That Time of Year Again

The holidays are fast approaching. Through the miracle of the internet I have finished my Christmas shopping already and am now in the blissful period of waiting for the packages to arrive and avoiding eye contact with my postal carrier )that probably has a hernia and rues the day I was born). Sorry, lady. Consider my online shopping habits your key to job security. You’re welcome.

The main problem I have with Christmas is the present wrapping. Why is this a thing? And why do people make it so complicated? We are taking thoughtful, expensive gifts and literally covering them in garbage. We go to the stores to find the prettiest trash they sell, give away our hard earned money for rolls of the stuff and then some people take it to the next level with ribbon and bows that will also be discarded in a heap. We purchase rolls of rubbish, spend time and energy coating our purchases in said detritus and then have the job of cleaning it all up after the frenzy of Christmas morning. We are literally buying garbage and chores — two things a sane person tries to eliminate, not accumulate.

I know what you are thinking — why not use gift bags and stop complaining? (OK, you may just be thinking about the complaining part, but you’ve made it this far, so you may as well keep reading). These are even more expensive and usually wind up in the same landfill or burn pile as the paper. Everyone has the intention of reusing gift bags but how many of us actually do? We save them until they are lost, or stumble across them in August while trying to find birthday appropriate trash paper in the closet and have a momentary fantasy of handing over the gift swathed in a bag emblazoned with a snowman on a 100 degree day.

I grumble about this every year, yet continue to follow the status quo and swaddle my gifts in soon-to-be-debris. This year won’t be any different. I will gather all my tools, listen to an audio book and wrap the crap so it can be pretty under the tree leading up to the glorious gluttony of the holiday. And so will you. But this year, after reading this, while you are sitting on the floor with scissors and trying to wrap a round object with flat square paper, you are going to get frustrated and this little written rant will worm into your brain and you will think of me for just a moment. And that will be my contribution to your festivities.

Merry Christmas and Happy Littering!


Deep Vacation Thought

I took a long weekend to visit Baby Jesus and The Saint and on the plane had this thought:

A flight attendant’s job is to insure your safety in the event of a catastrophe. Oxygen masks, water landings, flotation devices, fire rescue, first aid, all things dramatic and scary. However, in the absence of a disaster, they have to peddle soft drinks and salty snacks. Do we make a paramedic become a waitress in their down time? And travel to different cities while doing so? No. We don’t. Just like we don’t ask surgeons to stock grocery shelves between appointments.

I am all about efficiency, so I understand that these employees need to earn their paychecks, but it is ridiculous to have them passing out credit card applications. And isn’t anyone worried that these mundane jobs will impact their judgment in an emergency? “That bitch kept hitting the call button, she will be the LAST one down the wing slide.” Or “Grab my ass again, sir, and I’ll make sure your oxygen mask doesn’t work.”


I Took a Bat to the Face

Yesterday, while helping the Handsome Hermit put away groceries, I opened the corner cabinet and a bat flew out, hitting me RIGHT IN THE FACE. I screamed, started to flail around to get the thing away from me and managed to hit it so it fell onto the floor, stunned. The Handsome Hermit didn’t realize what was going on at first, until he saw the beast laying there. He managed to kick it out the door where it landed on the deck, it laid there while the Hermit and Lou the Cat inspected it (I have absolutely no idea why). It twitched a few times before finally managing to get the motivation to fly away.

The Handsome Hermit spent the rest of the night trying to figure out how the bat got into the house and more specifically, how it got into that cabinet. I, however, spent the rest of the night trying to forget the feel of that furry body against my skin. Neither one of us was very successful. I am scarred for life.

Happy Birthday Eve to Me

Today is the last day of my 30s. Tomorrow I will be 40 and I guess I will need to finally admit to myself that I am middle-aged. Naturally, a major birthday like this has me looking back over my life and analyzing where I am versus where I thought I’d be — there is quite a lot of distance between those two points, I can tell you. I never thought I’d be divorced or working for less money than my first job out of college. I never thought I’d be living in a mobile home or in a small town in Pennsylvania, for that matter. But there is one thing that I’ve managed to accomplish: I don’t have children.

I will be 40 years old tomorrow and I don’t have kids. In fact, I have never even been pregnant. I knew at an early age that it just wasn’t something I wanted and I couldn’t see the point of creating a human being without having those inner stirrings that wanted one in my life. For years, I had this general conversation with people:

Them: “So, how many kids do you have?”

Me: “None.”

Them: “Don’t worry, you have time.”

Me: “I don’t plan on having any.”

