For a while now, I’ve wanted to introduce you to my grandmother, Kate. She was probably one of the strangest characters in my life. My grandmother was, well, crazy. Sometimes, it was in a ha-ha-crazy kind of way, and sometimes it was in a just-plain-crazy kind of way. Bless her heart. (That’s a southern thing. It’s okay to say what you want about someone as long as you say, “Bless her heart,” after it. Maybe you didn’t know that. Bless your heart.)

I called my grandmother, “Granny Meatloaf.” This wasn’t the normal name I called her. Normally, she was Grandmother. However, when I was feeling particularly frisky or brave, I called her “Granny Meatloaf.” I have no idea why. She didn’t make meatloaf. My older cousins called her “Granny,” so maybe I got that part from them.

Grandmother lived a hard life. Like everyone from her generation, she endured hard work and times of poverty. By the time I knew her, I don’t think she was poor. She lived like she was broke, but she had plenty. We would arrive at Grandmother’s house after dark, and at first, we would wonder if she was already asleep. Then, though, we would see her 10 watt light bulb burning in the window, and we would know she was awake. Wouldn’t want to waste electricity, you know.

My grandmother was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia. When I was 7 years old, we left our beach house in paradise (okay, really, Isle of Palms, SC) and moved back to the town where my grandmother lived. My mother wanted to be nearby to take care of her mother. I vaguely remember moving back, and I think, at that point, we thought grandmother was dying. (I could be making that up, but hey, it’s my story…) My grandmother lived until I was 19 years old. I’m pretty sure, for a few years there, my father was convinced his mother-in-law would never leave. We joked she was going to outlive us all.

My grandmother was 69 years old when she died. I remember people at the funeral saying how young she was. I disagreed. To me, she was ancient. She had been old forever. Now, as my age increases, I realize how young she really was. In my defense, though, she had acted like an old lady for as long as I had known her, so she was old to me.

Grandmother worked at a factory. I think they made plastic bags. I’m pretty sure that’s where the rare leukemia came from. Back then, they figured “what didn’t kill you made you stronger” even applied to industrial chemicals. (You’ve got that song playing in your head now, don’t you? Sorry about that.) No need for respirators or protective gear.

Grandmother would come home from work with rubber bands on her wrist. I don’t know what the rubber bands were for, but she always had them. She would hang them from the gear shifter on the steering column of her car.

Speaking of column, my grandmother had some pretty funny words she used. Column would be one of them. She said, “Colyum.” I still can’t say column correctly because of her. Thanks, Grandmother.

Some other fun words a la Kate were candlelobster, tarco and therpy. If you wanted to set the table for a fancy dinner, you would put a candlelobster on it. You would not want to get Tarco Bell for the fancy meal. The therpy would come in handy if you had an injury to your knee. That physical therpy can be difficult, though.

Grandmother used to grow a garden. She always had strawberries growing. They were never sweet, but there was just something about picking strawberries fresh from the vine and eating them. (Now that I live near the Strawberry Capital of the World, that doesn’t sound nearly as special.) Once, my sister and I got fussed at by my mother for eating all of Grandmother’s strawberries. Grandmother had probably worked for months to get her vines to grow those berries, and then my sister and I wiped them out in one afternoon. I also got in trouble for picking grandmother’s flowers in the front yard. I thought they were weeds, but they ended up being some kind of special plant that Grandmother had gone to a lot of trouble to grow. Oops. My bad.

Grandmother would dry apple slices outside. She would put them out on the trunk of her car or on the driveway and would put a window screen over them to keep the bugs off. I’m not sure how effective that was, but they were still good, bugs and all. She would use the apples to make fried apple pies. Those little pies were amazing, as long as she remembered to add sugar. Since then, I have never found anyone who can make fried apple pies like my grandmother.

Grandmother was sometimes forgetful when she cooked. In fact, as she aged, her cooking got worse and worse. For one thing, she only used the cheapest of ingredients. Cheap store-brand margarine just doesn’t create the same baked goods as real butter, no matter how good a cook you are (and she really wasn’t all that good). Grandmother made peanut butter ice cream once that would have been really good if she had just remembered to sweeten it. She made black walnut cakes that were delicious. However, they were major dental work waiting to happen. She was not good at taking the nuts from the shells. I’d be going along, enjoying my piece of cake and then, AAUGH! Shell.

I still prefer my grits lumpy. That’s because that was how Grandmother made them – with HUGE lumps. The scrambled eggs had brown spots from being burned. I’m not so crazy about that now. One thing she made pretty well was popcorn. When I would spend the night at her house, she would pop real popcorn on the stove and put melted margarine on top. (Or, futter, as my kids call it. Fake butter.)

Grandmother was cheap. With a capital C. I’m pretty sure I have some of her genes in me. There was a local pizza shop, called the Pizza Factory. One summer when I was little, they sold glass Coca Cola pitchers and offered free refills. I’m pretty sure they meant free refills for the summer, but they did not specify that. For years, any time I would spend the night at Grandmother’s house, we would go pick up a pizza and get that pitcher filled. She would take a (used!) piece of aluminum foil to cover the pitcher with so we could get it home without spilling Coke everywhere. Then, when we would get to the car with it, she would take a rubber band from her steering colyum and put it around the rim of the pitcher. That pitcher got a crack in it after years of use. Luckily, the crack was in the top 1/3 of the pitcher. At that point, Grandmother would just have them fill it to the line. She got her money’s worth out of that $5 pitcher. Bless her heart.

We were never allowed to throw away anything in the trash can in Grandmother’s bathroom. That’s because it wasn’t really for trash. That was where she stored the partial rolls of toilet paper she had collected from various and sundry places. We weren’t allowed to talk about it, although my sister and I thought it was pretty stinkin’ funny that she stole toilet paper.

Grandmother was a crafter. I know I got some of those genes. She could do any handiwork, I’m pretty sure. She crocheted. She tatted. If you don’t know what tatting is, Google it. It’s sort of like lace made with thread. She tried to teach me that once, but all I managed to do was tie knots. Grandmother made yo-yo bedspreads. (Google!) Most of all, she quilted. She had a quilting room that had a huge quilting rack that filled it. That room was always cold because she had the air vent shut off in there. and she kept the door closed to save electricity. In the winter, when Grandmother would have her wood stove cranked up to “flames of hell” temperature, my sister and I would escape to that cold quilting room and bask in the cool air while playing under Grandmother’s current work in progress.

Speaking of the wood stove, Grandmother used to be able to look at a fire and tell if it was “packin’ snow.” I have no idea what that means, but if Grandmother said the fire was packin’ snow, it was going to snow. She was almost always right about that.

Okay, you’re probably bored with my stories of my grandmother, but I could go on all day long. I won’t, but I could. I keep remembering things as I’m writing. She just gave me so much material! I could tell you about how she and I would play Kismet (Google!) or how she would come to our house on Christmas morning or how she would say, “Dan. Stop it,” when my father joked around with her. (You have to read that in a southern accent. Dan has two syllables.) I really could go on all day long. I just have to tell you one last story. It’s my favorite, and it was hilarious, at least to me.

When I was about the same age as the Goose, my grandmother and I headed over to the small town, Union, where my grandfather’s relatives lived. We would go there sometimes to visit my Aunt Ruby, who really was not my aunt at all. I’m pretty sure she was third cousin, twice removed, or something like that.

