Category Archives: Travel

Mom is always right, even when she’s wrong

To my dearest, dearest children,

You two are the light of my life. I love you both so much. Which is why I’m writing this even though it’s…difficult. Very difficult, in fact. For me. Your mother. To admit this. But it’s important you know this so…

Sigh…

Listen up and listen hard because you will never hear this ever again.

I was wrong.

Long exhale…

BUT I AM RIGHT ABOUT EVERYTHING ELSE. AND ALL FUTURE THINGS. ALL OF THEM.

However, ok, yes, I was wrong about this ONE thing. You guys were actually wonderful on our recent vacation.

I spent all that time moaning and whining about how awful I expected you guys to be; the likely sleepless nights we’d share, the public tantrums you’d likely have, the running off and disappearing into the ocean you’d likely do, tarnishing my reputation as a mom forever.

And then…nothing. You guys behaved. Not only that, you were charming and sweet and loving. It was like living in one of those old black-and-white photos of the Kennedy family on the beach.

Now, in my defense, it’s easy to assume the worst when it comes to children. Because I’ve seen your worst. On multiple occasions. And I think we can all agree that when it’s bad, it’s BAD. So bad. All the bad. And neither of you is shy about proving it.

There’s the dual meltdowns in restaurants where I have to scream to the waitress over your screaming “AND THE KIDS WILL HAVE A GRILLED CHEESE AND I’LL HAVE AN ENTIRE BOTTLE OF JACK DANIELS, THANKS!” The waiting in line at the store where you’re hitting each other but not the normal little kid hitting. Oh no. The “reenacting scenes from ‘Atomic Blonde’” level of hitting (no more playing with the remotes anymore, by the way, kids). And, my personal favorite, the night-night time “I don’t want to brush my teeth!” freakouts that end with me screaming so loud I’m worried my neighbors now know what kind of mom I actually am.

But nope. None of that. This vacation was everything a vacation is supposed to be. Fun. Exciting. Even, believe it or not, a tad bit relaxing.

I mean, you slept. You both slept. Through the night. Every night. You slept so well, in fact, that I was worried you had maybe both been replaced by changelings. (Luckily a third glass of wine made me realize that I was totally ok with raising the changelings instead of you as long as they kept up these fantastic sleeping patterns.) 

You didn’t complain about the food. You even ate some of it. Which allowed me and your dad to eat. And eat we did. We ate everything. We ate whatever is the scientific amount of calories you can eat in one sitting without dying. And we did it three times a day. Every day.

You occupied yourselves. You played together. Without us. Which allowed us to sit back and drink the aforementioned wine from the big fancy box we had brought like the big fancy people we clearly are.

You were polite to every cashier, every waiter, every little old lady who stopped and gushed over your red hair for 15 minutes.

You were…simply wonderful.

Which leads me to the conclusion that, clearly, the key to an amazing vacation is to dread it. (And to put that dread into writing. And post it online. For all to see.)

And as such, I look forward to dreading many more vacations with you.

Love,

Momma

 

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An imagination vacation of utter relaxation

It has been a long, hard winter. Followed by several weeks of spring that were a long, hard winter. Followed by one nice day. And then two more weeks of snow.

On top of this, my husband has just finished a huge project at work. He worked nights, weekends. For months, he was either at work or at home working. At one point he got so stressed out he stopped talking in complete sentences.

Neither of these things, of course, registered with our kids, who still wanted to do things and learn things and go places and, in general, needed constant parenting even though we were a man down and living on Hoth.

“Can we go outside, Momma?”

“No, baby, there’s a snowstorm.”

“Can Daddy take us outside?”

“No, baby. Daddy is crying in the kitchen and stress-eating frosting straight from the can.”

Which is why we are taking a much-needed vacation in a few days. I mean, we NEED this as a family. NEED IT. Everyone is snippy and crabby and a few other highly descriptive words I can’t use because this is a family website.

So, we are heading to a cottage resort on the Maine coast. I even sprang for the fancy big cottage. With an ocean view. And a fireplace. And a porch. And separate bedroom for the kids. A separate bedroom that hopefully locks and is soundproof.

