Confessions From the Edge of Hoardingtown

Are you a hoarder or a purger?

I pride myself on being a purger. I ruthlessly throw things away or donate them because clutter drives me batshit crazy.  I torture my husband over the things he likes to keep.  Like those roller blades I have never once seen him wear.  And the boxes of CDs that are pretty much obsolete.

Last year, when we cleared out our storage pod from the basement renovation, I came clean with my confession that I do have a soft spot for hoarding memorabilia and personal artifacts.  I showed you my Time Capsule of Random Crap.  I thought that was the end of the story and the true limits of my hoarding tendencies.  I remained, in my head, a Purger Extraordinaire in all other aspects of life.

Wellllll.   Maybe notsomuch.

In what can only be described as Early Nesting on Steroids, I recently started a massive room-by-room organizational sweep of my entire house.  In this process, I’ve had no choice but to stare my anti-hoarding policy in the eye and see where I’m failing.

It turns out there are a few other caveats to my purging mentality.  

1)  Dish towels and table linens.  I am as intrigued by this as you are.  What the hell?  Looking at the collection I’ve amassed, one might get the distinct impression that I adore doing dishes.  Or that drying my chaffing, soapy hands on a wide array of colored, festive towels is a big priority for me.  One need only spend half a day with me at home to realize this is not so.  Related — and equally mystifying — is the large array of placemats, tablecloths and cloth napkins I’ve uncovered.  You know, for the dinner parties I host about once a year.  Apparently I like to have options with how my formal table is set.  This is beyond comical for someone who serves 99% of the meals here on Disney character plates to people who think their hands make excellent utensils.

2)  Pantry food.  It seems I may have watched one too many apocalyptic movies and have subconsciously decided that my family can outlive any End of Days scenario in perpetuity — as long as we stay in our renovated basement, complete with a fucking mack daddy pantry.  Pasta.  Condiments.  Snack foods.  They exist in copious amounts — it’s like shopping at a mini Costco {without the free samples}.  If I had a therapist, I would clearly be told this all has something to do with optimizing the newly finished basement that nearly drove me to electric shock therapy.  If you or your family are in need of a cereal bar or some goldfish crackers — or even a spare ketchup, please do stop by anytime.  I’ll load you up — complete with a free commemorative dish towel.

3)  Again, memorabilia of any kind.  As previously discussed, this is where I have a borderline clinical hoarding problem.  I won’t spend more time today rehashing the passed notes in high school, the college ID cards or the concert ticket stubs I’ve saved.  Today, let’s cover a newly emergent problem area in the Nostalgia Junkie category: Kids’ art projects.  And by “art,” you know I mean unrecognizable scraps of yarn and cotton balls peppered with paint and some glitter from pre-school that are supposed to come together as a self-portrait of a two year-old.

So I need to discuss this.  Because I started throwing the art projects away yesterday and I was awash with guilt.  Where to draw the line between childhood memory preservation and Hoarders: The Next Generation?  

First, I decided to make some guidelines.  I would not save everything, damn it.  I would only hold onto projects with a handprint or other personalized details {versus the generic Happy Flag Day banner, for instance}.  The rest would go.  Because I’m a purger.

Well, that narrowed my stash down to about 6,000 pieces.  Because I underestimated how much pre-schools use a child’s handprints in their projects. It’s hard to be exact, but the unit of measurement is the shit-ton.

Having made little progress, I began to consider renting out a separate studio apartment to house the kids’ art.

At that point, I should have turned to Pinterest to learn how to turn all of this construction paper madness into a stand-alone Earth-friendly storage system or exquisite door mural.  Instead, I went to Facebook with my problem — where real people hang out — and with my plea not to call in a TLC reality show crew.

I got some great suggestions.  First, I was told to take photos of all the projects and collate them into a lovely commemorative photo book.  I’ve heard this suggestion before and it sounds perfect.  Unless you’re me — the slacker who is still trying to get her 2011 vacation photos into some form of keepsake.  Another Facebook friend jokingly suggested a massive collage — which, in my case, would equate to wallpaper throughout my house, and possibly seeping into my car and neighbor’s garage.  That seemed labor-intensive.

So here’s where I’m at:  The purger in me needs to take over and just start tossing most of it away.  If caught by my kids, I plan to blame Jingle, our Elf on the Shelf.  That little pain in the ass needs to take accountability for something around here.

And this is where you guys come in.  I need two things from you.

  • Do not suggest any “creative and fun ways” to store this stuff.  Listen, I know some of you are crafters.  I respect that.  But I’m not.  I don’t own a glue gun and I don’t have the crafting gene — it’s totally missing from my DNA.  So, please, resist any urge you have to guide me into a life of crafting.  That would make you a hoarding enabler.  And you don’t want that on your conscious, do you?
  • What I really want is this:  Collective, moral, parent-to-parent permission to throw this stuff away.  Not all of it. But, yes, a lot.  I hope you guys will be here for me in my hour of need.  Tell me you threw it away.  Tell me I’m not leaving the precious memories of my kids’ childhoods out in a garbage dump to languish.

I know I said I needed two things from you but I lied.  I need three.

