Last night we went to a Christmas party given by the brother and wife of a friend of Mr. Minivan. I told Mr. Minivan I was bringing a book. "Oh no you're not!" he said. "What if I get bored?" I asked. We drove up to the guard house of this gated community and once the list was checked, got clearance to go to the house. The massive massive house in a neighborhood of massive massive houses. We deposited the car with the valet and walked toward the front door. The first people I saw when I walked in were Dr. Phil and Robin, and their son and his beautiful blond triplet wife. Oh, and Barry Bonds. But I didn't actually know it was Barry Bonds until someone told me. At that point, one minute into the party, I admitted to Mr. Minivan that I was glad I had left my book at home. The house was huge and beautiful, decorated with Christmas decorations and family photos. Entertainment consisted of a psychic, a DJ, an ice skater--yes, on the ice rink that had been constructed on the lawn next to the pool, and, strangely enough, a group of Medievally-dressed singers that were like the low talker on Seinfeld--low singers, maybe? I assume they were singing Christmas carols but I couldn't really hear them. They looked great, though. Security men in suits all over. I kept watching them to see if they were speaking into their wrists, but they weren't. I also kept seeing guys that looked familiar--maybe I went to college or high school with them--no, I've seen them on TV, that's it. Many of the doctors from Dr. 90210 were there, too. Rumor was that Britney would be there later. I thought it would be the perfect time for an intervention with Dr. Phil but Brit-Brit never showed. I met Joe Pesci (without Angie Everhart--heard later they are no longer together) and yes, every other word out of his mouth IS "f-ing"--WITHOUT the dash. Also met Barry Bonds, Wesley Snipes, Gloria Allred (victims' rights attorney--was Amber Frey's lawyer), Robert Shapiro (was OJ's lawyer), Linda Thompson Jenner (was Elvis' girlfriend, was Bruce Jenner's wife, is mom of Brody Jenner, Hills star and tabloid darling)--everybody was very nice and very friendly. Oh, I forgot to mention I also met Paris Hilton. She was there with Britney's cousin Allie and Sam Lutfi. Yes, that Paris Hilton. She is very pretty, was dripping in diamonds, and was lovely to talk to. She is smart, very charismatic, and is a master manipulator. Oh, and my new best friend. She asked me if her lipstick was OK--it was bright red and she felt it was too red but it was the only one she had. "It's fine," I said, "it's the holidays..,,you can wear red." Yep, one day I am giving makeup advice to Paris Hilton and the next day I am folding laundry. Happy Holidays everyone!!
My parents came to visit for Thanksgiving and it was great! We cooked, ate, brined, talked, ping-ponged, Rummikubed, shopped, and just hung out. My dad is a big pizza aficionado and the newest, most-talked about restaurant in L.A. is Pizzeria Mozza, so we went. I made a lunch reservation--this is one of those places where you have to make a dinner reservation a month in advance unless you want to "dine" at 4:30 or 10:45. When we got there I realized why reservations are so tough to come by. I had thought it would be one of those big "sceney" places, but it was tiny. There were maybe 13 tables and about 20 seats total at the pizza bar and regular bar. We were seated--the three of us--at what I would consider a table for 2. My mom and I were on one side and my dad on the other. But it was fine. The service was excellent and the food divine. Things not to miss if you dine at Mozza: the brussels sprouts antipasto, any bruschetta, the chopped salad, and the fennel sausage pizza. The much talked-about fried squash blossoms were quite forgettable. All three of us said we would definitely go back. A few minutes after we had been seated I noticed 2 men approaching the table next to us. "That guy looks a lot like Ray Romano," I thought to myself. Of course, it WAS Ray Romano--being seated at the next table right next to my dad. Ray and his friend also ordered the brussels sprouts although Ray didn't want to because he said he didn't like them. I restrained myself from joining the conversation and raving about the sprouts. The tables there are so close together that I could have reached over and salted his food. But, of course, being jaded about all the celebrities here, why would I? I discreetly whispered to my mom that he was at the next table. But I couldn't lean over and tell my dad because his hearing is not what it used to be and I knew he would say loudly, "WHO? Ray Who?" So I had to wait til we left the restaurant to tell him of his celebrity non-sighting. Maybe it was a celebrity seating?
As I was scrubbing the liquified cookie crumbs out of Boy #1's lunchbox yesterday afternoon, I had another one of those "I went to college for this?" moments. We have successful lawyers, bankers, doctors, businesspeople. How come nobody says, "She is a successful housewife?" You can come over to my house any time and I will always have a clean towel for you if needed. I will whip you up a snack or a meal that will bring a tear to your eye. I will wrap a present for you, sew a button on, do your laundry while you are enjoying that snack. I will let you sit on my couch and relax while I bring you a selection of magazines. I will even help you with your homework if you want. If that's not successful I don't know what is. Let's not even bring up the fact that in my line of work there are no annual reviews, raises, or expense accounts. I don't even like the term "housewife." It is so 50's, so retro, so June Cleaver. I was talking about this with a friend and she brought up the fact that so many other occupations are genderless, like actor, doctor, banker. But not housewife. So what would a genderless title be, "houser?" "house manager?" Any ideas? On forms that ask for my occupation I usually put "mom," which I guess is more important than "housewife." Jackie Kennedy once said something to the effect of "If you mess up raising your children, whatever else you do in life doesn't matter much." No matter how clean your towels are.
The streets here.....are littered. With celebrities. I'm starting to think they're stalking ME. I can't even do the most mundane task anymore without bumping into one. Today, after a school yearbook meeting and many, many errands....returning library books, picking up dry cleaning, returning the pack of card stock that wasn't used when Boy #1 made campaign buttons for his student council run, making a quick drugstore run, and so much more, I stopped by the grocery store that sells the best grapes. And the best watermelon. And where Sidney Poitier and I like to buy our apples. I was buying a few impulse items when I saw a woman who looked like Reba McEntire. Only smaller. I glanced at her and then away and she disappeared. I finished shopping and got into a checkout line. I couldn't see who was checking out in front of me at first because of the way the checkout station is configured. When I could see the customer ahead of me I saw that it was indeed Reba McEntire. The clerk asked her if she wanted help out to her car and she said "No, that's OK." I saw my opening. "We don't need help there," I said. "We need help at home putting it away. We need help unloading our dishwashers and putting our laundry away." My new friend Reba chuckled, "That's right," she said, "Come and help us at home." We're just two women laughing together about all the stuff we have to do. As if SHE doesn't have people to do that stuff. Maybe she doesn't. After all, she WAS buying her own groceries. And she did return her shopping cart to the cart corral after she loaded the grocery bags into her car. Reba and I have so much in common. We speak the same language. Dishwashers, laundry, groceries. If only my friend Sidney had been there.
