easier listening

My office-mate listens to music over a set of small speakers on his desk. Normally he listens to a Jimmy Buffett channel, which I qualify under the heading of ‘easy listening. Today, however, he has switched to something I can only describe as…easier listening? But not in a good way.  Like, the grocery store I shop at has better, more up-beat tunes than what is playing in my office right now. My dentist’s reception area plays harder shit than this.

I’m actually a real classic rock nerd and most of the bands this station is playing are recognizable to me: Fleetwood Mac, The Doobie Brothers, Clapton, Van Morrison…all groups / performers that have vast catalogs of perfectly listenable music to their names. But this station has for some sick reason taken all the softest, sleepiest, most boring, most utterly mind-numbing tracks they could find from all these bands (plus a bunch of genuinely shitty other ones), and coalesced them into one extraordinary, unholy stream of sonic tranquilizer.

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It feels like an actual waste of the energy my brain is burning to convert the waves of sound vibrating my ear drums into something recognizable to me as music. I want those three calories back. I can find a better use for them, I’m sure of it.

Could I put my headset on and listen to something more tolerable? Certainly. But every once in a while I have to take my headset off and be assaulted by the tide of blandness that threatens to pull me under. Twenty minutes ago I had to take my ears out of their safe space in order to answer someone’s face-to-face question (savages, this is what email is for. LIVE IN THE NOW, JANET), and I noticed there was a particularly odious song playing across the room. It ended just as I was about to retreat back to playlist land, but then another, even WORSE track came on…and I’ll admit it, curiosity got the better of me. As it often does.

“This isn’t his normal station”, I thought. “This is something far, far worse. I wonder how many shitty songs in a row they’ll play”.

They’re all shitty songs, Brent. ALL OF THEM. I lost count when my brain actually browned out momentarily during Clapton’s ‘Let It Grow’. I came back as Elton John’s ‘Someone Saved My Life Tonight’ was starting and I knew I had to tell the world about it.

Sweet pole-dancing Christ, they just brought out the big guns: ‘Dog and Butterfly’ by Heart.

I can’t. I’m not strong enough.

The madness is descending.

Only the spirit of Chris Cornell can save me now…

seesaw

The company I work for moved offices last week. It had been in an old converted farm house in a tiny rural town for at least 25 years. A year or so ago, the rumblings about perhaps moving closer to civilization (such as we know it here in darkest New England, anyway) started getting louder. Then the building we were in had some pretty serious structural issues and that kind of sealed the deal, as no one really wanted to be around when the front wall of the place finally collapsed. Funny how that works.

Anyway.

So, the new office is pretty swish in a lot of ways. It’s in a big town / small city, and it’s near a bunch of restaurants, shops, and other businesses. The old place was near…a hardware store. The new place was built less than 25 years ago so it has modern windows that actually open and, even better, actually close. The windows in the old place were hit and miss on both those points. We have central air conditioning in the new building, so no more struggling to hear people on the phone over the roar of the nearest window A/C unit! Gone is the tiny, grotty, galley kitchenette that had barely enough room for the coffee makers and the sink. Now we have a big, bright, break room with two full sized counters…and cupboards! So many cupboards. There’s tons of storage everywhere in this place as well – we have closets, utility rooms, little knee-wall cubby spaces…so many spots to cram junk (that’s what she said). All the storage in the old place was in the basement, and let me just tell you in case you’ve never been in the basement of an early 1800’s farmhouse: they are, generally, fucking terrifying. There were spiders the size of my hand in that basement. I don’t even do small spiders, friends…so ones the size of my hand are nuke-from-orbit territory.  Having storage areas where I don’t feel like I’m about to be pounced on and dragged away by outsize arachnids gets a big A+ in my book.

Another fun feature of the new office is the bright, modern bathrooms. The bathrooms at the old place were tiny and terribly lit – one of them was dubbed “the coffin” because it was so narrow and dark. The bathrooms were also all very close to the kitchenette, so you could stand there making a cup of coffee and hear pretty much everything going on in the bathrooms. Even our bathroom upstairs by my old office, which was a little bit bigger than the downstairs ones, suffered from a distinct lack of soundproofing. I’m pretty sure my office mate was privy to at least a few of my louder sobbing breakdowns in the can. These new bathrooms, though! They’re down the hall, pretty much equidistant from all the offices and the break room, they’re single occupancy, and they don’t seem to share any walls with any of the work spaces. As someone who not only has regular bathroom-based crying jags but also an intermittent inflammatory bowel condition, I appreciate this feature perhaps more than most.

The new bathrooms do indeed have a lot going for them but there’s also something weird that I’ve noticed going on in them:

The toilets seesaw.

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Does anybody else see a slightly sinister raccoon face in this image? Just me? Paging Dr. Rorshach…Dr. Rorschach to the accounting office, STAT…

The bathrooms are situated back to back with a closet in between. I’m not sure, but I suspect the cause of the seesaw effect is that a sewer pipe that comes up through the wall branches off in a T shape to connect to the back of the toilets, which then drain down to the bigger pipe at ground level. Regardless of how, I’m quite positive that the stools are connected, and the WAY I’m sure of this is that I was sitting on one when I heard someone enter the adjacent bathroom, sit on that toilet, and I subsequently felt my throne rise a rather alarming inch or so.

Now, it wasn’t enough to pick my feet up off the ground or anything. I’m almost six feet tall so that would take some doing. But it was a very noticeable shift upward. I sat there looking slightly panicked, not knowing quite how to proceed. If I got up, would the person on the other side go down? Gravity dictates that in seesaw, the heavier end always goes down. But I’m the heaviest person in the office by some distance…easily twice the weight of all but a few of my coworkers…so why was MY side of the toilet see-saw going UP when someone lighter than me was sitting on it? I am entirely certain that they were not already on the stool when I first sat down, because I heard them enter the neighboring bathroom after I was already sitting.

