Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Auf Wiedersehen, Axel. You suited me to a 'T'

Axel, I will miss you. Sadly we will soon part ways and I must bid mein Schatz a fond adieu. Or to speak his language, auf Wiedersehen. Axel is my 10-year-old VW Jetta. (the name is a multi-layered pun, just think about it a little, it’ll come) He’ll be 11 in just a few days and I really will miss this car, but it needs to be replaced. Please make suggestions, seriously, I could use some advice. Car ownership is like any relationship, you start off all starry-eyed and in love, all the newness of it just overwhelms the senses and you can’t stop thinking about that new car sitting out there waiting to be driven so you drive to get some cigarettes, even though you don’t smoke anymore. Thank God because it would have brought a tear to my eyes to smoke in that lovely new car. Oh wait, someone I know DID smoke in there and made a tiny burn on the interior, which is still visible, but I got over it. (not) Most of us get new cars every decade or so, or in the case of my dad, every ‘score’, but whatev. Cars change quite dramatically in that period of time. I thought the cassette deck and CD changer in the trunk were wayyyy cool. Silly me. Actually, if it weren’t for the cassette I wouldn’t be able to listen to my iPod because in the Chicago-land area there is no free FM bandwidth to grab a hold of so those other devices do not work. Now cars have MP3 ports. Woo-hoo! Other amenities of newbie Axel included heated leather seats. No way, I thought! Cool! Or rather, hot! My butt hasn’t been cold a day since I’ve owned that little gem. Sweet. Needless to say, I adored that car. It replaced a ten-year-old Hyundai Excel and was quite a step-up for me. CD player, cruise control, power windows and locks, the good life, really. I still do adore Axel, kind of. Many, many things have since broken. Like any relationship, the honeymoon period was over and reality set in. Predictability is a good thing and I appreciate reliability. Well, the glove box is reliable. It falls off if you open it, which is a nice trick to play on one’s nemesis, “Oh hey, could you get my sunglasses out of the glove box? Thanks. Ooooh, sorry that just took out your kneecaps, I forgot it was broken. Oh wait, silly me, my sunglasses are right here on this handy little holder on the visor. Mea culpa!” Or like that partner who leaves the toilet seat up, you deal with it but it bugs you. Similar to my broken drink holder. Clever design, really, it slides into the dash when you’re not using it. AND THEN NEVER COMES BACK OUT. Like any relationship, sometimes you just need to realize that the broken things are too much and hinder any further worthwhile connections. Like the turn signal lever, which I think, it the best broken thing on my almost 11-year-old car. It has been turned on and off 10,000 too many times and now has no separation from left or right, it just slides up and down indiscriminately. So if I hit a bump, even a tiny one, what with my nearly ancient suspension, it comes on all by itself. Annoying. Finally though, and this last part is all my fault, not Axel’s, a relationship is a two-way street, you know. One morning I forgot that the trash cans were at the end of the driveway and I backed up into them, knocking a letter ‘T’ off of the insignia. So I no longer own a Jetta, but rather a ‘Je_ta’, which I have joked is almost French and an affront to poor Axel. Je t’aime Axel, je t’aime. Bon voyage. Adieu.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Santa Claus is coming to town…

