Not My First Rodeo

Happy Throwback Thursday, friends.  By now, people around the world are getting cabin fever regarding the “social distancing” orders concerning the current global crisis.  My daughter, Stefani and I can say that though this is no fun, it’s not our first rodeo quarantine.

If you’re a parent, you already know that all good parents have regrets.  Unless your kids are grown, however, what you might not realize is that the regrets we have as parents are most likely not the same things our kids would go back in time and change if they could.  I have one of those World’s Worst Parenting moments that’s haunted me for 23 years!  Seriously, I have felt guilty about this since my firstborn child (who is now 30) was in the second grade.  (The hilarious thing is, when I recently spoke about this to Stefani, she didn’t remember a thing about it!)

Stefani was seven when she developed a rash.  Her school nurse called and told me I needed to pick her up and take her to the doctor, and that she couldn’t return to school without a note.  I took her to her pediatrician, and he diagnosed her with Fifth Disease, which is a viral infection caused by parvovirus.  It’s known as Fifth Disease because it’s one of five common childhood illnesses characterized by a rash.

For her troubles, Stefani was granted three days off school, plus a lot of Disney movies, popsicles, a new Barbie, and attention.  Score!

Fast forward a couple of weeks.  Monday morning, Stefani was getting ready for school, I was getting ready for work, and Jeremy, who was still a baby, was playing with my Grandma in her room.  Stefani gets a stone-cold serious look to her face and tells me, “Mommy, I think my Fifth Disease is back.  I’m itchy.”

“Mmm hmm.  Nice try,” I tell her as I grab her backpack.  “Let’s get going.”

“No, really.  I better stay home,” she says.

I put on my Angry Mommy Face.  “Stefani, you are not sick!  Now go get in the car and I’ll be right behind you.”

She whined the whole three blocks to school, and I restrained myself from laughing at how clever she really thought she was.

About an hour later, the school nurse called me and said Stefani had a rash.  She said I’d need a doctor’s note before I could bring her back to school.  I was livid!  I couldn’t believe my little seven-year-old could be so conniving as to fool a nurse!

I tried to keep my cool as I waited in the doctor’s office for her to be seen.  I tried not to roll my eyes as the doctor examined her and said, “Didn’t I just see you here with a rash a couple of weeks ago?”

The doctor called a nurse in and they whispered, then she left and came back with a shot and a syringe to take some blood samples.  Wait, what?  This didn’t happen last time.

We were left alone in a room to wait for a while, and Stefani and I drew cartoons on the paper that covered the exam table.  After what seemed like hours, the doctor came back and announced, “She has scarlet fever.  You’re going to have to quarantine her.  She’ll miss at least a week of school…”

Crap.  I felt like a giant ass for ignoring my little girl’s pleas for help that morning.

I took her home, got her set up in her bedroom, explained things to my Grandma (who watched the kids while I was at work), went to the store and tried to redeem myself by buying Stefani tons of coloring books, crayons, fun pads, books, videos, card games, another new Barbie, ginger-ale, popsicles, etc., then I took them to her and went back to work.  That night, I read her story after story, and watched a bunch of silly videos with her to make up for my Bad Mommy Day.

The next day at work, things were going well until my office manager noticed I kept scratching my torso.  “I hadn’t even noticed,” I told her.  I raised my shirt and was covered with a billion red blotches!  My office manager told me to get to the doctor right away and don’t come back without a note.  Yes, you guessed it.  I, too, had scarlet fever and we were both medically quarantined!  (Meaning the doctor gave a LONG list of specific instructions basically saying we needed to live in a closet and not breathe until we were re-examined.)

Stefani moved into my bedroom.  Jeremy moved out of my bedroom and into Grandma’s bedroom.  The doctor said we both had a pretty bad case of it.  Stefani and I spent the next EIGHT DAYS in that room with Grandma leaving our meals outside the door.  These were the days where televisions were small, only got a few cable channels, the internet was dial-up and didn’t have a lot of fun stuff to do, there was no social media, and it was boring as hell!  Not to mention, neither of us felt much like doing anything anyway, but still, it was no fun!

So, I guess the lessons to be earned from this are: I lived though a quarantine before, so I know I can do it again; at least there are more entertaining things one can do at home now versus back then; and apparently my daughter doesn’t remember what I would consider my largest parenting fail, so I can finally stop kicking myself for it and let it go.

Let’s talk:  Have you ever had scarlet fever?  Have you ever been under a true medical quarantine?  Would a new Barbie buy your way out of a bad parenting call?  Are you upset that this post was not actually about a rodeo?  Do you have cabin fever yet where you are?

The Late for Christmas Feety Foot Shoe Socks

Happy Throwback Thursday, friends!  Ever since my daughter Stefani was little, jokes about feet were our “Mommy-Daughter Thing.”  Every Christmas stocking, Easter basket, or birthday gift bag I ever gave her always included a little something foot-related.  They were always just stupid little insignificant things, like a foot-shaped eraser, but they were one of the ways I let her know I loved her.

That’s my lovely daughter!

A couple of years ago for Christmas, I’d done all my shopping except for the “foot thing” I’d forgotten.  So, to remedy the situation, I got on Amazon and found the ugliest pair of feet socks you’ve ever seen.  Actually, they were “feety foot shoe socks.”  The socks were, for the most part, flesh-colored, and the top over the feet were feet slid into pink flip-flops, and the bottom part under the feet were the bottom of the flip-flops.  Hideous, right?

Well, after I submitted my order, I got a message that they would, in fact, not be here in time for Christmas.  We had Christmas that year, and I kind of forgot all about the “feety foot shoe socks” until sometime in late January when they arrived.  I opened the package and removed one sock and inspected it.  It was goofy and cheap, but otherwise, not remarkable.  It had a right foot painted on top, and a shoe bottom painted on the bottom.

Here’s what they were supposed to look like, top and bottom

Then I removed the other sock.  I laughed so hard, I might have wet myself.  [I will nether confirm or deny if I really wet myself.]  The second sock also had a right foot painted on top.  It also had another right foot painted on the bottom!  All told, we had three right feet tops, and one foot bottom.  I giggled the whole time that I wrapped the “feety foot shoe socks” up then called my daughter to come over for a surprise.  When she opened them, we both laughed so hard, our bodies were shaking uncontrollably, and we weren’t making any noise.  It was that hilarious!

But instead, here was what we received.

And here, you can see each top and bottom together.

Let’s talk:  What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever ordered that was different than what you expected when you received it?  Have you ever laughed so hard you didn’t make a sound?  Do you name certain things odd names like “feety foot shoe socks?”  Do you have a certain repetitive inside joke “thing” with one or more of your kiddos?

NIJOD

When I read the word NIJOD, I know I can cast my worries aside and enjoy peaceful sleep.  “What’s NIJOD?” you ask?  Allow me to explain…

My 26-year-old son Jeremy lives with me.   But at 26, he’s not a child, so he does his own thing and it’s not like I can stop him, even if I think whatever it is he has planned might be a bad idea.  However, because we are technically roommates (and because he doesn’t have the most reliable truck and is no stranger to speeding tickets and traffic accidents), I still get a little mama-bear-worried if he’s not home around the time he says he will be.

My 30-year-old daughter Stefani does not live with me and hasn’t for years.  While I still get pangs of mama-bear-worry over her, they don’t usually come unless I happen to know she’s in a potentially dangerous situation (such a traveling out of state with bad tires or brakes).  But as for her day-to-day life, since I don’t know her hourly plans, I just have faith that she’s doing well unless I hear otherwise.

My sister Michelle lives with me.  We are technically roommates and have witnessed a lot of the worst life has to offer (unlike my kiddos who are still young enough to think bad things won’t ever happen to them), so because Michelle and I are both old ladies responsible adults, we’ll both still give a courtesy call to each other or even to Jeremy if our plans have changed and we’ll be home significantly later than expected.

It took several years times of trying to explain to Jeremy that I’m not trying to control his every move, but rather just want confirmation that he’s not been in an accident or ended up in jail for some reason (not that he’s criminally mischievous – he’s definitely not, but he also would have no qualms about defending himself by beating the crap out of someone if he felt they were threatening him).

Finally, I got him to agree to texting me a code word if he’s going to be very late or not come home at all that night.  NIJOD.  NIJOD is our code word, and it’s an acronym for “Not In Jail Or Dead.”  I used to text him “NIJOD?” and hope he replied, but now, he almost always automatically sends a quick NIJOD text on his own and I go to bed without imagining all the possible reasons why he might be so late.  Apparently, texting NIJOD is a lot cooler than answering calls from your mama-bear-worried mommy who calls to check and make sure you’re okay if you’re not home when you said you would be.

So, if you’ve got a teenager or twenty-something kiddo who still lives with you but doesn’t feel like they should still have to report their whereabouts or change in plans, you can feel free to adopt NIJOD for your own covert communication efforts.

Let’s talk:  Do you call or text your at-home person or people when your plans change?  Would you be happy with a code word if your at-home person or people was running very late?

This Simple Human

I’ve always favored the color black to decorate with.  Eons ago, when desktop computers went from that ugly mandatory beige to being available in black, I was overjoyed.  When kitchen garbage cans stopped being available only in that horrible slate blue and black became an option, I was thrilled.

I had my last kitchen garbage can for more than a decade.  It was a basic, black rubbery-plastic can with a lid.  Nothing fancy.  The lid lifted off to fold the bag under the rim, and its two plastic hinges allowed you to manually lift the lid for use.

My old can was not this model but was similar.

Removing a full bag of garbage wasn’t easy, however, so my son Jeremy drilled two holes in the back to negate the vacuum caused by the full bag.  It worked.  The design was not great (but it was black!).  The rim of the lid had ridges where gross stuff like spaghetti or crumbs would get caught, and because of the texture, it couldn’t just be wiped clean, so it had to be hosed off and scrubbed (but it was black!).

It wasn’t fancy, but I lived in rental homes, so they weren’t fancy either.  Fast forward until Sister Michelle, son Jeremy and I bought our first home.  I redecorated and wanted to go high-end with everything.  I replaced everything from doorknobs to every piece of furniture we owned.  The fixtures and appliances are all brushed nickel, so I wanted to get a stainless-steel garbage can to match.  Then I saw the $100+ price tag.  Ouch!

After all my other new house expenses, I decided to keep the old black can a while longer.  Then we started having parties, and people who got a little too tipsy didn’t know how to “work” the old black can.  (Just lift the lid, stupid!)  At one party, one plastic hinge was snapped, and at the next party, the other hinge was snapped.  I soon found myself in Bed Bath and Beyond, and something in me snapped!  I HAD to get a new kitchen garbage can right then!  I walked right past all the plastic babies and headed straight to the $180 Simple Human 14.5 gallon can.  (Luckily, I had my 20% off coupon!)

This can had it all.  It was gorgeous with a brushed nickel finish.  It had this beautiful step opening and a smooth rim under the lid.  And it even had a pocket to store more bags and the rim concealed the edge of the bag being used.  It was the Porsche of all garbage cans!  When I got home and stopped hyperventilating over the price tag, I opened the box and was dismayed to see a scratch on the lid!

The next day, I returned the can for another one just like it, and I was thrilled with how nice it looked in my kitchen.  (It had better at that price!)  But the first time I took out a full bag, it ripped.  Turns out, the liner pocket wasn’t flush against the back.  This frustrated me because, while I’m not cheap, I still think almost 200 bucks for a place to throw outdated lasagna is a bit pricey, and since it was only a few days old, I wanted it to still look showroom new.  I examined the problem and figured there was a little plastic tab missing, so I contacted Simple Human who guarantees their products with an amazing warranty.  They asked me to send photos of the problem, which I did.  I expected them to just send me a replacement liner pocket that I could pop in the back of the can, and I figured I’d have to mail them the damaged one once I switched it out.

About two days later, I received a huge box in the mail containing a beautiful, brand new garbage can!  They told me to recycle the old one and enjoy.  The cost of one of these beauties is about the total sum I’ve paid for every other garbage can combined that I’ve ever owned, so there was no way I was going to just chuck the “old” one.  So, I got out the trusty duct tape (which is, of course, black!) and taped down the liner pocket, and I went on Amazon and purchased a recycle logo sticker, and I figured I’d use it for recycling instead.

Unfortunately, the first sticker I bought was white and huge, so it made my kitchen look like it belonged in a state park!  I scraped it off and purchased a smaller sticker in grey, and it looked so good on the lid that I bought another to stick on the front.

The only trouble has been that I got a violation warning from my city that I’m not allowed to put my recyclables in plastic bags!  (Yes, really!)  What-evs… I’m loving my new garbage can (and recycle bin), and I expect to have them around for many, many years, or until I have another party.  And I also find myself polishing both cans at least once a day.  In fact, I suggested to Sister Michelle and Son Jeremy that we install a disposable shoe cover dispenser above the cans so that people can use them before they step on the pedal to open the cans, but my idea was quickly vetoed.

Anyway, I can’t say enough good things about Simple Human, their superior products, and their awesome customer service!  Thanks, Simple Human!

Let’s talk:  How long have you held onto a garbage can?  How much would you pay for a good garbage can?  Have you ever had a party guest destroy something?  What would you have done with the can that was replaced?

 

#simplehuman

Lemons, Beards, and Black Thumbs

Last year, both my grandparents (the ones who raised me and are really my parents) would have turned 100.  Just because they were no longer around to party was no reason not to celebrate their lives.

For Grandma’s centennial birthday in August, we decided to plant a tree to honor her. She had a green thumb and was an avid gardener.  I have a black thumb and don’t have any desire to get dirt under my fingernails.  But despite my complete void of gardening skills, I was determined to make this tree thrive.

We purchased a baby “cocktail tree” (which is a hybrid Meyer lemon and key lime mix). Grandma didn’t drink often, but when she did, she only needed one drink – because she made them so strong, anyone who drank them would be flat on their back after just one!  So, the cocktail tree seemed appropriate.

Doesn’t he have a nice beard? His Mama (That’s me!) makes beard oil and beard balm for him, and he has more styling instruments and products than I do for my hair. LOL

My son Beardy McGee Jeremy was kind enough to dig the hole for me.  We had to put a little temporary wire fence around it because my lawn people like to tear through the yard at Mach speed and take out anything that gets in their way.  The leaves soon started to yellow, and I was sure I had killed it.

Our little cocktail tree

I did some research and learned that I had been over-watering it, so I cut way back and let nature take care of most of the watering needs.  I read that hybrids are particularly sensitive to the cold, so I hammered some stakes in the ground to wrap two blankets around when it gets below 50° and I read I should wrap another blanket or towel around the base to keep the roots warm.

I also learned about and purchased a gadget that tells me if it needs water, if the sunlight is good, and if it needs fertilizer.  What a lifesaver for black thumbs like myself!

This is a handy gadget for black thumbs like me!

When Granddaddy’s 100th came around in November, it was well after citrus planting season, but I had to get an orange tree to honor him since he worked as a citrus inspector, inspecting mostly oranges, after he retired from the Air Force.

I was able to locate a tiny little orange tree – the last one the store had – and despite it being so late in the year, Jeremy helped me plant it.

Our teeny tiny orange tree

I read that non-hybrid citrus trees can withstand the cold over 33°, but as long as I was out there babying the cocktail tree, I decided to baby the orange tree, too.

Look at the huge lemon… Or is it a lime?

The orange tree is starting to blossom.

I do realize that I need to keep the grass (and weeds) pulled from around each tree because apparently other such growth competes for the tree’s nutrients, but they were both getting so soaked with all the rain we were getting, I figured it might help for now to keep the ground from soaking up so much water.

I guess babying it has worked because even with our temperatures getting down to the low 40s for the past several weeks, both trees have grown quite a bit and are full of blossoms. The cocktail tree even has three giant lemons and/or limes (I don’t know which is which because they’re all still green), and it has a few tiny fruits that I think might die because they are hidden near the bottom of the tree and don’t get much sun there.

The flourishing cocktail tree

At any rate, if I can keep them alive at least until their collective 101st birthdays roll around, I’ll count that as a win.  (And if that happens, I would like to try my hand at raising a banana tree next.)  If I can get enough lemons to make lemonade, and limes for tacos, and oranges to make orange juice (or screwdrivers – but not as strong as Grandma made!), that will be a welcome bonus.

Not related to this post: Jeremy likes to try to scare the cats – Notice his awesome beard sticking out of the bottom!

Let’s talk:  Do you do any gardening?  Do you have a beard?  Have you ever planted a baby tree and watched it grow over the years?  If so, what kind and how large did it get?  What would you make with fresh citrus fruits?

