Home Renovations – The It Episode

Due to some excessive rain (I started to say “Unusually excessive rain…”, but excessive rain IS the usual here), the power was going on and off for a bit this morning. My son’s room was unusually cluttered because we are doing some renovations on his bathroom (More about that later), so the towel racks, towels, and assorted accessories, along with my ladder, are stuffed into his fairly small bedroom. And to note: The kid keeps it as dark as a cave.

So as various household appliances are switching on an off with the indecisive power surges, they are all making different noises. The humidifiers beep. The temperature gauge clicks. And something in the house made an upward sloping attempt at middle A.

It was the last that creeped my son out.

He recounts to me after dawn that laying there in the pitch black, unfamiliar shadows from the extra stuff stashed in his room, he was seriously rattled. All the added flotsam, plus the emptiness of a bathroom devoid of part of its floors and walls changed the acoustics such that the poor kid couldn’t tell where the noise was coming from. He tried to convince himself it was the heat, but given that it was unseasonably warm, he couldn’t get that  thought to solidify.  He ended up staying awake til morning.

He comes in my room when he hears me waking and playing with Siridog. he tells me about the storm and the dark and the noises. He especially points out that the strange, eerily musical hum really rattled him. It sounded like song notes. Like a half scale. It didn’t sound random. It freaked him out. I can tell by his expression that he wasn’t exaggerating – The kid had been really scared.

“You just need to take a deep breath and remind yourself, ” I say to him, “That this is a safe neighborhood and that it was unlikely to be a bear or criminal.”

“Criminal?!? Ma, I was afraid it was a clown!”

I couldn’t help it. I busted out laughing.

“I’m serious, Ma! If a clown had shown up, I’d have beat him with my lamp and then wet my pants.”

Truth be told, if I’d been in that situation, and a clown had jumped out of the closet, I’d have wet my pants before beating him with the lamp.




So about the bathroom renovation…

My house is ancient, and the people who lived there before did most of their own repairs. Which is to say, a lot of stuff is totally jerry-rigged. Makeshift. Mechanically creative. When I decided I was ready to replace the shower stall in the back bathroom, I knew better than to expect it would be pristine underneath.

First, the contractor, a friend of mine, tells me he is there to start the demo. Then he sends pics of some wood rot around the drain. To be expected in an old house, I remind myself.

Then pics of some wood rot on the bottom of the wall behind the shower. No surprise there – The back wall had a bit of a crack in it.

Then some pics of wood rot around the perimeter of the shower pan. No surprise there either. There is no air vent, heating vent, or fan in that room. It gets damp easily.

Then a pic of the joist and crawl space below the shower section of the floor. In the center of the photo, there is a mushroom… A cream colored, beautifully topographically sculpted fungus, big enough to feed a small country, or at least a large city, for a day.

THAT was a surprise.

It wasn’t a clown, but it was damned unnerving.

It has since been pushed down into the dirt and been broken, sprayed and sterilized (Pretty much everything short of set on fire). The room will get fixed, my son’s room will go back to normal, and hopefully neither of us will be tortured any more by thoughts of clowns, or mushrooms, or clowns with mushrooms, or mushrooms shaped like clowns.

Effing clowns.

Stupid mushrooms.

Please, let us not find anything else.




Have You Met My Son, Black+Decker?

I am dirty. Like, literally. I am covered in dirt and leaves and twigs and sweat. My deodorant gave out about 30 minutes ago, and i just pulled a little spider out of my hair. All that, not including a couple minor injuries… And i feel wonderful.

The first warm day in ages. Granted, in a couple of months, this will be considered cold; but after weeks of hard freeze and some snow, my son and i are both in short sleeves and bare feet as we revel in the sunny outdoors. (Well, truthfully, i’ve been reveling for a few hours. My son only came out when i finished my part and gave him no choice but to do his.) Because it is almost time for the palmettos to come out of their winter hiding, i took the opportunity to get all their food – the aforementioned leaves and twigs – raked and blown to the curb. Of course, this is at least the 6th time i’ve done that this season. Hopefully it will be the last. I have far too many deciduous trees in my yard, including one hickory whose nuts are the bane of my existence, but i am loath to cut them down. Trees are so majestic and mistreated that i can’t bring myself to take them out just because i am too lazy to deal with the leaves (and nuts.)

