Damn it, Kenneth!

The woman who fixed me up with the Big Guy introduced him as Ken. I learned later that he was Kenny to his co-workers and childhood friends, but that nickname never felt right to me. He was always just Ken, in the same way that my sisters will always be Sue and Barbie to me despite the fact that they are Susan and Barbara to the rest of the world.

I’m not going to talk about my sisters’ name for me. Nope. Suffice it to say that calling them Sue and Barbie definitely makes me the nice sister when it comes to nicknames.

I admit, however, that I sometimes called my husband Kenneth, although that was only under very specific circumstances and usually as part of the phrase Damn it, Kenneth.

For the most part, Damn it, Kenneth was reserved for those moments when he was gleefully jumping on my last nerve or when he had just committed some random act of life-endangering idiocy that was guaranteed to take ten years off my life. To be fair, Damn it, Kenneth was usually preceded by a frustrated growl on my part, but usually ended with a chuckle because the man could so damn funny and aggravating and ridiculous all at the same time.

I came home one day and found him standing on the top rung of a ladder, using a plunger to change the bulb in the yard light. While I had to give him a few bonus points for creative use of a toilet plunger, I pretty much came unglued about his use of the ladder.

Well, not the ladder itself. I took issue with the way he chose to position the ladder.

It was balanced on top of a wet picnic table.

The picnic table was suspended a few feet in the air, one end perched on a rotted tree stump and the other resting on the open tailgate of his truck.

Which was parked on a hill.

An icy hill.

“Easy, Wheezie,” he said soothingly while I screeched at him. “I’ve survived this far, haven’t I?”

“Damn it, Kenneth! Get down!”

“In a minute.” He took his time finishing up and clambered down safely, grinning the whole time. “Jeez, anyone would think I’d never done that before. You worry too much.”

“….damn it, Kenneth.”

He learned to tell me about some of his riskier ideas after the fact, probably to keep me from killing him.  When he and his brother had to transport their bull, T-Bone, to a new home, they discovered that the latch on the door of their livestock trailer was broken.

“So you rode on the outside of the trailer?” I demanded.

“Well, somebody had to hold the door shut.”

“So you rode on the outside of the trailer.”

“Yep.”

“While it was moving.”

“Uh-huh.”

“You could have been killed!”

“But I wasn’t.” And there it was, the cheeky grin and shrug that said Hey, it was no big deal.

“…. damn it, Kenneth.”

At times, it seemed as thought the man had zero sense of self-preservation. He drove demolition derby and raced a souped-up 1973 Chevy Impala at the local racetrack for fun. Sure, he made sure his cars and gear met all safety requirements, but that didn’t make it easier for me to accept his risk-taking. I’d sit in the stands and cheer for him, but I nearly hyperventilated every time the announcer shouted something about the number twelve land yacht spinning out or breaking down or pulling out to pass another car.

His brother was his entire pit crew. Before every race, Little Brother would give him three pieces of advice.

“Keep it clean,” he’d say.

“Of course.”

“Stay outta the wall.”

“Will do.”

“Don’t do anything that might scare Amy into labor.”

“No promises.”

“Damn it, Kenneth!” I’d shout.

He always called me “Wheezie” when I yelled at him for doing stupid things. “Quit your wheezing,” he’d chuckle. “I’ve survived everything I’ve tried so far. Stop worrying.”

Knowing his penchant for taking stupid risks, my panic levels went through the roof when I learned his fire department was planning a day of ice rescue training. I knew that the training would involve putting one of their firefighters in a special protective suit and dropping him into the freezing water to be rescued by his co-workers. I also knew that my Big Guy was going to step up and volunteer to put on the suit.

I had two problems with this idea. First, he was a really big guy. He was over six feet tall and broad shouldered, bulky without quite being fat, and I knew he was perhaps the largest man on the department. I didn’t have a lot of faith that the others would be strong enough to drag him out of the water.

The second problem was, to put it simply, that the Big Guy couldn’t swim. He thought he could, but he couldn’t. He could stay afloat, but that’s not the same thing as swimming, really. He and his father had once survived capsizing their canoe in a frigid Canadian lake, and he was thoroughly convinced that his ability to avoid drowning meant his swimming skills rivaled those of Michael Phelps.

I believed him when he promised he wouldn’t put on the suit. I trusted him to stay out of the water. Even when he came home that night shivering and blue-lipped, I believed he was just cold from standing on the dock for hours, rescuing other firefighters.  I even felt sorry for him and poured a liberal shot of whiskey into his hot cocoa.

