Category Archives: Ingenius ideas

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

Love’s PhD trilogy: Genesis (also, Why it’s just “Mrs.” instead of “Dr.”)

This is the story of how I was almost a doctor. Not the kind that actually helps people, but the kind that everybody listens to, because if you have PhD at the end of your name, people think you are an authority on any and all subjects.  Which is kind of my dream.  To have everybody listen to me and feel like I have some credibility, even if I have no idea what I’m talking about.

Do you know they give out PhD’s in marketing? They do.  I suppose a PhD in physics is probably higher on the totem pole than marketing, but I’m pretty sure you can’t have ADD and get a PhD in physics. I think you need to have Asperger’s for that.  So I’m S.O.L (does everybody learn that acronym from their dad at age 6?).  So marketing seemed like a reasonable alternative. Plus, after you get a PhD in anything, you’re a PhD. Nobody knows or cares after you get a PhD  what it is in, so I figured I could kind of be like Dr. Phil.  He has a PhD, albeit probably from an online university, but nobody questions his credentials any more. So what if it’s in marketing? I’d be Dr. Love and suddenly, the editors at O would be busting down my door begging me to write a monthly column. But instead, Oprah found Dr. Berman, PhD, a hot blond who loves to talk about sex and suddenly my dreams are shattered.

But I digress. Here is the story:

So I’m in this job that is kind of boring. And the people I work with are really nice, good people, but I had the suspicion that they weren’t as intellectually superior as I was.  So to stave off my boredom, I decided to go back to school part-time because my company would pay for it.  But it had to be something relevant to my job, which only gave me a single choice, which was MBA school.  So luckily I live in a city that has about 6 trillion universities/colleges that offer part-time MBAs.  But going to just any MBA school would have been too easy and wouldn’t have inflated my ego to the levels I crave.  I had to pick one that was prestigious and where I would meet a lot of intellectuals so I could have an intelligent conversation about the current events I read about in US Weekly.  And I am very lucky, because the top two MBA schools in the U.S. are right here in Chicago.

One has a reputation for being really fun and one has a reputation for being really not fun. So it was a really hard decision, but I eventually settled on fun.  I took the GMAT to prove to myself and the admissions group that I was as brilliant as I fancied myself.  I didn’t get a perfect score, but there is math on that test instead of celebrity trivia, so it doesn’t really test true genius. But I did alright. So I applied to the part-time program and they let me in and it lived up to its reputation. I was having a good time.  The people I was going to school with were very smart – maybe some were smarter than me — which then made me feel kind of average and inadequate, but that was probably good, because sometimes I need to be taken down a notch.

So while I’m in MBA school I decide that I need to get into health care sales, so I could do something that helps people and still make lots of money. (Please stop laughing — I was just very naive at that point. Who knew the health care industry is even shadier than the financial sector?).  So in order to network my way into the health care industry, I go to this health care conference being held by my business school.  And they have CEOs from some of the top pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers on this panel discussing sales strategy and management,  and the conversation is being led by this professor at my business school.  He keeps throwing out pretty good questions and the executives answer but they always finish up their answers by looking at the professor expectantly, like they needed his approval for what they just said.

And then it hits me.

OMG. I should be a professor. I want to get paid for thinking about whatever I want to think about!!  I want to facilitate discussions between people who work for a living and I’ll be the big PhD at the table who everybody listens to and respects even though all I do is teach a class here and there and maybe write some books and get quoted in the New York Times every other day. Yes! It is my calling. I’ve found my life’s work!! Elation!

I was a newlywed at the time. My husband asked me to marry him a couple of weeks before I started my MBA adventure. I have to assume he thought that I would pull my own weight in our marriage at least financially because I was going to a great school and that should guarantee me a solid place in the career world, right?  Maybe he could be a house husband if he felt like it because I would be making wads of cash as I scurried quickly up the corporate ladder. Because I was the very definition of a future baller and we’d be big pimpin’ (spending Gs).  So I run home from this conference and I announce to BD that I am going to be a business professor. Fuck sales. Fuck working for a living. It was so simple! Why hadn’t I thought of it before!! I’m going to be a professor. And now I could finally earn the right to wear cardigan sweaters with little patches on the elbows and start smoking a pipe. I already had the scholarly specs. All I had to do was get a PhD and how hard could that be, especially with me being such a genius and everything?

