Joe and Jack Watch the Baby

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Many years ago when my youngest child was barely two, I left the baby to be watched by his favorite people: His father, Joe, and his uncle, Jack, and went off to my work day teaching the youth of America.

Now Joe and Jack, are both punk rock legends and therefore considered symbols of “wild, reckless abandon” and RARELY tagged as “responsible, mature adults.”

Why?

Because let’s face it: in the punk rock world, sex, drugs, violence and three chord repetitive anthems sell. The only thing the title of “responsible, mature adult” might sell in that world, would be Activia yogurt and Depends adult briefs and I don’t know any hardcore punks looking for those products right at the moment.

Now, one of these men, in my opinion, looks like the devil and… the other one… I believe… IS the devil. But… I well never tell you which one is which… feel free to debate the topic among your companions and friends.

And you may be thinking right now, What type of woman leaves a baby with Lucifer and El Diablo?  Why would she do that?

And my response would be: despite public belief and my personal quarrels with each… they both loved and very competently protected and cared for the baby until one day… things went terribly awry.

Dylan, aka, “the baby” was toddling around the house, as usual, in a diaper, pudgy little feet and hands naked and free, big over-sized baby belly protruding over his diaper, long silky locks of lovely curls bouncing upon his shoulders: cherubic little man.

He was known for getting into trouble but doing it in complete silence. Yes… the baby rarely talked.

He loved to terrify us by striping stark naked, hiding in the neighbor’s bush next door, and watching quietly from the shadows, as we would run up and down the street screaming for him, horrified that we may have actually lost him.

This daily routine left each of us distraught and shaken but, every time we thought he was truly gone, he would somehow magically appear out of nowhere and stand in the middle of the grass staring at us until we noticed him.

It actually took us over six months to find his hiding place: Bad baby.

On this day though, Dylan wasn’t trying to terrorize his parents or his uncle for that matter. He was just running about, playing with his toys when he approached Joe, his father, and said, “Ow.”

According to Joe, his expression was deadpan. He wasn’t crying. His face in no way conveyed pain.

He just kept taking his tiny little dough ball of a finger, touching it gently to the side of his nose, and repeating the word, “Ow.”

At this point in time, Dylan’s uncle, Jack, came into the room to see what was wrong.

For awhile, both Joe and Jack stared at the baby, unsure of what to do until one of them, or both of them, got the bright idea to look up the baby’s nose and that is when all hell broke loose.

The baby had a large yellow, glossy wet, massive orb stuck up inside of his nasal canal.

They didn’t stop to ask questions.

They freaked out and called me.

I was in the middle of my teaching day when the office rang through to my room and said, “D.D. your husband needs to talk with you. He says it’s an emergency.”

I waited for Joe to break through the line and before he had a chance to speak said, “Is everyone alive?”

“Yes,” he answered and was immediately overpowered by the booming voice of my brother in the background shouting, “I’m sure it’s his brain!”

I tried to remain calm as Joe explained the situation.

The baby.

The pointing finger.

The repeated use of the word “Ow.”

And the protruding, glossy-wet mass of whatever was stuck up my baby’s nose.

“I think Jack’s right,” Joe whispered, as if the baby could understand him and he didn’t want to cause him concern. “I think it’s his brain.”

“BRAIN!” Jack shouted from the background, our family legendary in our ability to intensify any given situation by a magnitude of a hundred.

“It’s not his brain,” I said. “Jesus. You two.”

Joe yelled to Jack, “She doesn’t think it’s his brain.”

And for a moment… there was a peaceful silence on the line.

“Put the baby on the phone,” I demanded.

“She wants to talk to the baby,” Joe whispered to Jack.

“She wants to talk to the baby?” Jack repeated.

“Put the fucking baby on the phone,” I said, annoyed at the Heckle and Jeckle shenanigans I was trying to deal with.

I heard Jack pick up the baby, bring him to the phone, where Dylan’s soft gurgly baby breathing, his tiny little coo sounds, let me know that he was present and listening.

“Dylan,” I said. “Tell mommy what’s wrong.”

“Ow,” the baby whispered. “Ow.”

And I could picture his little finger pointing to his tiny baby nose.

Jack carried Dylan away and I waited for Joe to come back on the line.

“It’s not his brain,” I said. “He’s obviously stuck something up his nose and you two are going to have to pull it out.”

“Pull it out?” Joe sounded as if I asked him to diaper an old man’s ass. “How do you want us to pull it out?”

“Get some tweezers,” I said. “Have Jack hold the baby down, while you pull whatever it is out of his nose.”

Joe laid down the phone and I heard a ruckus in the background as he spoke to Jack.

“She wants us to do what?”

“Pull it out,” Joe said.

“Are you sure it’s not his brain?”

“I don’t think so.” Joe said, trying to remain calm.

A few moments later I heard the baby being held down: whiny, squirmy protests… a few baby sobs… then…

“Oh my God! Look at it!” Jack said followed by…

“Dude it’s a grape. Look it’s a fucking grape.” from Joe before I heard the baby cry with annoyance struggling to be let go.

There was another brief silence before I heard Dylan’s fat little baby feet toddling quickly away from the scene.

Joe returned to the phone out of breath, “It was a grape.”

“I heard,” I said as I hung up the phone, apologized to my students for interrupting their class time and my inappropriate use of the “F” word, and then finished out my work day.

When I arrived home that evening the boys were very excited to show me the grape which, I realized immediately, was not a grape, but one of the yellow, golden raisins I had given Dylan two days ago which he had obviously stuck up his nose.

“That’s disgusting,” Jack said. “So that thing was up there for like two days just juicing up.”

Joe looked at me as if I had been the one to cause all of this trouble.

“What?” I said, before grabbing the baby up, kicking open the front door, and sitting down on the swing.

I listened as Jack and Joe squabbled over the size of the object they had pulled from the baby’s nose, while I gently pushed the swing back and forth with one foot… Dylan cuddled close to me… his little head nuzzled upon my shoulder.

