Mouse

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Saturday 

I’m getting in my car to take it to Firestone for an oil change. Jack’s planning to follow me so I have a ride home.

Me (as I walk past my car): Hey, Jack? Any chance there could be a mouse in my car?

Continue reading…

Fourteen Things

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Sorry I’ve been a way for a bit. To catch you up, I present 14 things that’ve happened since we last spoke:

December 14. Participated in a tree-trimming party for Bre, a HomeFirst STL client and Bridge Bread baker. It was the first Christmas tree she’d had in 10 years. It was a sacred evening.

December 15. Sent a rather frantic email to the Saint Louis Zoo to find out whatintheheck they’d done with my daughter’s Christmas present. Response: “It’s in the mail.” (It was.)

December 16. Sat at Starbucks and nursed a skinny peppermint mocha while I worked on my book project for the Center for Church Communication.

December 17. Served breakfast at The Bridge and volunteered at Bridge Bread’s retail shop. (Which is awesome and you should absolutely stop by if you live in The Lou. It’s at 2604 Cherokee St.)

December 18. Panicked about Christmas. Started reading the Bible again.

December 19. Saw Daughter #2 sing in the Macy’s Holiday Celebration with the St. Louis Symphony. Magical.

December 20. Went to the Anheuser-Busch Brewery to see the Christmas lights and sample beer with several hundred of our closest friends. Watched grown people cut in line to see the clydesdales. Determined that Stella Artois is the grossest beer ever made.

December 21. Had dinner in Omaha with L, with whom I’ve been friends for 31 years. She continues to be the most creative, most sincere person on the planet. That evening, she attracted the attention of Kevin, a recent transplant from Philly, after he overheard me ask her if she was still firmly ensconced in spinsterhood. Given his hopeful facial expression, Kevin clearly had spinster confused with something else entirely.

December 22. Drove back to St. Louis. Saw a bald eagle sitting in a cornfield. They’re huge. (HUGE!)

December 23. Discovered hard root beer.

December 24. Gathered with some folks who, like me, had no particular place to be on Christmas Eve. Dear friends made music. I talked. We had communion, collected an offering for The Bridge, sang “Silent Night” by candlelight, and enjoyed a simple meal and some wine afterwards. Lovely.

December 25. Spent time with my parents, Jack, and Daughter #1. Ate a handful of vegetables and way, way, way too many cookies.

December 26. Re-taught our favorite friends how to play Pitch. The boys won. That will not happen again.

December 27. Cussed at the rain. Went to see Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Also will not happen again.

December 28. Let go of Skittle, our One-Kidney Wonder. Jack and I disassembled and put away her crate under the curious and confused gaze of our other pooch. I can’t think of Skittle without crying, and my eyes look like I’ve been drinking heavily and/or smoking cigars and/or playing chicken with a swarm of bees. It’s not especially attractive. It’s been a tough day. Tomorrow will be better.

So now you’re all caught up. Anything new with you?

A Complaint

Dear Washington, DC:

I’m blaming you for my current dissatisfaction with my living conditions.

I have two too many toilets, a giant tub that’s used maybe three times a year, and two unoccupied bedrooms. My family’s cars are too numerous to easily fit in our garage and driveway. We own three pianos and an embarrassing number of books. Last week, one of our dogs was nearly buried alive by the mountain of towels, blankets, and unused pillowcases that erupted from our hall linen closet. We don’t have a surplus of televisions, but our computer to human ratio is approaching 2:1. There’s a space heater next to our fireplace and a neglected shuffleboard table in the basement. We have a garage and kitchen full of just-in-case items, and while only three people currently live here, we have 32 places to sit—not including the floor.

What’s my complaint, you ask? It sounds like I’m living the American dream, you say? You’re surprised I haven’t mentioned a white, picket fence and a pony in the backyard?

