If We Aren’t Tripping Over Our Egos, Life Shoves Us

When I’m writing I try to focus on life’s ordinary happenings, and in doing so find some extraordinary or curious point of consideration in which to view them. Some jump out at me, and I can’t get home fast enough to write them down, and some require my brain to marinate in them a bit in order to attach any words. It’s humbling either way to sit down and do what feels quite arrogant—put my words down for anyone to read but–luckily life likes to humble me, or us, whenever it can. It’s so quick to put us in our place precisely just when we are deep into a lofty thought or selfish reflection.

I actually like it when life “keeps it real.”

For instance, the other day I had just finished getting dressed. Makeup done. Hair done. A glance in the mirror and I quickly assessed that it was going to be a good hair day. Good hair days are something that curly-haired girls never take for granted. On this particular day, not only did I have shampoo ad hair, but I also noticed that it was a “cute” day all around. You know what I’m talking about? Some days we just look better than others. Maybe we got more sleep or we lost a couple of pounds recently and our jeans are showing it—it was that kinda day. Before I put my shoes on I remembered that I wanted to trim my toenails—being that it’s winter, pedicures are not in full season. I lift my leg up over the bathroom sink and begin, “clip, clip, clip…,” With about the third “clip” a toenail shot up into my face. I looked up on the mirror and around on the vanity wondering where it went, and then I saw it.

Just hanging there, stuck in my freshly glossed, “Pink and Proper,” bottom lip–was my damn toenail.

Now I’m not fond of toenails. My friends and family know that toenails, even feet in general, can trigger my gag reflex. When I was pregnant, just hearing the squeak of my husband’s toenail clippers in the other room made me sick.

I have a group of girlfriends who, one year for the Christmas season, decided we would all go together and do some volunteer work…one suggested we go to one of the Catholic churches on a certain day when they “wash feet.” My reply back to her was immediate and emphatic, “I’m out.” Everyone has to know their limits and that was mine.

There’s always that pause when something humbles me like that. I like to soak up the moment and gain introspection from what the universe is telling me. On this day it was probably something like, “Oh just get over yourself, Miss Priss.”

I sighed. Ingloriously plucked the toenail off my bottom lip. And just like that my ego was back down to earth…in fact the universe had stuffed my ego into a plastic bag and tied a knot in it, choking off any air to it at all. Lord knows the universe wouldn’t want a girl to feel good about herself for no darn good reason on any ordinary Tuesday. What’s the point in that? The universe saves most of that for proms, weddings, when you’re in a coffin–important stuff.

That’s when it hit me. What if I had left the house with a toenail stuck to my lip? What if I had answered the door to the cute, flirty UPS deliver guy or I had shown up for an important job interview with a little, pointy, half-moon of globular protein hanging from my lip? What if I had met a friend for lunch and proceeded to take a bite of a sandwich and my friend had to stop me saying, “Hold on. I think you have a piece of toenail on your lip…” ???

I’d have to move to a new town.

Life just likes to remind you who is charge from time to time. It’ll throw you down with a glass of wine in hand onto at stone walkway, throwing wine and crystal everywhere (me). It’ll let you have a TP tail coming out from your smock as you come out of the ladies’ room at the fancy hair salon (me). You’ll have your top on inside outward but won’t realize it until you are at the end of the day, and you recall all the places you were that day with people probably thinking you were drunk (me, and no I was not).

You’ll be sitting in your dermatologist exam room with your legs hanging off the table, and you’ll look down and realize you have on two different shoes (me, again, not drunk, I swear).

You’ll be at a fancy work function trying to maintain some semblance of professionalism, swing your purse around, start an avalanche of beer bottles tumbling to the floor and if that’s not bad enough you’ll accidentally press up against the light switch at the same time so just in case someone in the room of 200 people couldn’t quite see who was making the ruckus–you spotlight yourself like it’s last call at a dive bar (actually not me, for once).

Or you’ll be in such a hurry trying to make everyone else’s life happen on time that, after paying, instead of replacing the nozzle back on the pump you’ll just jump back into your car to pull away…taking the nozzle and half of the gas pump with you (nope, not me either).

