Thursday, May 27, 2010

More Tooth Fairy

Daisy lost her second upper front tooth yesterday at daycare. She brought it home in another little plastic treasure chest. There was a fair amount of tooth handling going on but she managed not to lose it. When I put her to bed, she showed me what she had prepared for the Tooth Fairy’s arrival.

On Daisy’s bedside table was a silvery pink upholstered couch from her doll house. She rested an iridescent green mermaid with long black hair on the couch. Next to the couch was a round white shell filled with jewel-toned glitter. Her tooth, resting on the glitter, was covered by a small piece of a purple wooden butterfly wing. Daisy explained that the mermaid was there to be friends with the Tooth Fairy. When it was time to get into bed, Daisy plucked her tooth from the shell and ceremoniously placed it under her pillow. I was thinking: remember the tooth fairy, remember the tooth fairy, remember the tooth fairy . . .

I almost forgot but my husband reminded me. I’m usually pretty busy after the kids go to bed, so it’s easy to get caught up in other things. I found a dollar but that didn’t seem to match Daisy’s careful preparations. I grabbed scissors and ran out the front door at midnight in search of flowers. I brought back a stem of fire orange canna flowers and put them in a clear vase on Daisy’s bedside table. I placed a little sprig of blue flowers on top of the mermaid. I threw the glitter at Daisy’s sleeping head and filled the shell up with water and left it by the mermaid. I’m not sure why I did the last thing.

But Daisy did. She told me this morning that the Tooth Fairy used the shell to get a drink of water. Her eyes were shining with delight. I’m really starting to get into this. Might as well enjoy it now because there are only a few more teeth lost at this age. The rest are lost in the preteen years when a dollar and flowers stolen from the neighbor won’t be so exciting.


Wednesday, May 26, 2010


I am a little nervous to announce that today is my friend’s special day.


I put a little extra time into this one because Tabitha HATES attention. I need to get it just right. She already made it clear recently that I was never to put her photo in my blog. And I don’t think she was mad when I posted her picture here a couple days after our little talk because it was taken in the dark during Earth Hour. If you look carefully, you can see the outlines of her trying not to have fun in one of the pics. She was playing video games on her cell phone in protest of me turning off the TV seven minutes early. So even though I’m a little concerned about how Tabitha is going to take this, I’m not going to give in to petty fear. Don’t worry, Tabitha I AM COMMITTED TO HONORING YOU ON YOUR SPECIAL DAY.

I’ve already figured out what I shouldn’t bring up. Tabitha hates it when I talk about that time her dad called her My Beautiful Swan as they stood and watched an actual swan in a pond. I wasn’t there but I almost feel like I was. There are SO MANY THINGS she probably wouldn’t want me to talk about but I think I’ll stop there. It is her birthday.

Instead, let me tell you how I know Tabitha. She lived in the college dorms with Bindy, when I suddenly arrived as a junior transfer. We were Bindy’s best friends. The first time I met Tabitha was a few months before I moved into the dorms. I was visiting Bindy when a pretty girl with mod hair and black eyeliner, wearing a baggy sweater and holey jeans, came in and plopped down a box of wine on Bindy’s desk. She filled up a keg cup then left the room. If she doesn’t sound very friendly, you’re right . . . she wasn’t. I’m not exactly known for going out of my way to talk to new people either, especially if it was Bindy’s other best friend. It took us awhile.

I really warmed up to Tabitha when I discovered she liked that show How’d They Do That? I loved that show because it gave you answers. I learned that she and I share an inner drive for information. Tell a story to Tabitha and she’ll hammer out the details with follow-up questions. She needs to work it out and I totally get that.

Nineteen years of memories with Tabitha include . . .

Driving to Vegas to see the Grateful Dead. The Deadhead invasion of the Strip was something to see. During the show, which was outdoors in the desert, there was a thunderstorm in the distance. The sky was sunny and dark gray with lightening strikes . . . and maybe rainbows? I’m sure I’m not exaggerating. It made the hippies writhe in pleasure.

Hours and hours of playing cards in smoke-filled rooms. Asshole. Crazy Eights. Cribbage. These days, it’s Scrabble and fresh air for about an hour.

But my favorite memories with Tabitha are all the times we laughed at Bindy.

Another thing about Tabitha that brings me joy is our shared hate-love of The Bachelor/ette. The premise is ridiculous. It’s overproduced, corny, embarrassing. A lot of the time, I can’t even give it my full attention. I have to look at it over a laptop or magazine. Tabitha hides behind pillows. And we keep watching. I didn’t even know a new season was starting this week, and it was just what I needed. The guys they got for Ally are cheesy and overeager and weird. (Wait . . . I just have to say that one guy’s plan to impress the bachelorette was to tell her his nickname is Shooter because he ejaculated prematurely in his freshman year of college. He was upset when she sent him home and he walked off in tears. He really thought his plan was working.) It’s so bad, it's good! And Tabitha not only understands that, she likes to communicate about who we like and who we hate. I got a text from her as I was writing this, “Just started bach. love cape cod guy.” (I personally thought he was a little weird but let me take another look.)

Really, Tabitha is the kind of friend everyone wants . . . she will drive hundreds of miles if you need her. She has been hugely supportive of me during rough times. She has always been disciplined about being there for all her friends, even when some of us were less mature about that kind of stuff (me). I would say I’ve learned something about friendship from her. And Tabitha . . . that’s why you’re our beautiful swan.

And just so you don’t direct all your anger at me, here’s Bindy . . .

