Someone broke my brain.  Fine, it was me.  I broke it.

Periodically, and for no justifiable reason, my brain tries to make me crazy.  Not my normal brand of crazy, made up of social anxiety and occasional depression, but insane-crazy.  It makes me almost non-functional for days at a time, but it hasn’t defeated me yet, and I don’t plan on allowing it to do so.  When these giant, existentially-challenging, brain wars don’t work, my gray matter will sometimes try a different tactic– seizing on one thing like a dog with a friggin’ bone and effectively creating an intense tunnel vision that prevents me from seeing anything else, making the one thing seem much more colossal than it actually is.  That is what my brain was doing the past few days.  I may as well do something constructive with it.

Two weeks ago, I had the first of what would be five interviews for a highly desirable job that could well turn into an actual career for me.  At the time, I told myself there was no way I would get it and that it was a crappy job anyway.  I do this any time I actually want something because disappointment is extremely detrimental to me.  Most people respond to disappointment with a sigh and a shrug– or if it’s significant, a bunch of shots– but they tend to get over it in a fairly reasonable amount of time.  When I allow myself to really want and hope for something and then end up not having it, I sink into a sad hole of discouragement so intense that I refuse to even try to accomplish basic life functions.  So my way of protecting myself from the rabid despair monster is to not get my hopes up.  Ever.  About anything.  Until I have incontrovertible proof that it’s mine.  I call it being realistic, but in reality it’s pure pessimism.  That way, when I don’t get something I want, I don’t get super upset– and when I do get it, I get to feel excessively happy about it.

So I walked into this interview planning to give it my best shot but fully believing nothing would come of it.  Imagine my surprise when, two minutes into my meeting with the GM, he looked me straight in the face and told me that I was perfect for the position and that he felt honored to have the privilege of meeting me.  He also said that my timing was perfect, as well as my knowledge and experience, and that he wanted to move me forward in the process and have all of the other managers interview me.  Essentially he said he wanted to hire me and then spent another half hour asking me questions while four other people waited in the foyer to be interviewed.  And if you know anything about a restaurant manager’s schedule, then you know that getting an uninterrupted, half-hour interview with a GM is about as rare as a narwhal sighting in Iowa.  So I walked out of the interview feeling better than I ever have walking out of any interview in my life (Honored to meet me?  Oh, he’s good).  And I proceeded to have three more interviews with three other managers, all of which went quite well, including the ninety-minute interview with the senior manager (the GM’s co-pilot), during which he basically turned my brain inside out and inspected it with a magnifying glass.

Thursday I had my final meeting with the GM, my fifth interview.  He said that the senior manager had written “HIRE THIS GIRL” in all caps across the top of my interview papers.  He said that was an unprecedented indicator of approval from a man who has been in the industry for three decades.  We settled my wage, discussed my schedule, and spoke more in depth about my experience.  He told me that he was hiring me and that I could come in for my first day of work after he spoke with three references.  I gave him three phone numbers of people whom I trust to deliver a glowing review of my professional and personal behaviors and accomplishments.  He assured me that I should not worry if he took a couple of days to call me because he was shorthanded over the weekend and would be very busy.  He even– no exaggeration– teared up as he once again told me how honored he was to hire me and how perfect he felt I was for the restaurant and the team.  All of these things would tell a rational person that they  have securely landed a job with a kind and intelligent individual.  Correct?  Any normal human being would walk away from this encounter with every certainty that they will start their new job in a few days.  Add to all of this the fact that, when I sent an email thanking him for the interview, he responded that he would be seeing me very soon.

Explain to me then why I have been in a fit of restless, pensive anxiety for the past three days.  My brain has seized on the lack of a phone call– a perfectly reasonable situation that has no negative connotation whatsoever– and turned it into doom.  My brain says, “What if one of your references said something bad?” or “What if he changed his mind because you said something weird before you left?” or “What if none of my references call him back, and he thinks it’s because they all hate me?”  Keep in mind that the references I gave him were two former bosses (one was my mentor, and the other offered when I left to be an excellent reference for me whenever I may need him) and a dear friend who used to work with me and whom I just saw a couple of days ago.  And I let all three of these people know that my new boss would be contacting them.  How in the HELL is my brain turning all of this logical and positive and explainable stuff into a hell-bound doom-rocket??!  I have a new job!  An excellent job!  I know this undeniably in the area of my brain that can process logic and facts.  That part of my brain is often incapable of defeating the other part, which I liken to a dark, damp, cold cave in the middle of a forest from which all irrational fears and doubts emanate.  Hence my utterly unfounded, anxiety-ridden, midnight rant.

I mentioned in my last post that I have been doing research into the psyche– more specifically the long-term effects of abuse and trauma.  Some people, when faced with a terrible and daunting problem, will stick their heads in a hole in the ground and pretend that it doesn’t exist.  And because of that, it gets worse, and it envelopes them, and they don’t even stand a chance.  I cope far better with health and mental issues if I gather as much information as I possibly can.  I want to know why and how and what to expect and what can be done to make it less disruptive to daily life.  Some people find the rush of potentially negative information very discouraging; I find it soothing.  The better I understand something, the less power it has over me.  I have learned that many of my quirks– thoughts and behaviors and feelings that I thought were unique to me and my particular brand of fucked up-ness– are actually symptoms that are quite common among survivors of abuse and trauma.  Which gave me a great deal of comfort.  And validation.

