Category Archives: Products

Banging Out Bad Titles

OK, let me just say for the record that I realize now that “Big Bang, Little Girl” is by far the worst and most disturbing blog post title ever. It only occurred to me after I’d hit “publish:” Shit, thought I. That doesn’t sound like a post about space at all. It sounds like the name of a webpage my teenaged-boy-babysitter in Nova Scotia might have found awfully appealing.

Ugh. I blame it on my iPad Mini. Trying to blog from it is like trying to give a massage with oven mitts on. Impossible. Useless. Unspeakably frustrating for all concerned. Add to the that the time constraint of trying to post during my lunch hour and you get exactly the kind of ill-conceived, uncomfortable-making prose mentioned above. I apologize. I have recommenced lugging my laptop to work. It may be six years old. It may weight three kilos. But it doesn’t make writing so labor-intensive that my brain stalls out.

I also apologize for saying–somewhat smugly, I now realize–that I intended to teach MJ everything I learned in the “Big Bang.” It was an ambitious statement, made when I was only 40 pages into the book. Now that I’m knee-deep in Einstein’s theory of special relativity I have rethought my position. I aim to teach her everything–provided that a) I understand it myself, and b) it requires no discussion of alternate dimensions. Since this effectively rules out everything from page 41 or so on, we will officially be concluding our little talks. On that subject, at least.

Now, if she wants to talk about the relative merits of iPads versus laptops? I have a lot to say.

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Good Night Moan

Glancing at your night stand in the morning shouldn’t make you want to pull the covers back over your head. But looking at mine does just that.

I recollect a New York Times article on the subject I read several months ago. It was interesting. The author posited that everyone has a hard time keeping this area of their rooms neat. I agree. But he went on to say that the biggest problem is the tangle of cords from all the gadgets people keep by their beds.

Me, I can’t blame devices. I don’t have any in my bedroom. I dislike having electronics in my sleeping space–remember the grounding sheet I wanted so badly awhile back? I think electricity messes with your rest. I’m funny that way. I don’t like computers in the bedroom, or TVs. If I had an iPhone–which I don’t–it’d be banished to the kitchen with the dog during sleep hours. I’d have no outlets near my bed if I could help it. None in my room. Hell, I’d sleep on the bare earth. If, of course, it contained no mud, insects, or rocks. So basically if it weren’t the earth at all, but a hermetically sealed sandbox. With soft, non-silica sand. Covered by flannel sheets. And a duvet.

In other words, a bed.

The point is, even without the electronics my nightstand is a disaster. Surveyed just this morning, it sported a ridiculous assortment of useless and/or out-of-place objects. Among them: a pair of Dr. Scholl’s gel insoles, a kid’s hair clip, some 3D glasses, a plastic bunny, a wooden disc from a game MJ doesn’t play, and a thick layer of distressed, unhealthy-looking dust. Then there’s the lamp–a cheap, semi-imitation Noguchi–that’s constantly falling off because it’s flimsy and poorly designed. Let an askew light fixture, then, complete your mental picture.

I am forty-five.

Someday, I dream, I will grow up. My night stand will glow with the empty neatness of a surgical table. Order will reign. Dust bunnies will not inhabit the farthest corners. Books about children’s’ development borrowed from mommy friends years ago will not be tossed haphazardly on the bottom shelf, taunting me with their pithy names and unread quality. Back copies of the New Yorker dating to the Victorian age will not harbor silverfish and outdated political news. My lamp will not succumb to gravity. My digital IKEA clock will not switch back and forth mysteriously between military and regular time, leaving me to grumble, late at night, “what the fuck is 23:17?”

I will be a true adult, with a concomitant piece of furniture next to my bed.

Until then, I can at least put the insoles back in my shoes. A journey of a thousand miles, after all, should begin with a cushioned step.

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Here Kitty

Today’s a big day. I’ve got butterflies in my stomach.

Or perhaps I should say mice.

Because, after long last, it’s kitten day. The day we pick up our young, grey adoptee, Wally, from a local rescue. (A place, I might add, whose qualifications for adopting are so stringent you’d think we were getting a six-month-old baby.) It’s taken two weeks for the whole process to go through, but we’re done now, approved, prepared. We’ve got the carrier, the litter box, bell toys, Trader Joe’s scratch pad–I think we’ve covered everything.

But really nothing will prepare us. I’m terrified. I know what a kitten is. Oh, they’re cute, fetching, lovable, and all that. That’s what gets them in the door. But they’re also middle-of-the-night head pouncers, mewling meowers, tchotchke smashers, stinky poopers, furniture destroyers, and skin shredders. I hope we can handle it. Not to mention afford it!

Right. The money. Why, you ask, did you elect to do this now, with your finances in their current state? Pets are expensive.

