Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Princess and the Pumpkin Seed

Sleeping is complicated.

The strategy involved to ensure a good night's rest is, as I become older, more and more complicated and, to be honest, rarely ensures success.

I know I no longer achieve the deep, saturated sleep of my youth based on the fact that not only do I hear the clock click away the hours until sun rise but when I do manage to fall into something resembling sleep, I have insane, convoluted dreams which I remember to the point where they cloud my conscious mind as well as indicate that my brain has not entered the deep (and, therefore, restful) delta phase of sleep where dreams do not occur.
This is the refreshing stage of
dreamless sleep I crave.

For example, I recently dreamt that Justin Timberlake tried to cut in line at the "public ovens" where I and hundreds of others had lined up to do our baking, with the intent of stealing the ingredients for an apple pie from me. Needless to say, I awoke that morning agitated and not caring about his damn suit and tie one bit.

Often there are other impediments to a good night's sleep....
Who the heck could sleep
one of these?

Seth has compared me to the subject of a fairy tale in which a princess was unable to sleep despite many mattresses being piled atop a tiny pea due to her delicate nature since, long ago, I was unable to sleep and in the morning, discovered that a small Lego block had made it into the bed.

Seth thought this was hilarious because one, I have never been remotely accused of having a delicate nature and two, he had once slept an entire night while directly on top of the remote control for the TV. As if that's something to be proud of.

The other night, however, I may have proved his theory.

Exhausted, I went to be bed in the perfect state of sleep-readiness, slipping between the cool yet cozy sheets in happy anticipation of how I would finally wake up refreshed and rejuvenated. This was going to be great!
Get away from my pie supplies, Justin!

I actually fell asleep right away but soon awoke in a state of discomfort. No, that cleptomaniac Justin Timberlake was not trying to steal my apples and cinnamon again but I just could not get comfortable.

The room was the perfect temperature and I was very drowsy yet something prevented the deep slumber I craved and I tossed and thrashed, plotting bitterly against Seth and his peaceful breathing.

In the morning, exhausted and creaky, I found the culprit that had kept me up: there had been a single pumpkin seed in bed with me all night.

Flatter than the pea that had kept the princess awake in the fairy tale, I now wondered if Seth might be right about a delicate nature.

Unfortunately, mine seems to reveal itself only in ways that do not count since in my waking hours I plod through life smoking a pipe and wearing the attire of a lumberjack.

Okay, not really. There is no pipe or plaid flannel but if I am so damn delicate that a pumpkin seed keeps me awake, then shouldn't I have a 17 inch waist and a tinkling laugh like Scarlet O'Hara before the war?

Shouldn't I be wearing hoop skirts or something?                     

Sometimes I feel like this...

but, inside, might be more of this....
                                                            Tonight I will do a clean sweep of the sheets before I climb in. I'll let you know what I find.

                                          When he's not stealing other people's stuff, he's pretty entertaining.

Monday, November 25, 2013

My Cornucopia

A few years ago, right before Thanksgiving, due to my inability to resist virtually anything under the amount of five dollars, I bought a brown wicker cornucopia form the Christmas Tree Shop. I placed it in the center of the table and filled it with assorted fruits, pinecones, nuts in their shells and other things that rolled all over and drove me insane until I packed it away after the holiday.

That's one kind of cornucopia. 

Another kind is not tangible but far more rewarding. We all have them. Mine is very full but there's always room for more. I add to it all the time.

Just recently I topped mine off with the faces of a father and his small daughter as they walked in front of my car and a minivan which had stopped at right angles to one another in a busy parking to let them by. The little girl was feisty and resisted his efforts to scoop her up and hurry out of our way but we were happy to give her time to toddle by, clutching her daddy’s hand and smiling. He was smiling, too and the other driver and I smiled at one another after they'd passed. It was a good moment.

I also recently added the moment when a crazy little cardinal with his preposterously peaked cap and black-ringed beak alit on my bird feeder while a sassy jay was still swinging from it and, for a flash, I had bright blue and red right outside my kitchen window. That was a good moment, too. I'm also throwing in the smell of my son -- aftershave and pizza -- as I hugged him upon his arrival home for the holidays the other day. And upon all that, I stuffed the time last week when Tito the Cat -- a recent addition to our feline flock -- trusted me enough to jump up on my lap for the very first time...it took almost a year but was worth the wait. See, I told you---there’s always room for more in your cornucopia.

