A Hot Not-Date (aka: Spring Cleaning)

I have a hot date this weekend.

But first, let me explain. You see, spring is about to spring. And spring, with its warm, sweet weather and flower-tipped trees, has a way of turning one’s thoughts toward love, and frolicking in meadows, and sunshiny fresh air.

And so, I have a date this weekend, with this tall, well-built, bald man. You’ve probably heard his name before: Mr. Clean.

Irresitible Mr Clean

That’s right. What can I say? Thanks to a super-busy schedule of work and college classes and kids’ activities and sports, I have had very little time or energy to devote to cleaning house. And so, my not-quite-Martha-Stewart but still passable housekeeping levels have slipped to a not-quite-reality-TV-hoarder but still-needs-major-improvement levels.  When I saw Mr. Clean in the store, I fell hard. I couldn’t resist his twinkling eyes, or his promise to turn our messy house into a shining, spotless home. Mr. Clean is just the guy to turn my spring-cleaning dreams into reality.

Wait –you thought I was talking about going out on an actual date? What, me, leave behind my cozy cave of Netflix and books and computers? Me, venture out alone into the real world and try to make sense of human relationships? Very funny. It’s nice to know that my readers have a sense of humor.

Okay, I get it. No one expects a smart, talented, and fairly attractive 40 year-old woman to stay single for very long. The world expects me to get out there, place an advertisement the way one sells a used car. Join a dating site! Flirt with real, live men who are not cartoon models for cleaning products! Start a romantic relationship that doesn’t happen only in your imagination!

zodiac killersBut here’s the big problem: that whole world of mean and dating and relationships is frightening. Like, scarier than Children of the Corn frightening (and let me tell you – those were some creepy little kids). I’m more the type of woman who avoids eye contact or conversation with strange men than the type who looks forward to going out on dates with total strangers, all of whom are probably the Zodiac Killer (no offense to Ted Cruz).

How ridiculous! You say. Cleaning house is far more nerve-wracking than dating. Just think of what fuzzy blue horrors await you at the back of the refrigerator!

Ahh, this is true. Cleaning out my fridge is a frightening challenge. It’s…um…been a while. And yes, the food in the back has probably become an entire new species of living things. But hey – I have Mr. Clean to tackle the dirty work, and even cleaning out my icky fridge seems far less daunting and much more fun than dating.

online-dating no way

See, here’s another big problem: I am bad at romantic relationships. After a failed 17-year marriage and one attachment-free post-divorce fling, I am convinced that I was not made for relationships. Men apparently have these expectations of what a woman should be like, or how we should perform or behave or respond, and I tend to do everything the opposite. Blame it on my alien roots, I guess. But there was nothing rewarding to me about any of it, and a lot of messy emotions and expectations and drama that don’t mesh well with my INTJ personality.

Ugh.

And so, I am spending one of my kid-free weekends cleaning my house, because scrubbing toilets is a lot less confusing than dating. Vacuuming floors is a lot less stressful than the reality of romantic relationships. Organizing my closet is a lot more gratifying than sex ever was. And teaming up with Mr. Clean is far more rewarding than searching for Mr. Probably-Doesn’t-Exist-Single-Guy-Who’s-Right-for-Me. Because after all my effort, my kids and I will get to enjoy a cozy, clean home that smells like fresh, sunshiny air.

Happy (Almost) Spring!

Pulizie di primavera - Spring Cleaning

 

Dried Up (aka: Surviving The California Drought)

The Great Drought“I remember way back in the olden days,” says the old woman in a quavery voice, “before California transformed into the Great Western Desert.” She leans back in her chair and looks at the children gathered around her, their eyes filled with wonder. “The lush rolling hills. The sparkling lakes. Back when we had so much water…” She leans in close and drops her voice. “People used to water their lawns nearly every day, just to keep them green.”

The children scream in horror. Who would do such a thing?

Okay, okay, a little melodramatic, perhaps. But seriously…here we are, in the middle of one of California’s worst droughts in recent history, and still I’ve noticed people watering their front lawns to keep them as green as Astroturf. Old habits die hard.

save water save the earthFresh water. It’s one of those things that we privileged Americans take for granted. Fresh water to drink. Fresh water for showers and car washing and dog washing. Fresh water to keep the lawns green. Fresh water to waste. And waste it we do. From hosing down our walkways to ignoring our leaky pipes, we are great at finding ways to pretend that fresh water is not a precious resource. Unluckily, our great state is exploring a few desperate options to get us through this dry spell, such as the Toilet to Tap program. Yes, this is exactly as it sounds – wastewater that is treated so that it can be reused. (Time to buy stock in bottled water, folks). But luckily, our great state is also doing a few things right, like making it a crime to be caught wasting water. But still, not everyone grasps the importance.

