So yesterday I went out for lunch at a Mexican place in a strip mall. The kind with combo plates, you know? Like 1 burrito, 1 enchilada,1 taco with rice and beans, and the sodas come in big red nubbled transluscent plastic cups and they stealth calorie you to death with an endless chip basket. You have been to this place or its clone, I am sure.
The food is inexpensive and good, but NOT innovative or surprising in any way. You know the guacamole will come in a little fried corn basket made to look full via a tired slice of tomato and some shredded iceberg. A place like this cannot, by ANY stretch of the imagination, be described as HIP or HAPPENING or NOW or ON TREND. It’s just lunch.
So when I tell you that the lunch special was a Kale Quesadilla, you know instantly that kale is officially over. It’s like 2002, when the PTA president came to gardening club in a toe ring, and suddenly you realized toe-rings were mom-tastic. Only people with minivans really sport them now.
Kale is like that. It has reached maximum cultural saturation and will now begin to disappear from high end restaurants and fancy-pants grocery stores, cool-trickle-down will happen in reverse, and in a few years, kale will be as a leafy-green fever dream that happened in the early parts of the 2000’s.
Upside: You can now eat it all you want without looking like you are trying for The Food Cools. Yes, my fellow dorks and other brands of regular humans, it is open season on kale for non-hipsters.
Upside two: The other day at the YMCA farmer’s market, where I was buying, yes, KALE—-
DIGRESSION: I needed it to make this truly awesome crustless quiche thing with ricotta and artichokes from Kalyn’s Kitchen. Two thumbs up, will make again. END DIGRESSION.
—-I ran into a hipster who had not gotten the KALE IS OVER memo, and she cornered me by the kale basket and smugtured* for a good four minutes about how kale requires one to MASSAGE THE LEAVES to release the OILS and TAME THE BITTERNESS, and as she smugtured, she proceeded to rumple at the leaves of my kale in this creepy way that was both condescending and WEIRDLY SEXUAL, so that as soon as she looked away I swapped out my defiled kale for an unmassaged bunch from the kale basket. I NEVER WANT TO SEE THAT AGAIN, and if Kale is over, then I likely will not.
Downside: I really LIKE Kale. It is very delicious to me. But at the strip mall lunch place, I could not escape the knowledge that in six months, Wendy’s will have a Kale Burger, and by 2018, you won’t be able to find it anywhere except The Rainbow Food Collective for Hippies Who Don’t Care About Trends and Just Want to Eat Things That Are Vegan and Macrobiotic.
Kale is going the way of prosciutto wrapped figs. Remember 1994, when you couldn’t STEP into a restaurant without tripping on a prosciutto wrapped fig? And now you can’t find a prosciutto wrapped fig ANYWHERE. Or – I am trying to think of more food trends, but they slip out of the culture and I forget.
I REALLY should have a 90’s food trend pot luck, to remember the hip foods of yore… HELP ME THINK OF SOME! What used to be THE eating thing, and now it is gone, baby gone?
*Smugtured = Smug + Lecture.
Today is a day for a Backdate Quaint. Clever folks who read Wednesday’s blog about the Very Smelly Not A Bunnies may realize that this particular Backdate Quaints is preparation for News…
It seems like a weird title, but there is no singular form of the word bunnies at my house. When Sam was little, he called all rabbits, A Bunnies. In honor of his long gone babyhood, we still call single rabbits “A Bunnies.” Groups of rabbits are ALSO called A Bunnies, and the phrase is like FISH. It can be 1 A Bunnies or 75 A Bunnies, it is all still A Bunnies to us.
A, you understand, is part of the proper name, not an article, so it is grammatically correct to say, “Yesterday, we saw an A Bunnies in the yard.” Or if more than one, you say, “We saw some A Bunnies in the yard.” We would never say, “We saw a bunnies in the yard.” That would be like saying “We saw tractor in the yard.”
Last week, my dog told me a lie. This is unusual, first because his brain is made of four separate cells that sit too far apart in the darkness of his skull cavity to ever be rubbed together, and I did not know the dog had the intellectual CAPACITY to lie. It was also surprising because Bagel is SUCH a diffident animal. He doesn’t have an alpha dog bone in his body. I suspect his spine is made of taffy.
He practically genuflects when my one-eyed massive pirate cat walks by, and he is SO submissive that when we FIRST brought him home, he had a healthy, “SIR, YES SIR!” style respect for a large wrought iron pig that sits on the hearth by the fireplace. He would run through the den and as he passed the pig he would go all LOW BELLY and shoot it a worried glance as he slinked and bobbed past it. He wasn’t sure if the pig was ALIVE, but just in case it decided it WAS, he wanted to make absolutely sure the pig understood its authority was not being challenged.
