Madoodle and Chevy Chase

 “Try this,” my dad said, holding out a spoon. “It’s called Madoodle.”

I was young and dumb and willing to try anything once. He had just moved back to Michigan after seven years in California, where he told us he had learned to cook authentic Mexican food. Madoodle didn’t sound particularly Latino, but it did sound like a fun and festive dish. Like a party in my mouth. 

My sisters were less trusting. “What’s in it?” one of them asked.

“Onion, pepper, hominy, tripe –”

“What’s tripe?” she persisted.

“Cow stomach.”

Oddly enough the sound I made as I hawked that substance out of my throat and halfway across the room sounded a bit like I was shouting “Madoodle!” 

That was the beginning of my education concerning my father’s cooking. Lesson one: the man was almost completely deaf, so he usually just took a stab at pronunciation of words. Madoodle was Menudo.

Lesson two: Don’t eat anything at Dad’s house.

He was a meat cutter. He had no problem eating parts of animals that there is just no reason to eat. Stomach, tongue, heart, liver, you name it, he served it to us. He even kept a jar of pickled pigs feet in his fridge for special occasions. 

And the problem wasn’t just the parts that he ate. It was also the animals from which he got those parts. At any given moment, he might have possums, squirrels or raccoons in his freezer. 

I am not a fussy eater. Obviously. If I were, this book would probably have to be called Thin, Fifty, and Menopausal.  But still, there are just some things that I am not going to eat. Wild rodent-type animals? No. No squirrels or possums. Organ meats? Hell no. Animal parts that haven’t been fully cooked? Yuck. If it’s still bleeding when it hits my plate, I’m not touching it. 

Pretty simple. However, as I get older, the list of foods I won’t eat seems to be growing. It’s not that I like food any less, or that I’m becoming more selective for some kind of moral or ethical reasons.

It’s that I now have a fifty year-old digestive system. Certain foods now have a tendency to party down in my lower intestine, and like most parties, the clean-up can be rather unpleasant.

Not too long ago, some friends and I got together for an evening of what we like to call “kitchen bitchin’.” Some of us bring wine, some of us bring snacks, and all of us bring attitude. And one of my friends brought something that completely changed my perception of food while making me uncomfortably aware of just exactly how old I really am.

She is a lovely Latina lady who likes to make authentic Mexican foods for these get togethers.  I thought at first that her dish that night was her delicious homemade salsa or pico de gallo because she served it with crispy tostadas and tortilla chips. She brought an enormous bowl of this amazing concoction that involved tomatoes, peppers, avocado, olives and shrimp, with just a touch of lime. 

It was beyond incredible. My tastebuds spent the entire evening having tiny orgasms.  

Oh, it was spicy, but it was the kind of spicy that doesn’t hit until you stop eating it. It was chilled to perfection, cool and tangy at the same time in my mouth. It tasted so good that I didn’t want to swallow each delicious mouthful and make the moment end. My friends and I gobbled that stuff as though our lives depended on it.

Then I took a little break.

Holy hell.

That’s when the peppers hit, and they hit hard. Each incoming breath hit the inside of my mouth like a blast from a flame thrower. I gulped my wine, but I might as well have been throwing the alcohol on an open flame. 

My friend helpfully handed me a Mexican beer, which not only increased the burning sensation but left a taste in my mouth that made me wonder if I had had just swallowed beer or licked a skunk’s butt.

She laughed and squeezed a lime into my beer.  “Try it now,” she suggested.

Oh, man. Like the food I had been eating, the lime-enhanced beer changed my perspective on flavor. It was just so undeniably good. Beyond good. Amazing. Indescribable.

But here’s the part that got me in trouble. The more I drank of the lime-enhanced Mexican beer, the more I had to eat of the shrimp-tomato-avocado delight. Every time I stopped consuming either one, my mouth burned. The only thing that could take away the burning sensation was the cool, refreshing application of copious amounts of beer and food. I was afraid to stop. I couldn’t stop.

“Wh-what is this — hic — called?” I stammered, scooping out more from the bottom of the bowl.

I swear to God she said, “Chevy Chase,” which struck me as being really, really funny.

There was nothing funny about what happened in my lower intestine a few hours later.

In my younger days, I could eat spicy food and not have any problems. I could drink beer. Hell, I could drink just about anything with the very notable exception of Schnapps, which is just hot snot in a bottle that comes up in one big, gooey ball if you happen to throw it up. Other than that, nothing really bothered my stomach back then. I could digest anything.

That was then, this is now. 

I spent the rest of the night in the bathroom. When I wasn’t expelling mass quantities of pure evil, I was curled up on the floor, moaning. I would have called for help, but I had lost all knowledge of the English language by then. Couldn’t have spoken anyway, because as the alcohol wore off I began to believe that I no longer had lips or tongue. They’d been burned off. 

By three a.m., I was crying for my mommy. 

On the positive side, I’m pretty sure I lost a pants size that night, along with a few internal organs.  It came out of my body with such force that I’m fairly certain I levitated over the toilet a few times. It’s entirely possible that my head spun all the way around. By four a.m., I was wondering whether or not my insurance would cover reconstruction of my sphincter, or at the very least a skin graft on what was left of my ass. 

There was not enough coffee in the world to deal with the hangover that hit me the following day. Believe me when I say I tried. I drank my body weight in strong, black coffee.

Which was really a mistake after the damage done by the spicy food. It just sort of greased the skids. It would have been kinder to my digestive system to pour the coffee straight from the pot into the toilet and just eliminate the middleman entirely. 

It turns out that the dish my friend made that night was Ceviche, and it really wasn’t all that spicy. It was actually pretty mild. Her children eat it all the time. My children have tasted it and declared it “wimpy”. 

