Wednesday, March 24, 2010

(Mrs) Adventure #5 : Shoes Optional


“I didn't know you two knew….”

“But how well do you know…?”

“It’s so nice, but you’re so…

different.”

“I guess opposites do attract.”

“Well…good luck with that.”

It is a lazy Sunday afternoon and I am reading through old emails I received when my husband and I announced our engagement. My initial purpose is early Spring cleaning, but I’m not certain how many people take the concept of ‘Spring cleaning’ to go as far as dusting their electronic mailbox. I was told to keep myself busy during times of deployment and seeing as I had already washed and waxed the hardwood floors three times, I knew that one more rinse and I’d be doing some heavy petting with an obsessive compulsive diagnosis. Even my dog had given me the shifty side eye as I banished her to a small two-inch section of the floor where she was allowed to sit while I got down with the mop. Really, I certainly had more important things to do (like actually leave the house) but a Chicago spring day awaited outside and I couldn’t bring myself to put on my long johns, parka, gloves, hat and snow boots.

At the time of our engagement, I remember the congratulatory missives swarming around my inbox like Africanized Bees to their hive, and I hoarded each any every one like honey. I was getting married! To a man that my parents loved and that didn’t have a felony record, hadn’t spent a considerable amount of time (or any time rather) in a club that ended with the word “Anonymous,” and actually understood and respected my obsession with my work.

Here was a man that I did not have to apologize for the next day to friends, family, complete strangers- much unlike others for whom a typical night out began with tequila shots and ended with him being chased by an angry bouncer after he had ripped the plastic gun from the arcade game “Deer Hunter” and gone traipsing down the streets of Lincoln Park like some bizarre Christopher Walken on speed. It’s not every day that one might be walking home to find a young man shuffling down the sidewalk with a bright orange plastic gun complete with a frayed rope at the end whistling a very bad rendition of “Home on the Range.” At least not in Chicago, city slickers hate campfire music.

Of course, there was the congratulatory message that, well, stung. Mostly along the lines of, ‘you two seem so different,’ and ‘how in the world did you two get together?’ Certainly, people were just interested, but I can’t help but wonder why no one seemed to mention anything when I was dating the sordid group of boyfriends past. (Authors note: for any ex-boyfriends reading this note to which these scenarios sound familiar, ahem: The characters in this book are purely fictional. Any similarities between them and real individuals are purely coincidental. End note. P.S. If you are reading this, please send back the first three season of Nip/Tuck. They are mine and I want them back). Did I really outwardly have so much in common with a group of men who would steal an essential piece to an arcade game, confuse Canadian geese with swans, or give the Tin Man a run for his money in the heart department?

I remember posing this to a friend one day and her response was simply, “Kate, let me put this delicately. You’ve,” she hesitates, “well you’ve always loved characters.”

I laughed. There is some truth to this statement. I clear my throat and smile, “Well then, I suppose I realize what a difference a tiny little thing like an ‘s’ can make. Now,” I pause, “I just love character.”

I continue sifting through my emails and placing them in a folder I’ve reserved for wedding planning, thank you letters to write, issues in which to follow up when I stumble across an old entry I had written some three years prior. It has always been a habit of mine to email any ‘notes’ that I’ve written to myself in order to access them from any computer, or in my case, when my old computer decided to finally head to electronic heaven. There, hidden between sales notices for clothing stores I can’t afford and persistent gym trial offer memberships I will never get around to accepting, I discover an old blog posting. I had titled it “Cinderella’s Lament” (a bit presumptuous, eh?).

I scan the document, the first paragraph immediately popping out at me:

I admit it: for a twenty four year old woman, I seem to have wracked up quite a few ex boyfriends. My past reveals patterns of impulse picks and re-shelving much as I do with shoes; each season bringing about the desire for something new: the exotic and skinny model, the comfortable and wise sole, the expensive designer, the funky cowboy boot, and the down to earth sandal. Each pair unique in its own right but never a perfect fit for my stubborn foot.

Honest, I suppose. And I continue:

Yet, as we Cinderella’s pull open the curtains of the Dark Age, rip off constrictive corsets, and free ourselves from the shackles of pea soup green kitchen aid appliances and silly pseudo smiles, we’ve stopped worrying about finding the glass slipper and started concentrating on breaking that glass ceiling. There are choices, now. Rows and rows of choices: options, sizes, hidden deals, each leading to obscure and mysterious paths. Really? How am I supposed to know what kind of shoe I’ll need in the future? What if my chosen path takes a daring dip, presents an enormous mountain, or requires I cross the whitest of white tipped waters? Indeed, the advance o f the role of modern woman in society and business practically requires a very serious entourage of armor. We must be strong, yet vulnerable; tough, yet soft; we are forced to redefine the terms masculine and feminine, and of utmost importance, we must be absolutely the smartest and quickest person in the room if we desire to even set foot upon an even playing field. And for this we are still supposed to be bound to one? Choose wisely.

This must have been my Betty Friedan/I want to write for Glamour Magazine stage. But it is the last fragment that hits me the most: Choose wisely. A warning written not exactly to the myriad girls out there in dating la la land, but rather, to myself. I know I repeated it throughout my head, choose wisely, choose wisely, choose wisely. The dating world may not look like “The Temple of Doom,” but for any girl that’s ever been a part of the urban single scene, it certainly does feel like that sometimes.

