how to life

Jill is 37 years old. She’s married, has two children, and works full time. She has hobbies. She likes to socialize with her friends, and she makes sure to get an hour of exercise three times a week. She feeds herself responsibly and stays informed on current affairs. And she handles all of this while still managing to get a solid eight hours of sleep a night.

How does she do all this and still stay sane?

Fucked if I know.

For me, there aren’t actually enough hours in the day to live that life. I’m lucky if I can maintain any three of the items listed above for any given period of time. I can work, have hobbies, and feed myself. Or, I can exercise, have a social life, and sleep. If my hobbies were exercising and staying informed on current affairs, then I could probably also work and feed myself.  If socializing entailed doing hobbies with people, and my hobbies were working and feeding myself, then I could have hobbies, work, feed myself, AND socialize…?

This makes life feel like algebra to me. You know how in algebra class the teacher would solve a problem on the board step by step and it made perfect sense, but then when you went to do the homework, you’d be staring at the problems like they were some alien language and you didn’t have the first clue how to even start solving them? No, just me? Well I failed algebra twice, and now you know why. ANYWAY, my point is, lately it feels like I’m watching other adults live their lives and thinking “see? It’s not so hard. It makes sense! Just follow the steps”, but when I go to apply the steps to my own life, they’re suddenly written in alien and Mrs. Smith is writing a big red F on the report card that is my life.

Part of the problem, I know, is the mindset that life is somehow pass / fail. It’s not like if you fail at life, you have to go through a summer-school version of life…and there’s no honor roll for passing life. My particular brain chemistry and upbringing have combined to make me tend toward seeing things in very binary, black and white, either-or ways. You either pass or you fail. You’re either happy or you’re depressed. You either like lima beans or you’re sane. You get the picture. It’s something that I wrestle with regularly. When I find myself having those black-and-white thought patterns, I have to remind myself that very few things are actually that simple, that we all exist in various spectra and on various planes.

Society is also partially to blame. Society has taught a few generations of us that there are certain boxes you must check off to be considered successful in life: get married, have kids, own a home, get promoted at work, be healthy, be an engaged citizen. This road-map is so deeply ingrained in many of us that we never even stop to consider that NOT following it could actually be a viable option. It’s certainly better now than it was 50 years ago, but still. If you pay attention, you begin to notice all the subtle ways that we as a society have found to reinforce the idea of this road-map, and the ways we’ve come up with to punish those who don’t conform (either by choice or by circumstance).

All of this is to say, I’ve been down on myself about some of the ways I’ve been “failing at life” lately, but I need to remember that feeling like a failure is not requisite. Life is not black and white. I am not required to have a social life or to exercise if I don’t think I can handle that today. Not wanting children doesn’t make me a bad person, nor does eating take-out for dinner. Shutting off social media and not listening to the news for a few days will not result in my being punished. Letting one hobby languish while I pursue another one isn’t going to get me a big red F on the report card of life.

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“What? I wasn’t listening. Turns out I AM just a pretty face, Mahm. And I’m totally OK with that. Now give me a cookie.”

 

my garland is fucked

A couple years ago, before we moved into the place we live now, I had this garland I used as part of my extremely low-impact holiday decorating scheme (the entirety of the scheme is: decorate a tree, hang up any cards we get in the mail, hang the garland. That’s it. It can all be cleaned up and put away in less than an hour. Life is short and I don’t want to waste any more of it cleaning than I have to). The garland was kind of fake-pine looking and it was pre-lit with a string of twinkle lights. It looked nice draped (artfully, I liked to tell myself) across the tops of our bookcases, or hung up swag-like between some little hooks on the wall. Every year when I was done with it, I’d stuff it all back into the box it came in and chuck it in the hall closet. No muss, no fuss.

Until the mice got into it.

Our old apartment was a frigging mouse superhighway, and the hall closet was their on/off ramp. Over the course of the several years we lived there, I tried everything from snap-traps, to those sonic deterrent things, to attempting to train the dog to catch them (no dice. He made it clear very early on that Maltese are not a working breed. Unless you count barking at everything that moves as work. He’s got that shit on lock), to stuffing any holes I could find with steel wool (surprisingly effective, but only if you can locate every single hole ever. Otherwise those sneaky little fuckers will always find another way in). The only thing I didn’t try was poison, because while I apparently don’t have a problem with a spring-loaded metal bar snapping a mouse’s neck once they’ve been lured in by the smell of a delicious snack, I can’t stand the thought of them eating poison and then getting a bit of a poorly tum before dying.

Whatever. I contain multitudes.

