My yard is the size of a postage stamp, but it keeps me busy. My husband and I live in the house my Mom and Dad lived in for more than 40 years. Mom was a nurse and a Master Gardener. I am neither. While I don’t intend to hook up a catheter or assist in a triple cardiac bypass, I do love to putter around in the yard.
Unstoring and cleaning summer furniture and yard equipment; filling pots with composted soil; raking leaves and uncovering the newborn buds and sprouts beneath; pruning overgrowth — nothing relaxes me more. Except maybe the glass of wine I have after working in the yard all day.
By June, the posts will be filled with flowers, the trees will be lush (and me too, if I keep up the gardening/wine combo), baby birds will join their parents at the birdfeeders, along with the neighbor’s quite audacious squirrel and Mamma Rabbit and her babies who live under the bushes in the front of the house and oh yes, the hawk that waits patiently at the top of the tulip tree to dive into a feast of his own making.
In March, I start getting in shape for my summer gardening hobby by 1.) forgetting I’m not 35; 2.) falling over while putting my pants on and balancing on one foot, and; 3.) throwing my back out after bending over to retrieve my pants.
Shouldn’t there be some kind of licensing system for those who wish to become parents? A license is required to fish, style hair or stuff dead animals, for crying out loud.
This from a woman who probably could not have passed a test to have any of the four children she gave birth to.
In the early 1970s I had my first child in southern California while married to her Marine Corps dad, who was stationed at Camp Pendleton. An officer’s wife, who ran a women’s group for the Marine infantry wives, told me the average age of the female spouses in the group was 15. I was 19, old and wise and almost AARP material in their eyes.
I got my first glimpse into the world of Lil’ Miss Moms when one cute, but ditsy, young newlywed and mother (the two were sometimes synonymous) showed me a large knife placed under her baby’s crib. She said her infant son had an earache and the knife would “cut his pain.”
Honest. To. God.
Anyway, here’s an easy Parental Ability Test. Be honest. And, if you have more than four affirmative answers … well, can you spell c-o-n-d-o-m?
You should rethink having a child if:
• You think the birth canal is in South America.
• You have ever uttered the phrase: “My kid will never do that.”
• You would put a knife under your baby’s crib to cut the pain.
• You get gaggy at the sight of vomit, phlegm, blood, boogers or runny, greenish-yellow poo.
• You were never a teenager.
• You were a teenager, but can’t remember it because you were stoned out of your mind.
• You are now an adult and still stoned out of your mind.
• You think you will look like Pregnant Barbie and have your child effortlessly by pulling it from a plastic flap in your belly.
• You think that children will bring you and your mate “closer together.”
• You think children, adolescents and teenagers have a natural, instinctive ability to apply reason and common sense. (or you think you can “train” them to do so.)
• You currently reside in a dumpster by night and a public library by day.
• You know that if you were in charge of your friends’ children, you could straighten those brats out.
• You want to wait to bring any children into the world until: 1.) You and your partner are financial stable; 2.) Congress actually works together for the good of the people, or; 3.) There is peace on Earth.
• You have ever thought about naming a child after the sponsor of your favorite NASCAR driver — including Prilosec, Viagra, Dasani, Dupont Tyvek, Sprint Nextel, Wishbone, Bud Lite, Bud Weiser, Ann Heuser, Pabst (do not even think about Smirr for a middle name!), Corona, Heine Ken or Red Bull (exceptions on Red Bull: a Sioux Indian or Spanish matador).
• You ever again expect to go to the bathroom by yourself or sleep eight consecutive hours.
• You occasionally smoke crack to “energize.”
• You have ever said “Bubbah and I are going to a Proud Boys kegger after we bet on the cock fights over at Thugger Joe’s.”
• You plan to train your child to perform on stage, dance provocatively, apply garish makeup and win the USA Jr. Miss Potty-Trained Tiara Toddler crown by the time she’s 12 months old.
• You want to have a litter of kids so you can make lots of money with your own reality show.
I try to be a hip social medialite, but who can keep up with the ever-changing acronym dialect?
