Monthly Archives: August 2013

Dear Teen Me

Dear Teen Me,

First of all, you don’t die before adulthood. I don’t know where you got that ridiculous idea. You probably just didn’t want to have to plan for the future, or you thought it would be romantic. Anyway, get to work, because I’m 39 and still here! I don’t want to tell you too much, because though I’m not rich or anything (sorry, but that’s partly your lazy butt’s fault) things could be a lot worse, and you know how we feel about little changes making big differences. Wait, maybe you don’t know. Have you seen Back To The Future yet?

But maybe I could tell you a few things. Most importantly, life will be more pleasant if you floss your teeth. Oh my gosh this is just like Quantum Leap! You’re the only one who could understand my excitement. In tonight’s episode, Scott Bakula goes back in time to tell girl to floss teeth. Yes!

And sorry, but hours of staring at yourself in the mirror do not shrink your nose. Lots of people have big noses. Get over it. You still get married and everything. And even if you didn’t, big deal. Stop making faces and go call a friend or something. Or help mom with the dishes. You don’t do that enough.

While you do end up making some money with a music degree, could you also try to get some of your writing published? I could use a little beef in my query letters – I’m dyin’ here. Wait, let me check my email for agent responses.

Nope, guess you didn’t do it. That’s okay. You’re busy playing softball and watching Quantum Leap and evaluating which expression makes your nose look smallest. Or maybe you were just afraid to change the future. I totally get it.

Do NOT go to that party at R’s where his parents aren’t going to be home. You make a fool of yourself, and Mom finds out you lied about the parents being there. And speaking of Mom, don’t give her a hard time for bawling out the yearbook teacher on your behalf. To this day I’ve only seen her cry twice. Once was when the dog died, and, great job, your giving her a hard time was the other one. She was just trying to help.

You DO have musical talent. Somehow you are going to be first chair in the state honor band and STILL not believe in yourself. You are going to go to college and have a boy tell you that you got in the top band because you were a girl. That guy was an idiot.

By now you have figured out that you do graduate from high school. It’s not pretty, and involves a chemistry teacher telling you and Mom and Dad you got a D, and you cheering, and the teacher saying, “No, not a B. I said D.” And you saying, “I know!”

That’s all I feel comfortable telling you, really. It’s so tempting to tell you about how you meet your husband, and how you get through the rough patches, and how much you mean to this world, but the thing is, you have to learn most stuff for yourself. You already have Mom and Dad and your sisters and your teachers telling you you’re great, and I’m not sure that even my telling you will help. But maybe it will encourage you, even just a little, to know that for at least a few bright moments between you and me, you’ll believe it.

39-year-old You

PS, Hey, here’s a note from 70 year old me. Should I read it?


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Germaphobe or Normal Person – You Make The Call

A woman walks into a pet store. Her destination? The lonely back corner where the bags of dog and cat food are shelved. She rounds the corner of the aisle to find a man with his hand down the back of his pants scratching his right cheek. She (if she does say so herself) rather impressively makes it look like she didn’t see anything, to spare him the embarrassment.

I – I mean she – dilly dallies around, making sure she got the right bag since she’s been known to grab the item next to the item she wanted. (Once she came home with “Explosive Pizza” goldfish crackers. Does anyone not think of the phrase “explosive diarrhea” when they hear that?) Then she realizes that there is only one cashier, and if Itchy chooses his dog food before she chooses her cat food, he will use his scratching hand to give his payment to the cashier, who will use her contaminated hand to give my – I mean her – bag and receipt to me. Her.

She snatches the bag (the right one!) and speedwalks around the far end of the aisle so Itchy won’t see her craziness. She jets down the next aisle, but she can see him between the shelves, taking his bag and heading for the front. He cuts her off at the pass! He gets there first!

When he leaves, she hesitates before putting her cat food on the counter. Should she tell the cashier, “You might want to wash your hands after what I saw that guy doing in the back of the store?” She wants to. But she considers that all sorts of customers have done all sorts of things that she hasn’t seen, and she doesn’t want the cashier to think she’s crazy, so she says nothing – and curses herself for not carrying hand sanitizer in her car.


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How To Reach The Drive-through ATM Buttons

Today I watched two petite women in front of me at the drive-through ATMs struggling to reach the machines while still seated in their cars. One had her door open, leaning out with one cheek still on the seat so she could pretend she succeeded, and the other had the window rolled down and she was hanging over the door frame in a position I’ve experienced, and it ends with bruised ribs. Unless these women get help, they’ll surely give up soon, ultimately sparing the air by parking and walking up to the walk-up machine. And we wouldn’t want that!

Here’s the secret! In order to reach the buttons like a boss, you will end up reversing your car when you’re through. Pull up like normal, and just before you get to the keypad, (moving slowly) crank your wheel to the left and get close enough to the building that you’ll never be able to move forward without taking out a chunk of stucco, or brick or whatever.

Complete your transaction comfortably. PUT THE CAR IN REVERSE.* Back up, throw it in forward, and go. The quicker you do this part, the more the driver behind you will nod and gape in admiration.

