Tea with Mother.

So, I went to the grocery store and the fruit market to get stuff from my mom’s list. Once at her condo, she wanted to talk. She even gave me an out, asking if I needed to be anywhere. (But that was a trap. I would’ve been required to clarify where I needed to be.)

I was tired because yesterday my best friend had a massive meltdown. I tried to be supportive, but my friend kept yelling at me. It was upsetting and left me with a touch of insomnia and agitation.

But that’s okay. No one’s perfect. I’ve known her for years, and this has never happened before.

So I felt zoned out as I sat to talk with my mom.

“How’s that neighbor of yours?” she asked. “You know, the one who lives, uh…”

“The first house or the third house?” I asked.

“Yeah, the first house.”

“He’s great.” I groaned inwardly.

“What’s his name? Steve?”

“Stevil,” I muttered.

“Did something bad happen between you two?”

(Yes, Stevil rejected me because I’m not pretty enough. He actually told me that.)

“No,” I lied.

“What about your other neighbor?”

“I don’t know him.”

“Which parts of the Olympics do you like to watch?” she asked.

I sensed a trap. “All of it.”

“Don’t you favor the gymnastics?”

“No,” I lied.

“Do you remember when your sister broke her arm? She wanted to be like the Olympic gymnasts!”

“No,” I lied again. “I don’t recall.”

“Oh! She was using a 2 x 4 in the backyard as a balance beam, and the break was so bad that her bone was poking through her skin.”

I should’ve said yes. Oh well. Live and learn.

“Do you admire Thomas Merton?” she asked.

“Thomas Merton? Yes, of course. As you know, Bellarmine, my alma mater, reveres him.” Thomas Merton is a holy man who preached great things and had a great attitude.

“He died tragically, you know,” my mom said.

I searched my memory. She’s right. He electrocuted himself in the shower, if memory serves.

“But guess what?” my mom added. “It was the FBI. They killed him on purpose because he was a powerful influencer of nonviolence.”

“That’s great,” I muttered. “I’m so glad to know that.” Tragic. Heartbreaking. Devastating. Ignorance is bliss. 

“Merton preached that we should be our authentic selves,” she added.

“I like flatulence,” I offered hopefully.

She frowned. “Honey, no one likes flatulence.”

“I was just trying to be authentic. Geez.” I shrugged.

“I’m so glad your brother’s engaged. He’s been heartbroken and single forever. It’s so tragic.”

“Uh-huh.” I sighed.

“When do you get your next story assignment?”

“Tonight at midnight. I have 24 hours.”

“But that’s terrible! Who’s awake at midnight?”

“Um, that’s why they call it NYC Midnight, Mother.”

“But… but… but… I’m appalled. How late do you stay up, honey? Surely you go to bed hours before midnight. I always fall asleep at 9:30.”

“I’ll probably stay up until 1:00 AM,” I admitted.

“But, oh! How I worry about your health with those sleeping habits.”

I grunted.

“Darling, I saw a drug for a new schizophrenia medication. Have you seen it?”

“Uh, could you be more specific?” I asked.

“Well, I was reading its list of side effects on the television screen, and they were terrifying!”

“Like… sudden death?” I guessed with a shrug.

“Yes, exactly! Oh! Oh! Oh! I wish you didn’t have such a severe illness. What do you think would happen if you were to go off your meds?”

“Anarchy?” I shrugged. “Blood pouring from the walls? Birds falling dead from the sky?”

She smirked. “You have such a great sense of humor. Oh, when is it again that you’re taking me to get my real ID?”

“August 3rd,” I recited from memory.

Her smile was condescending. “I’ll pay you well for that, because I know it will be a hard day for you. Oh, my poor sensitive baby.”

I sighed. “I should be going.”

“Oh! Tell your father I said hello.”

“Sure.”

When I got home, I was braindead and exhausted. My dad was watching TV. “How’d it–”

“Torture,” I interrupted him.

“Is there anything I can do to help?”

“You could walk the dog,” I suggested.

That’s the end of my story. I guess it’s more like real life or a stream of consciousness than something with a beginning, middle, and end.

Strange food attitudes.

I’ve avoided junk food all month except for some chocolate I ate on the first full day of my period. (Meg’s gotta have it!) Something strange has happened. I’m starting to wonder why I’ve always put so much filth into my body. Yes, Pringles suddenly seem like filth. I think it’s because their ingredients are probably akin to a science experiment. Yeah. This is from their website:

DRIED POTATOES, VEGETABLE OIL (CORN, COTTONSEED, HIGH OLEIC SOYBEAN, AND/OR SUNFLOWER OIL), DEGERMINATED YELLOW CORN FLOUR, CORNSTARCH, RICE FLOUR, MALTODEXTRIN, SUGAR, MONO- AND DIGLYCERIDES.CONTAINS 2% OR LESS OF SALT, TOMATO POWDER, MONOSODIUM GLUTAMATE, CITRIC ACID, ONION POWDER, SPICE, GARLIC POWDER, YEAST EXTRACT, HYDROLYZED CORN PROTEIN, MALTED BARLEY FLOUR, MALIC ACID, DISODIUM INOSINATE, DISODIUM GUANYLATE, PAPRIKA EXTRACT COLOR, NATURAL FLAVORS, WHEY, WHEAT STARCH.

Huh. Disodium Inosinate. Yum?

Cake doesn’t seem vile to me. My theory is that it’s because cake is “clean”. It’s made from flour, sugar, and other natural ingredients from your pantry. None of that… hydrolyzed corn protein(?)… is included. [Makes face.]

