Wagon Wheels

 

The Wheels Fell off My Wagon is done and with my editor right now. I am hoping to have revisions and rewrites finished soon, but in the meantime I want to share a little bit about it.

This is the most personal thing I’ve ever written. It’s a bit of a departure for me, and I’m rather nervous. Let me explain.

This book will be the fourth in my Goode For A Laugh series; it was written in the same spirit as the others and is the natural progression in the story, but it’s different at the same time. Unlike the first three, the story told here is a bit more linear, with a slightly more unified tale from beginning to end.  And unlike the others, this one touches on life after the death of my kids’ dad.

Not exactly material for a comedy, you say? Maybe not. Stay with me here.

The Big Guy — Ken — was indeed a big man, with an even bigger heart and a sense of humor as endless as the sky. We clashed as spouses but made a perfect team as co-parents and friends; he was the best almost-ex-husband any woman could have asked for.

It could have been awkward. It should have been awkward. In a town of just over 500, everyone knew us and it seemed like everyone wanted to take sides. We still went to school events together and carpooled to family birthdays and such, and confused the hell out of everyone because we refused to take sides.

Sometimes it felt like the people around us wanted us to be at each other’s throats. Sure, we had some ugly moments. I’m fairly certain he probably wanted to toss me off a roof almost as many times as I fought back an urge to kick him in the balls while wearing steel-toed stilettos. But … it worked for us. I don’t know how, and I don’t know why. It just did.

And no matter what, we never stopped laughing. Sometimes we laughed at each other more than we laughed with each other — usually during the aforementioned ball-kicking-roof-tossing moments — but we always found reasons to laugh.

That’s who we were.

At his funeral, one of his co-workers stood up and performed an original blues ballad about him, complete with harmonica, dark glasses, and black beret. And we laughed. All of us. Because laughter at a funeral was such a Ken thing. We laughed and we cried, and no one questioned whether the tears were caused by our laughter or our grief.

Because that’s who he was.

And that’s how I want to remember him.

There was a lot of anger after he died. A lot of ugliness. Some folks saw me as the villain, a bad guy of sorts. The evil ex-wife who had no business at the hospital or at his funeral; I was the ex who wasn’t really an ex, and it was easier to judge me than to try to understand. I shouldn’t have let it hurt me, but I did.

I wrote this book because I don’t want to feel hurt or betrayed or angry any more. It seems disrespectful to him, somehow, to associate any of those feelings with him. Memories of Ken should bring smiles, laughter, warmth. Okay, maybe a little sadness because he’s not with us any more, but none of the other negative stuff. He deserves better.

The Wheels Fell off My Wagon isn’t about Ken’s death. It’s not a tragedy. It’s about celebrating life and healing and recovering from unimaginable loss and grief. It’s about the kids and me using humor to move on without him, rebuilding our home as we’ve rebuilt our lives. It’s about hope.

This one’s for you, Ken. Miss you, Big Guy.

Geese,Traditions and Booger Soup

When I was growing up, New Year’s Day was sort of a big deal in my family. New Year’s Eve partying wasn’t all that important beyond the obligatory junk food, Guy Lomardo TV specials, and noisemakers at midnight, but January 1 was always filled with Family Traditions.

Yes, I capitalize Family Traditions when it comes to my family. That’s just the kind of people we were. Still are, in some instances.

My sisters and I always spent the holiday with the Amoeba (our nickname for Dad’s four unmarried sisters). They’d begin New Year’s Day by dragging out The List (yup, that one’s capitalized too), which began with the kind of normal trivia that usually gets recorded on this type of list: average price of a loaf of bread or gallon of gas, celebrities who died the preceding year, the number one song according to Casey Kasem, and so on.

But then my family had to take things to the next level by jotting down questions to be answered the following year.

Did Vernabelle finish her quilt? Always yes.

Did the Aunts finally get their kitchen remodeled? Always no.

Is Smudge the cat still alive?  Yes, remarkably, for 18 years.

At some point, the questions veered off into more personal territory. We each had our own section, and mine was always the same:

Did Amy ever have a growth spurt? No, still hoping for 5’5″.

