Friday, February 27, 2015


My daughter's 4-H group is putting together a crab themed basket for a quarter auction this weekend.  I was supposed to find something to add to it, but I am finding that to be difficult.  Now, being in Maryland you would think that would be easy, but due to the dearth of retail establishments and the theme of the task, it like the back of the fridge it's just something I would like to pretend doesn't exist.

I can tolerate small shrimp, the texture is not too bad, but larger shrimp, lobsters and crab are beyond consideration.  First is the texture, it feels gristly. Not pleasant.  Then there is the smell, again shrimp are by far the least offenders, but lobsters and crabs repulse me.  I want to hold my breath when they are being cooked, and to sit next to someone who is ripping them apart and spattering the whole table with their rotting kelp strewn shoreline, low-tide scented juices makes me want to run for the mountains.  They smell a little too much like that chicken casserole.

Having avoided everything crab and every event involving crab, I am an alien to crab culture.  I know there are special utensils, customs and attire for the events--but how these are materials are located and used is beyond me.  I'm from chowda-n-clamcake-land, I could write for hours about the customs and shades of meaning in the sentence, "I'd like a cuppa chowda." Red? White? Clear? Ethnic spin? Thick? Thin? Salt pork? Bacon? Sausage? Milk or cream?  This is a culture I am comfortable with, crabs--blue or red? No.

I took a 12 hour break from writing.

 I have now successfully found and delivered the crabby item.  I was heading to the sculpture garden today, so I checked the gift shop.  Within a minute of my inquiry about all things crabby, I was holding a really nice crab keychain that will help to secure a bow to the top of the gift basket.  Nothing too weird or smelly necessary to complete my mission, I'lve had enough smelly for this week.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Fridge Spelunking

The backyard had 7 inches of snow, I didn't feel like the walk to the compost bin, so it sat.  The seven inches of snow morphed into 4 inches of slush and now it is 2 inches of slush and ice with bare patches in between.  It has been my silent justification to myself for why I didn't have to haul the compost and since the compost wasn't emptied I couldn't spelunk  into the back of the fridge to find the old leftovers that I knew were there, but I kept denying that they really needed to go, just yet.

Those with weak stomachs or the New Englanders laughing at my mere seven inches of snow can stop reading now.

Then yesterday my husband, a sweet man with little olfactory sensation (there needs to be a word for someone immune to the stink of mold and rot, if you know one let me know), said, "Ooooooooh, there's something in there that has really got to go."

Then this morning my daughter, who wisely will never admit to seeing dirt or mess for fear of being assigned clean up duty, said, "Ooooooh, why do I smell compost?" while sitting at the breakfast table. It had to be bad.

I knew what it was.  I was just denying its existence.  I was hoping I could pretend and it would go away.  It was a casserole that I had made with leftover chicken that did not win rave reviews, so the leftovers never went into lunches.  It lurked on the bottom shelf behind plastic containers with a few noodles, a quarter cup of baked beans and all the cat food that Aggie won't eat cold.  It kept being pushed a little farther back, until I almost forgot that it was there.  Luckily, it is really cold there and some stuff freezes, so it wasn't as putrid as it could have been.

I have yet to figure out how to delegate the task of cleaning the fridge.  I think I'd have to hire someone and pay them a lot of money and put a bit in a 401K for someone to take over the task.

Today was deemed to be the day by the olfactory challenged family.

I made a cup of tea.

What else does one do at a time like that?

I screwed up the courage to face the dateless whole wheat spaghetti, dried out take out rice, fuzzy not quite a single serving of tomato sauce, and the mysterious blue furry Rubbermaid container.  I pushed passed the Friskies can with the plastic cover that says "kitty cat food" -which Aggie refutes, on top.  I found the Pyrex bowl with its matching cover waiting for me.  Its beige and pink tones told me more than I wanted to know.  I doubled some garbage bags, turned on the ventilation fan, turned up the music in hope that sensory overload would cancel out the odor.  As I reached for it, I stopped breathing through my nose.  I placed it on the counter, checked my preparations, turned the Depeche Mode up little louder, and freed the demon inside.  In a smooth move I lifted the cover with one hand and simultaneously tipped it into the waiting bags.  It all went as planned.  Aggie came in to check out what ever it was that was dead in the kitchen and the dog was right behind him.  The stench must have been overpowering, because both the cat and Stella were within two feet of each other and oblivious to each other.

I quickly tied my knots and hauled the bag outside.  There it will freeze hard and I will drop it off at the landfill later this week.  I'll make sure it is the coldest day possible.  I just hope it doesn't reanimate, like the leftovers in Calvin and Hobbes, and come get me.

I need another cup of tea.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

A $400 Fart and More

For a while there i was having trouble thinking of what to write about, after all every good story needs a bit of conflict, a problem to solve--a little excitement, well, it just wasn't there to write about.  Last week however, there was a little too much.

Last Tuesday my daughter had an orthopedist appointment in Baltimore, she inherited my unfortunate gene contribution and ended up with scoliosis (curvature of the spine).  I spent several adolescent years encased in a barbaric plastic structure called a scoliosis brace, I wouldn't wish it on anyone, especially on a hot, humid day.  So, the day the pediatrician looked up at me and said that she detected minor scoliosis, I had to swallow the giant lump in my throat to tell her that two people in the previous generation have it.

