Being that Halloween is so recently put behind us, I have a confession to make.

I am the repository for all unwanted candy. That which is left behind in the bags of trick-or-treaters – it belongs in my stomach.

See, I don’t believe in bad candy- some candy is just better than others. This is a spectrum I’m sure I share with many people.

My spectrum, like so much else in my life, appears to be completely opposite that of many, or even most, of my peers.

Perhaps even all of humanity.

For my favorite candies are the ones others tend to not only dislike, but actively hate.

Here are some examples:

Circus peanuts: those slightly-indeterminately yellowishly-orangey spongy (marshmallow?) vaguely peanut-loaf-shaped candies that are always in the store but which no one but me ever seems to buy. I enjoy the way they collapse in my mouth in a yellowishly-orangey flavor, as well as that slight, almost flesh-like resistance as I chew on them.

Like all candies on this list, I can easily put away a bag of these in a short period of time.

Mary Janes. Yet another candy that tops the disgusting Halloween candy list of so many people, this very well may be my favorite taffy of all. As a lover of peanut butter, what can possibly be better than peanut butter taffy, especially when that peanut butter center bursts open on the first chew?

Granted, their longevity in the mouth is tempered by the tendency to stick to my teeth in a way that probably makes every dentist reading shudder (assuming they haven’t already turned away in disgust at the mention of candy. For all tooth-care practitioners that are still reading, not only do I salute you, but I promise to brush and floss.)

But still, that lingering peanutty sweetness in my mouth lasts for a significant time after I discard the slightly-oily candy wrapping. It’s blissful.

For a change of pace, I turn to the candy my fellow collegiates would lick and stick to the wall – Necco Wafers. I’ll admit, their chalky texture may not be for everyone, but for me, there’s a certain satisfaction to the crack they make (Dentists – look away!) as they shatter against my teeth. Each one has a subtle, unidentifiable flavor that ranges from almost-orange to barely-banana to probably-peppermint.

These wafers do have a preternatural ability to stick irremovably from a surface once they’ve been wetted with saliva; I’m fairly certain there are still a few attached to the ceiling of the Student Union lounge at my alma mater.

Similar in structure, I also enjoy Canada Mints, those Pepto-Bismol-pink wintergreen mints seemingly found in every elderly woman’s house, but which no one ever seems to eat (I sense a theme). Their color belies their taste, and while I haven’t eaten one in years, I can still bring to mind their minty, lightly medical flavor and the slight sting of the sinus when they finally begin to dissolve in the mouth.

Candy Corn seems to top the list of many as their most-disliked candy, but I adore these honey-flavored delights, whether corn- or pumpkin- shaped. The flavor never actually seems to change with the color of the corn, and while I’ve seen them recolored for different holidays throughout the year, they really come into prominence in the fall. The beginning of October can easily be determined with the arrival of candy corn on store shelves.

How can anyone possibly not enjoy these candies? They’re colorful, they resist just slightly when chewing them, and more importantly, they can easily be eaten by the handful.

Or simply poured from the bag straight into the mouth. Whatever works best.

I completely disregard as irrelevant anyone’s claim that these candies are “Chalky!” or “Too sweet!” or “Holy crap I just puncture the roof of my mouth on one of these suckers ahhhh I’m bleeding …”

People like that just need to develop their palate and stop raining on my candy corn parade. Eat a Canada Mint; they’re medicinal.

But topping my list, the creme of my crop, my absolute favorite candy flavor, spread across various types of candies, is black licorice. This delicacy waters my mouth like no other, whether found in the candy-coated pink and white Good & Plenties, or left behind in the bowl when all the other colors of gumdrops have been eaten, black licorice tastes like the best part of the soul. The darker, the better; but while the taste can be sugary and light à la anise, or heavy and dark like a shower of molasses; I’ll take any and all with gusto. Heaven to me is a cascade of black licorice mix, all types and colors coming together in one sweet, sweet tsunami of decadence.

Granted, my love for black licorice may be genetic, passed down to me by my paternal grandmother. She also had a fondness for black jelly beans and licorice sticks. I’m not sure anyone else in my family shares the same fondness, however.

But hands down, the best part about all of my favorite candies?

No one ever tries to take them from me. In fact, many people willingly try to give them to me. All the better.

Sadly, with Halloween behind us, many of these will become harder to find as the inevitable march of Christmas-themed candies take their place on the store shelves.

Including those colorful, Christmas ribbon candies.

Those, you can have.

They’re just nasty.

I’m 46 years old, and I’m teething.

It’s complicated.

My teeth and I have always had a casual relationship. I don’t remember spending a lot of time with them growing up, and really only noticed them when they started falling out- naturally, on their own, to be replaced by adult teeth.

I went through the entire tradition of having dangling teeth pulled by my parents and swallowing one or two accidentally (teeth, not parents), quarters from the Tooth Fairy (it was the 70s), gap-smile school pictures, trying to scam the Tooth Fairy (didn’t work), the weird feeling of an empty socket and how it was impossible not to explore it with my tongue, and finally discovering my parents were actually the Tooth Fairy after all (I pretty quickly had my doubts anyway.)

See, according to my mother, soon after losing my first tooth and receiving my first quarter under my pillow, I was overcome with greed and devised a plan with my brother to pull the teeth from a random jawbone we found in our yard (I don’t know where it came from; they just showed up periodically. Probably drug home by the dog. I doubt they were human jaw bones, but I never really checked.) and put them under our pillows, then rake in the cash.

Apparently, we were tripped up by our lack of strength and inability to extract the teeth from the jawbone.

I don’t remember this happening, but I was clever enough to have planned such a scheme, so I have no reason to doubt her story.

My teeth and I didn’t really talk much until I neared the end of my third senior year in college. Years of less than adequate concern and care caught up with me, and I needed a series of fillings done on my teeth. The dentist did a number of them at once, leaving me fantastically numb across the lower part of my face when he was done.

