All posts by kirizar

About kirizar

I am all things to all people. As long as people are looking for a mom with diverse interests and a homebound tendency to look through the window of life and wish (or imagine) something just a little bit different. I am like the Tardis on Doctor Who. I am much bigger on the inside.

Pier Review

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Anemic sun halo captured at Holland State Beach, July 19, 2018

 

Walking the public pier along the Holland State Beach allows one to appreciate both an exercise in free speech and the quasi-felonious joys of graffiti expressionism.

I have never been so brave or confident in what I had to say that I was willing to risk a $250 fine and possible jail time to tag a public edifice in order to say it.*

Vandalism is, at the very least, a misdemeanor offense, but what I want to know is…is it art?

And if it is art, what is it saying?

Based on my hour spent cataloging this year’s liberal art tributes on the rusting canvas of the masses, the message depends on the viewer:

Positivity Abounds:

Travooo
Travooo captures the elusive qualities of LOVE  in swirling suggestions while boldly stating that it is all underscored by the balance to be found in the harmony of Yin and Yang.

 

If you look hard enough, you can find answers.

Although….you may also be left wondering what the question was.

Thoughts from Danny Duncan!

Danny thinks “It’s fine!”

But, he scrawled his sentiments in a tucked away place on an overhead pipe, so I suspect he’s playing it cool.

I Think It's Fine Danny Duncan
I bet Danny knows where the milk is!

 

Some people put themselves out there, courting ridicule…possibly unaware that a Tinder Date may be using a pseudonym.

Steve and Edelweiss Sipipill 4 Ever
If you know of anyone actually named Edelweiss, I will retract my skepticism.

Everyone has an opinion…whether that opinion is worth scrawling on a pier support is in the eye of the beholder.

Dude She s hot
Watch out, Amos Kiks.Palmbos, you have an admirer. 

Dreams are apparently dictated with impermanent ink scrawled on a blue-green background and will melt with time and the coming rains.

This is What Dreams are Made Of
Actually, this was one of my favorites…googly eyed smiley face not withstanding.

Lacking the words to express their deeper emotions, some fall back on a classic:

!!!HIGH 5!!! 

Friends slap high fives (or low ones) wherever they can.

Hands and Names
The Green Hand Gang numbers at least five!

 

Some HIGH FIVES bury the headline:

img_2921.jpg
Amos Kiks.Palmb Strikes again.  

OTHER HIGH FIVES come with best wishes from ON HIGH!

IMG_2931
Apparently the Green Hand Gang are followers of the BIG PINK HAND IN THE SKY.

 

Emotions run high…leaving some confused…knotting their hair with suspense.

Will Jeffrey or Won’t Jeffrey?

Will Jeffrey or Wont He
This strange smokestack-like object serves no discernible purpose. Does someone out there know what this does?

 

Perhaps the message echoes an earlier time—a plea for Peace, Love and Hope symbolized by a badly divided pie chart?

Hope
All you need is a Sharpie marker and an earnest sentiment and the sky is your oyster.

The VEGANS were a bit demanding and psychedelically so:

IMG_2912
Spred Luv…and dictionaries!
Go Vegan - Hallucination
Cock–the other white meat. Now comes in vegan flavor. (This is where we find out who really reads the subtitles.)

 

Some pier polluters promote poignant pleas:

Kiki Do U Luv Me
Ignore the scrawled ‘Anus’ overhead. Focus on the question, Kiki!

Perhaps what you take from the message boardwalk is only that which you brought with you?***

For example.

FORSOOTH, FIE, ALAS

One word scrawled among the masses stood out. I was astounded that classics such as Shakespearean language describing a two-week time frame have made it to modern vernacular (even if the spelling hadn’t):

Fortnite

Then, later, during a rare session of live tv watching, I was bombarded by a commercial which dispelled my illusions. (And possibly also my allusions.)

I almost despaired to have lost a belabored delusion of the persistence of language.

 

But then, after watching King Lear drop bodies at Grand Valley State University, I decided that Fortnite actually is a modern variant of Shakespearean storytelling—if only Shakespeare had lived in the age of the rocket launcher.


GOOGLE FAILED ME. WHEN I TRIED SEARCHING THE TERM ‘SHAKESPEARE’ AND ‘ROCKET LAUNCHER’ I GOT AN ARTICLE FOR THE ROYAL SHAKESPEARE COMPANY LAUNCHING A NEW VEGAN MENU:

I TOLD YOU THOSE VEGANS WERE PUSHY!