Yeah, I thought I was living the American dream. I thought I was supposed to purchase and consume and hoard and build our little empire right here in the suburbs. But then YOU, Washington, YOU didn’t post a warning sign on that horrifying exhibit at the National Building Museum in which you featured some lunatic woman living in a 200-square-foot “home” in someone’s backyard. And suddenly, I found myself malcontent with the size of my house (too big) and the amount of stuff I own (too much) and it’s all your fault because until I visited your stupid museum, it didn’t occur to me that this consumed-by-consumption lifestyle isn’t actually necessary.

In very few places in the world would this be someone’s complaint: “I have too many things.”

Since I visited your museum, I’ve been intermittently obsessed with the concept of minimalism, and yet I’ve been unable to make much headway toward getting rid of things because there are so many of them. I began cleaning out our storage closet (which is not much smaller than that woman’s whole house), got quickly overwhelmed, and our basement is now a rising surge of memorabilia, wall hangings, books, photographs, and toys I’ve saved for my someday grandchildren.

I’d love to sell this house and build a little one, but I definitely can’t have potential buyers tripping over the Little Tikes grocery cart and piles of board games we’ve played twice. Which means I have to shove all that stuff back in the damn closet. I asked Jack if we could put a dumpster in the driveway and use a backhoe to clear the place out; that’d be much faster and easier than a thoughtful distribution to places or people who could put it all to good use. But then I started worrying about the landfill and greenhouse gases.

Which is also your fault.

Sincerely,

Consumed

List Three

Beaver

Beaver” by Lois Elling is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

My brain and I would be excellent contestants on Let’s Make a Deal. Remember that show? At the end of each episode, the polyester-suited host challenged crazily costumed women to produce random objects from their purses. Really random objects, like yo-yos wrapped in aluminum foil, a miniature rubber elephant wearing a top hat, one of those green, nose suction thingies hospitals send home with infants… that sort of thing. If the contestant could come up the object, she’d win a prize.

If Monty Hall were to walk into Starbucks this morning (my office du jour), and invite me to play a slightly modified version of his gameshow—one in which prizes were awarded for the most cluttered, random thoughts—I’d be sitting in a Brand! New! Caaaaar! in a hot minute.

Following are eight things that’ve crossed my mind in the past hour or so:

  1. I’m drinking a skinny vanilla latte, so I’m reminded to offer you my semi-annual PSA: Some vanilla flavoring is partially derived from beaver anal gland secretions. Yep. It’s true. It goes by another name, castoreum, because “Now with juice of anal glands!” isn’t the sort of thing you want to see on a package of “all natural” cookies at Whole Foods. Admittedly, each of us consumes less than a millionth of a pound per year, but is there such a thing as an acceptable amount when it comes to this sort of thing? And even if you’re not eating the stuff, you may be dabbing it behind your ears, because castoreum is used in perfumes. Have you any idea how many beavers were chased down and stripped of their dignity so we can smell like the contents of their anal glands? I may need to start a GoFundMe campaign: Justice for Beaver Butts. Or something.
  2. Have volleyball players always worn spanx as shorts? Or were spanx modeled after volleyball shorts?
  3. Speaking of sports, I don’t understand the appeal of watching two people beat the stuffing out of one another—let alone paying to watch it happen. How do we explain that to kids? “Never use violence to solve problems. At least not for free. Make sure you get paid to beat someone into a bloody pulp.” It’s a miracle we haven’t created an entire generation of professional hitmen.
  4. If your church does a “meet and greet” or “pass the peace” or “hold hands across the pews and sing kumbaya,” guests who are introverts hate you.
  5. I once stole a handful of candy from a Brach’s Pix-a-Mix display and stuffed it in my purse. We were at a Woolworth’s or something at the mall, and I tripped as we were walking out of the store. Every single piece of Neapolitan coconut and assorted flavors of Milkmaid caramels went skidding across the floor, landing at my mother’s feet. I don’t recall what happened next, but that was the last time I shoplifted.
  6. I cheated my way through my high school Government class. Our teacher used the same 10-question, multiple-choice tests every year, and that was back when I could actually memorize a list of ten things. This may or may not explain why I can’t recall who succeeds the Speaker of the House as POTUS and why I had to rely on School House Rock to explain how a bill becomes a law. (This is a world-premiere level confession; I’ve never said it out loud. I’m still afraid Mr. Barelman’s going to show up at my front door and strip me of my high school diploma, which would subsequently void both my BA and MA. I guess that doesn’t really matter, since I’m using neither of those degrees.) That was my one and only episode of cheating. My guilt is my consequence. Please don’t tell my dad.
  7. I should drink more water, but bathroom breaks are terribly inconvenient.
  8. I’m worried about how many of you are questioning my character because of #5 and #6. And I just remembered my dad reads my blog.

