Just kidding, I don’t speak Spanish.
I come today to tell you about the fire. The fire of forty thousand hells that resides in one harmless looking piece of chicken.
Perhaps you have seen the commercials for KFC’s Nashville Hot chicken. Perhaps you are intrigued. Perhaps you, like I, hold the opinion that anything handed to you from a KFC drive thru window will bring delight. Well, let me tell you about this chicken.
But first, let me tell you about my reservations about the chicken. I’m not a fan of spicy foods. I have a low tolerance for capsaicin. My idea of adding some heat to my food is reaching for the red chili flake with a delicate touch. So I was not initially drawn to such a product. But then, at work one day, we started talking about food, as we are wont to do, and Nashville Hot chicken became the topic of the day. I relentlessly questioned my coworkers about the level of heat. I asked again. I asked for comparisons. I asked for other references of spicy foods they like. I fell just short of waterboarding them before I decided to give it a go.
Being of a cautious nature, I decided to order some regular chicken tenders and also some Nashville Hot. You know, in case of el fuego and all. Sadly for me, my husband is less adept than my teenagers at reading my text messages, so when I texted him the order, ALL he read was Nashville Hot. And ALL he brought me was Nashville Hot. I was all in, friends. It was Nashville Hot or nothing.
Okay, it wasn’t actually like that. Hubs actually felt really, really bad for messing up my order and offered me his chicken and everything. Well, not only did I not want his chicken, but I also didn’t want him to feel bad about it, so I put on my big girl panties and sat down to eat the
I should have known how this was going to go down as soon as I opened the box, because my delicious, fluffy biscuit was sitting in a pool of Nashville Hot sauce. My biscuit, which everyone knows is the best part of any KFC meal, had this hot sauce ombre thing going on. There were also some random pickle slices tossed in, which, according to the coworker who apparently most wants me to die, are the best part. A cooling element, if you will.
So, whatever, I was hungry. I ate a bite of chicken. Then this happened.
Holy mother of God, what liquefied hell have they coated my chicken in? This isn’t HOT, this is so freaking far beyond hot that hot is just a dark and distant memory. This is hot sauce with notes of fire and brimstone. This sauce is so hot that I feel relatively certain that Satan is listed somewhere in the recipe. This is not Nashville Hot chicken. This is Nashville hates you so much it’s gonna melt off your taste buds and set your face on fire Hot chicken. The amount of heat on this chicken doesn’t even make sense. This is the kind of stuff people eat on a dare. I feel like I should get a free t-shirt and my picture on the wall for consuming one bite of this.
So, what I did was something totally contrary to every instinct. I followed my coworker’s advice and ate a pickle. Now, I know something about how to deal with spicy food. I would not normally expect a pickle to be a cooling element. What you want for a cooling element is something with some dairy involved. Not a vegetable soaked in vinegar. Vinegar! Vinegar actually opens up your palate. As in, inviting more of the flavor. MORE fuego.
Even though I knew all that, in that moment in which I felt like my teeth were dissolving and my tongue was numb, but not numb like I didn’t feel it, more numb because it’s engulfed in flames, I reached for the nearest thing that was not fire chicken. A pickle. So, basically what I did was reach for the one thing on my plate that was guaranteed to escalate the situation. I would have actually been better off eating more chicken than eating that little slice of evil that entered my mouth on a seek and destroy mission for any wayward taste buds that had somehow escaped the initial carnage and set them to sizzling. I felt, at that moment, like I was going to die of that chicken.
Here’s the rub. I was still trying to not make Hubs feel bad about bringing this carnage upon me. So while all this was going on, while I was fighting the urge to cut out my own tongue, just to MAKE IT STOP, I had to act like a regular person eating a regular meal. The last thing I wanted him to have to live with was the knowledge that he had inadvertently killed his beloved wife with chicken. So when he asked me how it was, I calmly said, “huh. little hotter than I expected.” When my ordinary reaction to such a culinary catastrophe would have been to throw it at him and eat a PB&J, I calmly said, “I better get some Ranch.”
Friends, since the inception of Ranch, there has not been enough Ranch produced to cover the hellfire that raged from that KFC box. And never has there been a dirtier trick than those pickles. Unless you count the hot sauce biscuit. That was pretty dirty. Somehow, though, I ate every bite of that meal. It took more effort and strength of will to do that than anything I’ve ever done, including childbirth. But I did it, and then I swore forever after to never again be taken in by KFC’s clever ploys and one particular coworker’s plot to END ME.