It seemed an obvious thing to me that there should be an image of Shakespeare with a rocket launcher…SO I MADE ONE:

Shakespeare with Rocket Launcher
I make judgments about people writing graffiti but, apparently, I have no problem stealing copyrighted images to abuse my own artistic license.
Z’WOUNDS…that was a long way to go for a laugh.
Now, back to the boardwalk…

IMG_2967
Lost in a Sunset

If art is a medium of expression, then I believe those who congregate at the water’s edge to exchange selfies and tag nearby crumbling infrastructure are at least trying to get a message out.

Or, maybe they are all just succumbing to…

Pier Pressure
I wanted this for my title, but that seemed like cheating.

Maybe this isn’t art.

But I say, “Let he who is without talent, shut the hell up.”

And let it be what it is.

Breathless

Endless

Speechless

Timeless

*-*-*

THE BEST
Artist Face
I too will be “Forever Faffi”

The need to express ourselves, our souls, may be the most human characteristic.

That we do it in a destructive, transitory medium is even more so.

Will words someday become anachronisms?

After digital communication leaps past verbal utterances to an all-emoticon communication system—how will we express nuanced emotions?

The phrase a “picture is worth a thousand words” takes on a scary new meaning when all you have is a demented smiley face to look at.

CREEPY SMILEY FACE
Be grateful it’s not an eggplant.

Until that day, cherish words, however they are conveyed.

Whatever cryptic message they share may be just for you!

Maybe the mystic words will heal what is broken. 

Release what is hidden.

Find what is lost!

OR MAYBE NOT…

Maybe a body just needs to scream into the void and hope that someone, somewhere, is listening:

IMG_2898
I’m sorry?

 

Asterisk Bedazzled Footnote:

*I vandalize the internet from the safety of my blog instead.

**The internet laws have not yet caught up with the violations of free speech rampant in the digital stratospheres. When I become dictator of the universe, trolls will be hunted for sport.

***I suspect I’m stealing this line from Yoda. Or Harry Potter. A writer somewhere is feeling a sharp pang of plagiarism.

 

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Lost in Fremont

I travel for a purpose. Generally, that purpose is to get to a destination. Sometimes, however, for my son’s sake, I travel for distance. For pleasure. To lose myself in the rolling roads dividing the countryside into rows of waving cornstalks and fields of bucolic cows chewing endless mouthfuls of grass. Usually there is an Aaron Copland sound track playing in my imagination.*

 

Recently, however, I had this experience backfire…and go hilariously bad. The tale ends up with a life-saving intervention from the Michigan DNR and a ‘Hail Mary’ airport pick-up. Join us for the missed-flight entertainment, if you dare, on the adventure I am calling:

F*ck the Road Less Traveled

It all begins with meeting a friend from afar.

*

Like most heroic quests, ‘Jay’ comes a long way to meet me. (Okay…technically she is visiting family, but still, meeting me is the added cherry on the trip-from-Japan Sundae.) Unlike most of my ‘internet friends’ who are likely market-research algorithms with questionable profile pics, Jay is a real live person.

Jay is so terribly cool, she met up with me at the nearby Panera for an hour of lovely conversation–despite juggling jet lag, a toddler, and the joys of accommodating myriad family obligations to meet up with someone she only knows in the digital sense from Nanowrimo.**

Jessica and Me 3
Little Jay, Big Jay, and Bunny and Me, yukking it up at Panera!

I was geeked. Her dad joined the venture–mostly because he was her chauffeur–but he was an engaging story teller who kept the conversation rolling. When our time together ran out, he invited me to come up to the family reunion scheduled for Saturday next.

“Sure.” I say. “But I’ll have to leave in time to get my mother-in-law from the airport.”

“I live in the woods, so, when you get up there, just call me and I’ll meet you so you can follow me back to the house.” He assures me.

“Oh, I have GPS. I’ve been up in that area before. I’m sure I’ll be fine.”

FAMOUS.

LAST.

WORDS.

Saturday rolls around and I cram my kid in the car and we’re off winding the back roads of beyond because I haven’t yet figured out that my car’s GPS has been avoiding highways on purpose. We arrive with only a few rural/off-map detours. (Okay…we got lost three times finding the house. But for me, that’s ONLY three times.) This makes me unbelievably cocky. If you don’t know me well, know this…if anyone can get lost going someplace, it’s me. But, I’ve come to rely on my son’s innate desire to travel to get us where we want to go.

