Monday, December 21, 2015

Why I highly recommend giving slightly outlandish gifts.

Eleven years ago this month, I moved out of the house I'd shared with my boyfriend of 7 years. We broke up, and I was completely broken.

I moved into The Apartment of Despair and everything was just ... wrong. I didn't have any plates that could go in the microwave, so I ate most of my meager meals off the same Pyrex pie plate. Since I suddenly found myself with 2 dogs and no backyard, I tried to navigate walking a psycho dachshund on ice. It did not go well. And my freelance business was ... fledgling at best. I knew it was going to work out, but times were hard.

I got a job working holiday retail, which gave me a reason to leave my apartment. And I tried to figure out how things were going to come together financially. When I decided to leave Ex-Ex, I had exactly $25.35 in my bank account. I'll never forget it. I was so ashamed, and wondered how I had gotten there, both financially and emotionally.

Christmas was to be a pared-down affair. The big gift for the family would be that my brother would fly home from Ireland, where he'd been living. We didn't need any other gifts. I think this was my mom's clandestine way of ensuring that I didn't feel like I needed to spend money I didn't have. We were just going to hunker down and celebrate being together.

There were a few notable gifts, though. Poochie brought with him a huge Milk Tray chocolate assortment. His coworkers from the factory in Ireland had chipped in and purchased it as a going-away present since his visa was expiring. These people were all Indian and Middle Eastern immigrants who assembled belts that jiggled your gut for supposed weight loss. To a man, they sent most of their earnings home to their families. These kind folks adopted Poochie, and had him to their homes for holidays. He brought their kindness home to us.

There were also envelopes from our grandpa. He was still reeling from the death of his wife of 69 years. It had been almost 3 years, but after 69 years ... that's barely a heartbeat. But he was doing his best, playing a little golf, going on a few excursions at the assisted living facility. He still wrote his letters referring to "we." It was both heartbreaking and a case of, "well, of course!" They had started their married life together on a farm in western Kansas during the depression. Their love was an example of "through thick and thin."

Poochie and I each got an envelope. Our folks had no idea what was inside. I opened mine first.

The note read:
Christmas brings memories of happy times of celebration with our family and great appreciation for all the thoughtful and caring things that you do.

Your grandma's legacy continues to grow in many ways. It is my pleasure to share this with you during this holiday season. Enjoy!

With love,

And there was a check.

In the grand scheme of things, it wasn't a ton. But to me? It was a gajillion dollars. It was rent and groceries and being able to breathe. It was moving forward instead of being moored to the idea that I had made huge, irreparable mistakes.

I cried. Ugly cried. The kind of sobbing you don't want anyone to see, except I was doing it at Christmas. I couldn't speak. Too much mucus.

My family couldn't figure out what was in the envelope and why I was so emotional. My brother opened his similar envelope, and everyone figured out quickly that I was good ugly crying, not bad ugly crying.

In all the photos from that holiday, I look rather raw. My eyes are red. I'm too skinny. But there's a glimmer of better things to come, of resilience.
A different Christmas. But just as magical.
And that's what I think about when I hear great stories about Secret Santas, people handing out cash at thrift stores, or folks covering bills for others. You just never know how that not-so-big-to-you kindness will size up for the recipient.

For me? It was king-sized. It was huge. And it reminded me that everything was going to be OK.

Have you been the recipient of such a life-changing gift? Warm my heart this Christmas and tell me all about it!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Book recommendations for your last-minute holiday shopping needs.

If you're like me, you kind of hate leaving your house. And you probably aren't quite done with your Christmas shopping. And time is running out. It's a cunnundrum.

But! Never fear! Use the crap outta that Amazon Prime membership and order the just-right book for those hard-to-shop-for folks on your list. Here are my recommendations.

For your angsty teen-aged niece: When did teen girls get so scary? They dress better than me and I'm pretty sure they're judging my sensible footwear and OMG, teen girls are terrifying! But, all that aside ... you can smooth things over and buy some street cred with Rainbow Rowell. These novels are technically young adult, but I've read them and they are wonderful - engrossing and smart. Consider Fangirl: A Novel or its new followup, Carry On.

For your father-in-law who thinks everything made after 1950 is crap: The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown. Because this book is about some hard-core dudes from when men were men. This book has it all: pulling yourself up by your bootstraps; sports; and beating Nazis. If you liked Unbroken, you'll like The Boys in the Boat. If you haven't read Unbroken, well, that would make a good New Year's resolution. You won't be sorry.

For the wanna-be fabulous folk in your life: Modern Mix by Eddie Ross. OK, usually, I only look at the photos in decorating books. Show me, don't tell me. But this coffee table book combines gorgeous photos with text that's engaging and gives you permission to do yo' thang. Eddie loves flea markets, color, and dishes. And this book is both inspiring and empowering. When it comes to decorating, your stuff doesn't have to match: it has to go. And you deserve to live in loveliness.

For the naughty girl and/or felon: The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters. Because it seems like just another thriller set in post-WWI London and your mom asks to borrow it when you're done reading, but then you get into it and it is ... steamy? And you realize that you skimmed over the cover blurb that called it "volcanically sexy?" And it offers a nuanced view of what it was like to be gay less than 100 years ago? And also, murder?

For the history buff or the slightly nerdy teen-aged boy: One Summer: America, 1927. So, I love Bill Bryson. His writing reflects his genuine curiosity about the world and is so engaging. This book covers just a few months in American history, but what a few months: Lindburgh, Ruth, Ford, Capone. I learned a lot, and found myself wanting to know more. And isn't that the greatest gift?

For your friend in need of a change: Sometimes, you've got to mess up and get lost to figure things out. Lost & Found by Brooke Davis is a lovely novel about just that. There's the little girl who's living in a department store; the elderly man who runs away from his nursing home; and the old biddy who hasn't left her house in 7 years. And then? Well, stuff happens. It's funny and heartbreaking and life-affirming and I just loved this book.

For the young reader who isn't yet an angsty teen but might be starting to figure out that you aren't cool: This might be your last chance to share a book from your childhood. Or mine. From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L Konigsburg is a novel that I loved as a kid. I reread it a few years ago and it's just as magical. Claudia and Jamie run away from home to ... The Metropolitan Museum of Art, of course.

What did I miss? And what books are you giving (or hoping to receive!) this holiday?

Friendly reminder: When you shop through my links, Amazon throws me some spare change. You know, to pay my library fines. Because sometimes I borrow books instead of buying them. Because I'm not made of money. And libraries are awesome.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Inner peace through hair removal.

My dog has a 1-foot square bald spot on his rear.

It's the latest in 6 months of veterinary adventures. Big Doodle has had ozone pumped into his bladder. He's on a ton of vitamins. We've totally revamped his diet, which now consists of these giant chubs full of raw meat dog food. My Guy and I refer to it as "Swiss Colony Beef Log." It is ... almost indescribable in its awesomeness/grotesqueness.

But in the midst of all this A-plus, driving-to-the-speciality-vet-40-minutes-away-once-a-week care, my number 1 giant dog started to attack himself. He chewed a series of hot spots on his hips, tail, and rear. The vet thought it might be a symptom of toxins leaving our boy's body. After all, his bladder cancer seems to be ... silent? In my fantasies, it's skulked back from whence it came. At any rate, he isn't peeing blood anymore, and seems to feel great.

Except for the chewing.

He's on holistic pain meds. I put Rescue Remedy in his water. And we'd go days without an incident. And then, I'd run to the grocery and come home to find blood all over the baseboards and a dog with a giant, oozing wound of his own making.

At least part of it is anxiety. He doesn't do it when his people are around. When we're around, he's his usual, happy self. And so, I feel like I can't leave him. But dude, I do need to go to the grocery. The people gots to eat.

