Hot, Stale, Crazy, Rainy, Dirty, Summer, Saturday, Morning, Breakfast Memories.

Daily Prompt: Three-Tenths

Scribble down the first ten words that come to mind. Pick three of them. There’s your post title. Now write!

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I couldn’t think of a good cover photo, so here’s a monkey riding an Australian Shepherd while chasing a goat. Enjoy.

Hot, Stale, Crazy, Rainy, Dirty, Summer, Saturday, Morning, Breakfast Memories.

I sit back and look over my quickly scrawled ten word list. I then recite it out loud. I smile and decide to keep all ten words, which probably defeats the purpose of the whole exercise in the first place. I shrug. It just sounds rather awesome this way, and I like it.

I look over at my daughter sitting next to me playing a game on her cell phone at the thrift store desk. Yeah, it’s Saturday. That means it’s go time in Ghettoville. It’s been rainy all weekend, so business has been slow. I haven’t seen any crazies yet to give me new writing material for my ‘Tales from the Thrift Store’ stories, either. This deeply saddens me.

“What do I write about today, Big Red?” I ask my daughter. I call her that because she’s not only a redhead, but the child towers over me by a good 5 inches now. It was bound to happen eventually. Her daddy is 6’7. I’m 5’2. I know, I know. Given those numbers, the fact that this child was even created is a story problem in and of itself.  I’ve done the math. The answer equals Pi.

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Mmmm, pie. I realize how hungry I am. I forgot to bring something for breakfast. Lunch might just have to come early today.

“Well, what’s the daily thingy?” she asks. I relay today’s writing assignment to her. “Hmmm. Write about a childhood memory or something.” She says. “Just make it a good one, though. Something funny. Not those crappy sad ones that you always write about.”

Hoo boy. Make it hard on me, why don’t ya? I tap into my mental file cabinet and thumb through my neatly stacked and alphabetized memories (OCD, duh) for something decent to pull out. My mental fine cabinet is hot pink, to match the one in my closet. The latch sticks sometimes, too.

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Ooo, here’s one. I was probably about 7, and I saw the dogs eating grass so I figured that they must really like the way it tasted. l then set to work loading up their newly filled water buckets (compliments of my dad) with fresh cut grass clippings so that they could enjoy a nice mouthful with every refreshing lap. There. Mission accomplished.  Dad didn’t think it was a brilliant idea though. He was really angry. He hauled me over to one of the buckets and told me to take a drink and see how I liked it. I cried and begged not to…

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Ohhhkay. Maybe not the best memory, after all.

I quickly file it away and start digging for something better.

How about this one? I was maybe 10, and I was climbing my favorite Dogwood tree in the front yard. It wasn’t an overly large tree, and I wasn’t an overly large child, so there wasn’t any great danger in me thinking I was part monkey. I was about halfway up when it happened. I can’t really remember now if a branch had snapped or if I had simply lost my footing, but down came baby, cradle and all. Flat on baby’s back. It knocked the wind out of me, of course, but I wasn’t genuinely hurt. I had, however, felt the squish between my shoulder blades when I landed.

As I laid there for a second catching my breath and regaining my composure, the smell became obviously more adept than I had been at my task, and swiftly climbed right up my nostrils. Apparently, the dog would do just about anything under the Dogwood tree.

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I stood up and reached my hand around to touch my back like an idiot. I could smell it. I knew what it was. Further investigation wasn’t in order, but for whatever reason, I felt compelled to do it anyway. I guess I was just in shock. Or maybe it was denial. Sure enough, I pulled my hand back to find a tacky brown paste now coating my palm. Eww, just…eww. A large portion of the back of my white ‘Front Porch Ice Cream Parlor’ t-shirt was caked in fresh, gooey…and really, really stinky…dog excrement. It just had to be a white t-shirt, too, didn’t it?

I ran my hand under the outside faucet until I could go inside to better wash it, and went to the sliding glass door at the back of the house. Mom was in the kitchen. “What are you doing?” She asked with one raised eyebrow as I tried to sneak past her. I was pretty sure I heard an audible gasp as she turned to see the back of my shirt trying to discretely disappear around the corner.

“Oh no you don’t…get back here.” I halted and cringed. “Outside. Now.”

“But mom…” I stunk so bad. It was growing colder, too, as it seeped through my shirt and caressed my skin like a dead lover’s rotting fingertips.  I stepped out onto the porch again, where mom waited to take my clothes as she made me strip. Outside. Where the neighbors might see. I’m fairly certain that those clothes got burned afterward, too. “Shower. Now. Go.” But..but… Shower time usually meant outside playtime was over. There was still plenty of daylight left to burn. I wasn’t ready to be done for the day.

I really don’t know how this was originally going play out in my mind. Maybe I would just sneak into the bathroom with one of mom’s good washcloths, wipe the poop off my back, wash my hands, change my shirt, and be on my merry way again? At any rate, I hung my head dejectedly and shuffled off toward the bathroom…

You know, now that I think about it, maybe that wasn’t the greatest memory selection, either. I stuff it back into the file cabinet. I’ll try for one more.

Let’s see. Okay. I was perhaps 9 and we were out fishing on dad’s little leisure boat. I don’t know what else to call it. It wasn’t a speed boat; the thing maybe went 45 miles per hour tops. It wasn’t a fishing boat, either. It was baby blue, and it had 4 seats, 2 back to back on each side. It also had windshields in front of the forward facing seats, and a large, flat bow section where I could sit along the edge, and dangle my feet into the water.

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Close Enough

So, we were out fishing, my dad, mom, uncle Hose, and I. My uncle’s real name is Dave, by the way. For as long as I can remember, though, I’ve called him uncle Hose because my dad made a crack when they were younger about him changing his name to José, on account of some funky mustache that he had grown that made him look Hispanic. It was later shortened to just plain “Hose”, which stuck with him like a bad chicken pox scar for all these years.

