Sunday, January 25, 2009

The results of last months POLL are in!

For those of you that participated in last months poll, you will be excited to know that 70% of you have decided that The BOY will be forever known as such. But there was a quiet contingent, probably led by the grandmothers, that were pulling for Thor.

Please participate in this months poll.

The Welcome to Kelly's Life Series is now online

For those of you unfamiliar with the Welcome to Kelly's Life series, it is a chronicle of some of my life's events that I've written about for the last several years. I had decided to start writing these when a friend of mine told me that no, these things do NOT in fact happen to everyone.

Welcome to Kelly’s Life, Episode 18

Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to my leisure tour! Ahh…the delight of economic downturns, the unemployed masses, the bleary eyed folk of former usefulness. Left home to sleep in, spend until 3:37 in the afternoon in socks and pajamas and unkempt hair, hoping the FedEX guy doesn’t ring the doorbell to see me in all my unemployed glory.

There is something to be said for the freedom of it all, but when the bliss wanes and the reality creeps in, the next step of any leisure tour is to maintain productiveness! And what better way than to attack all of those old home projects and spend days in sheer domesticity, cleaning and cooking, painting and organizing, exercising and watching Oprah. Ok. Maybe not watching Oprah.


Monday – Day 1:
And so my first weekday of the leisure tour begins. I make a list. A LONG list, of errands to run and stores to visit. There are many items I will need in order to begin projects, make dinner, go to the gym and have the house in fine order before the husband comes home. He will be gleeful when he walks in and smells the aromas of a home cooked meal and a shiny clean house. If only I had an apron. I’ll add that to the list. It’s 3:36, and I’m still in my pajamas and socks, my hair is flat on one side of my head and sticking straight out on the other. Many errands…must hurry. Like a woman with a work deadline, I manage to pull myself together in eight minutes with the help of a baseball hat and a charming pashmina, and grab my keys to go. I hit the garage door opener…I look outside to see the door remain motionless. I stare at the door, then the opener, urgently willing the door to open. Places to go. Things to do. People to see, you know? I hit the button again and nothing happens. So naturally I go outside to open the door but then realize the opener will prevent the door from moving, and alas – the outside keypad still needs to be rewired. I’ll add that to the list too. A-HA! There’s the side door. I go to the side of the garage. The door won’t open. I grab that damn doorknob, give the door a swift kick, and splinter the base of the door...which remains solidly shut. I probably should not break the door down because that would have to go on the damn list too.

So it’s 3:58. Just in time. I go inside and sit down and watch Oprah.


Tuesday - DAY 2:
My dear husband has fixed the garage opener, surely in the hope that I will not break any more doors. So I will actually leave the house today, list in hand, and accomplish something useful. Later though, after the Project Runway marathon is over. I do have my priorities.

By the afternoon I have emerged from my cocoon of TV land and squinting in the bright sunshine, decide to putter around the garden and give it a good soak before heading off to the gym. There’s nothing quite like getting ones hands dirty in a garden of their own, munching on green beans, talking to the ladybugs and smelling the ripening tomatoes. I decide to make best use of the days warmth and bike to the gym. It does seem most logical to forgo a vehicle and get my warm up in on the way there, and I am pleased with my brilliant idea. I decide that I will interpret my ride as a stage of the Tour de France and peddle my heart out the many (uh – two) miles there. I arrive hot and sweaty and loathing the idea of any more exercise, so I take my time stretching, lifting weights, and rowing the imaginary boat to nowhere. I eventually head home, at a much slower pace, looking at the trees, listening to birds, and gliding my bike in lovely patterns around the bumpy parts of the street. As I pull up to my house, I hear the familiar hiss of a running hose…and it dawns on me right then and there that I left the water on in the garden this entire time. I throw my bike down, run to the back yard…er swamp…and see a lovely river of water running from the garden, around the play house, around the tree, into our neighbors yard. My garden is under three inches of water. Oh for the love of Pete. I’m an idiot. OH! Oprah’s on.


Wednesday - DAY 3:
I am a master of organization and I despise clutter. I am up and dressed well before my self-imposed 9:00 am deadline. Dressed in actual outside clothes and everything. So it will be a day of cleaning out the junk and donating our excesses to Goodwill. The kids have sorted their outgrown clothes and piles of toys, and the basement has been gutted of the miscellaneous knick-knacks and house wares. We’ve got piles of old furniture, boxes of pots and pans and clothes and left boots and train sets and the occasional random Power Puff Girl action figure. I decide the pile of items in the garage can wait, and back my unfortunately new car to the side door to load up. Now, the gift of master organization comes with the nifty gift of being a master packer as well, and I am able to cram WAY more stuff in my little Scion hatchback than should be humanly possible. So with the basement emptied and room remaining, I pull forward into the garage to get the rest of the stuff.

That is to say…I pull forward, with the hatchback gate wide open.

Swearing enough to make a sailor blush, I leap out of my car, and pull the open hatchback out from where the garage door opener has imbedded itself. There is a lovely band of white paint across the length of the tailgate, with a few deep scratches in it for good measure. I tell myself that a few scrapes I can tolerate, but the white paint I will wash right off. I go get the kitchen sponge and furiously start rubbing the painted area, but to no avail. So naturally, with nary a thought, I flip the sponge over to the scrubby side, and up the white paint comes. I’m positively giddy…until…

The water dries and I am left to see circular scratches running the length of where the white paint once was.

Seriously!? Doesn’t the karma of donating items to goodwill PREVENT things like this from happening!? Apparently not. There must be something on TV right now. Something better than this…


Thursday – Day 4:
I have yet to demonstrate my abilities to be a housewife and I am determined to make my case today. Today folks, is cleaning day. I will do the dishes, dust the furniture, clean the countertops, and vacuum every square inch. I am a master cleaner. Really. Now, admittedly, I generally wait until you all are coming over for a visit before cleaning, but nonetheless, I am not afraid of a little scrubbing. Just ask my car.

Now, I do have kind of a little house so cleaning should be a piece of cake. But I also have two dirty little kids and two hairier dirtier not so little dogs. And since you all don’t tend to visit much, I don’t tend to clean much. So this was going to be an epic cleaning event, and my poor unsuspecting husband would be so pleasantly surprised to come home to his clean home and exhausted but domestically fulfilled wife.

Dressed appropriately in spandex, flip flops and an Aunt Jemima headband and bright yellow rubber gloves, I set to clean the house from tippy top to tuppy bottom. I break out the horrifically un-environmentally friendly health-risk-with-impending-death cleaners, so I can do the job right. I wipe down every surface, with only the occasional wheezing from the toxic chemicals. With the walls and surfaces scrubbed, the only remaining task is vacuuming. I rather enjoy the new vacuum cleaner, with it’s little bagless compartment where you watch the fruits of your vacuuming labor swoosh around in the clear plastic window. I vacuum the last of the kitchen, down into the lower entryway, mesmerized by the slowly spinning dirt and copious amounts of dog hair. Suddenly it feels like I’ve been struck by a baseball bat, and fall down on the floor while holding my head.

It seems I’ve managed to drop the vacuum…on my head.

Shortly following the unprovoked vacuum attack, dear husband comes home and immediately asks, “What did you do to your forehead?” I quietly mumble something about being attacked by a small herd of squirrels, lest his belief in my domesticity waiver.


