It’s a national holiday — a day off from work, when we buy exorbitant amounts of ground beef and encased meats and charcoal and propane. We light fires and start motors burn fuel like it’s free and we’ll never run out. We consume large quantities of fermented beverages and potato chips and baked beans. The sun crisps our faces to a nice, lobster red — raccoon rings around our eyes from our UV protective sunglasses prove we still have some standards when it comes to caring about our health and our bodies. Our feet stay bare, and, if we’re lucky, we dip our toes into the pool or the lake or the ocean. We create a day of brilliant indolence. We drink in life.
We also wave flags and remember those we’ve lost. Those who likely wore uniforms on the day they died and whose empty boots, vertical rifle, protective round helmet — now jobless and forlorn — form the battle cross of the fallen soldier. Unaffiliated with religion or dogma or faith. Just respect.
A way to honor the place where a soul has vacated the premises.
Photo by Dusan Vranic, Associated Press.
Whether we agree with how they died is irrelevant.
On what we should all agree is that we are grateful. Grateful we’re here to enjoy the day. To sunburn our bodies. To fill our bellies. To laugh and sometimes cry but mostly, if we’re smart, to smile.
I hope I never have to spend this holiday like many other spouses in this country —
On my knees, in the grass, at a stone.
So. For those who mourn, and for those who don’t: It’s important to enjoy the day. Bask in the company of our family and friends. Wear sunscreen. And take, if you will, at least one moment of sobriety to remember the point.
Yesterday afternoon, a veterinarian laughed at me.
Apparently I’m that crazy dog mother who, even though I never dress my dogs in sweaters (or any kind of clothing save the occasional reflective vest on nighttime walks), appears utterly ridiculous to non-dog owners.
And all of the assistants in the veterinarian’s office.
But for some inexplicable reason, I feel inclined to tell you — no, I need everyone to know — that I’m really not that kind of dog mom — the kind who takes her dogs to the vet for every little ailment.
If I were, we’d have been there 547 times in the last 5 years for various catastrophes, but we weren’t. I handled them at home. Like the time they ate a bunch of toothpicks so I fed them cotton balls dipped in coffee creamer to ease the passage. And the time they ate a bag full of chicken wing bones so I fed them cotton balls dipped in coffee creamer to ease the passage. And the time Capone ate one of those bathroom poufs and slowly expelled netting from his derriere for days.
That time, I didn’t feed him cotton balls.
But then, a few nights ago, Mara started acting strange. She tucked her tail between her legs, got all shivery and panty, and hid in our bathroom for several hours.
I did things. Things that would make Caesar Milan roll over in his grave if he were, you know, not actually alive.
I pet. I coddled. I lay with her on the cold bathroom floor.
I knew she was hurting, but she couldn’t tell me what was wrong. It was the most frustrating feeling in the world.
Then, miraculously and right before bed, she was fine again.
Until the next night.
Same thing, same time.
For three nights in a row.
So you see, I had to take her to the vet.
What if she had diabetes? Or Cushing’s? Or cancer?!
The internet is a very scary place when it comes to self — or pet — diagnosis.
So I booked an appointment and took her in.
Where they laughed.
They laughed and told me she was perfectly healthy and definitely does not have diabetes and sure they could charge me for all kinds of blood work and X-rays and the like if I wanted to screen for cancer, but she showed no obvious signs of the disease which, if she had it, would not be particular about the time of day it displayed its symptoms, and maybe I have a ghost in my house.
But, more likely, she felt sick that first night, got treated with all kinds of love and attention, and decided to do it again.
Or she’s picking up on the strain of Justin’s imminent deployment.
Either way, she’s fine, and they decided to not charge me for the visit since the intense humiliation overbearing dog mothers are forced to feel upon examination is payment — and entertainment — enough.
And the bitch of it is, I feel like if I were a *cough*real*cough* mother and not just a dog mother, I’d just be all, “What’s wrong with you? Your tummy hurts? Just pop a Pepto, dust it off, and go back to bed. Mama just opened a bottle of wine.”
But there’s something about these faces…
(or is it these faces?)
…that makes me do crazy, crazy things.
And that, I think, is probably what it feels like to be a mother.
P.S. You should probably check out this post of yore for some exceptionally hilarious faces.
Okay. To those of you thinking of building yourselves a closet organizer made of plumbing pipes, because people do that all of the time, I have one piece of advice for you:
It’s only 8:30 in the morning, and already I’ve used up my math cache for the entire week.
Yep. See, I only have a limited cache of math skills. It’s so limited, in fact, that I’m forced to dole out math-related problem solving brain cells in carefully regimented quantities throughout the week so that I don’t run out before they have a chance to replenish.
And this project is using them all.
Even if you’re great at math, I would still not advise you to take on this project, unless you want Home Depot employees to run screaming for the exits every time you enter the store out of fear that you ask one of them to spend 2 hours — two hours! — custom cutting and threading galvanized pipe to your specifications in order to save a little moolah.
Obviously, I’m not above that.
And I’m going back today.
I probably shouldn’t publicly warn them on the internet.
Because I’m sure they read this blog, just to see if the crazy woman with graph paper and an extensive plumbing fitting vocabulary plans on coming back.
That’s right — due to my extensive research, I can talk flanges and elbows and tee fittings and nipples with the best of ’em.
I can even say “nipples” to a male Home Depot employee named Kelly without cracking a smile.
I’m that good.
Unless you have beyond stellar math and 3-dimensional planning skills and an extensive knowledge of pipe fittings and absolutely no fear of possible retaliation from disgruntled Home Depot employees, you probably don’t want to make a closet organizer from plumbing pipes.
But if you do, I’ll have the instructions for you eventually.
Unless the HD peeps slash my tires and start sending threats to my family.
Last week I posted photos of our back shed and proclaimed to all the internet (or maybe 1/1,000,000,000 of the internet) that my husband is a hoarder. Really, the post was intended to be a giant metaphor for how far I’ve come in accepting the fact that the person I live with is human and that it’s possible to find ways to form our habits so they complement each other, rather than fight each other. And… okay… maybe a little bit to call him a hoarder.
So all I would like to say to those of you (beloved readers) who defended Justin in the comments section, claiming his hoarding issues aren’t true hoarding, for shame.
I know you probably did it because he’s hot.
And he is.
But that does not negate the fact that he cannot throw anything away. That shed was an unfair example because I’d already taken half of the mess out before snapping the photo.
You need further evidence?
I’ll give you further evidence.
This is what I originally set out to clean.
See that flower pot on the right side, near the garage door?
I’d intended to move that and a few other select gardening tools out to the shed and then get back to this particular mess.
Let me break it down for you: The old ceiling fan from our bedroom, a broken tool organizer that our neighbor was going to throw away (it is currently still broken and holds zero tools), 2 televisions, a wood pallet, bags of mulch and garden soil, 5,287 empty cardboard boxes (those might be my fault), worn, crusted gym clothes, old doors, cement board, laminate flooring, wood scraps, shoe molding, trash, trash and more trash, and billions of DIY home supplies.
And so the garage turned back into a veritable dumping ground for everything we couldn’t deal with — physically and, apparently, emotionally.
Who isn’t a hoarder?
Because I’m pretty sure it’s not this guy:
(By the way, I feel like I should mention that Justin added a dead bolt to our front door, hung crown molding in the kitchen, and switched out an outlet that had been driving me crazy this weekend. I’m pretty sure the fact that he had a clean shed, courtesy of moi, was the underlying motivation. It just makes sense that I should get credit for all things awesome. Mwahahaha.)
If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you already know that I have a soft spot in my heart for people who break convention.
For people who say, “I don’t care what the sheeple want — I want what I want, and if it means that the so-called Rule Makers of the Universe — the Simon Cowells and the Joan Rivers and all of the popular girls in all of the high schools in all of the land — point their snide noses in my direction, then I must be doing something right.”
See, in this world, there are good rules, and there are bad rules.
