Lauren Wellbank

One mom and her struggle to survive until bedtime


Month: March 2016

The Boy and the Tree – a short story

A long time ago there was a tall, strong tree.  It stood separate from all the other trees alone in the clearing.  One day a little boy came into the clearing.  His cheeks were rosy from the wind and his chestnut hair was disheveled.  There was a bit of a golden fall leaf crushed in his hair.  He looked around the clearing and his almond colored eyes fell onto the big oak.  Staring at it for a moment, a calm came over his angst ridden young face.  Taking a deep breath, he walked toward the tree.  Once he was directly in the shade from its leaves, he looked up the massive trunk, and all the way to the tips of the branches.  His strong jaw agape.  Stepping back he took another deep breath, and then began pummeling the trunk with his small fists.  He screamed at the tree and kicked it as hard as he could.  Little flecks of spit flew out of his open mouth and onto the tree’s rough bark.  He said horrible things to the tree.  He called it childish names and told the tree that it was stupid.  He punched it until the bark was red with blood and his hands were raw.

After a while the boy grew tired and he slumped down the trunk of the tree to rest at the base.  The grass felt cool on his hot back as he stared through the tree’s leaves and into the clear sky.  A breeze was picking up and his chest seemed to rise and fall in tune with the swaying foliage.  Time passed slowly as he laid there and it was nearing twilight when he finally sat up.  Rising slowly, his slight frame cracking from the lack of movement, he looked up at the tree once more.  He took a deep breath, turned, and walked about out of the clearing the same way he came.  Leaving nothing behind to reveal his visit except the crimson tinted oak.

A few weeks went by.  It rained, it got cooler, and night came on earlier.  Fall had officially arrived.  The boy returned, consumed by anger.  He attacked the tree in the same fit of blind rage.  Screaming.  Spitting the words out like some vile taste in his mouth.  Using his fists to pound the hate from his young body and into the tree.  He left in the same manner as before, with no telltale signs of the anger he had shown towards the tree left in his face.  About a week went by before he came back, his hand now wrapped up in white bandages.  Attacking the tree in what had become his customary manner.  Screaming, crying, and telling the tree how much he hated it.  White bits of bandage remained behind on the bark as he walked out of the clearing, tinted in places by the red of his blood.

Not even a full week passed before he was back.  His hands wrapped in new gauze and one encased in a clean cast.  This time he walked into the clearing with a baseball bat at his side.  The bat swung at the tree with a new passion.  First, he was only swinging with his good hand.  Then getting caught up in the rage, he swung with both.  Bits and pieces of bark flew from the tree as if he had gone at it with a chain saw.  The bat cracked and he gave up on it and began flailing with his feet.  Kicking so hard that he was driving bits of bark into his already scuffed sneakers.  Dusk approached just as he let out a final shriek and sent the bat soaring into the forest.  It flew through the air and smacked into another tree, knocking loose the few remaining leaves.

The boy was away for a while, almost a month.  The first snow had fallen, and the forest was empty for all the animals were sleeping until spring, when the boy finally returned.  His cast was gone and his hand was unwrapped.  There were pink scars still visible, but nothing that wouldn’t heal completely with time.  He walked into the clearing, bundled in a brown drab winter coat, thread barren across the shoulders.  Walking up to the tree he commenced what had become the ritual.  He beat his hands bloody and screamed his throat raw at least once a week all that winter.

Spring had begun in the forest.  Everywhere was alive with color.  The leaves were returning and the ground had thawed making room for the fresh sprouts to grow.  The boy returned often, but less than he had in the winter.  He came and went, never leaving more than his bloody handprints on the forest walls.  Spring ended, summer began, and it continued.  Summer ended, fall began, and it continued.  The boy grew, and it continued.  Years went by, seasons changed.  He came more, he came less, but he always came.

The tree had always been there, standing tall.  Through the years, the leaves began to fall sooner, and return later.  They seemed to come back a little less shiny.  Spots and streaks began to show in them.  The deep green became tarnished by maroons and reds.  The bark never quite grew back either, leaving the trunk permanently exposed to the seasons.  First the grass was just trampled around the oak, but in later years it ceased to grow back all together, leaving only an earthen carpet for the boy to lie upon.

The boy showed his wear too.  The sores that never healed on his hands, the clothes that were chronically grass stained, and the soles of his shoes that were splintered with wood.  Although he always left the tree with a look of serenity, he always arrived with a look of absolute pain.  His eyes always showing everything he couldn’t say, even to the tree.  This continued for fifteen years.  In the rain, in the snow, during the day, during the night.  He’d even come on those cold winter nights that the stars don’t even like to come out on for fear of the wind’s sharp bite.

More years went by and the tree seemed to get worse.  The leaves that were once merely tarnished by shades of red now seemed infected by them.  The boy, now a man, had exposed the tree to several harsh winter freezes by both the barren ground and the balding bark.  Each year fewer and fewer leaves came back until none came back at all.  The grass had long since died all around the lone tree.  The long growing branches that once reached for the sky became brittle and broke in strong gusts of wind.  Not even bugs would infest the roots of the decaying tree.  It was as though it was being eaten by something far worse.  When the wind would blow on especially silent nights, a howl would come from the tree.  The man who once broke his hand on the tree now broke the tree with his hand.

