Wednesday, April 28, 2010

I Love Beau

The home remodeling project is coming to a close. The entire exterior of our house has been replaced, along with all four decks and several windows. There were parts of the exterior where the wood had disintegrated into soil with worms and all. It has been a very expensive project but we had no choice. One of our contractors believes if we hadn't caught the problem, our house would have literally started falling apart and probably would have been condemned in five to six years. There's evidence that the previous homeowners deliberately covered up the water damage issues before selling, but after talking to lawyers, it seems impossible to prove.

We still have a gutted bathroom that we will be slowly remodeling. We also need to paint the house, inside and out. There's more drywall work. So, the projects will continue BUT we are fully insulated. We can run the heater. We no longer have boarded up windows and doors. It's looking nice on the outside and after we get it painted, I'm sure I'll post pictures. I'm obsessed with paint colors. It's all I see when I'm driving or walking.

But I am also sad because I'm losing a friend with the end of the construction. We have gotten to know our contractors pretty well after having them here full-time for six months. I like them a lot. But the one I'm really attached to is this guy . . . Beau.

I love Beau. At first, my dog Sadie didn't like him lurking about in the yard. He wasn't allowed by his owner to come in the house, but when the contractors weren't looking, I snuck him in and gave both dogs lots of treats. By the time we were caught, it had already been well established that Beau could be in the house. Sadie now wags her tail when she sees him pull up in his owner's truck out front.

I've offered to dogsit for free ANY TIME. Look how cute he is. And you have no idea what a great personality he has.

I was driving Daisy and her friend to school recently and on the way, I was entertaining them with the outfits Beau and Sadie could wear together - remember my dogs-in-costumes affliction - Sadie could wear a grass skirt and Beau could wear a Hawaiian shirt, Sadie could wear a wedding dress and Beau could wear a tuxedo . . . you get the idea. Anyway, Daisy came home from school upset that day.

Apparently, the dogs in costumes conversation continued after I dropped the girls off, and Daisy was enjoying it in the morning. But by lunch, several kids had joined in, and they had Sadie and Beau wearing "butt hats." Daisy was very offended by the indignity and asked me not to talk about our pets with her friends anymore. It's my first Mother-I'm-going-to-make-a-rule-because-you're-embarrassing-me experience. I'm not intimidated. And personally, I would like to see what these supposed butt hats look like before I decide if I'm insulted. It might be REALLY FUNNY.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Illusion of Superiority

This week is a break from that online TA job training I’ve been going on about. This is the week the trainers prepare feedback for us, which we will receive at the beginning of the final week of training. AND THEN, the university will mull over who they want to hire. We can expect to be contacted three to four weeks after we complete the training, and that might only be a “thank you for participating . . .”

One of the training exercises over the last couple weeks was to participate in a discussion forum with the other TA candidates. I learned that I’m training with published writers, professors, business managers, you name it. I think the job starts at something like $15-20 an hour, so it was both validating and concerning to hear about the backgrounds of the other applicants . . . especially since it pays less than half of what I used to make, and I never dreamed of being a TA at 39.

But I WANT THIS JOB SO BAD. If I get it, I’ll start taking up your precious time with rants about the daily life of an online TA and what it’s like being a fully employed mom. I know, sounds enthralling! So, I’m really hoping I get the job for everyone’s sake. I thought it would be in the bag with my 12 years of teaching experience and credential. But then I started reading about another candidate, author of blah-blah-blah grammar book, and another one who has just as much teaching experience as I do but at the college level. Sounds like I’m pretty average in the pool.

This situation brings to mind my favorite psychological concept, the Dunning-Kruger Effect. I first read about it 10 years ago, when I had been teaching at the alternative high school for a couple years. I was starting to see good results in the classroom after much trial and error. The article grabbed my attention, partly because I had been working with a lot of very confident people who crashed and burned. I can honestly say in the early years of that job, I was the least confident of the teaching bunch and after a few years, the most successful.