I am on such a roll. Saturday night. Dinner at a diner in Brentwood with the kids. Decided to go across the street to the Halloween store on the corner because, of course, Halloween is in 4 days and if we don't, Boys #1 and 2 will be a Cubs fan and a football player. Again. The store was filled with scary masks and overpriced Halloween stuff and desperate adult shoppers. I decided to step outside while the boys decided which scary masks to buy that they will surely end up taking off in order to actually SEE while trick or treating. I sat on a ledge outside the store and looked toward the street and who did I see? Jake and Reese. Gyllenhaal and Witherspoon. Yep, the Brokeback guy and the Legally Blonde girl. Holding hands. And walking toward the Halloween store. Even celebs get into the Halloween spirit, I guess. As Reese walked toward the store, she adjusted her baseball cap, pulling it lower on her head. Jake had no hat, just a beard and a puffy vest. She is verrrry tiny and very pretty. They were holding hands and leaning into each other. There were no paparazzi in sight, so If they're not REALLY a couple they were doing a great impression of one. Of course I walked back into the store after they did. He picked out a very oversized brown cowboy hat and I didn't see what she got. I was too busy trying not to look like I was staring at them. In the checkout line she leaned back into him as his hand caressed her back and even lower!!! (This is a family blog, you know.) I really need to start carrying my camera with me.
Sidney Poitier, Jake and Reese. My sightings are getting better and better. It's mostly all Oscar winners now. Can Brangelina be far behind?
Sometimes I get a little obsessed with the strangest things. For the last few years, it has been the honey crisp apple. I discovered them several years ago at the grocery store and have been spreading the word ever since. Some people preach religion. I preach the honey crisp. They are sweet, tangy, crisp (of course), and delicious. They have become quite popular recently--in fact, a few weeks ago the Chicago Tribune had an article about them entitled "One Sexy Apple." Over the weekend we went out to dinner at one of my new favorite LA restaurants, and I had my new favorite side dish, roasted brussels sprouts with pancetta and fuji apple. I think it also had some fresh thyme gently sprinkled in. It was fabulous. In fact, I have been thinking about it ever since. Perhaps brussels sprouts are the new honey crisp. I went to the grocery store today to buy the ingredients, because with the temperature here in the 90's and the state burning, somehow my thoughts turned to roasting. It IS October, after all. I was in the produce section, looking for the fujis, when I looked across the aisle and saw Sidney Poitier picking out apples. So of course, I walked over to his apple bin and, conveniently, the sign indicating what kind of apples they were was missing. "They're fujis," he said. (If that's not karma, I don't know what is) "Oh, " I said, gazing into his eyes. I'm not your typical fan, you know--anyone can say, "I really love your work, Mr. Poitier." Not me. "Have you tried the honey crisps? They are fabulous. They're life-changing." "Really?" he asked. "Where are they?" I, having been raised right, was very happy to help the man out. So we walked over to the honey crisp section together. The. Very. Elegant. Mr. Poitier. and I. He picked out a few apples. "You're going to love them," I said. "Next time I see you I'll let you know how they were," he said. Simply charming. We encountered each other in the store a few more times before we checked out at different lanes. I walked out a few feet in front of him and watched as he got into his black Mercedes. Then I got into my minivan and went home to real life.
You're always a bit nervous your first time. You might not know how to do it right, you might not know how everything works, you might not know how to push all the right buttons. The lighting might not be right, either, and you know there will be someone right there watching you. It's a little embarrassing, too, because you know everyone's been doing it all along and you feel like the only inexperienced one out there. But today I became one of you. One of the crowd. One of the cool kids who knows exactly how to do it. I did it. Yes, I did. I used a debit card today for the first time ever and I'm not embarrassed it took me so long, either! Well, maybe just a little... I was on my way to the grocery store and was chatting with a friend about how I didn't like the fact that, at this particular grocery store, every time I wrote a check I had to pull out my driver's license too. She was appalled. But not because of the driver's license. "You write checks? Why do you write checks at the grocery store?" I told her that I liked the fact that when I write a check it's paid for. It's done. I don't have to add a charge to my credit card. Besides, I've always written checks at the grocery store. That's how my mom did it. My friend expained a little bit about the wonderful world of debit cards to me and it sounded pretty painless. I went into the store and soon was confiding my little secret to Chris, the cashier. "I've never done this before." He looked at me as if I were crazy. Even his braces seemed to be laughing at me. I swiped and pressed and entered and it was all over. It was so easy! I loved it! And the best news is that my bank has this program where they round up your purchases to the nearest dollar and put the change into your savings account. I've been waiting my whole life for this...the more you spend the more you save! I can't wait to do it again!
In between criss-crossing the country, buying and returning school supplies, killing moths and scrubbing eggs off my house, and just generally getting ready for the fall, I realized that I need a new project. I told you I was working on one and here it is. I have a few other non-bloggy plans for myself for the fall, too, you will be happy to know. Let me know what you think about cyberspace's new addition.
Today was the first day of school here. I love the smell of #2 pencils in the morning. Boys #1 and 2 are, amazingly enough (to me, at least), in 8th and 5th grade this year. They were up early on this steamy hot day, with backpacks that had been packed up several days ago with new school supplies. Their lunches were ready to go, and so were they. They were excited to get to school early to find out which friends were in their classes. It's sort of funny--for the last couple of weeks whenever they were asked if they were excited to go back to school the answer was, for both of them, a definite "No." Yet they were excited to get to school. I, on the other hand, have sort of been looking forward to the start of school for a week or so. Looking forward to having some free time to myself without the constant presence of my "assistants", as I love to call them. I love the routine of the school year yet I know that that routine soon becomes a grind. But I was ready to get started too. What really suprised me about today was that when I left the school after having gone with them and checked the class lists, exchanged pleasantries with other parents and teachers, and brought my baked-at-11:30-last-night-sour-cream-coffee-cake to the first day coffee, I felt a little sad walking away. I think I had gotten used to hanging out with my two assistants and it felt strange not to be with them. I also realize that I have a lot of "free time" facing me. They always say, "be careful what you wish for.." But I have a new project in mind.....I'm busy cooking something up. More to follow.