One chilly fall day the man headed through the woods and into the clearing.  His almond colored eyes searching for the big oak.  Only, the massive oak was now on its side, the roots partially sticking into the air like some gaping mouth with crooked teeth.  Tears streamed down his wind burned cheeks as he stumbled over to the tree and began crying in earnest. Not the tears that he usually fertilized the tree with, but tears of remorse.  Collapsing to his knees, and then falling backwards, he laid on the barren ground looking up and into the fall sky.  He let out a cry so grievous that the birds flying above scattered.  There he remained well into the night.  The magnitude of his loss had not even begun to fully take shape as the wind picked up and howled around the dead tree.  The howl sounded like the tree’s own cries of remorse.  The man rose and left the clearing, never looking back at the shell of the oak.

The hate that had almost consumed him had poured out, much like the blood of his hands, onto the tree.  The blood seeped into the tree and the same hate that had almost consumed him had consumed the only thing that had been able to save him.

A long time ago there was a tall strong tree.  It stood separate from all the other trees, alone in the clearing.  One day a little boy came into the clearing.

My Shitty Week

Warning- this post contains talk of bodily fluids and may contain some explicit language (depending on my frame of mind by the end of this week).

I want to talk about the dreaded N-word, she says knowing full well that people will be like, “oh my god, I didn’t know that this was that kind of blog.”  You can relax, it’s not.  I was just trying to get your attention.  I’m talking about the other N-word, norovirus.

Yeah, let’s talk about poop.

Let’s also talk about puke and how much of it fits into a 22 pound toddler.  Or let’s not, because I can still very clearly smell it as there are some remnants left on my shirt and her pants.  And she is nestled right up next to me like she has been since Monday night.

When I think back, this apoopcalypse may have actually began last week.   Early one morning my husband woke me up to tell me he had been throwing up since 3AM and that he was calling out of work.  Obviously, I was concerned about him and his wellbeing, but I’d be a big old dirty liar if I didn’t admit that I immediately thought that he was faking so that he could stay home and play video games all day. I assumed that he assumed I would give him a hard time about it, you know, because we’re grownups.  Instead of saying that to his face I wished him well.  He remained home and took it easy (you know, by playing video games, AS I SUSPECTED) and didn’t do much more puking.  We just chalked it up to a bad bit of chicken that he had for lunch and that was that.

Or so we thought.

Sunday morning my husband woke up with another stomachache.  We once again wrote it off.  After all, Saturday was the all-day drunken bacchanalia that we liked to call our annual St. Patrick’s Day party.  When he got progressively sicker as the day went on we started to worry that it was indeed a stomach virus (and I started feeling guilty about secretly calling it the Video Game Flu).

As I am sure you know, job one when you have a stomach virus is cleanliness.  It’s all about keeping the germs inside you, where they belong and off of surfaces that other people touch, where they do not.  It is my long held belief that cleaning everything your sick hands get onto with bleach every twenty minutes is a good way to keep it from spreading.  Also, it goes without saying that there should be handwashing.  Loads and loads of handwashing.  Follow those rules and everything should blow over soon enough with little to no infection of innocent bystanders.  Easy peasy, right?

Riiiiiiight.  Do you know what the one thing you do not want to have happen when someone in your house has a stomach virus?  Plumbing issues of any kind.

So, guess what happened to us Sunday night?

If you guessed that a sentient alien being chose us to be the Earthling ambassadors in their planned attempt at interstellar desegregation, you are super close.

The pipe under the kitchen sink burst.  Which, naturally, rendered all sinks in our house useless.  That in turn meant handwashing was a very complicated undertaking that involved the bath tub and a lot of awkward leaning and grunting.

Okay, no problem.  I wasn’t going to be able to solve this issue Sunday night but I was positive that I could handle it with fresh eyes on Monday.  Being an “I am woman, hear me roar” kind of gal, I borrowed some tools and parts from my step-dad and declared that I would fix the sink so my husband didn’t poop his pants while trying to do it for us.  I am of the opinion that plumbing is 10% having the right tools and 90% upper body strength.  I’m sure you can guess how this turned out.  The tools were not the issue.  After struggling for the better part of an hour (and using all the best swear words I had learned from my step-dad while he fixed my sink the last time), I had to give up.  There one last piece I needed to remove to complete my repair was completely welded in place.  I ordered dinner (pizza for the toddler and I, soup for my sick husband) because I could only justify washing so many dishes in the bath tub.

You can pretty much guess what happened next.  Armapukeddon started while she was in my arms.  Meaning that the first wave of the vomit invasion happened directly down my shirt, onto my pants, and into my shoes.  Now, I had never been barfed on by anyone that wasn’t celebrating their 21st birthday before, so this was a new and bracing sensation.

I discovered that babies don’t know what throwing up is.  They don’t know what it is, how to do it, or why it’s happening.  They are just as surprised that you are both covered in bile as you are.

