ComfyBoo

Ten Year Anniversary.

This week is our ten year wedding anniversary, and no one is as surprised as me. In a life filled with wild variations, mistakes, moves, loss, and questions, Missy has been a guiding star. We met fifteen years ago on a now-defunct Yahoo personal ad. Clearly, she swooned from my proper use of grammar.

And here we are. Ten years. My father told me, some years ago, that marriage got better with each passing year. I believe that. The people we are in year ten are a far cry from the people who married, and yet our complementary status only seems to grow. I’ve noticed a few things, too– liking someone is different from loving them, and it’s a critical part of building a life together.

It’s more than a house. It’s the feeling, and the kid (five feet tall and growing), the pets, the shared things. Details and fractions of details and the addition of things you never knew, all woven together into whatever it is you do every day without seeming to notice.

This is Missy in her element. There are so many parts to this picture that represent her essence.

Notice: Comfy socks. Diet Coke. Laptop, as she grades a line of interminable essays, ever the English professor. Her work ethic is unmatched, and yet, there she is smiling amidst *cough* a, ahh, representation of our pets. Cats love her, dogs adore her, and they all crowd around her much like the rest of the world, a guiding star and calming presence in a world of ceaseless uncertainty.

That’s one of her tricks. She removes uncertainty when it shows up, and the house- and our lives– go on at a wonderful, sedate velocity, filled with warmth and humor.

Ten years with my bride. Thanks, babe. All the love.

Fitbit: My Shamespiration

Oh, Fitbit. You may be small, but your ability to make me feel inadequate knows no bounds.

 

Let’s examine how an object that weighs an ounce can impact my day.

5:30AM: Get up.

5:31AM: Coffee

Repeat.

Repeat.

Feed cats and dogs.

Coffee.

6:22AM: Glance at Fitbit, smugly judging me as I pant from animal chores. 331 steps, Terry. That isn’t very good, Terry. I’m not laughing with you, Terry. I’m laughing at you,Terry.

7:50AM: Arrive at college, park. Begin lumbering across parking lot to go teach, recall I wore boots and boots are stupid because I’m not a cowboy or a guy in a disco in 1985.

7:55AM: 1273 Steps. Now we’re cooking. A mere seven thousand-ish steps to go for my lower goal. Nine thousand for something legit, and fourteen thousand if I want to feel smug.

11:15AM. Switch into running shoes and walk at a sedate elephantine amble around the trail on campus. Sweat. Squint. Do some pushups, but out in the distant parking lot so people can’t see me and think I’m a douchebag who wants to brag about doing 18 pushups. CROSSFIT, BRUH. #no

* The pushups are so that I don’t get man-boobies. It works.*

1:42PM Exactly Get out of car after parking in pickup line to get my son from school. Begin walking around school and neighborhood to get more steps on Fitbit, which is still blinking in a judgmental way. Realize I “fit the description” for every serial killer, make effort to wave and smile in friendly manner at every car that passes by.

2:36PM Get back in car. Drink water like I just got off a raft at sea for six days. Curse that my metal cup isn’t larger. Turn on car, air conditioning, continue to sweat like a train that has cut power but won’t quit chugging. Look at Fitbit, tap in disbelief. Tap again. Resolve to walk laps through the living room until midnight if necessary.

5:18PM Go get mail. 23 steps. YES.

8:09PM Son is in bed, singing, bouncing, and twirling covers like a member of a caffeinated color guard in a marching band. Look at Fitbit. 15,583 steps? Pump fist. Dad victory. Glare at Fitbit. Resolve to do more the next day, if I don’t fall asleep after eating lasagna.

The moral of the story?

Wanna be friends on Fitbit? #Shamespiration

Cheers,

Terry

 

How to take a nap. With cats.

As a nap expert and college professor I feel like this is a real strong point for me, so allow me to share some fine tuned techniques I’ve curated over the years. I hate the word curated but since this is a tutorial, there’s a lot of pressure on me to make this feel exclusionary and elitist. Using words like curated and conserved really grants me that sense of unearned snootiness that so many writers crave.

Now then, let’s begin.