Then I saw the pictures posted on the department’s Facebook page. There he was, bobbing around in the water, being dragged out on his belly, being helped out of the dripping wet rescue suit.

“DAMN IT, KENNETH!”

“Heh,” he chuckled. “Saw the pictures, huh?”

Even after we separated, there were many Damn it, Kenneth moments, like when a tornado touched down a mile from the house and he sent me text messages assuring me that he was safely in the basement. He was not, in fact, anywhere near the basement. He was happily watching the funnel cloud from the living room window. I saw that as progress since he wasn’t actually outside watching it touch down.

I think we all began to see him as being somewhat invincible. Or at least very, very lucky. It seemed as though he could survive anything.

Until he didn’t.

Can you take me to Urgent Care? He texted me one afternoon.

The Big Guy didn’t do doctors. He just didn’t. He never really saw medical care as a necessity except in the most dire of circumstances. So if he was asking for help going to see a doctor, I knew something was seriously wrong.

He was embarrassed when the doctor said it was just a cold and prescribed an inhaler. “Go to a different doctor,” I said. “Get a second opinion.”

“Nah, I’m feeling better already,” the Big Guy said, giving me a ghost of his usual grin.

A few days later, he texted again to let me know that he was being admitted to the hospital. Influenza A, he told me. No biggie. Stupid doctors.

The official cause of death was “Complications of Influenza A.” He hung on for almost a week after his heart stopped the first time, and our hearts shattered when he didn’t wake up, leaving his loved ones to make the hardest decision anyone should have to face.

We never thought we’d lose him so young; we certainly never thought we’d lose him to something as ridiculous as the flu. He should have gone out doing something utterly idiotic and dangerous, grinning while I stood there shouting Damn it, Kenneth!

Yeah…

… damn it, Kenneth.

 

Advertisements

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.

 

Finally!

Well, after an unexpected delay that I still don’t understand, My Mirror Lies to Me is finally available on Amazon — only nine days later than the date I had promised. Better late than never, right?

Just to give you a little taste, I’m sharing a small sample of my new book. If you enjoy the sample, you can read the rest through Kindle Unlimited or buy it here for only $2.99.

My Mirror Lies to Me

My Aunt Marian always told people that when I was a small child I would wake up from naps, blink a few times, and say, “…and, um–” before launching into a story of some sort.

I’ve always been a talker. A storyteller. Most of my stories are true, or at the very least possess a small kernel of truth somewhere in either the exposition or fine details. What can I say? I like to make people smile. Maybe even make them laugh out loud. If I can make them laugh so hard they pee, that’s just a bonus.

“Amy stories” have prompted a lot of eye-rolling and grimacing over the years, along with polite suggestions that I write them down in a book someday. Suggestions which, let’s be honest, are less about encouraging me to share my tales than about asking me to please, for the love of God, shut up for five minutes.

“I know, Mom,” my kids will groan. “You’ve told this one, like, a thousand times.”

“Is this another one about your aunts? Yes, I’ve heard them all before,” a more polite co-worker might say. “You should really write a book, you know.”

I used to get embarrassed or offended when people said things like that. Now? Now, I just nod and smile and probably tell yet another story, perhaps about a time when I embarrassed myself by talking too much.

Like the time my soft-spoken, very intelligent sister took me to hear one of her favorite authors speak. She is the quintessential big sister, one of the most organized and efficient people I have ever met. On that particular night, she took care of everything, from getting the tickets to arranging a babysitter to driving us to the theater. In return, she asked for only one thing from me.

“Please let me go ahead of you in the line to meet him,” she asked. “Let me talk to him first and get his autograph. Please?”

Of course I agreed. In spirit, anyway. But as my sister, she should have known she was asking the impossible.

Several moments later, we stood at the table, looking down at David Sedaris. And let me just say here that he was an amiable gentleman who seemed to go out of his way to greet his fans in a friendly, conversational manner. He was all about putting us at ease. Just a very normal, ordinary, approachable man.

And luck was on our side that night. Out of all the people in that line, he turned to my sister with a very simple question.

“Where’s a good place around here to go for breakfast?”

She knew the answer. She knew that town inside and out, was familiar with most of the businesses. It was her job to know the answers to questions like that as part of her daily 9-5. She was perhaps the single best person in that room that he could have chosen for that question.

And what did she do?

She went full goldfish on him.

She blinked. She opened her mouth and closed it. And again. She gaped at him and blinked some more.

“Maybe a Denny’s?” he ventured.

