Category Archives: File for my bestselling memoir

Love’s PhD Trilogy: Judges

Okay, so I decide to get a PhD from a top program and then I get accepted to said program, even though I was about to have a kid and getting a PhD with kids is like climbing Everest with kids. I’m not sure anybody has ever done it.  Everest with kids, that is.  But that isn’t a totally fair metaphor. Because people have earned PhDs with kids – it just that they are mostly the men that didn’t give birth to those kids and it didn’t come without cost.  This became kind of apparent, kind of early on.  But I’m not making excuses, because people do it. It gets done. And it was my plan to be one of them.

As I looked around on my orientation day at the 6 people who were to be my cohort I was kind of comforted. First, they looked normal.  Second, no douchebags. Finally, I could understand all but one of them when they spoke.  Plus, there were five women and two men. The feminist in me had my hands in the air just like Miley – noddin’ my head like yeah, movin’ my hips like yeah. (Please let the record reflect I had this move WAY before Miley’s song and I do not condone references to Miley Cyrus songs. Ever. Except when you were already doing that shit when she was nine and you I want credit because I deserve it, dammit.). But I think all that movement freaked some of them out because my very large, protruding pregnant belly wasn’t making it cool. It kind of looked like maybe I had gas or I might go into labor.  I eventually stopped so the men wouldn’t pass out.  But there was one thing that stood out — I was the only person married and the only one who was going to have a kid when we started.

Two of the women just graduated from undergrad, so they were like 22.  And then there were four of us who tried the whole working for a living thing and decided to go back to school and then there was another woman from China. She didn’t speak English all that well, so I don’t know what her story was.  All I know is that she moved here from China for the program and she had this Chinese boyfriend that followed her around everywhere. And when I say everywhere, I mean he actually would follow her into our seminars. You know, where the 7 of us were learning how to be smart and he would just come along and sit down like he was in the class. It got so weird because at some point he was volunteering to present papers to the class and it was like, “Dude!? You aren’t even in the program. And you don’t speak English. The fuck?” but Google translator doesn’t really do a good job putting that into Mandarin.  So he kind of just hung around and while his girlfriend slept through the seminars, and he took notes and we all looked at him like “WTF?”. I don’t think the look needed to be translated. I’m guessing it was the same in China as it is here.

The least he could have done was solved the Rubik’s cube for us, but he never did.  Probably our fault for not bringing one.  But he eventually was told to get a life by the faculty and she eventually wound up getting kicked out because unfortunately she wrote English worse than she spoke it, and then there was that little problem she had with narcolepsy. When you’re in a class with 7 people and one prof who holds your future in his hands, you don’t fucking sleep through it.

I digress –  I need to stop talking about my cohort, who I  love to death because they did humor me and talk about US Weekly with me and Oprah and they are way cooler and way smarter than me, which is the kind of company I like to keep. And now they are all PhDs and professors and prestigious universities across the country and abroad, so I don’t want give their students any fodder for ridicule. No – lets just talk about fodder you can use to ridicule me.

I wanted Professor Bourbon to be my advisor.  I took some of his courses as an MBA and most of my peers found his class super strange and abstract and not applicable to being an investment banker, so they didn’t like it. But I thought he and his work rocked. He was really an anthropologist by training and the stuff he did research on was fascinating.  He was kind of a hippie at heart, but still he dressed in tweed sports coats with little corduroy patches, so we had a shared sense of fashion.  And his office was like this really dark, cozy lair because all of the walls and windows were covered floor to ceiling with books.  He told us once he read 10 books a week – and that was just fun stuff. Not the stuff for work. Oh yeah, and he was so nice about me getting preggers and all.  So see? He was pure awesomeness.

So the program requires you to take two years of seminars on marketing research and stats and math and psychology and sociology and all kinds of fun stuff, but at the same time you’re also supposed to figure out what kind of research you are drawn to so you can have a dissertation topic at the end of the two years, that you will spend the next 3 to 4 writing.  In the meantime, you have to write papers for faculty review to start your big career as an academic researcher.  Unfortunately for me, I’m the type of person who likes to be a user of knowledge, not a creator of it.  And unfortunately, it turns out that in order for professors to keep their jobs, they have to create knowledge in the form of research that gets published in journals that only about 40 people read, and those are the 40 that publish in that journal and they don’t really want anybody else to publish in their little journal.  So when you submit a paper, they read it and tell you in very academic language that you suck and hope you fail miserably in life and reject your paper.  And then you cry and get over it and try to kiss their ass until one of them will let you write a paper and put their name on it and then they’ll let you in their journal.  Apparently teaching and facilitating panels of CEOs is just what they do on the side and counts for nothing as far as their career goes.  Yep. Didn’t really know that before I signed up.

But no matter – Professor Bourbon inspired me. Compared to other academics, he was like the man version of Mother Teresa.  He didn’t seem to get the same glee that his peers did in humiliating his students and working them to the brink of a mental breakdown. At the same time, he didn’t coddle. He just told you that you sucked in a really nice way, without using the terms “suck”, “ludicrous”, “trivial”, “excrement”, or “fuck you” and then encouraged you to do it all over with some helpful suggestions, but you left feeling like you still wanted to live instead of hanging yourself, which is about the best feeling you can hope for as a PhD student.  Other professors would be more likely to yell at you for wasting their time even reading the drivel you spent that last three months on.  Then they would set it on fire in front of you and spit in your face.  Okay, no. They didn’t do that, but you could tell they would if they had a lighter and if their desks weren’t so wide.

So after my first year I was going to declare Professor Bourbon as my advisor when, quite out of nowhere and suddenly, he resigned. He got an offer at his alma mater to be chair of the department and he probably was sick of the assholes he had to be around at my school and he left.  And the school he went to didn’t have a PhD program. And he couldn’t be my advisor. And my blissful PhD world came to a screeching halt.  He was leaving me? Noooooooooooo! It’s not FAIR!! I kind of had a mental breakdown about it, but it didn’t change anything. I was S.O.L. Nothing I could do.

So I had to find another advisor.  I surveyed that landscape and there was one other Professor I had as an MBA that seemed to like me alright and I liked her when she taught me back then.  Lets call her Professor Dragon.  She did completely different research than Professor Bourbon and she was very, very good and well-respected for her contributions, but none of it really interested me.  But beggars can’t be choosers.  And I knew if I could work with her, I’d be learning from the best in her field and I’d get stuff published. Plus, she said she’d work with me. So.

But after my first couple of months as her advisee, I began losing my grip on my will to live. I started working 70+ hours because no matter what I did, it was never good enough.  Professor Dragon was born and raised in Hong Kong.  She came from a culture where if you like someone, you tell them that you hate them, because that will make them stronger.  So on a daily basis I would walk into work and she would ask how my son was, and then she’d ask what I had done lately and then she said it wasn’t enough and my ideas were lame and maybe I wasn’t serious and that she was disappointed and maybe I needed to try harder or maybe this wasn’t for me and I was embarrassing her and she didn’t want my loser ass dragging her down. This is actually how she showed her love — the students she didn’t like, she just ignored completely. But her love kind of felt like hate to me most days.