I wasted two days with my anxiety monster raging under my skin and preventing me from relaxing or spending quality time with my husband.  (It honestly feels like an alien inside of me, permeating my muscles and making them twitch, making my heart palpitate and my blood pressure increase.  It’s so intense sometimes that I can feel it physically, like a burning rock sitting on my sternum and a bunch of smaller rocks gurgling and grinding in my stomach.)  I tried to stay constantly busy, waiting for my new boss to call and tell me when my first day of work will be and checking my phone every thirty seconds.  I didn’t sleep well two nights in a row, holding my phone on my chest.  This is the weird and irrational compulsiveness of anxiety sometimes.  Today I woke up, and though nothing had actually changed externally, the monster was quieter for some reason.  

I never know how long it will hibernate, but I always try to take advantage of its absence.  I made breakfast and ate without feeling nauseous.  I did housework and enjoyed the fact that I didn’t panic when the hubby went to the gym and left me alone for an hour and a half.  I watched Workaholics all day and genuinely laughed and cut my husband’s hair for him and listened while he played his guitar.  And nothing interrupted my day aside from the occasional intrusive thought.  Today I felt close to “normal,” and I liked it.  I want to have more days like today.  One of my friends, who is more like I am than most, sent me a long and rambling text reminding me that I am not alone in being weird and a little crazy.  It made me feel grateful.

I don’t like my monster.  I don’t like that it tries to ruin days that should be happy.  I don’t like that it turns good things into doubts and fears.  I don’t like that it forces its way in uninvited and stays as long as it wants, putting its feet on the furniture and tracking mud everywhere and eating everything in the fridge and clogging the drain in the shower.  It’s an asshole for sure.  But it also forces me to be strong.  And self-aware.  And compassionate toward other people who have monsters of their own.  So I take those things and reject the rest.  My monster has made me a fighter, a warrior.  So far, I have won every battle, proven by the fact that I’m still here.  While the monster tells me to be scared that this amazing job– that I earned– isn’t real or that I don’t deserve it, I will shield myself from its lies with my truths.  I am smart.  I worked hard to get where I am.  I deserve good things.  I am a good person.  I can be happy.  I am as strong as a deep-rooted oak tree and as adaptable as rushing river, carving its path across the landscape.  I cannot be broken.  These are my truths, and I live them.  Find your truths, people.  Find your truths and live them every day.  Because the light of those inarguable truths weakens the monsters.  And that’s how you win. 

Someone Needs to Pass a Law Against Free-Range Douchebags

I wrote this a few months ago and then didn’t finish it.  Then yesterday some stupid c-word (not referring to ‘customer’) tried to ruin my day by yelling at me and threatening me because her day was already ruined, and she needed to take it out on an innocent person. She failed because I am smart enough and thick-skinned enough that I couldn’t give less of a craphole what an obviously-insane person thinks of my managerial skills, but I do feel the need to remind the general public why most of the hospitality industry hates their goddamn guts.

People make me mad all the time for being stupid about everything, but none more so than the freely roaming douchebags that have infiltrated society like a plague of entitled locusts.  You know these people– the ones who think they deserve special treatment, that for some incomprehensible reason they are more important than everyone else.

These people go to a busy restaurant on a Saturday night without a reservation and then get pissed when they have to wait an hour or more for a booth.  They get mad that they can’t reserve a private table that seats six for just two people– on a holiday.   Or they insist on being seated in a “quiet area” at 7:00 on a Friday night.   Let me know if you find that quiet area because I can guarantee you–it doesn’t exist.  You want quiet?  You don’t want to make a reservation but also don’t want to wait?  Go out to eat at 3:00 on a weekday.  This douche is also the lady (and I use the term ‘lady’ loosely) who calls during the middle of lunch and expects the host to read her the menu, despite the fact that the host has ten people lined up at the front waiting to be seated and a phone ringing off the hook, all because she’s too lazy to take five minutes to pull it up on her phone and read it herself. Then, when the poor host doesn’t have time to read all eighty-five items, the douche-lady shows up in person to complain about it, insists she has a limited amount of time for lunch, but then sits at the bar for an hour and a half.  I personally wished some serious, explosive diarrhea on that particular douche.  

These are douche bag things that you should NOT do to hospitality workers:

1.  Do not call to ask what the hours are or if we have happy hour or if we take reservations.   All of that information is readily available online.  It takes thirty seconds to find it.

2.  Do not call and ask someone to read you the menu.  That information is also very, very easy to find online.

3.  Do not call to make reservations if you can make them online, unless you have a large party.

4.  Do not call before the restaurant opens.  People are busting their asses trying to get the place set up for your ungrateful ass, and calling before someone is specifically manning the phones is extremely frustrating.   You’re interrupting someone who is trying to do three people’s worth of work in an hour.

