In My Mother’s Voice

In a discussion with friends the other day, a question was asked as a sort of “prompt” to get a philosophical conversation flowing. I can’t remember it word for word now, but it was basically, “have you ever said something that sounds just like your mother, and what did you think about that?” Most of us in this particular group are mothers ourselves and so many of the examples given had to do with disciplining a child or frustration at a child. There were a few offerings of phrases most often uttered when life throws a curve ball or in the alternative, when something fantastic happens.

It was an interesting mental and emotional exercise in many ways.

Shockingly – or perhaps not – the thing that popped up immediately in my mind was, are you hungry? have you eaten today?”  I could hear it in my mother’s voice as I thought it, but not just hers. I heard it in my grandmother’s voice, my aunts’ voices, my great-aunt’s voice, and other women in my family … a conglomeration of concerned motherhood was echoing in my brain.

Afterwards, I got to thinking, what a wonderful thing to write about! And you know what? It is. I went back through my past work and lo and behold! I had already put pen to paper on this subject.

Sometimes love isn’t simply “I love you.”  Sometimes it’s “are you hungry? have you eaten today?”

Feed Me (Originally Written in April 2014)

The overwrought parent. It’s an ageless and timeless trope that has been milked for easy jokes on dozens if not hundreds of sitcoms for decades now. The kids come home from college and the mom immediately rushes up to her son or daughter, clawing at their clothing while wailing about how they’re nothing but skin and bones. The mom then makes it her duty to whip up a hearty dinner of meat stew and potatoes to try to fatten her kids up before sending them back off to that barren wasteland known as University.

How many times have I rolled my eyes whenever I saw a mother portrayed that way? I’d think to myself, The kids are fine. Settle down. They’re 20 years old; they know how to find food for the love of God! Little did I know that I was bound for the same fate; my course having been set even before I was born, and now I have finally arrived at that echelon of motherhood teeming with irrational anxiety that for some reason my kids have lost any ability to live independently and will die without my assistance.  Whew. Okay. Breathe.

My grandmother used to always push food on us like we had been locked in the Oliver Twist orphanage for decades on end. The funny thing is that she didn’t do this to us when we were kids, only when we were full-fledged grown-ups coming to visit. I guess that as a child she figured my mom would ensure we were fed. Maybe she thought the older I got, the less likely I would be lucky enough to find someone willing to give me food (because for some reason I don’t have the ability to do it myself). So, me as an adult, I’d come by to say hello and she’d cook (always) and even insist that I take food with me for the road trip home.

I remember she did the same thing to my mother after our visits in the summer. A sandwich for the road… biscuits for later… a piece of that fine ham she had for dinner. It was simply impossible to leave the house without something wrapped in foil or stuffed in Tupperware.

Her sister, my great-aunt Bunny, was the same way. I guess that should come as no surprise, since they were raised by the same woman, Grandma Mooney of the Vinegar Valentines, who also had an obsession with making sure people were fed. Back when I was a kid, we’d visit my Aunt Bunny every Sunday and sure enough, we always left with something in hand.

Then it was my mom’s turn. I don’t know when exactly it happened, but she hit a certain age and boom, she fell right in step. Sometimes when I leave her house after a visit it’s like I was just at the Whole Foods store. Balanced in my arms are loaves of bread, canned goods, sweets, and frozen meat (yes, frozen meat). Bless her heart.

Ridiculous, right? Yeah, that’s what I thought.  But the virus has taken over my brain too! My poor son. He’s 22 — a man in the eyes of the law and the world — and has moved into his own place, but he’s still in that “new adult” stage; scraping for cash, trying to get on his own two feet. When he comes to visit I feel that it is my maternal obligation to fill his belly with as much food as I can. I constantly tell him to ransack the place, rummage through the cupboards, take anything. I’m pushing food on him like the generations of mad women before me.

Except now I understand that it’s not that we don’t have faith that our kids can live on their own…it’s just that if we know they’re fed…if we can do that one small thing for them… then we figure they can handle the rest of life on their own. And really, money does play a part in it. I would rather my son ransack my cabinets than live on only Ramen for the week. I know my mom feels the same way about me and that’s why she lets me grocery shop in her cupboards.

We can’t solve all of their problems and we can’t “fix” everything no matter how much we want to. But we can feed them. We can make sure that one primary need is filled. So we can worry about them a little less. Knowing that makes me feel a little less crazy. A little.

So, What Do You Like To Do?

So, I will admit that I have been dipping my toe once again into the online dating world (don’t judge). After a dismal first attempt a while back, I thought, what the hell? I’m a glutton for punishment, might as well give it another whirl.

Well, I have learned so much about the new face of dating, and I have to say that I miss the “good old days.”  To say that things have changed just a bit is a massive understatement. However, I’m remaining hopeful that my dream guy will come along.  He’d better hurry up, though, before I join the convent and swear off guys forever. Why this harsh stance, you ask? Let me explain.

It seems that the new trend in “dating” has nothing to do with dating, exactly, and involves getting right to the point … if you get my point. Long gone are the days of sharing life stories, getting to know one another, moving slowly to the finish line.  More often than not, the first messages sent by a potential match pretty much sum up everything you need to know about them, and what you need to know, apparently, is the not-so-subtle art of “sexting.”

In my experiences so far with online matchmaking, I have found that “long walks on the beach and reading a book by firelight” is no longer the right answer to the question, “So, what do you like to do?”  Quite frankly, it’s hard to know what to expect; there is such a fine line between “oh, you know, normal stuff” and “well, I don’t want to get in to specifics, but it involves three live chickens, trash bags, oil, and a copy of the New York Times.”

Also, “send me a pic” means something entirely different than what I thought.  Thinking it was an innocuous request, when one guy ask me for a pic, I sent him three: one of me posing in front of Epcot Center in Disneyland, one with me hugging the mascot of my daughter’s school at a basketball game, and one of me with my cats (I figured he may as well know what he was getting into).  He replied with question marks, a confused emoji, and a picture of… things that I cannot un-see. Speaking of which, just how are you supposed to respond to these unsolicited pics? A thank you? A show of pity? A simple ewwww?

But I digress …

Now, I am not a prude by any means, but neither am I fourteen, hiding in my closet and giggling over dirty limericks.  What am I wearing?  A fuzzy bathrobe, mismatched socks, and a baseball cap; you can’t handle this much woman, dude.  Don’t tell me the things you want to do to me, tell me how you would come over to vacuum, take out the trash, and do the dishes.  And oh yeah, you’re bringing cheesecake. THAT is how to successfully sext a woman.

For myself, I can’t even think about sexting without picturing an old lady in her kitchen, sitting on a red lacquered bar stool hunkered up by the avocado green rotary wall phone, dressed in her comfy stained housecoat with her hair in curlers, fuzzy slippers and white socks against unshaven legs that would rival a bear’s upon emerging from hibernation, cigarette hanging out of her mouth, a Joe’s Diner coffee cup in one hand and the phone’s handset in the other, saying “Oh, baby, oh baby” – in that sexy, raspy 30-years-of-smoking-cigarettes-induced voice – to some paying customer on the other end of the line for just $3.99 a minute.

My version of sexting hasn’t gone over very well so far, either. “Oh, I want you like I want the new Dyson cordless vac, baby.”  “I’m wearing my favorite sweatshirt, the one without the stain on the front.” “I’m ready to spend the perfect night together, just be quiet because my shows are on.”

I haven’t entirely given up on finding “the one” via new-fangled means. I mean, who knows what might happen?  If I ever find a guy who answers, “what do you like to do?” with “binge old movies and eat cheesecake” and sends me an unsolicited dog pic, I’ll know he’s a keeper.

 

Fountain of Youth

I came across an article not too long ago that claimed that owning pets relieves stress. This isn’t a new idea – lots of experts have said the same thing. Some studies show that pets can decrease blood pressure, help maintain good mental health, and even extend life expectancy in many cases.  According to South Boston Animal Hospital, among others, pets can actually increase your confidence and self-esteem, which seems like a tall order for a labradoodle, but okay.

Having had a pet in my home since, oh, I don’t know, forever, I feel like something of an authority on the subject or at least well-informed, we’ll say.  And I just have to ask … have any of these pet experts ever actually owned pets? I wonder.

As most of you know, I have four pets currently: two dogs and two cats, all rescues. We’ve had three of them since they were mere babies (6 to 8 weeks old) with the youngest being about 9 years old now. The “new” addition to our home, Petra, was adopted as an older dog and we’ve had her a little over 4 years. Time does fly, as they say. 

As an adult, I’ve never been without a dog and/or cat or two or three or five even, and as a kid growing up, there was always … but always … at least one dog in our family. My point is, I “get” the whole owning a pet thing. I wouldn’t give mine up for the world. They’re family.

It’s not that I don’t love the little assholes dears, it´s just that I wonder about this universally accepted claim that they relieve stress and extend one’s life. I mean, I’ve got one dog that has the bladder the size of a bean who requires a walk every freakin’ five minutes and another who, I swear, takes having a bowel movement as a competition and strives every day to hit the top score. Spoiler: he wins. Every day.

Life is not exactly restful in my house as I don’t actually get to rest for long in between all of these trips to the tree down the street. But hey, at least it’s at the tree down the street and not in the living room that I routinely traverse in the dark in my bare feet. I realize, things could be worse. I’m reminded of the story of the Roomba running over a pile of dog poop in the living room and carrying it all over the house. I’m sure you can imagine how low that pet owner’s blood pressure was when they walked in the door to that wonderful sight. I bet they set a record.

Did I mention that one of my dogs barks at random times at … nothing. Or at least, I think it’s nothing. I hope it’s nothing. These unexpected, sharp — and loud — staccato yaps ring out first thing in the morning, the afternoon, the middle of the night, she doesn’t care. If she gets the urge to bark, she barks. And boy, does she get the urge. A lot.  I can’t let it go, I mean, I have to look to see if it’s something actually worth worrying about. Is it an intruder? Is it a leaf blowing down the street two blocks over? Is it the cat on the shelf where she doesn’t belong (and someone is tattling)? Is it a ghost? By the time I’ve done a quick reconnaissance, Petra is back in her bed, under her blanket, content with herself and the world. It doesn’t relieve my stress at 2:00 a.m., I can tell you that much.

Rufus, to his credit, rarely barks unless there is something to bark at, like the mail carrier, the neighbor leaving his house or coming home to his house or looking out of his window, or the cat across the street. Or me, coming home from work. However, he does like to eat things he shouldn’t. He takes that 5-second rule seriously and sometimes he doesn’t even wait for things to hit the ground, he seeks them out and steals them taste-tests them for you.

Finding out that your dog has eaten the 2-pound bag of cat food you neglected to lock in the pantry to keep just this sort of thing from happening or your strawberry-flavored Chapstick that was buried in the depths of your purse because you forgot your dog loves strawberries and can smell them from a mile away AND he knows where your purse is kept and now needs to be rushed to the vet for almost $500 worth of stomach meds and emergency care is exactly like having a spa day. If the spa was on fire and you are also on fire. And then someone hands you your wallet which promptly bursts into flames.

Cats are no better. At least, mine aren’t. They’re just more inconspicuous about the whole “let’s relieve mom’s stress and make her live longer” scheme. In fact, they’re so cool and subtle about it, you’d almost think there was some complicated reverse psychology experiment going on.

