Wednesday, November 9, 2016


Dear loyal readers:
I am suspending my blog for a while. I am committed to writing humor, and I am having difficulty sustaining humorous thoughts right now in light of the current national (planetary really) situation. Thank you so much for reading my words.I hope to have more words for you one day soon.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Cubbie Hubby

The last few weeks have been a heart-stopping, jaw-dropping, couch-jumping, cat-traumatizing, whoop-hollering ride in my house because my husband, Ron, is a lifelong Cubs fan. In case you have not been paying attention, the Cubbies won the World Series on Wednesday for the first time in 108 years, and when they returned to Chicago the city leaders dyed the Chicago River blue to celebrate with the more than six million people who turned up from all over the world to party. (I’m still wondering what toxic chemical was used for the blue color and whether it killed the fish or not.) The statistic-wonks have declared that was the longest “drought” that any sports team has ever experienced in the history of organized sports. I can testify that Ron has gone his entire life cheering unwaveringly for those loser Cubbies until Wednesday, when they finally became the world champions.

Ron likes to watch all kinds of sports, and we have often gotten excited about our favorite teams. But this was perhaps the biggest sports event of Ron’s life. He sat loyally glued to the TV through all the final series leading up to the Cubbies advancing to the Big Show. It looked bleak for his guys when they were losing the series 3-1. But they made a miraculous comeback, winning two games and forcing the series into a seventh game. In a turning point moment in one of those games, Ron’s favorite player (Russell) hit a for-real grand slam home run. While the runners swooped around the bases to home, Ron ran around the invisible bases in our house screaming his head off. Then he jumped on the couch, fell off the couch onto the floor, picked himself up and ran to the front door of the house, opened the door, and hollered at the shrubbery. He promptly lost his voice. The cats cowered in my study, terrified, as they realized that there was indeed something more frightening than the vacuum cleaner.

If Ron had a bad heart, I would have prohibited him from watching game seven. But his heart is good and we watched. The game started out well for our Cubbies and they had a 6-3 lead all the way to the eighth inning. Ron jumped up and down and rubbed his hands together in gleeful anticipation of the imminent win. But then the Cubbies’ pitcher choked (perhaps on a sunflower seed) and let Cleveland catch up so the score went to a 6-6 tie. This was when Ron’s good heart proved its strength. I feared he might start smashing plates on the floor. Instead he screamed at the Cubbies coach to pull the pitcher, but the coach didn’t listen to him. They went into the ninth inning with no change in score and no change in pitcher. Still tied, the game would have to go into extra innings. That was when it started to rain; clearly a sign that the entity in charge of the universe has a sense of humor.

Let me take a break from this saga to note that baseball is not nearly as exciting as this account makes it sound. The final game of this year’s World Series was an anomaly. Trust me. I watched quite a few games with Ron at the end of this season and I can say unequivocally that baseball is one of the most boring sports on the planet. Racing crickets is more entertaining. You can sit for hours watching men chewing all manner of stray objects and spitting residue from these objects onto the ground. It’s disgusting. If you were a space alien watching baseball you would think the point of the sport is to chew and spit. Plus nothing happens for ages in baseball other than players adjusting and readjusting their clothing. Maybe once every hour or so someone will actually do something to indicate that people are still alive out there, like get on base, and then you have to hope they manage to advance and don’t just get stranded. I usually read a book through most of the game. The players must have to cram all that unidentifiable weird stuff into their mouths just to stay awake. My guess is that they are chewing tobacco, wads of gum the approximate size of a grapefruit, sunflower seeds, tree branches, chunks of undercooked brisket, superballs, and used tires. Plus, it’s extremely important for them to look tense. Baseball is a tense game. You need nerves of steel to sit through that much chewing while waiting for something significant to happen. So baseball is largely a sport based on chewing, spitting, adjusting clothing, stressing out, and permanently staining a perfectly good pair of white pants with dirt and grass.

Back to the World Series. So it started to rains as they went into a tenth inning. They covered the field in tarps and announced they would wait it out. Ron could not sit still. He changed the batteries in all the flashlights, cleaned out the refrigerator, defragged his computer, filled out his absentee voter ballot, and disassembled and reassembled the washing machine. Finally, the rain stopped and the game restarted (after a mere 17 minutes). The delay gave the Cubbies a minute to regroup. Their pitcher had a good cry in the dugout, everyone changed their pants, and someone went out and bought a 60-pound bag of sunflower seeds and some birch bark. The seeds and bark were a godsend because no one had brought enough stuff to chew to last for ten innings and, having run out, they were eating their sneakers and belts.

The miraculous Cubbies went back out onto the field and scored two runs while devouring 40 pounds of sunflower seeds. Cleveland was only able to score one run (no one had thought to get them more sunflower seeds), could not catch up, and the Cubbies won the series at the end of the tenth. The team went berserk, of course, sunflower seeds everywhere, and the stadium erupted. At our house, my Cubbie Hubby executed physical maneuvers that I thought he had lost the ability to perform during the Reagan Administration. The cats cowered in the corner. Whooping and hollering, he called Cubbies fans friends on the phone, one after the other, and screamed “hoo-ha” into the receiver and they screamed “hoo-ha” back and then he hung up and called someone else. The adrenalin rush kept him up half the night watching celebrations around the country, first on TV and then live streaming on the computer.

We witnessed history, and it was about as exciting as baseball gets. By the end of the game, the Cubbies had chewed up their sneakers, belts, caps, and the bench in their dugout. I think they should change their name to the Chicago Termites. In fact, all the teams should be renamed after critters that chew. The Cleveland Beavers would be catchy. If I learned one thing about baseball from watching the series with Ron, it’s that you can’t play that game without chewing on something. All due respect to Cleveland for a great series. Go amazing Cubbies!

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Picky Eaters

When my children were growing up they were picky eaters. I thought they would outgrow that for the most part. Now that they are grown, the only difference is that they don’t spit the beets at the cat and overturn the plate. They just decline to eat. I have had to create a flowchart to help me keep track of all the food likes and dislikes. Plus I have a fourth person in the mix these days – my daughter-in-law. Every time they all come home and I cook, we have a new adventure. They  know I maintain a running record of their preferences. Last month when I had the whole gang here, and I made ratatouille from the vegetables in my garden, my daughter-in-law said, “I love these capers in the ratatouille” while my daughter, who was spitting the capers out and assembling them in a pile on the edge of her plate, said, “Mom, add capers to my list of do-not-like.”

I constantly run into new eating preference information to file away. I thought my daughter and daughter-in-law loved a particular kind of cracker with soft goat cheese. So I stocked up on these before they came. Then my daughter reminded me that my daughter-in-law loves the crackers but dislikes goat cheese. Meanwhile, my daughter-in-law was looking for the sundried tomatoes. That’s what she likes on the crackers. I had some of those on hand for her. I ran to the computer to bring up my file to note the goat cheese and sundried tomatoes information. I think they should develop a phone app for moms to keep track of what their children like to eat.

My youngest son won’t eat fruit. He says it has something to do with the texture. I find it hard to believe that all fruit has a particular texture he can’t abide. He will eat apples and applesauce and he will eat watermelon but only if it’s perfect. It has to be sweet, not too cucumbery, not mushy but crunchy but not too crunchy – only perfect-crunchy. Is there a tool that measures watermelon perfection? The watermelon spectrometer? He will drink fruit smoothies but he only allows certain card-carrying approved fruits into them. The list changes. I can’t keep up.

My older son is the one who, as a child, asked for a lettuce leaf and after chewing it thoughtfully and spitting it out said, “This will taste like something when I grow up, right Mom?” Apparently it never did. He is not fond of vegetables, but will eat many varieties of them depending upon how they are prepared. Generally if they are slathered in pasta and Alfredo sauce or embedded in lasagna or something like that then he’s fine with them. He does eat Caesar salad, but salad is still not very high on his list. At least he likes fruit, according to the flow chart.

Last month, when all my children were home, my father was here too. While my children maneuver through meals as if crossing a minefield, Dad will hoover-up healthy portions of anything served to him so long as it’s not spicy. It was a relief to know that if I put the salsa on the side, Dad would be happy with whatever I served. It’s the rest of the crew that requires a schematic. How my omnivorous, easy-to-please father produced such a preposterous pack of food-particular grandchildren baffles me.