ANYWAY.

So those little bastard mice got into my garland box, chewed all the wires, built a nest, and had a shit-and-piss-athon the likes of which I have never seen before (and hope to never see again). Needless to say, that garland ended up in the dumpster when we packed up to move to our current, blessedly mouse-free abode. Last year I meant to buy a replacement garland but I got distracted with…who fucking knows, probably BREATHING, knowing me…and never got around to it.

This year when I pulled out the holiday decorations I remembered the garland again, and I wrote it down on a LIST. If something makes it onto a list, I have about a 40% higher chance of actually remembering it. That still only bumps the total chance up to about 47%, but still. So it was on the list and when we went to Walmart on Monday night (which is another story in and of itself, oh my fucking word), we found a replacement garland. Happy happy, joy joy! I set it off to the side in the living room when we got home, intending to hang it up the next day. Which didn’t happen of course, because “hang up garland” wasn’t written on a list anywhere and I fucking forgot. WELCOME TO MY WORLD.

Wednesday afternoon I finally remembered I had bought the garland and decided to hang it up. The plan was to string it around the opening between our living room and kitchen. I call it an opening rather than a doorway because a) there are no doors and b) if there WERE doors, it would take like 3 doors to fill the opening. Tangent: is there an actual word for that? When there’s a hole in the wall that is clearly a transition from one room to the next but isn’t a doorway? It’s not a hallway or a passage because it’s not, like, its own space…it’s just a much-wider-than-a-door-shaped hole in the wall. Jesus, I’m making it sound like it has sheetrock and wires hanging out of it and shit, which it totally doesn’t. It’s finished and painted and whatever.

Sorry, back to the story.

So, Wednesday afternoon I went to hang up the garland. Now, before I go on, I want you to look very closely at this picture and come up with a good solid  mental picture of what you would expect to come out of this box:

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Spoiler: this box is full of lies.

You would expect an 18 foot length of fake pine garland with a string of  clear twinkle lights incorporated into it, just like the picture shows, would you not? Granted, the picture only shows a couple feet of garland, but you would expect there to be roughly 18 continuous feet of fake greenery with lights in / on it. And probably a cord hanging off one or even both ends. That would be a completely reasonable expectation for this product.

Unfortunately, it would also be completely wrong.

The garland definitely did have lights incorporated. I’ll give it that. And it WAS green. And the lights WERE clear. But, as I unwound the garland from the cardboard it came wrapped around, something was amiss. Instead of 18 continuous feet of garland, what I ended up with was about three feet of cord with a plug at the end (reasonable), maaaaybe six feet of lighted garland, four more feet of bare green cord with a plug and socket (like the normal two-sided kind that comes on twinkle lights) in the middle, then another maaaaybe six feet of lighted garland, and three more feet of cord with another plug (which is the only other reasonable part of the whole bloody thing).

So I thought I was buying an 18 foot garland but REALLY what I got was two six foot garlands strung together with a GIANT FRIGGING BLANK SPOT IN THE MIDDLE. If the blank spot had been at either end, I could have just ucked the extra bare cord in behind something and been ok with it…but in the MIDDLE? Come the fuck on. I ended up kind of half-assed doubling the garland over on itself so that it would stretch across the top of the opening (seriously, tell me if there’s a real word for that, it’s really bothering me) and hang down a little on each side while disguising the NEAR ENTIRE THIRD of it that’s just bare green cord.

It looks exactly as weird as you’re imagining. Possibly worse. It was embarrassing enough that I didn’t take a picture of it, so that should tell you something.

The morale of this story, I think we can all agree, is to not buy garland at Walmart.

Or, if you’re going to buy garland at Walmart, open the box and check that it is what it says it is.

Or, just eschew garland of any kind.

And don’t let stupid incontinent mice get into your stuff because they’ll ruin everything. EVERYTHING.

AND…there should be a word for a doorway that contains no doors. The doorway, I mean. Not the word. The word can have door in it, but I don’t really see how that could work unless it was like…non-doorway…and that’s really not any better of a word for what I’m trying to explain.

Ok, I gave myself a headache. I gotta go.

impotent rage…and holiday cards!

On Mondays we still have some of the after-glow of the weekend to get us through. Wednesday are the mid-point in the work week and we’re starting to see light at the end of the tunnel. Thursdays often involve starting to plan for the impending weekend. Fridays practically ARE the weekend – any time after noon on Friday is pretty much gravy.

But Tuesdays…Tuesdays are for impotent rage, I’m convinced of it.

