With Great Power Comes Great . . .

If I could have any superpower, I would want to be able to teleport. I mean, come on — have you seen what Nightcrawler of the X-Men can do? He thinks about where he wants to go and just goes there, just like that. He also gets to make a really fun bamf! sound and leave a stinky spot behind him.

Okay, it’s true. I’m a comic book nerd. Or I guess I should say I’m a reformed comic book nerd. My glory days were in the late 1980’s/early 1990’s. My friends Deb and Bruce were the ones who got me started. They hooked me up with a stack of WaRP Graphics’ Elfquest, all the way up to issue 17, and there was no turning back. Wendy Pini’s art turned out to be a gateway comic for me.

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Besides, #17 had the now-infamous “elf orgy” scene. Look it up; it happened. It’s a thing.

I tried to stay with the small stuff. The independents. Elementals, Concrete, Love and Rockets. I even read the old black-and-white Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles long before they were quite so kid-appropriate. I branched out a little into the DC universe when they launched The Watchmen, but I had it under control. I could stop any time.

I really thought these girls were just really, really good friends.
I really thought these girls were just really, really good friends.

Then Deb and Bruce lured me into the world of superheroes with an old, battered copy of X-Men #137, and all was lost. (Those of you out there who share my addiction are either gasping or nodding sagely right now, aren’t you? You know what happened in X-Men #137.)  I had to find out what had happened in the years after that classic came out; I started haunting comic book stores in search of back issues. I subscribed to Comic Buyers’ Guide and Amazing Heroes.

It was a slippery slope from there to New Mutants and Power Pack. Then it was Peter Parker The Spectacular Spiderman, Fantastic Four, and even Power Man & Iron Fist. I counted down the days every month until I could get my hands on the newest issue of Teen Titans — no, not the silly show on Cartoon Network, but the issues with good storylines from Marv Wolfman.

Okay, so I’ve veered way off-topic here, haven’t I? Let’s just say it’s my way of establishing the fact that I know a thing or two about superpowers.

Telepathy would be awesome, wouldn’t it? Imagine being like Jean Grey or Psylocke. I could sit on my pudgy little rear end and just use my mind to do my work for me. Sip a glass of wine and watch the laundry fold itself. Time to cook supper? Not a problem. I could build a pan of lasagne without lifting anything but an eyebrow,

Unfortunately, I tend to be a bit on the lazy side as it is.  I’m the kind of person who bends over to tie my shoes and tries to figure out what else I can do while I’m down there. Hey, I don’t want to have to bend over twice unless it’s absolutely necessary. If I could move things with my mind, I would become the single most lazy person on the planet. No, telepathy would not be a good power for me.

Flying would be great. I’ve always envied birds their ability to make it look so easy. I read Jonathon Livingston Seagull for the first time when I was in third grade, and I remember wanting to fly so badly that it hurt. Even now, I love to sit outside and watch the hawks circle and soar, the embodiment of pure freedom. I imagine flying would be sort of like swimming for me; the only time I ever have any kind of grace or coordination is in water, and I think that flying would feel like coasting through the smooth waters of Lake Michigan on a summer day.

Then again, I’d have to share the sky with bugs and bats and other, meaner birds. And there are thunderstorms and ice storms and crazy Michigan weather to deal with. With my luck, I’d be that one poor schmuck of a superhero who dies from a lightning strike while soaring through the air.

Some of you who are new to my blog may not know this about me, but things have a tendency to fall out of the sky and land on me. I’m not talking about little things like bird poop, although in the spirit of full disclosure I feel that I must share the fact that I have been bombed with seagull shit at least once every summer of my life. Every. Single. Summer.

Seagull alert!
Seagull alert!

For the record, I’m not a big fan of blueberry season.

No, flying wouldn’t be the right power for me either, unless it came with the the added power of being able to dodge whatever the sky decides to throw at me on any given day.

Teleportation, though, would be the best. Yeah, that’s the one I want. I want to be able to teleport just like Kurt Wagner, aka Nightcrawler. At the end of a long, eight-hour shift at work, I wouldn’t have to warm up my car or scrape ice off the windshield. I wouldn’t have to fight the urge to nod off to sleep during the half-hour drive home,either. I could just go bamf! and be home.

Say my kid forgets his homework and I have to take it up to the school for him. Bamf! If I run out of milk for the kids’ cereal, I don’t have to drive to the gas station in my jammies at 6 a.m. Bamf! Although the jammies are still probably a bad idea. Got a carload of groceries that calls for three trips up the stairs to my apartment? Bamf! Bamf! Bamf!

Image result for images nightcrawler

Think of the money I could save in gas!

And speaking of gas, that’s pretty much the only drawback of Nightcrawler’s power. Every time he pops in or out of a room, he leaves behind a foul, sulfuric odor.  As the mother of a teenage son, I can safely say that I have more than a passing familiarity with things that leave being foul, sulfuric odors. By this stage in my life, I have built up an immunity. The smell wouldn’t bother me at all.

And on that note, I think it’s time to wrap this up. What about you — what kind of superpower would you want to have, and why? Would you use your powers for good, or just for fun?

This post has been part of Finish the Sentence Friday, with the sentence starter “If I could have any superpower, I would want to be able to . . . ”  Since I was silly enough to suggest the sentence this week, I am also a co-host, along with Kristi at Finding Ninee and Michelle at Crumpets and Bollocks

Link up your Finish the Sentence Friday posts below! Want to stay on top of the topics and join us? Join our Facebook group!

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If you enjoyed this post and would like to check out more of my strange way of looking at things, check out my book Have a Goode One available on Amazon for only $2.99.

Falling For You

Each fall, I remember why I live in Michigan.

At the risk of sounding like a travel brochure, I have to say that Michigan is a beautiful place in all seasons.  Sure, we’ve got some of the worst roads in the nation, and there’s a public perception out there that we’re all a bunch of lumberjacks, hunters, and hillbillies. Our winters are brutal; in fact, the weather is unpredictable and often violent all year ‘round. And the wildlife? I’m not even going to talk about the random bear and cougar sightings around here, or the fact that the mosquito is close to edging out the robin as our state bird.  But not even the mosquito is as annoying or irritating as its friends: the gnats, black flies, deer flies, and that most mysterious of all insects known as the No-see-um.