Now, I’m told that I behaved in a perfectly composed and normal manner after that, but that’s not how I remember it. I remember shoving my dog-eared copy of Me Talk Pretty One Day in front of him and babbling something about never looking at Great Danes the same way again.

My sister says he laughed. If there’s any truth to that, then I can die happily any time now, content in the knowledge that I once made David Sedaris laugh.

Have you ever shaken up a bottle of Diet Coke and then released the built-up pressure? That’s exactly what happens to my words when I try to hold them inside and behave myself. And it’s what happened that night, standing in front of David Sedaris.

The dam burst. I babbled. I giggled. I chattered like an idiot. Once I start, I don’t have an “off” switch.

Of course, Mr. Sedaris was very gracious about it. I can only assume someone got him some food at some point after we left. I’ll never know for sure, because my sister and I turned and fled, laughing like idiots.

That’s what My Mirror Lies to Me is all about: Finding the “funny” in an otherwise mortifying moment. Looking at myself and seeing only the best that I have to offer to the world. Instead of seeing a double chin or close-set eyes and a mouth that runs too much, I want to see a woman who is capable of always looking for the good where others see flaws.

If I’ve learned anything about life, it’s that it’s too short to waste time dwelling on the negative stuff. I always want to look past the lies my mirror tells me. I want to enjoy telling “Amy stories” that make people laugh. If I can make a few people pee or spray coffee out their noses, then I’ve done my job.

And David Sedaris, if you ever happen to read this book, the Kalamazoo Denny’s is on Cork Street, just off Sprinkle Road near I-94. Tell them A.J. and the Goldfish sent you.

 

 

 

Cover Reveal: My Mirror Lies to Me

I am so excited to be able to announce that my newest book, My Mirror Lies to Me, is on schedule to be released on Friday, September 29. Just to get everyone out there as excited as I am, I want to share the cover with all of you.

White frame on the wall

Isn’t that great? Special thanks to my friend and fellow author Margaret Brazear for creating this fun cover.

This book is the next logical step for me after Faster Than a Whippoorwill’s Ass and Fat, Fifty, and Menopausal. Like those books, it is a collection of humorous essays on life as a middle-aged, overweight, slightly delusional single mother, just trying to keep the focus on the funny side of life.

This time around, there’s a bit more swearing and a lot more exasperation. Maybe even a touch of anger here and there. The Amoeba Squad makes an appearance again, along with The Big Guy, The Princess, The Dark Prince, and Little Man, all of whom have resigned themselves to the fact that I am going to continue mentioning them in my books.

I had an absolute blast writing this one, and I can only hope you all have just as much fun reading it. It’s currently in the hands of an editor and a couple of beta readers, but there just may be a sneak peek or two ready to show off here at some point in the next two weeks before the book is released.

In the meantime, thanks again to everyone for all of the support and encouragement that keep me writing.

Whippoorwill

Hey, everybody!

As some of you know, I put together a bunch of my earliest funny blog posts in a book called Have a Goode One a few years ago.  It wasn’t a great title and I knew nothing about making a good book cover, and it basically sank to the bottom of Amazon’s rankings. The nineteen people who bought it seemed to enjoy it, though.

However, I’m still very proud of the material, so I decided to give it another chance. I’ve re-vamped it with a new title, a better cover, and a little bit of rearranging of the essays on the inside.

For those of you who already own this one, a hearty “thank you!” I’m working hard to convince Amazon to “push” the new version out to you, and I promise to keep you all updated on that. But I really want to make sure that you know this is not a new book. I don’t want to trick anyone into buying something they already own!

For the rest of you, Faster Than a Whippoorwill’s Ass is now available. It focuses mainly on parenting, marriage, and country life, with a few other topics thrown in just for snicks. It’s a little bit naughty in spots, and I freely admit to just a bit of profanity here and there, but it was an awful lot of fun to write. I hope you all have just as much fun reading it.

The new cover was designed by my friend and fellow author Margaret Brazear.

 

whipkdpcover

Cat’s Crazy

I think my daughter has begun to worry about my sanity.

That’s really not anything new, to be perfectly honest. Most people who have known me for more than thirty minutes generally have a few questions about my state of mental health. It might be my habit of blurting out random words that have nothing to do with the words that I think I’m saying. Or perhaps it’s the way I make obscure jokes and references to 1970’s British television programs and then laugh alone at what I just said.

My habit of trying to say multiple sentences at the same time probably doesn’t do much to allay their concerns, either.

At any rate, the moment that really tipped the scale in my daughter’s mind took place yesterday during a shopping trip to the Bent-n-Dent, which is run by our local Amish Community. She commented on the multiple cans of cheap New England clam chowder I was stacking in our cart.