5.  Do not complain about shit at the front desk.  The host can’t do anything about it, and you’re making yourself look like a dickhole in front of anyone who happens to be around.  People empathize with the poor, unsuspecting employee, not with you.  Hourly employees have no control over the busyness of the establishment, the quality of your food, or whether the valet took too long to retrieve your car.  Management is the only staff qualified to take your complaint and the only staff that can actually do anything about it.

6.  Which brings me to number six.  Do not immediately go to the front desk to ask where the valet is if he isn’t present at the valet stand.  He’s either parking a car or retrieving a car– HELLO!!  Where the fuck else do you think he is?? He’s doing his job.  And no, we don’t have a way of monitoring him or getting hold of him.  Valet companies contract out to restaurants– they are not employed by the establishment itself.  I highly doubt that your day will be ruined if you actually have to wait thirty seconds for someone to get your car.  Or you could– *gasp*– park it yourself!

7.  Do not ask for directions.   In the days of advanced GPS systems, you can find your own way.  If you can’t, you shouldn’t be out driving by yourself.

8.  Do not, I repeat, DO NOT go out to eat unless you are planning to tip a minimum of 20%.  If you have qualms about that or you can’t afford it, go to McDonald’s.

9.  Do not come in with a party of 10 people and ask for separate checks.  You just ruined someone’s day by doing that.  It adds ten minutes, minimum, to your checkout to get all of those items split onto the correct checks and then handed out to the correct people and then ten forms of payment processed.  And you also just weeded your server because that’s ten minutes that he couldn’t get to any of his other tables.  So now they’re pissed off, and he has a lot of catching up to do.  Tell everyone to bring cash beforehand.  It takes two minutes out of your day to hit an ATM.

10.  Do not complain that you can’t get the exact table you want.  Most restaurants do not hold specific tables for people  (unless it’s some corporate bigwig), and they can’t bend the rules for you.  Why are you more important than anyone else who might arrive before you and want that table?  Other people have birthdays and anniversaries too, ya know.  And believe it or not, you will get the same quality of service and food regardless of your table.  Better, actually, if you gracefully accept the table to which the host leads you, rather than having a grown-up hissy fit in the dining room.  Or surrounding her like a group of teenage bullies and all four of you verbally attacking her at once.  That shit happened, people.

11.  Do not insist on being seated in a completely different section of the restaurant than the one to which you have been led.  Hosts have the responsibility of evenly distributing business so that every server has the opportunity to make money.  By picking your own seat, you are upsetting the flow of the restaurant and the employees.

12.  Do not ask for ten different modifications to your food.  It pisses off the entire kitchen.   The menu is a set menu for a reason.  Don’t like it?  Go eat somewhere else.

13.  Do not visit a restaurant on a regular basis and bitch about something every time you come in.  If it’s so terrible that you need to complain every time, why do come back?  Again,  go somewhere else.

14.  Do not give a single location bad feedback because of some corporate policy over which they have no control.  Don’t like the loyalty program?  Take it up with the corporate office.   We can give you the number.  Don’t like the FREE bread?  You can call that same number.  And for Christ’s sake, don’t complain to a manager or other staff member about that shit!  They can’t do anything about it, and when you complain about free bread, you look like a hairy dick.

15.  Do not ask employees personal questions or make comments about their appearance.  It’s a good way to get boogers and cum in your food (thank you, South Park).

16.  Do not call a female employee ‘sweetheart ‘ or ‘honey’ or any other term of endearment.   It’s disrespectful and misogynistic and makes us want to drag you from the back of a truck over broken glass. 

17.  Do not EVER UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES put your hands on an employee.   There is no situation in which that is acceptable.   I have had people removed from the premises for that shit.

18.  Do not tell us your life story.  On the phone or in person.  We’re busy– we don’t have time for that shit.  If you’re lonely, hire an escort. 

19.  Control your children.  No one wants to listen to them scream– it ruins everyone’s meal.  Keep them in their seats and quiet.  Don’t take them to the bar, either– that ain’t classy.  That’s a grown-up environment.   And for fuck’s sake, don’t let little Jackass Jr. put his sticky paws all over the windows and glass door panels!!  Someone has to clean that shit.

20.  Speaking of which, do not open doors by putting your hands on the glass.  That is really unnecessary.  There’s a freakin’ handle right the fuck there– use it!

21.  Do not interrupt an employee who is trying to take care of another customer.  That’s just shitty.

22.  Do not snap your fat fingers at an employee to get his attention.  It creates instant loathing in the core of our beings.

23.  Do not tell us you’re a Yelper or a loyalty member or that you ‘know the owner.’  We could not give less of a shit.

24.  Do not tell us you’re giving us a bad reviews on Yelp.  Again,  could not give less of a shit.

25.  Do not show up with a party of eight people without even bothering to call to see if we have room.  You just totally disrupted the entire dining room.

26.  If you made a reservation for fifteen people but then find out later there will only be ten of you,  have the courtesy to update your reservation.  It makes a big difference in the dining room setup.  Same thing if you originally made a reservation for eight but then end up with twelve people.

27.  Do not try to make holiday reservations on the holiday.  Do not walk in without a reservation on a holiday.  Do not show up early for your holiday reservation and expect to be seated early.  There’s a reason for reservation times.  Dining rooms have a finite amount of space.

