My mother and husband have a love-hate relationship. I think it is because they both have such an opinion about the different things that go on with the kids, the house, money, me -- pretty much everything that makes up life. So when real feelings slip out, it makes for an even more awkward divide.
The wedge is not intentional. My mom thinks she is being helpful when every now and again she forwards an email that tells me exactly what is in a chicken nugget or how to never drink the water from a plastic water bottle that is left in a car for days. She’ll call me to remind me to make sure the girls have their sweaters because the afternoon is going to be cold or to be careful driving because the roads are slippery.
Things like this really drive Adam crazy. He will question why she's getting involved and he’ll make some snide remark about her staying out of our business. I, on the other hand, will either take her advice, store it in the back of my mind or I might disregard it altogether but I'm polite and thankful. I know she acts like this not because it has anything to do with undermining us, but everything to do with being a loving and concerned mom. Maybe as a mom, I just have more tolerance for it.
There are times though when Adam seems to soften. When the kids are sick or the dog swallowed a nail or we need to put new plants in the front of the house –Adam will call my mom to ask her opinion when he is unsure of his own and he trusts my mom’s advice in certain areas. They will then chat and laugh while they are on the phone. Of course this feeling will remain only until the next time my mom does something grandma-y or motherly that is unsolicited and it will totally annoy my husband again. And then he's back to falling into a mood whenever the phone rings and her number shows up on the caller ID. He doesn't answer it at which point, I will normally pick-up.
Except this one recent time when Ella answered the phone. It just so happened that the call came in while Adam was still mad at my mother for something (which I truly can't even remember what it was - there are just so many instances where I don’t even totally know what sets him off).
When Ella heard my mom’s voice on the other end of the line, she smiled. But within seconds her smile faded. She leaned into the phone receiver as if preparing to say something big and said gently that she had very bad news for her Gram. As it was recounted to me, my mom immediately thought that something happened at school or that Ella was worried about something at home. My mom encouraged her to share the details. Ella, without a clue around the comment, blurted out that the bad news was that Adam hates her.
Being a little dry, level-headed and a realist about her relationship with Adam, my mom just started laughing. Where I would have gotten overly emotional, she had the opposite reaction. Adam overheard Ella say this and started flipping out. Even with her carefree disregard for the comment, my mom felt bad that Adam was now screaming in the background at Ella and me, professing that he never said that. He went from a wild man in the background of the call to the main voice on the line after he grabbed the phone and tried to convince my mom that he didn’t know what would make Ella think such a thing. At this point, while still chuckling, my mom swiftly said that kids only repeat what they hear. I am not sure if her laughing over the situation made Adam feel better or worse.
But I will say that I am certain Adam will now never forget the cardinal rule of using initials, nicknames or code words around the kids when we need to talk about people. I would say we would promise to never gossip but it’s in my nature and yea, stopping that would never happen. So let’s just be smart and spare feelings. Not everyone wants to – or needs to know – the absolute truth.
truth be told
My mother and husband have a love-hate relationship. I think it is because they both have such an opinion about the different things that go on with the kids, the house, money, me -- pretty much everything that makes up life. So when real feelings slip out, it makes for an even more awkward divide.
Disney. It's supposed to be the most magical place on Earth. And in the spirit of imagination and storytelling - it is. In the reality of life where there are exhausted children, frustrated parents and a heat wave – the fantasy is dead.
It was late Fall when we took our girls. We thought it would be a nice time of year to enjoy the Florida weather. The first day was perfectly cool but it rained. We bought ponchos and looked like condoms of varying sizes and colors walking around the park. While serving a purpose, it was an uncomfortable wardrobe add-on. The plastic would stick to wet skin or get snagged up in our backpacks making things hot and awkward.
By the second day, the heat was intense. The lines for the attractions were long and we had a stroller for Vanessa that had a funky wheel and required a rocket-scientist to figure out how to close it. This might be fine if we didn’t have to get on and off a bus or monorail to jump from park to park. And with being totally anal around our schedule to get to the must-see attractions and all reservations, we were in and out of parks every few hours.
