Thursday, April 17, 2014

Soup In My Hair

(post copyright 2014, Dawn Weber)
I'm the most excited I've ever been with my pants on.
Not good to end a sentence with a preposition, but such is the depth of my enthusiasm. That's because I recently lost a bunch of weight, thanks to a diet of Really Depressing Food.
I know, I know - nobody wants to hear about my diet/exercise plan unless I've choked on some tofu or fallen off the treadmill. But I tell you this because I was a little confused and shocked about how it happened at first. I've been dieting and exercising pretty much since puberty. With a few short-lived exceptions, I've never had much success.
So I sat down and thought about it and finally put two and two together, and I came to the conclusion that the weight loss resulted from my diet of Depressing Food and Very Bad Beer. You'll have to read about the Very Bad Beer part of the equation in my upcoming book, but I can tell you all about the Depressing Food:
And more soup. Soup for lunch, soup for dinner, soup all the time. A gott-dang liquid diet. Apparently, I'm 80.
My disappointing, old-lady meal plan happened by accident. I started bringing Progresso Italian Wedding soup into work for lunch each day, because it's very good. And no - Progresso isn't paying me to tell you that. Although they should.
You can trust me when I say it's yummy wedding soup, because I grew up in greater Youngstown, Ohio. My DNA may say I'm a pasty little German woman, but at times, I'm pretty sure I have some Italian in me.

Oh wait - he's German, too.
But my point, and I had one here, is that thanks to the mother lodes of incredible cuisine I grew up enjoying with my Italian friends and their old-country grannies, I know authentic recipes when I taste them. And even though it's canned, this stuff is fantastic. Since it's relatively low fat and high in protein, I started bringing it to the office and eating it in my soul-killing cubicle for lunch. I work so late that I eat dinner there, too. What do I have? Exactly. More soup.
I wanted some variety, and eventually began eating other kinds in addition to the wedding soup. But still, it's always the same thing: another day, another meal, another exciting can of soup. For more than a year.
That's when it started to get depressing. Because although I like the stuff, I will admit it's become disheartening that I eat it all the damn time. I suppose I could change things up and bring in other foods - sandwiches, salads, those crappy little Budget Barf frozen dinners - but buying and fixing new things would require some planning, and as a rule, I'm against planning. I avoid planning whenever possible.
So, even though it's dismal, soup it is. And while slurping my 309,873rd bowl the other day, I glanced down to find I had a guest for lunch:
My hair.
Yes, it's so long that it hung from my head directly into the chicken broth, where the strands mingled languidly with the spinach, noodles and meatballs. I've needed a haircut for a while, but in typical senior-citizen fashion, I can't seem to remember to call and make an appointment. The only day I ever seem to think about calling the salon is on Monday. And when is the salon closed? Mm-hmm. Monday. I could work a little harder to get an appointment for a haircut, but again, that requires planning. See comment re: avoiding planning, above.
Back to the day of the sloppy strands. I stood up and lurched to the restroom, trying not to drip on my clothing, then bent over the sink and attempted to rinse lunch from my hair. But without shampoo, I really couldn't quite get all the food out, so I went about the rest of my day at the office with brothy bangs.
And later that afternoon, eating my usual liquid dinner in front of the computer, guess what happened?
I lurched to the bathroom, again, trying not to drip soup on my clothing, again, and attempted to rinse pasta and spinach off my head.

With my cranium under the faucet, I wondered what was saddest about the situation: A) The fact that I can't remember to get a haircut; B) The fact that I eat the same thing twice a day, almost every day; or C) The fact that I'm under 85 and there was actual soup in my actual hair.
I stood up and looked in the mirror. All of a sudden, there in my darkest, most geriatric hour, I had an epiphany and became inspired to create something.
That's right. I wrote a song about it. Wanna hear it? Here it go:

Soup in my hair, soup in my hair,
Lookin' like a fool with some soup in my hair.

