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TRAVELING WITH MOM

“We got evicted,” my mother said, hauling her suitcase through the front door.  My cousin, her sister-in-law, and my sister-in-law followed her in with their luggage. Evidently, evicted as well.  We were having a women-only reunion in Kelowna, B.C. at my cousin Leslie’s house. Half the crew was staying down the street at a Bed and Breakfast. Or rather they had been.

“This isn’t about that thing at the border?” I asked my mother quietly.

“No, love, we’d have been deported, not evicted,” my mother said. She patted my shoulder. “It’s fine.”

“What thing at the border?” Leslie asked.

I looked at my mother. She was unpacking her knitting. I lowered my voice, “We told the border guard that we weren’t leaving anything behind in Canada. Then my mom had an IBS attack and was forced to leave her underpants in the Canadian restroom. I’ve been concerned ever since.”

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(Yes, those are porta potties. According to my mom you should never pass up a restroom even if it is portable.)

Leslie offered me a plate of watermelon. I made a cup of tea. That’s how the Canadians deal with unpleasant incidents that tend to surround the Bennett family when we travel together. We’ve got history.

“Where are we going to put everyone?” I could feel my blood pressure elevating.

My ever-calm cousin said, “We’ll figure it out.”

I looked around for my mother. She came down the hallway from the bathroom. “The toilet won’t flush,” she said, passing me by in the hallway.

“You didn’t put your underpants down the toilet?” I asked.

“Of course not, but I did leave a little piece of myself behind. It’s barely noticeable.” She picked up my cup of tea and went to sit on the deck.  “I better go check this out,” I told Leslie.

Toilets are the bane of my existent. I stood looking down at the “little piece of myself,” my mother mentioned. I took the back off the toilet, jiggled the handle, played with the float and tried to flush. No go.  I sighed and went back to the kitchen.

“The toilet won’t flush,” I told Leslie, sparing her the sordid details.

“Just get a bucket of water from the tub and empty it into the toilet tank,” she said, worry-free.

I followed her instructions. It worked.  Now, I needed to find out why they got evicted from the Bed and Breakfast. I went out on the deck. “Why did you get evicted?” I asked my mom.

“A pipe burst upstairs and flooded us. I got a nice photo of Jenna trying to mop it up. That happened around four this morning.  We went back to bed once the water flooding stopped.”

“You didn’t have anything to do with that, did you?”

“Of course not,” she said, looking rather affronted.

I leaned over to Leslie. “We’re going to have to watch her around the plumbing.”

“Here, have a piece of cantaloupe,” she said.

You’ve got to love the Canadians.

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It was Emma’s birthday and we were going to Big Splash Water Park, out to dinner, and cake with her grandparents. It was a big, big day. And we were packing. Em had to pack for the water park and dinner and then for pirate bonding on the river for the weekend and then for camp. She had lists for each bag and what needed to go in it. I think she may have gotten that from me and perhaps the importance of always having first aid kit. But I was keeping my mouth shut on those two accounts. It could just have been a coincidence.

I only had to pack for Big Splash and dinner and I was stressed. I had to pack my swimming suit and accoutrements and clothes for the restaurant afterwards. I stood arms akimbo in the living room, deep in thought. I looked over at Layce who was calmly reading.

“I’m going to have to pack a toiletry bag because I’ll be all sticky from the sunscreen and chlorine which will rinse off but still be there if I don’t thoroughly soap up, which means I’m going to need soap, shampoo, lotion and all the rest.  I should probably pack an extra towel because my pool towel will smell like chlorine and be dampish.”

“I’m going to take a shower when I get home. It simplifies things,” Layce said not looking up from her book.

I considered this approach. It would simply things but that’s just not my style. Em was packing her suit, towel, sunscreen, and various other items. “Don’t forget your thongs,” I told her. (I admit that under duress, I had a retro-moment back to the days when flip flops were called thongs before skimpy underpants appropriated the word.)