  • Tell me what illogical things you hold on to.  Unless it’s finger nails or cat hair in a jar.  I can’t handle that and I might have to call the local authorities on you.  But if you have a little hoarding secret that’s not pathological, spill it here.  Please.

Because, after a good look at my tendencies, here’s what I think:  I’m still willing to call myself a purger.  Damn right I am.  If I see something and it’s clutter on a surface within my house, it stands no chance.  It’s out the door before you can say “intensive therapy.”  But clearly I should re-examine what I box up and keep in the guest bedroom closet.

Or, ignore it and live by a very wise saying:  Out of sight, out of mind.

{Not to be confused with, “If you know someone with a hoarding problem, please call TLC.”}

_______________

On a separate note, did you see my post over on Scary Mommy last week?  No?!  Please check it out.  Bring your passport, credit card and a diaper bag — I’ll explain when you get there.

 

 

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Lessons From the Pumpkin Spice Latte Shortage

 

You guys.  It’s safe to go outside again.

The Great Pumpkin Spice Latte Shortage of 2012 has ended.  Apparently at some point last week, Starbucks declared the “pumpkin emergency” to be over and PSL was once again in plentiful supply.  Soccer Mom riots nationwide were narrowly averted.

It’s all going to be OK.  No Lululemons were torn in the fracas.

Personally, I was not one of the victimized masses of this near-tragedy.  Mostly because — sssshhhh — I don’t really get the whole PSL rage.  You can have my ration — I just want my high-maintenance grande, skim, no foam latte.  And probably a cake pop.  OK, two.

More broadly, I’m not an advocate of the Let’s Flavor All Possible Fall Food & Drink Items With Pumpkin rage, which seems to grow more extreme every year.  Growing up, I remember pumpkin pie and, well, that’s it.  Now, you can’t get away from gourd-infused recipes.  Pumpkin cream cheese.  Pumpkin ice cream.  Pumpkin-stuffed-pumpkin with a side of pumpkin sauce.  You want to stroke out?  Enter “pumpkin recipes” on the search bar of Pinterest.  It’s like another universe to me.  But this is a rant for another day.

Because I want to get back to PSL-Gate.  During the acknowledged shortage, there were customer tweets of rage, as well as national news coverage and official PR responses from Starbucks.  Oh, and eBay sales of alleged PSL mix.  Yes, really.

Had this not been resolved quickly, I fear we were mere days away from a rogue high school chemistry teacher going all Breaking Bad and cooking his own PSL for illicit distribution. {Not a bad business model, incidentally.  Maybe getting ahead of the curve and setting up your own Peppermint Latte Mix cooking crew now could pad your pockets with some extra holiday cash, in the event of a similar shortage.  Get your hands on a stash of those red seasonal Starbucks cups and, guys, you are in serious business.  You are the Walter White of overpriced holiday coffees.}

Anyway, it was close call, indeed.

If you or someone you love was affected by this issue, I hope you came through it OK with a satisfactory back-up beverage.  But now that things are settling down, I’d like to reflect on how an event like this could genuinely fuck up some real holiday season delights.

Imagine, if you will, a shortage of these must-have items:

  • Tryptophan.  Sweet Jesus, it’s bad enough that Thanksgiving falls a mere two weeks after the election — at which point I will be breaking bread with many a family member on the opposite end of the political spectrum.  If I can’t count on a post-turkey fit of narcolepsy, I will have to rely solely on liquor to get me through the day.  Again.
  • Egg nog.  This one may stir up debate — egg nog is divisive, no doubt.  Personally, I’m firmly in the pro-nog camp.  This may take the starring role of all the holiday food and drink items in which I vastly overindulge in the name of “It’s only once a year.”**  So while it’s true that an egg nog shortage could potentially bank me about 16,000 calories to use elsewhere, it would be missed.  And then I’d have an unwieldy rum and nutmeg surplus.

                      **where “once a year” = two full calendar months, on a daily basis

  • Any and all items in the Trader Joe’s holiday candy line-up.  What else will I eat while I stress out about the following night’s Elf on the Shelf placement?  Oh yes, I’m looking at you, Peppermint Waffle Cookies and Candy Cane Joe-Joe’s.  Wait for me in  aisle 4, loves.

These are the shortages that would really cause some medium to long-term damage for me.  And, yes — clearly, all holiday spirits, specialty drinks and wine fall into this category.  I figured that went without saying but you can’t be too careful.

I’m feeling a little panicky now, I have to admit.  If this could happen to PSL, what else is possible?  I mean, we’ve already been warned about a likely worldwide bacon shortage in 2013.

What next?

Stock up on your favorites, I say.  I mean, we don’t have to go all Hoarders in the grocery/liquor stores.  Use common sense.  Make a reasonable effort to look like you have some self-control and discretion.  Even if you’re screaming on the inside.  Stay calm and slowly, selectively, fill up your cart.

Let’s learn from this tragedy and take back some control over our favorite holiday treats.  Before it’s too late.

Now get going.

 

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You Can Take the People Out of New York…

 

Back in The Dark Ages, when we old folks got our information and jokes via email — and not through social networking sites that the Brothers Winklevii were litigating over — there were a couple of old standbys that continued to circulate over our lightning-fast dial-up connections.