So, I delve back into those stinging emails, analyzing them for content and ulterior motive. And then I examine my husband and I, pulling myself out of body and trying to stand on the sidelines of my memories:

My husband was in the Naval ROTC Marine option as an undergrad. While attending our alma mater, he was dedicated to physical training, maintaining high marks and educating himself on all the qualities needed to be a leader. While not preparing to be a Marine Captain, he spent the majority of his time reading and discussing ‘Great Books,” as a select member of the Program of Liberal Studies (or PLS) and traveling to Spain to study Spanish Literature. Between his junior and senior years he attended Officer Candidacy School. Upon graduation from both Officer Candidacy School and University, he spent six grueling months (he will tell you he loved it and he won’t be lying) at The Basic School, or TBS. For anyone not familiar with TBS- it is boot camp. It involves demanding physical exertion, extreme survival techniques and intimidating and very large individuals yelling in your face about stuff I can’t understand (not unlike my first job as a waitress at an all night diner, actually. Except, of course, the people yelling at my husband were speaking English, and not, as in my case, broken Spanish or booze-ese).

While at University, I was dedicated to talking my way into straight A’s and finally finding that perfect shade of blonde. I was typically heading home from a night’s rehearsal at a local pub for a theatre production I was in, while Matt was waking for PT. Between my junior and senior years of college, I attended the City of Los Angeles, where I interned at a rising cable network. After graduating from my internship and subsequently my University, I spent six grueling months (I will tell you I love it and I won’t be lying) navigating The Basic School, (of Hollywood). For anyone not familiar with TBS (of Hollywood): it is entertainment boot camp. It involves demanding physical exertion (how to get to the boss’ dry cleaner by six pm in heels while trying to cross between Wilshire and Santa Monica), extreme survival techniques (what bars to avoid because they are known hangouts of Phil Spector) and intimidating and very small individuals yelling in your face about stuff I can’t understand (the accounting department).

When my husband entered into the high stress world of flight school, I entered into the high stress world of talk show television. When my husband coordinated flight and navigational details, I coordinated with airport security in order to get one of my guests on the plane after he peed himself in line. When my husband essentially learned a new language of air commands, I essentially learned a new language from the sub-cultures of our country: the difference between prison and jail, the many uses of the word, ‘ain’t’ for example. When he contemplated the techniques of ejecting out of a plane, I contemplated the technique of jumping out of a building (kidding, really).

So, see, we really aren’t that different at all!

In all truth, my husband and I share many similarities. We both approach everything with intensity, are passionate about our families, friendships and work, share a strong love of literature, the South, writing, history and history books, off-beat humor, debating (it’s amazing we both avoided the legal profession), politics and especially travel and adventure. We also both love talking. A lot. Especially about things we like. I’m sometimes sorry for people that get stuck in a room with us. We both use our hands to emphasize points. It has often led to drinks being spilled or one or the other of us unintentionally flinging the other in the head. We both have, admittedly, a flair for drama.

So, when asked how we got together, well, I guess that’s it. A television producer and a Marine aviator may seem at first to be on the opposite sides of the spectrum, but in what other professions and personalities are you going to find two people who love nothing more than to push the envelope with as many fancy edit tricks and barrel rolls possible?

As I am thinking about this, my eyes return back to the note I had written nearly some four years before. I had closed with the following argument:

I can only guess that perhaps a jelly sandal might be my perfect fit: Classic, cute, unbreakable, goofy like summer camp and peach pie, and able to bounce back whatever I throw in its direction. Yes, ladies, a glass slipper might be pretty to look at, but I highly doubt it’s going to withstand all that mountain climbing in your future.

I grin, not just because it is a wonderful treat to discover old pieces of yourself and your history, but also to observe how much you can grow and change in a few short years. See, I was pretty accurate in my description of what I needed in a shoe, except I was off on the make and model. (Really, what self-respecting man wears a jelly sandal??) I’ve come to find that there’s really nothing wrong with wearing a glass slipper every once in a while, it certainly makes a nice tapping sound on the ceiling right before the ice cracks start to form.

After all, if we are to believe the fairytale, the townspeople never expected Prince Charming to pick Cinderella-that pairing came right out of left field, didn’t it? He fought dragons in faraway lands, while she entertained tiny animals and completed chores for people, (like finding the nearest medieval drycleaners for her evil step-sisters). I happen to think that after they rode off into the sunset and began their happily ever after, she still enjoyed putting on those glass slippers every once and a while. So long as, of course, she had an extra pair of combat boots to lace up when needed.

So though it may seem on the surface that two shoes or even two people do not a suitable pair make, it is important to remember: it is not the shoe on the foot that matters, but rather the ‘sole’ inside.

Friday, March 19, 2010

(Mrs) Adventure #4: It's Skype-tastically Scary!


I am not a technological genius; in fact, in any given elementary school I’d be willing to say that ninety nine percent of the children can operate a computer with much more competence than I. This gives me hope for the future, as it seems that a proficient grasp of computers and other technologically advanced skills will most likely help them succeed in adulthood. Of course, the other one percent too busy sniffing glue in the corner will probably end up appearing on some futuristic ‘The Jersey Shore’ making more money sniffing glue on camera than I could ever dream anyway. Point being, operating a computer in any capacity beyond pressing the on button, opening Firefox or Word and downloading photographs in iPhoto generally confuses me. Lucky for me, I have a friendly (annoyingly persistent) nature where people (coworkers who are tired of listening to me curse while I slam the ‘esc’ key) help me out when I encounter trouble (YouTube will not load an off-color Japanese commercial).

