Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Saving face with a parking space

“It’s never gonna fit.”

“Trust me, it’ll fit.”

“Really, babe, it’s too big.”

“It’s not as big as you think it is.”

“Um, that’s not really something a girl wants to hear from a guy.”

“Look,” my husband said as he cranked the wheel so hard the car’s power steering groaned loud in response, “I know it’s been a while since I had to parallel park, but it’s really no big deal.”

I snuck a peek in the passenger side mirror and noticed a long trail of cars lined up behind us. The parade of headlights led back to the one-way entrance of the underground parking garage.

And here we sat, with our SUV pulled only halfway into the parking space. The front end sticking out to block the other drivers from getting around it. I think I saw somebody’s 3-year-old flip us off from his car seat.

And even though we were deep in the bowels of a metro parking structure in a city of more than half a million people, I recognized many of the drivers as fellow citizens of our small home town located 90 minutes away. There for the same reason we were – to watch our local university’s basketball team play in a post-season tournament.

Yikes. It seemed easier to incite a riot when amongst strangers rather than friends.

I hunched down a little farther in my seat and quietly asked, “Why don’t we just drive down another level and find a space there?” I asked in a reasonable voice.

The kind of voice a wife would use to tell her husband she ran over a parking curb and took out half her car’s undercarriage in one fell swoop, with the ripped off muffler spinning to a slow stop in front of the local florist shop while several pedestrians stood gaping in horror at the grisly scene.

Not that I’ve ever…done…that….

“What? You don’t think I can do it?” my husband asked, looking at the two cars parked in front and behind us and the small amount of real estate located between them.

“Sure, if we had one of those tiny, little European cars that people drive during chase scenes in really bad French films,” I answered. “But this car is Grade A, One Hundred Percent, All-American SUV. We could invade Iraq with this thing if we wanted to.”

Then I pointed out the window and added, “But it is not, however, going to fit into that tiny little space.”

His only answer was to shove the gear shift back into reverse, turn his head to look behind him and lean his foot down on the accelerator.

And he made it a whopping distance of 26 inches before shouting out “Whoa!” and slamming on the brakes. “Where’d that column come from?”

“What…uh…column?” I wheezed out, the seat belt having engaged with the sudden stop and digging hard into my chest.

“That column. The one back there,” he said, jerking a thumb over his shoulder.

“That column?” I squeaked out and pointed a finger at the stone edifice in question. “The one that’s holding up the roof of the parking garage?”

“Was that there before?” my husband asked in all sincerity.

“No, babe,” I quickly answered. “It’s brand-spanking new. I think little fairies just flew it in.”

But he wasn’t paying attention to me. Perhaps the honking from the cars behind us had drowned out the latter part of my fairy comment.

I feared it wouldn’t be much longer before the other drivers emerged from their vehicles to drag us from ours and start beating us with the green and white pompoms they had undoubtedly brought for the basketball game.

I opened the door, stepped out and turned around. The headlights from the car behind hit me square in the face. I smiled and waved like an idiot. Maybe if they thought I was crazy they’d think twice about jumping me.

I walked to the rear of the car and began motioning like I was landing a 747. Soon the car was parked neatly into the space, and the other cars slowly filed past.

“See? It fits,” my husband said as he clumsily climbed over the console to exit via the passenger door because his side was blocked by the garage’s solid concrete wall.

“Amazing,” I answered. “Did I remember to tell you that my car needs a new muffler?”

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The OTHER kind of football

It was like suiting up an astronaut for a spacewalk.

Wearing nothing but tighty-whities emblazed with rocket ships so he would “run fast” during his very first soccer game, my four-year-old son anxiously stood among a pile of shorts, jersey, socks, shin guards and cleats.

And I had no idea what the jock strap was doing in there. It’s not like he has that much to protect at this point. Girls are from Venus and boys are from, well, any planet that enjoys beer, football, naked women and cheese puffs.

As I pondered where to start this dressing ritual, my son picked up a shin guard, shoved his hand through it and pulled it up his arm.

One could safely assume I hadn’t given birth to the next Pele.

I picked up an outrageously long navy blue sock and asked my husband, “Do they think our son is 6-feet tall or that he is descended from a long line of giraffes?”

My husband laughed and added, “Maybe they’re supposed to double as hip waders. You know, in case it starts raining during the game.”

That was followed by a shriek of “COME ON, MOM! LET’S GO!” from the little guy wearing rocket underwear and waving a shin-guarded arm in my face.

OK, so he’s not quite ready for his appearance on the Wheaties box or the cover of “Sports Illustrated.” At least he was enthusiastic about it.

Back to the socks...a wise friend who was no longer a soccer-parent virgin had warned me about these socks.

“They’re long enough to use as bungee cords,” he said. “So here’s what you gotta do: put them on first, then strap on the shin guards and roll the top of the socks down over the shin guards. Problem solved.”

Well, that certainly made more sense than pulling them up to his armpits. And sounded a lot more comfortable too. But not nearly so fun to watch him try to walk that way. Which I did.

For a few minutes. Thanks, I needed a laugh.


Aw, it was a Dear Diary moment: watching my son run onto the field for his very first soccer game.

I played the sport for several years, so I was happy to witness this event. You know, before I lose him to his dad’s preferences of T-ball and football and naked women.

Each of the six little boys looked outrageously cute in their tiny uniforms. They followed the coach’s example and plopped down on the ground to begin their pre-game warm-ups. Tiny arms reached out to touch tiny toes.

