Foot in Mouth Disease


I haven’t slept very well for over a week now, and thus, my filter–you know, the little voice that screams, “For the love of all that’s holy, SHUT UP!” every so often–has turned off.

I’ve banished myself to the office on those rare occasions that I’m not seeing kids or in meetings, because the stuff that’s coming out of my mouth is just stupid. It seems OK in my head, and then I hear it, and I’m like, “Holy Mother of God, what is wrong with me?” And the sad thing is, once it’s out there, I then feel the need to try to explain, which just makes everything worse.

I need to just (re)-learn the art of shutting up. But, since it doesn’t look like that’s happening, I’m putting myself into a self-imposed time out. It could be that I’m being way too sensitive. It could be that I don’t sound as much like a jackass as I think I do.

What might also be true–what I’m afraid is true–is that it’s worse than I think it is.

Thus, the time out. And with a little training, and a little sleep, I should regain my social skills in no time.

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Queries!


I say this as if it’s exciting. The truth of the matter is, it’s not.

Not even close.

I hate querying, though slowly, but surely, I’m becoming better at it.

At least, husband no longer has to hit send for me. It’s a step in the right direction.

I’m not even sure what it is about querying I hate so much. The few rejections I’ve gotten have been very kind overall, and I’m not devastated afterward (though an “I think you’re the most brilliant thing ever!” would be nice. Unlikely, but nice). So it’s not necessarily the fear of rejection driving this antipathy for querying. Or maybe it is. Maybe I’m terrified of the one scathing rejection that I haven’t even gotten (yet). Maybe I’m afraid that every literary agent in New York (and the world) is gathered in some dark “Agents Only” bathroom whispering about how wretched my writing is, like some clique of high school age “mean girls,” which, honestly, is less likely than an editor offering me a million dollars without my having to do anything but post a blog.

After all, the agents I’ve met have all been perfectly professional. So far, I’ve yet to meet a “mean girl.” I’m sure they’re out there (because really, aren’t mean girls/guys everywhere?), but I haven’t met them.

I’ll never get this thing published if I don’t query. As much as I like to fantasize about it, some editor is not going to come to me and offer me scads of money because I posted a blog. So I have to query, I have to wait for responses, and then I have to scramble when I actually get a request. And it has happened… not all the responses have been negative. Which is why it confounds me that I hate this process so much. It seems like so much to do: blog, website, book, the querying and researching agents and editors and publishing houses, the endless checking of emails.

I want to write.

But that’s not the only thing I want–I want to be published too.

So it’s back to the queries…

Sigh.

Attractive in a Red State Kind of Way…


A friend of mine once described her husband to be as “attractive in a red-state kind of way.” And my first thought was: “YES! That describes my husband too!”

My husband of 14 years and I are as opposite politically as we can possibly get. He’s the NRA-loving, gun toting Republican. A cop. Raised on a ranch in small-town Oregon, he actually sold his first lamb at five. And not as a pet, but at the faire. When I asked what happened to it, he looked at me like I was nuts. I imagined Booboo the lamb living on a farm somewhere, frolicking in the grass. Actually, the thing got slaughtered and someone had gyros for dinner. Booboo gyros.

He gets irritated if I even imagine living someplace with gun restrictions, like England. Or California. I fantasize about both.

Me, well, I’m left leaning. I voted for the Green Party candidate in my first presidential election. If I had to kill my own meat–if I had to eat something I had raised and then killed–I would 1) vomit; 2) be a vegetarian. I am fine with dairy. After all, if I can milk myself, I can handle consuming milk products. And I’d totally eat eggs if I weren’t allergic to them.

I’m the recycler. I’m the one who has the peace signs on the back of her car (and did when we first started dating), next to where my Autism Awareness ribbon used to be (whoever stole it: you bastard!). I’m the bleeding heart who feels bad for everyone (after all, I work in Special Ed–of course I’m a bleeding heart). I’m the one who reads Hobby Farm and Mother Earth News and Vegetarian Times. I tend to vote Democrat, unless the candidate in question is someone I a) know personally and dislike; or b) is crazy; or c) so damn dumb even I can’t reconcile it. And I can reconcile just about anything.