I suppose my lack of computer knowledge is based on the fact that I haven’t been a member of the elite “Apple” club since my freshman year of college when I insisted to my parents that I needed the teal Apple laptop because it somewhat matched my eyes and had a handle that when used gave off the impression of a very cute, very kitschy plastic purse. When I first met my husband freshman year of college and asked him to my dorm room to help me edit a paper, it was saved on that very computer. In retrospect, perhaps this is the reason he was oblivious to my over eager laughter, meticulously labored over outfit and hair tossing that evening, and why it took us nearly nine years to actually start dating. He was a studious lad, and I was the girl who bought a computer not for it’s operating capacity, but for it’s ability to mimic an accessory. I was a MAC and he was a PC, and if technology has taught us anything, their respective software is simply not compatible. Error. Does not recognize format. Cannot open…file.

Shortly after freshman year, I gave away my teal Barbie Dream House handbag and insisted upon a Dell. And though I had two different computers over the past eight years, both just so happened to be Dells. Don’t get me wrong, the Dell was perfectly fine, but in a Steve Jobs world, any Dell user is bound to have a little bit of I- Tunes, I- Pod, I-Photo, I-Movie, I-Phone, I-have-problems-interacting-with-others-outside-Second-Life…envy. Admittedly, I longed to be a part of the cool crowd: those who spend hours lounging in coffee shops, scarves draping across their neck, dark rimmed glasses around their eyes, typing what they believe to be the next great American novel, designing a flashy graphic for a local advertisement, or even editing their self-shot documentary. Besides, in my business, you are a virtual outsider without a MAC. Instead of editing, designing, scripting, etcetera from home, anyone without a MAC is generally stuck pulling late hours at the office, beholden to their work computer, cursing their very (in the media world) politically incorrect PC.

Knowing this, my husband, dear and generous soul that he is, surprised me with the most perfect wedding gift: a brand new MAC laptop. It is silver. It has a large screen. It has Garage Band. It is not suspiciously missing the “E” key. It doesn’t sound like an ancient alley cat having an asthma attack every time I leave it on for more than two hours. But what is most important, it has Skype.

Of course, this is where my real computer amateur status shines. Since I can’t fully understand how Skype works outside of the Jetson household, I am slightly distrusting and wary. I suddenly empathize with my eighty something year old landlord, who, while talking on a cell phone, screams into the receiver as though the cord is actually a piece of string attached to another cup somewhere. I want to tell him that if I wasn’t deaf before his phone call, I sure as heck am now. But instead, I laugh. Pull the phone away. And walk two rooms over so that the volume of his voice is at a more comfortable listening level.

Yet, while on deployment, Skype has become an incredible blessing. Though he is thousands of miles away, I can see my husband’s smiling face, bolstering my spirits and lending me a great deal of comfort. When the last time you spoke to your husband he was walking toward the jet to embark on a six-hour flight across, essentially, nothing, the ability to see his face safe on the ground is beyond relieving.

Occasionally, though, the picture is so pixilated it looks like he is melting. Occasionally, the audio will slow or it will freeze on a rather awkward looking expression. Occasionally, he will catch me at four thirty in the morning. Where he is, the warm sun has been shining for eight to ten hours painting a sunny glow on his skin; where I am, the moon has been hanging out around the corner for a couple of hours waiting to club me with a baseball bat.

When you haven’t seen your husband’s face in so many days, the last thing you want is for him to see you at four am, looking less like the bride he married and more like an after photograph on facesofmeth.com.

And then there’s the camera. You see, I am a baby of the eighties and a middle-schooler of the nineties. Technology was just starting to really kick off, and as it did, and less people could really understand exactly how it worked, it provided perfect fodder for horror movies and frightening television shows. Poltergeists coming out of televisions, cameras snapping photographs that disfigured faces, movies so cursed that seven days after watching, one was forewarned they would die a gruesome and horrible death. And once webcams became more readily available, they earned an association with things like 1800 numbers and young ladies whose fathers were not successful in keeping them away from such accoutrements as clear heels and face glitter.

Since I have difficulty understanding this technology, I am completely convinced that the web camera is going to turn on me one night while I am sleeping and somehow broadcast my image to the world. And I am not a pretty sleeper. I am restless, I snore, and I kick things.

Yet after a few weeks, I was able to put my fears at ease and acclimate myself to this new technology. That is, until one fateful night when my fears were realized.

St. Patrick’s Day, a day of celebration, a day of feasting, a day for any of us that can claim any Irish lineage, (or let’s be honest a day where anyone can be Irish if they sport the appropriate shade of green). Bolstered by a few too many glasses of wine and the relative stress of being far away from loved ones on such a contagiously happy holiday, my best friend laughingly fills me in on newest trend that is sweeping college frat rooms everywhere. Chat Roulette. Perhaps the majority of people reading this have heard of Chat Roulette, but seeing as I am incredibly na├»ve, (and fully entertaining my Irish heritage at the moment); I agree to check out this new wave of the future. For anyone that doesn’t know what Chat Roulette is, well, it is basically an updated form of the AOL chat rooms that were so popular in the 90s. Except there is a modern caveat, people can see your face through your built-in camera.

Laughing, we log on to the site, fully expecting some instructions and not completely serious about actually entering this sordid little game of chance. Truthfully, we actually have no idea what we’re logging into, but bolstered by gleeful encouragement from my friend’s brother, we decide to check it out.

Within seconds, the small and inquisitive face of a child appears. I scream and duck below my counter.

‘CHRIS HANSON! CHRIS HANSON! SHUT IT OFF!’ I yell.

Fumbling, laughing even harder now, and knocking over glasses in the process, my best friend hits a button she believes will pause the video feed. But it doesn’t work, and as I pop my head up from beneath the counter, I hear the shouts of some rather bawdy college aged kids.

‘We are from RIO!!!’ we hear them shout.

The only thing we can think to say back to them is that they stole our Olympics. And then they cut us off within seconds muttering that we are too old.

