Me Julie. Me Like Animals.

I have always been an animal lover. My favorite is the cat, but I love them all.

I’m an animal lover who likes to eat certain animals. I love steak and chicken, and I make some really tasty pulled pork. I also love bacon. There’s even the occasional lamb and a very rare taste of venison.

That said, I think cows, chickens, pigs, lambs and deer are all really cute – and in some cases, majestic – animals. I have a great deal of respect for the animals who’ve died so that I can cook them up for my family to eat. Still, it doesn’t help that those critters are so innocent and precious, not to mention the numerous animal characters that I couldn’t even imagine eating: The Chik-Fil-A cows telling me to eat more Foghorn Leghorn, Lamb Chop the puppet, Wilber the Pig and Bambi to name a few. I wouldn’t eat Rocky the Squirrel, but when I see one of those numerous corpses in the road, I get a little weepy.

A couple years ago we went to the state fair, and when I saw a mother pig nursing her young’uns, I immediately wanted to have another kid.


That mother pig is in ecstasy. Some might think it’s gross, but I totally get it.

Then I had a hankering for sausage on a stick. What’s up with that?

Fish are no exception. It’s hard for me to eat a piece of fish without thinking about little Nemo being gutted and served up with fries, but I enjoy a well-prepared piece of salmon or halibut or some fish tacos.

I can’t help it, and I can’t explain it, but I enjoy the taste of animal meat. Even the Wild Kratts can’t make me feel more at ease about being part of the food chain. According to the Kratt brothers, I’m human, and I have teeth that convey a hint that I’m probably a carnivorous being, and isn’t that just so cool?

I mean, I get it. From the dawn of time, humans have been killing animals for food, but I will always be perplexed about how I can swoon over a cute mother pig and then eat one of her relatives.

* * * * * * * *

One of my favorite memories from youth is of walking through the door of the grocery store on the corner near my grandmother’s neighborhood – Hutch’s Food Mart. Before the population of our little town exploded and the major grocery chains took over, Hutch’s was where we shopped most of the time. It was a small store, owned by a Mr. Leonard Hutchison. It was cozy and warm and the people who worked there knew me and my grandmother by name. According to The Brother (who also has fond memories of the store), Mr. Hutchison was not entirely fond of kids, and if you picked up a piece of fruit or even touched it, he would admonish you for it.

After she took me to church on Sundays, my grandmother and I would go to Hutch’s to gather lunch supplies. The moment we walked inside, I could smell the chickens that had been cooked on the rotisserie. Mr. Hutchison was always there, standing very tall and crotchety behind the counter where those succulent, cooked chickens were still warming under the lights. I remember seeing more golden brown chickens twirling behind him, and the smell of barbeque, which he was known for.  I was very young, but the sights and smells! I will never forget them.

We would browse the store with our tiny grocery cart (Mr. Hutchison would laugh at the size of grocery carts today). Grandmother would buy me some Neapolitan ice cream, and we would collect some sort of meat from Mr. H’s meat case, fresh green beans (my favorite), corn on the cob, and warm bread or muffins. Sometimes, she would buy a large roast or a turkey for those occasions when the extended family would come to visit. For major holidays, she would carefully prepare an elaborate dinner at her house and we would sit at the elegantly dressed dining room table with the pretty dishes and linens and real silver that I enthusiastically polished for her before company arrived.

Grandmother’s house was not huge by any means, but I loved it. It was a very modest three-bedroom with a carport and a large oak tree in front. There were irises planted alongside the carport where, some mornings, Grandmother and I would lounge and have breakfast. I would have half of a grapefruit with sugar sprinkled on it. There was also bacon and eggs or waffles – she made whatever I wanted when I spent weekends with her.

I loved the smells of her cooking. She made yummy roasts and soups, but what I remember most were her desserts. They weren’t anything particularly fancy. In fact, they were probably what most families ate for dessert in those days, but I am still pining for her Watergate Salad; not because I can’t make it for myself, but because I miss making it with her.

My mom had her own lovely meal repertoire. After a long day at work, she would come home and fry up some chicken or salmon croquettes, and on her days off, she’d make something more complex, like pepper steak or Beef Burgundy or a spaghetti sauce that cooked all day. I have fond memories of coming home from school to the distinctive aromas of her cooking, and hearing the music she loved listening to while she prepared dinner – usually Simon & Garfunkel, Carly Simon, or The Carpenters.

Of course, we had our share of TV dinners when I was young, but those were fine by me. My favorite was the meat loaf that came with mashed potatoes and green beans, and there was a strange dessert that I couldn’t identify (the box said it was “cobbler”), but it was sweet and gooey, so I gobbled it up. Back then, there wasn’t a McDonald’s on every corner or a Boston Market.  Not that we couldn’t hit the local Jack-In-the-Box or whatever was around, we just didn’t need or want to.

Funny how some of my best memories of childhood revolve around food.

But there are some other memories, too.

* * * * * * * *

When I was seven years old, my mom brought home a box of chicks and declared that we would now be raising chickens in the back yard of our rented suburban house so we could have fresh eggs. There were two Dominiques, (also known as Plymouth Rocks), a couple of lovely brown Rhode Island hens, a Rhode Island Rooster, and then about 6-8 additional white hens.


We named the Dominickers “Dom” and “Nicker”, the Rhode Island hens were “Henna” and “Penny”. The white hens were named various things that I don’t remember, and the rooster was named “Dominick”, according to The Brother. The chicks were adorable, and my brother and I helped care for them to adulthood, although my brother did most of the work. We had to keep them warm in those first weeks before we moved them out to the coop that The Brother and Mother had built in our backyard, so we had a warming lamp that hung over them in a cardboard box that was just big enough for them to fit.


The coop was constructed from chicken wire and plywood. I loved going out to feed the chickens and commune with them. However, I got pecked at a lot, and eventually I stopped going into the coop, resigning myself to poking a finger or two through the chicken wire, hoping I wouldn’t get seriously injured by the rooster. Dominick was quite protective of the ladies.

The Brother, who was fourteen or so at the time, was responsible for fetching eggs and feeding and watering the chickens. I do recall that one day, The Mother (who was a nurse) came home early and went out to check for eggs, and since she had not taken a basket with her to put them in, placed an egg in the back pocket of her work scrubs because her hands were full. She came inside and as we were chatting about our day, she sat down, forgetting about the egg in her pants, and it was crushed against her backside. Kind of messy, but we laughed about it anyway.

There was a chain-link fence between our back yard and the neighbor’s. They had a dog – a gorgeous, extremely large, white German Shepherd named “Ski” – who would wake us up daily at 5am with his incessant barking, alongside the crow of the stupid rooster. I remember my mom expressing her displeasure at the barking and crowing, sometimes going so far as to open her bedroom window to yell, “Shut the hell up, Ski!!”, but she had to get up early for work during the week, so the dog and chicken wakeup chorus was helpful, I guess.

Some time during our chicken adventure, Ski ate a couple of our white-feathered hens after they had escaped from the coop and decided to go over the fence into his welcoming and drooling maw. I remember going out into the back yard one afternoon and finding a pair of wings on the ground. The white dog’s fur was now pink – stained with the blood of one of my pet hens.

My mom came outside because she heard me screaming at Ski. She shooed me back into the house, I guess in order to protect me from the carnage, although I had already seen the wings lying in the grass.

(I guess Ski wasn’t a wing man. Personally, I love chicken wings. He really missed out.)

There is no telling how long that dog pined for a taste of fresh chicken. That day was surely the luckiest day of his life. The Fantastic Mr. Ski lived next door, but he didn’t have to go to any lengths to capture his meal that day. It was basically presented to him over a silver-colored chain-link fence, and it was a foreshadowing –  and maybe a bit of a preparation –  for what was to come next.

* * * * * * * *

One Saturday, my mom had a few too many cocktails and decided that she was going to kill a few of our chickens for future dinners.  There was an announcement but little talk of it. My brother and I were horrified.

At the tender age of seven, I had given very little thought to where our food came from (or anything else for that matter), so it was a bit of a shock to find out that those sweet chickens in the back yard were the same type of animal that was used to make my mother’s delicious fried chicken. There were no documentaries about how our chickens ended up on the dinner table, and I never questioned where my fried chicken came from. I just knew that it was good.

After dinner and a few scotch and waters, Mother invited one of her friends over (who was equally toasted), and together, they beheaded a good number of our flock. Although we did not witness the slaughter, I was aghast, as was my brother. We loved those chickens. Even though they pecked the crap out of me and smelled bad, I loved them as much as I loved my cat.

Upset by this mini-chickencide, my brother and I took out our frustrations by setting up shop on the coffee table with lots of paper and pencils and crayons so that we could draw pictures of our evil mother and her axe-wielding friend killing our precious poultry. We cringed every time we heard the axe hit concrete, and we would press our pencil or crayon onto the paper even harder in protest.

After that? I don’t know. I suppose I’ve either blocked it out or just lost interest and went to bed, because I have no recollection of the remainder of that evening.