I ended up just staying put, waiting out the other person so I could see what happened. After a short moment (clearly this was one of my older coworkers who doesn’t understand the importance of mid-day Instagram breaks. THIS IS HOW I SELF SOOTHE JANET, DEAL WITH IT), there was a distinct downward shift of my toilet and the sound of my neighbor flushing. The see-saw had come full…circle? No, that would be bad. The eagle had landed. That sounds bad in a toilet context too, actually. Whatever. You know what I mean.

After that initial seesaw experience my interest was piqued. Was it just a freak thing? Did I hallucinate it? Not that I normally hallucinate (at least, not that I know of. Oh god, we’re all just brains in vats aren’t we?!), but I believe in SCIENCE and SCIENCE says that if your hypothesis produces reliably repeatable results then something something quarks and neutrinos, and then you get the Nobel Prize. And since pretty much the last thing I’m interested in doing at my place of work most days is my actual job, I figured I might as well try to gather more data.

If that makes it sound kind of like I staked out the bathrooms for the next few hours,  trying to rush in to sit on the toilet of the opposite one every time someone went in to use the john, well…that’s not especially inaccurate. It wasn’t full on surveillance, though. I just kept finding excuses to wander up and down the hall, visiting the bathrooms all afternoon. Once I was in one, I’d sit around for a while waiting to see if someone would visit the neighboring one and seesaw me. So it differed little from a normal work day, to be fair.

Anyway.

I tallied three confirmed instances of toilet seesawing yesterday afternoon, and I’ve tallied a further one so far today. I really think I’m on to something here, friends.

In fact, I’m so confident about my impending Nobel Prize that I’ve started drafting a list of names for all the goats I’m going to acquire once I get that sweet million bucks and am able to buy my dream farm…

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We’ll start with Newton and Tesla. 

laundry day bra syndrome

Anyone who has ever worn a bra has probably experiences Laundry Day Bra Syndrome, or LDBS. LDBS happens when all your good bras are in the wash but you can’t / don’t want to go bra-less, so you pull out a old bra that has been relegated to the back of the drawer. You know, one of the bras that still has enough life in it to merit being saved from a ride to the dumpster, but that has enough wrong with it that you’ve removed it from daily rotation. It has become a back-up bra for occasions just like these. You don’t have to rely on these back-up bras very often so the memory of whatever physical horror they may have been causing that brought you to buy replacement bras has faded and been tinged rosy with nostalgia.

‘This was always a good bra’, you say to yourself as you pull it out of the drawer.

You put it on and pull up the straps (unless you’re one of those sorceresses that puts their bra on straps-first, in which case, I am both in awe and slightly afraid of you). You do the swoop-and-scoop maneuver and adjust your boobs in the cups. You look down at your very satisfactory cleavage and wonder why you don’t actually wear this bra more often. The shirt you don seems to sit better across your chest than ever before, and you vow to add this clearly lost gem of a bra back into your regular rotation.

All is happy and right. Tits up, shoulders back, you feel like you and your rediscovered favorite foundation garment can take on the world. You strut through the next couple hours of your day like the patriarchy-smashing goddess you were always meant to be. There’s that one tiny spot where the bra band is starting to ride up just a bit under your left arm, but it’s hardly even noticeable. You toss your hair triumphantly and throw the person bagging your groceries a little wink, just because.

As the day wears on, that tiny spot riding up under your left arm becomes a little larger. While bending down to reach for something, the whole left side of the bra’s band suddenly rolls up like a window shade that has been pulled too hard and sprung violently. It’s ok, though! Small price to pay for such great support, right? You look down to admire your rack again, then reach around and dig the rolled-up band out of your flesh with a smile. The band immediately starts to creep up again. You briefly consider sticking it down with some double-stick tape, then move on with your day.

By mid afternoon things have deteriorated significantly. You are embroiled in a near-constant struggle with the bra. Every time you move your left arm, the band rolls up into your armpit and requires excavation. When you turn to the right, the inside tip of the underwire pokes you in the side of your breast. The wonderful support you were so enamored with this morning has all but completely dissolved as the back of the bra will now not stay put at all. The structural integrity of the straps is questionable at best – one is digging so deeply into your shoulder that it’s compressing a nerve which is in turn causing three of your fingers to go numb, while the other one has loosened to the point of abject pointlessness. You now remember very clearly why this piece-of-shit waste-of-money symbol of oppression had been shoved in the back of your drawer, and that’s exactly where it’s going back to as soon as you can get away with taking it off. Because, after all, it’s still got enough life to merit keeping it a while longer even though it’s got issues. You know, as an emergency bra. You vow to make a tag that says “EMERGENCY ONLY” to affix to the bra as a warning to Future You.

There comes a moment – perhaps in the late afternoon, perhaps in the early evening – when you simply can’t take it anymore. It’s you or the bra, and since you’re the one with brain power and thumbs, you win. That fetid combination of spandex, wire and hate gets shucked off and flung across the room as you let out a whoop of relief.

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The bra lays there, rejected, in the corner for a while. But it eventually gets picked up, washed, and put back into the drawer…where it will lurk in wait for the desperation of another laundry day when all the good bras are once again unavailable.

lust for pie

On Sunday, my lust for pie landed me at Urgent Care.