On Thanksgiving, he chewed a new spot during a 30-minute ride in the back of our truckasaurus. I wanted to cry. And scream. "Dude! I am doing everything humanly possible to help you! I carve up Swiss Colony Beef Log on the regular without puking! You gotta help me out here!"

And then I decided that maybe in addition to being happy, he was just really stressed. And this time of year, aren't we all? After all, I cannot deny that I sat in my MIL's bathroom for a few extra minutes on Thanksgiving. I was happy, but I was stressed. Sometimes, you're just desperate for a moment of peace.

Maybe being the poster dog for holistic cancer treatments is really stressful. Maybe my gentle giant has just had it and needs an outlet. Maybe Big Doodle and I aren't that different. I get brittle and snappish and my right shoulder tenses up like Quasimodo. He chews hair and skin off his ass. We're basically the same person!

I'm getting a massage tomorrow. And Big Doodle got his ass shaved, which has evidently provided immense relief. We're all just doing the best we can.

So, take care of yourselves, my sweet friends. Hopefully that doesn't mean getting a 1-foot square area of your rear end shaved, but if that's what does it for you, go for it.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

I hate mice and I love my family.

I visited my parents this weekend. They gave me life. And then they gave me mousetraps.

Let me back up.

So, remember when I interrupted a HUGE mouse in my silverware drawer, and it climbed out of the drawer and up my leg and I screamed a million screams and then had to burn down my house?

Good times.

Well, My Guy set a trap and killed that Jabba the Hutt of mice. Killed it dead!

Except ... well, it was evidently more of a Jabbette the Hutt. And she wasn't huge ... she just had some baby weight. Which we discovered because a few days after My Guy slew her, the babies came out looking for food.

Ohhhh nooooo.

And those babies were dumb. Almost as dumb as our vicious dogs. Picture it: My Guy, me, Lil' Frankfurter and Big Doodle were all lazing about on the couch on a Saturday morning, as is our custom. And gasp! There was something moving behind the entertainment center! It was grey and small and rodent-like!

The husband and I had a long, philosophical conversation about what in the name of Han Solo we were supposed to do. We certainly couldn't get off the couch because there was a MOUSE in the same ROOM! And while we didn't want to extricate a mouse carcass out of a dog's maw, you would think the canines would have some primal instinct to capture said mouse.

But no. Our dogs sat on the couch and watched the mouse. Not once did it occur to them to get off the couch and protect their pack from this intruder. My dogs are defective.

Finally, after much deliberation, My Guy bravely got off the couch and led the dogs outside. He escorted me to safety in the other room, and set the mouse trap. Then, he put up the baby gate. Then ... he left. He left me alone in a house with defective dogs and a probably rabid baby mouse.

The gate was supposed to keep the dogs out of the room with the trap. But in my mind, the baby gate would also serve to keep the mouse out of the rest of the house. The baby mouse wouldn't be so crass as to go into other rooms uninvited, right?

Well, there wasn't a lot of time for exploration. Within an hour or 2, I heard the trap go off. And then I heard the screams. Because the full-sized trap didn't kill the baby right away. I cried, and I prayed. I prayed for this rodent I was trying to kill. It was confusing.

And that whole "we're on the couch and we see a baby mouse and the defective dogs do nothing and then we set a trap and kill a poor, defenseless baby mouse" thing played out again the next day. And yet again, no adults stepped in to address the situation. My Guy and I had to handle it all by ourselves. It was terrible.

So, for those keeping track, that was 1 dead mama mouse and 2 dead baby mice. Oh, and then there was the third dead baby mouse I found under a washcloth on the floor. First of all, I have no idea how that washcloth came to be on the floor of our family room. Secondly, it was covering the little mouse carcass like we were filming an episode of "Law & Order: Rodent Division" in our house. It was all very dramatic.

Truthfully, by the third dead baby mouse, my heart was hardened. I just wanted a rodent-free house. Was that really too much to ask?

In the ensuing days, we haven't found any more mice, alive or dead. But you're never totally out of the woods with these things. Which brings us to my visit with my parents.

Now, there have been times my folks have plied me with groceries and gas money and an extra winter hat, just because. I would maybe roll my eyes, but truthfully? There is nothing like being hard-core nurtured by your parents like that. During a particularly broke spot, I returned to my craptastic apartment with 2 full grocery bags - my mom had raided her own pantry for me. The thought of it still makes me teary-eyed. They let me and my brother make our own way, but they made sure we had a little something for the road.

And so, this weekend? As I was getting ready to leave, my sweet dad asked how I was set for mouse traps. They'd had some mice this fall, and he'd discovered some great traps that were only sold at the farm and home store. Well, he'd show them to me. Well, they only sell them at the farm and home. Well, here, just take these, and he'll get some more.

I'm a grown woman and grown women don't cry over mouse traps. But it's sure nice to have parents who give you what you didn't quite realize you need. That, and my dad put the traps back in their original packaging because that's how he rolls. Also, he'd wiped the dead mouse detritus off and it was fine. Because we might pass used mouse traps around the family, but we do it with class.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

I'm not dead. Also, here's a book review.

Kind friend Karen commented on my last post, "I'm worried that you haven't posted in several weeks. I'm hoping that you are busy with good things and not in ICU."

Thank you for your concern. Gurrrl, lemme tell you.

While it seemed highly likely that I had contracted some sort of mouse syphilis to go along with my Chilean lung leprosy and antibiotic reaction, that did not turn out to be the case. Discovering a gigantic mouse in my kitchen that then crawled up my bare leg didn't actually kill me, which was a bit of a shock.

No, instead, I have still been dealing with the Chilean lung leprosy. Because I'm sexy like that, and I hear coughing is the new flashing a boob.

When My Guy picked up my antibiotics, the pharmacist was careful to tell him that they might interfere with birth control. Bless his heart, my husband's response was, "All she does is cough. I ain't touchin' her."

So, there's that.

Thankfully, I've mostly stopped coughing and the antibiotics have done their job. I feel insane, but confident that I can get through the last 2.5 days of this Augmentin haze ... not that I'm counting down the minutes or anything. Ahem.

I'm exhausted. I've been sick for 5 weeks. It's ridiculous, and I'm just now starting to feel human again.

But you know what's a great activity when you feel like you have nothing to contribute to the world? Cleaning your closets.

It sounds like I'm joking, but I'm not.

I read "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up" by Marie Kondo. This is the book that's been all over - people seem to either embrace it or think that the author is a special, banana-sandwich level of crazy. I'm pretty impressed and happy with what it's done for me so far.

The author's thesis is that you shouldn't have anything in your house that doesn't give you joy. And you should touch all your stuff, and gauge how you feel when you touch it, and then keep or get rid of it accordingly.

As ridiculous as it sounds, this was a great activity when I was feeling sick. Because when you clean out your closet and throw all your clothes on the bed? You can lounge on the bed, too. I'd sort through some clothes, then take a break by flopping down next to the clothes. I was one with the clothes. It was either insane or very Zen.

I liked this book because it gave me permission to get rid of guilt-inducing clothes. Kondo basically says that even if you bought a skirt and then never wore it, it served its purpose - it made you feel happy when you bought it, or it taught you that orange isn't your color, or it helped you realize you've never been a size 00 and those people just need to eat sandwiches or whatever. And it's OK.

I cleaned my closet and dresser, and even refolded much of my stuff in Kondo's recommended fold / roll / stack-on-the-end style. I must admit that it's pretty gratifying to open a drawer and be able to see at a glance what's in there instead of digging around. Keep in mind that my wardrobe consists of about 98% t-shirts and jeans, but still.

I haven't gone through my shoes or books, but the impact on my closet was definitely worth the price of the book.

Have you "Kondo-ized" your house? What did you think? And have you ever had Chilean lung leprosy? How long did it take you to feel like a semi-normal human again?

Monday, October 12, 2015

Why I should stay out of the kitchen.

