The Sniff Test

The world is a very smelly place.

Don’t think so?  Just open your refrigerator.

In humans, the sense of smell is far less advanced than that of our animal counterparts.  Sharks, for example, can smell one drop of blood in the water a couple of miles away.

Big deal.  I can smell one rotten potato from the next state.

Interestingly enough, I think women have a much more evolved sense of smell than men.  Here’s a typical scent-related conversation between me and my husband:

Me: “What is that smell?!

Husband: “What smell? I don’t smell anything.

Me: “You can’t smell that? It’s awful!”

And so on.

The kitchen in our home is the repeat offender.  Phantom smells linger in cabinets, in the sink, and, of course, in the refrigerator.  We possibly have the cleanest fridge in the world because at least twice a week all of the drawers get dumped and wiped.

Here’s the crux–there are two super-sniffers in this house.  I consider myself quite skilled, but in truth, I am only an apprentice.  My sniffing skills are nothing compared to the supernatural olfactory ability of……wait for it……The Grandmother.

The Grandmother is a hero of all things scent related.  She can tell our septic tank needs pumped months before any outward signs manifest themselves.  She makes this announcement in the garage.  She will come in from out there and say, “The septic is getting full.  I can smell it in the garage.”  Then me, my son, and my husband will go out, bloodhound like, and sniff around trying to locate the sewer smell which has tipped her off.  The boy and the man give up after only a couple of minutes (wimps) but I stay.  I crouch down in the corner.  I open the storage cabinets.  I lean down under the shelves and ssssnnnnniiiiiiiiifffffffff………and nothing.

I am only the apprentice, after all.

But still, my skills are quite impressive.  One waft of refrigerator air and I can tell you something in there is south of cheese.  Maybe the lettuce has slowly passed from slightly wilted to a moribund state of watery disgusting-ness.  I can smell an apple that is just thinking about rotting.  I can smell the milk crusties around the mouth of the milk jug (yuck!).

This is not the pinnacle of a woman’s sniffing prowess, though.  Even a man could (maybe) smell food that was spoiled. The test comes on food that is still masquerading as good.  That is why, thanks to years of conditioning, I sniff every food item I come into contact with.

If I get a slice of bread, I sniff it.  I sniff the soy milk.  I sniff cheese, and of course I sniff fruits and vegetables.  I have to make sure there aren’t any spoil molecules waiting to jump to life the moment I put the food in my mouth.  I have watched The Grandmother do this all my life, and what can I say?  It seems like a sound practice. (Note: for any of you who may be thinking, “OCD,” allow me to say this–shut up.)

Thinking about this has made me wonder why a man seems so impervious to smell.  The best guess I can come up with is that if a man had sniffing ability equal to a woman, they would be overcome by the smells emanating from their own bodies and would collapse to the floor in a smell-induced coma.  Like I said, that’s just a guess.

Anyway, back to my point.  There is, of course, a dark side to these heightened abilities.  With great power comes great responsibility, right?  It seems like I can always catch a whiff of something unpleasant no matter where we are.  Outside I can smell the neighbors dog pen, which they never ever ever clean.  Even things that should smell good, like perfume, sometimes smell too good.  It’s overpowering.  Oh well.  It’s a gift and a curse.

I guess it’s about time to wrap this up.  I’m in the middle of watching my morning news programs.

That explains the stink.


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Gun Culture

I’m not going to get into the whole parenting issue again, or talk about the laptop shooting dad, but rather an issue that I noticed while reading the many, many comments on my blog and others.

Lots of people were completely put off by the fact that the dad shot the laptop.  A good blogging friend of mine made the comment that to her, all of the validity of his point was lost the moment that dad pulled out the gun.  Several of the other comments were along the same line, and that made me stop to think about my own reaction to the gun.

I really didn’t have one.

That got me thinking.  I don’t think I’m right and the people who were disturbed by the gun were wrong.  I just think we’re different.

Let me get one thing out in the open–I’m not one of those so-called “gun enthusiasts” who hunt ducks with automatic weapons.  I don’t know why someone needs to own an AK47 (or whatever.)  Waiting periods and background checks don’t upset me.  Hunter education and firearm safety are fine ideas as far as I’m concerned.

