August 30, 2018

editor's retraction

NOTICE OF RETRACTION:  The editor of Sparven hereby issues a retraction of certain statements contained in a previous post, specifically, a post of August 28, 2018 entitled "karma's doing ninety down a quiet city street", wherein it was stated in context that a hedgehog is a type of rodent.  Sparven has been asked to told to required to emphatically demanded to and its editor threatened with various and sundry medieval-era torments if it does not retract this information and clarify that it is, in fact, inaccurate.  Hedgehogs are not, at this time, scientifically classified as rodents.  Lille, the sole editor of Sparven, accepts full responsibility for this error and hereby issues this retraction subsequent to publication of the misinformation.

In the spirit of Fox & Friends, who recently could not bear to report on irrefutable, unspinnable evidence against Trump wrongdoings, I now switch to puppies:

(Molly nose-diving for crushed ice.  It's way better in person because she makes bubble-blowing sounds with her nose.  Donations of paper towels gladly accepted.)

August 28, 2018

karma's doing ninety down a quiet city street

Someone around here predicted that Karma might come get me for making fun of an English teacher spraying extra commas onto a page like a six-year-old with a loaded Super-Soaker and a bloodstream full of birthday cake.  It didn't just come for me.  It sped the whole way.

And I'm only making it worse for myself, because I'm about to offend a whole lot of people through expressing my dog-prejudices.

Molly isn't a German shepherd mix.

In fact, there isn't any German shepherd in her at all, unless you count the tiny dab floating around in the 19% "Super-Mutt" designation.  You have to squint to even see it.

We got her Embark results back in pieces last week and this week.  I'm happy to report that she has no genetically predisposed medical conditions, and I'm impressed by the company's communication, product, and commitment to ongoing scientific modification of results as they learn more over time.  Today, however, we got the breed report, the part everyone actually wants, even though they say they're getting their dog tested for health reasons.

I think maybe this is how a conservative parent must feel when a child comes out as gay.  I couldn't tell you from experience, because my parents never discussed their mental processes after I came out, but I imagine it's something like this.  Who are you?  I love you, but right now I feel like I don't even know you.  After the blue hair, the nose ring, and changing your name at school, you tell me this?

Molly is comprised almost entirely, and evenly, of the four dogs I would have listed as the top four dogs I never, ever want to have:

Chihuahua.  I have a hard time respecting chihuahuas as actual dogs.  This is irrational because I'd love to have a blue rat as a pet, and a hedgehog, so I'm not anti-rodent, but I can't even look at chihuahua faces.  There's just something about them that repels me.  I can't get into them.  Even when they're wearing stupid little sweaters.

Pomeranian.  Ditto on the rodent perception thing, especially since they are sometimes carried off by larger predatory birds.  Their barks are shrill and trigger my startle reflex.  A Pomeranian on the floor usually equates with me stuck to the ceiling of a nearby room.

Cocker Spaniel.  I've known two of these in my life and they were both watery-eyed and dumb as shit, and they both bit me.

Chow-Chow.  One almost blinded me when I was eight years old.

There is also a bit of Boxer, which accounts for her facial features, and a fifth of her that is designated as Super-Mutt, a catch-all contains some Lab and some German shepherd and some things I've never heard of before that have names I can't pronounce and look like they should have pink bows in their hair.

I'm glad for the Boxer bit.  I think that's what's offsetting the more rodent-oriented aspects of her genome.  She'll be roughly fifty pounds when fully grown, maybe just a wee bit smaller, but you wouldn't be able to carry her in any sort of dog-tote.  That matters to me.  A lot.  Someone at the airport years ago had a little dog in a green leather dog-tote and it bit me when I walked by and accidentally waved my hand too close to the bag.  I don't even know what kind of dog it was.  The lady sitting beside it looked at me like it was my fault.  I just kept walking.

Reality check:  What we have here is a happy, healthy, non-tote-bag-able puppy who's intelligent, cunning, affectionate, physically proportionate and downright adorable, especially when she's snuggling on the couch or tilting her head to sounds, and it sure as Hell seems like a bunch of ingredients went into a big bowl and became this miniature German shepherd with magical ears named Molly.

So when I cope with this news by flapping those ears back and forth and calling her Mijita or telling her there's a big, scary owl outside that might pick her up and carry her away, just remind me that I'm an asshole, and that Karma's got a radar detector and my address plugged into the GPS.

August 27, 2018

the annual asshole parade of one

I've a work friend who reads this blog regularly, and thinks nothing of (and, now that I consider it, likely revels in) phoning me up or shooting me a jaunty e-mail pointing out a typo or grammatical inconsistency.  I'm honestly thankful that he does this, and for the times P.J. does the same thing.  Without them, my writing would resemble baby Swiss.

All of that just makes me even more of an asshole, though.  A hypocritical asshole.

It's the beginning of school.  I've dispensed with the sentimental side of it; now comes the gritty reality, the late bus arrivals and lunch money accounts and sheaf of paperwork that comes home that first day.  Ironically, there's less in the way of forms from high school than there was in the elementary school era.  The stack was missing those requests to "tell us a bit about your kid and anything you think we need to know", which is good because I used to write essays on those things, running sideways into the margins, and I doubt they were ever read because they were clearly the ravings of a madwoman.

Today, there are four simple forms, three of which need some contact information and a signature, and one of which is a half-page slip of paper asking that I sign to acknowledge that I have gone online into the virtual classroom stuff and read the syllabus for the class.

Except that it doesn't say which class.

Me:  "Oi!  Kid!  Which class did you get a syllabus in?  More than one?"

Kid:  "English."

Me:  " .... "

Wait.  Isn't that the class where the teacher is supposed to help them hone skills such as expressing thoughts clearly, including all needed information, proofreading, and reviewing for adequate context?

I'm online reviewing the syllabus now.  Except that it isn't one.  It's a guideline for classroom policies, cell phone usage, what happens if you stick gum under your desk, and tutoring hours of availability.

Oh, wait, here we are.  It's actually on the introductory page, this syllabus.  They're going to be studying ... world literature.  That's a bit vague.  First quarter, heroes and epic things.  Good.  I liked old Gilgamesh, even if it creeped me out when he watched his friend decompose.  Second quarter, Eastern stuff.  Also approve.  And so forth, ending up with Western literature next spring, which will of course receive the bulk of the emphasis because we think we're awesome.

And now I can't read any more, because this page is a fucking train wreck, and I've already identified two typos, three grammatical errors, a demonstration of the inability to construct simple subject-verb tense agreement, and a place where the teacher accidentally a word.

I'm trying to let go of the superfluous commas.  They're like gnats on the page.

I'm a merciless asshole and today, I'm on parade.

Last year was nearly as bad.  One teacher sent home a two-page class letter, and I upset my son because I snapped and marked up the letter with loads of corrections.  Only then did he tell me that she had said to them that day that she wasn't the best writer and asked the students to forgive her little errors.  Turns out English is not her first language.  World.  Class.  Asshole.  And of course, I had marked it all up in pen.

I still don't feel bad for walking around with a pen and adding an "A" to all of the carnival signs at his school that read PLEASE KEEP CENTER ISLES MOVING.  They asked for that shit.

And I managed to stifle any commentary whatsoever when I visited his second-grade classroom and saw that "caddy" was spelled with only one "d" on the bulletin board.  It took a lot out of me, and I think I lost some sleep over it, but I kept my mouth shut.

Even my boss tells me to stop being an asshole sometimes, when he IMs our team and I point out a mistake he made.  That, I just do for fun.  But I take The Kid's education seriously - not so seriously that I feel the need to be all up in the school, intervening and having conferences, but seriously enough to worry about how an English teacher who doesn't know "each" and "none" should be paired with "is" can impart the finer points of distinction that should be provided.

I would hate to be a teacher, any teacher, and see a parent like me approaching.

August 25, 2018

an exciting geographical discovery

I should have known something like this would happen today.  My bagel was trying to tell me it would.  I had a perfectly normal cinnamon and cream cheese Bagel Thin, and when I was finished eating it, I looked down and an owl was staring at me.

I fucking hate owls.

I also hate people who interrupt my lunch hour, Donald Trump, and vagueness.