So, I’ve gone clean. That’s the good news. The bad news is that I haven’t lost any weight. When I say I haven’t eaten any junk food, that includes cake, clean though it may be. I’ve just been eating healthy foods here. Uh… oatmeal, fruit, healthy dinners (salads, sauteed foods, lean meats), Lara bars, and occasionally popcorn made in my popper. I thought I’d lost two pounds, but apparently not.

I find it very beneficial that I’ve changed my habits so extremely that I now find Pringles vile. I used to eat them and other junk foods every single day with very limited exceptions. Hmm… I know myself. I could easily backtrack and start eating junk foods every day again. It wouldn’t be hard for me to go into denial about the ingredients in Pringles and other snacks. I think I’ve got to just try to keep eating healthy for as long as possible, including when I’m stressed or unhappy. I’m trying to find faith here that if something goes massively wrong in my life, like a breakup or other emotional turmoil, that I can hold on and not revert to my old ways.

If it’s an addiction, then that would explain why things seem so much clearer now, twenty-two days into my healthy eating. I’m glad I’m eating healthier for health reasons, but I’d sure like to lose some more weight already. I’m still hovering at 209. I suspect I need to exercise more and possibly incorporate some intermittent fasting (nothing extreme, though), but I haven’t had the energy to exercise lately. Or my mind has been elsewhere.

I also reached a point several days ago where I realized that there’s never enough junk food. It’s like, if I’m desperate to achieve a junk food coma because I’m stressed or overwhelmed or tired, then I can get that with junk food, but it’s never really enough to sate me, not in the long term. I have to keep eating more and more and more and more on every subsequent day, and it’s still never enough. So why go down that road when there’s never enough junk food in the world? It’s like I’m feeding something insatiable.

I don’t think I’m “eating my feelings”, or whatever. I think it’s really like an addiction because whenever I feel unwell, I need that endorphins high. Goodness. But then I started needing it everyday, too.

But now I have new habits! Today I haven’t had an appetite at all. I woke up and forgot to eat my oatmeal. Weirdness.

Do you all think I’ll eventually lose weight if I stay on this path with the eating? I hope so!!

The check is in the mail.

This is freakin’ hilarious.

As you all know, I’ve been helping Mother at her condo and also taking her out for errands and such. She’s trying to organize her living space, and often she’ll give me small stuff that she doesn’t want. Most recently it was a conch shell. I thought it was pretty, but she had no interest in it, so I brought it home.

When my dad saw the conch shell, he started blowing into it to make a whistling noise. I was appalled, as I had to wipe his saliva off my pretty shell. Geez.

And as you all recall, I took Mother to the post office recently, and she was not on her best behavior. And she didn’t pay me afterward.

I discussed the situation with my dad, who promised to go to bat for me and look into the situation. So the very next day, he spoke to my mom on the phone. (I wasn’t around, so this is how he narrated it to me.) My mom was babysitting Li’l Sweetmeats, my niece, at the time.

My mom said, “Uh, Phil, is Meg upset about yesterday?”

And my dad tactfully replied, “Oh, just a little bit. She’s a little upset. Nothing serious.” (I was outraged, overwhelmed, and seething, just for the record.)

Upon hearing this, my mom burst into tears. Li’l Sweetmeats, who’s 20 months old, started to sob, too. My sister’s dog, Lucy, howled woefully. My dad, eager to join in with this maudlin cacophony, picked up my conch shell and blew into it.

At this point in my dad’s narration, I uttered, “Shut the front door.”

Yeah. You can’t make this stuff up. The family that cries together…

My mom wrote me a check and put it in the mail.

So, in other news, I got amazing news last night right before bed. I had to wait up for it. NYC Midnight released the results of the microfiction event, round 1, for which I wrote a 100-word story over two months ago. Each group had 63 people with the top 15 writers (per group) making it to the next round.

My story came in FIRST! Holy flip! I screamed. Then I checked my friend’s group. His story came in THIRD! I screamed again. At this point my dad came to check on me, so I gave him the good news. My conch shell wasn’t on hand for him to blow into, which was too bad.

To recap, the assignment for my group was to write 100 words of a comedy involving turning up the volume and including the word “patch” (and putting it into a bigger word like “dispatched” is allowed).

This was my tiny story:

Life in Bed for the Undead: Loving Each Other to Bits (c) MEK 2021

“Turn up the volume,” Zora Zombie said. “That commercial’s on.”

Her husband Zeke obliged. Zora nestled closer on their shedded-skin patchwork quilt.

The onscreen female zombie sounded sympathetic. “Are you suffering from zombie-specific erectile dysfunction? Take Zombiealis, the only aquamarine pill proven to treat ZSED.”

Zeke’s snort sent his nose flying.

“Side effects include spontaneous combustion and liquefication.”

Zeke hugged Zora. “Surprise! I took one earlier. It’s time.”

Zora beamed, loose lips a-dangle.

Zeke grimaced. “Wait… sorry. It broke off. Let me reattach it.” He fumbled in his pants. “Done!”

They laughed their heads off and fell in a heap.

HA HA H AH AHA! Oh no!! Poor zombies! I get to write a new story for round 2 this weekend! Go me!!

I hope everyone out there’s having a great day!

Book Review: My Best Friend’s Exorcism

My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix is a dreadful book. It features a killer cover which won me over at the bookstore.

(Note: this review will contain spoilers about one particular plot point. But I honestly don’t know how the main story line is resolved, or what’s up with the possession and its subsequent exorcism.)

exorcism

How cool is that cover? It looks like an old rental cassette. And the rainbow goes around the side and beyond. It’s such a beautiful book that I’m in love with it. I want to marry it.

