Friday, April 28, 2006

In the hot seat

Editor’s note: Instead of running with Zen Mother’s usual column, we sat down with the elusive woman for an in-depth look at Newburyport’s most inappropriate advice columnist. The reporter asked not to be identified.

Reporter: Thank you for meeting with us today, Mrs. Z. Many of our readers are curious about you.

ZM: Well, I’m always willing to chat with you about being Newburyport’s most trusted advisor.

Reporter: Um, no, that’s not it. We wanted to interview you because April is National Humor Month.


Reporter: So…uh…we thought it would be timely to talk to you about your humor column.

ZM: You think I write a humor column? You think what I write is funny?

Reporter: Well, yeah. I mean, that stuff can’t be true – about killing your husband all the time, your wild kids and that crazy relative of yours, Grammy Z. That’s all made up, right?

ZM: What? Oh, right. Sure.

Reporter: So, where do you derive your material? Mrs. Z, excuse me but do you have something in your eye? It’s twitching.

ZM: You have no idea what it’s like. Living with them.

Reporter: Who? Why do you keep looking over your shoulder?

ZM: Them. They’re evil.

Reporter: Your family? C’mon. That can’t be true. What about your children?

ZM: They’re the worst – especially the youngest.

Reporter: He’s five years old, correct? What could be so evil about him?

ZM: I make him broccoli and when I put the plate in front of him, he says, “Ice cream sandwich?” Cute as can be, just like that. And I say, “Eat your broccoli,” and he say’s “Ice cream sandwich?” and I say, “Eat your broccoli” and he says…

Reporter: Ice cream sandwich?

ZM: YES! Don’t you see the madness?

Reporter: What do you do?

ZM: I GIVE HIM THE ICE CREAM SANDWICH! And the broccoli lies there staring at me, mocking me.

Reporter: Oh, I don’t think broccoli would mock you. Ah, waiter? Could I get the check? Quickly?

ZM: Well, the broccoli isn’t as bad as the Lego people – They live all over the house. They’re always whispering insults and playing practical jokes on me…climbing into my shoes, sneaking up from the couch cushions…I can’t stand it!

Reporter: The Lego people? WAITER! I really need to get back to work, Mrs. Z. Thank you for your time.

ZM: Wait! You can’t leave me. I can’t go home to that husband. He’s perfect, you know. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to live with someone like that? And every time I kill him, he comes back to life! Perfect and invincible!

Reporter: I’m sure he’ll die one of these days. Please, ma’am, let go of my leg.

ZM: Take me with you. Can’t you put me in a witness protection program or something? Don’t leave me! I BEG OF YOU!

Editor’s note: As you can see, Zen Mother needs a long vacation, preferably in a high-security location with soothing music and nightly Bingo. She’ll be wrapping up her column in May to return at a later…much later…date.

Friday, April 14, 2006

A matter of taste

Dear Zen Mother,

My husband and I are in the middle of painting and redecorating our house in hopes of selling it soon. What I'd like to know is, why do men's ideas of redecorating vary so greatly from women's?

Gloria from New York

Dear Gloria,

Before you spackle your husband into the wall, know that you raise an age-old struggle between husband and wife.

Henry Vlll beheaded Ann Boleyn not for lack of a male heir but because she dared called him 'swine!' when he ordered tapestries of Dogs Playing Poker for the royal rec room.

And shortly thereafter the secret Brethren of the Lazy Boy was established to help rid women from decorating decisions once and for all. One of its tenets being “No decorative pillows nor hand towels with appliqué butterflies shall dwell in manly abodes”– the existence of this organization today, however, is highly controversial.

Some wives have experienced a supernatural phenomenon whereby upon leaving a room with well-placed chairs and sofas arranged for conversation they return to find all the seats moved to within eight inches of the television.

But the roots of gross style discrepancies between husband and wife go back to the time of cave dwellings. Contrary to popular opinion, Neanderthal man did not club his wife over the head and drag her into the bedroom for uninterrupted prehistoric pleasure. No no, my friend. It was the ever-resourceful Neanderthal bride who brought a club along with her trousseau begging to be knocked out at the threshold so as not to see the paintings of last week’s kill on the living room walls.