Hi, it’s me Bindy. Ahh, Tabitha, where do I begin? To know her, really know her, is to love her, and sometimes hate her, but always love her. She was one of the first people I met freshman year of college. She is not an immediately funny and outgoing person. If you didn’t know her, you might think she was, let’s say “aloof.” I’m one of her best friends, and I am still frequently on the receiving end of her sharp-toned crabs. I think I must annoy her to all end. And don’t try to be cute with her in the morning. She is decidedly not a morning person. When I hang out with her in the morning, I sometimes believe that just the fact that I exist is bothersome to her.

BUT, she is one of the best friends I’ve ever had. If I’m ever stranded in a Mexican prison at 3:00 a.m., the first person I’d call (after my lawyer) is Tabitha. Because Tabitha would actually get in her car and drive down and pick my sorry ass up. And it wouldn’t even occur to her not to do it. She’s just that type of person. When my mom got sick with a terrible cancer 3 years ago and got home after major surgery, Tabitha drove down immediately (we’re 4 hours apart) and we made a chicken casserole for her so she wouldn’t have to cook. When I got sick she spent hours on the phone and researching on the internet for me. When I was getting married, Tabitha sent me links to a thousand wedding dresses. There are countless other times when Tabitha has been there for me. Way too many for me to enumerate here, and besides, we all know my memory isn’t that great. And Tabitha is probably ready for this painful ode to end…

So, Tabitha, this mini- blog’s for you. Happy Birthday. I love you!


Monday, May 24, 2010

No Appreciation

I woke up before 7 a.m. on Sunday to Violet saying, “Me went poo poo in yo bed.” In my groggy state, I didn’t really understand what that meant until . . . oh no! It was everywhere . . . the sheets, the mattress, my pajamas, her. Violet has a healthy appetite and a hyper sensitive stomach. Morning is not my best time already, and an emergency of that type and at that time feels like a punishment from God.

I stripped the bed and steered my daughter into her room. Holding my breath, I ripped off the detachable sides of her pull-up and splattered myself in filth. We were both miserable. We moved to the bathroom. It took awhile to get her to an acceptable state for a bath. Without warning, Violet tried to make me laugh by sticking her unwashed hands in my mouth. My instant reflex was to scream, which made Violet go into a loud cry. I did my best to soothe her while cleaning up her hands and trying not to gag.

Violet shrieked when her feet hit the bath water. It was good to find out that she wasn’t injured. Apparently the water temp wasn’t exactly right. I wondered what it was that I was being punished for. Where was coffee, and how was I going to make coffee happen when I was sprinkled in feces and my daughter was having a meltdown in our only place to bathe?

After several complicated steps, Violet and I emerged shiny and new. I hit the ground running and transitioned to housework. My house is a nest of chaos at the moment. My husband is in the process of demoing part of the living room and continuing other aspects of the remodel. The air is filled with drywall dust and there are stacks of things like broken pieces of wood and tools layered with toy debris and dirty laundry. Think indoor garbage dump.

I grabbed my camera out of my purse because it was so horrific, I was going to take a picture. I had several cups of coffee at this point, so taking a picture sounded like a REALLY good idea. On my way to the living room, I slipped on a small pile of beach sand that my husband had forgotten to clean up on the slick hallway tile. I hit the ground hard, simultaneously breaking my camera and giving myself a bloody knee and bruised shin. I just bought the camera a few months ago. There was already a fair amount of tension in my home Sunday morning and after my fall, I broke down. What the hell kind of Sunday was this?

I felt like I needed some space, so I decided to walk down to where my car was left the night before. The kids insisted they go with me and I relented because I knew they were worried I was upset. A little fresh air would do us all good. We got about three blocks into our walk – the kids were on their scooters - when Violet was suddenly done. She declared she was going home, turned around and took off. I got Daisy to follow me and as I ran, I saw people laughing and pointing at us from passing cars. You know how I feel about running in public. Violet giggled hysterically until I reached her.

Daisy and I escorted Violet home then returned on our walk to retrieve the car. The adrenaline from my fall had subsided and my leg was really starting to hurt. Once we got to the car, I figured we should head straight to Trader Joe’s because the fridge was looking empty. As I was parking at the store, I realized I didn’t have my purse. On our dash home, Daisy reminded me of my promise: I was to help her “remodel” her room. She’s suddenly a different kid. She wants to rearrange her room, reduce the pink and princess. She wants a secret fort. It was the last thing I wanted to do, but I had been putting her off and owed her some quality time. So after another lap to the grocery store, I ignored the rubble strewn across the house and headed to Daisy’s room.

We cleaned and moved furniture and rearranged furniture and argued and rearranged furniture for more than four hours. We made a substantial pile for our upcoming garage sale. I became obsessed with building the secret fort. I started with a kid’s tent that you set up like a standard tent. It really shouldn’t have been difficult but I accidentally broke it beyond repair. I remembered the Cranium fort-building set in Daisy’s closet. It seemed like a good idea when we bought it but we’ve never really figured it out. I was determined to make it work but it was flimsy and ridiculous. It went into the garage sale pile.

Finally, I had a brainstorm. We angled Daisy’s bed diagonally, so that it blocked off one of the corners of her room. I threw a small rolling clothes rack behind her bed and pinned a tapestry to the wall and draped it over the rolling rack, creating a sort of fairy-hippy tent in the corner of her room. We filled the space with pillows and decorated it with fabric flowers and stuffed animals. I would love to show you but my camera is broken.

After getting to a good-enough-for-now place in Daisy’s room, I cleaned the rest of the house for a few more hours, breaking to fold laundry. I gave up before I even got to the living room . . . bone tired, bruised and limping with that sore whiplash feeling.

I opened my eyes this morning to Daisy standing by my bed. “Mom, is it carpool day?” No, that’s tomorrow. “WHY???” I reminded her that it was Monday and I had to take her sister to speech. I asked her if she was ready because Donna [our daycare lady] would be arriving soon. Daisy flipped out, “YOU NEVER HELP ME!!!” and stomped out of the room. Obviously, I didn't help her get ready for school this morning but her dad did. The kid is not being neglected.

