I am not what you might call a “relaxed” individual.  On the long, long resume of all my wonderful skillz, if you see “resting” on there you will also probably see “lying” shortly thereafter.  “Lying” as in “fibbing”, of course, and not “lying down.”

My mom thinks it has something to do with my caffeine intake.



Whatever, Mom.

Last year Santa got me a massage for Christmas.  I needed a massage because I was having trouble putting my arms down and turning my head.


It’s a long story, but the situation (namely, school) that led to that unfortunate condition has tended to repeat itself ever since, which is why I asked for a massage again this year.

And I think that is why Santa got me a


for a massage.


It turns out that a massage and a Groupon for a massage are not exactly the same thing.

Last year I had quite the boring time getting a massage at this old white Victorian house just up the road from my parents’ house.  The whole thing was really uneventful, as you might suspect a massage to be.  It looked something like this:


This year was…um…different.


Yes.  Yes that is a gun store.  The epitome of relaxation and peace of mind.

Somehow the thought of walking into this place and, you know, voluntarily removing my clothing wasn’t really the most comforting thought I’d had in a while.  But I’d driven an hour to get there, and that’s a loooong way to drive without turning your head.

So I went in.


My therapist actually turned out to be a very sweet lady, and I’m glad to say that I am once again quite the ambiturner.  But I still wouldn’t consider the experience a relaxing one.  Not only was I vaguely concerned with what I convinced myself was just a car backfiring in the parking lot, but I am also extremely ticklish.


It wasn’t too big a problem when my face was all smushed up in that little padded toilet seat they make you smush your face into.  But just because the therapist couldn’t see my face of silent torture does not mean my body spasms went unnoticed.  I can’t even tell you how many hiccups I faked.  And hiccups are most decidedly not relaxing.

But giggles (and anxiety over tipping etiquette…separate story) aside, I left the office like spaghetti sliding out of a colander.


If you think turning your head is important for safe driving, you should try operating a vehicle when your oiled-up noodle arms keep sliding off the steering wheel.


As it was, however, I decided to take advantage of my delusional crazycloud and got three vaccinations and another piercing.



Avoiding eye contact is the most basic principle of avoiding someone you don’t want to deal with.  Normal people will stop talking to you if they are constantly faced with either the top of your head or the point of your chin, so go ahead, wear your sunglasses inside.  However, if the person you are avoiding is exceptionally abnormal (is that why you’re avoiding him?), maybe you should try staring at him really hard or something until he runs away.

But assuming your darty eyes are not enough to hold off that annoying person in your life, here are nine more defense strategies to help you in your plight.

Step 2.  Create a Diversion

“Look! A bird!”  “Oh no!  There’s a fire in that trashcan!”  “Is that Barack Obama over there?”  For example.

Step 3.  Pivot

Never underestimate the power of a quick toe swivel. Oh, what’s that? You forgot something at your desk? Better turn around mid-stride and go get it right now!

Step 4.  Yawn

So you’ve lucked out and seen your nemesis before he’s spotted you. Quick, look away before you can make the dreaded Eye Contact!! It will be weird if you pass by them with your eyes closed, but NOT if your face is all scrunched up because you are yawning so big. And you can seriously stretch this out for as long as you can handle.  Go big or go home.

If the sight of your tonsils doesn’t scare ’em away, you might need to try…

Step 5.  Dropping Something

I don’t go anywhere without at least twenty pieces of paper tucked under my arm for this exact purpose. Oh no! There’s someone walking towards me that I don’t want to see! Better drop this stack of paper all over the floor and occupy myself with picking them up. Of course, if the avoidee is the kindhearted type, DON’T TRY THIS ONE. Inevitably they will only take your woopsiedaisy as an excuse to linger and chat you up while they hold your twentieth piece of paper hostage.

Step 6.  Throw Things At Them

Blow things at them.

Swat things at them.

Bat things at them.

Throw up on them.


Step 7.  Wear Headphones

You know that awkward feeling when you have an entire conversation with someone before you realize they haven’t heard a word you’ve said because of those freaking invisible earbud headphones? And then you silently and awkwardly try to disappear? Yes. Do that.


DON’T. Getting tired of your playlist? Too bad. Fortunately, nobody will know the difference if you turn off the music (but keep your headphones on) and just kind of bop your head or tap your foot to some kind of invisible rhythm.

Step 8.  Hide

Step 9.  Actually Stay Home

Go roll around in the ball pen at McDonald’s, catch some sniveling child’s plague, and – Voila! – you’ve crafted yourself the perfect pajamas-and-hot-tea kind of day.

(This can also help with Step 6.)

And if your nemesis comes around bearing soup/medicine/glitter, gratefully accept and then sneeze on them until they go away. Warning: this one does NOT work if the avoidee is your roommate, in which case…

10.  Move

I was nine the first time I realized my sense of humor wasn’t always considered…appropriate.

I was at a friend’s birthday party, and, as I have done for probably every friend’s birthday since I learned how to work a computer mouse, I had made her an extra-special birthday card.

