The Ghost in the Machine


Weird stuff tends to happen to me.

A couple of weeks ago, I blogged about my recurring sensation of deja vu. For the most part, I do believe that it’s crossed wires or some weird neuro-chemical reaction.

This time, I thought I’d talk about the ghost in the machine. I actually mean that literally, because I’m not deep and have no aspirations of contemplating my soul. I suppose I could, but I am apparently not in the mood for navel gazing. If I were, I’d write my memoirs and be done with it.

Granted, my memoirs would be really superficial, because I think I’d depress myself if I sat around pondering the meaning of my life all day long. I think it’s one of the reasons why the stories I tell in my blog tend to revolve around my embarrassing moments. I laugh at myself as often as I can. Because if I didn’t, I’d be a bawling mess, and no one wants that.

But I digress. Let’s get back to the topic at hand: me and my weirdness.

When I was a teenager, electrical items used to freak out when I was around. Lights would blink on and off, the pencil sharpener would randomly start sharpening nothing. My mother noticed that if I was really tired or stressed out, the dishwasher would turn on and off. Once, it even happened while the dishwasher was standing open.

It was, shall we say, a little messy.

I came to accept the freaky shit.  Being honest, my parents’ house was old, and the wiring in the kitchen was faulty. There was probably a short somewhere affecting that side of the house. It happened when I was home because… I was always home. I was grounded all the time, and pretty nerdy, so it’s not like I had a terribly active social life.

That’s what I told myself, anyway.

But the weirdest thing that happened during this time was when I would randomly hear conversations through my phone as my phone was sitting on the hook. 

Their voices were tinny and far away, but if I listened, I could hear their conversation. Most of the time I tried not to. Because it was creepy, and I don’t think they said anything particularly interesting, anyway.

After all, I was a teenager, so if it didn’t somehow revolve around sex or boys or both, I wasn’t interested.

I got a different phone, even, but that didn’t seem to do a whole lot of good, so I went back to my super cute hot pink Guess phone. (Yeah, I was THAT awesome. It was the only Guess thing I owned. The butt was too big, and the waist too tiny, to fit into the pants everyone wanted.)

And then, one day, it just… stopped, and I never heard the voices through the phone again. No more ghosts in the machine, as it were. I used to hear freaky things through the kids’ baby monitors, which is one reason why I got rid of them as soon as I could, but that’s a story for a different day.

Which leads me to the question, what kind of weird stories can you share?

The Legendary Soccer Mom


Well, okay, I’m hardly legendary.

But I am a soccer mom.

Today I spent the day at soccer games. First at my daughter’s, where, for the first time, I actually just got to watch. It was glorious.

Then I took my son to his. He was so excited. It was his first game EVER, his first practice EVER, and… well… I was supposed to be his assistant coach.

Only, the actual coach didn’t show up. Which left everything up to me.

And, oh Lord, it was like herding cats.

I showed them the field, and thought I explained that the ball must remain inside the boundaries of the invisible box, which was marked by orange cones. I even had them walking the entire field to show them that the ball must stay in-bounds. I told them they couldn’t use their hands. I thought they got it.

Only, they didn’t.

Now, I have to bear in mind that they’re only four. Really. And many of them, my Chewey included, have never, not once, played soccer. Watched it, maybe. But played? Uh, not so much.

Kinda like their coach.

But I digress.

In any case, the game I ran was basically a travesty against soccer. I admit it. It wasn’t pretty.

They chased the ball all over the field. And by field, I don’t just mean our field. I mean, the field next to ours, the field behind ours, and the baseball diamond. I thought the fence right behind home plate might pose some sort of impediment, a physical reminder that this was not in bounds, but I was mistaken.

They ran around it.

Not only that, but Chewey seemed pretty convinced he was playing rugby. That whole “no hands” rule? Yeah, in his world, totally a guideline for the entire first quarter (he got it after that). If the ball was on the ground, he left it there. But the two times it hit him in the chest, my boy caught it and ran with it until someone would yell, “No hands!”

I have to say, both times were excellent catches. And to see him running like a little linebacker, carrying a soccer ball tucked under his arm while he blocks other players was classic. He might not be soccer material, but my boy is prepared to be a lineman. Good thing, too, because he’s got the body type for it.