Reduce your UseAs it’s nearly Earth Day, and also because I love California and would prefer to not see it turn into a total desert, I will share a few tips that everyone – not only Californians – can follow to help conserve the one thing that no human can live without – fresh water.

  • Water your garden early in the morning, or in the evening after the weather has cooled.
  • Use a broom to clean your driveway or walkway instead of the hose.
  • Wash only full loads of laundry. Use the lightest wash cycle for lightly soiled clothes. Consider replacing your old, inefficient washer with a new, water-saving machine.
  • Wash only full loads in the dishwasher.
  • The toilet – remember the old motto, Californians? “If it’s yellow, let it mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down.”
  • Repair leaky faucets, pipes, and toilets. Those tiny drips may not seem like much, but you’d be surprised by how quickly they add up!
  • Cut your showers. Many medical experts agree that showering every other day is ideal. In fact, showering daily can actually be harmful to the skin. Can’t deal with the lighter shower schedule? Try cutting back your shower length to 5 minutes or less.
  • You’ve heard it a million times – don’t let the water run while brushing your teeth. Or shaving. You can even turn it off while scrubbing your hands, then turn it on again to rinse.
  • Try rinsing your fresh produce in a bowl, then reusing that water to water the plants.

Remember: Save water – it will save you later.

   Water is life

Candy: Trick or Treat?

jack o lantern brothersWe were once the creepiest house on the block. The one that the trick-or-treaters used to avoid each Halloween. Every now and then, a few brave little souls would wander unknowingly up to our front door and open their bags, hoping for candy corn or chocolate. But boy, were they in for a trick. Because instead of chocolate, our family would give out Halloween-themed Christian tracts designed just for little heathens. Just seemingly cute little comic strip pamphlets that warned about the fires of hell for all those who don’t ask Jesus into their hearts.

Devil or Jesus Halloween

Scary, I know.

The thing is, I was very young when I married, and eager to please my extremely conservative Christian husband, who was quite anti-Halloween. It was not easy for me, as I loved Halloween and all its spooky, twisted fun. I loved the slasher horror films, the haunted houses decorated with cobwebs and fake spiders. I loved getting the chills from listening to dark stories about Ouija board demon possessions and ghostly tell-tale hearts beating within the walls. And every year, I looked forward to seeing the parade of ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggedy beasties coming up the front walk to beg for candy. Halloween kids silhouette

“Hooray! What imaginative costumes!” I would say, tossing mini chocolate bars in the air. “Chocolate for everyone!”

But as my now ex-husband used to say, Halloween is an evil holiday, and Christians should not participate. Didn’t I know that the Devil was hoping to buy the souls of children for a piece of candy? Didn’t I know that Halloween was chock-full of wicked pagan traditions, like Jack-o-Lanterns and bobbing for apples and divination (Which are apparently worse than the pagan traditions which many Christians follow during Christmas or Easter)?

Boo Ghost

You did what?!?

“It’s just candy,” I said. “And silly costumes. Is it really so un-Biblical to give out lollipops to little kids?” And so, as a form of compromise, we taped the lollies to those ridiculous religious pamphlets and handed them out to innocent kids. (Today, the very memory of having done that makes me want to hide my face behind a rubber mask in shame).

Later, when we had kids of our own, the strict Biblical rules for some reason ceased to apply to us, and I happily dressed up my children as superheroes and animals and the cutest little serial killers you’ve ever seen, and took them out to Trick-or-Treat. And to this day, they still love Halloween and all its deliciously evil pagan traditions. Especially the chocolate.

Sweet Candy candy candy

Candy. ‘Cause that’s the true meaning of Halloween.

Never Run in High Heels (aka: Practical Advice from Horror Films)

My first experience with horror films came at the age of four, when one of my teenage sisters took me to the movie theater to see Silent Scream. Shortly after, thanks to the growing availability of VCRs, I also added to my horror film repertoire such classic gems as The Shining, The Omen, The Amityville Horror, and The Exorcist. While other kids my age were quoting funny lines from The Muppets,  I was busy quoting Tangina from Poltergeist (“Come children, into the li-i-ight! There is peace and serenity in the li-i-ight!).

Poltergeist

Nothing good on this television.

Okay, I know what you’re thinking. No wonder I am so twisted/dark/macabre/bizarre. This is probably true. Really, young kids have no business watching Michael Meyers strangle some woman to death with a telephone cord.