‘We just got denied!’ I giggle, ‘Internationally denied for being old ladies!’
She laughs harder and as we are just about to click off the browser, our nightmare emerges: an extremely graphic, close up shot of a naked man. In real time. Doing some not so nice, not so Disney appropriate activities.

This elicits screams from the two of us, as we run around my apartment screaming, “MY EYES! MY EYES!” and “TURN IT OFF! DEAR GOD TURN IT OFF!” to the other, each too afraid to approach the computer for fear of getting too close.

My friend inches towards the screen, covering her eyes and mouth as though it were a dead body. I see her peek through her fingers enough to find the exit button. She clicks off the site and falls to the floor in a heap of hysterical laughter. I am rubbing my eyes with such a fervor that one might think that I was trying to scratch my cornea in hopes to erase such a truly frightening image.

Oh no. This is NOT what my husband had in mind when he purchased this computer for me.

I think of him flying in a jet. I think of him in a flight suit. I think of him with that devilish smile as he stands on the tarmac and looks into the sun. I think of him, and OH JESUS AND FRED, WHY CAN I NOT BURN THIS IMAGE OUT OF MY HEAD!!??

Eventually we calm down enough to switch over to Skype, call her sister, and coo over her new baby. This helps to healing process, we say to each other while still snorting with laughter. See, these are the types of things that happen to a girl that understands the importance of coordinating technology to ones features, but is completely oblivious when it comes to the actual capabilities of said instrument

The next day as I concentrate on typing a pitch on my computer, my Skype pops up and announces my husband is online. I eye the ring tone box suspiciously. I stare into the camera, eyebrow raised in defiance, daring it to misbehave. When I click answer, I hold my breath. I know it’s going to be him on the other line, but I fear that I’ve somehow compromised the security of the Internet wires, and my computer will somehow retaliate for me forcing it to go through the trauma of pixelating the images of the previous night.

And then he pops into the window, my darling husband. Dressed in a flight suit and smiling, he literally looks like a movie star dressed up for a 1940s era role.

“Hi, honey, can you hear me? Can you see me?”

“Yes! I can!”

And as I settle into comfortable conversation with him I remind myself that next time I have a question about how to use my camera, my computer, a program, or an internet website, I’m not going to try and figure out how to do it myself.

I’ll just ask a third grader.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

(Mrs) Adventure #3: Care Packages, Letters and Trans-Pacific Mail


There are five people in line in front of me, and as I shift the heavy blue plastic basket from one arm to the next I notice a thin red mark slithering across my skin; a grooved, handle shaped impression. The clock above the register reads 9:30PM. How did it get so late? I let out a slow, deep breath and will the check out girl to move faster.

The man in front of me turns around, I assume to judge the length of the line behind him, and I catch him do a double take into my basket. He narrows his eyes and purses his lips, and then quickly looks up at my face. I smile. I catch him look downward, presumably to see if my otherwise normal face is eclipsed by a six hundred pound frame, and when he realizes that I am not some physical enormity, he hesitates. Then he turns back around. Nestled snuggly between some peanut butter, a flashlight, and a can of Lysol, are enough jellybeans and gummy candies to send the Easter Bunny into a diabetic coma. I can see his shoulders tense; I imagine that he is upset, assuming that Haribo Gold Gummy Bears are the newest ingredient in crystal meth. I almost consider asking him if he will hold my place while I run toward the back to stock up on Sudafed and Draino. But it is too late for that, and the woman behind me leans over my shoulder and says:

“Wow! Easter shopping so soon? And so much candy!! You must have some very lucky children.”

I am confused at first and then I laugh. “Oh, no, no, gosh no, I don’t have any kids! These are for my husband.” And then I think to add, “He’s twenty seven.”

Of course, just as the ‘seven’ exits my mouth, I knock the basket over and my very cheesy Hallmark greeting card falls out, flittering in the air, and eventually landing face down and open on the floor. I just had to select the musical card, too, so as it falls gently to the ground the entire shopping center is filled with the sounds of laughing cartoon bunnies and the Chicken Dance. As an aside: What do laughing cartoon bunnies sound like, one might ask? The answer as I could best describe: Richard Simmons in a rhinestone encrusted leotard, huffing sparkly paint while simultaneously doing a leg lift. I don’t know; this is just how sounds translate to images in my head. “Is this real life? Is this gonna be for-ev-errr?”

“Oh, haha,” she chuckles, (slightly uncomfortable?) “Well, ummm, that’s…special, er, especially nice.”

“He’s a Marine, stationed abroad,” I add, gesturing to the other sundries that fill my basket.

At my feet, the bunnies are still laughing; the Chicken Dance is still playing. I’ve probably given her a slightly odd view of the Marine Corps, seeing as when most people think of a Marine, they think: rifleman, hero, patriot, the bravest of the brave, the toughest of the tough.

Thanks to me, there’s one woman out there who will now associate them with giggling cartoon bunnies, pink jellybeans, and irregularly large dancing chickens.

The man in front of me turns yet again and raises his eyebrow at me as if to say, “you are the opposite of cool”. Of course, I could have been misinterpreting this, as thick black sunglasses mostly obscure his face. I understand, those fluorescent light bulbs can be notoriously bright, and Chicago is known to have blaring sunshine in the middle of March. He most certainly does not offer to help me when I try to bend over and grab the card and send three chocolate eggs and a can of Sugarless Red Bull flying across the floor. As I scramble to pick up the eggs that have rolled and settled near his feet, (would it have been so hard, guy, to help?), I notice that he is carrying a rather large box of Ex Lax. I smile to myself. I see that God has preemptively struck in the Karma department.