Fear of the Unknown

Happy Throwback Thursday, friends.

For today’s throwback, I’m taking a [not so] long walk back to 2018.  The month was October, and one of my Bloggyville sisters, Rhonda Blackhurst, invited me to participate in NaNoWriMo with her.  With all the health issues and pain I had been dealing with, I was taken aback even further when said health issues and pain brought about an entirely different problem – depression.  So, I was truly in a pit of despair when Rhonda’s invitation came, and to be honest, I wasn’t sure if I could physically even commit to writing my name the following month, much less a minimum of 50,000 words.

But Rhonda is a sweetheart, and I wasn’t about to decline her kind invitation.  At the time, while I’d often contemplated joining the ranks of the millions of NaNoWriMo success stories, fear of the unknown, fear of failure, etc., had held me back in the past.  (I had, so far, been able to pen a first draft in a mere month on more than one occasion, but never in a November when life is hectic with thoughts of Thanksgiving, decorating the house, company coming, company staying, etc.  The mere thought of it seemed too stressful to even attempt.)

But now that I had my own personal cheerleader (Thanks, Rhonda!), I knew I just had to make it happen, both for her and for myself.  I had an entire file of story ideas in my arsenal, but as I read through each of them, I feared that if I was unable to complete the challenge, I’d forever ruin a potentially really great book.  My confidence was already waning, and this just shook it more.  I couldn’t risk it.

So, I turned to the recent news headlines that most personally spoke to me and thought What could make a #MeToo story unique?  It was definitely an Aha! Moment when I realized that a Joan of Arc twist would raise eyebrows, and in that moment, I had my story.

During that November, my previously mentioned vitamin deficiency was still undiagnosed, and as the month approached, we got a call from some out-of-towners that they would like to come to Florida and spend the holiday with us.  We were in the middle of a major renovation project that Sister Michelle and I were doing ourselves, and we had to amp things up to be done before the company arrived.  At one point, I became so physically incapacitated that I had to stop the renovation work and literally teach Michelle how to hang and texture drywall from the sidelines while I supervised.

But despite it all, I still managed to write something each and every day of November, and as it turned out, I found that I enjoyed daily writing every bit as much as even more than I ever had!  (As a matter of fact, I don’t foresee a time where I will ever skip another NaNoWriMo again!)  I completed my first NaNoWriMo with 70,900 words under my belt, and by mid-January, wrote “The End” on the first draft which clocked in at 98,000 words.

At any rate, without further ado, I offer you the synopsis of “Under Seraphs’ Wings.”

For years, Rumer has managed to keep the details of her youth a secret from just about everyone except her husband, Cody.  As the #MeToo movement starts then gains momentum, she remains resolute in her silence.

But twenty-nine years after she was brutally gang-raped at a high school party, the Vice President of the United States announces that he has a terminal illness and will be stepping down.  And the President taps one of her attackers to replace the second in command.

Rumer knows she will be risking her career, her family’s safety, and her standing in the community if she comes forward with her story.  After all, it will be difficult enough to admit to the Senate Judicial Committee, not to mention testifying in front of the entire world, that just months prior to her attack, she was institutionalized because she admitted to the wrong person that God talks to her.  But she knows she will lose all credibility if it comes out that God warned her ahead of time that she would be raped – and that she went to the party anyway.

Hold on tight as you travel with Rumer through the twists and turns of this psychological thriller, and watch justice unfold as the assailant becomes the prey in UNDER SERAPHS’ WINGS.

Let’s talk: Have you ever done something for the sole purpose of not letting someone else down, then found that you actually enjoyed it more than you ever imagined you would?   Have you ever let fear of the unknown keep from you doing something that you later found out you enjoyed?  Do you participate in NaNoWriMo?

Honor and the Changeling

Hello again, dear friends.

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been recapping some of the crazy-extreme events of my past year, but there were also some really amazing moments.

To start, an essay I wrote won an Honorable Mention in the Writer’s Digest’s 88th Annual Writing Competition.  In the past, while I haven’t entered every year, each year that I did enter, I submitted a fictional short story.  This time, however, I was pre-occupied with other fiction to stop and write a story that would be limited by how many words I could use.  So, I wrote an essay on the families who had been in the news for being separated at the border.  I used the theme of all the Ancestry and 23-and-Me commercials we see so frequently offering to tell us where our family roots were planted, then did a compare and contrast with the border situation.

