Hello Future, how are you?

You know, I’ve gotten to the point where I’m used to electronics being smarter than I am. It was hard to accept at first that the kids (including my grandkids) could work there TV/cable remote far better than I could, and forget me figuring out how to hook up something crazy, like, you know, a DVR back in the olden days, before there was streaming (which I have not quite yet figured out how to make it work on my wifi-ready TV)(need a g-kid over here, stat)… But you know, I kinda got used to it. It’s bad when appliances have so many bells and whistles and computer gizmos that it’s talking to you when you’re trying to do stuff, saying things like, “Look, Stupid, push the BIG triangle button, the one that looks like a “play” button on a DVD player.” “But…but… you’re a washing machine. “Play” doesn’t seem like the right word.” “Do you want your clothes washed or not?”

At any rate, after arguing with the appliances for most of the weekend, I’m getting kinda used to not having a clue, but I really really really draw the freaking line when the new make-up mirror is smarter than I am. I bought this small make-up mirror and thought it was one of those touch-activated things, where I could touch anywhere on the stand and it turned on. It worked like that the first couple of times, but then it would just go off, randomly. I made sure it was charged (it charges with a USB). I looked all over that goober trying to find some sort of switch and it would come on when I held it, and then go off again. Randomly. Sometimes when I set it down, sometimes while holding it. Then I noticed this little red sort of reflector mirror… you know, the kind of glass you see or taillights. I thought maybe it was the button, and if I touched it, it came on, but as soon as I moved my hand off the button, it went off. I was going to return that sucker, certain it was broken, when I leaned in to look at something else on the counter and the light went on. I hadn’t touched it. I leaned back, it went off. Forward… on. Back… off. Forward to the side… off. (Why no, I did not read the instructions. Does anyone actually read the instructions?)

My mirror apparently has a freaking infra red proximity alert that tells it when I’m leaning in to use it and that turns it on. Lean back, it goes off.

Look, Universe, I’m okay with the computers being smarter, and I’m not thrilled, but I can live with the appliances being smarter, but when you start making the mirrors smarter, that’s just getting a bit ridiculous, you know? Pretty soon, gadgets and gizmos and now even simple things like mirrors are going to take over the world, and they don’t need AI to do it… they’ll just need some kindergartners.

If you need me, I’ll just be over here on the porch, in my rocking chair, gumming my food and shaking my old lady fist at the world.

When In Doubt, Throw Hard Candy [aka, The Santa From Hell]

(I’ve been asked, as a Christmas tradition, to re-post this story.)

When the kids were little — I think Jake was three and Luke was seven — Christmas felt like it was going to be slim. Make that downright anorexic. So I was looking for a way to bring a little fun into the season, something that wouldn’t cost much.

I had a brilliant idea. (I should come with a warning label: If brilliant idea occurs, step way-the-hell back for your own safety.)

Anyway. The idea was to have someone play Santa at our house for a pre-Christmas visit. We’d invite all the neighbor kids and their parents and each family would bring a gift for their child ahead of time. I’d hide the gifts away and squirrel them to our Santa, who would come in the house with lots of Ho Ho Hos and joy and jovial warmth and after regaling the kids with whatever it is Santas regale kids with, he’d give out the presents. There would be hot chocolate and apple cider, a beautifully lit Christmas tree in the background. Maybe even singing, if the kids wanted to sing. We would be so sappy, Hallmark would sue. Or throw up, but whatever, it was going to be great.

When I write it out like that, it sounds like a very nice day, doesn’t it? It really does seem normal and sane and I should have known that in my world, “normal” and “sane” do not apply.

It progressed innocently enough… I invited all of the neighbors, who loved the idea, especially since it was a fairly tight season for everyone. The “gifts” to the kids were held to a very low budget, so everything was fair and equal. There was a tree, decorations, lights, apple cider and hot chocolate, brownies, cookies, you name it for a sugar fix, someone was going to bring it. All I needed was a Santa.

Finding someone with a Santa suit wasn’t quite as easy as I had expected; most of the people who have them are booked for all of December, and it was two weeks before Christmas and looking a little bleak. And forget getting one of those guys for free. Like I was crazy for thinking this was the season of giving or something. Of course, the kids already knew that Santa was going to come to our house for our party, the specific date was set, so there was no going back at that point. (Could you look a bunch of 3 to 7 year olds in the face and tell them Santa wasn’t showing up? If so, here’s your application to Mercenaries-R-Us and Osama’s on line two.) So. Had to find a Santa. Was getting a little scared as the day approached and there was no Santa to be had.

