Monday, November 5, 2012

These Are My People! (Staci's easy election guide)

I admit that I am an extremely opinionated person. Being highly opinionated can be a lot of work sometimes. In order to form a passionate opinion on everything you have to first think about everything. Needless to say, election season is especially taxing for the extremely opinionated. Its the one time when we as citizens are called upon to express our opinions and being outspoken can actually come off as civic responsibility.

Everyone I know has a pretty firm grasp on where they stand with national politics and a set of guiding principles they use when casting their vote. At this point, debating the presidential election is almost pointless but it has everyone holding their breath to see the outcome. In the mean time, no one seems to care about local government elections which drives me crazy because those outcomes have a direct influence on basic every day life and one vote really does have a huge impact. when I go into the voting booth, I am ashamed if I come to a vote that I know nothing about and it really bugs me to leave one unanswered. It is worth it to me to do research before hand on all of the candidates and ballot measures. John always counts on me to tell him how to vote and I usually send him in with a sample ballot filled out . This year I typed up the correct answers in a word document. Then I kept coming across people who were like "Just tell me how to vote." and I started passing my voter guide out to friends and family. I even researched the judges up for retention and sifted through all of the verbage in the propositions. In the process I got to be very familiar with all of the details of local government. 

So yesterday after church I was rounding up kids and herding everyone to the car when a huge truck plastered with campaign signs came rolling into the church parking lot. Out stepped a little blonde lady who I immediately recognized to be the advertised  candidate. Barbara McGuire. She is running for State Senator. I was a little fuzzy on the details but I knew she for sure hadn't made the cut to be in my voter guide and I was kind of curious what she was doing there. She was wearing a pantsuit and all made up and was striding into the church. Out of hundreds of random LDS church goers, who does she single out to walk direct to and introduce herself? Of course, the one person there who actually obsesses over these races and who has been passing out a home made voter guides. Hilarity ensues. Heres the conversation:

Barbara: Hi there! My name is Barbara McGuire and I'm here to find out when the services here are held!

Me: Hi Barbara, nice to meet you. There are a number of wards that meet here. Is there a specific ward you want to know about? Wards start at 8, 10, and 1. 

Barbara: I wanted to know when the meetings are because I am, in fact, a Mormon. I haven't been to church for years because I am so busy but THIS IS MY FAITH! I am a Mormon!

Me: Thats great. I'm glad you're here. Where do yo live? We can figure out which ward you are in. 

Barbara: I am a third generation resident of Kearny! I happen to be running for state senate right now. That has absolutely nothing to do with why I am here, of course, but I sure do love this church. 

Me: Oh, so you would actually belong to a ward in Kearney. There are LDS congregations pretty much everywhere. 

Barbara: It is so funny, Most people don't even know that I am a Mormon! These are my people! I really can't wait to get back to church. Today I only had time to stop in and check the meeting times but I am ready to come back to church! God knows I need the sacrament!

(awkward uncomfortable laughter) 

Me: Tell you what, why don't I give you my email address and you can shoot me off an email and I'll reply with all of the meeting times and information. 

Sister McGuire: Great! Actually, I'll give you my information. I just happen to have a stack of campaign flyers here that have all of my contact info. I'll just give you a whole bunch of these and you can pass them out to people or leave them out here at church.

Me: I am actually familiar with your campaign. You are a Democrat, right? 

Babs: Yes, I am technically a Democrat, but I support our right to own guns!

Me: Ya gotta love the Second Amendment!

Babs: AND… I would never have an abortion or recommend an abortion to anyone, because I really support Life, but I also would never dare to dictate what another should choose to do with their body. We just have no business legislating what people do with their bodies.

At this point I was wondering if one of us was being punked. It was all so random and hilarious and so totally awkward. Here she was forcing abortion into the conversation in less than a minute. And she happened to pick the one person who enjoys political debate more than making nice. 

Me: So what if I want to choose to use my body to kill someone? Is it okay to legislate against that particular choice? 

Barb: ha ha ha… You know what we need? More smart women in positions of influence!  Women really know what is important!

Me: I totally agree. Women are great. We do need women in important places. Especially in homes raising responsible children. 

(more awkward laughter)

I was so entertained by the whole exchange that I really wanted to experience it with someone else who would appreciate the depth of the hilarity. None of my peeps were around. Our Relief Society president was walking down the hall so I introduced the two. Barbara explained how she was a hard core Mormon and just paying a visit to her people and again stated that she happened to be running for office even though that has nothing to do with why she was there. 

Her whole rehearsed speech was like a slapstick comedy routine. It was so used car salesman-ish. It was like she got a memo telling her that to win the election she had to earn the Mormon vote and then she printed out a list of Mormon issues and went down the list. Who starts a conversation with "I'm technically a Democrat but I support our right to own guns."? and then segues into abortion within two seconds? 

Seriously, If you want to win the Mormon vote you are far better off showing up and saying, "Hi. I heard that LDS people have huge voter turnout and I wanted to come introduce myself because I really respect your civic involvement." Is it really wise to show up at church two days before the election claiming to BE a Mormon? If there is one thing about Mormonism, its that we can spot our own kind. There is a look and a vocabulary and a whole vibe that constitutes the nuances of Mo-dar and we can't be infiltrated that easily. Even if she could pull off her Mormon impersonation, the fact that she thinks she can show up and identify herself as a member of the church and automatically get our votes she is implying that she thinks we are mindless voters that blindly vote for our own regardless of policy. Thats incorrect AND offensive. I'm not sure if that tactic would work with other social groups, but we happen to be doctrinally opposed to crap like that. Everyone knows that if you want to get people in your community to vote the way you want, you have to at least author a blog and type up a voter guide. Geesh!

When I got home I had to dig in and find out all I could about this broad. First of all, she is totally funded by Planned Parenthood and labor unions. She does have an impeccable record on gun rights but she has run nothing but a juvenile ridiculous mud slinging campaign against the Republican candidate, Joe Ortiz. Also, there have been redistricting shenanigans that can only be described as "secret combinations". If you don't know what that means, call Barbara McGuire. I hear she's a Book of Mormon scholar.

Since I know you are dying for it right now, I have done you the courtesy of attaching my voter guide which is easily printed for convenience in the voting booth or just save the image to your smart phone. You're welcome.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Halloween and Mormonism: an odd marriage

This year I was asked to plan the ward's annual Halloween party. Otherwise known as Trunk or Treat. My first thought upon being asked was, "Wow, how have I been in the church this long and never been asked to plan a party of any kind until now?" I mean, I'm pretty fun at a party if I do say so myself. I know what makes parties fun and what weighs them down and I have attended hundreds (possibly thousands) of parties. Many of which were church parties and I have been taking keen mental notes. I accepted the assignment with enthusiasm.

Part of my enthusiasm stemmed from the great sense of relief that comes when one is summoned to meet with the bishopric for an undisclosed purpose and discovers that they have not been tapped for some huge responsibility. I have spent the past few years happily under the radar of pain-in-the-ass church callings and I employ very specific tactics to be sure that I am always remembered more for my irreverence than my righteousness. There is a formula. Lets say you want to specifically avoid being called to be Relief Society President or Primary President. Rule #1 use a swear on your blog at least once per post. Rule #2 teach true doctrines in lessons that make people uncomfortable. My favorites are things like sexual intercourse with a spouse in the Celestial Kingdom and the role of polygamy as it relates to eternal families and the fact that the Mormon Pioneers basically bred a population of people with specific genetic personality characteristics. The possibility of astral projection is always a winner too. Rule #3 wear flip flops to church at least every few months. If you employ even two of these three rules you can most likely enjoy the full benefit of membership in the LDS church with almost no risk.

I love when people refer to me as a "rebel". I always ask, "What makes you think I'm a rebel? Is it my temple recommend? My happy traditional family? The full time honorable mission I served? The years of early morning seminary I voluntarily attended throughout my adolescence at 6am? Maybe it was when I was a virgin bride at age 26. Is it the hundreds of Sunday School Lessons or my excessive testimony bearing? I have never even tasted alcohol or coffee or tea. Tithing, Fasting, Family Home Evening, Book of Mormon sharing, church attending Staci. The rebel. It really is entertaining to corner people on the real reasons they perceive rebellion. It all comes down to a little bit of good natured feather ruffling. I consider it my calling. Someone has got to do it.

So back to my assignment to plan the Halloween party. I have only one really horrible experience with Halloween and only one really horrible experience on my mission and only one really horrible experience with planning a church party. All of these things happened simultaneously on the evening of October 31st 1998 in the town of Metz, France. The one night I would like to erase from my record.

The thing with Halloween is that it is weird. Really weird. Think about it. There is no religious merit in it at all. We dress in deceptive costumes and in disguise go door to door threatening people for candy. We decorate our houses with corpses and spiderwebs and all things scaryand off-putting. We celebrate gore and violence and death in the name of candy. Don't get me wrong. Its awesome. Its just weird. We do it because its tradition and it is fun and it is culturally significant to us because as Americans we all share this set of really similar experiences that involve adrenaline and sensory extremes which cement these memories permanently. Maybe it was the five pounds of candy and week long sugar high that did it for you or the terror you felt in a haunted house or the thrill of getting stuff for free or the sensation of dressing up as something other than you. Halloween has covered everyone's sensory trigger somewhere. Add to that the fact that it comes right as the weather breaks and the temperature changes (particularly pleasant to those in Arizona) and that it is the big kickoff to the Holiday Season which is guaranteed to end in a windfall of gifts and cheer and a big New Years party. Once you've had a hit of Halloween it is irresistible.

Now take that Halloween nostalgia and mix it with a big dose of homesickness and serve it up to ten retarded American missionaries in a small far flung French branch of the LDS church. Add to the equation that Halloween hadn't caught on in France but was heard of and alluring. No one would dare go trick or treating or wear a costume but people were asking about it and there were stores that were beginning to display spooky themed window displays. Halloween was cutting edge and scandalous to the French. We were seasoned Halloween pros. We were beaten down with the task of converting the French to Mormonism (think about it) and we were constantly looking for ways to bridge the gap between the mainstream population and the Gospel Message. Someone suggested that the branch throw a Halloween soiree and we were finally so freaking qualified to do something well in the mission field. We were going to throw the most awesome Halloween party ever. We were going to advertise it to the entire town and get everyone in Metz to come step foot in the LDS church and see how fun we are! After that all I remember is a blur of genius Halloween ideas and the discovery that half of our district were basically special effects experts who excelled in realism as it relates to blood and guts. We commandeered the entire basement of the church for a spook alley (Festive!) and covered the walls in black plastic trash bags. Then someone spread a few fall colored leaves on the floor which led naturally to the decision to haul in enough dead leaves to cover all of the floors entirely. Each set of missionaries was in charge of a section. My comp and I were the big opening scene. She was a witch who would also guide groups through and I was a decapitated head in a basket still screaming underneath a guillotine. (Yeah, thats right folks. A guillotine. In France.) We even rigged the fake body with strings that I could pull to make the headless corpse twitch. One set of Elders did a brilliant hanging where he was the head and the fake body hung limply from a noose. another set did gross out stunts involving slimy textures and insect infestation. they were hiding in corners to jump out at people as ghosts. The grand finale had a hunchback midget dancing on the piano and warning people "Don't go in there!". Then guests were ushered in to view a mad surgeon running a chainsaw over an Elder who appeared to be gutted and eating his own innards consisting of lasagna.