Let’s be honest. Owning a cat is basically ensuring that no glass of water will ever be safe. In fact, knickknacks, coffee cups, bottles of all kinds, and even expensive foundation make-up — which creates such a lovely design on the floor when it shatters, by the way — will never be safe again.

Oh, the middle-of-the-night races are jarringly raucous and create quite the jump-scare when a small, fluffy, homicidal packet of cute jumps on your chest while you’re fast asleep, but you learn to adapt … it’s the yodeling contests at 3:00 a.m. that get to you.

Frankly, who can live stress-free when there is a continual plot against your life? Extending my life, indeed. Ha! The ne’er-do-well (aka Holly) has had it out for me ever since I put a baby lock on the cat treat cabinet, thereby successfully foiling her ongoing thievery … I can’t imagine her having any intention whatsoever of extending my life.

On the other hand, Shaylee, the older matriarch-cat of our four-legged family, is sweet as pie, when she isn’t tormenting Petra or biting the hand that feeds her or looking at Rufus which in turn apparently offends him to no end eliciting the need “to teach her a lesson” not remembering that she outweighs him and really doesn’t like him either (hence the look to begin with) and pure chaos ensues. Ah, yes. Fun and games.

Don’t be fooled, multiple pets, like siblings, will often torment each other just for kicks and giggles. A cat might tickle its tail in front of a dog’s nose just to irritate it. Or as is the case in my house, they will swat that dog right on the top of the head and then escape to a high shelf, far out of reach, tormenting the dog with its own failure. Cats, or at least my cats, don’t understand the concept of holding a grudge it would seem, and are quite surprised when, hours later, they descend from their haughty throne only to be met with a hostile canine hiding the shiv he made while he was awaiting their return to ground level. You can’t tell me being witness to these kinds of interactions are stress relieving in any way.

Oh, hey, I just remembered. I shut my finger in the door today. Hard. How on earth is that even relevant, Wendy, you may ask! Well, let me explain. You see, my dogs are nothing if not well fed. They eat three times a day with treats in between. Yet, Rufus acts as though he’s starved to death. He’s so put upon, really, just ask him. Poor thing. Still in the dark?  Stay with me, it will become clear.

Anyway, Rufus eats his food quickly because he has it in his cute little head that he will go and steal Petra’s food when he’s done. He is never allowed to do this, but it doesn’t stop him from trying, God bless him. Petra, because she is the slowest eater I have ever seen in my entire life, eats in the bedroom of solitude behind closed doors so she can have her meal in peace without threat of invaders.  As I was walking out of the bedroom – before doggy dinner time had concluded, Rufus tried to race through the minuscule opening I had created (I swear, it was impressive, it was like Road Runner took lessons from a cheetah to better outwit Wile E. Coyote).

Let me interject here, some of you may recall that Petra was abused before she came to live with us and noises, especially abrupt noises … like miniature Road Runner-Cheetah hybrids hurtling full speed across wood floors … still make her nervous.

So, as I was reassuring Petra that no, the apocalypse had not started and simultaneously doing my best to not step on Rufus who was now completely under my feet and somehow keep him out of the bedroom and not catch him in the door, I shut the door on my finger. Did I mention, hard?

Oh yeah. I’m going to live forever with these jerks sweet little fluffballs around. They certainly inspire a colorful vocabulary though, I’ll give them that.

 

A Good Man

A good man died yesterday. I may write more about this another time, when the wound isn’t still fresh, isn’t still deep. In fact, I’m sure I will. It’s important to acknowledge the passing of a good man. To raise one’s voice to the universe and give thanks for the time one had with him.

The best portion of a good man’s life; his little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and love. 

– William Wordsworth

dad in his element

Be Kind

As we face another year and another sad anniversary of those tragic events in September 2001, we’re haunted by the past even as we contemplate the future. There is now an entire generation to whom 9/11 is just a historical blip in our country’s rich tapestry, a reverent story, tinged with anger, told and retold by parents and grandparents and teachers. Life moves forward and I suppose, that’s as it should be.