As we drove into town, I noticed flags hanging from the light posts. They had a letter “K” on them. I asked my grandmother what they were for, and she began thinking about it. She stayed quiet, thinking for about a minute, and then she began thinking aloud. She said, “I know what it is. It’s the Que Cluck Clan. I just know it. The Que Cluck Clan. Oh, I can’t believe it. How can that be? The Que Cluck Clan in Union.” For a second, I had no idea what she was talking about. Then, I realized it, and I had to fight to hold the laughter in. She thought it was the Klu Klux Klan.

Now, Grandmother grew more and more distraught over this as we drove. She was almost in tears. She just kept repeating “Que Cluck Clan” over and over and over, and I was just about to the howling stage of laughter. I wasn’t even keeping it in at this point, but she was so busy being shocked by the Que Cluck Clan, she didn’t even notice my disrespect. I found this hilarious, and her pronunciation was awesome. Even now, I can’t say the name of the club the correct way. It just wouldn’t be right.

When we got to Aunt Ruby’s house, Grandmother went rushing in. She was so upset that the Que Cluck Clan was there. Aunt Ruby asked what in the world she was talking about, and Grandmother explained about the flags. Turns out, the Kudzu Festival was taking place the weekend after. In case you don’t know what kudzu is, bless your heart, it’s the plant that ate the south. (Google!) As Aunt Ruby explained that there would be kudzu jelly and fried kudzu flowers, I was laughing so hard, I was crying. Bless my grandmother’s heart. The Que Cluck Clan.

My grandmother was certainly not perfect, and I could probably just as easily write as much about all the negatives. However, I choose to think about the funny memories my grandmother gave me. If nothing else, she gave me writing material, and she was certainly an interesting character in my story!  -Al

When we moved to Tampa, I was angry with my parents. Actually, that’s an understatement. I was furious, beyond furious, with my parents. I won’t go into the details of why I was so angry. I’m pretty sure that wouldn’t win me any points with them. I will say, though, that I was so mad about moving to Tampa that I called it “Tampax” for the first six months. I was here, but I wasn’t happy about it.

We moved to Tampa from Knoxville, TN. It wasn’t that I was upset about leaving there. We had been there for two years, and they had been the worst two years of my life. To date, those would still be two of the worst years of my life, though I must say 2012 gave them a run for their money. So, it wasn’t that I cared about leaving Knoxville. I mean, I hadn’t finished a sentence the whole time I lived there. You see, I was raised in South Carolina, where people take their time finishing their sentences. Slow and southern…that’s how we spoke. However, in Knoxville, people might have been southern, but slow was not how they rolled. They all sounded like auctioneers or like the guy on car commercials who tells all the rules at the end. Bless their hearts, those Tennesseans didn’t let me finish a thought for two whole years. That was just one of the many reasons I was angry.

When we came to Tampa, we first left my sister at college in Tennessee. We still joke that we moved away and left her twice, but she managed to find us both times. The first time was when she was in high school. She went on a school trip to Europe for a month, and when she came back, we had moved. She didn’t even know we were moving before she left. We picked her up from the airport and headed to the new house. She said, “Where are we going?” Oops…I guess we should have told her. So, when we dropped her off at college and moved out of the state two days later, I’m pretty sure it brought back bad memories for her. She still managed to find us eventually, though and came home on school breaks.

When we drove to Florida, we drove overnight, or at least that’s how I remember it. I remember every time I would get to sleep in the car, my parents would stop to get gas, go to the bathroom, etc. It was very annoying, and it only angered me more, if that was possible. I was 14, you know. That’s an angry age anyway.

Daddy got us settled in the local Ramada Inn here, and he headed back to Knoxville. He had to finish working up there, but we moved before him so I could start school at the beginning of the school year. Otherwise, I would have gone to school for only a few weeks up there and then would have started late here. There were not many hotel choices in Brandon back in the day, and the Ramada was the only one that would allow us to have our dog, Frazier. Frazier was a five pound Yorkie, so it wasn’t like he could do that much damage to a hotel room, but there was no room at the other inns for him.

Mama, Frazier and I lived in the Ramada Inn for five weeks. In a way, it was fun. We had two adjoining rooms, so I had my own hotel room and bathroom. I didn’t even have to clean it, because I had daily maid service. (Hmmm, with the way they leave their rooms, I wonder if my kids believe they are living in a hotel....)  It got to the point where the maid would take Frazier out for a walk when she came to clean our room. That was handy, because it meant we didn’t have to rush back to take care of him if we had somewhere to go. Every morning, we ate breakfast in the hotel restaurant before I went to school. I actually had to leave for school before the restaurant was officially open, but the employees made an exception for us. I had chocolate chip pancakes and chocolate milk for breakfast every day for 5 weeks. One day, we tried to call them to see if I could have something different, and I placed my order. However, when we got to the restaurant, I was served, you guessed it, chocolate chip pancakes and chocolate milk. Oh well. At least there was some consistency in my life. The guy at the front desk was a native Spanish speaker, so he helped me with my Spanish homework. Come to think of it, I think he was actually just flirting with me. Ewww.  Creepy.

When we finally found our house, I hated it. I hated it because it was in Tampax and because I had to live there with my parents. (I’m telling you…I was angry.) My parents’ bathroom ended up having dry rot behind the tiles in the shower. The whole bathroom had to be remodeled. I always thought that was a shame. I wanted it to be my bathroom. My bathroom had pink fixtures. I hated that bathroom. My mother insisted on making it into a flamingo bathroom, since we were in Florida. I hated those flamingos. Stupid Tampax flamingos.

The house had a pool with fountains. My mother tried to sell me on the fountains. I wasn’t buying it. She let me decorate my own room. Since the carpet had to be changed anyway, I could pick what I wanted, and I chose a white linoleum with yellow diamonds. I had a white day bad with a red bedspread and brass and glass tables. The room was topped off with a papisan chair with a big yellow cushion. It was a cool room. I still hated it.

I hated the kitchen. I hated the family room. I hated the stupid little room upfront that served as our office. There was nothing my parents could say or do to make me like Tampax.

There were many things about Florida that I should have liked. I mean, the sun shined every single day. Stupid sun. There were palm trees. Stupid trees. There were lizards. I hated those lizards, especially when one ran up my leg. But, over time, Florida became not so bad, and now, 27 years later, Florida is home to me. There’s no place I’d rather be. (I’m a poet!)

In retrospect, I sometimes wonder what my life would have turned out to be if we had not moved to Florida. Now, I know my life did not really begin until we got here. Within the first six months of living here, I met Willow, Mr. Everything and Rose. It wasn’t too long after that when I started going to church and when I met Micah. Without Mr. E, I would have never had the Beetle or the Goose. Who knows? I might have the Spider and the Duck now. It just wouldn't be right. Without moving to Tampa, I would not have the characters of my life, and my life would not be complete.

I have long since forgiven my parents for all the reasons I was mad back then (except maybe for that ugly flamingo bathroom). Moving to Tampa was the best thing that ever happened to me, but I still refuse, yes refuse, to thank my parents for it!  Okay, okay.  Thanks, Mama and Daddy. I don’t hate you. -Al

Okay, so I’ve been stewing about a recent doctor’s visit for several weeks now. When it happened, I was so completely annoyed that it was not funny. However, now that I’ve had time to cool off and to stop thinking ugly thoughts about the doctor we saw, I want to tell you the story.