28.  Do not occupy a table for two and a half hours when the restaurant is busy.  We need those tables.

29.  Do not occupy any table for more than two hours unless you plan on leaving a huge tip to make up for causing your server to lose possible business.

30.  Do not make reservations at closing time.  Do not come in ten minutes before we close.  It makes every single employee in the restaurant hate your guts— kitchen is already clean, servers have done their sidework, manager has already counted the safe and put away the drawers.  You just added two hours to everyone’s already long night, and you will get surprises in your food.

31.  Being verbally abusive to a perfect stranger is completely unacceptable, regardless of how long your food took, how long you were on hold, or any other petty complaint you may have.  When you get all judge-y and superior towards someone who is just trying to make a living, it exposes you for the human trash you are.  You cannot honestly expect to treat another human being that way and then get any semblance of a satisfying solution to your problem.  Short of assaulting you or stealing your credit card info, no employee deserves that.

I could write a whole book on this shit, people.   It would be titled How Not to be a Shitty Dick.”  Because apparently, many grown-ass people are too idiotic to know when they’re being shitty dicks.  Fuck you, shitty dicks.  Fuck you. 

Childhood Bonding Experiences with my Father, Some of Which Were a Little Traumatic

When I was a child, kids were reared very differently than they are today– especially in Texas.  My dad was “Texas” through and through.  When my mom went into labor while my dad was attending Yale, he brought a jar of dirt he’d dug up before they’d moved to Connecticut and insisted on placing it under the delivery bed so that he could tell everyone his first child was born on Texas soil.  My dad and I had some great– and occasionally really gross or fairly dangerous– times together.

For instance, my father was an avid hunter– because Texas, ya’ll– so I ate a lot of venison.  That wasn’t the bad part- venison is actually pretty awesome when it’s not game-y (I would like to say, however, that I do not advocate hunting, even for food, because we have these great things called grocery stores now).  In addition to eating a lot of recently murdered animals, I also grew up around dozens of mounted heads and hides (and one gigantic snake skin from an enormous snake my dad killed while doing a geological survey for Exxon).  My dad did not believe in wasting any animal parts that could be eaten or used for home decor or given as gifts. He once gave my mother a set of taxidermied turkey feet. She thought he was doing some voodoo shit on her.  He also believed in doing the “cleaning” himself.

**WARNING: This next part is super-gross, so don’t read it if you don’t have a strong stomach or get offended by descriptions of dead animals!!**

One day when I was about three years old, I wandered out the front door of my grandparents’ ranch house and was not at all surprised to discover an entire deer hanging from a tree with a giant hole cut in its side.  Next to the deer stood my father, covered in deer blood and dropping the last handful of deer guts into the pile he’d made on the ground.

“Whatcha doin’?” I asked, probably very cutely.

“I’m cleaning the deer I shot,” my dad replied, no attempt to shield me from the disgusting animal carcass.

“What’s that mean?” I asked.  (I was going through the ‘question everything’ phase.)

“It means I take out the guts and take the skin off, so we can eat it,” he answered matter-of-factly.

“Can I see it?” I queried.

“Sure,” he said, stepping back, giving me room to inspect the deer.  So I toddled over to it and poked at it a little and very probably put my finger in its nose because I was known to violate animals’ cranial orifices when I was little.  Seeing shit like this is almost certainly why.  I inspected every inch of the deer until I got to the gaping hole in its side and then stuck my head inside to look at the inside of the deer.  That happened, people.  And do you know what my father did?  Did he snatch me up in horror and try to explain how gross and potentially messy and dangerous that could be?  Nooooo.  My father felt the correct response to this inexplicably icky action was to lift up the deer’s tail, peek through its butthole, and happily exclaim, “Peekaboo!”  To which I responded by laughing hysterically.  So then and there, my father and I played a ten-minute game of peekaboo, using the asshole of a dead deer.  And I know I am remembering it correctly because my dad, when he was still alive, used this story to illustrate to his friends how “Texas” his only daughter was.  This explains so much…

He also proudly taught me how to clean his shotgun, and I used to look forward to it after every hunting trip.  He would take out his case of tools and gun oil (I loved the smell of gun oil as a kid), and he would let me screw the pieces of the plunger-thing together (I don’t know what it’s called, but you use it to clean the barrel).  Then he would thread a piece of cloth through the thing on the end that looked like a giant needle-eye.  He would let me shove it into the barrel and get it all clean, and then he would let me help him polish the gun all over.  Most parents wouldn’t want their small children exposed to firearms, but my dad wasn’t most people.  He thought I should know all about guns so I wouldn’t try to play with them, and I thought it was the funnest thing in the world.  I was not a typical little girl.

Think back to your last intestinal bug.  Was it a miserable day or two of running back and forth between the bed and the toilet?  Not at our house.  At our house, when you had a stomach virus, you were confined to the bathroom by my mother, who would not even chance someone barfing on the carpet.  She would make you a pallet and put the nine-inch, black and white TV on the bathroom counter.  You would snuggle into your warm, puffy pallet, watch cartoons, and get up occasionally to puke or be force-fed Pedialyte mixed with Sprite (back then they only had one flavor of Pedialyte– sweat) or to get an anti-nausea suppository rudely poked up your backside (no joke).