If you follow me on any other social media platforms, you may already be familiar with this saga. For the benefit of those wise subscribers who don’t follow me elsewhere, and for the sake of posterity, I’m about to re-tell the tale here in long form.  Probably too long.

Anyway. Here goes.

We used to have this neighbor – he moved out a couple years ago. We called him Crazy Gary. I feel pretty OK with labeling him as crazy since I’m sort of crazy too and also he was definitely, obviously a little bit not right in the head. Which is fine, nothing wrong with being crazy if it works for you and you’re not hurting anybody…which I’m relatively sure he wasn’t.

Crazy Gary lived in this little house on a bit of property that’s bordered on two sides by our quiet, dead-end road. The other two sides are bordered by our landlord’s property, which is mostly a woodchuck wonderland of lawn and vegetable patches. Crazy Gary was a hoarder and a tinkerer. He had every kind of engine you could imagine sitting around in his tiny back yard, and could often be found fabricating strange hybridized lawnmower-garden tiller-tree trimmer things out of like, spare bike parts and twine. The guy was clearly some sort of mechanical genius. What he was NOT, however, was a responsible custodian of the house he lived in. The house actually belonged to Crazy Gary’s absentee mother and I guess she eventually got sick of the place being trashed and full of boxes of greasy sprockets whenever anyone went to check on it, so she had him evicted. Technically the house is now for sale as a ‘fixer upper’, but it’s really more of a ‘faller inner’. They cleaned out a lot of Crazy Gary’s hoard (like four huge rolling dumpsters worth, plus I don’t even know how many truck loads. It took them a couple weeks), but there are still piles of junk hanging around. The house has some broken windows. One of the exterior doors came unlatched at some point in the winter and now the woodchucks are using it as a clubhouse. Most mornings when I drive by on my way to work, there’s at least one woodchuck out on the front step sunning itself, giving me side-eye like “yeah, you keep moving, bi-ped. This place is four legger territory now.”

Point being…the property is abandoned.

Which conveniently relieves me of any qualms I might have had about appropriating the odd armful of stalks from Crazy Gary’s huge, beautiful rhubarb patch. It’s not stealing if it doesn’t belong to anybody in the first place, right? And it’s just going to go to seed and spread further across the lawn if someone DOESN’T harvest it, so really, I’m doing them a favor, right?

Right.

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This patch is easily 6’X8′. Trust me, there’s enough. Also? Someone else had been in it before me, so I feel almost entirely absolved of guilt.

Sunday afternoon was actually the first time I made a rhubarb run this season. It had been ready to make delicious things with for a few weeks but I kept either forgetting or running out of time in the day (you don’t go into woodchuck country at night. They’re like bats but worse. 10 gold Internet doubloons if you get that awkward and unskillful reference), or just plain lacked the ambition to walk the 50 yards out around the corner and pull some. But this past Sunday the weather was glorious, I was in a mood to cook, and the siren song of pie was just too much to ignore…so off I went.

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On the way back home with my only-marginally-ill-gotten gains. You see that knife glinting out from the rose-tinged stalks in my hand there? I sharpened it up real good before this whole endeavor kicked off. Foreshadowing? POSSIBLY.

My bounty and I made a quick stop at the compost pile to get rid of its leaves and stem ends, and then it was back to the kitchen to transmute this bunch of inedible hell-stalks into a toothsome pie.

Rhubarb pie is dead simple to make, especially if you’re a pastry slacker like me and use store bought pie crust (life is too short to fuck with pie crust from scratch. Don’t come at me with your tips and tricks because I’ve tried them all and they work fine, I just completely detest rolling out pie crust and I’m not going to do it. Save the wear on your finger joints. I love you). The majority of the work is in slicing the stalks and mixing them with sugar. Super easy.

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There’s that very sharp knife again. It’s a Henckels, and I’ve had it for nigh on 15 years. I cook A LOT and this knife is essentially an extension of my right hand.

One of the things about my ADHD is that it often takes me on tangents. The beat up jalopy of my mind is always taking turns down sketchy, winding side roads, often on two wheels at a high rate of speed, when it is least convenient. It can get very frustrating because I feel like I’m not the driver but rather, just one of those little smiley-face balls people sometimes stick on the end of their radio antennas. Sometimes I’m just along for the ride and I have very little say in direction or velocity, and that gets exhausting. I’ve mentioned before that one of the things I find helpful in terms of regaining a feeling of control over my brain is to make things. The creative process burns a lot of gas for me (big on the automotive metaphors today, I guess. Crazy Gary would approve), which helps slow things down a little. Making also often involves repetitive motions: the under-and-through under-and-through of knitting, the stab and draw of the needle and thread when embroidering…and of course, the methodical motions of chopping up ingredients for a dish.

Some people are afraid of very sharp knives, but anyone who has spent any time in a professional kitchen will tell you that the sharper the knife the better. Sharp knives are safer to work with, and they’re far more satisfying. There’s a specific swish that a good sharp knife makes when it cuts through veg, a specific feeling when I’m motoring through a stalk of whatever and making nice even cuts. It’s like everything else falls away, including the static in my head, and I’m in a state of flow. It’s just the knife and the veg dancing across the board, with my hands guiding via pure muscle memory. I don’t have to think about anything when I chop. I just have to show up and make the motions. It’s like a tiny glimpse of nirvana.

Another thing about ADHD is that it there are no guarantees. Something that helped you relax and focus one day might not work the next. And that hyper-focus, that Zen-like state of flow where everything seems like it’s happening almost without you, like some beautiful out-of-body experience where you get to just sit back and watch? That can vanish in an instant, in mid-motion, leaving you feeling lost and bemused until you realize, oh yes, I’ve fallen out of The Flow and I’m back on planet Earth.

