Webster’s defines “broken” as an adjective that means:

  •      separated into parts or pieces by being hit, damaged, etc.
  •      not working properly
  •      not kept or honored

It can refer to an idea just as easily as it can refer to any tangible object.   Things get broken all the time.  Sometimes they can be repaired and sometimes they have to be discarded.  Sometimes they can be mended temporarily, and sometimes the break actually lends character or makes something stronger.

It’s okay when things get broken that should have been discarded years ago because it affords the opportunity to de-clutter, like that old coffee mug that either fell out of the cabinet accidently or jumped to its death on purpose.  It’s not okay when the broken item was beloved and has to be replaced, especially when doing so will cost a fortune, like when my laptop finally quit.

If you’ve been keeping up with my blog posts, you might remember the last one in which I bemoaned a broken tooth.  For the record, this was not an okay thing to be broken.  But it does mean that I’ll finally get my sorry great-big-chicken self to the dentist.  So that’s good, right?

After a full week of near-liquid meals, I have noticed the disappearance of a few pounds.  That streak will be broken just as soon as I can wrap my lips around a great big cheeseburger, and it’s a break I look forward to.  But that still might be a while.  My dentist appointment is today, and depending on what they do, it could be another week before I’m back on more solid foods.

So, like any self-respecting woman would do in my situation, I thought of stepping on the scales to get an idea of just how much weight I’d lost.  It feels like maybe ten pounds, but since I’m huge, it’s unnoticeable to anyone except my pants.  I’m the behemoth lady that has to lose at least twenty pounds before the loss becomes the slightest bit recognizable.  But I noticed yesterday that my pants didn’t scream when I zipped them up, which prompted me to think of the scales.  And, let’s face it – even if it’s only one pound lost, we ladies want to know about it so we can tell all our friends and receive congratulatory comments and have the opportunity to explain why our way of dieting is better than anybody else’s in the group, providing tips and advice on how they, too, can lose one pound.

Except that it’s not an intentional diet.

Aside from the dentist, that set of scales holds the number three spot on my top ten list of things I fear most in my life.  The dentist is actually second.  Spiders rank at number one, except that on the real written list the number one spot is blank.  I can hardly stand to even write the word.

I tiptoe in to where the scales used to be, hidden behind the bathroom door so I don’t have to look at them every day, taunting me, yelling at me for being fat, and teasing me for being none-too-careful about my food intake and lack of self-control.  The door squeaks when I peak to see if they’re still there.  I look around to make sure I’m alone and listen to ensure that no one is coming up the stairs.  I ease my big toe up on the scales and position my foot lightly.  With caution, lest the thing suddenly grow eight legs and wield a scorpion’s tail at me, I slowly lift up the other foot to rest beside its mate.

They’re broken.

The scales are reading out my ideal weight, which I know with certainty is fifty pounds from now.  So I’ve either stepped into the future and am reading what the scales will report after a long and strenuous year of dieting, or they’re simply broken at the number that reflects what I should weigh if I were more diligent about what I eat.

But I think the break lends character.  I’m not so afraid of it anymore.  It actually looks kind of good sitting there.  So good, in fact, that I’m thinking of moving it to the middle of the living room floor.  I can stand on it while I’m watching television and slurping Jell-O.

I’m keeping it.  Regardless of how long it takes to get my dental issues repaired, I’m keeping those scales.  I may even paint them.  When the family gets tired of seeing them on the living room floor, I’ll build a shrine with a little shelf just for the now-favored set of scales.  I’ll update my top-ten list of things I fear most and I’ll bring the now-favored scales periodic offerings of fruits and nuts while I polish it daily.

And I’ll dare anyone to refer to them as broken.

They’re perfect just the way they are.



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Lucky Charms

I’ve always considered myself to be quite lucky.  I’m the lady who takes twenty bucks to a casino and walks out three hours later with anywhere between fifteen and fifty dollars in my pocket.  That may not sound like a lot, but when you factor in everyone who lost big money that very same day, I’d say I was the one on top.  Right next to the big winner, who probably just went back the next day and blew it all anyway.

Husband says that the quickest way to double your money is to fold it in half and put it back in your pocket.  In my case, the twenty dollars I’m willing to lose is a small price for three hours’ entertainment.

I used to find quarters in pay phones before the druggies started putting their needles in there, scaring everybody away from the little silver flap hiding the coin return, way back when there used to be pay phones everywhere.  I used to find whole dollars in the bottom of the plastic ball pit at fast food places when I’d jump in with my toddlers after their Happy Meal.  I can take a walk and find a five dollar bill on the creek bank.  I once found a twenty dollar bill in the parking lot of Big Bear, an old grocery store my grandmother liked to frequent.