It. Was. Awesome. You know, by American standards. Meaning those of us who have been conditioned to be insensitive to graphic violent imagery. Those of us who were born and raised thinking nudity and sex is supremely offensive but seeing people shot to death and bleeding out is totally okay for prime time TV. The French show porn on Prime Time. Full frontal nudity is found on billboards and public sunbathing spots and we American missionaries would avert our eyes and blush and try to think of something righteous and pure like Jack-o-lanterns or the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man Or Attractive Marriage Minded Vampires.

The problem was that The missionaries were the backbone of the church there and generally speaking did an excellent job. Local church leaders would ask us how to do things because we were the ones who knew first hand what the Church was capable of. No one checked us. We checked each other and had always done it well. We were smart, spiritual, obedient and effective missionaries. We were lifers who could spot false doctrine from a mile away and crank out quotes from prophets or scriptures from memory. We were showing the women how to quilt and can bean dip and telling the men how to conduct meetings and give priesthood blessings. We led the music and showed them how to do effective Family Home Evening lessons and walked them through sharing time and singing time and debated whether or not it was more offensive to God to break the Sabbath by buying fresh bread on Sunday morning (gasp!) or using day old bread to represent the body of Christ  (French gasp!) We would win the debate and then roll our eyes each week as we partook of warm baguette in Sacrament meeting.

My point is, We do some things because of our faith and we do other things because of our culture and Halloween was a moment when our judgement was blurred by fond childhood memories. We wanted to share something great. We wanted to give them the gift of Halloween because we loved them.

I will never forget the moment right before we officially opened the spook alley and people were streaming in. I had never seen so many people headed happily into a French LDS Church. A few were even wearing costumes! We were giddy. Everyone was there. Our promoting efforts had been totally successful. Then we let the first group through the door. Everyone wanted in at once.

Since my severed head was the first gruesome sight, I got to see their delight turn to absolute horror. before we had two groups through I had seen grown men cry and old ladies run screaming from the building, frantically tearing through black plastic to find the exits. I don't think any children made it past two rooms. We had to take a break and regroup so that one of us could be available to console people as they exited in terror. Then we had to regroup again because no one was even getting to the chainsaw and those guys were in there eating the lasagna bored while the bloody basket under the guillotine was going empty to  provide more grief counseling. Our priorities were obviously messed up. Clearly we should have opened with the Chainsaw and finished with the Sisters as we were the only ones who seemed to soothe them (probably by proving that my head was in fact still attached).

I have never been so ashamed. The members were shocked and confused and the non-members were like "Oh, this is how Les Mormons roulle. This is one seriously screwed up religion. Now I know." What we accomplished was exactly the opposite of missionary work. We probably unravelled a decade of dedicated missionary efforts in ten minutes. And the worst part was that by the time it was so painfully obvious to all of us what we had just done, we were so committed that we couldn't even stop the damage. there were crowds of people still waiting excitedly out front to see the spook alley. We toned it down and then again and by the end we were all just there in our bloody clothes speaking in soothing voices and just narrating a general spook ally description. Kids were still crying and running. We had to hide the angry faced pumpkins because they were freaking people out. Missionary FAIL.

We walked home without our black missionary tags on and the next day we spent ten solid hours shoveling dead leaves out of the church and trying to clean up the aftermath. Hide the evidence. Pretend it didn't happen. Pull trash bags off of the wall and fill with marinara soaked foliage and haul them upstairs. What next? We didn't know. It is France. No one has a truck. The garbage man wouldn't take all of this. we decided to spread the leaves back out where we got them; from the sidewalks and the yards. "Don't mind us. We're just cleaning up by spreading dirt and debris all over town for no apparent reason. This bag of bloody trash is brought to you by the Mormons. Please join us on Sunday for our worship services."

I am scarred.

So this memory was the second thing I thought of when I was asked to throw the ward Halloween party this year. I have thought this thing out to the last detail and I vow to throw a Halloween party that first and foremost: Does no damage. Second: is fun and third: is my shot at Church Halloween party redemption.

So today I was making the flyer for the event at my brother Christopher's house and I told this story to Cheryl and the kids while Christopher was in the office. I should tell you that Christopher is the single funniest person I have ever known and possibly one of the smartest. My fondness for him might have a tad to do with the fact that he is the only other human on the planet who really gets me because we share a lot of genetic material. I know what Christopher thinks is funny and vice versa and I'm pretty sure that when genome sequencing becomes available to the masses we will high five each other as we compare the data. I was sure that the telling of this Halloween story would draw him out to participate in the hilarity because this kind of story is right up his alley. He didn't come out. I wondered if he was crazy busy with a business deal and so stressed out that he couldn't come out and chat but even that was not normal Christopher behavior. I just unloaded the whole thing on the Hawses and we briefly talked about politics (shocking) and laughed about the eccentricities of the LDS culture. Finally Christopher came out and invited me to get started on the flyer. He told me that he had mocked up a few ideas and I was impressed with his efficiency.

He showed me this:


Then he scrolled down and suggested this:

 And it quickly devolved into this:


 And we absolutely couldn't resist this:
If any of this offends you, its okay. We were never meant to be friends.

There are actually more but at this point the whole thing jumps the rails and just gets ridiculous and random. We made some tweaks and I am totally prepared to present these flyers to the bishopric tomorrow with a straight face just to see how they react.

A little off topic here but I want to take a second to marvel at the wonderful world we live in. A world where one can access a free photo of a man tarred and feathered in less than ten seconds. Are there no limits? We got to where we were naming the most obscure bizarre photographs and timing ourselves to see how long it took to get a match. I can firmly state that every possible image is digitally available. If you don't find it on your first search, you just whip out photoshop. bam.

Happy Halloween!

And....everyone is invited to the Stone Creek Ward's Trunk or Treat on October 20th from 5-8 at the building on Gary Rd. just north of Hunt Hwy. San Tan Valley, AZ. You will have a lovely time. My salvation is riding on it.


Friday, June 22, 2012

Abe-Hole

Here is a conversation that I had with Abe last night:

Abe: A-hole is a bad word, right, Mom?

Me: Yes. Please don't say that.

Abe: My name starts with A. Is A a bad word?

Me: No. Its just a letter.

Abe: Is hole a bad word?

Me: No.

Abe: Awesome! Hole is the best part! Thats the funny part!

I have known this kid long enough to know that If I laugh or scold him then the word will be permanently forged in his memory and be made part of his day to day vernacular. The best reaction is no reaction at all.

Do you have any idea how difficult it is to keep a straight face and attempt to ignore a toddler who spends the evening calling people holes? Its a whole new level of self control.  

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Great Rotten Burned Meat Debacle of 2012

In every family there are certain stories that get told many times over. Eventually the entertaining details get embellished and the boring details get left off that the true story evolves into a a few different versions of the real story and then everyone has to argue about who is telling the truth and who is not even though both parties really really believe that their version is the more accurate portrayal. Just to be sure that time and retelling don't damage the essential facts of this story, let me rehash for you what just happened last week and has already been titled "The Great Burned Meat Debacle of 2012".

First of all, let me say that I have never claimed to be an awesome chef. Cooking skill is just not something I value highly because I was raised in a house where my super fun mom never cooked and we went to restaurants a lot and its pretty obvious that its best to outsource this kind of task to people who really really like doing it or are getting paid to do it and preferably both. Its expensive and monotonous and requires specific measuring of ingredients and time and every mother in the world knows that if you don't make something that everyone has eaten a hundred times already and is even slightly interesting to create you might as well eat a serving of it your self and throw it right in the trash.

At the grocery store you can buy a raw whole chicken for about five bucks or you can walk ten feet and get a delicious rotisserie chicken that is already cooked and seasoned perfectly and doesn't create a sink full of dishes or require you to turn you oven on full blast in the middle of the summer for five bucks. You have got to really love the process of cooking a chicken to take that deal. I'm not that gal.

The problem is that I am also a Mormon and I literally own a full blown year supply of food that requires major culinary effort to be made remotely appetizing. I love the 35 year shelf life freeze dried crap that I can buy with no intention of eating ever and then packing it away in a closet and being like "See ya in 35 years when I am seventy. I'm just going to mark you expiration date here in my food storage rotation app right next to 'babysit grandkids' in 2047." and then I shut the closet door and when I'm asked to teach a Sunday School lesson about preparedness I can deliver that doctrine without a twinge of guilt.

It gets trickier when you start talking about the deep freezer full of meat. There is no way around it. We made the purchase of a half of a cow last year and I keep trying to remember why. Turns out that cows actually posses very few actual pieces of meat that can legally be called Ribeye or Filet. If fact, most of it is just really tough meat with strange names like Flank Rump. What the? How does one even begin to prepare this? And then I have this house full of food snobs (shocker) who won't touch a homecooked steak dinner and beg for hamburger meat. Like, they think we are poor because we have to eat steaks for dinner. How does one respond to a comment like "My friend so and so has a pool with a slide and they get to eat ramen noodles for dinner."?

So anyway, back to the material facts in the GBMDof'12.

I was taking a lot of heat from a certain person who paid for a certain left half of a cow last year (oh my gosh, it just occurred to me that we might have bought a front half or a back half. That would explain a lot.) to cook some meat. It takes days to thaw that stuff out so I can always stall for a while but sooner or later I have to get busy asking Google what it is and how to cook it. This particular cut of meat was probably best cooked in a crock pot slowly for a long time. No problem. Crock pots are great. No. my crock pot has a crack in it and is therefore not technically water tight (or meat tight). No problem, I have a full set of expensive pots and pans and a functioning stove.

Never buy expensive pots and pans. There is no magic in it and sometimes there are occasions in life where it makes more sense for everyone to throw out the whole meal pan and all without the pesky middle steps sometimes referred to as "the refrigerator" or "the garbage disposal". I know that those dollar store pans are probably made by slave children in third world countries but I have bad news. So are the two hundred dollar pans. I'll take 199 dollar store pans instead of that 200 dollar pampered chef crap and take the remaining dollar to send ramen noodles to slave kids in third world countries.

So I had the meat cooking on the stove and I was congratulating myself on outsmarting the smug inventors of the crock pot (by the way, how did the name Crock Pot ever make it past the marketing department? Don't even get me started on the Pampered Chef and all of the reasons a company should avoid words associated with disposable diapers when selling food prep items). This story would have ended happily with the meat in the trash except that I wandered over to Kristen's house at some point in the process and found out the real reason crock pots are awesome.