**SPOILER ALERT** If you still believe in Santa Claus, you may not want to read on. This week has brought many conversations regarding how one should appropriately dress the gifts that Santa leaves under the Christmas tree. If we are trying to preserve the myth, then not using wrapping paper makes sense. Santa has over a katrillion kids to deliver to, he would NOT have time to wrap, let alone add a bow. Furthermore, in order to maintain the multi-faceted ruse that is Kris Kringle, there should be but one gift from good ole St. Nick. One. Gift. Again, it’s a numbers game here and as my mom always says, K.I.S.S. Speaking of my adorable mom, she definitely kept it simple throughout my childhood. There were no gifts from Santa under our tree. No Santa gifts, I do not jest. My dad was just too pragmatic to perpetuate the notion that a man rode around in a sleigh pulled by reindeer delivering gifts to children who were good. Never mind that Santa didn’t keep a list of who was naughty or nice. “Be naughty if you want,” my dad said to me and my brother, “you’re getting what we got you!” And my mom was just too easy-going and sweet to argue with him. Me personally, were I Santa, I would not live at the North Pole. If we’re talking population density, I know the northern hemisphere is where it’s at, but a location a bit more south and the weather would be less of a deterrent. And isn’t it summer in the southern hemisphere right now? Just saying. If I were Santa, every child would get one beautifully shiny and spherical gift: a marble. You could easily transport them on a sleigh, albeit a C130-sized sleigh, but you get the point. That would be fair to all children and it would force the kids to play together, because what can you do with just one marble except choke on it. Merry Christmas! Here’s a marble, enjoy your choking hazard! Ho, ho, ho, heimlich! It’s about the kids, remember? All kidding aside, Isabelle will get one *unwrapped* gift from Santa, which will go under the tree under the cover of darkness on Christmas Eve. Merry Christmas. Chanuka Sameach. Ramadan mobarak. Happy Solstice. Peace and love. Oooh, and let’s not forget today is Festivus. Gather round the pole for the airing of grievances. I’ll start it off since I know I won’t have a gift from Santa under the tree anyway...

Sunday, December 19, 2010

A Manifestation of Insecurity

Just over a decade ago when I was in my early 30s, a particularly snarky little habit crept up on me out of nowhere...every night before bed, under the cover of darkness and as stealthily as possible, I would look in the closets and under the bed before I could go to sleep. I’m not speaking metaphorically here, I literally looked under the bed. I didn’t notice that it became a nightly occurrence until I was pregnant with my daughter Isabelle and realized it was crazy to be 9 months pregnant and still crouching down to look for the bogey man. Sounds like the birth of OCD, right? In fact, I have often joked that I am one light switch on-off maneuver away from being Rain Man or Jack Nicholson in ‘As Good as it Gets’ but I digress, I am not legitimately under a doctor’s care for any type of psychological disorder, but rather it seemed to be a manifestation of insecurity. Albeit an embarrassing and incontrollable manifestation, but nevertheless just insecurity. In retrospect, there was a lot of painful stuff happening in my life right then; my older brother died suddenly and unexpectedly, I was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer that had spread to my lymph nodes, and my father had been diagnosed with untreatable lung cancer and died. A lot of pain in a short amount of time turned me into one big ball of insecurity. Understandable, though, right? I was concerned, but I figured it would work itself out. But when my husband and I learned that I was pregnant, which was a miracle in and of itself after a 2nd breast cancer diagnosis in my mid 30s, 60 radiation treatments and 12 chemo treatments later, I actually worried that being a parent would make me more insecure. Have you read a newspaper or watched TV lately? If I wasn’t going to worry about her crib falling apart, SIDS, meningitis or the swine flu, then someone would kidnap her or she would fall into a well. I’m not kidding or making light of any of these things, when I was pregnant the insecurity got worse. How could it not? Once you are a parent, you worry about that little baby boy or girl every minute until they are full-grown adults. And then you still worry. But something miraculous happened after Isabelle was born, and I didn’t even notice at first, I stopped looking in the closets and under the bed. Watching that little baby girl sleep so soundly in her crib, in her room, in our cozy home infused me with a huge sense of well-being and serenity that the insecurity just melted away. It’s as if there are soo many things out of our control as parents that you just need to embrace all that’s good and run with it and leave the rest behind. So not only was Isabelle’s conception a miracle. (I went through menopause twice in my 30s from the various bouts of chemotherapy and could not believe I actually got pregnant) But just her sheer existence is miraculous because it turned the ugly beast that is insecurity from Rain Man into Frosty the Snowman. (He melted, remember?) Oh, and BTW, instead of looking under the bed, we jump on it, which I gotta tell ya, is a lot more fun.