Wednesday, March 28, 2012

An Open Letter to Martha Stewart...

Dear Martha,

     I write to you today from amid a cloud of powdered sugar as I am deep in preparations for my dear son Midget’s approaching birthday.  Somewhere between making my own asphalt to resurface the driveway, slaughtering the cow and carving it up for a birthday barbeque and weaving new blankets for the beds, I’ve found the time to reflect on our relationship and I’ve got some concerns, Martha.  Our four year relationship appears to be in jeopardy and I think it’s only fair to let you know in the hopes that you make necessary changes to salvage our bond.  But I know you Martha.  Your time in the joint hardened you.  You learned more than just how to fashion a deadly shiv out of a toilet paper roll.  That being said, I’ve long allowed you hold the alpha-dog position in our relationship, so my expectations of any alterations in behavior on your part are very, very low.

     4 years ago our union was young and fresh, my hands not yet callused from scrubbing pans to sparkling perfection and my soul still set atwitter by your countless suggestions.   I was certain nothing, not even lime build-up or stubborn soap scum could tear us apart.  When I had questions such as the best way to proof my yeast or how to remove the stench of spit-up from baby clothes, you were there.  Your condescending tone and haughty way was exactly what I needed to put me at ease.  Trapped in a world of Turkish career housewives with perfect garnishes, golden baked goods and the whitest whites, I needed you to guide me from educated American career woman to Turkish domestic engineer.   You were there for me Martha.  You were the thinking woman’s housewife, exactly what I longed for.  You taught me so many life lessons “It’s not housework, it is home keeping”  and like a sponge, I drank you in.  Together forever – that was how I saw us. 

     As in any relationship with a skewed power dynamic, I began to recreate myself in your image in the hopes of drawing us even closer.  I lightened my hair.  I donned sensible shoes.  I purchased twinsets.  I convinced myself that no self-respecting homemaker would use anything premixed, premade, or premeasured.  I subscribed to all of your publications.  I made my own bread.  I grew an organic garden and landscaped my balcony.  I color coordinated everything from my son’s socks to my husband’s underwear.   I cleaned every other day, issued hand-written thank you notes and made my own yogurt.   I gave you the power you deserved as a sacred deity – Our Lady of Prepetual Perfection – and worshiped appropriately.  I quoted your holy words “It’s a good thing, ” and made plans for my Mecca-esque pilgrimage to worship in your live studio audience. 
     Then, I moved back to America.  As with any great love, a transcontinental move is difficult for all involved.  But we’d formed such a strong foundation that I assumed our union was solid.  And it was, until fate forced me over to the opposition – working mothers of America.  I tried to stay on the righteous path.  I continued to shun all things premade.  I rejected all things meant to make life easier but not created by the Martha Stewart Inc conglomerate.  And in all honesty Martha, because I feel that at this point in our relationship we can be honest, this has been the hardest two years of my life.  So as I prepare to make a tray full of gluten-free- multi-colored monster cupcakes for a class of preschoolers,  followed by a fire engine cake, complete with licorice hoses and gum drop sirens, before deep cleaning my entire house in preparation for the arrival of my extended family, between loads of laundry, sorting recycling, preparing dinner,  running laps behind a Midget on a bike,  wiping tears, silencing whining, doing some light grocery shopping, packing lunches for tomorrow and chasing a small person into the bathtub, all after a 9 hour work day in a job where I regularly work 6 day weeks, I have one thing to say to you Martha – suck it.

      Don’t misunderstand Martha, we’ve had our good times.  Remember that time we turned many of the Turk’s work shirts into Hampton’s inspired placemats and his argyle socks into charming stuffed animals for the Midget?  Yeah, good times.   I’ll never forget that time we made filled cupcakes in 42 simple steps either or squeezing pounds of lemons to make a pudding that tasted remarkably like a gym sock.  Oh such fun.   We must be honest though it wasn’t always sunshine and cupcakes.  We’ve had some trials  – that slow cooker meal that turned out gray, or you forgetting to list 2 cups of water in that cake recipe- remember?  See, no one is perfect, but I overlooked that because I thought we were in it together.  But we are not.  Your expectations are simply too extreme for a working mother. Martha It’s taken  some time, but I’ve come to realized that a Swiffer is not the devil, one doesn’t need to utilize all vacuum attachments to properly vacuum and sometimes in order to give rugs that ‘spring day fresh’ smell, instead of dragging them outside and beating them senseless with a broom before heaving them onto a railing, it’s ok to just hit them with a little Febreeze.   And in full disclosure Martha, I must tell you that this one time when I had to take 6 dozen cookies to a school event – I used a mix.  Yes I did Martha, and no one died.  And in a little bit when I make those multi-colored monster cupcakes – I’m gonna do it again…oh yes I am...Betty Crocker and I are all ready.