Good rules, like having to wear seat belts in moving vehicles to we don’t pose a danger to ourselves or others by becoming flailing, rubbery, projectile objects during the event of a collision, help protect us from our own laziness and stupidity.
Bad rules, however, like those that tell us we can’t drink at baby showers and we can’t wear a black shirt with brown boots, only exist because someone who was once the slightest bit influential (and is now likely dead, in rehab, or no longer relevant) once said it out loud.
And puh-leez. Black and brown go with anything. So why wouldn’t they go with each other?
Imagine my excitement when I received an invitation — nay, an order, from the Queen of Hearts herself, to follow the White Rabbit to a “simply mad” tea party wedding, where all of the guests would be wearing vintage inspired clothing and hats.
It was going to be like make-believe for grown ups.
I mean, c’mon. You wouldn’t have to twist my arm to get me to jump down that rabbit hole.
Or any rabbit hole, now that I think about it.
Except maybe a real one.
Hop on in:
The details were out of this world.
I was there, too. Showing off my mad croquet skills.
This is me. Winning.
I’m pretty sure they didn’t have cell phones in Wonderland, people.
Yep. That one’s mine.
This part was way cool. The DJ played music from Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, and the bride’s parents came out as the King and Queen of Hearts.
Makeup change! She even got her groom to wear the hat for 30 seconds. Thirty seconds of AWESOME.
Like photographing Grace Kelly on set.
This “bouquet” must have weighed 35 pounds. It was incredible.
There were only 35-or-so guests at this Alice in Wonderland theme wedding, and each one played along, which really made it magical.
Most people scoffed when the bride told them her plans.
All I can say is, I’m glad they didn’t bring her down.
I think it’s Taylor Swift who sings, “People throw rocks at things that shine.” And shine, that evening did.
Can you name the movie quoted in the title of this post?
As I sit here this morning with my thin toasted bagel, honey nut cream cheese, flavored coffee, glass of OJ, I realize.
I realize that I’m an almost-thirty-year-old assistant.
I’m an almost-thirty-year-old assistant with a college degree.
No responsibilities, no career driven passion, no zsa zsa zu for anything, save spewing my verbiage onto a screen and getting a slight thrill every time someone acknowledges that I do, in fact, exist.
The issue at hand is simple.
It’s hard to admit, and I choke as I write, because a character trait that would land me a role as a strong, unforgettable leading lady of my own damn story, this is not.
But regardless, it’s true.
I am addicted to the bottom of the ladder.
I’m not tied to it, wormlike umbilical cord still firmly attached at the navel, providing comfort and sustenance until I’m ready to climb.
I’m addicted to it because I’m not attached.
And, if you want to know the truth, I have no desire to climb.
I test a rung, then jump back down. It’s fun down here in the tall, tall grass. Up there, I’d have a view of the whole, wide world. But down here? Down here I get to run all around, play in the dirt, leave when I want, answer to no one. The playground is huge, and there’s no way I’d trade it for a tether to my cell phone and a plush, swivel office chair.
But what am I doing? I ask myself as I drive, fists clenched around the molded plastic wheel, cutting through traffic in a town that hates me on my way to the place where I will spend the next 6 self-deprecating hours as an almost-thirty-year-old assistant.
I’m not ashamed of the job itself, but of the fact that I’m wasting my time.
Of the fact that I’m wasting everyone’s time.
Of the fact that I’m privileged enough to do as I please, yet here I sit, ass tucked firmly between Rung 1 and Rung 2, with no drive to climb yet no heart to run. To run with writing, to declare to the world that this will be my career, even if it makes me a failure who has no choice but to sit at the bottom, staring up with envy at those who’ve made it — who’ve made a true impact — the Chuck Palahniuks and the J. K. Rowlings and the Stephen Kings and yes, the Jenny Lawsons and all the rest with their views from the top and room to run.
I’ve carried this metaphor too far, I think.
Which tells me I probably have a long way to go.
And many changes to make.
Are you ready?
