Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Thank you, Hurricane Irene, for making me hate the colonists

I suppose I could try to be positive about Hurricane Irene, given that my home wasn't flooded or obliterated by a downed tree and the fact that I've been able to escape to my father's house during the day and enjoy the creature comforts of his electricity.

But I just don't want to.

We haven't had power in Mulletville Lite since 7 a.m. Sunday morning. I think the storm hit at what, 6:55 a.m.? To say it's been the longest week of my life would be an understatement. And it's only Wednesday.

If you read my last post, you'll see my household was battling a flea infestation. An infestation made liveable by incessant vacuuming and laundering of linens.

Guess what you can't do without power?

Yep. Vacuum and laundry.

Do you have any idea what it's like to try to monitor a flea issue by candlelight and flashlight? It's making me batty.

On top of the lack of power, the lack of hot water with which to wash Diddlydoo's bottles or to bathe, and the not-so-quaint activities of living like you're camping indoors (peanut butter and bread for dinner, anyone?), the kids have double ear infections.

Guess what kind of medicine the doctor prescribed?

One that requires refrigeration. I've got the kids' medicine in a cooler by the bed, and I've been monitoring the cooler's temperature like it's holding organs.

Ice cube by ice cube.

And how bout those candles? If we ever hear of a hurricane approaching again, unscented candles will be at the top of the list. My house smells like the fucking Yankee Candle Company.

Though it does mask the smell of rotting food in my refrigerator well.

Between the pine-scented and holly berry-scented candles and the battery-operated window lights we've been using to keep Junior from wailing "I can't seeeeeeeeee!" during the night (God I miss nightlights), it's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas.

Except for the lack of snow, of course. Keeping the windows open and enjoying the cool nights was a real blessing.

Until the neighbor bought a generator.

Do you have any idea how loud a generator is? It emits an obnoxious gutteral rumble that literally shakes your brain. You lie awake at night dreaming of blowing the thing up. Or accidentally pushing your neighbor onto a downed wire.

Sleep? What's that?

Yes, I hate Hurricane Irene. I hate living without power. I hate the pitch black darkness of nighttime and the Holiday Wreath scent of my home. Most of all, I hate that every time you start to talk about how miserable you are, someone pipes up with "It could have been worse" or "At least you're safe."

You want to know what I'm grateful for? I'm grateful I was never a goddamn Pilgrim. If this is what life was like, it must have sucked. And we don't even have livestock.

I'm so soured by this brush with rusticity I'm banning all things colonial from our lives. We're never going on a family trip to Plymouth Plantation or Colonial Williamsburg. Never. I won't even chaperone a school field trip.

Historic Jamestown can bite me.

Right after the fleas are done.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Honey, this foreplay just isn't working for me

Ha! Thought this would be a post about sex, ey? Well, it's not.

It's a post about fleas.

Our damn cats got one from the windowsill again or someone came into our home with a straggler and the damn thing leaped off his leg and multiplied like crazy.

For the past two weeks life has been a hellish marathon of vacuuming, laundry and extreme paranoia: “What’s that? Oh, God, it is one? IS IT????”

I am a woman consumed. I have nightmares about fleas. I Google flea-related issues obsessively. It’s all I talk and think about. I’ve retained so much information I could teach a godamn panel about fleas.

And when I say life has been a hellish marathon, I mean life has been a hellish marathon:

• I’ve sprinkled our rugs and furniture with baking soda and salt (which dehydrates the fleas), then Fleabusters. Chuck and I have vacuumed every surface twice a day. We’ve put baking soda, salt, Fleabusters and flea collars in our vacuum bags then thrown them away.

• Our cats have been treated multiple times and banished to the outdoor porch.

• Chuck bombed the basement twice. Then he sprayed. Then I Fleabustered the rugs and vacuumed.

• I’ve washed all our linens, cushions, clothes, stuffed animals and towels in hot water. Then I washed them again.

• I’ve bathed Junior in lemon-scented Dawn (Dawn is known to kill fleas on contact), then sprayed his ankles with bug spray. I’ve put white socks on the two kids so we can see if any fleas jump onto their feet.

• I’ve put shallow pans of water and dish soap on top of sheets of white paper and under desk lamps (fleas are naturally attracted to the light and the color white and will jump into the bowl of soapy water).

Still...they have lingered.

Adding to the craptasticness of the situation is the steady stream of company we’ve had. My mother visited from Assachusetts. She slept on the couch before we realized it was a flea motel. She went back to Assachusetts—with my grandmother. Then my mother found two fleas in her bathroom. My grandmother has a bee-hive hairdo that’s shellacked to her head. Do you know how many fleas can hang out in a beehive hairdo if one penetrated the wall of hairspray?