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Anyway, I was propped up on my usual fishing perch; the top of the large, bulky Evinrude motor dangling over the back of the boat, when my uncle told a joke. Funny guy, that uncle Hose. Always had a joke or 50. I couldn’t possibly recall that joke now, but I know that it must have been hilarious, because I tossed my head back and laughed so hard that it threw off my balance, and I tumbled end over end into the murky bayou below.  I surfaced a moment later, shocked, gasping, and thankful that my parents always made me wear a life jacket while out on the boat.

My uncle grabbed hold of that water-logged life jacket and hauled me up into the boat like a sack of soggy potatoes. All 3 of them made sure I was alright, and then they stopped and stared at me for a moment before bursting into peals of laughter. Somehow, I had just made the joke that was told even funnier as I stood there and dripped all over the fiberglass.

It was funny, that is, until my mom realized that my fishing pole went right over the back of the boat with me, and all that remained in sight was my bobber innocently riding the ripples that skimmed over the surface of the water. It was maybe 5 or 6 feet away from the boat, so my mom got the oar out of the side compartment and used it to drag the bobber close enough to reach. With bobber retrieved, the excess line could now be hauled in until the pole magically appeared from somewhere out of the depths below. Problem solved.

Or not.  See, my dad always bought those cheap, closed faced, Zebco reels that you had to push the button to cast. We were a lazy bunch of fishermen, what can I say.  Apparently, I had just pushed the button on my reel and was about to cast the line before I went tumbling butt over teakettle into the lake.

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Needless to say, my mom spent the entire rest of that fishing trip wrapping hundreds of yards of excess fishing line around a can of bug spray until my pole finally emerged. She wasn’t laughing anymore by that time. As a matter of fact, she was quite hot…

Okay, maybe that isn’t some top shelf memory either.

I think maybe I stink at this come up with a “good memory” business.

I give up.

Until next time…

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An Open Letter to My 16 Year Old Daughter

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To Amber, my “Berber” Baby…

Where do I even begin with the hopes and dreams that I have for your future? There are just so many things that I’d wish for your life; paths that I’d choose for you, if I were allowed to. Your life is your own, however, and though there may be rules and guidelines for you to follow now in an effort to steer you in the right direction, soon all I’ll be able to offer you is motherly advice. It will then be your choice to either heed or ignore it.

So as far as hopes go, I’ll start with the hope that you can one day see the beauty that lies in forgiveness. Finding the ability to forgive has been a huge struggle that you’ve faced for a while now. Let go of your anger toward others. You’ll love how free it will make you feel.  Always remember that people are just that; people. Imperfect beings. They will screw up. Try not to hold anyone to a higher standard than you would hold yourself. You don’t want to become a bitter, lonely woman someday because you have placed excessively high expectations on others, and are unable to forgive them when they can’t meet those expectations. There’s a saying that goes, “Bitterness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” This is very true. It will only hurt you if you can’t learn to let it go. I’d hate to see you leave nothing but a slew of failed relationships behind you because you’re unable to finally see what it means to forgive.

I also hope you dare to dream, but hope you never have that dream where you’re standing in the high school hallway naked while the other kids laugh and point. That’s a terrible dream. Yeah, don’t have that. Dream good dreams instead and focus them into your artwork. You’re an amazing artist already, and I’m in awe of your extraordinary imagination. You can do great things and go far with your God-given talent. Speaking of God, and I know you’ll probably just roll your eyes at what’s to come so I’ll try not to draw it out…

I hope you’ll one day turn to God and seek a relationship with Him. Desire His will for your life and know that He’s genuinely there for you and wants to bless you. I know that several “Christians” have hurt you in the past and have proven to be terrible examples of His love and compassion. Now you don’t want to even consider a relationship with God because you’re afraid that every move you’d make as a believer would cause you to be thrown under a microscope and judged, so you’ve turned away from faith completely. This all goes back to forgiveness, though, and how people are just people. The ones that point fingers are no better than anyone else. Remember that. It’s not about them, anyway. It’s about you and Him. God himself is not a bad dude, he’s just misunderstood.

I’m not going to go on to tell you that I hope you find someone…a partner in life that makes you happy. Happiness lies within you, and no single person on this earth can give that to you. I do, however, hope that you find someone that treats you with the respect that you deserve. You’re beautiful, inside and out. I’m aware that you know it, now, but I hope that no one ever crosses your path that makes you forget it. Never settle, either. Your perfect guy is out there, and he’ll be worth waiting for. Remember what I said about forgiveness when you do find him. You’ll need that to make it work.

At the same time, though, don’t allow yourself to become someone else’s punching bag, either physical or emotional. Learn where to draw the line. Never ever accept abuse as a way of life.

Last but not least, I hope you strive to be something more than I was. Advance your career. Make something of yourself. Never give up. More importantly, though, if you don’t happen to achieve all that you have planned, don’t allow yourself to be filled with regret. Try not to dwell on the “what ifs” like I have done. They’ll just tear you apart.

Do you remember the 6 years that I left you from the ages of 6 to 12? Yeah, so do I. I doubt I’ll ever forget. Your dad and I both wanted you. We always have. You weren’t some possession that I could just keep in my pocket, though, and the judge said that you were better off staying where you were, with him. I left anyway. You were in good hands. They just weren’t my hands.

I’m not sorry for that pivotal turning point in my life. I can’t apologize for the choice that I made to follow my heart.  I am loved more than I ever could have dreamed. I’ve found the other half that makes me whole. I will, however, always regret that we couldn’t be together during that time because, while I may have found one piece of my heart, I left another behind with you.

I’d call you during that time we were apart, and we would sing “You Are My Sunshine” together over the phone. Remember? We may not sing together anymore, but we talk now, and it’s nice, those heart to hearts. Mother daughter bonding chats. It can’t make up for the time that we lost, but I enjoy our close relationship now more than you’ll ever know. You’re still, and always will be the sunshine that brightens my life.

I’m pleased to see that you have finally grown into your own person. I have to admit that when you were younger, you simply, and blindly, followed the pack. What the crowd did, you did. How the crowd dressed, you dressed. What the crowd liked, you liked. Now, you’ve developed your own sense of style. You have your own likes and dislikes. You form your own opinions and have developed your own personality.  You have become you.