So then this happened:

I'm pretty self-importantly maniacal about checking blog stats.  This is, in the greater scheme of things, clenching proof of my lack of sanity, since it's rare that I get more than twenty hits on a post, and that's when most of my friends and family read it because I send the link by e-mail.  I know that what I'm always looking for is a new reader.  Then I go to the site I use for tracking that maps people, and I try to figure out where the new person is located.  I don't know why I want to know this, but it makes me happy, especially when it's somewhere exotic like Kansas or Canada.  Someone from a town in southern North Carolina hit yesterday and I know who I hope it is and that made me really happy.

The point is, it's just a wee bit of self-indulgence, not tied to wanting to be famous or get loads of comments and attention.  That would all be a tremendous burden and I do not want it.  Twenty's a big number, to me.  More than that and suddenly I'm not as free to write what I please.

What happened today, though, didn't come from Google Analytics or StatCounter.  It came from Blogger itself.  It was this:

Do you see that down there, just above Philippines (which, along with Portugal and France, was 99.99% chance hits by bot)?  Unknown Region.  No country colored in for it on the map.  This is a Google product.  Google has mapped the planet.  You're telling me there's Unknown Region out there, and further, that it contains a literate population and/or equipment capable of bot-crawling the Internets?

I want to go there.

Where the hell is this Unknown Region?  Is it where all the flowers have gone?  Does it have lost socks?  Times past?  The two fluffy bathrobes we used to own that disappeared years ago?  Is the person who read my blog twice wearing one of the bathrobes and my mismatched socks?  Is it even real?  Would I need a passport?  Is a long, grueling hike interwoven with near-death adventure required to reach it?

I don't even know which continent it's on, or if there's an eighth continent that, with all of our satellites and radio waves and flying machines, we somehow missed, or if a region of a first-world European nation quietly broke off without telling anyone and went DarkNet.  If so, don't worry; I haven't outed you, New Surreptitious Nation, because I don't even have twenty readers.  It's cool.

Or maybe the reader is a yogi on a mountain top with a satellite modem and a Panasonic Toughbook.  Maybe he used to work for Google and stayed in Tibet instead, never uploading the mapping coordinates he'd gathered.  Now, he's a one-man Unknown Region.  Probably in a warm bathrobe and odd socks.

That's pretty fucking cool.

August 24, 2018

dear sir, madam, sir, sir, madam, madam, and sir

I appreciate that at this time, you are experiencing a supremely critical computer issue, one such as mankind has never before beheld, one that undisputedly takes precedence over all other technological needs plaguing your cohort, and that you need an immediate and satisfactory resolution; further, I am honored that you selected our help desk to visit in person to request competent, effective assistance with that life-or-death issue, such as your volume key not working, your e-mail signature font proving unsatisfactory, or your ignorance of the Caps Lock key and its effect on your password entry.

However, when visiting my cubicle, please consider the particulars of its appearance - to wit, a plate of leftover pizza, freshly reheated, accompanied by a packet of almonds, a protein shake, a napkin beside the keyboard, a laptop displaying a colorful and animated dragon game, a Minecraft window open on the main computer screen, and me chewing a mouthful of food while wearing ear buds - and, after concluding that I am, in all applicable senses, out to lunch, please choose to walk away and seek out another help desk agent in lieu of asking if I "have a moment" and forging ahead with an explanation of your issue, setting your laptop down beside my pizza, which was just microwaved and now has begun to get cold and chewy.

While I appear to be happy to help you and, indeed, even as my mere presence frightens your machine into submission and you rub your chin and say something like, "Huh, now it's not doing it," know that I have just kicked you in the balls / cunt (please select one) three times in my mind, and you now lie weeping on the floor at the feet of my imagination.

Thank you,

August 23, 2018

crazy aunt rowena

Aunt Rowena really would have just shot her ex-husband instead of mucking about with pillows.

Her sons both died decades ago and she's the only other family member I know of who lives by crazy meds.

Her nascent insanity precedes all of that.

There are snatches of memory and snippets of anecdote that I hold, because we aren't really a talking, communicating family on my daddy's side, though on the rare occasions when we gather, the bonhomie flows freely.

Memories and anecdotes ....

... of the weekend I brought my to-be husband home to meet my family.  My daddy's entire side of the family met at a Quincy's Steakhouse, including Grandma and a random second cousin and three great-aunts I hadn't seen since Homecoming at church the previous September.  Aunt Rowena sat across from us.  The only table large enough to accommodate us all was in the non-smoking section.  Aunt Rowena coped with the absence of ash trays on the table by using her empty baked potato peel.  The idea caught on among the great-aunts.  A waitress came over to say something about the cloud of cigarette smoke and complaints made by other diners, but she stopped when she caught my aunt's piercing glare, daring her, daring her, and instead turned and went to find a manager, who never appeared.  I remember seeing a half-eaten yeast roll beside her potato peel full of smoldering butts when I tucked two one-dollar bills under the side of my plate.  If I had had more cash on me, I would have left it.  Any waitress who had to contend with Aunt Rowena deserved a twenty.

... the story about Aunt Rowena visiting one of those nail salons in the mall, one that was run, in accordance with stereotype, by Korean women.  As she sat having her nails polished and buffed, she looked around the shop, and her eyes fell on the Buddha statue hanging on the wall above the next table.  There was a tray extending from Buddha's lap, and on the tray, four cups of green tea.  Aunt Rowena stared at it for a little while, and then asked her nail technician, "Is that tea?"  "Yes?" the technician replied.  After a moment, Aunt Rowena asked, "Can I have a cup?"  This upset the technician greatly.  "No, no!  It for him!  It for him!"  Aunt Rowena said bluntly, "Well, he ain't going to drink it!"  I'm not sure she was allowed to stay and get the little decorative stars on top of the nail polish.*

... the birth of Aunt Rowena's first son, my cousin, out of wedlock.  The story goes, she was in the hospital, ready to come home with the baby, and my granddaddy went to visit her and give her a ride home (she didn't own a car, or much furniture in her run-down apartment).  He asked her what she had at home, and she just blinked at him.  "What do you mean, what do I have at home?"  Granddaddy quizzed her and realized that Aunt Rowena had no earthly idea what to do with a baby.  There was no crib, there were no bottles, there were no blankets or diapers.  She had never heard of breastfeeding and there was no formula.  He went out and bought all of those things, set up her apartment, then retrieved her and my cousin from the hospital.  History says she must have picked up on things as she went.  My cousin made it to twenty-five years old before leukemia took him.

... my son's funeral.  Aunt Rowena made the long drive from the mountains and arrived twenty minutes late.  Her three-inch heels clicked and echoed during the moment of silence in the middle of the funeral service, echoed off stone walls and stained glass windows, along what seemed like a mile's length of wood-floored aisle, until she reached the front pew and joined family members.  Her perfume was an unfamiliar censer swung in Lutheran air.

After the service, she pulled me aside and pressed an opal ring encrusted with tiny diamonds into my hand.  It seemed enormous to me.  She said it had belonged to her Aunt Rowena, her namesake.  Then she walked away and got into her car and left the church parking lot, heading home as abruptly as she had arrived.

Aunt Rowena and her aunt had been close when my aunt was a teenager, and she received the ring from Rowena one day, a propos of nothing, unaware that divesting possessions was a glaring portent of her aunt's suicide a few weeks later.  Now that I had a crazy aunt and a son had died, the ring passed to me.  I couldn't decide if it qualified as an inheritance or a cursed object.  To this day, it sits in the dark, in a jewelry box in a drawer.  I guard it, but I won't wear it.

... Aunt Rowena holding me when I was three years old, carrying me around our living room, trying to sing me to sleep.  I was born with an "ear for music" and Aunt Rowena was born with a bucket that would not, no matter how carefully she carried it, suffer itself to contain a tune.  I'm told that instead of falling to sleep, I lifted up my head and said plaintively, "Please don't sing, Aunt Rowena.  I'll go to sleep, I promise!"

... the night she went to hear my daddy's band play in a bar.  Aunt Rowena had gotten up to hit the ladies' and was scooting between people seated at two crowded rows of tables, most of them holding cans or sloshing glasses of beer, excusing herself as she went along.  To hear my daddy tell it, he was up on stage singing and at the same time, watching a scene unfold wherein Aunt Rowena, while pushing through the rows, accidentally bumped into one man with her butt and unknowingly pitched him forward against the table, splashing beer all over the guy seated across from him.  The newly-dampened man apparently was not a friend, and the newly-bereft-of-a-full-glass-of-beer man, immediately after being shoved into the table by my aunt, was then punched right in the face.  It didn't take long to turn into a real group-effort bar fight.  The bouncer threw some people out.  My daddy says that Aunt Rowena never even knew it had happened.  The bar was loud anyway and she just went to the restroom and by the time she came back, it was all over.  She was oblivious.

