It’s Her Party … Assuming When Can Figure Out the Date

I don’t know when my mother’s birthday is.

There. I said it.

In my defense, I do know that it’s on an odd-numbered day (probably somewhere in the teens)in  September.

Every year my experience of the ninth month begins with a moment of intense panic.

“Oh crap! It’s September again! Mom’s birthday is coming up! But when? Arrrgh.”

My process of elimination gets stranger each year. This year, I advanced the argument that the Rev’s birthday couldn’t possibly be on September 11th because then we’d remember it.

“But,” my brain continued, “what if it is on the 11th and we DON’T remember it because of the other thing. AHHHHHHH!”

Every year, I turn to the internet for help.

The Rev doesn’t have her date of birth listed on Facebook. She is not a vain woman, so I’m pretty sure she left that field blank simply because she gets a lot of enjoyment out of watching the G.P., the Brovarian (my brother Josh who lives in Germany), and myself struggle to figure out the true date of her “special day.”

This year, the internet was not amused.

“Didn’t we just do this last year,” asked my friend Wooz, who remembered the thread but not the date.

“Yeah,” I replied ruefully. “We do it every year.  I can’t search my Facebook memories, though, and by the time it comes up, it will be too late.

“If only,” my pal Teri weighed in, “there was some invention or device that would make it easy for a person to save important dates, perhaps even to plan for them.”

“I kinda tend to go through cell phones,” I countered, having saved the date of my mother’s birth in several such devices which had met bitter and expensive ends.

“I was thinking of a calendar, Ab.”

Teri and the Rev both earned Phi Beta Kappa marks in sarcasm.

This year, however, the family weighed in.

The Brovarian’s wife, (my sister-in-law Kenia) messaged that she was sure it was either the 17th or the 19th.

My Aunt Kate (a former history teacher) sent a date that I’m pretty sure was either Lincoln’s birthday or the day Kennedy was shot saying, “Sorry, Ab. I don’t even remember my birthday anymore.”

My Aunt Karen said she thought it was the 19th, but then she and Aunt Kate hijacked the thread trying to figure out when everybody else’s birthday was.

Aunt Karen then said that we didn’t have to worry about her birthday because she “gave them up years ago.” This was good news since no one in the family had worried about it since around 1971.

As a pretend journalist, I regarded all this information as coming from unreliable sources and took a deeper dive into the “Rabbit Hole of Truth and Small Cakes Which You Should Not Eat Despite Instruction to the Contrary.”

I bravely asked Mom via text message.

I got nothing in return but silence so tense even the crickets shut up for a change.

Dad replied to my Facebook query with a very exact date which included the year. This seemed like it might be a more plausible solution.

However, one year, the G.P. and I forgot Mom’s birthday so thoroughly that we had to shop last-minute for gifts and a cake. She got some magazines and a Bic grill lighter from the gas station. Her birthday cake was a pizza.

One would think that would cause the Rev to have a more vested interest in us remembering her birthday, but when the Rev digs her heels in, they stay dug.

Panic was setting in. I decided that since the online consensus was the 19th, I’d just go with that.

Then, early one morning, Mom rang my doorbell. I let her in, and she sat down on my white couch.

“I need to tell you something,” she said, dramatically.

“What Mom?” I replied, as my anxiety painted mental pictures of the torture she was going to inflict upon me because I forgot when her birthday was…again.

“For my birthday this year, I want a three-quart Instantpot. Don’t get a six-quart one. I already have one of those. THREE QUARTS. They used to have them at HEB, but they’re sold out.”

“I GOT YOU!” I crowed in my head, thinking that if she wanted her gift, she’d be forced to tell me when her birthday was.

“So…what day is your birthday, Mom?”

“You don’t know?” she teased.

“Is it the 19th?”


If there is a magic phrase that instantly causes a human being to forget something, it’s “And don’t you forget it.” I remember right now, but I’m positive that at midnight on my Mother’s birthday, I’m going to come down with a soap-opera-level case of amnesia.

To Dad’s credit, he got it right.

To mine, I’m better about it than I was before.

Until about 2011, I was positive Mom’s birthday was in November.

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Taken, Too

Yesterday was sort of a messed-up day.  I went to the gym for a swim around 11:30, came home, got in the shower to hose off the chlorine, and stepped out onto my dog.  I wasn’t expecting Stadler to be there.  She’s the world’s only hydrophobic black lab and hasn’t voluntarily stepped foot into the bathroom since she emerged victorious from an epic battle of You-Have-to-Take-a-Bath-Because-You-Smell-Like-You-Rolled-in-a-Fresh-Diaper. She flailed so hard I was positive she’d break my glass shower doors, and we’d both wind up in the hospital.