I’ve begun the process of healing and learning to trust again. But, Colonel, we have a long way to go, you and I. Don’t you try to charm me.
Lately, I feel short.
I’m not short, in fact, I’m plenty tall for a lady. Also, I’m usually wearing heels because I enjoy being even taller. But all these facts don’t change the simple fact that I can’t reach anything anymore.
At first, I suspected my husband was to blame. He is a good bit taller than me, and tends to put things higher and further back on shelves than they really need to be. After all, he’s not going to have to climb onto a chair to reach the brown sugar, now, is he? Of course, he’s exponentially less likely to be the one to need to reach the brown sugar, so this seems like a dirty trick. He, of course, denies any shelf conspiracy. Realistically, I have to acknowledge that my shelves, in fact, are exactly the same height they’ve always been, and all the things I store on them are still the same, so there’s something else at play.
Then I thought, maybe it’s just a perspective issue. My son recently had an alarming growth spurt and he’s inching up on me in a disarming way. It’s one thing to know that your kid will eventually be taller than you, but it’s a whole other thing to watch it happening. So I am feeling shorter since I don’t get to properly tower over my children any more and literally have to contort my baby to kiss the top of his head. But, no. That’s an issue, to be sure, but it doesn’t explain why I can’t reach things.
Then it happened. I was in the grocery store alone and I needed something on the top shelf. I suddenly remembered all the times ladies in the grocery store have asked Hubs to get something of the top shelf for them and I thought how sweet it was of him to help the poor tiny short ladies. What the world. When did I become a poor tiny little short lady? I, of course, not being the type to ask for help, managed to get my groceries, but not without a good bit of effort that probably caused no shortage of entertainment on the security video.
It’s now clear to me what’s happening. I’m shrinking. I don’t know what witchcraft is at play, but I surely do wish that if someone had cursed me to be smaller, it would be more in the area of the waistline. Just can’t catch a break…
2015 was a pretty beastly year for me. I struggled through a vague and undefined funk most of the year, filled with discontent and the idea that I needed to do more. More that matters, more that makes a difference to people. Less laundry. It has been suggested to me that the low-key depression has something to do with having celebrated my fortieth birthday and beginning to keenly feel the passage of time. Whatever.
Truth is, I do feel like the years are ganging up on me and slapping me around a little. I can now count on one hand the years until my youngest will be fleeing the nest and I can’t even bear to think of how short a time I have left with my oldest. And I’m not very sure I have used the time I was given very wisely. So, it’s probably time for some changes, none of which I have worked out yet.
In any case, life does go on, and 2015 brought many lessons, as life will do. Without further ado (or babbling), here are the top ten bits of wisdom that 2015 gave me.
- Extend grace. The more I extend grace to others, the less anger and discontent I have to carry. Everyone is dealing with a thing.
- If a homeless kitten finds her way to you, take her home. She may be an incredible nuisance at times, eat aluminum foil, ride the dog like a horse, and try to live in the shower, but that’s a lot better to live with than the knowledge that you could have saved an animal, and didn’t.
- Regardless of what is going on with your eyeliner situation, or lack thereof, don’t be tempted to borrow your teenager’s liquid liner. She has a steady hand and a lot of patience. You’re late for work and about to look like a panda.
- Most of your daily stresses can be easily dismissed with one of two phrases. “Not my problem.” and “No one cares.” Warning, this will not win you any friends at work, but when you have a certain level of job security and the vague feeling that getting fired might be a blessing in disguise, you gain a glorious feeling of freedom.
- When your dog wants to sit in your lap and have a nap, make time to sit down and let the dog have a nap. No one else loves you like your dog, people, and besides, if she doesn’t get her lap nap, there’s an excellent chance that she’ll repay you with poop on the floor.
- Counting to ten to manage your anger is a lot more effective if you sing the Sesame Street counting song in your head. Granted, they count to twelve, but it’s a lot more likely to make you forget what made you angry.
- If someone calls you out on your funk and you really, really don’t want to talk about it, “I’m just tired” is an acceptable answer. Because you probably are tired. Tired of a whole lot of crap. And people like me don’t always want to talk about their feelings. We just want to figure out how to fix them, and we’ll do that inside our own heads, thankyouverymuch.
- No one really and truly cares about how clean the floors are. (refer to number 4.) Stop worrying about it and do something fun.