All right, that’s enough of that. Thanks for indulging me some random and a bit of silly. Sometimes it’s nice to pretend like all is well with the world and write pure drivel.

Peace.

Dark and Other Not Okay Things

Thumbs Down

Awful things are happening in the world right now–truly terrifying, heart-breaking, overwhelming things. I can’t really process any more of it today, and so I’m going to write about less serious things. I recognize my ability to turn off the noise for a little while is evidence of privilege. Please don’t take my need for levity as evidence of an uninformed or cold heart. I won’t stay turned away. I just need to breathe tonight.

A Semi-Random List of Things That Are Not Okay

Premature Election Coverage. Too early. Too much. Too ridiculous. I mean, Donald Trump is still in the race. (I don’t particularly care for Donald Trump’s ideas. I know some people do, and if “some people” includes you, I’ll still love you. But please don’t try to convince me to vote for him, because that’s simply not going to happen. It’s not. So let’s talk about something else.)

Red Velvet Oreos. In 2012, Nabisco decided to diversify. I’m a purist, so I’m all about regular Oreos. No, not even Double-Stuf, because gross. Just two chocolate wafers and a thin disk of sugar + vegetable shortening for me, please. I kept silent about the non-traditional flavors as long as I could, but I cannot stay quiet about something so egregious as Red Velvet Oreos. Buttermilk and vinegar, people. Buttermilk and vinegar. Red Velvet anything is disgusting.

Including Red Velvet Candy Corn. Seriously, Brach’s. That’s only slightly less gross than the Strawberry Shortcake ones. Keep it simple, I say: Regular and Indian Corn is all that needs to happen. (Is “Indian Corn” even politically correct? Honest question.)

Red Velvet M&Ms. As it turns out, the whole Red Velvet takeover is Mars, Inc.’s fault. It launched the Red Velvet M&M in 2014–available only at Walmart and only around Valentine’s Day. Let’s be clear: The only proper flavors of M&Ms are plain and peanut. No, not peanut butter. Those taste too much like…

Reese’s Pieces. Ew.

Holiday Confusion. Labor Day is different from Memorial Day.

Using Any of the Following Words or Phrases. “For all intensive purposes.” “I could care less.” “All of the sudden.” “Irregardless.”

Dark. It shouldn’t be dark at 6 pm. I mean, I’m already in my jammie pants by then (the Dallas Cowboy ones, thank you very much), but that doesn’t mean I want it to be dark. I just want it to be elastic-waist-pants time. It’s really not too much to ask.

(Writing this post is taking much longer than I expected it to—mostly because I keep thinking of serious things that aren’t okay, and I can’t put “concealed carry” on the same list as Reese’s Pieces. Oh, whoops. Did I say “concealed carry” out loud? *ducks*)

House millipedes. One came out from underneath my toaster not too long ago. Have you ever tried to kill an insect with a toaster? It’s not as easy as it sounds. Warning: Some viewers will find this photo disturbing. Also not okay: cave crickets. Springy, sneaky jerks.

Soprano clarinets. 

Putting the cereal back in the pantry when there’s a tablespoon’s worth of Frosted Flakes silt in the bottom of the box. No bueno.

All right, that’s enough. I’ll be back to taking myself too seriously soon. Thanks for indulging me a bit of a respite.