I've been sick. Real sick. I had a cold and that cold morphed into some sort of chest madness that I'm pretty sure is tuberculosis mixed with Chilean lung leprosy. I've been hacking up a lung for literally 3 weeks.

I finally broke down and took some antibiotics, even though I hate antibiotics. And those antibiotics made me feel better for a day and a half, and then they made me feel queasy and itchy and hot and dizzy and generally insane. I realized too late that I'm allergic to these demon antibiotics.

And so, I did what any normal girl would do. I went to Whole Foods and bought 2 bags of Red Hot Blues potato chips because they're the only thing that sounds good. I bought chips and Breathe Easy tea and oil of oregano and planned on healing myself without the devil antibiotics. I bought some soup and tried to keep my shit together.

Which brings us to this evening.

Tonight, I peeled my queasy, coughy self off the couch and warmed up some of the soup I had procured from Whole Paycheck. I poured the soup into a pan, and then opened the silverware drawer for a spoon.

There was a fur muff inside the silverware drawer!

The fur muff was moving!

The fur muff was a fat mouse, just chilling in my silverware drawer at 7 o'clock at night!

I screamed. I screamed like a virgin in a horror movie. I screamed, and the mouse ran down the outside of the cabinet and across the kitchen floor.

Like any sane woman, I levitated across the kitchen. But the mouse followed me! The mouse followed me, ran across my foot and climbed up my bare leg.

I hoisted myself up against the counter and kicked. I kicked like my life depended on it! I kicked and that mouse hit the floor, then scampered behind the stove.

Next thing I knew, I was in the dining room, looking into the kitchen. And I was still screaming. I stopped screaming just in time to hear the stove make a weird beeping noise, probably because the mouse was hot-wiring it, like a car.

I decided to scream once more for good measure. It felt good, and right. I wondered if the neighbors could hear. I didn't care.

After I collected myself somehwhat, I texted my husband the CliffsNotes version of the saga. I also informed him that I was burning down our house. As I glanced at his rather satisfying "holy shit!" response, I realized that the dogs were both lounging near the kitchen.

Those losers had done nothing to help me in my time of need! They hadn't become alarmed in the slightest when I was being so cruelly attacked, nor did they respond when I made sounds that I'm sure have never come out of my body before. Note to self: screaming doesn't interest dachshunds or labradoodles.

Today, I have been sorely disappointed by asshole antibiotics and lazy, no-good dogs. Also, by the vermin who continue to attack my kitchen. But I do feel like a mighty warrior, a survivor. Like Cher.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Vacation slide show from hell.

So, I've been abroad.

No, not "a broad" in the Bea Arthur sense. "Abroad" in the fancypants sense.

My Guy has worked for his corporation for so long that he got a sabbatical. And so, we took this precious time to get off our couch and go to the United Kingdom. The trip destroyed my feet, gave me a new appreciation for free public toilets, and was generally perfect. Here are some highlights.

Instead of The Dollar Store or Dollar General, the UK has Poundland. This makes sense since they don't have dollars, but pounds. Except that we kept calling it "Poundtown," because both my husband and I are actually 12-year-old boys.
Man, I am really good at selfies.
In what I'm sure is a shock to my humanities professor, I was excited to point out the salient buttresses and flying buttresses of the chapels and abbeys. Basically, I specialized in buttri. Because those were the parts of architecture I remembered. But at least I remembered something, right? Right?
Bath Abbey has both salient and flying buttri. And my husband, listening to an audio guide and pretending it's an old-school cell phone and he's on a very important call, probably with the pope. Or Mayor McCheese.
I really missed the dogs. Luckily, I found this window display.
Your breath is amazing.
This is the Royal Crescent in Bath. It's where crescent rolls were invented.
People here were really on edge, never knowing when the giant tube was going to pop.
Edinburgh is the shit. It is the coolest. And looking over it all is Arthur's Seat. It doesn't look like much of a mountain/hill, but trust me when I tell you that there's an easy-ish way to get to the top and a Marital Death March way to get to the top. Guess which one we took?
This is a slight exaggeration of what we traversed, but not really. And we're still married!
We tried haggis, both regular and vegetarian. No photo. Because it was gross. Not in a gag-me-with-a-spoon way, but in a why-would-anyone-eat-this way.

Toward the end of any European trip, I think it's normal and perfectly fine to be castled and churched out. Here we are in front of the ruins of the Melrose Abbey. Yes, there's a fence between us and the abbey. Because we didn't feel like spending money to see yet another church and we decided to eat instead. It was kind of like in "Vacation" when they see the Grand Canyon - "Well, yep, there it is. Let's go!"
Even our eyes are like, "Obligation photo. Hope skipping this one doesn't make us bad Christians."
The U.S. is great, but can lack a certain panache. Case in point: I have yet to find this cereal back home. Now how am I supposed to become a bekilted Scott Bakula / Huey Lewis track and field star?
Step aside, haggis. This is the true taste of Scotland.
I'm not gonna lie. This trip was great, and such a blessing. Also? I'm really glad to be home. I know what coins are what here, and have a strong sense of how the toilets work.

Once the jet lag wears off, we want to start planning another trip. Where should we go? What destinations have you loved?

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Book review: What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding

Sometimes, you pick up a book because you love the title. This is one of those books.

What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding: A Memoir is pretty much the best title ever for a memoir about being single when all of your peers are coupled off and having babies. As someone who was in a similar situation, I appreciate this title very, very much.

However ... I guess I did the whole "single in my 30s" thing wrong. Because author Kristin Newman spent her time traveling the world and sleeping with different flavors of international lovahs. I, on the other hand, mostly kept it in my pants. Like a loser.

Anyway. If you want a first-hand account of traveling with no particular plan and making friends with interesting people along the way and changing your return flights so you can keep chillin' with your new Latin lovah, this is the book for you. If you're looking for perhaps a more traditional view of navigating the "but I'm not like any of my friends" waters of 30s singledom, this is not the book for you.

Also? I feel like the author paid as little attention as possible to the real story. She became estranged from her dad for several years, due to a little stepmother situation ... and then she ended up taking care of that stepmother. This is the real story. While Kristin touches on it, she even admits that she can barely talk about it, much less write honestly. But I'd love to read a book about it when she's ready to dig in - she's a lovely writer, and an authentic look at the situation could be gratifying and useful.

Of course, it's also none of my damned business, and if she doesn't want to write about it, more power to her.

I give What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding 2 labradoodles who are kind of over it. No breeding here.
Is there a book that made your inner big-city book editor think the author should go in a different direction?

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Book review: Bettyville

I review a lot of books here, because I like to read, and it keeps me out of bar fights - for the most part. Most books I like just fine. Sometimes there are books that are like mustard to me - eww eww eww. And very rarely, there are books that I want to marry. Except I'm already married. And I'm pretty sure you can't marry a book.

I want to marry this book.

Bettyville: A Memoir by George Hodgman is just ... so ... oh. It's George's account of moving from NYC back to his small Missouri hometown to care for his ailing mother, Betty. She's fading, and the small town is fading, and George isn't sure where he fits in with it all - or if he ever has.

Oh, and he's a gay man whose parents never made peace with "how he is." And his mother has dementia.

Sounds like a real pick-me-up, right? Funny thing, though - it's really life-affirming.

The memoir is packed with moments like when Betty says, "I bet you wish I would die." And George's response is, "Not until you eat this damn meat loaf." It's an authentic dance between 2 people who love each other despite not understanding each other, told by a narrator who has an ear for dialogue and an eye for beauty.

I mean, there's an entire scene wherein his aunt sits on the porch to be with an alcoholic family friend who can't get out of his car. She just doesn't want him to be alone. Peace be still.

This book is honest and authentic and just lovely. It's one of those books where any description - at least in my feeble hands - won't do it justice. So, the best I can do is to tell you to go and get this book. You won't regret it.