- There’s a certain kind of person who always wants to do things for others. To the detriment of her own health and well being. Just say no. No, no, no, I cannot do any more for you, I have nothing more to give you. Just, no. Trust me, it’s great. You have absolutely no obligation to do things just because people want you to do them. Especially when those same people would never do anything for you.
- Understand about seasons of life. Everything that we go through shall pass, both the good and the bad. When you’re going through a difficult or uncertain season, you must understand that it’s meant to ready you for something new. Something greater than what you have now. Something more.
At my last doctor visit, my doctor asked me how life was going, and what I had going on to look forward to. (He’s got some borderline obsession with my state of mind, it’s almost as if he can see all the crazy hiding right behind my eyes. I mean, seriously. I was there because I had a bad cough and this is what we had to talk about.) I really didn’t have any answer for him. So that’s my resolution for 2016. I’m going to get something to look forward to. Then I’m going to do it. Then I’m going to get something else.
Life is way too short for all this laundry I’ve been doing.
author’s note: Wordpress has changed their format a tiny bit and right now at this moment, I cannot find the spellcheck. So….sorry about the typos that are undoubtedly right there where I can’t see them.
I am now the mother of two teenagers. I can scarcely believe it myself. It all happened so fast and now I’m keenly aware of how little time I have left to parent these people. And by parent, I mean the daily influences and guidance, because I know the give me money and buy me things part of parenting will never, ever end. But when I look at these two, I see this:
Back then, I was new. I was struggling, I didn’t know what I was doing and I didn’t get a whole lot of sleep. But I kept the faith. I knew it would get easier. When the baby sleeps through the night, it will get easier. When they can bathe themselves, it will get easier. When I can leave the house without juice cups and pull ups, it will get easier. Sooner or later, I will catch on to this mom thing and it will get easier.
Well, all things in perspective. It is easier in that I don’t have to lean over a bathtub and wash little people’s hair. If I don’t feel like cooking, they are old enough to feed themselves. I did catch on to the mom thing, at least a little. I know what to do about teething. I can handle nightmares, loose teeth and learning how to read. The problem is that I don’t need to know any of those things anymore. Parenting is chasing a moving target. As soon as I get a handle on a thing, I don’t need that thing anymore. And bonus points for me for having a two children who have not one thing in common and have required a completely different mommy skill set since the day my sweet girl laid eyes on her fresh baby brother and then refused to so much as look at me, so great was the betrayal.
So, teenagers. We have passed that stage of me telling them what to do and how to live. (I do ask that no one ever share that with my daughter, who is well-known for demanding that I stop telling her how to live her life. The only reasonable response to that is, “That’s literally my job.”) The way I see it, the foundation has already been laid. Now it’s my job to guide rather than to issue orders. Please don’t misunderstand, I will not hesitate to issue orders should it become necessary, It’s just that at the ages they are now, specifically my daughter, who is a mere two years away from leaving my home and going out into the world by herself, they should be, and need to be, capable of making responsible decisions for themselves. This requires me to relinquish a certain amount of control. That is not in my wheelhouse. This is hard.
My son lacks a certain amount of self motivation. He will do what is asked of him, and do it well, but he’s not putting anything extra out there. Example. He recently finished a research paper and got an outstanding grade on it. Then, each student was asked to do an oral presentation on that paper. It could be as simple as reading the paper or as elaborate and creative as they desired. But, here’s the rub. It’s not graded. Little guy (sorry, I know he’s not little anymore, but he has always been, and shall always remain, my little guy) decided to just read the paper. Because it’s not graded. I recommended that he put forth a little effort. He resisted. I backed off. After all, there’s no grade. However, I heartily disapproved and I had a long talk about forming habits and striving for excellence and how an average effort produces an average life. And he still declined to put forth more effort. And I backed off. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t hurt me to do that. Every fiber of me wanted to force that boy to sit down and get to work. But I’m not always going to be there to push him that extra step. He has to be capable of making that decision for himself. He has to choose to be exceptional. I walked away from that conversation pretty confident that my feelings on the topic had fallen on deaf ears, but hey, I’m nothing if not persistent. I can voice my opinions as many times as necessary.
That being the case, I could not have been more shocked and proud the next day when he reported to me that not only had he decided to do a PowerPoint for his presentation, but also while he was at school that day he had taken tests in five subjects, then completed twenty-five extra pages of math work. Now, THAT is what I call striving for excellence. He was listening, after all. And he made a smart and responsible decision. Most importantly, he did what I wanted him to do and if there’s a greater accomplishment for a mom, I just don’t know what it is.