We are having phone problems. When someone calls, they hear about half a ring on their end, then silence. The call doesn't go to voice mail. We hear about half a ring, then silence. If we grab the phone quickly enough, we can get the call before the person hearing the silence on the other end gives up. I called the phone company this morning and after 20 minutes or so was connected with a friendly guy named Steve. He listened to the problem and then told me he was going to run a check on the line and call me right back. After waiting another half hour for Steve's call, I had to leave my house for an appointment. This afternoon I tried again. I called the same number and was on hold for 45 minutes. Why does it seem that it is impossible to get in touch with the phone company on the phone?? About 35 minutes into it I decided to try calling yet another repair number I found online. Using my cell phone, I finally got connected and, with the hold music still playing out of my home phone's speaker--I wasn't taking any chances--I spoke with Theresa who told me that Steve had checked the line and said everything was working just fine. "It's not fine," I said. "There's still a problem. Why don't you put me on hold and call my number on another line?" So she did. "You're right," she said, "I just got half a ring." Geniuses, all. So tomorrow, if you need to call me, feel free to call me at home. I'll be here from 8 until 12, at least, waiting for the phone guy.
Boy #2 went to a one-week basketball day camp with a friend of his last week. I went to sign him up the same day he started, so I had sent him with his own lunch even though the camp provides lunch. I just wasn't sure they'd have a lunch for him since we hadn't signed up in advance. I dropped him off, took the packet of information they gave me, and went home. I started reading the stack of papers. By page 3 I was already a little stressed out. He hadn't taken a backpack, just a water bottle and his lunch bag. Already we were not in compliance. Under the heading of BREAKFAST, on page 4, another reason to worry. "Your child should eat a healthy, nutritious breakfast." OK, in some cultures Trix IS considered nutritious, but probably not at this camp. The milk counts, though, I'm pretty sure. Then on page 10, I started to panic. LUNCH AND FOOD SERVICE: Please do not send your child to camp with peanut butter or any foods containing nuts or made with nut products. Please do not send "lunchables", sugary or junk foods, candy, soda, red or blue drinks, or glass containers. Such items will be confiscated if found. This section was in bold print AND was underlined. OK, so on his first day of camp he had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, contraband which would be confiscated if found. I immediately called the camp and confessed. The director went out to the playground to confiscate and destroy the offending sandwich. Boy #2 ended up eating the lunch they provided.
I just don't remember the peanut arousing such fear and horror when I was a kid. Peanut butter was the most common lunchbox item around. Now the peanut is banned in many schools. Some schools have peanut-free tables for the kids who are allergic. Many schools just ban the peanut because it is easier that way. What happened in 20 (OK maybe 30 or so years)? The peanut, so small, but so powerful, is feared everywhere. Next time maybe I'll just send a little baggie of Trix for lunch--oh--but that would break the zero-waste rule. Maybe if he eats a big enough breakfast he won't even NEED lunch. That could be the best idea of all....
Boy #2 and I came back to LA recently for a few weeks. We got home and walked in the kitchen and I immediately noticed several little bugs in the kitchen. They looked like mini moths. I opened the pantry and saw a few more. I started killing them and kept finding more. I called Mr. Minivan at work and asked him if he had noticed them. "Oh, yeah, I saw them about a week ago," he said. Great. I did a little research--thank you Google--and found that they are called flour moths, and they come in the house as eggs in a bag of flour or some grain-containing food. Then they hatch and multiply, etc. I'll spare you the details. Now....it's war. It's us against them. We can't all stay. I bought some moth traps, which are supposed to attract them. The moths are either incredibly stupid or the smartest bugs ever, because although some have been trapped, others are just flying around the trap laughing at me. I spoke to a friend who had the same problem a couple of months ago. She is getting me her exterminator's number. It's the eggs we must eliminate, you see.
Speaking of eggs, a couple of days after the Moth Battle began, our house got egged. Don't know by whom, can't figure out why, don't know why they didn't hit our cars, parked right in front of the house, don't know any of these answers. Our neighbors' houses were fine. Thank you again Google--two hours of scrubbing and cleaning later and the house looks great. Never looked better, in fact.
Problem is, things usually happen in threes. What could possibly be next?
Bonjour my charming readers. I am now French. Mr. Minivan and I took advantage of the boys being at camp and hopped across the pond for about a week. We had a great time. I had never been to France before--I loved it! Can't wait to go back. I need to start smoking and learn to drink espresso to really fit in, though. Oh, and learn to ride a motorcycle or scooter. Everyone spoke at least some English, which was great, because I speak only about 6 words in French, and none of them are "Where's the ladies' room?" Our suitcases arrived a day after we did, so we were forced to shop a bit. Luckily, July is when one of the big "soldes" (sale) takes place. (The government regulates the soldes, which take place only in January and July) Unluckily, the dollar is very weak against the Euro. We bought just enough to get by till our stuff arrived. The stores were mobbed--a soldes is a big deal when it only comes twice a year, apparently. Armed with TripAdvisor and Chowhound info and recommendations, we went to the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, the Marais--where we stood in line for great falafel and schwarma. We walked and walked the neighborhoods and the Champs d'Elysee, ate fabulous baguette sandwiches on the street, and had a great time. We went to the South of France for a few days after Paris and drove all over. It was fabulous. I found all the people we met to be friendly and helpful. You can immediately tell who are the Europeans and who are the Americans. It's easy. The ones with the cigarettes are the Europeans. The ones lugging the large suitcases are the Americans. On the way back we stopped in London for the day. If you think France is expensive, go to England. You'll immediately feel much better about the Euro. Prices are similar to what you'd pay in dollars, but they are in pounds. Get it? One pound is worth 2 dollars. So 19 pounds for two drinks in a London hotel doesn't sound too bad....until you realize that is really $38. My 12 pound gin drink was the best $24 drink I've ever had. Actually, it's the only $24 drink I've ever had.