So no, I’m not a gun nut….er….enthusiast, but I’m also not bothered by guns.  That’s because I live in a gun culture.

I’m in southern West Virginia.  If you think West Virginians are a bunch of gun-toting rednecks in pickup trucks, well, you’d be right.  I could personally shoot a shotgun, rifle, and handgun by the time I was eleven years old.  Most of my family was the same.  I was a tomboy, but even the “girly” girls around here have probably still been exposed to guns often during their lives.  There are guns in our house, and my own son can shoot and handle them well.  It’s just something that I’ve never really thought about.

But I guess to some, the thought of living in a house with numerous firearms is very alarming.  I remember meeting a dad on one of my many trips to Bethesda with my daughter.  He was a nice man from Baltimore, and he was talking about some problems with crime they were having in a neighborhood very near to his own.  We started chatting about where we lived, and about crime, and I mentioned that I could use a handgun and sincerely hoped no one would ever break into our house.  He was surprised that I even had a gun, let alone that I knew how to shoot it.  I told him pretty much every household in our whole region had a gun in it.  He sort of sniffed, and then said in this really snotty voice, “Well, I’m glad I don’t live there.”  I just shrugged.

I thought it was odd that he had just been telling me he was afraid he was basically going to be murdered in his bed, but the thought of having a gun in his house appalled him.

We have guns here.  Our kids see them all the time, and they aren’t impressed.  It’s no big deal.  There’s no mystery or intrigue, just knowledge and a healthy respect.  Of course there are idiots who break the law and do stupid things, but you don’t have to travel all the way to West Virginia to see that.

That’s why when the dad in the video pulled out his pistol and shot up the laptop, I wasn’t shocked.  There were other things in the video that shocked and upset me, but the gun wasn’t one of them.

Like I said, I don’t think I’m right and anyone who feels differently is wrong.  From my point of view, it’s no different from the way anybody reacts to things they aren’t used to.  It’s understandable.  There are habits and mannerisms in other states and cities that I’ve been to that were very off-putting to me.  It’s hard to refrain from passing judgement on people for those things.  But you have to realize that what you see as strange may just be the cultural norm for that person.  Stop and consider the things that you might do that others would think of as strange.  You might be surprised.

I’ll leave you with some advice.  Don’t be too quick to judge someone.  Stop to think about whether or not what they are doing is wrong, or just different.

Oh, and think twice before you break into my house.



If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Shoot ‘Em (or their laptop, anyway)

I have no idea why I continue to watch morning news programs, other than the fact they provide me with excellent blog material.  My personality, which is dubious at any time, is at its lowest ebb early in the morning, so I always end up getting mad.

Usually the source of my a.m. rage is a politician (usually Newt Gingrich) or some stupid commentator (usually Nancy Grace).  However, this morning my ire came from an unusual source: Dr. Nancy Snyderman.

For those of you who don’t know, the usually benign Dr. Snyderman is the medical director for NBC news.  Apparently she’s expanding into the field of social commentary, because she was on a panel with a couple of others this morning offering opinions about various topics.  Right at the end, with like one minute left, Matt Lauer asked what they thought about the dad who shot his daughter’s laptop.

Now, for those of you who haven’t been in touch with the world much lately, I’ll give you the highly abridged version: a teenage girl blocked her parents from Facebook, then wrote a letter on there about how horrible her life was because she had to (gasp!) do chores without pay.  She criticized her mother, father, and used foul language.  Naturally word got back to her dad, and he reacted by posting a video on YouTube.  He read her letter, made a few remarks, and then proceeded to shoot “her” laptop with a pistol.

So anyway, the reaction has been huge and mixed.  With only seconds remaining, Dr. Snyderman said, “CPS should be at their house today.

Lots of arguments have been made about whether this was good parenting, bad parenting, genius, psychotic–I’ve seen it all.  I’ve entertained myself for hours by reading the comments of others.  But nothing, nothing, has got under my skin like this comment by the good doctor.

CPS?  Really?  We could all have a good debate about whether not this dad overreacted.  It’s possible.  Obviously, temper is a genetic issue in that family.  But CPS?  Calling this man a bad father?  He didn’t threaten physical harm to his daughter, or even call her bad names, although if I was in his shoes, I can testify that both of these things would probably cross my mind.

People like Dr. Nancy Synderman (said with no irony whatsoever, I assure you) are what is happening to our kids.  Have you looked around at kids lately?  I don’t want to sound like one of those old people who talk about “kids today,” but really, I think the fact is most kids have a total disconnect with reality.  I know my own son does, and I know it’s my fault.  He, too, feels as though he should receive some compensation for doing chores or helping out around the house.

Here’s a crazy thought for all of you poor kids out there: you do your chores because you are a member of your family, a member of the household, and mostly because your parents told you to!  How can a child be raised to be a contributing member of society when they can’t even be taught to be a contributing member of their own family?  How can they learn selflessness and empathy when they think it’s “unfair” to be asked to take out the garbage?  Guess what?  There doesn’t have to be a reason.  At the end of the day, I’m the parent, and I call the shots.  That’s it.

I’m also not a big preacher of all of that “real world” stuff, because I think kids are exposed more and more to the real world than they should ever be at an early age, but has anyone else noticed that it’s usually the kids that are handed the most that are the most ungrateful?  One of the comments I read about this video even had something to do with destruction of property and respecting a kid’s things.

Destruction of property? I wonder who bought that computer he shot?  I wonder who pays the cell phone bill, or who pays for the Internet service provider?  My son and I had this rather hot and brief discussion a few weeks ago.  He password protected his phone.  I told him to take the password off immediately.  He said, “It’s my phone.”  I said, “Um, actually, I bought it and I pay the bill.  So I think that makes it my phone that I’m allowing you to use.”  There was some huffing and puffing, but guess what?  There is no damn password on the boy’s phone.  And the day he blocks me on Facebook?  That will be the last day he uses Facebook. (I wouldn’t shoot the computer, though–I paid too much for it.)  If he wrote some dirty-mouthed letter on Facebook about me?  I can’t say what I’d do, because I don’t know.  I know I’d be mad.  I’ve seen comments from people who say they don’t get mad at their kids.  They talk reasonably to them, then they go outside and feed their pet unicorn together.  The point is, kids are not entitled to these fancy things–they are a privilege, and privileges have to be earned, and can easily be revoked.  We just have to have the guts to do it.

So do I agree with shooting a computer?  In a word, yes.  I wouldn’t do it personally, but I will never judge the man who did it.  He was fed up.  He wanted to make a strong point, and I think he did.  We are always threatening, “if you don’t do blah blah blah I’m going to blah blah blah.” And we never do.  We never take the phone or the computer.  Or maybe we do, then we give it back the next day.  We lack the courage of our convictions.  It’s wimpy parenting, and while Dr. Snyderman thinks it’s okay, I think it sucks.

Worse, I think it’s ruining our kids.  Maybe somebody should call CPS about that.


Imperfectly Perfect

Some people who know me personally probably wonder how anyone could stand to be married to me.

In all honesty, sometimes I wonder that myself.

I’ve known people in the course of my life who had a lot in common with me.  We had the same taste in music and movies, loved to read, even similar personalities.  According to the commercials for those internet dating sites, that’s just what you should be looking for.  Someone who is matched up with you point for point.  By why on earth would I want to me married to someone like myself?

I get a lot of joy out of self-deprecating humor (obviously), but I know I have some good qualities.  The flip side of that coin is that I have some bad ones that more than make up for the good ones.  I have a notoriously short fuse.  My mouth runs off like a half-broke horse, and sometimes acid drips from my tongue.

I am also one of the world’s great pessimists.

I try to pump myself up sometimes to be an optimist, but it’s hard to change a lifetime of dark thinking.  Bad things that have already happened, and bad things I worry might happen–they lay in my mind like the frost that lingers in the shade hours after the sun is up.

What would happen if I was married to someone who was like me?

Bad things.