I wondered if he would grow up to be like his Father or his Uncle Jack?

“Bad baby.” I whispered, “Very bad baby.” before I kissed him on his forehead and waited for him to fall off to sleep.

Getting in a Fight with Stephen, Somewhere in Kansas in Front of a Kentucky Fried Chicken, While on a Cross-Country Road Trip

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me and stephen 64

I had been married to my X for almost twenty years and NEVER took him on a road trip.

Never.

The idea of bringing a man on a road trip seemed absolutely ridiculous to me.

My road trips were private matters.

I wanted to be completely alone.

If I wanted to listen to music… I did.

If I wanted it completely silent in the car for hours on end… it was.

This was my NO MAN’s land.

My best story ideas, song ideas, and big thoughts on life and spiritual matters came to me on my road trips.

Highway 10 from Long Beach to Santa Fe New Mexico… alone… silent… could solve a host of problems that couldn’t be solved by thinking about them at home.

And so… it was with great reluctance that I allowed Stephen to join me.

Stephen… summer of 2007… one year into our friendship.

And how… you must be wondering… did I allow myself to cave?

Well…he said, “I’ve never been on a road trip before.”

“Never?” I said. “Not even with your guy friends?”

“Nope,” and then his shoulders slumped and he made a little sad face. “Never.”

And since I cared for Stephen… and knew the value of a good road trip in a person’s life… my heart felt for him and so I invited  him to come along.

Of course, once I invited him… I immediately started saying things to get him to back out. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to let someone in… be close… give up my private experience.

“You know…” I told him. “I do what I want on the road. I don’t set a destination. I don’t go to any specific location. I drive as long as I want… I sleep in small motels in off beat towns. And I’ve NEVER taken a man with me before,” I paused here for emphasis. “Do you understand what I’m saying?”

He nodded his head… excited to be invited on a road trip and I knew this would be a turning point in our friendship… we would either survive this road trip together and be bonded for life, or we would burn out somewhere close to Albuquerque with Stephen shouting at me to “STOP THE CAR” before kicking the door shut, flipping me off, and hitching a ride to the closest airport where he would fly home, never to be seen again… Maybe even silently “wishing me the best” (the ultimate fuck you really) before boarding a plane and drinking as many cocktails allowed on the two and a half hour flight home to Los Angeles while praying that I would die in a fiery car crash somewhere outside of Nashville.

I sighed.

Weeks went by and Stephen excitedly planned for his big adventure. I saw him programming a GPS and I actually started to sweat. I NEVER used a GPS… that was cheating… I felt anxious… but I sucked it up each time I saw him pore over a map… his reading glasses high on his face… his eyes looming large… magnified through the glass as he fantasized about all of his future destinations and scribbled furiously… little notes and words in his mini notebook.

“What’s that?” I asked one day.

“I’m preparing,” he said with pure glee.

I looked at him as if he were a bad student in my class. “Don’t,” I said sternly, my face stone. “Just stop.”

He looked at me as if I was speaking some foreign language it almost seemed he was ignoring me…. before he went back to poring over his maps and scribbling furiously.

This is a mistake I thought. We’re going to be in a fight before we even get out of L.A. county.

But I held my tongue, shocking I know, but I did and when the day arrived for us to leave, Stephen was prepared.

It looked like I had the ultimate Boy Scout ready to set off with me… wait, strike that, let’s make him an Eagle Scout.

I have never seen anyone so organized for a trip. He even had his passport in case we decided to cross a border.

Jesus.

We left Long Beach at 4 am, stopped at a drive-thru Starbucks for coffee and were on the road and on our way to Maine.

California to Maine…. one of the best drives ever…

There is nothing like watching the sun come up from the highway. It is one of my all time favorite moments in life.

Me.

The car.

The road.

Complete silence as the skyline goes from jet black to a purple opaque with a hint of orange, before the sun bursts into bright yellow streaks and illuminates the blue sky.

Only… that’s not what happened.

What happened was TOOL was blasting from the speakers as Stephen bobbed his head to the music, tapped his foot against the dash, drank his coffee with gusto and I sat in silence, big headed baby, pouting… as I drove the car.

I was miffed. Distraught. But Stephen was so pleased to be on a road trip… I kept quiet.

I headed for highway 70… it is a beautiful path… not stark beauty like the 10… which is actually quite a lonely road… the 70 is America in all of it’s patch work glory.

Coming over the pass into Colorado… the river running along side it… boxed in by mountains… until you rise again and see the Great Plains laid out before you… it is a drive that makes the traveler a hopeless romantic.

And Stephen said, “I thought you were taking the 10?”

I tried not to make a face.

“I’ve programmed my GPS for the 10,” he said in a pitiful whine of a voice.

“Well,” I said. “Unprogram.”

I could see that he was bent.

Perturbed.

Annoyed.

And I thought… don’t you dare… don’t you dare…. who are you to be any of those things on my road trip?

We drove all the way to Vegas without a word… Stephen heavy metal thumping while I looked out the window and prayed for the audio system to fail.

By the time we hit the plateau above Grand Valley, Colorado… I wasn’t sure if we would make it through the next two weeks but then the road opened up, the view down was amazing, and Stephen turned off the music which left Colorado ahead of us, and a quiet car to take in the beauty.

The rest of the day was really uneventful… as was the next…. we discovered a common love of SIRIUS’s stand up comedy channel and laughed all the way to Kansas where things then took a turn for the worse.

We were tired from driving… hours and hours of travel… when we finally started looking for a hotel room around 10 o’clock at night.

This is when we heard two words that I never imagined could be so dreaded:

State Fair.

“What?” I asked.

Then there were three dreaded words:

Kansas State Fair.

Shit.

Every hotel within 100 miles of the Kansas State Fair was booked solid and Stephen and I were beyond exhausted.

It was the first time ever I felt myself falling asleep at the wheel. In fact, Stephen had already flopped over into the back seat and passed out. I was glad that he was quiet and resting but still totally annoyed that he was at that moment… no help.