On this particular occasion, because Dad and I were both sick, my mom let us camp out in the master bath to give us room to get to the toilet without tripping over each other.  When we got bored with the TV and started to feel a little better, I snuck to my room and grabbed my cassette recorder.  I thought one of the most hilarious forms of amusement was to record myself on a blank tape and play it back over and over.  I brought the tape recorder back to the bathroom, and Dad and I spent the next two hours recording ourselves making fart sounds, singing, and making “bomb” sound effects.  Nothing passes the time when you’re sick like being trapped in a bathroom with your dad, a TV, and a tape recorder.  I saved that tape and played it over and over for the next two weeks, giggling behind my hand the whole time.

My dad and I had some great– and unusual– bonding moments.  He liked to tell the story of the time I saved him from a snake when I was four.  We were at my grandparents’ ranch again (lots of gross stories occurred there, often involving peril to life and limb), and we were getting ready to take the canoe out on the pond for a little fishing.  My dad had the oars and fishing poles, and I proudly dragged the tackle box along with both hands.  It was winter, so we weren’t really watching for snakes because they should have all been hiding underground or under rocks and stuff.

Dad laid the oars on the ground at the edge of the icy water and gripped the canoe on one side to flip it over.  As the six-foot, metal boat turned over and exposed the hard ground beneath, I caught a glimpse of something orange-y and white in the grass.  I looked closer and saw what I knew, even at age four, to be a Copperhead.  It was slow-moving because of the cold, and but even so, I saw it pull its head back as though readying itself to strike at my father, who was less than two feet from it and had yet to see it.

“DAD, THERE’S A SNAKE!!!” I yelled.  In one swift motion, he grabbed one of the heavy, wooden oars, looked to where I was pointing, and brought the flat end down hard on the snake’s head.  Then he hugged me tight and thanked me.

“We need to get a picture!” he exclaimed.  So we ran back to the cabin and told my grandpa what had happened.  He followed us back to the pond with the camera.  After poking at the snake a few times to make sure it was really dead, my dad scooped it up on the end of an oar and sat me on his knee while my grandpa took a couple of shots.  For the next few weeks, my dad proudly told anyone who would listen about how his four-year old had surely saved him from a venomous snake bite, twenty miles from the the nearest hospital.  Every time we flipped through our photo albums after that, Dad would point to the picture and say, “Remember when you saved me from Copperhead?”  And I would feel proud too– and thankful.

Dad and I had some strange and sometimes idiotic adventures, and I loved them all.  I also love that I have his wicked, sarcastic sense of humor.  I love that I can see him in my son and my brothers.  I love that I have these great memories of using my dad’s golf clubs to whack the heads off the mushrooms in the backyard every spring, and I love that he  introduced me the Beach Boys when I was eight.  I love that he always had a sports car and would sing “Barbara Ann” to me along with the stereo while we drove to the beach.  He called me “B,” and to this day no one else is allowed to call me that.

My dad would be fifty-nine years old today, and I am currently the same age he was when he died.  When I remember my dad, I smile.  I can never watch a bad ’80s horror movie or a Godzilla movie without thinking of him.  And how many kids can say they learned to read from the Sunday comics, while sitting on their dad’s knee?  My dad was funny and incredibly intelligent and also very, very complicated.  I look back on some of the very strange things we did together and– even though some of them are a little disturbing (like the deer peekaboo) or dangerous (like the snake)– I am grateful for every one of them.

Why Animals are Better at Teaching Sex Ed

Before you think I’m an unconscionable pervert, this post is not about bestiality.  It’s about how kids growing up in the Midwest learn about sex far before we take sex ed in school.  When I was a kid, I thought my family were the only freaks who learned the facts of life from, well, wildlife, but my husband recently put that fear to rest by informing me that he learned about sex from… tortoises.  Yup.  Tortoises.  Just about the least sexy animal in the world, next to hippos.  And giraffes.  Giraffes are very unsexy.

My darling husband, visiting the zoo with his dad as a young child, had no idea that he was about to be traumatized forever.  As the hubby and his dad wandered toward the tortoise pen, they heard a strange, unidentifiable sound: “Wwwwwoooooowwwww…  Wwwwooooooowwwww….  Wwwwwoooooooowwwww…”  They followed the sound, curious as to what it could be, and saw a crowd gathered.  Pushing their way to the front, they saw two tortoises, one perched awkwardly on top of the other, the top tortoise weirdly making the “Wwwwooooowwww…” sound over and over.  My husband and his dad looked at each other, and my kindergarten aged hubby imitated the tortoises: “Wwwwwoooowwww…”  His dad made the same sound back at him: “Wwwwwoooooowwww…”  And this became their private joke any time they both saw something awesome.  “Wwwwwoooooowwww…”  This explains… a lot…

Not quite as bad as tortoises– but definitely disturbing– was learning about sex from livestock.  Growing up, my family owned lots of horses and cows.  I still feel bad for my brothers because I can see how this would cause some insecurity in the male department.  Being the oldest, I was a little more educated than A1 and A2.  So when they saw our horses mounting each other for the first time, I had to answer some uncomfortable questions.  Being the excellent older sister that I was, I took full advantage of the opportunity to do as much psychological damage as I could to my little brothers.  It was hilarious.  There’s nothing like telling a three-foot-tall person that he is going to remain exactly the same size, grow a member the size of a horse’s when he hits puberty, and then have to reproduce in exactly the same position as a horse.  The facial expression is beyond priceless. (Almost as priceless is watching a miniature pony try desperately to mount a palomino that’s about fifteen hands high.)