She found me getting dressed a few minutes later,“Mom, why don’t you help me?” What do you mean? I showed her my bruises from moving her furniture around. Who built your secret fort? “Well, you help me a little.” I got a little animated . . . WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT? EVERYTHING I DO IS FOR YOU AND YOUR SISTER! This, of course, isn’t technically the truth, but close enough. Daisy had a little smile on her face. We weren’t really fighting. She seemed to need some reassurance from me this morning. She challenged my claim, “That’s not true . . . remember when you gave that homeless guy your sunglasses. That wasn’t for me!” I was stunned by both her memory and audacity. I grabbed her and squeezed her then told her to run because I was going to spank her, and she ran away laughing.

Next time I smell one of those sweet little fuzzy baby heads and feel a pang of sadness that there are probably no more babies in my future, I will try to remember where that baby love can get you . . . bruised, splattered in feces, and straight up unappreciated.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Mothers Watch Your Sons

I was at the store the other day with Violet when she turned to me and said, “Me have boyfwend.” What? Four-year-olds don’t have boyfriends, and they shouldn’t even know about having them. Who is your boyfriend? “Him goes to my freschool. Me don know hims name.” How do you know he’s your boyfriend? “Because him do this . . .” She bent over from the waist and closed her eyes. What is that? “Me no wanna talk about it anymo.” Fine.

On the way home in the car, I asked more questions about this boyfriend. I started to doubt his existence when Violet told me he had hair like her sister’s and his face was the size of her fist. Also that “he always says I'm a pwincess . . . but me not.” He actually sounded pretty good until she said that he’s a “mean guy.”

Violet later swapped boyfriend stories with her sister, who immediately went into a description of how things are going with her first-grade boyfriend. What??? NO BOYFRIENDS! Daisy reassured me that her boyfriend doesn't really know that she is his girlfriend . . . yet. Both girls were glowing with excitement and soon they were claiming to have hundreds of boyfriends.

Wanting to share the love, Daisy asked, “Who’s your boyfriend?” I’m married to your dad. “But who’s your boyfriend? C’mon Mom, who is he? You can tell us!” Married people aren’t supposed to have boyfriends. “Why not?” Nevermind. I can see where this is going. It’s really best you don’t know what boyfriends are for.

I told their dad about the boyfriends when he got home from work. No exaggeration - he turned gray and nauseous looking. I saw an opportunity to drive home the point that every father of a girl must know . . . you are the blueprint for the boyfriends. Everything you do and say has an impact on your daughters' self-esteem and future relationships. Consider your every move. He nodded meekly.

Yesterday in the car, Violet and I were stopped in traffic and a man walked by who might have been homeless or at the very least, going through some hard times. “That’s not my boyfwend.” Well, I’m glad. “My boyfwend is wittle.” I asked her about the last time she saw her boyfriend. ”He doesn’t go to my freschool anymo.” Oh, thank god. I don’t care if he’s imaginary or not.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Direct from EDD!

I was just about to post about my new job. It's official! I'm part of the online TA pool for Blah-blah University. There were no suggestions for improvement in my final week of training, even though I did the bulk of it on two hours of sleep. Think of what will be possible when fully rested . . . I'll be assisting the hell out of those college re-entry students.

Anyway, I have a hiring teleconference tomorrow and the language is all very cautious. I am part of the pool. There is no guarantee of hours. I will get a lump sum for each class instead of an hourly rate, which isn't great. I have to somehow "apply" to be a TA for every class. However, after two years and three months, I WILL be off unemployment FOR GOOD in the near future. I'm pretty sure that once I add this job to the tutoring I already have, I will be meeting my baseline for financial independence. You really have no idea what this means to me. I will be celebrating cautiously tonight . . . I will sip one glass of chardonnay while wearing my bike helmet (I can't tell if that image is funny or weird but I'm leaving it in).

But here's what I'm REALLY EXCITED about and there's no need for caution . . . OK, so after looking at Google Analytics, it's apparent that by far, most of my blog traffic is generated from a handful of posts going back several months about the EDD aka California's unemployment department. Obviously, there are a lot of unemployed people searching for information regarding extensions. Getting info from the EDD is not easy. Most of the time when you call in now, the recorded message is there are already so many calls that they can't even put you on hold.

You can email EDD and wait a few days, and they will get back to you. That's all fine, but that can be a long time when you're experiencing financial panic. And sometimes, when they do get back to you, you might find that the answer isn't totally clear or you have a follow-up question, and then it's back to waiting for another answer. I've gone back and forth several times with EDD in the past.

So that's why I'm thrilled to have found this comment in my inbox this morning. Look! Someone from EDD commented on a post from a few months ago. It's the the clearest and most succinct info regarding California's unemployment extensions I've seen anywhere. I have to wonder if this person who calls herself LINDA in all caps is acting as a representative for the EDD. The god comment at the end makes me think she's going rogue.


The first extension is for 20 weeks, the second for 13 weeks, the third has three parts. The first part of the third extension is a one week extension added to the last week of the second extension. The second part of the third extension is for 13 weeks. The third part of the third extension is for 6 weeks, of which a lot of people will not qualify for. The formentioned are Federal extensions. There is another extension, a State extension, that was created as a buffer during the time it took to get a third extension implemented called the Fed-Ed. The Fed-Ed is a 20 week extension for some, and a 13 week extension for others. One of the criteria for qualifying for any of the above extensions is the time, day, of possible qualification. There are deadlines to these extensions and other criteria as to whether one will qualify for any of the extensions. Every persons situation is different. Please know that everybody is not automatically entitled to all extensions. If you find that you do not qualify for an extension, you have the right to the appeal process. Thank you.