As I’m sure you can guess, I cannot wait. Here’s how I imagine it will be:

Everyone will wake up in a great mood on the morning we are supposed to leave. The sun will be shining and birds will be singing and then the little singing birdies will help me get the kids dressed. In fact, the morning goes so smoothly that we realize (as we coolly and calmly climb into the car) that we have time to go out to eat for breakfast. Which is how we find that adorable diner with the sassy waitress who entertains the kids so my husband and I can actually eat our food and drink our coffee and have a conversation instead of shoveling it all in and grunting at each other.

The kids will then immediately fall asleep in the car until we arrive at the cottage (which is even bigger than we thought) and the weather will be 75 and sunny every day with a light breeze.

We will spend our days wandering through the quaint little town and walking along the seashore and eating too much food and drinking too much beer and buying frivolous things we don’t need because, hey, we’re on vacation.

I will read at least three books and finally make a dent in that giant magazine pile that’s been building for months.

Every night the kids will immediately fall asleep in their SEPARATE bedroom at 8 p.m. while my husband and I sit on the porch and drink even more adult beverages and talk about everything and nothing and make-out like gross teenagers.

And, of course, I will take a thousand photos and look back upon this vacation as one of the best times of our lives.

Sigh. Sounds perfect, doesn’t it?

Yeah. Except, I have gone to too many places with my kids to delude myself into really believing all that. So, here is how our vacation is actually likely to go down:

We will leave the house approximately two hours late because of multiple pants-related tantrums. Breathless and sweaty and irritated, we will shove the kids into their car seats as they cry and we curse under our breaths. Once we are finally on the road, I will start hurling handfuls of Cheerios into the backseat because the kids won’t stop whining about how hungry they are. About 45 minutes in, we will have to turn around because one of them forgot their woobie even though they were reminded 12 times not to forget their woobie.

Back on the road, AGAIN, we will keep turning up the radio to drown out the “how much longer?” whining from the oldest and the hysterical sobbing from the youngest.

The cottage will be much smaller than we thought and the weather forecast will predict rain the entire time we are there. Possibly snow. And as soon as we get our luggage out of the car, the kids will start complaining about how bored they are. When I angrily snap back at them “I don’t care,” the youngest will get her revenge by throwing all my books into the toilet.

The kids will play on the beach for exactly 14 minutes before wanting to move onto something else, both oblivious to the fact they are covered head to toe in sand. After cleaning them up, we will try to go out to eat but never actually get to sit down at the same time because the youngest keeps figuring out how to get down from the highchair like some tiny rabid Houdini and the oldest chooses right now to poop his pants.

Very soon after this we’ll say screw it and head back to the cottage where we’ll put the kids to bed early and open a bottle of wine and start a fire in the fireplace. As soon as the glass hits our lips, our daughter will start crying. Which wakes up our son. Who also then starts crying. And they’ll both end up in bed with us. Where they kick and squirm all night. And my husband and I end up awake but unable to move for the next eight hours, just laying there in a hell of our own making.

And, of course, I will take a thousand photos and then leave my cell phone in the bathroom of that restaurant, which I will only remember as soon as we are back home.

Sigh.

But THE POINT IS we are going on vacation. Where, no matter what, memories will be made.

And hey, in just a few short decades, we’ll only be able to remember the good ones.

Hopefully.

 

I’ll sit in the sinkhole tonight, honey

You want to know what true love is? Volunteering to sit in the couch sinkhole after a long day of work and raising kids so your equally tired partner can sit on “the good side” while you watch Netflix.

Wait, what? Oh, is that just in our house? You guys don’t all have a couch sinkhole?

Well, in that case, let me explain to all you fancy folk with your houses full of structurally sound furniture exactly what a couch sinkhole is. It’s when whatever it is that couches are made of breaks in one spot, but not completely, meaning there is now one precarious area on the couch that is lower than all the rest. And you can still sit there if you sit in it just right (although if you hear any creaking or groaning wood, freeze and stop breathing for a good solid three minutes until you’re sure it’s not going to collapse). And as long as you put down a pillow first before you sit, there is a good 80 percent chance you won’t be impaled by a broken spring.

On the plus side, having a couch sinkhole has greatly improved our children’s behavior.

Kid 1: Mom, she took my Batman! *pushes sibling*

Kid 2: No! Mine! *pushes back*

Me: Both of you learn to share or you’ll take turns sitting in the sinkhole during movie night.

