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Tag: daily life

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.”


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.

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.

Watch out. She’s writing again.

I finally, for the first time in well over a month, have time and space to write. It feels amazing. And yet, I sit here and struggle to think of some topic worthy of committing to paper. Or screen, rather.

I pulled out my laptop here at the coffee shop and, after wrapping up some membership business for St. Louis Writers Guild, decided I would actually write. I would think of erudite words and I would type them into pithy phrases sure to delight both me and my readers. If I have any readers left, that is. They’ve probably all gone off to greener pastures, tended by people who say they’re going to write and then actually do it.

There’s plenty that has happened lately, so I should have a variety of topics from which to choose. That plenty is what has, by and large, kept me from writing. It’s all so packed with emotion, though, and I don’t really feel like crying in the coffee shop. Again. Maybe I can summarize.

My mother went into the hospital, because when you keep screaming at the husband who has been caring for you for years and then throw a lamp at his head, you don’t get to stay at home any more. She is now at a facility that we don’t necessarily prefer, but is the only one that will take her given her behavior issues. Turns out lots of places don’t want to take someone who screams expletives at her aides and spits on them when they try to do such terrible things as feed and bathe her. She will never return home again. That part is hard. No, wait, all of it is hard, and all of it sucks.

I find myself in new territory: parenting a tween girl. This means that I am reviled 10% of the time, considered annoying at best 25% of the time, and clung to the remaining 65% of the time. Keep in mind these percentages shift from day to day, and there is no warning which defcon alert state is currently active. What buoys me is that her father seems to be in the same boat, so we’re paddling furiously in circles together, just trying to stay ahead of the riptide. We spend a lot of time looking at each other and shrugging. She spends a lot of time rolling her eyes and texting.

The news. It’s getting in my head and generally wreaking havoc. I find myself spending way too much time reading and watching the news, and then reading the massive amount of commentary by people who argue not with reason, logic and fact, but by lobbing ad hominem attacks, most of which are rife with misspellings and grammatical errors. Honest to God, I don’t know what bothers me more: the news itself, or America’s steady, inexorable decline away from the long-established norms of the English language. I realized that I needed to stop reading the unceasing breaking news headlines and start reading literature. So I charged up the Kindle and downloaded my book club book, which I couldn’t remember the topic of until I started reading and then remembered: freaking Nazis. Fascism is apparently quite prevalent these days. How charming.

M has launched into another one of his charming “I’m gonna travel to all the places” periods. He’s been gone over a week now, and will be gone on and off for the next, oh, month to month and a half. He’s visiting places like London, Dubai, Taiwan, Beijing, Shanghai, San Jose and other places I don’t know because he hasn’t updated the family calendar beyond blocking weeks at a time with “M on Business Travel” yet. Keep in mind that I think it’s hilarious that he’s going all over the world…and to San Jose. Yes, he knows the way. He leaves Shanghai and flies east. I think. Sometimes he flies over the North Pole, but that’s when he’s coming into the Midwest. Not sure if it’s a more direct route to the west coast.

Our email server blew up at work last week and the short story is that I went about 48 blessed hours over the weekend with no email at all, and have not had work email on my iPhone since. Then today I discovered that by granting my employer permission to tighten the electronic leash with installing email on my personal phone, I also gave them the rights to do whatever they damn well please on my personal phone. This was discovered after they inadvertently took both Safari and my camera app off my phone, without me knowing about it and most definitely without my permission. I won’t get into the details of my discovery of the missing apps, melt down, frantic Google search to figure out what the hell was going on, and rant at the tech guys, although looking back it was probably fun to watch. One of the tech guys said, with a sly smile, “Oh yeah, we could totally brick your phone if we wanted,” which may or may not have sent shivers down my spine. *cough*stalkers*cough* So I’m seriously considering scrapping work email on my personal phone altogether, both because the mental space it has freed up has been most welcoming and because I don’t need IT all up in my personal iPhone business. I google some crazy stuff sometimes, because I’m a writer, yo. Freaked me right the hell out. No, thanks.

I got a call from Zoe’s school a couple weeks ago. Or rather, from a parent at Zoe’s school. It started like this, “Hi, Amy? Yes, this is ____ from Zoe’s school. SHE’S FINE.” And then the woman explained she’s with the parent association and we laughed about how when someone from the school calls a parent it’s best to lead with the fact that your child isn’t hurt/in danger/flunking out. She then went on to ask me if I would serve as the volunteer vice chair of Zoe’s class next year, which would make me the chair of her class the following year. She told me that my name had been proposed during a nominating committee meeting and that I had been enthusiastically endorsed and then I asked what kind of drug they were all smoking because can I have some please. I also wondered if they had just gone down the parent list alphabetically and finally got to the last name and hoped I’d be the sucker to say yes. And, of course, I’m exactly that sucker. So next year I have to help put together some weekly news, which mostly involves looking at what happened this week last year and then changing the dates, and also help set up some coffees and finding hosts for a parent party or two. I’m sure there’s a whole slew of duties and responsibilities that she forgot to cover, like setting curriculum, hiring teachers, cutting the grass, and walking the head of school’s puppy, but I’ll figure it out as I go. I’m taking a calculated risk that things with my mother will be more settled by then, so I won’t be stressed out and crying every 2.5 minutes. However, given my history, there will be a whole new crisis du jour and I’ll have my hands full, but hopefully crying only every 3.7 minutes. It’s good to have dreams.