But the KITTEN, Boggart the Dreadful, is another matter. The wrought iron pig has seniority, clearly, but Bagel was here BEFORE the kitten. He sees the kitten as a peer and they REALLY enjoy each other’s youthful, sproingy company as they bound through the house and wear each other out playing fun games like, “Let’s Ruin All the Furniture!” and, “Can This Be Eaten? (Yes!)”
When we first got Boggart, he was about the size of Bagel’s left ear-flop. NOW he is about the size of Bagel’s head, so he plays with Bagel as if the head were the entire dog. Sometimes he plays with Bagel as if the TAIL was the entire dog, but he doesn’t ever try to take on all 50-some pounds worth of hound. Bagel, chock full of good stupid goodness, agrees to forget the existence of whatever portion of himself the cat is not using for the sake of not accidentally killing my kitten.
THEN LAST WEEK, Bagel told me a lie. The lie was, “I RILLY NEEDTER GO TER THE BATHROOM.” Usually when Bagel needs to go to the bathroom, he creeps up to me sideways and, in a sorrowful and apologetic manner, makes the canine equivalent of a gentle throat clearing. It is a barely audible whispery ahem noise in the back of his throat, coupled with sad down-tilty hound eyes that telegraph how VERY sorry he is to be a bother. He repeats this endlessly until his bladder explodes and he dies, or until someone notices and takes him out to use the lawnly facilities.
Last week, he came tearing up and LIED TO MY FACE that if I did not take him to the bathroom IMMEDIATELY, me and my carpet would suffer many vile indignities. I was in the middle of drafting a scene in the new book, but he lied with SUCH vigor, threatening all manner of indoor biohazards, that I hit save and marched him forthwith to the backdoor. The NANOSECOND I cracked the door, he EXPLODED out of it, banging me out of the way and tearing down the deck stairs.
That was when I saw an A Bunnies was in the yard. It was a small brown A Bunnies, with its slump shouldered little back firmly toward us, eating up the long grass in the center of the yard. It heard the clatter of dog nails on the wood, and it looked behind it, and it saw 50 pounds of A Bunnies Destroying Befanged Evil bearing down upon it like a slavering train. ALL A Bunnies had to do was run under the back gate, not 20 feet away, but Alas! POOR A Bunnies lost its total crap.
A Bunnies panicked. It took off in an entirely incorrect direction, trapping itself in a corner of the tall fence. I then lost my total crap, picturing my backyard as a R’abbitoir: I saw four of the world’s most luck-free paws scattered to all the main points of the compass, a detached ear flopped into the azaleas, the head mysteriously golfed away or eaten, red entrails making a gruesome Christmas in the long green unmowed grasses that had called poor A Bunnies in the first place.
I started screaming, “NO BAGEL NO BAGEL NO BAGEL NONONONONONO.”
Bagel was deaf. Bagel was blind to all but an A Bunnies trapped in the corner. Bagel did not slow nor did he veer. He charged straight up to poor, paralyzed an A Bunnies, and, gentle reader, I am sorry to report, he MOISTENED it.
See, this is the world’s most diffident dog, and he regularly plays with a kitten about the same size and shape of an A Bunnies. He basically scooped up an A Bunnies in his cavernous, maw, careful not to bite down, and joyfully SUCKED HIM LIKE A LOZENGE for a damp moment before gently rolling an A Bunnies across the lawn.
There was a brief frozen moment where an A Bunnies, ABSOLUTELY SURE that he was dead, sat in a saliva-coated, unharmed heap. And then he realized he was FINE and he went leaping away, in the correct direction this time, and goozled under the back gate and was gone.
Bagel came bounding back to me with fur breath and asked to go back inside. I said, “You are a big liar pants. You did not EVEN need to go to the bathroom.” But by then he had already forgotten the whole thing and had NO idea what I was talking about. He also had NO idea why I gave him an ENORMOUS lick of peanut butter off a spoon, but I know why. It’s because he is awesome.
See the double fold of neck flesh under Bagel’s chin? We call that his Throat Butt.
THE SCENE: In about fifteen minutes, a dozen people are descending upon my house for dinner. I love all these people, but I am a nervous hostess. I tend to over-do. I panic. I froth. All my upholstered furniture has cat-shreds on the corners and I have no true gift for domesticity and I am sure this says terrible things about my character. I would say I was at def con 4 except I am not sure how many def cons there are and if they are bad when they go up or bad when they go down.
I better do Old School Trek: I was on Yellow Alert.
Digression: I never understood Red Alert. The captain would order it, and a God-awful, nerve-tearing, WHONK! WHONK! sound would begin. Immediately, a whole slew of panicky looking red shirts and big-eyed yeomen would gallop up and down the corridors of the Enterprise, each in a separate lather. HOW DOES THIS HELP?