Wait. Where was I going with this?  Ah, yes. Michigan in the fall.

It’s all about change. Driving down the road one day, I’ll suddenly notice an orange leaf here, a red one there, and somehow, it always manages to surprise me. I know it’s coming every year, but there’s always that one day when I say, “Is it that time already?”

Right about then, the smiling weather reporters on the nightly news shows start talking about “Peak Color.” They point at pretty charts and start running all the facts and figures to tell us all where to be and when to be there in order to see the brightest display of Michigan’s best fall colors.

Folks, we don’t need the weatherman on WWMT to tell us when the colors are pretty. Just look out the damn window or head north.  Red, orange, yellow and brown, in more hues and tones than can ever be recreated in a Crayola box of 64 colors. Bright, vivid, riotous shades that stand out against a clear blue sky, or sometimes against thick gray storm clouds that swirl and poke at each other like teenagers looking for a fight.

The trails around Tahquamenon Falls, already orange from the tannic acid in the water, become almost ethereal in their autumn beauty. The Mighty Mac – the Mackinac Bridge – becomes a road to a land of such indescribable beauty that it must be seen to be believed. And Mackinac Island itself becomes Heaven on Earth, and that’s all there is to it. The Island is pretty darn amazing in the spring when the lilacs are in bloom, but even that doesn’t compete with its October beauty.

Colors always reach their peak earlier in the U.P. Or as you non-Michiganders refer to it, the Upper Peninsula. Here in Lower Michigan, we tend to think of those folks up there as sort of a different tribe, distant relatives of our family. We call them “Yoopers” and they call us “Trolls” because we live under the bridge.

That’s okay, though, because at least we go out at night.

The stereotypical Yooper wears flannel, plays Euchre, and says “eh” at the end of every sentence. They even have their own local celebrities – a very funny, very talented band called Da Yoopers, who have songs like “It’s The Second Week of Deer Camp” and “Da Couch Dat Burps” among other treasures.   Da Yoopers also have their own store and outhouse museum in Ishpeming.  My ex-husband and I went there as part of our honeymoon tour of the U.P., right after a stop at the Shipwreck Museum at Whitefish Point.

In retrospect, I think it says an awful lot about us that our marriage began with a trip to look at shipwrecks and toilets.

Back down here in the Lower Peninsula, fall brings football season and bonfires, and an almost frantic rush to get in as much fun as possible before the snow hits. It’s not quite time for hot cocoa yet; we demand hot cider stirred with a cinnamon stick or sprinkled with tiny red-hots.

We have corn mazes here in Michigan, like many other Midwestern states. I used to take my kids to the one at Crane’s Orchards in Fennville, but it got embarrassing when the owners had to send in a rescue party for my kids and me year after year. The one year my ex-husband joined us, his perfect sense of direction whisked us through the entire maze in ten minutes flat.

Good man to have around in an emergency, not so fun in a corn maze.

After the maze, we hurry over to Crane’s Pie Pantry, where they serve the world’s best homemade apple pie ala mode. Since I don’t really like apple pie, however, I am usually content with the heaping platter of tiny apple cider doughnuts they plunk down on every table. Add a bottomless mug of icy apple cider, and I’m in absolute bliss, especially since Crane’s idea of a “bottomless mug” is a Mason jar.

Just outside the Pie Pantry, there stands a tiny log cabin made out of railroad ties.  It is over a hundred years old; the Crane family bought it and hauled it here from the little town of Dunningville, where my grandfather and his half-brother Jim built it.  Just inside the door, there are two pictures on the wall. One is a picture of Grandpa, Jim, and their dog Bowzer – who, according to family legend, simply lay down and died a few days after Jim died from a ruptured appendix.  The other is a picture of my four aunts in their heyday.

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If the Pie Pantry isn’t too busy the day we visit, I’ll tell the Cranes that I’m Mr. Hyde’s granddaughter, and they’ll let us go inside the old cabin instead of just peering through the windows with everyone else. My sister and I once held hands in the center and easily reached out to touch the walls, marveling that two grown men once shared that tiny space.

I never met my Grandfather, of course. He died when Dad was just a little boy, somewhere in the 1940’s. From everything I’ve heard, he wasn’t a very nice man, and there are many, many stories about him that I probably shouldn’t have been told. But I love to go to his cabin in the fall because it makes me feel connected.

You see, they’re all gone now. Grandpa, Jim, the aunts, even poor old Bowzer. Mom and Dad, who aren’t in any pictures at the log cabin, but still connected in their own way. It’s been too many years since I held hands with my sister in the cabin or anywhere else, for that matter.  Sometimes, even with my kids and my friends and those few family members who are still here . . .sometimes, I am so alone in this world that I don’t know how I’m ever going to manage to draw the next breath.

But each fall, I go to Grandpa’s cabin and I find that connection again. I hear the leaves crunching beneath my feet, and I try to whistle through acorn caps the way Aunt Marian used to do, and I’m not alone any more.

Each fall, I am reminded that everything ends. There is always a sense of wrapping up, of tying off loose ends, of saying farewell. It’s a last burst of color before we’re all buried in snow. In a sense, fall is a preparation for death. But it’s also a promise, because fall’s beauty reminds us that spring is just around the corner and things are going to be bright and colorful again someday.

It’s all about hope.

This is a Finish The Sentence Friday post: “Each fall, I . . . ” hosted by Kristi from Finding Ninee, Julie Martinka Severson from Carvings on a Desk and Danielle Dion from https://wayoffscript.wordpress.com/. Please take a few minutes to check out what some of the other bloggers did with this sentence!

Sex, Advice, and Small Cars

I didn’t listen to anybody’s advice when I was a kid. About anything. It’s not that I was a rebel or even a know-it-all; I just sort of did things my own way. Usually not so much out of stupidity as a general sense of cluelessness.

My mom used to get terribly frustrated with me. “It’s one thing to follow the beat of a different drummer,” she would sigh, “but you keep wandering off after the tuba player.”

