My girl finished her freshman year at New York University this past week. The year flew.  It seems like yesterday we were eating breakfast at Norma’s in Manhattan and discussing what items we needed to purchase for her room.

Rug. Blanket. Lamp. Maybe a microwave, if her suitemates didn’t already have one. A couple of pots and pans for their little kitchen.

Her Nana asked how much cooking she was planning to do in her room.“Well,” I’m having my meal plan upgraded so that I get more dining dollars, which I can use at the little restaurants in the food court.”  She added, “I can spend them at Starbucks.”

“You’re going to eat breakfast at Starbuck’s every day?” I asked.

“No, I’m going to cook steel-cut oatmeal every day and use my dining dollars for coffee,” she answered, as if I had just asked the silliest question in history. And then, taking a bite of the steel-cut oatmeal she’d ordered at Norma’s, she said, “And nobody in my room had better eat any of my oatmeal.”

I had to laugh. A couple of years ago, I gave up on the idea that my kids should only eat organic fruits and vegetables and locally-raised, grass-fed beef. Not because I don’t believe we should ALL eat that way, but more because I have come to realize that I have no control over what my teenagers eat.  And I’ll admit that my obsession with what my kids put in their bodies had been, well, overboard. The pendulum has, however, swung completely in the opposite direction.

Now they can look like Brangelina’s bunch walking around scarfing Cheetos for all I care. As a matter of fact, I’ve swung so far on the giving-a-shit-what-my-kids-eat pendulum that my actual home is now more like a college dorm. My kids go buy junk and hide it from everyone else in the family. I can open an upper cabinet in the laundry room and find a box of Krispy Kreme doughnuts.

Where does Lyla keep her Pringles? They used to be under her bed until the dachshunds discovered her hiding place. Now they’re stashed under her bathroom cabinet next to the box of tampons.

(As for myself, I found it easier to develop a taste for things no one else will touch. My kids hate sparkling water, so I drink Pellegrino. That and Kombucha, a tea made from dehydrated mushroom.  It’s not the best stuff in the world, but I like it because they won’t touch it.)

So Madeline’s defensive attitude about the oatmeal was completely understandable. “I don’t think you’re going to have trouble with people stealing your oatmeal,” I said.

“Why not?” she asked.

“Steel-cut oatmeal takes a long time to make. It’s not a microwaveable food,” I answered, afraid to tell her the real reason I believe no one will steal her food (at least not a second time).  My nephew still sports a hole in his ass from where she chewed it when she discovered him eating one of her granola bars when he spent the night at my house.

We decided she was completely prepared for dorm life, this girl of mine. So after all the discussion about what she needed, we spent the day in Bergdorf Goodman buying shoes and clothes.  And God help the roommate who messes with those.

Last year, I bought a used six-seater golf cart to keep at the beach house for the purpose of hauling stuff out to the beach. It’s carrying capacity has been pushed to the limit, and that limit is two surfboards, a large cooler, five beach chairs, and five people. And while I love that my golf cart is vital to our beach enjoyment, that’s not the vehicle’s best feature. My favorite thing about the golf cart is that it’s the vehicle I can freely plaster with every funny bumper sticker I come across.

I have one proclaiming the title of my friend Hollis Gillespie’s book,Bleachy-Haired Honky Bitch. It’s on the top of the windshield, and when my sister’s kids are in town, we fold the windshield down so they can’t see the bad word. I have a Darth Vader sticker asking “Who’s Your Daddy?” I have one posing the question “What Would Scooby Doo?”

But my favorite is one I found several years ago at the Orlando Margaritaville with a line I’ve heard Jimmy Buffett say many times, one I think is profound. It says, “There’s a thin line between Saturday night and Sunday morning.”

My son said to me in regards to that bumper sticker, “It’s like in the Simpsons movie when everyone thought they were going to die. The people in the church ran to the bar, and the people in the bar ran to the church.”

And that reminded about the story of my uncle Wierdie, my mom’s brother. His name is Ed, short for Edward. Years ago, his siblings kindly changed “Edward” to “Edweird,” which got shortened to “Wierdie,” and the name stuck.

