Monday, April 15, 2019

Survival Mode

A friend recently asked me, “Why did you stop writing?”

Well, that’s a good question. I thought about it and came up with this answer: Because I’ve been playing in Survival Mode for 10 years.

My younger kids play Minecraft now and then. If you’re unfamiliar, in the most basic terms, it’s a video game wherein you can build things. Minecraft can be played in different modes. In Creative Mode, for example, you have unlimited resources. You can build anything you want from the bottomless stash of supplies. In Creative Mode, you don’t have to worry about eating, sleeping, or keeping up your health because you cannot die. In Creative Mode you can fly. You can literally fly.

Then there’s Survival Mode. In Survival Mode, you have to work for all your supplies. You have to mine minerals with a pickaxe. You have to plant vegetables and raise animals for food in order to stay alive. Creatures like Creepers and Zombies, Spiders, Endermen, Witches, and Withers will kill you. You cannot fly. Your mission is to stay alive which can be challenging. For example, you’re trying to plant corn like a good little farmer so you’ll have food for the winter when BLAM! A Skeleton attacks you! Or maybe you’re in a cave chipping away at rocks to find diamonds and BOO! A Ghast attacks you! This is Survival Mode.

To illustrate this point, I asked my kids to teach me how to play Minecraft. That conversation went like this:

MOM:  Will you teach me how to play Minecraft? It's for a blog post.

CLAY:  suurrrre it is
CLAY:  i know you just want to play
CLAY: it's okay your secret is safe with me

So I played for 45 minutes in Creative Mode. This is what I accomplished. I built a little house. My kids think it's lame, but let's remember that I had no idea what I was doing so it took me a ridiculously long time to figure out how to even do basic things like walk.

Inside my house there is a floor, some lights, windows, a bed, and a couch and table.

It has a bed right next to the front door because I'm an expert at designing houses.

It has a miniature floating chair because I have no idea what I'm doing. I cannot, for the life of me, even tell you how on earth I managed to create a tiny floating chair.

And then I played for 45 minutes in Survival Mode. This is what happened.

I died. Apparently you can't swim in lava.

And then I died again. Because apparently you can't swim underwater indefinitely without coming up for air.

I'm not sure what I did to make a chicken fall in love with me. I thought I was kicking it away, but apparently I threw some grass seed at it or something. This game is weird.

Here's a tree. You have to chop them down in order to get wood so you can build a house.

 At the end of 45 minutes of play, here's what I accomplished in Survival Mode. This is my house:

Here's another angle of my house. Some people (my kids) claim this is not actually a house, but just a wall. I say - whatever.

As you can see, it's a little hard to accomplish what you'd like when you're just trying to survive every day. I’ve been operating in Survival Mode for the past 10 years. Blinders on, focused on the moment, playing triage every day. Clay gets over the flu, but Lexi gets sick. I get my income tax refund, but my car breaks down. I make it to Clay’s lacrosse game, but miss Lexi’s water polo game. I get caught up on laundry, but realize there are dishes in the sink piled to the ceiling. I actually make it to work on time, but have to turn around and head home to pick up a sick kid who’s puking at school. I come up with the money to pay Brooklyn’s cheer competition fees, but get hit with NJHS fees. I worry about the kids, the kid who struggled with drugs, the kid who has struggled with depression, the kid who suffers with anxiety. I push down the guilt when I can't make it to a band concert. I shove away the guilt when I miss work. I deal and try to be there for everyone. I try to take care of everyone. I attempt to be mom and dad, breadwinner and homemaker, cheerleader, nurse, and teacher. I get sick and keep going because there’s no one to bring me orange juice or pick kids up for me or make dinner. I talk to myself because there’s no one else to run things by, no one  to commiserate with, no one to simply talk to. Survival Mode.

And it's hard being creative when you’re stuck in Survival Mode. It’s hard finding the funny twist on the mundane when you’re consumed with just surviving. There are many days when I’d like to tell a funny story, but I’m too busy fighting off Endermen and chopping down trees and throwing seeds at chickens to type it out. 

Monday, April 1, 2019

But God Told Me To

While writing my last post about my shoe malfunction, I searched my blog for old pictures of past shoe mishaps to include in the post. Searching the term "shoe", netted me the following little gem. I, being well on my way to dementia, didn't remember this story, but I laughed out loud reading it. And then I shared it with Clay's girlfriend because really, she should know what she's getting into with him, don't you think?

Here, for your reading pleasure is an oldie that's still good for a laugh!

God Told Me To (July 31, 2009)

Clay has a shoe problem - in that he can never find them. I'm sure it has nothing to do with the fact that
A. He never puts them away where they belong, and
B. He's a boy and therefore cannot find anything unless it jumps out and bites him on the butt.

Yesterday was no exception. As I was scrambling to get everyone ready and in the car for vacation bible school, Clay was looking for his shoes. And by "looking for his shoes", I mean wandering around aimlessly, saying, I can't find my shoes. Do I have to wear shoes?"

He managed to find one shoe in the closet where it belongs. Jackson found the other one, after searching high and low for a good 10 minutes, in the garage. (I have no idea.)

Then this morning, I handed Clay a pair of socks as I was folding laundry and told him, "Get your socks and shoes on." (I used to say "get your shoes and socks on", but I have too many smart-aleck kids who would put their shoes on first and then try to pull their socks on over their shoes. "Well you said to put my shoes and socks on," they'd smirk.)

Anyway, Clay marched off with his socks, seemingly to put them on and find his shoes. About 10 minutes later, I saw him, still barefoot, watching TV. I gently reminded him, "TURN OFF THE TV AND PUT YOUR STINKIN' SHOES AND SOCKS ON!" He looked at me and said, "I don't have any socks."

"Yes you do! I just gave you a pair," I responded, frustrated.

"They're wet," he said simply.

"Why are they wet?" I demanded.

"Because I was trying to run on water."

Well duh. Makes perfect sense to me.

"What do you mean - you were trying to run on water? What water? Where?"

"In the sink."

"You were trying to run in the bathroom sink? For real?" I asked, incredulous. Not much Clay does surprises me anymore, but trying to run in the bathroom sink filled with water sounded pretty strange even for Clay.

"Yeah," he admitted.

"Why, why, WHY???"

He thought for a moment and said, "God told me to."

Oh yeah, this is what has come out of vacation bible school. I can just see it now. That's going to be his excuse for everything for the next month.

Why aren't you eating your vegetables?
God told me not to.

Why did you hit your sister?
God told me to.

Why are you driving me to drink?
God told me to.

Fun times ahead.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

If the Shoe Fits (Take it Off Before it Breaks!)

Upon the forcing urging of my boss, I applied to take part in this ELA (Emerging Leaders Program) with my school district. Several people from the pool of applicants who currently hold classified positions within the district were accepted into the program, and I was one of them. The program consists of monthly training from live seminars as well as webinars. On Tuesday, I attended the second seminar, this one on Dealing with Difficult People. It was actually useful training that I believe I can apply to my work life, home life, and in dealing with the entitled jerks who drive up and cut in front of those of us who have been waiting in line to exit for 2 miles. Every. Stinkin'. Morning. I truly do not understand why these individuals think they're so much better than everyone else that they don't have to wait in the same line as all the other commuters. If anyone can explain this to me, I'd love to hear it. And in related news, if anyone has a missile launcher that could be fitted onto a minivan, I'd love get the details on that also.

Anyway, I digress. So, this training was useful, the speaker was knowledgeable, effective, and had a sense of humor, the training was dynamic with hands-on components, and the hotel in which it was held, served coffee. All good.


When I attend these trainings, I like to dress professionally. You know, as a departure from the way I dress for work every other day. I think my usual style can be described as trendy classy sophisticated playful 'It's nearly April and Dawn has clearly given up.'

To that end, I tried on a few things, and by “a few things”, of course I mean, I tried on every piece of fabric in my closet. Twice. I decided on a filmy skirt paired with a shirt and denim jacket (because the AC was on full-blast at the last seminar and it was freezing!) I accessorized with a gold scarf and gold sandals. Reading this, it occurs to me that perhaps I should have someone else pick out my clothes. I’m thinking a trained monkey might do a better job. An untrained, sight-impaired monkey probably would too. Basically any monkey could do a better job dressing me than I do. But remember that I was wearing gold sandals. And a denim jacket.

During our first break, I jumped out of my seat because despite the ample padding on my derriere, I was sore from just sitting there for so long. They really ought to equip these training sessions with La-Z-Boys. I think I’m onto something here. So I jumped up and quickly headed toward the coffee shop so I could get to the front of the line in order to get some coffee and make it back to my seat before the break was over. As I walked, I felt something kind of flapping around my foot. Looking down, I noticed that the braiding on my sandal had come loose and was sticking out a couple inches, flapping around with every step I took. Well, there’s nothing I can do about it now considering I don’t have a hot glue gun with me. I contemplated running out to my car to grab the duct tape I keep in my glove compartment for shoe-related and other sundry emergencies, but opted to walk slowly back to my seat, hoping that if I didn’t jar it too much, my shoe wouldn’t unravel any further.

Apparently the exercise of walking a few yards in combination with the coffee brought on a hot flash. I grabbed my workbook and furiously fanned myself. I started to take off my jacket which was fusing to my arms with sweat, but remembered I was wearing a shirt with a big keyhole cut-out in back. I was sitting in the front of the room. That meant if I took off my jacket, rows upon rows of people would be subject to a clear view of my back fat. I kept the jacket on. Sweat dripped down my face. I hoped for a freak earthquake to swallow me.

When we broke for lunch, again I jumped up and headed toward the little snack shop in the lobby of the hotel. About halfway there, I felt something dangling around my foot. I looked down and saw that my shoe had unraveled so much that it was trailing a good 2 feet behind me. This was an example of karma, my friend because I had been inwardly grumbling at the people walking slowly in front of me. And you know that old saying – when you complain about slow walkers, your shoe unravels. Anyway, I had to stop and figure out some way to fix my shoe or I surely would’ve tripped. Not to mention that fact that I looked like an utter idiot. So I took the braid and wound it around my foot a couple times, tucking the end under the buckle. Voila! Fixed. Sort of. Although I was regretting my shoe choice, I was very happy that my skirt was long enough to mostly cover my stupid shoe. 