I prayed that I would make it to a hotel before I nodded off and lost control of the car and thankfully, around mile 83, there was one room left available at a Best Western.

We pulled in, checked in, and passed out in a matter of minutes.

The next morning, I was “hungover” from such a long day of driving the day before, that I didn’t want to get up… but… Stephen wanted to get moving.

“Get up,” he said. “Come on get up.”

I was tired, angry that he was bossing me about, and pouting because I knew that if HE hadn’t been in the car with me… I would have found a hotel easily, I wouldn’t be getting up early right now, I would be following my OWN time frame and completely ALONE. I climbed out of the bed in a big baby fit threw on my clothes and shoes and reached to grab the keys and stomp to the car when Stephen reached out and grabbed them.

“I’m driving,” he said.

I gave him a look…. ready to kill him, but he just turned and walked out of the room and headed to the car… unwilling to give me my way.

I climbed into the passenger seat, slammed the door and sulked. We weren’t even out of the parking lot when I said, “Go through the KFC so at least we can get something to eat.”

Stephen rounded the corner for the drive-thru and thought for some reason that the lane he was in was not for the drive-up window.

“It is!” I shouted. “Trust me. Just go right there!” I pointed towards a loud speaker and watched as Stephen ignored me, passed the window and made a loop around the front of the KFC.

“No,” he said calmly. “I’m sure that was the wrong lane.”

I felt anger seething out of every pore… I set my jaw so firmly that it must have looked like it was wired shut and believe me… in just a matter of minutes… I was going to wish it had been wired shut…

Just as Stephen was making the turn to go back through the lane I originally told him to, a large white bus full of black Baptists rolled in front of us and I watched as the Minister ordered 15 buckets of chicken, obviously for his entire congregation, who I could see through the large rectangular glass bus windows… smiling and happy, seriously spiritually enlightened people, radiating  God’s joy as they waited patiently for their chicken and I actually went insane.

I don’t even remember what I said to Stephen, but it was every angry thing you say to someone when you “kick the cat”….

Why did I bring you?

What were you thinking?

Why couldn’t you listen to me?

Who the HELL do you think you are?

LOOK AT ALL OF THOSE GOD DAMN BAPTISTS EATING MY CHICKEN!

By the time we got to the window… I was spent… which often happens with us passionate HOT HEADS leaving our quiet introverted family, friends, and lovers, totally stunned by our outbursts and often feeling

MORTALLY wounded while we HOT HEADS just move on to the next big thing to be passionate and upset about…

Stephen however had, had enough.

He pulled up to the window to pay the KFC kid and wait for our chicken while I, now calm… said, “Could you please open the trunk so I can get something out of my bag?”

“Just wait,” he said… his tone one of intense loathing…

“Wait for what?” I snapped and popped out of the car and headed to the back of the trunk.

Stephen, by now, so TOTALLY pissed off at me took one look in the rear view mirror and floored the car. The wheels screeched as he took off and then laid a big skid and stopped about twenty feet from the window.

My mouth dropped open as I watched my door fly shut as he burned out… but the funniest moment was when I looked back at the drive-thru window and saw that the KFC kid had hung the food bag out for Stephen to grab right as he pulled away… so the teenager’s arm was just dangling out the window with a big bag of KFC floating in mid-air waiting for no one to take it.

I paused a moment… I really wanted to laugh but I was still just too angry.

I walked over and grabbed the bag from the kid, walked up to the car, opened the door and climbed inside where I threw the bag of chicken on the floor and shouted, “I’m not even hungry any more.”

Stephen could have given a shit. He burnt out and hit the Interstate at an alarming pace. Probably anxious to find the nearest airport and fulfill my earlier prophecy.

We both stewed in silent obstinance across the entire great state of Kansas before we finally just busted up laughing hysterically… barely able to breath… tears streaming down our faces, as we crossed the border into Ohio where I then picked up the bag, pulled a cold, hard biscuit from it, and handed it to Stephen as a peace offering.

It was the only fight we got in during the entire two weeks on the trip and I believe that it really was necessary for our bonding experience and that the event brought us closer together.

After that, we went on to see thousands of wild geese land on a secluded lake somewhere in Ohio, scare ourselves to death sleeping in Lizzie Borden’s house in Fall Rivers Massachusetts, nap on Nathaniel Hawthorne’s lawn in Salem, and drive through the Bad Lands of South Dakota on our return trip, a place Stephen had never been, and was so thankful to see… the desert at dusk, the look of the sand and the cliffs, so alien and mystical… really something everyone should experience in a lifetime.

I will never regret that fight at the KFC… or letting someone in, and sharing my road trip.

What I find as I grow older, is that staying and building relationships, even when at times you want to run away… desert all… find security and safety in yourself… believing that it will be easier… somehow protect you from hurt… or build a wall so that people can’t get in…

Only makes you the person who is UNWILLING to take the road trip… to see what lays before you… what discoveries are out there to find… what common interests, ideas, spiritual moments you can share, even if it is only a ridiculously stupid fight behind a bus load of black Baptists somewhere in Kansas….

The beauty.. is in the shared story… our shared story…

Peeing on Annika, Dylan and Stroosma While Riding the Matterhorn at Disneyland on Grad Night

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I don’t think people should be punished for having bladder issues.

But that is exactly what happened.

Annika, Dylan, Stroosma… all shaming me in the line of the Disneyland Matterhorn ride because I had to go pee super bad right before we were about to get in the bobsled.

“If you go now we’ll lose our place in line,” Dylan fussed.

“You’re tough,” Stroosma said. “You can hold it until the end.” Obviously… he was a teacher already exhausted from a long grad night… ready to hit this one last ride before cutting out, what was considered early, at 4 am.

“Ms. Wood,” Annika, my student, whined. “Come on! I don’t want to wait in line like two more hours again.”

“Alright,” I said… giving in… though my bladder was past the point of full… actually ready to balloon out as if I was hiding a boda bag of urine.