“My cat likes it,” I explained.

“You’re buying soup for your cat?”

“I like it too. We share it for supper sometimes.”

“Mother. No.”

“What, do you think I should buy him his own can?”

Let me explain. In the past three years, I left my husband and watched my two oldest children go away to college. My youngest child spends every other week at his father’s house, which means that I spend every other week alone. Completely alone. I went from being part of a family of five to living alone, and as a result I recently got permission to have a cat as an Emotional Support Animal.

My cat, however, needs more support than he gives. His name is Mr. Twinkletoes (named by my son), but I call him Nimrod. And he doesn’t like me.

I bought him a scratching post and a bunch of little toys, but to no avail. I bribe him with canned cat food and bags of little kitty treats. I clean his litter box multiple times each day. I’m telling you, this creature is more high maintenance than all three of my children combined. And still, he will not allow me to pet him.

He likes to steal my desk chair. He won’t sit on my lap, but he’ll climb the back of my chair and wriggle his way in between the chair back and my butt, where he promptly goes to sleep after giving me a few well-placed puncture wounds on one cheek or the other.

The only time Nimrod seems to like me at all is on those nights when I open a can of New England clam chowder for supper when I’m home alone. Then he goes into a frenzied routine of twining himself around my ankles and crying until he eventually falls over and just lays there, twitching. I think he may be part possum, actually, because he then plays dead for a while, and the only way to “revive” him is to scoop a little bit of my soup into a dish for him.

Do you know what’s more pathetic than a middle-aged divorcee eating canned soup alone for supper?  That middle-aged divorcee sharing her canned soup with a cat. And then telling people about it.

I think Nimrod starting to warm up to me, though. When he thinks I’m asleep, he jumps up on my bed and curls up to sleep near my feet. If I happen to reach down and pet him, he hisses and snarls before drawing blood from at least one of my extremities and then hides himself away in the closet, probably to poop in my shoes.

He also likes to climb in between the shower curtain and the clear plastic liner while I’m taking my shower. I wouldn’t mind it so much if he didn’t insist turning his unblinking gaze upon my body and yowling throughout the entire process.

I really can’t help but take that a little bit personally.

Nimrod has a Christmas stocking because my son insisted on it. I bought some catnip and a little stuffed mousie with a bell in its belly, as well as his very own can of clam chowder. But I’m not putting the chowder in his stocking because I may be crazy but I’m not that crazy.

Merry Christmas from me and Mr. Twinkletoes!

crazycat

 

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.

 

IWSG: Working Without A Net

IWSG

One of my friends from long-ago is the unrivaled King of Snark. He prefers to think of himself as the Crown Prince, but I think he’s being modest. And right now, even as I write this, I am working my way into a full-blown crisis of confidence because of him.

Okay, well it’s not really his fault. I was already in mid-crisis long before I contacted him.

I just asked him to read a chapter from my newest book and give me honest feedback, and now I’m freaking out while I wait for him to get back to me. Not because I’m afraid he’ll hate it and tear it to shreds, but because I’m afraid he’ll say he likes it and I won’t believe him.

You see, in Fat, Fifty, and Menopausal, I don’t have a lot of filters. One would think that should be fairly obvious from the title, but now I’m not so sure. It seemed funny when I thought of it; it seemed funny when I wrote the first draft. But now? Now I’m starting to have doubts. I’m scared I’ve gone too far. Even the title might be too much, I’m afraid.

 

nervous

I’m from a generation of women who don’t talk about personal things like Menopause. Women who lie about their age. Who refer to themselves as “curvy” or “voluptuous” but never ever come right out and say the “f” word. What the heck is wrong with me? Why in God’s name would I write a book about being fat, fifty and menopausal? I’m afraid this is all too personal, too much. That I’ve crossed the line into an uncomfortable level of self-disclosure.

What if no one finds it funny? What if the King of Snark comes back to me later tonight with nothing more than a patronizing comment like, “It’s cute. Thanks for sharing”?

Part of me hopes the book comes out and disappears without a trace like my other book in the “Humor” category. That no one ever reads it and we can all just politely agree to pretend that it never happened.

At the same time, I really do believe in this project. I wanted to write it because the last five years of my life have been sheer hell, and I feel as though the only thing that got me through it was my sense of humor. There were days when finding a reason to laugh became a survival technique, and that’s what I’m trying to convey with this book —  that it’s crucial to be able to laugh even when things are looking pretty dark.