When this whole social media thing started years ago, I thought for months that WTF meant “Wait Till Friday,” you know, kinda like TGIF. It was only after I emailed it to my supervisor in a company memo that I found out differently.
The younger people keep coming up with new acronyms so that older people — AKA parents and grandparents — don’t have a clue what they are actually talking about, which is usually how clueless their parents and grandparents are.
In my first week of AAC —Advanced Acronym Classes (taught by my grandchildren) — I’ve learned that MTFBWY does not mean “May Take Forever, But We’re Young,” (which explains why I never used that acronym), but instead, stands for “may the force be with you.”
I also learned STFU does not stand for St. Francis University. Sister Mary Jean called to express her “disappointment” in me.
Even vintage chicks know what LOL and LMAO means, but how about TL;DR? Turns out that means “too long, didn’t read.” Now that I think about it, one of my editors used to write that on the stories I sent him. He sometimes sent my stories back a second time with a scribbled “CALMSO!” (cut a lot more sh** out)
Because of my experience with the WTF acronym, I made an assumption recently when my younger sister sent me a text that said: WFH?
“WFH?! NOTHING HAPPENED! WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?!” I fired back.
Sis texted back: “OMG. LMAO. WFH means “Working from home.”
I procrastinate. The day my hairdresser, Miriam, left for a 2-week vacation in Utah is the day I noticed I had rapidly gone from Honey Blond to Gluttonous Gray.
I could not afford to fly to Salt Lake City for a root job and I could not go to another hairdresser because Miriam is also a longtime, close friend and it would have been like committing adultery. As it says in the Bible, getting it on with another beautician is a grievous sin.
So, I dug through the back of my closet and found the wigs that I bought long ago and have never worn because, well, because I’m paranoid that everyone is staring at me because they know I’m wearing a wig.
Wearing a wig, face mask and sunglasses comes in handy when running errands in flannel pajama bottoms and an old, paint-stained T-shirt. That’s when I always run into the immaculately-dressed and exquisitely made-up former co-worker who wants to stop and chat about her very accomplished children and her very accomplished life. As. Opposed. To. My. Very. Unaccomplished. And. Dreary. Life.
But, she passed by the wiggy-me without a hint of recognition. Hallelujah! Why have I been wasting my life wearing my own hair and exposing my lips and eyes?
When I donned the auburn, long-haired wig and ventured into the city to shop, I was Venturous Viv and a completely different person from Virtuous Viv, the highlighted brunette who browsed the non-fiction section in my small town library.
I discovered I was more suited to work in a soup kitchen as a brunette, but as a curly-headed blond, I was more likely to lead a protest against the state legislators’ attempt to eliminate Indiana’s wetlands.
The inky, black bob with fringed bangs gave me absolute super powers. I became Vamp Viv. My husband ran into my bad self in the frozen food section of a local supermarket and was especially attentive before I hit him over the head with a 10-pound bag of rock-solid chicken legs.
Wearing that same wig, I was able to morph into Vindictive Viv and deal with a jerk behind me at the stoplight who always hauls a gigantic confederate flag in the bed of his truck. You know the type — the guy who starts yelling obscenities at the car in front of him because that driver doesn’t rev the engine and take off the second the light turns green. So, with a flip of my dark locks and fringed bangs — and my middle finger — I exerted my extraordinary powers, locked the doors, turned up the radio and calmly sat through the light one more time. I peeled out just as he was preparing to stab me with the Rebel flagpole.
Maybe you’re thinking “mental illness,” but except for the Yankee-Wanna-Be-Confederate guy, I’ve had nothing but good experiences. And — bonus!— these six new, enthusiastic women in my life have expressed an interest in joining my Prosaic Procrastinators writer’s group.
I used to hate the way my face was falling to the earth, outpaced only by my thighs.
Once a lady asked the name of the chubby dog that was wrapped around my feet. I had to tell her it was my ankles.
The problem with growing old is that even though you still feel young in your mind, your body begins to crack and disintegrate like a human pork rind.
A few years ago, when I was 60, doctors discovered a tumor the size of Rhode Island growing between my brain and my ear canal.
“It’s an Acoustic Neuroma,” the doctor said.
I was pretty sure I bought that album in 1979.
Anyway, after a 13- or 14-hour brain surgery, I was as good as new.
That’s a lie.
I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t drink. I couldn’t sit. Heck, I couldn’t even roll over. Half of my face was frozen and numb because the tumor had wrapped around my right facial nerve. Someone had fashioned a turban out of barbed wire and attached it to my head with steel beams and iron spikes which were driven into my skull and all tangled in my bloody hair. Wires and tubes were attached to my arms and other body parts. Had I been crucified?
On the upside, I was on some pretty mind-blowing narcotics so I was waaaay down the rabbit hole having tea and crumpets with Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Mother Teresa.
One thing I could do was laugh — albeit out of the side of my mouth with a gurgling sound and one wide-open, freaky eye that refused to close. I didn’t care. Did I mention the drugs?
Every few minutes a staff member would come to my bedside, ask me to squeeze her fingers and ask the same questions: “What’s your name?” “What day is it?” “Who is president?”
I had married twice, taken both husbands’ names, then reverted to my maiden name, then married again and did not take his name.
My mom had to down several 5-Hour Energy drinks just to write my names in the family Bible.
The first time the nurse asked me if I knew my name, my youngest brother quipped, “Oh sure, start with the hard questions.”
I liked to mess with them when asked the president question: “Taft?” “Weird Al Yankovic?” “Grant? Did the North win?”
Accomplishing one goal at a time — walking up and down stairs, gardening, driving, hiking up a Virginia mountain, making Fruit Loops for dinner — I recovered.
For the most part, my face came back, my wrinkles returned, and I no longer looked like I got Botox injections from a one-eyed physician.
I was so happy to see the deep lines return to my face that I made them a welcome home casserole with extra Oil of Olay.
Every day melds into the next. Week into week. Month into month.
And now, year into year.
I always thought if I had more free time, I would get so many projects completed. Those bins of photos and memorabilia that need sorted, catagorized (or tossed) and put into scrapbooks; that bathroom that needs a total overhaul; the two books and eight short stories I’ve been working on here, there and nowhere; that stack of sewing and mending that has been gathering dust in the sewing room for seven years now; a new backyard patio … the list goes on.
Conveniently, I blame the pandemic.
One good thing about the pandemic is that I have little contact with other people, most of whom I just want to poke in the eye. Hard. Seriously, when did vulgar stupidity become cool?
Conveniently, I blame social media.
I’m already bored with cooking. I cook it, we eat it and it’s gone. Seems like a whole lotta work with nothing to show for it but the extra COVID-19# around my waistline. It’s quicker and much easier to just grab a spoon, a jar of Nutella, throw in a handful of chocolate chips, some bacon and call it a day.
Don’t judge. Bacon is a food group.
Last night I stared vacantly at the salad I had prepared for the fourth night in a row and distinctly heard a few active brain cells yawning. I put it back in the fridge, and rummaged through the cupboards for something more, um … tantalizing. In the back of a bottom cupboard — where I hide shit from my husband — I found a bag of stale chocolate chips. I downed a handful. And then another. And another.
Things must change. I have to get motivated, finish the projects, maybe shave my legs, brush my teeth, feed the poor, enroll in pole dancing classes, join the National Guard or recycle all those wine corks. Something.
Otherwise, at this pace, my first trip in over a year won’t be my lifelong dream of visiting and hiking in the Dakotas, but will likely be a trip to Texas for an appointment with Dr. Nowzaradan.
If you don’t know who Dr. Nowzaradan is, you probably are not the type of person whose idea of an appetizer is a bag of chocolate chips poured directly into your gullet.
My mom, a genteel Southern lady — who never uttered a single curse word (that I ever heard) until I was well into my 30s, and even then, it was a pretty weak profanity — had an annoying habit of dropping family secret bombshells in the midst of a casual family dinner and then walking away while my brothers and sisters and I sat open-mouthed in stunned silence.
Mom: “Would anyone like more scalloped potatoes or ham?”