There were the alarmist urban myths {like the tales of kidney harvesting rings}.  The dubious computer virus warnings.  And of course, the Richard Gere gerbil tale.

And then there were the jokes.  For some reason, I remember seeing many variations of the old “You Know You’re From {Fill in Your State/City/Region Here} When…”

I received the New York City and New Jersey versions many, many times.  We can cover NJ another day, because it probably does warrant a closer look.  As for New York, these were always a few of my favorites.

You know you’re a New Yorker when:

  • You think Central Park is nature.
  • You haven’t heard the sound of true absolute silence since the 80s, and when you did, it terrified you.
  • You pay more each month to park your car than most people in the U.S. pay in rent.
  • You consider eye contact an act of overt aggression.

These are all true.  Please don’t ask me what I paid to rent a monthly parking space because I don’t like to weep on my keyboard.  And as for eye contact, I am still getting used to it in the suburbs.  You can imagine the cold sweat I broke into when several families on our block welcomed us here with baked goods and the bounty from their gardens.  In person.  At our front door.  Unannounced.

I had 911 on speed dial.  But, it turns out, they are all lovely non-felons who were just being super-nice and not looking to kill me.  Who knew?

But back to the New York list, because I actually do have a point.

This is the item on the list that always got me.  Because I don’t think it could be any more specific and accurate:

You know you’re a New Yorker when you can get into a four-hour argument about how to get from Columbus Circle to Battery Park at 3:30 on the Friday before a long weekend, but can’t find Wisconsin on a map.

{No offense to the fine people of Wisconsin.}

With that last tidbit in mind, let me tell you about what happens when you put five former New Yorkers, all of whom are now suburbanites, around a dinner table to discuss the new school year just before it begins…

It all started with the normal chit-chat about whose kids were going to which schools and in which grades this year.  I casually mentioned that I wondered how I was going to accomplish two drop-offs at two different schools within a ten-minute space. I think I said something about trial and error and then looked for my wine refill.

But it was too late.  The collective wheels at the table were spinning.  The Recessive Manhattanite Gene had been activated.

Slowly but surely.

“You have to go to the pre-school first.  BUT you have to be first — absolutely first — on the car drop-off line.  That means getting there at least ten minutes early.  Otherwise, you are hosed because you’ll be stuck there for 20 minutes. So, be first to drop off there and then do the kindergarten drop-off.  Oh, but don’t get there more than ten minutes early because they will turn you away and you’ll have to circle the block — and then you”ll lose your spot by the time you get back.”

Hm.  All good points.  Except for the part where I have to be precisely ten minutes early.  And first on line.  File under:  Two things that never happen and, if were to occur simultaneously, may cause the universe to implode.

Where is the waiter with the wine?

But then, a counterpoint across the table.

“No, no.  I don’t think that’s the way to go.  Do you know how bad the traffic is in the center of town at 12:30?  No.  You have to do the kindergarten drop-off first — get there early — and then head over to the pre-school.”

There’s that “get there early” crap again.

“OK, maybe.  But only  if you take the back roads and avoid the major choke points in town.  It will take longer, so just leave earlier.”

Oh my God.  According to my mental calculations, I think I’m now leaving at 7am for afternoon kindergarten and pre-school.

I seriously don’t understand how the waiter doesn’t see the mental bubble over my head that is verbally assaulting him for forgetting the wine.

“And remember that, for the kindergarten drop-off, it’s really hard to park there.  You might have to circle for a spot.”

For the first and last time in my life, the thought of home schooling fleeted through my mind.  Yes, yes, I can just keep them at home and school them myself.  Oh, there’s the waiter!  Where the hell has this guy been?

“Wait, wait, don’t forget that the high school lets the kids out for lunch around that time.  They’re everywhere.  They will screw up everything.”

After some wine intake and deliberation — which included the thought of moving to Europe, where all the kids ride their bikes to school beginning at age two — I thanked my friends for their well-informed and logical approaches.  I promised to take their suggestions under advisement and try it both ways.

And then, I added, ever so casually, “Oh — I almost forgot — after the school drop-offs,  I have to be at my work out class by 12:45.”

“Not the one — “

“Yes, on the other side of town.  12:45 sharp.  With time to park.”

The waiter sees the glances around the table and handles the refills proactively.

Utter silence for a moment at the table.  It was like I just hit them with Operation Shock & Awe.

This was followed by a range of emotions.

 

There was anger.

“NOOOOO.”

 

And disbelief.

“WHAT??!!!”

“OH SWEET JESUS.  IT CAN’T BE DONE!  IT JUST CAN’T.”

 

And defeat.

“FORGET IT, WOMAN.”

“I JUST DON’T KNOW HOW TO HELP YOU.”

 

And so we went back to discussing other things.  Like the wine and the food.  And how empty the restaurant was for 10pm.  And how we have gotten used to living in the suburbs now — but some traits of being city dwellers will not go quietly.

As for my school drop-off clusterfuck?  They were right.  All of them.  It’s pretty much impossible.

Mostly because I have yet to be early for any part of it.

 

 

 

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Kindergarten Parental Failure

They’re baaaaaack!  Back in school, that is.

My daughter started pre-school and my son is the Big Man on Campus — aka off to Kindergarten.