Mistake.

BIG MISTAKE!

IMG_3006
Here is my personal GPS Giant playing next to Jay’s sweet little munchkin.

 

Jay is warm, her daughter is adorable, and her father is welcoming. A yard full of strangers don’t question me or my giant son’s right to be there. The picnic is a nice, if brief, interlude at someone else’s family reunion. Before long, it’s time for us to leave to meet a plane. I tender our regrets clutching the scrawled map Jay’s father painstakingly wrote out for me to follow back to civilization. Upon leaving, I immediately take a wrong turn and don’t figure it out until it is far, far too late. Much to my son’s delight.

If you have never been to Fremont, Michigan, I highly recommend you visit. Especially if you want to become part of the witness protection program. Because, I promise you, once you move there, no one will find you again. Ever.

We are in the car, driving in the wrong direction, down a dirt path and I’m alternately swerving to avoid trees that are apparently just growing in the middle of the track we are following and I’m questioning whether the map is wrong or I am.***

It’s when we finally hit tarmac that I make my worst mistake of the day. There is an option to turn left or right. A quick glance at my dashboard GPS is of no help. So, with my son as the designated navigator we turn left. The most mistaken 50-50 shot of all.

This is where the paved road ends…

Newaygo Road Sign2
Not the actual road, but this is basically what it looked like. I didn’t know at the time I should be making a visual record in case they ever found our bodies…

When asked whether we should turn around or keep going, my son’s intrepid response?

“Straight!” He barks from the back seat.

I eyeball my GPS doubtfully, tap the screen and gauge how far it is through the unmarked green area to the road it depicts on the other side.

“Well, it doesn’t look like it’s too far…about half an inch.” I think to myself. “How far could that be?”

Those of you who have ever taken a snowmobile trail are probably laughing your heads off at this point. I, however, haven’t a clue.

And into the woods we go…

IMG_3008
About fifteen minutes in, I decide I’d better start taking note of landmarks…not that they were much help, to be honest.

Need I mention it is a one-lane track?

IMG_3012
It took me wayyyy too long to figure out my GPS was just turning in circles because it either had lost a signal or was metaphorically throwing its hands up in defeat.

 

 

And that we need to hit Highway 31 pretty darned quick if we are going to have a chance to make the forty-some odd miles back to the airport in G.R.?

IMG_3015
There were all these helpful posts. What a shame I had no internet connection so I could look up what they meant.

Pretty soon, things get a bit desperate. We’ve been in the woods for at least half an hour. We are definitely going to miss the flight we were scheduled to meet!

Who do you call when, at fifty-one years of age, you are lost and need assistance?

*Gets cell phone*

BEEP.. BEEP.. BOOP.. BEEP.. BOOP…

“MOM? HELP!”

After a frantic conversation in which I fear signal loss almost as much as I fear the drones of mosquitoes following our car like we are to-go container they are trying to figure how to open, Mom comes to the rescue…

Insert appropriate theme song here

…of my mother-in-law anyway.

“I’ll go.” Mom promises. “But you owe me! I was already in my pajamas for the night!”

We keep driving. The huddling clouds overhead limit what visibility we do have beneath the canopy of the old growth forest we are traversing.

I’m not exactly panicking…yet.

But I’m thinking about it.

Last Seen Wearing...
Last seen wearing…turquoise sweater and eau du desperation!

 

 

When along comes the cavalry…

I have to unroll my window in order to ask for directions.

The mosquitoes, at least, were deliriously happy.

IMG_3009
Cavalry not picture–I promised not to include their sacred images if they would tell me how to get out of the labyrinth I wandered into by mistake.

The nice young men from the DNR—wait…doesn’t that mean Do Not Resuscitate?—correction, the Forest Service Department of Agriculture (it says it right on the door, Kiri) give me some directions on how to get out of the woods.

“You’re gonna come up on a fork in a bit, take it to the left…then you follow the road until you see the exit to Highway 31. It’s not that much farther.”

I thank them, and slap at mosquitoes trying for a second pint of blood, before I hastily close the window to depart.

Our vehicles squeeze past each other like fat ladies wearing hoop skirts moving through a narrow hall.

And then we are back on the trail, slightly more confident that we will make it home.

But first….

There’s the fork…

IMG_3013
I so would have taken a right here had I been given a choice.

And more trees than you can shake a stick at.

