This is No Laughing “Matter”

Two weeks later there are seventeen staples.

That’s the punch line of this joke. Except, it ended up being much more of a punch in the gut, than a good giggle. Still, as with every adventure I experience, there is a constant narrative running in my mind. I cannot stop it.

I share it with you.

~~~~~~~~

“Come on, buddy. Dinner time.”

Um, no thanks.

“Suit yourself, but the bowl stays down for only about fifteen minutes. Then I’m giving your table reservation to the next handsome hound that walks through my kitchen door.”

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~~~~~~~

“Alrighty. Take two, my prized pooch. Dinner is served.”

Think I’ll pass.

“What? Is it my cooking? Gone off my culinary craft?”

*shrug*

~~~~~~~

“Round three, my finicky fussbudget. Surely your point has been made. Tonight, I even warmed up your dinner with my best chafing dish.”

Something is wrong.

“Did you break a tooth? Swallow a toad? Has the cat been casting black magic spells in preparation for her shift on Halloween?”

Something is wrong.

“My pride in preparation says there’s a lack of gratitude, but my gut instinct says it’s time to call for a second opinion. Hold on, bud. Let me get the phone and make an appointment.”

~~~~~~~

“What seems to be the problem here, Shelley?”

“Well, Doc, the first is my wholly insufficient knowledge base in veterinary care. The second is the plummeting communication skills of my hound.”

“Dogs cannot articulate beyond their most basic needs.”

“Ordinarily, I would agree. I have raised many animals that have mistaken their brethren for tree stumps, and have made a lifetime goal of achieving the title ‘Most enthusiastic pooper scooper.’ This guy is different. And he has gone radio silent.”

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“Hmm … And his symptoms?”

I sigh. “Refusing my food. He’s become one of my kids.”

“Might he have eaten something other than your food? A sock? Household poison, perhaps?”

“No. The only way he would have eaten a sock is if I gave him permission to do so, and the only way he would have been poisoned is if the cat had done it. And I’ve not caught her mixing elixirs in her lab for months. The fumes make her eyes water, plus she’s taken up online chess.”

The vet looked at me, as all vets do, wondering if I’d actually stopped off at the wrong clinic. “Okay, well, how bout I bring Haggis back with me and give him a thorough going over.”

“I doubt violence will make him talk, Doc.”

“I meant I’ll examine him in the back.”

“Examine him in the front too. The tube runs from one end to the other. Plus, you guys charge a fortune. I’d like to get my money’s worth.”

Something is wrong.

“I know, buddy. We’ll sort it out. Be brave. I’ll see you soon.”

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~~~~~~~~

“We’d like to do some x-rays.”

I look up from my spot in the waiting room, twisting the hound’s plaid leash through my hands. “Is that coming from you, or did he ask for that? Not having eaten for three days can make him impolite and cranky.”

“All me.”

“Okay then. Remind him to hold his breath. We’ve practiced that all summer in the lake.”

~~~~~~~

“Well, it appears he’s got some matter in his stomach.”

“Is that a vet term for ‘something-the-matter’ with his stomach? Because that’s the diagnosis I gave you when we first arrived without the aid of x-rays.”

“Nope. Something’s in there and it’s not moving.”

“I hope it’s not the cat. They do fight something awful occasionally.”

“I think we’ll keep the dog here with us. You should go home and I’ll repeat the films in the morning. Then we’ll know if we have to operate.”

“Maybe you should do it now in case it is the cat.”

“Go home.”

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~~~~~~~~~

“He did just fine. He’s resting and sedated. I’ll show you what we pulled out of his stomach.” The vet puts a Ziplock bag on the exam table.

“That does not look like the cat.”

“It’s grass.”

“Could it be Italian parsley? I sometimes garnish with that.”

“It’s grass.”

“I would never garnish with grass.”

“He’s been eating grass.”

“I have always said he looks more like a sheep than a dog. Could we do a genetic test? That might be the issue.”

“You can take him home tomorrow.”

~~~~~~~~

Something is wrong.

“You bet your grassy ass there is, bud. It’s called lack of sleep. I have a medical regimen assigned to me that would give an entire hospital ward a run for their money. I’ve got alarm clocks set to wake me nearly on the hour to coax some pretty pill down your gullet. I’m zonked.”

Something is wrong.

“If I come over there and your breath gives off the slightest whiff of fine fescue, it’s curtains, got it?”

~~~~~~~~

“This time we’ll do an ultrasound.”

“Will it cost less if it’s done ultra quick?”

“Go home.”

~~~~~~~~

“Okay, Shelley, let’s try this again. Here are some more meds. Try to get him to eat.”

“Do the meds count as eating?”

“Good luck.”

~~~~~~~~

“Here. Try this, Haggis. It’s peanut butter.”