My inner critic is telling me to cancel the pre-order on Amazon and stick to the relative safety of writing romance novels about people who don’t really exist outside of my  imagination. My inner critic is a bit of a jerk, to be totally honest. I’m not listening to her.

I want to be the kind of writer who takes risks. Who pushes the envelope. Who walks that really fine line between doing something brilliant or something really, incredibly stupid.

I don’t know about the other writers out there, but this — this feeling of terror mingled with anticipation, of pride mixed with panic, of hope muddled with doubt — this feeling that I have right now is why I wanted to be a writer when I was a little girl pounding out short stories on a toy typewriter.

Sometimes in life, you just have to take a risk and work without a net.

If it scares you, it might be a good thing to try.  — Seth Godin

This was written as part of the Insecure Writers Support Group. To find out more about this wonderfully supportive group and find out how to join the blog hop, click here.

 

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. 

Happy Freakin’ Valentine’s Day

Let’s talk about Valentine’s Day, shall we?

At one point in history, it was a day that involved “gently” slapping women with strips of blood-soaked goat hide as part of a fertility ritual.

Those women still had a better Valentine’s Day than I had yesterday.

Back when I was a young and impoverished newlywed, I scolded my husband for spending too much money on flowers for me when we really couldn’t afford it. I meant, “Instead of spending the money on flowers that are just going to die, spend it on something we can do together, like dinner or a movie.” He apparently thought I meant, “Don’t ever buy me flowers again, no matter what happens. Ever. If you even allow the thought of flowers to cross your mind ever again, I will kill you in your sleep” or something equally frightening.

So the fact that I never got flowers on Valentine’s Day after that is about 98% my own fault. I’ll own it. It was just never a big romantic deal for us. We did the whole heart-shaped pizza and pink cupcake silliness for the kids, but not for each other.

Now that I’m single, it’s still not a big deal. Right? So why, you may be asking, am I so ticked off about Valentine’s Day this year?

So glad you asked.

It started when I woke up with a cold sore. Not just any cold sore, mind you, but the mother of all cold sores. A huge, bulbous, red protrusion on my upper lip that looks like I’ve got an alien gestating in there.

And just in case that’s not eye-catching enough, my sinus passages have become completely blocked. But only on that side of my face. My cheekbone and eye socket are throbbing, probably communicating with the baby alien in some secret language. Everything on that side of my face is puffy and blotchy.

I did what any other red-blooded single person would do in this situation: I swallowed some apple cider vinegar, drank some herbal tea, and got on with my life. Just for the record, “getting on with my life” included doing my laundry.

The laundry room in my apartment building has three washers and three dryers, all of which are rarely in working order at the same time. There is no change machine, so I’ve gotten into the habit of hoarding my quarters; it takes twelve quarters to wash and dry a single load. I don’t even bother to count money in terms of dollar amounts any more. I measure the cost of everything by the number of quarters it takes.

What happened next should be clearly documented, ostensibly because I want to tell the story correctly, but mostly to cover my ass in case of any future police involvement.

The middle dryer is the best dryer. Everyone in this building knows that. The dryer on the far end is okay, but not the best.  However, the dryer closest to the door is worthless. It gets the clothes nice and hot, tossing them about for forty minutes or so, but at no point does it actually make any attempt at drying them.

I put my clothes in the middle dryer and went back upstairs to my apartment. When I went back down to get my laundry 40 minutes later, someone had switched dryers with me!

In other words, someone unknown to me touched my wet laundry. My “unmentionables.” Yes, a stranger touched my underwear. A stranger touched my underwear and bras, among other things, and put them in the dryer that just makes everything hot without drying it.

With the end result being that on Valentine’s Day, my panties got hot and wet and touched by a stranger, and I wasn’t even wearing them at the time.

My panties are getting more action than I am.

This does not make me happy.

I grabbed some scrap paper and a Sharpie and hastily scrawled out a note to leave on top of the middle dryer. It said: “If you ever touch my laundry again, I will shove my laundry basket up your ass.”

As an afterthought, I went back and added the word “sideways.”

I know, I know; I should have take their clothes out and switched everything back. Or even worse, I should have taken their clothes and not returned them until their owner repaid my five quarters. But I’m kind of a wimp, and besides, two wrongs really don’t make a right.

So today, the day after Valentine’s Day, dawned bright and sunny and bitterly cold, and I have no dry clothes  to wear. I have a gestating alien on my lip, a puffy side of my face, and a bad attitude. And just for a little added bit of joy, my car battery is dead because of the cold.

Sure, happy freaking Valentine’s Day. All things considered, I think I would have been happier with a little bit of goat-hide slapping.