Category: Life

“You Put the Lime on the Rodent, and You Mix It All Up”

I had been hunting the stench for over a week. In my gut, i knew what it was, but i had convinced myself that maybe someone was dumping compost behind my property. Compost that consisted of nasty, dirty gym socks and rot. But down in my gut, i knew.

When my son took out the trash and told me it smelled like something had died in the backyard, i told him he was wrong, it was something else.  I did go look around the backyard, and, not finding anything, continued telling myself that it was a waft from someplace else: The neighbor’s trash can, someone’s septic tank, the river Styx….

Every day, i was assaulted by the smell as i got in and out of my car in the driveway. And every day, i would walk around a bit, giving a cursory search for the source, never finding anything.

When a friend came over to do some tree work for me, i asked him to come sniff and tell me what he thought. Of course, he knew what it was. And he looked with me. Except he really looked. And under a back corner of my decrepit outbuilding, he pointed out a pelt.

I cannot express how badly i wanted him to offer to deal with it for me.

But he is not that much a glutton for punishment. So with my hands covered with grocery bags, a trash bag beside me, and rake in hand; i set about to get the nauseating fur-pile out from under the shed.

Raking it wasn’t particularly effective. First off, it had been there over a week, so it wasn’t exactly fresh. Second, i was quickly able to isolate cause of death to be electrocution when i realized its mouth was hooked on the electrical supply. And third… Well, there isn’t really a third. I mean, i was trying to rake a long-dead animal from 3 feet inside a foot high space. There was NO way to efficiently remove it.

Later, my cousin told me i should have just spread lime over it. I wish i had thought of that.

So i rake and rake and rake and rake. When it finally gets close enough to the edge, i decide to just pick it up. Gagging like i have never gagged before, i reach over and pick up the maggot-covered rustic bathroom rug.

Halfway across the 2 foot distance to the trash bag, his head fell off.

Plop. Necrotic rodent noggin at my feet.

I suppressed the urge to throw up out of deference to the friend who wouldn’t take on the task.

I get the body in the bag, maggots and all. Pick up the head (How i didn’t puke, i will never know), grabbed the bits of fur and pelt that were stuck to the rake, pushed the hand-bags into the trash bag, and pulled the straps closed. Certain that the stench wasn’t just stuck in my nose hair and was actually permeating the plastic, i triple bagged that son of a bitch before tossing it in the trash. Ha! You nasty dead Davy Crockett souvenir! I win! You are gone and the stench is no more!

Well, not exactly.

I mean the bag is in the trash can and it’s hot enough to smelt iron on the sidewalk these days.

And soon i will have to open it and put the rest of the week’s trash in before bringing it to the curb for pickup.  Normally, that would be my son’s job, but unless he forgets what’s already in there, i’d have better luck getting my chihuahua to do it.

I may actually try the clothespin on the nose trick when trash day comes.

Well, i knew there would be critters. I guess it’s just part life at the new caravan. And at least it’s almost gone.

And don’t ya know that the Lowe’s list on my fridge already has, at the top, “Bag of lime”.

My House of Anachronism

I admit it. I was wrong.

Apartment living isn’t for me.

But, thankfully, unlike many of my errors over the years, this is a mistake i can correct.

I have found a little cottage for my son and i. It has a lot of tangible benefits: It will keep my son in the same school. It will give us the privacy we miss. It will give us a yard again, and more space. And it will save us money. But less tangibly, it reminds me of where i grew up.

I grew up on Cape Cod. In Bourne, to be exact. And during my childhood, it was a pretty cool place to live. We spent our summer days on the beach, and our evenings  playing baseball, having cookouts, going out for ice cream. As we got older, we had our fun getting into the same kinds of trouble all small-town kids do. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t idyllic: There is a lot of alcohol and drug abuse in seasonal towns. Once the tourists go home, there is a collective depression that takes hold and brings many to spend what little money they have in the off season at the bars. Or, if you’re a kid, getting drunk or stoned at whatever isolated place you could find. The sad stories of the cycle of addiction are a plague on us. Still, it doesn’t take away from the beauty of the place.

The first time i saw my new house, it immediately struck me how it would be right at home back in old Cape Cod. 100 year old homes are common in New England, but here in Chattanooga, not so much. So to find one here, and one that would be pleasant to live in… That is a real gem. And to find one like this that has new pipes and wires and mechanics, etc… That’s a gem in a  gorgeous platinum setting. The thought of living in a place that i have grown to love over nearly two decades now, in a house that reminds me of the place i still call home…  It seems as if it was put here for me by divine intervention.