So that’s what’s been going on with me. Or some of what’s been going on with me. There is stuff I haven’t told you, like my dirty laundry. And by “dirty laundry” I mean actual dirty laundry. I have a ton of it at home. And a basket overflowing with clean laundry that I haven’t folded and put away yet because tonight…tonight was about the writing and not about the laundry. And damn, it felt good.

These are some of my recent Project 365 pictures. The project is doing exactly what it’s intended to do, and I’m so glad I decided to embark on another one. Want to see them every day? Follow me on Instagram.


I covered a lot of miles in November. I’m not exaggerating or being facetious or even speaking in metaphors, which I have been known to do from time to time. I actually covered a lot of miles.

100.2 miles, to be exact. Most of them within eight miles of my home. I walked, and sometimes (very slowly) ran (downhill), 100.2 miles last month. My longest walk was over eight miles (Thanksgiving morning!); my shortest was two. I listened to hours and hours of podcasts. I walked at 5 a.m. and at 10:15 p.m. and all the hours in between. Mostly at 5 a.m. for a very good reason outlined below. I looked like an idiot many days, including times when my podcast made me laugh out loud or cry rivers of tears or that one day when the podcast app wasn’t working and so I listened to music, forgetting that the reason I stopped listening to music when I walk is that I can’t help but do this weird, funky, white-girl dance-walk thing that makes it look like I’m having some sort of fit because I love music and it makes me want to mooooove. I have learned how much to layer based on the temperature, and which jacket keeps me pretty dry when it’s raining, and to not stuff my headband into a certain pocket because it will fall out causing me to backtrack and search with the flashlight on my cellphone and throwing off my whole route with my exact mile markers. I have seen enough dead rodents to last a lifetime, including an unfortunate collision between a squirrel and a Ford Mustang. The Mustang won. The big Thanksgiving walk was the best, because I smelled wood fires burning, a turkey in someone’s oven, and, near the end, a pie baking. That’s pretty good motivation.

My legs weren’t the only appendage working in November. My fingers were super busy, too. I logged a lot of wordmiles on the keyboard. 54,288 words, to be exact. I committed to National Novel Writing Month again (NaNoWriMo), which is 1,667 words every day for 30 days, resulting in a solid 50,000-word novel. I didn’t start a new book, but finally fleshed out the novel I had started a couple of years ago before writing myself into a corner. Time off from the book plus lots of workshops, articles, and books on writing helped me figure out that I simply hadn’t made my main character suffer enough. She has suffered now, but I’m not entirely sure it’s enough. She may need to have some more terrible things happen to her. The book, as it stands now in all its SFD un-edited glory, is at just over 73,000 words. It needs a heavy red pen and I’m fairly certain that there are whole chapters that require replacement, but at least I have the base down. That ain’t nuthin’, friends.

Oh, yeah, and I also covered some miles in the air, traveling to Columbus, Ohio, for a conference for work. During which I continued my walking and my writing (boom). I can also now check the whole “travel with a Benedictine monk” thing off my bucket list. That was pretty fun.

I started walking in late September, when the weather was nice. I walked after work, when Zoe was at PSR or volleyball practice or piano. The timing was perfect and the weather was glorious. Then I decided to NaNo and realized that I’d need time to write every day. This isn’t something you can crank out in 15 minutes. At least, I can’t. Not fiction, anyway. I knew that some nights would require slogging away for almost two hours to get to that word count. And I knew that if I went walking after work and then made dinner and then ate dinner and then cleaned up dinner and did the family thing, all I’d be ready to write was a series of Zs on my pillow. I also knew that if I got up early to write, half the time would be wasted while I waited for my brain to fully wake up. So, starting November 1, I switched my walking routine to 5 a.m. most mornings. I can get four miles down in about an hour and be home at about 6, giving me a little over an hour to get ready for work and get us out the door before most of the bad traffic hits. This freed up my nights for writing. Food being a need most evenings, I subjected my family to a series of crockpot meals that I prepped late the night before and assembled that morning. Most were really delicious, which was a relief since I was trying new recipe after new recipe to stave off the boredom. I made real meals, too, but those crockpot dishes were a huge help on many nights.

So, in these ways, it was a great month. (In other ways, not so much, but those are topics for other posts.) I was completely absent from here which was disappointing, but there’s only so much a girl can do each day.