I’m going to present this tutorial in a simple series of steps which will yield an amazing (amazeballs, if you prefer) nap experience.

  1. Is the sun up? Congratulations, you can take a nap. If the sun is down, it isn’t a nap, it’s sleeping, which is a prohibited activity for parents, students, parents of students, and anyone who is not a cat.
  2. Lower the thermostat to 58 degrees. If it’s winter, you’ll want to raise the temperature to 66 degrees. Do not deviate. It’s science.
  3. Do you have any cats? If yes, go to step five. If no, go to step four.
  4. Visit your local animal shelter and select 5-20 cats to ignore your presence. Take the cats home, release into house and go to your bedroom for further instructions.
  5. Begin preparing your bed by layering a sheet, two blankets, and no less than six pillows. It is preferable that one of the blankets is fuzzy and/or a worn quilt. Bonus points if the quilt belonged to a deceased relative.
  6. Turn your pillows. Examine them for irregularities, then strike the pillows with firm, sharp blows in order to show them who’s boss. Restack.
  7. Turn back one corner of the bedcovers at a 45 degree angle. Any more will result in a temperature compromise in the Central Mattress Zone. This is unacceptable. Protect the heart of the Mattress Zone like your virtue, unless your name is Tiffani, in which case you protect the toasty area of the bed like it’s your Volkswagen Jetta.
  8. Slip under the covers carefully. Don’t cause disarray. The idea is to be a lump, not a tornado.
  9. Remain still for ten seconds while the cats begin to arrange themselves on your head, face, and shoulders. Bonus if you have any exposed skin that they can knead with their claws; you should steel your nerves so as not to move while they soften you for mattress material.
  10. Put your phone down.
  11. Seriously, put the phone down.
  12. FFS, Kelsey, get off twitter and put your phone down.
  13. Close your eyes.
  14. Don’t answer the text. The cats will get mad and since there are twenty of them and you’re basically a human burrito under the covers, they can eat you if they so choose.
  15. Quietly admonish the one weird cat who is eating your hair.
  16. Give up, since hair grows back.
  17. Quietly admonish the three cats who have chosen to give themselves full body baths while laying on your stomach.
  18. Remark that if you could lick your own legs, it would save a lot of time in the morning.
  19. Feel yourself drifting off to sleep, a sweet release of relaxation punctuated by toasty little lumps who begin purring because they sense your surrender.
  20. Wake up in a panic five hours later, groggy, disoriented and with a lowkey headache.
  21. Vow to never sleep during the day for that long, know it is a lie.
  22. Name the cats.
  23. Change three names of cats, change back. Look at phone. Plan nap for Thursday.

This concludes my expert advice. Naturally, you’ll want to tailor these steps to your own needs, but I don’t recommend it. I’m an expert, and I have over eleven college credits.

This concludes my public service for the week.

Terry

 

When books make you cry.

It can take seconds, but books have an emotional impact well beyond their weight. I get up, walk from the living room, see a hardback version of a favorite book— I’ve left it out from sorting my shelf. 

It’s filled with poems about a war (doesn’t matter which one, the truths are all the same, merely different uniforms). I flip it open, read. I sit down. I read. I think of the losses, and what the author was feeling. I’m not sure I can know, but I can try. I think of family funerals, and rain. I think of the chill of a grave and the life left over, forced to live in a place not of my own choosing where there’s enough pain that I am compelled to write the poem I hold in my hands. The book creaks as I close it, and I notice that there’s glue on the back from an old sticker.

The book has traveled, just like me. The poem is one year older than me. The pain is raw as the day it was written. I don’t know the author. Should I go type my own words now, freshly shorn by the ragged edge of a single page– the scent of someone else’s blood funneled into my own narrative? It feels like theft, kind of, but then writers are emotional vampires, building stories from borrowed hurt and joy.

I wonder if the author is still alive, and then decide I don’t want to know. They are alive to me, as certainly as if they were standing next to me, reading their poem and watching from the corner of their eye, just to make sure I’m listening.