Hungry, I stopped for a roast beef sandwich, and ate it as best as I could manage with my compromised mouth control. The sandwich seemed to be of far lower quality than normal for this particular fast-food joint, with nearly every bite finding yet another piece of gristle grinding between my front teeth.

Finishing my meal, I discovered it wasn’t barbecue sauce I’d been dripping uncoordinatedly from my chin.

I’d been chewing on my lower lip the entire time.

For this and other reasons, including an irrational fear of having a dental tool dropped down my throat during an exam, I avoided dentists for the next few years.

As an adult, I bounced around a number of jobs that didn’t offer dental insurance. Even with the higher level of care I now gave my teeth at home, their condition worsened, until I had to face the choice of a root canal and a crown to save a tooth, or an extraction to remove it. The first usually cost more than I took home in an entire paycheck, so I invariably choose the latter.

By the time I’d reached a level of adult capability where I could actually pay to save a tooth, I’d already lost nearly all my molars, and one front tooth that I’d delayed work on for too long and needed to be removed because the bone in my jaw was dying off around it. My smile now permanently matches one of my grade-school pictures. Second grade, probably.

There were times I regretted my new level of responsibility, such as when I was having a crown put on one of my remaining back teeth. Suddenly, the dentist slipped, and $600 dollars worth of gold dropped down my throat. I bolted upright, my throat muscles clamped tightly, and somehow managed to cough it back up and out again. Thank goodness for that – I really didn’t want to have to delay the procedure for a day while waiting to retrieve the tooth from nature’s course.

There’s only so well something can be cleaned off. At least I confronted, and overcame, my fear of swallowing dental equipment.

But it almost bit me in the behind.

My wisdom teeth came out when I was 30, and that’s an adventure of which I remember little, but I’m told I giggled all the way home afterwards. (To me, this is even more far-fetched and difficult to believe than the story of trying to rip off the Tooth Fairy, but again, I don’t remember well enough to argue.)

Because one of my wisdom teeth had decided to drop down perfectly alongside a molar in such a way that it supported its roots, the oral surgeon decided to leave it in place as to not compromise the structural integrity of the molar, since it wasn’t causing any other issues.

I just giggled and agreed.

Years later, that molar finally decided it had had enough and it was time to come out. After numerous fillings and reconstructions, I wasn’t in the mood to argue with it any more, so in January out it came. Once again, yet another dentist had to dig out their extra-big tools for me. (I’ve always suspected at least one borrowed some from a local veterinarian.)

My dentist speculated that the wisdom tooth would either cause unspecified problems in the future, now that it had been freed, or it might decide to play nice, and slowly move its way into the gap left behind by the missing molar.

Seven months later, that seems to be what’s happening. It’s been so long since a tooth has broken through my gums that I actually didn’t realize what was happening. It’s sore, but nothing to cry over (take that, babies!) I’m looking forward to actually gaining a molar to finally replace one of the many I’ve lost, even though I’m planning on getting some dentures when I’ve finally reached that next level of adulthood where I’m able.

Especially since I want to replace that missing front tooth with a gold one. I think it will add a little bit of character to my smile.

Second-grade me would be delighted.

I don’t like children.

In general. For the most part. There have been exceptions, but considering how many children there are in the world, the exceptions make up such a small percentage that the result is negligible, and can simply be attributed to measurement error.

This isn’t just some random proclamation. I’ve had enough experience with children to rationalize my decision.

Some people are good with kids. I am not one of them.

(There are those that find this difficult to believe. I point out it’s difficult to believe baby oil is just mineral oil with artificial baby flavoring.)

It’s just as well then, that I don’t want to have children of my own.

(See? I do care about the world!)

This comes from experience, of course. Children are loud, random, and difficult to control or understand. While they have their amusing moments, so do many other things in the world that don’t demand nearly as much attention, or smell nearly as bad. Like monster truck rallies.

Although I don’t like those, either.

I have no interest in being around children or interacting with them. Annoyingly, many of them are attracted to my disinterest, and I end up becoming their best friend in the whole room. Their lack of comprehension and refusal to obey orders compounds my discomfort – this is the only rational explanation for how “Please don’t sit on my lap” is interpreted as “Fall asleep and stay there forever.” And it seems that if the child isn’t yours, it’s looked down upon if you shoo them away. Especially if it’s toward danger, no matter how inadvertently.

It’s an illogical reaction anyway, especially when it comes from the parents that ask if you want to hold their newborn. That just seems like a risky venture to me. What if I don’t want to give it back? What if I’m hungry? What if I’ve only been your friend for the past 20 years because I knew one day you’d turn your back after handing over your child and I could finally distract those hungry Russian wolves chasing my sleigh?

This willful placing of a child in danger is, in my mind, far more egregious than accidentally hip-checking a toddler into the side of a couch.

Even worse are the parents that don’t bother to ask before suddenly slinging their infant into my arms. My instinctual reflex is to pull away, not pull towards. I suppose some people enjoy seeing the look of horror on my face when I’m handed a child. Just like I enjoy the look of horror that results when it turns into a game of baby hot potato.

(No, I’ve never dropped a baby. I just resent being put into a position where it could easily happen. Seriously, for all they know, I just put lotion on my hands.)

I don’t begrudge other people for having children; I’m sure they have their reasons. I just can’t fathom what they are, any more than I ever understood the rationale that led to my own birth.

I’m guessing my parents must have been bored.

Really, really bored. And momentarily witless. Maybe the TV was broken.

They already had one child. That should have given them pause before creating me. Secretly, I’ve always believed they weren’t particularly happy with the outcome of the first, which is a possible reason for trying for the second.

(The third child that followed after me could only have been an oversight.)

I’ve had enough contact with kids to know that my lack of parenting ability isn’t going to be overcome. I can even list specifics. For instance, somehow, a friend convinced me to babysit once. (I’m guessing I was promised food.) I went into it with an open mind and every intention to do the best job possible.