Parents, take a lesson– unless you want to try ineffectually for years to undo lots of mental trauma and eventually end up paying for a decade of therapy, just have “the talk” with your kids. It’s uncomfortable, we all hate it, and no one can look each other in the eye for a couple of weeks. But it’s preferable to catching your two sons measuring their wieners every day and then asking you how long before they grow horse dicks. No one wants to have that conversation.

How a Camel Tried to Eat my Face and Other Reminiscences

When I was three years old, a camel tried to eat my face.  My mom had taken me to the Houston Zoo, and back then they only put glass or tall fences around the obviously dangerous predators– alligators, lions, gorillas, etc.  Camels, apparently, were viewed as docile and tame enough to allow toddlers access (despite their propensity for spitting).  I don’t know if what I experienced is typical of camels or if this particular camel just happened to be an asshole– either way, it traumatized the hell outta me.

My mother stood back with A1 (my first brother) in his blue stroller, and I climbed up on the log pen that prevented the camels from wandering around like free-range douche bags.  Evidently, I found the camel that was creative enough to come up with a way to assault the general public despite his captivity.  As I leaned over the top of the fence, holding on to the top log, a large and rather smelly camel lumbered over to me– and promptly wrapped its entire mouth around my tiny head.  I remember seeing the camel walk towards me, then suddenly being enveloped in very wet darkness.  The next thing I knew, someone’s arms were around me, rescuing me from the camel’s oral embrace.  I was so shocked I didn’t know whether to cry or pass out or poop.  So I just stood there, camel saliva dripping from my face and hair, and stared in dazed astonishment at my mother– who was looking back at me with the same open-mouthed, wide-eyed expression– and then at the stranger who had had the presence of mind to rescue me.  (My mother was remarkably terrible in an emergency; her panic mode kicked into overdrive pretty fast, and then she was useless.  I learned how to handle 911 situations by the time I was ten.  As a result, I am now excellent to have around in a crisis.)

When I got older, and began retelling the story to my friends– because I thought it sounded pretty awesome that I had narrowly escaped being devoured by a large and massively stinky mammal– my mom told the story from her perspective.  She watched in horror, panic making her immobile, as the camel slurped my face into its mouth.  Fortunately, some other mom (who apparently was actually functional in emergency situations) sprinted over and yanked me away.  Hearing that, I was very glad that the camel hadn’t bitten down, or I might have been accidentally beheaded.  Or be-faced.  De-faced?  What’s the word for having your face ripped off?

I eventually developed a fear of the Houston Zoo because bad things tended to happen to me there.  As well as almost being eaten alive by an animal that isn’t supposed to be all that dangerous, I was also sneezed on by an elephant.  I’m pretty sure I’m the reason they started putting double-fences and very deep ditches around even the “safe” animals.  I was riding around in my stroller, probably looking adorable, and my mom wheeled me up to the wire fence that separated the elephants from the spectators.  One elephant turned its trunk straight at me and sneezed with such force that it required a sink bath in the public restroom and a full change of clothes.  In addition, when I went to the zoo with my grandpa as a small child, some weird, older couple grabbed me by both arms and tried to run off with me.  I screamed my head off to alert my grandpa because my parents had instilled in me a specific terror of kidnappers (as most parents did to their children in ’80s).  My grandpa yanked me away from them and, as I recall, said a lot of words to them that would have gotten my mouth washed out with soap had I repeated them.  So between the camel assault, the elephant attack, and the kidnapping attempt, I really disliked the zoo.  (Aside from the hot dogs.  The hot dogs were awesome.)

In fact, my spastic parents helped make me scared of just about everything and everyone.  If they weren’t telling me about kidnappers (which I’m sure was just their misguided way of trying to keep me from running off in public), they were talking about burglars.  There were a couple of times when houses in our neighborhood were robbed– despite living in a really nice area– and I heard a few too many burglar stories.  I was afflicted with insomnia and almost nightly nightmares as a child, so I was awake pretty often in the middle of the night.  I would lie there in bed, listening for the intruder I was positive would eventually come, and the moment I heard the slightest creak or groan of the house settling, I would run wake my dad and tell him to get his gun.  So he would dutifully, and groggily, grab his pistol from the bedside table (because in Texas, in the 80s, lots of dads slept with pistols next to the bed) and walk through the house checking for criminals.  Then he would reassure me, tuck me back in bed, and order me not to wake him up again unless the house was on fire.  But he didn’t understand– my bedroom was the first room in the hallway off the living room!  When the burglars came, they would come to my room first, and they’d probably kidnap me for good measure!  Then they’d send my parents a ransom note, and I would be forced to sleep in a basement with no TV and eat nothing but disgusting vegetables until I was rescued.  (I had a weird idea both of burglars and kidnappers.)