“You mean flip flops,” Em said.

“Yes.”

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“Okay, but you have to remind me to put them back into my Tortuga bag, (that’s what the pirate thing is called) and then move them to my camp bag,” Em said.

“Will you two please go do your pack thing and leave me alone. I’ve read the same page five times now.”

“She just doesn’t understand the importance of  proper packing,” I told Em. We scattered each to our own packing issues.

Em called upstairs. “I need that small black bag for my camp toiletries.”

“I’ll be right down with it.”

There was a heavy sigh from the living room, which we both ignored. Such is the nature of those who pack ten minutes before a trip. I refrained from mentioning that she forgot her belt last time we went out of town. I figured it was best.

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I went to Washington State to see family and friends. It was fun but I missed Layce and Em. That was the only downside. I worried that when I left them that they might discover I was extraneous to the household. When I came out with my luggage and Layce kissed me, I knew I was missed. I did not yet know I was seriously needed.

As we drove away from the airport, I noticed a glass of iced coffee sitting belligerently in the cup holder in the console. “What is this?” I said pointing at the glass. A glass! I couldn’t believe it.

A glass.”

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“We have cups with lids, they’re called travel cups because that’s what you use when you’re traveling with liquids so they don’t spill and you don’t accidentally drop a glass of which is one of a set of six—an important number to me because it’s a multiple of three. I leave for thirteen and a half days and you turn savage.”

“I didn’t spill and I didn’t break it. No harm no foul.” She entered the freeway.

I harrumphed. “Did you buy a new can opener?” It was malfunctioning when I left thirteen and a half days ago.

“Not yet. I just used a hammer and a screw driver.”

“I bet you ate straight out of the can.

“Not always, sometimes I just drank it straight out of the can.”

“Standing up?” I said, imagining her by the sink, guzzling soup.

“Why not?”

“Because at meal times we set the dining room table with place mats and linen napkins  and the glass you’re currently using.”

No comment.

“What would happen if I was gone for a whole month?” I asked.

“I’d probably turn feral.”

I smiled. “You need me.”

“I do, but you’re still kind of a pain in the ass.”

“I take that as a compliment to my strident housekeeping skills.”

“Knock yourself out.”

She reached over and squeezed my hand and I knew I was loved and needed. Ah, it was good to be home. God only knows the tangles I’d have when I got home. I couldn’t wait to resume my dharma as Keeper of the House. I sat back in the seat and sighed contentedly. I even forgot about the glass transgression–temporarily.

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Em is taking Driver’s Ed and doing well. After the first lesson, Em regaled us with student driver’s snafus. I gulped and winced a few times, but stayed relatively calm and did not quote safety statistics.

“I was so afraid he would make me parallel park. I mean I just started driving. I can’t be expected to be perfect. It’s only my first day,” Em said.

“Why’d you think he’d make you do that?” Layce asked.

“Because I was driving and had to stop and wait for a lady who was parallel parking and having a hard time. The instructor said women can’t parallel park for some reason. I was kind of insulted. I mean, you guys can parallel park.” She caught the look that passed between Layce and me. “Right?”

“I can,” Layce said.

“She’s really good at it,” I added.

“Are you good at it too?” Em asked.

“Saxon can’t even park at all,” Layce said.

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It’s true. I can’t regular park. And you can completely cross off parallel parking. I either park badly or it takes me at least three threes times with multiple openings of the door to see how close I am to the white line or I have to get out of the car, gather my bearings, and try again. Layce sits patiently until I’ve decided it’s the best I can do under the circumstances.

“What do mean she can’t park?” Em asked.

“I mean she can’t get the car into a parking space correctly to save her soul.”

“Even if there’s no other cars around her?”

“Even if.  In fact that makes it worse,” Layce said.

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“It’s genetic. I didn’t get a parking gene. My father can’t park either. One time someone left a note on his car. It said if you have sex like you park…” I left the rest off. “I’m a victim of my DNA. So, no I can’t parallel park.”

“Maybe the instructor was right. Women can’t parallel park. What if I can’t?” Em said.

“I’ll teach you, and we’ll practice a lot, so when he makes you do it, you can knock his socks off,” Layce said.

“Which would make us two for three. That’s not too bad,” I said.

“What about Saxon? Can’t you teach her too?”

“No.”

I nodded. There are some things I have to acknowledge I can’t do. We all have our limitations. Parking is mine.

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DOING THINGS BADLY

I was walking out of my Continuing Ed watercolor class with one of my classmates.  “How are you liking the class?” I asked. I was pretty stoked about it. I have this bucket list of things I wanted to do when I had more spare time. The time had come—learning to paint was on it.

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“I’m so bad at it,” she said discouragingly. “I thought it would be fun but it’s a lot harder than it looks.”

“No worries, I do a lot of things badly but that doesn’t stop me,” I told her.  I refrained from saying that very few things stop me if I’d decided upon doing them.  Not all the choices have been good ones, but I have reached my fifth decade so that’s saying something.

I knew in kindergarten being a great artist was not in the cards for me. It may have been my uniquely ugly, crayon creations that tipped me off. They were perfect eyesores.  They didn’t even warrant a place on the fridge, but I wished I’d archived them for kicks and giggle later.

My classmate sighed heavily, walked to her car and I never saw her again. I finished the course and thoroughly enjoyed it. My professor would often shake his head, bite his lip, and make a few suggestions. I’m pretty sure he pitied me, but I was enthusiastic and I made it to the end—six out of fifteen of us did. I felt sorry for him then. He’d given up his time to teach others about his passion and the badness factor had kept the rest of the students away.

The point here—yes, there is one— is that I’m all about the means, the journey,  the interesting stuff I learn along the way when I take up a new hobby. So far, I sew badly, I play the guitar super-badly, and I paint badly. I also park badly, but that’s a whole other blog.  It seems such a shame that people insist that they have to do whatever they do first rate, top of the class, must be the best at it, or the thing isn’t worth doing.

Can’t we just do it without the judgment of “bestness?” It’s being the best, doing the thing well or not at all, that cripples us. I’m not saying it hasn’t taken me years to get to this philosophical oneness with my badness, but once I did, I’ve had a lot of fun trying out new things and not worrying whether it’s good or bad. It just is. Isn’t that what having fun is all about?

So embrace your inner badness (the kind that goes with hobbies) and go out and have fun. If you’ve already reached this place—major kudos to you.  I won’t subject you to my watercolors, that would be cruel but I’ve archived them this time—you know, for posterity.

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YOGA NECK

Layce and I were going into Lowes to get paint. As we walked across the parking lot toward the entrance, I asked Layce about the state of my neck. “Do you think I have a yoga neck?”

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“A what?” she asked, not looking up as she studied the list of supplies we needed for painting the porch, the dining room floor, and a beautiful old rocking chair. Emma was out of town so we decided to go on a painting frenzy. Emma’s not fond of change so we do things while she’s away, take a photo, and send it to her so she has time to adjust before she experiences the change up close and personal.

“Yoga neck, you know, with the muscular cords on the side of your neck that ‘scream look at me I am super fit because I do yoga twelve hours a day.’ I do a lot of warrior, tree, and chair poses. I think I deserve a yoga neck. I’m asking for your honest opinion—do I have a yoga neck?”

She looked up from her list. “It’s got some chord action going on.”

That wasn’t an outstanding response but it was better than nothing at all. I’d have to do more yoga. “You know the other thing I want?”

“I can only imagine.”

We reached the swooshing doors. I didn’t have long before we were sucked into “paint” world. “Do you think I’m metro-sexual?” Before she could say anything, I said, “Because I think I’m very put together, my clothes match, and I’m really clean. I even clean my cross-trainers so the white sidewalls always gleam. I spend a lot of time grooming, too. In fact, I’d say I’m an excessive groomer.”

“I wondered about your clothes. You used to come downstairs wearing the weirdest stuff and I’d have to send you back up to change.”

“And sometimes you’d have to come with me because I couldn’t manage. Now look at me.” I spread my arms wide.

“How’d you manage to change?” Layce asked, eyeing me suspiciously.

“I organized my clothes so each outfit is perfectly coordinated.”

“Like toddlers with their Garanimal  outfits?”

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“Precisely,” I said enthusiastically.  “I definitely think I’m a metro-sexual with a yoga neck.”

“If you say so,” Layce said. “Now go find a paint roller and some tape.”

I walked off happy in the knowledge that I had become just who I should be—sort of.  I’d found comfort in a good neck, excessive grooming habits, and well-coordinated outfits with clean shoes—except for that one pair with the gum on the bottom, but I was working on those. Out of chaos I had found control.  It was a perfect day—until I picked out the wrong paint roller but what the hell.  A person can’t be everything. I mean how many yoga-necked metro-sexuals are handy people? Don’t answer that.

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Saxon Bennett delivers another delightful tale of true love among madcap lesbians!

This is one funny little book. The thing I liked most about this book was its diversity in its cast. How often do you have a broody Amazon, a hippy artist, a butch, a super feminine dog lover, and a midget as your main group of characters? Seriously, this book is laugh-out-loud funny and full of playful witty banter. If you’re looking for a stress-free laugh-inducing read, look no further.

LITTLE MISS FIDGET

The story of little Miss Fidget begins as a young girl with unflattering hair is forced into the educational system. This known fidgeter is moi. I tried to convince my mother that after having tried kindergarten for half a day that I had decided it wasn’t a good fit for me so I wouldn’t be going back. Imagine the shock and awe of this revelation when she told me I had no choice. It was prison or kindergarten. (Just kidding.) The fidgeter was born.

I did my best to keep my fidgeting discreet after I got called out and told to “Sit still or I will dip your toes into a pool of alligators.” (My kindergarten teacher believed in tough love.) By the second grade and all through college I figured out a way to fidget without detection.

The method to this is to sit in the third row from the front next to an innocuous student. They’re not difficult to find  You’ll be virtually invisible because the good students are in front, bad in back. In between—not memorable. Thus, I would fidget—barely perceptive toe tapping, leg crossing, and other yoga like positions, running my hands up and down on the desk tabletop, the smoothness soothing. Over the years I must have come up with 1,001 different ways to fidget unnoticed.

I have recently created another fidget. I rub the fabric of my pants between my thumb and index finger. This repetitive motion is referred to as “self-comforting.” I do it when I’m in the car because of the high rate of automobile accidents. If I’m not driving, I self-comfort.

I was caught in the act by the All Seeing Eye—Layce. “What are you doing? Did you know you do it all the time—like whenever we’re in the car,” Layce said, looking over at me while waiting at the stop light.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I said, looking down at my right hand, which was frantically stroking my pant leg.

She gave me the “hairy eyeball,” but said nothing, waiting for my confession. I knew she knew. She knew I knew she knew about my fidgeting issue.

“Okay, I admit to being a fidgeter. I can’t believe you haven’t noticed before.”

“I have noticed before and this latest fidget is creepy. You have to stop, now, before it requires therapy.”

She was making me nervous so I rubbed harder. “I need help.”

“Stop, you’ll wear your pants out.”

When we got home, I researched fidgeting. There’s a whole lot of info out there and a whole lot of “people who fidget.” Fortunately, I found the solution on Amazon. It’s a small cube, each side with a different activity for you fingers. Six sides with seven different stress relieving features: click, flick, roll, and spin.

I ordered it and paid extra for two day shipping.

The Fidget Toy

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This thing is awesome for fidgeters. Word of advice: Don’t use it when it’s in your pocket because it will look like you’re playing pocket pool.

So you fidgeters out there take heart. There is hope. Fidget away!

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