Tag Archives: domestic bliss

We Went for Justice. A Tale of Flowerpots & HOAs & ARBs

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The email arrived earlier in the week. A request for a show of force to support a mututal friend, a woman who was far more connected to the email sender than to myself, but a woman I know nonetheless. 

The support was simple: this was a case of Homeowners Associations gone cowboy. It reminded me of that scene in “The Hunt For Red October” when Scott Glenn, as Captain Bart Mancuso boards the Red October and Sean Connery as Soviet Captain Marko Ramius references Mancuso as a “buckaroo” because of his sidearm.  

In fact it was absurd: approval had been granted. But then two days later, but while it was not quite rescinded, it was conditionalized: the resident still had to come before The Board because apparently a member’s aesthetic taste was being threatened. 

YOU AREN’T COLORING INSIDE THE LINES AND YOUR GREEN IS TOO YELLOW… TRY AGAIN.  

At worst: it was a colossal waste of everyone’s time. At best, it was an example of a need for perspective, of a need for self-reflection and of the need for clear standards, not arbitrary “opinions” based on subjective assessments, and maaaaaaybeee a time for an ego check? 

At question was the approval? compliance? allowance? of flower pots, in excess of the allowed three per the Architectural Review Board (ARB) standards. These flower pots are not filled with dead stalks of former botany, or random weeds, or fake plastic plants. They are filled with actual, living, blooming flowers: pistils and stamens… the whole shottin’ match. There are more than three, for sure. I don’t know how many in total, but I’m guessing less than 100. Anyway, the display is beautiful. Everyone agreed. 

But it was still possibly too much. It was a proliferation of petals. A nuisance of nectar. A batallion of blossoms. A flotilla of flowers… It had to be reduced. WE can’t have so many … things. 

“It seems there’s just an … a lot of them…” even though there is no maximum allowed / mandated to have “without board approval.” Y’see, while you can have three flower pots, they must be “earthtone” in color, but who’s to say they’re not too big if they’re larger than a hot tub, because there is no specific language. But to have MORE than three thimble or hot tub -sized pots, you have to sit before relative strangers and wait for approval. In front of other relative strangers. Sometimes as many as 50 relative strangers. 

When the chairman asked for opinions or comments from the Board, no one had anything negative to say; it was as if someone’s personal agenda against these flower pots had deflated or cannibalized itself. One member, spoke up though, and he said something that made the most sense of all: (I’m paraphrasing) that the “defendant’s” (my word) flower pots were an example of a resident doing something positive rather than negative, and that the situation was refreshing. HIGH FIVE RATIONAL BOARD MEMBER! 

In my words, I consider Stamen-gate a nice problem to have. Given all the shit that’s happening in the world, having an abundance of naturally occuring botany is really not such a big problem at all. 

But these guys take their volunteer jobs seriously. I respect that. 

Living where I do, we know what we’re in for. First, it’s 20 minutes to the Pentagon. So there is this tacit understanding of rules and order and decorum and protocols. A lot of the times, they are ensuring that the neighborhood maintains its value and appeal so that everyone can keep their home values secure. I dig that. It’s not easy to own a house, and owning one in this particular ‘hood happens to come with some strings attached. The neighborhood, as a whole, is a collective: we all own about 1,700 acres of forests, housing, ponds, swimming pools, community centers, public library, paved and maintained paths, tot lots, pools, tennis courts and open space. That means that building in here, or adding-on in here, or changing the color of your trim in here requires the oversight and approval of the ARB. If you don’t like it here, then don’t live here.

Most of the time, the function of the ARB makes sense: it costs a bit to live here, so we want to keep the property values in line. Sometimes, the ARB gets a very bad rap. That’s because (for me anyway) it’s a lot of paperwork to submit if you want to put on a deck, or cut down a tree, or place a hot tub on your property. Or a shed. or a swing set. Or a fence. Far and away though, they are reasonable and fair and largely approve most requests. 

