Time Flies

Your local electronics store has just started selling time machines, anywhere doors, and invisibility helmets.  You can only afford one.  Which of these do you buy, and why?

 

A time machine, of course.  No question.

I’d love to say I would be altruistic and use a time machine for the good of the world:  Save the Titanic.  Unload the Eastland before she tipped over.   Kill Hitler before he gained power.  Tell E.L. James to get out of fanfiction and write her own damn book.

You know, the kind of actions that could prevent untold human suffering.

But I’ve read enough Science Fiction to understand that altering the past like that could have terrible consequences. Besides, I think I’ve established here in my blog that I’m basically a pretty selfish person at times, so let’s just accept that I would use a time machine for my own selfish purposes.

I’d go back to Woodland Elementary and pants a little boy named Tripper.  Totally humiliate the little bastard and warn him to leave my six-year-old self alone.  While there, I might also warn Leroy Butler to stay off the monkey bars in order to avoid shattering his jaw during recess, and I’d have a nice sit-down discussion with my mother about sending me to school in home-made “Stretch-N-Sew” polyester clothes.

I’d go back and tell my high school self to stop worrying about being fat and unpopular and just enjoy herself.  I’d tell her to give up the crush on a boy named Bucky, because in thirty years he will still be with the same perky little blonde — who will still be perky and blonde (and much nicer than I ever gave her credit for).  I’d point out the skinny, geeky science nerds and hint at all of the wonderful things puberty is going to do for some of them in a few years.

I’d tell her to savor the moments with Dee, Dawn, Aaron, Dale and all the others who are going to be gone too soon.

A time machine would give me a chance to go back and tell my college-aged self that dropping out of college is the stupidest thing she will ever do in her life.  I wouldn’t tell her just how many other stupid things she is going to do, but she should know that her future will be a mess if she doesn’t get that degree.

I’d tell the young, starry-eyed bride at my wedding to dance with Dad. It’s just one song, for God’s sake.  Not for him; for her.  She needs to understand that he is a good man who did the best he could, and that he never stopped loving his daughters.  She needs to forgive him, and she needs to realize that he doesn’t have much time left.

I’d tell that same bride to keep a closer watch on her marriage and recognize when things start going bad.    Get out sooner, before they hurt each other as much.

On the subject of hurting people, I’d tell myself to name the jerky ex-boyfriend character in Her House Divided  “Lester” instead of “Randy.”  Trust me on this one.  Sorry, Randy.

I’d let the air out of all of the tires of both of our cars on June 21, 2011, so that my kids couldn’t go to Christian Fellowship that night.  Better yet, I’d make a call to the Van Buren County Road Commission a week earlier and tell them to cut down a certain half-dead maple tree on County Road 388 before it falls in a storm and hurts someone.

I’d go back and tell Doug Adams to stay off the treadmill and see a cardiologist.  Beg Kurt Vonnegut for just one more story.  Tell Jim Henson it’s not the flu; go see a doctor.

I’d tell myself to gossip less, laugh more.  Say “I love you” as much as possible, even when no one says it back.  Tell my sisters I love them, no matter what.  Both of them.  Read more books from unknown authors.  Eat less, exercise more, and don’t lose touch with old friends.  Don’t wait for the universe to drop a tree on my head to make me understand that I am loved and I matter to a lot of people.

Of course, if I did all of those things, I wouldn’t have the chance to gain wisdom from the experiences, and my present-day self wouldn’t know what to do with the time machine.  Wouldn’t have the advice and warnings to give . . . which means nothing would change.  Or everything would change. . .

I think I just understood the theory of a Moebius Strip, but only for a second.  Then it was gone and now my head hurts and I suddenly remember why I don’t write Science Fiction.

So let’s just say I would use my time machine to travel back to 1973 so I throw myself at Randolph Mantooth.  Then again, I’d be old enough to be his mother then, and I’m not sure I could pull off being a cougar.  And now my head hurts again.

Screw the electronics store.  I’ll spend my money on Toblerone and Diet Coke.

 

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Due Process

In my defense, let me just say that the food processor was supposed to have a safety feature to prevent accidents.  I say “supposed to have” because the safety feature obviously failed.  In theory, the food processor will not turn on unless the lid is securely locked in place.  Which is obviously a load of crap, because the lid was nowhere near the food processor when it started up with my hand inside.

Note to everyone who is about to tell me that I should sue the people who made the food processor with the faulty safety feature:  I stuck my hand in a food processor that was plugged in.

I am not suing anyone.  Can you imagine me standing up in court and testifying that “yes, I do realize that was a stupid thing to do, Your Honor”?