Instead, I’m married to a man who is quite different from me.  I won’t say we are total opposites.  That’s not exactly right.  Our core beliefs and goals are the same.  We want the same things out of our lives.  Some of our interests are the same, but a lot of them are different.  Matt isn’t into reading.  Although our taste in music is very similar, my eclectic style tends to stray too far to the left or right to suit him.  He could watch “Full Metal Jacket” over and over and over and over and over and…..well, you get the idea, but I think it should be banned from Planet Earth.

Most importantly, he balances out my dark thinking quite nicely.  He has a very level, calm view of life.  He can lose his temper just like anyone else, but he has much greater control over his mood than me.  Rather than thinking the worst in every situation, he has a “wait and see” type of attitude that calms me down.  He works so well against my pessimism, because he doesn’t try to lie to me or be overly optimistic.  Instead, he takes a “wait and see” attitude that is very effective towards reigning me in.  He has the ability to be supportive without being patronizing, and for me, that’s a wonderful quality.

So all of that got me thinking, and what I decided is that I don’t need someone who is perfectly matched to me on 147 points of compatibility.  What I need–what everybody needs–is someone who loves who they are.  If you think about it, the pieces of a puzzle that go together aren’t the same.  They don’t match each other, but they are made to fit together.


That’s the best any of us can hope for.  And for all of my dark thinking and poor choices, I think I did pretty good on my choice of a husband.  I must have–it’s been fifteen years.  It’s easy to love him, regardless of the little differences that crop up.

As long as I don’t have to watch “Full Metal Jacket.”

My Passions

I love lists.  Lists make me happy.  I like to make them in my blog.  I make lists before I go to the store.  I make a list of things I need to pack for a trip.  I make “to do” lists.  They comfort my mind and help me get my thoughts organized.  Lists are cool.

So imagine my joy at finding a little blog writing prompt which actually asks me to make a list each Monday!  Yay lists!

Northwest Mommy over at the blog Life is Good has a little thing each week called Monday Listicles.  She takes suggestions from selected people each week for a list, and this week the list suggestion came from Jackie over at Not Wifezilla.  It’s about what moves us–what we are passionate about.

My passions:

  • The bodily functions of my people:  I just did a post about this.  I’m not sure how this happened, but the fact remains: the toilet habits of those I care for are a major part of my life.
  • Hand washing:  If everyone would just wash their freakin’ hands more often, and use hand sani when they can’t, the world would be a better place!
  • Selflessness:  this is a big one.  I think most of the world’s problems can be boiled down to people being incredibly selfish.  People only care about how they feel, and how things will affect them.  They never even think about other people, let alone actually do things for them!
  • Education:  I think, as a whole, parents underestimate the importance of education in a child’s life.  An education is one gift you can give a child that can never be taken away.  A good, complete education is invaluable.  You cannot learn too much.  Math geeks should study literature, and vice versa.  We sometimes just assume that our kids  are getting what they need in school, but if you take the time to investigate, I’m afraid you might find that isn’t the case.
  • Handicap Accessibility:  I have no idea why some people think it is okay for a public building to be inaccessible.  To me, this is discrimination.  Period.  Our local school system is notorious for this.  We have a middle school that is completely inaccessible.  In other words, I pay taxes for a building that is inaccessible to two very important members of my family.  No way.
  • Accountability:  No matter what the issue–work, parenting, relationships, the environment–people lack accountability.  No matter what happens, it’s not their fault.  Someone else did something that caused this thing to happen.  I think of it as a “poor me” type of attitude, and it sucks.
  • Disability:  I have very black and white views of what a disabled person is.  I live in an area that is overrun with people who claim to be disabled and get a big check each month.  These same people ride four-wheelers, hunt, climb, run, whatever.  They park in the handicap spot and then prance up and down every single aisle in the store.  This is related to the accountability thing.  These people apparently thing someone owes them something.  WRONG!
  • Animals:  I’m a vegan.  I made this major life decision on April 18th, 2011.  It’s decision that is one part health, one part animal rights, and one part environmental.  I encourage everyone to think about, and maybe try a vegan meal or two.  A little bit goes a long way.
  • Books:  I love reading.  I read every single day.  Every. Single. Day.  I don’t know how people can say, “I don’t read.”  I’ll read anything once.  I’ve read some real duds, and some real gems.  I worship Stephen King, but I’m open to anyone. (Except Nancy Grace.  I must have some standards, after all.)  Reading is a way to relax, and sometimes be in different place than reality.  The only thing to say is that I love a good story.
  • My Family:  That’s it.  More than anything, this is the passion that keeps me going day-to-day.  It’s the only thing I’m uncompromising about.  Before I had kids, I was sort of, well, adrift.  I had no sense of purpose.  When my kids were born, all of that changed.  They counted on me.  They had to have me there, at my best.  Being a mom is the only thing I’ve ever done that had real meaning, and I take it seriously.  Damn straight.


