On the Chopping Block

My favorite part about the Internet is getting to know regular people. Regular people don’t get media training. We don’t know that we don’t have to repeat ourselves. We don’t speak from talking points to make soundbites. If we get something wrong, it’s accidental and not a manipulation ploy. Knowing that still, somehow, those are the most cringe parts of listening to myself on The Chopping Block at

VC The Chopping Block Ad Card mostly decorative

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Yearbook Ruined Senior Year

I was thrilled to be the yearbook editor my senior year of high school, class of ’89, but it turned to total crap. Fortunately, watching my dad have my back rocked my senior year. Since then, I’ve lost sleep remembering regrettable yearbook signings. Thinking back, I understand where the snark came from and how to differentiate the hateful from the … nah, it’s all hateful.

Girl with long hair in profile in front of a school building with a man ominously perched on the roof

This photo was sent to me over Twitter as my 30th high school reunion approached. If you took it, let me know so I can credit you for my multitude of readers.

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My Writing Job Killed My Writing Hobby

The Hubster and I had a weblog-like thing before that’s what they were called. We posted pictures and wrote captions describing our activities. He posted graphs of his weight loss versus my pregnancy gain. No one read blogs, so we sent e-newsletter-ish messages updating everyone we know that we’ve updated our webpage.

It didn’t take long for blogging platforms to become all the rage and I was on it. I even dabbled with vlogging. Turns out that takes a certain moxie I don’t have. I started this blog and dreamed of getting the call all indie bloggers hoped for at that time — the “blog for me” job offer. I got that in 2010 and my writing changed.

My life changed too. Many bloggers who didn’t go the job route but the entrepreneurial route instead, hustled up advertisers and contributors and built communities around their own interests. That’s all great and I’m so totally envious, but I didn’t think that’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to keep my quiet little life with my own thoughts, my environmental micro-movement and a focus on my kiddos. I need to take inventory to see if I managed that.

My writing is geared for promotion now, not insight. My mind is on how to engage, not to create community but to improve metrics. Documenting the little experiments and quiet moments at home is all but over. I cling to shared reading (right now The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn). We still do projects, sometimes. I even share through social media, though it doesn’t give me the same satisfaction as telling the story behind the moments.

I have a plan to scrape some of the better content that I’ve written for my employer and cross posting it here. It’s almost true to my voice. Maybe just that little effort will reignite the desire to make my own accounting and refocus my attention on the heart of my home and not just the functioning of it. Maybe… if I actually do it.

And those arms!

I left this man and this landscape for a single existence in a desperate desert.

I have responsibilities here and a firm hand on the children, though those capable arms are hard to do without.

We’ll have to call him Cowboy Captain Handsome Hubster, Ph.D. from now on. I think he even looks … happy. Don’t you think?

Unfortunately, cell service stinks there, so I can’t call him at all. A tragedy, really. I suppose I’ll just meditate on this image for a while.

“What’s a Movie?” “It’s a form of entertainment that enacts a story by sound and a sequence of images giving the illusion of continuous movement, but that doesn’t matter right now.”

Young@Heart DVD

Dad has pretty much always questioned authority, thumbed his nose at convention, and rebelled against whatever he felt like. He keeps his mind open for continuing revelations even when those are that the status quo ain’t all that bad. For example, after much study he concluded that Elvis is probably dead and aliens are probably not a direct threat, but he’s had enough of the hospital so, smell ya later.

Dad, this movie is for you.

Since we don’t have a television at the moment (CURSES!), I’ve been watching a lot of digital video discs. I stumbled across Young@Heart: You’re Never too Old to Rock at the Pima County Library. This movie is my new best friend and proves that punk was around long before Punk. You don’t have to have pink hair, though blue works nicely. I LOLed at this movie, but I was also deeply touched. Do yourself a favor, if you aren’t going to rent the movie, at least Google their performances of Forever Young and Fix You, though they are more powerful in context.