Fuming

Fuel Pump

I was leaning against the side of my rental: a white, Fiat 500—quite possibly the cutest car I’ve driven since my dad sold our ’69 VW convertible 20 years ago. I’d chosen the slowest fuel pump in the Western Hemisphere. The one with the faulty auto-stop. The one that soaked me in fuel. Soaked me. 

I have no idea what came out of my mouth in the moment I realized what was happening, but I’m certain it was quite loud and not at all ladylike. Once I got the nozzle turned off and shoved back into the pump, my first (pointless) instinct was to grab the windshield washer squeegee thing and take a swipe at the side of the car. My second instinct was to march into the station, positively fuming—both figuratively and literally.

“Pump 7 has a faulty auto-stop, and it just drenched me in fuel,” I stammered at the attendant.

“I didn’t know the pump was faulty.”

“Clearly. I thought you might like to sop up the lake of gasoline and maybe take the thing out of service.”

“Sorry for the inconvenience.”

Inconvenience? Inconvenience? There’s a good possibility that when I start the car it’ll go up in a ball of flame; and even if I survive the blast, I don’t think State Farm will be a good neighbor on this deal; and even if there’s no fire at all, TSA’s going to arrest me for trying to board a plane as a human bomb; and if manage not to get arrested, every passenger on my flight is going to hate my guts because oh my Lord I smell like I’ve been bathing in gasoline. 

Yep. That entire scenario went through my mind as I blinked at the Shell attendant.

“Yeah. Okay,” I muttered, and went out to see how my spontaneous Choose Your Own Adventure would end.

Obviously, I’m neither a pile of ash nor in a holding cell in the bowels of DFW. I am however, wearing Dallas Cowboys pajamas.

After successfully returning the rental car and hopping the shuttle to the terminal, I had almost convinced myself that maybe I wasn’t all that stinky. The ticket agent brought me back to reality.

“Do you smell gasoline?”

“Oh, that’s me,” I said, trying not to burst into tears. “I got soaked at the gas station.”

“Oh. Oh wow. Okay. Well, ummmm, you’ll be all right.”

At which point, I began to sweat. Mmhmm. There’s nothing like a nervous, sweaty, middle-aged blond with a dab of gasoline behind each ear. I just shot up from a 5.4 to a 9.

I continued to sweat through the you’ve-gotta-be-kidding-me security line, wishing the teenagers behind me would give me some freaking personal space already, ignoring the “Do you smell gas?” comments, sniffing the air with the same confused-concerned expression everyone else was wearing.

After about 10 minutes of that nonsense, I decided Jesus would be cool with me replacing my clothing for the sake of my fellow travelers, and by the time I made it through security, I’d already researched my retail options. Option, that is—singular: Dallas Cowboys for Her. Dallas Cowboys for Her by Pink. Oh goodie.

I explained my predicament to the kind woman behind the cash register, who proceeded to help me put together an absurdly expensive ensemble from a brand I positively loathe. I stripped in a bathroom stall (gross), swapped clothing, and—eyes welling up with tears—threw away my favorite jeans, a tank top, a super-cute shirt I bought just weeks ago, and my belt.

Here’s my get-up: Blue pajama pants with COWBOYS down the left leg (but nothing on the rear end, thank you Jesus) and a blue sweatshirt with DALLAS COWBOYS across the front and PINK along the back neckline. The blues don’t match. Everything’s too big. The lettering on the pants and shirt are different colors. Oh, and I’m still wearing my Converse, which were spared in the melee. I look ridiculous. As I walked to my gate, I overheard a middle-age businessman comment to his buddy, “Now, that woman’s a Cowboys’ fan.”

And that’s how I narrowly avoided death, skirted TSA, wasted $200, and became a Cowboys fan in 90ish minutes.

Did you have any adventures today?

UPDATE: People wanted a selfie. I joked about the need for a GoFundMe. My daughter took me seriously and set one up with the goal of $200. All donations will go toward something on the most-needed list at The Bridge. If we hit the goal, I’ll post the selfie. For crying out loud, people.