It got to the point that for the Saturdays when I was physically at home, my thoughts were still at work and I would feel guilty for bringing my son to the park because I had so much work to do. BD was doing all of the cooking and cleaning and childcare when he wasn’t at work.  I never thought I’d win a Mom award, but I suddenly realized at some point that I was probably in contention for Worst Mom and Wife Award.  But I wasn’t going to quit. I wasn’t going to break because I could do this. Plus, my husband wasn’t going to let me because of all we’d sacrificed for this and plus, it was only going to be three or four more years of torture. I could probably endure it, right? I mean, I bet Dr. Phil had to pay his dues before Oprah gave him his own show.  I just had to be Dr. Phil and suck it up and get through it.  It’s not like everybody else in my cohort was on easy street. Then again, it wasn’t like anyone else in my cohort was married with a kid either.

One thing I noticed almost immediately when I started was that every single one of the tenured professors in my department were on their second or third marriages. They’d all lost their first spouses early in their career when they were working like dogs to get tenure.  It wasn’t long before I could feel myself getting on exactly the same track.  Somehow this fun “game” of mine – to get the PhD — had higher stakes than I’d ever imagined.  With this new lifestyle, more kids were out of the question for us.  We always wanted a bunch, but I had no time and no money and the situation wasn’t just temporary — there was no logical time that having other kids would make sense until after I got tenure, which would put me about about 40 – best case scenario.  So here I was in Year 2 of my bright, shiny dream to be a bonafide intellectual with papers to prove it and my advisor apparently thought I was a fucking moron and I was convinced she was right about that.

Wow! So my big, beautiful dream had turned into a nightmare and I wasn’t sure I could find a way to earn three new little letters at the end of my name without losing those three little cherished letters at the beginning of it, namely MRS.

For spring break of my second year in the PhD program, BD and I left the baby with my parents and we escaped to Napa Valley for a weekend.  Just to get away and to spend some meaningful time together  getting drunk having fun, which happened very seldomly at that point.

The life changing plane ride that happened next was kind of a small miracle and will be revealed in Love’s PhD Trilogy*: Exodus.

*Yeah, I know this is the third installment and I’m telling you there will be a fourth and it’s only supposed to be a trilogy, but they don’t have a word for a four part series, so what am I supposed to do? Blame the person responsible for making up words like “irregardless” and “moist” instead of a more valuable term like “quadlogy”.

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Love’s PhD Trilogy: Numbers

I told you about how and why I came to the conclusion that I needed to be a business professor in the Genesis part of the story. That thinking deep thoughts all day and having the esteem of millions would beat working for a living any day of the week.  So I did everything necessary to get into the PhD program at the University where I was getting my MBA. I switched into their full-time program, I quit my sales job, I started having interviews with current faculty to talk about the process and the career AND I got pregnant.  YUP. Yup.  That last part wasn’t really what most aspiring PhDs do right away, but hey! Why not make it that much more difficult? You know, so when there is a movie made about my life, I’ll have even more adversity  to overcome (maybe I’m the only one who considers motherhood adversity?) on my quest to solve all of the worlds deepest, most elusive marketing questions. (And P.S., I vote for one of Gwen Stefani’s sons to play mine in the movie).  It makes a lot of sense if you think about it that way. No.  I know – it actually it doesn’t.

Okay, so I have to beat out a lot of people to get into this program.  So I sat in front of all my MBA classes and I talked to all of my marketing professors about their jobs and they all told me it was really weird for an MBA to want to be a professor.  And that it was a lot of hard work and would take a lot of dedication and yada, yada, yada. I’m all about hard work and dedication, so what is the issue? I got the feeling that they thought the Type A, overachiever, know-it-all MBA assholes they taught most of time wouldn’t have the patience or temperament to make it as a grad student.  I couldn’t really figure out why. I mean, I was an MBA student and I really wanted to do it.  I was good at school and I loved it in a fairly unnatural way, so I didn’t understand why they all said stuff like that.

But what they were getting at (that I found out only much, much later) is that being a PhD candidate is really best suited for Type A, overachiever, know-it-all assholes who will put up with getting emotionally, intellectually and financially bitch slapped on a daily, if not hourly, basis.  It’s for people who revel in being told they are a constant disappointment and that they can barely read or write or theorize better than a retarded goat.  It’s really great for people who don’t require sunlight, like to read journal articles for 15 hours each day, act as their advisor’s bitch for another 5 (including cleaning their office) and be publicly chastised for their work by faculty during the other four.   There isn’t a whole lot of time left over for any sort of healthy, normal relationships outside the four cinderblock, windowless walls of the PhD room.  No, they can’t have that or you might come to your senses and tell them to go to hell instead of respectfully listening when they maniacally laugh as they tear apart your precious ego and illusions of future grandeur. Yes, you get all that, plus paid less than a deformed hooker at the Greyhound station. That’s why MBAs should not become PhD candidates.  Because they are used to giving and getting ass kisses for 10 to 12 hours a day, sleeping for 6 and fucking around for the rest. Oh, and making 6 figures while doing so. Trust me on this one – I know.  So the two entail fairly different lifestyles, you see?

Okay, but I wasn’t aware of any of this at the time.  So I made it very clear to several marketing faculty members that I wanted to be in the program, I filled out my applications, wrote my essays, crossed my fingers and prayed like hell.  Meanwhile, I got pregnanter and pregnanter.

May I just say that being pregnant in an MBA school like the one I went to is about the same level of offense as raising a nine iron over your head and slamming it down into a green, creating gaping three inch crater only a foot away from the hole, for absolutely no reason at all.  It’s one of those things that say a few things about you: a) you’re a jackass, b) you’ve just proved you shouldn’t even be there in the first place, and c) you’re ruining it for everyone else.  That’s kind of the way I think most of my peers felt about it, but I’m probably projecting because nobody actually said that to me. I came to the party late, and they had their friends already, so people didn’t talk to me unless they had to. They mostly just looked at me with either pity, wonder or disdain, reactions which hit points a, b and c rather nicely.  I did not win the Most Popular prize for sure.  I couldn’t go out and get wasted with them and/or talk about how many consulting firms or investment banks would be begging me to work for them in 9 months, which is what I gathered were the most common social activities. So I was a bit of an outcast. But that’s okay because I was a rebel on a mission to pure intellectual awesomeness.

Then one day I get a call from the chair of the marketing department (one who I actually feared and adored at the same time and with equal intensity – lets call him Professor Bourbon) saying they were letting me in. AWESOME! SERIOUSLY? AWESOME. Because I was so close to getting my big wooden office with floor to ceiling bookshelves and those little ladders I would have to climb to get all the books off the high shelves. Big pimpin’.  If they made maternity twill jackets with corduroy patches on it, I so would have bought one at that moment.  But the joy was short-lived.  Now I realized that I probably sort of had to tell them I was pregnant and I was pretty sure this wasn’t news that would be particularly well received.