It’s no longer November, so I don’t have to continue walking so early in the morning. But here’s the thing: by the time I start walking at night it’s just as dark as the morning, and there are a lot more cars on the road. I get blinded by headlights, and it’s disconcerting to not see the sidewalk in front of me. I very much prefer the early morning walks, when it feels like hardly anyone else is awake and I’ve got the canvas of my whole day laid out before me. I now, much to my surprise, relish walking in the pre-dawn morning, before the cars are out but when there are a few other crazy people walking, running, and biking and when there are loads of stars twinkling or a gorgeous fog wraps everything in silence. It’s just a matter of launching my body out of the warm bed and into the laces. I never regret it, but dang, sometimes it’s hard. I did almost get clocked by a dude on a bicycle this morning, but he swerved at the last minute so all is good. (Aren’t bicyclists supposed to ride on the road, and not on the sidewalk? Eh, it might help if I wore a headlight like I’ve seen other early-morning people have. I do love the pre-dawn gloaming, though, and an LED headlamp seems rudely interruptive.)

Things I got from this blog post: I’m writing here again. Not anything spectacular, but I’m back on the beat. Which feels good.

Things you can get from this blog post: an amazing podcast list and/or good crockpot recipes. Send me a message if you want either. I’ll hook you up.

You’ll get the book I wrote later, I promise. This isn’t like last year’s book which was written with the intention of shoving it in a drawer. I’ll work on editing and then maybe recruit some beta readers and then shop it around for an agent. Since 2016 sucked on many levels, I’m determined to make 2017 rock.

This post is dedicated to my adorable husband, who put up with crockpot meals and an abnormally-cranky wife on the few days she didn’t walk and vicious snarls when he tried to talk to her about football, television commercials, and random internet stories while she was trying to write. I am well aware that many writers struggle with families who don’t understand their need to pound the keyboard, and I am so incredibly thankful to have a husband who has continually encouraged all of my art – be it writing or photography – over all of these years. You, quite simply, are amazing and I love you.


Thursdays have been my Monday lately. Thursdays used to be my Saturday, but for the past month-plus, they are definitely Mondays.

Thursdays used to be my favorite day because of doughnuts, dress downs, and patty melts. I am a simple woman with simple pleasures. And then Thursdays consistently blew up.

It was Thursday when I found out my dad had lung cancer.

It was Thursday when I blew up my family.

It was Thursday when I realized that a week after surgery to treat the lung cancer, Daddy was still in the ICU and I still hadn’t heard him speak or laugh.

It was Thursday when the doctors did an MRI on his brain and found “something.”

I know these Thursdays because of how you remember exactly where you are when catastrophe strikes. My mother remembers (well, she used to remember) where she was when Kennedy was shot. I remember where I was when Challenger blew up, and when the twin towers fell down. I remember who was around me, how I felt, how other people reacted.

Every Thursday night I’m with my writing group. This small band of diverse people gather each week to write, to bounce ideas off each other, to celebrate victories (submissions, acceptances, the finishing of first drafts, new story ideas)…to be writerly. I was thrilled when one of them invited me to join, as this is the sort of group I’ve been longing for my whole writing life. What I didn’t realize was that this little band of writers are now much more than just the people who give me good synonyms and encourage me to keep writing.

They give me real support, the kind that goes well beyond writing.

I know this because when my life blows up each Thursday night, I am with them. And they immediately give me hugs. There is no judgment, there are no questions. Just loving concern. I sit at my computer and then I start crying and they kindly ignore me until I look up, shaking, and make eye contact and they realize I’m about ready to bolt or lose my shit or, quite possibly, both at the same time.

The hugs are the good kind. The kind that are tight and long and unrelenting. The kind that say, “I have you. You are safe, at least for this moment. I get it.”

The first time this happened I wasn’t prepared. I wasn’t prepared for these people to give so much of themselves, so much of their own humanity. Our conversations around the writing table are typically pretty light-hearted. I inevitably end up laughing and feeling so thankful that I was invited into this little community where the topics are wide-ranging and I learn something new each week. I considered this group my friends, definitely, but they were segmented into my “writing friends” group. Not my “cry my heart out friends” group. (I have those, too, but I don’t get to see them the same night each week, although I should because that would be awesome.)

Then one Thursday night all my fears and emotions about my mother’s Alzheimer’s came tumbling out, manifesting themselves awkwardly in public through my tear ducts. I stood up to bolt, because no one wants to bawl their eyes out in the local coffee house. I was cramming my belongings back into my backpack when one of my writer friends stood up, too, and wrapped me in a giant bear hug. All he said was, “I know.” And I remembered that his mother has Alzheimer’s and that he cared for her until he couldn’t anymore and that he visits her all the time in the facility that now cares for her better than he can. And I knew that he knows exactly how I feel and that I am not alone, despite feeling that way most of the time. Why do I forget I’m not the only person to go through this? Why do I think that I should hide my feelings about this because no one would understand? That’s the sort of garbage thinking that derails me completely. Left to its own devices, my brain will spin and spin, gaining in speed and destruction. It takes someone who has been there, reaching out to stop the escalation and still the spin, to get me back on track. It takes someone who knows the wide range of ever-changing emotions that comes with having a loved one with Alzheimer’s. It takes someone who can say only, “I know” and have it mean worlds. Only then can I slow down, stop, and remember that I am not alone, that there is a path through. It may not be the same path, but it’s a journey that none of us has to take alone.