I am regarding this trip as my summer camp and in the words of Boy #2, "Next year I'm going for 8 weeks."
Boys #1 and 2 are away at camp and I hope they are having as much fun as I am. Since they've been gone I've slept in until 8 or 9 every day, gone on a long walk with some friends, gone out to lunch several times, gone to a 3:00 movie with my mom, and have barely looked at my watch. I've sangria-ed and gossiped with friends. I've shopped and returned and shopped and returned. I read for a whole afternoon the other day. The other night I watched 3 episodes of Top Chef back to back to back. I don't have to be home by 3:00. I don't have to worry about anyone else's lunch. I don't have to think about who will eat what for dinner. It is fabulous. I am enjoying this freedom so much I am actually considering boarding school. For the boys, that is. Ok, not really. I am back in my old room at my parents' house for a couple of weeks. It's like the home that time forgot here. It's as if technology has skipped right over this house. My computer is tethered to a wall, my room has no TV and barely a lamp. The cordless phones that I bought them last summer sound terrible so I am once again using a phone with an actual cord!! It's like stepping back in time to my high school days. I'm still borrowing the car, asking politely for the keys. Only now they can't tell me what time to be home! Actually, the other day my dad called up and asked me if I needed the car! It only took a week to get him perfectly trained. This town's small downtown is quiet and not crowded. It's sort of like a Stephen King novel--the town without children--what happened to them? They are all in Wisconsin and Michigan and other places, frolicking happily in the woods and the lakes. The parents, meanwhile, are frolicking back at home or maybe at Nordstrom or on their own summer vacations. I see other mothers I know and we all have that same smile on our faces. I miss my boys--I love checking out the camp website for daily photos--but truthfully, it's kind of fun to have this short bit of time to myself.
It's so hard to keep up with trends. It's practically a full-time job. Plastic bags...out. Reusable canvas bags...in. Disposable paper plates.....out. Bamboo plates.....in. Red lips....out. Nude lips....in. Food....clothes.....it's all so complicated. I totally bypassed the tiramisu years, the half-caf, double shot, non-fat, sugar-free vanilla mocha venti latte breve stuff. I'm glad I don't drink coffee. The ordering seems so stressful-- fraught with so many decisions--that's why Diet Cherry Coke is so great. Simple, straightforward--no decisions--unless over ice with a straw counts. Then there are the clothes. Just a few years ago everything was solid colors. This year it's all about the print. I was sure black would always be the new black...until I (and the rest of the world) discovered chocolate brown. And then pink became the new black. I recently heard that the new black is........black. So hard to keep up. Even fruit goes in and out of style. Take pomegranates, for example. No really--take them. So mysterious, so difficult. Last year's fruit of the year. Oprah's talkin' pomtinis, pom (soooo cute, isn't it?) juice is filled with anti-oxidants. Surely a shot of vodka or two with it has multiple health benefits, too, right? One website even has the secret to getting the seeds out without having your kitchen look like you committed a murder in it. I know the secret. Do you? But this year the pomegranate has dropped out of sight. Yep--this year it's all about the fig. The fig is the new pomegranate. Figs are actually the new black. You heard it here first. I'm just waiting to hear Oprah gush about this fabulous new drink--the figtini. Then I'll know to be on the lookout for the new hot fruit. Maybe 2008 will be the comeback year for the ugli fruit. Or maybe it's the kiwi's turn. The ugli-tini or the kiwi-tini? It's all up for grabs.
Boy #1 and Boy #2 are going to overnight camp soon and I am very busy getting everything ready. This will be Boy #2's first summer away at camp and he is very excited. He is going for 4 weeks and Boy #1 is going for 8 weeks. They will be going to the same camp and are both counting the days til they get on the bus. I am busy washing, labeling, shopping, and trying to keep all the details buzzing around my brain straight. My lists have lists. Boy #2 needs a soap container and Boy #1 needs new cleats. I have to remember to send Boy #1's extra pair of glasses. I've already packed the squishy pillows and their Crocs. My friend in Chicago bought powdered Gatorade (to add to their water in their cute--I mean manly--Nalgene bottles) for each of them. It is waiting for me to pick it up at her house. People backpack for months in Europe with less stuff than is on the camp list. And I'm sure a lot of it will never be used. I'm sending band-aids, a nail clipper, bug bite stuff, water shirts, cute camp stationery, and more. I know, I know--they're boys--they won't appreciate (or use) most of it. I can't help myself though. If I can't be there to take care of them at least they'll have band-aids and Neosporin.
Boy #2 has already asked if he can go for 8 weeks. "No," I said. "But, Mom," chimed in Boy #1 helpfully, "he can stay. When you come up for Visitors' Weekend, just bring money." It's so simple, really. Why didn't I think of that?
The other day Mr. Minivan saw something that no man should ever see. He walked in on me putting on Spanx. If you're not familiar with this fabulous product let me just say that my grandmother would have called it a "girdle" but it is now known as a "body shaper." Somehow this teeny piece of cloth compresses parts of you in a mysterious and magical way. It removes all bumps and lumps--I'm not sure where they go--and transforms you into a smooth and sleek bombshell. Your dress suddenly fits better. You suddenly look better. But the process of putting one on is a little...shall we say....awkward. It involves a little jumping, a little tugging, some deep knee raises, and a little adjusting. I myself don't even like to witness it. I try not to look in the mirror as I'm putting on the Spanx. It's bad enough to look in the mirror when it's all the way on. I prefer to look after my dress is on. Sorry, Mr. M. Maybe next time the door is closed, you'll knock.