I told myself that it should be fine, because my son was due the day I graduated from MBA school (indeed, his birthday and the date on my diploma match perfectly), and I’d have the summer off before the PhD program started.  So it didn’t really affect them at all. I didn’t need to ask for special treatment or anything, but still…when they found out I was pregnant, I could imagine them likening my pregnancy to slamming my nine iron into their little academic green.

When I’m about 8 months along, Professor Bourbon invites everybody who was accepted into the program for a little orientation day.  I figure it is at this moment when all of the professors and my future mentors are going to see me and be thinking, “The fuck?! I already hate her bitch ass. Is it too late to rescind the offer and give the spot to someone who is serious about being an academic?”  So rather than have my big reveal on orientation day and have it be the big surprise of the day, I decided to call up Professor Bourbon and schedule a meeting with him beforehand and tell him my dirty little secret.  It was my intention to have him as my advisor, so I thought I should just get it out on the table and give him the option to kick me out in private, rather than in front of the group that would be my cohort. You know, all the Aspergers kids from China.

So that day, I don all black to make my big belly less noticeable and because I may be going to my newest, shiniest dream’s funeral and I have what I think is going to be one of the most awkward and hard conversations ever.  Something along the lines of , “so I got knocked up, but please don’t change your mind because I’m a total geek and if I can’t be a professor then you are shattering my dreams forever and I might go postal.”

But what I actually said was:

“Thank you so much for letting me in the program and I’m so excited and I’m ready to work really hard and I’m definitely going to accept the offer but I feel like I have to tell you something that you should know but I don’t know whether or not you care or if it affects your decision or what you think of me or whatever and it wasn’t like I planned it or anything but really I think you should know before the orientation that I’m…I’m….um….I’m….kind of….um….pregnant. BUT! I’m due in June and I’ll totally be back in September and ready for school and I’ll have a daycare and everything worked out and I’m very serious and I really want to do this and….are you still okay with me being in the program and working with you?”

Little beads of sweat had formed on my forehead and on my big belly under the big gross panels they put to cover your belly on those damn maternity pants.  All I wanted to do was take that fucking thing off my stomach and let it just cool in the breeze, but I think that would have been very unwise under the circumstances.  I was about to hear whether or not my questionable family planning was going to take away my chance to be one of the smartest, well-known, famous fucking people in the universe, or at least among the 1000 or so marketing professors in the US.

I put it all on the table and I held my breath for my fate to be revealed. And this is what he said:

“Congratulations! Of course we still want you. Having children is one of the greatest gifts in the world! I have three of my own.  On top of that, I would argue that you’ll have even greater marketing insights as a parent.  Never apologize for bringing another life into this world. This is great news and you should enjoy it. Congratulations!”

Um, whaaaaaaat?? May I just say I love you more than Angelina and Milo put together, Professor Bourbon? Will you marry me? For real? For really real? Oh wait, that is what got me into this predicament in the first place.  For the record, I should tell you that this was one of those pivotal conversations that I will remember my entire life and why I will love Professor Bourbon like Take 5 bars and TiVo forever.

Whew. So I was in. And my advisor was going to be kind of kick ass. He thought I was even cooler for having a kid.  So now I just had to meet my new classmates. I was pretty sure they’d probably all be a lot fucking smarter and less cool than me. But that would be okay because maybe I’d learn something.  I just hoped they weren’t d-bags. And that they were US Weekly subscribers.  And that some of them were Americans or Canadians, because my Mandarin really sucks. Oh yeah, and maybe someone there would also count Oprah as their personal savior too.

I actually think I got a little of everything…

To be continued in Love’s PhD Trilogy: Judges

The time I just barely escaped a good old fashioned waterboarding. Or something like that.

I don’t like any kind of shopping except the online kind. When my first son was born, you could get formula and diapers on Amazon cheaper than the grocery store and delivered right to your door for free. Which is why I totally heart Jeff Bezos.  And Al Gore, for inventing the Internet.  It has saved me from having a meltdown after 20 minutes in any retail store.  Whenever I go on Amazon, there is no way I’m leaving without getting my $25 purchase to qualify for free Super Saver Shipping (best invention after TiVo and Take 5) so I would generally order at least two large canisters of formula at a time.  And that worked great, usually.

But then one day I opened my nifty Amazon box to find that one of the cans of formula had been dented and the container broke, so a little bit of it had leaked out.  I promptly took out the one that was okay, taped the box back up and went to the post office to send it back to Amazon.

This was in the summer of 2004, a month or two after my son was born.  I lived in the downtown area of Chicago at the time but I still had to drive to get to the nearest post office, and I always had to take my baby in his 1,000 pound infant carrier with me wherever I went. Parking there was a bitch because of course the post office doesn’t have a parking lot.  So I just kind of sidled my little CR-V up to the fire hydrant and put my flashers on and balanced the box on the huge carrier thing and lugged the box and baby inside.  There was a really long line.  But I already had the postage paid and everything, so I made eye contact with one of the postal workers and motioned that I was just going to put the package on the counter so they could put it on the truck or whatever they do in the back of the post office.  The postal worker nodded in recognition and seemed okay with that arrangement.  I could tell she was a mother too, the way her steely eyes went from me, to the baby and then back to me, but this time with empathy in those steely postal eyes. No, really. Empathy. From a post office worker. Seriously. So it was all goodness and I was in and out of there in no time. No ticket either. It was totally my day.

Then about 5 hours later, the baby is sleeping, I’m watching Dr. Phil and there was a knock on the door of my condo.  Like most buildings, people have to be buzzed up and I did not buzz anyone up, so it was really odd, and annoying.  I was on the fourth floor at the end of the hall, so it would be unlikely anybody would come to my door who wasn’t looking for me specifically.

Like she is wont to do, my dog was barking her German Shepard head off and the baby woke up and started crying and the Dr. Phil family was on, so I was pissed at whoever the hell was knocking on the door because it was a very bad time. I think the Dr.Phil Family dad was just about to meet his biological family for the first time and it was really going to be a moment. I mean, WTF? Can’t I watch Dr. Phil in peace? I checked the peep-hole to see if it was a serial killer, or if it was Oprah because you know, sometimes she surprises people and if it was her, I probably would have changed out of my pajamas and retrieved my binder with all of the letters I sent her starting in 1990.  But it was not Oprah.  And it was not a serial killer.  It was two men.  Dressed in suits.  Looking super serious.  WTF?

So I wasn’t sure what protocol was.  I know that you’re not supposed to let men you don’t know, who you didn’t invite, in your house. I’ve seen enough Dateline Mystery!’s to figure this out.  On the other hand, I also know from Oprah’s show that burglars and serial killers think dogs are a pain in the ass to deal with and my dog and her very deep German Shepard bark should have been a tip off that they should probably move on to my neighbor’s dog-less house to rob or murder her instead.  But they didn’t leave. They seemed quite unperturbed by the dog.  So WTF?

