Happy Birthday to Me

Disclaimer: I am 2 bourbons and a large margarita in

Disclaimer 2: I pour bourbon at home 3:1

I turned 46 years old today. It was the best birthday I can remember in a long time. I can say that now because I can actually still remember today. Tomorrow may be another story.

45 sucked ass. I made my birthday plans in July of the previous year feeling a strong pull towards a milestone birthday. I’d worked hard on my body and fitness since He Who Should Not Be Named But Kissed Lots showed up. So in an effort to prove something to myself and kick off the second half, I planned an epic ski trip. I envisioned testing my mettle on Mammoth’s treacherous backside, proving not only that I’ve still got it, but that I’ve gotten more of it than ever.

And then the fucking blizzard of the fucking century blew in. And I skied a ½ day of a four day vacation. And I drank. And I cried.

What I didn’t realize then was that 45 was actually the end of the first half. Time to retreat to the locker room for review and strategy. 46 is actually the milestone. 46 is the beginning of the second half and I’m up by a lot; a whole 46 years of life experience, good and bad (but not terrible) and I am a fucking force to be reckoned with.

46 is rad. At 45 you’re so much older than those goddam 40 year olds. But at 46! At 46, you’re so much younger than 50 year olds!

So today I had a pretty typical day but the sun was shining and I was so grateful for my health, my strength and the love in my life. I bill myself as an antisocial curmudgeon. But the truth is I just have a very discerning palate. Perhaps not my most lovable quality, but I put up a stone cold front. All of you within reach of this manifesto have worn down my edge and brought magic into my life. You have taught me things, made me laugh, challenged me to continue to grow.

Today I heard from friends all over, not acquaintances, but people that know the real raw me. And yet you are still willing to love me. You wished me a happy birthday. It came true. Thank you for your love and friendship.

It’s time to closeout with a nightcap. Bourbon #3 (9?) is calling. Cereal and school lunch for everyone tomorrow!

‘Twas the Night Before School Started: A Trip to Costco

Winter break has come to an end and so my carefree days of making umpteen staggered breakfasts and lunches, and cleaning the dishes that go along with them, do to. I headed out to Costco on Sunday to replenish sack lunch staples and refill the after school snack drawer.

There of course was the expected crowd of rude people but am I really the only one that understands the implied, albeit unwritten, rules of Costco?

1  At my Costco, flow of traffic is counterclockwise. You enter and track right. Seriously, there’s nowhere else to go. So why are people coming at me, three lanes wide, as if I have entered a one-way street the wrong way?

2  Costco has funneled the cattle call this way through unnecessary tools, unneeded sporting equipment and enough batteries to fuel your flux capacitor in order to guarantee you lose your husband and children in the first 3 minutes. By jettisoning sample stuffing, discretionary spending personnel, you are guaranteed to cut 15 minutes off your shopping excursion. It’s actually a perk to membership.

3  The rules of the road extend to carts and aisles. Drive on the right. Do not enter the flow of traffic from an arterial offshoot without safe distance or being given the right of way. Do not EVEN try to make a left from aforementioned arterial offshoot. Are you trying to kill someone? (see Rule 1) Do not double park in front of the sample table. Frankly, with your ass, it’s more like triple parked.

But that’s not the reason for my call today.

What I was most shocked and appalled by was the number of Christmas returns on January 7th. I’m not talking about, “Gee Johnny got a PS4 from both grandmas.” I’m taking about brightly colored lights, ornaments and strands of garlands. The return line was one after the other, a virtual parade of the ghosts of Christmas past.

My disdain and disgust quickly melted into astonished admiration. While my attic is crammed with dusty boxes of half broken ornaments and malfunctioning light strands, these evil geniuses are essentially renting fresh decorations annually, for free. To look the Costco clerk in the eye and ask for a refund 12 days after Christmas, knowing full well Costco demands no explanation and enforces no expiration. The glittering balls on these people!

Oh, and

4  Get your fat fuck of a kid out of my way because I will not be sorry when I “accidentally” bump him.

Bluetooth in the Shower: Why didn’t I think of that?

