Tuesday, July 27, 2010

No more Mr. Nice Guy

I'm not one of those squeamish, squealy girls who faints at the sight of of spiders. Living things deserve respect. You know,"All God's creatures got a place in the choir . . ." Even ants and spiders and various six-legged animals have a place. Outside. Venture into my bathtub, Charlotte, and you're toast. And if you think you can escape your fate by writing an uplifting little message in your web--I have news for you. THAT STORY IS FICTION!

Has anyone else noticed the sudden spider population explosion? I have patiently flushed dozens of them down the toilet over the past few weeks. But Saturday I grabbed my towel in preparation for a nice bath and the Queen Mother of spiders dropped down and scurried across my toes.

A line had been crossed. If that wasn't enough, when I went to the bathtub four of her little offspring were huddled around the drain. I have no doubt they were planning how to take over my entire home. Today the neighborhood, tomorrow the world. This demanded drastic action.

Confession: I called the pest control guys. The ones who come to your house and spray who-knows-what everywhere. My earth-loving side insisted that I ask the right questions before I signed the 12 month contract. How toxic? Would it kill my dog? The pest guy was good--incredibly reassuring. He kept using words like "organic" and "safe" and I think he even threw "pre-school" in there somewhere. I don't know, my impression was that I could use his bug-killing formula as a nightly facial cleanser or put it in my grandson's bottle with no ill effects.

It wouldn't have mattered, frankly. If he'd told me my dog would sprout tusks and my leg hair would grow a yard per day, I still would have said, "Great, when can you spray?" So, critters beware. The ugly bug ball is over. And friends, if you notice an extra ear protruding from my chin next week, just look the other way. I may have a few spare appendages, but my house is spider free!

Friday, July 23, 2010


I drove my beautiful mother to San Francisco this morning. Today is Mom's birthday--82 years. Her birthday wish included a visit to the Impressionist exhibit at the De Young museum and lunch at Scoma's on the wharf. Perfect.

We moved slowly through the exhibit, utterly captivated. I stood in front of one masterpiece after another. Manet, Renoir, Sisley, Degas, Monet, Cezanne. The art glowed--brilliant, timeless. In spite of the acclaimed paintings on every wall, my eyes returned again and again to one extraordinary work of art. My mother. She glowed, light rippling from her. One word burned in my mind as I watched her from a distance. Masterpiece.

82 years of well-chosen brushstrokes applied patiently and with purpose have rendered her brilliant, timeless. The pallet that colors her life is love. Love of God, love of family, love of fellow man, love of anything "virtuous, lovely, of good report, or praiseworthy." Love of life.

Happy Birthday, Mom. I'm glad you were born. Your birth, in truth, was the genesis of my life as well. Art and artist, you have made me. Thank you for wanting me, for applying your artistry to the rough canvas of my soul.

I drove to San Francisco this morning to look at great works of art. The true masterpiece sat next to me in the passenger seat. Pardon me if I stare.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Yes, there are stupid questions

Did you ever have a college professor affirm to the class early in the semester that, "There are no stupid questions . . ." I appreciate the intent of such a statement--the desire to encourage open discussion, the willingness to clarify and explain. But it's simply not true. There are stupid questions. Lots of them.

Medical personnel do stupid questions really well. They are professionals, after all. With the right tone of patronizing superiority they can make YOU feel stupid for not knowing how to respond. For instance:

"How would you rate your pain, on a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being no pain and 10 being the most severe pain possible.?" What does that even mean? Like anyone knows what the most severe pain possible is? I certainly don't want to test the limits so I can give an accurate answer. And if I had no pain at all, would I voluntarily spend a summer afternoon in a backless blue gown in the emergency room? Mmmm, no. I hurt, OK? Just start the painkiller.

The stresses of parenthood seem to spawn a particularly idiotic strain of questions. I cringe to think of the ludicrous queries I've put to my children. Some classics:

1. "Do you want a spanking?"
Right. What kid WANTS a spanking? Like they harbor a secret wish that we'll swat their little bummies and they've been hoping we'd ask. Do we sincerely want their input on the matter? Doubtful.
2. "How many times have I told you (fill in the blank)?" Oh, wait Mom, while little Johnny runs to his dresser drawer and pulls out the tally sheet. He has kept precise records of everything you've ever said to him and is so happy that you asked. He'll do the math and get back to you asap.
3. "Why did you do that?" This question assumes that there is a logical reason that Susie shoved a bean up her nostril and that she can articulate it in twenty-five words or less before you cut her off with question #2 above.
4. Do I look like a dictionary? Wow. If my kids can't tell me from Webster's at a glance then I've got bigger problems than why the bean went up the nose. Either it's time to drill them with some family-photo flashcards (Mommy. No, not dictionary. Try it again M-O-M-M-Y.)or I need an extreme make-over.