My short answer is, blame Mike. About a year ago, in a moment of weakness, he promised MJ a kitten if she’d start pooping in the potty. We were desperate; bribewise, candy wasn’t doing it. Cut to the present. The kid is trained. Goodbye diapers. It’s a damn miracle. And I didn’t want to be those parents that made conditional promises and then hoped their kids would forget.

So I reminded her.

Which is why Mike’s short answer to the above inquiry is: blame Jessica.

In any event, a cat is coming. The house will never be the same. Mina will never be the same. Our couches will never be the same.

But Myra-Jean will believe us when we give her our word.

A small price to pay, right? Small and furry. And able–God, please–to poop where we ask.

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Calendar Fail

“This will change everything,” I thought, as I put the calendars on the register belt.  “We’ll put one up where we see it every day, and I’ll update it regularly. Mike’ll use it, too–he loves organization!–and soon the whole house will be running like a well oiled machine. Not the clunky, repossessed rust-heap we are currently.”

This moment of ecstasy occurred in Lunenberg, Nova Scotia. It was August, and my sisters and I were strolling around the sun-daubed streets, marveling at the blueness of the sky and looking for birthday presents for my mom. For fun, we stuck our heads into our favorite dollar store. Canadian discounts! The best! Anyway, it was there that I found, on sale for ninety-nine cents, the aforementioned dry-erase calendars. The month-at-a-glance kind. With magnets, for the fridge! Perfect! We’d been looking for something just like them.

I bought two. “Mike’ll be so excited,” I told my sisters. “He’s all about calendars.”

But when I got back to the states Mike wasn’t so thrilled after all. About the calendars, that is. He was, in fact, totally unresponsive. When I brought them out of the suitcase (“tah-dah!”) he just looked at me bemusedly.

I scrunched my forehead worriedly. “Is it the maple leafs? I know they’re a bit weird. ”

He cocked his head, saying nothing.

“But you’re Canadian! Or your mom is. Isn’t that nice?”

Mike nodded slowly. “It’s very sweet.”

“OK, but otherwise they’re perfect. I mean, you’ve been wanting a calendar we can both write on. And look! They come with their very own dry erase markers!” I held one out. “Isn’t it cute?”

“Yes,” Mike said, with no zeal at all.

“Whatever. It’s going to change our lives. I bought two. One for this month, one for next month.”

Nothing.

“Anyway. I’m excited,” I muttered.

And up on the fridge it went.

Of course it didn’t take me long to see the problem. The boxes were too small. You couldn’t fit more than one or two words in them. That might be fine for a single person with no kids–someone who just needs to write “work,” or “spa,” or “Hawaii.” But for me? For us? It wouldn’t get us through breakfast.

So after the first week I stopped filling it out. Then, when I went back the other day, resolved to make a greater effort–if for no other reason than to prove MIke wrong–the dry erase marker had dried up.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” I muttered. I could almost hear Mike’s delighted croon: “That’s your deep discount talking!”

I looked for the other marker. You know, the one for the “backup month.” Behind the stove. Unreachable.

So now I can’t write on it even if I wanted to. Oh, I could buy a new marker, but what’s the point? I hate the stupid thing. Canadian maple leafs? What was I thinking?

The next time I buy a wall calendar it’s going to have squares six inches wide. It’ll come with twelve dry erase markers, in different colors for all of the categories of our lives. And nationally speaking it’ll be neutral. Like Switzerland. After all, this is not about declaring fealty to a country. It’s about remembering when book club meets.

In the meantime? This one goes in the trash. Because God knows it’s not recyclable.  Damn those Canadians.

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Bugged Out

Sorry to keep you in suspense for so long. We were packing, flying, getting settled in…

“Oh,” you say. “Bravo! They didn’t get sick after all!”

Not so fast, optimistic readers. We did get sick. Today.

For God, capricious trickster that he is, needed us to get across country, spend one day with our family–thereby, assumedly, infecting them all, like Typhoid Marys in fancy dress–and only then did he lay us low. Or lowish. I must confess, I’m mostly just tired. Myra-Jean, however, threw up all morning. But now she’s out back playing with Mike. Kids. The resiliency is incredible. Also? Puking is easier for them. They do it, but they don’t seem put out by it the way we adults do. There’s a certain nonchalance.  I guess life is so filled with outrageous surprises for them that this is just one more. “Oh. Now my liquidated stomach contents are shooting out of my mouth into a mixing bowl. Maybe after I can go to the park.”

