They’re Out There!

 

There are two types of people in the world.  The people who welcome spring and breathe a sigh of relief when it arrives and the people who know this is a time to renew vigilance. Spiders!  This is not paranoia, this is real. They are out there- lurking, planning, nesting. You have got to build your defenses.  Start sealing doorways! Check windows! Call your exterminator!

The other day a woman I know posted a picture on Facebook of her floral bedsheets flapping foolishly in a warm breeze. She reported with glee that it was a beautiful day. Doesn’t she know that sheets are a perfect hitchhiking device for the fiends? Why doesn’t she just build a web in her house right now or put a spider directly in her hair?   

Furthermore, why does she have printed flowers on her sheets?  Doesn’t she know that white sheets are best for facilitating a spider check of your bed each night before getting under the covers? They can camouflage among the prints! Spiders love beds!  Good God – what was she thinking?  I bet she opens the windows in her bedroom.   It is common knowledge that air conditioning was invented for spider defense.  

You must take spiders seriously. Spiders are a formidable enemy, conceived in the darkest folds of the devil’s mind and forged in Mordor.  This is no dumb beetle.  This is no stupid ant. This is a wily adversary who is capable, cognizant, and cunning.  If you cannot keep it out, then you must confront it. There is no Let It Be bullshit, that is for  Beatles. Not Spiders.  If you see it, you have to kill it. And you can’t just squish it with a tissue and put it in the garbage. Something made of so much pure evil has the power to reanimate.  Death does not stop the keeper of death. If you smash a spider, you have to throw it in the toilet and flush. It’s kind of like cutting off a vampire’s head and then setting the body on fire.

I know the vacuum is the preferred method of arachnid elimination, but don’t fool yourself. You think they don’t know how to crawl back out, compose a manifesto of revenge in their web and summon a cabal to exact revenge on you and your family?   If you suck them up because you are too chicken to take them on in hand to hand combat (And I cannot blame you if this is true), then you must have a plan.  First, leave the vacuum running. It will make escape more difficult.  Second, get two plastic bags.  Quickly, remove the vacuum bag and put it in the plastic bag, and tie it off tight.  Quickly, put that bag in another plastic bag and tie that off too.  Throw that bag out!  And if you thought of using central vac so that the spider is put on a super highway to the basement, Arachnid HQ where they celebrate a year long eight-legged Oktoberfest – well then, you didn’t understand a word of this blog.

 

This post is dedicated to my dear friend Shari.    

 

 

Costco Karma

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Last week I experienced what can only be described as Costco Karma, which is weird because I’m not a big believer in Karma and you don’t normally consider a whole sale warehouse to be the dispenser of cosmic justice.

Until that fateful shopping trip, I was uncertain Karma even existed. Sure, when some wretched bastard finally comes upon their demise it is a delicious moment that makes you say Aha, Karma! There you are, you sweet son of a bitch.  The truth is in your euphoria you are temporarily blind to all the other times the good guy finished last and the bad guy triumphed.

Costco has the same unreliable quality. You can get a bona fide deal on anything from hearing aids to fish sticks. The problem, of course, is that everything is sold in an SLU (shit load unit).  Right now, in my medicine cabinet I have a drum of ibuprofen from 2003. I guess I’m hoping Karma and Advil will cure me of my headache.   And to this day my children recoil in horror at the mere suggestion of eating cheddar bunnies after a 40 count box terrorized their lunchboxes for the length of a Biblical probation.

And to be honest, I’m not sure Costco believes in cosmic justice either because before you leave you have to present your receipt to a team member who mixes friendly chit chat with cynicism and suspicion while inspecting your cart and deciding whether or not to release you with an authoritative stroke of a hot pink highlighter.

Despite this high tech security measure, I have shoplifted, more than once from the store.  Let’s be clear.  Both times were by accident, both times lacked criminal intent, and both times involved an SLU of recyclable water bottles.  The first time I stole a magazine.  I didn’t realize what I had done until I got out to the car and hoisted the heavy slab of water bottles into my trunk. There at the bottom of the cart was a glossy cupcake magazine. Now here’s where it is my fault, and Karma can start assembling an arsenal.  I didn’t go back in, show them my membership card, march over to customer service, and hand over the jack.  In my defense it was a blustery winter day in North Eastern Wisconsin so I said, “Fuck it!  It is just too damned cold out here. I am not walking another step.”