I finished singing my little song, then I smiled the smile of the mentally ill.
And I kept grinning. Because as my eyes traveled further down my reflection, I saw something I hadn't seen in years:
Pants that actually fit.
No, I decided, even with a twice-basted coif, things weren't so bad. Soup in the hair beats a hair in the soup.
Anyway, what can I say?
Soup happens.

Friday, March 28, 2014

See You Later, Hobo

(Post copyright 2013, Dawn Weber)
I wrote the following piece for my book, but it was one of two serious essays that didn't quite fit. I posted a brief excerpt of this last year, but not the whole thing.

You're nervous. I can tell.
You chew intently on your bottom lip from the car seat, up the sidewalk, to the building. You're three-and-a-half years old. Just a little guy.
It's your first day of preschool, held in a classroom at the district's middle school. We stop to snap a picture outside. What a place, I'm thinking, for the administration to locate a preschool, the intermediate building, the spot where kids endure the specific circle of hell that is junior high.  
So I've dressed you in the nicest outfit you own, spiked your hair and slapped some labels on you to keep the bullies away - Levi's, Tommy Hilfiger. I've bought a wee Spiderman backpack and filled it with only bare necessities - a lunch box, a blanket, a light jacket.
I made sure: Everything you need is in your pack. The thing only weighs two pounds, tops, but even as small as it is, its size and heft threaten to topple you. You wear it like a tiny, wobbly homeless man - like a little hobo failure. But you don't complain.
You seldom do.
I've been looking forward to this for a while now. I'm going back to work, you're starting pre-school. We have been home together for two and a half years. It was mostly wonderful - and sometimes awful - and the fact that I feel this way makes me horribly, heart-wrenchingly, gut-clenchingly guilty.
Time at home hadn't been my idea. I was part of a mass corporate layoff shortly after your birth, and my fast-paced, jet-setting world quickly became Barney, burp cloths, the couch.
I should have been grateful - and partly, I was. The rest of me missed my career -  the adult companionship, the paychecks, the capability to buy new shoes. I'd been working since I was 11 years old. I didn't quite know what to make of myself without a job. I didn't know who I was, and I felt lonely. I felt scared.
I felt trapped.
But there wasn't a choice. Plus, as everyone told me over and over again, there are much worse things in life than a mother staying home with her baby.
So I plucked you from the crib each morning, pulled you close and patted your back, and you always, ALWAYS patted mine in return. I changed your smelly, urine-soaked diaper - swollen to the size of a pillow - and I gave you a bottle. Then, we plopped down Indian-style, I pulled you into the space between my knees and began searching the paper in vain for something it would take me 2.5 years to find - a job that paid enough to cover child care.
A job that paid enough for me to leave you again.
You never asked for much then, but you insisted on a few things - Dora/Barney/Elmo on the TV, and you had to have something - always something - to clutch in your hand: blocks, Matchbox cars, superheroes. We didn't have much money with only one paycheck. So for our big days out, you and I went to the McDonald's Playplace where you ate ice cream, then crawled amongst the kids and bacteria while I read the paper, still looking for a job.
After every meal, drink and snack, you quite enjoyed using my shirt and shoulder as your personal towel. Not for you, napkins and hankies, no sir. You wiped on mom, pressing your mouth into my shoulder and turning your head back and forth to leave a slimy trail of spit and snot and God-knows-what right below my clavicle. For years, all my shirts had the same stain, though the colors varied. I'm glad I was the one changing your diapers. Given a choice, I have a good idea where you'd have decided to wipe your rear.
Towards the end of our stint, you lost the diapers and began talking, and those were the best of times, the days you leaned your head back on my t-shirt, heaved a contented sigh and said things like:
"Ahh, boobies. I like boobies!"
You are your father's son.
And we made the best of things, you and me.
All of this runs through my head as I walk you through the hallways to your room. I look down at you, you look up at me, still chewing your lip, and I know we're both thinking the same thing. Let's turn around. Let's go to McDonald's.
Let's go home.

