Too Much Over-Self-Confidence

I was 20 years old and sitting on the tile counter in the kitchen of my parent’s home. It was 76 and mostly sunny that day, which I remember because it’s 76 and mostly sunny every day in Cardiff. Seriously, my stepmother replaced two outdoor thermometers before she realized they weren’t broken, the temperature just never changed.

So I was sitting there eating a bowl of cold soba and saying something dismissive about whatever boy I was dating and my Grandma Yoshi turned to me and said, with a look of such sincere concern on her face, “I worry about you, you have too much over-self-confidence.” I didn’t always understand what she said, because her Japanese accent never thinned no matter how long she lived stateside, but I understood that.

“I’m pretty sure I have exactly the right amount of self-confidence,” I said, which is exactly what someone with too-much-over-self-confidence would say.

Let me tell you about the first memory I have of Grandma Yoshi. When I was just shy of 7 years old, my parents put me on a plane with my two goofy older brothers and sent me around the world to live with Yoshi and Joe for a month. In Japan. Because my parents were insane.

Whiskey, Uncle Smokey, and MILK, getting curb checked at SFO.

Whiskey, Uncle Smokey, and MILK, getting curb checked at SFO.

One day, Yoshi took me around town to get stared at and pick up some Captain Crunch (so I would eat something), and go chant with one of her friends. I couldn’t understand much of what went on around me, but I remember there was a look of concern on her friend’s face and a lot of animated pointing out the window as they rattled off quick Japanese. Yoshi finally conceded whatever point was being argued and helped me into my cowboy boots for the walk home.

She walked in the middle of the street. I kept sort of leading her over to the sidewalk and she kept drifting back into the middle of the street, as though sidewalks were some new fad she wasn’t sure about. True, there were no cars on the road and it was a small town but still, the final word on streets in my training was that they were for crossing after looking both ways and usually while holding an adult’s hand. Sidewalks were for walking. Hence the name. Yoshi did not agree.

Also of concern, though apparently only to me, was that the sky in the distance was turning a pretty unusual shade of green and the clouds seemed to be channeling Chernabog (that demon from the Night on Bald Mountain bit in Fantasia – yeah, I had to look it up too). As we walked down the vacant street, the rapidly increasing wind felt electrically charged. Somewhere in the distance a small dog was being transported to Oz. Yoshi, meanwhile, was deep in the telling of a story I cannot remember one word of.

We reached home a short while later to an absolutely frantic Grandpa Joe and the boys locking down the storm shutters. Because a typhoon was coming. And no one knew where we were. And basically the storm could have killed us.

All night, the boys and I peered through a gap in the storm shutters, though we weren’t supposed to be anywhere near the windows. Grandpa Joe’s tomato plants were ripped clean out of the garden and hurled into space by the howling wind. The storm toppled trees and turned the garden into a decorative pond for a few days.

So when Yoshi took my hand and suggested that I had “too much over-self-confidence,” I may have been the tiniest bit incredulous. You want to talk confidence, lady? Let’s chat about it while we stroll through a Hurricane.

Tales of Too-Much-Over-Self-Confidence: Skimboarding

It turns out my mother was once young. I know, weren’t we all? Happens to the best of us. In those halcyon days of long hair, short skirts and, i don’t know, patchouli, my dad taught her how to skimboard. I’m picturing 1960’s flower children frolicking in the surf and listening to…wait, did they have portable music back then? Probably some guy with a guitar, then.

In my mom’s version of the story, she was a natural skimboarder. She could have gone pro but she wanted to maintain her amateur status so she could skimboard in the Olympics. Given her later acquired “expertise” at rollerblading, I have a feeling tales of her talent may have been somewhat exaggerated, especially after checking back issues of Skimboarding Quarterly.

Fast forward approximately twenty years. It’s the eighties. Mom’s foregone the ironed straight locks for a truly amazing permed mullet situation. She’s sporting some bright white linen harem pants and a silk, batik top – the picture of summer elegance. It’s been a long, hot day and our little family unit is off for a dusk stroll along the shore.

We come upon an abandoned skimboard, being carried in by the rising tide.

Whiskey’s eyes light up. “Cool!”

Mom’s eyes light up, too – a chance to show her pre-adolescent son just how cool she can be. “I’m great at this! It’s so easy – watch.”

She runs a few steps and hops onto the board, which promptly shoots out from under her like a greased thighmaster. In half a second, mom is on her ass in the Pacific Ocean. Not deep, just enough to soak her pants completely through. The sun is going down. The wind is picking up.


She stands, dripping, and looks down at herself. Did I mention that she was wearing white pants? It’s pretty tough to gather your dignity when you appear to be naked from the waste down.