Today was a little trickier.  You see, both Costco and I were in the wrong. Just as before, I hoisted the SLU of water bottles up and into my trunk, and lo and behold a set of children’s thermal underwear was unintentionally secreted beneath the heavy and unwieldy package. I took a moment to contemplate my expanding shoplifting portfolio that now included apparel. My child will be warm but also an accessory to petty theft.

This time, I cannot say the weather was a contributing factor in my moral failure.  It was mild day and the cold air had yet to fully develop its sadistic personality traits that turns normal people into hibernating hermits.    This was a conscious decision to steal children’s underwear. I drove away.

When I got home, and parked in the safety of my garage, I opened my trunk and the gallon of milk I had legitimately purchased had leaked all over. A slit in the top from a box cutter was the hidden culprit.  Costco had sold me a defective milk.  Everything was coated with a filmy white including the black spongy carpeting that is the staple fabric of my budget vehicle.  Being the mother of two children I am acutely aware of the aftermath of spilled milk.  And I can tell you now that spilled milk in your car is something to cry about. I was about to be trapped with a rotting stench not unlike my moral failure.

Karma claimed its victory, spiked the football with tiny pools of milk, and trapped me inside my only means of escape. I had plenty of time to think about my sins while I waited as my car was detailed.

 

Tell Santa

My kids are outgrowing Santa. It makes me sad. Now, the only way I can get them to go along is if we go on pet night to take the dog.

I have a lot of fond memories of our Santa visits.  One of my favorite visits was when my son was five. He was friends with a little girl in his kindergarten class.  On an early dismissal day I decided to take them to see Santa.  The mom of the little girl asked me if I would eavesdrop or somehow get her to tell me what she wanted for Christmas. Apparently she had heard about Secret Santa and was taking the whole thing quite seriously. She refused to tell anyone what she wanted for Christmas.

I devised a plan. On the way to see Santa they could practice what they were going to say, in case they got star struck when they were face to face with the Big Man. It worked!  She told me from her buckled seat in the back of the car that she wanted a horse with a cowboy rider and when the button is pressed…  Here my son interjected, “It self-destructs.”  She paused and looked at her male companion with a mixture of confusion and mild disgust that no doubt would be a staple expression in her later years. “No the horse puts its legs in the air and makes the horse noise.”  She mimed the action and provided the whinnies.  My son insisted that the horse would be better if it shot missiles like the Star Wars X- Wing Fighter he had in mind. Despite our excursion to planet Mars, I returned to Venus and asked where she saw this horse.  She replied “I made it up.”

I returned her to her home and wished her mother good luck.

Now my oldest is fifteen. The only reason he is going this year is because he loves his younger brother and the chance of hijinks with the dog at the mall are pretty high.  My nine year old has big plans for Christmas and they involve Nerf. He belongs to an organized group of 8-10 year olds that have Nerf wars once a week.  Before the battle begins, there’s a lot of discussion of weaponry.  The boys all aim to improve their arsenal with Santa’s help, and they discuss which of the latest Nerf guns will best suit their needs.  Among them is a weapon that can shoot sixty feet and it has become a bit of a legend among the group.  I have no idea how or why, but they believe this gun is called “The Big Wang.”  I just can’t wait for Santa to hear from several boys between eight and ten that tops on their list this year is a “Big Wang.” 

I’ve tried to tell my son that I don’t think that’s what it’s called, but he and his cadre insist there is a legendary Nerf by such a name. So I’m afraid this Santa visit may be our last, but I think we are going to go out with a big bang, or wang, as the case may be.         

 

The Learner’s Permit

My son has his learner’s permit.

He is driving my car.