On Tuesdays you can’t just throw your hands up and blame shit on still being hung over from the weekend, and you have way too many days left in the week to just bury your head in the sand and hope it all goes away. If Monday is a dumpster fire, Tuesday is the fully involved three-alarm structure fire that the flash-over from the dumpster has caused. It’s not just a little smoke and the lingering smell of burnt hair…it’s your propane tank blowing up in an eye-searing blaze while you stand at the end of the driveway clutching your shivering dog and wondering what the fuck went wrong.

I don’t like Tuesdays, in case that wasn’t clear. And this particular Tuesday has been especially rife with fuckery of highly non-amusing sorts (although my propane tank didn’t actually blow up or anything, thankfully). It’s mostly work stuff so I can’t really get into it, but just trust me when I tell you that if I could procure a boat right now, I’d name it the S.S. Fuck Right Off, pack it with as many boxes of Pop Tarts and bottles of Rex Goliath merlot as I could afford, and shove off from the nearest dock to start my career as a small-time pirate queen. Imagine an obese female version of Jack Sparrow. That would be me. I’ve already got the eyeliner and the struggling to remember words down pat.

ANYWAY.

I need to do something to counteract the angry. Sending people mail makes me happy, so tonight I’m going to go home and address a bunch of holiday cards.

If you’d like a holiday card from me, you can add your mailing address to my address book here and I’ll happily send you one.

Although, caveat: if you’re international, the card may not get there by Christmas because I’m very bad at judging how long international mail takes to get from point A to point B and also sometimes I have every intention of getting my ass to the post office but then get distracted and end up carrying a bunch of cards around in my bag for an extra week. Just so we’re all on the same page.

Also, you have my solemn oath that I will not sell your address or use it for any other purposes, nefarious or otherwise.

And if you don’t want to give me your address, that’s totally cool. I still love you, and I’ll just beam you holiday cheer with my mind instead.

I should probably pick a specific day and time to do it though, otherwise you’ll spend the next few weeks wondering if every random warm tingle and whiff of gingerbread you notice is me beaming you that cheer I promised you.

Or you might maybe start to worry that you’re having a seizure or a stroke, and I don’t want to do that to you, because after all, I might be a small-time pirate queen, but I’m not a dick.

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Mmm, cheer.

I don’t want to talk about it…

…you know, that thing that blew up in everyone’s faces just about a week ago?  So, I’m not going to.

Instead, let me tell you about this terrible cloud of stench that’s following me around today! Don’t worry, it’s not a fart story (yet. I’m pretty good at devolving any story into a fart story if given enough time, so I make no promises about where this will end up).

I’m very sensitive to smells. Side note: my husband might argue that if I was truly sensitive to smells, I’d make more of an effort to clean out whatever is currently making our fridge stink like a kimchi experiment gone wrong, but that’s a smell I can get away from simply by shutting the refrigerator door and thus I’m not particularly motivated to fix the situation. Don’t like the smell? Just shut the door! I’m a problem solver. 

Anyway.

Smells that I can’t get away from are an issue for me. Strong smells will often give me a headache, bring on the asthmatic Throat Tickle Of Doom, and wreck whatever small semblance of concentration I may have tenuously pieced together. As such, I don’t wear perfume or heavily scented personal hygiene products, I buy either unscented or only very lightly scented laundry soap, I tend to clean with white vinegar because it’s way less smelly (to me, anyway) than chemical cleaners, I’m anti car-air-freshener…you get the picture.

When I suddenly can’t find my preferred brand of a normally scent-containing thing and am forced to buy something different on the fly, a whole ridiculous process ensues. I’ll spend at least ten minutes sniff-checking every scent variety of the thing I need.  I’ll talk to myself in the middle of the store aisle, muttering about how Option A smells like mothballs and cat pee but Option B smells like vanilla extract and death. I’ll make up my mind, then see another interesting option, sniff THAT, and end up changing my mind 17 times. All this while having random coughing fits because of the aforementioned asthmatic Throat Tickle Of Doom. I usually end up getting so pissed off about the whole thing that I end up just chucking SOMETHING in my cart in the interest of not having to live out the rest of my days twitching and coughing in the health and beauty aisle.

Which is exactly what happened when I was grocery shopping on Saturday and, to my horror, couldn’t find my preferred brand of deodorant. Ten minutes into my Sniff All The Things routine I was finally so fed up with my inability to JUST FUCKING PICK ONE AND MOVE ON that I ended up tossing the one I currently had in my hand into the cart and stomping off.

Without sniff-testing it.