I did well, until the unavoidable occurred and the child needed changed. I could only keep the baby’s diaper on by using duct tape. I thought this was a better solution than using a new diaper and letting one go to waste, just because the tabs weren’t nearly as strong as they look in commercials, but apparently only some creative solutions in parenting are acceptable and worth printing in motherhood magazines along with the hundred-and-one-things that can be done with an empty formula can.

This same child wouldn’t eat one evening. She did, however, express interest in what I was eating. While it was still in my mouth. After I had chewed it.

This was before she was old enough to use utensils. Which is just as well, as I don’t think I’d want a fork in my mouth not under my direct control.

At least she didn’t go hungry.

Children learn from their parents. Parental wisdom comes easily to some people. I don’t think I’m one of them, so I’d be stuck passing on the wisdom my parents gave me, or at least what little of it I remember, such as: don’t pick at it.

Granted, that’s good advice for a multitude of situations and circumstances, but I feel a parent should be able to offer up more. Heck, my mother was quick to turn anything into a learning situation, like when she told me that a dying child in a tv show had eaten a peach pit. Or the woman with the badly cut arm had been playing with a ripped soda can.

I wasn’t old enough to know that a child hit by a car wasn’t dying because he ate the seed out of a peach, but I was old enough to understand the peach tree in our backyard would kill me, and to avoid metal cans at all costs.

(This is the woman who also let me fry my own eggs for breakfast when I was three. So she had her off days, too.)

I guess lessons don’t have to make sense to teach a valuable point.

There are people who stumble into being parents and do a fantastic job at it, just as there are those who know their entire lives that they want to have children someday. I think it’s just as important that there are people (like myself) who are just as capable as recognizing that they’re not parental material, and recognize as well the wisdom of not trying to change the person’s mind.

So if there’s any kind of a valuable point in this nonsensical lesson, it’s that parenting is easy enough to screw up even with the best of intentions – why encourage it under the worse of circumstances?

Nobody really wants to see someone die from eating a peach pit when they’re cooking eggs, you know.

It’s the Holiday Season!


The holidays snuck up on me this year, managing to find me even though I tried to hide as best I could to ignore them in the hopes that they’d go away. Even so, I suddenly realized that I was getting into the holiday spirit when I was wandering around the grocery store last week humming “Monster Mash”.

Unfortunately, as it was now late December, this meant I missed out on all the good Halloween costumes available in stores. There was one bedraggled Bill Clinton mask that looked like it had been regularly marked down since 1993, but I passed.

(Too scary? Maybe.)

The thing about store bought costumes is they have a rather high mark of demarcation for quality- store bought costumes really don’t look good until a dangerously high amount of money is spent. Far higher than my bank account has ever reached, at least.

So for the most part, all of my Halloween costumes have been homemade.

The earliest costume I can remember having was probably around the age of of 3 or 4. I had a love for bears then, and I was given a bear mask and an adult sized, brown corduroy overcoat to wear. The next part I remember is arriving … somewhere .. and a woman asking me if she could take of my coat, and I reacted as well as a real bear being skinned.

A number of years passed before I would try the animal route once more. While going through a box of my mother’s things from growing up, a strange gray onesie was found. As it turned out, it was all that remained of a donkey costume from long before I was born. Two wonderful coincidences coincided with that discovery which led to my halloween costume that year: I was big enough (or the costume small enough) for it to fit, and I’d also developed a fondness for donkeys.

(Some would even say, an affinity.)

The original head long gone, my mother set to work making a new one. I’m not sure how long she spent, and I wasn’t allowed to watch, but somehow she managed to take a few paper grocery bags, some newspaper, and gray spray-paint and fashioned a donkey head that fit perfectly over my own. It even had big ears and a long nose, just like the real donkeys we owned at the time. Black gloves and boots finished the look to perfection.

I couldn’t see a thing out of the mask.

Either of the eye holes could be looked out of, but not both at the same time. Even then, the long nose dominated my field of vision.

Once again my mother came to the rescue, dressing my younger brother as a farmer leading me around with a rope.

(I don’t remember how either of us felt about this arrangement – it’s entirely possible we weren’t allowed to have any feelings about this arrangement.)

Halloween night, we went into town to walk in the Halloween parade. The parade was typical of small-town parades all over the country, with people winning prizes they didn’t deserve because they weren’t me. It especially stung that year, since I really felt like I was wearing a prize-winning costume, even occasionally making braying sounds.

Worse, my younger brother won the prize for “Best Cowboy”, when the only effort he’d put into his costume was putting on a straw cowboy hat. As it turned out, the prize he won was two hats, so we each got one.

(I don’t remember how either of us felt about this arrangement – because we definitely weren’t allowed to have feelings about this arrangement.)

During this time in my life, I had a pet ram. Not the most usual of childhood pets, but he had been bottle fed after being born and followed me around like the dog he thought he was. I decided one year that I was going to be Mary leading around my little lamb at school. I was in the fifth grade, and it was the last grade that still had holiday parties during school time. Once again I experienced a coincidence of my being big enough/my mother’s old square dancing dress being small enough that my costume was easily assembled. Even better, the dress came with a bonnet.

When the time came for all the students to put on their costumes and parade around the school before the festivities, my mother arrived with Snoopy the sheep, and the two of us walked around, certainly the sight to see.

Once again, I don’t remember winning any kind of award, though one was obviously deserved. Snoopy, however, was a resounding hit, even after he tried to eat another student’s costume.

My halloween costumes of the years that followed weren’t memorable enough to be anything more than forgotten blurs at this point. I vaguely remember trying to make a mummy costume in high school, discovering an awful lot of effort is necessary to make mummification bandages look convincing and even more effort is required to keep the bandages in place (which is probably why most mummies just lie around all the time.) On top of that, it’s also mostly impossible to mummify oneself. I would have had better luck crawling into a sleeping bag and going as a cocoon.

In college, I somehow ended up with a cow costume, udders and all, that served me well for a number of years, even though I never managed to work out a way for it to give milk.

