Tuesday, January 30, 2007

After Glow

Mom used to keep an avocado pit in a plastic cup on the kitchen
windowsill. My entire childhood, there was always an avocado pit,
steadied by toothpicks, floating in water on the ledge. The pits
usually grew roots. Some even grew little sprouts. But as far as I can
remember, we never had an avocado tree.

I wondered why she kept
messing with those pits, why she didn't just throw them out when she
knew it was never going to work. When I asked her, she'd always say the
same thing: "I don't know."

I don't have an avocado pit in my
kitchen. Instead, I have a strange glow. At exactly 5:50 every morning,
a fizzletickpop! sounds and a fluorescent bulb jumps to life. At 10:50
every night, the light snaps back off again. During the hours in
between seven tiny herb plants are lured into existence by the false
promise of life on their planet – which, as it happens, is an
AeroGarden indoor garden unit. 

I'm not sure how to describe the
AeroGarden, other than to say it's a fantastically overly thought-out
scientific answer to actual gardening. Whereas Mom's plastic cup
glistened in the sunlight, the AeroGarden needs no natural rays.

hums. It plugs into the wall. It grows cilantro. It's truly bizarre.
But, it's all I've got: I gave up my garden when we sold our house, so
my in-laws thoughtfully bought this weird little thing for me to play
with instead. 

Under the harsh glare of the specially formulated
"Grow Bulbs," I watch these little seedlings sprout, these future mint,
basil and chive plants. And all I can think about is Mom's plastic cups
of avocado pits.

That and sex.

Gardening – real
gardening – is sexy. The fecund soil, teeming with life and grit and
potential. Soft, delicate shoots revealing themselves slowly before an
eager sun. The vulnerability – to drought, to rain, to wind, to bugs –
adds to the thrill of every surviving, thriving plant.

AeroGarden comes with seven soil-free pods. And nutrient tablets. And a
control panel with a little light that goes off when the water gets too
low. There's nothing mysterious about it. Nothing dirty or dangerous.
The sprouts are interesting, but I don't have a sense of ownership of
them the way I did my garden.

I remember when I grew my first
watermelon in the back yard. I planted three seedlings; two took. The
day I harvested my first melon was the day I told my sister I was
pregnant. Hubby took a picture of me kissing the six-pound melon. My
face is broken out. My hair is oily. But I have a gleam in my eye that
is pure goddess.

If gardening is like sex, then the AeroGarden
is like fertility medicine. Sure, you'll get your basil. And the pesto
will probably taste just as good. But where is the fun?

about watching life struggle into being under a regulated hum and glow
reminds me of the way I felt when we tried in vitro fertilization: I
felt like a television.

Actually, I felt like I had a
television between my legs – and my doctor and two nurses were huddled
around it, watching the game. I even offered them beer. They didn't get
it. I have a policy about not letting anyone who doesn't get my jokes
anywhere near my, um, television. Yet, here was a threesome poking and
prodding me and not getting me at all.

Maybe that's why all the
pills and shots and scientific approaches to motherhood didn't work for
me. Or maybe it's a coincidence that I got pregnant only after I
started gardening. I'll never know. That's part of the mystery.

thing I can say for the AeroGarden is that it eliminates the need to
turn on the kitchen light. By its strange glow, I made myself an
avocado and turkey sandwich this afternoon. When I cleaned up, I went
to throw out the pit, but thought better of it.

Mom struggled
for 10 years to get pregnant after she had me. Ten years of
miscarriages and failed attempts. Ten years of avocado pits on the
windowsill. Ten years, and then she finally had Sis. I'm not sure if
there's a correlation between two seemingly fruitless endeavors, but I
like the poetry in it. So I didn't throw out the seed.

Later in the day, Hubby walked by my desk and asked, "Is that an avocado pit in a bowl?"

"Yeah," I said, not looking up.

"What's that for?" he asked

I looked over and blinked at it a few times. "I don't know."

Monday, January 22, 2007

Open Letter To Jean and Chris

Dear Jean and Chris,

I am sorry my son almost killed you.