As I straightened up, I saw this cute guy walk by. I tried to act all nonchalant like I’d simply been bending over to pick up something I’d dropped. No big deal. I wasn’t just wrapping a couple feet of cord around my ankle, no siree. He smiled a little. I’m not sure if it was just a friendly smile, or an “I feel sorry for the uh, special girl playing with her shoe in the middle of the hotel lobby’ kind of smile.

exhibit A

exhibit B
How can one person have so many shoe problems? How is it possible??? Remember my shoe that broke at school 5 years ago?

exhibit C

I tried to fix it with staples. Surprisingly enough, it didn't work.

exhibit D

And then there was the shoe that broke at my friend's wedding. 
exhibit E

I walked barefoot into a Dollar General to buy a roll of duct tape to fix it on the way to the reception. (Thus the duct tape in my car for shoe emergencies.)

exhibit F

It didn't work either. 

exhibit G

So I gave up, took my shoes off, got drunk and took a picture of one of the groom's relatives who I was convinced was Conan O'Brien. 

Oh and let's not forget about the unfortunate shoe incident from my last date a couple years ago - Why I Can't Date

Anyway . . .

I grabbed lunch, invited myself to join a couple people at their table because apparently that’s the kind of person I am - one who encroaches on others because why wouldn't they simply delight in my company. I refrained from jumping in the hotel pool or joining the tourists drinking piña coladas at the bar (and let me tell ya, that took quite a feat of willpower,) and went back to the seminar. 

We broke into small groups based on the results of our DISC personality assessments. I scoped out the room, searching for the cute guy from earlier and lo and behold, he was sitting with the "I"s. I'm an "I"! Obviously it's kismet. 

I walked toward the back of the room where the other "I"s were gathering. Wait, let me rephrase that. I started walking toward the back of the room. After a couple steps however, my ambulation turned to aviation as I tripped over my shoe's tail and took flight. Let's just say, I got the cute guy to notice me.

Oh but it gets better.

After the training (you know, the training to help us better deal with different types of people), we were shuffling like cattle toward the exit of the conference room. People were filing out a single door for some reason when there were two doors there. I, apparently having learned nothing from the day's seminar, let loose a snarky comment, "There are two doors there. We could actually use both of them." I picked up my certificate and once again saw everyone exiting via a single door to the parking lot. I gave an exasperated sigh because clearly "these people" will never learn to use both doors. I then walked right into the window. Yes, the window that was not actually a door. Karma wins again.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Misty Water Colored Memories

Recently on my Timehop (If you're unfamiliar, Timehop is an app that curates all the photos and posts you've put on social media over the years.) there was a post about Lexi breaking her arm. Two days later, there was a post that said I was on my way to the hospital with Lexi, followed by a post saying that she was out of surgery and everything had gone well. This happened ten years ago. I could not, for the life of me, remember her having surgery on her broken arm. Then again, I can't remember what I had for lunch today so that's not really saying much.

How could I have forgotten something like my kid having surgery? I asked the group chat that my family has if any of them remembered. The only response I got was something about the government implanting false memories to brainwash us. That was from Jackson's girlfriend, Summer. (Clearly, it didn't take her long fall in with my crew.) But I couldn't let it go. It was bugging me to no end until I realized that I had likely blogged about it. I quickly searched my blog for the date in question and lo and behold, I found it! Lexi broke two bones in her arm and the orthopedist put her under general anesthesia in order to set it properly. After reading the post about her broken arm, I continued reading, laughing at post after post of my kids' antics. Like Lexi's surgery, I hadn't remembered a lot of the things I'd written about. (I warn my kids often that they'll be taking care of me when I completely lose my mind.) Although it's disconcerting when I can't recall something I ought to remember, I'm so appreciative of my blog now! I mean, back in the day, this blog generated an income, a book deal, and more trips, freebies, and perks than I can count. It gave laughs and comfort to other moms in the trenches. And it provided an outlet for me to vent when my kids did stuff like make a "skating rink" from water and bubble soap on my kitchen floor, color the walls with yogurt, the TV with Sharpie, and each other with paint, or when one shoved a Tic-Tac up his nose, or gouged her name into the side of my van with a nail, . But now, it's this amazing scrap book of memories. I have 1570 posts written over the past 11 years that I can reread whenever I want!

You know how people always tell you to slow down and enjoy your time with your kids when they're little because it goes by so fast? That isn't entirely accurate. Really, you should slow down and enjoy your time with your kids when they're little because when they're grown, you won't remember a darn thing from their younger days! 

I tell my daughter a story and she gives me an exasperated sigh accompanied by, "Mom, you already told me this yesterday."
My son will ask me, "Remember the time we dismantled the playground and propped the slide against the house, then jumped out our bedroom window and slid to the ground?" and I gaze at him vacantly, as I try desperately to recall the incident in question. It seems vaguely familiar but I can't recall if it really happened, if I saw it on some sitcom, or if it was just a bad dream. I'm sure my kids look at me and think - there's a tree stump in a Louisiana swamp with a higher IQ than you.