I stepped into the bobsled and sat in seat #4, considered the brake position in a real four-man sled, with Annika between my legs, Dylan, my son, in front of her, and Stroosma between his legs, in the first position as the “driver.”

“Don’t pee on me.” Annika laughed as she settled in, sure that her teacher would never do such a horribly nasty thing.

But she would live to regret those words.

I knew things were going to go terribly wrong when we hit the first stop in the track and I felt my whole body lurch forward and my bladder just about shake loose.

Oh my God… I thought to myself… I’m not going to be able to hold this pee. I’m seriously gonna lose it.

I felt my heart beat faster… and panic set in.

If I pee’d my pants and actually urinated on a student… I would NEVER be able to live the moment down.

I tried to wave to the ride operator, ready to beg for him to let me out of the sled, but it was too late.

We glided into the cavern of man-made rock and began our ascent up the track to the top of the Matterhorn and each click, click, click of the sled chugging up the rail… seemed like the sound of a time bomb ticking:

Go!… tick tick tick… Go! tick tick tick… Pee! tick tick tick…. Pee!… the track beckoning me to give in.

I worked to give myself a pep talk.

You can do it, I said. Just a few minutes and you can get off this ride and pee.

I even thought that this might be a good time to practice those Kegel exercises I’d been putting off for years, when suddenly, I came up with a brilliant master plan.

“QUICK Annika!” I shouted. “Let me put both my legs on one side of you.”

Annika turned around and looked at me as if I were a demented stranger. She couldn’t even imagine Ms. Wood EVER putting a child in peril during an amusement ride.

“Are you out of your mind?” She screeched. “Ms. Wood! You can’t do that in the middle of the ride. We could be hurt!  And you’re a teacher,” she snapped. “YOU should know bet…”

But she didn’t have a chance to finish her scolding and I didn’t have a chance to cross my legs and close them tight.

Stroosma and Dylan began to scream, Annika threw her arms up into the air and wailed wildly with joy, and I knew that in a matter of seconds I was going to decimate everyone in the entire bobsled with a long stream of urine.

I tried not to scream as we rocketed down the hill but as soon as the first abominable snowman popped out and scared me from his perch…I screamed bloody murder and the peeing began.

Annika was so engrossed in the moment that at first she had no idea that I was actually peeing all over her.

She screamed and squealed with glee until we hit a calm curve and catching her breath looked around before saying, “Wow. I really got wet.”

Stroosma grabbed the edges of the sled and turned back to look at me as if I were Judas. “You are NOT peeing on us are YOU?”

My face full of shame and betrayal… he knew immediately I was.

“It’s just water!” I lied. “I swear! Just water from the ride!”

“STOP IT!” He shouted. “STOP NOW!”

And then we hit the next big drop as we all screamed like mad.

My peeing escalated.

It was now a violent river rushing forward at an alarming rate.

“STOP PEEING MS. WOOD!” Annika shouted. “STOP!”

But I couldn’t.

We hit a drop and screamed again.

By this time… I was laughing so hard and screaming so loud… Stroosma’s yaking GUFFAW punctuating the moment as we barreled down the mountain… Dylan holding on for dear life screaming, “STOP MAMA! STOP!”  as my urine saturated my jeans, rushed out towards Annika, and flooded the bobsled floor.

I began to cry and curse my lot in life.

Why hadn’t I thought to wear an adult diaper?

Sure I was only 40-years-old but maybe the battle of old age was won by building reinforcements early.

I had a quiet epiphany:

If I had truly been smart… I could have been peeing and shitting myself comfortably right now in my adult diaper, while totally enjoying the ride.

“Noooooooooooooo!” Annika cried as we hit the last big turn… Stroosma still hysterical… Dylan disgusted by the entire episode.

And then the ride came to a stop.

“How could you do that?” Annika turned around and screamed at me. “How could you Ms. Wood!”

I sat in silence… my arms crossed… my brows knitted into an angry frown… pouting over the fact that they wouldn’t let me go to the bathroom…. furious at my idiocy for not thinking of wearing the adult diaper sooner… and distraught that I would have to walk the full mile to the exit with my pee-pee jeans rubbing and rashing my legs, while all of the grad students pointed and mocked me.

“Fuck you all,” I whispered. “If you would have just let me go to the bathroom, none of this would have ever happened.”

I climbed out of the sled, pulled my sweatshirt roughly over my head, wrapped it around my soaking butt, and stomped off towards Main Street: a dirty mess trapped in the Happiest Fucking Place on Earth.

Saving the Crack Baby

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I was 36 and back in school working on my Master’s degree. It had been a hard week. I was in the middle of a difficult divorce, teaching middle school during the day, taking classes at night, and resentful that Dylan my youngest, was left at home while I had to make a new life for my family due to my X’s departure.

I was in my classroom at school finishing up my final thesis essay, for my FINAL Master’s class, when I realized my printer was not working.  Frustrated… I typed the last few sentences in a rush, slapped my thesis onto a floppy disk (which makes me laugh now to think of it) and raced out of the building in hopes that I would make it to the class on time, which was next door to a teacher resource center, where I would be able to print out copies of my thesis, present it to my class, and argue my educational philosophy and hopefully, receive a stellar grade , an advanced degree, and finally, be back home again with my kids.

I arrived in a frantic state. My teacher, Dr. Isabel was an amazing teacher, a fantastic woman, but quite the stickler regarding class minutes. I rushed to the TRC with just moments to spare, flashed my district I.D. and ran towards an open computer and printer. I put my disk in the disk drive and watched in horror as the computer screen flashed, “DISK ERROR. DISK UNREADABLE”

I felt like I was going to vomit.

Dr. Isabel would never go for a Master’s candidate showing up to the final class, ill prepared.

This was disaster.

I had heard stories of students having to repeat entire classes after this type of incident.

I was terrified to walk into the classroom… but I steeled myself for the moment and marched in: the last one to arrive and the first one scheduled to present.

“You ready?” Dr. Isabel said with barely a glance up from her notepad, where I could only imagine she was planning to write, Deidre Wood: FAIL. Obviously some type of idiot who wandered into my class believing that “Master’s” means, show up to class unprepared with your head up your own ass.