     Martha, it seems we’ve grown apart.  Clearly we want different things.  It’s not you, it’s me.  I appreciate our time together, but we’re heading in different directions.  We can still be friends though.  You can borrow my twinsets, I won’t need them anymore.  It’s been a pleasure and if I ever again find myself living atop a sandy mountain in a small sea town in Turkey, home with a new baby and living amid professional housewives, I’ll give you a call.  Until then, Martha, I’m sorry.  It’s over. 


Friday, March 23, 2012

With Great Age, Come Great Superpowers

Becoming an old person has brought about many unexpected changes, thankfully not incontinence at this point, but I realize it’s only a matter of time. The new change I find most intriguing is the onset of superhero caliber senses.  Of all the things I’d expected from aging – receding gums, hot flashes, saggy boobies- heightened senses was not on the list.  Suddenly, I’ve transitioned from being capable of sleeping through a light earthquake (true story) to waking abruptly with the slightest shift of the sheets.  (While it hasn’t led to divorce court thus far, I fear that should the Turk ever take up the habit of mouth breathing, doom is inevitable and CSI should probably swab the garbage disposal for DNA -just a suggestion.)  My new super-sonic hearing allows me to hear a bird chirping three blocks away, resulting in hours of trying to recapture sleep. The resulting sleep deprivation is less than desirable, but as the elderly are wont to do, I am searching out the positives.  For example, I accept that the bags under my eyes bring out the deep black of my pupils in a stunning fashion and the sluggish pace at which I currently travel makes it easier for the Midget and his 12 inch legs to keep up.
There are other potential positives surrounding my other new Spidey-senses as well.  Should we fall victim to a home invasion perpetrated by a maniac hiding in the corn fields surrounding our little hub of 2000, I will be singlehandedly able to save us with my newly acquired razor-sharp-middle-of-the-night-ninja-reflexes and nocturnal Wonder Woman strength long before the Turk even realizes I’ve left the bed (insert visual here – chubby lady in pink flannel jammies executing ninja move, hi-yaw!).   Aside from my mad ninja reflexes, I’ve also developed super-human nighttime hearing and more recently, an intense sense of sleep smelling.  Yes, sleep smelling.  Last week I was awakened every hour by a less-than-desirable stench originating from beneath some Lightening McQueen jammies after an evening in which dinner consisted primarily of legumes.  Rancid.    
Last night, it was my new keen senses that alerted me to imminent doom while the Turks slumbered soundly.  It went down like this: somewhere in the 3:00 hour, my eyes sprang open like a cartoon cat upon identification of a smell emanating from my right.  Utilizing my superhero skills, I investigated the scene, only to be met with a warm puddle filling the space between the Turk and me, and atop the puddle was a snoozing Midget. 
A little back-story –around month number 2 in our life with the Midget we surrendered to all things conventional in parenting, for ours was a child who never slept.  He seldom napped in the day and he rarely slept at night.  In a fit of desperation and after heavy research on a multitude of hippie-mama websites, (I do believe there are now more hippie-mama websites out there than porn- it’s just that bad.)  Again and again, the great hairy-legged mothers of the world spoke of a concept called co-sleeping.  Reserve your judgments, motherhood brings about desperation. Could a full night’s sleep really be as easy as offering up a seat at the all night boobie bar?  Yes, yes it was.  The Midget moved in and has basically been there ever since. 
He went through boobie rehab a couple years ago and with some struggle, he was able to get the D-cup monkey off his back.  But hard as he tries, the Midget just can’t kick the midnight cuddle habit.  His own room was simply out of the question. “Mom, why I need my own room when I sweep with you guys?”  So instead we gave him his own bed within our bedroom.  The first few nights we thought we’d made bedtime magic (not that, dirty mind!)- only two of us in bed for the first time in close to four years.  But success was short-lived for soon, we’d awake to find a tiny little Turk snuggled between us, neither of us with any knowledge of how or when he got there.  And it has continued, every night, the Midget stealthily makes his way from his bed to the comfortable confides of ours without as much as a peep.  While the Turk believes the Midget’s motives to be completely innocent, I disagree.  I know this child well. It is my belief that The Midget’s nighttime antics serve no other purpose than to forever secure his spot as an only child.  So far so good little tiger.
Last night, it was after the Midget ninja-ed his way into his favorite spot that sleepy-time comfort truly set in and the sweet release came, flooding his dear mother in a puddle of wee.  My new reflexes were good but not enough to save me completely.  As I leapt from the bed I immediately learned that while I was covered in wee, the little Turk was barely wet and the big Turk avoided every drop.  Using my newly attained super powers, I was able to undress and redress the lower half of the Midget as well as unmake and remake the bed without waking either of them.  Why so important not to wake the slumbering Turks?  Last time this occurred the big Turk found it necessary to turn on every light in the house, while complaining at full volume through the entire clean-up process resulting in a Midget that went from sound asleep to fully awake and ready for the day at 4:00am.   Unable to deal with another of those episodes, I knew the only choice was to use my ninja moves and Wonder Woman muscles to clean up the crime scene without waking either.
Of course my nocturnal work-out, coupled with my overwhelming sense of pride and then that nasty stench of wee following me, meant that now I was the one  wide awake and ready for the day at 4:00am.  Oh well, at least I had time to catch up on my new bird noise identification hobby.