The other reason the Dunning-Kruger Effect interests me is that I have a tendency to be fooled by false confidence in others. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve hung onto someone’s every word, thinking I'm listening to Someone Who Knows. But no, it's really Someone Who Thinks S/he Knows or Someone Just Pretending or Someone Mentally Unstable. In the times I've been in charge of hiring, I've given the job to the best talker of the bunch. After paying for my lack of judgement a few too many times, I think I got it. I THINK I can spot true competence. And it usually has nothing to do with who's the smoothest talker . . . unless we're talking about being a competent smooth talker.

Here’s how Wikipedia explains the Kruger-Dunning Effect:

Kruger and Dunning noted . . . in skills as diverse as reading comprehension, operating a motor vehicle, and playing chess or tennis, "ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge" (as Charles Darwin put it).[5] They hypothesized that with a typical skill which humans may possess in greater or lesser degree,

1. Incompetent individuals tend to overestimate their own level of skill.

2. Incompetent individuals fail to recognize genuine skill in others.

3. Incompetent individuals fail to recognize the extremity of their inadequacy.

4. If they can be trained to substantially improve their own skill level, these individuals can recognize and acknowledge their own previous lack of skill.
You can read more here.

At this point of the TA training, I have to wonder . . . am I overconfident about getting this job? I doubt it because I stopped thinking it was in the bag as soon as the training began. It’s harder than I thought. So, does this mean my performance is actually better than I think, or am I not competent enough in this particular skill set to recognize when I’m flailing? We’ll see.


Monday, April 26, 2010

Killing Fun

I sat down to face my simulated TA course on Friday, shuffling through my binder of printed instructions while negotiating the university website. Not sure where to start . . . let’s try here . . . how about there? Why don’t I have essays to grade?

No fake student essays. I double checked, triple checked . . . no, the promised essays had not arrived. I emailed my trainer for advice, hoping I wasn't waving a flag, pushing a button, sounding the alarm. I did rock the fake student questions. I think. About 10 minutes after sending the email to my trainer, I found the essays. Dang! I hate sending those "please disregard" emails.

I felt a little better after looking at the TA discussion forum. There were a lot of confused and desperate people on there with what I must say are some lovely writing skills. But more than one of my colleagues have panicked in a public forum type of way in response to assorted glitches and misunderstandings that have occurred during this training. I mean, it's a legitimate work-from-home job. Plus, it's a job. Of course, people are panicking.

While learning new software and grading systems for the last couple weeks, I have secured the role of Killer of Fun in my family. As I was leaving for work Saturday morning, I told my husband, NO PARTIES! He confirmed, “I know. No parties yesterday. No parties today. No parties tomorrow.” I mean it . . . NO PARTIES. But wouldn’t you know that within minutes of me getting home from work on Saturday, a few people came over and before I knew it, I was sitting in the sun sipping chardonnay. Wait . . . this feels like fun. I pulled my husband aside, PARTY’S OVER! He reassured me, “We’re leaving . . . we’re leaving!”

I declared to my unenthused family Saturday night that Sunday was to be used for getting the house into better shape, but I underestimated how much I had left to do for the training. I spent most of the day online. To celebrate completing the Week 2 assessment, I did housework for two hours. I don't even know what fun is anymore, because I enjoyed it. Maybe because I could finally move around after sitting all day.

I was especially motivated to clean after catching Violet dunking her play teapot into the toilet, and it was obviously not her first dunk of the day. I thought we had already crossed this lesson off the list, but Violet yelled that I was mean BECAUSE I WOULDN’T LET HER PLAY IN THE TOILET. I find that upsetting.

My family managed to sneak away for some fun this weekend, but I can guarantee that no fun occurred in my presence.

The overscheduled days have shot by like lightening in the last two weeks. My fingers are sore from typing and my eyes are about to pop out of my head. What a relief to have a week off before the final week of training. I think I am writing like a robot. I have become a writing robot. I need to go.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

We All Have Our Strengths

Daisy wanted to do this instead of homework tonight. I think my daughter is very creative, so I took a picture. Honestly, we had a whole photo shoot of her foot, stuffing the orange slices back between her toes when they fell out. She was clearly not the only one procrastinating. But I eventually forced her through her nightly homework session.

