Handle with Care

Dear Noah and Lucas,

Today I went to Target to get some fun stuff to send to each of you at school.

Noah, I felt so bad when I heard you were injured last night during one of the first soccer matches you’ve played as a college freshman and needed stitches in your forehead. Candy heals all wounds.

Lucas, you had asked me to send you the Under Armour sandals you left here after coming home for a visit last weekend, so I sent them along with some way cool socks I found that I thought you’d like.

I also purchased a few things for myself, and can’t seem to find one of the items. I packed your respective shipping envelopes in the Target parking lot rushing in order to get to the post office before it closed. In my haste I was a little careless.

So, if either one of you finds a bottle of nail polish called “Big Daddy” please know I did not send it to you on purpose. I bought it because I thought it would be a groovy color on my nails when Richard/Dad and I go to Vegas next week to celebrate his birthday.

Just to be clear, I bought the nail polish for me, not either of you. I bought it because I liked the color. It’s unfortunate that the name of the color is “Big Daddy” because it makes me sound a little less wholesome than I am.

Whoever happens to be the recipient of the nail polish, please just throw it out. We don’t ever need to speak of this again.

In anticipation of the horror I imagined would be on your faces had you not been warned before opening your packages from me, I thought I would just let you know that “Big Daddy” was meant for me. And, I just realized that last sentence did nothing to make this situation any better.

So, Noah, I hope you’re feeling better, and Lucas, I hope you won’t be too embarrassed to introduce me to your new friends when we come to visit you at school next month.

Our Diabolical Dishwasher

We’re all afraid of our new dishwasher. It looks innocent enough with its shiny chrome exterior and spacious interior, even though no one but Richard can load it for utmost efficiency.

It’s the imperceptibly, weak, microscopic green dot on the top of the door that sends us all into a panic. There you are, being a good citizen of the household, reaching to open the dishwasher to deposit into the cutlery basket the spoon you used for a nano-second to stir your coffee when you hear that familiar click; the one that signals the dishwasher is full of sparkling clean dishes.

Richard refers to this phenomenon as ”winning the lottery.” If you open a dishwasher full of clean dishes, you win the prize of putting said clean dishes away. You get hypothetical bonus points for then loading the dirty dishes sitting in the sink into the machine.

But you didn’t go to the dishwasher to empty the entire thing. You came to put your used spoon in it. You didn’t see the green light.

That light. It’s barely a light. It’s barely a dot. It’s barely anything. You can’t see it because it’s cleverly concealed by the countertop that juts out just over it. I wonder if they’re working together, having fun at our expense. If you bend over while turning your head sideways you can almost see it, but none of us remembers to do that.

The worst part about that sliver of green “light” is that once you open the dishwasher the light fades away. It has a failsafe so you can’t open the dishwasher, realize the dishes are clean, and then silently close it leaving the clean dishes inside for the next person to put away. No, once this dishwasher has been opened, there’s no turning back.

We all get the exact same surprised expression on our faces when any of us innocently opens the dishwasher only to realize too late that it has set us up, once again. It lets out a little clicking noise and then sends wafts of lemon-fresh steam into the kitchen. I’ve tried to close the door as soon as I’ve opened it hoping the light would stay on for the next poor sap that came to wash a spoon, but the dishwasher doesn’t allow that. When did appliances begin to wield such power?

The dishwasher has become the moral compass in our house. If you open it and it contains clean dishes, you must put the clean dishes away. The only way I know to bypass that rule is if I’m on my way out of the house and don’t have time to put the clean dishes away. At times like those I leave a note taped to the counter that reads “dishwasher clean”!

I foolishly hope that someone will see my note and empty the dishwasher, but instead, it acts as a signal to my family that I won the lottery so I should be the one to put away the dishes. They reward me even further by leaving piles of dirty dishes in the sink that will need to be loaded into the dishwasher after I empty it.