I wound up spraying her with Febreze and locking her out of the bedroom.

In any case, I knew there was a problem if the dog was in the bathroom – either we were both about to be murdered, or she’d heard thunder.

A few seconds later, a loud boom resounded throughout the neighborhood and the power went out.


I sent my boss at the Moon (Jan) a text message to see if there was power at the office, and she responded in the affirmative.

“I guess we’re going to work,” I told Stadler who (although she is so “afraid of thunder” that she must lie on top of me shivering and drooling on my forehead every time there’s even the hint of a nocturnal BOOM) grabbed a toy and raced out her dog door.

When we got to the office, there was no one there except a totally freaked out Lizzy-the-Official-Moon-Doggie.

I was very worried.

Jan and Dale never leave Lizzy alone for very long. She usually gets a baby sitter if they’re going to go anywhere for more than an hour, plus it was storming out and Liz is also terrified of the weather.

Immediately, my standard racehorse-on-meth level anxiety blossomed into a verdant garden of what-ifs.  After about two seconds of rapid-fire synaptic processing, my brain decided that Dale and Jan had been taken.

“The Moon had,” my anxiety argued, “recently received a fairly non-specific, racist death threat on the answering machine.” In fairness, we had unilaterally decided to consider it a wrong number because it was directed at a race that couldn’t easily be confused with “random white people with strange tans” which is what we all are.

“How would they take Dale, though?” I thought. Dale is a big guy who would not be easily subdued by idiots.

My rational side worried that my bosses were just at lunch and that I’d look stupid if I texted them to see if they were kidnapped.

“They chloroformed him!” my anxiety responded happily. “Check the carpet for drag marks. They would never leave Lizzy!”

I checked the blue rug for anything that looked like a 6’2 guy had been hauled across it.  Unsurprisingly to you, but shockingly to me, there was nothing.  Also, it didn’t seem like anything in the office was especially disturbed (frankly, our office usually looks like a hurricane flung a metric ton of paper all over everything, but that’s just our organizational system).  Both of their cars were also gone, which gave me some pause.  I could see a kidnapper stealing one vehicle, but both would present a problem.  I mean it’s not like they could just tell Dale to follow along in the truck.

“Okay,” said my anxiety, “then Dale’s at Channel 3 and they only kidnapped Jan.”

I didn’t think Jan (although she’s tiny) would be particularly easy to take, either.  As Shakespeare wrote, “though she be but little, she is fierce.” Still, my anxiety would not be mollified.

“Time is passing,” screamed my anxiety. “The longer the bad guys have them, the more difficult it will be to get them back! Do something!”

I decide the way to start would be just to ask my fearless leaders if they’d been abducted. I sent Jan a text that read, “Did you get taken?”

I decided I’d wait five minutes for a response, and then start calling people.

“I’ll call Jan and then Dale and if neither of them answers then I’ll call Mary and the Rev (that was for me because I sometimes need my Mom to talk me down) and then I’ll call Channel 3 and drive all over the Island and IF I STILL CAN’T FIND THEM, I’LL CALL THE NATIONAL GUARD,” blurted my anxiety.

I had a PLAN, by God, and I was sticking to it.  There was no way I wasn’t going to SAVE THE DAY, even if I had to call in the A-Team.

Exactly three minutes later, I got a return text from Jan.

“We have not been taken.  We are at lunch.”

“But,” reasoned my anxiety, “isn’t that exactly what they’d make her say if she had been taken?”

My phone beeped again with another text message, “I’ll be back at the office shortly,” Jan returned.

I decided I’d wait a few minutes and see what happened.  I was feeling a bit better regarding everyone being shanghaied.  I started working on this week’s edition of the paper.

The minutes ticked by slowly.  Ten passed and then twenty.  Still no bosses.  I started imagining that they had been hauled out to some evil yacht and were now somewhere offshore being prepared to be auctioned off as sex slaves.

If you’ve never pictured Dale in a pair of harem pants and a bikini top, don’t.

My phone beeped again.

“Abi, we have still not been taken.  There’s been an accident on the bridge.  I’m stuck in Scuttlebutt’s parking lot.  I will be there soon,” texted Jan.

A few minutes later Jan and Dale arrived, much to my (and Lizzy’s) great relief.