It’s pills wrapped in peanut butter.

“How bout this? Big beautiful red tomato?”

Tomato hiding pills.

“Alright, fine. Oooh, this looks yummy.”

Smells like pills.

“Look at this, buddy. Even my mouth is watering. I bet’ll taste like chicken.”

Pills.

“Ugh.”

Something is wrong.

~~~~~~~~~

“I’ve called in an internal specialist. She should be here soon.”

“Are you telling me there’s something more internal than his stomach?”

“We’re running some more tests. There’s some swelling, fever, gastroparesis … we’ll know by morning if we need to operate again.”

“Any chance we can get one on the house? After all, we are frequent flyers.”

“Go home.”

“Coupon card? Customer loyalty discount?”

~~~~~~~~

“Okay, call us if you have any concerns, and here’s one more medication he needs to take.”

“On top of the other eight?”

“Five.”

“Feels like eight.”

“Good luck.”

~~~~~~~~

Something is wrong.

“What? Seriously. Could you not have spoken up while we were still on the premises with the giant red cross on the window?”

Look at me. I don’t look like me. Something is wrong.

“Of course you don’t look like you. You’ve had a procedure to vacuum out your insides. One to sew your stomach to the lining of your abdominal wall, four sets of x-rays, two ultrasounds and a partridge shoved up your pear tree more times than I’ve had hot dinners.”

I look like a poodle.

“Yes, well four sets of IVs require some creative shaving.”

I’m missing half my body hair.

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“Yep, you know how your appetite can plummet just from getting hair in your food? Getting hair into one’s body cavity has the same effect times ten.”

And the seventeen staples? Why not stitches?”

“That was my request. I wanted to discourage anyone from heading back inside again.”

I’m hungry.

“You’re back! God, I missed you, buddy.”

Where’s the cat?

“Leave her alone. She’s upstairs online with the Russians.”

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Not for long.

*sigh* “It’s good to have you home.”

~Shelley

 

Don’t forget to check out what we’re cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all talked about down in the pub. Plus, you can see more of Robin Gott‘s humor–all from the only pen carved from a human funny bone.

Related articles

 

 

At Your Service, Madam!

Welcome to In A Jiffy Internet! You’ve reached repair services. For English, please stay on the line—para Espanol oprima nueve.

Tap. Tap. Tap.

121014jiffy

I have your phone number as 988-042-1414. If you’re calling about the account for that number, say yes, or press one. Otherwise, say no, or press two.

Yes.

Sorry. I didn’t hear that. I have your phone number as 988-042-1414. If you’re—

Yes. YES. YEEEESSSS!!! *1*

–Otherwise, say no, or press two.

*1*   *1*   *1*   *1111111*

If you’re uncertain as to the telephone number for that account, you’ll find it on the top right hand corner of your In A Jiffy Internet bill. Just say or type in the ten-digit number now.

Nine, eight, eight. Zero, four, two. One, four, one, four.

Sorry. I didn’t hear that. Let’s try that again.

*9 8 8 0 4 2 1 4 1 4*

I have your phone number as 988-042-1414. If you’re calling about the account for that number, say yes—

Operator.

 –or press one. Otherwise, say no, or press—

OPERATOR.

Sorry. I didn’t hear—

OPERATOR!!

Let me get an agent to assist you. Please be in front of your computer when the agent becomes available.

I’m here. I’m waiting. In front of my computer.

All of our agents are assisting other customers at this time. Your approximate wait time is … TWELVE MINUTES.

Twelve minutes??

*Muzak*

Tap. Tap. Tap.

Hi, this is Harmita. Welcome to In A Jiffy Internet. Can I have the phone number you’re calling about? Area code first please?

Seriously?

Hello?

Yes. I heard you. I just can’t believe you. Fine. 988-042-1414.

And the last name on the account, please?

Sackier.

And who am I speaking to?

Shelley. Shelley Sackier.

Hi, Shelley. Welcome to In A Jiffy Internet. What can I do for you today?

Well, Harmita. For starters, internet service would be awesome.

Are you saying you don’t have any?

I am.

Oh dear. That is a dilemma. Well, we’ll try to sort you out in a jiffy, okay?

You betcha, Harmita. Thanks.

*tap tap tappity tap* Hmm … I can’t see why you’d be having a problem. Everything’s running beautifully from our end.

Not so pretty from my side, Harmita. Can you check again?

*tap tap tappity tap* Yep. We’re good.

We are NOT good, Harmita.

Well that’s strange. Hold on … Here it is. It says you’ve requested to disconnect your service.

I assure you I did not.

Oh really? I’ve got the order right here.

Well, it’s one I did not give. Can you please turn it back on?

*haha hahaha haha* Wait—are you serious?

Yep. Turn it on please?

Oh, well, you’ll have to speak to our service department for that becau—

Harmita? Can you please get me a supervisor to speak with?

Hold please.

121014operator (800x581)

Tap. Tap. Tap.

Hi, this is Jarime. Welcome to In A Jiffy Internet. Can I have the phone number you’re calling about? Area code first please?

You’re kidding.

Hello?

Yes. I’m here, but good grief already. 988-042-1414.

And the last name on the account, please?

Sackier.

And the billing address on the account?

Umm … wait … I think it’s PO Box 8213

And the zipcode?

Oh, good heavens, I’m not sure. I’ve got the actual account number if that’s helpful.

Sorry, I need the billing zipcode.

That’s funny. So do I. What does your paperwork say?

*silence*

Hold on, let me grab my phone book. It’s 48321.

Sorry, no.

48322?

Not that either.

Does it really have to be exact? I’ve got the account number right here. Can’t we work from that?

*silence*

48323?