And apparently “wimpy” is what I am now. My body is no longer capable of processing the kinds of things I could consume without a second thought when I was younger. 

I have officially reached the “bland foods” stage of life. Bland foods and sensible shoes. I have this sudden fear that I am going to look into the mirror someday soon and see one of my aunts looking back at me. With a “fiber bar” in one hand and a soothing cup of warm milk in the other. 

On the positive side, I now have an excellent excuse in case anyone ever offers me a nice hot bowl of Madoodle.

“No thanks,” I’ll tell them. “At my age, I just can’t handle spicy foods any more.”

 

Today’s post is an excerpt from my book Fat, Fifty, and Menopausal. If you’d like to read more ridiculousness like this, please check out my Goode For a Laugh series!

H.E. Double Hockey Sticks

My twenty year-old son stumbled out in to the living room shortly after noon, rubbing sleep out of his eyes and grumbling some sort of dire warnings about the leftover pizza that better still be in the fridge, Mother, but stopped suddenly to question me over what he obviously saw as a far more important situation.

“Okay, Mom,” he asked warily, glancing  around the room, “what did you kill this time?”

I must have looked baffled — understandably so — because he pointed at the broom that I had leaned against the wall.

“The broom. The broom is in the living room,” he explained. “Dad used hockey sticks, you use the broom.”

I’m not sure if he has that little faith in my housekeeping habits or that much faith in my hunting skills, but I tried to explain to him that the mice and chipmunks in the immediate area were all safe and sound for the time being. “I swear, I just finished cleaning the bathroom.”

“Sure, Mom. Sure.”

In the absence of any rodent corpses or tell-tale bloodstains, he let the matter drop and lumbered away in search of cold pizza.

I wish I could say that this conversation was unusual for us, but unfortunately it was not. I am constantly astonished to find out the way my adult children  remember different aspects of their childhood. Like the hockey stick/broom conundrum, apparently.

The Big Guy, their father, was a former hockey player, which explains the hockey sticks. Sort of. He had skates and shoulder pads and helmets stuffed into the back of the hall closet behind his ice fishing gear, which sort of made sense. But the sticks were everywhere. And by everywhere, I mean everywhere.

There was a hockey stick by the back door, and two in the barn. There was one in the kitchen, near the door to the basement. He had one tucked in behind the couch in his office, a well as another beside our bed. That’s right, he kept a hockey stick beside the bed.

Now, I’ll admit to my fair share of sexual fantasies that may or may not involve a large, muscular hockey player skating away with me for a quick hat trick, but the bedside hockey stick had nothing to do with any kind of role-playing.

Unfortunately.

The Big Guy’s hockey sticks were there for self-defense. Against bats, big hairy spiders, mice, and a very confused raccoon in the mudroom on one memorable occasion.  He wielded a hockey stick like Adrian Paul wielded a sword in late-night reruns of The Highlander. The only time he let me use the hockey stick as a weapon was the night someone tried to break into our home at 2:30 in the morning. Even then, he only handed it over because he was busy loading his hunting rifle.

I’d like to think I was at least a tiny bit intimidating, but it’s probably safe to say that the intruder was actually frightened away by rifle, not by me in all of my bathrobe-bedhair-hockey stick terror. Although I’ll be the first to admit that I gave myself a bit of a shock when I glanced at my reflection in the window.

I was pretty damn terrifying.

While my children remember a hockey stick as their father’s weapon of choice, they apparently remember a broom being mine.

You may have caught on by now to the fact that none of our cats have ever been very good at their job. Instead of killing mice in the house, our confused little felines prefer to capture rodents outside, only to bring them inside and then release them. Mice, chipmunks, moles, you name it and they’ve probably brought at least one into my living room. One cat even brought in what I assumed was a dead possum.

That, of course, was the night I learned where the saying “playing possum” comes from.

Let me digress for a moment here. I once got a bad review on Faster Than a Whippoorwill’s Ass because the reader was “disgusted by all the animals [I] beat and killed.”  I want to be very clear about the fact that I am not some kind of animal-abusing whackadoodle who enjoys beating rodents to death with hockey sticks and brooms–or anything else, for that matter. I’m more than happy shooing the little buggers outside with said weapons whenever possible. But I will not co-habitate with them.

The only smelly, dirty animal allowed to live with me in my house is my son, and I’m really trying to convince him that showers are, in fact, necessary on a regular basis, and that it is not normal for his dirty clothes to stand up on their own after he takes them off.

“Brushing your teeth is not optional, son,” I’ve had to remind him more times than I care to admit.

At any rate, cleaning out the house for our renovations has raised many questions. Why was there a Cool Whip container in the fridge with the words “Don’t Eat! Cocoons!” scrawled across the lid in black Sharpie? Why was there a mummified bat wedged in behind the lath and plaster in the living room? Why was there a fifty year-old pocket knife under the bathroom floor — and why was the neighbor’s name engraved on the handle of that knife?

So  many questions that can never be answered. But I had a very simple answer prepared when the contractor asked me, “What’s the deal with all the hockey sticks?”

“Self-defense,” I told him, and now I think he’s just a tiny bit afraid of me.

If he thinks I’m scary with a hockey stick, he should see me with a broom.

 

Batshit Crazy

About a year ago, I published My Mirror Lies to Me, my third collection of funny stories and musings on life in my little corner of rural Michigan. In one chapter,  I talked about the time my husband, his brother,  and my father encountered some bats while working on our house.

I was reminded of that story this week, when workers discovered a mummified bat within the walls of that same house twenty-odd years later. Let that sink in for a minute.

They found a mummified bat within the walls of my house.

Seriously, this kind of stuff doesn’t happen to other people, does it?

At any rate, Mr. Mummy Bat’s unexpected appearance made me want to share the other bat story. So here is a short peek inside a chapter of My Mirror Lies to Me. I hope you enjoy it!