It has been very hot here for the last couple of days. 90 plus degrees hot. I never believed that heat and humidity stuff before but it is really true. It's not so much the heat as it is the humidity. 95 and humid in Chicago is just nasty. Steamy, sticky, sweaty, sucky. 95 and not humid in LA is....just plain hot. Verrrry hot. I know I feel much more at home here than I did a year ago but not completely because I still find myself thinking about "them" and how "they" do things here. I guess when I start thinking "we" instead of "they" the transformation will be complete. Anyway, it is very hot here. And here's what I've seen people wearing: Sweatshirts, long-sleeved shirts, jeans, and......Uggs. Yes. Uggs. Uggs and shorts on a 95 degree day. I had to restrain myself from going up to an Ugg-clad girl and asking her what her thought process was as she was getting dressed. I mean--what could it possibly be? "I'll wear my jean cut-offs and my flip-flops--no--too beachy. Maybe my wedge sandals---no---too dressy. I know, I'll wear my Uggs!!! They'll be perfect." I've also seen many many people carrying open umbrellas to shield them from the sun. I guess applying sunscreen is too much trouble. Another thing I've noticed that is different here than in Chicago is that people go to the movies on a beautiful day here. That doesn't happen in Chicago. I guess it is because every day is beautiful here. I am trying to think of things people do in Chicago that would seem strange to a newcomer but I can't think of any. Maybe that when there is a threat of a snowstorm people head for the grocery store to stock up as if they might be trapped in their houses for days. Can you think of anything a newcomer to your area might find strange?
1. Love Christmas music. 2. Had a crush on Cubs 3rd baseman Ron Santo way back when. 3. Hate the smell of lilies. 4. Once ate 4 Krispy Kremes on the way home from Krispy Kreme. 5. Rip the address labels off my magazines before I get rid of them. 6. Love the sound of rain. 7. Once threw one of my brothers against a wall. 8. Stuck a raisin up my nose as a child. 9. Can spell "supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" very quickly. 10. Listen to talk radio. 11. Hate coffee and wish I didn't. 12. Have a triple-pierced ear. 13. Love to read in the tub. 14. Love to work lines from movies into conversation--i.e. "I'll have what she's having." Usually I'm the only one who's amused. 15. Won the First Baby of the Year contest from a neighborhood newspaper when I was born. 16. Have very thin fingers and earlobes. 17. Sometimes fall into my computer and can't get out. 18. Used to alphabetize my record albums. 19. Love the idea of being a minimalist but know it's not for me. 20. Have 20-something bottles of hair stuff in my shower. 21. Would rather someone pick up the phone and say thank you than send a note. 22. Have not printed out a digital photo in years. 23. Have a giant box of recipes I have pulled out of magazines and the internet. I know I'll never try them but I just can't get rid of them. 24. Love to sleep in flannel pants and a long-sleeved tee that is so soft and so old that it has holes in it. Mr. Minivan hates this outfit but it is so cozy..... 25. Have 9 or 10 pairs of flip-flops. 26. Love love love trashy novels. Especially the ones with one-word titles. Like--"Deceptions", "Irrational," "Suspicions." Stuff like that. Pretend to be into the book club books but love the beach reads. 27. Hate when people misuse "I" and "me"--it actually hurts my ears. 28. Don't mind folding laundry but hate putting it away. 29. Once tried out for "Wheel of Fortune." 30. Hate crowds. 31. Find it very difficult to do nothing. 32. Find it even harder to do only one thing at a time. 33. Have no hair on my arms and almost never have to shave my legs. 34. Love a free refill. 35. Love Swedish Fish and Raisinets. But not together. 36. Drink too much Diet Cherry Coke. 37. Love sharing food at restaurants. 38. Sadly, have watched every season of "The Bachelor." 39. Think my favorite part of exercising is when you stop. 40. Used to love "Bewitched," "Love, American Style," "The Mary Tyler Moore Show", ""The Carol Burnett Show," "Petticoat Junction," The Brady Bunch", and "Rhoda." 41. Love pepperoni pizza but will not order it. 42. In college, wanted to leave a Bruce Springsteen concert during the last song to beat the traffic. 43. Asked my friends at the same concert, why the audience was booing him. They told me--"They're not saying "Booooooooo", they're saying "Bruuuuuuuuuuuce." 44. Am really into hamburgers right now. 45. Am usually prepared for everything. You need a tweezer, an aspirin, dental floss, a magazine, I'm your girl. 46. Think 50 doesn't seem so old anymore. 47. Am searching for the best cupcake in L.A. Thus, the exercise. 48. Hate roller coasters. 49. Love the previews at movies. Especially love when there are so many that I forget what movie I came to see. 50. Love making lists.
Just kidding. Went to the doctor today for a complete physical. EKG, the little hammer, bloodwork, "say ahhhh", the whole works. What a nice man. Completely normal. Didn't try to sell me a new nose or any strange devices to insert inside myself. He spent a lot of time with me, answered my questions, and has a lovely and very reassuring manner. He told me my heart is fine. My children will be happy to know I actually have one. I don't remember why, but he mentioned blogs and I told him I have one. I gave him the address and he said he would check it out. If you read this, Doc, it was great to meet you, but as I tell all the repairmen who come to my house, I hope I don't see you for quite a while! By the way, do you have a dentist you can refer me to?.....
I had a real L.A. moment today. A freaky, creepy moment. Maybe I'm too old. Maybe I'm too midwestern. Or maybe it's just..I dunno...that I'm normal? I was at the dentist's office. My new dentist. My new L.A. dentist. I had gotten a referral from my Chicago dentist for a dentist here. Unfortunately, between the time I got the referral and the time I called him, he had passed away. His wife was nice enough to call me back and refer me to the dentist she was going to be using. So I filled out all the forms, had x-rays taken, and was sitting in the chair when the dentist came in. We exchanged pleasantries and he said, "now I'm going to put my hands in your mouth." My first thought was "without even buying me dinner first?" but I was soon distracted by what he said next. "Have you heard about the "blah-blah lift" we offer here? A non-invasive face lift?" "Please!" I stopped him. "Don't depress me." "Maybe for a friend, or your mother," he backtracked. I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall had he had my mother in the chair. "Look," he went on. "Here's my face with the lift." Then he covered his mouth and two clear plastic curved things emerged from his mouth. "Here's my face without. It takes off about 5 years." "I think you look great either way," I managed to say. Honestly, I didn't see much of a difference. I didn't say what I wanted to say. After all, he has a drill and he knows how to use it. What I wanted to say was, "Are you f-ing kidding me? Just clean my teeth and let me outta here." You walk around holding plastic in your mouth and who knows where else all day and only go back to 2002? You'd get my attention if you said 1997, but 2002? Come on. The rest of the exam concluded uneventfully, except for encouraging me to get Invisalign, a 3/4 reverse crown or some such mumbo-jumbo, and a sealant for my wisdom teeth. In the good old days a dentist would have lulled you into a false sense of security and postponed the hard-sell til the second visit. Everything moves faster now, I guess. Especially the cost of office space in 90210. I feel lucky to have gotten out of there with my wallet, my 2007 face, and my midwestern brain intact.