Fact: burned mystery meat makes your whole house smell exactly like a dirty cheap smoking lounge/motel room.

Fact: Lots of things stick to teflon really really well. Especially when applied at super high temperatures.

Fact: No amount of Fabreeze can neutralize the smell of dirty cheap smoking lounge/hotel room.

Fact: a text message was sent to John before his return from work warning him of the smell and informing him that there was no need to call the fire department upon his arrival. Code 4.

Fact: 24 hours later we were all still in a bad mood about it.

Fact: 48 hours later is still wasn't funny.

Fact: We probably have a legitimate homeowner's insurance claim here.

After this the details are debated but if anyone would like to tell their version of events they are invited to create and author a blog.

I seriously considered throwing away this expensive pan but the lid fit so tightly and I was so busy with the Fabreeze and the air purifiers and I didn't know what to do with it. Back porch? Chihuahuas, kids, bad idea. Front porch? Homeowner's association, bad feng shui. No way. Garage? Maybe. no.

I remember that there was some negotiating about who would clean the pan and I remember that I argued that the industrial nature of the task had exceeded the feminine domain. I specifically remember winning this ridiculous argument and I specifically remember crossing it off of my mental to-do list.

Fact: a week later the stupid pan was still there concealing it's horrible identity with a tight fitting lid. Don't get me wrong, we're not hoarders (not counting the year supply of food in the closet). The house got cleaned a number of times during this time span, it just got cleaned around the Burned Meat Pot. Every day that passed made the whole task much more dreadful and so much easier to procrastinate.

Finally John reached a breaking point and agreed to wash the pot. He explained his game plan which involved putting it in the car and driving it to the police station where the Town of Gilbert also washes the garbage trucks. Yeah, sit com writers can't come up with harebrained schemes like this. I strongly urged John to abandon this plan and to commit to handling the issue here at home.

The next day the pot was gone. Whatever. Drive it away in your car, buy it dinner and a movie, make it a taxpayer project, just get it the hell out of the kitchen.

But then that night I got a frantic phone call.

Fact: John decided to use a super high powered municipal grade pressure washer to rinse the pan.

Fact: When sprayed with water at close range and high velocity The Rotten Burned Meat instantly atomized and covered him in a horrible layer of Burned Rotten Meat Juice.

This is where it gets good

Fact: after the first fateful squirt he put the pot back in the car and drove it back home.

Fact: We had to stay up late to wash all of his gear overnight so that he could use it on duty the next day but we got a good laugh about the whole thing and I was relieved to have the whole thing over with.

Fact: I didn't even suspect that the pot complete with all of it's Rotten Meat was in the passenger seat of the car.

Fact: The next day I saw the Pot on the counter and for a second I wondered if I was living a bizarre horror movie plot.

Fact: Two intelligent adults can argue their strongly held personal opinions about the definition of "rational behavior" for a very long time.

Fact: I am no longer trusted to use the stove or hassled about cooking meat.

Fact: You can drop a little bit of fabric softener into a pot of Rotten Burned Meat and it comes right off and neutralizes odor.

Fact: The town of Gilbert should consider replacing the pressure washers with a bottle of generic Snuggle. Seriously. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Never Mind. The Plague Continues

Jack has been sick for so long that I got a pissy call from the school today. The person on the other end of the line started by saying "I don't know if you have gotten the many voice mails I have left you but as of today your child has missed ten consecutive school days and if he is not in class today he will be withdrawn. Those are the rules. I have tried to warn you but you didn't return my voice mails."

Wow. It was 9:00 am and school started at 8:00. Jack was still sick yesterday but possibly recovering and I had decided that I would let him sleep until he woke up on his own and evaluate him then. I'm never totally comfortable waking up a sleeping child against their will. It doesn't feel like very long ago that I was nursing these kids and reading every book on the planet with a theory about how to make them sleep longer. The nursery was totally Feng Shui-ed, blackout curtains installed, white noise machine running, heartbeat/womb noise teddy bear blaring, dogs kenneled, door bell disabled, note taped to front door asking visitors to not ring or knock under any circumstance and if they needed me a text message was best but not a phone call because my ringer is turned off and if you don't know my cell phone number, I really don't want to come to the door for you because my guess is that you're selling something or we're really not that great of friends. knocking on my door right now will downgrade our friendship status from "not that great" to "dead to me". FedEx deliveries: leave it here and walk away silently. If you require a signature, please carefully forge the following signature on your slip. It's cool. You have my permission. I will not sue you. Unless you wake my baby up. Visiting Teachers: I know you're here to see if I need anything. You are so thoughtful and diligent and the best thing you can do for me is not even think about knocking on this door right now and it would be even better if you could just consider me visited for like 6-12 months. We both win. You're job is done and I don't have to straighten the house or risk a knock.

These days even when he is totally healthy I have to drag Jack out of bed against his will about fifty percent of the time but every single time I have to talk myself into it psyche myself out. Needless to say, if he is sick he doesn't get disturbed and strange rambling notes that offend ward members end up on my front door.

Back to the awesome phone call. No, wait. First let me tell you how I feel about voice mail. On my list of things that technology has done to make life much worse, Voice mail is right up there with Internet pornography, emoticons, and fatal car crashes caused by drivers who text and drive. I hate it. I hate that we are all expected to be available to everyone all the time. I can't stand listening to a 60 second message where the caller informs me that they called and rattles off their return phone number. I know they called. My phone tells me if I miss a call. It logs the time and date and it even stores the phone number. I have an app that will triangulate your exact location and display it for me on a satellite image. So I am not just aware that you called, I know you were at your kitchen table when you called and I can see that your winter grass still looks pretty good in the front yard but the back yard probably needs some fertilizer. I'm not using an old rotary dial phone with a curly cord and an answering machine that uses tapes. And these callers are most likely not at a pay phone at a gas station. Text messages are the way to go. I predict that in the not too distant future, phone calls will be considered rude except in times of emergency or really big news such as "You have cancer" or "I am gay" or "I am divorcing you". Those occasions totally warrant a real conversation. Actually those occasions warrant three separate real conversations because If I ever have one conversation that includes all three of those things this whole voice mail pet peeve will become pretty insignificant. But I will still hate voice mail and never ever check it. Ever.

The thing about having your kid miss ten consecutive days of school because of illness is that calling in the absence every day becomes pretty tedious. Last year Jack's school had an attendance number that was a dedicated line that was strictly voice mail. This is one of two very special cases where I prefer voice mail. Sure I hated listening to the outgoing message where the school goes on for like half an hour with detailed instructions about what it means to leave a message and what information is expected to be included in that message and then an explanation about how often that voice mail will be checked and then thanking us for reporting the absence and asking us to kindly disregard any voice mail messages we may receive today informing us of our kid's absence because there is a chance that the system will give us an automated call before this voice mail gets checked and the information gets entered into the computer. You don't need to call us and be all "I called and left a message that my kid is sick and then like twenty minutes later I got a message from the school saying that my kid was absent and if I don't call it will be unexcused." These things happen. Leave a message after the beep.

At which point I am basically having a seizure of irritation and wondering if there is anyone left on the planet that doesn't know the beep protocol and did they really need to take that long to explain something so freaking simple? Then as I anticipate the beep it doesn't come and the whole message starts repeating itself. In Spanish. If the message was hard to sit through in my native tongue it gets downright torturous in a foreign language and prompts me to spend the time calculating the real cost of illegal immigration. Then I am thinking about why in the world we don't secure the border. Or at least distribute leaflets to all of the border jumpers with some basic Spanish to English translations that will be required. Then we stop paying for things like signs that say "VOTE AQUI" at all of the polling locations on election days (as if they are being mobbed by registered voters who can't figure out the meaning of the word "HERE" even when it is in the context of being on a sign immediately after the word "VOTE" because they speak so little English.) Am I the only one who sees those signs and wonders how in the world someone like that got through the process of choosing a political party and thoughtfully examining the candidates and the ballot measures? I think we want the people who can't figure out that "HERE" means "AQUI" to get lost while searching for their voting precinct. I mean, even if they never decode "HERE", the word "VOTE" should be enough to get their attention. If we just did away entirely with the "HERE" and the "AQUI" and only printed and posted VOTE signs, everyone with any business participating in the American democratic process will figure it out. If there is anything I love, it is identifying and analyzing social filters. Like when you open a charter school and don't participate in the federal free lunch program which may seem irrelevant if you have no intention of ever having your kid apply for free lunches but which becomes very relevant when you realize that by requiring everyone to either buy a ridiculously expensive cafeteria lunch or put the effort into making and packing a sack lunch, you just eliminated poor families, lazy families, most of the Democrats, and all of the riff raff. And I can argue both sides of the public school vs. charter school debate all day long but when it comes right down to it I enrolled my kid at the charter school and if anyone asks why, three words sum it up: Free Lunch Filter.

Which brings me back to the damn phone call and why I long for an attendance voice mail line. When I have to call ten school days in a row and have a real conversation with a real person to inform them that my kid is sick again, I am totally unable to just say "absence due to illness." and let it go. I say things like "He is still throwing up and the fever just won't break." and then the polite person on the other line says something like "Poor thing. I hope he gets well soon." and then I say "You're telling me! This has been a nightmare. Everyone caught it and there is nothing quite as bad as being sick in bed and feeling like you might vomit at any second but then your kid vomits all over the couch and you scream for them to run for the toilet which makes them start running but they puke while they are running and end up literally spraying a thirty foot long path of vomit through the entire house and you wish you would have just had them finish puking on the leather couch where they started and then spend the next hour and a half on your hands and knees soaking up vomit which would be bad in the best of health but you get to do it while you yourself are super sick."

And then I immediately wish I could take that whole episode of unnecessary self disclosure back. Or that I didn't speak a word of English. "Jack es el sicko. Adios." Then the next day I rehearse the call to be sure I don't become that crazy mom that everyone dreads. "Jack is still sick." But then she'll say something like "We'll look forward to seeing him again." and I will say "Yeah, I look forward to you seeing him again too. He is bored out of his mind here but he's too sick to go anywhere and he feels like crap which makes him cranky and then he fights with his brother all freaking day long and I end up either lovingly spoon feeding him and rubbing his back or yelling at him and threatening to beat him like a bi-polar prison nurse." Then there is a bit of awkward silence and then I say "Habla Espaniol?" and hang up. Even on a good day I am compelled to mention that now a chest cough has started. or that he's becoming frighteningly dehydrated. I have some weird deep seated need to convince them that I'm not just keeping him home because I'm too lazy to pack his lunch or because I don't care about his education, He really really can't be there. In the first few days I was always making the case that I was doing them a favor because he was most likely contagious or that his coughing and vomiting is likely to distract the other students and disrupt the learning process. In the second week I was telling them how I'd happily send him in wearing a full Haz-Mat suit if I thought he could even sit in class for more than half an hour without collapsing. Eight school days into it I was pretty sure that they got the picture. On the ninth day I didn't call and I saw their missed call and I decided to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they would figure out why he wasn't there. He's not ditching, we're not at Disneyland, we didn't run out of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and Capri-Suns, We didn't just sleep in and forget we had somewhere we were supposed to be. We have not been taken into custody by Immigration. Ditto on day nine. Which brings us to this morning when this broad is scolding me for not listening to her voice mails and calling in each and every day. I was told in no uncertain terms that unless I could get him there for at least half of the day he would be forcibly withdrawn.