Because I’m not sure I am, but it means a lot that you’re still here. Still reading. And you — yes, you — are my encouragement.
Okay, so it might be because I ate approximately 80,000 calories worth of crusty, cheesy fried-then-baked eggplant parmesan, leftover spinach feta quiche, and German pancakes drizzled with a homemade sugary syrup yesterday.
Check out that Dutch Baby, baby. And please ignore my filthy oven.
Or it might be because I just ordered 26 galvanized malleable floor flanges from Amazon before having even one sip off coffee this morning. Or it might be because I spent the entire day yesterday, aside from a 2-mile walk with the dogs and shoving approximately 80,000 calories worth of delicious, artery-jamming crap into my system, sketching out a design for a closet organizer made entirely out of plumbing fixtures and pine boards.
It might be one of those things.
But whatever it is, I’m feeling mighty accomplished this morning.
Fat, but accomplished.
On second thought, none of these things are the reason I feel accomplished.
They’re most certainly the reason I feel fat, but not the reason I feel accomplished.
I know exactly what it is.
But first, I need to take you back to Saturday.
Saturday, my friends, is the day I made an important and disturbing discovery about the person with whom I’ve chosen to live (aka. my husband).
This discovery wasn’t a complete surprise, mind you, since inklings of this issue’s existence have been cropping up, here and there, for the past 9 years.
But apparently I’ve been living in a protected shell of denial. Apparently I haven’t wanted to make this discovery, because then I’d have to admit that the issue exists.
But on Saturday, I could ignore it no longer.
While Justin was busy doing this:
I ventured out to The Shed.
The Shed is a wonkily assembled, pseudo mini building attached to the back of our house, presumably added by the previous owners. When we moved in 5 years ago, I quickly labeled the non-ventilated space as man territory, clearly, and have rarely ventured back since.
On Saturday, I walked into The Shed.
On Saturday, I saw this:
Actually, I should clarify. This is after I removed the lawn mower, a weed whacker, a small hand cart, and approximately 35 (or 6) large, assorted bags of garden soil.
My husband is a hoarder.
It turns out, every time I asked him to get rid of something — like the chicken wire we’d once used to line the inside of our fence to keep the pups from squeezing out — this is where he put it. Not only that, but this is also where he put project supplies that he bought but didn’t want to immediately tackle. So, it turns out, for years we’ve been storing oil-rubbed-bronze doorknobs (all of which we’ve since bought and replaced in the house), outdoor light fixtures (since bought and replaced), and giant bags of garden soil and mulch, all — you guessed it — re-bought and used multiple times over during the years that these things have sat, forlorn and neglected, in the bowls of The Shed.
I found bags of trash.
I found an unopened, unused seed starting kit.
I found a tupperware bowl I’d long – long – since given up finding. Unfortunately, it was filled with oil-soaked newspapers, but still. Finally discovering its fate brought me peace.
And so, my dears, did cleaning out that shed.
If the difference doesn’t look drastic to you, keep in mind that this “after” photo, as opposed to the “before,” now contains a lawn mower, hand cart, weed whacker, large rake, cylinder of propane (where is the best place to keep this, by the way?), and several garden tools and flower pots.
I would have carted out the 7 bags of concrete mix, but I found that moving one from the bookshelf in the back to the rest of the pile may have caused me permanent back damage (just kidding — I think), so there they will stay.
This discovery was important because it made me admit — finally — that while Justin is an out-of-sight, out-of-mind type of person, I’m most definitely an it-might-be-out-of-sight-but-it’s-still-right-there-in-mind-so-it’s-still-giving-me-an-eye-twitch type of person.
And also, call me crazy, but I like to be able to access things without wading through a pile of garbage.
But — and pay attention because this is important — if I can just accept the above statements as fact and realize that Justin is about as likely to change his habits as I’m likely to sit in a cubicle for the rest of my life, then we’re one step closer to reaching a symbiosis that actually… I don’t know… might allow us to get things done.
A partnership, if you will.
If I can keep the shed looking like this, despite his rat-pack hoarding ways, then I’m giving him the tools he needs to do things like this:
Photo taken, unfortunately, on a much drearier day.