I had dinner at “the club” with the Bendicksons the other night and we discussed the lineup for the 2010 Tucson International Children’s Film Festival. In the past they have shown movies like Howl’s Moving Castle, Egon and Donci, Azur and Asmar: The Princes’ Quest, Shaolin Soccer, Ponyo, My Neighbor Totoro, The Red Balloon, White Mane, Strings, Please Vote for Me, Microcosmos and even US films like The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T and Creature From the Black Lagoonin 3D. This year there are only two films that interest me. Perhaps the line-up is a little too Western? I’ve seen all the movies.

The solution? Saturday night Movie Time at the Bendicksons. Last week, it was on a Friday because the Bendicksons are all punk like that. They don’t need no stinkin’ badges. This week, they are going tropical with George of the Jungle followed by Tarzan. The plan is to wax nostalgic all DeAnza (RIP) like with their late night double feature picture show.

Perhaps they might consider City of Bees: A Children’s Guide to Bees out of Denmark for a future screening ala Microcosmos. I always love to see insects buzzing about and kiddos running in fields in their underwear, but the narrator uses his preschool voice and that is a huge turn-off. The information is appropriate for an older kid and there is some sick propolis action. Also, there is a seven page guidebook that is a little worksheet-y and perhaps a twee young for my kids, but since the 8 YO Girl did a project on bees for Hawt Mz, she is on it like honey on a comb. And just for that local touch, the guidebook has a link to a University of Arizona URL that provides lesson plans for kids K-12.

For family night, Handsome Hubster rented Airplane! That part compelling him to push the envelope is still in tact. Somewhere, I lost my obvious punk edge (never could afford the accouterments anyway) and became a little mommy-two-shoes as evidenced by my watching City of Bees with the 8 YO followed by subsequent Internet searches for further study, but deep down I have the heart of a RebL as placed by my daddy-o, who never wanted me to call him “Shirley” either. Turns out Dad’s cancer is Stage 4 and he’ll decide soon if he wants to ward it off with chemo or garlic or both or neither. I’m grateful for my dad and the community who have come out in such numbers they sometimes must wait their turn. You can follow him and whatever he chooses to tell you here. As for me, I’m off to the Bendicksons.

Did I mention I am a sellout Amazon Associate? I am and even managed to make $2 off you suckers!


Okay, time to come clean about my dad. He has a 3.5 cm cancerous tumor in his lungs that has not metastasized and can be cut out fairly simply. “Simply” here is relative, of course. I can say this because it is not my lung. This begs the question: Why hasn’t the U.S. adopted the metric system? As it stands, poor little American scientists have to convert everything. It’s not like we lack the methods to standardize measurements. We don’t need to use body parts for reference, though if you’d like to, Dad’s tumor is a little larger than the length of your thumb from the tip to the first knuckle. As an American who adores my independence from the Queen, I’m not sure why we are compelled to rely on our Imperial Measurement-based system. In some cases, we aren’t.

Back to Dad. He also has a mass on his right adrenal gland. Fortunately, Dad, like the rest of us, has two of these so losing one won’t be a huge deal. Although, I do worry that lightening up his right side will make him even more left-leaning and therefore an outlaw in my state of residence (ARIZONA).

Dad’s outlook is great. For one thing, he is on day seven or so sans the evil influence of cigarettes. He attributes his success at quitting smoking to morphine. Ba-dum, CHING! The lesson here is that all you have to do to get your hands on morphine is to smoke for 42 years and get cancer. Easy peasy!

Dad will have two surgeries to remove the masses and will be in the hospital until next week or so. My brilliant brother, true to his word, is going to take care of Daddy with the help of my grandmother, who is ridiculously strong and healthy and amazing. My mother and her husband are checking in on Dad too. My grandmother’s neighbor, a doctor, is calling in appropriate professional courtesies. Dad’s friends are providing a steady stream of visitors, entertainment, and frustration. All this attention, adoration, and love coming his way annoys my dad, which I think is hysterical since he’s always the belle of the ball. YOU SHOULDN’TA GOT CANCER DAD!

