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.

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. 

The Best Medicine

“Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion. I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward.” – Kurt Vonnegut

The world needs more laughter. Even on the worst of days, even when the future is bleak and the present is worse, even when all hope seems lost . . . we have to look for reasons to laugh.  I know that laughter has never, ever solved a single major problem, but neither have tears. Especially not in my family.

We were devastated when Aunt Ida died. She was the first one of The Amoeba Squad to go, the first of the four sisters to go somewhere without her siblings. She’d been sick for ages; Aunt Marian often said that that Ida had “one foot in the grave, the other on a banana peel.” But still, her death rocked us.

Aunt Vernabelle took it especially hard, although I never really knew if that was because Verna was the most sensitive of the four or because she just really never liked Ida very much and felt guilty about that.  Either way, Verna’s grief was overwhelming. She cried non-stop for days; she cried herself sick and then cried some more after being sick. She couldn’t function.

It was during the visitation that Aunt Marian, the Head Aunt, decided that enough was enough. She turned on her sister and issued an ultimatum: Verna had twenty-four hours to get herself under control, or else. Now, no one was ever really clear on what “or else” meant, but the threat was sufficient to get through to Verna. She sniffled and sobbed and wept for the next twenty-four hours, but she also kept a running countdown: “I’ve got eighteen hours left to cry!” she’d wail. “Marian says I can cry for sixteen more hours!”

“The next time someone dies,” Marian grumbled after a while, “she only gets twelve hours.”

And we laughed. God help us, we all laughed, even Verna. That’s just how my family has always dealt with things beyond our control. We try to find the humor in humorless situations.

I’ve heard it said that humor is a defense mechanism, that a human smile is similar to the way a wild animal bares its teeth as a warning. Well, of course it is! I make the worst jokes and laugh the loudest when life is at its worst.

The night of my car accident, I had a wonderful nurse named Nadine. As I lay there in the Emergency Room, strapped to a backboard and immobilized by a C-collar, Nadine came in with a Shop-Vac to vacuum the glass shards off before cutting off my clothes. As I remember, she was quite enthusiastic about the job, very thorough about getting that glass out of every possible nook and cranny. And I do mean every possible nook and cranny. When she aimed the nozzle between my legs, seemingly in search of glass in the lining of my uterus, I let out a whoop and told her I didn’t usually allow such liberties without dinner and a movie first.

Poor Nadine didn’t know what to do. She burst out laughing, apologized, and kept vacuuming, although I’m pretty sure I heard her mutter something about not ordering the lobster.

Later that night, when they had realized the extent of my injuries and started preparing me for the ride to a bigger hospital, Nadine came back to put in a catheter. Let’s just be honest here: having a catheter inserted is not exactly a relaxing experience. It’s a major invasion of one’s private areas, and Nadine was definitely going for frequent flyer miles in my pelvic region that night. She had to keep telling me to relax, but by that point I was well on my way to a complete meltdown. I wasn’t listening. I wasn’t cooperating.

“Honey,” Nadine teased, “would you spread your legs for me if I got the Shop-Vac again?”

For the record, no Shop-Vacs were harmed in the course of my recovery. But laughing at that moment gave me the strength I needed to get through the next few hours. It also made the ER doctor pause and peek into the room to make sure I hadn’t completely lost my mind. “I don’t think I want to know what’s going on in here,” he told us.

Here’s a simple truth about life: Sometimes, it really sucks, and there’s nothing you or I or anyone else can ever do to change that.  People die, people get hurt, and the world just keeps on turning. Our hearts may get broken, but they keep on beating. Sun comes up, sun goes down, life goes on.

We can laugh or we can cry. Or we can build a blanket fort under the kitchen table and curl up in a fetal position and do both, but eventually we’re going to have to come back out into the real world.

Might as well find something to laugh about while we’re at it.

And when I die, you all only get two hours to cry.

This is a Finish The Sentence Friday post: “The world could use more . . . ” hosted by Kristi from Finding Ninee,  Shelley Ozand Anna Fitfunner.  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.

dishes

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.

***

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!

Cat’s My Story

There is a running argument in my family that has been going on since before my children were born. It began when my now ex-husband and I were newlyweds, and it centers around his continued insistence that I killed his cat on purpose.

Before I say anything more, I want to make it perfectly clear that I am in no way responsible for the death of Smokey the Cat. It’s true that I hated him, but the feeling was mutual. Smokey belonged to the first Mrs. Big Guy, and he made it abundantly clear from Day #1 where his loyalties were.

The Big Guy and I had been married for only a few months when the ex called and issued the ultimatum: If we didn’t take the cat, she said, she would take him to the vet and have him put to sleep. No negation.  She was done with the cat, and that was simply all there was to it.

That should have set off a few alarms, but I love cats and couldn’t wait to meet my new step-cat.

The Big Guy described him as dark gray longhair with a cuddly, loveable personality and possibly a bit of Maine Coon somewhere in his bloodline. He had started life as a barn cat at my Mother-in-law’s farm, so he was a strong and self-sufficient animal.  I couldn’t wait to meet him; it was like meeting a new adopted child. I spent the evening pacing and glancing at the clock until the Big Guy walked in the door with the cat carrier and plunked it down in the darkest corner of a long hallway.