The nuts… Good Lord… If there isn’t a chipmunk city in my yard, i can’t imagine why. That tree produces enough in a year to make nut condos for every small, furry mammal in the neighborhood. In the summer, i find them half buried in my planters where they are being squirreled away for winter. And stepping on them is almost as bad as a Lego. But this time of year…. Oy…. Strewn about the side yard, it’s a bit like a roller skating rink, except the wheels are on the ground instead of your footwear. Twice today i did the cartoon can-can when they caused me to lose my footing. Legs and arms in all different directions, once being “saved” by body-slamming the shed, and once by falling forward into what was meant to be a push-up, but became more of a belly flop.

Then there is the little matter of bushes and corners. These are, of course, the explanation for the dirt in my eyes, the twigs in my hair, and the leaf mold setting up like cement in my nostrils. I know my life would be easier if i’d just rake or pull the leaves out from the corners and that little strip between the bushes and the house… but that seems a step backward from the leaf blower. I keep telling myself that i am smart enough at math to find just the trajectory to aim the air stream where the leaves will shoot out from the corner in a perfect arc and land in a neat pile away from the house.

I am, apparently, not that smart.

Instead, about a quarter of the leaves blow away from the house, a quarter blow at me, and the other half ends up, inexplicably, back up against the wall behind me. It was one of these frustrating moments that gave me my first ego-blow of the day. Backed up against the drain, battling a whirlwind of yard flotsam,  i look up and see my neighbor laughing at me thru his window. I wanted to yell something snarky, but i couldn’t open my mouth without choking on flying ivy. Instead, i shot him a “Come on! Cut me some slack!” face, and he mouthed a chuckling apology before ducking out of sight.

At the last leg of my chore, i see the mail man drive up to the post box next door. This caught my attention because, as Vernon Dursley says, “There is no post on Sundays.” Now, in my head, i know being distracted while using yard tools is a no-no, but the sight of the mail truck didn’t distract me quite enough to make me stop and turn off the leaf blower. Instead, i kept on blowing and slowly moving backwards while my eyes stayed glued to the truck and my mind wandered.

Right about the time i figured it must be an overnight delivery, my heel caught on a wayward weedbush. As i went ass-over-teakettle, something in my wonky brain made me hang onto the leaf blower like it was a newborn baby. And when i landed with a thud in the damp earth, the damned thing was still cradled to my chest, with its hard plastic snuffle extension perfectly positioned between my face and the ground, motor whirring in my ear as if it were Peewee Herman screeching sweet nothings. I sat up just in time to see the mailman, having turned around in the cul-de-sac, staring at me from the road, a look of horror on his face.

At first i thought the look was because he was worried i was hurt. Then i realized my t-shirt was clear up to my armpit on one side, as if i were nursing my leaf blowing baby.

I turned the machine off, threw the postman a little salute, pulled my shirt down, and told my son it was his turn.

So now he is finishing the last quarter of the chore. I am on the porch, still barefoot, enjoying a cold drink and hoping against hope that i can move my arms tomorrow and wondering how long it will take to get all the dirt out of my nose. The polish i put on my fingernails yesterday is a little worse for wear. I can feel the layer of grime on my skin. My eyes and head are already aching because i didn’t take an allergy pill first. And i can feel that i have leaves in places i shouldn’t.

But the sun is still up. It is still warm. The yard is looking better. I just found out that i burned about 700 calories. All my other chores are done.  And, since i started my day making a wonderful vegan ragu, i have a great meal coming up in about an hour.  I feel accomplished and content.

So yes, i am dirty and sore and a little bit battered. I lost a bit of my dignity to the neighbor and the postman. And i will be looking for more spiders in my hair all night. But those things pale in comparison to all the good i get from working outdoors. There is no anti-depressant like a warm, sunny day in the middle of winter. There is no chore as fulfilling as ones that get dirt under your fingernails. And there is no sleep as deep as the kind you get after a day of yard work.

Tomorrow may be a bitch of a Monday, but today was glorious.



The System Went Live, And All I Got Was This Pay Check

It has been a hell of a couple of weeks.