A friend at work was telling me about all the four-leaf clovers she’s been finding lately.  It makes me wonder what other good things are in store for her.

I’ve noticed that the luck in my life has usually happened in curves.  Not sharp dips and swings from one end of the luck spectrum to the other, but a generally steady run of even good fortune with small curves either to the left or right of it.  Usually when the curve away from the center of good fortune occurs, I can count on the sway of the next curve to take me to something wonderful before I glide back to the center again. 

Sometimes good things and bad things happen concurrently, making me wonder which side of the middle I’m on, or if maybe my general run of prosperity just suddenly widened out a little to encompass both sides of things.

It gets interesting.

One thing that’s always remained fairly well is my health.  Aside from an occasional cold I’ve been okay.  I did have to have a hysterectomy at 39, but my first grandchild was born just a few months later.  Usually, every curve to the left in my world is balanced by a sway to the right, after which I seem to land right back in the middle.

I’m expecting something wonderful to happen.  I don’t know what it is, but I’m anxiously awaiting it.  I’m experiencing a current curve to the left a little, and I can’t wait for the situation to be rectified.

I’ve put off having a tooth pulled for a couple of years now.  Fortunately for me, I was able to just avoid that tooth by chewing on the other side.  And I’m busy, so I kept putting off the inevitable.  This past Wednesday I broke a tooth on the good side. 

My dental appointment is next Wednesday.

The lady told me she could get me in on Thursday.  But I had an interview at work on Friday for a possible promotion, and I didn’t want to risk something happening that might cause me to be out on Friday and miss it.  So I opted for an appointment next week instead.

Husband went to the store and bought all sorts of stuff, like gelatin and pudding snacks.  He also picked up broth, soup, and baby food. 

If it’s been while since you had any, pulverized carrots are pretty good if you’re hungry.  My favorite is the mixed fruit, but the banana isn’t bad either.

I think the interview went well, but I won’t know anything until the end of next week at the earliest.  I’m competing with three other very skilled and talented people, so if you’re in to that sort of thing, cross a couple fingers for me.

In the meantime, I’m on my third day of protein shakes and near liquid food. 

The irony is that I’m still the one doing the dishes.

Hopefully, when I look back at this curve to the left, I’ll be able to pinpoint what the sway to the right looked like.  Surely the Universe wouldn’t let me put off much needed dental work, and consume baby food for an entire week, for no larger plan than the loss of a few pounds.

Whatever happens, though, I know I’ll be okay.  I will, after all, end up back in the middle where life is good – a place where there are cheeseburgers, tortilla chips, and eggrolls.

And popcorn.


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Knowledge Gap

Husband and I just started watching episodes of “How I Met Your Mother” a couple of months ago.  We started from the beginning with Season One, Episode One.  We’ve been watching them in order these last six or eight weeks, and now we’re already at the end of Season 6.  The shows are hilarious, but some of them have meaningful side-stories and undertones that have me thinking for days and days about how it relates to my own real-life world.

The most recent that had that effect on me was an episode about knowledge gaps.  Those gaps in a person’s knowledge of which everyone but you is aware.  Like how to pronounce a common word, or whether or not the place with the weird name really exists.

It got me thinking about my own gaps in otherwise common knowledge, and I giggled when I remembered my reaction to the discovery of how ignorant I’d been.  One such example happened when I was seventeen.

Several of us were down in the dairy barn stripping tobacco.  It had been a dairy barn for so long that even though the cows and equipment were gone and the barn repurposed, we still referred to it as though it was an active and viable part of the farm.  On this day it was filled with wagons full of dried tobacco stalks and several home-made balers.  We would carry an armload of the tobacco to the waist-high table, strip the leaves and sort them by grade, and then carry the piles of leaves to the appropriate bin for baling.  The balers were made of a simple wooden frame and we used an old-fashioned car jack to ratchet the top board down into the box as far it would go, compressing the leaves along the way.  We’d have to fill up one box for what seemed like a hundred times before we got a good bale out of it.

There were about five or six of us in there, and the crisp afternoon turned into a much cooler evening, which then turned into an incredibly cold night.  The barn was made of cinderblocks, and the few windows it housed contained no glass.  We had worked until our fingers were numb from endless hours of plucking and tearing, and our feet felt frozen in the damp fall air.  The few breaks we took were to trek back up to the house for meals and such.  We worked that way for a couple of days, from sun-up until long past midnight, until all the tobacco had been stripped and baled and loaded into the trucks for market.

We talked while we worked.  There were amusing anecdotes, stories of childhoods fondly remembered by the elders in the group, and future plans revealed from the youngest among us.  Conversation flowed easily while increasingly more bales were produced.  When the conversation took a turn toward food, someone mentioned that they had gone by the town’s bakery and noticed that doughnut holes were on sale for a dollar a bag.