I apologized profusely and promised that he'd be there. "What counts as an attendance? five minutes? five hours? give me the exact requirement." I was totally committed to bringing my kid in to solve this problem no matter what. The CDC be damned and the entire science of microbiology for that matter. He may need to be in the fetal position on the floor and you'll thank me later for recommending a really big vomit bowl be kept with him at all times. We will be there. We will disregard the spirit of the law at the peril of the entire class and we will fulfill the letter of the law and he will be there and will not have been absent ten consecutive days. Then when I drag him home I will know that the rules were followed. And that I just bought us nine and a half more absent school days. Heaven forbid we take ten. Missing ten days of school is just plain wrong. Nine and a half is totally acceptable. Everyone knows that. We are not getting kicked out of the charter school. We are the exact match to their target demographic and I own way too many of their stupid uniforms to even consider letting them kick us out. I'm sure she was completely confused when I started babbling about how we can totally afford their inflated hot lunch prices. Which she totally deserved.

Then I went upstairs to wake Jack up and force him to get dressed and he was unresponsive. So I pulled the covers off and put my hand on him. Fever. His lips were chapped, his cheeks were red, he was sleeping so deeply that my ice cold hands on his hot back didn't make him flinch. And that was the moment I got out my phone and told the charter school to take their enrollment and shove it.

Then I called the doctor and they got him right in. I loaded him up and drove him down there and learned they think he has pneumonia but possibly mono, valley fever or foot and mouth disease. WHaa? Each time I had to tell someone at the doctor's office that he had been sick for ten school days which is actually a lot more than ten actual days, I would realize how retarded I am for waiting this long. And then I would point out that I was just here last week with Abe and if you've seen one sick Kramer kid, you've seen 'em all, right? I'm an idiot. I can say "vote here" in  four, maybe five languages, but beyond that I am obviously not too bright. I probably shouldn't vote. They were definitely confused when they heard my strange rambling about the price tax payers pay to print twice as many signs than is necessary and the suggestion that we take all of those signs to the border and fashion a big long continuous fence out of them. Which they totally didn't deserve.

So now Jack is loaded up with prescriptions and he is technically unenrolled in school which is a bigger relief than anything else and until this kid is totally recovered I am keeping him here on the couch with me and a bowl and I will not even think about calling in absences or ridiculous threats of forced withdrawal when we all know that that school will gladly re-enroll him the very second we stroll in. There is like a week left in the school year and they're not turning down the cash that they get from the State. They are running a business and capitalism will do its job and inject some rationale into the situation. I'm not worried. And if that fails, I can totally blackmail them into re-enrolling him because I happen to know something about them that I am pretty sure they'd rather keep quiet. It has to do with free lunches and federal requirements. I prefer we not go there because if my precious free lunch filter is lost then we will lose interest in the place anyway, but don't think I won't leave threatening messages, because that is the only other very specific case in which I really prefer voice mail. When blackmailing and/or delivering threats.

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Plague Has Passed

Every single member of this household has been so sick at some point this week that a visit to the Emergency Room was debated for each person. Now that we are all on the mend I realize that it was actually lucky that we were sick at the same time because we saved hundreds of dollars in copays just because no one with a driver's license could muster the strength it takes to sit in a waiting room.

Jack got hit the worst by far. he went about four days without eating and even then was able to produce large quantities of vomit. I can't even imagine where the chunks were made of and I considered saving a sample to have it analyzed in a lab but I was too busy cleaning puke off of every soft surface within a ten foot radius of where Jack was laying and dry heaving. Not to mention, I'm pretty sure our insurance doesn't cover lab work that serves no purpose beyond twisted curiosity. No wonder the Tylenol isn't bringing the fever down. If a hot dog from four days ago hasn't made its way into the bloodstream chewable grape-ish flavored fever reducers never had a chance. Then you get to decide if its safe to give another dose and find yourself combing through vomit for anything that could possibly have been grape-ish flavored. Welcome to one of those moments you never saw coming: the moment you honestly considered using chewable Tylenol as a suppository. On a person other than yourself.

Both of my kids and my husband have a thing for spiking high fevers. I've had enough experience with each of them to know that its not time to freak out until its over 105 degrees. Also, theres not much anyone can do about it beyond Tylenol and if you go into the hospital and demand answers the next thing you know they are asking you to sign papers allowing them to do a spinal tap even though everyone knows its just the flu. Then you turn down the spinal tap and say a prayer offering your next born child in exchange for the absence of meningitis.

John and I have a different opinion on when its time to involve doctors on an illness. I only want to go if I know for sure that they can do something for us that we couldn't do ourselves which basically means we need a prescription. The run-of-the-mill illnesses that pass through this house just need bed rest and 44 ounce Sonic slushes. I understand that even the most capable of physicians are not just trying to ease suffering but make a living and make payroll. No doctor likes looking a kid over and saying "It's a virus. It will pass. I recommend the lime slushes. We take cash or credit." Instead they always write a prescription for antibiotics in the off chance that its a bacterial infection and to make sure you don't feel ripped off and then you get sentenced to ten days of holding a kid down and pouring "bubble gum flavored" pink liquid down their throat. About six days later when your kid is totally healthy again and you come across the pink liquid in the fridge behind the pickles you wonder if the medicine made him get well or if he would have gotten well anyway. Then you have a pang of guilt that you didn't administer the whole ten day course and consider the possibility that you have unwittingly contributed to the creation of antibiotic resistant super bugs. So that co-pay you forked over and that two hours of your life you will not get back might have done more harm than good. To humanity.

A long time ago before we had kids John had a sickness that just seemed to go on and on and on. We were self employed and didn't have health insurance so I insisted that he not go to the doctor. a few more weeks passed and he still felt like he had a mild cold and he began to make his doctor request more often. I insisted that this was going to be a couple of hundred dollar endeavor for absolutely nothing. He kept insisting that he could tell it wasn't just a cold. He was sure that something was very wrong with him. He went to the doctor and returned triumphant with a solid diagnosis. He had Mono! Ha!

"See! I told you I was really sick! They did blood work and everything. Totally positive for Mono! I told you so!"

"And what can they do for you to make you feel better?"

"There's nothing you can do for Mono. You just have to wait it out."

"So we just paid a couple hundred bucks for nothing. I told you so."

Roughly ten years has passed since this conversation took place and we are both still unswayed.

Every time one of the kids gets even mildly sick John starts insisting that they get to a doctor. He has yet to volunteer to be the parent tasked with carrying this out. Then we exchange a well rehearsed dialog where I explain that doctors are just dudes who have jumped through a lot of hoops and paid a lot of money to a university. They are not healers, they do not have a crystal ball and they are generally not psychic. Then John delivers his lines about how he'd rather be safe than sorry and then we negotiate a compromise involving a strict timeline.

"If he is still coughing by 11:37 am I will call the doctor and see if they can get him in."

"I will see your 11:37 and raise you a visit straight to Urgent Care"

Even if he has caught the same illness and needs to be seen too and we (I) get an immediate appointment for both of them to be seen at the same time, I still have to attend the appointment. Which is a pain but it is way better than sitting home awaiting a full report and then having a conversation along these lines:

"What did he say? Did he make sure his ears aren't infected? Did they swab his throat? You remembered to mention the tonsillectomy from two years ago, right? Could he hear that kind of rattling sound when he breathes deeply? did you ask him about my grape flavored suppository idea?"

"Uhhh… I don't know. he gave me some prescriptions. I'm stopping my Sonic for a slush on my way home. Want anything?"

John and Jack both really like to be taken care of. I kind of suck at taking care of people. They both tend to milk illnesses for all of the pampering they can get. In fact, Thats how I know that they are really really sick. When they are feeling too ill to ask for things. I try really hard to nurture everyone through the sniffles and offer chicken soup and back rubs but I'm far more likely to send you to bed and tell you where the Kleenex is. The other day when John was feeling crappy he was getting dressed. We were both equal distance from the bin of clean socks. "Hun, will you get me some socks?"

So I got the socks and then dramatically held each one open for him to slide his foot into. I thought it would be funny. As if anyone needs their socks put on for them.

John just pressed his foot into the sock like it was totally normal and we both had to exert major force to get it all the way on. "Thank you, sweetie. You take such good care of me." He was touched by my gesture of kindness.

"John, I am kidding. I make Abe put on his own socks. I wasn't trying to be sweet, I was trying to make you laugh."

There is a reason I wasn't invited to The Last Supper. I would be like, "Hey, it actually takes more energy for me to sit still and let you wash my feet than it would take to just wash 'em myself."  I like to imagine myself having a Peter kind of response and insisting that I do the foot washing, but I know I'd probably be like, "hey guys, lets just all agree to keep our stinky feet to ourselves."  John is total Last Supper material.

It has got to suck to be a doctor in the Information Age. Everyone they see has googled their symptoms to death already and they come in expecting you to be totally familiar with every possible diagnosis off the top of your head. Its got to be hard to compete with WebMD. I'm sure the constant TV ads pushing pharmaceuticals are a total pain in the neck. They are probably right up there with shows about undetected full term pregnancies and frivolous malpractice lawsuits. And I have a feeling that any grown man willing to ask another grown man (or even worse, a grown woman) "Is my heart healthy enough for sexual activity?" has probably got bigger problems than sex or a weak heart. I'm leaning towards severe autism or Tourette's Syndrome. And I would know. I have a smart phone.

Since we have decent health insurance and a really great family doctor I'm not that opposed to taking a very sick kid in. The real hassle starts when you involve the pharmacy. Last week when Abe was extremely sick the doctor's office got him right in. We were in and out on our way home. Then the usual post doctor dilemma came up. Do you drop the prescriptions off on the way home and then go home and then leave the house again thirty minutes later to pick it up? or do you drag your sick kid into the pharmacy waiting room? This time I decided to go to a CVS in the opposite direction of home because it is by Home Depot and I have been needing to get some paint so I figured we could do that while the scrip was being filled. The prescriptions were for antibiotics (sorry about SARS), Albuterol and a nebulizer. Here is the chain of events:

CVS says that they don't carry nebulizers and recommends Walgreen's. (Nice sales strategy, CVS.)

Drive to Walgreen's and they say only the 24 hour location carries nebulizers. I ask if my insurance will even cover a nebulizer. I am told immediately that of course they will. I am suspicious that this response didn't involve a computer or a telephone but what do I know about nebulizers?

