Thursday, December 8, 2016

Patience and grace and remodeling.

Don't ever pray for patience.

If you do, God will laugh at you and somehow convince you that it's a good idea - nay, a necessity - to remodel your kitchen. And then you will learn about patience.

This is what patience looks like.
Why would you pray for this?

Now, to be fair, the kitchen hasn't looked like that for a few weeks. It's been a series of exciting gains, like when the cabinets were delivered to the living room.
And then when they were installed in the actual kitchen.
And why yes, yes I did shoot a photo documentary of our new refrigerator being delivered.
For those playing along at home, never fear - the old fridge is still right next to our front door. Because we're klassy like that.

And so the cabinets are in and the countertop is on and, as of about 20 minutes ago, the tile is installed but waiting grout.

I put plates in the cabinets because I just couldn't stand it any more. They will all need to be washed and the cabinets will need to be dusted again, sure. But having plates makes me think that I might be a real, live grown-up in a real, functional home.

This might be the worst part of the whole remodel, the most "the night before Christmas," sick-to-my-stomach, can't-hardly-wait part. We're so close. So close!

Also? To the ladies at the two different tile shops who tried to convince me that I didn't want the backsplash I wanted? Who were sure I would be happier with something beige-y and cream? And especially to the one lady who couldn't find a tile to match my paint swatch and so actually suggested that I repaint all the trim in my entire house?

This backsplash is kick-ass and you just wish you were half the design visionary that I am. SUCK. IT.

I have been patiently waiting to tell you this since July. You're welcome.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Let's hear it for the boy!

I have a bit of a problem with stalking. As in, I do it.

Long-time readers know that I am mildly obsessed with one of the check-out guys at my grocery store. When he started a few years ago, he wouldn’t make eye contact with anyone. He didn’t interact. He was very focused on bagging, and it seemed to be a real challenge.

A little while after that? Well, I noticed him smiling broadly while restocking carts. His teeth were gorgeous – big, lovely pearls. Like, movie star teeth. And when he got picked up at the end of his shift? Well, he opened the car door, let out a whoop, and hopped inside.

I swear, I’m not just loitering about the grocery parking lot. I’m just there a lot because my husband is ridiculous and seems to think he needs to eat every single day. Completely irrational, I know.

So, on my many trips to the grocery, I always make a point to thank My Bagger Boyfriend for sacking my supplies. I’m used to him looking down and, at most, acknowledging me with a barely perceptible nod. It’s cool.

But this week? This week, he sacked my udon noodles and bag of salad because kitchen remodeling has shocked any meal planning skills right outta my system. And then? Before I could thank him for said bagging? My Bagger Boyfriend looked in my general direction and said, “Have a good day.”

Now, it is nothing short of a miracle that I didn’t permanently scar this poor guy by immediately grabbing him in my arms and proclaiming my love and pride. But because I’m all emotionally strong and shit, I acted chill. No big deal. Nothing to see here.

But really? It was the highlight of my week. And this is coming from someone who got a new refrigerator this week. More on that later.

It’s a privilege to watch this young man blossom, to watch his story unfold.

It makes me hope that we all have secret cheering societies, our own little pep squads of which we are completely oblivious. The other day, when you managed to pump gas without dribbling it all over your shoes? That gas station attendant who wears sandals year-round saw you, and he was full of stoic pride. And you don’t know it, but he will report it proudly at the weekly pep rally in which your fans cheer you on and revel in your successes big and small.

There will be confetti.

Friday, November 18, 2016

In which my husband saves the day yet again.

I'm sorry to say that I'm not feeling funny. I'm sad and everything is terrible. People are hating each other and it makes me sad. My 12-year-old labradoodle is having trouble walking and has stopped sleeping through the night and it makes me sad and very, very tired. The oak mites are still dropping from the sky and biting poor, innocent people and it makes me sad and itchy and welty.

So, to combat this, I'm delving into a deep well of joy. Obviously, I'm talking about the notes I've scribbled hither and yon, based on conversations with my husband. My Guy pretends to be a mild-mannered software architect, but really? Really, he's the funniest human alive. Here are a few of his direct quotes.

"I'm sorry to say we no longer eat on Thursdays."

"I ain't refurbishing no damned IHOPs."

"He has curry sweat."

"My jokes are varied and rich."

"You don't know shit about beach towels, but I do!"

Sometimes, you have to find joy in the small things, the one-off comments, the way the light of the super moon reflects off your geriatric dog when he decides he needs to sit on the patio at 2 a.m. This is one of those times.

What's keeping you afloat? And can I have some?

Friday, November 4, 2016

Use the "good" soaps and the fancy "guest" towels.

I know it's not appropriate to stomp your feet and yell, "No, no, no" upon reading the obituary of a 92-year-old woman. But that didn't stop me.

My mom sent me the obit for our family friend Bea. The Cliffs Notes version is that Bea lived life to the fullest and 92 years is a good, good run. We should be celebrating her life.

And I am. But there's more to it.

Back in the day, Bea finally got me to try online dating. First of all, she wanted to set me up with her ENT doctor. That didn't quite work out - something about him being not-quite-divorced and the dad of, like, 17 kids. But Bea led by example ... and met a man when she was in her 80s. Her exact words were, "I'm just over the moon! We don't have a lot of time, and I don't want to waste any of it!"

Bea's son walked her down the aisle. And I figured if Bea could find joy, I could, too. So I got off my couch and started interacting with the world again after a long hiatus.

My memories of Bea are of lipstick and laughter and being involved. She was on a committee with my mom. She helped out at the church with my grandma. She made my dad laugh with her funny stories.

Today, reading her obituary? I learned that Bea's mother died when she was just 4 years old. She was eventually sent to live with a cousin. But what could have been a heartbreaking situation was a house filled with love, a home where Bea was welcomed as a sibling and as a daughter, not as a stranger. I'm so thankful. They helped fill her tank for a lifetime of loving everyone she met.

I can't help but think of the Erma Bombeck column, "If I had my life to live over." Bea burned the fancy candles and used the "good" soaps. And I feel like that's the best way to honor her. Live it up. Use it up.

I always found it comforting to know that Bea was in the world. I think now the task is to be the Bea. If you need me, I'll be out with the girls, enjoying fou-fou cocktails and wearing an outfit that's a little too fancy because, well, why not?

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Three people who change my life every day.*

My dachshund attempted to eat the tennis balls off of an older lady's walker while my giant labradoodle made sweet, sweet love to his human girlfriend.

Let me back up.

The dogs and I walk every day. If it's actively precipitating and we can't go, there is great unrest in the pack. We walk! That's what we do!

Maybe 18 months ago, we made a new friend on our jaunt around the neighborhood. There's a family-owned barbershop a block over, and the mom of the owner does nails. She was sitting outside on a bench in the sun when we came by.

Big Doodle basically attacked her with slobber and love. He just knew she was his person. Their love was mutual and immediate.

Since then, the barbershop has become a can't-miss destination. When Big Doodle hurt his leg at the beginning of the year, our goal was for him to be able to walk to the barbershop. It was necessary for his emotional well being. They are his pack.

The pack has expanded to include the owner of the shop and the lovely woman who does hair. They let us come in and shed all over. They then ply the pups with dog treats and popcorn.

