We don’t need another hero. We need a woman.

When I was a little girl, I wasn’t raised with the idea that I could be anything I wanted to be. One might be shocked at that, really; my family was stocked with really strong, opinionated women who were quite comfortable telling men to fuck right the fuck off. My great-grandmother ruled with a benevolent, iron fist that would pull you into her arms for a loving embrace even as she was ordering you to go outside and cut yourself a switch. She was truly the head of the family, and her children – 4 sons and 6 daughters – idolized and followed her every word and deed.

My grandmother was a much freer-minded spirit than her mother, but she proved, again and again, that men were a luxury to her – not a necessity. When my grandfather established the pattern of an Irish drunk who had numerous talents, but who could not hold a job long enough to provide a stable life for his wife and children, she took matters into her own hands. I mean this literally. She knocked the crap out of him, beating him about the head and shoulders with a stilleto heel while he lay, passed out. He awoke the next morning, hung over and bruised, thinking he’d had a fall.

She took jobs housekeeping, and when the final straw came – he went to the bars on a Friday after work and spent an entire paycheck on booze, staggering up the hill on Sunday afternoon with naught but lint in his pockets – she sent him away, chasing him down Hillside Avenue, a butcher knife in her hand. Had she caught him, who knows if I’d even be here today. She then moved in temporarily with that mother who gave her that strong countenance, and took a fulltime job. She divorced my grandfather. This led to a much higher-paying job, and when she took a chance and married another man who proved to not be up to the task of providing, and who committed the cardinal sin of disrespecting her children, all bets were off. She lived, happily single, for the rest of her life. Oh, she dated, a lot, and a couple of guys were fortunate enough to meet her exacting standards and were permitted to stick around for long periods of time. One, I even knew as “Grandpa Mick.” The point was, she never needed a man to fulfill her; they were simply an option.

My mother – her daughter – was as tough as her, but I think she craved a different kind of happy ending in the beginning. She had a father she adored, and visited, and I think she thought that having the husband, the kids, the house, and the picket fence was the ultimate win. She saw her friends doing it and dreamed of such a life, too. She also dreamed of travel, and independence. She wanted to be an airline stewardess, but lacked the willpower to lose weight. She was never quite able to disentangle herself from my grandmother’s apron strings, though, and so they were kind of a package deal.

My uncle noped it the fuck out of town as soon as he was 18, joining the military and going to college, but my mom never seemed to be able to envision a life without her mom in the picture. She also possessed a nasty temper, as fiery as Grandma’s, and a vicious, rapier-tongued attitude. She lost a lot of jobs because, when some man would tell her what to do, she’d be just as likely to tell him to shove it up his ass as she would be to follow directions. She liked to drink, too, and this led to bars, and an eventual meeting with a smooth-tongued asshole who she thought she could tame. That he was already married wasn’t important. She wanted what she wanted, and when she got the kids, but no husband, house, or picket fence, she was sufficiently put off men as necessities – for good.

No, I was not taught that I could be whatever the hell I wanted. I was taught that I didn’t need no man. Men were, at best, luxuries. At worst, they were a nuisance. A man would try to control you. A man would hold you back from the things you loved. A man would lie. A man thought only of himself. Men were optional in one’s life, and the minute they overstayed their welcome, there’d be the trouble of getting them to go, and who the hell needed that headache? It was better to just forget they existed.

I weighed this advice carefully, but with suspicion. My aunts – my mother’s closest friends who were not related by blood but who I referred to as aunts – had husbands. Their husbands, my uncles, were nice guys who provided well for their families. They were great daddies, as far as I knew. They were funny and kind and honorable. My great-uncles were, too, even if they were old guys. They had all made really wonderful, successful lives. All of my great-aunts had careers, too – in independent, small business; in farming; in office administration. These couples seemed to complement each other inasmuch as being partners in marriage.

While I never said it out loud, privately, I held onto the thought that my grandmother and my mother tried to instill the belief that all men were shit into my psyche because they hadn’t met the right men. I wasn’t going to be like that. I’d be smarter, meet a good guy, like my uncles, and he would respect me.

Uh, yeah.

Okay, it took a while, and my first choice was made hastily, out of a desire to escape being stuck, like my mother had been. It was made because no one had ever said they loved me with the fervent conviction that he did, and I needed that. (Girls, if he says he loves you 5 days in, please take it with a grain of salt until a lot of time has passed and you’ve fully vetted him. I sure as hell wouldn’t have believed him today.) That choice was certainly a Big Fucking Mistake, but I scored five huge prizes, so it wasn’t for nothing. I’ve made massive corrections in that thinking, and chose more wisely the second time. No, I don’t need no man, but the one I have, I truly want.

That was as far as my female predecessors got in teaching me women’s rights. I grew up knowing I wanted to “do” something; something that included writing. I did not believe that I wanted to shatter glass ceilings and charge at the head of a pack and to lead. I’ve learned, along the way, that I am a natural-born leader who prefers to go it alone if given the choice. I’ve broken a couple of plexiglass panels, I suppose; but I definitely have no desire to aim for the sky above.

I did not -for instance – dream of being President of the United States. I admire those who did, and who do. That kind of single-minded ascension does not appeal to me. I am good – great, actually- in a crisis. You want me there if you need triage or a quick assessment. I’m as apt to do as I am to issue quick orders, because I’m impatient and convinced that, while I think you could do a good job, I can do the thing the way it needs to be done. Nope, I would not be a good President, because politics is filled to the brim with acts of diplomacy and the delegating of tasks. I’m too much of a lone wolf, and I know that would be a recipe for disaster.

We are living in a reality TV shitshow. The entire planet is suffering an existential crisis of common sense, kindness, and community. Calmer heads are not prevailing, and the only credentials one seems to need in order to run a country is that they’re louder than the loudest person in the room. (And more orange, but I digress.) There’s a novel virus tearing ass through all of the countries, and glaciers are melting; kids are eating laundry soap pods and yeeting themselves out into traffic. We are arguing about how we all deserve a piece of the pie but that we don’t want to pay the wages to get it. People in this country are dying because yes, they have insurance and yes, they do work fulltime, but they’ve been diagnosed with MS and the copay for a series of shots as treament is over $100,000. Yes, you read that right – I have facts to back that up. Insulin is unaffordable. Life-sustaining drugs and healthcare are unaffordable in this country for most.

Going to college means taking on debt in your first semester and not being able to pay it off until it’s time for your kids to start college. You have to be situationally aware everywhere you go, because somewhere, there’s a mentally unstable person, off his meds and growing increasingly paranoid, who may decide that the day you chose to go get groceries was the day he was going to shoot up the store; that is, after he posted his manifesto on 4chan.

Your kids are being taught by teachers who qualify for food stamps, have to work second and third jobs, and who buy a lot of the school supplies your kids use themselves because the school district’s budget doesn’t include funding for pencils, erasers, and yes, even paper. And let’s not even get started on kids in cages and robbing Peter (The Pentagon) to pay Paul (The Wall).

Meanwhile, your President plays his 238,004th round of golf on your dime, tweets reflexively and compulsively, and undermines the authority of every organization on the planet. He’s a fucking imbecile, but he does this with aplomb.

These are just some of the problems our country faces, deals with, and wades into. We, the people, face these realities every day. “It all needs fixed,” we say, “but what do we do?”

Elizabeth Warren had a plan for it all.

Elizabeth thought through all of these problems and wrote down her thoughts. She methodically consulted with experts and asked constituents what they thought. She weighed pros and cons and ins and outs and ups and downs. Then, she came up with plans. No, they weren’t perfect, but they were smart, and allowed for a fostering of ideas and a coming together of like minds. It would be hard, and dirty, and decidedly not pretty, but she rolled up her sleeves and beckoned to us, “Let’s go DO THIS.”