As far as I know, I slept. I can’t remember anything after my brother and I created our art gallery of “Fowl Play”. I woke up the next morning feeling rested, but then I remembered the previous night’s events, and I felt a little off. However, my uneasiness was made better because I knew that “The Bionic Woman” would be on that night, so I focused on that and poured myself a bowl of Cap’n Crunch. After I had eaten my breakfast, I went to throw the empty cereal box into the trash, and when I opened the pantry door, laying on top of an already full trash can rested a disembodied chicken head.

From that day forward (at least for a good number of chicken dinners), my brother and I refused to eat any chicken that was served to us by our mother.

* * * * * * * *

Thankfully, memories fade, and even though I still can recall the Great Poultricide of 1974, the days and years afterward have helped me to laugh about it. If I had to live off of the land and I was starving to death and found a chicken?

I’d probably kill it, but I would not feel too good about it.

* * * * * * * *

Written to the tunes of:

Elton John “Greatest Hits”

Simon and Garfunkel

The Story of My Cat Meow-soleum.

I almost became a cat lady. I was this close, and then my Mister showed up all romantical & stuff, so instead of a cat collection, I now have a kid collection.

Crazy Cat Lady Starter Kit

I had already accumulated a couple of cats, and after The Mister and I met and he moved in with me, I coerced him into letting me keep the tiny black kitten we found under the neighbor’s car. You know, just in case things didn’t work out. If he and I parted ways, I could continue my cat lady journey, uninterrupted.

My mom was a cat lady herself, so it only made sense. I think cat lady-ness must be a genetic thing. I wonder if it’s passed down from generation to generation. Except if you’re adopted. My mom was adopted, and her mother obviously didn’t carry the cat lady gene because she hated cats with a passion.

I never understood that. How could anyone hate cats unless you had some sort of traumatizing experience like getting mauled by a rabid zombie cat or something? My grandmother did not have any bad zombie cat experiences to speak of (I asked her); she just thought cats were disgusting. I had cats my whole life, and grossed her out frequently when I was a kid by kissing them all over their sweet, furry faces. She would roll her eyes and go on and on about filthy cat mouths. I remember trying to explain that cats have a special enzyme in their saliva that gives it antiseptic properties. I wasn’t sure if that was really true (it is – I Googled it), but she stopped nagging me about it. Then I told her that some pharmaceutical companies actually make antibiotics with cat saliva. I don’t know if that’s true, either, but it sounded good at the time. (Nope. Googled that, too. No antibiotics made from cat saliva, but I think I’m onto something here.)

So, me and the Mister got married, and I had my three cats.

Wally In The Dryer

Wally was a pet store purchase from Brother when I moved into my first apartment. He would sometimes make a bed in the dryer if I left it open. He was a great companion. He was twenty when he died.

BFF Cats

Bailey was a lilac-point Siamese with a bit of a weight problem. He was like a cat version of Jabba the Hutt. After I had him neutered, he just stopped moving entirely. He would lay down at his food dish to eat. I tried exercising him every day with his bird-on-a-string and even tried some “diet” cat food. Eventually it got to the point where he was so fat that when we tried to pick him up, he would crap himself. And thusly, all over us. I’m talking explosive, squirt-y diarrhea. I suppose that for Bailey, it was sort of like doing yoga and then farting in class, but much, much worse. Makes me wonder if anyone has ever soiled themselves doing yoga.

Anyway, we had to make it a point not to pick him up unless absolutely necessary. Like if the house was on fire. Which would be kind of embarrassing having to explain to the firemen why I had cat poop all over me, but I still loved the cat and he was worth me getting pooped on to save his life. However, I would have probably made the Mister handle that nasty business (because he’s the MAN and he handles most of the nasty business around here, like spider and/or water bug removal and unclogging toilets). Fortunately, Bailey was able to hoist himself on to beds and furniture without soiling it or himself. Sadly, he died from lymphoma in his teens. That’s him on the right (as if there’s any question). Mr. Big is the black one on the left. He looked just like Wally. He and Bailey were BFFs.

Then, when my mom died, I inherited her cats. All five of them.

At least it wasn’t FIFTEEN. Or fifty.

Unfortunately, my mom was a major chain-smoker. If she could have smoked an entire pack of cigarettes at once, she would have done it. In fact, I’m surprised she didn’t come up with some sort of device that holds a pack of cigarettes so you can smoke it in its entirety. Of course, that would be an expensive habit, and my mom was already upset at how the price of cigarettes went up all the time anyway.

Going to Mom’s house for a visit usually required some serious prep work if you wanted to come out alive. Deep breathing exercises beforehand were always necessary to get my lungs ready to have themselves violently assaulted by the inevitable cloud of smoke that was constantly hovering in her house. If I’d had some sort of gas mask on, she probably would have been offended, and Silent Rule Number One Upon Visiting the Mother was to avoid pissing her off, so that wasn’t an option. God forbid anyone said, “Do you know the dangers of secondhand smoke?” because we were never allowed to discuss her smoking habit in any way whatsoever. That meant no use of the words “cigarette”, “smoke”, or “secondhand” or even “ashtray” unless they were used to say, “Can I bum a cigarette?” or “Can I smoke that secondhand cigarette butt in that ashtray?” or “Man, I love the smell of secondhand smoke!” Even then, it would have put me at risk of having an ashtray chucked at my head.

Why she never thought to crack a fracking window when company was coming, I’ll never understand, and how she lived as long as she did without actual oxygen in her house is still a mystery to me.

Living in a cloud of cigarette smoke for so long really took its toll on her precious cats, because all but one of them died soon after they came to live with me. I mean, within a few weeks. They all had serious health issues and were pretty much at death’s door to begin with. To make matters worse, around the same time, my beloved Wally and Bailey both died as well.

It was a really crappy month to be a cat in my house.


Cat Meow-soleum

Behold, a picture of my cat cemetery. Or mausoleum. Or meow-soleum, if you will.

I know it’s kind of morbid and sad, but cats can’t live forever, now, can they? If they did, this house would really be buzzing with cats, along with my very loud kids. It would be mass hysteria.

Cat Ashes Lying In State

My mom truly loved her cats, and I did, too. I promise we did everything we could to save them, but I think the increased oxygen content in my house really messed with their systems, and possibly worsened their various illnesses.

I couldn’t bring myself to bury them in the back yard. What if we moved? Then they would be stuck here all alone in the back yard without me. I will not move if I have to dig up dead cats. I wanted them to be portable. We decided to have them cremated, and that worked out well because then we wouldn’t have to worry about zombie cats breaking in during the apocalypse.

In fact, I want to be cremated, too. Not right now. Later, when I’m dead. I don’t want to take any chances of becoming a zombie, either.

When Wally died, the Mister, perhaps trying to console me (or perhaps just messing with me to see how I’d react), suggested getting him stuffed so that I could always have him around, but that seemed a little too creepy even for me. Having said that, if I saw a stuffed cat who looked like Wally in a store, I would probably be tempted to buy it and maybe dress it up in a silly outfit, but I doubt I’ll be seeing any stuffed cats on sale any time soon. Although, you never know.

This is Amelia, one of the cats that I inherited from my mom…THE ONLY CAT WHO LIVED…

The Cat Who Torture Me

…and who was probably a chain-smoker herself before she came to live with me. I think she was hitting the bars after my mom went to bed, to be quite honest. That cat had some major attitude, like she was wearing seven-inch stilettos and a leather jacket. After she moved in with us, she somehow snuck out of the house and disappeared for two whole days doing who-knows-what. I was pretty distraught, so the Mister printed out flyers with her picture and our phone number to distribute around the neighborhood, but told me that he only did it because he knew how much I loved that cat, and he said that if she went out gallivanting again, he wasn’t going to try to find her. Eventually, she showed up and I was so relieved, but she overheard me say that I was going to call Jackson Galaxy for an intervention, so she started peeing all over my house as if to say, “You can go to hell, cat-lady-wannabe”.

This did not sit well with Mr. Big, so he also started peeing everywhere, too. Since he had never done the whole territory-marking thing before, he didn’t really know what to do. I think all he knew was that he needed to pee on stuff. He didn’t stand with his butt against stuff and do the spray thing. Instead, he would squat on something on the floor and go to town. I guess he didn’t get the manual about how to mark territory.

Since Amelia and Mr. Big couldn’t get along, and also because she didn’t like my kids, she had to go live somewhere else. I hope her new owners know not to let her outside or give her access to their wallets or car keys.

Mr. Big is now the big man on campus. I think he had some PTSD from living with Amelia, because it took him a while to stop peeing on things.  I would love to have more cats, but I can only put up with so many cat shenanigans that involve pee.


So this means I’ll probably have to wait at least another ten years for a new cat. Well-played, Mr. Big.

I have to say that my cat is pretty smart. He even wrote a guest post here. Pretty funny stuff, but I’m sort of biased.

