Thursday, August 10, 2017

Trashy Recipe Recommendations, Summer Edition: New England Clam Chowder

Sadly, the end of summer is near.  My kids, as usual, have had a great one filled with swimming, big vacations to the beach, mini-vacations to surrounding cities, and much, much more. But next week, they’ll be back in school.

Before summer officially comes to an end, I thought I would share one of my favorite summer recipes:  New England clam chowder.

I make it every single summer and sometimes throughout the school year, too.  It’s surprisingly quick and bursting with flavor.  I made it one Friday evening last summer, and as I ladled the steaming stuff into bowls for my two boys and husband, I began to reminisce aloud.

“Ah, boys,” I said, stilling my dripping ladle for a moment as I got a faraway look in my eyes.  “This recipe is the exact same one we used during the summertimes of my youth, when I grew up on Long Island and summered in Nantucket.”

My boys’ eyes filled with wonder. My husband dropped his spoon with a clatter.  “What the…?” he muttered.

I ignored him and went on.  “Grams used to take us to the beach all day—we weren’t wussies afraid of the sun back then.  Grams felt like it was good for our souls and good for our health.  We would frolic in the waves and the seafoam, collect sea glass, feast on fresh lobster rolls, and not begin our short trek back to the beach house until the sun was going down.  Yes,” I continued, so into my memories that I didn’t notice my husband rooting through the recycling bin, “your aunts and uncles and I worked up huge beach appetites that could only be quenched with hot, steaming bowls of Grams’s famous clam chowder.”

“New England clam chowder,” I finished, breaking out of my reverie to continue serving the thick soup.  “The stuff of my youth.”

As my boys oohed and aahed, begging me to continue with these stories they’d somehow never heard, my husband stopped foraging and revealed his prize.

“This, boys,” he said triumphantly, holding up an empty can of Campbell’s Chunky New England Clam Chowder, “is your mom’s definition of ‘summering on Nantucket.’”

“You’ve always got to ruin everything,” I muttered, slopping some more of my canned clam chowder into my husband’s bowl so that a little dripped onto his seat.  I hoped he wouldn’t notice until after he sat down and it was too late.

Listen, you guys, I can’t help it if Elin Hilderbrand equals summer to me and I hoard her novels, only reading them between the months of May and September because I’m a seasonal reader and love beach novels in the summer.

Of course I didn’t grow up on Long Island and summer on Nantucket; I’m a Midwestern girl and “summering” meant being dropped off at the local pool all day so that my mom could lay out in the back yard and drink. And it was awesome. But Nantucket is still a place I would love to visit—thanks to Ms. Hilderbrand.

(Remind me to tell you about the time I took a trip to Ireland because I loved Maeve Binchy’s books…or the time I flew to Spain to meet friends of a friend but couldn’t actually point Spain out on a map when I got there.)

Anyhoo, a couple of weeks after my husband called me out last summer, I knew the gig was up.  So as the boys waited patiently at the table for their lunch after a long morning of swimming, I grabbed a can of this stuff out of the cabinet in full view of them and started cranking the can opener.

My older son looked at me, crestfallen.  “But Mom…what about your summers on Nantucket?  Frolicking in the waves…feasting on fresh lobster rolls…? You mean…you just…open a can?”

“Oh, buddy,” I said, kneeling down so that I could address him eye-to-eye, “you didn’t think Mommy was serious, did you?  All of that ‘catching the clams with my net over the boat’ shit?  Hell, I don’t even know if there are actual clams in clam chowder. I thought your dad cleared all of this up a couple of weeks ago…?”

My boy’s lip quivered. “I thought he was joking,” he said.


But dammit this soup is good. 

Friday, July 7, 2017

Sibling Rivalry and Nostalgia

It’s become a tradition that during the summers, I keep my nephew for a few weeks.  Obviously it’s because I’m a much better mother than my sister is.

Okay, really it’s because my boys are very close to his age and I have a much higher tolerance for noise than my older sister does. It’s like a neighborhood party around here all summer that every kid in the tri-state area wants to attend, and I love it.

Except for those days when I find myself screaming the F word at all of them before stopping short and going, “Oh, shit. I forgot to take my Zoloft.  Carry on, children, carry on!” and then scurrying down the hall to the medicine cabinet with a cup of water in hand.

It reminds me of my own idyllic childhood, where ours was the house in which every kid in the neighborhood wanted to convene—and my mom was awesome about it. I’m not sure if she, too, popped anti-anxiety meds in order to deal with all of the chaos (she was more of a daytime drinker; potayto, potahto), but in any case, I love providing that for my own kids. (Not the anti-anxiety meds.  The LOVING CHAOS.)

But it’s crazy when your kids are getting older and you start thinking back to when you yourself were a kid.  You see, the thing is, I don’t feel old.  I definitely don’t feel old enough to be the mother of an almost-9-year-old and a 6-year-old, but here I am, KILLING it.  Like, I’m pretty damn good at it, you guys.  But every once in a while—okay, at least once a day—I’ll look around and realize that I’m the adult in the room and not only that, but I’m responsible for these two kids that are mine.

And then I’ll get to thinking back to when I was their age and how old I thought my own mom was and how recent it all seems…it can’t have been thirty years ago that I was the same age as my 10-year-old nephew…can it?  It’s fucking surreal how life works.