All I learned from Star Trek was, when things get bad, I should run in circles screaming until Spock fixes it. (The good news is, I MARRIED a Spock, so at my house this is an effective solution a shocking percentage of the time.)
So, back to the scene: the oven is preheating, the pans of lasagna are sitting on the stove-top, and it is juuust about time to put them in, my house is as clean as it EVER gets. Good? Good. And THEN (cue ominous music) from the backyard, Bagel the Big Dog makes his polite throat-cleary sound that means he has completed his business and wishes to come back inside.
I open the door. Ansley comes in. Bagel comes in. And with them…THE SMELL COMES IN.
The Smell is terrible. The Smell is terrible beyond description.
It is like if there were trolls and trolls had a butt and you had to go live there, in the butt. It’s like if you killed a whole room full of people, stacked a lot of unpasteurized French cheese on the corpses, and then left for a week. It is like if a fart became sentient, did a lot of evil, died, went to hell, rolled in sulphur and then clawed its way back up to earth through layers of poop. It is an oily, biological, pungent, evil ENTITY of smell.
In short, oh my beloveds, it was Skunk.
I have smelled Skunk in passing on the highway, a faint whiff of some poor hapless little fellow who wandered all entitled under the wheels of a noseless truck. ONLY noseless trucks would DARE to hit a skunk. The smell is so…immediate.
And Bagel’s WHOLE FRONT, his legs and chest, his shoulders and the folds of his throat were all sprayed and coated in that OILY, GLANDULAR Repulsifyer. And people were coming in 10 minutes, WHOLE CROWDS. And the Lasagna was not in.
So I went to red alert and ran in circles, the smell SO bad I was gagging on screams with my eyes bleeding. Spock was still on his commute, due to arrive at the same time as our guests.
So I SPOCKED UP and threw money and teenagers and Lysol at the problem. While I blasted all the air molecules with the scent of Fresh Linen, Sam and Maisy got Bagel on his leash and walked him up to PetSmart with my credit card and orders to ask them to FIX it.
AND IT WAS FINE, except, ya’ll, there is a SKUNK. And he has moved in UNDER THE SHED and Bagel is as stupid as a noseless truck, Lord love him, and even just letting them in and out to pee, Bagel has already re-skunked himself. THAT time we cleaned him ourselves as professional deskunking costs a MINT and it was four gagging hours of my life I will never get back. We used SO MUCH hydrogen peroxide that Bagel is VISIBLY A SHADE BLONDER.
And yet I have no faith that he has learned ANYTHING. Bagel is SO dumb. Ansley gives the shed a wide, respectful birth because she is a genius, but Bagel…He does not associate ANYTHING with, well, anything.
Bagel lives in an eternal NOW. “Oh LAR LAR LOOKY! Thing under shed. Must get thing. Now a Smell is stunged me in my eye. Now a terrible endless bath is happen. HO DE DO! LA DE DA! LAR LAR LAR!” None of these events are connected in his 4 brain cells by even the remotest INKLING of cause or effect.
He WILL go see what that skunk is doing again. And skunks are SUCH entitled animals. They trundle along, secure in the knowledge that HELL RESIDES IN THEIR GALNDS and NO ONE is going to fuss with them.
And yet! I know my dearest, dumbest Bagel—-HE WILL. What do I do? How do I get rid of a SKUNK?
I am VERY TIRED of books about awful people being awful to other awful people. I have read a rash of them. They were fun, but NOW I am hungry for something else. SOMETHING VERY SPECIFIC.
I want to read a book that fulfills ALL the requirements below. Not because the kind described below is the only kind of book I like, but because I am so hungry for this kind right now. It is like — when you are CRAVING PIZZA, the best quiche in the world can leave you cold. SO. Here is what I seek:
1) A NOVEL. No non fic, memoir, bio even if it “reads like a novel.” No short fiction. No plays; I want a novel.
2) It should be character driven, and the drivers should be complicated characters with both serious flaws and strengths who are chasing goodness in some vigorous way. I want to read about people who are trying to connect, who love and hope in this broken world, or who seek the divine. Even though it is about goodness or the search for connection, I can NOT manage anything remotely sentimental or smug. NO SYRUP! No kittens in the snow on Christmas with a thorny paw. No good good people and bad bad people with clear, clean lines. I want the real dark world, and to be shown what is light in it. Bad things can (should) happen, but I need the grace notes to be SO beautiful.
3) I want it to have a PLOT. I want there to be movement and interest. Beauty and hope is not enough. SOMETHING SHOULD HAPPEN.
4) The writing should be good, of course, but a specific kind of good. I don’t want invisible, commercial prose (even if it is impeccable) or DENSE fudge-y writing with sentences like almost-poems (even if it is impeccable). I don’t want a great story that is poorly or plainly told, or great writing so layered and nuanced that it overshadows story. I want interesting, unexpected images or a rich, specific voice-i-ness. Let the writing lean into literary territory. Heck, it can lean HARD into the literary, but it should stop WELL SHORT of being Henry James.
5) By the end, I want to have laughed out loud, cried, and remembered why I like humans.
If nothing comes to mind, here are some well known novels that I think do all these things “brightly, brightly and with beauty.”
The Dog Stars
Water for Elephants
The Gods of Gotham
Shine Shine Shine
The Solace of Leaving Early
Read anything like these? PLEASE TELL ME. I am book-hungry.
A very un-Christmassy cow by Ernst Vikne
This is a story I have never told on the blog, because Scott assures me it is funny to absolutely NO ONE but us, and that only because we are Deeply Troubled. I disagree. SO. You decide.
My parents live in the wilds of Alabama, and one year, when the children were very small, we were driving up to the little Methodist church in town to see the Christmas Pageant. The traditional one, you know, made out of children, with nose-picking angels and a baby doll for Jesus because Tiny Mary cannot be trusted not to drop a live one on his head. I LOVE this kind of Christmas Pageant. Makes me think of Herdmans.
On the way to this one, we passed cows.
Well, of COURSE we did. It would be much more remarkable to tell you we did NOT pass cows. Out near where my parents live, if you spit in a direction, you are likely to besmirch a cow with your spittle.
Now Maisy was about three and Sam was eight. And they were VERY attuned to Cow Passing. Sam’s first imaginary friend, Ontag-the-Cow, still loomed large in the family mythology. Anytime we saw cows, it was a good Omen, which meant going to rural Alabama was FRAUGHT with good omens.
These particular cows were scenically dotting a green hillside in a field that came all the way down to the road. Except one. One cow had come down the hill, almost to the fence, so she was VERY close.
The children were excited to see her. They started burbling joyfully and yelling to her and waving.
Now, I look at this cow, and it is INSTANTLY clear to me that All Is Not Right With The Lord here in this bovine situation. This cow is thin and rheumy eyed and trembling and her face is…askew. She is standing at an odd, drunken angle and swaying.
I say unthinking, to Scott, “Wow, that cow looks really—” and then I hear the silence and feel the weight of four small, bright, cow-adoring eyes in the backseat, heading for a pageant. “Christmassy.” I end. “That cow looks so very, very…Christmassy.” And here, oh best beloveds, you understand that Christmassy means “about to drop dead.” Scott certainly understood it so.
“Oh, yeah,” he said. “That is a Christmas Cow for sure.”
“Why is that particular cow a Christmas cow,” asked Sam. Sam at eight used words like particular and asked WHY in such long, long endless chains that his father would start making things UP, Calvin’s Dad Style..
“Because that is Moo-ey, The Christmas Cow, and it is her job to wait for Christmas,” Scott lied, smoothly, while I made alarmed eyebrows at him. I wanted to point the kidly attention to ANYTHING that was not a cow about to drop dead.
“WHAT DAT CHRISTMAS COW DO, DADDY?” Maisy peeped in her HUGE peep. Maisy at three had a high pitched little voice and a volume knob that was stuck at eleven. Eleven is one louder. Than ANYONE.
“Moo-ey just, um, waits for…Christmas,” Scott said, and here, oh best beloveds, you understand that “Christmas” meant, “Merciful death.”
SO we went to the pageant and it was great. So great I hoped it would eclipse MOO-EY, but on the way home, the children were VERY EXCITED to see Moo-ey again. As we approached, I saw that while we were at church, Christmas had indeed come over Moo-ey. Moo-ey had crumpled into a pretzelly, spraddle-legged, ungainly, completely dead heap at the bottom of the hill. INCHES FROM THE ROAD. Tangled into the FENCE.
The thing about a dead cow is, there is so MUCH dead cow. Huge. Looming. Horrifying.
“O, YAY!” I said, very loud. Louder than even Maisy. It was as if I had just discovered my volume knob went to twelve. “MOO-EY HAS ALREADY GONE TO SLEEP! THAT MEANS SANTA HAS LEFT! IN HIS SLEIGH! IT IS AN OMEN! WE MUST GET INTO BED VERY QUICKLY BECAUSE WHEN MOO-EY GOES TO SLEEP, YOU KNOW SANTA IS ON THE WAY AND LOOK! SHE SURE IS ALL THE WAY ASLEEP.”
“Dead asleep,” said Scott, dead pan, and it hit me in the right all kinds of wrong way, and I started laughing. And then Scott got tickled, too.
Why is that funny?” Sam asked.
“WHY YOU LAUGHIN?” Maisy peeped.
And so, to keep their eyes on me, and also because I am Deeply Troubled, I said, “HEY KIDS want to learn the MOO-EY THE CHRISTMAS COW SONG???” and they began clamouring to learn it, which distracted them from the horrible carcass as we passed.
So I sang a verse of it, which I invented on the spot. It genuinely has the most cheery tune to it, especially at the front The name MOOEY, especially, is sung all SPRY and gleeful, and then by the last line, it gets a little weirdly paced and eerie:
Moo-ey the Christmas cow,
Sliding down the hill
Waiting for Santa Claus,
Solemn… Silent… Still
That cracked Scott up, and so he made up the next verse,
Moo-ey The Christmas Cow
Waiting all night long
Quietly lying down
I regret to inform you that this went on for the whole drive home. We kept on making up verses that indicated in code to each other that a cow was dead via a ghastly little jingle that flew right over our children’s dear, dear, innocent little heads.
FOR YEARS. Years, ya’ll, The children would warble bits of the Moo-ey song when we passed whole crowds of perfectly alive cows at Christmas, and it always just SLEW US. Scott and I, we would laugh until tears were rolling down our faces, and our kids never got it. It was just THIS YEAR, at almost 13 and almost 18, that we let them in on the joke.
Sam thinks it’s hilarious. Maisy is moderately affronted, but affirms our choice to hide the cow’s demise from her.
SO. MERRY CHRISTMAS, and Who is right?
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This is a story that got posted elsewhere, as a guest blog. It happened — and I wrote about it –years ago. Maisy was about 5. It never appeared on FTK, and I do not have it in my saved blog word files. I had to get The Way Back Machine to find it. I am reposting it to have a record of it, and ALSO because I am going to tell you about MOO-EY THE CHRISTMAS COW. And this story really explains the kind of human Maisy was, and why we did what we did re: Moo-ey. At 5 years old, Maisy looked something like this:
On our 2008 family beach meet-up, we chartered a pontoon boat and spent a day toodling about the gulf with frequent pauses to wade and swim and shell hunt and snorkel and dig up hermit crabs and make elaborate sandcastles for them. In the late afternoon, armed with a box of tragic, chirruping crickets, we got out the poles and set about catching our dinner.
My son, Sam, immediately won the WEIRDEST CRAP DRAGGED FROM THE SEA contest by hauling up a VERY disgruntled Puffer Fish. The fish glared at us in a depleted and impotent manner, completely unable to PUFF without seawater around him.
Since neither my parents, nor anyone in my brother’s tribe, nor anyone in my family is a specially licensed Sushi Chef who has received the many hours of training needed to safely cut out the virulently poisonous glands in such a way that the first bite won’t cause excruciating death, we put him back.
After that, Sam and his two teenaged cousins each caught one or two disappointingly small catfish. We put them back, too, in the hopes that next year, when we returned, they would be a size worthy of the Fry Daddy and thus allowed to keep company with cole slaw and hushpuppies.
The only person who did NOT catch a fish was little Maisy, five years old, and, as the afternoon wore on, she became fussier and pink-eyed with fish-less self pity and exhaustion.
A mere minute or two before we were going to start up the engine and putt back to the boat docks, Poseidon smiled upon Maisy at last, and the pole she was holding bobbed and dipped in an unmistakable FISH ON THE LINE way.
With her dad’s help, she hauled up the most tiny spindly meatless catfish to ever get his mouth around a cricket. She was thrilled, and we all admired her specimen prodigiously. “Her name is BARTINA,” Maisy said proudly, and gazed with love upon the ill-named ugly whiskered teeny trash fish like it was made out of SUGARED GOLD. We took her picture with Bartina while Maisy grinned and said, “You are my best fish, and you picked me!” Then my dad carefully took out the hook and slipped Bartina over the side, where (s)he high-tailed it for the mucklands where too-small-to-eat catfish dwell.
He turned to start the engine, and just then, a hellish siren of sound arose, a soul-searing wail of total loss and misery. “BARTINA!” Wailed Maisy. “YOU THREW OUT BARTINA!”
“Oh, bunny,” I said, half laughing, “We didn’t throw it out. We let Bartina go HOME. Bartina can’t live on LAND.”
