The Fine Print

I’m not an overly romantic person.  For some reason that I can no longer comprehend, I had a formal wedding.  In retrospect, I’d like to have the money I sunk into the wedding, and we could have just went to the courthouse.  The end result would have been the same.

But, alas, we did the formal church-wedding thing, and we stood in front of God and a few dozen witnesses and said the wedding vows–you know, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, etc., etc.  Upon reflection, though, I think there should be some more (realistic) vows added.  I guess they wouldn’t sound so great in the actual church service, but maybe they could be added to the bottom of the marriage license or something.  Here’s what I’ve come up with for the bride:

  • I vow to pick up your clothes until the end of time, because, for whatever reason, you simply cannot make the trek from the bedroom to the hamper, and, if by some miracle you do make it to the hamper with the clothing, you then lay them on the closed lid, because lifting the lid is just too damn hard.
  • I vow to recognize that you are always sicker than me, even if I am, in fact, laying in bed incapable of even moving my eyeballs because it hurts, and fluids and semi-solids are escaping from every orifice in my body, and my fever has burned an actual hole in my pillow.  I also recognize that you can be perfectly healthy until I mistakenly mention that I have, say, a headache, and then you will immediately be struck with a sympathy headache.
  • I further vow that when you are genuinely sick, you cannot do anything, even if you just have the sniffles.  I should leave you alone to lay in misery (with the TV of course) and hope not to die. I, on the other hand, sick or well, will still plod on with my daily chores, and I vow not to choke you when I, sick and shaking, stagger through the room, and you ask, “What’s for dinner?”
  • I vow to accept the fact that no matter what I suggest, you will have to alter the plan in some way, no matter the circumstances. 
  • I vow that no fact I state will ever be accepted as truth until both you and your male offspring thoroughly research the topic, discuss all possible options, and ask everyone else on the planet for alternatives. 
  • I vow to carefully REfold the clothing in your drawers each time you open them and examine each article as though you are searching for DNA evidence, instead of what you are actually doing, which is getting the same articles of clothing that have been in the drawers for the last ten years.
  • I vow to find storage for the 78695746487 hats that you bring home on a regular basis, even though you don’t wear hats! This also applies to boots.
  • I vow to never question the fact that you are in constant need of hunting supplies, such as arrows, broadheads, silencers, scopes, calls, blinds, stands, and, I swear I am not making this up, bottles of a substance made to simulate female deer pee.  I will accept this need, even though we now have enough of these items to open our own sporting goods store.
  • Furthermore, I will accept the fact that any money spent on any of these items is perfectly acceptable, while money spent on something I might be interested in is money wasted.
  • I vow to never ask you do anything, because that is nagging, and I wouldn’t want to do that.
  • I vow to allow you whatever amount of time it takes you to do something I finally break down and ask you to do, even if that means it takes you upwards of three weeks. 
  • I vow to keep a schedule of all appointments and meetings, and then tell you the times of these appointments and meetings without getting annoyed, even though you ask me these times at least three times every single day.
  • I vow to offer you extravagant praise for any task that you perform, even if it is something like, say, carrying a dish to the kitchen counter and leaving it.  I will also thank you repeatedly for “watching” the kids, as though they were children from my first marriage and not, in fact, your children.
  • Lastly, I solemnly vow that you are a better driver, smarter, and much more tired than I could ever dream of being.

I figure I’d better quit for now before I really offend someone.

Don’t worry, in a day or two I’m going to give the husband a chance for rebuttal.  I can’t wait to hear what he has to say!






A Place for Everything…..

……and everything in its place. This is the doctrine of mildly compulsive people like yours truly.  And if I lived by myself and never allowed anyone else to enter my weird little world, then I wouldn’t have any problem upholding this belief.  However, I don’t live by myself.  What’s more, I happen to live in a house with certain others who not only don’t practice this belief, but actively oppose it.