To be perfectly honest, she wasn’t exactly a source of great wisdom when it came to advice. She was a bit of a blurter with very vague definitions of what was appropriate advice to share with impressionable young people, especially in her later years.  I remember one particular conversation that took place when I made the mistake of asking her something about sex. I don’t remember now what the question was or what kind of temporary insanity gave me the brilliant idea of asking her, but I’ll never forget her response.

“The most important thing you need for your first time is a sense of humor,” she advised me. “Because, you know, when your foot is out the window and your head is stuck in the steering wheel and the gearshift is up your ass, there’s really nothing to do but laugh.”

I think I may have passed out at that point, because I don’t remember the rest of the conversation. Perhaps my mind has just protected my sanity by blocking it out. But I do remember that bit of advice, and I thought about it again during the course of one eventful evening with an old boyfriend.

I was in my early twenties, and I was in love for the first time. Call me a late bloomer, but I was learning about love and sex and daring all at the same time, and that made for an intelligence-numbing combination.  All Mr. Wonderful had to do was give me a particular look or raise one suggestive eyebrow, and I would become a quivering heap of idiocy. I knew better than to take some of the risks we took, but I just didn’t care.

Which is how we ended up “parking” in our old high school parking lot that night. Not the most romantic setting, especially since he was well over six feet tall and he drove a very, very small car. Suffice it to say that there were a lot of giggles and accidental horn-honking and a few near-collisions with the gearshift.  By the time we gave up and Mr. Wonderful stepped out of the car to re-adjust his clothes and give me a moment to do the same, we had no idea just exactly how long the police car had been parked behind us, watching.

cop

The officer took our names and other pertinent information and let us go with a warning. And that’s when things got interesting.

You see, Mr. Wonderful had decided to break up with me that night, but apparently didn’t see any reason to share that decision with me before trying to get lucky in the high school parking lot.  I had never been in love before, never been in a relationship before, never been dumped before.  And I didn’t take it well.

I started crying. Mr. Wonderful was trying to drive and trying to comfort me, and in the process of doing both he also managed to run a red light.

The cop who pulled us over took Mr. Wonderful’s license and went back to his car, where he no doubt saw that a different officer had just run that same license through the system less than ten minutes earlier. Meanwhile, my date was trying to comfort me by putting his arms around me.

I was having none of that. I was pissed. I swatted at him and tried to shove him away from me.

Now, imagine how that looked to the police officer sitting in the car behind us.

Before I really knew what was happening, Mr. Wonderful was out of the car. Just like that. Gone. In his place, the officer leaned into the car, shining his flashlight directly in my face and demanding things like, “Are you hurt in any way?” and “Do you need a ride home?” and the kicker: “Are you in the car against your will?”

Call me naïve, but I really didn’t understand what he was asking. Mr. Wonderful may have been a bit of a dick at times, but there was absolutely no way in the world he would have harmed me. I was perfectly safe with him, and I didn’t comprehend what the officer was asking. So I just kept sobbing, “I’m fine, I’m okay, I just want him to take me home.”

It took me years to realize just what kind of revenge I could have taken on Mr. Wonderful that night, or how utterly terrified the poor guy must have been during those moments. Just imagine what must have been going through his mind while he was face-down against the side of his own car, listening for the words from me that could have destroyed his life.

I like to think that I would have taken the high road even if I had comprehended what was going on. I hope that I’m the kind of person who would never have told a lie about Mr. Wonderful just to get revenge. As it was, he ended up with a ticket for running the red light, and nothing more. He drove me home and we said our good-byes, and that was that.

I can look back on that night now and laugh, so I guess my mom’s advice was right about needing a sense of humor. But if my teenage daughter should happen to ask me for advice about sex, I don’t think I’ll mention laughter, cars, or gearshifts.

And that’s okay, because my kid doesn’t listen to advice any better than I did.

This is a Finish The Sentence Friday post: “I didn’t listen to anybody’s advice when . . . ” hosted by Kristi from Finding Ninee, Michelle Grewe http://crumpetsandbollocks.com/  and Ruchira Khanna http://abracabadra.blogspot.com/.  Please take a few minutes to check out what some of the other bloggers did with this sentence!

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If you enjoyed this post and would like to read some earlier funny stuff from me, check out Have a Goode One, my collection of humorous posts from my blog, most of which are no longer available here on WordPress.

A Day at The Mall, 80’s Style

Everything felt perfect the time that I came home for a weekend after spending my summer working at Cedar Point. I had spent the past three months working outside in the sun, walking, not sleeping enough, and keeping myself too busy to eat regular meals.  I had a great tan, over-bleached hair, and I had lost a lot of weight; I’d even gone shopping with my summer roommate and splurged on the kind of trendy outfit I had never really dared wear before.

And that’s pretty much where things started to go wrong.

It was the late 1980’s, so that was a big part of the problem from a fashion standpoint. The outfit was from The Limited, and the pants were made by Forenza, which speaks volumes right there. They were high-waisted, poufy in all the wrong places, pegged at the ankles, and utterly hideous by today’s standards. The shirt was Flashdance-inspired, designed to slip off my shoulder at regular intervals, and the shirt hem barely reached the waistband of the pants. So it wasn’t quite midriff-baring, but about as close as this little chunky monkey was willing to go.

And the hair. Oh, lord, the 80’s were cruel. I had the scrunchies and banana clips, and I had an older sister in beauty school at the time, so I was the queen of the plastic-cap frost job. For those of you too young to remember this particular look, it involved sitting in a beautician’s chair for hours while a blossoming young sadist yanked strands of hair through a plastic cap with a tiny metal crochet hook that was more than capable of drawing blood. Trust me, I think I probably needed a transfusion or two after some of those frost jobs.

Then, while the scalp was stinging and smarting and the unwitting victim client was just beginning to think the worst was over, the stylist would come back with a bowl of pure bleach mixed with 40-volume developer to slap on over top of the plastic cap, where it would seep through to the already-tortured scalp. The results usually included excruciating pain and a highlight with glow-in-the-dark whiter-than-white stripes of crispy fried cotton candy that was once hair. Which we then teased and back-combed to gravity-defying heights and glued in place with a few quarts of Aqua-Net.