But that really was the end of not only my animal-based costumes, but costumes in general for me. There were occasional exceptions, but considering how many of those costumes involved a black dress neither big enough for me nor I small enough for it that it’s probably best not to bring them up.

I doubt I’ll ever were a Halloween costume again, although that’s not to say that I don’t still have the little black dress, because I do. Rather, the older I become the less whimsical I am. No matter what Halloween costume a person chooses to wear, a certain whimsy is required to even consider dressing up as something else, and that kind of imagination requires more energy than I’m willing to expend these days.

Besides, after all this time, too many other people continue to win prizes that really should be mine.

I guess I do still have a little whimsy in me. A cow can dream, can’t he?

I smell.

Well, my nose does, at least.

How does it smell?


(That shouldn’t be a new joke for anyone, even those fresh from the womb.)

Of all our senses, smell tends to be given a lot less importance than others. I’m not sure anyone lives in fear of losing their sense of smell, like we may for losing any of the “major” senses, such as hearing, sight, and touch.

The way we smell is easy to take for granted.

Just like our other senses, we are bombarded daily with scents and odors. We develope favorites, and dislikes, and categories to sort them all into.

I don’t know of any personality tests based up smell, like there are for color or music. But there should be.

For instance, I like many floral scents. The sublime delicance of a daffodil. The exotic slice of a neroli blossom. The unforgettable power of a rose (and as a bonus, rose can even be a flavor!)

My favorite of all – the heady punch of a blooming lilac. For me, a deep inhale makes my head spin and my mind soar.

To base an analysis of my personality upon these favorites, however, brings a result that with I’m certain I will disagree. (I’m … earthy? Gentle? Passive?) I’ve already had far too many people tell me that I’ve the soul of an elderly woman with scented bath soaps no one is allowed to touch on the inside.

(The soaps. Don’t touch the soaps. Not that this means any of you can touch my insides, either.)

Leaving the flowers behind, there are other scents I enjoy as well, of course: baked goods. (Go away inner old lady!) Leather stores (Erm, really … go away.) The sharp stab of mothballs (farther … that should do it.) The metallic tang of electrical ozone. Burning coal. Brand new computer parts. Freshly poured asphalt on a hot day.

(I’m machine-like? Like an old lady on a motorcycle delivering cookies, maybe?)

My point being, if one tries to analyze a personality based upon favorite smells, it gets weird.


In the name of (pseudo)science, obviously the other side has to be factored in as well – those smells that are disliked.

There are universally disliked smells, of course: rotting food. Sewer gas. Bad breath. Sadly even the innate cuteness of a skunk is not enough to overcome their disastrous odor.

(Although they seem to be perfectly happy with it and its usefulness in defense from predators. And cuddlers.)

Unlike many people, I don’t mind the smell of cooking fish in a microwave. Or boiling cabbage, or frying onions, or many other food related smells. I don’t mind the aroma of gas being pumped,  cow farms, locker rooms, wet dogs … I can’t say I’m fond of them, but I’m not bothered by them.

(The cat box really gets to me sometimes, though.)

But the odor that bothers me more than anything – musty clothes.

(Maybe I fear stagnation. Or being folded up and shoved in a drawer.)

I don’t know why it bothers me so much. Perhaps it’s a sense of failure because my clothes always seem to have an underlying mustiness to them that I can’t get rid of, no matter how much fabric softener I use. I’ve always envied those people who can walk down a hall and leave behind an unmistakable April freshness in the air.

I’ve tried finding out how they do it, but as soon as I ask, “Do you ever feel … not-so-fresh?” they just look at me funny and back away.

So the mystery remains.

In the past, I’ve blamed it on the washing machine I used, or the detergent, or the fabric softener, or the dryer sheets … but the unfortunate consistency across all these variables can only lead to one conclusion:

Apparently, I stink.

I’m not sure if the smell originates from the clothes rubbing off on me, or I on the clothes. I’m all right as long as I don’t get sweaty or wet in the rain. But as soon as I do, I can begin to catch the first whiffs of the unmistakable moldy hair smell.

(I’m bitter from the number times I’ve been lied to by fabric softeners listing their scent as “fresh summer rain”.)

I haven’t given up. (Perseverance!) If the cat can smell like fresh fabric softener just from burrowing underneath the blankets on my roommate’s bed and sleeping there for a few hours, there must be hope for me as well.

(He used to be the control in my experiments, until I was firmly told I wasn’t allowed to sniff him any more. My roommate, not the cat. Although I’m not supposed to sniff the cat, either.)

My latest attempt is to eliminate fabric softener entirely. I read online to use a little distilled vinegar instead. Since it’s on the internet, it has to be true, so I figured it’s worth a shot. Maybe it will help balance my natural PH levels or some other vaguely scientific-sounding thingy. I figure the worst that can happen is I end up smelling like vinegar. Or moldy hair vinegar.

If that doesn’t work, maybe I’ll try lemon juice next. (Curiousity!)

It may end up that the only solution will be to cut off my nose.

But then how will I smell?


(Of course.)

… well, that’s it, really. The end of the story.

The beginning takes a little more explanation.

To live is to know loss; it’s inevitable. Every person has lost or will lose, either expected or not, someone of importance to them; someone they love.

While returning to my ancestral home for my sister’s funeral, I learned that my uncle had also died. His death was somewhat expected, as a week previously I had learned he was entering hospice care after kidney failure.

It was this I was expecting to learn of when my brother called me late one night, only to instead be told of my sister’s unexpected death.

I am now the oldest surviving member of my immediate family, and second oldest in my father’s bloodline. The past five years saw the deaths of my mother, my father, my dog, my paternal grandmother, my brother-in-law, and now my uncle and my sister. I very nearly became part of that list myself. (Both grandfathers and my maternal grandmother died years ago.)

That’s a lot of punches with which to roll.

I am one of many who deal with personal tragedy through attempted humor- the deeper the pain, the greater the irreverence. When asking for time off from work to fly to the homestead, I told my boss that the silver lining is that there’s not many more family members left to go, so I shouldn’t need any more time off for quite awhile.