It’s the people who want to live here, but who DON’T read the papers in the 3″ binder which comes with their  mortgage documents when they buy their house or rent here that get the sting and get bitter with the ARB. They want the high property values, but … 

  • They want to hang a tire swing in the front yard. Negative ghost rider, the pattern is full. 
  • Or they want to park their motorboat in the driveway. Sorry. 
  • Or an above-ground pool in the yard — WHAT?!  
  • Or the camper in the backyard. No siree. 

It’s those guys who get their nastygrams from the ARB, and I for one am glad the ARB exists for those incidences. 
But when it comes to flowers in pots at the front entrance that are blooming and healthy and being taken care of and are the pride and hobby of a kind and good neighbor… then I get pissed. So about 12 of us showed up on her behalf at that meeting. When the ARB discussed the three-pot maximum, half the room, and not including those of us who were there to REPRESENT, lit up with questions and comments. Nearly everyone agreed that almost everyone in the neighborhood was in violation. I, myself, am currently in violation: I have my two potted Boston ferns out front ALONG with >HORRORS!< two hanging baskets of new guinea impatiens (the baskets are white… shhhh). I mused, to the Board at the meeting, “When I get home, I’m going to move them to the back; but I’ve already exceedeed my limit there — what with my two ferns and two strawberry plants and my planter of peppermint and spearmint. But when you leave, I’m going to bring it all out to the front…” the reasonable member smirked a bit. 

  
We all know the score. The larger rules exist and for good reason. And then some retiree from the U.S. Patent Office with nothing better to do likely came up with the earth-tone three-pot maximum. The problem is these standards are arbitrary. And if standards are arbitrary then they’re not really standards, are they? They’re more like guidelines. This is where people like the Board can get into the rabbit hole with people like me: I love words. I love parsing them out and getting to the dirt beneath the fingernails. I’ll spend all night debating and destroying a standard… if it’s stupid enough.

That almost happened too. Some dude (likely the Patent Office guy) started to get into it with me, wagging his finger at me, and raising his voice at me because my questions and comments to the Board were exacting and specific — about the distinction between matters regarding permemant structures and matters about impermanent planters — I almost asked (but the little man across the aisle got in my air space), “Why are we debating about planters at the same  meeting regarding roof and siding colors and garage doors? Shouldn’t this be a simpler situation?” But as I said, that little man got in my space and I told him to back off with his hands and to reconsider the way he was talking to me, and then the Chairman slammed down his gavel because the little man was out of order. He violated Robert’s Rules — no cross-talk, the attendees must address the Chairman, not another attendee. That’s to keep things civil. It wasn’t like that scene with Pacino in “And Justice For All” but it was dramatic. Hearing the gavel is like getting pulled over. 

Bad move little man from the Patent Office.  Well played, Mr. Chairman.                 

It felt like, for a bit during the meeting, that my friend was going to get handed a disapproval, but that Board had no idea what it was in for. If we had our lawyer friend there, we would have moved for an appeal, basing it solely on the lack of true standards. Another of her friends cited the lack of transparency in the entire proceeding: the defendant was cited, but doesn’t know who cited her. That person is protected — and our friend has to bust her fanny to keep her plants. Who knows if she was cited out of malice? Bullies and bored people are everywhere. Especially around here, especially over the fence line… Trust me. Our U.S. Constitution affords us the right to face our accusers, but I guess the ARB doesn’t operate under U.S. the Constitution.  

Thanks to the little man and the gavel slamming, the Board was ready to move on and frankly, be rid of us, I’m sure. When we cleared the room, we took a third of the people along.
Our friend won her little case. The pots stay. Yay! There are many morals to this story, the foremost being don’t mess with a person and her 12 friends when you are the agent of a stupid rule. A subsequent moral can be quite simple: it’s flowers. They are beautiful. Back off, peeps. Get a life. Go after the people who have dead trees in their yards: they’re dangerous. Or those who don’t cut their grass, or who still have their Christmas lights up. At least those rules are clear. Don’t go after a nice lady and her beautiful flowers. Sheesh.  

Thank you. 

It’s Not You, It’s Me.

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We fired our cleaning ladies this morning. It’s a little heartbreaking because we’ve had them for years.