And then we come to what looks like another choice…

IMG_3017
All that sunshine gave me the deluded hope our trials were at an end.  But no!

This turns out to be a random opening in the forest.

“What the actual hell?” I am cursing young men who think they gave detailed directions but obviously skipped a few steps.

If I knew how to use Google Earth, I’d check to see if our little blue Prius was captured in the center somewhere.

IMG_3020
I dub this wasteland: Donutsville. Because that is the obvious pastime of most who come here.

While it is possible to go left, that way seems certain doom based on the quantity of wild flowers and stumps in the way.

We veer right and hold on to a waning hope.

The GPS is now openly mocking me.

It dances in circles around and around but never moves toward Highway 31 and freedom.

IMG_3018
This seriously sucks.

We pass the dusty roundabout, heading right.

Pretty soon, we see a verdant meadow, puffy clouds, and dream of escaping this wildness nightmare.

But those fantasies are dashed by what looks like the burial site for other lost travelers cleverly disguised as a “Coastal Plain Marsh.”

IMG_3022
So close…
IMG_3024
You can almost taste the asphalt…
Three Rocks
But NO! It’s back to the woods for you!

Leaving the erstwhile, granite grave markers in our rearview mirror, I can’t help but feel like the forest is trying to tell us something.

Keep Out!Keep Out 2Keep Out 3

But what could it be saying?

Eyes Right!
“Eyes on the Road, Mom!”

 

Apparently, it’s telling us it is time to go home.

There, in the distance, it beckons us.

The way out!

Going the Distance

Ahhhh….civilization…or as close as it comes in rural Michigan.

Civilization 1
It may be the middle of nowhere…but at least it’s a well-marked nowhere.

As we drove home…we admired the sights we thought we’d never see again…

Civilization 2
Highway construction–a sure sign of civilization if I ever saw one!

Even traffic cones were a welcome sight!

We passed the bakery with the oddest name ever for a location smack in the middle of an alluvial plain.

Civilization - Hill Top Bakery
HILLTOP BAKERY? HILL? WHAT HILL?

 

And then, like the plains of Africa in the song by Toto, the rains came.

Bedraggled and drained, we make it home in time for dinner.

And it’s going to take a lot to drag me back to Fremont unless I’m giving a guided tour, perhaps by a team of strapping forest preserve on-call rescuers? For emergency purposes only, of course.

Until then, I grow restless, longing for some solitary company…and a song to sing me home.

Asterisk Bedazzled Footnote:

*I mistakenly Googled Erin Copeland and got a completely unsuitable track the first time. #NOT MY MUSIC.

**If you do not know what NANOWRIMO is, we are apparently not as close as my imaginary internet friends.

***Hint, it’s not the map.

Eighteen Years to Tumescence

Do you like a stinking good time?

Do you appreciate the rare? The exotic? The exceedingly slow burn to coition?

Do you savor the anticipation an eighteen-year wait brings?

Then you may be ready for the giant phallus. The amorphophallus titanum to be precise.

*

If you happened to wander into Meijer Gardens this week, you may have stumbled across the shy and retiring Titan Arum–a bloom colloquially referred to as a Corpse Flower.*

I’ve been a long-time fan of the gardens, but even I was caught by surprise about the arrival of the local beauty–nicknamed Putricia for her odiferous nature. On impulse, I dashed to the gardens on Tuesday to get this shot of her before she made her full-blown debut. The garden staff estimated that she wouldn’t fully bloom until Friday…but they were to be caught off guard.

Tuesday
Putricia on Tuesday, spathe still tightly furled like a virgin’s nightgown before deflowering.

Wednesday night, the spathe–or giant solitary petal that goes around the spadix (the stabby, sword-like center spike) was still tightly closed.**

For a better description, you can go to the Chicago Botanic Garden’s website for a great breakdown of the particulars. The site was extremely helpful in providing the follow image to steal:

Life Cycle of Titan Arum

Rumors abound around this hard-to-get coquette. According to this chart, it may bloom every four to five years. I’ve read elsewhere, it can take much longer because it relies on perfect conditions being met in order to propagate. The flower is in danger of becoming extinct in nature because of habitat loss and other causes.

At the Meijer Gardens, Putricia took eighteen years before she was ready to blossom. But she is finally strutting her stuff. And perhaps because she was so slow in arriving, she hurried up her appearance in time for me to dash over to meet her on Thursday. And, I have to say, she put on quite a stately show.

IMG_2806
At this point in the line, you aren’t even half-way there.