All these new moments tamped down what's already in there: memories of my mother looking up from her sewing with a smile, the afternoon I stood impatiently by a sunny window as a little girl waiting for my best friend to arrive--excited because I’d gotten a new game for my birthday, my grandmother's bare arms as she ironed on a summer morning, my sons playing wiffle ball in the back with their friends, walking in Central Park with Seth, the sound of laughter from the kitchen after I'd been put to bed as I wondered what I was missing but not really caring because I felt safe and sleepy, the words, “Will you marry me?”, “It’s a boy!”, “Hey, Ma, I’m home!”

Don’t forget to explore the contents of your own cornucopia…not just this week but often. 

If you stick your hand inside, you really don’t know what you’ll come back with…it might be something that will make you cry but, if it’s in there, chances are it led to something pivotal, important, meaningful or ultimately rewarding…something that made you who you are today. So, feel free to root around, you won’t be sorry. Sure, you might have no choice but to sob because lots of things in there may be physically gone from you but, don’t worry, they’re safe in your cornucopia.

If you see a wicker one, save your money…nothing stays in those. Have a happy healthy Thanksgiving, everyone…with love from “Susan Says…”

Monday, November 4, 2013

Saturday Night Live and Delusion vs. Reality

Growing older is a very interesting thing.

Lots of things change: the color of our hair, the ability to read fine print, how much sleep we need at night...as well as how we view the world.

Case in point: The intro to Saturday Night Live, the weekly live TV institution enjoyed by generations every weekend, used to make me feel awful about myself. About my very life. About my disconnection from a world where cool, fun, hip people do cool, fun, hip things in New York City after dark.
Who wanted to listen to the
Sex Pistols anyway?

You know what I'm talking about. The fast-paced montage that week after week, year after year made me believe that if didn't play chess in a city park wearing a cocktail dress, I had not lived.

Their version of New York nightlife, included hilarity at Gray's Papaya, searching for vintage record albums, watching sword swallowers or the twirls of a break dancer while standing around with sexy people fiddling with the stems of their martini glasses while making conspiratorial eye contact with no one in particular. 

Enjoying the greatest city on earth meant being bold, brash and vibrant under the neon of a chic urban world.


Please remember that when I started watching SNL, I was a kid. A teenager who, in her private delusion and naivete, assumed that her life was destined to be cool, fun and hip. And, while there certainly was fun (nerdy as it was), in reality, I did not live then, or ever, in a personal orbit where cool and hip were even a remote possibility. And that damn SNL intro rubbed it in. Every week.
Just look how much fun Andy Samberg is having!
Allow me to remind you that when I was the right age for all this hooha, NYC was in the throes of a historic crime and graffiti crap fest where the subways were packed with as many urine soaked lunatics as  grim commuters, panhandlers were aggressive and antagonistic and, in general, a dangerous place to be. Just watch the movie "Taxi Driver" if you want to see what the city actually looked like then.
Back then, seeing this on the
Subway was a good thing.

Today, Times Square is a tourist mecca packed with police. Back then it was home to prostitutes, nodding drug addicts, porn theaters and other scary stuff for a young woman to navigate on the way home from her journalism seminar at the New York Times.
Look at Keenan waving at traffic!

So, I went between home and school on the subway, making sure not to travel too late, to always sit near the conductor and, basically, to watch my ass.

Between attending college and working, there wouldn't even have been time for chess games in the park or laughing uproariously with my trendy, chic friends....of whom I had none. My friends were all as busy, and non-trendy as I.
Did I want this? Ugh.

My point is that, for decades, the SNL intro made me feel lousy every time I saw it. I was either missing the fun or, once I settled into the contented life of a wife and mom, had totally missed the excitement that everyone else (read that as a small number of paid performers put into staged situations with lights and music) was surely experiencing.
Or this? Feh.

This went on for years. The cast members of SNL came and went but the bones of the intro stayed the same as did my vague restlessness every Saturday night at 11:30. This feeling remained anchored in the small section of my heart with "Bitter" written on the door even I knew how foolish I was. But, recently, it changed. Finally.