Like the Cape Cod of my youth, the bungalow isn’t perfect. There are things i will need to change and upgrade over time. Not every other home in the neighborhood looks like a page from Better Homes and Gardens. And i am sure, like every neighborhood, there are unsavory people. There will be critters and issues and unexpected bills. But not since i was a small child have i dreamed of moving to Eden. Reality brings its own rewards.

So begins another journey for me. Maybe the home that blends both past and present will bridge the gaps in me from between those two times. Bring the me from the past into concert with me of the present. Take at least part of my life full circle.  (Cue Elton John.) Become a haven of sorts. A place of positivity and harmony.

Of course, there is always a possibility that there is a family of rabid raccoons living in the shed. It could happen that the house was built on an ancient landfill of spiritually significant fish carcasses. It is even possible, as my son suggests, that the house could lay on an electro-magnetic field that will grow and draw in Earth’s gravity more and more until every bit of space junk is sucked in and lands on our roof, causing it to collapse, squashing us like ants, and turning us into aliens.

But, i suppose, like most leaps in life, you just have to cross your fingers, say a prayer, and jump.

Me, Too, Mr. Thorogood

Why are people so uncomfortable when they see someone eating alone?

It was a long and frustrating week. A lot of beating my head against  wall. Worry over deadlines. And one particularly vexing moment when i discovered that typing, “Why the hell won’t this stupid thing work??!!” into the help menu didn’t yield any helpful results. I was glad to see Friday, even if only to mark what is likely a halfway point in this mess.

Because i survived the week without developing a permanent tic or Valium habit, i decided to treat myself. There is a well regarded restaurant that i hadn’t tried that sits smack-dab halfway home. It being warm and still light out, it was nice to see that there was a tiny table still open on the patio. I’m certain a subconscious, relief-filled “Aaaahhhhhh..” escaped my lips as  parked my tookis. Normally, when eating out alone, i bring something to read to assuage the nervous Nellies who grieve solitary diners. But i hadn’t expected to go out today, so i was amusing myself with people watching and a sudoku on my phone.

I ordered tonight’s special cocktail that sounded like they knew i was coming. I wasn’t terribly hungry, so i ordered an appetizer, and then another when i scarfed the delicious first one down like it was Aunt Bea’s best biscuit.  My mood was improving. It’s amazing what some good flavor will do.

There were two tables nearby, both of which were filled with near- or newly retired doctors and their wives. Bits and pieces of the conversations floated my way. I didn’t pay much attention until i heard one say, “I wonder if she is waiting for someone…”

I looked up, and sure enough, they were all staring at me.

“No,” I said. “It’s just me tonight. Just relaxing after a long week.” The three women all looked full of pity.  Two of the men looked at their wives. The third man smiled. He asked me what i was drinking and if it was good. He asked my opinion of what i had eaten, which i answered as the server approached their table. Then i went back to my own amusements. A few minutes later i heard one of the wives…

“We should invite her to join us or something.”

Please, no. I don’t want to have to refuse them, but i am in no mood to have a condolence laden conversation with a table full of strangers.

My ersatz ally spoke up on my behalf. “Don’t be silly! She is enjoying her drink. Leave her be. Not everyone wants to be with a crowd.”

Bless you, sir.

I’m sure the wives were thinking he didn’t understand. No one should sup alone. It’s unnatural. Single women are lonely. Blah blah blah.

Nope. Not lonely. Just enjoying quiet and trying to empty my mind. Relaxing. Marking the end of a tiresome week and the beginning of the weekend. Treating myself, instead of waiting for a savior to do it for me. That’s what we single people do. We take care of ourselves. And we have the occasional dinner out just like you married people. No need for sympathy. No need for disdain. And for the love of God and everything holy, quit talking about me from only three feet away so that i can palpate your compassion.

Sheesh.

I admit, sometimes i want someone to talk to. Then i go sit at the bar and chat up the bartender or the other patrons. But if i’m at a table, not engaging with others, and not looking heartbroken, i am fine. I am enjoying my own company, or my magazine, or my food, or whatever. It’s ok. Really. Your humanitarian efforts to make me feel less lonely don’t have the desired affect. They just kind of irritate me.

But i won’t tell you that.

Instead, i will keep sipping and munching and reading or whatever. And i’ll wait for your tablemate to point it out. After all, in any gathering, there is always that one person who didn’t mind being single and truly commiserates.

Lipgloss and Hollandaise

My oldest weedling said something really cool to me today. She said, “I like you without makeup.” The context of the statement was that i was sitting in the front seat of her car, poking at a scratch on my nose in her vanity mirror. I looked at myself and realized with a start that i look younger with less makeup. (Note that i said “younger” and not “young”.)

Fast forward a couple of hours. I’m on my patio, gently full with a large artichoke and some  fruit salad, sipping a small glass of vinho verde, and wondering how much of life is just like makeup… The harder you try to change reality, the more it backfires. The more serious you take it, the less joy you get from it. The more stake you put in it, the less pans out.