Friday – Day 5:
With my week’s attempts at housewifery failing miserably, I decide to tackle the major task of laundry. Now I must admit…I HATE doing laundry and more so than that, hate folding it and putting it away too. But I realize, in order to plead my case, completing the laundry is a right of passage for all domestic goddesses. And a goddess I will become. Even if it kills me, or gives me a small forehead flesh wound.

Up the throw rugs come, down come all the bath towels, all the bed linens, the blankets, and the piles upon piles of dirty clothes. Because not only am I out to prove my laundering skills, I’m on my last pair of skivvies. I make many trips to the basement, and dump the piles of clothes and such on the floor and begin the big sort. We’ve got the very whites, the mostly whites, the beige’s, the jeans, the non-jeans, the bright colors the medium colors and the dark colors, the light linens the dark linens, one load of only socks (lest they make a run for it and we only have errant mismatched pairs), and last but not least, the very reds that will turn even a dark pair of jeans a lovely shade of pink. Ask me how I know.

I decide that while I’m doing all that laundry, it seems only fair to catch up on some Law & Order, because there’s always one version playing on some channel some where any time, each and every day. As each load of laundry ends, I neatly fold it all up and decide that the sheer magnitude of laundry will require me to pile it on the floor.

I finally put the last of it, the redder than reds, in the washing machine and settle down to watch Sam Watterson skillfully put away yet another complex case. When I hear…a curious…splashing sound. Half of my brain perks up and says: Ah, yes. The rinse cycle and waste water in the sink basin. Everything is fine. TV is on. Watching TV now.

More splashing – only louder. And my attention to Law & Order wanes as the housewife senses rise. I leap into action, rush into the laundry room, and watch as a fountain of bright pink water splashes all over the floor. The very floor, where the last 12 loads of laundry are piled so neatly. And are completely, and thoroughly soaked. With Dirty. Pink. Water.


So. The moral of the story is:
1. I am not domestic
2. Don’t use the scrubby side of the sponge on your car’s paint finish.
3. Maybe waiting a week to begin looking for my new occupation is NOT such a good idea
4. I am really not domestic
5. I should invest in some bubble wrap and duct tape for my head and my cars bumper…I’ll add that to the list.
6. Make sure you clean out the lint trap before washing 12 loads of laundry, lest your laundry room turn into a pink wading pool
7. Have I mentioned I’m not domestic?

Welcome to Kelly’s Life, Episode 17

I fear that all remaining Welcome Series stories will end up this way, talking about the family life, the monsters, the little leeches. It seems while they’re sucking the very marrow of life out of us, as well as all the money, they take all the outside world life experiences too. You find yourself wearing wrinkled clothes, shoving your hair in a pony tail, and drinking coffee for breakfast, because you’re too damn tired to get up any earlier than the drop-dead time in the morning. I keep whittling that time down too. Soon, I’ll be dressing in the Puck on the way into the office in the mornings. Those women that put their make-up on, curl their hair, drink their breakfast, all in the car during rush hour, you know the ones, the erratic bad drivers. I know. They have children. Give them a wide berth. And beware all the old ugly green Ford Rangers. I may be in your neighborhood.

And see, the most ridiculous part about this, is the fact that I only have part-time pseudo-step children. And there are only two of them. And Caty is old enough to be reasonably independent. And even worse still, they have a great dad, who feeds them, clothes them, and takes them to school in the mornings. I don’t even have to do ANY of that. And yet still it’s hard. I simply don’t know how mere mortals do it. It’s beyond a mystery to me.

In the world of part-time parenting, with kids traveling to different households, with a plethora of involved adults, activities, lessons, and obligations…we decided that a daily schedule was required.

So while Mondays are prescribed cleaning nights, we declared that Tuesdays are Happy Fun Time. Last night we all sat down and wrote down ideas of things we can do that are fun. We have indoor fun, outdoor fun, free fun, money-required fun, and active fun. And we kicked off the evening with a rousing game of Hide’n’go-seek.

We explained the rules of the game to the kids, and asked Colin (almost 5 years old), if he could count all the way to twenty, and he said yes. So plenty of time to hide. I was the first person to be the seeker, and so we told Colin to go hide. At which point he proclaimed:

“I’m gonna go hide in my room!”

Um. Let me see if we can explain this again.

So we tell him to not tell us where he’s going to hide.

“OK!” he says excitedly. “Let’s go hide in my room!”

So it seems that some 5 year olds have a limited attention span, and maybe a wee bit of difficulty following directions. So I start counting, and Chris takes Colin to go hide with him.

“We’re gonna go hide in the bathroom!”

So I count louder.

And I hear shushing and giggling and squeaky feet on the bottom of the bathtub.

Since CLEARLY, I know where they are, I figure I’ll quick look and see if I can find Caty first, but no such luck. So I pull back the shower curtain and Colin screams and giggles. I eventually find Caty hiding under the basement stairs and we move on to round two with Chris being the seeker.

And Colin goes and hides in the bathtub. And is promptly found.

I’ve got myself wedged behind a closet door, only to be found when the lights go on. So we declare lights can be neither turned on nor off – that they remain as they are. Which makes the game WAY more fun when you’ve got two kids who are afraid of the dark. (Insert evil laugh here).

So it’s Colin’s turn to be the seeker. He starts doing the - I’ve-gotta-pee-but-I-don’t-want-to dance, and we send him to the office to take care of business. While he’s occupied, we decide that we aren’t really going to hide HIDE, but that we’ll simply be “hiding” around a corner, so he gets the idea of the game. And so that we aren’t hidden ‘til morning.

After Colin returns, and we go through the usual of: flush the toilet, wash your hands, turn the light off, keep the door open, KEEP THE DOOR OPEN! It’s his turn to count. And I am pleasantly surprised to hear him count QUITE well, with speed and precision and only forgetting the number 15. I’m stealthily hiding on the landing leading to the basement, Chris is standing in the middle of the dining room, and Caty is standing in the upstairs hallway. So when Colin yelled, “ready or not’, opened his eyes, and realized, everyone’s... GONE! I could hear him get a little worried.

“Where are you guys? I can’t hear you. Where are you guys?! I can’t see anyone! WHERE ARE YOU GUYS!?!”

But not a one of us moved or made a peep. Colin wasn’t all that willing to venture beyond the kitchen and living room thresholds. So wasn’t finding anyone too quickly. Twice he got within three feet of me, but just couldn’t quite bring himself to look around the scary corner. But I knew he would eventually. And I was prepared.

I see his little blonde head as he tentatively peers around the corner.

“MUWHAHAHAHA!!” I yell.

And so, of course, he screams. REALLY loud.

And once he realizes that I’m not the basement dwelling monster of his nightmares, he stops screaming and giggles and says, “I found you!” And I quietly whisper to him good places to go look for his father and sister. And each time he finds one, more screams. And laughing.

And so I am the seeker again. And I know where Colin is. In the bathtub. Giggling. And looking around the shower curtain. So I go find Caty first, since she hasn’t had a turn yet, and since I’m a good finder of things, we rapidly progress through to Caty’s turn.

And since she’s 10 years old, Chris and I can REALLY hide. Really well. Sort of. We really just have to hide in the dark corners. But I manage to fold myself under and behind the dining room table, and pull the chair all the way in. Knowing full well she’d actually have to venture into the darkness to find me. I didn’t earn the name “wicked step mother” for nothing. I take pride in that moniker. And I well deserve it.

