What I did over my Thanksgiving vacation

Remember when you were in elementary school and you’d have to write a short essay when school opened in September about what you did over your summer vacation?

I do not know why they foisted this existential pondering upon us. We were children, for God’s sake. I have always had a rather mundane life, so I imagine mine were like “Over the summer I rode my banana-seat bike with a cassette recorder hanging from the handlebars playing ‘Tom Jones, Live in Las Vegas’” because I was a weird, asthmatic kid and I did play that cassette from a tape player when I was 9 years old and I hung it off my handlebars. Years of therapy as an adult have not made me one whit more interesting or well-adjusted.

No one is forcing me to write what I did over Thanksgiving break, but I am writing this anyway. Maybe just so people have proof of how endlessly dull my life is. If you feel bad for me, please send money.

I was invited to Thanksgiving by my daughter and her boyfriend, but I was afraid to go. I hadn’t yet had my booster vaccine, it had been 7 months since I had my original covid shots, and someone at my daughter’s office had gotten covid quite badly and I was afraid to be near people. Also, her boyfriend is a realtor, and he’s around people as a result of that. So I declined, sadly, and said I would take them out to a nice dinner a few weeks after my booster, which was today (Sunday).

My time off started a day early, since I had Wednesday off. Slept late (yay!), walked my dogs multiple times like I always do, and took them with me to the drive-through of Popeye’s in Edgewater, N.J., where I bought $35 worth of red beans and rice, macaroni and cheese, and mashed potatoes. No chicken. I don’t like their chicken. (I don’t like meat very much at all, actually, but do eat some. I really love hot dogs.) That was going to be my Thanksgiving meal. (Hey, I’m alone, I get to choose.) Ate the mashed potatoes all on Wednesday, but to be fair, I did share them with the dogs. I also had a little bit of red beans and rice.

I know, right now you’re like, how does this woman take this much excitement? I can assure you, it’s not easy.

Thanksgiving Day, even better

Got up early on Thanksgiving, walked the dogs, and went back to sleep. Got up a few hours later, microwaved red beans and rice. Shared with dogs. Watched “Blades of Glory.” Didn’t realize how old it was. I walked the dogs many times Thanksgiving Day, talked to my kids, texted friends. Did a ton of laundry. Watched a few episodes of “The Crown.” Tried watching “Squid Game” again, but I cannot take the violence. They were beating up some guy in a rest room; I don’t know. Couldn’t handle it. I have to feel safe in public rest rooms because I pee a lot, so I cannot watch such things. Fuck “Squid Game.” They don’t beat people up in rest rooms on “The Crown.”

Big Green Friday

I didn’t want to go out on Black Friday because, like, covid. Also, remember when people used to get trampled on Black Friday? Does that still happen? The first year I was aware of that happening, we read this article about a woman in Alabama passing out near $27 DVD players in Walmart, and her sister was trying to get her help but people around them were grabbing up the DVD players around her as she was passed out on the stack of them. Just moving her limp body around as they grabbed at DVD players while her poor sister dialed 911. And when Walmart was notified that the woman was in the hospital, they promised to hold her a $27 DVD player if she still wanted it.

People have no need for DVD players anymore, but I don’t want to get trampled in Walmart–or anywhere else–on Black Friday. I stayed home.

I recently had a birthday. A big one with a zero on the end. I did not feel good about this birthday. In my 20s, I honestly believed that I’d have written a book by this time in my life. So I was feeling rather blue. I have not written a book, but I have signed divorce and bankruptcy papers. Not the same thing, though. Writing a book is better. To console myself, I bought myself a pair of pink checkered Vans and a huge, professional-grade steam cleaner. You heard that correctly. A steam cleaner for my carpets was my big gift to myself. Not concert tickets or a gift card for a nice restaurant or a pair of rollerskates or a trip to Disney. I bought myself a BISSELL® Big Green® Machine Professional Carpet Cleaner and I was super excited about it, too. Although now for Black Friday, they are 30 percent off and I feel kind of nauseated as it’s a really expensive item and I could have saved $100. Fuck Black Friday and “Squid Game” both.

My dog Calvin, who is a Great Pyrenees mix, did not take well to housebreaking and my carpet looked and smelled really bad. Then the other day, I heard a swishing noise and looked over to see Friedrich peeing under the dining room table. That dog is 4 years old, there is no excuse, and I swear sometimes he gives me the finger when my back is turned.