Wierdie is sixty-two years old, and he’s never been married. He’s a former military sharpshooter who lives on ten very secure acres south of Griffin, Georgia, with his dog, Sambo, who happens to love turnips. In fact, Wierdie rewards his dog’s good behavior by saying, “Sam, go dig yourself a turnip.” And Sambo runs to the garden, digs himself up a turnip, and eats the whole thing.

Sambo also loves beer. In the late afternoon, Wierdie pours a beer into his dog’s dish, then pops the top on his own beer, and the two watch the sun go down together over a couple of cold ones.

But Sambo hasn’t always been Wierdie’s drinking buddy. He used to have a crowd of friends at his favorite bar, Doug’s, until Doug sold the place and the new owners closed the bar.

Doug sold the place to a church. So Wierdie’s bar, his home away from home — his sanctuary, if you will — has been converted into a place where he doesn’t feel quite at home.

He was invited to attend, of course, but he didn’t exactly want to be converted, just like he didn’t want his bar to be converted. Before, Doug listened with a sympathetic ear. Now, it’s a stranger telling everyone else what to do. Before, the place was open every day of the week. Now, the doors are open only on Sundays and Wednesdays. The bar itself has been replaced with a pulpit. Barstools are now pews. The pool table’s been replaced by a communion table.

The theme song from the old show Cheers expressed this truth about human nature: “You wanna go where everyone knows your name.” That’s exactly the reason why Wierdie loved Doug’s. And since no one at the church really wants to know his name, his real name, and never bothered to ask how in the world he came to be called “Wierdie,” he now drinks with his dog.

Jimmy Buffett is right about there being a thin line between Saturday night and Sunday morning. Because even though the bar is now a church, and everything about the place has changed, there’s one thing that has stayed the same. The sign out front still reads, “A spirit-filled place.”

Not long after I bought the house in St. Augustine, I took my twin nieces, who have earned themselves the dazzling nicknames of Amazing Grace and Faithilicious, out to the beach for a wart-removal ceremony.

Actually, my mother had promised the girls a Moon-Rising Marshmallow Roast out on the beach. So Mom, her mother, the twins, and I carried the little hibachi grill and a bag of marshmallows out to the beach one evening just as the sun was beginning to set.

Faith showed me the wart on her toe as we sat around waiting for the fire to get hot.

I explained that wart removing involves a very precise ritual that must be followed perfectly in order for it to work. Luckily, the best time to perform the ceremony is in the presence of the full moon. Eager to be rid of her wart, Faith agreed to follow my instructions, and we began our preparations.

Honestly, I had no idea what I was doing. But over the years, I’ve heard stories about everything from garlic to apple cider vinegar to good old duct tape being used to get rid of warts. And a marshmallow got the job done in Ghostbusters.  So, I figured, what could it hurt to try a little marshmallow and wet sand on a wart?

First, I said, they needed to collect some wet sand. As the girls ran to carry out my instructions, Mom worried aloud that clouds on the horizon might block our view of the moon as it first came up over the water.

The wet sand had to be rubbed on the wart and then rinsed off in the ocean, I told the girls when they returned. They glopped as much sand on Faith’s foot as they could, and she hopped on one foot back down to the water to rinse it off.

Lightning flashed from the clouds just about the time she stuck her foot in a tidal pool, and my 84-year-old grandmother, who had been watching the entire ritual with great amusement, said, “I imagine getting struck by lightning would remove a wart.”

It was time for the girls to roast their marshmallows. Lightning flashed again and again as the girls twirled the marshmallows on their sticks to brown them evenly. Mom looked at her watch and said, “The moon should be coming up over the horizon in just a minute or two.”

Faith took her marshmallow out of the fire and began blowing on it to cool it off. When it was cool enough, I instructed her to pull it apart, rub half on her wart, and then eat the other half while saying the magic words, “Marshmallow make the wart go away!”

As Faith smeared the marshmallow on the wart, Mom yelled, “Look! There it is!” A huge orange moon began climbing toward the stars.

