Wanna Go For a Ride?

Practice makes perfect right? There is usually a positive correlation between the number of times you do something and your ability to do it. Driving seems to not follow this rule. Like dancing or listening, it seems to be something you are either good at or not. Practice may help, but if you are one of those bad drivers I see on the road every day, you are never going to be good at it, no matter how many hours you spend behind the wheel. You may become barely competent at best. Taxi drivers are a pretty good example of this theory. They spend more hours behind the wheel than they do on their feet in any given day and they still get as many middle fingers directed at them as Jane Fonda at a Veteran’s Day parade.

I remember taking a driver’s education class before getting my license as a teenager. I took a week long class about two weeks before obtaining my license and I literally drove the instructor’s vehicle for less than ten minutes in that week. I did, however, drive myself to the class daily since it was in the summer, my parents weren’t home and the car I was getting for my upcoming birthday was already parked in our garage. I was a rule breaker from birth, so this didn’t seem like a particularly bad thing to do. In my fifteen year old mind driving without a license was less of a crime than inconveniencing a family member or neighbor by asking them for a ride.

Let’s go!

When the instructor asked me how much experience I had driving I said “a little”. Having no point of reference, it seemed like an acceptable answer. I had been riding a motorcycle since I could hold it up by myself and logged as many hours riding as a long-haul trucker full of adderal. I had also been appointed the designated driver at the age of eight on a trip to Canada with the Indian Princesses. This sounds bad until you know that we pulled into a gas station and a nine year old was behind the wheel of another car. Okay, I guess it still sounds bad. Regardless, I thought everyone had the same amount of experience as I did. I was mistaken.

I spent three of the five days in class sitting in the backseat praying that I didn’t die because the fifteen year old in the front seat couldn’t simultaneously keep her hands at ten and two and her foot on the gas peddle. I quit turning to look out the back window after awhile, fully expecting to get flattened by a semi because little Suzy couldn’t get our car up to the speed limit in the football field length of space she had on the freeway entrance ramp. A sat, silently praying that the gas peddle and steering wheel would receive some kind of divine intervention. Somehow, by the end of the week, everyone was sent on their way to the Secretary of State with a certificate of completion.

Like mother, like daughter!

I was behind a student driver last week that made little Suzy look like a race care driver. She was holding onto the wheel so tightly I could see her knuckles bulging from the side mirror as she attempted to make a right turn. I tried not to laugh as her back tire took the curb on the way around the bend. My amusement turned to concern as I saw a line of vehicles behind her attempting to pass as she drove down the center of two lanes. I think I even saw an old lady with a walker flip her a middle finger as she walked past. This girl was a hazard on the road, barely moving. I felt like I was watching the slow speed police chase led by OJ Simpson.

Unfortunately, I have seen many middle aged people driving the exact same way – people who should have years of driving experience. I watched a fifty year old man drive a mile through my neighborhood with two wheels completely on the curb. I don’t know if it was his first time driving or if he was one of the people who would just never quite get the hang of driving. All I know is I had to slow down to avoid the spray of dust behind him and I watched people walking their dog pull back onto the grass to avoid the cloud coming at them. My seven year old giggled from the back seat asking “what in the world is that guy doing?” Even at her young age she knows when she sees a bad driver and she is not afraid to point them out. She has certainly heard enough backseat driving coming from the front seat!

If there is a good driving gene, I guess my daughter has a 50/50 shot of getting it. Although my husband and I have both spent countless hours behind the wheel, only one of us is really good at it. Just in case it is a skill that will develop with practice, we have put her behind the wheel already. She sits on my husband’s lap and drives around empty parking lots. I’m happy to say she is doing better than at least 60% of the drivers I see on the road. I know driver’s education classes are still a long time away but I am already contemplating where I will hide the car keys. After all, she is my kid.


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Material Girl

A couple animals escaped!

I placed an indefinite moratorium on toy purchases until my child starts enjoying doing things more than buying things. It may be a long time before anything made of plastic is paid for with plastic. We went to the zoo over the weekend and all she wanted to do was check out the gift shops and food stands. She literally walked right by two anteaters without blinking on her way to a bin of stuffed polar bears. How do you walk right by an anteater? It’s like a saw horse wearing a shawl. Which end is which? During her three hour quest for cheesy popcorn and anything stuffed or remotely shiny she did stop to see some reptiles and a zebra. I am fairly certain, however, that the only reason she stopped to gaze at the zebra was because he was peeing.

