Threatening Dylan with Baby Farming

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When Dylan was in 6th grade, he could quite often be a little shit.

Not that he can’t be a little shit now at 22, but middle school always tends to bring the “beast” out in children.

I don’t even remember what he was doing the day that I finally snapped.

But whatever it was… it sent me over the edge.

He made just one too many snide remarks…

Or farted too close to where I was sitting, one too many times before he laughed and ran away…

Or begged and screeched to go to the internet cafe and play Counter Strike for like… ten hours straight… when he hadn’t even completed his English project but, whatever it was… I had HAD it.

I turned and looked at his pudgy little pre-adolescent face and said, “You know what? I should have Baby Farmed you.”

He stopped… confused… and then… immediate silence followed.

“Baby Farm?” he said. “What is a Baby Farm?”

“Baby farming,” I said knowingly. “Go look it up.” I gave him a  sinister glance as I walked quietly from the room and disappeared.

One of the best things about knowing random facts of obscure information is using it against others and yes… I am not above using information to mess with my own children.

In fact, I think it is imperative to give them something to think about… a way of humbling them if necessary and reminding them that education truly is power and that I can, and will break you with it if necessary.

Ten minutes later Dylan found me out in the front yard working on the garden.

I had totally forgotten our previous conversation by then, happy to be alone and away from my obstinate young son, soothed in my small task of arranging my numerous brightly colored gnomes strategically throughout my garden.

Dylan walked up to me and stood by my side. “That was the meanest thing you ever said to me,” he whispered.

I looked up from my work and said, “Huh?”

“Baby farming,” he said. His pudgy little face now crumpled into a sad frown. “I can’t believe you used that against me.”

“How long did it take you to find out what it was?” I asked.

“Five minutes on the computer.”

“Wow,” I smiled. “Impressive.”

He paused… pleased that I had admired his ability to glean information so quickly… but unable to forgive me yet… or give in.

“It was still the meanest thing you ever said to me,” he mumbled.

“Glad you didn’t end up in the Hudson circa 1887 right?”

He made a face, sure that he could not win this argument but unwilling to let it go, “I could swim when I was one you know,” he shouted before he stomped off, to God knows where, to create soda bottle bombs, Pokemon drawings, and ponder a world where Baby Farming was once a norm, leaving me to smile at the joy my offspring brought to me each time he chose to challenge his mother’s authority.

Lexi Taunts Nana with Lesbianism to find out her True Views on Gay Relationships

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This is Lexi.

Lexi is my daughter.

She is not gay although she is gay friendly and often looks like this…

Which often causes quite a stir in both the straight and gay community.

Lexi is what they call “a triple threat:”

Super beautiful.

Super smart.

Super good at putting people in their place.

And I’m of course… super proud of her.

Now Nana, is Lexi’s grandmother.

Nana likes to sit in the blue chair each day, watch old Turner Classic Movies on TNT, and comment on “The Gays.”

Nana supposedly loves “The Gays.”

She supports gay marriage.

She supports gay entertainment.

She supports gays in the military.

She smiles when “The Gays” come to the house and dote on her, often offering her boxes of chocolate and homemade pies whipped up from Martha Stewart’s “secret recipe.”

Oh Nana and her gays.

Now, I had never really had any doubts about my mom and her love for the gays.

She owned The Birdcage and watched it regularly.

She thought Tom Hanks totally nailed it in Philadelphia.

She loved Montgomery Cliff in, A Place in the Sun, and she was always so loving and kind with all of my gay friends.

Once, at Christmas, I had given my gay friend, Ryan Daniels a blow-up male porno doll as a joke, and sat him at the dining room table next to me, as I pretended to feed him candy canes when Nana, came down the stairs, pointed her angry finger towards the blow-up doll and said, “Get him out of here now. I hate that guy. He is super creepy.”

Ryan and I, worried we had finally pushed my mom over the edge, hurried to remove the offending plastic doll from the area when my mom stopped us by shouting, “Not him!” and we watched as her finger pointed to the next chair at the table. The chair where my new blow-up, life-sized Sponge Bob doll was seated. “That guy,” she said sternly. “He’s the one. Get him out! Get that creepy guy out of here right now.”

Ryan could not stop crying with laughter all the way through Christmas breakfast and way into the eggnog portion of the morning.

“Your mom is just so great,” he whispered. “God, I wish my parents had been okay with me being so openly gay.”

Lexi however was not fooled by my mother’s overtures.

She had a sinking suspicion that Nana might be a closet “phobe”  and told me this one day in passing conversation, but I was sure that she was wrong.

“Are you?” Lexi demanded of me. “Are you really sure that Nana totally supports gays and lesbians?”

“Well yeah…” I said. “What about the blow-up doll at Christmas? Or how she loves The Birdcage?  And remember how crazy she was for Greg Louganis? I mean, you were only a year old and she wanted to sign you up for diving so that you could be just like him.”

Lexi looked at me like I had just had a big drink of the Jim Jones Kool-aid.

“You, are completely delusional,” she said. “Watch this.”

I watched as Lexi removed her jacket and readied for battle.

I could see Nana, sitting in the blue recliner, her little bare feet up on the foot rest of the chair, her little toes wiggling in time to Robert Preston singing “76 Trombones” from The Music Man and I thought, You’re gonna lose this one little girl. I should have bet money. No way is Nana anti-gay.

Lexi pulled up one of the old wooden chairs from the dining room table close to Nana’s seat, and said, “Nana, can I talk to you for a minute. It’s super important.”

Nana pushed the mute button on the remote and turned to look at her favorite grand baby.

“What is it sweety?” she asked.

“Well Nana,” Lexi said. “You know, I’ve been looking for the right person to date for a long time now, and I finally found someone I really love.”