At this news, Maisy COMPLETELY lost her crap. All the way home, she bemoaned her lost beloved. “SHE WUH-WUH-WUZ MY BEST FRIEND,” said Maisy, and this had no basis in reality, obviously, but the exhausted little well of feeling behind the words were totally and disarmingly sincere. It was like watching the Little Mermaid come to understand that her prince could not inhabit her world, but instead of a prince, it was a buttugly runt catfish. It was the silliest sort of heartbreak, but from where she sat, the silliness was unapparent, and she was totally sincere.
For a long time after, weeks, even, we could not say the name Bartina without provoking a small flurry of wounded sorrow in Maisy. The loss, entirely invented, was VERY real to her. She could not explain why it upset her, so, but I got it. After all, she is five and I am forty, and so I recognized the impulse she could not define or name.
It’s part of growing up, learning not to become attached to things we hope for and dream in our heads, learning to stop recklessly pinning invented beloveds over some real world object or person, and then breaking against a hard surface when the thing disappoints us by being only itself. No boy ever broke my heart in high school. Instead, I broke my own heart against the wall between the actual boy and the one I made up. I think Scott was the first man I ever knew as himself before I loved him, and it took me a long time to figure out the difference, as I live so strongly inside my own brain. It took seven years of platonic best-friendship to figure out that he was my guy and had been all along.
Later on the night after we lost Bartina to the surf, I grabbed up the nets and the flashlights and my dad and I went out to catch crabs along the shoreline. The size of the crabs made up for the fish, and when we got back to our rooms, I set the clattery bucket of delicious blue-clawed fellows out on the porch. I didn’t bring them in and murder them and boil them and pick out all their delicious meats until Miss Maisy and her tender heart and her propensity to name the foods was safely asleep, innocence intact.
She will eventually learn not to love things that don’t have anything to offer in return. I’m her mother, and I know the only way she will learn it is by giving her heart away, and then getting back only pieces. But I saw no reason to help her begin the process that night. And I see no reason to help her begin tomorrow. There is time for all that later. Please Lord, much much later.
Sam’s stocking was handmade by genius novelist and sew-goddess Lydia Netzer. Maisy had a lovely one as well, but got lost somehow on a Christmas Travel, when she was about four. As an LPoQT (little person of questionable taste) she picked this emergency one out at Target:
Well. Okay. IN MY DEFENSE: Santa was imminent. She was distraught over losing her precious stocking, another handmade quilted sort of thingy from her grandmother. No other stocking in all of Target spoke (barked?) to her. No other stocking made up for her loss. Faced with a Christmas Eve where my weeping youngest hung a filthy tube sock, what could I do?
Reader, I purchased him. He has been her stocking, ever since.
He bothers me more, every year. It looks like we have HUNG a dog. As in, “by the neck until dead.” And while on some level I feel it serves as a fine warning to those who feel tempted to counter surf (*cough*Bagel*cough*) it is Not Very Christmassy.
Except, in my family, maybe it is. Did I ever tell you about MOO-EY the Christmas Cow? Moo-ey has a SONG and everything. Let me see if I can figure out how to get a recording of the MOO-EY SONG, and then I will tell you it.
It makes more sense if you know that in my family, Cows are the avatar of all that is good and right. Sam did this. His FIRST imaginary friend was a cow named Ontag who lived in the shed behind our old house out in rural Georgia. Ontag was The Best. Righteous and Mighty. Ontag smote the wicked who might rise up from the crick against our family.
Mostly pigs. Why pigs and not cottonmouths, I do not know. I HATE COTTONMOUTHS. I am a snake person, too, as in, I actively enjoy interacting with pet snakes up close and personal and with wild ones from a respectful, eyes-only distance. But. A cottonmouth in a crick where my kid’s play? No. Sorry, sir, your breathing privileges ought to be revoked. It would have been handy to have a superhero cow to perform this service. But no, Ontag fought pigs. Mostly.
CAREFUL, LADIES! IT’S A TRAP! (photo: Rob Purvis)
My kids, to this day, play a game called HEY, COW. Whenever we drive past cows, these people (Now 17 and 12) both roll down the window and scream, HEY, COW! If the cow looks up and acknowledges the greeting, they are blessed with all kinds of Cowly luck. And should multiple cows or a BABY cow look up—well, that is a omen of such favor! Why, it is hardly to be imagined!
Dead dogs on the mantel? Not so great. I am going to try to tempt Maisy with a new stocking AGAIN this year, but I do not hold out high hopes. She has a yen for tradition, and in her memory, Wild West Justice Dog has been her stocking all her life.
Do you have any holiday traditions you’d CHANGE, if only you could?
OKAY! today I am constructing a plot twist, and I just remembered this. All my childhood hamsters were named after female hymn writers. In church, if the sermon was dull, I would flip through the hymnal hunting more hamster names. When I found a good one, like, say, Magnolia Lewis-Butts—who wrote Let It Breathe on Me (LET IT BREATHE)— I would agitate for a hamster to pin it on.