My father would have made an excellent White House Correspondent. His direct questions and hard hitting follow up really drill down to extract pertinent information.

Here’s an actual transcript of our last call inquiring about my 17 y/o son.

Me: Hello

Father: Does Riley have Bluetooth in his car? Let’s dispense with the pleasantries.

Me: Yes, why?

Father: So he can talk on the phone while he’s driving? I know what fucking Bluetooth is and its primary function. I’m sticking with my original answer.

Me: Yes, why?

Father: He can answer a call while he’s in his car? Maybe I don’t understand what Bluetooth is and he’s backing me into a corner. What’s your endgame, Old Man? My only chance is to stick to the original story.

Me: Yes, WHY????

Father: I just tried to call him and he didn’t answer. Long pause. He thinks he’s trapped me.

Me: He’s not in his car. Hah!

Father: Where is he? So accusatory.

Me: In the shower. And he doesn’t have Bluetooth in the shower.

I’ve Got Gas

Nothing fun comes in the mail anymore. I know this and yet I wait with anticipation every day. I can tell from the envelope it’s garbage but I open it anyway, mostly because I compulsively shred anything with my name or address on it.

On this day, I open a letter from SoCalGas and am greeted by “Congratulations, you’ve been selected to receive a Home Energy Report”. There’s pretty graphs and numbers so I’m sucked in. And now I want to kill someone.

An aside: You should know that I am highly competitive. Some losers would even say to a fault.

The conclusion of SoCalGas is that my household uses 27% more natural gas than my neighbors. I am now having a tantrum in an empty house as I read the report and accompanying FAQ’s. Oh it’s on, Motherfuckers.

Here’s a sampling of the FAQ’s and my official response:

Who are my neighbors? How did you choose the homes used in my neighborhood comparison? According to SoCalGas, my energy use is being compared to 100 neighbors whose “characteristics” lead to similar energy needs.

Let me explain a little something to you about suburban Los Angeles and the consequences of housing density. If you circle the closest 100 houses around me you will include in that sampling crack houses, drug rehabs, unlicensed retirement homes where seniors are abandoned to Filipino gangs and multi million dollar estates. Not exactly a scientifically sound control group.

Also my neighbors aren’t cooking at home on average 5 out of 7 nights. I don’t do it because I loooove to cook but because it’s a fucking fortune to take a family of 5 out to dinner.

And I’m not talking microwave and serve, but possibly all 5 gas burners going most nights because I was brainwashed by my mother to believe that dinner is protein, vegetable, starch and salad. Boy do I have fond memories of the complete meals my live-in housekeeper prepared and cleaned up.

What is the purpose of the program? Why was I selected to be a part of the program?The Home Energy Reports program is supposedly designed to provide more information about my energy use so I can make informed choices and save money. SoCalGas contends that I was randomly selected.

You basically just admitted I was targeted because SoCalGas finds my consumption excessive. You think you can shame me into using less gas? If I was at 27% overage this reporting period, you can bet I’m shooting for 30% next time.

How do my efficient neighbors use considerable less energy than me?Efficient households take a variety of steps to reduce energy, which may include using a programmable thermostat, running full loads in the dishwasher, washer and dryer and taking shorter showers.

We’re gonna have to break this down one at time:

Um, “efficient” and considerable”? Nice use of qualifiers. Judgmental much?

Using a programmable thermostat: I’ve got one of those and it’s particularly helpful in dealing with climate change. It has this handy feature where I can run the air conditioner during the day when it’s 100 fucking degrees on Thanksgiving and then automatically flip the heater on at night when the weather decides that it is in fact November.

Running full loads in the dishwasher, washer and dryer: There are 5 people in this house and 3 of them eat 15 meals a day, never drink out of a glass twice and crap up anything they’ve been wearing for 5 minutes. I AM running full loads. Just multiple times a day.

Taking shorter showers: I have two teenage boys and god bless them for their discretion. It’s a small price to pay for longer showers. If I demanded shorter showers, I’d have to invest in a black light. I’d have more loads of laundry to do, all requiring hot water provided by my gas tankless, and I’d be running the dryer twice. On high.