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“You might want to give him a few days to adjust to you,” he warned me, opening the door of the carrier and trying to hide the bloody scratches on his hands and arms.

That should have set off some really loud alarms.

I peered inside and made little cooing noises that were greeted with hissing and spitting. All I could see was a pair of narrowed yellow eyes glaring out at me from a darkish lump.

“He, uh, sometimes takes a while to warm up to new people,” the Big Guy explained.

It was a week before I saw Smokey.  I knew he came out of the carrier at night, because his food and water dishes needed refilling every morning and he was very precise about leaving little calling cards for me to clean up just a few inches to the left of his litter box. After he finally starting emerging during daylight, he slunk around the house and refused to let me pet him. He purred and purrted for the Big Guy but continued to greet me with spits and hisses.

“He really hates me,” I said.

“Give him time.”

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A few weeks later, I still had not been able to touch the animal. But as my husband and I drifted off to sleep one night, I felt a little movement at the foot of the bed and realized that Smokey had jumped up there with us. I held my breath as he paced and kneaded his way back and forth and then felt a little rush of affection for him when finally curled up on top of my feet.

“He’s finally warming up to me,” I thought.

Little did I know that my Hell had just begun.

I awoke a few hours later with the horrifying realization that something was wrong.  Something was terribly wrong. I wasn’t breathing.  I couldn’t breathe at all.  Something was covering my mouth and nose, pressing down and blocking all oxygen. Something warm and soft and purring . . .

Damn cat.

And so it went.  Every single night, approximately every 90 minutes, all night long.  Our house was a hundred-year-old farmhouse that we were renovating, and there was no door on our bedroom at that point, so there was no keeping that murderous feline out at night. The Big Guy slept through the murder attempts and refused to believe me.

“He’s just cuddling,” he insisted. “I’m sure he’s not really trying to suffocate you.”

During the days, that cat continued his campaign of hiss, spit and avoid. I bought him catnip and fluffy cat toys and even tried to buy his affections with a can of smoked oysters, but to no avail. He hated me.  I started wondering if the first Mrs. Big Guy had somehow trained him in secret kitty commando techniques and sent him on a mission to assassinate me.

I became tired and irritable. The Big Guy and I argued about the cat. When winter came, he told me that Smokey had once had a habit of climbing up underneath cars and tractors to stay warm, which meant that we should always remember to drive very slowly around the driveway. I immediately started pulling out of the driveway like a NHRA driver doing burnouts at the starting line.  I was John Force in a mini-van.

That cat had at least 247 lives.

I am watching you, human . . .
I am watching you, human . . .

The night I snapped, I must have awakened and pushed that cat off my face at least five times. Finally, at around three a.m., I woke up gasping for air one last time and decided that I had had enough. I sat up in bed, lifted that cat high over my head in both hands, and threw him over the foot of the bed.

Or so I thought.

I should probably mention here that the height difference between the Big Guy and me was almost a foot.  When I threw Smokey, I threw him far enough to clear my feet, but not quite far enough to clear the foot of the bed. He landed just below my husband’s knee, claws extended, and skidded the rest of the way, taking strips of flesh with him as he went . . . all the way from knee to ankle.

The poor man was awake and yelping in pain in an instant.

“What the hell are you doing?” He demanded.

“Throwing the cat off the foot of the bed!”

“Well, you missed!”

He put a door on the bedroom by morning.

Deprived of the opportunity to kill me in my sleep, Smokey settled down over the next few months. He pretended to like me.  He allowed me to pet him. He fooled my husband, but I knew better. I knew he was just waiting for an opportunity.

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But Smokey was an old cat. By spring, he was looking pretty thin and haggard, and barely had enough energy to hiss at me more than a half dozen times per day. The Big Guy and I decided to make him an indoor cat to keep him safe, and we watched him closely so he wouldn’t slip outside.

Then one day, I came home from work to find him waiting for me at the door. He meowed at me and rubbed on my legs and seemed so full of life and energy that I believed he had managed to kick whatever illness had been bothering him. I thought he was healthy and happy, and I made the judgement call to let him go outside to play.

The Big Guy was furious when he got home, and even more so when we were hit by a violent thunderstorm later that evening.  Smokey, of course, never came home, and when we found his body in the woods a few days later, my husband swore that it was all my fault for letting a sick, old animal outside in the face of an approaching storm.

Worse, he still swears to this day that I did it on purpose.  Knowing that the storm was coming. With Malice Aforethought.  Premeditated Murder.

I swear I didn’t know a storm was coming.

I swear I thought he was feeling better and it was okay to let him go outside.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

zOmbi POme

Today’s contribution for Zombie Week comes from author Mark Zahn, who was very kind about letting me share a poem from his book, King Pumpkin: A Celebration of Hallowe’en in Verse.

zOmbi POme

Adventures of the Amoeba Squad

The memory that haunts me is more of a composite memory, really. The events all happened when I was so young that my mind has sort of squashed them all together, kind of like a memory meatloaf.