My friend emailed me to ask me if I wanted to go walking in one of the canyons here this morning. No matter that my last walk with her included tripping three times and falling face first on the sidewalk . I'm an optimist. I'll keep trying. Her next email included instructions for me. "Wear sweat pants or comfortable pants. Don't wear jeans. Bring water and kleenex in case you have to pee in the bushes. It IS rattlesnake season." OK, now I'm a little worried. I KNOW to wear sweats, not jeans--I have exercised before, believe it or not. And bring kleenex for WHAT?????!! How long are we going to be walking for? And rattlesnakes? This is sounding less and less like a fun hike with a girlfriend and more and more like some bizarre urban game of Survivor. But I followed instructions. Except for the kleenex.
It all kind of reminded of me of a time about 20 or so years ago when a friend of mine was in town and we wanted to go out for fondue (calm down--it was the 80's!!) on a Saturday night. I called my brother and invited him and his wife to join us. "Don't wear jeans", I told him, "dress a little nicer." A few minutes later I called him back. "They don't take reservations and there will probably be a long wait so you might want to eat a little something before you go." "Let me get this straight," he said. "We're going out to dinner, I can't wear jeans, I have to cook my own food, and I have to eat before I go." "Pretty much", I said. But --back to the hike. So we headed out toward the canyon, me with my long, rattlesnake repelling sweats and a t-shirt, and she with her scarf tied over her layers of shirts. We both carried water bottles. I didn't ask if she had kleenex hidden somewhere. I sort of didn't want to know.
The hike up the canyon was one of those experiences where you think you are going to die during it and once you get to the top you are glad you survived. The whole hike took about 45 minutes and included beautiful views of L.A. On a clear day, my friend told me, you can see the ocean and Catalina Island. As usual, though, it wasn't clear. We saw mansions perched on hills, the Hollywood sign, and many other walkers, most with dogs. I survived the hike and felt great after a shower at home. I can't wait to do it again. I embarrassed my friend a little by saying a friendly "good morning" to many fellow hikers. "It's L.A.," she said, "they'll think you want something from them." I can't think of anything anyone would think I needed from them in the canyon. Except possibly some kleenex.
There's craziness everywhere. I leave Chicago and one year later the principal at our former elementary school gets demoted, a gorgeous blond mom switches teams and now her ex-husband is trying to get the gym teacher she is dating (not that there's anything wrong with that) fired, and a janitor at our former synagogue is arrested for videotaping children in the restroom (clearly there is something VERY wrong with that). Oh, yes, and it snowed yesterday. Several inches. In April. It would seem to me that the problem is obvious. I left and the whole town fell apart. I know it sounds crazy but how can you argue with such evidence. None of these things happened when I was there. I rest my case.
And then I came to L.A. A place where people bring dogs into stores. Yes, they do. I know, I know, they do that is Europe. But last time I checked we used dollars, not Euros. People here also wear Uggs in 75 degree weather. Well, of course they do. It goes with their scarves. And here is another weird thing specific to the entertainment industry. When you call someone--or should I say someone's assistant--and they can't take the call they say, "Can he return?" Or, even more pretentious, "Can we return?" Not, "Can he return the call?" No. That would take too much time, I guess. "Can he return?" What a great time-saver. And everybody does it. I am planning to start doing it myself. Of course I have no assistant so I have to figure out how to handle that problem. I may pretend to be my own assistant. Yeah, that's the ticket.
Craziness is not limited to one time zone. We can all participate. That's the beauty and the promise of America.
Tonight I tried to reach the bag of rice from the top shelf of a kitchen cabinet. It was just far enough back that I couldn't reach it. I stood on my tippy-toes. No good. I jumped and grabbed at the same time. No good. I grabbed some kitchen tongs and tried to grab it with that, but each attempt pushed the bag just far enough away so that I couldn't. I thought about dragging a chair over and then came up with another idea. "Boy #1," I called. "Come here for a minute." I explained the problem and started to hand him the tongs. He ignored them. He simply stood on his toes and reached for the bag. He got it. No problem. He is almost 2 inches taller than I am. Once small enough to fit in my arms, I now have to reach up to ruffle his hair. It's the end of an era.
Fate. Destiny. Karma. Kismet. You can be in the wrong place at the wrong time or in the right place at the right time. It's sometimes just a matter of chance.
Today was not a shopping day. It was a return day. I parked at the Farmers Market and started walking through to return something at Nordstrom. I wove my way through the aisles of this open-air market at random. I had just passed a man and a woman in a big floppy hat when, out of the corner of my eye, I saw her turn and look at me. I turned back to look at her. "Are you from Chicago?' she asked. "Yes," I answered, wondering who she was. "Are you Donna's niece?" she asked. Stunned, I answered "Yes." How did this stranger know my aunt who lived overseas? And, even stranger, how did she know who I was? Turns out she had been desperately trying to get ahold of my mother to get ahold of my aunt, who was in Chicago. The mystery woman was a dear friend of my aunt's and was visiting L.A. She was supposed to get together with my aunt in Chicago, but was unable to travel as scheduled due to an ear infection. She had been trying in vain to get my mother's phone number to tell my aunt of her change in travel plans, when all of a sudden I appeared in front of her. Very strange. She had somehow recognized me--she told me I hadn't changed a bit. I thought I had a good memory but she beats me hands down. I must have met her in the past but for the life of me I couldn't remember when. She and her husband were so nice--"Come join us for lunch," they urged.
After I did my return and bought 2 pairs of shoes (it is Nordstrom--that's what they're known for!!! And I have to have a reason to come back and do my next return!) I popped into the restaurant they were at and chatted with them and their daughter and her mother-in-law for a few minutes. Truly truly nice people. Now we all have all our numbers and no one has an excuse for being unable to get in touch.