(My irreverence is frequently matched by my tastelessness, I suppose.)

As the now eldest of my family, I wanted to speak at the memorial service for my sister, something I had managed to avoid with all previous funerals. (I’ve lost track of the number, but I’m pretty sure we can turn in our punchcard and get the next one free!)

I’ve tried to avoid this because I’m not good at writing seriously.

(Yes, I also realize many don’t think I’m good at writing humorously, either. Or writing at all. Go complain in your own column.)

During my travels from halfway across the country, I’d occasionally toss ideas into the back of my head to simmer and hopefully turn into something worth sharing. This continued into the next day as well, leaving me with little time to cobble something together before the service the following day. Never has the word “deadline” held so much meaning to me.

(This doesn’t help dismiss my claims of lacking taste at all.)

After learning of my uncle’s death, I wanted to write something that could be meaningful not only to the friends attending my sister’s memorial but the rest of my family that would be dealing with two funerals in one weekend.

Once I began writing about my sister, I tried to work in my uncle as well, thinking of the various memories I could share, like the picture of my uncle that I remember best from when he helped my father build a swingset (for my sister, coincidentally) and was captured hanging from one hand on the swingset acting like a monkey. Or of the time my sister tried to impress her boyfriend by baking him biscuits, but ended up with pastry hockey pucks when she used the wrong flour.

Frustrated with the direction and unsatisfied with the results, especially since I was trying to be thoughtful and serious, I suddenly realized I didn’t want to write about my sister and/or my uncle at all. They weren’t the ones who needed to be reminded of my memories and given whatever comfort I could muster.

Funerals are for the living, it is said, and I needed to write for the people who would be there for hers. I already knew I’d never forget her, and I hoped that I could write something that would help everyone else remember her as well, and to make them feel a little better, and in the process, maybe make myself feel a little better as well.

And so I did.

Everyone knows loss. Even though this was written for my own, I hope that what follows can also help anyone else dealing with theirs, as well.

I’m not going to talk about my sister. Instead, I’d like to talk about each one of you.

Each one of you has your own reason for being here, and each one of you knew her in your own way. Each of you feel your own individual loss.

But instead of loss, I want each of you to think about what you’ve gained from knowing her.

Think of how you met her, of the conversations you had, the things you did together, how she looked when she was happy, and how it felt to be happy around her.

Because what is important now is not that she’s gone, but that she was here, and the impact she made, in some way, on each one of you.

As long as you remember her, and what she did for you, and how your life is different because of her, and how you’ve benefited from the time you knew her, and most importantly, what she meant to you – hold on to this, each one of you, and she’ll never truly be gone.

It’s one thing to not be forgotten; it’s another thing to be remembered.

I’ve never really understood why some people say they love doing housework.

I mean, I’ve said it myself sometimes, just to keep other people from knowing what to expect from me. But usually the people I’ve encountered who say it seem to truly believe what they’re saying.

And maybe they do. But maybe it’s domicile Stockholm Syndrome. Who am I to judge what happens between an adult and a house?

Cleaning is hard. Keeping things clean is harder.

Keeping the lights dim and visitors away is easy.

Even when I ignore housework, there are some things that I can’t turn my back on if I am to be presentable in public without being arrested. Even so …

I usually do two loads of laundry once a week. On weekends. On Sunday. The day before I go back to work. Where I’m required to wear clothes. Clean clothes. Which I never have at that point, unless I want to select from the not-everyday-work-clothes drawer.

(I don’t need to describe what’s in there. Everyone has the same or similar, so you already know what I’m talking about.)

(Although I doubt I’m the first person ever to wonder if wearing a high school prom gown to work could be accomplished without anyone noticing.)

This burden of mine has become easier to deal with as I’ve matured in years, mainly because I actually learned from some of my past lessons in life, surprisingly.

Such as, it really is better to put in the effort of folding and putting away clothes once they’re dry, straight from the dryer if possible. Not only does it prevent wrinkles that need to be ironed (because ironing is even worse than doing laundry, although it smells nice), but it also eliminates the possibility of living out of a clothes basket for a week, or of piling the clean laundry on top of the bed and then sleeping on it for the next seven days.

I’ve done both.

More than once.

Leaving the clean clothes in the basket itself can lead to other issues, such as now having nowhere to put dirty clothes, except for the closet floor. Or worse, no longer knowing for sure if the clothes in the basket are still the clean clothes, or the dirty clothes. (This is especially hazardous when one’s wardrobe is remarkably similar, much in the same way that photocopies are similar.)

This can also lead to the unpleasant discovery that the clothes in the basket that you thought were clean are actually suddenly, irrevocably and irwardrobedly dirty, and damp, and the unexpected answer to “Why has the cat box stayed so clean this week?”

(At least that never happened when I was sleeping on the clothes.)

(That I know of.)

A yellow-alert situation such as this really only has one of three possible solutions:

Plan A: Calling in sick to work. (Done that.)

Plan B: Digging into the dreaded drawer mentioned above, attempting to create a passable outfit for the day out of pants that are usually too tight or meant for weddings or both; shirts that are stained in places that might not show if I’m careful not to lift my right arm above my knee; and that pair of underwear that only stays up properly once it’s been stapled on. (Done that too. All of it. And more.)

And Plan C, which relies on having a little more time than may be available in a sudden emergency wardrobe malfunction: buying new clothes just to avoid washing what is already owned.

(Yes, three for three; I’ve done that, too.)

It’s been some time since I’ve had to rely on any of these impractical solutions, because the space-age clothes dryer I use now has a steam “refresh” cycle that can be used to recycle clothing for another day, as long as there are plenty of dryer sheets available to add and a lack of ketchup upon any of the clothing.

Part of my distaste at putting away clean laundry is that I’m just not very good at folding clothes. And clothes really need to folded in some way to maximize the use of a drawer. After years of practice and trying, I’ve come to a compromise with myself: since my folded clothes are never going to look the way they do in a store, as long as they’re reasonably compact and secured and able to fit within the drawer with a minimum of forced compression, I’m happy.

