Buckle Up, Buttercups! It’s College Tour Season

My male partner in crime–my cousin Jeff–took his daughter Leah to an out-of-state midwestern college (that shall remain nameless) for a tour this morning. Aaaand…she won’t be going there. Today could’ve been fodder for an SNL skit. I know this because Jeff called me tonight while they were driving back. The hills of western Wisconsin are filled with cell phone dead zones, which made his retelling of the story even funnier, because he’d almost reach the punch line, and the comedy gods would disconnect the phone. We called each other back 15 times to finish the story.

Jeff and his daughter were led through the campus by two Asian tour guides–Seiko and Gunther. It’s not every day you meet an Asian guy named Gunther, so this was fast becoming a FARGO episode. Seiko, the girl tour guide, was a math major. I mention this factoid because it erupts later in the story. Lest you assume I am making an Asians-are-good-at-math crack, that might make you the racist! Gunther, on the other hand, was a fishing and agriculture major.

To Jeff’s great comedic fortune, this was Gunther’s virgin voyage at playing tour guide. Seiko did her level best to remain positive while trying to engage Gunther into the conversation. Every one of Gunther’s answers only served to further erode his credibility.

Some nondescript, generic university…

As Seiko was showing Jeff’s small tour group the dorms, she asked Gunther which dorm he lived in.

“Oh,” he looked down. “I commute from home.” From there, his reactions were barely on life support.

“So…Gunther,” Seiko asked with as much feigned chipper cheerleader chatter as she could muster, “What made you choose this Midwestern University?!?”

“I didn’t get into the Naval College I applied for, so I just ended up here,” he shrugged, his monotone voice devoid of any joy. Jeff started searching for hidden cameras. Surely this was some sort of a YouTube prank. Or Gunther was setting foot on campus for his first time, part of some witness protection program.

Like two warring, passive-aggressive newscasters, Seiko would try throwing the tour guide lead to Gunther, and he’d just toss it right back at her, with a “No, that’s okay, Seiko…I think you’ve got this…”

Seiko finally got Gunther to talk about one of the buildings. The math building, where Seiko spends most of her time. “Gunther, why don’t you tell our guests about this building?”

Gunther looked down, sullen. “You mostly only go into that building for math classes,” he mumbled. “Except for one class…that’s where I took my public speaking class.” At this point, Jeff and Leah couldn’t even look at each other, choking back their chortles.

Gunther had yet to master the walking-backwards-while-talking part of this gig. He had no self awareness of his personal space, narrowly missing many landmarks and human collisions. Other tour groups were glaring at my cousin Jeff, as if Jeff was somehow responsible for reining in Gunther! These are the ridiculous situations Jeff always finds himself in, getting blamed for stuff that is never his fault, which always make me double over laughing. Jeff can keep a poker face…until he catches a side glimpse of my shoulders quivering in silent giggles. Jeff, Leah and I were all in agreement. It was a very good thing I didn’t join them.

The best moment occurred at the very end, when Jeff overheard Seiko tactfully taking Gunther out of earshot and querying him, “Umm, Gunther…didn’t anyone show you the tour guide script?”

“What? There’s a script?!?” In that singular moment, Gunther demonstrated that he did, indeed, have a pulse.

Jeff spoke up, trying to make Gunther feel better about things. “Gunther, care to join us for lunch?” Leah glared at her father.

“Thanks, man. I can’t–my ride’s here,” he declined politely, his tilted head gesturing toward the nearby parking lot.

Jeff and Leah are pretty sure the middle-aged woman behind the wheel was Gunther’s mom.

 

 

Things You Might Overhear at My Family’s Thanksgiving Celebration

Few moments in my life are funnier than the comments bubbling up during meals spent with my crazy family and equally crazy friends (who are like chosen family.). Since my cousin Jeff and I can basically mind meld, all it takes is a quick exchange of glances to kick off some of these running dialogues during Thanksgiving dinner. Here’s my Top Five List of Oddball Things Said During Meals Together (family and friends edition), with a (T) behind those you might overhear at my family’s Thanksgiving.