I guess my cat lady days are over…for now…

* * * * * * * *

Written to the tunes of:

Katy Perry

Carly Simon

Elton John

Well I Wasn’t Expecting THAT.

Back in June of 2003, I was in graduate school. It was a Master of Science program with a major in nursing and designation as a nurse practitioner once I’d completed the course of study and passed a certification exam. My specialty was Women’s Health.


Graphic Credit – Holly Steffen

I had classes that covered statistics, research, community health, advanced assessment, pharmacology, nursing theory, and thesis writing among others. There was a tremendous amount of paperwork, and I was also required to spend a number of hours per week in a clinical setting within my specialty. This meant that I needed to find doctors and/or licensed nurse practitioners to show me me the ropes without giving me too much to hang myself with.

One of my clinical sites during the summer session before my final year was a small but very busy clinic in a nearby city. It was basically like working as an unpaid employee; I worked an 8-5 shift twice a week, and I saw patients just as the resident NP would. I was pretty much on my own, which I loved. I learned a lot, and I liked being independent.

There was one particular day where there were hardly any patients to see because no one was showing up for their scheduled appointments. I was used to chaos there, but on this day, it was oddly quiet.

The first rule for being a healthcare provider of any kind is that we never say the words “quiet” or “slow”. EVER. As in, “Wow, it’s really a quiet day”, or “It sure is slow!”, because you know what happens? Patients start coming in with horrific problems en masse. Say the word “quiet” in a hospital setting and your day is guaranteed to go down the toilet in rapid fashion. This is a well-known phenomenon in most healthcare settings and among those who work in them. A full moon will also put the fear of God into us quite often, and with good reason – especially when we’re talking about pregnant women. If there’s a full moon out and you’re on call, you might as well get your scrubs on and drive on over to the hospital.

I did not utter the forbidden words on that most interesting of days. The slower pace was kind of welcome, and I got to  know my preceptor, Brenda, a little better. She had been an NP for a couple of decades, so she really knew her stuff and had some great stories.

After we had chatted for a bit, I mentioned to Brenda that I had never done a pregnancy test on a patient. As a labor and delivery nurse, there was never any need to do any testing, because the ladies we saw were – duh – pregnant. Most of the time.

That’s a fun little nugget that I will write about some other time.

There were medical assistants at the clinic who did them for us when patients came in for suspected pregnancy in order to free up more of our time, but I wanted to do one myself. I mean, it’s kind of a dumb thing to not know how to do or understand if you’re a women’s health NP, you know?

She said, “Well, if anyone actually shows up today, you are more than welcome to do one.”

Another hour passed, and there were a couple of patients, but neither of them needed to be tested, so I suggested that I just do one on me. I mean, I knew I wasn’t pregnant, but I could pee in a cup, go through the motions, and feel better about doing a silly pregnancy test.

Brenda gave me an envelope thing with all of the tools, and a cup to pee in. Inside of the packet, there was a pipette to suck up the pee, and a test card to splooge the pee onto. Kind of like this:


You squirted the pee into that little round reservoir area, and if two lines showed up in the window, the test was positive, like this:


I peed in the cup, sucked some of it up with the pipette, and splooged it into the designated area. The instructions said that I needed to wait about 2-3 minutes to read the test.

I disposed of the tools and leftover pee and picked up the little card thingy and walked into Brenda’s office. By that time, the recommended time had passed, and the one line that indicated a negative result had appeared. No surprise there. Just then, one of the front desk people came back to the office to tell us that a good portion of Texas’ female population just showed up. It got busy super fast.

I was standing there with my pee-soaked test card and Brenda said, “Just put it there on my desk! We’ll talk about it later. Let’s GO!” This did not surprise me because she had a corner of her office dedicated to a microscope where she checked pee for trichomonas and other fun bacterial infections. Pretty gross, but whatever. I did want to talk to her about how the test worked in more detail.

We came out of her office and walked down the hall to see that a horde of women of every age had collected in the small waiting room. It was a busy couple of hours and after we finally finished up with the last patient, I walked back to the office to get my purse and other belongings so I could head home to see the Mister. I saw the test card still sitting on the desk and realized I’d forgotten all about it.

When I picked it up to toss it into the trash, I noticed that there was a faint second line.

I was kind of perplexed, and I asked Brenda, who had just walked in, “Is it one line or two that means you’re preggers?”

“Two lines”, she said. I started to panic.

I think she saw the horror on my face and suggested that I take another test from the clinic to do at home in the morning, since pregnancy hormones are more evident at that time. She was giggling at me and rattling on about getting a false positive if you try reading the test past ten minutes and something called an “evaporation line”. I didn’t hear much of what she said because I had already retreated into my own bubble of intense fear and anxiety.

I read once that just before death, neurons in the brain start firing in close proximity to each other which indicates heightened brain activity. I’m not sure, because I’ve never died before, so who knows? I think that if I was about to die, I would hope to see a nice montage of the more meaningful moments in my life set to some cool music.

This situation felt like it could have been something close to dying because my brain’s synapses were obviously firing like crazy. I started to see this movie in my mind that included certain conversations I’d had throughout my life with different people regarding the fact that I WAS NOT GOING TO HAVE KIDS EVER.

  • I saw myself talking to my mom over the years and telling her that I didn’t want to ever have kids.
  • I saw myself joking around with various friends and co-workers about how I was never going to have kids.
  • I saw me and the Mister having the discussion about not having children after we met.
  • I saw the Mister asking me to watch a “60 Minutes” segment about women who waited until after they’d established their careers to have kids but now they were struggling with infertility, and I remember thinking, Why does he even care about that sort of thing??

Wait a minute.

Was this a GOD THING? Like, a weird twist-of-fate thing? Was I being given someone’s sick idea of an “opportunity” in order to learn some sort of crazy life lesson that I didn’t have any interest in learning???

I drove home completely paralyzed. God was the autopilot here, you know what I’m saying? Once I pulled out of the parking lot of the clinic, my brain was GONE. Miraculously, I got home without incident and poured myself a big glass of wine.

I know. Smart, right? That’s the first thing someone should do when they learn that they might be growing a baby.

I sat down with my tasty beverage and tried to calm down and think. I remember being exhausted. Those last couple of hours at the clinic really wore me out.

And I might be pregnant.

My Mister came home from work, and sat down to vegetate with me. We were casually chatting and then I segued into the subject of my possible pregnancy so casually and sort of laughing, like, “…and I did this pregnancy test thing? It said I might be pregnant, but I think it’s wrong. Isn’t that NUTS?” Then I took a big swig of wine.

easter-island-rapa-nui The Mister’s Response

I continued, laughing, like it was just a silly misunderstanding between my pee and a pregnancy test. “Brenda gave me another test to do in the morning. It’ll be negative because there is no way that I’m preggers.”

“Okay…” He was looking at me kind of sideways now. You know that look? It’s like, I’m sorry, but the things you are saying to me are not registering right now.

There was no more talk. We stoically watched some stupid TV and then went to bed. I slept like a baby. Or so I thought.

The next morning, I did the second test. It was an obvious positive. I got in the shower and cried my eyeballs out. For some reason, I thought, My Mister is going to KILL ME, which is dumb because the whole “let’s not have kids” thing was really my idea. I think he just sort of went along with it because he loved me, and he would have done almost anything I asked. Hopefully, he would be cool with me having a baby.

I turned off the shower, toweled off a little, and when I stepped out, my Mister was standing there waiting for me. He had a slight smile on his face – it was one of those smiles he does when he just can’t help but put it there. I suspect he was happy, but he didn’t want to say it out loud.

He asked me, “Did you flunk your test?”

And then I started really bawling. He gave me a big hug and told me that he loved me and that everything would be okay. He wasn’t mad. I think he was a little excited, which made me kind of excited, but I was still very scared.

I had class that morning, so I got myself together and drove to school.

When I came home later that day, the Mister had a dozen roses waiting. He kept staring at me and telling me that he loved me.

Next thing I know, we’re in the Magical Tahoe of Love and on our way to the grocery store to stock up on healthy food and prenatal vitamins. It was surreal and kind of fun.

After we checked out and were back in the car, I started crying again. Those damn hormones! I had been semi-officially pregnant for only part of a day, and I guess it was still hard to believe. My thoughtful Mister held my hand, looked me right in the eyes, and said, “It’s going to be okay.”

And thankfully, it was.


* * * * * * * *

Written to the tunes of:

The B-52’s, particularly

“Song For A Future Generation”

“Summer of Love”

“Good Stuff”

and of course,

“Rock Lobster”

The Story Of Me And Him.

It’s August, which means that the idiotic heat of summer will hopefully come to an end soon. It also means that it’s time, once again, to reminisce about that time I met the Mister.

I call it our “Meetiversary”. It’s hokey, but hey, it’s ME!


* * * * * * * *

August is a special month. It’s the month in which I met my Mister. It’s the month that I fell in love at first sight, even though I never thought real love would happen for me.