For the last couple days, I've been studying for a simulation of my TA duties. That sounds weird but starting tomorrow, I have fake students online asking me questions and turning in papers. I'm trying to be super organized due to my blunders in the initial training exercises last week.

I'm also planning Violet's birthday (in a week and a half and still figuring out details - no invites yet), adding new tutoring (just an hour a week but I need to spend time getting to know a new family), fundraising for Daisy's participation in a walkathon in a couple weeks with her girl scout troop (don't worry, we're only targeting family members - need to keep our cookie customers primed for next year . . . but let me know if you want to help Save Our Shores!) and coordinating my family's involvement in an upcoming girl scout field trip (I'm actually delegating but management is no picnic).

And did I mention those are locally grown, organic oranges in between my daughter's toes? Made it to the farmers' market today. After reading about Anthony Bourdain's appreciation of sliced radishes sprinkled with salt and layered over butter on crusty french bread . . . had to try it. Wanted the fresh-from-the-farm radishes with dirt on the roots like the article in my local paper described. It was delicious. I used real butter and french bread, two ingredients that can rarely be found in our kitchen these days. Maybe next time, I'll try it with whole grain bread and vegan butter.

And yes, I'm still alive and well after yesterday. Thank you for your concern, Bindy and Tabitha.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

It Was a Cold and Ominous Evening

I was leaving the house for a walk with my kids and dog this early evening when I noticed a car stopped in the middle of the street in front of our house. A college-ageish guy was standing by the car and his head whipped around when he noticed us.

Wait . . . I need to set up the story a little better. The chilly wind and ominous dark clouds made me wonder if the kids should be wearing jackets as we stepped out the front door. I didn’t think anything about the car idling in the street until the guy standing by it reacted to our presence. The street was otherwise deserted at that very moment.

The thing is, I live near a busy intersection in a quiet neighborhood. Our street is a shortcut from one highway to another. People pull up in front of our house often to make phone calls, meet up with someone, let their dogs stretch their legs, whatever. There are always lost tourists searching for the Mystery Spot during the warmer months. With so many people cutting through, weird things happen. But this one was PRETTY WEIRD.

The guy jumped into the car after we made brief eye contact – there was at least one other guy in the car – and the white(?) car screeched off, as two big items fell with a loud thump in the road. I started walking towards whatever the things were but realized my entourage was following me, so I sent them back in the house. Then, I walked over and . . . it was . . . a metal safe about the size of a dorm refrigerator and a snowboard with bindings! What the? I wasn’t sure what to do or if I could even lift the safe – it was slightly in the line of traffic but cars could easily avoid it. I decided to leave it alone.

I walked back to get the kids out of the house and situated on their scooters, and a man with a long, thin gray ponytail stopped his heavy tan pickup in the street, blocking traffic behind him. As he moved the safe and snowboard to the sidewalk, I said thanks and told him someone just threw those in the street.

A look of interest came over the guy’s face and he pulled over. He made a phone call while staring at the items. I was still dealing with the kids and the dog – I wasn’t just standing there staring at him – but I noticed he kept looking back at me as he loaded the stuff up in the back of his truck.

I kept thinking about it on our walk . . . should I have called the police? What if someone was just robbed? Or worse? I’m definitely keeping my eye on the local paper. I couldn’t tell you what the kid looked like, but I could identify the guy who drove off with the stuff in his truck. I shared the story with my husband when he called from over the hill. He told me to lock all the doors. He told me that if he was the criminal, he would be concerned with the lady who saw him drop the evidence. I don’t know why he’s thinking about being the criminal, but I have to admit that kind of freaked me out, so ALL THE DOORS ARE LOCKED. If you don’t hear from me again, scan this post for clues.


Friday, April 16, 2010

In Love Again

I always fall in love around tax time. My husband’s birthday happens to be the day before the tax deadline, but he understands that he can’t really compete with my accountant this time of year. It’s a significant relationship and I won’t give it up.