Friday, March 16, 2012

It All Happened So Fast....

As I anticipated, the aging process brought about big changes overnight.  My bra now doubles as a belt, my bunions have shown me the importance of sensible footwear and I cannot shake this need for delicate floral patterns.  I awoke today, a new woman so I thought it might be best if I posted a photo of myself in the event that we pass on the street and you don’t recognize me after "The Change."  Fear not, I will not be offended.  But I do ask that you speak loudly as I seem to have blown something after my Murder She Wrote/Matlock marathon last night.  On the up side, I do finally understand the advantage of polyester...

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The End is Near – Quick, Grab the Depends!

Every morning this week,  upon waking – one song has been playing continuously in my head – The Imperial March from Star Wars.  You know, Darth Vader’s theme.  Yeah, that’s the one.  The song of impending doom.  As I get closer and closer to the Big One, my subconscious feels the need to keep the dread flowing.  Well, tomorrow is the big day.  I’ve no place to run, resistance is futile and denial is useless.  Unlike Joan Rivers, I haven’t the cash to hide from my age with the assistance of modification specialists and miracle drugs.  I assume that 40, much like vampirism and zombification, happens overnight and one awakes the next morning deep within the grips of the affliction.  To further heighten my fears, today’s horoscope said that great and epic changes were in store over the next few weeks. (Yes, I read my horoscope, don’t judge.)  In light of this, here, in no particular order, is what I expect to occur tomorrow morning as I awake as a geriatric:

            I will suddenly have an overwhelming need for bran each morning.  (Wait, that already happened.  Strike that.)

            I will need to stock my work bag with an unlimited supply of Poise Pads and Depends in the event that I am overtaken by a fit of laughter and wee myself.

            I will adapt polyester as the fabric of my life as it easily hides the stains from the Jello I dribble into my lap at mealtime and needs no ironing.  It will be imperative that I avoid ironing as I will most certainly forget to unplug the iron upon leaving the house and burn down my entire domicile leaving my family homeless and with a young child, we will be turned away from most adult living communities.  Polyester it shall be.

I will walk into another room and forget why. (Check.)

            I will forgo fashion in lieu of sensible shoes. (Check)

            I will read the obituaries - daily.  (Check.)

I will wake-up at the ass-crack of dawn regardless of it being a work day or weekend. (Check)

            I will complain about young girls dressing like whores and boys looking like thugs. (Check)

            I will no longer find humor in fart jokes or profanity from young children. (Unimaginable)

            I will suddenly understand Rick Santorum. (If this occurs, I’ve given the Turk permission to pull the plug.)