Lightning flashing, moon rising, marshmallow rubbing, and twins murmuring, “Marshmallow make the wart go away!” It was a magical moment. And I hoped to God that wart would magically disappear, because if it didn’t, those girls would never let me hear the end of it. As we made our way back up the boardwalk, I told Faith that she needed to say the magic words three times every night before she fell asleep, knowing full well that she would forget, which would be my disclaimer if my remedy failed.

The next night, Faith fell off her scooter, and the asphalt scraped the wart completely off. It never came back.

That recipe, by the way, is not patented, so feel free to use it. Just make sure you don’t use those hideous chocolate marshmallows. They look like dog shit when roasted, and I imagine that cure would most likely be worse than simply living with the wart.

Pancho and Laverne

Pancho the overgrown puppy is having the time of his life at my house.  He jumps into the pool approximately every fifteen minutes, which means he stays wet all day long.  So he got a haircut  (a shave, really, since he can’t stand on three legs long enough to brush his hair out), and he wears his neckerchief with a jaunty swagger.  I admire him, my damaged dog, for the simple reason that he doesn’t mope around focusing on what he’s missing.  He’s over it.  I find myself wanting to be like Pancho.

The dachshunds have grudgingly accepted him.  They wouldn’t look me in the eye for the first two days he was here, but a large plate of cheese and pastrami scrambled eggs fixed that situation.

Bella the crazy, tainted pussy probably will be pissed forever.  She jumped onto the kitchen counter and punched a hole in the package of beautiful pasta I brought home from Italy just to let me know how much she hates me.

My kid wrote Pancho’s story for a class assignment.  I had to share it:
“What happened?” Mom asks.

“Pancho just lost his leg,” I choke.

“You’re joking,” she says with a chuckle while she fills my bowl with more soup. I hold up the sweaty phone to show her the text. I feel sad and angry at the same time. Not angry at his new owners, but angry at myself. The best dog in the world just lost his leg because of a careless mistake to put him in the bed of a truck.  What were they thinking? More importantly, what was I thinking letting them have my dog, my best friend?

She slides the bowl away as if she can read my mind. There is nothing I can do. It was my decision to let him stay in the mountains with them. Images run through my mind of a sad dog that drags through life because he is missing a leg.

A few days pass, and he returns to his house in the mountains. We decide to go visit him and see how he is recovering. I walk around the corner of the house expecting to see him lying in pain.

But boy, was I wrong.

He dashes around the corner and jumps straight onto my chest. He kisses me like he thought he would never see me again. I stand up and look straight at him. He looks at me and settles down. He’s a few feet away, but I know what he’s thinking.  Any sudden movements, and I was sure to be attacked with more licks to the face. I slowly raise my hand and creep over to him.  He knows what’s going on.  I start sprinting the other way in hope for a game of good old-fashioned chase.  But I look over my shoulder and see him sitting there with his head tilted. I sit down on the grass and he trots over to me. He rests his head on my knee as if to say, “Can’t you see I’m missing a leg?”

I pat his head while tears stream down my face.  He immediately answers with a lick to tell me it’s not my fault.  So as we sit on the field watching the kids play, I know who my best friend is.

Recently, a neighbor took the time to walk across the street and ring my doorbell to inform me that he is unable to sit on his front porch in the afternoon and enjoy a glass of wine because my dachshunds, Laverne and Shirley, bark too much.

Seriously? At the time you came knocking, neighbor,  it was cold enough to freeze the balls off the monkey statue next to my pool.  You were really sitting on your front porch with a glass of wine?

The only other time we talked, you were putting your garbage in my yard so that the truck would get it on the “return trip” down our street. I’ve got news for you, Freezer Nuts:  in this neighborhood, the garbage men do not go both ways.  It makes me wonder if the wheels haven’t come off your can.

But being the good neighbor that I am, I have already contacted the Invisible Fence people about purchasing bark collars for my dogs. The reason I haven’t done it sooner is that they already wear the Invisible Fence collars to keep them in the yard, and I didn’t want them to be confused about why they were getting zapped in the neck.

It’s too bad Puppy Tweets aren’t available yet.

What are Puppy Tweets? Mattel is getting ready to roll out a product that allows dogs to use Twitter. The special collar is pre-loaded with 500 phrases, and every time the dog moves or barks, the owner receives a new Tweet.