There is an option to opt out of this program but now I’m on a personal mission of unrestrained consumption. It’s a frigid 59 degrees tonight and you can bet I’ll light the gas fireplace in my bedroom while I wash up. Cutting off my nose to spite my face? Hardly, I’m hedging with gas futures.

I Got You Something

Is this cynical and cutting or forgiving and encouraging? Depends on if your inner voice is Joan  Rivers or Oprah.

I’m not one for Resolutions. They’re kind of like Yom Kippur. Realistically, who has to apologize only once a year? I practically vomit Sorry daily.

So on this New Year’s Day, instead of Resolutions bound to be broken, let’s give each other a gift. One, two, three, we’ll open it up at the same time. It’s 365 days to improve on your perfection. A clean slate today. And if you fuck up, a fresh day again tomorrow and the next.

Wishing you your best year yet for your best you yet.

Shut up, Joan.

A Ghost Story

I’m not a huge proponent of letting the children sleep with us unless they’re very sick. But sometimes it’s hard to resist a shirtless little nugget that appears with his pillow and wants to cuddle up with you to watch Christmas movies. I relented and let him burrow in between us and fall asleep.

Shortly after lights out, I was awoken by snoring, snorting and choking on chronic post nasal drip. I tried to reposition him, pounded his back to get him to cough and clear and even pinched his nose (well short of suffocation, don’t worry) in the hopes he’d flip the switch to mouth breathing. Nothing silenced the mucous musical.

I was about to grab my pillow and just go sleep in his bed. Until I remembered his room is haunted.

About 2 months ago, we bought new mattresses for the bunk beds. A friend of mine was helping me switch them out. Wait, my white privilege is making me feel guilty to tell you my housekeeper was helping me. We had stripped the old mattresses and were chatting for a moment when I saw the corner of the mattress on the top bunk slowly depress and then slowly recover. I asked her if she saw that. She laughed nervously and confirmed my sighting. Neither of us were frightened so I took the spirit to be a friendly presence.

It’s not the first time Betty June has come to visit. Middle Child was 5 when my grandmother died. Shortly after she passed, he requested a picture of her to keep at his bedside. At the time he was the lower bunk tenant. Soon after, he told me Great Grammy had come to visit him. Maybe she had needed the photo as a gateway to come see him. He described her appearance in great detail. She had let her hair grow long and it was blonde. She was wearing dangly earrings, purple silk pants, a green silk shirt with purple polka dots and very high heels. My grandmother was a fashion plate in life, her outfit in death made complete sense. Who knew Dolce & Gabbana had an afterlife line?

Her next appearance in our home was when the baby was about two. We had moved all his toys to a makeshift play area in the living room. Unable to sleep, I was walking down the hall when a toy cow mooed at me. In the middle of the night. I instantly knew it was the sarcastic commentary of my grandmother. She was fitness crazed well before Olivia Newton John got physical and was not secretive in her assessments of my or my cousins’ appearance. Clearly, she felt it was time for me to drop the baby weight and get in shape.

Fast forward to just a few weeks ago. I had a terrible asthma attack in the middle of the night. The children were spending the night with grandparents so in an effort not to disturb my husband, I went to sleep in the bottom bunk. Just as I started to settle, I was overcome with a feeling of panic and dread. There was no doubt in my mind that I was not alone, and my roommate was not pleased with my presence.

I don’t know why she’s got her panties in a wad but I sure as hell wasn’t going back. Maybe she just wanted her little nugget back in bed with her. Fine by me. I moved him and hoped that demon spirits wouldn’t drag him back to Hades before morning.

A Little Diddy About Jack and Emileen. Two Japanese Immigrants…and Our Hanukkah Dinner

My grandparents lived on Nob Hill in San Francisco. Not just in the ritzy neighborhood known as Nob Hill, but literally on the top of Nob Hill. Their neighbor was The Fairmont Hotel. They had two Japanese housekeepers, Jack and Emileen.