"Get off the phone, stupid. Can't you see that isn't your boyfriend? Lift up the sheet!" ~ Me, screaming at television screen

But, warped mind aside, I did learn some valuable and practical lessons from horror films:

  1. Running with high heels is a bad idea. Not only can you trip and break your ankle, but d-uh, the killer will catch you every time. Better to slip off the heels and use them as a weapon.
  2. If you’re a teenager, don’t have sex. Just don’t do it. In fact, adults, too. Sex is a huge common factor in getting slain by an axe-murderer.
  3. If you live on Elm Street, definitely stock up on Red Bull. And coffee. Better yet, just move to a different neighborhood.
  4. The kid with the dark hair and pale eyes is always evil.
  5. If your toy clown goes missing, just let it be. Don’t bother searching for it. Especially not under the bed. Never look under the bed.
  6. Better yet, don’t have a toy clown. They are always evil, too.
  7. If your house tells you to “Get out!” Then get out. Just do it.
  8. Close your curtains at night or that tree outside will come to life and eat you.
  9. Never buy your Halloween costume from Silver Shamrock.
  10. If you begin to hear the sound, “Ch-ch-ch Ah-ah-ah-ah!”  then run. Run fast. Better yet, get in your car and drive far, far away. (But first, check the back seat to make sure the killer is not hiding there).
Do not be fooled by his sweet face. This kid is the Antichrist with the tattoo to prove it.

Do not be fooled by his sweet face. This kid is the Antichrist with the tattoo to prove it.

You see? Horror movies are not all bad. If you pay attention, you just may learn some tips that can help you to live a long and fruitful life.

Links to Make You Shiver:

http://www.rottentomatoes.com/guides/best-horror-movies/

http://www.boston.com/ae/movies/gallery/top_50_scary_movies/

http://www.vulture.com/2013/10/horror-movies-on-netflix-streaming-good-bad-weird.html

Time is Ticking, Ticking, Ticking…

Me in high school (age 15)

I am running out of time. Only two more days. No, not until the start of the Olympic Games. No, it’s not an illness, or a birthday, or the start of a new school year.Two days from now will be the very last day I can choose to buy a ticket to attend my 20-year high school reunion. Time is ticking away. The deadline looms, like a sharpened guillotine above my head.

But wait…it’s a high school reunion. There will be food, and old friends and acquaintances, and dancing. I love dancing! Isn’t this supposed to be fun? Something to look forward to? One of those rites of passage I promised myself I would not miss out on? Why am I not jumping up and down, waving my $50 ticket in the air with excitement? Well you see…I am shy. Dreadfully shy. When I am around groups of people, especially those whom I do not know very well, I find myself fighting off panic attacks, taking deep breaths to try and dissolve the gigantic lump in my throat. I have always been this way.

But wait a moment…wasn’t I the coordinator for my high school class reunion ten years ago? Didn’t I head a committee of people to actually put on the entire event? So why the insecurity this time? The answer is simpler than it seems. When I was the reunion coordinator, I had a role. I did not have to be me. I was The-One-In-Charge. The one who is supposed to smile and be chatty and walk around the room to make sure everyone is having a good time. Somehow, when I have a role to play, being outgoing is as easy as performing on stage during my high school days in drama classes. I do not have to be the dull, awkward, strange Girl From Jupiter who can never find her place in life. When I have a clear role to play, I get to pretend that I am outgoing, talkative, even bubbly. I get to be that Woman Who Everyone Else Wishes She Could Be.

But two weeks from now, hundreds of former students from my high school class will be gathering together to drink beers and dance and reminisce about the good old days at Fairfield High School. And I — who has never even drunk a beer before, and loves to dance but is actually afraid to step out on the dance floor most of the time — will probably be sitting alone at some table in the corner, marveling over how much fun everyone else seems to be having, and how different everyone looks twenty years after those good old days at Fairfield High School. And maybe someone will recognize me — and maybe not. But in my imagination, I will stand on a table and yell something really cool, like “Fairfield Falcons For-evah!” And everyone will be so drunk that they will cheer, and…okay not even in my imagination can I be that outgoing.

Oof! Two more days to decide. The clock is ticking. 48-ish hours. 2,880 minutes. 172,800 seconds. 1.728e+14 nanoseconds…

Performing was easy when I had a role to play. It’s being myself that is hard to do.

 

Bewitched, Possessed, Transformed (aka My Deep, Dark, Secret)

Come in and get comfortable on the couch. I hope you don’t mind if I turn out the lights. It’s better that way. Are you ready? Okay, let’s turn on the TV. Well of course I meant that we are watching TV. What did you think we were going to do? Now pass the popcorn, and no more talking. It’s time for The Vampire Diaries.