Did Amy lose weight? Yes, the same ten pounds I lose and gain every year

Did Amy get a boyfriend? No. Always no.

Did Amy finally finish her novel? Yes! Finally!

After the list was completed for the year, we’d all bundle up and head out to Milham Park to feed the ducks and geese, regardless of the weather. Our boots would crunch through the snow as we hiked along the trails to our favorite stone bridge in the center of the park, lugging bags full of cheap, stale generic bread to feed the most aggressive flock of birds known to man.

We’d end up running and shrieking in terror, flinging handfuls of bread behind us as they chased us up and over the bridge while the Aunts stayed safely out of range and laughed their asses off.  I found out later they used to place bets on how long it would be before I got treed on top of the bike rack. Because it happened every year. Every year.

I’m starting to believe those ladies had a bit of a sadistic streak.

When we went back as adults with our own children, I ended up laughing, too, when my niece was bitten by a goose. No, I didn’t laugh at her pain; seriously, I’m not that twisted. I laughed at the panicked phone conversation that followed between my sister and her pediatrician.

Did it break the skin? No

Can she move the finger? Yes

Call me back if she sprouts feathers or starts quacking. Otherwise, she’ll be just fine.

In case anyone is worried about my niece, she is now a lovely and well-adjusted twenty-something young woman who has never, to the best of my knowledge, sprouted a single feather or quacked at inappropriate moments.

Although, are there really appropriate moments for quacking?

At any rate, after our annual duck apocolypse, we’d return to the Aunts’ house to warm up with big  bowls of Aunt Ida’s oyster stew, which was basically hot milk with butter, pepper, and a handful of boogery-textured oysters. It was positively revolting, and the only way to choke it down was by adding copious amounts of soggy oyster crackers to each bowl and praying to God that each snotty, lumpy swallow contained more cracker than oyster.

Nobody actually liked  Aunt Ida’s Booger Soup. We ate it because the Aunts were a superstitious lot who firmly believed that eating seafood on New Year’s Day guaranteed good luck in the coming year. Personally, I think they just wanted to start the year off in the worst way possible so things could only get better from that point on. Either that, or it was all part of the whole sadistic streak thing they had going on.

The only other time I have eaten oysters was at the after-party following my first hair show, when swallowing a half-dozen raw oysters seemed like a good idea after the fifth or sixth gin and tonic.

For the record, it was not a good idea.

Neither were the gin and tonics, now that I think about it.

Did you know that raw oysters taste and feel exactly the same going down as they do coming back up? Good to know, right?

And going down or coming up, they still don’t taste as bad as Aunt Ia’s Booger Soup.

New Year’s is a lot different for me these days. I barely managed to stay up until midnight last night, but Rooster and I celebrated with sparkling cider in plastic champagne flutes, followed by a couple of thick, chewy peanut butter and dill pickle sandwiches.

Don’t judge. Trust me, they were better than Booger Soup.

We live an hour away from Milham Park now, so we we won’t be heading out to feed the ducks any time soon. If I want to be pursued by noisy, aggressive creatures in search of food, I’ll just go back to work. I am a lunchlady, after all. Seriously, not even a flock of Milham Park birds can be as intimidating as a horde of hungry teenagers on Nacho Day.

And even though we no longer draw up our version of The List, I can’t help but compile a mental list of questions and answers.

Are we all still alive and healthy? So far, so good.

Are we all happy? Meh. Getting there. 

Did the dog ever stop pooping in the corner? I strongly doubt it. 

Did we finish the renovations on the house? Please, Lord. 

Did Amy get a boyfriend? Let’s not ask stupid questions, mkay? 

Apparently, some traditions die hard.

Happy New year’s to you all! Thanks for sticking with me and reading my bits of silliness; I hope I’ve given you a few smiles or even giggles, and I wish everyone the best of health and happiness in 2020!

 

 

Madoodle and Chevy Chase

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

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

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

“Onion, pepper, hominy, tripe –”

“What’s tripe?” she persisted.

“Cow stomach.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then I took a little break.

Holy hell.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That was then, this is now. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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.

 

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.