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  1. “I have a torn labia.” One of my guy friends said this when I asked him what kind of shoulder surgery he was recovering from. He meant to say “labrum,” but somehow, labia is what came out. I was in hysterics for a good half an hour afterwards. I felt guilty laughing because he looked so pained and embarrassed, but that only made me laugh harder. I choked on my coffee this morning, just remembering this one all over again.
  2. “No man can refuse this p***y!” A certain uber-tall cousin of mine grabbed his right ankle and lifted his long leg over his head, uttering these words in the middle of a Sizzler Restaurant during lunch one day, mimicking Grace Jones in the Eddie Murphy movie, Boomerang.  Unbeknownst to him, as he was sitting in front of a column, there was an entire table of people behind him, whom I was facing, who did not appreciate his Grace Jones imitation, making this even funnier. I waved my hands wildly about in the “stop” motion, but he misinterpreted my gesturing as “Stop making me laugh!” I couldn’t stop hyperventilating in giggles long enough to warn him to stop.
  3. “Fifteen is my limit on schnitzengruben!” (T)This line from Blazing Saddles is uttered every time someone tries to push food on us at Thanksgiving, when we’re already way too stuffed.
  4. “It’s only wafer thin…” (T) –– This alludes to the epically disgusting, never-ending puke scene in Monty Python’s Meaning of Life. John Cleese offers up a wafer-thin mint to an obese man who has eaten so much, he explodes. In the end, all that remains is a beating heart, dangling, encased inside of a rib cage.
  5. “Go make yourself a danged quesadilla!” (T) — To say this correctly, you have to make quesadilla rhyme with Sarah Palin’s hometown, Wasilla. This line, from Napoleon Dynamite, is typically said later in the day, when dinner has settled and someone interrupts our Euchre game long enough to announce they have a taste for a turkey/stuffing/cranberry sauce sandwich. I also say this to Jack, pretty much every day we’re home together and he asks me to make his lunch.

This year, Jack and I are celebrating Thanksgiving with my extended family over the weekend, so tomorrow will be a quiet day at home, watching “Holes” and Napoleon Dynamite, wishing the pilgrims had kicked off this holiday with Beef Wellington rather than turkey. And what are your plans? Need ideas for side dishes, cocktails, main course recipes, cooking time, gravy techniques, family games or table decor tips? Check out my freshly curated Pinterest Holiday Entertainment board. Consider this your new go-to resource filled with infographic goodness and everything you’d need to know for holiday entertaining. Also, I learned a great trick on Saturday with my baked brie — using apple butter instead of apricot preserves gives it this apple pie flavor that is simply amazing. Give it a whirl!

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The Value of Impatience: This Chicagoan Votes Early, Just Not “Often”

I hate waiting in lines. I mean, really HATE. IT. I’m convinced the Disney Fast Pass came about when they read my none-too-subtle solution in their suggestion box. One of the greatest perks to working in TV production with Jan Gabriel on his nationally syndicated motorsports series The Super Chargers was getting that elitist, front-of-the-line access at Universal Studios in California, back when Molly Miles was in charge. God, I miss those days. For the 8 hours I was an entitled princess, I kept thinking to myself, “Self, you could really get used to this. And that could be dangerous.”

As a Chicagoan, I’ve exerted enough energy being patient in my life. After all, it’s taken my beloved Chicago CUBS 108 years to get into this World Series. I’ve literally waited my entire life for this moment!

Fortunately, the line to vote today was just 5 people long. All told, I was done in 30 minutes. I highly recommend you vote early. Just get it done. And if you’re voting in Chicago, I hope I don’t need to tell you, but please, do not vote more than once. Here’s a handy, party-agnostic link to find your early polling location: bit.ly/2dPJH3W

Hey, I'm Chicago. I vote early, just not OFTEN (in the same election).

Hey, I’m from Chicago. I vote early, just not OFTEN (in the same election).

Is It Bad Parenting If I Post a Negative YELP Review on My 11-Year-Old’s New Cleaning Business?

I’ll admit it. I hate vacuuming. I love the end result, but it’s the journey I object to. I don’t even care if it’s done in the diamond-shaped pattern. I just love it clean. Enter, stage left, my enterprising son Jack, now on summer break.  I hate vacuuming enough to pay him $5 a week to do it for me. He even includes the stairs!