One thing all of us share in the family is that we love to cook delicious food. (My older son not quite so much, but his wife is into it.) A few days ago my daughter sent us a photo of the chicken rigatoni Alfredo she had made for herself for dinner. I was drooling (and I don’t even eat chicken). Last year she made tortilla soup for the family for dinner for Christmas Eve and the family licked that pot clean. Once, when my youngest son came home for a visit, he made us the most amazing mulligatawny soup. I had never had it before. He has a gourmet palate. That sometimes runs me into trouble. To make a simple cheese sandwich, he scours the refrigerator for tomatoes, lettuce, pepperoncini, avocado, mushrooms, and other ingredients to put on his sandwich. “What, Mom, you don’t have any caviar, fire-roasted red peppers, Thai green curry sauce, or Brazilian Tuscarora cherry-bomb squash blossoms? How do you expect me to make a decent sandwich?”

A couple of my children love mushrooms, but one of them won’t eat them. A couple of my children enjoy kale salad the way I make it, one of them hates kale. There’s a coconut frozen dessert I’m crazy about and most of the children like it too, but one of them hates coconut. One likes cheese in eggs, one doesn’t like cheese in eggs, one likes ketchup with eggs, one likes cream cheese with eggs, one prefers fried eggs on toast, one prefers scrambled eggs, one prefers chicken eggs, one prefers duck eggs, one prefers ibis eggs flown in from Australia and packed in homespun sheep wool blessed by Maori healers. How could breakfast get so complicated?

Now Thanksgiving is on the horizon. Thanksgiving dinner itself is not much of a problem. Everyone loves all the traditional foods, so long as they don’t find any capers, kale, or coconut snuck into them. Who would stuff a turkey with kale, capers, and coconut? (That doesn’t sound like a winning dressing.) We’re fine for Thanksgiving dinner, and our brood will pitch in and do a lot of the cooking with us. It’s the other meals during the weekend that I have to plan out in detail. Leftovers only go one night. Turkey sandwiches require several ingredients beyond turkey, and you can bet my youngest son is going to be searching the refrigerator for ingredients for his turkey sandwich. In a couple of weeks I’ll pull out the flowchart and begin building my schematic. Potatoes is my safe word.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Antibiotic Prison

This week I am in antibiotic prison. Here’s what happened. I have been struggling with a health issue that ultimately required treatment with antibiotics. Unfortunately, I have a body that interprets antibiotics as the nectar of the anti-Christ. My body gets a whiff of antibiotics and starts screaming its head off and running around in circles yelling “Earthquake! Fire! Avalanche!” Although normal people usually take antibiotics for ten days, I have never succeeded in making it to Day Ten. By Day Two my digestive tract has packed its bags and hopped the Space Shuttle for planets yet to be discovered. By Day Six I am as dizzy as if I just stepped off the G-Force Fireball Swing-Coaster Anti-Gravity amusement park ride. By Day Seven I break out in an impressive display of bright red hives that cover my entire body. That’s when the doctor and the pharmacist announce “game over.” I have been lucky in the past that somehow those scant miserable days on antibiotics managed to kill off whatever infection they were battling, even though I fell short of making it to the magical ten.

When I picked up my antibiotics at the pharmacy, the pharmacist told me not to read the warnings about side effects. But, but, but, I sputtered, knowing that I am the reason they have to put all those warnings on medications. He said they would just scare me and that they are extreme. Then he told me that while I am on the antibiotics I should stay out of sunlight, not drink anything alcoholic, avoid dairy products, not operate a submarine, and refrain from putting stress on my tendons. I asked him what would happen if I was exposed to sunlight and he said my skin would fall off. I asked him what about the submarine and he said I would cause an international incident. I asked him about my tendons and he told me not to ask about that. He told me to think positive.

The thing about my tendons just left me so curious that I had to read the warning label. I then discovered that I was taking a drug that could “cause permanent damage to tendons or the nervous system resulting in disability.” (You can’t make this stuff up, this is really what it said.) How can big pharma get permission to put this stuff on the market? Does it absolve them of all responsibility because they put the thing about the tendons in the warnings? So I can’t sue if my tendons are damaged? I don’t have choices here. I have to take this horrible stuff to get well. As I continued to read the warning label, I realized that I am doomed. My antibiotics could cause dizziness, hallucinations, tinnitus, depression, suicidal ideation, insomnia, twitching, speaking in tongues, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, skin rashes, hives, an obsession with Bob Dylan, yeast infection, electrical outages, drought, famine, and nuclear war. Yet the FDA approved this stuff. Perhaps they think that someone like me who is hyper-sensitive to antibiotics will transform into a viable weapon of mass destruction. They must be in cahoots with the Dept. of Defense.

Antibiotics are powerful substances. They are programmed to kill and they don’t understand the meaning of collateral damage. These antibiotics are annihilating every bacteria, every hint of bacteria, in my entire body. Both the bad stuff and the good stuff. They are murdering every microorganism within a fifty-mile radius of my person. They are making the pictures fall off my walls and have turned my cats practically transparent. (Those are cats, aren’t they? I’m not sure because of the hallucinations. I mean they could be dancing asparagus.)

I recently read the side effects warnings on a medication my father was taking for asthma. I read the warnings out loud. One of the potential side effects was “sudden death.” When my father heard that one he said, “That’s my least favorite side effect.” How can big pharma get away with this kind of stuff?

I so wish I didn’t have to put these horrible drugs into my body. I have spent years cultivating a beautifully balanced digestive tract that keeps me immune to disease. It had the most lovely flora in it. Sometimes I would lie in bed at night and imagine it radiating vitality. Gone. All gone. Feel free to cry for me. I needed to take these antibiotics, they were my only recourse. I can’t begin to rebalance my complex delicate beautiful body ecology until I finish putting this toxic stuff into it. My digestive tract is a wasteland right now and I can’t rebuild until I get out of antibiotic prison. Today is my last day. After this I’m throwing in the towel. Tomorrow I will begin rebuilding my digestive tract from scratch. Pass the sauerkraut.


Sunday, October 16, 2016

Puzzling Over Remote Controls

Every once in a while I decide I might want to conduct a maneuver on the TV. For instance, I might want to turn it on, find a channel, or increase the volume. These simple tasks used to be obvious (back in the last century) and did not require the use of remote controls. I think they can perhaps still be accomplished without a remote control, but not in my house, where I have been instructed never to touch any button directly on the TV. Perhaps I suffer from a little bit of remote phobia. I would be willing to admit that. Ron is a patient teacher and he repeatedly explains to me step by step how to complete actions on the TV using a remote. He even writes things down for me. I am still hopeless. Problem number one is recognizing which of the remotes I’m supposed to use. We have a lot of them in our house, especially to control electronic devices. We probably have more remotes than kitchen appliances at this point. We don’t have a remote for the blender, but we have a remote for the gas fire in the family room. I like that one. I can recognize it and when I press the button on it the fire starts. I suspect we have a remote that will make a pot of soup, but I haven’t pursued that avenue. I kind of like making soup myself.

I rarely watch TV without my husband. I don’t watch any actual TV shows; in fact, do they still have those? Isn’t commercial TV all reality shows where the audience watches people go shopping or watches them complete an obstacle course involving water, spiders, spandex, and climbing walls? I know they have lots of cooking shows and talent shows where people try to win at singing, dancing, and grooming poodles. There may even still be a few shows with a storyline and characters, but is must be hard to remember what’s going on in the show from one barrage of commercials to the next. TV is all about advertising and the shows have diminished while the advertising has increased. I’m not sure I could tell the difference between a TV show and a commercial anymore. Maybe you can tell the TV shows because they have more guns in them?

Although I don’t watch any TV shows, Ron and I sometimes watch a web series made for Netflix. We also watch movies (both on disc and streamed). That’s the main thing I use the TV for. Ron watches a lot of movies on it (especially old ones) all day long, but he’s retired so he has an excuse. The other thing we watch on the TV is sports. Ron watches baseball and basketball. We both watch football. Usually Ron is here with me and he decides which games we watch, which are usually the ones I want to watch too so it’s all good. The difficulty arises when Ron is not going to be here and I want to watch football. This requires Ron to spend several hours helping me memorize which remotes I will need to use, which buttons I need to press on them, and what to do if something goes wrong. My general plan for what to do when something goes wrong is to panic and burst into tears. Like if I accidentally change the channel, or, worse yet, switch the TV into a different mode. You would be surprised about the modes. There are lots of them and they have fancy numbers and letters to define them. I wonder who names the modes and how much that person gets paid to do it.

