Writing is like being able to put life into a snow globe. It takes the things that are too big and scary and reduces them into a form that I can put away when I want and look at from a distance. It also takes all that’s good in life and captures it into something I can take out when I want and look at close up and keep forever. It makes the bad things into something I can hold…and the good things into something I can hold onto. Both help so much that I need that little souvenir of life.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Improper Poll: Feed a Cold

I haven’t blogged lately because I recently took one of those colds that makes you feel like someone stuffed steel wool into all of the orifices in your head, and then cemented it in there with super glue and maybe some of that expandable foam insulation. And then they unscrewed the head and baked it at 350° for twenty minutes in a toaster oven, eyeballs up.

The good news is that I can now eat the off-brand chips I bought on impulse from a Walmart display that have been sitting in my pantry all summer possibly emitting radiation. Although the brand sounds like an island in the South Pacific, they are “Fuego” flavored and make my eyes water just by opening the bag. They are fire engine red and rolled up like little Cuban cigars, and they might be making my throat bleed, but who cares? I can sort of taste them and they are delicious.

What is the nastiest snack food you’ve ever eaten?

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Don’t Eat Rubber Grapes and Other Vital Warnings

When I was about ten years old, my mother bought some rubber grapes and put them in a bowl on the dining room table as a decoration. Then she delivered the very dire warning: Don’t eat the grapes! They are rubber. Don’t eat them! They may look real, but they are not. Not real! They will poison you or lodge in your throat and choke you to death!

I was ten—why on earth did she seem to think I’d want to eat rubber grapes? To me, the implication was that I went around indiscriminately vacuuming up objects into my mouth, like a giant goldfish, in case they might remotely resemble food. Worse than a goldfish, even, to inhale with such force that they would lodge in my windpipe.

Besides, this was in our formal dining room, which was not a place I associated with eating, anyway. It was for homework and jigsaw puzzles and class projects. But the main thing was, the grapes were rubber. They looked rubber. And even if they had looked that real, wouldn’t I have figured it out when I tried to pick one? And even if a rubber grape made it to my mouth, would I swallow it for lack of knowing what else to do with it?

So I was pretty insulted by that warning.

But then came the time I was grown and trying to germinate poisonous Morning Glory seeds in a little container in my kitchen. Being apparently more passive aggressive than my mother, I made a little Post It note that said, “Don’t eat! Poisonous seeds!” And I drew a little skull and crossbones for good measure. My daughter was then about twelve. She looked into the little cup at the brownish water with a few little black things floating in it, looked up at me, and said merely, “yum.”

She was right—they didn’t appear very appetizing. But still, I was a mother and couldn’t take any chances.

Then the other day I discovered a jar in the kitchen that looked like a science experiment. Both of my children are into science, so I wasn’t surprised. It was a jar of water with colorful chunks in it. Turned out she’d found some old “Magic Rocks” in the basement that she’d missed as a child, and she and her friends had mixed them up. Under the jar was a note: DO NOT DRINK GROWING ROCKS!

I am so proud.

Also, our caretaker, Mr. Filch, has asked me to remind you that the third-floor corridor on the right-hand side is out of bounds to everyone who does not wish to die a most painful death. ~Albus Dumbledore from Harry Potter and the Socerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Improper poll: Those First Apartments

It’s that time of year when college students everywhere head back to dorms…and those really bad apartments. My very first apartment was one I shared with two other girls. The living room had a beanbag chair and little else. The carpet looked like the fur from a stuffed animal that’s been hugged way too much and washed way too little.

I moved in after the rules had been established, and the others had decided to split the chores. Problem was, there was that inevitable roommate who never did hers. You could always tell when it was her turn because garbage and dishes would become ridiculously tall sculptures. It was a game to see how high we could get them before they either fell over or she noticed that it was her turn. The garbage always fell over.

