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Month: July 2017

Mitey Fine

It’s a long story about how I found myself in Home Depot at 9:30 on a Saturday night looking for air filters, but that’s not important. What’s important is what I learned while I was there.

M texted me a photo of our worn-out air filter so I would know what kind to get, which was helpful because the filter aisle at Home Depot looks like the Great Wall of China. No wonder home improvement stores are so large. They need three acres just for the freaking air filters. I found the size we needed, which comes in a convenient, cost-effective three pack, and headed for the checkout.

And then I made the mistake of looking at the rest of the package.

The pack I grabbed had a lowly rating of 4 on the FPR. The FPR, for those of you who don’t know (I didn’t), is the Filter Performance Rating. There’s an FPR scale on the package that shows that filters at levels 4, 7, 9 and 10 offer various levels of, well, filterage. It’s a scale of filterocity, if you will.

Holy shit. I was about to the buy The Cheapest (read: Worst) Filter Available for my family. What’s the difference, my pocketbook screamed. Well, we better check it out, the worrywart countered.

I stopped and scrutinized the package. I’m wishing I hadn’t, because I like living in ignorant bliss where I think my house, while not perfect, is reasonably clean and free from general microscopic disgustingness. I don’t like to think about Airborne Dust Mite Debris if I can help it.

The filter I had in my hands would catch only dust/lint, the mite shit, pollen, and pet dander. The Best Filter Available – an FPR 10, naturally – catches all that, plus mold spores (gross), bacteria (ick), microscopic allergens (bless you), virus carriers (WTF), odor (?), smog particles (gasp), and most smoke (we don’t smoke, but after all this I might be tempted to just to calm my nerves). That’s a lot of nasty crap.

Even though one FPR 10 filter costs twice as much as three of the FPR 4 filters, I replaced the FPR 4 filter to the shelves and bought the FPR 10 filter and drove home wondering how many mold spores were at that moment circulating through the pulmonary system of my home, and therefore the pulmonary systems of my family. “I’m on my way, dear ones!” I thought. “This filter shall save us all!” I pondered my wisdom in reading all those words on the front of the package instead of merely glancing at the pictograms. It wasn’t just the mold spores that scared me, mind you. Dust mites give me the willies, and “virus carriers” sounds like we’re one decent filter away from the bubonic plague. It’s a good thing I stopped to read up on the Filter Performance Rating system before I killed my family.

Because I am an idiot, I Googled “dust mites” when I got home. Then, because I am a moron, I clicked on the “Images” tab. I was about ready to burn the house down and start over when I remembered that I am not an idiot after all, because I ponied up and purchased the FPR 10 filter, the Best Filter on the Market. We are all saved.

M installed our new FPR 10 filter, while I congratulated myself on being an informed consumer and on being able to proudly answer the question, “What kind of mother am I?” Why, the kind who knows that the health of her child is priceless and spares no expense for the wellbeing of her family! I sat on my dust mite-ridden couch in triumph. M returned upstairs and pointed out to me the fine print on the back of the filter package that says FPR is simply “The Home Depot Rating System.”

So what kind of mother am I? I’m the kind of mother who buys into Home Depot’s marketing trickery and shells out twice as much money for 2/3 fewer filters, that’s who.

Well played, Home Depot. Well played.

Today’s Hit Music

I had a conversation with my child a couple of months ago that has resulted in some pretty significant life changes.

In response to yet another one of her groans regarding my singing in the car, I said, “Zoe, when I was your age, my mom sang to me in the car. So when you grow up, if you have a child, you can sing to him or her, and you’ll see just how much fun it is.”

My child replied, “Yeah, okay, but I won’t be able to sing the songs of my generation, because we always have to listen to your music.”

Touché.

She has a point. She’s probably the only 11-year-old in the state who knows all the words to every Tom Petty album. Even the B-sides. Even the Mudcrutch stuff. She’s familiar with Boston and Toto and REO Speedwagon. She can identify Van Halen in the first three notes. Countless times, she’s had to listen to her mother belt out Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train” and GnR’s “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” and I’m pretty sure she has a video on her phone of both her parents jamming to “Bohemian Rhapsody” in the car. She likes Def Leppard and Bon Jovi, but they’re a far cry from the music her peers enjoy. Or so I’ve been told.

Okay, so this is an easy remedy, right? We’ll start listening to your music, kiddo. I didn’t know where to find it, because I am old, so I had to ask a young(er) colleague what stations play Today’s Hit Music. (Do they still call it that? I remember the DJs using that phrase when I was a kid. A hundred years ago.) The whippersnapper gave me a station list and I plugged them into the presets in my car, and was thankful that my car allows two separate tabs of presets. No way am I saving Today’s Hit Music over KSHE-95, Real Rock Radio.