“What are we watching?” I ask my son, averting my eyes. He’s nine, and I’m not sure I can explain how second hand pain works. Not at this age, and not yet. Maybe someday he will read something I’ve written and ask how someone like me could write something so bleak, and then we can discuss what it means to be an adult, but not right now. I look at the television and think of muddy fields and missing sons, and who wrote it down so that I could be thankful for the room around me, free of rain and fear.

I like big dogs. I cannot lie.

Actually, big dogs isn’t quite accurate. I like huge dogs, as well as medium, large, small, and smedium dogs. Case in point: Our basset hound (Jack Reacher) is actually a big dog– he weighs seventy pounds. But he has a low clearance, so we think of him as small, or small-ish.

There’s a particular method to having a giant dog live in your house. You begin by assuming that any and all couches are going to be destroyed. Let’s consider our Great Dane Bernadette, who loved with us for six glorious years and three couches. Great Danes are as big or bigger than a human, but with claws. Ergo, your couches are toast. Your bed is toast. Your chairs are toast. Bernie weighed just over two hundred pounds (not a bit of fat) and enjoyed, shall we say, a life of luxury.

By luxury, I mean naps.

But “big” is a relative term when compared to Bernie. Take our Great Pyrenees, Mabel, who is one hundred pounds. That’s a big dog, and yet she’s half the size of Bernie. Mabel, too, has the ability to kill couches. She also does so with a massive floof bomb of white fur that makes pollen season look like a charming joke. There are few animals on the planet who can produce more floof than a Great Pyrenees. It’s science.

But, Terry, you’re thinking– what if you lose your mind and purchase a light colored couch? Won’t that eradicate the issue of white fur?

Allow me to introduce you to Michael Dean Carr Maggert. Big Mike is a Newfoundland, also known as a Nuclear Chocolate Floofinator, capable of producing five bales of brown floof in two days. Once again, please don’t argue. It’s science.

You may be wondering, “But Terry, what about the drool?”

I’m glad you asked. Oddly, all of our big dogs have produced some drool, but not the gulley washer of saliva one might expect from a beast their size. Still, I am always living with the assumption that every article of clothing I have on will show the following signs:

  1. Hair. Short, long, light dark. Hair. Hair like every day is the early 1970s and you’re hairing it up at a production of Hair with someone named Hairy McHairison.
  2. “Geeze”, or the shiny, dried streaks from dog drool that are almost always on the front of your best item of clothing.
  3. Random tears/rips. “Hey dad, pay attention to me.”  RIP.
  4. Hair

The lint catcher in our dryer could supply an Irish fishing village with enough hair to keep them in sweaters for a century.

Also, one should prepare for giant dog tails breaking things– sort of like four legged Godzillas who are REALLY happy to see you every time you leave the room and come back. But without the nuclear firebreath.

So. Let’s see those big dog pics– whatcha got? Danes? Pyrs? Newfies? Wolfies? We love them all.

Cheers,

Terry

We need to talk about Tiny House people.

I believe in “live and let live”, unless you want to live in a Tiny House.

My son is obsessed with HGTV (he calls them Housey Shows) and I’ve been drenched in a steady diet of everything that network has to offer. By and large, they’re fascinating, informative shows.

And then, there’s the Tiny House movement.

.

 

Every episode is the same– “Hi, I’m Tashia, and this is my husband Clint. We’re from Idaho and we’ve decided to go tiny. It’s going to give us, our five children and three golden retrievers the chance to really live on our own terms.”

Me, on my full sized couch: WHAT?

Tashia and Clint: “Our budget is 65,000, and we really don’t want too much square footage because of upkeep.”

Me: HOW HARD IS IT TO VACUUM A SHED? SIXTY-FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS FOR A RABBIT HUTCH?

Tashia and Clint: “Sure, there are some adjustments”–

Me: YOU ARE GOING TO POOP IN YOUR SHOWER

Tashia and Clint: “Our kids are so excited! They can’t wait for the adventure!”

Me: THEY’RE KIDS. THEY THINK THEIR LIVES ARE A VIDEO GAME, BUT NOW WITH A LOFT THEY CAN FALL OUT OF AND DIE

Tashia and Clint: “The great news is, our heirloom chickens can live above the sink, so fresh eggs are always close by!”