The most fun part, though, is seeing your siblings’ kids do something that your siblings would have done as kids, or seeing the way your own children interact with their cousins and remembering how you used to have the same types of interactions with your cousins.  My older sister and I used to spend at least one week each summer at one of my dad’s older sisters’ houses because she had kids who were exactly our age.  It was so fun. Watching my own kids and nieces and nephews takes me back to those days, and even if the memory is kind of a crappy one—like when my nephew and son are fighting and I remember similar fights we had as kids—I still love to reminisce.  I’m a sucker for nostalgia.

Yesterday, I took my boys and my nephew to the KFC drive-through and ordered a bucket of chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans, potato wedges, and biscuits.  We were all ravenously hungry after three hours of swimming at the local pool.

I was handed the huge, hefty bag through the drive-through window, and I turned around and passed it to the first kid I saw in the back—who happened to be my nephew.  “Now I know you’re hungry, buddy,” I said, “but don’t open the bag because you’ll let all the hot air out and we want to keep it warm until we get home.”

He nodded his head very seriously, and in that moment, I had a flashback from a similar experience that his mother and I shared when we were growing up.

She’s two years older than I am, so when she turned 16, she began driving me to and from school.

She used to skip lunch and instead save the lunch money that Dad gave us every day to use on fast-food takeout for an early dinner on the way home.  I was always jealous because there was NO WAY I would have been able to skip lunch; I LOVE to eat and was always starving by 9 AM.  So I had no money left to buy anything from whatever fast-food joint my sister’s taste buds had deemed “the one” that day, but by the time we were pulling through the drive-through, I was hungry again and would begin salivating as soon as the bag was handed through my sister’s driver’s side window.

“Ugh!” she would say, wrinkling her nose in disgust at me as she passed the bag over.  It was my job to hold the steaming, delicious-smelling food in my lap until we got home. “Quit making that face!  It’s like you’ve never eaten before.  Stop staring at the bag!”

I once tried to put the bag of food onto the floor in front of me so that I wouldn’t get into trouble for looking at it the wrong way, but my older sister had slapped me and made me pick it back up.  “It’ll get cold on the floor. I need your body heat to keep my tacos warm.”

I swear that really happened. 

One day I almost lost it on her.  We were in the Taco Bell drive-through and she had just been handed her Mexican pizza.  She started to pass it to me so that it could scorch my legs per usual as it rested on my lap, but then she stopped, the bag hovering in the air between us.

“How hot are your legs?” she asked me.

I blinked. “Huh?”

She sighed as if I were the one being the dumbass in this particular situation.  “I ASKED how hot your legs are. Like, what temperature?”

My mouth dropped open.  “What do you want me to do?” I asked.  “Jab a fucking thermometer into them and find out for you?”

I’m just kidding. I didn’t say that.  I was scared to death of my sister.  She had once gotten into a physical fight with someone at a party and later laughed, showing off the bite mark that the girl had left on her boob. My dad didn’t think it was so funny.  “Imagine having to tell all of your friends you got AIDS from a girl who bit your boob at a keg party,” he kept saying.  “You need to be more careful when you fight.”

So of course I didn’t mouth her, because that crazy bitch would have probably pulled a thermometer out of her purse and done it for me.  It wouldn’t have been a stretch—our dad is a food inspector.  Meat thermometers were plentiful around the house. (“Hmm…no, I can’t find a pen, but here’s this meat thermometer if that will help?”)

Instead, I gave a slight shrug of my shoulders, an uncertain lift of my eyebrows, and said, “Like, 98 degrees?”

I had just learned in health class that that was where your body’s temperature should hover, and it seemed like a good enough answer to me.

And to my older sister, too. She narrowed her eyes, sizing up my legs to see how much heat was radiating off of them.  Apparently she was satisfied.  She plopped the hot bag on them, muttering, “My Whopper was kind of lukewarm yesterday. Your chicken legs better not make my food cold today…”

Ah, memories.

I wonder what today’s shenanigans with my nephew and boys will drudge up from the recesses of my mind?  I hope it’s something good, like the time my older sister and cousin stole the 50 cents my mom would give each of us to buy one snack for the entire 5 hours she would drop us off for at the pool, and they ate Reese's peanut butter cups in front of me, licking their fingers as I writhed on the wet concrete with hunger pangs...

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Are You Pregnant?

Before I discovered a low-carb diet that includes replacing every single delicious noodle and potato chip with a form of vegetable or rum, I was one of those people who had the she-may-or-may-not-be-should-I-risk-asking perpetual three-month pregnant belly. 

(I always say that unless you’re watching as the baby is actually crowning, DO NOT ASK.)

What was annoying about it was that I have always worked out like a motha.  I also ate like a complete and total fatass, so there was that.  I just figured if I ran 6 miles, I should've been able to have a damned cheeseburger, so you can bet your arse I was snarfing one right after I hopped off the treadmill.  And 7 chicken nuggets.  And small fries.


Anyhoo, my mom, an avid worker-outer herself, always told me the gut was hereditary.  I remember one time, years ago, we were both at my dad’s house.  Mom was watching me run stairs while she snarfed a bowl of chocolate ice cream topped with chocolate syrup, hand-crumbled chunks of Oreos cookies, and Hershey’s semi-sweet chocolate chips.  My parents had been divorced for a good few years, but Dad still stocked the cupboards with that kind of stuff because she liked it.