“Oh that’s nice,” Nana said and I saw her little toes start to wiggle once again, as if all was right in Nana’s world.

“Yes,” Lexi said as she cast a sideways glance towards me, an evil glint in her eye, and then she went for the kill. “Yes Nana,” she said. “My new girl is really beautiful and super smart and I can’t wait for you to meet her.”

“What did you just say?” My mom asked. Her toes now stopped and completely rigid.

“I said I’m in love with a girl. Yes Nana, I’m a lesbian.”

“WHAT A CROCK OF SHIT!” My mom screamed at her. “YOU ARE NOT A LESBIAN!”

Lexi stood up, grabbed Nana and gave her a big hug and kissed her before she said, “Come on Nana. You know I’m just teasing you. I’m not a lesbian. You know I like penis too much to be a lesbian.”

“That’s right!” Nana said as if she was listening to a testimonial in church and couldn’t wait to shout out her big “AMEN!”

Lexi walked over to me, grabbed a handful of peanut M & M’s from Nana’s candy dish before she popped one in her mouth, got really close to my face and then said, “See? I told ya.”  Before she strutted out the back door with a loud obnoxious laugh that seemed to scream… “I got you so good” as she headed off to God knows where.

I can’t really tell you what I felt in that moment:

Shock that she had been right.

Amazement that my daughter actually said out loud to my mother that she liked penis too much and my mother “Amened” it with righteous glee.

Or that all this was taking place while I was listening to one of the gayiest of gay men, Robert Preston, sing songs from The Music Man, as it all went down under one roof.

I must admit… it was a little too much… even for me.

Just then my cell phone rang and I picked it up to hear Lexi cackling on the other end of the line.

“She’s gay friendly if it isn’t one of her own,” Lexi chortled. “It’s all fun and games until someone goes gay in the family.”

“Or brings home Spongebob,” I mumbled. “Don’t forget Spongebob.”

“Or Spongebob,” Lexi agreed.

I hung up the phone and went back to my room, to look at my Spongebob doll and ponder my mother’s tricky gay ways.

The True Story of Nico’s Beaver

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Before Barbara Kramer was a famous Rock and Roll star touring the world with her band, Avi Buffalo, she was my student.

If you were to ask any of my former students what they remembered most about my class, their first answer would not be, “Studying Catcher in the Rye” or “Learning about John Adams” but would have something to do with the stories I tell them about my life.

They all loved my stories and over the years, I got into a habit of always starting off my class lesson with a “Story of the Day.”

Today, I was reminded of one of those stories by my friends: Rodney Zaccardo and Steve Hendrix.

No, they are not former students, but Rodney almost became a former friend, when he posted a photo on my Facebook page of a bar of soap titled, “Filthy Beaver” with my name tagged to the beaver.

Steve, smart man that he is, commented with, “I don’t know where to begin…” and I honestly didn’t know how to respond myself.

What the hell was Rodney thinking?

Did he really just call my beaver filthy on Facebook?

Luckily, my friend Margie, who was sitting across the table from me working, looked up from her computer and said, “He’s talking about your beaver. You know.. the one that has it’s own Facebook page. That beaver that travels around the world with the band.”  She then looked back down at her computer again before I heard her laugh and whisper, “Dork.”

I felt like an idiot for not getting the joke.

One phone call and two text messages from Rodney later… I realized he was worried I hadn’t gotten the joke either.

But don’t worry Rodney.

You’re not in trouble.

I get the joke.

The whole thing with the beaver started because of my chihuahua, Nico.

Nico loves to carry around little toys. He has a buzzy bee, two brightly colored wiener dogs, a piece of a stuffed tiger, just one leg, that he refuses to give up, and… a beaver.

These toys are usually scattered all around the house. And Nico, likes to pick one up and then drop it down to pick up another, changing them randomly, as he shows them off to house guests and moves then about, unwilling of course, to share them with any of the other dogs.

Yes… he is a stuffed animal hoarder.

One day when I was getting ready to go teach school, I heard a loud “SLAM”  from the living room and then silence.

I ran out of the hall and looked around but saw nothing but Nico’s beaver on the floor and Nico, standing close to Nana’s lounge chair wagging his tail as he seemed to look off into the backyard.

Now, it was rare to walk into the living room and not find my 84-year-old mother sitting in her blue lounge chair watching TV but, it was even stranger to walk into the living room and find the chair empty AND the room in complete silence:

No Two and a Half Men blasting from Nana’s TV cabinet.

No dogs barking for Nana’s McDonald’s breakfast meal.

Just a beaver lying in the middle of the room and a small chihuahua looking actually, quite suspicious.

Something inside of me told me to call out for my mom and so… I did.

“Mom?”

Immediately I saw my mother’s pudgy little grandma arm waving at me from behind the blue lounge chair.

“I’m over here!” She shouted as I watched her hand flap back and forth more like a windshield wiper than an actual signal of salutation.

“What the hell are you doing over there?” I asked as I hurried towards her and worked to pull her back up.

“Oh,” she said as I righted her and sat her back in her recliner, “I tripped over that damn beaver.”

I looked at the stuffed beaver lying on the floor.

I looked at Nico still wagging his tail, pretending to be the perfect dog in every way.

My mom looked at me as if I was stupid because I hadn’t responded quick enough to what she just said, so she rolled her eyes and snapped, “That thing!” as she pointed at the stuffed lump on the floor. “Nico’s beaver!”

For a moment, my mind went to one of those weird places… a place where it associates words with a specific period of time, a place where random images collide with random events… a place where you really don’t want your mind to go and suddenly… I pictured my mom tripping over a giant 70’s porno bush: Nico’s beaver.