I might do it. I might pick you up and carry you to the car. Because all those times I'd wished for one hour, one nano-second, one new pair of shoes for myself - I take them back. I don't want you to go.
Still, it is time to go.
We have reached your room. We hang your coat and pack in your locker, then I pull you close and hug you goodbye. You pat my back.
And I leave you with the teachers.
From the hallway, I peek through the window and I see: You are terrified. I can tell. You chew on your bottom lip.  
You don't cry, though. You seldom cry.
But I do. All the way back into work.

My book is done - DONE, people! I'm now in the process of writing the book proposal, an extremely left-brained task for an extremely right-brained person. I don't want to tell you the book title yet, but some of the chapter titles include "Purple Hooter Problem," "Sir Snores-A-Lot" and "Perchance to Poop."
Next comes the daunting process of finding an agent and publisher. Please send good thoughts - and maybe some boxed wine.

Friday, February 28, 2014

A Baby, a Birthmark, and One Determined Mother Bear

"A lovely baby girl you have there. It's too bad about that awful birthmark."
Those are the first and last words I ever hear from your original pediatrician. After she leaves the delivery room, I tell the nurse to keep her away from us, and I cry myself to sleep.
My daughter. 7 pounds, 13 ounces, blonde hair, 21 inches long. To me, you're perfect.
But the first thing most people seem to notice is the huge, glaring red birthmark in the shape of Africa, extending down the middle of the forehead, from your hairline to just below your nose.
The day after your birth, I hire a different baby doctor, and unlike her predecessor she possesses decorum, common sense and bedside manners. She also has plenty of experience. But she doesn't have an answer for the mark she calls a 'strawberry hemangioma.'
"Sometimes they fade over the years," she tells me, "and sometimes they don't.''
We bring you home from the hospital the next day, and amid the bliss, chaos, sleeplessness, confusion and joy that comes with a first child, I am steeped in grief. In a world that demands female beauty, I envision your life with a marked, imperfect face.
I pretend to ignore the stares at the grocery store. I grow numb to the questions from little kids.
"What happened to her?"
"What's wrong with her face?"
"What's that on her head?"
I realize that we're lucky. Other parents have babies with far more serious problems than a red mark on the skin.
It doesn't help - I know how kids are. And every time I get an innocent, ignorant question from a child, I hear your future on the playground.
"What happened to you?"
"What's wrong with your face?"
"Ugh. What's that on your head?"
Secretly, I blame myself for this. I figure it's payback for the single 12-ounce can of Diet Coke I drank each day of my pregnancy. Or a punishment from God for some old, forgotten sin.
But those are my transgressions, not yours, and I cannot accept that in 1997, with all the advances in modern medical science, there's absolutely nothing that can be done for strawberry hemangiomas.
The small-town doctors continue to be of no help; the library has no current information. As a last resort, I sit down one day and fire up the computer. I dial into the new technology we had installed on our computer, the thing called World Wide Web.
I wade through America Online, chat rooms and online video games. I search for hours, and finally, eventually, I find some hope: newfound research on lasers for birthmarks, and - better still - a doctor who specializes in such treatments, about an hour away in Columbus.
His website states that several laser surgeries will be needed, and that insurance companies deem birthmark removal as "optional" or "cosmetic" and will not cover it. Patients must pay out-of-pocket. The costs will likely rise into the thousands.
I lunge for the phone.
You begin treatments as soon as you're old enough - about 13 months. The nurses lead us to a large, brightly lit room and a restraint called a papoose - a contraption that looks and sounds harmless enough, until they tie you down, diapers, teddy bear and all. Your dad and I squeeze in under the straps to hold your hands.
They tell us the pain won't be too bad - that it's like a repetitive sting with a rubber band - but they still apply numbing cream to your head.  We all put on protective goggles, and the doctor pulls the machine's arm over your body.
He begins searing your forehead with the laser. There's snapping, blinding light, some smoke, a smell.
"Don't worry," they say. "That's just a little bit of her hair burning."
You scream, and we can barely restrain ourselves from ripping off the straps. It lasts four minutes.
It lasts an eternity.
When the laser stops, they release you and I scoop you into my arms as your dad hurriedly scribbles a check. We get you into the car and to McDonald's as fast as we can, plying you with french fries, ice cream, whatever you want.
A few days later, the hemangioma turns black, a sign - albeit a terrifying one - of its blood vessels dying. Scabs form.
One afternoon, while I'm driving and you're out of sight in the baby seat, you pick off a scab and leave a large hole in your forehead. The nurse tells me to rub Vitamin E into the area and massage it for 15 minutes twice a day. I do, and you don't complain, despite the pain.
"It's going away," I tell you, while I rub. "I think it's going away!"
It's part prayer, part hope, part wish.
In truth, I'm not sure if it's going away. The first laser treatment's immediate result was worse - far more severe-looking - than the birthmark itself. I see your blackened skin and the hole in your forehead, and I seriously wonder if we've done the right thing.
The blackness eventually fades. We decide to continue with the treatment, the way the doctor recommends. You get one every few months. When you're old enough to understand, I try to explain.
"We're going to that doctor again - the one who gives you a tap-tap on the head," I say. "It will make your mark go away."
"Oh . . . I don't like him! I don't like the tap-tap!"
But, even as a toddler, other kids at daycare have started pointing at your birthmark. When they do, you duck your head and look at the ground.
About three surgeries in, you stop screaming when they strap you down. Only silent tears roll down your face.  
Each time, I worry whether it's the right decision. After the laser zaps your head and the immediate redness fades, I watch and wait for the mark to recede.
And slowly, imperceptibly, over two-plus years, many surgeries, countless tears, hundreds of french fries, thousands of dollars - I think, perhaps . . . just maybe . . .
"It goes away-goes away-goes away!" you say.
Three years old now, three feet tall, 29 pounds and many laser treatments later, you're standing atop the bathroom counter on tip-toes. You're looking in the mirror, holding your bangs up to peep at a smooth white forehead.
"Goes away-goes away!"
You don't realize it, but you're trying to parrot what I've been chanting since your first surgery.
"It is!" I say. "It's going away! I think it's going away!"
It is prayer, it is hope, it is wish.
And it is true.

