Monday, December 4, 2017

When your show and tell is a human.

My husband loves to play disc golf. So, when we travel, we often find local disc golf stores. They're usually strip-mall affairs peopled by the disc golf world's version of stoner surfer dudes. But the folks are always nice and quick with a referral to a good local course. We support a local business. Everybody wins.

Our most recent local disc golf shop was something else. It was inside an office building and was a disc golf shop-slash-insurance billing office. But the owner? Well, he was a gem.

As My Guy looked at the assortment of discs, the shop owner told us about two local courses that would be a good fit. And, well, they were both named after guys who had been instrumental in bringing the sport to town. They were his high school history teacher and that teacher's best friend.

And then? Then, this gentleman whipped out his high school yearbook. It easily fell open to a page that had obviously been accessed often and displayed a quarter-page photo of a guy who looked like Jim Henson.

"See, in 1979, 1980, you were supposed to respect and fear your teachers," he said. "But Jim wasn't that kind of guy. He made you feel important. He'd be walking down the hall with other teachers, and he'd leave them to come talk to you. He'd give you a hug and ask about you and make you feel like a person.

"Well, he started the first disc golf tournament in town, and got me and my buddies into the sport." He pulled a disc off the wall. "This was the disc from that tourney. I felt pretty special having this disc that my teacher gave me. Talk about feeling like a big man the next Monday at school!"

Somewhere in this dialogue, I went from being charmed to being completely torn apart and oozing with love for this man and his history teacher.

Cancer got the teacher in the 90s. But he made such a big impact that my new friend keeps his 40-year-old yearbook at the ready, poised to talk about the man who had such a big impact on his life.

Life goals: be so kind that someone keeps your yearbook at the ready.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Priorities and grace.

I voted on Tuesday. You know, like a decent human.

As I was driving up to my polling place, I saw a woman striding with purpose down the sidewalk. And I thought, "That woman is gonna go git it done at the polls!" I was delighted when I saw her walk up to the church basement where the voting magic was taking place. Up close, she was kind of scary. She moved fast and she was not messing around - she was there to get her democracy on. I liked her.

At 2 in the afternoon, there was a tiny bit of a wait - I had to stand in line behind one person. But it gave me time to appreciate the red, white, and blue apparel donned by the volunteers. Plus? People were voting, even though we didn't have anything sexy on the ballot. Revolution starts at home, so I researched those water board candidates and was going to make my voice heard, dammit.

I voted. And as I was finishing up, an older gentleman came in. The volunteers took his ID and asked him to verify his address. And this lovely man said, "I have dementia, so this is hard for me. But I think it's ..." And then he rattled off an address.

I left. Well, I left the building but sat in my car and cried.

Last year, after voting? I also sat in my car and cried. I cried because I didn't have words to express how I felt about voting for a woman for president. I was proud and excited. And I tried to explain to my husband that this vote was for every boy who told me I was "just a girl," for all those times I was told to shut up or was talked over, for all of it. But I didn't have the words.

This year, I cried because the last year has been exhausting and scary and sad. But mostly I cried for the sweet man in the khaki jacket, who shared that reciting his address was a challenge. I admire his honesty and his bravery. And I'm so thankful that he saw voting as a priority. He didn't stay home, even if he didn't have the words. He went out and did the work to be done.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Dreams come true: dog pee edition.

My worst nightmare is having a house that smells like dog pee. Forget zombies or that dream where you're at the grocery store nekkid. Having a house that smells and that people talk about behind my back is my number one fear.

This is Li'l Frankfurter.
If you sleep on your toys, that keeps your dog bro from filching your stuff.
He's a dachshund. He does not give a rat's ass about anything. Sure, he'll go potty outside ... if you remind him. But now that it's getting colder? Nope. Left to his own devices, he'd happily pee behind the couch.

Yeah. I rearranged our living room furniture because "behind the couch" became a magical land where all dog folk could do whatever they wanted. Now, there is no "behind the couch." And Li'l Frank has been feeling ... displaced.

So, our TV room is where the kennels are. And it's been smelling a little funky as of late. Why yes, just last week, I washed all our floors with hot water and vinegar. Yeah, on my hands and knees. But no, I didn't move the couch in the TV room. It's heavy and I was already in need of both attitude and chiropractic adjustments.

But last night? Last night, I noticed a few drops of liquid on the floor, right at the corner of said heavy couch. You know, right next to Li'l Frank's kennel? Some paper towel investigation showed that Li'l Frank had marked the corner of the couch ... and there was an ocean of urine under the couch.

I moved the couch.

And this is what I found.
No, that's not an archaeological dig.
Li'l Frank had confiscated bones from his brother, pushed them under the corner of the couch, and then marked the couch as his territory.