He didn't mean to
liquidate your internal organs. That's just how kids are. They hug,
they cuddle, they take your hands in theirs – and then they infect you
with whatever monkeypox variant they find in their Pampers. They don't
know that every zerbert they give you is actually the kiss of death.
That you're going to end up fraternity-rush-week sick, praying for
mercy to a God whose existence you've begun to question. How could they

At the same time, I do ask for your forgiveness. In the
hours before Zev showed signs of illness (and by "signs," I mean
"scenes"; and by "scenes," I mean "scenes from 'The Exorcist' "), I
thought it was cute the way Jean was playing Evil Hand with him,
pretending her hand was attacking her face. And then attacking Zev's
face. And then her face again. In hindsight, that level of contact with
toddlers probably requires a special rider on your life insurance.

it's any consolation, my adorable bioterrorist infected me so badly, I
couldn't leave the house for four days – I could eat nothing for the
first day and nothing but ice chips for the second. Also, my husband's
illness has somehow traveled from his stomach to his eyes, which are
now red and – there's no other word for it – leaky.

And if your
misery wants even more company, Zev's day-care provider spent her
four-day weekend kneeling over her toilet, too. As did many of Zev's
friends and their parents. It's fairly clear at this point that Zev was
Patient Zero of this baby-bola outbreak, a distinction that has made
him immensely popular in playgroup.

No one, so far, has
threatened legal action, and I hope – taking into account our many
years of friendship – that it stays that way. Speaking of which, I am
grateful that you did not alert Hazmat or the CDC about our noxious
little bundle of joy. A lesser couple would have ordered our house
tented and had Zev whisked away, ET-style. So, thank you.

It is
also very kind of you to call and inquire about our diminutive dirty
bomb. He's feeling much better. In fact, he wasn't really all that
sick. Despite exploding from both ends, he never lost his sunny
disposition or his unyielding desire to play – a situation that filled
me with both relief and utter horror.

It was also sweet of you
to note that I lost weight in this experience. Zev was the reason I had
started to look like a garden gnome; it only makes sense that he'd
"help" me regain my shape. (I'm considering marketing a weight-loss
regimen that involves licking the doorknobs at preschools. What do you

The next time you see Zev (if, indeed, you ever brave
another meeting with the little Petri dish), I can't promise you that
he won't be harboring another electrolyte-sapping parasite. But I can
promise that we'll all do a better job of washing our hands and
limiting our zerberts.

Again, I'm terribly sorry that you found
yourself dissolving into a foamy liquid and gushing out in unnatural
pain on my son's account. If there is anything I can do to make up for
the four days of your lives that will be lost forever in a blur of
Imodium and Dramamine, please let me know.



Tuesday, January 16, 2007

No, Woman, No Cry

We're watching the trailers before "Dreamgirls," and Keren leans
over to tell me that she doesn't think the Will Smith "Pursuit of
Happyness" film looks all that interesting. I can't answer. I'm weeping.

thing happens with the "Freedom Writers" trailer. And Effie's big solo
number in "Dreamgirls." She belts out, "And I'm Telling You I'm Not
Going." And I start bawling. 

"What's the matter with you?" Keren asks.

"Well," I explain, "It's time you knew: I'm a wimp for emotional manipulation." 

stuff that should hurt – the sticks, the stones, the comparisons to Joel Stein – that stuff just washes right over me. But show me a McDonald's
commercial in which a young child and his grandparents enjoy a softly
lit moment of multigenerational bonding, and it's all over.

love to say that this is a new phenomenon. Part of the
softening-of-Mayrav-since-childbirth thing. But I've always been easily
winded by an emotional sucker punch. When I first started dating Hubby,
I hid my frailty behind my allergies, maintaining that my sniffles were
the direct result of cat dander, and not of a sweet AT&T commercial
(that little preschooler is all grown up and graduating college and his
parents are so proud!).

My weepy wimpiness doesn't seem to have
a lunar connection; but when I was pregnant, at least I could weep
openly at Kleenex commercials and then blame my hormones. These days I
don't have that excuse. Just a lot of spent tissues.

I'm not
sure what causes this condition, but I believe it might be congenital.
Like I was simply born with an overactive schmaltz processor, some area
in my brain that retains images of small kittens and children
overcoming adversity and breaks them down into a salty liquid.

known people with worse schmaltz-processor problems – one of my friends
in high school used to cry if she saw someone else crying. (In addition
to being easily manipulated, I'm also a little bit cruel, and, I have
to admit, we did have some fun with this.)