“You’re never going to be able to get rid of the gut,” my mom said, eyeing me lazily as I turned to walk down the stairs so that I could double-hop up them once more.  “Trust me.  I tried for years.  It’s just hereditary.  You’re welcome.”

I stopped for a moment and looked at her, drops of sweat dripping from my face.  “Haven’t you been divorced for, like, 3 years?  Don’t you have your own house to get back to?” I asked.

“Yeah,” she replied, “but mine doesn’t have ice cream.  I’ll leave when I’m finished with this bowl.”

I rolled my eyes, but I knew she was right.  I had seen her doing the exact same stairs routine I was doing for years; where do you think I learned it?  In fact, when she and Dad had bought that house, one of the first things that attracted her to it was that it had been built on a perfect one-mile running route.  She, too, had worked out like a motha.

And still always looked like a 3-months pregnant one.

I figured it was just my lot in life.

All of this still didn’t stop my mom from asking me from the time I was 14 years old if I was, in fact, pregnant.  Don’t take it the wrong way; she was trying to be a caring, concerned mom, there for me if I’d gotten into any “trouble” and needed a mom-shoulder to turn to for advice on babies raising babies.

But I think it was fairly obvious that I wasn’t getting any action simply by drinking in the sight of me:  mousey brown hair that flowed in a sister-wifey, lank kind of way (this was well before I discovered what a vat of bleach could do for even the horsiest of creatures), thin bangs, and a long, Tori Spelling-like face.

Friends, suffice it to say that I probably couldn’t have even engaged in reverse prostitution and paid someone to do it with me just to see what it was like.  In fact, I used to thank my mom when she asked if I was pregnant.  “So you think I have a chance?” I would whisper hopefully, tears of joy springing to my eyes.  “That someone will want to have sex with me someday?”

I swear there’s a point to all of this.  I mean, not a good one or anything; not something you couldn’t have gone your whole life without hearing, but still…there’s a point.

A few years ago, I saw my sweet grams just as her dementia started encroaching on her lifelong prim, proper, and always classy personality.  (I don’t know how she ended up with a granddaughter like me, but I always tell her it must be God’s way of getting her back for something really bad she did in a past life.) And when she excitedly pointed to my belly and said, “Oh, we’ll get to plan some more baby showers!  Shay’s pregnant!” I laughed.  Honestly I kind of enjoyed this new no-holds-barred (what the hell does that actually mean?) personality of hers.

“No, Grams, sorry.  I’m not pregnant.”  I seriously wasn’t even embarrassed even though several members of my family were pointing at me and laughing.

I could tell Grams felt bad, though, so I gave her a hug and told her to please stop getting upset; in fact, she’d just given me a topic about which to write.

Because comments like that?  I’d been involuntarily training for them since I was 14 years old.  It’d be like asking me now to run a mile after I completed my 15th half marathon.

Bitches, please.  I got this. I’ve always had this.

Oh, and by the way—I love you, Grams!

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Wedding Season (aka "Three Ways to Get Kicked out of a Wedding")

Wedding season is almost upon us and I should know. I’m almost 40 years old and most of my friends and one of my sisters are in that fun stage of life where they’re divorcing and moving on to their second marriages.  It’s awesome for me because I LOVE being a bridesmaid.  I also love how, for once in my life, I’m the person people look up to.

“Wow, Shay,” my best friend once said to me slowly, eyes wide that she was actually entertaining the thought while she and her husband were trying to work out some issues, “it feels so weird to say this, but your marriage is the one that everyone strives to have.  And you were the person we all thought would be the first to fail at it.”

I nodded sagely.  “I know, dude.  It’s like I always tell you guys: You weren’t slutty enough in college. It’s what makes my marriage work now.”

I stand by that. I was such a humongous whore in college that I quickly (well, after about 2-3 years of skanking out) learned that it was all the same.  I could be boning Brad Pitt (which I never was, by the way, but only because he’s not hot enough) and get sick of boning him after about a year.  It doesn’t matter how good someone looks—look at Tiger Woods’s ex-wife versus the girls he was slutting around with—you will eventually get bored. It’s simply human nature.

So basically, I knew that when I found a good-hearted, smart, stable, handsome one, I should keep him—but only when I was sure that I was ready to settle down.  I understood that things might get boring—even mundane, I dare to say after 11 years of marriage—but that when you have a good thing, you should work at it because the next relationship would get just as stale after a lengthy period of time.

So while all of my friends and family were chuckling about my slooter habits (Older sister, shuddering:  “How can you stand to wake up in a strange bed with some strange guy that you only met the night before?” Me, shrugging:  “It’s just what I do.  I think I’d feel weird waking up in my own bed without a hangover.”), I was learning a very valuable life lesson, one that would help me not get divorced in the long run. 

Anyway, I don’t say this to be all holier-than-thou, because we all know that I’m not.  It just feels good, when you’re normally the dumbass in the room, when your family and friends all agree that you were actually right about something for once in your life.

And so, in honor of wedding season (whether it’s your first or your third), I present to you…

“Three Ways to Get Kicked Out of a Wedding”

1.)    Don’t be invited in the first place
This one happened years ago, and it’s one of my favorite (albeit very hazy) memories.  My best friend and some other college friends and I had just come off of a Garth Brooks concert where I’d gotten into trouble for STANDING UP.  (Side note: Who the hell doesn’t stand up during “Standing Outside the Fire”?  If you’re not standing up during that song, then YOU DON’T BELONG AT A GARTH BROOKS CONCERT.)