After I began my nursing career, I made the decision to not date or think about dating or romance or relationships for a long while. I had gone out a few times, but I just didn’t feel like it was the right thing for me at the time. I decided that I needed time just for ME. I needed to figure out what I was doing with myself.

After a while, I was cool with knowing that I might turn out to be a cat lady.

Cat Lady

I saved my pennies for a couple of years and bought my first house – a very proud moment. I loved my little home for one. The minute the keys were in hand, I started doing what you’d expect. Painting. You know, the thing I love to do the least these days.

First House

The house was old, but it had character and I loved it. Hardwood floors. Big kitchen. It was surrounded by about twenty tall oak trees and shrubbery and grass so lush and green. The back yard was huge and covered in foliage of every kind. Turns out, the lady who lived there before me had a very green thumb and planted a little bit of everything around many of the trees. She was also a cat lady. My residence in that house was truly meant to be.

I expressed my independence fully in my little home. The walls had not been painted since the ‘60’s, so they were a rather yellowed shade of blah, which I found quite depressing, so I got to work on Day One Of Being A Homeowner. I had always wanted a yellow kitchen, so I painted that sucker the most hideous shade of yellow ever, although it was pretty to me at the time. I had always wanted a red office as well, so I painted one of the bedrooms “Cardinal Red” and put my desk in there. It took three or four coats of paint to cover the white, but with a little ‘80’s music in the background, I got it done.

I did a lot of painting and refurbishing, and at the same time, I guess I was refurbishing myself as well.

Have you heard that saying about finding love when you’re not looking for it? Well…

It was August of 2000 – a mere five months after I moved into the future cat house. The interior was mostly painted. I had window treatments. I had a yard man. I was working at the hospital in labor and delivery and watching the miracle of birthing that would thankfully never happen for me. I was a cat lady in training (I was up to two), and already looking into some clever organizing options…

Cat Organizer




Cat Organizer


I hadn’t been on a date in over a year or more, but I didn’t really notice.

Long before there were ever smartphones or Facebook, I had gotten in touch with a bunch of old high school friends via the internet. While catching up with one particular friend through emails, he mentioned  – very subtle-like – that his brother was still single. I knew who his brother was – I remembered him from high-school as he was just a year ahead of us. I recalled seeing him in the school hallways between classes and thinking, Wow, that guy is carrying a lot of books…he must be super smart. I also remembered that he was very cute and had cool friends and would surely have no interest in me. Always a bit of a wallflower, I crushed on him from afar.

Sixteen years later, me and Mr. Single started talking on the phone after some gentle encouragement from his brother. A date was set up, but the closer it loomed, the more fearful I became. As someone who leaned toward being introverted, I was hesitant to date again. In fact, the night before we were to meet, I almost called him to cancel, but I was too chicken. We were just going to have lunch, so I figured that would be quick and painless. I would have lunch and then make a clean getaway. I needed to get back to my personal refurbishment and cat organizing.

The day of the big date, he pulled up in his black Chevy Tahoe. I had butterflies in my stomach, I was sweating like a pig, and I was a nervous wreck.

But then…


I’m not lying. The minute I opened the front door to greet him, I knew that he was going to be my Mister. His presence on my porch was oddly comforting. He hadn’t spoken three words and I knew. It was extremely surreal.

“Just lunch” turned into lunch, a visit to the big indoor rainforest/aquarium downtown, a movie, drinks, and then dinner. The dude had this cool, new thing called OnStar in his vehicle and I have to say that it made a nice impression. He called the OnStar lady so we could find our lunch spot, and his voice? Oh, ladies. Over the phone is one thing, but in person, his voice was like a fine piece of chocolate. Smooth and sweet and holy crap. OnStar gave us directions to a restaurant for lunch.

He took pictures of me later in the day during cocktails…

First Date Photo

I don’t care to have my picture taken, but I acquiesced and did my best to be cool. He sent me the copies the next day, which weren’t bad, and this further reinforced my conclusion that he would be my Mister. His pictures were sort of how he saw me, and I liked it. I liked it a lot.

He was charming and soft-spoken and such a gentleman. A gentle man. He opened doors for me. He brushed a piece of crazy hair out of my eyes – not once, but twice. I did some major swooning. I’m swooning right now just writing about this.

When he saw that I drove a Ford Explorer, he asked me about my tires. At the time, the tires commonly used on that model had been recalled because they were exploding and causing serious accidents. Had I had them checked? Did I know the serial numbers? Was I sure that they were safe? Uhhhh….nope.

He got on his hands and knees to look for serial numbers on the insides of the tires so that I could check to find out if they were on the recall list. I felt like I was a damsel in distress and he was my knight in shining khaki pants.

After a few short weeks, we knew that we were in love. He was now Mr. Boyfriend. We had many more dates over the following year. We had ups and downs. Job losses/changes. I went to graduate school. We had my mother’s declining health and his father’s health issues. We shacked up in my new/old house and adopted another cat.

On the one year anniversary of the day we met for that incredible first date, we had planned to celebrate our time together by having a special dinner. Unfortunately, he had a man-cold from hell, and I injured my back pretty badly a few days before and had been to the chiropractor that morning for some bone crunching. We were a real barrel o’ fun, and I was leaning toward putting off the dinner.

After I had returned from the chiro, he said, “Let’s go ahead and go out. I’ll be okay if you’re okay.” He asked me where I wanted to go, and I told him. But then I changed my mind a few hours later because that’s what I do – so indecisive. He was fine with my final choice.

We got cleaned up and went to dinner at what was my favorite restaurant. It was a little hole-in-the-wall Italian dive where the food was good, there was a nice, quiet atmosphere, and a piano player who took requests.

After dinner we ordered dessert and coffee. While we were waiting, Mr. Boyfriend started nervously asking me all of these weird questions:

“So, do you think we’re good together?” and “Do you love me?” and “Have I been a good boyfriend?”

Stuff like that. It was freaking me out a little bit, but I smiled and said, “Of course, honey.” I did love him. And I did think we worked well together. He was a most excellent boyfriend, but where was my fracking dessert?

The waiter finally appeared with his tray, and next to my plate of tiramisu, there was a box. It was wrapped in a pretty pink flowery paper with a pink bow.

“What’s this?” I asked the waiter. “Is this some sort of promotional thing that you get with dessert?”


At some point, I started to comprehend what was happening, and then I mentally checked out. The experience was difficult to believe because I never saw myself in this situation. I remember saying, “Oh, my gosh” over and over. I just sat there, almost rejecting the situation as untrue, but my hands decided I was an idiot and began opening the box…

Ring Box

…and there was another box…

Ring Box 2

…and then THE BOX.


The ugly cry ensued quickly. Now I knew why Mr. Boyfriend had us seated near the back of the restaurant.


He finally asked me, “Will you be my wife?”

The ugly cry got way uglier. Somehow, through the ocean on my face, I was able to say “Yes.”

To say that I was surprised by his proposal would be a cruel understatement. I was quite astonished. I still am.

Later on, I asked him how he knew which restaurant I’d choose for our dinner, and how he knew I’d actually want to go out to dinner – given our various ills that day – and how he managed to get the ring there before we arrived. He said he just knew that I’d pick this particular restaurant, and he knew that I would want to come. He had delivered the ring while I was at the doctor that morning and the restaurant owners put it in their safe, which is why my dessert took forever.

He really does know me quite well.

So that’s the story of how we met and became lobsters for life. Or penguins, or whatever.

I thank my Mister for that perfect first date. I thank him for that perfect proposal. Most of all, I thank him for his time with me. Good and bad. Up and down. A million kids. I would have been okay as a cat lady, but life with him is sublime.

Happy Meetiversary, my Sweet Mister. I love you more than you know.

* * * * * * * *

Written to the tunes of

New Order (“Republic”)

A-Ha (“Hunting High and Low”)

I’ll Miss You When I’m Not Around.

No, I’m not leaving the blog again. I am not going to croak anytime soon, either. I know you’re all very relieved to hear this news.

I think I’ve decided to distance myself from Facebook a little more. Our relationship, in FB terms might be, “It’s Complicated”. Me and The FB have not been getting along well, and I really think it’s time to see other people. As in, real, live people.

As in, having more of a life.



I’m not saying that anyone who uses Facebook has no life; ever since I first signed up in 2009, I’ve thought of Facebook as a useful tool. I could share things with my family – like pictures of me and The Mister and the kids – and it was just a “here’s what’s up with us” sort of deal. I also reconnected with old friends from high school, which was a delight. I think Facebook is still a great way to get reacquainted with old friends and share our lives with people we care about.

However, over the years it’s become a swirly vacuum of time wastage for me. It became more of an obligation to check on the status of the Facebook universe rather than a fun distraction. The more friends I connected with, and the more pages I “liked”, the more dense my newsfeed became. I mean, it has become a very ROBUST newsfeed. I’ve added news outlets, educational pages, weather sites, mommy-blog pages, inspirational pages, homeschool pages…if it interested me, I “liked” it. Then I added my own blog page, which was great for connecting with readers and other like-minded bloggers.