I sometimes wonder what the mailman must think when he sees the magazines we get. Swat, Mother Earth News, Guns and Ammo, Hobby Farm, The Rifleman. NEA vs. NRA.

As my friend said, my husband is attractive in a red-state kind of way. And I suppose, to him, I’m attractive in  a hippie-dippie kind of way. When I talk about the place I want to live, I refer to it as “The Commune.” He refers to the same piece of land as “The Compound.”

I once had a friend who asked me how I could live with someone so different from me in terms of beliefs. And I guess the answer is: while I feel strongly about my political positions, I don’t need to foist them onto everyone I meet. And the same goes for him. We can have a rational discussion about the issues–and totally disagree with one another–and remain calm. I can see his point of view and I like to think he can see mine.  We know we’re different. We know we won’t agree on everything. But we also know that we can actually come to an agreement… A place where we can agree that while each of us wouldn’t have the utopia we’re looking for–since he sees the world as Escape from New York and I see rainbows and unicorns through my rose-colored glasses–would be a place both of us would be OK with living.

I kind of wish that our leaders could be the same way. I hate how polarized everything is. It’s one thing to be firm in one’s beliefs. It’s another thing entirely to be so entrenched in ideology that you refuse to compromise. I’m pretty freaking liberal and my hub is pretty freaking conservative, but if the kind of snide, petty arguing that occurs in The House occurred in my house, we would have divorced long ago. And that wouldn’t have been good for us.

We need each other.

This hippie chick loves her red-state hubby.

Fake Irish


I was going to blog on Disneyland, Part II, but it was so freaking depressing, I decided to wait until later, when I am better able to see the humor in it.

So, instead, I’m going to blog on my status as a frustrated, wanna-be Irishman.

I say wanna-be, because, like all Americans, there’s Irish in there, but it remains to be seen precisely how much. My dad may be a quarter Irish (he claims half, but his grandmother was actually Welsh. He refuses to believe me on this front, no matter how much evidence I put in front of him. I’ve given up). My mother may also be Irish, at least in part. I like to claim Irish heritage, with the dark hair, hazel-green eyes and pale, freckled skin. Really, I’m just another pale, freckled American.

So, honestly, while I think I can safely claim Celtic origins (or, even more safely, ancestry in the British Isles), I don’t think I can necessarily claim Ireland as my ancestral home.

It’s too bad, because I love all things Irish. The Book of Kells, the Blarney Stone, the Cliffs of Moher. Dublin and Trinity College. Waterford crystal. Whiskey. Guinness. The accents (yes, I did once date a guy just because of the accent). I freaking love the Pogues, Flogging Molly, and The Chieftains. Huge U2 fan (but who isn’t? I don’t think that should even count as a love of all things Irish). I even liked the heather, though I discovered that I’m allergic to it (but then, I’m allergic to almost everything that grows, so it’s not like that’s a shock).

In short, like most Americans, I’m a frustrated Irishman.

I’m not the only one in my family with “wanna-be” roots. My aunt, who may or may not be part Scottish, insisted we get a freaking bagpiper for my grandmother’s funeral. That would have been fine, but my grandmother was Dutch. 100%. No Scottish in there–both her parents were straight off the boat.

Clog dancers in wooden shoes would have been more appropriate. I’d even have made allowances for a yodeller (it would have been funny. I’d totally go for a yodeller at my funeral). But a bagpiper? Since I’d planned the funeral, I had nixed the idea of a bagpiper completely. So when a guy in a kilt showed up and starting piping away, I was completely caught off guard.

After all, my grandmother, as I’ve mentioned, was Dutch. And really wasn’t into the whole Scottish thing. She once told me she only tolerated Braveheart because she thought Mel Gibson had a cute butt.

(Talk about throwing me for a loop. I couldn’t even say the word butt in front of my very proper grandmother. I just about did a spit take when she said that)

My dad is worse than anyone. I can at least entertain the notion that I’m not really Irish, but he can’t. My dad’s people have been here since before the Revolutionary War. I think, after at least 300 years, maybe we should be thinking of ourselves as American.