Yes. They save day-old popcorn and bring in treats just for Big Doodle and Lil' Frankfurter.

At first, Lil' Frank was scared and did his usual cowering routine. But now? Now, he feels completely safe and will get a little pushy about wanting - nay, requiring - his recommended dose of popcorn.

So, Lil' Frank lets folks pet him, and Big Doodle makes the rounds, gooing on whoever will talk sweet to him and offer a few pets. It's clearly the highlight of their days - mine, too.

Today, an older lady was getting her hair set when we stopped by. Her walker was standing next to the barber chair. No big deal.

The dogs enjoyed their popcorn and their pets. And then? Lil' Frank noticed the walker. It had split tennis balls on the bottom of the legs so that it would glide easier.

Tennis balls! Lil' Frank lost his mind. He was so excited! He then attempted to remove the balls from the walker.

Meanwhile, everyone laughed and Big Doodle slobbered on his girlfriend and she cooed, "Oh, Doodle, I just love you so much!"

Is it any wonder that when we walk by on Sundays, we must all stand forlorn at the door, pouting?**
I'm thankful for these kind people who welcome our ragtag crew.

*Except on Sundays.
**One Sunday we were pouting and the owner pulled up right then and there, as if on a mighty white steed. He let us in and of course provided popcorn. Now, Big Doodle thinks that if he just pouts long enough, this should happen each time.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

What's your breaking point?

I found mine.

We are in the midst of a kitchen remodel, so our house is filled with dust and the basement is now our primary living area. I work from home, so I basically never leave our basement. If you need me, you can find me underground, attempting to work and simultaneously comfort our sweet geriatric Big Doodle, who is very unsettled by all the traffic and noise in our house. Lil' Frankfurter isn't as emotionally invested, but barks about every two minutes, just to cover his bases.

There's a lot of panting.

But one of the calming activities for our pack is our daily walk. Combine that with our usual afternoon session of TENNIS BALL MADNESS in the backyard, and you have a couple of pooches who just might be too tired to freak out at full-force. Or at least that's the idea.

It's autumn. The days are lovely. Walks are pleasant. Except ... my fair city is in the midst of an oak mite infestation of epic proportions. These microscopic bugs drop from oaks and bite whatever they land on. You can't see them, and they are immune to bug spray.

Every street in my neighborhood is lined with trees. Oak trees. Big, huge oak trees.

You can see where this is going.

I have oak mite bites all over my neck and décolletage. I know they are oak mite bites because my book club got real personal the other night and we all compared bites. Everyone has them, so I'm not a total leper.

However, as we have seen this summer, I tend to have crazy reactions to bug bites. Or, as my brother so aptly put it, "Ugh, you have a weird relationship with insects. Weird and potentially fraught with inflammation."

Needless to say, my neck and lady décolletage aren't just covered with oak mite bites, but with giant, welty bites that hurt. I must say that I'm pretty proud of how I fashioned what appears to be a scarf ...
... but is actually a dishtowel wrapped around an ice pack. Because a) I was able to find a clean dishtowel amongst the kitchen remodel madness; and b) I finally bought a real ice pack for $2.69 instead of just using a bag of frozen peas. I have passed some sort of adulting milestone. Also? The ice pack can also be microwaved and become a heat pack. I had no idea such a thing existed! This technology is amazing!

So, I've been trying to keep it together, me and my neurotic dogs and painful oak mite bites and fashionable neck accessories and dust-filled house with no kitchen. I was pretty successful.

Then, my husband called me. He has to travel for business in about a week and wanted to know if I'd like to tag along. This was sweet of him, and is a perk of working from home. But leaving in the midst of a remodel and abandoning our neurotic dogs who can't be boarded didn't seem like a smart move. I pointed this out.

My darling husband considered for a moment and then said, "Oh. I forgot about the kitchen."

I clutched my ice pack and surveyed my basement lair. He forgot. He forgot because he gets to leave every day. He forgot.

I got gracious because when there's a homicide, they always investigate the spouse and I'm a bad liar. We both agreed it wasn't a good time for both of us to be gone. Fine. We moved on and I only held the tiniest of grudges.

Later that night, I realized that at some point, some worker had removed the light fixture from the ceiling of our kitchen. The fixture that we were still going to use in the kitchen. It was nowhere to be found.

I had a bad feeling. I emailed the contractor, whom I like very much. His response was basically, "Hmm. Well, if you don't see it laying around, it probably got thrown out. Were you going to use it somewhere?"

Yes. We were going to use it RIGHT WHERE IT WAS.

You wanna know what my breaking point is? My breaking point is when people remove my light fixture from the ceiling of my house and then throw it away. That is my breaking point.

And to add insult to injury? If you weren't sure, you could have asked me. Because I never leave the house. Because I'm in the basement with a freaking-out dog and a freakin' ice pack. Man up, look past the welts, and ASK. Ask before you remove pieces of my house and throw them away.

Words were said.

Thank God My Guy and I take turns freaking out, because he was calm and nonplussed. "I'm sure it was an honest mistake. We can get another fixture," he soothed. Eventually, I believed him. But not before gaining some valuable self-awareness.

This. This is my breaking point. Good to know.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Why I live in the basement.

When My Guy and I bought our house, we took one look at the kitchen and promptly announced that we couldn't possssssibly live with it.

That was five and a half years ago. We've totally been living with it.

We weren't being pretty, pretty princesses - someone had taken a hammer to the countertops. They were cracked and big chunks were missing. The cabinets had once been nice but had been beaten up. And the entire space was dark and tiny and not maximized.

So, the kitchen we couldn't possibly live with? We've been living with.

Until we were just done living with it and dug all the loose change out of the sofa cushions and started a remodel.

Now, God love our contractor. He lives in our neighborhood and is familiar with these old houses. And the subs are clearly artisans and doing stuff right.


It's been 10 days. The house is filled with dust. Big Doodle is losing his mind and chewing himself some new hotspots as stress relief. I'm starting to feel like a troll who never leaves the basement. Because the basement is the least dusty area of the house, and I work from home.

Sounds swell, right? Join me on a photographic journey of remodeling a kitchen ...

The before. Yeah, those aren't bad looking cabinets at first glance. They will be great repurposed in the laundry room. And yes, that's as bright as the room ever got. I took this photo when the afternoon sun was at its brightest. No small-print cookbooks in use here!
This is the entire kitchen. Envision two adults attempting to cook together while an 80-pound labradoodle does his best throw rug impersonation. Good times!

This extreme close-up shows the worst of the broken countertop. Why yes, yes that is a jagged faux-granite top. Why yes, yes I have sliced my hand open on it more times than I can count. Hurray!
So, My Guy and I emptied all the cabinets, which was something because I had crammed stuff in every possible space. And then we moved the fridge in preparation for demo. Of course, the best place to put the fridge just happened to be right next to the front door.
I thought this was mega-tacky until I realized that it means I can offer my guests a cold beverage the very second they arrive. You know, with all the entertaining that one does during a major remodel.

So, demo day came. And at the end, the kitchen looked like this.
My mom said it's the minimalist look and is totally in. That kind of squelched my panic. Kind of.

So, now the different dudes are doing their different flavors of magic. The plumbers have been here, and the electricians were here for two and a half days (!Viva la old house wiring!). Everything is dusty. I'm still in the basement.