I’ve written a lot over the past couple of weeks, and it has helped me feel better even though I know it’ll never be published anywhere. It’s been too dark here, though, even though the dark is sometimes comforting. I need my presence here, even while I want to hide under the covers.

Daddy’s surgery was almost two weeks ago. The surgery went fine. All the stuff after – the stuff that’s supposed to be the recovery – hasn’t gone well. At all. It took over a week and half to hear him talk. I miss his laugh. I miss his ever-present concern over our well being. Instead, I’ve seen him in conditions that I will never forget, and that will always make me cry.

They don’t know what’s going on. At first, he was aggressive when they feathered off his sedation. They don’t know why he woke up once and, even with restraints, managed to yank out his IV, his NG tube, and his chest tube. The nurses finally got him subdued and tightened his restraints and, I imagine, gave him something that knocked him on his ass for his own good.

It’s not supposed to be going like this. He’s actually supposed to be home now, grouchy but whole. He’s supposed to be grimacing as he sits up and doing his breathing exercises and setting up follow-up appointments. He’s not supposed to be still incoherent at best, and unconscious at worst.

Mom knows what’s going on, generally. She doesn’t understand why he’s not home yet, which is perfectly normal because we don’t understand, either. She forgets that she’s already been to see him today. She cries because she misses him. We all cry because we miss him.

I think perhaps the hardest part is the unknown. We don’t know what’s wrong. So we don’t know how to fix it. We don’t know when it’ll be right again.

Sometimes I’m able to step outside my reality, and look at it objectively. That’s the woman whose dad is in critical condition. That’s the woman whose father has been in the surgical ICU for almost two weeks. How sad that must be for her. I wonder what’s going to happen? I wonder how she’s dealing with that? I think I’m able to do this mostly because some part of me just can’t believe that this is what is actually happening. At work, one day last week, colleagues started showing up in my office. “I’m so sorry about your dad and mom. I had no idea.” Over and over. I realized that someone must have sent out an email. It was touching and weird all at the same time, because I have been on those emails, have felt bad for the subject of those emails, have wondered how that person is coping with so much tragedy all at once. That’s when I could step outside my reality and look at myself clinically, as someone else. That poor woman whose world is crashing around her.

My sister and I take turns breaking down and building each other up. We text and email a lot during the day. She calls me with updates after she talks to the ICU nurses. She tells me over and over that I can call them myself and get updates, but I don’t know what to say to the nurses, or how to understand what they tell me. She has the medical background. She asks questions in that special code of medical language that I can’t decipher, the code that tells her volumes through data. She gets his temperature (the highs and lows). She checks on his oxygen, on his heart rate. She knows what all the different medications are that they’re trying, and what their dosages mean. She knows which is a sedative and which is for fever and which are his normal medications that he takes on a daily basis. She takes in all those terms, all those numbers and knows if he’s doing better today than he was yesterday. I say only, “What’s going on? Is he better? Have you fixed him? Why can’t you fix him?”

When the nurses answer my sister, they speak in that shared, common language. When the nurses speak with me, they speak in the dumbed-down language that they reserve for the Muggles of the medical world. “He’s doing a bit better today! Just wait, one of these days it’ll be like flipping a switch and he’ll be back to himself!” They are kind and professional and caring to both of us.

He has started coming back to us, slowly. He started speaking yesterday. When I visited him this afternoon, I couldn’t understand much of what he was saying. He wasn’t too responsive to me, and I realized that I wasn’t speaking loud enough. The nurse bustled around, belting out questions and getting crisp responses from him. I went to leave and spoke loudly, like she did. It felt like shouting to me. “Daddy! I’m leaving now but I will be back tomorrow. I love you!” He opened his eyes, puckered his lips, and gave me a kiss. He said, “I love you.” My heart soared and everything inside stilled and the universe tilted a little bit back towards center. And I realized that I will never again take it for granted when he says, “I love you.” I will remember when he asks me, for the fifth time, “Did you lock your doors? Did you close the garage?” he is really saying, “I want you to be safe because I love you.”

This Thursday was good. I am moved into a new office at work and today felt settled there. (Maintenance hung my pictures yesterday, which always makes it feel like home.) I had a wonderful end-of-the-year lunch with colleagues after an end-of-the-year plenary faculty meeting where five of my peers were recognized for being amazing people. There were doughnuts in the faculty lounge this morning. The rain stopped and the sun came out and Daddy said, “I love you.”

I’m sitting here with a group of writers, some of us writing and some of us talking about writing, and nothing is blowing up. When I arrived tonight, anxious because of how the past Thursdays have gone, two of my writer friends immediately looked me in the eye and asked how things are going. I relaxed, and said, “Much better, thanks.”

And then I sat down and started writing.

Finding my way back

I wrote and wrote and wrote for a third installment on the train trip. And then I went back to read it and discovered that in an attempt to avoid the whole, “My vacation is awesome” refrain and a detailed listing of all the tourist places we landed along with everyone else that goes to Seattle, I had instead devolved into a huge crabfest which really didn’t accurately portray our trip at all. What a waste of 2,655 words!

So I will instead attempt to pull out some of the more humorous anecdotes, because there were a few scattered around in there. I think.