I laughed until my sides hurt.  At some point I noticed that everyone was staring at me.  I had turned into a teenaged lunatic, giggling my ass off for no apparent reason.  I think there was a snort or two in my doubled-over and knee-slapping laughter.  The center of a doughnut is empty.  I couldn’t imagine someone putting up a sign that said the doughnut holes could be bought.  I thought it was either a joke or the baker was about to make a killing on money from stupid people with an ingenious new marketing plan that would ensure the buyer got a bag of air for his hard-earned dollar.

I had always just assumed, at least until that day, that when the doughnuts were cut, the little bit that remained on the cutting board got re-rolled into more doughnuts.  That gap in my knowledge, once they figured out why I was laughing, got them laughing, too.  They each in turn regaled us with their own gaps in otherwise common knowledge.

Their stories helped to ease the feeling of stupidity, but I still shake my head at the memory.  I don’t know when bakers starting frying those little bits of dough that came out of the middle, but in the fall of 1985 I still hadn’t heard about them.


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The Lunch Rush

You’ve all been there.  You only have so long to get where you’re going, place your order, and either dine in or carry out.  Your boss won’t like it if you take extra time, and if you have to hit a time clock, it can mess up your pay.

Usually, brown-bagging is the better choice.  It’s more economical, it’s usually healthier, it’s more efficient, and it’s almost always more expedient.  But there are some days you just want to get out of the office for a bit and go a little wild with the lunch selection.

I’ve often thought that an hour was too long.  Half an hour is never quite enough.  I’ve done the math – the perfect lunch break is 47 minutes.  Unless you wait until noon to go, along with everybody else in town.  At that time you can’t accomplish much of anything and the whole hour can be whittled away in what seems like no time at all.

When my co-workers and I want to go out, we try to go at 11:30 in order to beat the lunch rush.  That usually works.  Except that sometimes it doesn’t.

Obstacles are everywhere.

Like the guy in front of us in what appeared at first glance to be a very short line.  He was placing individual orders to carry out for everybody in his office.  Or the lady that just couldn’t make up her mind at another location on a different day.  Or the pizza guy we’d commissioned to deliver who was fifteen minutes late in his arrival.

But the one I’ll always remember was the guy in front of me at the ketchup counter.  It’s that place where a vat of ketchup is hidden underneath the ledge with a periscopic pump used to fill up little tiny paper medicine cups.  I don’t know about you, but an order of fries for me usually requires about five of those things.

Three of us were seated at the table and at some point I wanted more ketchup.  I got up to go get it and there was a guy in front of me, blocking the ketchup pump, and so I waited.  When an appropriately sufficient amount of time had passed, I began to get curious to know what was taking him so long.  He wasn’t reaching for napkins, straws, or anything else that was provided for our dining convenience.

I’m fairly tall, so I was able to peek around his shoulder from a short distance behind him and watched with amusement at his activity. I watched him take the straw out of the plastic lid on his cup of lemonade, then take the lid off, and then dump the contents of one sugar packet into the cup, replace the straw to stir, then the lid, return the straw through the hole on top, and sip.  Unsatisfied, he removed the straw, removed the lid, replaced the straw, dumped in another sugar packet, stirred, lidded, and sipped.

Still unsatisfied, he removed the straw, then the lid, added more sugar, stirred, replaced, and sipped again.  This process was repeated until the girls were pointing at their wristwatches to signal that it was time to go.  I couldn’t leave.  Much like an impending train wreck, I just couldn’t look away.  The precision with which this guy was repeating his remove, remove, dump, stir, replace, replace, sip process had me dumbfounded.

At one point he noticed that I was behind him.  It didn’t slow him down any.

It certainly didn’t speed him up any, either.



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I Have a Question….

Why do public restrooms always have stall doors that open inward?  Does this frustrate you as much as it does me?  Do I just get angry because I’m a large woman and have very little room to begin with?  Or am I angry because it was very insensitive, and quite the cruel joke, to have a door open inward toward a toilet that you now have to straddle in order to get inside enough to push the damned thing closed?

Are you, like me, tired of airport bathrooms, trying to lug a purse, a carry-on, and a laptop bag into a tiny stall, maneuver everything behind the door, and then try to close it without spilling the contents of any of them into the bowl behind you?  What about those door hooks?  Do you also worry about putting out an eye, or is that just me?

Do you, like me, skip all the smaller stalls and head straight for the handicap one where you know you’ll have almost enough room for you and all your stuff?  Will you wait until the handicap stall is free, bypassing all the empty stalls in order to get the one you want?

Once inside and door securely closed, have you then wondered what to do with all your stuff?  Did you read that report, like I did, about the bottoms of so many purses swabbed and tested, all showing the results of various diseases?  Would you want to set yours down on a restroom floor in a public place routinely visited by people you’ve never met?