Two of the kids started crying during the second half for reasons that eluded me. I had a walk-out akin to the NFL’s over snacks (Chewey and another kid decided to raid the snack cooler while they were supposed to be playing, leaving me with one kid who was actually participating). And let’s not forget the mass panic when a dragonfly flew by in the third quarter.

Or when every member of my team somehow managed to lose a shoe at the same time. So there I am, running from one end of the field to the other, while my team stands there and waits for “MOM!” to come and fix it (Mom being me, because did the other parents help? Uh, no).

But hey, I thought I was rocking it because I brought snacks for my team. I brought plenty for everyone, but I kind of thought maybe the other team might have made their own arrangements.

They did not, and so, took mine. And am I going to say, “No?” They’re four, and it’s 100 degrees out, and they’ve been running for over an hour. They were tired, hungry and hot. I’m not going to tell them to go away.

So here I was, tired and hot and burnt to crisp, and I gave away my last water.

Trust me, I am fried. In more ways than one.

The Art of Saying No


This post originally started out as a post about how I decided to simplify my life by cleaning out my purse. Because I’m too lazy and/or sick and/or tired to actually clean out my kitchen.

The contents of my purse ran the gamut from “uh, weird” to “ew, gross.” Let’s just say I have everything in there from match box cars to half-melted crayons to children’s art projects that may have once been edible.

Yeah, even I couldn’t post that, even if it did come with pictures.

And then I got to thinking about my children, and how, if I really wanted to simplify my life, I’d actually learn to say the word no a lot (A LOT) more often than I do.

**Not to them. They hear no a lot.**

See, I am the team mom for my daughter’s soccer team. Last Friday, we made the banner. At my house, which was a mess because my house is always a mess. I didn’t want to have it here, but no one else volunteered, so I went with it, even though the magic housecleaning fairies have well and truly abandoned me, leaving me to do a mediocre job of it on my own.

I did a passable cleaning job for the team. I mopped floors (which were dirty again within thirty seconds between kids and dogs and the cat and M), did all the dishes and wiped down counters. I vacuumed and put away toys. I did all that crap, and then wanted to pass out from exhaustion. Unfortunately, I then had to sit down and make the banner and be a reasonably nice hostess.

So, big weirdo that I am, when the email came in asking me to volunteer to coach my son’s soccer team, I said yes.

Dammit. What is wrong with me?

As I’ve admitted on this blog before, I know nothing about soccer. I am, perhaps, the worst soccer coach ever. One of my friends also coaches, and she said she couldn’t do the younger kids because she’s a self-professed “soccer snob.” Not me, man. Me, my team is the one where one kid is trying to catch butterflies, another kid is crying and I’m carrying him/her around, thus leaving me with only one kid who is actually making any effort to play soccer. And you know what? I’m okay with that.

But here’s the thing: I should have said no.

I don’t have time to coach. I don’t want to coach. I offered to do it for Chewey because I did it for Monk, and I feel like I need to be fair. Still, I have other things I’m up to right now. I’m judging two different writing contests, I’m working full time, and I’m carting children from school to soccer or swimming lessons. I’m on the PTA, and I’m trying (trying being the operative word) to keep the house at least reasonably cleanish. Or, to have less than a full load of dishes in the sink at any given time.

Oh, and did I forget to mention that I’m writing a book?

I keep thinking, if I gave up something, I could be a rocking super mom, because honestly, everything gets done, but it’s a bit half-assed, which might explain why my soccer team is the one catching bugs and making dandelion necklaces while everyone else is playing soccer. And these are boys.

I’d stop this behavior if I didn’t find it so stinking entertaining.

The one thing I could reasonably give up–the book–is the one thing I can’t bring myself to do, because it’s the only thing I have that’s exclusively mine. And I need something for myself. If I didn’t write, I’d go back to doing what I did before I started the books: I’d cook. And, given my stomach problems, I can reasonably foresee this being bad for both my digestive system and my weight.

I’d like to keep my sanity–it helps with little things like employment and motherhood–so it looks like the book has to stay.

But I really, really need to learn the art of saying no.

First Kisses


My friend, Brooke Moss, has me thinking about first kisses.