So, as you can imagine, none of us likes to put anything into the dishwasher anymore for fear we’ll unwittingly “win the lottery”. I try to bend over and look sideways for the menacing green light when I remember, but more often than not I am the recipient of the worst lottery prize ever.

Oh, how I long for my old dishwasher that hocked a loogie of Cascade onto the dishes and then didn’t have enough energy to rinse it off. That dishwasher had a lever that could be manually locked while it scrubbed your coffee spoon. The beautiful thing about that lever was that you could unlock it — pretend you didn’t — and then lock it again. No one ever had to know you won the lottery but refused to claim your prize.

I’m hoping this new dishwasher doesn’t last long. We all resent the authority it has over us. The next time we shop for a dishwasher the only requirement will be that it has a lever that locks and unlocks yet leaves no tell-tale sign, such as the sound of coffee spoons clinking together that grows louder – louder – louder, I say! Louder every moment until I just can’t take it anymore and feel compelled to confess that Yes! I won the lottery!

It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! It’s a Bird!

Because it wasn’t raining Sunday morning, as it had been for 40 days and 40 nights in the Chicago-area, I sat outside by the pool with my dogs, a cup of coffee, and my laptop. I consider that to be a perfect way to start my day.

As I read e mails and blogs I heard a flapping noise right over my head and then a flopping noise coming from the pool. A bird had crash-landed in our pool and had obviously not been given swimming lessons as a gelding, or whatever you call a baby bird.

I grabbed the first thing I could find, which was a very small skimming net with a short handle, and ran over to try to coax the bird out of the water. I knelt down and sort of offered the net to the bird, which seemed like a stupid and hopeless thing to do. I knew I could never get close enough to save this bird, but it had other plans. It flopped on over to me and hopped right onto the little net.

It stayed on the net as I brought it over to the garden to dry out. It didn’t fly away and seemed perfectly happy and untraumatized. I can’t say the same for me.

Protecting his identity

Protecting his identity

It finally dawned on me that this was not your garden variety wild bird. Slowly I realized that what I was looking at was a pet-store-type bird; it even had a little band around its leg.

It was happy just hanging out in the garden, and then suddenly took off and flew right into one of our sliding glass doors. Fearing the worst, I went to assess the damage. The bird was totally fine and unfazed. I extended my finger and it climbed onto it. It was beautiful. I began to lactate.

It flew into a nearby bush at which time I realized:

1. I was home alone with no one to help me.

2. I have two dogs.

3. They slept outside through the entire search and rescue.

4.  I should take the dogs inside just in case they noticed the bird and wondered if it tasted like chicken.

5. I was still in my jammies.

6. I could feel the presence of our resident Cooper’s Hawk and, because I am a bird whisperer, knew I had better get the bird to a secure, undisclosed location before it became an amuse-bouche.

7. I don’t know nothin bout raisin no birds.

It turned its little head onto its little back and went to sleep on one of the little branches of the little bush. I took that opportunity to calmly lead the dogs inside, find a basket, get the mesh dome we usually use to keep flies out of the humus when we’re outside snacking, and a plastic cup of water.

Making sure the dogs didn’t follow me outside I walked over to check the bush, praying the bird was still there. It was still snoozing away. When it awoke I offered it a stick — hoping it would hop aboard, which it did — and placed it into the basket. I gently tossed in a few handfuls of grass and sticks and then poured water from the cup into the basket. The bird came up to the cup and drank the water as I was pouring it.

After it finished drinking, I placed the cup of water into the basket and then topped it off with the mesh dome. Knowing the bird was safe, I stayed with it while calling neighbors to see if anyone was minus a bird.

No one was. I called one of the local pet stores to see if they would take it in, but they wouldn’t. My friend Roberta told me to “tweet” on Twitter and post on Facebook about it to see if I’d get any nibbles. Not even a peep.

My friend, and bird enthusiast, Art came over to help. He immediately identified the bird as a male parakeet. I asked him to walk over to our neighbor’s house where an estate sale was in progress. Perhaps the bird had escaped in the midst of all the commotion taking place at their house.