The urge to do it wasn’t an urge at all, but a slowly moving snowball rolling down a 30˚ slope toward my face. I am at the bottom of the hill, lying in a pile of my own havoc and the havoc foisted upon me by my three wonderful and active boys, two dogs, busier than bananas husband and newly busy self.

It’s probably The Worst Time of The Year for me to do this, to let them go. Halloween candy wrappers everywhere. Dog hair is at an all-time high although I’m not sure why because don’t golden retrievers keep their hair in the fall? Tree leaves and those little sharp-as-frack seed pods from the tulip poplars are all over my front walk-up, they look like confetti in my front hall, and in other places they have assembled in neat little piles beneath my dusty furniture. They’re insulated by the dog hair; perhaps they will all commingle and create a small yet dense forest beneath the bench near the umbrella stand crammed into a darkened corner.

I can feel it in my gut: letting the Cleaning Ladies Go is The Wrongest Idea Ever.

The thing is: it’s me. I can’t do it all. I turn into a VIPER FROM HELL the day before they cleaning ladies come. I’ve written about it and I’ve also suppressed the hell out of my emotions regarding this situation.

“Three boy,” one says in her broken English. She’s a lovely person. “That mean hard works for ju. Ees a lawt.” Part of me realizes this is an affirmation on their part that I NEED them. That I can’t exist without them.

I can exist without them. I just won’t clean my microwave without them. When I see them, I want to fold into their ample bosoms and heave and cry because it IS A LAWT. Driving to soccer five times weekly, music lessons twice, therapy once, teaching yoga four times a week, taking yoga just once, grocery shopping, cooking, walking dogs, laundry (just mine and the youngest’s), using the bathroom, and wiping down a freaking countertop … We don’t really over-schedule our kids, but I’m wiped out by Friday and that’s when they come. Fridays. And peeps, having them come the same week as my Lady Time, IS A RECIPE FOR DISASTER.

don't eff with me.

the cleaning ladies are coming and I’ve been bleeding and sleepless for four days? don’t eff with me.

Prepping for the cleaning ladies and then having my kids NOT HELP AT ALL hits a very exposed nerve.

It taps the utterly most raw and deepest part of me: feeling invisible and unheard. That I don’t matter. That I’m replaceable.

It’s not the cleaning ladies who do this; they are amazing. They get that shit done in two hours and the house is presentable. It’s my team. My family. I honestly fantasize about taking off to Newark and finding a five-star hotel and crashing there, using all my yoga teacher money to stay one hour there and then get back in the car and drive to Trenton where I can find a diner and order a grilled cheese on rye and a bowl of tomato soup and I’ll use the VISA rebate gift card I got when I switched contact lenses last month. Then I’ll buy gas with the rest of the balance and drive back home to children who when they see me after my long, unexpected and restful journey, will say,

“Where are my cleats?”

So it’s not you, dear cleaning ladies, it’s me. I can’t handle the stress of prepping for you the night before. My kids don’t give a damn and having you show up just to stack the piles of their collective crap, and the crap I’ve not put away in time and the crap my husband hasn’t put away in time… It’s not worth it. Not this time of year. Not when Thanksgiving is three weeks away and then freakin’ Christmas. (“Mom, can we get a PlayStation 4??? Everyone says our PS3 sucks…” <– that. I want to take a sledgehammer to the PS3 and ask them if it really sucks then.)

When I say to people, my public, these things… these sort of quasi-deep yet revelatory (if you get where I’m really coming from) confessions about the State of my State, it’s because I’m tired. I’m tired of being The Answerer here.

The other night, we grilled the most fabulous pork chops. They were on the grill for 20 minutes after marinating in brown sugar and mustard at room temperature for about four hours. My husband, whom I love, cut into the chop and asked me, “Is this done?” as he showed me the cut loin.

Internally I SCREAMED, “WHO THE FUCK AM I? A HUMAN GRILL THERMOMETER? DO I LOOK LIKE WOLFGANG FREAKING PUCK??” but externally I coolly said, “Sure.” And returned to sharpening my knives.

I am not Everyone’s Mommy here. I am a human being too.  Everyone knows that when I’m sharpening knives, I’m NOT to be disturbed. That’s why I walk around with the sharpening steel at all times now.