There we go. And who am I speaking to?

Did Harmita not leave you a note? Nothing? This is Shelley Sackier.

Hi, Shelley. Welcome to In A Jiffy Internet. What can I do for you today?

Really, Jarime? Harmita just handed you the phone and said, “It’s for you”?

I have a notation that you’re having a problem with your service. Is that true?

Yes. I have no internet service, Jarime. I’ve paid for it, but it is absent.

*tap tap tappity tap* Yes, it says here that you’ve asked to be disconnected.

That is wholly inaccurate. Can you please switch it to the on position?

*haha hahahaha haha* … Oh, you’re serious?

Yes, Jarime. I am serious. I want my internet. I’ve paid for the internet. I’d like to have what I’ve paid for.

Oh, well, you’ll have to speak to the new services department. Let me switch you ov—

No! Jarime. No, don’t do that. Let me speak to the supervisor above you, please.

I’ll see what I can do, Shelley. Sit tight, ok?

Great. Yes. Thanks.

*Muzak*

Tap. Tap. Tap.

Hi, this is Leonard. Welcome to In A Jiffy Internet. Can I have the phone number you’re calling about? Area code first please?

You’ve got it. In fact, most of the folks in your department have got it.

Hello?

Oh, my godfathers. It’s 988-042-1414.

And the last name on the account, please?

Sackier.

And the billing address on the account?

It’s PO Box 8213

And the zipcode?

48323.

And what was the total you paid on your last billing statement?

This I don’t know, as I don’t have the statement in front of me. And it doesn’t come to this address.

You might want to call back when you do. We can’t go any further without that information.

Yes we can. Harmita and Jarime didn’t need it!

Do you have the physical address of the where the service is?

Well it ain’t at THIS address—which is where it’s supposed to be. That’s why I’m calling. You’re pumping it elsewhere.

And whom am I speaking to?

Do you people really call yourselves a communication company? This is Shelley Sackier.

Hi, Shelley. Welcome to In A Jiffy Internet. What can I do for you today?

Well, for starters maybe have a quick chin wag with Harmita and Jarime. They’re up to speed. I’ll wait.

I have a notation that you’re having a problem with your service. Is that true?

Yes. I have no internet service.

*tap tap tappity tap* We’ve got a request that you be disconnected. Yes?

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No. Not a request. There was no request. I vehemently request you unrequest that request.

*haha hahahaha haha* … Seriously?

Leonard, please don’t toy with me.

Yes, this appears to be a mistake on our part. Looks like we’ll have to get you set up with new service—as if you were a brand new customer.

Fine. Okay. Fine. How long till we can fill the line with juice?

Oh, probably no more than, let me see … *tap tap tappity tap* … seven to nine … maybe ten days.

NOOOO! Leonard! No! That can’t be right. Please, Leonard!

Yeah, that does seem rather long. Hold on. I’ll see what I can do, Shelley. Sit tight, ok?

Please! Yes. Thanks. I’ll wait.

*Muzak*

Welcome to In A Jiffy Internet! You’ve reached repair services. For English, please stay on the line—para Espanol oprima nueve.

~Shelley

Don’t forget to check out what we’re cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all talked about down in the pub. Plus, you can see more of Robin Gott‘s humor–all from the only pen carved from a human funny bone.

Related articles

 

 

 

In the Heat of the Moment

There are moments when you feel the stars align and the gods have smiled down upon you, and then there are the moments when you’re actually awake.

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This week has been an exercise in staying off the “She’s gone postal” bulletin. I’m sure it’s not been pleasant for anyone around me, despite my epic efforts to remain sane and calm and far away from a loaded shotgun.

It all began with a tiny glitch in the air conditioning.

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The “glitch” was that it stopped working. And I’m sure everyone is perfectly aware of the chapter in the manual that states all A.C. glitches will occur at precisely the moment when previously unseen record blowing heat waves sweep across your area and stall atop your house. This is a given.

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Fueled by an inordinate amount of optimism, I brush it off and call the repair fellah who kindly comes three days later. When he announces the problem—some bits are broken—I smile and nod sagely. Yep, another given. When he reveals that the bits are not under warranty, my smile slips a tiny bit and I try to recall the several years of hard work those bits put into minding my comfort with very little applause.  When he lastly discloses that the replacement bits are not on his truck, nor at his headquarters, but still in a factory somewhere in Sri Lanka, I sigh and say, “What’s a few days with a little sweat?”

“More like seven, ma’am.”

Okay, seven.

Sleeping is a little challenging with all that extra heat, but I mentally try to rearrange my body’s meteorological time clock and convince it that instead of 89° in my bedroom in a spectacular resurrection of summer, it’s actually January 7th and my heat is working beautifully to combat the subzero temperatures outside. My time clock remains stubbornly unconvinced—a total lack of enthusiasm in the arena of creative imagination.

A week passes by with my nightly inventive game stalling on the idea that perhaps I’m actually losing weight as I sleep. Surely with all this sweating my metabolism is racing to cool down my body from its hours of feverish temperature. But the only thing I see sliding off me in the morning is my freshly applied makeup.