What happened on Saturday is that I made a mental leap. One of acceptance, if not understanding.
And that, I think, is what we call accomplishment.
If I could only use one word to describe the city of Philadelphia. I know exactly what I’d choose:
Really, almost everything I’d heard about Philly — aside from endless word about the deliciousness of its cheese steaks — alluded to its roughness.
Its subtly induced reputation for hard knocks and downed luck and overbearing, relentless strife.
From the obvious overtones of Bruce Springsteen’s “Streets of Philadelphia” to Will Smith’s epic fight on the basketball court during the opening credits of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, the city was advertised as lonely and dangerous. With its gritty undertones of dreary streets and gray skies serving as cinematic backdrops for the trials of Sylvester Stallone and Tom Hanks in Rocky and Philadelphia, the city was portrayed bleak and hopeless.
Because of these things, Philadelphia just sat, dusty and neglected in the back of my mind, as this place I’d probably never care to see.
But then I saw it.
I really saw it.
I saw its richness in history, art, museums, green space, food, and culture.
And suddenly, I felt very, very misinformed.
I only had one day to explore, but now I know this: Philadelphia, I will be back.
I was at the grocery store the other day, and I saw a hunk of cheese.
A hunk of cheese that, it appeared, had no earthly business sitting in a grocery store in Fayetteville, NC.
I moved on.
Then I came back. Then I picked it up. I stared at its martian green marbles, tried sniffing through the plastic.
Then, instinctually, I set it back down.
No earthly business, I thought.
But I came back again.
It’s just so enticingly green, I thought. I love green things. Green is the color of nature. And dragons. And travel. All of the things I love.
(Okay, so travel isn’t green per se, but green is the color of U.S. paper currency. Which allows me to travel. So there ya go.)
Green is also the color of mold, which, okay in most cases maybe isn’t a good thing, but I’m pretty sure I read somewhere that mold and cheese belong together.
Just like me and Scott Bairstow.
He just doesn’t know it yet.
So by that logic, this must be the BestCheeseInTheWorld.
So I bought it. And there, in the store, through the miracle of modern technology, I found a recipe to use it with as well.
Since I had no idea what this cheese tasted like, I didn’t want to risk buying it and have it sit in my fridge for a decade while I, still rife with indecision, decided what flavors would go well with it.
While I was at it, I also did a little background research a la Wikipedia. Apparently it’s sage — not mold — that creates the marbled effect (hence the name), and it’s pronounced daaahrby — not derby — with a proper English accent, as the British are wont to do.
When I got it home and ripped into the packaging with the ferocity of an 11-year-old girl at a Justin Bieber concert, (hey — I like my cheese), I actually found the flavor pretty mild. Nothing to get worked up about.
But the open-faced sandwiches I ended up making with it?
Those are worth mentioning. And I would venture to say that you don’t need to hunt down Sage Derby cheese to make these bad boys. Any good melting cheese will do the trick.
They’re open-faced corned beef, cheese, and pickled onion sandwiches. I found the original recipe here, on Food.com, and it’s everything you could look for in a summer weeknight meal: it’s fast, and it uses the broiler so you don’t need to heat up the entire house with the oven.
To make them, you will need:
1/2 onion, sliced paper-thin
2 Tbsp. cider vinegar
2 Tbsp. water
2 Tbsp. sugar
Pinch red pepper flakes
4 slices of Irish Soda Bread or French Bread or some kind of thick, crusty bread
Spicy Mustard (like Dijon)
Thin-sliced corned beef
Sage Derby cheese (or some kind of good melty cheese you know you like)
1. Slice your 1/2 onion as thin as possible. This would be much, much easier with a mandoline. You know. In case anyone wants to buy me one.
2. Stick the onion in a bowl, and add 2 tablespoons of cider vinegar…
…2 tablespoons of water…
…2 tablespoons of sugar…
…and a pinch of red pepper flakes.
Toss to coat, cover the bowl, and stick it in the fridge.