It was the day before our last day of vacation, when Adam hit his limit and crowds and heat, had finally made him snap. The park had closed while the girls and were finishing up in the bathroom (the 100th time we made a lavatory pit stop). It still amazes me that no matter how little the kids drink or how many times we stop, my children feel the need to visit every bathroom that we pass. This same thing happens every time we go into a store too. I am just about ready to get into my shopping mode – game face and happy place – and one of them says they need to go the bathroom, breaking my momentum and mindset. Then I bark at them to hurry and then feel guilty and spend the rest of the time buying them shit we don’t need.
In this vacay moment, since we were on the opposite end of where the buses were parked to pick up guests and shuttle them to their hotels, we had to run to get to our ‘free’ transportation. And I will say, we are not a running family. We are all at least 20 lbs. overweight and not physically skilled. If you see me running, there must be someone chasing me and even then, I might opt to just sit and close my eyes in hopes it would go around me.
That in mind, it might be needless to say that we were just about to make the last bus. Adam was pushing Vanessa wildly in her stroller, working very hard to keep it straight. That crazy wheel didn’t make it easy. Ella and I trailed behind, bags of purchased goods in our hands, swinging around us as we madly pushed through the last few steps to catch up to Adam and the bus stop. We were all breathing heavy. The bus was full and waiting for us.
I gave Ella all the bags and got Vanessa out of her carriage. Adam told us to get on board while he closed the stroller. We found our place inside our ride, standing between the knees of the first two rows of people seated and facing towards the middle. I was just getting myself and the girls settled in position to straddle other people’s strollers and backpacks when I looked out the window and saw our carriage raised over Adam’s head – and then smashing to the ground. He did this several times.
A light-up Minnie Mouse doll that was in the undercarriage flew out and her plastic eye pinged the glass bus window. Two sets of Mardi Gras beads were tossed into the air, sparkling under the parking lot lights. Things were flying, Adam was cursing – sounding a lot like the dad in “A Christmas Story” when he was mad at the furnace. There was nothing Disney, or magical or quite frankly, normal about this moment.
A Diet Coke bottle sailed into the air and landed at the feet of a young boy. The bus driver asked Adam if he was coming onto the bus. I started to sweat wondering if Adam would throw the stroller at the driver because he’d be pissed that the driver just asked him if he was boarding. I stretched, poking my head out the door and told Adam to just leave the stroller. By now, everyone was looking at either him or me or the shards of stroller remnants that were all over the sidewalk. The young boy picked up the soda bottle and bravely handed it to Adam. He warned Adam softly said that it might explode and said to be careful opening it. I don’t know if it was his small voice, the kind reminder or that Adam was just out of steam, but he took the bottle and thanked the boy. After a pause, he turned back to the stroller and like a pro, he closed it with one twist of the handle. It folded like a surrendering solider.
Adam got on board with the carriage in hand. The whoosh of the door closing, set the air-conditioning on and the lights off. No one on the bus said a word. The crazy wheel of the stroller banged against the seat structure the entire time. Adam watched it swivel and hit the metal bars. It was like it was taunting him. After we got off the bus, and when most people were out of sight, Adam threw the stroller to the ground telling us again how much he “hated that fucking thing”. I quietly swung Vanessa onto my hip and we all began to walk away from the mangled heap to head back to the hotel, and back to Jersey the next morning, sans stroller.
For the Love of Fame
When I was in high school I always imagined I’d become famous. But this was at a time before reality shows and social media, so there weren't many ways to really get noticed unless you mailed demo tapes or went on auditions. With two attempts, my dream seemed less promising and a nightmare would end it all.
At first I thought I wanted to be a news journalist. Honestly, I don’t know what I was thinking. Anyone who knows me would say that I am the farthest thing from a journalist. For example, I would carry around the New York Times as I walked around my school grounds, deliberately letting the masthead peek out of my bag so people would think I was someone intelligent. I don’t think I ever read a black and white word of that paper. I also didn’t – and still don’t’ - really know anything about politics or international relations and I wasn’t really a fan of watching the news. I think all of these things would be necessary to have a successful career in journalism.
After that obvious realization, I thought about what I did love and where I might be able to excel. Always liking to be the center of attention and being totally fine with superficial things, I thought I could be a contestant in a teen pageant. Because I was a minor, my involvement required the participation of my mother - And my mother really couldn't be bothered with things like this. She thought pageants were corny and stupid and that I really wasn't pageant material. Not that she was being mean, she was actually right. I was consistently overweight with small boobs, bad haircuts and bags so dark under my eyes that I made Uncle Fester from the "Adams Family" look good.