I was also very drunk.

After the concert (which was AWESOME, by the way), we happened upon a bar that looked really fun. People were all dressed really nicely and dancing and eating, so we decided to join them.  When we walked in, we saw a buffet table set up with the most gorgeous spread of food.  And it was all free!

I helped myself to a heaping plate and sat down at a table full of really nice guys who started laughing and giving me shots.  I didn’t notice that my friends were still standing, unsure, at the entryway to the really fun bar.  My face was nose-deep in a pile of free chicken fettuccine alfredo (my favorite!) with a bunch of hot guys in suits egging me on and feeding me shots.

It wasn’t until security came to the table to (very kindly, I must say) escort me out that I realized that it wasn’t a bar that we had happened upon; it was someone’s really nice wedding.  The guys at the table shouted jovially that I should get to stay, but the security guys were having none of it. 

They let me snarf one more forkful of alfredo before it was time for me to go.

2.)    Get caught stealing a chicken finger off of the head table
I still stand by the fact that this one was not my fault.

My best friend and I (I’m starting to notice a pattern here) attended a wedding just last year, and although we had actually been invited, RSVP’d, and placed our handbags at a table in order to secure our spots while we went to grab a drink at the bar (there wasn’t assigned seating), by the time we got back to that table just a few minutes later for dinnertime, someone had moved our handbags—TO THE FLOOR—and there weren’t any spots left at any of the tables.

After we had squatted uneasily, drinks in hand, to the floor to grab our handbags, we stood there awkwardly for a minute while everyone else was seated and waiting for the wedding party to make their entrance.  We were literally in the middle of the small room full of occupied tables standing there like dumbasses while people openly gawked at us.  The dicks who had stolen our seats actually joined in the gawking—as if the entire situation wasn’t their faults.  Assholes.

My best friend and I decided that we would go back to the bar, which was on the other side of the room, just so that we could escape the embarrassment of looking like wedding crashers.  This was years and years after our first wedding crashing experience, and we didn’t really think it was funny anymore. We looked like losers.

While everyone else ate their goddamned grilled chicken, fish, or steak with asparagus tips smothered in butter, my best friend and I stood at the bar, out of sight, making friends with the sweet lady bartenders.  At one point, some douchebag walked up, slipped a five dollar bill—A FIVE DOLLAR BILL—into their jar, winked, and said, “Remember me later.”

My favorite bartender actually tinkled out a shy laugh and responded, “Yes, sir,” as if he had just put a one hundred dollar bill in that jar.

When he was a few steps away—but close enough that he could still hear me—I barked out a laugh.  “Did that DICK just tell you to ‘remember me later’ as he put a goddamned five dollar bill in your jar?”

The bartender lost it then.  She laughed uncontrollably and said, “Girl, some people put a quarter in there and say that.  So five bucks isn’t so bad.” 

After witnessing that awful display and drinking 3 of my favorite bartender’s strong drinks on an empty stomach (remember that my seat had been stolen so I’d had no dinner), I was on fire.

When I saw that most of the head table had finished eating and moved on to their various dances (first dance of the couple, mother of the groom dance, father of the bride dance, etc.) and were completely occupied (or so I thought), I danced my way to the head table, where I had spotted a plate of fried chicken fingers.  I grabbed one and shimmied back to the bar, where my best friend watched me eat it.

“Where’d you get that?” she asked me, salivating.

I flicked my chin toward the head table.  “On a plate over there. I’ll go get you one.”

I walked to the table and started to grab another chicken finger when I felt a small slap on my hand. I looked up to see the groom shooting me a dirty look.  “That’s my STEPSON’S plate, SHAY,” he said rudely.  “He’s THREE.  He needs to EAT.”

“Well, dickbag,” I retorted.  “I’m 39 and have had 3—wait, 4—strong rum and cokes and I NEED TO EAT, too.  I understand that you just became a father 7 minutes ago, but in my experience, a hangry adult is much worse than a hangry kid.  If he was so hungry in the first place, why hasn’t he touched—“

This is where my best friend saw the commotion and grabbed my elbow.  “She’s sorry. It’s just that between getting ready for the wedding and traveling here, neither of us has had anything to eat all day.”

“What about dinner?” the groom asked, motioning toward the tables.

My best friend looked at him apologetically.  “Someone took our spots and there weren’t any more chairs.”

So we weren’t exactly kicked out, but we were embarrassed enough that we slinked off to a bar down the road. When my best friend tried to talk some sense into me, I quickly shut her down.

“Well, Shay,” she said, digging into the hot dog and fries that we had each just ordered, “you DID take a chicken finger off the head table.”

Oh, yes,” I replied, squeezing mustard onto my own hot dog.  “Because people who hang out with us are so classy and have never done anything worse than that.  Remind me, Leigh—isn’t this the same guy who, just last summer, got drunk and tipped over a full port-a-potty while his best friend was in it, then laughed when the poor guy walked out all streaked in shit? 

“But I get it,” I added exaggeratedly. “He’s a married man, a father now. Way too classy to put up with someone on an empty stomach who took a goddamned chicken finger only because there hadn’t been a place for her at a dinner table even though she’d been invited.” I looked at Leigh with wide eyes dripping with sarcasm. “MY BAD.”

