Calling All Dysfunctional Domestics!

It hit me yesterday, while I was trying to make something as seemingly simple as apple fritters, yet still ended up getting batter all over Pickle’s head (through no fault of her own, shockingly): I’m bad at this whole being-domestic thing.

Doesn’t it seem like when you were growing up, the women (and in some cases, men) in your lives seemed to make it happen with what seemed like little to no effort? Perfectly pressed clothing, good meals, clean homes, well-kept children/pets, etc-the whole nine yards. Me? Try one-perma wrinkle in everything I iron, burned/bland meals, a home that no matter how frequently vacuumed, still boasts a rogue tumbleweed of dog hair, and an out of control canine. How, in what seems like only one generation, did we go from Martha Stewart, to Jessica Simpson? I try, really I do, but honestly, I suck. And I also don’t like doing those things.

So, here’s what I’m looking for from you, dear readers-your stories. I want to hear what it means to be the anti-domestic, as I call it, and how you manage in a world where it’s not second nature for us to be flawless at home life. I want to hear your stories (funny or otherwise), your experiences, and your ideas on the state of domestic ability in our generation. I’m looking for a series of guest writers to develop posts on the topic, to be published here on my blog. If you’re interested, please email me at: JenniferLHurlburt@gmail.com, or send me a facebook message. Come tell your story of kitchen fires and parental mishaps!

I don’t know, something about books or mattresses…

Last week, we had a work picnic and my colleague A and I were trying to be good seeds and put up the volleyball net, along with a member of our staff. Turns out, those things are not the simple unpack-and-use items I thought they were. We decided to, ahem, read the directions. And it goes a little something like this:

Jenn: Let’s look at the directions. Let’s “go to the books”, as they say in ‘The Godfather.’

A: Um, I think that was, ‘Let’s go to the mattresses.’ Yeah, it was definitely ‘Let’s go to the mattresses.

Jenn: Oh. Um. Oh.
Laughter ensues on everyone’s part, except the confused staff member who has not seen this movie, yet is smiling politely anyway.

Jenn: God, that movie would’ve had such a different outcome, had they gone to the books, right? I mean, really. Also, I’m a moron. And a terrible Italian.

A: Hey, where did THIS cord come from?, motioning to yellow mystery cord with attached lawn spike. A smooth transition, indeed.

Looks like even I’m not immune to overconfident misquotations. Maybe I should get into politics.

"This volleyball net is impossible to put up, sir. Can you help?" "No, who the hell do I look like, Ask Jeeves? Go to the books, er...mattresses."

Things I’ve learned about myself in the past 48 hours.

Everyone knows I love a good list, so here it goes:

1)I have a max capacity for number of secrets shared with me in a given week.
-And that number is one. Today alone, two people shared big secrets with me. It makes me physically uncomfortable to sit on that much knowledge. It’s the psychological equivalent of needing to unbutton my pants after Thanksgiving. Since having given up my former M.O. of the assumption that “don’t tell anyone” means “tell one person; namely, your bestie or significant other”, it’s become that much more difficult. I think it’s in my best interest (and yours, if you’re telling the secret) to share before 10am. Chances are, no one else has gotten to me first, and you won’t be met with a “LALALA, I CAN’T UNHEAR THAT!!!” Good grief. Go to confession, and unpack it there. Or to an out-of-the-way bar. Don’t bait me with a “Guess what?”, let me bite, me thinking that it’ll be something innocuous, only to hit me with something big. I just can’t.

2)I texted the following words to someone tonight: “Need dinner. Want cookies. Settling for a gin & tonic and some bread.” And was only partially trying to be funny.-I’m not sure when I became a frat boy, but this latest illness, coupled with being left to my own devices, has me eating like a maniac, and paying ZERO attention to what I’m putting into my body. G&T and bread-like some sort of lowbrow communion feast. I think what shames me the most, is that I totally wasn’t kidding. But in my defense, the bread WAS whole grain. I need to get my act together.

