The Magic of a Ladybug

My dad visits me in the form of a ladybug.

I’m not sure I actually believe that, but I’m also not sure that I don’t. You see, my family moved to a new apartment in August, seven months after my dad died, and a sweet ladybug, pretty much the only insect I can tolerate in my home and would never try to squish with a shoe, appeared in my shower.

I set a piece of toilet paper down on the tile floor next to it and waited. The ladybug skittered in the opposite direction, and the toilet paper promptly became soaked with leftover droplets of water and sagged, the water fanning out from the center of the square. I got a dry piece and tried again, but the bug kept stopping as soon as it touched the edge of the paper. Eventually it must have tired of my efforts, because it crawled onto the white square. I opened the window and set the bug free, happy that it was back in nature. I forgot all about it.

A few days later, the ladybug was back. I saw the tiny red dot just inside the window in my two-year-old son’s bedroom. This time when I saw it, I immediately thought: Dad. My dad loved being in nature. He loved to explore the woods behind our home in Massachusetts, searching the ground for arrowheads, animal bones, and other such things. He loved camping, all things horse-related, and going on long runs on dirt roads. I figured my dad had come back to see our new home and to check up on the baby, his seventh grandchild and the one he knew the least, and that he had chosen the form of a ladybug because ladybugs are sweet, outdoor creatures that reminded him of his beloved home in Massachusetts. And also because he knew I wouldn’t try to flatten him. Why else would this ladybug have chosen to come to myapartment, in the middle of New York City, when there were so many others it could have chosen? So many apartments on lower floors. And why else would it have returned so soon after its first visit, when I set it free?

Maybe I’ve lost my mind.

The third time I saw the ladybug, this time in my bathroom again, I said to it, voice trembling, “Dad, is all of this stuff going to work out?” Not eloquent, to be sure, but there really is so much stuff to worry about, and I’ve lost the man on whose advice I depended the most. The person who had the most perspective because he had lived through it all already. The person who always answered the phone when I called.

It’s easier if I don’t think about my dad. But I promised I wouldn’t do that. It’s also an impossible task.

In the beginning, I was reminded of him every time I looked at the memorial candle, which we had lit on the day he died. After a few days, when most of the wax had burned away, the candle began to flicker in the glass jar, fighting to stay lit, just as my dad had struggled to stay with us just a bit longer those last few days. Several weeks after the candle had burned out, and I had rejoined the world of the living, I would be going about my day and suddenly think, I wonder what Dad is doing right now? When I’m slicing a bagel I picture him wincing, anticipating that I will cut my hand. When we had our Passover Seder this past spring, the first one without him as our Seder leader, my breath caught when I saw his distinct handwriting in my Haggadah. I see flashes of his expressions in my nine-year-old son’s face, and in the way in which my son rests one hand on the side of his face when he sleeps. All winter I wondered if my dad was cold in the cemetery; I wanted to bring him a heavy coat and a blanket. Always, when I’m texting a friend or a family member and I try to type “dad,” my phone changes it to “sad,” and I think, Yes, this is the only time the autocorrect fucker understands me.

A few weeks ago, on my youngest child’s first-ever day of school, I sent my mom a picture of the little guy standing on the corner, wearing a devilish grin, a collared shirt, and fancy pants. Right after my mom wrote back, “Kvelling!” my instinct was to send the picture to my dad. When my older son made the soccer team that he had been aching to be on for two years, I wanted to call my dad, a former soccer player, because I knew he would be excited and proud. Instead I called my mom, not a sports enthusiast, and said, “You have to be the excited grandparent because Dad isn’t here to do it.” When my daughter chose pottery as her first-ever elective at camp, it was my dad who would have been thrilled, as pottery was his greatest passion in life.

Once, when I really needed a good cry, I listened to old voicemails that my dad had left on my phone in his weak, gravelly, late-in-life voice. It was the eeriest sensation. Sometimes I think about his fluffy white hair and the twinkle in his eyes, and how his mere existence meant everything would be ok.

But sometimes I think about the way in which my dad died. That’s when I want to shut my eyes and put my hands over my ears. The doctors assured us that liver failure was a relatively painless, relatively comfortable way to die. I think they’re probably right, given all the terrible ways there are to die.

But still. There is no good way to die.

Although my dad had been beating back cancer for eleven and a half years, there was not one minute of that time that I believed he was dying. But in the fall of 2017, that changed. It became difficult for him to walk; he couldn’t make it from his bedroom to the kitchen without sitting down to take a break. He was out of breath all the time and he had an unquenchable thirst. He was too weak to speak, although he forced himself as best he could. He was admitted to the hospital on a Friday, and by Sunday he wouldn’t eat, drink, or get out of bed. That night he vomited so many times that he started to whimper, “Help.”

There is no good way to die.