I became the tax person in my family after one confusing tax year early in our marriage. I had always done my own taxes but it was the year we bought our house with LOTS of help from my in-laws. The transfer of stocks involved with that help put us in the category of needing a professional. My father-in-law sat down with my husband to do our taxes using Turbo Tax. My husband came back from my in-laws' sweating and cussing over a tax bill of over $20,000. I insisted we at least take our taxes to H&R Block. My husband’s father insisted that we would be wasting our money on a professional and strongly advised us not to go, contacting my husband repeatedly. I told my husband to hand over the paperwork and I would take care of the rest.

That was the year I fell in love with Maria. She sat with me for more than two hours. Our situation was very confusing, plus President Bush had changed some rules at the last minute, which didn’t make it into that year's Turbo Tax. At the end of my meeting with Maria, she and I shouted and hugged in celebration, even though there was plenty of sweating and cussing during the meeting. . . my husband had called in the middle of it to tell me he had lost our dog and I was in the nauseating first trimester with Daisy. But the outcome was a $4000 tax bill, at a savings of over $16,000. Let’s see . . . do you think Maria’s $300 bill was worth it? I was struck by the sheer joy on my husband’s face when I returned from that appointment. And it was all because of Maria.

But after a few years, we found that we had outgrown Maria. She bungled something on more than one occasion. We avoided her when we ran into her at her non-tax season job, selling appliances at Home Depot. I never looked at her the same way after seeing her standing in the refrigerator aisle. I thought she was better than that.

Then we found Parviz through a friend. I actually haven't met him in person. Our relationship occurs only through emails, phone calls and texts . . . but that doesn’t stop me from showering him with messages of love and admiration. That’s why we love you . . . because you rock, you lovely hunk of accountant man meat. I’m not positive – Parviz has a thick Iranian accent that interferes with my comprehension at times – but I think he might have intentionally messed with me this year in revenge for my lagging on getting paperwork to him. A couple days ago, I got a voice mail that I had to listen to about ten times before I put together that we owed taxes and he was trying to get the pay-to amount down.

That’s all I heard from him and it was 7 p.m. on the deadline last night, and I still didn’t know more. I was pacing nervously and sent a quick text . . . so? When he called, he told me I was killing him. I asked him how much we owed. He asked me to guess how much we owed. I refused to play that game. I guess we owe nothing! What is it? I know we’re going to owe something because I got your voice mail . . . Parviz got a funny sound in his voice and claimed that he must have been talking about some other clients on my voice mail.

We’re getting a faaaaatttt refund, at least by my standards. While my husband ran down to Kinko’s to fax off our signatures last night, I sent Parviz hearts and smiley faces. I love you, you incredibly smart, number-crunching madman.

Oh and HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my husband!


Thursday, April 15, 2010

Making Money

Yesterday in the car . . . maybe I should call this blog Things That Happen in My Car . . . anyway, yesterday in the car, Daisy asked, “How do you make money?” I cleared my throat, getting ready for an inspiring discussion about careers, planning to bring it all back to that popular parent message: You can achieve anything you want. Oh how I love spreading the knowledge to the children.

I started with the big picture . . . you make money by finding something to do that other people will pay you for. Then I enthusiastically entered into the example part of the seminar. The loud guys make money for fixing our house. Your teacher makes money for helping you learn. Your doctor makes money for helping people – helping children . . .

Daisy interrupted me with a tone of exasperation, “No, Mom! I mean how you make money . . . quarters, dollars, all of it. How do you actually make that stuff?” Oh . . . people don’t make money. Governments do. “Well, I want to be a government when I grow up.”

I told you she was smart.


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Close Your Eyes

Last Monday was THE Monday after Spring Break. Back to routine. Our daycare provider picked up Daisy to take her to school – an awesome free service resulting from using the same daycare for six years – and my husband left for work. Violet and I were running late for speech therapy when she said, “Me no want to go peech.” Hmm . . . me no want to go either. She did have a cough . . . I cleared our schedule. It was stormy, so we also skipped an over-the-hill trip to the grandparents. The loud guys weren’t even here. I love a day at home in the rain. No commitments. No visitors. Heaven.