I could barely breathe.

I told her what had happened with my disk.

“So, you didn’t have time to print out your papers for your classmates this week prior to our class time?”she asked.

What could I tell her?

My husband just left me?

I’m a total wreck?

I’m only doing this so that I can make more money and take care of my children?

“No, I didn’t have time,” I mumbled.

“Sit down Deidre,” she said as she scribbled fiercely on her tablet before asking another one of my classmates to begin the presentations.

I don’t remember much from that class other than that I felt full of despair, and that I just couldn’t catch a break. Despite what had happened between myself and my husband, I missed him. I missed my life with him, no matter how flawed, and at that moment… I just prayed that he would come back and we could start again.

Dr. Isabel asked me to give a brief presentation sans notes and print-outs at the end of class and then asked me to stay after.

This is it. I thought. This is where she tells me I’m going to have to repeat the class. My heart was pounding, I was ready to pass out.

“I’m sorry Deidre,” she said. “I understand that you are going through a hard time.”

Her kind words almost sent me over the edge and I fought not to cry in front of my college professor.

“I’ll give you one hour to go home and send this to me through email and then I will decide where we go from there.”

I nodded my head, afraid to even try to speak.

“I’m sorry,” she said again and then turned and walked out of the classroom.

I headed back to my car and tried not to freak out.

I could get home and get this emailed to her within the hour. It was do-able. She had always admired my writing and so, I started to become a bit hopeful that my thesis, and the fact that I had never missed a class, always received straight A’s on her assignments, and never acted like a jack ass, would be enough to carry me through.

In fact, by the time I reached the stop light on Spring and Cherry, I was feeling almost happy again until I turned and looked at the driver in the car sitting next to me: my ex-husband.

He was in his old ’59” Ford. He looked cleaned up in a hot greaser way: fresh Tres Flores on his hair, black short sleeve shirt, tattoos, dark glasses, and blues blasting from his stereo. It was a horrible moment. One of those moments when you know that your X has moved on and you are still the broken idiot trying to remove the pain from your forever wounded heart.

He turned and looked at me and nodded and waved as if we were both just out on separate errands and would plan to meet up at home for a nice dinner later. His cavalier attitude towards me and his obvious lack of remorse, related to our almost twenty years together, infuriated me. I acted “as if” waved back and then waited for him to turn the corner before bursting into tears and sobbing in a way that I haven’t since I was a very small child.

Just then my cell phone rang. It was my good friend, Christy. I pulled over and answered the phone still blubbering. She offered to come meet me but I said I really just needed to be on my own for a bit and process everything.

“What about your paper?” she asked.

What about it, I thought but said, “I’m just going to go to the park for a bit and catch my breath and then I’ll head home and work on it.”

“You sure you don’t want me to meet you?” she asked.

I said I was sure and then hung up the cell and called my mom to let her know that I would be home a bit late.

I went to El Dorado Park and pulled my car up to the duck pond. It was a pretty day, but not a weekend, and so only a small group of people were taking advantage of the lovely weather. I climbed out of the car and sat up on the top of a picnic table, with my feet up on the bench.

I looked out over the pond and watched as a young couple walked the lake with their toddler and a stroller with what appeared to be a baby in it.

They were both reed thin and after all of my years of spending time around recovering drug addicts, I pegged them right away as a Crack couple. They were arguing with each other over everything, twitchy and a bit erratic. He was light-skinned black and she was a tow-headed white and even from my distance, I could see that her face had been picked and scratched a thousand times.

I watched as he held the stroller, shaking it back and forth, in a motion that would suggest he was trying to calm the baby but actually reflected his agitation with his wife. She made a face and rolled her eyes before grabbing their toddler’s hand and walking away from the pond towards the playground in the park.

And that was all it took.

One dirty look.

One harsh word.

One moment and everything changed.

He let go of the stroller and rushed after her to grab her arm and I watched as the stroller rolled into the duck pond, flipped, and the baby disappeared under the surface of the water.

His wife screamed.

He rushed forward and jumped in trying desperately to find the baby in the murky pond.

I felt like I was locked into a moment of time and unable to move.

It was a moment I would never want to repeat.

Then, he pulled the small, soaked, blue bundle from the pond and looked directly at me, locked his eyes directly on me… and screamed, “HELP!”

Suddenly, I  jumped forward, dialing 911 on my cell phone as I ran, rushing around the path of the pond, trying to get to the father and the little lump in his hands that still hadn’t moved in those few seconds.

I watched as he ran towards me from the other side of the pond,  then panicked… stopped for a moment… and sat the baby on a low tree branch limb and began to shake it as if the vigorous amount of energy… his extreme passion for his child… could magically revive him.

“Don’t shake the baby! ” I screamed praying that I would get to the father before he did something totally irrational. “Stop! Stop now!”

He looked at me and I saw that his face was now blank… already gone… already in the “bad place” the place that ever parent fears.

I heard, “911?” answer on my cell and as I reached him, he thrust the baby towards me as I forced him to take my phone, speak to 911, and hopefully distract him from what I was now holding in my hands: a drowned baby.

I registered so much in that moment, my motherly instincts, my animal rage at their carelessness, everything seemed to escalate inside of me.

He was so small, with beautiful black curly hair, his eyes closed… his perfect little lips, a cupid’s bow of a mouth, already turning a light shade of blue. I cradled him in the crook of my arm and rested his tiny head in the palm of my hand before I reached my finger into his mouth and cleared it before starting CPR. I put my mouth over his mouth engulfing his tiny little nose as well and released my warm breath twice into his tiny lungs.

He didn’t respond and so, I pressed my mouth to his once more. I felt fear wash over me… that moment when you know that someone’s life is in your hands and you hope that everything will work out as you planned that all of your competence, that everything you have ever believed you are, lays open in that moment.

I pressed my mouth to him again and prayed that he would come to and suddenly… he was there.

He spit up milk and dirty water and his awakening was both relieving and comical.