After twelve days of no A.C., I finally receive the hallelujah phone call with a date for installment—four days from now. I show an extra amount of gratitude after hearing the news and refrain from slamming the phone down. Four more days. I can do this. No sweat. Well … yes, maybe some sweat, but I can do this.

The next morning I am greeted by the deflating discovery that the house is now internetless.

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I immediately panic. Being teased by the gods who removed my coolant system and shoved the sun a few inches closer to the Earth is one thing—yes, it’s fun for them to see the tiny ant dance on a hot plate under a heat directing magnifying glass, but detaching her from the godhead and rendering her silenced from the mainframe?? THIS WON’T DO!

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It’s the equivalent of Sandra Bullock letting go of George Clooney in Gravity. I am alone and silent and inside an overheated spacesuit.

Thank heavens I still have phone service to call the internet company. But the service is only available from my bathroom, which, because of its super cheery wall of windows and two skylights, is doubling as a fully operational sauna. I call, I chat, and am told the usual—Just turn everything off, unplug, wait, reattach and allow your modem to cycle through.

Okay, except I have to do this downstairs in the basement—where the phone has no service—and hike back up to report the lack of progress. Four times.

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After ninety minutes, I am handed off to the supervisor’s supervisor who now recognizes the problem as, “Well, it says right here there’s an order to disconnect your internet.”

COME AGAIN??

Firstly, why would anyone purposefully do that unless they knew the exact time they were going to die and hoped to save the remaining family members a couple days on the billing cycle? And secondly, how long had that little notation been popping up on someone’s screen, but hadn’t been seen because … well, you know, computer solitaire?

I am told I have been escalated to the top of their priority list and that the matter will be resolved shortly.

“Define shortly,” I request.

“Lady, I’m just reading from the handbook script here. Maybe take a chill pill, eh?”

“I WOULD IF I COULD!” I shout back.

On the morning of the A.C. visit, the phone rings and I hear that my technician has the flu. Or heat stroke. Doesn’t matter. He ain’t comin’. I slog through another day of heat and disconnection to the outside world. I watch the weatherman smile apologetically and announce this is quite a remarkable weather pattern. I throw the remote control at the screen and now have no television. I go to bed wondering who I killed in anther life. Surely this is karma coming back to bite me in the ass, right?

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It is too hot to sleep. I throw off the covers and toss off my clothes. It does not help. I am quite desperate and open the porch door to see about a stirring breeze. But instead of a breeze I’m greeted by a buzz. It sounds as if my room has become the test facility for a batch of angry drones.

I flip on the bedside lamp and count a small swarm of about five hornets—each just a shade smaller than my fist.

I dive beneath the heavy blankets and try to determine if I’m crying or if my eyes are now sweating. The sound above me is bitter and determined. They are worker bees who have obviously been thrown off their mission by an open door that normally wasn’t open. I look for the smallest redeeming quality in this series of fiascos and I am left with only one thought. Well at least somebody’s working.

“Hey, I don’t suppose any of you guys have a background in tech support?”

~Shelley

September Gotta Have a Gott winner

In January, Rob and I announced that his sketches will be available toward the end of the year in the form of a 2015 calendar! And our readers would get to be the judges and voters for which doodles they’d like to see selected for each month. We’ll reveal the winners one by one, and come November, If you’ve Gotta have a GOTT, you can place your order. Jump on over to see the cartoon winner for September!

Don’t forget to check out what we’re cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all talked about down in the pub. Plus, you can see more of Robin Gott‘s humor–all from the only pen carved from a human funny bone.

Related articles

 

 

I Love You For Sentimental Reasons

I am a saver. On the border of a hoarder, but still safely on the saver side. Regardless, it’s clear some culling needs to be done. It’s best to have someone stern and unattached help you with this project because there’s nothing more clarifying than having that somebody snatch the third identical teapot from your gooey grip and slap you upside the head.

But I collect them! I complain.

Try collecting common sense. You’re giving them away, says the indifferent voice dishing sage advice.

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Harsh, but true. And harsh is what’s needed when trying to part with things you’ve imprinted memories and value onto. Every morning, as I rummage around in my drawer for something to wear, I lay eyes on my “Polish Princess” t-shirt from eighth grade. I remember wearing that top to school as a thirteen-year old, catching the eye of my science teacher whose ancestry was Bohemian, and starting a two year Slavic supremacy war with the man—each of us determined to ethnically best one another. I therefore became wholly determined to prove my people’s intellectual preeminence and studied like a madman. Without that shirt I would likely never have received such stellar grades in his class. That shirt was a foundation of who I was. How could I give it away?