Chance meetings are a strange thing. What if I had stayed at my car a few more minutes before going into the Farmers Market? What if I had turned down a different aisle? Or if I had been looking down or she had been looking to the left instead of straight ahead as we passed each other? If you think about this stuff too much it will for sure drive you crazy. I guess some things are meant to be, some things just happen, and some things are unexplainable. Figuring out which is which is sometimes the challenge.
I just heard about the death of a dad from our former elementary school. It was a freak accident--he was on a sunset whale-watching tour with his family while vacationing in Hawaii. The boat's 65-foot mast broke off and hit him in the head, causing his death. He was the only fatality that day. I had met him maybe a few times, but I know his wife from volunteering at school. She is a lovely woman. One of his 3 kids has been in classes with Boy #2. I guess a vacation will always be bittersweet for them. It's all so sad. We read about stuff like this in the papers every day. We bring dinner if we can, we write condolence notes. Then we go back to our busy lives. And our lives go on. For the survivors it eventually goes on but it is never the same. We get so caught up in the little things in life. So we say no to dessert, we worry about losing that extra 7 pounds, we get annoyed with our husbands who don't do things the way we want them to and leave socks on the floor. We spend too much time cleaning and folding laundry and not enough time doing simply nothing with our kids. And we worry and obsess about things that are out of our control. Life is just too short, and sometimes it is too too short and it just isn't fair. I bet his wife would gladly pick his socks up every day without complaining if she just had her husband back. When you hear stories like this, especially if you know the people involved, maybe it should be a reminder to embrace the moment and try to find joy where you can. Let that laundry pile up a little. Go to a movie with a friend instead of paying your bills tonight. Eat dessert first. Life is too short.
Last night I went to a movie with a friend. I drove to her house and parked there and then we walked a short way to the theater. I carefully changed OUT of my flip-flops and INTO my gym shoes for the walk. Not that it helped. On the way to the theater, I tripped on my own feet or on the sidewalk or on something or other not one but two times. I didn't fall though. Not on the side streets. No, I saved that for the busy busy intersection right by the theater. I tripped yet again--the third time in half an hour and totally wiped out. Landed on my hands and knees. I felt the thud all through my body and my head. My glasses went flying. My friend picked them, and me, up. Passers-by stared, I started laughing. If I hadn't I would have started crying. "I'm fine," I said as my friend worried. We made it to the movies--up six flights of stairs--the escalator was being repaired. I changed back to flip-flops for the walk back. Didn't trip once.
Once I got safely home, I took a hot bath and got into bed. Mr. Minivan was letting the boys stay up too late so I let him deal with them. Boy #2 came into our room to brush his teeth. "Come kiss me good-night," I said. So he raced to the bed and hurled himself toward me. His head met my mouth. Did my teeth survive? I got up and ran to the bathroom to view the damage. Blood in my mouth--where's it coming from? A cut and swollen lip. Please let this day end with no more injuries. I applied ice and thankfully went to sleep. My teeth survived and, barely, so did I.
You know that book that is so hot right now--The Secret? I haven't read it but I have heard about it. I think I may have found the secret though. It could be the power of positive thinking. Or it could be the power of a good friend. A friend you have fun with, can talk to, and just like hanging with. I feel so lucky right now--I have friends. Plural. They are true givers--all of them--with such generous spirits. Boy #1's bar mitzvah is this weekend and I have been in a frenzy getting ready. A couple of weeks ago I called a friend with fabulous taste. Her house looks like it flew off the pages of a decorating magazine. No piles anywhere. Tablescapes and candles everywhere. I asked her if she would help me get the first floor of my house spruced up for the big weekend and everything else. She was happy to. She came over and walked through the house with a notebook. Taking lots of notes. "I think you need some plants there, some mirrors there, a candle there, something there. That was just in the dining room. We are--and when I say "we" I mean "she" is almost done and my house looks great. It looks so good I'm not sure I live here anymore. There is a candle perched on a bed of pebbles in the foyer, fabulous pillows on the couch, pillows on the new bench in the backyard, and plants all over the place. We spent 4 days shopping and arranging. So far. Last night she said she was going to be sad when it was done. I told her not to worry--I still have an office and a whole upstairs to get to. But the best part of all--aside from the backyard bench which I am dying to read a book on--is that it has been so much fun hanging with her and doing all this together. And I think you know what I mean when I say "together." I have been joking around with her--calling her "my decorator"--but really--I am thrilled to call her "my friend."
I have recently realized that there is a disturbing new trend going on. Recently I have started really looking closely at my credit card receipts as I sign them and I have been noticing a difference between the copy the merchant keeps and the copy I keep. At least three times in the last week I have noticed that my full card number AND expiration date is printed out on the copy the store keeps!! My copy thoughtfully has all the numbers except for the last four x-ed out. What is going on here? So I have either been giving back "my" copy or crossing out all the numbers except for the last four on "their" copy. It's exhausting having to check up on Big Brother. If we can't trust our friends at MasterCard, who can we trust?
Yesterday Mr. Minivan and I went to a program at our temple with Boy #1. It was the 2nd in a series of three sessions for the 7th graders. The first was attended by the students only. The parents come to the last two sessions. The program is run by therapists from a Jewish rehab center in L.A. whose mission is "to treat and prevent addictive and behaviorial disorders through the comination of Jewish spirituality, the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous and psychotherapy." They talked about communication with your kids and many other topics. It was a great session and I am really looking forward to the final one.
The therapist who led the parents' session was a woman who reminded me so much of someone but I couldn't figure it out. I felt like I had seen her before but didn't know where. I figured she just reminded me of everyone I had grown up with. When we left I walked out with her. "Kathy", I said, "are you from L.A.?" "No," she answered, "I'm from Chicago." "Me too!" I said, "I feel like I know you from somewhere." "I know," she said, "I was looking at you and thinking the same thing." "Where are you from?" we both asked at the same time. "Don't say Highland Park," I said--as she said "Highland Park." Turns out she not only is from my hometown, but we were in the same graduating class in high school. Of course I pulled out my yearbook as soon as I got home. Yep, it was her.
What are the chances of that? My world is getting smaller by the minute.