When I finally reach the check out lady, hurl my basket onto the counter with an apologetic stare, I watch as she robotically runs item after item across the scanner. As she attempts to lift the plastic bag off the metal handles and into my arms, she stops: “Honey, I’m gonna need to double bag these chocolates. They may be too heavy for you to carry.”

I never thought I’d hear that phrase, and I am suddenly overcome with a shivering panic. I feel cold sweats coming on; my breath quickens. I am married, living in the Midwest without my husband, and a bagger has now taken pity on my pathetic arm to muscle ratio by suggesting that I double bag the five hundred thousand pounds of candy I am purchasing. And oh Lord, I actually like it; I’m actually excited by my purchase. Is it all Laz-E-Boys, wife-beaters and Chef Boyardee from here? And I’m talking about me, not my husband; he’d never be caught dead in a stained wife beater on a Laz-E-Boy. I, however, may be encouraged to do so if TLC is airing one of those bizarre and freakish: my legs are the size of tree-trunks/I didn’t know I was pregnant until I sat on the toilet horrendous recreation/midget cowboy jello wrestling show marathons.

And then she adds, “You look tired.” Pin. Balloon. Deflated.

Gee, thanks. After all, everyone knows the, “you look tired,” observation is a euphemism for, “you look like a homeless bag lady who hides cats in her jacket.”


Seeing as I very much maintain a full time job, I am only typically free to communicate with my husband, run errands, and mail packages during the bewitching hours. Of course, the mail service has adamantly refused to make an exception to stay open for me, (the nerve) so I find myself forced to dash to the nearest mailing center during my newly found lunch break, (something I have never before taken, for fear of leaving the office leaves me with an anxiety that I am somehow going to miss something important and get scooped).

So off I go to mail my package at a said mailing establishment, which also happens to be one of the busiest in the Midwest. It makes perfect sense then that I would choose to make my trip at 12:30PM. Seconds after stepping into the office, I am greeted by a line that wraps around the city block. I briefly wonder if I’ve accidentally wandered into the Department of Motor Vehicles when I hear a woman shouting from behind a desk at a customer over a label.

And then I realize I have no idea what to do. There are seemingly hundreds of forms that I could fill out, but none of them say anything about an APO address. I try to get one employees attention by smiling and looking confused, but I am met only with an angry stare as she barks demands at me. All at once I feel like a lost foreigner in New York City who has tried to ask for directions and instead is shuffled out of the way and into the door of a TGI Fridays. The air reeks of fear and frustration, as the man in front of me sternly shakes his head, throws a label in the air and walks out. This makes me even more nervous, and I clutch my box of cookies closer to my chest, afraid that one wrong move will get me kicked out of the unmoving line.

I try to explain where I am sending the box, and one employee, who majored in customer service at The University of Hades, grabs a stack of labels and attempts to toss them at or around my face. I try to thank her politely, and am roughly five seconds from commenting on her lovely face tattoo when my phone rings.

Box in right hand, I dive my left hand into my purse to check the caller ID. It is the call I have been waiting for all morning, a true character that runs a business in Miami with an interesting and expensive product for sale. Male Escorts handpicked for the very wealthy and financially generous women of America. I launch into a discussion right away, placing the box at my feet, shuffling it along with every movement in line.

I ask him about the women, the escorts, the rates, the packages, and then…I realize I can actually hear myself talking. The customer service women has stopped barking orders, the lady three people ahead of me has stopped a conversation she was having with a man who was trying to shove five t-shirts, six DVD’s, and something that looked suspiciously like a goldfish into an envelope, and the agents are all frozen behind the counter. How loud have I been speaking? What have I been saying? Quickly, I recount the conversation as I put the escort on hold. I suppose asking him at least three times if the ESCORTS provided more than just platonic FAVORS to confirm the credibility of said company may have raised more than a few eyebrows.

Face tattooed customer server agent glares at me. “You’re sending this to a Marine Corps base? To your husband? Who is currently deployed?”

Uh oh. I know where she’s going with this, another first: judgment from a woman who has a tiger paw and the word VIXIN (notice I didn’t write ‘vixen’) inked across her face. I look around the room at all the odd people populating the space and realize that they are all looking at me. And now I am the crazy one. Which is saying a lot, because even the homeless man hiding in the corner eating Styrofoam peanuts has stopped to give me a leering stare. I quickly tell the CEO I will return his phone call once I exit the postal service. I laugh uncomfortably. After what seems like three days, I finally exit the store into the Chicago March and slide on my oversized sunglasses. I have accomplished a very important task: I have sent my husband a care package from home.

I wonder what will happen to my package en route to Japan? Will it arrive safely in the hands of my husband? Will it be held at customs due to an abnormally large amount of jellybeans? Will it land in my hubby’s hands before the summer is over and he is packing the jets to return? I certainly hope so. Will my musical card somehow find a way to open up during transit and will the postal worker in Japan be forced to listen to a chicken polka while simultaneously making judgments about Americans? Anything is possible.

Oh, and just one final note for you, honey: if you find a letter in your care package nestled among chocolate eggs and sundries warning you about the lascivious activities of your darling wife, please, please remember to take it with a grain of salt.

And a handful of sugar.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

(Mrs) Adventure #2: Home is where...


“Where are you two from?”

That is one of our most favorite and most dreaded questions. Between the two of us, we can count: Seattle, Washington; Notre Dame, Indiana; Lake Forest, Illinois; Quantico, Virginia; Los Angeles, California; Pensacola, Florida; San Diego, California; and Chicago, Illinois home.

Matt’s career has also taken him to Darwin, Australia; Iwakuni and Okinawa, Japan; Guam; and Wake Island (a very tiny atoll in the very middle of nowhere). My career has taken me to such exotic locales as Edmond, Oklahoma and Norman, North Carolina.

