Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Interactive Joy List

There’s that theory that cats enjoy only free things. Felines briefly went up a notch while I pondered that philosophy, then I considered the other school of thought where cats already think they own everything anyway. However it works, cats definitely seem to find far more joy in a wayward spider than in a toy mouse purchased for their entertainment.
Is there some innocuous little thing that thrills you?  A good thrill, unlike a wayward spider thrill; I’m talking a sheet of bubble wrap; a phone call from an old friend; when your daughter cleans out her chocolate stash and bequeaths you the dark stuff because it is gross (you reluctantly agree to dispose of it properly). Something like a weed that pops up in your flower bed, then blooms so spectacularly that you accept it; the stray dog you rescue that considerately finagles its way into your Step-Dad’s heart; or when you benevolently agree to fold the clothes in the dryer and discover paper money mixed in (dryers are covered under the international waters/found treasure treaty).
My bud, Lady and I used to attend University lectures together. Authors, Chefs, Doctors, Environmentalists – it didn’t matter, we went to everything. The fun part was we weren’t students, just a couple of Moms sneaking in from the suburbs, and we never did get caught. (Oh, chill, sometimes we bought tickets!)  After attending a few lectures by Psychiatrists, whose topics ranged from self-esteem to personality development, we decided to drop those. Sitting in the back of the room it always went something like this. “OMg, I’ve got that!  I’m codependent, I think. I don’t know, what do you think?  Do you think I’m codependent?”   
We did pick up one thing from the psychiatric lectures that didn’t scar us though, and that was The Joy List. Simply put, what brings you joy?  The exercise we were given was to list 100 joys of any size. Clean sheets. Air-conditioning. Fireplaces. Even if life is rough around the edges or being mean right now, there is always something. It was a task in the theory that joy is not a lottery, but a choice. This is a philosophy that I suspect was invented by dogs, but that’s just my theory.
Just this week my Dentist insisted that I had to get a massage every month. Apparently your neck shouldn’t creak like trees in the wind when you turn it, it does if you write sixteen hours a day, but it shouldn’t. After extracting (pun) my promise that I’d comply, he followed it up with the suggestion that I gain a few pounds. Guys like this can almost explain polygamy. I said almost. At any rate this is what I added to my joy list this week.
            74. My Dentist.
            75. Free chapsticks that my Dentist gives away free (yes, free).
            76. A 4’10” masseuse named Mary with hands like a Merchant Marine
                  (it’s my list).
            77.  Dandelions. Yellow is beautiful. Deal with it.
            78. Critiques consisting of 2,388 words.          
Could go on and on, you’ve probably never noticed that before, but I really could. This is to be an Interactive Joy List though, so I need your help. Feel free to borrow from my list, I’ll even share my Dentist, and I’m very generous with the dandelions, been sharing them with my neighbors for years. Will you share some of what's on your joy list?   