She may very well have brought enough fleas home to infest the entire senior center.

Chuck’s mother and step-father came for dinner. They swore their scratching was psychosomatic, but pizza just wasn’t the same.

My friend Sandy came down for the weekend. Here she is spraying Off onto the bottoms of her shoes.

She kept her clothes in the car. She showered with Dawn. She held Diddlydoo and played cars with Junior while I vacuumed. We sacrificed Chuck to the couch so she could sleep flea free in our bed.

We spent a good portion of our visit—which was supposed to be luxurious girl time—staring at each other’s ankles and crying, “Was that just one? Was it? Oh, God, no!”

My mother returned for Tour de Flea part deux. I read her diary (I am not overbearing!). She called me at work all day:

“I think I saw one. Nope. Just a mole on Junior’s leg. No, wait. There’s one. Oh, nope. Just lint. Oh wait! There’s one right there. Oops, no, it’s a grain of sand. I can’t stop itching! I haven’t seen one but I keep scratching. Oh wait! What’s that by the door?”

So we vacuumed again. I bought a family-size tub of Dawn. My mother kept her clothes in the car in a plastic bag.

Finally—FINALLY—we couldn’t take it anymore. Chuck and I called an exterminator. Mike from Petrin’s Pest Control. Dear Mike. Bless his heart, he talked to me about fleas for half an hour. He empathized. He listened. He said he’d be there the next day.

Before he could come, however, Chuck and I needed to get everything up off the floor. As for the basement, where the problem was the worst, he suggested I go to Home Depot and buy Tyvek suits—

"No need for the headgear, heh, heh..."

—so Chuck and I could get to work without getting attacked.

Ladies, you want a hot steamy night with your hubby? After you put the kiddies to bed, don some Tyvek suits and move furniture for a few hours in an airless basement while watching fleas snap at your ankles.

How the sex industry hasn’t made a porno out of that is a mystery.

Now it’s been a few days since the exterminator came. Things were quiet over the weekend, but there’s been a resurgence. Apparently the adults have died but the next generation have hatched and need to die. For the next two weeks (eggs hatch out in two week intervals) we’ll still need to vacuum daily, to wash everything in hot water, to send our guests home with a party favor of Dawn and to examine our children and clothing with paranoid diligence:

“What’s that? Is it one? IS IT????”

As for the basement, where the problem is the worst, Mike the exterminator recommended that Chuck and I put on our Tyvek suits again, go down there and make some noise so the damn things hatch from their impenetrable eggs, drop onto the floor and die.

We may need to do that for as long as three months to finally be rid of the problem.

I can just see it now: “Oh Chuck...I’m not wearing anything under my Tyvek suit...yoohoo....Chuck...”

Just shoot me, ok? Wouldja?

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Everything comes with a price tag

If your mother frequently babysits your children, you may happen to stumble upon her diary one day, which she may have left on top of some newspapers on your kitchen table while she ran to the grocery store.

You may happen to leaf through a few pages, against your better judgment. (Alas, old habits are hard to break.)

You may happen to scan the pages for your name and, in doing so, come across a page in which she describes you as over-bearing and too serious, both with her and your children. You may also notice that she called your husband detached and depressed. "Runs errands for hours, seemingly."

When your mother returns from the store you may have to shotgun a bottle of wine to keep yourself from strangling her. After she leaves you may find yourself muttering like a madman and doing things you don't normally do, like riding your son's scooter around the neighborhood as you curse.

But hey, it's free childcare, right? And no one loves your kids like your parents do, right?


It doesn't get easier, does it?

Monday, August 15, 2011

I've held better titles

After being home with the two boys for the winter, re-entry to Mulletville Corp has been a bit trying.

Granted there are some perks to re-entering the workforce. Like, I now know what day of the week it is. I have a reason to brush my hair and change my underwear.

I get to enjoy the wit of co-workers (e.g., after showing a colleague a letter I received in which the addresser wrote “Dear Mrs. Mullet, Director of Pubic Relations” I now get a lot of inter-office mail addressed to that title).

And (dare I say it?) the quiet calm of my office can be delicious. Some mornings I feel downright guilty leaving Chuck flailing in a sea of children’s tears. I don’t have to manage the meltdown over toast that wasn’t cut to a four-year-old’s specifications or the cranky fits of a teething eight-month-old.