So this morning, I did what I could. When he was getting ready for his escape from the house work this morning, my husband sensed my disposition. It couldn’t have been the knife-sharpening again…

“Ev-everything ok, hon?”

“No. Yes. No. It’s all FUBAR,” I said. “I can’t do this alone. There’s a hammer in the dining room and I don’t know why; my pruning shears are in the bathroom — I DIDN’T DO IT… and shit everywhere. A firewood log in the playroom?? Cleats, shin guards, soccer balls, those effing black rubber flecks from turf fields… I want to stab a phone book except THOSE don’t exist anymore…”

“Let’s just cancel them.” He said.

IT WAS LIKE THE SUN SHONE IN MY HOUSE. The angels were singing.

So he left and I did what I could.

I prepped the front walk-up. I swept the leaves and seed pods out of the way. I got rid of catalogs (OY! WITH THE CATALOGS!). What I really need to do is go out with the girls in my life. But we’re all so busy. I think this is why people plan adventures to far-flung places (Hoboken) and get impossibly drunk because when you’re on a schedule like the ones we endure, there’s no time for R&R.

I know I sound ungrateful. I’m not. I’m blessed like no one’s business. Three healthy boys, a great marriage, the dogs, the yoga teaching and so much shit that I lose my mind every fortnight to get it the hell out of the way. I get it; it’s just … that I’D LIKE SOME HELP for THE HELP.

I know they’ll be back. I’m no fool. The cleaning ladies are my heroin(es).

They just got here. No joke. Gotta get back to making little piles…

Bye.

Thank you.

Invisible Cleaning

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Traveling most of the summer has left the house in various states of disarray.

Magazines never read; stacks of untossed mail; cheese (ewwww) that needs to be… uch.

The refrigerator created small nations of strawberries that sprouted mushrooms, old queso, celery wine.

All of this which begs the question: AM I THE ONLY PERSON WITH THUMBS AROUND HERE?!

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Apparently I am.

This paints a bad image of Mr. GrassOil. He’s a good guy, he worked to keep things orderly, but when you live in a house with three boys who like to return the empty milk jug BACK to the shelf from whence it came (and I don’t mean the dairy), there is only so much you can do.

So they were fixing to go on a nice long bike ride yesterday.

During their ride, I would reclaim my home.

A bike ride means CamelBaks.

CamelBaks mean water.

Water means mess.

It was inevitable.

Water pooled.

“Oh! God!”

Wet.

Everywhere.

They had to leave.

That meant I had to deal.

I pulled the ‘fridge from its cave.

Dust bunnies and candy wrappers and mess.

The refrigerator: its chassis hadn’t been vacuumed in months.

So while they were apedal in the woods, I was planning to steam-vac the carpets, vacuum the wood floors and do some dusting.

I was planning to unload all the magazines. Forgive me unread issues of “The New Yorker” and “The Week,” I just can’t do it. I’ll read you on my iPad! Egads, did I just type that?!

That was to be the cleaning of the day. I’d spent a couple days regrouping from the trips, a couple days writing as I felt fit. This was going to be my intention. To do the unseen cleaning; much like that of “mission impossible: 50% junk drawer reduction” and “baseboard wipe down and cleaning” and “front hall shoe basket recon” and “bathroom delousing” — cleaning beneath, behind, around and upon the refrigerator is what no one notices but from which everyone benefits.

In a houseful of men, many don’t notice.

It went too fast. Maybe I was in a state of blissful domestication, for the hours flew by.

They returned from their sojourns: muddy, sweaty, pink-cheeked and happy. Thing 3 rode nine miles, almost non-stop, save for a few moments at the ice cream bar.

“Omigawd! It was three dollars a scoop! Highway robbery, Mom!” he squeals.

“Yes, but did you enjoy it?” I ask as I high-five him.

“Heck yeah, I did! I earned it too! Rode four-and-a-half miles each way pretty much without stopping. Saw a snake too.”

“Well then you did earn it. Enjoy it. Don’t worry about the money…” I said, wincing and smiling, (not really) as I thought about the snake.

“Oh, house looks different. You cleaned up the water spill. Nice,” he said as he took off his helmet and threw it on the cleared leather couch, between the freshly folded blankets and fluffed down pillows.

“Yes; I did some cleaning. I managed to get some things done.”

“Yeah. Maybe next time you can come with us on the bike ride; get some ice cream for yourself. You earned it too, after cleaning up the water!” he said, now throwing his crocs into the corner of the room and wiping his slick bangs into irreverent spikes from his sweaty, freckled forehead. He flopped himself down on the couch, and shoved his helmet on to the floor. I heard it clang, hollow plastic, loose fittings. Time to get a new helmet, I thought to myself.

His little chest slowed its breath. He grew quiet. He looked out the back window into our yard, twirling his spiky hair. He was on Jupiter. It’s where he goes when he drifts away, deep in thought.

I thought too.

I thought about the fact that I’d missed out on another moment with my sons and husband to take care of things that were bothering me but of which they had little awareness.

“They don’t remember the mess,” a friend of mine once said when we were talking about trying to keep a clean house in the midst of family busyness. “They just want you. Think about it. They won’t remember what you call a mess.”

So it got me thinking: If the cleaning is invisible, and we do it anyway, what are we tending to? The ghosts in our heads?

My childhood was vastly different from that of my sons’. It’s been a mission of mine to create that distinctive world for them.

I suppose however, that the mission could include myself now. That yes, mess is mess and clutter can be distracting, but need it be so distracting that it steals away an opportunity to ride bikes with my sons in the park and get some ice cream?

Would I rather be distracted by the ice cream or by the clutter?

I intended this piece, I wrote the headline first, to be humorous, about the work we parents and mostly mothers do to ‘keep house.’ To write about how so much of what we do is unheralded — but that’s not because our children / spouses / friends aren’t valuing us and our attention to these details, but because they’ve got bigger things on their minds.

They’ve got Life on their minds.

The clutter was not in my imagination, that onion in the bag is the mascot. But I realize now that it could’ve waited. The boys will all be back in school in nine days.

The invisible cleaning could’ve waited.

Life is what happens when we are making other plans.

Lesson learned.

Thank you.

I’m Back! (Did You Notice?): Recap (Lucky You!)

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I haven’t posted in a few days. Nothing, not even a reblog from “the vault” of some of my (and yours, apparently) favorite posts.

Tomorrow is October 1. Traditionally, fiscal years begin on 10/1 of each year and being a Libra, I am feeling some semblance of woeful disorganization when compared to my more got-their-acts-together Virgo friends. I married a Virgo. He’s not organized. Well, not at home. “He’s a man. It’s different for the men,” said someone I used to know.

Which reminds me of that song by Goyte that I used to like.

Tomorrow I am hosting a friend as a guest blogger for the relaunch of her site. She is not only a friend, but she used to be my boss… so, you can ask her all sorts of professional stuff about me. As my boss, she was totally astounded by my insane work ethic and esprit de corps. She’s a great writer and I see this relaunch as her renaissance, so please check out what she’s offering. Super short and sweet: it’s a website devoted to the topic of food sensitivities to create restaurant and trade awareness for people whose diets have specific requirements. I won’t steal her thunder. Just please check her out tomorrow.

Later this week, probably Tuesday or Wednesday I am hosting another friend whose blog I adore. She is a wonderful photographer and I encouraged her to get out and shoot me a photo blog. I can’t wait to see what’s up her sleeve.

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I woke up this morning feeling pretty much back to normal. My birthday gave me a head cold, complete with dizziness that made me list to port (right), a fever, raspy voice and an unrelenting urge to lie down all day each day. That didn’t happen until Thursday because on Wednesday I was still busy doing family things. I won’t go into details, but suffice it to say: I AM A VERY GOOD SISTER. A*hem. Ok, a little: my brother, SIL and their beautiful little family decided to visit me for bday dinner from their home which is about an hour away. When they got to my house, their car was leaking oil (ruh-roh) like … thinking of a proper analogy … like the Black Knight from Monty Python’s Quest for the Holy Grail. Was that proper? Anyway, so we went out and checked the crank case (check me out using proper terms and whatnot) by pulling out the long shish-kebob skewer thingamajig testing it for “car blood,” as I stated it, and it was dry. “Your car has been bitten by a vampire,” I said.

Because standing over a hot engine in my driveway is exactly what I wanted to do on my 45th birthday.

Whatever… life is what happens when you’re making other plans…

So we got more car blood and put it in the hole on top of the box in the front part of the car under its hat and went back inside to eat and sing and have cake and it was a very nice time. Then it was time to go home.

When he drove away I saw a trail of car blood leading out of my street. I called them. They came back and spent the night. All’s well that ends well, but this particular visit didn’t end until I walked through the front hall doorway of my manse (it’s like a 8’x6′ area with a bench that abuts the front door and leads into the last 13′ of my house) at 1:30 the following day. The good news: the repair was minimal (a hole in the oil pan) compared to the catastrophe (engine seizure) it could have been.

Bonus of the experience: more time with the adorable niece and nephew and their parents.

What did I get for my birthday? Why I’m so glad you asked! I got a pair of lovely 8mm cultured pearl earrings. Studs. I am not a glamour girl. I like diamond studs OK but they’re really not me.  With diamonds it’s all about constant pressure over millions of years and even then you still have to beat the crap out of the world’s hardest substance for it to resemble anything remotely potentially beautiful and then it has to be cut (ouch!) by another diamond! and then buffed (ooph!). And then there’s that whole blood diamonds thing… watch none of that matter when I get a pair of 16-carat diamond studs one day…

But in all honesty, I relish in the pearl’s “story” – it’s such an amazing metaphor for how we all can find the CONSTANT and ever-present absolute beauty in life’s struggles, even as we are experiencing them, but what do we get at the end of the struggle, a pearl?! It’s a fantastic and wonderful, elegant and graceful reminder for me that through agitation, irritation, frustration and discomfort comes this terrifically precious little object. I wear my earrings all the time. They’re not fancy, they’re not overly obvious but they say to me: “It will be OK. No matter what’s going on, it will always be OK.”

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Domestic Bliss

I was wearing my pearls on Thursday when I discovered that my clothes dryer died. The wonderful dryer warranty fate gods are good: my  warranty ends 10/9, so we were covered. Because I had some super special double-plus secret probation MVP warranty, my repair was the scheduled for the next day, Friday, between 12 and 5. The fun happened when Sears decided to call me at 3:52 that next day, Friday, to tell my son (who answered the phone unbeknownst to me – parents of young children: DO NOT LET YOUR KIDS ANSWER THE CALL FROM A SERVICE VENDOR, especially during an election year…my kids love messing with the pollsters) that the repair dude wasn’t coming anymore because he had a job that took him to 3 hours past his contract time. I didn’t deal well. I was sick. I was newly 45 and my son almost let them off the hook. I roared like a bear and asked my son to give me the phone.

I was going to make someone poop out a pearl. I told them this news was unacceptable and requested an escalation to a supervisor. The caller said it was impossible to escalate the call and I said the following (this is true): “It’s not impossible. You’re in a call center with probably 30 other people just like you wearing headsets under low lighting sitting in swivel office chairs staring at computer screens. You can stand up, wave your flag, turn on your light, send up a flare, flash your bat signal or do whatever it is you’ve been trained to do to let a supervisor know that you’ve got a hot one on the line and that I’m about to blow my stack and call corporate because it’s still before 5pm here. I also won’t go into the matter of social networking and the fact that I write a blog and have three friends on Twitter, so I’m not so powerless anymore am I? Go ahead, I’ll wait on hold. I’ll put you on speaker.” About four minutes later, someone named Priscilla comes on. She informs me she’s a supervisor (miracle!). She will get on the matter right away and call me back shortly.

I thought so.

She called back in five minutes, panting actually, and said she had someone who was reaching out to their dispatcher to find a dude who could come. I said that would be great.

She called back again and told me that the original guy will come, but it will be late, around 7. I told her that was fine; that we would feed him dinner.

In less than ten minutes the repair guy himself called me to tell me he’d just finished a job and that he was on his way to my house. Less than five minutes after that, the repair dude showed up. (Was he at Wal*mart? In my driveway? Was I being punk’d?) Of course we let him in. Trumpets, doves, the whole fanfare. My oldest son showed him where the dryer is. “What’s the matter with it?” he asks my son. (Does NO ONE look at a service order or the computer screen before dealing with customers anymore? Christ, it’s like dealing with the school principal, suddenly I have to come equipped with advocates and again state the rationale for my situation, The Reason Why I’m asking for HELP.)  “The heating element is burnt out,” my son relays back to him while I’m growling at my phone as I dial back for the dispatcher.

My head is spinning. Someone’s lying. Right? I mean, that’s where all the rational people who weren’t raised by wolves go, right? I spoke with dispatcher and expressed my suspicions and she apologized for my inconvenience and then told me she understood, that it must be very frustrating for me. I said, “I’m not frustrated, I’m confused. Do you all have a sign, a script or something that suggests you empathize with me? Is ‘suspicion’ or ‘confusion’ not on your list of empathy words?” It didn’t go well, she was incapable of original thought. I hung up.

After the dryer repair Friday I went to see my friend Tracy Kiely at George Mason University’s Fall for The Book festival wherein she was on a Mystery Writers panel with other…mystery writers. It was fun to see her and listen to her and other writers talk about killing people and twists and turns. She’s published four! actual hardcover books and she’s a wonderful, witty writer. Check her out.

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Tough Scholars

My husband and I were talking this morning about some trouble one of our sons is reporting at school. Our son is suggesting that he’s being bullied by a hotshot kid and yet, he’s reporting it to us in such a way (with no small measure of pride, frankly, that this particular kid’s got it in for him) that we wonder if he’s not enjoying being the fly in the ointment for the hotshot. I take this stuff seriously and I’m on it with the school counselor and we listen earnestly to our son an’ all, so before anyone feels like reporting me to CPS for not taking it seriously, chill. The thing is, Thing 2 (our 11-y.o. son) is pretty funny and impish, so the fact that he could be considered annoying to a person who takes himself entirely too seriously is something that yours truly excelled/s at*. I’m not suggesting (maybe I am?) that T2 is the instigator… well, instigation confirmed: I just asked T2 about it, if there is a certain amount of enjoyment he gets from this hotshot getting all irritated (there’s that pearl again), and yes there is. However, he is hurt by this other kids’ obvious, public and mob-like disdain for him and the fact that some of the very children who’ve been to his birthday parties are siding with the hotshot. This whole situation reminds me of a flashback scene in the excellent Albert Brooks movie, “Broadcast News” when he’s bullied by some kids at school and he shouts to them under the hood of his winter parka fueled by the rage and frustration from his predicament, “You’re all gonna work for me one day!!”

As my discussion with my husband evolved, I talked about my the neighborhood of my youth. My family was one of zero other Irish families in an area of Buffalo, N.Y., called “the West Side” and it was cool. We could see Lake Erie from our front yards. The thing is, the other families had names like “Chevetta” and “Alessandro” and “Burruano” and “DePaolo” and “Tagliarino” and “Cashio” and “Sciolino” … and “Gotti” (just kidding about Gotti; it was “Gambino” actually) my husband laughed when I said “Turner” (which is my maiden name) at the irony of the fact that I was one of five Irish people (the other four being my family) within a ten-block radius. We all went to Holy Angels Elementary School where we couldn’t openly pick on each on campus, but saved it for the walks home. I’ve got some crazy stories from those days. The point being that I was scrappy and impish and a “Class-A Shit Disturber” as my Dad used to tell me when I’d get into trouble (and thus make trouble for him) at times. I had bullies, but I stood up to them right away, probably acting like Al Brooks.