Friday, April 20, 2012

Bait and Switch - The Dark Side of Fishing

Elle was driving in the conversion van she’d nicknamed The Dumpster. It is amazing the amount of fallout a handful of kids can leave behind: soccer balls, cleats, dirty socks, petrified chicken nuggets. A buzzing drone sounded from the back of the van and she worried it was a hornet. It was loud. Glancing back she saw the biggest, fattest insect she’d ever seen, sorta flying towards her. It approached unnaturally slow and jerky, dropping in altitude before struggling upwards, slowly making its way to the front of the van.
Using a piece of junk mail, Elle easily batted it into the passenger window. The bug’s exoskeleton cracked against the glass and it fell to the seat, dead. It was an enormous fly. Gross. At the next traffic light, the sound again came from the back of the van. During Elle’s entire drive she swatted mutant flies to their death. Once home she conducted an impromptu archaeological dig and discovered a cardboard box marked BAIT. It was mislabeled, because what it now contained was actually - hatching bait.
BFF called me today, woke me from a sound sleep to snap into the phone, “Thought you said you tell the truth in your writing.”  I’m summarizing here, but the gist of it went like this. “Why’d you write a fishing blog like you just did?  Tell the truth. Tell the Dark Side of Fishing! Remember when I was expecting, and opened that Tupperware container in the fridge, and it was full of fish eggs?!  Do you remember what happened?  I sure do!”  Oh yeah, I sure do too. I also remember the time my son left worms in the pockets of his pants, course he was little then, now it’s just hooks and sinkers that wind up wedged in the washer or dryer (which is far better than bullets, but that’s hunting season and I digress). Once the dog knocked over a bucket of minnows and rolled in it. We didn’t know until it was far too late for the minnows. Actually we didn’t know until the beagle came proudly strutting across the yard with bits of silvery fish sticking to his hide.
BFF has been happily married as long as I have; it’s just super easy to forget the happily part during fishing season. She’s mentioned more than once that her terrific hubby has only one chink in his armor - the lady who runs the local bait shop. BFF said DH would dump her like hatched bait for that 104 year old woman, just for access to unlimited, free bait. I don’t believe that. There’s plenty of room in his heart for both of them.
So here’s the naked truth when you marry a fisherman.
There will be boxes of live crickets that come in the mail and your mail carrier will laugh every time she sees you. There will be piles of real worms gathered on rainy spring nights, by the light of the moon, and your spouse will have at least one child in tow, both wearing those Nerd-Headlights (your neighbors will be afraid to ask). Your cat will get inside the worm box and generously bring you a pile to share. On the carpet.
When your in-laws visit, you will find a big box of feathers next to the guest room bed. For years you will try to not think of why, but eventually you’ll realize that it was a fly-tying kit. Family photos will often involve at least one great big fish. You will know so much about the life cycle of insects, that you will be able to identify what type of larvae are produced by what type of beetle. Eventually you’ll even realize that there is far more to fishing than just tossing a hook into some water.
Of course you will fish with your Sweetie. Love does crazy things to you. You will find out that it is possible to be violently seasick for every second a boat is on the sea. You will not eat Codfish for ten years after deep-sea fishing off the coast of Gloucester. Twenty years later you will still remember the smell. Ocean fishing with your in-laws you will discover that shrimp is used as bait. You will also discover that live shrimp looks exactly like it does in a shrimp cocktail, minus little black eyes and some whiskery-appendages. You will not eat shrimp for ten years. At some point you will have to admit that there is a difference between enjoying and enduring. At some point you will suspect fishing won’t be your thing unless a fishing gene is located, and it is spliced into your DNA. At another point you will realize that your Sweetie is a fisherman, not just a man. If you’re super lucky, you’ll have a BFF to commiserate with.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Ten Reasons I Luv Fishing Season

1.      All night write!  To music.  As loud as I want it.  (My neighbors hate me/Speakers are an excellent birthday gift.)

2.      Ice-cream for dinner.  Every single night. 

3.      A spotlessly, neat, clean house with all the laundry done.  If you haven’t married a hunter/raised children/homeschooled/ran a business/did all your own paperwork to save money – you might not really understand just how intoxicatingly attractive this can be.

4.      Working out at midnight.  Running the vacuum at midnight.  Going to the supermarket at midnight. 

5.      Calling your night-owl friends/different time-zone friends in the middle of the night and talking until dawn. It’s almost like having a social life.

6.      Taking a little “nap” from noon ‘til six, because you forgot to sleep since Sunday.  Wait, what day is it? 

7.      Going to a late night movie on a Tuesday night by yourself.  The one nobody else wants to see.  The one you will never admit to having gone to see.

8.      Electric blanket, entire bed, one dozen books, your Kindle, and a box of crackers.  Morning, noon, or night, who cares?  Ooooh, Baby.

9.      1/3 of this week’s grocery budget spent at a touristy, lake-side restaurant where you treat yourself to lunch, and you order only off the appetizer and dessert menu.  Caprese Salad, Crab Cake, Dark Chocolate Raspberry Torte.

10.  When your fisherman returns and says how lucky he is to have such an understanding and supportive wife, and you say, “Anytime Sweetheart.  You deserve a break!” And you both really mean it. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Just Shoot for the Stars

Do you ever finish up a meal, think to yourself that you may never want to eat again, and then suddenly something random like S’mores pops into your head?  'Mmmm S’mores', something very base within you will say. Must. Have. This idea will be very powerful. So powerful in fact that you are torn between two impulses:  1) There are rice cakes, carob chips and tofu in the fridge – this is the closest thing you have to the makings of a S’more, BUT you consider it however briefly. 2) If it happens to be 3:00 a.m., the fact that you COULD plow the drive, and drive your car through a blizzard to go fetch the actual ingredients also enters your mind. If you have some self restraint you might satisfy yourself with googling different S’more recipes and wait. The idea does not go away though, oh no, it does not. It lingers in your head like that song by Maroon 5 that will take brain surgery to get out. (Cause two hours of White Stripes on full blast, until you killed your last speaker didn’t wipe it, and you know it is there ‘til your dying day with the moves like Jagger.) Just like the craving for S’mores, it isn’t going anywhere.

After years of intensive scientific research I’ve discovered the root cause of invasive and random junk cravings. (By scientific I mean the idea drifted through The Glitter Globe once, it was so sparkly I grabbed it and held on.)  Those wayward desires that you fight to master, are actually the demands of a desperate and dying fat cell. Somewhere in my body at this very moment is a latent fat cell that is still constructed of marshmallow, graham cracker, and Hershey bar. Even if it hasn’t been fed since I was a Girl Scout that is irrelevant. Fat cells don’t have much on their mind beyond what created them. They lurk inside you thinking about the day they were born, “Oooooh, Baby, marshmallow-marshmallow-marshmallow….”  You get the idea. If all they could do was dream, there would be no need for fat pants. Problem is they slipped your blood some sugar during the whole birthday celebration years ago. Yes, your blood made a deal with the devil that you are forever paying for.
The nanosecond a fat cell feels in danger of shrinking, it calls in that old favor. “Take a message to the brain STAT. YOU OWE ME.”  The messages we are all familiar with. (Pizza-Pizza-Pizza. Butter-Butter-Butter. Sugar-Sugar-Sugar.)  But knowledge is power. There is hope. The cycle can be interrupted. Now there are two ways to halt the self-destruct sequence. I wish it were as simple as sunlight and garlic, but it isn’t. 1) Weaken the witching fat cell with activity. I suggest cranking up your tunes and jumping on the bed for a bit (for the love of light please use caution when choosing your music). This causes the fat cell to faint. 2) Attempt to kill the fat cell. This is a complicated procedure involving avoiding every ingredient in whatever that dude is pestering you for. If done properly, the fat cell will shut up in terror. All the other fat cells in the body are telling him to SHUT IT, because now they’re all losing territory. Peer pressure works. Warning:  Fat cells never completely die, they just go dormant. Be sure to keep your iPod on stun and use caution obeying the voices.  Words to live by there.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Bad Reputation

It was today, when I was stopped for not shop-lifting that got me thinking about stereotypes and misconceptions. It’s a busy world and if you don’t jump to conclusions now and then, you’re probably wasting a whole lot of time. Shopping at Target once with my daughter, she was stopped several times and asked to help other customers. Why?  She was wearing khaki pants and a red shirt. She was about eleven years old, but it didn’t matter, she was wearing the uniform.
We all know that there is some serious profiling going on at airports. I know this because I fit one of the demographics. You know those full body scanners with the embarrassing visual probes that are sprouting up in airports all over the world?  I object. Am I being modest?  Actually, no; if there was a way to speed the security process, I’d be one of those annoying people willing to give up the freedom of standing in line for an hour and a half. Yet I’ve noticed a disturbing pattern. When I go through a full body scanner, I am pulled aside. “I’m sorry, Ma’am. Would you please step over here for a pat down?”  And every single time they pat down only my calves. They give me various explanations, my favorite is, “We are checking the hems of your pants.”  Then why are you patting just my calves and ignoring my dangerous hem?  I have unnaturally large calves. They don’t fit awesome fashion boots, much to my eternal dismay. They dream about skinny jeans that they will never wear. I blame it on the fact that I run, but the truth is, they’ve always been like that. My hubby lovingly calls them my “Thor” legs, isn’t that romantic?  So on behalf of bulky-calved disproportionate women everywhere, can I just ask what the heck do you think I’m packing in my calves anyway?
Recently I accompanied my buddy, Comrade, to the doctor’s. Now Comrade is a generation or two ahead of me, but we go together like peas and carrots. We approach most everything as an awesome adventure, so we just ran with it when everyone from the Receptionist to the Nurses and Physicians stereotyped us and addressed me, instead of her. It was blatant Ageism. They talked really loud and slow (she insisted that was for my benefit, not hers). I, of course, ran with it and repeated things back to her and explained all those complex medical gadgets, “This is a scale. You will be charged per pound.” 

Now some misconceptions can be rather pleasant. My little niece loves that I’m a writer. She is now old enough that she has stopped picking up random books and asking if I wrote this one, or that one, but now she wants to know how much money I made writing my last novel. “None,” I explained. “I have to sell it first.”  She found this a bit disappointing and pressed, until I finally confessed I had just sold a little story and earned enough for two boxes of Dilly Bars from Dairy Queen. “WOW. Are you famous?” she asked. “Have you ever heard of me?” I replied. To which I got the response, “WOW. That is so cool.”  I wish she could just stay at this age for years. I really like being someone’s idea of cool.
Apparently leaving the mall with the same amount of goods you walked in with is a sign of a shoplifter. Either that or hanging around the shoe department and just taking pictures of shoes is. At any rate as I was exiting the 'maul', a security guard bellowed at me, “Don’t you want to check-out before you leave?!” The thing is, when I turned around to look at him, he simply said, “Oh, never mind. Sorry.” And he walked away. So apparently I only look like a thief from the back. I’m thinking that it was probably my awesome, gangster, Pleather jacket. I was all Joan Jett until I turned around. Well, at least he didn’t pat down my calves.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Dazzling Kathy

Does your bucket list include anything you don’t actually want to do?  I made a deal to put something on my bucket list. I promised to kiss a baby lamb in exchange for a free book. I’m cheap like that, but I’m big on follow through.  So last week I went stalking hiking around a monastery where monks raise sheep, skulking around the pastures and keeping an eye out for a cooperative looking bambino. Turned out it was a bit early for lambing season; the sheep were still wearing their winter coats. Those puppies are huge, with skinny little stick legs that look like they could snap and the whole sofa sized wooly beast might drop right to the ground at any moment. Not to mention that the fence is electric, and they’re guarded by both attack llamas and donkeys. Monks do not put up with lamb kissers in these parts.
There is no deadline for kissing that lamb, but I don’t like to leave things uncrossed on lists. Considered cheating, and looked for a white-chocolate lamb, I’d enjoy kissing that sweetie. So I hunted up and down the ‘Seasonal’ aisles at Super Walmart on Good Friday. The poor guy working the aisle seemed so crestfallen by my request. You almost need binoculars to see all the way down that candy aisle, the selection was mind-boggling, but no, this chick wants a white-chocolate lamb. They didn’t have any, and he even called in the cavalry to search. I witnessed things getting a little heated over the last box of purple peeps, so I opted for the safer and honorable path in my quest.
Back to the monastery I went, it’s been a week, I thought maybe the lambs were in. Besides I needed some peace after the holiday shopping expedition. I felt a bit creeper, checking out those ewes, like those fish that follow Mama Guppy around the bowl, you know?  There was a baby donkey, baby donkeys are rather large by the way, you don’t want no part of that. I hiked around the fields and ridges for hours. The rams are not a friendly looking bunch. They’re just waiting for me to try to jump that fence and plant a smooch on one of their offspring. The word on the hill is that those sweet baby lambs will start hatching around next week. I really hope that they are clean and fluffy, and that they smell a whole lot better than their parents, but a deal's a deal. Picked up a new chap-stick at Super Walmart, so I’m ready, and no worries Little Lambie, this won’t hurt a bit.  

Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Tiara Trap (After Ella lost her Cinder) Flash Fiction