Kid 1: You can have Batman!

Kid 2: No, no, you have it! I insist! *both frantically hug each other*

Yeah, our couch is old. If it were a human, it would already be well into puberty and rolling its eyes every time I talked. In dog years, it’s roughly 103-years-old. In couch years, it’s 700-years-old. A hard 700. It’s the Keith Richards of couches.  

My husband had the couch before we even met and it has traveled with us from Ohio to Texas to Boston. And so the sinkhole is just the latest of the couch’s maladies. There is the sticky and stained left side arm of the couch because a certain someone in the family that is definitely not me kept spilling martinis and wine on it when she was young and childless. Then there is the random mangy patch from where the dog kept licking that spot over and over and over again for mysterious yet very important dog reasons. And the good side opposite the sinkhole was our son’s favorite spot to sit while he was being potty trained.

And it took MONTHS to potty train him.  

We should get a new couch. We really should. In fact, we should replace a lot of things in our house. But we have three very good reasons why we don’t:

One, we have a pre-schooler and an 18-month-old, meaning anything new coming inside our home would instantly be baptized in a tsunami of juice and what we hope are chocolate stains.

Two, anytime we start even thinking of Googling the price of new furniture, a $600 vet bill magically shows up. Or Christmas is coming up…again. Or we do our taxes and discover we owe money to the IRS…again.

And three, buying big ticket household items is an aspect of adulting that bores me to death. In furniture stores, I instantly revert back into a whiny teenager. Why do we have to be here? How much longer? Just pick one already. Why is everything so expensive? Ugh. I wanna use my allowance to buy books and travel. Boo.

Sometimes I worry that we’re crossing over into pathetic territory with our couch sinkhole and our cheap rocking chair hanging on by a splinter and our almost 14-year-old red car that sports a gray hood (and a passenger side door that only opens from the inside) and our upholstered dining room chairs that have faded to a color that can really only be described as “angry pink.”

But I’ve never really been one to try to keep up with the Joneses. In fact, I’m more likely to duck and hide behind my broken-ass couch if I see a Joneses coming.

So, instead, I’ve decided I’m just going to change my entire way of thinking about this situation. Because I’m a grown-up. And I’m allowed to do that. Which is why, from henceforth, we will just be known as the quirky, eccentric family with the endearing couch sinkhole that they made a part of the family because they were too busy being eccentric and quirky to care to replace it. And eventually it will be a hilarious, quirky story my grown kids tell on first dates to the horror of the person sitting across from them.

Ah. Yes. That feels much better. Problem solved.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, my 3-year-old just fell into the sinkhole and needs help getting out.

 

It’s the season of the sick

It’s almost Halloween, guys! The candy! The costumes! The cocktails! And most importantly, the release of season two of “Stranger Things”!

Truly, it’s the best time of the year.  

Ahem…

If you’re single.

But if you happen to be a parent, October really does live up to its reputation as the scariest month (and not just because your kids won’t let you binge-watch “Stranger Things” no matter how much you beg them).

Forget the mountain of treats that turn your offspring into manipulative and heartless sugar addicts. And all the idiots ordering that stupid zombie drink at Starbucks that takes the barista three hours to make when all you want is a giant-ass dark roast so you don’t collapse on top of your toddler. Or even the fact you can’t find a decent Halloween costume because they only make slutty costumes for women and you now have mom boobs that look ridiculous in a skimpy “Rainbow Brite” outfit.

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No, this is the scariest time of year because this is when it all starts. The season of the sick. The marathon of mucus. The tsunami of tsissues.

That relentless march of germs that invade your children’s bodies and doesn’t quit until that one beautiful week in May when everyone in your family is finally healthy again. (And then promptly begins again that beautiful week in June when everyone suddenly comes down with an awful summer cold).

It all starts NOW.

My kids don’t even have to be around other kids to get sick this time of year. If anyone within a 23-mile radius encounters even a single germ, my children somehow know (probably via mucus telepathy), and they immediately start ripping through tissue boxes like we own stock in Kleenex.

True story. We just got back from visiting family in Ohio. Now, my extended family has approximately 18,000 small children as members. Of those 18,000 children, approximately 17,999 were sick. Or just getting over being sick. Or just starting to come down with something. Or coughed sometime in September but we weren’t taking any chances.  