At any rate, I DNFed at page 50. Someone somewhere likened this book to what happens when horror meets Tina Fey, but I can’t find the quote. Oh well. Anyway, I’m a huge fan of campy horror. Heck, I write campy horror. But this was disappointing.

First off, the writing seemed solid in a technical sense, but I couldn’t connect with the characters to save myself. There was no, like… no intimacy with them, and they felt flat and empty. Even when they were crying, I had no feeling of connection to them, as if there was a huge wall between us. It was really strange.

Second, the book became offensive. Date rapes were mentioned casually, in a “boys will be boys” sort of way. Ugh. And the two best friends–both of them girls–loved each other DBNQ (which apparently stands for “dearly but not queerly”). And in high school, they and two other girls do acid. The character who winds up becoming possessed didn’t want to do the acid. Her friends pretty much slammed her over the head with undue peer pressure, and they also lied about the origins of the acid. (They said it came from a drug dealer she trusted, when in reality it was found under the mattress after a raid on someone else in a hotel room.)

But I’m saying this as if I had any connection to what was happening. It felt as if these characters were miles away.

That was when I stopped reading. I couldn’t muster any interest at all.

According to multiple other reviewers, the dog is killed in a horrific way. None of the reviewers would clarify except to say that it was that bad. Several reviewers viciously cursed out Grady Hendrix. I don’t even want to know. One reviewer even went to a website called something like doesthedogdie.com, and yes, he discovered that the dog does die. Goodness gracious. Oh wow, it’s an actual site. Okay. Huh. Good to know.

The author tried too hard to make a nostalgic connection to the 1980s. I was his target audience, since I lived the magic of that decade. Roller rinks, yes! And E.T. is one creepy alien! But nostalgia only works in a book when you feel connected to the characters. Otherwise, you can have all the Reese’s Pieces in the world and they won’t taste good. Or something. [Shrug.] (That made sense in my head.)

*****

I’ve been trying to read more books lately. I’m into horror, and I also want to reread some Christopher Pike while continuing to tackle my current read, Sweet Miss Honeywell’s Revenge. It’s rather slow-paced, so I have a bad feeling that I’ll DNF it.

I got back into reading by asking myself how I intend to stay entertained on the flights to and from Prague this October. So that’s been good.

Meg feels entitled!

Oh my God, that was hell! Hell! Fire and brimstones would’ve been preferable to this agonizing torment.

Today was dedicated to helping my mom. I set my alarm clock for sometime after 9:00 AM, and after I woke up, I did all the morning stuff: walked the dog, ate oatmeal, took my meds. Then I got online and found the online form to fill out if you’ve lost your passport. I called my mom and asked her questions, like her parents’ birthdates, her SSN, etc. But the whole time she was telling me these things, she was fighting off tears. The form took forever to complete on her behalf. Forever. But at the end of it, it appeared that all systems were a go for my mom to apply for and get a new passport. I told my mom that it was all taken care of now, but it did little to improve her mood.

Then I took a shower and drove out to her condo. She was a weepy, disorganized mess. She said she hates being so weepy, to which I replied that they make meds for that. (If that sounds unkind to anyone, bear in mind that my mom has been a trainwreck for her whole life, and she staunchly refuses any help.) She got irritated and said I sounded like Ellen 2.0. Yes, she actually said I sounded like Ellen (my sister) 2.0.

“Good,” I said.

“I didn’t think you’d want to agree with your sister,” she said, and I wondered how manipulative she was trying to be. (Probably quite a bit.)

“I do agree with her. Do you want to be a weepy mess for your whole life?”

“Meds have side effects,” she whined.

“Uh-huh.” I rolled my eyes. “I hadn’t noticed.” (I take four meds since I’m schizophrenic and then some.)

We sat in the living room before heading out. “I’ve been thinking of trying therapy,” my mom said. “Now, you haven’t had any luck with therapists, have you?” She made a sad face.

“No,” I said tersely. I was fairly certain she was trying to trigger bad therapist memories in me, and she was succeeding.

“So, therapists can’t really help with anything, can they?”

Taking my own bad experiences into account, but also taking into account that NO ONE can have any effect on my mother, no matter how many psychology degrees they have, I said, “No, they can’t.”

“I’m just such a mess,” she wailed. “It’s because I’m old. Your father keeps telling me to quit doing stupid stuff.”

“Don’t feel bad,” I said. “It’s not because you’re old. You’ve always done stupid stuff.” We discussed how she’s sold several houses which later shot up in value astronomically.

She wants to buy Ellen’s car for $14,000 because Ellen’s in-laws gifted her and Mr. Perfect with a new car, so they’re eager to sell the old one and turn some coin. “If I were to buy the car,” my mom asked, “would that be me being stupid again?”

“Yes,” I said. “You shouldn’t drive.”

“Now, why do you think that?”

I knew that whatever I said would go in one ear and out the other, but I replied anyway. “You can’t use one hand. Your vision has been sketchy since your stroke. And you tend to get anxious and have mood swings over little things.”

She hemmed and hawed, and then we left for the post office so she could get a passport. “Did you figure out how to get to the post office?” she asked as she got into my car.

“Yes.”

“Because I can tell you.”

I got her buckled in and we drove up the street.

“That’s the street,” she said. I glanced. It wasn’t the street, and we hadn’t driven two miles yet. “That’s the street! Meg! You’re missing the street! Meg! Meg! Turn! Oh, wait, that’s not the street. Sorry.”

I refused to speak.