But it wasn’t their bird or anyone else’s.

I called my mother who said, “Have you considered just asking the bird what its name is”? She is so smart, but the bird was not. It didn’t appear to know its name.

Finally Joanne, one of my neighbors, called to tell me she would take the bird for her 15-year-old daughter if no one claimed it, but she couldn’t get it until the next day. She said she had a cage but needed to find it in her attic, and wanted to get the appropriate parakeet accoutrements so it would be happy in its new home. I breathed a sigh of relief; the bird relieved itself in the cup of water.

As soon as Richard came home I asked him to watch the bird, even though it was safe in the MacGyver-style cage I had fashioned. I went to the pet store to buy parakeet food and, of course, a parakeet toy.

That bird ate like a …much bigger bird. It stuck its head into the bowl of food and didn’t come up for air for ten minutes.

I had plans with Rosa, who happens to be Art’s wife, that afternoon. She and Art offered me one of their bird cages to use until Joanne could locate her cage. The bird loved the cage because he had the freedom to fly around, eat, drink, and crap. Isn’t that what we all want?

The bird rested comfortably in the cage in my office that night. Meanwhile, the dogs still had no idea there was a bird living in the house.

Joanne, her husband, and their daughter came over last night to pick up the bird. I have never seen anyone as happy as their daughter was. As soon as she walked into the house, before she even saw the bird, her smile was so big I could see each and every one of her teeth. I should probably tell Joanne that from what I saw she should have her daughter’s wisdom teeth looked at.

Later that night Joanne called to tell me they had named the bird “Zed” and that everyone was doing well. I was exhausted. I had spent most of the day sitting in a pile of dirt babysitting a parakeet while in my jammies. There’s a sentence I never thought I’d write.

Getting Laid Off

My son is excited to be leaving for college in a few weeks. Me? Not so much. Yes, I’m excited for him; I’m just not that excited for me.

It really doesn’t help when people tell me, “You’ve done a good job! He’s ready to go to school! You should be happy for him! This is how it’s supposed to be”.

Yes, but I didn’t expect to lose my job.

I know I’m not technically losing my job, but after spending the past 24 years either being pregnant or caring for my children, it’s hard for me not to feel as if I’ve been fired.

Technically, I’ve never been fired from a job, so I don’t really know what that feels like, but I can pretty much imagine based on the way I’ve been feeling lately, which is a combination of sad, lonely, and nauseated.

The nausea is like “the bookends of being a mother” because I spent both pregnancies nauseated, and here I am again, feeling my stomach lurch its contents toward my throat all day every day.

I know he’ll come home. Even though he says he’ll see me in November, I know he’ll be home before then. But that doesn’t make me feel better about this because soon he won’t be here every day. As it is, I hardly see him at all because he lives in the basement (by choice), and we tend to come and go at different hours. But at least I know he’s here.

I know because I occasionally see his shoes by the back door, usually with Miles’, Kush’s, or any number of his friends’ shoes. I know because the Gummy Bears are all gone, and scribbled on the grocery list in his handwriting is, “Lucky Charms”, “Cinnamon Toast Crunch”, and “Powerade Zero”.

I try cooking his favorite things so that maybe he’ll be home more often for dinner, but I’m such a lousy cook that I can’t blame him for going to a different friend’s house almost every night.

I will learn to cook while he learns about life as a college student. I will be working on my new website and trying to navigate social media while he works to get good grades and navigate a new social life.

I’ve done this before. My daughter went away to school. I handled that transition by openly sobbing as I walked aimlessly through the aisles of Target. Now she lives at home, which is good because I’ll still have one of them here, at least for a little while. But this is the last time I’ll be doing this. Unless my dogs get accepted to a university, I’m out of kids to send away.