I can't even tell you how many times I've uttered the phrase, "I"m going to pick Savannah up from water polo" this month. And every time, one of my kids will respond with, "Savannah? Really, Mom? Savannah hasn't played water polo for 5 years. She doesn't live with us." Then they'll throw in a, "Remember?" for good measure because I'm pretty sure they truly believe I don't remember that Savannah moved out years ago.

So, my advice to you is - enjoy those crazy days when your kids are young. Appreciate every sticky, messy, crazy, embarrassing moment. Because those days go by so fast one day, you won't remember your kids' names or the fact they tried to leave their brother at the store, or that they painted the dog blue, or that they accidentally knocked an egg out of a robin's nest and replaced it with a chicken egg and a marshmallow peep.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

50 By 50

I turned 49 on Sunday. For the first time. Honestly. 

It came and went with all the pomp and circumstance a single mom would expect - errands, laundry, cooking, cleaning . . . 

Anyway, I figure since I'll be 50 Forty-Nine Part 2: Electric Boogaloo next year, I should probably have an idea of what I want to do when I grow up. I mean, I've always been a procrastinator, but even I have to admit that it's a bit ridiculous to be nearly 50 years old and unhappy with yourself. To that end, I came up with a bucket list of sorts. Or well, notsomuch a bucket per se. It's really more of a small measuring cup. Still . . .

I will lose 50 pounds by the time I'm 50. That's a pound a week. Completely achievable, if not challenging. Note I wrote that "I will lose 50 pounds", not "I want to lose 50 pounds." Because I have wanted to for pretty much all of my adult life. Clearly, wanting and doing are two entirely different things.

I'm extraordinarily unhappy with my appearance. I would go so far as to say I hate the way I look. I saw a picture of myself taken at the Support Person of the Year banquet and I cried. I legitimately cried. I mean, I know I'm fat, but seeing it right there on paper absolutely disgusted me. I have lost the same 10 pounds a hundred times in my life. I'm done.

I will write 50 blog posts by the time I'm 50. It's a far cry from the 324 posts I wrote in 2008, but it's more than the 5 I wrote in 2016.

I like the school and the kids where I work. I like my job. I'm not passionate about it though. And I detest the commute. Like many of us, I don't get up and think - I can't wait to get to work! I miss writing. Nothing makes me happier than getting comments from people saying that something I wrote made them think, or made them laugh, or let them know they aren't alone. I want to write. So, I'll start with a few blog posts.

I will do 12 random acts of kindness. Because - why not?

I will go on 12 dates. Unless the first one turns out to be with a psycho who tries to make a suit of my skin. Or he chews with his mouth open. Or he doesn't laugh. Hmmm, maybe I need to rethink this one. Maybe I should adopt 12 cats instead . . .

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Sicking, Vampires, And Auspicious Write-Ups

I recently attended a mind-numbing training. The whole time I was sitting there listening to the presenter drone on, the only thought that filled my head was - What am I doing with my life? Why am I not at home writing? I should be writing, not sitting here critiquing this presenter's inability to speak and use any semblance of proper grammar in her power point.

When I got home, I picked up my laptop and pulled up my blog. The blog that used to have 100,000 readers daily. The blog that I used to update almost daily. The blog that sits there, mostly untouched these days. That blog. And I remembered how fulfilling it was to receive comments from my readers saying that my writing had made them think, or had helped them to realize they aren't alone, or had simply made them laugh. So I read through some recent comments. Here, because I want to share the pure unadulterated pleasure and joy with you, are those comments.

Are you tired of being human, having talented brain turning to a vampire in a good posture in ten minutes, Do you want to have power and influence over others, To be charming and desirable, To have wealth, health, without delaying in a good human posture and becoming an immortal? If yes, these your chance. Its a world of vampire where life get easier,We have made so many persons vampires and have turned them rich, You will assured long life and prosperity, You shall be made to be very sensitive to mental alertness, Stronger and also very fast, You will not be restricted to walking at night only even at the very middle of broad day light you will be made to walk, This is an opportunity to have the human vampire virus to perform in a good posture. If you are interested contact us

Oh boy, do I ever! I want to have power and influence over others and be made to walk in broad daylight! Where do I sign up? (Shhh, don't tell Sam and Dean Winchester.)

WHAT A GREAT MIRACLE THAT I HAVE EVER SEE IN MY LIFE. My names are Robert Mary I’m a citizen of United Kingdom, My younger sister was Sicking of breast cancer and her name is Robert Jane, I and my family have taking her to all kind of hospital in UK still yet no good result. I decided to go to the internet and search for cancer cure so that was how I find a lady called Sarah peter she was testifies to the world about the goodness of a herbal man who has the root and half to cure all kind of disease and the herbal email was there. So I decided to contact the herbal man for my younger sister help to cure her breast cancer. I contacted him and told him my problem he told me that I should not worry that my sister cancer will be cure, he told me that there is a medicine that he is going to give me that I will cook it and give it to my sister to drink for one week, so I ask how can I receive the cure that I am in UK, he told me That I will pay for the delivery service. 

Yes, yes, I just read an article in the New England Journal of Medicine how a random Internet herbal man had discovered the cure to help people who are sicking of cancer.

This blog was... how do I say it? Relevant!! This paragraph is really a nice one it helps new net people, who are wishing for blogging. 

Your comment is . . . how do I say it? Inane!