My favorite hamster ever was named Fanny J. Crosby. The real Fanny J Crosby was famous for writing 8,000+ hymns, including Blessed Assurance. MY Fanny J Crosby was famous for biting the living crap out of me.
I had a clear plastic hamster ball and I used to let Fanny roll maniacally around the house in it. Our big ol’ much adored Poodle, Louise, and our little teeny incontinent stressed out nippy crap-tastic butthead poodle, Musette, would go nuts, chasing her.
Once she escaped, thought lost forever, but when winter came, our cat Delilah went and stood by a heating vent and began a desperate yowling. We unscrewed the cover and there was Fanny. She had made herself a little nest there right behind it. The heating vent had been blowing the delicious scent of gently warmed hamster all over the cat’s face.
I picked up Fanny, delighted to have her back, and she predictably bit the crap out of me.
Then one day, I came into the room, and the hamster castle was in pieces, and Fanny was dead. Super, Super, Super dead. So dead she was CLAMMY. She was past clammy, actually. She was downright WET.
But she had no visible injuries. It was as if she had drowned in dry air. It was like the mystery where the guy is dead and the answer is AN ICE KNIFE.
I blamed the cat, even though Fanny was un-rended and no parts of her appeared to have been eaten. The cat had had it IN for Fanny ever since she’d gotten a sample of what Fanny might smell like if she was being very, very gently cooked. I was quite bitter toward poor Delilah for a long time.
It was several years and several hamsters later that we discovered the true culprit.
I came in and found the hamster castle wrecked again, and there was our best dog! The excellent Louise! He had rooted out Sarah Flower Adams—the furry namesake of the radical Unitarian lady who penned Nearer my God to Thee—-and he was SUCKING on her. He was rolling her pleasurably around in his mouth as if she were a lozenge.
I fished her out, soggy but alive.
The murderer is never who you think it is. The murderer is never who *I* think it is, either.
Medical science can’t figure out what is still going wonky in Dad’s heart. He is tough and a superhero and doing really well, but we want ANSWERS and there are not any, so far. WE ARE NOT GOING TO TALK ABOUT IT, right? Remember? Shhhh. But I said I would keep you in the loop, oh best beloveds, so consider yourself yourselves looped and also know if you, like me, are a pray-er, my family would appreciate a mention.
We aren’t going to talk about it because I feel like life is climbing on my chest while I am sleeping and sitting there, and here you must picture life as a large drippy-eyed hairy damp animal, very round and phlegmatic and dim witted and unfeeling, and it sits and sits, and I say, HEY LIFE, I AM TRYING TO BREATHE HERE SHOVE OVER but it sits on, BLINKING, UNCOMPREHENDING, digging its butt down into my chest and being damp and heavy. So.
MEANWHILE, Here are four things that make me STUPID STUPID happy, even though they are free and silly, just small creative kindnesses that have appeared on earth:
1) Your comments about the snappy comebacks and stress reliefs, on the blog entry below. I read them all like 9 times. SOME WERE BRIL IDEAS and some were SO funny. Thank you. You are truly the best possible of all beloveds.
2) THIS LLAMA. I love all six seconds of him. I wish I had him in a looping gif, and I would watch him bounce forever. I may finally learn to MAKE gifs, just so I can do this, but the song seems so KEY that it may prove disappointing.
3) People keep sending me pictures of themselves with SOMEONE ELSE’S LOVE STORY at Target. I’ve gotten one almost every day just from friends and family since August began. This particular one is from my niece. The only possible way it could make me happier would be if it showed more than her hand—like if she had selfy-photo-bombed it.
THE SENTENCE GAME. Do you know this game? This is an internet version of a REALLY fun game that is played like this in life, and a Facebook friend recently pointed me at it:
From the game’s website
Each game begins with a sentence – often a deeply disturbing or completely abstract sentence – written on the top of a piece of paper. The sentence is passed to the next player, who draws a picture in a futile attempt to depict the sentence. They then fold the paper so that the sentence is no longer visible, and pass the paper to yet another player, who must write a new sentence based on what he or she thinks the picture is showing. Then this third player folds the picture out of view and passes the sentence on to another player, so repeating the process.
Here is a game I JUST finished. I love every step of it, and I wish someone had had to draw my closing sentence.
Below is a sample drawing I did in a different game where I was an artist instead of a writer – can you even IMAGINE the sentence that spawned this? You know it probably had Madagascar in it. BECAUSE, LEMUR.
All these things are just SMALL AND PASSING BY AND UNURGENT AND TINY AND FREE, and yet all four make me SWELL UP with SUCH delight. What small thing makes YOU happy? And I do not mean fleeting smile happy. I mean, do you have a small thing that makes you six second Llama bounce happy?
