Friday, April 30, 2010

Green Thumb Envy

I am suffering from an acute case of garden envy.  I'm a city kid and I think the last time I actually grew anything was the 4H lettuce growing program in third grade.  By the way, I lost.  I have a sneaking suspicion the actual winner smuggled in Miracle Grow, but I have no proof of this and therefore could not press charges.

Anyway, I've started to get more interested in the locally grown produce movement (thanks in part to persistent guilt trips courtesy of my cousin Missy, who doesn't appreciate my great love of tomatoes from Central America).  A couple of weeks ago, I ordered a box from Irv and Shelly's Fresh Picks, which provides a hodgepodge of local in-season produce for $18.  It actually ended up being a good deal- tons of organic vegetables in the box and a lot cheaper than what I'd pay for it at my supermarket.  Unfortunately, because I've been a ridiculous social butterfly lately, most of it went to waste.  I just placed an order for a second box and I'm determined to cook all of it this time, even if I have absolutely no idea what ramps, sorrel or nettles are.  Thankfully they provide recipes.

I have the urge to grow something this spring.  I checked out my friend's garden yesterday and it made me jealous.  For one thing, I had no idea strawberries start out as flowers or that broccoli grows in the ground.  Make fun all you want, but after my dad had his toe accident, he paved our backyard with bricks as far as the eye could see.  Maybe that was an overreaction, but it saved him from further amputations so we're all lucky in that respect.  

But anyway, this city lady wants to garden suddenly.  The problem?  My balcony is approximately four feet by six feet.

(The ottoman isn't usually out there, but I'm sitting on the balcony right this second and comfort is of utmost importance to me.  My poor dog is wedged into a sixteen cubic inch area, but I'm spread out and feeling fine.  Oh, also I garbage picked that chair last year!  Nice find, huh?)

Anyway, it's teeny tiny.  Other complications are that it doesn't get a lot of sun and that I am lazy and don't like to weed or do any sort of outdoor activity really.  Oh, and my attention span is really sma... wow, a woman across the street just yelled out her window at a lady walking her dog to not let her dog poop in her pansies... wait, where was I?  Sorry, it's nice out today and my brain and my typing are alllll over the place.

If you're doing gardening in an extremely tiny space, I'd love to hear about it.  If not, I guess I can just stop cleaning my shower and grow some mold or algae in there, but I'm not sure how that would taste in a salad.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Karma Chameleon

I grew up with a mother who took certain creative liberties when it came to teaching her children life lessons.  Once I stuck my hand out the window while we were driving on the expressway.  My mom immediately launched into a long story about a child she knew growing up named Susie Shook.  She had waved her hand out the window and a semi had come along and ripped her arm right off.  My eyes grew wide with terror as I imagined the spurting blood, the horrified witnesses in the cars alongside the Shook family vehicle, the sheer physics involved in reenacting the crime scene.  My mom ended her story solemnly, "So from that day forward, Susie Shook couldn't shake."  It was years before I realized that story was not true.  I should forward her all fear-of-amputation related therapy bills.

Once my sister and I fashioned a swing out of some clothesline and a stick and hung it over a pipe in the basement.  It worked out fine and dandy for a while until my mom came down, gasped, and pointed out we were swinging over a concrete floor.  Then she told us about her classmate, who had made a swing in his very own basement, fell, and had to crawl up the basement stairs to find his mom to try and get help for his grievous injuries.  He opened the door, gasped, and fell at his mom's feet.  Blood gurgled out of his mouth and he died right there.  Lesson learned.  No basement swings.   As a child, I did wonder how my mom knew all of these poor unfortunate people, but I never doubted the veracity of her stories until I was much much older.

My mom is a devout Catholic but she also fully embraces the concept of karma.  Whenever one of her daughters makes a disparaging comment about someone's appearance or lack of intellect, my mom gets this extremely pained expression on her face and says, "Don't say that unless you want your kids to be born with that."  Yes, she believes that if I say someone can't put on makeup correctly, my children will be born with the inability to recognize self-inflicted clown-face syndrome.  If my sister says someone has a funny voice, BAM, the karma gods instantly mark it down and her children are born with helium voice.  This is the way my mother's God works- the children pay for the catty sins of the parents.

A few weeks ago, I was thinking about all of this deep philosophical stuff (probably during a commercial of "Millionaire Matchmaker") when suddenly it hit me:  what insults and bitchy comments made by my parents are my sisters and I manifesting right now?  Did my dad tease some woman with a weight problem and white patches on her skin?  I am sure one of them mocked some poor person about lack of math skills and maybe their fear of sudden loud noises.  Oh, and either my mom or dad had to have said something about a flat-chested woman at some point in their lives.  Sorry, Annie, you're paying the price for that sin.

I am not sure I believe in the karma god my mother worships, but I do wish my parents had made fun of people who were shockingly rich and amazingly beautiful.  I'd have an easier time embracing my mom's theory if I actually had benefited from it in some crazy way.  Unfortunately, I'm stuck with falling off of treadmills and embarrassing myself on a daily basis, all because my mom and dad are such awful terrible people.  Thanks a lot, guys.  I am guessing Mother's and Father's Day are going to be pretty meager this year, so start practicing your fake smiles.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Pain and the Great One

Monday afternoon, I worked out with my beloved friend and dictator, Jackie Mosure.  Yes, yes I know!  Shock of shocks, I actually worked out!  Alert the media!  Anyway, I have a feeling that if I hadn't left after an hour, Jackie might have murdered me and shoved my body deep in her attic because I was not a very marvelous client this time.  Not at all.

So I pulled a muscle in my back two weeks ago.  Obviously, I did this in some sort of athletic Ironman event and not bending down to pick up a bobby pin.  If you heard that, it's a vicious lie.  Anyway, my back is better now but I am still really gun-shy about doing anything to reinjure it.  Jackie kept telling me to do stuff and I'd say, over and over, "Okay, but is that going to hurt my back?"  She'd very patiently say no.  Repeat and repeat and repeat.  It was a fun hour.  I watched grey hairs appear spontaneously on Jackie's head.

Of course, she is a professional and my back feels fine today.  My thighs and ass?  Not so much.  Yeow. Still, no pain no loss, right?  This should serve as motivation to not laze around watching Madonna videos on the internet so much and instead get off my butt and hit the gym more often.