He has been fortunate enough to meet the locals that mold these gorgeous lands, participate in traditional customs, dine on foreign cuisine, explore the outback and walk across bridges built long before the Declaration of Independence was signed. I was fortunate not to be hit by a glass bottle thrown lovingly and forcefully at my head by a toothless local while I stood on the side of the freeway and attempted to get BROLL of a sign that proclaimed: “Welcome to Texas, State Motto: FRIENDSHIP!”

We tell people that we are Yankees by birth, but Southerners at heart. I mention that my husband lives in San Diego, but I work in Chicago. People look confused. If I am feeling frisky, I tell people it was a mail order situation that didn’t work out, but since we’re Catholic…. if I’m not, I shrug and say, “Marine Corps.” It is at this point people get the ‘ah-ha’ moment and smile. Some relay their own stories, others tell me about their Dad, Aunt, Cousin, Brother, Sister, Mother, Uncle… I like these stories, actually.

And then I tell them he’s spending time on a Western Pacific deployment.

I look forward to the day when we can unpack our wedding gifts and store them in our very first place together. My mom looks forward to this day, as well, seeing that our very much still packaged wedding gifts are taking up space in her art studio and have become the perpetrators of stubbed toes and bruised legs. Furthermore, I’ve seen my dog shiftily eyeing the piled up gifts in such a manner that one might assume she was staring at a water hydrant. The last thing I want is my treasured, limited edition Kitchen Aid mixer smelling suspiciously of urine. Not that I actually plan on using it right away, mind you, but because urine soaked appliances tend to give off the impression that ones home might be chosen to appear on the series finale of ‘Hoarders.”

When choosing a location for our future home (aka our next orders), we basically play a game of Russian Roulette. Load the gun, spin the barrel, hold our breath, and hope we are lucky enough not to get a bullet in the head in the form of Corpus Christi, Texas. And if orders are given directly before or during a deployment, it becomes the non-deployed spouses additional job to find housing, research schools, neighborhoods, and the relative proximity to the closest Target.

As this is my first time planning a move that involves someone other than myself, half way across the country, with little knowledge of the area other than what I have gleaned by watching a fictionalized drama about a highly specialized team of behavioral profilers that go around catching serial killers, I am both nervous and full of excited anticipation.

So, I start by finding the most lavish, most picture perfect, straight out of Gilmore Girls looking town I can find and email ten real estate agents. At first, I receive excited responses from the agents, eager to help me in my move, thrilled to show me any property I wished. They sent me “helpful links with available properties.” I click through each one and my heart sinks a little. The first property is three million dollars. The next two are one point five million. Oopsie. I guess I forgot to mention that I was looking to rent. ‘No problem!’, one agent that sounds suspiciously like she’s chowing down on Prozac laced M&Ms on the other line tells me, and she proceeds to email me six properties for rent- all ranging from between six to eight…thousand dollars a month.

She justifies the extreme price by telling me these homes have their own boat slip, which I tell her will probably be nice for me when I tie up my inner-tube from KMART outside. She doesn’t really laugh, and I sort of shake my head and smile at the fact that my parents gave so much, worked so hard to provide, were extremely generous to the point that their twenty seven year old adult daughter turned out to be completely and utterly delusional. Sometimes the real world can just be so drab.

I try my hand at Craigslist and after scanning through property after property in the apartments for rent (and laughing at men posting ‘room for rent’ properties where the rent is ‘negotiable in the form of cooking, cleaning, and whatever else you deem appropriate’) I finally find what seems to be the perfect house. It is so perfect that if I squint, I am certain I can see Norman Rockwell standing in the corner with an easel and some oil paints. And, it is well within our price range. I am already imagining how I will angle the couch when I send off an over eager, exceptionally detailed email the realtor, as well as six other friends in the area.

Fifteen minutes later, I hear the ping of a fresh item in my inbox; the property is still available and the owner has decided to drop the rent by $200 a month! Of course, I forget one potentially important fact, Matt and I aren’t moving for at least seven months. In my eagerness to get settled, mentally unpacking our wedding gifts in my head and willing my husband to come home safely from deployment, I realize that I am a little premature in signing a lease.

It turns out that this is a good thing, because interrupting my disappointed thoughts is yet another email from the same realtor:

“Dear Mrs. K,
On further inspection, I noticed there is one caveat with the property, re: MLS Listing @#5234@##, that I initially neglected to mention. I noticed that house looked vaguely familiar, and not because I have shown the property to other interested parties. I quickly discovered that my inkling was correct after a quick scan of the database revealed that someone was shot directly outside the property zone last Tuesday. I’m attaching a PDF of the newspaper report for you. As a realtor, I am legally bound to disclose this information, but considering you produce crime documentary television, you may find this fact charming…unlike our other clients. Keep in mind the hardwood floors were just restored and the landlord is happy to do additional landscaping around the area, as it was recently cleared by various law enforcement officials. Please advise on how you would like to proceed. Cheers!”

For a brief moment, I consider this. Indeed, according to the newspaper article, this is the same house that was the scene of a very violent crime just days before. I write her back:

“Dear Mrs. X
Thank you for the attached PDF and your information. I do produce and develop crime documentaries, and yes, I am occasionally sucked into crime dramas. However, after further thought, I have decided that though I do enjoy these programs, I do not wish to become a victim of violent crime myself. Getting murdered would make it slightly more difficult for me to continue on with my career, and most importantly, I’d really like to see how the season finale of Glee pans out this year.