I don’t know how this happened. I mean, I know how it happened. It’s like taking a pregnancy test and having it comes out positive. You know how it happened, but still, you don’t know how it happened.

I surrender my keys into his eager palm and attempt a state of calm as I relinquish control of both the steering wheel and the brake. It’s momentous. It’s exciting. It’s terrifying.

Your prospective changes a lot when you are the passenger of your teenager. You realize that your mild mannered minivan has been harboring a dark secret. It is not a secure family vehicle; it is a four wheeled death machine. In fact, you have been hoodwinked by all the other folks on the road. They are not fellow citizens of humanity. They are potential drunks, idiots, fools, and ne’er-do-wells.

It is at this point that you realize your child is not a child anymore but a bona fide young adult who navigates in the real world and as such is in need of the full complement of emotional responsibilities and reactions. I’m talking about the F-bomb. Driving is the X axis, the Y axis is permission for cursing, and obtaining a learner’s permit is the point where X and Y intersect.

Golly Gee, Fudge, and Darn don’t cut it when driving a three thousand pound missile that has the potential to do great bodily harm down the road. The proper use of cursing requires nuance, restraint, and situational application. It’s a lot like driving.

 

 

 

Driving is an unmistakable demarcation. No longer can I fool myself that he is my munchkin or that he’s just dabbling in the world of teen deeds.  When he is driving he is a certified Grade A teenager.  He even has the papers from the state to prove it.

I have to practice with him which means I surrender the keys and he operates the steering wheel and brakes.  When I place the keys into his eager palm I try to forget that last week when he packed his own suitcase he forgot pajamas, a toothbrush, and underwear.  We both must focus on the task at hand.

Driving is unlike any other childhood milestone. It is gravely serious.

The Season of Eating

The season of eating is upon us.

It starts with Halloween.  Short and under the cover of darkness, our gluttony whets its whistle. We try to camouflage our naked desire for the foil wrapped sweets with costumes and children, but if someone peeked in the window they would see us with two Twix hanging out of our mouth like walrus tusks. We buy five pound bags of our favorites and then tell our spouses Hush, I bought those Almond Joys for the kids. The whole holiday is only a few hours and it’s over. But we want more. Pumpkin Spice is our new obsession and we’ll put it on anything. It effectively functions as a dinner bell.

Then a simple flip of the calendar brings Thanksgiving. The beast is loose. We don’t need to hide in night. We are fully committed to spend a day with our distended bellies bumping up against the dining room table. We will shut down businesses, financial markets, and general operations to feast. No frills, no presents, no costumes. It is all about food. There’s attention paid to all aspects of food consumption: dishes, silverware, tablecloths. Recipes are made and kept secret like family heirlooms. Your family probably doesn’t have a crest, but it has a sacred Jello mold. And nobody makes it better! With cranberry stains speckling your shirts, your family declares this is the gravy soaked hill we are willing to die on.

After spending an entire weekday with a tablecloth tucked into our pants, it seems perfectly reasonable to extend the gustatory celebration to one week. From Christmas to New Year’s it is a gourmand’s dream of fatted shrimp, sugar plum fantasies, candy canes, houses made out of cookies, and roast beef. Our waists expand and our guilt sets in. We hide under the cover of religion. I converted our kitchen into a fudge shop because of Christ. How dare you question why I’ve made fourteen batches of cookies!

We concede it is a lot of food, perhaps more than we need. So once again, just like during Halloween, we knock on our neighbors’ doors and offer food instead of taking it.  It closes the loop on the season of eating, which commenced with taking and ends with giving, but always was about sharing, laughing, and being together.

Sure I Have Spider Veins But Have You Seen My Pinky Toe?

It’s officially summer, sandal season. That means it’s time for you to start thinking about what you are going to do with that pinky toe. There’s no more hiding in boots, socks or slippers. Like a turtle head, and just as attractive, that thing has got to come out of its shell.