Side note, after we were both cleaned up I sat down on the couch with her and tried to comfort her.  She was chewing pretty hard on her hand.  I opened my mouth to ask her how she was feeling and she promptly pulled her hand out of her mouth and shoved it into mine.  Leaving a long string of saliva between us.  I yelped and immediately pulled her hand out of my mouth and said, “Daughter, what are you doing?”  She answered me by sneezing directly into my face.  This is how the zombie apocalypse is going to happen.  It won’t be spread by bites, but by children just, you know, doing what children do.

zombie

And so it went.

Today is day four.  Things have improved.  I spent all of the first night on the couch, fighting sleep, afraid that she was going to pull a Mama Cass if I wasn’t awake and hypervigilant at all times.  Last night I was able to spend most of the night in bed and asleep.  Most.

One bright side to all this was that I finally got to watch Season Four of House of Cards (thanks universe for reading my last blog post). 

I am almost caught up on all the laundry we went through (almost five full loads, not including diapers or the mattress pad, both of which require their own special wash routine).  I am tired, I am cranky, but I am thankful.  My husband went to the store to buy BRAT supplies and I asked him to buy me a treat.  He sarcastically asked me why, “Because you’ve been such a good girl?”

Um, yeah.  I’ve rocked this entire week.  I parented, wifed, and homeownered the shit out of it (big shout out to my father in law for coming over and helping with the sink, turns out I was 100% out gunned this time). 

He got me three treats. Delicious chocolatey treats.

Wine Me

Wine me, please.  Pour me a gigantic glass and leave the bottle here on the table.  I’ll take care of the rest.  Thanks!

This is what I wish I had said to my husband as I sat down at the table to write and he walked over to the couch to read.  Today was just one of those days.  Captain No Naps McScreams (my daughter’s given name) was a handful.  There was a whole lot of throwing of things (by her) and screaming and crying (by me).  She refused to nap and by 3:00 was running through my parent’s kitchen shoving her fingers so far down her throat that she puked.  All. Over. Their. Floor.  Then when I picked her up to try and calm her down, she leaned over and bit me as hard as she could on the shoulder.

Sorry, I don’t think “bit” does what she did justice.  She clamped down rabid dog style and refused to let go. 

There was some inappropriate language on my part, and some graceful turning of a deaf ear by my grandmother.  Or maybe she was just in agreement and also thought my daughter was acting like a dickhead.  Either way, she was kind enough not to give me hell for my language or for speaking about her great grand baby that way.

Once I was finally home for the day I sat down excited to write, but I couldn’t.  Instead I keep looking out of the corner of my eye at Captain No Naps McScreams on the monitor while she finally slept (she passed out two minutes into our ride home).  Every minute or so I look over and check to see that she’s still asleep.  I need her to sleep long enough to allow me to recharge my batteries.  I also need my husband to stop watching Comedy Bang Bang behind me because the horribleness is distracting (man we have different tastes in comedy).  Mostly though, I need some me time.

Ugh, “me time”.  I hate that I just wrote that.  I also hate the term “self-care”.  It makes me think of washing your genitals.  It’s something I imagine you would hear on a 1970’s high school health class video.  One with a man in a suit addressing the students.  “And don’t forget about self-care, Billy.  Now that you’re a man you’ll need to make sure you use both soap and water on your armpits.  Don’t forget your balls either.”

I assume that’s what school was like in the 70’s.  A lot of talking to boys about their armpits and balls, and girls about their monthly visitor and how to dart a sock.

In the real word, when they talk about self-care they are talking about taking time to take care of yourself.  The whole, “put on your own oxygen mask first” thing.  In theory that makes loads of sense and I get it.  We can’t care for others if we’re not taking care of ourselves.  In reality it’s a hard practice to put into place when there is just so much to do.  I really want curl up on the couch with a bottle (or three, I think three is a good number for today) of wine and start watching season four of House of Cards.

While I would love to be drinking wine and watching TV and pretending that I went into politics (a sometimes aspiration of mine), I can’t.  I’d even settle for sitting here at the kitchen table tossing back glasses of wine like they were water while I write, but I can’t do that either.  I can’t even concentrate on writing right now because my eye keeps wandering to my daughter’s monitor.  When I’m not checking to make sure she’s still asleep (please, dear lord, let her sleep), I get distracted by my floor and how badly it needs to be cleaned.  Even though I just spent my Saturday morning on my hands and knees with a wash cloth, bucket, and a ton of determination and cleaned the entire first floor of the house while my daughter napped.  I went behind it with a towel and buffed it dry so that there were no streaks.

Honestly, that was totally worth it.  My floor had never looked better than it did for the two hours that my daughter napped and my husband worked.  Nobody noticed and it was back to being a hot mess of foot prints and dirt by that afternoon.  But for those two hours I had to unbutton my shirt because my chest was so puffed out with pride at how pristine my floor looked.