“Well, when you put it that way…” Leigh acquiesced.

I think maybe I’m still bitter about the whole situation?

3.)     Talk to the mother of the bride
Except you don’t realize that she’s the mother of the bride, and you say something like, “My little sister can’t remember if she actually had sex with the groom or if they just made out.”

My little sister had been standing next to me when I made the snafu, and she gasped and slapped me in the arm.  She shook her head and rolled her eyes at the lady in an “I’m sorry; she’s slightly retarded and can’t help herself” way before saying out loud, “Shay, that’s Caroline’s mom.”

“Oh!  Shit!” was all I could reply.

Later in the bathroom, I apologized to my little sister.  “I didn’t realize who she was,” I explained.

My sister gave me a look.  “So you just thought you were telling some random woman that I couldn’t remember if I had sex with the groom or just made out with him?”

I could smell what The Rock was cooking.  I knew what she was trying to say, and she was right.  I had no words.

“Why do you guys take me anywhere?” I asked, sincerely apologetic.

My little sister looked at me in the reflection in the mirror, a sparkle in her eye as she put on her lip gloss.  “Because you’re so damn fun. Everybody loves you.”

Somehow that one worked out in my favor.  In fact, we ended up not getting kicked out but instead sitting at a table with the mother of the bride and taking shots.


Happy wedding season, everyone!

Thursday, February 9, 2017

High Blood Pressure and the Blame Game

The other day, I walked into work and made a small complaint about indigestion.  “Or maybe it’s heart burn,” I said to one of my co-workers, Shannon.  “I don’t know since I’ve never had either.”

She froze in her tracks.  “You haven’t?”

“No,” I mused.  "Which is lucky, I guess, since I’m almost 40 years old.”

Suddenly Shannon was grabbing at my arms, yelling into the next office.  “Donna!  Come quick!  Shay’s stroking out!”

“Wait—" I started to protest, but then I stopped and allowed Shannon to raise both of my arms into the air.  Was I stroking out?

Shannon let go of my arms as Donna rushed into my office. They both studied me for a moment as I stood there, arms above my head.

“Well,” Donna mused, “she’s able to raise her arms up, so that’s good.  Now say something, Shay.”

“Like what?”

“Just give us a sentence.  Any sentence.”

“Um…I hope I’m not stroking out?”

Donna looked satisfied as my boss, interested in all the commotion, walked into my office.  “Her speech isn’t slurred…” Donna said.

“Well, no more than usual,” my boss contributed.  I shot him a dirty look.

“Can you smile?” Shannon asked. I gave a big, toothy grin with no trouble.

“Maybe it is just indigestion,” Donna said.  “What did you have for dinner last night?”

I didn’t have to think too hard about it. I have the same thing for dinner every night. “Two rum and Diet Cokes.”

“Well, that definitely wouldn’t have done it,” my boss said. He looked at Shannon and Donna.  “In fact, she’d probably be sick if she didn’t have them.  Have you ever seen that show Intervention and how those alkies get when they don’t have a drink?”

Donna’s and Shannon’s eyes widened.  “Oh my gosh, YES!” Shannon said.  “It’s crazy.  One time there was this one guy who was shaking so hard he had to drink hand sanitizer to make it stop and—"

“Um, excuse me, you guys,” I interjected, still standing there with my hands in the air and a goofy smile on my face. They looked back at me and I could tell they had forgotten what the point of our little impromptu meeting was.  I brought them back to the subject by saying, “Maybe I didn’t make my drinks strong enough last night?”

Donna, Shannon, and my boss ignored my suggestion.  “Well, if it wasn’t what she ate, maybe she is stroking out.” Donna looked at me worriedly.  “Did you take your blood pressure pill this morning?”

Interesting fact about me:  I’ve had to take blood pressure meds off and on since I was 22 years old. Back then, it was what I considered a funny little tidbit.  Yeah, I know I work out an hour a day and I’m fit and young and you wouldn’t expect a person like me to have high blood pressure, but it makes sense when you look at all of this hard living!  A 12-pack of beer and a pack of cigarettes a night will do that to you!

It’s not so funny anymore, you guys.  As a 39-year-old, I'm still fit and active, but I don’t live so hard anymore. There’s no nightly 12-pack and cigarettes.  I’m lucky if I can sneak in one ciggie a month with one of my responsibly-consumed rum and diets.  I was off of the pills for over 15 years before having to go back on them last year for no apparent reason except that I felt like my blood was going to squeeze out of my skin.

Now, instead of hard living, I blame genetics.  I blame someone in my past even though I don’t know whom to blame because we can’t find an example of anyone—not one goddamned person—in my family fucking tree who could take one for the team and make me look good by having had high blood pressure.

Which sucks, because my dad loves to say things like, “Ya pansyass.  If anyone should have had high blood pressure, it should have been your grandparents, who came to America via Ellis Island straight off the boat. What do you have to get all worked up about?  That your LulaRoe leggings didn’t come in the mail on time?”


I still blame genetics. People will say things like, “But Shay…you eat so healthfully and work out constantly…how is your blood pressure high?”

And I’ll shrug my shoulders wryly and sigh and look pitiful and be all like, “Genetics.  You can’t choose your bloodline.”