On another, perhaps even more disturbing  note: In the one day we spent in New Jersey I got two ticks on me. On my leg and  on my foot. I was wearing jeans, for fuck’s sake! And every conceivable kind of bug spray, from the homemade stuff my mom’s friend made–just for the wedding!–using sun-steeped teas of oregano, basil, and geranium, to the DEET-based it’s-so-toxic-that-you-should-throw-your-clothes-away-after kind. Guess what? It’s all bullshit. The ticks are coming, and there’s nothing anything in a squirt-bottle can do about it.

It’s depressing.

At least it looks like we’ll be better for the wedding. In this sense, at least, the bugs haven’t completely won out. We’ll be there with bells on.

And oregano. And DEET. And tweezers.

Still–paranoia be damned–we’ll have a beautiful day.

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The pill bottle in the background–which I captured by accident–is my mom’s antibiotic prescription. For acute Lyme’s.

Whoops, in a Vacuum

Is this a job for a repair shop or the genius bar?

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Sometimes I feel like God does things to me just so to provide material for this blog. I should be grateful. But this time I think He’s gone too far.

have to blame God, because honestly, I don’t know how else this could have happened. I mean, yes, I was vacuuming near my computer. Which was, yes, on the floor. And did, OK, have earbuds plugged in to it.

But really, Dyson, is your suck that strong? I am awed anew.

And super bummed.

And hoping that you–or Apple, or both–have generous warranties. And a good sense of humor.

Throwing the Book At It

It’s hard to write when you’re flooded with anxiety. Or even wading clumsily through a couple inches of it. If only there was some kind of pump. A mental wet-vac. A mop. Because let me tell you, insurance doesn’t cover it, and to say it’s messy is an understatement.

And it’s not just me. The whole house is on edge. Mike and I, we have our reasons. Unemployment–Mike’s, at present–being a huge one. Money. Dwindling. Savings. Plummeting. Confidence. Tanking.

Get-rich-quick ideas. Burgeoning.

Having said that, I still haven’t sold my wedding dress, or even completed the listing. So much for my little schemes.

Meanwhile, we need new glasses for Mike, repairs for the car, a garbage disposal, school tuition, flea medication. It’s cliche to say that such expenses bloom when it’s least convenient. Such wisdom, however, adds small comfort.

Then there are the insects. Not those around now–although we are having a strange influx of moths, whose corpses are smeared, like little silvery ghosts, on every wall in the house–but future ones. We’ve finally booked our summer trip to parts east, and my anticipatory bug-a-phobia is in full swing. Instead of looking forward with grateful excitement to a journey with stops in New Jersey, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nova Scotia, all I can think is: Deer flies. Ticks. Mosquitos. Repeat. Deer flies. Ticks. Mosquitos. Repeat.

I’ve googled how to prevent Lyme’s disease. Then stayed up ’til midnight learning how incurable it is.

I know. I have to get a grip. People have real problems. These don’t qualify. Much.

Except then there’s the cholesterol. That’s real. I just got diagnosed with high levels. So, supplements have been ordered, milkfats lowered (just shoot me), and desserts basically eradicated. Cheese–my dear friend, confidante, and snack therapist–has been given the boot. We can stay friends, but never again will we sleep in the same bed. And this is something to grieve, as far as I’m concerned. Like, Elizabeth Kubler Ross–the whole thing. I’ve said forever that I wanted to be buried in a block of Cracker Barrel. But no more. Bury me now in a rough case of rice crackers. That’s about all I’ll be eating from this point forward.

So the food thing is a drag. And there’s that mid-life crisis I referred to earlier. It’s still bustling about, wiping both hands on its well-used apron and chuckling as it bustles about the kitchen. You should have heard it snicker when I checked out “Eat to Live” from the library. Cackle, more like it. Fucking asshole. Let it eat oatmeal with chia seeds for breakfast every day. See how peppy it feels.

Finally, there’s MJ. Her anxieties are flowering like peonies at Trader Joe’s. She is worried–continuously–about pooping in the potty. She fretted  when we told her we were going to San Francisco for the weekend, then cried when it was time to come home. She dreaded the fireworks last night. Until she saw them. Then she laughed and clapped her hands like a mental patient. But until that moment? You’d have thought we were dragging her off to a firing squad.

Speaking of which–and I digress–the Eastsider ran a piece today about how to tell the difference between the sounds of firecrackers and those of gunshots. “Oh, good,” I thought. “I’ve always wondered. Now I’ll know.”

Four experts later, the consensus was: there’s no way to tell.

This is life right now. It’ll improve. Or it won’t. Either way, we’ll walk through our fears, large and small, and learn that most of them are unfounded. What choice do we have? To lock ourselves in the house and never emerge, subsisting only on delivered Thai food and bottled water? I’ve considered it. But just think of all that BPA. Plus, Myra-Jean doesn’t like spices.

So out we go into the world, with its bugs, stigmatisms, and unidentifiable explosions.