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While I cradled you in my arms as a baby, I daydreamed of who and what you would become. Where would your life lead you? I can honestly say that while you may not fit the exact profile of the future daughter I had created in my head then, you’re even better. You’ve grown to be even more beautiful, funny, talented, and loving than I had dreamed. You’ve become a young woman that I am very proud to call daughter.

My pride and love for you will always be there. You’ve already done things that have left me disappointed in you and there will likely be more as time goes on. We’re all human beings, though. We’ve all made mistakes. Lord knows I’ve made my fair share. For me to hold yours against you would make me hypocritical at best, and not fit to call myself a mother at worst. My love for you is unconditional. There’s nothing on this earth that you could do that would make me stop loving you.

Yes, you will make bad decisions, and you will fall. I won’t always be there to catch you, either. You’ll be 17 in 3 short months, and then, before you know it, you’ll be out in this vast world seeking your own adventures and riding the wind in whatever direction it takes you.

Unfortunately, though, life doesn’t come with bumper pads, like the Winnie the Pooh ones that used to line your crib. I hope that you’ll always be able to pick yourself up and dust yourself off when life knocks you down. That’s how we become stronger. That’s how we build character. When you do fall, please try not to stay down for too long. We’re not guaranteed tomorrow, so make the most of today.

I’ll leave you with a reminder of the greatest words of wisdom that your dear old mom has ever spoken.

Quite frankly, it is what it is.

And in keeping true to your German roots,

Ich leibe dich.

-Momsie

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The Art of the Open Letter

The Anti-Health

Weekly Writing Challenge: Fit to Write

What does health mean to me?

Well, not being the me  that I am now, for starters.

I’m a mess, but I’m not even a hot mess. I’m more like the aftermath of a hurricane.

I’m health’s biggest joke. Health laughs, points, and torments me like a bully in the schoolyard. Health sticks my head in the toilet from time to time and gives me crap caked swirlies. I, in turn, hang my stinky head in shame and retreat back into my eternally warped mind.

I’m admittedly overweight. Some 60 pounds by my own standards, 80ish by the standards of those that set an impossibly obtainable precedent for what is, in this day and age, actually considered to be fit and healthy.

Marilyn Monroe had it, I think. What I would consider to be a true, attainable picture of health and beauty. She was not rail thin. She had hips. She had curves. She gave J-Lo’s infamous backside a run for its money.  She was, and still is, a beauty icon that women compare themselves too. She would, however, be considered obese by today’s ever shrinking standard of “healthy”.

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I don’t want, nor will I ever want, to be a size zero. I think about a 6 is sufficient. We won’t discuss what size I really am, though, or how far I’d have to go to get there…

Sure, I could fix it. I have before. In all honesty, though, I have absolutely zero ambition to get me started, and, well…I like food…a lot

I also have more important things that need repairing inside before the repairing can start outside. I consider myself the equivalent of a “fixer upper” sitting up on blocks in some redneck’s yard in the trailer park of life. Nothing fancy like a Mercedes. No, more like a rusty El Camino. Sure, some body work and a coat of paint would do wonders for the outside, but she aint goin’ nowhere if the transmission’s shot, Jim Bob.

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Boy is my tranny ever shot.

I’ve officially been broken for 16 years now. Something in my head snapped like a dried twig at the ripe old age of 22. I was 4 months pregnant with my daughter, when poof…the anxiety fairy came down on her crappy little cloud and sprinkled magic crazy dust over my frontal lobe. I should have ripped the little witch’s wings off.

After years of trying different medications and “highly recommended” self-help books, all the king’s horses, and all the king’s therapists haven’t been able to put me back together again. I doubt they ever will. Some of the pieces have gotten lost along the way.

You’ve gotta love the Christian crowd, too. “Just pray it away,” seems to be the ultimate answer. “Give it to God, He’ll fix it” or there’s my all-time favorite, “You must not truly have faith in God or you’d be healed by now.”

It’s not that I entirely disbelieve them, either. I know God can fix anything that He wants to. I do believe, however, that there’s a part of me that wants to be the way I am, and won’t let Him. I’ve wrapped my OCD around me like a security blanket, and I’m not sure I’d really want to meet the me I’d be without it. So, instead of letting my emotional blankie go so that I can begin the process of growing up, I’ll just pop my proverbial thumb back into my mouth and hold it tighter.  Just try and take it away from me. I dare you. I’ll scream.

I feel like my OCD is the only control I have over my life, and in reality, to those up above looking down into my rabbit hole of insanity, it’s what makes my life spiral out of control. And one side makes you smaller, and one side makes you larger, Alice…

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I used to blame my parents for the way that I am. They dabbled in prejudices the way that an alcoholic dabbles in whiskey. The term “lowlife” got tossed around like a football at Cowboy Stadium.

“Look at that lowlife, probably hasn’t cleaned her house in months. Did you see her bathroom?”

“Look at that lowlife in that piece of sh*t car.”

“Look at that lowlife white girl dating that black guy. Do something like that, and I’ll disown you.”

“You’re not going to turn into one of those lowlifes, are you?”

That lowlife stigmata has haunted me so much over the course of my lifetime, that I honestly don’t know what genuinely qualifies anymore. All I know is that I still bend over backward to this day not to become one of those people. In reality, though, I bet those people are genuinely happy. My parent’s never were. Still aren’t.

Parents, if you think that your prejudices won’t have an adverse effect on your kids, just go ahead and keep it up. Let them turn out like me.

They also sculpted my guilt the way that Michelangelo painstakingly sculpted David. I didn’t turn out to be a great masterpiece, though. “Just look at what we do for you and you won’t do this for us?” I was apparently the poster child for ungrateful and unappreciative. Thank you was never enough. Hours upon hours of household service were never enough. Blood, sweat and tears were never enough. I was never enough. Never going to be enough.

Never would amount to anything. Still haven’t amounted to anything. Always point out my flaws. Never focus on my strengths. I do have strengths, I know I do. Don’t I? I did what you asked, why is it not good enough? Will you praise me now? No? I forgot something? Didn’t do it right? Missed a spot? Sorry. Are you proud of me, anyway? Be proud of me, no matter what. Accept my flaws. Tell me I’m good enough.

Love me. Say it. Well, mom says it…now. She does. Never used to when it counted, though. When I needed it. Dad? Once a year if I’m lucky. Formative years? Yeah right. There’s a joke. I know I’m not a Mercedes, mom and dad. I turned out to be an El Camino. Love me anyway. TELL ME. Let me out of this cage of worthlessness. Break…this…cycle…

It will go on. I’ll likely ruin my kids now with my OCD. They’ll need extensive therapy because of me. I’ll have to make amends with that someday. Face them when they tell me that I’ve destroyed their lives. Pay for their therapy and try to fix them. Darned if they won’t know that I love them and I’m proud of them, though, no matter how much they screw up, make the wrong choices, or disappoint me. I will love them, and they will know.

Blame. In the end, that’s all it is. Blame that I can’t place on anyone but myself anymore. If I’m going to point fingers, I might as well aim them right back at me.

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My husband always talks about a wonderful thing called the “age of accountability”. That’s when, sometime early in the teen years, one starts to know the difference between right and wrong and becomes ultimately responsible for the choices they make. I’m well past that age. My choices are my own now. I can’t play the blame game anymore. I have the power to stop this.

So why do I feel so powerless?

I can’t say I’ve lost all hope in getting better eventually. I’ve taken baby steps over the years. I can leave the house to go to work now. I wasn’t able to before. I don’t vacuum 3 or 4 times a day like before, either. I’ve even been known to skip it for a day from time to time. It’s hard to do. The anxiety punches me in the face, but I fight through it.

Baby steps aren’t enough, though. I can’t lead a normal life on baby steps. I can’t be considered healthy on baby steps.

I can’t go on trying to gain some childhood approval that still isn’t forthcoming, either. It’s likely too late to do any good anyhow.

I’ve all but driven my husband nuts. I think he has depression now because of me. Good going. We can just add that to my ever growing list of screw-ups.

Somewhere, in the back of my mind, I know that I’ll eventually have to pull up my big girl panties and take big girl steps. I can crawl now, sure, but I have to learn to walk…

Someday.

Later.

Not now.

Not ready.

Oh health, just shove me in a locker again, and get it over with.

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The Great Garbage Getaway

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This past Sunday, my daughter and I almost died…

Of laughter.

We were heading home from a nice, leisurely, after church lunch of fried chicken and fixin’s (that’s side dishes to you non-southern folk). Which brings up a good point; what is it about a Sunday church service that makes people in the south want to eat fried chicken afterward?

Anyway, we were heading home to sleep it off, naturally, because everything about a Sunday afternoon and a full belly scream nap time.

It was just my daughter and I in the minivan, because my son had ridden home with my husband. He leaves the house early every Sunday morning for praise and worship practice, so we take separate vehicles to church.

My husband and son were about 45 seconds ahead of us on the trip home, and had just parked and stepped out of the car to wait for us, so they were able to watch the following scene unfold.

We were pulling into our gated and very well kept condo community, as 2 African American gentlemen  that looked to be between the ages of 19 to 22 in a little gray sports car were pulling out.

Nothing unusual there, except that they were creeping along very slowly and one of them was dangling an overstuffed kitchen trash bag out the passenger side window.

I slowed to see what they were up to, as if I didn’t already know.

I locked eyes with the passenger as he watched me watching him. I was completely stopped by now right inside the entrance, but before reaching the gate, to see if the young man had the guts to make his next move, knowing full well that my eyes were now fixed intently upon him.

Sure enough, the car stopped about 40 yards from the exit to the complex. The passenger then flung open his door and quickly hopped out of the vehicle, with eyes on me the whole time, as he tossed his burden into the trees lining the property.

Our condo community has a trash compactor. A trash compactor that is easily accessible to all those that live within the community. A trash compactor that we, as residents, pay hugely inflated association fees to help maintain every month. There’s a second gate leading out to the main road right next to the compactor. So, had those 2  simply driven the extra few blocks to the compactor, they could have properly disposed of their trash and exited the complex via that particular gate, but nooo…

The guy then ran back toward the vehicle and hurled himself inside with Cheetah-like swiftness. The tires screeched as they pulled away, eager to be rid of my prying eyes as quickly as possible.

Now, I’m not some sort of tree-hugging, “go green” hippy with save the planet, save the vegetarians, save the dust bunnies bumper stickers that always buys organic, attends anti-global warming rallies, and recycles everything I can get my hands on. I am, however, that one idiot in this huge, selfish, and uncaring city that will chase a plastic bag or empty wrapper across the entire length of a parking lot just because I HATE to see someone else’s litter cluttering up the beauty of this world.

So this guy, this litterbug of epic proportions that chose to do his dirty work right before my eyes; he sparked an instant rage inside of me. That was it. He was going down!

“Oh no he didn’t!” I exclaimed, and whipped my minivan around to give chase so fast, that my son, watching from the parking lot, later told me, “I think you got some air on that take off, mom.”

We sped down the winding street after the little gray car that was now gaining ground faster than my big boat could keep up. “Faster, mom! We’re losing them!” my daughter screamed from the seat beside me. We must have been doing 80 down the twisting back road toward the main highway. The speed limit was 40. My foot jamming the accelerator to the floor, intent gaze on the car in front of us quickly speeding away, I yelled back, “I just want his plate number! Can you see his plate number?!” “Not yet, we have to get closer!”

Let me put this spectacle into perspective for you: 2 white girls, fresh out of church, in a minivan, chasing down 2 black men in a sports car…over trash. It was like a scene out of a Wayans Brothers movie. What were we hoping to gain here once we caught up to them? Was I even thinking that far ahead? And seriously, why were these 2 so afraid of a short, fat, white woman and a teenage girl in a minivan?

I didn’t care. I was a lioness in hot pursuit of my prey. I wanted rectification for the heinous crime that I had just witnessed. If I could just get his license plate number, the power would be mine! I could report him to the authorities! I was chasing these evil-doers in the name of truth, justice, and the American way!