I could see it vividly.

The giant vagina somehow detached and misplaced in our living room…

My mom, shaking her head in exasperation as if she knew it had been there all along hiding in the tri-colored shag carpet…

And somehow… she had just forgotten about it while worrying about other 70’s calamities such as my dad’s polyester pants or Dr. John’s latest hit: Right Place Wrong Time.

I couldn’t stop laughing.

I was trying to shake this horrific image out of my mind.

You never EVER want to put “Mom” and “porno” in the same thought box or even in the same paragraph for that matter, and the thought of the ridiculousness of what I was invisioning only made the whole situation worse.

Finally, my mother became totally annoyed with me and said, “I’m fine now. Just go to school. It’s not that funny you know.” Which made me laugh all the harder as I left the house and drove over to my classroom.

When I told the kids my “Story of the Day” of course I had to share Nico’s Beaver.

Everyone was in hysterics except for Barbara Kramer who seemed to be skeptical. Her eyes narrowed as she ran her tongue over her braces, before saying, “Is there really a Nico’s beaver?” with a smack of her lips.

The entire class paused.

They had never even considered the idea that I might be lying, that I might actually just make all of this shit up like a comedy routine I was trying out on unsuspecting English classes.

They all turned to me, begging for confirmation that I was telling the truth, and so, I gave Babs my best, “I’m so disgusted with your question face” before I said, “Yes Barbara, of course Nico has a beaver. Why would I make that up?”

She continued to look at me as if I was a fraud but by then, the rest of the class was convinced I was definitely telling stories in the genre of “non-fiction” and so we moved on for the day.

Weeks later, Barbara came to my house to play with my son Dylan. They were both in a band called “Return to Radio” and  practice would take place regularly at our house.

Babs walked inside and met my mom.

“Hi Nana,” she said as she waved to her.

“Oh, hi honey!” My mom waved back.

And then Nico ran up to Babs: growling and wagging, fussing and barking.

She stared at him, as if he somehow had the answer to her question regarding my authenticity as a story teller.

Was I a true raconteur? Or… was I a cheap side-show sham?

I knew what I had to do.

“Nico,” I said. “Go get your beaver! Go get your beaver!”

Nico shot off across the living room floor as if he was in a dog show and knew he was about to win first place for performing this trick.

We watched as he rooted about in his little doggy bed of toys and then plucked his favorite worn brown and beaten beaver out of the batch and rushed back to show it proudly to Babs.

Her face radiated bemusement. She couldn’t contain her glee.

She looked at me as if I was the Holy Grail of Honest Teachers before reaching down and taking the beaver from Nico’s mouth.

“Nico’s beaver,” Babs whispered and the rest, is history.

Babs joined Avi Buffalo. She began to tour the world, and she took Nico’s beaver with her… photos of him appeared with Ben Stein and on ampitheater stages in Canada, Europe, and everywhere in between.

He became legendary, that beaver, and I think Babs loved him. I think that beaver kept her grounded as she learned the world of music first hand… on stage…. and that beaver… always represented love, truth, family, and home.

Dylan Refuses Me a Bun

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I don’t ask for much as a parent.

Well, at least I don’t think I ask for much as a parent.

Dylan and Lexi may choose to disagree with this statement and it’s fine if they do because I AM THE PARENT and I don’t care.

Every once in awhile I ask for a minor thing to be done:

Pick up the dog poop.

Change the Sparklett’s water bottle for Nana.

Take out the trash.

Don’t forget to move the car for street sweeping and…

For God’s sake give me a bun when I ask for one.

It was Dylan who refused me the bun.

Dylan.

All I wanted was one bun for my chicken.

One bun.

It was Matilda’s first night at our house.

She was a guest.

I had no chicken feed and thought how nice it would be to give her a lovely fresh bun.

Dylan actually snatched the bun bag from my hands.

“You can’t have a bun,” he said and I looked at his face and saw that he was totally serious. “I have exactly eight buns and exactly eight hot dogs. Do you understand?”

Oh, I understood.

Mr. Obsessive-Compulsive was refusing to give me a bun.

Me!

His mother.

I couldn’t believe it.

He was lucky to be alive.

If I hadn’t grown him in my magical uterus he wouldn’t even be standing here with a bag of buns in his grubby little hands… the little shit.

I almost got in a knock-down-drag-out with him right then and there but we had company… not just Matilda… but a whole house load of guests. So, I had to let it go and I honestly planned to let it go forever until I found the bun bag in the trash can exactly one week later.

The whole bun bag.

All eight buns… moldy and in the trash can.

I looked at those buns and I felt like they were mocking me.

Dylan would pay for this injustice.

I waited until he was making his way through the house, walking with one of his little band friends, when I stopped him, pulled the bag from the trash can, and in my best motherly voice said, “What is this?”

Dylan looked at the bag as if he was unable to fathom the alien object in my hand.

“What?” he said but I could tell from his tone he knew he was busted.

“I asked you for one bun. One bun! And look,” I thrust the bag towards his face. “You didn’t even eat one. Not one! Here they sit, molding in the trash.”

“I’m gonna feed them to the ducks,” Dylan said.

This sent me over the edge.

“The ducks? The ducks!” I shouted. “You wouldn’t even give me one for my chicken!”

“Well, you fed your friends my spaghetti sauce!” He snapped, throwing out this minor counter point as if he could win an argument against me with such a weak comeback.

“How much is your rent?” I asked.

He was silent before mumbling, “It was just a bun.”

“You’re right,” I said. “Just a bun.”

We stood quietly for a moment pondering that thought before Dylan said, “We’re going out to the garage to practice now.”

I watched as he walked away wondering what he might refuse me next:

A rascal?

