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!

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.    

 

 

Mom Might Be Green, But She’s No Fool

I need to call a foul on Team Green.  I’m on the side of Mother Earth, and I think she would agree with me.

This is about recycling and responsibility. To explain my frustration, I want to recollect a school fieldtrip that I chaperoned for my third grader’s class. It was at a nature center where we manhandled milkweed pods, acted like trees, and pretended to migrate. It was all standard.  There was nothing unorthodox or militant about it. Then, it was time for lunch.

Sixty plus children nibbled sandwiches and sucked juice boxes dry. Then an elderly man appeared with six white buckets and big ideas on how “we” were to discard our lunch trash. With deadly serious expression and stern commands he launched into a complex set of instructions: Separate dirty napkins from clean napkins. Separate caps from bottles. Separate the bread from the innards of uneaten sandwich remnants.  He wanted us to take special note of the peanut butter and jelly variety of sandwich, as if this menu item doesn’t suffer enough stigma and regulation. Peanut butter can be composted but jelly cannot. He added a footnote to his manifesto. There were too many wasps by the compost.

At this point I wondered who had the Epipens.  I wondered if he had ever spent time with children.  I wondered if discarding our lunch would take well past three o’clock dismissal.

Undaunted by the growing looks of panic and frustration by the moms in the room, he heaped even more instructions on the youngsters. Yogurt cups should be licked clean and placed in bucket three. By the way, all buckets were nondescript, white, and sans number identification.  And then the final straw (pardon the pun) was the Capri Sun sleeves.  The straw should go in bucket three, the wrapper of the straw in bucket one, and THE SLEEVE NEEDED TO GO BACK HOME because it had an entirely different method of recycling.

Guess who would become the steward of that sticky envelope? I’ll give you a hint.  She goes by one name, and it’s a palindrome. I wanted to stop him right there and yell No!  Did he realize he was addressing wiggly children who have to keep three records of what they read each day and record the minutes? Did he know they must do a sport, learn an instrument, take religion classes, and engage in free-range play? Was he aware the other members of the audience, public school teachers, are now responsible for cleaning their own rooms, charting the progress of each student on some cockamamie standardized test, and just trying to hold their families together on a pittance?  Finally, the moms who were about to take trash home  probably did more work before six am than it took to wash all of those godforsaken buckets.

All I’m saying is that recycling cannot be more complicated than a tax return. These “simple” extra steps become the responsibility of guess who?  A MOM.  And I got news for you earth inhabitants, her plate is full.  If I did everything I was supposed to do in a day, I’d still be in the shower doing a self-breast exam.  Instead, I’m hawking pizzas and chocolate bars for a school fundraiser.  I’m organizing carpools and trying to find a dinner that everyone in the family will eat.

The current trend of recycling isn’t practical. I cannot perform minor surgery on my garbage.  I cannot maintain a rotting mass of pig slop in my yard. I cannot have seven different pails of trash in my garage when I have three cars, five bikes, two scooters, and 47 deflated balls.

Somewhere along the way the consumer got tricked. The onus is not on the consumer (who inevitably is the Mom), it is on the manufacturer.  Moms have enough to do.

Mother Earth will tell you herself, you cannot rely on Mommy to do this for you, someday she may not be there.

 

 

The Road Forward

Black is an odd color choice for a toilet. To be fair, going alone to a crowded bar on a Friday night and hiding in the corner bathroom stall is an odd choice too, but there I was.

It’s been a long and windy road that my dream has taken me. It’s taken me to Amarillo Texas.  It has taken me to a police station, a recording studio, and a lawyer. When I set out to follow my dream of being a writer I expected a lot of pajama-wearing laptop-staring afternoons.  Instead, I’m staring at a gurgling toilet in a bar because I’m afraid of what I have got myself into.

I wonder if this happens to other people who have crazy dreams.  One thing just leads to another.  The only path is forward -or quitting.  You usually learn this the hard way.