This all came to pass when Dad went to the hospital to cure food poisoning after eating cereal with bad milk. GAG! When my brother and I lived at home, milk never had a chance to turn. Now that Dad is on his own, I’m sure it doesn’t occur to him that milk might be past its expiration date. Let this be a warning to you, if you don’t want tumors springing up throughout your body, be sure to check the date on your milk before consuming.

Cookie Boothin’ Throughout the Universe

Hawt Mz came by the ole cookie booth yesterday. I wanted to tell her something cool like how I wore a Goody comb in my back pocket all day and then leave the story all enigmatically like that. Instead I geeked about books, gossiped about, uh, not gonna say, and then realized I smell like armpits most of the time.

Later the 10 YO, who was sitting behind a plate glass window playing his DS and minding his own business, came to inform me he was getting water for some guy. I looked at the grimy paper cup in his hands and asked, “What guy?” The 10 YO pointed at a man even more grimy than the cup who was peering over the shoulder of a gamer. “Dude, you totally just failed Charlie Check First.” “Yeah, so I’m going to get that guy some water.” “Uh…kay,” I said thinking he would visit the drinking fountain back inside the store and brb. I also took a look at my son’s gaming stuff that he left in the seat next to creepy bum. I wasn’t in the position to leave my 7 YO Girl Scout with all those boxes of cookies plus the cash kitty. She’d totally establish her independence before sundown. Nah, I had to trust the universe. “But after you give him water, get your stuff and move.” I then commenced the “I will f*** you up!” stare at the oblivious bum, daring him to look at me. That took about three seconds before my attention was redirected to cookie sales. I later learned the 10 YO didn’t go to the water fountain. He went down the way to a restaurant and got iced water. Iced. Freaking. Water. The 10 YO and I eventually had the expanded stranger danger discussion during which I asked why he complied with the request. “Because he asked nicely.” I need to lock that boy up.*

I’m thinking uncool armpits and grimy bum were karmic payback. Prior to the booth, the 7 YO sold out her personal inventory. I was on a high about the deal driving home when I watched a car hit an orange tabby, slow down to evaluate the damage, then speed off apparently under the impression that no further action was needed. The cat convulsed then gave up. I’m thinking, I would have to cross major traffic to pull over and cross three lanes of busy traffic on foot to get to the cat, who lay in the turn lane. What if the cat were sick, rabid, or just freaked out? The Hubster would be totally pissed if I put myself or the kids in that sort of danger for a feral cat. Even so, I have empty cookie cases I could use to scoop the cat up. But I’m already running late for the next thing. Would my vet take on a charity case? By now I’m down the street. I’ve always loved orange tabbies. I suck. Not cool. The universe wants me to know I’m a stinky armpity bum and should never be allowed to sit at the cool kids’ table. Oh, the inhumanity.

The 7 YO has another cookie booth in a few minutes.

* Don’t go thinking the 10 YO is all sweet and innocent, he totally belly gut laughed when his friend got his dad to say he liked eating cookies, where cookies was a euphemism. He got busted on that one after the 7 YO had to explain it to me.

When Taking the High Road, It’s Best to Know the Way

My brother received a camera for Christmas one year. We can go on ad nauseum about all the great stuff my brother got that I didn’t, but that would ignore the fact that I got a bunch of awesome stuff too and acknowledgment of such would not lend itself well to my sour grapes attitude. We spent some time photographing our normal activities — at least those I was willing to share with my brother. He’d seen me fight before, so I invited him to photograph a fake one (WWF style — I still got my hits in). Check out my form.
I loved being a kid. I loved impromptu games of kickball and climbing fences and walking barefoot on fresh hot tar. I loved my friends. I loved Wendy and Angela most, but I also loved the neighborhood kids and my classmates as well. I loved them so fiercely, especially the ones I saw as weaker, that I would kick the ass of anyone who caused anyone any grief. I guess I maybe had a reputation.