In the hospital my dad became a tiny shriveled thing, rolling around restlessly in the hospital bed, moaning and coughing the most horrible sounds, trying to get comfortable. But you can’t get comfortable when you’re dying. It was astounding to see a man who once could jog three miles effortlessly suddenly unable to breathe while lying down. By his third full day in the hospital, he could still open his eyes but they couldn’t focus. I didn’t know if he could see us, although I like to think he knew we were there. One of his hands and both of his legs, now yellow, were swollen. His abdomen was distended with fluid, his mouth was dry from being open all the time, taking gulps of breath, and his lips were cracked. His breath smelled stale. One of his eyes was sticky, and he kept pawing at the air, reaching for things that weren’t there. The doctors said he was hallucinating as a result of liver failure. He was trying to tell us something, his words slurred and unrecognizable. How frustrating it must have been for him. We held up a cell phone so he could “talk” with his brother one last time. It sounded like gibberish to the rest of us, but, judging by the pacing of their voices, they seemed to understand each other. It was baffling. We all cried.

In a matter of days in the hospital, my siblings and I became the parents, and my dad became the child. When he reached for us, we ran to grab his hand. We said soothing words. We tried to feed him with a spoon, tiny bites. We dipped sponge lollipops into water or juice so he could suck on them. He tried, but he couldn’t swallow. We put ointment on his finger for him to rub on his lips, but he couldn’t find his lips so we guided his finger. We called the nurse if something bad was happening, which it almost always was.

He had the death rattle; that’s a real thing. The nurse said, “His shallow breathing from the throat is part of the process.” The process of dying, I guess. Process. I said the word over and over to myself until it didn’t sound like a word anymore. Someone once pointed out that the minute you’re born you begin to die. I guess that makes living part of the process of dying.

After six days in the hospital, the nurse called my mother very early one morning to say that my dad’s breathing had slowed considerably, and that she should come right away. She then called me, and I threw on some clothes and ran. The sunrise was beautiful that morning, with the orange rays peeking up over the tops of the apartment buildings on Third Avenue, casting a golden glow in every direction. I couldn’t believe that my dad could die on such a beautiful day.

I had never seen anyone die. In the minutes leading up to his death, he was breathing with his throat instead of his chest, his lower jaw jutting forward each time he inhaled. I remember counting the seconds between each breath to see if the time was getting longer. It reminded me of when I counted the minutes between each contraction when I was in labor with my daughter, except now time was moving in the opposite direction, getting longer instead of shorter. I held my dad’s hand and tried to think of something meaningful to say. But all I could muster was, “Oh, Dad.” After everything we experience in life, after everything a person goes through and has been and has done, it all comes down to this moment. As tears slipped from my eyes, I repeated “Oh, Dad” over and over as his breaths became shallower and eventually stopped.

And so it goes. We live, and then we die. It’s cruel, really. So many wonderful things exist in this world, and you have so many beautiful experiences, the whole time knowing that it will all be taken away. There’s so much pressure to enjoy every minute, to be grateful. And I am. It’s a gift, life, it really is. But it’s a gift that comes with strings. It was surreal and terrifying to see my dad die; life just slips right out of you. One second you’re alive and the next, gone. And that is it. Period. The end. Goodbye.

Unless you come back as a ladybug.

I never really believed in life after death. I’m not sure I do now. But with my dad gone and with each day of my life and my children’s lives passing so swiftly, with thoughts of the “end” taking up more space in my mind, I now believe, at least, in the magic of this ladybug. I have to. I look for that little red dot every day. And when it’s there, I feel safe. And I smile.

 

 

 

All the Jobs I Can’t Do

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Disclaimer: The following post is meant to be funny, not a point of reference for future potential employers.
————————————————————————————————————————————
In all the years that I’ve been a stay at home mom, I’ve never stopped thinking about careers that could possibly suit me if I ever wanted to go back to work. But every time I try to picture myself starting something new, I quickly discover some major roadblocks. For example, here’s me as a…
Nutritionist
“As you know, you should be eating more of a plant-based diet. But ice cream is sooooooooo good.”
Financial Advisor:
“I don’t care how old you are or how much money you earn. Conserve, conserve, conserve.”
Chef:
*bleeding from all 10 fingers* “Is there a medic here or is that just on tv? Oh and also, I finished the chocolate ganache.”
Member of the Armed Forces
“You go in first, I’ll cover you.” #NotBrave
Podiatrist
“Oh my God, what is that???”
Librarian
“Just put that book back on the shelf. Yes, any shelf. What’s the difference, really? If someone wants it, we’ll find it. I guess.”
Firefighter
“Ooooooh, I’d LOVE to help, but my hair. And also, extreme heat makes me lightheaded.”
Police officer
“Carry a gun? Are you crazy? Guns kill people!”
Gynecologist
“You have HOW MANY sexual partners???”
Instagram influencer
*squinting* “How do you get to the pound symbol again?”
Math teacher
“Could someone please bring me a calculator and that triangle thingy? I swear math was different when I was in middle school.”
Anyone in the fashion industry
“Comfort first!”
Silent auction staff
*watching someone place a bid after time has expired* “It’s very important to me that everyone likes me, so I’m going to pretend I didn’t see that.”
Nursery school teacher
“Tyler, it’s better not to throw sand around the room. No no, don’t cry! It’s ok. You can throw the sand. I’ll clean it up later.”
Sex therapist
“Harry is saying that he wants to have more sex. Which I understand. But Deirdre is saying that she’s just so tired. Which I also understand.”
Trainer
*after 5 minutes* “Get me the AED! I’m DYING.”
Computer Programmer
“It’s broken! Mine’s broken.” *hits screen*
Real estate broker
Client: “I love it! It’s perfect! I’ll take it!”
Me: “Really? I don’t know…There’s a condo going up across the street that will block a lot of your light. And do you hear the neighbor upstairs clacking away on the floor with her heels? And the dog barking? And do you smell fish? I smell fish. Let’s keep looking.”
Doctor
Patient: “I fell on my way to work and my wrist is killing me.”
Me: “OMG, it’s crooked. That looks BAD. I’m about to faint. Catch me.”
Psychologist
Patient: “I have two healthy kids but I’m 43. What if something happens to them and I can’t conceive again? Should I freeze my eggs? Or is that crazy?”
Me: “No, it’s not crazy at all. It seems prudent, actually. *subtly jots down note to freeze eggs*
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And there you have it.
Do you ever imagine yourself going back to work after being a stay at home mom for many years? What would you want to do?