Warmest Regards,
Mrs. K

P.S. I will consider homes where people have been murdered over fifty years ago, because: 1. their murderer is probably dead or too old to raise a plastic knife, much less a blunt object; 2. I’m somewhat charmed by ghosts; and 3. everyone knows that in order for a ghost to start haunting a place, he or she must have died at least fifty years prior. It’s just paranormal fact.”

So begins my journey to find the perfect home for my Aviator and me. After five long years of travel between the two of us, shuffling our belongings from coast to coast, feeling like nomads in a land of completely stable peers, I’m hopeful that we will find ourselves a place where we can laugh over burned dinners, put our feet up on the sofa, and hunker down after a busy day- hopefully without the sharp staccato of gunfire to interrupt our conversations.

In the end, it doesn’t matter where the Marine Corps sends us really, as long as we are together. I’m sure if we had wound up in Corpus Christi, we would have made a lovely home for ourselves on the banks of the Gulf somewhere. I may have even convinced Matt to purchase some cowboy boots to go with his flight suit.

That’s the thing you really realize when your husband is in the military; home isn’t about the street you live on, or the size of the front room, or the proximity to your very own boat dock, home is where YOUR heart is…and mine, well, mine is somewhere out there, flying high above the Pacific.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

(Mrs) Adventure #1: Planes, Trains and Manual Driving


“I remember when I first met you, I thought you were the most put together, completely capable woman.”

He laughs.

“AND?”

I am trying to balance a large purse and a shoulder bag while standing in the very small, humid Cyril E. King airport in St. Thomas, USVI. We have just passed through customs and are now waiting to board our first flight in a set of three. When the very severe looking agent asked us what we had purchased while on vacation, I held up my right hand and showed her the blue glass ring I decided I needed a few days prior.

‘Anything else?’ she questioned sternly.

We racked our brains, searching, searching. And then I tell her that my husband also purchased a God-awful sleeveless t-shirt that read St. John USVI under a sepia colored picture of a random bay.

‘No, I tossed that out,’ he offers.

I swear, that was a woman’s tank top. "

My husband glared at me but the customs agent laughed. I considered this a small achievement.

“AND?” I demand, pulling myself from the recent memory.

He laughs again. And then I do too as I drop my bags and listen as the plastic of my Mac bounce off the thinly carpeted cement flooring.

“Oops.”

My husband has a habit of closing his eyes for slightly longer than necessary. He tenses his jaw line and sighs. I move toward the window.

“OH MERCY,” I gasp as I see the plane that will be carrying us from St. Thomas to Puerto Rico. “I think that’s the exact plane that John Kennedy Jr. crashed. It’s been recovered from the ocean depths. I see duct tape.”

“Do I get a parachute with this flight instead of pretzels? Because I’m not getting into that death trap without a possible ejection method and a parachute.”

“The flight is too short, Kate, to offer pretzels.”

Obviously, my charm and subtle paranoia has worn on my husband, so now he simply chooses selective hearing.

And so the Honeymoon ends as I am dragged out to the tarmac and into a plane that could challenge a Mini Cooper in a parallel parking contest.

“This thing looks like it gets worse mileage than a Pinto,” I toss out to no one in particular, since I my husband has slowly inched away from his hyperventilating wife and is playing the “I have never seen that crazy, blonde woman in my life” game.

When I enter the plane, I see that the pilot is wearing knock off Maui Jims. I can tell this because I am sitting a mere two feet behind him and can easily read the inscribed “Waikiki Rays” on the right side of his plastic frames. Well, I suppose more accurately it actually read “Waikiki Ray,” as the silver paint had all but rubbed off on the final ‘s’. He is also wearing a white shirt with sleeves rolled up, and I can see stains. Food stains. His front window is open and he is dangling his arm out and drumming his fingers against the nose. I can tell you this much, when boarding a plane that appears to have been constructed around the same time that the police were investigating the missing Lindbergh baby case, you don’t want to trust your life to pilot who looks like an extra in a Kenny Chesney music video.

“Kate, I fly in planes like this all the time! We are going to be fine.”

And he was right. We were. That’s the thing about Aviators. Sometimes, they are right.

And so began my real life as a Marine Aviator’s wife. Don’t get me wrong; I am not just a Marine Aviator’s wife. I am also a television producer who can get away with watching shows like, “Intervention,” or “The Jersey Shore,” and call it ‘research.’ I am still the daughter that left the car keys in a topless, door less Jeep Wrangler on the fourth of July, walked two miles home, announced to my parents that the Jeep had been stolen, and then found it ten minutes later after my father drove me back to the fireworks. The car was still there- I just hadn’t walked far enough.

But alas, there is something special about being the wife of an Aviator. Something classic. Something romantic. Something wonderful about walking into a room with twenty men all decked out in flight suits and realizing that, no, they are not self-indulged actors on a set; they are real-life heroes. And none, not a single one is a short, egomaniacal Scientologist leader.

I like to think that Matt thinks the same thing about being married to a television producer, but he may have reconsidered after I excitedly skyped him and announced I was developing a new series…on male escorts.

Of course, the Honeymoon didn’t end as soon as we arrived back to San Diego and started back up at our respective jobs. We indulged ourselves in fancy dinners, we attended weddings, we cooked together, and we bought champagne and ordered film comedy after comedy with a simple click of a remote. We laughed…a lot. And we bought a really awesome couch from IKEA.

Of course, the wife of an Aviator is not, as I quickly found out, all about nights at the ‘O’ Club and winking at your husband whenever you hear a Hornet buzz overhead. Sometimes, he has to work late at night. Or all night. And other times, he gets bogged down with extensive paperwork. He worries about the young Marines and he spends hours waiting, fixing, waiting on the aircraft. And of course there’s that pesky thing called, “deployments;’ long, arduous journeys across endless stretches of ocean into lands that are both far away and occasionally dangerous.

