Because it sure is surreal sometimes

Because it sure is surreal sometimes

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Massimo's Oil

This is a short story I just had published in The Olive Oil Times. Follow the link to read a true romance...with olive oil.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

March Madness

It’s March and that means madness around my house. Of course, so does January, February, April, May, June…you get the idea. The madness this month comes not from basketball. I actually find it amusing to watch a grown man agonize over a bunch of brackets. The source of this month’s madness is my (and by my, I mean our) annual Spring Project. With the exception of every year prior to this one, I’ve chosen a special (and by special, I mean expensive) project to complete so that I can enter into the season without some nagging, energy-draining task sitting around, in all of its incomplete glory, cluttering up my life and mind. So, my first annual Spring Project is….The Yard(s).

Three years ago, our front lawn was passable and a nicely manicured flowerbed, complete with happy azaleas, lined the front porch. The back yard was mostly beautiful hillside, with an ugly patio/lava rock wasteland nightmare that honestly, couldn’t get much worse. Then, we came to town.

This is our backyard, looking up the hill away from our house. Lovely, right?

With an acre lot, two-thirds of which is wildland, we bought a John Deere riding mower and I’m not allowed to mow. Fine by me. My husband can’t wait for the weeds of early spring to start growing on our hillside so he can do the one chore that allows him to both sit and be productive at the same time. I’m sure it’s highly satisfying. He also likes to weed. He’s a sick, sick man.

Then, there’s me. I have no green thumb, do not find gardening relaxing and if you must know, possess a shockingly immature fear of bugs. I don’t even like to water. I have so successfully dodged my husband’s many attempts to show me how to turn on the sprinklers that to this day, if he asks me to turn them on or off, I answer, “I don’t know how” and I’m not even lying.

There is only one thing I love to do in the yard. I love a freshly hosed-off porch, especially on a hot summer evening while enjoying a glass or wine, or shot of whiskey. It’s cool and clean and I can easily spot and kill spiders who make the fatal mistake of thinking they can enjoy a refreshing drink on the porch with me. I often do the same thing on a summer morning, but don’t worry, I don’t drink wine or whiskey at that hour. That’s what mimosas are for, silly.

The problem is, once we made the decision to re-do the lawns with new sod, I grew discontent with the azaleas. I decided that simply trimming the neglected azaleas was less appealing that ripping them up, I mean, tenderly removing them, and planting daffodils. (See the post dated March 15 for that happy story.)

In the backyard, where the ugly red lava rocks live, we shoveled. Like mad.

                                                The backyard, looking toward the house...

As outdoor tasks go, I’d still rather be using a long handled tool than have my hands in the dirt, weeding and avoiding slugs, and eight-legged terrorists. Speaking of long handles, my husband didn’t even complain about the pace I kept both before and after my 10 a.m. lunch break. While some may have called my movements geriatric, I like to think of them as more zen-like and rhythmic: shovel rocks, dump wheelbarrow, shovel rocks, dump wheelbarrow, shovel rocks, dump wheelbarrow….doesn’t it just have a soothing flow? It did, until I started this convo:

“Um, I was just thinking…”

“Oh no. You want to put them back?”

“No. I was just thinking that the dog and the kids are going to be walking through all this dirt and it’s going to be a big pain.”

(No reply from husband. I could tell by the way his eyelids were flickering that he was searching the mental hard drive for something I might say next that would require more hard labor.) I continued:

“Can we put down some kind of tarps or lining to keep it from becoming a big mud puddle the next time it rains?”

“Can’t we just tell them to stay out of it?”

“Sure. I’ll tell the kids. You explain it to the dog.”

“No more rain this year.”

“How do you know that?”

“It’s softball season. No more rain.”

“I’m just curious…do you cross your fingers and your toes when you say that?”