It all went swimmingly.

Well, that’s not entirely true.  It went mostly OK, which is the bar I have set when it comes to transitions in this family.

Mostly OK =  the new swimmingly.

It’s not that my kids had any separation drama or emotional meltdowns.  Nothing like that.  It was more like total indifference.

I was basically doing cartwheels to drum up enthusiasm.  This was met with cynicism {I guess because I’m not the cartwheel type} and a tepid, if not incredulous, response.

**

Me:  Are you ready for your new pre-school?!!? It’s going to be great!!

Daughter (3):  Meh.  What do they have for snack time?  Because I don’t want pretzels.

**

Me:  And you — Kindergarten!!  That’s for big kids!!  So, so exciting, right?

Son (5):  Uh, which thermos can I bring?

**

Why this indifference?  Maybe because they’ve grown up so much in the last year.  Have a look for yourselves {last year’s photos on the left}.

 

 

 

The difference is so noticeable to me.  Even beyond the explosion of my daughter’s hair, which sprung into Nick-Nolte-mugshot-psychosis-mode while on our March trip to Florida, and never went back.  I fully expect this phenomenon to appear in a medical journal one day.

 

But here they were, too cool for school.  Not impressed.  At ages three and five.

 

While I have asked my kids to ham it up in blog photos to illustrate a point now and then, I swear these are genuine smirky moments.  It’s clear that someone in my family must be making this face frequently.  Someone central in the life and upbringing of my children.  Where oh where could this have come from?  Why, I have no earthly idea.  I’m the one doing cartwheels around here.

Speaking of cartwheels, maybe — instead of picking up my scowl — they took McKayla Maroney’s silver medal letdown very seriously.  I mean, we did watch a lot of Olympic coverage.

 

But all of this academic blasé aside, I do have one major concern about what is expected of me as a Kindergarten parent.  Not the PTA stuff or the class parties, or even the creative ways to make my son’s snack appear wholesome.

It has to do with a wooden apple that was given to my son on his first day.  It’s very cute and has his name on it. How sweet, I thought.

Until I read the note that accompanied it.

 

I’m sorry.  What?

You want me to keep this wooden apple in a place that I’ll remember?  UNTIL 2025?

COME. ON.

Is this a joke?

Those who took their math homework as seriously as I did will also realize that 2025 is 13 years from now.  Do the fine educators of my town understand, in the course of a single day, how many times I lose my car keys?  Or my mind?  And I value those things a lot.

And, if I think this through, this assignment also means that everyone in town — year after year — somehow produces this magic wooden Kindergarten apple in time for high school graduation.  That’s a lot of fucking peer pressure.  I mean, I can’t be the mom whose kid doesn’t have his apple.  That mom.  

I’m so going to be that mom.  You know how I know?

Because I’m trying to remember what I still have in my possession from 13 years ago.  Given that it was 1999, maybe a floppy disk about how to restore your data after the inevitable and apocalyptic Y2K meltdown.  Or perhaps a Backstreet Boys CD.  That’s about it.

I do know that, about four months ago, I finally found the keys to my apartment in Manhattan that cost me my security deposit back in 2002.

And I know that “Have you seen…” is a daily Top 5 phrase in my house.

So, as much as I truly love a sentimental artifact — especially if it relates to my kids — I just know that the odds are dramatically against me rolling into that 2025 high school graduation with the apple in hand.

Hence, Kindergarten is not off to a great start.  It’s stressing me the hell out.

But things will get better.  Once I get a safety deposit box for the apple.  And then another one for the key.  And one more for the note to remind me where the apple and key are located.

If I can find my car keys to drive over and retrieve it in time for graduation.

 

 

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Sunscream

 

So, the unofficial kick-off to summer is nearly here.  And while that’s exciting in many ways, I have to tell you that there are some things I hate about this time of year.

Mostly, the sun.

See, there are people who need sunscreen (everyone, in theory) and then there are people who NEED SUNSCREEN.  Like me.  I can burn under a 50-watt bulb. I can burn while going out to get the mail.  I can, despite my very best efforts, suffer at least one burn per year that causes the general public to wince and point in sympathetic pain, while considering calling an ambulance.

It’s like trying to outrun and outsmart a very powerful enemy, all summer long.

This has been going on my whole life.  Remember how much you loved Field Day as a kid?  Not me.  I burned every year.  Class trips?  Fried.  Beach outings?  Forget it.  And then there was the time in seventh grade when my family went spring skiing at a very high altitude.  My face suffered second degree burns that were not only incredibly painful, but also required my use of a burglar-style ski mask for the remainder of the vacation.  It made for a great family photo, as well as preparation for any potential life of crime I was considering.

The sun hurts.

It wasn’t that we didn’t use sunscreen when I was a kid, but the truth is that nobody was nearly as diligent as they should have been back then.  {Omg, I’m saying “back then.”  This is what happens when one turns 40.}  And, at that time, pure white zinc oxide was probably the only reliable consumer product available that would have helped me.  That wasn’t really a look I was going for in junior high.