Then wear it, I hear my unsympathetic cleansing cohort say.

What, are you kidding? It’s so tacky. Never.

There are other things. Like one rolodex card holder and four old address books all clinging to the whereabouts of people from my past. My brain has rationally argued that it is wholly likely most of these folks have moved at least two or three times since we originally exchanged info twenty or thirty years ago. True, it might be filled with outdated home and telephone data, but my childhood dentist PROMISED he would be here for me if anything should go wrong with that thirty-five year old filling and I needed to come back to see him.

It may require the assistance of a séance, but I bet he wouldn’t be the slightest bit miffed to rise for the occasion. Dr. Fenske was dedicated soul. Or maybe is a dedicated soul.

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And how about the big tubs that hold my high school homework, exams and term papers? Or the shoeboxes full of Valentine’s Day cards I received while in my elementary years? Plus the hundreds of blurry photos my kids took from their first disposable cameras? Is the Voldemort of fun expecting me to shuffle those off into the recycling heap?

YES!

But—

YES!

We form piles: Giveaway. Sell. Burn. Keep.

The giveaway mound is mammoth and growing, as if it’s being fed by some underwater vitamin filled stream.

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The sell stack is so beautiful, all shiny and new and incredibly useful—surely we can keep just this—ow! Fine, fine, I’ll put it back! The burn heap could be fun if we had marshmallows and hot dogs. And invited the local fire department to keep it under control. But the keep pile? These items are deemed useful. Not sexy or chic, charming or covetable. Just useful. They feed you, clothe you, bathe you or rest you. They are practical objects with nearly no maudlin attachments.

I glower and envision putting my assistant onto the burn pile.

And then there is the no one needs to know about this pile pile. And fairly soon this secret mass has swollen to the dimensions of a mid-sized village and somebody is growing suspicious as to my frequent sojourns down the hallway with the sudden admittance to owning an M&M sized bladder. But it seems my years of developing the fine skills of thriftiness might have benefited from a few minutes spent practicing the art of deception. I am found out.

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Take a picture, the old grump insists.

And how does one take pictures of eighteen years worth of Food & Wine cooking magazines, huh? I NEED those magazines because one day I may NEED to make a dish of reindeer jerky drizzled with seaweed syrup lying atop a bed of Isle of Skye moss covered with a sprinkling of powdered blowfish fins. Then where do I go?

To a psychiatrist.

The old grouch must go, but she stays firm. One hundred percent cruel and uncaring. Her rule for my future is thus: if you cannot read it, eat it, or drink it—do not buy it.

I point out to her that technically my nearly two decades’ worth of Food & Wine fall under all three categories. She points out to me that technically I should be on medication.

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It is a long and grueling week of cleansing, hours upon hours of arguments, tug of wars, and failed smuggling. But I am glad of it in the end. It was worth all the angst and effort.

The front hall coat closet looks amazing.

~Shelley

 

September Gotta Have a Gott 

In January, Rob and I announced that his sketches will be available toward the end of the year in the form of a 2015 calendar! And our readers would get to be the judges and voters for which doodles they’d like to see selected for each month. We’ll reveal the winners one by one, and come November, If you’ve Gotta have a GOTT, you can place your order. See the cartoons in competition and to cast your vote.

Don’t forget to check out what we’re cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all talked about down in the pub. Plus, you can see more of Robin Gott‘s humor–all from the only pen carved from a human funny bone.

Related articles

Getting a Peace of My Mind

Over the last few years, one of the big differences I noticed between myself and my kids was the way we worked. And by work I mean inviting and finding success with brain function, not our skill level with bow and arrow, or our ability to use a circular saw.

Those rougher, physical arts I still claim top spot in, but our intake and processing of information is apples to oranges. Or maybe even apples to orangutans. Not even remotely close.

Somewhere along the way from infancy to young adulthood, their gray matter grew partitions and looks somewhat like the inside of a fifty story office building with each floor holding hundreds of worker bee cubicles. They all function independently separate and together. Those little parts work for the giant godhead of global function. It is a hive of ongoing mental stimulation.

My brain is more like a gelatinous fish egg sack someone hauls over the side and onto the floor of a boat. It’s filled with potential, and it’s interesting enough to have folks peer at it with wonder, but no one really wants to go near it.

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My attention cannot be divided from the one project I assign it. One brain, no partitions, solitary job. Biologically, that’s as far as it goes. I’ve attempted multitasking before, but without the necessary hardware—the partitions—it’s like trying to build a concrete foundation with black strap molasses and prop it up with toothpicks.

Brain wandering is a specialty of mine, but I’ve spent years developing that talent because it’s a necessary skill in writing fiction. And if you’ve read or watched any version of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, you’ll have the barebones structure of how I go about my business. Multiple times a day, I see a waving hand before my face, or hear the repeated snapping of impatient fingers trying to get my attention.

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Thus, I’ve found that sharing the same air space with either one of my progeny while attempting to accomplish anything cerebral is wasted effort. Well, let me rephrase that. They can work just fine. I cannot organize enough thought energy to remember how one is supposed to write sentences, or calculate figures, or blink. I am annoyingly DISTRACTED.

I am sidetracked by their music—which usually has a tempo that calls out a challenge to my heartbeat. Sadly, this pace is one that most physicians would use after they’ve placed you on a treadmill for a stress test and are trying to ascertain the uppermost level of strain they can place upon your blood pumping internal organ before you pass out and break your nose on the handlebars.

My attention is diverted by the pinging of all their technological devices, the vibrating of their phones, the trips to the fridge, the video chatting with their friends, and the clinking of ice in their glasses.

Hell, there are even times when I lose focus because I heard someone swallow. And although I can bark at them to turn down their music or shut off their phones, I can’t ask them to stop any involuntary muscle movement. Well, I can, and I have, but I don’t think they’re really trying.

So I’ve decided to do something about it. I’m going all Jedi on my bodhi. Well, maybe it’s more like going rodeo on my consciousness. I’m learning how to reclaim it and reel it in when it starts leaking out my ears.

And I’m doing this by practicing a little bit of simple meditation every day.

I discovered a few good apps and narrowed it down to two that I found would work with my temperament and schedule. I started with an iTunes search that churned up an oceanic pot full of them, but then I cut out all the ones that didn’t require a credit card or ask that you rise at three a.m. for optimal results. Free and do it when you please fit my criteria.

A prerequisite for finding success when you’re first starting off on the meditation merry go round is a QUIET PLACE. This obviously means a place where neither of my kids has a physical presence. I go to my bedroom, and shut the door. But in my house, a closed door is like a magnet for knocking hands.

“Mom? What are you doing?”

“Go away.”

“When’s dinner?”

“Go away.”

“There’s no water coming out of the faucets.”

Three a.m. is looking more attractive every minute.

Even if I’m alone in the house, I’m not alone in the house. My fur-faced affiliates see me on the floor as part invitation, part challenge.

There is a lap, and I belong in it.

There is a lap, a ball belongs in it.

The minute I close my eyes and “focus on my breath,” I become uncomfortably aware of the fact that two others are focusing on my face. I can feel their breath on my face as they stare at it and mentally converse with one another, asking why I’m attempting to sleep sitting up. Then I hear the beginnings of a beleaguering brawl: a grand event ending in a fierce game of “If you do that again I will make hashtags on your eyeballs.” After tossing them both out the bedroom and closing the door, they become lab partners and endeavor to regain access. But their engineering feats lack imagination, skill, and opposable thumbs. Their efforts would bring about the same amount of praise as hiring an architect to build you a house out of triply ply toilet paper.

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Nothing these two do makes sense.

The constant pawing at the door. The constant pawing beneath the door.  The constant pausing I must do in order to open the door, shout and close the door again.

It is a process, this finding a quiet space in order to quiet my mind. It is also apparent that I must first train my family before I can begin training me.

I’m pretty sure the only way I will find success at this point is to secure a little help by my side. So now when I sit down to meditate, I make sure I have my bow and arrow on one side, and the circular saw on the other.

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With this minor adjustment, all great minds think alike.

~Shelley

Don’t forget to check out what we’re cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all talked about down in the pub. Plus, you can see more of Robin Gott‘s humor–all from the only pen carved from a human funny bone.

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Diabesities: Our Young Brood’s Battle with the Bulge.

Everybody loves surprises, right?

Well, I suppose it depends upon the kind of surprise. The Hey, you just won a year’s worth of dental hygiene! could be nice. A Mom, I passed physics! is pretty worthy. And Your book is going to be made into a movie! is a phone call I am so hoping will come one day.

The surprises many of us would rather not face down the pike are:

Yep, see that there crack, ma’am? Looks like you’re gonna need a whole new foundation.

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Or: What? You’re pregnant with triplets … again?

 

And of course: Hey, honey. My mother is moving in with us. Surprise!

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Obviously these bombshell examples aren’t things we regularly have to get used to, but I’d like to make you aware of a few eye-popping truths that have become the new standard for normal around our planet.