So we’d told Colin that he couldn’t hide in the bathtub again. So Caty found him sitting on his bed, door closed, with the lights on. He then trailed after Caty, not wanting to sit in the living room alone. But Caty, being the big sister, wanted to go looking on her own, and so the arguing the yelling, the whining, and the crying ensued. Chris, who was in room next to where I was, and I, didn’t make a peep. Their mother stopped by to drop off Caty’s band instrument, and the dogs escaped out the back door.

Still. We hid. It was just getting good.

By this point, Caty tells Colin it’s ok to come along and help look. So Chris and I start whistling, in an effort to speed the process. She comes back towards the dining room, turns the lights on, then off, and still, doesn’t find me. I really can jam myself into tiny spaces. I’m quite bendy. (And still have a crook in my neck today). So finally she goes far enough into the room where Chris is and finds him. And goes off to find me. And, being bent in half for more then 15 minutes by now, I yell, “hurry up!” But she still doesn’t find me. And then I hear the magical words of freedom:

“Ollyollyoxenfree!”

And I tumble out of my hiding spot, all crooked like. And declare myself brilliant.

And so Tuesday Night Happy Fun Time was a rousing success.



Moral of the story:

1.Our dogs CLEARLY will not be used for search and rescue, as even they couldn’t find us.
2.We now have deduced that Colin closes bathroom doors because he’s going through the I’m-having-too-much-fun-but-I-gotta-pee-OH-NO-I-didn’t-make-it-I-don’t-want-to-get-in-trouble-for-peeing-on-the-floor-so-I’m-not-going-to-tell-them Phase. Only we didn’t realize until this morning. Great.
3.Part-time pseudo stepparent or not, playing hide-n-go-seek with the munchkins is fun.

Welcome to Kelly’s Life, Episode 16

I’ve never been particularly fond of other people’s children. In fact, I think boarding schools are a fine idea. Keeps them all in one place, out of sight, and out of public places where they would otherwise be running and screaming down the grocery store aisle, terrorizing unsuspecting childless people, while their mothers relished in a moment of blissful short lived freedom. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

So when I agreed to watch my friend’s children while on an out of town visit, Caty, age 9 and Colin, age 3 ½, I knew PRECISELY how I was going to handle them. And despite this fact, this delusional genius I thought I had in my theories and capabilities of the momentary raising of children, I was, in all honesty, completely terrified. What if they break, or runaway, or get lost, or eat something they shouldn’t. What if they scream and yell and say, “YOU’RE not my mommy and YOU can’t make me!” as they draw on the walls with their crayons. What if they throw-up or crap their pants for god sakes.

So I spent weeks thinking of how I’d devise creative ways to keep these little munchkins entertained in productive, educational, active ways. No way was I going to have them watching TV, on a nice summer day, when they can be outside. We were going to do stuff. It would be fun. We’d sing and dance and play in the yard and their Dad would come home and be gleefully amazed. It was going to be just lovely. Because, really, how hard could it possibly be? They’re just little people. No big deal.

So when their mom dropped them off, and Caty and Colin went running through the house, climbing on furniture, chasing the dog, screeching and giggling, at 9:00 in the morning, I said to their mom, “Please. Don’t go. You’re not leaving them here, with me, are you? Can’t you stay?”

“By the way, Colin is only half potty trained”, she says. And off she went, with a pleasant grin, and a carefree lilt to her step. She hopped in her car, and drove away at 90 miles per hour. I think to myself, “She knows something I don’t know.”

I had decided that the kids and I were going to make dinner that night. And since we had no car, we would bike to the store and buy some groceries. I thought it would be fun. It took about 68 minutes to get out of the house. I don’t know why. They kept scampering away. And, did you know, you really can’t rationalize with a 3-½ year old boy? They have an attention span of, MAX, maybe 7 seconds.

Colin: “We going for a bike ride?”

Me: “Yes, we’re going for a bike ride.”

Colin: “I wanna go on a bike ride!”

Me: “We’re going on a bike ride.”

Colin: “I wanna wear my helmet!”

Me: “Yes, you’ll wear you’re helmet.”

Colin: “I don’t wanna go on bike ride!”

Me: “Put your helmet on.”

Colin: “I DON’T WANNA WEAR MY HELMET!!!”

Me: “You HAVE TO put your helmet on.”

Colin: “We going for a bike ride? I wanna wear my helmet!”

And he put his little bike helmet on. Over his swim goggles.



We went back and forth like this, oh, maybe, three more times, before I stuffed The Boy in his bike cart, and sealed him inside. Caty rode behind us, on her pink Barbie bike, wearing her pink Barbie helmet.

I’d decided we’d stop by Wal-Mart first, because I wanted to buy The Boy a piggy bank. (I’ll explain later.) Before we’d left the house, Caty asked me if I’d buy her a stuffed animal. I told her if she wanted a toy, she’d have to buy it with her own allowance money. I have no heart. So we mosey through Wal-Mart, to the toy section. And suddenly, I realized, you don’t take children down the toy aisle if you honestly intend to leave that place without throwing down some cash. They wanted EVERYTHING.

“No. You can’t have that.”

“Put that down.”

“No you can’t have that either.”

“Put that back.”

“Stop screaming.”

“Chainsaws are not for children”

“I said NO.”

Caty had found a toy she wanted, and I had found a piggy bank for Colin. I decided it would be unfair to buy something for The Boy and not for Caty – so I told Caty that I’d pay for half of the toy she wanted. And you know what? I took the three dollars from that nine-year-old girl, and didn’t even feel all that bad about it. Consider it coffee money. Which was CLEARLY going to be needed. Ah yes…a triple shot of espresso…that will be nice…

…and then, all of a sudden, like startled deer, the children are running and screaming down the aisles of Wal-Mart.

Oh good god.

I gave them one run. And as I nonchalantly moseyed up to the little monsters, I said, “No running. No screaming. If you run, if you scream, we put the toys down and we leave. No toys for you.” I had laid down the gauntlet, with my stern serious adult face and tone of voice. Caty settled right down. The Boy, with a glimmer in his eye, looked right at me, screamed, and went running. Caty looked at me. I looked at her. “Let’s go”, I said.

I catch up with Colin, pick him up, put him on my hip, take his toy, put it on a shelf, and start walking. At which point, this adorable little boy, with his blond hair, blue eyes, and enviable long eyelashes, starts carrying on like a demon child, flailing, kicking, hitting, screaming at the TOP of his lungs, in the middle of the store,

“PUT ME DOWN!!! PUT ME DOWN!!! PUT ME DOWN!!! EEEEEAHHHHHHHHHrgh!!!!!!!!”

Colin really is a heavy little bugger, but no matter how much he squirmed, I was able to hold on and keep walking. And when he finally realized that I wasn’t going to give in, he did. Put his arms around my neck, head on my shoulder, and quietly cried. I kept walking, promptly and with clear purpose, through the store – because obviously, we’d been all the way in the back. And I was wondering, really, how long before Social Services came in and carted us off. Or would it be the police? Either or. At this point, they can have them.

Outside the store, and not yet caught, I stuff The Boy back in his wheelie, and off we go to the food store. We were able to finish our errands and make it back home with only one minor incident at the grocery store which involved shoes thrown out of the cart and onto the aisle floor, a boy climbing out of the food cart and briefly screaming and running amok, and an offer I made to the mother standing in front of me in line to take THIS boy home with her too. She declined.