It’s true. I admit it. I am hooked on deep, dark, disturbing supernatural TV shows. It started with a goal to watch every single episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, then it spread to the Vampire Diaries and The Secret Circle on Hulu. And yes, okay, I was also quite a fan of Harry Potter, and far worse, Twilight. Witches and vampires and werewolves are like a bad drug…they make me shiver and give me bad dreams, but I can’t resist coming back for more.

Of course, this is not as bad as the slasher movie phase I went through as a teen, gorging myself on such quality films as the Nightmare on Elm Street saga, Maximum Overdrive, The Stuff, and Sleepaway Camp. Ohmygod, Sleepaway Camp was so baaaad. Ugh! Almost as awful as The Stuff. No wonder they call those horror movies. Oh, the horror!

Now I could turn this into an educational post by exploring why, in our culture, people are so into scary stories. You know…feeling empowered when the protagonist manages to overcome the antagonist, etc. But nah…I just watch them because sometimes, it is fun to feel scared, especially when you know that nothing bad will actually happen. Like riding a roller coaster, or playing a real-time strategy computer war game. (What’s that? My inner geek is showing? Oops…).

Scary show. Hot guys. And possibly the most intriguing love triangle on TV right now.

I’m pretty sure that my love for scary themes began in childhood. As I mentioned in a previous post, my innocent childhood was pretty much warped by early exposure to Stephen King, and other frightening horror movies. I’m pretty sure I was the only 7-yr. old in my school who had seen Poltergeist, The Omen, and Carrie. Those poor kids had no idea what an antichrist was until I happily educated them. At the moment, I am educating my own kids (ages 7, 10, and 12) about the joys of scary shows. I tried to start with the classics, showing them “Talking Tina,” one of my favorite all-time episodes of The Twilight Zone. I thought it was awesome. My daughter, however, henceforth refused to sleep in the same room as her American Girl Doll.

“It’s like she’s turning her head to look at me in the night,” my daughter complained.

Okay, fine. I guess my kids are a little too sheltered to appreciate the thrill of the supernatural. I guess that means I won’t be able to convince any of them to join me when the Hunger Games movie comes out next week. I know, right? Who wouldn’t love to see a film about a bunch of teens slaughtering each other in an arena in order to win food to feed their families? It’s kind of sweet, when you think about it. Anyway, my kids would have me take them to see The Lorax. Great. Now maybe that would sound interesting if the Lorax and the Bar-ba-loots waged war and chopped up the Once-Ler’s factory with his own Super-Axe-Hacker…(What’s that? My inner warped-personality-due-to-inappropriately-early-horror-film-exposure is showing? Oops…)

"Come children, into the liiight! There is peace and serenity in the liiiight!" (I still hear Tangina's voice in my nightmares).

Rabid Vampire Dogs (and Other Irrational Fears)

Mostly, I think of myself as a pretty brave person. I am not afraid of insects or public speaking or things that go bump in the night. I will courageously climb mountains, ride roller coasters, and even walk through dangerous urban neighborhoods without so much as a shiver. However, like many people, I am plagued by a few irrational fears. One of the worst? Dogs.

Okay, the thing is, I love dogs. Especially when they are locked up securely inside of someone’s home. I will happily go inside and pet dear, sweet Cocoa or Woofie or Fido (does anyone really name their dog Fido?). But if I encounter a stray dog wandering around the neighborhood, I panic. Seriously. I am paralyzed with fear. Suddenly, dear, sweet Woofie, in my imagination, has transformed into Cujo, snarling and foaming at the mouth, poised to attack and infect me with rabies.

Cujo scarred me for life

Okay, fine. My parents gave me the liberty to read Stephen King when I was only eight years old, and I am now permanently scarred. Yes, clowns freak me out, too, thanks to It and the clown under the bed in Poltergeist.

IT (Thanks a lot, Stephen King)

Even chihuahuas make me shudder. Yes, yes, they are soooo cute when dressed in a sparkly tutu and riding in some celebrity’s sequined handbag. But once, I ran screaming down the street while one of these vicious little rat-dogs chased me, barking and growling. By once, I mean a year ago. I know, I am an adult. I am supposed to be so brave and tough. But have you ever seen their teeth? Those creatures are like canine vampires! I’m sure that they are out for my blood. Honestly, I could probably step on a chihuahua and kill it, but just in case, I think that next time I take a walk around my neighborhood, I will carry a wooden stake…just in case.

Things Which Scare the Living Daylights Out of Me:

stray dogs
clowns (especially with bushy red hair)
lightning
standing next to a steep cliff
grizzly bears
maggots
drop-crotch jeans
rats
singing in front of people
Tangina Barrons

“Nothing in life is to be feared. it is only to be understood.” ~ Marie Curie