Its not my first time to pay a visit this web site, i am visiting this site dailly and take nice data from here all the time. 

Well that is my goal after all - giving nice data to all the people!

you are truly a just right webmaster. The website loading pace is incredible. It seems that you're doing any unique trick. In addition, The contents are masterpiece. you've done a excellent task on this subject! 

Do you hear that, world? I'm a just right webmaster. I don't think there's anywhere to go from there. My dreams are fulfilled.

What i do not understood is if truth be told how you are now not really much more well-preferred than you may be now. You're so intelligent. You understand therefore considerably relating to this topic, produced me in my view consider it from so many various angles. Its like men and women aren't fascinated unless it is something to accomplish with Lady gaga! Your personal stuffs outstanding. All the time take care of it up! 

What I do not understand, if truth be told, is pretty much anything you just wrote. Not a stinkin' word.

Thank you for the auspicious writeup. It in fact was a amusement account it. Look advanced to far added agreeable from you! By the way, how can we communicate?  

I'm sorry, but I don't think we actually can communicate. You know, seeing as how I don't speak whatever language that is.

At this moment I am going to do my breakfast, afterward having my breakfast coming yet again to read more news. 

At this moment I am going to rethink my entire life. Afterward, I will pour a large glass of wine and watch some Netflix.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Hell is a Group Chat

Image by JESHOOTS-com on Pixabay
Remember back in the 70s when you had cheer practice? No? That's right! Because there was none of this putting your kids in sports and other activities that take all your time and money! We were thrown out of the house after school and we ran around the neighborhood playing until mom rang the dinner bell, signaling us to come running home. 

Then in the 90s and early 2000s when my oldest kids were young, we put them in some sports. You know how I knew what time their practices were? The coach told us at the beginning of the season. Practices are Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 6:00 - 7:30. I didn't get reminders every day. I knew when practice was and I brought my kids at the appointed time. Like magic.

Then came the smart phone and people turned into idiots.

Case in point -  I, along with about 25 other parents, was added to a group text for Brooklyn's cheer team. Now this could be a handy tool for communicating. It could be if the other people involved employed any sort of texting etiquette, or you know, common sense. It could go like this:

COACH:  Remember practice tonight 630 to 8

The end. That's it. Everyone in the text group would receive ONE text reminder just in case one went stupid and forgot that practice is Tuesday and Thursday from 6:30 - 8:00 just like it has been for the past 2 months.

But that's not how it works. That is literally never how it works. Instead, our phones (namely MY phone!) get a dozen pings with very, very important messages that everyone needs to know like this:

COACH:  Remember practice tonight 630 to 8

CRIP (Clueless Rude Inconsiderate Parent):  Jada will not be able to make it she pulled her groin muscle and can barely walk straight. See you Tuesday

CRIP:  Ok we'll be there

CRIP:  Kayla won't be there she has strep throat

CRIP:  Thanks

CRIP:  Kayla won't be there tonight.

CRIP: I'll have to try and get Kay a ride cause Kayla was Kayleigh's ride today. Husband is working nights now and I have 3 of the 4 needing to be placed

CRIP:  places


CRIP:  Hailee won't be there tonight

CRIP:  Hailee will be back next week

CRIP:  Bella will be there at 6:30


And here's me . . .


There is NO NEED to respond to a text that simply provides information, especially when there are 25 other people whose phones will ping with that text. If a coach reminds you there's practice, you don't not need to replay "Okay" or "Thanks" or anything else. Just show up to practice.

There is also NO NEED to tell everyone in the group chat that your husband is working, or your kid can't make it to practice, or that your kid has a groin injury. Tell the coach. She's the ONLY one who needs to know this.

Technology has just made people stupid. Twenty years ago, you would not have picked up the phone and gone down the roster to call 25 people and tell them, "Hi Anne, my daughter pulled her groin. She won't be at practice. I just thought you'd like to know." "Hi Meg, my daughter pulled her groin. She won't be at practice. I just thought you'd like to know." "Hi Mary, my daughter pulled her groin. She won't be at practice. I just thought you'd like to know." And on and on and on . . . So why do people do it now with texts? Why? Truly, I'm asking because I really don't understand this phenomenon. I cannot possibly be the only one who doesn't like her phone going off every few seconds with everyone's nonsense while she's at work.

I'm convinced that hell is a group chat. A group chat that you. can. NEVER. EVER. leave.


Tuesday, November 13, 2018

The Bird That's Mocking Me

photo: Creative Commons
For the last couple weeks, there has been a completely demented confused bird outside my window who apparently thinks nighttime is for singing. At 3:00 in the morning, this bird wakes me up with his incessant chirping. As one might imagine, being awoken in the middle of the night puts me in a foul mood. I lie awake concocting sleep-deprived, and slightly maniacal, scenarios of death and destruction to this bird.




via Gfycat

Last night, determined to figure out what kind of devil bird has been waking me up, I spent a ridiculous amount of time on the National Audubon Society site, listening to bird songs and comparing them to the cacophony that interrupts my dreams every night. I listened to, and quickly discarded dozens of bird calls until I happened upon a mockingbird.
"Ah ha!" I shouted to my computer! "I found the culprit! It's a Northern Mockingbird!" 