We returned from our family-spring-break-trip-extravaganza on Friday evening, when we jumped into a fairly typical weekend. Within an hour of getting home, my husband left for a barbecue with the kids and I retreated to taxes . . . and blogs . . . and sort of drooling while staring at nothing in particular. I taught on Saturday then came home to get Daisy for a birthday party at a roller rink. She was sore and tired from her first skiing experience, which made me laugh when I strapped on her skates. It was the third time she's "skated" and she leaned feebly to the side, inching along, falling every few minutes. When we got home, my sister- and brother-in law had already arrived. We had a lot of fun, but I didn’t unpack. Sunday, my family hacked trails through the piles of dirty laundry, Easter aftermath and construction chaos. Obligations kept me from doing more housework.

So Monday was an excellent choice for a day of no obligations. Violet played while I put things away and put things away and put things away. Then I put things away and put things away. Even now, the motherlode of dirty laundry is waiting, but at least I can function again. A suggestion of order has emerged.

So Tuesday morning felt like Monday to young Violet and I. On the way to preschool, I had that tired, cobwebs-in-the-brain feeling of coming back to reality and wished it wasn’t my scheduled preschool shift. Violet announced, “I’m ti-ud.” I distractedly said something like OK. She replied,“No, you apposed to ay . . . cwose yo eyes.” Oh, I forgot . . . close your eyes. In the rearview mirror, I caught a glimpse of the peaceful satisfaction that came over her face as she closed her eyes.

I’m not sure when that became our routine in the car. One time she had a fit, which involved yelling “I’m ti-ud” nine million times until I finally exclaimed, “THEN CLOSE YOUR EYES!” It worked. She closed her eyes and went silent. It’s amazing when something works on a kid spinning out of control.

I wish I could be transported to a worry-free place of beauty with such simple advice. Seeing it happen is soothing. But it also makes me feel like that fake wizard of Oz, the one who was just a flawed person behind the curtain . . . do I really have the right credentials to offer that peace of mind? For my daughters’ sake, I’m going to say yes.


Monday, April 12, 2010

Don't Internet That!

I was STILL working on taxes tonight. The kids were in front of a Disney movie involving opposing girl cliques and Daisy turned to me, “I think there should be more hurting.”

What do you mean?

“I mean the mean girls are being really mean and the others girls aren't even hurting them. They're only dancing fighting them. They need to fight them.” OK, I’ll put the violence-never-solves-anything talk on our list.

I returned my attention to the spreadsheets. Daisy responded by pleading, “Don't share that. Are you interneting right now? Don't internet that!” So, I stopped what I was doing and jotted down everything she had said.

What? Me, blog?!

I was just thinking about this issue after reading Posting Pictures/Videos of Your Children Online on Random Thoughts of a Crazy Liberal. Alana responded to the many critical comments regarding a youtube video of a boy singing Bad Romance. The criticism was mainly of his parents for opening up a private though hilarious family moment to the public.

I obviously share quite a bit about my kids online. I rationalize doing so partly because no one in my children’s social circles reads my blog. I don’t share it with parents of my children’s friends. I don’t share it with most people I know. I don’t put any of our names on it, although there are pictures. But in case someone we know was to randomly come across it, no problem. I have standards as far as what I’ll share. And occasionally, I’ll edit or delete a post upon further consideration.

I imagine that as my kids get older, I will have an evolving awareness of what I should share online. At some point, the kids probably deserve editorial privileges. Can you imagine how a teenager would feel if her mother blogged about how she got in trouble for not making it home by curfew, as well as documenting her flimsy yet charming excuse? Not that my kids will ever miss curfew. They won't be allowed to leave the house at night until they're too old to have a curfew. I'm not stupid.