Laura fancied herself as tough stuff and came looking for a fight. For that reason alone, I should have taken an extra hit of joy in knocking that clown down. I made short order of Laura, but it was a joyless exercise. I realized that once people started searching me out to challenge the champion, then I was no longer, nor maybe ever was, defender of of the little guy. I was just a target for every wannabe tough kid.

With one last face shove in the dirt, I got up, my brain reeling in confusion. Yes, I kicked her ass in front of her friends who had just told her they would jump in but who didn’t. Yes, she was more stout than I, but I was an inch or so taller. Not only did I not want to be My Bodyguard*anymore, I also didn’t want to be part of that sort of humiliation, even when people deserved it. I determined Laura was my last beat down. I was finished and I said so.

Laura got up with grass in her hair, clothing askew, and obligatory dirt smears on her arm and cheek and asked for more. I couldn’t believe it. She hadn’t even caught her breath from the last round! “Nah, I think we are done here,” I said. “Are you scared?” she asked. Hell no I wasn’t scared; I had just kicked her ass! I laughed incredulously, but couldn’t think of the gracious way out, so I turned away and began walking home. She shoved me and her previously mute friends renewed their empty promises.

I faced them in disbelief. I was absolutely NOT used to people not accepting my word for gospel. “I said I was done.” “Because you’re a big ol’ chicken!” Laura said and her friends clucked in agreement. Then I said the dumbest thing of all. “Can’t you hear my mom calling?”

* Did I mention I am a sellout Amazon Associate? I am and even managed to make $2 off you suckers!

When Darkness Fell

The summer I was 11, I played on a softball team. The coach had a warrant out for her arrest, so we frequently didn’t know when or where we would practice until we got a call about half an hour beforehand. Not surprisingly, like all teams with criminally inclined coaches, we kicked ass. At the end of the season, we had a huge slumber party at which I froze a bra for the first and last time. The next morning, my parents failed to pick me up. The hosts called, but got no answer (before mobile phones, before cordless phones, before even answering machines — yes, I am that old). Late in the afternoon, they decided to just drop me off at home.
Like most drop-offs of the era, there was no parent-to-parent kid transfer. They barely slowed at my curb, they were so eager to get rid of me and get on with their lives. I hardly noticed nor did I flinch at the empty house. I had years of practice breaking into my home. On this particular day, I climbed up on the shed wherein our laundry machines were kept. From there I leaped to my second-story sill where I managed to wedge the window open with my freer hand (I had a practiced technique).

My room was lovely in the late afternoon, glowing. My mother and grandmother had papered the walls with yellow and white gingham. I had eyelet curtains with huge princess blue satin bows that matched my bed cover. The ballet bar, the dresser, the vanity, the Barbie Dream House — all was in order. I loved my room and I hung out there for a while. When darkness fell, I realized that my brother wasn’t there. It was usual for my folks to not be there, but no Jacques! Quelle horreur!

I went to check on him. His room was empty — not just of him, but of all his things including the purple grass mask that hung by his exposed light switch that scared the hell out of me (the mask AND the risk of shock). There was no bed, no dresser, no desk, no Rocket Tubes, no Jacques. Nothing.

Moving on, I went downstairs. The living room was barren, exposing only the charred circles of burned shag carpeting that stood witness to the hours alone my brother and I spent at home. The kitchen was empty. My parent’s bedroom was empty. The dog was gone. The cat was gone. I was utterly alone. The family had moved and they left my stuff and me behind.

(Whatever: Don’t feel sorry for me and don’t hate on my parents. You weren’t there. They worked hard at lousy paying jobs and that’s just the way it was. Also, that’s not what the story is about. This story is from the perspective of an 11 year-old who DID NOT WANT TO MOVE. Hate on the parents for that.)