So, on my weekend home, I decided that I just had to go to the mall because I looked so damn good. I didn’t really need anything, but we didn’t go to malls in the 80’s because we needed to buy things.  Malls were the malt-shops of the 80’s.  They were the place where teens went to meet up with other teens.

Hey, I was looking hot. I parked my big sister’s powder blue 1974 Chevy Impala outside the entrance between Olga’s Restaurant and the Hit or Miss, and I strutted my way into the mall. First, I sat down on the bench just outside the entrance, ostensibly to look for something in my purse but really just to give the world another chance to look at me.

I strutted my stuff all over that mall, and believe me, this was not stuff that should have been strutting.  People were smiling at me; some of them even turned to look at my butt. I walked past my old high school crush, and even he turned to check out my butt. Can I get a Woot!woot!

Oh, come on, girls, admit it. We all dream of the day that someone, somewhere, somehow, through whatever form of delusion necessary, thinks we have a nice butt. Come on.

That day, I really believed I had a great butt. Hell, I had a great everything. I was tan and blonde and trendy, and I was thin (for me, anyway). I was the bomb. I was hot shit.  To use one of my ex-husband’s favorite sayings, I thought I was the cat’s ass.

And then the wheels came off the wagon.

I had gone into The County Seat to check out a new pair of Zena baggies (don’t ask) when a kind saleslady finally took pity on me and pulled me aside. “Excuse me, honey,” she said quietly, “you have something . . . er . . . hanging.”

I hurried over to the three-way mirror and there it was: a deep, dark, chocolate-brown wad of tape, wedged into the butt-seam of my nice new Forenza pants. I must have sat on it when I sat on the bench before entering the mall.

It looked like a giant turd. A big ol’ dingleberry.

I wasn’t the cat’s ass; I had something from the cat’s litterbox hanging from my butt.

I yanked the wad of tape out of my crack and left the store without a thank-you, good-bye, or pair of Zena baggies.  I rushed out to the powder blue Chevy Impala and went home, vowing to never return to Crossroads Mall ever again.

Malls aren’t the same now, and I live too far out in the country to go to them very often any more. But on those rare occasions when I do make it back to Crossroads Mall, I refuse to enter unless my shopping companion does a quick butt-check for me.

“Tell me,” I’ll demand. “Is there anything hanging out of my butt-crack?”

“You know,” my friends will invariably tell me, “you really need to come into town more often.”

This a Finish The Sentence Friday post: “Everything felt perfect the time that..’” As always, our host is the lovely Kristi . Today’s guest hosts are Michelle  of Crumpets and Bollocks and Kerri  of (Un)diagnosed and Still Ok and Jessica Lee. Please check out their blogs to see what some of the other bloggers have done with this week’s prompt. 

Impediments

When it comes to cliques, they aren’t all bad.

Today’s blog post isn’t going to be one of my usual ones. I need to take care of a little business, and this week’s prompt about cliques seems to be the perfect opportunity to do so.

First, I’ve been really lucky about finding work this summer. Unfortunately, none of the jobs are full-time, so that means I’m working several part-time jobs.  That also means that I am so busy I’m sort of expecting to meet myself coming or going on my own doorstep one of these days.

One of those jobs has involved painting with a group of really nice people who have been incredibly supportive of me as I learn which of my physical limitations to respect and which ones to ignore. I’ve been bending, stretching, reaching and yes, swearing, and I’m figuring out that I’m a lot tougher than I gave myself credit for.

There’s a woman on the painting crew who likes that say that different things are “impedin’ the progress” whenever we run into a problem. She says it with a grim little smile and a laugh, and then she dives back in to work around whatever it may be that’s impeding her progress.

I’m trying to learn from her wonderful attitude, and that’s what I need to talk about today.

I’m a writer. I am forty-nine years old, and I am finally writing and publishing the books that I have wanted to write since I was four years old. That’s forty-five years of dreaming, finally coming true.

Sort of.

Stay with me here. I’m going to make my point soon.

I started blogging because I needed to gain some discipline as a writer. Somewhere along the line, I also figured out that I have a pretty good sense of humor. I learned about marketing and terms like “engagement” and a lot of business-y stuff that I had never really thought about. I met a lot of wonderful bloggers and writers, and I found out that I really get a lot out of staying positive and surrounding myself with helpful and supportive people.

In short, I started having fun.

At the same time, I finished two books in my “Beach Haven” series and added a short novella as a sort of a prequel to the series. I figured out how to format, how to work with an editor and take suggestions without being offended, and I think I also became a better person through the steady contact with a nice little “clique” made up of just the right people.

I also met a couple of writers/bloggers who delight in tearing others down as well, but I’ve made the choice to ignore them. Life is too short to worry about the opinions of people who are focused on the fact that I am fat, middle-aged, and not exactly a beauty queen.  Stressing over that would just be impeding my progress, especially since none of those things have any bearing on whether or not I can write.

As Popeye would say, “I yam what I yam.”

In recent months, I’ve learned about different groups of writers who work hard to support and defend each other. In a way, they make up an exclusive clique that works very hard to exclude those who choose negativity and cruelty over support and camaraderie. So yes, even though the word “clique” can have a negative connotation, I am proud to be a part of this particular one.

I am a writer. I’m not the best or the most successful, but I’m writing.

The problem is that I’m not writing my next book.

I’m ghost-writing a few things for very poor pay. It’s not a lot of money, but it’s money. That’s right: I’m prostituting my writing skills to pay the rent. I’m not proud of it, but it is what it is.

I’m writing my blog, which is fun but doesn’t help me finish my book or pay my rent.

I’m doing little tasks at Amazon Mechanical Turk for pennies at a time. It doesn’t help much, but I need a lot more pennies.

I’m babysitting, cleaning houses, working, working, working. All the time. And I’m not making it. Not getting the book finished, not making the rent, not even making enough money to say I’m “squeaking by.”