On one hand, I admire his ingenuity. And to stash his haul right next to his kennel? Smart move.

On the other hand? It's going to be a long winter.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Me, too, or death by a thousand paper cuts.

I've been a tiny bit reticent to jump into the "me, too" fray for one seriously messed-up reason: what happened to me wasn't *that* bad. Like, it could have been so much worse.

When you feel like being harassed instead of physically assaulted means you maybe don't have a right to be upset? That's all kinds of systemic sexism, like layers of being told "it's not that big of a deal" have grown into our skin, becoming part of us.

Eww.

So let's talk about the "it's not big enough of a deal to report" stuff. Like the boss who came up behind 20-year-old me and started rubbing my shoulders. "You're so tense," he said. (Note: Yes, I was tense because my 50-year-old boss just started massaging me.) "You should come over to the house and sit in the hot tub. It will work those knots right out."

I think I responded with a half-hearted "Ehh-huh" - just enough to make him walk away. I was 20. I didn't know what to do. I was just a baby.

But as an adult? This is how it went down.

My Guy: "I had a great day. I figured out the fix to a big problem. I feel good. How was your day?"

Me: "On the drive into work, this guy was waving and smiling at me, right on the freeway. I finally figured out that he was adjusting his mirrors to look at my chest. Then, I got to work and had a conversation with my male coworker, who insisted that I set up a meeting for him. I refused, since the meeting had nothing to do with me. But he wouldn't let it go. So I ended up yelling, 'I AM NOT YOUR SECRETARY' into the phone before hanging up and slamming my head against my desk. Then, I figured out how to fix a big problem. Nobody paid attention to my fix until a male coworker half promoted it / half claimed it as his own idea. My boss later thanked me for my work but called me "kiddo." Then, on the way out of the parking garage, I got behind Creepy Rajeev, who was driving 2 miles per hour because he had his window down and was driving alongside and talking to every woman walking to her car. He followed four different women. It took me 20 minutes to get out of the garage. I AM SO FUCKING TIRED."

Just think of how much more women could accomplish if we weren't dealing with this bullshit every day. Because all those tiny moments of gritting teeth, of pep talks in the mirror in the ladies' room? They take a lot of mental and emotional energy. And now? NOW WE ARE TIRED.

And done. We're done.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Why I stopped writing.

I kind of stopped writing because I started to think that my stories didn't matter.

It's such a ballsy thing to stand up and say, "Yes, my story matters. It's important and I must get it out into the world and it will make a difference."

But I was depressed and couldn't imagine such things. So I made excuses. I was tired. I was working on writing that pays, writing about Joe's Mattress Shack and their new pillowtop ultra extreme bedding extravaganza. I wasn't denying the world anything of value.

Except I was. I am.

It's so easy to look at other people's stories and say, "YES! This is of value! Get this out in the world!" Like the story that Mary-Claire King tells about Joe DiMaggio babysitting her daughter at the airport. That's an important story.

But the gist of that story is that you never know what ripples a simple act of kindness will have in the world. In Mary-Claire's case ... well, you should just read the story.

In my case? Maybe somebody just needs to hear, "Me, too."

Or maybe I'm more of a cautionary tale. Whichever.

Either way, I'm getting back on the horse. I'm telling my stories, even when it hurts.

Here's what I've been up to:
  • Rehabbed our rental house, put it on the market, and got a full-price offer within an hour. An hour! Last time I tried to sell a house, it took nine months, so this was amazing. Except ... we knew we had to replace the roof. The roofers didn't tarp the roof correctly. We had a torrential rain. THE CEILINGS INSIDE THE HOUSE COLLAPSED FROM THE WATER DAMAGE. It's all so stupid. The roofing company took responsibility and it only moved our closing back a week, but My Guy and I both lost about 10 years off our lives due to stress.
    Dude. That's not supposed to look like that. Also, just out of frame? My husband and I having simultaneous heart attacks.
  • Obsessed all summer about going to the beach. It was to be my finish line after a summer of the aforementioned house flipping madness. I am one of those people who just neeeeeeds water. We were scheduled to go to Florida ... during the hurricane. When I called the hotel to cancel our non-refundable reservation, I was all, "You don't want me during the hurricane! I have no skillz!" and they were like, "You're right, we don't want you. Here's all your money back." I was relieved but ... slightly hurt.
  • Been mauled by this now-50-pound dog.
"Hey! I'mma jump on you, 'kay?"
So. Let's catch up. What's up with you?

Mega, huge, completely indebted thanks to reader Cyndi B. who reached out to say she missed my writing. Thank you.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

In which my husband's feet give me a mental breakdown in the HyVee parking lot.

There was something in the air - the planets were aligned, or maybe there's just something about a 70-year-old's birthday party that makes people think, "Hey! I'm gonna ask that 40-something lady why she doesn't have kids!" But it happened.