Batshit Crazy

A few years ago, blueberries became the big trend worldwide. Everyone, it seems, has been singing the praises of those little buggers for their health benefits and anti-oxidant properties.

Yeah, I could have told them that. I live right in the middle of “Blueberry Country.” Between the sandy soil, the moist air along the lakeshore, and the short but intense summers, this part of the world was made for growing blueberries.

I grew up here. I’ve gone blueberry picking every summer, although I’d probably owe a small fortune to those farmers if they ever got smart enough to put my chunky ass on a scale before and after an hour in the field. I freely admit that I put twice as many in my belly as I put in the bucket, and so do my kids. If I take them picking later on in the afternoon, I can usually get away with not having to make dinner that day.

Here in Blueberry Country, we put blueberries in everything. Blueberry muffins. Blueberry waffles with blueberry syrup. Blueberry wine. Even blueberry bratwursts, for God’s sake. As far as I’m concerned there is nothing as tasty as a handful of fresh blueberries on top of a bowl of vanilla ice cream.

They are delicious, but I really don’t understand how anyone absorbs any kind of health benefits from eating them. It’s not like we actually digest them. They come out in the same condition they go in. Better, in some cases. I’m afraid to even glance down at the toilet during blueberry season because I know I’m going to start worrying about the fact that I remember chewing those berries that are now floating whole in the bowl.

It’s like stomach acids have some sort of restorative properties when it comes to blueberries.

This doesn’t just happen to humans, either. The birds around here begin dropping bright purple grenades during blueberry season. Cars, laundry on clotheslines, slow-moving pets — nothing is safe.

Just to go off a tangent for a moment here, I’d like to share something that makes me unique.

I have been hit by seagull poop at least once every summer of my life.

Every.

Single.

Summer.

That’s fifty-one summers of seagull shit, people. Granted, I don’t remember the first few shitbombs, but family members tell me that the streak started early in my life.

And it’s not just a Michigan thing. One year, I went camping in Virginia with a friend and a seagull crapped on me at the campground. In Virginia. It’s like they have a secret seagull messaging system to make sure I get hit no matter where I go.

I even got nailed by one as I left work last night. At night. Birds don’t fly at night. That particular seagull must have been perched on the lightpost outside the hotel for hours, just waiting to complete its mission.

And yes, I know for a fact that most birds don’t fly at night. I learned that in the early days of my marriage, when the Big Guy and I sat in our backyard sharing a romantic moment under the stars. “Look at the pretty night birds over by the porch light,” I sighed, blissfully ignorant about my new life in the country.

“Birds don’t fly at night,” he told me. “Those are bats.”

Birds may not fly at night, but I sure did that night. I flew up the steps and through the door so fast that I’m pretty sure my feet never touched the ground.

I’ve learned since then that bats are truly wonderful creatures. They are complex animals with amazing talents, and they do so much to help control the insect population. Bats are not inherently a bad thing.

But they don’t belong in my house.

During our first few summers there, we were under constant bat attack. A bat can slip through the tiniest of openings, and our house was an old, old farmhouse that we were renovating, so there were many tiny openings. And big openings, for that matter. We seemed to have a bat or two flapping its way through the living room at least once a week every summer.

At one point, the Big Guy ventured up into the attic and discovered that it was Bat Central up there. I was one hundred percent in favor of abandoning the house and moving back into the city, but he swore he could take care of them. “We just need to figure out where they’re getting in, and then seal it up,” he told me.

True to his word, he gathered up a few friends and family members to stand in a loose circle around the house at dusk one night. As the sky grew darker, bats began to leave the cozy home they had made for themselves in our house. There was a narrow crack between the siding and the chimney, and that turned out to be a bit of a bat on-ramp.

He counted well over one hundred bats flying out through that crack.  When he thought they were all gone, he climbed a ladder and sprayed insulation foam into the entire crack to prevent them from coming back into our house in the morning. Later, he made a more lasting repair to the opening and solved the problem once and for all.

However, that left the problem of an attic full of bat poop. You can call it guano if you’d like, and rave about its wonderful properties as a fertilizer. But when it’s in my home, I’m going to call it what it is: shit. Bat shit. Nasty-ass, motherfucking batshit.

We had an attic full of it.

Unfortunately, not all of the bats left the house that night, so the problem sort of came to a head when the Big Guy rounded up his little brother and my father to help him while I was at work a few days later. It’s important to note here that the “little brother” is a ridiculously tall individual who makes the Big Guy seem more like a Medium Guy when they’re together. So I’m just going to refer to him as the Bigger Guy from here on out.

They didn’t tell anyone their plans for the day, probably because they knew I would have insisted on a few more safety precautions than they liked to use. I only figured it out because my mother-in-law was one of my clients that day, and she mentioned that she thought “the boys” were on their way to play tennis because they had stopped by her house that morning to borrow some tennis racquets.

Neither one of them plays tennis.

A tennis racquet is, however, the perfect defensive weapon when dealing with bats.

It wasn’t until years later that the Big Guy told me what actually transpired that day. Those three great big men went upstairs to begin ripping out the second floor ceilings to start the upstairs renovations. They took the tennis racquets to defend themselves against any remaining bats.

Apparently, none of them realized just how much batshit there really was in the attic. When they started ripping things apart, it began an ugly chain reaction that none of them would ever forget.

Along with the hundreds of pounds of batshit, the attic was also full of old bricks from some long-forgotten project started by the previous owner. Guano-covered bricks and boards began raining down, first on the Bigger Guy’s head and then on all three of them as the hole above them widened.

None of them had thought to wear any kind of hat or helmet, of course, or gloves. And I guess real men don’t wear masks, not even when dealing with hundreds of pounds of nasty-ass, motherfucking batshit.