While it's not new,
I've noticed my own defect is getting worse. I'm not sure if
commercials and trailers have gotten more manipulative, or if I'm
getting weaker. But I'll cry at anything now.

I was reading Zev
a children's book about Abraham Lincoln and found myself choking back
tears when I read the line, "A life for sale – like hatchet, ax, or
plow? Abe knew it was unjust to own another."

It's not that
slavery isn't worth crying about. But the mention of slavery in a book
about Lincoln probably shouldn't have caught me so off guard.

So Keren's question stands: What's wrong with me?

It can't be that I'm  a particularly sensitive soul: I once ended a
conversation between two of my friends by bonking their heads together
(It was really, really mean, I know – and not recommended. But man, it
was funny).

One explanation I've come up with is that I turn
on the waterworks because I'm simply a polite audience member. My brain
deconstructs all the elements of a Hollywood-manufactured touching
moment – the music, the lighting, the sense of a true connection
between human beings – and my eyes just do what's expected of them.Or maybe I'm such a simpleton that I can't steel myself against obvious emotional exploitation.

way, I need to figure out what's wrong and put a stop to it. It's
gotten to the point that I can't read certain book passages or listen
to certain songs without bursting into tears. Soon, I'll have to skip
movies all together. Before I know it, I'll be a shut-in, so terrified
at the prospect of tears that I'm afraid to leave my house and the
comfy company of my cat friends. I'll be alone. I'll be ostracized.
I'll be kinda creepy.

It's enough to make me weep.

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Open Brain. Insert DVD. Repeat

I'm a little worried about Jeff. Having purposely avoided last
season's "24," Jeff recently bought the DVD of the entire season and
has been watching back-to-back episodes nearly nonstop.

How a
guy chooses to watch TV is his business. But I've noticed something
about him, the way he holds himself, the way he walks. He's skulking a
little now. Like any minute, he could get a troubling call from Chloe
and have to commandeer a helicopter. 

I know what this is: Jeff
is TV-binging. The aesthetic and pace of "24" are bleeding into
everyday life, and it's messing with him.

TV-binging is an ugly
and relatively new disorder that can strike anyone, though it usually
affects people who have DVD players but no cable. Jeff is hardly alone.
I've completely lost Lisa Bee to "Battlestar Galactica." Jean has taken
up residence with Monica and Rachel. Even Hubby is slowly going over
the "Wire."

A few years ago, Hubby brought home the entire
"Twin Peaks" TV series. I had never seen the show but was hooked from
the first episode. Because we had the whole oeuvre in our living room,
there was no waiting for commercials, no waiting for next week, no
waiting for summer hiatus – nothing. Just the complete series,
available whenever I wanted it.

Problem was, I wanted it all the time.

shows are designed for maximum addiction. Is Jack just going to let Ben
die? Are Tony and Christopher going to go head to head? Will Danny win
over Jordan?
You just have to tune in next week to find out, and in the
meantime, the suspense is going to kill you.

But what if the
answer to last episode's question is just a remote-control click away?
Who really has the willpower to turn the TV off?

Hubby and I
gorged ourselves on two "Twin Peaks" episodes a night – sometimes
racing home early from work so that we could fit in three. We were
"Peaks" fiends. In less than two weeks, we had digested all 29
episodes. That's nearly 24 hours of TV viewing in under 14 days. Any
doctor will tell you that's not good for the brain. But when the show
is as intensely weird as "Twin Peaks," the effects are particularly

My world became a menacing and shadowy wonderland.
For two weeks, I lived in fear of ceiling fans and milk. A simple cup
of coffee seemed significant. I constantly wondered, would cherry pie
actually kill ya? What's worse, I worked with a freakishly tall
gentleman at the time; I half-expected Peter to lean over the cubicle
wall one day and tell me, "The owls are not what they seem."

thing about TV-binging is that there is no purging. You just have to be
odd and twitchy for a while until the show leaves your system and you
can resume real life again.

In time, I stopped obsessing over
who killed Laura Palmer and began leading a relatively healthy and
productive life. But I know that at any moment I could fall off the
wagon and join the ranks of Jeff and Lisa and Hubby – bug-eyed and

I've come to believe series DVDs should be kept
locked behind a glass counter at the pharmacy, with warning labels on
them: "The small screen should be taken in small doses. Use only as

In fact, I recently saw an ad for a DVD of a TV
series that I haven't seen, "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia." I
found myself thinking, "You know, I heard that was funny," and then I
shuddered, imagining myself trapped in a quirky sitcom for the next
couple of weeks. So far, I have resisted buying the DVD, but I've been
checking it out online, comparing prices. Daydreaming.