So, the giant mud triangle and the madness of the March project has begun. The first round bracket: Us vs. The Yard(s). With luck, March Madness will not become August Angst.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Daffodil Hell

Not to be confused with Daffodil Hill, the popular tourist destination just a few miles to the east of our home, Daffodil Hell is what our front yard resembled following a visit by a satanic gardening cult (my husband Chris and me) who performed the ritualistic dismemberment of a perfectly good azalea bed and transplanting of what were totally content daffodils previously residing in my Aunt Ann's yard. Click on the picture for a better view of the horrified husband, post ritual, masking his identity for fear of future attacks by copycat cults. Plus, he was just really, really embarrassed. The cult leader, which would be me, when asked by husband midway through the slaughter, whether the carnage could have been avoided by a tiny bit more planning, replied, "I like to adjust on the fly when I do yard work. Planning takes too much time." To which husband replied, "Yes, but so does doing the whole thing over again."

Coming soon: in with new sod, out with ugly red lava rock.

Monday, March 8, 2010

My own (not so private) Disturbia

I had an epiphany the other day about a horrifying topic. Because I’m me, I didn’t panic. Instead, I decided to write about it. It all went down in a matter of seconds: the epiphany, the acknowledgement (“Hmm. That was sort of disturbing…”) and then the laugh. Here goes.

I know why people kill their own children. It isn’t because moms and dads are insane, or because they suddenly “snap.” It’s much simpler than that. The reason parents kill their own children is because it’s easier than teaching them how to organize their backpacks.

If you don’t believe me, go and find a random twelve year old boy, preferably one with both fresh and long-term stains on his shirt, a green Gatorade mustache outlining his upper lip and a ratty baseball cap slapped on his head backwards. Ask him if he thinks he’s dressed appropriately for going out to dinner at a restaurant where you look down to read a menu and not up. When he answers, “Yeah, why?” you’ll know you’ve got your control group. Look into this boy’s backpack. Try not to laugh or cry. It won’t be easy. Next, have a conversation with your control group during which you attempt to explain the benefits of having an organized backpack. Here’s what to expect:

Before you are finished with your first sentence, his gaze will shift from your face to something compelling off in the distance, like a moth flying erratically, or a gentle breeze. After another sentence or two, he’ll begin glancing around, mentally plotting his escape. If your mouth stops moving for more than three seconds, he’ll take it as his prompt to speak. Expect him to say, “Uh huh” or if you’re really lucky, “Ok.” You’ll know the conversation is finished when it hits you that it may be simpler to just cook him and eat him than continue talking.

There isn’t a doubt in my mind that if the forensics teams who investigate crime scenes that involve parents and children would shift their focus one muddy tennis shoe to the left, they’d have their motive. Instead, they enter a room and ignore the obvious. Stepping over the ever-present backpack, they begin throwing ideas out in the effort to figure out just what the hell happened.

“Hey, Mack, look over here. An empty bottle of Prozac. Mom went off her meds.”

“I guess that about does it, Frank. C’mon, let’s go interview the neighbors.”

It’s troublesome to me that in crime dramas, entire cases are culled from interviews with the neighbors, as if the guy next door has some kind of supreme knowledge or ability to see through walls. What do neighbors know about what goes on in other people’s homes? As evidenced recently, neighbors don’t even know if a family of three is living in a tent on the other side of a fence not fifteen feet away from their summer cook-out – FOR EIGHTEEN SUMMERS IN A ROW!

On the way out the door, the detectives finally notice the backpack, unzipped for the world to see: Piles of wadded up papers, inch long pencils sharpened to a razor point, a binder with nothing in it, a couple of bent up cootie catchers and one dirty sock. How do they not see that something is very, very wrong with this situation?? Tsk, tsk, they think to themselves. The poor kid was probably just minding his own business, doing his homework and ka-POW!

I have a sneaking suspicion of my own. I think the last few minutes of the kid’s life included a conversation similar to the following:

“Mom, have you seen the rough draft of my report on Ancient Rome?”

“No. Have you checked your backpack?”

“It isn’t there. It’s not anywhere. It’s gone.”

“It must be in your backpack. Here, let me look.” (The beginning of The End.)