            I will lose all tolerance for mankind’s stupid choices and will feel an uncontrollable need to provide my own true and correct opinion to all within earshot at a thunderous volume and in a condescending tone. (Ok, that might have already happened as well…I mean, if we’re going with full- disclosure and all…but I’m guessing it will get worse)

            I will need afternoon naps and if my needs are not met in a timely fashion, I will simply fall into a deep, snoring slumber in the midst of any number of total strangers without the slightest bit of self-conscious.

            I will need to begin accessorizing my ensembles with those little green pine tree air fresheners as I read somewhere that old people have issues with spontaneous farts.  Being the parent of a 3.5 year old, I’m not certain that this issue is limited to the elderly, but best to be prepared regardless.

            I will believe that $5 is an enormous sum to bestow upon a child via a birthday card and in return, I will expect a large and gushy kiss given much against said child’s will.

            I will need to eat dinner at 5:00.  (Again, this seems to also hold true when in possession of a toddler so it will be tough to judge if this is a result of aging or not.)

            I will be capable of brushing my teeth without opening my mouth, because I store them in a jar beside my bed.

            I will open a retirement account instead of using the Mayan Prophecy of the world ending as my retirement plan.

            I will no long find humor in Yo Gaba Gaba and will suddenly be incredibly offended by Muno, the one-eye, giant phallus, dancing and singing across my television. (In event of this – see Rick Santorum clause)

            I will have an overwhelming love of Lawrence Welk and I will be engulfed with an intense desire to restock my Itunes and Spotify accounts with Big Band music rather than hipster tunes and heavy metal.

            I will find floral patterns attractive, again this may just be another way to camoflogue the afore mentioned Jello stains but reguardless, it will be a life choice.

            I will begin emitting an overpowering odor that is something of a mix between lilacs, rosebuds and Ben Gay.   

            I will begin watching televised golf.

            I will suddenly understand pinochle.

Horrifying?  Perhaps.  Disturbing?  Yes.  However, I am allowing myself to believe that I will have no memory of my previous life when the age sets in tomorrow morning.  So today I shall live it up – wearing heels and natural fabrics in light colors, guffawing at fart jokes, listening to Metallica at full volume and dancing to Yo Gabba Gabba for tomorrow, the End shall come.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Doughnut Just Make Ya Crazy?

Back in Philadelphia, we had an unhealthy relationship with a man named Rameshwar.   My son and I would enter with the most innocent intentions, only to have Rameshwar feed our need on the down-low, free of charge.  He was a pusher and we were weak.  It has taken us a few months, but finally, we found our Midwestern supplier.  A few weeks ago, The Midget and I discovered a little hide-a-way that we have shared with no one – especially the Turk.  He wouldn’t approve.  I know it’s wrong – no mother should ever share a secret like this with her offspring but I am weak and doesn’t everyone like to have a sidekick as they travel through addiction?  On Sunday mornings we drop the Turk off at the gym, claiming a trip to the library or grocery story, when in actuality we are sneaking away to our hideyhole.  While the Turk pumps iron and sweats off any egregious trans-fats, the three-foot- version of myself and I stuff ourselves with gloriously fried and appropriately iced and sprinkled bits of heaven at Daylight Doughnuts.  As I wipe a stray purple sprinkle from his lip, I swear him to secrecy with the threat of a life-long doughnut lock-out if he tells his father , and because he is both intelligent and very much like his mother, he emphatically agrees.  His tiny young mind can fathom nothing worse than a life without doughnuts – and honestly, who can blame him?  Today however, our ruse was nearly revealed and for a few harrowing moments, I feared that they would soon be digging our bloated bodies from the doughnut-store rubble as the local news team shot a close-up on one really mad-off Turk.

