hair today, gone tomorrow

To say my partner is a good guy would be a profound understatement. He is truly one of the kindest and most generous people I have ever met…and I’m not just saying that because I have to share a bathroom with him. For as long as I have known him, he has always made a point of giving to others. Whether it’s his time, his money, or even his most treasured belongings, he’s always happy to step up and help someone in need, and to do it with a smile.

Mark’s most outstanding physical trademark has always been a very long ginger ponytail. He’s always been into heavy metal music and long hair tends to come with that territory. Plus, having a long ponytail was something polite society didn’t really want him to do in the time and place that he grew up, so maintaining it was always kind of an act of defiance for him, a little way of flipping off said polite society and all it stood for.

 

After 30+ years of maintaining the long hair, he’s now ready to give it up, all in the name of charity.  Because, like I said, he has a habit of taking being a good guy to a whole different level.

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He was watching sports on the TV above us. I guarantee it.

The charity he’s choosing to support with this endeavor is the National Immigration Law Center. Unless you’ve been living under an actual rock for the past couple years (is there room under there for me? Seriously, I can bring snacks), you understand why NILC has become so important to so many people. Even so, I still encourage you to click the link above and read more about what they do and how they are helping some of the most vulnerable among us. They are a vital resource in these days of seemingly constant shifting interpretations of immigration law and, quite frankly, human rights.

I’m going to throw up the link for Mark’s GoFundMe campaign below, but I’d like to  point out here that NILC is a four star rated charity and has a direct funding agreement with GoFundMe, so any donations made to Mark’s campaign will go DIRECTLY to NILC, not to his or my bank account. I don’t want any ambiguity on this – we will not personally be benefiting financially from any donations made. Which, of course, is as it should be.

Here’s the campaign link.

If you want to throw a few bucks at it, we’ll love you forever. If you don’t have any money spare but you want to share the link around to get more eyeballs on it, again…undying love. If you want to shut your browser window and forget you ever heard of the NILC, well…you do you. I don’t have the time or energy to be mad about it.

Thanks for your consideration!

not funny but important

There have been a few times I’ve let fly on here about politics, but mostly I don’t go there because honestly, I’m not a journalist. Anything I say is just opinion. I read a lot and listen to a lot of NPR, so it might sometimes be decently well-informed opinion…but still. Trying to string words together in that way has never been my jam. I do funny (well, sort of), not eloquent.

I posted something on Facebook this morning that I want to get out to a wider audience, though. My Facebook list is comprised mostly of politically like-minded friends who are well informed on current events. Some of them are actively involved in local and national politics, and I’m pretty sure most of them vote. However, there are a handful who “don’t follow politics”. Which, I get it, politics are fucking exhausting…but like it or not, America is a political beast of our own making. These people that don’t follow politics, that don’t pay any attention to the news, and especially the ones that don’t vote? They break my heart, regardless of whether we have a Cheeto-stained Russian operative in the Oval Office or not.

So, I wrote this little rant directed at them and I want to pass it on to the wider world in the hopes that it motivates even just a couple people to look up from their phones, see what’s going on around them, and maybe choose to participate in civic life in even the tiniest way possible.

The offers I make below stand for anyone reading this here as well.

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For those of you who don’t follow politics, who feel like it’s all stupid and you can’t be bothered to get involved, know this: America cannot afford for you to keep your head in the sand any longer. If what you’re seeing / hearing on the news makes you uncomfortable, please take five minutes to fire off an email or a call to your members of Congress and BE HEARD. It might feel completely fruitless, but it’s something. If nothing else, it’s a written record of the fact that you didn’t just roll over and play dead.

You don’t have to call – you can email. If you need help finding your reps’ email address, let me know and I’ll happily find them for you. You don’t even have to email – you can use ResistBot to send a fax directly to your reps’ offices from your cell phone! Hit me up if you want help learning how to do that as well.

And if you’re not registered to vote, please, PLEASE remedy that immediately. If you need help understanding how to register, registration deadlines, etc, I would love to help you.

Please don’t just ignore everything going on lately and chalk it up to business as usual. THIS IS NOT NORMAL. This is the result of a handful of very rich, very self-serving people doing their level best to create a new world order. And if you’ve been paying any kind of attention at all, you’re hopefully catching on to the fact that that new world order they’re envisioning is not going to benefit the vast majority of us. All this going on right now is a result of too many people ignoring too much stuff for far too long.

Don’t just roll over.

We have to fight.

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Opossums are awesome, but don’t act like one, mmmkay?

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