The aquarium in Seattle has a huge touch pool, where Zoe and I were able to “pet” sea anemones, urchins, star fish, and sea cucumbers. We petted them all. One of the anemones is a fraidy cat and sucks in all its fronds at the gentlest of touches. Zoe loved that and “scared” three of them. I was amazed at how different star fish can each feel. M stood nearby and watched, trying to hide the look of horror on his face that his two girls were touching sea monsters.

Close quarters on the train means that embarrassing situations can happen. Like when the guy didn’t pay attention to the compartment numbers and whipped open the curtain on mine, thinking it was his. He about fell all over himself apologizing and desperately trying to fix the curtain with one hand while not spilling his coffee, and I congratulated myself for keeping the compartment door closed and locked until I was dressed. I had just been fixing my head scarf, so it wasn’t like he got a good view of anything, but it scared the heck out of both of us, I think. I bet he never yanks open another compartment curtain without checking the number first.

On the Coast Starlight route, when we had coach seats, I went downstairs to use a bathroom. The bathrooms on Amtrak trains have light indicators for when the lavatories are occupied. If the light is on, the potty is populated. Easy peasy. I marched downstairs and yanked open a door without a glowing light, only to find myself face to face with a petite Asian woman who I could tell was just as startled as me. She pulled the door back as I slammed it closed and stammered my apologies, and I moved less assuredly to the next bathroom. This time I tapped on it and listened for a moment even though the light was off. It was open, so in I went. As I sat there congratulating myself on my superior intellect for using the door lock and preventing something like that happening to me, a man yanked open my door. It appears that the door locks can be tricky on these trains, leading to all sorts of surprises and fun, unexpected get-to-know-your-neighbors visits. Later, on the Empire Builder, I learned that no matter how securely you close the door and latch the lock on the upstairs lav of our sleeper car, the gentle jostling of the train discreetly unlocks the door regularly. Now I was paying attention as I sat there doing my business, having been surprised twice now by men I don’t know, and watched as my locked door unlocked itself three times with the quietest of clicks. I think they’re out to get me, these doors. I’m hyper-aware now. You won’t catch me with my pants down again, potties.

The steward for our sleeper car on the Empire Builder route is named Rodgie. He has been with Amtrak over 20 years and is funny, efficient, and knowledgeable. Everything you’d want in a steward. He informs every group of new passengers that this car requires smiles. If you lose your smile, just find Rodgie and he will replace it. He peppered most stops with rhymes and limericks, and you could hear people up and down the corridor laughing. Amtrak should make Rodgie their poster boy for riding the rails.

I enjoyed wine on our train trip, and M enjoyed beer. However, one passenger began his libations before boarding in Seattle and then continued, to the point where he was not only ejected from the train in Wenatchee, Washington in the middle of the night, he was also arrested. Rodgie told us that he hadn’t been playing nice with the other passengers, but wouldn’t go into detail because the man is a professional and because telling us what some drunken sot did wasn’t guaranteed to put smiles on our faces. M and I agreed, and Rodgie confirmed, that Wenatchee, Washington, probably isn’t the best place to get kicked off the train. Google tells me that it is the largest city and county state of Chelan County, and offers Wenatchee Valley College and Academy of Hair Design as its institutions of higher learning. I didn’t look, but I’m sure that Western Union has an office there if your wife has to wire bail money to get you out of the pokey after being thrown off the Empire Builder.

At lunch our final day, we sat with a young Indian man earning his PhD in food safety in Fargo, North Dakota. His name is Ashish, “Like hashish without the H,” he explained. Ashish and M had a wonderful conversation about Indian cuisine, and about driving in India, and about how there are many different languages in India, and countless dialects. He told me about Holi, the festival of color in India, and made me want to go there even more now. He was traveling to Chicago to meet his cousin for a Pink Floyd concert. Ashish is a pretty cool dude.

I may think of more later, but those are the standout ones right now. It was a wonderful trip and we all had a blast, etc. I highly recommend train travel if you have the time and if you don’t mind forced relaxation.

Sunday afternoon

Right now I’m sitting in my home office/writing studio/photography den/room of her own trying to write and being largely unsuccessful. I have gotten too much out of the habit, I think. I didn’t write nearly as much as I expected on the train, probably because I was far too busy watching the ever-changing scenery out the window. At night I felt too tired, although in hindsight I probably should have just forced myself. The past week I’ve been busy getting back into the routine of things at home (cooking and cleaning and laundry and bills) and the routine of work (writing, editing, proofing, photographing). It has felt good, this return to the work of daily life. I do love travel and experiencing new things, but just as much I love the feeling of being home. (I’m only saying this because right now dinner is in the oven, the house was cleaned yesterday, laundry is going, and bills are paid. So I’m feeling fairly on top of things.) Zoe is outside with M, working on her softball skills. She’s batting in rubber rain boots.