So on Friday, I steam cleaned my rug, and it was as glorious as it sounds. No, seriously, it was fucking glorious, me filling this gigantic container with hot tap water and pushing this heavy-ass steam cleaner around my place sucking the dog pee and stains out of my rug. If the U.S. Postal Service ever puts out a steam-cleaning commemorative stamp, I want a photo of me pushing my Bissell Big Green steam cleaner around my dining room to be on it. I love this steam cleaner that much. It also gives you a bit of a stomach workout because it’s rather substantial. I might have even worked out my thighs. Which would be a first since the start of the pandemic. So my Friday was steam cleaning and then making the house look better since my carpet was looking so awesome.

On Saturday, I got up early and took the dogs on a long walk. I took them to a field and threw a tennis ball and let them run around off leash since nobody was around. I have to be careful with Calvin, who is still young, as Great Pyrenees tend to run off looking for flocks to guard. But he is 25 percent other breeds, and he was true to that part of himself and was a good boy, and hung out with me, Friedrich, and a big tennis ball for a long time. Decided I wanted a nice coffee late on the afternoon, packed the dogs in the car (they are always up for a car ride) and drove to Starbucks, which was closed by 6 p.m. on a Saturday. There goes my Saturday excitement. I really wanted that venti latte…then I did dishes and watched more of “The Crown.” Who knew that King Edward VIII was not just an asshole, but a Nazi? 

Which culminated in booster shot day

Today I had an appointment for my booster at my local Rite-Aid. I am allergic to a lot of drugs and itched for weeks after my second vaccine last time, so I got Benadryl and Allegra in case I itched this time. I was going to the register to pay for them before my shot when I passed some man I do not know, who showed me a bottle of something for memory loss/dementia and said he’d like to buy 3 bottles for President Biden. He evidently thought he was funny. It’s very weird that people with hugely sucky senses of humor think they are funny, right? I said I didn’t think Joe Biden had dementia and I didn’t think memory loss in anyone was very funny. He walked it back saying he was looking for the medicine for his own mother, and I asked if he thought her memory loss was a funny thing. I believe he quickly figured out I am one of the libs he lives to own and I wasn’t in the mood. Fuck that guy. And fuck Black Friday and “Squid Games.”

I also bought a metric fuck-ton of candy. Did you know that there are gingerbread men Marshmallow Peeps and that they are dusted with ginger and cinnamon and are delicious? I got those and Russell Stover caramel and peanut butter Santas and Reese’s peanut butter Christmas trees. Seven bucks worth of candy with the Rite-Aid discount just in case I felt bad after my shot. I knew that if I felt bad after my shot, chocolate would do me a world of good.

I feel fine, but all the candy is gone already, 8 hours later. Good thing I burned off 7 calories the other day pushing that steam cleaner around.

Jet skis in Texas

When I got home from Rite-Aid, Animal Planet was on the television. I left it on for the dogs. I used to leave MSNBC on for them when I went to work so they would be liberal-minded canines, but now I work from home and the news has depressed me for years, so I don’t have MSNBC–or any t.v.–on during the day. For some reason, I plopped down after my shot and kept watching what was on Animal Planet:  “Lone Star Law,” a show about Texas conservation officers who check to see if people have valid fishing licenses and that their jet skis are registered. One guy picked up a baby squirrel who fell out of a tree and took it to a rehabilitation center. That was nice. Otherwise the most boring show, as boring as my own covid way of life. And I sat there and did not change the channel because I was truly mesmerized that there was a show about this that people sit and watch. Like, who would watch this?

But, of course there are people who watch this, and I am one of them.

I hope the rest of you had a happy and healthy Thanksgiving. And I hope that in a week or two, when I feel boosted, I will venture out the house again other to take my dogs out or go to a drive-through and will never again sit and watch a show about unlicensed jet skis on Animal Planet. For now, I’m fixing to walk the dogs and watch an episode or two of “The Crown.”

The flavor of fall

Autumn is coming soon, and with it my favorite fall flavor, the very best of autumn.

I am not talking about pumpkin spice, that God-forsaken factory-made nightmare. I had a pumpkin spice latte exactly once, and I had violent orange-colored diarrhea exactly one half hour later. You can keep your pumpkin spice, and I shall keep my colon contents, thank you very much.

The flavor I am talking about is that of apples, the absolutely most wonderful food that fall gives us.