3)Social media is giving me anxiety.-The fact that there are people in this world that are submersed in social media for a living makes me want to blow my brains out. Facebook, fine. OK. Everyone (well, mostly everyone-those 50plus-ers notwithstanding) has a decent handle on that. But, oh God, Twitter. I started actively using it yesterday, and I swear to Ted Kennedy that I have never felt so overwhelmed by something so seemingly simple. Tweets, tweets and more tweets, with slashes and HASHTAGS (don’t get me started on that) and all sorts of coded jumble I don’t even understand. There’s apparently some sort of communication occurring, but who the hell can figure it out? #Dumbass. I honestly don’t know if this is going to work out. Especially if nprnews doesn’t stop posting something every .24 seconds. It plays into two of my biggest areas of compulsion in life-a hatred of clutter (you’re clogging my feed repeatedly), and the need to perform perfectly (I want to be Twitter-proficient, and right now, I’m basically scribbling with a Crayola, while everyone else is painting a masterpiece). And the nightmare called Tumblr? That made my ears get hot. Although, it may be due to the fact that my first encounter with it was on some teenage girl’s page, where she was chronicling her “journey” to anorexia, and an 85 lb. goal weight. That’s a whole different ball of wax, though, and all I can say is that that’s what I get for clicking with wild abandon on seemingly innocent Pinterest pictures to find the origin of the content. Sidebar: SO, SO glad I’m not a high schooler in today’s world. Jesus.

4)In summation, I need a vacation. From work, from people, from technology.
-Sure, I’ll probably need a blow dart tranquilizer to enjoy myself, but I think the rest could be good for me.

FEMA, lunatics running amok on the campaign trail, and baking with a Nyquil high.

Just get me a respirator and a squeegee, I’ll do it myself.

Last Monday night, we had an hours-long downpour of biblical proportions, which I was happy about, because let’s face it-it’s been pretty dry here. Anyway, right before I left for work on Tuesday morning, I had to take the dog out, and for some reason, I took her out the back door, instead of the side. As I passed by the basement stairs, this strange glint caught my eye. Light, reflecting off of…water?! It looked like there was a puddle of water sitting on the carpet. Great, I thought, there’s a leak somewhere. So, I took the dog out, brought her back in, and gathered Andy to inspect the damage. That puddle? How about over a half-foot of water covering the entire basement. The partially-carpeted basement. Long story short, the following day included Andy working like mad to remove the water, and conduct damage control. Later that evening, we called the insurance company, who told us they’d be sending their “storm team” out within three business days (how’s that for vague?) to inspect the damage, and move the process forward. Ok, great. Fine. Meanwhile, the odor of dirty, musty, wet sock was slowly taking over our house. But, we waited.

Thursday, while driving to Andy’s parents house, we got a call from our insurance company telling us that the damage wasn’t going to be covered, after all. Apparently, it’s not in our policy. When asked why the person who initially took our call didn’t apprise us of that information, the gentlemen said, “They aren’t permitted to interpret policy.” What? So, “covered” and “not covered” are up for interpretation? But here’s where it gets really good. Even though the flooding isn’t covered by insurance, he said, we were more than welcome to seek the assistance of FEMA. Slack-jawed, we sat for a minute. FEMA? The same FEMA that didn’t even show up on time when a sizeable portion of the Gulf Coastline was underwater, and people were dying/starving/displaced? What the hell good are they going to do? Show up in three weeks with a box fan, and a formaldehyde-laced camper for the backyard? What a total joke. Looks like we’ve got to roll up our sleeves, and take matters into our own hands. FEMA. Come on.

Bachmann, Santorum, and Perry-Oh My!