We didn't have a lot of extra money to go throwing around either and so the $500 entry fee for the pageant pretty much forced my parents to choose between food for the month or getting me in front of the bright lights for five minutes -- to likely win nothing. After much carrying on, I finally convinced my mom to let me try it and I dragged her to a pageant in Cherry Hill. She couldn’t be more mortified. After getting there we noticed droves of moms who looked as though they'd stepped off the pageant stage themselves. It was obvious they worked daily to condition and train their daughters for these types of shows. I was in awe of them; my mother thought they were all so cheesy. I tried to explain to my mom that it was my dream to be famous and I was hoping she could support me. She just looked at me, took a puff of her cigarette, and as the smoke blew out her mouth she said sympathetically “oh honey, you’re not gonna be famous.” I just stood there with my mouth open, my hands on my wide hips and my big dark eyes bugging out of my head, marveling at her candor.
I won’t paint the picture that my mom didn’t support or believe in me at all. But becoming a pageant queen, or actress or even an on-air weather girl (my journalist related fall-back idea), wasn't really what she thought I was poised to do. And she was probably right.
Many years after losing the pageant, I was still trying to find my “special talent”. It was then that I came across an ad in a magazine asking for "real women". The request was actually from the magazine itself, hoping to be able to use a story to depict a few real women in today's world - you know, a little overweight and a lot maxed out with kids and careers and trying to find a way to make it all work without becoming a full blown lunatic or alcoholic - and showcase them as the publication subscribers. I submitted my photo and the required essay about who the "real" me is and I got a call from the editor within days to tell me that they had chosen me as a subject in their piece.
A few weeks later, I went to the photo shoot had a ball! Make-up artists and hair stylists were getting me ready; a wardrobe girl was coming over and lining up outfits that I needed to wear. There was a full table of breakfast pastries that were free and fancy (yay! score for the "real" girl who clearly wasn't a starving model). On the set itself - there were those cool umbrella lights and a huge fan. A fan! What woman didn’t want to strike a pose while her hair and clothes were blowing around like the token hot chick in a 1980’s Whitesnake video? I tried not to think about the fact that this article was for a magazine that mainly featured plus sized women and that the circulation was lower than 100,000. I got in front of the camera and modeled like a pro. It was so fun and only fueled my appetite for a celebrity life.
After the shoot, I check my mailbox every day for months for "my" issue and - it finally came. I ran into the house to savor the excitement and anticipation. I shook off my coat and fanned through the pages. And there it was. There I was. And now, I wanted to die.
They chose the photo where I was wearing a blue silk shirt, grey pencil skirt and tall tan boots. My face was so puffy; it looked like I had an allergic reaction to something I had eaten (those fucking fancy, free morning carbs!). And it looked like I had eaten everything - the shirt clung to the spare tire around my middle, the skirt was tight around my big ass.. While I remember feeling like my hair was blowing around and looking sexy at the shoot, my hair in the photo looked thin and limp like locks of a million-year-old Crypt Keeper caught in a wind tunnel. And where I thought I was making sensual faces during the session, in the magazine, I looked more like I was screaming in pain or having a seizure. Where the hell was the retouching?!
I imagined my mother across town sitting there with her ever present cigarette, exhaling and shaking her head thinking “I told her she shouldn't do shit like this.” One bad picture in a small circulation magazine and I didn't want to leave my house for a week. I couldn't imagine how I could be a celebrity and handle an unflattering posting on "Page 6" every other day.
My hopes of being famous were drowned in the bottle of wine that I drank that night. Unless of course, I considered leveraging this experience and I put the understandable horrors of my experience online and turned it into a social firestorm to become the "real, everyday woman" who went mad after having a terrible go at being in the pages of a magazine. From there my celebrity stock would go up as it is predicted that I am the next reality chick likely to pull a "Britney", release a sex tape, or go all hard-core Jersey down the shore. Hmmm...I feel a fist pump coming on……
When I was pregnant my body went through changes that I never expected. Even with every book and article that I read to prepare myself for pregnancy and parenting, I still was not prepared for some of the physical alterations. Of course I knew that I would gain weight and stretch out - those were standards that anyone would expect. What was most surprising were other areas affected – nose, nipples and the nether regions.