As I got older and suffered more and more burns, I got smarter about my approach.  Kind of like the mouse in a science experiment who gets an electric shock every time he eats the cheese in the maze.  Yet, despite my best efforts over the years, I’ve missed spots in the sunscreen application process.  I’ve burned the backs of my knees, my scalp, my ear lobes, the tops of my pinky toes and my armpit.  I’ve had bizarrely random handprints formed on my stomach from where my sunscreen application began and ended.

Stupid sun.

So about ten years ago, all of this caught up with me and I had a brief fling with melanoma.  I was lucky that it was easily treated.  But, lest I forget that entire experience, I am forced to endure some resulting humiliation twice a year.  I have to see my dermatologist, obviously, to make sure I have no new/bigger/threatening moles.  And do you know how that’s done the super-thorough way?  No?  Let me share.

Shortly after my melanoma episode, my visit to the dermatologist went like this:

Him: “You know, the only effective way to keep a diligent watch on your skin is to have slides done.”

Me:  ”Slides?  What do you mean, slides?”

Him:  ”You know, we’ll send you to a  medical photographer and he’ll do a series of photographs to capture everything currently on your skin.  That way, I have a ‘before’ comparison to look at every time you come in.”

Me:  ”By ‘series of photographs,’ how detailed are we talking?”

Him:  ”Every inch of your naked body.  But they are all super-close-up, so nothing could identify you.  It’s not like a centerfold.”

Me:  ”Is he a doctor?”

Him:  ”No, he’s a medical photographer.”

Me:  ”Oh.”

Him:  ”You really need to do this.”

Me:  ”Oh.” {cue smelling salts}

Goddamned sun.

So off I went to some random penthouse (no pun intended) in Manhattan to see this medical photographer.  It didn’t help that this guy gave me  a business card that appeared to be run off of old ditto paper on his home printer.

My husband came with me — because this whole thing was feeling very Law & Order Special Victims Unit.  Or at least like a bad bad ABC After School Special.  Thank God he did — not because I was physically put in harm’s way, but because I have a lifelong witness to verify the extent of humiliation and psychological scarring involved in medical photography.

How bad could it be?  Well, let’s see.  I’d characterize it as far fucking worse than I ever imagined.

  • Bright, industrial-grade photography lights, EVERYWHERE.
  • Me on a pedestal.
  • Naked.
  • Some stranger — who IS NOT A DOCTOR {and looks eerily like the bartender from that great place on the Lower East Side} — with a camera, who I was quickly beginning to suspect was hired off of Craig’s List, snapping away.

“Can you turn so we can get the inner thigh please?”

Ohmygod.

Ohmygod.

Kill me.

Please.

I looked across the room at my husband and his jaw was more than slightly hanging open in shock.  Probably not what he had in mind when we did that whole “for better or for worse” thing.

The sun sucks.

So now, every trip to the dermatologist entails my slides being projected across the room {life size, naturally} while every inch of my naked body is compared to these “before” photos.

Fucking sun.

As luck would have it, my kids are just as fair-skinned.  Talk about hitting the DNA shit list.  So suffice it to say I’m a freak freak freak freak about sunscreen for them (and for me).  Basically, if they are going outside in the sun, or looking at it through the window screens, there’s going to be copious sunscreen.

You can imagine how much they love this.  But they know it’s a deal-breaker to play outside without “sunscream,” as they put it.

And I, therefore, spend my time from Memorial Day to Labor Day (actually from about April to November) basically chasing two greased pigs in an endless cycle of applying and re-applying sunscreen.  All in an effort to avoid public wincing, red hot burns in strange places and a future photography session with a shady guy who has zero medical background.

I hate the sun.

If you’re a leisurely tanner — well, enjoy your long holiday weekend in the sun.  In our house, we’ll be stocking up on wet suits and putting our names on a list for a melanin transplant.

Happy summer, all.

 

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Time Capsule

You may recall that, a few weeks ago, I mentioned our storage pod delivery.  The one we had packed away in late 2010 in order to empty out our basement and vie for the world record in Home Renovation Delays.  I’m still waiting on the official ruling from the Guinness Book people.  I know it’s going to be close.

And when I casually mentioned this pod, I failed to confess something important.  So I’m here to do that today.

Here’s the thing.

I assumed that my husband, to whom I jokingly refer as a hoarder on a regular basis, had stuffed the pod full of his stupid crap random possessions.

Notsomuch.  It was kind of a bunch of my stupid crap.

You see, it seems I have what P calls “a nostalgia problem.”

Yeah.  I think I’m a Memento Hoarder.  A Sentimentality Archivist.  A Memorabilia Historian.

I. Kept. A. Lot. Of. Crap.

This is probably about 30% of it.

Because I’m on the verge of a very big birthday  (it’s true, I’m turning 21 — again), what better time for a little trip down Memory Lane?  One where I mock myself publicly.  You can see just what I’ve been sorting through for the past few weeks.  Which is mainly my life in photos, greeting cards and old concert tickets.  And really bad hair.

I bet you didn’t wake up knowing today was your lucky day.

So my high school yearbook was located in Hoarderpalooza.  Now, I’m not quite self-punishing or drunk enough to show you my official high school yearbook photo, but I did find this one of myself.