Now, you can get certain apples all year long, but fall is when many varieties are more widely available. And nobody wants to eat a Red Delicious, no matter what time of year it is. Gala, either, though I am shocked by the number of people who drop that dreck into their shopping carts. They are bland at best and flavorless at worst.

Please, if you are tempted to buy a Gala or Red Delicious apple, do us all a favor and scan the aisle for an apple staple—Pink Lady (aka Cripps Pink in some circles). It is not my absolutely most favorite apple, but it’s high up there and it is reliably tasty and has a decent shelf life. With Pink Lady so widely available, no one need eat a mediocre apple ever again.

How did I come to care so much about apples? Well, as a kid I ate quite a few. In those days, Red Delicious apples had not had the flavor bred out of them yet, and we had those, but I ate many a Granny Smith and Macintosh. Apples were a constant in the house, but I had no strong feelings about them.

With my own kids, I usually bought Pink Lady and Gala (what was I thinking?), but it still was not something I thought much about. When the kids got older, I didn’t have many apples in the house at all. I really didn’t eat enough produce for a long time, actually.

And then, 3 years ago, after my bout with breast cancer, I vowed to eat more produce and found myself perusing apple varieties in the store. I had never had a Macoun apple, and bought a few. When I bit into my first one, I realized I was eating something kind of magnificent. I wrote on Facebook that I had just eaten something crazy delicious, ans learned I had a friend who disliked apples—except Macoun. And other people threw out a couple of other apple names for me to try given that I loved Macoun.

I loved that apple so much that I read about the variety, which is only available for a few weeks each year. And shortly thereafter, my Macoun was gone from the shelves of Shop-Rite. But there was Empire (amazing) and Stayman (more amazing) and Macintosh (tasty, but way too mushy). Pink Lady was always good, save one bad batch I got at Whole Foods in which not one single apple was not bitter. That has never recurred, and Pink Lady remains the apple I recommend to everyone. Opal is magnificent, and Kiku is wonderful as long as it is hard enough; it also gets mushy fast.

Piñata gives me joy. SweeTango is close to perfect. If there are mediocre brands at the grocery, I can usually find bagged little Snapdragons to tide me over. My tried and true, Jazz, which is less sweet than many others but has the crunch I crave and stays hard in the fridge for weeks, was one of the finds of my life. Sugar Bee drips with juice and literally tastes like sugar water. It is like having a drink. Tonight, I ate a huge Pazazz and thought maybe I had a new favorite.

To me, this is the taste of fall, and the rest of the year, too, with fall giving a greater selection and the opportunity for some of the really delicious apples, like Macoun, for a few weeks. And it reminds us, and maybe we do need to be reminded, that some things are worth waiting for and cannot be provided on demand like Game of Thrones’ fourth season (and a damn fine season it was, too). Sometimes you just have to wait.

Buy your apples hard, as hard as you can find them. A soft apple is no fun for anyone. At that point, it’s almost ready to be cooked into applesauce.

Please do not ask me where I stand on Honeycrisp or Fuji. I know everyone loves them. Everyone except me. I have had exactly one delicious Fuji in my life after about 25 really uninteresting ones, and those odds are not good. Honeycrisp, well, I don’t love them. I have tried. I have bought them in numerous places, expecting that feeling that everyone else gets. I have tried to force myself to love that apple. But I don’t. It has a texture I can’t stand. I don’t find the taste appealing. However, Pazazz, Sugar Bee, and SweeTango all were developed from Honeycrisp, and I love those apples. I can’t explain. But if you love them, eat them! And try a new brand every now and again because I guarantee that if you branch out a bit, you will find others you love, too (seriously, SweeTango is sick).

Love to all.

Hints from Hell-oise

There’s this long-running column in newspapers and online called “Hints from Heloise” and it’s filled with all these household tips like how to get the most out of your laundry detergent or the best way to organize coupons or get crayon off the walls. Readers write in with their own tips, which make up a good portion of the column.

Typically, the reader-submitted hints are pretty terrible. My ex-husband, who doesn’t react to much and more than once I considered putting a mirror under his nose to ensure he was still breathing, audibly gasped at the submitted hint by a reader who made a list of everyone in the family’s blood type and medical issues and then laminated it and taped it to the glove compartment door in case they were in an accident. Easily available to the paramedics, and I guess you could wipe fluids off because it was laminated. All very practical and very, very morbid.