I'll tell you what, though, nothing makes me feel more like a lumbering Shrek-like ogre than having to do any sort of step aerobics type move.  There is always part of me that wonders if Jackie is secretly taping it for YouTube fame and fortune.  Also, it is just a matter of physics that, even with the world's most supportive titanium sports bra, my breasts are just too, um, ample not to bounce around like water balloons at a company picnic.  I am afraid when I'm jumping around on the step that I am going to either get a black eye or knock myself out.  I'd like to avoid that if all possible, but still Jackie insists I jump around like an elephant in a circus ballet.  I think she may just be sadistic, but she swears it's good for me, so we'll see.  I'm still searching YouTube for any rogue video she may have released.  My mom didn't raise no dummy.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

With a Little Help From My Friends

Two years ago, on the day after my tummy tuck surgery, my friends came over to visit and to make sure I had survived having eleven pounds of skin removed from my midsection.  I was pretty looped out on drugs, but it still was great to see them.  They came bearing so many flowers that it seemed like they were having a contest to see who could bring the most beautiful bouquet to the poor recuperating patient:

Because they are my best friends and I have known most of them for my entire life, I asked my mom to hide my painkillers before they arrived.  I might have been drugged but I wasn't stupid.  It became evident I had made the right decision when, twenty minutes after arriving at my sick bed, the five of them were cracking open a bottle of champagne and getting toasted while I writhed in pain and hallucinated on morphine.  Okay, I may be exaggerating about the pain, but they certainly did drink some champagne that day.  One more reason for me to love my friends.

By the way, I found these pictures of my hair in the days after that surgery.  I couldn't take a shower for about a week and boy oh boy was I a looker.

That was hilarious to me back in those days, but again, it could have been the morphine.

Anyway, I am incredibly lucky in the friend department.  Your family kind of has to put up with your bullshit, but your friends are signed up with you voluntarily, and that means a lot to me.  They've seen me at my best and my worst and every stage in between, and yet I still get invited to birthday parties.  Because I've known some of my friends my whole life, I can look at one and remember when his mom was my Brownie leader and he was forced to attend meetings even though he is male.  I remember ditching school with one in sixth grade and going to the mall and looking at dirty photography books.  I'll never forget why one had to skip a ski trip due to a lovely and colorful excuse.  Our shared histories blend us together, but one of the happy surprises of my 20s and 30s has been the good decisions my friends have made in choosing partners and wives.  They've become great friends too and that feels like such a lucky bonus.  I'm very happy with their taste in life partners.

Last night at dinner, I looked around the table and knew that everyone sitting there would have my back in any battle.  Even though I can be flaky and basically ignore social obligations when the temperature outside is less than 20 degrees, they still love me.  I don't know if I deserve them, but I am very grateful to have them.

That being said, I doubt there will ever be a day I trust them around any prescription painkillers.  No offense, guys.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Stress Test

That's my mom, giving me "The Look," which she does about forty percent of the time.  I don't think I've grown into the daughter she thought she signed up for, but it's always good to know I can still shock her.

Let's talk about stress.  People that know me are shaking their heads in disgust right now.  My work is very intense but, um, it doesn't involve a lot of hours.  If I told you how many, you'd click out of your internet browser in disgust and probably put my picture on a dartboard.  When I talk about being busy, I just know that people that know me snort and hold back mean laughter.

Anyway, I never really think I am stressed out until it gets overwhelming.  Apparently my body reacts differently than normal, what a shockeroo that is.  Instead of feeling tense, I develop Vitiligo, my body eats its own pigment and my eyelashes turn white.  I think I'd rather have that than constant anxiety, but still, if you can avoid both, I think you'd sign up time after time.

Exercise helps stress.  I know this.  In fact I am heading out RIGHT THIS SECOND to see the beautiful Jackie Mosure and get my fat (and, oddly, flat) ass in gear.  I was just kind of curious what you guys do when you're stressed out.  Are there any tried and true remedies I never learned because I filled that part of my brain with too many rock operas?  Yes, I'm bragging that I can sing "Jesus Christ Superstar" from start to finish.  "Evita" too. 

Results: Week 11

Down a whopping .4 lbs.  Fill up those balloons and hang the banners!  Not quite.

I need to get in the cooking at home routine again.  Happily, since it's been much nicer out than the dull, dreary unending days of winter, I've become socially active once again and have been having a great time.  Plays, showers, meeting new friends... the last few weeks have been a whirlwind, especially after spending the winter firmly planted on my couch complaining.  Unfortunately that means I am not devoting the time to this that I should.  Happy medium, balance, blah blah.  I'll figure it out eventually.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Attack of the Severed Toe

Recently, there's been a lot of controversy about the new movie "Kick Ass."  Roger Ebert calls it "morally reprehensible" because the movie involves an eleven-year-old girl who uses the C word and brutally murders people with hammers.  I myself don't worry too much about impressionable eleven-year-old girls going out and killing people, but then again I exhibited many signs of a future serial killer as a child and I turned out (reasonably) okay.

It was a normal summer morning in 1985 and I was sitting in the old La-Z-Boy in our TV room, eating a slice of Wonder Bread and watching "Pole Position."  Suddenly, there was a piercing scream coming from the backyard.  I froze.  The back door burst open and my dad ran through the house screaming, "I cut my foot off!  I cut my foot off!"  He thumped through the house on his heel, threw open the front door and continued his shock-induced flight across the street, where he was tackled by our neighbor and cousin.  They loaded my dad into their station wagon (forever after known as the Toe Truck) and headed off to the hospital.

My mom came running down the stairs and I told her what was going on.  Immediately we went into the backyard and I watched as she frantically started going through the bag of lawn shavings looking for my dad's amputated body parts.  How's that for a vision just ripe for a future post traumatic stress case?  We couldn't find the toe and she headed off to the hospital.  My dad ended up losing two toes that morning in the rusted bowels of our lawnmower.

A few months later, my parents had hired a friend's kid to mow the lawn and he knocked on the door announcing that he had found my dad's big toe in the bushes.  My mom went out and picked it up with a plastic bag, tied it and threw it in the garbage can in the garage.  It probably never entered her mind that her adorable six-year-old daughter already had the wheels in her brain grinding up a plan for revenge.

We had moved into that house months before, and our block was infested with boys.  I had spent the beginning of my childhood as the beloved princess, surrounded by adults who exclaimed over every drawing I cranked out and had unlimited patience for sitting around and watching my musical performances.  Once we moved, I discovered that boys like to tease and torment girls.  I had no brothers and was not used to this, and because I was a wuss sensitive artistic child, I would cry when teased instead of attacking back. That all changed when the world's greatest weapon was delivered to my life courtesy of the attack lawnmower and my dad's pain.

I fished the bag out of the garbage can.  My dad's toe still had the nail on it.  It was fish-belly white, lacking any color whatsoever.  I turned it around and saw that the inside was completely hollow, probably eaten by bugs.  It was without a doubt the grossest thing I had ever seen, and I knew that it was perfect for my plan.