I admit that I hated her music at first. How can people listen to this crap? This isn’t music! And then I realized that I was one step away from yelling, “Get off my lawn!” and tried to be more open-minded. Because I’m a cool mom. Really. Stop rolling your eyes.

So I listened. At first I was mostly pissed that I didn’t know the words. I really like to sing in the car. It feels weird to be quiet and just listen to music. Zoe, as you can imagine, relished it. Then I came to some realizations:

  • Still love Lady Gaga. I shall be a Monster forever.
  • Taylor Swift is whiny. Not a fan. Stop crabbing about your ex-boyfriends and people you think are mean to you. Life is pain, highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.
  • Ed Sheeran is okay, but way over-played. Holy crap, DJs. There are other musicians with good music out there. Give ol’ Ed a break and maybe not play his stuff every other song. The guy has gotta be tired. He’s even taking a break from Twitter, he’s so tired. Or so I’ve heard.
  • The Chainsmokers are the bomb. Master collaborators. Especially “Something Just Like This” with Coldplay. Because Coldplay. (I do not hold that “conscious uncoupling” bullshit against Chris Martin. That was all Gwyneth and her Goopy crap.)
  • I dig Imagine Dragons. Yes, I know I’m late to this party. Whatever. I’m 43. I’m late to every fucking party now, if I even bother to make it at all. I’m tired, people.
  • Twenty One Pilots is (are?) my new most favorite thing in the whole wide world. Last year I watched my beloved Cincy cousins lost their shit over Twenty One Pilots, but they’re younger than me and clearly on time to the party. I should probably hang out with them more.
  • I would like to invite Flo Rida to “My House,” and hang out for awhile. I think we could be friends. I’m going to make him call me Miss Ouri. Ha. I bet he hasn’t heard that before. It will be fabulous.
  • Adoring “Body Like a Back Road” because it’s all about a curvy girl, and I think curvy girls should be celebrated in a world where starved stick figures are held up as model women. I happened to mention how much I like this song at book club, and my friend whipped out her phone and showed me a picture of Sam Hunt, which served only to enhance my listening pleasure. Hoooo, boy.
  • Cake by the Ocean.” I didn’t have a clue what it meant until I googled it. Okay, I still don’t really understand it, but it’s fun to sing and dance to.
  • I’ve admittedly been a fan of Katy Perry for some time now, and not just because I think she could wipe out T. Swizzle in a nanosecond in direct head-to-head combat, but I even like her new stuff. I watched her “Swish Swish” on SNL and grew obsessed with doing the Backpack Kid’s dance move. Zoe mastered it quickly, and I eventually got it down. It’s not pretty, but I can do it. I’ve also taught it to M, several coworkers, and a Panera HR person I met at PrideFest. It’s like I’ve found a new mission in life.
  • I have no freaking clue who Zedd and Alessia Cara are, but I like their “Stay.” Seriously, who are these people?
  • I’ve at least heard of Selena Gomez, but I’m in the dark on Kygo. Doesn’t stop me from belting out “It Ain’t Me.

Basically, thanks to my kid, I could now watch a music awards show (if I can manage to stay up late enough) and know something, which hasn’t happened for a few years. Okay, ten years. Okay, fifteen. Or I could at least enjoy the music awards show once total strangers open their mouths and start singing songs that I recognize now.

So now Zoe and I sing together in the car. I welcome Tom Petty back once she hops out at school or camp and we’re both happy, so long as Ed Sheeran doesn’t come on yet again.

*Editor’s Note: the image for this post is from the Tom Petty concert earlier this year. I may be a fan of Today’s Hit Music, but Petty is still – and always will be – number one in my heart.

News!

The subhead to this post, if my site allowed me to have subheads, would be: I’m baaaaack!

I have news, and I’m so excited to finally share it.

I have a new job. After five years working for an all-boys Catholic college prep school, I’m moving on. I have so loved my time there, and have been given much more than I gave. I’ve learned about faith, humility, obedience and stability from Benedictine monks, who are pretty remarkable examples for that stuff. I’ve learned how funny and talented and driven teenage boys can be. I’ve learned how to be a better colleague from the best coworkers in the world. All of these things added up to make my journey remarkable, but over the past school year I’ve decided that my time there has come to an end. It is regrettable, but necessary.

I have a contract position as a writer for a global company, returning to my storyteller roots. In my new role, I’ll be…wait for it…writing. That’s it. As you can imagine, this makes me exceedingly happy. I don’t have to give presentations, or make and reconcile budgets, or be the face of anything. I don’t have to sit through endless meetings where two people discuss something for 20 minutes that the other six of us don’t need to hear. (Okay, I might get stuck in those, because everyone gets stuck in those.) Perhaps best of all, I don’t have to discuss closing the school at 4:45 a.m. on a snowy morning, and then record a perky message to go out to hundreds of people, smashing hopes and dreams to smithereens by announcing a late start instead of a full snow day. (I was always so tempted to start those messages with, “Don’t kill the messenger. I didn’t make The Call, even though I’m making this call. Trust me, I’d rather stay home all day, too.”)