Hey! Have a Bible, “drink the kool-aid” charm, and an utterly batshit platform? Then hit the campaign trail, crazy! I’m not going to spend any real time discussing the insanity, as it is all playing out clear as day before our very eyes via every media outlet available, but where the hell are these people coming from? I will say this, however: Michele Bachmann-you were allowed to marry a gay man,so why can’t anyone else? Seriously, though, the fact that in 2011, there are not only people who think the way that they do, but that they bullhorn it wherever possible, makes me shudder.

You know what these cupcakes need? A cough drop garnish.

So, out of nowhere, I woke up vaguely ill on Friday morning. It seems as though I have been revisited by the ear infection/strep throat/respiratory infection demon, for the second time in three months. Friday, it was that non-descript throat tickle, Saturday morning, it was that “Ok, I’m definitely sick” cough, and by Saturday evening, it was that “Alright, so maybe I’m going to die” grip of illness that renders you mostly immobile. That’s pretty much where I’ve been hovering ever since. My days have been spent in a Day/Nyquil fog, with a strong desire to bake. Right, because why not? I can’t breathe, and can barely button my shirt properly, but I think I can steady a hand mixer. I had to make cupcakes for a bake sale this weekend, which gave me my first legit excuse in months to break out the butter, sugar and eggs. And you know what? They were delightful. I should know-I ate approximately four of them Saturday afternoon, right before I fell asleep on the couch for 3 hours, woke up for 1, and then went to bed for the night.

Yesterday, I woke up just as wretchedly ill, but again, wanted to make some more cupcakes. I rationalized this excess by telling myself that I needed to tweak yesterday’s salted caramel frosting to be less buttery, and more caramel-y. Dextromethorphan does strange things to us. And so tweak I did, as well as burn my fingers on scalding hot caramel, and eat 2.5 more cupcakes. There goes all that clean-eating talk. I don’t care-when I’m sick, I have no use for tofu and raw vegetables. I’d like sugar, topped with more sugar, please. And some pixie stix.

Anyway, in the clear, cold light of the morning today, I dutifully packed up (most) of the remaining cupcakes, destined for delivery to two people who have either been promised them, or just need them, at this point in their lives. And I hope they enjoy them as much as I enjoyed making them. But, isn’t everything more enjoyable on cold medicine?

Wherein I become a crotchety neighbor lady (albeit, one with good cholesterol levels).

I had a doctor’s appointment this morning, and it was the one where I would find out if my tireless working out, eating clean, and generally depriving myself of joy over the past four months had effectively lowered my elevated cholesterol levels. Once I was in the room, I was chatting with the nurse, whom I adore, and told her I had been waiting with bated breath all week to find out the results. Being the great nurse she is, she overstepped her professional boundaries, and gave me the results herself, with the promise that I wouldn’t tell the doctor. And guess what? It worked! Ladies and gentleman, I am once again the owner of healthy, happy cholesterol levels…and also of a lighter body frame. So, double score! I told you I’d be the best at cholesterol-reducin’. The best part was that I got to celebrate twice, when the doctor shared the results. Anytime I can get two pats on the back, I’ll take them.

ANYWAY, I went back home to work, and while reading through my emails, I suddenly hear a pre-pubescent voice shouting the words to “Joy and Pain,” that lyrical magnum opus by the 80’s own Rob Base. I looked above my computer screen, and saw a group of 12 year olds coming down the sidewalk, the street performer in the middle of them. All of the sudden, they stop at the corner of our property, and now I’m curious, so I step to the other window. There I see the young man who has been singing unzip his pants, and begin peeing in my bushes. Oh, no. No no no. I flew downstairs, and flung open the door, causing the non-peeing boys to begin to shuffle along, looking back at their friend, who is still singing like he’s on the spectrum, the same two sentences of that song, over and over (you can probably guess which ones), oblivious to my approach. “WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING?! GET OUT OF HERE! WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU?!!” I bellow, and now he’s wide-eyed, clearly struggling with his zipper. Little bastard, I think. I hope he gets it caught. His friends have now started running, and he’s unable to gain any momentum, due to his uncooperative shorts. At that moment, Pickle started barking savagely, which was a nice effect, because then he really got nervous.