We let her down. In refusing to get behind her and to make her our candidate to defeat the Orange McMenace, we essentially said, a-fucking-gain, “A woman cannot lead.We let so many down, from the first woman who said, “No, you may not disrespect me simply because I’m a woman” to the Suffragettes, to every woman who burned her bra or walked into a roomful of men and explained her ideas. We let down the female warriors of the past and present: Harriet Tubman, Eleanor Roosevelt, Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony, Rosa Parks, Clara Barton, Abigail Adams, Amelia Earhart, Helen Keller, Gloria Steinam, Louisa May Alcott, Maya Angelou, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Sandra Day O’Connor, Sally Ride, Sacajawea, and Oprah. We let down Oprah, y’all.

We let down RBG; RBG, who famously said “I ask no favor for my sex. All I ask of our brethren is that they take their feet off our necks.”

Mostly, in continuing to allow old, white men to advance in a world that is so 🅒🅞🅛🅞🅢🅢🅐🅛🅛🅨 🅕🅤🅑🅐🅡🅔🅓 that it doesn’t even resemble itself anymore, we let down ourselves.

This cocked-up mess desperately needs a woman to fix it. It needs her to inject new life into old attitudes and mores that have become stagnant. It needs her to find all the misplaced things the men can’t find – values, decency, empathy, patriotism, truth, and fundamental good – that are hiding in plain sight, like the car keys/his glasses/his phone. We’ve been doing that for millenia. We’re doing it now. We’re the “fixers”; the doers, the nurturers, and the no-nonsence pragmatists. We need COMPETENCE. And Elizabeth Warren is the epitomy of that. She is nothing if not credentialed to the max; she is unapologetically exemplary.

Yes, Elizabeth had a plan for it all, and yet here we are, facing a choice between Statler and Waldorf to overcome the old, demented, but eminently dangerous self-tanning nightmare currently inhabiting the Oval Office.

We deserve everything we get.

Winning the lottery

I have always maintained that, if I ever won the lottery, I would first sign the ticket and secret it in a safety deposit box, lawyer up, then collect my winnings in anonymity, swearing the state to secrecy.

I would commence to disperse with the amounts that I would have earmarked for family and friends, cut the checks and execute the trusts, and deliver them to each recipient via special concierge service, with a brief explanation and a “This is my gift to you” sort of statement. The post-script would simply say, “Have a wonderful life; I’ll be in touch.” Then I’ll get a new phone number.

“In touch” might mean next week, or it could mean 2024.

Then, I would collect the husband, The Male Sibling Unit, the Army of Meowness, and we would escape to our dream haven at a yet-to-be-determined location.

This could be Virginia Beach or the Norfolk area – despite the husband’s quiet ruminations about “courting hurricanes”, to which I replied, ‘You mean playing chicken? I’m willing to put my mobility to the test.” First, I’d need to get some more shots in my C-spine, but I’m game, and we’ll be able to afford it.

It could be Colorado, close to the beloved Rockies, because my soul truly felt like it might soar out of my body the first time I glimpsed a view of those white-capped mountains majesty. This was despite the husband’s dubious look when I assured him we would actually incur less winter than we do here, according to my daughter, who is anxiously awaiting my permanent migration to her out west.

“Less winter in the Rockies?” he questioned mildly, certainly mindful of the things he has seen on tv and in movies where people get stranded in cars on blocked mountain passes and have to resort to eating their shoe inserts and snow to stay alive, and bears chasing them when they need to pee; besides, a blizzard could render you snowed-in at any time. Oh, and the possibility that you might have to stay at a hotel where blood flows like a river down the hall, the bartender is a ghost, two twin girls in matching dresses keep appearing to stare at you, and you find yourself barricaded inside a bathroom while your mad-as-all-fuck spouse takes a hatchet to the door. You know – fun times.

By the way, I’ve actually been to the grounds of that hotel – the inspiration for The Overlook Hotel in The Shining was The Stanley in Estes Park, Colorado. My kids knew that they might need to make me wear a Depends when they took me to see it last year, but it is a Holy Grail destination for a Stephen King fanatic. I took lots of cool photos, but this is my favorite:

I happen to think my photo puts this stock photo to shame, except for the stunning mountains captured:

I mean, who wouldn’t want to be holed up in such a beautiful place during a Snowpocalypse? The ghosts are just an added bonus.

One thing is certain; we won’t be moving into my personal dream home, because it is in Alaska. At the foot of a glacier. If you’re curious about that home, you can see it here. “I’ll come visit,” the husband stated firmly, “but I am not moving to Alaska.” The fact that I did not reply, “Okay, great! I’ll see you in the Spring!” should give you an idea about how much I love him and where my priorities are, because I felt that house in my soul. I’ll just keep trying to recreate it, and build the damn thing if I have to.

You might be scratching your head, wondering where all this lottery talk is coming from. After all of this explanation about how I prefer anonymity and then to bug-out once my loved, cherished ones are looked after, I find myself unable to keep a secret.

Yesterday, I impulse-bought two Pennsylvania Lottery Instant games from one of those lottery ATMs.

I never do this. This was absolutely the first time. I don’t even buy Powerball tickets; I leave that task to the husband to do. I’m not a gambler in any way, having entered a casino exactly three times in my life:

Once, to indulge the husband’s love of gambling on his birthday, where he spent $100 and miraculously departed with something like $375; we were clueless about one game he was playing so we were just giggling and saying, ‘Ahhh, what the fuck,” and pushing buttons randomly until he had a premonition that he should cash out and he was right.

The second time was to take my newly-pregnant with her second child daughter to the buffet for her birthday, because that was where she wanted to go. She spent the dinner in a foul mood because she was having morning sickness, but I crushed it at the chocolate fountain.

The last time, the same daughter and I accompanied my youngest daughter to a bridal convention, where we oohed and ahhed at dresses, place settings, and tried samples of canapes and other reception fare. We left with business cards, pamphlets, and unsettling trepidation about just how expensive dream weddings could be (or maybe that was just the crab puffs). Her wedding was breathtaking and perfect without all those fancy-shmancy ideas and wedding planners.

It could be argued that I will do anything but gamble at a casino, although critics of buffets at casinos would argue that you are, indeed, gambling with your digestive health if you choose to partake of that sort of gastronomical wheel of fortune.

For me to part with $2 at a Lottery ATM is such a rare occurence, you have a better chance at seeing a Yeti. And yet, I did.

To my shock and utter, euphoric delight, once I figure out how to actually play the tickets I’d chosen (one Halloween-themed and the other, well duhhhhhhh, Grumpy Cat-themed) I discovered that I was a winner! My first time gambling, and I had won! What a story for the grandkids to tell their grandkids, right?!? But yes, it’s true: I won!

I would ask that you please respect my privacy, and that of my family’s, while we digest this spectacular change in fortune and learn to cope with this tremendous wave of good luck. Please, no requests for loans; I know who all my cousins are now due to my Ancestry DNA test, so don’t come at me with that angle, either.

Excuse me now, as I try to figure out how to contact David Bromstad, of My Lottery Dream Home. I really hope he can find me a dream home in either Virginia or Colorado with my winnings. I’m going to thrill him when I tell him my budget:

Yes, the entire $5.

Weekend supplement, because everyone keeps saying I’m a writer.

This week, our local hospital announced that it was closing the Maternity Ward, effective October 1st. Our community was immediately vocal, expressing outrage, disbelief, and sadness. The opinions were filled with rage and confusion.

Over the past 20 years, the hospital had undergone massive renovations under the auspices of becoming more competitive and state-of-the-art. The network running the show – the names are no longer important because that network has changed too many times – had what we now know to be delusions of grandeur, but we in the community were reluctantly along for the ride, as long as our access to healthcare was not only continuous, but vastly improved.

We observed, warily, as the hospital’s health system bought out the neighborhood directly to the southeast of it, razing houses and historic buildings and re-zoning and even eliminating side streets.

For parking.