I admit it. I’m a Facebook junkie. I love having all kinds of news and education and entertainment and what my friends and family are doing all in one glorious location. I’ve spent a lot of time there on my Fabulous Feed, literally feeding off of what my friends were up to, almost like a voyeur. I have to say that a large percentage of them post a lot of exceptional stuff. Funny cat videos, for one. Who can resist a cute cat video?

There has also been bad stuff, and not necessarily from news outlets. Some of it shocks me at times. News of illnesses, injustices, suffering animals, overall sadness and decay. I’ve been seeing a lot of bad stuff in my news feed and it has started to have a negative impact on my well-being. Me and my thin-skinned self.

Perhaps you feel like Facebook is not doing you any favors, either. There is a tremendous amount of “time-suck” involved, and I have four fabulous kiddos who do enough of that already.

Obviously, I would never break up with my kids. I don’t want to because I love them, and they are actual human beings who walk and talk to me in real life. They are not memes about how I should appreciate life – they ARE my life right now. They are not vague status updates or suggested pages or friends that I should “Like” or “Follow”. They are not articles that sound exciting and then turn out to be a waste of my time. They are not friends who are really just acquaintances and don’t know me at all and may become offended by the stuff I post.

They are not photos of cute kids; they are my actual living, breathing, very cute kids.

I’ve been wanting to break up with Facebook for a while, but things got accelerated after the new Messenger app came out. I kept getting notices on my phone that Messenger was moving away from the FB app. Then everyone was so unhappy about it and I heard rumblings of some Big Brother-y stuff. No one wanted that crap on their phones. Facebook has already earned a lot of mistrust because of a certain “experiment” that was allegedly conducted on its users, and Messenger is a big baddie now because of all sorts of reasons that may or may not be valid.

Honestly? I have no idea if the Messenger hate is justified, but I have enough to worry about, you know?

The first thing I did was to delete my blog’s Facebook page a couple months ago. That was kind of a non-event. I just didn’t feel like maintaining it, and I’m not very good at self-promotion anyway, so I chucked it.

Then a few days ago, I deleted Facebook from my phone after a friend talked about how she did it and had more time to do stuff, and WOW. I got so much done that day. I did four loads of laundry, worked in the garden and fixed some stuff around the house. I even mopped my kitchen floor, which is a miracle unto itself. I probably could have built a shed in the back yard or cured Ebola, but the main thing was that I was more present for my kids and for ME. I did nice things for myself that I normally wouldn’t have done, like clip my fingernails and floss. The feeling of accomplishment was significant, so I was rather proud of myself for deleting the Facebook app.

The next thing I did was to go through and delete most of the pages that I had “liked”. I even unfriended some people that I never saw on FB or that I really didn’t know. I thought that if I did a little housekeeping, maybe my newsfeed wouldn’t be so overwhelming and take up so much time. Unfortunately, that didn’t help much. Facebook loves to make suggestions and stick sponsored posts in my feed to fill it back up.

Maybe most folks have a healthier relationship with Facebook than I do. I wondered if maybe I should just leave altogether.

Leaving Facebook


Then I started to feel the guilt.

What about all of the birthdays, anniversaries, and other important life events I was missing? What if something really important happens to a friend and I fail to become informed? Will they think, “She is so lame because she didn’t wish me a Happy Birthday.” Or, “Wow, that Julie chick sure is a crappy friend for not knowing that my leg got eaten off by a shark.”

Not only that, but what about sharing pictures of my meals? Won’t people miss those? I mean, I know that my friends are just thrilled when they see the stuff I cook.

What if I tell people I’m stepping away from Facebook and they beg me not to? How could I not give them what they want?? I know that they would miss my furious wit and humor, right??

Holy crap, I would really miss those Candy Crush invites, too.

Office Space Candy Crush


Maybe my guilt is a little unwarranted.

I figure I don’t need to check Facebook all the time to feel like I’m actively caring about people, because I know that I care all the time. My feelings for my friends and family are non-FB-dependent.

And not to trivialize birthdays, anniversaries or life events, but I truly wish everyone happiness in all things for eternity even if there was no Facebook. I hope no one is offended if I don’t write a “Happy Birthday” post on their timeline because I’m not around as much. If you get half-eaten by a shark, I am really sorry and I hope you heal quickly. Plus? I care about you even if it’s NOT your birthday or anniversary or if you’re not eating some fantastic meal or enjoying some great vacation spot. I care even if you’re not being devoured by a shark.

So, to my wonderful friends and family, I really love you guys, but I’m going to be spending a lot less time on The FB. I will still share these annoying blog posts (because who else is going to read them?) and the occasional picture of a kid via Instagram, and visit every now and then to see what’s up with you.

Me and Facebook? I don’t know. If there was such a thing, I think our relationship status would currently be…

“Friends with Benefits”.

Good Stuff #3 – Water.


So cleansing. And watery. I place a tall glass of it on my nightstand every night before I get in bed.

Water makes up around 71% of the earth’s surface, as well as up to 78% of our body’s composition (depending on size). Kind of interesting, right?

Water Drop

It also makes up a large percentage of most plant life. Plants and trees cannot live without the greatness that is water.

I’m thankful for the sound it makes when it falls to the ground as rain, or into a pool of itself as a fountain.

It’s cool and refreshing, and it fixes everything. When I feel icky, I drink a bunch of water and it makes me feel better.

Like the time I climbed this mountain during a trip up to Washington…

Mount Si

Mount Si

…even though I’d never done that sort of thing before and thought that if I walked on my treadmill with an incline for a couple of weeks prior to the trip that I’d be ready to climb Mount Everest.


By the time we reached fifty feet, I was already expressing my dissatisfaction about how much more mountain was left to go like a kid in the back seat of a car asking if we’re there yet. There’s nothing more effective for bringing out tiresome drama like putting an oblivious newbie at the bottom of a mountain and telling her to start climbing.

It isn’t like going up a hill. It’s like taking a stairway to INFINITY, and each step is about three feet tall.

On the way up, I saw this very fit and fabulous family of five. Mom and Dad looked like seasoned climbers, and their three glorious children (one looked like he was in pre-school) were having a blast and laughing and talking about how great it was to be climbing in such a beautiful place. The most annoying part of this was that we passed them as they were coming down and I had just started my my bitching there at fifty feet.

Enjoying some delicious water

Of course, it is possible that they looked so fabulous because they knew they only had fifty feet left to go before they reached the bottom, but there was not a drop of sweat on them, so now that I think about it, it was a little suspicious. They did not look they had just climbed the mountain of death. They must have been fairies or something.

Maybe I was hallucinating and they were actually thorny devil lizards. Or better yet, maybe they were bred with lizards and that’s how they were able to have such a roaring good time while climbing this ginormous thing.

Anyway, I quit my moaning, drank some delicious water, and kept on going.

I am thankful to water for helping me climb those incredibly breathtaking 3,500 feet, and for providing substance to the tears that I wept like a baby when I got to what I thought was the top, only to have my very able Boyfriend (who is now my able Mister) point out that there was an additional “scramble” of about 100 additional feet to the mountain’s summit (called the “Haystack”) that he wanted to climb.

It’s not like I didn’t notice that there was more mountain sitting there, but I was trying hard to ignore it. It was 100 more feet of rock going almost straight up. I thought maybe if I acted like it wasn’t there, The Boyfriend would just forget about it and we could start our way back down. That tactic didn’t work out so well, so I sat there and whimpered like a wounded animal because there was just no way I could make it any farther.

Mt.Si Scramble Sign

He gave in. We started back down, and I thought I was in the clear. Such was not the case, because as it turns out, going down a mountain is just as painful as going up.

I know there are many clever and funny metaphors or analogies for PAIN, but I can’t think of any right now because I’m reliving the experience in my feeble brain.

Let’s just say, “It hurt real bad.”

I hoped that water would help to alleviate a bit of my discomfort. Although it did not, I was still very grateful to have that delicious drink.

Crooked Hair Don't Care

Me on Mount Si with crooked hair. Mount Rainier was out that day, too.

I couldn’t move the following day, but the hotel had a bar, and I coped.

Still, I am very proud of the accomplishment. I climbed a mountain, and I’m very thankful for the experience. Water helped me get through it, along with the encouragement of my sweet Boyfriend/Mister, who is much more of a mountain climber than myself, but he grew up there, and had a bit of an advantage.

I am also very thankful to God for such a majestic, ass-whipping mountain.

I tell my water how great it is every chance I get. In my mind, I say something like, Man, this the best stuff, ever. I would die without water. Really, I would, because no human can live without water.  It is truly the sweet nectar of life.

glass of water


Other random thoughts/information about water:

  • After being out in the stupid heat of summer, or eating some salty Chinese food or pizza, a nice drink of water is really good.
  • My favorite thing to do with water – aside from drinking it – is to float in it, cook with it, use it for my garden, bathe my children in it, or let them run around in it when it’s hot outside, or listen to it trickle as rain, in streams, or waterfalls, fountains, etc.
  • Water can make electricity via water turbines connected to generators.
  • Water puts out fires. I hate fires, unless they are campfires, but sometimes I dislike campfires, too. Especially when the smoke floats into my face. I have a real issue with smoke in my face. I should add that to my “About” page.
  • Spongebob Squarepants lives in it.
  • Fifty percent of Earth’s species lives in the oceans.
  • Without figure skating and skiing at the Winter Olympics, or swimming and diving at the Summer Olympics, I would be really bummed out. I am thankful for water’s contributions to sports.
  • I REALLY love rain, especially thunderstorms. It replenishes the Earth, and fills the streams, lakes, rivers and oceans.

I’m not picky. Water, ice, vapor, or dew…I’ll take whatever I can get.

Next time we visit Washington, we are taking our little thorny devil lizard children and we will climb that mountain including the Haystack because of determination and WATER.

Water, you are GOOD STUFF. Thank you for existing.

A Tale of A Tail.

When I think back on my youth, I sometimes feel that it is contrary to the established laws of nature that I have survived this long. My reasoning skills have always been a little wonky, but definitely worse when I was younger. I could look at something – a situation, for example – and assume something that was not even close to what was actually happening. My assumption was always worse than the reality.

I spent a couple years in therapy (just for fun), and after spending enough dough to feed a good portion of some underdeveloped country, I really hope that my level of self-awareness and my ability to reason have been exponentially improved as a result. My kids’ lives sort of depend upon it.

But there is a chance that I might still be clueless.

* * * * * * * *

When I was about twelve, I had a cat named Mao.

We found her as a stray when I was eight. She was gray and white, with long, beautiful fur and bright, green eyes. Her tail was all gray and very fluffy, and I would have to say that it was her trademark; her tail was the most remarkable thing about her, aside from her personality. When there was a lot of humidity in the air – say, after a rain – her tail would bloom in an explosion of lush fur. It would get so big that it was almost cartoonish. She would walk around the house like a goddess – very regal and elegant. She was the first cat that I really remember owning. Although she was the “family cat”, I always thought of her as “Julie’s Cat”.


Magnificent Mao

My mom named her “Mao” after the Chinese Communist dictator, Mao Tse Tung, because the cat was a bit of a dictator herself. She dictated that we all give her love and affection, and we had to do it her way. There was very little of the cat that we were actually allowed to touch unless we wanted to draw back nubs. I have the scars to prove it.

* * * * * * * *

Back in the ‘70s and early ‘80s, I was what you would call a “latchkey kid” because I wore a house key on a long chain around my neck for a good portion of my compulsory school life. From first grade until fifth grade, I walked to school and then walked home, either by myself or with friends who lived in the neighborhood. I would go to school after my mom had already left for work, and I would come home to an empty house (unless my older brother was there, which was rare once he got to high school). I would get a snack and watch TV or play with my friends. I was allowed to have friends over or go to their houses or play outside because we just didn’t worry about the things we worry about today. My mom usually got home around 6-ish.


When I moved up to junior high, the routine changed a little bit because the school was too far away to walk.  I would get up early with my mom, have breakfast, and then I would hang out with her in the bathroom while she got ready for work. I loved watching her put on makeup and do her hair.

She would usually leave around 7am. Since I didn’t have to be at school until eight-thirty, my best friend’s mom would pick me up at the house around eight and take us to school. She would also pick us up at 3:30pm and drop me at my empty house.

One of those mornings, my mom had already left for work. I was in my room listening to music on the radio and getting ready for school. After I was good to go, I headed to the den to watch some TV. On my way there, I saw Mao’s fabulous, fluffy tail under the dining table. It was her favorite spot to catch a nap. She hated being disturbed from sleep, so I kept on walking into the den without bothering her so I could watch some “Three Stooges” before it was time to be picked up for school.

Comedy Geniuses


I enjoyed some “Three Stooges” for a bit. It was the episode where they were in a haunted house and there was a talking suit of armor who was in love with Lady Godiva, and there was also a reanimated skeleton character. The skeleton guy said, “GREETINGS GENTS! I said, GREETINGS, that is. ” He introduced himself as “Red”, and there was a “Red Skeleton” joke in there somewhere, and then he took off his head/skull and said, “Catch!” and threw it at the Stooges. This particular episode gave me the creeps, and I started to worry that some skeleton dude would just appear there in the den and start talking and throw his head at me.

No actual reasoning happened here at all.

I decided that in order to erase the unwarranted fear, it was a necessary duty to go love on the cat, because as most cat-lovers know, loving on a feline can correct icky feelings pretty quickly. I walked into the dining room and bent down under the table to pet the sleeping Mao. I reached out to pet the tail because it was the first thing I saw; so fluffy and beautiful and soft. Then I remembered that wasn’t a good idea because she absolutely hated having her tail messed with when she was lounging. I wondered why she wasn’t attacking my hand and biting it off, and then realized that there was no cat. Just a tail.            MAO’S      TAIL.

It was not attached to her. It was just laying there on the floor by itself.

I can’t even describe to you the overwhelming horror that consumed me. I screamed and launched myself backward so fast that I whacked the back of my head on the underside of the table. I was struck completely dumb because this whole “just-found-a-tail-with-no-cat-attached” thing was beyond my twelve-year-old threshold for comprehension .

The clock was ticking, and I attempted some problem-solving. My poor, secondhand-smoke-filled brain was working really hard to figure out what was happening. I recalled that when I initially walked by the dining table that morning, it was a little dark, and Mao’s tail was behind one of the legs of the table that kind of looked like this:


At some point during my panic, an important question popped into my brain.


I was so freaked out, I couldn’t even stay inside the house. I ran out the front door like there was a blazing fire. I’m pretty sure some sort of sound came out of me, but I couldn’t tell you what it was. I ran down to the end of the driveway and stood there like a catatonic, thinking, This is not happening. Not. Happening. I will think this situation into non-existence.

I mean, I was twelve, you know? I was a very naïve twelve-year-old, and I was living through something that my young, inexperienced mind could not even process. I really thought that I could subtract bad stuff like this from my head so I wouldn’t have to deal with it.

I turned around to look back at the house because I realized that I couldn’t do “traumatic life experience removal” like I thought. I would have to go back inside the house and find the cat – my poor, dead, dismembered cat with blood pouring out everywhere and no tail. Then I thought, what if she’s still alive? What if she’s laying in the house somewhere, twitching in agony as she slowly slips into death?

What if she’s been cut into tiny bits by Charles Manson or a serial cat-killer who crept into the house while I wasn’t aware?

I managed to work myself into an unbridled hysteria. I really could have used a brown paper bag.

I was standing in the driveway of our house all by myself. There were no other people outside and no cars in any of the driveways, because most folks had already gone to work or school. It was about 8am, and I knew my ride would be there any minute. I was standing there enveloped in some disordered psychological state, and I needed this situation to be GONE.

I was looking at the front of the house and trying to think. If it’s possible to hurt yourself by thinking really hard, I’m pretty sure I managed to do it that day. I was looking and thinking and straining and slowly began to realize that I was looking right    at     Mao.

She was sitting there in one of the big picture windows at the front of the house, looking at me, like, “What the hell is your problem?”

For some reason, my panic escalated even more. If I’d seen Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers and that chick from “The Exorcist” all standing there in my window I could not have been more terrified. The cat was ALIVE, but her tail was under the dining table. That’s not right.

I was so confused. I knew that she was sitting in the window, and she was clearly alive somehow, and for some reason that I could not comprehend, she did not look like a cat who had just had her trademark tail ripped from her body. I saw no signs of blood on my very brave and resilient cat who had suffered some sort of horrible trauma, but I couldn’t bring myself to get closer to the window to be sure. I didn’t know what I would see, and I didn’t want to see anything that I couldn’t UNSEE. Was she walking around the house just bleeding everywhere? Did she get her tail caught in something that ripped it off?

Or did her tail just…

FALL           OFF??

I wanted to throw up there on my driveway. I remember looking down at the concrete, noting the cracks with weeds growing in them and I wanted to barf right there. Oh, how I wished my mother was still home. She was a nurse, and she would know what to do, but I was outside. I couldn’t call her because I was too scared to go back inside to use the phone.

I decided to run to the neighbor’s house to get help. I didn’t want to do it, but I knew that Sue could help. She was also a nurse. Maybe she could go in the house and find the tail and help the cat. I knocked on the door rapidly and rang the doorbell. Sue answered. When I saw her face, I started sobbing even harder because I was so grateful that she was home.


I think that’s what I said.

Sue stood there looking at me like I was some sort of lunatic. She was a very sweet lady, but I think she had her reservations about me because she knew I could already mix a cocktail for my mom.

That’s a story in itself.

So my arrival at Sue’s doorstep that morning, hollering about my poor cat’s tail, probably tilted the balance toward Julie being an absolute kook.

She said, “Whaaaaat?” and looked really confused. Or maybe she was just annoyed as hell.

