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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
First of all, I blame this whole thing on Megyn Kelly.Second, I do not believe the decisions that I make deserve the outcome that they get.
Back in October a writing colleague suggested that I look into Storycatchers, a local live story telling event.An open mic night was scheduled for a Wednesday at 6:00 PM, hardly convenient for any woman between the ages of 25-55. Nonetheless I decided I must try it, and two of my friends wanted to come along for support.That Wednesday afternoon out of the blue at 2:00pm like a lightning bolt to my neck, I was struck with spontaneous laryngitis. Panicked and desperate I sucked on lozenges and drank tea with honey for the next four hours, with no sign of abatement. By 4:00 my voice catapulted over the sexy Jessica Rabbit stage and landed squarely on Marge Simpson.
I really wanted to give up, just say forget the whole thing because I’d probably embarrass myself anyway, but my two friends inconvenienced themselves and their families just for me.I would have chickened out but the wheels of babysitters and microwave meals were already set in motion. Marge Simpson or not, I was taking the mic.
I croaked out a version of a story despite the iron grip fate had secured upon my vocal cords. Surprisingly, the coordinator of Storycatchers said she definitely wanted me to perform at the next evening event.That she liked my voice.Fully confident that she meant my writing voice and not Marge Simpson, I agreed to do it.
Then I went home and thought about what I had agreed to. A seed of panic turned into an unwieldy weed garden.I couldn’t do this.What would I say?It was scary up there.So I decided to do what I normally do in the face of something unpleasant.I buy lipstick.Only this was really scary and lipstick alone was not going to do the job.So I’m doing what I do best, which is being paralyzed by fear, and on the TV is Megyn Kelly promoting her new book.
Now, I don’t care what your political leanings are- the fact is Megyn Kelly is cute as a button.And I notice when they show her from a side angle that she is wearing false eyelashes.That’s it, I declare to myself and the dog – I am getting some false eyelashes.
And I did, I bought the best ones I could find.The saleslady put them on me and I felt like a diva.I texted all my friends.Forget Botox, you gotta get yourself some false eyelashes.
One of my more grounded friends reminded me that I better practice putting them on before the big event. And I knew just the place I needed the confidence boost. Earlier in the week, when I was submitting my idea for the Storycatchers event, the coordinator, Tara, asked if I would be interested in recording my blogs for her website.This would be the perfect trial run for my new “lash on life.”
Tara had also suggested that she would be willing to record anything else I might have.I aim to please, but I don’t have much else.Most of my other projects are lengthy and they are spoken for.But I did have another story.It was older, not my usual flavor. I wrote it when my Dad was dying of cancer.Here’s the tricky part, I have never been able to read that story aloud.I just can’t get through it. A lot of time has passed since I wrote that story, and I’ve done a lot of live readings and audio work since then. I was certain I could do it.
With my blogs, the story, and my super eyelashes, I headed for Storycatchers. I met with Tara and told her I had the blogs and one other story.I cautioned her that it was not the same as my other pieces and perhaps she would like to read it first to see if she would like to include it. She read it and agreed it would work. We got to recording the blogs first.All went smoothly and when I was done, she handed me the story.Now the story doesn’t start off sentimental, in fact in the beginning it’s sort of funny.I’m reading fine, giving no indication that I might have some sort of breakdown.Well, then I get to the part where the Dad comes into the story.And what’s weird is that this Dad is not at all like my Dad – still the words will not come out.They are stuck in my throat.I can see the words but my heart, my mouth, is seized by an overwhelming emotion.My eyes well up.
As you can imagine, this does not go unnoticed by someone sitting next to you, let alone someone who is recording you.I turn to look at her and apologize. I repeat that I am sorry.I confess that I just can’t read this story aloud.I apologize again for my complete, as it must appear, spontaneous onset of insanity.
It is just at that moment that I notice a grayish cloud in my vision.My false eyelash is dangling vertically over my right eye. I ask, “Is my eyelash falling off?”She nods her head, no doubt rendered speechless at my emotional ungluing and cosmetic malfunction. I peel the eyelash off and grasp it firmly between my index finger and thumb.Just then, her famous brother walks in.(Really, he is a local celebrity.He can put asses in seats.) The whole scene is awkward and is in dire need of clarification, I’m looking like Clockwork Orange, the air is charged with grief, empathy, and embarrassment, and it would be rude to ignore people right in front of you.
He may have went to shake my hand in the introduction, quite honestly I’m not sure.In the confusion, we explained that I had lost an eyelash.Being a gentleman, he starts scanning the floor not sure what to do in this kind of lady emergencyto which I show him the furry caterpillar looking thing that is my eyelash clenched between my fingers.I think Tara at some point explains who I am and either she or I mention how I lost my voice at open mic night.He asks, “Was it nerves?”It’s a perfectly normal question, not loaded or accusatory but when it gets to my brain which contains a Rube Golberg type contraption that runs on neuroses, self-loathing and low self-esteem a normal question sounds like an attack on my talents. No, I declare with unwarranted indignation I had a legit cold.I had mucous.