(Believe me, “forced compression in the drawers” is not something anyone should ever want to deal with more than once, if ever.)

My pants are folded once so the legs are together, then twice more going down. My shirts are folded three times- once bilaterally, once to bring in the sleeves, and once more across the middle. My underpants are also folded three times. Eventually, everything ends up as squares of various sizes, except for my socks, which I fold once and then haphazardly shove into their own drawer where they end up roaming around free range anyway.

(At least I no longer force my paired socks to be wadded into each other, forming amorphous mobius blobs, after finally realizing this was why I usually had one sock that would raggedly slide down my leg and into my shoe while the other one stayed put.)


I don’t like doing laundry. While there are ways to avoid it, they usually end up being more of a hassle and hardship than just gritting my teeth and getting it over with, hoping that I haven’t missed an ink pen somewhere this time.

Because I like to look reasonably nice. More importantly, my employers like me to look reasonably nice. And at least I have some possibility of achieving this, simply by wearing clothes. This accomplishes the fundamental first step of being able to be looked at.

So once a week, usually at the last possible moment, I do my two loads of laundry.

These are the never-ending loads we must bear as responsible adults.

And we really only have ourselves (and sometimes ketchup) to blame.

I don’t like shopping.

I’ve said it before, I know … but I really don’t like shopping. It always seems the bigger the purchase, the more annoying it is to shop for the item.

Purchasing a vehicle, therefore, daunted me. Especially since I last shopped for a vehicle 14 years ago. I hoped, however, that the new tools available to me that weren’t as well-developed the last time I put metal under my pedal would ease my search.

Off I went … to the internet.

Going online is not only second nature to me these days; it’s like a second home. When I was first introduced to the online world in 1991, I was immediately drawn in without a look back.

(If I have to shop, I may as well start off where I’m most comfortable. Best of all, as long as the curtains are down and the webcam is off, I can wear (or not) whatever I like.)

I knew my price range, which helped me to narrow my search. Nearly to nothing, it seemed. I realized then the more major car dealerships would be of no use to me- I wasn’t in the market for a new car loan, just a new-to-me car.

Luckily, there were any number of smaller, used car dealerships available online as well.

(In the online world, it’s possible to find almost anything, of course. And usually even twice! The second time just tends to have a naked body involved somehow.)

I found a number of vehicles I thought would be sufficiently adequate, made a few print outs, a list of locations (oddly, a number of these dealers had the same address), grabbed my ever-suffering roommate (since he had a vehicle that was not crushed), and off we went.

As it turned out, the mysterious shared address was one large car lot shared by 16 different dealers, all of whom had offices in a row at the end of the lot. We parked and began to wander, looking for the vehicles that matched my print outs.

20 minutes and five vehicles later, we had not been approached by any salesmen. I found this remarkable- usually, when at a car lot, I’m pounced upon almost as soon as I put my foot on the ground, leading me to check to see if I negligently left a fresh porkchop hanging around my neck.

As we were just about to leave, a salesman finally appeared, produced an enormous ring of keys, and unlocked the door of the first vehicle I pointed out, a silver pickup truck.

Although on my list, as I looked through the window of the truck, I was concerned to see the steering column was damaged. It looked like an enraged gorilla had forcibly ripped the ignition switch out. As I opened the now unlocked door, the … fragrance … that blew forth confirmed that yes, a gorilla apparently had lived within the truck cabin.

It must have been for a long time. And he hadn’t washed his socks. Ever.

(I know gorillas don’t wear socks. I also know it smelled like this one had. In the sun. When it was hot.)

My head spinning, we moved on to my next choice, another truck. I liked the looks of this one; it was small and reminded me of the truck I drove in college. Most importantly, the air inside didn’t smell like gorilla.

I got into the truck, struggling to fit behind the steering wheel. I know I’ve increased in size since college, but I hadn’t before encounter such a … crushing reminder. Holding my breath, I finally managed to wedge myself into place.

My knees stuck up painfully around the sides of the steering wheel. I was afraid to move my arms.

“What do you think?” asked the salesman.

“               ,                  !” I replied.

A cloud of bats suddenly flew by overhead. In the distance, dogs began to howl.

“The seat can be slid back,” he said, indicating a lever buried somewhere underneath me and the seat.

“                   ,” I squeaked.

Not far away, there came the sound of shattering glass. Somehow, dolphins began to whistle and click near by.

I sucked in my stomach even further. With black spots beginning to appear in my vision, I managed to contortion my arm between my legs and stretched for the adjustment lever. With a final heave that felt like my shoulder was dislocating, I lifted the lever with my fingertips.

The seat slid back half an inch.

“There you go!”

The salesman looked pleased. I felt my internal organs begin to shut down.

I popped myself out of the truck, my face now matching the paint.

“Maybe you should look at something bigger,” my roommate suggested. Wearily, I shook my head in agreement.

And so the morning went. I looked at a few more vehicles, choosing two to test drive. The first one was easily ruled out, as the salesman was unable to find the keys. Considering the enormity of his key ring, we weren’t surprised.

The second vehicle was not a color I would normally choose for myself, as I’ve never believed bright yellow really reflects my personality. But as my father used to say, “If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.”

(To be honest, that saying has never made any sense to me.)

The interior of the SUV looked nice, and smelled decidedly gorilla-free, which was a plus. The salesman pointed out the leather seats, a luxury I’ve never experienced.

The test drive was short and quick, mainly because of the leather seats. The vehicle ran well, sounded good, and fit me almost like the vehicle it was replacing. While it was slightly pricier than my budget, I would have considered it still if only the “luxurious” leather seats had not reached sub-lava surface temperatures while sitting in the direct sunlight.