We are forever looking for stuff.  I hate to point the finger of blame at specific people, but usually it’s The Grandmother’s fault. Everyone who knows her knows she is a very clean, very active person who is always piddling in something or straightening something.  Therein lies the problem.  She can walk by, say, a letter some innocent person  has clipped to a calendar page, and for some reason, the desire to move this letter to another location overcomes her.  She can’t even help herself.  Then along comes the innocent person looking for the letter, and it’s gone.  Here’s the kicker–The Grandmother can’t remember what she did with it. 

To be fair, the stuff usually turns up, albeit after an hour-long and extremely frustrating search, involving a lot of huffy silences periodically punctuated by increasingly snippy comments.  But we return to the question: Why did it have to be moved in the first place?

It’s not just The Grandmother.  This morning, for example, I went on Red Alert because my daughter’s shoes were missing.  I cannot even explain to you the extreme irritation I was experiencing.  First of all, it was approximately six in the morning, and let’s just say I’m not at my best early in the morning.  Second, I have a very rigid routine each school day, and I do not respond well to unexpected changes in this routine.  Clothes are laid out, lunch is packed, the back-pack is by the back door–all the night before.  We never over-sleep and we are never late. 

Well, all of that went right down the crapper this morning.  I went into the laundry room at the appropriate time to get Evelyn’s shoes, except guess what? No shoes.  I stood there for a minute like a complete dunce.  I didn’t even know what to do next.  I was literally paralyzed.  I mean, there really wasn’t anywhere else they could be.

Let me digress here for just a moment to say that people who know me talk about how organized I am and how they wish they were as organized as me.  What they don’t understand is that I have to keep things where they belong–if I don’t, I’m lost.  Yes, I always hang my keys on a hook inside the back door, because if I didn’t, I would never have my keys, ever!

Further digression: I have a friend, and she is a good person that I care deeply about, but she is the most scatterbrained, disorganized person I have ever seen in my life.  She has literally lost whole pairs of her son’s shoes, not to mention the time she lost his book bag.  I swear I am not making this up.  She loses her keys at least once a day.  I would kill myself.  My organization is little more than self-preservation.  It’s survival instinct in its most basic form.

Back to this morning:  no shoes.  The spot where they should be was ominously empty.  I looked in all of the other “shoes places,” though her shoes only ever sit in one place.  Still nothing.  Time was ticking–I could actually hear the seconds falling dead around me.  We went to a soccer game yesterday, and her father brought her in the house, and conceivably removed her shoes.  I had to call him on his cell phone at work and ask where the shoes were.  He hesitated for a moment, then said, “In the diaper bag.”


So I went upstairs and looked in the bag and hallelujah! There they were.  We made it to the bus stop with time to spare.

Still, my whole morning  routine was knocked askew by this blatant disregard of proper shoe placement.  Really, is it that hard to put shoes, or anything for that matter, back where they came from?  This is a battle I fear I will never win.  There are just too many people against me.  Sometimes I accuse them of purposely hiding things to make me think I’m crazy.  Maybe they are just keeping me balanced, so I’m not completely swallowed by my compulsion.  So, in other words, their refusal to stop touching my things and their inability to put things back where they belong are really just acts of love.

Or at least that’s what I keep telling myself. 


Hi, My Name Is…….Um……What Was My Name Again?

This post is related, albeit very indirectly, to another post I wrote about having wanderlust.  One of my points about having wanderlust was that when you live in the same small community all of your life, people have a LOT of preconceived notions about who you are.  If you’re not careful, this can lead to a full-blown identity crisis.

As a mom, this is always in danger of happening anyway.  Our kids define us, but at the same time, they sort of suck the you out of you–it’s a vicious circle, isn’t it?  I think all moms fall victim to that “I’m so-and-so’s mom” thing.  This is partly our own fault, because we allow it to happen–even encourage it at times.  (Unless the kid is doing something bad–then they must belong to someone else.)