When I set out to record a trio of short stories, I supposed all I needed was a recording device.  I was wrong.  I was really, really, wrong. Soon I learned I needed to be in a professional studio. That may seem quite logical and glaringly obvious, but it wasn’t then. I was confronted with a true test.  Was I willing to invest in myself?  That’s a very hard question. I’m not a risk taker, I’m not adventurous. Self-doubt is my demon. He doesn’t just vacation in my brain he owns condos. He’s running for mayor. 

I had to decide if I thought what I wrote was worth it.

I did.

What I didn’t know then was that all kinds of things would pop up on this journey.  I learned that the best avenue to put it out in the world required it to be in print first. I had to hire an editor. I had to find a cover artist. I had to get a professional head shot. Good God, who would want a picture of me?  And I had to pay for the evidence that it happened! The list of requirements kept spreading like a rash, with little end in sight, constant irritation, and no relief.   

Writers have to be on social media.  I don’t like social media.  I like staying in and wearing slippers and writing stories about worlds that exist in my head.  Each challenge posed a new opportunity to quit. 

Do it or quit.

I did it.

That’s why I hid in the toilet at the bar.  I was afraid that I wasn’t a good enough story teller, that my story was not interesting, or funny, or worthy of their precious free time. 

I never imagined I’d join a group of storytellers.  I never imagined I’d have a blog where I create those stories to tell.  But I do.  And maybe if they like my story they might like to read my stuff.

I took a deep breath, told the mayor to take five, and reread my notes. I had to decide if what I wrote was worth it.

 

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.  The first time I took my son to see Santa he was about two years old.  He shared my excitement to see Santa but when we got up to actually talk with the Big Man, my son suddenly agreed that talking to strangers was a bad idea and this was as good a time as any to start obeying that rule. I held my son’s hand and we approached Santa on his Christmas throne. I remember this like it was yesterday.  When Santa asked my son what he wanted for Christmas my son replied with earnestness and sincerity –knickknacks. I don’t know if Santa needed a translator considering his yuletide magic, but that is what my son called fruit snacks.

It delights me to no end thinking of the stories that man can tell.  When my son was in kindergarten he was friends with a little girl in his 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 because she was keeping it a secret for Santa. Apparently she had heard about Secret Santa and was taking the whole thing quite seriously.

I devised a plan that on the way there they could practice what they were going to say in case they got starstruck or nervous when the actual time came. It worked!  She told me from her buckled seat in the back of the car that she wanted a horse with a cowboy on it and when the button is pressed.  Here my son interjected, “It self-destructs.”  She paused and looked at my son with a mixture of confusion and mild disgust. “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 it 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 wonder how many imaginary toys Santa has heard about.

My oldest is fourteen. The only reason he is going this year is because he loves his nine year old 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 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 a wang as the case may be.         

Eat It!

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Every once in a while I come across a news story that lets me know that I’m getting older, and the world is going in a direction that is beyond me. The article that put me in this weary state described that mealworm margarine and cricket flour is on our horizon.  Crickets will boost the protein in flour and mealworms are rich in nutrients and easy to farm.

Bugs!  Bugs in our food, and not by accident.  No. No. And No. That’s the end for me.  If bugs become an environmentally friendly, fat free food source, then one of the core tenets of my existence is obsolete.  I have built a life on the principle of bugs being icky.   It’s part of my fabric.  No amount of fat shaming or earth- loving green tyranny will change that.

If this becomes a reality, what will it mean for our relationship with bugs?  Will exterminators go out of business?   If your house gets overrun with ants will it suddenly be like when your bananas go bad?  You just make a bread? If your kid comes home with lice will you say, Good for you.  Now you have your after school snack. And kudos to you, kiddo.  You’re self-sustaining.

And how will the margarine be made?  Is it not butter because it’s not milk?  Or are they milking these worms with tiny little pumps?  Or, just gross speculation here (with an emphasis on gross) are they mashed up into a fine paste?  Is their poop part of the paste, or how do you keep the poop out of the product? Then again, perhaps feces is a trifle when, after all, you are eating worms.

What is outside the social parameters now?  What is unfit to eat?  Will all social taboos dissolve under the buckling pressure of healthy fats and global warming?

I think bug eating will change us as a people.  And I guess I’d rather be dead, than eat a worm.