The good news is that I didn’t lose any fingers or sever anything crucial.  The heel of my hand looked like a chunk of raw pork roast, which has sort of put me off pork roast for a while, and I have added to my status as an accident-prone freak of nature in our local ER, but I didn’t do any long-term damage to myself.  If I were a child, they would be calling in Protective Services right about now.  Since I am an adult, I’m surprised they haven’t called for a psych consult.

 

Not really one of my finer moments.
Not really one of my finer moments.

I’m just glad I didn’t go in for x-rays when I fell out of the barn and sprained my ankle the week before I processed my hand.

There’s an old saying:  When it rains, it pours.  I never really understood it as anything more than a slogan for selling salt, but I get it now.

You see, I got my house.  I am moving.  It is a delightful house in a perfect location, with enough rooms that my boys don’t have to share.  There is a laundry room, a little playhouse in the back yard, fabulous neighbors, and a grocery store within walking distance.  It’s even got a picket fence, for God’s sake.

A house with a picket fence!

There have been a few hiccups, most of which involve the previous tenants.  Since this is a small town, I won’t go into any detail that might embarrass the family.  Suffice it to say that the bike ramp they set up to fling themselves out the laundry room window was the least of the modifications they made to the building.

I am packing and sorting and organizing eighteen years of my life. My emotions are raw.  I keep going off on crying jags and then laughing because I feel stupid for crying over dumb things.  I fell apart yesterday when I came across the little quartz elephant The Big Guy gave me on our honeymoon; I can’t for the life of me figure out which one of us gets to keep the trinkets we inherited from his grandmother.  And I haven’t a clue what to do about that damn goose in the front yard.

The Big Guy painted it for my Aunt Noni when someone stole Lucy the Goose from her front porch.  We knew she needed a replacement goose – hell, that thing had a better wardrobe than I do – but The Big Guy decided that everyone has plain white concrete geese on their front porches.  Aunt Noni, he decided, needed something unique, and so he painstakingly designed a Canadian Goose.

Just wait until you see him in a dress
Just wait until you see him in a dress

So, really, he should keep Desi the Goose.  He worked so hard and really created a beautiful thing.  But I should keep Desi because he belonged to my aunt.

And I know I really don’t give a rat’s ass about that stupid goose.

I am sorting and dividing and cleaning up my life.  With a 10-pound lifting restriction because of my neck. With a sprained ankle.   With my hand in a splint.  With my kids’ school year winding down, and end-of-the-year parties and band concerts and dance recitals and book fairs and trying to find a job and goddammit I want to crawl under the kitchen table and curl up in a fetal position and have a really good cry.

I’m not sad; I’m overwhelmed.

And accident-prone.
And accident-prone.

I stand in the middle of a room and spin around trying to figure out where to start, and then I decide it’s time for a Toblerone and some Netflix.  I’m not lazy; I have just perfected the art of avoidance tinged with just the right amount of procrastination.  With a little bit of guilt and compulsive overeating  and some vintage Randy Mantooth thrown in for good measure.

It’s probably a good thing I don’t drink.

Although drinking might help explain things when I go back to the ER.  Because I think we all know I’m going to hurt some other part of myself before all is said and done.

I have, however, been able to make one major decision this week.  I may not know how to divide the towels and silverware and DVDs, but I have decided on at least one item that The Big Guy can keep.

I grant him full custody of the food processor.

But I’m keeping the goose.

Boo, Dumbass

Okay, Boys and Girls, it’s time for Mama A.J.’s list of Top Ten Halloween Dos and Don’ts.

 

  1. If you want to give a nasty note to chubby kids while giving candy to the skinny ones, DON’T.  Just shut your door and skip Halloween.  Maybe even enjoy a quiet evening of extracting your head from your ass.
  2. If you think Halloween is the work of Satan and feel that it’s your job to tell innocent children they are going to burn in Hell for celebrating, DO join #1 in the head-extraction process.
  3. On a similar note, DON’T hand out Biblical pamphlets about the evils of Halloween.
  4. If you think it’s actually called “Whore-o-ween” and want to dress like a porn star, please DO so at an appropriate venue.  Which is NOT the elementary school costume party.
  5. If you think it’s okay to dress your 13-yr old in a costume from Fredrick’s of Hollywood, DO seek help for yourself immediately.  People shouldn’t wonder whether she is trick-or-treating or turning tricks.
  6. When decorating your home, DO try to recognize the line between scary and horrifyingHint:  Making your driveway look like a murder scene two weeks before the big night is horrifying.  And not funny.
  7. Part two of that?  When decorating your home, DO remember that trick-or-treaters are children.  A little scare is fun, but there’s no need to make them want to go home early and have nightmares for months. Halloween for a five year-old should NOT cause PTSD or require years of psychotherapy.
  8. If you have a negative opinion about a child’s costume, DO keep it to yourself.  Nobody cares that you think it’s wrong for a boy to dress as a princess.
  9. When choosing costumes for yourself, DO try not to be offensive.  Seriously, nobody thinks blackface is funny. Nobody.
  10. DON’T take everything so seriously on Halloween!  If a little girl dresses like an Indian, maybe it’s about a girl wanting to be Pocahontas and not about disrespecting an entire race.   If a child dresses like a devil, it doesn’t mean he has sold his soul in exchange for a Zagnut.  And the afore-mentioned idiot in the offensive costume is exactly that: an idiot.  Not necessarily a racist or a bad person.  Just a stupid one.

