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.

Time for the Sunday Paper. My favorite section…

I’ve read the obituaries for as long as I can remember.  I picked up the habit from my mother.  She reads very few things; catalogues,there should be a second thing because this is a list and the obituaries.  Like I said, very few things. 

My husband, and now children, tease me for flipping to the dead people section.  In truth, it’s the first thing I want to read when I open the paper. But in an effort to seem less Lydia Deetz, I make a good faith effort at the Front Page and Real Estate sections.

For most of my obit career, I was reading to reassure myself that more old people than young people die and when young people die, it’s from diseases of which I have no symptoms.  This practice may have actually contributed to my recovery from I’m Going to Die Young Disorder.

I digress but here’s a relevant case study for IGTDYD: I have a clear memory of sitting on my mother’s lap in the passenger seat driving home from Sunday dinner. I’m about 10 years old.  Gazing up at the star filled sky, I’m wondering how she will go on since I will die of cancer shortly.  If memory serves, I had a small swollen gland under my chin.  In retrospect, I should have been more anxious that I was sharing a single seat belt in a car with no air bags while hurling down the 101 freeway, my brother and two step brothers safely anchored in the back seat.

In the last couple of years, my interest in the obituaries has taken a curious and strangely positive twist. (Completely antitype for me.) People have led amazing and fulfilling lives!  They have devoted themselves to causes and careers, passions and hobbies, their family and friends!  They have taken up space with their actions and provided inspiration to their communities. Their absence will leave a vacuum, their vacancy truly mourned.  Now I started wondering what my obituary would look like.

Another quick aside and a fuck you to middle school teachers everywhere who made me and other kids write their own obituary as a creative writing assignment.  I had been nowhere, accomplished nothing, and had made no relevant contribution to human kind.  Your assignment contributed to my IGTDYD, made me think I’d go nowhere, accomplish nothing or make any kind of relevant contribution to human kind.  You should have a bumper sticker that says I was Common Core Before Common Core Sucked Ass.

And now back to my obituary.  Sure I’d be missed. But eventually my family would figure out how to decide what they wanted eat.

So I’ve been working on making this a life well lived.  I’ve dug down deep to rediscover interests I’ve had and dropped or hobbies and causes I always wanted to pursue.  I’m a little embarrassed to share with you yet everything I’m working on but here’s a small hint, you just read one of them.

About Me

It’s always awkward when I introduce myself to someone new. “Hi, I’m…”.

I have about 2 seconds to decide which me you’ll be meeting. When I worked full time at a real job (unwad your panties stay at home mommies), it was easy, “I’m Kimberly”. Inevitably, people felt entitled to truncate that to “Kim”. You may as well call me Fred. It’s as much my name as Kim. People lack listening skills and basic courtesy.

In most situations these days (because I’m a stay at home mommy and I no longer have to convince strangers to buy what I’m selling to keep my job), I expose the real me and I answer, “I’m Kimby”. And confusion ensues… “huh?”

“Yes, Kimby. Short for Kimberly.”

I’m not giving you my full name: Kim Bee or Kim Bea or my rap name Kim B.

You may not call me Kim.

I didn’t say Kimmy.

I didn’t make this goofy name up and give it to myself. I’ve been Kimby since the day I was born. It’s become me, my brand and my identity. It’s part of what makes me unique; my name, my curly red hair and for better or worse, my spitfire personality.

Once in the 2nd grade, another Kimberly in the class tried to exchange her “Kim” for “Kimby”. I punched her. Trademark infringement.

Someone once described me as a firecracker. I had to clarify; the pretty ones in the sky or the kind you accidentally blow your hand off with? Follow along and let me know what you think.

xo, Kimby

I’m writing a blog.  I know. I’m sorry.

I’m writing a blog.  I know. I’m sorry. You just vomited in your mouth, didn’t you?

You can look at this two ways, both equally valid: 

  1. I’m a complete narcissist who feels she has an important point of view and a voice that should be heard and heeded by all in the land.
  2. I like to write.  I think I’m pretty funny.  I think I can make you laugh a little and maybe if I share the little voices in my head, it may help you on your journey too.

If you like Door #2, please feel free to read along, comment and contribute. It would be awesome if when you read something you like, you’d share it. 

If you like Door #1, I always knew I was better than you.