Some of the pre-programmed, generic messages an owner could receive via text are

*I bark because I miss you. There I said it. Now hurry home.
*It’s not the catching of the tail. It’s the chase.
*Can we get some sparkling water for the toilet bowl?

Kind of boring, right?  If we had Puppy Tweets,  these are the kind of messages I would get from my dachshunds:

*I bit the UPS guy. Animal control has been called.
*When am I off quarantine for biting the tax assessor?
*Get us a new bed on your way home. We were bored today and ate it.
*You forgot to feed us so we ate all the pansies in the pots.
*It’s 27 degrees outside and Chilled Melon Balls is on his porch.

My dachshunds already have their regular collars (necessary for displaying the rabies tags in case they bite) and their Invisible Fence boundary collars. If I add a bark collar and a Tweet collar, they’re going to look like the Burmese Pai Dong Long Neck People, the ones known for stretching their women’s necks with brass rings.

So the doggies and I have come up with a solution. We’ll forego the bark collars and wait for Puppy Tweets, provided they promise to only bark when it’s REALLY important for them to send me a message. Acceptable TWEETS are as follows:

*Laverne is trying to eat from the cat’s litter box again.

*UPS guy is here. You have a package! If you want, we’ll open it for you.

*The cat told me she is going to kill you in your sleep tonight. Get rid of the cat.

*We opened the package.  It’s sweet potato pancake mix.  We ate it.  Now we’re bloated and we can’t get up.

*Your kids are throwing a party. They’re giving us beer to buy our silence. You’d better come quick.

*The dumbass across the street is putting his garbage in our yard again.

Come to think of it, those are pretty much the only things they bark about anyway. And let’s be fair — their brains are the size of an Everlasting Gobstopper, and dogs have been barking for centuries.

They, at least, know that garbage trucks don’t go both ways down the same street.

An old Indian man stands on the corner of my street every afternoon between four and six.  Dressed in white linen pants and a linen tunic, he supports himself with a cane he holds in his left hand.

With his right hand, he waves at every passing car and shouts what I thought were the only two English words he knows.

“Number one!” he yells, smiling and waving his index finger.

I’ve asked about him around the neighborhood, but no one knows much.  “That man’s off his rocker,” one woman offered.  And I wondered if maybe she was right.

One beautiful afternoon, I was riding in my convertible with my mother.   We came upon the old guy several houses down from where he usually stood.  He stepped into the street in front of my car and began waving both arms in the air, the cane swinging wildly above his head.

“Number one!”  he yelled as I stopped my car.  He walked over to us, grinning with every step.

When he got to my car, he added a new word.  “Number one car!” he shouted, pointing at it.  I grinned and said back to him, “Number one car.”

He pointed to my mother.  “Number one mama.”

I nodded and said, “Yes.  Number one mama.”

And then he let me know beyond doubt that he is definitely not off his rocker.  He said, pointing to my mother, “Million dollar mama!”

I smiled and nodded and agreed with him yet again.  “Yes!   Million dollar mama!”  And with that, he backed away from my car and waved us on.

My mom, of course, was and still is a million dollar mom.  But so am I, and so is every woman who has ever slept with a wheezing child on her chest to make sure he was still breathing or kept her cool when her son’s lizard escaped in the house and ran up her pants leg.  Or listened patiently as her daughter recited the entire Little Mermaid script for the sixth time.  Or stood her ground when an angry teenage girl swore to hate her forever. Or held her tears as she left her kid at college.  Or jumped for joy when that same kid graduated on time.

See, for every bad mom on the planet, there are 683 massively guilt-ridden ones who go to bed every night insanely thinking they haven’t done enough.

The truth is, we’re all good enough.  We love our kids desperately, and that alone makes us Million Dollar Moms.  Those who can’t see it are completely off their rockers.

Happy Mother’s Day.

Oprah’s latest soapbox is keeping people from texting and talking on the phone while driving.  And the National Distracted Driving summit was held in Washington, DC, a few months ago.  In a speech, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said, “Texting, using hand-held and hands-free cell phones, talking to passengers, and even programming your GPS while driving can be life-threatening distractions on the road.”