I also have a basket of clean, folded laundry that I just can’t seem to walk into the bedroom to put away.  It taunts me as I sit here, “You forgoooooot about me.  I’m still on the coffee table.  I belong in a drawwwwwwwer.”  I have some not so clean laundry up in the washer that, at this point, needs to make another trip down Clean Clothes Lane.  I am also about 90% finished Kon Marieing (yes, I drank the Kon Marie Kool-Aide, but we can talk about that another time) the house.  That last 10% that I have left to do haunts my dreams.  This is just the stuff that needs to be done today.  Tomorrow there will be even more.  The floor will be dirtier.  That lone basket will have become two.  The laundry I didn’t finish today will still need to be done, as well tomorrow’s regularly scheduled laundry.  There will also be dishes to do, food to make, and a host of other things that need to be done.  And, that little cherub (she never needs to know that I called her a dickhead), will probably be on a totally new and confusing nap schedule.  Because that’s how she rolls right now.

Wine

So where is the time for self-care?  If there is so much to get done today, and pushing any of that off just doubles my work for tomorrow, then where is the time for me?  Maybe it lives in the Magical Land of Tomorrow.

The place where I always plan to start walking every day.  Tomorrow.

The day that I will start eating more vegetables?  That’s tomorrow.

When am I going to pluck that weird lone hair that grows out of my chin?  Say it with me now, tomorrow. 

The irony is not lost on me.  In the time I have been complaining about how busy I am I could have been doing something productive.  Something fun.  I could have taken a walk, eaten some broccoli, and plucked all the hairs on my face.  Maybe being a dickhead is a learned behavior.

So here’s what I am going to do.  I’m going to go wash my metaphoric armpits and balls with both soap and water, put my butt on the couch, and ask my husband to bring me a glass (nay, a bottle) of wine.

Or at least I was, but Captain Doesn’t Nap Long Enough McHungry just woke up.

 Oh well, maybe tomorrow…

The World is Ending

I don’t want to be overly dramatic here or anything, but the end is nigh.  We are pretty much on borrowed time, running down the clock until the planet just… I don’t know… explodes or something.

I’m feeling very alarmist this morning, in case you didn’t pick up on my subtle hints.  It’s probably because my husband just casually told me over our morning coffee that the government is going to begin releasing genetically modified mosquitoes into the environment.  Visions of the zombie apocalypse immediately flooded my brain.  Great, this is how it’s going to begin.  Someone gets bit by a mutant mosquito, twenty eight days later, the world ends.

After we had to pause our conversation so that he could go to the bathroom and I could read my daughter the same book five times in a row, I did a little research of my own.  As it turns out, the end is a little less nigh than I thought.  It’s still nigh-ish, so don’t relax quite yet.

What the FDA is actually proposing is the release of a genetically modified male mosquito.  Apparently male mosquitoes do not bite humans or animals.  They feed mostly on fruit and plant nectar.  These modified males will be altered so that any eggs that they fertilize with female mosquitoes will produce non-viable eggs.  The breed of mosquito that is being targeted is the Aedes aegypti.  The only reason that name is probably ringing a bell right now is because it is the one that carries Zika virus.  The FDA is proposing that this will help to eradicate the Zika virus, along with yellow fever and chikungunya.  Since they are only altering male mosquitoes they believe that the impact on humans and animals will be negligible.

Now, here’s what I propose.  And let me begin by saying that  I am not an entomologist, biologist, chemist, or any other “ist”.  I’m just a lady with a wildly active imagination.

I think the fact that they say the impact on humans and animals is negligible is terrifying.  To me that means that there is an impact, it’s just not going to be large enough or wide spread enough to warrant not doing it.  And whoever feels it isn’t going to think that the effect is negligible.  Their friends and family (assuming they aren’t terrible people) are probably going to be feeling it too.

That is assuming this hypothetical person isn’t an asshole, and the effect isn’t that they undergo a complete and total personality transformation and become more tolerable.  If that is the case, I’d like to place an order for about a case of these mosquitoes, please and thank you.

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Also, how can you say male mosquitoes don’t feed off of humans and animals, then alter their DNA, and assume that they still won’t feed off of humans and animals?  What if by altering their DNA you alter this trait?

This was the exact argument I made to my husband, but then I googled it and discovered that the reason that females consume blood is because they need the extra protein to produce eggs. I think the spirit of that argument is still valid though.

I don’t know exactly what it is about genetically modified insects that terrifies me.  Maybe it’s that I feel like it is a slippery slope to Skynet.  Maybe I have read one too many books about nanites (I’m going to take the fact that spell check doesn’t yet recognize that word as a good sign).  Maybe it was just the movie Splice that did it (after all it practically ruined Adrien Brody for me).

The altering of living organisms is the premise of so many science fiction stories.  Even more alarming is that almost every one of them ends badly.

When I began researching this method of mosquito control I was envisioning a world where you had to wear hazmat suits when you went outside to hide from stinging insects the size of basketballs, because apparently that’s how my brain works.  Then I stumbled upon the new experimental cancer treatment in which white blood cells are modified to attack cancer cells.  Scientists are making enhancements in the lab that retrain the cells to specifically search out cancer cells and destroy them.  They are calling it a living drug.  In some cases these altered cells are living for upwards of fourteen years while still actively targeting cancer in a patient.  And that’s not even the best part.  Of the tested leukemia patients they had a 94% success rate.  I am loath to be glib about a cancer treatment that works when cancer hits so close to home right now.  So I won’t be.

Well, I won’t be after I say this.  I like the sound of this, but if it comes out that it is being tested and manufactured by the Umbrella Corporation, I will go back to my former stance on genetically altered organisms which is, the end is nigh. 