I told her that I found the cat’s tail under the dining room table, and the poor, injured cat was now lying in the window, probably bleeding and near death, and I was too afraid to go back into the house. I asked her if she would come in with me to investigate and render aid if necessary.

Sue and I walked back over to my house. As we approached the front door, I pointed to the cat sitting there in the window with no tail. It was just…GONE. There was no sign of it. Sue noted that the cat did not look distressed or bloody and we went inside.

I walked her over to the dining table without actually looking and pointed to the general area where I’d seen the tail. She reached down to get it, and I covered my face with my hands and squeezed my eyes shut so tight I thought my head would blow up. I did not want to see the bloody, disembodied tail of my beautiful, non-distressed cat, who was now lounging in the window; her tail-less body unadorned with any blood, whatsoever.


“WHAAAAAAAT???” I moaned.

I opened one of my eyes and saw Sue standing there with the tail in her hand and she was laughing. Then I noticed the string attached to the part that would be attached to the cat, and realized what I was actually looking at.

It was this:

Fox Tail

It belonged to my brother. It was a beautiful, faux foxtail he had picked up during his Boy Scout days or something. Maybe part of a costume, I can’t remember.

When I saw it, I suddenly remembered that I had actually played with that stupid thing before. I played with it all the time because it was so soft and pretty, but I guess the crippling panic I had just suffered through obliterated the memory.

The embarrassment? My ears were burning. My face was on FIRE.

I walked over to the window where the cat was lounging. When I opened the curtain that separated me from Mao, I realized that her body was positioned in such a way that her tail was hanging down from the window and it could not be seen from the outside, which made it look like she had no tail. There was no stump with blood pouring out of it like I imagined. The cat was all good.

She was lounging sort of like this, but turned more sideways.

Cat In Window

Cute Kitty

I got myself together and thanked Sue for coming to my rescue, but it probably sounded something like, “Thay yoooaaaaa…bloobity blork blork.”

She was laughing at me like a hyena at this point. Thankfully, my ride showed up to take me to school.

I got in the car and my friend’s mom asked me, “How’s it going?”

I said, “It’s going GREAT.”

* * * * * * * *

Stuff I learned that day:

  1. Don’t panic.
  2. Things are not always what they seem.
  3. THINK and then think a little more and do your research.
  4. Don’t let the fact that you thought your cat had been dismembered – only to find that wasn’t the case –  ruin your day.

Good Stuff #2 – The Brown Paper Bag


Have you met the Brown Paper Bag?

It has been around forever. There’s even a Wikipedia page about it, and although the information there is sparse, the venerable paper bag’s legacy is quite significant.

So cheap. So ordinary. So brown.



I guess they are mostly known for holding sack lunches, but they can also hold popcorn, and I don’t have to wash these doodads:


These plastic things are not exactly dishwasher-safe, but I chuck ‘em in there anyway because who has time for hand-washing stuff? Not me. Sadly, the red printing on them has almost washed away.

I know I could just throw the popcorn into a bowl for everyone to share, but with four kids of varying ages (and different developmental stages) the bowl idea just doesn’t work out. The kids love having their own vessels from which to enjoy their popped corn.

Brown paper bags would be great for a slumber party where you needed to serve up a ton of popcorn while the kids watch a movie.

Slumber party.

* * * * * * * *

My first and last slumber party was when I was in the sixth grade. It was the fun and carefree late-1970’s.

It was a warm Saturday night in May. The food was ready, the house cleaned. My friends started to arrive, and for some reason I didn’t understand, I started to feel very uneasy about the growing noise level and the crowd. There were eight girls, but it felt like this:


I felt trapped by my own slumber party, and I couldn’t back out because I had practically begged my mom to let me have one. Thankfully, the fact that we got to eat pizza and homemade ice cream sundaes buffered the discomfort quite nicely.

It started out innocent enough. We chatted like little pre-teen girls do, we ate junk, played silly games, ate more junk, and then at 8pm, we got our PJs on and our blankets and pillows out and watched “Helter Skelter” on TV (it was the “movie of the week”). That was probably not a wise choice, because during an intense scene, my big brother and his friends decided to pretend that they were Charles Manson and his “family” outside the house banging on the windows and yelling “Helter Skelter! Helter Skelter!”

Well. Everyone just went berserk. The screams…I cannot tell you how ear-splitting they were. The sound resonated in my ears, and I had some sort of nervous breakdown right there. I needed wet washrags and my mom’s bed and isolation. My brother came in and apologized. When I think of the way he looked at me…you would have thought I was one of the dispatched tributes in a “Hunger Games” movie. Better yet, I was like Elizabeth Taylor as “Cleopatra” on her death bed. So much drama. I wanted everyone to leave, but that would have been rude, so I sucked it up for the rest of the night, and it was a LONG night. I loved my friends, but I just couldn’t handle all of them at ONCE.

I think that was my first inkling that I am an introvert with a bit of an anxiety issue – a couple of design flaws that are not copasetic with slumber parties. I can laugh about it now, but I think I will have to outlaw slumber parties for my girls.

Yeah, wish me luck on that one.

* * * * * * * *

Brown paper bags. So simple. They are even environmentally friendly. Just throw them in the trash after use.


* * * * * * * *

When I was in elementary school, my mom gave me this hideous lunchbox for my 10th birthday for who-knows-what-reason.


What I had begged for was this:


There is a story about that (and it involves gratitude, believe it or not), but you can read it later.

I decided that the brown paper bag would work out better than the Grizzly Adams abomination. It’s what I had been using before anyway, so I just went back to basics.

* * * * * * * *

Crisp, brown paper bags. There’s a lot you can do with them. If you’re crafty, you can make some cute little puppets:



Or a non-edible turkey leg:

Brown bag turkey leg


Some folks cover their floors with them:



And, of course, there’s the ol’ flaming poo trick:


Note: Don’t Google “flaming poo bag”. Also, don’t do the flaming poo trick. It is wrong. People get hurt, property is destroyed. You will get caught and go to jail and people will hate you.

However, if you read that previous part too late, and you’re hyperventilating because you’re going to the pen after burning someone’s house down with the flaming poo, grab a Brown Paper Bag:

Help Me


Here’s probably the best idea ever – wear a brown bag over your head when you don’t want the kids to see that you’re a psychotic, crying mess because of their tantrums and/or other shenanigans:


via Momastery

This is from Glennon Melton’s site, Momastery. She wrote a post about her use of the brown paper bag. Quite genius, in my opinion.

They cost around $6 for 500 lunch-size bags if you order them in bulk. For this family, that means approximately 125 movie nights with popcorn, or 500 lunches, puppets, turkey legs or poo bags. If I want to upgrade to larger bags for my head, that might be a little more pricey, but worth it.

Brown Paper Bags, I thank the three people who claimed to have invented you, and I am very grateful for your contributions to society.

You are Good Stuff.

My Writing Process.

I seem to have a very non-productive writing routine lately.

I realize that I could wake early in the mornings or stay up late to write, but I’m usually in the midst of other things during those times. Those “things” are usually kid-related, and since The Mister works out of town, I can’t ask him to listen for kids during the morning/evening or help with morning/evening routines.

Here is a peek into how I spend most days, keeping in mind that my primary concern is my children. My goals are varied and many. Or many and varied. I mean, there are a lot of things that I think about, but it’s too much to include here. In fall/spring, the routine would include homeschooling in there somewhere. Times are not accurate – just an estimation.

Also, for those who are new here, I tend to write with a lot of sarcasm and hyperbole. It’s how I cope (see, that was a bit sarcastic right there). Here we go.

* * * * * * * * * *

6:30am – Wake up to screeching toddler who is clearly not a morning person. Detach tongue from roof of mouth. Arthritically put on glasses and clip hair on top of head. Unplug CrutchPhone from charger. Say “Thank you” to God, the Universe and everyone. I am grateful to wake up and live another day (not being sarcastic here, just FYI – I really am glad to be alive).

Not My Neighborhood

Isn’t this a nice picture?

6:31am – Limp to retrieve the now-shrieking toddler. Walk down the very slick wooden stairs as slowly as possible to avoid broken hip and/or other catastrophe. Get smoothie pouch for toddler, start coffee, and turn on PBS.

6:35am – Pour a cup of creamer and add coffee. Savor. Check email with SmartCrutchPhone while toddler sits in my lap. Toddler watches “Martha Speaks” while sucking down her smoothie pouch, and is super snuggly. I nuzzle her hair. Coffee must be starting to work because I get a brilliant idea for a blog post.

7:00am – Feel violent earthquake and then realize it’s actually an elephant stampede upstairs. No wait, that’s my son. He is awake, heaven help us. Fear strikes my soul. Brilliant idea is gone.

7:05am – Get breakfast for son. Note that he really is adorable when he’s just waking up. Watch a bit of “Wild Kratts” together. Learn all kinds of cool info about the North American river otter. My life is complete.