... the arsenic story itself.  What really happened:  Aunt Rowena was eight months pregnant with her second son, and her new husband beat her regularly, even during pregnancy.  She began poisoning him with small amounts of arsenic, not enough to be fatal, just enough to make him terribly sick.  One night when he was vomiting, she leaned over and whispered, "And if you ever lay a hand on me again, I'll finish the job, you son of a bitch."  He didn't beat her any more.  They didn't stay married for much longer.  Aunt Rowena was a single mother again.

Aunt Rowena lives several hours away and I never see her or talk to her.  She isn't really the "aunt" kind.  So I will never know her on any real level, and she'll always be a character in memories and anecdotes, her truth stranger than fiction.

*I don't know if that is even something that happens because I have never been to a nail salon of any sort.  I bite mine.  Or forget about them.

August 21, 2018

into the hood

Dinner conversation last night ....

Kid:  "I got to drive half the time today.  We went all the way down to Wendy's, the one by the highway, and ate lunch, and then the other student got to drive, and then I took over again at the middle school and drove back to the high school.  I totally failed at a three-point turn, though."

Me:  "See?  Now, instead of shit-yourself terrified, you're merely tremendously nervous.  I told you doing it would help you calm down.  You can do this."

P.J.:  "Everyone feels this way at first."

Kid:  "Yeah, Mr. Jenkins has a brake on his side of the car, too, so he can hit it if he thinks you should be hitting yours and you're just not doing it.  Which is, um, kind of good, I guess.  He's nice."

Me:  "Fucking yeah?  My driver's ed teacher was a total asshole.  He would play loud country music the whole time, and go through the McDonald's drive-thru and get a sausage gravy biscuit tray and eat it in front of us and not let us order anything, and we weren't allowed to talk at all.  Probably because of Garth Brooks being turned up all the way.  Prick."

Kid:  "Mr. Jenkins is actually pretty cool.  He reaches over and turns the wheel a little sometimes, and he talks to us, and lets us get lunch.  Totally different."

Me:  "You're lucky."

P.J.:  "Are you able to look anywhere except between the lines on the road?"

Kid:  "Nope!"

Me:  "That's normal, too.  Seriously.  It's like learning a video game.  After a while, your brain just knows stuff without you having to scout everything out, right?"

P.J.:  "Yeah, it's just like that.  Good one."

Kid:  "And I guessed right about what a tachometer does."

Me:  "Cool.  Okay, here's one for you:  Why do people get oil changes?"

Kid:  "Um, because of the brakes?"

P.J.:  *X sound from Family Feud*  "Try again.  I've explained to you about how an engine works, right?"

Kid:  "Ohhhh yeah, so the pistons won't get gunky and stop."

Me:  "Yep, you don't want to be paying for an engine rebuild.  It's important.  Okay, if your car overheats, what do you do?"

Kid:  "You don't unscrew the radiator cap and get covered in fucking burns and lose your face."

Me:  "Bingo!"

Kid:  "Yeah, we're going into the hood tomorrow."

Me:  *spit food across table, die laughing*

Kid:  "Um, I think that wasn't, perhaps, the best phrasing I could have chosen.  I mean we're looking under the hood of the car tomorrow, and learning all that shit."

P.J.:  "Yeah, that's, um, better."  *laughing*

Me:  "Because I was like, 'Why the fuck are they driving all over the county?  And why would he put it like that?'"

Kid:  "I can't even believe I said that.  Jesus Christ.  I'm tired."

August 19, 2018

letter to molly

Dear Molly,

First, I would like to say that it's unfortunate that you managed to tip my cup of coffee into that tray a few weeks ago, and after consuming every illicit drop with vigor, acquired what appears to be a keen taste for it.  It is further regrettable that the coffee was not decaf.  Watching you run laps around the yard was entertaining, to say the least.  However, it would be appreciated if you could abandon the seek-and-destroy mentality you now manifest regarding our coffee cups, everywhere in the house.

You're wicked smart and our attempts to cover the ceramic mugs with various objects have proven vain.  If we place them on high shelves, then we can't reach them ourselves, and the exercise is self-defeating.

We need you to un-learn coffee, please.

(Note:  By way of extrapolation, this request extends to bagels.  I tire of cleaning cream cheese off my laptop keyboard.)

I've been Googling this morning on the subject on whether the tiny pieces of cloth you're ingesting when ripping up toys - and this includes tennis ball skins, terry cloth toys, and bits of rope - will pass through you instead of causing an obstructive blockage.  The consensus seems to be that in moderation, this is normal, but it's still going to stress us out.

My main reason for writing, though, is to ask that you dial down the blatant manipulation achieved by being cute.  Pouncing on tiny grasshoppers in the front yard of the Lodge is acceptable employment of your cuteness, as is tilting your head with pointed ears and a wrinkled brow of concern when someone plays dog noises on YouTube or hits keys on the piano.  However, this pattern of jumping up beside one of us on the sofa and then quickly wriggling into a curled-up, snuggly ball of sudden puppy exhaustion is diabolical.  It cannot be resisted, though our conscious minds scream the logic of negative precedent and lost opportunities for training and reinforcement and the sudden danger to our down-filled throw pillows.

It seems to have already solidified as a permissible behavior, thanks to your wiles, such that last night, I found myself lying down cuddled up with you, lazily rubbing your soft belly as we both dozed lightly, watching you while you dreamed with twitching paws and sniffing nose.  You really do enjoy those grasshoppers, don't you?

I've never slept with dogs in the bed before, though I know this is widely accepted behavior among many persons.  I'm wary of its effect on my sleep, which has suffered lately because of work stress, but I can see that there is no going back.  I'd just like you to know that being still and calm and sleeping through the night is cute.  Incredibly cute.  You just wouldn't believe how cute it is.  Try it out.


Lille S. God-Damn-It*

p.s.  Could you please stop changing color?  Every day there are new markings on you, more and more German shepherd traits emerging.  We can't keep up.

*Our dogs' surname is God-Damn-It.  We frequently call them by their full names.

August 18, 2018

it felt like the first day of school

The same song that gave me full-spine chills the first time I heard it, the song that played on the radio and in my head after I dropped my son off for his first day of kindergarten with a new backpack and pencil box and name tag and spent the drive to work afterward singing along with a clenched throat, is with me again.  It's something to do with the slant of the light and the upcoming bustle on my calendar and the construction paper on sale at the grocery store:

"I had a dream that blows the autumn through my head
It felt like the first day of school
But I was going to the Moon instead
I walked down the hall with the notebooks they'd got for me
My dad led me through the house
My mom drank instant coffee
And I knew that I would crash
But I didn't want to tell them
There are just some moments when your family makes sense
They just make sense
So I raised up my arms and my mother put the sweater on
I walked out on the dark and frozen grass
The end of summer
It's the end of the summer
When you send your children to the moon."

--Dar Williams, "End of the Summer"

I don't remember my first trip to the moon, only the mimeographed red apple sheet that I colored with new crayons while my mother talked with my kindergarten teacher and assessed my readiness.  I've already discussed what kindergarten was like for me.  I was a plaything across the school.  Instead of learning those fumbling first steps of making and keeping friends, I was whisked from the class so regularly that I knew the halls of the elementary school, passed around among teacher after teacher and asked to read difficult passages from middle school reading textbooks, perform multiplication and division problems, type stories on their newly-acquired IBM PC, absorb Spanish numbers and colors and phrases, solve pattern problems with blocks and weird little kits.  Other times, I was confined to my cramped desk in my kindergarten classroom, being treated like a kindergarten student.  I sometimes sat on the floor under my desk to hide, though plainly visible.  And I sometimes left my seat and asked my teacher for a hug.  She gave them freely.

My kindergarten teacher wrote me letters until I was in my twenties.  Every few years, she would check in to see how I was doing.  This tells me my experience was not a typical one at that school.  It also tells me that she knew they didn't do quite right by me.  I suspect most of how I fared there was not left up to her.