His tiny fists balled up tightly, his arms shook in what seemed to be anger, his eyes widened with astonishment and I swear I heard him say, “Holy Shit!!! Did you see what just happened to me? That guy tried to KILL me!”

There was a moment, when it seemed like I would forever know him, that somehow… he would forever be mine… and then his father snatched to grab him from me as I pushed him back, unwilling to give the baby up so soon. I cradled the baby gently to my chest, my ear pressed against his back, listening to his breathing become regular with a small rattle somewhere deep inside of his lungs. I held him so tightly, as if to wrap him in my heart and prayed that somehow my strength would find a way to guard him… or protect him… as he grew older in this world.

I told the father to find me a dry shirt or blanket for him as I gently removed the baby’s wet clothes and then swaddled him in an old worn out sweatshirt and gave him one last long look, before I handed him back to his father.

He held him as his wife and toddler cried next to the empty stroller now sitting on the grass.

The paramedics arrived and rushed towards them and I watched as the father presented the baby to them as if they had won a gift for showing up first to the party.

I didn’t stay… there wasn’t anything for me to say.

I took my cell phone, walked away, happy to be forgotten in the shuffle, and the first person I thought to call and tell this story to was my husband before realizing… that in the horrific excitement of the moment… I had forgotten that he wasn’t my husband anymore.

I looked at my phone, paused, and called anyways.

We talked for a few moments, my earlier anger now completely dissipated by the thought of how fast life can change, that making amends to the father of my children was more important than holding my resentment and destroying everyone with it.

“God put you there,” he said. And I thought, yes… he did.

I went home and emailed Dr. Isabel my paper. It was late, definitely past the extra hour she was kind enough to give me, and I had no idea if it would be accepted but I didn’t care. I told her about running into my husband, I told her about saving the baby, I told her if I hadn’t been distraught over what had happened in class that the baby might have never survived and I accepted my fate.

Three weeks later, when my grades arrived in the mail. I had a solid “A” and a Master’s degree. I was proud of that degree… and I still am… though it will always seem a consolation prize compared to saving a human life.

And now, I often think about where that baby is and if he might one day end up in my classroom as my student, or cross paths with me somewhere again…  and I wonder why God put him in my way… and what God has planned for me further down the road.

Saturday July 13th through Saturday July 27th: Ms Wood will be on SUMMER VACATION!

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Enjoy one of your favorite posts from the past until I return to entertain you!

And thank you for your loyal following.

D.D. Wood

Yearbook Class creates a Special Show Flyer for Steve Soto and Manic Hispanic resulting in the Children being Visually Scarred for Life and Ms. Wood Rethinking her Postion on Internet Filters

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BEST QUALITY

This is Yearbook.

The class I am in charge of at Millikan High School.

They are a wild, spirited group and I love them dearly.

One day, excited by the fact that the school had finally turned off the internet filters and had left the viewing discretion up to the teachers, I offered the kids a chance to create a Photoshop flyer for my friend Steve Soto and his band Manic Hispanic, believing that I was giving my students a life experience that would be considered valuable.

Now, being that this is high school, it wasn’t as if everyone jumped up and down and raised their hands to participate but… they did however… begin googling the name Steve Soto and Manic Hispanic happy to finally be unfettered from their technological bonds.

“This is so bad ass, Ms. Wood,” one of my senior editors said. “We can go on Facebook. We can go on Google images. Now we can really get some great Yearbook work done.”

I had my doubts about this statement but they were so excited, so punch-drunk with their new found freedom, that I felt I was in no position to bring them down: that would be like waking up on Christmas morning and finding out that you had received zero presents and Santa had also shit in your stocking.

“Oh,” one of the kids said after looking Manic Hispanic up online, “They do some type of Mexican gangster thing right?”

Everyone looked at me waiting to see if it was okay for us to like a “Mexican gangster” thing in the classroom.

“Well, yeah..” I said. “But it’s like a parody. Can anyone tell me what a parody is?”

Ten hands jumped up.

If we were going to bend the rules a bit… I figured I better find a way to keep the California Content Standards firmly in place while we did it and cover my ass in case someone found our Yearbook curriculum to be lacking.

I listened as they all babbled on about parodies and then I told them what they were supposed to do.

“Steve told me he wants something like Blood In Blood Out for the flyer. Do you guys know what that is?”

But before I had a verbal answer to assure me that they knew exactly what Blood In Blood Out was, a Latino cult classic crime-drama film, I saw twenty little teenage hands hit the keyboards hard and type in the words: Blood In Blood Out and two seconds later, there was a deafening moment of complete and total silence before loud screeches began to echo across the tops of computer stations and fill the classroom.

“What?” I screamed from my desk. “What are you freaking out about?”

I stood up to look at the computer screens and found that each and everyone of them was inundated by photos, photos once highly banned at our school site, now prominently displayed, in full-color glory, on our classroom monitors.

“OH MY GOD!” I shouted as I rushed towards the computer stations.

It was horrific I tell you.

A teacher’s worst nightmare.

A total lack of control.

A total educational malfunction.

Who would have known that the words: Blood In and Blood Out would bring a flood of cancerous anal polyps up on each and every screen?

My students were screaming.

My students were gasping.

Some of them just sat there, so stunned by the visual assault on their senses, that they just stared, mouths agape, at what they were viewing and all I could think was Jesus Christ how the fuck am I going to explain this one?

I knew what I had to do.

I stood tall and put on my teacher voice and said firmly, “Stop what you are doing and take your hands away from the computers.”

Everyone pulled their hands back as we continued to stare… mesmerized by the anal polyps… unable to look away.

“That is so weird,” one of the editors finally said followed by, “Can we Instagram them to someone Ms. Wood?”

Oh my God… NO… I thought to myself but out loud, I knew that if I didn’t act cool about this, they were going to pull out their iphones and start clicking because… that is exactly what teenagers do… when they smell fear in their teacher.