Everyone said the wedding was fairytale perfect. The entire kingdom showed up, except for Ella’s Step-Mother and Step-Sisters, of course. They were now aboard the HMS Enquirer bound for the Big City, where Step-Mother planned to found a magazine devoted entirely to sharing the minute details of royal life with the common people.
Since the entire Kingdom consisted of Charming’s friends, the Bride’s side of the church was completely empty. Not even Fairy G. Mother came, though at the reception Ella found her benefactor had sent an enormous pumpkin and a very nice card. The pumpkin was misshapen and blue; it stood out next to gifts of crystal and fine china. Ella didn’t think she was imagining the cool looks shot her way by her new Mother-in-law, the Queen. She wished she was imagining the King sipping champagne out of her glass slippers, and the way he slurred his words through fruity punch-infused breath. When the King started to bellow instructions on the proper way to bump and grind to the harp music, she managed to lose him in miles of ballroom draperies.
Ella’s wedding dress was spectacular. It took a dozen bridesmaids to help her carry the diamond and silver encrusted fabric through the reception; sadly it was too wide to fit through the door of the Ladies Room. Charming was barely able to reach her waist, through miles of silk and satin, for their big dance together. He seemed out of sorts, and when pressed, admitted that he was missing the first day of dragon hunting season for the big to-do; that he wasn’t much for princely occasions, nor did he care a whit for dancing. As soon as the sensational, flowery frosting-infused, twenty-layer wedding cake was cut, and their picture taken, Charming slipped away to sharpen his sword and pack for his interrupted dragon hunt.
With the help of several chambermaids, and the properly placed boot of a royal footman, Ella managed to force her gown through the chamber door. All she found of her Prince was a trail of his dirty clothes, from socks to unmentionables, lining the floor of their castle tower. Handmaidens adorned Ella in bedclothes of itchy gossamer, and clouds of scented powder wafted through the apartment. Exhausted and scratching, Ella collapsed on her bed, to spend her wedding night sneezing.
Early the next morning, the court’s wild-eyed physician trailed Ella’s low-fat breakfast into the apartment, waving a newspaper in one hand and a syringe in the other. “A wedding photo with a frown between your brows!  It won’t do!  The kingdom does not need to worry about what their Princess might be worried about!”  Ella frowned her last frown while Dr. Artifice injected Abracadabra Botox into her face. The scowling doctor assured her that serenity was her duty.
Expression-free, Ella used a half bottle of Windex to clean her glass slippers. She wrapped her sparkling shoes in tissue and put them in the back of the closet. Leaning out the tower window, she saw Charming and his friends racing their trusty stallions over a distant hillside, in pursuit of dragons. A footman informed her The Prince wouldn’t be back until the entire land had been rid of the scourge of dragons. While she scrubbed her good scissors clean, certain that Charming hadn’t meant to use them to trim his toenails, Ella pondered the fact that she'd never seen a dragon in her life.
The first day of Princess Life was an interesting one. Her royal duties included dressing like a Princess, smiling demurely, waving to the commoners, and – most importantly – a dainty feminine sound of amusement, not as ribald as a laugh, that she was to emit only upon a secret signal given to her by the Queen. That was it. The Queen told her brusquely, her duties did not include discussing her dodgy past as a chimney sweep, aging, nor public opinions beyond championing stray kittens and puppies.  Ella excelled at her obligations for two solid hours, until the changing of the guard, whereupon she escaped.
On a balcony overlooking the courtyard, Ella sat perched on a satin cushion. The masses had endured her professional waves out of the corners of their eyes, as they speculated hotly on the odds of Charming procuring a dragon. Ella simply slid down and out the bottom of her gown, leaving her tiara perched on the top of the high collar. In her petticoats she managed to secure a pair of Charming’s trousers, and made her way through the back stairwells of the castle. She had to duck into the ballroom to dodge the King. He was in the main corridor, pleading with the scullery maids to teach him freak dancing.
Darting through the ballroom, still sparkling with wedding décor and piles of gifts, Ella paused to nab the gnarly blue pumpkin her Godmother had sent her. She slipped out an archway into the gardens. A Guard was engaged in a heated argument with a Steward. He doubted the existence of dragons and estimated the intelligence of their Prince quite low. Ella stole his horse.
Stopping at a brook on the outskirts of the kingdom, Ella dismounted. Cold and tired, she built a fire. Resting on her pumpkin she contemplated her future. Ella bellowed a most unladylike protest when she was suddenly tossed into the air. She landed wrong side-up, and from inside her pumpkin, a blue dragon snaked towards her. The creature roared angrily. Nabbing a tree branch from the forest floor, Ella rolled to her feet and pointed it at the beast.
Suddenly Charming was there. He raced gallantly to her side and hugged her. “Ella!  You found a blue one!  Will you teach me how to find them?”
Using her branch to shovel hot coals into the dragon’s hungry mouth, Ella began to teach her Prince about how to train a dragon. And they lived happily ever after, though you couldn’t tell that until the Abracadabra-Botox wore off.