In 2007, Hamsher House, the original site of our hospital, which was built in 1917, was demolished in order to make way for 50 additional parking spaces. This building had become a school of nursing when the present-day hospital was built, then was sold to the University of Pittsburgh. Eventually, it was sold back to the hospital and used as doctors’ offices. The explanation for the demolition was chronicled in the local newspaper, and can be read here. Their reasons were perfunctory and typical for a big, corporate monster chewing up and spitting out obstacles. “Out with the old; in with the new.”

The original Bradford Hospital and Maternity, courtesy of The Bradford Landmark Society. Notice “maternity”?

The Hamsher House nameplate being removed. Out with the old, in with a dinky little conglomeration of shrubbery.

That 72×18-foot garden? Basically a bunch of shrubbery and perennials off to the side of what is now the hospital’s main entrance. With a bench. My garden in front of my house, while certainly not upscale, is more interesting to visit.

Harry Potter cat will read to you in my garden. The hospital’s “garden” doesn’t offer such perks.

We continued to ingest the press releases and ribbon-cuttings and announcements of new specialists moving into the area to provide us with closer options, instead of the realities many semi-rural and rural communities face: if you need specialized care, you’re going to have to travel to the big city. In our case, it was always Buffalo, Erie, Cleveland, or Pittsburgh. Some are 100 miles away; some 200. That’s quite a trek for anybody, and when you’re sick? Being able to get your chemotherapy 5 or 10 or 15 minutes’ distance from home is a major improvement on a 2-hour drive to Buffalo.

For a very short-lived time, all seemed good. The hospital was beautifully renovated and whole wings added on. It became a massive, steel and glass puzzle to navigate, but that’s the price we pay for progress, right? In 2012, I had a heart catheterization there in our state-of-the-art cath lab. Just a few, short years before, I would have been “sent out”. It was so comforting to be five minutes away from home for a procedure that petrified the fuck out of me.

Then, suddenly, the gears began grinding; softly at first, then a little louder. Doctors began leaving for “other opportunities.” There were rumors of unrest between the hospital’s network and those doctors. Then, our health system was changing. It was announced that our hospital would be consolidating – partnering, so to speak – with a hospital 25 miles away, across the Pennsylvania border, in New York. I chronicle that in the following piece, which I wrote on Friday, when the news that our hospital was now going to cease delivering babies, broke. The hospital’s official statement can be read here, if you’re interested in their mealy-mouthed explanation, citing declining births and such.

I know that many, many rural areas are watching this very same scenario happen. We aren’t unique, or special. But in a country that has given carte-blanche to insurance companies, essentially allowing them to maintain a chokehold on patients as consumers, and not with compassion and the very tenets that the Hippocratic Oath spells out, when are we going to insist that ENOUGH IS ENOUGH, ALL-FUCKING-READY?

Our healthcare system is broken, and yet we are allowing a certain demographic in this country to continue to hand over power to the 1%. It’s business as usual for them; they don’t know nothin’ ’bout birthin’ no babies; they just know how to capitalize on an industry. Yes, that’s right: healthcare is an industry. Every time you get sick, or a family member does, a corporate CEO gets gets his wings. In this case, it’s a lear jet.

So, without further ado, here is my editorial, if you will. Call it my shot over the healthcare business’s bow. It caused a little stir in this sleepy little town, and I submitted it to the local newspaper after private and public messages to do so, daring that conservative publication to print me. “You’re a writer,” one person said, “and we need your voice!”

Consider this my roar.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

FOLLOW THE MONEY. This was less than 3 years ago.

Years of mismanagement by CEOs and a hospital that tried to grow too big for the area it served has been culminating in a facility that ships its patients out, rather than keeping them, when a condition proves just a tad bit complicated. Every day, we in Bradford hear the whirr of rotating wings as the medivac helicopter lands to whisk a patient off to Buffalo, to Erie, or to Pittsburgh. The ambulance services work overtime to transport patients who aren’t stable enough for the air transport, or in inclement weather. This adds up to massive profits for those services, since a medivac transport costs as much as $40k and ambulance transport – even from your house to the hospital – has skyrocketed in cost. This is healthcare as a business, people, and it isn’t progressive, or more advanced, or state-of-the-art. It is services gouging the consumer; the injured, sick, stressed consumer. It is big insurance business. It is criminal.

When my mother was rushed to the hospital that last time, almost 7 years ago, it was decided that her developing pneumonia required treatment at a “more skilled” facility 100 miles away. More skilled? What, exactly, was this behemoth hospital we were at, with its many wings, departments, and skilled staff?

This community had watched as houses were razed to create parking lots for 3 blocks. We had watched as “advanced, state-of-the-art systems” and testing machinery and whole wings of advanced care (the Cardiac Suite, for one) were brought in, and new specialists joined the staff. We saw outpatient services open all over town, from a lab downtown to hospital-contracted physicians’ offices. Historic buildings were torn down to add on to an older hospital, creating a maze of hallways and more than a little confusion. Whereas at one time, you walked through the front doors to a lobby and took a elevator to the floor you needed for whatever reason, be it tests or to visit someone, NOW you had to enter through a DIFFERENT lobby and access a different set of elevators depending on your destination. The front became the back; the back became the place where you could go left, to one set of elevators that couldn’t take you to the area of the hospital you needed; that one was down the hall on your right, winding along another hallway, and to your left.

Confusing? Yes. But progress! It was going to make our hospital a cutting-edge center of diagnostics, of surgeries, of specialized care. Progress! That’s the line we were fed. Healthcare professionals rejoiced at the idea of being involved in something so exciting. We, the public, weighed our discomfort at a new, confusing system and thought, “At least we’ll get the best care here.”

Then? The specialists began to leave town, citing a myriad of reasons. The cardiologist you began treatment with would leave and a new one would come and you’d have to establish a new relationship; then HE would leave, too. Then? An unexpected merger with a nearby New York State hospital. Staff was either moved or let go to allow for the staff in the New York hospital to work here, or vise-versa. There were rumors of salary cuts. Whole jobs were disappeared. There were layoffs. A laundry list of predictive events began occuring: transporting patients out; sending patients to other facilities for tests or treatments; rumors of executives making money hand over fist while the quality of care suffered overall. Who cared if that shiny, expensive lobby had marbel floors and welcoming seating and a patient concierge service and a boutique-level gift shop? We wanted to be cared for; to be made well again.

My mother was to be moved to Erie for her pneumonia. Her blood oxygen levels were hovering at 90-92%. They were rapidly stabilizing just being in the ER. The decision was made to move her, and we left ahead of her to get there as quickly as we could, to meet her there. While enroute, about an hour into the trip, I was called and notified that they had “wanted to medivac (never discussed while we were at the hospital), but the visibility was poor due to rain.” Instead, they were loading her into the ambulance when “suddenly” her blood oxygen bottomed out and they had to intubate.

While I would never, ever suggest that BRMC killed my mother, I do believe that the decision to move her was a mistake, and contributed to her lightning-fast decline over two days. Intubating her then – I believe because the stress of the move caused her stats to drop – almost certainly signed her death certificate. She went on life support and never came off; that is, until I had to make that decision for her. Sure, she had amazing care in Erie, but they were fighting a battle that was exacerbated by poor decision-making at home. Despite their advanced care and superlative staff of rns, specialists, and hospitalists, my mother was doomed to never leave that hospital at the moment OUR hospital chose to send her there. She might have died anyway, sure. But she would have done that here, at home, where we could be with her ’round the clock. Empathetic care cannot ever be downplayed. Now, she is gone, and the massive bills incurred just over 2 days seem like blasphemous footnotes to me.

Today, the news was announced that we would be losing our Maternity/Women’s health wing. It will close its doors on October 1st. This is an enormous, tragic blow to this community. After October 1st, there will no longer be any babies born in Bradford. Their parents will have to drive 25, 45, or more miles away to give birth. This seems inexplicable to me; two of my deliveries were there, my hysterectomy was performed there, and five of my grandchildren were born there. We have been very fortunate in this semi-rural community to have had the ability to have our children in a hospital just 2-10 minutes from home. I know other communities have not been that lucky. I can’t even imagine the added stress and worry that expectant mothers will encounter knowing that the hospital they’ll need to get to for delivery is, at a minimum, 30 minutes away. 30 minutes is a crucial amount of time, and things can change very quickly when you’re bringing a tiny human into the world. Let us not even begin to contemplate the many reasons why infant mortality rates are high in a country that should be number one in healthy, viable births; this kind of scenario likely contributes.