In addition, Senator Charles Schumer of New York introduced the ALERT Driving Bill in Congress.  ALERT is a clever acronym for Avoiding life Endangering and Reckless Texting.

I wonder how Oprah, LaHood, and Schumer feel about talking your four-year-old son through the process of peeing into a McDonald’s milk carton while hurling a Honda Odyssey down an empty stretch of highway.

Or how about this?  A small voice in the backseat of the new BMW announces, “I have to throw up right now — BLEECH!”  Does that qualify as driver distraction, and should the administration be considering a bill to ban underage automobile barfing?

I’d like to suggest a coupe of bills an ambitious senator could introduce as legistation.  For starters, let’s try SWIFT, which would be a ban on Spanking While In Fast Traffic.  I’ve done it, attempting to swat at a toddler whose escaped, Houdini-like, from a carseat/straitjacket while negotiating a hairpin turn.  It’s actually a hair more effective than a hands-free cell phone at getting a message across.

There ought to be a FART bill, a ban on Fighting And Riding Together.   I’ve witnessed some serious swerving on the highways, and it’s usually quite obvious that the occupants are fighting.    Or doing something else they shouldn’t be doing in the car.  The acronym for that would also be FART — Fondling And Riding Together.

Movie’s Over-Van Endangered.  The MOVE bill makes it a crime for a parent to allow a movie playing in the vehicle to run out while the vehicle is in motion.  A parent must anticipate the end of a movie and stop to change it well before all hell breaks loose.

A few years ago, I rode from St. Augustine, Florida, to Atlanta with my sister and her four preschool-aged children.  the twins were in the very back seat of her Ford Excursion, and the two younger children were in the middle row.  All were buckled into massive car seats with an empty seat separating them. 

I happened to glance back at the twins just in time to see Faith bend over the side of her seat and reach down to grab something.  Then, without warning, and certainly without provocation, she lifted a stick into the air and smacked her twin, Grace, across the top of the head with it.

“Hey!  What are you doing?” I yelled at Faith, just as Grace let out a hideous wail.  “She just picked up a stick and hit Grace with it,” I reported to my sister.

“Where did she get a stick?”  she asked.  Then, “Faith, where did you get that stick?”

“In Grammy’s yard,” Faith admitted in a tiny voice.

“Why did you hit your sister?”

“I don’t know.”

My sister and I debated what to do.  Should she wait until they got home to discipline Faith?  There wasn’t a good place to get off of I-75, so the safest thing to do would be to wait, we decided.

Then the two started struggling over the stick.  Someone was going to end up bloody if we waited.  My sister pulled onto the median, put the car in park, and then looked for something to use as a paddle.

“Use the stick,” I suggested. 

“It’s too big.  It might really hurt them,” she said, hesitating.

“Here,” I said, pulling off my flip flop. 

She crawled to the back of that monster vehicle, pulled Faith out of her car seat and used my all-time favorite flip flop to mete out punishment.  Then she confiscated the stick.  The rest of the trip, any time a kid let out a squeak, she held up the stick and said, “I’ll use this on you next time.”

When we got home, I stepped out of that Excursion and turned my ankle, causing the strap on my favorite flip flop to snap.  Faith saw it happen.  She grinned, picked up the stick that her mother had thrown into the yard, and carried it into the house. 

I wonder how Oprah would have handled that.

Laverne sniffed my hand suspiciously. “You’ve been petting someone tall, dark, and handsome,” she said in an accusing voice.

“There’s been no petting in my life in quite some time,” I said, adding, “Maybe we need to get the nose checked?”

“Not human tall, dark, and handsome. Canine. And while you were out fooling around, your crazy Bengal cat ate all my food. I’m starving.”

She had me.

Last week, as part of an assignment for the magazine, I spent an afternoon riding with Officer Steve and his dog, Abbas, one of the K-9 teams in our local police department.