So I yelled through the door.  “Who is it?” and that’s when they yelled back, “FBI.” Holy shit.  For real?  I wracked my brain for any offenses that I could have committed that they would send the FBI out for, and I came up with nothing.  Then I started to panic because maybe BD was dead or someone in my family and it was a really bad thing because god damn, its the F-B-fucking-I.  But don’t they usually send cops first to tell you bad news? What’s the FBI got to do with me? I didn’t witness a murder or anything. So then I rationalized that it was totally not the FBI because that didn’t make sense because I’m a good citizen and my family has to be okay. So the goal was to get these joker FBI imposters to go away. And I knew just the trick – I said what everybody learns at some point in their lives, though I’m not sure why or when.

“I need to see your badges.”  They pulled out these ID card type things that looked a lot like the FBI badges I’ve seen on movies. I mean, what do I know about what a real badge looks like, and it isn’t like I could really get a good look at them through the peep-hole. So maybe this plan wasn’t all that good because they could be fake or real, who knows. But they still don’t seem to be afraid that I’m on to them.  Holy Shit. The FBI – really? Then they took matters into their own hands. I think maybe they were used to this question, because every American knows that’s just what you do. I think. Just so you know they are real.

“We’re looking for [my full name]. Is this her residence?”

Oh my God. They’re after ME? What do they want? I’m totally panicking and trying to get my dog to shut up and wondering if I need to check on the baby.  Maybe child protective services sent them. I wasn’t breastfeeding and I think that might be a capital offense by now. And now the baby is screaming and they’ll have more evidence against me.

“Um. Yes. But let me put the dog away.” I forced her into the bathroom. I thought if I didn’t they might shoot her because of all the noise she was making. I would have if I had been armed at the time.  I went back to the door and opened it.

“Are you [my full name]?”

“Yes.”

“I’m Sargeant [Whatever] and this is Agent [Whatshisface]. We’re with the Chicago bureau of the FBI.  Did you attempt to mail a package from the post office located at [whatever the address was] this morning?”

“Yes.”

“What was in the package?”

“Ba.by. form.u.la.” I drew it out. Trying to have more time to think through my crime.

“Who were you sending the package to?”

“Amazon. They sent it to me and it was broken, so I was returning it.” Now it dawns on me. Holy shit!! The box was full of white powder. Oh my God! Do they think I’m running a drug cartel?

“Miss, there was powder coming out of the box. The postal worker believed it may be an anthrax threat and the post office has been shut down for the last 4 hours while we examined the box and its contents.”  Oh God. Worse than a drug lord.  They think I’m a terrorist. And that is a really bad thing to be when Halliburton George Bush and Dick Cheney are running the country. Oh shit.

“Oh. My. God!  I didn’t even think of that! It was baby formula! I just….I didn’t even think of that.”

“Well, it caused quite a problem.”

“Am I in trouble?”

“Do you want to go tend to your baby? I hear a baby crying.”

“Um. Yeah. But…so what happens now? This sounds like it could be bad. Because you’re here….Do I have to go with you, because I have the baby and there is nobody to take care of him, and maybe I should call my husband. Do I need a lawyer or something? I just mean I’m –”

“We just came here to let you know what happened. The box and its contents were tested and destroyed and what you told us checks out with the evidence we’ve collected in this investigation.  However, your actions shut down a US government entity, which is a very serious issue.  You’ll need to be more careful.  Don’t ever try to mail anything with loose powder in the box again.”

“Yeah. I mean, no! I won’t! I’m so sorry. I just didn’t even think of it.  So…um…so I’m not in trouble?”

“For now, no. We’ll contact you if we need to do any more follow up.”

“Um, okay.”

“Better get that baby.”

And then they turned and left. And, shaking, I went to go “tend to” my baby.  Wow. The FBI was after me.  And I came out alive and untortured.  It was a banner day.

So a week later after the ordeal became just another random, funny story to me instead of insanely fucking scary, I wrote Amazon a little love note about my pleasant little visit from the FBI due to the broken formula canister and how I wasn’t going to be able to send it back because the US Government fucking destroyed it, but I still wanted my money back.  They gave me the refund.

So what can we all learn from this? Don’t try to mail a package with white powder coming out of it all over the place and abruptly leave.  Yeah, I know. Well, maybe it isn’t that obvious to everyone. The other moral of the story is, ordering stuff from Amazon might get you in trouble with the FBI, but assuming they don’t turn you over to the CIA and fly you to a secret torture chamber in Europe, you should be alright. Amazon’ll give you your money back.

And the third moral of the story is that I’m kind of a bad ass.  It’s how I roll.

Round here, we stay up very very VERY VERY late…

BD and I went out last night on a real, live date.  We usually go out to eat once a week sans kids, but it’s usually a quick dinner around 6 – when all the old people are just finishing up.  Last night, the kids stayed somewhere else and for once, we didn’t have to be home at any given time.  We went to dinner late when all the cool-people-without-children eat, drank a lot of wine and went to a late night Christmas-themed burlesque show a friend of mine was in, which was a first for both of us.  The dancing ladies paid particularly close attention to BD, (maybe because my friend told them to), and we just laughed and cat called and a tipsy BD even was pulled up on stage to dance.  It felt like we were 22 again and I was transported back to a time before marriage, mortgages, and motherhood. And apocalypse planning and terrible hang overs.  But I won’t lie — it was totally. mindblowingly. awesome.

And at some point during the evening, “Round Here” by the Counting Crows came on (which is the best heaping helping of awesomeness ever served up in a pop song, EVER) and we discovered for the first time, after being together 10 years, that both of us distinctly remembers exactly where we were the first time we heard that song.  It was a defining moment for both us, like where we were when the Challenger blew up and JFK Jr.’s plane went down and 9/11.   And it was the same moment for both of us too– when the Counting Crows were on SNL in 1994 — that we both heard it.  Proof that across time and space we were totally meant to be (don’t fight me on this, quantum physicists).  Anyway, that got me thinking of a note I wrote to myself a month later when I was a senior in high school, after a particularly bad relationship, which turned out to be eerily prescient.   Its one of the only things I wrote that year that isn’t both hilarious and atrocious in its over-the-top ridiculousness, although it is still both of those in many parts.

Anyway, it’s time to put it out there, but not without my additional comments in red. This one’s for you, BD:

February 1994

To The ‘One’:

I wonder what you’re doing now.  I wonder where you live and I wonder, God forbid, if I know you.  My guess is that I’ll meet you in college and I guess that’s about the right time for me, but we’ll see.  Well, I just broke up with another boyfriend, and probably things which I had experienced with him, I’ll remember when I’m with you.

Like I hope that you aren’t obsessive, whether it is with a drug, a person , an idea, or even me.  I also hope you aren’t the jealous type, someone who smothers me and demands all of my attention and time.  Although I hope to spend my entire life with you, and be in love with you always and forever, I just don’t want us to lose OURSELVES.

I won’t define myself as YOUR wife, but a huge part of me will be dedicated to our relationship and your happiness and well-being.