The news, though, is devastating to the community and to the truly excellent staff, and further demoralizes an area that can’t take much more. Something HAS to give, and while I will not point fingers at the current administration in DC – because the wheels that would bring us to this conclusion began turning more than a decade ago – I will point out that nothing will be fixed while tycoons and their special interests run this country. We deserve so much better. Don’t we?

Vampires I have known, or NEW NEIGHBOR ALERT

I have been chronicling my observances of my newish neighbors on social media lately, and it’s become something of a sensation.

In covertly watching them, I have entertained the thought that they may be vampires, and listed my reasoning thusly. Being supernaturally-inclined myself, one has a feel for such things, you know?

Our house has rentals on either side of it, and we get to see many different types of people. The newish neighbors are living in the basement apartment to the left of us. It is a tiny, one bedroom place with maybe three windows. Since it is a basement apartment, very little sunlight penetrates, giving it a tomb-like feel.

It is a perfect abode for a vampire.

I know very little about this couple, who moved in stealthily and with very little in the way of possessions save a few pieces of furniture and some trash bags of stuff. (No coffins were brought in, but since I am not awake all night, it is possible that they could have at some point.)

So, I have set this up in journal-like form, although it is not nearly as detailed as Jonathan Harker’s account was when writing to his dear Wilhelmina while he was held captive by Count Dracula.

Perhaps some of my readers have had interactions with the undead. If so, I welcome your input, and I hope you enjoy.

**********

So, we have new neighbors in the little apartment next door, underneath the main house. They’re an older couple – I think. You know how sometimes, you can’t tell if a person is maybe 30, or 40, or 50, or 60+….because that’s how old they look? Hard life, bad genes, who knows? Anyway, they sit outside on the stairs in the mornings, coughing and smoking. (Might be why they have an ambiguous age issue 🤔)

They are at least old enough to have grown children because one of them drives them everywhere and she appears to have dentures. This does not help me to figure out how old they are.

A short while ago, she brought them back from shopping, I assume, and there was a dude who was helping them with their bags. He, too, could be 30-40-50. I’m beginning to wonder if we have nosferatu inhabiting this apartment and they require the blood of the innocents to regenerate.

This guy helping them was carrying things up and down the stairs to the apartment and at one point, he dropped a bag and tried to catch it as it fell. He was unsuccessful, so before it hit the ground, he kicked it in frustration. It landed close to the porch. I hope it was not fragile. He continued to bring bags from the car, occasionally kicking this bag but never retrieving it. Finally, some other woman exited the car, she with a Karen-who-wants-to-speak-with-the-manager haircut, and picked up the bruised and battered bag. She placed it on the porch. They departed.

There, it sits, on the porch. I feel almost sorry for it. I also realize that I am nuts.

**********

Sitting in my garden with coffee and a piece of apple danish, watching as my solar dark fairy world comes to life. The bag I felt so sorry for is no longer on the neighbor’s porch.

I hope someone gave it a good home.

😉

**********

The toothless daughter of the Nosferatu couple next door is back, bringing with her two shady dudes who won’t make eye contact with me. Now I know they are the undead because they know that if you look a witch right in the eye, she will decipher your true intentions and then work a spell to bind you. 😏

No bags of unknown contents were harmed today, but some lawn chairs that my mother had back in the 70s were retrieved from the nosferatu lair and carted away in their Chevy Suburban with six different body colors. A Suburban IS large enough to hold at least one coffin. 🤔

I’m onto these undead. 😉

***********

The Nosferatu actively engaged with the sun a short while ago, sitting on the stoop of the porch while they smoked. I guess they shouldn’t have given those vintage lawn chairs to the toothless female spawn and her undead minions. They seemed to tolerate it well, but it IS overcast. Perhaps this is indicative of their age, which I could surmise as being ancient: thus, they can tolerate some rays.

I was treated to the male Nosferatu coughing wetly for about 3 minutes before he spit something out. Probably a coagulated blood clot from his last feeding, although I didn’t dare to look. I didn’t have my protective eye coverings on so that I could mask my witch eyes, which have been known to turn a nosferatu into dust. Not mine, of course, but in ancient times, allegedly.

Suddenly, the nosferatu spawn from yesterday – Karen and her I-want-to-speak-to-your-manager hair

and the bag-kicking scoundrel, accompanied by squealing grand-spawn (they kept shouting “Grandma! Grandma!” from the car so that’s how I knew they were grands) parked precariously in front of my car and they all tumbled out. I pretended to be asleep in my garden so they would not suspect that I was collecting intelligence on them.

The kids commenced to dance around and squawk while scoundrel stood, sullenly, grunting at the blood clot nosferatu and the two females stood, each talking on their phones. Then, the kids went out back after the youngest was told, “Quit eatin’ the grass! Some dog’s probably pissed there.” Small male spawn said, plainly, “But I’m hungry.” Instead of getting him a snack, he was sent to play out back, where there are any number of rodents or snakes to gnaw on. See? Undead.

Soon enough, Karen and her hair headed to the car, making some comment about “not hitting this car when I park” and I was ALL EARS. She saw me sit up and I think she jumped a little, certainly because she was afraid that I would fork my fingers at her and hiss. Nervously, she stammered, “I’m always so careful parking because I don’t want to hit this car. Is it yours?” I nodded, and deadpanned, “I certainly do appreciate you not hitting it, because it’s new and I’d be very unhappy.” She understood my meaning (I have a wooden stake at the ready for you, Karen with the hair nosferatu, and NO MANAGER is on duty) and hurried to her car. The scoundrel followed, and the nosferatu elders had to yell to the kids to come up from hunting for their afternoon snack because “Your mom’s in the car and she’s leaving.” I don’t know what they would have done had they not been alerted; turned into bats at sundown and flown home?

Then, a dark SUV pulled up and the nosferatu elders got in. I imagine they’re going to hunt their next victims. I’ll be listening for the tell-tale return, which will be heralded by the hacking rattle as they have their last smoke of the night out on their steps.

Should have kept those ancient chairs.

**********

The Nosferatu may not be Nosferatu. It is possible that they might be some sort of “good” Nosferatu, but after this morning, I think they may just be ordinary people with nocturnal habits (see: me) who have a toothless daughter and goony minions, a son with anger issues who takes them out on innocent, unassuming bags of merchandise while his wife, Karen with the I-want-to speak-to-a-manager hair tries not to hit cars when she parks.

My sweet boy, Lucifer, slipped outside last night sometime and I was out early to call for him. I had little fear; when one of my dumbasses, who never go out, manage to find themselves out there, they are always drawn to the back yard, under the house, or under the stairs leading to the Nosferatu Lair. I began my search first on the far side of the house, and then the other, nearer the blood sucking cave of doom. I called to him, and he returned a frightened meow. Now, to ascertain where it came from.

“Loo-See-Furrrrr.….Satanas, where are you?” He cried again. Just then, the Nosferatu’s door opened and for a moment, I wondered if my little Satan Kitty had been lured within. The female Nosferatu appeared and asked, mildly, “Are you lookin’ for a kitty?” I answered, “Yeah, he got out last night, bright orange, with a collar.”

How I feel when one of my babies is in danger.

She nodded. “My husband said he was sleepin’ up on the steps, early this morning.”

Was she warning me, in an ominous Nosferatu code, that he might have become breakfast had the male Nosferatu been so inclined?

I continued to speak to her, explaining that he had meowed and wasn’t far, because he would only go around the house if he managed to escape. At this point, the male Nosferatu emerged, and I saw that he had gotten a haircut and looked very normal. Upon closer inspection, she, too, appeared normal.

Now, I am not jumping to conclusions here; I know that they could just be deflecting suspicion by appearing to be human, so as to throw me off their scent. (Actually, Nosferatu have no scent, being fastidiously clean. At least, that’s what Bram Stoker and Anne Rice say. Anne and I have exchanged messages and emails before, so I know she would concur.)

But then, the female exclaimed, “Oh, doesn’t he ever go out?” The male commented, “He was up on the stairs this morning, sleeping. When he saw me, he went down under the house.” Whereas the female has almost a “down-home” way of speaking, the male is more articulate and cultivated in the way he speaks. Neither raised their voices or seemed the least bit alarmed at having a witch nearly at their door. Dare I say they seemed helpful?

“No, he has never been out,” I replied to the female, and she began to fuss worriedly. “Oh my gosh, I hope he didn’t get near the road!” she exclaimed. I assured her I had heard him. As I called to him again, he began to answer me, sounding frantic. It was coming from the other side of the house but I couldn’t see him, so I thanked the Nosferatu and made my way over there.

Lucifer appeared on my path in front of me, crying fearfully, and then retreated underneath the back deck. I called to him again, softly, and he emerged, this time not crying out of fear, but meowing in an accusatory tone, as if to say, “You let me stay out ALL NIGHT and I was SCARED.” As I scooped up my big, 10 lbs of traumatized kitten, for he is not quite a year old, I answered his outrage. “Who told you going outside was a brilliant idea?”

Now, I am left with uncertainty. The Nosferatu could be diverting my suspicion, of course. Vampires don’t get to live hundreds of years by being fast and loose with their true identities. They did appear to not mind the morning sun at all, which could just mean that they are extremely ancient and that sun no longer affects them. Or, they could just be an older couple with some strange kids who have had bad luck and now live in a teeny, tiny little apartment with maybe three windows total, in the basement of a house. Also, note my horoscope this morning:

Hi Lori,

There’s an entertaining mystery for you to solve today. Luckily, you will get some helpful, exciting clues early on in the day. Someone who you don’t usually take very seriously will say something that strikes you as a deep truth. This confuses you a bit-it looks like you’ll have to revise your opinion of them! Old dogs can indeed learn new tricks, and this includes you! Give a person a second chance and they’ll give you another important clue. Something will suddenly start making sense.

The Nosferatu angle is STILL much more entertaining.

When your blog site posts a draft, you finish it.

Seriously! Either my cats commandeered an electronic device (they once changed the font size of my phone and rearranged my icons) or my blog host had a momentary brain fart. I awoke to find a draft published, and a poem I was very much not done with published. And get this…..it happened somehow before my last blog, but I swear it wasn’t there last week. I either need acute mental care or I time-traveled and forgot. Anyway, here’s my ode to weirdness, because I certainly own that today.

I am in such a weird place right now. It’s a complex mix of emotions caused by shifts in my life. It’s in the way this world has become so bizarre that it resembles a dystopian, futuredoom novel. It’s in the subtle changes that age brings about to both physical and mental awareness. It’s just in everything. Weirdness abounds, and I am no stranger to weird, having had that label all my life. I’ve embraced it, inasmuch as I think we all have weird within us. Some consider it a compliment; others seek to cloak their weirdness in “normal”. Sooner or later, though, that cloak falls off or there’s a gust of wind and we glimpse their weird, even if only for a moment. Weird is unique; it is to become a part of a community where there is acceptance; it is human at its very core.

Let’s not gloss over the fact that weird – or the perception if such – is a negatively polarizing idea, too. That weirdness I embrace could be seen as offensive or unacceptable to someone else, and they may seek to change my mind or, more alarmingly, silence my weirdness. Weird is a broad term, too; it can pertain to self, lifestyle, religion, community, mindset; it adapts to whomever is regarding it. Being weird can mean anything. And to some, that’s just unacceptable.

I suppose that I have embraced weird. But weird still feels very isolating. I guess weird is kind of an island.

But, this is weird, and I like it:

And this:

My garden is weird:

Am I weird for dissolving into a puddle at the sight of cat teefs?

He’s weird, but he is also a silver medalist at the State Special Olympics, so his kind of weird is very acceptable:

Weird?

I dunno. Anyway, I guess it’s better to be weird than to be Republican, so I’ve got that going for me.

Live and let die

I fucked off for a little while. If you noticed, and missed me, then I am heartily sorry for that. If you didn’t, well….join a very large club. Membership is free, but the disadvantage to that is that you receive neither a membership card nor a badge. There is no membership fee for my fan club, but you do need to have a strong stomach for vulgarity, love cats to the point of distraction, and the ability to eat a dozen cookies in one sitting and admit to it. See? Small, fucking fan club.

Nothing happened while I was absent. Nothing caused my silence. Nothing major. No, I wasn’t gone because of seasonal depression; my depression is all-inclusive of all seasons and pretty much just lays about, muttering curse words and wishing for cookies.

I wasn’t absent due to writer’s block. There have been so many things to write about; this life, and, in particular, the state of the world we are living in offers up so many subjects. Nope, no writer’s block here. I used restraint, really. I simply asked myself, whenever something really raised my hackles or insinuated itself most irritatingly into that lump of wrinkly, gelatinous flesh inside my head: does this spark joy?

Oh, fuck that! No, I did not ask myself that because I did not watch that irritating shit on Netflix. When I want to purge, I watch an episode of Hoarders. That show simultaneously makes me feel really good and really bad about myself and it reminds me that those 27 strings of Christmas lights I threw into a corner in the spare room because they didn’t work – and I just knew I could save money by going through each one and replacing the blown-out bulb – need to be chucked into the fuckit bucket because no fucking way am I ever going to really do that when a new string is only $3. Don’t be a hoarder like Millie in Missouri, Lori. Throw the lights away. Fuck sparking joy – joy is not losing my shit because I can’t untangle the motherfuckers to go through them.

I could have written about the numerous ways in which I learned to modulate my voice when uttering, “What in the actual fuck?” every time I got online, turned on the news, or read an article about the clustered, caked-in-shit state of affairs in this country since the bloated, fake-baked assface with vagina neck took office. Oh, I have had words for days about that. Why bother, though? Did you want to read them? Would they have sparked joy?

Okay, lemme quit. I’ve been having too much fun with that and it could be misconstrued as condescension. Go watch that woman and take advice about your stuff if it makes you feel better. I’m just saying, it’s been done before.

I could have written about my aforementioned frenemy, depression, and how I’m just not feeling it anymore and wish we could quit each other. The thing is, I don’t think that’s possible. I think depression is as much a part of me as my pinky fingers are, and to break up with depression would mean to slit my wrists the right way and watch the red water get redder. Ya know what I’m saying here?

So, depression gets to stay. I take my pills, which allow a measure of calm, lucidity within, and that gives me the ability to distract myself from the fat blob, muttering “fuck this life” on the couch while she shoves another cookie into her piehole (or cookiehole, as it were). It gives me the ability to distance myself from troubling thoughts, like

– What if my eyes really never do get any better and this darkness and achiness, the dryness and the blurry vision are going to be with me until I die?

– What does my husband see in me, really? I’m not the same, vibrant, long-haired redhead he had the hots for back in the day. I say things, I act in ways that make him irritated. He probably just tolerates me. Wishes for freedom or some younger chick. I should just die.

– Now that I have fully accepted and embraced my atheism, what’s the point to all of this? Why be good, or try anything, when there is nothing when you die?

– If my spine is just going to get progressively worse and render me a burden to my loved ones, why wouldn’t I rather die?

See? Dark thoughts that need to be avoided at all costs, especially in the middle of the night, when sleep doesn’t want to come because most of the time it is just The Male Sibling Unit and me here, and I am still not used to the husband working overnights, and I feel like a pussy for saying that? Why can’t big girl panties be pretty?

