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.

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The Care & Feeding of a Comic Book Husband: A Field Guide for Dave’s Next Wife

What a week it’s been! Between double-checking our Kraft Macaroni & Cheese boxes for metal shavings, Jack’s parent-teacher conference (Every.Single.Teacher.Complained…about Jack’s class clownery–yes, my DNA runs strong in the young Padawan), and getting the news that the friend we call “Texas” is moving to Colorado, it’s a good thing my addictions veer towards sugar-free Bubble Yum and reading. It would have been a rough week to come out of rehab.

After racquetball with BFF Marovich on Sunday–me still with no wins to report, although we played the same 16 to 6 point for six rounds and invented a new rule about laughter hindrance–Marovich and I reflected on the fact that she has, in fact, become my de facto husband. I had asked Dave for three solid weeks to fill my windshield washer fluid, hoping against all hope that the warning light would drive him crazy, too. Not so much. Marovich couldn’t bear it any longer. So, she did it for me. She was astounded that it needed more than 1 container of washer fluid, deeming it some technical mechanics term – something like “bone dry.” Marovich will probably be climbing on a two-story ladder (she actually owns one) to change my foyer lightbulbs for me as well. She’s brave like that. After all, she installed her own sump pump this past weekend, which impressed me no end. She insists I could have done it, too, but I’m way too ADD to sit through any DIY YouTube video on sump pumps unless Peter Dinklage is the on-camera talent.

Marovich and her sump pump, and some weird tool that looks like a bicycle chain.

Marovich and her sump pump, and some weird tool that looks like a bicycle chain.

Most weekends, when people with husbands/partners get that “honey do” list tackled, Dave’s usually out of town for comic book conventions. I’m not complaining–I love having the house to myself–and even if Dave were in town, it wouldn’t matter. It makes no difference to Dave if it’s a weekday or a weekend. Every day is the same. He’s still working, napping, and online gaming, so no honey do lists will ever be tackled. No vacations will ever be taken (that aren’t somehow connected to a working trip). Jack will never learn camping or fishing from Dave. None of my hilarious family gatherings will ever be attended (by Dave). As will happen after 15 years of togetherness, aside from a few hours a week of shared TV watching, and the occasional exchange over work-related issues, we lead very decidedly separate lives. And so it occurred to me, after talking with Marovich, that if something ever happened to me, the next spouse should have a field guide for how to manage Dave. And by “manage,” I guess I really mean “co-exist with,” because there’s truly no managing involved. The one thing I’ve learned since meeting Dave in 1999 is, you simply can’t manage an immovable mountain. So here are some helpful tips.

#1. This will be your foyer for at least five days after Dave returns from a show.

We're on Day #3 of the foyer looking like this, post SC Con.

We’re on Day #3 of the foyer looking like this, post SC Con.

 

No, you’re not allowed to actually move this stuff out of the way. Dave has a very specific way he wishes to unpack the suitcase, so you must not touch it. Or move it. Just learn to accept it’s part of the landscape. Trust me, after a while, you won’t even see it anymore.

#2. Your vehicles will never be parked in your garage. (Mind you, this wasn’t so bad in Florida, but if you, too, will be living in Chicago where snow and ice are a factor, this may drive you crazy.) Despite two industrial-sized dumpsters in the last 12 months, our garage is absolutely filled to overflowing with floor-to-ceiling empty cardboard boxes. I’m too embarrassed to even share an image of it.

#3. If you love fruit, nuts, and vegetables, you’re eating on your own. (I marvel at the fact that despite growing up in Hawaii, Dave never developed a taste for pineapple. I mean seriously, WTF?!?). Oh, and don’t even think about cooking cabbage in the house you share with Dave. We always pray he’s traveling on St. Patrick’s Day.

The foods you'll be eating on your own.

The foods you’ll be eating all on your own.

#4. Burning candles are a no-no. Dave’s heightened olfactory nerves cannot bear the scent of a match or a candle being burned out. Birthdays are really fun around here!

The rest of this lengthy list will reside with Marovich and The Sister Wives for safe keeping. Just ping them on this blog in the event of my demise and share your email. They will get back to you. Be sure your printer ink cartridges are new, and you have plenty of paper loaded. In fact, better yet, forward it to Fed Ex Kinko’s so you can get the list printed and bound.