Me: SO IS A STORE. OR A SNORING RELATIVE. OR YOUR CHEMICAL TOILET. EVERYTHING WILL BE CLOSE BY, TASHIA

Tashia and Clint, with their Shed Salesman/Realtor: “I don’t know, babe. I just didn’t expect it to be so, you know, tiny.”

Me: HOOORNNNNNGH ACKPHTOOOT WHAAAAT

Tashia and Clint: “After shipping costs, our new Tiny House Shed only cost 68,000. We found a family member friendly militia with some land to park on, and the kids are so excited!”

Me: WRONG, TASHIA, THEY DON’T WANT YOU TO DRIVE AWAY AND LEAVE THEM IN THE WOODS

Tashia and Clint: “We’ve never felt so free!”

Me: OF SQUARE FOOTAGE AND RUNNING WATER

Oh. My. Lort.

Terry

 

 

When Squirrels Attack

Squirrels are adorable terrorists. They’re small, agile, cute, destructive, and recently, they attempted to take me out.

Muerte. Dead. Doomed. Ixnayed. Rubbed out. Removed with extreme prejudice.

Call it what you will, this was a clear attempt on my life.

Some background: Our home is more than a century old. The backyard is filled with treasures, from modern toys, vintage toys, china, bottles, inkwells, and other various items accumulated over time.

Until now, they’ve been relatively tame, and only unearthed by our dogs. Or me. Or moles. You get the picture.

It all changed when I heard a thunk as I was near the Super Tree House Compound I built for our son. A squirrel- it could be no other beast– dropped something from the top of our maple tree.

It was no accident. For your consideration, I offer the following evidence:

That. . . is an antler knife with a screwdriver, or what I like to call, “Evidence of a crime.”

I’m holding the knife until the end of my natural existence, in the event that the squirrels decide to take another crack at me. You must understand, I have a history with squirrels. Our relationship began quite well– we had tame squirrels that ate out of our hands. They would sit on my shoulder, and let me pet their little ears. All was well until the Pumpkin Incident of 2003.

I had a sixty pound pumpkin of such glorious orange that it was sure to be a showstopper for Halloween. When I woke up one morning before carving, I saw something odd. The back end of a squirrel protruded from the interior of my once heroic pumpkin, now a partial husk having been disemboweled by a family of squirrels.

Actually, they’re a crime family. Let’s call it like it is.

I *may* have yelled at the offending beastie, and we all know how the Squirrel Network never forgets– and never forgives.

I urge you to look up. They’re watching you, and they’re armed.

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The Power of Pie

Today is National Pie Day, or Pi Day if you insist on the use of math. As a history professor, I naturally avoid any numbers that are more complex than, say, single digits.

It’s for our own good. Trust me.

However, 3.14 is a number even I can remember, and thus, we celebrate the majesty of pie, a food group that is so lush and varied it deserves its own channel in our collective cultural awareness.

I’ve written (at length) about being the grandson of bakers, who founded Ted N Peg’s Pie Stand in Rome, New York. For me, pie is breakfast. It is a snack for the grim hours between one and three in the morning, as I stand impatiently waiting for my dogs to re-inspect every square inch of the very yard they left two hours earlier, because in that time there could be mummies or zombies or, heaven forfend. . . .a possum.

We can’t have that.

Regardless, it’s a chance for me to stand at the sink, glaring into the stygian blackness of our backyard while eating pie and waiting for the herd to come home, so to speak. In those moments, I will once again marvel at the wonder of pie, and how my simmering anger dissipates with each bite as one by one, the dogs come in and lay down to begin their gusty snoring, dreaming the things only dogs can know in their sleep.

Yesterday, I was reheating pizza for my son, who is currently eating as if he as just released from a prison camp. Before I nuked his two slices of (cheese) pizza, I took a bite– an editorial sample, if you will– it was a piece that was only bread and sauce, free of cheese and oddly naked.