During my absence from this sacred space, I tried new things, if you will. I reconnected with my hands-on, artistic self and revised our living space to include more color and practiced serenity even when I didn’t feel it.

I welcomed a new grandson.

I got a haircut.

I also got the flu, had two 3-day migraines, and had bronchitis, so that took up a little time. The point is, I looked for distractions from listening to my depression lie to me, and my panic and anxiety throw me into a state of chaos and uncertainty.

Holy shitballs, y’all….I just realized something.

I coped. I am coping. I’m not running away from my problems, sedating, numbing, elevating them, or creating more out of such actions. You have less problems if you face the ones you have head-on, and sooner or later, a mostly problem-free and drama-free life feels like the norm, not an anomaly.

And you aspire to that. You want your life to be like that always. A life without all that noise is still not a boring life. A quiet life is still filled with the crescendo of laughter, of music, of raucousness. When you find ways to cope with depression, you live the best, most authentic life you can in spite of the ways in which depression can sink your ship. It may not be what you envisioned for yourself when you were just starting out, but it is you, doing you, in the best way that you can. Maybe there is no point to it all, but who gives a fuck? It matters now, and that is the point.

That’s my idea of joy, not throwing away a t-shirt because it doesn’t make my skin tingle and my heart leap. I save that feeling for when I look into the husband’s eyes and see that he still thinks I’m worth throwing into bed.

You won’t find that on Netflix. Nor do you want to.

You were expecting champagne and hors d’oeuvres?

Well, shit. Here it is, the end of another year. If you came here looking to read delightful recaps of a life gone completely sideways, or me waxing poetic about making it through another year despite some pretty heavy blows and some awfully deep, dark holes I found myself in without a rope, well, I apologize: that’s not happening here. I’ll bet it is at other blogs, though, so if that’s the kind of schmaltz you’re craving, just do a quick Google search, putting in any combination of the words “2018 blog recap” or “I made it through 2018” or “2018 pity party” and it’ll take you right the fuck outta this space. Don’t let the door hit you in the ass on your way out, but do me a favor and hit the Like button. It’s the least you can do for assuming that I’m like all the other blogs. I’m a loner, and a rebel.

If I seem a bit ambivalent, a tad, let’s say, combative, it’s probably because I am. I abhor playing by the rules set forth by whoever made the rules that we must feel nostalgic, and list all of the ways in which we were anally violated by 2018 without lube. After doing so, then of course we say, “Let’s drink to the end of 2018 and toast to 2019!” After all that reliving the shit sandwiches we ate throughout the year, the raw deals, the sad situations, and the tragic circumstances, who wouldn’t want to drink themselves unconscious? It never occurred to me, until now, that this is the real reason why people drink on New Year’s Eve. It’s not really to welcome the new year, but to help you forget the old one.

Of course, you’re reminded, every time you look at social media, that this a time for reflection, soul-searching, and to wipe the slate clean and start fresh. Resolutions abound; New Year’s Day is the day to begin anew.

Except, it really is just another day in which the year has changed. The shitty things that happened to you in January, March, and June 2018 still happened. The bills you owed on December 31, 2018, were the same ones you owe on January 1, 2019. The weight you gained because you ate like shit over the holidays didn’t magically disappear. Your problems are still there, hanging on your back like whatever monkey is proportional to your problems; maybe you have a spider monkey, maybe you have a gorilla, and, most unfortunately, a few of you have one of those chimps that will eat a bitch’s face off.

And then, there’s this meme:

Thanks ever so much, Robert Downey Jr, for making this face so that people could make memes about being so over whatever it is that they’re over. Granted, it’s a very effective face, and it’s been used by just about everyone, for everything:

It is annoying, isn’t it? “Here’s Junior, in a cardboard box.” “Junior again, in a cardboard box with his teddy! Soooo adorable!”

Apparently, phlebotomists have their own brand of sarcasm.

Okay, so this is actually true.

Every year since this photo was discovered, my social media is flooded with this image by the same, jaded, glass-is-at-an-ambiguous-level people. The nihilists, the ones who’ve seen it all, the loners; the rebels, Dottie.

Then, there’s this slightly newer, snappier one:

Thanks for the warning.

I know, those who post this one are delighting in their level of blase, devil-may-care, flippant attitudes about the whole, messy New Year situation. It may actually be true! But unfortunately, it was only true the first few times I saw it; now, it is merely redundant.

Why can’t the New Year memes reflect the truth? You know, the things we think, but politely refrain from saying even though we pride ourselves in being the awkward, sarcastic, foul-mouth delights that everyone has come to know and love? I’ve come up with a few that I think have the potential to really catch on and blast me into the stratosphere of “Famous Meme Creators” because if this writing gig doesn’t ever take off, at least I’ll be posthumously known as “that crazy cat lady with the worst example of resting bitch face who made some pretty honest memes that said what we were thinking, but were too busy cultivating a reasonable degree of sarcastic wit to even dare to post because let’s face it, those memes were true AF but who is that savage?”

I think they’re brilliant and I encourage you to share. In fact, I dare you:

We all know at least one person like this. We refrain from wishing them “Happy New Year to you and Steve” because Steve might be Ron, or Bob, or Dan.

This person also posts multiple duckface (fuckface, if you’re MY autocorrect) selfies a week.

Okay, so I condensed this one from half a dozen, individual memes to one, because it’s possible that they all refer to one person.

My craptastic year is all reflected in this collection of writing. The craptastic year before that is, too. If you’re hankering for my musings about a life gone wrong, or upside down, or veered slightly off course, it’s all there. I don’t want or need to recall, with a rueful chuckle, the strange and unsettling things that happened in my life. I don’t need to reread the happy stuff, either. I lived it, and I wrote it down for you and for that guy in the back who’s been sitting there with popcorn, waiting for the movie to start while he picks the cat hair off his clothes. It’s all a part of what makes me who I am, that delightfully awkward, sarcastic foul-mouthed mess of a crazy cat lady who says what you’re thinking and who has a great future in writing memes.

Happy New Year, my friends, and please, be yourself in 2019. I happen to think you are pretty, fucking cool. (Except you, voyeur guy in the back. Go home and watch Netflix.)

Merry Christmas, and bake off.

I’ve been spending lots of time in dimly-lit rooms lately.

Some of it is by choice, but much of it is due to my eye condition and the bad flare-up I’ve been having. The weather has been a bit frightful, as it is apt to be in a Pennsylvania December, too. Going out to walk in it can be a challenge even under the most optimal health scenarios. Stark, white landscapes may be beautiful, but they cause glare, and glare is a four-letter word in and to my eyes (and yep, I can count). Wind is, also, and so I pick my battles carefully.

I knew that the holiday trip the husband and I made last week – our gift of a couple of nights away, culminating in a Ghost Ritual before heading back home – would mean days of recovery, but when Cardinal Copia and the Nameless Ghouls beckon, we assemble, together as one.

The frigid air outside, the incense pumped into the theater, and my careful-but-heavy application of eye makeup was sure to inflame my delicate eye tissue, and so rest before and after has been crucial. It sucks – what else can I say? But, as with any chronic illness or condition, you have to decide whether you or the disease wins. I am not a gambler, but I simply have to win this battle, because fuck getting old. Just fucking fuck it. I may have the trifecta of chronic ass aches in depression, arthritis, and these fucking eyes, as I am so fond of saying, but I choose when, how, and TO live.

So fuck you, trifecta.

Anyway, I have been watching tv at night, by the soft glow of the Christmas tree and some twinkle light-festooned archways. There aren’t any new episodes of the programs I watch, because television has come up with this whole “Winter finale” bullshit, no doubt to entice viewers into watching that last new episode that airs just before the deluge of holiday programming takes over. Thusly, we have to content ourselves with those “very special Christmas episodes” somewhere around Thanksgiving, which puts them somewhere behind the holiday game of retail and advertising (and some of my neighbors, who had their Christmas lights glowing right after Halloween).