And the thing about sharp knives is, they’re made of metal and thus very unforgiving. They have ZERO fucks to give about your mental state. They demand constant respect and utmost focus. A sharp knife can do a lot of damage if you’re distracted for even a split second.

Which, as you may have guessed, is how I ended up crumpled in a kitchen chair with my head between my knees, trying desperately to not pass out while I squeezed a wad of paper towel against the side of my left index finger in an attempt to staunch a rather alarming flow of blood.

The knife was in my finger, completely through my flesh and out the other side before I even registered anything. I tried to give it a quick rinse under cold water but I could immediately tell that it was deep and bad, so I went for paper towel and pressure instead. I’ve cut myself plenty of times in the past and I knew all the things to do – hold firm pressure on the wound, keep my hand above the level of my heart, sit down and stop pacing. I breathed my way through the massive urge to throw up and the torrent  of cold sweat that an adrenaline come-down always leaves me with, then I made my way to the couch so I could put my feet up. Mark wasn’t home and Keppo was pretty sure that he could fix everything by adamantly licking my face, which was as endearing as it was ineffective.

The blood wasn’t seeping through the paper towel, but the wound was getting re-opened every time I moved the paper towel to try and see if the bleeding was stopped. After about 40 minutes or so of repeating that cycle, I finally admitted that I may need stitches. I probably COULD have driven myself one-handed to Urgent Care, which is about 30 min away almost entirely by interstate, but I was still feeling a little wobbly from shock so I called my dad for a ride instead.

About twenty minutes after I went in, I emerged from the Urgent Care facility with a finger held together by superglue and steri-strips, and wrapped with elasticated gauze to roughly the size of the average corn dog.

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The doctor pointed out that it kind of looked like a dick and I couldn’t not see it after that. He used the term ‘winky’ though, which was more charming.

I’m grateful that I didn’t need stitches. I’m even MORE grateful that I didn’t sever an artery or a tendon. I’m still going to keep my knives sharp, but I might not do any serious slicing or chopping while I’m home alone for a while.
And I’m definitely going to steal more of Crazy Gary’s rhubarb.

the power of rhubarb compels you

Have you ever wondered how hard it is to become a minister? Well, wonder no more, friends and gawkers! For I, Rhubarb Tiberius Swank, Queen of Steves and Lego Dinosaurs, Starter of Many Things and Finisher of Few, Supreme Glittering Viscountess of Run-on Sentences and Abuser of Ellipsis…es?, have recently had holy orders conferred upon my person.
That’s right, I’m now officially an ordained minister!
Why, you ask? Well, that’s kind of a funny story. And, as with a fair number of my questionable ideas, it all starts with Facebook…
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If you don’t know what this means, I’m a) very sad for you, and b) think you’re probably up past your bedtime.

So, the other day I was skimming through my Facebook feed, as I am often wont to do of a weekday afternoon when the rigors of sending the same emails to the same people over and over again have inevitably brought my brain to teeter on the precipitous brink of madness. It was during the initial aftermath of the recent SCOTUS decision about the case where that asshole baker in Colorado decided they didn’t want to make wedding cakes for gay couples. There was a friend on my feed posting about how she’s ordained and would be happy to perform marriage ceremonies for any gay couples in any state, etc. That made me smile of course, because love is love. People should be able to marry whoever the frig they want (assuming both parties are down with it, obviously), and it ain’t nobody’s business what flavor of human another human likes to boink.

But it also got me thinking. Not the boinking thing, I mean (although…), but rather, the ordination part. The person who had posted this was someone I call a friend, but I’ve never met her in person. We’ve never had any talks about beliefs, philosophy, or religion, but given the avenues through which I became acquainted with her, I was pretty comfortable in assuming that she leaned pretty atheist. Rather than send her a message and start asking all kinds of probing questions about her personal beliefs and religious affiliations, I instead took myself over to trusty ol’ Google and typed in “how to get ordained”.

Side note here: if anyone ever truly hacks me, I’d be 97% willing to give up my credit card and bank account information in exchange for the solemn promise that they not compile and publish a comprehensive list of my lifetime Google search terms, because HOLY POLE DANCING CHRIST, I would never live it down. Like…you don’t even know. You don’t WANT to know. It’s that bad.
Aaaaaanyway.

One of the first things that came up in the results was a site called Universal Life Church. Having never heard of them, I was 50/50 on whether it was some kind of “every sperm is sacred” situation (you know, the ones who say you can’t even masturbate because THINK OF THE POTENTIAL CHILDREN), a cult like that one that starts with an S and ends with -ology and kind of sounds like the word ‘science’ (I am genuinely afraid of them and refuse to type out the whole name online. If you aren’t afraid of them, you need to watch Louis Theroux’s movie about them. Google it. I’m not even linking it because I’m convinced they keep track), or maybe just a nice, gentle, UU-type “don’t be a dick and everything will probably be alright” kind of thing.

Wait, that was three options, not two. So rather than 50/50 I was…33.3333/33.3333/33.3333…ish. Shout out to infinite decimals, heyyyyy.

Fucking A, where was I?

Ok, yes. Universal Life Church. I held my breath, clicked on the link, and was immediately greeted with a cheerful banner image of a dove in flight, with the words “We are all children of the same Universe”. Following this was a link to a video of Conan O’Brien proffering his own certificate of ordination from Universal Life Church. I exhaled. These were clearly my people.