The original Heloise no longer writes the column; her daughter does. But it’s the same format as always. Because I live my life differently than most others, I’d like to write my own little hints column.

Get a puppy, and I promise you’ll never be bored or lonely again.

Bored? Lonely? Well, here’s my tip for you.

If you find yourself bored and feeling quite alone, it is my expert opinion that adopting a puppy, particularly one that is going to grow up to be huge, will alleviate your boredom and loneliness. As you can see, my puppy Calvin keeps me very occupied. Instead of regularly peeing on the pee pee pads I got him, he shreds them and distributes them around the house. This is particularly nasty if he already has peed on them, which is the case in this photo. I no longer have any potholders because he has chewed up every last one of them. There is quite a bit of potholder stuffing in my living room as I write this. And if I am bored, I can always vacuum and then go to Target and buy myself some brand new and stylish potholders.

I’m also occupied doing laundry because Calvin manages to pull down every towel from the towel bar, my bathrobe from the hook, my dishtowels from the oven handle, and my pillows off the sofa and bed. He and Friedrich have lots of tug-of-war toys, but they seem to prefer to use buy socks and underwear for tug of war. Now I have aeration holes in my underwear.

Dogs are very thoughtful.

And, I pick up quite a bit of doody. Steam cleaners are your friend when you have a puppy who poops more often than Bill Barr is likely to. We go on lots and lots of walkies, Calvin and me.

So I’m not lonely and I’ll never, ever be bored again! Get your own large breed puppy soon so you can be as fulfilled and occupied as I am.

Fruit flies in your kitchen? Fuck that.

I recently found myself the recipient of a fruit fly problem after a couple of bananas went soft on my counter. As you might know, once you have fruit flies, it’s kind of a pain to get rid of them. They are everywhere and quite disgusting.

Well, sometimes you get lucky but don’t recognize it right away. Right around the same time, I dropped the cap to my soy sauce. It fell on the kitchen floor and I looked all over for it, but I never saw it again. (Calvin probably ate it.) I shoved the soy sauce to the side and forgot about it (it is not a mystery that I got fruit flies, I guess, given behavior like this) for a few days, and when I saw it and went to pour it down the drain to recycle the bottle, I saw…dead fruit flies floating at the top of the soy sauce. Quite a few, in face.

Look at all the dead fruit flies!

The fruit flies must have flown down into the bottle and then not have been able to get out given the plastic divider thing at the top that prevents the soy cause from gushing out.

So I did not throw out my soy sauce; I kept it on the counter as a fruit fly trap, and right now it’s like a little fruit fly graveyard with all these dead bodies floating in the brown liquid. I will throw it away someday. Just not now.

I am not buying it

So during the pandemic, I, like many people, added a dog to my household. This might not have been the most brilliant idea because I already have two other dogs, one quite big and sometimes mistaken for an Irish wolfhound, but she’s just a super shaggy labradoodle.

The original Baby Huey.

Anyway, that is what I did. I got another dog. His name is Calvin and he is what you call a “giant breed” puppy. He’s 16 weeks right now, and he’s weighing in at over 30 lbs. He’s going to probably weigh 100 lbs when he is an adult. I call him “Baby Huey.”

Although I’ve gone to PetSmart to buy high-quality large-breed puppy food for him, I don’t like to go out very much. I’ve been quite observant of the social distancing guidelines (and as a result find myself having lengthy conversations with my dogs, and I don’t think this is entirely mentally healthy). But, he likes to chew, this puppy named Calvin, and is destroying my home and shoes. So to deal with the chewing issue, I went onto chewy.com for the first time and looked for some sizable and sturdy chew toys for Calvin.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I am not completely oblivious, and I noticed some weird stuff about the dog chew toys.

This does not seem entirely right to me.

I don’t know, guys. Look at this stuff. Weird, right? Not your average Nylabone(R). It seems to me I’ve seen things like this in sex shops on South Street in Philly. If that hard plastic white thing on the right isn’t dildo-looking, then there must be something wrong with me. And that black thing, that is a butt plug. An enormous butt plug.

Does anybody else see what I am seeing here?

Do you think since pet supply stores lost so much business when everything was closed that they have also gone into the sex toy business to expand their market? I suppose this would be a good business model. (Diversification, folks. Diversification.)

