Archive for August, 2009

PROMPTUESDAY #71: The Story, Part 2

Monday, August 31st, 2009

I’ve got an awesome prompt.


Last Saturday see, my friend Paul told me about The Moth and intrigue swept my heart. (I love when that happens). The best part? Turns out The Moth (a compelling storytelling concept and podcast series) became a “thing” after the founder used to have people over and “forced” them to tell a story as a condition of the party. During those tales, moths would circle the porch lights and so The Moth moniker arose.


I instantly begged The Rock to let me do that at our housewarming party next month, but he nixed the idea straightaway, while I commenced a fit and told him I was going to do it anyway…


…Right here on my blog, and as this is my intellectual (I use the term loosely) property he cannot do a thing about it.


So then he showed me this:




I was bowling.


Apparently this is how I bowl.


I bowl like that.


My husband took this without my knowledge. I never knew I looked like a lopsided football goal post (what are they called?) when I bowled. But he knew…oh he knew. Please leave him a comment and tell him that this irresponsible act resulted in needless embarrassment and humiliation and that my personality is not “asymmetrical,” so it doesn’t at all “logically follow” that I would bowl like this.)


As for this week’s PROMPT.


I know I’ve already asked you to tell me a story, but this time, I want it to be true. Something from your life. And if you need a theme, try “college.” Or not.


You know the drill.


But make it true.


It needs to be true.


The best things in life are true, even the fact that you bowl like Elaine danced in Seinfeld.


Please post your submission in the comments OR post in your blog and leave a link to your blog in the comments. And know what else? It’s be really bichen if you did a vlog! Do a vlog of you telling a story! Yes! Please? I’ll try to do one too if I can figure out how to charge my Flip.


First time to PROMPTuesday? Read a bit about it here.
Want to see what’s been written in the past? Catch up on the PROMPTuesdays archive here.


P.S. This is one of Paul’s favorite Moth podcasts.


Truth in Advertising

Monday, August 31st, 2009

The summer wound down with a pop. We knew it was coming, but when those balmy Chicago nights ended with a cold snap, it took us by surprise. Lis and I spent the entire warm weather months doing what twenty-something single Lincoln Parkians did — attending street festival after street festival, Cubs games, and rooftop parties, and when the wind began to blow, we dejectedly battened down the hatches and waited for Halloween — the next party between parties.


It’d been a good summer, full of innocent flirtations and late-night talks. Oftentimes, Lis and I huddled around the fireplace, blowing cigarette smoke up the chimney and listening to The Bodeans or the Murmurs softly strum from the CD player. Then we’d fall asleep in the living room, she on the black leather couch and me with a pillow and comforter on the floor, the way I’d loved to sleep since I was a kid.


One of those evenings, an appley September night, Lis and I decided maybe we should start to date. We’d flitted about all summer and now were dangerously close to being too content with each other. Decision made, we flattened the Chicago Reader’s “Matches” section against the coffee table and began circling ads. And as we did, we both laughed in that way you do when you’re kind of serious, but don’t want the other person to know.




This one looks interesting.” I read to her as she grabbed some beer from the fridge.


Does he like the Cubs? He’s gotta like the Cubs,”


That narrows it down…” I scanned the ad. “A-ha! He’s a sports lover.”


Good enough.” She peered over my shoulder.


Now find one for you.”


It took but a minute.

Here we go…! Just what I’m looking for…”

I circled my guy.




The title read “Johnny Depp Looks.” It was in bold type and all caps. I think there was also some mention of manly hobbies, like football and futures trading, but really, he had me at “Depp.” After that, the ad could have said “deadbeat boozer,” and “collects snot,” for all I cared.


Lis talked me into calling her ad and my ad’s voice mail, and true to form, I babbled my way through the introductions. I’d called Lis’s guy first and said some nonsense about something ridiculous, making her sound like a real idiot not on purpose, and we both knew when I hung up that she was totally screwed and not getting a call back. So good and practiced, I called “Johnny Depp Looks,” and again rambled my way through some kind of semblance of a hello, call me, I want to date you.


The next day at work, the whole thing seemed silly. Who me? Date someone from a newspaper ad? Good thing I sounded like someone who rode the short yellow bus when I’d called him, because I didn’t have to worry about him calling back.


But he did.


He sounded like Sly Stallone. Sort of a tough guy drawl with a Southside Chicago accent thrown in for good measure. I ate it up. And he was funny and smart and employed. I was going to marry Johnny Depp and have Depplets! We made a date, and I hung up the phone to scramble to my colleague’s cubicle.




