Squirrels are jerks.


The chatter came from above, it wasn’t the normal squirrel dispute.  This was louder.  I don’t speak squirrel,  so I wasn’t able to translate.  I could tell they were panicked.   The warmth and fluff I felt at my feet let me know Betty was not involved, I was pleased with her show of restraint.  It doesn’t happen often, she’s normally the first to fight.  She gets that from me; apparently we’re both working to temper our impulsive nature.

I peered up to where the noise was coming from.  Squirrels move a lot, so it took a while to determine the location of the thing that triggered the melee.  They jumped, they squeaked, and they avoided a branch on the avocado tree.  It was where they weren’t going that was telling. There, basking in the hot Florida sun, was a small iguana.  He was a beautiful shade of chartreuse, and he knew it.

He moved slowly, robotically.  The size of the talons at the ends of his legs looked very large as he inched toward the open air and the conclusion of the thinning branch.  He was gingerly keeping his grip, even though it looked awkward.  The branch bounced wildly.  The movement wasn’t due to the tension of the added lizard weight, but the angry squirrel who bounced in protest near the protection of the trunk.  The iguana didn’t seem bothered.  I quietly admired his self control as I watched from below.  Betty did too, it seemed that she’d momentarily surrendered her position as backyard bouncer to join me in observing what would happen next.

The absence of yipping and growling was replaced by another loud, startling noise.  “Mom! Can you type in really cool, offroad truck driving games?” The boy was standing behind me.  I was so focused on the episode of Wild Kingdom unfolding in front of me that I hadn’t heard him open the sliding glass door when he exited the house.  I turned to him, trying to restore the quiet.  His attention was focused on his tablet.  Oversized green headphones were wrapped around his ears, he was unaware that he was yelling. “Can I have a juicebox and popcorn?” he bellowed, I thought for sure his voice would disrupt the creatures and their aerial turf war.

I gently lifted the speaker away from the side of his head,  “Look buddy, look in the tree,” I whispered.  

Whispering, like yawning, is a contagious human behavior.  I don’t really know why.  He removed his eyes from the glowing screen, and the Youtube video playing upon it.

Focusing on the tree he scanned the branches, “Why are we whispering?” he said quietly.  I held in a giggle.  This is normally the question that ends a hushed conversation, when there’s no reason for it.

“We’re whispering because we don’t want to startle the lizard,” I explained while diverting his eyes with my pointed index finger, and outstretched arm.  “Oh, it’s Godzillard,”  My brain, for a split second, pictured the head of Willard Scott on the body of a reptile.  Yes, the visual is as disturbing as it sounds.  “Godzilla,” I corrected.  “No, Godzilla is the big, dark one that lives on the telephone poll.  That’s Godzillard,” he corrected back, making sure to emphasize the “D” at the end.  “Why are we watching him? Can I have popcorn now?”

I wasn’t aware that we had more than one very large lizard patrolling our yard, and although I might have chosen different names, I was thankful for his observations.  I’m not exactly fearful of them, I just don’t want anything to do with them.

“I want to see what happens, he’s having issues with the squirrels.  Do you think he’ll jump in the pool to get away from them?” I was invested in watching this, I wasn’t going in the house.

“Shouldn’t we stop the squirrels?  It looks like they’re picking on him,” he’s very concerned with bullying these days.  “We don’t get involved when animals have disagreements, bud,” I explained.  “Yes we do, you have to stop Betty from trying to eat the kittens all the time.”

“Betty isn’t trying to eat the kittens,  she just doesn’t appreciate their presence.  Those animals live in our house, they have to get along.”

“Is it because they steal her toys?”

“Probably.”

“I’ll have to talk to them about that.  These animals live in our yard, though.  Doesn’t that make them ours?  Why aren’t we supposed to stop them?”

“Godzillard isn’t coming in the house, if that’s what you’re getting at.  No, we aren’t supposed to stop them.  They’re wild animals, and if we get involved they won’t be wild anymore.”

He looked at me suspiciously, “It’s something I heard on Animal Planet.” Thankfully, this seemed to be a good enough source for him.

This was quite possibly the longest conversation I’d ever had while whispering.  As the boy, Betty, and I chatted…the squirrels became more brazen.  The most vocal of the group started to advance down the branch towards the iguana.  I don’t think squirrels are capable of much thought, but this one seemed to question whether it’s actions were a good idea.  It would retreat back to the trunk, then hop down the branch again, with every trip it got a little bit closer.  Godzillard did not react, he continued to calmly hold on while the branch bounced beneath him.

I had almost resigned myself to the idea that we had spent a very long time watching absolutely nothing when it happened, the squirrel had invaded Godzillard’s personal space for the last time.  This time possibly touching him with it’s grubby little paw.  Without even turning his head, he whipped his long, lime green tail in the air.  The boy cheered, as his tail collided with the side of the furry being, launching it out of the tree.  “Take that, squirrelface!”

Apparently, we were all on team lizard.  Betty stopped watching him and bounded into the yard to inspect the point of impact.  I imagine she was disappointed to discover that this was not her chance to further make an example out of one of them for their endless taunting and chatter.  It’s ego might have been damaged, but it hurried back up into the canopy to avoid being a chewtoy.

Godzillard turned around and made his way back through the tree without further incident.  He was only passing through, he meant them no harm.

“See, they worked it out on their own,” I said confidently, pretending that I had any idea on how this confrontation might end.  I contemplated which life lesson I would parlay this into. I don’t know, I always have to have a lesson.  It’s an annoying thing I do.

“Yeah, squirrels are jerks.  I didn’t know that a lizard could play baseball, and..I don’t think I want to try to catch them anymore.”

I decided his take on the situation was sufficient.  There wasn’t anything more I could add, we retreated into the house having had enough nature for the day.

I’ll never be a Sock Monkey, and I’m okay with that


There’s this stuff that pops up in my newsfeed all the time, it’s the same story, written by six different news outlets.  Sometimes the information is life altering, and I can understand why it’s getting so much attention…but most of the time it’s really not.

Last week I couldn’t get away from the dog that takes the bus to the dog park.  She was everywhere.  I bet she’s buckled from the pressure of being in the limelight, and now takes herself to regular appointments with her therapist.  I get it, it’s a dog…there’s a bus,  enough already.

The thing that keeps being shoved in my face, this week, is the woman that’s giving Bratz Dolls radical makeunders.  She’s an artist or something,  her idea was to remove the copious amounts of plastic cosmetics from the faces of these playthings, and then repaint them to look more natural.  That, in and of itself, I thought was a pretty neat idea.  It’s been done before with Barbie, but it was interesting to see it…again…I guess.

The neat factor quickly wore off when I started to read the comments.  Comments will do that to you. People were getting really heated about these dolls and the message they think they send to girls.  They were harping on their clothing.  I believe the general consensus was that these dolls are packaged to look like little strippers.  I kept myself from commenting.   No need to be attacked by a stranger for pointing out that strippers and over application of makeup has been around since before the days of Holly Hobbie.  Yep, people will argue about anything…just a bunch of adults yelling at other adults…about toys.

Now, to be fair, the genetic lottery did not award me with a female human…so, I’m not exactly in the struggle.  I have a son, my living room floor is covered in a layer of plastic superheroes with impressive pectoral muscles.  I have never once stopped to wonder if Spiderman’s washboard abs are negatively effecting his psyche.  I’m not publishing the letters I’ve written to Mattel demanding that they introduce an action figure with a receding hairline and love handles.    This is an area of his life that I’m okay with not over-thinking…because they’re toys, people.  They’re used for play and fantasy.

I know it’s hard to believe but I, at one point in time, was a little girl.  I may not have been the most feminine of womanlings, I didn’t really play with Barbie’s…unless you count cutting off all of their hair…and melting their faces with a magnifying glass as play.  But that’s not the point.  It never crossed my mind that the thing I was destroying had an unattainable physique.  Not once.  I never felt inferior to a hunk of plastic and cried myself to sleep knowing I would never look like her.  Any ill-feelings I had about my body came long after I stopped playing with dolls.

It’s highly unlikely that your daughter is thinking about the fact that she might not grow up to resemble her doll, unless you’ve said that to her…which is kind of a douche move.  If you have pointed this out to her, I hope you also gave her a complete list of things she will not grow up to resemble: Buicks, waffle irons, lamp posts…just to name a few.   While you’re arguing the very adult topics of sexuality and objectification keep in mind your daughter is probably thinking, “I want to play with something brightly colored and sparkly, and it might be a bonus if the thing that is brightly colored and sparkly has a face.”

It just seems to me that this is a thing manufactured by adults that need something to argue about.

I grew up in the 80’s, when we wax nostalgic about this particular period in time we bring up the big hair and hideous clothing.  It was the decade of excess…and orphans…lot’s of orphans.  Sometimes they sang,  sometimes they grew in cabbage patches, sometimes they wore mismatched clothes, sometimes they were adopted by old white men of varying income levels, but they were all somehow abandoned by their parents for entertainment purposes.

No one worried ad nauseum that I would grow up to develop severe separation anxiety and a sceptical outlook on produce. I’m not the most well adjusted woman on the planet, but I can’t blame that on anything I played with.

It irritates me that people assume little girls are this impressionable,  the argument as a whole is ludicrous.  It’s rooted in feminism, sort of, but it really makes women sound stupid. Like we’re incapable of thinking and reasoning.

Not one female I know ever expressed interest in voluntarily becoming a quadriplegic, because they were gifted a sock monkey at a tender age.  “I just want to flop around like Mr. Pickles,” wasn’t a slumber party confession.

When I see a little girl dragging around a teddy bear, I don’t feel overcome by concerns.  There’s no wondering if she’ll grow up, wander into the woods only to get her throat ripped open by a 500 pound Grizzly, because she was trying to put a t-shirt on it and get it to take a nap.

Why is it we can trust that a girl is smart enough to work through unrealistic ideas about the congeniality of woodland creatures, but we suggest she isn’t smart enough to figure out the truth about a doll?

So what if she plays with a toy that slightly resembles your slutty neighbor, Carol.  You’ve got more important things to worry about and fight for.

This space for rent.


“I think it would be fun to live in your head for a day,” the cell phone connection was poor…but I clearly heard these words. I tried to pretend I didn’t…I’m not a very good liar. I’ve heard them before, I’ll hear them again. It’s nothing new. I don’t see it as a compliment, but it isn’t an insult either. It just is. For the record, even if there was a way you could get a Groupon for a discounted daily brain rental…you wouldn’t like it in there.

When I was younger I got used to hearing that I was weird. Now that I’m older, people tell me I’m “brilliant” or I have a “beautiful mind”. It’s nicer, but it basically means the same thing. I’m different. I know. There’s a reason for the way I am.

I’m autistic.

This isn’t the part where you drop a bunch of toothpicks on the floor and see how long it takes me to accurately count them. Count your own toothpicks…you wasteful, lazy bastards.

I don’t feel brilliant or beautifully minded. I’m not writing this because I want people to reassure or compliment me. Aside from being painfully awkward, it wouldn’t matter what you said or how many exclamation points you used…I wouldn’t believe you.

While you praise me for thinking outside the box, I envy you for being able to hold a job…budget effectively…and muddle through the paperwork or other unpleasantries of being an adult human. It’s not that I won’t do it, it’s that I can’t. Grass…greener…you know.

It doesn’t matter what you say or how you say it. It doesn’t matter how logical it is to you. It doesn’t matter how right you think you are. While you’re standing on your soapbox, telling me how to fix myself, frustrated that I don’t leap into action and follow your instructions…I’ve already devised 6 ways to incinerate you and your box.

I’m not like you.

Even if I wanted to be like you, there’s no way I could effectively carry on the charade.

You don’t make any sense to me.

I know that the way I react or interact isn’t normal. I’m just normal enough to fly under the radar. I accepted fairly early on that I would never fit in, so I did my best not to stick out. That took years of practice, years of creating my own coping mechanisms. There was no diagnosis when I was child. I was just labeled hard headed and stupid (thanks, Mrs. Davis).

It’s exhausting and I’m ready to stop doing that now.

When my son was born, I prayed that he’d be healthy and happy…and absolutely nothing like me. My prayers went unanswered in some respects…he’s just like me…and it’s heartbreaking. I didn’t want this for him, having lived it…I know what it’s like.

He got my hair, he got my eyes, he got my smile, and he got my Asperger’s Syndrome. Awesome.

I don’t want this for him. I don’t want him to have to know that with every new friend he makes, he can be certain that he will be asked, “Where do you come up with this stuff?” when he says something that’s a little odd.

I don’t want him to have to figure out a way to explain why he doesn’t like movies, or strawberries, or sweet potatoes, or bananas…for the rest of his natural life.

I don’t want him to slyly have to excuse himself when someone is cutting an orange…as he knows the smell will make him violently ill.

I don’t want him to have to fear that announcing things like, “music makes me see colors” will make him sound crazy. Jackson Browne, incidentally, makes me see a beautiful shade of periwinkle. Amy Winehouse makes me see black and grey. In all honestly, that part is pretty cool, but no one will understand…no one ever does. Eventually, you learn to suffer or rejoice in silence.

I don’t want to have to have the conversation with him about how to protect himself from absorbing the pain of a stranger…how to ignore emotional static…or how to keep himself from bringing home stray dogs or people.

I don’t want him to have to explain that his senses are different…and they will sometimes torture him…and there aren’t enough words to accurately describe the misery or the joy.

I don’t always get what I want, but I see music…and you don’t…so we’re even.

Life on the spectrum.


It’s just a magnetic picture frame, a memento from summer camp. The brightly colored foam sun and flip-flop stickers that encircle the smiling child in the photo are barely noticeable…but only if you know the boy.

His golden locks are not so curly or so golden anymore. You can tell that he’d been outside playing in the oppressive June heat; the strands of hair, stuck to the sides of his face with sweat are a dead giveaway. Souvenir fruit punch stains on his shirt commemorate a lunch well eaten.

I know many a mother that would not display this picture so proudly, but I’m not them. Not anywhere close. The photo, and everything that comes along with it are a milestone worthy of a tickertape parade, it signifies his return.

It’s one of the only pictures I have of him from the last few years…where he’s looking at the camera.

Had I been paying more attention, I might have been able to see what was going on. Looking back, it started at around the age of three. He’s always been advanced…even when it came to developing Asperger’s Syndrome.

I can still hear his tiny voice calling out the name of every car on the road from the backseat of my Honda. “Wook, Mombo! It’s a Cadilwac Escawade!!!” His excitement was contagious. I didn’t realize his obsession was a sign.

At four, when I pushed him forcefully into the preschool shark tank… I was not the least concerned when I was called in to discuss his educational growth. I didn’t send him there to secure a slot in Harvard. I sent him there to eat paste and meet other kids.

He was always surrounded by adults, and as much as I enjoyed communicating with my little professor…I knew how important a peer group was. When he came home and told me that his teacher was stupid, I believed him…because she was.

My kid was smart. They were trying to tell me he wasn’t. There aren’t many children, at the tender age of four that have successfully figured out a way to prank their parents. “STOP THE CAR! We’re gonna get hit! Wook OUT!” As I’d slam on my brakes he’d giggle, very satisfied with himself, knowing that his mother would not punish random acts of hilarity.

Five was marked by his father’s skull surgery and his mother ending a very unhealthy relationship.

Six was filled with cancer (x 3).

I wasn’t sure if the circumstances that life was throwing at him had changed him…or it was something else. I was terrified to know the answers, but I couldn’t just sit back and allow him to disappear. He’d stopped making eye contact. He spoke, but he grunted a lot. He began to lose skills he’d mastered. He’d get lost in his video games. His spark had faded.

There were no happy moments. Getting him to do anything took an Act of Congress, and his mother standing over him screaming until her eyes bulged.

He refused to leave the house. Failed interactions with neighborhood kids usually left him crumpled in a corner like a pile of dirty clothes. All he would talk about was Minecraft.

I tried to get him help his Kindergarten year. I went to the school. I took him to the Pediatrician. I did the meetings. I asked politely. I was ignored. It was suggested he was going through a phase…and he’d get better.

He did not getter better. There was no snapping him out of it.

If it were not for the help of a wonderful Occupational Therapist and First Grade Teacher, we’d still have no idea what was going on. They helped me understand. They helped me see his deficiencies, which are many. They told me what “Sensory Issues” are…and why my son screams bloody murder every time I bathe him, brush his hair, or bring out the toothbrush. They assured me that I didn’t cause this by eating that tuna sub or having that cup of coffee when I was pregnant.

When I was a kid, we called these things “Get in the goddamned shower and/or stand still so I can brush your goddamned hair”.

His psychological reports were confusing. There were a lot of letters… ASD, ADHD, LMNOP…whatever. This only added to my anger and frustration, why couldn’t anyone tell me what this was in plain English?

In retrospect, this anger fuel was a good thing. It sent me into the school with a hired gun called a “children’s advocate” …she didn’t do anything either…until I threatened to fire her and possibly ruin her professionally. I don’t know, when I get mad I don’t remember exactly what comes out of my mouth and what stays in my head. Ok, that’s not true. I totally remember what I said, but that’s another blog for another day. I’d had enough of the run around.

Now that we know, it doesn’t get any easier. The Autism Spectrum is a very confusing glow to bask in. It’s not a disease with very specific symptoms. There is no magic elixir that cures it. When your child is diagnosed as “Spectrumy” you find yourself in the company of highly educated people who basically tell you, “Shit. I don’t know…let’s try this,” and then they charge you $400.00. These doctors don’t accept insurance…I’m guessing because so much of this is trial and error…and they get tired of having to fight with insurance companies to get paid. M.D.’s gotta eat too.

We’ve pulled him out of public school and put him in an environment that is more soothing. He has two teachers and a dedicated aide. He’s made amazing changes. He has friends. He’s speaking in full sentences again. He’s looking at me. He’s reading. Even with all these changes he still can’t focus. When the doctors, therapists, and teachers all gently nudged us towards medication…again…we had no choice but to agree. I know what it’s like not to be able to focus. It’s torture. Life is hard enough without having to fight with your brain.

This morning, as I had to pin my baby down on the couch and force medicine in his mouth, while he screamed, “Why are you doing this to me?” all I could do was hope they know what they’re talking about.

Things better left unsaid.


She slowly pulled her car up around the circular driveway. The morning sun and dew made everything look like it was covered in a moist, sugary glaze of happiness. Women in workout clothes whizzed past her, rushing children wearing bookbags that covered most of their tiny bodies. As the passenger side rear door opened, she heard an exceptionally perky voice, “Hi, Mom! How are you today?”

She hated it when people that were not her child called her “Mom”. Especially when those people were happy, well-dressed, adult morning people. “Fine, and you?” she managed to say without clenching her teeth, she even surprised herself by how pleasant she sounded.

She never uses the word “fine”. There are so many wonderful words…why use the exceptionally boring ones?

Fine, you see, is kind of like the adult diaper of the English language. It encompasses all of the shitty emotions no one wants to admit to…while being discreet.

She wasn’t fine.

Had she answered honestly, she might have said tired, shitty, and/or guilt-ridden. But, as she was currently sitting on school property…she decided not to divulge such things.

Her son hopped out of the car and skipped happily to his classroom, unaware of the turf war going on in his troubled mother’s head. At seven, he does not need to be aware that life is not always untroubled.

She drove off, watching him…in her rearview mirror. She wanted to turn around…pick him up in her arms…and never let him go. Tears welled up in her eyes as she wished for rain…so no one would know she was crying.

If it hadn’t been for that fucking rooster…she might have gotten a decent night’s sleep. She might have been able to pull herself together. She might not have had to go out in public still wearing her jammies.

The rooster had become public enemy number one.

She could comfortably place all of her anger on that asshole bird. The 4 a.m. screeching that came from the neighbor’s yard was not the “cock-a-doodle-doo” she remembered singing about while in kindergarten. No, this sounded like Ted Nugent having drunken, consensual sex with a woodchipper. Eee-I-Eee-I-Oh.

Yes, it’s all the rooster’s fault. The rooster is still alive. The rooster could be held accountable.

Life was placed on an angry, rooster-shaming pause a few days ago.

The date was Sunday, September 7, 2014.

Sunday started off as a very pleasant day. It didn’t stay that way, in fact…it became one of the most unpleasant days she’d had in a year.

When he came in the house his expression was more sorrowful than a bad day of golfing could cause. The child was within earshot, so she didn’t want to probe…but she knew something was wrong.

Nothing could have prepared her for the news she was about to receive. “Chris killed himself last night,” came tumbling, inconsolably. Instantly, she felt helpless..

He could not mask the tears. She gasped, not for dramatic effect…but because she felt like the wind had been knocked out of her.

“What?” The word dribbled out of her lips, like mushroom gravy…trying to escape meatloaf.

Friday, at 1:30, his friends and family will gather to watch as he is placed in a box…dirt is thrown on him… and he goes into the ground.

“Fuck you, Chris. Why did you do this to us? One man, one gun, one bullet…instantaneously ripped out the heart of everyone that loved you. There will be no touching tribute by Billy Crystal. No videos proving that you were a good person,” she yelled at the sky…in vain.

We’ll just be a group of people…sadly standing around…cursing Chris for making us evaluate ourselves.

Although she was highly aware of the stages of grief, she chastised herself for being stuck in anger. Her anger, that could not be placed on the rooster…surfaced after everyone was in bed.