Ron has tried putting colorful tape on the remotes to help me distinguish one from another. Then he writes a key. He has drawn careful diagrams to identify the buttons to press. You would think I could at least follow these careful directions. But more often than you would imagine I somehow press the wrong button and the screen turns to snow with a mode designation flashing in the corner, something like HDMT26HAHAYOUIDIOT. That’s when I have to call Ron on his cell phone and urgently interrupt whatever he is doing to get assistance, because I really can’t have the TV laughing at me. It’s not even human.

Ron says I don’t even try. But I really do. When I press the volume button (like he showed me) on a Raiders game and the TV spontaneously switches to a nature show about snakes, I am convinced that the TV is simply having a laugh at my expense. It knows when Ron leaves the house. I can be innocently sitting on the couch, with my two labeled remotes and my twelve pages of diagrams and clear instructions, and I can wave bye-bye to Ron, who has just spent six hours briefing me on how to use the remotes to watch the game, and the minute the door closes behind him the TV jumps to an archived episode of Bewitched. I swear, I don’t have to touch anything. The TV just does it. I have actually resorted to driving to a sports bar to watch a game because I lost the game on my own TV while Ron was out.

I appreciate my husband’s infinite patience with me. He once wrote in a job application letter that he has the patience of a man who has been stuck inside of a whale. It’s true, and he actually landed that job. He has also stuck with the job of helping Amy use a remote correctly. I don’t appreciate the random and downright mean actions of our TV. I do not find them funny and I don’t understand how that TV can get away with these shenanigans. Sadly, I am not even allowed to best the TV by pressing the “off” button and saying “so there.” I have to figure out which remote to use to power the system down correctly. I am so bad with remote controls that I could conceivably press the wrong button on a remote and cause the Coyote Valley Dam to release all the water in Lake Mendocino into the Russian River. Life is getting too complicated for me. I should stick to reading books.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

The Eeyore People

I am dubbing them the Eeyore People after the character in the Winnie-the-Pooh books who is chronically depressed, listlessly apathetic, and who mopes around expecting the worst. We all know Eeyore People. They are the ones who consistently have the most convoluted and unfathomable series of unfortunate events happen to them, preventing them from accomplishing even the most simple tasks. If you dare to ask how they arrived at a particular state of affairs, prepare to sit through an extremely long shaggy dog story.

The Eeyore People bring these situations upon themselves by procrastinating, lacking resourcefulness, failing to think ahead, and mounting obstacles where there were none a minute before. It amazes me how they convince themselves that they are the worst victims of fate when 90% of their problems are self-made. By way of example, I have an acquaintance, whom I will call Eeyore, who calls me from time to time to complain about her latest problems. I lend a sympathetic ear because she doesn’t call that often and it’s not so hard for me to help out a lonely person who can use a good listener. Her latest debacle is that her car died and she can’t afford to buy another one. So she has not been to the doctor because she has no transportation. Therefore she has not had the prescriptions for her medications refilled and they have run out. So now she is off her meds and is sick. She has attempted to get her doctor’s office to refill the prescriptions but they won’t do it without seeing her for an office visit.

Let’s deconstruct this scenario. This woman is single, in her sixties, and she has six brothers who live in the same town she does (all of them married and some with grown children who also live in this town). You would think that A) between them the brothers could figure out how to give her a ride to the doctor, B) if the brothers are too busy then perhaps one or another of their grown children could be prevailed upon to take their auntie to the doctor, and/or C) the brothers could manage to find a vehicle or chip in to buy a vehicle that would get this sister around. But don’t suggest any of these things to her. “Oh, I couldn’t ask them for help,” she explains. Not my place to question the malfunctioning of her family. OK, let’s move on to other transportation. I suggested that she call the Senior Rider. We have a Senior Rider here that picks up old folks and drives them to the store or to doctor appointments at no cost. It’s a public service. All you have to do is call. Eeyore lives in a big city so I imagine they have an excellent Senior Rider she could access. She claims she looked into a senior ride service in her area and that to use it you need a note from your doctor, whom she can’t go see because she doesn’t have transportation. Am I to believe that this particular service is the only senior ride service in her city? (She says she doesn’t know another one.) Or that she can’t have the doctor MAIL HER a letter of referral? Surely she can get a letter of referral for the senior ride service without making an office visit. What about public transportation, you might ask. I did. What about taking the bus? You would think the bus route maps were drawn up by M.C. Escher the way she describes them. She can’t figure them out. What about a taxi? Too expensive. Ask a friend to drive her? She doesn’t feel comfortable asking anyone she knows. She sounds like the most unresourceful person on the planet, but trust me, this is the way Eeyore People think and operate.

So eventually she figures out a way to go to see a doctor, not her regular doctor, but a different doctor. Before she retired she worked in the accounting department of a large hospital and she knows how to get to the hospital. So she goes to a doctor at that hospital. She has diabetes so the doctor she needs to see to refill her meds is an endocrinologist. This is truly shocking, right? Yes, you betcha, the meds she has not been getting are for diabetes. One would think she would feel a greater sense of urgency. Anyway, finally, Eeyore goes to this different endocrinologist, who asks her who referred her. The previous endocrinologist apparently served as both her primary care doctor and her endocrinologist, but in order to bill Medicare, the new endocrinologist needs her to have a referral from a primary care doctor. Since she has given up on going to her previous doctor, she doesn’t have a primary care doctor anymore. She can’t very well get a referral from one endocrinologist (whom she just ditched) for another one. This sounds like a Catch-22. It takes real talent to land in a situation like this.

In the meantime, the new endocrinologist provided her with prescriptions for enough meds to tide her over for a few weeks until she sorts herself out. But she says one of the meds is too expensive for her to buy. I wonder how she was able to buy it before but can’t buy it now. Maybe the pharma company arbitrarily decided to raise the cost on it, like Mylan did with the EpiPen, which has been all over the news. (Mylan raised the cost of the EpiPen from $100 in 2009 to $600 in 2016, for no other reason than the fact that it owns a monopoly on the lifesaving device and can make more money on it.) You would think she would have some kind of pharma plan through Medicare that would cover her meds. But when she set up her Medicare plans, she didn’t get good advice, and so she doesn’t have an appropriate pharma plan for her needs. So she should work with an agent to fix that, right? But will she do it? Of course not. She’ll keep whining that she can’t afford her meds. I don’t know which of her meds she can’t afford. I hope it’s not the insulin.

You really can’t help the Eeyore People sort things out. You can’t make recommendations, because they will come up with an insurmountable obstacle that prevents them from pursuing every single blessed suggestion you can make. Life is just unfair to them. No one knows the trouble they’ve seen. These people make everything super complicated. They couldn’t peel a potato without terminally destroying their kitchen plumbing and falling on the floor and breaking a bone.

Eeyore People are the ones who have a hole in their kitchen ceiling that lets the rain in and when you unwittingly ask them about it, the explanation involves a tree falling, a dozen disreputable contractors, an all-night roofing supply store, squirrels, asbestos, insurance paperwork, FEMA, a Super Bowl party, an extension ladder, the Farmer’s Almanac, and hip replacement surgery. By the time you have heard the entire explanation, it’s summer and the urgency of repairing the hole has dissipated. I feel sorry for people who make their lives so complicated, who convince themselves that they can’t afford anything because they have limited finances instead of working out a solution, who think they don’t deserve anything, who are not resourceful or smart, who don’t take care of business, who continue in a downward spiral that is completely unnecessary. They don’t realize how much they create their own difficult situation.