On a scale of 1 to 5, I give Bettyville 9 packs of dogs.
I'm a sucker for books about the Midwest. Any favorites that you'd recommend?

Thursday, September 3, 2015

A minor treatise on women who lost their personalities in a parking lot somewhere, possibly outside Pottery Barn Kids.

There's a scourge invading our homeland. No, I'm not talking about Kardashians. It's worse.

I'm talking about the once-normal women who have morphed into 1-dimensional, perfect little fembots. I call them The Talbots.

These women are well-dressed in completely unobjectional attire. Their highlights are always within the bounds of good taste. Their husbands are well-employed and their children look like something out of a Tommy Hilfiger catalog. The homes? Pottery Barn and Restoration Hardware, but of course.

So, that part is annoying. And boring. But the real issue I have with The Talbots? They talk. All the time. About nothing at all.

Small talk is the game and your neighborhood Talbot is the grand champion. She will talk your ear off about what kid is going to what school and did you hear about her friends that you don't know, well they sold their house, and isn't it just great? It's all just great.

Here's the thing: there are some people who are just superficial, or dead inside, or whatever. And that's their thing, and it's cool - although I've never met anyone who said, "I'm dead inside and it's cool."

No, the rub is that the Talbots I know weren't always like this. They used to be interesting, engaged, educated women. Now?

Now, I want to stab myself in the eardrum when I see them coming.

Tell me what you're reading. Tell me a dirty joke. Tell me how the dog had diarrhea and half the family walked through it. Tell me anything that's real and authentic. But don't tell me everything is great and perfect and wonderful and also great. I don't believe you. In fact, I feel sorry for you.

I know it's easy for women to get lost in the roles of mother and wife. But it seems like some of my peers haven't so much gotten lost as turned into Stepford succubi completely devoid of personality.

I recognize that we are constantly reinventing ourselves, even when we have no idea what comes next.

But I also know that I miss some women who are here physically but mentally have left the building.

Be ugly. Just be real. And don't be a Talbot. The world needs you - the real you.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Book review: Let's Just Say It Wasn't Pretty

If we go way back - and I hope we do! - you might remember that I once reviewed Diane Keaton's autobiography, "Then Again." And you might also remember that I haaaaaated this book. I listened to it, and it didn't translate well to audiobook. It was hard to keep track of what was what.

But, I'm nothing if not a saint. So, I gave Diane another chance. I recently listened to her new book.

"Let's Just Say It Wasn't Pretty" is kind of a series of meditations on beauty. Written by someone who has been called both a style icon and someone who has "let herself go" by Hollywood standards, this should be a pretty good read, right?

Well ... kind of?

I found it comforting to read that she both stands by her style and beauty choices (Turtlenecks! No plastic surgery - at least not yet!) and feels conflicted by them. Movie stars - they're just like you and me!

But reading an entire book that jumps from confidence to "oh, shucks, I don't know" over and over again can be ... exhausting.

Listening to this audio book, I enjoyed the author reading her own work. So many times it doesn't work, but here it totally did. Diane Keaton is someone I'd love to sit near in a restaurant so I could eavesdrop. I'm not so sure, however, that I'd actually like to be at the same table. I don't think my little introverted heart could take a multi-course meal with her. I'd be exhausted.

So, the book. I loved her talking about how Victoria's Secret is so great because it encourages young women to love their shapes and have fun. I didn't love the in-depth description of shopping there with her daughter, complete with a rundown of what her daughter purchased with a gift card. This "yes, but I could have done without ..." theme kind of sums up my feelings on the book as a whole.

Make no mistake: I love Diane Keaton on screen. I'm so thankful she's (gasp!) aging like a normal human, even though she's in Hollywood. Here, she makes some great points and has some interesting stories. But this book? I found it to be a mixed bag.

I give it two mixed bags of dogs. Dogs that don't necessarily match.
Have you read either of Keaton's books? What did you think?

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Hanging out in bars is good for your marriage.

I wasn't aware that we needed a marriage tune-up. But I guess we did. And we got one. And it was glorious.

The other night, we went to a concert. We saw My Celebrity Boyfriend Dave Grohl in all his broken-leg, sitting-on-a-throne glory. I knew every song and felt - dare I say it? - cool.

My Guy felt pretty happenin', too. So, we did what cool and happenin' folk do - we went to a bar.

Now, you might say it was a tactical error to go to a bar not near the concert venue, but near our house. And you might be right. Because our local watering hole was kind of deserted. We sat at a table for about 10 minutes before we realized that the waitress had gone home and the bar was our only option. Not that any of the 4 bored bartenders loitering about actually told us this. We figured it out on our own.

So, we bellied up to the bar and ordered ourselves some Miller Lites. Because cold Miller Lite is the nectar of the gods. And if you don't believe me, there were about a dozen drunk people at the bar who would fight you for disagreeing.

Yes. We had stumbled into Drunktown.

There was the guy in the baseball jersey who had clearly been at the bar since the baseball game started some 6 hours earlier. He was holding court, but was in danger of falling off his bar stool.

Then there were the 3 guys who are probably good dudes but who had just enjoyed a little too much Miller Lite.

There were 2 old dudes who just looked sad, as you do at a bar at midnight if you're alone and over the age of 60.

And then there were two women. They both had a distinct "I have a few ill-conceived tattoos" vibe that did not promise stellar emotional well being. And lemme tell you: when those girls approached the bar, it was like throwing raw meat into a den of lions. All the menfolk were all over them.

Meanwhile, My Guy and I sipped our beers and studied the scene, like anthropologists. It was fascinating.

Baseball guy zeroed in on the broken woman with the ratty hair. She seemed to be on a mission to get him to buy her as many drinks as she could slam in a short amount of time.

The other broken woman bounced between the old guys and the probably normal guys, touching their arms and flipping her hair around. I was never good at flirting, but even I saw this as pathetic.

My Guy put his arm around me, partly to whisper in my ear and maybe also to let the leaches know that we were an item.

"Hey, babe?" he said. "You're a really attractive woman. But these girls make you look like a 13."

We laughed. I looked at him, and I looked at the drunken, desperate mating melee in front of us. "Thank God we're married," I said as we clinked glasses. "My appreciation of you grows stronger by the minute."

I looked into my beloved's eyes, and he looked into mine. We both glanced over as the baseball guy finally fell off his stool and managed to bring the ratty-haired woman down with him. Drinks were spilled. The desperation was palpable. And My Guy and I just sat in our smug nest of security and love and ordered another round.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Book review: In the Unlikely Event.

I'm bad at librarying. I'll reserve a bunch of books, and they'll all become available at once, and you can't renew books that have a waiting list, so then I'll end up with this high-pressure "read all the books at once" marathon of reading and listening to audio books and it all just calls for a stiff drink.

I get greedy. I love the library. They give you books! For free! Sometimes I overestimate my own reading potential and underestimate my need for sleep.

Anyway. I reserved Judy Blume's latest at the library. I waited a few months for it to become available, and then I picked it up right before I went out of town. And then I was reading another book, and then, pretty soon, I realized I had 4 days to start and finish the book before it was due. It was pretty high-pressure.

But dammit if it wasn't worth it.

"In the Unlikely Event" is a book for adults, but the main character is a 15-year-old girl. And dammit if Judy Blume can't write young people.

Reading this book took me back to devouring Judy's books for kids. I'd get my hands on a new-to-me Judy Blume book and I was lost to the world until it was done. Her characters spoke to me - they had horrible thoughts and things they didn't tell anyone else - just like me. It was a revelation, and seemed crazypants that An Adult wrote such things. Adults clearly didn't know anything about being a kid.

Har har.

"In the Unlikely Event" gave me that throwback reading experience, but it's also just a well-written book. It's engaging, with a plot that keeps you guessing and doesn't leave everyone living happily ever after - kind of like life.