I was astounded and a little bit jealous that the electricians can just write their to-do list on the wall in Sharpie. Wouldn't that be pretty fun?
I decided a little vandalism was OK. After all, it's my house.
It's my house ... and have I mentioned the dust? We've mopped like three times, which is kind of like slamming your head against the wall for no good reason. So, that's a bummer. But Big Doodle is really enjoying the paper that's down to protect the floors.
Yeah, that's totally our dishwasher. Out in the open. It's the latest style.

Big Doodle is also enjoying lounging in our makeshift kitchen area in the basement.
It's not a bad set up, really. I was really proud of myself for using the little shelf thing as a mini pantry. It's about the same amount of food storage that we had in our old kitchen, actually. But you might notice that something is missing.

Our sink is in the unfinished part of the basement. And yes, I have logged approximately 43,729 steps between the card-table kitchen and the sink just in the last three days.
I'm thankful we have a sink in our basement. It was my birthday gift a few years ago because I am a wild and crazy birthday girl. The challenge now is that the back wall of the kitchen is open directly above the sink. (See also: unfinished area of basement.) So, every time the worker dudes drill or pull out more plaster, crap comes raining down into the basement, to the sink area.

Yes, we're using a lot of paper plates. I figured Mother Nature would understand. Uh ... I'm conserving water by not washing plastic dishes every time somebody uses a drill. You're welcome!

So, all this to say ... don't remodel your kitchen. Or, if you do? Go on vacation while it's happening. Or, just make sure you have a super luxurious basement because you will be living there. Like a hermit. A hermit who has to wear a bra alllllll the time because people are constantly in and out of the house. Clearly, no one has ever faced such a terrible hardship.

If you wanted to share stories of remodeling triumph, that would be cool. Right now, there is no light at the end of the tunnel.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Two things that changed my life.

1. I got a massage.

This is my one great splurge - I get a rubdown every four weeks. After years of searching, I have finally found My Life Partner Massage Therapist. Or massage technician. Or stress engineer. At any rate, My Life Partner Massage Therapist The Divine Ms. M. is just a joy. She has such a positive energy and caring nature that I want to get a massage every day and be her BFF.

I saw her in the grocery once and it was all I could do not to fling myself atop the citrus fruits and demand that she massage me right then and there. Because I have a great deal of self-restraint, I refrained from bruising all the fruit and instead enjoyed hearing about how she was going to make spring rolls.

So, I got a massage the other day. And it was glorious as usual. It is truly the best I ever feel. But this was a little different. My Life Partner Massage Therapist The Divine Ms. M. was working on my neck, her intuitive thumbs kneading muscles that felt ... well, normal. And she kept working, and zeroing in ... on two tiny knots I didn't even know where there. But she knew.

Tears filled my eyes. Not because I was in pain, but because I was known.

It occurred to me that being known is the kindest gift we can give each other. I see you. I acknowledge you. Obviously, this is a theme lately. But it takes on a special poignancy when you're head-down in a face cradle and trying to not cry and snot all over but you know that if you did, it would be just fine.

2. I made up a story about a fellow gym-goer.

So, there's this guy at the gym. He rides the recumbent bike mega-slow while holding his iPad up to his face. He's a hipster, probably in his early 30s, and he slow-rolls that damned bike. I burn more calories attempting to braid my hair than he does riding the bike for an hour.

I should also mention that all I do at the gym is walk on the treadmill. I'm still nursing my old-lady foot, so I don't run, and I don't walk all that fast. I walk. But I walk enough to get sweaty. Or maybe it's all the judgment that makes me sweaty. Because I judge, and I judge hard.

Recumbent Bike Guy wears Crocs.

Crocs. To the gym. To slow-roll a recumbent bike.
Do these look like gym shoes?
I'm judging you! I'm judging you and your clear plastic glasses and ironic t-shirt and pansy-ass "workout" and inappropriate footwear!


I had an epiphany. I don't know this guy at all. And as someone who wants to get a shirt that says, "Don't judge me, fellow gym-goer! I have a foot injury!" I should probably not, you know, judge someone else. Something about do unto others?

So, I decided that there's a reason why Recumbent Bike Guy does what he does in his unconventional footwear. I just up and decided that he donated a kidney to his mom and the recovery has made him unable to do any kind of workout but the recumbent bike for lo these three years I've seen him on said bike. And the crocs are related to some sort of lymphedema, surely. All this he went through for his mom, a lovely woman who works with sick kids and spends her free time teaching ESL.

Maybe if you don't know someone, making up a sympathetic backstory is the next best thing. It helped me look at him with kinder eyes, and isn't that the important thing?

What's changed your life lately?

Friday, October 7, 2016

The seven stages of a husband sharing a cold with his wife.

As told from the not-at-all biased perspective of the poor, put-upon-yet-saintly wife.

Stage 1: Oh, look, a mancold.
I admit it. I had pretty much zero sympathy when My Guy said he felt crummy. I am a warrior queen and never get sick. And he's refused to see an allergist for the allergies that have made him miserable for years, so, uh, whatever.

Stage 2: Hmm. He's actually pretty sick.
There was no denying. He was miserable. This wasn't allergies. This was a big, bad cold. So big and bad that I got up in the middle of the night to move to the guest room because the mucusy snoring was ... uh, intense. I felt guilty for my previous indifference and plied My Guy with meat-based meals created with my loving, vegetarian hands.

Stage 3: Oh, no he did not.
I felt rage. White, hot rage. Because I determined that my darling husband had used my pillow. The pillow that I sleep on. The pillow where I rest my face. He had defiled my sacred space by breathing and coughing and gooing on my pillow ... and then not telling me. And letting me use said pillow. I moved into the guest room permanently.

Stage 4: Everything hurts and I'm dying.
It came like a wave one bright Thursday morning. One moment I was working at my desk like a normal, productive member of society. The next, I had aches running throughout my arms and legs and I was sneezing my head off.

Stage 5: Don't look at me.
I retreated from the world and my marriage. I gathered my off-brand Robitussin (conveniently named TUSSIN!), my Kleenex, my menthol cough drops, and my dogs in the guest room. My Guy would come visit and lay down next to me. He apologized. I told him to stay away from my pillow. He retreated.

Stage 6: Why am I still actively dying?
My Guy got The Sickening worse than I did, but mine seemed to hold on longer. It required Canada Dry Ginger Ale and Lay's Barbecue Potato Chips. It would accept no substitutes. My Guy and I were both still exhausted all the time.
We felt like this. But way less adorable. And with more mucus.
Stage 7: Perhaps, one day, we will be together.
After what could have been four days or seven years because my feverish mind just can't tell, I moved back into the bedroom I share with my husband. We eyed each other wearily but were thankful for the return to normalcy. We hugged apprehensively but, like nervous 14-year-olds at a junior high dance, we were too nervous to kiss. Getting up the nerve for actual lip-to-lip contact could take years.

Friday, September 23, 2016

How YOU doin'?

My Guy and I have noticed an alarming trend as of late. And that trend is the dearth of people who genuinely inquire about our wellbeing.

It sounds pretty "Woe is me!" But hear me out.

It turns out I married an introvert-who-pretends-to-be an-extrovert. Like me. And upon comparing notes, we've both admitted similar experiences. In gatherings and conversations with friends and family, we both ask questions. We listen actively. We work to make the other person feel important and loved.