 

And there it is, my little bit of sunshine and happiness to spread in the aftermath of Halloween.     You’ll have to forgive me for being cranky.  But I am alone in a house with two overflowing trick-or-treat bags that don’t belong to me, and the chocolate is talking to me.

I know there’s a Toblerone in there somewhere, darn it.

Hey, Buttercup!

Well, the time has come for me to be honest about some things.  A few weeks ago, I announced that I had entered Harlequin’s annual So You Think You Can Write contest.   Those of you who follow my blog on a regular basis may have noticed that I have been conspicuously silent about my progress in the competition.

I washed out.  Bombed. Crashed and burned.  Didn’t even make the first cut.

It was, however, a great experience.  It forced me to really buckle down on this novel that has consumed so much of my life for so long.  It made me get excited about Her House Divided again when I had begun to lose faith in my own work, and it made me dig up enough courage to actually submit my first chapter to Harlequin’s Special Edition imprint.

Because of my participation in this contest, I have doubled the number of people I interact with on Twitter.  I have chatted with editors and published authors, and I have learned so much about writing and publishing that my brain is working on a serious overload right now.

I am okay with not making the Top 50.  After all, there were more than 650 entries. Pretty stiff competition, especially for my first try.

Then, a few days after the Top 50 were announced, there came another announcement:  Some of those finalists had been disqualified or unable to finish their manuscript in time.  A second round of names would be announced over the following days.

And all hell broke loose. All of a sudden, it seemed as though everyone I had been talking to on Twitter got “the magic email”.  Other writers left and right started posting things like “I made Top 50!” and “I’m in!”  And I was happy for them.  Really.

Okay, I was happy for most of them.

As one of the other competitors has dubbed it, I am suffering from Bridesmaid Syndrome.  I am happy for the other writers and I truly wish them all the best in the competition, but I’m also feeling a bit . . . well, not exactly jealous, but pretty darn close.  It’s not that I’m asking Why them?  It’s more a matter of my asking Why not me? 

Still, I could deal with my feelings on this.  Get up, shake it off, try to look at my work with a more critical eye, and focus on how much I have benefited from this experience.  Give me a few days and a heavy dose of Toblerone.  A week, at the most,  I’ll move on and bounce back as a better writer.

But. . .

With me, there’s always a “But”, and this is the part that’s probably going to get me in trouble.  It’s going to make me sound like I’ve got a bad case of Sour Grapes.

Writers were told from the outset that we would be expected to submit a completed manuscript if we made the Top 50,  Some were not prepared and spent those weeks scrambling to get it finished just in case.   I was still doing some major edits at that point myself.  After getting the Magic Email, some of those authors took to Twitter about the difficulties of finishing their work in time.

Mild annoyance began to kick in.  But hold on; it gets better

When the second round of contacts went out to replace the ones who dropped out, there were writers who bombarded us with constant updates. 30K words to go in two days!  Eeek!   And   No sleep, living on caffeine, gotta create another 20K by morning.

You know how that comes across to those of us who didn’t make it?  I am such a good writer that my rush-ass, slap-together, hurried writing is still better than your completed, polished, and prepared manuscript.

This is all a joke to me, and I still beat you.

I am sure these ladies don’t really feel that way.  I know they are all as thrilled and excited as I would be in their place.  But constantly whining about the difficulties of meeting this deadline is hurtful to those of us who never got the chance.  It’s like rubbing salt in our wounds.

It’s like the woman I know who lost over 100 pounds through weight loss surgery and now spends her every waking moment complaining to fat people about how hard life is now that she;s so skinny.  Wah, I’m cold because I have no body fat.  Boo-hoo, it hurts to get shots in my butt now because I have no body fat.