My inner 10-year-old ached for the perfect happy ending. But my outer 40-year-old was thankful for such a fun read. All told, I give it 4 airline ground crew dachshunds.
What's your favorite all-time Judy Blume book? If forced to choose at gunpoint, I'd probably say "Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself." You?

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Book review: A Lucky Life Interrupted.

There has only ever been 1 newscaster in my life, and that man is Tom Brokaw. I lurve him. I wanted Brian Williams to be Tom Brokaw Jr., but that didn't quite pan out. But it's OK, because Tom is still doing special assignments and writing books and we can still spend quality time together. Because Tom is going to live forever. I decided this, and it's fine.

So, when he was diagnosed with cancer, it really messed things up. What about meeeee, Tom?

Actually, I think Tom was thinking, "Meeeee?"

And then he wrote about it in this lovely book.

A Lucky Life Interrupted: A Memoir of Hope is Tom's reflection on his cancer diagnosis and treatment, and coming to terms with his own fallibility. It's not a downer of a book, and it's not a "AND NOW EVERYTHING WILL BE FINE FOREVER" work of self-deception, either. It's honest and pragmatic. And Tom ...

(God help me, I can't stop referring to him by his first name, because I truly feel like I know him after 40 years together)

... acknowledges how lucky he has been in life, and how lucky he was in his health care options. The man's on the board of the Mayo Clinic, after all. And he can pick up the phone and call specialists and get the very best of the very best. He acknowledges this, and is humbled by the luxury.

But Tom also grumbles about how cancer took a few inches off his height. And how he hates the idea of not being able to go fly fishing, and the times he stupidly pushed his physical limits to disastrous consequences. He's honest, even in the ugly, "poor me" of being ill.

When my mom was sick, I wanted to make a t-shirt that said, "My mom has cancer, so fuck off." I'm a little touchy about magical unicorn books about illness, or woe-to-me outlooks. Honesty? Honesty is my jam. And my man Tom delivers.

I give this book four cancer-fighting labradoodles.

Important side note: My pal Alice once talked to Tom at a Starbucks and he was engaging and wonderful. Because he's from the Midwest. Ladies? If you want a nice, decent guy? Move here. We raise 'em right. Well, not "we" - I still can't totally potty-train my dachshund. But Midwestern ladies who have male human children? They do a good job.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Book review: Rebecca

Friends? Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again AND IT WAS AWESOME.

So, yeah. I read Daphne du Maurier's "Rebecca." I'd seen the movie a gajillion years ago, but had never read the book. And so, on our recent vacation, I sat by the pool, enjoyed a few adult beverages, and became completely terrified of Mrs. Danvers.

At one point, My Guy looked up from his Kindle and asked how my book was.

"Ohmigod, honey, it's crazypants," I said. "See, there's this kind of lady's assistant girl, who works for this horrible rich old lady, right? And she falls in love with this rich older guy and they get married, but when he takes her back to his estate, it turns out the housekeeper is completely obsessed with the dead first wife! And she died in a boating accident, but not really! And the evil housekeeper tries to get the young new wife to jump out the window!"

My sweet husband interrupted me. "And this is a true story? What the hell?"

Oh. "No, it's a novel."

My Guy sighed. "Oh. OK, then. Carry on."

But really, if you try to describe the action in this novel, it sounds like something out of Jerry Springer, but somehow classier because the characters are rich and have British accents. I don't think you could have a British accent and appear on "Springer." It just wouldn't work.

At any rate, I loved this novel. If it's been a while since you've read it, I'd encourage you to pick it up. Also? Here's a really interesting interview with du Maurier's son.

On a scale of 1 to 5, I give "Rebecca" 5 haughty dachshunds.
Have you read "Rebecca?" What did you think?

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Set adrift on memory bliss.

I was trying to be cool, working on my laptop at Starbucks. But I'm pretty sure I blew my own cover when I started belting En Vogue's "My Lovin' (You're Never Gonna Get It)."

Call it a hunch.

See, Big Doodle had his cancer treatment today, or as I like to think of it, BLADDERRAMA!. And BLADDERRAMA! takes place at the holistic vet office that's a solid 45 minutes from our house. Last week, I dropped him off, drove home, then turned around and picked him up, then drove home through rush hour. It was not efficient, unless my goal was to get all road ragey.

So, today, I packed up 57 pounds of laptop, notebooks, and printouts, and camped out at Starbucks near BLADDERRAMA!. I am not typically a work-in-Starbucks kinda gal. I don't drink coffee, and it's so easy to just people watch. So, I guess I was out of practice and ill-prepared.

I just wasn't ready for Starbucks to be blasting the music of my youth, the tunes of my peoples. Instead playing some horrible CD they were hawking, they had some sort of Pandora station set to the 90s. Oh, the 90s - when I graduated from high school and college. When I wore flannel shirts, body suits, and high-waisted jeans and considered Bud Light the ultimate classy beverage.

In the grand scheme of things, I feel like the 90s weren't that great of a time to come of age. The one time in my life I had a rockin' bod, the style was oversized everything. I weighed less than 100 pounds and wore XL sweatshirts. It was just morally wrong. Plus, I didn't remember the music being that great.

Until today.

I was trying to write a website about Medicare. But then, I was all bopping along to Jamiroquai. And trying not to sing along to Big Head Todd or Deee-Lite or New Radicals. I realized there were probably a gajillion girls who lost the big V to Mazzy Star's "Fade Into You" - although I wasn't one of them. And whatever happened to Lisa Loeb?

I really was trying to write about Medicare. But writing that website was a concern of Adult Becky. And Adult Becky had left the building. In her place was College Becky, who rocked those high-waisted jeans and hoped she could find a date to hayride. College Becky was really into "Counting Blue Cars" and knew on some level that these were good times that she'd look back on with fierce affection.

The thing about musical memories is that trying to share them is like forcing someone to listen to your dreams. It just doesn't translate. Musical memories are intimate, yours and yours alone.

Although I will tell you that "Counting Blue Cars" makes me want to stick my hands out of a sunroof and sing at the top of my lungs. Like you do when you've just turned 21 and everything is great and will be indefinitely.

What song triggers memories of your youth?

Thursday, July 23, 2015

I got a lot of problems with you people.

My dad joined Facebook and didn't accept my friend request.

He became friends with my mom and my brother and my husband a bunch of other people. But me, his firstborn? Naw.

My Guy kept casually mentioning it. "Oh, did you see I have a new Facebook friend? I don't think you're friends with him, but he's a really cool guy."

Sometimes it's OK to punch your husband, right?

Later, Dad claimed it was a computer glitch, and boy wasn't it easy to mess things up on the Internet? I think he was afraid that things might devolve into fisticuffs - we were meeting up at a family reunion. And it would be kind of a downer if we had a brawl in front of all the cousins.

But instead, we got along just fine, as is our custom. And we hung out with everyone from his side of the family - and I do mean everyone. His 2 siblings, us 8 cousins, the 13 kids of the cousins, all the various and sundry spouses. It was the first time we'd all been together since my grandma's funeral in 2002, and man, was it good for my soul.

My brother organized the whole shebang, and each night had a program. One night, the siblings talked about their childhoods. The other nights, us cousins answered questions about our memories of family times. I had forgotten about reenacting "The Towering Inferno" in Grandma's basement ... and no, I'm not sure what to think of my cousin's lingering fondness for O.J. Simpson based on that movie. But he's kind of embarrassed about it, and it's all just fine.

It's lovely to have shared experiences, and it's such a gift to have family that really is just that: family. The people who are important to you, whom you love in ways you can't describe - even if you don't see them for 10 years or you think they're mildly (or moderately) insane.

I'm blessed.

And I was blessed today to take another family member, Big Doodle, to the holistic vet who has helped Lil' Frankfurter. My giant dog who has been peeing blood like it's an Olympic sport and he's training to be a gold medalist?

