my sealed tight eyelids to check you out, lady. Why would I want to see you, sitting there solemnly in a vial, awaiting your journey to the lab? It was enough that I had to live with you these past couple of months, you little parasite.

Of course, we had our moments. You were the Thelma to my Louise, the Laverne to my Shirley, the Ashford to my Simpson. We had a few nice walks in the park, excursions to the playground. But, still, you were an unwelcome guest.

"I don't want to see her, but what does she look like?" I asked the doc, face-down on the examination table.

"Like the blob!" the doc replied, with enthusiasm.

" . . . with chicken fat," his assistant felt the need to add.


Well, now that I've set you loose, Lucille, I have to admit today has been a bit difficult. No, I don't miss your bulging presence in my back. But I do have phantom pains that have your name written all over them. My exit wound aches, burns, and constantly reminds me of you.

But, I have to say, I feel lucky to have known you, Lucy. Because as big and bulgy and important as you thought you were, busting your way into my back, disrupting my life for a short time, the truth is, you were a big nothing. And, maybe, just maybe, Lucy, in addition to playing cupid for would-be lovers visiting the Mutter Museum, maybe you'll be a lucky little reminder to others to get their weird lumps checked out, cut out, exorcised, what have you.

You're an inspiration.

There, I said it. You happy now?

Still, I am quite content to say, "So long, Lucille!"