“Fantastic. I’m gonna need you to stand in front and you in back of me until we get home. Then, we never speak of this again.”

So begins a long and uncomfortable (for mom, hilarious for us) walk back to our rented beach house, along the mostly quiet streets of residential Santa Cruz. Whiskey takes the lead, looking pointedly forward, just at that age when it’s tough to tell if this is the most hilarious or the most embarrassing thing that’s ever happened in his entire life – ever. I pull up the rear, so to speak, diligently trying to walk close enough to cover mom’s ass without stepping on her heels. She’s looking pretty grim. And cold.

“Mom,” I say kindly, hoping to cheer her up. “It’s not so bad. You look like one of those pretty ladies who walk the streets at night and make men happy.”

Compliments fix everything.


Mom told lies… Dad took “the liberty of bullshitting us”

Here is a list of creative tales my father spun for our benefit. To carry on the tradition of an ongoing misinformation campaign for children our dad told us the following gems.

Dad taught me how to shift with my left hand while he steered and worked the pedals so that he didn’t have to put down his Mars bar or tasty beverage whilst we careened along a mountain road. When I became obsessed with it because I was a little boy and I was legitimately operating part of a real car he had an interesting way to get me to stop. “You see that little “R” with the red circle around it?” I nodded emphatically “yes.” “Well they put that there so that the police can tell if a kid has been driving the car too much. It rubs off on your hand eventually and you can’t get it off” I stared at my hand, sure I was just seeing the beginnings of the transfer. “Good thing we stopped in time, huh buddy?” He said, all business. “Have a great day at school!”

He was actually preparing me to drive rental stick shifts in Japan or the UK, like they rent stick shifts. Although could be useful should I be in an action movie riding shotgun in a chase when the driver takes a bullet to the right shoulder anywhere but Japan or the UK. Smart parenting.


Any food you didn’t want or was boring he improved by telling you it was from “Lithuania” I’m pretty sure we were the only grade school kids in our town who even knew that was a place. I’ve had Lithuanian pancakes, Lithuanian broccoli, Lithuanian ham, you get the idea. People in Lithuania just call it ham.

“If you split a peanut open you can see the elf inside,” followed by, “Peanuts are elf seeds that didn’t hatch.” (To this day, I still look for the elf in peanuts – MiLK)

“We found your sister under a rock… you were given to us by aliens, and your brother is from the ball pit at Chuckee Rats.”

“We’re out of popsicles” This was total bullshit if they were orange cream bars, he hid them behind the chopped spinach. They are his favorite, mine too.

“The cat will tell me if you leave your timeout” Never trust a cat.

“The overdrive button on an automatic transmission is the rocket booster.” He would then stomp on the gas after you touched it.  I watched him retell this one to a cousin after I had figured it out, but I was not about to cut a good line of bullshit. His friend Dale tried that on me once, then when it didn’t impress me he cut a “rumrunner aka handbrake u-turn”, that impressed me.

It’s not until you are a parent that you truly realize the joys of bullshitting children. It’s the working foundation of Santa Claus, Elves, Leprechauns, religion, cults etc.

I now that I’m trapped inside with the quarantine I tell my kids lies like, “we can go to the park tomorrow, maybe!” Really, anything that ends in “maybe” is probably a hard no.

“Sorry, McDonald’s is closed.”

“The mini golf place burned to the ground.”

“Your sister was left on the door by aliens.” “I know right explains a lot.”

“Of course when the virus is over you can have a dog”

“Yeah, that’s the ticket!” Jon Lovitz.

Stay safe out there. Whiskey.


You’re Trying Too Hard: Valentine’s Day Edition

I used to like Valentine’s Day. Not in a romantic way, but as a kid. I liked all the ridiculous paper cards and the heart shaped doily crafts, and the heart shaped candies that taste like sugar and chalk and ruining your appetite for dinner.

Not that dinner was anything to brag about in my house.

In high school, Valentine’s became a little more complicated. Once it stopped being about friends picking the best puns on paper, I lost interest. If you had a boyfriend, there was weird pressure to be romantic – one of about a million things I suck at. I scoffed at teddy bears (seriously – getting a grown woman a teddy bear is a little weird) and found roses confusing. Anyways, my birthday was a week later, so Valentine’s just seemed like a huge distraction from what actually mattered. Me. (Deafening roar of sarcastic sympathy from all the Christmas birthdays, I’m sure.)