And I am trying – really, really hard! – not to sink into a puddle of anger and self-pity because my neck injury forces me to work twice as hard to earn half as much. I don’t want to impede my progress by giving in to that anger. I want to stay part of the Positive Clique.

Which brings me to my point.

I’m going to have to cut back on blogging. I used to aim for three posts per week; I’m cutting back to a goal of once a week. I hate to give it up, but the very little time I have for writing needs to be devoted to jobs that are going to bring in money to support my writing. I don’t ever expect to get rich from my little romance novels, but I’m hoping to someday reach the point where I can only work one job while writing them. And to do that, well, I have to write them.

I’ve got to prioritize. I’ve got to stop impeding my own progress.

I’ve also swallowed my pride and added a “donate” button to my page. I’ve seen other bloggers do it, and I’ve always scoffed at them for begging for donations on a free blog. Well, I’m not scoffing any more. I’m right there, begging with the best of them.

I am a writer. I’ve waited a lifetime to be able to say that, and I am honored to be part of the small, exclusive clique of writers who strive to be kind to each other. I’m proud to be part of the blogging community as well, and incredibly grateful to everyone who has helped along this journey to making me a better  person as I become a better writer.

As I wrap this up, I want to leave you all with a link to a truly uplifting and astonishing video I discovered last week. The speaker is an old childhood friend of mine who has always understood the value of kindness better than most. She is a good soul, a dear friend, and an all-around wonderful person.

This is a Finish The Sentence Friday post: “When it comes to cliques . . . ” hosted by Kristi from Finding Ninee, Jill from Ripped Jeans and Bifocalsand Michelle from Crumpets and Bollocks.  Please take a few minutes to check out what some of the other bloggers did with this sentence!

Carrots, Anyone?

It started in line at the grocery store.  And since I live in a very small town with only one grocery store, it quickly escalated into one of those uncomfortably memorable moments in life.

I was waiting for the cashier to finish ringing up a six-pack of Vernors when I heard it from behind me – that unmistakable sound that any mother can identify at any distance: Gag, splatter, and a pitiful little cough.

I didn’t need to turn around to confirm that my son had just defiled the checkout lane at Wagoner’s Grocery Store.  But as usual with me, there is so much more to the story than just the tale of a seven year-old vomiting in public.

You see, I had just interviewed for a job at that store a few days earlier.  My job at the school is about to end for the summer, and I am in a full-out state of panic because I can’t find employment anywhere.  The government says I am not disabled, but I am having one hell of a time finding anyone who will hire a forty-nine year old former hairdresser with a twenty-pound lifting restriction. Every job, even basic cashiering, requires a certain amount of lifting.

So I’m not disabled, but I’m not physically able to get a job. Go figure.

The manager at the grocery store was very honest with me. She liked me and thought I’d be a valuable addition to the team, but . . . what if a customer had a 25-lb bag of dog food or some other heavy item that had to be lifted back into their cart? I told her that I understand, and I really do understand; nobody can afford to hire an employee who can’t do every aspect of the job.  I assured her that I would still continue to shop at the store and there would be no hard feelings. After all, it’s a small town.

Remember that.

When the school called to tell me that my boy was feeling sick and needed to be picked up, I really didn’t think he was all that sick. He said his tummy felt bubbly, but there was no fever. He certainly didn’t look sick, but I’ve learned over the years that a bubbly tummy should never be ignored. I’ve also learned that the best treatment for a bubbly tummy is a few sips of room-temperature Vernors.

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Okay, for all of you unfortunate souls who have never experienced the joy that is Vernors, let me explain. Vernors is the best ginger ale in the known universe. Don’t argue with me that you know of something better; Vernors is simply the best. It just is. Any Michigander will agree.  And any Michigander will also tell you that Vernors has medicinal uses during flu season. Whether it’s the carbonation or the ginger or just the firm belief that it really works, Vernors always seems to do the trick.

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But my boy is only seven; he was not old enough to leave at home or in the car while I ran into the store for his Vernors. I took him in with me, grabbed a six pack for him and a Diet Coke for me, and headed for the register.

Where the new cashier was being trained for the position I had so desperately wanted. She is the mother of one of my daughter’s friends, and I was so happy to see that she got the job. She has more kids than I do, and I know for a fact that she is one hell of a hard worker with a reputation for being a fantastic employee. I can’t think of anyone in the world who deserves the job more than she does.

In fact, I was in the process of opening my mouth to congratulate her when Young Faithful blew behind me.

I grabbed the child as he let fly with a second stream of partially-digested carrots. I started apologizing profusely and asking for a mop while simultaneously trying to swipe my debit card. And like any good mother, I was also desperately fighting the urge to join the Puke Party. I mean, let’s be honest here. When it comes to parenting, I am not one to gently rub the puker’s back while murmuring words of comfort. No, I am more of a “If you’re gonna hurl, hurl that way” kind of mommy.

I have to say that the grocery store staff reacted admirably. They cleaned up the mess and told me they hoped my little boy felt better soon, and they have asked about him every time I have gone into the store since then. Everything about that store has just gained about 100 more points on my personal rating scale for a business. They are all such nice people, so professional and caring toward every customer, even the ones who decorate the floor with a slightly used lunch.

On the other hand, I am now the woman who let her sick child blow chunks all over the woman who got the job I wanted.

I have just officially forfeited all rights to ever again say anything to anyone about being a good sport.  About being gracious. About accepting defeat with honor and dignity.

And I may never eat another carrot.

This is a Finish The Sentence Friday post: “It started in line at the grocery store . . . ” hosted by Kristi from Finding Ninee, Nicki from Redboots, and Dawn M Skorczewski.  Please take a few minutes to check out what some of the other bloggers did with this sentence!

It’s the End of World as We Know It . . . Not!

When it comes to the end of the world, I’m generally a pretty optimistic person. I don’t believe there’s going to be a Zombie Apocalypse, and although talk of nuclear war or diseases like Ebola frighten me, I don’t think that the human race is going to be wiped out within my lifetime. Perhaps I’m burying my head in the sand, but I just don’t think it’s going to happen in the next few decades or even the next century.