Exactly one year ago today we were in a limo on the way to the airport. With one way tickets. On the way to California. Mr. Minivan and Boy #1 were looking out the front window. Boy #2 and I were looking out the rear window, tears rolling down our faces. We were moving. Now it's a year later and we've all pretty much adjusted. Mr. Minivan still works a lot but is home a lot more, too. He is coaching Boy #2's basketball team. The team has a lot of potential, I'll say that. Boy #1 has made some really nice friends and is currently playing basketball and tennis. Boy #2 also has made some good friends and is playing basketball and baseball. I know where to go to get shoes repaired and to get a picture framed. I know which grocery store always has good grapes and which one has the yogurt I like. I rarely have to use my GPS anymore and almost never get lost. I have even started bumping into people I know. I have made several friends and one very good friend, thankfully. They say what a difference a day makes or a year makes, but the truth is--what a difference a friend makes.
After over two days of being tortured by my new MacBook Pro which would not connect to my wireless connection I am finally connected!!! I feel like my lost arm is growing back. Today I spent most of my "free" time at the Apple Store or on a three-way call with Apple and my internet provider. The problem is with my modem which does not recognize something or other in my MacBook. I listened to both of them on this conference call and it was like I was listening to ancient Greek. At least the Greek-speakers knew what they were talking about. So I am back online on my own computer, I am recreating my address book, and getting photos I sent out emailed back to me from my friends and family. I even bought a back-up hard drive today. And tomorrow I am going to learn how to use it. Even though Mr. Minivan is out of town it has ended up being a Happy Valentine's Day.
Some women get flowers and chocolates on Valentine's Day. Some lucky ones even get jewelry. I got a stomachache and a plastic rose. Mr. Minivan is on a plane to New York so my two young Valentines and I joined my NBF here and her two kids for dinner. We went to a Japanese/sushi chain buffet that offers lots of beautifully-presented but very average food for one price. Kind of like cruise ship food without the seasickness. Kids are charged according to their height. Boy #1 ate rice and fruit. Unfortunately he is tall enough to be charged as an adult. Each female patron got a plastic rose as she exited. How festive. On a normal Valentine's Day I'd be looking for sexy lingerie to put on. Now I just want sweatpants and my remote. It was such a fun night though--we laughed the whole time. That's what it's all about --not the food. I'd much rather eat at Subway with someone who is fun and interesting than eat at the fanciest restaurant with people who bore me. Happy Valentine's Day to all my friends and family--near and far. I'll meet you at Subway soon!
My computer woes continue. My MacBook Pro arrived today and I can't get it to connect to the internet although the iMac we have has no problem. I spent most of the afternoon on the phone with my friends from Apple and our internet service provider. We--they--think it might be a problem with the AirPort in the computer. I guess Quality Control blinks once in a while. I have an appointment with a Genius at the Apple Store tonight. Details to follow.....
Sometimes we bloggers have no idea what our next posting will be. A slight case of blogger's block, perhaps. Thankfully, once in a while you get an unexpected gift. That's what happened today.
Boy #1 was invited to a party about an hour away, so the whole family piled into the minivan to make the drive. We dropped Boy #1 off and Mr. Minivan, Boy #2, and I headed to the local mall to get some lunch and visit my favorite store, Nordstrom. Once we had eaten we went to shop a little. After a while Boy #2 got a little antsy so I took him to get a drink while Mr. Minivan went to the Men's Department by himself. He met us shortly with a shopping bag in hand. He proudly showed us the new pair of jeans he had bought himself. "Are they for you or for Mom?" asked Boy #2. Out of the mouths of babes. Here's a clue, honey--when your child asks you that question--whatever the item--return it. Immediately. They were jeans...with just a bit too much embellishment on the pockets. After I stopped laughing I told Mr. Minivan that the jeans had to go. I mean, not that there's anything wrong with embellished jeans for men. He's a great guy and very in touch with his feminine side--but I had to draw the line somewhere. So we went back to the Men's Department, he tried on the jeans, Boy #2 and I laughed even harder, and the jeans got returned. I guess it could have been worse. I'll let you know when I figure out how.
We are big football fans in this house. And when I say "we", I mean Mr. Minivan, Boy #1, and Boy #2. I don't quite know when Boy #2 became a football fan but all I know is this year he knows all about the game, all the rules, all the players, and is happy to sit by himself and watch a football game. How disappointing. I thought I at least had him on my side. You know my side--the I like football for the social aspects of it side. This year, as soon as we knew the Bears were in the Super Bowl, we started planning for our Super Bowl party. And when I say "we", I mean me. I went out to Party City the day after the last playoff game and bought orange and blue paper goods. I even bought one of those plastic football shaped chip and dip holders. I know. It's scary. We sent out an Evite, bought beer and Diet Cherry Coke, and I got out my chili recipe. The party was a lot of fun. At first, that is. Lots of screaming and shouting at the TV, because, as you know, that helps them to play better. Things got a little quieter at the end. But we're from Chicago. We're used to this. We'll get 'em next year.
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A few weeks ago I turned on my computer and nothing happened. Except for a blue screen. I don't know a lot about computers but I do know that a blue screen is not good. In fact, I believe it is actually bad. So I packed up my laptop and headed for the Apple Store. My friendly neighborhood Genius told me it was the hard drive-which I had pretty much figured out already. As tears filled my eyes--because, of course, nothing was backed up--he handed me a sheet of recommended local sources to try to recover my data. I took my injured laptop to one of them. The good news was that the hard drive was under warranty. The bad news was that Apple couldn't locate a replacement hard drive. (Isn't that sort of like McDonald's running out of french fries?) The better news was that Apple was going to replace my entire computer with a newer, better model. The next bad news was that they kept my computer for a couple of weeks and then told me they were able to recover nothing from my hard drive. So I then sent the hard drive to an even better data recovery company with a "clean room"--whatever that is--in the hopes that my 2 years of photos, emails, bookmarks, tax info and whatever else I can't remember could be recovered. I got the call today. My data is not recoverable. I feel like I have lost an arm. So if you are reading this and haven't backed up your data--back away from your computer slooooowly--and go buy an external hard drive. And learn how to use it. If I can help just one of you out there in cyberspace then my loss will not have been in vain. That's the kind I am--always concerned with others. Just trying to help.