For example, i could have taken that same artichoke, steamed it, baked it with sauces and accoutrements, and elevated it to some amazing gastronomic feat, but that doesn’t mean it would taste better than the way i steamed it with garlic, lemon and butter. The chunked up fresh fruit could have been mixed with sugar and dressings, but honestly, it was really good just by itself. Enjoying things for what they are, or with only the slightest alteration, seems to be the way to go for a lot of things. Tho i suppose it depends what result you are hoping for.

When i do my face in the morning, i am very rarely setting the stage or tone for my day by adorning myself with a colorful mask. Most days i am trying to remove all traces of age, bad habits, and telltale signs of hormonal imbalance. Like most women, i fool myself into thinking that spackling the cracks in my forehead will render the canvas flawless. Then i can paint black lines over my eyelids, saturate my lips with crimson, and transform myself into a Renoir or Degas.

Truthfully, the makeup settles into the cracks making them seem more like canyons, the eyeliner is never symmetrical, i overdo the red, and best case scenario, i’m a reject from Picasso’s cubist period.

Cindy Joseph, one of the first silver-haired supermodels and creator of the BOOM makeup line makes no bones about the fact that women should fight our instincts and wear less makeup as we get older. Well, yes, as i noticed this morning, that is generally true… but…

The fact of the matter is, it’s less about the makeup itself than it is about what we hope to gain from it. Packing it on to essentially make a lie, well, that’s not going to work. We all know the feeling of making up a story to cover a truth we can’t face. We evade and embellish and add and it blows up in our face. No amount of words make a lie the truth, and no amount of lipstick will make me Natalie Portman.

But sometimes we can make up a story just for fancy’s sake. Just because it’s fun to spin a yarn. If i decide to do a spectacular green-eye makeup for Earth Day… Well, that’s just plain happy. It’s not a lie – i’m not trying to convince anyone i’m a tree – so it doesn’t backfire. And maybe that’s the whole point. Sincerity of purpose makes or breaks the effort. Candor with oneself. Acceptance of oneself. Authenticity.

Some things in life take a whole lot of effort: Vocational mastery, raising children, picking a spouse. But those are supposed to take effort because the consequences of a bad result have tremendous impact. Most of life isn’t like that. Everything in life shouldn’t be that taxing. If it is, perhaps we should ask ourselves if we are being true to our purpose.  It shouldn’t take an entire bottle of catsup to make a meal taste good. And it shouldn’t take an hour of cosmetic painting to make us feel beautiful.

The effort should just be gilding the lily.

Of course, some of us are more ragweed than lily, but even ragweed has that beautiful color….

You Can Even Eat the Dishes

I am happy today. Yup. Just happy.

I started the day doing laundry. That probably doesn’t sound happy to most people, but i actually enjoy doing laundry. In fact, i have often mused that it would be awesome if there were a washing machine for life. Something we could throw all our nasty and dirty laundry in and have it come out nice and clean and smelling like Downy. Wouldn’t that be great? We could all toss in our 20s, and voilà, no more bad decision one night stands! Toss in our 30s and tada!, no more letting your kids have snack cakes and kool-aid while watching teletubbies because you’re tired, it’s been a long week, and you just need half an hour of quiet. I could go on, but that would get too close to recent memory for comfort.

Anyway, obviously there is no such thing, or we’d all be as beloved as Mother Theresa.

I also spent a couple of hours this morning sorting thru my clothes closet. Again, doesn’t seem like a happy thing at first glance, but i promise, it can be. I found a pretty summer skirt that i forgot i had. I culled a bunch of things that needed to go (I made myself a promise last year that i would only keep things that made me happy. Including my clothes. So anything that i didn’t like enough to wear over the winter got cut out instead of going in winter storage.) I like paring down. It makes me feel free to let go of things. And free equals happy in my book.

I made a new batch of my organic body butter. Because this batch is for me, i have it scented with the blend that i customized just for myself. With the mixing and melting and blending, my kitchen now smells all warm and decadent.  And my hands are smooth and soft. My efforts get poured into one of those covered crystal candy dishes that are the mainstay of yard sales. It’s a little thing, but making my own lotions and perfumes makes me happy. A gesture of love to myself (or to others, if the batch is for them.) A gift from the heart. How can that not delight?

My oldest weedling and i went on a little jaunt after that. She brought me to her favorite thrift store. Racks and boxes and shelves of all manner of things. I went there with the intention of finding a small table to use as a meditation station / altar. I didn’t find one. But i got to do some interesting people watching. Single digit girls swooning over the prom gowns. A young couple arguing about the value of a lamp shaped like a fish. And i watched a middle aged man sort thru a pile of lace curtains, a look of scrutiny on his face, as if he were looking for the perfect panel for some special heart-felt project. A small peek into the lives of others. Much better than Jersey Shore.