But then I had kids, (those little bastards’ll sneak up on ya). And suddenly, I’m subject to the other side of mom-guilt. Which sucks way more than the guilt moms dish out, just so you know. Halloween, Christmas, New Year’s, Easter, and now mother-freaking Valentine’s Day have gone from perfectly reasonable drinking holidays, to me being the sole provider of myth and magic in a household with a husband completely devoid of any celebratory leanings. He’s at work right now trying to convince a horde of unbelieving husbands and wives that we honestly, truly, do not care about Valentine’s Day. They’ll put the fear of God into him at some point and he’ll come home looking baffled and holding chocolates. Societal pressure’s a bitch.

So now the kid is old enough to want things like “atmosphere” and she wants decorations. She wants a magical pink and red valentine’s house. Like the overachiever who runs daycare has. But that’s why I pay the overachiever. I’m outsourcing decorations. Apparently, that’s not enough anymore.

So I find some red construction paper, some sparkly stickers, and a pair of safety scissors. “Go to town!” I say. And she does. And everyone is happy.  We run to the dollar store and buy a box of puny valentine’s for her friends. I pick up the organic fruit juice lollipops (joke’s on you, they’re still TERRIBLE for you) to tape to the card. Badaboom. Done. Everybody’s happy.

Then I go on Pinterest. Because…FML, I guess.

Do you have any idea how much Burt’s Bees chapstick COSTS? My limit for treats for holidays that have lost all meaning, is 60 cents.

You gotta be shitting me. Are people DOING this stuff? People with KIDS? The best part is, they’re all labeled as easy. Easy Valentines for Kids.

Sure, they look easy enough, if you have time (and the inclination) to sort through a box of fruit candy, separating them out by flavor, and then printing and stapling and where do you even get the little cellophane bags? You know what’s easy? Going to the goddamn dollar store. While you’re there, you can stock up on all the magic you need for Easter, which is right around the corner and also chock full of too much candy and “easy” crafts.

This is what happens when hyper-competent women leave the work-force and stay home to raise kids. This is not that kind of job. There will be no bonus this year. You do not get overtime. There are no promotions. And the kids – the ones you’re making these treats for – the kids don’t care. The kids just want to eat the candy and feel like their friends love them. The only people who will notice the creative effort here, are other moms. Specifically, the mom who bought her kids’ valentines at Safeway while she was doing the week’s grocery shopping because she does not have time for this shit.

If it honestly brings you joy to make these then, by all means, knock yourself out. If this is the only outlet you have for that clawing creativity being suffocated by your familial responsibilities and lack of personal time, go to town. But for those of you who are just doing it because that perfectly coifed mom (who you secretly want to “accidentally” hip-check into a puddle) does it…just stop. Don’t fall for it. Don’t make this job more stressful than it needs to be, because studies show, it’s already one of the most stressful jobs you can have.

You are trying too hard.

Give your kid a hug and some shitty candy that tastes like chalk. There. You win. Mom of the year.

Have a happy Valentine’s day.

Discovering Porn…Then and Now.

There is a special place in the lives of boys; it’s the moment you really start on the road to manhood. Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on how you look at it), this ritual has passed from a sacred moment, and one difficult to attain, to a nearly unavoidable emotional catastrophe.

Yes, this is about that first pornography. Back when it really meant something.

Sure you’d had boners… hell my three-year-old wakes up with morning wood Viagra scientists consider their goal. But until you discovered porn, or at least salacious T-and-A, those boners never made much sense. Oh, sure, some of the more progressive parents back then had “the talk” with you or gave you a copy of What’s Happening to Me. But parents are not normally this open about anything adult/important so you knew it was probably a trap.

Then, at some point you heard the rumors about magazines or *gasp* videos of “naked ladies” from older kids and this became your unicorn. Seeing nudity became a vision quest of sorts; you could always tell the guys who had from the guys who just said they had. There was a certain swagger to a “had-seen,” and a new found desperation to see it again.

When I was a kid in the 70’s and 80’s, there was usually a great deal of difficulty hooking this up. The first time was mostly serendipity. Maybe you were visiting your single older cousin or uncle’s apartment, and found his spank bank buried three magazines deep in the bathroom. Occasionally, one of us would happen upon a hobo porn stash of sun faded magazines in an alley, or by the railroad tracks, or off in the woods. Those were both amazing and gross, because your average hobo’s taste in porn is pretty hard core. If the hobo was thoughtful, he left half a pint of Old Crow to help with the shock.

flesh gordon 2

Then there was the ancient and much abused magazine passed via a sacred ritual in a tree fort. And of course late night premium cable.

The first sexy nudity that I remember happened while being babysat by teenagers who had good cable. I saw Porkies when I was nine and it changed my life. This also led to several years of eye strain from watching scrambled Playboy channel. Once, in 1989, the scrambler was down for two days . Wow…talk about chaffing.

