Freshman

I am a freshman, again. I am living proof that if you don’t get it right the first time, you can just keep going back and trying again. I have been a freshman a handful of times now. What can I say, I like school. That, or I like the idea of a profession much better than I actually like working, so I keep changing fields. I am sticking with the notion that I am just thirsty for knowledge and on a constant joyful quest to better myself.

I am in graduate school again and I am finally attending a school where my Dad received a large portion of his education. The Old Man went to half the schools in the state of Michigan. Are you picking up on a theme here? My Mom also has a number of degrees, so the whole idea of me going back to school now was not unusual in my family. In fact, everyone is pretty excited, except for my daughter who realized that my school schedule may cut into her ordering me around schedule. She likes me to be the one to put her to bed at night. I burn a candle in her room while she reads and fluff her pillow before I put her ice pack inside to keep her head cool. God forbid, her Dad forces her to brush her own hair. She was not as upset when she learned that I would be returning from school right before she dozes off at night. I can even tuck her in if I hall ass from downtown Detroit fast enough, which is typically not a problem for me, except I am a silly freshman who can’t seem to figure out the parking situation at my new school so it takes me about a half hour to get my vehicle onto Woodward.

Let me start by saying I did not drive my first time around in college. I mean, I drove, but rarely on campus. My car stayed put while I rode a bike to class as an undergrad. I didn’t do this because I was a fitness junkie. I did this because parking was a nightmare in East Lansing and if I drove onto campus, I would have spent the next three days trying to get my car out of impound. There was very little parking on campus and I was poor so I biked everywhere. When I went to graduate school afterward, it was at a small business college that had loads of parking around the one building it occupied. The school was literally smaller than my grade school in square footage.

So now, here I am back at a larger university, spanning almost 200 acres. I know this is really nothing to navigate after the 10,000 acres of campus from my undergrad years, but I am now a middle aged woman, and apparently with age comes forgetfulness, and forgetting where my classes are and where my car is are not foreign concepts to me. I have lost my car at the gym, the mall and even in a park once. I am no stranger to walking around looking confused. The thing is, I don’t really want to be doing this downtown. It might be misconstrued as an invitation to rob me. Also, since most students commute, there are parking structures and lots on almost every corner.

Knowing that I am often running late and forget where I left things like my car, I opted to purchase a parking pass. The thing is, you have to buy a pass for a specific lot. I looked at the map and purchased the pass for the lot closest to the building most of my classes are in. I coughed up a couple hundred bucks for said pass, but I figure that’s a small price to pay for being able to locate my car after every single class I attend. When I shared with my Dad that I had paid in advance for parking he shared with me that he used to get into the parking structure like everyone else, but when leaving he drove to one end of the lot and drove over the curb, over the sidewalk and onto the street without paying. Now I know why all of the new structures are completely enclosed. He started asking me about the lot I would be parking in and trying to devise an escape route when I disappointed him by telling him I was actually going to follow the rules on this rare occasion. Maybe after twenty years of schooling, fifteen years of marriage and a child I am finally growing up. That or I know nobody is going to bail me out after I get arrested for something stupid like jumping a curb to save a couple bucks in parking fees, except for my Dad and he never answers his cell phone.

The funny thing about this is that I actually almost had to jump the curb to get out of the lot during my second week of classes. I had been gaining access to the lot for a full week by using the intercom or flagging down parking garage staff since the scanner was not reading my tag which was sitting on my dashboard. My car’s rear view mirror does not allow for the tag to properly hang so I leave it on the dashboard and hold it up to the windshield as I drive up. I was pretty convinced my car was the problem and I would finally find the sweet spot to hold the tag after multiple attempts, but I never did. One of the people tying to assist me on the third day told me to back up and pull up again slowly, repeatedly until he was satisfied the tag wasn’t reading. Nightly, upon leaving I had to use the intercom to ask someone to lift the gate and release me. On one of these occasions, nobody answered my call for several minutes. I don’t know if I had caught the man on the other side of the little metal box on a potty break or if he was engulfed in a good book, but based on his demeanor when he did answer, he was not thrilled about being disturbed. By that point I had a line of about 10 cars behind me and literally no way out. I was seriously considering plowing through the gate or jumping the curb by the time Sleepy McCrabbypants finally lifted the gate.