Her job can't be easy. And thank you LINDA! You did a good thing. Keep the info flowing.


Friday, May 14, 2010

Tooth Fairy

Daisy lost her third tooth this week. She now has that snaggle-tooth look that kids of a certain age get. When her first two teeth came out, there were already adult teeth waiting obediently behind the baby teeth. They immediately moved forward to fill the gaps. The kid seems to have perfectly well-behaved teeth that will never need to be tortured with braces. That’s a relief because her sister Violet is already a little bucky from all that thumb sucking. It’s not if Violet will need dental work, it’s when.

Wednesday at school, Daisy bee lined to the office to consult with her medical team, otherwise known as the health clerk and school secretary. She told me she announced, “I am ready to get this tooth out.” I heard quite the dramatic story involving profuse bleeding. She brought her tooth to daycare that day, where she was given a miniature plastic treasure chest to store it until pick up.

When we came home, I took pictures of Daisy’s new smile. She also made me do a photo shoot of her tooth. I wasn’t able to focus on it very well because it was so freaking small. Daisy wasn’t as interested in looking at her new smile as she was at staring at that little sand pebble of a tooth. She saw the bit of gum tissue remaining on it and admitted that she must not be taking very good care of her teeth . . . look at all the cavities. I explained what it was and she went back to staring at her tooth. (Really? That’s interesting to you but you can’t get through a Lakers game?)

Baby teeth are easy to misplace, and Daisy likes to handle them a lot. Our daycare provider taught her to shake the treasure chest to make sure her tooth was still there instead of opening it up and dropping it on the floor, which happened every two seconds last time she lost a tooth.

Wednesday night, Daisy wrote a note to the Tooth Fairy and folded it up until it was the size of a matchbook. She placed the note, her tooth and a little silver necklace yanked off one of her barbies under her pillow. She thought the necklace would sweeten the deal.

I woke up the next morning to Daisy crying to her dad that the Tooth Fairy didn’t come. Oh no! When I came downstairs, I told her I would email the Tooth Fairy to remind her that Daisy lost her tooth. Daisy asked me if I knew where to send the email. I said, sure . . . all parents do. Daisy was momentarily confused, “You know the Tooth Fairy’s parents?!” No, I mean I know how to contact her and she’s really busy . . . so sometimes, she forgets and needs a quick reminder.

I asked her where her tooth was. Daisy looked down. She had taken it out of the treasure chest again. We searched and searched but couldn’t find it. I told her not to worry but I didn’t have a good explanation as to why she shouldn’t worry when the Tooth Fairy was already so busy and couldn’t be trusted to come to the house for a mere rumor of a lost tooth.

Daisy told me that HER FRIEND’S MOM told HER FRIEND when SHE couldn’t find HER TOOTH that it was OK because the Tooth Fairy will fly around on her tiny wings until she locates the tooth. She is apparently really good at finding teeth. I told her that was exactly right.

At 4 a.m. this morning, my husband woke me up, “Tooth Fairy! What about the Tooth Fairy?” Oh yeah! Do you have any dollar bills? He told me he would wait until just before Daisy usually wakes up. NO! THAT'S TOO LATE! DO IT NOW! (Waking me up is exactly like waking up Sleeping Beauty.) He did it. And Daisy did her victory laps this morning, a dollar bill flapping in each hand.

She told everyone she got $22. We’re still working on the math.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Bargain Barn ~ eBay, Part 8

It seems that I’ve completely lost track of my eBay story.

Here’s what happened so far if you’re in the mood for a marathon blog session.

At the end of my last eBay post, I was selling an increasing amount of bras, underwear and organic cotton socks. It was January 2008, and there were a few months left before I had to get serious about job searching. Boxes of things like handmade quilts and bamboo cutting boards were stacked in my garage. I reordered lingerie and socks as needed but couldn’t gamble on too many new wholesale orders until I moved the stuff in my garage. However, it was also important to continually offer new inventory to bring new customers to my eBay store. Customers might come for a wall frame but leave with a wall frame and two bras. Fresh inventory also kept the old customers checking back.

Where was I going to get the new inventory? I had the vague feeling that I was forgetting something. I tried garage sales, flea markets, secondhand stores, Craigslist. No dice. I was in the car one day when I remembered Bargain Barn. Of course! Bargain Barn is almost a mythical place in my town . . . some people don’t think it exists. I drove to the industrial area where Bargain Barn is located and couldn’t find it. I hadn’t been there since college.

I found Bargain Barn on my second try a few days later. It is a warehouse next to a Goodwill processing plant, where all the donations are sorted and shipped off to retail outlets. The overflow from incoming donations and merchandise pulled out of Goodwill stores is thrown into bins and hauled to the warehouse twice a day. About half of it is clothes and accessories, which sell for $1 a pound. Then there are the glassware, record, and book sections as well as a few rows of assorted household goods. It’s $5 for whatever you can stuff into a standard paper grocery bag. If something is too big for a paper bag, it’s $10 for the individual item, unless you are good with the Boss of Bargain Barn.

When I was going to Bargain Barn regularly, the Boss was a tall man with glasses and dreads. I thought he might be from Jamaica, but the accent didn’t seem right. It's hard to say because I only heard him talk in a very low tone or at full shout. He spent most of his time standing by the register with arms crossed, blasting reggae that he turned down to yell at workers or customers. I made a point to be friendly, follow his rules and not shove anyone back when he was watching. Pretty soon my rate for the $10 items was $2 to $5. It seemed like every week or so, there would be New Rules that he’d declare to the eager crowd before opening up the gates at 10 a.m.

