Sunday, March 21, 2010

I Wanna Be a Cougar

I’m middle-aged. My husband’s not, he’s a few years older than me. Ahead of her time his mother didn’t have him until she was in her early 30’s, something unheard of back in the 50’s. All this adds up to a mother-in-law that’s always been more like a grandmother to me so I can’t really relate to my girlfriends who have in-laws that rival Marie Romano on “Everybody Loves Raymond”.

My mother-in-law comes to visit for a few weeks each year at Christmas (hold your applause – I am that good of a daughter-in-law) but as she’s gotten older she’s no longer comfortable making the trip, which entails a connecting flight at O’Hare, alone. So for the past few years my husband has flown up to get her, only to fly right back the next day with her, and then do it all over again 3-4 weeks later when she returns home. Last year I felt bad for him so volunteered to take one of the legs. I’m not exactly sure where I went wrong but I ended up with the return which meant flying the week between Christmas and New Years, through Chicago, when half the world (and their over-tired, cranky kids) are returning home from a week of family (dys) fun (ction).

Amazingly, considering what we were up against, the outbound flights went off without a hitch. We arrived at mother’s “independent living” (NOT assisted living, that’s different, if you don’t believe me just ask her, she’ll tell you) facility at 5:27 PM which worked out well because they serve dinner at 5:30 and all day there was a concern that we’d miss it.

We took seats at a table for 10 and joined 8 other women already seated. I took a look around the dining hall and counted 3 other tables each with 8-10 people seated at them (headcount was low due to the holidays, lots of residents still visiting family). Out of +/- 40 people there was one man. One very brave, somewhat frightened looking, man.

Most of the regular staff was also on holiday so the girl who usually mans the front desk was waiting us on. Sweet girl, but multi-tasking and memory were not her strong suits. She proceeded to take our orders for appetizers and entrĂ©es, not writing anything down. The results were less than impressive and the residents let her know it. I wanted to sink into a hole in the floor. By the time dessert rolled around – an interesting choice of cornbread served with blueberries or ice cream – they were out for blood.

“Is it real ice cream? Or that non-fat yogurt stuff?”

“Are the blueberries real? Or canned?”

“Is the cornbread cut in squares? Or are they muffins?”

They made the poor girl run to the kitchen no less than 4 times to ask the “chef” these burning questions. I couldn’t wait for dinner to be over. I had seen a glimpse of my future and I didn’t like it.

When I got home the next day I recounted the story to my husband and put him on notice; I had no intention of spending my golden years with the “Golden Girls”. Due to our age difference, and if all goes according to God’s plan, it’s likely he’ll go before me. If that happens I plan on dropping 20 pounds, dying my hair, and finding myself a younger man to “take care” of me in my later years; it’s going to be the cougar-life for me.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Cat in the Bag

I love Halloween. What’s not to like? It’s a holiday of a sort, adults get to dress up in costume and no one thinks it strange, there’s candy, and it doesn’t involve family stress like Thanksgiving and Christmas. It’s like a stag/hen night in a way, your last night of freedom and fun before a lifetime of marriage and commitment (or insert here “two months of present shopping, gift-wrapping, party-going, overeating, traveling and family dys”fun”ction).

My mother knows how much I love Halloween so despite my middle age she sends me a card every year in honor of the day. I still think she sends it out of guilt as one year she made the off-handed comment that she wouldn’t be buying candy that year because she didn’t have any children. We may not be much, but my brother and I took umbrage with the comment. She quickly tried to cover the gaff by saying she meant that she didn’t have any children “that came to her neighborhood”, but words hurt.

I elaborately carve at least two pumpkins and alight them at the front door to beckon the kids. We only buy “good candy”; brand name chocolate bars and such, nothing that I would have scoffed at when I was 12. And despite the fact that the doorbell is akin to a starter pistol to our dogs, we settle in to spend 3 hours listening to them bark uncontrollably from the back bedroom while we pump the neighborhood kids full of empty calories and admire the year’s costumes. Our all-time favorite is still the two pre-teen boys who came to our door a couple of years ago; one dressed as Tony Romo, the other as Jessica Simpson with fake ta-tas, mini-skirt and a blonde wig.