One would think after that ordeal I would call the parking office to figure out what the problem was. One would be sadly mistaken and I would argue that one might not fully comprehend my ability to ignore a problem until it somehow solves itself. And a solution did present itself the next night when I was attempting to park. As usual I pulled up to the gate and was not admitted. I was beginning to feel like a dude standing outside of a club watching all the pretty girls being admitted and wondering when it would finally be my turn. I once again used the intercom. This time a younger female answered my call for help and instead of asking for my permit number she asked for my name. I swallowed the urge to shout “Tallula Lipshitz” and gave her my real name, fully suspecting that she just wanted to be able to share with her coworkers the true identity of the moron who couldn’t navigate pulling into a parking structure. But it was even worse than that. She calmly told me “you are in the wrong lot. Your permit is for lot 50. You are at structure 5.” I asked where lot 50 was and she almost laughed as she told me it was a few blocks away on the other side of the freeway. The thing is, I looked at a map when I bought the permit and I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have thought running across a freeway would be fun before and after class. Then again, anything is possible with me.

When I applied to school again this time, I thought my biggest problem would be finding time to study. Now, three weeks into classes I am debating whether I should get a new seat on my bike to ride seventeen miles to class or recruit my Dad to teach me how to jump a curb without damaging the frame of my car. I guess I could always just call the parking administration and ask to have my permit changed to the structure I have been parking in for the last several weeks, but that seems like such a sophomore thing to do, and I’m a freshman.

*Of course I was listening to Milo Goes to College when I wrote this!

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That’s Your Opinion

I attended a charity fashion show last month where there was a purse auction. My mom, daughter and I all bid on purses in between sipping tea and scarfing down tiny cucumber sandwiches. Right before the end of the auction my mom actually outbid me on the purse I wanted just so she could buy it for me. She knew I wanted it, so she wanted to give me a gift. That, or she is just super competitive or has a bit of a spending problem. I’m not going to analyze her motivations, I got a great bag out of the deal.

When we came home my daughter was excited to tell her dad about the event. She was going on and on about how we “won” purses. As she was showing him the bags I butted in and said “actually, I didn’t win my purse, my mom outbid me and bought it for me!” to which he replied “You mean you PAID for that purse?!” I told him that technically my mom did, but yes, money was exchanged. He just shook his head as he turned the bag in circles, looking at it from every angle. He has since named it my Fraggle Rock purse. Apparently he thinks it’s ugly and reminds him of a cartoon character from his childhood.

I have now had this purse for about six weeks and have received no less than 20 compliments on it. Every time someone is on an elevator with me or passes me in the grocery store and compliments the bag I immediately text or call my husband to let him know. He asks things like “was it a blind woman?” “was she wearing crocs?” and “was it in that way that people tell parents with ugly babies how cute they are?” He clearly does not appreciate my purse. I have had a librarian call me back inside as I was exiting the library to tell me how pretty my bag is. I have also had a woman drive out of her way down an aisle in a shopping plaza to compliment my Mokey Fraggle. I couldn’t see either of their feet to check for crocs but they appeared normal enough. None of these women have been blind, elderly or wearing hospital gowns. One was even sporting the same Louis Vuitton purse I was carrying before swapping it out for Gobo. I know that my taste can be a little iffy, but in this case I now have scores of women agreeing that this is the cutest purse on the block.

My husband has more fun than he probably should teasing me about my choice of attire. I’ll admit I often dress like a teenage boy in sleeveless band t-shirts and ripped jeans. I also have a certain affection for plaid and anything with a hood. But most of my clothing is some shade of black, so the sheer amount of colors included in this handbag should have been call for celebration for my husband. I am not going to remind him of his ill-advised soul patch of the early part of the 21st century or his facial hair in general during our early courtship. I will also not point out that he wore only white socks for years. I am saving up all of my jabs for when he is elderly and wearing the same white socks with sandals or pajamas bottoms as pants. I am waiting until the day he buys a pair of loafers or a double breasted suit coat and then I am going to remind him of how he teased me about the work of art I carried on my arm. I’ll probably also be wearing pajama pants in public and possibly crocs by then so my words won’t mean much but I’ll be ready.

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Queenie

We cut our cable a few years ago and haven’t really missed it. Well, the adults in the household haven’t missed it. Our 8 year old thinks we are torturing her by depriving her of 30 channels of cartoons. Nevermind that we have a hard drive connected to our television so she can watch one of 500 movies and television shows at any time. The only time the cable ban really becomes an issue is when a new movie is released on the Disney channel, which is exactly what happened last week.