All I have to do is talk to people and write. Heaven.

What also makes me happy is this: I get my voice back, in all its expletive-laden glory. I get to write again for my blog without worrying that someone who is offended by my words is going to call my boss and complain (which happened). I get to say things like, “I think the archbishop made a bullshit decision when he went after Girl Scouts,” and “Yes, I firmly believe that LGBT people deserve all the same rights as the rest of us. All of them,” and “I am appalled and embarrassed by the person currently making a mockery of the highest office in the country.” I get to celebrate She Persisted and Nasty Women. Hell, I might even buy myself a pantsuit.

And – this is probably my most favorite part – I get to curse again. I can drop an f-bomb any time I want. Although, to be honest, I don’t really drop f-bombs just for the hell of it. It’s a powerful word and should be used strategically. Although it may not seem that my use of the f-bomb – a word that is flexible enough to function as a noun, a verb, an adjective, and an adverb…how fucking cool is that? – is strategic, I do think about when and where I use it. It is a mighty word, and with might comes great responsibility. Oh, dearest f-bomb. Welcome home, my beloved.

I’m wrapping up my old job this week and part of next, doing everything I can to leave my colleagues in the best possible place. The last thing I want is for my friends to be cursing my name after I’m gone, although I’m sure sometimes it’ll be inevitable. (I recommend using the f-bomb, guys. It’s cathartic.) Then we’re spending some time on vacation, this one involving a beach and a bar and no set schedule for anything.

And then? Then…I write.

Finding myself. Again.

It’s been months since I’ve written. Amended: it’s been months since I’ve written anything beyond an obituary, and that particular piece needed the courage that a bottle of wine provides. There have been a variety of reasons: I’m too busy and there’s crap at work and my mother is dying and the house is dirty, blah blah blah. I should have been writing through all of it and instead I’ve written through none of it. I’ve written plenty in my head, sure, but nothing made it to the fingers and onto the page. I have a novel ready for heavy editing. A flash non-fiction piece ready to send out for hopeful publication. A creative non-fiction book in the early stages of interviews and transcribing. A million short stories and essays backlogged in my brain, all fighting for air.

And yet. Nothing. It was easier to lose myself in work and in cleaning the house and laundry and purging the basement. I’ve cleaned up/out my office multiple times, getting it “ready” for writing. Then I feel tired and I close the door, leaving bare surfaces just begging for clutter yet again.

The one thing I have remained faithful to, the one thing for myself, is the 365 I committed to back on January 1. I have made a photograph every day this year, even on the days when it was the last thing on earth I felt like doing. I maintained that one meager thread, that one filament, to my creative side, to me, and I’m so glad I did.

I have also lost myself in books and friends, both of which I find necessary for survival, especially right now. When my mother died, so much love and support swelled around me that I just let go and floated on the waves. I relaxed into the arms of those surrounding me, and watched as people tried to share the burden of my pain, tried to lessen my hurt even if just a little bit. It was extraordinary, and made me grateful that I can recognize and accept love even when feeling unmoored. My mother struggled with that, so I am especially thankful that I do not.

Where I am right now is complicated. I’ve been using that word a lot lately to describe my relationship with my mother, which is true despite sounding trite and Facebooky. But the complication goes beyond my mother and the feelings I experienced (and still experience) when losing her (beyond losing her to Alzheimer’s, which happened long ago) and extends to other areas, and I have to be intentionally vague right now and I’m okay with that, and I hope you are, too. Please know that I do not like feeling silenced, feeling as though my voice is not my own. It will pass, although I believe the days of laying bare my soul have gone forever. As I grow older, I become less inclined to lay it all out there. This means I have great doubt when I write. It used to be easy: if a thought entered my mind it went down on paper, for better or worse. There was very little editing. Now, though, I agonize over the words. Not the words themselves, those still come easy to me, but the ability to tell my own story while respecting the stories of others. My stories are intertwined with others, and I worry about crossing the line, respecting the personal histories of those around me, much more than I ever did before. With age comes wisdom…and reticence.

I’m going to try tackling editing the novel now. I’ve put it off for far too long, but the house is clean and the laundry is nearly caught up and my office is set and I’ve run out of excuses. I’m also telling myself to let go of this and post it out on my site. It’s not perfect, and it’s probably not even entertaining, but it’s where I am. At least I have written something.