She also cooked huge meals for herself when it wasn’t her turn to do the dishes. It was torture for me to have to wash them, because we didn’t share food. My grocery store had specials on five yogurts for a dollar and five cans of soup for a dollar, so that was what I lived on during the work week. On weekends I’d eat at my future mother-in-law’s and listen to her exclaim to everyone within earshot what a mystery it was that I could be so skinny and eat like such an enormous pig. I just smiled and ate.

What was your first apartment like?

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Rain, Rain Don’t Go Away. Again.

It’s raining right now. Ordinarily I wouldn’t consider that an earth-shattering enough statement to post on my blog, but at the moment it really is.

It rained only once in my area through June and July, but for some reason it skipped my yard. A few blocks away it poured for a short time, but all my house got was what felt like a little warm spittle. It was like the joke about having the storm cloud following over your head, but the opposite, when—irony of ironies—that storm cloud would make you so very happy.

The lawn hasn’t been mown all summer. My grass is as brown as an African savanna. When I just thought it was dormant, I was perfectly okay with that.  Now I think it's just truly dead.  More irony:  my grass may have gone to greener pastures. The lush plantain lilies, usually cool-elegant as a southern belle this time of year, have curled into fried pork rinds.

For a while I turned my blog blue. The color of Arctic ice. Of shadows on snow. Of cold, predawn light. Of the breeze I imagine runs a hand over lavender fields in Provence. But then it got even hotter and drier, and blue started to look hot again. It was the color of that ceaseless sky that sizzles clouds off like a blue flame. It’s the distant lightning, blue and electric and ominous, that tormented us all summer with distant growls and threatened to burn us all to cinder, but rolled on.

This free water that falls from the sky from shivery-silver clouds is now an exotic thing. Guess that’s one of the true gifts of aging. I've learned to take nothing for granted, ever.

Simplify, simplify…We are happy in proportion to the things we can do without. ~Henry David Thoreau

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Improper Poll: Ten Alternate Signs for Discouraging Salespeople

1. I ♥ My Rottweiler…and My Rottweiler ♥s Attacking Door-to-Door Salespeople.
2. Welcome to the center for the communicable diseases halfway house. If latex glove and mask receptacles are missing, please ring doorbell and step back ten paces. We suggest you wash your hands real well as soon as you can, too.
3. Welcome salespeople! Please ring doorbell so I can tell you all about my religion! Two hour time frames are required, so please bring your own beverage and a light snack. Doors lock from the outside.
4. Smile—you’re on hidden camera. Okay, now dance a little. Swing your hips more. That’s nice. And can you unbutton your shirt just a few buttons? Good….
5. Dear salespeople, please come right in and leave your literature and tools in the pile with all the other ones. Come and find ♪ me in the root ♫ cellar!
6. Dear salespeople, please deposit pants in the receptacle on your left, enter, turn to your right, and state your name clearly into the microphone.
7. This home is guarded by head lice.  Slide the medication under the door and back away.
8. Please be advised that the ringer of this doorbell or pounder on this door, hereafter referred to as “Guest,” hereby agrees to pay Door Access Fee of $100 (one hundred and no/100 dollars) before obtaining ingress to this residence. (a.) The following actions shall be collectively considered as attempts to gain entrance, including and without limitation: ringing doorbell or touching doorbell in such a way as to create audible noise; knocking; pounding; scratching; thumping; tapping, and/or kicking with any body part and/or object or creating any sound with the express purpose of obtaining attention of doorbell owner, hereafter referred to as “Queen Spiffy.” Deposit cash (correct change only) under door before ringing. Personal checks or debit cards not accepted, but expensive gifts will be considered. Standing on doorstep reading this sign will be considered the legal equivalent of binding agreement. If Guest is unable or unwilling to remit heretofore stated door fees, wages will automatically be garnisheed and fines of not less than $5000 (five thousand dollars) will be imposed. Queen Spiffy might not answer as per Doorbell Act (D.A.) 78-39550.   
9. This home is Clowns Only. Please don either the “Nerdoux” or “Mr. Puffypants” costumes (located in shrubbery bin) before ringing bell. Note that all parts are required, including noses, hats, wigs, and blinking suspenders. You must have Queen Spiffy’s prior written approval should you wish to bring your own costume.
10. Our house is protected by the Good Lord and a gun. Also a bent nine iron, a virulent case of scabies, some roman candles, some pretty smelly garbage, a potato shooter, a rather amorous, ankle-humping Chihuahua with a bad case of fleas, some especially icky spit wads, a guy wearing camouflage and goggles nicknamed “Bean Dip,” an awesome homemade slingshot made with those really big rubber bands like the kind that come on broccoli, and some expired eggs that’s mighty good for throwin’.