Actually though, and I was reminded of this by M.I.L.K., Uncle Smokey and I saw our first adult-entertainment together when we were still too young to appreciate it. It was dad’s night to watch us and, on the way home from work, he stopped at The Warehouse and rented a copy of Flash Gordon the movie. Dad put the movie in our brand spanking new VHS machine, and went to make some Jiffy-pop popcorn. Unbeknownst to him, the rocket scientist working at The Warehouse had placed “Flesh Gordon” in the box instead. A subtle but important difference.

Dad sauntered back into the room, dropped his can of Olympia and dove for the TV. Two stunned boys sat on the couch with eyes like ping pong balls. We all lost a little innocence that night.

Flesh.... ahhhh ahhhh he saved every one of us....

Flesh…. ahhhh ahhhh he saved every one of us…. Guest art by the man who made this moment happen our father. David Peterson

Kids today? Now…they Google “naked ladies” and get some terrifying German thing where you don’t know where the girl/guy starts and the robotic Schnauzer ends. Progress? Trauma? Maybe…I still think kids have it too easy these days.  Oh and for you young bucks just making your way, you’ll probably get slapped if you try half that internet stuff.

I taught Kindergarten and *almost* no one got hurt!

Kindergarten teachers don’t get a lot of respect. First off, there’s the abuse of comic sans and terrible clip art. But even beyond that, how hard could it possibly be to teach Kindergarten, right? Most of those kids can’t even read yet! Makes it hard to deconstruct the literature when the only word you recognize is balloon. And your own name. It’s a tough sell, but woe be to you for such heresy.

I’m a SaHM so, as part of my social contract, I volunteer in my kid’s class. Because I’m an artsy type person, I volunteer to do art projects with the kids a couple times a month along with my fearless partner…Xena. Let’s call her Xena. Because of the fearlessness.

The project she picked could not have looked simpler. Four leaves, a little paint. Boom, adorableness. You’ve got counting, sorting by size, gluing and just the tiniest bit of painting. Dots. Just a few dots. What could possibly go wrong. Turned out the teacher wouldn’t be in the room. She was taking advantage of the volunteers to work individually with kids out in the hall.

That’s fine, I ooze authority, I assured myself. (Too much over-self-confidence, Yoshi used to call it. I always took that as a compliment.)

I went in brimming with confidence, so the kids wouldn’t smell all the fear. Kids can smell fear, right? I had paper, the kids had brought in leaves, glue sticks were on the table.

“You have before you a piece of paper,” I hollered, holding up my sample artwork. “You’ll need four leaves, arranged from largest to smallest.” I pointed meaningfully at the example. See, I said with my hands, see the lovely leaves in their perfect, successive order. It’s math! And art! At the same time! Virgos rejoice.

“Joey doesn’t have leaves!” shouted a little girl who had brought half a tree with her to class. She had approximately a thousand leaves. The kid next to her had none. And she TOLD on him.

I looked around. The leaf situation was insane. There were bags of crushed leaves, wet leaves, leaves the size of my head, pine needles. The project called for four small leaves of different shapes and sizes. I asked the little girl with a thousand leaves if she wouldn’t mind sharing some of her leaves, since she had mad excess and someone at her table didn’t have any at all. The little girl, without hesitation, chose three of her least perfect leaves to give to the other little girl at her table who, also, already had a gross excess of foliage.

F*ing Capitalists, I thought. Silently. I know enough to know you can’t call Kindergartners capitalists. Or fascists. Name calling is rude.

I redistributed leaves all over the place until everyone had at least four leaves of roughly correct shapes/sizes/wholeness/dryness for the project at hand.

Then came the gluing.

You ever see kindergartners glue? It’s horrifying. Glue stick was everywhere. Leaves were in hair, on clothes, and stuck to fingers. If a kid actually managed to glue his leaf down to paper, he almost immediately picked it back up again to see if the glue had worked. It made me nostalgic for paste. Remember paste?

“Mine won’t stick!” a dozen tiny voices complained at once. Xena and I ran from table to table, pressing down leaves and counselling patience.

“Glue stick is not an instantaneous bond,” I explained, because I have no idea how to speak to five year olds, apparently. My own kid rarely calls attention to this, which is nice. She mostly just ignores me.

Then the paint hit the table. Dear God, the horror. A kid actually stabbed himself in the eye with a paintbrush. This is the kind of thing that happens in kindergarten. Painting injuries. it’s chaos.

Untitled_Artwork (9)

“I made pink!” a little girl screamed giddily. A dozen pairs of eyes flashed her way.