First grade was more of the same, until my family moved to the next town and I had to transfer schools.  I was uprooted and planted in different soil, and exposed to an entirely new approach.  My first grade teacher called my parents in to discuss, not my intellectual development, but my social deficits, after I showed her the Pythagorean theorem on the chalkboard one morning and she spent the rest of the day observing my aura of solitude.  I remember the first day in her classroom.  The girl named Danielle with frizzy blonde hair stared at me, and she seemed to have command of the group of children who surrounded my seat, and I knew with a child's simple, tribal understanding that I would be alone in that room, no adults to fill in for the children who would never accept me.  So it goes with all new kids arriving mid-year.

My parents agreed to stop teaching me things at home, and I was away from teachers who did the same thing, so the rest of the year brought boredom, and cautious accolades from the teacher for completing my math worksheets in record time, and watching Ricky the skinny kid with long hair do the worm and several other break-dancing moves during recess.

In second grade, my teacher loved me, and did a poor job of treating me the same as the other students.  She was a thimble of water in a desert.  I adored her.  I adored the perfume she wore.  I sat beside her desk and basked in it.  I spent that year engaged in reading as many books as possible in competition with others and in re-learning much of the math I had lost.  Sometimes the principal of the school would come watch me do long division.

I wonder if they ever discussed me in meetings.

In third grade, my teacher may as well have been a robot, for all her cool, impassive presence.  I cannot recall a single kind word, only emotional inaccessibility already well-known to me at home.  It was a split classroom, half third-graders and half fourth-graders, and we lower citizens were expected to complete worksheets while she taught the older students multiplication.  I would call out the answers before any of the other kids could, and she would rebuke me and tell me to mind my own business.  The girl named Danielle would stick her tongue out at me when the teacher wasn't looking.  But I remember when we drew names at Christmas and brought in wrapped gifts.  I got a pack of magic markers from Leslie that smelled of fruit scents.  The black one was licorice.  I treasured them.

Fourth grade was the year when we all began to develop the social awareness that would follow us for life.  One girl already had to wear a bra.  Many of us were already discovering bad breath and deodorant and cliques and baseball cards and a thousand other ways of finding safety in a tribe.  My teacher is at fault for at least two-thirds of the nails in my social coffin.  She would stand me in front of the class with her hands on my shoulders and tell everyone how they should be like me, making perfect marks on classwork and working so very hard and being a model student.  I could almost hear their fangs filling with venom to be used later.

I was lucky.  I only got a black eye once that year, only endured verbal pummeling from two fifth graders in the car rider line after school, under the symbolically protective gaze of several teachers, and I was more or less unmolested when I played on the playground monkey bars by myself.  I did make a friend named Louise from another class.  We liked to be alone together at recess and pretend that we had psychic abilities, but I can't remember if we used them for anything other than describing made-up visions and predicting when persimmons would fall to the ground from the tree next to the swings.  I would go home at night and read in our 1971 encyclopedia set about the differences between telekinesis and clairvoyance and mental telepathy, then go to bed and fall asleep trying to close my bedroom door with my mind.  I never even budged it, but I kept that from Louise.

My fourth-grade teacher did do something right, though.  I had a purple bracelet with my name spelled out in beads.  I had bought it from Zayre after saving up weeks and weeks of allowance money, my heart set on it.  The other girl in my class with the same name nabbed it one day, and put it on, and claimed it was hers.  I brought the case before our teacher in considerable distress, the judge, and each of us said it was hers.  Our teacher said she could not prove either of us was being truthful, so she confiscated the bracelet.  After school, she came to me and said she'd seen me wearing it before, and gave it back, and asked me to take it home, but to never wear it to school again, because it would cause trouble.  I can think of three better ways now that she could have managed this predicament, but at the time, it felt like mercy and validation, and I did as she asked.  I have no idea what became of the bracelet.

I had a male teacher in fifth grade, something new to all of us, and school became a lot more academic that year.  I failed my first test.  I also became the butt of a thousand practical jokes played by a group of boys, the ones destined to be the popular kids, and had the girls form a club for the purpose of tormenting me.  One day, without permission, I made my seat in the back of the room by  dragging a school desk alongside two discarded stacked teachers' desks draped with a cloth, just-so in the corner, turning it into a cool, dark private space where I could listen and pay attention and also hide and feel safe.  It was highly impractical because I had to climb over my desk to get out each time.  But it was a clubhouse.  It was Martha's Vineyard.  It was Wade's van in Ready Player One.

The teacher was assailed with jealous pleading and wailing and gnashing of teeth by the club girls because I had created and claimed this coveted space, but he listened with a blank expression and never altered the arrangement.  I think he perceived the situation clearly and decided I needed the desk more than anyone else.  Sometimes, tiny justices are what save us.

Sixth grade.  This is how I entered my Teacher's classroom, crowned with all of the possibilities that advancement to middle school bestowed, but showing no other sign of royalty beneath my pauper's rags as I took my seat in front of the far left row, right in front of her desk.  I was still alone, and thirsty, and longing to hide under something or become invisible.  On the first day of school, she looked at me holding a crisp, new green notebook, the one who had crashed yet again on the moon and clambered out of the familiar, fitting wreckage, the one who radiated need, the one who had crumpled in the face of adversity instead of growing stronger, and she smiled at me.

August 17, 2018

body odor, scorpions, or krispy kreme doughnuts

Typical day at Body
Odor High School
The Kid's high school open house is five days away and I'm already dreading it, in sleeping and waking, by day and by night.

This is normal.  A school open house is like Wal-Mart on Black Friday combined with an amusement park on the day all the middle schools bring their band kids, except with more paperwork.  The hallways are full of elbows and shoving past and girl giggles and the OSHA-regulated smell of adolescence.  Everyone gets there very early, and on time, and later in order to avoid the initial rush, so that there is never, ever anywhere to park.  Dreading all of this is a reasonable thing to do.

It's not that, though.  It's the fear that I'm going to run into our old friends, the ones who dumped us a year and a half ago.  Their daughter will now be attending the same high school my son attends.

I've been trying to envision the various possibilities.

Best-case scenario:  I don't see them anywhere, either because they come at a different time or because we happen to be on different hallways.

Worst-case scenario:  We're in the same hallway and a gap opens up in the crowd (maybe because of some particularly foul body odor in the vicinity) and they're standing over there and we look up and our eyes meet, and they turn away and walk off.

The other worst-case scenario:  We're in the same hallway and a gap opens up in the crowd (possibly because someone poured scorpions all over the floor) and they're standing over there and we look up and our eyes meet, and we stare at each other because none of us knows what to say or do and no one wants to be the asshole who looks away first, and the Universe implodes from excessive awkwardness.

The other other worst-case scenario:  We're in the same hallway and a gap opens up in the crowd (definitely because they announced free Krispy Kreme doughnuts in the cafeteria over the intercom system) and they're standing over there and we look up and our eyes meet, and they come over to us and start talking in an effort to un-awkwardify things, and maybe it's just to settle that down, and maybe it's because they want to make amends, and honestly I don't know which would be worse, so break this one down into other-other-worst-case-scenarios (a) and (b).

Scenario that isn't worst but is still pretty bad:  We're in the same hallway and a gap opens up in the crowd (and I can't even have the doughnuts, so fuck whoever in the parent teacher association went out and got them), and they're standing over there and we look up and our eyes meet, and because I decided to beforehand, I'm the one who turns away and walks off.

I'd probably walk right into a wall because the tears would sting.

See?  There isn't a good way for this to work out.  We don't want reconciliation because we'll just get hurt again down the road, but I'm afraid of seeing them because that will hurt, too, no matter which scenario plays out.  It will hurt if they flip me off and it will hurt if they hug me and says it's been too long.

The flip-off is far more likely.

That's why I liked them so god-damned much.  They would even do the horizontal part and say, "And the horse you rode in on."

I considered making The Kid's dad take him, but I'm not going to chicken out because I'm obsessive about getting my hands on those lists of needed supplies.  I sit in the parking lot afterward and order rare Five Star notebooks and the best pens and shit from Amazon on my phone, then yell, "Upper-class tiger-mom bitchesI beat you!" triumphantly out the car window.

Not really.

But I'll be there.  Shaking, maybe, with a pit in my stomach, but there.  This is one of those despicable situations where the only way out is through.

August 14, 2018

never deep clean because you find traumatized edamame

Yesterday, Molly yarked up a mile-long trail of grass and foam ear plugs.  P.J. picked it all up in a towel and folded the towel up in a desperate attempt to make it all go away like it never happened, because it really was that disgusting, but the end result of that is a towel that's sitting there balled up that nobody wants to touch.  It's a problem and we can't nope out of it.