Look, I’m bossy. That’s a great quality when the kids are little. It’s much harder now that I have to parent with restraint and subtlety. But I might be starting to get a handle on it. In the next couple years, I might even become an expert at it. Just in time for them to go to college and need a whole new kind of mom.
I am absolutely horrible at graciously accepting advice. Okay, perhaps that’s strongly worded. I will accept it graciously. I will thank you for it. I might even, on occasion, tell you that I followed it.
These are all lies and deceptions. I do not accept advice well. I follow advice much more poorly. I just don’t want to appear rude and ungrateful. There have been occasions in my life when I have received good and valuable advice. Each and every time, that advice came from someone who had full and intimate knowledge of my situation and had walked in my shoes at some point in their life. That’s really when the advice is the good stuff. Everyone else is just talking out of their backside.
The thing is, I am a very, very reserved person. I build walls and isolate myself. The things inside my heart and my mind are buried better than cash in a mayonnaise jar in the backyard. There is a circle of people who know me, I mean truly know my life and my heart, but that circle could fit inside a hula hoop with room left to hula. The rest of the well-meaning souls who attempt to offer me help and guidance simply do not know me. You do not really know me, so therefore, you cannot understand what it is to walk my path. Therefore, you cannot help me navigate.
Also, I am an extremely cautious person. I do not make decisions quickly or lightly. I just do not do spontaneous. So when I have a situation, (and isn’t there always a situation?) I have thought it through long and carefully. I have done the research. I have prayed on it. I have weighed the pros and cons. I have consulted mediums and card readers. Well, not quite, but close. The point is that I have approached this situation from every possible angle. Perhaps it’s egotistical and closed-minded of me, but I have trouble believing that your quick advice is going to trump my long and careful consideration. Odd are, I have already thought of that. Not because I’m so clever, but because I’ve been turning every angle of this situation over in my mind for a month before anyone else even knew there was a situation.
Lastly, I do not take direction well. This is, perhaps, putting it mildly. My particular brand of this affliction is so severe that the most effective way to make sure I will never watch one minute of a movie is to tell me how great it is and how much I will love it. Well, you can’t tell me what to do, so there. I realize that this is neither an attractive nor beneficial trait, but as I often tell my children, it’s important for each of us to recognize and embrace our shortcomings. So, you cannot tell me what to do. Nyah nyah.
So, please. If I’m talking about a situation, understand that I’m just talking. Depending on the situation of the day and our relationship, I might be venting, thinking out loud or just simply sharing a piece my life. I invite you to commiserate, laugh, share similar experiences and vent back. But in the end, I’m just talking. I’m not asking for anything. I don’t need anything. I’ve got this. I’ve always got this, even when my life looks like a bubbling, hot mess. I’m going to figure it out and I’m going to do it by following the only things that I trust. My heart and my gut.
So there’s this huge internet phenomenon known as Resting Bitch Face, or, as it’s more commonly known, RBF. (I apologize if the language offends. I don’t make the news.) I actually read an article about it the other day that referred to it as a Generation Y phenom. Oh, no no no. I’ve been dealing with this issue since grade school, my friends. And I am of a generation that falls earlier in the alphabet than Y. For years I just called it my default face. For years I listened to well-meaning folks ordering me to smile. I mean, come on. Have you people never seen any old timey pictures? And you think this is a new development?
Anyway, I had intended to speak on the many awkward moments and irritations of a person afflicted with RBF, but just the other day, an incident caused me to shift my focus. You see, I had occasion to be filled with a fury unmatched. A great and furious anger filled me to the extent that I’m pretty certain that my eyeballs bulged out enough to create a headache that has lasted for days. The kind of anger that left me unable to sleep hours after the incident had been resolved. The thing that caused this rage was truly one for the books, but that’s another story for another day. The thing that you must know about it is that it happened in a public and professional place and I was required by good manners and a Christian heart to hold my temper and remain calm and civil.
I swallowed my true feelings and I kept all my words inside my head, so as to not be arrested, committed or tackled and pepper-sprayed on the spot. I communicated in a tone that I felt was, if not nice, certainly acceptable. I adopted an “agree to disagree” point of view and
stormed out removed myself from the situation as quickly as societal norms would allow. By that point I was really just trying to get out of there before words and incomprehensible noises started spilling out of my face. In the distant part of my brain that was fighting to make me behave, I realized that I was not being quite polite, I was being okay. I figured I had some displeasure showing, but I thought I had hidden the surge of crazy rage pretty well.