They were covered with it. They breathed it in. It went into their eyes and ears and most likely other bodily orifices that I don’t want to think about. The two brothers leaned on each other, choking and gagging and gasping for air, tennis racquets forgotten in their hands as a few angry, homeless bats flapped around their heads.

My dad, however, stood a few feet away, staring at the guano on his arms with a calculating look in his eyes.

“You know,” he mused, “people would pay a lot of money for this stuff.”

“No,” the Big Guy told him. “We are not selling batshit from my attic. And we are never, ever telling anyone about this. No one. Not even Amy.”

“Especially not Amy,” the Bigger Guy agreed. “She’ll move out if she hears about this.”

“Just seems like sort of a gift from Mother Nature, you know?” my dad persisted. “Guano is worth a lot of money as fertilizer, and you’ve sure got a lot of it.”

“Batshit is not a gift, Dean,” the Big Guy said firmly.

He finally told me the whole story just before my father’s funeral a few years later. It was, he insisted, one of his favorite memories of Dad.

It made me feel good, too, in a way, because it made me realize that I’m luckier than my father  even though we both shared the same knack for being hit with bird poop. I may get nailed with wads of smelly, slimy, warm seagull shit every summer of my life, but I think I can say with all certainty that I will probably never share his experience of being buried under tons of guano.

Or, as I prefer to call it, nasty-ass, motherfucking batshit.

The Letter

I think we’ve all heard that old advice about writing letters that express our deepest feelings, only to dispose of the letters without actually sending them. It’s supposed to be a great way to vent, like the time my friend wrote a three-page missive to her husband about his peculiar habits involving dirty socks.

Now, I adore my friend and her husband, so I’m not going to go into any further details  about what he does in his alone-time with his socks or why it is that they are always dirty. Let’s just say that my friend should have actually disposed of the letter rather than just hiding it, because they were both baffled when he discovered it and read it nearly three years after she penned it.

At any rate, I recently wrote a similar letter after a bad day at work. I really blew off a lot of steam and got rid of some extreme anger as I pounded away at the keys, and I just couldn’t force myself to hit the delete key when I was done.

So, I changed a few detail to…ah… protect the innocent. Yeah, that’s it. I’m protecting an innocent delivery man who really pissed me off.

Or maybe I’m just protecting myself in case any of my supervisors happen to subscribe to my blog.

Either way, here’s the letter I wrote and will never ever send.

Dear ——,

As requested by my employer, I am contacting you in regards to the unfortunate conversation that took place between you and me at my place of employment this past Friday.

I apologize for the harsh words I spoke in reply to your repeated questions regarding our company policies as well as my level of competence. I really should have been more clear in my own repeated description of myself as “low man on the totem pole” and “bottom of the food chain” as I continuously suggested that you slow your tirade long enough for me to contact a supervisor who could have answered your questions before things spiraled out of control.

In my defense, my suggestion that followed was really a recommendation rather than a direct order or a personal request.

On a personal note, yes, I do realize that as a woman I do not possess testicles, and therefore it would not be possible for you to comply with my suggestion that you “suck my balls.” Again, it was really more of a general suggestion than a serious request. Given the rapidly escalating tension of our conversation, I assumed that you would understand that I spoke more from an emotional standpoint than one based on any kind of anatomical accuracy.

Also on a personal note, I would like to clarify that I do not know your mother, and my suggestion of an unnatural physical relationship between the two of you was totally out of line. As per my employer’s request, I would like to offer my most heartfelt apology for my use of the term that implied such a relationship. I am sure your mother is a fine and upstanding woman whose only real mistake was not raising you to be a better human being.

Unfortunately, I no longer fully remember the exact adjectives I used leading up to my use of that particularly offensive choice of compound words. Therefore, I am unable to apologize for each specific one on its own. Suffice it to say that, as a writer, I am in full possession of an extensive vocabulary, and I realize that I may have crossed a line.

I should also probably say I’m sorry for those adjectives that I further used to describe what I assumed must be the actual size of your penis. Having never seen your penis—and having no desire to do so—I can only guess that your obvious dislike of and unpleasant attitude toward women must be due to your having a phenomenally small dick that makes you act like a big one.

Please be assured that you and your tiny dick have my deepest sympathies for your struggles.

In the future, I sincerely hope that your employer makes an effort to assign you to clients whose employees are predominantly male. Under those conditions, your chauvinistic attitude and tendency to describe woman as female members of the canine species might be more acceptable. At the very least, those conditions should help you and your delicate sensitivities avoid being verbally assaulted by women like me with requests that you perform anatomically impossible acts.

In conclusion, I would like to take one final opportunity to express my most heartfelt regrets that the incident in question took place at my place of employment.

Best regards to you, your mother, and your tiny dick.

 

Inspect THIS

I am not a good housekeeper. I’m not proud of that fact, but I’ll own it.

I’d like to be like my sisters. They both have homes that are perfect. Perfectly decorated, perfectly organized, perfectly clean and maintained. At any given moment, I could drop in for a surprise visit at either home and I wouldn’t find so much as a dirty dish in the sink.

We grew up in the same house, so I don’t get it. Mom’s idea of cleaning was to basically hide any mess during the week and then power-clean all day Saturday to catch up. She just wasn’t good at it. I swear I was in my thirties before I knew that people are actually supposed to dust the top of doors and picture frames. And the whole matter of cleaning baseboards was a revelation of epic proportions for me just a few years ago.

Still, it’s not that bad in my home. Messy, yes. Dirty, no. There’s a difference. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

No one’s ever died from the mess in my home. If they have, I’ve never found a body. Then again, I haven’t made it all the way to the bottom of the laundry pile or dirty dishes in a long time, so perhaps I should be concerned.