Yeah. We're now treating it like bladder cancer.

But because he is family, we are pulling out the big guns with vitamin infusions and herbal remedies. And because Big Doodle is love covered in fur, he was quite happy to get yet another catheter, to let the techs shave his ankle and give him an I.V. It was OK - he had trust.

I trust that we're going to do right by this dog. I know I am blessed to have him - and all those other crazy jokers - in my family. We're all just trying to do right by each other, even if it means accidentally not being Facebook friends or some such nonsense. We've got the important stuff covered.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Book review: The Unlikely Pilgramage of Harold Fry

Another Wednesday, another book report!

If anyone would like to come over to my house and join me as I beat the hell out of my modem, that would be super-cool. You know what slowly but surely robs you of grace and dignity? An entire day of dial-up-esque Internet speeds.

But you know what book moves at a slow yet lovely pace?

That would be The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry: A Novel. (How was that for a fancy segue?)

Harold is a retiree, a nobody who gets a letter in the mail from someone he used to work with. His former coworker is in hospice, and was just saying goodbye. Harold sets off to mail his reply ... and then becomes convinced that if he delivers the letter in person, he can keep his friend alive.

And so, Harold walks. Hundreds of miles in yachting shoes, with no cell phone. His wife is beside herself. What sort of crazypants idea is this?

The book unfolds slowly, carefully - like getting to know and appreciate an introverted person.

I don't want to share too much, as the beauty of this book is in how the story unfurls. I had a little trouble getting into it, because, after all? On the surface, it's just a lot of walking. But Harold's life, and his history with his coworker, the relationships with his wife and son - they are all told with love and brutal honesty.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry is just a lovely little book. I give it 4 sauntering labradoodles.
Huge thanks to reader Karen for recommending this book about 17 years ago. My to-read pile is now only slightly taller than me. What great books should I add to it?

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Book review: The Sisters.

This morning, I actually found myself saying, "You didn't eat the poopie - good job!"

Yeah, we're setting the bar really low.

I really am a literate, sort of educated person. And, I'm way behind on book reviews. So, today is as good a day as any to launch a new feature here at Noodleroux: Wordy Wednesdays. Each Wednesday, a new book review for your reading pleasure. Sometimes I recommend fab books. Other times, I read a horrible book so you don't have to. You're welcome.

In light of the dog poo comments this morning, today's book review is an attempt to get back any Klassy Lady cred I might have ever had. Obviously, this means reviewing a book about real life classy ladies.
The Sisters: The Saga of the Mitford Family by Mary S. Lovell was on my list for a while. My pal Liza, who loves smart books, smart women, and a good, gossipy tale, raved about it. It just took me about 4 years to get to reading it.

Here's the scoop: the Mitfords were fancypants English aristocrats who had 7 kids right around the time of WWI. Six girls and 1 boy. The boy was everybody's darling, but the sisters? Whoa, the sisters. One ended up being a duchess, one was a communist, one wrote tell-all books based on her family, one left her husband for the head of the Fascists in Britain ... oh, and then there was the sister who became obsessed with Hitler. And then the quiet sister. But all of these women were troublemakers.

This book is well-written, carefully researched, and quite detailed. If you're interested in British history or WWII, you'll like it. Me? Well ... I mostly thought it highlighted that school is important. I just kept thinking that these obviously very intelligent girls would have had better outlets than, you know, becoming obsessed with Hitler if they'd been allowed to go to school.

That's right. Their mom thought educating girls made them pedestrian, and school wasn't proper for a society girl. The sisters begged to go to school and were consistently turned down.

Excuse me while my brain explodes.

I found most of the characters exhausting. Interesting, but not people you'd want to spend a lot of time with. But, then again, I spend my time with a dachshund who did a good job by not eating poop. Take my review with a grain of kibble.

My review: two of five dachshunds.
What have you been reading lately?

Thursday, July 9, 2015

I have a placemat for my VCR. If I still had a VCR.

The new phone book's here! The new phone book's here!
Or, rather, my new issue of Uppercase magazine. You know, the issue that features a piece by me? Yeah, I'm published. Whatevs.

Except it's kind of a big deal. It makes me happy, and is a gentle prod to keep keep keep writing.

You can see the issue here. However, the resolution isn't so hot, so here's my article for your viewing pleasure.


My grandma created many beautiful items. She crocheted baby blankets and tatted Christmas ornaments. Those of us lucky enough to be in her family have potholders and afghans crafted as her slim fingers flew, needle and thread in hand.

Grandma filled her home with lovely things, items that were arranged just so. She loved to have people over, and took pride in providing a comfortable, gracious home. That house on Lacey Drive was always spotless. Grandma took care of business.

So, when the kids encouraged “the folks” to get a VCR, preparations needed to be made. You couldn’t just plop the machine on top of the console TV – it might scratch the wood. And so, the VCR sat on the carpet until Grandma could crochet a placemat.

The placemat was perfectly sized and made of the same creamy yarn she used for countless blankets. It protected the TV from whatever evil was lurking underneath the VCR. We grandkids giggled as we reprogrammed the VCR’s clock for the umpteenth time, but we accepted that grandmas were just wired to crochet placemats for their electronics.

The placemat was in a box of linens that I’ve toted around since we emptied the house Grandma and Grandpa called home for 40 years. Now, I realize this is no ordinary placemat.

This placemat is a work of art. Even though it was created to hide under a VCR, spending its life in the dark, the placemat has a series of intricate patterns. Instead of row after row of plain stitches, it has ribs and meticulous designs. The patterns were thoughtfully laid out to create a perfectly VCR-sized end product. It was created with care.

Grandma loved handicrafts, and the way she and Grandpa lived their lives showed they believed a job worth doing was worth doing well. Discovering that the VCR placemat was no exception was not a huge surprise.

Grandma been gone for 14 years, Grandpa for 9. They were married for 69 years. I miss them every day.

But little things like the VCR placemat remind me that they’re here, that I have a history. And a little OCD isn’t a bad thing. And even work that will be hidden should still be beautiful.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Love is helping your honey walk around the driveway.

I have a crush on my octogenarian neighbor. He sits in a lawn chair outside his garage quite a bit, and is always quick with a smile and a wave when I walk by with the dogs. He's also the guy who told me that he was cleaning up his yard because his grandson was coming, and he didn't want the young man to think that his ol' grandpa was getting soft.

See? Crush. Deep crush.

I hadn't seen Cute Neighbor Man for a while, and I started to worry. But then I started seeing him driving past with his wife at the wheel. They would both wave, and I would wave in return, resisting the urge to throw myself in front of their vehicle and demand to know what was going on.

We are neighbors, maybe six houses away. I don't even know their names. But we smile and wave and exchange pleasantries. I certainly don't know them well enough to ask if everything is OK.

Recently, Cute Neighbor Man resumed his post in the driveway, this time with a walker and his wife by his side. Her hair is the most beautiful color of silver. And the walker seemed an unwelcome interloper.

The dogs and I walked by. We smiled and waved. It felt like such an invasion to ask about the walker and compression hose, so we chatted about a neighbor's remodeling project. I was talking about new windows, but what I really meant was, "You are brave and amazing."

A few days ago, the dogs and I walked by as Cute Neighbor Man was making his way down the driveway, aided by a cane. His wife was by his side, ready to grab her love should he falter.

Although they were just doing a little physical therapy in the cool morning air, I felt as though I had stumbled into a very intimate, private moment. It was a scene of trust and dedication and true partnership.

And then there was pride. Cute Neighbor Man was clearly embarrassed to be seen at a weak moment. Big Doodle trotted towards him, and my neighbor said, "I know, you say, 'Why's that guy walking so funny?'" He smiled.