SELS LAUNCHES IN PB tomorrow. Equal parts Exciting and terrifying.
I am trying to find ways that help me DESTRESS that do not involve 1) Buttloads of strenuous exercise. This is my FAVORITE. When I am unhappy, I run straight up a mountain, frantically paddle the elliptical for an hour, or do rigorous yoga in 104 degree heat…. and ALL OF THIS is utterly nixed by this still lingering mono-fatigue. This weekend, after two days of just REGULAR LIFE—ambitious things like HAVING LUNCH OUT and BUYING SCHOOL SUPPLIES— I hit the wall. I slept for 15 hours yesterday. Heh. Clearly not ready to run straight up a mountain.
2) Eating my feelings. MMMM, DELICIOUS FEELINGS! In my secret heart, I KNOW there is no stress that a whole fried chicken and nineteen chocolate cookies couldn’t fix. EVEN SO, I cannot find a single doctor or even a crazy web health guru that agrees with this very valid, smart opinion. At this point, I am willing to pay rock hard cash to any doctor or even a doctor shaped puppet who can say, “Fried chicken boosts the immune system,” with a straight face. I am so ready to believe this!
Since there seems to be some crisis-level international shortage of Doctor-shaped puppets providing nutritional lies on demand for reasonable fees (DOES THE MEDIA KNOW????) I am actively in search for other ways to de-stress.
Want to help me brainstorm? We have to think OUTSIDE THE BOX. I mean, we have all read the magazine articles about stress at the dentist’s. They all say to exercise, which I love, but can’t do, and then…they offer these suggestions:
BATHS. No. Baths combine stillness with being damp. I am not fond. Also, it is like you are the unwashed base-meat for person soup. No amount of bubbles that smell like verbena can keep me from squatting tensely in the water imagining I am stewing in both my own foul juices and the repulsive bodily effluvium of all the humans who sat in the tub before me.
Massage. OH NO NO NO. Massage involves people I don’t know touching me with oils. I could only manage that if I could peel my skin off, leave it at the massage therapist’s office and come back and get it later when it had been made supple and calm. That would be great, actually. I would slide happily right into my refreshed, new skin and gambol off as carefree as a fawn. But if I have to be IN the skin while it is being poked and dabbed and rubbed at, I am going to need general anesthesia.
Gardening/Crafting/Soduku. Bugs/Yarn Snarls/Math. No/No/No.
Meditation: I HATE to be still and not think things, and soothing chimes make me murderous. I am made of spastic monkey atoms. I am SO kinetic that yoga is really awesome for me—keeps the body busy so I CAN be mentally still—but Yoga is out right now, as I said. SO! A good friend sent me some 2 minute guided meditations, thinking they were so short, I could manage one.
Do you know that the first 2 minute meditation I tried was actually 2 minutes and 27 seconds? I spent the first minute feeling SO RESENTFUL of that extra 27 seconds of SNEAKY SURPRISE MEDITATION they tried to slip in on me that my heart rate jacked and my vision clouded over with a wash of pure distilled meditation rage.
By minute two, I forgot I was mad.
To be fair, I also forgot I was meditating.
I stopped listening to the guide, and was actively playing a spiritually damaging game I REALLY like called Snappy Comeback.
Snappy Comeback is when you viscerally remember a mean or awful or tactless thing a person said that left you floundering, mouth agape. First you re-experience that awful helpless fish-floppy feeling, and then you reimagine the scene with you instantly coming up with a brilliant, snappy comeback and swaggering cheerily away.
This is the one I played when I was supposed to be meditating—-and you have to imagine this opening line being said VERY EARNESTLY, with serious blinking—really she was not kidding.
Her: Oh, you’re the author? But you don’t LOOK glamorous…
Real Answer: Oh. Um, heh. Sorry?
Reimagined Answer: Yeah, weird, huh? And *you* don’t look like a butthole.
I doubt this promoted my spiritual growth.
And that’s the Holy Herd of Unstress-Activity, right there, saucily dismissed with prejudice. SO it is BRAINSTORM TIME. Let’s get outside the regulation STRESS BOX. Weirder the better. I am GAME for some serious de-stress lunacy. I KNOW YOU CAN DELIVER, Best Beloveds. A better batch of weirdos cannot be found on the web. So hit me with your best shots, or, if you got nothin’, can you find me a Doctor Shaped Puppet on Etsy who might be inclined to lie to me about the healing properties of queso and fried shrimp tacos? Or you can tell me the worst best comeback you ever thought of, WAY too late to use it. THAT sounds relaxing!