My friend Anne and I ran across the street where the boys were playing in her yard.  They probably started to taunt us as we walked up, at least that's the way I like to remember it.  I took a deep breath, fished my dad's toe out of the bag and threw it at one of the bullies.  It bounced off him, hit the ground, and the boys gathered around to see what it was.  I'll never forget how their faces twisted with horror as the full realization that they were being attacked by a severed toe hit them.  I scooped it up again and lobbed it against another boy.  Chaos ensued and I am happy to say more than one of them cried.  Our neighbor heard the commotion and came out and put a stop to the battle, but I had more than made my point, and I doubt any of them would ever forget that I was the type of young lady that had no problem attacking others with medical waste.

Now, I think if I were a parent and my sweet, charming little girl pulled this stunt, I'd have her at the best child psychologist in Chicago the very next morning.  My dad gave me a stern lecture about, and this I think reveals his confusion about how to deal with the whole issue, respecting other people's body parts.  Then they sent me to my room.  They probably hid the knives for the next couple of years and watched me carefully around my little sisters and small animals, but that ended up being my only severed limb attack, and so far I have not murdered anyone or burned down any churches, so things turned out fine.

So yeah, maybe this little eleven-year-old brutal murderer with a potty mouth in "Kick Ass" is just going through a murderous stage.  I'm sure her peers will look back and shake their heads and chuckle over her antics, although I am guessing that, like in my case, none of them will ever ask her to babysit.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


  • Cat sitting is not going well.  My new cat allergy is repeatedly beating me up and leaving me listless and red-eyed every day.  To top it off, the poor cat won't eat.  It's been a week already.  Today I gave her some tuna and she did eat that, but I have been having recurring nightmares about me opening the door to their unit and finding a cat skeleton sprinkled with fur.  Ten days till the owners come home.  Keep your fingers crossed.
  • Kerry's birthday party was an excellent time.

  • I went to the Elton John concert with my cousin Missy and her friends Todd and Aaron.  Todd ended up being moved to the second row and it was a religious experience for him.  Elton was great, 2.5 hours of greatest hits.  Missy again disappointed me with her lack of knowledge of the movie "Clueless" but other than that it was a blast.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

My Inner Fat Father

My dad beamed with pride the other day at dinner.  "I am down seven pounds over the last five days," he announced, right before eating half a container of onion dip and fifteen servings of potato chips.

I come by my food binging issues honestly.  My dad has insane eating habits.  I've watched him eat six Skinny Cow ice cream sandwiches, one after the other, barely stopping to breathe. Honestly, I'm surprised he has never accidentally bitten off one of his fingers.  He keeps a bag of Peppermint Patties under his pillow and eats them going to bed at night.  Incidentally, he has perfect teeth and I am 31 and have several thousand dollars worth of dental work going on in my mouth.  Your mom was right- life is not fair.

Anyway, my dad would probably be 600 lbs if it weren't for one thing:  he is as vain as all get out.  The man has never met a reflective surface that he didn't admire himself in. As a result, he never puts on the extra weight he deserves to be carrying around with him.  He weighs himself carefully every day and if the number is up, he immediately stops eating real food and eats nothing but spinach for a week.  Then he brags about losing a ridiculous amount of weight in a week and we all make fun of him and he pretends to have hurt feelings.  It's a vicious cycle.

Plus he cinches his belt PAINFULLY so he can claim his waist size never goes up.  Oh, woe to the man who has three daughters- we know all of his tricks.  

Anyway, as the no-diet diet has started to slow down and I realize that yes, if I am going to get back into the swing of things, I'm going to have to put forth a little bit of effort, I find myself contemplating my dad's diet plans and being a little jealous.  I don't want to go down the paranoia path of calorie counting and food obsession again, but I admit there's a part of me that still thinks, "Hmmm, if I exercise two hours a day and eat 800 calories, I'll lose 40 lbs by my birthday."  

Stinkin' Thinkin'.  Thanks, Dad! 

Monday, April 19, 2010

Dance, Ballerina, Dance

Yesterday, my beautiful cousin Megan and her boyfriend Nate took me to my very first ballet, the American Ballet Theatre's performance of "Swan Lake."  To be absolutely honest, I was not looking forward to it.  My attention span is famously tiny, and I worried I would fall asleep during three hours of dancing.  I do like to experience things that my friends are passionate about, though, so I was excited to see ballet through Megan's eyes, since she is a retired professional ballerina.  I planned on pretending to be really enthralled by it, all the while thinking about my grocery list, plans for the summer and maybe my go-to time-waster of trying to remember all my cousins' names in birth and then alphabetical order.

It turned out that I absolutely loved it, no lie.

I just couldn't get over the grace of the dancers.  Every movement was so deliberate, and I couldn't imagine being that in control of every part of my body. The music was gorgeous and the way that the dancing was perfectly timed to the orchestra was amazing.  Everything was perfect, from the scenery to the costumes to the crazy lady I met in line for a taxi who complained bitterly about not remembering to hire a limo.  I seriously would go back in a heartbeat.

Dancing has never appealed to me in the same way singing does.  I like dancy parts of musicals, sure, but dialogue and plot and storyline have always been the draw.  I came away from "Swan Lake" with a new-found respect for the practice and effort that had to go into every moment of that performance.

I'm looking at my own clumsy body now with disdain, realizing how far away I am from the potential dancer that I undoubtedly could be, if only I had natural grace, long limbs and hours and hours to devote to the study of something in which I have no natural talent.

Then again, I am not exactly an amateur, having performed in a dance number on a little program called "The Oprah Winfrey Show." 

Results: Week Ten

I stayed exactly the same.  So, yeah, time to hit the gym and maybe, I don't know, lay off the margaritas and mimosas?

Oh brunch, how I love you.

Anyway, I spent most of last week on my couch in pain after pulling a muscle in my back.  I'd like to say it was a sports injury or one I sustained while rescuing a toddler from a fire, but the truth is I did it bending over to pick up a penny while vacuuming.  Sigh.  But anyway, it's healed now so back on the elliptical, fat ass.  Sorry, Mom, I mean butt.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Shaken, Not Stirred

The next James Bond.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Happy Birthday, Kerry!

Guess who's 25 today?  My beautiful baby sister Kerry Boo.

From the day she was born, Kerry was my baby.  I cried when I found out she was a girl because I already had a sister and desperately wanted a brother, but I got over it pretty quickly.  She took her first steps while my best friend Anne and I were dancing to the Cabbage Patch Kids record in my back room.

She wore a heart monitor for two years when she was a baby.  It would go off if she stopped breathing, a horribly loud stuttering alarm:  BEEP BEEP BEEP.  There was a separate alarm that went off if the belt was loose, a steady BEEEEEEEEEEPPPP.  Kerry took to loosening her belt when she'd wake up from a nap to let everyone know she was ready to get out of her crib.  When we started ignoring that, she learned how to pull the wire out and shove it back in, replicating the emergency BEEP BEEP BEEP alarm.  We'd all run in there and she'd be sitting up in bed with a big grin on her face, alive and well.