Pink. Their minds were blown. A second ago, she’d had just red and white and now, suddenly, there was pink! PINK! Holy cow. Everyone wanted a piece of the miracle paint. The project was forgotten. Paper and leaves were saturated with paint.

I took back all the terrible, sad paintbrushes and threw them away while the kids were distracted.

“Nice work, everyone. Brilliant interpretation of the craft,” I said. “Really…interesting stuff. Now go and wash your…everything. Why is there paint UP your nose? Nevermind, I don’t care. Go and wash your nose.”

I learned a lot about myself that day. For one, I’m an even bigger control freak than I thought. This whole zen irony thing – obviously an act. Also, running a project with 21 kids is roughly a million times more difficult than running a project with one child. Also, Pinterest can kiss my ass. As usual. That actually wasn’t a new thought for me.

I have mad respect for Kindergarten teachers, whom I truly think deserve some sort of hazard pay. And lattes. I asked my sister in law how she does it (the teaching Kindergarten thing) and she suggested red wine was helpful. I can see that, though I’d wager a nice Moscato would be more popular with the kids. And white would probably pair better with the lentil-chips they had for snack. I’ll keep it in mind, though, since I get to do this all again in two weeks.

Next time, instead of a double Americano before class, I think I’ll take a Xanax.

And no paint.

Is it possible to injure oneself with oil pastels?


Lesser Known Cat Breeds

Orange Night Yowler: Native to my hallway, this furry companion will remain silent during all normal hours of human activity and is an acceptable mouser. However in the wee predawn hours it, like all Yowlers will wander the halls of a residence loudly attempting to learn to speak human. Frequently confused with the Furry Siren of Carrey, the Peruvian Mountain Shrieker, and a damned ghost.

Southern Lithuanian Closet Lurker: Often mistaken for its cousin the Hamper Napper. Easily identified by it’s glowing eyes as one reaches for a towel. Known to startle overnight guests, and like the Hamper Napper it may occasionally experience a ride on the “Maytag Express”.

Floofy Minelayer: A stealthy, breed recognized both by its distinctive call, a sound not unlike that of a mid-sized rodent being strangled, and by the oblong gifts of wet, tangled hair left in well worn pathways (at night) or on the edges of hard to clean furniture (during the day). Those who live in close proximity to Floofy Minelayers are advised to always wear slippers for midnight trips to the bathroom. Also sometimes the ordinance left by the Minelayer is not hair based.

Norwegian Ankle Shredder: Usually camouflaged as a Soft Sleeper or Languid Lounger, the devious Ankle Shredder lies in wait, feigning disinterest or even slumber, until a bare ankle passes within striking distance. Able to incapacitate much larger prey with its lightning fast reflexes and razor sharp claws, Shredders love the smell of blood and complacency. 

Texan Rug Wrecker: The “TRW” is a special and all too common domestic feline that often displays a pathological disdain for floor coverings. The beast can somehow determine the value and/or difficulty in cleaning these furnishings and will either shit or claw them based on cost. Also this quirky feline seems to enjoy Lifetime movies, and will become aggressive if someone wants to watch sports, or changes the brand of food it eats.

Cleveland Spinster Tabby: These cats are rarely found alone, and are often encountered in packs of three or more, usually in dilapidated mobile homes or unattractive apartment complexes. The primary goal of this breed seems to be monopolizing the attention of a human and preventing them from increasing their own pack. Very diabolical and not to be trusted. Also known as the “Free Kitten” in front of grocery stores. A close relative of the YFC. (mentioned later)

Persian Allergen: Note this breed is not actually from Iran, but seems to have spontaneously occurred at a cat show in Wisconsin. This highly affectionate cat is particularly fond of sleeping on the heads of owners. It seems capable of immediately recognizing a visiting person with a cat allergy and attaching itself to them. Sometimes confused for a Face Dabber or Hair Licking Burmese. If locked in a room to help a guest with allergies it will display behavior similar to the Orange Night Yowler mentioned above.

Domestic Face Dabber: Easily mistaken for a run of the mill domestic cat, it displays behavior similar to a Maine Pistol Whipper and the previously mentioned Persian Allergen. Usually litter trained and a terror to the local rodent and bird population Dabbers have one identifying quirk. When needing to be let out of the house at three am for a murder spree, this cat will sit on it’s owners chest and repeatedly touch their face. Also known as the Californian Creeper.

YFC: The “Master Blaster” as it’s known around the cat show circuit enjoys a symbiotic/parasitic relationship with a human. “Your Fucking Cat” is identified easily by sharing a home with someone who does in no way consider themselves a “Cat Person”. The YFC completely depends on one human to defend it from another. Meanwhile it targets the non-cat person by repeatedly violating their possessions with intentional vomiting, and day drinking their good liquor.