In return for the entertainment, i treated my daughter to a Peruvian lunch. A small store front served us an assortment of vegetarian nibbles, capped off with our obligatory flan. The food was yummy and reminded me of the local food when i lived in Panama. The flan… She and i are both serious flan aficionados, so when i say that we were both tempted to lick the plate, you can imagine how good it was.  Close your eyes and envision heaven good. Steal it from your granny good. Liam Neeson’s in my bed good.

Well, maybe not THAT good. But good.

Home again, home again, jiggity jig. More laundry, a cup of tea, and the score from The Hobbit. Sliding doors open to the breeze. The scent of the geranium i bought last week gently wafting thru. Siridog at my side. The knowledge that i will sleep enveloped in fresh sheets tonight. And a news story about a West Point graduate and decorated war veteran who won the right to wear his religiously significant beard and turban while in uniform. As a veteran myself, it makes me proud and happy for my Sikh brother.

Life is grand.

Of course, i’m not this easily pleased every day. I try to be, but sometimes life has other plans. Those days when everything you touch falls, spills, or breaks. When you realize all the bills are due 3 days before payday. When none of your pants will zip and your hair refuses to behave. When your weedling comes home and tells you they are quitting school to become a professional mime. Those days, it’s harder to  stay sunny. So you force yourself to tap dance while singing Candy Man. Sometimes, that is enough to change your luck. Sometimes you have to find an emergency sundae – The kind with full fat ice cream and homemade hot fudge and fresh whipped cream. And some days, you give up, chase a Benadryl with a shot of Jamesons, go to bed, and hope that tomorrow is better.

But today… Today is a good day. No need for the “groovy lemon pie”. Or the sugar fix. Or the booze. I am content. I am satisfied. I am happy.

Tho, now that i think about it, a scoop or two of coconut-almond chunk does sound good…

42

You probably guessed from last week’s post that i am a Science Fiction geek. I am rather proud of that fact. Not because i think it imbues me with false intelligence or makes me somehow even more on the fringe, but rather because i think science fiction often shows the best of humanity, even if it isn’t always via humans.

Star Trek is a good example. Unique cultures are respected and protected. Poverty and hunger are a thing of the past. The single-minded pursuit of “things” is no longer the norm. Efforts are made to accept others in brotherhood and defend them in sisterhood. Pretty damned cool, if you ask me.

Heinlein is another favorite of mine. His vision of the future, without the handicaps of social stigmas or custom barriers, is one that made me hopeful as a weedling. The first time i read Friday, i fell to tears. To discover that uniqueness could be valued, and that the feeling of not fitting in was a creation of our own mind…. How liberating! His discussions of polyamory were, if nothing else, food for thought. And the concept of alternate timelines, à la Richard Bach, was fodder for more than a few sleepless nights of contemplation.

For a while, i was an avid Jack Chalker fan. The idea of complete transformation, when you are 15 and feel like a square peg in a round hole, was something that spoke volumes to me. His books’ strange sexual bent didn’t hurt, either.

The spiritual under- and over-tones to series like Star Wars and The Matrix are not lost on sci-fi geekdom. The concept of good vs. evil and the fluidity and diaphanousness of reality… These are things we can spend days discussing, continually expanding and sharing our viewpoints.

And perhaps that is the best part of the sci-fi community. Yes, we will fight to the death over which was the best Enterprise captain, but when it comes to serious topics, in general, the geek community is forever learning and growing. Continually seeking the answer to life, the universe and everything. And willing to read any author’s, or Joss Whedon’s, latest take on what all this means. This whole “life” thing. Coffee and sunsets and doggie kisses and lilacs. War and famine and cancer and hatred. Stonehenge and Daylight Savings and Andy Warhol and Platypuses. What does it all mean?

Thru the best of science fiction, we can ponder these things. We may not get concrete answers, but we will listen to others and sort thru the information and emotional truths. It helps that often the issue is taken out of human context. After all, humans are illogical and usually not prone to accepting or doing things that would be in their best interest. Without that hominid identity, we are able to flow like cosmic water around the big questions of life. Maybe even come up with some answers. Tho, admittedly, we might change our minds after the next GRRM novel. After all, scientifically speaking, it is singularly unhelpful to close your mind to other possible theories.

There are only two things that none of us has ever been able to understand….

Why do sci-fi aliens always seem to have sex the same way humans do?  And why the hell did anyone approve the creation of Jar-Jar Binks?