There was a long line at the post office, but a man called out, “Passport appointments?” and we were able to get taken care of.

The man was nice, but he refused to meet my gaze. I understood. He had his hands full with my mother.

“This is my daughter,” my mom said. “She’s been a big help to me since I fell down the stairs, had a stroke and a TBI, and lost my independence. Isn’t she cute and helpful? Oh, I’m so grateful for my daughter.” She leaned toward me as if to pinch my cheek, and I recoiled.

Meg, I told myself sternly, whatever happens here, don’t take it out on the postal worker. It’s not his fault. Not his fault, Meg. Stay focused. 

Fortunately he was pleasant and I had no issue with him at all. He asked to see my mom’s birth certificate. I flipped through the papers and handed him one.

“Nope, sorry, this is a death certificate,” he said.

Because of course my mother brought along a death certificate.

“Oh, right, that was for my late husband,” she said. “He’s dead now because he died.”

I facepalmed.

“Yes, ma’am, but I don’t need his death certificate.”

I desperately flipped through the papers and procured a birth certificate to pass under the fiberglass germ protector.

“No, sorry, this won’t work,” he said. “This is a copy. It’s not certified.”

I tried to block out the customer who was right next to me with her packages.

“What?” my mom said. “But I’ve had passports before.”

“Yes, but… okay.” The man seemed to come to some decision internally. “I’ll put this all in the mail to them, and they’ll contact you if they need more info. I’d advise you to go online and get an official birth certificate.”

The man said he’d go make photocopies and would be right back. He disappeared.

“Where did he go?” my mom wailed. “Where did he go? I wonder what he’s doing? He’s supposed to be helping us with our passports! Oh, Meg, darling, did you write that passport number on the forms? Oh God, what if you didn’t? Our lives will be ruined.”

I forced myself to speak. “He didn’t mention a problem on the forms. The number’s on there.”

“But where is he? What is he doing?”

The man returned. My mom whipped out her checkbook. (You can’t pay the state fees with credit or debit cards.)

“Just a minute, ma’am. We’re not at that point yet. I need to input some information here.”

“But my daughter told me to bring a checkbook!” she wailed, heartbroken and despondent.

My faith in God was questioned at this point. No offense to God.

None taken, my child. I was there with you. You’re preaching to the angelic choir here. 

Thanks, God. 

Anyway, moving on. As we were exiting the post office after an eternity, my mom was lagging behind me as usual with her cane. I tried to dodge strangers in an effort to not have to interact with any as I held open the doors for her. Outside, she hobbled behind me with this look on her face that spelled trouble, as if she was about to burst into tears all over again. I got her in the car, and we headed back to her condo.

While I was dodging a Mack truck, she said, “Oh, there’s something else I need you to help me with, but I’ll tell you about it when we’re home, so you can focus on your driving now.”

I bit back a response. It wouldn’t have been pretty. I’d told her earlier to stay quiet while I was driving.

I maneuvered into the left lane to access her neighborhood, and she said, “Good job, honey,” and she gave me that simpering, patronizing smile she kept giving me at the post office. Again, I bit back a retort.

At the condo, she said I could leave the documents by the door, and that she’d come down the stairs for them later. Visualizing another tragic fall down the stairs, I said no and took the papers upstairs.

And then she didn’t pay me. I don’t know why. I was too exhausted to raise the issue, and she may have taken advantage of that. Hard to know. Or she flat-out forgot that I’m supposed to be paid for these massive blows to my mental equanimity. Or she figures that she paid for my hearing aids, and so that should cover it.

A million dollars wouldn’t cover it.

I’m going to discuss the situation with my dad. He’ll know if I should raise the issue or just let it go. He might also pay me from the money my mom sometimes gives him for various reasons. For once in my life, I’m feeling entitled. I doubt anyone blames me.

A hodge-podge of interesting advice issues!

DEAR ABBY: I am a 31-year-old woman who has been in many relationships since high school. No engagements, however, although four of the men mentioned they wanted to marry me. I lived with three of them.

I’m a former model, have almost completed my second master’s degree and hold a steady government job. I don’t understand why I feel so depressed just because no one has ever wanted to marry me. I have wanted kids my entire life and thought I would have three before I was 30. Now I cry every day thinking how I may never be in a relationship with anyone who will love me enough to marry me, or have kids with me because marriage never happened.

I have a college fund set up for my “future” children and have done everything in my life to prepare to be a mom. I paid off my student loans early, got a car that was perfect for car seats and a dog that’s a good breed for kids. I just don’t know where to turn next. — YEARNS TO BE WIFE/MOM

DEAR YEARNS: You seem to be a nice, accomplished woman with traditional values. Could it be possible that you are so focused on getting married that you have chased away your suitors? From what you have written, you may have put the cart before the horse. Allow a relationship to play out naturally before focusing on a rush to the altar.

Although you yearn for marriage before maternity, it’s important you don’t forget there may be other options. Marriage isn’t in the cards for everyone. Some single women focus on their careers and/or adopt children who need loving homes. You could be one of them if you expand your horizons. (c) DEAR ABBY

I feel her pain, but you can’t tell someone you’ve just started going out with that you want to have his babies. Unless you’re trying to stage a breakup, in which case it’s perfect.

I’d advise her to separate her romantic desires from her maternal ones. Like Dear Abby said, she can have kids via adoption or fostering. And becoming an adoptive and/or foster mom might help her become less desperate for romance. (We can hope.) The problem with romance is that you can’t focus on the end goal when you’re first getting to know someone. So if I were she, I’d focus on having kids separately from finding someone to marry.