There are a variety of first kisses. The first kiss behind the dumpster when you were in third grade. That first kiss, when, as a teenager, you knew what it really meant. The first time you kissed your first love. That first kiss with the person who would become your spouse.

Some of them are sweet and tender. Some are so brief you might actually wonder if you have been kissed. Some are so mind-numbingly passionate that your toes still curl years later just thinking about it.

This is not a story of any of those, because it’s the story of my first kiss, and with me… things don’t turn out the way I planned them. And no, I’m not talking about the one behind the dumpster in third grade with Alex. That was idle curiosity, and doesn’t count. Actually, this one probably shouldn’t either, but I count it anyway, because it was the kiss I really wanted that… wasn’t.

I was seventeen. A late bloomer, obviously, but that’s what happens when you’re pathologically shy and nerdy. And I really was pathologically shy. I know no one believes this now, but I was so shy I was terrified to order at McDonald’s. Not nervous. Terrified. I couldn’t do it. I made others do it for me all through high school.

So now that we’ve established that, let’s get into the context of the kiss that almost was.

Like I said, I was seventeen, and I was in Germany. Alone. Well, not necessarily alone, but I may as well have been. My host sister was somewhat more social than I was, and on the hunt for a new boyfriend, so I spent a lot of time alone at parties, where I knew no one and barely spoke the language. I probably would have done better had it not been for the pathological shyness, but let’s face it, I could barely speak in English to strangers, let alone members of the opposite sex. Forget about speaking in German. My mind would go blank and my eyes would roll back in my head and to the question, “How are you?” I’d stammer something insanely stupid like,

“Ich bin Maedchen.” I am a girl.

Brilliant.

I was dreaming in German, I was reading Johanna Lindsey’s books in German, and it wasn’t like I didn’t understand the question. The problem was whenever I tried to speak, the words got all tangled up and I wound up sounding like the village idiot. So you can imagine how isolating that was. Or how very irritated the host sister was with me, because it’s hard to find a boyfriend when the girl you’re with is an utter nincompoop.

In any case, the host sister and I went to an outdoor movie, and I was relieved to find out the movie was in English: The Commitments. Fireflies danced, torches lit the way, the night was balmy. Sultry. It was the first night where I was actually having a good time. Maybe because I understood what was going on. Maybe because my illustrious companion was, for a change, not roaring drunk and blowing some guy in the backseat of the car. Maybe because, when she did run off, she didn’t leave me alone.

His name was Jan, and he was wearing a black t-shirt that said Iowa and faded black denim. He watched the host sister and his friend leave and then said, in beautiful, perfect English, “You’re pretty. Want to sit down?”

I did. Quietly. Because that’s how I did everything back then.

“So, where are you from?”

I told him. Sat in silence for awhile.

“So,” I said, casting around for something to talk about, and praying I didn’t choke on the words, “Iowa, huh?”

Yeah, yeah, my come-on lines were fabulous. Whatever. It worked.

“Yeah.”

“Why Iowa?” I pressed. “What’s there to do in Iowa?”

“What’s there to do in Nevada?”

“Point taken.”

He smiled, and it was lovely. He stood up and took my hand and we walked around the grounds. And I was instantly enamored, which probably had more to do with the fact that he was nice to me than anything else. I don’t remember him being especially attractive. But he was nice, and he said I was pretty, and I was watching a movie in English outside a freaking castle. There were torches and fireflies and twinkling stars.

What’s a girl not to love about that setting? It was breathtakingly romantic. I probably would’ve made out with an old shoe had it said a kind word to me and been remotely interested.

But, this isn’t about an old shoe.

In any case, we talked and we laughed as we wandered the castle grounds. When the movie came on, we watched it. Afterwards, we wandered some more.

If you had asked me at that moment, I would have sworn I’d found the one.

Eventually, the night wore on and we got back to our table to wait for our mutual friends.

And then it happened.

He leaned in, and my heart palpitated with the sudden knowledge that finally, I was going to be kissed. And oh, how I wanted it.

I took a step forward to get closer.

And tripped over a stick and went crashing into him.

Our mouths met, alright.

Only it was less about lips and tongues and hot stuff than it was about a chipped tooth (him) and a fat lip (me).

Yes, I really am the girl who came away from her first kiss looking like she’d just lost a bar fight.

But, to this day, I love, love, love the movie The Commitments.