3. Preheat your oven’s broiler.
(Um. I don’t have a photo of that.)
4. Slice your bread as thick as you’d like.
5. Spread a thin layer of mayo and spicy mustard.
6. Remove your pickled onion from the fridge and drain the excess liquid, then add that to your bread slices and top with corned beef.
7. Slice your cheese thin and add that as the final layer.
8. Place your sandwiches on a baking sheet and stick ’em 6-8 inches under the broiler for 3-4 minutes.
Watch close — you don’t want to burn the cheese!
9. Okay, so it looks like boring peasant food, but trust me. Just take a bite.
I mean, if I’d slapped a French name on it, like Croque-Monsieur, you’d be all over these puppies.
But you probably already think I’m odd and you’re still here, so really, that makes you kind of odd.
Which is probably why we get along so well.
It has to do with how much I dread a regular check-up like appointment I have to make with a certain specialist where I sit in an exam room so he/she can stare into certain orifices and pull skin to the side and poke around. It’s the most uncomfortable thing in the world. Like an invasion of my entire being. I don’t know this person. She doesn’t know me. Yet here she is, looking inside, inwardly (if not outwardly) judging my hygienic practices and probably how I wear my makeup.
Yep. I’m scared of the Eye Doctor.
You thought I was going to say something you thought was uncomfortable like Gynecologist or Dentist, didn’t you?
Well. I have news. Those folks have nothing on Eye Doctors.
I’ve had the same Vag Guy for the past 5 years. I’m comfortable with him. My vag is comfortable with him. We know what to expect and how long it will take. There’s no guesswork involved — just some mild groping and a tissue sample. The entire yearly appointment takes all of 5 minutes for him to get in and get out. Wham, bam, ThankYouMa’am.
And the Dentist? Them’s small potatoes. You see the Dentist for all of 30 seconds at the end of an appointment, and he/she is always super nice in a desperate attempt to make up for the fact that everybody hates them. It’s the hygienists you have to bond with. Until recently, I had the same hygienist the entire time we lived here. Every 6 months, Penny was my buddy. She taught me how to floss properly, introduced me to Reach Gum Care woven floss, used water — not scrapers — to clean my teeth, and basically renewed my entire faith in the dental industry.
I think I’d rather get a pap smear by Sponge Bob than go to the eye doctor.
Okay. That’s not true at all. We all know how I feel about him.
(Seriously, I was going to try to find a funny Sponge Bob photo to put here, and I couldn’t do it. It was just too scary. You’ll have to use your imagination.)
Not to belittle the undoubtedly interesting and challenging field that is optometry, but I have to say — it seems a lot less exact than the previous fields mentioned, which involve things like lab tests and visual verification to determine when something’s out of whack.
Unfortunately for them, Optometrists have to depend on the patient for much of their diagnosis. And I’m sorry, but I’m just not a good patient.
When you shine a light in my eye and then 2 seconds later stick a steampunk machine in front of my face ask me to stare at a lit chart on the wall and ask me what I can read, I feel like laughing because it seems like you must be joking.
You just directed a light into my eyeball and now you want me to stare across the room and read?
I stare at a fuzzy ball, 2 or 3 lines down from the top of the chart, and make a guess.
You grunt, flip a switch, and ask me if the fuzzy ball is now better or worse.
Better or worse than what?
It’s still fuzzy.
You’re asking me to decipher the difference between fuzzy and fuzzy.
I get frustrated.
You get frustrated.
I feel like an idiot.
You probably feel like an idiot.
But hey — at least you’re getting paid for this.
And so it goes. Four appointments, 3 trial lenses, and hundreds of dollars worth of prescription drops and cleaning fluids later, I have to miss a half day of work today to pay you a surprise visit because I was up all night with an intense headache behind one eye. Because, I realize, my new prescription is much, much stronger than my old one. And I can’t see. And I want to cry. And I don’t want to see you, and you most certainly don’t want to see me, yet still here we are.
A different doctor every year.
So I know the problem must be me, which makes it even worse.