There was a big blue button mid-page that said “Online Ordination”, flanked with what I originally thought were lightening bolts (me, internally: fuck yes, let’s get Norse up in this motherfucker! Zap me with some Odin-juice! Wait…), but what I now see are actually rough approximations of olive branches. Which make more sense, to be fair…but are a little on the boring side.

I clicked on the button. Through the dark arts of tiny HTML gnomes with pixel-axes (get it? Heeee), I was whisked to another page which said a bunch of stuff about how this ordination was legal in all states, how I couldn’t lie and give a fake name, some crap about online communities that were available if I had questions, etc. Much more interestingly, there was also a sidebar showing some of the other famous people in addition to Conan who had been ordained through the site. You know,  in case I needed more confirmation that I would be in truly esteemed company. The list included such luminaries as:

  •  Lady Gaga
  •  Stephen Colbert
  •  Ian McKellan
  •  Paul McCartney
  •  Richard Branson (maybe not as compelling of a selling point as they think)
  •  that Beneflick Clumbermonk guy, and…

…wait for it…

…waaaaaaitttt…

…Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, who I personally have oft considered worshiping as a supreme being in and of himself.

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 I couldn’t hit that next big, blue, definitely-olive-branch-and-not-lightening-bolt-festooned button that said “Begin Ordination Now” fast enough.

The next step was a web form to fill in. First and last name, email address, state and country of residence, and password to use for the site. I filled it all in and read the fine print at the bottom, which was just some junk about being 18 years of age, and how to access your paperwork later on.

I hovered over the “Submit Ordination Request” button for a minute, wondering what I was getting myself info. Would there be a background check? Would I have to submit references who could vouch for the fact that I’m not secretly a puppy-kicker? Would I have to demonstrate my knowledge of…well, anything?

My gaze floated back up to the ecstatic pearly grin of Mr. The Rock. It was almost as if he was offering a benediction through the computer screen, a blessing for my interminable curiosity and the weird places it often takes me. And my roody-poo candy ass, of course.

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I’m shining it, Mr. The Rock. I’m shining it! (If you’re unfamiliar with The Rock’s wrestling catchphrases, that’s going to sound really sordid out of context. I acknowledge this, but I do not apologize.)

I don’t THINK I actually uttered the words “I’m doing this for you, Rock…” out loud as I hit the button. My co-worker didn’t ask what the shit I was talking about at least, so I’m probably safe.

A split second after I hit the button, the screen flashed up with a big certificate with my name across it (my real name…I didn’t lie to the church like I do to most of social media), proclaiming me officially ordained, legally capable of performing marriages…

…and starting my own ministry.

[ Imagine a picture of my official certificate here. I can’t actually show it to you because it costs $39.95 to download and I haven’t coughed that up yet. You’ll just have to trust me.]

That’s right. I could actually start a Church of Rhubarbology, if I so chose. Or a United Church of Swank. Or I could start a religion where there were ascending orders of holiness named after the chapters in The Hobbit, where you’d have to complete thematic initiation rites for each order. I could start an actual church devoted to the worship of perfect avocados. Or the smell of freshly cut hay.

I COULD CREATE THE CHURCH OF LATTER-DAY STEVES.

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Praise Nuts!

In all seriousness, though: I didn’t actually do this as a joke. I saw the potential for amusement in it, sure…but my sincere motivation was to be able to make myself available to conduct marriage ceremonies for people that might otherwise have a hard time finding someone to do so. It is remarkable and continually infuriating to me that we still live in a country where some people can’t love who they want to love without being given a load of shit about it. If my silly little ordination adventure can be counted as taking a stand against that oppression, then I’m truly proud to do it.

And if you’ve already got an officiant for your big gay wedding but are having trouble finding someone to bake you a cake, I can sort you out there, too.

I promise I won’t even make you have rhubarb as one of the flavors.

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 Happy Pride!

level four event

Over the weekend we had a Level Four Steve Event and it was spectacular. I was standing there at the kitchen sink watching two Steves root around for snacks under the bird feeder when there was a rustle off to the left and a third Steve descended the trunk of the big maple tree and started his own snuffle quest. As I announced to the household that we were in the midst of a Level Three Event, also known as a Triple Blessing, a fourth Steve poked its precious snoot out from the underbrush on the extreme right perimeter of the bird feeder area. It proceeded with caution up the pole to the bird feeder and began stuffing its pouches.

All chipmunks are named Steve, by the way – I should remind newcomers of this.

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This was the actual best day of my life. This was OG Steve, who would happily bounce up to me and take peanuts and even let me pet him. RIP, OG Steve.

For context, it’s worth pointing out that Level Two Events, also known as Double Stevenings, are pretty common at our place. Triple Blessings are more rare but they do happen with some regularity. Level Four Events happen maybe twice or three times a summer, tops. We’ve had one Level Five Event in the three summers we’ve lived at this place and I nearly passed out from excitement at the time. Mark still doesn’t entirely believe that it actually happened but I saw it with my own eyes and no one can take that away from me.

The Level Four Event on Sunday was actually the second one we’ve seen this summer. The first one was a few weeks ago, just before what we’re sadly calling The Culling. Our next door neighbors have three cats, you see – two giant ginger tanks and a little smoke-grey ghost. The grey cat is an actual hunter – I’ve seen it launch out of the bushes to pluck song birds out of air in mid-flight. It also regularly catches field mice, voles, and even the occasional mole. The ginger cats are far less industrious but, perhaps out of some small inkling of shame about becoming the sedentary gits that they are, they will sometimes attempt to “hunt”. Since they’re lazy and don’t want to go very far, “hunting” means parking their fluffy arses in the middle of my lilies or daffodils and half napping while they wait for a Steve to pop up from a burrow and scurry past them. I kid you not, I have watched one of the ginger cats doze off while humped up next to a Steve-hole, “hunting”. And eight times out of ten, even when they’re wide awake, they miss the Steves. A couple weeks ago someone had a hot streak though, because we found two Steve corpses over the span of about seven days. Since all Steves look pretty much the same (it has taken me three years to be able to differentiate the adults from the juveniles, and I’m not even super sure that I’m right about that – it’s just that some of them are bigger and have more grey on their  hind ends and so I assume those are adults. Being an adult certainly makes my hind end feel grey, anyway), and since we had only seen four Steves prior to The Culling, we were certain that the population had been halved. To suddenly see four all at once again was pretty fantastic.