Johnny Depp Looks sounds normal!”


My co-worker swiveled in his chair and appraised me bemusedly. I knew the look.


“No really! This is the one!”


I told him about the accent and the job and the Deppness, and God bless him, he played along.


I bet he’s got big guns.”


Really?” I paused. “He didn’t seem violent…”


Big arm muscles! Arm muscles. It’s an expression.”


I liked that.

Yes, big guns! I bet he does!




But he didn’t.


(To be continued…)


PROMPTUESDAY #70: Sooner or Later, I Was Gonna Have to Do It

Monday, August 24th, 2009

Please describe a blind date.


Make it up or give us a little truth is stranger than fiction.


Bonus points and adoration from afar: If you make it up, include “Finland”, “chenille robe”, and “casserole” in your submission.


Please post your submission in the comments OR post in your blog and leave a link to your blog in the comments.


First time to PROMPTuesday? Welcome! Read a bit about this weekly writing exercise here.


(Want to see what’s been written in the past? Catch up on the PROMPTuesdays archive here.)


The Suburbs: Not an Urban Legend

Sunday, August 23rd, 2009

Annoyingly, I didn’t want to like the suburbs. Instead, I prefer to align myself with eclectic Aaryn, whose vision is to buy an urban loft with open common areas for diversity and individual expression. I thought (hoped?) the suburbs would be too plebian, too vanilla for my delusional hippish tastes and if I didn’t like the suburbs, that would mean I were somehow cool.




So I like the suburbs.


We keep the front and back doors open. Bunnies hop over our patio. Every chain restaurant is within three miles (Olive Garden’s bread sticks are tragically underrated). We walk to school. The kids play in the cul de sac until it’s dark.


All the things we thought we’d get by moving? We got in spades. It’s like a parody of our dreams were made live in technicolor and surround sound. And I’m thinking, really? This move was a lark. I thought the suburbs were a myth. A story propagated by people who would jealously rather live in the city.


But no. It’s weirdo dreamy. People smile at you on the street. Trader Joe’s is one exit down. The YMCA is packed. These days, I consider that kind of stuff, gold.


Also! A mom with a son in Toot’s kindergarten class flagged me down as I walked home with the kids after school last week. She wanted to talk. There was camaraderie! And even bonding! Last year, in our old town, the preschool moms took 8 months to even acknowledge my presence.


Also? A girl Toots’ age knocks on our door daily asking if Toots “can play.” And then they join the other kids to frolic outside. Toots and Booger even have boy nemesises (nemesi?) who chase them with Nerf Guns. Just like the suburbs in my head would be.


Many evenings, porch chairs perch in driveways as moms and dads watch the kids hijinking, while on weekends we gather in the street and chat as the hooligans ribbon around us. There’s talk of lighted address signs, the best places to buy Escalades, and tropical landscaping, but The Rock and I tune it out and focus instead on the hide-and-seekers, the scooter-riders, and the trampoline-jumpers.


Pros and cons. Pros and cons.


In short? The kids are happy as lambs.


And that was the point.


Still…really on the crickets?



Thursday, August 20th, 2009

Booger and Toots


Olivia “Youthton” John and Toots, before school drop-off.


Toots started kindergarten today. In the days leading up to this morning, she periodically admitted she was “nervous,” a revelation wholly unlike her, the social girl who tells strangers about the time “daddy had a weiner operation and laid on the couch all day.” Either way, I monitored her daily, asking what made her nervous, trying to address her concerns about making friends and learning to read.


Still, she seemed mostly excited, stopping every man and woman on the street to share the exact start day of kindergarten and the color, make and model of her lunch bag. So when The Rock and I dropped her off at class today, my heart splintered as she burst into tears. I’d never seen her do this before in social situations. Usually, she waves me off with an “I need kid time” dismissal.


I internally wept with her as she stood on a small red circle in the back of the room, weakly holding her tissue as the teacher led the class in an ironic version of “Oh What a Beautiful Morning.” Right then and there, I fought the urge to collect Toots and stick her in my cozy pocket, the one where tears don’t live. But The Rock waved me off as clearly the teacher didn’t encourage parental lingering, and so I reluctantly refused to look behind me as I left.


Now there’s an image in my mind of her solo on that red circle, clutching Kleenex, pale and wan, with tears streaming down her face as the rest of the kids ignore her.


It’s hard to shake that picture, even though I know closer to the truth is that right about now, her teacher knows all about The Rock’s weiner operation.