Suicide is often the finale in a series of unanswered cries for help.

She could have helped you. Why didn’t you let her help you?

Hands.


I sat in the living room, the babble of the television filling the space. I wasn’t really listening. I watched her chest, making sure it was rising and falling as it should. Her hands were folded softly on her lap as she slept.

“You’ve got a huge decision to make,” some overly coiffed handy-man said from the screen. Immediately I was filled with anger. That happens a lot. The anger, it’s my least favorite emotion. I suppose it’s necessary.   The people on the T.V., their huge decision: picking out drapes.  My huge decision: I may have to pick out a dress for my mother to be buried in.

I haven’t allowed myself to fully accept that there is a very real possibility that I may lose my mother until this week. It’s debilitating. I really haven’t been myself. The waves of nausea that come and go as they please make it difficult to concentrate.

This isn’t fair.

Tears welled in my eyes, making everything look like a watery kaleidoscope. I cursed myself.  All I wanted to do was look at my beautiful, sleeping mother through clear eyes.  I was trying to mentally photograph her and my body was sabotaging me.

I wanted to look at her hands.

Her favorite story to tell me is how she knew she was having a girl.  I was born before a time when expectant mothers had sonograms.  And way before a time when expectant mothers had 3-D sonograms at baby showers.  Stop it, you weirdos. It’s creepy.  It’s like looking at a vacuum bagged frog. Really.

She’d look at me lovingly and say, “Your brothers bounced around in there like they were playing basketball; you played the harp.” She’d flutter her fingers to demonstrate my in utero musical skills.  “Your Grandma Carpenter was really worried about me” she’d always pause to laugh.  “I was so sick of blue, I told her I wasn’t bringing home another boy!”

“Then we brought you home, in a lace dress so stiff you couldn’t move.  And we looked at your hands,”  If my father is in the room when the story is being told, she will always turn to him and say, “Joe, remember how beautiful her hands were? How long her fingers were?”

My mother has beautiful hands too.  They are soft and full of love, I am not ready to let them go.

She is little. She is mighty. She is stupid.


“Hi, I’d like to make an appointment to get my dog groomed.”

“I’m sorry, what?” The voice on the other end sounded annoyed.

I repeated myself. This time she heard me.

“Please hold,” the woman said tersely.

“I don’t think I like this broad’s attitude,” I mumbled to Betty.  As I sat on hold I wondered what other people said when they called there.  Even if she didn’t hear me, there’s probably a 90% chance that most of the people that call are asking to get their dog cleaned.

It is after all…a dog grooming place.  Linda’s Classy Canines or something.  The name of the establishment isn’t the slightest bit misleading. I didn’t call there under the assumption that they were going prepare my taxes or refinish my kitchen cabinets.  “If they’re gonna be rude we can take our business elsewhere,”  Betty didn’t seem to care.

It’s not like there are a lot of words in the English language that sound like “appointment”.  Sure, maybe “anointment”…but Linda isn’t the high priestess of clean dog butts. I was really reading too far into what the tone of her voice meant.

Maybe I’m doing it wrong?  Maybe there’s some kind of lingo I’m supposed to be using?  I’m not so good at industry inspeak. Should I have asked her to pimp my puppy?  Did I just expose myself as some kind of fledgling nuevo-yuppie?  I’m not used to paying for services I should do myself.

I realized I had been on hold for a very long time after that last thought barreled through my brain.  My phone tallied my call time as 5:15.  But, I call bullshit.  It was way longer.

I ended the call, thoroughly convinced that Linda has abandoned us and I have issues with asking for help.  Betty was asleep on the pile of dirty clothes in the living room, blissfully unaware that the state of her fur is causing me such inner-turmoil.

I come from a long line of dog lovers.  It pains me to see her go from Betty White to Betty Bathwater Grey with Black Spots.  I know I must stop the metamorphosis before she goes full on Barry White.

I come from a long line of Do-it-yourself-ers.  It pains me to know I am paying someone to do something I can do myself.  I’m the same way when it comes to oil changes, lawn maintenance, and cleaning people.  If I can do it myself, I should. My brain can’t grab hold of the concept.

I come from a long line of people that do not like to be bitten by little, fluffy dogs.  It pains me…to uh, be in pain. Therein lies the problem.  She never breaks the skin, but she makes it clear that she is displeased.  No one likes to be growled at through the whole lathering process or given the silent treatment.