An adult diaper?

My pills and ice cream when I’m 102 and unwilling to eat anything else?

I could see now that I would have to keep my eye on this little man.

It starts with a bun and ends up with a trip to the convalescent hospital for a nice long vacation.

Oh… but he had underestimated his opponent.

My wrath would be legendary.

I would be the old woman who would pee as I walked down the supermarket aisle each time my son took me to the store.

I would be the old woman who would sit in the back seat of his mini-van and flip people off in other cars for no apparent reason.

I would be the old woman who would feed his children candy and play Grand Theft Auto with them when they turned 4.

Refuse me a bun.

We’ll just see about that.

My Matilda or… the Story of How Ms. Wood Procures a Chicken

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This… is Matilda.

Matilda is a chicken.

A Rhode Island Red to be exact.

I didn’t go out and purchase Matilda.

I wasn’t given Matilda.

Matilda, like most of the animals in our home, including Jax, my pet squirrel, just appear to me, usually in dire need, and being who I am… I can’t seem to walk away.

Case in point: Matilda

It was Thursday night, 8pm, after hours at El Dorado park and my favorite time to walk there.

This night I was walking with my two adult friends, Frank and Abe and my 10-year-old friend Finn.

Finn, like me, seems to be some type of  “animal whisperer” and so I was a bit concerned when we jumped the rail of the flood control and ran down the embankment to enter the park after hours that we might run into an injured skunk, coyote, goose, hawk, or owl… but I had no worries that we might run into a chicken. For God’s sake…. a chicken?

We were barely past the LBPD shooting range when we saw a small reddish animal bopping about in the grassline…

“Is that a chicken?” Frank asked.

We all stopped to watch as she made her way closer to us.

“It is a chicken,” Abe said.

We didn’t know what to do… I voted to finish our walk and when we looped back, see if she was still around. With Frank, Abe, and Finn all hailing from Arizona…. I knew that this chicken wasn’t going anywhere unless it was going to Ms. Wood’s house and I was trying my hardest to make sure that didn’t happen. I mean the menagerie was really getting ridiculous: Jax (my squirrel) her babies, three chihuahuas, four cats, seven dogs and a partridge in a pear tree; I wasn’t looking to add a chicken to the mix.

I swear I didn’t want to leave her because I’m heartless… I just thought… Maybe if we give it some time… she’ll magically go back to where she came from and I will be saved from care-taking yet another pet… but the boys weren’t having it.

The Arizonians were looking at me with pitiful sad little faces.

The chicken was looking at me with her pitiful sad little face.

“Come on…” I said to the boys as I strided ahead with purpose trying to get away from the bird, only to turn and find the chicken running after us all as she made the saddest little cooing sounds that seemed to say, “If you leave me I will be eaten by a coyote and you will never be happy when you walk in your park at night again, because you will always remember that you left me to die.”

Fuck.

I couldn’t do it.

It was horrible.

They were pulling at every one of my heart strings and they obviously knew just how to work me.

So… I just gave in and turning on my heal, marched towards the exit, while shouting in my best authoritative tone, “Come on, Matilda. Let’s go home!” and watched as she hustled to catch up and walk beside me… as if I were her best friend and we had never been parted.

After a few feet of walking, we realized that it would take forever to get Matilda out of the park at this pace, so Frank picked her up and carried her with both hands, arms extended straight out in front, as if Matilda were a hood ornament on his human car.

It wasn’t five minutes later that the Park Ranger pulled up next to us, rolled down his window and said, “My God! Is that a chicken?”

Apparently he had never seen a chicken in the park either and now, Matilda startled by his big shiny car and flashing police lights was out of Frank’s hands, on top of the hood of his car and pecking at her own reflection in his windshield, like this was all good fun.

Obviously, the park was a wonderful place for Matilda as long as she had humans to protect her.

I asked him if he wouldn’t mind driving Frank to my van and was pleasantly surprised when he agreed.

I smiled as I watched Frank drive off with a Park Ranger and a chicken and I spent the rest of my walk back to the Wardlow Street bridge whistling to  myself and making up my own stupid little jokes about it:

So… a chicken and a Ranger walk into a bar……

Or…. Is that a chicken under your arm or are you just…

And…

How did the chicken cross the road? By getting a ride in the Park Ranger’s car.

Before hoping back over the rail and walking to the van.

Frank was in the back when I got there, Matilda running around on the floor, pleased that she was in some type of cage that seemed more comfortable then the cold park at night.

We took her home… gave her some water… and watched as she climbed to the top shelf of the squirrel cage and bedded down for the night. Already content in her new environment.

“Good night Matilda,” I said as I turned off the porch light for the evening…. trying not to be attached to a chicken… but knowing… I was already totally in love.

Convincing Amy that Wild Boars cannot Climb Up Stairs and Attack Her While She Sleeps Outside with Me.

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Okay… so I haven’t always been “honorable” in my relationship with Amy.

It’s true.

I grew up in a family that enjoyed torturing you for entertainment. In fact, we still torture each other for entertainment. It’s good fun to trick someone you love… or just mess with them and watch them squirm.

Being a teacher is an added bonus… I can basically lie about anything and use my authoritative tone to have anyone believe it.

And so… I often put Amy into situations that may cause us both harm… and Amy… loving soul that she is… always gives me the benefit of the doubt.

And after over 16 years of friendship… I’m not really sure why.

This time, we were no where near the El Dorado Nature Center, but we were in an environment that looked quite similar: Catalina Island.

We had gone away for the weekend on a “spiritual” retreat, with a large group of program people: AA, Al-Anon, etc… where we were to stay at a Christian Camp, only accessible by boat.