On the other hand, kids can be lacking in judgment when it comes to the big, bad internet. That’s what I think when I see this video. The kid seems really into it and I would assume he’s fully aware and in support of it being posted. He might regret that one day, or maybe this is the beginning of a beautiful career. I certainly enjoyed it and am about to watch it again here in a minute. As one commenter remarked, kids love Lady Gaga, and my kids are in love with this video. I’m a little concerned because now they want to do their own video. I’ll let you know how that goes.

The choreography at 3:32 is worthy.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Opting Out

I like that Eleanor Roosevelt quote, "You must do the things you think you cannot do." I’ve used it many times when I feel averse to doing something. Oh yeah, that one quote . . . I’m nervous, so I have to do it. This has led me to public speaking, odd jobs, and children.

However, I do like to opt out of an activity on occasion. I didn’t snowboard last week in Tahoe, despite an annoying comment from a friend, “Come on, you’re not getting any younger!” What do you mean? I can do what I want! He was trying to encourage me to join his wife on the slopes. She hadn’t gone in a while either but is way more in her element with the whole winter sport thing. The deciding factor was the rapidly shrinking icy slush: I like something fluffy to fall in. The wife - my good friend - came back from the slopes with whiplash and a possible mild concussion. I’m comfortable with my decision.

That comment did sting a bit with 40 waiting for me at the end of the year, but I actually might be a better snowboarder in my 40s than I was in my 30s. I’m feeling stronger and healthier than I have in a long time – I’ve lost 24 pounds since January and the weight continues to gradually go away. I like my daily exercise now, which meant I ate and drank what I wanted on vacation – croissants with real butter and jam, chips and salsa, pasta and cheese, Sudwerk Pilsner, and Bogle Chardonnay - and I still returned a pound lighter than when I left. What’s not to like about exercise?

All age worries aside, what I love about pushing 40 is the clarity you get on things. What other people think is so easy to ignore. A comment might get me for about two seconds, then I smile and it’s gone. It might sound like senility but it’s blissful. You know what I did instead of snowboarding? Took the kids sledding then high rolled at the casinos with 25-cent video poker, sipping on free drinks. I was in my happy place and there were no body-wrenching slams involved. I will continue to not do all kinds of things with a clear conscience.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Spring Break Update

We celebrated Easter in lovely Bakersfield. It’s my dad’s hometown and my grandma’s still there. I grew up complaining about having to go to Bakersfield. My dad jokingly defended it, and sometimes he’d get a little touchy. His parents were divorced and remarried, essentially doubling our time there. Now my grandma is the last surviving grandparent on my dad’s side, and Bakersfield is one of those places imprinted with golden childhood memories.

Plus you can get a nice hotel room for a reasonable rate and shopping’s interesting – it’s a test market with good outlets. The women there dress with a certain fascinating flair. Young and old alike are more on trend than you might imagine . . . but there's something that also screams Bakersfield in many of the more noticeable outfits you see around town. In the last fifteen years or so, it seems to be a place with no shortage of disposable income. I’m not sure how Bakersfield is doing in the depression/recession but it is still full of mcmansions, corporate chains, and new cars.

My daughters did not make the Bakersfield trip all that easy. They were a nightmare on the way there in the car. There was a lot of screaming and crying for everyone involved. They did not want to take pictures in their Easter dresses. I had just about enough of them but tried my best to coax them into a civilized picture. I don't know why I try so hard because I always like the uncivilized pictures best.

My grandma turned 97 last week. Extended family began the celebration at a BJ's Brewery in Bakersfield Saturday night and continued with Easter activities on Sunday. It had been a couple years since I had seen my grandma, and I was amazed at how great she still looks. She was a nurse who worked into her seventies and was always concerned with good health and putting her best face forward. My daughters stared at her sparkly purple jewelry. Daisy announced that her great-grandma must have eaten her veggies . . . why yes she did. She's not afraid of chocolate and red wine either, but that's a story for when you're older.

We returned home from Bakersfield Sunday night then left for Tahoe on Monday. My in-laws have a place in Tahoe, so it's our bargain, go-to vacation, although it's been almost two years since I've been here as well. Now that I think of it, there's a lot of things I haven't done in two years. I'm blaming unemployment. We're in Tahoe now. We arrived to a snowstorm yesterday. The kids made it clear they are done with road trips, so I'm not sure how we're getting home.