Well, as it happened, my daughter was present for the show. Even if I had not let loose a furious tirade the moment the door closed behind me, she knew the deal. I assumed that it was just a case of a child being sensitive to her mother’s moods, but in recounting the scene, she told me different. “As soon as she said blahblahblah, something happened with your face.”
Ah, my face. That face of mine, which, on the best of times may look mildly content. At rest, I look pretty pissed. And apparently, when I am quite angry, my face hulks out, completely without my knowledge. So while I was doing my level best to maintain my composure, my face was doing its own thing. Friends, my resting bitch face morphed into active bitch face, and if my daughter can be believed, it is quite a sight to behold.
Here’s the thing about RBF sufferers. Not only do we have to work very, very hard at not looking mad all the time, but when we are actually mad, we must develop a truly spectacular angry face. So, you know, people understand the difference. Sadly, a side effect of RBF is that we can’t always control our expressions that well. If we could, we wouldn’t look so angry all the time, follow? So when the occasion calls for a striking expression, that expression tends to appear, as if by magic. And then that chick you always thought look kind of bitchy? She just got downright scary. This explains a great many things, not the least of which is my consistent failure to win friends and influence people.
My cat died.
Here’s my story. She was nineteen years old and has been slowing down for the last couple years. One night after dinner, her back legs collapsed. She had previously had some trouble in her back legs, one would assume arthritis. But on this night, she didn’t regain control. A quick Google search prepared me for the worst. The next morning, I begged off work and took her to the vet where an enormously expensive series of tests confirmed what I suspected. She was in kidney failure, and there was nothing more to do. I made the decision to put her to sleep right then. You see, she never gained any control of her legs, and the tests confirmed that she was also dehydrated and feeling pretty rotten. So as much as it hurt to make that tough call, my heart could not tolerate leaving her to suffer.
Long story short, my cat died. I petted her and talked to her until she stopped breathing. I made arrangements for her cremation. Then I went home to drop off my sad, empty cat carrier and fix my mascara and then I went to work.
Let me be clear. I didn’t want to go to work. I wanted to sit down by myself and cry, mourn and grieve for my loss. I wanted to sit still and remember all the sweet moments with this little creature who shared nearly half of my life with me. Who slept beside me every single night. Who walked on my neck to wake me up if I slept too late. Who instinctively knew when I was sad and comforted me better than any human I’ve ever known.
But that’s frowned upon in this society. If a person died, no one would question me taking a couple of days off work. There’s even a corporate policy for that. I’m sorry to say that I don’t love most people half as much as I loved that cat, but society places an awfully low value on the relationships we have with our pets. My life has not been the same since I lost her. I don’t sleep well. I keep thinking I see her sleeping on my bed. Every time I open the pantry, I see the leftover cans of soft food we gave her when she started to lose weight. I miss her so awfully that even thinking about it brings me to tears these weeks later. And I don’t mean silent weeping. I mean the kind of soul-shaking ugly cry that you normally only see on hospital dramas. But I feel foolish. Because she was just a cat, right? Cats die all the time. And it’s true. I’ve lost two other cats previously, and that wasn’t easy, either. But. She was nineteen. I rescued her when she was found on the side of the road at four weeks old, sick and abandoned. She was my companion for all of her life and half of mine. And now she’s just gone.
I miss her terribly and I suspect that I will continue to miss her for a very long time. Even though she was just a cat. Just a cat who tried to sleep on my throat every night. Who snuggled into my arms like a human baby. Who stole the occasional tuna snack from the other cats. Who loved me most and best for all of her life. Who came into my life when I was barely into my twenties and newly married and traveled my journey by my side until I was old enough to have a kid driving. Who outlived two other cats and tolerated two others, plus an obnoxious dog. Who gave my children dirty looks for all of her life because she had seniority. Who I could always count on to be by my side, no matter the circumstances.
Those of us who love pets will, at some time, have to say goodbye to them. And we have to mourn quietly, because they were only animals and most people won’t understand our grief. Anyone would understand the horrific pain if we lost a friend of nineteen years, but they expect me to be fine now. Because she was just a cat.
What they don’t understand is that I just lost a friend of nineteen years.