Do you have any suggestions for new signage that might discourage door-to-door salespeople?

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Signs Vs. Zombies

Here is a confession: Today I slammed a door in a man’s face. I hate that I’ve become one of those people, but I just don’t know what more I can do.

I’ve already posted about how much I hate people who ignore my “No Soliciting” sign. This year we had a huge hail storm that damaged enough roofs in my area that the salespeople and/or insurance scammers are out in droves. I don’t know if it’s because I’m on a main corner or what, but they come to my door several times a day.

This particular one came early in the morning when my daughter was still asleep. I can see out the front window from my office, so I watched him position himself directly in front of my “No Soliciting” sign and ring my doorbell.

I didn’t go to the door. I figured I’d just let the sign do the talking. But when I didn’t materialize at the door right away, he began pounding so loudly it scared me. What if he wasn’t a salesperson! What if he was from the gas company, and he was there to warn us that we had to evacuate our house in seconds because a gas line was leaking and my house was getting ready to blow?! He was pounding with that much urgency.

So I answered. Know what he had the gall to say? The words out of his mouth were, “Oh, sorry, I didn’t see your sign, but let me just tell you….”

Didn’t see it? Seriously? I am not a door-decorating kind of gal.  It's literally right there in black and white.  In fact, here is an actual photograph of my front door: 

 So far I’ve had them claim they were doing a customer service update. Or they were there to introduce themselves. Or they want to ask me something. Or just tell me a little about their company. I’ve had them scare the heck out of me—several times—by wandering around to my back yard (presumably to avoid the sign) in order to pound on a side door. They are getting to be like those rabid, pasty creatures in I Am Legend. Or the zombies in “Plants Vs. Zombies.” Except I only wish my plants would attack them before they reach my door.

So when the guy claimed not to have seen the sign on my door, I slammed. And then I added a sign to the side door and another sign to the sign:
 Later I heard a timid tapping coming from somewhere. I had no idea where until I went out and discovered that the substitute mailman had left packages at my garage door. I don’t even know how he got in there, but it was the only door that didn’t have a hostile sign.

Good people don't rip other people's arms off. -Spongebob Squarepants

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Improper Poll: Water to Water

I recently mentioned that my daughter’s fish died. This was an especially sad thing, because this female beta named Rory (named after a Gilmore Girl, I believe) was my daughter’s first pet for which she was solely responsible. It was her “college fish.” Even sadder, Rory had developed a tumor that she’d been struggling with for quite a while. To quote from her eulogy, Rory really was a fighting fish.

When the children were little, we had hamsters. They are cute, easy to care for, and I honestly think they are perfectly happy living their whole lives in a little plastic cage as long as they’re well cared for. But they live about a nanosecond, so it felt like we were always doing hamster funerals. I got pretty good at those.  I even made little hamster headstones out of a mini muffin tin and plaster of Paris.

I had my last dog cremated and we buried the ashes under a marble headstone.  Then we moved, so it seemed almost pointless. When Buddy passed away, I did have him cremated, but I didn't retrieve the remains this time. I was going to bury one of his toys, but in the end, I wanted to keep it.

I told my daughter I’d respect her choice of funerals. When she was a little girl, she got upset with me for giving one of our fish the “water burial." But a land burial for a water creature just didn’t feel right. This time she agreed, and it was a nice service—though our funeral party of three was a little crowded in the bathroom we chose.

Do you have a special way of remembering your late pets?