Drive further away from home to 24 hour location and drop off prescriptions. Am told it will be ready in half an hour.

Get paint. Totally infect race car shaped shopping cart with what may well be SARS.

Return to Walgreen's. Am told that they are out of both the antibiotic and the Abuterol but they can order it and have it by tomorrow. They would be happy to fill my prescription for a nebulizer. This would have been helpful info exactly thirty minutes earlier. They offer to send the prescriptions to a different location by my house. It will take them half an hour to fill. Thats good because thats how long the drive will take since I drove all the way to the stupid 24 hour location.

I drive to the new Walgreen's and am informed that they too are fresh out of antibiotics  but there is another Walgreen's that has all of it. Its only two miles away but it will take a half an hour to fill.

I drag sick kid to various time-killing errands like getting gas.

Gas pump sells me exactly five dollars of gas and then informs me that the bank will not authorize a purchase higher than that.

I frantically check bank balance. Plenty of money. No apparent reason for debit card debacle. I call bank. They assure me that everything is A-okay and I shouldn't have anymore problems. I give up on gas and head to pharmacy. If you are counting, this is pharmacy number four and Walgreen's number three.

Crazy long line at Walgreen's (which is understandable when you consider that they are the only location in town that sells antibiotics.)

My turn. "Picking up three prescriptions for Kramer."

I have two ready for Kramer. The third one, for the nebulizer is not covered by your insurance. Do you want it anyway? I'm sure I can borrow one but I'm considering the purchase just to have a large object to throw at someone. No nebulizer for us. Clearly God doesn't want us to have one.

"That will be twenty dollars."

"Here you go." Hand over debit card. (which must be done through a complicated metal drawer with a dirty plastic basket because everyone knows that it is a good idea to force all pharmacy patrons to touch the same surface. I give credit to the evil geniuses who run Walgreen's. They know how to get repeat customers.)

The card is declined. God doesn't want me to have a nebulizer and he hates me.

Drive to the freaking bank. Find out that there is nothing wrong with my account, there is just some odd issue with that particular physical debit card. I get cash.

Back to Walgreen's. Back to the back of the line.

Pay twenty dollars and have the nebulizer conversation again. "Just hand over the medicine, please."

"Sure, I just need to get the pharmacist to go make it."

"MAKE IT? It's not MADE? Yes, by all means, now is the time to begin the process of making the antibiotics. I'll wait right here." I passed the time searching for a hidden camera crew. This had to be a reality TV show where they provoke unsuspecting people to their breaking point. How did they get Abe in on the prank? Nah. Has to be God. He is totally holding me to that whole meningitis deal from 2005.

Cue the horrible coughing fit from the sick child who has been dragged all over town for antibiotics to treat a virus and Albuterol with no nebulizer with which to administer the Albuterol.

Cue the vomit.

Cue more vomit.

Lady is back. "It will be a few more minutes. I just need to have the pharmacist go over this with you. Has Abraham ever had this medication before?"

"We will figure it all out. Just give it to me. Please. I'm begging you. Just give it to me." I was scaring her. Now I know why they work behind bullet proof glass.

By the time I walked in the door and was greeted by John all I could do was point in the general direction of the garage and say "Go. Upholstery cleaner. Paper towels. Fabreeze. SARS. Lysol. Go." He was smart and got right on it without complaint. He was very sweet and thanked me for taking Abe to the doctor. I couldn't in good conscience say "You're welcome." so I settled on "Thank you for saying thank you." Then he mentioned that the car was really low on gas. Oh no you di'int.

My emotional state recovered at about the same rate as Abe. Kristen has literally half a dozen nebulizers laying around and I made peace with God and began the process of forgiving Walgreen's (which becomes exponentially more difficult each time I get a phone call from their automated system reminding me that Abe's nebulizer is awaiting pick up). Then I got busy googling the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder which I would totally see the doctor about except that he will just write me a damn prescription.  

Friday, May 11, 2012

The Magic of Swearing

Abe has discovered bad words. Everyone has to stumble upon them at some point in life.

The other day when the iPad went dead he asked "Where is the damn charger?"

I calmly asked him to not say damn and stated firmly "We don't say damn."

He was totally confused. "Yes. We do say damn. I just said damn."

He had a point. Nonetheless, I held my ground. "I don't like hearing the word damn. Please don't say it."

At this point I was mentally making a list of things that I should probably eliminate from my vocabulary for at least the next fifteen years or so. The last thing in the world I want to do is to try and enforce rules I won't keep myself. Nagging kids is enough work already.

I know that Jack is well versed in all of the swear words but not because I can recall a time when he used them. Only the times he expressed his outrage at hearing them and demanded justice for the offender. He is a hangin' judge. He expects to live in a house where the law is enforced and he will resort to vigilante tactics if it comes to that.

Abe on the other hand just wants to be entertained. Being a normal four year old he experiments with naughtiness on a regular basis. He is good natured and easy going and all he really wants is to get a laugh. To him the only thing more worthwhile than getting a laugh is getting a tantrum of angry outrage. I'm sure you can see where the plot of this movie is headed and it is R-rated. For language and violence.

So a swearing four year old does not really intimidate me. I have read enough parenting guide books and child discipline research to have my strategy well established. But like every child rearing issue, reality is always just a little bit more complicated than the books can prepare you for. In this case, Abe didn't just come right out and say the bad words, he strategically said them only when he was very sure I couldn't hear and Jack could. So the scene that played out over and over today was two kids playiing nicely interrupted by Jack screaming and shouting and flipping out. He would spew out every harsh word he could think of in response stopping just short of actually swearing himself. His face would turn red and he would flail his arms in total outrage. So what should a good parent do when presented with an alleged potty mouth and a verified tantrum thrower? I don't have any idea. If you know any good parents please ask them.

I am far more inclined to punish a kid for freaking out than I am for bad language and I have been known to use the latter in response to the former.Needless to say, Jack was miffed every time when he ended up getting sent to his room and Abe walked free. We were headed for full blown revolution.

The next time it happened I did my best to ignore Jack completely. Focusing on Abe I said "Abe, even though I haven't heard you myself I know that you have been using bad words and I want to talk to you about it. It is not okay to use bad words. You must stop right now. There are some words that we should never never say because they will hurt people's feelings. You may have heard me say these words before and I want to apologize to you for ever saying them. It was wrong of me and I am sorry. I'm going to try my best to only use nice words from now on. Will you please do that with me?"

He looked me in the eye and said "So you say bad words, Mom?"

As luck would have it, he didn't learn these bad words from his mother and he was a little shocked by the news that I ever used them.

"Oh, me? Use bad words? Hell no. I mean, I may have said certain things in the past that could possibly be considered crude but mostly I stick to nice words. That confession you just heard? That was total bullshit. NO! It was bull crap. No! I don't even swear. Well, very rarely. And even then it is only at very selective times and it is usually only to be funny. Or to make uptight people uncomfortable, but only because making uptight people uncomfortable is generally pretty funny. Obviously you know what I'm talking about here. Never mind. Where did you learn those words, anyway?"

As if he could accurately account for where he heard a few words that wouldn't even get censored from prime time television. Its not like he was dropping F bombs. If you believe Jack's side of the story, Abe likes to alternate between A-S-S and B-I-T-C-H. Points to Jack for spelling accuracy and best dramatic performance in theatrical production. Thats my boy.

Anyway, I learned the hard way why you should never testify against yourself. If you are smart you will plead the Fifth Amendment. If you are on trial, do not take the stand. It is almost always a losing strategy and there is a reason why the Fifth Amendment exists. Incidentally there is a reason that the First Amendment exists too and while I don't condone the use of bad words I recognize that people have died in battle to protect my right to use them.

On an unrelated note, if you are ever outsmarted by a four year old when attempting to scold him for something you are totally guilty of, my advice is to begin a long disjointed lecture about The Bill of Rights.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Scouting: a verb or a noun?

I am a girl. My husband is a convert to the church. How does this cripple us as we try to raise sons? Combined we do not posses a testimony of the Boy Scouts of America which means we cannot muster the effort it takes to even complete the application process let alone get our kid to a meeting every Tuesday. Even though we both know that Jack is totally going to love every minute of it as he has a genetic predisposition for anything that involves a uniform or a chain of command. How in the world did my husband grow up and somehow dodge this bullet? Perhaps he was too busy shining the brass on his marching band outfit. Or joining the army. Or plotting his law enforcement career. Are you seeing a trend here? The man loves uniforms. Saluting makes him happy. He is clearly the parent that should have been in charge of the Boy Scout application because I don't posses that gene.

Before I begin my tirade about how little I care if my kid can start a fire without a match or properly accessorize an outfit with an ascot (Now that I think about it, I specifically prefer that my boy not know how to do either of these things) Let me say that I am well aware of how karma works and I know that even the act of writing this exponentially increases the odds that I will be asked to accept a calling in scouting at some point in the near future. I am willing to take that risk.

My experience with Scouts consists of  badmouthing uptight parents who wouldn't let their teenaged boys get a drivers license until they had gotten their Eagle Scout. To those people I would like to say that your effort was totally misplaced and therefore counterproductive. Also, you are total cock blocks. Yeah, I said it. We were all thinking it.

I knew the day was coming when I would have to come to grips with this totally odd quasi religious/political organization and that when the time came I would need to prayerfully commit to drop my kid off at a weekly meeting and learn how to sew patches on to a sash. Easy enough. Holy crap, I just remembered the sash. An ascot and a sash? Its like they are asking to be ridiculed.

At this point we are a few months overdue to start this whole adventure and I would like to report that we are well on our way to Arrow of Light glory but instead I must report that I couldn't get through even the application without taking a break to complain let alone pay money for a uniform that I can only describe as "unfortunate". Did anyone catch the way I inserted the term "Arrow of Light" into the paragraph as if we all know what that is? Other people think you are schizophrenic if you ask another person if they are an Eagle. No. I am a human. Thats why we are not communicating in screeches and I am not feeding you to my hatchlings. Scouting is so much like the church in that there is a whole language and culture associated with it and the people who are accustomed to it throw it around like it is normal while everyone else is thinking "What the hell is Webelo?" They act like its normal to have your kid make an oath to an organization.