More Perfection. Age 16

I'd like to thank my beautiful daughter for allowing me to publish this piece. We both hoped that maybe it could help someone who is unaware of laser birthmark removal--an amazing technology for which I am profoundly grateful.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Little Cookie Crackhead

(post copyright 2012, Dawn Weber)

Life: far too short to bake the cookie dough.

Don't look at me like that. You know it's true. Why, why, WHY do people insist on turning soft, sugary lumps of heaven into hard, dry, sandy desert-discs? It's an outrage.

Salmonella? Pffftt. Salmonella that doesn't kill you only makes you stronger.

Oh, cookie dough. I love you so. I can taste all your ingredients individually - butter, brown sugar, white sugar, salmonella. You dance on my tongue, you make me smile, you release serotonin . . .

Excuse me. I need a cigarette. And I don't even smoke.

You people call it cookie dough.

I call it crack.

Because psstt . . . come over here. I'll tell you a secret. When I was a kid? I stole stuff. Oh yes, I did. I stole cookie dough, cake mix, icing, and maybe Reese's Peanut Butter Eggs shut up right out from under my mother's and grandmother's noses.

Little cookie crackhead.

It all started with the cookie dough that I stole from the fridge. Even little thieving-thug-crackheads know that cookie dough spoils, so I snarfed it down immediately after lifting it. A few times, I got away with it. But eventually, my mother caught on. I have no idea why.

So I had to get a little more diabolical with my crime. I turned to cake mix. Straight, no chaser, out of the box, with a spoon. This too I lifted from Mom and Grandma. They didn't make cakes often, so they never seemed to remember if they had any on hand, allowing me ample opportunity to grab a box, a spoon and run to my room. Wonderful child.