I looked down at my huge dog with the hot mess haircut from his medical adventures, the lanky pup with a funny gait from having basically no hip sockets left. I smiled. "You know," I said, "It's fine, because he's walking funny, too."

I was talking about my dog, but what I was really saying was, "We all have our moments. We're all delicate. It's OK."

And we all laughed, and I took my dogs on down the street. Not because I didn't want to cheer on these lovely, good people, but because I was an interloper. They were in the thick of Marriage.

We celebrate youth and weddings. But I can't help but think we're missing the boat. We should celebrate the mate who drives you to your colonoscopy and doesn't make fun of you too much. Or the spouse that gracefully supports a venture that may or may not be crazy because their love is in love with it. There should be marriage merit badges, and ceremonies and parties for reaching certain milestones.

But it's all so intimate. I'm guessing my neighbors wouldn't want that kind of attention. But I just might make my husband a sash and some badges. It seems appropriate.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Traveling the country, like "Kung Fu" or "Highway to Heaven."

When Geriatric Poodle wasn't so geriatric, his spleen just kinda ripped in half for no reason.

We happened to be at the vet. He collapsed, like that scene from "Bambi" when the animals are learning to ice skate. His legs just slid out from under him. It was horrible.

A few hours later, I was driving across town to the emergency vet. I had a comatose poodle on my lap and a bag of donor blood in the seat next to us. I was barely - barely! - keeping it together.

In the parking lot of the emergency vet, a rather granola-ish lady was getting in her car. She stopped and visited with us. She said, "Your baby is very ill."

Although I was thinking, "Yeah, no shit," I did not have any mental reserves, and speaking without crying was a challenge. So I just nodded.

She said, "I'm a poiwnvoipuiyswekrhlkwyer healer. May I send healing energy to your dog?"

I literally have no idea what kind of healer she said she was. But I nodded, and she put her hands on my sweet dog. Healer Lady closed her eyes, and Not-So-Geriatric Poodle sighed.

And then Healer Lady told us to have a blessed day, got in her Corolla, and left.

After a scary few days, my poodle pal was just fine. We never found out what caused the torsion, but he didn't seem to miss his spleen. Who knew an entire organ could be so superfluous?

Sometimes I think about Healer Lady. I wonder if I imagined her, or if she was some sort of magician, just traveling the land from emergency vet to emergency vet, healing animals in the parking lots. I would totally watch that show. But if nothing else, I was and am so thankful for the thoughtfulness, and the energy.

Which brings us to this week.

I was back at the emergency vet, this time with Big Doodle. We thought he had a UTI, but now it looks like it might be something more complicated and/or sinister. He's one test result away from driving two hours to a vet school so they can scope a camera up his private parts.

All the vets we've seen have been so kind and complimentary. "I see a lot of dogs," one of them said. "This is literally one of the nicest dogs I've ever met."

"I couldn't believe it," said another. "He let me catheterize him like it was nothing."

High praise, indeed.

Of all the people we've seen, we haven't yet seen Healer Lady. I've seen a lot of Anxiety-Ridden Mom in the mirror, but I'm not feeling chill and centered. I'm feeling like I could probably go for an Ativan and a stiff drink.
Behold, the boy's amazing, ultrasound-friendly summer haircut.
So, if you would? Consider sending a little healing energy to Big Doodle. Or if you see Healer Lady? Direct her Corolla our way. Thanks.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Wuhve. Twuu wuhve.

I'm tucked away in my office, listening in on my husband's conference call. I'm not trying to be a Nosy Nellie, but he's on speakerphone down the hall, and I have ears. Also, I would very much like to go use the blender, but I'm guessing that would be bad marital etiquette.

His voice his calm and measured. But I can tell he's mad as hell. Like, "Ima burn down your cubicle with you sittin' in it" angry.

I guess this is a symptom of marriage. Not the plotting homicide part. The "I know what you're really thinking" part. You spend so much time with someone that you learn the subtleties of their language. Verbal language, sure. But tone and delivery and timing and holy crap, don't even get me started on body language.

I freely admit I'm a novice at this whole marriage thing. It's been 4 years and I still have moments of wondering when this person is going to go home. But one of the real joys so far has been getting to truly know this amazing, interesting, textured person.

He's introduced me to new things about myself, too. I was not fully aware of how completely psychokitty I can be when I'm exhausted. Now, he reads my signs and I see his signals. I start to tired clean, and he physically points me in the direction of the bedroom. He's kind yet firm, and I realize, "Oh, he means business and I'm too tired to do anything that will end well." We have a system. A shorthand.

In the past, when I'd broken up with boyfriends, I would mourn the shorthand and the inside jokes. But I had no idea. Dating - and I once dated a guy for 7 years - offers the Cliffs Notes of couple shorthand. Marriage is more of an Encyclopedia Britannica. Do either of this publications still exist, or do they now collectively go by the moniker "Wikipedia?"

At any rate, I will stick with my old-school references and my old-school thoughts about marriage. It's a privilege. And I married well. And if he does burn somebody's cubicle to the ground, I will bail him out.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Mice. Why did it have to be mice?

The first thing I did was pour some wine and turn up the Earth, Wind & Fire.

Of course, I'm talking about finding mouse poo in my silverware drawer again. Again again. For the fourth time in 2 months.

My Guy has set traps. I've shoved foil in every crevice of the cabinet boxes and sprayed peppermint oil everywhere. And yet?

And yet. The lure of the tortilla chips in the bread drawer is just too strong. And you can't make a trip to the bread drawer without first shitting all over the silverware drawer. Duh.

I will admit this freely: I got myself good and drunk while tearing my kitchen apart for the fourth time in recent memory. I could try to blame it on fumes from the bleach wipes, but let's be honest: it was the wine, and then the bloody mary. Oh, and the bitterness. Don't forget the bitterness.

My impaired state did give me a special insight, though. It seems so odd that this evil force would continue to rise up again and again. This isn't how the world works at all. I have to believe that good eventually wins out or my little heart will explode.

But ... what if the mice aren't evil? What if our little rodent brethren are ... the good guys?

This would make me the bad guy. The antagonist, if you will. I am the evil doer, the force trying to stop hardworking mice folk who just need a tortilla chip to feed their families. I have no excuse for attempting to hoard all the tortilla chips. None.

It was at this point in my drunken introspection that I realized: I am Hans Gruber.

My house is the set of "Die Hard," and the mouse is Bruce Willis, walking barefoot across broken glass, trying to get to the tortilla chips. That makes me evil Hans Gruber, being all German and bad.

Or maybe the scene playing out is "The Lego Movie," and I'm maniacal President Business. The mouse and his pals are the regular Lego folk, and I'm attempting to squash their dreams. Everything is not awesome!

But no. My house is now "The Sound of Music." The mice are the Von Trapp family, except instead of climbing over the Alps to freedom, they are traversing my kitchen cabinets, looking for freedom in the form of slightly stale tortilla chips. And I'm a Nazi! I'm like Liesl's dirty Nazi boyfriend, Rolfe, standing up for all that is wrong and Fascist and khaki.

I may be slightly overreacting. I'm probably just The Six-Fingered Man from "The Princess Bride," and the 1 lone, poor little mouse is Inigo Montoya. Last fall, I killed his father in a trap, and now he must get vengeance by eating all my tortilla chips and/or giving me the plague by pooping on my cereal spoon. Except that I don't speak mouse and therefore can't decipher it when he's all, "Hello! My name is Inigo Montoya! You kill my father! Prepare to die!" So it kind of loses some of its impact.

Or, maybe my meager kitchen is the site of "Raiders of the Lost Ark." Our little mouse friend is Indiana Jones, trying to keep the tortilla chips out of the wrong hands.

Try not to be jealous of my mad Photoshop skillz.