So, with them gone, I go back inside, thinking to myself about how kids have no respe–, wait, what? Did I just say that to myself? Like something one of my old uncles would, say-These GD kids today, I’ll tell ya, got no respect for anyone. Buncha animals. I have absolutely no patience for anything like that, though, and I can’t imagine doing something so stupid at that age. I hope I don’t get a reputation as that lady in the white house..but come on, who pees in someone else’s yard, especially in plain view? Hand to God, I would’ve given anything for my hose to be handy at that moment, because I would’ve sprayed them ALL. Him, for peeing, and his friends, for hanging out with such a bonehead. It’s just not OK, in my book. Keep it up, kids-Halloween is just around the corner, and I’m totally not above handing out toothbrushes and pennies, in lieu of the good stuff. I’m watching you.

Friday round-up: road rage, more medical mishaps, and why I can’t get any work done.

Road rage is for the badass and/or mentally ill.

Which is why I guess, being bad at it is a mixed bag. Yesterday, I was passing a slow moving tractor trailer, who suddenly decided he needed to get into the passing lane. Ok, fine, I’m moving. All the sudden, he decides that I’m not moving fast enough (at 70, I think I was, considering up until this point, he was going around 62), and starts maniacally waving me forward, his tattoo-sleeved arm flailing out the window. “I’M GOING!” I shout, to no one in particular, because he sure as hell can’t hear me. Then, in a fit of anger, I…shook my fist at him? Yes, you guys, I road rage like Alice, complete with “NHHHH!” Why-I-oughta! sound. Apparently, this pissed him off, because then he laid on his horn, and did an aggressive pseudo-swerve towards my lane. Ok, I’m outta here, as fast as the four cylinder engine I’m commandeering (and the law) permits. I’m not a rule-breaker, after all.

Once safely ahead of him, I got ballsy..and half-flipped him off. Two things about this-ultimately, I only did it because I knew he couldn’t see me (again-scared of confrontation, especially with someone piloting an 18-wheeler), and because another car moved in between us. Beep, beep! I’m lame. Oh, and non-sequitur, but about twenty minutes later, I came to an intersection that was only a two-way stop (and I was not in a stop lane), and this cadaverous old woman in a Ford Taurus blew through the stop, causing me to slam on my brakes and beep at her. What does she do? Slowly turns her head towards me, and raises a creaky, spindly middle finger in my direction. Narrowly averted car crash aside, it was just too funny to be angry. When you’re 104, what do YOU have to lose? Cruise on, Cryptkeeper!

Can I get a funnel in here?

This morning, I had a doctor’s appointment, one which involved me peeing in a cup. I don’t know about you, but I prep for this event the way others prep for surgery. Driving to the doctor’s office, telling myself that I’ve consumed enough water so as to not provide a paltry sample, giving myself enough of a cushion should I miss the cup at first. A pep talk, if you will. For some reason, there is no worse potential outcome for me than wasting a sample due to my wayward aim, and having to sit around the doctor’s office for another hour, pounding chlorinated tap water and waiting for my chance to shine. And yes, I’ve lived that experience. Multiple times. So, I get there, and it’s time to get to it. And while I was mostly successful, I still didn’t get out of there without peeing on my hands. It’s like my body goes crazy, and becomes some sort of unmanned fire hose. This particular visit was even better, though, because I somehow managed to get pee on my shorts. ON THE FRONT OF THEM. Which looked super awesome coming out of the doctor’s office, by the way. And since I’m sure everyone’s wondering with excitement now, no, I’m not single. This girl is off the market. No big surprise, right? I’m a lackluster cook, mediocre with an iron, and pee on myself. Anyone would be lucky.

Sure, Pickle, go ahead and eat that plant of unspecified origin.