UPDATE 2: Well, it happened. The photos’s below. Hope y’all are happy.

UPDATE 3: Because of the generous donations from folks who played along with Bekah’s GoFundMe silliness, I’m delivering 80 pounds of chicken breast to The Bridge. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Sick

Meds

Since we’re friends now, I feel like I can be honest: I’m pathetic when I’m sick.

Now, it’s my understanding, based on dozens of conversations with married friends, that this role is typically reserved for the guys. Well, I’ve never been one to kowtow to gender stereotypes.

It’s not like I ring a little bell to summon family members to my bedside (because I don’t own a little bell). Instead, I lay on the couch and fuss about how stuffed up I am or how sick to my stomach I feel or how painful my toenail fungus is.

(You guys. I totally made up that last bit. It’s on my mind because of that stupid Superbowl commercial last night, to which I won’t bother linking, because ew.)

Anywho, I’ve been sick since October, minus about three weeks, with the almost-never-ending cough. There were intermittent outbursts from my family: STOP COUGHING. My own outbursts were more frequent: OHMYGOSH I’M SO SICK OF COUGHING. Finally, after antibiotics, inhalers, steroids, and a magical, codeine-laced elixir, the cough went away.

Aaaaaaaand now the cough is back. This time, it brought its cousin from the country: sinus congestion. I’ve taken decongestants and expectorants and am nevertheless still mouth-breathing. Since Saturday, I’ve had about four hours of sleep. I’ve been working from home this afternoon, which is a good thing, because I caught myself whimpering. Whimpering. Also, I’m taking an antibiotic that’s making my tummy fwoopy, so I can’t even ask Jack to bring me an orange julius or something “for medicinal purposes.” (Plus my throat doesn’t hurt, so the whole “medicinal” schtick would be a big, fat lie.)

Emily’s away at school, Bekah’s at a late rehearsal, and Jack’s stuck in a meeting, so no one’s here to feel sorry for me. Well, except for the dogs, who are clearly sympathetic, as demonstrated by their insistence on being on my person at all times. Or? They’re cold. Because of the groomer debacle.

And to all you weirdos (term of endearment, I promise) who use the Neti pot: No. Just no. I’m sure it’s miraculous, but I have zero interest in inhaling salt water unless I’m at the beach.

Oh, that’s brilliant. The beach. For medicinal purposes.

Painfully Pink Belly

I’m a terrible dog owner.

Brooklyn and Skittle* know “sit,” but they don’t know “stay” or “down.” Or anything else. They bark incessantly, jump all over people, eat poo, and steal houseguests’ underthings. I don’t blame the dogs for their lack of canine character. Their training was my responsibility, after all, and I shirked that deal hard core.

Also, I won’t trim their nails, and I don’t bathe them all that often. And that, my friends, is why every few weeks they wind up at the fancy dog grooming place: “fancy” because that absolves me of my guilt—because what dog doesn’t love a day at the spa (except all of the dogs)—and “grooming place” because that means someone else has to clean up their eye boogers, express their anal glands, and, potentially, lose a finger to Skittle’s 700-PSI bite the moment she spies the nail grinder.

At yesterday’s drop-off at the groomer, I got the standard question, “Same as last time?” to which I gave the standard response, “Yes, please.”  I’m not sure if it was the “same as last time” or the “yes, please” that was misheard, but one or the other of those phrases became, “They will leave here with no fur.”

Exhibit A: Last Time

Fall 2014

Exhibit B: Today

Today

See the fuzzy looking stuff on their chests in the top picture? It’s fur. It’s supposed to be there.  

Skittle’s on the left, and I know that face she’s making. I know it, because I’ve made it. It’s the “I just paid a lot of money for a really bad haircut and I hope no one’s home so I can wash all the gunk out and try to make it look normal before they see me” face. As for poor Brooklyn and her painfully pink belly, I think she’s just putting on her brave face–much like the high-fashion models who find themselves teetering down the runway in getups like this one. (She’s wearing nearly the same expression, isn’t she?)