These are the types of introductions that I make, a veritable roadmap on how to win friends and the respect of intelligent people.
I always walk with my head down. It’s part low self-esteem and part amateur anthropology. I do it because I’m fascinated with stuff that gets left behind.
I had this habit since I was a child. Back then, I remember a lot more garbage in general.People used to toss fast food bags, beer bottles, and unwanted detritus out the window as if the world was their dumpster.Mostly, I remember the shiny brown tangled cassette tape freed from its casings and blowing in the wind like angry Lo Mein. Then CD’s came along.I don’t remember them being tossed as much as cassette tapes.Maybe it’s because they were far pricier than their temperamental ill-designed predecessor. Today, music garbage is nonexistent, it’s yet another victim of the digital age.
Back in the day, cigarette butts made up the bulk of the treasures awaiting my inspection on the asphalt.Not so much today.Smokers, for the most part, have been conditioned to carry on their misdeed in a designated area and when they are done they are to put the butts in a squat metal contraption that looks like it was designed to encapsulate a gnome.
Today the most ubiquitous trash is plastic tooth flossers.I am baffled by these.When I first spied these odd little specimens, I thought they were the work of one individual.Yet, I kept finding them in different towns, by railroad tracks, in the library parking lot.Could I have a dental obsessed stalker?The answer came when I went on vacation. Lo and behold, those little plastic suckers were all over the ground in that part of the country too.I realized then that these flossers replaced the cigarette butts.
What I wonder is who is using these?Do they have a trove of them on their person at all times or do they pick up a few on the way out the door like car keys?And do they pick their teeth out in the open?In front of everyone?I’m just curious because it seems to me flossing is on par with toenail clipping.Sure, you could do it in public, but is it really a spectator sport?Finally, I wonder is this a new phenomenon? Maybe people were always this gum-health obsessed but the old school floss without the plastic handle just disappeared in the wind like dandelion fronds.
Math has always been my mortal enemy.I’m not sure Math can say the same about me.I’m not a worthy adversary, I think I would be more properly classified as a petty nuisance.
Math always confounded me with its hard and fast rules and its inflexibility.Word problems used to cause me the most consternation.The situation presented seemed ripe for creativity and yet the correct course of action was multiplication or its drab ilk.Take the iconic two speeding trains leaving a station and which would arrive first. I always preferred to delve into the question like:Who was on the trains? Where were they going?Why were they in such a hurry to leave?Were they lovers divided by a war torn country?Were the trains speeding away because of plague, or even better, a zombie apocalypse?I always thought these unanswered questions were far, far better and more satisfying than any calculations about rate and time and distance. I once pointed this out to my Math teacher who decided his best course of action was to remove me from advanced math.
As I’ve gotten older and word problems have become all but a distant memory, I have found use for the simplicity and irrefutable truth of the math equation.The rich life experience which has led me to this conclusion is pet fish.
Fish suck.They are bar none the worst pet that there is. Fish are supposed to be a low maintenance pet but that is a big misconception.An aquarium is really a rectangular pool of chemically balanced water for you to throw your money into. You must calculate the proper PH, ammonia, nitrites, nitrates, the amount of food pellets, the temperature, the salinity… the list goes on and on. PH too low, buy this, Nitrite problem, buy that. The fish have Ich, there’s a $remedy$.Mind you, this is all to keep a 99 cent fish (who doesn’t offer an iota of affection to you) alive.And here’s another oddity, we eat fish.Pets in general don’t make the menu- except fish. So when a fish dies you are either throwing good food or good money down the toilet.
In fact, death is the bulk of the pet fish experience. Aquariums are in a perpetual cycle of death.You become painfully aware of the warning signs.A troubled fish may start swimming vertically as if revving up to spring out of the tank in some aquatic hari kari and then losing its nerve at the last second and swimming back to the bottom. Next, it resembles a self-propelled elbow macaroni.Finally the poor bastard gives up the ghost, but your work is not done.You have to scoop out the corpse quickly or you are going to have an awkward conversation with little Timmy about cannibalism and how Swimmy’s friends will eat his dying or dead corpse cuz that’s just how affectionate fish are.
Here is where the black and white simplicity and irrefutable wonders of Mathematics comes into play.
This is an equation that I developed for my kids to ponder every time there’s a free fish prize at a carnival or every time we go to the pet store to buy my legitimate pet some food.
Kids + Fish (reduced to its simplest form) = an expensive box of wet stink.
This gives rise to my theorem that can apply to any pet that your child desires.
The Love > Stink.
The love you receive from said pet must be greater than the stink that emanates from the animal.Thus, no hamsters, spiders, lizards, rats, turtles, AND ESPECIALLY FISH can be tolerated in my household.
Now dogs are more than welcome in my house because: