Life in Bits

Janiel Miller - Accidental Stay At Home Mom

Creepy Cemeteries of Life

Dear People. This is an old Halloween article that I unpublished for some reason, and then found again yesterday. I liked it and thought, what the heck? I’ll throw it back up there. I couldn’t remember why I unpublished it anyway. So I made it public again. But I THOUGHT it would go back up where it originally went up: in the October 2013 posts. Nay. It went up today. In bright, lovely April. Eh. I’m too lazy to move it. So enjoy the weirdly unseasonable Cemetery Post. :) )

You know what my town needs? A good old fashioned creepy cemetery. Oh, I know we have a cemetery. It’s lovely, and historic, and there is a pageant held in it every year where they sell honey-taffy, throw pottery, give wagon rides, invite mountain men, and perform little plays (been in one, myself).

People. This is much too cheerful. Don’t get me wrong: I love the Cemetery Pageant. It’s all evocative and small town. The rolling hills and great old trees make the whole thing perfectly lovely.

 But dudes. It’s Halloween month. Who wants perfectly lovely?

When I was a kid in Maryland we had on our street a full-blown bonafide creepy cemetery. It must have been there long before most of the houses were. Like, since the days of Clear-the-Land-to-Build-a-Cabin. This thing was tucked into a corner and surrounded by wrought iron fencing; the kind whose slats ended in fleur-de-lis points and were covered in lichen and rust spots. Headstones were lopsided and crowded between trees that were so big and gnarly they’d probably survived the Flood.

It even came with a scary caretaker — like the Scooby-Doo episodes I used to watch — who would stand there in grass up to his shins, leaning on a spiky old rake and glaring his bad-guy eyes at us while we scurried past. (‘cuz, baby, you didn’t walk by that place.)

The thing was, even though there were never any news vehicles or flashing lights pulled up alongside that little graveyard indicating foul-play by Mr. Creepy Mausoleum Man, you knew by the way he wore his suspendered pants that he had a past. And that made the whole place the stuff of delicious childhood fantasy and whispered rumors.

Like this one from my friend Crystal, spoken with eyes widened in horror: “The other day I was walking to school, and I saw that cemetery man standing in the grass burning leaves. He was holding a shovel and was laughing like this, *insert maniacal laugh with appropriate insane facial expression*.  Well I don’t think it was leaves he was burning!” *gasps and quiet screams from the rest of us*

That cemetery totally did its job. And I kind of feel that we need one like it here. Every town does. Without it, what do kids have to imagine on dark October nights? I mean, dark October nights when their parents have grounded them from media? What stories will they pass around, or dark tales will they write, without old rotted trees to scrape boney fingers across the shoulders of unsuspecting passers-by? What do teenagers do without a “knocking tombstone” with which to scare the honeybees out of dates, creating excuses to walk with protective arms around shoulders — not that my husband ever did this.

I say we petition the city to add some creepy to this town. At least temporarily. And if that doesn’t work, then we should all go to the library and check out copies of Neal Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book to read before Halloween. We can meet at the Cemetery and swap taffy and tales that shiver our timbers right to the ground.

You bring the cider.

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How to Be an April Fool

Janiel's Elegant Clothing Cropped

I don’t know about you, but I go to the Internet in order to learn things (like how some smartypantses have now started referring to it as the “Interwebs.” A word  I think they made up to make the rest of us feel like we missed something). I like finding out how things work, searching for new recipes, learning about history, keeping up with family and friends. Pretty normal stuff, yeah?

But it seems like what once used to be a nice friendly lark in the park of knowledge and socialization, has become a furtive scurry through alleys crawling with in-my-face marketing and shrieks about my happiness. So I installed Adblocker on my computer in order to blast all that annoying sludge from before my eyeballs. And it worked. Huzzah! But guess what? Now that stuff has started ripping through my Facebook feed. And into my Pinterest stream. And in my search results. It’s like those scenes in horror movies where the victim has managed to get away from the killer tomatoes and has herself locked in a very solid looking room, and we’re given a chance to relax and think the worst is over, when all of a sudden . . . dun! dun! duunnnn! Pasta sauce begins oozing beneath the door . . . .

Sigh. What’s a sentient being to do? I mean, do they think we don’t see what they did there? Do they think we are all April-fools?! (See how cleverly I worked my title in to my text? Shazayum! I should write ad copy) WAIT! THAT’S IT! That is how I shall fight the travesty that is Internet advertising! Rewrite the copy for all the silly ads that insist on plastering themselves to my screen. Like this (and these are from real ads on my real feeds): 

How to prevent — and Even Erase! — Stretch Marks!

  1. Well, there’s the whole Don’t Get Pregnant thing …
  2. Sandpaper
  3. Janiel’s Home Airbrushing Kit! Yours for 3 easy payments of $99.99! Plus shipping and handling! (Note: Janiel’s Home Airbrushing Kit may cause blindness, depression, insomnia, or halitosis. See a specialist before attempting to airbrush yourself.)

 

 How To Keep Mascara From Running!

  1. Don’t give it any campaign funding.
  2. Hahahahahahaha! *sniff*
  3. Okay, okay. Um. Hello? Waterproof?

 

How to Lose Weight and Still Eat What You Want! (I Mean LOOK at This Picture of Oprah’s Head Photoshopped Onto Beyoncé’s Body! If THAT Doesn’t Convince You, NOTHING Will!)

  1. Sugar is bad. Fat is bad. Fun is bad. Ergo, cut out all carbs and sugar from your diet! That’s right! Just remove the fruits, milk, butter — anything that comes out of a cow or chicken, really — juice, soda, candy, cereal — because GRAINS ARE FROM SATAN! — meats, farmed fish (because there are no Omega 3′s in those), fresh fish (because there is mercury in those), popcorn, ketchup and water. Do that, and baby, you will LOSE, LOSE, LOSE!
  2. AND! Here’s the best part! We don’t want you to deprive yourself! Deprivation is bad! You can still have the snacks you love! Every! Single! One! As long as you time it with the lunar calendar and make sure your cake is made with wheat that grew at a 45 degree angle from a northern sun in the eastern hemisphere. PS – you should balance the sugar in your recipes with equal parts bee’s wax and chalk dust to absorb the free radicals that are probably in there.
  3. All right.  Make it easy on yourself. Buy Janiel’s Awesome-y Pre-Packaged Happy Time Weight Loss Meals! We make it easy for you! Just give us your credit card number and we’ll drop food on your doorstep every day. Enough for that day. And hey! You can call us to cancel if you don’t like it. Just don’t call Mondays through Fridays. Or on weekends.

 

How To Look Younger in 26 Steps!

  1. Honey, if it takes that many steps, it’s too late.

How To Manage Facial Hair

  1. Again, if you have to hire an FHM (Facial Hair Manager), then, it’s too late.
  2. On the other hand, you can always cornrow it.

 

How a 45-Year-Old Mother of 3 Sets of Triplets Lost 175 Pounds, Had Massive Liposuction and Skin Removal Procedures, Received Silicon Ab Implants, a Butt Lift, and Full-bodied Skin Resurfacing with a Top-Coat of Putty, And Now Looks Like the 18-Year-Old in This Picture! Ripped Like a Pair of Destroyed Jeans, Baby! — All Using Products You Have in Your Home!

  1. I just told you how. Up there ↑. Can’t you read? Jeesh. Fine. Buy Janiel’s Home Plastic Surgery Kit, for 3 Easy Payments of $999.99.

 

So. Shout-out to one of my smart friends: Someone please, please, write an ap that blocks ALL marketing from showing up on our home computers.

Except ads for my blogpostsWhich You Can Read From the Comfort of Your Cubicle! For the Eensy Fee of $99.99. Come on. Everybody’s doing it. Whatsamatter, are ya chicken? It’ll change my your life.

 

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Back Pain? It Might Be Your MASSEUSE.

Dear People Who Have Lower Backs:

Are you tired of back pain? Of being unable to pick up a piece of lint without throwing your back out the window? Of having to make up stories about how you got your injury while rescuing an endangered Rocky Mountain South China Sea Manatee because you’re too embarrassed to say it was all about the lint? Are you dead sick of having your hips fall down around your ankles every time a song from the ’80s comes on the radio and you sort of lose yourself in an MC Hammer moment?

WELL. I have a solution for you: Deep Tissue Massage. Also known as The Wrecking Ball, The Elbow of Death, or Let-Me-Just-Take-A-Jack-Hammer-To-That-Skinny-Little-Glute-Muscle-of-Yours.

Yeah. I hurt my  back last week. I’ve hurt my back last week for the past twelve years. But this time it’s hit critical mass. Turns out I have boatloads of scar tissue all through my buttal region from years of dancing and running on a wonky hip and uneven legs, and then throwing my back out during pregnancy. And now all that mess has thrown its hands up in disgust and is just sitting there, forming knots around itself and preventing my sacrum from remaining in the upright and locked position.

I’ve been to doctors, sports therapists, physical therapists, chiropractors — and they’ve all helped. I’ve got some new medical consultants who are keeping me mobile. However, it is time my friends for something new. Something alarming. Something butt-aclysmic.

Deep. Tissue. Massage.

That’s what I said.

In fact, it is time for this thing yesterday. Which is when I went and had it done. To my very person. Oh. Em. Gosh. Have you had deep tissue massage? I have. And what I had before wasn’t this, baby. What I had before was to this massage as a sneeze is to an atomic blast. Not. The Same.

I knew I was in trouble when I hobbled in and was greeted by someone much smaller than I. Smaller vertically. Horizontally, this woman had curves where I have only ever had corners. She was more womanly than I’ve  been in my entire life, including pregnancies. And the curves, I would come to quickly find out, were the curves of straight-up muscle mass. Straight. Up. Deltoids the size of hams, traps like steel bands, and biceps the size of my head.

I was going to die.

But hey. If I was going to die, I should get on with it. So I did. I voluntarily (and quickly, and with tremendous self-consciousness, as my body carries the carnage of four childbirths along with nearly fifty years) disrobed and scuttled myself between the two little sheets on the massage table. Then I lay there, face in the towel-wrapped-face-holder-thingie, listening to a funky celtic playlist that did not make me feel any less naked and ready to be body-slammed by a female Dwayne (The Rock) Johnson mini-me.

After a few minutes, during which I began to relax and tell myself that it probably wasn’t going to be that bad, my macerator – I MEAN MASSEUSE — walked in, asked if I was ready, slathered her hands with lotion, and attacked. Oh, she started out benignly enough, just rubbing my back, lulling me into a false security. Predatory creatures do that, you know. And right when I was about to slip into a sort of fluffy-unicorn-and-skittles state of bliss,

BAYum!

Whoa! What was that?

“Oh, just a little knot on your ribcage. I’m going to have to work it out. This might hurt a little.”

ZING!

OWWW-FREAKITY-OWWW!

“Yep. You’ve got a lot of scar tissue down here on your glutes too, where the psoas comes across. I’ll just dig in a bit. There may be some agony . . . “

Jeesh! Swearword! SWeArwOrd! SwEaRwoRd! (As I have established, I don’t swear. At least not out loud. Most of the time. So this was in my head.  And it was probably just “crap!” No, for reals.)

But I couldn’t let on that it hurt so much. I mean, what was the norm? Did people usually scream during deep tissue massage? Was I just a wimp? Was wrenching the towel-wrapped-face-holder-thingie from its post and using it to knock the knees from beneath this woman an appropriate response? Who knew?

So instead I raised a finger and said, “Um, excuse me. Is this (OW) level of discomfort (AARGG) normal? (YEEOWCHIEWOOWOO)”

“Oh. Is this too much? I could drill in a little less if you want me to.”

“Um. Yes. Maybe that would be good.”

“Right.”

Annnnnd . . . . *cricket* Was she drilling in less? I couldn’t tell. In fact, I was pretty sure that if she didn’t hurry up and drill less she was going to strike oil.

That’s when I began to sing: “OWWWWW WHAT A BEAUTIFUL MORRRRNIIIINGGGG! OWWWW WHAT THE CRAP ARE YOU DOOINNNGG BACK THERRRRRRE?” You know, from Oklahoma?

Well. That was embarrassing. But she was nice about it. As she carefully pried my gluteus minimus from from the bone and made an origami crane out of it, she explained that most people who come in for deep tissue massage make noise. In fact, often there is so much noise that when she walks out of the chamber to give her clients a chance to recover and see if their clothes still fit, the entire office is staring at her, round-eyed over what that had sounded like. But I was fine. I was hardly making any noise at all.

As little furry animals do when they know they are near death. They just . . . submit . . .

Finally when we got to the end, and I was this close to repeatedly slamming my hand down on the table and crying like a WWF fighter, she said, “Well, we’re almost done. Next time maybe we’ll use a scraper. That’ll really clear all this scar tissue out of there.”

Next time? Scraper? NEXT TIME?!

Right. If it involves something called a “scraper,” which I don’t even want to know what that is, I ain’t showing up. Me and my scar tissue? We are going to make friends. We are going to start going to movies together and getting drunk on Advil Liquigels and not letting anything remotely resembling a “scraper” anywhere near us. The only “deep-tissue” anybody is going to access around me is the kind that comes in a box and has a drop of lotion added to it. And even that is questionable. A drop of lotion is how my little Rock-woman started the whole thing.

In fairness, I will say that I am walking better since that twisted experience. And I am in a lot less pain. But my face has looked like this ever since, and I can’t get it to stop:

 

100_0636

 

So I’m thinking . . . no “next time.” I’ll keep you posted, though. Especially about changes in my face. 

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What Makes You Happy?

Planetary Lizz 2

Do you know what it takes to make my littlest dude happy? French fries. Something he never gets except during the winter Solstice because I don't believe in deep fried things. Unless they are sweet potatoes. I heart me some gooood sweet potato fries. But my LD doesn't. He only likes the French kind. So, sadly, he is deprived. (To be fair, I only eat sweet potato fries on the summer Solstice. I parent by example. Also by my love of saying the word "Solstice.")

Do you know what it takes to make my Middle Girl happy? Puppies. Plus cute little old people and adorable children. The other day I told her the story of my older brother finding out what the word "Infinity" meant. He was four years old. Someone had said the word "Infinity" in my bro's presence and he ran and asked my mom about it. She explained "going on forever and ever" to him as best she could. He nodded, then wandered off to think about it. He thought. And he thought. At the end of the day he came up to my mom with tears on his cheeks and said, "I hate 'finity!"

Awwww. Seriously. My Middle Girl died of "awww-ness" for the rest of the day.

My older two kids have happy-inducing favorite things that are about as simple as the younger two. My husband . . . well now. We've pretty much established that there's something wrong with that boy. Dude runs hundred-mile races and has installed the Jolly Green Giant's clothesline up above my house. Calls it a "HAM" radio antenna. Right. Like pigs talk on radios. (Oooh, so many jokes that I'm going to let go.) My huz doesn't count in this survey.

But me? I count. And I will tell you that I'm figuring out something by watching my little family-people. (Except my husband, who, as I mentioned, is slightly whacked. I say that with love.) Happiness can be very simple. It doesn't need to be complex. It doesn't need to be something elusive that I'm constantly searching for. It doesn't need to be something epically exciting, or even something new. Happiness is. It simply is. It's all around us, in every part of our lives. We have it, we just have to notice it.

Except that you can't notice anything if you are ripping along at 90 miles per hour. Have you ever tried that? Watched passing traffic and tried to pick out small details as the cars blow past? I tried that once. Went to the Indy 500 timed trials. Those cars were screaming by at 200+ miles per hour. If I tried to follow them I got eyestrain. If I just sat there and let them pass in front of me, they were reduced to race car colored smears. If I wanted to actually see any detail on those vehicles, they were going to have to slow the heck down. 

Same with life. If we want to see the happy, we've got to slow down enough to get it in focus. There's a reason people say you've gotta "stop, and smell the roses." How you gonna wave your nostrils around above those buds if you ripped past them 10 minutes ago? You're not. And as long as you're not, you'll fail to notice the nuance in their color too.

Notice the good stuff. The little stuff: the weather, the timing of things, the people around you, your health, parts of your body that still work, the ways in which you've been able to use your talents to bless yourself and others–even if you have never been famous. Notice the moments of peace and grab onto them so you can really wade in and enjoy them. Lock onto the good in life. It will grow.

And then, you'll wonder why you ever thought you were unhappy. Believe me, this is the best way to deal with life's distresses. I spent a LOT of years not doing this. Doing this works better. 

Lecture over. And just so you know, I'm saying all of this because I needed to hear it today.

Thanks! As you were.

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Valentine’s Pain Management

Cherub delicate

My husband once had this professor who was a genius at pain control. Like, you could stick a needle the size of a straw into the nerve center of his arm and he’d just sit there. With fire shooting out of his fingertips that he couldn’t feel. Said it had to do with discipline of the mind. You know, staying calm and asking yourself, “What is pain, really? It’s just a sensation. It could be coldness. Or hotness. Or just a little pinch.” (Yeah. Like when doctors say, “This will pinch a little”? That kind of pinch?)

So, okay. I tried this the other day when I completely slammed my pinkie toe against the bottom corner of the bench my mother-in-law painted that sits in my kitchen. Swear.Word. No, that’s what I actually said because I don’t swear “Oh Swearword!” Then, with my pinkie toe throbbing, filling up with blood, and slowly turning purple, I remembered my husband’s professor, and I said to myself, “This doesn’t hurt. What is pain, really? Is it just coldness? Or hotness? Or freaking body ripping misery like my whole entire leg is going to fall off and I’d rather give birth on Pitocin with no epidural than slam my pinkie toe on that swearwordy bench again! My mother-in-law is trying to kill me! How stupid is my husband for giving me that mother-in-law so she could give me that bench?!”

Yeah. It didn’t work.

But I thought, in honor of Valentine’s Day, that I’d give it another shot. Relationships are hard. I mean, yeah. They’re full of joy and fulfillment and blah blah. But also, they’re hard. You have to give things up for the other person, like: leaving your hair in the shower when you’re done. You can’t do that. Or growing your winter-leg-coat instead of shaving once the temperature drops. You totally can’t do that either.

When you’re in a relationship, disciplining your emotions is paramount to success. And maybe the best way to be able to do that for your significant other is by using these pain-management techniques taught by Professor NerveLessNess. i.e.:

“Hi. What’s that I smell? Is that dinner? Smells weird. Is it liver?”

(Okay. A little irritating. My meatloaf does not smell like liver. But . . .  what is irritation? Just a sensation. Like a tiny flame on the end of a stick. No big deal.)

“And by the way, I didn’t have time to stop by the store for the cream cheese you needed. So when I was at the gas station I picked up some cheese whiz. Want a sip of my slushie?”

(Juuuust a tiny flame. Oops, now it’s caught the other twig on fire. That’s okay. I can blow it out. Blow. Blow. Blowhard.)

“And hey, I actually don’t have time to stay for dinner because I have a club meeting I forgot to tell you about. So, see you! Kiss the kids goodnight for me.”

UTAH   A kitchen mysteriously burned to the ground this evening around dinner time. No one was hurt, since one of the two residents was being chased down the street in his Honda Civic by the other, who was on foot. And quite frankly, was keeping up.

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Happy 2014 Dears! Don’t Put Yourselves Out.

Well my friends, it's 2014. A brand spanking new year, sitting there like a blank sheet of paper waiting for us to fill it all up. New ideas, new plots, new plans. But above all, new goals. 

Yeah.

Who the heck's idea was it for us to set a rack of guilt-inducing goals every blessed new year? I'd like to speak with that bright young thing. You know it had to be a bright young thing, because us slightly smudged old things don't think that way. We've been through the goal posts a few times and have learned to skulk around the edges of life trying not to be noticed. I mean, we're not stupid. As a religious person, I no longer pray to gain fine new attributes in life. I've lived what happens when you do that. Nope. I pray to learn from other peoples'​  lives. And trials. And "goals." It's so much easier that way.

Besides, if I just hang back and don't set any goals for the new year, then I already have a fresh unused set for the next year, and don't need to bother with it at all. I can just drink my alcohol-free eggless eggnog and watch the Times Square ball drop in peace. My psyche feels so much better that way.

And if it doesn't, if I start to feel the pressure of all the gleaming lives being lived around me, I have another technique: portable New Year's goal sheets. I carry a fat stack of them loosely in my purse so they can be dropped at opportune moments in front of people whose lives seem more on track than mine. Then I can titter and say, "Oops! I've dropped my New Year's resolutions again! I just can't seem to keep track of them all. I guess I'll need to get a trailer hitch for my purse so I can keep them with me at all times. Whoopsie! There goes my cultural refinement folder containing my recipe for Squid Ink Soufflé, along with instructions for how to milk a Caspian Sea Squid. Wouldn't want to lose that! The President would be so disappointed!"

Yeah. I totally got this. Happy Old Year, my friends! And if you just can't live without goals, call me. I've got a few extras hanging off the back of my cross-shoulder bag in their own little Airstream. You're welcome to a few.

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Book Review: Sara B. Larson’s “Defy”

I oughta write a book. 

Have you ever thought that? I have thought it so often that a few years ago I enrolled in a writing class offered by our local Arts Council. I met many incredibly talented people in that class, all of whom should write a book.

Well, it turns out that not only have most of them written books, a few of them have even gotten publishing deals. One of them a quite spectacular deal with Scholastic. Sara B. Larson, of My-Writing-Class-That-Sara-Came-To-And-We-Totally-Bonded fame, has got a rather amazing first book coming out on January 7th, 2014. The book: Defy. The genre: Young Adult High Fantasy. The enjoyment factor:  SUTLRBIHTKWHN* (*Stayed Up Too Late Reading Because I Had To Know What Happened Next). Grade for effort: about a billion. Because anyone who lives through the incredibly hard process of writing a book, not to mention pitching and selling it, deserves that many points. Plus free Ben and Jerry’s for life.

Sara’s book was a joy for me to read. And while I’m sure I’ve lost some objectivity to my fondness of its author, I think you’d like the book too and should run out and buy a few copies for stocking stuffers. (Late stuffers, since Defy releases in January.) All providing you enjoy Young Adult fiction with booty-kicking female protags pulling a Mulan and fighting with the boys in the King’s army–which, yeah!. Is the book perfect?. Well, not many are. But there is a lot to like about Defy, so I’m cool with that.

First the story. To quote the book-blurb: “Alexa Hollen is a fighter. Forced to disguise herself as a boy and serve in the king’s army, Alex uses her quick wit and fierce sword-fighting skills to earn a spot on the elite prince’s guard. But when a powerful sorcerer sneaks into the palace in the dead of night, even Alex, who is virtually unbeatable, can’t prevent him from abducting her, her fellow guard and friend Rylan, and Prince Damian, taking them through the treacherous wilds of the jungle and deep into enemy territory.” 

See? Cool. There is a love-triangle. And yeah, that’s sort of become the characteristic du jour of YA books. But what I admire here is that the romance — which is sweet and a big part of the book – doesn’t completely hijack it like most books in this genre with this plot device. There’s still plenty of plot to go around, what with war, evil sorcerers, personal secrets, desperate people, and narsty evil kings. If triangles aren’t your thing, or YA romance ain’t, there’s plenty of other stuff going on to keep you turning the pages. Including some difficult details that keep the book just gritty enough that you don’t get comfy in your glittery YA cloud. That works for me.

And then there’s the writing: you don’t notice it. No, no, this is a compliment. When writing reaches out and slaps my frontal lobe, I am taken out of the story. I don’t love that. But when writing is seamless enough that I don’t think about the words I’m cruising through, that’s like a can of root beer you stick in the freezer just long enough to go slushy on a very hot day: ahhhh.

As I said, Defy isn’t perfect. The romance does get a bit palpitate-y at times, but this is YA. Also, when there are little details the author doesn’t address — like no one noticing that Alex never shaves, or that “he” doesn’t, erm, relieve himself the way the other guards do– I get a bit OCD about it and want it fixed. But I can live with all of this. Sara has written an intriguing first book that I kept picking back up, despite my total Christmas-prep-hysteria. I hope all the characters grow even more fully into the shoes their author has started sewing for them. And I look forward to the next book. Hope you do too!

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I Would Have Saved Life as We Know it Had I been Aboard the Mayflower. Like Totally.

overeat

I should have been a pilgrim. But not the regular kind that arrived half starved and scurvyfied aboard the Mayflower, and then wobbled ashore so they could, according to our venerable Wikipedia, "attend to long-deferred personal hygiene."

Um, no. But let's just pause to think about that for a minute. A hundred and two men and women cork-bobbing around the Atlantic for sixty-five days before making landfall. You'd think, in all that time surrounded by all that water, they'd have been inspired to take a dip or two. Swab the ol' armpits. Batten down the hair-balls. But apparently not. 

And we wonder why the locals were less than thrilled to stand downwind of them folk?

No, no. I couldn't have been a firstie to this country. I'd have to have arrived with a later group. Say, on the June or Julyflower. Maybe even the Septemberflower. After everything had already been beaten into submission … er … civilized. You know, buildings built. A/C, central heating, and a direct connection to BBC America established. I should have been one of those pilgrims. Because I totally have the whole Put-Up-Food-For-the-Winter thing down, and those people would not have starved if I had been there.

First of all, I know how to can stuff. You know, peaches, pears, applesauce. Plums that start out as jelly but never seem to hit soft-ball stage so I cook them until they hit baseball stage then use them as a doorstop.  A friend of mine taught me ages ago.

My first ever batch of peachy O'Henrys in a bottle? Perfect. Blemish-free. Dandelion-yellow. And they stayed that way for twenty years. Because I accidentally misunderstood and added 5 metric tons of citric acid to each quart instead of just a few teaspoons to the entire batch. So those peaches might have tasted like oranges, but they would have lasted the Pilgrims all winter. And I mean ALL of the winters. I'm pretty sure that in gratitude, those people would have named a peach variety after me: the Martha Purity Stewart Miller peach. You know, because Puritans had names like "Purity," and I would have been the Martha Stewart of … never mind.

And then there's salsa. You know Nathaniel Hawthorne's Hester Prynne and Arty Dimsdale had salsa in their diet. There wouldn't have been a book without it. Well salsa and me? We're just like this. And none of those Plymouth people would have gotten sick off of my chips and dip, because I boil the living shortcake out of the stuff until it's dead shortcake. And there ain't one blessed organism — bacterial or otherwise — within ten feet of those perfectly sealed Kerr jars. Pilgrims eating my food would have lived forever. Maybe a bit petrified, but still. Forever. And then this country would have had a population problem much earlier than now. Which would have led to global warming much earlier, leading to the end of the world much earlier, and all of our problems would have been zapped before man hit the moon. That, my friends, is Nobel Peace Prize material.

So, I guess this month, as our nation is thinking about its blessings and getting ready to mix up batches of Foods the Wampanoags Never Showed Us How To Make, we should consider whether we really ought to be commemorating a food party that didn't originate with me. I kind of think we owe me a moment of silence for having overlooked the contributions I would have made to our national peace and freedom if I had been born four hundred years ago. And then had seasicked myself across the ocean aboard the Octoberflower, and introduced Squanto and Pocahontas to glow-in-the-dark apple chutney.

Why don't we start right here, right now? Just communicate your gratitude to me via a moment of silence. It can be simple or complex. Feel free to publish it in my comments for all not to hear. Thank you.

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I’m Ready for My Closeup, Mr. DeMirror

Ah youth. Don't you just want to slap it sometimes? I was with some much younger people the other day and they were going on about this weird thing they've seen in people's homes and doctor's offices, and wondering what the heck a person could possibly want with it. I'm sure you've seen one before too. You know, those round mirrors that sit at the end of extender arms and are mounted on walls. Often bathroom walls. The mirrors with magnification so massive you could squeegee each individual pore on your face and cornrow your nose hairs if you wanted to?