The ear plugs came from the same place as the lotion bottles, we realized:  Molly's found a way to get under the bed.  I started sleeping with ear plugs years ago, mainly because every single little thing that happens in the house can trigger my startle reflex once I'm asleep and nobody wants to peel me off of the ceiling or put up with me the day after a night like that, especially me.  I buy those purple Fleet plugs in the 100-piece jars.  I'm constantly having to take new ones out of the jar because the pair I took out just a few days before mysteriously disappeared joined their people in Plugotopia, located on the floor under the headboard, a magical land of dust and power strips.

Because of the yarkisode, P.J. and I decided that it would be an ideal time to turn the mattress, which we've been putting off doing for over a month because it's too much like work, and to use the disheveled-mattress stage to pick up everything that's under the box springs back there.  Except that when we got the mattress moved and I looked to see how many ear plugs there were, I saw this:

It was at least five minutes before I could even talk.  P.J. and I still can't look at each other today because we start laughing again and it hurts.

This little ... object ... entity ... being ... was looking at me all reproachfully like, "Do you even know how long I've been down here?  Where the fuck have you been?  Do you see how dusty it is?  I don't have any friends, either.  The ear plugs hate me.  I'm sad.  I've been here and sad for a really long time.  Don't you even care?"

I didn't know if it was supposed to be the God of Ear Plugs conceived by a growing population, or a rotten lime, or a forgotten Bark Box toy, or a figment of my imagination.  I just know that it's the funniest thing I've seen since the night P.J.'s cat walked over the lamp shade and cast the shadow of Gothor the Great Blood Demon of the Night on the ceiling and I pointed up in silent horror with my mouth open.

Investigation bore out that it is a forgotten dog toy, probably an edamame that wanted to be an actor when it grew up, but that had tiger parents that forced it to be an edamame against its will.  We know it's a dog toy because it squeaks.

The experience of living under our bed for god-only-knows-how-long has not done wonders for its disposition.  Ditto for the sight of Molly's teeth when she heard the squeaking.

Then it occurred to me that it has been hiding all this time from Chester or Rose, alone and afraid and completely traumatized by its early days of being used as a squeaky toy.

We're trying to give it a supportive community and teach it what it's like to have friends and a hygienic environment.  I'm naming him Derek the Traumatized Edamame.  I think with enough time and understanding, we can help him ....

... oh, fuck, seriously?  I was going to write "come out of his shell" and then I realized what I was about to say and no, because I hate puns.  So we're just going to make him feel better, okay?  Fine.  Good.

Update:  It turns out that it's a Bark Box cactus that's been ripped open and lost its spikes and been exposed.  So it's Derek the Violated Cactus now.  I liked him better as edamame.

August 13, 2018

mushy sponge brain

The chances are fair to middling that I won't be as prolific this week as I would like, owing to our annual Hell Week at work (loads of fiscal bullshit, chaos, and general frenzy).  My brain is a wrung-out sponge right now and the parts that write are on strike.

I cope by playing Minecraft at lunch.

Therapy is also fun ... I have the ability to access great depths within myself, such as concern about my toenail polish color and dreading the start of school because they never tell you which notebooks you need until it's too late to buy them, except that Amazon solves Problems like that.  Therapy isn't all that productive.

I'm going to try my best, though.

So I'll leave you with this wonderful text from my daddy yesterday, regarding Molly's turd-eating episode:

"How is your S-E-D?  That's my acronym for 'feces consuming animal'."

It took me three full minutes to get "shit-eating dog."

August 12, 2018

puppy love

"I was breaking the laws that the sign-makers made
And all I could eat was the poisonous apple
And that's not a story I was meant to survive ... "

                - Dar Williams, "You're Aging Well"

"Oh, hai!"
Molly is about to turn three years old in dog years.  I'm not going by a chart to determine that age.  I'm going by her behavior and her developmental stage.  If you've reared a child and passed through this stretch of road, you remember.  It's a road to Somewhere Else.  You wouldn't have dreamed of renting a room here.  You passed on through as fast as the speed limit would allow.  And you went nine miles per hour over it.

The details have mercifully hazed over, but you recall the sense of being tethered, hyper-aware, discovering over and over again small mischiefs of negligible consequence - and sometimes damned near misses of grave consequence - that in both cases required you to be the corrector and guide, the vigilant and appointed enactor of the real meaning of "discipline".  There was no rest, no trust in your charge.  You were always there.

Except for when she's sleeping.  Molly will sleep through the night with us now, but daytime naps last four minutes.  She keeps one eye ready to open when she detects any human movement, even just crossing our legs on the couch.  Then she switches back into awake mode, which has two sub-modes, one of which is come up and asking for affection and the attendant opportunity to lick our faces and bite our noses and chins.

The other mode is seek-and-destroy curiosity.  She finds things like eight-year-old food wrappers that fell behind something in accessible to us and that we gave to Jesus and moved on, and small bottles of lotion from low-lying baskets that we failed to relocate.  Earlier this week, she got a mouthful of body wash.  I never got to find out how she felt about that.  Her breath didn't smell like Sparkling Peach Cider Foaming Shower Gel.

It did put me in mind of the time Chester nicked and ate an entire fucking package of lemon Plink balls and had lemony-fresh breath for two straight days.

We've implemented Phase Two of puppy-proofing.

This is on top of continuing to need to monitor her every move when she disappears from sight, because while we have an imaginary sign posted in our hallway that reads "[THREE] Days Without Piddle Accident", it could still happen.  She's getting much better.  We might be in the home stretch here.  Typing that just doomed us to a piddle accident today.  I realize this.

The pineapple dinners are working.  The bottom half of the sign reads "[SIX] Days Ingested Turd-Free".

But sometimes, there is Molly, lying contentedly on a rug or voluntarily in her pen, where she thinks she is invisible and safe from discovery and interruption, chewing on a shoe or a roll of toilet paper or one of our good colored pencils that rolled under something two years ago and couldn't be retrieved, and one of us issues the corrective rebuke, waits a few seconds, and then reassures her that she is, in fact, a Good Girl and everything is all right.

Because it was all about the colored pencil.  It was never about Molly.  Molly doesn't live and breathe with the awareness that anything she does might be okay but could also bring down wrath that wouldn't be so easily retracted, could bring down condemnation.  Molly knows that if what she is doing is in violation of how we do things around here, she will experience a few seconds of unpleasantness, a learning moment, and then a "good girl" and an ear scratch and a chin to kiss.

She is acting appropriately for her age.  Her intrinsic worth is never invaded and vandalized.  She can do Wrong and never leave the circle of love-light.

Puppies and children deserve this.

August 10, 2018

dear target, don't do that

Dear Target,

First, please understand that I am still committed to our long-term relationship.  I fucking hate Wally World and boycott them whenever possible, and I love you for having cheap Quest bars and good dog toys that are mostly made in 'Merica.  We're good.  We're tight.

I just want to bring up the whole Target Photo thing.  We need to talk.

It's like I don't even know you right now.

I ordered a print of my kid yesterday through your web site.  I uploaded a high-resolution copy of him in his natural habitat (staring at his phone with a vacant expression, because I think it's important to have accurate snapshots of one's kids on an office desk) and you asked me what size I wanted, and I told you, and I submitted everything, and you gave me an order number and told me to pick it up today and pay for it at the closest Target store.

I walked into that store this morning and asked a cashier where the Target Photo area was located, and she pointed to the customer service desk, and the person at the customer service desk pointed at something in the corner that looked like a yellow, boxy version of Robot B-9 from Lost In Space but turned out to be a Kodak photo printing machine.

"So I just key in my order number and it spits it out?" I asked her.

"Yeah, just use what they sent you, put it in under Online Orders," she replied, and walked away.

It only took one minute and fourteen seconds before I had to ask her for assistance.  "Where is the Online Orders section?  I've looked under all of these categories and I can't find it," I explained.

"Oh, it's right here, under Other Services, then Services, then See Additional Options, then More Services, then Other Orders, then Online Orders.  See?"

She flew through those choices, then hurried off again, and I set about typing in my order number from the e-mail Target had sent yesterday.  This was done with some difficulty, as this machine's screen utilizes the modern, cutting-edge technology of resistive touch, last seen in PalmPilots, placing it somewhere between current cell phones and God etching shit on stone tablets with lightning bolts on a mountain top.

I finished hammering in the number and used my elbow to bear down on Next.

"That order number is not found.  Please check your order number and enter it again."

It was correct.