While I would have, of course, preferred to place in the top ten “place” winners for the essay category, I’m definitely not complaining about being in the top fifty (forty of whom “win” in name only) category, or the Honorable Mention.  After all, being considered “honorable” is nothing to sneeze at.

But my real proud moment accomplishment of 2019 was participating in my second NaNoWriMo and writing “The Changeling of the Third Reich.”  I first had the idea for this story in February, 2014.  At the time, I was wrapped up in so many other projects, I set this one aside.  It was my favorite story idea to date, and I wanted to give it all the research and attention I knew it would take to make the idea really come to life.

As time marched on, life happened, and the day job happened, and then Gastroparesis, and then Lupus happened, and I lost hope that my great idea would ever come to pass.  In September, Sister Michelle’s sister was placed in hospice for her metastatic triple negative breast cancer, and Michelle and I planned a trip up to see her.  As we planned our trip, we tossed around the idea of stopping in D.C. on our way home to unwind.  While there, we would visit the National Holocaust Museum (which I haven’t seen since 2001, and I highly recommend), and I could research some more of the in-depth parts of my story.

That didn’t happen.  We got the call a few days earlier than we had planned our visit and were told to “get here now!”  There were no flights the rest of the day, so we dropped everything and took off driving.  Susan passed away before we got there, while we were only five states away.  (Damn Cancer.)  I did all the driving and my knee, ankle, and foot blew up from being in the car for so long.  (It’s about a 16-hour drive if you can take it all in one day.)  (Damn Lupus.)  Family stuff happened, I felt like crap, Michelle was distraught, yada, yada, yada, and I just wanted to be home.

In October, Sister Michelle and I decided to take a girl’s day, and we visited the much-closer-to-home Florida Holocaust Museum in St. Pete.  It was very negligible in the way of tangible things to see (compared to the National Holocaust Museum), however, it had one amazing employee who made the visit worthwhile.  He was an older gentleman and from Europe, so he had seen so much of the actual concentration camp sites and other such museums in person, plus because of his age, he remembered a lot of stuff first-hand from when he was a boy.  An added bonus was that he had met so many holocaust survivors while he worked there that he then had their stories to share, too.  The tour was supposed to last an hour, but it was more like two and a half, and he answered every question any of us had, and I actually learned a lot that I was surprised that I didn’t already know.

This visit was exactly the push I needed to declare “The Changeling of the Third Reich” as my NaNoWriMo project. I finished with 81,100 words under my belt and finished the first draft a week later with 93,500 words.

The funny thing was, in waiting so long between the time I originally had the idea and when I wrote the first draft, not only has (of course) my writing become exceedingly better, but I’ve also ventured away from the super dark endings I used to envision, and made it a bit lighter, though still as psychologically thrilling.  Meaning – I’m very glad I was forced to wait to write this so I could do it justice.  Anyhoozle, without further ado, I submit for your approval, the following synopsis:

The year is 1968, and the Vietnam War is in full swing.  Dr. Bridget Castle, a neurosurgeon in Boston, handles the victims of anti-war protests, the casualties of war, and being a woman in a man’s profession with ease.  Her husband, her parents, and her patients all love and respect her, but her tight-knit world is in danger of unraveling when someone from her past shows up and threatens to expose her closest-held secret: That she is a Concentration Camp survivor.

For more than twenty-three years, Bridget has walked in the shoes of a girl killed in the Blitz, blurring the line of when her own identity as a German Jew ended and when she assumed the role of changeling.  If not for her childhood diary to remind her of all she endured, she would be completely successful in taking on the memories of the girl she replaced.  But when a patient from Germany is placed in her care, she finds herself unable to deny her past any longer.

Hold on tight as you travel with Bridget through the twists and turns of this psychological thriller, and watch her claim retribution as the former prisoner now holds the key in THE CHANGELING OF THE THIRD REICH.

Let’s talk:  Have you ever planned something so detailed, you had it mapped out to the letter and then life happened and you had to reconfigure everything on a moment’s notice?  Have you ever visited any holocaust museum?  For the writers, how often do you plan a story and set it in stone, then start writing and take it in a completely different direction?