Richard walks around the house squealing, “I can’t wait to be an empty-nester” for all to hear, which bugs the crap out of me. I’m not ready, yet, and even if I were, I don’t think it’s appropriate to burst out into song and dance about it in front of the kids.

I am a little surprised by my reaction to the upcoming unpleasantries (for me) because it’s not like I was a helicopter-y stay-at-home mom who did everything for her kids. My kids have been washing, drying, and putting away their own laundry for years, mostly because I tend to turn things pink, but the point is they are fairly independent.

I had a fabulously fun job at the local park district teaching kindergartners whatever I was asked to teach them for the past nine years. I wasn’t always home when the kids came home from school, and sometimes worked special events in the evenings and on weekends.

My kids can cook, drive themselves where they need to be, and make their own doctor appointments. They share a car and are pretty good about making arrangements with each other without parental involvement when it comes to who needs the car for work and when.

They regularly load and unload the dishwasher, and even take care of the dogs if we are out of town — And both dogs take medication twice a day! Maybe those things don’t sound all that impressive, but I’m proud of them for being able to take care of basic things like that.

I guess I have done my job well. I’m just not ready to stop doing it.

Note: If you leave a comment calling me a big baby, I promise you I won’t approve it.

The Family Picnic

Since ‘tis the season when families get together for barbeques, I thought I’d share a story that first appeared in Chicago Parent in August, 1992, Indy’s Child in July 1995, and online on msnbc.com.

Ah, the annual family picnic. It’s the one day each year when every relative you never knew you had climbs out of his or her time capsule to play Catch with you.

It’s one of those occasions that sounds like it’ll be a lot of fun until you realize, as The Day of The Picnic draws nearer and nearer, just how much you have no idea who these people really are who have come to play Catch with you.

It’s funny, but after all of these years, I still don’t know, let’s say, about…99% of the people who come to our family picnic. For all I know, by some strange quirk in zoning laws, all the people who attend our picnic every year might really belong to a whole other family who always ends up having its picnic on the same day, at the same time and place as ours.

I know I should know these people. Perhaps I just don’t pay enough attention year after year when my mother drags Richard and me over to yet another woman with a bee-hive hairdo, sky-blue eye shadow, and neon orange lipstick and says, “Leslie, you remember Aunt Tootie, don’t you? She used to babysit for you when you were about this tall”, gesturing to her knee.

Aunt Tootie replies, “My! Look how you’ve grown”!

“I’m 34, now, Aunt Tootie”, I think to myself. “People change”.

Aunt Tootie continues, “Do you remember me? I sure remember you! You used to love running around the house naked”.

Richard’s eyebrows crest as he says, “Oh, really? Well, come on, Aunt Tootie. How about you and I go for a little walk so we can discuss this further”?

Now, I know a lot of you are thinking, “Then don’t go. Stay home. Say NO to bugs”!

And that’s a very good idea, unless, of course, it’s YOUR mother who organizes the family picnic. Then, you have to go. And you have to like it. And you have to say, “Yes! Let’s do this again next year”!

I know I should consider myself lucky. I know a lot of people who actually have to travel by car with three screaming, Gummy Bear-throwing children for days just to play Catch with people they don’t know.

But when I stop to think about it, because we both come from such large, extended families, Richard and I spend a lot of time attending functions for and with people we don’t know.

Our good friend Tom once invited us to a very swanky party that we had to miss because one of Richard’s third-cousins-twice-removed had invited us to his son’s Bar Mitzvah. Tom asked Richard exactly how he was related to this boy and after Richard had finished plodding through his family tree, Tom said, “Gee! In most normal families, you wouldn’t even know that person”.

Which brings me back to our family picnic. Unlike Richard’s family picnic, comprised of a whole other family I don’t know, ours has no organized games that supply fun for the entire family. We have games for the kids, but his family plays games such as the ever popular egg toss, and the even more popular “Mummy Mommy” game during which all the darling children in the family race to see who can be the first to wrap their parents up in toilet paper.