Then a member of our family, who we still speak to even after this event, suggested a certain older friend-of-the-family. I had met this FOtF several times, and he’s a little… erm… warped. He is very very sweet, but also sort of odd, disjointed, but in a quasi-live-in-a-fog sort of way.Jovial, though, he had down pat. He had the rotund belly, the jolly round cheeks, the perfect Santa nose. The thing that worried me was that he was incredibly bashful. And when he did speak, he was extremely quiet. I couldn’t remember him putting together two whole sentences in a row, unless you call smiling and nodding a lot “sentences,” but at this point, I figured, what could it hurt?

Now, in retrospect, I understand why the heroine always goes down into the dark basement when she’s heard a noise, there’s a serial killer known to be in her neighborhood, someone who’d been stalking her and had keys made to her house, and yet she goes anyway, armed with only a pony-tail clasp and Malibu Barbie lipstick. She was thinking what could it hurt?

Our house was tiny, so the plan was for me to hide the bag of toys at our back door for Santa to grab, then he’d go around and come in the front door, where everyone was gathered in the living / dining room area. Tree lit? Check. Apple cider? Check. Hot chocolate? Check. Sugar high toddlers on the ceiling? Check. So many people packed in there, we were going to need pregnancy tests soon? Check.

But no Santa.

An hour goes by. The kids get higher and rowdier and the adults get fidgety and gossipy and God only knows how many families we managed to break up on that one night. Meanwhile, Jake (three) wandered off to the kitchen. I could see him (very very tiny house) from the dining room, when we heard a noise outside. A distinctive ‘HO HO HO” noise. At last.

Everyone turned expectantly toward the front door. I didn’t want Jake to miss this, so I ran into the kitchen to scoop him up, when suddenly, the back door BURST open with Jake not a foot away from it, and in bound Santa, HO HO HOing at the TOP OF HIS LUNGS, and RUNNING, people. RUNNING. There was NO ROOM TO RUN so Jake turned away from this screaming giant red monster and beelined it back to the living room, which meant he went OVER me, over a few other people standing in the way and did Santa stop? No, no he did not. Santa ran smack over me, over a few other innocent bystanders, and to top it off, the whole running time? He was throwing candy. Hard candy. And I don’t mean “lightly tossing it to the cute little four-year-old standing there with her jaw open in abject fear….” No. I mean hurling it, 95mph over the plate there, Babe, pinging parents, knocking out a couple of random elementary kids and everyone started dodging and diving for cover and did he STOP? No. No he did not. He kept whizzing that candy and HO HO HOing and running (now in circles in the living room) and kids were screaming, Jake was crying, Luke was hiding, I was still on the floor in total shock, and when he did stop, finally (I think Carl tripped him), he started with the presents. Not a single jolly word did this man speak. He pulled out presents, asked the kid’s name, and the really smart kids hid behind their parents, because he HURLED the gifts at their heads. Hurled. I’m not kidding you.

By this point, there was hot chocolate and apple cider everywhere, there were a couple of wet spots on the sofa I didn’t want to identify, most of the kids were wailing and trying to climb their nearest parent and on top of everything else, Santa had managed to drop one of the kid’s presents outside… though I had the presence of mind to realize what had happened and I had a stand-by gift ready (in case one of the parents forgot) and so that was solved. When he finished slinging the last present, did he SIT DOWN and calmly tell lovely stories to the kids to keep them from growing up to be SERIAL KILLERS?

No. No he did not.

He started up again with the running and HO HO HOing and throwing even MORE CANDY. You’d think the man was on a float and we were thirty feet away, and when he finally finished careening over a couple of kids who hadn’t been trampled on the first go-round, he sprinted to the back door and ran out into the night.

The back door slammed and the whole house hushed for a moment in stunned silence. Parents looked at me like I should be locked up, and those were the nice polite expressions, comparatively speaking. Then the shrieking began, and the confusion (toys had been dropped and stomped on by Santa on his way out) and there was just no way to rescue it. I’ve never seen a bunch of people leave a party faster in my life.

But I tell you what. Whenever someone would say to those kids, even years later, that they “better be good because Santa was watching”… man, they’d straighten right the hell up. And I don’t think a single one of them touched hard candy for years.

(Just to wrap up… I thought the Santa would have realized how badly things had gone, but the next time we saw him and his wife, he was back in bashful, quiet mode and his wife told us that he’d reportedly had an absolutely delightful time, that it had been one of the best Santa/parties he’d ever attended. And he sat there and smiled and nodded.)