On the other hand, I sometimes have weeks like the one that’s wrapping up right now, and I start to harbor all kinds of secret hopes that the end of the world would just hurry up and get here.

Yeah, it’s been a bad week.

Money is tight and things are getting shut off and I’ve had to start asking for help. My pride is at an all-time low, but the positive twist on that is that I’m getting really good at groveling. And begging. I’m also arguing with my daughter, something I’ve never really done before. She’s always been my “easy” child; apparently, the first sixteen years of her life were just part of an elaborate scheme to soften me up for her seventeenth year.

I feel like I’m running, scrambling, spinning in circles with no time left to just sit down and breathe. My house is such a mess that I’m thinking about stringing some yellow tape across the kitchen and telling everyone it’s a crime scene. Then maybe I won’t have to go in there and do anything about the dirty dishes or –God forbid—have to cook for anyone for a while.

It dawned on me this morning that my last social outing was the hour I spent on the bleachers with other moms while our sons had baseball practice. Before that, my only recent social interaction was the two hours spent wrangling seven year-olds at my son’s birthday party.

I need to spend time with someone I did not give birth to. I need a social life. Come to think of it, I need a life, period.  I’m a mom, yes, but aren’t I also something more? When do I get to be A.J.?

Life can be pretty funny, though.

This morning was terrible. Awful. As I said, it’s been a bad week, and it just sort of built up to an even worse morning, made almost unbearable by the fact that today just happens to be one of those random days when my pain levels shoot skyward for no real reason. I’ve been in so much pain that it’s all I can do to keep from just lying down on the floor and giving up on trying to move at all.

I dropped my kids at school, came home, and hit my breaking point. I sat in my car in the driveway, bawling. I’m talking major tears here. The kind that actually dripped off the chin and got the front of my shirt wet. I did some big time ugly crying. I did the whole sniffle-sob-whuffle-whimper thing up the steps and into my house and headed for the mirror to see if there was any way I could make myself presentable for work.

And then . . .

Photo courtesy of Debby Steinman
Photo courtesy of Debby Steinman

My co-workers had the giggles today, particularly while crawling upside-down under the tables with gloves and putty knives in search of dried gum. Later, one co-worker showed off pictures of her beautiful new grandbaby while another had pictures of her own very happy little baby boy. One woman was fretting about some scary medical procedures she is facing, and the other women all made time to give her smiles and hugs all day long to let her know she is not alone.

Later, when I went to the Elementary school to pick up my youngest child, I fought back tears again while talking to another mom. She hugged me, offered to take my son to the school dance with the carload of boys she was taking, and even brought over a special occasion dress for my daughter to borrow.

And now . . . I have two hours alone to catch up on my blog, write my next chapter. Two hours to breathe and remind myself that there are some truly beautiful people in this world who are always going to reach out to others.

Life can be pretty funny. Seems like every time things are at their worst and I’m feeling lost and alone, someone comes along to make me smile or even laugh out loud.  Someone shares a bit of kindness when I least expect it. Smiling isn’t going to give me more money or make it possible for me to make my bills; laughing isn’t going to take away my neck pain or heal the crushing loneliness that hits me from time to time.  And all of the adorable baby pictures in the world aren’t going to magically grant me the time and energy to clean my house. Nothing that happened today is going to take away the problems that had me in tears.

But you know what all of that smiling and laughing and adorable baby pictures can do? Give me the strength to face all of the other stuff.  Strength and hope, and a firm belief that the world isn’t going to end any time soon.  It can’t, because there is still too much good that would go to waste if the world ended tomorrow. It can’t, because right now the good in this world outweighs the bad. Some days, it’s not by very much, but it’s still enough.

Relax, folks, the world can’t end as long as there are moments like this:

Seriously, could this kid be any cuter?
Seriously, could this kid be any cuter?

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This is a Finish The Sentence Friday post: “When it comes to the end of the world . . . ” hosted by Kristi from Finding Ninee, Nikki from Redboots, and Jena Schwartz. Please take a few minutes to check out what some of the other bloggers did with this sentence!

If Dishes Were Wishes . . .

The chore I hate doing the most is dishes.  I despise doing the dishes. I have a dishwasher now, but that doesn’t seem to change the fact that I still end up elbow-deep in dish soap at least twice a day.  Every day.

I don’t get it.  I really don’t.  There are only four of us in this house, and there is just no logical explanation for exactly how we manage to dirty so many dishes in a single day. Every single day. Granted, I do a lot of cooking and baking, which has a tendency to make the bowls and pans stack up, but that doesn’t account for everything.

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My clean dishes never seem to make it from the drainer or dishwasher to the cupboards. They seem to be in a constant rotation of use-wash-use-wash without ever enough time for a cycle or two of use-wash-put away.

I work in a high school/middle school lunchroom, so I occasionally have to jump in and help with the dishes as part of my job. I don’t really mind doing it there. Maybe that’s because I’m surrounded by other lunch ladies who are also working, or perhaps it’s because I’m getting paid to wash dishes there. Or it could be that the task of washing dishes at work is somewhat of a finite process; there comes a point each day at which the job is done. Completed. Finished.

There is no such point in my house.

I have a daughter who hoards coffee cups in her room, but she can be counted on to bring down an armload of them two or three times per week. I’m not sure how one seventeen year-old can manage to accumulate that many dirty cups in such a short amount of time, but at least they make their way back to the kitchen.

My youngest son tends to stockpile sippy cups and juice glasses on the coffee table in the living room. Like his sister, he can be counted on to bring them to me eventually. But again, it escapes me how one very small person can use so many cups and glasses in a day. Does he get a new one for each sip?

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And I simply cannot understand the spoons under the couch.  Why are there spoons under my couch? We don’t eat in the living room. Well, okay, we use TV trays and eat in the living room on occasion, but most family meals take place at the kitchen table. When we do eat in the living room, the plates and forks make it back to the kitchen with no problem, so why not the spoons?