And ... we don't get a whole lot of that back.

I thought it was just me. But My Guy admitted it happens to him all the time, too. So, I've been paying closer attention.

In a recent three-hour convo, we were asked about our dogs. And our house. And that's it. This, from close relatives.

It's kind of a bummer. But it's become a self-fulfilling prophecy of keeping shit close to the vest, because now when people to ask how we are? We are so shocked by the inquiry and, dare I say, leery of the intent, that we respond with a nicety instead of a more in-depth, accurate response.

I guess if you talk about yourself for two hours and then ask in passing how I'm doing, I don't feel compelled to bare my soul to you.

Is this the introvert's lot in life? Are my husband and I just horrible people? Or is it now such a luxury to be listened to that it makes people high and incapable of functioning? And by "functioning," I mean "holding up their side of a two-sided conversation?"

Part of it might be that our peer group is knee-deep in KIDS! and so talks about KIDS! quite a bit. Obviously, we don't have a horse in that race, so there's no "And how are your young'uns?" in response to our query. But by the same token, I'm super glad your kid is taking swimming lessons and therefore won't drown. However, I didn't actually want to talk about it for 20 minutes. When I was practicing active listening and nodded my approval at learning how not to die around large bodies of water? I was just being nice. I wasn't asking for more detail. I already know how to swim.

But I've seen it with other groups, too. With people who are supposed to love us who actually just ... want stuff? They want time. They want attention. And these are people we love, and we're happy to oblige ... to a point. But after hours of talking about you, well, aren't you tired? Because we are. And we love you. But even we are sick of talking about you.

I'm not saying we're saints of conversation, or even terribly nice people. I'm saying that upon discussing this recently, I asked My Guy, "How did we get here?" And he responded with, "Well, it certainly wasn't by having people genuinely ask how we're doing."

And then I laughed and laughed. Because at least we're in this terribly lonely place together. But seriously. What happened to basic human interaction?

And yes, if you were to ask? I'm OK but I've been sad for a few weeks. And now My Guy has given me a horrible cold and I want to be gracious about it because it wasn't on purpose but I also want to kick him in the skull. Thanks for asking.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Zombie-ing for beginners.

It's been a summer of varmints and bugs and gross stuff. First, the ever-popular mice. Then, I got stung by a wasp. And there was some eye rabies in there, too. Good thing I've already locked in My Guy because if it weren't for that whole legally binding marriage thing? He would be outta here.

I figured The Rule of Three applied, so I was done. Mice, eye rabies, wasp. I was free! Except I was mistaken.

The wasp sting didn't heal. And then I got what are called "satellites" - basically, a rash away from the original sting. Grooooooss. And one of the satellites was huuuuuuuge. I broke down and went to the allergist.

Now, the allergist was all prepared to do venom testing and find out if I'm cray-cray allergic to wasps and need to walk around with a $750 epi-pen hanging around my neck at all times. Except she took one look at my giant satellite and was visibly disappointed.

"Oh, that's not a satellite. That's a spider bite."

She deflated just a touch. I recoiled. A WHAT?

So, basically, I got bit by a spider in the middle of the night. And now the bite is all inflamed and angry and itchy and gross looking and clearly no one has ever suffered as I am currently suffering. But instead of providing me with a careful treatment plan, the allergist told me two things.

Take some Zyrtec. And watch for necrotizing tissue.

You know. Tissue with necrosis. Tissue that is dying and rotting on my person.


So, My Guy and I have become mildly obsessed with the spider bite. I was all pouty and sad, so we went out for tacos last night. We had to wait 20 minutes for a server, and my sweet husband chalked it up to no one wanting to be around my possibly rotting shoulder. Later, as I responded to a work email, he kept helpfully suggesting, "Don't mention the shoulder! Avoid all shoulder talk! You can't let them know!"

At least now I have an easy way to taunt him. "Don't make me rub my shoulder on you."

It's all fun and games until someone's body starts to rot. Is this what it's like being a zombie? You get bit by a zombie and you feel a little weird, but you aren't sure if you really got bit, so you just watch to see if your body starts rotting? Do potential zombies meditate and use essential oils in hopes of staving off the zombieness? Would an ice pack on the zombie bite help?

I'm not sure how any of this is supposed to work. So, I'm taking Zyrtec and icing my shoulder and watching for giant chunks of my body to fall off. Oh, also? I'm burning down my house because SPIDERS? ARE YOU KIDDING ME?
Artist's depiction of this blog after my entire body rots and falls off in chunks, which my dogs will obviously try to eat because everything in my house is gross. See also: spiders.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Stings suck, or why I will no longer be bullied by the wasp lobby.

I've been spending a lot of time outside. Not because I like outside, but because my dachshund cannot be left unattended.

He loves tomatoes.

And now that my tomato plants are finally bearing fruit, he views my tiny garden plot as his personal salad bar. I say, "Frank! Get outta the tomatoes!" approximately 437 times a day.
So, I was standing next to the tomatoes, keeping watch while Lil' Frankfurter pretended to be looking for a place to potty. I was just standing there, you know? So, I decided to pull a weed.

Note to self: Pulling weeds is for suckers. Because I evidently interrupted a wasp. And to show his displeasure, that wasp stung my arm. Twice.

I like to think that I didn't start screaming "FUCK!" repeatedly until I was actually inside my house. For any neighbors who might report that that was not the case? I apologize.

But there I was, screaming "FUCK" in my kitchen, holding an icepack to my tricep while trying to open a Benadryl one-handed. I had forgotten how much wasp stings hurt. And how stupid individually wrapped medications are.

Then I took the Benadryl and forgot everything. My arm kind of hurt, but I was floating along. Nothing could faze me. Lil' Frank wanted to eat some tomatoes? Fiiiiiine.

But the next day? The next day, my arm featured a bright red welt about the size of a Little Debbie Oatmeal Crème Pie. It was hot. It hurt. It itched. And, according to the interwebs, it was "a large localized reaction."

Woe, woe is me! I kvetched about my sad, sad plight to pretty much anyone within earshot or within sight of the welt I'd covered with a paste made of baking soda. I'm turning into my grandma, but with way more whining.

One of my pals asked, "What do wasps do, anyway?"

It was a valid question. If I got in the way of a wasp who was researching leukemia or working on a road crew, that was one thing. But a wasp who was just chillin' in my yard, where he does not pay rent? That seems like something else entirely.

So, I did some research. The interwebs informed me that wasps are super-important. They do basically the same work as bees, except they aren't as beloved. And, if wasps go away? ARMAGEDDON. Mass environmental destruction. Fire raining from the sky! Dogs and cats living together!

I think we can all agree that this is propaganda from the wasp lobby. Big Wasp is behind all of these lies. Here's the truth:

Wasps are the payday loan sharks of the insect world.

Sure, some of them are bookies or own vaping emporiums. But for the most part? These greasy, too-much-cologne-wearing, pinky-ring-having slimeballs do nothing but rip off hardworking folks like you and me.

That wasp robbed me of an entire workday as I mellowed in a Benadryl stupor. And now I will never be a tricep model, as the welt is still evident. That's not even getting into the emotional scars.