I actually didn’t notice the impact that my growing nose made on my face until I saw myself in pictures. I would however notice when something changed in a personal area. And how could I not? What were small, pink nipples on my B-cup boob, became dark as Hershey Kisses and as large as a coffee-cup saucers. My pregnancy breasts had filled out to a solid C (yay!) but the nipples that topped them were actually bigger than my entire pre-baby boob.
The pressure I felt often in my vagina made me nothing but curious to take a mirror down there and check it out. I couldn’t believe it. I looked like I had a hairy hot dog bun between my legs. My labia were puffy and hard and swollen. Ouch and ew.
As I moved the mirror slightly for further exploration – I noticed the worst change ever. A hemorrhoid. I had heard women getting them after labor but I didn’t think it would be before. And there seems to be nothing but horror stories about these things and I had never had one before. I went to have it removed pretty much because it was painful but also because of the stigma that came along with the flaw.
When my doctor entered the exam room I was already rolled over on my side with my big, giant, white ass, exposed. He was a little man and reminded me of George Burns because of his black-rimmed glasses and grey hair. He seemed to be at ease with making light conversation even though I was ass up. Unfazed, he would interject pleasantries and “old-timer” jokes during the exam.
While he was checking out my “hemmy” he said how he could see how it would be painful considering the size. Good, for once I wasn’t being dramatic. He then said that he would be right back and he left the room. I figured he was going to get the tools he needed to remove it or reduce the size.
After about five minutes he returned and immediately apologized that he had left the room for so long, explaining that he hadn’t had a break yet and needed to get a quick bite to eat. I told him that was totally fine but in my head I was like - "what? How on earth can this man look at my asshole, remember he hasn’t eaten and then actually go and consume something?! He knew he was going to come back to me, put his head in my ass again, and then perform a gross procedure!"
I know they say doctors see everything and are hardly fazed anymore - but seriously!? I don’t know what he went off and had for lunch but I imagined him eating a Roast Beef sandwich. Whatever his meal of choice, I was glad he came back to help. I left the office feeling like a woman in less pain and with a new ass - but I assure you, I was the furthest thing from hungry.
Airing Out Dirty Laundry
While listening to the radio on my way home from work one day, I heard the DJ ask listeners to call in to talk about how a romantic attempt went awry. I knew I had the perfect story and feverishly dialed-in with hopes of getting through. When what I assumed to be a station intern screening calls answered the phone, I told him about my husband’s attempt to be romantic and how it ended badly. He put me on hold and returned to say that he was going to put me through to the DJ and I’d be live on the radio. Apparently I had the perfect romantic disaster.
When the DJ clicked over to my queued up call, he asked me to share with the listening audience what happened. I had thirty-seconds or less to sum up a night of hours of misery. I started off….
Before we were married, we were at a fraternity formal together. Adam had wanted it to be a special night and before the event started, he had decorated the hotel room we had reserved with candles and rose petals on the bed. While at the formal we drank and danced and drank and ate and drank some more. Too much more. We stumbled back to the hotel room. We got to the room and I was gushing over his attempt to be sweet. Then like a cap unscrewed off a fire hydrant, Adam projectile vomited all over the bed – rose petals and all. He then fell face forward in the mess and passed out. I didn’t know what to do – so I rolled him over out of the vomit and pushed him to the edge of the mattress. Tons of rose petals were now stuck to his face, hair and clothes. He looked like a red polka-dotted penguin in his black and white suit and the flower adornments. I stayed up all night, gagging occasionally over the smell in the room but wanted to make sure he didn’t die before I killed him the next morning. This was anything but romantic. No one got laid, the candles never got lit and his crisp white shirt turned pink from the mixture of moist puke and red petals.
The DJ laughed and offered to send me 100 red roses from the segment’s sponsor. (Ironic).
As I hung up the phone, feeling a high from a moment of embarrassing fame, my cell phone chirped. I answered. It was my mother-in-law.
She asked me if I was just on the radio. My mind thought back to the story where her son was positioned as a total drunk, trying to have sex in a seedy hotel before marriage. I cringed as I admitted it was my story. She laughed. I laughed. Thousands of other people in the top radio demographic were likely laughing also.