I will now quite happily go back to fear mongering mosquitoes.  This idea just rubs me the wrong way.  I can’t really put my finger on it.  As much as I’d like to speculate that it has to do with movies or TV shows, I think it’s something else.  Maybe it’s that I’m a parent now and thinking about the fact that we are altering this planet that my daughter has to live on so much worries me.  We are the people that used to tell moms to smoke cigarettes during pregnancy so that they could have smaller babies and therefore easier deliveries.  The ones that created a floating trash island that is bigger than Texas.  I just don’t have a ton of faith in us to not screw up and create some sort of super mosquito that eats babies and poops battery acid.

The FDA is currently holding a public forum, Leslie Knope style, before they move forward with the project.  The intended roll out will take place in Key West, Florida.  I think my husband hit the nail on the head when he speculated on the “Florida Man” headlines that would come out of this.  Our favorite, Florida Man bit by Genetically Modified Mosquito, Turns into Mosquito. 

Apparently this particular breed of mosquito does not travel more than a few hundred feet in its lifetime so whatever does happen will be isolated within the state.  It won’t be the first* time our nation has sat back and helplessly watched something unfold in Florida.  Hopefully this will be the last though.  And not because we will all be dead because of some  hostile mosquito takeover.

*I’m hoping that the only people that need clarification on this reference are those born after 1988.  I hope, I hope, I hope.

 

 

 

 

 

Homeostasis

Does anyone remember the movie Bio-dome? Staring ninety’s film legends Pauly Shore and Stephen Baldwin?  My cousin and I must have watched that movie a dozen times when it first came out.  For those of you that haven’t seen it, I will save you an hour an hour and a half of your life, and tell you that it’s basically about two stoners whose environmentally conscious girlfriends leave them because they are slacker burn outs.  Pauly Shore and Stephen Baldwin happen upon an eco-experiment called Bio-Dome and get locked in for a year.  There is a computer in the dome that gives them real time readings of the environment and will sound alarms like, “Homeostasis, fifty percent.  Homeostasis, five percent.”  During that time they see the error of their ways and become full on tree huggers.  Happy endings abound.

I don’t know what it was about that movie that we liked so much.  I think the stoner humor was a little over our heads at the time (or maybe just over my head, my cousin was a little older and much more worldly).  I may have had a crush on Stephen Baldwin… or maybe even Pauly Shore… the nineties were a really weird time for my taste in men (both in real life and out).  I do, however, know that two things from that movie have stuck with me all these (twenty years, seriously, twenty) years later.

Number one, it was the first place I ever heard the phrase “think globally, act locally”.  We said that a lot that year.  Number two, it’s where I learned about homeostasis (sorry high school biology teacher, Pauly Shore beat you to it).  The most watered down, best I can explain it while also trying to stop my toddler from throwing balls down the stairs, definition is that it is the perfect set of conditions in an environment that allows it to operate at its peak.

Here is the copy and pasted version though, in case my definition didn’t do it for you: Homeostasis is the property of a system in which variables are regulated so that internal conditions remain stable and relatively constant.

What does all of this have to do with anything?  I’m glad you asked.  You may remember from my first ever post, here, that I complained about the Crazier Cat Lady that moved in down the street from us.  Well, she and her crazy altered the homeostasis of our street.  We need Pauly Shore and Stephen Baldwin, STAT.

Just kidding, please don’t let that have summoned Pauly Shore and Stephen Baldwin to my home. 

I used to be our street’s Crazy Cat Lady.  Not only did I have six cats in the house, but I also put food and water out for all the strays.  We set up Kitty City for them (a little kitty condo that was on our car port for when the weather was inclement).  You could almost always find a stray cat hanging out in our yard, lounging peacefully.  I named each one of them (William Foster, William Foster Junior, AC/DC, Van Gogh, the list goes on and on).  I was very attached to these guys (back before my entire personality changed and I decided that I hate cats), and I kind of felt like I was the best thing that could have happened to them.  Then the CCL came into our lives.

I wish I could do her description justice, but I feel like no matter what I write you won’t get the full picture.  She was older (I would guess late mid to late fifties).  She wore her long black hair in a braid down the middle of her back (EVERY. SINGLE. DAY).  I can’t even think of a way to describe her attire other than if her style had a smell it would be a mix of patchouli and cat pee (not that I have anything against people that wear patchouli, some of my favorite people have and are patchouli wearers).  There were a lot of patch work vests being worn as well.

One evening, early fall, she marched into our lives.  With a look of determination and self-righteousness, she walked up to our side door and knocked.  It was dinner time and I already have a huge problem with people who knock on the door around dinner time.  I answered the door with my attitude already firmly in place.  Once she began talking and I figured out that she wasn’t trying to sell something I eased up on the attitude.

She was asking questions about all the stray cats.  We went through them one by one.  One of the strays used to be mine.  His name was Hagrid.  He had been an inside cat until the summer.  Our youngest cat was kind of… handicapped… and Hagrid had put a giant target on his back.  He spent so much time attacking him and torturing him.  One day I heard an ungodly screaming coming from the bedroom and I came in and Hagrid had Moody (the handicat) pinned down on the floor and against the wall with Moody’s throat clenched firmly between his teeth.  The scream was obviously coming from Moody.  There was hair and blood everywhere. I was able to safely separate them and in a fit of rage I picked Hagrid up and dumped him out the door.