In modern times, sensible women forgo the clubbing endured by our female ancestors to pursue a less painful solution. It’s called “I’m right and you’re wrong.” While this philosophy is applied to many situations during the course of a marriage, it is particularly useful in decorating, say, when your husband wants to know why a mini fridge for the bathroom is not a good idea or why hanging his (last place) bowling team picture (from five years ago) above the fireplace is not going to happen. Since there is no way to rewire your husband’s decorating ‘flair,’ you simply have to say, “Because I’m right and you’re wrong…so take that fish head side table out to the garage.”

But every so often, this tried and true response to your mate fails. This is when we women of impeccable taste, maturity and class resort to what is known as Operation Over My Dead Body: “If you replace my original Picasso with a wide screen television I’ll invite my mother to move in with us.”

Compromises can be met, however. The bowling team photo can be hung above the toilet (you’ll never see it) and a wide screen television will be nice to watch all those foreign films with subtitles you and your mother plan to rent for the next six months. If nothing else, you can always borrow my club.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Give me a break

Dear Zen Mother,

April vacation is just around the corner and I am at a loss for family vacation ideas. It seems like the kids were just out of school last week. Any suggestions?

Rachel from West Newbury

Dear Rachel,

My kids have always found the front hall closet a fun and rewarding ‘adventure’ for a week or two. Give them a flashlight and some Twinkies and they’re good to go. To make it a ‘Wild Kingdom’ type of getaway, just throw in the pet hamster and snake and watch nature take its course.

My husband thought the kids might enjoy a change of scenery this time around, however, and brought home several brochures of cave spelunking, helicopter skiing, bungee jumping and other “extreme” type of vacations.

“Haven’t you ever wanted to jump off a bridge?” he asked me.

“Every day and every night,” I answered.

“Seriously, sweetheart, extreme vacations are a great way to bond the family and release stress at the same time,” my husband said.

I thought back to Grammy Z playing naked water polo in the Marriott Courtyard pool last summer and wondered just how much more ‘extreme’ a vacation I could take.

“And extreme vacations don’t have to mean rustic. Many are very upscale. Look, here’s a trip to Antarctica complete with gourmet meals,” he said.

I interpreted ‘gourmet meal’ as being carried away by a polar bear that has sadly mistaken me for an oversized seal in my Louis Vuitton leather parka.

“And this one incorporates a social cause,” my husband continued pointing to a glossy picture of a family preparing fully equipped backpacks for the Emperor Penguins prior to their now famous march over hundreds of treacherous miles (couldn’t the family have given the birds a ride in their luxury all-terrain tour bus instead?).

“Or, if you can’t decide, just choose from this handy chart,” he persevered.

“I’ll take ‘Solitary Confinement’ for 100, Alec.”

“C’mon. The kids will love it,” my determined husband said.

I looked into the backyard where the sun danced across the climbing rocks and the tall sugar maple held up the tire swing and tree house. Then I turned to the living room where our kids were staring mindlessly at the TV.

“Kids, would you like to go on an extreme vacation instead of the front hall closet this spring?” I asked.

No response.

“I can’t say they’re enthused by this, honey,” I said to my husband.

He walked over and shut off the TV (apparently embracing the extreme vacation tenet to risk life and limb).

“DAD! What are you doing? We were watching THAT!” they cried.

“Tell me what show you were watching and I’ll give you fifty bucks,” he challenged.

“The Simpsons,” said one.

“American Idol,” said another.

“60 Minutes,” said the last, glaring at the others for forgetting their agreed-upon pat answer.

Their father calmed them down and asked them to select a family vacation destination – front hall closet (exotic pet animals and junk food included) or Parachuting in Paraguay, perhaps.

“Can’t we just watch “Fear Factor” while washing dishes for mom?” they asked, recalling a particularly favorite moment when the brothers challenged each other to eat dinner remnants out of the garbage disposal.

Their discouraged father turned the TV back on and left the room, his shoulders hunched, his chin down. My heart ached for the good and dedicated man. It was at this moment I decided to help him achieve what he so desired. I vowed to push him off a bridge the first chance I got.