It seemed like a good idea… at the time

Every so often I get the brilliant idea to do a household project.  These home projects start out much the same as my spring planting projects – with a trip to Home Depot.  In all honesty, I have never understood why Home Depot isn’t built with an attached trauma center.  I mean, have you ever really wondered how many of those happy Home Depot customers are going to wind up as guests of the closest ER before the day is over?  Many.  Stitches, a visit to a burn unit and a years supply of Band-Aids should be included in the price of all home improvement projects.

Years ago, we replaced the floor in our house with tile.  And as all home improvement projects tend to go, we had a moment of insanity when we chose the grout.  By all things holy we chose white grout.  White.  In Arizona.  Now, granted the grout likely had some charming non-white name – like “ivory” or “candlelight” or “shimmering yak vomit”.  But alas, it was white.  And white grout by any other name is still the devil.  You see, though white grout is amazing in pictures – we have dogs, feet, and the audacity to actually go outside occasionally.  Other parts of the country/world might be able to get away with white grout but it should be illegal in Arizona simply because we have red dirt.  Yes, our dirt is red.  Like fire.  Which is what Arizona feels like in the summertime.

Since we were now planning on selling the house, it was time to tackle the grout.  I tried regular floor cleaners.  The grout chuckled.  I tried commercial strength floor cleaning products.  The grout snorted.  I tried industrial floor cleaning stuff.  The grout giggled and asked me to stop tickling it.  I was desperate.  And desperation always calls for a visit to Home Depot.

Home Depot sales associates wear these bright orange aprons with their name written in a Sharpie marker.  I think this is to identify their remains should a home improvement disaster befall them in the store.  I know that in my home improvement projects, I wear a name tag just in case.  One of these kind aproned souls took me under his wing and nodded sagely when I told him my tale of grout woe.  He suggested pool acid.  I naively agreed.  I mean, the Home Depot guy wouldn’t steer me wrong, would he?  Never.  I bought the acid and set out for a day of exorcising the grout demon.

Now, while I have the ability to read, I simply feel that instructions are a waste of precious cleaning time.  I don’t need to read things like “use in a well ventilated space” or “hazard – this product may kill you and then eat the flesh off your bones rendering you into an anatomy class decor item”.  Instructions are for home improvement sissies.  I am a home improvement Goddess.  No instructions for me.

So the cleaning process begins.  I get down on the ground and begin scrubbing the floor with my amazing new product.  It is working.  The grout is slowly morphing from chocolate brown despair into beigey goodness.  I am stoked.  I scoot along the floor pouring acid and watching as my dreams of a white floor slowly turn into reality.  And that’s when I realize that I am alone in the room.  Normally, I am surrounded by animals.  We have dogs and cats that believe I am their actual mother and that I need their presence at all times.  Never in my life have I been on the floor alone.  This is unusual.  But the floor is starting to get clean so I go back to my joyful scrubbing.

Then I realize that not only am I alone, but I am crying.  Crying?  Of joy perhaps?  Or have I begun to feel sorry for the dirt I am exterminating?  Neither really.  Just tears dripping off my chin as I continue cleaning.  That’s when I realize I am sitting in a cloud.  The sunlight is streaming through one of my CLOSED windows and as I look around I notice that there is actually a cloud on the floor.  Inside my house.  And I am the epicenter of that cloud.  That’s when I realize that maybe this was a bad idea.  I am sitting in a cloud of acid.  And because I believe in the adage – go big or go home – there is a sea of flesh eating goodness between me and my chair.

Let’s just say that by the time I made it back to my chair, having crab crawled all the across the vast ocean of muriatic acid, my shorts had succumbed to the acid.  Yes, the acid ate my clothes off my body.  Yes, I am serious.  We never did finish cleaning the grout.  We wound up coloring it with non-toxic grout paint instead.  That seemed like a better plan than death by acid would have been.

I may start another home improvement project soon.  I think all my life insurance is paid up.



Even the plants want to kill you

For most of the country, the end of March signals the end of winter.  Snow melts as the world once again gets painted in the pastels of spring.  Here, in what I like to call “Hell’s Waiting Room”, the end of March signals that once again we were too lazy to move to a more temperate climate.

Summer in Arizona is less about picnics and cookouts and more about finding stylish oven mitts to wear on your hands while driving.   Even our flora and fauna is bitter about the heat here.  Sure other states have plants that are poisonous, but Arizona plants don’t just settle for making it’s citizens itch like poison ivy.  Oh no.  Our plants are homicidal.  They want you dead.  If they aren’t covered in prickly spines – cactus, I’m looking at you – they are poisonous.  Or sometimes, the plants themselves aren’t deadly but the things that live in them are.  Like spiders.  Or scorpions.  Or centipedes.  AAAAAGH.

Where other states have cute little bunnies and squirrels frolicking in the grass, we Arizonans share our desert with javelina – a boar-type creature who was not happy to be just an ugly pig.  No, he is an ugly stinky pig.  I love animals.  I love all animals.  But, javelina are simply not attractive animals in any way.  And the smell is really something only a mother, or another javelina, could love.