Myra-Jean makes books when she’s anxious. I’ve talked about it before. This week she’s made four. Every time they’ve worked. She’s been immediately calmed, and able to proceed with whatever it was that was frightening her. It’s a magical tool, and fun, too. If only it were so simple for us grownups.

Maybe it is. Perhaps it’s time to make a few for myself. The first one will be called “Jessica does not want to end up on intravenous antibiotics after being bitten by a deer tick.” The next: “Jessica does not know how to enjoy a plant-based diet.”

From there? The list goes on. And on. And on. The drawings should be fun.

The feelings behind them are not.

Rocket Bottom

I remember a Bozooka Joe cartoon from when I was a kid. It was just one panel, and featured a mother saying to her son: “I’ve told you a million, billion times not to exaggerate.” I didn’t get it at the time–I was, like two. Or maybe four. But I eventually did, and came to find the cartoon funny. It was my earliest exposure to–what is that–irony? Whatever. It spoke to me. I identified. It stuck with me–the humor, not the gum.

For I’m an exaggerator, and always have been.

And that’s why, tonight, I used the phrase “arctic” to describe the breeze coming through our dining room window. Mike and I had just sat down to a sumptuous meal of spaghetti and meat sauce–made by him–and arugula salad–made by me. My statement about the wind was met with a look of disbelief.

“Arctic? Really?”

So, OK. It’s not quite that cold. But it is cool by L.A. standards. For June.

This is what got Mike and I started on what I’ll call “the dinner of disagreements.” First we debated the quality of the wind. Then we got into an argument about Joni Mitchell’s “River.” (Mike finds it “on the nose,” whatever that means. I love it.) Then it was the salad.

You see, I made arugula again. I always do. When it comes to lettuce I am a one-hit wonder. I’d eat arugula for every meal, if I could. I adore it. And tonight’s batch was extra special. This was no Trader Joe’s fresh-pak. No, the rocket, this time, came from Cookbook, a super fancy artisanal-and-organic-everything store in Echo Park. I can’t generally afford to shop there, but I’d won a $50 gift certificate, so stopped in yesterday to pick up a few things. A total of eight items consumed my certificate. One of them was a medium-sized sack of my favorite lettuce. I knew it would be stellar.

And it was–better than I even expected. Spicy, tangy, peppery–everything you want arugula to be. The Platonic ideal. The ne plus ultra. The stemmy jewel in a lettuce-y crown.

“This is the best arugula I’ve tasted since I lived in the Hamptons,” I said, as I put the finishing touches on my dressing.

Mike turned from the stovetop to stare at me. “Did you really just say that?”

I made a face at him. “Whatever. It’s super good.”

He sighed, and trudged to the table dutifully. I should mention he kind of hates arugula.

And yet I keep making it. I am selfish this way. As if that’s not bad enough, I make huge portions. Where salads are concerned I have a tendency towards excess–a fear of not having enough, I suppose. So, instead of putting a modest pile of leaves in the bottom of the bowl, I fill it to the rim. I make enough for ten. Soldiers. Big ones. With scurvy.

Poor Mike is not one to leave food uneaten. Something about his childhood. So he eats. And eats. And eats.

Tonight he was on his third portion of greens when we got into an argument about whether or not I was “predictable.” Mike said that, where salad was concerned, I was. I interpreted his comment more globally, and took umbrage. Both of us shoved great gobs of serpentine leaves down our throats as we took turns rebutting the other:

“I didn’t say you were predictable.”

“Yes you did.”

“I was talking about your cooking!”

“Oh, thanks a lot!”

And so on.

We got through this eventually. But soon we were disagreeing again. This time it was about preschool graduations. Mike thinks they’re silly. I think he has a heart of granite. “How can you not see the import,” I cried, wiping oil from my lower lip, “of such rituals in a child’s life?”

He couldn’t.

“You’d better be there,” I said, folding my napkin emphatically, “on the day.”

“The day what?”

I narrowed my eyes at him impatiently. “The day she graduates.”

“From preschool? Of course I’ll be there!” he said.

“You’d better cry.”

“It’s in two years.”

“So?”

“I can’t make any promises.”

He’ll cry, alright. He’ll cry because I will make him arugula salads every single day for the rest of his life if he doesn’t. Huge bowls of them. Buckets. Barrels. Vats. Dumpsters. Corn silos. Universes. Filled with arugula. Then tossed with tomatoes, olives, and thinly sliced parmesan rinds, just like they were tonight. (That last part was a mistake. But I will repeat it if I must.)

Wow, you’re saying, you’re really the punitive type, aren’t you?

No, I’m not. I just really love my rocket. With cheese instead of rind, it’s truly a spectacular dish.

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