For years, the Goose has been saying she needed glasses. Now, before you get all judgey with me, realize, I’m the mother. I usually know what my kids need, and I was 99.9% sure my daughter did not need glasses. She never showed any of the signs that would tell me her eyes were not great. So, for years, I’ve been putting off going to the eye doctor. Part of the time, I was putting it off because we had no insurance and no money, and part of the time, I just got busy with life and forgot. (I know I’ve burst your bubble…now you know I’m not a perfect parent. Shocker.)

Finally, the planets all aligned correctly, and we had insurance at the same time I actually remembered to call and make an appointment with the eye doctor. The Goose had been saying for weeks, “Is that sign (book, TV, ____ you fill in the blank) blurry to you? It’s blurry to me.” I was pretty sure it was an act, but I decided I’d better have her checked, just in case.

The Goose and I went on a Friday afternoon to the eye doctor. On the way there, we talked about the “air blowy thing” that blows a puff of air into your eye. I had assured her it would not hurt, but she insisted she did not want it done. I told her not to panic and that we would talk to the doctor about it. After all, I had no idea what the purpose of it even was, so I could not say for sure whether she would need it or not. I had already also assured her she would not be getting her eyes dilated. I had that done once. That was a mistake. I was pretty sure having them do that to the Goose on her first eye doctor’s visit would ensure it would be her last eye doctor’s visit. (Keep in mind that both of my child have major anxiety about all things medical. One has it worse than the other, but neither of them is comfortable in a doctor’s office.)

We got to the office and checked in. The Goose was already busy picking out her glasses as she was sure she would be getting some. I told her not to hold her breath. We did not wait long before it was our turn. The assistant was friendly enough, and she had the Goose look into a machine. I have no idea what the machine was for, but there was no pain or air involved, so it was so far, so good. Then, the assistant asked the Goose to move over to the other machine so she could blow a puff of air into her eyes. Instantly, the Goose burst into tears. I looked at her and said, “Stop it. We already talked about this.” Then, I turned to the assistant and asked what the purpose of the air was. I never actually got an answer. I told her I would prefer to talk to the doctor first, and she said that was fine. She also said the doctor could put drops into the Goose’s eyes instead. Again, the Goose started to cry. At least we knew her tear ducts were working properly.

A few minutes later, the doctor called us back. Although I had written the Goose’s nickname on the forms along with her full name, and although the assistant had managed to call her by her nickname, the doctor did not. He called her by her full name. By the time we had reached his office, he had called her by her full name (the one she gets called when she is in trouble) three times. I nicely (Honest! I was still being nice at this point!) said, “Oh, you can call her by her nickname. That’s what we call her.” He shrugged and said, “Whatever.” Then, he called her by her full name. Strike one.

Now, allow me to interject here that, if I actually knew the doctor’s name, I would not hesitate to name him in this blog. I would not change his name to protect the innocent. He does not deserve that courtesy. Yes, it was that bad. However, he never showed the professionalism of introducing himself, so I have no idea who the man was.

Let’s just call the doctor, Dr. Dishtowel, because he had as much personality as a wet dishtowel. Dr. Dishtowel began running through the typical, “Does this look better or does that look better?” “How about this or that?” “Now this or that?” questions. By the way, I hate those questions. I’m always afraid if I don’t pass, I will end up wearing Coke bottle glasses for the rest of my life. But, this isn’t about me. I wasn’t the one answering. I was the one sitting in the corner, getting more and more angry.

Dr. Dishtowel was a jerk. There’s no nice way to say it. He just was. He moved in a rushed manner. He was brash, harsh, abrasive and just rude. My Goose kept looking at me as if to say, “Save me…” I had to chuckle to myself as I realized she probably wouldn’t insist on going to the eye doctor again for a very long time.

When Dr. Dishtowel finished his robotic examination of her eyes, he said her eyes were perfect. He told me the Goose’s eyes had probably the best vision of any he had seen all week. I resisted the urge to say, “I told you so.” I figured I’d save that little tidbit for later.

Dr. Dishtowel began writing in the Goose’s chart. As he wrote, he said, “Oh, I see we were not able to put the puff of air in her eyes. I’ll have to put drops in her eyes instead.” And with that, you guessed it, the tear ducts began working again. I calmly said, “Can you please talk to me about the purpose of the drops?” He snidely said, “The purpose is, it’s part of the exam.” Strike two.

I said I understood it was part of the exam but I wondered what purpose it served. He said he did not understand why I was questioning him or why it was a big deal. I said, through gritted teeth, “That’s the big deal,” as I indicated for him to look at the Goose. Dr. Dishtowel looked at the Goose, and then what he did next is what still makes my blood boil.

Dr. Dishtowel began a rant that went something like this: “You’re crying? Why are you crying? Why is she crying? She shouldn’t be crying. Is this normal? Does she always cry like this? Does she have some kind of anxiety disorder? Have you taken her to a psychiatrist about this? If not, you should. This isn’t normal. Crying isn’t normal. Really. Is there something wrong with her? Does she have a disorder?” Strike THREE!

I said, as calmly as I could muster, “There is nothing wrong with my child, but thank you so much for suggesting that there is, and thank you even more for saying it right in front of her. That’s definitely going to decrease her anxiety. Thank you very much. “(You idiot…Okay, I didn’t say that part, but it was implied.)

Then, Dr. Dishtowel said, “Well, I am so sorry. I did not mean to cause this. I’m just doing my job. I didn’t mean to upset anyone, but obviously I did.” (Yay think, moron??) “After all, I’m just the eye guy. What do I know? I mean, I only went to school for this, but you must know better. It’s a normal part of the exam, but it wasn’t supposed to make anyone cry. I’m just so sorry. I think you need to get out of my office now. I’m sorry I caused this. I’m just the eye guy.”

Honestly, people. I’m not making this up. You can ask the Goose. She watched the whole thing, wide eyed, waiting for Mama Bear to rip this man’s face off. I managed to get out without hurting him. Honestly, I was so shocked by the whole scene that I did not have time to respond. The only thing I managed to say was, “Well, you’re the one who said her eyes were perfect. I don’t see a reason to put drops in perfect eyes.” I don’t think he heard me though, because he was so busy saying how he was “only the eye guy.”

To say the visit was bizarre would be an understatement. The Goose and I got to the Suburban and just sat in quiet for a minute. Then, my first words were, “What. The. Heck. Was. That??” We both laughed. Then, I reminded my dear, sweet Goose that if she didn’t trust me, who could she trust? It was a little over-the-top for her to cry when Dr. Dishtowel said he was going to put drops in her eyes. If she knew me at all, she should know there was no way I was letting that man put anything in her eyes. I also reminded her that, in the future, instead of crying, she should speak up, and that it was okay for her to speak up when it involved her own body. Hopefully, she heard me. All I know is, she will never have to speak up to Dr. Dishtowel again.  -Al

As you may recall, a certain Goose broke my washer and dryer a few months ago. Mr. Everything managed to fix the dryer, but the washer? Not so much. Oh, don’t get me wrong. It’s not that he can’t fix it. It’s that he hasn’t fixed it. In his defense, he has been very busy with work and has not even had time to look at it. (Blah, blah, blah. Whatever. I just want to wash my clothes.)

Anywho, I’ve been letting clothes pile up for longer than I care to admit. I was trying to do a load at a time in my mother-in-law’s machine, but that meant lugging the clothes upstairs and back downstairs. (Hey, don’t judge me. Those stairs are really steep!) I’ve been so busy with work that I haven’t had time to do any loads for a while. (If he can use the excuse, so can I. That, my friends, it what you call equal rights.)

So, tonight, I decided it was time to visit the Laundromat. You may be asking yourself what possessed me to head to the Laundromat on a Friday night, but don’t ask. It’s me. Just go with it. (And, by the way, my spellcheck keeps capitalizing Laundromat – See? I don’t know why, but it’s not a typo. Apparently, it’s such an important place, it deserves a capital letter.)

Supper was cooking in the crockpot, so I loaded the Suburban with my mounds of dirty laundry and headed to the ‘mat. I gave myself a pep talk on the way. “Al, it’s going to be fine,” I said. Well, actually, I didn’t call myself by name, and even if I did, I’d probably call myself Alison. Myself and I are on a more formal basis than “Al.”

Now, while I’m driving to the Laundromat (L!), let me just clue you in on something here. In case you haven’t figured it out, I led a pretty blessed childhood. I mean, sure, my parents struggled when they were first married and when my sister and I were little, but by the time I can remember, we had money. We didn’t *do* the Laundromat. If the washer broke, my mother either called the repairman or bought a new washer. That’s how we rolled. The only time I ever remember going to the Laundromat was to wash nasty horse blankets because my mother did not want those smelly things in her house. (Which, by the way, may be part of the reason I think of Laundromats as nasty…horse blankets.)

So, for me to go to the Laundromat, by myself none-the-less, is a pretty big deal for me. Judge if you will, but it’s just not something I’ve done in all my 41 years (41! Ugh.). I’ve been there once or twice to wash blankets after camp, but Mr. Everything always went with me. Since he’s a pretty smart fellow, I just relied on him to tell me how the machines worked. In fact, I’m pretty sure I just stood back and let him handle it. I was pampered. Until tonight.

I got to the Laundromat and went in first without my clothes. I figured I’d stake the place out and make sure I was going to be able to figure it out. I had a bag of quarters, but I wasn’t even sure whether the machines took quarters or some kind of magic card Mr. E had told me about. If they took debit cards, I was all set. Otherwise, if I needed dollar bills, I was in trouble. My wallet has been a dollar-bill-free zone since the late 90’s. Luckily, the machines took quarters, and there were plenty of machines available. I went back to get my clothes. All 4 hampers of them. (What? Like you’ve never let laundry pile up? Don’t be a hater.)

I stood in front of a washing machine, looking at it, as though it was going to guide me through the process. There were instructions that were written on about a first grade level. You’d think I’d be able to figure them out. You’d be wrong, but you’d think that. (Just a side note here – I’m terrible with directions. I can’t read and follow instructions to save my life, especially when I’m nervous. The instructions might as well have been in Japanese.)

So, I successfully got the first machine going. I found out later that I washed my dark clothes in warm water, but hey, overall, I was pretty successful. I even figured out where the laundry detergent should go.

The second load did not go as well. I poured the detergent in the top, as instructed. Then, since I was washing sheets, I poured bleach in the top too. As I poured, I heard it sloshing down into the washer and even felt some splash out onto my feet. Then, I saw the sign that said, “Wait to add bleach until ‘Add bleach’ light comes on.” Oops. Stay in school kids, so you can follow directions.

I stood there thinking about what to do now. My blankets were white, so at first, I thought I would just load them first to avoid bleaching out the red sheets. Then, it occurred to me that I had not put my money in the machine yet. If I switched machines, I would only be losing a cup full of detergent and the bleach that I had poured in.

And, I would just like to take a moment to apologize to whoever decides to use the machine I abandoned. I still feel really guilty about leaving the machine. However, if you take the time to read the directions, they say, “Check machine before placing clothing inside.” Hopefully, you can read better than I can.

I got all four loads of laundry going and waited. Really, by the time I navigated my way through loading dirty clothes, pouring detergent and feeding quarters to the machines, the first machine was just about finished. There wasn’t much time to wait.

As the machines finished, I took the wet clothes and loaded them into the monster dryers. These suckers were so big, a family could live in there. (Note to self…remember that if things don’t work out at your mother-in-law’s house.)

I started loading quarters into the machine, but it wasn’t working. I stood there for a minute, attempting to actually READ the directions and realized I was feeding them in the wrong slot.

And, allow me just to take a moment here to say, “You’re welcome” to whoever got an extra 30 minutes of drying time from my stupidity. Maybe that random act (accidental, yet still random) of kindness will make up for the bleach incident. Karma, are we even now??

I went to the Suburban to wait for the dryers to finish. As I sat there, two extremely homeless looking gentlemen walked up and were standing between my car and the Laundromat. They were looking around, nervously, as though they were up to something. One seemed to keep watch while the other one went into the Laundromat. I started to panic because my clothes and laundry baskets were in there with the suspicious man. Then, I realized I hate my clothes anyway and all my laundry baskets are broken from years of abuse, so I had nothing to lose. I had already made up my mind just to let them have whatever they wanted.

I sat there, kicking myself (Okay, that would be impossible – don’t be so literal!) for going to the Laundromat alone on a Friday night. What was I thinking? I was going to be murdered by homeless men, and my clothes were going to be stolen, and it was all because I was too lazy to walk upstairs. (I’m telling you, they are really steep!). The homeless dude outside the building kept looking around, making sure no one was coming. The one inside turned the corner and disappeared out of sight. A few minutes later, he came out, moving very quickly. He had cash in his hand and was moving toward his bike. In a flash, they were gone (okay, it was more of a shuffle and a pedal than a flash, but you get my point).

I sat and pondered what I had just witnessed. Was it a drug deal? Did the guy inside steal something? The only room that was open and unlocked that he could have gone into was the bathroom. There was an office, but it was locked. There wasn’t even anyone else in the Laundromat at that time, so what could he possibly have done?

I waited until the men were out of sight, and then I went back in the Laundromat. As soon as I entered the building, I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, what the guy had done. It involved the bathroom, and it was overpowering the smell of fabric softener.

Luckily, my clothes were dry, or at least, dry enough. I loaded them into my hampers, while holding my breath and breathing through my mouth. I got my stuff and moved to the door as quickly as I could. As I was leaving with my last load, a family entered to start their laundry. They smelled the smell and all looked at me as though I had done it. In my mind, I was saying, “It wasn’t me! I didn’t do it!” The people pleaser in me wanted to be sure they knew that hideous smell had not been created by me. However, the new, reformed “I don’t care what you think” person looked them in the eye, smiled and said, “Have a pleasant night!” I was proud of myself as I got in my car. I had conquered the Laundromat, and I had let others think badly of me while not caring. Yay me! With all this progress, I wonder what tomorrow holds in store. -Al

My parents, my sister and I have a custom that is not very nice. If someone (within our family) has a pimple or a bump on their face, we’ll point at it and say, “You have a pimple…” This has to be said in a southern dialect. (We typically avoid doing this to strangers.) We do this as a joke, but it was started by my grandmother. She wasn’t joking, and she was very southern. When my sister and I were teenagers, if we had a pimple, she would be sure to point it out. We’d walk in the room, and she’d point and say, “You have a pimple…” Um, yeah. Thanks, Grandmother. And you have wrinkles.