I mean, it’s got to be genetics, right?  Someone waaaaaaaay down the line had to have given this shit to me. It couldn’t possibly have been the hard living at 22 and then, years later, the shaker of salt I have to replace once every 6 months because I pour that shit on everything including salad.

In the break room one day, I was eating a humongous, healthy kale and greens salad.  As one of my co-workers pounded her way through a Wendy’s fried chicken sandwich, I shook some salt onto my salad.  She stopped chewing for a moment to openly laugh at me and say, “Oh my gosh, you’re salting your salad?  Who does that?”

I do, motherfucker.  I do.

And guess what?  Just for that, I’m no longer blaming the hard living of my past, my family, my salt habit, or my age for my high blood pressure.

That’s right!

I’m blaming lunchroom bullies.

You guys, I’ve got to admit:  This blame game is kind of fun.  No wonder all the cool kids never take responsibility for their own shit.  It’s so much more fun to find someone else to toss the blame on!

By the way, it really had just been indigestion/heart burn that day.  And just to make sure it didn’t happen again the next morning, I made my 2 rum and diets extra strong that night.

Because it’s never rum’s fault.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Hemorrhoids: The Holiday Gift that Keeps on Giving

I found a packet of soothing hemorrhoid wipes on the bathroom counter yesterday, and they aren’t mine. I haven’t suffered from hemorrhoids since about two weeks after my 5-year-old was born.

I remember sitting on my couch during a playdate, lamenting the fact that my butt hurt.  “I don’t get it,” I said to my close friend, who’d also just had a baby.  Her daughter was born a week after my son.  “He didn’t come out of my ass, so why does it hurt so badly? The only thing I can think of is that it hurts because I’m sitting on it a lot while I’m holding and feeding him?”

My friend made a sympathetic noise, but then an idea came to her. “Do you think it’s hemorrhoids?  A lot of women get them during childbirth.  I’m wrestling with a nasty case of them myself.”

Since my older son is adopted, I’d never had to go through labor before.  It was so nice to have friends with biological kids the same age as my older son who could inform me of stuff like this.

It did end up being hemorrhoids, but once they went away, they were gone for good. 

My husband, on the other hand, hasn’t been so lucky.

I don’t know what he did to receive his first gift of hemorrhoids, but I would guess that it had something to do with drinking an assload of beer on a Saturday night and then having to poop a lot the next day.  That seems to be what brings on his recurring cases, anyway.

(Aren’t I a classy writer?  Aren’t you just sitting wherever you are—at work, at your kitchen table, in your newly renovated office, at a quaint little coffee shop—thinking, I’m so glad I ended up on this page.  I know that today there is at least one thing I can thank the sweet Lord Jesus for, and that is that my eyes have been blessed by what I am reading on this page.  I do not know what I would have done had I not read about drinking a lot and shitting the next day…)

I have to say, my husband was awfully proud of that damned hemorrhoid, at least during the few minutes of each day when he wasn’t crying about it.  He nicknamed it “hemi” and walked around for three days begging me to let him show it to me.

“Come on, Shay,” he’d say.  “Let me show you my hemi.  The doctor said it was really big.”

“What the fuck is wrong with you?” I kept responding. “No!  Nobody wants to see your damned hemi.”

Finally, one day, I was sitting at my computer, minding my own business while pounding out what I’m pretty sure was some very inspirational and/or quality stuff like this post, getting so wrapped up in my work that I hadn’t even noticed that my husband had walked up next to me.

“Hey, Shay,” he said.

Reflexively, I looked up…

…and found myself face-to-face with my husband’s butt crack, which he was spreading apart with his hands so that I could get a better view. 

“Can you see it?  Can you see it?  It’s a big one, right?” he asked excitedly from his bent-over position, as if he were personally responsible for the vein that had popped straight out of his ass.  Which I guess, technically, he was.

“Goddammit,” I muttered, shaking my head and closing my laptop.  I picked my computer up and started to walk down the hall toward our bedroom, where I could lock the door and get some work done without any further hemi sightings. 

As I reached our room, I heard my husband, presumably fully clothed once again, saying, “JEEZ, Shay, grow up. It’s only a hemi.”

Anyway, when I saw the wipes resting on the bathroom counter yesterday, I figured that it was either too much holiday partying and the resulting poops OR the diarrhea-inducing antibiotics in this flu-infested household that had caused the hubs’s hemi to pop right back up and out again.

In either case, I think I’ll stay a safe distance from him for a few days, as my eyes are only just beginning to stop bleeding from the last hemi I was tricked into observing. 

Don’t worry; I’ll get him back.  I’m thinking of “forgetting” to take my birth control just to get pregnant and go through labor, deliberately pushing extra hard in the hopes of getting a hemi that I can show him when he least expects it.

Revenge is sweet, no?

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Suck a Dick

My family rarely gets into fights—

Let me start that over.

My family rarely gets into fights that last a long time.

We fight, in fact, all the time. My younger brother—the one I call Douchebag—and I have a rule that we can’t be in the same town together for longer than 24 hours.  That’s always the amount of time it takes for the newness of seeing each other (he lives in Asia) to wear off. Then we start going at it because, well, he didn’t earn the nickname Douchebag for nothing.  And I’m not the only one in the family who calls him that.

