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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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Imaginary Pets

I woke up this morning, eyes wide. “I forgot all about Rascal.”

“Rascal?” Layce asked, setting down my coffee. We have coffee in bed on the weekends. Then we read the online New York Times because we’re liberal elite snowflakes.

“Yeah, remember the dog in 2nd book of our new True Heart series.”

“Oh, him. I like Rascal. I like that he’s pit bull mix from the shelter. And Parker saves him.”

“I know, me too. I’m on page 47 and I haven’t mentioned him once. Where is he all that time?”

“You need to fix that,” Layce said, sipping her coffee and checking out the New York Times to see what fresh hell the powers-that-be are unleashing on us this morning. “You know, if you didn’t put animals in our books we wouldn’t have to worry about tracking them.”

“It’s just Rascal. One dog. I can fix it.”

“I’m talking about your fixation with putting pets in our books.”

“Like what?” I inhaled the aroma of my coffee. The first cup is always the best.

“Let’s start with our very first book together with Mr. Pip (More than a Kiss), then the hedgehog and Oscar the Weiner dog in (Crazy Little Thing),  the telepathic cat (Kiss and Tell), all the dogs in Jamie Bravo’s Worst in Show. Moving on to the books you wrote solo, the Burmese Mountain dog, (Back Talk), Annie and Jane the mixed breeds (Family Affair Trilogy), the Pipster the amazing catching dog, (Date Night Club) to name a few. I’m sure I’ve missed one or two.”

“Okay, okay, so I have a soft spot for imaginary animals.” I squinted at her. “If I remember correctly you have Asshat in A Perfect Romance who kills squirrels and eats everything except their butt holes.”

“There is that,” Layce said. She went back to reading the paper. “But it’s only one cat, one time.”

I harrumph. “Don’t let me forget about Rascal.”

“I won’t, but maybe next time we could have a pet free book.”

“Sure thing.”

“You say that every time we write a book and every time an imaginary pet shows up.”

“I can’t help it that strays keep showing up at our fictional front porch,” I said.

Mister Beans, our real cat who showed up on our real porch, leapt up on my lap and nearly sent my coffee flying. “And imaginary ones don’t spill your coffee either. No offense, Mister Beans,” I said.

“None taken,” he said, stalking off, his tail in the air.

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Layce and I stared at each other. “Did he just talk?” she said.

“No, I’m pretty sure we just imagined that.”

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I told Layce that I wanted an English bull dog. (see her blog “I Just Got Played” for full explanation.) I got a cappuccino machine instead . It was my Valentine’s present. She didn’t have a gift idea so she was highly amenable to my plan B—a cappuccino machine.

Operating a cappuccino machine isn’t as easy as Starbucks makes it look.

First, we had technical difficulties with the “filter retention clip.”

“Did you read the manual?” I asked. I always read the instructions on everything, literally. You would not believe the stuff you learn from instructions. In fact, if I ever quit writing novels, I’ll become a technical writer and write instruction manuals.

“No.” She always says that. We make good partners because of our different methodologies when it comes to new kitchen appliances.

We eventually discovered that the filter retention clip was malfunctioning. With gentle twisting and turning, and a little brute force, we managed the get the clip working. Next we searched for cups to fit under the filter nozzles. I hadn’t realized that all our coffee cups were too tall.

“We’ll have to get some of those cute white porcelain cups—the elite liberal kind so we look posh,” I said.

“Yeah. I’ll add that to the stainless steel steamed milk pitcher that I had to order.”

“I’d like to start using fresh beans but we’d need a coffee grinder.”

“I thought we had one?”

“We did but something happened to it,” I said. (Em and I used it to grind up crayons for an art project. Don’t ever do this.) I changed the subject. “I want to learn to put those hearts and trees on top of the coffee.”

“And then you’ll want some of the fancy syrups to add to your frothy drink with the tree or heart shape.”

“I’d forgotten all about the syrups, thanks for reminding me. It’ll help me channel my inner barista. I might need a do-rag and green apron.”

“This is getting very involved,” Layce said.

“I need the appropriate accoutrements if I’m going to become a barista. It’ll be another one of my hobbies. Every afternoon as we read the New York Times and Vanity Fair, I’ll make us this excellent cup of perfectly brewed coffee.” I imagined myself wearing a do-rag and a green apron calling out “Layce, your amazing cappuccino is ready.”

“Your hobbies do keep you out of trouble despite the accoutrements.”

I ignored her facetious tone. “I’m going to research about becoming a barista. I’ll need to buy a couple of books.”

“I had no idea that a cappuccino machine was going to start a new obsession that requires so much stuff.”

“That’s what happens when you don’t get me a dog,” I said.

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TO EAT OR NOT TO EAT

I had just returned from Washington where I’d been visiting family and friends. I sat at the kitchen bar amid stacks of paper, several library books, and my laptop.

Layce eyed me and asked the question that gets asked a lot in our house. “What are you doing?”

“I’m trying to come up with a grocery list that adheres to all the dietary restrictions I learned about when I was in Washington. Everyone there is on these certain diets. I thought we’d give them a try.”

“Let me guess… you’re doing research?”

“Precisely. See one diet is completely sugar-free. You wouldn’t believe all the stuff that has sugar in it. We’ll need to make our own ketchup, barbeque sauce, mayonnaise…”

Layce interjected, “That sounds like a lot of work.”