So that’s it.  That’s my first submission to Monday Listicles.  Thanks to Northwest Mommy and Jackie for this week’s thought-provoking topic.


I was talking to a friend of mine this morning who is a teacher, and the conversation turned to the topic of “inclusion.”

Now, for those of you who have not been baptized into the world of special education, allow me to submerge you.  Inclusion is when you take special education children and put them in regular education classrooms.  That, of course, is a an extreme oversimplification, but hopefully you get the idea.

My sister, who turned 32 back in September, started off her public school education in a so-called “special” school.  It was a school made just for special needs kids.  Let me say something very clearly—I am not talking about kids who need extra help in math or reading and go out for a couple of classes a day for special education.  To me, that’s a whole other issue, although I could give you a good argument about why inclusion for those kids is misguided, too.  For now, the kids I’m talking about are kids like my sister, and like my daughter.

Where was I?  Right–Mindy.  She went to a special school.  This school was full of kids with varying levels of disability, but all of them were considered pretty severe.  Lots of kids in wheelchairs, kids who couldn’t talk, kids who were very challenged.  In this school, there were whole classrooms stuffed with physical therapy equipment.  There were therapists on staff all day who stayed at that school.  All day.  The teachers were qualified special education teachers.  The aides were special ed aides.  They knew first aid.  They knew how to deal with seizures, and how to administer Diastat.  Don’t know what that is?  Tough.  I’m not telling.  They worked on skills which hopefully made the kids more functional, and as independent as possible.  For all of our efforts at home, it was an aid at this special school who finally potty trained my sister.  She fit in there.  She wasn’t an object of pity–she was a member of a group.  Those were her peers.

Then one day some bleeding heart politically correct politician decided that these kids were segregated.  It was wrong to keep them separated from the regular ed kids.  So they mainstreamed them.  They put them in regular school.

Okay.  We can deal with that.  Right?


Things started to slip through the cracks.  The funding of special ed programs became much more ambiguous because they were now all mixed in with everything else.  Consider the following: the board of education in our county requests permission to bill WV Medicaid for services provided to my special ed daughter.  In due course they receive reimbursement from WV Medicaid, and they then put that money back into special education.

Hahahahahahahaha!   Whew! That was funny, wasn’t it?  Of course they don’t put the money back into special education.  They put it into the general fund, where it can then be spent on football uniforms for the local high schools. (Or whatever.)  I called the state department of education to see if this was legal, and after one thousand transfers and a bunch of hem hawing, I finally received the most unsurprising answer in the history of the universe: there is no policy dictating what the school boards do with the money they receive back from Medicaid.  So I withdrew my permission for the board to bill my daughters card, and I review all of her charges each year to make sure they don’t.  Because there is a policy which requires my written permission for them to bill Medicaid.  I happily deny that permission each year.

I’m getting off topic a little here (as usual).  My point was inclusion.  I don’t understand it.  Who are we trying to make feel better?  Kids like my daughter get absolutely nothing from a regular ed classroom.  A regular ed teacher is not qualified to teach her.  Instead of learning to be functional, suddenly now it’s important for her to know the days of the week.

Don’t get me wrong.  Knowing the days of the week comes in handy, especially on Friday.  But she’s not there yet.  She may never be there.  And I need her to have a teacher who understands that.  What I don’t need for her is a babysitter.