The Driving Cause
Adam has a real problem with how much and how often I spend on my shopping addiction. Although he would never admit that he too can go a little crazy with money, the proof came in the form of a new, shiny purchase for him. And even with a bag full of goods at a fraction of what he spent, I was still the one who was “out of control”. But in the end, I was actually very much in control.
After being together for so many years and going through the same purchase patterns, it amazes me that Adam still can't understand why one woman would need so many of dresses, shoes and purses. His frustration with my overabundance was further punctuated when we were lying in bed one night and heard the wooden rack in my closet split in half and crash to the floor under the weight of too many clothes.
It was so loud in the quite of the night that we both jumped up out of the bed. My heart slowed down when I realized someone didn’t break into our house to try and kill us, but his heart only beat faster with fury. I told him I would go through and get rid of some things but that we had to turn our spare bedroom into a walk-in closet for me. There was just no way between the hundreds of pieces of clothing and pairs of shoes that I had, that I could make anything fit in the closet that was clearly just too small.
He agreed. And it was perfect timing to make the change. I was just about to go away to the Bahamas on a girl’s weekend for my friend’s 40th birthday. I would use this closet cleansing as a way to see what I could potentially buy while I was away (a new fun dress? An authentic island bathing suit? A cute pair of flip-flops?) and to pick out what I was going to pack.
By the time I was done, I was impressed with myself. Everything was organized – dresses on one wall, skirts and shirts on another. Shorts and tees in one section and sweaters and leggings in another. Six tubs of shoes and an armoire of pocketbooks and one special spot for my cowboy hat - the one I would wear once a year to the obligatory Bon Jovi concert - the staple summer event for every Jersey girl.
The kids came into “mommy’s new room” and we all marveled at my stuff. They were playing “mommy” by putting on my high-heels and bracelets.
Even Adam was impressed with the purging and organizing of my wardrobe; oblivious to the fact that I left just enough room for any new purchases, whether while I was away or from one of my impending online orders. With my new closet room, I was confident I could disguise my ever-expanding collection but I was warned.
The day I was set to leave for the trip, he cautioned me to “watch my spending”. It irks the shit out of me when he reminds me of that before I set off to do something enjoyable. I never say that to him. And I guess I should.
My girlfriends and I were in Bahamas for five days. We had a blast – spending! - on food, drinks, and more drinks. We went to the town market and I absolutely had to buy things. First, it was near impossible to walk past the women selling their goods and following me with attractive offers. Second, my tourist dollars could help stimulate the economy thereby doing a huge service to keeping the island a promising travel destination for years to come. I was really doing a good thing, right?
By the time we were packing to head home from our trip, I had to buy a new carry-on bag that would better accommodate my purchases. I rolled into Newark airport with five dresses for me, two for each daughter along with two wooden turtles for the girls and a t-shirt and baseball hat for Adam.
I pulled up to our house and was slightly hurt that Adam and the girls seemed to be out since his car wasn't in his usual parking spot. As I turned to head into the house, I heard incessant honking from an unfamiliar blue car that was barreling toward our driveway.
As it pulled in closer, I realized it was my little family. Adam was smiling ear to ear as he popped his head out the window and asked if I liked his new car. What the fuck!? I have to worry about buying a dress or two and he buys a freakin’ automobile while I am away?! My emotions went through a range before anyone could take off their seat-belt. At first I was pissed because he always lectures me about money. Then I was amazed because this was never discussed as part of a near-term need. After that, I was offended that he didn't even want my opinion for such a big purchase. And finally - holy shit – I felt smug. Because he could not say a thing to me about my purchases.
I took a drive in the new ride and had to admit it was pretty nice. I would look damn good in my new sundress in our new car. And even though I did think it was a great deal and the kind of second car we needed, there was no way I wasn't going to milk this a bit. I drummed up an argument, taking the position of being offended that I wasn't part of the process for buying the car and that I even felt hurt. This made Adam feel bad and he apologized. I told him that it was fine but that I was trying to be good with money while I was away and so I needed to go out and buy something to both make me feel better (retail therapy is my favorite therapy!) and to feel validated. He begrudgingly agreed and before I could unpack (and hide all my new dresses), I pressed “confirm order” on a swimsuit I was eyeing prior to my trip. Done deal.