Or you are skinny dipping with a bunch of your girlfriends, and the cops show up to see who’s making noise at the pool after midnight And all your girlfriends grab their towels and run as screaming ninny’s into the bathroom leaving you to talk to the police officer with only a terry cloth drawstring bag that either covers one “part” or another,  but not all “parts.” Take it from me, your ego leaves the building–actually it leaves you and goes to find a building. It’s hard to look cool while you’re standing naked in a drippy puddle in front of a uniformed stranger with a gun.

Or you’re in a costume shop hunting for something to wear to a big Halloween party. You see an “I Dream of Jeannie” costume. Loved her! You grab it and run into the dressing room. You shimmy it all on in a frenzy, including the cute, little pill box hat with the chin scarf. You turn around to gaze at yourself. No doubt Barbara Eden looked adorable in it, but you look like an organ-grinder monkey.

Get it off! Get it off!

Or you take a drink of your Mountain Dew while you are riding your bike and run straight into a parked car on the side of the road.

Or you are feeling pretty cute, again, because you have a first date with a new guy and just as he’s supposed to show up your old boyfriend rings your doorbell and “wants to talk”…as he’s telling you that he doesn’t think you should get back together your first date pulls up into your driveway…so you spend half of your first date apologizing to the new guy for the old guy. Life just likes to let you know it has a sense of humor, it’s in charge and when you’re getting too big for your britches.

Or you get your side zipper stuck on your dress pants and you work in an all-male office. And you’re wearing thong panties that day. Call it Murphy’s Law…I think even Murphy was trying to help me get my pants zipped up that day. At one point, I caught myself looking up asking, “Do you even work here?”

Or you’re in 5th grade and as you reach into the cage with the class pet mouse, Pinky, she jumps up inside your blouse sleeve. Panic ensues. Teacher drags you off to the girls bathroom to retrieve the mouse who is elusive in the shirt sleeve. Discussion of Plan B-mouse retrieval, aka Plan Boobies, then occurs, and the teacher tells you you’re going to have to unbutton your shirt to get the mouse out–In front of your female classmates who came to the bathroom with you as a show of moral support–and you didn’t wear a bra to school that day (yeah, that one was me).

Towering Oaks Baptist School had not had such a nudity scandal since the janitor, Mr. Gene, was outside the girls bathroom talking to a teacher about who was smoking in the stalls (not me). I came out of the restroom one day, heard the discussion, and in my “name-taking, do-gooder” Barney Fife attitude said to them “Yeah, there’s a lot of butts in there…”

I heard it the minute it came out of my mouth. Life keeping me in my place again.

Or, one of my personal favorites–when I wrote a long, scathing comment to a company who misused the plural form of Notary Public. I wrote on and on about how it was “Notaries Public,” and I knew because I had worked for the National Notary Association (dork).  The company responded to me thanking me for bringing their attention to the error, but also wanted to bring my attention to the fact that I had spelled Notary Public as Notary “Pubic.” That one still haunts me. The universe again saying, “get on with your bad self now.”

These are the moments that keep you in check with your inexperience and our powerlessness. They level the playing field for our egos and teach us humility and how to laugh at ourselves, and if not in that exact moment, years later. I appreciate that life likes to keep us real. Plus, lets face it, after you are over the discomposure and the painful awkwardness, they are what the good stories are made of.

Then there are the ones you can’t completely blame yourself for but you certainly feel the sting. Example: when your Kindergartener, after rushing to catch the bus with him on a hurried, crazy morning, hears you sigh, and as he takes one step on the bus turns around and announces to everyone at the bus stop and the church deacon bus driver, Brother Carl,

“Shew! MOM! Now you can go back in the house and have your Martini!”

I don’t know why he said that. He was mistaken.

We all know he meant “Margarita.”

Keeping it real.

Good In Bed


I’ve never understood people who like to stay up late at night.

From the moment I get up, my entire day is basically just an exercise in getting me back into bed as soon as possible. My favorite part of the day is that moment when I’m climbing in between my ridiculously high-priced sheets and onto my highrise collection of mattress toppers that add up to a mortgage payment. But it’s not only these, I think I love sleeping so much, because it involves something I’m really good at…lying down.