This behavior is not unique to the zoo. My daughter tries to shop everywhere she goes. When I invite her to tag along on a quick trip to Target to buy some deodorant or vitamins, she declines after her request to purchase a toy is denied. The first question she asks whenever we are going somewhere is if she can buy something. Her Dad stopped at Home Depot to pick up fertilizer and she tried to buy a toy there. She was seriously disappointed in the selection. In her mind all stores have toys, food, or something else that she can waste her money on. Good thing home improvement stores have hot dogs!

Mom, I NEED a pinata!

I would like to blame this shopping obsession on toys like Shopkins that are teaching kids to be little consumers, but I really can’t. It’s genetic. She comes from a very long line of gifted shoppers. By gifted I mean we can find a way to purchase something anywhere. The gym, post office, church, sometimes even in the car while stopped at a light. I don’t advocate online shopping while driving, but sometimes commutes are long and things happen. I don’t know if I have ever known my mother to leave a store without buying at least one thing. The wee one is following right in her footsteps. The problem with this is a seven year old doesn’t have the same understanding of money that an adult does. She just wants things and will do what it takes to get them.

Materialism has sunk it’s teeth deep into my child. We are putting up a good fight but it’s hard to compete against all the glitz and glitter. This battle has been going on since she could walk. It goes a little something like this – child wants toy, asks parents for toy, parents refuse to buy toy, child cries to grandma, grandma buys toy. The parents never win this battle, not that I know of at least. So, I declared a a cease fire. My house is much like the Cuban missile crisis. Demands are made, threats are returned, and we both back away. I know this is a fight that will also last as long, if not longer than the Cold War. That’s okay, I’ve got stamina.

The good news is summer is upon us. It is a time to spend doing things and not buying things. It is hours in the pool and out at the lake. The bad news is I am already having visions of Amazon Prime deliveries floating out to us with my daughter’s name on the packages. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

I wrote this story while listening to Sonic Youth “Daydream Nation”

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Dance Yourself Clean

First time vacuuming – three years after we moved in!

Cleaning is not my favorite thing to do. In fact, it is something I dislike so much that I am willing to pay someone else to do it, which is exactly what I did until recently. It was decided that since I am now home more that there is no need to pay someone else to clean our house. I must have been daydreaming during this decision making process because there is no way I would voluntarily agree to get on my hands and knees and scrub my kitchen floor. I literally have a recurring nightmare about cleaning the toilet and the cleaning brush flicking little bits of toilet scum into my mouth. I would never knowingly bring this nightmare to fruition. All I know is one day my cleaning lady was no longer coming to the house after my husband talked to her. Since dust bunnies were multiplying and nobody seemed to be doing anything about it, I finally came to the conclusion that I was the somebody that was supposed to be doing something about it. All I could think is there had to be someone more qualified for this job than me.

Growing up I helped clean the house every weekend. My job was to dust. It apparently seemed like the appropriate job for a child who was allergic to dust. I think my mom knew better than to put a piece of metal in my hands and send me to push it around the house banging into furniture. I have blamed this childhood chore for my dislike of cleaning since the first time I had to clean my own house. I know this is a fallacy, but I am holding onto it with both hands. Freud may have been wrong about a lot, but he had a point with his theory that everything is mom’s fault. It can’t possibly be my laziness and sense of entitlement that has caused this extreme distaste for cleaning my own house.

One of my least favorite things to do is vacuum. It doesn’t seem like it would be a hard task to accomplish, but my track record with vacuum cleaners is not good. I once stood in the driveway with our little compact vacuum trying to find the power switch for about twenty minutes. I was attempting to clean out my car with little luck. If I couldn’t even turn the thing on, I clearly was not meant to operate the device. I took that experience as a sign to abort all future missions with vacuum cleaners.

When you vacuum once a quarter, the bag looks like this!

The next time I used this compact vacuum cleaner, the only vacuum I ever used since I moved in with my husband over fifteen years ago, was when my daughter was a toddler. My husband grabbed his phone and took a photo since he was pretty sure it was the first and last time he would ever see me use the vacuum. He even called my daughter in so they could watch me. It was apparently like watching a monkey use a tool for the first time. His positive reinforcement was not going to work on me though. I didn’t pick up another cleaning gadget for years.