The first time I did this, I said out loud, “God don’t take me now; I just learned how to use a drive-through ATM!”**

I know pretty soon we probably won’t even need ATMs. We’ll take pictures of our checks, and no one will use cash anymore, but for one glorious moment I am the queen of the drive through, and you can be, too.

You’re welcome.

*Marie Millard is not responsible for any lack of depth perception or ability to control cars as well as Ms. Millard does.
**I also just learned how to use a semicolon. Note how using the word “I” immediately after the semicolon covers up the fact that I can’t remember whether to capitalize the second part. Other semicolon statements I can make include, “I can’t go to the store; Steven’s going to pick me up soon,” and “Shelly can’t go to the store; San Francisco is a trip to where she is going to make soon.” Sorry; San Francisco had to go at the beginning.

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Snark Badge

County fair. Disney teen star giving a pop concert. What good wholesome fun for this sea of 8-14-year-old girls. Pre-concert music blares from the sound system, and, what’s that? Was that the B word? Oh my, the S word too? Even this mom who wrote a blog post in defense of the F word shares uncomfortable giggles with other parents in section A.

At home, largely due to boredom, I consider sending the radio station that sponsored the concert a Facebook message. Now, whether to send it privately or put some snark on their wall. Hmmmm.

I close my eyes and imagine. I step up onto a podium, and an imalgum (played by Maggie Smith) of every snarky TV character I’ve ever emulated pins a Snark Badge on my lapel.
“Remember,” Maggie says loud enough for the Snark Ceremony audience to hear. “With great snarkiness comes great responsibility. You must never be snarky to the innocent, you must temper your snarkiness with kindness, and when you are snarky, you must always, always be right.”
I nod gravely, open my real eyes, and type on the radio station’s wall:

“Good job playing a song with swear words before a concert for ten-year-olds.”
I smile. I smirk. I wait for the “likes.” I always get “likes” for snarkiness on my own page. That’s part of the reason I received my badge.
But instead, I get a response that goes something like this. “That wasn’t us. We were only the emcees. We were shocked too! It was the sound guys.”
“My apologies!” I comment quickly.

I close my eyes. Maggie Smith. Professor McGonagall! The dowager countess of Grantham rips my badge from me. “You can’t handle the snark,” she says.

My head hangs low. She is right.

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Littlefoot (part 5)

“Aha! There you are!” Littlefoot lunged at her tiny garden shoes, which had been hiding under her red coat, which had fallen off the peg just inside the front door.
Still bent over to pick them up, she received a thump on the bottom when Kindra flung the door open.
“But Kindra,” pled a man’s voice.
Ugh. Bron.
“Go away,” said Kindra. “You are not invited in. We’re through.”
Behind the door, Littlefoot cheered silently.
“But Kindra, it wasn’t me. I swear.”
“Yeah right. They caught you.”
“I told you. I was just going for a walk.”
“In the middle of the night. Right outside the house where that woman woke up to someone kissing her.”
“Goodbye, Bron.”
Kindra closed the door, revealing Littlefoot, who smiled sheepishly. After flashing an “I-don’t-want-to-hear-an-I-told-you-so” look, Kindra flounced to her room. Bron pounded on the front door.
“You heard her,” Littlfoot yelled. “She doesn’t want you here. Go away.”
Littlefoot had her garden shoes on now, but wanting to wait to go out until Bron was far away, she went to the kitchen and poured herself a cup of water from the pitcher. She drank it sip by sip.
A feeble knock. Littlefoot didn’t care that it sounded repentant.
“Go. Away.”
Instead of Bron, Littlefoot heard the sound of an old woman’s voice.
“I’m selling apples, dear.”
Littlefoot hurried to the door and opened it. “I’m so sorry. I thought you were someone else.” She peered down the path to the right and saw Bron’s backside halfway to the turn toward town.
Littlefoot had plenty of apple trees out back, but the old woman was so disfigured that Littlefoot worried no one would buy from her.
“I’ll take twelve.” She retrieved some coins from the secret box in her room and made the exchange. But the old woman didn’t walk away.
“They’ll be the most delicious apples you’ve ever tasted. Try a bite and tell me they’re not.”
“I’m sure they are.”
“Just a little bite. I want to see how much you enjoy them.”
So Littlefoot took a small bite. And when she did, the old woman cackled and changed. Her nose straightened and her mouth untwisted and just as Littlefoot started to feel woozy, she recognized Asher’s mother.
“Spinach and chard,” Littlefoot swore just before she hit the floor.