So by the time we’d biked home, me pulling the hefty kid and all the groceries behind me, including a watermelon, all I really wanted to do was sit down and have a moment, until I realized, that you actually have to feed these little creatures. Like, real food, no less. You can’t just give them some salad and call it good.

Colin: “We having grilled cheese?”

Me: “Yes, we’re having grilled cheese.”

Colin: “YEA! We having grilled cheese! I want grilled cheese!”

Me: “It’ll be ready in a minute”

Colin: “I don’t want grilled cheese!”

You get the idea. I plunked it down on the dining room table, with their tomato soup and apple juice. Am I great kid watcher or what! Is that not the all-American kid watching meal?
So in the midst of all of this, every ten minutes, I was asking the boy if he needed to use the potty, because I had HUGE fears of the consequence of me not asking him every ten minutes. After lunch I sent him in to sit on the potty and told him to not come out ‘til he pooed. Nothing. I got nothing. Off goes the boy, pull-ups askew, pants twisted. It was time to play outside. We were out there, not FIVE minutes later, before I turned to Caty and said, “You think your brother smells kinda funny?” Ever the wise and seasoned older sister, she walks over to The Boy, pulls out the pull-ups, and with a scrunched up face declares, “EWWWW!

“YOU! Inside!” I say to Colin.

Good GOD what has this kid been eating!? Sweetheart that Caty is, she grabs a plastic garbage bag, holds it out, her other fingers clenching her nose shut, and quietly removes it from the house, while the two of us are gagging. The Boy is completely un-phased. I pass him a handy wipe, and tell him to wipe his butt, and hand him a clean pair of pull-ups. And off we go to draw pictures on the driveway with sidewalk chalk and play hopscotch, and play on the swing set.

It’s only 2:00.

And suddenly, like a beacon in the night, it occurs to me: The Boy hasn’t had a nap yet.

Oh joyous freedom! Peaceful tranquility! Oh happy time!

I decided that the cue for naptime was when yelling, kicking and crying transpired. So I swooped in, got yelled at, kicked at, and the crying began. I marched right on up the stairs, Boy in tow, and shut that sweet little child in his room for a nap.

I made it to 3:30 before the TV went on and I plunked the kids down in front of it so I could make dinner, in peace and quiet, by myself, little people out of my hair.

Oh. About the piggy bank. I sat Colin down at the kitchen table. I drew a picture of him, on the potty. Then I drew a picture of a piggy bank. I told him every time he pooed in the potty, I’d put a quarter in the piggy bank. And at the end of the week, daddy would take him and buy him a toy with all the money in the piggy bank. I then drew a picture of a pink piggy, and taped it to a plastic container, and declared: “THIS is your piggy bank.”

He was very excited. I left the picture of him and the potty stuck to the refrigerator door, at eye level for him, so that every time he walked by he could tell me about the potty. And you know what? It worked like a charm. At least on my watch it did. And at this point, that’s all that really mattered to me.

By 7:00, I was ready for bed. And that was only day one.


So, the moral of the story:

1. Pull-ups are your friend.
2. 3-½ year old boys cannot be reasoned with.
3. God help the parents of multiples. Particularly multiple boys.
4. As a non-parent, whatever you thought you knew, whatever you thought you could handle, whatever theories or methods you had convinced yourself of – does not apply when dealing with the little people.
5. I respect parents. All parents. How sanity is retained, how relationships manage to survive, and what on earth you find charming about babies – I will never know.
6. I now believe in daycare, grandparents, and nannies. THOSE are some special people.
7. Bribery. It’s your friend.

Welcome to Kelly’s Life, Episode 15

I have returned from my travels abroad, with stories to tell (long stories). But to establish some groundwork, there area few historical Kelly facts worth noting:

Fact #1. I have a vacation rain curse. I have previously called it a family rain curse, but the fact of the matter is – I am the one that causes it to rain when going to places for leisure purposes. I can make it rain in the Sahara (or any other desert/drought stricken area of your choosing) – with little more than a leaky tent and the absence of a raincoat.

Fact #2. I have never been overseas. Well, technically, I’ve been to New Foundland (it’s only Canada) and Cayman islands. But the close proximity of those lends itself towards feeling local. And you don’t technically need a passport. And you can swim back if absolutely necessary.

Fact #3. This was a free five-day drip with my mom. She won it. Generally speaking, I have always considered free trips to be better than not free trips. However, this is no longer a hard and fast rule.

Day 1

06:01:27 – I leave my apartment for the airport. I’m 87 seconds behind schedule. This is of no great concern though – as I have plenty of time. My flight is not until 08:30.

07:08:43 – I arrive at the airport, long term parking. Is see one shuttle bus on the last part of the loop to pick up people, but I figure, not to worry, I have plenty of time, and the next one will be along shortly. I figure I’ll leisurely stroll to my gate, get some breakfast, read a book – it will be quite lovely. But then, of course, there’s no shuttle to be seen anywhere.

07:18:30 – The ridiculously slow shuttle arrives. I pile on, right next to the door, ready to be the first one off the damn thing when we get to the terminal. Everyone proceeds to pile their luggage in front of me. I will need to hurl myself over it all. And I will, with great ferocity. As I am a seasoned traveler.

07:24:15 – Upon arrival at the terminal, I lose my opportunity to breach the luggage obstacle, as hordes of ferocious tourists lunge for the door. I make my way weaving through the crowd, up the escalator, only to see a lengthy line, wrapped three times over, at the check-in counter.

07:29: 01 – While standing in line, I notice a flashing red light – “ONE HOUR BAG CHECK-IN REQUIRED.” What does this mean? As I ponder this, an airline staff member moseys up and tells us that if we don’t have our bags checked in one hour prior to departure, we will not be allowed on the flight. If we get to the counter at fifty-nine minutes prior, we will not be allowed on the flight. I ask the man next to me, “What time is it?” His reply, of course, “7:30”.

I dash out the door to the skycap. I figure he may be more lenient, and maybe it isn’t REALLY quite 7:30. I wait as he checks in one person in front of me. He takes my ticket, punches a few keys and says, “Sorry.”

It’s 7:33.

I make my way back to the end of the line. And by the time I get to the counter, I have convinced myself that the world is about to end, as I have missed my trip. The flights are full. I’ll have to fly stand-by. And I will never make my connecting flight out of Boston. And my mother has the tickets. My only chance, says the woman at the counter, is to try and fit my suitcase through the conveyor belt baggage template and hope it fits. I proceed to the security checkpoint – and see about 900 people waiting to get through too. Time rushes by when you’re about to miss a plane. So I spent my time profusely praying to whomever may be listening – Please make my bag fit. PLEASE make my bag fit. Please oh please oh please. MAKE IT FIT! You see – it’s a big bag. The laws of physics would not change (however the laws of Murphy seemed to adapt to each and every moment). People stared at me. Stared at the bag. Then grinned. Shook their heads. I know what they were thinking. “Silly girl. That will never fit. She’ll have to go back.” And I agreed. Then it was my turn, and I heaved my bag up there. It’s big enough to fit my friend Annie inside of. And maybe her cat too. I say to the scanner man, desperately, “I know this isn’t going to fit, but…” he smiled kindly, and said to give it a shove, and see. And lo and behold, almighty divine intervention shoved that bag through.