I punched Next again.  They could have at least provided a courtesy stylus.

"This printing unit is experiencing a connection to store issue.  Please ask for assistance."

I very inappropriately wedged myself behind the machine to check for network connectivity and jiggled a few cables.  But in the end, the same down-trodden customer service associate ended up inside the cabinet beneath, pulling out servers that belonged in War Games and looking at blinking lights.  "Everything's working perfectly," she said, in direct contradiction to all proof otherwise.

I shrugged and told her I'd try Walgreens.  She looked relieved.

Target, is this your idea of Target Photo?  Is this what you're representing to be a service offered by Target to customers, with an online interface, convenience, seamless integration of technology, and exceeding point-of-sale standards?  Because you know what?  The kid in my photo is younger than that Kodak machine.  He gets his driver's license soon.

August 9, 2018

which aisle has the sonic screwdrivers?

conflict?  No problem.
I ran to the hardware store at lunch time today to buy the bug-light flood bulb .... flood-light bug bulb ... light-bulb flood bug ... whatever, one of those things that hornets don't hang around for fun.

While I was far along the light bulb aisle and looking through the umpty-million kinds of bulbs, an employee of the store more or less shouted down the aisle to me from the front of the store, "Ma'am, do you need any help today?"  I ignored him the first time, because there was no way he could possibly be speaking to me from that far away, but then he did it again, so I made long-distance arm gestures to indicate that I was fine.

Because a woman wearing a dress cannot possibly shop for light bulbs under her own power and capability.

I also bought a tie-out and stake for Molly and a tarp to go under her crate at the Lodge this weekend, since the piddle accidents have not exactly subsided.

I considered finding the light-bulb-shouting guy and dropping my handkerchief, though, when I walked every aisle and absolutely could not find a sonic screwdriver.

I thought that place had everything.

On my way to work this morning, it occurred to me that what happened last night didn't go the way it should.  It should have worked like a Dr. Who episode.

I was playing with Molly with this rope toy that has a ball of rope at the end.  It's proven one of her favorites.  And then I accidentally hit her with the ball bit in the face while trying to toss it.  She yelped and ran away from me, up the stairs and into P.J.'s waiting arms (she'd been watching the fun).

I waded through Trigger City mentally and went up the stairs, because I needed her to be okay with me in the next three seconds or something bad was going to happen in the Punishment Department.  And she did warm right back up to me, after some reassurance.  It upset Rose, too, of course, so much petting and high-pitched voices were involved.

I went back downstairs, mired in self-anger, and Rose came with me, and I told her under my breath, "Sure, Rose, come with me, let's see if I can find a way to hit you in the face."

The self-injury impulse was ferocious.  I stood up to it, and it had my sister's face, though it could have been Genghis Khan instead.  Lille screamed at her.  "Get out!  GET OUT!"

She didn't get out.  I just eventually calmed down.

The whole Dr. Who component was missing.  I have Matt Smith in mind.  The way it's supposed to work is this:  There's a problem plaguing a planet or a people or some large entity, and it's been there for a long time, and no one realizes what is causing the problem, but in the last ten minutes of the episode, Dr. Who discovers what it is, devises a solution, implements it, and everything is fixed.

The sonic screwdriver is usually involved.

Lille can't kick my cunt of a sister out of my head.  This has been plaguing me my entire life, causing me to self-injure for the past decade, causing me to look at my feet when I walk and verbally lash myself inside with "you're so fucking stupid" and feel like all of these things are in perfect order and just as they should be.

So we're at the part where Matt Smith comes in and uses his sonic screwdriver and my cunt of a sister disappears in a flash of light or a really terrible special effect with a green light that has pink behind it and makes her shrink away like a goo blob until she's gone.

It's the last ten minutes.  I know what's wrong now, what's been plaguing me.  Why isn't this episode wrapping up nicely and tidily like it does on TV?

August 7, 2018

the tree scrotum

I almost didn't put this
here because now I have
to look at it a lot.
Therapist Gumby:  "So we were planning to talk about your cunt of a sister today, yes?  Do some more work on that?"

Me:  "Yeah.  Promised last week that we would.  Guess we have to.  If I can.  Whatever."

TG:  "Hmmm."

Me:  "But that's like asking you to do your math homework in the middle of the infield during a major league baseball game.  Just saying.  My brain is all everywhere today.  Hey, is the lighting in here different?  How long has that picture been there?"

TG:  "Well, let's try, and the distractions might subside.  It's worth a try, isn't it?"

Me:  "Are you accusing me of being obstructive?"

TG:  "No, I am not accusing you of being obstructive, nor do I think you are being obstructive.  Just a little distracted.  So about your cunt of a sister ... "

Me:  *tears welling up*  "You're irritated with me because you think I'm changing the subject because I don't think I can focus on my cunt of a sister, aren't you?  I can totally tell!"

TG:  "I am not irritated with you."

Me:  "You are, too!"  *counts on fingers, stares at ceiling while mouthing numbers*  "Oh, never mind.  I just figured out why I'm like this today.  I have PMS.  Wasn't expecting it so soon.  Sorry about that.  What were you saying?"

My mother spent most of my early adolescence thinking that I might be pregnant.  This sheds light both on her complete lack of reality contact when it came to my social life, because not very many years had passed since all of the birthday parties she had for me when she baked cupcakes and not a single fucking person showed up and our family grazed on cupcakes for a week, and on the complete lack of education we had as a society regarding polycystic ovarian syndrome, which, it turns out, you can have from the onset of puberty if you spent most of your childhood subsisting on a diet of Gorton's fish sticks and three-liter bottles of grape soda.

I started my period when I was eleven, shortly before my twelfth birthday.  I discovered this in a Hardee's bathroom, which is hardly romantic, and came out into the dining room and told Grandma, because I knew she wouldn't overreact or start telling me Things.  She did neither.  I loved that woman.  Even then, I dreaded going home and telling my mother for fear she'd get gushy and emote.  I really just wanted her to hand me a ten-spot so I could walk down to the drug store and get some pads, a silent transaction, but I had to endure her waxing all "hark! my youngest daughter has blossomed into the flower of early womanhood blah blah blah" but without those words.

Even then.  I'm realizing right at this moment that this happened before she read my diary.  She gave me a sentimental look and I remember dreading it beforehand and enduring it unwillingly for the few seconds it lasted.  That's probably significant.

So when I didn't get another period the next month, those looks she gave me went from sentimental to suspicious.  I didn't get one the next month, either.  Or the next one.  My adolescent pattern was two or three times a year, because my ovaries and endocrine system were already croggled.  She only asked me outright twice that I can recall, but she probably lived on the edge and was secretly stashing bibs.

My twenties weren't much different, except that with the help of drugs and some other drugs and some weird drugs on top of those, I was able to conceive and carry two pregnancies.  That was also the decade in which I ended up in an urgent care facility nauseous and breathing shallow breaths because of the pain in my left hip, which turned out to be the result of a four-centimeter ovarian cyst that was "referring pain".  I didn't know about the right-sided thing back then and assumed my appendix had burst and I was moments away from a poignant, toxic death and that my child would scarcely remember his mother.  They gave me Advil.

Only after The Kid was born did I start having PMS.

Only after my gastric bypass did I start having regular cycles and real PMS.

I wasn't ready for that.  The ovary issues were knocked back and my endocrine system was all happy post-surgery, and suddenly I was one of those every-twenty-eight-day bitches from the locker room back in middle school who bragged about "being like clockwork."  Particularly like the bitchy part of those bitches.  And the cramps are horrible.  I take Tramadol for them.  Sometimes it helps.  Sometimes.

The hardest part has been learning how to distinguish between PMS and the mood disorder that's there all the time.  The only way to do it is math, because otherwise there's just no telling on those days.  I track it on my mood chart.  Today's scheduled PMS snuck up on me, but now I have some honey bourbon that I totally should not have in my coffee, because I already had a panic attack this morning because of the second hornet, and then I was an asshole to my therapist for part of the session, and driving home I flat-out told P.J. on the phone that I refused to cook and that there was a desiccated piece of leftover pizza and some pork-fried rice with bean sprouts that look like pinworms and some mozzarella cheese sticks in the refrigerator and that I therefore didn't understand the problem.