She's a sassy red head and she's been a character from the time she was a baby.  Once, when she was five, she got mad at me on the bus coming home from the mall.  She crossed her arms across her chest and refused to look at me.  When I tried to force her to answer, she screamed out, "STOP MOLESTING ME, TARYN!"  That got some great looks out of the senior citizens who frequented that  bus.  I am halfway convinced my picture is in the post office in the south suburbs because of that afternoon.

When she was in first grade, I got called out of my eighth grade classroom and the school secretary sent me to Kerry's class.  All hell was breaking lose in the room and at the front sat Kerry in her teacher's lap.  She couldn't stop crying.  The teacher asked me to walk her around the playground for a few minutes to calm her down.  It was February and freezing.  Finally, after a half an hour of my knees knocking in the cold under my uniform, Kerry admitted that she was upset because my aunt was in the hospital having her twins.  She thought that she'd have a "difficult delivery" and the doctors would have no choice but to shoot her in the head like they did to Norman the cow's mother in "City Slickers."

Six months after I got Coop, he ran out the front door of my apartment building and got grazed by a car.  He ran into the side lot of my building, completely freaked out, and he wouldn't let any of us get near him.  Meanwhile, a man who lived across the street from me came up, furious.  He smacked me in the face with a dog leash and started screaming at me about allowing Coop off a leash.  I was trying to be patient with him because he was about eighty years old, but I also really wanted to see if my dog was going to die.  Kerry came out of nowhere and said, "You know what?  Shut the f*c* up and go home."  He glared at her, shocked speechless, then turned around and left.  She's always been there to swoop in and defend her family.  I can always count on her.

She wrote my favorite poem of all time when she was in third grade.  A quote from it:  "Mommy, you are like salami, My favorite meat, You are so sweet."

She's always been a champion for the underdog and I've never met a person who is less judgmental.  I feel so lucky to be her sister and to watch her grow into the beautiful person she has become.  She truly completed our family and no one makes me laugh as much as my sister.

I love you, Ker!  Happy birthday.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Dog's Best Friend

My new neighbor Bobby took it as a personal insult when Cooper was afraid of him.  He immediately became bound and determined to win him over.  He'd hear us going to the elevator and come out into the hallway, bearing treats and getting down on his hands and knees, practically begging Coop to acknowledge him.  Bobby was in his mid-30's and reminded me a lot of Joey from "Friends"- smooth and a ladies' man, but definitely not the sharpest crayon in the box.  I don't think he ever knew my name, calling me "Sweetheart" or "Hon," but his affection for my weird and mentally unstable dog seemed limitless.

After months of trying to get Cooper to allow him to pet him, Bobby brought back some deer jerky from his family's house in Indiana.  This got Coop's attention pretty quickly, and before long, Bobby was petting him and even getting Coop to lick his face.  Soon Bobby was knocking on my door daily, asking if he could take Cooper for a walk or a drive.  Once, he came over while my best friend was over, and after he left, Peter said, "Wow, I don't think I love anything the way that guy loves your dog."  I felt the same way.

One day, Bobby brought Cooper back from a walk and said, "I have to tell you something.  Coop and I just got kicked out of Lincoln Park Zoo."  I told him that didn't surprise me as dogs are not allowed in the zoo.  "I know," he said, gazing adoringly at my dog's eyes, "But I just had to show him the seals."

I was working overnight at that time and one night my phone rang at 2 AM.  It was Bobby saying that he had taken Cooper for a drive and that they had split a Big Mac.  He wanted me to know how much Coop had loved it and to suggest that I provide him McDonald's more often.  Very helpful.

Another time I came home from work, opened my door and realized Cooper was gone.  Bobby returned him hours later, saying that he had been lonely and had decided to take Coop to his apartment to sleep over.  He also brought him to Indiana so he could run in the woods.  Cooper's relationship with Bobby was a more fulfilling one than any relationship I had ever had with a man, and I admit I was a little jealous.

Bobby moved away last year, and he said goodbye to Cooper with tears in his eyes.  He barely looked at me and I am convinced he still has no idea of my name other than Cooper's roommate.  Cooper still misses him, occasionally staring wistfully at the door of his old apartment, probably remembering the taste of that Big Mac.  I wonder if he still remembers his trip to the zoo with his Uncle Bobby.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Cat Scratch Fever

 Coop checking out a visiting kitten a few years ago

Last night, I went to my friend Bob's house to watch "American Idol." Admitting that is getting much easier.  I can see why Alcoholics Anonymous has their members admit out loud they are alcoholics every week.  Anyway, we had pizza and salad and half-watched the contestants butcher Elvis songs and counted the minutes until "Glee."  I love Sue Sylvester and I would probably think about joining the cheerleading squad if I were a student at that school, although I doubt that she'd have me what with my girth and lack of any kind of coordination.

Bob owns the world's sweetest cat, Chloe.  I have never owned cats, although I did steal a kitten briefly from my next door neighbors when I was seven.  In the past, I have encountered cats who hiss and scratch and even bite, so I usually keep my distance.  Chloe is not like these evil cats and I spent most of the night petting her and holding her in my arms.  Bob told me she liked to be held like a baby, so I threw her over my shoulder like I was burping her and rubbed her head while she purred.  I might have thought about stealing her.  We really bonded.

On the ride home, I noticed that my eyes were itchy.  By the time I got to my apartment, I had hives all over my face and my throat was scratchy.  I panicked a little because the last time I had an allergic reaction it was to penicillin and I ended up passing out in the public bathroom at my college after my throat closed up.  It was a scary experience, but it was also the closest I came to having wild and crazy "I passed out after a night of drinking" stories in college, so I cherish that memory.

I took a shower and then took two Benadryl and walked the dog.  When I came back, I noticed my eyes were starting to swell shut.  Yikes.  I took two more Benadryl, crossed my fingers and hoped for the best and passed out in bed.  Luckily, I woke up after twelve hours of sleep no longer looking like Augustus Gloop from "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory."  See, who says you need one of them fancy medical degrees to solve health problems?  Overdose on Benadryl and hope you don't wet the bed, problem solved.

So I guess I am allergic to cats.  The best part is that on the way to Bob's house one of my neighbors called me and asked me to watch his cat.  For two weeks.  And I said yes. I sure hope they sell Benadryl in bulk at Costco.  And maybe adult diapers, just to be on the safe side.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Tyra Takes On the Fat Police

Tyra undercover as a fat person

My beloved sister Kerry has terrible taste in television. Yes, I know that I'm not exactly a dilettante. Once, I was telling my friend about a conversation I had taken part in, then paused and said, "Oh wait, now that I think about it, this happened on "Real Housewives of New York." I certainly am a stunning advertisement for the benefits of higher education, wouldn't you say?