NYC trip

When Tamar and I were walking around NYC last week, we made a stop at an amazing gelato place (um, Tamar will have to post where it is)… and as we’re standing in there, she’s taste testing all of these wonderfully exotic flavors… you know, things with fruit flavors and strange concoctions that fall into the category of NOT CHOCOLATE. So the clerk/woman turns to me and asks what I’d like to try, and I don’t even need to try anything, I tell her. Just give me the chocolaty-ist chocolate she had and then she asked, “Do you want dark chocolate? Or *really* dark chocolate?” And my head exploded. I went for the dark chocolate because the dark-dark chocolate would’ve probably been like crack and the headlines would read, “New Orleans Woman Takes Gelato Store Hostage, Demands All The Dark Dark Chocolate In The Whole World.” 

Then she asked me if I wanted to put something ON the chocolate or mix something else IN the chocolate, and I was all, YOU DON’T TOUCH THE CHOCOLATE WITH OTHER STUFF. Except chocolate sprinkles or syrup, which she did not have.

And I think I’m being perfectly normal, and I look over at Tamar’s amused expression and realized I may have been showing my Southern a little too much.

I’m going to try to start posting and cross-posting over here several times a week, so hold onto your hats, this may turn out to be a real blog.

Meanwhile, here’s one shot of our walkabout:

Early-morning-read-in-the-park-for-web

Dear God, The Stick Turned Blue

by Toni McGee Causey

Dear God, Universe, or Elves (I am covering all bases, I cannot afford to be picky here):

The stick turned blue. I’m 19. And a half. The stick turned blue. I think my brains just leaked out of my ears because THE STICK TURNED BLUE. It cannot turn blue. I only had sex once. Okay, maybe twice. That’s in base 200. Or something. (Shut up, I am an English major, we’re not expected to know higher math.)

Is this like… trial-sies? Practice run? Just to see how good my adrenal system works because let me reassure you right now, IT WORKS JUST FINE, though I think my neighbors might need a hearing aid after all the shrieking died down.

Signed,

Seriously, you’re kidding, right?
_______________________________

Dear God, Universe, or Elves:

This is pregnant? This can’t stand to move morning sickness bloated pasty can’t fit into anything anymore look like a whale and where thehell is my GLOWY feeling? What? Were you out of Deep Fried Crazy Hot for the highs this summer and thought you’d just go ahead and substitute Miserable Seventh Level Of Hades and thought I wouldn’t notice?

Signed,

So very not happy with you right now.
_____________________________________

Dear God, Universe, or Elves:

It’s a boy. Two-and-a-half weeks overdue. GET HIM OUT GET HIM OUT GET HIM OUT GET HIM OUT GET HIM OUT.

Signed,

Hate you and your shoes.
_________________________

Dear God, Universe, or Elves:

HE CAN STAY IN, I swear, I will shut up, forever, please do not make me have to OHMYGODTHATHURT. If I die and there is a heaven, I am bringing a LEAD BASKETBALL and you’d better not bend over.

Signed,

Never having sex again, ever.
_____________________________

Dear God, Universe, or Elves:

Wow. I just… wow. He’s perfect. Unbelievably perfect. And just… wow. Who knew?

Signed,

Okay, you’re forgiven.
_____________________

Dear God, Universe, Or Elves:

Oh, damn. How am I supposed to know what to do? How am I not going to break him? I don’t know enough. Maybe when I’m forty. Or fifty. Maybe. I am so going to screw this up.

Signed,

What the hell were you thinking, trusting me?
_____________________________________________

Dear God, Universe, or Elves:

Um, I hate to mention this, but there is one SERIOUS flaw in your design here. WHERE IS THE OFF SWITCH? I’d like to be able to shower, five minutes. Five. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

Signed,

So bringing my stinky self to your doorstep in about three seconds if you don’t FIX THIS.
______________________________________________

Dear God, Universe, or Elves:

My husband came home and heard me arguing with our two-year-old and took me aside and said, “You’re the adult. You have to outsmart him.”

The sad thing is, I’M TRYING TO.

Signed,

Send brains. Quick.
___________________

Dear God, Universe, or Elves:

Okay, I get the whole “have sex, can get pregnant” thing, you can’t fool me. And okay, I’m not wholly surprised that I look like I ate an entire football stadium, but they just told me they expect this one to be over nine pounds. NINE. That’s like giving birth to a TWO MONTH OLD. WITH TEETH. Why not just go ahead and shoehorn in a COLLEGE GRADUATE while you’re at it. Maybe you’ve got a couple of missing OCEAN LINERS from the Bermuda triangle you don’t know what to do with; you can just SHOVE THEM IN MY UTERUS, I DON’T MIND.

Signed,

I hope your hair falls out.
_________________________

Dear God, Universe, or Elves:

That was really freaking EVIL of you, playing that “cutest kid on the planet” card, twice in a row. It gets easy after this, right?