I didn’t shower on Sunday, so the horror of what I had done didn’t become clear until this morning when I was getting ready for work. I popped the cap off the new stuff, turned the dial to raise the product, and got my first whiff of it. It was a fairly inoffensive fruity smell – I think it was trying to be pomegranate or something? I don’t know. I was running late as usual so I just rubbed it on my pits and then went to get dressed. As I was getting dressed I got another good whiff of it and thought to myself, “ugh, that’s kind of strong”, but short of getting undressed and scrubbing my armpits, there really wasn’t anything I could do about it at that point.

On the way to work I was trapped in the car with the smell and had plenty of time to think about the mistake I had made. What initially seemed like an inoffensive fruity smell is now akin to Hawaiian Punch with undertones of mothballs and formaldehyde. It smells like the “family heirloom” afghan your great aunt Edna had in storage for 20 years and then freshened up with a dousing of her favorite Febreeze formulation, Tropic Nightmare, before gifting it to you. It’s like someone steeped pine cones and cedar shavings in one of those buckets of “just add booze” strawberry margarita mix that contains no ACTUAL fruit, only a slurry of high fructose corn syrup, citric acid, preservatives, red dye #4 and “strawberry flavor”, then boiled it down to crystalline form and SET IT ON FIRE.

Every time I lift up my arms the smell assaults me. The good news is, I work at a desk and I type 90% of the day, so I’m not lifting my arms up that much, right? Right!

Except that this afternoon is yoga class. Not only will my arms be up a good 60% of the time I’m in class, but I’ll also be hot and sweaty which will, I presume, make the scent even stronger.

This is how I die, people: shakily trying to hold Warrior II pose while my super helpful yoga teacher keeps reminding me to breathe and my oxygen supply slowly gets cut off from the stench of my own deodorant.

It was nice knowing you all.

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Look at Mr. Clean. His eyes say, “if this is what Hawaii really smells like, I’ll just stay in Cleveland.”

 

this is why we don’t fax, Jim

This afternoon I had a customer, we’ll call him Jim, who insisted that I needed to fax an invoice to him rather than email it. Like, he didn’t just ask that I sent it that way. He made it very clearly that it was the only option I had to get him the invoice. Since getting the invoice paid was, you know, the reason I called in the first place, I felt compelled to comply.

I scan a lot and I print a little, but I haven’t had to send a fax in a good eight years or so. We have one of those all-in-one copier/scanner/printer/fax things that has never really worked entirely right. It’s always emitting these strange patterns of chirps, and it likes to eat every third piece of paper I put in the feed tray. Also, we have a weird VoiP phone system where you have to dial certain numbers to get an outside line from certain phones.

Which is really all just stuff I’m telling you to distract you from the fact that I forgot how to send a fax.

I mean, I knew there was a part where you put the paper in, and then you dialed the number and the magic Internet gnomes got to work drawing a tiiiiiiiiiny (omg, so tiny) replica of your document which they then projected across the skies with their special Internet gnome flashlights in a specific pattern that only the gnomes who lived in the machine of the person you were sending the document to could decode…or whatever. But I forgot all the bullshit about having to dial 9 first, and then whether or not I needed to dial an extra 1 before the phone number, and what phase of the moon we needed to be in for this to even work and OMG it was all just such a process.

So, I re-learned how to send a fax, and that was…I wouldn’t really call it FUN, but it killed some time and therefore had value of a sort to it. I punched the right numbers in and I signed my cover sheet with a little smiley face because YAY, COMMERCE!  I loaded the pages into the feeder tray and hit “send”. The machine made a satisfying amount of screechy dial-up racket and then sucked my pages through the scanner part. Assuming my part in this information transfer drama was now over with, I walked away.

But lo, all was not right in the land of the Internet gnomes, it seemed.

Several minutes after I walked away from it, the machine emitted a series of kind of mocking beeps and printed something all of its own accord. Suspicious, I approached the machine once again and looked at the print-out. It read…

…’fax not sent’.

“Awww, COME ON! I have to do that whole stupid thing AGAIN? I already shredded the originals! Goddamnit. This is why nobody faxes anymore JIM”, I grumbled.

I went back to my desk, printed out another invoice and another cover sheet. I didn’t sign the cover sheet with a smiley face the second time, because commerce is great and whatever but seriously, fuck Jim and his insistence on using outdated modes of information technology. The whole process of dialing the extra numbers and then the real number and then praying to the Internet gnomes, the whole nine yards…I re-did it all.

And once again, the bloody shitting fax didn’t go through.