It took long enough.

Just last week I was watching the new season of SNL, fully expecting -- as the familiar music swelled to open the show -- that customary tug. But there was none.

I was liberated.

Their in-on-a-secret smiles, high heels and martini glasses did not make me feel a thing except happy to be exactly where I was---on the couch with Buzzy on my lap, next to Seth whose head was tilted back in slumber, mouth open wide enough for the B train to roll right in like it used to, depositing me on the subway platform of my stop, in Brooklyn. 

I realized that I had finally gotten past my youthful fantasies of a world that, if it ever existed at all, resided primarily in my imagination.

Sometimes getting older, despite its inconveniences, can be very refreshing.
If only they'd sold these back then....

Friday, October 4, 2013

If I Were a Cat....

Remember that great song by Beyonce called "If I Were a Boy?"
Yep, it's a perfect song to belt out when alone in the car but that's as far as it goes. 

I don't want to be a boy. Not ever. Even though you guys can avoid port-o-potties and just slip off into the bushes, I prefer being a girl....although being a cat (in a loving home, of course) is also an appealing option.

But what if I, "Susan says..., " just behave as if I'm a cat.

Let's explore it....

Imagine if, when annoyed, I sneak into the hall bathroom and pee in the corner. And, if you happen to come in and turn on the light while I'm doing it, I freeze, look up at you with big eyes and run -- in a crouch -- right past you, grazing your ankles as I flee.

What would you think?

What if, after your shower, I wait for you to put the bath mat down and, if you leave the bathroom for a nano-second -- perhaps to check the caller ID if the phone should ring -- I silently dash in and quickly pee up the mat. Don't blame me. As far as I'm concerned, that's what fluffy bath mats are for.

How would you feel about that? If I were a cat, I wold not feel bad about it at all.

Sneaky peeing is fun. I know it's naughty. Based on my stealth and speed, you know that I know it's naughty. But I DON'T CARE. You can scold me until you're blue in the face but if you leave the mat on the floor again, I'm going to dash in and pee on it.

Every single time.

Or, suppose, I decide, for no apparent reason, to poop in the shower. Right in the shower. And, as a flourish, when finished, I scrape and bang on the sliding glass door as if directed by some mysterious instinctive impulse until I arbitrarily decide to stop. And then what if, immediately afterward, I go to sleep on your pillow?

You might care but I sure won't.
And, when you run into the room and yell, "There's poop in the shower!!! "Who did it??" I will open one sleep eye and smugly think to myself, "It was me."

I'll sleep on the ottoman in the living room for 14 hours straight and then, exhausted, move to the patch of sunshine on the dining room floor to sleep some more. 

I'll be happy just stretching and yawning and not giving one good goddam about anything but from whence cometh my next handful of treats. I will not cook dinner, do laundry or care how "Breaking Bad" ended but I will try to run directly through the window screen if I see a squirrel.

What if, when you give me treats, I jump up on the table and eat them with no hands? And, if you seek a little appreciation for your generosity, I leap down and puke them right up on the floor because I've eaten too fast?

In fact, why bother jumping down to the floor, why don't I just throw up all over today's newspaper or on the book you're reading?

Then, if you get hungry and prepares a nice bowl of cereal and milk, what if I sit in front of you on the table and stare like a vulture as you eat? How about if I butt your hand with my head so that what's in your spoon splashes on the table and then I quickly lap up the milk?

I might beg to lick out the cereal bowl when you're done but, when you put it on the floor for me, I sniff it and walk away....with attitude.

What then?

Or, if you're eating a ham sandwich, how about if I stare at you balefully until you pull out a piece of ham and toss it on the floor for me. First, I will pretend that I don't see it until you show me about fifteen times and then I grab it in my teeth and take it into a corner where I eat it and growl simultaneously in case one of the other cats even dreams of snatching  it away. And, I do all this while looking up at you suspiciously from under my bangs.

And then, of course, I vomit.

In fact, I vomit wherever I want...the new couch, the carpet, the sink. I especially like to vomit on tile because I like it when you curse as you scrub the grout.