Last week something brushed up against my leg while I was walking up the stairs. Since we no longer have a cat, it scared me more than a little. I turned around to see a dust bunny hopping down the stairs looking like a tumbleweed blowing through the desert. The time had finally come for me to attempt this cleaning thing again. Two days later I dragged out the vacuum that I had banished to the guest bedroom closet. I was pleased to see the power switch right near the handle. That cut a good half hour off my cleaning time right there. I plugged the vacuum in and started pushing it around my office, but all it did was push the little bits of paper and fuzz around in circles. It wasn’t picking anything up. I turned the machine off and looked at my husband throwing my hands up as I said “it’s broken. This thing doesn’t work.” He just laughed and told me that the bag was probably full. I gave up and went downstairs.

After another two days I decided to figure out what this full bag situation was all about. I know that vacuums contain bags, I have even ordered said bags online. What I didn’t know was how or when you need to replace a bag in a vacuum. Apparently now was the time and I was going to figure out the how of it. I dragged the vacuum down the stairs, expecting this project to be messy. I was correct in my assessment. When I opened the front door and pulled out the bag, a cloud of dust exploded from the hose and globs of shredded paper poured out. To say the bag was full was a bit of an understatement. The bag was ready to blow, which may explain why the top of it was duct taped to the inside of the vacuum. Somehow I managed to attach the new bag to the hose, put the vacuum back together and drag it back upstairs to finally get to work.

I swear people live in this house!

After four days I was finally prepared to vacuum the portion of our house covered in carpet. I plugged in the vacuum and started pushing. This thing was fancy – it even had a light on the front, you know, for late night vacuuming. Heaven knows when I can’t sleep the first thing that comes to mind is cleaning. I pushed the vacuum through my bedroom feeling victorious for all of ten seconds before the vacuum turned off. No warning alarms, no sucking up half of the curtains, it just died. I checked the switch which was turned to the on position. I even plugged it into another outlet thinking it could have been the power in the house, but nothing happened. No light, no sucking, no nothing. I pushed the vacuum right back to it’s home in the closet and returned downstairs. This settles it – I am not destined to clean. Luckily my daughter has decided that cleaning is fun. Let’s just hope she is not allergic to dust!

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For Whom the Bell Tolls

My Mom has a bell that sits on a table in her family room. Last month my daughter was playing with it and my husband started saying “bring me my chair!” My daughter, of course, looked at him like he was crazy and went about her business. After he said this three times, she finally asked what he was talking about. I shared the fifteen year old joke with her.

The year before my husband and I were married my dad was in a pretty bad motorcycle accident. He was halfway across the state on his way to Sturgis on the weekend of my parents’ thirty fourth wedding anniversary when it happened. A teenage girl made a left turn in front of him and hit him head on. He went over the hood of her car after his handlebars broke his pelvis in four places. He was taken to a hospital 150 miles from home. He called me to come pick him up. He said he was fine but his bike was damaged and told me to bring “the big ride”, which was his car, so he could lay down in the backseat on the way home. I would like to say that he was delirious from the pain meds, but he refused to take them, so the idea that he was leaving the hospital that day in his own car was purely his own stubbornness. I realized when we got there why he had called me to come with my mom and why he wanted his car – my poor mom almost fainted when she saw him. The doctor pulled up the x-rays on the screen and they literally had to bring in a gurney for her to lie down. My mom does not do well with trauma or blood. I vividly recall her hitting the floor when I had blood drawn at the age of seven. She was not going to do well taking care of my dad’s wounds as he healed. Which brings us to the bell…

My dad got out of the hospital as quickly as he could after his accident. He spent a week in a room with an elderly man that continually rang the nurse demanding “where’s my pain pill?!” My dad dislikes nothing more than whining, so his patience was tested the entire time he was in that hospital bed. I think ditching his roommate was his biggest motivation for being discharged next to being able to eat ice cream directly out of the carton at midnight. He was brought home in an ambulance and took up residency in a hospital bed in my parents’ family room for the next several months. He was home, but immobile with pins and a halo around the front of his body. My mom gave him the little gold bell to ring when he needed anything.

The little golden bell has been a staple in my parents’ house for as long as I can remember. When I was sick as a child, my mom would get me all tucked in on the couch and put the bell on the table next to me. I was plagued by stomach issues as a child so I am guessing the bell was just as useful for my mom to be able to get ahead of a mess. Unfortunately, I normally rang the bell after I barfed all over the floor. Luckily my dad used the bell more timely than I did as a child.

Loud pipes save lives!