So, friends, I beg of you: Do not get your information from Big Wasp. Do your own research. The next time a Facebook friend posts a pro-wasp link, don't just mindlessly click "Like." Seek out independent sources that aren't part of the pro-wasp media or under the wing of the wasp lobby. We have to think for ourselves.

Years ago, Mom, Poochie, and I stood at the sliding glass door, cheering as Dad sprayed Raid into one end of our metal jungle gym and then ran like hell as a swarm of wasps flew out the other end.

This "Leave It To Beaver"-like tableau is on my mind and close to my heart, especially in light of recent events. Dad? Thank you for teaching me what is right.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Watching movies like an adult.

I was in junior high when "Dirty Dancing" was big. And lemme tell ya, that movie was a revelation.

BFF and I loved that some of the oldies our parents listened to - and by extension, we listened to - were suddenly cool. And another close friend had a pirated VHS copy of the movie and watched it every single day after school.

Personally, I spent my afterschool times listening to the radio, waiting for "She's Like the Wind" to come on. Then, I would put down my homework and stare off into the distance. Sure, I was an awkward tween with glasses and braces and a perm. But somewhere out there was a Patrick Swayze lookalike who compared me to wind.

Wind, which is the flow of gases. Somebody thought I was mega-gaseous and mega-amazing.

All of this is lost on my sweet husband, my boy-man of a life partner who is five years my junior. We have a movie deficit for the years 1986 through 1999. While I was devouring "Dirty Dancing," he was into all the Ernest movies. While he was watching "Jurassic Park" with his junior high classmates, I was seeing no movies because I didn't have a car and there wasn't a theatre within walking distance of campus. Also, I was broke. And too busy drinking beer.

When I went away to college, my husband was in junior high. JUNIOR HIGH.

So, I guess this is being a cougar. We make fun of each other's lack of movie viewing. And we occasionally force each other to view movies of the "Ohmigod I can't believe you haven't seen this" ilk. This means that I recently saw "Varsity Blues" for the first time.

My Guy was really enthusiastic about this movie. "I can't believe you've never seen it! You love football! You will love this movie!"

And I did. I enjoyed it like you enjoy store-bought desserts. Tasty, but probably not worth the calories and not the best ever. But fine.

However, "Varsity Blues" did leave some unanswered questions.

I would like to know what high school football program would allow a student to take over head coaching duties mid-game and then would allow another student to have bottles of beer on the field after a big win. What town is this? What is happening here? And isn't glass dangerous? Wouldn't it at least be cans? Where did the beer come from? Was it in the trainers' ice chest? Does that mean there wasn't enough water? Were the players dehydrated? Is that safe? Why was James Vanderbeek's girlfriend so grouchy and anti-football all the time when she came from a football family? What high school boy would turn down a girl in a whipped-cream bikini? And, the biggest question of all: What high school actually has a teacher that moonlights as a stripper in the same town?

I guess these queries don't occur to 19-year-olds viewing the movie because My Guy was completely taken aback. Watching the film as an adult was a totally different experience.

"Uh, these are all good questions, but ... they won the game! Didn't you see, they won the game?" he asked.

Clearly, he was working hard to hold on to the "This movie is AWESOME" experience of his youth. He had no desire to look at "Varsity Blues" with the cold eyes of an adult.

I let it go. I didn't want to ruin it for him. And besides, this is probably why I haven't watched "Dirty Dancing" lately. Why was it OK that all these people were infantilizing this teenager by calling her "Baby?" Didn't her parents notice she was gone all the time with those ruffian dance kids? What in the world is Johnny going to do in the winter when he's run out of dance money and eating ketchup sandwiches? Or will it not matter because he'll be in prison for statutory rape? Because you can't tell me that Jerry Orbach is just going to let Patrick Swayze get away with this, no matter how well Baby executes The Lift.


I'm great fun at parties.     

What movie of your youth has lost some of its sheen in the cold light of adulthood?

Monday, August 29, 2016

Yoga for the family.

This morning, I found a couple of yoga videos on Amazon Prime and decided to play along. The first video, full of sun salutations and warrior poses, did not get even a raised eyebrow from the dogs. But the second video, the guided savasana that was a glorious 18 minutes of guided meditation and total relaxation?

Well, the second I laid on my mat, those dogs acted like they'd never seen me - or another human, really - ever before. This is how it went down.

Voiceover: "Welcome to your personal retreat for relaxation and centeredness ..."

Me: Prone on floor, eyes closed, breathing slowly.

Lil' Frankfurter: OHMYGOD! Who is this person on the floor? I must investigate! I will stand on it!

Me: "Uhhh" as dachshund jumps on my ladychest.

Big Doodle: Hey, what's going on? I will saunter over.

Voiceover: "... feel your breath move to every part of your body, bringing relaxation and peace ..."

Me: I sense something beyond a dachshund on my chest. I open my eyes to see Big Doodle manparts hanging over my face. In his investigation, my 80-pound labradoodle has straddled my head and come to a complete standstill. I usher him along.

Big Doodle: "Siiiiiiiigh."

Voiceover: "... breathe in peace ... breathe out tension and pain ..."

Lil' Frank: OHMYGOD! I love Kong! Let's play Kong! I will get the Kong! I will gum the Kong with great gusto, then place it in your hand, which is conveniently palm-up! Let's play Kong! Let's play Kong! WHY AREN'T YOU THROWING THE KONG?
Nothing is better than gumming a Kong. Nothing, except gently encouraging loved ones to throw said Kong.
Me: Submit to the high-pitched doxie bark and throw the Kong so that I might avoid losing my hearing wholly and permanently.

Voiceover: "... something soothing ... that I can't hear ... over the barking ..."

Lil' Frank: Throw the Kong! Throw the Kong! Throw the Kong!

Me: Throw the Kong and attempt to achieve inner peace.

Voiceover: "... Kong is a journey through breath and high-pitched barking ..."

Lil' Frank: Throw the Kong! Throw the Kong! Throw the Kong!

Voiceover: "... Kong is a way of life that leads to peace and contentment ..."

Lil' Frank: Throw the Kong! Do it again! Throw the Kong!

(repeat forever)

Bonus! At some point, I give up, open my eyes, and realize there's blood everywhere. Lil' Frank's delicate paws were not made for such fevered Kong action. He has run a paw raw and oozed blood all over me, the yoga mat, and the floor.

If this isn't relaxation, I don't know what is.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

In which I attempt to donate some shoes.

If you're like me, every once in a while, your closet needs a little kick in the booty. And by "kick in the booty," I mean "exhaustive cleaning because you never get rid of anything and probably don't need that sweater you bought secondhand in 1991."

I recently cleaned out my shoes. Now, keep in mind that I have worn the same size shoe since fifth grade. And, my mom and I wear the same size. And I figure everything comes back, right?

However, even I couldn't deny the need to share the love. And by "love," I mean "size 6.5 shoes that I probably bought at DSW because they were on clearance and loved briefly but haven't worn in the four years I've worked from home."

I had the best of intentions. I really did.

But I caught myself having these internal dialogues. Words and phrases that would sound ludicrous if spoken aloud, but that made perfect sense rolling around in my brain.

I should also mention that I did said shoe purge while wildly hormonal. I do not recommend this.