And what’s the deal with their ears? Did the dogs say, much like I do: “Hey, make sure I can still make a ponytail when you’re done with those scissors”?

And no, of course I didn’t complain when I picked them up. Actually, I didn’t even really notice (!) until it seemed too late to say anything. It wasn’t until they were relieving themselves in the field across the street that I took a good look and said, aloud and loudly, “Good God, puppies! What did they do to you?” (Followed quickly by, “Oh gross! Don’t eat that! That’s disgusting!”) And what was I supposed to do? March back in there and declare my dissatisfaction? Really? How does one complain about their dogs’ haircuts?

Oh.ma.gosh. Do you expect me to take them out in public like this? Eww.

The dogs are still depressed this morning. Brooklyn’s kicked off her runway stilettos and is chain-smoking cigarillos while she watches clips from America’s Top Model. Skittle’s exhausted from trying to turn on the bathtub tap with her teeth and is currently curled up in the fetal position on the couch. “Look away,” she just said to me, all Kramer-esque, “I’m hideous.”

So let this be a lesson to you: The next time you find yourself responding, “Yes, please” to questions like, “Same as last time?” or “The usual?” make sure the question posed doesn’t actually mean, “Shall we scalp you and strip you of all dignity?” Brooklyn can actually pull off “painfully pink belly.” You probably can’t.

 

 

 

*Hey, I bet your dogs have dumb names, too. Don’t judge.

Smelly

My first friends on Sigma Lane in Rantoul, Illinois were from another country. (I’m not going to say which one, because the commentary to follow will not be complimentary, and I don’t want anyone thinking I’m anti-_____ or that I think all people from ______ have this problem.)

The moving truck hadn’t even pulled away from our new home when I began wandering the neighborhood looking for playmates. J and A were sitting on their driveway drinking coconut milk–from an actual coconut. I was bold then: “Hi. Do you want to be friends?” I asked. “Sure,” J responded, offering her coconut to me.

I have only flashes of memory in regard to J and A: the coconut; the time we built a go cart out of a milk crate and roller skates and, on a test run, I did a mid-air flip and landed on my face; and the way their home smelled.

It was awful. Awful. 

I mention that J and A were from another country because I’m guessing some of the awful had to do with unfamiliar oils and spices. We were a hamburger-noodle casserole family, and their home smelled nothing like that. In fact, it smelled like nothing I’d experienced before.

Except. Dog poop. That smell I recognized. I just wasn’t used to experiencing it inside the house. J and A had a Pekinese, you see, and their basement was his kingdom. The first time J took me downstairs to meet the dog, I was overcome with the sight and smell of several weeks’ worth of poo. Tip of the day: If your basement floor is covered in dog mess, your house will smell like a natural fertilizer factory. There’s just no way around it.

And it’s from this experience that I developed one of my many hospitality-related anxieties: I worry about having a smelly home.

Admittedly, I have a sensitive nose. I’m constantly chasing after “mystery smells” that no one else in my family seems to be picking up. Usually, such offensive aromas can be traced to a rotting potato in the pantry. Once, I discovered soggy newspapers in the recycling bin. Chicken packaging and cantaloupe scraps are the easy ones to pinpoint, but I’m haunted by the more elusive, vaguely organic, olfactory horrors. “OHMYGOSHWHATISTHATSMELL?” “What smell?” Jack often responds. (He’s ten years older than I am, and I’ve heard that smell is one of the first senses to go, so he cannot be trusted.)

One of the reasons I don’t open the door to unexpected guests has to do with the time it takes for the smell of a newly lit candle to penetrate a room. It’s not polite to ask people to wait on the front porch for 15 minutes to give the candle time to do its thing. So, I do the next rudest thing: I don’t answer the door. I’m doing you a favor, really.

Anyone get me? Am I the only one with this fear?