The core Bargain Barn heads started lining up at the gates around 9:30 a.m. They had shops in town and as far away as The City. Some sold stuff online or at flea markets. They traded gossip and talked business as they waited in the front of the crowd. When the gates opened, the crowd rushed in. The Boss yelled at everyone to walk, and if anyone ran, he'd send them outside the gates to the back of the crowd. The bouncers physically removed the people who didn't comply.

Most of the regulars returned day after day to one of several filthy areas in Bargain Barn. There were all the vintage clothing shop owners who went through the piles of rank used clothing. One of the more successful local vintage clothing shop owners brought in a team of men to sort clothing for him while he paced behind them. At first, I spent most of my time going through the dozen bins or so of miscellaneous housewares. I found things such as baskets, trays and kitchen tins that sold quickly on eBay. But then, I found the accessory bins. Oh. My. Goodness. There were heaps of purses, belts, wallets – unbelievable things. Of course, there was junk too but I could easily pull out a dozen accessories that would sell for $10 to $40 a piece, and they cost roughly a dollar each. You never knew what you were going to pull out next. A vintage purse from the 50s in excellent condition with the original receipt? IT WAS SO MUCH FUN! But it also could be violent . . . there were several fights around the purses. I was so bummed the day the Boss announced that the accessories would no longer be separated out from the disgusting clothing because of all the fights. It was the New Rule. I poked around in the clothing a couple times but saw no more amazing accessories.

I moved to the books. The book area was also competitive. Most of the Book People sold online or at flea markets. There were usually six to ten bins of books. When Bargain Barn opened, people rushed in to claim a bin and might body block anyone else who tried to look in their bins, for the first few minutes at least. The Book People used to make stacks of books on the ground as they moved from bin to bin, then there was a New Rule that you couldn’t do that . . . you had to hold your books . . . but that rule changed because there was no way the booksellers were going to be able to hold all their books. So THEN the New Rule was that you could stack your books in a suitcase or duffle bag that you brought from home. I have no idea what that was all about. The serious booksellers had scanners they used to determine which books should be thrown back into the bins before heading to the register with their suitcases. I could never figure out exactly what the scanners did, and I did not get the you-are-free-to-ask-me-questions vibe from any of the Book People.

There were some run-ins around the book bins. I generally gave people room if they got physical . . . honestly, if you’re desperate for that, please take it. If I was having a bad day, I might push back a bit. Eventually, I carved out a book niche that didn’t seem to concern anyone else and I was allowed to peer in the book bins over the hunched-over shoulders of the Book People. My niche was mainly three types of vintage books: cookbooks, children’s books and anything in the Sunset series. A couple of the Book People started to hand me stuff they knew I’d want. I was so happy when I was accepted because before that, it was hard to find a place to set my duffle bag.

The books sold OK for me until eBay changed its book condition rating system and automatically set every book listing to the lowest possible rating, which could only be corrected by editing each individual listing. I had hundreds of listings and I didn’t know why none of my books were selling for a couple months. Before the stupid eBay glitch, I sold books for up to $40 each, although most went for $6 to $10. I paid about twenty cents per book.

The downside of selling stuff from Bargain Barn on eBay was that it required a lot of time. I did enjoy the research . . . I found websites dedicated to verifying everything from a first edition Dr. Seuss to a genuine Kate Spade bag. Figuring out how to describe and list each thing was like solving a puzzle. But with most everything from Bargain Barn requiring an individual listing used one time only, it burned up time.

Bargain Barn was very helpful to my eBay store. I found my customers were often eBay sellers. I could sell a vintage Dr. Seuss book at my shop of randomness for about $20, but someone who specialized in collectible books with a well-established rep and customer base could sell the same thing for $75. There was someone in the Midwest who bought boxes and boxes of books from me. I also had customers who were vintage purse dealers and collectible glassware dealers. I was excited at the time because I was seeing my sales grow a little every week.

I do have to say that of everything I’ve done since being unemployed, Bargain Barn was the thing that I felt the most self-conscious about. My town is fairly small . . . it’s unusual to go anywhere without seeing familiar faces. One of my old students worked at Bargain Barn. I felt a little awkward, having gone from a leader-type in the community - as a vice principal and long-time teacher - to someone who was trying to make money off the community's cast-off junk. My doubts were heightened by the concerned looks of friends and family members. But I got over that. It's good to get your hands dirty once in awhile.


Monday, May 10, 2010

Mother Wishes

Oh man, I've been busy. Just finished the last of my training for the online TA job tonight. My status with that is waiting and seeing. A job offer may be on the horizon. Really.

I wanted to say Happy Belated Mother's Day to all the mamas and the people appreciating their mamas and the people who have lost their mamas. This weekend went by so fast but it was good. My little angel monsters brought home lovely handmade cards from school. The cards were definitely my best Mother's Day gifts.

There was some rowdy laughing about what Violet dictated to her preschool teachers on the inside of my beautiful blue card. I received the card at the preschool Mother's Day luncheon last week. The kids sang songs and presented us with soft squares of egg salad and peanut butter sandwiches made with their chubby not-trustworthy-in-the-hygiene-department hands. I had several.

I had to wonder if Daisy even knew me when she handed me this card yesterday. We've never played tag before and . . . good at math? Is she pretending that someone else is her mom again?! Then someone reminded me that I'm really good at first grade math. Oh right. Maybe we played tag once. At least she got my age right.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Confrontation in the Woods

There was a confrontation in the woods on Friday. This is not my preferred setting for a confrontation. Give me a city sidewalk over a relatively isolated section of forest any day, if a run-in is on the agenda. I won't even walk in a remote place unless I'm with my dog or another person. I have pepper spray and I am afraid to use it.