So, a friend is setting me up with another guy. Who knows? It could be you.  Then again, I could do something or experience something with this guy which may, even in a small way, affect us (hopefully I wasn’t talking about contracting HIV).  Kind of strange, huh? I mean, everyday I get closer to the one that I’ll meet you, and I wonder if I’ll even know the significance of it.  Have you ever thought that the first time you set your eyes on someone, you could know in that instant that you were going to fall in love with them?   It’s never happened (obviously) to me, but I think that when and if it does, he will be you (HA! This part came true).   I don’t know if this is strange, because I’m only 17, but all I want to do right now is find the one I’m going to marry (you) and do it ASAP.  If I’m 20, and I know it’s you, I’ll be ready to get married as soon as it’s convenient. (Really? As soon as it’s convenient?) I guess I assume you’ll feel the same way, but I guess I also assume we’ll agree on almost everything (um, no.).

I wonder if you’ll be as in love with me as I will be with you.  My last boyfriend says that my husband will be whipped (meaning able to make all of his opinions, beliefs and thoughts fit to my own) also meaning (when asked to do something, does it for no other reason than that he was asked) (My last boyfriend was also a total ass).  Well, I know if that’s being whipped, its where I’ll be.  I guess I believe a married couple should be (um, no.).  Well, cheers to one day less I’ll have to wait before meeting you, love.

Love always, Love

So it didn’t all turn out like I thought it would.  BD and I met after college, but it turns out we were actually in the same class at the same university and just never met, even though we shared several mutual friends.  And it turns out that the first time I saw BD, I did know he was to be my husband.  Because I’m psycho psychic like that.  However, I wouldn’t say that either of us is whipped, by my ex-boyfriend’s definition at 17. We do not agree on everything, especially as it relates to the best way to mix up packets of instant oatmeal (hot tap water, obviously), whether LED light bulbs are the worst things ever invented, or the best (they are the worst), or how many dish towels are necessary for one household (the more, the merrier, I maintain).

But all in all, I did alright.  Sure, I had to stalk him, and it took a year for that first (terrible) date, but with Oprah’s encouragement, I finally landed him and started living my best life — and now I have BD, bacchanalias and burlesque. What else do I need?

Adventures in Babysitting, the Finale

If you are just joining me, start here.  For the other three of you following the story and want to know what happens when Love insists on choosing a daycare run by a woman who shares none of her interests or philosophies in life, here goes:

After much wailing and gnashing of teeth, and a 10 page signed contract, Miss Amalia decides that we are a good enough family to admit into her daycare and even agrees to take our son at 10 weeks, instead of 6 months, with a little extra charge.  I liked Miss Amalia and her sister, who ran the daycare, but Miss Amalia and I had very different M.O.s.  Miss Amalia loved rules. LOVED rules. I, on the other hand, love to ignore rules, especially when they appear to be arbitrary, which many of Miss Amalia’s were. So when I would visit before my son started I would kind of laugh to myself about how amusing it was the way she clung to her random rules. You know, no shoes in the house. No coming more than 15 minutes early or later than she expected you. No calling during nap time. No breaking any of her 600 breast milk handling rules (thank GOD I didn’t have to deal with that). The list went on and on.  And on.  And on.

So my son is born in June and he turns out to be the easiest, most even-tempered and laid back baby ever born.  God only gives you what you can handle, and that is when I realized that God thinks I’m a total loser, because honestly, the kid never cried, he drank his formula without complaint, he had no gas, he slept all the time, he nailed all his weight and height checks at the doctor. He didn’t even cry when he got his immunizations. I had no idea what motherhood was going to be like, but after the first few weeks with my little guy I was wondering what so many new moms were complaining about.  Everyone was always talking about how hard it was and how they never got to sleep or shower or catch their breath.  I had no idea what they were talking about.  Taking care of an infant was so easy.

When I was on maternity leave, I probably read 100 books and even started watching Dr. Phil (a moustached man who is not a police officer, leaving only one other possibility) just to fill the time.  Seriously.  I was tethered to the house because my baby was always sleeping.  There was nothing for me to do except make a few bottles and change a few diapers every few hours.  And Oprah was in re-runs, so I turned to Dr.Phil. I was totally intrigued desperate.  My son would wake up, eat, be cute for 30 minutes, sleep for a couple of hours and then do it all over again. At  7 weeks he slept through the night.

These facts clearly prove that I must have been the best damn mother in the universe. I had the perfect baby, so that must have meant that every decision I had made had been the right one. If I wasn’t doing everything exactly right then how could my baby be so awesome? You’re stumped. I can tell.  All those moms whose kids cried a lot or didn’t sleep or had acid reflux – it was probably because they weren’t doing it right. I started fancying myself as an authority.  I thought maybe I should write a book about being a perfect parent and I would prove to the world that formula fed babies and their working mothers weren’t all that bad. Scratch that. Formula fed babies and their working mothers were superior! I was a perfect parent*, as evidenced by my perfect child.

(*I think I actually may have believed in my post-partum stupor that my parenting had something to do with my son’s temperament, until I was graced with my second son. The one that feels me up in Target. I now have no such illusions.)

Okay, so now that you know that I am a perfect mother and I have a perfect baby who is about to go to a perfect daycare, you might understand my surprise when my baby went to daycare and Miss Amalia reported that he cried all day.  Ummm? My baby? Impossible. My child does not cry.  “No, he does. All day.” deadpanned Miss Amalia.  “Well, I don’t understand. Are you feeding him? Is he dry?  He never cries with us. Never!”  I was wondering whether she was trying to shake me down for more money. I honestly could not believe what I was hearing.  And yet everyday when I came to pick him up (and he seemed to be docile and happy as ever then), she would claim he spent most of the day crying and fussing.

Not to worry, though.  Miss Amalia knew why.  She suspected that perhaps we let him sleep whenever he wanted to. Yes, we did.  She suspected that sometimes he fell asleep in our arms or in a swing but not in a crib. Well, yes. Sometimes.  She suspected we didn’t have him on a strict schedule. No. At two months old we did not.  “Well”, she said, “you’re going to have to get him on my schedule or this isn’t going to work.”  Your schedule? Um? What the hell are we paying you $375 a week for? I’m not giving up all things fun in this world to pay you just so that you get to be the boss of me, thankyouverymuch.

But I didn’t say that. I asked for the schedule.  Here is a great example of BD and I saying “Sure, Miss Amalia. Give us a copy of your schedule and we’ll make sure we keep to it on the weekends.” (wink, wink, roll eyes, giggles).  She gave us the schedule and I’m pretty sure we used it to pick up the dog’s poop on the way home.  Our kid was younger than 3/4 of the food in my pantry. What did he know about schedules? If he needs to sleep, let him. When he wants to eat, we’ll feed him.  We’re his parents for God’s sake. What does this single woman in her thirties without children know about taking care of children? (Actually – not such a good question to ask yourself when you hired her to do just that). Her unyielding anal retentiveness was really cramping my style and pissing me off.