*I was recently at a party hosted by a dear friend who’s a senior officer in the U.S. Army. One of his guests was a big-mouthed blowhard who clearly couldn’t tell enough people he was part of the “awe” in Rumsfeld’s “Shock and Awe” campaign on a warship back in the day when W. thought … well, never mind about that, I’m not gonna go political. Because I live a dozen miles from the Pentagon, I have a lot of active duty or retired  service member friends. I think these officers and their work is important and I support them entirely. My kids are friends of theirs and I love their wives like they are sisters. The point is that this guy couldn’t stop talking about himself, so I dug in and started to get all glassy-eyed and eyelash blinky on him. I moved in for better hearing and then started asking the most inane and bizarre questions about the men who loaded the shells that dropped and all that, like how big the men were and if they were fit and then I asked (and he took this so seriously) if it was hot in the plane and then if the men wore shirts while loading the shells in the whatever… and this guy’s totally in line with me. Not blinking at all at what I’m asking, but of course always reverting it back to himself. And I said, “Well, that was like a while ago… so you flew that big plane with all those men dropping all that stuff?” and he said, after a pause… “Uh, no. I uh was the navigator.” And then here’s the kiss of death from me, “Oh. So you were like ‘Goose’ from “Top Gun” and someone else was the pilot…” and my other friend, who is a West Point grad, buried his shaking head in his hands in disbelief that I went there. But he’s known me a long time, he knew the guy was being set up. Well, he set himself up. I just led him there. The moral: all members are important; every role and job is essential, just don’t be a dick about it.

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745 followers?

According to WordPress, I’ve got somewhere in the ‘hood of 745 followers. This is NEWS to yours truly. I only know about the email count and the WordPress followers and lemme tellya, that ain’t nowheres near adding up to 745 (it’s not even near 100). So… is this possible?  Is there anyone out there in WordPress land who can gently tell me the truth? I learned about this 745 figure on my birthday! So, now that the thrill is over, if there’s anything that I need to know to let me know that it’s not accurate, now would be the time to tell me.

Update: AHA! WordPress is deceiving. They are combining all Facebook followers, Twitter followers and email subscribers/ WordPress followers  in the total count. Back to reality. Back to not 745. 🙂

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Admin: Considering Revamping

I’m in the process of coming up with something reliable, a production schedule for both my readers but I want to know if that matters to you or if you just like the loosey-Mother Goosey way things go around here.

Also, I love comments. I love to hear from you. I don’t ask questions at the end of my posts because my self confidence forbids it; to ask questions of you implies that people read  my posts and my self esteem simply won’t allow that. If you do read my posts and you do like questions at the end of blog posts, would you tell me? I’m all about being interactive; I just suspect that people have better things to do than to y’know… engage online. I wanna let you read and then move on.

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About the Online Presence thing: Facebook & Twitter

If you’re on facebook (and c’mon, who isn’t? – apparently more and more people everyday…) you can click on the “Play with Grass Oil on Facebook” icon and follow me there or just click here. Facebook apparently hates people who don’t pay for their presence online so they’re not sharing my (and other fan page admins’) updates as often or as timely as they used to before the IPO. So if you want to follow me there and receive dated updates from my page with information that might not be of interest to you anymore, jump in!… (After that glowing recommendation I can’t wait to watch my follower count go through the roof.)

Twitter is better actually, it’s instant. I can understand it if you’re not on Twitter. James Woolcott from Vanity Fair magazine just opened a Twitter account; he stated the fact that he’s now on the social media network is the harbinger of its obsolescence, so…   I’ve got a random assortment of followers, like totally random, on Twitter. Some of them just follow me hoping that I’ll share their stuff with my bounty of 106 followers because someone they follow told them about me. I have endeavored to follow some of them back, but their posts are really annoying and one guy who fancies himself as a humor blog writer really isn’t humorous; he’s funny like Andrew Dice Clay (I know, I’m dating myself, that’s OK; want another one?: Sam Kinneson) is funny: which is not funny unless he’s making fun of someone else. So I’ve stopped following him. Then there are the weird BDSM writers who somehow found me. Super! I won’t ever be their publishing competition. If you’re on Twitter, and want to see the 140 characters or less inner workings of my mosquito brain, follow me @MollyFieldTweet or click here.

I guess that’s about it. Murphy needs a walk and I’m ready to go outside, pull up a chair and watch my husband powerwash the driveway in preparation for its reseal.

Thank you!