The pinky toe is an odd little appendage. If the head and heart are the location of the soul then the pinky toe is at the southernmost tip. It’s the Antarctica of the body, remote, mysterious, necessary, but not a place you want to visit. Specialists are required to tackle the rugged terrain of the pinky toe. It’s no longer a simple digit with a nail. It’s a cluster of half- living half-dead skin that looks more like a Frito than a toe. The manicurist moves along with careful brush strokes to paint your tootsies until she gets to the smallest but most daunting of the toes. Then she pauses, examines the gross medley of cuticle, dead skin, and nail from different angles holding an instrument that is no match for the pinky. Maybe she considers trimming it. Really though, it’s all an act. She’s just as baffled by the creature as you are. Finally, she dribbles polish on the flattest surface area of the mangled mess making it look like she is confident that the spot she covers with In the Cabana or Tiki Tiki is in fact the place where a proper nail should be.

You both go along with the charade and ignore the fact that something vile and undead is a part of you. Actually, I think that is the whole raison d’etre of the pinky toe. It’s to get you prepared for what is going to happen to you in old age. It’s the first part of the body to show signs of degeneration. It gets ugly quick. There is nothing you can do about it. No one is immune. Your body will deteriorate. Nasty things will happen to you as you age. Strange hairs grow from unlikely places. Skin crinkles like party streamers. There is shifting and reconfiguration of parts. By the time it’s all said and done, you are barely recognizable, except the soul inside.

And that’s what the pinky toe does. It gets you comfortable with aging from a very early point in your life. You learn to keep going, take it out for a stroll on a sunshine filled day and hold your head up high. Because like the pinky toe, life is short and you better enjoy it while you can.

 

Something’s Fishy

Whenever my sons visit a pet store, they make a bee line for the aquariums and declare their affection for fish. They expect me to believe without a hint of introspection that the non-electronic, unarmed guppy who has no potential for upgrades or new skins would hold their attention for more than five seconds. Standing shoulder to shoulder with other children under a similar spell, they gaze at the mindless path the shiny fish swims between fake vegetation and a plastic scuba diver who, judging by the amount and intensity of the bubbles he belches, is frozen in a moment of grave distress.

Then, they begin the case for fish as a low maintenance, inexpensive, and odorless addition to any household. But we have been down this road before. I remind them fish are none of those things.  They are a high maintenance wet box of stink that makes dollars disappear as fast as food pellets. And to add insult to injury, fish offer the same emotional relationship as a lava lamp.

Make no mistake, an aquarium is a delicate ecosystem. Ammonia, nitrites, nitrates, PH, temperature, salinity all these factors are essential for the survival of the little swimmer who arrives unceremoniously in a see through plastic bag that could do double duty as a lunch sack for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Before we know it, we will be dipping test strips in that water every day and running back to the store to buy $8.00 drops to remedy the situation for the .99 guppy.

And here’s another oddity, we eat fish.  Pets in general don’t make the menu- except fish.  So when a fish dies are we  throwing away good food or good money?

In fact, death is the bulk of the pet fish experience. Aquariums are in a perpetual cycle of death.  We have become painfully aware of the warning signs.  A troubled fish starts swimming vertically as if revving up to spring out of the tank in some aquatic harikari then loses its nerve at the last second and swims back to the bottom. Next, its body bends, it swims on its side, and starts to look like a self-propelled elbow macaroni.

Finally the poor creature gives up the ghost, but our work will not done. Someone must scoop out the remains or witness Swimmy’s friends cannibalize his dead corpse and then act like nothing has changed.

No, fish are not easy. Like all pets, they teach your children a lesson. Life is not easy. It takes care, devotion, and a lot of dedication to make it work right.

 

The Unwelcome Mat

I am the only female in my house, even my beloved pooch in his surgically altered state is technically male. The other inhabitants, two boys and one husband care little for the cozy aesthetic that transforms a roof and walls into a home and so I am left to battle alone against functional ugliness.

The first shot was fired one ordinary Tuesday when my husband ordered a rubber backed black mat from an industrial catalog. Without mercy and with a sense of a job well done, he banished a hand looped imported accent rug and replaced it with a standard rubber mat that viciously smacked the travertine tile when he put it down. Its unapologetic nonslip rubber backing ensured its near permanent grip on the floor.