My dad was a really easy patient. He rarely asked for anything while he was recuperating. Mostly what he asked for was for people to stop asking him what he needed. The one thing he did need from us was to bring him his “chair” which was really a commode. When you are laid up in a hospital bed for weeks there is not a lot to do other than eat, read and watch television. Fortunately for my dad, my mom provides comfort on plates and she cooks when she is stressed. Because of this, my dad probably ate more in those few months than he did in the year prior. Unfortunately for me, the more you eat, the more you poop. I spent my afternoons bringing my dad’s chair over to his bed and leaving the room multiple times. After awhile my mom and I started a little battle with each other. She fed him chili the night before I came to sit with him and I brought him tacos for lunch. My poor dad’s digestive system was a pawn in our poop war. He even joined the battle one night when he finally succumbed to taking a pain pill but mistakenly took a stool softener. We all lost that battle – repeatedly.

I don’t know where the bell originated from, but it has always been a part of being sick or injured. Much like a warm blanket and soft pillow, the bell is a source of comfort. It sits on the table unnoticed until the patient’s fever hits 101 and then it is delivered on a little tray with a glass of orange juice. It’s a wonder the bell at my parents’ house still rings after my daughter got her hands on it. She could take some lessons in good patient etiquette from her grandfather.

As most traditions do, this one spread – to my house. The Easter Bunny brought me my own bell in my basket this year. It was quickly claimed by my daughter who has been using it to request breakfast on the couch most mornings. She is not really a traditionalist and has decided that if the bell is good enough for sick days, it is good enough for ALL days. She rings that little sucker when she wants her tray of food brought to her and again when she wants the tray cleared away or when she wants a fruit refill. The kid has a pretty charmed life. I’m the bumblehead who keeps coming back every time the bell rings. I’m like Pavlov’s dog without the drool. When she can tell I am getting a little irritated by her demands she waits until I am halfway out the door and yells “BRING ME MY CHAIR!!” It gets a laugh out of me every time.

In honor of Ian MacKaye’s birthday today, I wrote this piece while listening to Minor Threat

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Get in the Van

One of us had a custom plate…

My friend texted me the other day that she got a new car. She didn’t notice her new license plate until she was approaching her car from the rear at Costco. The license plate began with “BJ” which made her want to drive right back to the dealership and return the car. I told her it wasn’t that bad. Well, unless it ended in “QUEEN” or started with “FREE”. She kept the car.

I have seen a lot of interesting vanity plates over the years. I have never had one, and I have a feeling that they wouldn’t print anything I would want my plate to say. I remember spending some time in Washington DC and being amazed at the amount of vanity plates. It made sense with all the politicians and their over-inflated egos. Of course people had to know who they were, even if it took  a license plate to give them their proper recognition. Maybe it is trendy with the transplants. Some of the plates I had to look at for a full minute before I could decipher what they were trying to convey. None of the plates were comical or ironic like the ones I like to see. I didn’t even see a single “POLILOSER” or anything similar. Boring.

In the city I live in, I don’t see very many vanity plates, but when I do they are actually pretty helpful to me. I can pull up next to the plate that says “Shriya” and yell “Hey Shriya, congratulations on your first time driving a car. It only took you two and a half minutes to navigate that turn and you almost missed that mailbox!” I feel it’s nice to call people by name when you can. A thumbs up is also appreciated. Sometimes they even return a hand gesture, but that is usually from a driver with the “MYTOY” or “VETTEGUY” plate.

He’s creepin’

I was behind a car a few years ago that had a vanity plate that read “HOTTIE2”. I guess “HOTTIE1” was already taken. I thought I was behind a beauty queen runner up but when I pulled up beside the 1998 Cavalier, there was a 90 year old man peering over the steering wheel. Hottie 2 indeed. Maybe he meant Hottie World War 2. Either this old guy had a wicked sense of irony or he had borrowed his granddaughter’s car. Either way, I liked him. His granddaughter probably got that plate thinking it would prevent people from asking to borrow it. Well played old dude. He got a thumbs up which immediately caused him to swerve into the curb.

My family was driving a month ago headed north to go visit my Grandmother. We pulled up next to a van with  a plate that read “CREEPEN”. It was a dark van with tinted windows in the back. All it needed was a sign on the side that said “FREE CANDY” to complete the look. It would have been funnier if it wasn’t in mid-Michigan where the movie Deliverance could be considered a documentary. The van was full of a group of college guys. Now I am really hoping the plate was meant to be ironic. If not, it is at least a great public service announcement.

It got me wondering if “CREEPER” or “CREEPIN” were already taken. If not, I may have found my vanity plate. They are going to love me when I pick up my 7 year old from school!

Not surprisingly, I wrote this piece while listening to some punk rock. Die, Die My Darling by the Misfits of course!

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