Suddenly, I'm hauling my previously healthy as a horse kid for x-rays and specialist appointments.  Tuesday was the day.  I was dreading it.  My experience was not stellar as a kid.  I remember going into the scoliosis clinic at Rhode Island Hospital thirty some odd years ago.  I remember starting the day with x-rays and then sitting for hours waiting on uncomfortable chairs with my brace biting into me and my legs going to sleep.  If I didn't know that I missed near full days of school to do this, I would chalk it up to my memory blowing it up bigger than it was, but I remember.  I remember getting hungry at my school lunch time, knowing that it could be several more hours until I would get a chance to eat, because there was no way to know when they were actually going to call you into the examining room. 


I knew that I sometimes waited an hour and a half inside the examination room in my little open backed outfit, freezing (according to what I've read recently us redheads have a mutated gene that makes us more sensitive to heat and cold), hoping the doctor would come, so that I could get dressed.  Only once do I remember the doctor coming in quickly, I was undressed and didn't even have my open backed outfit on. He opened the door and walked right in with four or five medical students.  I was horrified.  I was five foot ten, maybe 110 lbs and about 14 years old--and in walks a class while I'm naked.  No "Excuse us." or anything, I couldn't even speak. The class entered and then the doctor with his creepy handlebar mustache asked if it would be okay if they came in.   They took my silent rage as assent.  I still get angry thinking of the scene.

Now it came to be my daughter's turn.  I don't think either of us slept well.  We seemed in super-slow-mo getting ready and needed to run around a bit near the end.  Fifteen minutes before we were due out of the door I woke the dog up, so that I could feed and walk her.  She has never liked mornings and seemed especially sluggish.  When she walked into the light of the kitchen, I think I screamed, or at least stifled one.  She was bloated like an engorged tick.  Her legs looked like little sticks trying to bend around her huge belly.  She struggled to walk.  She was trembling and her eyes appeared full of pain.  A day and a half before she had again attempted to eat the upholstered chair that matches our couch, the vet calls it a dietary indiscretion.  I feared that some of the foam had become lodged in her system or that she had developed bloat, which could be fatal.



I rushed into the office to google the location of a local emergency vet, all the while trying to figure out how I was going to leave for the appointment in Baltimore and get the dog to the vet at the same time.  The emergency vet had already left for the morning and the wouldn't be anyone there to help her for two hours.  My dog's regular vet would open in forty-five minutes, but I was supposed to leave in fifteen minutes.  I called, the answering machine picked up.  My husband was at his doctor's office, not sure if he had strep.  


My daughter, watching my dialing frenzy, suggested that I call our neighbor and friend who pet sits for us to see if she could take Stella.  She said she could after she got all of her kids on the bus, knowing I had a back up plan I felt a little better.  I decided to see if I could get the dog in before regular vet hours and drove her to the vet, which was right down the street.  I knocked and they let me in, I convinced them to take the dog because I had to get to Baltimore for a specialist appointment.  My daughter stood there in the vet's office looking stunned, terrified and hadn't had the opportunity to comb her hair after coming out of the shower.  She had a giant mass of red frizz, dark black circles under her eyes and was on the edge of a sob.  I don't think the vet techs thought I was taking her to the orthopedist.

By the time I checked the dog in, Stella already looked thinner, she was moving around better, she still wasn't right, but she seemed better.

We headed out the door.  We needed gas.  We hadn't had breakfast, it was sitting sitting ready on the counter at the house.  We had used all the the extra time I had put into the schedule for us to get lost in Baltimore, to find the parking garage and the wander through the maze of hospital corridors.  There was not time for an error.  We stopped at Mc D's for breakfast, with my food allergies I can only eat the hash browns (and from how I felt later, I fear I may be mistaken on that point).  I pumped the gas and we quickly continued on. Traffic was light.  The GPS took us through all of the worst neighborhoods in Baltimore, so that we had a lovely mother/daughter talk about poverty, inequality, and industrial decline.  


We parked without a hitch, found the office on the first try and checked in using the electronic kiosk right about on time, somehow.   We waited for a few minutes and were told the the staff member we were to see was not in.  Would we like to reschedule or wait a little to be squeezed in to another staff member's schedule? Of course, we waited.  I was not going to attempt another re-run of that morning.

The appointment was fine, they even paid for our parking, because they made us wait an hour and ten minutes.  


The day was on the upswing.  We were able to get on the highway toward home and call to check on the dog.  My husband was at home, the dog was still at the vet.  She appeared to be okay, they had x-rayed her and found nothing and the swelling had gone down.  She appeared to have had a nasty case of gas and just needed to pass it.  Yes, it was a $400 fart.  

My daughter and I stopped for authentic burritos for lunch and headed home.  When the adrenaline left my system that afternoon, I napped for three hours.  That was our Tuesday.

Thursday, I came home and noticed two of our chickens in the yard, but I didn't see the third.  Ursula and Athena were standing jammed inside a lilac bush, looking ill at ease.  I went inside.

L to R Paisley, Ursula and Athena

My daughter's bus pulled up a few minutes later.  The dog made her usual "she's home!!" noises, but they changed, became deeper, a little disturbing sounding.  I was walking down the hallway toward the front window when my daughter burst in the front door sobbing.  Paisley, the Barred Rock, was next to the driveway, I had been looking off into the distance for her, I had missed seeing her body, half plucked and fully eviscerated, near the turn in the drive.  A hawk, raccoon or something had caught her.  I buried her behind the shed, while my daughter, still in her jacket, sobbed face down on her bed. Paisley had been such a sweet thing.  She was my favorite chicken and she's gone.

It has been quieter this week.  I am thankful.