A Problem Shared is a Problem Halved (or not Felled if You’re Quick)

Currently, I’m in the middle of a fight with three people.

Well, they’re not actually people, they’re animals, but they are just as stubborn, unreasonable, and small-minded as some of my closest friends, so it’s easy to confuse the two groups.

There is a cardinal, who for weeks has been fighting with fisticuffs, or whatever feathered version there is of that, with nearly every window I have on my house.

And on my car.

And with my head if I’m outside and happen to have extra shiny hair that day.

 

Obviously, one must protect one’s nestlings from intruders—even if you mistake them for your own reflection. And I, obviously, must protect a smaller-brained organism from leaving his nestlings fatherless.

But my efforts are thwarted by the cardinal’s span of territory to patrol. I cannot blackout every window to diminish the glare, as I have limited supplies and a biological need for vitamin D.

He will have to take his chances with the likelihood of beak repair.

There is also a squirrel. One who suffers from great impatience.

The rule in my childhood neighborhood, adhered to by anyone with one season of vegetable growing experience was thus: plant 1/3rd for the deer, 1/3rd for the birds, and 1/3rd for your family.

For years this directive was sage and followed by all participating creatures.

This year, I cannot get the seeds in the ground without a squirrel—one I now recognize because of the prison art tattoo on his back—digging them up the second I’ve stepped away.

First, I tried netting the box. He must have opposable thumbs. He easily unnetted the netting.

Then I tried heavy-duty tree trunk wiring. He must have tools. Unwired, and again I am seedless.

Then I just put out half a pound of already grown green beans and a sign that said YOU WIN.

(*insert squirrel snickering here)

Lastly, there is a beaver.

He is industrious. He is relentless. And he has expensive taste.

He has already struck down and carried off three massive bayberry bushes and is now working on a beautiful thick oak that will take him years to gnaw through. Gauging his angle of approach, it will likely land directly on my house.

It’s okay. I’ve got time.

But to deter him from this great specimen of timber—which may or may not survive his insatiable appetite for cellulose and lignum—I have begun laying piles of thick branches and small logs at the base of the tree. A gift. An impediment. A message that suggests If you carry on with this task, you will soon become a part of my winter wardrobe.

Nevertheless, he persists.

My next step would be to enmesh that tree with the heavy-duty tree trunk wiring, but it’s still currently in use with my next squirrel-thwarting endeavor which involves a small makeshift catapult.

I know these minor skirmishes sounds like small potatoes as we’re all muscling our way through day after day of the pandemic which forces us to revisit and ration our daily wants and needs.

But might there be a silver lining out there for many of us? The substantial amount of people who have yet to experience the oh-so-real terror of scarcity?

Is it such a bad idea—despite the fact that it has been forced upon us—to reevaluate what the word need truly means? Or to press each of us into a state of deliberative ingenuity?

I’m not suggesting we all slap on a coonskin hat and become some version of Daniel Boone, but would it be so awful to think like an Italian nonna when facing the dwindling supplies on one’s pantry shelves and you’ve got thirteen hungry bellies to fill?

I think most of us would benefit from a few hours of bootstrap thinking.

Certainly, when I look at the microcosm of The Hunger Games event I’m involved in with Mother Nature and her brood, I can see that there’s more than one way to skin a cat—or a beaver, if you will.

I see them effortfully striving, every day, for the same things: food, shelter, and the protection of one’s progeny.

That’s the focus. And I don’t blame them.

That said, being the individual with slightly more gray matter, I find it’s possible for me to not only endeavor to achieve those same things, but maybe help a few of them in their pursuit as well.

Now is the time for inventiveness, resourcefulness, and innovation. Along with that comes the eye-opening bonus of gratitude.

We may never view the necessities—the essentials of life in quite the same light. Whether you’re handing out bags of successfully grown green beans to neighbors, or you’re delivering face masks made from the hairy hide of a befallen beaver, you’ve seized the chance to be a section of a solution and not part of a problem.

Most important, this is a critical time for self-reflection. The point is none of us have to be bird-brained about any of it.