So that night I shattered BD’s illusion of having a responsible, rich, hard-working, baller wife.  I told him I was going to finish my MBA and apply to the PhD program.  I wasn’t really sure what PhD school was about, but it couldn’t be that different from MBA school, right? I mean, I knew what the 4 Ps of marketing were, so I was practically halfway there.  And in the PhD program, you don’t have to pay tuition and they even give you a stipend to live on while you think all your deep thoughts.  See?! They were already paying me to do what I loved doing anyway, which was being a geek and tricking people into thinking I wasn’t as clueless as I was and collecting degrees that I could hang in my future big office with leather chairs and floor to ceiling bookcases.

Since the PhD program wouldn’t cost anything and I would actually be bringing home some money, BD got on board and supported the decision.  So I quit my job and started going to school full-time so I could finish the MBA faster.  Of course, that blew up the whole plan where my employer pays for my education. I actually had to pay them back for everything so far and then shell out the money for the rest of the MBA, but no matter! I was on a mission. An intellectual journey. And what is money anyway? Bah! It is clearly only important to the bourgeois as a method to keep the peasants in their place (or something like that. All you need to remember is that I used the term “bourgeois” in a very dismissive and authoritative way, which is very academic of me, don’t you think?) As you can see, I was already starting to ask the deep questions required of a professor.

When you have a dream, you have to go for it, right? So now I just had to get into the PhD program. The odds were kind of bad. They accepted 8 people a year and there were probably close to a thousand applicants. And some of them were from China, where I think you need to know how to solve Rubik’s cubes in 14 moves, in 10 seconds or less just to pass 6th grade.  And they can do some fucking mad math, even without being Aspergers.  And all I have is ADD and a dream.

But when Love wants something, Love gets it.

That fall,  about six months after my epiphany at the healthcare conference,  I started MBA full-time and I started getting busy applying to the PhD program for the following fall.  Apparently that wasn’t the only thing I was getting busy at, because that’s also when I got preggers.  Awesome.

Another very well thought out plan by Love is put into motion…

Part II, Numbers is up next…

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I don’t know if I’ll get back before Christmas….so if I don’t, Merry Whatever-you-might-celebrate-at-the-end-of-December!

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.

Adventures in Babysitting, Part III

(I’m incapable of making a long story short. You’ll need to start here for the first part of the story).

Thankfully, Amalia didn’t make us wait too long.  She called two days later and told me that we passed the first round and she would like to schedule time for me to come over to her home to see the daycare and watch her and her sister in action with the kids.  Score! We had successfully come off as the type of parents good enough for Miss Amalia.  I still wasn’t sure how I would break it to her that we needed somebody when the baby was 10 weeks and I wasn’t breastfeeding, but I figured that I’d ingratiate myself to the point that she wouldn’t be able to say no.

I couldn’t wait for my visit. It was like being invited into a Mormon temple without being Mormon, or to Oprah’s show without being Josh Groban.  By the way she had described her daycare, I was expecting to see brilliant, magical 1 and 2 year olds who could totally go from downward dog into Warrior III without missing a beat. They’d probably be signing questions to Miss Amalia about “Goodnight Gorilla”, like why the zookeeper’s wife had to put all the animals back when it was clearly her husband’s responsibility. I taught myself how to sign “yes” and “no” and “I completely agree. I would’ve kicked him to the curb” just in case that question did come up.  I imagined children that did not cry except for when they wanted more homemade organic pureed beets.  These kids probably didn’t poop either. No, that didn’t seem like behavior becoming of a toddler at Miss Amalia’s daycare. I wondered if a child that sprung from my loins could possibly measure up in Miss. Amalia’s world. (Wait. Do women have loins, or is it just men?)