So a month goes by and he has about 4 bad days and 1 good day a week. After his first four weeks there, Miss Amalia tells us that we need to have an “evaluation” meeting at Starbucks.  We thought this was another one of her random administration rule-y things and we begrudgingly went to our meeting, but were eager to hear about our perfect son’s progress.

She got straight to the point. Our son won’t go to sleep unless she is holding his hand. He fusses and cries a lot and she has other kids to watch, so it’s very distracting.  Perhaps it wasn’t a good match.  Perhaps he’d be happy somewhere else. Perhaps we would all be happy somewhere else.  It just wasn’t working out.  Maybe we’d all made a mistake.  Somewhere in the background the sound of a needle scratches a record.  Oh no she did ent. I saw her lips moving, but I couldn’t really make out the words.  We were getting kicked out of day care.  Oh, helllls no!  After my brief blackout as she was kicking our infant out of the only daycare in Chicago I could find for him, the fighting spirit came back into my body and I begged her not to kick us out. We had nowhere to go, and plus, it made no sense that this baby that was so calm and perfect with us could be such a pain in the ass for her.  I mean, if our kid couldn’t meet her standards, then nobody’s could.  We just couldn’t comprehend the situation we were in, but we promised we would do anything, anything to stay in.

She wasn’t a monster. She only made us beg for 15 minutes until said she would give us another four weeks to either clean up our 3 month old’s behavior or find a new daycare.  Aw, fuck.  I mean, was I supposed to take away his car keys? How do you “fix” a 3 month old who is on probation at daycare and yet an easy, laid back angel at home?

Miss Amalia said she’d work with us. She told us she suspected we weren’t following her schedule. She suspected we were still letting him sleep whenever and wherever and often in our arms. We kind of demurred, but it was probably clear to her that we weren’t doing anything she told us to do.  We sheepishly asked for another copy of the schedule.  We thought it was completely absurd voodoo to have to a kid this small on her strict schedule, but we had no choice. We had to feed him, sleep him, play with him, change him and practice sign language with him, all on this schedule she had.  He had to take all naps in his crib, alone and he couldn’t already be asleep when we put him in there.  No more falling asleep on daddy’s chest, or in the swing or a free bottle here or there.  Obviously, there was no way this was going to work, but we had no other choice, so we decided to do it her way. I really wanted to be right that she was wrong – that the schedule was meaningless — because after all, in just three months I was already a perfect mother with all the answers. So we watched the clock and followed her schedule over the weekend, no exceptions.  Except the yoga part. We weren’t sure how a 3 month old gets the most out of his yoga session, so we substituted Baby Mozart.

On Monday she said he had a good day. “You followed the schedule, didn’t you?” Um. (eyes downward) Yes. On Tuesday another good day. And Wednesday. And Thursday. And Friday.  It had to be a coincidence.  Maybe he had a sense that he was on probation and was on his best behavior. But the next weekend we stuck to the schedule again. And suddenly Miss Amalia is reporting that our kid seems to be so happy and she has never seen him so calm.  Really?  Finally the son we’d always known was showing up at daycare. But only after we went against everything we wanted to do and put him on a schedule. On her schedule. I could tell Miss Amalia was gloating. Because she knew she was right and that we were just punk new parents.  She scared us straight, and she knew it.

Miss Amalia – 1, Love Family – 0. Well played, Miss Amalia, well played.

Eventually our son worked his way off the probation list and we stuck with Miss Amalia for a year. It wasn’t without days that I wanted to punch her in the face because she was so sure she knew everything (and unfortunately, most times she was right).  When she decided she was so awesome that daycare was going to cost $400/week even with 7 other kids there, we gave up.  We couldn’t afford it and she told us she was quite sure that other people could.  We had to move somewhere we could find affordable daycare.  We had to change everything.

So thanks to Miss Amalia, we sold our condo at the height of the real estate bubble and bought a single family in a great neighborhood.  I had to look for new daycare and discovered my Mom Crush in the process and another parent at Miss Amalia’s gave us the lead on the new daycare we found that was almost half of what Miss Amalia was demanding. And we’re still with that daycare. She didn’t make us sign a contract, or tell me how to mother, or make me feel guilty I’ve never seen the inside of Whole Foods. I’m pretty sure she has never done yoga and when the kids get dirty, she washes their clothes, instead of sending them home in a plastic bag. And she loves our kids and they love her. And none of it would have been possible without all Miss Amalia’s rules.  And Starbucks.

So thank you, Starbucks and Miss Amalia — for everything.

Adventures in Babysitting, Part I

I was due with my first baby in mid-June, just about the time I graduated from MBA school and about 10 weeks before I started my PhD program, a time frame which turned out to be perfectly suited for maternity leave.  I planned to find childcare during that time and I figured it would be like finding a doctor – you go on a website somewhere that lists all the doctors within a certain radius, you check their qualifications and then you pick one based on who has the best decorated waiting room and hope like hell they are in-network.

We lived just a mile outside of downtown Chicago, just down the street from Oprah, and I was pretty sure there had to be like 66 million daycares and each of them were pining for the chance to take care of my infant.  So then one day when I’m about 7 months along, I was in a deli minding my own business, eating my farm raised, low mercury salmon and asparagus sandwich and reading a Harvard Business Review case for class and two ladies on their lunch break sat down next to me.  They were talking about office gossip, which was way more interesting than my reading, so I was listening in. And they probably noticed I was pregnant and listening to them so suddenly they began talking about how annoying another woman was at work because all she did was freak out everyday about how there were no slots for infants in any daycare centers anywhere in Chicago and she was only 3 months pregnant and what a dumb ass for not realizing this before she got preggers. Hmmm.  I looked down at my belly and winced as two things happened concurrently: my fetus/son gave me a swift kick to my kidney, and I had an epiphany. I’m fucked.

The search for a daycare commenced immediately.  I went to Google to find the website that listed all of the daycare centers/ family daycares / nannys / nanny-shares within a 1 mile radius of my house.  We only had one car and I would have it most of the time at school.  BD would have to be able to walk from work, to daycare, to home with the baby.  I thought maybe 1 mile might be too large a radius, but we could start there and then figure out how to narrow down our choices.

I opened up Google. Now to find the website…..this nice, informational website….I’m sure it’s here somewhere….Hmm…wait, where is the website?….Nope, not it….Not this…..(My kid kicks my bladder at the same moment as if to say “you’re doing a helluva job so far, Mom) um, no. nonononononononono. NO…..

There. is. no. magical-daycare-finding website.

I am alone in the vast urban and Internet wilderness. Google has forsaken me. I had to sift through a tangle of daycare websites and dead ends and phone numbers. The whole finding-childcare-for-your-perfect-beautiful-newborn-that-you-can-afford-without-selling-your-kidney-and-is-located-somewhere-in-the-state-of-Illinois journey was kind of like the Trail of Tears for new parents.  At least finding the big daycare center chains was easy. They were nowhere near my condo, but I called anyway.  They had nine month waiting lists for infants.  Okay…I’m not great at math, but I think that means that on the day of conception you sure as hell better reserve your spot at Kindercare. Now I finally realized why God sent an angel to tell me of my children’s conceptions – so they could get a spot in daycare on time.  It would have been nice if he had mentioned that as well.