Or, litterbugs just tick me off enough to be this stupid.

As the little car continued to speed ahead at a rate faster than our soccer mom-mobile, I began to lose hope that we would even catch up. I don’t think we’ll catch them,” I yelled to my daughter. To which she replied, “No mom, we’ve got this! Don’t give up!”

Sure enough, we were coming up to the stoplight for the main highway. It was red.

The 2 villains weren’t sure how to proceed as they approached the stoplight. They crossed into the right lane…they crossed back into the left. They were stuck. They tried to turn their car sideways across 2 lanes to block our view of the license plate. Too late. “Get the plate, get the plate!” I yelled, and screamed the now visible number out to my daughter just before the 2 geniuses realized that they could have hung a right down the service road and made a clean get away. Oops. Better luck next time, fellas.

Off they sped into the sunset. We waved goodbye. See ya, suckas!

“That was awesome!” my daughter exclaimed. “Go mom!” We fist bumped. “Next time we need to wear capes.” I said.

That brought to light the sheer ridiculousness of the whole situation. I looked at her. She looked at me. We laughed all the way back home.

“Well, what now?” I wondered

I called up a friend that owns a property management company in the city I live in. She convinced me that, even though I could call the police and report it as illegal dumping, they would likely do nothing. I could call the management company and let them know, but that would be the equivalent of calling my neighbor to ask why the power went out.

Instead, and because it just grated on my nerves so terribly, my husband and I went out to retrieve the bag of trash and properly dispose of it. It would seem that my efforts in chasing down the culprits and obtaining their license plate number were all in vain.

Or were they?

When we picked up the bag of trash, we clearly saw a piece of mail with a name and address on it plastered up against the thinly stretched plastic barely holding in the contents of the bulging bag. We made note of it. It happened to be a woman’s name on the piece of mail. We walked around the property and located the address. Our building faces it from across the little retention pond.

I surmised that mom must have asked son and son’s friend to take the trash out on their way to…wherever. Son decided to take the lazy way out of the task. I wonder if Mrs. Marie would like to know what really became of her trash.

Hmmm…perhaps a letter is in order?

To whom it may concern…

Daily Prompt: Life Line

Daily Prompt: Life Line

You’re on a long flight, and a palm reader sitting next to you insists she reads your palm. You hesitate, but agree. What does she tell you?

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I’m nothing short of bursting at the seams with excitement as I sit and wait as patiently as one with “ants in their pants” could possibly wait. I chatter continuously at my husband, as has always been my custom when I’m filled with sheer elation at the prospect of a joyous event that has finally been set in motion. He responds by playing the latest game that he’s downloaded to his cell phone, never bothering to glance in my direction, but often throwing in the occasional “uh huh” or “me too, dear” as I ramble on, as has become his custom over the years. I don’t allow his lack of interest to tarnish the silver lining surrounding the cloud on which I’m currently riding. I’ve been looking forward to this trip for far too long, and nothing can curb my highly elevated enthusiasm at this point.

It has always been a dream of ours to visit Ireland. So much so, that it’s one of the 3 things that I can now contentedly cross off my miniscule bucket list. I have yet to find buried treasure or learn to drive a stick-shift automobile. I likely never will. I consider this for a moment. Well, 1 out of 3 isn’t terrible, I muse, and I’m about to embark on an adventure of such epic proportions  that the other 2 list options can just fade off into oblivion as far as I’m concerned.

Ah, Ireland. The rolling hills, the beautiful countryside, the sheep in the fields, the castles, the food…oh my goodness, the incredible Irish dishes, yes please! The quaint little pubs with local elderly gentlemen regaling visiting foreign folk with fantastically spun tales of wild Irish youth and love gone by, in thick Gaelic accents. I want to drink in the sweet nectar of all this and more.

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The calling of the first class passengers and those needing special assistance snaps me back to reality from somewhere inside my grand daydream. “I still can’t believe it’s finally happening!” I exclaim to my husband for quite possibly the 50th time today. He just smiles and nods as he continues to busily work his fingers over his phone screen.

The kids are finally grown and gone, and we celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary in January. We’ve had our hardships over the years, but we made it through all of them and we deserve this special treat to celebrate how far we’ve come. To celebrate us.  We’ve managed to painstakingly pinch every last penny until Lincoln screams in pain to make this trip possible. I lean over and give my husband a peck on the cheek, before resting my head on his shoulder for a moment. He presses his cheek against the top of my head. I’m proud of us both for finally turning this amazing dream into reality.

I check the time on my phone and fidget in my seat, before deciding to make sure that my passport, I.D., and boarding pass are at the ready for the thousandth time today as I wait for our seat assignments to be called. It’s hard to say if this newfound ritual is compliments of my OCD, or the adrenaline fueled excitement that I’m currently running on. Likely a little bit of both, I surmise.

They finally get around to calling rows 20 through 25. I nudge my husband with my elbow and say, “that’s us.” We proceed to gather up our belongings and head toward the quickly lengthening boarding line.

We finally reach the robotically jovial stewardess at the front of the line, who looks over our boarding passes with an obviously overworked smile. She repeats our seat assignments to us as though we are feeble minded and couldn’t possibly read them on our own, and wishes us a safe and pleasant trip through her gleaming pearly whites.

We make our way down the long gangway, my husband whistling a Christmas tune the entire way as has been his habit for the 20 years that we’ve now been married. It’s July. I stopped bothering to point this fact out to him years ago, and now I just smile and shake my head.

We are greeted by yet another methodically friendly set of flight personnel at the door to the airplane, who welcome us aboard and once again wish us a pleasant journey.

Smiling Flight Attendant

We inch our way toward the back of the aircraft from among the throng of inconsiderate individuals stopping in the middle of the aisle to fight with overhead bins or argue with other passengers and flight attendants over confused seat assignments. I can see frustration growing on my husband’s face as we shuffle along. Finally, we arrive at seats 24 B and C. I feel a little pang of sadness as I realize that neither of them are a window seat. Ah, well, you get what you pay for I suppose, and we did our best to cut traveling expenses as much as possible so that we could fully enjoy our 2 weeks exploring the lush green land for which we are about to embark. I hand my carry on over to my husband, and he makes quick work of shoving it into the overhead compartment, before we settle into our seats. My husband has Closterphobia issues, so I know he’ll want to sit in the aisle seat. He always does in crowded places.  So I grab the middle seat and proceed to try and get as comfortable as possible, not really paying much attention to the person that already occupies the window seat.