Come to think of it, I haven’t seen my cat in a while.

I live in a government-subsidized apartment building, which means my apartment has to be inspected once each year. That’s all well and good, but somewhere along the line I managed to get on the wrong side of someone (hard to believe, I know, what with my exemplary levels of self-control and ability to keep my mouth shut) and now I seem to be in line for an inspection about every 6-8 weeks. And unfortunately, I failed the last one.

Now, just to put this into perspective, let me tell you a little bit about my neighbors. One fellow brings a charcoal grill into his living room so he can enjoy a nice grilled burger even in the dead of winter. Some folks resort to using an indoor grill that’s actually made for such circumstances, but this hardy fellow sees no need to resort to anything so silly.

Another neighbor has nine cats. Nine. Count ’em. In a two-bedroom apartment. In a pet-free building.

Another person has a dog that no one has actually seen. We hear him barking and whimpering when she goes to work or away for the weekend. Either he goes outside to do his business in the middle of the night or she’s trained him to use a litter box like a cat. Or maybe he’s some obscure breed of dog that’s specially bred to go its entire life without pooping.

The mind reels at that possibility, doesn’t it?

At least five of the tenants at my end of the building are marijuana users. Which, even with a medical marijuana card, is not allowed in a government-subsidized building. Not judging. Just observing. And trying not to inhale.

You know, I suddenly understand why I keep waking up at four in the morning with the munchies. Too bad I also wake up too paranoid to snack.

The point I am trying to make here is that it boggles my mind to realize that I alone managed to fail an inspection when surrounded by all of this. I swear, some people are so picky about the silliest things. Just because some leftovers in my fridge have recently become self-aware, there’s no reason to get nasty and say that my refrigerator presents a “health hazard.”

I’ve named the leftovers George and Gracie and I hope they’ll be very happy together. Now I’m just hoping they don’t reproduce.

Or revolt.

Maybe George and Gracie are holding my cat hostage in there. That would explain a lot.

I guess my standards are too low when it comes to keeping my home neat. If I can find a place to sit, I’m good. If there are clean dishes to eat out of, I’m happy. Even if that means eating soup with a fork out of sippy cup.

I keep waiting for the cleaning fairy, but I think she showed up once and fainted in sheer terror, after which George and Gracie probably absorbed her and made her part of their community.

So here I am on a nice, sunny Sunday afternoon, waiting for the inspectors to show up. The dishes are washed and put away, the laundry is folded and tucked into dresser drawers, and the floor has been vacuumed. I even mopped the kitchen floor.

I didn’t even realize I owned a mop. It was quite a shock to find it at the bottom of the laundry pile.

I have a roast with potatoes and carrots in the slow cooker, and the kitchen table has been cleared and set for supper, which will probably confuse the heck out of my son. Picture frames have been dusted and windows have been washed. The top of the stove is nice and shiny. I’m pretty sure I’ll pass today’s inspection.

I just hope George and Gracie behave.

 

Bubble Time

When my daughter was little, she had a friend who used to talk about “The Bubble.” “The Bubble” was this young lady’s way of referring to her circle of personal space, and it was easy to hear the capitalization of the words in the way she said it.

“Step back,” she’d say imperiously. “You are in The Bubble.

I have no idea what ever happened that girl and her Bubble, but I’ve been tempted lately to use her phrase to describe my own personal space. You see, I have a new person in my social circle who has no concept of –or respect for — The Bubble. She reminds me of that episode of “Seinfeld” with the woman Jerry and his friends referred to as The Close Talker, only this person is worse.

Much worse.

So much worse, in fact, that I am contemplating the idea of giving up deodorant for a while and eating nothing but onions, garlic, and brussels sprouts in hopes of getting her to take a step or two out of The Bubble. Instead, I came up with the following checklist that I think I’m going to hand her the next time I see her.

  1. If I can count the number of fillings in your mouth when you speak, you are too close.
  2. If I smell like your perfume after a simple conversation with you, you are too close.
  3. If you can’t talk to me without resting your breast on my arm, you are too close.
  4. If, in fact, your breast is trying to leap from inside your bra to inside mine, you are much too close.
  5. If I know exactly what size underwear you wear because the tag is leaving a Braille imprint on my hip every time you stand next to me, you are too close.
  6. If every conversation with you leaves me feeling like the “little spoon,” you are too close.
  7. If your dangly earring gets tangled in my hair, you are way too close. Seriously. I’m practically wearing a crew cut.

Or maybe, instead of handing over the list, I should just show up inside one of those inflatable Bubble Ball suits.

bubble

“Step back,” I’ll say imperiously. “You are too close to The Bubble.”

Yeah, it was a lot cuter when a ten year-old said it.

I’m a Little Teapot . . .

With all this talk about beaches lately, I decided to take my little boy for a swim yesterday. I didn’t feel like battling the post-holiday crowds that might still be lingering in South Haven, so we headed out for a nearby inland lake.

That was our first mistake.

Let me backtrack a bit and explain just exactly what was involved in this little trip to the ol’ swimmin’ hole.

First, I had to locate my swimsuit and do my damnedest to squeeze my pudgy self into that tummy-control, cleavage-enhancing, fat-minimizing adventure in lycra/spandex. I twisted, stretched, tugged, groaned and gasped my way into a mass of black fabric that fought back with all its might as I demanded that it do things it was never intended to do.

I think I may have blacked out for a while, but I’m not entirely sure. I like to think I just made a spontaneous decision to take a quick nap somewhere between adjusting the left boob and covering the right ass cheek.

After that, I had to pack the picnic lunch for my boy who has apparently decided that he no longer eats any kind of lunchmeat that isn’t honey ham. The smoked ham, bologna and salami in my refrigerator are now evil entities that he refuses to touch.