I have purposely avoided the news, except for an occasional Anderson Cooper viewing, because he is handsome and still very polite even in his exasperated, “Trump Is A Moron” diatribe. I know, I should keep up with the freight trains that barrel through Washington DC every day, and I do skim the headlines, but I’m Trumped out, for lack of a better way to put it. I simply cannot stomach the daily deposits of feces that spew out of the wrong orifice on that man. I cannot watch the sadness going on at the border, or read about the anger and confusion going on in Europe and the UK. I know it exists; as an intelligent human being, I do stay informed. I just can’t seem to stomach the seepage into my daily life anymore, and especially at Christmas.

There are so many sad stories this time of year, and so many are geared toward pulling at our heartstrings. As an aside, why is that, exactly? Are poor kids, or sick kids, somehow legitimately less fortunate only at Christmas? Is it okay to ignore that they lack food, healthcare, warm clothes, or decent living conditions 364 days out of the year, but not okay that one day that an imaginary fat man in a red suit is supposed to deliver them a sackful of gifts? Because, you know, it’s all about those gifts. People would have you believe nothing else. And I know that I am guilty of perpetuating that belief, as I rush around before Christmas, trying to make wishes come true in the eyes of first, my kids, and now, my grandkids. I’ve tried to inject more love and more meaning, but in the end, my Christmas joy comes from a place of knowing that their eyes light up in delight because I got it right. Selfish? Maybe. But I own it.

So, I try to control the number of sad stories I actively engage in, even in this, the era of instant information inundating our senses. It’s not easy, unless I put the phone down, or leave it in another room. I don’t like to do that because I have family members in various stages of health issues and sometimes, they need me. Invariably, I miss a phone call or text when I do that, and so the phone stays nearby. And with that, the temptation. To combat it, I switch on the tv.

I watch cooking shows, or more accurately, baking shows. Not just any baking shows, either. I lose myself in hours of The Great British Baking Show, a series from the BBC. It’s viewable on PBS and also on Netflix, if you want to click on the highlighted link. I watch, then rewatch, my favorite bakes. I file away pointers and wonder at their confectionary and yeasty creations because it seems like the Brits just have got it going on. While I know bakers exist all over the world, and I know people who love to bake and who create beautiful delights, the Brits seem to take it to a totally different, elevated level.

It’s simply fascinating to watch them politely compete with each other over recipes of choux pastry, Genoese sponge, and sugar work. I admit, I had no idea that eclairs were made of choux pastry, and I would have called the cake in a decorated cake by the world cake because it is cake….not sponge. Sponge seems more appropriate, now that I know how important it is to get the right rise and the right formation of structure, the perfect golden color, and to time a chocolate sponge just right because the hue is deceptive. I never knew. I just never knew. I feel enlightened in the knowledge.

And then there are the hosts, Mary Berry, and Paul Hollywood: knowledgeable, charismatic legends in the UK, renowned for their baking, their books, and their tv appearances. In newer shows, Mary has been replaced by Pru Leith, who is also a well-known “celebrity baker” in the UK. They are supported by hosts, UK comedic personalities Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins, and later seasons, Sandi Toksvig and Noel Fielding.

Did I forget to mention that, in addition, to being a “cracking baker” and the authority on baking bread, Paul Hollywood is, himself, a visionary, delightful piece of eye candy?

Bake me some bread, you silver foxy fucker.

Those steely, blue eyes that cut a contestant like lasers when they fuck up a bake, and turn into warm pools of tropical ocean when complimenting them on a particularly great flavor – oh yeah, I’ll take that over the news any day of the year, not just at the holidays.

I was recently gifted a Kitchenaid mixer by a very dear friend after wishing, fervently, that I had one. My love of baking has waned over the last few years not because I don’t want to, but because my arthritis prohibits it. A hand mixer can be okay, but the vibration causes uncomfortable pain for hours after, plus there are days when I lack sufficient grip. I had been looking for a used one at a lower price because as much as I coveted them, I could not bring myself to pay $200+ for one. She could, and did, causing me to burst into tears and to wonder at the fact that there are still some truly wonderful people left in this world, despite the news trying to convince us otherwise.

Now, I can bake to my heart’s content, and try all those recipes Paul and Mary demonstrate in their Masterclass shows. Baking is kind and filled with love. Baking is not racist, or spiteful, or inciteful. How can you even think of the cruel things happening around the globe when you’re working a dough to get the gluten going, or shaping a braided loaf, or cutting cookies into precise shapes, or whipping a meringue into perfect peaks? Baking is love, and love is contagious and enticing. The only time the news has any business interfering with a bake is just before you’re getting ready to work a bread dough. You can punch and knead and slam that dough down to your heart’s content, feeling all the anger and tense emotions releasing through your hands into the activation of the ingredients.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some anise Christmas cookies to whip up. I’ve got love to release.

How about we all take a hypocrital oath?

Hey!

Did you know that, when you become friends with someone on Facebook, you get to witness EVERY PERSONALITY THEY POSSESS?

You didn’t? You mean, no one ever explained to you how this stuff works? Well, let me. No, I insist.

For example, when you comment on, say, a political post I’ve made, urging peace, love, and understanding, that’s just wonderful! It projects a bipartisan, united front to me and my other friends. Rah rah you!

HOWEVER….if we have mutual friends, it is possible that maybe they aren’t on the same page as me on the same subject. I know; hard to believe that I might have friends with whom I do not always agree, seeing as I’m such a shiny, hearts-and-flowers kind of gal who exudes sunbursts out of my ass and all, but it’s true! I mean, I do have religious friends who haven’t totally abandoned my heathen ass but who probably don’t follow me closely (because of all the fucks I don’t give that I vociferously do nonetheless put out there on a daily basis. And the imaginative, always cheery ways I manage to work the word cunt into daily vocabulary) without unfriending me. I also have Republican friends, though, honestly, I try to keep that noise to a minimum since there’s only so much I can take. I even have Christian Republican friends, but…. wait….I don’t think there’s any other kind, right? I don’t know if you can be a Republican and an Atheist. It seems like one would cancel the other out, because Science.

So, if that’s the case, and we have mutual friends, you can’t post THE EXACT OPPOSITE of the message you preached on my page, on theirs. You also can’t join the “Libtards Are Stupid” FB group, or “Love” that mutual Republican friend’s meme calling for the genocide of all Democrats. Cuz, guess what?

I can see that shit. What happened to all that kumbaya, motherfucker?

Same goes for you Earth mamas (and daddies; let’s be fair), talking about your kids meaning the world to you and how you always, always, ALWAYS put them first and you spend every waking moment caring for them and every sleeping moment dreaming about their futures; good on you! Way to parent!

Yes, I see all your Pinterest saves about nutritious snacks to pack away for the Zombie Apocalypse, so your kids will have brain food during those horrific days to follow. It does seem pointless to me, because we all know they’re just going to get attacked and the zombies won’t care if they have smart brains or not; they’re going to eat them anyway. But hey, you do you, Mama. I totally commend you for the hours upon hours you selflesslessy spend online, looking at Pins and venting about how hard it is to raise kids these days, but how you don’t ever miss your pre-pregnancy body and it’s worth every potty training accident, or poop finger painting art project on your walls just to be able to be their mommy. I promise; I’m not gagging. I was you once, a long time ago, before the internet, nutritious snacks, and washable latex paint.

My daily goal was to get them through the day without killing them, which meant they sometimes were bribed with cookies and chips so they’d be quiet and I could hear myself think. In a Zombie Apocalypse, those zombies would have been lurching to my front door, because we would have had primo brains to eat, saturated fats and all.

You wouldn’t give these to your kids, but I would.

So yeah, you’re killing it on social media! You’re projecting Mother of the Year! Father of the Century!

Except when – you guessed it – some mutual friend posts pics of their weekend (or weeknight) partying at the bar, or when a BAR posts pics on their FB page and YOU’RE ALWAYS IN EVERY ONE. You, with your hoochie clothes and your party face, not looking like you’re missing your kids even though to be honest, I’ve seen pictures of you out every night for the last week.