You should see this bag. It’s gargantuan. And I guarantee – it would not fit through a second time.

So of course, I had to wait for the tram to the concourse. And of course, when I got there, I noted that the gate was almost to the very end. So I started to run. Well, you really can’t call it running, per se. Bad knees and not enough time spent at the gym. I was lurching through the airport, rather like Igor might, surprised at the lack of oxygen actually reaching my lungs. I’d bet your toddler could cover more ground than me. I was ridiculously pathetic (I really need to start getting to the gym more often). I could see, as I approached the waiting area – that it was empty. I get around the corner – and yet again – lo and behold – the door is still open. I was the last one on the plane. So I proceed to profess my faith, thanking profusely the fact that I had made it.

I arrive in Boston, with plenty of time. Good thing too – Logan airport makes you feel like one of those little rats in a high school science experiment – stuck in a maze where you know there’s cheese but no perceivable way to get to it. And so I wait for my mom to arrive. Our flight is at 7:20. I watch as all the very attractive men go to Munich. I must get to Munich too, I think.

It’s after 5:00. No mom. I begin to worry. Will I go without her? Oh hell yes. But I haven’t got the tickets – just a fax of the itinerary.

Then mom arrives. “You would not BELIEVE the day I’m having,” she says. “Oh really”, is my weak reply. Apparently she got stuck in traffic.

Aer Lingus has a novel approach to loading 300 hundred people on a big airplane. They say, “We are now boarding”, and everyone tries to get on at the same time. This would not be my first experience on this trip of feeling like Bessy the cow in the herd of cattle headed to market.


DAY 2 (or somewheres about there)

We arrive in Shannon, Ireland at about 6:00 in the morning Ireland time (pretty dang earlier in the morning US East Coast time too). We make our way to the rental car counter, and it seems the travel agent did not manage to mention to the agency that we required an automatic shift vehicle. Much to mother’s chagrin, all they had was a standard shift, and she would be forced to do all the driving, as I’ve never driven stick shift in my life. Mum was none too thrilled about the prospect of driving on the left side of the road, sitting on the right side of the car, and shifting with her left hand, backwards. Completely understandable. And I must say, as soon as we made it out of the parking lot, I was none too thrilled about the prospect of her driving it either.

“Left mom. Left. You gotta stay left. LEFT!!!!!”

Then of course, the roads are a wee bit narrow, and a Toyota Corolla ends up being a gigantic car. Every time a car would come the opposite direction, I’d feel compelled to yell, “NOT TOO FAR LEFT!!!” As the tires caught the curb edge, or worse, came dangerously close to clipping parked cars.

Then, there was the spectacular moment when a truck came round the bend, and dear mum ducked towards me, closed her eyes, and veered the car to the left. I could see, right then and there, that this driving thing was going to be wee bit of a problem. I began to ponder the rational of learning to drive stick shift, in Ireland, on the left of the road, the right of the car, etc – right then and there. It may be tricky, but was worth serious consideration.

So then, there were the round-a-bouts. A handy dandy European way of not having traffic lights at intersections. The trick here is that you yield to the right. Although, this was something mum had difficulty catching on to. She’d look left, then step on the gas, while I’d yell “WAIT!” as the cars whizzed by from the right. This seemed to happen, oh, well, just about every single time we came to one of those.

We proceeded on out of town and into the countryside. We were about twenty minutes outside of our destination, when we came up a hill, and around a bend in the road to a beautiful vista. And the car accelerated noticeably. I recall thinking – Mom is feeling more comfortable driving now – until she started driving the car off the road.

And that’s when I realized. Mom’s sleeping.

So I yelled.

And then I yelled again.

And when that didn’t wake her, a yelled quite loudly again.

So then, when mom woke up, she lost control of the car. Strangely, my life didn’t flash before my eyes, as it well should have, cause we were most certainly going to die. Instead, I was trying to decipher what we were going to end up hitting. The tour bus, with all the foreign onlookers, or was it going to be a matter of careening off the hillside, into the deep green grass? It was a matter of serious contemplation. Cars weaved around us, as we fishtailed first left, then right, then left again. The car should probably have spun, but it didn’t. Mom got the car under control, (divine intervention again, I’m sure of it) pulled off to the side and parked it. She casually said, “I think I need some fresh air”. And I thought to myself – you need to get far, far, far away from me.

When she got back in, I reminded her of the rules of driving with others: if you are tired, say so, and we’ll sing songs, talk, open windows, anything that will assist in helping to continue breathing in and out every day for just a little while longer.

I began to think that me driving was, in fact, a fine idea, and much safer option.

We got to town in one piece. Walked around a bit. And went to bed at 6:00.

DAY 3

Prior to departing on this trip, Mom had the splendid idea that we should take a bus tour. At the time, I stated, that there was no way in ever loving hell I’d be caught dead on a tour bus. However, when presented with that option again, I considered it (for all of about two seconds) and said, “That sounds absolutely fantastic! Let’s go make reservations.” And so spent the majority of day three on a bus full of little old people and pudgy tourists with cameras, desperately peering out the bus windows, looking at fast moving glimpses of the beautiful Ireland countryside. We went whizzing by old stone ruins (like really, really old) of castles and cathedrals and things of that sort. We saw cute little sheep. Well, they could have been sheep, or cows, or small wooly rocks – difficult to tell while looking out a speeding tour bus. We stopped at the appropriate tour stops, and each time had twenty minutes to inundate the town and buy our trinkets, before shuffling back onto the bus. Cattle, we were. But nevertheless, it was the only way to safely see Ireland outside of the town we were staying in. It was raining anyway. As a matter of fact, apparently, no one local had any recollection of seeing that amount of rain at that time of year. But quite frankly, when going to Ireland, one expects rain. So it really didn’t much bother me at all, and seemed rather appropriate.

That evening, I ditched mum and went pubbing. It was necessary. I was mistaken for being local, both by the locals and the tourists, which for some reason I found to be quite entertaining. I drank much of the smoothest Guinness you can imagine, and found it increasingly difficult to understand the Irish folks. I wandered back to the hotel after an appropriate amount of inebriation and fantastic music, and promptly fell asleep.

DAY 4

We took a carriage ride into the national park that morning, to a great old stone house. A minor rift between mum and I ensued when I opted to skip the guided tour of the house, with explanations of everything old and frilly, and go for a hike instead. I quickly found myself walking through the green fields and stonewalls, next to cows, and most defiantly wooly sheep with strangely long tails, through a soft and somehow pleasing misty rain. My destination was a waterfall, which I figured would be raging. The closer I got to the falls, the more the landscape changed to the feeling of a rainforest. All surfaces were covered with something green and growing. And I was right, the sound of the falls increased with each step, and I stood at the base of them – water positively roaring. I saw stone steps leading up into the forest under a canopy of trees, and my curiosity got the best of me, so I followed them. I wandered up to the bend, and there were more steps. And I followed those around the next bend, and there were more steps. This continued for a while, about 300 vertical feet, to the top of the falls. Feeling significantly satisfied, tired, and thoroughly soaked, I hitched a ride back to the hotel.



DAY 5

Horseback riding through the park on an Irish draft horse, galloping through puddles and mud, under great old trees, through forests and next to lakes and stone ruins of cottages with trees growing out of the center of them. In borrowed pink rubber tall boots. It was brilliant!