It’s not just the sheer number of dirty dishes in a constant flow through the dishwater that bothers me.  There’s the fact that the dishes never seem to quite make it to the sink unless I am the one putting them there. They make it as far as the edge of the table, or the counter in the general vicinity of the sink and dishwasher, but God forbid anyone actually manage to put a dirty dish anywhere even close to a source of water.  I have one child who will carry dirty dishes past the sink to stack them on the stovetop. This should not surprise me, however, as this is the same child who used to walk past the bathroom and down the hall to my bedside to tell me “I gotta throw up” seconds before launching the flow in my direction.

On really bad days, I have started to wonder if there are other people living in my home that I am not aware of.  Perhaps there is a family of twelve residing in my basement, and they sneak upstairs to deposit their used plates and silverware on the counters while I am at work. They might be the same people whose shoes seem to pile up at my door; that would explain the twenty-seven pairs of shoes mounded up beside the door despite the fact that my children keep insisting “Those aren’t mine!”

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I can’t blame it all on my kids or the possible basement-dwellers. When it comes to my own coffee cup, I am just as bad as the rest of them. I drink my morning coffee out of a jumbo white and blue mug decorated with seagulls and lighthouses, and I like to carry it around and sip out of it while I get ready for work. Unfortunately, I have a tendency to set it down in various places whenever I reach a point in my morning routine that requires the use of both hands, after which I quickly forget exactly where I set the damn thing down.

At which point, my morning turns into an impromptu game of Find-The-Coffee, which rarely ends well because I have not yet swallowed enough coffee to jump  start my brain. I eventually give up and go back for new mug, and all is well until I have to put that one down so I can finish getting dressed. By the time I leave for work, I can sometimes go through an entire pot of coffee this way. I figure it’s not really all that bad for me, though, because I only manage to drink about half a cup.

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Part of my nighttime routine around here is a scavenger hunt for almost-full mugs of cold coffee before bed. I have found them in my bedroom, in the laundry room, in the refrigerator, and even outdoors in my son’s playhouse on one memorable occasion. I still have no idea how that one got out there.

As I read back over what I’ve written here, something just occurred to me.  While I still don’t have an answer about the spoons, I think I figured out how my daughter and youngest son manage to dirty so many cups and glasses during the course of a day.

They take after their mama.

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This is a Finish The Sentence Friday post: “The chore I hate doing the most is . . . ” hosted by Kristi from Finding Ninee, Michelle from Crumpets and Bollocks, and Kristinjill from Ripped Jeans & Bifocals. Please take a few minutes to check out what some of the other bloggers did with this sentence!

Three Words I Really Hate

You wanna know what really grinds my gears?

Having to admit that I was wrong.

Come on, let’s face it. I have a temper, I’m impulsive, and I’m a mom.  That’s a combination that just begs for a lot of mistakes and a lot of apologizing.  I leap into Mama Bear mode at the drop of a hat and then end up crawling back mumbling those most hated of words:  I was wrong.

But yesterday’s mistake was a biggie.  Huge. Yesterday’s mistake may go down in history as one of the biggest goofs ever made by a mom leaping into Mama Bear mode far too soon and much too enthusiastically.  And that’s saying a lot, considering the fact that I once told another mom I had a set of anal beads at home that hadn’t been as far up my ass as she was at that precise moment.

Let me give a little bit of setup here.  My oldest child, The Princess, is a self-assured, compassionate, socially skilled young woman.  My middle child, The Dark Prince, is the kind of kid who hides his warm heart and generous soul beneath an I-Don’t-Care/King Of Apathy exterior that fools very few people. But my youngest child, my Little Man, is my Sweet Baby.  He is a timid little soul who feels everything. He is led by his emotions, which means that his feelings are hurt very easily. And when he looks up with those big blue eyes and serious little face, he could bring out protective, maternal instincts in Attila the Hun.

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In short, I have no resistance to this child.

Monday night, my Little Man had a meltdown in my arms when he confessed to me that he had accidentally thrown away his gloves. He was devastated; he picked them out at the store with his Daddy, and they were his favorites.  According to his story, he had thrown away his trash after eating breakfast at school and only realized later that his gloves had gone into the garbage can with the trash.  Sad, but perfectly believable, right?  These little guys go directly to the cafeteria when they arrive in the morning, and anyone could make a mistake while trying to juggle coats, hats, gloves, backpacks, etc.

I’ll admit, my Mommy Radar started tingling. The story seemed pretty detailed, and I am a strong believer in the KISS rule (Keep It Simple, Stupid) that says the more detailed a story is, the higher the probability it’s a lie. Had it been The Princess telling me this story, she would have been covering up a genuine accidental loss of gloves.  The Dark Prince would have been lying to cover up the fact that he gave his gloves away to someone who needed them. But Little Man . . . well, he doesn’t usually cover anything up.  He just falls apart and blurts the truth, so I didn’t listen to the Mommy Radar.

My ex-husband dropped of an extra pair of gloves on his way to work the next morning, so all seemed right in our world.  Until I picked up my son after school and learned that the second pair of gloves had gone AWOL.  I had a long and serious one-on-one conversation with his teacher at that point, and we both agreed that something seemed fishy.  Someone was messing with my boy’s belongings, and that’s not okay.

Little Man headed off for school the next day with yet another pair of spare gloves from his father’s house (big sister’s purple gloves, which prompted a hearty “Oh, gawd, mother!” from him). When I picked him up at the end of the day, the teacher had her arm around him and he was crying.  The purple gloves, it seemed, had survived the day, but his prized Batman hat had not.  Worse, it turned out that another little boy had hit my baby near the end of the day.  The other boy swore it was an accident, but the elbow to the gut hurt enough to make Little Man cry.

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Two pair of gloves, a hat, and a blow to the tummy, all in one week?

Suffice it to say that I came unglued.

I made an absolute spectacle of myself, right there in the cafeteria.  The poor teacher was almost in tears herself, and this is a woman who has been teaching a long time. She’s no sensitive little novice who is easily intimidated by an angry Mama Bear, but I think I may have frightened her.  She assured me that the other boy’s parents had been contacted about the “incident” and that every single backpack, pocket, desk and cubby had been searched from top to bottom in search of the missing gloves and Batman hat.

“This ends now,” I fumed. “Something has got to take place here.”