Well, this is bad news. I need infant care starting five and half months from now, and apparently this is really late notice for the whole childcare world.  I mean, I haven’t even met this kid I’m going to have. I know nothing about being a parent or about babies or about my specific baby or what I’m going to feel like in five months and I have to find a perfect childcare situation now, or I can’t go back to school. I’m not going to get my PhD. I’ll have to be a stay at home mother. One thing I knew for sure was that being at stay at home mother was out of the question, because I already loved my unborn child. I would not subject him to the psycho mother he would come to know if he were in my care 24-7.  So I re-doubled my efforts and kept coming up short.

I grew up in a home daycare. And I loved it. It was like having a second family, and we didn’t have any family nearby, so it was awesome. I guess I wanted something similar for my son, so I was partial to the idea of having my baby go to a home daycare nearby. But searching for home daycares on Google is futile and I was really starting to lose hope that the baby I was about to have wouldn’t be some kind of juvenile delinquent due to my poor parenting (non)decisions made while he was still in the womb.  So I went to the Starbucks in the building next door. It was an odd choice because I don’t drink coffee, but I felt like I needed something warm in my belly for the next few hours I planned to spend curled up in bed crying and worrying about what a bad mother I already was. And Starbucks kind of seemed like a church to so many yuppies, I thought maybe they sprinkled you with calming fairy dust when you went in and I might find some peace there.

No visible fairy dust, but as I waited patiently for my Caramel Apple Cider, I wandered over to the little bulletin board they have by where you pick up your drinks.  There was a lime green flyer right in the middle of it. My stomach did a flip and my knees kind of buckled and my brain said, “You are fucking kidding me, GOD!” (Yes, I have ongoing conversations with God in my head like “Oh God! You’re so unpredictable sometimes!”  or “God, why did encourage me to have the third glass of wine? I feel like ass this morning. You should have stopped me!”).

There on the board was a flyer for a new home daycare starting up in the condo building next to mine. I know, right?  Seriously.  I grabbed the flyer and ran home. I forgot my Caramel Apple Cider.  I was panting when I called BD.

Love: “I found a daycare for our baby!”

BD: “Cool.”

Love: “It’s in the building next door! And they do yoga! And its all organic food! Oh my GOD!”

BD: “You don’t even do yoga or know anything about organic food.”

Love: “What? Um. It doesn’t really matter. The point is that my prayers have been answered. I must call her immediately. She is The One.”

BD: “Go for it.”

I got off the phone with my heart beating fast and I immediately dialed Miss Amalia’s Place.  No answer, but the long-winded, rambling, breathless message I left went a little like this:

Hello! My name is Love and I have a baby. No, I mean I’m pregnant with a baby that I will have in a few months and I need a daycare in August and I just love home daycares and I saw your flyer at Starbucks and I took it but I will definitely bring it back but I was wondering whether you had a spot for a newborn and I’m sure he is going to be a really good kid because I didn’t cry a lot when I was a kid, but I guess we won’t know till he gets here  — heh, heh — but anyway I really think we should talk and I just love that I’m in the building next door so we’re neighbors and what great timing that I found your flyer and I will bring it back because I forgot to pick up my caramel apple cider anyway, so I’ll put it back but I really think we should talk and my baby should go to your daycare and please call me back.

I hung up and thought, “Seriously? What was that? You idiot. You sound crazy. Maybe you should call back again and explain that you aren’t crazy. Or would that be crazier? ” I hung my head.  But then I brightened knowing that stalking people who need to be in my life is one of my most valuable talents and Miss Amalia’s Place just moved up to the top spot on that list.

I waited five minutes with my hand clutching the phone receiver. No call back. Ten minutes. No call. Maybe I should call again? Just to say I’m not crazy? Fifteen minutes — the phone rings. It’s her!! The woman sent by God to take care of my unborn child, as soon as he gets born.

Love: “Hello?!”

M.A.: “Hi. This is Miss Amalia. You called about needing daycare in August for an infant?” (slight Korean accent)

Love: “Yes! Yes! Where do I sign up?”

M.A: “Ha ha. You are funny. It’s not that easy.  I will  interview you to see whether you’re the family I want to take.”

Love: “You’re going to interview us?”

M.A: “Yes. There is no other way. Can you and your husband come interview with me in a couple of days at 6pm @ Starbucks? You’ll both need to be present.  I have a long waiting list, but I will choose who gets the spot based on my interviews.”

Love: “Oh. I didn’t know this is how it worked. Here I thought I should interview you.”

M.A: “You should. Part of my decision will be based on the questions you ask me.”

Love: “Um. My son isn’t even born yet, and we’re new parents, so I’m not really sure what we’ll have to say.”

M.A: “I find my relationship with the parents is as important as with the child. This is the way I do things. If you’re uncomfortable with the process —”

Love: “No! No! Heh, heh. No! We’ll definitely be there. With good questions.”

M.A: “Great. Don’t be late.”

Love: “Right.”

Okay, so the world had changed from the time I went to daycare. Up to that point, I had spent my whole life competing to get in the best schools, in the best programs, hired by the best companies for the most exclusive jobs and I always won the things I set out to get. Because I loved those games and I was really good at them. No matter that I usually ended up not really wanting all the things I’d won, but who doesn’t like winning games? I wasn’t going to let a home daycare lady be the first to reject me or my unborn child. I wasn’t losing this game. She was our only hope and clearly God led me to Starbucks and this whole thing was meant to be.

We were going to be the family she chose. Period. Now I just had to figure out how to morph us into the “right” family for our interview.  I quickly opened my browser and searched for “yoga” and “organic food”.

Part II

When the apocalypse gets here, I’m screwed

About three years ago Oprah did a show where she had some guy on that had some title that made him sound really smart and important and government connected who said that one of these days, probably very soon, we’d have a pandemic like the bubonic plague and when we did, the whole world would pretty much shut down and there would be no running water or gas or electricity or anything else. No businesses would be open, and the ATMs wouldn’t work but money would be pretty worthless anyway, transportation wouldn’t be available and you would be pretty much on your own to defend your house and family from death by hunger, disease, looters, riots or gangs.

Great. I struggle daily just to cook up some frozen chicken nuggets or macaroni and cheese every night to feed my family and now I’m finding out I have to plan for my family to eat and survive for at least two weeks with lawlessness, no running water, heat, or Tivo? He predicted no mail either, so it isn’t even like I’ll have my US Weekly or O Magazine to fall back on for emergency emotional support.

This was a lot to take in, so I paused Tivo and then begrudgingly put down my chocolate covered pretzels and Fruit2O and drove myself to Costco. I had never been there before but it seemed like a good place to go for buying life’s essentials in bulk.  My plan was to buy us enough stuff to live on so I wouldn’t have to be one of the inevitable grocery store looters.  Although I’d like the record to reflect that if I did have to loot a grocery store, I would concentrate in Aisle 12 and make sure I cleaned them out of Twizzlers and Take 5 bars, which would be enough sustenance to get me through just about anything.