I couldn’t say how many people came, but the lines curled throughout the building when I was there. If you are brave, you might get to see her yourself–at least, for the next 24 hours anyway.

If you want to save your feet (and nose) the effort, a link to video of the flower’s expansion, you can find it in this article located in the Detroit News.

Here’s the picture I snapped with my cell phone:

Thursday
Thursday, a mad crush awaited anyone who dared to visit the Queen of Meijer Gardens!

Personally, I wasn’t overwhelmed with the stench by the time I got to her. She’d already lost some of her bloom. (Probably being visited by thousands of people takes a toll on a girl.)

Whether standing in line for over two hours for a minute in the limelight with this sultry Sumatran Stinker is your idea of fun, only you can decide.

As for me, I am happy that I went and hope we can look forward to a bright future ahead.

And now, I have camping to get packed for.  My son is totally puzzled as to why I would bother to stop and chat with you for this long anyway. For this reason, I’m attributing any typos to his impatience.

Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:

*Strangely enough, no one requests a corpse flower for their bridal bouquet. Probably due to having to wait decades to ensure you’ll have one in time for the nuptials.

**Look, I’m not a botanist. There’s plenty of sites you can go to for actual plant terminology and description. But we both know you aren’t going there, are you?!

 

 

 

Good Grief

Sometimes I am caught unawares by the shock of death.

Even thirteen years later, I still grieve.

It catches me in odd moments.

Like today, watching the Monk series finale.

Where, eight years after the show ended, I have my own Monk moment.

 

*

Monk was a silly crime dramedy about a detective so torn by the death of his wife, he is unable to function without a massive number of coping skills that seem laughable to the world around him. These mechanisms for survival include: obsessive compulsive neatness, rigid need for control and cleanliness and order.* These tics are detrimental to his mental health and impede his ability to work in a normal job. They make for funny television, but a miserable reality.

I never saw the series when it was running. Back in 2002 I was living in Chicago, alternately trying to be a teacher and trying to get pregnant and failing at both. Then I succeeded in pregnancy, but completely tanked at teaching. But I had a husband and a son, so I kept going.

Until 2005, when my husband died.

And I stopped.

I stopped functioning, except at a nominal level where I met basic needs of my son and I cocooned myself from any changes that meant I had to face life.

I missed the entire span of the eight Monk seasons and only stumbled on it in its rerun afterlife where nothing ever truly dies.

And, today, I got to watch Adrian Monk resolve the death of his wife.

The scene that no one else probably thought two cents about was the fact that Monk couldn’t sleep in the center of his bed. He hugged the side, leaving room for Trudy, the memory of his wife forever impressed on her side of the bed.

When all the secrets are revealed in the last episode, the series is wrapped up in a tidy bow. Monk is sleeping, stretched out, in the center of the mattress and is seemingly unaware of the change in his rituals and patterns of behavior that have subsided with the peace of finally knowing. He is able to go on.

I still sleep on my side of the bed. I have never moved from it, no matter what bed I choose. It is probably just habit. A comfortable placement of nearness to the shelf where I put my glasses. The fact that I can only sleep facing one direction.

But it’s true, I can’t move to the center of the bed. Even if it is a small twin-sized mattress. I cling to the edge as if it were a thread from the past. Where I shared a space with someone else.

And that never goes away.

So, today, I cried. Because I remembered.

And never can forget.**

Asterisk Bedazzled Footnote:

*I am not like Monk. If anything, I am the anti-Monk. I do not clean, and obsessively hang on to everything, creating piles of junk that might possibly qualify me for a hoarders episode. I do however have an obsessive compulsive need to watch television that makes me cry, apparently.

**And the next day my period started with a raging bang. I suspect I was also a target of my hormones.

 

 

 

Tick-Tock, Time’s Up.

For thirty seconds today, I thought my dishes were all clean.

*Tick*

As my son’s bus pulled up to drop him off,

*Tick*

I was putting the last cup in the cupboard.

*Tick*

The sink was empty.

*Tick*

So was the dishwasher.

*Tick*

I sometimes wish I could hit a “Pause” button.

*Tick*

My son would freeze, mid-step, off the bus.

*Tick*

The grass would not grow, undoing my work mowing in 90 degree heat.

*Tick*

And I could breathe deep of the scents of life.

*Tick*

The smell of the thyme the mower blades edged along with the grass.

*Tick*

The newly-minted caulk from the resealed tub.