I stomped back over to my desk and called Jim to ask what the deal was. Jim proceeded to tell me to…

…wait for it…

…waaaaait…

…oooh, not quite there yet, but almost…

…he told me to just email him the invoice.

flames

It’s seriously really good that through-the-phone ear-stabbing technology doesn’t exist because I am telling you, Jim would have been bloodied in that moment. Jim would have suffered. And I would have laughed.

On the up-side, I did re-learn how to fax, though. It probably won’t be relevant to my job again for another eight frigging years, but hey…the more you know.

index

I know Jim’s an asshole.

potato hole

A couple weekends ago Mark and I drove down to southern New Hampshire to attend a beer and chili festival with a group of friends. The beer and chili festival was exactly what the name implies: a festival in which you get to walk around trying many different beers and many different versions of chili. The chili was all you could eat, in fact, and was included in the price of admission. Chili = zero dollars in this scenario.

Remember that. It’s going to be relevant later.

When you first go into the festival they give you a sample glass and ten drink tickets, the idea being that each time you go to an exhibitor’s booth and get a sample of their beer, you give them one of your tickets. When you’re out of tickets, you’re ostensibly out of beer. Except…none of the exhibitors were actually taking tickets. Some of them had containers out to collect tickets, but not a single one of them were creating any kind of “you can’t have this beer until you give me a ticket” enforcement situations. So in essence, it was a no-holds-barred, beer-sampling free-for-all. With chili. FREE chili.

We entered the festival and proceeded to work our way around the small tents, sampling chili and beer. We got almost to the end of the lawn area where we had entered and I asked if it was time to perhaps circle back around to hit the tents we hadn’t visited in our first round. Our friends, who had been to this festival before, laughed and pointed down along a paved walkway at the end of the lawn which led to another, larger lawn with several GIANT tents set up on it. Turned out there were a lot more breweries exhibiting at the festival than we had realized there’d be. Three giant tents worth, in fact! Excited at the prospect of sampling many more beers, we made our way toward the giant tents.

It’s worth pointing out here that New Englanders are known as a thrifty lot. My people aren’t big into wasting things, especially food and drink. Thus, the concept of getting oh, say, a sample of beer, and only drinking a few sips before dumping the rest out is kind of foreign to me. Also, how would YOU feel if you were a brewer giving out samples of your wares only to watch people take just a few sips and then dump them out? You’d be offended, right? You might begin to question your chosen profession, even. You’d surely be hurt. I try to do my best not to hurt people if I can help it, so I was doing my level best to finish off each beer sample entirely before I’d go for the next one. Even if I didn’t particularly like the beer. Unsurprisingly, this resulted in me drinking a fair amount of beer on a stomach that only had a few sample-sized portions of chili in it.

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Ommegang Brewery’s Rosetta – it’s a lambic that tastes like sour cherries and heaven. And my heathen ass doesn’t even BELIEVE in heaven. A++, will buy.

So, we were there by the giant beer tents and my husband started talking about wanting more food. Beginning to feel the effects of all the beer samples I had been diligently finishing off for the last hour or so (mustn’t waste, after all), I agreed that food would be a smart move. We assessed our options. The chili tents were waaaaay off on the other end of the park where we first came in, but there were a couple of food trucks vending quite close to the end where we were.

“But the chili is FREE”, I said.

“But the guy selling sausages is CLOSE. Plus: we got cash on the way here for just such a situation. Plus: sausage,” Mark replied.

“Damn you and your flawless logic”, I grumbled, and off we went to the sausage truck (which is an inherently funny phrase, but don’t derail me).

There were a few people in line ahead of us so we got a good look at the wares as others got their orders. The choices were a disturbingly long grilled hotdog, a pretty normal-looking grilled sausage with or without grilled onions and peppers, and french fries. The purveyors didn’t have any signage displaying pricing, but it was kind of too late at that point because it was our turn at the counter.

Me: “Hi, how much are your hotdogs?”

Sausage Man: “Sausages and hotdogs are $8”

Me: “$8…does that include fries?”

SM: “Nope.”

Me: “Oh. How much are the fries?”

SM: “$6”

Me, trying not to snort at that absurdity: “Ok, we’ll take just a sausage please”.

We stepped back from the counter while the guy made the sausage and I turned to Mark with wide eyes.

“Six bucks for FRIES?!” I hissed. He made some malarky argument about captive audiences and hand-cut fries but I stopped hearing the words coming out of his mouth because, six bucks. For fries. When there were seventeen (at least!) types of chili like 500 feet away. FREE CHILI. ZERO. DOLLAR. CHILI. 