The application is pretty basic. Name, mailing address, email. But then you have to check a box agreeing to be "an active ScoutParent" Its a simple yes/no question but with the ominous use of capital letters and lack of space between the main words. Actually it is not a yes/no question. There is only one option. I assume that not checking the box is the equivalent of no. I checked the box purely out of peer pressure. These Boy Scout application creators managed to apply peer pressure without the involvement of any of my peers. Someone somewhere has a "subliminal manipulation" badge on their sash. This might even have been some guy's Eagle project.The word ScoutParent is obviously a legally trademarked term and less obviously a commitment to be something I can't even define. I immediately picture myself turning down an invitation to attend a jamboree (!?) and then I picture myself being grilled on a witness stand. "Is this your signature on this document dated May 7 2012  agreeing to be an active ScoutParent?" This fantasy sequence always ends with me receiving the maximum sentence allowed by law which is time in prison and/or camping. There is one other question: Are you a Tiger Cub Partner? I left that one blank because I have a sneaking suspicion that this is the way they filter homosexuals. I can't even make an educated guess of what a Tiger Cub Partner is but identifying myself as a "partner" might be the equivalent to coming out of the closet and I assure you if I ever decide that I am a lesbian I'm keeping the Boy Scouts out of it entirely. I will also leave all tiger cubs out of it.

I am well aware of the BSA's controversial history with gay rights and the huge legal battle the church had to wage. We all know that the church is totally capable of rolling out it's own program for boys and I'm willing to bet that that program is waiting in the wings. The day that happens the Boy Scouts is officially dead.                                                                                                    

When is comes to gay rights I support the Scouts wholeheartedly on this issue, I would like to point out that the millions of dollars spent in that legal battle is the price tag of outsourcing your young men's program. We saw this one coming with the Girl Scouts and avoided that headache in time to prevent our young women from becoming exploited unpaid cookie salesmen, but somehow stayed tied up with the Boy Scouts. The gay lobby could never resist a target with such deep pockets and did I mention the ascots and the sashes? Of course gay men were going to want to be pack leaders. Didn't Queer Eye for the Straight Guy have an entire episode devoted to those pansy looking hats?

And don't get me started on the fundraising. Once a year the church devotes a session of combined Relief Society and Priesthood just to tout the virtues of Scouting and to remind everyone what a worthy cause it is for their charitable dollars. They stretch two minutes of actual information into a very long hour. By the end of the class even the homosexuals are pulling their wallets out just to make it stop. But anyone who has actually sat through this meeting knows that even a huge cash donation will not make it stop. Because there is some fine print ACLU bull crap somewhere that prohibits the church from actually accepting donations on behalf of the Boy Scouts during a church meeting so instead they pass out these forms that request your consent to discuss Boy Scouts on a different occasion at a different place. They go on and on about how there is no pressure to check the yes box and it will all be kept confidential. At this point I am usually trying to push a blank check onto any adult male that will make eye contact with me. This is when everyone acts like my check is hot lava and if they touch it the church will lose its tax exempt status. Then I find myself apologizing for offering money which strikes me as odd every single time. Then just in case there are hidden cameras with direct feeds into the offices of the American Civil Liberties Union, I loudly announce that no financial transaction has occurred here and thank everyone who may or may not have placed an American flag on my lawn for holidays which I am aware is a free service offered to all citizens and will be performed for anyone submitting a written request regardless of their tax deductible donation equal to the suggested $30.00 or sexual orientation. We communicate in a complicated code that involves semaphore and honeybee pheromones and eventually we all understand that if anyone happens to find a blank check under my doormat I will not alert the ACLU. The memo on the check will however include a snarky comment about ascots. I hope there is a merit badge awaiting all of these brave men.

Which brings me to my next point. Why is this organization for boys run almost exclusively by women? Who's idea was it to seek out the only demographic in the church that is very unlikely to have no scouting experience and tap them run things? Probably the same person who first attended an Enrichment meeting and realized that Mormon women have a penchant for getting crap done even if it is completely pointless. I swear that floral centerpieces and den mothers originated in the same meeting and that meeting probably involved handicrafts. My guess is toll painting. Okay, maybe blogging falls into the pointless category. Guilty.

And what is with camping? I have another term I like to use to describe a situation where my family must sleep on the ground in the wilderness: Failure. Have we become so spoiled rotten that we consider it recreation to crap in the woods? Its almost offensive. I like to think my ancestors were fighting wars and crossing plains specifically so that I could sleep on a sweet memory foam mattress with high thread count sheets. They were probably hoping that the day would come when we didn't have to even think about the possibility of wild animals eating our babies. And what did those guys do for fun? Pretend to have typhoid fever and force themselves to use only animal skins for a weekend? The cotton gin? Thats for wimps that can't handle roughing it.

Around here we consider it a hardship when we discover that our Internet purchased plush Angry Birds are counterfeit. Where is the merit badge for putting up with spotty WiFi or waiting longer than thirty minutes for a pizza to be delivered? I like to think of my great grand children not even knowing what an open flame is. I want them to be be capable of calculating the cost of gas and camping gear versus two nights at the Ritz Carlton and I hope they end up at the Ritz every time. I hope someone gives them a merit badge with a little abacus on it for that. I hope they don't know what an abacus is. I could go on forever

So basically I am hoping that when the folks at the BSA see that I have contractually agreed to be an active ScoutParent that they don't google it. The signature line of the application includes the fine print that by signing you are affirming that you have read or promise to read in the future a document about how it is everyone's responsibility to prevent Child Abuse. (I wish I were making this up) Sign here to confirm that the above stated address is correct and that you have no immediate plans to molest boys. If your address is incorrect or if you are concealing an impulse to fondle youngsters under the guise of placing flags in yards for free, please inform your attorney that we strongly advised you against both of these behaviors. Violators will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law the penalty of which is a maximum sentence of 50 years to life camping in the wilderness.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Making Memories/ Securing my Coolest Mom Title

The drive across town form our house to my parent's house takes about an hour and is about 62 miles each way. There are a number of ways to go but most of them take us in the general vicinity of downtown Phoenix. Jack is always mesmerized by the tall buildings and the skyline in general. We don't often have need to actually go into the downtown area but to an eight year old those skyscrapers are pretty cool.

Last week we spent the night at my parent's house and the next day we were driving home leisurely with no real time constraints. The weather was beautiful and it was lunch time. Jack looked out the window wistfully and asked "Can you imagine what it would be like to actually go into downtown Phoenix and see those buildings up close?"

Years ago I worked in Renaissance 2. My first job when I was 16 was in the America West Arena. Having been born and raised in Phoenix, I know my way around down town. I am sure that Jack has if fact been there too at some point but if he had he certainly didn't remember it. I thought to myself "Whats the harm in dropping off of the freeway and cutting across town through the skyscrapers?" I pulled over to exit and told Jack that it was his lucky day. We were going to take a ride through down town Phoenix.

The kid thought he'd died and gone to heaven. He was so excited. As we got into the shadows of the buildings and I was giving my little impromptu tour I decided that we'd go one step further and park and get something to eat. I had an idea. "Jack. I'm taking you to one of the coolest places on Planet Earth. He was dying to know where we were going but I made him wait until we walked in.

Friday's operated a restaurant in the Diamondback's stadium Chase field that is open 365 days a year. We got to go in and have lunch in left field  while we watched batting practice. The sheer size of that place will make you dizzy for a minute when you first walk in and the fact that we were the only ones in the stands (or even the restaurant) made it a mind blowing experience. Luckily since we were the only ones the kids got to run around the stands and check it all out. Jack just kept saying over and over " You are the coolest mom ever." Mission Accomplished.

The whole thing cost us less that 20 bucks and an hour of our lives and I guarantee it will be an hour that they both remember for a really really long time. Our waiter saw Jack taking it all in slack jawed and said " So when you grow up do you want to be a baseball player?"

Without missing a beat he said "No, I want to build baseball stadiums."

The roof was opened and we had a perfect view of the planes coming in for landing at Sky Harbor which was the highlight of the whole experience for Abraham. Even though you could pretty much set your watch by their regular arrival every sixty seconds or so, He was equally shocked and excited every single time. I could have sat and watched those boys take it all in all day long but eventually all of the food was gone and it was time to go. Without being prompted they both thanked me about a hundred times on the walk back to the car.

I'm certainly not the most fun mom or the most spontaneous mom or the mom who owns zoo passes. I refuse to listen to crappy music in the car (I.e. anything made for children) and I make them eat vegetables against their will but that day I was a Rockstar. I know for a fact they will remember that day fondly for a long long time. So will I. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Jack Mormon

I was raised by an active Mormon mom and a totally inactive Mormon dad. He had been raised in the church and served an honorable and very successful full time mission and met my mom at Ricks college and they got married in the temple. I don't know the details of how his church attendance disappeared in the first part of their life together because I wasn't even born until long after he was carrying a pack of cigarettes in his pocket every day after work.

Anyone who knows my dad knows that he is a powerful guy. When he walks into a room people are compelled to turn and look just because of the energy he carries with him. They stand down. People either worship him or detest him or simultaneously worship and detest him. My friends were afraid of him and often people would check with me to see if my dad was home before accepting an offer to play at my house. This was especially odd because he had never mistreated my friends in any way and never mistreated me so there was never an actual reason to be afraid of him but people just were. He swore like a sailor and always had on his person at any given moment a wad of cash, a can of Coca Cola and a bag of candied peanuts. These happened to be my three favorite things in the world and as the youngest child and most manipulative daughter I had staked my claim on a generous portion of all three of those things early.

I always knew my dad had a testimony of the Gospel but looking back I have know idea why I thought that. Its not like he was bearing his testimony to anyone or even discussing religion with anyone but I respected his intelligence enough to give him the benefit of the doubt. The doctrines of the church have always made perfect logical sense to me and therefore I had always thought that anyone who had heard it all and didn't believe was a little bit low IQ. Whoever instilled that into me as a child is a genius and I find myself often dropping hints to my kids that will accomplish this ever so subtle yet powerful technique of inspiring obedience to commandments. Ultimately I want my kids to adhere to the tenants of our religion because they love it and know it to be true for themselves but I am also a realist that understands that often times you get to the higher level by passing through the lower level. Whatever. Maybe they will go on a mission for no other reason than to avoid being a social pariah in the Mormon culture. Great. I saw enough Elders on my mission come out for the wrong reasons. They all ended up figuring it out. Except for the ones with low IQs. "Jack, serving a mission is wonderful because you get to Preach the Gospel and help people come unto Christ which will bless your life eternally. Also I will be devastated if you don't go and you will surely only have really lame unattractive girls to choose from when you want to get married." I am not above this form of brainwashing. The ends justifies the means. Not to mention it is one hundred percent true. I would be devastated and any girl worth marrying will and should hold out for someone who has demonstrated that level of commitment to God.

My dad was always entertainingly irreverent about the church. He wanted us to be raised in it, but he loved doing things like seeing the statue of Brigham Young at Temple Square in Salt Lake and saying "There's old Brigham with his back to the temple and his hand to the bank." (which, by the way, is exactly how it is positioned). He openly declared that his favorite college sports team was any team playing BYU, and he had a penchant for walking out a room during mid lesson of a home teacher's visit.

He had a really cool sculpture of a giant jack (the toy). It was this funky touchable piece of heavy art and he loved telling people that it was his Jack Mormon award. I came across it the other day and since I did name my first born after it I had to get a photo. I'm sure he made this with his own hands. (He is awesome like that.) I officially lay claim on this when my parents are dead. I want my mom's charm bracelet and my dad's Jack Mormon Trophy. 