My fear of kidnappers was so severe that I would throw a hysterical fit any time my mom tried to leave me in the car while she filled the gas tank.  And when I went out in public with my dad, he couldn’t use the restroom until he got home because I would insist on going in with him to make sure I was safe.  Once he took me to the circus, and on the way back we had to stop for gas.  He needed to use the facilities and told me to wait right outside the door.  Which I did.  For about ten seconds.  The moment a strange man walked toward the restroom, I burst into the men’s room, screaming my head off, and startled my dad so badly that he peed all up the wall and all down his pants.

I wish I had some profound lesson from all of this (other than “Don’t tell your kids about burglars or kidnappers” and “Don’t get close to elephants”).  But really, what I got out of all of this crap is this 1) There is a fine line between teaching your kids to be cautious and scaring the ever-living-fuckity-fuck out of them and 2) Camels are dicks.  For real.  They are just about the biggest assholes in the animal kingdom.  Followed closely by elephants.

My Youngest Brother is Nuttier Than Squirrel Shit

My baby brother was a runt when he was little.  He was a tiny baby and was always the smallest kid in his class– until he hit high school and suddenly turned into G.I. Joe.  I think it may have been his midget-ness, coupled with the never-ending torture that my middle brother and I put him through, that spawned in him a need to prove himself.  And that he did, in every way possible.

A2 (as I have referred to him in previous posts) was the kind of kid who jumped off the top of the jungle gym and on the way down remembered, “Oh yeah, I have to land…”  He was so absent-minded and non-observant that the house once literally almost burned down around him while he obliviously watched TV.  (My mother got out of the shower and walked into the living room, which had completely filled with smoke from a very burnt turkey in the oven, and A2 looked up at her in complete surprise when she shrieked and asked him how in the hell of all shits he hadn’t noticed.)  And he feared nothing.  That is not a good combination.

A2 got stitched back together more times in the first ten years of his life than his brother and I have in all of our years put together up to this point.  The fact that he would eat virtually anything for money provided no end of amusement to A1 and me over the years.  The father of one of his friends once made the mistake of handing him an unopened box of Milk Bones and offering him a dollar for every one he ate.  He ate all thirty-five.  It was this fearlessness and ability to eat things that would kill a normal person that made him a perfect candidate for the military.  And it prepared him well.

Anyone who knows anything about the military knows that, on bivouac, you get nothing but severely rationed rations.  Basically a square of cardboard meat and flammable, powdered creamer twice a day.  After being in the woods for a week, A2 and his guys wandered back onto their base and passed a dumpster.  On top of the trash in the dumpster was a Papa John’s box, and it called to them like a siren.  Upon opening it, they discovered half an  uneaten pizza.  So A2 and his buddies sat down on the ground next to the dumpster and went Godzilla on the trash pizza.  As they were wolfing it down, their CO walked by and gasped in horror when he realized what they were doing.  “What the hell is wrong with you guys??!” he cried.  “I threw that pizza out yesterday!!”

Once on an open-ocean swim, A2 and his swim buddy stopped to tread water for a moment.  “Damn, man, I’m thirsty,” A2 said.  And no sooner were the words out of his mouth than a half-full bottle of Gatorade floated past.  Not bothering to consider how long it might have been floating, or whether he might contract three kinds of hepatitis, A2 promptly downed part of the bottle, then offered the rest to his swim buddy.  He also once ate candy off the ground on the sidewalk.  Opened candy.  He has the immune system of a cyborg and the stomach of a trash compactor.

His next ocean adventure was a little less fortuitous.  He was doing a polar bear swim with the rest of the guys in his troop, and they made a bet to see who could last longest in the icy water.  A2, of course, won.  As he dragged himself back to the beach triumphantly, he realized that he was getting some funny looks.  Finally, he looked down and realized that there was a large and very alive jellyfish wrapped tightly around his calf.  He was so numb from the cold water that he couldn’t feel it.  Prying it off was the stuff of legends.  And now, among his guys, A2 is the stuff of legends.

I like to think that some of the torture A1 and I exposed him to as children helped prepare him for his life in the military.  He does seem to take everything in stride better than most.  Things that would either make me scream in horror or vomit profusely have no effect on him.  I view it as a excellent argument for the validation of shooting your sibling in the nipples with a BB gun for target practice.  Imagine all the times he found himself in a terrible situation and thought, “Well, at least it’s not as bad as getting tagged in the nips with BBs,” or “At least I’m not being force-fed dog poo (go read my previous posts for the story on that one).”  Yup, sibling torture surely made my youngest brother the G.I. Joe lookalike he is today.  You’re welcome, little bro.  I will be a dick for your well-being any day.

Awesome Convos I’ve Had with my Kids and Things I Never Thought I’d Say or Do Until I Became a Mom

This is a collection of hilarious interactions with my kids and things I’ve said and done as a mother that would’ve seemed very strange– or unthinkable– to me before the birth of my first child.


 

Convo with my daughters, R and G, when they were ages six and three years, respectively:

R: (pointing to a picture of me as a baby) Mom, I look just like you!

Me: Yes, you do, baby.  You look just like Mommy.

G: Do I look like you, Mom?

Me: No, you look more like your dad (referring to my ex).