I barely get myself situated before I hear a strong, cheerful, feminine voice  from my left announce, “Hi, I’m Anna.” This boisterous greeting is accompanied by a slim fingered hand boasting pale pink polished nails and 3 over-sized silver cocktail rings extended in front of me. I turn slightly in my seat so that I may comfortably surrender my right hand in acceptance of her handshake.  We make eye contact for a moment and I take in Anna’s friendly features while quickly looking her over.

She’s perhaps 50, Caucasian, taller than I by a good 6 inches, and fit. Her long, frizzy, grayish blond waves are held back from her face by a pink, orange, and black oriental flowered silk scarf wrapped around her head and tied at the nape of her neck. She has a wide pink-lipped smile accompanied by a beautiful set of large, dark grey eyes with soft creases gently nipping at the corners. I take note of her clothing; a bright pink tank top under a thin white cotton off-the-shoulder shirt, with small pink, orange, and yellow flowers embroidered along the neckline. This was tucked into a matching, floor length, gypsy-style skirt held securely around her waist by a tied woven hemp belt. She had kicked off her silver-beaded leather sandals that are now shoved partially under the seat in front of her, and I can just barely make out her perfectly pedicured and pale pink polished toes peeking out from under her the hem of her skirt. In truth, she looks somewhat like she just stepped out of the 1970’s.

I smile and introduce myself in return. I then point to my husband next to me, and introduce him as well. He leans over me and offers a hand for her to shake. After the proper introductions have been made, I point to her skirt and tell her, “My daughter would absolutely love your outfit.” She flashes her brilliant smile once again and says, “Your daughter sounds like my kind of girl.”

The next words out of her mouth admittedly catch me off-guard. “You’re very short,” she proclaims. “Excuse me?” I say. While this is an all too true observation, I’ve yet to have a practical stranger make that assessment so boldly.  I wasn’t quite sure I had even heard her right. She laughs off the expression of shock that must be noticeably written on my face. “I mean your life line; I was noticing that it’s quite short and shallow.” She must have then noticed my expression change to concern because she goes on to quickly add, “Oh no, no. It’s nothing to be concerned about. It doesn’t mean that you have a shortened life-span; it simply means that you have a tendency to be controlled by people and situations.” She extends her hand once again, palm side up, and says, “Here, let me see your hand. I’d be happy to give you a full reading…”

She had misread my cause for concern. The words, “Oh, no thank you, I don’t…” barely escape my lips before my husband, who had, to my surprise, been listening to the exchange over his phone follies, interjects with, “We’re Christians. We don’t have anything to do with astrology or palm reading or any of that sort of thing.”

“Ah, okay,” she rather impatiently snaps, and proceeds to pull out and open a thick paperback novel that she had apparently jammed between her thigh and the armrest before we sat down.

That’s it. The conversation has been called to an abrupt halt. I could read a lot into her tone and half smirk though, which said, “I’ve dealt with you closed minded freaks before, and I’m not about to travel this road again.”

I look at my husband. He peeks over my head at Anna leaning her forehead against the window, now quietly and rather quickly engrossed in her novel. He then looks back at me and shrugs as he shakes his head no.

I knew exactly what he was thinking. Though my husband has been known to dive into a religious debate with all of the passion and fervor of an Olympic gold medalist, he wouldn’t be pressing Anna in further conversation. It was clear that she stood firm in her convictions and had closed off any further exchanges at that point. My husband and I both knew that pressing people that were not at all open to hearing what you had to say would just push them further away from wanting anything to do with God and those that serve Him.

I close my eyes and lean my head back. It’s going to be a long flight. I silently say a prayer for our safety during this flight, and for Anna. May she have a life filled with peace and perhaps, someday, be receptive enough to at least listen to a Christian point of view.

Closed minds comes in many different packages, after all.

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Note from the author: This story is completely fictional but has several truthful ideals and undertones. Though I understood that the point of this prompt was to accept the offer a palm reading and write about what my future may hold therein, for certain obvious reasons, I could not.  I chose to take my story in a different direction, and I hope that those of you that are spiritual and non-spiritual alike are still able to enjoy my story and accept it…open mindedly. 

The Bad Place

Daily Prompt: Smell You Later

Humans have very strong scent memory. Tell us about a smell that transports you.

Yesterday, I traveled 30 years back in time to a place that I had never really wanted to revisit…

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There’s nothing particularly special or unusual about what I do during the week. It’s just your average blue collar job giving painted facelifts to aging and abused apartments. It was just your average Thursday morning, and I was in my average lazy mood.

After a fifteen minute commute, I arrived at the run-down property that my husband manages. It’s not his fault that it’s in such disrepair; he does his best with what he has. The outside of place hasn’t been painted in over fifteen years, and though I offered to do the job for much less than any of the other commercial painters, the economy still won’t allow for any major renovations right now. The wooden privacy fence surrounding the property has either been pulled down in several places by the local class-cutting high school students looking for a place to hide out, or it has simply rotted away. The pool fence is being eaten away by rust. Most of the fenced in enclosures that house the air conditioning units have been destroyed by the local kids on their summer vacation. Many of the window screens have been torn up or ripped out. Several of the decorative shutters have fallen off. The parking lot needs to be resurfaced. The list goes on and on, but there’s just no money to have any of it repaired or replaced.  I tell my husband that he’s been demoted from property manager to slum lord, but he’s just too optimistic to accept it.

The insides of the places aren’t much better. I’ve come to realize that because of the deteriorating conditions outside, most of the residents aren’t motivated enough to take care of the inside, either. The apartment that I’m currently working in has a thick layer of nicotine on everything, torn up carpets with thick greasy stains all over them, and roaches as abundant as the stars.