Though my family’s picnic lacks the oodles of fun those games provide, we have our own brand of picnic fun known as “The Chase Sisters Hall of Fame”. This game requires a keen eye and a shameless soul, which is why only my sister Beth and I can play it. In this game we award mental trophies to our relatives in such categories as “Best Fake Smile” and “Most Colorful Bermuda Shorts”.

And so, The Day of The Picnic has finally arrived, and as we prepare to leave for the big event I have a feeling that this year will be different. I am actually looking forward to it.

I don’t know. Maybe it’s because I have matured. Maybe it’s because I finally realize how lucky I am to be blessed with so many people who care enough about me that they come to play Catch with me each year. After all, I have many friends who have no family in the area, and always tell us how lucky we are to share such closeness with our families.

Or, maybe it’s that I saw Richard pack Family-sized bottles of Tylenol and Advil into our picnic basket. I have a feeling this year’s picnic will be lots of fun.

Note: Mom: it’s just a story I really do love our family picnic. It’s Beth who hates it.

The Secret Life of Hornets

Anyone who knows me is aware that I value the existence of all living things. Ants should be treated with respect for they are here to work and create a future for generations of ants to come; unless, of course,  they’re infesting my kitchen floor and cabinets,  in which case I lose all respect for them. I don’t consider my existence any more important than, say, that of a cricket, even though crickets really creep me out and I had to buy them and feed them to my bearded dragons (may they rest in peace), sometimes having to catch one that went AWOL with my bare hands –eek! Maybe I deserve life more than lice, bed bugs, and fleas, but I don’t get all superior about it.

My friend Alyson calls me “Snow” — short for Snow White– because over the years she has been a witness as I have rescued and rehabilitated, when feasible, a number of wild animals and then set them free, back to the wilderness that is the suburb in which I live.

I hold the Guinness World Record* for keeping goldfish alive. If Richard sets a mouse trap he has to do so without my knowledge and without providing me with a postmortem. I take spiders outside even during Chicago winters. I am aware they normally don’t thrive in sub-zero temperatures, but at least I don’t feel directly responsible if they get the flu.

One lovely summer afternoon last year as I was admiring the beginning of the sunset across the golf course from our front yard I noticed a preponderance of flying things swirling around one of the pine trees. Their movement was familiar, and not in a good way. Flies seem to move about in quick, seemingly random paths. These UFO’s moved more slowly and deliberately, as if working together. Plus I’m pretty sure I heard them drone on about a queen, or something.

So, because I wanted to see what all the buzz was about, I inched closer to the tree, slowly saying the mantra I always say to myself when I have a hunch that whatever I am about to get myself into isn’t going to end up in a soothing drizzle of rainbows and puppies, “No sudden movement”.

The closer I got to the tree the more of them I saw. And then I saw this.


I moved in a little closer and then I saw THIS!

hornets nest

At first I was mesmerized by it’s beauty. Surely something so delicate and lovely couldn’t be dangerous. As I lifted a finger to touch it an imaginary mini-Richard jumped onto my left shoulder and yelled, “STOP!” Buzz kill.

Instead of touching it I began to tiptoe away while saying to myself, “No sudden movement”.

What to do? What to do? Clearly this was a hive of sorts. Clearly the hive housed a gaggle of bee-type things. Clearly I had to call someone to help me decide what to do. But, remember, I don’t kill things, so I had no idea who to call.

A friend suggested Pest Solutions. I liked the name because it sounded as though they really cared about pests and would probably just relocate the nest.

Justin arrived from Pest Solutions, took one look at the nest and whispered, “No sudden movement,” as he motioned for me to follow him as he slowly backed away from it. “That’s a Bald Faced Hornet’s nest. I have only ever seen one other. They are bad. This has to go”.