Now, I love this area of the island because it is truly wild: Bison, mule deer, antelopes, fox, shrews, and my favorite… the feral pig. Aka…. wild boars.

As we were settling into our “woodsy” cabins, I had tried to warn the people sleeping near my bunk, that wild boars would come into the cabin and eat their candy bars, toothpaste, brown sugar bath and body lotion, chewing gum, and therefore, please keep that shit wrapped up tightly and a way from my sleeping area.

I felt bad taking chocolate away from people who needed it over alcohol or chewing gum over cigarettes but… I also knew that if they woke up with a 300 pound boar rifling through their bags that all hell would break loose in the cabin and I’d have 12 crazy mentally unstable people to deal with… myself included.

I did not tell them at this time that wild boars can be quite aggressive… meaning… they won’t just eat your toothpaste they’ll give you a nasty tumble and maybe even quite a nice bite on their way back out of the cabin… and I’m sure you are wondering right now… why I didn’t tell them this?

Well… because I wanted them to be cautious… not terrified for the entire retreat. I felt it wouldn’t really be productive for their experience, strength, and hope if they were worried about being chased down by a wild boar the entire time, unless someone wanted to walk away with this type of experience and find “growth” through strength as they ran away to “hope”fully escape.

I paused for a moment and smirked… I felt sly… If I really wanted to be evil I could use my family strategy of “torture to entertain” and make this a really fun weekend for me. But… I stopped…  I chose to take the higher moral path… to follow the principles in all of my affairs, and went back to unpacking my bag instead of fantasies of terrorizing my program buddies.

That night, after a day of meetings and meals we were all back in our cabin ready for our first night of tranquil island sleep.

I looked up at the ceiling, my top bunk dangerously close to a Black Widow spider, and thought, “To hell with this” as I grabbed my sleeping gear, jumped down to the floor, and headed out to sleep on a paddock by myself.

I watched as a dozen little Al-Anon faces peeked out from the cabin windows.

“What are you doing out there?” someone said.

I threw my gear down on the paddock and started arranging it.

“What about the wild boars?” someone else whispered… as if a boar might hear them and suddenly show up on the scene.

“I’m perfectly safe!” I shouted back. “Would I be sleeping out here on this paddock if I wasn’t?”

That’s when I saw Amy’s little head pop up. “Are you sure D.D.?” she asked with her big innocent, trusting eyes.

Now… I love Amy.

She has been one of my best friends forever… but I couldn’t tell her the truth… and you know why… because I wanted to get my way… like the spoiled Big Headed Baby that I am.

I wanted all of those little Al-Anons to come outside and stop being pussies and sleep with me under the stars.

“Amy,” I said with disgust. “Seriously, would I be sleeping out here if it was a problem?” I paused and pointed towards the steps of the paddock. “Do you really think wild boars can climb these stairs?” Then I rolled my eyes to add emphasis before going back to my work at hand and listening, as the Al-Anons took a hushed Group Conscience and then all scurried out to the platform to sleep with me.

I was pretty pleased with myself.

My ability to convince others to follow my direction, only shadowed by the power of my older brother’s persuasion, was pretty damn good.

I watched as they all placed their sleeping gear on the paddock, a little group of hens deep in the task of nesting.

“Like this D.D.?” They asked as they put their blanket inside of their sleeping bag.

“Sure,” I nodded.

“Is it okay to be close to the edge?” Another little Al-Anon asked.

“Oh of course… ” I said as I brushed a leaf off of the paddock. “No problem. Totally safe.”

Soon, they all settled down… trusting little souls… smiling at their own bravery of stepping out from the confines of the cabin into the big bold world… and now… they were sound asleep under the Catalina stars safe in the knowledge that their “Group leader” would never, EVER,  lead the flock astray.

I have to say… I was pretty pleased with myself… and actually continued to be pretty pleased with myself, until about 3am when I woke to a 400 pound male feral pig grazing next to the paddock as he scratched his back roughly against the hard wood shaking the entire structure.

I felt my eyes grow large in the dark as the enormous bulk… the actual size of such a beast, registered in my brain and the realization of the danger I had put my little group in flooded like fear across my body.

Shit.

I lay there watching him grunt and scratch and claw at the ground praying that my crew wouldn’t wake up… but of course they did… I could feel each body become rigid and alert, the way a parent knows when a child is truly asleep or just “faking it.”

Luckily, their terror kept then silent and still….

“D.D.” Amy whispered. “D.D.?” she said again.

“Yes,” I whispered back.

“They can’t climb the stairs right?”

Now… there is a moment in everyone’s life when they realize they should come clean in regards to a lie… but this moment was not one of them.

“Of course not,” I whispered loud enough for all the little Al-Anons to hear. “You guys are totally safe. Go back to sleep.”

And because my voice always radiates authority… they followed direction without question and nodded off at what I felt was quite an alarming pace considering the situation.

I stayed awake for well over an hour, watching as the giant boar made his way around the entire paddock… eating roots, acorns that had fallen from the tree, and watched as he climbed half way up the stair steps, sniffing at the bottom of Amy’s sleeping bag in hopes of finding something worth eating.

I prayed to God that he wouldn’t put his back legs on those steps…. I knew that if he climbed all of the way up… Amy was toast.

I don’t remember what I used to bargain with for God’s salvation at that time… but I’m sure I’m still paying for it.

Finally, the feral pig put his front legs back on the ground, and trotted off in the direction of the men’s cabin… hopefully, where someone had told them to remove their snacks and perfumed after shave from their space.

I waited a few moments… expecting to hear a ruckus, and then relieved that there wasn’t one, fell into a deep, exhausted sleep.