That’s Amazing, Grace! Introducing The Reverend Pastor Dave Dorman

As my beloved father rests comfortably in a local hospice facility in the end stages of his life, we here at home are scrambling to organize funeral arrangements and plan ahead. Unfortunately, my mom’s current pastor isn’t on his “A-Game” when it comes to funerals. At my uncle’s funeral last year, he not only mispronounced the names of my cousins, but also printed the same hymnal verse twice in the funeral program, and you all know how I am about typos – an unforgivable offense. So…in the spirit of giving my dad a more dignified send-off, Dave volunteered to become an ordained pastor and do the service. I know, I know, I couldn’t believe it, either, but he did. I remembered you could do this via the back of Rolling Stone magazine, back in the day, but now it’s all online here.  Here’s proof that for an $80 investment, Dave can now park in the “Reserved for Clergy” section of any hospital parking lot:

Pastor Reverend Dave Dorman - Official Credentials

Pastor Reverend Dave Dorman – Official Credentials

Dave suggested that he customize Dad’s service to what attendees might expect from Dave, peppering the service with “In the name of the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit, and Obi-Wan Kenobi,” but that’s where I had to draw the line. My mom will go non-linear if anyone messes with her Lutheranism.

As I cut together a video of my dad’s life from old photographs, I’ve found some rare treasures in the old photo album, which are giving my Facebook friends a good laugh. Here’s Dad and me on one of our many hikes in the mountains in Colorado.

Dad and me, hiking in Colorado, circa late 1980s.

Dad and me, hiking in Colorado, circa  mid 1980s.

As you can imagine, my Facebook friends are all blowing me shit about the photo below – deeming me “Molly Ringwald” – here’s my Junior Prom, back in the day when I was still pure as the driven snow. To quote Grandpa Simpson from the Strike Busters episode, “…because that was the style at the time…”

Junior Prom

Junior Prom

And here are some shots from my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary. I threw a huge pig roast at the family farm (yes, my Aunt Karen actually has an “Old McDonald’s Farm” in Burlington, IL) with 200 of our closest friends, hired hula dancers and a fire eater, and naturally, chaos ensued, but it’s too much to write here and now. If Marovich and Nancy Peshel are reading this, I think they’ll readily recall the background drama they created during this precise moment below–tapping into my sophomoric poop humor. My only regret is that we didn’t catch it on film.

Hula Lessons at Mom & Dad's 50th Anniv. Celebration

Hula Lessons at Mom & Dad’s 50th Anniv. Celebration

I have no idea what a ball on a string has to do with Polynesian customs, but this was another hula “lesson” we endured. Dad was always game for my silliness:

Polynesian Ball-on-a-String Lessons

Dad, Mom & Me: Polynesian Ball-on-a-String Lessons

And before I forget to mention it, speaking of “The Reverend Pastor Dave Dorman,” Dave will be appearing this coming weekend at Salt Lake Comic Con from Thursday through Saturday, so if you’re in greater SLC, please be sure to pay him a visit. He will have his new limited edition Marvel variant cover Star Wars comics from retailer M&M Comics on hand!

If you’re not doing so already, you can follow my hijinks, shenanigans, and tomfoolery on http://facebook.com/comicbookwife or on Twitter where I’m @WriteBrainMedia.

 

Elfred, Our Elf on the Shelf: Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow

It all began innocently enough. The other kids in school all had elves on their shelves, and Jack was starting to feel unloved by Santa. So we caved. I remember saying to myself at the time, “This is ONLY until Christmas. This one time.”

Jack named him “Elfred.”

Elfred, Jack's BFF for 3 years.

Elfred, Jack’s BFF for 3 years. Styrofoam cup crown, Magic Loom (TM) belt and bracelet designed by Jack. Dried, unidentifiable dairy product on left sleeve also fashioned by Jack. 

We were diligent about moving Elfred to different spots in the house every morning before Jack got up. Elfred was really active. I refused to give into the staged mini-marshmallow snowball fights, and the flour sprinkled on the countertops and the floor to mimic all manner of after-hours elf naughtiness. Those shenanigans were best left to those overachieving mother-of-the-year types. (Okay, so some empty wine bottles may have been blamed on Elfred, now that I think back on it.)

