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.
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.
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.
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.
I love sharks. I love shark movies. I follow tagged sharks on Twitter. I think Shark Week is one of the greatest television feats in history. Great whites are my favorite, they are stealth killers, a “perfect engine- an eating machine” as Hooper says in Jaws. Sharks are real life living monsters with all the authentic proportions of something the Ancient Greeks could have imagined, a mammoth jaw filled with jagged teeth and dead eyes as black as the devil’s heart. They are living myth. Plus, they have the kind of size that makes dinosaurs so irresistible.
And I CANNOT get enough of them, which is weird because most aspects of my life are riddled with anxieties.You would think that someone who would drive miles out of her way to avoid a left turn at a busy intersection would not take a fancy to the sleek nightmare fuel that is the Great White, but you would be wrong.
I love them.They embody my fears like no other creature on the planet, the lurking, the incredible speed, and a badass theme song. A shark could be ten yards away from a swimmer and that swimmer wouldn’t know it until his legs are the side of fries with the shark’s seal burger. That’s the kind of scenario I envision in each and every mundane encounter in my life.Disaster is always seconds away!
The difference with sharks and why I hold them dear to my heart is the fact that they are contained. In my landlocked Midwest state it’s so easy to avoid sharks.Unlike cancer, and bullies who might convince my children to commit suicide, and gun violence, and the opioid epidemic, and the painful changes of globalization, and drunk drivers, and tooth decay, and ageing, and stock market crashes, and tick borne diseases-I can exercise my control over this fear.All I have to do is stay the hell out of the water!It’s such a wondrous simplicity.It is so easy to talk myself out of this fear. In fact, as I write this with my back to the window and my feet dangling off my chair, I am confident that I will not be eaten by a Great White. My loved ones who are out of sight are still safely on land, and they won’t be eaten by a Great White either.
The thought of the shark actually makes me happy.I have fear and I have control.What a wonderful, singular situation.
Happy Shark Week. Happy trails to you, Mary Lee, you beautiful, awe- inspiring, scary as hell monster.
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.
What I most love about Disney is the unexpected magic.Last time I went to Disney a super fan and imagination collided at the intersection of childhood wonder and storytelling. It was sublime.
I love Star Wars, as does my son, but we keep it in check. Sure, I’ll abandon my children and run toward a spontaneous sighting of Stormtroopers, but no one is going to question my grasp of reality when the day is done and the park is closed. That’s not the case for everyone- as I soon found out. I was at the Star Wars museum or Launch Pad or whatever they call it, and the lines were unusually short.This was our chance.I grabbed the only other willing member of the family, my nine year old son, and scooted in the queue for Kylo Ren.
In front of us a perspiring young man of about twenty darted about while examining helmets, suits, model ships, and other film paraphernalia encased in glass. His movements were frantic and jerky, and like his sweat glands, they were a touch outside of the bell curve.He took pictures of absolutely everything.My son and I paused our casual banter at the spectacle that was unfolding before us. The line moved forward. He paused to catch his breath wherein he removed his shirt, used said garment to wipe his dripping brow, and revealed a sweat soaked tank to us and the other befuddled patrons waiting to shake hands with the new Darth Vader. I was speechless. If I could have uttered a word, I think it would have been cocaine. And it would’ve come out like a question.My son, also rendered speechless, gave me the side eye.
The character meet in greet is set up so that Kylo Ren is behind cool looking space doors that slide open. Cast members in film-extra garb, wait at the door to prevent a log jam of visitors.Well, when our sweaty little friend got the ear of these hapless employees, he barraged them with facts and questions that did not require responses despite their grammatical syntax.The doors opened much to their relief and, as a trio, we were escorted in.An unsuspecting and unprepared Kylo Ren awaited.
I’m certain that in most instances, Kylo Ren takes the lead and you just do as he tells you and go about your merry way. That’s not what happened here. The young man first ensured that pictures would be taken.Documentation was of the upmost importance to him. It was agreed. Just as Kylo Ren appears, the young man gets down on one knee, bows his head, and covers his eyes as if it’s medieval times not space times. He utters the most cohesive string of words I had witnessed him put together.They were a type of futuristic fealty that included liege, pledge, and master. And they were definitely the product of much craft and practice.
My mouth is agape.The cast members’ mouths were agape. And my son is taking this whole scene in like only a nine year old boy can.The sweaty super-fan exits. The air is charged with frantic energy and confusion.Now it’s our turn.We step forward.Kylo Ren in his mask altered unnerving voice instructs us on where to stand.My son, a rule follower, misunderstands Mr. Ren and gets down on one knee and begins to repeat the whole awkward scene.He thought that was what he was supposed to do!I yank on my son’s arm and pull him up while explaining that the other guy was crazy and we don’t do that. Kylo Ren, maybe limited by voice control buttons, attempts his spiel again. My son and I return to a normal fan stance when Kylo Ren leans down close to our faces and declares, “My condolences.” This is the first sentence he has said that I’ve understood since we stepped forward so I ask, “To my husband?” and he retorts, “To the Resistance.”
I start laughing, the employees start laughing, my son is still in awe and mild confusion.A gentleman hands me my phone and we are escorted out another set of space doors.
My nine year old and I had an awkward encounter with a super villain. Does vacation get any better than that?