Do I care? Nope.

I damn well know that someone will scritch-scratch under my chin, pet me, groom me, entertain me with the laser pointer or the crinkly toy frog (or the feather on the stick or the mousie on the spring or...) and buy me endless little jingly balls no matter how naughty I am. Someone will crochet me little blankies, save boxes for me to sleep in and buy me cute fleecey mats upon which to enjoy my naps.

But, for conversation's sake, how about if I gallop around the house for no apparent reason between 3 and 4 am or run past you as fast as I can while you're walking down the stairs with the laundry basket or force my way onto the laps of visitors who are either afraid of me or allergic to me? 

Maybe later I will howl in a deep scary voice until you get up to see if I'm okay but then I scratch (or bite) your ankle and run to the opposite corner of the house where I will howl some more.

What the hell do I care?

But, on the other hand, when I am feeling happy and safe (which, thanks to you, is most of the time), I will shower you with affection, get on your lap to keep you cozy or bash you in the face, shoulder or knee with my face which means "I love you." I will sense when you're not feeling well and want to comfort you and if you let me out, I might return with the neighbor's toupee as a present for you. I would leave it on the doorstep and hiss at the neighbor when he comes to retrieve it.

Yes, I may drive you crazy at times but my presence alone will lower your blood pressure, ease your anxiety, cheer you up, keep you from feeling lonely, be a dependable, affectionate companion in an otherwise harsh world and, since I cannot purr, soothe us both by singing along with the Josh Groban CD I clicked on purpose by accident from Amazon.

I will also try my best to kill you if you try to stuff me into a carrier and take me for a ride because last time you swore we were going to an Al Green concert and, instead, you took me to the gynecologist.

I may be taking all this too seriously because I suddenly feel like hocking up a hairball. Oh, good---there's your new sweater....

My wonderful Buzzy.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Lie

Yesterday, I threw Seth under the bus at Trader Joe's.

After having been laid up for a few days with a knee injury, the cupboards at home were bare. So, off I went, reusable bags and all, to my favorite store.

The parking lot was bustling and I paused to enjoy their autumnal arrangement of bright pumpkins and the yellows, russets and reds of the mums, displayed and ablaze beneath the warm October sun. I was was very happy to be out.

Limping a bit, I loaded up on greens, choosing peppers, grabbing a bag of nuts, inspecting some bananas, apples and my favorite, clementines. We needed yogurt, cheese, a box of raisin bran, a nice bread. My cart was full.

Once at the register, however, as the Hawaiian-shirt clad checker was sliding my groceries over the scanner, I reached for my debit card and, to my horror, discovered there was nothing in my wallet. Not one card, not one dollar, not one coin. Not even a piece of lint or an M&M. 
I immediately flashed back to a youthful trauma. I was a little kid sent to buy a carton of milk around the corner. I don't know what my mama may have been smokin' but she hadn't given me enough money for the purchase. 
The Archduke himself.

I recall the cashier looking at me as if I had just shot Archduke Franz Ferdinand and started a world war (this was a long time ago---my analogies must reflect that).

There were people behind me, I was around 7 years old (can you imagine sending a 7 year old farther than the bathroom alone in today's world????) and still childishly meek. The world, and cashiers, were still very big and I hadn't yet developed THE MOUTH I now employ to deflect attack.

The cashier, who appeared to be enjoying my discomfort, immediately roared out to, as far as I could see, no one in particular, "SHE DOESN'T HAVE ENOUGH MONEY! WE NEED A MANAGER AT THE REGISTER!"

I was humiliated.

He might as well have bellowed, "This tiny asshole is short five cents! She obviously comes from a bunch of morons who have no idea what a quart of milk should cost and is not worthy of remaining alive. I spit on her, her ancestors and her progeny and deem her entire bloodline unfit to live!" That, in essence,  is what I perceived and, literally, have never recovered from the experience. 

I still get nervous when it's time to pay and check and recheck that I have enough money for my purchase.

I also made sure that my mother gave me a little extra when I ran errands for her in the future. That was not going to happen again. I got the same old feeling at Trader Joe's when I looked into my wallet. I was three feet tall again...no money for milk. I felt nauseous.