Short-haired Rasputin: This cat could be 4 years old or 400. It will usually bear scars, either physical or spiritual in nature. While it may come to you as a “free cat,” a gift from the universe or left on your doorstep, it has the potential to accumulate thousands of dollars worth of veterinarian bills. There is nothing this cat will not attempt to eat, no street it’s unwilling to cross or tree it’s afraid to climb. Rasputin fears no consequence and has already escaped the clutches of death well over 9 times. Often found in precarious situations, such as the apex of a utility pole, if your Rasputin should one day fail to come home, just know that it hasn’t met its end, only moved on to another life and another family so as not to draw suspicion. 

We here at Milk and Whiskey hope this has been a helpful, but by no means exhaustive list of lesser known but all too familiar cats. If you can excuse me, I have to help Milk with her Pacific Mountain Fireman Lure.

cat stuck on utility wire

Crash and Burn.

If my boys had a morning radio show they would be called Milk and… oh wait, uh, they would be called Crash and Burn. This is because Jake and Elwood was already taken.

One of them, let’s call him Crash, is full speed ahead, damn the torpedoes, hold my juice box, I got this bitch, is that thing rolling? The other is the engineer type. If my house was Mi6, Crash is 007, Burn is Q.

This was illustrated perfectly the other day. Crash had been upgraded to Burn’s old bike because Burn grew too tall for it and received a new bike. This gave Crash an upgrade in both speed and capabilities. He is 8 years old and finally could cast aside his old bike and the shame of riding something with what are obviously training wheel bolt holes in it.

We were doing laps of a small circuit in our suburban neighborhood, rolling down a gentle slope, building speed into a sweeping right hand, and then making sweet skid marks in the back of a cul de sac. It was nice mom-approved fun.

Then Crash saw a side street with a much steeper grade. I’m talking the kind that if a trucker drove it, his hemorrhoid doughnut would do double duty keeping his butt cheeks from clenching too hard on the fabric of his seat. Crash immediately began pushing his bike up it.

“Hey buddy” I called using my dad voice, “don’t go too far up that hill.” He looked back at me like I was crazy and kept pushing. “Buddy, turn around,” I called. I couldn’t confirm it at that distance but I’m sure he rolled his eyes.

“OK!” he yelled and turned downhill. “Take it easy,” I hollered to ears that were already deafened by rushing wind.

I saw his eyes before the wreck, they were wide with fear. He was going faster than he ever had and he was frozen at the controls. He was no NASA test pilot, he was now “Super Dave”.


Art courtesy of our dad!

“Oh crap,” I thought. There was nothing I could do but watch and cringe as he continued his doomed reentry, tiny white knuckles locked on the grips, no fingers on brake levers. I glanced down the block. Mom was escorting the 4 year old girl on her tiny pink scooter wearing a pink kitty cat helmet. I briefly wanted to go hang out in the pink kitty cat universe.

Crash never touched the brakes or tried to make the turn, he just t-boned the curb. He did the classic superman over the bars, using his thighs to readjust them on his way over as he somersaulted through the air. He somehow managed to hit the grass strip in between the sidewalk and the street, narrowly avoiding concrete and skipping like a stone across blessedly soft grass.

I ran over to him. He was in shock a little, but no obvious injuries. I looked at his teeth; no blood, still lots of teeth, I got the grass out of his mouth before mom could see, and slowly removed his banged up helmet.

“You guys OK?” Mom yelled from cat-themed safety land. She hadn’t seen the crash or she would be sprinting towards us with a cat-themed child tucked under her arm like a football. I didn’t reply, I was deep in triage mode.


I laid him down on the grass, everything was still more or less symmetrical (always a good sign) and outside of a little sniffling he appeared to be a perfectly serviceable 8 year old boy.

“Well…you seem OK, want to go again?” I joked.

“No” He said wiping tears and grass off. But he shot me his trademark smirk, which he stole from me years ago.

I picked up his bike and was even more impressed. He had folded the chromoly fork back to the frame so it was un-rideable. We approached mom who immediately redid the triage and mommed the hell out of him all the way home while chastising me for “making him race.”

An hour later he was fine, playing video games on the couch. I was in the garage taking the bike apart to see if I should get a new fork or if it was totaled. Enter Burn. My older kid who is like 10 going on 70 wandered into the garage with a Popsicle in hand.

“Crash wrecked his bike huh?” Burn said.

“Yeah but he’s ok,” I replied.

Then my kid took a walk around the bike like an old guy at a car show lecturing you about your own vehicle, since it used to be his. No shit he hooked a thumb in a belt loop.