Since we’re on spring break, I felt it was fitting that we slide in an extra visit to our little corner of heaven.   We told the Turk we were off to library story-time.  The Turk would rather have a kidney ripped out by a junior member of the Russian mafia organ trafficking team than set foot in Miss Kathy’s Story-time, so we were safe.  We’d safely polished off a cherry-cake and a vanilla with sprinkles and were about to unleash our sugar-highs on Miss Kathy when an ear-piercing siren perforated the unseasonably warm air.   A tornado was coming to carry off our cake-filled bodies and the first thought that entered my mind was “Had I known it was my last, I totally would have had the fritter!”  

This wasn’t my first tornado rodeo.  Back in ’84 I’d ridden one out in the High School basement during intermission of my friend’s dance recital.  Having spent my entire pre-collegiate education in a tornado zone, I’d been through hundreds of tornado drills –35 kids crouched on our knees on the floor of the boys’ bathroom, arms over our heads, all in skin-tight Granimals, the smell of cherry urinal cakes and farts permeating the air as we prepared for doom.   Throughout my childhood, the minute the Watch Signals went out across the radio or television, my Grandma would hobble out to her drab green ’74 Chevy and gun it down to our farm.  After the dust cleared from her high-speed race up our driveway, she would douse us all in Holy Water she kept stored in our fridge and make us sit around the kitchen table and say the Rosary until the tornado passed.  But the 20 years since leaving the tornado zone have made me jumpy and age has mottled my tornado survival skills: now instead of Jesus and Grandma on my side, I had a doughnut stuffed Midget and not much more. 

I was about to shove the Midget under our Hyundai for safety when it occurred to me that we seemed to be the only individuals in panic mode.  Cars were still passing and no one had fled screaming from Daylight Doughnuts with arms flailing and glaze streaming from their waving fingertips.   A friendly geriatric pulled in next to us and through her tri-focals, identified me as a foreigner by the terror on my face.   “They’re just testin’ them hon.  First Wednesday of every month,”   she muttered as she shuffled inside- no doubt in pursuit of a prune –filled Danish.   Just testing them?  I was seconds away from a massive coronary for a test?   And how was the average new citizen to this fair city to know that the town fathers would deem 10:13 am on the first Wednesday of every month the most logical time to test tornado sirens?  Shouldn’t there be some kind of clause for days when weather conditions looked favorable for tornadoes?  How about a brochure from the Welcome Wagon lady giving us newbies a heads up on these things?  The adrenaline surge alone burned up the calories from my cherry cake doughnut so I thought about following my new geriatric friend back inside to replace our lost sustenance but the Midget shocked me back to reality - “Drive fast Mom, we gotta get the hell outta here before they go off again!”

I’m not ashamed to admit this is not the first time I’ve panicked at the sound of a tornado siren.  A few nights ago I ran the entire family to the basement after hearing a siren that didn’t match the schedule I’d noted on the refrigerator.   Thankfully, today was only a false alarm today because the Midget and I have not even made our way through one quarter of the tasty treats in that display case.  There is a lot of doughnut love left to be had and we are more than happy to oblige.  I read somewhere recently that doughnuts are the new cupcake - the trendy new baked good about to take foodies and hipsters by storm.  For connoisseurs like the Midget and I, this is old news.  My heart has been with the almighty holed wonder since long before Fred the Baker first uttered the phrase, “Time to make the doughnuts.”   And much to his father’s chagrin, the Midget’s veins also course with sprinkles and jelly-filleds dance through his dreams each night.   We won’t be swayed by the trendy, we just want our doughnuts – hot, fresh doughnuts and we will gladly brave a tornado to get them.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Meathead Gets Black Balled On the Midnight Express -(Meathead Being Yours Truly...)

My years in the coal mine gave me very sensitive lungs.  Ok not really.  It’s because I spent my childhood inside an Iron Lung.  Ok that’s not true either.  I just have bad lungs.  Where other people get the sniffles, I get pneumonia –that’s just how I roll.  I like the dramatic life.  And now with this whole aging thing, I have to be a bit more careful as 3 million geriatrics die of pneumonia each year.  Ok, I just made that up too but I’m sure it’s close.   Anywhoo, once again I’m dealing with a bout of Black Lung.  I’m not sure if it’s the drugs or the fever, but somehow, last night the details of my last Black Lung episode five years ago, came flooding back in a vivid dream involving Archie Bunker, a purple turnip and my late father-in-law.