A few years ago my Halloween card arrived in a box along with a pumpkin decorating “kit” in it. I put the word “kit” in quotes, because I use the term VERY loosely. The “kit” consisted of a few pieces of stamped metal in a bag. When you laid them out it was apparent that it was a cat – or at least part of a cat – the body of the cat is where the pumpkin comes in. That’s it. No instructions. No picture of how cute your pumpkin kitty will be after you quickly and professionally stab the various metal parts into your pumpkin “as shown in picture”; just a bag of body parts. Now before you think my husband and I are complete idiots, the head and the tail were obvious, however the 4 feet/leg pieces were shaped like nothing I’d ever seen on a cat before. It was enough to make a veterinarian scratch his head.

I figured that once we had the actual pumpkin, assembly would become apparent. Nope. After an exhaustive search (I do recall my husband mumbling “just shoot me now” once or twice) for the perfectly shaped pumpkin body for our cat, we (two grown adults of average intelligence) spent the better part of an hour trying to figure out how the 4 feet/legs were to be installed onto our amputee kitty. We finally settled on a configuration that looked the most anatomically correct however it didn’t provide the necessary stabilization to keep the cat from occasionally tipping over. On more than one occasion I left the front door to find our kitty face down in the entryway as if in a drunken stupor.

It was our UPS man that eventually pointed out that while cute, he thought that the cat would look more normal if we swapped the front legs to the back and vice versa – and that might also keep kitty from face-planting. Worked like a charm, and yes kitty did look more normal afterward too. I took a picture so that I would have it as a reference the following year on how to assemble kitty; I was going to attach it here but I can’t find it. I don’t see kitty making another Halloween appearance until I do; we’ve had the same UPS man for years.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

WAY too footloose

I’m throwing my hands up; we need to talk about feet. On a gradually increasing basis the general public is being afflicted by feet, and afflicted is the right word: to distress with mental or bodily pain; trouble greatly or grievously.

I can’t put my finger on the exact moment, but somewhere along the line it became OK to just let your feet hang out there – in all their glory, or grotesqueness - in public. Case in point the attached photograph; I was graced with these little beauties at the gate of a major US airport (the thought of this individual sitting next to me on a sealed aluminum tube for a few hours makes me throw up in my mouth a little). Note the (not-so-white) bandage around the right big toe and the manky (Google it, it’s a word) Birkenstock sandals that he tossed off in my direction. This is not OK. I don’t want to see your Barney Rubble feet, and I certainly don’t need to know about your podiatric medical issues. Put a sock “on” it, literally!

And if you think this is strictly an issue with men, let us not forget the Northwestern University’s national championship women’s lacrosse team whose 2005 visit to the White House had four of the nine team members pictured in the front row wearing flip flops. Politics aside, flip flops to the White House? It was widely reported that family members (mothers in particular) were horrified. Is this something that we’re going to have to add to “and remember to wear clean underwear in case you’re in an accident”? “Don’t leave for Washington in flip flops; you might get invited to the White House”.

Airplanes seem to generate a strange sense of privacy in people; I can’t remember a flight where someone seated near me has not slipped off their shoes, exposed their bare feet and rolled them around on the carpet for a while. Nice visual, huh? Or even worse, those seated in the bulked row putting their bare feet on the wall for everyone in the 10 rows behind them to view! A girlfriend had what was, up until last week, the worst (or best, if you’re grading on a curve) foot story; mid-flight, a man sitting next to her took out a bottle of lotion, slipped his feet out of his sandals, and proceeded to lather them up. For her, this topped even the lady who clipped her (finger) nails on a flight (yeah, I can’t even go there on that one, those suckers fly everywhere!). See, I told you, people do things on airplanes that should strictly be reserved for your bathroom at home, and NOT in front of your spouse!

But the worst/best foot story position is now occupied by the man who sat next to my husband on an international flight last week. Every seat on the airplane was equipped with a personal video screen on the seat-back in front of you. The screens are touch-sensitive. You know what’s coming, don’t you? Yep, the guy reclined his seat, took his shoes and socks off, and navigated the touch screen with his big toe. They just don’t clean aircraft well enough for that.