Anyway, Kerry loves to watch the Tyra Show. I had never really seen it before, but when I was staying at my parents' house for Easter, I went with the program and didn't complain when she turned it on. The show topic was "Fat Hateration: The Final Frontier of of Discrimination." I am not sure "hateration" is a word, but this show was on the CW network so I'm guessing they're not sticklers for proper English. Tyra interviewed several women who admitted to hating fat people. They thought obesity was disgusting and had absolutely no problem with confronting overweight people and letting them know exactly what they felt. These women, some of whom were not exactly model skinny themselves, apparently went up to people in airports, restaurants and amusement parks and pointed out to fat people how gross they were and how disgusting it was to even share the same air with them. The look of absolute disgust and hatred on their faces just floored me. How pathetic are these women to get so worked up over the size of someone else's body?

I was in the grocery store a few years back, carefully studying the selection of ice cream, when an old man came up to me. I smiled at him but he glared at me. "You don't need any ice cream," he said reproachfully, examining my cart. "You need to eat more vegetables." Stunned and raised to be overly nice to senior citizens, I didn't say anything and blinked back tears when he walked away. He had gotten his point across and I hope that made his day better, but it sure ruined mine.

I wonder if these people don't realize how much it hurts. You're having a great day, hanging out at a bar with your friends when a group of guys decides to make you their evening's entertainment, daring each other to ask you to dance. Idiot teenagers yell shit out the window at you when you're walking down the street. Do they not realize how much a dive bomb sneak anti-fat attack shakes you up? The greatest day can be ruined in an instant as the realization sets in that, oh yeah, I am somehow less of a person because I'm heavier than average. How dare I show my face in public and try to interact with all of the normal people? Forgive my audacity. Back to the Fat Cave I go.

Every fat person knows that they are overweight. There has never been an instance where someone calls a person fat and the person thinks, "Wow, I hadn't noticed that before. I am so happy that that lady pointed it out. No more eating for me!" You can't shame someone into losing weight and humiliating a person in public doesn't do it either. I know, it's shocking that calling someone a fat pig won't motivate them to mold themselves into the person you want them to be, but trust me on this one. The fact that these women think they're helping is a joke.

I guess I just don't get it. Life is short so why would you want to actively work to make people unhappy? It was obvious that these women had some issues; their faces literally twisted into grimaces when talking about how disgusting the obese are and how offended they were to have to see them in public. They were not happy women, and as Tyra wisely pointed out, a lot of the hatred they projected outward was really directed towards themselves. Unhappiness, low self-esteem and depression don't only happen to fat people, and it was obvious to me that these women were suffering from all three. Poor poor things.

I guess, if I were a better person, I would pity them. Unfortunately I am only a mediocre person and I wanted to run them over with a truck. Hey, I know my weaknesses and I could possibly finagle some sort of obesity defense. I'll have my lawyer get back to me on that.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Casino of Shattered Dreams

Don't the people above look gloriously happy and full of the promise of wonderful possibilities and rewards?  That's my cousin Megan, her boyfriend Nate and my sister Annie after taking out the princely sum of $10 at an ATM at the Horseshoe Casino in lovely Hammond, Indiana.  As you can tell from Megan's thumbs up (in perfect form because she is a ballerina) we were all ready to win a fortune gambling in this glamorously decorated palace of gaming.  Luck be a lady indeed.

Megan put a dollar in a slot machine and went to town.  We were all overwhelmed with the sights and sounds of the casino- blaring jingles coming from the machines that sounded like revved up Sonic the Hedgehog background music and clouds of cigarette and cigar smoke from the many depressed-looking people feeding money into machines all around us.  Megan watched excitedly as the slot machine spun.  Within ten seconds, her dollar was gone.  She reached out... and punched the machine.

My stomach twisted immediately.  I looked up, saw four hundred cameras and had visions of that one scene in "Casino" where they put the guy's head in a vice and pop out his eyeballs.  (I've never seen the movie but I've had people describe that scene to me because most people are not kind and enjoy watching me squirm).  For a full minute, I thought we were going to die there in Hammond, Indiana.  Luckily, no security goons came and dragged us away to an abandoned warehouse.  Megan claims the punch was accidental.  I have my doubts.

I do not really like to gamble as my job is really volatile and I've lost large sums of money with just a few clicks of the mouse button.  Losing money in my spare time seems like it would be overkill.  I ended up playing a nickel slot machine, pressing the button and watching out of the corner of my eye as the elderly woman next to me blew her social security check.  When I looked back at my machine, it was flashing and emitting louder sounds than usual.  Guess who was the big winner?

The nine cents was my sister Annie's contribution.  I think she lost ten bucks, as did Megan and Nate.  There was no joy in Mudville at the end of our casino adventure.

I did gloat a little about being the big winner.  Shocking, I know.  On the way home, I bought everybody Arby's and I think we're still friends.  I hope I didn't get on Megan's bad side as I don't know if I can withstand her punch quite as well as the slot machine, and I have absolutely no idea where to buy a vice.

Results: Week 9

Up 1.4 lbs this week.  I don't know if it is still fallout from Marshmallow Sunday or if it's a once a month bonus type thing (read between the lines, you're welcome, male readers) but I am taking it as a warning sign to get my butt back to the gym and start working out regularly.  I think I have gotten too complacent on this no diet diet thing, although not counting calories is still thrilling and magical.

Oh, and I made blueberry muffins from scratch this weekend in a rare burst of Marth Stewartiness.

They were pretty good, although I only used about half the sugar and didn't do the crumb topping thing because halfway through mixing the batter I realized I was low on sugar.  I still liked them although I gave the leftovers to my sister and she never commented on them, probably a bad sign.  Oh well.  Any time I use a cooling rack I feel like I am mere weeks away from my own show on Food Network, so I was a happy camper.

So this week I am headed back to the gym and working out with Jackie the Brutal Dictator.  I'm not freaked out about this pause in progress but I also don't want to get off track.  Fingers crossed, one day at a time, all that good stuff.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

My mom and all my aunts on both sides of my family had a bizarre love of the nautical when I was growing up.  There are pictures of me, my sisters and all my cousins dressed in sailor suits on every occasion.  I am not sure why the Navy was the only branch of the military represented by the Harper/Wright children, but that's just the way it was.

Doesn't my dad look like a Chicago cop?  Every one of them tried hard to look like Mike Ditka back in the day.

Friday, April 9, 2010

"Pleading Guilty" to Being Nutty as a Fruitcake

Oh what an exciting day we have had on my sleepy little block!  Pleading Guilty, a Fox pilot, was here filming all day.  I set out to check out the scene, and I admit in the back of my head I had visions of being discovered, given a guest spot that turned into a regular supporting character that turned into a starring role that turned into an Emmy that eventually turned into an Oscar that turned into my boyfriend cheating on me with an apparent Nazi with tattoos on her forehead.  Hey, a woman can dream, can't she?