So I guess if you are home alone a lot during the pandemic and are feeling lonely, but weird about using your credit card to buy sex toys off evesgarden.com or think that your box might get damaged and the post office is gonna go through your mail and Donald Trump will know you ordered sex toys and then tweet about it, then what the hell. Go to http://petsmart.com and buy a chew toy for a giant breed puppy. And that pink g-spot thingy. Go for that, too.

As I write this, my labradoodle is about 8 feet away and drinking water out of the toilet. I do not live a glamorous life.

Stay well and fine during these times, folks. Love to all.

Serenity Slurpee

This is what you buy when you are detoxing off one of your antidepressants and are waiting for the doc to refill and you haven’t much to do at your new job and are feeling a bit like a useless appendage.

At home there are two dogs wrecking the house, aided and abetted by one five-month-old kitten to whom you are highly allergic but saved from a hoarding situation and have so far gotten her every shot imaginable and had her treated for fleas, extreme underweight, and an upper respiratory infection. There is a nice home waiting for her once she is cured of all her illnesses.

You survive the dander by hanging out in your room and not letting the pets in while they wreck the house on the other side of the door.

In two days is the holiest day of the year, Yom Kippur and while you walk a fine line between Judaism and Catholicism, this is a day you take seriously. And you hope your saving this little baby will somehow convince God to give you a pass for your errors and trespasses of the past year, of which there were a few.

And if you remember, you will say a prayer for all those who broke your heart by not accepting you for who you are and not recognizing that that is what you tried to do for them, grouchy days, sorrowful days, flaws and all. But then you have to send them on their way.  Because they won’t ever get it and it is not your charge to make them.

And there are Serenity Slurpees (Coke!) to savor, and scrawny kittens to rescue and cuddle, and prescriptions to be filled, and though it is hard to be misunderstood, you will fly far from the burning bridge visible from your rear view window, and you will ask God for a fresh start.

Something that sums it up a bit

So, I just read this article that sums up some of what I have been feeling as someone who has “beaten” cancer. (I often feel as if cancer has beaten me, like with a stick, even though I was only Stage 1 and have been told I am free of cancer now.)

You’re left with fear, your single focus of fighting cancer and having doctor upon doctor helping you achieve that goal finishes and then you have to go back to ordinary life, but you are different and so is your life. Someone wrote this in HuffPost, and I hope some can relate.

I realize I started this blog out to be funny. And then life happened, and some things are funny. But some are not.

Love to all.

Here is the LINK to the Huffington Post article.

The Trenton, NJ, morbidity & mortality report

True story this: When I was a little kid, we lived in the city (THE city), and my Auntie Betty, the person second only to Jesus Christ himself for a good and kind heart in the history of this planet, used to take us on the bus from Staten Island to Queens or Manhattan, or from her apartment in Queens to Manhattan, all over. We were quite the little bus riders back in the day. And I used to get upset as a kid of about 7 when I saw the old people on the bus, and Auntie Betty wanted to know why, and I was sad because the old people on the bus were going to die soon, and that just broke my heart.

And to this day, my mother has my schoolwork from when I was a little kid, and for current events I used to being in obituaries. My mother has notebook pages with obituaries taped to them and scrawled first-grade pencil descriptions about the person who died. I distinctly remember one that said, “This man made hats.”

Some people are just born melancholy and morbid. If you work with me, you know I can turn a normal conversation into one about my neighbor being run down by a bus and leaving behind a whole house of foster dogs and then walk away leaving some group of formerly cheery individuals searching for a funny anecdote.

Nature, nurture, hello; my sister is not like this.

So, when you are attuned to all the negative in the world (I had to stop watching political shows and one night watched a documentary about Diane Schuler, who drive her car the wrong way on the Taconic Parkway in NY state, killing many; this is what makes me feel better than CNN), when the positive comes along, you should celebrate it.

So, my son recently went on vacation to Beirut. Here is why. He is going out with a young woman who pursued Middle Eastern Studies in college and who speaks Arabic. She is on an internship with the United Nations and working with Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. They are mostly women and children, and this work is not going to make her rich. But it is what her life’s purpose is: helping poor people who have been displaced and have no homes and are struggling.

So, the Mueller report won’t save us and Jeff Bezos should be helping these people, but is not, and Warren Buffett, it turns out, is big in ripping off people who are trapped living in mobile homes they have paid for on land that is not theirs so they have to pay whatever lot rate is thrown at them.

But, there is Amy. And others like her. And I can get up in the morning knowing this, even if riding the train to New York makes me sad for the old people.