Dad

After a courageous and lengthy battle with cancer, my dad passed away on January 11th, 2018. I have had so many thoughts and emotions about my dad, his illness, and his death, and I’ve just skimmed the surface in the eulogy (below) that I delivered at his funeral on January 16th.

 

I want to begin by thanking my Mom for taking care of my Dad for all these years. I can’t even begin to imagine what went on behind the scenes, but even just making sure that he got to his appointments, that he took his medicine, and that he ate and drank enough was no small feat, and then you also conducted research to find him the best treatment available all over the country, and kept in touch with and questioned his doctors constantly. You nursed Dad back to health after multiple surgeries and setbacks, and you are most of the reason that we had him for as long as we did.

When my dad was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer 11.5 years ago, we were told he would probably not live more than one year. Matt and I had only been married for a little over a year at that point, and we didn’t have any children yet. Upon learning of my Dad’s diagnosis, I decided that I wanted to have a baby. Although my dad was already a grandfather, I felt an urgency to see him in the role of grandfather to a child of mine, and I hoped that he would live long enough for some of his personality to rub off on that child. That child is Caroline, and my Dad lived long enough to not only be a major presence in her life, but in the lives of Will (whose name he called out and whose hand he squeezed hard last week, in the midst of his delirium) and James as well. He loved each one of them so much, and they are the beneficiaries of my Dad’s gentle and comforting nature, his abounding patience, his keen interest, and his sense of humor.

I missed my dad for years before he was gone; not because he changed much, but because I knew he would be leaving us. I began taking notes about him so that I wouldn’t forget anything, and I’ll tell you some of the things that were significant for me to remember.

Family was a matter of paramount importance to him, and he wanted us to be together always. When his father, Benjamin, was dying, he called my father into his hospital room and said, “Stay with Henry,” my uncle, and he called Henry into his hospital room to say, “Stay with Julian.” That was a lesson my Dad passed down to us: stay with the family. This past week, we were all together as much as possible, and we will continue to be together, and my Dad would be happy about that.

My Dad served in the Navy as Lieutenant, Junior Grade , and loved stories centered around the sea, particularly Billy Budd, Robinson Crusoe, Captains Courageous, and Mutiny on the Bounty. He used old-fashioned words like “dungarees” “salve” and “sanguine.” He called aluminum foil “tin foil” and so do I. He tied his shoelaces like a child: two loops first, then a knot. He loved and appreciated nature, and was always awed the brightness of green trees against the grey sky right before it rained. Whenever we would go to Florida he would remind us how amazing it was that we could be in New York in the morning and Florida by lunchtime.

My Dad was a man of integrity who always strove to do the right thing, even if that thing were difficult to do. He was a man on whose advice and dependability you could constantly rely. He was gentle, patient, and almost never raised his voice. I can’t recall his ever being angry with me except for one time and I deserved it. He made me feel comfortable and supported, and he was always interested in what I had to say, even the most mundane things. He was a true renaissance man, someone who was equal parts business and creativity. He made the most stunning and professional-level pottery as a hobby, and we are proud to display it in our home. He was a successful entrepreneur, and managed to not offend anyone with whom he was negotiating. He was a consummate diplomat and peacekeeper, both at home and in his professional life. Most of all, there was something magical about him, such that everyone who met him loved him immediately and forever.

One of my favorite things about my Dad was his sense of humor. At a very traditional Japanese restaurant, after taking a look at the indecipherable menu, he asked the waiter, deadpan, for a roll with butter. He once said to one of our family’s dogs, ‘‘I like you, Buddy, because you don’t have any of my credit cards.’’ When he and my Mom were shopping for a sofa bed, he told me that one of the brand’s motto’s was ‘‘For people you want to come back again.’’ My Dad joked that there should be another brand whose motto would be ‘‘For people you don’t.’’ I asked which sofa he would choose and he just smiled.

My Dad often used his sense of humor to diffuse tension. When I took him to the hospital for a test a few years ago, he walked up to the check-in desk and said to the woman behind it, before she had even asked him a question: “Julian Jadow.  J-A-D as in David-O-W, 12/19/1930, four children, six grandchildren. Not allergic to latex. And they say I have a likelihood of falling but it hasn’t happened yet.” He liked to tell people in the medical profession that he had something called ‘‘micturational syncope’’ and then wait eagerly with a twinkle in his eye to see their reaction. I think he was testing them to see if they knew what it was and how to spell it. Once, during a hospital stay, he got a flyer which said that for Hanukkah the chaplain and music therapy team could pay him a visit to brighten his room with songs, prayers, and joy. I read this flyer to him and he asked “How do you get them to not visit?” Although he greatly respected and cherished all of his doctors, he liked to poke fun at them to keep things light. He would report, “She doesn’t see anything in the liver. But I’m not so sure she knows where the liver is.”