 

The Cutting Edge of Fashion

I should probably be writing about Valentine’s Day (Or as i like to call it, “Single Awareness Day”), but screw it. I want to talk about clothes.

Last night, while snuggling under the covers with my ersatz valentine, my SiriDog, i was reading the latest edition of InStyle. And no, i don’t read it for the articles. I like to keep up on the latest fashion, both the couture art and the stuff that people can actually wear. I won’t spend $2K on a dress, but i will use the latest trends to alter something i found at the thrift store. It also is a good way to gauge if i’ll be able to find t-shirts in the colors i like (For those of you unfamiliar, the fashion illluminati gather at the beginning of every season and determine which colors are “in”, and woe to the shopper who wants something in a color that isn’t on that list!) Plus, let’s face it, the couture stuff is sometimes a great source of chuckles. Also to note,  i have a bit more of an interest this year, as i actually can wear clothes to work now.

So anyway, perused the whole thing yesterday. Then checked the websites.  It’s colder than Delores Umbridge’s heart outside, but in the fashion world, it’s springtime. And apparently, this year, that means the seventies are back with a vengeance.

Normally, in any given season, i can depend on my favorite designers to put out, if not something i actually covet, at least clothes that are pleasing. Then, to top off, there are usually a few other labels that hit a mark with me. Shoes, well, i’m picky, so there will be fewer. And maybe one bag strikes my eye.

I in no way imply that i am a fashion icon. Tho my personality is the lovechild of Mae West and Cher, my wardrobe godmothers are Fran Lebowitz and the lesbian poets of the mid 20th century. I like jeans with blazers, tailored slacks, tank dresses in the summer, and tuxes without shirts underneath (Scandalous!). I will never be on the cover of Vogue, even if i looked like Charlize. But i’m ok with that. My style works for me. I’m comfortable in it. It makes me feel pretty and strong and sexy and badass. Isn’t that what clothes are for?  But even tho my style isn’t as common as some, i can still appreciate fashion that i wouldn’t wear, but would look beautiful on the right person. A gingham bikini on a girly-girl with a sweet face is the sexiest thing in the world, even if that girl isn’t me. I can dig it. Aesthetically, it pleases. But i saw very little like that between the pages last night.

Lots of architectural and sculptured creations. Squared collars. Straight lines. Ruffles you could spread pâté with. As a museum piece, quite striking. As clothing, not so much. Who wants to wear a dress that will cut your arse when you sit in it? This isn’t the Victorian era – There is no need for women to suffer for appearances.  Not that i think Valentino should be invoking comfort law and dressing everyone in mu-mus and pajama pants. Structure is nice. Steel beams in my blouse are not.

Another big trend seems to be the reemergence of the 1975 palette. Burnt orange, avocado green, harvest gold, samsonite blue. It’s as if the discovery of skin tone never happened.  Seriously, do you know anyone who looks good in pepto pink?

Jumpsuits. Really? Only for people who never go to the bathroom.

Shoes and bags? Sharp edged, impractical, and not foot or wallet friendly.

Pompoms. On everything. I’m sorry, but i am not an Airstream.

On a positive note, i do like the return of the airy poet’s caftan. More than one designer had them updated in shorter lengths with beautiful watercolor painted fronts. A perfect thing to pack for the beach-side bar and grill or the first pool party of the season. I may even take a bash at making and painting one myself.

Another bright side, the makeup this season is very light and pretty. Hair, other than the couture shows, very wearable. And the coolest part, a lot of the older houses who have been quiet for a while are putting out some great collections. Brooks Brothers is gorgeous this season (Ok, yes, this is the one case where my fashion sense actually matches a fashion house.) Ralph Lauren has some great fresh takes on Americana. Versace has some amazing choices for the bold and unafraid. On the retail end, White House Black Market, Talbots, and H&M are all showing smart, flattering, wearable clothes. So in spite of my discontent with the majority, there is still a lot to choose from.

Granted, in the magazines and on the web, all these clothes are shown on stick figures. Sexless baby dolls pulled to six feet tall a la Stretch Armstrong. Olive Oyl with expensive makeup. Women of modeling perfection. I wish a magazine would take some of the season’s offerings and put them on real women. Show us how those knife-sharp pleats look on a pizza-fed ass. Most women my age can afford an occasional fashion splurge of some sort, so why not help us find one? That Versace tux with the bandeau top that i am salivating over… Let’s see what it looks like on a woman who weighs more than a prize Thanksgiving turkey. The buttery soft WHBM blazer, would it clear the hips? You can’t tell from the ad because the model is too small to have any. There are more full-figured women, and women of that certain age, on the red carpet than ever before, so we can see what those offerings look like on curvy and gravity-tamed bodies. Yes, real women are sometimes rail thin. Yes, real women are sometimes 20 years old. But not most of us. There is a veritable buffet of body types out there. Can we see your couture creations on them?