The new career culminated in a system GoLive that was on par with the day after a county fair chili eating contest. In other words, a shit show. Apparently, that is normal. Being a clinical medical person up til now, i am not used to that. Because we had patients on the line, it wasn’t a shit show unless the patient actually, you know, shit. Basically, no matter how bad things got with computer issues or patient condition, you were running on adrenaline. You’d adjust and move on, with no time to think about it til later.

Without a patient to distract my brain squirrels, the big day was a lot different than a patient with an active heart attack. First off, instead of adrenaline, i was running on string cheese and hummus… Neither of which are a good idea in excessive quantity. Second, it was hard to drum up appropriate panic for the user who couldn’t find the exact study they wanted because it was listed under “cardiac” and not “heart”. (Most “critical issues” actually were, but sometimes these eye-roll kinds slip thru, and you have to hope against hope that the user is just having an off day.) Third, the level of noise when you cram nearly 300 people into a giant cubby farm meant for 125 is enough to disturb the zen of the Dalai Lama himself. Fourth, it is a painful irony that when you most need a day off / a walk in the woods / a visit with your therapist, you don’t have time for it.

I was cranky. I was frustrated. I was exhausted. And i lost count of how many times i talked myself out of ceremoniously exiting the building with a straight back and a one fingered salute on each hand.

But even in the midst of all that, there were moments that warmed my soul.

I came home one evening to find that my oldest weedling had folded the clothes in my dryer, even knowing that i am level 10 particular about laundry. I could tell she worked hard to mimic my OCD folding requirements. And i damned near cried when i read the note on top that said, “Love you, Ma. I tried my best.”

My son uttered nary a complaint, and required no extra requests, to get chores done. He even did some of my chores so i could roll into bed when i got home. And he did it all with virtually none of the snarkiness implicit in a 15 year old boy.

I received an after-hours voicemail from a user whom i had helped. It was a genuine and sweet thank you. It’s a simple thing, but the fact that she took the time after her own long workday to make a phone call meant more to me than she could ever know.

Friends and family have been generous with their patience. It isn’t easy to stay connected with someone who is socially running on fumes. But there has been no chiding for non-response. No nagging to answer the phone. Only the random supportive message or funny meme. It helped to know that i was forgiven without question. I couldn’t ask for better people in my circle.

There is still a lot of work to do. But i am better prepared for this than i was for the job in the beginning. I have learned a lot and acquired some great co-workers. And i survived the biggest hurdle of this new career: The not-real-shit show.

As things start to settle down and we can at least see the light at the end of the tunnel, where we get to work normal hours and have a bit of life outside of the cubby farm, I am reminded of something… Tho wading thru the last week felt like The Great Molasses Flood   (It’s a real thing. Click on the link if you don’t believe me) – An onslaught of unexpected stickiness and suffocating waves coming at a fast pace… Setting everyone back in shock and disbelief that this is actually happening for real… It’s everywhere and you can’t escape it… Oh-my-god-does-this-mean-there-won’t-be-any-rum??… Oh no! What a mess!  – In the path of the cleanup, it leaves a lingering sweet scent of a job well done.

Unfortunately, it also leaves sticky spots and bugs.

But at least it ensures continued employment.


The Prices of Wisdom

Shout out to my readers in the “I survived a half century” club. If most of the bits below apply to you, i embrace you in sisterhood, and even if we never meet in person, i’ve got your back.


If you….

Have ever looked at young women with those cute little tattoos on their hip and thought, “Just wait, princess. It’s going to look like a Salvador Dali in 20 years.”

Have been forced to realize that trusting your body not to pass gas in public is on par with trusting a four year-old not to say anything embarrassing at a body-positivity festival.

Know there should be a name for that yoga position, bent over and legs crossed, we take when we sneeze to keep from wetting our pants.

Tho depressing, have accepted the fact that visions of sexy 30 year olds have gone from “fantasy” to “pipe dream.”

Have thought, in the midst of a hot flash, “Wouldn’t it just be The Shit if this were me transforming into a superhero right here in the cereal aisle?”

While reading on the importance of self-breast exam, thought to yourself, “First i have to find them. And then it would be like scooping half-set jello.” (Still worth it, but it can be like trying to contain an oil spill.)

Know exactly what level of lighting it takes to show off your inner radiance.

Self-prescribe a pedicure, decadent lunch, and a few hours of shopping for lipstick and books when you are ready to snap… And realize it is for everyone else’s benefit as much as your own.

Have never spent so much on shoes that were so un-sexy.

Realize that you were ignorant as hell when you said finding your first white hair on your head was horrifying.

Wear less makeup than you used to because the amount of spackle and Bond-O it takes to keep it from settling into your wrinkles became cost prohibitive and was starting to raise eyebrows in the checkout at the hardware store.

Say bikini and brow wax, but mean also toe, nostril, ear, beard, and/or that random little spot on your rib cage.

Know that you could still work it in a nightclub… But you can’t stay up late enough to prove it.

Accept the fact that you are going to cry over inspirational videos, cinematic death scenes, and most well-done public service announcements… And can laugh at yourself for it.

Have ever woken yourself up from a sound sleep because you rolled over onto a runaway body part.

Have removed all the granny-panties from your skivvy drawer, because you realized everything is technically a granny-panty now. No need to buy any specifically for that purpose.

Spend far too much time in front of the mirror, pulling your skin back to see what you would look like if you could afford a face lift.

Have a social media page full of baby animal pictures and silly memes whose sole purpose it to keep you from drinking.

Have ever wondered if God/Goddess/Universe has a crazy sense of humor or was just a sadistic bastard when they decided we should have to fight wrinkles and acne at the same time.

Have occasionally had those moments of wisdom and confidence that almost make all the above worth it.


Love you, friends. Really Really.



At this age, the main thrill you get from a birthday is that you are still alive and enjoying it. Tho some birthdays are benchmarks, like turning 50, the noteworthy numbers are fewer and farther between at this time of life. It doesn’t mean that the date is bad. It’s just harder to muster enthusiasm for a number of years that doesn’t have a specific relevance attached. So turning 51 yesterday was kind of anti-climactic.

While wondering if this indifference was justified, i had the bright idea to Google the number.

It wasn’t just me.

I mean, there were some very cool references: 51 is the number of Doc Hudson in the Cars movies, it’s the direct dial code to Peru, and it is the source of speculation that is Area 51 (For you non-U.S. citizens: This is a government facility that supposedly is for flight testing but, according to popular tale, also harbors recovered alien aircraft and extraterrestrials).  But for the most part, the references were mathematical: Cyclic Gilbreath Permutations (Which apparently have something to do with the shuffling of cards), Stormer numbers (Which, oddly, do not reflect on the weather), and Perrin numbers (Which have nothing to do with steak sauce). Kind of interesting, if you’re bored enough. But there was nothing in there that was like, “WOW! How did i not know that?!?” Nothing that made me think i should be excited about it. I’ll bet, if i conducted a survey, it wouldn’t even be on anyone’s list of favorite numbers.

Not that it’s bad. It’s just “meh”.

I didn’t really expect this birthday to be exciting. And i didn’t expect it to be particularly depressing. So i shouldn’t be surprised that 51 isn’t a magic astrological number, or the number of calories in a cup of  Häagen-Dazs, or the average number of dates a single, middle-aged woman has in a year. (Tho it is the atomic number of Antimony… Which, if it were the opposite of matrimony like it sounds, would be a great thing…)

I suppose, in the end, i got what i expected… Another year on this Earth to make people smile and laugh. Another year to watch my weedlings grow to become extraordinary people. Another year to try to make a positive difference in my little corner of the world. So even as i find out that 51 has no celestial promise for magnificent mojo, or a free facelift, or a surge in calorie metabolism; i am a lucky woman indeed.  My expectations were fulfilled.

And i have already checked… 52 has promise.


Southern Summers and Sky Raisins

I know there are people who love summer. I used to be one of them. But as i’ve gotten older, my tolerance for the unrelenting heat has reached as close to zero as it can get without me being forced to never leave the house.  It doesn’t help that i live someplace that routinely exceeds every record high i ever experienced where i grew up. As early as May Day, we are hitting weather here that would be a mid-summer beach day back home.

Granted, winters here are milder. We usually get one snow a year that exceeds a couple inches. Nothing remotely blizzard-like, and rarely does it last more than a few days. I haven’t needed a proper pair of snow boots in decades, and the crocus are popping up before the asters are even dead. But i’d gladly give that up to not have to worry about boob sweat on Easter.

The heat leaves me, and many others, rather lazy during the day. As beautiful as the sunshine is, most of us have no desire to do yard work, go out on the town, hike the hills, or even walk the dog when it’s 90-100 degrees. Instead, we sit on the couch, wishing it were cooler, and watching the pooch catch the one sky raisin that always manages to get in the house. You don’t have to get bored. There are always chores to do, crafts, books…. But it seems like such a waste during the time of year generally reserved for vacations and cook-outs.

Once the sun goes down, it is easier to venture out. Of course, we’ve had a particularly rainy season as of late, so before you go out, you must bathe in bug spray. The mosquitos are vicious, and they travel in gangs that are larger and more bloodthirsty than any in the movies. Forget the DEET or Off! and you could quite possibly need a transfusion. Or at least a Benadryl and a steel wool scratching post doused in Lidocaine. But don’t let that ruin your love life. Go on the date, walk our beautiful downtown, and remember that woody / citrus fragrances like Chanel No 19 are the best compliments to L’eau d’Insect Repellent.

Lest i sound like an unreasonably sour woman, there is one upside to southern summers – At night, i can crack my window and listen to the music of the night. In the winter, i have to pay for the symphony of cicadas, tree frogs, and owls that lulls me to sleep. This time of year, it pipes in my windows for free, along with the frequent sound of rain and thunder passing thru. Your whole soul is soothed by the sound of a southern summer night. No app of music stream comes close. It is unparalleled in its aural beauty and majesty. And it almost makes the heat worth it.

Anyway, it’s back to my puzzle for now. I might even start a new painting. And i’ve a book waiting by my chaise.  But first, i will open the door and poke my head out onto the steaming porch – If for no other reason than to let in another sky raisin for SiriDog.

Hey. she needs entertainment, too.



I Am Isis

I miss being a badass.

There was a time when i felt like i was capable of anything. I was strong: physically, mentally, spiritually. I was fearless. I was on a warpath to make things better. An everyday superhero with an invisible goddess cape and Lynda Carter’s boots. Except mine were silver instead of gold. I always did prefer silver.

I knew what was right. And what was best. I was powerful. And i was a part of the Special Forces that was going to set the world to right. Seriously. Don’t laugh. I was. I really was. I was Chuck Norris with tits.

I’m not sure what happened. One morning i woke up and put on an outfit of mom jeans instead of my kevlar bustier. Left my amulet behind and took my cell phone instead. I got so involved in the boring shit of daily life that i forgot i was supposed to be part of the Justice League.

Over time, i forgot how to deflect bullets. I stopped training. I lost my thirst for a cause. My biceps became bat wings, and the cape and boots moved to the far back corner of the closet.

My weedlings are badasses. My oldest has a searing sword for those who would stomp on the rights of others, especially her sisters. My middle daughter has an internal fire of the type the Navy used to tell us just to push overboard, as it was too fierce to fight; and it burns hottest for those who cannot fight for themselves. My son is still Robin, wanting a cause, but still learning his place in the Real Live Comic Book Realm. They are awesome.

Somewhere along the way i became Alfred.

Not that Alfred is a bad thing to be. The world needs Alfreds. I just miss being a Shero.

I know it is still in there – Hidden in the deep recesses of my mind. I can pull a Molly Weasley and crush any bitch who would threaten my children. (Sorry, you Marvel fans. Molly is a Superhero. End of argument.) I will kick your sorry ass with my sensible penny loafers. I burn your thin skin with my menopausal heat. I will smack you with my bat wings like a bad, bad donkey, til you’re begging for mercy and embarrassed as hell that you got beat by an old broad. I will.

I’m out of practice –  i’m not dead.

But in spite of that, i still miss the presentation, the aesthetic of my badass self. I miss feeling strong and sure and champion. I miss that confidence, that rogue. I need to steel my thighs, center my mind, tighten up my hi-Helen’s, pull my SuperSuit from the closet and duct tape my fluffy self into it. There are things that need doing in this world, or at least in my life, that i can tackle. I can fight. I can win. And i can do it with style. I just keep forgetting, and real life takes over.

Momma Hol is pretty cool, but there used to be a deeper truth. Well, there still is. It has just been slumbering, it isn’t gone. Now that i need it again, it’s time to wake it up.

After all, my friends don’t call me The Mighty Isis for nothing.