Over the course of his life, my Dad was a hero on multiple occasions. When my Mom choked at home (several times) my Dad performed the Heimlich maneuver on her. He once pulled a little girl who couldn’t swim out of the deep end of a swimming pool when her parents didn’t see her jump in. And as for me…watching my Dad tolerate much of his pain unmedicated over the last few years, especially after he suffered compression fractures in his back as a result of radiation, encouraged me to do the same with my migraines. He changed my life, just by being stoic. What’s more, being able to rid my body of excess toxins also enabled me to have a third child, something I had always wanted. Without my Dad, there would be no James.

I don’t know what my Dad was like at home during his numerous treatments, but to me he rarely complained. He was brave and tough, and he didn’t like to think of himself as sick. He would say, “I may drop dead at any minute, but I’m not sick.” Anytime he answered the phone, even right after major surgery, he would clear his throat before saying hello so that his voice would sound strong. He didn’t want people to think of him as weak, and he would say of his cane, as he was using it to walk, “I don’t need my cane, it just gives me confidence.” When he said that, it reminded me of my grandmother, his mother, who would always tell people, as she aged, “I can’t walk, but I can dance.”

Up until two weeks ago, my Dad answered his phone whenever I called, and we could still have real conversations. Then he got too tired too talk. And then he drifted away. I will miss calling him everyday on my walk to school to pick up the kids. I will miss his presence at family gatherings. I will miss his comforting and supportive nature. We lost a great man. I hope he knows how much he was loved, admired, respected, and appreciated, and how totally unforgettable he is. We could have relied on him for anything. I feel extremely lucky to have had him as a father.

When I think back to that time over a decade ago, when we were first given bad news, all I wanted was for my dad to survive. I guess you could say I felt Dayenu, or It would have been enough. And then I wanted to get pregnant, so that Matt and I could give my dad just one grandchild from us. And I did. Dayenu. And then we made my Dad a grandfather again. Dayenu. And then again. Dayenu. And after all these years, last week I was told that my Dad had only a few days to live and I thought, “Not Dayenu.” When it comes to a loved one, it’s never enough. I know that, with respect to my father, I got everything I asked for and more. But we still weren’t ready. It wasn’t enough.

I imagine that one of the biggest fears, when facing death, is that people will forget about you; that life will continue on without you and that you won’t only cease to exist but that, in the act of people’s forgetting, it will be as if you never existed at all. Dad, I want to assure you that we won’t forget you. We will talk of you often, we will think of you always, we will look at your picture, we will cry, and we will laugh. We all love you so much. They said one year, Dad, and you gave us 11. You are our own personal Hanukkah miracle, and I am so grateful for that.

Right Now

Vintage clock

I’ve been reflecting a lot about the passage of time. The main reason for this preoccupation, I think, is that my children are hitting various milestones that underscore their ages and, with that, I can’t help but think about how little time I have left with them under my roof. My oldest child, age 10, was assigned a date for her Bat Mitzvah. My middle child, age 8, has a mouthful of braces and will be going to sleep away camp for the first time in June. And my youngest, 18-months-old, is starting school next fall.

It’s not just the major milestones that have me focused on my children’s rapid maturation. It’s the daily reminders as well—how my 10-year-old is suddenly so particular about what clothes she’ll wear; how my 8-year-old won’t come over to me in public when he’s with his friends, but instead will give me just the tiniest tilt of his head to let me know that he sees me; how my toddler is swiftly growing out of all of his clothes, diapers and toys. Wasn’t it just last week that this toddler was a tiny baby in my arms, with fuzzy, chick-like hair, gripping my finger hard, with his entire fist, as if to say, “Mommy, I will never let you go”? Weren’t they all just that tiny? And yet, here I am, a few short years later, with two big kids who will no longer hold my hand in public, and sometimes not even at home. They have, in fact, started to let me go. And it’s sad.

Aside from my children’s rapid growth, there are other indications that time is swiftly passing. My husband, whom I met when I was 22 and he 23, turned 40 this year, and we also celebrated our 12th wedding anniversary. My sister, whom my parents adopted when I was in college, is in college herself now, as are three of my nieces and nephews, and my other nephew is applying to medical school. My parents have become grandparents and, as they age, it is becoming clear that they need me just as much as I need them.

I know why it’s distressing that my parents are aging. But why do I feel uneasy about the fact that my nieces, nephews and sister are in college and (almost) graduate school? Why am I so sad that my children are growing up? After all, isn’t that what they’re supposed to do? They should be separating from me, despite the fact that it hurts like hell, so much so that I can’t help but take it personally.

The answer is twofold. In part, it’s nostalgia. I’m sad because I can’t get the past back. I will never again hold my newborn baby in my arms. I will never again celebrate my child’s first spoken word, first steps, or first taste of real food. Even though I’ve had those experiences and enjoyed them tremendously, the fact that I won’t have them again feels like a terrible sense of loss.