Yeah. My sweet young friends wanted to know what in the world anyone would ever use a magni-mirror for. I mean, unless they were a doctor. (Which, honestly, what the heck do doctors use them for?)

Well, honeys. I've got news for you. We of the Over-45 set need Super Magnifying Mirrors in our lives. It's the only way we can find our eyeballs to put our contact lenses into. And most important, they allow us to use our mascara wands to get mascara onto our actual eyelashes instead of just repeatedly skewering our corneas with them. Because we simply cannot see our blinking faces in a regular mirror anymore.

Without magnification, my makeup is a total crapshoot. And given that I'm not willing to acknowledge my bifocally-impaired vision yet, I have walked out of my bathroom several mornings sans eyebrows. Yep. On more than one occasion I've Whoopie-Goldberged myself all over this town without realizing it until I managed to catch my reflection in a car window. (Which brings up the point that I obviously have no friends.)  It would be fine if my brow hairs weren't naturally pale golden-auburn and there was less than a single inch between each hair. But they are and there isn't. So I need my makeup to actually reach my brows. Without it, I look like a cracked-out and slightly squinty Teletubbie.

Twenty years ago I was never going to grow up to be this person. You won't plan on it either. So I am putting out a public service announcement for your benefit: DO NOT MAKE FUN OF THE MAGNI-MIRROR, LEST KARMA SLAP YOU UPSIDE THE HEAD AND YOU WAKE UP ONE MORNING IN THE NOT SO DISTANT FUTURE TO FIND THAT YOUR EYEBROWS, ALONG WITH YOUR CLOSE-RANGE VISION, HAVE GONE TO VISIT FRIDA KAHLO AND NEVER PLAN TO RETURN. Then it will be you listening to nubile-naifs going on about orthopedic contact lenses, walk-in bathtubs, clapper key rings, and a sinister little item called "The Gripper."

My friends, respect the Mirror. And when your day comes, the Mirror shall respect you.

I have no idea what that means. Wanna go shopping? 

 

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Government Shutdown: The Pattern for a Happy Life

Do you know who just impresses the living shortcake out of me? The United States Government. I mean look at them! They decided to work together to solve a problem, and by golly they did it! Most mastodonic organizations that become divided like ours take years, years I tell you, to come together and work out their differences. Or at least months. Someone has to take the initiative. Reach out. Make the tough choices. And both sides must be willing to lay everything on the table and sacrifice to make things work. It's called compromise and cooperation, and our amazing government did both of those things in spades this very week. How? They announced that they will shut themselves right down. So fast that the heads of every park and associated business employee in this country are still spinning.

That, my friends, is how it's done. That is slick like oil on a teenager's forehead when they're hiding in their room eating pizza and playing Slender and their mom is banging on the door asking if they've done their homework yet. Not that there are any similarities. 

Our government's heroic action this month should be a model for future differences. Bloated budget? Shut Down unnecessary spending. Small groups getting attention to the detriment of the whole? Shut Down focus on special interests. The American peoples' will being ignored? Shut Down personal agendas and power plays and get back to By the People, Of the People, for the People.

I tell you, I'm going to follow the example of our illustrious industrious officials. When I reach an impasse with another person, instead of wasting time reaching a compromise, I'm'a slap that baby with a heels-dug-into-the-dirt head-spinning lockout that will make them think twice about disagreeing with me! And they can't come back in until they see it my way. In the meantime, we'll golf together. Or watch another showing of Austenland. Or compose weepy speeches to read to our confused families so they'll be happy about our agreeing to disagree to agree to shutdown and throw a tantrum. er. Work it out. ish. 

Yeah. This is what our founding fathers and mothers had in mind when they fought and died for independence. This was their purpose when they spent months sequestered in the sweltering heat of Philadelphia's Independence Hall, figuring out how to fix the problems in our country's governance to that point. Listening. Working together. Not giving up until compromises were reached and problems were solved. Maybe as a reward for honoring that legacy in such a stellar fashion, we should give our leaders copies of Catherine Drinker Bowen's excellent Miracle at Philadelphia. They deserve it.

And so do we.

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