So, we quarantined our children, even though it interfered with all our plans. We hunkered down at Memaw’s house and hosed down their tiny bodies every three hours with a gallon of hand sanitizer followed by a blast of Lysol directly to the face.

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And yet, AND YET, my little one still woke up one morning with a fever. Which she kindly passed on to her older brother because she licked his eyeballs during a fun game of “Wrestle Until Someone Cries.”

And then she broke out in a horrible rash. But he didn’t. Which made for a particularly rousing game of “What’s The Amateur Diagnosis?”

We specifically avoided any and all people, healthy or sick, going as far as to jump on top of anyone under five feet tall like they were a germ grenade if they even THOUGHT of approaching our babies.

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But it didn’t matter. Because it never matters. Because life is short and cruel and full of snot.

WHY ARE CHILDREN ALWAYS SICK? Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know, their immature immune systems and other science “facts.” But seriously, WHY ARE CHILDREN ALWAYS SICK?

It’s never when you need them to be sick either. Like when you need a viable excuse to get out of your friend Dave’s “Make Your Own Calzone” party. Or when, say, the latest season of “Stranger Things” becomes available and you need a guilt-free reason to put them in a Benadryl coma so you can watch it.

Oh no. Then they are the picture of health and pestering you endlessly to go to the playground or the library or “parent” them in any discernible form.

They only get sick when it is the worst possible time. Like, oh, I don’t know, on vacation.

And then they stay sick forever.

And ever and ever and ever and then a brief recovery just in time for you to begrudgingly attend Dave’s “Game of Thrones” wine tasting party, and then ever and ever and ever and ever.

Here soon I won’t even be able to remember a time when one of them wasn’t sick. They will just pass germs back and forth with each other all fall and winter and for the next one hundred million months. And they’ll be miserable. And I’ll be miserable. And Daddy will be miserable (mostly because his wife is an asshole when she’s miserable).

On the plus side, however, maybe I will finally get to watch “Stranger Things.”

Where did I put that damn bottle of Benadryl?  

 

Becoming human again

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a married woman in possession of a few children must be in want of a life.

It took me 23 minutes to come up with that line, even though technically Jane Austen wrote it first and all I did was butcher it. (Sorry, Jane).

My amazing literary pun skills aside, I’m not kidding about that truth. Because we do. Oh, how we do. We want (and need) a full life.

Not that we moms don’t live for our kids. Because do. Oh, how we do. When my kids were first born, my whole world shrunk down to their exact height and weight. It’s a monumental change you go through when you have a child, physically, mentally and emotionally, and for the longest time, I couldn’t see anything past them. Everything took a backseat to them. Part of this is because you just created AN ENTIRE HUMAN BEING and as such are completely mesmerized by everything they do. Even farts took on a whole new meaning. Coming from their tiny butts, it was the most adorable sound in the world.

But another part of this tunnel vision stemmed from the fact that I was terrified I couldn’t do it. That I would fail. That if I took my eyes off them for a second they would get hurt. Or sick. Or kidnapped. Or, my biggest nightmare, roughly thrown into a car trunk by a kidnapper with the flu. Suddenly, I realized that THE WHOLE WORLD IS ONE GIANT, FESTERING CAULDRON OF DISEASE POPULATED BY SERIAL KILLERS AND PERVERTS AND EVIL BABY BLANKETS THAT COULDN’T WAIT TO SMOTHER MY CHILDREN.

Eventually this passed. Mostly (I still don’t trust that baby blanket). I learned that kids are tough and resilient. That they start to gain a bit of independence. Life keeps moving on. And it was around this time that I finally looked up and, to my surprise, had trouble recognizing who I was.

I felt I was losing myself. Or at least some very vital parts of myself. Motherhood is demanding and it seemed like I no longer had time to maintain the complex person full of contradictions and passions and interests that I used to be. There was only time for diaper changes and fixing fairly large household structural problems with duct tape.

I didn’t laugh as much. I was always tired. I was always distracted. Always thinking about what had to be done. Or done next. Or done next week.