I was in the woods on Friday because my favorite thing to do for exercise these days is go on a hike that takes me about an hour roundtrip from my front door (I mean it does now . . . a few months ago, it took an hour and fifteen minutes . . . I'm just saying). A couple blocks away from my house is a trailhead that begins as an off-leash dog area but quickly turns into an on-leash dog area. However, the on-leash area is really an off-leash area as long as you can control your dog. The trail ends at the back of a golf course. It's one of my favorite areas to hike because of its close proximity, luscious forest, and dog-friendliness. You do have to keep an eye out for mountain bikers who can take you out before you even have time to scream. Also, poison oak is an issue. And you can get lost - I've taken a wrong turn there more often than I care to admit after several years. Look, just realize . . . my favorite nature walk is freaking dangerous. Check it.

But it's also Happy-Earth-Day beautiful. Nature-is-my-church beautiful. Ewoks-could-live-here beautiful.

In these woods, the standard exchange between hikers is pleasant. Dog owners are considerate - though dogs and mountain bikers can clash for obvious reasons - the whole people-with-or-without-dogs situation is usually ALL GOOD. However, THIS WAS NOT THE CASE ON FRIDAY.

My dog Sadie and I were more than halfway to the halfway point . . . just picture a shady forest with lush ferns and fresh air and the kind of mud that smells good, like art class. A small bulldog-mix type ran up to Sadie and I, then began circling us in a really annoying, yappy dog sort of way. I didn't see the dog's owner for a bit, but she eventually came running around the corner. There was a chihuahua mix following her closely. She called to the dog that was harassing us as she passed, and said something about getting out of our way. I noticed the runner looked to be in her mid-20s and hadn't exactly apologized for her dog's harassment. No worries. Moving on.

Except the tiny bulldog ran back at full speed in Sadie's face and tried to fight her, as the chihuahua mix followed closely behind, barking all the way. The runner circled back and approached us, explaining that the chihuahua mix had a "barking disorder." She called to both her dogs and they ran off again. I wouldn't say I was annoyed at this point. Whatevs. Dependents can inconvenience everybody. I know this. But really . . . Barking Disorder?

But then . . . we met up with the jogger and her dogs again as they were coming back down the trail. The bulldog mix totally attacked Sadie. Actually, she barked threatenly at her, passed her, came back and attacked her, took off, returned and attacked her again and didn't stop. Meanwhile, I was yelling . . . I stepped over Sadie and hit the tiny attacker between its eyes - not too hard. But it wouldn't stop biting my dog. Meanwhile, the jogger was slowly collecting her chihuahua-mix dog and making her apologies.

I was done with her lame apologies, but I didn't know it until I screamed a foot away from her face, "Put your dog on a leash! Put your dog on a leash!" and then to really drive the point home, "Dang!"

The lady replied, "I'm working on it." Not a lot of enthusiasm. Or a lot of sorrow. I do not accept her apology.

I wish I would have said, "Fuck you, Bad Dog Parent!" like a normal person.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Polaroid Week

Today is the last day to make submissions to 'Roid Week 2010 at Flickr. Follow the link to see the collection.

These are my favorite polaroids from Flickr's Creative Commons - Attribution License section, meaning they can be used as long as you give credit.


I bought an instant camera for my mom's birthday with babysitting money when I was a kid. My brothers and I went through stacks and stacks of film. Taking instant photos is like gambling with time. Let me try one more shot . . . just one more. . . . and then I'll find something else to do for a few minutes . . . maybe I'll flap the undeveloped picture around . . . shove it under my arm to make it develop faster . . . and THEN see what was captured when the flash blinded everyone in the room . . . before deciding if I should try one more time for a picture that isn't totally crappy. Not really a lot of instant in the process.

Here are some old polaroids - just after I bought the camera for my mom in 1981. My family had been in Saudi Arabia for a couple years. My friends were from the compound or school, and we were all living in Jeddah temporarily. I had a slumber party for my 11th birthday. We took pics, put on make-up, lit balls of paper on fire in the kitchen sink (the wax paper was the best).

That was me on the right with my friend Hirgu, who was from Ethiopia. She had the best make-up. She gave me her bright pink lip gloss and I brought it everywhere until it ran out. My mom kept asking me . . . are you wearing lipstick? NO, MOM! I'M SO SURE!

This was my friend . . . I think her name was Nicole. She was French Canadian. Her family was ultra Catholic. A bunch of us once watched a marathon of horror movies - my personal version of hell - until she sat up and started sobbing that she could see the devil. I was so relieved when the movie was finally turned off. Anyway, there's something about polaroids of young girls wearing make-up that seems inappropriate.

The girl on the right was Christy, one of my best friends in our compound. Her family was from Texas, as were most of our neighbors. Her sister was a Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader. To say Christy's family was proud of her sister is a gross understatement. On the left was Jeannine from Thailand. I don't think I'm getting her name right. She was really sweet and she loved fluffy cats. That's all I remember about her.

That's Holly on the left, another girl from my compound. Her family was from Louisiana. I heard a lot of Cajun jokes from our Texan neighbors. There was a hubbub when Holly's dad was supposedly going to remove his daughter's braces with his pliers. I don't think he did. I don't remember the girl in the watermelon shirt.

And that concludes my rocking polaroid show. I feel pressure to come up with something meaningful at the end, since Bindy is deluded into thinking that I like to close my posts with something deep but . . . no, nothing today.

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Thursday, May 6, 2010

Bullies by Bindy

Look what I found in my inbox today!!!! Bindy is so cute and I hope she writes more posts! Oh no, I'm doing that YOU GO GIRL! thing again. Bindy's alright. Here's our synchronized offspring at Earth Hour. (I know I have better pics somewhere but Bindy is getting REALLY IMPATIENT for me to post this.)


Hi, I’m Bindy. You may have read about me in some of Star’s previous posts. Anyhow, I’ve known Star forever (since high school) and somehow we’ve managed to remain friends nonetheless.