When I was a teenager, I was so self-conscious about pimples. I can’t imagine why. It might have something to do with the old lady who pointed them out to me. Regardless of the reason, I can remember being horrified when I would have one. I usually didn’t get normal, everyday pimples. Oh, no, my friends. That would be too average. I would get the big, monster, underground pimples that would rise to the surface of my skin like a volcano waiting to burst. They were usually big and shiny and red. They were hideous. I would use cover-up to try and camouflage them, but Mount St. Helens could not be hidden.

When I was about 14, my mother took me to a dermatologist. Now, before I go further with this story, let me clarify something. I did not have a pizza face. In fact, most of the time, unless I was sporting a volcano, I did not have pimples in sight at all. Thank goodness, I never got them on my cheeks. Usually, they were on my chin and nose. Mt. Vesuvius would occasionally rear its ugly head between my eyebrows. Otherwise, I was free and clear. Unless you lifted my bangs.

Under my bangs, I had a minefield waiting to explode. I typically only had about 10 to 15 zits under there, but it was enough to alarm my mother. Therefore, to the dermatologist’s office we went. The doctor, we’ll call him Doc (It took me a while to think up that nickname), would treat my forehead with some kind of liquid gas (Don’t ask me…I don’t know) that he would rub on my forehead. I’m not sure it actually worked, but it felt kind of good, especially on a hot Florida day.

As if having to go to the dermatologist was not hard enough on my fragile teenaged self-image, this particular doctor was even worse. This man was about five foot-nothing. He was a little bitty Asian man, and I was a big white girl. Every time I had to see him, he would reach up and put his hands on my broad shoulders and tell my mother, “She big. She big strong girl. She big and healthy. Big strong girl.” That’ll make ya feel good about yourself, let me tell you. I used to dread going to him, because I hated being told how big and strong I was. Maybe if I had been a boy, it would have been pleased at his statements, but I was, and still am, indeed, a girl. Just a note to little Asian men out there…big white girls do not like to be told how big and strong they are.

So, after the visits to Doc ended, the volcanoes continued to erupt on my face. I just held onto the hope that someday, I would grow up and quit getting pimples.

In my twenties, I kept waiting for the change in my skin to happen. When I was pregnant, I got extra pimples. I did not find that fair at all. I mean, it was bad enough that I was as big as a house. Couldn’t my skin at least look good?

In my thirties, the volcanoes kept coming. I tried to console myself by saying they at least made me look younger. Why, I was practically a teenager with all the zits I was getting!

There was a week and a half in the second half of my 38th year when I thought the volcanoes had moved on to someone else. Then, they came back. With a vengeance.

Now, in my forties, they are still with me. Recently, I thought about the fact that I hadn’t had a volcano in a while. Then, a few days later, I woke up feeling like a unicorn. I had a big ole’ zit right between my eyes. It was so big, I could see it through the corners of my eyes. I was pretty convinced it was a horn breaking through the skin. I was really excited about being a mystical creature. However, I was disappointed when it popped and no horn came out. Oh, the disappointment.

So, here’s the thing. I used to care. I used to spend a lot of money on cover-up (which, by the way, never actually covered anything). Now, I really don’t care anymore. A few years ago, I taught a class of teenaged girls at church. I was horrified when I woke up and saw a volcano erupting on my chin. I was really struggling with the idea of speaking to them while they were staring at my zit. I knew I would never be judged more than while standing in front of a class of high school girls. So, I decided just to face it head-on (pardon the pun). I stood in front of the class and said, “Okay, girls. Let’s get this over with. It’s a zit. See it? It’s a beauty. Get a good look…….. Okay. You’ve seen it. Let’s get on with class.”

Since then, the volcanoes have not embarrassed me anymore. I figure, we all get them. At least I’m a big, strong girl and I can handle it. I figure, I’ll have them until I die, so as long as I get zits, I know I’m still alive.  -Al

Now, I know what you’re thinking. I have barely written anything in months, and now, I’m going to make my return to blogging by talking about my husband’s dirty drawers. Odd, huh?  I know. It’s not average. I found it appropriate, though, to bust back into my blog by writing a tale for you of my husband and dirty clothes. Now, don’t worry, I’m not going to embarrass him. Much. Contrary to popular belief, I don’t actually try to embarrass my family. In fact, I filter what I write for you so they don’t get embarrassed. (Imagine what life is REALLY like at our house if this is only the filtered version!)

No, I hate to disappoint you, but I’m not going to tell you about my husband’s tidy whities or whatever kind of underwear he wears. (See how evasive I was there?) Though, I will say, after almost 21 years of marriage, the man still folds his dirty clothes to put them in a hamper. There are just some bad habits that won’t die. That really does drive me crazy. I’ve told him from the beginning that if he has time to fold something, I will be happy to provide clean clothes for his folding pleasures.

I actually want to tell you about Mr. Everything and the washer and dryer. Sorry.  Not nearly as exciting as tidy whities.

Our washer and dryer came from my in-laws. They gave the machines to Mr. E before he and I got married. My in-laws bought them used. In 1981. Um. Yeah. The machines are older than some of you probably are. I was about 7 or 8 when they were made. That’s REALLY old.

When Mr. E and I first got married, I had a new house (well, at least it was new to me) and new furniture. I had new dishes and new towels. I really, really wanted a new washer and dryer. Every time those old dinosaurs would sputter or spew, I would look at them loathingly and say, “Die, die, die,” under my breath. However, over and over and over, Mr. Everything would resuscitate them. That’s the problem with being married to the man who can do anything. He can fix everything, whether you want him to or not.

I can’t tell you how many times I got my hopes up that the dinos were dead, only to have my hopes dashed by the phrase, “I fixed it.” Then, I would have to thank him and be, sigh, happy that he could fix anything. I would tell him he was a genius while in my mind thinking, “Just my luck.” Through the years, the man has replaced every part in both machines at least twice.

Fast forward a few years, a failed business and several new layers of financial despair later, and my attitude has changed. Now, when I hear my dinosaurs struggling, I pledge my undying love to them. “Oh washer, I don’t care that you’ve eaten holes in half my clothes, I love you. Stay with me.” “Oh dryer, don’t go to the light…”  Now, I dread the day when the machinery funeral will take place. How ever will I live without the dinosaurs?

I must say, just like old cars and old people, my old laundry machines have become much more high maintenance. While they used to break down yearly, they now break down monthly. More, if we let the Goose near them.

Two weeks ago, the Goose managed to knock out both machines in one day. I’ve talked to her about not loading the washer too full. If you do, it gets hungry and eats things. There’s no telling what you’ll pull out of the machine if put too much in. However, she didn’t listen, bless her pea-pickin’ heart. She loaded that bad boy down so heavy, a shiny new model couldn’t have handled it. She had a heavy bathrobe, 4 towels, 3 pair of jeans, 7 shirts and other various and sundry items in my washer. Needless to say, the washer gave up the ghost right in the middle the spin cycle. The Goose, not realizing she had committed murder, took the sopping wet clothes from the washer and put them in the dryer. The dryer sighed its last sigh and just stopped. We ended up with a huge, heavy load of spoiled, smelly wet clothes and 2 dead dinosaurs. (Well, dead if I were married to anyone else....)