Parenting can sometimes feel like a zero-sum game. You give everything you have (and happily so) to these tiny creatures so that they can have everything. You give and give and give and you love and you love and you love. There’s also some yelling and vague threatening and an army of curse words muttered under your breath, but mostly it’s the giving and the loving.

Without a chance to replenish, without a break, however, it can soon feel like you have nothing left to give. You start to forget who you are, just slowly turning into a zombie mom robot. (Although Zombie Mom Robot would make a great title for a parenting book).

Luckily I had someone to remind me. Which is how I ended up alone in Portland a few weeks ago. With an entire hotel room to myself. Just me and a bottle of wine and an extra large pizza, which I ate on a king-sized bed while sitting in my underwear and watching “Big Bang” reruns.

And it’s how I ended up attending my wonderful friend’s beautiful wedding. Which is how I ended up doing an unhealthy amount of tequila shots, which is how I ended up doing a mortifying karaoke performance, which led to more tequila shots, which led to long conversations stuffed with every curse word known to man (or woman), which led to eating late night fried chicken; all with my long lost group of best friends, relationships that were neglected but now renewed and stronger than ever.

And it’s how I ended up running a 5K last week with another good friend. Like, an actual race, where you purposefully run fast even though nothing is chasing you. My first one ever. And I ran the whole damn thing. And a week later I still feel like Wonder Woman.

It’s how I ended up dusting off my beloved camera and taking photos again. And reading more. And writing more. And drawing my god awful stick figure art again.

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And it’s how I finally started remembering who I was.

All because my husband refused to let me forget. He kept throwing me on planes so I could travel and kept kicking me out of the house so I could pursue my own things, my own passions. Because he knows that being a complex person with a full life makes you a better parent.

He understood, even more than I did, what I needed.

And so here’s to hoping you have someone in your life who reminds you who you are when you forget. That you have someone who understands that sometimes you just need a hotel room of one’s own.

(I’m butchering all the classics today. This one only took me 12 minutes though. My apologies to Virginia Woolf).

 

(Kid)-free at last, (kid)-free at last

Hey, do you guys remember what it was like before you had kids? Like, what you used to do on a typical pre-spawn Saturday, when you had a million hours stretched out in front of you where you could do anything you wanted? And, most importantly, if candy tasted better eaten out in the open instead of while huddled in a corner of a locked bathroom, like a junkie mainlining M&M’s?

Yeah. Me neither. Apparently there gets to be a certain point in parenthood where you can’t remember what it was like before you spent 85 percent of your day refilling sippy cups. Personally, I think this forgetfulness is a survival instinct. Your brain suppresses those pre-child memories so that your head doesn’t explode when you have to get up at 5 a.m. on a Saturday now and get ready and cook breakfast that no one eats and deal with three tantrums before finally getting them to soccer practice and then head to the grocery store because you’re out of milk and then immediately head back to the store when you drop the milk in the driveway and it explodes all over everything and then you look at the clock and it’s only 9:15 a.m. and you cry a little.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately because at the end of this month, I will have four glorious days all to myself. No kids. No husband. No dog. Just me and my questionable decision-making skills, all alone. I’m heading to a beloved friend’s wedding in Portland, Oregon, and there will quite literally be an entire continent between me and my responsibilities.

And. I. Can’t. Wait.

I’ve never been away from my kids. Oh sure, an hour or three here or there but never overnight and certainly never in a long enough time frame for me to permanently ruin whatever is left of my tattered reputation. And I plan to fully take advantage of this particular gift I have been granted by the grace of the parenting gods and my friend Adriana’s airline points.

Because, see, a lot of moms will tell you that “I don’t even know what I’d do with myself without my kids.” Seriously, I Googled “What do moms do when they are away from their kids?” and the pickins were slim. It seemed to be a tie between blogs where moms boringly describe “it was great for 15 minutes but then I just missed the kids so much, so I just sat here like a lump until they came back” and news articles about moms who run away from their children permanently. Because even in motherhood, we women are still reduced down to the sinner/saint, madonna/whore archetype.

But not me. Oh no. I’m hitting that sweet spot right in the middle where I’m going to run off and do awful things and not feel guilty once and then come home to my loving family smelling like happiness and stale beer.

So, first things first, I’m going to start off slow. I want to read a book. Read all the books, in fact. And every newspaper and magazine from the last three years.