It really isn’t much fun for anyone, but it is necessary. And more than anything, I am filled with such a pride for my husband and his mates and mate’s spouses. They are some of the best people I have ever met.

“I remember when I met you, I thought you were the most put together, capable woman.”

“When I first met you, I thought you were capable enough not to purchase non-refundable airline tickets on the Buddy Holly Express,” I want to tell him. But I don’t. Because I am nice, and because I know I will wait to write it down in a blog entry.

I keep echoing this thought in my head. And laughing, yes, laughing. Because within a week of us dating I had sent him a photograph of my IKEA dresser, the one that leans against the wall and resembles modern art more than it does a working dresser. Obviously a master of all talents I am not.

But I am, of course, determined to prove his new found sarcasm wrong and do the one thing that will help me rise to that powerhouse woman, hear me roar, CEO type woman he assumed I was at 27. And for the record, I’d like to think I’m doing OK. I don’t see how hyperventilating on a runway while a Jamaican woman stares at you in disbelief and shuttles her children as far away from the “eccentric white woman,” should affect my otherwise sterling capabilities in his mind.

So, I wake him up at 5:00 in the morning and insist that he finish teaching me how to drive ‘stick shift’ because I have been running over the process in my head and I’m “pretty sure I got it.”

He rubs the sleep out of his eyes and just stares at me. I don’t know why he looks at me with such disbelief. The night before when he tried to teach me how to drive in the Costco Parking lot, I vehemently stand by the fact that there were quite a few mothers with baby strollers that were completely angling for me. It was like playing Chicken with a bunch of swaddled newborns.

“OH MY GOD! WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO ME?! I CAN NOT DRIVE HERE. DID YOU SEE THAT WOMAN?! SHE TRIED TO BACK INTO ME!”

“Kate, just turn in that empty space.”

“I CAN’T! I AM HEADING STRAIGHT FOR THE COSTCO ENTRANCE! I CAN SEE THE NEWSPAPER HEADLINES RIGHT NOW!”

“Kate, hit the brakes, let out the clutch.”

“WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO ME?!!?! THIS IS SUCH AN EPIC FAIL! NO ONE LEARNS HOW TO DRIVE IN A BUSY PARKING LOT! THIS IS LIKE THE 2010 VERSION OF GRAND THEFT AUTO SAN ANDRAS FAULT!”

“Kate, calm down.”

And so on and so forth until I was able to maneuver the car into our parking spot a solid twenty minutes later.

But this morning is different. I’ve worked it out in my head! I am capable! I am going to drive my husband to base, drop him off, and zoom down the 8, wind in my hair, power at my feet, and a cute little silver BMW for an outfit.

And for a while, I did just that. Of course, he was in the car. And no sooner had he kissed me goodbye and jogged over to the hanger, that I realized I had no idea how to switch the car from reverse into first gear. The car stalled. At rush hour. In oncoming traffic. On coming traffic filled with very frustrated Marines trying to get to their post. I turn the key, I press the clutch. The car seems to be laughing at me. I yell at it. It stalls. Someone honks. I’m wearing pajamas.

Finally, a nice young man jumps out of his truck and runs over to me.

“Having trouble?”

“Um, ::nervous laugh:: I have no idea what I’m doing.”

And he smiles, and we switch places. He angles the car into a parking spot and gives me a nod.

“Thank you so much!” I gratefully gush. And then I call my husband.

“I can’t do this.”

“You can’t do what?”

“I can’t drive your car.”

“OK, OK, I’ll be right there.”

And when I finally catch sight of him, I see the panic in his eyes.

“Who helped you?”

“A Marine.”

“What did he look like?”

“He was sort of tall. He had short hair. He was wearing green.”

“Kate. That doesn’t help.”

He moves the car quickly and pulls it into his spot.

“You do realize he pulled you into the Commanding Officers reserved spot, don’t you?”

“Is that bad?” I coyly smile. I don’t think he thinks it’s cute. In the back of my head I can see Desi shaking his fist and screaming, “LUUUCY!”

And so I call a cab. And I walk past the entrance to the Marine base. With the capable looking young men and women who are armed. Very armed. And I am wearing pajamas in the form of a hot pink t-shirt and hot pants. I look like I’ve just decided to turn in for the day after selling myself on the streets. I walk past the rifled Marines and they give me confused looks and I stand outside the base as I wait for my taxi. I am certain this is the image the United States Marine Corps has in mind when anyone approaches the entrance to this very esteemed base.

I pick up the phone and talk to a network executive while I wait. He is interested in a show I’ve pitched. I am so excited I instruct the cab driver to take me to the rental car place and I select a nice, red automatic car.

I email my producer on my iPhone while answering a phone call from a talent agent who has a potential host for my series. In the interim I chat with the rental car agent who is running my card.

“It must be an automatic.”

He looks at me and smiles. “Of course it would be, what kind of a crazy rental agent would I be if I expected people to rent a stick shift car?”

“Yeah. You’d be crazy,” I laugh back.

That day, I learned a valuable lesson about being a Marine Aviator’s wife: just because I can’t fly a jet or ride in a tiny plane without hyperventilating, just because I can’t learn to drive stick shift in five minutes in an exceptionally crowded parking lot with vengeful California shoppers, doesn’t mean I’m not a completely capable, put together woman.

Oh, and I suppose, never leave home in a sparkly t-shirt and stretchy hot pant pajamas. Because Murphy’s Law tells us that the moment we do, we’ll inevitably end up stranded and doing a walk of shame past well-armed, impressionable young Marines.