It’s now 5:35 a.m. Tuesday morning. I dragged my sorry butt out of bed to write. Mostly because I had a little nutty last night and melted down over absolutely nothing, and afterwards, with a lot of thought, figured out it’s because I’m not very happy. And I’m not happy because I’m not writing. I wrote a bit on our vacation, but not as much as expected. Then we returned and the first Thursday night, my normal writing night with my writing group, we had to go see the tax lady. Tonight is Open Mic, which usually gets me writing, but a Girl Scout meeting for troop leaders to figure out where the hell we’re going to go after being kicked out of the parish was scheduled, and I need to be there. So no Open Mic. This Thursday I was invited to a fun party which I wouldn’t miss for the world, so no writing group again, making it a month since I’ve been. Apparently I need these scheduled writing prompts or I don’t write, because instead of writing I’ve been very good about getting laundry done and the house clean and the taxes pulled together and the bills paid and good, healthy meals made and grocery shopping done.  I’ve been very good about doing everything but writing. Which is great for everyone else and terrible for me.

I was tired and had a throbbing headache after my nutty last night, so I set my alarm for earlier than normal and gave up the day. Just gave it up and went to sleep. When the alarm went off this morning I was in the middle of a vivid dream about being with my Girl Scouts and drawing pictures based on Little House on the Prairie, and I was determining whether I was going to draw the tiny stone-fronted soddy they lived in when they first left the Big Woods and went to the prairie, before Walnut Grove, or if I’d draw a log cabin that Pa built. Clearly I’ve been thinking too much about Girl Scouts and we’ve been watching too much Little House. I was having a good time with the girls in my dream, though, and turned off the alarm without getting up. Then I remembered melting down and knew I had to get up.

So this is my new endeavor, to keep peace with myself and ensure my family doesn’t end up having me committed. I used to get up early and write, and then fell off the wagon for whatever reason.

Although I will admit that just after I typed that, I spotted a stack of checks on my desk that need to be deposited, and realized that this morning would be good because I don’t have to be at work early. So I sorted those. And then one of the cats came in and meowed and used the litter box just outside my studio door, so I got up and cleaned the box.

Clearly I have some work to do with this whole notion of shutting out the world and writing.

I’m going to post this to the blog now, even though the whole thing is a mish-mash of bad writing and disjointed thoughts, because, well, that’s just where I am right now and it’s been too long since I posted and I’ve always been honest here.

The second cat just stalked in, yowling. I give up for the day. Tomorrow I know to start with a clean desk and a closed door.

No Leap Necessary

I’ve seen a lot of posts on social media about Leap Day. My various feeds were flooded today with self-helpy, motivation-laden, carpe diem-filled “go out there and do something great with this Extra Day!” crap. Which is fine, if you have the luxury of actually being able to pull that off.

In my case, and the case of my husband and most of the people I know, Leap Day was just another Monday. Another day where stuff needed to get done. It’s not like February 29 is a national holiday, a true gift of the cessation of responsibilities. Even changing the clock back an hour for Daylight Savings grants you more than Leap Day.

I got up this morning, like every other weekday morning, and debated whether I could get one more day out of my dirty hair. I showered and dressed and stuffed my backpack and cleaned the litter box. I made a reasonably healthy lunch for my kid (lean chicken sandwich = good, truffle for dessert = bad) and got her off to school. I drove to work and dove in, answering emails and fielding questions and attending meetings. I ate a good lunch with my colleagues where we talked and laughed as we always do. I picked my kid up from after care and we sorted Girl Scout cookies. M came home and rustled up dinner, which consisted mostly of delicious leftovers. We ate together and talked about our days. Zoe practiced the piano and took care of her chores, and we snuggled and listened to Gustav Holst’s “Jupiter”. I played Words With Friends with my cousin and continued reading “Five Days at Memorial” on my Kindle. I texted with a friend. M and I watched John Oliver’s incredibly funny rant against Donald Drumpf and laughed out loud. We discussed hotel accommodations for our upcoming spring break trip. I’m getting ready to wash my face, brush my teeth, and fall into bed.

I will not feel guilty for “wasting” this Leap Day. Because it wasn’t a waste. No, I didn’t go out and do something earth-shattering. There was no grand gesture. But there is a certain nobility, I think, in living a good life. In being there for friends and for children and for colleagues. In doing a job well, and with purpose and integrity. And I don’t need a Leap Day to celebrate that. It’s what I try to do every single day.

I’m all for celebrating just about everything. It’s something we’ve passed along to Zoe, who tonight announced that we should have dessert to celebrate being halfway through Lent. But our celebrations are just that: ours. They are our own private revelries for those things that pertain to us. I’m happy for those friends of mine who could actually shed their responsibilities for a day, or even for an hour, to celebrate Leap Day. But I also recognize that despite a social media trend it’s not a mandate to the rest of us, nor are we failing in any way for simply living this day the very best we can, by whatever definition of personal success we determine, as we did on February 28 and as we will on March 1.

(Full Disclosure: I had no intention of writing anything for the blog today, but I thought it might be fun to post something on February 29. Yes, I see the irony in a rant against Leap Day to post on Leap Day just to get the Leap Day time stamp. What can I say; I’m a complicated woman.)