Here's a sample of my thought process:
  • I know the heels of these shoes have literally disintegrated into dust, but I was wearing them when I walked home from a fraternity party during a thundersnow that dumped 19 inches of snow on campus overnight in January 1995. My friend Soup and I stopped to eat snow in the Lambda Chi parking lot. I couldn't possibly get rid of these shoes.
  • Should I really get rid of the shoes I wore to the closing of my first house? Probably not.
  • I wore those cork wedges on a date with Mr. I Want You To Want Me and I stepped on his foot. All things considered, I probably should have stomped on his foot. How could I get rid of such serviceable shoes?
  • I wore those shoes with my first - and, to date, only - real, grown-up suit. Sure, I bought them in 1999 and the suit has long gone on to the women's clothing version of a nice farm with plenty of room to run. But these shoes were so cool and everything comes back, even a square toed, high-heeled mary jane, right?
For what it's worth, I kept the suede pumps my mom bought in 1990 because they are on the verge of being of a "yeah, that retro style is in, but I have the real deal" ilk. And, of course, there are the stalwarts that will never be purged - my penny loafers, the shoes my grandma wore to my parents wedding (what? they fit me, and I have her dress, too), and the several many black pumps because, well, black pumps never go out of style. Even though I never wear heels anymore. Because I have kind of given up on being fancy. And my feet hurt.

Maybe cleaning out my shoes while mega hormonal wasn't the best choice. However, I was able to gift several pairs of shoes to a friend who literally squealed with delight. And I made more room in my closet for the comfort footwear that now seems to be my jam.

It all feels very, "To everything, there is a season." Which makes me miss my leopard-print Danskos. Autumn? I eagerly await you!

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Two things that changed my life this week.

Doesn't that title make me sound like Oprah? Or at least someone who writes clickbait? Maybe if I titled it, "Two things Oprah doesn't want you to know!"

Well, at any rate, these things twisted my reality in the last few days.

1. Traffic cones. 
There's a guy around the corner who has been parking his truck all illegal-like on the street. But he's put two orange cones around the truck. The cones send the message that hey, this is totally legit. Nevermind that it's not a utility truck or a delivery truck. It's just some dude's GMC pickup.

It occurred to me that traffic cones are the universal sign of "These are not the droids you're looking for." They're like an instant get-out-of-jail free card! You can do whatever you want as long as you have some orange cones around you.

Clearly, I need some traffic cones. Forget my parallel parking anxiety - I will just leave my car in the middle of the street, throw out a few cones, and call it good. And I bet the cone shield works without a car, too. Worried about getting arrested for loitering? Set up some cones around ya. You're no longer loitering - you are doing sanctioned work. The Lord's work.

Obviously, this is life-changing.

2. Compliments.

I was shopping a few days ago. I had actually made an effort that day ... which basically means I wasn't wearing running shorts. I had on a dress and cute sandals. I felt good.

A woman walked passed me, touched me lightly on the arm, and said, "You are so beautiful."

Now, I recently took a quiz to tell me which Golden Girl I am. It said I was a Sophia, but I'm not so sure. I think my response to this kind woman's compliment might make me more of a Blanche. What flew out of my mouth was not, "Picture it: Sicily, 1923." Instead, it was a very southern, "Oh, honey, thank you!"

She walked off. I don't even know if she heard me. She certainly didn't stick around to comment on which Golden Girl I am. But what she said stuck with me for days.

At random moments, I've thought, "Oh! I'm so beautiful! That lady said so!"

I guess we all need those friendly reminders, those random acts of kindness. I'm so thankful that woman took two seconds to say a few kind words to me, even if they were code for, "Thanks for not wearing those ratty shorts again," which I'm pretty sure they weren't.

So, if I were really Oprah, I would tell all of you to look under your chairs. Traffic cones and kind words for everyone! YOU get a traffic cone! And YOU get a traffic cone! And YOU get a traffic cone!

Also? You look really nice today.

What's changed your life this week?

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Statues and ferries and girl power!

Last week, I visited the Statue of Liberty. As you do.

It was part of a three-day whirlwind trip to NYC with a friend. And for those keeping score at home, yes, this is how I used my frequent flyer miles instead of buying a Barbie house/chicken coop.

Anyway, we'd both seen Lady Liberty before but neither of us had actually been to Liberty Island. So, we braved the crowded ferry and got our audio guides and walked around what is truly a big statue.
She's tall.
The audio tour was bossy as hell. "Turn to your left. Look up. Now look away! Now walk three steps to your right! Now look up! I said look up! Doooo eeeeeeet!"

Combine all the directions with tourists who insisted on having their photos taken about every 10 feet so as to capture a different angle of the statue and, well, we were kind of over the whole deal.


The audio guide did drop a bombshell. And that bombshell was that when the Statue of Liberty was officially unveiled in 1886, no women were allowed at the ceremony.

According to wikipedia, the official line was that event coordinators were worried the fragile ladies would be crushed in the crowd, what with the strapping menfolk being so caught up in life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. A group of suffragettes chartered a boat and had their own ceremony, cheering liberty being personified as a woman. Oh, and talking about how women should be able to vote.

It only took 35 more years!

So, today, I'm thinking about that men-only ceremony to fete freedom, of all things. And I'm thinking about my grandma, who was born before women had the right to vote. And I'm thinking about my mama and the misogynistic treatment she endured in the workplace. And I'm thinking about how a kid at school told me I was "just a girl" and so what I thought didn't matter. And I'm thinking about a young friend who recently told me she'd had a similar experience. Now. In 2016.

But mostly, I'm thinking about how a woman is about to become a major party's candidate for president of the United States. In some ways, it doesn't seem like a huge deal - she got the most votes. She's mega-qualified. Cool.

Except it is a big deal. It's a huge deal. Because think of all the girls who now get to grow up thinking it's not a big deal. Of course a woman can be president. It would be silly to think otherwise!

I'm proud. I'm sad it's taken this long. I can't believe half the human race is still treated like less-than. I'm glad we're shifting, slowly but surely, to full-fledged people.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Addendum to my tale of eye rabies: Advice for CVS and Walgreens.

Hi. I like your stores because if I ever need Funyuns, mascara, ringworm treatment, and first-class people watching, you provide one-stop shopping. Thanks for that.

I recently received a prescription for drops to treat my ongoing eye rabies. My doctor didn't call the prescription in to my regular pharmacy. Instead, he called it in to the local Walgreens, as a manufacturer's rebate was available only at the Walgreens.

No problem at all. I drove to the Walgreens. I went inside and stood in line at the pharmacy. And then ... I thought it was funny that a Walgreens would have signs for CVS.


I had gone to CVS. Because Walgreens and CVS always build their stores across the street from each other. And both have red signs and similar branding.

Dammit, CVSalgreens, I can't tell you apart. And it has nothing to do with the eye rabies. To me, you are one entity.
I nonchalantly left the CVS, hoping no one was watching as I got in my car and drove across the street to the Walgreens. I got my eye drops. My eyes were on the road to recovery. But my ego was bruised.

I am an adult woman. I can read. I function in society. And yet I can't tell a CVS from a Walgreens.

Dear people of CVSalgreens, for the love of all that is holy, somebody change your branding. Please, please, somebody use a color that's not red for their sign lettering. Somebody choose a secondary color that isn't blue or grey. Please, in the name of Oprah, baby pandas, and all good, pure things, differentiate your stores so that I don't need a big ol' vat of store-brand migraine medicine.