The kid came home from his dad's during our meal of nachos, cold steak, and a Lean Cuisine meal.  We were discussing this morning's hornet, which flew into the kitchen the moment I opened the door for the dogs to go out to pee, which was eighteen seconds after my alarm went off and I climbed out of bed.  But I was smart, because Sunday afternoon at the grocery store, I bought that god-damned can of Aqua-Net I was talking about, and I grabbed it and sprayed that fucker until he groveled and prayed to the God of Stingers, then killed him with the edge of a container of disinfectant wipes, because the swatter wasn't on its peg because one of us seems to have hidden it from the other, or from Rose, or something.

I wrote about Aqua-Net to be funny, but seriously, it is sine qua non when it comes to hornet arsenals.  He dropped almost immediately after I sprayed him.  I'm considering pairing the can with a Bic lighter next time.

P.J. called our Bug Guy and was told that European hornets can live anywhere and fly anywhere and do whatever they want, so we're fucked.  There was some detail in the middle of all that, but it didn't really matter.  He did say that they're probably being attracted to the huge-ass flood light we hung outside so we could see if Molly was peeing at night, so we're bringing this on ourselves, and that was pretty helpful information.  We can use yellow bulbs; that helps.  Oh, and they have two stingers, one to hold you close to them and the second to introduce you to a world of venomous pain.

I'm trying to decide if it would be worth watching an entire season of the original Care Bears in exchange for not being stung by one of these.  The jury's deliberating.

Our Bug Guy also said they'd have to find the nest.  P.J. suspected the Cock and Balls Tree in our back yard:

The Cock-and-Balls Tree

Our kid said he'd help me look, but I had the can of Aqua-Net, so he called through the screen door, "Actually, you can do this alone, since you're the only one with a weapon," because apparently I was in Rainbow Six Siege or something.  I approached the tree slowly.  "Does she think it's in the scrotum?" I yelled to him, oblivious of neighbors.  I heard him ask P.J.  "Yeah, check the scrotum carefully," he yelled back.

I approached the tree scrotum with great reluctance, and it had nothing to do with being gay.

I walked the whole yard but no nest could be found, and I'm kind of glad because if I had found it I wouldn't sleep tonight.  We can't watch them at dusk the way you watch yellow jackets return to their nests, because the hornets are active day and night.  The ones that work third shift get better pay from the union, I guess.

All of this is to say, my day started off shitty and then I was hit by walloping PMS, but at least there have been zero dog turds in it thus far, so it hasn't been literally shitty, and Therapist Gumby is super-understanding and really wasn't irritated at all, and my family is so awesome that they don't mind shouting loudly outdoors about tree-scrotum examination.  And when Molly isn't pissing or shitting or turning an entire rug upside-down while trying to bury a flat toy, she's really pretty cute, and Rose is a dear sweetheart, and while I might want to kill people right now, life isn't so bad.

August 6, 2018

and on the second day, god made some other things

Like nitrile gloves, and grocery bags, and MSG.  Which is weird, because rumor has it there wasn't even Pangaea yet, and the Earth was more like Waterworld without the captivating plot.  But I'm not complaining, because I'm looking at all of these things and seeing that They Are Good.

It turns out Molly has the adorable puppy trait of coprophagia.  If you haven't encountered this word before, it basically means "eat shit and die", except without the dying part.

She brought in a foreign object last night and went under the dining table with it, which is what she does when she doesn't want me to take it away from her because usually it's a scrap of toy that a dog lost in our back yard in 1841, which is the last time anyone bothered to rake up leaves, and is therefore grotty and disgusting and has moss growing on it.  Her penchant for locating and excavating these things is remarkable.

So I crawled under the table for the four-hundredth time to get whatever it was away from her.  I held out my hand and commanded, "Drop!"  And she did, into my hand, and looked at me because I had taken away her toy, and her toy turned out to be a huge turd that was still warm.

I'm pretty sure that after I went outside and threw it into the next county, I boiled my hand.

The second time she brought one in, I did all of those things again and then burst into tears, and P.J. had to convince me that my life had not just been instantly reduced to eating, sleeping, breathing, and being a professional shit picker-upper.

Yeah, she said that, but right after that, I chose to walk around the yard with a huge glove and a double-lined plastic grocery bag and worked until I had a bag full of feces, bits of rotten toy, and pieces of household items that I knew would be found and eaten.  Then I gave Molly an entire box of dental chews so I could allow her to lick me again.

Meanwhile, P.J. was researching, and now we have lots of canned pineapple to mix in with the dogs' dinners and a vat of MSG powder on its way from Amazon to our doorstep.  These two things are said to act as a good behavioral deterrent because they make dog turds taste bad to dogs.  One vet site said it makes them taste metallic, but I quickly clicked away from that page and went somewhere else because how the fuck do they know that?

....... no, really.  How?

But ... but ... I don't look like a manipulative, coprophagic,
ADHD, world-destroying piss factory, do I?

August 5, 2018

and that's why god made aqua-net

Did you know you can still buy Aqua-Net hair spray?  I passed it on my way to the non-quiche aisle Friday night.  I love Aqua-Net.  That purple can screams 1980s and takes me back to childhood.  It sat next to the Jean Nate and Cover Girl foundation on my mother's dresser and was largely responsible for my cunt of a sister's three-story hair edifice.  But my love for it has nothing to do with hair.

When I was twelve and in the middle of a regular Saturday night babysitting gig, a spider crawled out from behind the dresser as I was helping him into his pajamas.  It wasn't the kind of spider you could hit with a shoe while it was on the run.  This spider would have had a splash zone.

So I looked around and saw a can of Aqua-Net hair spray on the kid's mother's dresser, right across the hall from the doorway of the kid's room.  Gears ground in my brain.  It just might work, I thought.  I grabbed it and sprayed three-quarters of the can on the spider.  I watched as it tried to run away and experienced diminishing returns on its efforts.  Six feet along the wall later, it couldn't move, and it dropped to the floor in what must have been a manifestation of little spider nightmares come true.  It was paralyzed and probably thought it was back in high school in only its underwear.  Not dead; just very, very vulnerable.

That was the day Aqua-Net hair spray became my favorite weapon against insects.  White Rain comes in a close second, followed by Rave.  The cheaper and older the brand, the shorter the freeze time, the stickier the result.  Wielding a can in each hand is even better.  It makes me feel like Simon Pegg flying through the air sideways while firing two pistols.

I only bring this up because of the European hornet that was in our kitchen last night.

P.J. and I noticed it while we were standing in the kitchen talking because in addition to the deafening buzz, the hornet was so large that it actually cast a shadow as it flew over our heads.  We went into Oh Fuck Mode, which generally involves climbing over each other to get out of the room as quickly as possible.  The dogs were with us.  I yelled, "Get the dogs in the bedroom!  Now!" as I bravely darted for the fly swatter hanging on a nail across the kitchen.  The hornet landed on a light, then started flying around again.

(Rose had to be out of the room because even showing her a fly swatter in someone's hand makes her shake and cower.  I used to think I wanted to use those Simon Pegg pistols on the man who inflicted this wound on Rose's psyche, but last night I thought better of it and decided doing it nice and slow would be better.  I would use Flex Tape, channel locks, concentrated drops of salicylic acid, and corn cob holders.  It would take a really long time.  I'd have to give him I.V. fluids to make sure he didn't die of dehydration in the process, because that would ruin my fun.)

Then we turned our attention to killing the fucking Airbus-sized invader.  The only poison I could find was ant and roach spray, and after a couple of spritzes of that, nothing interesting happened, so I handed that and the swatter to P.J. and said, "Cover me."  I ran into our bathroom and returned with two cans of hair spray.  "Where is it?"

"I don't know, it landed somewhere.  Kind of over there," she said, waving at the pot rack.

I saw it crawling on a Dutch oven and sprayed the hell out of it with the Herbal Essences first, since that one was cheaper, and then with the finer-mist can.  I judged the point at which it probably couldn't fly any longer, then tapped it with the edge of the swatter and knocked it off the pot rack.

That hair spray cost over five dollars, which is why the hornet flew straight for me.  Normally, I miss every house fly I try to smack with that swatter, but last night my mad high school badminton skills came back to me and I brought it down hard and THWACK watched the hornet ricochet off the back wall and never fly again.  I smacked it again for good measure.  (We had to comfort Rose later, because just hearing the sound of a swatter is apparently enough to render her insecure and clingy.*)

P.J. did what she always does, because she has an illness called insatiable curiosity, and picked up the corpse with a paper towel for close examination.  "Fucking hell, look at the size of this thing," she said.  We both stared at it.  She moved it slightly so we could see the size of the stinger.  Jesus.  Look at that.  Wow.