When writing makes me feel better

Facebook nudged me and let me know that I haven’t posted in 12 days. Maybe it’s 13 now. Regardless, it’s been awhile and Facebook laid on the guilt and so here I am. Thanks, Facebook, for taking my mother’s place. Are you going to remind me that I should wear more makeup, too?

I’ve done quite a bit in the last 12-13 days, so you’d think I have plenty to write about. And I do. Fodder is not the problem. Motivation is the problem. Because when my heart is shattering, I find it hard to write.

No, it’s not my mom. (Although that would be a good guess because that happens daily now.)

No, it’s not my marriage. (Which would also have been a good guess last week when M returned home after two weeks and threw out his back and turned into a snarling beast. He’s good now. We’re good now. He’s back to himself and his halo is shining bright again and I no longer have to toss raw meat at him before speaking.)

No, it’s not Zoe. (Despite my near constant worry, the kid is thriving. She recently got palette expanders from her orthodontist and is rocking them without complaint. She’s amazing.)

No, it’s not work. (A source of angst in the past, work is now one of the highlights of my life. Specifically, the people I work with. They are awesome and they make me laugh every day.)

It’s not any of that.

It’s my church. My church. That place I used to think of as my second home.

The Roman Catholic Church. (Not Pope Francis. That guy is cool.)

As many of you have seen, the “Girl Scout issue” is blowing up again across the St. Louis Archdiocese. There’s a lot of misinformation floating around, and a lot of accusations, and a lot of hurt feelings. I cannot adequately express how I feel without going off on an expletive-laden tirade, but suffice it to say, I’m not happy, my friends are not happy, and my husband is really not happy. I also know that this, too, will pass, and that there are far greater things in the world to complain and worry about (human trafficking) (the heroin crisis) (racial violence) (school shootings) (Donald Trump) so why should I unload my temporary crisis on you, my dear readers?

So I’m not going to write about the Church and Girl Scouts. It’s already taking up too much brain space.

I went to Colorado for my annual Girls’ Weekend. Snowshoeing. Wine. This year: Moscow mules. Lots of laughter. Usually movies. This year: An Idiot Abroad on Netflix. (I love you, Karl Pilkington.) In Colorado, I am allowed to just be. I can temporarily shed most of my obligations. Work. Mothering. Wifehood. It’s a wonderful touchpoint in the midst of the chaos. And as much fun as I have, I’m always so grateful to return home. Which is a pretty good indication that I have a truly wonderful life. I left last week on Thursday morning, and Thursday night is my writing group and usually where I bang out a blog post or two. So I missed that because I was busy drinking Moscow mules and so we should blame my lack of a post last week on ginger beer and vodka.

I worked on a grant for a service program some incredible moms have started for the children at Zoe’s school. The program, called Wonder Workers, is so phenomenal I can’t even. I’m serious. I. can’t. even. (There isn’t a lot I can’t even about, but this is one of them.) The amount of good they do for others is mind blowing. They help the poor, the homeless, the hungry, the sick, people serving in the military, sick kids, families of sick kids, the under-recognized. Pretty much anyone who needs help. I can’t volunteer like I want, because of my job and my other volunteer responsibilities, so when my friend mentioned they might need help writing a grant I knew that could be my contribution. Because I love Wonder Workers and I love my friends and because I write real good. As a bonus, I got to work closely with one of my dearest friends throughout the process. She actually did the bulk of the writing. I just formatted and edited and added some words. It was good work, and I felt good doing it, and I felt a sense of accomplishment when it was done.

I’ve been reading a lot. I went on a tear downloading books from the library and have lost myself in other worlds. Zoe and I got library cards from the Kirkwood Public Library, which means we are now dual-library card holders. We are making up for the fact that M is completely freaked out by libraries and therefore doesn’t have even one library card. My nerd self is geeking out about this. Two whole libraries full of books. There is not enough time in the world, my friends. I currently highly recommend “The Kitchen House” by Kathleen Grissom and “The Year of Magical Thinking” by Joan Didion. Both of these remind me that my issues are so minor as to be laughable. Right now I’m in the middle of Amanda Palmer’s “The Art of Asking,” and I have Sheri Fink’s “Five Days at Memorial” in the queue. All of these books are disparate. Historical fiction and autobiographical and self-help and creative non-fiction. That’s how I roll, people. I’m a freakin’ literary maverick.

And, my friends, there is this: my new book project is launching. I have two interviews lined up for this weekend, and I have faith that more will materialize. In the past week, when I’ve felt down or upset, when I’ve battled Holly Golightly’s Mean Reds, all I had to do was think about this project. I instantly felt better. There are stories to tell, and I just might get to help these people tell them. I love things that give me purpose, like writing a grant for a children’s service club, and this book does just that.

Huh. Look at that. Just listing all the really great stuff in my life makes me feel so much better about The Other Stuff. What other stuff? Yes. Exactly.

And now, because I haven’t posted any lately, some pretty pictures. These are all from Colorado.