I would normally want a second opinion, but the terrified look on Justin’s face was enough for me to believe him. I wanted to ask him if they really have Bald Faces, but didn’t think he would care all that much whether the insects were fuzzy or not. “I think you should go back inside, Ma’am,” he said. “I have to go back to the base and get what I need to kill these things. I will probably have to come back to treat the nest tomorrow, and at least once more. These things don’t die”.

I followed orders and waited inside until Justin returned. When  I saw his truck I walked outside on the opposite side of the yard from the nest and overheard him on his cellphone. “Yeah, man. It’s huge. You gotta come see this”. He said a few more things into his phone and then told me he had called a buddy who also worked at Pest Solutions because he’d never seen a Bald Faced Hornet’s nest. Unfortunately his buddy was busy with other pests and couldn’t come over. Then Justin called his wife, told her he loved her, asked her to kiss the kids for him, said a prayer, and told me he was going to get the supplies from his truck. He instructed me to go back inside the house and not come out. He said he’d be back the next day. I took this picture from the safety of my office window.

Justin the Brave

Using a long beepole, Justin puffed Alpine dust into the nest from as many angles as he could. And then he was gone. I called Richard and the kids and told them not to come up that side of the driveway and to run into the house as fast as they could.

As promised, Justin returned the following day. If I were a betting man I’d have bet he’d have brought his buddy with him. Luckily I’m neither a bettor or a man because he arrived solo.

He peered into the nest and declared the inhabitants dead. He used the beepole to knock the nest down. As soon as it hit the driveway I said, “I think I see movement from inside”. “Step away,” he said, as he ran back to his truck for heavy duty poison.

After drenching the hive in “hornets-be-gone-with-fresh-lemon-scent”,

Justin said the hornets were really most sincerely dead.

 more stuff

The “Snow” part of me felt bad about destroying such a beautiful work of nature, but I knew it had to be done.

Inside the nest

I took these photos to illustrate the size of the hornets. Look! No facial hair!



I  began writing this story on June 6th, 2013.  That very same day, at 11:45 A.M., Pest Solutions left a message on my cell phone asking if we had any Bald Faced Hornet’s nests, or other pests that needed to be “relocated”. Freaky! I’m just saying…

So, I actually found the invoice that was dated July 17th, 2012 when Justin saved the day. I normally can’t find things so this was a big deal for me. This is what the invoice said:

“Pest Total: About 100. Exterior- Yard: Treated one eye-level basketball-sized Bald Faced Hornets nest in tree off driveway. PLEASE STAY CLEAR OF AREA FOR AT LEAST 24 HOURS!!! Hornets are VERRY aggressive and will sting!!!” That part was also highlighted and circled.

Thankfully we haven’t seen any nests yet. It hasn’t been hot here, and it’s still pretty early in the season. But if I ever see or hear anything like that again, you can bee sure I’ll call Justin and tell him to bring his buddy with him.

* This statement has not been substantiated by Guinness World Records.

According to http://corporate.guinnessworldrecords.com/index.aspx, the annual Guinness World Records book is the best-selling copyrighted title of all time. Yes, but it is a Guinness World Record of sales of books?

Oh, Wow!

I am so excited to have been contacted by author Alethea Eason. She asked to interview me for her blog and here is her post about it. She’s an amazing author. Please follow her on Facebook, on her blog, and buy her books! I interviewed her as well and will post it as soon as it’s finished.



The Sandwich Generation

I knew the day would come when I would become part of what is commonly referred to as “the sandwich generation”. It’s defined as the time in your life when you are sandwiched between the needs of your children and those of your parents. And, I can tell you, after only having been in this pickle for a few weeks, it ain’t no picnic.

My kids are pretty self-sufficient at 15 and 19, but my son is in the middle of finals and my daughter is home from college getting ready to start her summer job. Before he starts summer school and she starts working there are orthodontist appointments, haircuts, and other details that I need to or want to be a part of.

And even though they both say they don’t need more rest than they are getting, believe me, they do. Recently on the news I heard someone giving advice on staying healthy. He said “If you wake up on a Tuesday, go to bed on that Tuesday. Don’t go to bed on Wednesday.” I thought that was hilarious, but it’s also really good advice.