And how about those really low sinks?  Have you ever come out of a restroom stall with all your stuff hanging off both shoulders and draped across one arm only to lose it all when you bent over to wash your hands?

Have you ever opened a stall door and it was so narrow inside that the door smacked the toilet?  Have you ever been presented with a fine piece of porcelain upon which you had to sit sideways because it was wedged too tightly between the walls?

Or is it just me?




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That 2:30 a.m. Wakeup Call

It happened.  I was awakened from a deep sleep in the middle of this morning’s wee hours to the sound of a telephone’s ring that I had just missed.  Disoriented, I finally found the phone and fumbled with Caller ID only to see Youngest’s number mere seconds before the handset rang again in my hand.

“Mommy, you have to come up here.  They said I had to call you.”

Her voice wasn’t anxious as I’d have expected if she was hurt.  Her voice was more of a mewling melancholy.  With a sigh she repeated the command over my questioning as she told me a little about what had happened.

“Mommy just come up here.  Some drunk just wiped out the whole yard, and the three vehicles that were in it.”

Youngest had intended to spend the night at a friend’s house just up the road.  The night was interrupted by sounds that I’m told resembled what could only be a train wreck in the front yard.

At 2:00 a.m.

I rushed to pull on a pair of pants and two shoes.  I can’t swear that the shoes matched each other, but my feet were covered.  I bounced off the hill and turned up the road toward my daughter and her mewling voice.

I could only get within the equivalent of a couple of blocks before I had to park and walk the rest of the way.  The whole area was filled with two fire trucks, two or three police cars, an ambulance or two, and several sleepy neighbors in various stages of dress.

Much like me, I suppose.

Of course I arrived too late to witness the events of the morning, but I quickly learned that a drunk driver, speeding down a road that required much more caution, lost control and caused a ton of property damage.  He first hit a telephone pole and then two large rocks before proceeding to take out an entire length of fence, at the end of which was a huge pickup truck and one of those brick columns that people use to house their mailboxes.

This one was nice, too.  It was part of a matching set, one on each side of the driveway.  They had electric lights on top that made the place look pretty at night.

One of them is completely destroyed, fallen over and off its concrete slab base.  The other has lost its top, and I think it may be several inches out of place, but mostly it’s still standing.

That first pretty post was close to where the huge pickup truck had been parked.  When the drunk driver slammed into the square brick posting, he also slammed into the side of the big truck at the same time.  The same force that knocked the pretty brick column off its concrete slab base caused the big truck to spin around sideways.  When the truck spun around sideways, it smacked into Youngest’s car that had been parked beside it.  The force was still such that it caused Youngest’s car to spin sideways and slam into the boat that had been parked in front of her.  The boat was hit so hard that it swiveled around and smacked into the house.

After that, there apparently were no more slams and bangs.  Since everyone had been sleeping in the house at the time, no one but the driver was hurt.  His girlfriend told us that she had just kicked him out for being drunk and abusive, but the Breathalyzer the paramedics used showed no signs of any substantial inebriation.  Three tries later and he was still under the legal limit.  They said it must’ve been the adrenaline that sobered him up.

The homeowner has quite a headache in front of him.  Two vehicles were totaled.  I’m not sure what damage the boat sustained, but I know there’s at least a dent in the garage door where it slammed into the house at just the right angle and impact to avoid structural damage.

The driver’s car may have once been a four-seater, but now there’s only room for two.  All the glass that had once been in the driver’s windows got swept up while we stood there in the damp air and watched.

Three vehicles were towed away, at least two insurance companies received wee hour calls, and all claims have been initiated.  Luckily, the driver was insured.  Also, fortunately for him, and despite first impressions, he lived.

Youngest is using a rental car until we can get some things sorted out.

I learned a few things throughout the course of today:

  1. Whatever your emergency stash, it’s not enough.
  2. Lectures on life will be forthcoming, even if the accident was not your fault.
  3. A Shop Vac will suck glass off a lawn.
  4. It is possible to ram one vehicle into another with such force that parts fall off from underneath.
  5. Drunks walk away from the accidents of their own creation.
  6. The insurance company will only pay for the value of the damaged car, not what it will cost to replace it.
  7. Some guys who work for Enterprise Rent-A-Car are assholes.
  8. Youngest is growing up.
  9. Drama doesn’t necessarily leave our lives when we leave high school.
  10. And it’s almost never nothing when the phone rings in the middle of the night while the kids are out.


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Advances in Technology

I’ve done well to keep up.  I was born at just the right time to grow with the advances we’ve made.  By the time I was in grade school, A-Frame computers had already gone down in size from requiring a warehouse to only requiring a room.  By the time I was in high school, desk-top computers were entering businesses and schools.