On Christmas three years ago, Santa gave Jack an iTouch, with a special engraving on the back from Elfred, telling Jack that he was Elfred’s “best friend.” Jack beamed with Christmas joy. Unfortunately, “Santa Dave” didn’t consult with me first before accompanying this gift with a beautiful, calligraphy fonted letter from Elfred on linen paper, announcing that as of this Christmas, Elfred would be living with us year-’round.

The thought balloon above my head replayed Ralphie in that flat tire scene from A Christmas Story: “Oh…FUDGE…” My spirited chat with Santa Dave later that evening teed me up for a five-course meal of Life Buoy soap.

So this Elfred charade went on for three excruciatingly long years. Like any busy adults, we got careless. It happens. We’d forget to move Elfred for days–even weeks–on end. Jack was getting increasingly upset by Elfred’s lethargy, convinced his little elven buddy was dying. One morning, in my attempt to explain it away, I blurted out, “Well, he gets his magic from the North Pole, right? We just need to put him in the fridge to regain his magic!” Jack was satisfied with that answer. Problem solved. But every time I opened the fridge, I would startle, not expecting to see that creepy little elf face staring me down. Elfred became dieting MAGIC.

This past fall at nearly age 10, Jack finally looked me squarely in the eye one day and asked me to tell him the truth about Santa. Dave would have kept it going until Jack was in his senior year of college, but I established early on in our relationship that if Jack wanted to know the truth about something, I was the go-to parent. (Naturally, this has created many awkward moments when Jack has asked me for definitions to certain words. When I answer him truthfully, I usually get an “Oh, Mama, I’m sick to my stomach…I have to go lie down,” but I have remained steadfast in this role.)

If those of you reading this have children who are asking if YOU are Santa, one of my more mother-of-the-year-type friends shared this well-written explanation she found on Pinterest, which she just gave to her own daughter:

 

Dear (Insert Child’s Name Here),

Thank you for your letter. You asked a very good question: “Are you Santa?”

I know you’ve wanted the answer to this question for a long time, and I’ve had to give it careful thought to know just what to say.

The answer is no. I am not Santa. There is no one Santa.

I am the person who fills your stockings with presents, though. I also choose and wrap the presents under the tree, the same way my mom did for me, and the same way her mom did for her. (And yes, Daddy helps, too.)

I imagine you will someday do this for your children, and I know you will love seeing them run down the stairs on Christmas morning. You will love seeing them sit under the tree, their small faces lit with Christmas lights.

This won’t make you Santa, though.

Santa is bigger than any person, and his work has gone on longer than any of us have lived. What he does is simple, but it is powerful. He teaches children how to have belief in something they can’t see or touch.

It’s a big job, and it’s an important one. Throughout your life, you will need this capacity to believe: in yourself, in your friends, in your talents and in your family. You’ll also need to believe in things you can’t measure or even hold in your hand. Here, I am talking about love, that great power that will light your life from the inside out, even during its darkest, coldest moments.

Santa is a teacher, and I have been his student, and now you know the secret of how he gets down all those chimneys on Christmas Eve: he has help from all the people whose hearts he’s filled with joy.

With full hearts, people like Daddy and me take our turns helping Santa do a job that would otherwise be impossible.

So, no. I am not Santa. Santa is love and magic and hope and happiness. I’m on his team, and now you are, too.

I love you and I always will.

Mama

P.S. As for Elfred, the last I heard, he joined a motorcycle gang out of Albuquerque. If you cross him, you’ll know him by that tell-tale stain on his left sleeve.

Thanksgiving: Some Random Thoughts

For many of you, today is likely one of your favorite holidays. While I love a spirited, marathon game of Euchre with my cousins as much as the next person, I sure wish those pilgrims had kicked off this family tradition with a Chicago stockyard prime rib rather than a turkey. There’s not enough alcohol in the world to entice me to insert my hand in that turkey’s pink, slimy, gut-filled pit of hell. Cue up Alice Cooper’s Welcome to My Nightmare…this is the holiday where my bird phobia is front and center. I can handle popping a boneless, skinless turkey breast into the oven, but that horrific headless bird corpse stays outside of my line of sight.

Courtesy of my horror writer friend Steve Niles, the stuff my nightmares are made of.