I am
worried that I'm going to slip, that my resolve to be good is going to
completely crumble. Of course, if it does, I guess I could just call
Jeff to come save me. Jack Bauer-style.

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

I Made You Something ... A New Year's Resolution. You're Welcome

The problem with being perfect is that I can't ever hope to improve.
Every year New Year's Eve comes and goes, and every year I find myself
stuck without a single resolution to make.

Luckily, from my
perch on high I can see endless ways in which everyone around me can do
much, much better. So this year, instead of just ignoring the ritual of
New Year's resolutions, I have drawn up a few for my friends and
family. (You're welcome.)

Mom: This year, you should
resolve to shop at Costco no more than once a month. And when you do
go, you should buy food. And start using your fridge to store that
food; it will change your life forever.

Also, you should resolve to stop calling me just to complain about my sister.

Resolve to stop calling me to complain about Mom. But resolve to call
me more often – and not just when you need something. Ask me about my
son from time to time. It's amazing how much better a mother's mood is
when you've asked her to talk about her kid. Except, of course, our
mother (see resolution above).

Kevin: This is the year
that you should become fabulously wealthy. If you are not ridiculously
wealthy by the end of 2007, then you will have failed miserably and
should forever hang your head in shame.

Two years ago, I gave
Kevin the logical but erroneous advice to dump the three trash bags of
20-year-old acrylic sweaters from Marshalls he had stuffed in the back
of his closet. Instead of listening to me, he took pictures of himself
in each of the monstrosities and www.badsweaterguy.com was born.

Sweater Guy has been featured in such national magazines as Men's
Health and FHM, as well as several major newspapers. He even has a
recurring role in two indie films. He's inspired imitation Web sites
and a regular comic strip.

What has Kevin done with this avalanche of opportunity? Nothing.

That nothingness ends now. Resolve that we're going to ring in 2008 together in Vail. On your dime.

Kevin is never going to lift a finger to make himself fabulously rich.
That's why you have to do it. As the Web master and general mastermind
behind www.badsweaterguy.com, you must resolve to push this global fascination with Kevin's threads to the next level.

I have no idea how to pull this off, and nobody else thinks bad
sweaters are Kevin's meal ticket. But I don't feel like expending the
energy necessary to prove my point. So you do it.

See you in Vail.

Sketch: As a dog, it might be difficult to understand the concept of resolutions, but I have to try: Please. Stop. Barking.

you are a helpless animal bred specifically by your human overlords to
be needy and skittish. But must you be so skittish? And must you be so
vocal about your skittishness? Maybe I could learn to ignore the
incessant yelping. Or maybe I could give you more assurances that the
mailman means us no harm. But a better idea would be for you to learn
to read, get hold of this column and please shut up.

Put your kid on my kid's nap schedule. That way, when we have play
dates, Zev and Aidan will actually get to play with each other.

I'm fussing with Zev at a restaurant, while Keren calmly eats and Aidan
enjoys a deep slumber in his red BOB stroller. It's gotten to the point
that whenever Zev sees a red stroller he says, "Aidan!" I think he
thinks his friend is a baby carriage.

I could change Zev's nap
schedule to match Aidan's, but Zev's schedule really works for me –
and, as noted, I'm perfect. So wake that kid up.

People in parking garages:
Don't spot stalk. Just keep driving, even if you have to go to the
roof. There will be a space. You won't have to wait for anyone to
fumble with their keys, put away their packages, strap their kids in,
buckle up, turn on the ignition and back out. And better yet, that
snaking line of cursing drivers won't have to wait, either.

course, if you're driving behind me when I happen to spot someone
returning to their car, please don't lie on your horn. I know I'm
blocking both lanes of traffic, but it will only take a few minutes to
snag this space. If you're running late, that's not my fault. This
year, resolve to leave a little earlier. I mean, have you seen the way
people drive in parking garages?

Hubby: The ability to
speak openly and honestly with your partner is the cornerstone of any
strong relationship. Keep that in mind, and, this year, resolve to tell
me more frequently how utterly and completely perfect I am.