“Awww,” I gushed and tried to block the tears from flowing.

My embarrassed husband snorted and asked, “Are you gonna do this the entire time?”

I shook my head and answered, “No, I’m gonna be tough. Rocky tough. Make it through ‘Steel Magnolias’ without crying at the funeral scene tough.”

And then one of the little guys high-fived my son in the universal sign of We Are Cool.

Let the wailing begin.


Oh, it was ugly.

The other team slaughtered our little guys. Up and down the field, scoring goal after goal, they methodically ripped through our defense like Oprah with a Snickers bar. Meanwhile, our team was busy kicking the dirt, playing with the field flags and comparing jersey numbers.

As the other team stole the ball - again - and took off down the field - again, I yelled out to my son, “You’re on defense now, Gabe!”

Without missing a beat, the little guy immediately dropped down into a 3-point football stance like a lineman ready for the snap count.

I started laughing so hard, I actually wet my pants a little.

So what? I’m not ashamed. I gave birth, for chrissakes, and surrendered all control of my bodily functions after that point. I wet my pants every time I sneeze, bend over or if it’s a Tuesday. Comes with the territory. So moving along....

In between howls of laughter at the sight of my son squatting on the ground while the rest of the team flew by him in the other direction, I sputtered, “Wrong sport! (laugh) You’re playing soccer (snort) not football (pee in pants)!”

Oh, well. It’s not about winning the game, I thought. It’s about learning rules and sportsmanship. It’s about being a teammate and wearing cool socks and rocket underwear.

Speaking of underwear...

Monday, September 21, 2009

Furry little helper

Working from home + a thunderstorm = 100-pound golden hiding under the desk.

Makes it a little difficult to get work done...but she makes a great foot warmer.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Jumping the shark

It was there – while surrounded by warm, green crystal waters of paradise under a brilliant blue sky and a sun that seemed so close I could reach out and touch it – that I realized a simple fact.

I was going to die here.

As I began to slip deeper into the water, I gave one final kick toward the surface, threw my head back and yelled to my fellow victims, “OK, whose #*& idea was this anyway??!”


“Why don’t we go snorkeling?” my mom-in-law asked at breakfast.

It was day four of our fabulous vacation in the Caribbean, and our family had spent the time swimming, eating, parasailing, eating, kayaking, eating and then eating again.

As I peered around my stack of 18 pancakes dripping with butter and syrup, I answered, “Sounds like fun!” I grabbed a fork and silently thanked God for whoever came up with the concept of “all-inclusive resorts.”

Later that day we placed our lives into the hands of a tour guide named Pedro, who kindly asked if we’d sign a waiver absolving him of all guilt in case one of us was eaten by a shark…or…something.

I had no idea what the “something” could be since I’d stopped paying attention after he uttered the word “shark.”

I tapped my husband on the shoulder and quietly asked, “There are sharks here?”

He turned around, pointed to his 6’ 7” brother and laughed, “Don’t worry. They’ll go after him first. He’s the bigger meal.”

“Yeah,” I answered, “but I’m the slower fish.”


We grabbed snorkels and flippers, strapped on life vests and climbed aboard jet skis for our trip out to the Great Mayan Reef.

Since our 4-year-old son was too young for snorkeling, he left to join Grammy and Grandpa on a submarine ride around the bay. We waved a friendly goodbye at the pier and headed off into the bright Mexican sun.

But something much more sinister awaited us that day in the warm Caribbean waters. Something hideous. Something that would reach down our throats, latch onto our stomachs and pull them back up through our ears.

It started when Pedro stopped his jet ski in the middle of the ocean, instructed the rest of us to pull up and cut the engines. He announced, “We’re here,” and told us to put on our fins and jump in the water.

And then we had to swim. And far, by the looks of it. I could barely make out the bright yellow buoy lines drifting along the top of the water, marking the snorkeling zone in the distance.

“Uh, there was nothing in the brochure about swimming,” I complained. “I thought we just floated around and looked at the pretty fish.”

My husband answered, “They have to keep the jet skis away from the zone, so people don’t get hit by accident.”

Screw safety, I thought. This is supposed to be a vacation!

OK, so it was only 100 yards. But it could have been the English Channel as far as I was concerned. I hadn’t swum 100 yards in a row since…well…ever.

How hard could it be?

The first cramp hit me about 10 strokes in. Starting in my lower calf, it traveled up my leg and lodged itself into my rib cage and never let go.

I yelled out, “HOLY MOTHER OF GOD!” and reached out to my husband for help. “THE SHARK GOT ME!”

He would have laughed – if he could breathe. Instead, he was sucking some serious wind himself. I tried to laugh but swallowed a gallon of salt water in the process.

I heard a chugging, thunderous noise behind me and turned to see both of my brothers-in-law turning purple with exertion and using every swear word in their vocabulary.

OK, now I didn’t feel so bad.

My two sisters-in-law – the only ones in decent shape – swam ahead, valiantly protecting the family’s good name.

I eventually made it by using the line markers as a tow rope, while desperately trying to keep down the 18 pancakes from breakfast.

And it was there above the beauty of the kaleidoscope-colored reef, with tiny fish swimming around me that I cursed the person who invented “all-inclusive resorts.”

The diet starts tomorrow.

OK, maybe the day after tomorrow. Or – better yet – next week. I was – after all – on vacation.