So while you are getting ready to dust the snow off your grill and partake in the great spring/summer adventure of cookouts and get togethers, think of me – wearing Williams Sonoma potholders on my hands fending my way through a desert of thorny, poisonous ANGRY plants.  Oh, and I’m probably being chased by a pack of stinky pigs.

Happy spring, America.


The family outsider

Recently (and by recently I mean in the last year or so… funny how ones idea of “recently” changes as you get more years under your belt), I got back in contact with my cousins from my dad’s side of the family.  It’s one of the gifts of the internet – Facebook and, in particular – that it’s now so much easier to find and contact people these days.  Gifts and curses, I suppose if I were being truly honest about it.

I grew up as the only child of divorced parents.  My mother was an only child and my father, a raging alcoholic who was far out of the picture by the time I was a toddler, had one younger sister who had four daughters.  I knew of my aunt but only in a sort of mythic way.  She was someone who I didn’t know, and had no contact with but I kind of hoped she remembered, or at least, thought of me.  My cousins were completely unknown.  I knew their first names, but other than that, I was pretty oblivious to them and to our connection.

Recently, 40+ years after my parents divorce, I  have been in contact with a couple of my adult cousins through Facebook.  They are nice people and I’m glad I’ve met them, but in some ways, I feel like an outsider in my own family.  They have history that I’m not a part of.  They have pictures of the “cousins” with our shared grandmother that I’m not, and never was, included in.  I am grateful that I get to have a tiny piece of a family now, but in some ways, it’s a bit too little, too late.  I lived nearby. My mother had not moved so it’s not like no one knew where I was.  But I was never contacted or invited for family events when I was a child.

While I’m grateful to have a small piece of my ancestral picture, in some ways it’s more hurtful getting to see what I missed out on.  Before I was reconnected with family I had accepted that I was a one person family reunion every day.  My family was gone and I had grown some scabs over the wounds that grief creates.  But for some reason now, I find myself pining for a family I never actually had.  A family with a grandmother who was accepting and kind, and not judgmental and cruel – as I remember our shared matriarch.

Maybe one day I can look at the pictures of my family and not think “why wasn’t I included in that?”.  But that day isn’t today, and for today I’m still sad that once again I am an outsider.

A holiday for cats and gardeners

While everyone is out drinking green beer, eating corned beef and cabbage and asking women if they “have a little Irish in them” (yuck), I will be celebrating by giving treats to my cats,  planning a trip, and considering planting a garden (it is Floricide season, after all).  What does any of that have to do with St. Patrick’s Day?  Nothing.  Because I am celebrating St. Gertrude’s Day instead.

St. Gertrude is the patron saint of cats, travelers and gardeners and sadly, rather than being given a day of her own, she is celebrated (or forgotten) on the same day as the patron saint of drunks and obnoxious guys everywhere.  Yeah, I know that isn’t what St. Patrick is actually supposed to be celebrated for, but that’s pretty much what his “day” is all about.   If I were St. Gertrude, I’d be annoyed.

So after downing your pint of green beer and eating your fill of corned beef, share a treat with your favorite feline friend.  Happy St. Gertrude’s Day.

An open letter to ASU Gammage Box Office

Dear Gammage Box Office Manager:

I called you today because I was given two tickets for one of your upcoming shows. Since I use a wheelchair I was hoping I might be able exchange the tickets I had for accessible ones. You, however, were not only not helpful, but actually downright rude. Customer service obviously isn’t something that comes naturally to you. So I thought maybe you would like a lesson. I am a helper like that.

When someone calls you asking for help and they actually have a legitimate problem it might help if you acted like you actually gave a damn. Sounding bored and insinuating that since I didn’t buy the tickets that I was somehow less than your other patrons was rude and uncalled for. How difficult would it have been to try to make some accommodations? Even if nothing could be done it would have greatly helped the situation if you had acted even a tiny bit sorry. But you didn’t.

So, this is my open letter to you and all disabled people. If you use a wheelchair do not expect the Gammage Box Office personnel to assist you in any way. To them, or at least to the female manager, our patronage is not as valuable as those who are able bodied. Instead of using our money at Gammage, I suggest we spend it at venues who have proven to be willing to assist in situations like this. Spend your entertainment dollars at: Chase Field, Talking Stick Arena (formerly Glendale Arena), US Airways Center, The Orpheum, Comerica Theater, Symphony Hall, Celebrity Theater and many others. These venues, in my experience, have been interested in assisting however possible and I have had very good experiences at each of these places. I, for one, will not be spending my rare time off and entertainment budget at a place that doesn’t value me as a customer and I urge others to do the same.


The lady in the wheelchair you refused to help

Spring — a time for rebirth and death

It’s getting to be that time of year that I like to call “Floricide”.  What is “Floricide” you ask?  Why it’s the art/act of planting lovely flowers only to let them die a miserable painful death.  It’s a yearly tradition in our house.  It’s like a rite of passage into the ridiculous asphalt-melting season known as summer.