So I pulled out my iphone, snapped a photo of the anal polyps and made a big deal about how funny it was going to be for all of us to send it to my friend Sharla Bafia who was a “real goody two-shoes” and would totally freak out.

They all loved being in on the joke so they sat giggling softly, as if she could hear us, as we waited for Sharla’s response, which of course was almost instantaneous and read:  “WHAT THE FUCK DUDE?”

We all had a good chuckle as we shut the images of anal polyps down and tried to strike them permanently from our memory.

I kept my game face on but inside… I was beyond relieved that I got out of that situation without it turning into a total clusterfuck.

“Okay,” I said calmly. “Let’s try this again. But this time, please type in the words: Movie Blood In and Blood Out.”

Everyone did as I asked, with only a sly devious smile or giggle here or there, which I shut down immediately with my most vicious teacher stare.

How’s it going? Steve texted right then.

I didn’t want him concerned about the anal polyp incident, he needed this flyer posted within the next hour, so I just replied: Great!… and went back to watching the students.

And for about twenty minutes, everything was totally calm as they pulled film images off the internet, and all vied to created the best band flyer for my friend until someone shouted out, “What should we use for a background?”

I was typing away on my own computer, not really paying attention to what they were up to once things calmed down, and so I shouted out absentmindedly, “I don’t know… black and gold sounds good right?”

And I heard once again twenty little hands go to type words… this time… black and gold… into the computer… and once again there was a moment of complete silence followed by a series of sharp screams, which this time, was punctuated by a few solidly loud, OH MY GODS!

I jumped, startled, and saw on each screen a large black man, walking two naked white women who were chained and completely covered in gold dust.

“OH JESUS FUCK!” I screeched without thinking.

Each head turned.

Each mouth dropped.

Suddenly, the focus was directly on me.

“You said fuck,” one of the editors whispered.. shocked by the unfiltered internet but stunned by Ms. Wood loosing her cool.

“You said Jesus and fuck in the same sentence,” someone else said in a mocking tone.

“God damn it,” I shouted. “Everyone shut down Google image RIGHT NOW!”

They didn’t move.

“I said RIGHT NOW!” I screamed as I pointed my finger at them and stomped my little feet.

Not one student disobeyed.

Everyone shut off Google image and sat quietly.

Really… what was there to say after what we had all witnessed in the last thirty minutes of class?

I wasn’t even sure how to proceed with the entire situation.

I was firmly in the camp of open internet filters in our high school community but obviously… I hadn’t thought it entirely through.

“Liz,” I said to one of my senior editors. “Make the flyer for Steve. Everyone else. Go on Facebook and just relax for a few minutes.”

Facebook: the crack cocaine of the high school world.

Suddenly, caught up in their social networking addiction, the incidents of the class faded into the background.

I went back to my desk knowing that Liz, responsible and capable, would knock that flyer out in minutes and if once again assaulted with anal polyps or black men with naked gold women, would just shut it out of her mind and continue to get her work done: There was a reason she was the number one editor and had a A+ in Yearbook.

She was an educational bad ass.

Once again I settled down… I prayed to St. Jude, Patron Saint of Lost Causes, and hoped that I wouldn’t have twenty parent phone calls by the end of the day.

And that was when my computer was taken over remotely… by our staff computer administrator: Mr. Rios… who had obviously been trolling for “inappropriate content” the first day of our unfiltered technology school existence.

Having fun with those unfiltered computers in there Ms. Wood? The message read.

I leaned my elbows on my desk and covered my face with my hands.

I had no response.

The jig was up.

He had witnessed everything from his secret post.

I wanted to type back: Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

Or just the numbers: 1984.

But instead, I just sat there… eyes covered… mentally taxed… and listened to the happy click of my students fingers in the background as they blissfully went on with their Facebook instant messaging… until I heard another beep to let me know he had messaged me again:

Okay, it said. Being that I’m Latino I get the whole Blood In Blood Out mishap and obviously… they are enjoying the whole Facebook freedom right now but…  how did you guys end up with the black man and the naked chained women covered in gold dust?

And right then my phone went off.

It was Steve of course asking about the flyer: Is it done yet? he asked innocently but already worked up from the entire event, caused by my need to please my friend, make my kids feel like big shots by having them create a hip band flyer, and show how totally cool Ms. Wood was in her “alter band world” I so wanted to respond from my flawed shadow self and text in all caps: SHUT THE FUCK UP STEVE SOTO! YOU’LL GET YOUR GOD DAMN FLYER WHEN YOU GET IT!”

But instead… I wrote… Almost done… and covered my eyes again with my hands… hoping that it would all just go away.

There was another “beep” signaling once again a new message from my computer administrator.

Well Ms. Wood? It said.

I had to concede.

And I hated to concede but in this case…. I had to admit that I might be wrong.

I’m rethinking my whole opposition to the internet filters, I typed.

You bet your @ss you are!  He wrote back and then unlocked my screen and let me get back to work.

“Done,” Liz said from her station and I walked over to find that she had made a fantastic flyer for my friend.

“That looks great,” I said.

Manic Hispanic Yearbook Flyer

“You sure you wouldn’t like me to add an anal polyp or a black man with chained naked women covered in gold dust?” she asked.

I gave her the evil eye.

“Obviously not,” she said sarcastically. “So who am I sending this to?”

Five minutes later, Steve had his flyer and was posting it on Facebook, the bell rang and the kids left, and it seemed that maybe they were not permanently scarred after all… And I sat down for a moment to calm my mind and let go of the atrocities of the last hour, praying to God that I would never see an anal polyp, a black man with naked chained white women covered in gold dust, or a message from my computer administrator, in my classroom, ever, EVER again.

Barnyard “Foul”: Dealing with Rupert a Purely Evil Pig wrapped in Cuteness

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This is Rupert.

Rupert is my new pet.

A mini-pot belly pig given to us by a couple who realized they had made a seriously poor impulse purchase.

They had a backyard entirely of cement.

A front yard with no fence.

Both had full-time jobs and so leaving the little three-month old piggy man in the house all day while they were gone was a recipe for disaster.