No Baby Left Behind
It might be wrong, but Adam and I have no problem vacationing without our kids. In fact, I will sometimes remind our girls of this as we are out at a family dinner or on a family vacation and they are acting up for no reason. It seems harsh when I say it aloud but perhaps it comes from daydreaming in those chaotic moments that we are alone, somewhere else. We could be irresponsible and foolish, drunk and lazy. Just like we were when we took our 5-year anniversary trip to Dominican Republic.
Ella was only a few months old when we went on this first trip away from our new daughter. It was both scary and liberating. My parents watched her at our home in Jersey while we flew away for some fun and sun in another country. I was pretty nervous to leave her and as things would turn out, rightfully so. There was point where I feared the reality was never seeing her again.
I started the trip heading to the airport with my bottle of Xanax in-hand. Once we landed, I called home every few hours. Over the course of the first few days, I found myself crying several times. By the third day, I was able to look at her framed photo on the hotel room nightstand and did not have a full on sob session or panic attack.
As the vacation progressed, it got easier to sit by the pool bar and drink umbrella cocktails. Before we knew it, we were packing to go home and while eager to see Ella, my eyes were welling up and I was wishing we could stay.
And we almost had to. As Adam and I walked into the small and empty airport to catch our flight home, we found one desk with a makeshift straw awning and what looked like a handmade sign identifying the spot to be for “departure check in”. It was so quiet we could hear the ceiling fans overhead moving warm air around and the luggage belt humming beside us, barely carrying a bag or two.
We gave the check-in clerk our name and in very broken English he told us were weren’t in the ticket system. I assumed we misunderstood him or he didn’t look up our names correctly. He checked again. Nothing. I started to sweat. And panic. Adam had maxed out on my breakdowns regarding Ella by this point and he told me to go sit somewhere while he worked things out for us.
I found a little bench under a shady tree and rocked back and forth like a drug addict in withdrawal. When Adam didn’t come to get me after only a few minutes, I went back to the desk. Before approaching Adam again, it seemed that things still weren’t good. As I was walked faster, closing the gap between us, I was rummaging through my bag to get a photo of Ella. I figured anyone with human heart would let new parents board a plane. And anyone with a brain would want a loon out of their country. One of these tactics had to work.
Once I approached the ticketing agent, I haphazardly pushed Adam out of the way by throwing the top half of my body and the counter while frantically waving around the photo. I was repeatedly yelling “Bebe! Bebe! Need to get to casa for bebe!!”. Totally freaking out and speaking a made-up language - I was hoping he’d get my point.
My arms were flying around in the air in exaggerated motions. Adam grabbed them and brought them to my sides. He gripped tightly around my biceps to keep me still; looking kind of like one does when about to shake the crazy out of a person. He looked into my bugged eyes and said everything was fine. He said we would be on a flight in a few hours. He then told me to stop acting nuts or they probably would detain us, pegging me for mental. I wandered off with a look of emotional exhaustion and popped the cap off my Xanax. I didn’t care that I needed anxiety meds and alcohol to help me through the trip - the point was that I was able to spend days away from my baby and return to her safely.
Now, it has been many years grounded at home. While mothering two kids that provoke me to yearn for an escape sometimes, I no longer cry to be with them but rather, I get upset and go crazy when we don’t get our mini-vacation without them!
I am not very domestic. I use duct tape to stitch holes; I have no problem ironing a bottom hem, collar or cuff with my hair straightener. The safest meals I make are in the microwave. I have no real need for an elaborate cooking space and so I don't mind that one of the smallest rooms in my home is my kitchen. And I can tell you that it looks even smaller with several firemen standing in it.
In my family, we love food. We are big eaters and big people. So at times, I feel bad about my culinary deficiencies and I will attempt to cook something on the stove or in the oven.
It was one of my first attempts to make eggplant parm. To make it a little healthier – and safer - I decided to bake it in our electric oven instead of frying it. As I started to bread the pieces, the girls took their place at the kitchen table to do their homework; the dog was by my side waiting for any scraps that might fall to the floor. With her concentrated stares, she was making me feel nervous. I stopped prepping dinner and left the kitchen area to feed her and get back a little working space.
As if there were fireworks for my return to the kitchen, a bright flash of fire appeared in the oven window followed by a booming crackling, sizzle and pop.