We have no ancestral homeland. Or, if we do, it’s Boston.

So I guess there are three categories of Irish: Irish, black Irish, and Fake Irish.

I am proudly the third.

Disneyland, Part One: The Alarm Goes Off


I am in beautiful Southern California, at the happiest place on Earth. Disneyland.

But this is the story of what happened before we even made it inside the park. This is the story of our first day in our hotel.

We had decided to take it easy, because we’d spent 10 hours the day before trapped in a car with two small children. We went down to the beach, where Chewey threw himself to the ground in a fit something like four times, because he was tired and cranky and has entered the fearsome fours. It was super.

But that wasn’t the capper of my day.

What made a generally crummy day that much worse is what came after we got back to the room.

It was ten PM. The kids were in bed, sound to sleep. Husband had gone to the roof to watch the fire works, leaving my friend and I in the room. I was just starting to wonder where he was when it happened.

The fire alarm went off.

The kids began screaming, having been awakened from a dead sleep by the blaring of fire alarms. Sea Monkey jumped up and tried to run from the room. Desperate, I tried to get Chewey into pants–of course, he’d decided that THAT night was the one where he’d refuse to wear pajamas.

He fought. I wrestled him into his pajamas like I was wrestling a freaking alligator. Tied Sea Monkey’s robe around her and we took off down the hall to the stairs. Chewey, who is sensitive to loud noises, was covering his ears and upset, but holding his own.

Then Sea Monkey began running down the stairs. Calling after her didn’t work, so I left Chewey with my friend and chased after her. I should’ve let it be the other way around, but I didn’t.

When I caught up with her, we had made it down to the sixth floor (down from 11. That’s right. Eleven). I pulled her aside to wait for Chewey and my friend, and that’s when it happened.

Sea Monkey got set off.

So now I have a boy I can hear screaming, and a girl who is now wailing like a fire engine herself. And a wall of people between me and my hysterical son.

I could hear him screaming, but I couldn’t help him. Not standing there, anyway.

And that’s when I notice it: there’s people evacuating and the occasional employee, but no one’s directing us as to what we should do. There are no firemen. There is no smoke. The alarms have stopped.

In short, I believe there is no danger.

Sea Monkey begins yelling at me that she needs to get out. I know she does. But I can hear my son shrieking in fear. If I had thought for a moment there was actual danger, I would have found the first parent there and asked them to take her.

Instead, I yell at my poor kid, who is only trying to do what she knows she has to–get out–and tell her to stay put for as long as she can hear me. I run back up two flight of stairs, pick up my now hysterical son (who was having trouble navigating the metal stairs in his bare feet and was too heavy for my friend to pick up), wrap him up in my sweatshirt, and carry him down the remaining flights.

I meet my husband in the lobby.

My kids are hysterical. The boy is saying he wants to get into the car and drive ten hours so he can go home. He refuses to go back up to the room.

I don’t particularly blame him. After all, this same thing (alarms going off after they’ve gone to sleep) happened when we were in Vegas a month ago. One more outing like this, and he’ll turn into a freaking shut in. Before these last two months, we hadn’t gone anywhere as a family in almost two years. Now THIS.

We tried to comfort him. An employee apologizes, and says it was burning food. But there are no firefighters. Not one. There’s no way they’d leave that hotel without making sure everyone was safe.

It was a fucking drill.

And if that wasn’t bad enough, the employee lied to me, like she thinks I can’t read. After all, they’d posted that there was the potential for a drill on the wall. But I never would have thought they’d do it after hours. They don’t let me run the damn dishwasher in our unit after 10, but they can do a fire drill?

I’m not just upset on my own behalf, but I saw parents carrying their disabled adolescents on their backs down all those stairs. My boy is 50 pounds–heavy but manageable. What about them?

I was up until 3:30 trying to quiet him. I finally had to wrap myself around his little body and hold him close to my chest so he would settle enough to actually sleep. It was horrible.