DEAR ABBY: I have two sons and a daughter. My younger son will be getting married in a few months. While he and his sister used to have a close relationship, they have been estranged since their father’s death a year ago. I have reason to suspect that he won’t invite his sister to attend the wedding.

I intend to have a heart-to-heart talk about this with my son and find out what his intentions are. I regard an invitation as not only proper etiquette, but also an opportunity to extend a peace offering.

Would you please advise me on the best way to approach him about it and, specifically, what words to use? I’m worried that if an invitation isn’t extended, their relationship may become impossible to repair. I should mention that while they are both good-hearted people, they are also stubborn. — HEARTBROKEN MOM

DEAR MOM: Whatever happened between your son and daughter must have been a doozie to have caused a yearlong estrangement. If you wish to approach your son, do so in the context of your concern that if she isn’t invited to his wedding, you fear the estrangement could become permanent. But after that, please recognize that this is his wedding, and it is his and his fiancee’s prerogative to decide who should celebrate with them.

Change a few details there, and my mom could’ve written this about me and my sister, who got married a few weeks ago. I didn’t attend.

From the other side of this issue, I think the mom should butt out. This weird motherhood fantasy of all their kids getting along is ridiculous. Life doesn’t work that way, not too often, I’d guess.

There could be a valid reason for the estrangement. With the death of their dad, one of them might’ve swooped in and claimed an inherited item that they both knew was promised to the other sibling, for example. For the mom to be all patronizing in her attempts at reconciliation is belittling to the wronged sibling (assuming there is one).

I know I’m sick of being told to forgive my sister for violently assaulting me on several occasions. “Oh, she’s a better person now. Oh, what do you mean, she never apologized? Oh, can’t bygones be bygones?” [Eyeroll.]

I’m not a parent, but I can’t understand why mothers can’t just accept it if their kids don’t want to interact.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I want to address the greeting of “Hi there/Hey there” that people often say to me.

I am not a location, and I truly prefer that people call me by my name, if they know it. If they don’t, I’d prefer if they just said “Hi.”

I have thought about telling them in a polite way what I prefer, but there is more to deal with in life than this particular pet peeve. Am I being too persnickety?

GENTLE READER: Yes. True, you are not a location, but Miss Manners is hesitant to point out that you are, in fact, there.

Logic is probably not the issue here. You are a “you,” but you probably would not like “Hey, you” any better.

Miss Manners suspects that it is really the tone with which this is said, not the greeting itself, that is proving irksome. As you point out, there are far more egregious things you could be called, and this one is probably not worth the fight — as it is likely that if they do not know your name, you will not be seeing them again. Or that they will learn it if you do.

If you want to have fun, however, to make your point, Miss Manners will allow a confused look and quick circle around yourself to see what is “there,” followed by a temperate, “Oh, me? I wasn’t sure to whom you were talking. If you say ‘Mrs. Bertram,’ I’ll know you mean me.” (c) MISS MANNERS

Yikes! I can’t tell you guys how many emails I’ve sent with the subject like of “Hi there!”. I think I’d categorize this as a pet peeve of the letter writer’s. What’s weird is that I always obey people’s pet peeves until they become my pet peeves. Go figure. Many, many years ago when I was still in contact with my sister, she hated LOL. Hated it. So I started typing HA HA HA HAHA!, and now, I’m still typing it. And Sonya hates “Oh my God!” for religious reasons, so now I’m always saying, “Oh my goodness!” My mentor hates flatulence jokes (and no, he won’t pull my finger–I’ve tried asking him), so now I’m starting to think that flatulence jokes are crude, too. I’m too impressionable, but there’s not much I can do about it, and I guess it’s not a huge deal.

Miss Manners suspects that it is really the tone with which this is said, not the greeting itself, that is proving irksome.

I kind of sense that it’s about the casual attitude of the speaker. “Hey, yo, what up dawg?” sounds less formal than, “Hello, Mrs. Bertram. Fancy seeing you out and about on this fine day. Would you care for tea?” (Oh my gosh, did I just go British? [Makes scandalized face.])

Miss Manners will allow a confused look and quick circle around yourself to see what is “there,” followed by a temperate, “Oh, me?”

Oh, come on, that’s a bit hostile. Whenever my dad asks me what’s up, I point upward, but he knows I’m just joking.

I just broke wind. Oh, good! I still like flatulence. That’s a relief! (In more ways than one.)

Joyce Vedral’s pyramid system!

I’m really proud of myself today because my muscles are sore from working out yesterday with my home gym. And I only exercised for about fifteen minutes. I brought the home gym up here to my room, and I can already tell that I’ll use it all the time now.

Yesterday, for the first time, I incorporated Joyce Vedral‘s workout techniques using the home gym. I read and studied her books over twenty years ago, and I highly recommend them.

Vedral teaches a pyramid system for reps. You need three varying levels of resistance. For example, two 2-pound dumbells, two 5-pound dumbells, and two 6-pound dumbbells. Using my home gym, the levels are level 1, level 2 (which is harder), and level 3. (The higher the home gym goes, the more strength you have to use.)

So when you have those three levels, first you do 12 reps with the lightest setting. Then you do 10 reps with the middle setting. Then you do 8 reps with the heaviest, most difficult setting.

At this point, you’ve gone up the “pyramid”. If you want to come back down, you’d then do 10 more reps with the middle setting, and end with 12 reps of the lightest setting.

For example, if you’re doing biceps curls, you’d do:

  • 12 reps with the 2-pound dumbells,
  • 10 reps with the 5-pound dumbbells,
  • 8 reps with the 6-pound dumbells,
  • (optionally): 10 more reps with the 5-pound dumbbells, and
  • (optionally): 12 more reps with the 2-pound dumbbells.

Another common variation she taught was to do two muscle groups at once:

  • 12 reps with the 2-pound dumbells for biceps,
  • 12 reps with the 2-pound dumbells for triceps,
  • 10 reps with the 5-pound dumbbells for biceps,
  • 10 reps with the 5-pound dumbbells for triceps,
  • 8 reps with the 6-pound dumbells for biceps,
  • 8 reps with the 6-pound dumbbells for triceps, and
  • (optionally) work back down the pyramid with 10 reps and 12 reps of both.

I mean, it’s brilliant. I did it yesterday using levels 1, 2, and 3 on my home gym. The only downside was that I had to keep getting off the gym to adjust the incline between sets. Not a huge deal, but there’s something to be said for the ease of just using dumbbells. I will say, though, that even though dumbbells are obviously less costly than a home gym, my home gym has a few exercises that can’t be done otherwise (to my knowledge) that really make it worth the expense.

So, since I did it yesterday for: biceps, triceps, deltoids (shoulders), lats (upper side back muscles), and trapezius (your back right below the neck), all of those muscle groups are sore except for my biceps. My biceps might need more of a challenge next time. (And my muscles are the right level of sore. I’m in pain, but I’m not, like… destroyed.)

And you don’t want to pick impossibly heavy levels to do. The lightweight level should be easy. The middle level should be challenging, but not to the point of killing you. The upper level should be more of a challenge, but hey, you only have to do eight reps with it.

And I only did one or two exercises per muscle group. It didn’t take long at all. I’d say that using the treadmill at the gym is a bigger time crunch with my current forty-minute routine.

I don’t think I’m burning calories, though, with the home gym. At least, not aerobically. But I think your metabolism goes up if you have more muscle mass. And being in shape is its own reward, and all that.

Vedral states that you should let all muscle groups *(except abs) recover for 48 hours before exercising them again.

*(She says abs are a small muscle group that can be exercised every day. I don’t know if I agree, but she’s obviously an expert, and I’m just the lazy person who doesn’t want to do abs exercises every day. Doing them every other day is probably fine.)

It’s amazing I still know all this stuff. I really made an effort over twenty years ago to get fit. I think I burnt out. I was doing all her exercises every day (the upper body one day, the lower body the next, etc.), but the routines exhausted me. What I know now is that I only need to do one or two exercises per muscle group so that I don’t get aerobically exhausted, which could lead to burnout. Also, in a lot of ways, it wouldn’t be readily doable if I didn’t have my home gym.

Like I said, the home gym shines with a few exercises that are super-hard to replicate on your own. One strength of the home gym is the abs exercises. Back when I was doing the routines in Vedral’s books, I had to do crunches because I didn’t have the home gym. Oh my gosh, I can’t do crunches or sit-ups at all. Just shoot me. But the home gym allows me to do abs exercises at my level, and without strain to my neck.

The other amazing capabilities of the home gym involve being able to do push-ups, also at my level, ’cause I sure can’t do them otherwise. Like, check out the first few seconds of this video. There’s a similar concept I also like where you move the handles to the top of the incline and do pull-ups that you can see here. So those are three exercises (those two and the abs exercise I love) that you can only do with the home gym.

So I love the home gym for being accessible and letting me do exercises at my level of ability. See, in Vedral’s books, it was all done with dumbbells. But I’m using those concepts with the home gym. Instead of grabbing a heavier dumbbell, I just notch up the incline level of the gym (which takes two seconds–you can move it up and down with ease).

Maybe I can become a fitness buff!

Meg makes faces for fun.

DEAR ABBY: I have always suffered from what I now know is social anxiety disorder. When I have to attend a large family function, I’m extremely nervous and miserable. As a result, sometimes I have had a sour expression on my face (although I didn’t realize it). At a gathering several years ago, I guess I inadvertently gave what appeared to be a dirty look to the in-law of a family member. I didn’t mean to be rude, but I was extremely nervous.

Since then, this person has made a sarcastic remark about me on a family video, and another time as I was walking out of a family member’s home, they made a face or gesture behind my back. (I realized it later because I was wondering why the person I was saying goodbye to looked past me at them and laughed.)

I regret what happened and constantly replay the event and beat myself up over it. However, I feel this person has more than made up for it by their actions. I’ll be required to see this person for years to come. Apologizing is not an option, as the two of us now have a seething dislike for each other. Do I have a right to give myself a break for this? — ANXIETY SUFFERER

DEAR ANXIETY SUFFERER: If someone was offended by a “look” they perceived, they should have approached you and asked what it was about when it happened. Surely other of your relatives know about your discomfort being in groups and could have explained to the person that the expression on your face wasn’t directed at them. Regardless of how you feel about this individual, because you are going to encounter the person with some regularity, it would be in your interest to quit stewing, make the “gesture” (not obscene!) and straighten this out. (c) DEAR ABBY

Huh. Was her expression perhaps anything like… this?

DSC01452

Or this, pray tell?

Picture 71

Or maybe this?

Picture 66

Or possibly like this?

37d89192-9392-4fb0-be7a-53f86d69afc9

Or like this?

Screenshot (364)

Or maybe like this?

15929984

Or did she look more akin to this?

46488276_705947159810771_6486227136171474944_n

Or potentially like this?

hows-that-working-for-you

I’m just trying to get a visual. The funny thing here is that all of these images have been used in my previous blog posts, because WordPress has them all saved when I click to add media.

Do I have a right to give myself a break for this?