Being around people I don’t know having awkward conversations is extremely draining for me, so I had prepared for my 45 minute visit as if I were training for a triathlon.  I drank plenty of fluids, got a lot of sleep, practiced answers to questions I thought she might ask, like “which do you prefer the most: the farmer’s market on Randolph  or Whole Foods?” or “describe your daily meditation sequence” both of which I formulated an answer to using the Internet. I had a big carb -filled dinner the night before, just so I wouldn’t pass out from exhaustion, or irritation or judginess.

On the big day, I walked over there with butterflies in my stomach. I was still being judged. And I didn’t really know anything about kids or taking care of them, so I told myself I wouldn’t touch any of the kids.  Just in case I accidentally killed one of them.

It was a warm day and I happened to be wearing sandals.  I found out when Miss Amalia answered the door that shoes were supposed to be left in the hall. No shoes were permitted at any time within the confines of her home. But now I had this awkwardness of having bare feet, which I think is much more gross than wearing the sandals. I think Miss Amalia and I agreed on this.  She brought me some socks before I could step over the threshold into the magical home daycare. If you’ve ever read “Grasshopper Along the Road” (which, if you haven’t, you must) Miss Amalia was exactly like the mosquito that obsessively chants “rules are rules!” and cannot fathom exceptions to any arbitrary rule he makes up.  I’m not a big rules person if the rules are arbitrary.  But again, maybe this is how all daycares were? What did I know?  I put on the socks and apologized for not knowing the rule.

The magical home daycare looked a lot like a regular condo with a lot of toys in it. But they were arranged just so for feng shui purposes, I was told.  The kids were adorable.  And from what I could tell, they cried and they pooped, which I was really surprised about.  Even more surprising was that at least one kid thought I was awesome. I think.  One little 18 month old ran up and hugged me as soon as I got in the door. And he didn’t die right after. He spent most of the visit in my lap. Miss Amalia was astounded. She claimed he only acts that way around her and his mother. Really? Nice. Maybe I would be a good mom after all. And I was so relieved that Miss Amalia didn’t have a rule about kids not being able to cry or poop without being dismissed. And that I didn’t kill any babies.

It was a fun visit. Really. Her sister was a lot less hard-core and rules-based than she was and it kind of made it a little less weird to talk to her. I told them some of my more tame stories that made them laugh, which is really about the only talent I have that usually doesn’t fail me. The kids were bright and lovely and having fun and actually, they really could sign. Which was news to me. I thought all that stuff was bogus, like I did about dogs really staying down in down-stays (which they totally do if you spend thousands training them). And Amalia and her sister took pictures of the kids all the time and then would email them to the parents during the day, which is the next best thing to the live camera feed I got from my doggie daycare. I’m probably making some people uncomfortable with the parallels between my dog and my kids.  I’ll stop, but in my experience, toddlers and dogs aren’t that different.

So I left after my allotted 45 minutes feeling like it was the best place ever and our going there was probably a done deal.  Just as I was walking out, they mentioned that another couple vying for my son’s place was coming the next day. Damn. Maybe I should have brought chocolates or some energy drink or something. Damn.         Damn. Damn. Damn. Fuck. I told them I thought they were spectacular and that my son would be lucky to be taken care of by such good people.  And I meant it. I mean, there were no other alternatives, so they really stacked up nicely compared to leaving him by himself all day.

I went home and ate a tub of Cherry Garcia.  Luckily that isn’t called bingeing when you’re pregnant. I think it’s just called normal. I mean, if you can’t drink your worries away, what other alternatives are there?

I called Miss Amalia the next day to ask about where we were on the list and when she could tell me if we were in or out. She said she was going to hold off on a decision until she met the baby. Who wasn’t going to be born for another 6 weeks. If she said no, then what was I supposed to do?  That’s when I kind of went ballistic.

Love: “Umm…that isn’t going to work.”

Amalia: “Pardon?”