Except when you post your daily selfie – poor, exhausted you, laying on your bed after a long day being the most selfless parent on the planet, captioning it, “This mommy is ready for some zzzzzs” but then someone tags you in a pic of the bunch of you in da club at the exact same time you said you were sleeping, and then your mom posts a pic of her gorgeous grandkids, who she took overnight “so Mommy could get some sleep”.

Who’s Mother of the Year now, bish?

The hoochie, in her natural habitat.

That’s how Facebook works. In a small town, or a close-knit workforce, or fandom – just about any setting where you have friends with mutual interests or geographical settings – all your personalities can be in play at any time. Your coworker might find out how you REALLY feel about them from your Zoomba buddy, who just happens to be your coworker’s husband’s cousin. Your boss might find out that you actually hate your job from a mutual friend who attends church with him. Your MOM might see you out on your four wheeler with your buds instead of home sick with a migraine, which was why you couldn’t come over to help her move her bedroom set around.

Yes, Moms know how to work the Facebook.

She knows you like porn, too. She saw your browser history the last time she came over to babysit, when she was saving pins to her Pinterest board titled “The Best Non-Nutritious Snacks to Give Your Grandkids To Pay Your Kids Back For Their Teen Years”.

If you’re reading this and thinking, “Damn, I’m glad I’m not that dumb” then you, my friend, are in a very small community of the minority. Why am I bringing this up? Did someone light the string on my tampon? (Rhetorically, of course.) Who really is this stupid, that they think social media isn’t traceable? Isn’t consequential? And is private and secure?

Ask your mom. She’s been meaning to ask you why she found “cornhole” in your Pornhub Search engine, as well as “Devil’s Triangle”, because you told her that was a drinking game in high school.

It’s Labor Day, or “I don’t know nothin’ ’bout birthin’ babies”

I thought I’d take advantage of the Labor Day holiday to write a blog.

Wait.

I’m currently unemployed. Does it count for me? Am I permitted to take advantage of all of the “perks” of a federal holiday? The sales (that I can’t afford because I’m unemployed), the barbecues, the bingeing of Netflix (or “every day”, as I refer to it), the carefree imbibing of beer for three days instead of two? Or do I need to lock myself away, hidden from sight in my shame, from the employed who got the day off? Am I allowed to say, “Happy Labor Day!” to those I meet even though I, myself, do not get the day off from having, well, every day off?

See, there I go. I’ve done it now. I feel like such a fraud!

Except that I don’t, really. I do work full-time, at a great number of things. Anxiety is a full-time job, as is depression. Second-guessing every, fucking choice I’ve made throughout my life takes up at least the equivilent of a part-time job cleaning a bar after hours. It’s a good analogy to make, because both involve being awake after 2am, when everyone else has fallen into bed and they’re snoring away. Both involve regarding messes others have made that I must clean up, a few of my own due to clumsiness, and wide-awake moments of dismay: “Why am I where I am?”

Running a home in which The Male Sibling Unit lives is also a full-time job. Actually, anything involving The Male Sibling Unit is, indeed, a full-time job, whether it be as his caregiver, friend, or family. You know him? You’re working. This is a job you commit to 100% or else. It’s never effortless, but it is also not without great reward even when he’s doing his best to piss you off. Your take home pay is laughter and more than a few “WTF” moments, and the great thing about this job is that you get paid on demand, every day. It doesn’t pay the bills, but it does enrich your heart (when it’s not raising your blood pressure). It’s a gig well worth taking.

Anyway, it’s Labor Day, and I hope you’re enjoying it. This is one of the holidays that we share with Canada, even though Canadians seem to be much happier than us and as such, don’t necessarily need the first Monday of September off to become happier somehow. I’m sure they have annoying coworkers and I am positive that they have a rich history involving how Labor (or Labour) Day came to be, and I’ll bet it has nothing to do with having babies. Yeah, I used to think Labor Day was a day in which all babies were born. Granted, I was like, 4, but it seemed to make sense before I grasped that we all had unique birth dates. I can still remember sitting on the couch with a box of Cracker Jacks, watching the TV as some old dude shouted “Timpani!” and thinking the big total on the screen signified how many babies had been born so far.

Of course, the old dude was Ed McMahon and the total on the screen was actually money, because we were watching the Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. It was a yearly custom in our house to watch it and, indeed, in many. My mom would switch it on at the start on Sunday night and, I shit you not, that TV would stay on throughout the night. It was as if, by turning it off, people would quit pledging and Jerry might fall asleep and wouldn’t raise more money than the year before. Mind you, we slept, but the TV (and I assumed Jerry) did not.

It was exciting to see celebrities on there, performing their hearts out, and then it would get boring and I would drift off to find something else to do. I especially hated when they would switch to the local station affiliates and their own versions of the telethon because who the fuck wanted to see news anchors we saw every day? Every year we’d do the nail bite and wonder, “Is Jerry gonna raise more money than last year?” and every year, my mom and grandma would shed tears of joy “for the kids” and I would jump up and down, clapping, exclaiming “HE DID IT!!!” because Jerry always surpassed the previous year’s totals. Always. You could bet on it and win.

After that, it was “make the final decision about what you’re wearing tomorrow and lay it out” because the first day of the school year was ALWAYS the next day. You can’t bet on that anymore because the school year now begins at least a week or two before. I don’t agree with that, really, because there are some traditions that just ought to be left alone. I know the Labor Day Telethon is no longer held, because Mr. Lewis, that saint of saints, is dead, and Ed McMahon has not been around to announce, “Timpani!” for ages. That rite of passage, though – knowing that, every year, summer was officially over after Labor Day and you’d better put your white shoes away – was a comforting regularity in an otherwise chaotic world. We could probably use that mainstay again.

Now, everyone wears their white shoes year-round and summer isn’t over until Climate Change decides it is. There are grandmas rolling over in their graves because of the white shoe thing, but as for the whole “seasons changing” thing, you’ve got to get your enjoyment out of each as quickly and however you can.

Like everything in life now, weather is extreme, and you can’t count on the leaves to begin to fall midway through October (they’ve actually been gathering on the ground for weeks now, despite the heat) and the snow to fly just before Thanksgiving. Regions that always got White Christmases can’t count on it. Spring doesn’t always “spring” when it should; I am pretty sure we went straight from winter to summer this year. One thing that is certain, though, is that it’s hotter longer, and that change doesn’t appear to be changing. The climate is changing in our region and in others; Montreal (sorry, you happy Canadians, for this decidedly unhappy discovery of the vile little tenticles of stench) now has stinkbugs. The heat is rising in politics, in human rights, and in general, every aspect of life; it is also rising on our maps, too.

So, on this Labor Day, crack a cold one and hold it against your forehead. You’ve earned it. Cook on the grill and enjoy your pools, your Netflix binges, and each other. Tomorrow, you can put on some white shoes and head off to work, where the heat is on and life will continue pretty much as it has been.

If you’re paying attention, though, you will be able to see that the light is a little different outside, and the air, while still pungently heavy with humidity, is different, too. Sightings of Basic Bitches will increase, with their pumpkin spice lattes and Autumnal colors and insistence upon wearing scarves and Uggs even though it’s still 90 fucking degrees out. I’ll be over in the corner, doing my full-time, unpaid gigs and my part-time, wish-I-could-quit gig. I’ll be the one in flip flops, cutoffs, and an old T-shirt, shucking corn because, when I asked The Male Sibling Unit if he’d like to shuck the corn for dinner, he shrugged and said, Idon’tthinkso” all in one word like he does when he is simply not having it. He’s retired, you know, but Labor Day is still a holiday and he has no intention of fighting with an ear of corn. I’ll raise my cup of black coffee to you in acknowledgement, because while I like pumpkin spice and Autumn is my jam, I am not basic. I am extra, and then some.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, there be corn to shuck.