They could not have been nicer. Whether or not it was true, the manager (who was summoned discreetly for the dreaded procedure) assured me that it happens to lots of people. I told them I would hurry home and get my money and they smiled as they put everything back into the cart and headed off to the cooler where all my stuff "would stay fresh" until my return.
They're so nice there. Plus,
there are balloons.

When I got back, the friendly check-out hipster asked me with a smile, "Okay, who are you planning on blaming for this?"

Now, it was totally my fault. Occasionally don't we all go through our wallets to toss old receipts and frayed slips of paper,rearrange our cards, line up our cash so the presidents face in the same direction and put all but a few coins into the change jar?

I had done that the day before and got distracted, leaving everything in a pile on the desk.

But, instead of laughing off my own stupidity, I felt my mouth go dry as a dessert while my palms begin to sweat. Before I cold stop myself, I replied, "It was my husband!" And, as if that total lie wasn't enough, I embellished: "Yes, that's it!! He was looking for something in my wallet and he took everything out and DIDN"T PUT IT BACK!!!!!!!!!!!"
Women around me heard this and all happily went into their default "Men are idiots" routine as the news of my husband's fictional stupidity traveled like wildfire down the check-out line, through the store, out the door, to the mall, across the highway, to the state capitol and beyond. It was on the evening news...all three major networks.

He who did absolutely nothing wrong is now a legend of stupidity.

In any case, if a lie really gets rolling it can start to feel true, so I was actually a little annoyed with Seth by the time he got home. Why hadn't he put the cards back that he had never taken out in the first place?

Was my lie a knee-jerk response to the memory of the trauma from long, long ago or am I just a jerk?

I will you let all decide for yourselves.
No, not the cake!!!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Babes in the Woods

I went temporarily insane yesterday.
These do not work.!

Nope, not because of the fact that a tube of toothpaste is no longer a simple means to a fresh feeling mouth what with all the flip tops and the clogging and....ah, forget it.

I went insane because the cost of true love is very high. Allow me to explain...

I don't know where I went wrong raising my son, Charlie. He has become a nature enthusiast. He loves to go camping---all alone. 

Good morning, Charlie.
Despite years of trying to explain that camp sites, the woods, hillsides and picturesque spots with waterfalls all look pretty in the sunshine, but at night become sinister havens for meth cooks who will kill him after he's stumbled upon their labs, bears who wish to maim then eat him, psychos who want to torture and dismember him for fun, insects who want to paralyze him with their venom, sasquatches who want to drag him around by the ankles and then marry him and lightening that wants to strike him and erase his memory.
Good afternoon.

Growing up in Brooklyn, if a leaf so much as tickled my cheek, I would roll into a ball and spin away. 

Grass harbored bugs and spit, dog poop and broken glass. Pavement was all I trusted. You want nature, watch "Born Free." I tried to make my kids understand this.

But off Charlie went the other day...but not before warning me that he was going to shut his phone off and that I'd hear from him in two days. WHAT?

Oh, no. Please, no.
"Mommy, I got here safely
but I'm lonely already."

Even Henry David Thoreau texted his mommy when he reached Walden Pond. Who did Charlie think he was? 

He was steadfast. My wails did not move him. He wanted to escape the madding crowd, feel the breeze, sleep under the stars, investigate for himself whether female sasquatches are -- as reported by National Geographic (or, was that the National Enquirer?) --  really anatomically similar to human girls. 

He wanted freedom.

Tom reassured me that he would be "just fine." Seth helpfully added, "He's a full grown man, for God's sake!"

Full grown man??? Are they out of their minds?  He just popped out of the womb........24 years ago.
If they're not real, who is this?

I was okay for half the day. But on the way to Trader Joes (I know, it was a Saturday...what was I thinking?), fear got the better of me. I really got scared. No joke. I had texted him earlier despite knowing he'd pulled the cone of silence over himself  but now I texted again....explaining that my maternal fear superceded his need for solitude. I was a mess.
No calories if taken for
medicinal purposes.

A few hours and a bag of trader Joe's peanut butter covered pretzel nuggets later, Charlie replied with three words: I am alive.

I was immensely relieved but also fully understood that the psycho who had slashed through his tent to eat his eyeballs could have written this response to delay the search parties.