So, after I made up cheese sandwiches and loaded them into the cooler with extra bottles of water, we headed out to Osterhout Lake, which is approximately three to five minutes away, depending on how many times I have to stop for ducks or turtles crossing the dirt road.

Unfortunately, I missed the news a few months ago that part of the dirt road washed out during a bad storm, and there isn’t enough money in the state budget to fix the road until next year. With the road closed off, I had to figure out a detour.

That was my second mistake.

I have lived in this area for twenty years. I’ve taken my kids to Osterhout hundreds of times. My daughter’s best friend lived on the road to Osterhout. So did our former babysitter. In other words, I should know my way around.

“Should” being the operative word here.

My son and I did a little unplanned sightseeing yesterday afternoon. We bumped along dirt roads, paved roads, private roads and a grassy field at one particularly embarrassing point. I passed the Christian Fellowship building that my older children used to attend. I saw road signs for the town of Merson and debated making a little side trip to visit my family cemetery.

I was almost in tears when I spotted a familiar street sign. “Forty-sixth street?” I demanded of no one in particular. “How in the fuck did I get to forty-sixth street?”

My son was laughing so hard by this point that he was having difficulty breathing.

“I drove a complete circle around Osterhout Lake,” I wailed.

“Actually, it was more of a square,” he said, and then dissolved into more giggles.

I took a quick left and stopped in my ex-husband’s driveway to get my bearings. “We’re not going swimming today,” I said. “We’re going to have our picnic in the park.”

“Can you even find the park, Mom?”

At the park, which I found on the first try, I texted the friend who was supposed to meet us at the lake. “Got lost. Fuck swimming. Going to park instead.”

She told me to meet her in her driveway in 30 minutes so I could follow her to the lake.

That was my third mistake.

You see, my friend is a lovely person who has absolutely no concept of time. None. Whatsoever. And her three children are just as laid-back. While I waited in her driveway, the kids all wandered out, one by one, in search of something, and just sort of meandered away to the neighbor’s yard. One came back and waved and then vanished again.  After a few minutes, I saw movement in the back yard and realized that her kids had started an impromptu baseball game with some friends.

Friends whose parents may or may not have had people sitting in their driveways, waiting to go to the beach.

Finally, we headed out and travelled down some lovely country roads, past cornfields and pastures filled with cows. Down tree-lined streets, alongside pretty streams and lovely old farmhouses. We turned right down forty-sixth street (of course) and veered right at the next T and there we were: Osterhout Lake, only two and a half hours after leaving my apartment.

Which, for the record, was about three to five minutes away.

I learned many things during yesterday’s outing, but one lesson in particular stands out more than any others.

And what did I learn?

I learned to take off my little teapot-shaped necklace if I’m going to be out in the sun.

teapot

Road Rage

 

 

Since I can’t exactly sit down and have a heart-to-heart  with person who drove home behind me last night, I’d like to address today’s post to him.

Let’s have a little chat about your driving, shall we?

Should you ever again find yourself driving behind my little car, please remember that there is really  no need to drive three and a half inches from my rear bumper. I assure you, there is nothing exciting going on back there. You won’t miss anything by dropping back a few feet. Seriously, if you’re going to insist on forcing yourself that far up my ass, I’m going to have to insist on dinner and a movie. And lubricant.

And let’s talk about your lights. Specifically, your brights. Now, I’m no scientist, but it seems like even a moron would be able to understand that driving your giganto-mobile up behind a very small car and blasting your brights is a bad idea. Those suckers reflect back off my rearview, my sideview, my windshield, my glasses, and quite possibly the surface of the moon. I’m sure there are Coast Guard helicopters with search lights that don’t illuminate as much acreage as your brights do.

lights

Moving right along, let’s discuss speed limits. Really, this one should be fairly self-explanatory. If the sign says 55 MPH, that doesn’t mean “drive as fast as you possibly can.” No, it means “Amy is going to get pulled over if she drives 56.”

55

I don’t speed because I will get a ticket. Every single time. If the speed limit is 55, I drive 55. End of story and sincere apologies to Sammy Hagar. If you, in your unshakable delusion that you are Mario Andretti’s long-lost twin, decide that you want to blast down a country road at speeds in excess of 70 MPH, then have at it. Have a ball. But don’t flip me off, honk at me, or shout nasty comments about little old lady drivers as you blast past me on a double-yellow.

You were right about one thing. One of us truly is a “dumb fuck.”

At this point, I would like to express my deepest sympathies for the fact that you got pulled over less than five minutes after you passed me. I’d like to tell you how truly sorry I am about your speeding ticket and those pesky little points on your driver’s license.

I like to, but I can’t.

I’m too busy laughing my ass off.

 

Fat, Fifty, and Menopausal: A Look Inside

Time for another sneak peek!

I’m getting closer to publishing “Fat, Fifty, and Menopausal” and I wanted to share another look at the cover, as well as a sneak peek at one of the inside chapters.

10699134_10205880321032167_902042556_n

Didn’t Martha do a fabulous job?

Just to get you up to speed on the new book, it’s a collection of thoughts and stories about hitting middle age and learning to be okay with the realization that life is never going to be perfect. It’s about commiserating with other women at this stage in life, finding humor in things like hot flashes and weight gain, and wondering if there is sex after the age of fifty. (Spoiler alert: there is!)

Fat, Fifty, and Menopausal is nothing at all like my romance novels. It’s a bit like Have a Goode One, but with a bit more focus. And while Have a Goode One was a collection of posts that had already appeared on my blog, the new book is all new material that I’ve never shared.

The chapter I’m sharing today is all about my issues with modern technology.  About feeling old because I struggle with something that seems so easy for everyone else. Specifically, I’m whining about some of my experiences with text messaging on my ancient, embarrassing flip phone.

