Snake charms

Garter Snake, close up, taken in North Ontario...

It's NOT gardener snake. It's garter snake. Without arms or legs you cannot effectively raise crops.

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Having been reared by a person rife with irrational fears, I’ve had to work hard all my adult life to reign in the crazy. Two things I’m still working on in the fear department: packs of feral dogs and small electrical appliances spontaneously combusting. (I’ve had an unfair share of freak accidents involving home appliances.) The former is a justifiable fear as I live one-half mile from a particularly mean part of Detroit that regularly expels feral dogs. The latter, well, that’s what therapy is for, right?

I do not have a fear of snakes, per se, but when I go West I take measures to avoid rattle snakes.  LIttle did I know some folks keep them as cuddly pets. (Stop goofing around and click on over to The Bloggess; you won’t get what I’m saying unless you do. Plus, she’s so funny.)  I showed this post to my husband and he gave me “the look.” Even though our marriage is so good it goes to eleven, I know my husband doesn’t always get a certain side of my humor.

The Bloggess’s post about snakes — or is it about signs? — reminded me of period in my life when posting crazy signs all over the place was a major part of my weekly routine. The best ever? Removing all the toilet paper rolls from the ladies room (two floors up from our office in a crumbling old high-rise), posting explanatory signs on the stall doors about paper rationing and how employees could earn squares on the merit system, and stashing the emergency supply on the 23rd-floor fire escape. (Wow. Who knew wind could unravel toilet paper so quickly?)

The Bloggess’s post about signs — or is it snakes? –begs me to share this:  On a bike ride through a thickly forested park last week, my friend and I happened upon two women walking their dogs. Suddenly, they began shrieking and waving their arms. We pedaled over to see if they needed help.

“Snake!” they shouted and pointed toward this bitty little striped garter snake slithering silently past my front tire and over a bed of fallen leaves.

“It’s harmless, only a garter snake,” I told them.

Then, (It was not my goal to be a bitch, but I knew it was bitchy the minute it came out.) I said to the snake: “Go on, little snake, before someone runs over you or steps on you.” Because I knew, just knew, that if we hadn’t come along, a foot or a log was coming down on that snake.

Silence.

“Well, we’re not afraid of snakes,” one of them finally said.We just didn’t expect to see one out here.”

Of course not. The dense Michigan woods is no place for a small snake.  They belong in the Wal*Mart pet department next to the goldfish.

Now, if I were shivering in a paper gown at the hospital awaiting a colonoscopy and I saw one slinking along the carpeted floor, I might scream and wave my arms because there was nothing in the pre-procedural literature about snakes. Nothing.

 

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Riding with it

Photo by MZ

Lately, the words and ideas bud, bloom and scatter like seeds on the current before I can capture them.

I’m speechless. I’m caught most days without a headline or an introductory paragraph. It’s all buzzing around, free range, while I distract myself with other things: tending to our ever-growing and demanding gardens; amusing and entertaining and otherwise protecting from harm my Girl from the East; arguing, reasoning with and compromising endlessly with Girl from the West; trying to find a few precious moments to myself which generally do not involve the computer; working to put our financial house back to rights.

That last one is the boulder in our path, the one we must find the correct tools to chip away at until we have passage to the rest of our lives. I don’t care what anyone says, things are still tough here in Michigan, and I don’t see great signs of a major turnaround. A few contemporaries have found new jobs; I am happy for them. Still many more face an end to unemployment benefits and slim prospects of new work. It all depends on what industry you are in. Life may never be the same for me.  It might get worse before it gets better. I’m trying to ride with it.

Yes, overall things are better today than 12 months ago. But the scar tissue remains. It will not be eradicated without the intervention of a specialist.

“I don’t know how you do it. I would just fall apart,” a friend says to me as we sit on a stone bench watching our girls prance and shriek in a water fountain on a day too bright to be depressed.

She makes me sound so brave.

“I don’t know how much more of this I can take,” is what my husband said to me earlier in the week, after I vented about what feels like an endless loop of hope and letdown. I vent early and often. I vent until he cannot stand it another second. He takes it personally. He wonders why there are so many words running around unchecked.

He makes me sound so immature.

Truth is, hard times and traumas are triggers for past traumas. Good times keep the demons tucked away and quiet. Hard times stir  the lair and the ugly escapes. I don’t always feel like holding it together. I have the tools. I know what I need to do. But some days, I just don’t open the box.

Yesterday, I busied myself with errands. I took Girl from the East to Target to buy provisions for our upcoming holiday weekend at the pool and the park. Hours earlier I received word that a woman I know died of a massive heart attack. A woman my age. With two children. A personal trainer and fitness guru. Alive one minute on a night out with her husband. Dead the next before anyone knew what to do.  I wanted to block out the news, bury the thought. Instead, I  bit into it and chewed. I tasted my mortality. We stopped for coffee and a snack.  I sat in silence, listening to the Asian family next to us talk in their native tongue. As I tried to translate their words, to determine if they were speaking Mandarin, a neighbor approached me and tapped on my shoulder.

“You look different,” she said. “What did you do?”

New hair color? Different cut? Did you just get a massage?

“Nothing,” I said. “I don’t know.”

“Well, you seem so …. serene. I didn’t recognize you.”

“Oh, my god, does that mean I’m recognizable as a ball of stress?” I joked.