When I picture myself in prison (thanks to Orange is the New Black) it’s usually for murder or drug smuggling, not pirating movies on the internet or stealing cable. Needless to say, last weekend we figured out a legal way to watch the movie mini-me wanted to see without the FBI showing up on our porch. We spent Friday night at my parents’ lake house and watched the movie there. They, of course, keep the cable on at the house they spend less than 40 days a year at. This is one of the many reasons we love going there. We lounge, eat junk food and stay up late watching all of the television shows we have missed since 2016. Plus, it’s a lake house, so the views out the window next to the TV are pretty spectacular too.

My parents decided that they would watch the movie with us, so instead of it being just the three of us lounging in our pajamas, five of us lounged and stuffed ourselves with popcorn and candy. Every get together is an event for my mom and a family movie is not an exception. Her coffee table looked like the candy counter at MJR complete with little buckets of popcorn. I am still working off the 40 lbs. of raisinets I consumed and picking the popcorn out of my teeth the water pick didn’t wash away. Disney does their best to capitalize on a new movie so they played in back to back to back that night – just in case any seven year olds were ready to watch it at midnight. Our little one fell asleep halfway through the second viewing after a massive swedish fish induced sugar crash.

In the morning my parents came back out to do some work around the yard. The joy of owning two houses is getting to work all day every day on one of the houses. Did I mention my parents are insane? Every week my dad goes down to the beach and rakes up the seaweed. He and my husband were also going to till the beach to make the sand nice and soft. As my dad was walking back to get a rake he said to my daughter “come help us rake up the seaweed.” As she lounged in her giant swing she looked at him with her big doe eyes and said “I didn’t come out here to work. I came out her to watch a movie!” She was clearly offended that he would ask her to work.

My husband was standing by the hammock I was lounging in so I shooed him down to the beach telling my kiddo to go help him. I mean come on, I didn’t come out there to work. I came out there to lounge around in a hammock reading a book! I was hoping my daughter would acquire my husband’s work ethic, but alas, she is not cut out for manual labor. At least the hammock fits two people comfortably and we had a great view to supervise the workers on the beach.

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Keeping up with the Amish

At the beginning of the summer I had all kinds of plans for my child. Some of the plans were just for fun, like spend a day at the zoo and check out the zip lining place that we’ve been meaning to check out for two summers. Other plans were more practical, like teach my kid how to tie her damn shoes already. Sometimes I am amazed at my laziness as a parent when it comes to the little things. My husband likes to remind me that our child has been cooking since she was four and reading a year later. But I still cringe when I think about the things she can’t do, like tie her shoes, ride a bike unassisted or roller skate.

As part of some unseen action plan, my dad took mini-me out to buy a bike last weekend. I’m pretty sure this is his way of telling me I am slacking as a parent. He bought her a baseball glove last year and a scooter the year before. This is also coming from the man who put a fur hat on me as a helmet when I was a toddler and padded me up to shoot hockey pucks at me when I could hardly walk, so I’m not going to read too much into it. She got a pretty little white Trek with lime green flowers on it. Her last bike was also white and looked as new the day we got rid of it as the day we bought it. She walked it around the block on occasion and spent many hours packing and unpacking the cute little purse on the handlebars, but even with the training wheels on it, she was terrified to ride. When we forced her to go for a trip around the block she stopped at every corner dismounting her bike to turn it. She was afraid turning the handlebars more than a millimeter would topple the whole package and she didn’t want to get run over by her own bike.

She is behaving much the same with her new, bigger bike. She sits in the driveway ringing the bell and walks it up and down the sidewalk. At least now she actually straddles the bike while walking it instead of standing next to it like it’s a puppy she’s taking for a stroll. Her dad had to cover the pedals with washcloths and duct tape to prevent them from scratching her legs. I’m not entirely convinced she will ride the bike even after seeing her balance on it while coasting for about 50 feet. All I can picture is the episode of Friends where Phoebe is finally learning to ride a bike as a 30 year old.

My child can be great at 100 things but the 3 things she can’t do will take a sledge hammer to my self-esteem. I feel like I am a total failure as a mother when my kid can’t get the little bunny to go through the hole with her shoe laces. Or maybe the bunny is supposed to go around a tree. Or maybe it’s just bunny ears that are supposed to be tied together. I’m not even sure, which is probably part of the problem. Regardless, my kid might still be wearing Minnie Mouse velcro shoes in high school if I don’t get it together and teach this kid how to loop, swoop and pull. This is the stuff that keeps me up at night and keeps my therapist in business.