Yesterday, the enterprising Master Jack launched his latest get-rich-quick scheme. He’s trying to earn money for his new paintball gun, which I have deemed a “non-essential item” (cue up the voice of Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons when you say that in your head) not covered on my list of parental obligatory expenses. An Azodin Kaos, to be exact. So Jack decided he’s now in the housecleaning business. He offered to mop my wooden floors. It was a mere $2.00 up charge. SOLD! He created his business name and a sell sheet, which he proudly posted on our refrigerator (I hate stainless steel refrigerators; I need mine magnetic since I use it as this hectic household’s visual command center).

Jack’s logo choice alone should have been my first of many red flags…

This logo screams "Pest Control," no?

This logo screams “Pest Control,” no?

But in the midst of his Swiffer slopping, er, mopping efforts, he pivoted, ceasing further progress. He grabbed a Sharpie, raced over to the refrigerator, took down his ransom note-like sell sheet and raised his pricing to $5! He more than doubled it! The cajones on that kid!

Because...INFLATION?

Because…INFLATION?!?

With righteous indignation, he announced he was “finished” with the kitchen. It took no white glove inspection to discover that many areas were completely neglected. Ignored might be the better term. Corners, the perimeters, huge swaths of flooring, and then the entire area beneath the kitchen table bypassed the purview of his Swiffer. One would almost have to try to be that bad at mopping.

That sell sheet is taking up a lot of real estate better used by my magnet collection.

That sell sheet is taking up a lot of real estate better served by my magnet menagerie.

At that precise moment, my BFF Marovich called. She suggested a bad YELP review might get him in line. I agreed. I added Angie’s List and HomeImprovement.com. Perhaps a Better Business Bureau complaint while I’m at it.  The cherry on top.

But two can play this game. I’m compiling my own list of fees. Trips to the orthodontist because he lost his bands again? $10. Trips to his friends’ houses? $15 (round trip, naturally–I’m not totally heartless). Every squeeze of toothpaste? .50 cents. In no time, I will have recouped my housekeeping fees. Maybe then I can afford to hire a real professional again. (Our house misses you, Judy!) I hate to dash Jack’s little entrepreneurial spirit, but didn’t Thomas Edison once say something about learning from one’s failures? Cloud, meet silver lining. One down, many careers to go.

 

 

RIP, Christopher… “Like Pieces of Glass in My Head All of the Time…”

The last image taken of Christopher, holding his new niece.

The last image taken of Christopher, holding his new niece.

I wave the white flag. I cry “Uncle!” I can bear no more losses this year. There’s been too much death. (In a future blog, when I’m feeling ready to talk about it, I will share the story of my bio-mom’s death in March of this year. That, too, was heartbreak.)

If there were any way I could take away the pain Darlene, my BFF since kindergarten, is feeling, I would. Her heart is broken. In a million pieces.

My BFF since kindergarten, my beautiful friend Darlene, and her beautiful son.

My BFF since kindergarten, my beautiful friend Darlene, and her beautiful son, gone too soon.

Here is a link to the eulogy she wrote, and below is the funeral program I wrote for her son Christopher. While one of the saddest assignments I’ve ever received, it was also the greatest honor and privilege that they entrusted me–the irreverent friend who attempted slipping a “There Once Was a Man from Nantucket” poem into my own wedding ceremony–to do this for them. (Darlene was my official photographer that day.)

So…here it is:

Christopher Ryan Nauman grew to become a big man with an even bigger heart. In fact, he had one of the biggest, most loving hearts many of us ever knew. Like John Coffey, the character he loved so in The Green Mile, Christopher lived his life vibrating on a different frequency than the rest of us…feeling things more deeply and intensely than we could ever possibly understand. He was God’s instrument, so sensitive and finely tuned…so fragile inside of a body seemingly so sturdy and strong.

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There was never a doubt of Chris’s deep, abiding love for his family and his friends, which knew no bounds. He was loyal to a fault. There were times in his life when those who would prey on loving souls mistook his kindness for weakness. But that was not Chris’s journey. He continued being kind, overlooking their faults.

