It All Started With Ribs and Eye Drops

On Saturday, September 1st, 2001, I was in my happy place: Sparks, Nevada.

Photograph of 2011 9/11 Memorial in West Sacramento California

Photograph of 2011 9/11 Memorial in West Sacramento California

My family and I were at the Annual Nugget Rib Cookoff, and I was heading toward the Nugget Hotel elevator when the doors shut on me.

While I waited for another elevator door to open, a weary, red-eyed man appeared next to me. His hands were dirty and he was a sweaty mess. And he kept rubbing his eyes.

I watched him for about 10 seconds before the elevator chimed again. He had leaned up against the mirrored facade of the elevator lobby and tilted his head back. He looked as though he could fall asleep right there — with the casino bursting with noise from slot machines, cover bands, and old women complaining about stingy nickel machines.

I assumed that he worked at one of the rib vendor spaces, so I opened my purse, grabbed some wet wipes (because, after all, we WERE at the Rib Cookoff) and my eye drops, and said, “Here. The smoke back there can make even the most seasoned vet cry like a baby.”

He opened his eyes and looked at me like I was from Mars.

“Thanks . . . I, um . . .”

“You look like you could use a drink. And a shower.” I said. “You with one of the companies back there?”

He smiled, and said, “No. I’m actually . . . I’m a firefighter. I’ve been up on the hill for the last 18 hours.”

And at that moment I felt like a complete idiot.

There was a huge wildfire burning in the hills of Reno that weekend as well. Fire crews had been battling the blaze for at least three days, and it didn’t look like they were getting any closer to gaining control of it.

“Oh. Wow . . . I’m so sorry. And here I’ve been complaining about rib smoke . . .”

“No, it’s okay,” He said, as he wiped his hands with the wipes and poured eye drops into his eyes, “It’s not like I’m wearing my helmet or anything.”

I laughed, and I knew he said it to try to make me feel better.

A couple of seconds later, I realized my floor was approaching, so I said, “Well, thank you.”

He gave me the ‘Mars’ look again, so I elaborated.

“For what you do. I mean, there’s people up in those houses right? You guys go out there and fight fires and rescue people like me. No questions asked. So, you know, thank you.”

And I will never, EVER forget the way he looked at me as he told me these horribly haunting words:

“You’d be surprised at how little we hear that.”

I shook my head in disbelief as the elevator door opened at my floor. After I got off the elevator, I turned around and held the door so it wouldn’t shut right away.

“Good luck,” I said.

And then I let go.

Not knowing that just over two weeks later, he could very well have needed it.





09 2011

It’s Because of Technology that Conversations Like This One Happen in My House

ME (to the LOML): “Babe, can you get me a notebook?”

LOML: “What the hell do you want a notebook for? You’ve got a laptop, an iPad, a Nook, and every other friggin piece of technology known to man…now you want a notebook?”

ME: “I need to write something down. I’m asking you for what normal people call 70 pieces of ruled paper bound together with a piece of spiral metal. And a pencil, if it’s not too much trouble.”


09 2011

Third Grade, Day One

Last night was “Back to School” night.

A couple of friends and I decided to hit a local pub just before the festivities began, which was not to my advantage, since in my foggy stupor, I ended up volunteering for events that I had planned on attending for pleasure. Yay me.

In the mean time, toward the end of the presentation given by my son’s very cool-awesome-fantastical 3rd grade teacher, we were given an assignment — write our child a note that he/she will be given on the 1st day of school.

And all of the sudden I wished I’d had at least one more shot of Patron, since the whole activity got me all verclempt and watery eyed and had me pretending that I needed to sneeze for TWELVE MINUTES STRAIGHT. Here is what I wrote (or something close to it):

Dear Jacob,

Welcome to the 3rd grade! Your dad and I are so very proud of you!

Please remember to be a good boy, follow Mrs. Teacher’s rules, and try not to talk too much. You know better than that!

Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you get confused. Remember – YOU ARE NOT “STUPID.” You’re an awesome boy and don’t let anybody tell you any different. Just do your best, always give 100 percent, and never EVER give up.

We love you, and we know you will do great things this year!