I was the last one to wake on the paddock that morning and when I opened my eyes I noted the change in my Al-Anons immediately…

My little group felt like they were the “bad asses” of the world for braving the wild and sleeping outside with the feral pig.

They were walking around the camp… shooing the wild Bison away… as if they were cowboys out on the open range.

I watched as Amy, over by the men’s cabin, clap her hands together three times and shoo a group of wild bison away from their cabin door… leaving the men in awe at her bravery and the power she obviously wielded over the wild beasts.

She turned, a pleased smile on her face, radiating confidence as she walked over to me shaking her head in disgust, “Fucking Al-Anon men,” she said and her swagger was fantastic.

I thought about coming clean… but who was I to take away their new found freedom and power?

And so… I chose not to tell the truth to my little party.

I did however, several years later, find enough strength to come clean with Amy while we were walking the Nature Center one day.

“Dick!” she said in total disbelief before walking on ahead of me, her stride fast and furious.

But I could still see her cheeks, curved up in a big smile as she turned the corner of the trail… and so… I listened for her laugh to ring out from the path ahead.. the sign that I was truly forgiven and of course…

It did.

Sissy Breaks My Leg

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If you look closely at the photo above… you will see one little shoe.

Just one.

That is because just outside of the frame… just outside of the observer’s view… is my little broken leg.

Full cast.

One-year-old.

Look at that baby.

The perfect Gerber Cupie Doll mix right?

How could anyone break the leg of such a nice, sweet, little baby girl?

Well… you’d have to ask my sister.

The practically perfect person pictured here:

Only, if you did go to ask my sister, she would probably throttle you. In fact… she would probably throttle me.

I used to tell the story of how “Sissy Broke My Leg”  in my classroom each year and when I got to the good part… I would call her on the cell phone, press “speaker,” and let her tell the whole class how she damaged me for life.

She hated it.

I don’t do it anymore.

Why?

Because she verbally throttled me.

She waited until she was at my house, vis-a-vis and shouted as she bordered on slapping me, “Why the hell do you have to call me and make me relive something I feel terrible about? Can’t you see you’re causing me pain?”

“I’m the baby,” I said smugly. “You broke my leg… I think you should have to pay for that the rest of my life.”

She gave me “theeeeee” big sister look… the I will kill you right now look… and I never, ever called her during class time again.

My students beg me to…

They do I swear…

But I stop them and shout, “Listen! She won’t let me… and you know how big sister’s are.”

Many of them nod their heads in silent solidarity. (Obviously, having been throttled by big sisters too.)

Sigh.

I don’t know what my sister was thinking that day back in 1966 when she broke my leg… She was seventeen… one of the most popular girl’s at Millikan High School. TOTALLY RESPONSIBLE IN EVERY WAY. Or so I thought… all of these years even AFTER the leg breaking incident but when I told my sister that I was writing this story she said, “Me? Practically perfect? Get real. I used to run around Millikan in my head cheerleader outfit, show all of the teachers the “forged” note from my mom and say, “I have to leave school immediately” before I’d flash them my all-American smile as I exited campus to ditch class with my friends.”

I was actually stunned for a moment when hearing this.

After years of taking the wrap as the “bad sister” the “bad seed” it was interesting to find out that the “good sister” the one who was always “so wonderful” was actually quite a bit of a naughty.

My sister has always been like a mother to me, so I don’t doubt that she had the best intentions when she hopped on her Schwinn Cruiser that day and propped me on the handle bars. I’m sure she thought I would giggle and squeal and love her all the more for it… but unfortunately the short ride went terribly wrong.

She lost her grip on my petite baby body and watched in horror as I slid off the front of the bike, where my small leg entered the turning spokes of the wheel, and snapped in several places before I landed helpless on the ground, caught as if a small animal in a snare, with my tiny leg twisted like delicate ribbon between the rough metal spokes of the rim.

My sister was beyond distraught and ran, frantic for help, to our neighbor: Mrs. O’Grady.

And though they both tried to free my leg, they actually had to remove the wheel from the bike, my leg still ensnared in it, and bundle “us” off to the hospital where the doctors could release me from it’s cruel grip.

The worst part, according to my sister, was not the break in my leg, but the break in her heart, as she held me in the backseat of the car, my little arms raised up to her, my hands opening and closing as I begged for understanding and a hug saying only three of the ten words I knew at the time:

“Sissy, Sissy sweet. Why? Why?”

“I would have preferred you to cry,” she said. “At least that would have been normal. But for you to lie there, like a little Buddha, not one tear on your face, as you asked me to explain in your tiny baby voice why this happened to you… was unbearable.”

The evil baby in me always smiles when she tells me this… I like that I was a master manipulator even at the age of one… assigning guilt and blame a talent passed down effortlessly in my genes.

My leg was “casted” from toe to hip, and my mother was enraged when she found out what my sister had done. It was weeks, no months, a constant barrage of angry words, that my sister had to endure from her parents for that “one” fatal mistake.

But oh… the story gets worse.

When the time came for the cast to finally be removed, I was beyond ecstatic.

They were taking me to see Santa that day for being such a brave girl through the months I had suffered my casted leg.

My sister said she was full of joy, so relieved that finally the day had come when she would no longer look at my cast as the “albatross” around her neck.

They took me from the hospital, straight to my grandmother’s, who was anxiously awaiting my arrival, just one of the many relatives who wanted to witness my full recovery and my visit with Santa.

I remember climbing from the car.

I remember skipping towards her house.

I remember tripping into a giant sprinkler hole and hearing a loud “SNAP” as my leg completely re-broke for the second time.

My sister said that I laid on my back, disbelief engulfing my pretty baby face, before I threw my arms outstretched over my head and WAILED, tossing my body from side to side screaming, “WHY? WHY!!!!!!!!”