Kids on the other hand, ask really cool questions. They put us grown-ups to shame. But that's a discussion for another day. So what all-purpose stupid questions do you ask your kids? Come on, I can't be the only one! Dish. Or what absurd questions did your parents keep in their arsenal? Make me laugh.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Be careful what you wish for . . .

Wishes come true in odd ways.(Cue violins) On Thursday I jokingly told a friend that I needed a brief hospital stay so that I could rest up a bit. I was kidding!(Enter umbrella-toting cricket in top hat) That night Bob and I sighed that we would do anything for some uninterrupted hours together. I guess that makes this my lucky weekend. (Orchestra swells, cricket sings in tremulous tenor.)

"When you wish upon a star, makes no difference who you are
Anything your heart desires will come to you.
If your heart is in your dream, no request is too extreme
When you wish upon a star, as dreamers do."

Some wishes are granted by the Blue Fairy. Genies from magic lamps deliver others--not to mention an army of assorted fairy godmothers, elves, and wizards. The delivery mechanism for my dream-come-true? A kidney stone. Why did the Brothers Grimm never think of this plot twist? Oh right, because prolonged excruciating pain and nausea don't make for a fun summer read. Don't tell JK Rowling.(Cue singing cricket)

"Fate is kind, she brings to those who love
the sweet fulfillment of their secret longing . . ."

Yes, my dream hospital stay materialized. I got a six hour nap at Kaiser Walnut Creek, with a complimentary CT scan. Bob held my hand and talked to me whenever I came to. Everything was filtered and soft around the edges (morphine induced fuzziness, quite romantic.) That made me two for two on my wishes. But the fairy tale doesn't end there. The happily ever after continued with a take-out order of vicodin on the side.

Who needs Mary Poppins or Glinda the Good? I've got Sly. (Of course I had to name my kidney stone if he's going to be the magical granter of wishes in an upcoming Disney film.) Do you think a jagged two millimeter chunk of minerals would look cute in a top hat with an umbrella? Been done, I guess. How about a zoot suit and Fedora? Costuming decisions can wait. Sly needs to finish his painful journey and exit downstage. I just hope the rest of the Family Stone doesn't follow. At least not until I need another good nap.

"When you wish upon a star your dreams come true . . ."

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Life is deluxe

Our daughter Julie spent her toddler days with us in married student housing at the university where my husband was attending law school. Nothing enthralled her more than flushing random objects down the toilet. Almost daily I would hear the "whoosh" and run to the bathroom to find Julie standing next to the bowl. Hands folded across her belly in satisfaction, she would watch as a washcloth or small toy circled slowly out of sight. Pencils, a flashlight, the utility bill, Christmas ornaments, nightlights. Whatever Julie laid her busy, dimpled hands on eventually made its way down that wondrous waterslide. And then, inevitably, things backed up.

So, I called University Housing maintenance--a lot. I had the number memorized and the plumbing guy knew me by name. The routine never varied. Dale would arrive in his blue truck and head straight for the bathroom. He could generally snake his magic tool down the toilet and extract the soggy item in minutes. Now and then, the snake did not suffice. Mighty Dale would unbolt the toilet from the floor and carry it out the front door. Tipping it upside down he jiggled until something rolled out. One day he picked up a rubber ducky that had tumbled from the commode and put it in my hand. "Life is deluxe!" he muttered crustily as he heaved the potty back into the house. It made me chuckle to hear that choice bit of acerbity from the mouth of a man cradling a privy in his arms. "Life is deluxe," I repeated like an 'Amen.'

For some months I found Dale's words springing to mind in ironic situations or when things went sour. "Life is deluxe," I would grumble to myself with more aggravation than I actually felt. Over time, however, I noticed that Dale's quirky phrase had shifted in my lexicon. Sarcasm didn't suit. My soul knew better. Life IS deluxe. Truly. Capital 'D' deluxe. Delicious. Glorious. Splendid. Ravishing. Deluxe.

Calla lilies spring up along my fence every March. Complete strangers stop in the snow to help me to my feet after a slip. Cool water makes never-ending music over smooth rocks. The slender apple tree that Bob planted in our yard bends and barely supports the fist-sized fruit that hangs from its branches. Acne abates. Sweet juice drips down my chin from a crimson-hearted strawberry. Our children pile into our bed on Saturday mornings and make us laugh until our stomachs hurt. Julie gives birth. Baby Lydia curls her padded palm around my finger and smiles as if she holds heaven in her hand. My dad opens his clear hazel eyes one last time. Expending all that's left of life in him, he locks Mom in his gaze and mouths the words "I love you" before he slips away. I lie on my back and cry round real tears that roll into my ears and wash me clean. Deluxe indeed.

I believe tenaciously in the goodness of life. Daily I marvel at the exquisite complexity of our human experience--the profound, painful, delirious, heartbreaking, exhausting, exhilarating adventure we share. People move me. Moments change me. What surprise will drift to me on the back of a breeze? When I step over the edge into a free-fall, what updraft will lift me and gently bear my weight? What blows my way today on winds unexpected?

Copyright 2010 Jerie Jacobs