It involves the summers I spent as a child with my aunts at their cottage on Lake Michigan. The Aunts were my father’s four sisters who never married, never lived alone, never made a move without first consulting each other.  My father was not on speaking terms with them for most of my formative years, and my sisters and I secretly referred to them as The Amoeba

My aunts had no children of their own, but they were firmly convinced that they were experts at child-rearing.  In all matters of discipline, education, nutrition and entertainment, they knew it all.  God help anyone who dared disagree with the Amoeba, which also explains a lot about why my mother’s relationship with them wasn’t all that terrific, either.

Aunt Marian, for example, couldn’t see the nutritional difference between sugary cereals and a candy bar, so we routinely ate Snickers bars for breakfast. She believed that dairy products could soothe an upset tummy, which meant that we ate ice cream between bouts of vomiting when we had the flu.

I cringe now that I’m a mother, but oh, man, did I love the food at my aunts’ house!

The Aunts also had some strange beliefs about what was and was not appropriate for children.  Actually, they had some strange beliefs about a lot of things. Aunt Verna believed that douching with warm Pepsi could prevent pregnancy, so all pop served to teenage girls in that house was served on ice, thank you very much.  She saw that as her way of preventing teenage sex. As teenagers, my sisters and I loved to come home from dates and make a big show of pouring ourselves a big, tall glass of warm Pepsi, just to mess with her mind.

But the memories that haunt me don’t involve dating, douching, or Pepsi.

Not just for drinking anymore.
Not just for drinking anymore.

My aunts were addicted to police scanners.  They were four of the nosiest people in the world, and they discovered scanners about the time they realized that their nineteen sets of binoculars and two telescopes just weren’t bringing in enough information.  They had a scanner in the living room, a scanner in the kitchen, and Aunt Marian had her own personal scanner in the bedroom.

They memorized the police codes, and they knew precisely when some juicy, gossip-worthy event was taking place anywhere in the county. And if those events took place in the middle of the night, the aunts saw nothing wrong in waking us up and taking us for a ride to the scene in the trusty family station wagon, also known as Wag, the unofficial eighth member of our tribe.

“Up and at ‘em, Girls!” Aunt Marian would crow. “There’s a fire at the old five-and-dime!” or “They’ve found a body down by the marina!”  We’d stumble into the clothes she tossed us and wrap up in our matching white windbreakers – yes, we all seven wore matching white windbreakers everywhere we went. On foggy nights, I think we probably traumatized quite a few other spectators when we materialized out of the gloom like some demented Amoeba Squad.

It seems like there were always bodies being hauled out of the lake.  That sounds pretty grim, but it never seemed that way to me as a kid.  My aunts had made it abundantly clear to us that the water could be dangerous when not regarded with the proper respect and caution.  Drownings were a part of summer life at the beach.  Boats capsized, teenagers were overcome after diving from the pier, little children wandered away from parents.  It was just something that happened, and my aunts believed that exposing us to that ugly truth was an appropriate way of teaching us to respect the water.

In retrospect, I shudder to think of the things we saw. To a certain extent, I can understand my aunts’ fascination with drowning, because two of their brothers were killed in a boating accident in the 1950’s, but I still cannot begin to comprehend the logic of taking three little girls along to stand in a crowd to see a body loaded up and taken away.

The night I remember most vividly, we waited on the pier amid a growing crowd for what seemed like hours.  Rumor had it that the body had been found a few miles out and they were having trouble retrieving it.  It had been in the water for quite some time, they said, and was so badly decomposed that it was impossible to determine gender at that time.  I don’t know what standard procedure is in a situation like that, or whether any of the rumors were true, but the general consensus was that the body was so far gone that it couldn’t even be picked up out of the water; it was said that the Coast Guard had to scoop a body bag around it and drag it behind the boat.

I strongly doubt that’s what really happened.   But I stood there with the rest of them, clustered around the North Pier’s old white lighthouse that’s been gone for almost thirty years now.  We craned our necks and murmured theories about who it might be, and every once in a while someone would shout when they thought they saw a boat somewhere on the horizon.

I don’t think they ever actually brought a body in that night.  Or if they did, I have forgotten the details.  I remember giving up and shuffling back home, where we brushed the sand from our bare feet and hung our seven white windbreakers on seven hooks before crawling back into our beds.

We were terribly disappointed, and that’s the part that haunts me.  A human being, someone’s son or daughter, died in Lake Michigan, and we were disappointed because we didn’t get to see the body dragged out of the water.  A life ended.  Somewhere, a heart broke and a soul mourned the loss of a loved one, and I was part of a group of ghouls watching, waiting to see the gory results.

I remember that night every time I drive past a car accident and see the gawkers slowing down, or when I see a house fire on the news with clusters of onlookers waiting to see if anyone died.   I feel that same sense of shame, and I force myself to look the other way.

The memory that haunts me is the memory that makes me turn away from watching somebody’s pain, someone else’s loss, because I never want to be part of that crowd again.  Not even if I could still fit into the old white windbreaker.

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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 “The memory that haunts me is . . . ”  

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