Abbas is an 8-year-old Belgian Malinois (pronounced Mal-uh-wah) who was born in the Netherlands and has a pedigree longer than Lindsay Lohan’s rap sheet. He’s been certified by the Dutch Royal Police. According to his partner, Officer Steve, Abbas has participated in five arrests, including that of a convicted murderer and a child molester. And get this: every person he’s arrested has made a visit to the emergency room on his way to the pokey. In fact, the convicted murder walks with a limp now. He’s missing the Achilles tendon in his right ankle, thanks to Abbas.

Laverne and Shirley were impressed. Kind of. They began yapping about pursuing a career in law enforcement. Part-time, of course. With doughnuts at least twice a week.

“I don’t think the police department is looking to add dachshunds to the force,” I said. “You can do some damage to a possum, but I don’t think the bad guys would be scared of you.”

“The tax assessor was scared,” Shirley pointed out. “And we instinctively went for the Achilles, just like Abbas did.”

“She was barely five feet tall, and you didn’t even break the skin,” I pointed out. “Plus, police dogs have to be brave enough to go into buildings and clear them so that the human officers are safe. You guys are afraid of leaf blowers and vacuum cleaners.”

The hair on the back of Lavern’s back bristled. “I’ve cleared a room before. Remember the gay decorator?”

“Laverne, crapping on my living room floor cleared the room, yes. But making the decorator gag didn’t help me.” I continued, “Here’s something else about Abbas: He’s trained in food refusal so that he can’t be bribed or poisoned. In contrast, I’ve thought about having the two of you tested for Prater-Willi Syndrome, that disease that causes you to keep eating because you never feel full.”

They howled at the insult.

I continued, “Remember biting the Domino’s guy to get the pizza?”

Shirley growled. “That guy put the pizza in a sheet to be hauled up to the second floor so that your kids could sneak pizzas in after midnight! We weren’t trying to get the pizza. We were alerting you!”

Laverne poked Shirley with her nose and whispered, “I’m pretty sure law enforcement dogs don’t lie.”

Shirley hung her head in shame. Tears formed in the corners of her eyes.

“Hey, guys,” I said. “Not everyone is cut out for police work. But some make great security guards. Our house has never been broken into, and you keep this yard completely free of squirrels, possums, and UPS guys. You’re pretty awesome at what you do.”

They weren’t convinced. They moped around until I thought to tell them that Abbas is rewarded for his hard work with a piece of PVC pipe.

Turns out, they like the security gig. They get eggs.

Please tell me I’m not special. I’d hate to think that I’m the only person in the world who has terrible luck with New York cab drivers.

Last fall, during the trip to deliver my daughter to her dorm at NYU, I got into a verbal altercation with a cabbie complicated by the fact that his verbiage was, simply put, NOT English.

My ire started when he refused to help us load the six massive suitcases filled with my daughter’s belongings into his trunk. Thankfully, the hotel valet came to our aid.

Once in the car, I said, “We’re going to 75 Third Avenue, at the corner of Third and Eleventh.” We were at 57th street, and I know enough about New York to know that the street numbers get higher as you go north. In other words, number-75 anything is closer to the south end of Manhattan.

The man turned north.

“Excuse me,” I said, “shouldn’t we be heading south?”

“You say sebennty-fife. I go sebennty-fife street.”

“No, I said 75 Third Avenue. Not 75th street. I told you it’s at the corner of Third and Eleventh.”

An argument ensued, but it wasn’t over what I’d said. The man was arguing with me over whether or not 75 Third Avenue was actually at the corner of Third and Eleventh. He insisted it wasn’t possible.

I finally said, “Just humor me, and take us to Third and Eleventh. Forget the 75.”

The man grumbled in Farsi, I think, for the remainder of the ride. Then, when we arrived, he actually stopped the car and pointed across the two-way, four-lane street we were on and said, “Sebennty-fife across street.”

“Yes, I see it. And you’re going to take us over there, since we have six suitcases in the trunk,” I said. “And once we get there, you’re going to help us unload the six suitcases, or NO TIP FOR YOU!”

Last month, my girls and I found ourselves once again the unlucky passengers of a crazy New York City cab driver. He was driving like a hamster on heroin while on the phone describing the noise his car was making. “Dit-dit-dit-dit-dit-dit, it goes,” he was saying when the car in front of us stopped abruptly. Our distracted driver slammed on the brakes, and my head slammed into the seat in front of me.