They called at seven that morning to make sure I was coming to their presentation. Um… Let me think…

No.

How To Phrase the “Poke” Email


Well, it’s getting to be time to submit my “poke” email to one of the agents I submitted to.

Now, before anyone calls me out, she did specifically say when I met her that this was okay to do. It’s been 14 weeks (but who’s counting?) since I submitted my manuscript, and everyone else who submitted around the same time as I did (or even a few days later) has heard back. I, however, don’t even know if she received my submission.

I have heard, precisely, nothing.

I’m sure she’s busy. I know she probably has a million things to read. If she hasn’t received it–if it got junk mailed, or lost in the ether, I’d like her to get it. After all, she requested it.

If she has gotten it, and this is a nonverbal rejection, then won’t I feel like a jackass?

I want to be politely professional in my email, but this just makes me sound like a neurotic princess. I want to be funny in my email (because I’m funny in person), but that just makes me sound unprofessional and wacky. Zany is good in books, but I’m not so certain it works when one is trying to acquire an agent. Wacky would be fine if I were multiply published, but alas, I am not.

The issue really is: she was so nice, making my first pitching experience easy and fun, and I really don’t want to be a jerk. Or viewed as a jerk, because a good eighty percent of the time, I’m not one. For the other twenty percent of the time, all bets are off.

So here I am, pondering how to find that happy medium between bitchy and wacky.

Maybe there isn’t one.

I. Just. Don’t. Know. What. To. Do.

Arg.

TV for Intelligent People


I keep trying to come up with something to write about, but I’m either feeling morose or I want to muse about a certain television show which is a train wreck and doesn’t deserve the publicity.

I’ve decided on the latter.

The show in question is Baggage. It’s hosted by Jerry Springer, and it’s a dating show, where people’s “baggage” is put on display, and the bachelor or bachelorette gets to decide if (s)he can live with the contestant’s past.

I don’t usually watch game shows. I could care less about dating shows. I don’t watch reality TV (actually, being honest, I don’t really watch TV at all. I watch Castle because, well, it’s awesome and I have loved Nathan Fillion since his days as Joey Buchanan on OLTL, and True Blood because I like vampires). I’m not entirely sure why I even caught the show in question.

It was a study in fake tans, faker boobs and a skirt so short I’m not entirely sure why the woman bothered. Actually, I’m not sure why she bothered with the shirt, either. It’s not like it covered much of anything. And the questions? Downright embarrassing. Yet, I couldn’t look away.

It’s not because it made me feel better about myself–I was actually quite horrified I was watching the show. I could have been watching my favorite episode of Histories Mysteries (it’s about the Loch Ness monster, and one of the “experts” seriously says this line, “The critics are either for or agains’ it.” To which my husband and I respond–in unison–“Or they have no opinion!” every time we watch it. It’s DVRed so we can watch it again and again). I could have been watching something where I didn’t actually feel the brain cells dying inside my skull.

I couldn’t look away. I couldn’t not watch these people make jackasses of themselves on television.

One chick was a drug mule (okaaaay). Another had a big secret that she didn’t like dogs (uh, what?). The third had been institutionalized (this was the one he could live with). I know, again… what?

His baggage? He wouldn’t wear a condom. And I couldn’t help yelling to the cute, barely-clad, crazy woman, “Say NO! I’m pretty certain he’s got something communicable! In fact, I’d be surprised if he didn’t.”

She didn’t listen, because, well, the people living in my TV rarely listen to me. So, of course, this was something she could live with.

I watched this show from painful beginning to the travesty of this couple getting together at the end. I watched four people make a mockery of their existence. It was like watching a train wreck or a traffic accident. The entire time I watched, I felt vaguely ashamed of my blatant rubber-necking. It was awful and horrible and so wretchedly trashy.

I hope I never watch the show again.

But I know, if I happen upon it, I will stop whatever I’m doing and watch.

I won’t be able not to.

Into the Screaming


My squirrely son is, at this very moment, in his room. Screaming.

You might wonder, is he sick? Dying? Given the volume and pitch at which the screams occur, one might think the latter. No one not currently being killed by an axe murderer should scream like that. Seriously.

But no, he is not. He’s just peeved because he has to sleep in his own room, after terrorizing his sister for the last half hour. He likes sleeping with others. He likes snuggling and being annoying and chatting pretty much all night long. He likes to steal covers and put his dragon toenails into the flesh of your back (doesn’t matter that they were just cut again today–his toes are always dragon talons). He likes to do movies lines while he’s “sleeping.”

This last one is the one I find most annoying. It’s actually more irritating to me than the screaming, because at least with the screaming, that’s original. But when he communicates with me strictly using lines from movies, it makes me nuts. He once had an entire paragraph composed of lines from different movies–and what he was talking about made sense. It was super clever but creepy in a Rainman kind of way. And I just wanted to say, “Talk to me! Just talk! You don’t need clever catch-phrases to talk to me!”

He knows the rule, no “movie lions” allowed when talking to Mommy.

In any case, he’s still screaming.

Better than doing movie lines, I suppose.

But so much for bedtime, huh?

Of Nuns and Fruit Loops


This is the story of one of my epic failures as a person.

See, sometimes I can be such a jerk.

I’m not admitting to anything heinous and/or illegal. I’ve never killed a puppy (though one hamster and a series of goldfish did meet untimely and unfortunate demises), I didn’t cheat on my SATs, and I haven’t had so much as a parking ticket in 15 years.

Hell, I barely even speed, and everyone speeds.

So while we’ve established that I’m not a hardened criminal, let’s go ahead and establish my jerkiness once and for all: I refused to give money to an old, crippled, blind nun sitting outside some sort of children’s home in Mexico.

I am loath to call it an orphanage, because that sounds just so much worse, and since it’s my blog and I am uncertain of the familial status of said children, we will be calling it a children’s home.

I’m not making this up—she really was blind, crippled, and old.  Her joints were gnarled, her face wrinkled. The sparse hair of her brows was snow white, and her legs were shriveled up and useless. A little kid stared at me through the bars of the place with huge, dark eyes. When the nun asked me for money, I looked into her opaque eyes and said no, and then pretended I didn’t understand. At the time, I didn’t even feel bad—I was so obliviously selfish that it didn’t occur to me to feel bad. The nun asked me again, this time motioning to the bag in my hands—asking me for food, I suppose (my Spanish is quite wretched)—and again I refused.

I refused, even with the little kid staring at me, as I stood there holding a box of Fruit Loops, of all things, five bucks burning a hole in my pocket. I could have handed it over to them, gone on my merry way and not thought another thing about it, but I had spotted a street vendor on the beach, knew he had a moonstone ring I wanted to buy, and was pretty certain I could talk him down to the five dollars I had left.

So I said no, and walked off with my Fruit Loops and five dollars in my pocket.

The guilt didn’t even hit me until weeks later, but I felt like shit when it finally did. My friend and I were playing a morbid game—a game for the really bad drivers of the world—I had named “How many demerit points?” For instance, how many points would you get if you hit a fire hydrant? How many points would it be if you hit an Elvis impersonator, and would you get more points if you hit fat Elvis or skinny Elvis? ** (According to the rules of the game, more points were awarded for fat Elvis, because even though skinny Elvis would be faster, who knew how much damage a rhinestone-studded jumpsuit would actually cause? I grant you, running down Elvis seems improbable, but I live in Nevada, where running over an Elvis impersonator is actually a distinct possibility.) And then, one afternoon as we drove through downtown, we were trying to figure out what the mother lode of points would be when my friend (the driver) finally came up with it:

How many points for an old, blind nun running from a burning orphanage with a child in her arms?

And I thought to myself: How many points if you just refuse to give them money? And what if she’s crippled too? And what if said orphan is looking at you while you refuse to donate?

Oh, God, and what about the damn Fruit Loops?