How about that French braid and the boxy, oversized sweater?  And how about the clear academic rigor, concentration and focus on my face?  But the real value of this photo is capturing the guy behind me in a moment when he is clearly contemplating killing off all the annoying chatty girls with bad French braids and boxy, oversized sweaters.  This is practically forensic evidence.

And I found a bunch of notes from one of my oldest friends — someone I’m still close with today.

Oh the punk rock rebels in the suburbs!  How cool we thought we were.  This, coming from a girl in a French braid.

Good news, though: I did not fall prey to the weird guy in the yearbook photo and I made it to college.

Do you see me? I’m the one drinking a beer.

I mean, it’s obvious why nobody wants to graduate and go into the real world.  Why would we ever want to leave this behind?  This entire scene seems so foreign now, although perhaps it’s not terribly dissimilar to the pre-school lottery.  Or maybe even playgroup, on a good day.

And then I found this.  I’m too afraid to open it.

Lest you think I might have been bored in high school and college, fear not — I made a career out of attending concerts at that time. And, for reasons that remain unclear, I felt compelled to save some of these tickets.  Probably so I could pin them all up on my dorm room wall.  Or find them in a box decades later and blog about them.  See — my plan fell right into place.

If you don’t know about my U2 addiction, I’ll let the ticket stubs speak for themselves.  When I say these are just the tip of the iceberg, take my word for it.  If I showed all of them to you, I’m pretty sure I would be issued a restraining order.

Now, attending these concerts meant tailgating.  Which required a suitable automobile for these purposes.  Good thing for everyone that I was driving this beauty, which comfortably seats approximately 18 college students.

Oh yes.  The 1986 Monte Carlo.  Where you could almost be in two states at once.

{It was New Jersey in the 1990s, people.  What did you expect?}

Don’t worry, though.  Life was not all concerts and parties.  I did have some significant literary aspirations along the way.

Like this.  I thought this was the funniest thing I’d ever read when I was in middle school.

{And really, if you remember Sniglets, I’ll love you forever.  Triple bonus points if you can name the show where they originated.  Come on — don’t leave me hanging out here loving Sniglets all by myself!  Anyone?  Bueller?}

But then I got all self-important in college for a few minutes and decided I would change the world.  Unfortunately, Sniglets weren’t going to get the job done.  So I started reading stuff like this.

FYI, not recommended for beach reading.  Highly recommended for insomnia. {Who would save this book?!}

And let’s wrap this up with some antiquing.  Behold the evidence of my old age.

I believe this what they called film.  For a Kodak Disc Camera.  Remember those?  I want to just go and drop this off at the local Walgreens with a straight face, and ask the 17 year-old behind the counter when my photos will be ready.

And this was called a record.  Or, a 45.  It required a little machine that spins this circle-like object around and around, while putting a funny little needle on the surface to play music.  And if you turn it over?  There’s another song!  One that is often very good but has far less sales potential.  It’s called a B-Side.  Say it with me.

 

Guess what?  There were bigger versions of those bizarro vinyl circles that contained multiple songs.  Sometimes you will see them for sale on iTunes. They were called albums.  Here is a sampling of my favorite childhood albums — just before I discovered Led Zeppelin IV and my hair went sky high.

So there you have it.  A {very} small yet mortifying display of the random crap I kept in boxes over the years.  And, a written admission that I surpassed my husband’s hoarding tendencies in this particular instance.  Yes, I am making it hard for any of you to believe that, in my adult life, I am actually a ruthless purger.  An anti-hoarder, if you will.  It’s true, despite my obvious weak spot for memorabilia and personal artifacts from my past.

And this was before I had kids.  Maybe I’ll get a new pod for their mementos.

 

 

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Who Invited Sparky?

Earlier this week, I shared this photo on my Facebook page.

 

Sparky the pre-school class mascot is a stuffed elephant.  I was hopeful we could dodge him for the rest of the school year.  But alas.  My son walked out of school the other day, grinning widely and carrying Sparky.

My grin was not so wide.

First of all, I’m not a big fan of the “look who’s coming to spend time at your house, even though you didn’t invite him” angle.  Maybe it’s all that time I spent living in New York City — I’m not particularly hospitable when taken by surprise.  Unless you’re Ed McMahon with one of those big checks.

Also, if you don’t already know this about me, I’ll say it again:  I should sit on Purell’s Board of Directors.  I’m, shall we say, highly cognizant of germs.  Not at the level where I need my own special on TLC.  But enough to make me cringe at the sight of Sparky and know exactly where he would be spending the first two hours of his “family time” in Fordeville.

 

The need to introduce the washing machine to Sparky became even more urgent when my son said ”Sparky really wants to sit at the table and eat with us.”

{Audible blinking.}

And, “I can’t wait for Sparky to sleep in my bed with me.”

{OMG, internal screaming.}

I immediately moved the laundry dial from Normal Cycle to Two Hour Heavy Duty Sanitize.

{Note to self: When I bought a new washing machine, why didn’t I get one with a Hazmat setting?  Wait, can you imagine if I was still on my six months of laundry deprivation?  I can’t even think about it.  Hands over ears. Lalalalala.}

So.  We had 48 hours with Sparky.  I immediately promoted the idea of Sparky camping outside.  After all, it was unseasonably warm and he would be much more comfortable sitting outside with a bowl of peanuts, wouldn’t he?