Because that’s what it boils down to.  That’s what happens to severely challenged kids in the regular ed environment.  They are just there.  People say it helps the other kids be more accepting.  Great.  Guess what?  It’s not my daughter’s responsibility to teach other kids to be accepting.  That’s their parent’s job.  Everyone always loved my sister, and she got a standing ovation on her graduation day, but so what?  Everyone liked her, sure, but she was still left out of everything.  Why?  Because she had no peers there.  There was one other kid with her, and thank goodness he was there, or she would have been completely alone.  We all need to feel like we belong, like there are others who are like us and understand a little what it’s like to be us.  Why should we take that away from special ed kids just to make everyone else feel good about themselves?

As far as parents who support inclusion, I don’t know what to think about them.  My best opinion is that they think maybe their special ed kid will be able to learn more in that environment.  My worst opinion is that they are trying to convince themselves that their kid is like everyone else.  Here’s the bad news: your kid is NOT like everyone else.  They don’t fit in.  Those regular ed kids are NOT their peers, and that will never change, even if they sit in that regular ed classroom forever.

My daughter is special, and she requires special education–all day, every day.  She has to have her diaper changed.  Is the regular teacher going to take a break from her teaching to do that?  The county doesn’t like having a designated aid for a special ed student, so what other option is there?

Let her go to music class or gym with everyone else if it makes everyone happy, but she has no business in a regular ed classroom.  Period.  I’m her mother.  I’m not worried about being politically correct–I’m worried about what’s best for her.

***Note:  my daughter happens to be in a very good educational situation right now.  However, I’m not going to go into it.  I have my reasons.  Trust me.  I’m just using her as an example.  That’s the price of being my kid, I guess.

Potty Talk

Sometimes, I wonder what happened to my life.

As a younger person, I had a lot of big ideas and dreams.  My interests were varied and many.  As time has passed and my responsibilities have changed, I find that my focus in life is a bit more, well, focused. 

Somehow, my whole life seems to revolve around the toilet.  Specifically, it swirls  (ha ha, swirls, get it?) around the people in my life using the toilet.  For example, my daughter is disabled, and she is not potty trained.  This is a major goal in my life.  I mean, my daughter using the toilet has taken the place of stuff like global warming and world peace up there on the list of priorities.  She likes to sit on her potty chair, but she doesn’t actually do anything.

*****An aside:  my son came into the kitchen after watching some show where the mother was a secret agent, and he asked me, “Mom, are you a secret agent?” I quipped “Yes–my code name is Buttwiper One.”  Sadly, he is an almost-teenager, and my razor-sharp wit was wasted on him.  All I got were rolled eyes and a head shake.  Kids.*****

Also, I take care of my sister, who is also disabled and in a wheelchair.  She does use the toilet, but she has to be put on there (by me), and just lately she’s been having a little trouble, so fifty times a day I ask her, “Do you need to use the bathroom?”  Before we leave to go anywhere, we have to wait for her to use the bathroom.  Plus I have to make sure my daughter has a fresh diaper on.  Oh, and I need to make sure the aging dog has been out to relieve himself before we leave, and when we get up, and before we go to bed at night.

Oh, and I check my daughter through the night to make sure she isn’t laying in a wet diaper.

To add to the mix, The Grandfather had some serious trouble with a UTI last year.  Not to be overly dramatic, but he was probably as near to death as he’s ever been.  Anyway, I find myself slightly preoccupied with whether or not he is able to pee.  I don’t actually have the nerve to ask, but I keep a sharp eye on his habits.

That’s another thing.  I’m a lurker.  I lurk outside the bathroom door a lot.  Both my sister and my daughter are quite distracted by anyone hanging around the bathroom while they are, you know, in there, so I lurk.  I’m quite sneaky.  I slip my house shoes off at the end of the hall so the swisssht swisssht doesn’t betray my clandestine mission.  I carefully avoid the creaky board about halfway down, then stand there, outside the door, breathing carefully through my mouth so my slight sinus troubles don’t betray me.

It’s about this time that the realization hits me.  What happened to me?  How did my life come to this?  I can see that high-school-senior-version of myself on that stupid video we made, and I can vaguely remember all of the stupid things I said I would be doing when I was old.  Never once do I remember saying I would be obsessed with other people’s bathroom habits.

Oh well.  What can I say?  To toss out a cliché, it’s a dirty job but somebody has to do it.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to pee.

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