The Pet Equation

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:

The love > Stink   every day and twice on Sundays. 



Yesterday I wandered into T.J. Maxx to my favorite part, the Home section, and this is what I found on a shelf.  I took a pic of it because I’m a bit demented.  First, I will testify that I didn’t do it.  If I had done it, I can assure you (pardon the pun) that I would have chosen a word with more panache. Second, I don’t think a rascally shopper did it either.  There were no other letters in the aisle.  It appears this is what remained after a mish mash of startup inventory  and a busy weekend.  It was a thoughtless display with unintended consequences.   

The whole thing just reminded me why I don’t like letters and words as décor.  I always think it’s weird when people have words like Laugh, Celebrate, Family resting on shelves. It’s kinda like when you drive by a restaurant and the word EAT is propped up in huge letters on the top of the building.  That’s not usually the signal that quality food is being served, instead the sign seems to communicate that servings at this locale require an edict in order to be consumed.

What happens when the word CELEBRATE gets dusty on the shelf or perhaps a little cobweb forms in the holes of the “B”?  What if you are having a rough day and something tragic happens to you and staring down at you from a shelf is the word LAUGH?  Maybe you don’t feel like laughing, maybe that day you have to put a book in front of the “L” and the “A” and just leave UGH.  I think there are many days that décor like this can mock you, and I don’t have time to adjust my tchotchkes to suit my mood.   

If I had to choose a word to put on my mantle, one that I could be secure fits my every day I would choose WORRY.  Worry is my credo. It’s my raison d’etre. It is what I am best at. I could even fashion one of those wood paneled signs and get a whole theme going.  In swirly turquoise letters it would read “Start Worrying.  Details to Follow.”

I find that worrying is a great coping mechanism and I believe I get the same solace from imagining worse case scenarios as some people get from dusty wooden block letters that proclaim FAMILY.  I like to really dig deep into a situation, swim around in it.  Years ago when we lived in a house with an open lot next door someone bought the lot and started building.  Of course I worried tremendously about our privacy.  I worried that their kids might be bullies.  I worried that the parents might be unreasonable and a true pain in the arse to live near. This is all reasonable.  But no, I didn’t stop there.  I’m no amateur, I’m a world class woe factory.   Once the crew started working I worried that they would kidnap my children and sell them into sexual slavery. I like to voice my concerns to my husband.  Someday he will be sainted.  Soon the house was built and the new neighbors moved in.  They were delightful people.  No one was harmed or enslaved in the making of their dream home, and I was more than thrilled that the only consequence of my new neighbors was that I had to invest in some new shades.        


The Decency Backlash

Decency may have suffered a blow last week, but it may not have been a death blow.

Despite the oppressive malaise of mid-January, I forced myself out of pajamas into mascara and went grocery shopping.  The ice that made a thick sheet over sidewalks and driveways was just beginning to melt. The sun, though, was still missing.  I believe it was going on day nine.

I trudged behind my cart, joyless and devoid of optimism. I made my way past produce and around the deli where I took a sharp turn into natural foods.  A man about the same age as me was stocking organic yogurts.  I had to excuse myself as he was in the way of my desired kefir. He asked the polite, perfunctory question How you doing?

Being physically and temperamentally incapable of manufacturing mirth I responded with an obligatory but dishonest, I’m alright.

“Just alright?”  He responded, pulling himself out of the refrigerated case with much more concern than quality customer service merited.

It felt like he was ready to listen and either I looked like a serious sorry sack or something else was afoot. “Yeah.”  I lied as I didn’t want to get into my whole mid-life existential crisis aggravated by a sprained foot here in front of the nut milks. “This weather has really got me down.”

Satisfied with my answer, we ended our abrupt exchange and I pushed my cart down the canned goods aisle.  Later when I was at the checkout and unloading my items onto the beltway, he approached again.  He held up his phone for me to see that the weather was improving and the sun was scheduled for an appearance soon.

I thanked him.  It was a heartfelt gesture even if it seemed out of sync with most grocery store interactions.  I left a bit puzzled, but feeling slightly better.