I may not have said this in so many words before, but Betty isn’t exactly a Rhodes Scholar and she’s…an asshole.  She’s the only dog I’ve ever owned that has her own slogan, “She is little. She is mighty. She is stupid.”  What she lacks in brains, she makes up for in cute.  She’s very, very cute. Like, seriously…she might be the cutest dog on the planet.

Image

See?

It’s taken me a while to come to terms with this.  I used to defend her zest for life, now I find myself apologizing for it.  She’s not extra zesty, she’s a jerk.  Our last walk confirms this.  First, on the way downstairs she walked into the neighbors apartment and barked at her.  After that she picked a fight with a dog twice her size.  When I’d finally had enough of her crap, we came back upstairs and she proceeded to shit on the floor while making eye contact with me.  Who does that? The size of the chip she’s got on her shoulder should crush her tiny frame.  Kanye West probably would have been a much better name for her.

You really don’t have to do anything to become the target of her ire, you basically just have to be a creature that doesn’t reside with her and be within barking distance.  Dogs, cats, ducks, squirrels, alligators…they all trigger an eruption of aggression.  She snorts and paws at the ground, raucous yipping quickly follows.  Whatever she’s barking at is initially stunned, but that doesn’t last long…I imagine it’s a lot like being yelled at by disgruntled, tumbling bag of cotton balls.

Since she is such a problem child, I was apprehensive about taking her to the groomers.  But, we took her anyway.  Surprisingly when we picked her up, she was very clean…and also not dead.  Why is that surprising? Well, she’s my dog…and there are times when I’ve wanted to strangle her during a bath.  They didn’t utter the words, “Don’t come back.” In fact, they said she was “Hilarious”.  I’ve never found having something angrily gnaw on my pinky to be the least bit humorous, but to each their own.

“Let’s face it Betty, Linda…or whatever her name is…is our only hope!  Everyone else thinks you’re obnoxious,” I said as she provided a chorus of sleepy puppy sounds. I put my tail between my legs and called back. This time Linda wasn’t such a bitch, so I didn’t say anything about being left on hold long enough to question my ability to be an effective human being.  It’s a small price to pay for a fabulous looking and undead dog.

It is what it isn’t.


Shut off the alarm.  Get out of bed. Get lunch made.  Wake up the boy. Get him chocolate milk.  Feel his forehead, make sure he isn’t warm.  Pull him out of bed.  My mother has cancer.

Search in vain for a matching pair of socks.  Curse myself for not putting the laundry away.  Find two socks that are similar from the ankle up.  Ask him to remove the underwear from his head.  My mother has cancer.

Say, “No. You can’t stay home with mommy, you’re going to school,” for the eighth time in seven minutes.  He’s going to be late.  Hugs and kisses. “Have a wonderful day and try your very hardest”.  Watch him skip away as I remind him he’s my favorite everything.  My mother has cancer.

Sit down to write.  Write something happy and upbeat.  Delete it.  It’s bullshit anyway.  Wonder how my brother’s chemo is going.  Tell myself not to think about cancer.

Call my mother. Talk about cancer.  Ask about radiation.  Try not to cry.  Listen to her cry.  Say something funny.  Feel helpless.  Hang up.  Cry.

Compose myself.  Decide it’s time to do laundry.  Remove Betty from laundry pile, where she is using my favorite pants as a pillow.  Betty helps sort the lights and darks. I ask her to remove the underwear from her mouth.  My mother has cancer.

Check the peephole.  Wait until the neighbor is out of the hallway. It’s so difficult to form a sentence these days. My words are at a premium, I can’t afford to waste them on small talk.  I still look like I’ve been crying; I don’t want to have to explain my mother has cancer.

“Oh geeze I’m sorry…I didn’t realize it was your mom. I thought you said your brother or aunt has cancer”

“I did.”

“So, wait…what?”

“I did.”

“Your brother?”

“And my aunt and my mother…”

“Wow.”

“Yep.”

Wait a bit longer for good measure.  Run into the neighbor anyway.  I decide I’d make a very bad ninja.  She hugs me, tells me I look terrible.  I laugh.

I do look terrible.  I’m glad she’s honest.  She doesn’t understand what this is like.  She doesn’t pretend to.  I wonder why I avoid her.