Disappointed, we left the vehicle, trailing sweat and the smell of burnt leg meat. Like the prince from Cinderella, I was beginning to think I’d never find the right fit. Maybe my princess was a gorilla, and the glass slipper that was my vehicle wouldn’t fit because she was wearing socks.

(To be honest, that makes even less sense than my father’s old saying.)

We trudged back to my roommate’s car. I resigned myself to spending the rest of the day looking through more online ads, hoping for just a few more vehicles in good shape and in my price range.

“You know,” the salesman said suddenly, “there is one more vehicle you might be interested in. It just came in, and we haven’t had a chance to put up an ad for it.”

And there it was, the ship that was my prince coming in like … like a begging … horse … (I really need to work on my sayings). A dark green SUV, right in my price range, clean and simian free. I raised the hood and, just as I had on all the previous vehicle, poked around and checked the oil and hopefully looked like I knew what I was doing.

The keys were found and a test drive taken. Although I was a little rusty driving with a clutch after years of having an automatic, the ride was relatively smooth, and by the time we returned, I was sold. I’d found my next vehicle. The cloth-covered seats had sealed the deal.

I’m hopeful I’ve found a vehicle that will last me for a number of years. That would be … sufficiently adequate.

Unlike my sayings.

My right arm keeps falling down.

(We’ll come back to that.)

For 14 years, I’ve been driving a 2000 Suzuki Grand Vitara. It started out as silver, but over time the paint has faded and worn until becoming a slightly glittery gray.

It’s been relatively reliable over the years, outside of a broken rear main seal costing $15 for the part and $700 for the repair, due to the entire engine needing to be removed.

Or when three of the four oxygen sensors in its two catalytic convertors going bad, preventing it from even running. Once again, the engine needed to be removed, only this time around, no mechanic locally could do the job.

So I hauled it 270 miles to the nearest dealership at the time, left it there, drove 270 miles home, made the same trip back a week later, and returned home once more.

It didn’t cause me many big problems, but as the nursery rhyme states: when it was bad, it was horrid.

Still, it served me well over the years. While I’ve never been one to give cars pet names, it and I have been through adventures sordid and sane, earning it the name of “my Vehicle”.

(My creativity is not always there when I need it … so I settled for capitalizing the V.)

I initially purchased my Vehicle to make my first trip to Wyoming, and that 1,712 mile round trip was made a number of times throughout our history.

With greater familiarity came greater comfort. I knew innately where each bumper ended, how it would drive in varying conditions, what noises to worry about and which to disregard, the way its hood would jitter up and down when driving over a certain speed.

I adapted as my Vehicle changed, learning to live with an open window after the air conditioner died, for instance, but keeping the other windows raised so I could still hear the radio over the noise of the rushing highway air.

For 14 years, I drove with one hand on the wheel and my arm draped up and over the back of the passenger’s seat, the best cruising position my Vehicle had to offer.

It and I became one ridiculous, bionic cyborg when I got behind the wheel.

But now, my right arm keeps falling down.

(Told you.)

Vehicular collisions are a singular experience unlike other accidents. We become so accustomed to the feeling of autonomy automobiles give us, that when that autonomy is broken by another object, moving or not, the mental shock is so sudden, so powerful, that time itself splits into different velocities.

The saying “it happened so fast” is a cliché for a reason- it’s mostly true. The actual speed of a wreck is hard to measure. “In the blink of an eye,” or even, “In a split second” doesn’t really fit.

Because while my accident occurred so fast I barely was able to react, it simultaneously was happening slowly enough that I could make out details I’d otherwise have ignored: the feeling of my Vehicle’s brake pedal as I slammed it to the floor.

The tires squealing as they locked and skidded.

The tension in my arms as my elbows reflexively locked, and nearly skidding myself.

The way the invisible autonomobile zone around my Vehicle that was never to be breached suddenly filled with another SUV, and my hood crumpling, and the crash sounding its vulgar, unique tones, and the omnipresent black and white paint dominating my vision, and my seatbelt holding me back as I went from 25 miles an hour to zero, and how my first reaction was to pull out of traffic as well as I could and shut off the engine, and the policeman running up to me to see if I was all right.

And the realization that the vehicle I’d just collided with was his.


(I’d like to formally state that of all the goals I have in life, getting entangled with a policeman via car wreck has never been one of them.)

As I had approached the intersection on a green light, I heard a siren from my left through my open window, yet saw nothing, and assumed it was therefore behind me, not approaching me perpendicularly past two lanes of heavy traffic to my right.

Even if his SUV had had a light bar on top, I wouldn’t have been able to see it any better than the rest of his vehicle.

To wheel out another cliché, by the time we saw each other, there was nothing either of us could do.

He was fine, and I was (mostly) fine – my recently installed titanium chest armor held up nicely. I was shaken and sore, however. Luckily, I wasn’t going fast enough for my airbag to deploy, or I probably would have been left in worse shape.

Even though he repeatedly told me it was an accident, I still felt bad.

Tow trucks and insurance agents were called; pictures and statements taken. While his SUV suffered only from a slightly buckled and dented left passenger door, my Vehicle leaked fluids from its crushed front end.

I’m no mechanic, but I knew I’d never drive it again.

I felt an unexpected loss. I knew, of course, one day it and I would no longer be a team, but this was not the way I expected it to happen.

I was given a ride home. No citations were issued.

The next day, I rented a car, had a doctor check me over, and then went to the salvage yard to remove the rest of my belongings from my Vehicle.

Inanimate objects feel emotion even less than I do, I know; but as I took a last look at its dejected, forlorn appearance, my Vehicle looked like it felt even sadder than I unexpectedly did.

The glint in the headlights was no longer there.

My Vehicle had done its job well, even at the end when it kept me from being hurt as it was destroyed itself.

I sighed and patted it on the hood, thanking it for a job well done.

I drove off in the rental, a four-door sedan. Out of habit, I tried to drape my arm over the top of the front passenger seat.

The seats, however, leaned back further than I was used to after 14 years, and nothing was there when I lowered my arm.

I’ve used the rental for almost three weeks now.