“Looks like he bent the fork pretty good, probably need a new headset, is the wheel still true, did ya check for metal fatigue?” Talk about fatigue. Then he strolled off like any perfect armchair expert. He was also somewhat concerned that this might automatically guarantee his little brother a new bike… after all, you don’t want to go setting that precedent.

I pictured an alternate universe where ten years from now Crash climbs from a wadded up race car, once again miraculously unharmed. Burn begins to lecture him on how he told him the car still needed a break in period, Crash just shoots his smirk at Burn “well, I broke it in pretty good eh?” Then heads towards the nearest umbrella girl and his Corvette.

Side Effects and Self-Medicating – a cautionary tale

I remind my kids, pretty much daily, that the hospital is closed. It’s not, of course, but it is the absolute last place I want to go right now…after Costco.  But the little angels won’t stop trying to hurt themselves. So I keep yelling. “Yes, you have to wear a helmet, the hospital is closed.” “No, you cannot bring your Nerf guns onto the roof, the hospital is closed.” “Those are NOT throwing knives and you are NOT in a circus – FFS, people, the HOSPITAL IS CLOSED.”

We live about six blocks from an excellent trauma center. That used to make me feel pretty secure about all the tree-climbing and skateboard tricks. Not anymore.

About a week into this thing, when everything was already as fine as a dumpster fire and my stress level was somewhere between “teaching a teenager how to drive” and “hiding under a desk in case of nuclear war,” I managed to dislocate my jaw trying to eat a banh-mi.

Seriously. I was just talking, eating lunch, Facebooking when I bit down into that crispy, savory bit of comfort food and POP! A sharp pain jolted through me from mouth to manicure. I tried to chew. I massaged my face. I tried to chew again. Shit.

I could not close my mouth. Or, I could close it, but wrong. The teeth were all on the wrong side of each other. I was just, ever so slightly lopsided in the head. I looked over at the engineer, working from home at the same table. If I told him, I thought, he’d make me go to the hospital.

So I didn’t tell him. For a while. When dinner came along, I still couldn’t eat. Also, half my face was a bit numb. “My jaw kinda hurts,” I said.

“You want a Negroni?” he asked.

“Yes. I absolutely do.”

I could still drink! Who needs food when you have gin? I finally told him about the jaw just after we put the kids to bed and I figured it was too late to make me go seek medical care. He shook his head at me.

“I just think,” I said, “that I need to relax. I’m sure it’ll be back to normal tomorrow. I just wish I had, like, a muscle relaxer or something.”

That’s when I remembered the edibles. There were a couple of THC laced gummy bears that lived in a jar at the back of a high shelf like last year’s Easter candy. A forgotten remnant of an old house guest from a less liberal state.

“I could try the edible,” I said.

The engineer had his doubts, but I knew for a fact that THC was medicine because I did a paper on it in high school. Also, because I did THC in high school, when you still had to separate the medicine part from the seeds and stems and it all smelled vaguely like gasoline. So I scrounged around in the cabinets until I found the thing. Because I’m a naturally cautious person, I only took half. I took the other half about twenty minutes later when I decided it wasn’t working because it was too old.

That was a mistake.

I realized this when I began to levitate off the couch and suggested watching some old Adam Sandler movies.

I read the back of the innocent looking packaging. “Wait 90 minutes for full potency.” Huh. Medicine comes with instructions now?

The remaining gummy bears in the jar high-fived and cackled. “That’s for eating Marvin, you square!”

“Oh shit.” I thought.

“Put Happy Gilmore back on…” A yellow gummy bear demanded flatly.

Some people find cannabis relaxing. I am not one of those people. I lean hard into deep, dark paranoia.

I could feel every tooth in my head. And a few extras. None of them were fitting together properly. One side of my face felt numb. I probably had a blood clot.

“My face is broken,” I moaned. “Mah faish ish bro-hen!”

I couldn’t focus on the movie so I grabbed my laptop and did the only reasonable thing; I Googled dislocated jaw. Somewhere in there, I found some great instructions for a manual reduction of the jaw. I didn’t tell the engineer because I knew he wouldn’t understand my brilliance. He’d try to stop me. I waited, reading and re-reading the instructions. Absorbing the shifting illustrations.

As soon as the engineer left the couch to fix his broken drink, I jammed my thumbs under my jaw, like the picture showed, and attempted a little lift and slip move. There was a click! I tried to close my mouth, which felt like it was entirely jammed with so many extra teeth. Like all my baby teeth had come back in all at once.

I’d over-corrected.

The gummy bears craned their necks in curiosity and shared a knowing nod. I made a mental note to throw the tiny Grateful Dead show in the trash the next time I got up.