I’d heard a pretty funny joke shortly before said party, and thought I was pretty much the smartest person ever when I figured out how to turn it into a birthday note.

It’s festive because of the clown; it’s funny because of the cannibals (right?).  I was so excited when she peeled the card off the top of her gift, but…something was off as she started reading my joke.  Was she…confused? a slow reader? disgusted?

And then the reality of what I’d done began to sink in.

Panic started seeping in as she flipped open the card.

I was momentarily relieved!  My joke wasn’t a flop, my friend was just dumber than I’d thought.  Phew!

But then.  But then she handed the note to her mom.

And she got the joke.

And she didn’t think my joke was “age-appropriate.”


Now I only tell that joke to ten-year-olds.

We were freezing.

Wee One was scared.

But it was time.  Time for him to learn how to swim.

We went to the local pool complex a lot when I was an au pair.  Wee One would watch his older sisters dart around the pool like little fish, and he was all too excited to join them until he realized he’d have to relinquish both his swimmies and his death grip on my arm to do so.

It had snowed during our previous pool adventure, so I thought the water was relatively quite balmy for our first swim lesson.  Wee One, however, strongly disagreed.  As I carried him like a baby spider monkey into the pool, I could feel his arms gradually tighten around my neck.

And with each step we took further down into the water, he shimmied a little bit further up my torso…

…and onto my face.

Needless to say, we did not learn to swim that day.

So I was an au pair in Austria for a little while.

For those who don’t know, “au pair” is just fancy talk for “foreign nanny.”

At this point, by the way, you should be thinking of this:

(If you are thinking of this,…

…then you are confused.)

Before I left I just laughed when people asked me if I thought the hills really were alive with the sound of music, and if I could please verify that fact during my time abroad.

(But if you have ever been to the Alps, you know it’s true:  those mountains SING.  There must be, like, a tiny lederhosen-ed, yodeling man on each mountaintop or something.)

And, hey, I’ll admit it:  I had fantasies about making clothes out of curtains for the kids.  Scarlett O’Hara did it first, and Maria just stole the idea, so why not?  It seemed perfectly idyllic to me.

These are some of the other things I thought before I moved to Austria:

1.  That I would sing to the kids just like Maria.

2.  That we would (eventually) speak the same language.

3.  That they would love me.

These are some things I thought two days after I moved to Austria:

1.  I don’t care if the whole town is staring at this “crazy American.”  If I don’t keep marching and clapping my hands and singing Abba songs at the top of my lungs, these children are NEVER going to follow me to school.  EVER.

2.  All I hear is “eeshhh phlegm bock shhhh kkkkk phlegm.”

3.  These kids hate me.  I knew I shouldn’t have forgotten the tissues.

Tissues, you say?

Yes.  Tissues.

It had been mere moments since I had stepped off the train and into the hyper-real Bavarian sunshine, jet-lag tugging at my heels, before I was sent on my merry way with three small Austrian children.  We were going to the park!

What could go wrong in such a perfect place?!

My foggy brain sloshed around in my head as I nodded it up and down, up and down.  Snacks…drink…phone…

For some reason, I don’t use a lot of tissues.  When my nose is running, I wipe it on my sleeve.  When my forehead needs blotting, I wipe it on my sleeve.  When I’ve got bread crumbs stuck to my lips, I wipe them on my sleeve (classy).  Get the picture?

But when a child in my care has a sudden, powerful need to POOP RIGHT NOW,…

It happened so fast.  One second we’re playing on the seesaw, the next, there’s this tiny person clawing at my leg with one hand and yanking furiously at his pants with the other.  I don’t care what language you speak, a kid trying to rip his pants off almost always means “I HAVE TO GO RIGHT NOWWW!!!”

But when you are little, your legs are awfully short, and squatting in the grass without squatting directly atop your own pants is a very tricky business.  So, as a sign of my trustworthy good nature, I hooked my wrists under his armpits so he could lean back on my forearms and keep the chocolate in the grass.

Fortunately, Wee One’s sister saw the fun and decided to help!  I was supporting his upper body, so naturally she went for his feet.

So at this point Wee One is basically a writhing, pooping hammock strung up between me and his six-year-old sister.  And I am looking wildly around to make sure no one sees this disaster unfolding (could you get ousted from a country for letting a kid poop in public?).

But just wait.  It gets better.

So he’s finally finished, and we put him back on the ground, and I’m trying to help him pull his pants back up before my foggy brain clears for a second and I realize that he is totally fighting me.  And of course he is!  He’s still got crap all over his butt!  I may have forgotten the tissues, but I am still thinking

Big Sister watches this transaction for a moment before exhaling in annoyance at my apparent ineptitude, plucking a dandelion from the grass, and using it to go to town cleaning Wee One’s back side.  For a second I panicked.  But then she plucked another dandelion.  And another.  And another.  Until she was satisfied with her work, looked up at me as if to say “SEEEE??”, brushed off her hands, and ran back to the seesaw.  And I just stood there and watched it all unfold.

I would’ve hated me, too.