I sat on the couch in my husband’s office for awhile, taking my sweet time nibbling at a microwaved breakfast sandwich, and trying to devise new ways to stall the inevitable. Eventually, though, I had to face the facts; 402 wasn’t going to paint itself, and I needed the money. So, I summoned up enough energy to haul my lazy rear end up of the sofa, grabbed my roller and brushes out of the refrigerator (that’s a nice little painter trick so that you don’t have to rinse them out at the end of every day), and toddled off to earn my dollar fifty and a small fry.

After fighting with the door for a moment because it’s one of those that you have to pull on in order for the key to properly turn in the lock, I finally managed to work it open and step inside. That same familiar nicotine smell ran to the threshold and greeted me, though it was admittedly not as strong as before due to the fresh coat of paint on several of the walls. I had already seen enough of this particular apartment to last a lifetime, though, so I decided to waste no more time getting started. I set my painting paraphernalia on the kitchen counter, grabbed my angled trim brush, popped open the 5 gallon bucket of white, and knelt down in a far corner of the living room to get started.

I had been avoiding that particular corner with good reason. I knew what those thick brown and yellow stains covering that matted patch of carpet were from. Sure enough, as I squatted down, my nasal passages were instantly assaulted by an all too familiar odor. Ooo, that smell. Can’t you smell that smell?

That memory smell. The one that sent a cold chill up my spine the second that my nostrils caught the first pungent whiff.

Animal urine…

I was instantly transported out of the ‘now’ to find myself gazing into the ‘way back when’.

Christmas time and a week or two of summer vacation in which I went with my parents to “The Cabin up North”, were really the only times of the year that I was made to visit my grandfather as a child. I couldn’t have been more thankful for that fact.

He was a crotchety old man. The kind that you see in the movies or on TV, waving a fist in the air on his front porch yelling “stay off my lawn!” at the neighborhood kids playing outside. I never saw him smile; at least, not in any of my childhood memories.

I was admittedly afraid of him, as would be any happy-go lucky, pig-tailed little girl whose attempts at fun were met with stern and foreboding glares and admonitions that little girls don’t behave in such a manner. Don’t run around the dogs. Don’t play around the dogs. Don’t raise your voice around the dogs. Don’t have fun around the dogs. Don’t be a child around the dogs…

The dogs.

My grandfather had 4 of them. Four Daschunds. These were NOT your average cute, cuddly little sausage dogs, either. No, these dogs were spawned directly out of the 10th pit of hell. They could not have been scarier had they had multiple heads and breathed fire. You could not make any sudden movements around these dogs, like running, or they’d tear into you faster than you could scream. You could not be loud around these dogs, for loud noises set them off and you could possibly lose a limb. There was one in particular, Schnapps, that was the meanest one of the bunch. You couldn’t even look at him, or he would growl and lunge at your face.

They behaved that way due mostly in part to the fact that they were spoiled rotten. They were the kings and queens of their castle. So much so, that they weren’t even made to go outside to go to the bathroom. There was a dog door in the kitchen that they NEVER used. They had corners of certain rooms that they had claimed as their toilets, and because of this, my grandfather’s house always smelled very strongly of animal urine. You really didn’t want to play in any of the rooms, either, unless you had to, because you’d have to dodge doggy land mines.

I remember the Christmas it happened. The Christmas that I first broke the rules. I was 8 years old. Perhaps even younger, but for some reason, my mind always reverts back to that particular age when I travel once again to the long ago and far away.

We were gathered at my grandfather’s house to exchange gifts and enjoy a holiday meal. I was “playing” in the guestroom, if you could even call it playing, with my grandfather’s wife’s grandson, Joey. In truth, it was more like we were sitting on the sofa watching TV and trying not to draw attention to ourselves.

We were kids, though, and boring TV quickly turned into some childish game that resulted in me running down the hallway. My feet had barely hit the cold, hard floor before Schnapps was hard on my heels and had his teeth sunk into the leg of my pants and the flesh within. He tore my corduroys, the ones that my beloved grandma had made for me. They were tan and had a monkey patch on the back pocket. The tears immediately started flowing, and to make matters worse, here came the grandwarden around the corner. He surveyed the scene. He didn’t really care whether or not I was hurt, he just started yelling at me because I had upset his precious dog.

He then wanted me to try to calm the vicious beast and make friends with it. “Just talk to him, just talk to him…” He’d say. I didn’t want to come within talking distance of that dog. I wanted nothing to do with Schnapps, or my grandfather, who seemingly cared nothing for me.

Every Christmas trip to grandpa’s house thereafter was just some nightmare that I had to live through. At least during the summer trips to the cabin I could hideout in the loft where my grandfather and his evil beasts wouldn’t venture, or I’d spend my time outside on the dock watching the ships roll through the channel, highlighting each new ship that I saw in my special book.

Gramps is long gone, and so is Schnapps. This still doesn’t change the fact that a filthy carpet ripe with animal urine takes me back. Back to a place that I’d never otherwise go.

Happenings in the Hood: The Weave By The Pool

I saw this little gem lying next to the pool today at the property that my husband manages:

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It sure is a beauty, isn’t it?

Seriously though, this kind of junk doesn’t even surprise me anymore. This is mild compared to some of the things that I’ve found either spread around the 96 unit property, or left in vacant apartments  over the course of the 10 and a half years that my husband and I have been together.

We lived in the only 3 bedroom apartment on the property when we were first married. Back then, the neighborhood wasn’t as bad as it is now. In recent years, the place has not only become somewhat of an eyesore due to the way that many of the residents and the local class-ditching high school students treat it, but it’s also earned a bad enough reputation that pizza delivery drivers won’t come there after dark anymore.

Needless to say, I‘m very thankful for my condo in a decent neighborhood, but I still spend a lot of time at the property, doing odd jobs to earn some extra cash, and just generally helping out.

Maybe I missed my calling as a trash collector. I’m not the type of person that can just step over a piece of garbage and not feel guilty for not picking it up, so I’m always tossing stuff in the dumpster whenever I’m out and about.