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From the time Chris was small, his love for children was obvious to anyone near him. He relished his time with every one of the children in his orbit—Riley, Mazie, Colbie, Teagan—protective and clearly smitten, always playing with the little ones and loving on the babies.

Chris was blessed in being raised with family who always saw the essence of who Chris truly was, despite the challenges he faced; they saw the true potential in his God-given gifts. They nurtured his love for reading, feeding him on westerns by Louis L’Amour, adventures by Clive Cussler, and the diverse fiction of Stephen King, informing his vivid theater of the mind.

They also encouraged his natural talent for art. Illustration came easily to Chris. His parents helped him parlay that gift into the imaginative tattoo art that was innate to Chris. We treasure those who forever carry the touch of his ink on their skin.

Christopher, the Illustrated Man.

Christopher, the Illustrated Man.

Being outside surrounded by nature gave Chris so much peace; mowing the lawn was the chore requiring the least amount of prodding. One of his favorite jobs was installing piers, since it combined being on the water with being outside, although his fair skin would pay the price at day’s end. He loved working in the yard, helping Darlene build their brick flowerbeds and plant the gardens in front of their home, working tirelessly alongside her on those ambitious outside projects.

The beautiful flower bed Christopher helped build and plant with his mom.

The beautiful flower bed Christopher helped build and plant with his mom.

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Another joy in Christopher’s life aside from music, art, books, and video gaming, was his dad’s cooking. He’d regularly call home and query Robert with “What leftovers do you have?” or “Dad! What are you going to make?!?” His favorites were Robert’s spicy chili mac and his barbecued pork steaks. If he’d had the luxury of choosing, those would have been on the menu for his last meal.

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Joining his Uncle Darrell, another gifted artist, we believe–no, we know–Christopher is in heaven, collaborating with all of the artists in residence, making heaven an even more beautiful place.

We ask that you pray for each member of our family to heal our heartbreak, and that you always remember Christopher in your prayers. He will hear you.

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My sweet friend wrote this on Facebook just now:

True Blue.

True Blue.

LOOT CRATE: The Bane of My Existence

I went to get my cards read by psychic RoseWolf of SecondSightRose.com a while back, and I knew she was truly accurate when she said to me, “I’m getting that the decor in your home looks more like a…MAN CAVE?!?” With all of the comic book convention tzotchkes, art, pop culture collections, art books, and work samples Dave Dorman has amassed over his 35-year career, outside of the Smithsonian Institute, there’s no facility existing to properly display all. of. that. shtuff. Oh, wait–there’s Warehouse 13, if only it was real.

So…you can just imagine my reaction when we started getting these LOOT CRATE boxes in the mail every month — it was like a geek menstrual cycle, and equally a pain in my ass. Every time Dave or Jack’s back was turned, I was throwing away these irritating, tiny collectibles into the circular file (which Dave and Jack never seemed to miss) in my attempt to maintain some semblance of decluttering. Outside of the Legends of Zelda terry cloth wrist band, which I used for tennis–and to wipe my brow as I labored over throwing away more LOOT CRATE crap–there was nothing in these LOOT CRATE boxes of “exclusives” worth the $20 a month. But this month, I have to hand it to Loot Crate. They actually sent something that I like. Something with purpose. Introducing my new Breaking Bad apron:

The BREAKING BAD Los Pollo Hermanos Apron, courtesy of LOOT CRATE

My new Breaking Bad Los Pollo Hermanos Apron, courtesy of LOOT CRATE

Mind you, Dave doesn’t enjoy my “clean eating,” so I’m rarely cooking for anyone but me or Jack, but if Jack’s occasional box of Mac & Cheese splashes up, at least my Batman tees are now protected. However, Dave’s t-shirt collection and mine are like constantly warring nations, fighting for closet space territory.

Good thing Dave’s out of town 3 of 4 weekends in September so those, too, mysteriously find their way into the circular file…

A FlashJack

That is, a “Jack Flashback.” My close friend in Florida Angie Druetta sent me this photo in my email this morning, and it melted my heart. My parents, God love ’em, suffered through my stork delivery nearly as much as I did. I went in at 9 a.m. on November 2nd with Pitocin and ended up with a c-section at 4:42 a.m. the next morning. I never went into labor. The kid was already 2+ weeks late. My due date was October 18th. I was hoping for a Libra, but I got a Scorpio kid. It’s worked out well so far. My parents never left my side, so it was only right that they held Jack more than I did in the first few hours of his young life.