The other part is that seeing those around me age has forced me to confront my own aging. It’s impossible to say, “My daughter has a Bat Mitzvah date!” without thinking, “Wait, I’m old enough to have a child who’s becoming a Bat Mitzvah?” It’s hard to think about sending a child off to sleep away camp without thinking about sending that child off to college. And every now and then, when I’m chasing my toddler around, a thought pops into my head that I hadn’t until right this minute allowed to become fully conscious, because I didn’t like its message: This wasn’t as hard a decade ago.

So what is the point of all this? The point is that I’ve become acutely aware of how little time there is for each of us, even in the best case scenario, and how quickly that time passes. I’m now starting to wonder if I will have regrets when I’m old, and what those regrets might be. I’m wondering if I’m doing enough with my allotted time, or if I’m squandering this gift. I’m wondering if, when I’m old and gray, I’ll say to myself, “That was it?” I’m wondering if there’s anything I can do to prevent myself from ever feeling that way.

I don’t mean to be Debbie Downer. I don’t mean to be sanctimonious. I will continue to be the realistic (some may say cynical), sarcastic, ranter that I’ve always been. But I will keep thinking about these issues. I will try to be more careful with my mindset–I shouldn’t be saying, “I can’t wait for winter break!” or “I wish it were summer!”– and with my actions. Given the choice between spending time with a loved one or scrolling through some social media site, I need to choose the loved one. I want to choose the loved one. I need to try to use my time in the most effective, most fulfilling, way possible. I think that’s the best that I, or anyone, can do.

 

 

 

No Guns in Australia?!

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I watch a lot of House Hunters International before bed because I find it to be soothing and I like seeing how people live in other parts of the world. Over time, however, the format of the show has become predictable, so I did my own version that’s slightly different from what you would see on HGTV. I know this isn’t even close to what real scripts look like! Please forgive the formatting.

 

ACT 1

NARRATOR: Mallory and Ted have left Johnsonville, a small town in Wyoming, to make a fresh start in Sydney, Australia.

TED: Hi, I’m Ted, and I work in online advertising. I’d always wanted to live abroad, and suddenly the opportunity presented itself.

MALLORY: What actually happened was that a producer from House Hunters called Ted’s office and asked his boss if they could transfer an employee to Sydney so that House Hunters could film them looking for a house. Ted can do his job from anywhere, so his boss said ok. Oh, and I’m Mallory. Obviously.

TED: I was ready to never see another snowflake again.

MALLORY: I hate warm weather. And poisonous ocean creatures. Sunscreen gives me hives.

TED: Ocean life thrills me.

MALLORY: You won’t feel that way when a cone snail shoots a poison dart into your big toe and you die a slow and painful death. Ted.

Cut to Ted’s face. He has a plastered-on fake smile that looks awkward.

TED (weakly): We’re so excited.

NARRATOR: Ted and Mallory may have a tough time finding a house that fits all of their requirements, in part because the housing market in Sydney has recently become very competitive, but also because Ted and Mallory seem to have nothing in common. Ted wants to live in the center of the city, so they can “enjoy all the nightlife that Sydney has to offer.” Ted seems to have forgotten that he and Mallory have five children.

MALLORY (to the camera): It’s hilarious that he thinks we have time to enjoy anything.

NARRATOR: Today, Mallory and Ted are meeting with their relocation expert, Amber. Amber is inappropriately dressed for an HGTV show.

AMBER: So guys, tell me what you’re looking for in a house.

Cut to Ted being interviewed privately.

TED: Amber is hot!

Cut back to the group.

TED: We have five children—

MALLORY: Oh, he does remember.

TED: — so we ideally want six bedrooms, three bathrooms and a large garden for the kids to play in. And we have a dog (it’s a prerequisite for being on the show) so we need the garden to be fenced in. Plus, we’d like an in-ground pool and room for a swing set. Do you think we can get all that in the center of the city?

Amber looks at Ted like he just might be the dumbest American she’s ever met.

MALLORY: I want an American-style house: open concept, updated kitchen and baths, and stainless steel appliances. The fridge has to be American-sized. And I don’t want a pool because I don’t want to have to worry about the kids’ safety in the backyard.

[In the background, a huge snake dangles from a tree branch and then drops to the ground].

TED: I’m looking for a more traditional Australian home, like Queen Ann style.

MALLORY: Do you even know what that means? Ted.

AMBER: Anything else I should be looking for? [under her breath] A divorce lawyer, maybe?

MALLORY: I’m vegan. I should have mentioned that earlier. I always do. I’d like space in the backyard for a vegetable garden.

TED: And I don’t eat vegetables, only livestock and food products derived from livestock. I’d like room for a chicken coop so I can collect eggs and then eventually eat the chickens.

MALLORY (looking disgusted): I also need good Internet access for my online business. And I’m thinking of opening a llama rehabilitation clinic on the property, so we’ll need room for that as well.

AMBER: And what are we thinking for the budget?

MALLORY and TED: No more than $1,000 per month.

Cut to Amber being interviewed privately.

AMBER: It’s going to be quite a challenge to find a six-bedroom house for $1,000 per month. Plus, Mallory and Ted are looking for such different things. But I’m confident that I’ll be able to find them something.

