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Drill Baby Drill

Today is my birthday. I never make a big deal out of it because not only is it right after Christmas, it’s also the day after my sister’s birthday. We shared a cake for years – my half always had 3 more candles on it, and my birthday outfits were 3 sizes bigger. Her toys were blue, mine red. Whatever they were.

So when people ask what I’m doing for my birthday, I tend to answer with a blank stare. Today it’s not just because of the usual post-Christmas stupor, it’s because this year, I don’t feel any older. I don’t feel 49. I don’t even feel my sister’s age, 46. I don’t know what age I feel. Some days I feel 22, ready to conquer the world. Sometimes I feel 8, and the world is still full of wonder.

So for my birthday I asked for a power drill. Hear me out now – it’s the perfect gift for a 49-year-old woman.

Despite his misgivings, Bob got me a top of the line cordless DeWalt with a light on the front and enough horsepower to cut through metal (and a compass in the stock and this thing which tells time). It’s heavy and serious – like it could build or tear down anything.

What am I going to do with this thing? Drill, baby, drill. Hang mini-blinds and install light fixtures. Fix what’s broken and spruce up what’s ugly. Hold it in the air like Tim the Toolman Taylor and grunt “RRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!”

That’s my response to the looming Big 5-0.

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Eww Christmas Tree

Here’s a Christmas tale from my family: Once upon a time, my Sicilian great grandmother got so pissed at her crooked Christmas tree that she nailed it to the floor. This is a woman I can relate to.

Would it be Scroogey of me to say how much I have hated our do-it-yourself Christmas tree from Home Depot, the discount one with no instructions? The one my husband bought without me 8 years ago when I was too pregnant to object, much less go with him to pick it out. Every fricking little piece had to be assembled. Eventually we wrote down the order of the branches in crayon on the side of the box. But still, why was it me, every single year, who had the thankless job of putting that damn thing together, and then stringing it with a wad of lights?

This year, I said “No more, we’re getting another tree — WITH BUILT IT LIGHTS.” Then I priced them — $399 at Hobby Lobby — and that’s HALF PRICE! So I figured I would suffer through the tree assemblage one last time and buy a marked-down tree after Christmas. But fate had other plans.

This morning, Bob and I hauled the old tree box out of the attic, the box sagging so badly we had to slide it down the stairs. Just like every other year, the kids helped me take out the pieces and organize them on the floor, and then magically disappeared, with only me listening to Jimmy Buffet singing “How’d you like to spend Christmas on Christmas Island?” Answering him with a screaming “YES” in my head as I fished into the box for the last of the moldy branches. Then I saw it, a little mess of hair and sticks, no wait, bones, nestled into the crux of a branch. Down in the bottom of the box were tell-tale pellets. I went upstairs where everybody was hiding watching TV.

“I can’t do this,” I told them. “I just can’t.” When I reported dead mice in the tree box, they all went rushing downstairs, faster than Christmas morning, yelling, “Let me see!”

We debated for a split second whether to go ahead and assemble the tree, but Bob said the magic words, “mouse droppings,” and I helped him shove all the branches in the garbage like so much cast off wrapping paper.

So guess what’s in my living room now? That’s right folks, a shiny new tree with BUILT IN LIGHTS. It came in THREE pieces WITH INSTRUCTIONS. I bought it my own damn self. Somewhere up there my great grandma is looking down on me and smiling.

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Expensive Misery

There she is in a sea of bodies floating down the Lazy River, but the name is a lie. There is nothing lazy about this tangle of limbs and inner tubes squirming below me. I hike up and down its concrete banks holding everyone’s shoes, including hers. I let her go with the rest of her troop and the perky young moms who think this god forsaken place is fun. I wait with the old moms, the tired moms, hungry for shade.

Finally she returns but she’s off again, barefoot and refusing to hold anyone’s hand. She’s gone to find the biggest ride she can muster at her height so I wait some more, shifting to the agreed-upon meeting pool and she’s not there. She doesn’t come and doesn’t come and I don’t even know where she is or who she’s with and I have left my cell phone in a locker and my bathing suit in the trunk. I have paid a lot of money and come a long way for this nightmare in broad daylight. I remind myself to breathe.

She comes finally, her brown bangs flopping over her eyes. She flits next to me then disappears again into the scaffolding of a water slide. She eats donuts and ice cream, drinks red soda. A crash is imminent, brewing like a storm and it pours down at 8:35 p.m. in the gift shop. She has to spend the money Nana gave her for a souvenir, but she melts on the floor by the Tweety bird t-shirts and squalls, “I hate everything in this store!”

I buy her the only toy she will accept, a red stuffed heart with claws and a grimace. Somehow it fits this moment, this day — a fierce, ugly, monster heart. An hour later she uses it as a pillow as she collapses on my lap. We wait for the perky young moms to close down the park, but at least now I can breathe.

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The Jiggle Machine

“This is NASA technology; they developed this for astronauts,” the cute 20-something trainer boy tells me, a claim that’s guaranteed to make me skeptical. I never really liked TANG.

The jiggle machine is actually a Whole Body Vibration machine. It looks a lot like a stair machine with fewer moving parts. You stand on a platform and it jiggles. Very fast. That’s it. That’s the whole workout. You do this for 10 minutes and it’s supposed to be the equivalent of a one-hour workout. That’s what the fire-engine red brochure says, anyway. It also says, in bright yellow capital letters, “SHAKE YOUR WAY TO GOOD HEALTH!”

Why am I doing this? It’s a one-hour workout in 10 minutes, that’s why! I don’t have to change clothes. I don’t even have to change shoes. I just have to pay $3, step on the platform, hang on and jiggle.

The jiggle machines are in a tiny storefront near a hotel on the long walk through the tunnels from the parking garage to the office. My co-workers discovered it first – today I went along to see if it was worth $3. In downtown Houston, nothing costs $3 except a tall Chai latte and a ride on the jiggle machine. So I tried it, and I have to say, I feel like a had a 1-hour workout. Which is to say, sleepy and sore.

As I was standing there jiggling, I had a flashback of my mom going to Pat Walker’s Figure Salon back in the 1970s, and telling me how great it was to lie on a machine and have it do all the work for you. At the time, I may have sniggered or even made a smart-assed remark. As I have pointed out several times on this blog, paybacks are, in fact, hell, so I fully expect some backsass about this.

Yes, I have reached the age where passive exercise sounds like a great idea. Yesterday I asked Bob to take a new photo of me for LinkedIn — I wanted to show off my nerdy girl Tina Fey glasses, but they only magnified the crow’s feet and made my nose look like a schnozola. And now it’s come to this. Jiggling.

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Recent Backsass:

LeeLee: Oh, and by the way, about the looming 5-0... 35 was horRENdous. 40 was kinda sucky. B...
LeeLee: I heart my drill! Now you're going to want more more more bits! My all time favorite...
LeeLee: Nonnie would have passed out at the price of the new tree (or just not have talked to...
Christopher: This is a awesome and wonderful learn. The blog is created such that it's so easily r...
Greta: It's much easier to undretnsad when you put it that way!...
janet: Tells everything, exhaustion, panic, love and acceptance. Great piece....
Lou: Have missed you; so much fun to see you're back. Looking forward to more....
Mary: So great to be reading you again, Christi! I can relate to this post -- have a 5-yr. ...
Georgann Highnote: This was novel. I wish I could read every post, but i have to go back to work now... ...
@keithmackert: Love that you're constantly looking for a solution to family/home operational conundr...
LeeLee: Isn't it funny how a little music just changes everything? I was getting bored with m...
Trudy: How wonderful. Would have loved to be able to go pick pecans!...