Despite this, I felt much calmer and relaxed even more when Mr. I Want to Be Alone sent an email with a picture of himself, in one piece and smiling. He will not understand, until he is a parent, how much that meant to me.

To me, "roughing it" is a hotel room that doesn't provide little bottles of shampoo and lotion. While Charlie did remind me that s'mores can be part of any camping experience, I maintain that s'mores can be enjoyed in a hotel room...until the smoke detector goes off and security kicks down the door, that is...but that works for me and it should for him, as well.
My home town in
the 1970's.

It's all relative. I rode the subway alone at night in New York City in the 70's....and there were no cell phones. My mother didn't know if I was alive until my key turned in the door. I cannot imagine how scared she must have been.

As I said before, the cost of love is high. You give them your whole heart and they go camping...or they ride the subway...or do a million other scary things. 

You can smash their kneecaps with a sledgehammer (not my idea---remember Kathy Bates in the movie "Misery?") to keep them in one place or just pray and fret.
Does anyone have a sledgehammer I can borrow?*

The only kind of camping I endorse.

 *Actually, I have my own sledgehammer.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Emotional Armageddon

Well, it had to happen sometime. 

Today is both a full moon -- which you know drives me completely insane -- plus my mother's birthday and, since she is no longer around to celebrate with me, every year I voluntarily travel to an unsteady and nostalgia-soaked place in my brain where all I want to do is sit under the kitchen table and play the ukelele....or, at the very least, spell it right.

Blam-o! Emotional Armageddon.

It makes perfect sense that the simultaneous occurrence of these two events might be tricky. So, since I am nothing if not thoughtful, I prepared my family yesterday--emailing the boys who, as usual, did not take me the least bit seriously and by talking to Seth when he returned from work using lots of hyperbole and wiggling my eyebrows for emphasis.

His response was to pat my hand and go out to play Wednesday night bocce. I can't really expect much more. That man has been through hell and back with me as I ride my emotional seesaw (try finding that at the playground, kids). Nothing much scares him anymore.
Why am I so moody?

But this has potential for trouble: my mother's birthday is the official date when I look back on our lives together and feel horribly guilty for every single time I was not the perfect daughter, which was mostly always...and wish I could make up for it.

Add a full moon (which, since we are comprised mostly of  water, makes my emotions roil like the ocean in a hurricane) to this annual carnival of neurosis and there might be a screen play for a new Woody Allen movie in the making. 
I would like Penelope Cruz
to play me in the movie.

So, how shall I spend my day?

As I requested, Seth hid my car keys so I cannot go out and buy lots of donuts and cheese (serves me right---I should have taken care of that yesterday). 

I was also thinking about singing along to some Amy Winehouse but since she died, her music makes me too sad (even for today).

So, instead, maybe I'll just do my make-up just like hers in tribute but I own no liquid eyeliner. I could use a sharpie but it will take a week to wash off and we have plans for this Saturday evening.  So, scratch that.

If I could drive, I might take my donuts to Best Buy and sit and watch their wall of TVs because if one TV is good then 30 should be better. But not if it's the new Price is Right because Wayne Brady scares me. Not to mention, I always feel sorry for the TVs with the washed out pictures because who's going to buy them when it's as plain as day that there are others with sharper resolution? 
Available over the counter.

Who needs all that angst...forget it.
Maybe I'll check what's on Turner Classic Movies!

If I'm lucky, it'll be Pride of the Yankees which always makes me sob even though I know the ending but the way that microphone reverberates
in the stadium just kills me.

But if Lou Gehrig could be so brave then why am I such a huge baby? Okay, no movie watching.

Nor does it help that I awoke this morning with a weird new wrinkle on my face but it turned out to be just from the pillow so I can relax...although who really can relax when your collagen is draining out like sap from a maple tree in springtime? But there's nothing to be done in that department, is there?
"Snap out of it!"

So maybe I should just try to keep it together and put Emotional Armageddon on hold. It's a gorgeous day so it might make sense to ignore the full moon and count a few blessings while I'm at it, too. Could it be that I have achieved a new level of emotional health?


Happy birthday, Ma...XO.