~Shelley

For the time being, the blog is closed to comments, but if you enjoyed it, maybe pass it on to someone else. Email it, Facebook it, or print it out and make new wallpaper for the bathroom. If it moves you, show it some love and share. Cheers!

Don’t forget to check out what’s cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all gossiped about down in the pub. Or check out last month’s post and catch up.

In the Heat of the Moment

There are moments when you feel the stars align and the gods have smiled down upon you, and then there are the moments when you’re actually awake.

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This week has been an exercise in staying off the “She’s gone postal” bulletin. I’m sure it’s not been pleasant for anyone around me, despite my epic efforts to remain sane and calm and far away from a loaded shotgun.

It all began with a tiny glitch in the air conditioning.

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The “glitch” was that it stopped working. And I’m sure everyone is perfectly aware of the chapter in the manual that states all A.C. glitches will occur at precisely the moment when previously unseen record blowing heat waves sweep across your area and stall atop your house. This is a given.

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Fueled by an inordinate amount of optimism, I brush it off and call the repair fellah who kindly comes three days later. When he announces the problem—some bits are broken—I smile and nod sagely. Yep, another given. When he reveals that the bits are not under warranty, my smile slips a tiny bit and I try to recall the several years of hard work those bits put into minding my comfort with very little applause.  When he lastly discloses that the replacement bits are not on his truck, nor at his headquarters, but still in a factory somewhere in Sri Lanka, I sigh and say, “What’s a few days with a little sweat?”

“More like seven, ma’am.”

Okay, seven.

Sleeping is a little challenging with all that extra heat, but I mentally try to rearrange my body’s meteorological time clock and convince it that instead of 89° in my bedroom in a spectacular resurrection of summer, it’s actually January 7th and my heat is working beautifully to combat the subzero temperatures outside. My time clock remains stubbornly unconvinced—a total lack of enthusiasm in the arena of creative imagination.

A week passes by with my nightly inventive game stalling on the idea that perhaps I’m actually losing weight as I sleep. Surely with all this sweating my metabolism is racing to cool down my body from its hours of feverish temperature. But the only thing I see sliding off me in the morning is my freshly applied makeup.

After twelve days of no A.C., I finally receive the hallelujah phone call with a date for installment—four days from now. I show an extra amount of gratitude after hearing the news and refrain from slamming the phone down. Four more days. I can do this. No sweat. Well … yes, maybe some sweat, but I can do this.

The next morning I am greeted by the deflating discovery that the house is now internetless.

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I immediately panic. Being teased by the gods who removed my coolant system and shoved the sun a few inches closer to the Earth is one thing—yes, it’s fun for them to see the tiny ant dance on a hot plate under a heat directing magnifying glass, but detaching her from the godhead and rendering her silenced from the mainframe?? THIS WON’T DO!

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It’s the equivalent of Sandra Bullock letting go of George Clooney in Gravity. I am alone and silent and inside an overheated spacesuit.

Thank heavens I still have phone service to call the internet company. But the service is only available from my bathroom, which, because of its super cheery wall of windows and two skylights, is doubling as a fully operational sauna. I call, I chat, and am told the usual—Just turn everything off, unplug, wait, reattach and allow your modem to cycle through.

Okay, except I have to do this downstairs in the basement—where the phone has no service—and hike back up to report the lack of progress. Four times.

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After ninety minutes, I am handed off to the supervisor’s supervisor who now recognizes the problem as, “Well, it says right here there’s an order to disconnect your internet.”

COME AGAIN??

Firstly, why would anyone purposefully do that unless they knew the exact time they were going to die and hoped to save the remaining family members a couple days on the billing cycle? And secondly, how long had that little notation been popping up on someone’s screen, but hadn’t been seen because … well, you know, computer solitaire?

I am told I have been escalated to the top of their priority list and that the matter will be resolved shortly.

“Define shortly,” I request.

“Lady, I’m just reading from the handbook script here. Maybe take a chill pill, eh?”

“I WOULD IF I COULD!” I shout back.

On the morning of the A.C. visit, the phone rings and I hear that my technician has the flu. Or heat stroke. Doesn’t matter. He ain’t comin’. I slog through another day of heat and disconnection to the outside world. I watch the weatherman smile apologetically and announce this is quite a remarkable weather pattern. I throw the remote control at the screen and now have no television. I go to bed wondering who I killed in anther life. Surely this is karma coming back to bite me in the ass, right?

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It is too hot to sleep. I throw off the covers and toss off my clothes. It does not help. I am quite desperate and open the porch door to see about a stirring breeze. But instead of a breeze I’m greeted by a buzz. It sounds as if my room has become the test facility for a batch of angry drones.

I flip on the bedside lamp and count a small swarm of about five hornets—each just a shade smaller than my fist.

I dive beneath the heavy blankets and try to determine if I’m crying or if my eyes are now sweating. The sound above me is bitter and determined. They are worker bees who have obviously been thrown off their mission by an open door that normally wasn’t open. I look for the smallest redeeming quality in this series of fiascos and I am left with only one thought. Well at least somebody’s working.

“Hey, I don’t suppose any of you guys have a background in tech support?”

~Shelley

September Gotta Have a Gott winner

In January, Rob and I announced that his sketches will be available toward the end of the year in the form of a 2015 calendar! And our readers would get to be the judges and voters for which doodles they’d like to see selected for each month. We’ll reveal the winners one by one, and come November, If you’ve Gotta have a GOTT, you can place your order. Jump on over to see the cartoon winner for September!

Don’t forget to check out what we’re cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all talked about down in the pub. Plus, you can see more of Robin Gott‘s humor–all from the only pen carved from a human funny bone.

Related articles

 

 

Forty winks; just a big ol’ pipe dream.

To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub.

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And it tends to be the rubbing that keeps me from the dreaming. Let me explain. And get your mind out of the gutter for Pete’s sake.

At the end of a long day, there is nothing I look forward to more than closing up shop, crawling beneath the covers and turning out the light to welcome sleep—and it’s oftentimes one of the most entertaining parts of any twenty-four hours. But it’s not just the snoozing part that’s so engaging, but rather the movie reel that starts up upon giving in to unconsciousness.

Except … a few things tend to get in the way of that absorbing experience.

1. The cat.

2. The cat.

3. And oh yes, the cat.

There’s all this fuss that happens down at the bottom of the bed where my finicky, fault-finding furball insists upon setting up her midnight shop. Her nightly ablutions are hardly a muted affair. And all that business keeps me from falling into an otherworldly locus of illusion.

I love that place.

It is rich and restorative, mythic and impractical, and a source I rely upon like water and air and Oprah.

Sleep—in particular the part of sleep that allows one to dream—is an achievement I do not take lightly, and practice with the devotion of an Olympian.

Now, don’t get me wrong. That’s not a revealing statement that suggests my aim in life is to compete for the gold in the category of best Napping Nelly in the supine division. Not entirely. But the 7.5 hours I apply to cultivating this skill nightly is an activity I devote my whole brain and body to. And you might too if you dreamed like I do.

My dreams are not just snippets of faces, conversations or the occasional experience of flying and falling. They are chapters of many ongoing stories with the same characters and an actual plot line.

The disturbing thing is that I’m the author of said characters and plot lines, and occasionally I find some wonky, huddling conclave my brain develops where everyone I write about spews their opinions, making wisecracks about what a proper load of codswollop I’ve made with their tales. I’m sure there are sections of my brain that if autopsied would have forensic scientists wondering how that handful of goop that looks like week-old cake batter managed to find its way in.

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I’m pretty sure this is the part that I’m working with in the wee hours of the night.

It’s fluid. And I kinda like it like that.

I specifically work hard at following a storyline of interest as soon as I close my eyes, running a groove into it that’s both familiar and happy to take over on autopilot. If all goes according to my mental master plan, I continue on unconsciously. Of course, if the cat has a stretch of fur that is particularly polluted, all that licking gets in the way of the narrative and ensuing arc of the story.

And then I find all the folks in my dream are coughing up hairballs. And I wake up cranky.

We spend nearly a third of our lives unconscious (although I’m sure we all know people who wander through theirs never fully fast on the draw even while operating their daily heavy machinery) and I understand the importance of that period of restoration. Yes, there’s a lot of biological activity taking place: muscles recovering, internal organs repairing, our brain unraveling the many befuddling Gordian knots we pushed to the side during the day, and we allow the internal keeper of cognizance—our brain’s personal secretary—to begin the process of sorting through and filing all the memories we just made that day.

It’s exhausting work. And must be done. Even at the expense of the cat’s nightly purification rituals.

It’s crucial I reach the REM stage of my evening’s training program because without it occurring, I drift about the next day barely able to recall where my desk is located, let alone its function and purpose.

Did you know that although a cow can sleep standing up, they can only dream when lying down?

Me too!

Did you know that whales and dolphins only allow one-half of their brains to fall asleep at a time because the other half is needed to keep them swimming and breathing?

WHY CAN’T I DO THAT??

This might prove ideal, as at least with this scenario, I’d be able to still utilize the opportunity to dream. I’m assuming the cat does not recognize the importance or necessity of allowing me to dream. But perhaps I could set up a short power point presentation that could illustrate key figures in history whose dreams were vital to the world as we know it.

I will show her a picture of:

Mohammad (That Night Journey dream was a biggie.)

Shakespeare (I’m pretty sure if he got stuck with any plot, he just made his characters dream something prophetic. How convenient.)

Dorothy Gale (This is purely self-explanatory, as I cannot imagine a world without Glinda.)

Abraham (Had his cat kept him from dreaming, a good chunk of the Bible might have been taking place in modern day Turkey.)

Mary Shelly (Thank you for Frankenstein.)

Robert Lewis Stevenson (Well done on Jekyll and Hyde.)

President Lincoln (Had he paid more attention to his dreams, he’d still be alive today. And I think we both know what I meant to say.)

Paul McCartney (Had this fellow not had a little REM, no one would be humming along tomorrow the melody of Yesterday.)

Martin Luther King (Yeah, that’s a lot of guilt to throw at a cat.)

So, ultimately, if there’s any hope of me making this list someday, I can foresee only one way out of my dilemma. I’m going to have to teach the cat to be a pig.

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Sheesh … what a nightmare.

~Shelley

Don’t forget to check out what we’re cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all talked about down in the pub. Plus, you can see more of Robin Gott‘s humor–all from the only pen carved from a human funny bone.

Related articles

Out of touch

Panic has set in at my house.

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It’s as crisp and as tangible as hair-raising electricity, sharp as a floor full of tacks, and capable of creating irreparable organ damage from the anxiety-ridden heart palpitations taking place. We’ve been cut off. Specifically, the little optic fibers meant to supply juice to our technologically dependent family have been severed.

We are addicts and our drug of choice has been snatched away, brutally and without warning.

And … on a holiday weekend.

This Labor Day three day festival is turning out to be a labor-less one, as far as our phones and Internet are concerned. And did I receive a memo about this? Nope. No one said, “Hey lady, if it’s okay with you, we’re going to shut down the overworked, desperately needed, wholly depended upon nerve center of your home for … awhile, alrighty?”

No, not alrighty.

Not alrighty at all.

Blood is beginning to spill out of my ears from hearing the teenage trauma as realization sinks in. We’ve lost all connection to the outside world. Studies have shown that if you allow this to happen to adolescents for any length of time longer than it takes to make a sandwich, neurological damage begins to take place. Synapses disconnect and their little points of contact shrivel and retract. I’m quite certain that Internet access is the same as sunshine to the plant kingdom, gas to a car, or a camera flash to Kim Kardashian.

No juice, no point in going on.

Find cliff. Leap off.

Everyone is looking around wondering what to do, baffled and bewildered that this could be happening. It’s almost as bad as discovering that air decided not to show up for work today.

Normally, something like this happens when there’s a massive storm, four feet of swirling snow, or there are trees down county wide from a slicing wind and rain storm. But that hasn’t happened. The sun is out, the grass is glistening with dew, birds are flitting about doing bird-like business. And there’s a thin blanket of mist in the valleys below us. Morning fog. Wispy bits nearly transparent and sylph-like. I am positive that fog does not have physical fingers capable of finding the plug that connects our house to the world and yanking said plug from its outlet. There is nothing to blame it on.

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I run downstairs into the utility room to scan the panels of blinking lights and machines that ping. I make my way through miles of wiring, and I wriggle around pipes that snake from floor to roof, pass through concrete walls and zigzag their way like thickly-roped spider webs across the ceiling. I find the receptacles that house all lines and cables relating to technology and magic, as they are one and the same to me. Some lights flash and others flicker. The important ones are dark or blaze in angry red tones signaling their lack of life or surfeit of irritation. Even these machines echo the family’s disposition.

I unplug everything and standby. I do yoga while waiting the requisite amount of time so as not to waste the minute and hope it will improve my mood. I replug and watch.

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No joy.

Perhaps I’ve done it incorrectly.

Wrong order? Too quick? Didn’t say the magic words?

I try again and decide to throw in a minute of holding my breath for good measure. I think positive thoughts and shine the basement flashlight on the box thinking maybe it just needs ‘healing white light.’

Nope. It needs a technician. Or a good spanking.

I search the house and yard for any place I might be able to get a signal in order to phone in and report our outage. I find one in the closet that gives quarter to the cat’s litter. I scan an object with real pages and inked printing, giving me direction to the telephone number of the one person out there who can take on my troubles and ease my family’s distress.

There is a plethora of numbers. I try them all. One by one, and even though they are listed as specific departments, they arrive at the same desk: the automated hotline. Businesses do not answer telephone calls any longer. Businesses have business to do. They have money to make, not problems to solve. Promises to guarantee, not satisfaction to deliver.

I give up playing the game by the rules since those on the other end have none. I mess with the machine and press buttons that they did not offer as an option. This often produces an individual whose game of solitaire or updating of Facebook was interrupted. They’re usually not pleased.

I provide the details. More than they need. Phone numbers, addresses, shirt size and bank account sums as incentive. Do what you will with it, just make the magic happen again, please. Can’t you hear the children suffering in the background?

He does not.

He issues “a ticket for service.”

Sometime, maybe soon, depending upon availability and mood, someone may or may not attempt to unravel your puzzle. Don’t hold your breath.

I know, I say, I tried that already and it didn’t work.

Well, you have yourself a good holiday weekend. Maybe spend some time with the kids, eh?

 I sigh, disconnect the call from my cell phone and go to the game cupboard.

I bring a stack of possible pastimes and place them on the table before my offspring. “Puzzle?” I offer. “Board game? Checkers? Gin Rummy?”

They stare at me blankly, eyes wide and unregistering.

The phone rings. THE LANDLINE PHONE!

It works! We are saved! We have been rejoined!

We bow down to the mighty, joyful ring, displaying our gratitude.

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We will always remember the holiday we nearly spent together. We laugh about it now.

Ah, memories.

~Shelley

Don’t forget to check out what we’re cookin’ in the Scullery (here) and what we all talked about down in the pub (here). And to see more of Robin Gott‘s humor–all from the only pen carved from a human funny bone–click here.

 

NASA finally asks for my help.

“Hey, mom?” (daughter, Chloe, in kitchen)

“Uh huh?” (wordsmith, me, at desk)

“Would you like to do an experiment with me?”

One of my eyes strayed from my computer screen and glanced toward her school workspace. The eye noted no test tubes or beakers. The eye reported back to the brain a thumbs up sign.

“You bet.”

“Great,” she said. “You and I are going to go without chocolate for one week.”

“Sure thing … ” (type, tappity tap) “Wait—what?” Both eyes scanned kitchen. Found kitchen empty. “Chloe? … Damn.”

This has happened to me before. I have answered yes to buying a pony, sleepovers that require train travel across two states, the shaving off of one eyebrow and a small down payment on a developing goat herd in Uganda.

They know how to get me. As long as I’m writing, I’m cognizant of nothing apart from the cursor on the screen and how bitter my tea is becoming.

How in the hell was I going to survive without chocolate for seven days? I looked around my desk. There was chocolate everywhere. Having it near me brings a balm of comfort and serenity to my writing space.

Chocolate

Chocolate (Photo credit: EuroMagic)

I’d have to get rid of it.

Out of sight, out of mouth, right?

I could do this. It was probably for the good of science on the whole. I bet I’d be part of some study for NASA. Good for me. I’d show my support for Chloe, and science, and … space?

It didn’t matter. I loved challenge.

Day One: I made it through breakfast. In fact, I just ignored breakfast and got busy. Better not to think about food in general. I left the house for lunch. If I wasn’t at my desk, things would be a heck of a lot easier. After dinner Chloe checked in with me.

“How’d today go?”

“Not too bad. This might be pretty easy. I’m going to bed.”

“Mom? It’s 7 o’clock. The sun hasn’t even set.”

“Yep. But if I’m sleeping, then I won’t want to eat chocolate, okay? Goodnight.”

Day Two: Rising at 4 a.m. is fine if I have to catch a flight to a tropical island getaway, but getting out of bed simply to avoid dreaming about chocolate seemed somehow wrong. I ate a lot of brown food.

Day Three: “Mom?”

“Stop shouting at me!”

English: A small pad of Post-It notes.

English: A small pad of Post-It notes. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Day Four: Post It Note: Dear Mom, It’s okay if you want to quit. You’ve made it through three whole days and I know that’s a lot for you. You’ve done great. Love, Chloe

Dear Chloe, Really? You’d just love that now, wouldn’t you? I’d be the laughing stock of everybody else who’s a part of this study. Chocoholic Mom can’t hack three days of deprivation. No way! I’m not going to be the butt of some joke down in Houston.

Dear Mom, I don’t know what you’re talking about. There is no study. It’s just you and me. Have a brownie.

Chloe, I don’t want a brownie. I want you to clean out the damn cat litter!

Day Five: Dear Chloe, I am writing this note to you on your bathroom mirror with your all-time favorite pink lipstick left in the pocket of your blue jeans, which I found just before washing them. I have repeatedly told you what to do before throwing things down the laundry chute, but it appears yo— … sorry, I ran out of lipstick and I’m now using the perfumed soap you got from G-ma at Christmas. CHECK YOUR POCKETS!

Day Six: Text from Chloe: Mom, there is no study. U r off the hook.

Text from me: Not on your life, kiddo! I refuse to abandon my duty to civilization. I know you’re supposed to be reporting back about my behavior and mood swings, and you’re probably going to tell all the people at the lab that your experiment had to be aborted because of some instability issues. That is not going to happen on my watch—NO WAY!

Text from Chloe: Can Dad pick me up after school?

Text from me: NASA just called and wanted to let me know I’m doing great as a test subject. They were ENCOURAGING. Unlike the scientist conducting the study.

Text from Chloe: Mom, u r delusional. There is no study.

Text from me: CONSPIRACY!!!

Text from Chloe: U need rest.

Text from me: I’ll tell you what I need. I need a family that’s going to pitch in when I ask them to! I need a cat that’s not going to vomit hairballs the size of Long Island! I need a dry cleaner that isn’t going to send me back a dress with two more stains on it than before I sent it in! I need an endless supply of orange juice pumped out of one of the kitchen faucets and hooked up to a pipe in Florida because I can’t keep up with the amount your brother is drinking! I need you kids to start picking up the books you toss onto every surface and leave for me to pick—

Message from AT&T: You have exceeded your monthly text allowance.

Semi-sweet chocolate chips

Day Seven: I did not get out of bed on day seven. Not even to pee.

Day Eight: My bowl of cereal was half a bag of Ghirardelli’s 60% cacao chocolate chips with chocolate milk poured over them.

I feel a lot better. Especially since I helped NASA figure out something space related. I’m sure it will eventually be revealed in a Reader’s Digest article, or I’ll see my results reported on the Discovery channel. I’ll probably be part of a documentary.

It was worth it if it meant I’ve aided mankind.

And you’re welcome.

~Shelley

Don’t forget to check out what’s cookin’ in the Scullery this week (here) and what we’re all talkin’ about down in the pub (here)!