So, between my two trips to the doctor’s office today (one was first thing this AM for bloodwork), I was already feeling disorganized by working at home today. Given that, it only made sense that Pickle should suddenly snap up some sort of unidentified greenery and swallow it, when I took her outside this morning. Dog owners will know that with that event, comes the invariable gastrointestinal warfare that is now being waged against my house. Three hours, five episodes of vomit, and an utter lack of paper towels later, I’m now down multiple dish cloths (yes, totally not green of me, but what the hell was I supposed to do?), a shitload of Lysol wipes, and half a bottle of 409. And all before noon! This dog is sick more frequently than any human I’ve known, and of course, like any good American, she’s uninsured. I think we’ll try to ride this one out, see if it gets better. We’ve been to the vet enough with her, that we should get some sort of pay ten visits, get one visit free punch card. And maybe some paper towels.

Happy weekend, ya’ll-hope yours turns out less messy than mine has started.

Breaking up is hard to do. Unless you have facebook.

I read an article this weekend, and it honestly escapes me exactly where, about a workshop held for teenagers regarding healthy breakups. I thought this was a pretty novel concept, given that I had no idea how to handle my first breakup, at seventeen years old. I treated it as some sort of death, walking around in a haze, assured my life was over. Given, I know now that this is how most young people treat that first experience, having nothing to compare it to. But how nice it would’ve been to have peer-driven dialogue and objective facilitation on the topic. I would’ve loved to have known that it was normal for me to be reduced to snot and tears at the discovery of a left-behind t-shirt (tie dye, by the way-ew), or to feel like my stomach was going to explode at the inadvertent eye contact made in a high school hallway with the Dreaded Ex. But these feelings blindsided me. I had no idea what to expect. And let me tell you, it sucked.

However, the Dreaded Ex became less dreadful, and eventually, an acquaintance. And the stinging memory of it became sort of laughable, in that God, I was ridiculous sort of way. And, on life goes. But man, do kids now have so many more tools at their disposal, when it’s time to cut someone loose. Or, to simply torture said partner with, until they are driven to end the relationship. I would have never, EVER survived high school, if texting and facebook existed. I mean, how do kids focus on anything besides the intracacies of electronic high school relationship betrayal? One boy interviewed for the article said that when it’s time to dump a girl, he simply changes his facebook relationship status to “single”, leaving the young woman in question to discover this on her own (unless a meddling concerned third party discovers it first, during which time he/she will eagerly share the information). A number of the kids felt it was completely appropriate to end a relationship this way, or via text message. Are you kidding me? Look, I’m as non-confrontational as the next person (perhaps more so), but I feel like this is one of the times in life when you DESERVE to be uncomfortable. After all, you’re about to inflict emotional pain (and possible weight gain, depending on whether they decide to eat their feelings) on another person, so a few minutes of awkward, frank conversation is a fair trade, I’d say. People are owed that.

As I read along, I realized-kids don’t need a healthy breakups workshop, they need a healthy social skills workshop. And tech-savvy adults need a refresher course. Life is so embedded in electronics and technology that people are losing their ability to connect in real life with the people on the other side of the screen. And that extends way beyond childish breakup moves-these are practices that are becoming ingrained as normal and more or less universally acceptable. I myself am even guilty of it-I admit that I would much rather conduct a conversation via email, than telephone. It’s something I have to constantly be aware of, and move past. And don’t even get me started on the feelings I have when I misplace my iPhone. It’s shaming.

So, my thoughts are this: look away from the bright light (of a backlit screen) once in awhile. Make some eye contact, have a conversation. Read social subtleties, instead of trying to piece together someone’s tone via text. I think we’d be surprised to discover that our counterparts on this earth are (mostly )pretty amazing in real life. And kids-as hard as it is, take the time to tell your girlfriend or boyfriend that you’re making out with their best friend,face-to-face. It’ll make you feel like slightly less of a dirtball, and will provide you with the right amount of conscience-battering you deserve. Don’t make them wait to find out until they update their status feed.