Emileen would arrive early every morning. She’d open the front hall closet and remove a crisp white pinafore with eyelet trim demarking a ruffled neck and ¾ sleeve. A la Mr. Rogers, she’d exchange her civilian outer layer for her designated uniform. Jack would arrive shortly after in slacks and a dress shirt. They never spoke. I’m not sure what his responsibilities were. I saw him wash the windows once.

A few things to note that didn’t occur to me until recently.
1) This was San Francisco and Jack and Emileen were of the age that they were probably interned as children in camps during WWII.
2) There’s no way “Jack” and “Emileen” were their given names.
3) My grandparents had two servants to maintain a one-bedroom apartment.

If this seems awkward and bizarre, you’re right. It’s a family trait. There’s a special chromosome. A whole company had to be renamed 24 and Me to identify my genetic relations. Which brings me to Hanukah dinner.

My family and I arrived for the miracle of celebrating one out of eight nights with my parents and in-laws. As we entered, my mother burst into the kitchen, threw up her arms, yelled “ta da”, and posed. In Emileen’s pinafore.

My grandparents moved from San Francisco to Los Angeles in 2003 and died almost 10 years ago. My mother packed, moved, unpacked, laundered and pressed said pinafores. How long had she been planning this performance piece? Frankly, I was disgusted. It was demeaning to the work Emileen had done and to the meticulous care she had taken in her appearance. I insisted my mother change. She obliged. Into a pink personalized chef’s coat.

And so dinner production ensued. The Pink Coat flitted about shoving chopped liver into the Guatemalan housekeepers’ (yes, there are two) mouths, while my husband and I prepared enough potato pancakes to serve the IDF. She had insisted on twelve potatoes.

Finally she declared it time to sit down and asked me to ladle the matzo ball soup. I scooped up broth and carrots. And tried again. Broth and carrots. Only. She had forgotten to take the matzo balls out of the freezer. (While they were premade, in her defense, they were homemade.)

As the rest of the family sat down at the table, my husband continued frying the remainder of the potato pancakes and I diligently defrosted matzo balls. We didn’t say a word. Jack and Emileen.

Gee, That’s Horrible, but What About Me?

The other day, a friend shared a NYT article about a young doctor who met the love her life during residency (yay) then left her husband after he figured out he was gay (boo) to start her life over (yay) before being stricken with cancer (boo) and finally dying (boo hoo hoo). I spent about 30 seconds contemplating the tragic trajectory of this woman’s life before I made it all about me.

I have conflicting responses to reading terrible stories like this. Both begin, Holy shit I’m so lucky that [insert tragedy, loss, insurmountable challenge, terminal illness HERE] isn’t me. My first response is to chastise the insolent child in me. Yeah you’re so fucking lucky. Why can’t you be more appreciative of your [insert abundant riches of blessings HERE]. You should meditate more, journal your gratefulness, leave loving notes for your husband and children and give up sugar. Contrite, my inner brat says yes, right, definitely, tomorrow.

Then she gets uppity. Holy shit that [insert tragedy, loss, insurmountable challenge, terminal illness HERE] could be me. Is this it? What have I contributed to the planet? Why did I wait to live my best life? Why would I have been so optimistic as to think I’d have plenty of time to start a business, get an advanced degree, learn to play guitar.

I know you’re waiting for this to end with my peaceful acceptance of bountiful blessings and that, you, Dear Reader, will then absorb my sense of calm and feel reinvigorated to embrace your own present. Sorry, but I think it’s high time we kick the shit out of life before it kicks the shit out of us. Go ahead and give up sugar and show your loved ones more gratitude, but take one step forward today towards your personal “I wish I [insert dream profession, hobby, altruistic endeavor, healthy improvement HERE]. And if you’re feeling brave, share it with us!

Signing Up for More Than One Item for the Class Holiday Party Doesn’t Make You a Supermom. It Makes You an Asshole.

Dear Mothers (yeah, there was more than one) Who Signed Up for Multiple Party Items,

First let me apologize for having a life and not seeing the teacher email with attached Sign-Up Genius for a whole 20 minutes after it was sent. You must have been panicked that the 18 or so requested items would never be covered by 25 separate families. How brave and generous of you to take on more than your fair share.

