Archive | April 2014

God of Cookery

Recent meme I saw on Facebook: “I tried cooking something from scratch and ended up summoning a demon.” God, I wish I had thought up that statement because I swear that exact thought has crossed my mind on more than one occasion in recent years. I’ve come to find that cooking is not like riding a bike. You can definitely forget.

I used to be good. I have memories of when the things I pulled out of the oven were met with mmmmms instead of uggggggghs. This was another lifetime ago, though. A time before I had a family who wasn’t willing to try something new or eat something different. If it’s not a slab of beef, hot dogs, or chicken nuggets, they’re not having it. Any of it. And it has seriously destroyed my cooking game.

I used to come up with crazy concoctions on my own or take notes from gourmet cooking shows (to be put to good use at a later date). There I’d be in the kitchen, like a culinary wizard mixing up some great elixir. I’d toss in dashes of paprika, sprinkle in finely minced basil leaves, and have all the burners blasting under bubbling cauldrons or sizzling pans. Now, after years of inactivity in the creative department of the kitchen, I’ve lost the touch. I’ve tried dusting off the cooking bike and have fallen flat on my face numerous times. No matter how much care I put into it, everything I try (and I stress the word try) to make comes out mushy and burnt when it’s supposed to be firm and, well, not burnt. The spice levels are always out of whack. The consistency wavers. You name it and it’s off.

Thankfully no demons from hell have actually popped out due to one of the abominations I’ve created, although that’s probably not far off unless I get my chef chops back. Until then I’ll simply have to deal with the demons I already have in my house who are currently pounding the table for Kraft Mac n’ Cheese.

 

cooking from scratch pic

Dirty Laundry

I think we’d all love to believe we’re the same person in private as we are in public. We’re just as nice and civil and neat and hygienic. When we sneeze we turn our head into the crook of our arm. When we burp it’s just a puff of the chest and a loud exhale from the nose. When we eat there’s always a napkin in our lap and we don’t eat rice that fell off our fork and onto our pants. Let’s face it, that ain’t true.

All of us are probably pretty gross in private and that’s fine. Really. Totally fine. Being alone means no judgment, no chastising, no rules. Do what you want to do. Who’s going to choose to stay in societal confines of etiquette when there are no repercussions for breaking them? Sneeze into the open air to let a cloud of spit and snot spray 10 feet in front of you in public and you could end up with a black eye, so we abide. But alone, who freakin’ cares? Don’t worry, this doesn’t make us monsters. Most of us, after spreading sickness in our own bubbles of filth probably think Damn, I should’ve covered my mouth. That was pretty gross. So there’s at least some semblance of demeanor even in private.

But what about the real monsters. The sickos and psychopaths that mingle amongst us.  What about the people that sparkle and charm in public only to go home to be a scourge of terror to their family? We all wear masks in public to conform, but that stuff about sneezing and burping is within reason. I’m fascinated by those people that truly morph into something else entirely. The Dexters and Patrick Batemans of the world. They exist. Ted Bundy is a prime example. Charismatic as hell, but it was all a show. He was a sociopath. He wasn’t the first and he certainly wasn’t the last, but how do you identify one as they walk down the sidewalk or make a great PowerPoint presentation? They have the upper hand. They know what “normal” is (even if they don’t understand it or want to abide by it) and they’re very good at replicating it.

One of the oddest things is how much effort they put into keeping their secret. So much work to create a public persona because they’re afraid of what would happen if the true “them” came out and was known to those outside their household. And if they get a whiff that someone is a little too close to the truth or is about to spill the beans, they often start a slander campaign to get the jump on the person who might expose them. Abusers tend to use this strategy quite a bit. Why? Because at least for a little while, it works. Victims tend to be (unjustly) afraid and ashamed so they keep mum.

On the other hand, what about the people who are keeping (or worse yet, enduring) such a secret inside until it just boils over and they can’t keep quiet any longer, so they air the so called dirty laundry? Is that such a terrible thing? Privacy should be respected, sure, but it’s a fine line between being a loudmouth and standing up to say, “Enough is enough, here’s the truth. Hope you can take it, cause you’ve all been hoodwinked by so and so.”

Although really, how much do people even care if they’ve been “hoodwinked?”  I guess it depends on the secret (“Hey, she’s 38 not 35” is a lot different than “Hey, she’s a serial killer”) but by and large if there’s no harm (to them) then there’s no foul. Maybe that’s why they call it airing dirty laundry, because it’s all about someone else’s suffering and not their own. And really, who wants to see that!? I mean if it were their own, then it would be different…it would be important and not trivialized by calling it something like “dirty laundry.” They would simply call it sharing the “truth.”

I wish we had a way to check a person’s actual history the same way we can look at someone’s Internet history. Imagine the weird stuff we’d find (and potential crimes we could prevent) if the private wasn’t so private. Just imagine if what some people did privately were on the front page of the news the next day. The masks would be gone. How comfortable would you be with that idea?

 

dirty laundry photo to use

Rufus

Just recently I was dreadfully ill. It was terrible. I looked like one of those sad sacks you see in the Nyquil commercials with tissues balled up all around a ratty quilt; my face red and swollen; eyes watering and I moaned out “uuuuggghhh” a couple times every five minutes. While I (obviously) wasn’t able to do my job there was someone in the house still able to do theirs: my dog Rufus. His job? To love me. Easy, but not simple. There is a big difference.

Rufus as a baby

Rufus as a baby

Some dogs have pretty exhausting jobs. Border collies herd sheep. German Shepherds hunt drug dealers. Saint Bernards sniff out avalanche victims. Most of these dogs do their jobs pretty darn well in comparison to human standards. They don’t demand pay raises, engage in office politics, and leverage other offers to score more vacation days from their bosses. They do what they’re supposed to do without hesitation and for that they deserve nothing but praise from us.

Rufus has got a pretty cushy gig I must say. He’s got hobbies to keep him busy, like scaring the mailman, scaring little kids on Halloween, scaring blackbirds from the back yard (hmmmm, I’m just now realizing his hobbies share a common theme centered around inciting fear). He loves to scare things when he has the free time, but when he’s on the clock all he has to do is love me. And let me tell you, he does his job remarkably well. He’s right by my side while I work and offers an ear whenever I have to curse at my computer screen.  Each time I leave the house and return, he greets me at the door with a frantically wagging stub of a tail that lets me know that in his mind there’s no difference in whether I’m gone for 8 hours or 5 minutes (seriously Rufus….I was just getting something out of the car!).

Rufus while I work

Rufus while I work

But Rufus isn’t just a warm drooling body to have by my side and look cute. He’s also very emotionally intuitive. He knows when I’m sad and changes his behavior to accommodate my mood. For instance, I swear he notices when I tear up during a sad movie because he’ll saunter over with those huge dark eyes of his and rest his head lovingly on my lap. If I heavy sigh, he immediately jumps up to search for the culprit behind my exasperation (usually a cat). He knows when I’m sick…and in turn he poises himself to launch an attack against whatever demon might erupt from my nose whenever I sneeze. He always rushes along beside me whenever I need to venture into the scary recesses of the bathroom. I don’t have to be afraid of whatever may be lurking there as I do my business or shower….he’s got it covered. If he’s not on the bed sleeping at night, he’s beside it or under it and if he hears me sit up, he’s immediately at the ready to follow me wherever I might be headed…whether it’s to the aforementioned danger filled bathroom or simply a quick trip to the kitchen for a glass of water — he’s got my back.

And that bout of sickness I talked about at the beginning of this entry…he never left my side the entire time, bless his ever-loving little heart. I knew he was getting a little cabin fever and wanted to do a blackbird sweep but, still, he was always right there in bed with me while I felt like death warmed over.

My kids laugh at me because of how much I spoil and dote over Rufus, but wouldn’t you? He does his job so damn well.  And let’s face it, unconditional love is a fantastic rarity and whenever we have the chance to experience it, we should never take it for granted. Even if it sometimes comes with fleas.

Rufus cropped

Love

Walmart Kids (or, Why I Fear for the Future)

Just so you know, I hate everything about going to Walmart.  I hate the long drive there (absolutely nothing is close to me). I hate the sprawling chaotic parking lot. I hate the crowd of zombie consumers who, for whatever reason, always seem to do their shopping in their pajamas or underpants. I hate the store as a concept. I hate it all. I’d banish it from my mind forever if it wasn’t for one thing: candles. They have this amazing collection of the most delicious smelling candles that cost just pennies. It’s for these candles and these candles alone that I occasionally brave a visit to the 9th circle of  hell that is Walmart.

During a recent visit I had the pleasure of encountering two families which really tested what was already a very fragile patience.  The first was a Mom and her daughter trying to decide where to sit in the Ledos, a pizza restaurant.  If I have to go to Walmart, damn it, I’m eating at Ledos!  So anyway, this mother was letting the girl (maybe 9 years old) pick the table. She wanted to sit close to the TV so she could watch a baseball game. The mom squashed that and said, “Do you want a booth or table?” The girl replied, “The table so I can see the TV. Duh.” She threw her hands out in this dramatic pose, shrugged her shoulders, and made a face that could easily be translated as “You’re an unbelievable idiot, Mom.” If that were my kid, first, she would know that kind of behavior doesn’t fly with me. But should she forget and mime the word “moron” at me as she turned her back to walk way (as this girl did to her mother), she’d probably have gotten a swat to the back of the head before she got out of arm’s reach. And it’s darn sure we would’ve sat at the one table that did not have a view of the TV, just so she knows who really runs things around here. Or out of spite. Take your pick. Either works for me.

Then, in line at the Walmart (so close to being out !), I’m standing behind this Mom and her two kids, a boy and a girl.  The boy was 14. No, I’m not a stalker. I know his age because his little sister kept saying it.  She was probably 11 or 12. All three of them—mom, son, and daughter—were truly epitomizing the worst stereotypes that define a “redneck.”   They were quite the trio. The daughter was a whiner with a voice that seriously hurt my head, and she kept complaining that the boy was getting things that she wasn’t.  She and the boy kept wrestling (yes, full out wrestling)  in line while the mom prepared to buy a gun (an airsoft gun) to reward her son for his supposedly stellar report card. His sister wanted him to do something when they got home but the boy said, “No way, I’m gonna be busy with the gun.”

At this point the mother stepped in and said “No, you’re not.  You don’t get it until the report card arrives and I can see your grades.”  And the boy, with as much disrespect as is humanly possible snorts back, “Well, it doesn’t come to YOUR house.”  The mother retaliated with, “Well, you’re not touching it until I see the report card.”  And the boy, really snarling now, spits out, “I’ll just take it to my house then and you won’t have a choice.”

THEN the girl said to the (apparently noncustodial mom), “Look at you (cue sarcasm) buying a gun for a 14 year old.”  See?  Told you I wasn’t a stalker.  The mother said, “I haven’t bought it yet and he’s not going to get it until I see the report card and I can always bring it back.”  She was trying to be stern and provide discipline (I think) but it wasn’t really working. As the mother laid the gun on the counter the daughter said, “Well, NOW you’re buying it…for a 14 year old as a treat he doesn’t deserve.”

I wish I could adequately explain the voices these kids had. It was an incredible thing to witness, truly. Just full of condemnation, disrespect, and belligerence. It was oozing out of their mouths with no inhibition, no fear of consequence for their insubordination. It was simply phenomenal.  Needless to say, the boy walked out of there with the gun in hand.

Now I’ve never really been a “spanker,” and of course I would never condone striking someone else’s kids, but I can kind of understand why people might go nuts and lose their mind for a moment to reach out and give a much deserved smack to kids who don’t belong to them.  It’s like “juvenile road rage,” that brief nanosecond of insanity when you see a parent totally getting owned by their little tween offspring. That day in line, my hand fairly itched from inaction and my tongue was sore and bleeding from my attempts at keeping my own mouth in check.

Seeing such a display makes me fear for the future because these are the kids who are going to be non-productive adults when they get older and putting a kink into our whole societal system. Or worse yet, they’ll be in charge.

 

bad parentng toy story

When Soundtracks Collide

Question to ponder:  Should I thank the makers of kids’ movies in recent years for instilling in my children a love for some of the best music ever?  Or should I curse them because when I listen to the radio now, almost every song conjures up images, not of a drunken adventure in some dive bar of my youth, but rather a scene from Megamind or Shrek?   Equating Barracuda with some awesome fighting princesses from Shrek or Highway to Hell with Megamind triumphantly skipping down a city street….no matter how cool they may be (and they are pretty dang cool)….just doesn’t seem right.

An Unrepentant Addiction Redux

So in honor of National Library Week, I’m going to repost a bit of a previous entry about my love of books. Believe it or not this obsession with books even outweighs my obsession with all manner of horror films. I know, I know, but it’s true.

So when my son was little, and then again with my daughter, we’d make the weekly trek to the library, dufflebag in hand, prepared to raid their shelves of as many books as I could physically carry out to the car by myself.  Oftentimes it was quite the struggle out to the parking lot (and then again into the house) and to an outsider it probably looked as though my bag was filled with bricks what with the way it bent my back. And trust me, this was not an exercise made in vain either…we actually read every book we stuffed into that dufflebag, usually before the week was over. Our bedtime ritual was quite a lengthy one given the fact that we had to read 5 or 6 books each night. Keep in mind, we had books of our own…stacks and stacks of books. But we soon exhausted our own supply and since I didn’t have a money tree in my backyard for trips to Barnes and Noble, the library was a weekly fixture for us. Of course they’re older, but my kids retained their love of books…as have I.  And my house shows it.

Now, if you’ve ever been at home watching network TV in the late morning/early afternoon, during The Price is Right, Family Feud, or any old school soap opera you’ve no doubt seen those cheesy coffee commercials where a woman wrapped tight in a pastel shawl has her hands cupped around a steaming mug of French Roast. Without a care in the world she looks out the window of her breakfast nook just contemplating how wonderful of a morning it is. She’s in no rush at all to start the day and just basks in the comforts her caffeine and nook are providing her. How silly, right? Well…

I want that! Not exactly that, but close to it. The only thing I’d change about those commercials is that instead of standing around like a zombie I’d be curled up in a decked out bay window seat with a good book in my hands. It’d be a requirement.

Books, reading, literature…appreciation of the written word is the lifeblood of my house. I may not have the breakfast nook or the time to laze around in the mornings or a sprawling vista of oaks and elms rolling into the distance from my backyard, but I do have the book part down. They’re absolutely everywhere; stacked on nightstands, scattered around the bed, piled on stairs, and littering the kitchen counter. Hell, it’s not rare at all to find a book under my bed covers because I fell asleep reading (again). My daughter’s room is practically a library in and of itself.  Even the spare room isn’t safe and has more than its share of bookshelves.  We’re hopeless addicts (a nicer way to say this would be bibliophiles) to novels, tomes, epics, thrillers, horrors, mysteries, best sellers, unknowns, contemporaries, and classics. It’s all fair game.

This addiction doesn’t make for the tidiest house in the world but certainly an entertaining one seeing as how you can literally stumble across a good story at any given moment. While the rest of the Barnes and Nobles are going down quicker than the Titanic, I may be single-handedly keeping the one near my house in business. Every time I go in there with my daughter any cash I may be fortunate enough to have in my pockets is quickly transformed into a bag of books.   You can never have too many, right? At least that’s my understanding. It’s simply impossible for us to window-shop in a book store.