Do not judge me.

Cake mix was fantastic, because cake mix? Doesn't spoil. Even little thieving-thug-crackheads know that. And after eating the quarter of a box it took to place me in a diabetic coma happy sugar high, I could close the package and keep the rest of it under my bed. For future diabetic comas sugar highs.

Verily, I shall burn in hell. For Duncan Hines yellow cake.

Little sugar crackhead.

Cocky from cake mix success, I started eyeing the box of Reese's Peanut Butter Eggs my Grandma bought for Easter each year. These were the EGGS, people. Far larger, far more awesome than the measly little Reese's cups, and I drooled and begged each year when she brought home the orange and yellow carton. Grandma knew I was a little sugar crackhead addict, and she hid the box on the steps leading to the attic.

Methinks you underestimate me, Gran.

I waited until she was on the phone, snuck up the attic steps, and loaded my pockets with Reese's eggs. I crept back down, parked myself on the floor in front of the couch and commenced snarfing. Then, I stuffed the wrappers under the sofa.

Gran: "Dawn, what happened to all the Reese's eggs?"
My plan seemed foolproof - disappearing candy, no wrappers in the trash.

It was a gott-dang Scooby Doo mystery! Clearly, I was a genius.

But unlike my mom, Gran was anal about her spring cleaning. Gran pulled out her couch a few weeks later.

Gran busted me. Methinks I underestimated Gran.

And so, lo those many years ago, my life of crime came to an end. I mended my ways, confessed in church, tried to live a good life.

Until I had kids. Kids who want cookies. Little cookie crackhead kids.

Now I have to buy cookie dough, which comes with this warning:

Do not consume raw cookie dough?

Yeah, right. Just you try and stop me.

Methinks you underestimate me, Pillsbury.


Hope you didn't mind a little re-post, as I try to think of a subject for the 50th essay of my book. 
I'm so close to my goal!  And blocked. And panicked. Send cookie dough. Or cake mix. I mean, I am not picky!
Here's an untitled excerpt, one about life with a teenage daughter:

"Princess!" I yell up the stairs.
*More crickets*
She's not here right now, of course. She's seldom here. She's 16 - and a half. I really haven't seen her for six months.
When she is home, she's in her room almost constantly, very busy with her social life, her iPhone, her three-hour grooming process. Only yesterday, she was this raggedy little monkey who had to be bribed into the tub with candy, but now she drains Lake Erie with her showers. If you hear the blow dryer, you know she's home, and you'll find her upstairs, waving a Conair around her head in an urgent, determined fashion.
I don't hear a blow dryer today, and I don't feel like yelling to an empty room anymore. So I give up and decide to send her a text - our main method of communication these days.
"Exactly where the hell is my GOOD BLUSH?" I write, in a patient, motherly way.
"Oh sorry!" she texts back. "I borrowed it. It's in my room. Sorry!"
Imagine that. I figured it was up there, right beside, no doubt, my powder, my hairspray and my eyeliner . . .
Stay tuned!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Walking in a Walmart Wonderland

What would the holidays be, really, without another fine Lighten Up! Christmas Carol or two? I do it for you, people - I'm a giver like that. You're welcome. 
Or - I'm sorry, as the case may be. 
Merry Christmas, everyone!

Walking in a Walmart Wonderland 
(copyright 2013, Dawn Weber)

Children scream,
Are you listening?
Then their moms,
Give them beatings,
An alarming sight, but
We're desperate tonight,
Walking in a Walmart Wonderland.

Gone away,
Is the greeter,
Here to stay,
Is the tweaker,
He lifts his meth pipe,
And asks for a light,
Walking  in a Walmart Wonderland.

In the aisle we will see a hooker,
Then pretend she's wearing lots more clothes,
We will try hard not to stare at Hooker,
And her pimp and all the other hos.