Mr. E took the dryer apart and discovered it was the something-belt. (Sorry. I should pay more attention when he’s talking so I can get my facts straight.) He ordered one from EBay for $4.76, and the dryer was back in business. The washer? Not so much. It is currently still in a coma, but we are praying for the best. The doctor (Mr. E) seems to think the old dinosaur will pull out of it, but it’s still touch and go. Meanwhile, I have made the decree that if and when our beloved washer comes back to us, I am to inspect and approve all loads of laundry before they can get within 12 feet of either machine. I must protect the endangered species in my laundry room.

For now, I am just thankful Mr. E can fix, well, everything. Now, if he would get around to fixing my washer a little faster, I would appreciate it.  -Al

Lately, I’ve been showing off my superpower a little too well.  I wish I didn’t have this power, but I do, and I bet many other people feel like they do too.  What is my power?  Well, you see, I’m invisible. I don’t mean I’m literally invisible. If I were, I wouldn’t have to figure out what to wear every day. Now, that’s a superpower I could get used to!  No, I mean I am invisible in life.

What does it mean to be invisible?

Invisibility does not mean that no one ever notices me or speaks to me. On the contrary, I get spoken to often. I know many people, and I even run into people when I go to the store. Invisibility in my case means I get overlooked. People think they know me, but they really don’t.  There are about 4.3 people in the whole world who actually know me, know how I feel and know what I think. There are others who think they know me.  Then, there is the vast majority of the people around me – they don’t actually care what I feel, know or think. They are nice enough to me, but they don’t actually care past the generic conversation of, “How are you?” and, “Fine, thanks.”  Thus, the feeling of invisibility.

Invisibility means getting overlooked for recognition at work. It means, even if you have striven for excellence, you will be deemed mediocre.  It means not getting invited to parties or other social events. It means, in a social setting, the chair beside me will be the last one to be filled.  Then, whoever fills it will turn to the person on the other side of them and chat with them the whole time.  Meanwhile, I’ll sit in silence, unless one of the 4.3 people who really know me happen to be at the event with me. Then, I’ll talk to them.

I would guess many people reading this understand what I’m talking about.  You get it, because you, too, are invisible.  You are forgotten, overlooked, misunderstood and disregarded.  Join me.  We’ll form a club.  I’m not sure how we’ll meet though, since we probably won’t notice each other in public.

If you are reading this and thinking, “I have no idea what she is talking about,” well, then, bless your heart.  You are part of the other side of life…the remembered, the invited, the cared for and the appreciated.  You’re probably skinny too.  And pretty.  And you have good hair.  If you don’t understand my words, you can stop reading now.  You’re fixed!  Congratulations!  Now, go eat some chocolate and RSVP to that party invitation you just got in your inbox.

Is anyone still with me?  Yes?  Great!  Well, great for me.  Bad for you, because it means you are invisible.  Sorry about your luck.

I’ve been dealing with this phenomenon now for enough years that you would think I would have it figured out, but I don’t.  Most of the time, I can ignore it and just go on with my business.  However, every once in a while, something big enough happens to smack me in the face.  That happened recently, and boy, did it hurt.  Sometimes, I can bounce back quickly, but this time, I’m struggling to pull out of the bad mood funk this hit created.

I don’t have the answers to invisibility.  I don’t know how to make others care about me or notice me.  I’m pretty sure it’s not possible, because I’ve been trying for 41 years.

Back when the Beetle was little, I used to plan activities and get-togethers for kids his age and their mothers.  I hosted parties.  I hosted teas.  I cleaned my house for people to come over.  As long as I planned the events, I was included in the fun.  However, I got overwhelmed and had to stop doing so much.  I quit planning as many activities.  Before I knew it, I was hearing about activities that were taking place without me.  There were birthday parties, picnics, swimming parties and more, all involving the children I had been hosting at my house.  At that time, I still believed I could overcome the invisibility (I was young and naïve), so I went to a mom who was planning an event.  I told her I had heard about the event but I hadn’t gotten an invitation, and I asked if we were invited.  She said of course we were and she would send the invitation to me.  I never got it.  Shocker.  I went back to the same mom and asked her if I had done something to offend her or anyone else in the group.  She said not that she knew of.  I told her I was feeling really left out and asked if there was a reason we were not being included. (Man, I was bold in my younger years!)  She apologized and said I must have been overlooked but they would include me in the future.  I never got invited to another event with that group. 

I’m not telling you this to make you feel sorry for me or to make you say, “Oh, we love you! We do!” I know people care about me.  I know, if I needed anything, there would be people who helped me, showed concern for me and took care of me.  Many people have proven that in the past in times of trouble.  In that way, I am not invisible, and for all the help we have been given in times of trouble, I am eternally grateful.

The invisibility I’m talking about is more of a day to day phenomenon.  At work, at church, in the grocery store and in life, I am invisible.  I'm not asked.  I'm not invited.  I'm not recognized.  I'm not remembered.  I’ve been struggling to write, struggling to comment on Facebook and struggling to live life because my invisibility has kicked my butt lately.  I was hesitant to post this blog, because I don’t want pity.  There is nothing to receive pity about.  I don’t want extra attention.  I don’t want people to try to convince me that they can see me.  I just wanted to share.  My hope is, if there are other people out there who feel invisible, this post will help them.  Like I said, I don’t have answers, so I can’t help you by solving your problems.  However, I hope knowing there is someone else out there who is invisible might encourage you.  If you’re in a grey funk like I’ve been in for the last week, I hope the fog lifts soon.  And I hope you are seen. -Al

This is a first for Not Your Average Al....A guest blogger!  I figured, if she had something to say, I might as well let her say it. Apparently, from my lack of writing lately, I've got nothing..... Enjoy! -Al

ank you to my sister who is definitely Not Your Average Al for letting me guest blog. I have something I need to get off my chest and since I don’t have a blog of my own, she is a gracious hostess.

Here’s a little background on me since I don’t know most of you. I will call myself Guinevere. I am older than Al but have younger kids. I had a trial run marriage. That’s a polite way of saying I married an idiot. I rectified that and married my Mr. Everything (we’ll call him Lancelot) 15 years ago. We have 3 children: a 13-year-old daughter (Iris) and 10-year-old boy/girl twins (Axel and Ariel). We are happily married, but we have our moments, just like everyone (except for Al and Mr. E).

Our children are in public school. We do not homeschool, and we will never homeschool. Why do I feel this important to mention? I am a Facebook user, just like many of you. I posted about one of the twins having nightmares and not being able to sleep. I asked for any advice to get through this. I got some great advice, including praying before bed and checking the room. That’s what worked, and we still pray together each night before bed; the child can now sleep each night. I also received a very negative piece of advice that if I homeschooled instead of being selfish and putting my children in public school so that I could have time for myself during the day, my child would be well-adjusted and would not be exposed to the negative influences of public school. WHAT? How does that help me get my kid to sleep? For that matter, how does raising my blood pressure get me to sleep?

I have been composing a response for over a month now and a snarky Facebook post from the same person recently has led to me actually put this in writing.