Before my father picked me up, a writhing wild animal of a child, a snake ready to bite and hiss at anyone who tried to get close to me.

The next photo you see of me as a child is not a pretty one.

And if I could find it and post it here, I swear I would… but I have a feeling my sister has already burned it.

It’s me, a red corduroy jumpsuit, full leg cast, crooked bangs, a doll wedged tightly under my arm with no head, and a look in my eye that clearly shows that I have changed from a sweet little doll to a demon seed.

A look that seems to imply that I have already suffered the weight of the world and LORD HELP YOU if you try to cross me.

Today… I still limp when tired, the only reminder of that fateful ride… other than my yearly classroom story of how “Sissy Broke My Leg.”

Steve Soto coins the phrase “Dramatacus” which sparks a semi-serious conversation at 3am

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Let me start by saying Steve Soto swears he coined this phrase… and I’m okay with giving the sassypants credit but, if someone has a “beef” with it… take it up with Soto…  he’s somewhere in Europe right now hosting a “sausage fest” (his words…. not mine) as Punk Rock’s favorite nice guy in his band The Adolescents.

I wish I had coined that phrase…

NOT “sausage fest…”

but “Dramatacus.”

I really do.

Steve was brilliant to think of it and now… it is one of my favorite non-words, that HAS become a word, and I pray that someone will add it to Webster’s Dictionary next to GIANORMOUS… and SWAG.

Now… I’m sure we can agree, that we have all been guilty of being a “Dramatacus” at some time in our lives… yes that’s right people…. each and every one of us… don’t even try to deny it.

And…anyone that knows me… knows… that I can definitely be the BIGGEST “gladiator” of dramatic play when provoked…

or sometimes… just because I’m bored.

Being a high school teacher alone cranks the drama-meter off the chart on a daily basis:

“Ms. Wood, so-and-so… told so-and-so… that I was pregnant with so-and-so’s baby.”

Or…

“Ms. Wood, so-and-so… likes so-and-so… but I’m SO in love with so-and-so… I don’t know what to do.”

Or…

“Ms. Wood, so-and-so… told so-and-so… that I was the one that crapped on the floor in the locker room and now so-and-so won’t ask me to Prom.”

See what I mean?

Drama.

Now, add in a daughter that likes to pick up dead bodies for a living…

A son who is a cross between Phil Spector and Brian Eno…

An X who is working on years of recovery… (a Dramatacus in his own right) that’s at the house once a week playing music in the garage…

Throw in a couple of band projects, book projects, and a few sober bad boys in need of reform… and you’ve basically got yourself a “Circus Maximus” of Dramatacus fun.

Now at times… I really like being a Dramatcus… it amps up life…. and adds to the excitement…. but when you are in a relationship with someone… it’s really not a good thing.

You basically go from being their beautiful statue on a pedestal, their reason for living…. to a ROYAL PAIN IN THE ASS in a matter of minutes.

And the worst thing is… you just can’t stop yourself…

It’s like you’re possessed…

You know you are acting like a total idiot…

That you are making the situation worse…

That you are the engineer of your own train wreck….

But you just keep going…

People could be running from you… screaming in terror… looking back over their shoulder at you as if you are GODZILLA about to destroy them… and yet you will still chase them on and INSIST that you MUST EXPLAIN WHY YOU ARE BEING A DRAMATACUS… which only makes them run faster and further as they pray to God that he will “EXIT” you from their life FOREVER.

Sigh…

So it was while Steve and I were both dealing with major emotional upheavals in our worlds…. and trying VERY hard not to both go into Dramatacus mode at the same time… that we started having our  “late night” phone conversations.

Problem is… “late night” to me is around 9 pm, especially on a school night…

And “late night” to Steve Soto is somewhere around 3 am.

We fixed the problem by meeting somewhere in the middle with Steve texting around 11 pm with an “Are you up?” message and if I was… I would call and we would chat.

Now I have known Steve for years… and he has always been able to make me laugh… but one night when I was on the phone howling over someone who I felt had “wronged” me and reading him an email from this person that had caused me to be terribly upset… he stopped and asked,

“Wait… was their sex involved in this relationship?”

I paused……

“No,” I said quietly.

“You guys weren’t like going out right?”

“No,” I said quietly again.

“Well, that seems like a LOT of drama for a non-sexual relationship.” He paused for a moment and then said, “What a Dramatacus.”

It stunned me…

He stunned me…

What a wordsmith.

I was impressed.

I knew that he was speaking about the person in the email… that they were being a Dramatacus in writing… but it stopped me long enough to recognize how DRAMATIC I was being about the entire situation as well.

I was being totally ridiculous.

Someone expressed their feelings to me in writing… That’s it.

I didn’t need to get all bent about it.

Maybe I could for once just bring it down a notch… which I did… waited to respond… and the friendship survived the episode.

The next day I was out walking with my friend Margie when I told her about Steve’s word and the event that lead up to it.

The day after… I was a bit late arriving to her house for our daily walk…. and as I pulled up…. the text alert beeped on my phone and I saw “McLate-acus” flash across the screen.

I looked up to see Margie… giggling from her front porch.

Steve and Margie really know how to make a point when they want to… in the best artistic sense of the matter.

I hope they add McLate-acus to Webster’s as well.

Thanks to Everyone for Reading: New Stories Post EVERY Wednesday and Saturday…

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The Day Tim Grobaty was Screwing Around and Almost Took Off My Legs

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To this day, Tim Grobaty tells his daughter, Hannah (Who happens to be one of my favorite students and so… as my little educational minion… has no problem spilling all of her father’s secrets to me) that… Mr. Grobaty, columnist of the Long Beach Press Telegram, refuses to admit, yes actually DENIES, that he ever tried to break both of my legs after hanging out with me on the porch, one summer evening, many moons ago… while dicking around behind the wheel of his car.