Courtesy of my horror writer friend Steve Niles, the stuff my nightmares are made of.

And then there’s dessert. Pumpkin pie? Meh. Not in my Top 10 List. Not even close. So here’s how I propose we eat it:

Pumpkin Pie, Denise Style.

Pumpkin Pie, My Way.

My favorite Thanksgiving memory was the year I had just returned from the greatest practical joke shop in Key West, armed with my new expandable fork. It looked like a normal fork, but it could extend to two feet in length. I patiently waited for my kindred spirit cousin Jeff, sitting across from me, to load his plate with stuffing–one of the few things I like about Thanksgiving. Jeff got distracted by an oncoming platter of turkey and I made my move–in one fell swoop, my expanding fork reached across the table, plucked that ball of stuffing right off of his plate, and made it mine. The shocked expression on Jeff’s face when he looked back on his plate and did his double-take is something I will never forget. I still get the giggles every time I think of it. I recently rediscovered that fork, and it just so happens that Jeff’s coming over today…hmmm….

Last night Jeff posted this sentiment on Facebook from one of our favorite comedy writers, Jack Handey, and in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I share this with you today:

More Brilliance from Jack Handey

More Brilliance from Jack Handey

Today I’m thankful for my family, our health, great comedy and laughs, my favorite new earthling Baby Gemma, my friends (from the Shenanigans, Hijinks, Immaturity and Tomfoolery Club to the Sister Wives to my vast, ever-expanding, quirky “Collection” of everyone in between), Jonesie the cat (whom I’m still trying to forgive for spilling that full cup of coffee on my computer yesterday and ruining my laser mouse), my clients who keep life interesting (especially the engrossing fiction novels of uber-talented author Mike Baron), the growing stack of unread books awaiting me, for tennis (on TV and in real life), and for what will probably be remembered as the greatest era in cable and network TV entertainment, from Downton Abbey to Gotham to Homeland, and too many more to mention.

I hope you all have a memorable, Happy Thanksgiving. As for me, I’ll be occupied with removing pickles from the White Castles (Dave forgot to buy the pickle-free kind) for the stuffing, and averting my gaze from that bumpy, pink meat puppet.

Today Marks A Decade of Jack-ness

Ten years ago today, 16 days past my due date, Master Jack arrived at Sacred Heart Hospital in Pensacola. Jack rather enjoyed his own personal swimming pool, and no amount of Pitocin was persuading him to leave it, so a c-section it was. He was born at 4:23 a.m., and he’s still an early morning person.

Those were crazy times for us. Our home was half-destroyed in Hurricane Ivan on September 15th, so we were trying to rebuild our house with a shady contractor (who regaled me with his tales of prison life and the finer points of cooking crystal meth) while also working full time as two freelancers, and mentally preparing for life with a newborn. I’m glad it’s all in the rearview mirror, but I’m still awed by how this Decade of Jack-ness has whirled past me like the Tasmanian Devil on a tear.

I can still remember how Dave was taken aback by Jack’s bad horseshoe arrangement of frizzy orange hair, which reminded Dave of his least-favorite relative. My friend Denise Daughtry was taken aback by Jack’s strong neck muscles–at 12 hours old, Jack lifted his head up off of my shoulder to watch Denise walk across my hospital room to greet him. His intense gaze never left her, and he held his head up insistently, minus any neck support from me, for several minutes. I had zero experience with newborns, so I had no context for how weird this was at the time.

Jack’s light blue eyes couldn’t handle the fluorescent lights above his crib in my hospital room, so he grabbed his bassinet blanket and pulled it over his eyes with intention, creating a sleep mask. I knew he meant business, because I tried pulling it off of his face, fearing SIDS, and he just grabbed that blanket in his tiny fists and pulled it back over his eyes. It was our very first battle of the wills. He won.

At age five, Jack sat down at my piano and began playing what sounded like New Age music. His music kept evolving with each passing day. I was brimming with ideas that Jack might have some innate musical talent, since Dave’s Russian grandmother was a professional violinist. I signed him up for piano lessons. In no time, those lessons erased any joy Jack ever felt for playing piano. Even now he refuses to play the improvisational music that was so effortless for him five years ago. I beat myself up over the fact that I’d ruined him for music, but then a glimmer of hope arose. This past six months, Jack started asking for a guitar.