The Northern Mockingbird's scientific name is mimus polyglottos which means Bird That Sounds Like a Car Alarm. Don't believe me? I found this recording. To get the full effect, I recommend you wait until you're so tired you can't keep your eyes open, then pop in your ear buds, lie down, and enjoy the sound that could only come from a concert featuring car alarms, chainsaws, and Nickelback nature's goodness in the Mockingbird's gentle lullaby as you drift off in peaceful slumber.

Go ahead and listen to it. Then imagine hearing it every. single. night. FOR HOURS! I completely understand why Zooey Deschanel (Failure to Launch) was disappointed that the book To Kill a Mockingbird wasn't a how-to manual!

Apparently, the Northern Mockingbird is the state bird of Florida. (Maybe if more people knew this, fewer people would move here and it wouldn't take me 45 minutes to get to work in traffic! But that's a rant for another day.) And it's protected under the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act so you can't just shoot the thing. Not that I would. But well, I wouldn't judge anyone who wanted to.

All this research on Mockingbirds made me start thinking about that song. Hush little baby, don't say a word. Papa's gonna buy you a Mockingbird. (Why? WHY? Why would anyone ever do anything so cruel to a defenseless little baby?) And if that Mockingbird won't sing (Be VERY thankful!), Papa's gonna buy you a diamond ring. (How 'bout we just skip right ahead to the diamonds, huh?) This song makes NO sense.

Anyway, there are a myriad of ideas on how to deal with these birds that have just surpassed seagulls in my personal list of annoying animals. Get a fake owl, get a fake snake, spray them with water, light off firecrackers . . . Here's the thing though - we have real owls and real snakes around here. No need for fake ones. And I really can't see myself doing anything mean to a bird. Oh, who am I kidding? The real reason I wouldn't grab the Super-Soaker or bottle rockets is because that would mean I'd have to get out of bed in the middle of the night and that's just not happening. Laziness always wins out over annoyance. So for now, I guess I'll just set my phone on my nightstand and have it play rain or ocean sounds all night to help drown out the squawking. But if you hear of someone in central Florida arrested for trying to cut down a tree in her apartment complex at 4:00AM, there's a chance it might be me. Stand by with bail money.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

The Hand Wavers, The Doughnuts, And The Amens: My Search For A Church

When I lived in Illinois, I attended the same church for nearly 40 years. As a kid, I remember getting smiley face stickers in my Bible for memorizing scripture. I went to confirmation classes and youth group. I have fond memories of going on several mission trips to Missouri, Michigan, and even Canada with the youth group. (Well, I have fond memories of most of those trips, but I had mono when we went to Canada so I mostly have memories of sleeping and feeling like crap there) and I remember staying up all night at lock-ins as a teenager. I taught Sunday school to the grandkids of the people who taught me Sunday school. I was a big part of the drama group at my church, acting in and directing several worship dramas.I enjoyed helping with Vacation Bible School every summer. I joined several Bible study groups (between you and me, it was mostly because they provided free babysitting and that meant I didn't have to deal with my kids for a whole hour once a week.) I think I entertained the retired people in my group by likening every bit of scripture we studied to a recent Veggie Tales episode I'd seen with my kids. "This is just like the time Junior Asparagus was scared of the Frankenstein celery . . ." I painted crafts to be sold at our holiday bazaar and I joined the ladies who knit and crocheted prayer shawls although I think I only completed one shawl ever, and it quite possibly fell apart the first time it was washed. But I tried. I knew everyone at my church, and they knew me. Even if they didn't really know me, they at least knew of me as that lady with all the kids who sometimes shows up to church without realizing one of her kids isn't wearing shoes. In my defense, at least I never forgot any of my ki . . . Oh wait. Nevermind. Umm, in my defense, I had a whole litter of kids! Cut me some slack!

When I moved to Florida over 7 years ago, one of the tasks at the very top of my list was to find a new church home. But that's hard to do when you compare every church you visit to the one you left back home. I still haven't found a church home down here in Florida, but admittedly, I haven't gotten involved and I've never given any of them enough time to grow on me. I've also been caught up in whether I personally liked the worship service, if the people seemed friendly and welcoming, if the church was close to home, if there was adequate parking, if the church had some funky smell to it, if they sang songs I liked, if the sanctuary was pretty and had stained glass windows depicting scenes of Jesus's life, and of course, if they served good coffee or just that nasty powdered creamer stuff. What I failed to ask myself is if I could serve and grow at that particular church. I know if I had just stuck with one church and kept returning, joining a small group, making an effort, I would have a church home today. 

Still, I visit different churches now and then, thinking I'll get serious about finding a new church home. But it's awkward! And I've gone to church my whole life! I can't imagine how uncomfortable it could be for someone new to the whole church-going experience. Trying out new churches is just plain awkward. And it's especially strange if you try new denominations and/or new areas. This is what I've gathered from attending a variety of churches here in the south.

1.     Ya'll are hand wavers. Every church I've gone to down here, especially the Baptist churches, like to raise their hands in worship and every single time I see it, it reminds me of this Tim Hawkins video and cracks me up. 

The congregation sways, eyes closed, so moved by the experience that they must stretch their arms heavenward. I stand there, blundering my way through the lyrics quietly to myself lest another human hear me. If it's an especially rousing song, I may sway a bit. (Actually I just shift my weight from foot to foot a time or two, but it might be construed as swaying by some.) Try as I might, I cannot bring myself to lift my arms in praise. I tried it once. I felt like I was anticipating a volleyball to come my way. #Awkward

2.     Another big difference is that the worship service where I grew up was an hour long. One hour. Sixty minutes. And heaven forbid they ever ran over time by even a few seconds because someone would be on the receiving end of some hefty complaints! Sunday school was for kids and it ran simultaneously with the worship service for adults. Down here, on-the-other-hand, the worship service alone is at least an hour and then Sunday school/Bible study is for everyone and it's another hour or more. At some churches, it's an all-day extravaganza.

3.     People (again, I've noticed it predominately with those Southern Baptists, but the first time I visited a particular United Methodist Church here, I heard a sermon against the evils of divorce also) think I'm the devil because I'm divorced. At church today, there was a card to fill out if you'd like more information about the church, would like to submit a prayer request, or wanted to get more information about volunteer opportunities. The card had the following options: single, married, widowed. Divorced was not an option. Although I wanted information about volunteering for a program, I didn't know what box to check because I don't think I count as "single." I thought about writing in divorced, but decided that might be antagonistic. Also, I wasn't entirely sure they'd let me back in if they knew I was gasp divorced. I ended up shoving the blank card in my purse and leaving.

4.     Down here, as far as I can tell, churches are rated based on the quality of coffee and doughnuts provided after worship service.

5.     I don't think this is specific to any geographic location or any particular denomination, but some churches are just friendlier than others. However, there's a fine line between being friendly and welcoming, and just plain freaking the snot out of newcomers by hugging them, following them to their seats, and talking their ears off about people they don't know and things taking place in church that they've never heard of.

6.     A lot of the churches I've visited down here are big on random Amens! throughout the worship service. Now, I'm no stranger to the rote repetition of phrases in worship. If I hear, "Peace be with you," the words, "and also with you," will leave my lips of their own accord without fail. If I see an offering, I will sing the doxology whether it's actually being played or not. But I do not understand the seemingly random chorus of amens that reverberate off the walls of the church at various times throughout the service.

7.     Finally, I've noticed that it's a universal truth of any church, in any denomination, in any part of the country that people get ticked when you, a newcomer, sit in "their pew."

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Dawn: Making Dentists in Central Florida Hate me Since 2011

My dentist stopped taking my insurance at the beginning of this year. I can't prove it, but I suspect the whole team got together to brainstorm ways to get rid of me as their patient.
"Maybe we could get caller ID and every time Dawn calls, we'll just answer the phone, 'Good afternoon, Mario's Pizza, what can I get you?'"
"Good, good, but what if she calls from work or some other number we don't recognize?"
"How about we tell her that we're booked for the next 8 months when she calls?"
"No good. She'll get an appointment eventually even if she has to wait 8 months."

"I know! Let's stop taking her insurance!"
"Yes! That's it! 

So my wonderful HMO which pays for nothing but cleanings, assigned me a new dentist. I was due for a cleaning in June, but finally made an appointment in October. Granted, I didn't actually proactively make an appointment for a cleaning. It was a cracked tooth that prompted me to make the appointment, but still, I think it counts. Especially for someone who abhors the dentist!

So I walk in and see all their festive Halloween decorations. Because the best way to calm anxiety and make patients feel at ease is by draping webs across the seats in the waiting room and perching spiders over their shoulders.

I sign in and take a seat away on a spiderless chair, and glance to my right. I see this.

It's an urn. An urn filled with the ashes of the last patient to die here. Comforting.

I start filling out the paperwork while trying to forget about the spiders, the urn of ashes, and the torture that lies ahead. Then I got to this page of the paperwork . . .

WHEN an individual DIES! What the crap am I signing???? Ohmygosh! Commence hyperventilating! Those really ARE the ashes of past patients! I was just kind of joking before, but at this point I'm ready to make a beeline for the door!

The hygienist appears in the doorway and calls my name. "Dawn?"

I look around at the other people in the waiting room and offer up my spot. "Would anyone like to go ahead of me? Really. I don't mind." They've already seen me taking pictures of the paperwork and the decor, so this pretty much solidifies their notion that I'm unbalanced.

As the hygienist leads me to a room, she remarks, "You really have anxiety, don't you?"

"Whatever gave you that idea?" I try to force some nonchalance into my voice as my eyes furtively dart around and my breathing takes on "code blue" quality.

She spoke to me in the manner you would to a scared and injured wild animal. "It's okay," she purred. "I'm just going to take some xrays. No one is going to do anything today. Just relax." She continued in calm and soothing tones, "Do you tend to gag during xrays?" 

"One hundred percent of the time," I confirmed.

"Okay, I'm going to give you some numbing medication. It's the stuff we use to numb your gums before giving you a shot." She handed me a Q-tip with a glob of the gel on the end. "Just suck on it like a lollipop then swallow so it coats your throat. This will help calm that gagging reflex."

I had my doubts, but did as she instructed. And let me tell you - this was the first time in my life I didn't gag during xrays. I hugged the woman and informed her of her new BFF status.