PROMPTUESDAY #69: Introspection

Tuesday, August 18th, 2009

1. Who are you?

2. Where did you come from?

3. Where are you going?


Please post your submission in the comments OR post in your blog and leave a link to your blog in the comments.


And also — First time to PROMPTuesday? Welcome! Read a bit about this weekly writing exercise here.


(Want to see what’s been written in the past? Catch up on the PROMPTuesdays archive here.)


The Sport-Brella: An Experiential Overview

Saturday, August 15th, 2009



It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s an experiential overview!


I’m still not sure how to incorporate product reviews (henceforth referred to as “experiental overview” into my blog yet, or if I even want to, but I have found that I’m game if the following four bullet points are addressed:


1) The product to be reviewed is sent to me by a rep who says things like:

I respect your honesty however you choose to write or not write about the Sport-Brella–with humor and neurosis is fine.

Thank you for your consideration. I would be happy to send you a complimentary product for review. I can send you a red one to go with your hat and swimsuit–oh wait, is that a rendering or photo?

[Editor’s Note: The bikini picture at top left is an artistic interpretation of a figment of my imagination.]


2) The product to be reviewed is something I actually like, and use, and allows me to tell The Rock “I TOLD YOU SO!”


3) The product to be reviewed garners me admiring glances.


4) The product to be reviewed is not already owned by our best friend rich couple who buys The Rock and I such things as beds, and computers, and TVs and stainless steel countertop appliances and who we never ever know what to get them in return because they HAVE EVERYTHING IN THE FREE WORLD. And in space.


So guess what? Yep! The Sport-Brella experientially overviewed today is one such product that met the above criteria AND it offers instant portable shelter from the sun, rain, and wind with SPF 50+ quick shade protection!


(Too “reviewy?”)


I’ll try again.


The Sport-Brella made people think I was cool (clever play on words alert), less existential, and the owner of beautiful skin.


(Too “San Diego Mommy?”)


Maybe my overview will be more effective if I proffer anecdotal evidence.


So I took the Sport-Brella to the park. I read the directions, then handed them to The Rock who does all my putting togethering. He laughed when he read, “Easy set-up. Goes up in less than three minutes.” Because The Rock is a realist, and the last sun shade protection we had never got folded back together because collectively we could not figure out how to do it. (The sun shade before that got me banned from the local park because I spent 45 minutes swearing as it kept popping open in my face.) So The Rock made me time him (I swear to God). And I did and in less than three minutes the whole thing was up and I smugly said “I TOLD YOU SO!” even though I secretly thought the three-minute thing was a steaming pile of marketing mumbo jumbo.




Here is The Rock trying to nonchalantly act like he didn’t think the Sport-Brella lied.


The above picture is from a park where we spent the day with Toots and Booger. It was a day like any other where I forget to pack snacks and water and expect the girls to play with other kids’ sand toys because I forgot to pack those too. As is usually the case when The Rock and I take the girls somewhere and think they might play with kids and some such like, they instead crawl all over us and accidentally knee The Rock below the waist. I’m happy to say that during these memorable family times, we all fit comfortably under the Sport-Brella, which provided us with ample shade and nice airflow through the vented screen flaps.


Also, I don’t want to brag, but several times during the day, other families looked at us jealously and wished they had our Sport-Brella. I know because people walked by us and said, “Nice sun shade!” and “Where’d you get that?” and “Is your husband OK? He looks like someone kneed him below the waist for the 50th time today. It’s good you have enough room for a family of four under that Sport-Brella, so he can more adequately splay out in pain.”


On another occasion, we took the Sport-Brella to our afternoon Fourth of July festivities, where we met our best friend rich couple who gives us the most wonderful gifts ever and we agonize every Christmas over what to do. Seriously, we’ve gone the homemade route, the “Maybe they don’t have a bear rug?” route, and the “I know $500 is a lot to spend, but we’re desperate here,” route. I promise each and every one of you that this couple has everything. There is nothing you can tell them about or buy them that they do not already own 18 of already.


So when Mike, the male counterpart of the best friend rich couple, said, “Hey! Where’d you get that?” while pointing to the Sport-Brella, I thought the cockles of my heart would burn up right then and there. He liked the color, he said, he liked that it set up easily, he said, he liked that it was a canopy and an umbrella and sun shade all in one, he said, and he liked that it didn’t blow away like his last umbrella.


So I’m all “YES! Christmas present 2009!”


And you know what The Rock realist said? “I bet by this time tomorrow, Mike has 18 Sport-Brellas.”