Enjoy!

 

4-4-3-3-5-5-5-7-#-6-3-3-menu-symbols-4-send

The text messages started about a week ago, coming from a number I didn’t recognize. I need a plot for Phillip. How much do you charge for burial? the text message said.

I think you sent this to the wrong person, I replied.

I want to bury Phillip beside John.

I am sorry for your loss, I typed in. But I think you have the wrong number.

I have the measurements.

Wrong number, I repeated.

You don’t work for the cemetery?

No.

I assumed that was the end of that particular odd conversation. I hoped so, anyway, since I hate texting.

Okay, that’s not entirely true. I have no problem with text messaging under some circumstances, such as telling my kids to do their chores or getting school closing updates in bad weather. I am not completely incapable of working with modern technology.

Texting is not the problem.  My phone is the problem.

I hate texting on the phone I have now. I used to have a smartphone with a QWERTY keypad and all the bells and whistles. But when my income went down, so did my budget for that sort of thing. I now use a cheap, prepaid, bottom-of-the-barrel flip phone that is just that: a phone. I can’t use it to check my email or visit Facebook because it’s just a phone. What can I use it for? To call or text people because it’s just a phone.

My phone does slightly more than two Solo cups and a piece of string. The cups and string would probably have better sound quality; besides, I have so few minutes of talk-time that I can pretty much say “Hello, this is–” before I run out of minutes.  Texting is unlimited, though, and seems to work pretty well as long as I face true north on a windless day without a cloud in the sky.

But it’s a tiny flip phone. With itty-bitty keys that seem microscopic to my giant sausage-like fingers. And it’s got one of those old-fashioned numeric keypads, which means that even sending the simplest text message requires a level of fingertip gymnastics and concentration that I can’t always manage. For example, I have to type in *-4-6-6-6 wait-6-6-6-3-#-6 wait-6-6-6-7-7-7-6-6-4-4-4-6-6-4-4-4-6-6-4-menu-symbols-4-send  just to say Good morning!

My kids say it’s because I’m too old to learn how to text. I am here to tell you that it has nothing to do with my age. This is not operator error. It is equipment malfunction, and I don’t think I am out of line to expect people in my life to understand that my text messages are going to be wonky from time to time as long as I have this particular phone.

Case in point: Mother’s Day, 2014, when I tore my hand apart with the food processor. I knew immediately that I needed to get to the emergency room ASAP, and I also knew that I needed my daughter to drive me there. She was sunbathing in the back yard, so I tried to text her instead of frightening her brothers by shouting for help. I wrapped my bloody hand in a dishtowel, propped the phone against the cookie jar, and tried to text with my good hand.

hdlp

???? she responded.

I wrapped a second towel around my bleeding hand and tried again. gekp

Are you having a stroke, Mother? Lol

Ignoring the fact that my offspring seemed to find the possibility of my having a stroke to be somewhat lol-worthy, I went into my phone’s menu and programmed it to let me text numbers instead of letters.

9-1-2.

Mom, your texting isn’t making any sense at all. What are you trying to say?

“Get your ass in the kitchen!” I bellowed.

I headed for the car, grabbing my car keys in my teeth on the way out the door. The Princess met me on the way in. “Why didn’t you just text me that you were hurt?” she demanded.

“I couldn’t manage ‘help’ or ‘9-1-1’ and you think I could have managed ‘Please help me, I am hurt’?”

Now, nearly two years later, I still haven’t gotten much better at texting on my flip phone. So when I started getting even more text messages about burying poor Phillip, there was no reason to expect the conversation to go well.

Look this isn’t funny. Just do your job.

excuse me?

I am going to report you to the better business bureau. 

k

I am serious. I just want you to bury Phillip.

I really wanted to be sensitive to this poor person’s situation, but I just wasn’t up to trying to explain more via text. After all, my text a few days earlier saying I am sorry for your loss but I think you have the wrong number had required two pee breaks, an energy drink, and a short nap.

I tried calling so I could explain that he or she had the wrong number, but no one answered. I got a recorded voice telling me that the person had no voice mailbox set up, so I couldn’t leave a message. I had to text her again. So now I was invested in this conversation with a complete stranger about burying Phillip, and frankly,  I was starting to have some concerns over whether or not he’s actually dead yet.

What cemetery are you trying to reach?  I asked, thinking that perhaps I could find the correct number and pass it along.

You know damn well who you work for you asshole.

I’m going to take a wild guess here and assume that this person has a nicer phone than I have, although his or her grasp of proper comma usage is a bit weak.

i tryin to b nicd hete

Can’t you spell, you idiot?

Enough was enough. bite me, I typed in. Unfortunately, I sent the message to the wrong person.

Mom?!

Whoops. Apparently, that last one had gone out to my daughter. My bad, I told her, after taking a quick break for some water and a protein snack.

Mom, why don’t you just call people instead of texting? At your age, I’m sure people will understand.

you can bite me too

What did I do?

sorry boss

Mom, is supper almost ready? Now my oldest son was going to enter the conversation.

bruttle pouts an rroganofe

What are you trying to say? Mom, did you stick your hand in the food processor again?

jesus h christ i hate this phone

Are you going to answer me about burying Phillip or not? I am still waiting for an answer!

stop texting me you crazy person!!!!  I could feel a migraine starting after that exclamation-point sprint. I stopped for some ibuprofen and another energy drink, but my phone was alerting me again.

I find that a little offensive, Mother.

goddamn fucking phone

Amy, I really don’t think think that last message was meant for me.

i am so sorry reverend

Thankfully, the battery on my phone died at that point, and I have no intention of plugging it back in any time soon. If anyone wants to reach me, I’m rigging up two Solo cups and a piece of string.