What you don’t understand is that it’s actually very rude of you and you have overstepped basic community courtesy. We all have been taught (or should have been) that you don’t show up empty handed to a party, but that’s exactly what you have forced me and roughly 5 other parents to do. Worse than that, my kid is going to be anxious and downright pissed when he finds out that we are not bringing anything to the party.

Don’t think for a second he won’t ask. He always does. He’s proud to contribute anything to his close-knit class. And he’s not going to buy my excuse that there was nothing left to sign-up for. (Except for washed, cored and sliced strawberries for 25 children. Which, by the way, fuck you. Do you have any idea how expensive strawberries are this time of year and how long it will take to wash, dry, core and slice roughly 4 pounds of strawberries?) He’s a cynical little fucker and he’s going to assume that I dropped the ball even though I never (ok, rarely) drop the ball.

What was your motivation? Did you think this would impress the teacher? I’ll tell you what she thinks. She’s been teaching for 20 years and her main goal is to turn out little people who can cooperate and work together (and exhibit good personal hygiene). Now she knows why your spawn is such a bossy know-it-all who still eats boogers.

Happy Holidays.

PS I am 100 years older than the other mothers and have made no effort to forge friendships so don’t worry, they won’t see this.

I Refuse to Let the Pharmacist do my PAP Smear.

I don’t need the analysis tools I was supposed to have learned while pursuing my Finance degree to know that the proposed merger between CVS Health and Aetna is a raw deal for consumers. It gives me the same foreboding feeling many young actresses must have felt when entering a Harvey Weinstein meeting to discuss their career.

You have to look no further than the terrifying corporate-speak catch phrases that are littered amongst the press releases to feel dirty. There’s going to be “a new front door for health care in America.” CVS stores are now going to be “health hubs”. They tout the “human touch” of CVS. The Chairman of Aetna, Mark Bertolini is quoted in one Washington Post article as saying,
“We want to get closer to the community, because all health care is local,” Bertolini said. “What was going to draw people into an Aetna store? Probably not a lot. We looked for the right kind of partnership.” I hear that in Kevin Spacey’s voice.

I don’t want a drugstore to be my first stop when I need medical advice or even preventative care. I certainly don’t want to touch anything in a filthy drugstore, especially the people working there. It’s not personal. I don’t think they want to touch me either. I’m certain that when making a career choice, the prospective pharmacist thinks something like, “ I love science and medicine but I don’t want to touch the human body.” I will say however, in a sweeping generalization, that the pharmacists I’ve encountered may excel at many other things in their lives but interpersonal communication skills is not one of them.

There’s talk of nurses being available and I have the highest respect for those in the nursing profession. I think many of them are capable of doing as good if not a better job than many with the MD designation. However, while I don’t mind having a different service writer when I bring my car in for an oil change, I don’t want to see a rotating army of medical advisors. I want my doctor to remember the various infections or injuries I’ve had to help connect the dots if there’s a more significant problem.

When was the last time in capitalism history that a vertical chain resulted in benefits to a customer? It is laughable that CVS and Aetna are touting choice and cost savings as benefits to the deal. If you have Aetna insurance, can you ONLY fill at CVS? Will CVS refuse to fill other prescriptions for patients with other coverage? Will they charge you more than an Aetna customer? Will Aetna refuse to provide reimbursement to doctors for routine services that your “health hub” provides?

The Department of Justice just nixed the AT&T/Time Warner deal. Like this proposed match, AT&T and Time Warner were complimentary but not competing companies. Still, the DOJ saw the danger signs ahead if those two combined. But this DOJ may have just been doing the bidding of President Baby who thinks the media is a big meanie and that this merger would have given them a larger slice of the schoolyard. Now maybe it’s time for the republicans to start paying back the lobbying support of Big Pharma and to reward insurance companies for providing the financial strangulation of the american public as proof of Obamacare failures. Don’t be surprised if this CVS/Aetna deal slides right on through. And if it does, you can be sure there will be additional consolidations.

PAP Smear by the pharmacist? No thanks. You can pick up my DIY kit on Etsy; a bottle brush and microscope slide. You’re welcome.