Hey, there’s a thought! Let’s take one ubiquitous outfit of the season and put that same outfit on a bunch of women: Thin, thick, boyish, curvy, young, old…. Different sizes and colors… And see how it translates. That would be cool! Sociologically interesting and consumer useful. That Battenburg lace Malandrino sheath dress… What does it look like on a woman like me? Or you? Or my Aunt Julie? Or the woman next door? Because none of us looks like Gigi Hadid. Hell, our names weren’t even mentioned in the socialite pages, never mind nominated for model of the year. But we like pretty dresses, too.

Even those of us who wear tuxes.

Sex, Sundries, and Saturday Night

Being single is definitely fun when you’re 20. But when you’re essentially 50, it’s kind of a mixed lot. Most of us at this age are single for a reason, and it usually isn’t a meaningless reason. It is hard to meet people. It’s never a good idea to date coworkers, dating website profiles bear as much truth as your average supermaket tabloid, and the meat market bars… Well, no one wants to buy old meat. The rules have changed from when we first learned to date. Passing flirtatious notes rarely works when they are passed with your license and registration; and it’s hard to pass them under any other circumstance. You run out of places to meet people. Unless you are a flitting socialite, you are reduced to church or affiliations, mass transit, or the grocery. (Incidentally, i once asked advice on how to approach my handsome butcher… You can imagine the suggestions…) It just isn’t the chick-flick or comedy that Hollywood makes it out to be. It’s more like a lame cover of Eleanor Rigby.

I had always hoped that when i got “older” (In quotation marks because the meaning has been somewhat fluid over the years) , i would find a balance. Maybe even find a way to have the best of both worlds. But the older i get, the less i am sure of what the best of both worlds would be. I mean, obviously there are potential partners who don’t care what brand of toothpaste i buy, or get put off if i eat an entire head of roasted garlic while watching a movie. But it is physically impossible to bask in the glow of waking up next to someone without sharing the bed. To be honest, i’m so unused to sharing a bed now, that i can’t do it without staying awake to make sure that i didn’t hog covers, or sprawl, or snore my way to being single again. And how many nights can i stay awake to keep such things in check before i give in to my own fatigue?

For the most part, i accept the fact that i will likely be single from now on. I don’t really miss pulling a man’s tighty-whiteys out of his jeans so i could separate them for the wash. I don’t miss cleaning beard hair out of the sink. I don’t miss having to pow-wow before deciding on dinner. But i DO miss having someone to walk / play cards / watch tv  with after supper. I miss curling up together on the sofa. I miss long, thoughtful, late night discussions. And i miss regular sex (And before you say that you don’t have to be in a couple to have sex, i will point out that for most single people, finding empty sex is easy – especially close to closing time. But finding good and meaningful sex is harder than finding someone who folds the towels the same way you do.)

What would be perfect would be to have someone who only lived with you when you wanted them to, and vice versa. Solidarity when you needed it, and solitude when you needed that. Well, i suppose, really perfect would be to find someone who was exactly everything you liked and lived exactly how you wanted, but i am old enough and wise enough to know that what i like and want isn’t always consistent and would be an impossible role to fill. In any case, both of those things are very selfish.

Yes, i admit it. I am selfish. And my acceptance of this fact is why i have resigned myself to spinsterhood.

Mind you, i have no intention of becoming a dried up old prune who warns younger women of the dangers and evils of men. On the contrary, i intend to be the garishly stylish old broad who flirts indiscriminately and squashes her ducks against the salsa instructor at the Senior Center. I will travel alone to exotic places and have Roman Candle affairs with intriguing gentlemen who admire my chutzpah. I will show my legs and my cleavage until i have to search to find them. I will keep my own hours and sensibilities and habits. And i will throw my head back and laugh at the fact that i worried about being single at 50.

But until then, i will work my way thru this muddle; slightly disappointed at not having found, or been perfection to, someone in the second half of life, and yet slightly proud that i have found comfort in my own skin and with my own self. I will still keep an eye out for someone who makes me swoon, but i won’t lose any sleep when i don’t find them. I will feel pathetic sometimes, and then i will remember what i have had before, and what i have now, with others and with myself, and i will be thankful. I will wake myself snoring, and then remember that no one is complaining. (Thank God/Goddess/Universe that my dog doesn’t speak!) And if i visit the meat market (I will lie and tell myself that it’s just to people-watch), i will not buy anything unless it is well worth the price.

That last paragraph is a whole lot of wishful thinking.