Love, Mom & Dad

I know . . . Cue the tears . . . But in retrospect, I wish I’d at least told him to have fun. I’m such a downer sometimes.

Good luck, sweet boy. Third grade is NO JOKE.


08 2011

Conversations With Ben: Continuing the Tradition of Embarrassing the Hell Out of Me In Public

Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to my very first installment of “Conversations with Ben.”

If you’re familiar with my blog, you know that I used to (and will still, from time to time) maintain a segment called “Conversations With Jake.” Most of the posts were dedicated to how my oldest son, now eight years old, could take an embarrassing situation and make it worse by screaming something out loud in public about it.

Not to be outdone by his older brother, Benny (now almost four) has begun to rise to the occasion when I have been faced with these unfortunate circumstances.

Which, lately, usually has something to do with his total lack of desire to fully potty train.

Yes, I know. Benny is four. He’s taking his sweet time getting his shit together (no pun intended) because he’d rather crap in his brand new Spiderman underwear than actually STOP PLAYING AND USE A TOILET. But he’s coming along . . . albeit at a pace that will have him toilet trained just prior to his wedding rehearsal dinner.

The other day, we were at a very busy Costco. (I know. I know. These things always happen to me when I’m at Costco. You think I’d learn . . .)

It was Fourth of July weekend, and on top of it, we were having a late birthday party for Jacob, so we needed to pick up his birthday cake.

With Benny in tow, I proceeded toward the entrance and asked, “Do you have to pee or poop?” and he replied, “No.”

I checked his pants to be sure he didn’t decide to take matter into his own hands on the way over. When I saw that things were clear, we made our way in.

And about every ten minutes or so, I would ask him, “Do you have to pee or poop?” And he would always answer, “No.” And then I would repeat the looking-into-the-underwear thing, because I have no sense of smell and I certainly didn’t want anyone thinking it was ME who’d stunk up the joint. Not that I’ve never let one fly myself and then totally blamed him and said out loud, “Oh my GOD Benny! What did Daddy feed you?!” Kids are good for that kind of stuff but don’t go having kids solely for the purpose of BEING ABLE TO BLAME THEM FOR YOUR FARTS.

Anyway, just when we had found an awesomely short line for checkout, Benny decided that he needed to go.



07 2011

“Decorate Your Blog Like Your High School Locker” Day

Seriously. It’s not like many companies have a “Decorate Your CUBICLE Like Your High School Locker” Day, right? Go ahead. Be jealous. Or grab one of these pics and throw it up onto your computer background for a day. Have some fun with it — it’s friggin TUESDAY. Live a little — nothing ever happens on Tuesday!

Anyway, here’s a peek of what my locker would have had taped to it’s insides, circa 1989-90 (my senior year of high school).


I memorized EVERY BLOODY WORD from Hysteria. Wore a Union Jack tank top with my Guess shorts, and teased my hair relentlessly. To this date, I still re-create Joe Elliott’s moves from the video “Pour Some Sugar On Me” whenever I hear the song. (DON’T JUDGE! You know a rock band with a one-armed drummer is the coolest shit EVER.)



Okay, okay. I loved cheesy hairbands. But don’t hate on Sebastian Bach. Back in the day, his range was tested only by Geoff Tate (who obviously won — I’m not a complete idiot). Look at that hair . . . those pouty lips . . . he even had the “smokey eye” going on long before it was a trend!



No self-proclaimed “Rocker Chic” could have ever made it through high school without a little Jon Bon in her locker. (No . . . really. Have you ever stood next to Jon Bon Jovi? He’s shorter than Tom Cruise.) C’mon, who can resist the song “Livin’ on a Prayer”? Tommy and Gina! They’re gonna make it, right?



I threw that one in there on parent day, to appease the folks and the nuns. I kept it up long afterward, because, c’mon, can I get a glass with that six-pack?



I may have been a die-hard Rocker Chic, but I also knew a classic when I saw one. During high school, I worked for a mom & pop video store. After “Say Anything” had it’s run in the “New Releases” section and was replaced with “Goodfellas,” I snagged the poster. I think it’s still somewhere in my mom & dad’s garage.


Okay, there you have it. My top five locker pin-ups.

I dare you to respond with what you had in YOURS!



07 2011