Why do I chose not to homeschool? Right now, you are thinking I am going to bash homeschoolers. Wrong! I have the utmost respect for parents who homeschool as well as parents who choose public school, private school, charter school or any of the other choices of schools available these days. Lancelot and I have chosen to put our children in public school and so far, so good. Iris is in the 8th grade in all honors classes and is taking 3 high school credit courses. She has made 2 B’s in her life and is proud to be an honor student. She is on-track to graduate high school with many college courses under her belt. Axel and Ariel are in the 4th grade at a great elementary school. We have requested teachers each year, and the principal has always worked to accommodate our choice of teachers. They are both in the advanced program for math and science and are always on the honor roll. Iris is going to take a virtual class over the summer to get a required course out of the way so she can take an extra AP course in 9th grade. She sounds extremely unadjusted, right?

Do I feel that I am dumping my children in public school so I can have a break during the day? NO! I wish I could sit on the couch and eat bon-bons all day long. Lancelot and I both work full time and are involved in extra activities. We are both social workers and provide benefit coordination to people with unique needs. Lancelot typically carries a caseload of 60 to 80 elderly individuals, and I maintain a caseload of 39 to 43 individuals with developmental disabilities. We both work extremely hard, and I can assure you, social workers paid through the Florida Medicaid system are not highly paid. We do the best we can with what we have, and our children do not lack for anything, including time with their parents.  So, I ask, when would I homeschool? I want my children to have a good education, and I am intelligent enough to realize that 2 parents working 50+ hours per week are not going to be able to provide the time needed for a complete education.  I applaud those of you, including my little sister, Al, who have dedicated yourselves to educating your children. Of course, Al, also works like a dog, but she finds the time to manage her children’s education too. But, I also applaud those of us that have dedicated our lives to serving others AND providing the best experiences possible for our children. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to the education question.

I have many friends who homeschool. One of my favorite families from church has a set of lovely twins who are seniors this year. They are homeschooled and have been accepted to a fabulous school. Their mother is a saint, and they are the nicest people of all time. Do I think they are nice because they are homeschooled and not exposed to the “bad kids” of public school? NO! I think they are nice and responsible because that is how their parents raised them. Are there homeschooled kids that will become mass murders? Yes. Are there public school children who will become pastors and priests? Yes. Public school did not give my child nightmares. A child whose parents allow him to be exposed to adult movies and situations scared my child. Could this have just as easily have happened at church? Yes.

Lancelot and I are doing our best. We love our children, and we provide them with every opportunity available. We are not a theme park affording, expensive vacation taking family. We are a movie night and game night with the kids family. We go to church and get involved in the activities our children are passionate about. Iris enjoys youth group at church, and Lancelot and I are right there with her. Axel is a Webelos Scout, and Lancelot is his den leader and will be the Packmaster starting in March. Ariel is still stretching her wings and deciding which activities she wants to try because we walked away from her previous activity, but when she flies, we will be right beside her.

I will end here, but watch for another guest spot where I address some of the craziness of raising a mini-me teenage daughter!

Thank you again to Al for letting me express myself!


When I was in school, I hated all things science.  I’m not sure why that is, but I think my disdain started around 7th grade.  It may have been due to the teacher who constantly harped on us that snakes were our friends.  I began to realize I could not trust anything this woman had to say if she seriously believed snakes were good.  Or, it could have been the science fair project.  Same year, different semester.

We had to do a science fair project, and I was less than thrilled. Somehow, I came up with the hair-brained idea to test the effects of overcrowding in goldfish. Mama and I bought two goldfish bowls.  In the first bowl, we placed one happy little fish.  In the other one, we placed 25 not-nearly-as-content fish. Then, we watched and waited. The results really were non-existent, because I don’t think I gave the fish long enough to enjoy their time together in the bowl. However, my hypothesis was that the overcrowded fish would start dying and would eat each other. (The reality was, they started stinking and pooping even more.)  Now, I have a few observations about this project:

1.       Why in the world did I want to do that? I have no idea. I guess it sounded easier than building something or mixing chemicals together.

2.       I can’t believe my teacher allowed me to do that. In today’s time, I would probably be arrested for animal cruelty.

On the day of the science fair, I took my fish to school. When I didn’t win the science fair (shocker there, I know…), I told the teacher she could have my fish. I didn’t want them.  They smelled bad.  So, my teacher, the snake lover, took the fish and put them in a big aquarium. As she put the filter in and air started flowing, the fish started floating to the top of the tank, one at a time. The woman murdered 26 goldfish right in front of the class. (Today, the children would need grief counseling.)  I cried. All at once, these fish went from being the victims of my weird science project to being my most valued pets. I was outraged that my teacher had murdered, nay massacred, my beloved fish!  With all the drama I could muster in my twelve year old self, I cried and cried. The snake lover was not moved by my tears, and I was told to get back to work.  I turned off the tears and got back to work, because I was nothing if not obedient. At lunch that day, we had fish sticks. Oh, the humanity…

When I was in 9th grade, I took biology.  I would rather have cut off my right arm and donated it in the name of science than to have endured that class. The fruit flies were bad enough (What, exactly, were we supposed to learn from that??), but the finger-pricking and dissection pushed me right over the edge.  Oh, yes, my friend, you read me correctly.  Finger pricking.  With a needle.  Welcome to the late 80s.  We were made to prick our own fingers so we could test our blood type.  Though I was typically not dramatic and was always obedient, this was one issue I could not budge on. I was offended by the fact that the teacher could MAKE us prick our fingers.  In a rare moment of defiance, I crossed my arms, shook my head and said I wasn’t doing it.  I meant it too. (Come to think of it, this might be where the Beetle and the Goose get their strong-willed streaks from…)  The teacher told me I would get an F on the project if I did not prick my finger.  I told her to mark it in her book because I wasn’t doing it.  (This really was a very rare outburst of defiance from me.)  She said I had to do the project, and I asked her why.  She said because it was part of the class, and I said I didn’t care.  She told me to prick my finger, and I told her to let me prick hers first.  I think I made her mad.  She had two big guys hold me while she pricked my finger.  Seriously.  Where was the 5:00 news crew when I needed them?  The result?  I’m A+, thanks for asking.  I also was positive I loathed science.  That day sealed the deal.

Later in the semester, we began dissecting things.  I saw no point in this.  My public education had not allowed me to learn anything hands-on for the last nine years, so why, now, were they so concerned about me getting my hands into science?  I didn’t get it, and I was having no part of it.  We dissected an earthworm, a big nasty frog and a sweet little pink fetal pig.  Let me correct that, my class dissected those animals.  I never touched a single one.  Never.  Ever.

You see, there is value in being able to write well. It means your writing can earn you good grades.  Therefore, I just found a lab partner who was a terrible writer, and I told her it was a match made in heaven.  I made a deal with her that if she would touch the carcasses, I would do the writing.  She wanted to shake on it, but I declined. (She had been touching dead things, after all.)  So, for the rest of the year, I never actually participated in a biology project again.  I just wrote about it.

So, a year ago, when the Goose started asking to dissect animals, I was horrified.  I told Mr. E she had to get this from his side of the family, because I did not *do* dissection.  The Goose begged.  She had dissected a starfish with a friend of mine, Super-mom, as I like to call her, since she’s the only mom I know brave enough to gather 8 little girls in her home and let them cut up dead animals.  The ooshy gooshy starfish was enough to turn my stomach, but it awakened the inner scientist in my child.  Oh, yippee.  So, the Goose finally convinced me to look online for somewhere to order animals for dissection.  I found a place and looked through the obituaries, I mean, catalog.  I told the Goose that I would not dissect anything with her, and I told her if she could convince her father, I would order the animals. She asked Mr. E one time, and he said, “Sure.  Why not?”  “Why not?” I thought, “I can list about 100 reasons.” 