A Pre-Valentine’s Day Tale of Nefamy

Zoe and I ran into Michael’s after school today, because I’m the kind of mom who goes, “Oh, no! Your Valentine’s Day party is Friday and we are completely unprepared!” We were on the hunt for the Valentines themselves and some kind of little trinket to attach, because unlike when I was a kid, you must now also give gifts to the 24 little Valentine banshees in your class. A crappy piece of folded paper printed with Scooby Doo in two colors doesn’t cut it any more. Turns out that Michael’s doesn’t carry Valentines, although we found some cute erasers and washi tape (the washi tape is unrelated to Valentine’s Day but I have a small, unexplainable addiction to washi tape) so it wasn’t a total loss, but that’s not my story. Oh, no, friends. My story is much more nefarious.*

As we entered the store, a slightly-disheveled woman in her 40s sitting to the left just inside the door caught our attention. She sat at a small, skirted table with scraps of white paper, a little vase of pens, and a glass jar that held more paper. She thrust a scrap at me and said, “Win a gift card! Write your name and phone number on this and you can win!” I took the paper and saw that the jar had lots of scraps with names and numbers already. I also noticed that there were absolutely no identification markings of any kind on her, on the table, or anywhere around, which seemed odd for a promotion. The little pieces of paper outside the jar were about the size of a normal raffle ticket and completely blank.

I’m in marketing and communications. I know marketing trickery. I can see it a million miles away, and this whole scenario wasn’t adding up. Good promotions require companies to look like someone barfed the logo everywhere because consumers are jerks and need to see something seven times for it to sink in. There are studies that prove this. There are also studies that say marketers shouldn’t call consumers jerks, but I ignore those.

So I asked, “What’s this for?” And the following conversation unraveled while Zoe stood and watched like she was enjoying a match at Wimbledon.

“It’s for a drawing!”

“For what?”

“A gift card!”

“A Michael’s gift card?”

“Yes, a Michael’s gift card.”

“Where does my phone number go?”

This is the part that kills me. She points to the jar with the other scraps of paper and says brightly, “It goes in there.”

Which is when I decide that there is no way on God’s green earth she is getting anything from me, but that it would be fun to mess with her.

“No. Where does my phone number go. Who gets it?”

“No one gets it. We do not sell or give away your number.”

“Okay, but who is ‘we?’”

She is silent, and I can tell she’s getting aggravated. The chipper “win a gift card” lady is gone, replaced by the “seriously, just fill out the dang piece of paper. I’m not getting paid enough to deal with this stuff” lady. So I try again. Because now I’m on the hunt. Because now I’m not leaving the store until I find out what the heck she’s doing there.

“Is this a Michael’s promotion?”

“Yes, it’s for a Michael’s gift card.”

“No, that’s not what I’m asking. Is Michael’s the sponsor? Who is the sponsor?”

“It’s a Michael’s gift card.” (There should be a huffy font for this line. Alas.)

“I get that it’s a Michael’s gift card. Who is sponsoring the promotion? Who is running this? Who is paying you?

“…It’s…it’s for the Saint Louis Post-Dispatch.” She looked really mad now.

Satisfied, I dropped the scrap of paper and said, “Not interested.” Zoe and I went off in search of Valentines, trinkets, and unanticipated washi tape. My child got a lecture about how important it is to find out who someone really is before you give your private information while the raffle lady glared at me as we wove in and out of the aisles. We purchased our erasers and washi tape, and I declined forking over my email to Michael’s for the millionth time. Only because I did once and they bombarded me into next Wednesday with their sale emails and ain’t nobody got time for that. And because I was in super-protection mode about my personal information by this point. I’m like a freakin’ privacy ninja.

On our way out, I watched two women stop and hand over their information to the crabby raffle lady without asking a single question. God knows what list they’re going to end up on, because I don’t even truly believe she was with the Post-Dispatch. I’ve seen promotions run by the paper, and those people are insanely proud of their logo. Plus they have more lawyers than reporters now and so everything they touch has at least 1,200 words of legal mumbo-jumbo printed at the bottom. I thought about all the scraps of paper already in the jar. So many people just blindly fork over information to someone with no identification, no markings, not even a formal raffle ticket with an official privacy disclaimer. We hear all these warnings about online confidentiality, and yet folks will hand over their contact information to a stranger without asking a single question. It boggles my mind.

Just so you know, because I’m sure you’ve been on pins and needles since I started my tale of nefariousness, we found Valentines cards at Walgreens, and they have Grumpy Cat on them so they are awesome. They say things like, “Am I happy it’s Valentine’s Day? Nope.” and “I had a Valentine once. It was awful.” and “Grumpy this Valentine’s Day? Good.” Zozo and I love Grumpy Cat, and we cackled right there in the aisle as we read them so it was a good find. Way better than Scooby Doo.

They should have Valentines that say, “Don’t be an idiot. LOVE your private information. Don’t share it with strangers!” I’d probably be the only person who buys them, though. This is why I don’t write Valentine’s Day cards for a living. I care too much, people.

*Really, that story wasn’t quite so nefarious as I first made it sound, but I’ve been dying to use the word “nefarious” here and I saw an opening and seized it. Clearly I live in a bubble and don’t know true nefariousness. Which is way too long of a word and should be shortened to nefamy. Like infamy, only with evil undertones.