That’s anxiety for you.  It’s not fun when you’re in the terror zone, but it’s often hilarious when you’re out.  The upside is that if anyone ever does get taken, I have Emergency Plan A already in place. So what if it mainly rests on the shoulders of an imaginary team of 1980’s television mercenaries?

In this life, sometimes you’re going to need B.A. Barrakas to lift a van for no reason.

It may not save your bosses from gold silk harem pants, but hey – Mr. T. just lifted a van, and that is also cool.

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Fat Dog Blues

The dogs are really piling up in my little, yellow (the G.P. just repainted it and it’s now the exact color of a yield sign) house.  Dad is out of town, and the Rev doesn’t like to leave ol’ Rowlfie home alone, so the enormous, shovel-headed, street cur (retired) is staying at my place.  He’s nice to have around most of the time.  He’s got great manners and is a terrific (if a bit stinky) snuggler. Stadler has made many attempts to get him to play with her, mostly by placing her toys on top of his head, but Rowlf prefers sleep and ear rubs to any untoward rambunctiousness.

There is one big problem with Rowlf, though: he is on a diet.

The poor guy got fat due to Dad sneaking him bacon grease and because he figured out how to stick his entire head into his food bag and eat as much as he wanted.

Mom caught him late one night after letting him out for his third perambulation because he got his whole gator-mouthed noggin stuck in the Candidae bag and needed help getting out.  My parents had to put a large box on top of the bag so that ol’ Hungry couldn’t get into it.  He simply pulled off the chip clip that they tried at first.

Mom and Dad realized that the problem was serious after Rowlf’s last vet appointment when he weighed in at a whopping 91lbs. Now Rowlf is a big boy, and far from obese.  He gets two walks (rain or shine) every day, and is in pretty much glowing good health — although I suspect that some of the phosphorescence may be flatulence-related radioactivity.  However, a five-pound gain was significant enough that our vet recommended a diet.

“I have a fat dog, too,” said Dr. Lowell.  “Some of them just like to eat.  We add a can of green beans to our dog’s food to make it seem like there’s more in the bowl.  The only problem with that is that now she’s very territorial about green beans.  Humans don’t get to eat green beans in our house anymore.”

Now, on doctor’s orders Rowlf gets a cup and a half of food twice a day and people food is strictly forbidden (although I’m positive that Dad still sneaks him bites).

Rowlf is not happy about this development.  He thinks green beans are stupid, so he picks them out of his bowl and drops them on the floor where he smooshes them disdainfully under his saucer-sized paws.

Stadler is pretty much the opposite of Rowlf.  She never wolfs down her food, instead preferring to daintily graze throughout the day.  Even when she was a puppy, she had to be hand-fed to keep the other dogs from stealing all her kibble.  She also has a weird quirk caused by excessive exposure to Hot-Fat-the-Cat in her youth — Stadler hates when she can see the bottom of her bowl.  It is always my sworn duty and most important job to keep that bowl full or WOE BETIDE ME.  If her dish ever totally empties, she delivers it to wherever I am, and lets it crash to the floor with the mighty thunder of righteous dog indignation.

I tend to keep her bowl full.

The first thing ol’ Rowlf did after the Rev dropped him off was eat ALL of Stadler’s food. I was back in the bedroom cleaning and didn’t notice until I walked into my kitchen to find him lying flat on the floor, legs happily akimbo, lovingly licking the empty container like a lollypop.

I deeply understand Rowlf’s position on dieting, and in this, he’s my spirit animal.

As soon as Rowlf left the now very damp dish, Stadler ran worriedly over to it, picked it up, ran to me, and dropped it on my big toe.

“Fill my bowl NOW, Bowl Lady! You have ONE JOB!” asserted my dog as forcefully as she could.

So, not knowing what else to do, I refilled her dish.  “No way Rowlf will eat enough to gain all the weight back in five days,” I reasoned, and went off to do something else.

A few minutes later, an even damper bowl was delivered to me while I was cleaning the toilet.

“No! You can’t have any more! I don’t care if Rowlfie ate it all!” I hollered at a very cheeky looking Stadler.  I picked up the empty and moved it to the kitchen counter.

“Click-a-click-a-click” echoed through the house as Stadler paced between the bathroom and the kitchen, jumping up and down and crying when she reached me, asking me to “Follow her to the big problem!” This behavior continued for hours, until finally it was time for bed.

I realized that there was no way I was going to be able to sleep with Captain Clicky Claws stomping all over the house and whining.  Rowlf was already passed out on the rug, sawing logs so loudly I’m surprised we didn’t get a noise complaint.  I decided it would be safe to give poor, starving Stadler a little food.

I filled up her bowl and placed it on the floor.  She looked at me reproachfully (after all this should have been done HOURS ago) and took two bites, leaving the rest.

Then a striking inspiration of sudden genius hit me: maybe if I filled up a second dog bowl, both dogs would be able to eat the correct amount when they wanted.  This was the ticket!  It had to work.

I went back to bed secure in the knowledge that both of my pups would spend a happy and full night.

One hour later I was awakened by a loud clattering next to my head. “NO, STADLER!” I yelled not even pulling off my sleep mask, “GO EAT OUT OF THE OTHER BOWL!”

Seconds later, another loud crash caused me to sit bolt upright as Stadler dumped the second empty dish at my bedside.

I leapt up, looking for the culprit. Rowlf lay fast asleep at the foot of the bed, snoring so loudly he sounded like the trombone section of the local high school marching band had recently experienced a massive outbreak of asthma.

“Honk, hork, honk,” said Rowlf, deep in dog dreams of bacon fat.

However, as I stormed past him with the two empty bowls, Rowlf lumbered to his feet and followed me to the kitchen – probably to see if I was dumb enough to do a refill.

I did not.  I set both dishes on the counter, walked back into my bedroom, locked both dogs in the hallway, and stuffed earplugs into my head.

The next morning, both dogs were sleeping in a pile outside my bedroom door. Stadler woke immediately and ran to the kitchen where her bowl had mysteriously flown off the counter and on to the floor (no dog would do that — obviously we have a poltergeist).

I put in one and a half cups of food.

It’s going to be a long week.


Not one shred of remorse.



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Jabba the Heap

20190812_140528I guess I should start this essay by apologizing in advance in case things get weird.  I’m definitely in Bat Country this morning due to lack of sleep.  My allergies have been killing me for weeks, despite the fact that I’ve ingested every single kind of medication on the planet – including a few I made up myself. I’ve been coughing this horrible dry cough that sounds as though I have an angry goose caught in my throat.  Even Stadler has been driven from the bedroom, but that could be because she’s trying to figure out a way to sneak on to the new couch.

The new divan has arrived, by the way.  It’s beige and moderately uncomfortable, but it looks nice – for now.  As every single person I showed it to has noted, beige is a “bold choice with a black dog.”  One friend even suggested that I take pictures of the sofa from a variety of angles — just so I can remember it as it “was before red stuff got spilled all over it.”

This is a valid point. I could spill stuff on a white (ish) couch from Mars – excessive caution is just prolonging the inevitable.  I must say, however, that it’s nice to have one piece of furniture that doesn’t smell like stale beer, microwave popcorn and ginormous dog.

The sofa arrived in two large boxes.  After extracting all the various upholstered bits and fasteners, I tried to shove the containers into the recycling bin.  Unfortunately, due to the fact that the boxes were taller than I am, the whole rig tipped over and I had to move everything into the garage.  I plan on cutting the cardboard into smaller pieces, but currently they are teetering monoliths that keep falling on the car and the dog (who never learns to not hit them with her tail, despite being terrified when they fall).

My nephew Avery (age 8) had offered to help me with sofa assembly, provided it showed up before he left.  “I have a lot of experience putting together IKEA stuff,” he insisted, hitching up his pants.

“That’s GREAT!” I replied, “This will probably be a two-man job.”

Avery paused, his brow nettled in distress, “But you’re not a man,” he pointed out, helpfully.

“Neither are you,” I snapped in return, “but I guess we’ll have to press on anyhow.”

The Syrup King was not comforted, but he really wanted to help, so he shut up.  Honestly, my inability to build things without a dedicated supervisory unit (the Rev) comes more from my tendency towards Instructional Dyslexia than it does my bathroom tackle.

Try, however, explaining that to any male in my family.

My brother once attempted to man-splain a screwdriver.  This “alpha bro tool mastery” only extends to things found in a typical toolbox, however.  If you hand my sibling an iron, he gets a look of abject confusion on his face and then makes a weird grilled cheese sandwich.

To be fair, though, it took me two hours to attach the arms and the back to the beige couch, and I put the first arm on the wrong side and had to start over.

The main problem, however, was the back piece.  It really was a two-person job, but because it was just me, I had to “make” a second person out of two stacks of pillows resting atop chairs which sat on Douglas Adams books.  The novels were there to properly angle the stacks of crap so that I could get the screws in the right way.

I first tried working from the bottom in order to use gravity, but I couldn’t see what I was doing and the screws kept falling out.

The stacks didn’t work that well either.  They kept falling over.  Eventually, though, with a great deal of swearing and perspiration, I managed to get the thing together.

I sat down ready to reap the rewards of beauteous newness.  Immediately, Stadler (who had been hiding under my bed to avoid the construction site) raced into the living room and tried to climb on to the couch.  I told her “NO!” somewhat forcefully, so she settled for rubbing up against the sides.

I guess we all have different ways of welcoming new furniture.

It’s lucky I’m not sleeping well right now, because were I zombie-virus-incubation-period conked out like I usually am, I would not be able to race out into the living room in the middle of the night to yell at my dog for trying to sneaky snake her way up onto the new couch.  I’m pretty sure she thinks it’s some kind of luxury dog bed and that I’m being withholding for not allowing her on it.  However, she pretty much blew her ride when she quite literally dug a hole into my sectional and made a nest.

The dog can be a real jerk.  I thought, however, that training her not to get on the sofa would be easy, since she never gets on the couch at Mom’s house.

“Ab, she just sneaks up there after we go to bed,” said the Rev when I told her my Master Plan for Sofa Salvation. “Your father catches her all the time.”

I’ve enacted several protocols for pup deterrence, including making something that resembles a seven-layer dip out of pillows, blankets and clean laundry.  The Rev would tell you that I’m just being lazy about folding stuff, but really, it’s a security measure.

Of course, having to pile junk all over the divan to protect it doesn’t exactly project the clean, mid-century modern look I was going for.  It is, however, pretty easy to find a clean pair of under-drawers.

Last night, I busted Stadler tugging at one of the blankets on the bottom of Jabba the Heap – trying to bring the whole mound crashing to the floor.

“Hey!  Quit that!” I yelled.

She walked scornfully across the room and flopped snottily into her gigantic, Tempurpedic dog bed.

“This is why we can’t have nice things,” I accused, angrily, stomping back to bed to not sleep some more.

I emerged from my den this morning, rubbing my eyes and seeking coffee.  What to my insomniac eyes did appear, you might be asking (assuming you’re the sort of person who paraphrases Christmas poems in August)?  I saw Stadler, sleeping at the apex of a roughly three-foot tall pile of dog-preventative soft goods like she was a very unworthy princess in a pea-positive children’s story.

I guess we know who’s King of the Mountain. At least she probably won’t spill her beer.

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Hostage With A Sticky Dog

To Whom It May Concern,

I am being held hostage by Federal Express. It’s been five days and my new sofa (which was scheduled to arrive on Friday) is evidently somewhere in Chattanooga. According to tracking, it’s been heading in exactly the wrong direction for at least three days, but the company still insists that it will be delivered sometime in the next four hours.

This is mathematically impossible.

I’ve noticed a lot of things about Fed Ex during my imprisonment, the most profound of which is that either they’re using a strange clock that’s based on some non-linear concept of time most suited to traveling through worm holes in deep space, OR they’re lying. In either case, I’m afraid to leave my house because they’re dropping off the sofa-containing boxes curb side – which in my neighborhood is the equivalent of a meth-head furniture buffet.

To add to the chaos, the air conditioning at my parents’ house shot craps, so my nephews Avery (8) and Jovanni (12) were here avoiding mild discomfort. “I couldn’t sleep last night,” said Jovanni as he unloaded 8,000 video games, various chargers, gallon jugs of Axe Body Spray products, and several pairs of small underpants onto my dining room table.

“You get to stay in the spare bedroom, dude! Why don’t you put your stuff in there?!?” I shrieked as the pile grew ponderous and began to tilt.

“I NEED MY SWITCH CHARGER!” he yelled back. “Also, what’s the password to your WIFI?”

Because my family operates on a strict “I-called-shotgun” system of distributing everything from the front seat of the car to beds, potato chips and Christmas presents, Avery had to sleep in the living room. I had given away my old couch to make room for the new one, so the room was furnished with only a large rug and an orange plaid rocker from the 1970’s.

“I want to sleep on the dog bed, Ab!” Avery cheerfully announced.

“I hope you don’t get WORMS,” said the G.P. (Great Provider, my Dad) who routinely eats vegetables straight out of the ground without rinsing them.

It turned out that Stadler-the-dog also wanted to sleep in her bed so other arrangements had to be made.

The pallet started out small — just a pad for camping, some sheets and a quilt – but as the boys watched movies and grazed on snacks, it began to spread until my living room looked like a Civil War encampment.

I tried to report on the situation but couldn’t because Facebook can’t spell ‘bivouac’ and because I was in danger of being sucked into the giant black hole of boy nest.

I tried to go watch some Netflix and chill in my bedroom, but the way was blocked by the approximately 9 billion stuffed animals that are an absolute requirement for an eight-year-old to be able to perform basic physical functions like sleeping.

“Avery! Why is there a wall of stuffed animals in the hallway?” I yelled.

“Because that’s where Stadler and I put them and she’ll get hurt feelings if I move them,” Avery answered readily.

Thoroughly defeated, I returned to AUNTietam to watch a movie about a creature called Pikachu who (for some reason) has the voice of Deadpool.

I finally got them both children to sleep at some ungodly hour, waded through the child accoutrement tsunami, and collapsed in bed half certain that Fed Ex would ring the doorbell at 1 am and rouse everybody. I was not ready for round two.

The next morning, I was awakened by Avery and Stadler bouncing on my bed. I peeled back one eyelid and muttered, “What time is it?”

“I don’t know,” Avery replied. “My tablet is set to German time. Stadler and I have been PLAYING, but now we’re HUNGRY. Grandma says you have to make us pancakes, and I know you have maple syrup.”

Avery has the nose of a drug-sniffing police dog when it comes to syrup and syrup-related products.

“Okay,” I said, rolling out of bed. “Is Jovanni awake?”

“I tried to wake him up, but he said to go away.” Avery looked as though he was revealing who the winner of the next eight Super Bowls would be as he continued in a whisper, “Sometimes he sleeps until NOON!”

I rousted Jovanni, who proceeded into the bathroom evidently to fill the tub up with Axe Body Spray and soak while he also washed all his laundry in the stuff. I made the children a pancake breakfast and turned on some cartoons for them.

In under twelve minutes every surface in my house was covered in a light film of maple syrup. I ran from kid to kid with a wash rag cleaning sticky off the walls, the floors, tables, chairs, toys, electronics and Stadler’s head. Finally, after using every dish I own twice for one meal, the kids were sated.

We all sat and waited on Fed Ex whose tracking system helpfully indicated that my sofa was somewhere near Albuquerque. I began to think that the CEO was Bugs Bunny, and that the apparent navigational errors would be worked out once they got the tunnels right.

Instead of getting his AC fixed, Dad decided to take the children to Schlitterbahn. When they left, I breathed a great sigh of relief, collapsing into my orange plaid chair and immediately resting my right arm in a swimming pool of syrup.

I got the house cleaned up after several hours of intense labor. While doing so, I found about a million filthy dog toys that I hadn’t seen in a few years. I picked them up with an audible, “EWWWWWW where is this stuff coming from?” and threw it back out in the yard. I later learned from Avery that Stadler had shown him her toy graveyard and that they had spent a fun hour disinterring ancient frisbees, old monkey dolls and what appeared to be all of my socks.

Dirt and syrup are not a fun combination.

The boys left yesterday. I’m am positive that despite passionate admonishments to the contrary, they’ve left at least 80 pounds of yet-undiscovered stuff.

The bathroom still smells of Axe Body Spray.

My sofa is now somewhere in North Dakota, but the little truck on the screen appears to be turning South.

For now, however, I’m just a hostage with a very sticky dog.


It started small…


Gradually worsening…


Until … Auntietam was completed when the entire floor was covered in bedding — some of which I’m pretty sure reproduced on its own once the nest went critical.  Note the Miller Lite — it was medicinal.

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A Dance of End Tables

I have entered a strange phase in my life wherein I hate everything I own – with the possible exception of my complete collection of Star Wars tiki mugs.  I somehow managed to accumulate a whole bunch of just terrible stuff which has taken hold of my tiny, yellow house and twisted it into some kind of hoarder-shame-hovel. My house is currently the clutter capitol of Cluttervania, and it’s driving me nuts.

I tried to explain this problem to my friend Amber, who very sensibly said, “Just get rid of the stuff you don’t want,” but since that would involve me winding up sitting on a rug in the middle of an empty  house surrounded by Star Wars tiki glasses and a few dog toys, I thought maybe I should go a little slower on the purging,

Part of the problem is that I’m always super poor, so I wound up inheriting a lot of weird family detritus when relatives moved to foreign countries, or the Rev upgraded.  Then, word got around that “Ab needed stuff” and everybody started dropping crap off at my place instead of throwing it out.

My mother is especially bad about not throwing out her own stuff.  Once, she handed me a bag that contained: a bunch of weird koozies, four cardboard beer coasters, a cactus, and a calendar for the blind that had expired two years earlier.

“Mom, why are you giving me an expired calendar that’s mostly in Braille?!?” I asked. “THROW OUT YOUR OWN TRASH!”

“But there’s a Black Lab on the front,” she protested.   “Don’t you WANT it?”

I did not.

The one piece of furniture I did need was a big worktable for my studio.  I have a drafting table, but that’s only good for painting and drawing, and even then sometimes your jug of clean water starts sliding sneakily towards the floor with slow but inevitable velocity.  My big, black, inherited dining room table seemed like it would perfectly fit the bill, so I started looking for a replacement.

After months (because every single thing I ever try to do takes at least a month to accomplish) of searching, a gorgeous midcentury modern dining set sort-of fell into my lap. It was time to move the existing table to make room for the new one.

As usual, I didn’t measure anything with any tools other than my increasingly fallible eyeball.  I wrestled the midnight beast of a table down the hallway, only running over my own toes three times.  When I got to the studio doorway, I realized that I was on the wrong end, and was forced to crawl over the table to get to the correct spot.  I pulled and sure enough, the table would not fit through the doorway.

“No problem,” I thought to myself with an optimism so cheery it might as well have been  fatalism, “I’ll just turn it on its side and sort of wiggle it in.”

That didn’t work.


New work space.  It’s actually an improvement.

“Top-wise,” I thought, “That’s the ticket,” as I upended the table so that it reared up taller than me, legs flailing into the empty hallway air, top as tall as the doorway.

This completely trapped my in the studio for about half an hour,  because in trying to turn the table around the right way to get it through the door,  I somehow managed to wedge it in the narrow hallway to the point that it was completely immovable. It was like one of the great monoliths at Stonehenge had dropped in front of the doorway.

I tried to call for help, but the Rev was on a conference call and Amber was dealing with her own strange infestation of Alien Bugs From (Probably) Space, so no one picked up.

I was about to crawl out a window and move to China when one last-ditch shove wiggled something loose and I was able to loosen the ebon monstrosity enough to wrestle it into it’s normal, top-up, position.

I crawled under the death slab and got a glass of iced tea, pausing to strategize again.  I glared at the  dark menace as though I was Clint Eastwood staring down essentially anything in any movie he was ever in , and said in my lowest, growliest voice, “Do you feel lucky, punk?”

The table just sat there, oozing something very akin to disdain. I think that after the last hour and a half of effort it indeed felt like it had won the “Loser Mover Trifecta.”

I went and got the pliers, and removed two of its legs.  “That’ll show you!” I thought.

I tried again to relocate the dusky demon, but it wasn’t ready to give up the fight.  Further amputation was required.

Finally, after the dislocation of three legs, I got the stupid thing into the studio. I Dr. Frankensteined it back into being a whole table, congratulating myself for only losing one washer.  As I stood, panting and proud, staring at my new (much larger) workspace, my phone rang.

“Don’t you give all that stuff away,” the Rev commanded, speaking of the piles of furniture still occupying my dining room like they’re mad at it. “Your father will hitch up the trailer and come get all of it on Thursday.  WE CAN STILL USE IT.”

Since it as almost all her stuff to begin with, it’s not like I could say “no.” And so the ceaseless promenade of end tables continues.

At least I’ll have six months before the junk truck shows back up at my place.


Beautiful new table completely surrounded by junk.

Posted in Humor | 1 Comment

Mound Cake and Subsequent Disasters

Lately, I’ve been a huge fan of Facebook crafting videos – going so far as to root for the application of copious rickrack like it’s the home team at the State Finals. “Really?!?” I’ll scream gleefully at my cell phone, “Glitter!  Yes!  Just roll that thing in glitter!!  What else can you possibly put on there?  Lace!  With hot glue? Bring it! And now you’re going to coat the entire object (which is usually the sad remains of a laundry detergent container) in about six bottles worth of clear nail polish? Perfect!  This is high art!”  I always await new 5 Minute Crafts videos with further examples of how to hot glue garbage to trash with great anticipation.

One might think that I would have learned something from the hours I’ve wasted watching other humans tape stuff to cream cheese tubs, but I haven’t.  And, in the general cheerful sally-forth-straight-off-a-cliff spirit of my existence, I decided to make my father’s 75th birthday cake all by myself.

A few Christmases back, my dear friend Tamara made the G.P. a cake that he just loved.  It was a gigantic sheet of dense deliciousness that contained coconut, pineapple, bananas and pecans and was topped with cream cheese frosting covered in further (toasted) coconut.

“Nobody around here will toast any coconut for meeee,” wailed my Dad, with the entire pan of cake in his lap, happily digging in.

I couldn’t remember the name of the storied (and highly successful) cake, so I texted Tamara for the recipe – half sure she’d made the whole thing up on the spot.  She sent back a photo of a much-loved and ancient instructional sheet for something called “Hummingbird Cake.”  It didn’t seem like it was too difficult.

While Tamara had made a sheet cake for Christmas, the recipe called for a bunt cake pan.  If you don’t know what one of those is (don’t feel bad, I didn’t either and frankly expected the thing to be shaped like Sputnik) it’s the pan with the hollow center surrounded by a bunch of purely decorative humps. Basically, this wonder of engineering insures that anything you put into it will come out looking like a bunch of shy camels with their heads stuck in the sand.  It has been a long time favorite for creating such culinary delights as: “Green Jell-O With Unidentifiable Fruit” and “Aspic Ring Avec Canned Fish.”

The Rev — who owns every baking item ever devised by man including several items that look suspiciously like medieval torture devices – provided the pan and four perfectly blackened bananas.

The cake wasn’t a problem to assemble.  Honestly, it was just throwing a bunch of stuff in a bowl and stirring it a little.  The Rev gummed up the works a bit by putting the bananas in the freezer until I could come and get them.  I was personally unaware that a frozen banana is the hardest thing known to man until I dropped one and it cracked a tile.  I left them in a bowl outside to defrost.  It took four minutes.  Welcome to summer in Texas.

I dumped all the sugary goop into the cake pan and threw it in the oven for an hour and ten minutes.  The cake smelled wonderful as it baked – like a very rich banana bread.  I tried a little nerd when it was done and it was absolutely heavenly.  I left the cake to cool and went off to go watch more dumb videos.

A few hours later, it was time to turn the now cooled cake out of the weirdo pan.

Mistakes were made.

First, I should have remembered that you don’t turn a cake onto a cooling rack – you dump it on a plate, preferably the one you’re going to serve it from.  Secondly, even though I loosened the edged, a good one third of the cake stuck to the bottom of the pan.  It wasn’t burnt – it was just unfriendly and came out fine (if crumbly) when I applied a prying table knife.

By the time I managed to transfer the cake from the cooling rack to the plate, I was left with a pile which was all cake, but cake in a bunch of different states of cake (typically: solid, crumbly and gone).  This particular example was hovering between solid and crumbly.  For some reason, I decided that it would be a good idea to take the crumbly part and try to sort of sculp it into something that looked like a solid cake.

I filled in the hole in the middle, and started to make a mound, cramming the moist niblets together in a pile.  I sent the Rev a text message saying that I had “absolutely ruined Dad’s cake” along with a picture of the rounded wad I had made in an attempt to save it.

“It looks fine,” my Mother replied.

It looked like cheap dog food, but I correctly figured I could use the cream cheese frosting as spackle. After the cake was coated in further sugar and fat and then encrusted with toasted coconut, it actually looked kind of okay – although nothing like a successful bunt cake should look.  My nephews (who are in town from Germany for the summer) came over to help me decorate it.

I decided that the only thing we could do would be to stick candles into the more stable side, but I had forgotten to buy a “5” candle at the grocery store.  I still had a “7” from the year before.  The kids thought that Grandpa would be okay with being 74 again.  I was not okay with that.

I cut a “7” and a “5” out of cardstock and let the kids decorate them.  We then taped the numbers to wooden skewers and shoved them in the good side of the cake.  The kids also made the G.P. cards that contained poems which focused largely on that bodily function which starts  with “f” and is highly useful in simple rhyme schemes.

When Dad cut his cake, the pieces came out vastly different in size and amount of frosting.  He did, however, say the cake was good.  My friend Amber (who comes to most of our family functions and knew the entire story of the Great Birthday Cake Debacle and had been waiting for this very moment for three days) cheerfully yelled, “BUT IT SURE IS CRUMBLY.”

Everyone laughed.  Jerks.

Posted in Humor | 2 Comments