This idea fell flat.

He was already lovingly tucked under my son’s arm.  I had to just roll with it.

Fine, pre-school teachers.

Fine, Sparky.

You win.  You want family time with us?  You got it.

First, Sparky, the  kids have invited you to sit and watch them sing the theme song to Jake and the Never Land Pirates on an endless loop.  Because you are fresh blood and a new audience.  Have fun — those big ears of yours will start to melt off your head soon.  They’ll go for about 40 minutes without taking a breath in between verses, FYI.

 

Then, you will be inducted as the newest member of the Fordeville Pirate League, complete with hat (nice fit over your ears) and hook.

Your mission?  Help my son find the lost treasure on the map.  He’s counting on you.

 

After your pirate activities are complete, I think I’ll take you back down to the washing machine.  Just because the sight of you all over my kids and furniture is shaking to me to my very core, and I have practically Purelled my hands raw.  Hm, I wonder how you’ll handle the Super High Power Dry setting that seems to be reserved for unnaturally resilient fabrics.  Only one way to find out, right pal?

 

It’s been a long afternoon, hasn’t it, Sparky?  I, for one, am feeling all sorts of traumatized.  And since you’re relatively clean now and we’re enjoying some family time together, maybe you can make yourself useful and grab me a bottle of Pinot out of the wine fridge.

 

God, I hate when a house guest comes over and then drinks way too much.  It’s so uncomfortable for everyone involved.  Unfriggingbelievable.

You sort of suck, Sparky.  How am I going to explain this to my kids?  I would think that by now, with all of your “I’m inviting myself over for two days,” you’d know how to conduct yourself.  Maybe that third run in the spin cycle was just too much for you.

 

——–

Finally, our 48 hours were up and it came time to return Sparky to school, along with our journal page documenting how he spent his time with our family.  In an act of mercy, I decided to save his ass so he could retain his Class Mascot title.  So I handed in an appropriate write-up for my son that went something like this:

“I was so happy to have Sparky come and visit my family!  He slept in the bed with me, had his own special visitor seat at our table and played Pirate Treasure Hunt with me!  He even wore his own pirate hat!  I hope that Sparky can come back again to visit us soon.”

But I kept a copy of the real version, for blackmail purposes:

“My mom says that Sparky could really stand to learn a few things about manners.  She’s not really sure why he invited himself over and was pretty upset to see that he hadn’t bathed before his arrival.  Mommy mumbled something about a public health hazard and told me it would be fun to take Sparky for a few rides inside our shiny new washer and dryer.  He even got to test out the highest settings that we never, ever thought we’d have to use!  He played pirates with me and slept in my bed — at least until my mom pried him out from under my arm while I was in a deep REM sleep.  The second night, Sparky helped Mommy get some of her special juice out of the fridge and then he got really sleepy on the basement floor for a long time.  He still looked very tired this morning and complained of a headache.  I hope he feels better soon.  Also, my mom wants to know why the class mascot isn’t a book.”

Yeah, you’re welcome, Sparky.  Don’t let the door hit you in the ass on your way out.

 

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Twitching in 2012

Happy 2012, everyone!

Personally, I’m very happy to be in an even-numbered year again.  It’s just one of those things — odd numbers make me uneasy.  And prime numbers downright scare me {I’m looking at you, 2011}.  So, welcome, you beautifully even and divisible-by-much 2012.

And yet, I have been a little twitchy since we rang in the new year.  More than a little perhaps.  And I attribute this to two primary causes.

 

Twitchy Cause #1:  My blog was hacked on New Year’s Day.

Nothing really says Happy New Year like being locked out of your own site.  At first, I thought it was some kind of bizarro, Y2K-ish fluke.  I would go to log into my blog and it didn’t recognize my info.  Username.  Password.  Email address.  Nothing.

Did you ever have one of those moments — in school or at your job — when you typed up a long piece of work and then lost it before it was saved?  That internal {or external} scream.  I  kind of felt like that.  Times four million.

Ever the vigilante, I took matters into my own hands.  I turned to Facebook and offered Fordeville Blog Hacker Amnesty, which proved strangely unsuccessful.  I thought social media was a powerful tool, but now I’m not so sure.

So, I turned to professionals.  No, not those professionals.  Geeks before thugs, my friends — even in New Jersey.  I called my web hosting company and tried to muffle my sobs of despair.  And they were total rock stars.  They detected some malicious files placed on my site.  Files that, when I googled them, had all kinds of horrific tales from affected bloggers calling this malicious code “pure evil” and “a nightmare to eradicate.”  Great.  I had visions of my site redirecting to penile implant and bulk prescription drug sale ads.  Or worse — Lady Antebellum or Katy Perry fan pages.

I was twitching.  Who had control of my site?  Was it a Russian gang?  A nerdy teenager in his parents’ basement set up like NASA?  Or a mean-spirited blogger who really wanted my espresso martini recipe?  There was no way to know.

But the folks at Liquid Web fixed the problem, and all is back to normal now.  At least it seems.  Unless you are seeing a big photo of Lady Antebellum right now.  Or their music is playing upon entering my site — with no mute button.  If so, please alert me immediately and I’ll get you the far less offensive penile implant ad instead.