7:15am – Cook up some scrambled eggs and bacon/sausage. We need protein to make it through the morning.

7:30am – Start a load of laundry and begin straightening up house because coffee has given me life. Think of stuff to write about while working.

7:35am – Get distracted by older girl who is now awake. She wants oatmeal, please. Ideas gone. Think, wow my short-term memory is gone. What was I doing? Oh yeah, make oatmeal. Try to remember grand ideas. Get frustrated because I can’t recall them, and then take stock. I will not make oatmeal for this girl forever. Maybe I should write about that. Get more coffee.

8:00am – Both of the older girls are now awake, fed and dressed, so they get the honor of babysitting The Littles while I go upstairs to take a shower and get myself together. A bazillion great ideas pop into my head while I’m in the shower.


I grab the soap gnome and try to make notes on the tile.

Shower Writing Implement

8:15am – Get out of shower feeling revitalized. Excited to sit down at some point and write something GREAT!

8:20am – Start to put in my contact lenses and then hear a sudden shriek and/or crash that causes me to almost gouge my eyeball out.  Make sure all kids are still breathing. Finish getting dressed to the sounds of The Great and Heinous Sibling War of 2014. All ideas GONE.

8:25am – Go downstairs to put everyone in time-out. All privileges revoked until FOREVER. Start another load of laundry and then continue to straighten/vacuum TV room where carnage occurred. Come up with a bunch of new ideas while listening to lull of vacuum. Get distracted by large amount of dog fur on entry rug. Start vacuuming. Get further distracted by additional dog fur on formal living room rug. Determine that dog is either completely bald or no longer exists. Vacuum and fumigate.

8:30am – Order older girls to do their chores. Listen to whining and moaning and eyeball rolling (yeah, I can hear it). It is all I can do to keep from reaching for the wine.

9:30am – Put away vacuum and sit down at computer to finally write for a bit while little ones are playing with Playdoh. Wait for Live Writer to come up, only to be distracted by The Facebook Maelstrom of Time-Thievery. Comment on and “like” lots of stuff. Productivity has been totally sucked out. All ideas are GONE.

10:00am – IGNORE THE PINTEREST. Get away from it. Don’t even look at it.


10:10am – I AM SO WEAK. Search ideas for sad-looking back yard.

10:15am – Realize that back yard needs to be razed with a flame-thrower. Get really depressed. Google “Star Wars and Cats” instead.

Star Wars and Cats!


11:00am – Review drafts for other blog posts that have been started. They are all in various states of “suck”. Get depressed again. Step away to make sure kids are still alive.

11:01am – Two older girls have built Littlest Petshop Compound out of duct tape, construction paper and cardboard boxes that takes over the entire formal living area. Number Four brags that he touched the cat’s butt.

11:30am – Make lunch. Eat lunch.

12:30pm – Put toddler down for nap while other kids busy themselves. Watch her fall asleep because she is beautiful. Come up with ideas for writing while laying with her. Accidentally fall asleep. Wake up completely clueless.

1:00pm – Tiptoe out of room following THESE STEPS.

1:05pm – Finally make it downstairs (using great care not to break any bones) and see what kids are up to. Girls are playing “beauty shop” with son. He is a good sport.

1:10pm – Sit at computer, start writing stuff and/or working on drafts. It’s all crap. Delete, delete, delete. Edit, edit, edit.

1:12pm – Get distracted by older kids asking to go outside so they can bike/scooter around and terrorize neighborhood. Ignore.

1:13pm – Ignore a bit longer.

1:15pm – Decide that the kids need to be outside while it’s nice weather and escort them outdoors with baby monitor in tow for some biking, sidewalk-chalking, bubble-blowing and running-in-grass-barefooted fun.

2:15pm – Toddler is up from nap. Bring her downstairs (carefully) and snuggle with her in rocker while she wakes up and eats a snack.

2:30pm – Take a kid to whatever lesson/activity we have that day. Think of cool stuff while waiting.Whatever Clock


3:30pm – Get home from wherever. Think I’ll sit down to write, but then get distracted by kids asking for Xbox time, snack, cigarettes and booze. Also, there is a ton of laundry to fold and put away, but realize that after folding, that stuff is going to sit on my kitchen table for at least a week if not longer. All ideas, once again, are GONE.

4:45pm – Time to start dinner.

5:30pm – Eat dinner with kids.

6:00pm – I am hopefully writing something worthy of you fine people and of myself.

6:30pm – Bath and shower time for kiddos. All I hear in my head is “Car Wash”. It’s an assembly line of kid-cleaning and sudsy fun. Looking forward to having some quiet time for myself.

8:30pm – All four kids are clean and in bed. Mind is now a complete abyss. Clean kitchen.

9:00pm – Get in bed, feeling somewhat defeated by lack of creativity. Chances are good that I’ve got a stupid earworm as well. Read something to take mind off of earworm and/or anxiety over falling and/or drowning, which I think about constantly when lying in bed at night.

11:00pm – 2:00pm (approximate) – Get up and go to whichever kid is in need of comforting after they wake up scared, thirsty, or both. This can happen multiple times per night across multiple kids. Also possible: Open eyes to see dark figure standing over me. Yell out like an elephant giving birth. Realize it’s just an older kid coming in to:

  • Ask for a drink of water
  • Tell me they had a bad dream
  • Ask if they can get in bed with me
  • Ask what we will be doing tomorrow
  • Ask if we can talk about a book she is currently reading (if I’m lucky, it’s the one about puberty).

Send kid back to bed (or give in and stick them in mine) after drink of water and reassurances that all is well and/or we will chat about the magic of puberty tomorrow.

3:00am – Wake up with THE BEST WRITING IDEA EVER. Remember that there is a notebook and pen and/or CrackPhone with Notepad on bedside table. So tired. Cannot move arms. Fall back into sleep. This may occur more than once per night.

3:30am – 5:30am – Continue with comforting/hydrating measures as needed for non-sleeping children.

6:30am – Wake up to screeching toddler…

Good Stuff #1 – Air.

In an attempt to exercise my gratitude muscles a little bit (because I don’t think any of the other ones work anymore), I am starting a series of posts about things I am grateful for. I call them “gratitudinals”. It’s a mix of “gratitude” and “cardinal”, because cardinals are my favorite bird. I like to make up words. It’s very mad-scientist-y, don’t you think? Plus, it’s a funny word, and I like to say it.

Wait. Maybe “gratitudinal” should be a mix of “gratitude” and “ordinal”, which would make more sense, because I plan to number these “graditudinals” in order. Yes, that’s it. Forget the bird reference, although that was pretty cool. The numbering thing seems more germane.

Okay, forget the stupid word. How about we just call it “Good Stuff”?

Maybe this will keep me accountable and perhaps it will help some of you folks be more aware of the things that you are grateful for as well. I love to help people.

My first item in the series is quite basic and necessary for life.

It’s AIR. I really, really like air.

Here’s a picture.


Funny how Google works. I always try to find images that are free to use and not copyrighted, and I mean, come on. It’s AIR.

It’s a photo of some clouds in the sky, actually, but whatever. Do I really need to add the source on this? Okay, FINE, I will do that. If you click on the picture, it will take you somewhere else where some website used that picture. They didn’t source it, either. Jerks.

Oh, another thing? Don’t Google “free air images”, because you will see a lot of this:


You aren’t interested in this type of air. Free air is bad when it’s inside your body. I mean, it’s not exactly air that you can breathe because it’s not going into your lungs. This is AIR OF UNWANTED ORIGIN. I’m not sure what this air is made of, but it’s probably not good. I’m a nurse. Trust me.

Did you know that the air we breathe contains only 21% oxygen? The other components are nitrogen (78.09%), argon (0.93%), and carbon dioxide (0.039%), along with small amounts of other gases and water vapor.

I’m not sure why we put oxygen in the limelight so much. I mean, oxygen is a righteous gas, but nitrogen seems to be the star of the show when it comes to air composition. I don’t know…I think nitrogen needs to get some attention. Nitrogen needs its own talk show or maybe an HBO movie made about it.

Anyway, back to the gratitude.

When I think about the air we breathe (and probably take for granted), I think about that scene in “Spaceballs” where President Scroob is inhaling some “Perri-air” from a can because…


I’m sorry, what? You aren’t getting that reference? Okay, yeah, it’s dumb. Sorry.



Sometimes, when I am feeling stressed or confused or lost, I breathe. Long deep breaths in and out. I do this a lot. It helps.

It helps me calm down when I feel like I will lose my sanity because life can be a little difficult at times. It helps me fall asleep when my brain will not stop thinking about things that will never, ever happen.

I am thankful for the air that I breathe in and out of my lungs, and the air that my children breathe so that they can play and sing and bike and dance and play Xbox. Expanding on that, I’m glad that all of our lungs all work well, but I really appreciate that the air around here doesn’t suck at being air (to use a John Green sort of phrase).

Air? I’m all for it. Thank you to God, the Universe and everything else that is involved for air.

Air is Good Stuff.