And yet again, I am a Nazi. Fitting, no? Mouse Indiana gets the tortilla chips, but then I throw away what's left of the bag, and then where is he? Maybe the big garbage can in the garage is my home's equivalent of the gigantic warehouse at the end of the movie, where stuff gets stashed, never to be seen again. And I admit, when I first saw the mouse poo? It did feel like my face was melting.

I would be willing to proclaim myself the bad guy, to own up to being in the wrong if it meant no more mouse poo. Don't get me wrong - I'm mega psyched that Indiana Mouse has finally stopped exploring the dish towel and waxed paper drawers and now focuses solely on the bread and silverware drawers. I'd just appreciate it if he found another movie set to explore.

Otherwise, I might have to channel Drew Barrymore in "Firestarter."

Thursday, May 21, 2015

This is 40. Or, how I almost killed myself doing a lazy triathlon.

So, we're at the beach.
This is the beach, yo.
It's lovely. My Guy and I are having a combo celebration covering both our anniversary and my birthday. We like to multitask.

I decided that instead of being depressed about turning the big 4-oh, I would be thankful. So many people don't get this privilege. And, as My Guy and I discussed, we are rich as helllllll. We are happy and healthy and engaged in pursuits that challenge us and bring us joy. We are surrounded by healthy, loving, amazing friends and family. We have the 2 best dogs in the universe. (OK, we have 1 great dog and 1 jerkface dog, but I will fight anyone who says they are less than amazing.)

Life is good.

And so, I decided I wanted to celebrate 40 with feats of strength. I wanted to push myself and prove that I am capable of much more than I realize. My Guy, the jock, was more than willing. And so, my sweet husband created The Lazy Triathlon.

Instead of swim/bike/run, The Lazy Triathlon would include kayaking, riding tourist bikes, and walking on the beach. It all sounded pretty sweet.

First up? Walking on the beach. This is pretty much in my top 5 things to do ever, so easy peasy. One morning, we walked to the end of the beach. 10,000 barefoot steps before 11 a.m.? Don't mind if I do!

We decided to tackle the kayaking and biking back-to-back. First up? Kayaking. So peaceful and amazing. I cannot stress enough the value of a) an athletic husband; and b) a 2-seater kayak. I sat in the front and paddled away, feeling like a total badass. However, if we're honest? My Guy did the heavy lifting here. But we floated past mangroves and watched fish and birds and were totally 1 with nature, bitches.

For those keeping track, I wore my water shoes for the kayaking. Best $11.99 Target purchase ever, because even though I've worn them exactly twice in 8 years, just owning them makes me feel like I might be an athletic person.

After the kayaking, I felt the need for a snack. Also, it was hot. Damn hot. And my shorts were wet from the kayak. I left my shorts to dry on the dash of the rental car and walked into the snack bar wearing my swimsuit. Again, like a real, live athletic person.

The snack bar did not have snacks so much as it had a fryer. I selected french fries to fuel my biking adventure. They truly seemed like the best choice, as the other options all involved meat in casings. I was being an athlete by choosing fries.

Let's overlook the fact that most truly athletic ventures do not include the term "snack bar."

By the time I consumed those bad boy fries, my shorts were dry. I changed into my tennis shoes and realized it was approximately 700 degrees out. No problem - I was wearing a hat, and donning my third footwear choice for this third stage of The Lazy Triathlon.

My Guy and I rented 1-gear bikes. These were bikes that would even make The Golden Girls scoff. But they were our bikes, and off we went.

Full sun. Belly full o' french fries. Using muscles that last saw action during the Reagan administration. Good times.

Well, good times until I realized that fries are salty and I was dehydrated. And in full sun.

About that time, an older couple passed us on bikes. "I thought we were the only crazy ones," the man exclaimed. The woman, with teased hair of a color not found in nature, smiled gamely, but I could see it in her eyes. She was not having fun. She was indoorsy.

I briefly considered grabbing the woman and suggesting that we sit in the shade while the menfolk biked around like damned fools. But then I remembered my desire for kicking ass and taking names via feats of strength. We pedaled on.

To his credit, My Guy fully acknowledged how hot and miserable the entire experience was. His conversation ranged from "We can stop anytime" to "Tredge, tredge, tredge" to "I really doubt we'll actually die out here." And when I told him to shut up? He just laughed.

We biked and biked and biked. And then realized later that we had biked a little beyond the actual endpoint of the official trail. We were champions!

To be honest, the trail was paved and flat. But this was my second time on a bike in 20 years. And the air was like lava, if lava were, you know, air.

But we did it. We completed The Lazy Triathlon. And I didn't even die. I thought I was going to throw up, but I avoided that, too. It was a win all around.
Me, after completing The Lazy Triathlon. I love my husband so much that I cropped him out of this photo because we both look completely insane. Look at those eyes. Those aren't the eyes of a sane person.
We've joked about getting a "TRI" sticker for the my car, but I think it's a bad idea. After all, then people will want to talk to me about my tri experience, and then they'll learn that The Lazy Triathlon was about 2,586% better than their tri, and then they'll just feel bad. And who needs that?

I guess this is the grace that comes with age. 

Thursday, May 7, 2015

An open letter to the kids who went to prom in Des Moines on Saturday.

Dear friends,

I had no idea that getting your prom photos taken outside of the Iowa statehouse was a thing.

But it totally makes sense. With its gold dome, the capitol is pretty stunning. I tend to feel sorry for all other state capitols, as they are clearly deficient. As my brother pointed out, this is especially true for Nebraska. He referred to their skyscraper capitol as "The Penis of the Plains."


But anyway. You all looked so lovely in all your prom finery. I realize I'm now an old biddy, because I look at you and think you look to be about 12, and I have old-lady thoughts like, "I'm so glad long dresses are back in style. Nobody needs to see vagina at prom."

But you looked great.

Now, I feel like perhaps I should apologize for what happened on the steps of the statehouse, but then again? Maybe I should just explain.

My incredible family feted me with a surprise early birthday celebration. These amazing people planned many fun surprises, and we had a wonderful time together. Saturday afternoon, we spent 3 hours and $36 playing arcade games and drinking beer. We had no idea my dad was such a pinball whiz, but it's true. You learn new things about the people you love all the time.

I should probably also mention that at this bar/arcade, my mom and I were hit on by 2 very nice gentlemen. They tried to buy her shots and bought me a beer. You're in high school and don't need to drink and probably get hit on 24/7 because you're young, hot, and hormonal, but this was a big deal to us. See, I'm turning 40 next week. And my mom has been married for 46 years. Having these guys hit on us was kind of the highlight of our years.

We were feeling giddy.

And so, when we were walking back to the car, post-arcade? It just made sense that I would run up the steps of the statehouse, a la "Rocky."

At first, we thought all the matching white tuxes meant there was a wedding. But then, we realized that it was prom, and photos were the name of the game. So, we improvised, and decided that instead of running up the steps to the statehouse, I'd just run up the steps leading up to the steps of the statehouse. There are a lot of steps.

I played "Gonna Fly Now" on my phone and ran up the steps while my family cheered and my mom captured the magic on video. I ended jogging at the top, arms raised in triumph.
No, I'm not having a seizure. I'm triumphing over adversity.
Except that the camera didn't work. We had to reenact the magic. No problem. I played "Gonna Fly Now" and ran up the next section of stairs. We got more into it, and my family pretended to be the kids in "Rocky II" who run up the steps with him. We were fucking champions.

But the camera didn't work again. So, we re-re-enacted the moment, looking more ridiculous than ever but having a great time. Pretending to be Rocky without actually getting punched is pretty sweet. I highly recommend it. You're gonna eat lightening and you're gonna crap thunder!
So, my friends? That's why you have a ragtag group of random people running and jumping around in the background of your prom photos. Years from now, when you're showing your prom photos to your kids and grand kids, you can tell them that while getting dressed up and fancy is fun? Acting silly and looking stupid is where the real joy is.

Also? You're gonna regret those white tuxes.