 

Twitchy Cause #2:  The Keurig arrived.

As requested, I got my new Keurig.  Wow.  It’s magnificently easy. Too easy, methinks.  Because, people, I’ve averaged about six cups a day since this device entered my home.  From the Desk of Captain Obvious:  This may be the real reason I’ve been twitching.

Also, I think I’m boring a hole through my stomach lining, one k-cup at a time.  In my unprofessional medical opinion, this ulceration can be alleviated by drinking frothed milk.  Right?  Good.  Because my mother, fearing the societal consequences of my Starbucks withdrawal, bought me the companion Keurig Milk Frother to enable my latte addiction in the comfort of my own home.  Which is pretty amazing.  Now I can be all skim-latte-but-no-foam-high-maintenance without getting dirty looks in public.  You rock, Mom.

And look what arrived today.  These should get me through the rest of the week.

I will say one negative thing about the Keurig, though.  In what I’d call a shortcoming of epic proportions, this thing doesn’t make very hot coffee. Really.  I mean, it’s hot.  Ish.  But once you add milk, it goes to lukewarm in an instant.  If I were manufacturing a coffee machine, one of the first things I might check is the temperature of the coffee.  But that’s just me, I guess — high maintenance and all.  Nothing a microwave can’t fix, but seems silly.

But don’t listen to me.  My brain is on caffeine overload and online criminal chasing highs.  I’m off to a twitchy start in 2012.

And I think wine seems like the logical antidote.

 

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Listen Up, Santa

Dear Santa,

Unless you have finally started to suffer that inevitable hearing loss after years of screaming kids on your lap, you’ve undoubtedly heard my kids’ Christmas requests.  In fact, I’m pretty sure everyone in a 25-mile radius has heard them cite, at the ready, what they would like you to bring down the chimney for them in t-minus 17 days.  Correct me if I’m wrong, Santa, but that’s really soon and, presumably, you have your house in order.  Right?  I hope so, because I sure as hell don’t.

Anyway.  Enough about the kids.  Can we move on to me for a second?  Because it has been a long year and I’ve been a good girl.  Mostly. Well, relatively.  Whatever.  The point is that I’d like to make sure I don’t get overlooked in this whole down-the-chimney endeavor.  Alternatively, I can leave the front door wide open if it’s easier, because the last thing I need is to be sued for your injuries on my property.  As you may know, I am already up to my scalp in an endless renovation that is sucking the life out of me.

Back to my list.  It’s short.

No, I don’t want expensive clothes or that ribbon-wrapped Lexus.  And please, whatever you do, don’t go to Jared.

Since you can’t deliver my youth or four extra hours of sleep every night to me, I would like this:

Yes, Santa.  Bring me a Keurig coffee machine.  Check your damn list twice — or more, if you have to — and get me some K-Cup action {this sounds dirtier than I intended}.

What’s that?  You’re confused by my request?  Yes, I know — I am a Starbucks junky/loyalist/quasi-shareholder.  And I don’t take my FourSquare mayorship over there lightly, as it took 108 visits (also known as approximately $378) to reach this notable achievement.  Without my leadership over there, who will make sure that the line forms to the right?  Who will see to it that the Crazy Super Fit Moms don’t suffer a fat overdose and, by extension, a nervous breakdown by erroneously being served — gasp — whole milk in their drinks?

But, as much as I enjoy my daily stops at Starbucks, it’s not always convenient.  Or easy.  Or cheap (see figure above).  So I’ve been considering the alternatives.  First, there was the obvious intravenous drip of espresso solution.  And, although highly appealing, I guess it would appear unseemly at my weekly playgroup.  Another option would be to give up caffeine entirely.  But that won’t work either, since there is not a local methadone clinic where I can detox before picking up the kids from pre-school.  One of the many drawbacks of suburbia.

Plus, I hear I can now purchase Starbucks blends in K-Cup sizes, so I don’t lose my entire Starbucks buzz experience if I convert to the Keurig.  I know, it’s not the same as a latte, but I’ll bet that, for a premium, I’ll soon be able to purchase an upgrade to the Keurig model that comes with its own barista.  And that’s really the win there, Santa.  In fact, I bet Keurig has that in the works to coincide with their Mother’s Day marketing plan.

So.  I want the Keurig for Christmas.  Please.  I think my reasons are clear and compelling.

Is that all?  Well, since you’re asking, there are a few other things:

–A case of wine.  Or five.  Ask my husband which kind I like best, since he is in charge of tracking my fickle taste.

–A new General Contractor.  Oh hell, skip that and just give me a shiny new basement, like the one that was supposed to be finished in late September.

–Oh, and a lifetime supply of Purel.  Since my two year-old is about to start potty training — and I so love a public restroom.

All of that would be great.  But, to be clear, the coffee is the priority.

Please don’t let me down.  I promise to leave your Italian hero sandwich in its usual place on Christmas Eve -- I hope you enjoy it.  It’s so funny, my dad has always liked those too…

Thanks in advance, big guy.  See you soon and good luck with the last-minute prep.

* * *

{This post was part of Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop.  The prompt was “An Open Letter to Santa.”}

Mama’s Losin’ It

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