The guy gave us the sausage (hurrr), we ate it, I went back and told others of the outrageous pricing, then we all drank more beer and talked about more amusing subjects. A good time was had by all. (That whole story was really just background, so I don’t feel bad ending it abruptly.)

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My husband is shown here exhibiting the infinite patience for which he should be sainted. Note the slightly manic twinkle in my eyes. Or slightly drunk? Po-tay-to, po-tah-to. JOKES WITHIN JOKES, OMG.

Anyway. Fast-forward to last night.

(I wanted to put a gif here of the thing they do on Wayne’s World when they change scenes, but you think I could find that thing anywhere? NO. Fucking Internet. Why do I even bother?)

Wait, what?  Oh yes. Last night.

So last night Mark and I were running some errands and I was ranting about…I don’t even know, something…and at the end of the rant Mark pointed out that I was nearly as offended by that thing as I had been by the price of fries at the beer festival. Since the rant pump was already well-primed, that was all the nudge I needed to go off about those stupid fries.

“Six bucks for fries. THAT WAS INSANE. Do you know how much a 50 pound bag of potatoes costs? Like $10. MAYBE. And that’s RETAIL. If they were buying them through a wholesaler they were like half that. And it’s not even like there’s LABOR involved with making fries. With the sausages, I can kind of see the justification – you have to grill them, you have to slice and grill the onions and peppers, you have to put the sausage in the bun…there’s semi-skilled labor involved in that. But french fries? You dump potatoes into hot oil and you WALK AWAY for several minutes. You maybe go back and shake the basket halfway through cooking, but that’s it. There’s no labor. Nothing.”

Mark tried reason on me:  “Well, someone’s gotta cut the potatoes, at least.”

“NO THEY FUCKING DON’T. They put them through a fry cutter!  You set the potato on it, push the lever down, it forces the potato through a cutting grid, and VOILA, french fries. You don’t even have to PEEL the potatoes. The most you could argue is that they have to WASH the potatoes, but big fucking deal, how long does that take? Not $8 worth of time, that’s for damn sure.”

“Err, $6.”

“Huh?!”

“You said $8, but the fries were $6.”

I side-eyed him as best I could while also keeping the car on the road, because I was driving through this entire thing, it’s worth noting.

“Six dollars, eight dollars…I don’t fucking care. They were too damned expensive and I am deeply annoyed by it. So…so shove THAT in your $8 POTATO HOLE,” I spluttered.

Needless to say, the $8 potato hole was still being brought up this morning. I don’t even want to think about how long it’s gonna to take me to live that one down.

It’ll be longer than it takes to make a batch of french fries, though. I can guarantee you THAT much.

lizard brain

Apparently I slept in a way last night that caused a muscle or nerve in the back of my neck to seize up. Not hugely uncommon for me – I tend to carry all my tension in my neck and shoulders, plus I type eight hours a day and have relatively poor posture while doing so.

The muscle or nerve in my neck that’s unhappy happens to be right near the base of my skull, so every time I move just right, it sends this pain up into my head and my lizard brain is like ‘WAAAAH, MENINGITIS! WAAAAH, STROKE! WAAAAH, TUMOR! WAAAAH, PARASITIC AMOEBAS EATING MY BRAIN!’

Ten years ago I was a pretty much full-blown hypochondriac and wouldn’t have been able to stop thinking that I was sitting here slowly bleeding out into my brain pan or something. I would have eventually worked myself into such a panic that I’d have made myself physically ill. Nowadays I can identify that lizard brain is the culprit when I start thinking a random ache or pain is Something More Serious. I can’t put lizard brain totally on mute, but I’ve gotten a lot better at not letting it control me.

Or maybe that’s just what the parasitic amoebas want me to think…

 

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Amoeba aliens. In my brain.

I’ll take ‘WTF Do We Do Now’ for $1,000, Alex

My family is all pretty close, at least in the geographic sense, if not the emotional sense. We all basically live within about ten minutes’ drive of each other. A strong love of place no doubt factors into why we’ve all stayed so close to the area we grew up in, but stronger still was the near-gravitational pull of my maternal grandmother Mary, aka: Nana.

It’s not that she ever made any of us feel like we couldn’t or shouldn’t move away and do our own things; she just had a way of making people want to be around her. She was funny, kind, welcoming and generous with her time. She liked nothing more than to have people stop by for a visit and tell her all about what they’d been up to. You could sit and talk her ear off for hours, but when you finally sighed and said you guessed it was time to go, she’d always say “well, you don’t have to hurry”, as if she’d be just fine with you going on about your boring-ass day for another hour or two. And she probably would have been, because that’s just how she was.