A side trip (by car!) to a little town an hour south to Kenmare, to shop for trinkets. Mom’s driving caused me a series of panic stricken moments, but my sensibilities had dulled somewhat, and I tended to simply hope for the best. We spent the last evening watching a summer stock dance troupe.

DAY 6

With ample time allotted for getting lost, we left early for Shannon. Mum still hadn’t mastered the roundabouts. My patience was lost by the time we were in close proximity to the airport, and it was a relief to finally leave that car behind and venture into the airport, still, miraculously, in one whole uninterrupted piece. All 300 people tried to get on the airplane, and I looked out the window at the last glimpses of the great green island as we made our way up over the ocean, and back to the United States.

There are, of course, a few morals to the story:

1. Know how to drive stick shift.
2. Left side of the road countries should not rent cars to the Americans.
3. Don’t fly into Europe in the morning.
4. Rain on a vacation is not necessarily a bad thing.
5. Vacation should last longer than five days.
6. Vacation should not involve relatives.
7. Short-term travel with family in foreign countries and long flights and scary driving gives cause for need of another vacation when said first vacation is over.
8. Get to the airport early.
9. There’s nothing like traveling to restore your faith.

Welcome to Kelly’s Life, Episode 14

Lesson #1 in car rentals: do not wait until the day of travel to make your car rental reservation. There are a number of reasons why this is an important lesson. Firstly, renting a car the day of your arrival will cost you, at a minimum, eight billion dollars. Secondly, the eight billion dollars will buy a Suzuki Swift at some shady no-name dealership in the dark part of town, located in a little shack with bars on the windows, presumably to keep people from stealing the Suzuki swifts and Dae Woo’s. Although, realistically, you can easily pick these little cars up and put them in the back of your pick-up truck. For those of you unfamiliar with Suzuki Swifts, let me assure you, they most certainly are the pride of Japan. They are the approximate size of a tuna fish can, only smaller. They run by hamster power. The engine has a curious whirring sound at high speeds, that’s how I know its hamsters – running on a little wheel. So let me tell you my Swift San Diego Story…

I was utterly convinced, being the travel bargain genius that I am, that I would find the travel bargain to beat all travel bargains if I waited until the very end, before renting a car for my trip. The logical theory being that people would desperately be trying to get my business and provide last minute deals on rentals. However, it had not occurred to me that there would be other people attending the very same conference I was. Eight hundred and ninety-seven people, to be exact. So that may have put a glitch in my theory. So, for the very economical price of $39.99 a day, I rented a Suzuki Swift from Fox Rent-A-Car. Don’t ever go there. Ever.

I landed at San Diego airport in the evening, struck funny by the palm trees (as I always am), and proceeded to the rental car shuttle peninsula. I looked around casually for a shuttle with “Fox” plastered boldly on the side, but to no avail. I watched Hertz shuttle after Hertz shuttle pass by, with all the lucky (smart) people leisurely getting to their shiny cars, well ahead of me. Such convenience. So I called the Fox place, and they said there would be a shuttle there momentarily. And so I waited. There goes Hertz. And I waited. And there goes another Hertz. And waited. So I called again, only to be informed, truthfully, they only had ONE shuttle. But it would be there real soon. There goes another Hertz.

Oh, believe me. I was tempted to just hop on one those other shuttles, but I knew, deep down, Fox-Rent-A-Car, don’t ever go there, would make me pay for the last minute bailout. Call it travel instinct. And there went another Hertz. So after about 45 minutes, a lovely white van comes careening around the corner, with the “Fox” emblem emblazed on the side. I cautiously approached, as did an older couple, to flag down the driver. He leaps out of the van, which he’d left parked in the middle of traffic, and starts tossing our bags in the back. We all settled in, as the driver wandered around the platform looking for other gullible people to take with him. The other passengers, a scruffy economical looking bearded man and his wife, asked me if I’d ever used Fox before. I said “No, You?” They had not either. But they did inform me they were only paying $12.99 a day. For a Chevy Cavalier. An actual car. A Suzuki Swift is to a Chihuahua Dog as a Chevy Cavalier is to a Labrador Retriever. Just to give you a comparison. And I was paying big bucks for my Chihuahua.

At any rate, after the driver got back in without a word, and we catapulted out of the block, going about 500 yards in two seconds flat, while we all desperately reached for our seat belts, our eyes wide with fear for our well being. The non-English speaking driver weaved in and out of traffic, simultaneously riding the brakes, while the other foot slammed to the baseboards on the gas pedal, cutting off anyone and everyone within three blocks. It really is a wonder it took him so long to get to the airport in the first place. In what seemed like an eternity of watching the world go by at an all too alarming rate, passing all of the shiny well lit Hertz type places, we arrived at a little shack, really a house on wheels, with bars on the windows, and a flimsy sign out front that said “Fox”. That little voice that we all have, was screaming inside my head “RUN. Get out. Don’t do it.” But the rational person in me compelled me to follow through, thinking it would simply be less hassle. I grabbed my bag, and went in to sign my credit card away. Omar was none too friendly. And he was clearly peeved that I was un-willing to spend the extra $9.99 a day for insurance. Gullible that I am, I always buy the extra insurance, but have never used it. This day, I refused to give them any more of my money, so opted out. I told Omar that I was already unhappy with the whole thing – which was my feeble attempt at getting a discount, which prompted him to shove the rental forms towards me and say, “sign here.” And so I read the whole damn thing, fine print and all, only to find out that Fox, don’t ever go there, would own me and my first born, outright, if I didn’t agree to all the contingencies. I hesitated, and signed my name, hoping they may name my first-born child something noble, like Joe.

Omar gave me the little form with the plan view of the picture of the car on it, which notes any body damage. I asked if I needed to check, and he just said to let him know if there were any noticeable damages. So out I go into the unlit, nighttime parking lot, found the tiny car in the shadows, and see a dent about the size of small street performer, or possibly a wallaby, in the front panel. And a number of other things, which I meticulously wrote down, sketched, described, and would have photographed, had I brought a camera. Omar was angry when I went back in and proudly showed him the damage report. He sent out Crazy Driver Man to check, and after much disgruntled conversation amongst themselves, they handed over the keys.

So after that confirmation, I was finally off, in the Suzuki Swift, propelled down the six-lane highway by hamsters in the tuna fish can resembling a small dog. California highways are gigantic when your car is only four feet wide. The speedometer maxed out at 85, so I decided to test that. Engine whirring away. At high speeds, (relatively speaking obviously) the tuna can bounced all over the highway at the slightest bump in the pavement. But at low speeds, it became all too apparent that there was no power steering. One has to use one’s whole body to turn that damn car.

All else went well and warm and fuzzy, until I found myself in a parking lot, behind an SUV. The SUV started backing up. Surely, they’ll see me, I thought. Then suddenly realized, who am I kidding? They couldn’t possibly see me! And I started pounding on the steering wheel. But there was no honk. No noise whatsoever. Until the SUV made contact with Chihuahua’s front bumper, and I looked down only to realize the horn was on the side of the wheel…so I pressed my thumbs down, and it went,

“meep.”