I have a friend whom I met in Berkeley back in the 1980s. He was about 28 years old at the time of the incident I’m about to relate. One day he was driving home and his car died. He couldn’t afford to fix it. He got someone to tow it to his apartment building for free and he left the car parked, inert, on the front lawn until he could take it to a mechanic. It sat out there for at least a year. My friend rode his bike and took public transportation. Then he got a new job and was earning better money, so he had the car towed to the mechanic. It turned out that the only thing wrong with it was that it had run out of gas. Otherwise it ran just fine. Eeyore People. Oy.

Eeyore. Kinda cute. Attracts challenges.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Rogue Podiatrist

So far this election season, I have avoided saying anything about politics on the blog because we are inundated with the stuff and I think we need a few laughs a lot more than we need political rants. So I feel compelled to warn you that this blog contains political content just below the surface. On the surface, this is a discussion of why we fired my husband Ron’s podiatrist this week.

I believe that politics has no place in the doctor’s office. It should not enter the doctor-patient relationship. Yet Ron’s podiatrist seems to feel it’s his sworn duty to plaster his office with political posters and bombard his patients with his extremely conservative, borderline crackpot, political views. I will call this podiatrist Jack to protect his identity, even though I don’t really care about protecting his identity. But I don’t want to be sued for libel. Ron has gone to Jack for over a dozen years and Jack is an excellent podiatrist, who has taken good care of Ron’s feet. I now wonder a little about this since Jack has been baiting Ron to argue with him about Black Lives Matter for months. Jack wants to incite Ron to say that all lives matter. He doesn’t get the point of the movement. (He’s white, of course.) So this is why I have to wonder a little about why he has taken such good care of a brother’s feet.  Wouldn’t he prefer to keep a Black man’s feet out of commission so the guy can’t run away from the police? Perhaps he thinks it only sportsmanlike to give Ron a fair running start.

We have struggled to shut him down at every appointment. I was once in his office and he started in on a tirade against Obama and the Affordable Care Act. I cut him off and told him that the Affordable Care Act has saved me thousands of dollars (it has) and that I get down on my knees every day and thank Obama for passing it (I don’t really), and that he should shut up about it. He did. But, how unprofessional is that to get into politics with patients? This man is actually a sweet person. He once ran into us at a restaurant and chatted with us for a while before our dinner arrived. After he left and we had finished eating, when we asked for the bill, the waitress informed us that he had paid the bill. He bought us dinner. He is also extremely knowledgeable about foot care, which is the main reason Ron has continued to hide his eyes and walk past the offensive political posters in Jack’s office all these years (on well-tended diabetic feet).

Last week, however, Ron went to Jack’s office for routine foot care and was accosted by a bevy of posters touting the Dark Lord for president. I am being careful not to say the Dark Lord’s name, both because I do not wish to invoke his energy by naming him and because I fear that if he becomes president I will be tracked down and tortured by the Russian Mafia, endangering my family and possibly my cats by association. It would be very easy to torture my cats since they are addicted to tuna and thus vulnerable.

As a diabetic, Ron goes to the podiatrist every three months to have his toenails trimmed and his feet examined. It’s dangerous for him to trim his toenails himself because if he accidentally nicks a toe, the cut can become infected and not heal. He lost half a toe that exact way once a long time ago in a galaxy far away called Vegas. So last week he was in the chair, when Jack decided it was his sworn duty to convince Ron to vote for the Dark Lord. How can someone who knows so much about feet know so little about pretty much every other blessed thing in the universe? This goes to show you that if you become obsessed with feet you will lose vast amounts of gray matter. Too much energy diverted to the other end of the body, perhaps? Jack believes that Fox News is beamed down by God Almighty Himself. Over the years, we have deflected his insane ravings about the Bush Administration and the wisdom of engagement in Iraq; Sarah Palin (he would give his left nut to sleep with her, which clearly qualifies her to be VP and to step in if necessary if the President is taken out by a stray bullet from Dick Cheney); how Hillary will sneak into his house in the middle of the night and steal his gun (wresting it out of his tight little hand, I presume); why Obama is the anti-Christ and anyway he’s not an American citizen (of course, Christ wasn’t either, so maybe that explains it); and how Mitt Romney actually won the last election but Nancy Pelosi’s pet canary pecked extra holes in ballots all over Ohio (that canary should be arrested). But now he has reached an entirely new level of political invective and ignorance and Ron can’t take it anymore.

Jack agrees with the Dark Lord that we should round up all the Muslims and make them wear yellow stars. A wall between the U.S. and Mexico strikes him as brilliant. (Why didn’t someone already think of that? Such as the Berliners, perhaps?) Like all the other Dark Lord followers, he thinks it’s fine to berate women for putting on weight, but he somehow doesn’t notice that the Dark Lord is fat. Maybe if you become a follower you have to sign an oath not to call the Dark Lord fat. The Russian Mafia forces you to eat a vegan diet for a month if you call the Dark Lord fat. We are not surprised that Jack is pleased to see the Dark Lord verbally abuse women. He had a lovely wife and she left him pretty early in the marriage. (I can’t imagine him physically abusing women because, you have to trust me on this, he really does have a big heart in his own way, but he is a verbal abuser.) The turnover rate of his lovely female office staff (receptionist, assistant, etc.) is so high that you could get whiplash watching them tear out the door. Every one of them as sweet as can be and he is such a bully that they flee. I have rarely been in his office, but once when I was there and he was rude and domineering to his female assistant, I chastised him for it and made him apologize to her. He likes me a lot, and I think it’s because I remind him of his mom. I don’t let him get away with his crap.

While contemplating the drivel that comes out of Jack’s mouth, I have had this clever idea that the government should develop a No Fly-By List of all the people who cannot be trusted to sit next to anyone else on an airplane because they will inappropriately foist crazy political views on them. (Obama is working for a Martian cartel of single-cell organisms that are plotting to take over Earth. He communicates with them using the binary system.) Jack would be number one on the No Fly-By List. He needs to be separated from decent, ordinary people.

When someone goes to the doctor’s office, they should not come home with their blood pressure 50 points higher than their IQ. Doctors are healers, right? So when Ron came out of Jack’s office this week with his blood pressure orbiting the planet, and the receptionist cheerfully offered to make him an appointment in three months, he held up his hand and walked on by. He came home angrier than I have seen him since he stepped barefoot on a stray Lego in the living room at the Ranch in the middle of the night. So we immediately searched online and found an alternative podiatrist, and we called to make an appointment for his next trim with the new doctor. On Friday, he formally transferred his records from Jack’s office. Jack has officially gone over to the Dark Lord and we will have none of it.

On Friday night, we skyped a longtime friend of ours who lives in Uruguay. She is German and is working in Uruguay for a few years. She said that Germany is, for the first time ever, sending election observers to the U.S., and that if she were not working in Uruguay, she would have signed up to be an observer. She told us that Europeans are stunned by what is happening in the U.S., and that Germans in particular, with their history, are deeply disturbed. “We can’t believe anyone will vote for him,” she said incredulously. “Do you know anyone who will vote for him?” So Ron told her about Jack and his recent decision to ditch him as his podiatrist. I am often afraid to ask people their political views because I am easily astonished by the pervasive ignorance in this country.  But I doubt I know anyone other than Jack who will vote for the Dark Lord. We don’t live in a Dark Lord hot zone. 

I will kind of miss Jack. He’s a dumb lug who is very sweet underneath that idiocy. If I were to tell Jack something in parting, I would say, “You have a good heart. I just wish you weren’t such an asshole.” If I were a vandal, I’d sneak over to his office in the middle of the night and put an anti-NRA sticker on his mailbox. He’s so oblivious, though, that he probably wouldn’t notice it until sometime around the inauguration.

I was looking for an image of feet and remembered how much I love this one. I hope the beautiful energy of this picture counteracts my invoking of the Dark Lord in the blog.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Sounds Like

I have been losing my hearing for over 20 years. I started using hearing aids when I was 40, and they do help, but anyone with hearing aids will tell you that they don’t restore hearing to the way it is naturally. Hearing aids come with a host of issues and distortions. The lines between words blur and meaning shifts. I have learned to live with these parabolas. Although my hearing is less than perfect, and often leaves me prostrated, it’s also a source of intertwinement. So don’t cry for me arugula. The gap between what pimple say and what I hear people say makes for a humorous life. And cod knows, I loave to laugh.