There were certain things that I wanted to be ignorant about. I convinced myself that he smelled like cigarette smoke because thats just what welders smelled like and his employees at the shop all smoked. When he had cigarettes in his truck or pocket it was because he was holding them for a friend. Even when I found him with a cigarette in his fingers I would immediately search the scene for whichever shop employee had his hands so full that he needed my dad to hold his cigarette for him while it was lit and while my dad was welding with his other hand. After all, everyone knows that smoking is like the worst thing a person can do, right? This is definitely one of those LDS culture things that is kind of messed up but I appreciate that I was brainwashed to disrespect smokers for a very good reason and as an adult who has never been tempted to take even one drag, I have no complaints.

As an adult I can also appreciate all of the ways my dad was totally righteous when I was growing up that I gave him no credit for at the time. I understand now how significant it is that he provided well for his family by working his ass off every single day. I realize how significant it is that he never cheated on my mom. He was honest in his dealings and he was a good person to the core who always gave generously to his fellow man and served others. He would even hold cigarettes for people without complaining.

I have seen enough train wreck marriages and worthless absent fathers and cheating husbands or lazy bastards who don't work to know now that my dad was doing a lot more right than he was doing wrong. Plus he ended up with four well adjusted children who all chose wonderful spouses, married in the temple and are currently enjoying fulfilling lives. None of us ever rebelled, he sent three missionaries into the mission field and we all love each other. You can't argue with results like that. Granted, his best parenting move was choosing my mother in the first place who tirelessly drug four kids to church all by herself and who modeled the positive fruits of following the Savior and staying active in His church every single day of her life.

As a dramatic teenager my fondest dream was to see my dad come back into the church. It was hard for me to get priesthood blessings from random ward members. As I understood the plan more I wanted my dad to be part of our eternal family. I thought it was a pipe dream but thats what I really wanted.

I wish I could give you more details of my dad's miraculous change of heart and subsequent reactivation into full activity in the church but I was not in the country when it happened. When I left on my mission I left an inactive smoking swearing Milan and by the time I got back we all went to the temple together and he was serving as the High Priest group leader. I don't take any credit for the change but I'm sure that between supporting a missionary, the death of his parents, a heart condition that was threatening to end his life and the general softening that comes when a person becomes a grandpa, there was a perfect storm of events that brought him back. In a style that I understand completely he went the extreme route. He stopped carrying people's cigarettes cold turkey, put his garments back on and by the time I was back he would follow me around trying to engage in spiritual discussions and spend hours a day studying the scriptures and immersing himself in the teachings of the prophets. It was great but I will admit I had an unexpected grieving period when I realized that the guy who raised me was gone forever. He had been replaced by this spiritual giant who would not only sit through an entire home teaching message, he was home teaching. Shortly after that he was called to be the freaking bishop. Yes. Thats right . Staci Haws was a bishop's daughter.

Not only did I have to grieve the loss of Old Milan but it took a while to get used to New Milan. One time I remember putting a mix CD I had made into the car stereo while on a road trip shortly after my mission. One song had a bad word in it and this apparently offended New Milan. He started lecturing me about the influences we choose to introduce into our lives and why it is so destructive to choose worldly music etc. I could have taken the advice from anyone else but I wasn't about to have Milan Haws tell me that I needed to be more churchy. "Hey Dad, I am sorry but I am not offended by swearing. Remind me sometime to tell you about the asshole I learned that from. In the mean time turn the music back on."

Nowadays I just appreciate every detail of my dad. Even the contradictions. He does whatever he does with passion including being my biggest cheerleader since I was born. Our family was not perfect by any stretch of the imagination but I did receive perfect unconditional love from my parents and to not take myself too seriously which I am finding is actually pretty rare and that skill makes life more bearable than just about anything. Turns out I had the best dad in the world and I still do. 

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Better than Airbags



Here are some pictures that John texted me today on the scene of a horrible car accident where everyone should have been killed but instead were miraculously unharmed.


Friday, April 13, 2012

I am pretty much an angry bird-ologist

My four year old and my eight year old spend most of their days trying to come up with questions that will stump me. Abe still thinks that I am the ultimate source of all knowledge but Jack is becoming more skeptical. Here is a sampling of questions I have answered today:

Abe:
Sharks like to eat people, right Mom?
T-Rexes hate dinosaurs, right Mom?
Ninjas are so quiet, right Mom?
Lala loves to lick people in the face, right Mom?
Me and dad are both handsome, right Mom?
This show is boring, right mom?
Blue slushies are the best, right mom?
Skeletons are totally fake, right mom?
Angry Birds hate pigs, right mom?

Jack:
How did Stephen Hawking get paralyzed?
What does DNA stand for?
Why do people get abortions?
Would a French dog understand English?
Who pays for the Olympics?
Why would the Irish want to kill each other?
Wouldn't an igloo be too cold to live in?
Are humans evolving?
What is Algebra?

Hey Jack, don't you have any questions about Angry Birds? Go ahead and ask me why Target is a far more pleasant place to shop but will never be able to compete with WalMart for global retail domination. Ask me why Obama wants war in Iran during an election year. I can accurately tell you how the gravitational pull of the moon creates oceanic tides. I know a lot of stuff. I am pretty good at making stuff up on the fly too.

Basically Abe is asking me stuff to confirm his hypothesis that we both know everything. Jack is trying to confirm his hypothesis that we both know very little. I am totally thrilled with both theories.

Friday, March 30, 2012

True Beauty

I like the theory that everyone has one true beauty. We spend so much energy inventorying and loathing our physical flaws and sometimes everyone needs to just admit that they posses one perfect physical feature. One thing that we can just embrace as beautiful and feel comfortable about. I have fabulous eyelashes that are long and thick and naturally curly. I can think of improvements I could use to every single thing about me but there is no way to improve my eyelashes.

Physically I didn't win the genetic lottery and get blessed with a gorgeous face or body and as a chunky kid who grew into a chunky teenager, an entire life of feeling gigantic has a way of warping your self image. I never had what I would call low self esteem because apparently in the pre-mortal world I decided to skip the line where they were passing out athleticism, I refused a fast metabolism and I went straight for where they were passing out confidence and took two helpings. Don't get me wrong, I believed that I was a morbidly obese monster of a girl who would never be found attractive by any human male alive, I just happened to also think I was genuinely the coolest person I knew. I was always the life of the party, I could get along with anyone, I cracked myself up constantly and I knew God loved me. My mother probably deserves credit for the confidence because she was certainly my biggest fan and she is a social/emotional genius who has a magical way of making people feel at ease in her presence. She did not go overboard praising every mediocre accomplishment but I never craved her acceptance because it had never been withheld in any way. Can a daughter give higher praise than that? I have known enough screwed up adults in my life to tell you that nothing damages a person more than a childhood of wondering if you will ever be good enough to your mom. Not to mention the fact that neither the Arnett nor the Haws gene pool has ever run short on confidence and the odds of Marolyn and Milan producing an insecure introvert are about as high as the odds of them having a brown eyed baby.

With that said, I would also like to tell you that the first thing my dad ever said to my mom was "Do you know that you have fat knees and no boobs?" I'm not making this up. This is not a pick up line that would or should work on any woman but the effect of this statement combined with his obvious attraction was to expose her most sensitive secret that she had spent her life concealing and hating and just exposing it, acknowledging it, and dismissing it. What a novel idea. Long story short, they ended up married with four kids and as soon as medical science caught up with the growing plague of women who hated their figure, the fat knees and flat chest were fixed. These days I can name ten people in ten seconds who I know personally who have had boob jobs and/or liposuction (and a hell of a lot more than that) but this was back in the 80s when it was almost unheard of in the middle class. I was about ten when she got her boobs and I remember that she was extremely worried about the message she was sending her daughters by surgically altering her appearance. At the time I held no strong opinions about breasts one way or the other but I understood that everyone else seemed to give them (or the lack thereof) a lot of attention. My mom kept telling me "Staci, when you grow up you will most likely not have boobs at all. Thats okay. That doesn't mean that there is anything wrong with you." I remember thinking something to the 10 year old effect of "No shit, Sherlock."

Besides her own neurosis about body image, I don't know where she got the idea that I would grow up and have small boobs since I had never possessed anything that had ever been described as small. Even stories of my birth always included what a giant baby I was. People don't realize that a statement like that is the emotional equivalent of telling a girl she was born hideously disfigured. They also don't realize that comparing a child to a Cabbage Patch Doll is not only UNORIGINAL, it is CRUEL. (And those are the only two qualities I truly detest in a person to this day.) I wasn't a sensitive kid and never had a penchant for violence but a person can only get their chubby cheeks pinched so many times before they begin plotting revenge. Just freaking try to pinch my cheeks today. See what happens. Better yet, pinch my kids cheeks and call them a Cabbage Patch Doll. Please keep in mind that the number of semiautomatic firearms 35 year old Staci has immediate access to is in the double digits.

Okay. Now that I have that off of my chest I can tell you that I have spent my entire adulthood or an insane roller coaster of weight change from literally being morbidly obese, to getting so thin that size 2 jeans were loose on me and I couldn't even lay on my stomach in bed because my body would teeter precariously on my prutruding hip bones. I am 5'10" and I was about 110 pounds. This was a few years ago when I was in the grips of a mysterious auto-immune disease that ravaged me out of nowhere. The sick thing is that I was literally wasting away to nothing and there was a point when I started to honestly expect to just keep shrinking until I died. I would lie awake at night and wonder how the end would come. Would I collapse in the house and be rushed to the hospital where I deteriorated until organ failure while my family watched helplessly and doctors continued to be stumped or would I just go to bed and not wake up? I went to dozens of doctors and I couldn't stop or even slow down or diagnose the problem. The sick thing is that I was a walking skeleton and everyone who saw me just couldn't help but congratulate me and celebrate this weight loss. When I got sick I didn't even want to lose weight. My weight had been average and stable for years before I got sick. My neighbor told me that I look like a holocaust victim. I was shocked to hear such a direct and graphic insult and then I realized that she meant it as a compliment. I can think of no better illustration of how completely weight obsessed our culture is than the moment I realized that healthy women are looking at images of Holocaust victims and feeling envy. It got to the point that I couldn't have a conversation with anyone without them pointing out how fabulously skinny I was. I was familiar with the phrase "There's no such thing as being too rich or too skinny." but I had never expected to experience either condition and I certainly wouldn't have put my money on becoming too skinny, but I was officially there. I would dread church on Sunday because each week I would have to explain over and over that no, I did not do the HCG diet. I have a horrible incurable undiagnosable auto-immune disease. Then I would have to maintain a pleasant demeanor as everyone responded exactly the same way every time I said it. "You're so lucky." Yes. I am lucky. I am wondering who will raise my kids when I'm gone and wondering if my funeral will be one of those depressing tragic type of funerals or if it will be inspiring and touching. But I can buy my clothes in the little girls department, and I don't have to try anything on because I know how it will look on me which is exactly how it looks on the hanger. Lucky me.