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Then I will drink all the booze. ALL OF IT.

Sleep in. Until 7 a.m. Maybe even 7:30.

Take a long, long, long shower. Or hell, a bath. And then actually style my hair into something other than “messy bun.” Like “purposefully messy bun.” And then I will pluck my eyebrow until there are two again.

Eat a cheeseburger for breakfast and an entire cheesecake for dinner. WITHOUT having to share ANY of it.

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Make a huge mess. And don’t clean it up.

Run around my hotel room naked.

Run around the hotel naked.

RUN AROUND THE ENTIRE CITY NAKED.

Smoke a cigar with some old men wearing fedoras.

Steal one of the fedoras and run away laughing maniacally.

Set my daily planner on fire and cover my face with the ashes and do a ritual pagan dance to every known deity devoted to chaos.

Write my novel!

Start a rock band!

Finally learn to juggle those fire sticks!

Buy a bunch of spray paint and become the new Banksy!

Rob a bank and give all the money to the poor!

I WILL DO ALL THE THINGS.

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Right after I buy my kids a bunch of souvenirs and text my husband dirty hotel room nudes, of course.

 

A funny thing happened on the way to New Hampshire

Family vacations are a funny thing. Essentially all you are doing is taking a group of people who are together all the time and plopping them down…

Hi!

Um…hi…

Where was I? Oh yes, and plopping them down into a new location. But this simple act of geography change can…

Hello!

Uh…hello?

That was weird. Anyway, as I was saying, this simple act of taking you out of your element, out of your daily routine, can expose a lot about your character. For example, my family and I are at a resort town in New Hampshire, where…

Good morning!

Oh, um, good morning.

How are you?

Good. I guess.

Have a lovely day!

Ok, sure.

Man, I lost my train of thought again. Um…yeah, so, anyway my husband and I schlepped our two kids to a tiny cottage on the lake up in New Hampshire for a few days to, as they say, “get away from it all.” A great idea in theory, of course. But in practice, leaving your house for even a small period of time with a toddler and a baby in tow is the opposite of relaxing. It’s basically spending all night getting kicked in the face by tiny feet (because, god forbid, they actually sleep in the bed provided for them) and spending all day hurling gallons of sunscreen at their back as they sprint toward the closest large body of water so they can eat sand and practice drowning.

How’s it going?

Huh? What..? It’s fine. Everything’s fine. Just sitting here trying to get some work done.

Fantastic! Lovely day, isn’t it? Well, nice talking to you!

I…sure. Nice talking to you. Random stranger.

Ugh. Why won’t people leave me alone? People around here are so weird. ANYWAY, like I’ve been TRYING to say, there’s nothing like a vacation to expose who you really are. Everything is different and you are constantly tackling unforeseen challenges, like how to tactfully deal with your son who just pooped his pants in the fancy bookstore…

Beautiful day, huh?

Alright, that’s it. What the hell is going on here? Can I help you with something, buddy? Huh?

Oh, my apologies. Just trying to be friendly. Have a good afternoon!

Trying to be friendly? Well who the hell does that? See, it’s just like I was saying, going on vacation exposes who you really are. And someone I truly am is apparently someone who has lived in a city for too long and is now just super rude and glares at everyone who smiles at me with my best April Ludgate impression.

Only it’s not really an impression anymore so much as it is just my face now.

Because we have apparently ended up in the world’s friendliest town and I am confused and angered by this tendency of people to be overly nice even though I used to BE one of these people when I was growing up in a small town. But I have now forgotten how basic human decency works. Meanwhile, my husband, within 30 seconds of arriving here, reverted back to his old, friendly, Midwestern roots as easily as breathing. I think I even heard him blurt out “howdy” at one point.

And so I guess the only thing to do now is to finish up this stupid column of mine and go sit in front of the mirror and have me a “come to Jesus” moment about how I have transformed into a stereotype in just a few short years of living in Boston…

Oh, excuse me, ma’am? You forgot your purse. Here you go.

Oh, and so you just thought you’d give it back to me? Without stealing my money or anything? Of course. Well, thank you, Mr. Nice Friendly Man. And sorry I sound so sarcastic. I am actually very grateful. But I just realized I am a horrible, rude, human pile of garbage.

Have a nice friggin’ day.