One thing we should all remember, in a world full of uncertainty, be kind… and always hold your loved ones close — whether it’s in your arms or in your heart.

 

Getting Ghosted Every Day … and Loving It

Well, everyone, she’s back.

As you may recall, Amethyst Realm, a reported spiritual counselor, has been in a super intense relationship with a ghost she met in Australia.  They have been dating six months.

I will give you a minute to go back and read that again so you’re up to speed.  Done?  Ok, let’s move on.

Amethyst can’t see her boyfriend, obviously, cause he’s…well, you know, a ghost.  But hey, she knows he’s there.

Now, as you can imagine, I have a few questions.  As a spiritual guidance counselor, is she counseling her boyfriend?  If so, isn’t that an ethics violation?  At the least, I would think it would be a conflict of interest. But, I digress.

In 2017, Amethyst was even slut-shamed for having sex with twenty ghosts.  One ghost, however, really tickled her fancy, among other things he reportedly tickles.

Amethyst explains in a recent follow-up interview that she and her ghostly boyfriend are going to be married and raise a ghostly family.  I personally haven’t received my invisible wedding invitation; still waiting on that one.

As for the ghostly family? Well, she has decided, in a wisdom far beyond most cantaloupes, that “phantom” pregnancies are fathered by ghosts.  Phantom pregnancies are, of course, a heartbreaking syndrome where a woman’s body begins to simulate a pregnancy that isn’t real, showing all the symptoms of a true pregnancy. There could be any number of reasons why this might happen, none of them good. Amethyst believes that phantom pregnancies are exactly what they sound like, phantom induced.  Amethyst has been avoiding her ghostly birth control, hoping to get knocked up by her ghost boyfriend.

Why would her imaginary boyfriend want to be tied down by an imaginary baby?  It’s a sure bet he’ll just disappear when the baby is born, leaving her with imaginary diapers to change all by herself.  She’d better get that imaginary ring, and fast!

On a sobering note, Amethyst really believes her story with all her heart.  She came clean after being dumped by a boyfriend, so one must think the break-up affected her deeply.  She has sworn off real men for life, preferring her invisible men to human companionship.  I feel her pain, but she has taken this just a step too far.

You know, I’m not even necessarily saying that ghosts aren’t real; perhaps they are.  What I am calling total BS on is that they would be capable of impregnating anyone (okay, so yeah, that might be an obvious deduction).

For argument’s sake, let’s just say that she’s right, and she does get pregnant by her ghostly boyfriend.  What an odd scene at the hospital on the day of delivery!

Nurse:  Here he is, he’s beautiful.  (pretending to be holding a baby)

Amethyst:  Are you stupid!?  He’s over there!  (points at the chair next to the nurse)

Nurse:  Can you have the father sign the birth certificate, please?  (holds pen towards the corner of the room)

Amethyst:  Are you blind, woman!?  He’s right here sitting on the bed!

Nurse:  Your total bill will be $50,000.  How would you like to pay that?

Amethyst:  My imaginary insurance should cover this, but if not, here’s an invisible credit card.

Nurse:  I can’t see the father’s signature on the certificate.

Amethyst:  Of course not, he used invisible ink.

The fun would continue through the child’s first year of school, where he was repeatedly marked “absent,” all the way to his prom, where his date cried because she thought he stood her up even though he was waiting inside the invisible limo.

Graduation would be tricky; the video cameras would only show a small orb flitting across the stage to get his invisible diploma.

Perhaps one day, he would meet someone, too.   He’ll introduce her to the joys of ghost sex, and the cycle will continue.

Frankly, Amethyst, I am intrigued and more than a little jealous.  Getting ghosted doesn’t mean the same thing for you as it does for the rest of us, you can sneak him into movies for free, and you don’t have to worry about washing his clothes.

Not to mention, your life is planned out perfectly with your ghost, and I can’t even get a date for Friday night.