I don’t know if I’m hormonal (likely), if my nerves are shot (also likely), or if I’m just losing my mind (most likely), but it seems like this person that used to be me has completely vanished.  I don’t even know her anymore.  I tried to think of the last time someone actually said my first name out loud, and I’m coming up with nothing here, people.  Hopefully my memory is just bad (it is) but I don’t think that’s all it is.  Consider the following:

  • I seldom (never) go to the doctor, but there are a lot of people in this house, so it always seems like somebody is going to the doctor or dentist all the time, and I’m the coordinator.  In other words, I constantly start telephone conversations like this: “Hi, this is Evelyn’s mom,” or “Hi, this is Matt’s wife,” or “Hi, this is Mindy’s sister….” you get the idea.  (I had some dental work done several months ago, and I think the main reason I liked all of them so much is they all called me by my first name.)
  • I have officially reached the age where I am “Mrs. Last Name.”  This bothers me more than anyone could ever, ever understand.  I can correct people and they will keep doing it anyway.  It’s not that I mind having the name or anything, but I have always connected that Mrs. Last Name thing with old people.  Now it’s me.
  • Everyone around knows The Grandfather.  He’s a Baptist minister, so when I say everyone, I literally mean it.  Remember when I said that some of this is partly our own fault? I’m guilty here–if someone doesn’t know me, I say, “I’m The Grandfather’s granddaughter.” They immediately know who I am.  I have more about this, but I’ll get to that in a minute.
  • My sister is almost as well-known as The Grandfather.  When we are out, we run into people who know her, and I don’t have a clue who they are.  Here comes the kicker.  These kind but ultimately  upsetting people say, “Are you Mindy’s mom?”  Now, what goes through my mind is, “Screw you, asshole, I’m three years older than her! WTF?” What I actually say and do is grin really big and say, “No, I’m her sister.” Then she giggles the rest of the day.  I guess at least it’s making her happy. Sigh.
  • People are constantly telling my mom, “You can’t be old enough to have a daughter that old!”  While this is a compliment to my mother (who really doesn’t look old to enough to be my mom) it certainly isn’t a compliment towards me.

What happened here?  My whole life is wrapped up in other people.

Now, before anyone feels compelled to give me a lecture about how fortunate I am to be surrounded by my family and loved ones, and how wonderful it is that they depend on me as much as they do, do me a favor and shut up.  Save your breath.  I know I’m fortunate.  I have the best friends now that I have ever had, and I met them because of my kids.  I always felt sort of pointless, but when my kids were born, that went away.  I believe my job in life is to be a caretaker, and I’m okay with that.  It suits me.

What I don’t understand is how I went in so completely.  People assume a lot about me because of who I’m related to.  Here’s that thing with The Grandfather I was talking about:  A couple of years ago, before I gave up on a lost cause and started homeschooling my son, I was attending our local school board meetings and trying to do things to improve our local schools.  I was all set to give my first of a few impassioned speeches, and my turn was up.  Just as I was about to stand, the board president (against whom I have nothing personal, but who always reminds me vaguely of Patrick Star) said “Aren’t you The Grandfather’s granddaughter?” The eyes of the other members lit up as well.  Now, when my sister was in school, The Grandfather was a terror at all board meetings, demanding handicap accessibility and a million other things.  He would make a point to get quoted in the paper.  Now, The Grandfather is a good man, but very, um, frank (yeah, that’ll have to do) and he just says whatever he thinks.  So immediately all of the people there who knew him sort of braced themselves, and I felt I had a reputation earned for me before they had ever even met me.  I don’t mind too much, because I think, in all honesty, I’ve quite lived up to that reputation, but still……

Isn’t it ironic? We spend our youth trying to “find ourselves” and then we spend our adulthood trying to recover who we were when we were young.  Blah.  I don’t want to be a teenager again–no thanks.  I have no desire to live just for myself, because I think that is a selfish, unhealthy way to live.  What I want is to have someone form an opinion about me that has something to do with who I actually am.

I’ll let you know just as soon as I figure that out.  In the meantime: Hi, my name is Janice.


Do Nothing, Have Fun, and Watch Where You Stick Your Pole

I am a wannabe outsdoorswoman.  I definitely have a love/hate relationship with outside in general.  At least once a year, and usually twice, we go camping at Watoga State Park.  No sissy camper, either–tent camping (in a campground with hot showers, laundry, a picnic table and a metal fire ring–let’s not get too crazy.)  We’ve talked about real, rough, rugged tent camping.  You know, the type where you hike so many miles then pitch a tent and dig a pit toilet.  That’s where the love/hate thing comes in.

I love the idea of nature.  Up where we go is arguably one of the most mountainous, rugged areas of West Virginia.  It is also one of the most beautiful.  There really isn’t any way to describe it.  You can see forever from the tops of those mountains.  It really is “getting away from it all,” and that’s what I needed.  Did I mention my husband and I went alone?  Sometimes the kids go, but I was ready for a break.  A little time to just hang out, wander and do nothing.  Anyone who knows me knows how hard that is for me to do (or not do, in this case.)  We hiked, sat around a camp fire, and talked.  It was a nice vacation for us.  There isn’t a McDonald’s for fifty miles, and that’s just fine by me.

Anyway, back to the love/hate thing.  Like I said, I love the beauty. Here are a few things to support my point:


I could post a million pictures of the views up there, but they don’t do it justice.  What can I say?  We hiked three miles out to an old fire tower that people carved their names into as far back as 1947 (that we could find.)  We saw a bear on that hike.  We sat around until the campground was quiet and talked about when we were kids and what our hopes are for the future.  There is a quiet there that can’t be duplicated or explained.  It’s a reminder of how small we are, how short our time is, and how precious.

It’s also a reminder that there are millions of species of insects in the world, and approximately 85% of them are apparently located in Pocahontas County, West Virginia.  Here comes the hate part.  My least favorite are the Eyeball Gnats.  I’m sure that’s not their scientific name, but it serves.  These are little kamikaze gnats that fly right into your eyeball, where of course they die, but they just keep right on doing it over and over.  Also prevalent in that area are the infamous black flies (that really is their name) that buzz coyly by your ear every ten seconds or so.  They can’t be killed.  One thousand years from now, archaeologists will find the same black fly buzzing around up there that followed me all six miles of the trail we hiked.  Incidentally, he is also quite impervious to swearing.

The place we camp is on the Greenbrier River, although the name should temporarily be changed to the Greenbrier Trickle.  It’s dry up there, and the river is low.  I generally prefer rivers and lakes to swimming pools.  My mild OCD kicks in at swimming pools, what with all the chemicals and pee and various other bodily fluids in one tiny little concentrated place–kind of like swimming in a really big toilet bowl.  So, imagine my shock to witness the following actual occurence as it happened, and which we were fortunate enough to capture on film:


Yes, this is an actual picture of an actual deer peeing in the Greenbrier River.  So even the river isn’t safe.  Then, as if that isn’t enough, here’s another thing I witnessed:


These beetles are copulating on a fencepost.  Nature is nasty.  Pictures don’t lie, folks.

So, some parts of nature aren’t so great.  Also, I’m afraid of the dark.  I try not to drink too much, because if I have to pee in the middle of the night, Matt has to get up and go with me.  He doesn’t complain, but it still sort of sucks.

By far the high point of the trip happened during a short hike on Friday.  We did an easy, two-mile loop trail, and sort of just meandered along and looked around rocks and took pictures of cool trees and stuff like that.  At one point, we came upon a hole in the bank that had been dug out by some wilderness creature.  Now, let me preface this for you.  My husband walks with a fancy little adjustable aluminum hiking stick.  It serves a couple of purposes.  Firstly, it looks cool.  Secondly, it helps him walk.  Thirdly, he can bludgeon a bear if one gets too close.  It also serves another, more obscure purpose which I did not know about until this weekend.

My husband, driven by some primal, testosterone-fueled instinct that dates back to the cavemen, had to take his fancy hiking stick, say, “I wonder what’s in there?” and vigorously jab the stick into the hole.  I can’t criticize him, though.  I, driven by apparent heat-induced brain damage and too much Smirnoff Ice the night before, stood right there beside him and mentally wondered the same thing he voiced aloud.  Well, as it turns out, what was in there was a yellow jacket’s nest.