In this picture you can see both my building AND my car.  Please don't think I am bragging, but I do drive a 2000 Pontiac Grand Am, a choice ride in mint condition with only 150,000 miles on it.  Auto thieves, if you would like to steal it, please contact me and I will give you detailed information on where it's parked.  Thank you in advance.  Anyway, that gigantic piece of orange machinery with lights on it is not usually parked in front of my building, so that was the first clue that something big was happening.

Further down the block, I saw this:

Apparently they were filming some sort of indoor scene.  A bunch of my neighbors gathered across the street and watched, trying to maintain their excitement over a scene that was not exactly edge-of-your-seat thrilling.

I seriously can't believe I've never written about how my dog is insane.  You know all about my tummy tuck and my sister's sexual preferences but somehow this never came up?  I've been holding out on you.  So Cooper was adopted from the Animal Control center in Chicago.  Several weeks after I brought him home, there was an investigation that revealed that some workers had been power washing the dog cages... with the dogs in them.  I'd like to blame Cooper's nuttiness on that, but the fact is that in the first two years of his life, he was hit by a car, almost drowned twice in my parents' old pool, and hit the windshield during a car accident in which my car was totaled.  Please don't inform PETA.  I think I am a better dog owner now, plus it's good I'm getting all of this negligence out of my system now just in case I ever have kids.

So yeah, Coop is justifiably pretty nuts.  He is very skittish and shy around new people.  In fact, if you come and visit me, the rules are you have to sit down on the couch and ignore Cooper completely while he runs around shaking violently at your presence in our home.  Eventually he will come over to you but it has to be on his terms, no forcing the issue.  Once he warms up, he is fine, but with certain guys, this has taken him months.  He is a fun party guest, you can only imagine.

On the surface he looks like a normal dog.  That's why I didn't think anything of it when a 6'6'' police officer came up to me and asked if my dog was friendly.  "Ummmm," I answered, looking down at my little mental patient.  Before waiting for my answer, the cop looked at Cooper and said, "Hi puppy."  That was all it took.  Cooper's eyes widened and his tail went instantly between his legs.  He slowly began backing up away from the officer and when he reached the end of his leash, he panicked.  Dropping to the ground, he started flopping around like a fish, trying to escape the evil gigantic man who just wanted to say hello.  The guy looked at me like I was a complete wackadoodle for allowing this crazy dog to reside in my home and I mumbled something about over-stimulation and not being himself.  

I ended up having to practically carry my sixty pound bundle of nerves home.  We'd walk about three feet and he'd stop, sit down and shake uncontrollably for a few minutes before being steady enough to continue on.  All of the workers on the set and the lookie-loos really enjoyed the show.  We finally reached my house and I gave him one of the emergency doggy downers that my vet prescribed for him.  Yes, my dog is on anti-anxiety meds.  All of my Chicago cousins are nodding knowingly at the screen right now because their suspicions of me being a secret yuppie because I live in my neighborhood have been confirmed.  You're welcome, guys.

So to make a long story short, I did not get discovered yesterday and John Larroquette and I are not getting married.  I didn't even get a peek at the character of Brushy, but when I got home and looked at myself in the mirror, I looked frazzled and unkempt, just like I'd imagine someone named Brushy would be.  Maybe my Hollywood dreams are not dead quite yet.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Musical Appreciation

On day last summer, my sister Annie and I went to get one of our twice-yearly pedicures.  We randomly went into a new place close to her house and were escorted back to the standard vibrating chairs.  "Would you like a movie?" asked the technician in broken English, pointing to a grouping of ten DVDs.  My eyes widened.  "Moulin Rogue," "Dreamgirls," "West Side Story," "Chicago."  I was among my people.  We spent the next glorious hour getting our toenails painted and watching "Mamma Mia" and I was ecstatically happy.  My sister, not so much.

When you confess that you love musicals, people give you the same wooden "Oh wow, she's a nutball" smile that they also reserve for people who collect Precious Moments figurines or who number their pets in the dozens.  When I turn on the car and my "Ultimate Broadway" CD starts up, some of my friends have broken speed records reaching out and pushing the power button in disgust.  We musical aficionados are a trodden-upon bunch.

As a little kid, I would  get super excited when "Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood" did an opera episode.  That Daniel Striped Tiger had a real gift for conveying emotion in his singing, I'll tell you that.  I'd watch "Wizard of Oz" and "Mary Poppins" over and over again on our futuristic BetaMax player (which my dad held on to well into the 90s).  My family just didn't understand and would balk when I'd want to watch "Annie" for the fourteenth day in a row, but I just filed the injustice away, imagining how I'd sing about it with real raw emotion when the musical of my life was finally produced.

My movie collection.  This is roughly 1/3 of all the DVDs I own.  Don't judge.
None of my friends are musical junkies like I am.  My sisters avoid them like the plague.  That left only one thing to do: recruit the next generation of my family.  I watched "The Wizard of Oz" with my cousin Allie one night.  She asked me if Kansas was a real place and I explained to her that yes, it was a state near Iowa and Nebraska.  She nodded and then said, "Is it still black and white there?"  Yes, very cute, but she soon confessed to liking some Barbie movie more than the story of Dorothy so I had to move on.  Certain things just cannot be forgiven.

Luckily, my goddaughter Jamie has become a gigantic fan of musicals.  We've seen a bunch of them together and she GETS it.  I will get a text from her out of the blue saying "I was just thinking about "Dreamgirls."  She's part of my tribe.  She also appreciates my Ethel Merman impression, which let me assure you is a rare show of good taste in my family.  When I die and she inherits everything and the rest of my family is furious, I'd like her to remind them of this, right after she sings a medly from "Les Miserables" at my memorial service.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Look Who's Cooking

Guess which bulky blogger finally got her burly butt to the grocery store today?  (Sorry, I love synonyms for fat, especially those used by British tabloids- corpulent, pudgy, rotund, sign me up!)

Anyway, I stocked up and hopefully am now back on track on the whole cooking thing.  I ordered three of the cookbooks you guys suggested and they're due to arrive today.  Reviews will be forthcoming and our friendships do hang in the balance- if you suggested a horrible cookbook, you are cut out of the will.  No exceptions.

I just finished eating Cooking Light Chipotle Chicken Taco Salad for dinner.  This recipe got incredible reviews on their website so I finally gave it a try.  Somehow, I forgot to buy beans and corn and my avocados weren't ripe yet, but the half-assembled salad was really delicious.  If you like cilantro, you'll like this salad.  I have gone on the record as being anti-lettuce but I like fancy chopped salads and this hit the spot.