In addition to picking up garbage and painting, my husband asks me do ‘trash outs’ from time to time. That’s when he has to evict someone, or they skip out on their rent leaving a bunch of stuff behind, and I properly dispose of it. I love doing trash outs. Not only is it easy money, but sometimes I find decent items that I can either keep or take to the thrift store that I run on the weekends. The last trash out that I did had brand new kitchen utensils, some still in the packages, and piles of jewelry and clothing with the tags still on them. They just left it all behind. In the one before that, I found several brand new, unopened bottles of laundry detergent and shampoo. Score! Three trash outs ago, we found Ray. Ray Darr. The world’s worst excuse for a pet rabbit. I’m really not all that convinced that he was a great find, even if my daughter seems to think so.

I once cleaned out an apartment that had a few hundred dollars’ worth of fantasy gaming collectibles, many of them still in their original packages. I also regularly find DVDs, video games, CDs, books, and tons of spare change. They’ll also leave behind furniture and small appliances. I’ve lost track of all of the TV sets, microwaves, coffee makers, sofas, beds, tables, and chairs that I’ve pulled out of vacant apartments.

More often than not, though, the places are just loaded with pure junk, and so disgusting that you look around and think, “How could anyone live like this?” Somehow they do, though, if you can really call it “living”. I’ve braced myself and grimaced through purging a great many apartments that are so devastating that it takes months for the nightmares to stop. Like the one I’m currently painting. The walls are literally dripping with nicotine residue, and it smells so strongly of cat urine, that I have to duck out to get a breath of fresh air every half hour or so.

Yeah. Most of these places look and smell pretty harsh by the time people move out of them, and the scenes I find in them are usually like something out of a horror film.

So, the weave by the pool inspired me. It inspired me to share with you, my adoring fans (all 2 of you and probably less after you read what’s to come), a list of several of the most disgusting and/or strange things that I’ve found either lying around the property, or in vacant apartments. I advise reading this list on an empty stomach for your own personal safety.  Enjoy!

Stuff found around the property:

Weave by the pool. More than once.

Weave wrapped around a bush.

Weave stuck to some bubble gum, which I then proceeded to step in.

Weave stuck to the bottom of my shoe.

A dirty T-shirt by the pool.

A dirty T-shirt in the pool.

A dirty diaper by the pool.

A dirty diaper in the pool.

Human feces in the pool. Even the attack scenes from Jaws are slightly less terrifying than seeing poop bob around in the pool.

Vomit in the pool. The culprit probably spotted the poop.

Used condoms in the pool. Boy. It would seem the poor pool takes some serious abuse, wouldn’t it?

Enough used condoms everywhere to recycle into a bouncy house. Wouldn’t that be a great rental for little Jimmy’s next birthday party? Hey kids, let’s go jump around in Casa De La Trojan…

A bunch of used condoms were found around the laundry room, too. I don’t even want to think about why

A used condom tied around a tree branch. Uh oh, they’re getting creative now…

A used condom with bubble gum in it. Again, let’s not dwell on the why

A litter of kittens behind a bush.

A litter of kittens behind an air conditioning unit.

A litter of kittens under a propane tank. Okay. Someone…anyone…please for the love of humanity…neuter these stinkin’ cats!

Garbage bags and dirty diapers next to the dumpster that no one could actually bother to throw in the dumpster.

And the find of the week: A gooey sales receipt from McDonald’s with a false eyelash stuck to it. Yeah. I dare you to figure that one out.

Stuff found in vacant apartments:

Weave stuck to windows.

Weave stuck to countertops.

Weave stuck to walls.

Weave stuck to tape stuck to walls.

Animal hair stuck to walls.

Animal feces stuck to a dirty mattress.

Animal feces in an ash tray.

Animal feces crammed into a high heeled shoe. Just…never mind. I’m not touching that.

Animal feces in a freezer. The how in this case might be just as unsavory as the why

Animal feces in a bathtub.

Human feces in a bathtub. Hey, when you’ve gotta go, why let a little thing called ‘acting civilized’ stop you?

Rotting cherries in a bathtub. That was really the pits.

Pubic hairs stuck to a bathroom ceiling. Yep. Throwing up a mental roadblock on that one.

Pubic hairs in the freezer. I can probably imagine how that one happened. Come on, people, use your air conditioners. Seriously.

A gushy black bag of what I could only guess were once potatoes. It dripped sludge when I picked it up and smelled worse than death. I had to step outside to recover from a raging case of the dry heaves. Well played, rotting food…well played.

A dirty diaper in a Ziploc bag with maggots all over it. And the dry heaves strike again.

A dirty diaper stuck to a framed picture of zebras with broken glass.

A small mountain of cigarette butts piled up in a corner of the bedroom.

A body-sized patch of greasy, grimy carpet around the bottom of a stripper pole.

A pot full of grease with dead roaches floating in it shoved inside an oven.

A shriveled up French fry stuck to the floor by a wad of gum.

Rotting broccoli inside an unplugged refrigerator.

Rotting ground beef inside an unplugged refrigerator. Burning said refrigerator to the ground wouldn’t have gotten that smell out.

My daughter cleaning rotting broccoli and rotting ground beef out of said refrigerator.

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An army of creepy, crawly things happily devouring a loaf of green fuzzy bread.

A fur-covered Christmas wreath fused to the kitchen wall by cooking grease. Just what I’ve always wanted! Who said Christmas comes just once a year?

And last but not least:

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WHAT IS THIS THING?!

It’s lying on the dining room floor in the apartment that I’m currently painting. I’ve been side-stepping when I get too close to it for fear that it might growl and lunge at my ankles.

I won’t be taking the time to find out for certain what it is due to the fact that it might take a deeper level of investigation than I’m willing to commit to. Like oh …poking it with a stick and potentially angering it, or…touching it. I believe that upon distant examination, though, I may have it narrowed down to one of 2 things.

It could be either a piece of candy coated in nicotine and rolled in cat hair, or one of these guys:

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Tribbles!!!

At any rate, somebody please call Scotty and get him to beam this thing out of here.