Rupert is (and this is an understatement) a handful.

But… we were willing to take him from his owners. We had a houseful of pets and I had been hoping to get a pig or a pygmy goat to be friends with my chicken Matilda, for quite awhile and so… within the first week of taking Rupert… I believed I had made the perfect choice: Matilda loved him.

They wandered around the front yard together; Rupert rooting around in the grass making big dirt holes with his snout. Matilda by his side eating all of the worms that he uncovered… a bit like a gang-of-two and we began to call them by their aliases… Ham and Eggs.

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They were inseparable.

But then… the trouble began.

Rupert became comfortable with his new environment and his Prima donna personality began to shine through.

He didn’t like to be touched when outside in fact, he squealed and jumped back each time one of us approached him.

But at night, when he came in for dinner, and to go to bed on his furry little leopard skin blanket on the cool tile floor of the bathroom, he flipped over on his side expecting a full body massage as he smiled, yawned, smacked his little piggy lips, and stretched his little cloven-hoofed legs out in front of him and batted his long piggy eyelashes.

He was adorable… but of course… he seemed to believe that he was completely entitled.

By week two, we realized there was trouble on the horizon.

The front yard had giant patches of grass entirely removed… Matilda’s chicken feed had to be hidden from him or like the pig that he was… he would gobble it all down without a second piggy thought and… being that he is a very smart little man… he seemed to know exactly when the clock struck 6:30pm and so… he would  rush to the front door, squeal and bang on it repeatedly until we let him in for dinner and bed.

The sound was terrifying.

Charlotte, our youngest, actually heard his commotion and her eyes grew big as she said, “My God! It sounds like you have a Changeling at the door!”

A White Walker

A Zombie

A Pig Nightmare.

Rupert.

Or as my good friend Warren liked to call him: a Purely Evil Pig wrapped in Cuteness.

Now… of course my children loved to post photos like this on Instagram:

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Fooling you into a false sense of pig security as you say to yourself, “Awwwwwwwwww. How sweet! That Rupert is just the cutest little thing! D.D. must be exaggerating in this story.”

But I tell you, he is the devil.

The other night, I wouldn’t let him in a half-an-hour early for dinner and as I stood in the laundry room, getting ready to turn on the dryer, I heard a loud crashing sound from the front yard.

Afraid that something serious had happened, I rushed to the front door, opened it, and there I saw Rupert, his little piggy legs spread apart in a stance of defiance, his snout held high, one of my prized ceramic gnomes now decapitated and lying severed; body on one side… head on the other… across the front walkway.

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“Rupert?” I asked. “Did you do that?”

He wiggled his little piggy nose, pushed the decapitated head with his snout, and let out a loud snort as if to say, “FUCK YES I DID IT! And guess what? There’s more where THAT came from lady!”

I stared at him… he glared back.

I was shocked at the little bastard he had become… and just as I was about to punish him for his behavior by closing the front door and making him wait and extra hour for dinner, Ringo, aka Bastard Number Two, our male teacup chihuahua, ran outside, lifted his leg and peed inside the broken innards of my gnome’s head.

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I watched as Ringo’s urine puddled inside of my gnome’s little broken red cap… dumbfounded for just a moment… before I became enraged that these assholes were actually biting the hand that feeds them.

“THAT’s IT!” I shouted. “You fuckers get the fuck away from my gnome!”

Rupert ran for the bushes.

Ringo ran for the house.

As Matilda watched from a distance, her head cocked slightly to the side, amused to see her little toadies torment and mock me.

“Keep it up,” I said. “You’ll be chicken dinner, he’ll be Christmas ham,” and here I turned to shout inside of the house, “And you Ringo will have your balls chopped off.”

There was complete silence.

No one moved.

I reached for my broken gnome, dumped the pee from his cap and placed his bisected remains into a large flower pot.

I turned on my heel and went inside to sulk in the quiet of my office but not ten minutes later… piggy brat Rupert was squealing at the front door.

“Mother fucker,” I yelled, which didn’t stop Rupert from squealing but did cause my mother to mute Two and a Half Men long enough to shout, “God, the mouth on you!”

Too worked up to even yell at the “Old” I opened the front door and watched as Rupert passed me without another sound and made a B-line to the bathroom where he expected to find his dinner in his bowl.

When he saw that it was empty, he kicked over his water dish and stomped his little feet and THAT… was IT!

I had HAD it!

I smacked his fat little pig butt, and he didn’t even care, he just threw his weight into it and then turned around and screamed at me.

I physically turned him around the other way, as he wailed bloody murder and pushed against me… but I wouldn’t have it… I made the little bastard go to his piggy bed.

“NO!” I shouted. “NO RUPERT!”

He refused to turn around then.

He faced the wall and stood there.. defiantly… ass to my face… refusing to listen.

“Do you understand I won’t tolerate this behavior?”

He begrudgingly swished his tail once, just like a spoiled child who realizes that he has lost the battle but that the war isn’t over yet, and he understood.

I swear I could hear him chanting in his little piggy mind, I hate you. I hate you. I hate you.

I closed the bathroom door and went to get his dinner.

By the time I came back… he was rooting about, fluffing his blanket, as if nothing ever happened.

The little shit.

I reached down and fed him, then watched as he licked the bowl clean before flopping over on his side, tired and world-weary from his little tantrum, ready for his full body massage… as if we had made up… and all that transpired was now: water under the bridge.

“Are you serious?” I asked.

He grunted.

I sighed as I sat down on the toilet and rubbed the little man down.

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It was no different than dealing with a tired toddler.

He stretched and yawned and I resigned myself to my fate.

In the morning we would try again.

In the morning we would find a way to make this right.

In the morning, I would go to Jack-in-the-Box and eat a Breakfast Jack with ham and in that way… extract my revenge on Rupert.

Yes my little man.. that’s right…. a BREAKFAST JACK WITH HAM.

Oh Rupert…

My little piggy demon.

You.

Have.

Met.

Your.

Match.

In.

Me.

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