But like most of life, it’s a “fake it til you make it” kind of thing. I will make these affirmations to myself over and over again until i am imbued with them and they become truth. Because realistically, having had both good marriages and bad, i know without a doubt that the one thing worse than being alone and lonely, is being a spouse and being lonely. And my selfish, spinster, sex-i-fied and sex-deprived self says screw that! I can have fun all by myself.

Take that any way you wish.

Cell Phone, Schmell Phone!

Sprint pissed me off. So i fired them. By the next day, i was a swarm of regret as i realized my anger made me rash. But weeks later, i am seeing benefits that i never expected. Kind of like getting lost in the woods and stumbling across a fully loaded blackberry bush. Or being stuck at home alone on a Saturday night and finding there’s a Firefly marathon on free stream. It’s strange how life works sometimes.

My old phone was an iPhone. It was WAY more than what i wanted, but hey, they made it sound essentially free, since the cost was amortized into my monthly bill. All i had to do was keep insurance on it, which also sounded like a good deal. I mean, it covered EVERYTHING! If i dropped it off a park bench and it got chomped by a duck, even… It was covered. I’m a clumsy sort, and on a tight budget to boot, so it seemed like this whole thing was made just for me.

Fast forward 2 years. My contract is finally up, but i am still keeping on the plan. I’ve grown used to it. And my phone. I can do damned near anything except sort my laundry on this phone. It alerts me to everything short of Brangelina’s next adoption. I have shopping apps, crochet apps, cooking apps, coupon apps, quote apps, driving apps, music apps, fashion apps, meditation apps, translation apps, diagnoses apps, and puzzle apps. But the phone was old in techno-years. It was getting slower. It ran hotter. And it developed a frustrating habit of stopping processes before i was finished. I knew it was only a matter of time.

One afternoon, i was trying to post on social media. After half a dozen tries resulting in “Oops! There appears to be a problem connecting” messages, my phone accidentally, but somehow forcefully, flew out of my hands, across the room, and into  a door jamb, where it suffered a rather profound joint fracture.  I picked it up in horror, gathered the little plastic eyeball thing-y that my phone had vomited upon impact, and cursed my bad temper. Thank God for insurance.

The next day, i bring my phone to the Sprint store. I wait the obligatory hour to be seen. The girl at the counter tells me she is pretty sure there is no resurrecting my phone, but they can try. I will just have to pay the copay. But what about a replacement, she asks? Good news! My insurance covers replacement. So she tells me what my choices are for replacement. I tell her i will take whatever is free. She tells me all the ones i’ve selected are free. Again, i just have to pay the copay.

“How much is that?”

“$200.”

“Wait?!?! What?!?!? That isn’t free! How about we just try to repair it?”

“Ok. That is $200.”

“WHAT?!?!?! ARE YOU TELLING ME THAT I’VE BEEN PAYING INSURANCE TO YOU PEOPLE FOR TWO YEARS, AND I STILL GET CHARGED $200 FOR IT TO BE FIXED?”

“Yes, Ma’am. It would be $600 without the insurance.”

“Um, i know you have no control over this policy. And i appreciate your time. But since my contract is up, i am done here. I’d like to cancel my account.”

“Oh, we can’t do that here. You have to do that online.”

(At this point, i am afraid of what will come out of my mouth. I know it isn’t the clerk’s fault, and i don’t want to take it out on her, so i just nod my head and leave.)

On my way home, i stop at Walmart and get a StraightTalk phone. I pick one that will do what i need and won’t break my bank. Then i return home and sign up for service. The first thing i notice is that i have cut my phone bill nearly in half. The second thing i notice is that my phone is a real pain in the ass to operate. It has none of the frillies that i had grown accustomed to. There is no voice-to-text. I can’t set individual text tones. The keyboard is set up a bit differently. The screen isn’t quite as big. The battery doesn’t last nearly as long. And the camera picture quality is on par with one made by a toy company.

Well, shit.

I think long and hard on this. Make a plus-and-minus sheet which comes to the conclusion that i can swallow my pride and go back to the frillies, or i can save money, make do, and maybe upgrade later to a better phone. Since i’ve never developed a taste for my pride, i opted to stick it out with the lame phone.

Fast forward to now. I still don’t like typing on this phone. As a result, i spend far less time on my phone than i have in years. I am reading more. (Oh, how i love an actual paper-and-print book!) I am doing more around the apartment. And i made 29 Christmas gifts this year. 29! Hours and hours of crochet. Granted, most were not big things, but still! What an accomplishment for me!  I believe whole-heartedly that, had i opted to stay with the fancy phone, i’d have spent a lot of my time playing with it instead of creating things for myself and others.