1.) 43 million children under 5 are overweight or obese.

2.) 1/3 of kids born after the year 2000 will develop diabetes.

3.) The number one source of calories in the United States is from high fructose corn syrup.

4.)  43% of pilots admit to falling asleep during their flight. 33% of them wake to find that their co-pilot is out cold as well.

Yes, folks, the numbers are rising, just like those of the Earth’s temperature and most countries’ national debt. The stats I’m focusing on today are strictly numbers 1-3. Number 4 was thrown in simply for your armchair amusement, and your in-flight horror.

The bad news is that today’s generation of children will be the first to have a shorter lifespan that that of their parents.

The good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way.

The great news is that it’s super easy to flip these numbers because the only thing standing in the way of our children’s health is our children.

Oh, and the media.

Oops, and their friends.

Yeah … and the school cafeterias.

Alright, maybe we ought to back up to the statement that simply reveals the good news bit, because once we realize what it is we’re up against, the odds for growing healthy human beings seems nearly insurmountable.

How do one or two parents launch an effective campaign for their children’s health that can stand up to billions of dollars in marketing, peer pressure and the common sense of legislation that states lunchroom pizza can be considered a vegetable because it has tomato sauce on it?

Go figure.

The food industry spends over two billion dollars a year with advertisements that target kids alone. TWO BILLION WITH A “B!”

And 98% of those ads are for foods that are high in fat, sugar and sodium—and fat, sugar and sodium are hugely addictive. They become things you can’t live without, like air and water and Facebook.

But unlike air and water and social media, those products of the food industry are nearly nutrition-less and only benefit drug companies who develop insulin related medications, Weight Watchers, and clothing manufacturers who charge by the square inch.

For those of you who are in command of stocking the fridge, I’m sure you’re familiar with the rule of thumb that one should never go grocery shopping while hungry. For those of you with children, there’s the extra add-on that one should never go grocery shopping with anyone who has learned to point and speak. With pointing and speaking comes nagging, and marketers have done studies to determine that it takes an average of “nine nags” for the typical child to convince a parent to give in and give over. Nine.

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That’s one above parental patience—where one disciplines while maintaining a princess Disney voice—and one below that combustible threshold I learned about in my daughter’s science project. Kaboom.

So while my kids were growing up, I found it was safer if they stayed home. A win win for all of us. They didn’t see the blazing, tantalizing come-hither advertisements placed directly at their eyeball level, and I didn’t get escorted out of the supermarket for hijacking the public address system, begging that anyone with a Xanax for me and duct tape for my kids would please come to aisle five for some serious cleanup.

Yep. Win win.

But this only lasts so long, because sooner than you know, the cat is out of the bag and your kids are off to school. This is where all the forces of good are overwhelmed by evil and your children declare you to be Satan.

They come home one day, slam the front door while tossing their tiny book bags to the floor and shout:

“Nobody else plants their own food!”

“None of the other kids have gone on monthly fieldtrips to local farms in order to watch dinner be chosen, slaughtered and butchered!”

“And not a one of them were told that they must study the stupid French technique of making duck confit because that helps with riding a bike!”

Oh? I say. And did you also crush their belief in all things sacred by telling them that chicken actually has bones?

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I have grown immune to their evil glares, but I refuse to ignore what’s happening to our kids and their declining health. It can be easy to shrug and wave the white flag of surrender, but I for one look awful in white and refuse to do so. I will continue to fight this worthy battle. And I’m doing it with my words.

Words are pretty powerful things. They move us, convince us, enrage us, and enlighten us. I’ve become so determined to help in the growing campaign for kids’ health that I wrote a book to tackle the subject, by tickling kids’ funny bones. I’m not sure if it will have an impact, but my fingers are crossed it will touch at least one or two folks. And if it helps one or two, that might have a ripple effect elsewhere.

But just to be clear, no one needs a book to make an impact. You just need to know you have a vote.

Folks are often surprised to remember their voice actually counts. The simplest way to do that is by deciding where your dollars, pounds and shekels will go.

And I bet the food industry will be pretty surprised to find a growing chunk of folks are fed up with the baloney they’re trying to feed our families.

It’s hard to initiate change—especially when you feel it’s a case of Muhammad and the mountain. But as I always say, if you’re going to eat an elephant, you’ve got to take it one bite at a time. And bringing better health to our kids is a battle I’d bet most of us are willing to fight.

That should come as no surprise.

~Shelley