Later, I mentioned this odd anecdote to my son as I was driving him home.  He hypothesized that the man was hitting on me, which is the lens through which a teenage boy might view everything.  I don’t think that was it.  First, I think I wear Mom like some people wear jeans, and secondly it just didn’t feel like that.  I later told my husband this story, a man much more familiar with my feminine wiles, and he completely agreed the man was not hitting on me.  He offered the explanation that it was probably extra special customer service because I have been identified as a loyal but pain in the ass customer who has no time for coupons and no regard for sale items.  (To be fair the manager did once give me four dollars out of his own pocket because I complained about sour smelling salami.)

But I think it’s something completely different.  I think it’s decency backlash.  I think 2016 left all of us a bit bruised.  I think we as individuals will pull the reins back and make an effort to be more decent to each other, even if our leaders fail to demonstrate a way.



The Christmas Creep


I feel rushed.  It’s a week before Thanksgiving and I feel like I need to go Christmas shopping. What the hell happened?  Shouldn’t I be thinking about gravy and butternut squash?  Shouldn’t I be buying plastic gloves for when I shove my hand up a dead bird’s ass?

You know, I blame this whole mess on the same people who brought you the scary clown epidemic.  You don’t hear much from those fellas anymore, do ya? There’s a reason.  They are Christmas shopping or Christmas shoplifting or whatever the unhinged do when the season strikes.

See the problem is – it’s Christmas already.  It was Christmas in September so naturally Halloween got pushed back to late July. The gainfully unemployed with a penchant for mischief and vagrancy  are now in possession of  a rubber mask, long pleasant evenings, and an unattractive three month waiting period.  And so I bring you the scary clown epidemic sponsored by Macys, Walmart, Bestbuy and all the other retailers who dragged out Christmas trees while you still were wearing shorts.

It’s the Christmas Creep, whether he’s in a rubber mask or in retail. And apparently, at least one of them is a vegetarian because Thanksgiving is all but forgotten in this madness.


Arse Ascending

On my way to and from my home, I pass something peculiar that I have never seen before.  It’s a pair of stuffed jeans placed on a step ladder on the edge of a driveway.  The ladder is not near anything, there’s not anything near it to reach up to. The jeans are stuffed to look lifelike but there’s no upper torso. It’s an arse on a ladder.

At first I thought it was a serendipitous placement of refuse and the weekly visit of the sanitation truck would be the end of it, but weeks went by and still it remained. It’s not like the winter wind blew the items like that. The legs are stuffed into the boots and they are securely fastened to the step ladder.  This is a deliberate arrangement.

It’s a butt, a butt going up but nonetheless not one of the most revered parts of the body.  Usually if you are only selecting one part, the ass isn’t top choice. Is it finished? Or is it a work in progress? When I drive by it, I slow down to search for any clues about what it means.  On closer inspection, I noticed that the rubber boots are floral.  I always  roll on by with more questions than answers.  Is this a political statement? Why doesn’t someone want those cute wellies?  Is this definitive proof that Pinterest jumped the shark?

What’s even stranger is that this isn’t the only out of place ladder that I have come across lately.  In the catalog of the store named after a ceramic farm building is two other ladders. One is white, well-worn and splattered with paint.  You would think it would be in a photo selling paints, but it isn’t.  It’s carefully placed against a wall by a window in a beautifully furnished room complete with fresh flowers on the coffee table. There are no rollers, paint cans or drop cloths or anything to lead one to believe the room’s a work in progress.

The only explanation is that the rickety ladder adds a certain panache to the room that a ladderless room could not otherwise achieve. I’m not convinced. Surely this room is not designed for anyone superstitious or anyone with children.  I’m even going to hazard a guess that no one with friends who like to tip a few back would welcome this “attractive nuisance” in their humble home. Is it a subliminal message from the company that you are never fully done decorating?  I just don’t get it.

A few pages later in the same catalog there’s another ladder.  This one is sadly not as rustic, but it’s for sale.  It’s a decorative ladder, I think, because the heaviest thing on it is a scarf. The rungs don’t seem too spacious either so a black wire basket is attached to the bottom to lend it more functionality. Neither the basket nor the ladder look like they required expert craftsmanship, but I suppose $263.00 is a small price to pay to be part of the ladder trend.

I think the ladders are part of a larger trend that has befuddled me for some time.  People want to look like they live in a workshop, a factory of sorts.  Reclaimed, recycled, reused.  Old barn doors are haute couture. Warped oars on a wall are avant-garde.  Shelves that look like plumbing pipes can fetch a handsome price.  Expensive plush chairs are armed with working rusty little wheels that can amputate toes.  Lighting of the same variety found in a warehouse are proudly peddled for exorbitant sums.