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A Steve stuffing his face in the feeder a week or so ago. The audio got lost when I converted the video to a GIF so you can’t hear my patented, based-on-science, soothing sing-songy murmur of “SteeeEEEEeeeeve” in the background. Also, this one won’t take snacks from me. YET.

 

well that was weird

Last night I had a dream that my grandmother came back to life.

Not like, that she was alive and trucking along like nothing had happened. No, I dreamed that she actually came back from the dead.

I specifically remember thinking in the dream, “wait, we CREMATED you. How is this even a thing?” But I never asked it out loud in the dream because it seemed kind of rude, and because honestly, I was pretty happy to have her back and didn’t want to jinx it.

There was a bunch of other weird stuff going on in the dream as well:

  • my dad and my uncle were working on fixing up a little house for Surprise Resurrected Nana to live in,
  • Surprise Resurrected Nana was having some health issues (understandably, considering) and so my aunts and my mom and I were taking turns running her back and forth to the doctor,
  • and one of my cousins was going around town trying to buy back a bunch of Surprise Resurrected Nana’s stuff that had been sold off in a yard sale after her passing.

Also, I became convinced that I had had a premonition about her coming back from the dead because, one night while I was sitting at the kitchen table painting, I could smell her on the breeze. That actually happened in real life a few nights ago, oddly – I was sitting there painting and the breeze that wafted in through the open window smelled so intensely like Nana’s old house (the one she lived in when I was a little kid, not the house she spent the rest of her life in after my grandfather died), that I had this combination of powerful nostalgia and skin-crawling creepiness. I absolutely believe in ghosts and I’m pretty sure that she was visiting me for whatever reason the other night.

So…maybe my brain was trying to work through my feelings about that strange, creepy visit by putting it in dream form. Maybe the dream was brought on by the fact that yesterday was my mom’s birthday and I was thinking a lot about people I love getting older and how that’s simultaneously the most normal and also the most terrifying thing about life. Maybe it was the simple byproduct of random neural impulses zapping through the soup of fucked-up neurotransmitters sloshing around in my skull.

Or maybe it was because I ate a gigantic hot fudge sundae a couple hours before bed.

Who can really say.

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“I’m pouting because all I got was one half-assed lick of whipped cream. These monsters are so cruel to me. Won’t somebody save me?” – Keppo, Semi-Professional Pouter and All Around Neglected Canine

how dare you

Some people collect Pez dispensers. Some people collect uranium glass. Some people collect magazines, or rocks, or posters, or children.

I collect house plants.

I mean, I collect other stuff too, but if you were to walk into my apartment and look around, the second thing that would probably stick out to you is that I have a lot of random green things growing in various containers of dirt. The first thing that would stick out would be the dust bunnies, but we’re not talking about them today. Or ever.

There’s a pothos vine that cascades about three feet from the top of the hutch in the kitchen. There’s a smaller pothos vine that I propagated from the first one (because buying new living things is fun, but growing new living things from the old things without having to pay for them is even better, unless the living things are human, in which case NOT INTERESTED). There’s a huge aloe plant that I detest but can’t seem to give away and don’t have the heart to just throw out. There are four bushy holiday cacti (not actually cacti at all by the way, they’re epiphytes…/plantnerd) – one that I bought and three that I inherited when my Nana passed away. I have a dracaena that is aspiring to become a legit tree, and a mini jade plant that I intend to someday turn into a bonsai.

Then there are the violets.

I have three mature African violets – two full sized and one miniature. I also have four containers with violet leaves in various states of propagation, most of which have more than one plant in them. So, while my actual mature violet count is currently three, I have a Potential Violet Count closer to like…12. Which is way more than I realized and now I kind of regret doing that mental tally because I sound less like a collector and more like a hoarder-slash-mad-scientist-wanna-be, which isn’t exactly INACCURATE, but is maybe hitting a little too close to home. Also, tangent: this list of house plants doesn’t take into account the stuff I have growing in containers out on my front step, because those are OUTSIDE plants and are thus a whole different classification of problem.

ANYWAY.

All this is to establish that I’m pretty into plants, violets especially. It should come as no great surprise then that I participate in an African Violet growers group on Facebook. It’s a private group so at least it’s not the abject hive of misery and abuse that a public group would be…but like any group about any subject on the Internet, there are people with Opinions. The Opinions are almost always shared respectfully, which is a refreshing change, but every once in a while the snark creeps in a little bit and it’s unintentionally hilarious.

Take, for instance, the lady who recently posted a picture of what she called her “palm tree violet”. It was a lovely little plant with a thick brown stem that rose up a couple inches and was topped with a canopy of lush green leaves. The crowning glory was a small cluster of light pink blooms set just a little off center, like a lady with a rose tucked into her hair at a jaunty angle. The overall effect was, to me, quite charming.