After realizing summer is already half over, I have been attacking my to do list like a sniper in a bell tower mowing down college students. I have been knocking off trips to the zoo and the movies while reading multiplication tables out loud and picking up books from the library. We spent the morning at our local historical museum where we walked from building to building with no indoor plumbing or electricity and antiques like chamber pots and looms. In a log cabin a woman dressed as a pilgrim demonstrated a toy that essentially taught children the motion to milk a cow. It was a little monkey that climbed two ropes when you pulled them. As my daughter struggled to get the monkey all the way to the top all I could picture was myself lounging on a hay-stuffed couch crying to a pioneer therapist about how my family would probably starve because my daughter was never going to master her milking skills. Luckily there were no sheep shaving games or carrot harvesting challenges or we probably would have been asked to leave due to gross incompetence. We would never have survived as settlers.

I have decided that I need to put a few things on my own to-do list and the first thing is quit freaking out about insignificant shit that I won’t remember worrying about five years from now. I like to put things in perspective by thinking about how I will look back on them in a year or five years. It helps me realize what is worth focusing my attention on. Instead of wasting my time worrying about how I am going to find shoes for my daughter to wear to gym next year, I’ll daydream about her attending Harvard or Yale. Of course she will be wearing her velcro Hello Kitty sneakers as she pushes her bike to class, but she won’t starve!

 

 

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Like Fine Wine

My mother doesn’t throw away anything. I know this is a common theme with moms – saving memorabilia from life events, family vacations, and preschool art projects, but my mom takes it to a whole new level. If I am ever in need of an unusual object, I ask my mom if she has it before running to Target. My husband used to be surprised by this, but over the years he has come to appreciate it. I remember going to a Hawaiian themed party years ago and telling him to call my mom to see if she had grass skirts and leis. He thought I was crazy until he made the call and discovered that she had both items, and in fact had a grass skirt small enough for our then two year old daughter. Not only does she have everything, she usually has multiples.

Unfortunately, her aversion to throwing things out also carries over to the contents of her pantry and refrigerator. This has been an ongoing theme for my family since I can remember. I have always checked the expiration dates knowing that salad dressings found in my parents’ refrigerator could be up to five years old. It takes years to get through a bottle since there are about twenty seven varieties available at all times. I recall helping my dad move their previous fridge out to the garage and finding a bottle of bleu cheese dressing from the 90s as well as a thirty year old bottle of peppermint schnapps in the door. I think we ended up throwing out half of the contents of the refrigerator that day after discovering condiments that somehow migrated from the previous appliance from the 80s. My mom was out of town during this event or I’m sure half of the items purged would have somehow found their way to the new refrigerator.

My mom’s aversion to discarding anything is most evident at their lake house. This second home has become the dumping ground for everything she can’t bear to part with, but can no longer keep at their main home without appearing crazy. I have to admit, I have taken advantage of this storage space myself when I discovered that I was unable to discard things like my daughter’s first doll house, the one she played with a total of three hours in her life. I have since moved a handful of toys to the “playroom” at the lake house where no children ever play. I would have put all of this stuff in the basement, but that part of the house is packed with enough Christmas decorations to light up the block. There may also be a unicycle rolling around down there.

I always think of the lake house refrigerator as a relatively safe place since the house was purchased just eight years ago and isn’t used all that frequently. My thought is that perishables are purchased in smaller sizes and used quicker. This apparently is not the case. We sat down to dinner last week, and my husband, as he has become accustomed to doing, flipped over the bottle of mustard to check the date before opening it. He announced that the mustard had expired the previous year. My mom immediately ran to the refrigerator, declaring she had another bottle. Of course she had multiple bottles – there are close to thirty bottles of salad dressing in her other refrigerator. As she handed him the new yellow bottle, he flipped it over to reveal an expiration date in 2017. She didn’t give up, but returned with yet another bottle. He looked at the bottom of the third bottle to find another two year old expiration date. As my mom stood racking her brain for the last time she bought condiments I delved into the refrigerator to see what other toppings I could find for the burgers. I discovered mayo that expired in 2018 and miracle whip that expired in 2017. Apparently my mom stocked up on the condiments in 2015 and 2016 but hasn’t done so since. It makes sense, when you can’t fit any more plastic bottles of goo in your fridge doors, you stop buying.

In the end, the burgers were so good they didn’t even need toppings. My mom smeared some dill dip on her bun, my daughter and husband had plain ketchup and I ate mine with nothing at all. Who knows if my dad even noticed. He probably used the expired mustard or some twelve year old steak sauce. He is immune to expired food at this point. My mom has been pumping him full of month old lunch meat and eight year old salad dressing for years.

**I wrote this piece while listening to music as old as the salad dressing in my parents’refrigerator – Milo Goes to College

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