We love telling people our 24-hour rule because they’ll watch us hug in joy as, at the very beginning of a visit home, he steps off the plane. Then they’ll begin to get confused as we both immediately look down at our devices and start the respective stopwatches. 

“What are you guys doing?” they’ll ask.

“Oh,” we’ll say, sharing a knowing glance as he looks up from his fancy wristwatch and I look up from my phone, “just setting the timer.”

I’m usually the one to go on to explain while my brother doles out more hugs and kisses to our waiting family.  “We fight if we’re together longer than 24 hours.”

The observer will look in disbelief at my happy, sweet brother, busily smooching the family after not seeing them for 2 years, and then back at me, observing him with pride in my eyes.  “You two?” he or she will ask.

I’ll nod adamantly.  “Oh, yes. We even got into a fight on another continent once.  At a wedding.”

It’s one of our proudest moments.  The only reason we weren’t thrown out was because it was a long-lost cousin getting married, and they were too happy to have found us (I cannot fathom why) to have the bouncers eject us.  That night, though, we actually resolved it after I slapped him in the face a few times—because somehow, that always makes my little brother dissolve into fits of girlish giggles.

He’s a weirdo.

Anyway, my family’s fights are usually pretty intense but quick, and we’re over them within, like, 5 or 10 minutes.

However, over the past year, my older sister and my dad have kind of been at odds, and while it’s sad and I take any chance I get to encourage them to work their issues out, it’s also been kind of useful because it takes the heat off of me.  When he’s complaining about all of the ways she’s been fucking up, he doesn’t have time to complain about what I might be doing wrong.

Well, I found out the other day that they’ve worked it all out and they were all happy happy joy joy at the last family gathering, which I missed.  I knew something was up because my dad’s been all over my ass lately.  I texted my older sister:

Have you talked to Dad lately?

Yeah, she texted back. I just saw him yesterday. We went out for ice cream.

Really, Mike Brady? I thoughtIce cream?  Goddammit.  But instead of voicing that, this is what I texted back:

You need to start doing stupid shit again so he gets off my ass.  I got in trouble for saying “suck a dick” last weekend.

Lol, she wrote back.

Yes, laugh out loud indeed.  If only.

FIRST of all, it’s like my mom said that one time when my dad shot me a dirty look for telling a horrible joke. (I would tell it here, but it’s truly awful. In fact, I read it in one of those Truly Terrible Jokes books and walked around for years pretending it was my own.  It actually made me tons of friends in the cool crowd…which made me re-think wanting to be part of the cool crowd.)  (Okay, not really.  I was so excited to be accepted into the cool crowd after years of braces and bangs, goddammit.)

So my mom, as my dad was getting ready to bitch at me for telling the awful joke (at a Baptism…did I leave that part out?) caught my dad’s eye, motioned to me, and said, “Have you met your daughter Shay?  Because this is nothing new.”

I gave her a grateful look as the rest of the family kind of raised their eyebrows and nodded their heads as if to say, “Right?  Why’s he getting all pissy now when this has been going on since she slid out of the womb?”

It worked in my favor because they turned it around on him.  “He must be having a bad day…” they all muttered, whispering about him as if he were a mental patient and as if I hadn’t just told an awful joke about dead babies….at a Baptism.

That’ll teach him.

Anyway, through the years, I learned to not only embrace this crass personality, but also to hone it because, well, I’m kind of a horseface and I had to rely on other things to get boyfriends. 

And I could pull in the hotties.

A good friend of mine in college once looked at me in open awe as the most current hottie in my life pulled out of my driveway after a fun night in which I didn’t have sex with him yet again.  (I wasn’t quite the slooter I ended up being just yet. That was more my junior year in college.)

“So you're not having sex with him, yet he keeps coming around,” she murmured, thinking out loud.  “I just don’t understand….you've got that really elongated face...”  

Then she snapped out of it, realizing that she was being an asshole, but I took no offense because she was right.  I mean, she was just as homely as I was back then, but so were all of her boyfriends, while some of mine could have ended up on the pages of People’s Sexiest Man Alive issue.
After mulling it over for a few more seconds, she said, “Actually, I do get it.  With a personality like that, you’re never going to have trouble in the dating department.”

She had basically just called me ugly, but for some reason I felt like I had won.  “Thanks,” I replied, smiling at her and patting her head patronizingly before heading into the apartment for my morning Dr. Pepper.

So last week when my dad called to ask a question about my son’s birthday party, I was more than a little surprised when, towards the end of the conversation, he said, “Listen, Shay, there’s something I’ve got to talk to you about.”

It sounded a little serious, but I knew it couldn’t be that bad or else he’d have told me earlier in the conversation.  I thought maybe it sounded like he was about to chastise me, but I hadn’t done anything wrong…

“Yeah?” I said.  I took him off of speaker because I was in the kitchen with my boys, and I wasn’t sure where this was going.  Were they about to witness their own sweet mother getting a lecture--high-school style?

“Last weekend when you were talking to me on the phone…well, you told me to suck a dick.”

“Right,” I affirmed, chopping lettuce for that night’s dinner salad.

“Shay, you told me to suck a dick.”

“Uh-huh?” I said, throwing in a few cherry tomatoes.

“You don’t see anything wrong with that?”

“No.  And if memory serves—which it may not because I was about 3 strong ones in—you were making fun of me first.”

My dad sighed.  “Your 80-year-old aunt was with me.”

“You started it.”