I know, I know, I’m the worst cat mom in the world.  I get it. Nobody thinks less of me than I did in that moment.  Well, about two minutes after that moment.  Because in that moment I was full of rage and glad that he was no longer able to torture Moody.  It took just two minutes for me to realize that I threw one of my cats out the door.  It was too late, the damage was done.  I tried to catch Hagrid but he kept running from me.  I was afraid that he would run into the street and get hit by a car so I went back inside and watched his fluffy but sashay down the street.  Godspeed you orange mad man, I thought, as he disappeared from sight.  I assumed he would be back by nightfall, or you know, when he got hungry.

Two whole weeks passed before I saw him again.  There was a lot of back and forth with him showing up and running from us.  Me catching him and getting him back into the house.  Him escaping back out into the wild.  Rinse and repeat.

My dinner sat on the table getting cold as I explained all of this to CCL.  She offered to catch him and get him back to us.  I explained again and let her know that I had gotten him back into the house but he had gotten out again.  She offered to work some sort of CCL magic and get him re-acclimated to being an indoor cat.  I explained that I had a new baby and lacked both the resources and energy to go through all of that again.  I bid her a fond farewell, and thought that was the end of it.  Nay nay.

Slowly, the neighborhood cats began to disappear.  One by one, they stopped coming around until there were no more left.  Even Hagrid, who would hang out on the back porch every morning and wait to be fed, was gone.  Normally I would have suspected something nefarious, but I knew without really knowing that she was behind it.  I wasn’t the only person on the street she had questioned about the strays.  I had one fleeting moment where I wondered if that was what I used to be like, all righteous and indignant about the treatment of animals.  Now I was mainly bent out of shape about people knocking on our door at dinner time.

So, how on Earth did we get from reminiscing about Bio-Dome, to the caramel coated nut bar that was stealing cats away in the night?  Homeostasis, duh.

Things changed without the army of stray cats in our yard.

First, the birds came back.  Yay, we all love birds.  We have hummingbird feeders (up high where the cats couldn’t get to the birds, we’re not monsters) and regular boring bird feeders.  They all got some action, but now they were getting a lot more.  Like I said, super, we love birds here.

Next came the squirrels.  Meh, I’m indifferent to squirrels.  I think they are cute.  The husband hates them.  Our daughter barks at them because anything with four legs must be a dog.

Now, now we have mice.  Loads and loads of mice.  A plague of mice.  Mice coming out the ears.  Whatever the euphemism for an assload of mice is, that’s what we have.  They aren’t in our house (we still have three cats, and if they would like to remain here, they will make sure I never see a mouse in this house).  They are in our yard and shed.  They ate all our grass seed and our bird seed.

Homeostasis, ten percent.

Granted, a homeless cat population isn’t ideal in a residential neighborhood, but we had made it work.  Now there was anarchy in the streets (well, in the back yard… the shed… for sure).

Also, I feel like there is a little something missing from my life now.  I’m used to having cats at my feet when I’m outside doing stuff.  Now I move about, my egress free of feline interference.  I also missing giving out those clever names.  William Foster was the most unhappy looking cat I had ever seen in my life (named for Michael Douglas’s character in Falling Down).  William Foster Junior was basically his twin so we assume it was his son.  Van Gough only had one ear.  AC/DC, well that cat had the biggest balls of them all… there were more cats with equally clever names.  I’m sure some day the cat population will increase again.  The CCR is already gone.  We figured out that she was camping out in our neighbor’s yard in an RV.  I don’t know when she left, but the RV has been empty for a little while.

Over the past month I have seen a little brown tabby cat skulking about, but I haven’t quite settled on a name for him yet.

Homeostasis, fifteen percent. 

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This is AC/DC with Hagrid and Binker (RIP) watching him from inside.

The Ex That I Miss

There it was, the unexpected name in an unexpected place.  I had picked up an old notepad from the top of a pile of similarly old notepads.  The name was written in my handwriting, but it wasn’t my name.  It belonged to an ex.  The emotions came seemingly out of nowhere as I stood there looking at it.  The rest of the pad was a mix of notes from training at an old job.  Between how to calculate debt to income ratios and the definition of a NINA was the name of my ex friend.  We were friends for the better part of twelve years, and it has been about two years since that friendship ended.

I call her my ex because essentially we did break up.  I know, that sounds crazy.  Friends don’t break up.  You’re thinking of romantic relationship.  Are you sure this was a girlfriend?  Are you sure she wasn’t a girlfriend girlfriend?  Yes, I am sure of all of these things.  And if you have ever had a friendship that ended, chances are you guys broke up too.  Maybe they moved away when you guys were kids and you couldn’t keep in touch (you know, back before the internet).  Maybe they went away to one college and you went to another.  Maybe you guys had a fight.  I am willing to bet that almost everyone in the world has had a friendship in their lifetime that is over now.  Guess what, you guys broke up!  Maybe it wasn’t all drawn out and emotional like this one is.  Or maybe you just don’t have a flair for the dramatic and a captive audience like I do.