In fact I love lying down so much that after I get up and get my coffee in the morning I go to the couch and lie down some more. My husband, Paul, generously refers to this as “my transition period.” He’d refer to it as “What the hell are you doing? You JUST got up!” but it would cost him significant luxuries around here–like a house–with a wife in it–so he has learned to find this quirky thing I do rather endearing (and because I told him it was).

To a regular person—and by regular, I mean “employed”– I might look like I don’t have a lot of responsibilities around here. Sure, I write a lot, but I’m well aware that unless you are bringing in a paycheck with your writing people call you “a writer” and give you an eye roll. When I manage to find a paycheck from this gig then I’ll be “a writer” and people will give me a cocktail–that last part I’m not really sure of, but I’m banking on it.

As Betty Draper’s father said to her in an episode of Mad Men once, “You’re like a house cat. You’re important, but you don’t really do anything.” I have a house cat. And she is important, but Betty’s father was right. She doesn’t really do anything—but sleep. Sometimes that analogy forces me to examine my own love of sleep more than I should probably admit.

Now I have gone without sleep before–after all, I did have three babies. Through the toddler years I’m pretty sure the only time my eyes closed was when I sneezed or was putting on eyeshadow. When I heard about other mothers having all those middle of the night maternal feelings as they got up to feed their precious newborns I felt a little guilty. I specifically remember having thoughts like “No wonder they find babies in trash dumpsters,” and saying things to my husband as I plopped a baby on his chest at 4 a.m. like, “Here. Take her. I mean it. I don’t want to see her again until she’s in the 5th grade!” Sleep and I were estranged during those months, and I hated every second of it. I honestly asked my mother one morning after pulling a grueling screaming-baby-all-nighter, “Why would any sane person do this to themselves?” But as all parents do, we survive the sleep deprived “I never knew I could have this much rage” years and eventually find ourselves in the teenage years with an entirely different type of rage.

My mother has a similar fondness for the art of lying down. Let me clarify here, my mother likes to sleep—at night— but she does not approve of “lying down during the day,” as she puts it. In fact that’s a proclamation that she makes proudly and often.

I think she must view napping as lazy or shameful.

Not me.

Years ago my friend, Shelly, and I would meet every afternoon at the bus stop to get our kids, yawning, and proudly wearing the pillow creases indented into our cheeks as badges of honor. We’d greet each other as members of a secret drowsy society, like two friends seeing each other at a liquor store at 9 a.m. (not that that has ever happened). You just agree to keep the secret, never mentioning it. Being a stay-at-home mom doesn’t come with a ton of perks, but sneaking a good solid nap in is definitely one of them.

And although my mom never naps, she does have strict rules for her night time slumber. The bedroom must be cold. Now I know what some of you are thinking, “Oh I like to sleep in a cold room too…”

No. You don’t know what I mean. People sleeping in my parents’ house might actually die.

We hold debriefings with guests before they go to bed at my parents’ house in which emergency procedures and extra precautions are reviewed and liability waivers are signed. It’s sort of like the kind of cross-check you might get before you climb Mt. Everest.

So not only does my mother’s room have to be cold, but her bedroom must be dark.

Very dark—like the inside of a cow’s stomach dark. The tiny little lighted clock that used to be on the VCR in her bedroom was so bothersome to her that for years my daddy had to cover it with a shirt or a towel at bedtime, because as he put it, “otherwise your mama will go blind.”

I can relate to some of my mother’s sleep demands. I do like it cold and dark in the bedroom, but I also have been deemed a bed snob with respect to anything on the bed as well. I spend an embarrassing amount of money on sheets, mattress toppers, mattress pads, and pillows only to get in bed and right back out again when I feel one piece of grit under the covers—how does that even happen? The struggle with the princess and her elusive pea might have been hard, but try to find one little piece of grit in your bed, and it happens every night at my house.

And clean sheet day? Well it’s right up there with my birthday in terms of joy.

