Summertime And The Living Is Queasy


Ahh, summer.  I love warm weather.  I love the way the sun feels on my skin.  I love sitting on the patio, reading a book, listening to birds chirping in the distance and enjoying the sweet fragrance of the honeysuckle that grows along our fence.  There’s something so calming about summer.

Then there are the critters. Ugh.

In addition to the seemingly endless parade of ants, spiders, centipedes, stink bugs, bees and wasps, we have the pleasure of groundhogs and skunks.

I probably wouldn’t be as concerned about the groundhogs and skunks if it weren’t for the dogs.  I have three dogs: Maggie, Rocco and Frankie.  Maggie is a lab/pit mix, Rocco is a Jack Russell Terrier and Frankie is a dimwit.

A few summers ago, I was sitting in the living room watching television when Maggie and Rocco tore out of the house at breakneck speed.  How did they tear out of the house, you ask?  Oh, we don’t have a screen door on our slider, so we sometimes leave it open a bit so the dogs can get in and out when the weather is nice.  Why don’t you have a screen door, you ask?  Oh, that’s because Maggie clawed at it a few times then finally broke through it when she saw a delicious squirrel.

So ghetto.

Anyhoo…they flew out of the back door over what I assumed was a squirrel.  I walked over to the door and saw something kind of…waddling…across the far end of our yard.  It was dusk, so it was kind of difficult to see what was back there, but Rocco was losing his mind over it.

Me: Honey, what’s back there?  Is that a goose?  I think Rocco may have caught a goose!  OMG, go get him!  Make him stop!!
Jack: *sigh*

Halfway to the back of the yard, he turned around in horror.

Jack: CLOSE THE DOOR! CLOSE THE DOOR!
Me: What?
Jack: CLOSE THE DOOR!!!  SKUNK!  SKUUUUUUNK!!!!
Me: OhMyGodOhMyGodOhMyGoooooodddddd!

Jack ran back to the house holding Rocco, gagging violently with his arms extended and his face turned to the side.

Oh. My. God.

You know how back in the day we’d watch Warner Bros. cartoons?  Remember Pepe Le Pew’s little puff of a cloud?  Yeah, that’s nothing like what really happens.  Turns out skunk stink comes in the form of mucus.  Lots of thick, slimy mucus.  Dripping from Rocco’s face.

I was in a panic.  I had heard that tomato sauce helped get rid of skunk scent, so I held Rocco by his collar (he was still fighting to get back to the skunk) and hollered from the backyard for my son to run to the basement and get tomato sauce.

He brought me a can of diced tomatoes.

Desperate to do something, I opened the can, dug into it with my hands and smeared/smashed little chunks of tomatoes into the effected areas.

It didn’t help. Shocking.

I hosed Rocco down as best I could and ran him into the kitchen.  Meanwhile, Jack got on the internet, found out the real solution (heaven forbid you need it…1 quart of hydrogen peroxide, 1/4 cup of baking soda, 1 tsp of dishwashing liquid).  Of course we didn’t have enough hydrogen peroxide, so I asked Jack to run to the store for it while I continued to bathe Rocco in the kitchen sink.

Jack has a very sensitive gag reflex and does not do well with bad smells.  The first time he changed a diaper, he almost vomited.  He had to walk away from the baby a few times to regroup and finally put on a full-face gas mask (he was in the National Guard at the time) to complete the task.  Needless to say, the skunk incident left him shaken.

Jack: Can you smell it on me?  Do we smell like it?  Our olfactory senses are dulled!
Me: Our what?
Jack: Our olfactory senses!!
Me: What’s that?
Jack: It’s our sense of smell!!
Me: Why didn’t you just say ‘sense of smell’?  Who uses that word?  I’ve never even heard that word.  What are you, some kind of scientist?
Jack: FOCUS! Who cares?? CAN YOU SMELL IT ON ME?? I can’t smell it anymore, but I know we probably stink!
Me: Can you please just go to the store?

We scrubbed Rocco down about six times that night.  The internet potion worked pretty effectively, but we could still pick up a hint of skunk from him whenever it rained over the next few months.

Last summer we brought Frankie home.  He’s a sweet little thing.  Not a drop of terrier in him, so he doesn’t feel the need to chase and/or maul animals.  One sunny morning shortly after his arrival, the dogs were meandering about the yard while I was sitting in the kitchen, sipping my coffee and getting my bearings about me.  Suddenly I heard an unusual bark – not the ‘I want a treat’ or the ‘I see a jogger’ or even the ‘Die, squirrel, die!’ bark – so I decided to investigate.  As I approached the slider, I was horrified to see Maggie and Rocco playing tug of war with a fully grown groundhog.  And by ‘tug-of-war’, I mean Maggie had him by his shoulders and Rocco had him by his legs. Did I mention that he was still alive??

Frankie was standing a few feet away, head tilted to the side, most likely wondering if this was a better option for him than the Humane Association.

I ran full speed through the shit field that is my backyard – barefoot, in my pajamas and braless (holding my breasts in place with my hands) – screaming at the top of my lungs:

NOOOOOOO!!!!  MAGGIEEEEEE!!!!!  ROCCOOOOO!!!!!  STOP IT!!!!!  STTOOOOPPP!!!!  NOOOOOOOO!!!!!

Total. White. Trash.  I can only imagine what my neighbors must have thought.

I scooped up Frankie and ran back into the house with him.  By the time I got there, the groundhog was dead and I was on the phone with Jack.

Me: You need to come home.
Jack: Why?
Me: Because Maggie and Rocco just killed a giant groundhog and you have to clean it up.
Jack: Ugh. I’ll get there as soon as I can, but I have a meeting.

Twenty minutes later, a turkey buzzard the size of a toddler landed in my yard and ate the innards out of the groundhog.  It was like my very own episode of Wild Kingdom.

I can hardly wait to find out what this summer has in store for me.

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The Old and The Lazy


My hip hurts. I’m pretty sure it’s atrophy. That’s my excuse for not working out, walking my dog or cleaning my house right now.  I try to have a new one every day.  This particular excuse is only slightly more legitimate than my usual standbys:

–  Saw spider in the kitchen
–  Too busy working (read: surfing the web)
–  Can’t find my shoes
–  Outbreak of ants/stink bugs/centipedes is too distracting
–  It’s rainy
–  It’s muggy
–  It’s too hot
–  It’s too cold
–  It’s too windy
–  It’s too perfect a day to do anything but read a book on the patio
–  Need to catch up on Words With Friends
–  Need to catch up on DVR

I blame Pottery Barn and Comcast for my inertia.  Maybe if my sofa wasn’t so ridiculously comfortable I would be more inclined to, I don’t know…move around a little?

Also, Comcast?  The DVR?  Totally not fair.

I was at a happy hour last night and one of my friends stopped mid-sentence, turned to her husband in a panic and proclaimed that it was time to GO because American Idol was coming on in 20 minutes.  I looked at her as though she had two heads.

Me: Don’t you have a DVR??
Friend: I don’t like any kind of technology.  I wouldn’t know how to use it.
Me: Wait…what??  The DVR changed my life.  It CHANGED MY LIFE, I TELL YOU!!
Friend: ….
Me: No, seriously, you don’t understand…I am no longer a SLAVE to the television schedule!  I’m free…FREE!!!
Friend: OK…well, it was nice seeing you.  We’re leaving now.

Poor souls.

As much as I love my DVR, it does have a couple of drawbacks.  First, the advent of the DVR and the rather rapid increase in the size of my ass?  Not a coincidence.  Also, it’s kind of stressful. When it’s more than 55% full, I start getting a little squirrelly.  Knowing that five episodes of The Young and The Restless are waiting – not knowing what’s going on with Billy and Victoria’s adoption! – can put a lot of pressure on a girl.

FYI…two things: All My Children is on as I type this.  I haven’t watched AMC in about 25 years, but Erica Kane is still on and she looks FANTASTIC!  Susan Lucci must have a very gifted surgeon.

Also, I recently heard that both AMC and One Life to Live are being cancelled.  As a connoisseur of fine soaps, that hurts my heart a bit. I don’t watch either of them on a regular basis, but they were both a part of my childhood and my adolescence.  I remember my mother watching her ‘stories’ as she ironed our clothes and cleaned the house (back in the olden days when you had no choice but to do those things because snuggly Pottery Barn sofas weren’t a part of our lives and the magical DVR hadn’t been invented yet…also, Gloria Steinem’s ideas hadn’t quite taken hold).

It was bad enough when they cancelled Guiding Light and As The World Turns – both of which were part of my DVR lineup, thankyouverymuch.  I kind of thought the cancellation of those two giants would cause the genre to improve.  I figured that the other soaps would get the good actors from those shows and improve the quality of their shows.

What?  Stop laughing.  Even though Howard Stern once (hilariously) described soap opera actors as out-of-work waiters, there are some outstanding actors on soaps!

I have seen some of my favorite GL and ATWT actors pop up on other soaps.  Unfortunately, the quality of the storylines hasn’t improved much.  I mean, so far none have gotten more ridiculous than the Reva Shayne-Has-Superpowers storyline that signaled the demise of Guiding Light, but their writers are a far cry from talented.  Also, the grammar?  Awful.

Wow.  OLTL is on.  Dorian is still on and she looks exactly the same as she did in the 80s!  She must have the same surgeon as Erica.  Vicki Buchanan is still on, too.  Aside from a few extra pounds and a touch of asshole mouth, she’s held up pretty well over the past 30 years.  Apparently, she’s still with Bo Buchanan, who looks like hell.  They must have been devastated when HDTV was invented.

Well, it’s 2:30.  I have to watch today’s episodes of The Young and The Restless and The Bold and The Beautiful right quick.  Then I’m going to have to get up and get a few things done before Jack gets home.  I wouldn’t want him to think I sit around watching TV all day.

Martyr’s Day


Ahh, Mother’s Day.

I think if most mothers were being completely honest, they’d tell you they’d forgo gifts and flowers for the opportunity to be left alone.  No cooking, no cleaning, no children, no husband, no pets.  Alone.  To do anything they want.  First thing on the list?  A nap.

I was never a fan of Mother’s Day when I was growing up.  My mother would always tell my sister and me that she didn’t want gifts for Mother’s Day.  All she wanted was love and respect.  We knew better, though.  We knew that if we didn’t come up with some kind of gift, we would be stricken repeatedly with the Italian guilt stick. Not in an obvious  I-can’t-believe-you-don’t-love-and-respect-me-enough-to-buy-me-a-gift way, mind you, but in a total Jedi mind trick kind of way.  It would go something like this:

Mom: I was talking to Zia Lisa today.
Me: Oh? How is she doing?
Mom: She’s doing great! Her boys gave her round-trip tickets to Italy for Mother’s Day.  They love their mother, those boys.  They love their mother.

Great.  Must kill cousins at next family function. And by ‘family function’, I mean funeral.  Unfortunately, someone must be sacrificed in order for our family to get together, which is odd because we were kind of up each other’s asses when we were little.

My mother is one of eight children – four boys and four girls.  They grew up on a farm in Italy in what can only be described as abject poverty.  She tells stories of being overjoyed about getting an orange in her stocking at Christmas and fighting with her siblings over the fat from a piece of meat.  The boys went to school until the fifth grade; the girls only until the third grade.  All but two of them emigrated to America in the 1960s, worked for slave wages and managed to scrape enough together to support themselves and eventually bring their parents over.

They lived on Union Street in Wilmington’s Little Italy.  My father (also an Italian immigrant) was a teller in a bank on Union Street. My mother would go into the bank to deposit her paychecks and he was lovestruck, so the story goes.  She was evidently engaged to someone in Italy, but he somehow convinced her to marry him instead.  They’ve been married for about 175 years.  OK, so it’s only been 47 years (‘only’..haha), but it must feel like 175.

That reminds me of a line my husband likes to use:

Unwitting Friend: ‘How long have you and your wife been married?’
Jack: ’20 years, but it feels like only five minutes…underwater.’

Hilarious.

Being a 1st-generation American probably sounds quaint to most people. Looking back on it, I appreciate the tradition and the close-knit extended family.  As an adolescent, however, it was another story.  As a kid, you want nothing more than to just blend in with your peers.  That’s virtually impossible when your parents are from a different country with different customs and traditions.  For instance, it’s really, really difficult to explain the monumental importance of having Nike sneakers to someone who squeezed her feet into the same pair of shoes for three years and walked five miles to school in them until the soles were worn and her feet were blistered.

Or something like that.

So, I spent my adolescence in Fayva Rainbow Stripes sneakers (designed, I suppose, to look kind of like Adidas, but they weren’t fooling anyone).  We didn’t have sleepovers and we didn’t have pets.  We didn’t wear designer clothes (they were a waste of money) and we didn’t participate in extra-curricular activities because practice would interfere with dinner (at 5:30 sharp).

OhmyGod.  I just had a flashback.  My dad had a special whistle to summon us home for dinner when we were outside playing.  It was a series of 13 short, consecutive whistles.  We would hear it and know it was time to go home.  Like dogs.

Yeah.  We blended right in.

We did have food, though.  Lots of delicious food.  And all those things I wanted but couldn’t have?  The hunger for them made me the hard worker I am today.

And love.  We were loved.  Having met many broken people from dysfunctional families, I appreciate that more than anything.  So, today I will wish my mother the happiest of Mother’s Days.  We haven’t always seen eye-to-eye and it hasn’t always been a lovefest, but I know that – just like me and just about every other mother on the planet – she did the very best she could.  And that deserves a tip of the hat.

(S)mall Letdown


Back in 2008, the trumpets sounded as Nordstrom announced it was going to grace our little mall with an anchor store. ‘Hooray,’ shouted all of the townswomen, ‘we’ll finally have a retail outlet that makes us feel like we’re part of the NYC elite! When? When will the doors of our sparkling new shopping mecca finally open and make all of our retail dreams come true?!?’

Wait…what? Spring 2011?? Pfft.

Whatever. Worked out fine for me because shopping has taken a backseat to Q-tipping my ears on my list of favorite activities.

Favorite Activities
Eating
Catching up on DVR
Sitting in the sun
Snacking
Playing Words With Friends
Reading chick lit
Napping
Sneezing
Drinking fizzy water
Chewing gum
Q-Tipping my ears
Shopping
Vacuuming

Over the past three years, our little mall has transformed itself from an ugly (at times scary) duckling into a graceful swan in giddy anticipation of Nordstrom’s arrival. Once on the verge of bankruptcy, the owners completely remodeled our humble mall and turned it into a thing of beauty.  They even lured a few other trendy, upscale establishments like Anthropologie, Urban Outfitters, Michael Kors, Sephora and White House Black Market, lest The Duchess of Fashion feel as though she were surrounded by a bunch of white-trash street thugs like Auntie Anne’s Pretzels, Piercing Pagoda, Cinnabon and Spencer’s Gifts.

(Target? Pay no mind to the Target anchor store, Duchess. It’s there to remind you of your superiority.)

With great fanfare, The Duchess opened her doors early last month and invited the masses to sample her wares. But I stayed home.

Puh, thought I, I’ll be damned if I’m going to run to a department store and carry on like a 1960s schoolgirl at a Beatles concert.  I have no need for Nordstrom or any other store in that heavenly horrible place!

That all changed last Saturday.

I didn’t really intend to visit The Duchess. I have lived a peaceful, happy existence without ever having crossed her threshold.  Unfortunately, I have a fundraiser to attend this week.  I’ve known about it for months (and by ‘known about it’, I mean ‘sat on the Event Committee’), but I’ve been putting off my wardrobe selection and pretending (wishing? praying?) that they would announce that this would be the inaugural ‘pajama theme’ year. But, alas, that was not in the cards. So, off I went to Kohl’s…then Marshall’s…then TJMaxx. Anything to avoid the mall.

Did I ever mention that there was a time in my life when the mall was my very favorite place on the planet? A second home? My happy place? My husband proposed to me at the mall. That’s right. One knee, fountain outside of Strawbridge’s, jewelry store bag (and receipt) still in his hand. Try not to swoon.

Things have changed. The stores that once brought me comfort (and pretty things!) now hurl insults at me as I walk by. Their faceless, sexless mannequins trick me into believing that the pretty/sexy/form-fitting outfits pinned onto their stick-like frames will fit my curves.

Having struck out at the aforementioned stores, I decided to bite the bullet and visit my old frenemy.

As I navigated the parking lot and (miraculously) found a reasonably close spot, I was a little surprised by how excited I was about visiting The Duchess. I walked in through the East entrance (handbags) and headed straight for their famous shoe department (cue choir of angels) where I promptly fell in love with no fewer than 15 pairs of shoes. Unfortunately, they were all a little bit out of my price range.

Quick question – How tacky is it to flip a shoe over and gasp audibly at the price?

I decided it would be best to find a dress before picking the shoes, so I headed upstairs to the dress department. I don’t know what I was expecting, but I was surprised at the limited selection. The store isn’t anywhere near as big as I thought it was going to be. Also, step off, salesgirls! Holy Hannah! I know you’re just trying to do your job, but there are only about 16 dresses to choose from; I think I can manage.

After analyzing the style, color and length of each dress for what seemed like an eternity, I was approached by a tiny waif of a girl in the dress department.

Waif: (hopeful and happy) Can I help you find something?
Me: (exhausted and embittered…deep breath) Yes, actually. I’m trying to find something that will hide my enormous belly.
Waif: (laughing nervously) What are you talking about? You have a beautiful figure!
Me: Don’t mock me, you patronizing little snot. (OK, I didn’t say it, but I was definitely thinking it.)
Me: Haha. Right. I’d like to also hide my chubby knees, if possible.
Waif: I know this sounds crazy, but you should look for something that cinches at the side of the waist. You’d be surprised at how much that hides. There’s a red Calvin Klein dress somewhere around here. Let me see if I can find it for you.
Me: Oh. I don’t know if red is going to work with my coloring. I’d rather have something in black. Perhaps a burka? Do you carry burkas? (OK, I didn’t say that last part, but I’m totally voting for a gender oppression theme for next year’s event).

Two seconds later, she shows up with a candy-apple red, form-fitting Calvin Klein dress that cinched at the waist. In a size 6. It took everything I had not to slap her. Instead I thanked her for her time and walked down the escalator, past the shoes (shut up singing angels!) and straight out to my car.

I don’t think my belly and I will be visiting the mall again anytime soon. Unless, of course, we get a hankering for a yummy white-trash Cinnabon. Continue reading