Gone are the autumnal hues and fleur-de-lis that once greeted guests who enter through the garage. Now they are assaulted with the odor associated with a tire store. My homemade mélange of cassia bark and jasmine oil potpourri is no match for the stench. The black mat is a disgrace to all that is cozy.

That’s when I knew that I had to strike back. This polypropylene factory-forged monster literally has its foot in my door.  I decided I needed a goose feather interior designer foil. Indeed, the decorative pillow is my last line of defense against a house full of men. 

That is why despite protests that there is nowhere to sit or nowhere to lay down, there are pillows: lace pillows, faux fur pillows, sequin pillows, holiday pillows, and seasonal pillows.  Like the battery operated candles that are often accused of needlessly gobbling batteries, the decorative pillows serve absolutely no purpose but to provide a pop of color and a dash of feminine charm.

I will fluff them, arrange them, and buy more of them to guard against the kind of decision that led to an industrial rubber mat in my hallway.

 

Bling It On!

 

I was in Walgreens on Tuesday around eleven am. The only other customer in the store was an elderly lady pushing a cart. Her cane, complete with tennis balls, lay diagonally across a case of Miller High Life. She was dressed with verve and spunk.   A silver sequined jacket radiated sparkle with each determined step she took in basic gray orthotics, and a black baseball cap with Diva written in swirly sequined script also twinkled in the fluorescent lights.  She was like a slow moving disco ball in the vitamin aisle. She smiled at me as she pulled a box of fish oil supplements off a shelf.

I smiled back at her and said hello.  I thought the only thing we had in common was a belief that over the counter vitamins improve our health, but I was wrong. We had a lot more in common. I just didn’t realize it until a few days ago.

There I was in front of my mirror ready to apply lipstick when a velvet bag in the back of my lipstick drawer caught my eye.  I knew what was in there- crystal encrusted costume jewelry. I poured the contents onto the shiny granite counter and spread them out.  Beautiful, each and every one.  I could count on my hand the number of times the whole collection saw the light of day.

Then a weird compulsion came over me. Sensibility took a sabbatical. I held my two favorite necklaces up to my white T-shirt and debated which one looked best with my denim skirt and sneakers. Not which one looked less crazy mind you, they both did, but which one suited my mood best. And I put that crazy sparkling bauble on!

Then I went to the library.

On a Sunday.

In the afternoon.

It wasn’t until I caught a glimpse of myself reflected in the glass doors of the library that I had a flashback to the silver sequined diva at the drug store.  Whatever decision making process drove that little old lady to don a full sequined jacket to Walgreens had guided me to wear this shiny accessory to book club.

What’s peculiar is that when I got to my meeting, the ladies in the group all complimented my necklace.  It’s important to mention no one in this group is under forty.  That’s when I realized it wasn’t just me and Walgreen Wanda.  It’s a phenomenon fueled by dropping estrogen. The older a woman get, the less she cares what people think and more about what makes her happy.  It’s why they wear orthotics and nine rings. It’s why women who wear “slacks” consider bling as essential as underwear. It’s why Chico’s sells necklaces big enough to be mistaken for lobster traps.

We bling wearing warriors have endured enough to know that life is not always fair.  We have bumped up against glass ceilings. We have changed goals when the lack of a penis precluded us.  We have cloaked ourselves in the proper amount of shame for our normal bodily functions.  We have endured high heels, constricting shapewear, and push-up bras.  We have excused ourselves and even asked for forgiveness when rightful indignation was our due.

We ladies of advancing years, we have seen it all. Now we will take the parts of our femininity and boast them, and we will eschew the ridiculous accoutrements like high heels and digging underwire.  We might be wrinkled.  We might sag, but by God we are still powerful, feminine, and shining in an otherwise dreary world.  That sequined jacket wasn’t just a fashion decision. It was a thumb in the eye to all the standards of femininity put upon us.  It was the roar of being feminine, but defining it ourselves.  Age gives us strength, perspective, comfortable shoes, and the courage to boast I am woman, see me shine!