Don’t get me wrong, there have been times when i can’t make this phone behave, and it has come perilously close to being accidentally on-purpose sent to the same fate as its predecessor. After all, there is no way to sync your temper to your old phone. But i am getting more and more used to the way it used to be. You know, before my phone did everything but make breakfast. And i am happy that i am getting more done. Happy that i am not as tempted to text while driving (Because there is no flipping voice-to-text). Happy that i’m saving a chunk of cash on monthly service. In general, just happier.

I still spend too much time on technology. But i suppose we’ve all gotten into the habit of using our tech to excess. I am far from a Luddite, but i am glad to be on my way to a better balance. Less interface, more face-to-face. Less Words With Friends, more chess with my son. Spend some time making all those projects i pin on Pinterest. Maybe even visit some of those places i visit on Wikipedia.

Then, afterwards, i can log on and have some REALLY good stuff to write about on here.

 

Matthew 11:28

I don’t personally, to my knowledge, know any terrorists.  The closest thing i have in my address book are a few friends who are, as the expression goes, “proudly redneck.” But i do have friends and acquaintances from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Israel, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, India, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, and a host of other countries that are far less politically flammable. None of them has ever given even the slightest hint of being a terrorist. Even the Moroccans next door- They may be complete schmukeroons, but they are unlikely to be terrorists (They are so loud, nothing about them is a secret.) If any of them, even the neighbors,  needed a place to rest their head, i would gladly open my door. Without hesitation. Them or their family. It’s the right thing to do for people in need.

This time of year, the story of Mary and Joseph is front and center. Inn after inn turning them away. Mary, on the edge of giving birth, and no one will give them rest. No room. No room at the inn. You can’t stay here. No can do. Keep on walking and take your ass with you.

So Mary gives birth to Jesus in a barn. (It wouldn’t surprise me if the animals in residence curled up close, as many animals are wont to do when they see a baby of any kind in need.) In the beautiful Christmas stories, Mary and Joseph make do and go on with the tasks at hand, without further thought of the innkeepers. But i am willing to bet that they were pissed. And sad. For their own situation, the pitiful start of their beloved son, and the state of mankind itself.  What kind of people turn away a near-term pregnant woman on a cold night? Even in the womb, Jesus must have been shaking his wee head and saying, “No wonder God is sending me!”

We hear the story of Mary and Joseph every year. Lets face it, Christian or not, at least in the U.S., you know how the story goes. It’s part of the reason we are kinder and more thoughtful this time of year.

Theoretically.

But we’ve become terribly hardened and paranoid. The unconscionable attacks on innocents by terrorists, which seem to be on the rise, have us all on the edge of our seats as if we’re watching someone crank the handle on a jack-in-the-box. It’s coming. We know it is. Those fanatics are everywhere and they are out to get us all. Those crazies, with their brown skin and head wraps and accents. Evil. The whole lot of them.  The entire brown population. Up to no good. Because, you know, none of them are average Joes, just trying to make ends meet. None of them go home and read bedtime stories to their kids. None of them are afraid. None of them are human.

So now we have a bunch of refugees clamoring to get into our country. Normally, we’d show off the Statue of Liberty and all her virtues and principles. We’d welcome them. Start charities to help them get on their feet. Help take care of their children. Just like we have refugees of times past. Sure, they’d face some discrimination because, you know, we’re human and all. But we’d help them. These refugees, however, we won’t help. Because they’re brown. Ergo, they aren’t human. So much for our principles.

Nope. No room. No room at the inn. You can’t stay here. Keep on moving and take your camel with you.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m afraid of the crazies just as much as everyone else. ISIS, ISIL, the KKK, the neo-nazis, Westboro Baptist Church, and Tom Cruise all terrify me. But i realize that the crazies are far fewer in number than the average Joes. I also realize that i can’t hold all brown people accountable for the actions of ISIS any more than i can hold all Christians accountable for the Westboro Baptist Church. It’s unfair, and it makes life far less interesting for all.

So, how do we embrace our humanity and find room at the inn without being foolish and unsafe? I don’t think we should be Motel 6 and leave the light on for just anyone. We have a decent refugee screening process, so that helps.  Maybe we should just have them stay in the barn. You know, like the badlands in North Dakota or something. (No, i’m not serious.) (But it’s better than turning them away.) (So maybe i am. ) (A little.) (If i was certain it wouldn’t become a prison.) (But i’m not.)

To be truthful, i don’t have a real answer. All i have is a feeling deep in my heart that it goes against everything this country stands for, everything my Christian friends profess, and everything humane to refuse to help refugees. People need our help. They are as afraid of the crazies as we are. They are also afraid of the people who are also afraid of the crazies. Us. I don’t blame them. I am afraid of us too. But i refuse to let my fear get the best of me.

Come in. It’s cold out. Let me get you some tea. And a blanket. You can stay here. Bring the goat. I will give you rest.