So, about ten months ago, I ordered the pig.  I also ordered an owl pellet (that would be dried vomit with bones in it, in case you aren’t familiar) and a gecko.  The Goose dissected the owl pellet and loved every minute of it.  She kept the bones of the rodent and put them in a Ziplock bag.  It was enough to gross out the Beetle and me.  Maybe he’s my only real child.  She must have been switched at birth.

The gecko ended up being nothing more than an average, everyday lizard like we avoid on our Florida sidewalks.  I can’t believe I paid money for it, but it’s too small to attempt to dissect.

That left the fetal pig. The Goose wanted to name him. I told her that was unnatural. She’s been asking for months to cut him up, but between moving and moving, who has had time? So, this week was deemed as “the week” by the Goose.  I agreed, because I figured, why not get it over with?

The Goose and I studied a virtual dissection online, trying to prepare for the big day. Just the photos were enough to make my skin crawl. I told Mr. E earlier this week that this was THE week and asked which day he preferred. He said, “Why do I have to do it?”  “Oh, no, no, no, my friend. You can’t play that game with me,” I said.  He said, “What game?”  Then, I refreshed his memory of the discussion we had BEFORE I ordered the fetal pig. He finally gave in and said Friday could be the day.

The Goose was so excited, she invited a friend over.  You know what they say, “Friends who dissect together…..”  (Yeah, I don’t know what they say either.)  So, the Goose and her friend were ready for the big moment of dissection.  I was ready for it too.  I left to go to lunch with Willow.  Mr. Everything started to protest before I left, but I reminded him that he agreed to it.  He really is a good daddy and husband.  (As I told him while I was slowly walking toward the door.)

By the time I got back, the cutting was done. The back patio table looked a little like a crime scene, but at least I didn’t have to witness the crime. The Goose and her friend were happy, and all was good in the world.  Mr. E looked a little shell-shocked, but I think he survived.

Now, I just wonder what the Goose will want to dissect next, and I wonder who I can convince to do it with her? Any volunteers?  Super-mom, are you reading this?  -Al

Months after the Goose had her ears pierced for the second time, she still would not take them out.  The backs of her ears looked gross, like skin had grown over the earring backs.  She wouldn’t let me touch them, and she was missing her very first softball games because of them.  I had to do something.  After a week of having nightmares about getting the earrings out, the time had come.  I had a plan, and it was going to work.

On *the* night, I made sure the Goose was sound asleep.  I enlisted Mr. E to help me, although I really wouldn’t need him.  I tip toed into the Goose’s room.  I’m not sure why I tip toed.  The child can sleep through a tornado.  I could have gone screaming into her room, and she probably wouldn’t have woken up.  I went in and climbed in bed with the Goose.  She was flat on her back.  Perfect.  I pulled her blankets up over her, making sure her arms were inside.  Then, I sat on the blankets.  I had created a bedtime straight jacket.  My plan was going to work.  I sat there for a minute, just looking at the Goose and how peaceful she was.  She really was so sweet when she was sleeping.  Then, I took a deep breath and began to work.  I started on the right ear, and I pulled and pulled and pulled.  I got the earring out, and the Goose did not even wake up.

The left earring was the problem.  It was the one that was on too tight and skin cells had crusted over it in the back.  I began working on getting the back off.  The Goose woke up and began screaming at the top of her voice.  She had no idea what was going on.  All she knew was someone was sitting on her and touching her ears.  I’m not even sure she was awake, but she was mad with a capital M.  She screamed some more just to be sure I’d heard her.  The Beetle came storming out of his room, ready to defend his little sister from whatever harm was being done to her.  That was a little reassuring to know that, should something happen in the middle of the night, at least he would come to her aide.

The Goose struggled and wiggled and fought, but she couldn’t get her arms free.  As bad as this sounds, by the end of it, Mr. E and I were laughing hysterically.  The Beetle was also laughing.  The Goose?  Not so much.  I’m pretty sure if and when she goes to counseling as an adult, she’ll have plenty to talk about.  Regardless of the emotional toil, the second earring came out, and all was right with the world.

The next day, I tried to convince the Goose to put another pair of earrings in, but she wanted no part of it.  She’d had the earrings for months, so I knew the holes would stay open for a while.  For a week, I tried my best to talk her into putting in more earrings.  My stubborn little Goose refused, and the holes closed up.  I told her she would regret that decision, but she disagreed.  She said she never, ever, ever wanted to wear earrings again.

Never ever lasted about a year and a half.  Now, the almost teenaged Goose is growing a little more concerned about her appearance.  I see her checking the mirror and checking it twice.  So, about a month ago, she said she wanted earrings.  I told her I was sorry, but we’d already been down that road.  Twice.  She asked if she could get her ears pierced if she paid for it.  I said, “Knock yourself out.”

Christmas came along, and the Goose got money.  The day after Christmas, I had to go to the mall for something (how did I let that happen???), and the family went with me.  This wasn’t our local mall.  This was a mall that was a 45 minute drive from our house. 

Before we left the mall, the Goose sweetly said, “Can I please get my ears pierced?”  Not remembering that she had gotten money for Christmas, I told her no.  She asked why not, and I said I wasn’t paying for it.  She reminded me that she had money, and I gave in.  We went to Claire’s.  Again.

On the third piercing, the Goose did not even cry or wince.  She said there, matter of fact, as holes were punched in her ears.  She had her ears pierced, and we were good to go.  Finally, the Goose had her earrings.

The next day, we went to EPCOT.  Late in the day, the Goose exclaimed, “OH NO!”  I had flashbacks to the time she left her cell phone on the airplane (you can read that little adventure HERE), and I immediately looked to see if she had her backpack.  She did, so I wasn’t sure what she was yelling about.  Then, I looked at her.  She had one earring.  The right ear had, once again, rejected the earring.  She wanted to retrace our steps to see if she could find the missing earring.  Looking around at the 100,000 people around us, I didn’t think that was such a good idea.  I told her I would call Claire’s the next day to see what they could do.

So, the next day, I called.  The manager was friendly, but she told me she couldn’t do anything.  She said if we had the earring, we could bring it in and she would trade it out for a sterile one and repierce the Goose’s ear.  However, since the earring was gone, she couldn’t do anything.  Teetering on a big ole’ hissy fit, I firmly, but politely, told her that we had paid Claire’s three times for piercing.  I firmly told her that I did expect them to do something to make it right since this was the second time we’d had a new earring fall out.  She sighed and agreed.  (Thank goodness.  It was going to get ugly.)  The manager said to bring the Goose in, and she would pierce her ear.  Again.  I asked if we could just go to our local mall, but she said she would have to do it.  *Sigh.*

The Goose and I drove 45 minutes back to the mall.  The manager was friendly enough and pierced the ear right away.  So, maybe the fourth time is a charm.  All I know is, the Goose has had the earrings for 5 days, and they are both still in her ears.  I hope all goes well.  Softball season is coming soon.  -Al