But I am here to tell you… that he did.

Of course… If I were Tim Grobaty… I wouldn’t admit that I almost tore Ms. Wood’s legs off in a freak accident either.

Ms. Wood, Beloved High School English Teacher maimed by Beloved Long Beach Newspaper Columnist… it would just be bad all the way around… worse for Tim because he may have a shit load of readers following him but I have a veritable Dumbledore’s Army at my command…. 20 years of teaching… averaging over 1,000 interactions a year, with young adults who have pledged their loyalty to their favorite teacher until DEATH (mine obviously) and you can see why Tim would be in trouble.

Serious Trouble.

If Grobaty HAD actually taken both my legs off… and left me as a little bitter stump of a woman… I would still be able to roll around… (much like Johnny Eck in the 1932 film Freaks)

barking commands…

bossing people about…

controlling my young adult army

and basically making sure that the rest of Tim Grobaty”s life was h*ll.

Lucky for Tim… my legs are still intact.

So…

Back to my story…

Tim and I had become fast friends after meeting accidentally during a bar show at the Blue Cafe.

I still remember when I first opened my mouth to sing… Tim turning around slowly on his bar stool and watching me quietly. I think I was the only member of my family he had not seen perform or written about…

We didn’t talk that night… but the next day in the newspaper… I opened the entertainment section and saw that he had written a full page article titled I’m in LOVE with D.D. Wood…

Thankfully, Jane… his wife, better half, and definitely the most reasonable person in the relationship, was not bothered that Tim titled his article this… OR that he decided to post this on the date of his actual wedding anniversary…

Jane, as always… takes these things in stride and I love her for it… I really don’t know how she does it.

If my husband had written an article about Jane on our wedding anniversary… I probably would have crumpled the piece up with fury… tried to stuff it down his gullet, before walking outside and beating his favorite 59 Ford Fairlane with a bat…

You could say… that I’m a bit of a hothead.

My mother of course showed the article to everyone and I figured… it would probably be a good idea to get to know a man who was supposedly “in love” with me… and so Tim and Jane, me and my husband started getting together for dinner, or a visit on my front porch swing, on a regular basis.

These were lovely times….

Great music…

Great company…

We spent summer evenings laughing together… our children all very small… Hannah actually just a baby then… Dylan and Ray still little enough to be into toy guys and camouflage… until one night Tim and I were alone on the front porch playing guitars…

My husband must have had a show… because he was absent from this scene… and I’m sure Jane was already in bed… all cozy and comfy reading a good book… all of our children fast asleep…

While Tim and I were jamming away until our 10 o’clock curfew came around… and it was time for me to go inside and for Tim to go home.

Neighborhood rules.

Tim and I packed up our guitars before I walked him out to where he had parked his Jeep…directly behind my car…

and for some reason…

I decided that I needed to grab something out of my trunk. Now, to this day… I can’t imagine what I obviously felt I HAD TO HAVE out of the trunk of my car at 10 o’clock at night but, that isn’t important.. what is important… is THIS is when all of the trouble began…

(Although some would argue that the trouble began when Tim Grobaty wrote that he loved me in a local publication.)

I walked between the space of the two cars as Tim waved goodbye and climbed into his Jeep.

We shared a quick smile as he pretended that he was going to put his car into gear and run me over.

I laughed the “ha ha ha you’re so funny” obligatory laugh, then turned back to pop the trunk when I heard Tim’s car lurch forward and felt a sudden hard hit to the back of my legs…

My spine pitched towards the trunk, my knees buckled and pinned beneath the rear bumper of my car, and if I had been just an inch or so taller, Tim would have snapped both of my legs right then and there… and this story wouldn’t be quite as funny as it now is…

My hands slammed onto the hood of the trunk as if a police officer had just knocked me down and told me to “spread em”… the pain was intense.

I looked back at Tim in utter horror.

His face was one of shock… and I could see him fumbling to shift the gear stick and free me from my misery when we both had a moment…

A “cosmic” connect I guess you would call it…

A moment where Tim suddenly knew exactly what I was thinking….

Me: Please God don’t let Tim shift it into another forward gear and break my legs.

and I knew exactly what Tim was thinking…

Tim: Oh my God, what if I shift it into a forward gear by mistake and break her legs?

I freaked out.

“Tim!” I shouted. “Jesus Christ, what are you doing?”

Now… this probably didn’t help the situation but I have to admit that I was under duress and not thinking clearly…

Tim shifted the gear into reverse and backed up about four feet as I felt my legs release. I took a moment before letting go of the trunk and trying to stand full weight on my legs afraid of what I was left with and wondering if they would even work.

I looked down… no blood… no protruding bones… I was fine… a bit agitated… but fine.

I hobbled over to the driver’s side window and leaned in… “Are you insane?”

Tim was already laughing…. laughing as he ignored me and turned the wheel tight before peeling out for home….

I watched as he screeched past me… his tail lights heading into the night…. and I thought about getting into my car and chasing him down to make him acknowledge his part in this fiasco and demand an apology but… I didn’t …

10 o’clock curfew had come and gone….

My husband would be home soon…

Jane would be waiting on Tim…

and our confrontation would just have to wait until another late night jam session on the porch… or maybe on stage, in the middle of a set, the audience witness to our brawl.

I’m sure Tim will post a rebuttal to my tale… maybe an I HATE D.D. WOOD article will appear in the paper some time in the next few weeks but I doubt it… we share a love of writing and music… and that is a bond that can withstand anything.