Nana was the force holding us all together around her, but she was also someone I looked up to and admired greatly. For all her softness, her generosity of spirit and her ability to make people feel comfortable, she also had extraordinary strength of will. She was whip smart, fiercely independent, and when that woman set her mind to do something, you had two choices: get on board or get the hell out of the way. She was born in the middle of the Great Depression to an already dirt-poor family of miners and subsistence farmers. Education and hard work were the only ways out of that situation, and she made a life-long habit of both. Her mantra was that you could do anything you put your mind to, and she was living proof of it. The stories she told affected me from a very early age, both directly from her tellings and indirectly via the way she had brought up my mother and aunts. Nana was a woman I aspired to be like; she was the stick I tried to measure myself against.

The call came early Monday morning that she had quite unexpectedly died. She had been fine the day before – she had gone out for her regular Sunday morning breakfast at the diner, she had done her grocery shopping and washed some windows, and she had spent the evening visiting and watching the Patriots game on TV with some family members. It had been pretty much her perfect day. At some point very early Monday morning she had woken up with chest pains, called my aunt (who lives next door), called the ambulance…and she was gone before they even got her halfway to the hospital. The whole ordeal probably lasted less than a couple hours, depending on how long she waffled before she decided to call my aunt for help. She had high blood pressure but she hadn’t had any serious heart problems above and beyond what would be expected of an 81 year old woman. She had suffered from severe rheumatoid arthritis for more than a decade though, and while she didn’t generally speak of it much, she was in a lot of pain on a daily basis – sometimes to the point of being quite debilitated. In the past few weeks she had apparently expressed to several family members her desire to ‘just go to sleep’, and her worries about trying to make it through another tough winter. I don’t think that she would have decided to take something in order to end her own suffering, but I do very much believe in the power of will and the ability to talk one’s self into dying if that’s what they truly want…and I believe that’s what she did.

Nana wouldn’t have wanted a fuss to be made over her. She would have liked for us to take what we wanted of her stuff, give the rest away to people that it might help, and then get on with our lives.

So, that’s what I’ll try to do. It won’t be easy. But, like Nana taught me, I can do anything that I put my mind to.

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Mary Godfrey – 3/31/1935 – 9/12/2016 Photo credit: R. Williams

Delivery Day

Yesterday I worked from home because I had to be around to sign for the new washing machine that was being delivered.

As an aside, my old washing machine committed one of the ultimate washing machine sins: it died during a load of post-vacation laundry. At the time, I may have actually kicked it and yelled, “YOUR TIMING COULDN’T POSSIBLY BE WORSE, YOU BIG METAL ASSHOLE“. I’ll give credit where it’s due, though: it at least had the good grace to finish the cycle and drain all the water out of the tub first. It’s not like I was left having to bail water out of the washer with a coffee cup. I would have yelled something a lot fucking worse if that had happened, trust me.

Anyway, what was I talking about? Oh yeah, working from home.

When I work from home, I usually sit at the kitchen table with the laptop. It’s near a window, it’s near the fridge, I can see out the front living room windows and hide in plenty of time before anyone gets to the front door…it’s an all-around good locale. The only downside to working at the kitchen table is that it’s about the farthest point away from the bathroom in our entire apartment. Which, granted, it’s a pretty small apartment so it’s not like it’s THAT far away…but still. Sometimes seconds count, especially when you have to traverse a staircase.

The delivery guys were supposed to show up sometime between 10:30 and 12:30. I wanted to be super extra adulty and ready to meet them out front so that I could direct them where to park the truck, so I tried to make sure I had everything personal done and squared away by 10:30.  The creepy cobwebs around the laundry room door had been knocked down (which was a traumatic fucking experience in and of itself because you know how I feel about spiders), I had consolidated all the empty wine and beer bottles (aka: ‘the recycling’, but let’s be real. It’s all bottles.) into a plastic bag, and I walked Junior not once but TWICE just to make sure I wasn’t halfway across the lawn watching him do his patented ‘four crab-walk circles of varying widths before I finally shit’ dance when the truck showed up.

I was totally prepared.

10:30 came and went. No truck. Unperturbed, I drank my coffee and dug in to my computer work.

11:30 – still no truck. ‘That’s fine‘, I thought magnanimously, ‘I’m surely not the only delivery they’ve got scheduled today. Besides, I have plenty here to keep me busy‘. I drank a bunch of water (I believe in aggressive hydration, partially to make up for my converse habit of occasional aggressive inebriation), ate a big apple, and did some more work.