For six months, I was certain that I was going to Hell, even though I don’t necessarily believe in it. I had too many demerits on the license of my life, and there was no taking another test: I’d already failed. So I volunteered in a dementia ward and entertained old men who would grab my seventeen year-old ass as I walked by. Instead of hauling off and slapping them, I would simply smile, hoping maybe understanding gentleness in the face of such boorish behavior would atone for my mistake.

Incidentally, that only seemed to encourage the behavior. I got comments like, “Hot damn, you’re pretty,” (aww, so sweet), followed by little squeezy motions at my boobs and a slap on the ass. I learned never to put my back to an old man (my butt’s kind of hard to miss, even with the delayed reflexes of the elderly, though some of them are really quite fast). It’s a skill that served me well when I worked in the nursing home.

But I digress.

Right after I graduated from high school, I went to San Francisco for a couple of days with a few friends of mine.  We went into a little deli to get some lunch, and decided to walk around Union Square for a while and eat our sandwiches before going home. And as I was walking down the street, I saw this guy—a vagrant, to be nice about it—sitting on the sidewalk, holding a sign that read:

“Hungry.  Please help.”

And at that moment, I saw an image of myself, refusing to give money to a blind nun outside of a Mexican children’s home while I clutched  a box of Fruit Loops to my chest.  I saw the nun’s nebulous eyes, her shriveled legs, her gnarled hands. I looked down at the moonstone ring I wore, the thing I just had to have so much I refused to help someone who actually needed it, a tangible reminder of my failure as a human being. So I gave the guy the other half of my sandwich.

“Hey, what the hell is this?” he asked.

“It’s a sandwich.”

“I ain’t blind. Why you giving it to me?” He didn’t say it, but he may as well have added, because I certainly heard it: You stupid bitch.

“Your sign says you’re hungry, and that’s all I have. I thought you might want it. It’s not old. I just got it.” I felt my color rise, my heart racing as I tried to explain my honorable intentions, yet feeling miserably stupid about it.

He looked at the sandwich, then to me, and then he looked to small group of business people who were staring at us. “Thanks,” he mumbled. And then he gave me a look that said something quite the opposite.

This wasn’t exactly the reaction I had been expecting. I hadn’t anticipated feeling embarrassed and ashamed. “You’re welcome,” I said stiffly, and then I left, running to catch up with my friends.

I caught up with them at the corner. “Why’d you do that?” my friend asked me, genuinely perplexed, and I felt bad she seemed so confused I would actually do something nice. I’m not that bad a person. My teachers always loved me, and I donated my time to work with the elderly. I read books to little kids after school.

Goddammit, I’m sweet.

Well, sweetish anyway.

I crossed my arms and shrugged. “I don’t know.  He looked hungry, is all.”

A handsome man in an expensive suit looked at me sympathetically. “You know, you shouldn’t give to these people sitting on the street: they make professions out of it. Give them an inch and they’ll take a mile,” he said, and I was unable to say anything in response. I’ve never been quick on my feet with the witty retort, and why should I have to defend myself for doing something nice, anyway? We looked at one another for a long second, and when the light changed, and we started across the street, he hurried in front of us, a man with someplace important to go, something important to do. “He’s just a bum.” he called over his shoulder as I stared at his back.

Hey, it was a nice back in an expensive suit. Of course I’m going to stare.

I looked over at the guy who now had possession of my sandwich—roast beef and provolone on Dutch crust, my favorite—just in time to see him toss it into the trash.  Hungry, my sweet ass.  I was tempted to go over to him and bawl him out for throwing away my sandwich: I was still hungry, and I only had twenty bucks to last me until I got home—and that included gas money.

Asshole.

And then I remembered the nun. So that one guy didn’t appreciate my sandwich; in the end, did it really matter? I wasn’t going to starve to death. And even though he didn’t appreciate it, it still proved I was not an entirely heartless jerk.

Not all the time, anyway.

** No nuns, fire hydrants or Elvis impersonators were harmed during the course of this game. It was entirely  hypothetical. We didn’t actually try to run anyone/anything over, though I did once crash into a supermarket. But that was an accident, and a story for another day, and I didn’t get any points for it.