Like Star, I have two kids: Nikki is 11 years old and is in 6th grade. She is everything you would expect a preteen to be in our electronic age. Lacey is almost 4. Star and I were pregnant at the same time. I actually got pregnant a week before she did, but then she had Violet a week before I did, the lucky girl. But I digress…..

Last weekend I took Lacey to our neighborhood park. She is very social and outgoing, so she immediately befriended a 4 year old boy, Braedon, who was with his grandmother. I should’ve been alarmed when his grandmother dropped his trousers so that he could pee on the grass (the restrooms were perhaps 2 yards away), but I just figured she was quirky. Anyhow, Lacey and Braedon wanted to play by the creek. This creek is a result of run-off through cow pastures, so it’s not something one would want to bathe in or drink. But it has tadpoles and frogs and some interesting water bugs. The grandmother lit a cigarette, and I watched the kids from a few feet away. Lacey proceeded to stand on a large rock at the creekside. That’s when Braedon came up behind her, put his hands on her back, and shoved her in the creek. She stood there, waist deep in fetid water, then crawled up and out of the creek. Braedon’s grandmother ran to him, yelling “how would you like to be pushed in the creek? Huh? See if YOU like it.” Then she put him on the rock and shoved HIM in the creek. She pulled him out and yelled, “should I do it again? How do you like it???” Meanwhile I quietly took Lacey to my side and said to anyone who might be listening, “um, we’re just going to go.”

Lacey was drenched, but she wasn’t crying and didn’t seem upset. I asked her how she was and she told me “it’s ok, it was an accident.” Uh, no, it wasn’t, but I didn’t want to argue with a four year old so I bit my tongue.

Later I told my husband about it. His response: “it’s a good thing I wasn’t there.” Uh, really, he’s a FOUR YEAR OLD, what were you going to do? That’s my hubby, all bark and no bite.

In Star’s blogs she always seems to wrap up her stories with a neat life lesson. I’m not the writer she is, but I think what I learned from this experience is that shoving a boy into a creek to teach him not shove anyone in a creek is misguided at best, and last but not least, I’m glad I have girls.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Latch Hooking

Today was the first day of my final week of training for the online TA job. My feedback from the training team was fine . . . a couple easy corrections to apply this week. I’m doing a better job of juggling my odd jobs. I’m back to sleeping and have an edge on the chaos in the house. But I’m not back to cooking. It’s all about picking it up, heating it up, or eating what my husband makes.

My kids are a little bored with my lack of domestic superpowers. I don’t bake. I don’t sew. I don’t garden. I’m not crafty. Daisy and Violet tell me about the cupcakes and cookies other moms make in a challenging tone. I see nothing wrong with Costco cake (despite the way those kids mad-dogged Violet’s birthday cake, they seriously devoured it). I used a sewing machine in 8th grade Home Economics, but never since. The most sewing I ever did was when I made more than 20 pillows by hand as a high school sorority pledge (I had to do it all myself, unlike OTHER pledges whose mothers whipped up the pillows for them . . . Bindy). My domestic focus these days is on household shopping, cleaning, laundry, and keeping things somewhat organized. Everything living outside the house is optional in my mind, so my husband chooses to be the keeper of the plants and yard. I would probably have a xeriscape at this stage if I could. I occasionally do crafty things, but the results often look like the best efforts of a preteen, if that good.

I’m not sure if it’s a genes or environment type of thing but my mom is the same way. Not to say we’re not creative in other ways. My mom can tell a good story. She held her own in macramé in the 70s. She’s had her successful dishes over the years (Chicken Ole anyone?). But like me, she isn’t the kind of mom who makes the holiday dinner or bakes or knits. I found her example to be freeing, as I was free to be creative in other ways. Like when my parents threw a roast for their 50th birthdays . . . I made a photo album out of a combination of family photos and magazine pictures telling their “life stories” that I presented at the party. It got some laughs. The last page was a photo from a perfume ad, featuring two naked models riding away on a horse. I pasted my parents’ heads onto the models. Killed the crowd. This was a few years before my first kid was born, but it’s not the type of thing that would get a glowing report from a kid anyway.

Recently, Violet came back from making brownies from scratch with her best friend Wowo’s mom, Lori. Daisy was there too, but Violet was particularly taken with the experience. Shortly after the girls returned home, Violet earned a time-out for bad behavior. She announced that she wanted a new mom and dad, and SHE KNOWS WHERE LORI’S HOUSE IS. She kept doing an exaggerated tip-toe toward the front door, which gave away her intentions every time (why does she think that works?). The part that stung was that she didn’t even eat the brownies she brought home but talked about making them for days. Guess I should pick up some brownie mix next time I’m at the store.

Daisy looks longingly at the mothers who have sewing machines and know how use them. She asked me recently, “Do you wish you knew how to make quilts?” Um . . . no. To make up for my lack of motivation, I did take her to the craft store. We looked around for project ideas. She seemed interested in those latch-hook rugs. Now that is something I can do. I bought her a candy-colored butterfly latch-hook kit, which I gave her just as her sister finished opening her pile of birthday presents on Sunday. My only latch-hook experience was when I was a little older than Daisy, maybe 7 or 8, and I did a latch hook of a monarch butterfly. I was so tired of orange, black, and white by the end, but I finished the damn thing.

When Daisy first attempted to latch hook, it wasn’t happening. I was rusty when I tried to show her how to do it, and she became immediately frustrated and quit. The second time I showed her, she got it. She was a little slow and awkward but she could do it. She asked me to take a turn and watched as I latch hooked faster and faster. It was totally coming back to me. I glanced at her and caught a look of adoration on her face. She said with awe, “Mom, you’ve been latch hooking all your life!” I never knew words that sounded so wrong could make me so proud. Next time I have to fill out one of those forms that asks about hobbies, latch hooking is definitely going on there.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Party Warm-up

Violet is turning 4 tomorrow. We are expecting 41 people at our "doggie-Spongebob-princess" party at the park (I gave up trying to have one theme a couple years ago). This is the first kid's party that I'm not worried about. I've got this. We are renting a Spongebob bounce house. There are about 5 tables at the site we reserved, which is near a playground. We'll have a table of bubbles and a table of moonsand. We'll throw a few blankets on the grass and set up a couple hopscotch mats. We're serving chips and dips, a stack of pizzas and salads, followed by a princess cake and a Spongebob nonviolent pinata. Most everything is from Costco. We're handing out water blasters from the Dollar Store as a favor, and if it's warm enough, we'll fill buckets with water. After a few hours at the park, we'll invite family to join us for opening presents and adult beverages at our house. Easy.

My kids were in the hot tub when I left for work this morning. Rough life for those two. While I'm working and running errands, and their dad is cleaning, they're relaxing and talking about the party. I asked Daisy if she wanted to get a birthday present for her sister, but she said she already wrote a play about vampires to be performed at the party. The play has been canceled and rescheduled several times, depending on whether the girls are getting along. We'll see.

Fast Food Diaries

I wasn’t going to write about my latest fast food experience because I don’t want to give the impression that I feed my kids junk food all the time. Two, maybe three times a month max. OK, maybe three to four times. But I have to tell you about the last time we went to McDonald’s. It was totally weird. I would even call it post-apocalyptic.

My perception of the McDonald's scene is heavily influenced by The Road, which I’m currently teaching to a class of horrified ninth graders at the learning center on Saturdays. I am assigned curriculum for these classes, so it's not my choosing. It’s a harsh story about a father traveling with his son after life as we know it ends. They must scavenge for food in a violent world of slavery, cannibalism and torture. I think it is a better choice for older students, but the learning center filled my class with 14 year olds.

Anyway, I took my kids to McDonald’s for dinner on Tuesday night. This particular franchise is located near the main entrance to our town, in an area that has always had a noticeable amount of hard drug use. There used to be a few prostitutes too, but I haven’t seen them around in a while. I guess sex couldn’t compete with drugs in the new economy. At least in this area.

So let me tell you about the scene. As we push our way through the heavy glass doors, a man sitting on the sidewalk asks for food or money. I tell him I will think about it.

Just as I start to make our order at the counter, Violet demands to go to the bathroom NOW. I direct Daisy to take her to the bathroom while I finish up . . . by the time I’m paying, the kids are back tugging on my arm . . . saying something about not being able to get in. I walk them back over and realize the bathrooms can only be unlocked remotely by employees. A mom eating with her son near the bathrooms laughs as she watches us walk back and forth.

We return to the bathroom, which is now unlocked. As I take Violet in, I notice several men lining up in front of the door. It’s a women’s bathroom but it’s the only one that’s been unlocked. None of the men are paying customers.

The men seem to really be looking forward to using that bathroom and knock anxiously on the door, even though we aren’t taking very long. As we come out, the guy at the front of the line carefully catches the door before it closes. As soon as the door is securely in his hand, he turns around to the line of unkempt, wild-eyed men and gallantly offers for someone else to go first. Everyone is nodding at each other, and they decide who will go first. They are all skinny white men with hollow cheeks.

As we eat, I can’t stop watching the line of men who aren't quite right, and it seems this is the line to do heroin. One of the guys comes out holding a balled up tissue to his arm, where he likely stuck the needle. I can’t eat the grilled chicken sandwich in front of me. I’m so distracted that I’m not paying attention to Violet, who loses her nuggets to the floor then tries to clean them up without me noticing. I catch her right before she gets one of the floor nuggets into her mouth (when are those survival skills going to kick in?). I realize I’m being watched by the addicts as I walk over to the trash to throw the nuggets away. The workers at the counter graciously replace the nuggets for free, which the men gossip about. One of the men calls us “spoiled.”

More men come into the restaurant, and they all seem to all be part of the homeless druggie club. A few count up the change in their pockets to buy hamburgers, then wolf them down in seconds. I have not only lost my appetite, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to eat at a McDonald’s again. The restaurant smells like urine and body odor. The man who was sitting outside by the door walks through the restaurant, cursing "people who won’t even give him even one measly hamburger." He returns to his station outside.

At one table, there sits a very large woman with light brown skin and greasy, curly black hair. She wears huge sunglasses and carries several bags stuffed with merchandise. A man who could best be described as a crackhead approaches her and asks her about her bag of sunglasses. She says she is selling them for a dollar. She doesn’t eat anything or talk much. She sits regally in a round booth, surrounded by her bags. The crackhead paces nervously by her table while muttering to himself, apparently blown away that her sunglasses are only one dollar. He hits himself on the head when he remembers spending a few dollars on his last pair of sunglasses.

I notice the woman eating with her toddler has the permanently scarred look of someone who has struggled with hard times herself. She leaves her trash on the table. As she walks her son outside, men come from all directions to shuffle through her trash. The three men who get to the table first discuss the leftover food with distaste as they shove it in their mouths, and the others return to their seats with nothing. The leftover food doesn’t seem to please the palates of the scavengers, and they walk away with sour looks on their faces.

I make sure to leave my chicken sandwich on the table. I wonder if the men will find it to be as disgusting as I did. The kids want to take their leftovers home. On our way out, I hand a dollar to the guy sitting out front and he thanks me profusely and says, “Have a good day, girls!” When we get home, I want to forget that I took my kids out to fast food again, but my daughter asks, “How do you spell McDonald’s?” She labels her happy meal bag proudly and pins it to her wall. I’m totally busted.