Ah, peace and quiet.

But things have changed at Mulletville Corp in the seven months I’ve been out on maternity leave. There are talks of layoffs and cuts in health benefits. Company lunches have turned into no frills, pot luck get-togethers in someone’s car. No one is allowed to order copier paper or pens without senior approval.

You know times are tough when you need a secret password to get sticky notes.

Yes, people look grim—so grim that the Marketing Head has charged me, the Director of Pubic Relations, with a call-to-action to boost morale.

So I’ve been walking around the building a lot, asking people about activities we could plan that would help them feel better.

I don’t know if the economy has beaten people to such pulp that they’d confide in a tree stump or if people mistake my forced interest for introspective concern, but holy frick, people want to talk for hours—and they don’t want to talk about what they can do to boost morale, they want to talk about why morale is so damn low.

I’m starting to feel like a free shrink.

In the last week I’ve learned more about the personal tragedies of the people of Mulletville Corp than I ever dreamed possible. The weird thing is that everyone's confessional concludes the same way. They say, "Cherish every moment because it goes so quickly."

Some have even heightened the dramatic impact of their parting wisdom by clutching my hand or looking me pointedly in the eye (except for the guy with the lazy eye: he looked me in the boob).

The first few times I heard it, I walked away thinking, Yes, we should cherish each moment. The next few times I thought, Yup, I’ll try. The last few times I walked away thinking, For fuck’s sake okay, I get it.

Here’s the thing: I understand we need to treasure life because we don’t know when our number will be up, but you cannot possibly cherish each and every moment of your life. Your head would explode.

Besides, not every moment is worth cherishing.

Sometimes a drive in the car is just that. If you spend that car ride treasuring your personal freedom to drive and your financial success at owning a vehicle and your functioning ears that enable you to listen to the radio and your glasses that allow you to marvel at the beautiful scenery (sorry Connecticut-dwellers, that doesn’t apply to you), you might miss the turn.

To my co-workers who weighted down their wisdom with the “Children grow so fast, savor every second” stuff, I.Get.It. Ohmigawd do I get it.

I know in a blink of an eye my children will be teenagers. I know that too soon they’ll be grown with families of their own and I’ll be left with nothing more than an empty house full of memories but again, you cannot possibly siphon out the warm fuzzies from every second of your children’s youth.

Nor do I want to.

In fact, what I wish for my co-workers—and for myself after being accosted with all this dire seize-life-by-the-balls-right-NOW gook—is to banish the “cherish every moment” thoughts entirely. They are a direct impediment to the blissful state of just being, and it’s in that plain Jane state of just being that the aha moments come. The moments when the Universe gives you a beautiful gift that you hadn’t been trying to force. The moments when you realize that everyone surrounding you at that exact moment is the warmest, safest blessing.

The very moments you want to, you know, cherish.

In Colorado.

Go Colorado!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Rocky Mountain high

I'm in the middle of a freelance project. I'm designing a book cover with the word hope in the title.

The more I research images of hope and colors of hope the more beautiful and profound the word hope becomes. I think it may just be the most exquisite word in the dictionary.

On an unrelated note, we're thinking of moving to Colorado.

(Or maybe it's a related note after all.)

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Imagine if you were that excited to talk to your spouse?

Tonight during dinner I gently reminded Junior for the 50 millionth time to PLEASE stop talking with food in his mouth.

Without skipping a beat he opened his mouth, pulled out the wad of food and put it into his hand. He was that eager to finish his story.

Rule may need some refining.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Unless the appliances start heckling me, this should conclude my week of pilfering from myself

When Chuck and I first looked at our house in Mulletville, the backyard resembled a rain forest, minus the parrots. It's possible another family was living amongst the neck-high weeds and debris. There wasn't a speck of grass to be seen.

Like many other first-time home buyers, that didn't deter us from making an offer. Our panties were ripe with thoughts of potential. Possibility. Transformation.

(If you're thinking of buying a home and hear yourself ask your partner, "Can't you just picture x and y?" run. For the love of God, run.)

After two years of living there we finally made some updates to the yard, like adding a colorful horse and dropping $3,000 on a curtain drain— which is even unsexier than it sounds, if that's possible.

I also spent a fair amount of time learning the difference between annuals and perennials. Once I mastered that, I dumped a buttload of money on flowers and Miracle-Gro. I weeded. Plucked. Snapped. Dead-headed.

My garden grewith.

Fast-forward to this week. As I mentioned, our house is on the market for $5. I've gone back to work and have the pleasant experience of driving right by the house on the way. As a I turn my head I can see the tips of daisies and a bunch of other stuff I planted but now can't name.