Honey, I think but don’t say, you still have plenty of body fat. It’s all between your ears.  Now eat a damn cheeseburger and quit your bitching.

Just like I’d like to announce to those sytycw finalists who can’t stop complaining:  if it’s such a hardship for you to finish your manuscript, then step down and make room for someone who who will appreciate it.

There are plenty of writers who would give anything to have the opportunity to submit a full manuscript for the next level of competition, but we weren’t good enough.  So forgive me if I sound like a Poor Sport, but I am sick and tired of hearing all of the whining about how difficult it is to handle being giving the chance that I didn’t get.

I’m supposed to feel sorry for someone who is unhappy about beating me?

No, I just don’t have that in me.  If that makes me a bad person, then so be it.  I’m a bad person.    But I just can’t dig down deep enough to find one ounce of sympathy for anyone who has the chutzpah to complain about how hard it is to win.

Suck it up, Buttercup.

Old 100, Sing!

This is supposed to be my one-hundredth post, full of deep thoughts and introspection.  It’s supposed to flow easily and be a lot of fun to write; like donofalltrades’ recent words about his one-hundredth post, this was meant to be my chance to thank people, reflect upon what I’ve learned, and perhaps shine some light on some of my earlier, unnoticed posts.

Yeah, it’s not working out that way. IMG_20130711_071647

I have plenty of help. Minnie the cat tried to help me type.  Unfortunately, while I was busy reaching for the camera to take this adorable picture, she somehow stepped on some key somewhere that opened up some strange features on my Netbook.  I could no longer type anything because every key I touched sent me into boxes labeled Research or Table of Contents.

After battling  with this for a good half-hour, I finally gave up and re-started the computer. That solved the problem.  Unfortunately, just as I was ready to start writing, having poured a fresh mug of nice, hot coffee, my computer shut down so it could update itself.

While waiting, I got out my tablet, thinking that I could start my rough draft there.  At which point I discovered that my youngest child had left a game running on my tablet all night long – really, there’s a game for exploding chickens?! – so the battery was nearly dead.

I reached for the old-fashioned notebook and pen, only to realize that there is not one working pen anywhere in my home.  Not one.  Could someone please explain to me why we keep non-working pens?  Are we the only family to have a kitchen drawer full of pens that have no ink?

It was at this point that I seriously contemplated putting a shot of whiskey into my fourth cup of coffee, but decided against it because I may need to drive to the store for chocolate in the very near future if things don’t start looking up.  Besides,  the Netbook had finished playing with itself by this time, and the very first thing I saw was an email from a friend asking me if I knew that my family’s favorite TV show had been cancelled.

Sue me, but I love Good Luck Charlie.  At a time when Disney shows were all about popstars with secret identities, or wizards in training in a secret lair, GLC was an astonishingly normal show about people we could relate to.  There were older, nearly-grown kids and a “bonus” baby, just like in our family.  Some of the situations were a little silly, but it was consistently funny and heartwarming, and it was just about the only show that we could all watch together.  It wasn’t dumbed-down for the kids, and it didn’t have sly raunchy jokes for the parents.

And it had Eric Allan Kramer as one of the best TV Dads ever.

He may not be one of the most well-known actors, but he is second only to Randolph Mantooth in my own personal fantasy world.  Mantooth wins by default because I have adored him for so much longer, but Kramer gets bonus point for being a fellow Michigander.  And for having a great smile.  And for being so darned big and handsome.

Besides, he was the Skipper in a Gilligan’s Island remake and he wasn’t afraid to pour that great big body into tights for the movie Men inTights.  I even remember seeing him as a motorcycle bully in an episode of Wings.   The man has no fear.  And he had the perfect onscreen chemistry with his GLC wife, Leigh-Allyn Baker.  Together, the two of them reminded me of a more attractive, less profane version of my husband and me.

I just figured out how to follow both of them on Twitter, and I’m feeling a little bit like a stalker.  Of course, I follow other celebrities too:  Jasinda Wilder, Nancy Gideon, Randolph Mantooth, and others.  But Kramer is definitely more chatty than the others and he just seems so darned nice.

If he showed up on my doorstep with a Toblerone, he would be the perfect man.

Sorry, Randy Mantooth.

So this is my one-hundredth post:  disjointed ramblings about a kitten on my computer, exploding chickens, and the cancellation of a Disney show.  I started blogging to practice discipline in writing, and to help me deal with recovery from a horrific car accident.  I have written about everything from Angelina Jolie’s boobs to fanfiction to flushing toilets in a power outage.  I’ve re-lived my accident and mourned my father and made fun of my own lack of filters.