Have you ever had one of those moments when time sort of slows waaaayyyyyy down?  It doesn’t really stop, it just sort of switches to a frame-by-frame action sequence that allows you to see everything very clearly and have very complex thoughts in the matter of the a fraction of a second.  I saw the bees come out around the pole, and I even had time to think, “Huh, those are bees!”  My husband, on the other hand, had a much more succinct verbalization which I will not repeat here, except to say that it was very cussy and it summed up our situation nicely.  Then the frame-by-frame zipped right up into fast forward.  You know, two slightly squidgey thirty-somethings can move pretty damn fast when the occasion calls for it.  It called for it.  I’ve never been much of a runner, and Matt has a bum knee, but I doubt if an Olympic sprinter could have bested our time.  All I could think of was those cartoons when the bees make themselves into different shapes as they chase their prey en mass, like maybe a bow and arrow, or just the shape of one big, really pissed off bee.

They didn’t follow us, though, and eventually we had to stop running because we were laughing too hard to even breathe.  No stings!  Like I said, pretty impressive, and the highlight of my trip.  From now until the end of time, the hiking stick is officially called the bee stick, just another little bit of vocabulary to be added to the inner language of our marriage.  If you’re married, you know what language I’m talking about–the secret words and phrases, jokes and stories, that don’t mean anything to anyone else, but mean everything to you.

So all in all, it was a great weekend.  I remembered for a little while who I really am, besides a mom and a sister and a wife.  I remembered what it was like to escape a disaster and then laugh about it until I was breathless.  Mostly I remembered who my best friend is.

Oh, and I remembered to shower after I swim.








The White Horse Poops, Too

     There seems to be an awful lot of pressure on people nowadays to find the “perfect” relationship. I always get a kick out of those and Eharmony commercials. Don’t get me wrong–I’m sure some people find wonderful companions that way. My issue is that people spend an awful lot of energy looking for that “perfect” person.

     There are reams of books and articles about how to make a relationship work, how to find that special someone, how to put the spark back in your marriage, you name it. What I think everyone needs is a reality check. Listen up, teenage girls! That gorgeous, wonderful, super-hot guy that you’re screaming and crying for? He throws his clothes on the floor and pees on the toilet seat just like all the rest of them.

     I think that’s the problem (not peeing on the toilet seat, although that’s certainly a problem)–we don’t have any perspective. We think that our relationship should be perfect, but here’s the crux–no relationship is perfect, ever. We keep expecting perfection, and we keep getting let down.  Even the relationship between a mother and her child–the most natural, instinctive relationship there is–is often rife with stress and aggravation. So how can anyone expect a relationship with their partner to ever be anything other than challenging? A relationship is work, folks. Hard work. Something else–that person you think you’re attracted to that seems so much better than the person you’re with? They have a whole laundry list of their own little quirks, too.

     I’m not so old that I don’t remember what that first stage of infatuation was like. It’s always like that, for everyone, and it always fades into reality. The knight on the white horse from the fairy tale may come riding up to sweep you off your feet, but when you get home with him, you’ve got to fix his dinner and he’s got to go clean out the white horse’s stall in the barn.  Maybe that’s why the fairy tale always ended with “They lived happily ever after.” I guess “Cinderella changed into her work clothes and started a load of laundry while the Prince cleaned out the barn”  just doesn’t have the same ring.

     Instead of trying to make our partners perfect (they won’t ever be, by the way) maybe we should focus our energy on lowering our expectations. No, sorry, just kidding. Maybe we should focus our energy on making our relationships better. It’s mostly the little stuff I think, like NOT throwing our clothes on the floor or peeing on the toilet seat (I’m just generalizing, I’m not implying anyone actually does this!)  So give up on perfection (unless you’re me, of course) and go start that laundry. I’ll be in the barn.

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