So I get to Costco all fired up about the end of the world and how I needed to get important stuff for survival and — is that a plasma HD TV? Holy shit that is huge and it looks like I’m right there! Ping Pong tables? OMG – I love ping pong! Check out that leather recliner!! I felt compelled to sit in it and rock for a few minutes. Just to lower my heart rate. I mean, Costco held treasures I had only dreamed about. Who knew you could get new tires or new glasses, or even granite countertops there?  I went in there expecting to see a grocery store and I found a delightful land of electronics and books and random shit that all seemed cheap enough to be within reach. How could you say no to Costco?

But wait. Dammit! I’m here on a mission to save my family from certain death when the worst happens. We need water. And a first aid kit! And….and….Fuck? What do you need in an emergency? I get there and realize that I have no idea what I’m supposed to be buying to keep us alive. I mean, none. But I have found some great flannel sheets, really cheap diapers and ten pounds of frozen crab rangoon.  Need. to. focus. Must…shop….for Armageddon.

It is important to say now that I’m almost physically incapable of a coherent thought in most large retail stores.  Which is why I try to avoid them like Brazilian bikini waxes. Too much visual or audio stimuli makes my brain overheat and short circuit very quickly.  I no longer leave my house after November 1 because I’m sure all that Christmas music and shit all over the place  is a monster that wants to feast on my brain. So I shop on the Internet for everything*, including groceries. (*except Banana Republic, because Leonardo knows my soul and just puts me in the dressing room and brings me stuff, so I my mind doesn’t go into overdrive and somehow bend time).

But I digress.  So it took me two hours in Costco to complete my pre-apocalypse shopping spree to secure my family’s safety and survival, should all hell break loose and society become like it was depicted in “The Road” , where people were eating each other and such (which, by the way, if you read this book and you don’t think it was a masterpiece, I pity you). Given my handicap of shopping at large retail outlets, I did the best one could reasonably expect. I didn’t pass out. I didn’t leave with a migraine. It wasn’t Christmas season. It was kind of spectacular.

It was all so much to take in at the time and I was so giddy with pride in the fact that I had found out firsthand what the inside of Costco looked like and I was a full-fledged member and I got all the stuff we needed to survive and it was all less expensive than the grocery store. I called BD from the car and told him to prepare himself, because I had a lot of stuff and we’d have to store it and we were going to live well when the pandemic struck.  So I pull in the garage and pop the trunk because I couldn’t wait to show off all that I had accomplished.  I anticipated BD’s reaction to be one of awe mixed with gratitude, mixed with deep passion for me because of the bold initiative and genius I had shown.  He surveyed the contents of the trunk, and looked up at me in utter confusion.

BD: “Seriously?”

Love: “Um. Yeah. See the water?!”

BD: “I see an air hockey table.”

Love: “Oh. Well, that isn’t part of the stuff for the apocalypse. That was just on sale.”

BD: “?”

Love: “Maybe you didn’t see the first aid kit?”

BD: “Yeah, I think all of the wine bottles must be covering it.”

Together, we went through the items I felt we would need to survive as a family of three (at the time) and the dog.

  • Two palettes of bottled water
  • A large assortment of gummy fruit snacks
  • A big bear full of animal cookies
  • 7 bags of penne noodles
  • A 10-pack of Hanes crew socks, size 9-12
  • 3 large cans of spaghetti sauce
  • An air hockey table
  • A box of Huggies
  • A family first aid kit
  • 3 pounds of fresh strawberries
  • Eli’s cheesecake sampler, party size
  • A gallon of shampoo
  • Four bottles of wine
  • An 8 pack of Progresso chicken noodle soup
  • Some super-cute Carters footsie pajamas for my toddler

Yeah, I guess I was a little underwhelmed too. At the store it seemed like I had everything necessary plus a few fun extras.  I looked at my husband, worried.

Love: “We’re fucked, aren’t we?”

BD: “Uh huh.”

My husband is a problem solver. Me, not so much. But my husband doesn’t like to problem solve in advance of a problem. So I’m sure he would spring into action with ingenious plans to fight off disease and hunger and angry mobs and looters once they were all at our doorstep, but until then, I think his focus is on mowing the lawn every week. But I asked him for his help anyway, hoping that he would see this as the serious situation it is, and start our family survival plan.

Love: “Do you think we need a gun? We might need it to protect ourselves.”

BD: “Maybe.”

Love: “What about cash? Should we have a stash in the house somewhere, in case the ATMs don’t work?!”

BD: “Probably.”

Love: (brightening) “With guns and cash in our house, we’d totally be like the Sopranos.”

BD: “Not really.”

Love: (worried again) “But neither of us knows how to shoot a gun. And I don’t want a gun because they’re scary and our kids will probably wind up shooting us when they’re teenagers.  And I don’t know where a good place to hide cash is. I’ve seen shows on Discovery where the ex-cons find all your money in like 5 seconds. It would take me forever to think of where to hide the money. Where would we hide it?!”

BD: “I don’t know.”

Love: “Well, we need a plan!”

BD: “Huh?”

Love: “For the love of GOD, what are we going to dooooooo?!!”

BD: “?”

Love: “To SURVIVE? You know what would be easier? To just forget I ever saw that show.”

BD: “Maybe.”

Love: “Okay. I have a headache. Why don’t we just work on it slowly. Like maybe we should buy a safe first, so we have somewhere to put the money and the guns.”

BD: “We’re not getting guns.”

Love: “Good plan. What about money?”

BD: “How much money were you thinking?”

Love: “Like $200? Or $2,000? I guess it depends on how much do you think it would cost to pay people not to kill us?”

BD: “More than $200. Maybe like $5,000.”

Love: “That’s a lot of money to hide. And it wouldn’t be earning interest. It just doesn’t seem fiscally responsible. I don’t know…”

BD: “Um…the football game is about to start, so….”

Love: “Yeah, okay. Right. Why don’t we discuss this later?”

BD: “Yeah, definitely.”

And, three years later, we have weathered an economic meltdown and a global pandemic and once our power went out for 45 minutes and we still don’t have guns or cash in our house and we’re still alive and US Weekly is still being delivered.  But every three months I have a panic attack about how we just have some 3-year old penne noodles and Progresso soup in the cellar to keep us alive. And BD started drinking our water supply because he said its past the expiration date and he isn’t letting it go to waste.  So we don’t even have that.

I guess I just want everybody to know when the world meltdown occurs, we’re fucked.  When they find and/or eat our dead bodies, we didn’t die because I totally didn’t see it was coming or because I didn’t think about planning for it, because I did!  I donate 3 hours of time each month to panicking thinking about planning for it and that should count for something.  What is really most important is just that everyone knows that I was right about it coming and that you don’t use this information to break in my house first because you know I don’t have a gun, or food or money, or this month’s “O”. And we won’t taste good. I promise.