“Oh, no. But I saw you from the checkout line and you just caught my eye you looked so peaceful.”

She made me feel so determined to keep going.

I’m riding with it. Yes, I think I am.

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Bossy in Detroit

When Bossy stuck a strategic push pin on Detroit (I felt that!) declaring it part of her six-week, nationwide (No)Book Tour, I just knew I had to be a part of the day somehow, some way.

I’ve adored Bossy’s blog ever since I first stumbled onto it three years ago. She had me at “sister mercy.” As she worked out the details of her (No)Book Tour with her publisher bank account,  I wrote her a poem and begged her to come to Detroit, where she could skate on a real ice rink and not a frozen puddle on the street.

When I realized that she’d be here on a Monday night, my heart sagged a bit. Of all nights, Mondays are the toughest in this household. Mondays are long and taxing affairs. They feature sweat pants, dark glasses and multiple trips through the Tim Horton’s drive-through lane.  There are no meet-ups, nights out, glam or, god forbid, cameras pointed at me on Mondays.

I made an exception this Monday. I’m a little sore from moving the planets, but I got them aligned just in time to meet Bossy and a group of Michigan and Ohio bloggers. We claimed a cozy corner in a wonderful micro-brewery inside a historic building in a Detroit suburb. We drank things like “Clementine Lemon Thyme Wheat Ale” and “Cherry Hard Cider” and ate copious amounts of hummus, fattoush and tzatziki on pita. At one point, we were asked by a group of subdued dudes behind us, “Who are you people?”

We are Bossy’s people, silly men.

Ms. Bossy and MomZombie at the (No)Book signing

Now, for a few questions:

Is Bossy as stunning in real life as on her blog?

Oh, my, yes.

Is Bossy as funny and nice in real life as depicted on her blog?

Even more so. Especially considering her hectic schedule for the last month. Would I look so fresh-faced, stylish and chipper? Would you?

Am I glad I gave up sleep and my Monday night workout for this?

Absolutely.

To Bossy and all the great women bloggers*  I met yesterday: It was a pleasure to eat, drink and be merry with you. Please be kind and Photoshop the parsley out of my teeth before you post pictures. I know it’s there!

Mommy’s Martini

Unmitigated

Just Juli

The Suniverse

@grandemocha — look her up on Twitter

It Is What It is

Table For Five

Mommy's Martini, Suniverse, Unmitigated and Bossy

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Beach therapy

cresentgrasstree

The beach hides behind these grassy dunes.

Summer performs its final act in these next few weeks.

I see the foreshadowing in the orange-tinted maples along the highway. I watch the plot development in my garden: plants are yielding less produce each week. Blooms are brown, spindly or spent. I witness the last chapter as it writes itself: Girl from the West gets up early for the first time in months to attend sophomore orientation. She talks excitedly  about the upcoming football season and the homecoming dance. Tomorrow, we take Girl from the East to her first-ever soccer practice.

Knowing that the show is about to end, I grabbed my summer to-do list last weekend and checked off the last item: day at the beach. Sure, there are beaches along our many inland lakes close to home, but they are not worth the entrance fee. To find a good beach, we Michiganders must head to one of the Great Lakes.

cresentshore

What the tip of Michigan's thumb looks like

Earlier this week we spent the day at Port Crescent State Park, one of my favorite beaches along Lake Huron. It’s a manageable drive from home and well worth the slow sojourn through corn and soy bean farm country. I’ve dreamed all summer of  this beach’s fine-grained sandy shores, soft lake bottom free of muck, sharp rocks or seaweed,  and its breathtaking views of Michigan’s “thumb.”

We kept it simple: a big blanket, a cooler packed with snacks and water bottles, and a plastic tote stuffed with beach toys. We splashed and swam and threw Frisbees and dodged lapping waves in search of the perfect skipping stones. We dug a hole to the center of the Earth, erected wobbly castles, ate a few sand pies, and battled seagulls for territorial rights.

digdeep

Imagine what our bath tub looked like that night.

No matter how tough times are, how many challenges we face, it’s good therapy to take at least one day a month and escape into a world that offers nothing but sensory pleasure.

Beach therapy. Tickets are still available at a shore near you.

crescentsand

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Change of scenery on the way

There are probably 50 reasons why I shouldn’t go on a vacation right now. The biggest one being practicality.

To that I say, pfft!

I’ve had it with practicality. Where has it gotten me in the last few years? We did most everything by the book, played by the rules, and where did it get us? Right in this big stinking heap of trouble with just about everyone else — including all the rule-breakers.

Who the heck ever had fun being practical?

The opportunity to tag along on another one of husband’s business trips presented itself to me earlier this year and I said: “I’m going along, whatever it takes. I am not sitting home watching snow melt while you lounge by the pool sipping fancy drinks and watching cactus silhouettes weave against the western sunset.”

I think I had him at “weaving cactus.” We made it work. We are going to Scottsdale, Arizona, for five days.

So I’m trading this view:

grayday

 

for this:

ariz

www.globusjourneys.com

 

Is there really any debate? It will be so easy to get away from all that is dragging down this rustbelt utopia. The city council will continue its circus act without my audience. The auto companies will either bounce or crash, taking our future along with them.

It will be so easy to just let it all slip away as the plane ascends and heads west. Some day we will make this journey and we will not look back. Some day soon.