Them: “Oh, you’ll change your mind.”

These were perfect strangers! How do they know? What if I’m a serial killer? Or a cannibal? Or someone that likes to dress up as a robot and put on street performances all in the name of art? Why do people assume that everyone should have a drive to procreate? I do not need to replace myself on this planet, I do not need to fill a quota or check off a box of generic accomplishments. I have never, not once in my life, held a baby and thought “I wish I had one.” Hell, I’ve never held a baby and thought “I could take him/her home.” That utter lack of maternal desire tells me that I’ve made the right decision.

I had someone ask me “But how do you know unless you try?” My response was “I could say the same thing to you about face tattoos.” That shut them up pretty quickly. I’ve also used sky diving, Jell-O wrestling and golden showers as examples, because I like to cater to my audience.

That being said, just because I don’t want my own doesn’t mean that I don’t have the capacity to love someone else’s child. I recognize that those are two different things. My stepmother has made a world of difference in my life and I didn’t meet her until I was nearly 30. She didn’t raise me, but she has played a role in who I have become as an adult. While the roles may change throughout our lives, you’re never too old to parent or be parented. The Handsome Hermit does not have children either, I’m lucky in that respect. I was surprised to find someone else that agreed with my thoughts about parenthood, and my decision against it. It made me feel less crazy — until I got to know him better and realized that was the MOST normal thing about him!

Times have changed, though. Now that I am older I don’t have strangers tell me that I will change my mind or that I would feel differently about children once I had my own (which I am sure is true, but WHAT IF?). Instead, when people find out I don’t have kids, they give me this look that says “she must not be able to have any, poor thing.” I’ve actually had some little old ladies ask me if I was “barren”! How is that an appropriate question? And what if that was true? Wouldn’t that be a terrible thing to have to discuss? And will I have to hear about their bowel movements in return? Quid pro quo can be a bitch.

Recently, I was at a cook out and met a lady holding her adorable 10 month old daughter. We introduced ourselves and explained how we each knew the host/hostess and then there was a little lull. She looked at me sweetly and said “Do you have kids?” and when I said no, her face fell. She just assumed we had nothing in common and would not be able to keep up any sort of polite banter. I wanted to point out that she is more than a parent, she is a woman and a teacher and a person all on her own but I didn’t know her well enough to start that particular lecture. Her children are the most important part of her life, as they should be, but they are not what makes HER. Eventually I discovered that she also had a dog, so we had a lovely chat about our pets for awhile, although I could tell she was struggling. I have one less label than she did, but that seemed to be the only that counted for her.

All of this used to bother me, and at times it can still get under my skin, but for the most part I’ve come to terms with it. I am made to feel like a second class citizen because I don’t have children, I can’t swap diaper stories or talk about day care drama. But when this happens, I’ve learned to politely smile and nod my head or to wander over to where the men are talking. I’d rather talk about horsepower than potty training any day!

I’m Back

Sorry I’ve been MIA for awhile. I got lost in my own mind for a month or two — it happens — but I’m back now. I’m going to get back into the swing of things with a few lists. Nothing makes me happier than making lists for some reason, most of which center around books. Lists of books to read, books I have read, books to recommend, books available at the library…well, you get the point.

Zombie Spiders

The other day, walking through the dining room, I spotted a spider hanging from the ceiling. This thing was dangling and spinning a bit, like it was auditioning for a spot in Cirque du Soleil and if I was in charge of casting, I would have given him the job on the spot. He was small, but majestic and very sure of himself. Naturally, I cannot let this sort of thing go on, otherwise word gets out on the arachnid web (see what I did there?) and then all spiders think that this is a friendly house where they can live out their days in peaceful leisure. Not on my watch. So, I got a napkin, walked back over and pinched him inside of it, gave it a little squish and then threw it away. I am a strong, independent woman that doesn’t need a man to kill my multi-legged foes.

Despite my strength and independence, I had to brag about my latest kill. I would be a terrible accomplice in a crime, obviously. When you have the face of a librarian, you like to shock people when you do something awesome or bad ass. So, I’m telling the Handsome Hermit all about the size of the beast and the way I single-handedly slew it when I gestured towards the garbage can where I had disposed of the body. And what do I see when I glance over? That little bastard is CLIMBING OUT OF THE TRASH CAN. My first thought was “Well, this makes my whole story a moot point” but what I said out loud is “It’s a zombie!” He was a plucky fellow, I’ll give you that.