Love: “You can’t just decide a week before whether a family is coming or not! I have a baby that needs to be in a great daycare and I have to know now whether he is in or out at your place so I can make other arrangements if it’s not working out!”

Amalia: “Well, to tell the truth, you are first on our list, but he wouldn’t be here for another six months, and a lot can happen between now and then.”

Love: “What if he came in 3 months? I need you in August, not December.”

Amalia: (silence) “I don’t take children younger than 6 months.”

Love: “Because you can’t or you won’t?”

Amalia: “Well, it is very young to be separated from the mother.”

Love: “I have to go back to school! I can’t change the date that school starts. I trust you. I trust you more than I trust me to be honest. Please make an exception.”

Amalia: “I might have to charge more for a baby that young…”

Love: “Listen, we don’t have a lot of money, but we’re willing to pay you whatever you want if you’ll take him in August.”

Amalia: “I would have to talk to my sister.”

Love: “I need that spot in your daycare. I know very little about taking care of a baby but I know a lot about being in school, which is where I need to be in August. I have no other options. I’m literally begging you. But if you can’t tell me by the end of this week whether we’re in or not, I’ve got to do something else.”

Amalia: “I like you.”

Love: “I like you too.” (I think we’re supposed to kiss here, but the phone made it hard.)

Amalia: “I feel bad for you. You really don’t know much about being a parent.”

Love: “No. I know about being a parent. That is what this conversation is about. I need a good caregiver for my baby and you’re it. If you meant I don’t know much about child care, then you’re right on there. That is no secret. Oh and while we’re on the subject I forgot to tell you I won’t be breastfeeding.”

Amalia: (gasps) “What? Why?”

Love: “I can’t. Physically impossible.” ( Psychologically impossible would be more true. Honest mistake. )

Amalia: “I’ll talk to my sister.”

Love: “Tell her to say yes. We’ll be the best family you have. I swear.”

Amalia: “Okay.  This is a lot of information to take in.” (she is wondering who the hell she is dealing with)

So we ended it there. I was sure that was it for us and Miss Amalia. We’d have to hire a nanny if this didn’t work out, and then selling our kidneys wouldn’t cover it. BD would probably have to go out and turn tricks while I did the night shift at Dunkin’ Donuts. I ate another gallon of Cherry Garcia.

After an excruciating couple of days, Amalia called me back. We were in.

I won! I won! She tacked on another $25 a week, but it seemed like a small price to pay to the daycare gods. I celebrated for a month straight. I went over and visited Miss Amalia’s place up until I gave birth and then brought over my son when he was about 6 weeks. I still thought she was over the top about most stuff, but I was in no position to complain. This was what I wanted, right?

Sometimes you need to be careful what you wish for. (Sorry, Part IV is a must, but I haven’t written it yet. Forthcoming.)

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

Part IV

Adventures in Babysitting, Part II

If you haven’t already, it’s best to read Part I. But if you don’t like reading my super-long posts (I’m working on it), and just want the net – I’m 7 months pregnant with son #1 and found out from two snarky ladies on their lunch break that daycare is impossible to find and then after a miracle in Starbucks, I find a home daycare, Miss Amalia’s Place, that meets my criteria which is that its near my house and…that it is near my house, but it turns out that she is used to desperate parents. She is going to interview us to see whether we’re the right sort for her daycare.

The flyer from Miss Amalia’s Place didn’t have a ton of information, but it did mention that it was an all organic environment and the kids would be taught yoga and learn to sign when they were babies and no TV (obviously) and I think there was something about earth sounds music too.  From what I could tell, this is what all the good moms were doing, so it seemed like a pretty good plan to me, especially when you consider the alternative: me taking care of the baby in an environment that included a lot of Oprah, Dr. Phil, Sex and the City, McDonalds, The Killers, Eminem and some Baby Mozart once in a while.