I was at a birthday party. I knew three people there. Two of those people were men who asked me - separately, but within about 20 minutes of each other - why I didn't have kids, or what I was waiting for, or when My Guy and I were going to get on that already.

When an acquaintance asked me, I surprised myself. Deep within the darkest recesses of my black, black heart, a gracious lady arose. Like a glamorous phoenix! She knew just what to say. I opened my mouth and "Well, we wanted kids, but it didn't work out. But we decided to be happy anyway" came flowing out. Even as I was speaking the words, I thought, "Oh, wow. This is some klassy shit."

When a friend asked me the same question mere minutes later, I had used a good portion of my grace and dignity for the day. Plus, we were pals who gave each other a hard time. And I was getting tired. My response to him? "Shit down there is broken."

And ... that was an effective way to change the subject pretty quickly.

I felt good. I felt like I had successfully maneuvered two conversations that a few years ago would have left me reeling. Instead, I thought about how people usually have only the best intentions. I was mature and strong and had it going on.

On the way home, I ran by the grocery store. I cruised up and down the aisles, thinking about my grand infertile lady triumph, about how not having children in the Midwest in 2017 still makes you kind of a weirdo, but it was OK. I was so calm and mature and Oprah-like.

And then I left the store. As I was walking out, I saw a dad put his cart away and move to lift his 3-year-old son from the seat. The little boy had a rather unfortunate haircut but clearly thought this grocery outing was a grand man expedition with his dad.

Before picking up his boy, the man planted his feet - one foot slightly in front of the other, about hip-distance apart.

Now, I'm not sure how this happened, but I married a jock. My Guy loves any activity that involves a ball, bat, club, disc, or racquet. He has coached. He once held an informal clinic to teach my entire family how to throw a football because, God love us, we are quite indoorsy. He's that guy.

A lifetime of athletic endeavors means that there are some things My Guy does without thinking. Any arm movement - even if he's just tossing a dog toy - comes with a nice follow through. And I don't think he's capable of picking up even a can of dog food without first planting his feet - one foot slightly in front of the other, about hip-distance apart.

So when I saw that man getting ready to pick up his son outside the HyVee, my gut reaction was, "Oh! That's how My Guy would pick up his son."

Except he doesn't have a son. Except, except, except.

Not having kids is fine except when it isn't. And it's not a rational kind of crazy - it's a weird grief that pops its head up whenever it feels like it, even if it's been away for a while.

I didn't tackle the man and start crying. After all, he had his feet properly planted and would have therefore been able to swat me away like a fly. No, instead, I walked past with a somewhat contorted face. I got into my car and had a rational inner conversation about the merits of losing my shit in the parking lot of the grocery I frequent several times a week.

Pro: It might feel good.

Cons: Someone might see me and I come here all the time. I am so close to home, surely I could just have my mental breakdown at home like a lady. Crying makes my face puffy and who needs that?

I drove home. I didn't cry at all, even after I was safely ensconced in my fortress of solitude. I was just ... sad.

And the next day was Sunday, and it was a Sunday when My Guy and I didn't have to go sit at a soccer field for six hours because we don't have kids. Life was good. But sometimes? Sometimes, being childless means lots of little flesh wounds.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

All Walter does is win.

It's time for America's favorite game show ...

WHAT'S!

IN!

YOUR!

MOUTH!

Today's contestant is our reigning champion, Walter the Wonderdoodle! Walter initially came on our show at his mother's urging, as she was astounded by the number of times each day that she asked him, "Walter, what's in your mouth?"
"Am serious dog. Take challenge seriously."
During his reign as our "What's In Your Mouth?" champion, Walter has had many interesting things in his mouth, including bark, socks, mail, underwear, shoes, silverware, pens, newspapers, paperclips, a nut and bolt combo, rocks, toilet paper, and his brother, who is a miniature dachshund. It's all part of what makes Walter such a winner!

Today, let's see what Walter has for us. Hey, Walter!

WHAT'S!

IN!

YOUR!

MOUTH!

Drum roll please ... oh, folks, this is truly a thrill. Walter the Wonderdoodle has really stepped up his game and has something special for us today. Walter, what's in your mouth?

Ladies and gentleman ... it's a box of matches!
That's no little matchbook, folks. That's an entire box of kitchen matches! Turns out our lovable little doodle is also a burgeoning pyromaniac, the little scamp. Let's hear it for Walter!

And thanks to his creative choices, Walter wins ... a heart attack for his mother! Oh, isn't she a lucky lady? Congratulations to you all!
"Am dog. Am very good boy."
Will Walter be able to keep his streak going? We wouldn't bet against him! Join us next time on America's favorite game show ...

WHAT'S!

IN!

YOUR!

MOUTH!