Here’s The Rock trying to nonchalantly pretend he’s not a realist.


So the Sport-Brella: good job, you. I’m totally working on a tagline for you because you’re so awesome. Something like… “The Sport-Brella: Great Kneed-Below-the-Waist Protection!” or “The Sport-Brella: Tell Your Husband ‘I Told You So‘!”


I don’t know, something real catchy and pertinent like that.


In related news, I think I’m getting real good at these experiential overviews! Clearly, I will need to do more.


I know the Sport-Brella people will think so.


P.S. Link to the Sport-Brella is here.

Price is $69.99 (but I’ve seen them at Costco for less).


UPDATE: Costco is sold out.


ANOTHER UPDATE: Sport-Brella’s marketing director says: our marketing mumbo jumbo actually claims 3 seconds, not 3 minutes. And yes, to open it and lay it on the ground, it should take you 3 seconds. Even for a….The Rock. However, to do the complete set up it takes a minute or two. You’ll be down to 50 seconds next summer.






Babies love Sport-Brellas too!


4AM, That Witchy Hour

Wednesday, August 12th, 2009

I feel pretty safe in my new home. Unless the crickets mount a full offensive, I don’t think I’ve got any to worry about breaking-in-wise. This is really saying something, because I’m the girl who imagines nightmare scenarios of robbers jiggling the front door handle while I hop into the girls’ room, drag a heavy dresser in front of the door, and leave The Rock asleep in our bed. I sure hope he can defend himself because I always forget to wake him in my fake emergency evacuation plan.


Many times I’ve woken up at some ungodly hour, convinced a burglar roamed the kitchen, picking up knives from the butcher block and making his way up the stairs for The Rock (while I’m barricaded in the kids’ room frantically dialing 911). We even had a security system in our old place and still I worried. I’ve seen Die Hard, I know the bad guys can disengage an alarm with an xacto and some putty.


So it was to my pleasant surprise that I began to get better sleep in our new house and actually experienced a little something called REM.


Until last night.


So I’m sleeping soundly. Rapid eye movement and everything. I’m in the middle of a dream and all of a sudden-like, the sound of shouting and a window slam pulled me out of slumber. Next thing I know, my cell phone light pops on. No call, no email, no nothing. Just a light that signified nothing other than to alert of possible danger.


I listen for a few minutes, heart clicky clacking, then decide to peek over the stair railing. I don’t want to wake The Rock because he’s tired and needs sleep and we’re just getting over the days when I jolt him from bed with this eerie wail thing I do during nightmares. (Imagine the sound Edvard Munch’s The Scream might make if it had audio.)


I take my phone, which keeps illuminating strangely and without reason, and look down over the stairs. And there, down there below, I see shadows writhing across the carpet. SHADOWS for Lord’s sake! Do you know what the sight of shadows at 4AM do to a girl with hypochondriacal robber visions?


Let’s just say it’s ungood.


Still, I don’t want to wake The Rock. He’s going to need all is energy for robber fighting.


I watch a bit longer. Maybe The Rock left the TV on in the family room? That would be an explanation not involving knives. I’m gonna have to ask him. So after a few more minutes of watching black ribbons make their way across the hall, I softly call to The Rock.




Also: “By the way, did you leave the TV on?”


He joins me, disgruntled, at the stair railing. He sees the shadows. I tell him about the shouting, the window, and the cell phone. He thinks it might be the paperboy. I silently laugh because paperboys do not kill people, like the guy who is downstairs right now.


The Rock then enters his office, which I thought was weird. This is no time to pay bills or surf the Internet, but he emerges seconds later with a hammer. And a Die Hard xacto knife.


He creeps downstairs with his paltry weapons and I sit at the top landing, waiting for the shout, whereupon I will run into the girls’ room, secure the door, and hope The Rock can hold the robbers off with his hammer.


Several minutes of searching later and there is no one downstairs. The Rock thinks my computer’s power light threw shadows onto the carpet, which I misread as maniacal shouting window-breakers. He then checks every room and closet, even the shower, because he knows I like it when he does that.


Our home has not been infiltrated. I breathe a sigh of relief and tell The Rock, “You know what the lesson is here?”


He waits expectantly, thinking I’m gonna say something like, “I should be less crazy,” and instead I say, “You’re going to need a bigger hammer.”


Also I think it would have been so funny if The Rock went downstairs and caught a big gaggle of crickets breaking down the door.


No! Funnier would be a giant cricket head just staring silently at him through the window.