Unless that's your objective.


Well played, CVSalgreens. Well played.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

In which I have eye rabies and fight with my husband.

Because I'm an adult lady and super fancylike and also dignified? I try to keep it classy. And one of the best ways to keep it classy is to not have pink eye.

Sadly, I have failed this basic tenet of fanciness this summer. I have pink eye, and I've had it for a few weeks. But don't worry - I have been assured that it cannot be spread over the interwebs.

When I got pink eye, I did the smart thing and saw my eye doctor immediately. He was like, "Hmm. It looks like one thing but it might be another, but let's do the cheap eye drops and see what happens."

Sadly, he did not prescribe a regimen of pouting and complaining about the pink eye. However, I figured that was an important part of the process and took that on myself. I figured it couldn't hurt.

But the eye drops did hurt. They hurt a lot. I figured that meant that were working. It was only after the treatment was over that I realized I'm allergic to one of the main ingredients in the eye drops.

I am not the brightest star in the sky. Besides, I was too busy obsessing over the fact that I was going to be pink-eyed and glasses-clad for The Official Family Photo that my mom was coordinating. Because when you're super fancylike and also dignified, you generally don't want to be photographed when you have the modern equivalent of leprosy. But I took one for the team, me and my gunky eyes.

I called the eye doctor again and was forced to 'fess up about the allergy - which, to be fair, he didn't catch, either. But he was incredulous, like, "So, the drops hurt really badly, and you kept using them?"

Clearly, he is a man. Any woman would be like, "Ah. That sounds like thongs and hair color and any form of hair removal. Of course you keep going."

So, now I have new eye drops. Eye drops that cost $260 but that I paid a mere $60 for, thanks to a manufacturer's coupon. Who says drug companies are gouging patients?

Anyway, I updated My Guy on all of this. He eyed me suspiciously, and then looked at the sleeping dachshund in my arms. "You know why this is happening, right?"

I looked at my sweet husband. "Because I'm paying a karmic debt for being so awesome?"

He shook his head solemnly, paused a moment, and then let me have it. "No. No, you have EYE RABIES because you let this little dog with the BIG POOPY MOUTH kiss you!"

I clutched my hand to my chest. If I had been wearing pearls, I'd have been clutching pearls.

"There's no way those two things are related," I said.

"What-EV-er," My Guy replied. "Lil' Frank eats poop. Then he licks your face. You probably have Zika and emphysema and ringworm, too!"

"You think EVERYTHING is ringworm! I had strep throat and you tried to treat it with Lotrimin Ultra!"

"It would have worked, too, if you'd just given it a chance."

"You sound like the bad guy from every 'Scooby Doo' who says his plan would have worked, too, if it weren't for you meddling kids."

"The bad guy says it because it's true!"

"I have eye rabies from an undetermined source. Lil' Frank doesn't kiss me on the days he's eaten poop. We have an agreement. And he never kisses my eyes."

At this point, My Guy shook his head and walked away. He tried to act all bad and mad, but he scooped the dog out of my arms so they could cuddle. Because I'm not the only object of dachshund affection.

Besides, how could anyone blame this face?
"C'mere and lemme kiss ya."

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Book review: Across the River.

Like small towns and novels that are wicked and full of heart? Do I have a book for you!

Now, in the interest of full disclosure, the author is my friend, Melissa Westemeier. Many of you know her as Green Girl in Wisconsin. She's a hoot and a wicked awesome writer, too. And she has an ear for dialogue and the kind of stories you can only hear in the Midwest, in a small town, in a bar, after a few rounds.

"Across the River" is this and more. It's a novel about Mona, a young bartender who has lived in Bassville her entire life. Her world is filled with interesting characters with names like Maw and Dob and Loyal. And there's that all-too-familiar pull between the way things have always been and the great unknown. Oh, and there's this handsome guy who might like Mona, too. Oh, and a guy who owns a bait shop who becomes a celebrity and tries to turn his store into a "Girls Gone Wild" photo shoot. You know, the typical folks you find in small-town America.

I love how "Across the River" captures the feel of small-town life while still maintaining an interesting and engaging pace. It's one of those books you tuck into and then realize you've been reading for hours. Huh? Whaa?

You can order "Across the River" directly from the author or from Bridle Path Press. Skip Amazon on this one - buying that way basically steals dinero from Melissa's hands. And we all need to eat, including authors. Especially authors who mention "Jontue" in their books. (I'm shocked to find it still exists, but that's another story entirely ...)

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Time travel through real estate.

So, I almost started bawling in a stranger's kitchen.

This weekend, my family was given a tour of the house my grandparents built. They lived there from 1961 until they moved to assisted living in 2001. And lemme tell ya - those 40 years were packed with kids and grandkids and cousins and meals and card games and the stuff of life.

My brother and I grew up about seven minutes away. So, we spent a lot of time with our grandparents. At a certain age, I came to feel like I was being dumped at their house. But my grandparents were kind, loving people, and they just rolled with it. Maybe that's what happens when you're looking down the barrel of 80 but still offering to watch your grandkids. You make them oatmeal in the morning and tomato soup at lunch and something with green beans and rolls at night and you just roll with it.

Their home was always well-tended, even as such tasks became more difficult. After we sold the house, it fell into disrepair. My mom warned us never to drive by. I would gaze upon it from down the hill, two blocks away. From that vantage point, it seemed OK. I could roll with that.

Now, a couple my parents have known for a while (OK, like 40 years) has purchased the house. They fixed the moldy soffits and dug all the trees out of the gutters. On the spur of the moment, they invited us in.

We stood in the garage that my grandpa had paneled. The screen door to the kitchen was the same. My grandpa had undoubtedly built the cabinets next to the door, too. And as we stepped over the threshold, I felt a tidal wave in my heart. I'd stepped through that door thousands of times - most notably to rush to the kitchen sink to puke after a particularly bumpy school bus ride. This time, I didn't worry about which side of the sink had the garbage disposal (I'd gotten it wrong last time - sorry, Grandma.). This time, I wondered if I would cry.

The floor was new and lovely. The cabinets had been painted a cheery cream. The dinette was tiny - how did we fit five people around a table in such tight quarters? The brick fireplace had been painted and a rustic mantle hung where the plastic fruit used to drape out of a metal basket thing that can only be described as, "You know, like from the 60s?"

The new homeowners had done everything that every HGTV show tells you to do to make a home your own, to freshen a house that may be a bit dated.

I wanted to tell them that their furniture wasn't quite in the right spots - the TV goes *there* and you need to make room for a piano against *this* wall. But if it had been the same sea-foam green carpet that I remembered, that would have just been sad.

These folks were obviously very excited about their new home and the changes that they'd made. It looked lovely, even if it was a bit jarring to find that it had changed at all. The pink bathroom was gone - the tile had crumbled when the plumber tried to repair the shower. And what was always my room - what had been my dad's room during his high school days - had become an office with an expanded closet to hold the laundry.

But that's where I sorted my grandma's clothes after she died. I sat on the bed and smelled her dresses.

But that was also the same bed where Grandma lay with her arm over her eyes, too exhausted from the stress of moving. I had been tasked with keeping her company while the movers loaded up furniture for what she was sure was a temporary move to an assisted-living facility 90 minutes away. At the time, not many small-town Iowans of a certain age got to stay close-to-home.