Noon – no truck. Again, not that big of a deal. Except…

…coffee makes me need to poop. Apples also make me need to poop. Drinking a liter of water doesn’t specifically make me need to poop, but what goes in must come out, and…yeah.

My guts gurgled somewhat forlornly.

I looked at the clock.

I looked out the front windows for any sign of a truck coming down our road.

I looked at Junior.

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“I’m so disappointed in you, Mahm.” – Junior, every day of his life for the last 6.5 years

His beady little eyes seemed to be saying to me, “Just go. You’ve got plenty of time. Plus, you know I’ll bark like the world is ending as soon as I hear anyone pull up. Go on, you got this.”

With as close to a blessing as I’m ever likely to get from the dog, I made my way upstairs to the bathroom to care of business. I won’t get into the graphic details, but suffice to say it was not merely a tinkle-and-dash situation. It took a few minutes.

Roughly four minutes into the proceedings, the worst case scenario became real: the dog started barking his fool head off.

“Of COURSE the delivery truck is here. OF FUCKING COURSE IT IS,” I muttered to myself, finishing up as quickly as I could.

I got downstairs and looked out the front window. No truck. ‘Balls, that means they’re already backed up to the breezeway, unloading the washer! They probably knocked and I didn’t even hear them! UGH. I AM A FAILURE AS AN ADULT.

The dog kept barking and barking, jumping against my leg so I couldn’t move quickly lest I kick him. It took me a full minute to get from the bottom of the stairs out to the kitchen where I could look out the front door to see…

…nothing. No truck, no delivery men. Nada. There wasn’t even a god damned neighbor cat around that would have set the dog off. I’M PRETTY SURE HE WAS JUST BARKING TO GET ME TO COME BACK DOWNSTAIRS, YOU GUYS.

We had a quiet discussion after that.

Phrases like “poopus interruptus” and “payback’s a bitch” may have been bandied about. We eventually came to the understanding that I as the human, provider of kibble and meat, purveyor of walkies and scritches, actually had zero rights in the household and that if he, as the dog wanted to bark bloody murder until I came running to see what the matter was, that was entirely his prerogative. Further to that, I should probably be thanking him for the privilege.

At least we’re all on the same page now.

Epilogue:

The delivery truck showed up at 12:15, at which point Junior had an even MORE frenzied barking fit. They took away the traitorous old washer, hooked up the shiny mystical new one, and were gone by 12:30. Junior was the beneficiary of several more walks after that, during NONE of which did I interrupt his crapping in any way. Because some of us have MANNERS.

Vindication is sweet, especially when it comes from unexpected sources…like random 14 year old girls.

I think I’ve talked before about how my office-mate listens to the Margaritaville XM radio station on his computer all day, every day…and I don’t mean on his headphones, either.
The station is a mix of Jimmy Buffett originals, him doing covers, other people doing covers of HIS stuff, reggae, country…basically anything vaguely beach-themed. Which doesn’t sound that bad in theory, right? I don’t mind reggae or country. Hell, I actually LIKE some of Jimmy Buffett’s music.

What I DON’T like is not having any control over what I’m listening to for eight hours a day. After a while it becomes like an audio version of waterboarding. I am literally incapable of tuning noises, especially voices, out a lot of the time. Fighting with my brain to focus and get things done when I’m constantly distracted by background noise (especially ones that annoy me) quickly becomes exhausting.

Also, with this station it’s not like you hear a song once on a Monday and then don’t hear it again until Thursday or something. No, this is the same maybe 40 songs over and over, day in and day out. A lot of them are covers, so you might actually hear three different versions of the same song done by various artists over the course of the day. That’s just completely eye-twitch-inducing in my book. The only defense I have is to put my headphones in and listen to my own music or to white noise tracks…otherwise I am stuck listening to this fucking Margaritaville station for seriously 40 hours a week because I’m too “nice” to kick up a fuss and make him shut his music off.

So this afternoon when I happened to have removed my headphones briefly, I heard office-mate’s 14 year old daughter, (who is coming to work with him all this week (which is an entirely different rant that I’d like to write but I won’t)), pipe up with the following:

“Dad, don’t you get sick of this station? I mean, it’s just the same songs over and over again.”

…I kind of wanted to hug her. Finally, FINALLY, proof that I’m not just being a spoiled asshole (in this regard, anyway. There are plenty of other areas where I’m sure I could be proven to be a definite spoiled asshole), and that I’m not imagining the repetitious nature of the radio station.

SUCK ON THAT, RADIO MARGARITAVILLE.
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