“It will,” she promised.

I held my sobbing little boy and let him cry it out, right there in the cafeteria.  Then we went home and had a little treat, followed by a busy evening at the school science fair and his big brother’s band concert.  Throughout it all, my brave little soldier kept his chin up and didn’t shed another tear over the missing hat.  His dad and I were careful to give him lots of extra attention and praise all evening.

Finally, I tucked him into bed, turned out the light, and went out to pick up the living room a bit.  I put away toys, folded some laundry, picked up the afghans to drape them across the back of the couch where they belong.

And found the Batman hat.

He never wore it to school yesterday.

I am an ass.

So now, I have to apologize to the teacher and admit that I made a mistake.  I was wrong.  Sure, the two pairs of gloves are still gone, and he still got a pretty rough elbow to the tummy, but no one stole his Batman hat.  And if I hadn’t been so pissed-off about the missing gloves or the other boy hitting my Little Man, I would have remembered that he left the house without a hat that morning because it was school picture day and he didn’t want to mess up his hair.

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“Mom, you screwed up!”

I’d love to just send the child to school in a different hat for the rest of the school year and pretend that my meltdown didn’t happen.  Believe me, I am tempted. But this is one of those “teachable moments” that I despise.  I’ve got to teach him that it’s never good to jump to conclusions and overreact to situations, and I’ve got to teach him the importance of being able to say those three god-awful words:  I was wrong.

Right now, there are three other words running through my brain:  Mama needs chocolate.

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This post is part of Finish the Sentence Friday, in which writers and bloggers finish a sentence and “link up” their posts. This week’s sentence was “You wanna know what really grinds my gears…”  

For information on Finish the Sentence Friday,Join our Facebook page! 

Dollar Dance

I can’t believe how much it cost to enroll my daughter in a dance class.

She was four years old.  The class was $35 per month.  Harmless, right?  Then came that first pair of ballet shoes, the first leotard and first pair of tights.  Soon, there was the recital, with costume fees and ridiculously overpriced tickets to watch my kid spin and stumble around on the stage for 90 seconds somewhere in the middle of a three-hour bit of performance art, the memory of which still has the ability to make my head pound.

The Princess loved it.  She thrived on it.

That one little class ballooned into two, then three.  When she was seven, she wanted to audition for the competition team.  When she was nine, she started begging for pointe class.  Luckily, her teacher doesn’t allow her students to begin pre-pointe until age eleven, so we got a couple years respite before having to invest in pointe shoes.

Just as a side note, I want to mention that my beautiful, wonderfully talented daughter inherited her mother’s big feet, which means that her pointe shoes have to be custom-ordered. Can you hear the cash registers going cha-ching?

Competition fees are ungodly.  I’m sorry, but there is just no other word to describe the astronomical amount of money that parents and dance studios have to shell out for these events. We’re talking hundreds of dollars every competition season, and we’re pretty small potatoes out here in Michigan.  I can’t even begin to imagine how high those fees must run in some of the bigger cities.

Gravity?  What gravity?
Gravity? What gravity?

My heart really goes out the parents with more than one kid in competitive dance. We’re talking second mortgages here.

And the costumes!  Big, big bucks.  Sometimes, it seems like the cost per costume is directly proportional to the amount of fabric involved: less fabric seems to equal more money.  We’re lucky that my daughter’s teacher is a very smart woman who tries to stretch our costume dollars.  She often orders one “base” costume and adds hats or collars and cuffs or maybe a little skirt for the different numbers to help keep the cost down.  She’s also been known to recruit dance moms and senior students to save a few bucks by gluing on the sequins and spangles ourselves.

If I think too hard about what the costumes might cost without her money-saving tricks, we may need to dial 9-1-1.

Then there are the recitals. This same dance teacher works tirelessly to hold fundraisers and find inexpensive places to host the recitals, but she still has to set the ticket prices well above what I would pay to take my family to see a performance by a professional dance company.  Okay, a professional dance company wouldn’t be oozing cuteness, like when the four year-olds forget what they are doing onstage and start waving at the audience. Those tickets are worth every penny, especially as the years go by and I get to see those stumbling four year-olds develop into graceful dancers alongside my daughter. But it’s still physically painful to hand over a wad of cash twice a year for these shows.

Has it been worth the cost?

Absolutely.

My daughter hopes to continue dancing after she graduates this year.  She wants to teach, and she hopes to own her own dance studio some day.  She had the confidence to audition for a highly competitive college dance program, and she’s got the inner strength to be okay if she doesn’t make it.  Dancing has played a big role in making her the amazing person she has become.

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I have to be honest and say that it’s not just dancing itself that has been so good for her.  We were blessed to find a dance studio run by a woman who has become a role model, a mentor, an advisor, and in some ways, another mother.  This is a woman who refuses to dress her students in the overly sexual, age-inappropriate costumes that are so prevalent at dance competitions. She rewards her students for their hard work, ability, and attitude; she talks to them about healthy eating but never about dieting or weight loss. In short, she takes care of “her kids” in ways that go far beyond just teaching them the right steps.

I don’t allow anyone in my house to watch the show “Dance Moms” because I find Abby Lee to be an utterly reprehensible human being.  I guess I was spoiled by having my daughter dance with a good teacher; teachers are supposed to guide and lead by example, not by shaming and belittling their students.  If my daughter had gone to a studio with an instructor who treats the children the way Abby Lee treats her students on that show, I would have yanked her out of dance and put her in an activity less likely to do lasting harm, like football or rugby.

If I had it to do again, would I still enroll my daughter in that $35 beginning ballet class?  Yes.  She’s my baby girl, and this is what she loves.  I’d do the same if my son’s STEM club meetings came with this kind of cost, because that is what he loves.

But I’d go into it with my eyes open to the eventual cost of her dreams, and I would budget for it a lot better.  I’d try to be better prepared.

In the meantime, I’ve got a six year-old son who wants to try dancing like his big sister, and I’m just not ready to shell out $35 for his first class. I just keep hoping he likes football.

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This post is part of Finish the Sentence Friday, with the prompt “I cant believe how much it costs to . . . “