I tried to keep her mind off the fact that her home was being emptied. She told me about how on their last night of a European vacation, she and Grandpa had been too tired to do anything. So, they went to the movies and saw "My Fair Lady." And she listened to me talk about a dress I'd just bought, and how I thought my boyfriend was emotionally scarred from his parents' divorce and it was keeping him from proposing.

She kept her arm over her eyes, but she listened to every word. "Well, he just needs to get over it," she responded.

Get over it.

When the new homeowner was showing off her new washer and dryer and how it fit into the new, larger closet, I gave a cursory glance. Then, I walked back down the hall to wait for my family in the entryway. The new homeowners had a little table where the grandfather clock was supposed to be, but I rolled with it.

When we left, I touched the woman's arm. "We had such good, good times in this house," I said. "I'm excited for you and your family to do the same."

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Products I considered buying instead of using my frequent flyer points for a hotel because I was on hold for 43 minutes.

Huh! Lookit this! You can get Godiva chocolates with your points! And just dark chocolate - that's a nice touch. Classy-like.

Thank you for holding. A vacation consultant will be with you momentarily. We truly appreciate your patience and look forward to helping you with your vacation plans.
Well, I don't have a Grumpy Cat scarf/hat combo. It looks warm. And it's on sale! It's not a look an adult woman could or should really rock. But speaking of rock ... the Muzak has shifted from nondescript crap to "Roll With It" by Steve Winwood. I hope they paid him a lot of money. I now equate this song with depression.
OMG. Now we're talking! This is the chicken coop / Brady Bunch house / Barbie house of my dreams! I have no desire to have chickens, but we could play Brady Bunch Barbies with this! It could be what happens when the Barbies move to the farm. Barbies meet "The Brady Bunch" meet "Green Acres." I am brilliant.

We are currently experiencing a high volume of calls. We apologize for the extended wait time. Please stay on the line and one of our customer service representatives will be with you as soon as possible.
You can get a 3D printer with frequent flyer miles? This is insane! I still own a VCR!

I'm starting to feel mildly homicidal. I've been on hold forever, and one of the two "thanks for holding" messages plays not every minute, but every 30 seconds. It's too much. It's taunting me. I think it might be lying. What if my call isn't important? What if all the vacation specialists are on a smoke break, hanging out behind the building and laughing at my on-hold plight?
Lil' Frankfurter would really love this. I shouldn't encourage his "no walking ever" dreams, lest he end up on some "My 600-pound Dachshund" special on TLC wherein he is removed from our home via crane, but ...

Ah, Southwest. You are indeed the Greyhound of the skies, yet I cannot quit you. Your people are so nice and your credit card gives me a gajillion miles. Miles I want to use to book a hotel. If only you'd answer your damned phone.
This is AWESOME! I need this car! Look at these girls - they're like Thelma and Louise without all the death! The pain in my heart isn't due to Southwest Rapid Rewards - it's because I don't have a Power Wheels Ford Mustang with a sticker of the Frozen characters on the hood. My life is a lie!

Thank you for holding. Our vacation consultants are mocking your pain. We truly appreciate your patience and look forward to completely ruining your vacation plans by keeping you on hold forever.
If I use my points for this pool toy, my husband would be forced to install a pool in our backyard, right? Right? Then I wouldn't need a hotel, because I would never leave my house.

After all the frequent flyer miles-based suffering I've been through, I deserve a pool complete with a Pirate Island Adventure Set. I'm only calling Southwest because the website ate my points and then it took 72 hours to get them refunded and I'm not about to spoon-feed the website my hard-earned points again. No sirree. No. I don't have time to be on the phone because I need to be out in the yard, plotting out where our pool will go. I hope there's no ancient burial ground in our yard like in "Poltergeist." That movie totally traumatized my brother. I bet he wouldn't have been so upset if we'd had a Pirate Island Adventure Set.

Actually, I could really use a new electric toothbrush. Periodontal health is so important.

We are currently high. We apologize for the extended wait time. Please stay on the line and ... I forget what we're supposed to do.

Epilogue: After a mere 43 minutes, a very nice man booked my hotel. I was so taken aback by an actual human on the line that my initial communication was in the form of grunts. However, I managed to elocute my rewards number and get the hotel booked. I am appreciative, even if my mental health took a hit.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Why I should be your next elementary school commencement speaker.

Now that I'm an ancient 41, I firmly believe that I know nothing. Also? I'm super excited to give advice.

You might see a problem here, but I think an advice giver who thinks they know everything is way more dangerous. At least I'm all, "Ehh, take it with a grain of salt, buuut ..."

This attitude might be the reason why yet another graduation season has passed without me being asked to give a commencement speech. Couple that with the fact that I'm on year 23 of not being asked to prom, and it's been a rough few months.

But commencement speeches. I tend to be drawn to them in May and June each year, wondering if some celebrity is going to impart a bit of wisdom that would change my outlook. Mostly, I'm just entertained. And I like to pretend that every spring is a fresh start, so it's like I'm a new graduate every year.

Again, maybe this "new grad" mindset is hindering my chances of being asked to be a graduation speaker. After all, I was one of four speakers at my high school graduation when I was, in fact, a new grad. Even while I was giving the speech, I knew I was bombing. To be fair, there's not much audience engagement in a jam-packed gymnasium that isn't air conditioned. But still.

I think I'm a better candidate for speaking at an elementary school graduation. Let me tell you why.

When I was in high school, a handful of us were asked to speak to sixth-grade classes. It was towards the end of the school year, and we were tasked with answering questions about moving to the junior high. We were also supposed to empower the sixth graders and have an anti-drug message. The program was through DARE, and there was a cop supervising the whole shebang.

I was with one or two other high school kids speaking to the classroom taught by my grandparents' next-door neighbor. He was a low-key guy, and you could tell his classroom was similarly low-key.

My compatriots and I spoke about making new friends at the junior high and what it was like moving from class to class. Then, somebody raised their hand and asked if we had been nervous going into seventh grade.

This is where I jumped in and regaled all the kids, their teacher, and the DARE cop with my tale of woe about my seventh-grade locker.
Do you feel the tension?
See, I had never operated a combination lock before. And for the duration of the summer of 1987, I was obsessed and panicked about opening my locker at the junior high. I had a reoccurring dream that I'd get to the junior high on the first day of school, and I'd find my locker just fine. But I wouldn't be able to open it. And then, the bell would ring, and I'd be late for class. Then, I'd realize I was nekkid and I had to walk home.

Now, I like to believe that the kids who heard this were relieved. "Ah, it's not just me!" I was bringing honesty and authenticity to their worlds! But I don't remember their faces. Instead, I remember DARE officer putting his head down on a desk. Like he couldn't believe this was his life and he had to deal with these shenanigans and, if anything, I was a spreading the message of using drugs because DEAR GOD, KIDS, JUST DON'T BE LIKE HER.

My parents were horrified by this story. My grandma kind of shook her head, but I like to think she thought it was funny.

I was honest. And if I'm still being honest? I still have that dream about twice a year.

So, I'm just gonna put this out there: If your school needs an elementary school graduation speaker, call me. Obviously, I will tell it like it is.

Also, I am willing to be paid in cake.