Each year, I get excited that it’s getting warmer.  I seem to have a moment of temporary insanity where I forget what comes after the pleasant warm up.  I think this is similar to women who seem to forget the insanity of 48 hours of labor where all they did was scream homicidal curses at anyone nearby – all the while pushing out a baby the size of a bowling ball.  They remember the horror for about a year or so, and then they start attempting to get pregnant again – all the while I’m saying “oh my God, no.  I remember what that was like the first time.  It was horrible, there was blood and banshee-like screeching.  Why on earth would you do that again?”.  But the pregnant women don’t seem to remember or care.  Much like me with plants.

Each spring I take a glorious trip to Home Depot to buy lovely plants for the pots that we have on our front porch.  Pots, that do not have an automatic watering system, by the way.  I pick a color scheme and find plants that will get bushy, some that will get tall, and some that will drape gracefully from their container.  The vision in my head is beautiful.  It’s epic.  There are butterflies and birds and a freaking visit from Bambi in my vision.  It’s A-MAZ-ING.  I joyfully load my treasures into my car and drive them home.

That’s where things start to take a turn for the worse.  I unload the plants, who are likely thinking “woohoo, we got out of that store and are going home with the happiest plant lover in the world!  We are rock stars!”.  I think they may even be giving each other little plant high-fives.  Though it would be difficult, since they don’t actually have hands or arms.  But they are doing it.  Even if they are only just thinking about it, I think it still counts.

So I unload the exuberant plants and begin the process of planting them.  It starts out well enough.  I put fresh soil in the planters (mainly because I hate bugs and am always paranoid about what is living in the remains of last years Floricide vessel) and begin planting the flowers.  The first pot is beautiful – well planned, lots of textures and color.  While still small, the plants are deserving of an upcoming cover of “House Beautiful” of something like that.  They are awesome.  The second pot is nice.  I’m getting tired and hot by now and the planning is slowly going out the window.  By the last pot I’m just throwing dirt and plants together in a pot and muttering “you’re a plant.  Fend for yourself”.  Then I spray the whole thing down with water and go inside and lay down with a cold beverage.

Things get better for awhile.  I water the plants religiously and I talk to them and congratulate them (even the sad ones in the last pot) for surviving and getting an opportunity to live with me.  It’s false hope that I’m spreading.  I know that now, but at the time – at the time of temporary insanity/amnesia – I think I actually believe the lies I am spewing at the defenseless petunias.

Then it gets hot.  I don’t feel like standing outside with a hose for 20 minutes watering plants.  So I start only watering them every other day.  And as it gets hotter, the watering sessions last a shorter and shorter amount of time, until finally I go outside and just glance at the hose that is laying forlornly beside the wilting (and likely whimpering) plants and that’s enough.  That glance serves as the death knell for petunias everywhere.  From that point forward no one gets water unless it comes from the sky.  Within a week or so, the plants are dead.  A week or so later and they are crispy little reminders of dreams that had been.

So, as you get ready for your weekend – perhaps doing some spring cleaning or planting remember me.  I’ll be heading to Home Depot soon, and the plants had better be ready.  It’s time for spring.

It’s all a rich tapestry…

This isn’t my first time blogging and likely may not be my last.  I grew up with the dream of being a writer.  I remember sitting with my family in front of the television watching something scintillating like “Starsky and Hutch” or perhaps “Kojak” as we youngsters of the 70’s were wont to do.  I was around seven and carried a notepad with me pretty much 24/7 and rather than watching the amazing acting of Telly Savalas or David Soul – I wrote.  I was writing a novel, you see.  A novel that was, looking back on it, a direct plagiarism of the Shakespearean prose of whatever Nancy Drew tale I had just finished reading.  But I was writing.  Was it good?  No.  But I loved it.  I remember thinking that this is what my life was supposed to be.  Just me, books and words.  Some of those words I would read and some I would write, because as a writer I am also a reader.  And I love both.

Life is filled with turns and twists and some of those are harsh realities.  I learned that I would not make money writing and gave up the dream.  But to be honest, nothing ever really replaced it.  Writing wasn’t a dream like becoming a pop star or flying to the moon on a spaceship shaped like a polka dotted dinosaur.  It was less a dream and more of who I was.  And, who I still am.  I wish I could write for a living.  Use words and tell stories and actually still be able to pay my bills.  But alas, so far that dream is still a long ways away.  Perhaps I will get there someday.  Perhaps someday I can write a novel or a series of essays or a memoir and I will actually make a living from it.  But until then, writing is living for me.  And it’s something I need to get back to.

So this blog is going to be a site where I tell stories of things that I see or have experienced.  I titled this post “It’s all a rich tapestry…” because that’s how I see the world.  Everything is just a rich tapestry.  We are all threads that make up the amazing colors and textures.  Without any one of us, the tapestry loses something.  We all have something to give.   So, be the beautiful cyan thread that weaves through the sky, or the celadon fiber that creates a blade of grass.   Everyone has something to give.  Writing is what I will share with you.  It may not be perfect.  But it’s my thread of the tapestry.  I hope you will enjoy it.