Most African violets grow from a center stalk outward, pushing new leaves up and out from the crown of the plant. As new leaves get bigger and spread out, they force the older leaves down.  That bottom layer of leaves has to regularly be removed as the plant grows, so that the new leaves can keep growing without exerting pressure and damaging the old ones. The problem with doing this is that, by removing those lower leaves, you expose the central stalk (also called the neck) of the plant. Normally you see African violets with their bottom-most layer of leaves flush against the edge of the container they’re growing in – that’s the standard. Growers will usually re-pot their violets every 6 months or so to maintain this look. What the “Palm Tree Violet” lady had done was the opposite – she just kept trimming the old bottom leaves off but didn’t re-pot and trim the central stalk, so it just kept growing up and up with the rest of the plant growing on top.

The plant was perfectly healthy and happy, as evidenced by the condition of the leaves and the fact that it was blooming. But OH MY GOD, the side-eye in the comments. It was gold:

“What did you DO to that plant?”

“You’re torturing it!”

“That’s not what it’s supposed to look like, Janet.”

“Why would you do this?!”

“You need to trim the neck on that plant IMMEDIATELY.”

And on, and on. Several brave souls interjected that they liked the look, and that she could grow her plants any damn way she liked, but the vast majority of comments were the Facebook equivalent of disapproving tuts. Which, granted, considering the utter vitriol that bubbles forth from most Internet comment sections, it was like a picnic in the park that was topped off with a free ice cream cone and a hand job, but still. Sooooo much side-eyeing and snark over one little plant that was probably being grown culturally much closer to how it would be found in nature to begin with.

Because you know there aren’t like trained chameleons in the cloud forests of Tanzania going around trimming the bottom leaves and burying the necks of wild saintpaulias in order to make sure they adhere to AVS standards.

Also, now I want to get some chameleons and see if I can train them to clean my bathroom…

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“Holy pole-dancing Christ, lady. This is the most boring thing you’ve ever written. It’s so boring that I’m considering eating my own poop for a little excitement. I mean, I was thinking about it anyway, but it’s becoming a more viable option by the minute. Seriously what’s wrong with you?” – Keppo, Trash Eater and Blog Critic Extraordinaire

history

Once upon a time there was  a woman named Rhubarb. Her name wasn’t REALLY Rhubarb but she was paranoid about getting found out and losing her job so she started calling herself Rhubarb online because she liked the sound of it and also rhubarb was her favorite type of pie and besides she’d always had kind of a thing for hiding behind screen names that sound cooler than she ever hoped to be in real life.

Anyway.

Rhubarb’s brain was full of weasels. Not real weasels, but thought-weasels. The weasels gnawed away at her insides by whispering terrible things:

“You’ll never amount to anything. You’re not as smart as they said you were as a child. No one likes you. They just hang out with you because they feel bad for you. They feel bad for you because they see how you struggle with the simplest things. They laugh behind your back. You can’t even speak in complete sentences half the time! You’re too slow, you take up too much space, you’re in everyone’s way. You’re a burden to those you care about. You’d be better off just walling yourself off and becoming a hermit. Don’t kill yourself because that would make you even MORE of a burden to those you care about. Just push everything inward, keep compacting yourself until you implode, like a neutron star. Except you probably couldn’t even do that right because nothing you do is ever good enough…”

She went to the doctor and got some medicine to try and purge the weasels, but all it did was muffle them on an inconsistent basis. Their whispers still broke through. Their gnawing still drew blood. The doctor gave her some other medicine, and some other medicine, and some other medicine. Some of the medicine worked some of the time, some of the medicine worked none of the time. None of the medicine worked for very long.

Rhubarb got sick of dealing with medicines that only sometimes sort of worked. She went to a different doctor who wanted to talk instead. Rhubarb talked and cried, and talked some more and cried a LOT more, because the weasels fought and bit and thrashed. They were not fans of the talking.

One of the things talk-doctor asked Rhubarb was what she liked to do. Rhubarb liked to make things with her hands: things with string, things with paint, things with wood and music and words and whatever else she could get to hang together in some precarious way. Making things gave Rhubarb’s motor some steering and wheels, it gave her the means to distance herself from the weasels, even if only for a short while. The talk-doctor suggested that Rhubarb try to cultivate a habit of making as a way of keeping the weasels at bay. That seemed like a decent idea so Rhubarb gave it a try. She was already making things with string or paint or food most days, though. She needed something new.

When Rhubarb was a girl, writing had been one of her favorite things. A couple of her teachers made noise about how she was OK at it, which made her feel good. Writing fell by the wayside for her not long after high school, though. Rhubarb went to college and got pretty brain-sick with a big weasel infestation not long after, then got kicked out of college, had to become an Adult (not recommended), and didn’t  have the time or energy to write for a long time after that. It was something that she often missed and was sad about having given up. When talk-doctor told her to find something to make a habit of making, she decided that writing could maybe be her making thing. Her brain-weasel fighting thing.

Rhubarb started a blog about cooking, which was another making thing she really enjoyed and was pretty good at. That blog was fun for a while but the weasels eventually found a way in. Rhubarb started to feel like the blog would never be good enough and was pointless if she wasn’t going to try to turn it into some kind of actual enterprise. Because, you see, the weasels do a really good job of convincing Rhubarb that having fun isn’t as important as getting peoples’ approval. So, she quit. She ran away from the cooking blog, giving herself up to the weasels’ picking and gnawing for a while.