Don’t forget to check out what we’re cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all talked about down in the pub. Plus, you can see more of Robin Gott‘s humor–all from the only pen carved from a human funny bone.

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How to Get Found by Losing Your Way.

Orientation is a concept I spent a lot of time thinking about this last weekend as I helped move my daughter into her new digs at university. From the moment I put the key into the ignition and the car into drive until I parked my automobile snugly into the garage returning home, I was in a constant state of getting my bearings.

As a writer, one is schooled to continually practice the art of noticing.

The teenager sitting beside me rarely noticed anything that wasn’t coming into view on the flat screen of her smart phone.

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There is a vast difference between us. We orient ourselves in completely different ways.

We both learn about the world using our eyes, but mine make grand sweeping gestures east to west and north to south, taking in trees and buildings, street signs and faces, while hers make a minuscule movement barely left and right of center—just enough to absorb the bazillion articles on Reddit that tell everyone reading what’s happening in the world today.

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But at least we know what’s unfolding around us.

We both use our ears to scope out sound. As we sit in a lecture hall, in front of a panel of teachers, advisors, administrators and staff, I soak up the voices and what they say: the chief of campus police—serious and dour, the dean of students—confident and erudite, the chair of the physics department—stumped by all the befuddled faces, the university healthcare representative—thoroughly weary from repeatedly answering the same question, just posed in a different accent.  The incoming freshman I’ve placed in the seat next to mine has used her ears as a holder for two pieces of electronics and plastic in order to block out the ambient voices and welcome in somebody else’s streaming from iTunes.

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I look at the distance we need to maneuver from one end of campus to the other and pull out a map; she hears the phrase lovely walk and clicks on an app to hail a cab.

We pass by groups of kids and I scan the clusters of faces from all ends of the earth and say, “It’s going to be wonderful getting to know so many new people from places you’ve never been.” She replies, “I already know most of them. We’ve all met on Facebook.”

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The list of activities–the get to know you parties–are poles apart from what would ease me into my new surroundings had I been the newcomer on campus.

Come build a rollercoaster!

Edible LEGO bricks. Let’s eat our architecture!

100 somewhat illegal uses for all your tech gadgets—shhh.

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Yeah, my university mixers were more of the sort that announced: We’re having a pizza party in the Student Union. Come meet your mascot.

I watched a kid zoom by on a ten speed bike powered by a chain saw. I heard music coming out of a speaker that looked like a small Oreo. I saw someone typing words onto a screen, which would have been fine apart from the fact that there was no keyboard beneath her fingers.

I was now completely disoriented.

By the end of the day I had amassed a file full of papers—everything from phone numbers to calendars, lecture notes to course requirements. I turned to my teen, “I’ve got spares for you too because I noticed you weren’t taking any.”

She waved her phone at me. “Got it all right here.”

Smart phone. A helluva lot smarter than me.

We bring the last of her gear up to her dorm room. “Do you want me to remind you how to do your laundry?”

“Nope. I’ll YouTube it.”

“Shall I walk you to the university’s clinic and campus police?”

“Already Google-Mapped it, Mother.”

“How bout I—”

Smart phone is waved in my face.

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It is clear I have been replaced by an app. By copper and wiring and eye tracking and satellites. This is her world not mine. It is fast, it is immediate, it is clever and it is made for a group of brains that do not see the world as I see it.

I collected my things and we walked to my car. I looked at my daughter and thought about our positions in the universe, how I would find my way back home, how I would go back to what was familiar and well-worn, and how I’d be recalibrating life and adjusting to the “new normal.”

So much of the weekend was, in truth, an orientation meant for me. I watched this young woman and all her peers around us utilize unfamiliar signs, and oftentimes unreadable directions, leading them confidently down their new path.

There really was nothing left to do apart from stand aside and lovingly snip the last threads of that invisible umbilical cord between us. I let her go … wireless.

~Shelley

August Gotta Have a Gott winner

In January, Rob and I announced that his sketches will be available toward the end of the year in the form of a 2015 calendar! And our readers would get to be the judges and voters for which doodles they’d like to see selected for each month. We’ll reveal the winners one by one, and come November, If you’ve Gotta have a GOTT, you can place your order. Jump on over to see the cartoon winner for August!

Don’t forget to check out what we’re cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all talked about down in the pub. Plus, you can see more of Robin Gott‘s humor–all from the only pen carved from a human funny bone.

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