“Mom, it isn’t in there and I’ve got to find it! It’s due tomorrow!”

Opening the backpack, the fully confident mom is sure she will find the very same folder she watched her son label ‘History Homework’ at the beginning of the year. I mean, why the heck not?

Pulling out the bright red folder, the one that even a twelve-year old boy couldn’t miss from fifty feet away, mom holds it up. She smiles. She is proud of herself. Her son, on the other hand, isn’t feeling her joy. He’s scowling.

“I don’t keep it in there, MOM!”

Confused by his reply, mom keeps trying, in her patient mom voice.

“Where was it the last time you saw it?”

(The End is near.)

A cast iron frying pan on the stove catches mom’s eye. Her hand twitches. The boy responds:

“Right where I always keep it! Folded up under the placemat next to the cookie jar!”


The End.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

What kind of busy are you?

So many people still ask me, “Why aren’t you teaching anymore” that I feel the need to make a formal statement. Since I don’t have a publicist (my 67-year-old dad bragging about his 43 year old daughter to his friends over coffee doesn’t count) I can’t call a press conference. I’ll just address it here, in my blog, which is read by roughly thirty-two people. Since about twenty of them live around here, I’ll count on them to spread the word so that I can shut up already and stop explaining myself. By the way, has anyone ever considered the fact that asking why a person has made a huge, life-changing decision might, in fact, be categorized under “not your business”? I mean, who goes around asking people, “How come you’re not married anymore, Doug?” or “Why’d you want to make your tits bigger, Bonnie?”

More and more, I understand what poor Brangelina must go through, not to mention Tiger Woods. Can’t a guy have his issues without the whole world poking its snorkeling mask into his fishbowl? Who gives a hoo-haw anyway? He’s getting laid. It’s a story as old as Adam and Eve. That’s right: Adam cheated – with himself! Trust me when I say, the original sin wasn’t eating the stupid apple. There was a man. There was a weenie. There was masturbation. Eve caught Adam abusing himself in the garden and ate the goddamn apple because she was stressed!

I quit teaching because I was beaten. I couldn’t fight the good fight any longer. The fight against what, you ask? The fight against insanity. See, I went from “insanely busy” while teaching high school English and attempting to raise four children (ages 10, 9, 8 and 8 at the time I surrendered) to “crazy busy” now that I’m a freelance writer (again), working from home. Keep in mind, I use the term “working” loosely, especially since my tax preparer pointed out to me the other day, “You really need to be making money to write things off.” That uplifting statement came on the heels of this: “Is this the extent of your writing income?” while holding my 1099’s between her thumb and forefinger like it was a hairy spider. “Um, yes,” I answered, bowing my head in the kind of shame known only by fully conscious morons. Luckily, I’m the sort of sick individual who is motivated by a thorough ass-chewing, so I’m ramping up the effort to stop making a coma at writing and actually make a living. (If you don’t think a tax-preparer making thinly-veiled insults about your income is humiliating, then I guess we have slightly different sensitivity levels. That, or you couldn’t catch a clue with a butterfly net. Only you know for sure.)

Back to why I quit. My goal is to eventually downgrade the rating of “crazy busy” to somewhere in the neighborhood of “mildly kooky busy.” I’d never be so idealistic as to expect to just be plain old “busy.” Miss Merry Sunshine I am not. I hate that bitch. She’s busy painting her nails.

If I could just get my kids to simultaneously shut the hell up for thirty seconds, and my husband to pile all of the household chores, cooking, homework help, meaningful conversations, errands, appointments and shopping, onto his plate next to teaching full time, coaching basketball and softball, occasional side jobs painting houses, rocking my world on demand and the chores he already does, I could get somewhere with this writing thing.

There’s an agent out there somewhere who has that weird feeling he’s forgetting something. He can’t put his finger on it, but he will. Soon, he’ll be sifting through his slush pile and there will be a manila envelope addressed to him, complete with wine stains and maybe a booger helping to hold the stamp in place. In the top left corner, he’ll see my name: Surreal Busy Housewife.