G: (without missing a beat, loudly and furiously) HEY, I’M NOT BALD!!!!

Me: laughing hysterically


 

My son, age three years, sits down to pee on the toilet at my grandparents’ house where, for some reason, the bathroom is carpeted:

Me: Make sure you point it in the potty.

J: Point what?

Me: Your tallywhacker.

J: What’s a tacky-whacker??

Me: Your penis. Weiner.

J: My penis is named tacky-whacker???!!!


 

The following illustrates more than anything else how very much I love my son:

J was going through a phase where bugs and snakes were the most fascinating things in the world. And I could handle the terrarium with the benign grass snakes in it and the mason jars full of snails (that bred and laid 5,000 eggs and had to be released at our local park before they took over the house) and the caterpillars that we raised to butterflies. But then came the nightmare creature.

My ex and I were up in the Texas Hill Country, which is home to all sorts of horrible bugs and snakes. One morning we found a 6-inch long centipede on the porch, so the ex trapped it in two Styrofoam cups, and we took it home to J. I could hear it skittering around in the cups the whole ride home and was terrified that it would break free and eat us. We put it in yet another plastic terrarium and gave it to J, and he lost his mind over it and named it Slasher. I literally had nightmares about it escaping its cage and munching us all to death with its appalling mandibles. I researched it and found out that it was a common and very aggressive red-headed centipede.  So aggressive, in fact, that it would stand up on its very back legs to snatch bugs from us when we opened the lid to feed it, so we resorted to feeding it with tongs.  Its diet consisted of enormous, green katydids that we caught in the garden.  It occasionally molted and eventually grew to be nearly a foot long– no exaggeration.  It lived for a year in that terrarium, consistently horrifying all of us, except for J, and giving me nightmares on a semi-regular basis.  I’m reasonably certain it was actually spawned by the devil in the deepest bowels of hell.


 

My middle child has always been very independent and insisted on doing everything on her own, frustrating the hell out of herself from time to time.  Potty-training and switching to big-girl underpants was no exception.  I was once interrupted while putting away laundry by the sound of a tiny voice grunting and whining in the hallway.  I peeked around the doorway to see R rolling around on the floor, red-faced and struggling with all her might to pull on a pair of her new undies.  At first I was confused as to why she seemed unable to get them up past her thighs, and she was so furiously pissed off that she was starting to scream in rage.  When I sat down next to her and put my hand on her to get her to quit squirming for a second, I saw that she had actually stuffed one leg is the waistband and was trying to get the leg-hole up around her waist (basically she’d put them on sideways).  When I got her calmed down, I showed her how to find the waistband by looking for the tag.  I will never forget her cute, little self, rolling around on the floor and squealing like a piggy as she tried desperately to get that leg-hole up over her butt.


The following are actual statements I have made (some more than once) since becoming a mother:

  • Don’t ride the cat.
  • Stop licking your armpit.
  • Don’t feed the cat popcorn.
  • Stop farting on your sister.
  • Don’t strip in public.
  • Please stop headbutting me in the tailbone.
  • Please don’t burp like a trucker at family gatherings (this to my seven-year old daughter).
  • Stop throwing bananas.
  • Please stop lifting my shirt in public to look at my tattoos.
  • Quit banging your head on the shopping cart handle.  We’re getting looks.
  • Get your fingers out of your sister’s nose.
  • Please don’t take off your diaper and throw it across the room after you pee in it.
  • Tossing your plate upside down on the floor is not the proper way to tell me you’re done eating.
  • Popsicles are not dinner food.
  • No, you may not go out in public wearing a purple unibrow that you drew on your face with my eye shadow.
  • Please do not ever again sneak into bed with me at 5:00 a.m. to cut my hair.
  • If you ever again fart in yoga class and then blame it on me, I will stop letting you go with me.
  • It’s not okay to call out your great-grandma on her farts in public.  She’s old, and she can’t help it.  She probably doesn’t realize she did it.
  • It is not necessary to name your poop.
  • Farting on command is not a talent– it’s a health hazard.
  • The cat’s tail is not a handle.  Do not use it to carry her around the house.
  • Diapers are not fuel– please don’t take yours off and toss it in the fireplace to make the fire bigger.
  • No, the lemons on the lemon tree in your great-grandparents’ backyard are not yellow because you peed on the tree when you were swimming and didn’t want to dry off to go use the bathroom.  You can’t believe everything your great-grandpa tells you.
  • Yes, girls do have ovaries, but boys do not have “underies.”  Please do not believe– or repeat– anything your uncles tell you.

 

I was once riding in the car with my son, my grandmother, and my aunt.  J was about two years old and was singing “Old MacDonald Had a Farm” to himself as he looked out the window.  After a few verses he sang, “Old MacDonald had a farm, E-I-E-I-O!  And on that farm he had a dick-dick, E-I-E-I-O!  With a dick-dick here and dick-dick there!  Here a dick!  There a dick!  Everywhere a dick-dick!  Old MacDonald had a farm, E-I-E-I-O!”  I glanced at great-grandmother, whose eyes were round with shock, and at my aunt, who was shaking with barely contained laughter, and sighed and closed my eyes.  “Well,” I shrugged, “at least he knows Old MacDonald is a dude.”