My most bizarre cab driver experience, though, actually happened in Las Vegas. My friend, Fran, and I landed at McCarran International Airport and waited in the perpetually long cab line. When it was our turn, a nice looking fifty-something man wearing cowboy boots, a belt buckle the size of the Hoover Dam, and a bolero took our bags, tipped his Stetson, and said, “Good evening, ladies. Where to?”

A pleasant, English-speaking gentleman who drove safely? We took this man to be the equivalent of winning the taxicab MegaMillions.

Traffic was bad on the Strip, but we enjoyed a pleasant conversation with our driver. It took twenty minutes to go two miles, and by the time we finally pulled into the Aladdin, we had exactly ten minutes until our dinner reservations at Tao, which was more than a ten-minute walk from our hotel. We got out of the cab, and I handed the valet a $20 bill and said, “We have dinner reservations at Tao in ten minutes. Can you hold our bags until we get back?”

“Of course, ma’am,” he said. I looked over to the cab line and saw that no one was waiting for a cab, and then I said to our cab driver, “Is it okay if we just stay with you?”

“Oh, no, ma’am,” he said, quite emphatically.

Now, I understand the rule about waiting in line for a cab. But there was no line. Puzzled, I looked at the valet for help. “Aw, come on, dude,” the valet intervened. “These ladies just need to go to Tao.”

The cab driver hesitated, and then he relented. We jumped back into his car, and he turned right out of the Aladdin and onto the Strip. And that was when he looked into the rearview mirror and said, “Could you tell from my response that I’m married?”

“Huh?” Fran and I looked at one another, wondering what he was getting at.

He quickly explained: “When you asked if you could stay with me, I thought you meant you wanted to STAY with me. I said ‘No’ because I’m married.”

The old cowboy thought we were propositioning him.

Even in Vegas, I can’t get lucky with a cab driver.

My kid is a great tennis player. And I’m a champion tennis spectator. We make a great pair, this mom who loves tennis and loves her kid and the kid who burns through a pair of tennis shoes every three months when he’s training hard.

Well, we make a great pair when he’s playing and I’m watching. Recently, though, I pointed out that I’ve spent the equivalent of a Mercedes on his tennis lessons and that it should merit me a few free lessons from him.

He graciously took me out to the courts and spent a couple of hours working on my game. Finally, he shook his head in frustration and gave me his assessment:

1. My grip is screwed up. For those who don’t play tennis, it means I hold the racquet wrong.
2. My serve is horrible. Mostly, that’s due to the fact that I hold the racquet wrong.
3. I’m not very coachable. In other words, I wasn’t getting what he was trying to teach me.
4. Basically, and these are his words, “As a tennis player, you suck.”

After his assessment, whatever game I did have was shot. Every time I served, I heard his voice saying, “You’re not holding the racquet the right way.” In fact, I even double faulted an entire game with his words echoing in my brain.

Every shot, I heard him telling me I was holding the racquet wrong. I got so confused I couldn’t tell the difference between what was my wrong way and what was his right way.

Then the new season started. And I was in the lineup for the very first match. In fact, I was playing a position higher than I’ve ever played in my life – all with a screwed up grip and a hideous serve. I had to suck it up and get out on that court and just play the best I knew how.

We won.

Granted, I was playing with a really great partner. And granted, she’s the reason we won. But to my credit, I didn’t cause us to lose. In spite of me, we won.

Let me say it again: we won. And it felt great. I walked just a tiny bit taller for the rest of the day. And of course I let my kid know about the win.

That night, after I brushed my teeth and washed my face, I walked into my closet and pulled my pajamas out of the drawer. I pulled my sweatshirt off and then peeled off my tennis top. And that’s when I noticed that my tennis skirt was on backwards.

Now, I realize that tennis skirts can get all twisted around. But this wasn’t just a tennis skirt. It was one with the compression shorts built into it. I don’t know how, but I wore that sucker backwards all day long and never even noticed.

Did I mention that we won? Even with my screwed up grip and my hideous serve and my backwards skirt?

I’m going to have to wear that skirt backwards for the rest of the season.

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