At my last job I worked with a young man whose parents lived in India and on his return from visiting them once he was telling me that every night it took his family about thirty minutes to prepare for bed. They each had to roll out their mat on the floor and then lower each person’s mosquito net which they kept anchored to the ceiling during the day. He went on to finish his story which involved something about being bitten by a rat that was running around them as they slept—I don’t really know the ending, because I passed out somewhere between “the mat” and “the rat.” Forget that scene in Poltergeist with the scary clown in the bedroom—tell me I have to sleep on the floor on a mat with something biting me during the night if you really want to horrify me. Remember? I’m the one who’s still just trying to get that one piece of First World grit out of her bed…

Although I do adore sleeping, and I welcome a good nap when it overcomes me, sadly I sometimes have to trick my body into actually sleeping at night. Sleep can, like some boyfriends of my past, play hard to get. My mind is just too weird…I mean too wired to turn off.

I lie there thinking of something I need to write about—like this blog post about sleeping, or how I need to get my life in order—something that never seems to bother me at 2 o’clock in the afternoon (probably because I’m napping). So several years ago I experimented with an over-the-counter sleep aid. Shortly after I discovered its wonders I mentioned it to my daddy who asked,

“Well what are you gonna do if you get addicted to it?”

“Uh, K-e-e-e-p taking it.” My smart-ass-self answered. I have no shame, and I value sleep that much.

If I forget and run out of my sleep aid, I’ve been known to frantically rummage through the bathroom drawers, old purses and suitcases in my closet at midnight looking for a stray pill like some kind of desperate crack whore. Again, I have no shame when it comes to sleep.

I’ll admit that my love of sleep has a lot to do with the bed I have. Years ago I was having some unexplained shoulder and neck pain that was interfering with my sleep and after having tried everything I could think of I began to blame our old mattress for my discomfort. I complained enough and finally wrestled my husband into a mattress store to purchase a new one.

The mattress store. All those beds...

I almost teared up from delight just thinking of the sleep that was soon to come my way.

I lied down on everything in that store except the sales guy–Firm, plush, extra plush, pillow top. I was so thorough. I would have made Goldilocks proud. I’m pretty sure I didn’t put that much thought into picking out my husband, but quite frankly, I spend more time with the bed than I do with him. I even tried the mattresses that come with a dial to set the bed for a certain firmness by picking a number, but I don’t have a fondness for numbers, and I’m not getting tricked into doing math in bed.

I finally found a bed I loved and shot my husband that “I don’t care how much it costs” look. You know that look. Women use it all the time. But I can honestly say I’ve only seen the “I don’t care how much it costs” look on my husband’s face one time in 30 years of marriage—when we were driving on a long stretch of lonely highway in the middle of the Mojave desert, and the only bathroom we could find anywhere was a “pay toilet.” But I’ll save “Missy and Paul’s amazingly luxurious vacation” for a blog post at another time..

I lied on that bed while Paul paid and scheduled the delivery. I lied there so long I heard the sales guy, “Sir, you can’t leave her here,” and looked up to see my husband coming back in the exit door mumbling, “Oh yeah, her.”

Funny thing is– I didn’t care. At that point the bed and I had fallen in love. I got my new love home and began adorning it with the array of aforementioned goose down mattress toppers, quilted mattress covers, pillows and the sheets worth a king’s ransom. I lie about how much they cost, but you can look them up online—just type in “highwayrobbery.” Afterwards, I had to have a foot stool made so I could actually get up on top of the bed, and if I ever fall out of it I’ll most definitely suffer a spinal cord injury. All the new bed did was encourage my love of sleep even more. It’s my big, soft, cushy, seducing, pillow-topped enabler.

But how can you not love to sleep? You actually spend a great portion of your life in bed, and I ask why do something halfway when you can excel at it? There’s a saying, “when we’re asleep in this world, we’re awake in another.” If that’s the case, then I must be some real kick-ass overachiever somewhere.

Sleep and I are made for each other. We like the same things. We enjoy our time together, and really look forward to seeing each other at the end of the day. The demands we make on each other are simple—we just show up every night, and we don’t let anyone get between us and that bed. It took a long time to finally hone my lying down skills to this feline level of proficiency, but I did it. A professional race car driver shouldn’t have to drive a golf cart, and an important house cat like me shouldn’t have to sleep in a box under the stairs, because well, what can I say? I’m just too good in bed.