NARRATOR: First up, their relocation expert takes them to see a house suitable for Ted.

TED: Amber, do you know if this house faces South? I may have forgotten to mention that I don’t want a house that’s South-facing. It’s a Sri Lankan superstition.

AMBER: I didn’t realize you were Sri Lankan.

MALLORY: He’s not.

AMBER: Well, anyway, this house features 3 bedrooms and 1 bathroom. It doesn’t have a pool, but there’s room for a pool. Maybe you could arrange with the landlord to have one put in.

MALLORY: What’s the price? And is there room for my garden? I’m vegan. Did I mention that?

AMBER: The rent is $1,200 US dollars per month.

MALLORY AND TED: Ooooh, that’s a bit over our budget.

They tour the house. A huge tarantula is glowering in the corner of one of the bedrooms, and you can hear the sound of some type of animal scratching around in the ceiling.

MALLORY (looking worriedly at the ceiling): Any idea what that sound is?

AMBER (casually): Probably just a wombat.

MALLORY: Are they dangerous?

AMBER: Not always.

TED: The kids would have to share bedrooms in this house. Jane is not going to like that. We promised her her own room.

MALLORY: Maybe we should just go back to Johnsonville?

TED (whispering to Mallory): We signed a contract with the production company, remember? We have to buy a house and live here for at least three months.

Amber clears her throat.

TED (to the group): I like the style of the house. It’s a typical Sydney home, and it feels cozy and comfortable.

MALLORY: Cozy is not the word I’d like to be using to describe a house for seven people. Plus, the refrigerator is barely big enough for two people. And the bathrooms definitely need to be updated. I really don’t want to do any work.

TED: I don’t mind doing a little work. We could put our own stamp on the house, really make it our own.

AMBER: Keep in mind that it’s a rental, so you won’t be able to do any work without the landlord’s approval.

Mallory smiles triumphantly at the camera.

TED: Oh wait, one more thing. I have an extensive gun collection that’s being sent from Johnsonville, and I’ll need a room in the house to display it.

AMBER: I’m afraid that won’t be possible, Ted.

TED: Why not?

AMBER: Because we have sensible gun laws in Australia, passed in response to a mass shooting in Tasmania in 1996. Since then, the number and rate of homicides has fallen markedly.

TED (to Mallory): I don’t think I can do this, babe.

END OF ACT 1

*                                                          *                                                          *

ACT 2

NARRATOR: Mallory and Ted have left Johnsonville, a small town in Wyoming, to make a fresh start in Sydney, Australia. So far, their relocation expert has shown them a Queen Ann style home for Ted. But Mallory thought the refrigerator was too small, and she wasn’t crazy about sharing the house with a wombat. So next up, they’re seeing a house that’s more in line with what Mallory asked for.

MALLORY (looking at the enormous house with awe): This house is how much??

AMBER: It’s $3,000 US dollars per month.

Mallory and Ted exchange a look.

AMBER: I know it’s over your budget, but I think you should give this house a chance. It has everything you’re looking for.

MALLORY: Room for a llama rehabilitation center?

AMBER: Sure.

Mallory and Ted walk around the house.

MALLORY: I feel like we’re back in the U.S. This place is huge!

TED: True. But I don’t see the point in moving halfway around the world to live in a house we could have back in Wyoming.

MALLORY: You’re right. We should move back.

An emu runs through the kitchen. Ted screams and jumps into Amber’s arms. She holds him like a baby.

MALLORY: Ted!

TED: What?! Oh. Right.

Ted climbs down from Amber’s arms and smooths his shirt, looking embarrassed.

MALLORY: I think this house is perfect, except for the budget.

TED: It’s way over budget. But everyone can have their own bedroom, and we have space in the garden for vegetables, a llama rehabilitation center, and a chicken coop.

MALLORY: I wonder if llamas and chickens get along.

TED: I don’t think llamas get along with anything. Don’t they spit?

Ted leans over a plant in the garden to get a better look.

AMBER: Don’t touch that plant!!!

Ted jumps back.

TED: What is it?

AMBER: It’s spurge. Just touching it can kill you. Oh, and there’s a gigantic huntsman spider hiding under its leaves. Do you see it?

Ted looks and sees a spider that’s at least 14 inches across. It would take a car to kill it.

AMBER: The huntsman spider stalks its prey, rather than spinning a web as a trap.

MALLORY (to Ted): Why are we here again? We can’t even bring our guns! So many things to kill and no way to kill them.

TED: Maybe we should go back to Johnsonville and get a tiny house instead?

MALLORY: Oh hell no.

END OF SHOW

 

 

Anna Doesn’t Want To

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Now that I’ve changed the title of my site, you may be wondering what it is, exactly, that I don’t want to do. The answer is EVERYTHING. Just kidding. Sort of.

Maybe it’s best explained like this: every day, there are so many little things that I have to do that just plain stink. And in addition to the daily little things, there are big things coming down the pike that cause me to brood constantly. Picture a luggage carousel in my head, but instead of a piece of luggage coming out from behind the wall, a dreaded thought comes out, screaming, “Death!” or “College Applications!” or “Visiting Day!” or “Your Babies Are Not Babies Anymore!” or “Bat Mitzvah DJ!” or “Diet!” and oy vey, oy vey, oy vey, oy vey.