Then it buzzed a little bit and fell off of the paper towel and onto the floor, at which point we both screamed bloody murder at maximum volume and jumped four feet into the air and almost hit our heads on the ceiling and then tried to climb each other to get away from an inch-long dead hornet with cadaveric spasms lying helplessly on the floor.

And then we held each other and laughed like lunatics while also secretly wondering which neighbor was going to call the police because of the screaming.

I don't think using hair spray constitutes unnecessary cruelty, and not just because insects aren't sentient.  Whatever gets glued up and experiences the insectile or arachnid or myriapodic equivalent of perplexity is repeatedly smacked to death shortly thereafter, reduced to its component molecules, so this should be considered a totally humane practice.

*Oh, and that guy who abused Rose?  Throw in a fly swatter and some cheap hair spray.  There will be plenty of time for irony.

August 4, 2018

from couch to marathon

Yesterday, I ran a marathon.

No, I didn't.  I don't run.  Unless I'm being chased by a wild animal or a well-meaning fundamentalist Christian going door to door.  But these instances are mercifully rare.

I don't even jog.  I walk.  But this was a driving marathon, and I can drive all day long.  Which is good, because that is exactly what I did.

I started the day with a haircut at Great Clips.  I checked in online, which made my wait time only forty minutes instead of two hours.  Usually I get right in, but I learned that Friday mornings is when the more gentrified residents of my small town get their hair cut, blued, or styled.  It reminded me of Grandma, who would visit the Beauty Parlor downtown every Saturday morning and sit under one of those dryer machines for an hour while reading an outdated copy of Reader's Digest, the same one she'd read dozens of times.  I think Grandma knew her stylist, Phyllis, better than she knew her own children.  She always tipped her a crisp one-dollar bill.

The lobby of Great Clips was full of white-haired men and women.  When my turn came, I sat at the stylist's station and noted the envelope of crisp one-dollar bills, given in a spirit of genuine gratitude that was frozen in time thirty years ago, while she snipped and locks of my brown hair fell on top of the wisps of white hair on the floor.

I mailed a package of clothes I'd sold on eBay at the post office.

I dropped off three boxes of clothes and household miscellany at the Goodwill truck sitting alone in an otherwise unused parking lot.

I took some computer batteries to the environmental recycling center, which was all kinds of noble because normally I find it within me to not give a shit and to toss them into the trash, which is one hundred percent what you are not supposed to do because it causes landfill cancer and poisons our ground water and makes our young children glow in the dark.  No one has stopped to consider how useful having our kids glow in the dark could be, but I'm expected to conform to social standards.

I gassed up the van.  The screen at the Speedway played videos and blaring music even when I was unscrewing my gas cap and inserting my debit card and telling it I didn't want a receipt.  And one of the speakers inside it was broken, so the sound was all shitty-stereo crackly while I stood pumping gas and sang not-really-all-that-quietly to myself to block out the noise.

I went to my appointment with the ex-monk, and we agreed that all was going well in what felt like a pointless session that we could have easily held over the phone.  I have to admit that it was good to celebrate the lithium's efficacy with him.  I don't feel bad about forgetting to mark my mood chart for two weeks and then filling it in all at once, because I more or less know the right place to put the dots.  There are fluctuations but they are mild and far-between.  I add those in to reduce suspicion and make it look like I totally do this on a daily basis like I'm supposed to do.

I deposited a van load of broken-down cardboard at yet another recycling center, since the battery place didn't accept anything except batteries and old computer monitors and television sets.  I secretly want to work there so I can find out if they open the stuff up and risk their lives cracking open cathode ray tubes and dealing with poisonous chemical leaks.  I like to believe there are explosions inside that building and that they have exciting jobs living on the edge.  I would not want to work at the center that involves sitting in a tiny stall of a building watching people put cardboard in large bins.  I would implode from an acute case of existential crisis by the end of the first week.

I picked up my son's friend, who will be spending the weekend at our house, helping my son trash his room.  Now with double the indifference to chaos!

I picked up my kid back at home.

I drove to the grocery store so they could pick out seven hundred thousand calories in snackage and beverages.  (They will claim today that there is absolutely nothing to eat in the house.)  While they ran loose in the store with a cart, standing in the cracker aisle calling it racist instead of doing what they were supposed to be doing, I set about trying to find some of those miniature serve-at-a-party quiches at the grocery store.  P.J. needs them for a work function on Monday.  I looked through all of the frozen food three times and was about to ask an associate for assistance; then I remembered that less than a month ago, I was looking for a carton of Pour-A-Quiche in the same store, and I did ask for help that night, and two people came to help me look for quiche in any form, but no one could find any.  They looked in the back.  They made some phone calls, but no quiche was to be had.

So I stood there last night, bereft of quiche, and it dawned on me that I was crazier than I had realized because a) obviously they didn't have what I was looking for, and b) I came within an inch of asking them again, which would have given me the reputation of That Quiche Lady and I would never be able to set foot in there again, because odds are I'd be buying eggs and cheese and scallions and bacon bits, for reasons totally independent of all that is quiche, like a savory galette that happened to look like quiche, but they wouldn't understand and they would exchange knowing glances, which I would pretend to ignore, but we all would know.

Then I crossed the finish line all sweaty with a number on my chest and got to drive home and stay there.  My eyelids were drooping.

Oh, wait.  Then I had to run out and pick up the pizza and wings for the kids.

Do people run a cool-down after a marathon?  Because I wouldn't know.

August 2, 2018

no, no, no, not hats, you idiot

I was well into my Lunesta last night, standing in my nightgown while brushing my teeth, and suddenly I had this phenomenally great idea for a post, and then I remembered, "Oh shit, I have to order my special super-expensive bariatric vitamins because I'm almost out," and that bumped out of my brain the best idea for a blog post in the history of all blogging, because at that point in the Lunesta onset, there is exactly one memory slot.  I strained to recover the idea, retracing my thoughts leading right up to that moment (with considerable difficulty), and then what jumped into my brain was, "It was Hats!"


Jacques ... what the deep-fried fuck?  I mean it.  Hats?  I don't know anything about hats.  I don't even wear hats.  I have nothing to say about hats.  That's as random as splash-free bleach or cross-pollination or Grover Cleveland.

Then I remembered my idea, which wasn't awesome at all, but the Lunesta had made me think it was.  It's a damned shame I've never tried weed.  Jacques will probably offer me some soon.  I can't tell you which way I'll go with that.  I'm afraid I'd like it too much.

Anyway, the idea was neither hats nor weed.  It was the baby shower registry.

I was buying stuff online for a baby shower for somebody I don't even know and will never, ever meet.  Except that the registry on the web site has this goofy picture of them looking into a web cam in a way that gives them huge heads with tiny chins.  This gift is for the girlfriend of the son of one of P.J.'s niftier co-workers.

P.J. asked me to help with it because I'm the only person/canine/spider in the house with prior experience buying baby-oriented items.  We knew it might be triggering for me, but instead of being hit with a wave of sorrowful nostalgia, I went all baby-having expert and blasted their registry selections.  "What!?  You totally don't even need that.  What the hell is wrong with you?  That's going to end up in the back of a drawer.  You do not need that many of those.  And the baby will grow out of those while in utero.  They fit kittens.  Just skip right to the four-to-six-month onesies, Jesus, everybody knows that."  I was politely asked to go into another room to finish the gift-giving activities, but I refused to budge.

Most of what had already been purchased was complete bullshit.  It was at least three-quarters bibs.  I think they have been given one box of diapers, a changing pad, some child-proofing household stuff that they won't need for a year that will have gotten lost somewhere in a box in a closet by then, and bibs.  The obligatory "I Belong to Grandma" bibs and some giraffe and zoo-themed bibs and at least four hundred organic fair-trade cotton bibs, plus patterned ones and pink ones and neutral ones and big ones and small ones and one that has this nifty new way of hooking around on the side.

This child will begin its life sleeping on a blanket that consists of sewn-together bibs because that is all the family will own.  They'll be used as wash cloths, pot holders, seat covers, and bath mats.  Eventually the child will come to think the bib is the standard unit of currency in society.

I got burp cloths and towels instead.  Now, that shit will get used.  You have to know where your towel is.  And I hope to Christ the fruit-blessed couple gets covered in gift cards.

I did not buy the baby any hats.  Seriously, Jacques?  Did Walter put you up to this?