But the issue was that Miss Amalia was going to interview us, to see if we were the right sort.  The first interview wasn’t even going to take place at her daycare, because she wasn’t going to bring just anyone there. That was only if you got to the second round. Failure was not an option. Because we had no other viable options. So I spent the two days we had to prepare for the interview Googling “how to be a good mother” and “acing the daycare interview” and drilling BD on his part in the whole thing.  I reminded him that this interview could decide whether our son would be a well-adjusted adult or a circus performer.

Love: “Okay. So whatever she says, nod and smile and agree wholeheartedly with her. Even if you have no idea what she is talking about.”

BD: “I’m not sure we should be pretending –”

Love: (gives husband ‘the hand’) “Listen – I’m not kidding around here. This is our ONLY option.  We will do whatever it takes to get in. Repeat after me…We will do whatever it takes to get in.”

BD: “Do we even know how much she costs?”

Love: “No. And we will nod and smile and agree wholeheartedly with whatever she says it costs. We will have time to panic later, and sell our kidneys when she isn’t around.”

BD: “I don’t know. This isn’t our only option.”

Love: “Oh yeah? What are the other options?”

BD: “Well, I’m sure we could find -”

Love: “By ‘we’ I assume you mean ‘me’ and guess what? There isn’t anything else. But if you want to spend hundreds of fruitless hours looking, be my guest.  In the meantime, you will nod, smile and agree wholeheartedly with everything that is said. Including by me.  I will likely say things you’ve never heard come out of my mouth before. Pretend like it’s totally normal for me to make butternut squash and say ‘namaste’ and stuff.”

BD: “What is ‘namaste’?”

Love: (through gritted teeth) “It’s what I say all. the. time. Get it?”

BD: “Oh my God. This is nuts…”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Miss Amalia turned out to be a Korean woman in her mid-thirties. She was unmarried and her older sister helped her out taking care of the children.  She had very definite ideas about how to run her daycare, although she had only started up 6 months earlier and she’d never had a child of her own.  She announced that the youngest child she would take would be 6 months, since it would be “very bad” for a mother to leave her child before then. She explained also that it would give the baby some time to adjust from the breast to the bottle, but she had a whole page on how breast milk would be handled.  We nodded and smiled and agreed wholeheartedly. The thing was, we needed someone at 10 weeks and there was not going to be any breast milk. We were formula feeding. But neither of us said anything.

She told us about all of the enriching activities she would be providing the children and she told us what our duties as parents were. There was a long list of rules. Schedules were very important. We could drop our child off within a half hour window in the morning and pickup in a certain window.  Any exceptions would have to be logged in advance.  We nodded and smiled and agreed wholeheartedly.  She told us that it would be $350 a week.  It was more than I hoped it would be, but it was doable. Perhaps we could keep our kidneys. We asked her about what she liked and disliked about the other families.  We asked about what she thought about traits of great parents. We asked her about why she started her business and told her how wonderful and genius she was for doing so.  We told her we liked her hair. And her shoes. And could we get her anything else to drink?

I thought we aced the interview.  We did everything we planned to do to make sure we got to the second round.  At the end of the interview, we thanked Miss Amalia and she said she would call to let us know whether we made it to the second round. She also gave us a 10 page contract to look over to make sure we were “comfortable” with all of the terms.  We walked out hand in hand and didn’t speak until we were safely back in our condo.  The minute the door was closed, we looked at each other and simultaneously asked, “What. the. fuck?”

Neither of us could believe that we lived in such a world.  Sign language, and schedules and yoga and dietary restrictions and minimum age 6 months old?!  When we were little we watched TV all day and drank lots of Kool-Aid and got locked out of the house and told to play outside for four hours.  Our moms didn’t breastfeed us and we didn’t know what organic meant until 1998.  We felt totally unprepared to be parents.  Miss Amalia had us scared to death. We needed her to take care of our son because we were going to do it completely wrong if she wasn’t coaching us the whole way.

Now what to do about the fact that we weren’t any of the things she wanted us to be? We couldn’t wait six months. We needed her at 10 weeks. And I wasn’t planning on breastfeeding, because I’m just a bad mom.  This was going to get complicated, but I had to make this happen.

Part III

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.