My dad was quiet, and then I got silent simply because I was baffled.  I mean, it’s not like I told my aunt to suck a dick.

Finally, my dad spoke again, which I was grateful for because I really wanted to see where this was going.  My interest was, as they say, piqued.

“You don’t need to say ‘suck a dick’ when your aunt is with me.”

“But I wasn’t talking to my aunt. I was talking to you.”

“You were on speaker.”

Before I could stop it, a huge bark of laughter escaped from my throat. “What the hell were you thinking, putting me on speaker?  Everyone knows you don’t put me on speaker!  Oh, no—this is all you, old man,” I chuckled. “Totally your fault.”

I let my mind wander to the time—no, make that to the three separate times, with three different friends—when I’d called them and they answered on speaker.  One time, I had dropped a full cup of water just as my friend, a preschool teacher who fortunately was at home and not with a bunch of 3-year-olds, had picked up the phone.  Apparently she clicked it to speaker to make talking a little easier just as I was screaming, “FUUUUUUCK!” while my favorite cup soared through the air, landing on the floor and cracking.  Her 7th grade daughter was in the kitchen with her, and luckily they love me because they both burst into giggles.  The daughter rolled her eyes and said, “So that’s Shay on the phone?”

Yes.  Everybody knows—usually through experience—that you don’t put me on speaker.

My dad sighed again.  “Listen.  You need to call your aunt and apologize.”

I felt my brow furrow wildly into an expression of defiance.  I think I even did that head-snappy-back thing and flared my nostrils a little bit.  It wasn’t pretty, but given the situation, it was called for.  Even if he couldn’t see me.

“You want me to randomly ring my aunt up and say, ‘Sorry I said suck a dick seven days ago, even though it wasn’t to you’?  Should I also apologize for yesterday when I told the hubs that the town gossip was a meddling piece of shit who needs to get laid?  Or maybe I should tell my aunt I’m sorry for that time last year when I said that the shit I just took was so big that calling it a number 2 didn’t do it justice and that it should be called a number 3.  Would you like me to apologize to my aunt for those offenses, too?  Here, maybe I should get a piece of paper and make a list—“

“Alright, that’s enough, smartass,” my dad said.  “I get what you’re saying.  It’s just that…well…Aunt Jean was there, too…”

Ahhhhh…the real reason my dad was suddenly feeling all lecture-like:  one of his other older sisters, Aunt Jean the Drama Queen.  I love Aunt Jean, I really do, but the thing that makes her the happiest in life—besides slot machines and Depends--is when one of her siblings’ kids messes up and she can remind everyone about it for 3 years.

I could picture the scene:  Aunt Jean, bending her ear toward the speaker from which my sexy man voice was flowing, dropping her jaw in mock mortification at the way “you let your kids talk to you, Denny….and in front of our elderly older sister.”  (The same “elderly older sister” who is a line-dancing instructor at the local YMCA, by the way.)

My dad must have felt somehow chastised, bruised around the ego, a little bit of, “Maybe I shouldn’t let my kids talk to me like that…” (even though we have the best relationship in the world) going on in his head.

So I needed to bring him back to earth a little bit.

“This is the same Aunt Jean,” I said, acting as if I needed clarification about one of the aunts I’ve known all my life, “who walked past me last year, paused to look up at me, and said, ‘Shay, I just shit my pants a little bit’?  Right, Dad? That Aunt Jean?”

My dad sighed. He knew he was losing this one.  “But she really had shit her pants,” he tried.

“Well, whose fault was that?  She didn’t have to announce it, did she?”  Actually, I loved that she announced it, and I was honored that she chose me to be the one she told. She and I had shared a genuine moment that day as we threw our heads back and laughed, and then she went, “Oh, shit. I just did it again. I have to get to the store and buy Depends.”  (She doesn’t suffer incontinence, by the way.  We were on a trip and she’d gotten traveler’s diarrhea.)

Anyway, I loved her for telling me.  But if we were pointing fingers, let’s all remember what Jesus said—let he who lives in a glass house be the first to throw the stone.  Or something like that.

“You know what?” my dad said.  “Never mind.  Just—never mind.  Don’t call your aunt.”

“Are you sure?” I pressed.  “Because I’ve got this list of all the inappropriate shit I’ve said—“

“NO.  Do NOT call your aunt,” my dad said.

“If you insist…” I said, a smile in my voice.

My dad sighed one last time as we hung up the phone, and in that sigh, I could hear his thoughts:  What the hell kind of bullshit must I have done in a past life to deserve the shithead kids that I was dealt?

I don’t know, Dad.  Probably something really good.

I had moved into my bedroom to talk on the phone since Dad and I were throwing around a lot of “suck a dicks” in the conversation. When I returned to the living room, where my boys were now sitting, watching Henry Danger, my 8-year-old son looked up at me.

“Why was Papa upset with you?” he asked.

The hilarity of the whole situation struck me once more, and I started laughing and couldn’t stop.  Finally I managed to squeak out an answer between gasping for breath and wiping the tears from my eyes. 

“Because Mommy said a bad word.”

My son looked confused.  “But you always say bad words.”

I looked at him, eyes wide in agreement.  I threw my arms up in a broad, triumphant shrug.

Right?  That’s what I said, too!”

Ah, the wisdom of the young.  He could probably teach my aunt Jean a thing or two.