I hesitated a bit, I was mulling over a world in which spiders could become zombies and decided then and there that I did not want to exist in that reality. The Handsome Hermit is used to my antics by now, so he doesn’t even make a sound, just walks over and squashes the bug between his two fingers. Bare handed. Like an animal. Than turns to me and says: “You have to go for the head. Only way to kill them.” Then walked into the bathroom to wash his hands.

This is our version of love. It works.

Clowns for Christ

As a child, I was painfully shy. I walked with my head down, barely spoke above a whisper and hated everything about myself. My mother’s idea of getting me to “open up” was to force me to walk up to perfect strangers and ask them for the time. Decades later, I look back at this and I still don’t understand her strategy. Did she think a 10-year-old would ask someone for the time and then strike up a witty conversation? Or was she just hoping that someone would decide to kidnap me so she didn’t have to worry about this mousy child anymore? Who can resist a felony when it shuffles right up to them at the mall? Sadly, I was so terrified of attracting any attention to myself, that I probably would have thought twice about screaming if I actually was snatched.

Obviously, this brilliant chronological plan wasn’t doing the trick, so my mother looked around for another avenue of humiliation. And then she struck pay dirt: Christian Clown Camp. Could there be a better place to send an 11 year old girl that is scared of her own shadow, hates nature and has never shown an interest in make-up? Apparently not. She signed me up without my knowledge, neglecting to tell me about this adventure until she started PACKING MY SUITCASE.

Early one morning, I was unceremoniously dumped at a camp site several hours from my house, told to “have fun” and then watched as my family car sped away down the dirt road. I was abandoned for a week with total strangers, in the woods, and on top of that, I was supposed to learn how to apply a million layers of face paint in order to go out and tell the world about Jesus. How many drugs were taken to come up with this idea?

Admittedly, I do not have a lot of memories of this week of abject horror. Teenage Clowns in the Woods sounds more like a B rated slasher flick than a wonderful bonding experience, so I must have blocked most of the details from my brain. I remember sitting in a the big cabin, along a long table with mirrors in front of each of us as a camp counselor named Tal (his first name and his initials were the same TAL — I have no idea why I remember this but it is burned into my long term memory) taught us how to apply our religious war paint. What the Crusades failed to do for hundreds of years, we would accomplish with 15 kids in full face spackle. Did I mention this was a co-ed camp? The only thing worse than sending your daughter into this insanity would be to send your son. This does not bode well for his survival on the playground of life.

I also remember sitting in front of the same mirror, using baby wipes to get rid of all that spiritual veneer, when Tal walked up to me and made a sad noise, then said “Oh, too bad, you’re wiping off your pretty face.” He might have been trying to compliment my pious cosmetics, but I heard “Oh, too bad, now we have to see your real face again” and another scar was added to my soul. Thanks, Tal, wherever you are.

*Side note — I know that there was a female counselor there, logically there would have to be, but I have no memory of her. This is what happens when your first name and your initials are not the same, I guess. Poor chick worked hard that summer and I don’t have the faintest flicker of her in my mind because her mother gave her a decent moniker.

Towards the end of the week, we were forced to lather up in full greasepaint, don our clown outfits there were fished out of a large bin and then herded onto a bus to be driven to the local hospital. We were going to be “entertaining” the patients in the children’s ward. We were also probably planting the seeds of night terrors that would last for years. Very few of us had clown related talents, like balloon tying or juggling, most of us wanted to be anywhere but where we were and yet we were stalking through the children’s ward torturing munchkins that were already unlucky enough to be sick and therefore a captive audience.

About 15 minutes into this debacle, the power went out in the entire hospital. Generators kicked on, and non-essential staff — of which we were the poster children — were herded into the cafeteria to sit in the dark and try to stay out of the way. When the power didn’t come on right away, cafeteria workers started to hand out ice cream rather than have it all melt in the freezers. I can’t imagine what we must have looked like…deranged home made clowns in hand-me-down clothes trying to slurp up ice cream without smearing their make up which counselors flitted around to make sure no one was missing. What I wouldn’t pay to have a video of that. Anyway, some time passed, the power stayed out and the decision was made to scrap the day and head back to camp. We piled back onto the bus and headed to our woodsy retreat.

Here’s the best thing: there wasn’t a cloud in the sky that day. There wasn’t lightening or a storm of any sort that could have caused the power to go out and then stay out for that length of time. I’m assuming it was the combined power of all those soul-weary pre-teen Clowns for Christ praying for a release from their version of hell. Add in the dismayed kids that were being “entertained” and we have a brown out. Voila! Miracles.