Some environments gist don’t support viable hearing for people with my disability. Parties, outdoor events, and clouded restaurants are some of the wrist environments for the hearing impaled. In the past few beers, I have startled to repeat bat to people exactly what I heard, even if it mates no science. I do this to slow them that I didn’t understand them, and also to give them a bitter idea of the challenges I fate. The nonsense I think I hear is sometimes funny and gives them a goose laugh. I remember a conversion in which my husband told a friend that he went into a store and asked if they had a gluten-free foods aisle. I thought my hasbeen said guilt-free foods aisle, and I went off somewhere in my head for quite some time contaminating that notion. What an ablazing constep. I want a faction in the store desiccated to really fun treats that are so healthy that you can eek them without feeling guilty. How cool would that pee?

I think by now you’re begging to get the pitcher.

A classic hearing impairment scenario occurred last week when my husband, my father, and I drove to Sacramento to visit my cousins. My father wears hearing aids. We picked up my 92-year-old cousin, who has lost most of her hearing but refuses to wear hearing aids, and we went together to the home of her son for lunch. I had never been to his house before. I drove. My husband navigated with his phone. En route, at a juncture where I needed to make a series of turns onto unfamiliar streets, my father (in the backseat) received a cell phone call. He proceeded to shout into his phone, with the volume turned up so loud that my husband could hear every word the caller said from where he sat in the front seat. Meanwhile, my elderly cousin fretted over which lane we should get into, calling out suggestions. I could not hear my husband’s directions over the din from the backseat:  my father shouting, his caller squawking over the speaker, my cousin kibbitzing. My husband and I have been studying ASL, so he resorted to hand signs to communicate. But it’s hard to drive and look at hand signs both at wince. I mean once.

I have a high-quality headset for my landline phone, and generally can hear pretty well on it. I use it for work (I work from home). But I can’t believe how often someone calls me from their cell, in a moving car, and puts me on speakerphone. All I can hear in that situation is whooshing noises. Actually, even people with perfect hearing can’t hear much in that situation. It sounds more like an alien invasion than a conversation. Yet I have frequently experienced business colleagues calling in to group conference calls in just that way; forcing the other people on the call to try to figure out what the heck the car-whoosh-caller is saying. What are they thinking? Sometimes I have to wonder if people really want to communicate.

These days, my children are more attentive and patient with me. They often check to see if I heard them, because they know that I frequently don’t want to bother them to repeat and so I simply pretend I heard them. If they want to know if I am hearing them correctly, they will say things like, “So now I’m addicted to crack.” When I nod and say, “That’s nice honey.” They say, “Mom, you didn’t hear me.” And they repeat until they’re sure I’ve heard.

I should probably carry a little notebook around with me and keep a record in it of all the wild nonsensical things I thought I heard. Truthfully, even at its best, spoken language is an imperfect tool, but I need it to communicate with you. The deeper I travel into the world of signing, the more intrigued I become with visual communication. It provides a refreshingly different perspective. I hope one day to be proficient at signing. Then I’ll have to find more other people who know ASL. Life is truly a journey.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Can't Tell the Difference Between Skunk and Weed

Around here, instead of that expression “can’t tell her ass from a hole in the ground” we should use “can’t tell skunk from weed.” The two smell similar, but no respectable inhabitant of my rural community should lack the ability to discern the difference between the two odors. Therefore, my next-door neighbors have no business living in this part of the world. They should be deported to the Bronx.

On a recent lovely summer evening in the country, while lying in bed reading, with my bedroom window open, I was accosted by the stench of skunk. I had to close the window. Ugh. A few minutes later my husband came to tell me that the neighbor-lady telephoned him and angrily demanded that he stop smoking weed next to her house. Wait what?! He informed her that he doesn’t smoke weed. She told him that she could smell it, and it was unacceptable. Did she want him to take a lie-detector test or what? He did not have his office window open and did not smell the skunk so he didn’t figure it all out right away. And he’s so damn polite. She deserved to be blasted but he just told her he wasn’t smoking weed and left it at that. She didn’t give up so easily. She proceeded to order him to go check to see what our youngest son was up to because it must be our son who was smoking weed next to her house. She knew for a fact that someone was smoking weed next to her house. I’m inclined to think it was her. Something was giving her hallucinations and she sure wanted to blame us for them.

My husband informed her, with remarkable restraint, that the youngest son in question moved to Oakland seven years ago, and is rarely at our house. Isn’t here now. I would not have been so kind to her. I would have pointed out that if someone in our house was smoking weed, at our own house, on our own property, in our own yard, it’s none of her damn business. I told my husband about the skunk spraying in the neighborhood. The neighbor was smelling the skunk and thought it was weed. The only other scenario I can conjure is that it was a skunk smoking weed. She should have called the skunk.

OK, well, I guess this is officially a rant about my neighbors. Pardon me for breathing. This incident tells me that these neighbors have been stewing about our behavior for quite some time and they are itching for excuses to self-righteously chew us out. I didn’t realize that they are investing so much energy disapproving of us. I thought it amusing when the neighbor-man offered to help me replant my lawn (which I had systematically murdered). I thought it amusing when they planted a privet hedge along the property line to block their view of my wild back yard. Now I am not so amused.

Last year the neighbor-lady called me to complain that we had ants on a tree in our back yard that bordered her property, and she wanted us to call an exterminator and spray the tree with toxic chemicals to prevent the ants from creeping into her yard and devouring her garage. If that didn’t work, she suggested we chop down the tree. An ancient oak tree, hundreds of years old! That’s what they did. They chopped down an ancient oak tree on their property because it had ants and birds on it. Ants and birds can damage houses, you know, and they are opposed to such damage.

Last summer the neighbor-man accosted my husband to berate him for our anti-suburban landscaping. The neighbor-man implied that my husband should get his renegade gardener-wife under control. The short version of our landscaping approach is that we replaced our lawn with drought-tolerant, deer-resistant plants. Our neighbors are still pining for our disappeared lawn. We also don’t pick up and remove the oak leaves dropped by the gorgeous tree in our front yard. Oak trees drop leaves. That’s what they do for a living. The neighbor-man has a vendetta against dropped leaves. He warned my husband that he and “some of the other neighbors” (as far as we can tell he means his wife and dog) were discussing measures they could take to force us to return our yard to more appropriate landscaping. (The dog suggested it could poo on our rosemary plants.) This is the same guy who shot a woodpecker out of one of our trees with a BB-gun. My husband was not so nice about that. He told him if he ever does that again we’re calling the cops. He has a serious thing about woodpeckers. Maybe a giant pileated pecked him to death in a previous life. Why does he even live in a rural area? We live in nature here. We live with critters here. He should move to Los Angeles and shoot rats and cockroaches.

This man’s yard consists mainly of rocks and grass. He regularly brings in teams of workers to beat his yard into submission using extremely noisy power tools. They mow his rocks. They turn on gas-powered leaf blowers at 8:00 in the morning on a Saturday and blow every blessed leaf off his lawn, rocks, and driveway. They then pick the leaves up in their teeth and spit them into a bag and set it on fire. His yard adheres to the inedible pristine-boring genre of gardening. Not even a stray flower blossom appears to ruin the antiseptic calm of his lawn. He poisons the gophers. Sprays the ants. I shudder to think what he uses to kill the weeds. Of course, all those toxins run off into my yard. So I’m only pretending to grow organic produce because I’m living in the path of his chemical drift. But do I call him up late at night to demand that he stop using weed killers and lawn fertilizer?

The skunk-and-weed incident reveals that the needle on the neighbors’ disapproval-rating-o-meter is pointing to the hysterical-obsessive-dislike reading for me and my yard. Who knew? I expect them to start leaving threatening notes in my mailbox complaining that my weeds are keeping them awake at night making all that racket growing. They probably blame us for attracting birds to the neighborhood with our grape arbors and sunflowers; for attracting bees and butterflies with our giant sage, bottlebrush tree, and flowers. They have obviously never learned about the birds and the bees. Or about the destruction of the environment and death by toxins. They are not concerned about this generation, let alone the seventh generation. Sigh.