Absolutely. Reading the letter, I get the strong sense that the other person is being a bully by mocking her for his own enjoyment. That’s not cool. It would be different if the other person’s feelings were hurt by the expression, but I don’t think that was the case. If I were the letter writer, I’d avoid associating with this person, and I’d possibly avoid the larger group altogether.

Paradise is just out of reach.

I’ve been getting used to the hearing aids, by some miracle, and here’s another miracle: yesterday, I was walking the puppy with my dad when a car stopped at a yellow light. The car behind honked at them, so the driver veered off onto a side road to escape the other driver’s wrath. The honking driver said, and I quote, “[Bleep]ing moron! [Insert the Son of God’s first name here]!” And I heard him loud and clear! I couldn’t believe it! I heard what he said!

At first I thought nothing of it, but then I realized that without the hearing aids, I wouldn’t have heard him. It would’ve been yet another moment of convincing myself that, as a stranger, whatever he said was unimportant. But to be honest, I’ve grown sick of convincing myself of that. I deserve to hear what people are saying! And now I can. That’s a thing of beauty.

That might sound like an odd miracle, and obviously the universe has a sense of humor here, but you all don’t know what it’s like to forever be unable to know what other people are saying, to never be able to eavesdrop, to never know what other people talk about together, and to feel so left out. It’s not that I want to be nosy, but as a writer I need to know how people talk so I can write realistic dialogue, and I’ve never really been able to pick up on it before.

I’ve decided to wear them whenever I leave the house for any reason. So I’ll find them a hub location downstairs where I can place them on a sock for padding when I’m not wearing them.

Ballet class killed me. I don’t have any injuries (that I know of), but my leg muscles have felt really odd all week and I think it’s hard on my bones and joints to spend quality time in ballet shoes instead of shoes with good sole support. My physique can’t even handle minimal impact, and the only jumping we did was minimal and at the very end of class. But even the slightest impact from sports messes up my body, included (but not limited to) when I walk around in shoes that don’t have adequate support. (I need the sort of support you’d find in Skechers Shape-Ups or any hiking shoes.)

(Good thing I didn’t wear my toe shoes. As if!)

But I dragged my home gym up here to my room from the basement. I figure I’ll be more likely to use it with close proximity. I’m sure there’s some truth to that. (I hope.) After eliminating exercise forms that involve impact, I can choose from the following options:

  • Riding my bike. It’s a basic one-speed, so I’d have to stay in flat terrain.
  • Ice skating. But the main local rink is across town. (The nearby one isn’t open this time of year.)
  • Muscle exercises with my home gym (or with small weights, or at the gym, etc.).
  • Speed-walking uphill on the gym’s treadmill, but no running.

I could go swimming, too, but there’s a lot of heartache there. I live within walking distance of an actual rock quarry in which they built an outdoor pool. It’s like a tropical oasis. However, membership is limited to people who live a block closer than I do. Be still my broken heart. I’m sorry, but I’m not motivated to go to a boring, indoor, rectangular pool knowing that I could be swimming in a tropical paradise if my address were slightly different. Just stab me in the heart, Lakeside!

LakesideHomeSlider_HDR

Here’s a photo of it. Yeah. Is it wrong that I want to go back in time and get my dad to pick a different house, closer to Lakeside? I love this house otherwise, especially since I’ve rainbowfied it, but… sigh.

To be completely honest, I’m opposed to exclusivity anyway. I think it’s morally wrong to only admit my neighbors instead of the general paying public. That’s a big part of the reason that I haven’t tried to get a neighbor to sponsor me. (You can be sponsored by someone who lives within the radius.) But also, I don’t want to be “that person” who harasses the neighbors into sponsoring them. Furthermore, what if they expect a level of bribery? AAUGH.

Oh, right, I was discussing exercise options. Anyway, yeah, exercise options. I just need to try harder. I’ve gotten my eating under control by some miracle, but now I need to exercise myself to death in order to lose weight. Go Meg, go!!

Miss Manners on job rejections and mail crimes.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am aware that you strongly advise people not to respond to rude behavior or bad manners in a similar way. How, though, can you express in a polite manner that the guilty party’s behavior is not acceptable?

Permit me to explain my situation. I am an unemployed librarian. I have applied for many jobs, and the applications are submitted online. Last week I received a rejection email from a college. I had applied for the job six months ago!

I wanted to reply, “I think I gathered that,” but I didn’t. Some institutions wait months before they announce their hiring decisions, and some libraries treat the issue rather casually. People’s lives are in limbo as they wait for decisions.

Is there a polite, but strong, rebuke, to people who wait months on end to let someone know that he did not get the job?

GENTLE READER: The polite ways to register offense are generally nonverbal, because they are meant to be subtle: a haughty look, a cold tone, a raised eyebrow.

Emails, which are devoid of context — and which are often written and read quickly — can barely convey simple messages without a risk of being misunderstood.

The polite way to convey your meaning is to be direct: “I am naturally disappointed that you did not choose me for the position, but I am sure there were many qualified candidates. It would have been gracious if you could have conveyed the news in a more timely fashion.”

However, Miss Manners seriously questions the wisdom of doing so. Your criticism is likely to be dismissed as coming from a sore loser, and it is no good annoying someone who might be thinking of you as the runner-up if the first candidate fails. (c) MISS MANNERS

Yeah, I’ve been there. I’m sure we can all relate. It’s not hard, I’m sure, for HR people to put a rejection in the mail (or to send an email), and this avoids the awkwardness of having to tell someone in person or on the phone that they didn’t get the job.