I tried to find a way to explain all of this without sounding ungrateful or overly anxious. I failed. So let me just say this: I know that these complaints are first world complaints, and I’m sorry if that offends you. I really believe that we must try to laugh our way through life, to the extent possible, or we will die from drowning in a pool of our own tears. Plus, if we only allowed the one person in the world with the most horrific list of complaints to complain, then you would no longer be allowed to complain about anything either, and then what would we all talk about all day long? A girl has got to vent, am I right?

So now that we’ve dispensed with “ungrateful” (I knock wood and implore and pray and ask forgiveness all day long), we should address The Scarlet Letter: A for Anxiety. I know that I’m anxious, and I think everyone is anxious to some extent. Have you read the news? Do you have children? Parents? Friends? Do you have a mortgage? Any other debt? Do you, or might you one day, have health problems? You’re anxious. Oh well. People survive with, and even thrive on, anxiety. And it’s kind of endearing when I won’t take a cab uptown on the FDR because the lanes are narrow, windy, and very close to the water. Right? RIGHT???

Now, you might be thinking, Silly Anna. You should focus more on the things that you do like to do every day. You should try to feel more #grateful and #blessed. This is excellent advice, thank you. I will try. I do try. In the meantime, I am also trying to be happy with myself just as I am; we can’t all be the same, and it’s unhealthy to be constantly unsatisfied with the way you actually are. Or so I’ve been told. By every therapist in NYC. Just kidding. Sort of.

Finally, the concept of “Anna Doesn’t Want To” encompasses much more than just the complaints on this list. Many of the topics I like to write about, whether it’s a strange interaction with someone or a tradition that seems meaningless, capture things that I don’t really want to be involved in, and I like to show the humorous side to them.

So with all of that being said, here is the list of “little” and “big” things that I don’t want to do. The very thought of doing these things makes me want to hide in my bed with Netflix and a bowl of microwaved M&Ms (trust me).