I’m going to put up a sign next to my strawberry patch directing the skunks to the neighbors’ yard. The neighbors won’t notice it because it will be obscured by their privet hedge. Besides, they don’t speak skunk.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

What Walks Through the Door

When you host a party, you never know what will walk through your door. Even if it’s a small party with a select group of people, once you open your home, anything can happen. And it does. Last weekend we hosted a BBQ and open house for a hand-picked group of close friends whom our children wanted to see while at a family gathering planned for them to spend time with their grandfather, who was visiting from NJ. My daughter invited a couple of women-friends who grew up with her. One of these women (I’ll call her Cindy to protect her identity) turned up at around 9:00 (well after dinner had finished) with her new boyfriend, whom my daughter had never met. I will call the boyfriend Leaf-of-Life, because that was how he introduced himself and I have no reason to protect his identity, and because you really can’t make this stuff up.

Leaf-of-Life was tall and anorexically thin. He had several gold teeth, an affected Jamaican accent, a ten-foot high green turban on his head that made him resemble a cactus, and he reeked of weed. He was wearing a suit and tie with the shirt untucked so the shirt tails hung out. The suit looked like it had come directly from Goodwill after having been used to clothe a scarecrow guarding the fall pumpkin patch for a month. His fashion sense appeared to be dictated by someone who had taken one too many blows to the head. He enthusiastically accosted everyone in the house with his business card and flyers advertising the release of his new CD. He also had a bottomless pocket full of said CDs, which he attempted to sell to our guests. Ron kindly purchased one of the CDs and Leaf-of-Life was so encouraged by the sale that he attempted to recruit Ron as his volunteer publicist.

When Ron declined to leap at that opportunity, Leaf-of-Life asked Ron if he had any weed. As it turned out, it was a trick question. Leaf-of-Life had an enormous bag of his weed on his person. Once he determined that he couldn’t mooch any weed off my husband (who didn’t have any), he retired to the deck and proceeded to smoke volumes of his own stash. This was our first real clue that he was a certified freeloader.

When he returned from his session on the deck, he resumed his conversation with Ron, revealing that his actual name is Lincoln. Why would someone select Leaf-of-Life as his stage name when so many other catchy names could have been chosen instead? Leaf-of-Life sounds like a name that came to him in a moment of inane epiphany while colossally stoned. Oh, wait, that’s probably what happened. He might as well have named himself Legalize-It. When he introduced himself as Leaf-of-Life to the older of my two sons, my son nodded his head once in acknowledgement and said, “OK, well, I’m out of here.” He left Leaf-of-Life standing beneath a ceiling fan that was off with his skyscraper turban poised between the fan blades, flashing his gold teeth, surrounded by a fog of weed fumes. My son went to talk with an old family friend who said quietly, “I’ll give you $10 if you turn that fan on.” He didn’t turn the fan on because 1) he’s not that mean and 2) he was afraid of what we might have discovered underneath the turban. A bird in a birdcage? An enormous bag of weed? Giant Russian nesting dolls? Nesting turbans? A nuclear reactor? Pot roast? Jimmy Hoffa?

My daughter felt so embarrassed that her girlfriend had brought this unsavory character to the party. At one point, I took her aside and said, “I thought Cindy had pretty good taste in men.” My daughter replied, “No way. She has dreadful taste in men. If she had told me beforehand that she wanted to bring her new boyfriend I would have told her no, sight-unseen. This one is even worse than her last one.” Eye-roll.

And the worst was yet to come. Round-about 10:00 I began to tackle the massive clean-up in my kitchen while family and friends congregated in the front room for a music jam. My youngest son began to play the piano, my husband plugged in his bass guitar, one young friend sat down at the drum set and another picked up the lead guitar. An assortment of percussion instruments was passed around to other guests. I was all set to groove to the beat as I sorted my kitchen, and then the bomb dropped:  Leaf-of-Life returned from another session on the deck with his friendly weed, commandeered the microphone, and “rapped” along to the music. (Or should I say he raped the music?) He did not sing and he did not make any sense. He chanted nonsensical strings of words in a monotone. My father said to me, “That music is weird.” I didn’t want him to think this was the kind of music to which his grandson was devoting his life, so I told him, “It’s not music, Dad. It’s Leaf-of-Life destroying everyone’s groove.”

I considered paying Leaf-of-Life not to rap. Not to open his mouth. I almost took the microphone away from him and showed him the door. But Cindy is one of my daughter’s oldest and dearest friends, despite her abysmal taste in men. The musicians attempted to ignore Leaf-of-Life and simply play together in spite of his droning. He drove all of us crazy for some time before the munchies got the better of him and he wandered into the kitchen in a weed-induced stupor to look for food.

My daughter’s boyfriend had the presence of mind to grab the open microphone. He began to sing along to the music jam and suddenly all was right with the world. Having finished cleaning up in the kitchen, I picked up a tambourine and joined the fun. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to me, Leaf-of-Life and Cindy were hunting and foraging in my refrigerator. Before long, Cindy came over to me and asked, “Can we open a watermelon?” I told her to go right ahead.

Not much later, I went into the kitchen to refill my glass of wine, and discovered Leaf-of-Life and Cindy with my cutting boards on the table and all the fruit in my refrigerator (which was for breakfast for my family) spread out before them. They had bananas, peaches, cantaloupe, grapes, the last of my homegrown apples, and the homegrown strawberries that I had lovingly picked specifically for my children out on the table ready for dissection. They also had a box of Ziploc bags and they had already filled two of them with chopped watermelon, cantaloupe, and banana. They were preparing to cut up all my fruit and take it home with them! I was furious. I thought, step slowly away from my fruit. But I said to Cindy, in a calm and even voice, scrubbed of all hysteria, “You asked me if you could cut up a watermelon, Cindy. This is more than a watermelon. You can’t have all my fruit. This is for our family’s breakfast.” “Oh, yeah, OK,” Cindy mumbled, while Leaf-of-Life grinned enthusiastically. I took the fruit away from them and put it back in the refrigerator. I put the Ziploc bags back in the drawer. I left them one bag with chopped banana and watermelon.

Leaf-of-Life appeared crestfallen. “I didn’t get to eat my dinner,” he whined. “My plate disappeared.” This happened because he was too stoned to find his plate and it got cleared and cleaned up. It was after 11:00 at night by this time, for crying out loud! The food was put away and most of the guests had left.

“I have leftover barbecue if you would like some of that,” I offered graciously. “I’m sure we can find you something. But you can’t have my breakfast fruit.”

“I’m vegan and I only eat certain things,” he told me, sadly, as if being vegan was a disease. “It’s harder for me to find something to eat.” He was still trying to abscond with my fruit. But I would have none of it.

“I have vegan food,” I replied. “I have barbecued tofu and zucchini. There’s kale salad. Tomatoes. Quinoa salad.”

“Do you have any barbecued salmon?” he asked hopefully.

Salmon? Salmon?! “Fish is not a vegan food,” I informed him. He looked confused. Perhaps he thought salmon was technically a vegetable. I lost my patience. Game over. “I don’t have any fish. You know what? The kitchen is closed,” I said firmly. “Eat the watermelon and banana you cut up.” I pointed to the bag. I was not in the mood to start bringing food out again to feed a stoned-out freeloader.

While Leaf-of-Life remained utterly oblivious to how badly he was behaving, it was beginning to dawn on Cindy that I did not approve of him and that I was angry that they had tried to clean out my breakfast fruit. She hastily gathered her things, said good-bye to my daughter, and headed for the door. But then she couldn’t find Leaf-of-Life, who, as it turned out, was consoling himself for the discovery that fish was not a vegan food by smoking a spliff the size of the Empire State Building out on the deck. He had smoked so much weed on the deck by then that he was attracting skunks. (For those unaware, weed smells much like skunk spray.) Cindy told him she would bring around the car and he should meet her out in front. I wondered if he would need a compass to find the front of the house.

A few minutes later, Ron went out to his car to get something and discovered Leaf-of-Life roaming up and down the driveway looking disoriented. For a terrifying moment, Ron thought that Cindy had left Leaf-of-Life behind with us. “Oh, no!” he exclaimed. But then she pulled up at the foot of the driveway and Leaf-of-Life wove his way to the car, his turban glowing in the moonlight.