I am also having a lucky day.  When I got home from the grocery store in a pouring rainstorm (of course), there was a notice on my door saying that all day tomorrow, a TV show will be filming in front of my building!  It's "Pleading Guilty" starring John Larroquette and according to IMDB, it features a character named Brushy.  How could it not be great?  My day is all planned out tomorrow, hanging around and being creepy and trying to pick up on any Hollywood gossip being batted around.  Report to follow.

Also, I won a gift certificate over at And Then I Was a Mom!  If you're not reading that blog, you definitely should be and I'm not just saying that because apparently Kate is paying me to be her friend.  She's hilarious and slightly crazy, a requirement for any kind of friendship with me.  Thanks again, Kate!

Puppy Therapy

In order to lighten the mood around here, I am following the lead of my beautiful goddaughter Jamie.  She knows that the world's best accessory, guaranteed to make people smile, is a tiny baby puppy that they can cuddle and then immediately return to its owner with no worries about cleaning up its potty training mishaps or training it not to eat food off the coffee table.

Jamie brought her friend's puppy over to my mom's house last weekend.  It's impossible to be in a bad mood when you're looking at that little face.  Even my dad, who swears up and down that he doesn't like dogs, got into the act.

By the way, my dad is the only family member I can say absolutely anything about on this blog. Why?  He still thinks computers are a fad.  He's never turned one on in his life and still runs his business using a twenty-pound manual typewriter and a filing cabinet.  There's no chance he'll read this and call me up and demand that I take down embarrassing pictures of him, like this one of him getting a makeover from my cousin Julie:

Very freeing.  

(I guarantee my sisters are looking at this and shaking their heads about me having a no-attention-span kind of afternoon).

Anyway, back to the puppy. Some days I just get overwhelmed by the sadness and misery in the news and the struggles that people I love are suffering.  On days like that, I wish there was a store in the mall where you could go in and pay $10 and hold a puppy for a couple of hours.  I think that might help an awful lot.

Yeah, if you can't look at that and smile, I'd suggest going in and seeing a doctor. 

Monday, April 5, 2010

Sometimes Apples Do Fall Far From the Tree

My mom, toiling away in my kitchen last year

My mom is a do-it-yourself type of woman.  I can't tell you how many times I've gone to her house and found her standing in a cloud of dust because she decided she just had to knock down a cabinet or paint a wall or rip up some carpeting.  Sometimes this works out and sometimes it doesn't, but there's a part of me that gets a little scared when she discusses plans to take welding classes.  I don't want to have to take care of her if she's elderly AND blind.

On Friday night, an electrical outlet in my kitchen started making this loud clicking noise.  I tried to fix it in my usual way, which was turning up the volume of the Indigo Girls CD I was playing on my laptop, but several hours later, it was still there.  I turned to my favorite fix-it expert, Handyman Google, and read that the clicking meant the outlet had shorted out.  There were eighty comments about how simple it was to remove the outlet, so the spirit of my mom's home improvement enthusiasm entered me and I thought, "Well, of course I can fix that myself!"  Famous last words.

I flipped the circuit breaker thing to turn off the electricity in the kitchen.  Then, I carefully used a screwdriver to remove the plate, pried the outlet out and tugged and tugged until the wires came out of the outlet.  Satisfied with my incredible handiwork, I decided to shove the wires back into the wall to hide them.  As soon as I started to do this, sparks shot up about three feet in the air, hitting the wall and the cabinet and sending me screeching back into the living room.  This kind of thing never happens on "This Old House."

It was 2 AM, so I couldn't exactly call an electrician.  Instead, I slept on the couch and woke up every hour on the hour, convinced that my kitchen would be engulfed in flames and that the entire building would burn down due to my repair work.  It was not a very restful evening.

The next day, I called Miss Fix-It herself.  She assured me that fixing my butchered repair job would be simple as pie and described putting caps on the ends of wires and a bunch of other steps while I barely listened.  When I told her I was afraid to even go in the kitchen let alone handle the wires, she assured me that the outlet was fine to mess with and that the reason it sparked like that is because the outlet always has a live wire in it, even if the electricity is off.  Hmmm.  When I questioned this, she got defensive and said, "If you're so worried about it, call my brother Joe the electrician and he'll tell you the same thing."

I got my shoes on to go get the cap stuff but as an afterthought decided to give my uncle Joe a call.  He listened very patiently as I displayed my lack of knowledge about electricity in general.  I said, "I know there's always a live wire in there and that's why it sparked like that, but is it okay if I touch it to put the cap thing on?"  To my credit, I didn't add "or whatever" at the end of the sentence, but in every other way I sounded like a brainless valley girl.  

Well, needless to say my uncle didn't give me tips on how to further accidentally almost kill myself and instead came over and repaired the outlet.  It turns out I tripped the wrong circuit breaker and actually used a screwdriver on a live outlet.  That could have been bad.   Oh, and also my mom's theory about there always being a live wire in an outlet was 100% incorrect.  I am kind of wondering if she was trying to kill me with that advice.  She does have two back-up daughters, so you never know.

Now I'm really worried about those welding classes.

Results: Week 8

Ummmmm, I didn't have the greatest non-diet diet weekend.  I have met my nemesis and looked it in the eye and ate its sugar-coated head off.  Then I repeated this, over and over again.  My kryptonite?  Peeps.

Peeps seem to be a highly polarizing issue.  People either really love them or think they are the most disgusting food item on the planet.  Unfortunately I fall into the former category and ate approximately four billion of them this weekend.  If I accidentally cut myself right now, neon pink marshmallow ooze would seep from my skin.  Seriously, it was just that bad.

So basically I am not weighing myself today because I know how my crazy little brain works.  If it shows I gained weight, I will tell myself it doesn't matter but secretly be down in the dumps and eventually probably end up going to Walgreen's and buying up their supply of discounted Peeps and repeating this marshmallow chicken bender until I'm back up to my starting weight.  I'm going to blow this weekend off (once the sugar haze has lifted- seriously, I feel like I have a hangover this morning) and report back in a week with new progress stats.

Sorry if this is cheating a little.  Blame the chickens.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Happy Easter!

(Or Happy Spring if you don't do the whole zombie Jesus thing!)

Friday, April 2, 2010

Viva La Food Revolution!

Have you guys been watching Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution? I have heard it got really awful ratings (I heard wrong!) but I am enjoying it a lot and I think it could help make some real changes in the way America eats.  (Yes, I watch too much TV.  My cousin used to write an anti-TV magazine and I had a subscription when I was away at college.  I used to read it during commercials during the two hours of "Hangin' With Mr. Cooper" reruns I watched with my roommate every single day).