Mom and Dad, who was just minutes old. Pensacola, FL, 2003.

Mom and Dad, with Jack, who was just minutes old. Pensacola, FL, Sacred Heart Hospital, 2003.

This almost softens my heart to the fact that before British Soccer Camp yesterday, I came downstairs first thing in the morning to discover that Jack removed a white sheet from his bed to cut up with scissors and turn into a North Korean flag. Unbeknownst to me, this was an assignment from his soccer camp instructor. I walked into my creme-colored, carpeted front room to find a giant, thick, RED Sharpie and 3 of my blue Papermate flair pens strewn across the floor, next to Jack’s new “flag.” He colored his white bed sheet on my carpet (so he could “spread out,” he insisted) while lying on his belly. The thought of doing this on the large kitchen table never occurred to him. Good thing his team won the “World Cup” at British Soccer Camp yesterday. That redeemed him a little

Jack gets a congratulatory "high-five" from British Soccer Camp Coach Tom.

Jack gets a congratulatory “high-five” from British Soccer Camp Coach Tom.

The Poop Deck: Episode One – Your #1 Online Resource for Scatological Humor

I willingly admit, my sense of humor is often ruled by the 13-year-old boy who lives inside of my brain. This is the side to my humor that Dave Dorman finds deplorable. His derision merely serves to egg on Jack and me, which drives him deeper into his art studio…far away from us.

I derive comfort from the fact that I’m not alone in this. In fact, the family I was adopted into shares my sick sense of scatological humor, as do my “collection,” as BFF Marovich calls them, of friends I’ve curated along the way. No one batted an eye when one-year-old Jack’s favorite stuffed toy from me was Mr. Hankey, The Christmas Poo from South Park, replete with a push-button sound chip of Mr. Hankey sound bytes (“Howdy Ho, Kyle” being our personal favorite!)

Every once in a while, you’ll see me post some poop humor here that catches my eye. My non-Mormon Sister Wife Maura curated this one for me:

https://www.facebook.com/DiscoveryNews/videos/10153337937478387/

Like Peanut Butter & Jelly...

Like Peanut Butter & Jelly…

I commented on my Facebook page that I appreciated that “Mr. Henkie” from South Park was narrating this little video, and I received this instant message from my Facebook friend, Mike. Knowing my penchant for correct spelling, rest assured I’ll be editing my FB post, post haste!

We all need friends to hold us accountable. Thank you, Mike!

We all need friends to hold us accountable. Thank you, Mike!

This Morning: The Weird Baby Incident

A few of my non-Mormon Sister Wives and I decided to have breakfast and go see the new ENTOURAGE movie today. In a rare twist of fate, this was our second Sister Wives adventure this week, the first being a paradise pool party on Tuesday, a few doors down from Donnie Wahlberg and Jenny McCarthy’s new abode in the Chicago suburbs. This adventure didn’t end well for one of our Sister Wives…who awoke on a poolside chaise lounge at 9:30 p.m. in a Chardonnay-induced haze and is likely just now eating solid foods again. I hope the new neighbors weren’t offended that we blasted Marky Mark’s “Good Vibrations” vs. Donnie’s vintage croons.

Towards the end of breakfast, four of us Sister Wives were deep into a conversation about botox when a stranger in her late 40s to mid 50s–we are still debating her age–approached our table with a 6-month-old in a baby carrier. She looked at my friend Ophelia (we think so, anyway–we’re still puzzling over whom she was actually addressing) and said, “Do you want to see Baby Bentley, too?” We all looked up, with our collectively confused, WTF facial expressions. Did we know this woman? And why was she was foisting her baby on us? “He’s my sister’s twin baby,” she continued, by way of some nutty, non sequitur explanation. “There’s another one just like him,” she added. And then she abruptly walked away, baby carrier in hand, off to pay her bill. Once she was out of earshot, the table erupted into a mad scramble of a debate, trying to figure out who among us knew her. None of us did.