As I said at the start, when you open your home for a party, you never know what will come through the door. While I had to take a few deep breaths during the course of the evening to prevent myself from picking Leaf up by the scruff of the neck and placing him on the front porch, it turned out that his presence at the party provided an unexpected boon. At breakfast the next morning, while we enjoyed eggs, bacon, roasted potatoes, toast, and the rescued fruit (delicious), the topic of conversation was Leaf-of-Life. My children had all of us in stitches riffing on our encounter with that disastrous individual. One lucky person will receive Ron’s Leaf-of-Life CD in their Christmas stocking this year. We are rubbing our hands in glee as we try to decide which child that will be.

I thought a photo of fruit would be more pleasant to look at 
than a stoner wearing a turban.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Receiving Gifts Gracefully Is Not My Superpower

You know that impossible-to-shop for person? The one who is way too particular, doesn’t spend money on frivolous things, and says they don’t need anything? The one for whom you dread having to find a gift? I am that person. I am that ungrateful gift recipient who pretends (not often succeeding) that I like the gift while choking back a scream. Almost every year I buy myself at least one Christmas gift and hand it to my husband with the instructions “just wrap this for me.” I pity my husband and children, who have tried their heroic best over the years. Every once in a while they score. More often, not so much. I have worked at cultivating the ability to appreciate the effort, the love that goes into the giving of a gift to someone special. I have improved at appreciation. But I need to work harder on my gift-receiving skills.

I have tried the tactic of asking for something quite specific. It’s amazing how many ways this can go wrong. I ask for lemon soap. I get a soap that contains parabens, yellow dye, petroleum products, and several ingredients I can’t pronounce. The soap scares me. I dispose of it properly at the hazardous waste drop-off at the dump. I ask for notecards. I get notecards with adorable mice trotting across them. I have a deep-seated aversion to mice. The cards make me have the urge to stand on the furniture and holler “eek.” I put them in a paper bag and donate them to the animal shelter. I ask for vegetable seeds and I get beet seeds. If you don’t know how I feel about beets by now you have not been paying attention. I burn the seeds. Beets are the devil’s work.

When I ask Ron for a gift, I must tread extremely carefully. The dear man loves me so much that he takes a simple gift request and turns it into a project of space expedition proportions. I once asked for a few pairs of white cotton socks. I got a box with a dozen pairs of white socks and a dozen other colors too. I did not have enough room to put them away in my dresser and had to buy a storage shed for them. Last Christmas, I asked for a thermometer to put outside my kitchen window so I could see what the temperature was outside. Ron got me an electronic weather station that tells the temperature (both in my house and outside), barometric pressure, moon phase, tide times in the nearest coastal town, likelihood of an earthquake occurring in the next few days within 100 miles, weather forecast for the next week, my bone density, my cat’s bone density, whether my flowers on the deck need watering, and if we are getting low on coffee; tells this in 12 languages (including Eastern Pomo). I keep trying to keep it simple, practical, inexpensive. He keeps trying to give me the moon. So sweet. Sigh.

Our anniversary is tomorrow (34 years) and Ron asked me what I wanted for an anniversary gift. So I was thinking simple and inexpensive and I asked for a massage. Big mistake. He bought a professional, portable massage table and a package of high-quality aromatic essential oils. My first reaction when I saw a massage table in my kitchen was, ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! He tries to surprise me with this spectacular thoughtful gift and I ask him how much the thing cost and whatever possessed him and where are we going to put it and does he expect me to give him a massage on it too (because I’m a horrible masseuse) and what material is it made out of and what drug was he on when he ordered it and was it made using child labor and is it too late to return it. Poor Ron. He is like the proverbial cat that brings home the dead bird as the super-darling present and is stunned by the horrified response. To his credit, he maintained Herculean calm, and waited gently for me to finish melting down. Then he assured me it didn’t cost all that much and asked me, “Do you want your massage?” Truthfully, I do want a massage. I just hadn’t planned on keeping the table, the mellow music, the massage oils, and the masseuse.

It took me several hours to climb back into the skin I had jumped out of, so I could start to embrace my new identity as the owner of a massage table. I am still processing this. It is an adjustment. Do I have to wear white clothes around the house now? Should I start drinking my morning smoothie with a straw? Do I need to buy crystals? Should I plant more cucumbers? Must I keep candles burning? Do they have to be scented candles, because I hate scented candles? Should I smudge the house more frequently? I don’t know how the massage table will change my life and if I can handle this much transformation at my age. Is it possible that I may have to actually relax? It’s tough having a husband whose long-term objective is to rock my world.

I don’t do well with gifts. They confuse me. They are surprise elements that I have to incorporate into my life. Gifts make me anxious. At least the massage table is an improvement over the gift he gave me last year.

Last year Ron gave me a poo aid for our anniversary. He bought something called a Squatty Potty. It’s a plastic stool that wraps around the front of the toilet for the pooer to put their feet up on, the better to push with. It provides a better angle for pooing, or something like that based on trajectory science. Possibly it has something to do with the laws of aerodynamics. I don’t completely understand the biochemistry of it. Ron was pretty excited about this thing. I could not summon an equal level of enthusiasm. I tried using it once and it failed to take me to a higher level of consciousness. I have never used it again. I believe I was born with the genetic ability to naturally achieve the exact optimum poo angle. I have excellent pooing genes. In my case, my pooing ability probably qualifies as a superpower. Several months after this gift was presented to me, I stumbled upon an article in a wellness journal about the Squatty Potty. It said that it is an amazingly beneficial device, that, for some people, is life-changing. Who knew? Perhaps it has changed my husband’s life. As for me, I am just the ungrateful wretch with a perfect pooing superpower who can’t appreciate a transcendent gift.

Obviously, I did not solicit the poo aid. I did not even, for instance, say, in an offhand manner, “I want an anniversary gift that will surprise the shit out of me.” If I had, my sweetheart husband would probably have gone on beyond the poo aid and bought me a home colonoscopy kit. I doth protest too much, dothen’t I? Such an unlucky wife, that I ask for a massage and my husband gives me the entire massage parlor. I think next year for our anniversary I will ask for stuffed grape leaves and then maybe he will give me a trip to Greece.  

[I’m taking a break from blogging for a week to spend time with my children, who are all coming home to see me and my father, who is coming to visit. Nothing like family fun.]

I think this soothing image of massage is much better for this post 
than an image of a Squatty Potty.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Zombified? Count Me Out

Scary movies scare me; don’t judge. Dolls that come alive. People drifting in the universe on a space ship infiltrated by aliens that systematically kill them. Creatures with extra appendages in the attic. Slime oozing from the lighting fixtures. Ominous communications with the dead. Eerie organ music emanating from the dishwasher. Unlit basements with drippy sounds. A strange face appearing suddenly at the window in the dead of night. Monsters under the bed. Inexplicable vaguely malevolent phenomena. Supernatural encounters. Evil Martians with bad hair, extra eyes, and extreme weapons. I can’t handle any of that stuff.

When Ron took me to see the 1978 remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, I hid my eyes through almost the entire film. (The only reason I went was that it was filmed in San Francisco and we had friends who worked on the film sets.) “Now what’s happening?” I kept asking him, and he would describe the scene in gory detail, until the guy sitting behind me exclaimed in exasperation, “Lady, just look at it.”

A few weeks ago my sons recommended a Netflix sci-fi/supernatural/soft-horror web series they liked called Stranger Things (produced by the Duffer Brothers). They know I love sci-fi but that horror scares me. My youngest son reassured me that it’s not that scary, more of a sci-fi thriller than horror. I was skeptical. “Oh don’t be a baby, Mom,” he emailed me. “Just watch it. It’s good.” When Ron watched it to vet it for me, I could hear the music and sound effects from the other room. I thought the music was pretty scary.

Although I consider The Sixth Sense (M. Night Shyamalan) an excellent film, I never should have watched it. It came out in 1999, and it took me until about 2012 to be able to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night without turning all the lights on. Remember that scene when Haley Joel Osment goes to the bathroom in the middle of the night and a dead person flickers past behind him, flitting into the kitchen? Heart-stopping! One of Ron’s favorite movies is the very first Alien (Ridley Scott). He says it’s a classic and is a brilliant piece of filmmaking; and he can critique its merits for hours like only a guy with a degree in film can. You wouldn’t catch me within 50 miles of that film. I saw a picture, by accident, of Alien-star Sigourney Weaver with one of the sets for the film in the background, and was so traumatized that I couldn’t watch anything starring Sigourney until she did Galaxy Quest in 1999. Since that’s my favorite movie, I think it’s safe to say that I have recovered from my Sigourney Phobia. But, to be honest, in 1999 I graduated from my fear of Alien to leaving the lights on at night when going to the bathroom because of Sixth Sense.