My face was now entirely lopsided in the other direction. The engineer came back.

“What are you doing?” he asked, suspiciously.




He stared at me for a moment. “Do you need another drink?”


He left. I tried again. Smaller movement. “Come on,” I mentally encouraged my jaw, “just go to your home! Are you too good for your home!?” Smaller click. My mouth closed. Mostly. I was still pretty sure I’d have to see a dentist and a chiropractor the next day, but I could close my mouth like a person! My face was still a bit numb and my teeth still felt a little extra. Also, my skin was all tingly and gravity wasn’t behaving appropriately.

The engineer came back with our drinks. We clinked. We sipped. I was giddy. I had won at medicine! I poked at my numb cheeks. Maybe I should give the whole reduction thing one more try? I stood up abruptly, spilling everything everywhere.

“I think I should go to bed before I try to relocate my jaw anymore,” I announced with great pride.

“I’m sorry, what?”

“G’night, my love!”

And that’s basically the whole story of how I broke my face eating a sandwich. I have noticed an interesting uptick in stupid injuries since the start of covid-spring, in my house and in the wild. A friend stepped on her rake (less funny in real life), my mom tripped off a curb, and another friend’s kid damn near cracked his skull open. Is this a common side effect of quarantine? How are things with y’all? Self-medicating much?

When Shakespeare Gets Kinky

With the incessant hulu ads for The Turning – having me turning off the volume every commercial break – it seemed like a good time to share this story:

Every once in a while, I like to take a stab at being cultured. I’m way better at just being wry or, you know, sarcastic, but I do see the value in cultural outings. I took the Madness to the symphony once…and by “symphony” I mean the Seattle Men’s Choir. It was in a symphony hall, y’all. Oh, and we’ve been to the nutcracker enough times for me to be completely done with Marie and her creepy Godpapa.

Still, I take a stab at it every now and again so I can feel like a good parent. My mom was the same way. We’d hit up the occasional museum as a sort of penance for too many days spent watching the Price is Right and racing frogs in the backyard. Much more rarely…so rarely I only remember one incident outside of the nutcracker pilgrimage…we would go to the theater. It’s an incident worth sharing.

“Guess what! I got us tickets to a Shakespeare play!” Mother announced, very pleased.

“Cool, which one?”

“Taming of the Shrew.”

“Oh thank God, a comedy,” I said, showing off my big, AP English brain.

Two weeks later, we met up with my mom’s BFF, (code-name “Clipboard of Fun”) the actual originator of the tickets. We put on our fancy goin’ to the theater clothes and went to a weird part of town and a tiny little theater, for an extremely off Broadway production of the Taming of the Shrew.

Except it wasn’t.

“They spelled it wrong,” I said, looking at the playbill.

Except they didn’t. In gothic lettering, it said “Turn of the Screw” right on the cover.

From a review of a similar sounding production: “At the same time, there are strong suggestions the whole thing is the warped fantasy of a sexually hungry manic-depressive: Anna Madeley’s governess accepts the mild advances of her employer, willingly allows the boy Miles to fondle her left breast and even, at one point, touches herself up in front of a mirror while clutching a pornographic letter.” Rebecca Lenkiewicz

So began a dark, foggy play of interminable length about…I’m not sure. There was a ghost, I think. And incest? There was definitely some inappropriate sex happening both onstage and in the audience, strangely enough. In the row behind us, half-hidden in a dark corner, a couple was making out with unsubtle ferver. In the row ahead of us, slumped against his date, an older man was audibly snoring. On the stage itself, a display of gothic, overdramatic bemoaning of one thing or another, incessantly. With a fog machine.

I leaned into mom. “I don’t think this is Shakespeare.”

That’s when mom and I got the giggles. I don’t know which one of us starting giggling first, but I’m gonna blame mom. Her friend’s furious attempts to shush the giggling just made it worse. Between the whirr of the fog machine, the rhythmic snoring in front of us, the wet lip smacking behind us, it was too much to take.

“You are SHAKING the entire ROW!” Mom’s friend hissed.

I felt terrible. It was a small theater and I was sure the actors would eventually see us trying to smother our giggles with our hands, sides cramping, trying not to look at each other.

At intermission, the lights came up and the snoring gentleman was startled awake. Mom and I covered our hysteria with wild clapping. The tears streaming down our faces were real, if not appropriate.

“Oh my God, can we just leave now?” I asked.

Mom’s friend grimaced. “You two are impossible. I can’t take you anywhere.”

We left. I should probably read that book sometime, as I still have no idea how the story ends. Overall, not the Bard’s best work.