Bob: “Are those the potatoes from my garden?”
Margaret: “Did I give everyone copies of the kids’ school pictures?”
Janet: “Is that my kid eating the mashed potatoes out of the pan with a spatula?”
Darrell: “No, pretty sure it’s mine. Jesse! Leave some for the rest of us!”
Paul: “Why don’t you have cable TV, mom? You need cable. You get four channels, Mom. Four.”
Me: “What’s that smell? Smells kinda like dirty feet.”
John: “I think that’s your organic, gluten-free, vegan casserole, Viv.”
Mom: “You know (we certainly did not), your grandfather ordered a mail-order bride after your grandma died in 1946 when I was 14. She was from St. Louis (implying city whore), wore seamed stockings (definitely a city whore) and we (she and her four siblings) sent her packing.”
Us, in unison: “What?! Grandpa ordered a bride?! What did she look like? Did Grandpa just bring her home or did she show up on the doorstep?! What the …?! How come you never … Mom! What was her name? Did you ever see her again? What did you do to send her packing? Light her on fire? Was she an evil stepmother? Do any cousins know? Tell us more!”
Every time she did this — yes, she did it more than once and more frequently as she grew older — she would then wave her hand dismissively, change the subject and say, “Never mind, it’s not important, pass the pie. Yes Bob, those potatoes are from your garden.”
To this day, we all continue to use this phrase as a mantra for ignoring important news that we’d rather avoid altogether.
“I know I’m 40, but I’m pregnant, again. Pass the pie.”
“It was only two nights in jail and a $1,200 bond. Could you pass the pie?”
“By the way, I filed for divorce yesterday. Is that pumpkin pie? Pass it, please.”
“OK, I’m not exactly sure how old I’ll be when I finish paying off the $189,000 in student loans. Look, just pass the pie, OK?”
How bored and anxiety-ridden am I? Enough to turn French.
le freak; le maniaque; le sot.
My son gave me the last of his fall harvest — two mutantly large (oh yes, those GMOs) butternut squash — and I decided to make butternut squash soup, for the first time in my looooong life (aged 20 years in 2020 alone).
It was simple, I guess, but peeling two butternut squash the size of Volkswagens is akin to finding head lice on Rapunzel.
However, once I had that out of the way, I was full throttle to the Ultimate French Cuisine Snobby Pandemic Chef From Hell.
I decided to make crème fraîche (pronounced kram fresh-ha) and toasted pepitas as a decadent topping for the decadent full-fat creamy butternut soup. That extra COVID+19 around my waistline was not attained by munching celery and sipping lemon water.
Since I couldn’t find crème fraîche in the store (“Cream, right? Dairy aisle. Fresh ah, veggies? Produce aisle.”) , I decided to make it. Turns out adding 2 tablespoons of buttermilk to 2 cups of heavy whipping cream and letting it set for 8-24 hours renders a delightfully thick luscious type of French cream. Je suis très impressionné!
I cooked the cubed squash with chopped onion, apple, celery, carrots, garlic, veggie broth and salt and pepper until soft, blended it all in the blender (one small batch at a time) and poured it into bowls. Topped with a dollop of salted, roasted pepitas (come on — regular ole’ pumpkin seeds! Aldis —under $2 a bag!), fresh, chopped parsley and crème fraîche — and voila! A masterpiece!
For no one.
Just me. Always me. I have NEVER been so sick of me.
Well. there’s also my husband, who is also sick of me and whom I run into once in a while in the hallway on weekends. Alas, he could not see the splendor of a perfectly blended and exquistitely-plated butternut bisque and magnificently executed crème fraîche when all he really wanted was a dozen smoky BBQ wings with steak fries.
I ate it all. Thus, I upgraded the COVID+19 to COVID+24.
Would I do it again? Geesh, it was a lot of work. But, during the pandemic when there’s a lot of me, me, me time, I might foray into that French cooking arena once again.
When this is all over, though? Pretty sure I’ll forget the soup and enjoy a mixing bowl of the crème fraîche and toasted pepitas for breakfast, lunch and dinner. grossir pendant la quarantaine.