In my usual dramatic fashion I yelled out a loud and high-pitched screech, equal to what a fire alarm might sound like. I threw my hands over my gaping mouth and stood there for a beat or two with my eyes bulging, trying to decide what to do next. I worried that if I opened the oven door, the contained fire would spread - I opted not to do this.
I reached only one conclusion – to get us all out of the house. As the flames continued to lick the inside of the oven, I grabbed the girls by their hands, called the dog and we all ran to escape. In the moment before we bounded through the door, I realized the girls didn't have jackets and so I grabbed a blanket that was tossed over the living room chair near the front door. It was an Afghan my grandmother had made.
It then registered that I was without a coat as well. I threw open the hall closet and grabbed the first thing I saw. Because of its enormity, the first coat I spotted was a faux fur. A gift from my mother for winter days when I worked in Manhattan, I wore it just once. In front of her. In New Jersey. On a day when no one else was around and it was hardly cold out. The coat was long and massive because it was reversible - fake leather on one side and fake fur on the other. It was so heavy I would sweat while wearing it; it was so thick, I couldn't bend my arms when I had it on.
I called 911 when we got outside. As we waited I wrapped the children together in the Afghan and I stood there and my faux mink trying to keep them calm. When the fire engines and cops pulled up to the house, I feared for a moment that someone might shoot me thinking I was grizzly bear standing near two small children.
My neighbor ran over to see what happened. On this chilly day, he didn't waste one minute to ask me why the children were in a light, crocheted blanket and I was wearing a fur coat. And then it dawned on me that I hadn't even thought that the children could be freezing. The poor kids were huddled together under a blanket that had more holes in the pattern, than the yarn that had made it. Damn. I thought too late that I should have wrapped them in the coat. Oh come on - couldn't I just get credit for saving everyone from a practical inferno?
Adam pulled up from commuting home. Seeing fire trucks and cop cars everywhere, he ran over to us in a panic. Usually finding me at fault for things, I could tell fury was erupting as he moved closer and realized we were actually safe. The fireman told him that it was nothing I did; a faulty oven coil was to blame.
After we were cleared to go back in the house, I took off the coat that could double as road kill. Adam just stood there looking at me. His face contorted in dislike while asking me where I got my coat. He laughed and quipped that I should have thrown my fur in the oven and let it burn.
An Intimate Ride
For me, pulling off my Spanx is like popping a can of Pillsbury crescent rolls. One twist and soft white blobs of skin emerge, falling like melted marshmallow onto itself. But regardless of the work it takes to get into my lifesaving girdle, and the pain and sweat while wearing it, I can't live without it for formal events or even when I am wearing a form-fitting, semi-appropriate, dress for business meetings. Having to travel for work, it would be a total sin to forget my undergarment savior, especially in LA. Which is exactly why I didn't mind that strange eyes were watching me as I poured my Pillsbury dough ass into my spandex casing.
Before ever leaving Jersey, I was already feeling pressure to be perfect - I was heading to LA, the city of beautiful women plus I was going to a business meeting at a well-regarded beauty company; so this would mean a building full of beautiful people. I had to look perfect - slim, stylish, sharp and smart (that list being my order of importance).
Considering the time of the meeting and the transcontinental flight, I had to be travel in my meeting attire. I had opted for a sleek royal blue dress with black piping down the sides, around the sleeves, collar and hem. It was form fitting but with my slimming Spanx, the dress would fit fine. However, I didn't want to wear the body shaper on the entire six hour flight. To avoid the restriction and discomfort, I decided to make the trip sans Spanx and instead covered my flawed self under a blanket while on-board.
Once we touched-down in The City of Angels, I had to haul ass to get a cab to make the meeting on time. It was a total piss-off that airport delays took away any buffer time and I found myself running through the terminal to grab the first cab that was available. After sitting for hours cramped on a plane, I was happy that the cab I snagged happened to be a spacious mini-van with it's mid-section stripped of seats to make room for wheelchairs. I was even happier that I now had much more room to prep and primp. And a Jersey girl's primping is more than just powdering her nose.
I propped a mirror on the arm of the seat across from me and began to freshen my makeup, tighten my pony, and apply deodorant. My beauty tools were strewn around the spacious back area of the cab like I was at home in my bedroom.
I whipped my Spanx out of my bag and hesitated for only a minute as I thought maybe I shouldn't put them on in the presence of the driver. But fear of looking lumpy in my dress and not having time to put them on at all when I finally got to the office trumped my worry that the driver would see more of me than was good for either of us.