I don’t get why people want to watch a movie to scare themselves. I spend a lot of time talking myself out of being terrified in this horrifying world in which we live. It baffles me why anyone finds it exciting to watch teenagers have their car break down in the middle of the night in fog that growls. Or animated mannequins wielding meat cleavers. Or slime-oozing evil from outer space stalking government officials. Or small children following instructions from distorted static voices emanating from the toaster telling them to murder their parents. Or unexplained flashing lights in the garage swallowing up the neighbors’ dogs. Eek. I’m scaring myself.

Ron says that people who watch horror movies don’t get scared, though. He says it’s funny, often campy, and that people who like horror films aren’t fooled by the stage blood and hair-raising soundtrack. I can sort of understand that. I can usually handle goofy space aliens, zombified people if they aren’t gruesome or bloody, spirit communications (as long as any ghosts look 90% lively and have no open wounds on them), and even animated kitchen appliances that run amok as long as they don’t murder anyone. It’s hard for me to define the moment when, for me, images cross the line from hilarious and firmly implausible to alarming and too real. I don’t do gore. I don’t even do implied gore. Period. It does not amuse me. I don’t watch violent films and, no matter how terrific the film or its message or whatever. I refuse to subject myself to violent images. They are not entertaining or educational. I just say no to torture, rape, murder, abuse, or people being force-fed beets.

My problem is probably that I have a ridiculously active imagination. Ron says the actual film image is usually nowhere near as horrifying as what I imagine. But I don’t want any of those images in my psyche. When my children were very young, they were afraid of scary movies too. We could be afraid and practice avoidance together. That lasted for about fifteen minutes. While I hid under the table until I was twelve years old whenever the Wicked Witch of the West or the flying monkeys appeared in The Wizard of Oz, my daughter laughed her way through that film before she had reached the tender age of three. She wanted the ruby slippers and Glinda’s dress, and she wasn’t intimidated by a woman in green-face who had no fashion sense. One of my sons was afraid of department store mannequins until he was four years old. He outgrew that, but I’m still afraid of them. Have you noticed that these days mannequins often don’t have faces on them? (Shivers.)

Ron waits for our children to come home to visit to watch horror movies. I guess it’s more fun to be horrified together with other people. They stay up late at night together after I go to bed watching, and they laugh their heads off. Well, not literally, because then they would be headless. At least I don’t think they do. Are my family members zombies? I don’t want to know. I’m hiding my eyes right now. People who eat actual food can’t be zombie, right? I mean, zombies eat other zombies, chainsaws, babies, small dogs, and beets, right? I have never seen a zombie eat. Does a normal person turn into a zombie if they witness a zombie eating?

Life is already too frightening and creepy, full of bad stuff happening to people, to pile on arbitrary fabricated images of pain and woe. We live in a mysterious world where inexplicable things happen, particularly to people like me who have little or no grasp of fundamental physics. So please help me out here and have a little understanding. Don’t tell me to just look when a scary being with ill intent is waving around a small animal impaled on a weapon or revealing a large mouth full of metallic pointy teeth or lovingly stroking a fat red beet. 

I was going to put an image of zombies, 
but they were too scary, so I chose this classic instead.

Sunday, August 14, 2016


It astounds me the way the simplest little thing can escalate into something of vast proportions. Here’s a for-instance hypothetical scenario. You are about to take a vitamin pill, but it jumps out of your fingers and you drop it on the floor, because of that ancient Law of Objects, which states that everything always winds up on the floor. So you crawl under the kitchen table to get it, and while standing back up you smack your head on the underside of the table. Defying all reason, there is a screw sticking out of the bottom of the table, right in the exact spot where you smack your head. (It wasn’t there yesterday, but it’s there today.) When you hit your head on the screw, blood sprays all over the floor and the front of the cupboards because nothing gushes blood like a scalp wound. At the sight of all that blood, your daughter throws up, your son passes out, and your husband wads up your favorite guest towel and presses it against the minor wound on your head that is pouring forth like a geyser. Before you can say “what removes blood stains from the car upholstery?” you are sitting in the ER. You will have to work overtime for three years to pay the ER bill, your favorite T-shirt is ruined (not to mention the guest towel), your daughter will be teasing your son for the rest of his life about having passed out when mom geysered, and you never did take your vitamin. See what I’m saying? Escalation.

One minute everything is going along just fine and the next minute a twinge in the toe has evolved, step by absurd step, into a broken leg. I have taken my car into the shop for a routine oil change and been told the transmission is shot or the breaks need to be replaced or the primary rotary biliary compressor eggbeater shaft is worn out and I should not drive the car unless I put $60,000 into it to fix it. Escalation. I take my cat to the vet for her annual shots and the vet says she will lose all her teeth if I don’t pay $600 to have the vet sedate the cat and scrape the tuna-fish off her teeth. Escalation. I am weeding my cantaloupe patch and I disturb a nest of yellow jackets resulting in over 15 stings, anaphylactic shock, and an ER bill the size of Nebraska. Escalation.

If you need any more examples of escalation you should visit my husband’s family. They are grand masters at the stuff. After 34 years of marriage, I have come to know a thing or two about Ron’s family. One thing I have learned is that after the sun goes down, when someone in his family says “I’m hungry, does anyone want to go out for something to eat?” mayhem soon follows. A bunch of his cousins along with various and sundry other friends, relatives, nearby unsuspecting people (who may or may not know his family), and a little dog cram into a car or two and head out for the nearest fast-food joint. They are a recipe for escalation. One time a car of his relatives in search of late-night snack was pulled over by the police because either a tail light was out or they were a car full of Black people. While examining the tail light, the police discovered that Cousin Phillip was in possession of an unlicensed gun. If the crew thought they were hungry when they left the house, they were super hungry by the time someone bailed them out. In Ron’s family, going out for a bite to eat after dark can lead to such escalated outcomes as identity theft, lost dogs, mangled drainpipes, transporting outdated shoes across state lines, alien invasion, death, and nuclear war. It rarely leads to the actual eating of food.

Recently some friends of mine were commenting on how home projects can escalate so that they require an inconceivable amount of extra steps because of something unexpected that crops up. Disintegration of fixtures in old homes. Renegade salespeople at the hardware store selling you the wrong part. An Allen wrench falling down the drain. Parts missing from the package. (Did you buy it at Sears? What did you expect?) Assembly instructions in Chinese. Think of those little house problems you notice that turn out to be enormous (and cost more to fix than the mortgage). You notice a little pile of sawdust in a corner and it turns out your attic is infested with opossums. So you go to the library to get a cookbook with opossum recipes in it, but it turns out they moved the library to Michigan to clean the carpets. While in Michigan you contract lead poisoning from the water.

The way one thing leads to another, it’s remarkable that anyone accomplishes anything in this world. I have heard my father tell the story of the ill-fated picnic he participated in with our family (when I was a child) and my parents’ friends the Harts. The Harts set up chairs and a portable aluminum table for the lunch, which was spread out like a vision of picnic perfection. At the lunch, one of the Hart’s children knocked a cup of milk with his elbow while reaching across the table. Mr. Hart lunged to grab the cup of milk before it spilled, and he swiftly performed a chain reaction of maneuvers that managed to overturn the entire lightweight table with food splattered on the people and the ground, and the picnic demolished. Chalk one up for the ants.

I’m considering practicing the art of de-escalation as a preemptive defense tactic. What if I look at situations and consider how I can simplify and avoid extra steps that could potentially go awry and fuel the escalation beast? So if, for example, I’m out of eggs, instead of running to the store, I’ll change the menu for dinner, thus avoiding the possibility of falling off a curb and breaking my ankle. I could become an effective escalation disruptor. The next time I drop a vitamin on the floor, I’m leaving it there until I sell the house. There’s a concept.

Remember this game? Based on the Escalation Premise.