She awoke to Bron’s face an inch above hers.
“Aw, seriously?” she said.
“You’re welcome.”
At the sound of Bron’s voice, Kindra barged in. “I told you to get – what’s going on?”
Littlefoot kicked an indignant Bron out, told Kindra about Asher’s mother, and repeated the story when Benedella came home.
“What are you going to do?” Benedella asked.
“I don’t know that I can do anything. Asher won’t talk to me, and he wouldn’t believe me anyway. I’ll just have to be more careful, and when Asher gets a girlfriend, I won’t be a target anymore.”
Kindra gasped. “I just thought of something.”
The girls waited.
“Every spell Asher’s mother has cast has had the same cure. A kiss.”
“If I can go to Asher’s back property and find that frog with the little crown and kiss him, maybe I’ll score myself the Prince of Grimmston.”
Benedella folded her arms. “Are you seriously making this about you? Littlefoot is a witch’s target.”
“Sorry. It was just a thought.”
“It’s okay,” said Littlefoot. “There’s nothing we can do about me anyway.”
“Do you want to come with me while I look for the frog? You can try to talk to Asher.”
“No,” Benedella said. “Littlefoot should stay far away from that place.”
“Well we’re not letting her go alone,” said Littlefoot.
“She doesn’t need to go at all. The chances that that frog is the Prince of Grimmston and that a kiss will turn him back are miniscule. Not to mention how hard it would be to find him after all these months.”
Kindra looked back and forth between them.
“Oh no,” Benedella said. “Not that smile.”
Kindra ran for her coat.
“Well, I’m not letting her go alone,” Littlefoot said, and followed Kindra out the door.
“Oh, wait for me!” called Benedella.

They veered into the woods well before Asher’s candy-covered house.
“Look for water,” Kindra suggested. She wanted to split up, but Benedella insisted they stay together.
“It’s getting dark,” Benedella said much later. “This is futile. We need to-”
“Look!” Kindra hopped over tree roots and ferns to a clear pond. She pointed to a tiny castle made of rocks, sticks, and bits of cloth.
“No way,” said Littlefoot. She let Kindra approach the castle alone.
Kindra crouched down. “Hello? Prince? My name is Lady Kindra.”
Benedella rolled her eyes.
“I think I know how to change you back to a human.”
There was no movement in or near the castle.
“I need to kiss you.”
A little becrowned frog hopped tentatively onto the fake drawbridge. Kindra cupped her hands and the frog hopped into them. She gave it a cheerful, unflinching kiss. Immediately, Kindra’s hands were pinned to the ground by the feet of a stark naked man with a tiny crown on his head. He leaped off her hands and plucked a fern to cover himself.
“Lady Kindra, how can I ever repay you?”
“First, you can tell the witch’s son how this happened,” Kindra said, nodding at Littlefoot, “and the rest I’ll tell you later.”
“Excuse me,” Littlefoot said to the prince. “Did you make that castle while you were a frog? That’s amazing!”
“So much for their romantic moment, Littlefoot,” said Benedella.
“Oh, sorry. But don’t you think it’s amazing?”
“Thank you,” said the prince. “And now to fulfill the first request of my betrothed.”
“Oh!” Kindra clapped her hand to her heart and unabashedly took the prince’s fern-free hand.
Littlefoot thought it might be more romantic for Kindra if she and the prince led the way to Asher’s house, but she also didn’t think it was appropriate for her to see her sister’s future husband’s backside, so she carefully walked off to the side. When they got to the house, Asher hurriedly offered clothes to the prince, and the prince told his story.
“I’m sure,” he said to Asher’s mother, “that it was an accident. But the last thing I remember is that you said, ‘Grimmston castle won’t accept my candies,’ and I sampled your green divinity. And now,” he added jovially, “Lady Kindra and I will send word to the castle to send a carriage and we will go pack her belongings.”
And hand in hand, they left.
“Come on, Littlefoot,” Benedella said.
They let Kindra and the prince have a head start and then followed the path home.
Littlefoot laughed sadly. “I always thought you’d be the first to go.”
“Actually, Littlefoot-”
Littlefoot’s heart jumped.
“- it won’t be long for me, either. I’ve had to keep it a secret, but the king of Hanbury-”
“Yes. He’s asked me to marry him.”
Littlefoot couldn’t breathe. “I didn’t even know you had met him.”
“I’m sorry, Littlefoot.”
“Nonsense. It’s wonderful.”
Littlefoot asked questions about Arthur and his secret courtship all the way home, where they chatted with the enjoyable prince of Grimmston while Kindra packed what things she could.
When there was a knock at the door, Littlefoot excused herself from the conversation and opened it. Asher hadn’t made eye contact with her while the prince made his accusations, so she had not expected to see him later in the night. Maybe ever.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “Can you ever forgive me?”
“Of course. She’s your mom. It’s okay.”
“Oh thank God,” he breathed, hugging her. She wasn’t sure she’d ever hugged him before. And certainly not like this. “So,” he said. “Kindra’s getting married.”
“Yep. Benedella too.”
“What? He’s marrying them both?”
“No, bean boy. Benedella’s marrying someone else. It’s a secret, though.”
“So you’ll be here all alone?”
“Mmm hmm.” She tried to look like she was okay with it. She was independent. Resourceful.
“I’m sorry,” he said, pulling her into another hug.
She cried.
“You know,” he said, “I might be looking for a place to stay, soon. I’m not sure how safe it is to live with a witch. Do you think you could live with someone who buys bogus beans and calls his best friend a liar?”
“I’d have to think it over,” Littlefoot said. She kissed him on the nose, closed the door halfway, and said, “Good night.”

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