Not long after our nuptials, we moved to Turkey and initially lived with my in-laws.  My in-laws were unequivocally the Turkish version of Archie and Edith Bunker.  Even though neither of them has ever spoken a word of English, it took only moments for any visiting American with a solid knowledge of 70’s television to come to this same deduction.  My dear husband, The Turk, did not offer even the slightest warning about his father’s cheerful disposition prior to us jetting across the globe and taking up residency in Archie and Edith’s spare bedroom.  Within the blink of an eye, we were Meathead and Gloria, and the Turkish Archie shared about as much love for me as the real Archie did toward Meathead.  Like Archie and Edith, my in-laws had matching chairs that sat directly in front of the television and cursed be the Meathead that sat in one of those chairs.  My Archie, a retired middle-manager, spent hours in his chair under the caring stewardship of a high-voiced, chatty Edith, yet he was still surly.   Though he stood a mere 5’4”, his demeanor and giant mustache made him a formidable little Turk who would much rather watch an old John Wayne Western dubbed over in Turkish than hold a conversation in broken Turkish with his American daughter-in-law.

A few months into our cohabitation, I picked-up a case of Black Lung from my snot-nosed first graders.  My job routinely thrust me, a fearless English teacher, into a room full of unruly 6 year olds who spoke not even the slightest bit of English-bad for classroom management, great for any necessary fits of English profanity –Me: “Mehmet, stop picking your nose, sit your little ass down and shut your damn mouth!”  Mehmet: Ne? (huh?) Ideal.  Seven months pregnant at the time, my Black Lung landed me in the ER and that was the first time I’d seen Archie shrouded in concern.  He feared that as a laissez-faire American with substandard childhood immunizations, I had succumbed to TB and worried how this might affect the unborn male heir I was carrying.   After a few days of modern medicine and still my cough persisted, Archie decided to take matters into his own hands and cure me Ottoman style. 

Unfortunately, this is where my Turkish failed me.  I was up early due to an uncontrollable, hacking cough.  I tried to lay low and watch the Turkish gossip shows but somehow I woke Archie.  I heard him speaking in a quiet but hostile tone (that was his specialty) with Edith behind the closed kitchen door.  From what I could translate, I understood that he was tired of my coughing, he was going to fix it and he was about to give me a black ball, then he stormed out of the apartment.  Black balled.  Isn’t that what Archie dreamed of doing to Meathead?  I was about to get black balled from my new Turkish family for coughing!  I ran in to wake Gloria, I mean The Turk, and tell him that his father wanted me dead.   He reacted as he has throughout most of our marriage, “Ok Honey,” then rolled over and went back to sleep.   I began to panic, Archie would be back soon and he wanted me dead.  I was too pregnant to escape on the Midnight Express and my husband didn’t care to save me.  I was doomed.

A few minutes later Archie returned with a bag full of dark purple turnips – siyah türp as opposed to siyah töp, I missed the subtle difference between black turnip and black ball.  He wasn't about to black ball me, he was about to black turnip me - whatever that was.  He didn’t even bother to take off his coat before slicing the turnips in half thus allowing their pungent scent to permeate the tiny apartment - a fragrant combination of high fiber fart and dead skunk.  He was going to gas me to death!  Archie proceeded to dig out a small bowl in the center, fill it with honey and wrap the entire thing in plastic wrap.  He then informed me that for the rest of the day, it would be releasing juice.  I was to drink the fart/skunk  juice at least every two hours and my cough would go away.  Not certain if he meant my cough would go away permanently because I would be dead, or not, I looked to Edith, whom I hoped would not let him kill me on her watch.  She was fighting back the laughter.  Edith always laughed when Archie pulled out one of his old skool village remedies, so I assumed I was safe.   As any good Meathead hoping to please Archie would do, I drank the fart/skunk juice every two hours and by night, my cough was totally gone.  TB cured.

Sadly, Archie is no longer with us, so this time around I am forced to turn to medical science.  The male heir got his mother’s American lungs as well and he too is depending on modern medicine for a cure.  While our synthetic drugs are slowly kicking in, they don't have the same power as being black turniped. I think right about now both of us would happily accept a nice dose of fart/skunk juice and offer a big "Cheers" to Grandpa Archie.