Later on, we'll get ground beef,
Near a thug who has no teeth,
A worrisome night,
We're scared for our lives,
Walking  in a Walmart Wonderland.

In the canned goods we will find a scooter,
Blocking access to the vegetables,
Big, fat guy just sitting on his scooter,
Getting green beans as he picks his nose.

Now it’s time to pay and go,
Might as well set up camp though,
Thirty-eight lanes - just one is open,
Walking in a Walmart Wonderland.

Walking in a Walmart Wonderland . . .
Walking in a Walmart Wonderland . . .

"We Wish You A Merry Christmas?" Nope. "I Hope I Get Wine for Christmas."

(copyright 2013, Dawn Weber)

I hope I get wine for Christmas;
I hope I get wine for Christmas;
I hope I get wine for Christmas;
'Cause I am flat broke.

I don't care if it's shiraz or merlot;
Just bring me some wine for Christmas -
Since pot's a no-no.

Oh, bring me some beer for Christmas;
Oh, bring me some beer for Christmas;
Oh, bring me some beer for Christmas;
A six-pack's just fine.

We'd all like some hooch at Christmas;
We'd all like some hooch at Christmas;
We'd all like some hooch at Christmas;
If we told the truth.

So buy me some wine for Christmas;
So buy me some wine for Christmas;
So buy me some wine for Christmas;
Or vodka would do!


"Jingle Bell Rock?" Nope. "Santa's a Chick."

(Couldn't resist re-posting my top radio hit from last year, "Santa's a Chick." Lyrics copyright 2012, Dawn Weber)

Santa Claus, Santa Claus, Santa's a chick,
She lacks a dick, Santa's a chick,
No dude could do all they say that he does,
Only chicks could get all that done.

Santa Claus, Santa Claus, Santa's a chick,
Ain’t that a kick, Santa’s a chick,
Bakin’ and wrappin’ and deckin’ the hall,
With her wine bottle!

What a headache, how her back aches,
Fifty-nine things to do,
It's pure chaos, runs her ass off,
Most of these men don't even have a clue.

Santa Claus, Santa Claus, Santa’s a girl,
All 'round the world, Santa’s a girl,
Started her list around June 24,
Men they wait until the day before.

Santa Claus, Santa Claus, Santa has boobs,
Thirty-six Cs, average boobs,
Bouncing and flouncing all over the mall,
Since the early fall!

On Black Friday, she’s up early,
Left before the crack of dawn,
Flat-screen TVs, she’d like one, please,
“I'm sorry ma’am - they’re already gone.”

Hurry up, Santa Chick, get the hell home,
Cookies don't make themselves,
Hubs he's asleep and he's no help at all,
That's why Santa's a . . .
Surely Santa's a . . .
That's why Santa's a chick!


I am still plugging along on the book, and guess what? I have only FIVE MORE CHAPTERS TO GO to reach my goal! It's been awesome and awful, exhausting and exhilarating. But I am almost to my goal of 50 essays - 50,000 words - in a year. I am pretty damn proud of that.
Here's a chapter with the tentative title "Made of Money:"
. . ."Hey Mom," he said. "I need a laptop."
I glanced into the sunroom where, sitting on the desk, was what appeared to be his laptop.
"Um . . . " I pointed to the desk. "Isn't that your laptop right there?"
"Yeah, but I need a NEW laptop."
I cocked my head and tried to remember back to when I'd spent a stack of perfectly good U.S. dollars - several hundred of them, in fact - to buy the computer for him, the one that sat gleaming in the sunlight. It wasn't hard to recall. I'd just bought the thing.
"Son," I said, trying to control my bubbling blood pressure, "I got that laptop for you less than a year ago. What are you talking about?"
"Yeah, but it's not very good. Minecraft runs soooo sloowwww on it."
I took a few deep breaths and closed my eyes hoping for some patience, since my own notebook computer dates to the previous presidential administration, and - I might add - works just fine . . .
Stay tuned!