I learned how to type on an actual typewriter with a return carriage that I had to reach up and pull at the end of every line.  I don’t recall any left-handed typewriters, either.  The carriage return lever was always on the right.  I had to either properly hyphenate on my own or decide that the next word in the sentence should start on a new line down.  I remember the keys that always got stuck when I typed faster than the machine could keep up with me.  Nod if you remember those metal arms with letters welded at the ends of them so that when you punched the appropriate key for the intended letter, the corresponding arm would fly up and strike the paper, capturing ink from the black ribbon that was woven from one side to the other just in front of the paper, and imprinting that letter permanently onto the paper.  Mistakes were just awful to correct, especially if you were making two copies.  You had to use a little white eraser to gently rub the paper away, which took the ink with it.  Then you had to turn the carriage wheels to get the paper to roll up out of the machine just far enough to peel apart the pages, get behind the carbon paper, and make a second correction on the copy you were making.  Then you had to roll it back down and hope your text was lined up correctly.  Otherwise, you might as well just start over.

Then typewriters became electronic.  The keys didn’t have to be punched so hard, which meant we could type even faster.  Mistakes were still time consuming to correct because we had liquid paper, which had to be dabbed and allowed to dry before we could continue.  The carbon never adhered to the whited out areas, though, and so it was always best to avoid mistakes if at all possible.

Then typewriters became little computers with digital displays that showed you what you were typing.  You could back-space over a mistake, but only if you caught it at the time you made it.  When you thought you were done, you hit a special key and the whole thing would type out seemingly on its own.  It was only then that you could see the mistakes you hadn’t caught while you were typing out the original.

Making copies started to get a little easier.  From mimeographs to actual digital printing, those little white erasers have become extinct.

During my first attempt at college, back in the fall of 1987, I was working part time in a student center where big computer towers were hooked up to small television sets.  Everything that ever got accomplished on those for student use only computers always began with a c: prompt.  

I kept up.  I never knew the techno-babble associated with how the damned thing worked, but I managed to get done what I needed to.  I had figured out some of the basic mechanics of it without ever quite learning the technology behind it.  I once fixed a dot-matrix printer with the eraser end of a pencil.  The folks in my department thought I was a genius. 

We went from having computers in big businesses to having a computer in every home.  Laptops that were once only used by the jet set are now being used by students at almost all levels of academic participation.  And while I’ve still managed to keep up with the mechanics, I have never become technologically inclined. 

I have grown to live in an age where two little c’s and a colon has changed in definition from ‘carbon copy’ to ‘courtesy copy’ at the bottom of our letters because the need for actual carbon has virtually disappeared.  I’ve long since forgotten how to change a typewriter’s ribbon, and if I had to reach up and physically return a carriage to begin a new line of type I think I’d go mad with the frustration of it.  Although I do think I could still configure my own hyphenation points at the end of the lines.

So with all this growth I’ve experienced with technology, with all the mastering of mechanics that I have achieved, why is it I still can’t work my phone?



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Effective Communication

It’s all different depending on who’s talking to whom.  There’s the way guys talk to other guys, how guys talk to girls, how girls talk to guys and how girls talk to each other.  You’d think that with grown folks there’d be some sort of consistency in the communication patterns so that we’re all on the same page.  Sort of like how we are all supposed to follow the same set of driving rules.  No matter where you go in this country, the red light means ‘stop’.

If I were to judge solely by my experiences in the last few days, I would have to draw the unlikely conclusion that all men hate talking to all women.  I refuse to believe that, but these last few days have done nothing to keep my mind open about the subject.

The other day I was tasked with ensuring that a customer in another town got the assistance she’d requested.  In so doing, I made a call to a supervisor in that other town to pass along the information.  During the conversation I brought it to his attention that the customer had been trying to reach him, had left a few messages, and had not yet received a return call.  I asked him to please call her.

This gentleman’s interest was not in helping the customer, nor was he concerned that the customer had been seeking assistance for a while.  His only concern was whether or not I had the authority to repeat the customer’s request.   I know this to be true because all throughout the very short conversation, he kept asking me who I was.  I repeated, every time, my name and my department.  At the end, still unsatisfied, he asked what my function was.  He emphasized the word as though I didn’t have a purpose in my own job, let alone on the other end of his phone line.  So I gave him my boss’s name.

It didn’t take long for him to realize that through my boss, there existed direct lines of communication to his boss.  He stopped asking what my function was and agreed to do what he was supposed to have done prior to my call.

That conversation bothered me for a couple of days.  I told myself that maybe this guy was just self-important, and that a call to tell him, however politely phrased, that he hadn’t done what he was supposed to do would have offended him regardless of the messenger’s gender.  I reminded myself that had the guy been interested in doing his job initially, there would have been no need for my call at all.