And my right arm keeps falling down.


I don’t enjoy shopping.

Well, not exactly. I enjoy buying things. That part is fun. Comparison shopping, however, is mostly a bore.

Comparing items online is simple; doing so in real life is not a skill I have, nor do I have a real desire to do as other high-powered shoppers do: rushing around different stores in a 50 mile radius to see which outlet has the lowest price on whatever item they may be searching for in the hopes that after burning a tank of gas they can save two dollars from that store 40 miles away …

That’s just not me. In fact, I’m probably the worst shopper possible once I’m on my feet and in the door, because I tend not to care about ‘bargains’. I walk in with an item in mind and the expectation that it’s priced a fair amount that benefits both me and the seller.

Yeah, I’m an easy mark.

After closing on our house and moving in our belongings, we were faced with a literally uncomfortable situation: a distinct lack of furniture. It’s one thing to have a 50” TV sitting in the corner. It’s an entirely different thing to stand and watch it because there’s no chairs and the floor gets hard pretty quickly.

As a temporary solution, we purchased two lawn chairs and arranged them tastefully in our living room. Well, as tastefully as two beige plastic patio chairs can be placed upon wood laminate flooring.

Which is to say, not tasteful at all.

Luckily, a number of furniture stores are located near us conveniently grouped together, simplifying the process of finding the two overstuffed recliners we pictured replacing our tasteless lawn chairs.

(I’m not even convinced that the two chairs look tasteful on an actual lawn.)

I quickly discovered that freedom of choice can be a huge detriment when shopping- the greater the possibilities, the harder the decision is to make. I had an idea of what color I wanted, as well as material and features. With that in my brain, we were able to narrow down the possibilities to a much more reasonable representation our needs from which to choose.

Still, a recliner needs to pass the most difficult of tests, and there was simply no way for us to avoid sitting in many, many different chairs, trying to determine which one was a function of our requirements as well as our Goldilocks buttgroove neccesities.

It’s astonishing how tiring sitting in numerous chairs can quickly become.

Matters were not helped when my first sit-down test in the first furniture store went quickly, horribly wrong.

The first recliner we found that appeared to be all we wanted sat empty and alone, its lushly padded seat and leather-like finish practically begging me to plunk my posterior.

So I plunked.

Charmed by its warm, leathery posterioral embrace, and astonished that this very first choice could possibly be the chair that would return home with me, I relaxed, closed my eyes, and leaned back.

The back did not stop.

In cuddling slow motion, the chair continued until I lay flat back against the floor, my feet pointing towards the industrial steel roof overhead.

With heroic intent, my roommate sprang (stepped) forward and tried to help return my seatback to an upright and locked position by pushing my feet towards the ground.

The back of the chair then separated from the base of the chair, which returned to its original position, leaving me now stretched uncomfortably across the two pieces.

It was just my luck to first try an overachiever. I struggled to extract myself from this recliniest of recliners, finally managing to do so by simply sacrificing my remaining dignity.

Luckily, none had witnessed my mishap, so we casually (briskly) left the store without looking back.

It was hours later in a different store that we finally purchased our two recliners. At the end, I’m not sure if I chose the one I did because I liked it or because I was giving up or if it won for not trying to perforate my spine.

So, shopping for furniture is really not a favorite activity as a result.

During my hospitalization later that year, I learned two valuable lessons about hospital beds. First, being able to mechanically raise my upper body to an upright position was remarkably useful when I was not allowed to use my arms to raise myself.

And two, whoever invented the hospital bed obviously never needed to use one.

In addition to my inability to use my arms in a lifting manner, I was not allowed to reach or twist, either, making it nearly impossible for me to reach the bedrail and use the controls. Additionally, with the way the head of the bed lifted, simple physics decreed that as my top was raising, my bottom would be sliding towards the foot. Alleviating this by raising the feet as well nearly always resulted in a taco-shaped bed with my crumpled body as the filling.

When I decided I needed a new mattress after returning home for my lengthy recovery, I understandably dreaded returning to deathtrap filled furniture stores, and neither was I in any condition to spend lengthy spans of time shopping. I chose to forego any comparisoning and just return to the store from which we purchased our recliners months ago.

As bad as it had been to repeatedly sit and squirm to test the fit of a new recliner, testing mattresses proved even worse. Ironically, it was more tiring as well. With my cane and a paper testing pillow, I slowly shuffled around the showroom, lowering myself painfully onto different beds and trying to imagine after a few minutes how well I would feel after an entire night. Due to my condition, I wasn’t even able to test my favorite sleeping positions.

Eventually, all the mattresses began to run together, and I was no longer able to tell which I had already tested. None, however, had really slept out at me.

It didn’t help that deciding what mattress I wanted was really a decision I needed to sleep on.

But in the clearance section, I found hope once more. A pillowy dream of a mattress that felt like home to me as soon as I gently lowered (crashed) myself onto it. With my eyes closed, I blissfully felt myself swaddled in the chest hair of angels.

And then my roommate found the remote control.

First, he raised me to a comfortable acute angle.

Then the bed began to vibrate, massaging me without needing coins or a cheap motel!

I had found my new nocturnal home.

I also found the price tag marked ‘sold’.

The hirsute angels of my dreams ripped away, leaving me once again in pillowtop purgatory.

Luckily, we found another bed almost as nice, with the same features. Once again, I made my decision not really knowing if I chose the bed for its comfort, or to end my shopping ordeal.

My concerns were soon laid to rest.

At home, I quickly came to appreciate the new bed not only for ending the struggle of getting up, but as an upgrade from my old twin size to new queen dimensions, spreading out became a possibility and the cats finally had plenty of space to sleep on the bed instead of on my chest.

(Not that this has stopped them.)

While I may not have found exactly what I wanted, I certainly found the night time partner I needed, one that keeps me at just the right angle and quiets my muscles with soothing (rumbling) lullabies, no quarters required.

And hopefully, no more shopping nightmares for many years to come.