Overall, I’ve had fun.  And I’m honored that so many of you have allowed me to share my thoughts and experiences with you. Since I’ve written about ADHD being one of my big challenges in life, I think that this particular post is the perfect summation of what my blog has been all about for the ninety-nine posts that came before it:   A little bit of this, a little bit of that, and a whole lot of oooh, shiny!

And it’s got Eric Allan Kramer in it.

The Land of Painful Reality

Now that I’ve gone public with my new weight loss goals, I decided to try to find a few weight loss blogs to follow for inspiration.  I want to find recipes, success stories, helpful hints, etc.  I keep looking for someone like me, someone facing similar struggles.  But instead, I keep finding daily food diaries and exercise logs.

I don’t care.

I can’t imagine anything more boring than a blog that lists what I ate, how many calories I burned, or how many Weight Watchers “activity points” I can count for scratching my ass.    And I strongly doubt whether or not anyone really gives a damn that I counted eight points for a Wendy’s Frosty last night.

Worth every tasty point!
Worth every tasty point!

I have lost count of how many times I have tried Weight Watchers before.  I once lost nearly one hundred pounds while following the program, but I was also in the midst of my obsession with running at that time; my weight-loss was due more to frenetic exercise than to my haphazard attention to what I was eating.   I think I can say in all honesty that I have never actually done Weight Watchers correctly.

So I’m not sure what is so different this time.  I just finished one full week on the program and actually did it right all week long.

Of course, I don’t know if it worked or not because my fancy electronic scale doesn’t work and I’ve been in denial for so long that I didn’t realize it was broken until I hopped on it to take note of my starting weight.  Fortunately, the lovely people at Salter have agreed to replace it and will be sending me a new one in 4-6 weeks.  Love those warranties!

There’s an entire blog post in there somewhere about how it felt to realize that I had broken my scale, but quite frankly my ego just isn’t up to that.  If not for my skinny-mini daughter telling me that it’s been broken for months I might have been suicidal when I looked down and saw “Err . . . Err . . .Err” in bright red letters on the readout.

Slim people like my sister don’t stay home and survive on specialty foods created just for weight control.  I’ve watched her, and she eats real food.  My tall, slender daughter eats the same foods that I eat – foods that I have prepared in my own kitchen.  We don’t use fat-free, artificially-sweetened frankenfoods in this house, and yet she maintains her weight just fine.

Granted, both of them are much more physically active than I am. But the point I am trying to make here is that I think the easiest way to lose weight is to eat real foods in more practical portions.  If I had to lose weight by eating pre-packaged, preservative-riddled, mail-order meals, I think I might last a week.  Or if I had to always be set apart from the people around me, eating something different and “special”, I’d be good for about two days.

If I had to accept the fact that I would never again eat another slice of pizza or –God forbid!—a Toblerone, I’d last exactly 4.7 seconds.

The fact is, I am going to eat real food.  Pizza, lasagna, cheesecake, Toblerone, Wendy’s Frosties.   If I’m going to move out of the Land of Bigass Denial and take up residence in the Land of Painful Reality, I’m going to have to do it with the occasional dish of tater-tot casserole and chocolate cake.

The difference is that I am going to have to limit my portions.

Part of my denial was telling myself that I really wasn’t eating that much.  I blamed my weight gain on slow metabolism, a sedentary lifestyle due to my disability, too much snacking, heredity, and so on.  I think I even blamed E.L.  James, not because she had anything to do with it but because I just like blaming her for everything unpleasant in life.

I was appalled this week to discover that I have been eating easily as much as my husband (sometimes more).  The problem with that is that the Big Guy is a six-foot, one-inch man who rarely stops moving.  The man has got the appetite and metabolism of a seventeen year-old marathon runner.

I, on the other hand, am a five-foot, four-inch sedentary woman with the metabolism and activity level of a three-toed sloth.

I’ve realized that the points value of one meal at Pizza Hut was an entire days worth of points.  Holy crap.  I can still eat there; I just can’t continue to match the Big Guy slice for slice.  Seriously, what the hell was I thinking?  I am not a stupid person.  How did I not get that I can’t eat that much?

The past week has been a real eye-opener in terms of my own idiocy and bad habits.  It’s also been a relatively hungry week as I have drastically reduced the amount of food I’m taking in.  I haven’t even started to worry about “activity points” and exercise just yet because I don’t want to overwhelm myself with too many changes, too soon.  That’s something for another week and another blog post.

If you have a weight loss blog and want to share some inspiration or some of your secrets, please leave a link for me in the comments!  I’d love to check it out.