So, there I was, holding that stupid pad of paper.  Looking at the name of a person that used to be such a huge part of my life that I hadn’t spoken to in almost two years (also I was beginning to wonder a little bit why I had a notepad from a job where my training took place over TWELVE YEARS AGO).  And I wanted to call her.  I couldn’t even remember why we had a falling out (BREAKUP).  I wanted to call her right then and there and try and reconcile.  Who cares about all the times that she said horrible things to me because she knew I would let her (she was just one of those people that always had to speak her mind*)… the constant belittling of everyone that wasn’t her… how every time something good happened to me she reacted as though something bad happened to her… the constant criticism… okay, it’s coming back to me now.

But it wasn’t all bad, it wasn’t even mostly bad.  There were really good times.  She was one of my closest friends for a long period of time.  We went through so much in our lives in those ten years.  We came through the other side of most of it with a smile.  I’d like to think that was just because we were in it together, but it was probably also the copious amounts alcohol that we drank together.  Either way, some really good times were had.

Now, I’d like to think that I’m blameless, but I’m an adult and I know that I’m not.  I’m sure that I did a lot of stuff that she could write about in her own blog, were she to have one (like that time I wrote this entire blog post about her comes to mind…).  I know that I changed.  She changed too.  It’s what people are supposed to do.  Unfortunately, we changed into people that couldn’t be friends with one another.

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I do miss her.  And despite how this may come across, I did value her friendship.  She was a great friend to me for a very long time.  I hope that she feels the same way about me.  Not too long ago I spoke to a mutual friend who said that she was doing well.  That makes me happy.  Even if it also makes me a little sad.

So, I’m going to throw away this stupid pad and symbolically throw away all the guilt and sadness I have over our lost relationship.  Then I am going to literally throw away every other notepad in this pile without looking at them, because good lord, those were a lot of feelings.

*Hey you, are you one of those people that is known for speaking your mind?  Someone that just has to tell it like it is?  Here is a little PSA for you.

First of all, speaking your mind and being mean are two totally different things.  You can be honest with someone without being a bitch.  “I had to tell her that her shirt made her look like a purple hippopotamus in a tutu.  You know me, I have to tell it like it is.”  That is not speaking your mind.  That is being a jerk and hiding behind being so free with your opinion. 

Secondly, not everyone wants to hear your every thought on everything (she types with no irony what so ever).  Yes, you may have a strong opinion on something that you can’t keep to yourself, that you must share with the world, or you will burst.  That doesn’t mean anyone wants to hear what it is. 

And lastly, there is a price to pay for being a person that speaks their mind.  You want to buy the ability to say whatever you want to people and have them say, “Oh, that’s just the way that she is.” Then you have to pay the price.  That price may vary, but it just may be the thing that costs you a friendship someday.

Forewarned is forearmed. 

 

Road Trip – a short story

The tires made thumping sounds as they rode over the reflectors on the street.  The noise was constant and soothing.  I sat up from my slumped position in the back seat and stretched out my neck. It was dark out and I had no idea how long I had been sleeping.  Mommy and daddy were awake and watching the road in the front seat.  I flushed with embarrassment at the thought of them as mommy and daddy.  I am not a baby.  I’m not even a kid, really.  I’m almost a teenager and they are just mom and dad now.  Mom and dad.  Mom and dad.

As usual neither of them were speaking.  The car was thick with silence.  The radio wasn’t even on (they could never agree on what to listen to, so they usually drove in silence).  From the new vantage point of sitting up I was able to look out the window into the other lanes next to me as we drove through the night in the oppressive silence.  I probably could have put on my head phones and played my own music off of my cell phone (which was not loud, tuneless, or garbage, thank you very much) without attracting much attention, but it hardly seemed worth the effort of getting sucked into a forced conversation about whatever topic my mom latched onto tonight.  Moss was what we talked about on the drive out.  Moss.

While hosting this internal monologue I noticed the car in the lane next to ours was driving the same exact speed.  It only struck me as noticeable because my daddy (dad, dad, dad!) always said that the left lane was for being an asshole and the right lane was for people that actually had sense.  Rubbing the sleepers out of my eyes and letting out a long, but ever so soundless, yawn I took in everything around me.  We were probably still an hour from home.  We had spent most of the day and some of the night at my aunt’s house dealing with all of her drama.  What drama we were there dealing with, well, nobody would tell me.  My dad always said that his sister just needed the right combination of love and whiskey.  My mom said that she just needed the right woman and she wouldn’t need the love or the whiskey.  I happen to know that my aunt has a very good friend name Susan that is a woman and she is very smart and right most of the time.  However, I do not know her preferences on whiskey.  Since my mom and dad usually only say these things after a few glasses of wine and when they forget that I’m still within ear shot, I’m assuming that mean something else that they think I’m too young for.