She lead me to another room where I awaited the dentist while my anxiety kicked up a notch. 

The dentist came in, shook my hand and introduced himself, "I'm Dr. Potter. Potter as in Harry." He scored a point right there. He'd score another 20,000,000,000 points if he could point a wand at my tooth and magically fix it. 

"How are you doing?" he asked.

"Well, I'd rather be at home. Or at work. Or in a pit of venomous snakes."

He took a look at the broken tooth. "Can you just fill it and let me go on my way?"

"No, a filling is not an option."

"Come on. Just slap a little Play Dough in there and we'll call it a day," I helpfully suggested.

To his credit, he laughed a little, gaining him another point. Because really, the most important quality in a dentist is not where he went to school, his certifications, or his ability; it's whether or not he laughs at my jokes. (I don't trust people who don't laugh.)

"You have two options," he stated. He indicated my xray and explained, "This tooth already had a root canal, but you never got a crown on it. This temporary fix was never meant to last. 

"Yeah, I couldn't afford a crown. I suggested a small tiara instead, but unfortunately my old dentist didn't offer that option."

He continued, "See this dark part here?" He pointed to the xray. "That's a sign of infection at the root. This tooth would have to be retreated with another root canal. Then you would need a crown on it. But honestly, this tooth is so compromised that I can't promise it will work or last very long. Your other option is to have it pulled and have an implant placed there. It's entirely up to you what you want to do. We work for you."

"Okay, okay, I see . . . Orrrrr, we could just leave it alone and over time it will slowly erode away with tiny pieces chipping off and eventually the whole tooth will be gone. Voila!"

Judging by his face, he didn't feel that was a feasible option. 

"Could I just get it pulled and have 2 empty spaces back there?"

"Well, your other teeth, towards the front of your mouth aren't designed for chewing like your molars are. You'd end up putting too much strain on them and then you'll start having problems with those teeth breaking."

"Okay, what would you tell your sister to do if this was her?"

"If you were my sister, I'd tell her to have the tooth pulled and get an implant," he stated without hesitation. 

"Great. I always talk about moving back to Chicago, but they'll never let me back in the state if I'm missing that many teeth. In fact, Florida may even kick me out. I'm going to have to go live in Alabama." (No offense to Floridians, Alabamians, or toothless people because I am one of you, my brethren.) They recommended I have a consultation with the oral surgeon on staff at this facility. As I checked out and made an appointment for the consultation, the receptionist assured me, "Oh you'll like this doctor."

"Oh, I'm sure if I saw him in Publix, I'd be all, 'Hey Doctor! How're you doin'? How's the sailboat I bought you?'" Then again, he probably won't stick his hands in my mouth while we're at Publix. Here, on the other hand . . " I trailed off.

So I met with him. He talked over my head in medical terminology, said phrases like cut your gum and bone graft. He didn't answer me when I asked him to explain the process or if I would be out for the procedure because there is NO WAY ON EARTH I can handle that while awake. He seemed exasperated by my questions and called over Dr. Potter to deal with me. Then the oral surgeon outright lied and said, "It doesn't hurt." I swung my head around to look at Dr. Potter with a get a load of this guy expression. "I'm looking at the oral surgeon, but I'm seeing Orin Scrivello dancing around in Little Shop of Horrors," I confided in Dr. Potter who laughed. The oral surgeon looked at me blankly. He left the room right after that.

Dr. Potter stayed and patiently took the time to answer my questions and explain things. 

"So he wants to cut my gum and put bone in it? Where does this bone come from?" I asked while images of the urn in the waiting room flashed through my mind.

"It's cadaver bone." he answered like it was no big deal; like he was simply commenting on the weather. When I said I'd have to drink a bottle, er um, a glass of wine before coming in, he said, "What you do before your appointment is your own business."

After meeting the oral surgeon, I can safely say that I don't like him and even if I saw him at Publix, I'd quickly turn away and feign an exorbitant amount of interest in the nutritional label on the bag of frozen peas I'm holding while half inside the freezer door. "Ohhh look at that. The ingredients in this bag of peas is just peas. That's all. Isn't that interesting, ishegoneyet?"

Before I left I was given a breakdown of how much it would cost to get the broken tooth pulled and two implants. 

Seeing as how the total is literally half my yearly salary, I'm going to go with Plan C - do nothing at all until my tooth starts hurting at which point I'll knock it out myself with an ice skate à la Tom Hanks, and then go on the smoothie diet for the rest of my life. I need to lose weight anyway. Win win! Or or, it IS October afterall - I can find a pair of plastic vampire teeth and be all set!

I took Lexi there a couple days later for her appointment. The hygienist saw me and exclaimed, "I remember you!" Then, "Your daughter is a much better patient than you are."

Lexi looked at me, eyebrows raised.

I shrugged and muttered, "I guess I shouldn't have bitten her hand when she tried to put the bib on."

Lexi looked horrified. "You BIT her?!" she spit out.

"No! I didn't BITE her! I was kidding! You believed that?!"

"Yes, yes I did. Because it sounds like something you'd do at the dentist, Mom."

"I'm saving that for the next time."  ;)

Dawn: making dentists in central Florida hate me since 2011.

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