“It is what it is,” I say as I make my way to the laundry at the end of the hall.  I don’t know why I say these things.  It isn’t what it is.  It’s guilt.  It’s regret.  It’s paralyzing.  My mother has cancer.

Send my apologies to Aunt Carmen


It’s every major holiday, sometimes it’s an invitation, or a “how are you?”  It’s been going on so long.  I stopped responding, but it doesn’t seem to matter.  “Happy New Year!” for maybe 10 consecutive years.  “Greg is having a concert,” the messages taunt me.  I keep hoping for some kind of clue…some insight, but it never comes.  It’s maddening. I’m stuck in a group text message, and I don’t know who in the hell these people are.  

I’m so far in that I think it would be incredibly rude to ask, “Who is this?”  I’ve been racking my brain trying to figure out who Greg is and what kind of instrument he plays?  Maybe I don’t know these people at all, maybe it’s a wrong number?  I’ve kept this charade up with the hope that someone other that Greg would be mentioned by name, no dice.  

Text messaging is such an accepted form of communication that my parents are doing it.  

Both of them.  

With one another, and other people.  

This is a big deal.  

You may find yourself asking, “Gee Scarp  (or Sara…either one is acceptable nomenclature), why is this a big deal?”  And, I’ll tell you…right away…I won’t keep you guessing.  For the last 30ish years, my father has worn the same damn Casio digital watch.  

Why?

Because the ones with the alarms and shit are complicated.  

Do you know how hard it is to find just a digital watch on Christmas Eve?

Anywho. My dad has never been “into” technology, so if he’s doing it there’s reason to suspect that there are people his age that are using text messaging as their sole means of communication.

This is where my mind starts to wander.  Let’s say I don’t actually know who the fuck is sending me Greg’s concert updates…and it is a wrong number.  I could potentially be the reason your Aunt Carmen was so pissed off at Aunt Judy on Thanksgiving.

Aunt Judy missed all of your cousin Greg’s clarinet solos, and she knows Carmen went out of her way to schlep to your stupid dance recitals. Yeah, she went all the way downtown to see you, sat for hours to watch kids covered in sequins…with whore makeup on. Only to be rewarded with you, stomping around the stage like a water buffalo. It was six years, six years she sat through this shit? Judy can’t make a concert?

By the way, I see her point. Aunt Judy is...kind of a bitch.

It’s all my fault. Your family is falling apart because you’re a terrible tap-dancer and I don’t know who Greg is.

I’m sorry. It’s too late, I can’t turn back now.

Happy New Year.  

Keep rockin’ Greg!

She


“If we ever go to war with Russia, I’m aligning myself with the Cephalopods.”

His face was hidden in the shadows. “Um, what?” she said, because…well…anyone would say that.

As a whisper of smoke spun before her left eye, a human figure emerged from behind the dumpster. His eyes said, “I really trust Cephalopods.” His pants said, “I just pissed myself.”

The orange rind stuck on his cheek indicated he slept on his left side. She showed no fear as he approached her, mainly because she was still trying to remember what the fuck a Cephalopod was.

“Who will you follow?” he asked. She looked around. She was at the end of a driveway that lead to a very busy hospital. There were people everywhere; deciding he was harmless, she spoke. “Um, yeah…Communism isn’t my thing…so I’m on Team Cephalopod. You have some shit on your face, Dude.”

She, being the kind of broad who feels people should know when they have shit on themselves, didn’t hold back. She made the international “you have shit on you” rotating hand/pointed index finger gesture around the perimeter of her face.

He didn’t acknowledge her, but never took his lifeless eyes of off her. She thought he might need a smoke. She opened a white and gold box adorned with the Philip Morris family crest, and removed one of her remaining 20 Class A Cigarettes.

Her arm was outstretched in front of her…she held the cigarette. She posed like a runner preparing to pass the baton. He shuffled towards her. It was the slowest, and most pointless, reversed relay race known to man. There would be no winner.

She admired his shuffling skills. She could not recall a time where she’d ever seen someone move so fast without lifting their feet from the ground. The air temperature was nearly 85 degrees. He wore a sweatshirt and long pants, she wondered why…but who was she to question.

He moved past her, grabbing the cigarette. She thought of Arlo Guthrie, she had no reason for doing so…except for Arlo Guthrie has evoked the stench of urine in her mind since she was a child. No offense meant, Arlo.

They would never cross paths again. Slowly wandering away from her, his inner soldier prepared for war…while she Googled cephalopod.