  • Help my kids with their homeworkAfter a long day of being a mom, which, for those of you who are wondering, entails being a nurse, firefighter, short order cook, housekeeper, bed and breakfast owner, plumber, electrician, COO, event planner, cable company repair woman, teacher, pharmacist, camp counselor, personal shopper, nutritionist, social worker, mediator, personal assistant, and engineer, to name a few, you know what I don’t want to do? Convert mixed numbers into whole numbers or improper fractions or whatever the hell it is that they’re supposed to be doing. What is an integer, anyway? Isn’t it just a number? Can’t they just say “number”? Geez.
  • Dress like an adult. Sometimes people can’t believe that I have three kids, and it’s not because my skin is smooth or because there are no circles under my eyes. It’s because I dress like I’m in college. Sorry. I like to be comfortable. And what are heels anyway? They are instruments of medieval torture, that’s what.
  • Act like an adult. I spend my whole life trying to avoid “adulting.” OMG. Am I a Millennial? I sound like one. Yet another thing to worry about. No offense, Millennials. You guys are awesome. I just can’t be one of you because my peer group will reject me.
  • Confront people. Very hard for me. Usually I will only do this if I feel that one of my children is being threatened in some way. But you should know that most of the time I feel unsatisfied by the way I have been treated. LOL. Not.
  • Say no. Also very hard for me. Basically, if you need a kidney, I’m the person to ask. (Note: not a legally binding offer).
  • Take risks. I’m sure skydiving is quite the rush, but I prefer my feet (in Toms, of course) on the ground.
  • Be in pain. Some people have really high thresholds for pain. I am the opposite of those people. Plus, since I’m a worrier and a Googler, everything is serious. Pain in my right side? Let’s see…*typing*…pain in the upper right quadrant…Gallstones! Hepatosplenomegaly! Primary biliary cirrhosis!
  • Push myself physically. I’ve said it before and I’m saying it again: there are Navy Seals, and then there are those of us who tire from resetting the cable box. Thank God for Navy Seals. Seriously.
  • Drown (especially inside a plane or a car). I bought one of those devices for our car that has a blade for cutting through your seat belt on one end, and a tiny, pointy hammer on the other end that you can use to break your window if your car is submerged. I even watched the YouTube tutorial video. I almost drowned sitting at my computer. I hold my breath when we drive over water or alongside water. I am a lunatic. Please send help.
  • Look in the mirror right after getting my hair and makeup done.  What am I going to see? Could be anything from Texas beauty pageant queen (not the winner) to recovering heroin addict.
  • Watch the news. I am practically speechless when it comes to the news. Suffice it to say, on many fronts, enough is enough.
  • Discipline someone else’s child. Please, can they play at your apartment?
  • Criticize anyone, even if they’ve asked for my opinion. I am so sensitive that I can’t help but imagine being the recipient of the criticism. Don’t ask me if you look fat, or if I like your shoes, or if your necklace is too flashy. I will lie to you.
  • Get in a car, plane, subway or boat. You know when you’re on a plane, and the flight attendants come around offering drinks and snacks, and some people watch movies or read? While they’re doing those things, I’m flying the plane with my mind while thinking, “HOW CAN YOU ALL BE EATING AT A TIME LIKE THIS???”
  • Go to a crowded place. Yes, I know where I live.
  • Drive. You know a car is a deadly machine, right? Even if your goal is just to get to the mall.
  • Fail. Yeah yeah, we’re supposed to fail. But still.
  • Apologize. So hard. So awkward. So necessary.
  • See my kids get hurt (physically or emotionally). I get sick to my stomach when athletes get hurt, so imagine when my own kids get hurt. A few years ago, my daughter fractured her arm at gymnastics. I wasn’t there when it happened, and when she got home she really wasn’t in much pain. But the next day she didn’t eat breakfast and she didn’t bicker with her brother, so I knew something was wrong. When the doctor said her arm was probably fractured, I had to excuse myself to the bathroom because I thought I was going to throw up and faint. Twice. Please, can the kids play at your apartment? I will send you all of my doctors’ phone numbers. Some of them haven’t even met me yet.
  • Diet. I just love you, food, you naughty siren.
  • Throw up. Ugggggggggggggggggggh. Remember in college when you would throw up at midnight and still stay out until 3 a.m.? Yeah…not so much anymore.
  • Get lice. I had a “comb out” over the summer because one of my children had one egg in his/her hair, and I lost half a head of my hair. I literally can’t afford to get it again. I will kill you in your sleep if you give it to me. Just kidding. Sort of. Note: if someone actually kills you in your sleep, none of your heirs, legal representatives, successors or assigns can use this post as evidence that it was me. I am trying to be funny. Not actually threatening anyone.
  • Go to bed late. I have to wake up when our toddler wakes up, and I’m scared of feeling tired because my mother was a big proponent of sleep and would let me go into school late if I had been up late doing work the night before. This signaled to me that not getting enough sleep was REALLY bad.
  • Look at my “to do” list. It’s oppressively long and filled with things I either don’t want to do or don’t know how to do.
  • Have a fire in my building. Did you know that if you live in a post-war building, it is probably “non-combustible” and the fire isn’t supposed to be able to spread? Therefore, if there’s a fire in your building, you’re supposed to stay put. In a building that’s on fire. When we lived on the 28th floor of a non-combustible building around 10 years ago, there was a fire on the ground level of the building and you can’t imagine how quickly the smoke made its way up to us. We ran down the stairs, baby in tow, and had to go to the hospital for smoke inhalation. The firefighters thought we were insane for leaving our apartment. For months after the fire, I stopped at every firehouse I came across to ask if we did the wrong thing by fleeing, and every firefighter said we should have stayed. But it’s hard to convince yourself not to run when your building is aflame. Anyway, having to make that judgment call again is not something I look forward to. Note: I am not a firefighter or a fire expert, so don’t take my advice.
  • Choke. Or have anyone around me choke. I took the choking/CPR class, but still. So easy to save a life, and yet so hard.
  • Have the “how babies are made” talk with my kids. Ok, technically I’ve done this already, but I think I left them with more questions than answers. Can’t they just Google it???
  • Be fashionable. There is almost nothing I care less about in this world than fashion. Clearly.
  • Revise our family’s schedule. If someone is running 17 seconds behind on a Wednesday afternoon, the rest of our week is ruined. Making a single change would cause a domino effect that would likely result in an asteroid hitting the Earth. Luckily we have Navy Seals to protect us.
  • Do things just because “everyone” is. I am very stubborn about this. I guess I don’t want to look like a follower? I will dig in my heels and glue them to the ground, even if it means missing out on something great. You know the idiom “cutting off your nose to spite your face”? That.
  • Host a holiday. So. Many. Crumbs.
  • Get ready for bed. I just want to collapse on my bed. Is that too much to ask? Of course it is, because first I have to floss and brush and wash and put on some kind of cream (pat, don’t rub) and spray my nose and brush my appliance (for TMJD, natch) and put on lash lengthener and fertilize my hair (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, that’s very nice for you), and pee seven times and then ruminate on EVERY SINGLE DETAIL OF THE DAY AND ALL THE DAYS LEADING UP TO THAT DAY.
  • Remove body hair. I know, ew. What a pain, though, seriously. And, yes, I see the irony in the fact that I’m fertilizing my head while removing hair from my body.
  • Return clothes I ordered online. Even though they make it “so easy” to return everything.
  • Nudge. Contrary to popular belief, the nudger likes to nudge almost as much as the nudgee likes to be nudged. No one thinks “Change the light bulbs!” is sexy.
  • Be awake before the sun rises. Whyyyyyyyyyyyyyy??? Note: I hate you, daylight savings. Even if you claim to give us more light in the morning, you are the ruiner of dreams. Literally and symbolically.
  • Clean up vomit. Nooooooooooooooo. I just retched a little thinking about it.
  • Deal with idiots. For example, I was trying to schedule a doctor’s appointment for a Monday morning, and the receptionist told me that the doctor had had availability “last Monday.” In the past. Dear Lord, why do you test me with these people? What is my path? I am so confused.
So, that is my itty bitty list of things I don’t want to do. Now that you’ve read it, you might be wondering what I do want to do. I’m still trying to figure that out.
*                    *                    *

What are some of the things that you don’t want to do? Does the very knowledge of their existence make you cranky? How do you combat that crankiness? Do you meditate? Eat kale?