In that moment, I was transported thirty-five years into the past, when family friends took my family to a market in Rome, New York. There, they bought me a slice of tomato pie– a heretical twist on pizza that had little cheese, was fluffy, and served cool. The first sharp tang of summery tomato and  oregano was like the essence of pizza, stripped down for my consideration. It was. . .new. Amazing. A symbol of a new life, in a distant state. It was different, but familiar and good.

 

And yesterday, there I stood in my own kitchen, thinking of old friends and sweeping changes for a skinny thirteen year old who didn’t understand why he had to leave his grandparents a thousand miles away, in the sunshine of his life. His home. I still don’t understand.

Pie is food and food is memory. If I ever forget that again, I know it only takes one bite to be reminded.

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Weight Loss Is Hard

As in, losing weight sucks. There’s nothing good about my cyclical winter re-fattening.

Here’s how it seems to go: Summertime means running outside. Sunshine. Heat. Lots of summer-ish stuff, moving quickly and doing things for the sheer pleasure of being outside because life seems to really pop once the temperature starts rising.

As a kid in Florida, it was always summer. There was no sense of urgency about nice weather, and thus, activity stayed at a reasonable level year ’round.

Enter my move to “The North”. Now, do to the horrors of Daylight Savings Time, it gets dark sometime after lunch. I feel the urge to eat, get under blankets, and allow our herd of pets to camp out on me like a mountain that occasionally moves and snorts. I gain– without fail- twenty pounds. Then, as the winter wears on, I begin my cycle of yearning for seasonal tomatoes and wishing that it would be hot every day. Unlike normal humans, I prefer it to be hot when I run. I don’t know if it’s some latent form of Protestant self-hatred, but running in the summer is far preferable to the winter.

If I were to run in the winter (a nightmare for me), my nose whistles like a failing radiator, and my lungs fill with ice crystals and/or doom.

Oddly enough, I think I write more in the summer, too– one would think that cozy nights inside would cause a flurry of writing. It doesn’t. I eat cookies and feel moderate shame as I reach the end of the Oreos and give serious consideration to going out for more at 2:00 AM.

I’m going to see if there’s a connection between running, sunshine, and my word count. There has to be something scientific, probably a German word that sounds like a threat, which explains why I emerge from the relative gloom of winter and feel like writing, running, and not eating sixty cookies while looking out the kitchen window t the winter stars wheeling overhead.

My bride and I are having ten year anniversary pictures taken, and I’d like to be in peak form for those. I have a little more than two months.

Let the complaining begin.

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The misery of dieting.

I began the Spring Pre-Running Diet. I will fist fight for: pizza, cheese, spicy tuna sushi rolls, cheeseburgers, fried anything, milkshakes, ice cream, pie, waffles, or cake.

I will also, at the minimum, wrestle for pancakes, steak, eggs with actual cheese, a bucket of ketchup, mayo on a shoe, bread, cookies, hash browns, sausage, any kind of casserole, tacos, fish sandwiches (species irrelevant) and any animal that has ever lived in the ocean with the exception of a walrus, and even that’s negotiable.

As you may guess, my life is not unlike that of an insect– a large, six foot tall insect that goes through the following life cycle every year:

  1. Spring- a time of emergence from the grim winter, thickened and pale, not unlike a grub– but one who wears clothes and complains about Daylight Savings Time.
  2. Summer. Utter joy! I run! I tan! I fish! I leap about, all while becoming the human I was always meant to be, but with a glistening coat of sweat at all times.
  3. Fall. the magic of autumn, in which I begin to pupate as my conversion into a Basic White Girl takes hold. Coffee! Pumpkins! Holidays! Turkey and pie and shame! Mild existential dread at knowing that after Christmas, life is over!
  4. Winter. Pre-Pre-Christmas! Pre-Christmas! CHRISTMAS! Moderate depression after Christmas. The letdown of New Year’s Eve, following by the horror of sunset at 4:30 PM. My body begins to spin a cocoon of fat, even as the tan fades from my skin. I think what the sun used to look like, and sigh.

So, that’s where I’m at. Post-Winter Diet: check. Moderate anger: check.

I feel like there’s a lot of broccoli in my future, and it makes me sad.

Whatever,

Terry