Up until a few weeks ago, my parents had been doing pretty well. But now my Dad has a back problem that is so horrendously painful that every time he winces or yelps I feel nauseous. He is in the most pain I’ve ever seen a human being in without the benefit of having a baby at the end.

This “sandwich generation” stuff is not a tasty pb&j or a perfectly toasted grilled cheese. It’s more like moldy bread slathered with bacteria-laden mayonnaise that’s been sitting in 100 degree full sun all day topped with spoiled headcheese (would you even be able to tell if headcheese is spoiled?), and several other varieties of lunchmeat that are months beyond their expiration dates. By the way, I looked up headcheese because I wasn’t sure if it was something like bologna with round bits of cheese in it, or, as I suspected, something really gross. Well, according to The New Lexicon Webster’s Dictionary, 1988 edition, headcheese is defined as “meat from a pig’s (or calf’s) head, boiled and pressed in a mold, in its natural aspic.” Natural aspic isn’t much of a treat, either.

I am not complaining about being a sandwich. I am not the one that is not old enough to get a job or drive, nor am I the one that is too old and sick to enjoy life at the moment. But watching the struggles of my children — and mainly my parents– makes me feel as helpless and stressed out as a rapidly spoiling headcheese and mayo sandwich sitting in full sun on a picnic table in August with fancy toothpicks inserted in the middle of each half.

The stress is giving me daily stomach aches as big as a foot-long sub riddled with fancy toothpicks. I try not to let the stress get to me. I try to breathe deeply and take things as they come. But things aren’t just coming at me. They’re being hurled.

Again, I know I have no complaints. I am not the one studying until all hours of the night for finals. Well, let’s face it. Neither is my son, the one who has the finals. And, I’m not the one trying to adjust to living back at home after being away for a year, wanting to borrow the car, needing money, and wanting to stay up until the next day. I am not the one in the hospital writhing in pain, and I am not the woman he’s been married to for over 50 years watching him writhe in pain and staying with him from early morning until late at night making sure he is properly taken care of.

But I am now, for better or for worse, smack dab in the middle of the sandwich generation. And even if you add fries with that, it’s hard to swallow.

My Dad will have surgery in the next few days that should alleviate some of his pain. He’ll go into a rehab facility and that should help my Mom feel more comfortable and more able to take care of her own needs, like a full night’s rest.

My sister, another sandwich casualty, will be off work for the summer and be able to help out without feeling she’s being pulled instead of nicely sliced in half.

My brother, the third sandwich on this deli tray, will be able to come into town soon and help out, too. And, since he is undeniably the favorite child, he’ll be considered the Hero sandwich. And I don’t say that bitterly, like arugula. I say it with relish. He will be a fresh face; a squishy piece of white bread, relieving what’s left of the crusts of the rest of us.

My kids will settle into their summer routines. My husband and I will get to play some tennis or a round of golf, and my parents’ nightmare will soon be a really bad distant memory. Life will begin to get better for everyone. Then we’ll all go out and celebrate with big, fresh sandwiches. Hold the headcheese. And definitely hold the mayo.

Don’t Tell My Mother

A few years ago we decided to install a fence at our old house because we had just adopted a dog. In order to do that the fence people had to cut back some branches from some of our trees. One of the fence guys knocked on the door and asked me if I had a chain saw. I didn’t. So, he said we should go rent one at the local hardware store. He wanted me to come with him, and he wanted me to drive.

I packed up the kids, ages 2 and 6, into the car with this guy I had never met before to go pick up a chainsaw. The moment I pulled out of the driveway in my Barbie striped minivan with the kids and, well, let’s just call him Jimbo, I realized this might not have been such a smart idea.

I decided to make a little conversation with Jimbo. The hardware store was close-by, but it would be a long ride if we all just sat there quietly.