Since I’m the freak magnet who attracts every Gary Busey-type within a 10-mile radius without even trying, and Ophelia is my rare equal in this odd magnetism trait I’ve grown to accept over the years, we’re doubly charismatic-dangerous when we’re together. A reality TV show with Ophelia, me, and Gary Busey would be something to watch, I assure you. Of course my writer’s mind goes into overdrive, building a tale where this woman’s a child trafficker who dresses up like a nurse and grabs newborns from the local hospital. She did have crazy eyes, maybe just a little bit.

SO NOT me, or Sister Wife C, either.

SO NOT me, or Sister Wife C, either.

“Apparently my baby repellant is no longer working,” snarked Sister Wife C. I burst out laughing. She and I are so on the same page about this. We aren’t proud to admit it, but we deplored that whole baby mama stage of life. I’m probably the only person I know who doesn’t relish the smell of new babies. They always smell like oily hair to me, which is not a smell I enjoy. Neither is that sickening sweet baby powder smell. I never used it on Jack for that reason. Jack barely makes it out of the shower with his noxious AXE hair products and I’m already smelling oily hair on him and sending him back in for a second try. The whole baby mama thing didn’t get fun for me until Jack was probably about 1 and could walk and talk a little. Prior to that, he had his flashes of genius, but mostly, I was impatient for the next phase and bored, bored, bored. There are only so many cute moments to make up for All. That. Poop.

We finally made it to ENTOURAGE at the fancy pants theater, where you sit in a recliner with a pillow and blanket while they serve you Death by Chocolate Cake drizzled in caramel with extra whipped cream on the side (I’m not so big on the chocolate, so thank you, Sister Wife Ophelia, for putting that whipped cream on the side just for me). ENTOURAGE was such a fun, funny, and occasionally poignant movie. Jeremy Piven‘s Ari Gold character was perfection. I liken ENTOURAGE to a class reunion–all the familiar faces you miss, minus the awkwardness of actually having to be there. And then one of the main characters had to go and have a baby. And that got me wondering… I sure hope there aren’t any babies missing from the local hospital roughly six months ago…checking…

See Jack. See Jack Draw. Draw, Jack, Draw!

Once people realize that Dave has a son, Dave’s often asked if Jack can draw. The short answer is “Yes, when he feels like it.” Nothing gets me more aggravated than when Jack half-assed rushes through creating a greeting card for his teacher or his Grandma, because I know what he’s been capable of since an early age. He can draw from his head, just like Dave, whereas I must have reference of some kind. Jack can draw varied perspectives and angles and even though they’re simple drawings, they’re very complex. Here’s a recent piece he just did that I found crumpled up in his backpack.

Graphite Dogs by Jack - Blue Dog article Rodrigue better watch his back...!

Graphite Dogs by Jack – Blue Dog art resellers better watch their backs…! Competition is coming…

And had I not witnessed this with my own eyes, I wouldn’t have believed it, but Jack drew this from his head, with no reference, at age 6.

Cosmo from "Fairly Odd Parents" as done by Jack at age 6.

Cosmo from “Fairly Odd Parents” as drawn by Jack at age 6, out of his head, with no photo reference in sight.

And here’s Jack’s piece de resistance, which still makes me laugh. I remember I was so proud of Jack’s little pre-school drawing. All of my friends–plus Dave–thought it was hilarious that I (of all people) didn’t notice the phallic aesthetic to this piece. My practical joker friend Nancy (do I have any other category of friends?) asked to borrow the piece, on the premise of showing it to her daughters. I was so proud of it, I loaned it to her without question. The next thing I knew, I was the recipient of a glass cutting board made of Jack’s phallic art, as seen below. It remains one of my most prized possessions – that piece I’d grab to save as I ran out the door if, God forbid, the house were ever on fire.

"The Angry Pecker" by Jack Dorman, age 3.

“The Angry Pecker” by Jack Dorman, age 3.

I was razzing Dave the other day that I sold my first piece of art at an earlier age than he did, and then Jack inserted that he had us both beat – he convinced some kind stranger to buy his art at Star Wars Celebration for $10 when he was merely 6 years old. I reminded Jack that it was a pity sale, but he stood his ground in the debate.

I hope the kind stranger held onto it. It could be worth something someday…