On top of the whole Barnes and Nobles temptation problem I have, there is another one closer to home.  The downtown area of my neighborhood is reminiscent of Mayberry (showing my age here).  And right smack in the center of the main drag next to the coffee shop is a used/rare book store. It’s large and dusty and unorganized and the guy who runs it looks like he hasn’t stepped out into the light in decades.  But it’s a treasure trove to me!  I could seriously spend hours in this place.  And have.  I enjoy everything this hole in the wall offers — the smells of the old books, the joyous wonder of searching through the shelves to find some rare book I’ve never seen before or perhaps one that I remember from my childhood or maybe a classic in its original print rather than the abridged edition.  They’re all fodder for my unrepentant book compulsion.  And did I mention it’s right next door to a coffee shop!?  Nirvana.

One day I may have a house that has that beautiful vintage inspired reading nook complete with a cushioned window seat and surrounding bookshelves in an oh-so-cute and artistic arrangement.  Until then, though, I’ll enjoy the hard and softbound jungle that is my cluttered home, which really, in itself has become the greatest reading nook of all.

The literacy site

Family Love

In the past few years my family has transitioned from something out of Full House to something more akin to Arrested Development. No, I’m not saying that we’re all in danger of going to jail for a slew of financial crimes (including light treason) and building houses in Iraq. What I mean, is that while we used to be all lovey-dovey nice to each other (at least where card-giving holidays like birthdays are concerned), somewhere along the way we changed and found out that using insults and sarcasm is a much more fun way to tell someone how much you cherish them. Only makes sense, right?

It’s become common practice for all of us to get each other the most mean-spirited (or sarcastic) cards we can get our hands on. And we have the best time shopping for these things! Standing in the aisle of the card store, grinning from ear to ear, oftentimes laughing out loud, and looking like an absolute fool as we pour over the selection combing for the perfect card.  It’s actually quite reminiscent of Grandma Mooney and the Case of the Vinegar Valentines, but without the malicious intent.

If the person is getting on in years, rest assured the cards they get will be all about how old they are. Prime example: Some of the grandkids gave their doting grandfather a Star Wars themed card. On the front it said “In a galaxy far, far away, a long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long time ago…” Inside, “…you were born.” Simple but effective. Congratulations Grandpa, you’re old as dirt. And he LOVED it!

If age isn’t an easy target, don’t worry, we’ll find something to harp on…the choices are abundant once you really start looking through the card section. One loving daughter (I won’t name who) gave her mom a card that joked about how her breasts have a much closer relationship to the floor now than when she was younger. Hardy har har, right? Again, not exactly zingers from MENSA, but you get the point.

The really funny part is that it didn’t use to be this way. We used to play nice. We’d go the Hallmark route and buy cards with pictures of kittens or lovely scenes all over them and sweetly worded verses inside. Then this evolution happened and now it’s all out warfare in the stationary section. I don’t know what caused the change or who initiated the mean streak, but it’s been holding strong and has even been spreading to extended members of the family. It’s become disappointing to us when we receive a “nice” card…and it makes us rack our brain trying to figure out just what we did to annoy the giver that they felt the need to get us a “nice” card.  I know.  We’re weird.

No one is safe. Mothers, fathers, brother, sisters, aunts, uncles…all are fair game. And we’re not confined to just blood relatives either. Oh no no no. You come into this family and sure, we’ll let you have the nice heartfelt marriage. We’ll get you the gifts off your registry and we’ll tell you how happy we are to have you in our family (all true by the way).

But after a few years, when you’re good and hunkered down and we’re pretty certain you’re no longer a flight risk, we’ll take the kid gloves off and really let you into the family. After this proverbial “waiting period” you’ll know you’re truly part of the clan when on your birthday you get a card that implies you need to up your meds rather than one that gushes over your virtues (which I’m sure are very valid and gush worthy). A card that will hopefully make you laugh as much as we did when we picked it out.

Hurray, you’ve finally been accepted into the fold! That’s love right there. Because that’s how our family rolls.

 

family love