****

 

Thanks for reading! “Fat, Fifty, and Menopausal” is now available for pre-order on Amazon for only .99 cents. It will be released on May 1, 2016, after which the price will go up to $2.99. To reserve your copy at the lower price now, click here. 

The Window

One of the high points of this past week was discovering that one of my all-time favorite bloggers has come out of hiding and started blogging again! If you’re not familiar with 23thorns, please take a few minutes to go check out his most recent post. I’ll wait.

Okay, now that you’re back, let’s get on with things. Reading his post about irrational childhood fears made me start thinking about my own childhood and some of the strange things I was afraid of. And thinking about that reminded me of what was pretty much the only good line in the Three Investigators movie that came out a few years ago:

“Why aren’t you afraid of the things you’re supposed to be afraid of?”

You see, I had these four aunts that I’ve mentioned a few times here in my blog. They had some pretty strange ideas of what was and was not appropriate for children. They thought nothing of waking my sisters and me in the middle of the night to take us out to the pier so we could watch the Coast Guard bring in a dead body. They also told us awful stories about ghosts that they swore they had actually seen; I don’t remember much about those stories, other than the fact that one ghost had an “Uncle Sam beard” and glowing eyes.

In short, I was never scared of ghosts or dead bodies. I had no fear of monsters or ghoulies or any of the things children with normal relatives are afraid of.

I was afraid of a window in the aunts’ basement. Terrified.

When we stayed with our aunts at their house in town, we all slept in the guest room in their basement. It was actually a very nice little guest room in a finished basement that included a formal sitting room with a fireplace. In retrospect, I’d have to say that their basement was nicer than the upstairs portion of any house I’ve ever lived in since.

Nothing scary about their basement.

Except for that window.

The guest room was in the farthest corner of the basement, and one had to cross the laundry room to get there. The bedroom was simply furnished, with a big double bed against the outside wall and a rollaway bed folded up beside it. When we were little, Aunt Marian would sleep down there with us, and we developed a complicated system to determine who got to sleep where. Marian slept in the middle of the big bed. The child who slept on Marian’s right was on “the new side” while the child on her left was on “the old side” and the child who got the rollaway was “out.”

My problems started on the nights when it was my turn to be on “the old side” because that’s where the window was.

My aunts had made the unusual decorating choice of hanging a full-length curtain covering the whole wall. Side-to-side, top-to-bottom, the entire wall was covered by curtains. There was nothing scary about the curtains themselves.

To my way of thinking, however, curtains covered windows. There was simply no other reason for a curtain to exist. It didn’t matter how many times my aunts tried to convince me that the only window on that wall was a tiny casement window near the ceiling; I remained firmly convinced that the whole surface behind that giant curtain was made of glass.

Still not so scary, you say? Oh, I beg to differ. (Or as Aunt Marian used to say: “I beg to diffy.” But that’s a subject for another day.)

Think about what would be on the other side of a window that made up an entire wall. A basement wall. I imagined worms and moles and underground beasties that would have no problem breaking the glass and snatching a sleeping child who was dumb enough to fall asleep when it was her turn to be on “the old side.”

Later, when we were big enough to sleep alone downstairs, we added a whole new level of terror to the basement bedroom. It was an older house, and there was no light switch at the bottom of the stairs. That meant turning off the light at the top of the stairs and making our way down the steps, across the laundry room, and into the bedroom in the dark.

In the basement.

A dark basement.

With a big, scary window.

I am the youngest, and probably still the most gullible of the three of us. I think it goes without saying that I was usually the loser at any kind of rock-paper-scissors or what-number-am-I-thinking or even eenie-meenie-miney-mo challenge to see who was going to be left alone at the top of the stairs to turn off the light after the other two made it safely into the bedroom.

It was me. It was always me. My big sisters would holler up at me when they had made it to the bedroom, and then it was my turn.

Let me just say for the record that we are not stupid women. None of us. So it escapes me now why it never occurred to any of us to just turn on the bedroom light for the poor, unfortunate sap stuck at the top of the stairs.

Which, in case you missed it, was me.

I would flip the switch and let out a bellow and take off, screaming all the way down the stairs and across the laundry room. As soon as my toes hit the threshold of the bedroom, I would launch myself through the air in the general direction of the bed — because apparently I assumed the basement creatures couldn’t get me if I never touched the carpeting.

Since my sisters were usually in the bed by that point, and because I’ve always better at launching than landing, my landings usually resulted in a bit of bruising and a lot of swearing. Which then led to one of the aunts flicking on the light and hollering down at us to settle down and watch our language.

Really, I swear we are not dumb people in my family. I promise.

We just do really dumb things.

For example, my oldest sister came home from college one weekend and rearranged the furniture in that basement bedroom. My aunts never rearranged furniture. Ever. Nothing ever changed in their home. Ever.

So it was completely logical for me to assume during my next stay with the aunts that the bedroom was arranged exactly the same as it had always been. Furniture simply did not move at my aunts’ house. Ever.

Even though I was in high school and staying at their house without my sisters on that particular weekend, I still followed the same bedtime routine I had always followed: turn off the light at the top of the stairs, sprint down them and across the laundry room, and go airborne into the nice, big bed that had always been there.

And which was now not there.

As I recall, I did a magnificent Berber face-plant and went into a long, slow skid toward the curtained wall. At that moment, I didn’t care about the rug burns on my face. All I could think of was Don’t break the window!

So, here I am, nearly fifty years old, and I have a lot of fears in my life. I’m afraid of my children being hurt, I’m afraid of thunderstorms, and I have a weird love-hate attitude toward maple trees. I still hate basements and would rather go up in a tornado than take shelter in a Michigan half-cellar. But nothing in life will ever terrify me as much as the window in my aunts’ basement.

What about you? What were you most afraid of as a child?