I'm considering snowboarding this week. I've gone once or twice since having kids. I hesitate because of my tailbone, which I cracked while learning to snowboard ten years ago then fractured again in childbirth. It's kind of blocking my enthusiasm for hitting the slopes but we'll see. I was a mediocre skier who became a mediocre snowboarder. Couldn't be prouder.

Today was spent mostly with a family we know who lives up here. The couple is good friends with both my husband and I, and their daughter is Daisy's long distance bff. They even have a dog who plays with our dog. Later, I took a walk with my dog in the spring sun, melting snow all around. Check out my snow angel. I didn't really fall clumsily into the snow, causing my dog to bark with concern and cars to slow to make sure I wasn't having some kind of episode.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Enjoy Your Special Day, Amy

Today is my friend Amy’s very special day and for that reason, it’s best to be on alert at all times. Not only today but for the entire week. She already sent out a threatening pic of her son peeing into a shampoo bottle a few weeks ago, supposedly preparing for his mother’s favorite holiday. It’s not every year that she gets you but it’s almost worse when she doesn’t. Then you know you're on her rotation of future targets.

I already reached my quota for April Fools . . . every year I just want to fool one person. Last year, I told a favorite student I couldn’t work with him anymore. That was like taking candy from a baby. This morning, I told my husband I had talked to one of the contractors and decided we needed to replace all of the cabinets in the house. Come on, it’s only $5000! What’s the matter? Why not? April Fools! It took him a while to calm down. Totally fun.

But my tricks are strictly amateur compared to Amy’s. When we were in our twenties, I was visiting my girls in The City and someone spilled a drink on me at Quinn’s. I wonder if Amy instrumented the spill. Anyway, I borrowed something from Quinn to wear and when I was changing my pants, Amy barged into the room with her camera. I didn’t think about it too much. Amy was my RA in college and you got used to her taking pics at odd times . . . coming out of the bathroom or whatever.

About a month later, I got home from work . . . at the time I was living in a house that was always filled with visitors, couch surfers, hanger ons . . . I walked into the house and it got quiet. No one would look me in the eye. What’s going on? One of my housemates told me I got a postcard from Amy in the mail. OK . . . but why is everyone acting so weird? Some brave soul handed over the postcard, featuring an unflattering shot of me in my underwear from Quinn’s house. If I had known this was going to happen, I would have worn cuter underwear that day . . . maybe gotten a tan. What was really disturbing was by the time I saw the postcard, the edges were worn from it being passed around so much. I ran into someone I used to date a couple days later and he had seen it. Everyone had seen it. Thanks, Am.

My favorite April Fools comes out of the catalog of Bindy stories that Amy never tires of sharing. Amy called each of our close girlfriends to let us know that Bindy had gotten a job as a stripper. Bindy had recently moved to The City after college graduation and I was worried about her because there were all kinds of things going on with my friends in the city at the time. For example, one night Bindy, Quinn and Amy got themselves into a bar fight – with men - and it was all because of Amy. I’ve seen more than one guy come close to trying to fight her. The girl is controversial.

So anyway, Amy calls to let me know about Bindy’s new job as an exotic dancer. She spiced it up with a couple details to make it more believable . . . she was apparently a topless stripper and kept her bottom covered because “you know how she is about her bottom.” She was making lots of cash and now she was getting used to the lifestyle. And maybe there was some shady boyfriend involved. I can’t remember all of it. My response was something like, “I knew she was going downhill. I’m so worried about her. We have to talk to her.” I got off the phone and still hadn’t figured out what day it was until I told someone else what I heard and he pointed out the obvious. Amy fooled all of Bindy’s closest friends with that story. Tabitha’s response was the best, something like, “What? She’s making all that money . . . and that white girl can’t even dance!” I was worried as usual; Tabitha was thinking about the cash. Bindy wondered later why none of her friends doubted Am, and why did I get off the phone and tell someone else about it? Both good points.