I just don’t get it.  The same people who purchase these things would scoff at my neighbor’s ladder arrangement, but I think the arse on the ladder might just be the message the decorating world needs.

I Definitely Don’t Have One


The other day I heard a story. It was told to me as a matter of course.  As if there was nothing unusual about it.  As if this was the kind of thing that happens all the time.  It went something like this.

I’m totally bummed out.  My friend is going back to the Cayman Islands this weekend to get a cat.  It’s a beautiful cat.  Its fur is so soft and beautiful.  It is so friendly and sweet.  It was hanging around the house we rented all week and my friend called the house owner and she is going to go get it and bring it back.  She’s going to adopt it.  I can’t go because my kids have …..

Wait. What?  Where?  The Cayman Islands?  A stray cat, is it not? And she is flying back to the Spring Break destination less than five days later!  I stopped listening at this point. First, I assured myself that I had heard these words in that order and I wasn’t having a stroke.  And then I realized this was an augmented reality that I did not share.  In what universe of wedded bliss could this occur? Her husband is on board with his wife flying to a tropical locale for the sole intent of acquiring a quasi- feral cat.  There are so many layers of I can’t imagine this for me to unpack, not to mention the fact that hordes of homeless cats can be found in spitting distance of basically anywhere. There can be only one explanation – a magic vagina.

Currently, I am in intense negotiations over a badminton net.  And I am losing. I would like one in the yard.  My husband stands firm on the position that it is an eyesore and an impediment to easy mowing.  Do you see the difference here?  A stray cat from another country?  People give them away.  They literally poop in your house.  It requires a plane ticket with less than the twenty one day notice to retrieve.  I just want two poles and a net.

I do not have a magic vagina.   I would say it’s more of the Kirkland Signature variety.  I mean, it’s not terrible, you need a membership- but it’s the basic model, a slight grade above generic.  I think I’ve always known this.

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Restoration Sanity

There’s a lot of talk lately about the dumbing down of America.  Some people believe there’s a whole anti-intellectual movement where truth is malleable and opinion is fact. They may well be right.  Who to blame and where it all started is an issue for our generation, but the start of all this confusion may be closer than you think.  You may even be sitting on it right now. There is no bigger perpetrator of #fake than Restoration Hardware and their lesser kin.  It’s Mainstream Decorating that first perverted our gut instincts and made madness acceptable.

I offer you Exhibit A- THIS OLD TRUNK $256.00


If your gut reaction isn’t violence as a result of someone having the temerity to try to sell this to you, then it should be.  Look at it!  Behold its putrid state.  Consider its slapdash paint job, its general milieu of possible stink and probable infestation. Once again, let me remind you that the peddler of this perversion of interior design wants real American dollars.




These lights all look like they came from the bowels of Dr. Frankenstein’s laboratory.  And the good doctor must fear that not only will the corpses come to life but so will the bulbs – so he put them in cages in case they should fly away.  Let us reflect on the metaphor of a light in a cage.  Ask yourself, is this what I want in my home? 

The most loathsome of this motley crew is the desk lamp that appears to be eating the chandelier. Perhaps this is what you get when the bulbs are let loose. Note the merchant tells you Bulbs Sold Separately – I feel a footnote of my own must be added – Good Taste Not Included.

Another Chandelier Falls Victim to Predatory Lights Out on Parole and Repeat Offending


  Exhibit D   ROLL AWAY

Then we have the abandoned mental hospital turned haunted house theme. It looks like Nurse Ratchet will be by with your meds shortly. Industrial type toe amputating wheels are a staple in Restoration Insanity’s decorating theme. And why are they all on little metal wheels?  Perhaps the furniture needs to make a quick getaway from the aggressive lighting fixtures.  


Old is new.  Simple is extravagant. Up is down. The truth is that we all play a part in this madness.  These companies are in business, and they are not scraping by and fleeing from town like a snake oil salesman.  No, they have solid structures and teams of people who stage their wares with ridiculous tchotchkes like the rusty paint brushes on the dilapidated trunk.   And until we are prepared to stand up, separate from the crowd, and declare bullshit when we see it then we will all suffer as fools- even in our own homes.  We will all be responsible for #Fake  and the dumbing down of America.