My only thought was, “me without the goddamn insurance for the first goddamn time and I’m going to have to give Joe to Omar”. The SUV pulled forward, and a woman jumped out, clearly believing she had run over a person on a bicycle, a squirrel, or the concrete curb. As I got out, and she saw that I was ok, not furry, and not horribly flattened by her SUV, she says, “I didn’t even see you!” I replied, “Really. The hell you say. How could you possibly have!? Look at that thing” as I pointed to the clown car. But lo and behold, the car rental gods were smiling down upon me this day. There was no damage. I’d get to keep Joe after all.

The remainder of the weekend was fine and dandy, meeping about town in the dolphin-safe-mobile. Upon return to Fox-Rent-A-Car, don’t ever go there, Omar comes stomping up to the Chihuahua, pointing at the small street performer dent (or wallaby), that had been previously noted by yours truly, and says, “You put that dent there!” I grinned, in the mischievous way that I do, as I considered the options of adding Omar to the dent himself, when my polite little voice says, “I noted it on the paperwork and told you about it when I rented it.” Damn that little voice. Omar was miffed. Bastards. So that’s how they make their money. Unsuspecting tourists renting their cars in the dark.

So free from the insanity of Fox, don’t ever go there, I got on the shuttle back to the airport. The shuttle, I noted this time, was a different one. They lied. They have more than one shuttle.

So the moral of the story?

1. Yup, that’s right folks, Fox-Rent-A-Car, don’t ever go there.
2. I am not the travel bargain genius that I thought I was when it comes to car rentals.
3. Joe is a noble name, isn’t it?

Welcome to Kelly’s Life, Episode 13

Ah yes, the national pastime (baseball for you unaware badminton fanatics). It's also the new corporate ladder acceleration program, and is rapidly replacing golf. Where could I possibly be going with this you ask? Well, there's one other reason why one joins the company softball team.

His name was Paul. He had blue eyes. And dark hair. And was an architect. And I'm a sucker for all of the above. And he was standing at my desk, asking me if I'd like to join the company softball team.

"Unfortunately", I quietly replied, "I can't play softball. Sorry." Really, really sorry I thought to myself.

"Well, can you drink beer?" Paul smilingly asks. He is charming, and has positively sparkling, glacier colored eyes.

"Well, yes, I can drink beer. But I can't throw. And, well, I can't hit. And really, actually, I can't catch either. And as a matter of fact - I really, really, can't run." And I was being completely honest, without a shred of modesty, on all accounts. All of my statements were pure and true. I was unwilling to accept the possibility of causing team losses due to my inability to function on any level whatsoever as a softball player, and to consequently, as a result of my complete and total failure in that role, be seen as a schmuck by charming Paul.

"Well don't you worry about that! It's just a club team. You'll be fine!" says the crazy optimistic Paul. Gosh he's nice.

And before I know it, before my brain has a chance to chime in, my voice is saying, "Heck, I'd LOVE to play softball with you". And off he went, before the rational part of me had a chance to reply with a resounding hell no, as it very well should have.

Now, so that you understand, I've never played softball or anything resembling it, in my life. I have watched it though. A few times anyway. Ok, so maybe just twice. And once was at a Yankees game, when I was seven, and I fell asleep. But my brother played little league. And also, you see, I've had some knee surgery. So I really run more like my grandma. Although, she might be a little faster. She’s a German, and a retired postal worker. She's pretty darn feisty.

So off I go beer in hand, to the softball fields. Logically, because I can't catch and because I can't throw - Paul decides to make me the catcher. When we set the batting order, I make my request for a pinch runner known.

Yea, sure, no problem, he says, with just a trace of skepticism.

I go off to home plate. Paul is the pitcher. Kismet. Clearly. Paul throws and I leap out of the way. The ball bounces off the backstop and I shuffle over and pick it up. Now, I realize, I CAN throw - really, really far. About thirty feet to the left of where I'm aiming. The umpire snickers while Paul yells, "Throw to me, ok?" And I mutter under my breath, "I was." Sheesh. Paul throws, and I stick out my glove, and close my eyes. The ball bounces off the backstop and I shuffle over and pick it up. Paul walks left and towards me, and I throw it over his right shoulder, into the outfield. The umpire snickers as Paul yells, "Just aim for my glove, ok?" and I mutter under my breath, "I did."

The opposing team made 18 runs in the first inning.

That day, I managed to avoid hitting the ball when I got to bat. Although, it got a little too close a few times, which is amazing to me, since I never opened my eyes while that ball was whizzing towards my big head.

The game ended when the opposing team got to thirty points in the second inning. Some kind of point rule or something that they use for club teams. Something about… slaughter. Hell if I know. Stupid game. And Paul is actually, quite dreadfully boring.

Sixteen more games to go.

The next game, painfully dull Paul decides to put me safely into right field. And every batter up took one look at me, and slammed that ball into right field with amazing consistency. At which point, our left fielder would start running like a madman in my direction. Which kind of freaked me out you see - cause I thought for sure I'd get trampled and it would look like one of those bloopers you see on ESPN when the players slam into each other, fall to the ground, as the ball goes rolling away, and I'd be picking grass clippings out of my skivvies and have grass stains on my teeth, what was left of them.

And then I got up to bat. And I accidentally hit that damn ball. So I looked over to Paul, then turned to the umpire and said, "I'd like my pinch runner now please." Positively glowing, the impish ump points to first base and says, "You need to get there first". So off I go. Lurching, limping, shuffling, like the hunchback would look if he ever ran and was 90 years old and was trying to carry his walker with the little tennis balls on the bottom. I see Paul out of the corner of my eye, jaw wide open, eyes big. He probably would have been pointing too, if it weren't for his good manners.

You see, really, I can't run.

The other team overthrows the ball, past first base, and into the outfield, as I stumble onto first base, turn around and say, "Pinch runner?" as Paul is sending out the 50 year old civil engineer to run in my place. As I mosey up to the dugout, I hear Paul say to me, "So, uh, you, uh, really CAN'T RUN now can ya?"

But I did redeem myself. Next game. Back as the catcher, bases were loaded, and the batter sent it into the next county. The outfielder launches the ball back to me, much to Paul's dismay. I see Paul's face, expression of panic, as he starts running towards me.

The ball comes. And I CATCH it. I look left, as this eight foot tall, square, boorish woman with a crew cut and some tattoos, and probably named “Butch”, comes barreling down towards me, I stick out my gloved hand, ball snug inside, as she plows me down and imbeds me into home plate.

"OUT!!!" the little snarky ump cries.

And so went my illustrious career as a non-running, non-hitting, non-throwing, non-catching, beer swilling softball club team player.

Next season? Paul moved to Minnesota. I think I might take up badminton.

Moral:
1. Blue eyed, dark haired architects very well may be dreadfully dull.
2. Softball may not be the game for you if you can't run, hit, throw or catch, even despite your beer swilling abilities.
3. Badminton isn't any fun either.

Welcome to Kelly’s Life, Episode 12

It was a dark and stormy Friday night…

I went home to my shiny old apartment, and my creepy neighbors, and lit some candles I had just bought at Target in an attempt at a quiet and restful evening. And that’s when I set fire to the place. When I smelled smoke, I thought, “Damn those cheap Target candles anyway”, and thought, “Well, they just need to smoke themselves out.” And I continued to read. But then I got up and checked, just in case. And it became quickly apparent that the wall was on fire. It was quite curious to see fire coming off the beautiful dried flower wreath I had hanging on the wall. The flames gently burning the lavender and roses, melting the glue that had held it all together and dropping the brightly flaming pieces onto the floor, while charring the wall to a smoky hue on the way down. I took the wreath, what remained of it, and calmly FLUNG it into the sink, turned the water on full, and calmly watched as the fire sizzled out.