There were only two people in that car next to us.  A boy driving and a girl in the passenger seat.  They mirrored our car in that they weren’t talking either, just like my parents.  The girl looked out the window at my dad, probably thinking the same thing about us.  I gave another flush of embarrassment at the thought that she was thinking we thought they were assholes, and that we were all high and mighty thinking that we had so much sense.  Her eyes made their way to the back seat where she noticed me.  She was pretty, far prettier than I was and almost as pretty as my mom, just a lot younger.

There was a moment where I could see a sadness flicker across her face, and then everything brightened and she smiled at me.  Suddenly, she was sticking her tongue out.  I giggled, then I looked cautiously at the front seat to see if my parents had noticed.  I didn’t want them to look back and yell at me for associating with strangers.  Again.  You have one conversation with an old man in the mall food court and suddenly you have no idea what it’s like out in the world.  Seriously, it was like they couldn’t accept the fact that I was almost a teenager.

It was safe, they were both still very absorbed in the road.  Both sitting ramrod straight in their seats, looking out toward where the headlights pointed.  Daring to look back at her I almost laughed out loud. Now she was making fish lips at me.  I giggled again, but softly this time, and she continued to make faces at me.  We went on this way for a little while.

Without warning she turned around to look at the boy.  He was saying something to her, something angry.  I strained my eyes to see what it was but she had moved her head in front of his.  I knew from TV that boys could be awfully pissy.  Which was a word that they could say on TV but that I couldn’t say, which was stupid. 

Their car began to speed up.  She turned to look back at our car but now her face was sad for a moment and then it was far enough ahead that I was having trouble catching her expression in the dark.  As they began to accelerate further she put her hand on the window.  Dew formed all around the outline of it.  I could just make out that she was sticking her tongue out as they pulled away from us for good.

“Always got somewhere to be right now.”  The silence in the car was broken by my father’s soft voice.  “Assholes.”

Quickly, I faced forward again and slouched back down, pretending to still be asleep.  I was thinking that she probably didn’t have to go anywhere, she probably just wanted to stay and make faces at me.  Her boyfriend was probably just being pissy with her.  From under my partially veiled eyelids I could see the tail end of their car.  It was blue, or maybe black, and I could see the headlights sinking into the hill.   She was gone and I was alone again.

I must have fallen back asleep because we were stopped and the last thing I remembered we were moving right along.  I sat up as we slowly began to move.  My neck was stiff again and it was hard to look out the window.

There was an accident.  We were stuck in a stop and go pattern because the police officers were still walking around putting flares out.  Actually it was more like a stop and slow pattern.  Which is something my mom said quietly to my dad, but I didn’t catch his response.  The only interesting things they ever had to say were said very loud and clear.  Since neither one of them had bothered to look into the back seat at me, I assume they thought I was still asleep anyway.

Pressing my face up against the window, I got a better look at the accident.  There was only one car.  From the looks of it, it had gone off the road and hit one of the trees in median of the interstate.  The police had blocked off the left (asshole) lane with flares and were working on getting everyone merged into the right (sense) lane.  One was even standing out in our car’s lane a few feet ahead of the accident.  He looked into the back seat and directly at me.  Smiling he waved a bright orange flare at me in a tantalizing fashion.  He was waving it away from the accident, and it almost distracted me enough to look away from the wreck.  That orange flare had a very convincing argument, but I was drawn to the mangled car.  Another police officer stood close to it.  I pulled my legs under myself to boost up high enough to see what he was standing over.  Just as I got up high enough to see what it was he placed a sheet down.

There was already a sheet down on the hood of the car.  A large lump under it.   I couldn’t make too much more out because it was further from the flashing lights of the cars and more hidden in the darkness of the trees.  The closer sheet was over the passenger side.  It was almost twenty feet away but I could still make out some of the details.

While I could see so many things, I couldn’t really see them.  My brain was working extra hard, like my legs when I would run through the waves at the beach in the summer.

We were stopped again.  The orange flared police officer had walked all the way in front of us.  There was something in the road that he was slowly approaching.  I didn’t give him, or the object of his attention, too much more thought because there was something else.  Something that my brain was still trying to wade through under the passenger’s sheet.

Mommy and daddy had finally begun speaking in those perfectly clear voices from the front seat, but I continued to focus on the girl and the sheet.  The girl and the sheet.  Now I noticed that her door wasn’t just open, it was gone.  The wind had picked up and the sheet was rippling over her.  We started to move again.  The police officer with the flare was now carrying a blue car door.  The glass was all busted out of it and pieces glittered on the asphalt.

Slowly we started to move past the blue car and I had turn around to be able to see it.  “You aren’t angry at her anymore.”  I whispered, my breath fogging up the window.  “She’s not making faces and you’re not angry at her anymore.”  I stared out the rear window until I could no longer see the blue and red flashing lights.  Until the orange glow of the flares had settled into the road like the sun setting down on the ocean.

My heart had been racing but it was slowly returning to normal.  Turning around I settled back into my seat and looked out onto the road ahead of us again.  The yellow stripes seemed to be getting sucked under our car as we drove.  Watching them, mesmerized, my eyelids once more became veiled.  Trying to ignore that deafening sound of silence, I let only the rumbling of the road in.  Closing my eyes, I just listened to the sound the tires made as they rode over the reflectors on the street.  The noise was constant and soothing.

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