One-Half of the Band, "Strings of Lightning"

One-Half of the Band, “Strings of Lightning” with one of his birthday gifts

 

I asked Jack his plan for learning guitar. “YouTube,” he replied. Tonight over birthday cupcakes, Jack divulged that he and his friend have already formed a band, Strings of Lightning, despite having almost zero musical prowess. I have a soft spot reserved for ambitious earthlings. We talked through his logo design–a zombie fist holding a guitar, as lightning strikes it, forming an “X” pattern. In my mind’s eye, the t-shirt design is already being worn by an amphitheater full of adoring fans holding lighters, beckoning an encore during Jack’s first world tour. (There’s a little Beverly Goldberg in the heart of every mom, isn’t there?) Of this I’m certain: This next Decade of Jack-ness will whirl past me lightning fast–like the Tasmanian Devil on yet another tear.

 

Note to Self: Reschedule Parent-Teacher Conferences When I’m Not There to Defend Myself

Me, after the Parent-Teacher Conference

Me, after yesterday’s Parent-Teacher Conference

It’s been a rough week. I learned my non-smoking friend Meryl with two daughters 5 and under has Stage 4 lung cancer. And in lesser news, a nasty virus and high fever kept me down for the count. In my vulnerable state, I should have rescheduled that Parent-Teacher conference, but my fever-induced brain led me to believe it a good idea to let the appointment stand without me present. Which is how I got thrown under the bus. By my very own fertilized ovum.  And by Dave.

All is well in Jack Land – his grades are good, he’s smart, he’s creative, but he tends to not double-check his homework in his rush to go socialize (a trait from my side of the gene pool, admittedly). He was present with Dave during the teacher’s discussion of Jack’s depeche mode for managing his school work. And that was the moment when 9-year-old Master Jack made the damning statement: “I need to not have Mama in the room with me when I do my homework. She’s too much of a distraction.” And Dave agreed!

Wow. That was an eye opener. Without solicitation, Jack elaborated further: “Mama is too silly…she makes me laugh too much.”

I guess there are worse things that could be said about me, but lest you think I’m this household’s Disney parent, it was I who banned Jack from all electronics this past week until he proved he could recite his multiplication table. The whole enchilada, not just one line of it. And it was Dave who lifted the ban just long enough to play Diablo as Jack’s reward for reciting just one line of it.

If that teacher ever wants to go party, I’m guessing I’ll be the one who gets that phone call.

But back to my friend Meryl. If you are interested in helping Meryl, here is a link to our online fundraiser. Believe me–every dollar helps. Thank you for anything you can do. I hate cancer.

http://www.youcaring.com/medical-fundraiser/meryldine-s-miracle/249989

It’s a Good Mythical Morning Here at the Okay Corral

Since Dave MMO games on Star Wars: The Old Republic with the “Purge” Guild from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. nightly…

Dave's Nightly Gaming Addiction - Star Wars: The Old Republic, Purge Guild

Dave’s Nightly Gaming Addiction – Star Wars: The Old Republic, Purge Guild

…I’m the “morning person” who gets up with Jack. This is for the best. Jack and I start firing on all synapses the moment our eyes open–upbeat, excited, ready to carpe diem. Conversely, Dave is very slow to wake up and doesn’t appreciate our puppy-like energy first thing in the morning — our howls of laughter, our dance-offs, our shared penchant for weird breakfast menus…Jack and I would take last night’s sushi over scrambled eggs any day of the week.

Our Breakfast Entertainment: Good Mythical Morning

Our Breakfast Entertainment:                    Good Mythical Morning (like yours truly, Jack gets skeeved by the egg yolks)

One of the many blessings from Jack is his rich sense of humor. Even Dave begrudgingly admits this comes from my side. Especially the arrested development stuff that cracks up most 12-year-olds. Take this morning, for example. Jack introduced me to a show that’s been on for 5 seasons but is new to me “Good Mythical Morning” starring Rhett and Link. It’s age-appropriate, clean humor — clearly channeling some Weird Al Yankovic. Their OCD tribute parody song was brilliant — reminding me of a few special people in my life (and you know who you are!):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tnzz-eFmKaw

Just curious – do any of you reading this get skeeved out by egg yolks like Jack and me?