Someone else will get me, the flowers heckle. You dropped hundreds of dollars on me for nothing. Nah, nah, nah nah nah.

Those flowers are assholes, I tell ya.

I decided to show the flowers a lesson.

On Tuesday, I drove to our former house on my lunch hour and—in my suit and heels—got a shovel from the garage.

I'll show you sons of bitches! I yelled.

I started digging.

It was gross. There were worms and spiders. Dirt fell into my heels. The roots snapped and shot dirt into my face. Sweat dripped down my brow as I hauled the flowers into a bucket, filled it with water and soil and dragged it to the car.

Halfway through I noticed the neighbor was outside in his underwear, smoking a cigarette and watching me sweat and swear. He seemed to be enjoying himself—almost as much as the neighbors enjoyed the futon fuck session.

His amusement spurred me on.

You like that?
I wanted to shout. A woman in heels with a metal shovel get you going, big boy?

I went back Wednesday and today. Again the man came outside to smoke as I uprooted more daisies and more cone flowers.

Bizarre silent movie? Oui.

There's one last patch of pink fluffy things I need to dig up and then I am done. No more flowers heckling me. No more dirt on my hands. No more underwear voyeur. No more thoughts of a new Mulletville couple sitting on the patio enjoying the fruits of my labor. (Or flicking their cigarette butts into my garden, which is more apropo for the neighborhood.)

Yes, this experience has been highly satisfying. When I look back at my first week back at Mulletville Corp after being home with two kids all winter I will smile.

Attacking things with a metal shovel is highly satisfying.

Special thanks to Chuck, who stopped asking, "Are you on crack?" as he saw me dragging tubs of flowers from the car and instead just shut up and helped me replant the flowers at our new home.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Pssst, can you spare me a newton?

Right now, the unemployment rate in the piss ass state of Connecticut is hovering at 9 percent. A loaf of whole wheat bread at the Mulletville Lite Stop & Shop is close to $4. Fig Newmans cost more than $4. And those lovely MorningStar Farms Chik Patties I used to rely upon as a last minute dinner are now $5 for four patties.

Connecticut’s gas prices are among the highest in the nation, topping the charts at about $4 a gallon. Our illustrious Governor Dannel P. Malloy, sworn into office in January, has increased the general sales tax from 6 percent to 6.35 percent. The sales tax exemptions that used to exist for clothing and shoes priced under $50 have vanished. Malloy has also increased the state income tax, effective August 1.

The best part of the tax is that it’s retroactive.

Our house in Mulletville is still on the market. It’s valued at close to $100,000 less than what we purchased it for in 2006.

Chuck’s been laid off since 2009. Since then he’s put himself through school, started a business, taken every freelance job that’s been offered to him and applied to countless jobs, but he still hasn’t been able to find a full-time career in his field.

Chuck and I have brought two children into this world. Beyond needing our love and guidance they need to eat. They need clothing. They need to see a doctor if they become ill. They need a roof over their heads.

I told a fib in one of my last posts. I wrote that I was going back to work in a few weeks, but the truth is that I started back yesterday. I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about being back after being home with Junior and Diddlydoo for seven months; more importantly I wasn’t sure I would be ready to write about how I felt.

I knew from previous return-to-work experience that I would be assailed with nosy and insensitive questions (How does it feel to be back? Who is watching your children? How can you stand being separated from your kids?) but I wasn’t so sure I wanted to blog about it again.

If I felt sad about leaving Junior when I went back to work three years ago, wouldn’t I be twice as sad now?

The answer right now is yes and no. Yes I miss my boys but knowing that my children are safe, fed, clothed and have a bed to sleep in greatly outweighs any sadness I feel about not seeing them during the day. Knowing that they are at home with Chuck also greatly outweighs any sadness I feel about not seeing them during the day.

Chuck’s a damn good father who is going to be incredibly close to his sons. How could I possibly regret that?

I can't.

So there it is: Until something changes—until we move out of this state, until I discover I have a rich, dead uncle after all, or until Malloy decides to institute a tax for sitting and I actually have to pay my employer so I can work—I’m back at my desk. I’m not going to belabor my points about the wretched state of the economy but for good measure I’ll say it again: At this time, I’m lucky to have a fucking job.

Even if it is working alongside a bunch of wackadoos.

Make laundry fun — and punishable

I don't know why there's so much effing laundry. Yes, there are five of us, but we aren't going anywhere. Part of me feels ...