No sooner than I had decided that his issue with me was solely his problem to bear, I realized it was time to take my vehicle for an oil change.  I dreaded that conversation.  A garage is the one place for certain that no man wants a woman to visit.

I used to frequent a shop where I told the guy at the counter what I wanted, gave him my keys, and then entered a windowless room with bad coffee and stale magazines to await the task.  About half an hour later, the guy with my keys would invariably return to tell me I needed something that would boost his sale, I’d decide for myself whether or not it was actually time for that service, relay my instructions to either do it or don’t, pay the clerk, and then leave.

I don’t go there anymore.  It’s a relatively long story in itself, but I just don’t.

I found a new place, closer to home, and the people in the garage were really friendly.  The owner was an asshole, but since I didn’t usually have to deal with him directly, I kept going back.  Then the owner left me high and dry on some tires I’d ordered, disrespected the appointment I’d made, and told his staff to tell me that I could either come back or wait the four additional hours it would take to do the job for which the previous appointment had been made.

I haven’t been back there, either.

I’m running out of places in town where I can go to have my car fixed.  It’s not lost on me that my expectations of any place of business greatly exceed the goals they have set for themselves.

I found another place Saturday, and took my pick-up there for an oil change.  It’s one of those places that’s designed to look all efficient-like.  You pull up to it like a drive-through car wash, pull in following the tire tracks, and stay inside the vehicle while the crew quickly changes your oil.  When I went with my husband an hour later to get the oil changed in his car, that’s exactly what happened.  Quick and easy.

Flash forward:  Husband pulled into the stall unassisted, put it in park and turned the motor off.  One garage dude walks over to the driver’s window, grunts almost incoherently, “Oil change?”  To which Husband replies, “Yep.”  Husband pops the hood, three guys do stuff under it, Garage Dude comes back and says, “Which one?”  to which Husband says, “Medium.”  Garage Dude barks a two-syllable yet complete set of instructions to the three pairs of hands under the hood.  Twelve seconds later, Garage Dude tells Husband how much, Husband hands over the bank card and signs the paper, and we’re out of there in all of ten minutes.

Efficient, yes?

I was seething.  I was in a seriously arms-crossed and foot-tappingly irate state.  An hour before I had put up with such nonsense from this very same crew of people that my ranting and raving about it only made me look like the idiot in Husband’s eyes when nothing I’d said to him about earlier events could be proven during his own current experience.

Flash back:  I pulled up to an empty bay and proceeded to drive in.  I noticed six guys standing around with no customers.  One of them walked between my passenger door and the garage door’s frame, and I had to hit the brakes to keep from pinning him against it.  While I’m waiting for this guy to get out of the way, two more decide I need directional assistance, so they’re both in front of me giving me opposing steering directions.  Eventually, one motions for me to stop while the other one is still motioning me forward just a little bit.  They consult, decide, and one takes control.  I put it in park.

Two of the six instantly appear at my window.  They both ask questions, simultaneously and in rapid fire succession.  Garage Dude #1 has a whole series of questions with regard to my vehicle’s mileage, whether I had been there before, and the proper spelling of my name so he can determine if I’m in his computer system.  He takes great pains to spell out for me which services they offer and then asks me to choose.  And oh by the way he wants to know about the condition of my wiper blades.

Garage Dude #2 intermittently wants to know where my last oil change was, why I won’t say the answer that matches the reminder sticker on my windshield, what the address is of the last place that changed my oil, whether it was the one across the bridge on the right, and whether I had let some strange guy in overalls do it or did I take the vehicle to an actual garage.

My head was swiveling back and forth to face the questioner, each in his turn, and I was answering neither of them.  Both were growing increasingly frustrated that I wasn’t answering, and I was so dumfounded with the rapid barrage of questions that before I could form an answer for one, the other one started in.  Garage Dude #3 entered into my realm of stupefaction and asked me to pop the hood.

I couldn’t find the release.  I kept trying to pull the break release and nothing was happening.  Garage Dude #3 nudged one of my inquisitionists out of the way, reached in and found it, pulled the release lever, and then promptly exited the scene.  From somewhere in the distance I heard someone shout for me to turn off the motor.  Garage Dude #2 was in mid-question and seemed a little put off by Dude #3’s efficiency with the hood release.

Four sets of hands were now under the hood while two heads were still in my window asking me questions, some of which from Garage Dude #2 were so totally unnecessary that I was at a loss for why he kept asking them.  Someone shouted for me to turn the motor back on.  That instruction was repeated by Garage Dude #1 while Garage Dude #2 was again in mid-question.

Both suddenly stopped talking and each was looking at me expectantly.

“One o’ y’all needs to get away from me.”

Whether it was my tone, my arched eyebrows, or the sudden realization that I was bigger than him, I may never know, but Garage Dude #2 scurried away.  I was able then to focus on, and provide answers to, the more pertinent questions coming from Garage Dude #1.

When it was over, my oil finally changed and the man paid, three of them decided I needed assistance to drive out of the bay.

The only assistance I need, Buddy, is for you to move.  Oh, and shut up, too.

Tomorrow I think I’m going to have a gun-rack mounted in the back window.  If perception is everything, and communication is key, then having a visible gun-rack won’t convey the fact that I know very little about guns.  But it will communicate, even if under false pretenses, the idea that I don’t need you in my face and probably won’t put up with it.

And if I should spit and scratch while I say it, then it has to be true.



Filed under Daily Life

Prom Night

I don’t normally suffer from anxiety, but my youngest has some trouble with it.  It’s attached to her ADHD.  I have just enough of a susceptibility to it that when she’s anxious, I’m anxious.  It’s as though I can feel it coming off of her and into me.  It permeates my very core so that I share her emotional state.

It doesn’t bode well for our tempers when we have a disagreement.

With my oldest, the emotional trade thing was in reverse.  If I was calm, she was calm.  I’ve seen her be the calming influence for her own two daughters in the very same way I could always be for her.

Not so for Youngest.  And tonight is the culmination of weeks of frustration and anxiety where her senior prom is concerned.

It started with the dress shopping, of course.  And then we had to make an appointment at the hair salon two months in advance – and then call them once a week to confirm the appointment lest something go wrong, somebody spill soda on the appointment book making her name illegible, or the place catch fire and burn down.  Then it was a personal visit with the stylist three weeks out to discuss what she wanted.

Then it was shoe shopping, costume jewelry, nails….

Throughout the whole process, the only thing that remained certain was that a group of four would be going to the prom together.  Nobody was dating anybody among them, but they all wanted to go together.  Everything was planned out.  Youngest didn’t care what the plan would be, she just needed to know that a plan would be in place.  Who was picking up whom, who would be driving what, parking, restaurant, the time to meet at the capitol building for pictures, etc.

At the last minute one of the guys in the quartet decided that a different restaurant was in order.  Youngest is so averse to change that I could feel her frustration levels rising, and the anxiety was about to take over.  It hit her hard while she was in the stylist’s chair and the text messages were flying.  Nobody was going to be where they were supposed to be according to the pre-determined arrangements.  Her hair was looking more and more beautiful by the minute, but her makeup was threatened by tears.

Her sister calmed her when I was unable.  I wanted to strangle a boy who didn’t understand what his plan-changes were doing to my little girl.  Oldest handled it well, though.  I was too busy feeling Youngest’s anxiety.

After her hair was made glamorous, and her make-up restored to perfection, we came back home so she could change into her dress.  She was running late for the meet-up at the capitol, and she wanted to hurry.  I wanted pictures, so we took both cars.  She followed me.

At a stop sign, she rear-ended me.

I put mine in park and got out to check on her.  She was fine physically but she was an emotional wreck.  “It’s okay; stay calm.  Everything’s fine and nobody’s hurt.”  But we were in the middle of the street and needed to move.  “Just be more careful and try to stay calm.  Take deep breaths.”  Back in my own vehicle, I wondered how I was going to tell her about the hole in her front bumper and my cracked tail light.  Learning it at the moment would have just thrown her over the edge.

We got to the capitol in one piece with no more accidents, we took lots of pictures, and Oldest was there with her two kids as well.  It was a wonderful experience and Youngest started showing signs of calming down and actually finding some enjoyment.

Then the guys told her they had gotten a limo.  That threw another kink in the arrangements.  If they had told her about the limo earlier, she could have arranged to park her car at the auditorium in order to ride with them to the restaurant.  The plan was that they would all ride in her car.  They wanted to surprise her.  She doesn’t do surprises.  She told them to go ahead and she’d catch up with them at the restaurant.

Then the restaurant changed.

By the time we started to leave the capitol complex she was a wreck again.  We spent a few minutes talking on the way to the parking lot, and just as soon as I thought she was starting to feel better again, we approached our vehicles and she saw the hole in her front bumper.  My pick-up truck’s rear tow-bar really did a number on it.  I tried to soothe her again, and when I was satisfied that she was in good enough shape to drive, we left the capitol complex.  She headed to the restaurant to meet up with her crew while I headed home.

I had intended to start working on her graduation announcements when I got home.  I figured if I was going to be up half the night worrying about her, I might as well be simultaneously productive.  But just as I had gotten all the announcements out of the box, the phone rang.

A phone ringing while a child is out is never a good sound.  That awful shiver just goes up your spine like a serrated blade.  It’s a moment of dread like no other.

“Mommy where are you?”  The sound of her voice was just pitiful.

“I’m home, Honey, whatsamatter?”

“I locked my keys in the car and we’re here at this restaurant and I don’t know what to do!”  I could hear that she was fighting back the tears.

“Stay calm, go inside where it’s warm, and order your meal like nothing’s wrong.  I’ll take care of it.”

“Mommy, I’m sorry.”  She was about to cry again.  It broke my heart into a million little pieces that this one day that is supposed to be the most special for her in her entire life thus far has absolutely fallen apart for her.

“It’s okay.  I’ll call the road-side people and somebody will come get your keys.  I’ll be there to meet them and then I’ll bring your keys inside.  It’s all good, Baby.  Just try to stay calm.”

I made the call while I was putting my shoes back on, left home for the third time, and beat the mechanic there by about ten minutes.  I had a little trouble finding the car in all the prom-night pre-prom madness.

Youngest came outside when I texted that I almost had her keys.  I got a free hug out of it, a hug that I usually have to fight for.

We spent a few more minutes talking.  Well, I was talking.  I was stressing the need for her to not stress so much.

“Why do you keep telling me that?”

“’Cause bad things happen when you’re upset.”

“Oh.  Yeah, I guess.  Okay, I’ll try.”

I’m home again, and have been for a couple of hours.  Prom won’t be over for another half an hour.  There’s an after-prom plan at the home of one of her friends, unless the plan changes.

I may not see her until the wee hours of tomorrow morning.  I’ll be pacing until then, driving the dog nuts in the process.

And I’m afraid to take off my shoes.




Filed under Daily Life


It’s that thing that hits two full seconds after the power goes off.  It settles way down deep in your bones and gets comfortable while causing you, the bearer of it, some extreme misery.  You start thinking of all the things you could do if only you had lights by which to see.  And when it happens at six o’clock in the evening, there’s not much daylight coming through the windows anymore.  Especially if it’s raining and it was a thunderstorm that robbed you of the much needed electricity.

Every room you enter for the next two hours has you flipping the light switch out of habit, cursing the power company, and running into something you’d forgotten was there.  If only there was working electricity, you could at least do a load of laundry.  You could still finish up those dishes, but you don’t know how long the power will stay off, and a lukewarm shower tomorrow morning in complete darkness will be much better than an ice cold one.  So you conserve.

There’s always the iPhone to keep you occupied.  You could use it to crush candies.  As you’re flipping another switch, cursing, and bumping into something to find your phone, you realize that you may need the remaining battery power to set a viable alarm for tomorrow morning.  You can’t waste that.  So you conserve.

You could read.  The little light that’s left in the evening sky is not enough through the windows to read a real book, so you could get out the Kindle.  It even has a battery-powered back-light.  You do have that download you purchased not too long ago and never got around to reading.  Switch, curse, thump.  You finally find it only to realize that you haven’t charged it in a while and the battery’s about dead.  So you can’t read, either.

Without an unlimited battery life on that phone you’re so attached to, and in conservation of the battery for tomorrow’s alarm, there’ll be no FaceBooking either.

You could get out that basket of yarn, an activity normally saved for cooler weather, but you can’t see to make those stitches in the darkened living room.  You begin to wonder if there’s enough battery power on the laptop to get you through an episode of something Netflixy.

Probably not.

You’ve long since forgotten where the flashlight is, so you have to take a candle to the bathroom because, without windows, it’s the darkest room in the house.  At least in there you know where everything is.

You could take a nap, but if you’re like me you know that just as soon as your eyes get heavy you’ll get a text or a call on the iPhone when the house phone produces no response.  After several attempts at napping over the years, I’ve given up on the possibility of ever having one.  This time would have been different, except that it wasn’t.

I have classes starting again on Monday, and the thought occurred to me that without the television or the Candy Crush, maybe I could study a little in preparation.  So now we’re back to the ‘no light-no read’ thing.

As I was sitting in the rocker watching the dimly lit rain through the living room window, I began to reflect back on my grandmother’s stories about how they had no electricity growing up, and that they still managed to be more productive than just sitting in a chair and watching it rain.  My mind began to drift to those television series made in the 70s that depicted a time before my grandmother was born.  I started to wonder what Ma Ingalls would be doing at seven o’clock on a rainy evening.  I had no socks to darn, nor did I have an oil lantern to provide the necessary light by which to darn them.  My mental list took over again, and as I got near to the end of things I could be doing if only I had the light or the electricity to do them, the power restored and I made moves to do absolutely none of them.  It was time for Everybody Loves Raymond.

And my chair was pretty comfortable.



Filed under Daily Life