Signed,

Delirious.
__________

Dear God, Universe, or Elves:

Look, I know you’re really busy with all that famine and war and mythical alternate universe of Reaganomics and Wham!, but if you could just take a couple of seconds out of your busy schedule? Because my kids are infected with the HE’S TOUCHING ME HE’S LOOKING AT MY STUFF OH WOE!!!! disease. How much trouble will I be in if I duct tape them together?

Signed,

Duct Tape On Sale Now
_______________________

Dear God, Universe, or Elves:

He’s never going to forgive me for wrapping him in multiple rolls of aluminum foil to turn him into the Tin Man for Halloween, is he? Or the eighteen blocks I made him walk (while re-wrapping him) because we were going to trick-or-treat and we were going to BY GOD HAVE FUN, DAMMIT. I’m still going to hear about this when he’s twenty-five, aren’t I?

Signed,

Seriously thought about tying the bathroom rug around him for “lion fur”–he doesn’t know how lucky he is.
___________________________

Dear God, Universe, or Elves:

They are sticking a needle in my four-year-old’s back. A needle. They are holding him down in the other room, and he is screaming. They made me leave, because he was lunging for me and he’s supposed to be absolutely still.

I just sat across from one of my childhood friends. She’s our pediatrician now, and one of the smartest people on the planet. We made mud pies together when we were five and six years old. We even managed to sell them (well, she did, she is that smart).

I never dreamed I would be sitting across from her one day and that she would have to say, “meningitis.” That the words “risks” and “death” and “possible brain damage” and “spinal tap” and “could paralyze him” would float, jumbled, over the space between us, that we’d ever talk about the fact that she had to stick a needle in my son’s back. A pediatric emergency.

She is sending me to the ER. I’m carrying him (passed out), while my oldest son is clutching his brother’s spinal fluids in some sort of glass flask, and I’m supposed to drive to the ER, because we do not have time for an ambulance.

She said to try not to stop for red lights. I CANNOT BREATHE right now, and there is no oxygen going to my brain and I CANNOT STOP FOR RED LIGHTS.

I don’t care what it takes, do it to me, not him. I will give you anything. I will give you everything. Just do not do this.

Signed,

begging.
____________________________

Dear God, Universe, or Elves:

Four days later, and his brother and he are making a slide out of the hospital bed’s mattress.
It is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen.

Signed,

thank you.
(your hair grew back in nicely, by the way)
_________________________________________

Dear God, Universe, or Elves:

The oldest is fifteen, and in this state, he can legally drive. HAVE YOU FREAKING LOST CONTROL OF THE UNIVERSE, OR WHAT? How in the world am I supposed to let him drive? I can barely keep from hurling myself in his path to keep him safe while he’s WALKING AROUND, BREATHING AIR, dammit. I have tried to remember that they are supposed to grow up to be independent, strong men. I have tried to remember to reinforce their decision-making skills. But this is just asking TOO DAMNED MUCH. It’s too soon.

Signed,

Where is the time machine?
___________________________

Dear God, Universe, or Elves:

ANY PHONE CALL THAT STARTS WITH “Mom, I’m okay, DON’T WORRY,” is NOT GOING TO BE GOOD, I don’t care HOW earnest you make them sound.

Signed,

Like I am that easily fooled. Ha.
_______________________________

Dear God, Universe, or Elves:

I sat on the floor in the hallway today where I could see into the door of each of their rooms. They are empty, now, of boy stuff. One is an exercise room, and one a guest bedroom.

I did not break them. I screwed up. A lot, sometimes. I got self absorbed and busy and short tempered. I lost confidence and lost my way, but I did not break them. I remember the smiles, the laughter, the tooth fairy, the Christmas mornings, the late night talks. There were baseball games, wrestling tournaments, graduations and hysterically funny meals. I remember tears and heartache and not knowing if just loving them more than breathing was going to be enough. I remember too many close calls where it seemed like it might not be. But they are funny and smart and good hearted men. They have (mostly) outgrown the HE’S TOUCHING ME HE’S LOOKING AT MY STUFF OH WOE!!!! disease, and so get along pretty amazingly well. They make me laugh and surprise me and are fascinating people. They are kind. They treat people well, and they not only love deeply, but they are loved deeply in return. They are both the kind of men who, if I just met them somewhere, I’d like them tremendously. They have started families. Wonderful women I’m so lucky to have in our family. A granddaughter (the most beautiful, happy baby in the world).

You did not tell me when you gave me that blue stick that you were giving me my heart. You did not tell me that you were giving me everything that mattered.

Dear God, the stick turned blue.

THANK YOU.

Signed,

toni, a mom.
_____________

(March 17th will be the 32nd anniversary of that first event.)

[I originally published this on Murderati when I blogged there.]