There was one local agency where I interviewed once and was hopeful. But two weeks passed with no news. I finally grabbed the phone and called them. (This was a few decades ago, and I don’t think I had the person’s email address.) The HR lady didn’t answer the phone. Ring, ring, ring. No answering machine, either.

On a hunch, I dialed *67 before dialing the HR lady’s number. *67 blocks the caller ID display from showing up on the other party’s caller ID log, meaning that the HR lady wouldn’t know who was calling. Could be a new job candidate!

And she answered the phone. “Hello?”

I identified myself and asked about the job.

“Oh, right, sorry. No, you didn’t get it.”

Awkward! All she had to do was put something in the mail or send an email. But I have to say that avoiding my calls was beyond unprofessional and cowardly. Good grief.

There was another time, also a long time ago, when I waited several weeks to hear back and heard nothing. Finally, I called the man who’d interviewed me. He got mad and said, “You’re calling me about business on New Year’s Day?!” (Yes, I was.)

And I’d love to go back in time and say, “Buddy, it’s your own fault for never getting back to me sooner. Now go get drunk for New Year’s, you loser.”

However, this was back before I came into my own voice, so instead of saying that, I blushed and apologized nervously before ending the call. Damn it all!

And then there’s the whole issue of being rejected by literary agents. Often they’ll send a nice form email with your name and book’s title filled into it. Sometimes they’ll just write you a quick note, like, “Thanks for thinking of me, but this project isn’t a good fit. Good luck!” I appreciate such notes.

But the quick-note concept can be taken too far. One time I got a rejection that simply said, “Pass.”

I hit the reply button and typed, “Rude.” And I freakin’ sent it.

Get down with your bad self, Meg. 

This other time I got a really harsh rejection that was just mean. It was a form rejection. (There’s a website I use where authors share notes about the rejections they receive, so I can confirm that it’s a form rejection.) But even though it was a form rejection, it read really horribly. Something like, “Your book has been rejected. We won’t keep it in our database. We won’t steal your ideas. You’ll never hear from us again.”

And I was like, holy shit, okay. I wrote back to them and told them they needed to change their form letter. I suspect a previous querent had threatened to sue them for stealing his/her idea, but there’s no reason to terrorize everyone else who submits afterward.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: Because of similar apartment numbers, an elderly gentleman in my building sometimes receives my mail by mistake. On three separate occasions, he has returned it — after opening and reading it.

Despite a lack of apology from him, I understand accidents happen and hold no ill will for the mishaps. However, on the two occasions he opened my bank statements, he returned them and made rather personal and disparaging comments about my bank balance and how I must like to “shop a lot.”

I was dumbstruck on these occasions, and couldn’t manage much of a response. I am nervous that, if this happens again, I might not be able to be polite.

Is there an appropriate response that Miss Manners can suggest that would make it clear that I have no interest in what he thinks about my finances, without descending into rudeness?

GENTLE READER: This would best be done when a letter of his has been delivered to you. Knock at his door, and hold the letter just out his reach, as if waiting for a child to say “please.” Say, in a half-joking tone, “I got one of your letters by mistake. Let’s make a deal: I won’t read your mail if you won’t read mine.”

Miss Manners supposes it is too much to hope that his letter is in a feminine hand and looks as if it might be a love letter.

Wow. Um. That’s a federal offense, and this neighbor should be reported to the USPS, as should the incompetent mailman.

But broadly speaking, this letter writer is being wayyyy too nice. There are times to be hostile and cutting, and this is one of those times. “I’m sorry you disapprove of my spending, seeing as it’s absolutely none of your business. What right did you have to open my mail? Next time, I’m reporting you. Got it?” And there needs to be followup with the USPS so that the mailman will quit creating this horrid situation. Geez.

And the reason she needs to be hostile is that some people won’t get the message from basic assertion. If you’re in a situation where you’re blushing and defending yourself (or your spending, as in this case), then the other person will feel free to keep walking all over you. Get aggressive (verbally), I daresay.

I’ve been in situations where I’ve had to put my foot down. I hate my birthname, M-word. So I had a job once where my employers thoughtlessly introduced me as M-word to all my coworkers because it was still my legal name at the time. (I changed my name to Meg legally in 2008 and have gone by Meg since 2002.) One coworker couldn’t get it through his head to quit calling me M-word, so after I was nice the first two or three times, when it happened again, I got in his face and said, “My name’s Meg, and that is what you will call me. Do we understand each other?”

We understood each other.

I didn’t want to be so nasty, but I can’t handle being name-triggered. Not surprisingly, that job, like every other job I’ve ever had, drove me farther insane and led to more mental collapse. That’s why I get the big disability bucks these days. That guy calling me M-word was just the tip of the iceberg.

Referring back to today’s letter, something similar happened to me once, regarding being judgey about spending. I went to the bank and was asking the bank employee if my debit card was compromised because I’d shopped at Home Depot. (At the time, Home Depot’s security was hacked, leading to a data breach involving people’s credit card numbers.)

She must’ve misunderstood my question. (That’s how I’m giving her the benefit of the doubt, at any rate.) She said, “It’s not just that you shop at Home Depot. Gracious, you need to quit shopping everywhere. The bookstore? Target? Amazon? The pastry shop? Whoa. Just slow down your spending.”

I raised an eyebrow. “I see,” I replied. “Thank you for that insight.” And I did the stuff Miss Manners referenced in her first aforementioned letter: I gave her a haughty look, used a cold tone, and raised eyebrow. Then I left the bank to go buy more bagels.

This has been fun. I hope everyone out there is having a really great day!! Thanks for stopping by.

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