I kept checking the rear view mirror to keep my eye on the driver. At first, I tried to heave myself into them discreetly but struggled. So fuck it -- I knew I’d never see this guy again. I pulled up my dress to my mid-drift to really yank on the modern-day girdle. I was breathing heavy and sweating. I would see the driver's eyes cut over to meet mine as he checked his mirror periodically - perhaps curious or stunned, amused or maybe (and my sick hope) turned on (come on... I’d like to think I still got it!).
Once we arrived at my destination, I got out of the car like this strange man didn't just see my bush through my white lace panties. He looked me up and down while smiling as he helped me with my bag. I walked away feeling his eyes on my ass and somehow it helped propel my confidence. I was now feeling slim, stylish, sharp, smart and sexy. All things needed for a meeting with the beautiful in a town that had no room for the Pillsbury Dough Girl.
Photo - Just Shoot - Me
I can't say that I am not unlike any other mom who wants these beautiful black-and-white maternity photos. You know the kind that look like an ad in a magazine where it's a picture of some beautiful belly with a hand on it. Or those where sunshine is peeking out strategically from behind the mound that carries new life. But with a baby on the way, Adam and I didn't really have money to get the high-end photos like I had wanted. So instead I took them myself, the result was overexposing.
I lay on the bed with a short silk robe draped strategically over me to cover certain parts but open in the center to show off my big beautiful belly. I was going for modest and tasteful. After a few minutes of my self-arranged photo session, Adam comes into the room after he said he saw flashes and heard clicks from the other room. Walking in, he sees me laying there with the digital camera on timer, snapping away. Startled, I jump up and my robe falls to the side exposing my big breasts with my big nipples. The camera keeps clicking a series of photos.
Sadly, this shoot took place before I had ever purchased a digital camera where you could see the photos instantly. So I had the fun task of dropping off the film to be developed at a local drugstore. Or rather, a drugstore two towns away in the event I was embarrassed by the pictures after seeing them produced.
I got the pictures back and tore into them before I left the parking lot. My first thought was understanding why photographers take a long time to set up lighting. I was as white as an egg and as round as an orb. For a few pictures I tried to be sultry and sexy and yet, I actually looked cross-eyed or stoned - with child. And well the pictures that were taken when I was telling Adam to leave me alone and to not make fun of me, were horrendous. My head looked huge, emphasized by my large open mouth and my wide brown eyes, the darkness of my eyes only slightly competing with my big brown nipples (thank you pregnancy).
After looking through the lot, I found just one that could work for the baby book. I strategically cropped the photo which was basically just my belly, turned it black-and-white and pasted the memory onto the book page. It wasn't as magical as I wanted to be but it wasn't as offensive as the rest of the roll.
Months after the pictures of my belly were developed, and my little babe was born, we were in the process of moving to accommodate our growing family. Ella was about two-years-old and even though I was still carrying around "baby weight", my body was more in the shape that I was familiar with. So when we were packing and I came across the pregnancy photos, I reflected on the moment - amazed at how big I was and how much things have changed. I decided to put the pix into a large plastic bin that was holding other sentimental snapshots.
On moving day, we had asked a few friends to come over and help us put some of the heavier items up into our new pull-down attic. Among many boxes slated to be stored, there was our sentimental photo box. Although it was quite heavy, one friend had jimmied the box into a position to send it up the ladder to a friend sitting at the top of the attic stairs.
I was standing in the hallway trying to be helpful - but maybe being more in the way - when our friend started to slide the box with the photos up into the attic.
And just as the bin was about to reach the guy at the top of the stairs, the lid of the bucket slid off and tons of photos came raining down on everyone. Well, I am sure you know where this is going… The maternity photos I took years before we’re scattered about his feet. Of course, this would be the time where most of the pictures landed face up, just so that everyone could see me and my big head looking right at them - and all else! Tits, belly, and bush out on display. I moved quicker than I have in years in an attempt to scoop up the photos.
Looking back on this now, I think both friends may have been scarred for life after seeing the horrid images of a very pregnant person, looking anything but lovely. They both had seemingly done everything to avoid starting a family and the one friend had even joined the clergy. Good Lord – I hope he has some holy water for his eyes – because he can never un-see what has been seen.