“Then we’ll just go sauceless. We can make ice cream that kind of tastes real by using coconut milk because we can’t have regular milk. Or bread, so no toast. And we can’t have peanut butter because that has fat, which we can have, but we can’t have because of the sugar.”

“I don’t like the sound of this,” Layce said, picking up one of the diet books from the library and flipping it open.

“We can have a lot of potatoes,” I said, doing my best to look delighted. “You like potatoes.”

“I don’t like this diet. What about the other ones?”

“My parents are doing this one where all your meals come prepackaged. They have these enormous boxes of food that come every 28 days. I think they’re working on a six-month supply because they can’t eat all the low-calorie food. You have to eat five meals a day. It sounds time consuming.”

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“It sounds expensive,” Layce said putting one book down and picking up another. She sniffed it. “This one smells like French fries.”

I ignored her. “They are sinking some cash into this and they’re running out of freezer space,” I said. I omitted telling her that there were boxes of food everywhere. It would come in handy in case of a national disaster or an apocalypse.

“What’s the next diet?” Layce asked, picking up my research papers.

“This one is kind of complicated,” I said.

“They all sound complicated,” Layce said, peering over my shoulder at the laptop where I was looking for grams of this and grams of that and what had fat, what was a carb and what time of day you could eat them.

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“Not really. You see, for breakfast you can have fat and one carb, lunch has to be fruit and veggies, carbs but no fat. You can eat all the veggies you want with each meal except maybe breakfast but who wants broccoli with oatmeal.” I studied my papers. “No, wait, we can’t have oatmeal because that’s a grain and I think it’s got sugar in it, but we could have blueberries, those have sugar too, but it’s a different kind like glucose or sucrose. We can have veggies except corn or peas because they are carb. Who knew? Then at dinner we can only have protein like chicken, but no carbs and veggies, but not peas or corn. Then there’s something about gluten, so no pasta for lunch or breakfast.”

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Layce picked up my papers, stacked the library books, and closed my laptop.

“What are you doing?” I asked as she dumped my research into the trash can.

“I’m making the menu with gluten, peas, sugar, barbeque sauce, eggs, bread, pasta and oatmeal, and we’ll eat them in any order we like three times a day.”

“But what about the diet?”

“Have you come up with a menu after all your research?”

“Well no, I can’t figure out what we can and cannot eat.”

“Exactly. On your diet, we’ll starve because we can’t eat anything, and then we’ll die dreaming of pasta and toast with peanut butter on it.”

She had a point. I did what I usually do when she makes sense—I listened to her. (This is not to imply that she usually doesn’t make sense.) *smirk*

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Toasty Mittens

 

It all started with a quilting pattern called “Toasty Mittens,” (Like I need a pair of toasty mittens. I have about five hundred pairs of gloves.)  I had purchased the pattern when I was in Spokane. My mother and my quilting guru took me to this awesome quilt shop. There were all these amazing quilts, baskets, an entire set of dresser drawers—okay, maybe not, but you get the point. I got punch drunk on quilts. So I was out of my head when I bought the Toasty Mittens pattern.  The woman said they wouldn’t be getting any more patterns for the Toasty Mittens because winter was in its final throes. She said I was the lucky one.

I’d put off making them for a year. I mean, who makes Toasty Mittens in July? I found the pattern and the powers of guilt for buying the last pattern shamed me into making the mittens.  So I laid out the pattern and pulled out the instructions.

They read as follows: “PLEASE READ THROUGH THE ENTIRE DIRECTIONS BEFORE STARTING! Ok-we had to say that and we know no one ever reads the directions first—BUT—please at least take a look at them.”

I was offended. I always read the directions and the safety warnings before I begin anything, especially, things that might prove to be hazardous to a person’s health and well being.

I read the directions before I began. But, somehow, that didn’t save me from ending up with mittens about 100 sizes too large. So, I did what I do best… I went rogue. I turned the Toasty Mittens into a pair of Toasty Oven Mitts.

I finished the mittens and gave them to Layce. “Here ya go. I made you a pair of oven mitts.”

“Wow, these are nice,” she said, turning the mitts over. The oven timer went off. “Perfect timing, the chicken casserole is done.”

I beamed proudly as she put on the oven mitts and pulled the casserole dish out of the oven.

Then the mitts caught on fire.

Layce dropped the casserole dish and waved her hands in the air, shouting, “My hands are on fire, my hands are on fire!”

“Put them in the sink,” I yelled, turning on the faucet. Layce held her hands under the cold stream of water until the Toasty Mittens fizzled out. The kitchen reeked of burnt quilt.

Layce stared at me. “Why did that happen? Why did the oven mitts catch fire?”

“I think maybe I was supposed to use another kind of fabric, the kind that retards fire.” That fact had been niggling around in the back of my mind but I had chosen to ignore it.

“So you had me stick my hands in oven mitts that actually promote fire, not retard it,” Layce said.

“In a manner of speaking, but it wasn’t my intention. Who knew one could make self-immolating mittens?”

“Evidently not you,” Layce said. She looked down at the ruined casserole on the floor.

“I’ll clean it up and I’m sorry I almost lit your hands on fire. And I’ll never make mittens again. I promise.”

Layce took pity on me. “They really were quite toasty.”

I looked at the mittens still smoking in the sink. They were toast all right—a soggy burnt testament to my failure. I sighed.

“It was the thought,” Layce said.

Emma came in kitchen, looked at the casserole on the floor and the burnt oven mitts in the sink. Unfazed, she said, “I take it we’re going out for dinner?”

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