“So,” I began, “have you worked for the fence company long?”

“I’ve been with them for a few months,” he replied. He seemed nice enough but I couldn’t help noticing he had a pierced tongue. Now, this was a few years ago and I hadn’t ever seen anyone up close and personal with a pierced tongue.

I figured Jimbo wouldn’t mind if I asked him about his pierced tongue. I mean don’t people pierce things and tattoo things so they’ll be noticed? If you don’t want your piercing or tattoo to be noticed, I would think they would be in a less obvious, and probably more painful, place.

“So,” I began meekly, “how long have you had your tongue pierced?”

‘Oh, about a year or so,” Jimbo said.

Veronica, the 6-year-old sat up a little as she began to become interested in the conversation. Lucas, the 2-year-old was fascinated by his own feet.

“Do you ever take it out?” I asked.

“Only when I was in prison,” Jimbo replied.


Did he just say, “Only when I was in prison?” Was I really in my Barbie-striped minivan with Jimbo the ex-con with the pierced tongue and MY CHILDREN on our way to rent a chain saw from the hardware store? How would I be able to explain this to my mother? I decided I’d just never tell her. She knows now that she’s reading this, but she would never have known if she didn’t.

So, we pulled into the parking lot of the hardware store and I calmly parked the Barbie-striped minivan, removed Veronica from the back seat and took Lucas out of his car seat. I held on to them as we followed Jimbo inside.

We walked up to the rental counter and requested a chain saw. The man behind the counter asked if either of us knew how to use one. “No,” I replied. “Yeah,” Jimbo-the-ex-con-with-the-pierced-tongue-who-had-probably-just-been-released-from-prison-for-manslaughter-and-was-on-parole-and-probably-didn’t-have-a-valid-driver’s-license answered.

We rented the chain saw and got buckled up into the minivan again. I didn’t feel like making conversation on the way back. I was more concerned with just getting home safely and not so much about becoming friends with Jimbo or even being nice because I wanted him to like me. It’s a flaw. I know. I want people to like me. I’m a people pleaser. But this people pleaser was not about to be sawed into little pieces by Jimbo the ex-con. At the same time, I didn’t want him to not like me, because that would just be plain stupid.

We got home and I quickly got the kids out of the car and into the house. We didn’t go outside the rest of the day while Jimbo and the crew worked on the fence. I locked all the doors and put on a Barney tape. Even I watched it.

Jimbo came a-knocking at the door later that afternoon. I opened the door, but talked to him through the locked screen door. He said, “We’re done. We should go take the chain saw back.”

I looked at Jimbo and his pierced tongue and said, “You know what? I’ll take care of it later.”

“Ok,” Jimbo said. “I’ll see you later. Bye”

“Bye,” I said as I closed and locked the door. He’ll see me later? “Over my dead body,” I thought to myself. “Let me re-phrase that,” I thought to myself as I walked back into the family room to watch the end of the Barney tape. I’d return the chain saw later that day.

Better yet, I’d ask Richard to do it when he got home from work. I wanted to stay locked up in the house for the rest of the day with the kids watching Barney. Barney never talked about piercing your tongue or using chainsaws. He talked about sharing and caring and crap like that. But on that day, that was the best crap in the world to calm my nerves and take my mind off of Jimbo, who probably was a very nice ex-con-with-a-pierced-tongue.

I often wonder why I needed to go with Jimbo. Why didn’t the fence guys go get the chainsaw? Was it because they were ALL ex-cons who would probably pop up on the “Do not rent these guys chainsaws” register and didn’t have one valid driver’s license among them?

I’ll never know why I was needed to go to the hardware store with Jimbo. It doesn’t matter anyway because our new house already has a fence. If I ever need to get this fence repaired I would call another company. And the first thing I’d do is inspect all of their tongues. Then I’d ask to see valid driver’s licenses and send them on their way if instead of licenses they had ID cards from the Joliet Penitentiary.