One afternoon many months later, Rhubarb wrote an account of something amusing that had happened to her and posted it on Facebook. A friend from childhood, one that she had only recently reconnected with via the dark magic of social media, commented on the story that it reminded them of The Bloggess, and suggested that Rhubarb should write a blog about her (mis?)adventures. Rhubarb had heard of The Bloggess but hadn’t read a ton of her writing, so off she went to look her up, and down the rabbit hole she fell. The Bloggess was weird and hilarious and dark, and she was honest about her brokenness. The Bloggess held her busted bits up for the light to shine through, and Rhubarb saw a constellation that looked a lot like herself. She wanted to do that – use stories about the ridiculousness of life to make people laugh, and stories about her own brain weasels to make people maybe not feel quite so all alone.

So, Rhubarb bought a domain name called How Bad Can It Go and started venting some of her spleen on the internet. She hasn’t made a single dollar doing so as of yet and thus must keep using her fake name so that she doesn’t get found out, get fired, have to file for bankruptcy, lose everything, move into a tarp-and-stick tent in the woods, and spend her days trying to figure out how to make herself eat grubs for nourishment.

The End.

****

This post came about because I got nominated for one of those chain-letter-esque “blogger recognition awards” (by the inimitable Non-Euclidean Sofa – you should read her blog, it’s very funny). Those things always come with rules, and one of the rules of this one was to give a brief story of how your blog started. A thousand words is brief, right? I mean, in the grand scheme of things.

Here’s the complete listing of rules:

Thank the blogger who nominated you and provide a link to their blog.  (check)

Give a brief story of how your blog started.  (cheeeeeeck?)

Give two pieces of advice to new bloggers.  (1. Don’t, there are already way too many of us and the box the internet lives in only has so much space. 2. This is more of a life tip than a specific blogging tip: be yourself and be OK with that not being interesting to some people. I fucking hate spiders, but some people like them. There’s no accounting for taste. Just do you and don’t base your sense of self worth on whether anyone else likes it because life is bound to be eternally disappointing to you otherwise. I’m old and I’ve learned the hard way. Trust me on this.)

Select 10 other bloggers you want to give this award to. (No. I don’t even fucking have time to read five other blogs, let alone ten. What do you think I am, a kept woman lounging with her tablet and her box of bonbons by the poolside day in and day out?)

Comment on each blog and let them know you have nominated them and provide the link to the post you created. (Not applicable because I’m a jerk who isn’t participating in the circle-jerk portion of the proceedings. Which is not to say that anyone who does is lame, mind you. I’m the lame one for not participating, but I’m ok with that. Like my Twitter bio says, I’m Next Level Awful. Which, as an aside, I’ve been considering using as a new name for this blog. It’s probably already taken, though. Kids these days, snapping up all the good domain names. YOU RUINED THE INTERNET. GET OFF MY LAWN.)

Alright, I think we’re done here. Thanks again to Non-Euclidean Sofa for the nod. I make a lot of noise about these things being silly, but it’s still nice to know someone other than my three meat-space friends (Pterodactyl club for the win!) is occasionally enjoying what I write.

Peace out.

ice

Word to your mother.

well, since you asked…

A coworker passed by my office on her way to get her lunch from the conference room fridge this afternoon. On her way back downstairs she veered left into my office. She leaned against the edge of my desk, balancing a plate of chain-restaurant Mexican leftovers on one palm, picking bites of food up and popping them in her mouth with the other hand as she spoke.

“What have YOU been up to lately? I haven’t seen you in FOREVER.”

I dug deep, didn’t mention the pointless hyperbole, and made what felt like appropriate noises in response…but I’ve been sitting here thinking of other things I’d like to have responded with ever since.

So, without further ado, I give you:

 

List Of Responses To Coworker’s Inquiry of What I’ve Been Up To Lately

I’ve been teaching myself Nepali so that I can negotiate better pricing with the Sherpas when I start putting together my Everest expedition.

I’ve been whittling a dildo out of teak wood.

I’ve been conducting interviews with the giant stinkbug that emerges from behind the filing cabinet every spring. Its name is Ferdinand and it has never left this office. I’ve not yet had the courage to ask what it eats.

I’ve been forcing myself to find new creative outlets in the hopes that they will help me better deal with this nagging feeling that I’ve wasted almost 11 years of my life doing a job I don’t like for money that I’m addicted to.

I’ve been teaching my dog to bark Lewis Carroll’s ‘The Jabberwocky’. We’ve been stuck on the word “vorpal” for a while now.

I’ve been knitting weasel traps.

I’ve been watching everyone downstairs work, which I have been achieving through an elaborate system of mirrors attached to the backs of my own private army of mice trained in the art of ninjutsu.

I’ve been hiding in the bathroom and crying. Or hiding in the bathroom surfing Instagram. Or hiding in the bathroom napping. Also, I had an inflammatory bowel issue a few weeks back, so for a while there I was doing actual bathroom stuff in the bathroom at least 75% of the times I went in there.

I just got back from a ten day trip to Mongolia, where I attended workshops on yurt design, innovations in yak-milk cheese making, and falconry. I settled for falconry because they told me I was too fat to ride the ponies. The Mongols are a harsh but fair people.

I’ve been lurking right behind you, lo these many weeks. My shallow breathing skills and lack of a reflection may have made it hard for you to notice.

I’ve been avoiding everyone because I’m terrible at small talk. You’ve been here like 7 years. I’m surprised you still ask.

I’ve been counting the tacks in all the bulletin boards in the office every day, just to make sure.

I’ve been memorizing a Swedish translation of the Gettysburg Address.

I’ve been setting fire to small pieces of paper with your name written on them, and chanting incantations to Kassogtha. Sorry in advance. Well, not really.

I’ve been mapping the capybara genome.

 

capy

“No you may NOT swab my cheek, you impudent rube. Good day to you, madam. I SAID GOOD DAY.”