After I heroically put the fire out (while passing up a fine opportunity to invite over some firemen), I walked back into the kitchen and sat back down, not ready to deal with the consequences of completely lacking any semblance of common sense and intelligence. But then quickly realized that I would in fact soon pass out from smoke inhalation. I noticed a thick black cloud of smoke hanging halfway down from the ceiling to the floor, so I opened all the windows, and let the cold air consume the smoke, while hoping the neighbors didn’t notice the indoor barbecue I had going on in there.

I imagine now, the conversation to be had with the landlady. My apartment lease specifically states that smoking is prohibited in the building, of cigarettes, cigars, and the like. And I suppose walls too, although, that was never specified. So technically, I bet I could talk my way out of it. But I’m sure that I will hang my head in a properly charming manner, and explain, “I was not smoking. I had no smoking visitors. And yet, yes, my apartment does indeed exude a smoky aroma. That is not because I smoke, it is merely because I set the place on fire. And I am not an arsonist.”

Yes. I’m sure she’ll understand. And not ever return my damage refund to me.

So instead, I will spackle the spot where the paint bubbled up from the heat. And then I will hang a picture on that very spot. Maybe a picture of flowers. An irony only I will identify with.

I liked that wreath. I bought it from a sweet old lady at the farmer’s market.

It was brought to my attention (after the fire) by a dear friend, concerned for my well being, and familiar with my inclinations towards dramatic personal events – that the Target candles probably had a warning label. They likely stated something to the effect of not doing certain things, such as leave the room while the candle is burning, keeping the wick trimmed, and not setting open flames under flammable materials. You know, the Target corporate legal departments required warnings that are most often disregarded by people like me (clearly).

The wreath on the other hand, probably was completely, irresponsibly, and dangerously not manufactured according to established UL codes, and was sold without the very important warning that fire is bad. And that I may, therefore, have a case against aforementioned sweet old lady. The wreath label had there been one, should have included some of the following information: extremely dry organic materials such as dried flowers shaped into wreaths may be flammable when placed over an open flame; Exercise caution – may burn when set on fire. The sweet old lady’s negligent construction methods can only lead to one conclusion: she does not have teams of lawyers like Target does, and therefore, has no case. Although, after years of litigation, I may only win her stall down at the farmers market and a pile of dry organic flowers, and my lawyer would want half of it anyway.

So the moral of the story:

1. Don’t set things on fire, particularly not when you rent.
2. I should not be left home alone on Friday nights.
3. Maybe I should not have moved the fire detector after all, as it was previously located not 24 inches from where the fire started. Oh the humanity.

Welcome to Kelly’s Life, Episode 11

When your expert ski friends tell you that sure, no problem, come along and ski with us, we'll show you how to ski - and you actually believe them and go along, well, you may as well write "sucker" on your forehead and call it a day.

So off I go with ten of my expert ski buddies, to the place they call mountains. We arrive, and my buddies, the ones I've known for years, scatter like rats off a sinking ship, as I'm left standing there, alone, with my short wide rental skis slung over my shoulder. I figure, hell, how hard can it be, as I'm standing there watching small children scoot-ski by without aid of poles. So I strap those puppies on my feet. And fall down. How clowns get around with the fwappy feet, I don't know, but there's nothing like voluntarily attaching long slick boards to your feet and heading yourself down a slippery slope, literally. So in the midst of all the people, skis on feet, I turn downhill. I start to slide.

Cool.

Then I realize, all of a sudden like, that I don't know how to turn. There's a tree. A stout one. Been there a good long time. And then I realize too - I don't know how to stop. It's a big tree, and it's approaching quite rapidly. So, the most logical thing to do is throw myself to the ground, which I do with no further hesitation, and get a big snorfle of snow up my nose.

Ok. So now I know how to stop.

So taking skis off, walking thirty feet up a hill in hard boots that dig into your shins (cause these boots are not made for walking), strapping said skis back on feet, going in a straight line down the hill, panicking, yelling at the children to, "Get.....get outta....get outta my WAY!" and then hurling oneself to the ground in an effort to spare the small child, can only be fun for, oh say about maybe 10 minutes. I retired early to the lodge, all the while cursing the so called friends, and vowing to never, no not ever, set one fwappy foot on hilly snowy terrain ever again.

I'm in the lodge drowning sorrows in hot chocolate, and I see a sign that says, "ski lessons starting at noon".

Well now there's a novel idea.

So off I went to ski lessons. They taught me to stop. They taught me to turn. That's pretty much all you need to know.

Until you get to the bunny slope rope pull. I shuffle into line, behind the little scoot-skiers. I fall down. I get up, grab the rope pull, and my left ski veers off the path. I fall down. The rope pull stops. I roll out of the way as the sweet little children scooting by without poles, sneer back at me for slowing their progress.

Repeat this, maybe seven times. I come to be on a first name conversational basis with the rope pull operator. His name is Frank. He starts meeting me half way down the rope pull cause I just can't seem to control the errant left foot. Frank's nice. He kindly suggests I try the chairlift - over there. Off the bunny slope.

One of the aforementioned no-longer-my-buddy friends meets up with me and offers to take me up the chairlift for my very first real run. So off we go. I watch the ground fall away and take in the scenery as my nose hair freezes and my eyes frost open. Gosh it’s pretty. Up ahead I see people hopping off the chair, onto a ramp, and that's when so-called friend says: I think we're on the wrong lift. This is a black diamond run.

So we get to the hop off point. I fall down. The chair lift operator kindly sneers at me as he shuts the lift down. I roll out of the way. Bop back up on my skis, go ten feet, into the trees, and fall down in the shrubbery, lose a ski, and say to my non-friend, "so what's a black diamond run?"

"Really hard", he says.

I think, really, how hard can it be? So I start shuffling over to where the people all are, and it appears that really, there is no ground there any more. It's a freaking cliff, I swear it.

I have found the end of the earth. Joy.

There’s a certain degree of humility that one must retain, and that’s achieved by not getting back on the chairlift for the return ride down. Besides, I doubt they’d let me back on.

We push off, and I'm snow plowing the whole way, and doing just fine thanks, until it's time to turn, and my ski tips cross. I fall down. I get up. I fall down. I get up. Ski fifty feet. Fall down. So it takes a really, really long time to get out of this particular predicament, until finally, we get to a point where the black route runs across to an easy green run, and I stylishly swoop across onto the gentle slope. And I fall down. And manage, we'll really never know how, to get my ski caught in my hair. So my friend, noticing that I've gone missing, hikes back up the hill, takes one look at me, doubles over in hysterics while proclaiming his desire for a camera. Nope. Don't much like him at all. So he carefully extracts me from myself, and we decide that would be a fine way to end the day, as the sun started to fall behind the hills.

As one can only imagine what would happen if I went night skiing, eh? I suspect facial splinters upon impact with the black trees that snuck up on me in the night shadows.

Moral of the story:

1. Ski lessons are your friend. Your expert skiing friends are no substitute for a patient (paid) instructor.
2. It's hard to get skis caught in short hair.