Jamie Oliver is a British chef who lead the charge to overhaul the school lunch system in Great Britain a few years ago.  He has now moved on to saving American students from the horrors of chicken fingers and french toast sticks and to teach families how to kick the processed foods habit and cook for themselves.  This show focuses on his work in Huntington, West Virginia, which apparently was named the most unhealthy city in America.  

When he arrives in town, he is met with a lot of resistance.  I immediately figured out why, although Jamie seems to struggle with it:  Americans don't like it when people come in with saucy British accents and tell us what to do.  I think it might be leftover remnants of the American Revolution or maybe more people love "1776" than I originally thought, but there is something about that accent that whispers in American ears, "He thinks he's better than you."  How dare this English dude come in and insult our pizza for breakfast?  What's next, he'll start insulting football and bragging about how his country gave us the Beatles?  Take your artfully tousled hair back to your own country, but please leave Harry Potter- we like him.

If you're not used to British guys, I am sure Jamie could rub you the wrong way.  Since I also watch Gordon Ramsey on "Kitchen Nightmares" I was prepared to hear Jamie call grown women girls, honey, sweetheart and darling, but a less scholarly person might consider that condescending.  He also calls cafeteria cooks who are old enough to be his mother "lunch ladies."  Again, I am sure he's not trying to be insulting, but it could certainly be understood why people might view it that way.

He is just so gosh darn sincere, though.  He really is pained when second graders can't identify a single fresh vegetable.  You can tell he is devastated when the school kids reject his chicken for their regular pizza and chocolate milk.  Sincerity just flows through every fiber of his being and he really is devastated by the idea that these kids might live shorter lives than their parents all because of the food choices being made in this country.  

I've written before about my struggles with obesity as a child, and I think Jamie might be onto something with this show.  His plan is to teach families about nutrition and then teach them how to prepare affordable and fresh meals in their own homes.  He preaches getting rid of processed foods and going back to basics in the kitchen.   He's also teaching kids about cooking and they seem to really embrace it and enjoy the time spent with him learning about food.  Rather than target the elementary school kids and single the fat ones out for special treatment, Jamie is working to overhaul whole families.  I personally think this might lead to some real changes in the way people view the things they eat, and who knows?  Maybe a wave of change might sweep across the nation.

I do think that the majority of people who watch this show are probably already well-versed on nutrition.  Plus, like Ricky Gervais said in an interview, Americans really do know why they're fat, for the most part.  Still, I admire him for trying and I'm interested to see what happens with the changes he's making in West Virginia.  Maybe he'll start a trend of eating steak and kidney pie and bangers and mash.  Stranger things have happened, such as the popularity of Spencer and Heidi, so I wouldn't rule anything out quite yet.  

So what do you guys think?  Is processed food really the devil or is everything in moderation the key?  I did walk away from the show craving chocolate milk like crazy, which is something I'm sure Mr. Oliver didn't plan on.  I craved Big Macs after watching "Supersize Me" too, so maybe I'm just a weirdo.  Maybe.

(Oh, and I stole the picture above from Jamie Oliver's Twitter.  I am blaming it on my decades of high fructose corn syrup consumption).

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Not Just an April Fool

Right around the time when I had reached the peak of my pain in the butt preteen years, the time when everyone around me was an idiot and I was the only voice of reason in the entire world, my family watched my four-year-old cousin Kate for the weekend.  Two of my other cousins, Bizzy and Tommy, were staying with us also, so I dramatically moaned about effectively being the oldest of six and about how no one understood me and how Stacy from "The Babysitter's Club" had it so easy because she was an only child.  You get the idea.  I was not a pleasant young lady.

My mom, probably in a fit of exhaustion from dealing with all of us, allowed me to take the kids on the bus to the mall to see a movie.  They started annoying me almost immediately.  Most annoying, in my opinion, was little Kate, who was ten years younger than me and who it seemed to me did an awful lot of whining.  She was as cute as a button with her curls and her little red glasses, but after three days I decided I had been as tolerant as I could.  It was time for me to take revenge on a four-year-old.

You see, I had discovered that Kate had a deathly fear of mannequins.   She revealed this weakness by screaming and running out of Sears when we came upon three mannequins displaying the latest in early 90's styles.  I filed that away and on the bus ride home I put my plan into action.

"Hey Kate," I said, "Did you hear that Mannequinitis has been going around?"  Kate shook her head, her little eyes growing big behind her adorable glasses.  "Yeah, it's pretty serious.  People get it and without any warning at all, they suddenly turn into mann..." With that, I froze, a creepily wooden smile plastered on my face and my eyes looking off in the distance.

My cousin Tommy played right along.  "Oh no!  It looks like Taryn has caught Mannequinitis!  There's nothing we can do for her..." He stared a cold dead stare at Kate, looking like the perfect boy mannequin.

She screeched and almost got us kicked off the bus.  She cried for ten minutes, terrified that she'd turn into a mannequin at any minute, and I did feel a twinge of guilt.  My sympathy deflated quickly when we arrived back at my house and she sung like a canary, telling my harried mother every detail of my meanness.  My mom was furious and insisted that I sleep with Kate in my room that night, convinced she'd have bad dreams and never sleep.

Kate was adamant that we sleep in my sister Annie's room, although she demanded that I take the framed picture of Tom Selleck down from the wall.  No, I'm not kidding- my sister had a framed black and white picture of Tom Selleck.  I can't even pretend that that's normal but let's move on.  Kate demanded story after story and song after song, and my adolescent rage was just boiling by the time she finally fell asleep.  I set phase two of my plan into motion.

A few weeks before, my friend Anne and I had bought one of those make-up practicing doll heads at a thrift shop near my house.  We had named her Ezra and had dyed her hair green and painted shamrocks on her face, intending to throw her at passing floats at the St. Patrick's Day parade, but my boring mom had stopped us in our tracks. Ezra had been gathering dust in the back of my closet since then, but finally that night she would be put to good use.

Kate woke up twenty minutes later after hearing noises in the hall.  The nightlight was on and she turned over to find me asleep in the bed next to her.  She shook my shoulder, saying, "Taryn, I have to go to the bathroom.  Taryn?  Taryn?"  When she looked closer, she saw that instead of my familiar face, she was lying next to a mannequin.  Mannequinitis had struck in the middle of the night!  She screamed and screamed and screamed and screamed, waking my parents and probably some of our neighbors too.

Ezra was confiscated and I never saw her again.  I was grounded forever. Luckily, Kate has forgiven me.  She is now just a few months away from becoming a nurse.  I seriously delight in reading her Facebook status updates every day because she loves her job just that much.  She's one of my favorite cousins and she has a great sense of humor.  I am not sure how she feels about mannequins.  I really hope she can go to the mall without grabbing her heart, screaming in terror and fleeing at the sight of their creepy plastic smiles, but if she can't, at least she can blame it on her abusive cousin Taryn.  I look forward to paying for her therapy bills.