I am all about extremes. I'm either scary overweight or scary skinny. My house is either a disaster or it looks like a model home. I am either so healthy that I haven't needed to see a doctor in a decade or I am so sick that I am hooked to an IV five times a week so that I don't die. I got pregnant with Jack while simultaneously using 3 forms of contraception and I had to take fertility drugs for a year to get Abe. I experience no physical pain when I am in advanced stages of labor. In case you think I'm talking about digging ditches, I'm not. I'm talking about pushing something the size of a watermelon (with shoulders) out of my vagina. I went through the entire process of meeting, dating, converting, and marrying my husband in a little over two months. Once I paid cash for a brand new 328i BMW. The car I drove for three years before that was a red and grey two toned Pathfinder that had been wrecked on three corners, didn't have power steering (or power anything) that was lovingly called "the Dyke Mobile" by everyone who knew it. There was a time in my life that I had a private corner office in literally the highest rent Class A office space in the entire state. Mine was the office with three walls of floor to ceiling glass on the corner of 32nd street and Camelback on the sixth floor overlooking the Biltmore and right across from the Ritz Carlton so if I got bored I could watch famous people sunbathing. That job came with an expense account, a ridiculously large paycheck, an assistant and a primo reserved parking space in the garage. The monthly rent on just the parking space was higher than the total value of the car I parked there every day. If you are wondering how a 23 year old high school drop out landed that job let me tell you something about sales. When the president of The American division of a multinational corporation realizes that he just bought a plane ticket from NYC to Phoenix to interview a 23 year old high school drop out, he knows that he has found someone who can sell anything. I hate the term "She could sell ice to an Eskimo." Of course Eskimos will buy ice. Eskimos LOVE ice. They love it so much that they live in houses made of it. In fact, thats the only thing I know for sure about Eskimos. They are ice addicts. Thats like saying "She could sell Crack to Whitney Houston". Lets all be clear about our target demographic. If you ask me if I'd rather sell ice to Eskimos or desert dwellers I'll take the ones who didn't move to the desert specifically because they hate ice. Let me tell you a far more accurate phrase that would express sales ability. "She can sell Mormonism to the French." Thats a tough sell. It is also a perfect job to prepare you to sell high end office space.

There was once a time when I was on the VIP list at every trendy bar in town (tip: the girl who will be the designated driver every single time is the most popular girl in the club scene) I have never tasted alcohol but I was on a first name basis with all the bouncers (another tip: It never hurts to make out with a bouncer every now and then if you want to be on the VIP list at all the clubs) Speaking of extremes, Once I spent the night in jail. I used my one phone call to get Lisa to come post bail and I made it home the next morning just in time to shower and get to church to teach gospel doctrine. You get the idea. I sound bi-polar but I swear I'm not. I'm not even a thrill seeker. Sure I find it entertaining to push people's buttons (especially the buttons on uptight Mormons) but really, somebody has got to do it. Lets not take ourselves too seriously.

With my all or nothing track record it makes sense that one day I had a revelation that hit me over the head and changed everything. I am hot. I had spent my whole life avoiding mirrors and accepting platonic BFF status among all of the cute boys I knew and had totally convinced myself that had God wanted me to be a wife and mother he would have given me a totally different set of physical attributes. I had totally grieved the loss of the husband and kids I was taught to want but would never have and I had made peace with it and moved on. After all, I was in my early twenties and everyone knows that that put me way into old maid status. Sick.

I was successful at selling just about anything on the planet but I saw my DDDD boobs as a liability. Male humans are HARD WIRED to love DDDD boobs. I was daily selling high end commercial real estate to companies at above market premiums effortlessly and I was failing to sell DDDD boobs to men. I wasn't even really overweight then. I had learned how to advantageously dress my figure and learned how to doll myself up. Wait a minute. I was marketing my product to the wrong demographic. If my life had a soundtrack, this is where you would hear Sir Mix-a-lot. There is an entire planet of men who love my LA face and my Oakland bootie. The first group I discovered was black guys. I couldn't get a date in the singles ward to save my life but I couldn't walk down the street without a hot black man pressing his frantically scrawled phone number into my hand. I was dating a professional basketball player and he was showing me off to his jealous friends. And I was the trophy girlfriend based entirely on my looks. I didn't have to make anyone laugh or engage in witty banter to make them want to be around me. That got old in a hurry. That got offensive in a hurry. The magical thing about realizing one day that you are in fact attractive is that once you know it everyone else seems to notice too. There is a vibe that gets sent out and heads start turning. Once that vibe was put out I found another demographic. Non-Mormon men. Here is another little nugget of truth about attraction. A chick who is a solid seven gets more attention than a ten. A seven is attractive enough to catch their attention and not too hot to scare them away. This is especially true if the girl who is a ten never had to be forced to develop a sense of humor and never got forced against her will to learn how to be BFFs with cute boys because it turns out to be a very handy skill to have when you are married to the cutest one of all and you are raising the other two cutest ones.

I keep thinking about Eve n the Garden of Eden. Before she ate the forbidden fruit and Satan had no influence over her she walked around naked. Then she ate the fruit and became subject to Lucifer's. The very first thing Satan did was make her ashamed of her body. This is the Father of all Lies who laughs at suffering and is bent on destroying us and out of all of the millions of things he could tempt her with he went with the most effective destructive thing possible. He convinced her that her body was disgusting. In fact thats what signaled God that the fruit had been eaten. They covered themselves with fig leaves because they were ashamed. Its no coincidence that death and body image issues entered the world simultaneously.

5 And I, the Lord God, called unto Adam, and said unto him: Where agoest thou?

16 And he said: I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I beheld that I was naked, and I hid myself.

17 And I, the Lord God, said unto Adam: Who told thee thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldst not eat, if so thou shouldst surely adie?

They made themselves coverings out of fig leaves to cover themselves and the scriptures don't say this but I its very possible that Eve then said, "Does thou know wherest I may go to find a good underwire minimizer fig leaf so that I mayest lift and separate my breasts? And wherein may I find a way to cover my cellulite? The Serpent beguiled me and told me that this apron I have fashioned out fig leaves maketh my thighs look huge."

I love Eve. She is the smart cookie who figured out the answer to the whole tree of life riddle. I guaran-damn-tee you that while the Garden of Eden was probably a really nice place it was about as exciting as watching paint dry. I mean how long can a sharp girl walk around a place carrying baby lambs gathering flowers and watching ripples in a pond without something interesting around. I would have been all over that forbidden fruit. Sure, death is fine. We'll take the curse. I'll push shoudered watermelons out of my vagina and Adam will till the earth and we will figure it out as we go, just get me out of this boring place where we feel nothing. I'll take the combo of pain and joy any day over perfect boringness.

The great thing about life is that the whole point of life is to come here and get our asses kicked. Life has a way of figuring out the one thing you don't see coming to level you every now and then. The worst thing that could happen to a person is for nothing hard to ever happen to them. Its actually the only thing you can ever really expect out of life. It will all be unexpected. And just when you get to where you feel like you have a handle on things and you are strong and capable and you don't need help from anyone, watch out. An infinitely loving God won't let you get too far like that without blessing you with some challenge that will efficiently remind you exactly why we need Him. I let Abe wander far enough away from me that if he falls he might get hurt but I don't let him get so far from me that he'll get hit by a truck. And when he insists on running towards traffic without me I give him a swat on the butt. He doesn't like getting a spanking and he may even cry and throw a fit about it. He might even be mad at me or claim to not need me at all. He doesn't understand immediately that the little pain caused by the reprimand is nothing compared to the pain that those cars will inflict. He won't understand it for years. I love him unconditionally and endlessly and will do anything to keep him safe. Even spank him. I don't ever enjoy the spankings life hands out but I'm trying my best to reign in the tantrums and learn to stay close to my Parent. Sometimes he even throws one of those leashes made for kids with ADHD at Disneyland onto my back which really pisses me off but I'm starting to understand why I need the freaking leash. He loves me. I have a covenant with Him and He keeps His end every time.

Of all the names in the world my parents could have chosen for me they picked Staci. Staci Haws. Say it out loud. Now say it with a severe lisp. Thathi Hawth. Go figure that thats the kid that got a lisp. I examined every angle of this irony for a half hour every day of third grade as I was forced to sit in a small room with a tyrant of a speech therapist who made me talk about that slut Sally and her stupid seashells by the seashore every single day. I'm sure the woman was much nicer than I remember her because horrible people don't typically choose to make helping children a career, but thats not what I was thinking about because I was too busy mentally slaughtering Sammy the Seal with my semi-auto. I couldn't hear the damn lisp. In my head it sounded exactly the same when I said it her way or my way. I literally made no progress. Finally the school year ended and the speech therapist wrote me off as a hopeleth cathe. Wow this post is long. Can you tell that I am thuffering with inthomnia? Feel free to stop reading anytime.

That summer I had to get a dental spacer put into my teeth just to prevent crowding. It was a little bar that connected to my back molars and ran along the inside of my bottom teeth. You couldn't see it but it felt weird. I spoke and it was a little awkward. I sounded weird. Terror ran through me. For a moment I thought that Thathi Hawth had just become Shashi Hash. In reality the lisp was gone. In one instant. The lisp disappeared. I never mispronounced an S again in my life. Even when the spacer came out. It was that simple. cathe clothed. Can you believe that I had such a dramatic change in one instant. Its a fact. Its the story of my life. Its how I roll. I do pretty much nothing by degrees.

To close, let me just embed a nugget of a video that illustrates exactly the kind of girl that all the guys every LDS singles ward go nuts for. This is my true revenge to every boy that didn't ask me to dance at the stake dance and to all of the ones who asked for my number and called to ask me about my girlfriends and then lingered on the phone for hours because I was so fun to talk to. I sound bitter but I really am not. I count my unsuccessful teenaged love life among my greatest blessings. Not to mention I ended up scoring the kind of man that…… uhhhh…. I got…… I am at a loss for words. I have no words that do justice to John's goodness and his hotness and his integrity and intelligence. He is my perfect complimentary match. The only person that I trust completely. I made it across the finish line of single-hood with a white dress that symbolized the perfect hard-won virginity that I possessed. He was worth saving it for. A real man who loves my rack a lot and loves my brain even more. It blows my mind that I got so lucky. Not Holocaust lucky, Real lucky. I was searching for my equal and I married up.

So back to the greatest viral video ever to grace the Internet. I could watch this over and over and over and over. I would like Travis to report in twenty years how entertaining it is to be eternally yoked to this sweet spirit after she has gained a few pounds. Being married to this girl after the newlywed sex is over sounds about like the Garden of Eden to me. Enjoy.

Kramer Boys

Kramer Boys