*Tick*

Signs of progress, and yet…

*Tick*

I can’t help but wish I could stop the hands from moving.

*Tick*

The To Do list never really stops growing.

*Tick*

That the unpaid bills could wait just a little bit longer…

*Tick*

Life is like an insistence bomb.

*Tick*

It goes on whether you want it to or not.

*Tick*…*Tick**Tick*

You just have to ignore the *ticks*

*Tick*

Or suffer a case of time disease.

 

Click Bait Title

You won’t believe your eyes!

Nine out of ten people won’t read past this sentence.

You can’t believe how this story turns out!

Who would have thought anything so strange, bright, bold, beautiful, and bouncy could happen here?

Only my real friends will read to the end, and copy and paste this, and dance naked in the rain while singing the theme to the Brady Bunch. 

“Here’s the story…of a lovely lady…”

Try not to hate me.

*

CLICK BAIT!

I guess I am as guilty as anyone else. I click the title that leaves me hanging, that asks for, nay, demands attention. A dangling question mark with a spurious answer. Unless it has a mysterious sea creature or a poisonous arachnid that I absolutely must know about before going to bed. (‘Cause that’s not gonna cause nightmares at all!)

What I’m saying is, I’m a sucker for flashy headlines that drag me onto an eye-blistering site with multiple pop-up ads, hidden read-more arrows disguised by embedded commercials. Oh, and let’s not forget the blinking GIFS causing neural disruptions. FUN!

I hate that I fall for these things because they drag me away from real life and important things…like laundry and grocery shopping.*

Sometimes I lie to myself–that following these idiotic stories is in pursuit of knowledge.

I’ve watched videos on the metamorphoses talents of cuttle fish and octopi which change outfits so often they are the aquatic equivalent of The Next Top Model, but underwater.**

Though my favorite videos are by the guy who voiced Dear Kitten Commercials. It’s awesome when he goes off the deep end:

If you’ve got a hook, I’ve probably swallowed it:

Pseudo science dumbed down to bite-sized consumer factoids?

Bring on the quasi science fiction babble about neutrinos emissions formed with pop rocks and microwaved coca-cola.

Something innocuous actually poised to kill or permanently maim mankind?

I swear, everyday someone is ruining a favorite treat with a gross video or unsubstantiated claim about the poisons in our everyday life. My mom sent me one about my favorite ‘Don’t Kill Anyone Today Beverage.”

Tea – A Killer Cup of Poison? One lump or two?

I read the whole thing, but didn’t see any links to data or studies. But then, I was reading it on a microscopic phone screen while simultaneously trying to keep track of my boy child. Still, who has time to follow up on the facts? Not when there’s all this junk to sift through!

Testability2
http://www.toondoo.com Who says it so much better than I could!

Why stop to fact check or at least think for a moment about how likely the fear really is?

There are actual sites for that you know:

Woofighters.Org for example.

 

Snopes.com for another

There are plenty of examples of how horribly effective and subversive clickbaiting is as a propoganda tool.

My first search on the topic brought up this article from 2017:

You won’t believe how these 9 shocking click bait titles work?

Life is more valuable than reading a regurgitated tale of misrepresented woe/gladness/shocking/sadness/turned-joyful-resolution.

Unless there is a tragic picture of homeless, frozen kittens who’ve had a fuzzy make-over.

Or squirrels. I will apparently watch anything having to do with squirrels.

Or the lost Atlantis.

Or “You won’t believe how they look now!”

(Google this yourself. I’d break the internet trying this on my old laptop.)

I’d like to say that, knowing the dangers and misrepresentations, I won’t fall for these time wasters any more. But I really don’t have any answers. All I know is that putting the iPhone down for a weekend won’t kill you. Will it?

Hang on…Googles topic…Okay…finds story on the Daily Beast (which is no doubt a reputable news source with a name like that):

The Dangers of Digital Detoxing

YIKES!

DISCLAIMER: if you plan to become a luddite and leave the internet behind, perhaps you should consult a doctor before taking any drastic measures…or take away a teenager’s XBox.

There should be an easy path back to a normal life. A life unplugged and free from anxiety-inducing ersatz drama. One where you don’t jump at every text DING like a Pavlovian pooch or fall for sleezy, but alluring, tabloid-esque, ALL CAP article headlines. There must be a way back to normal!

But that’s a story for another day. I’ve got the car packed to go camping and a teenager waiting for his car ride away from electronic distractions.

Hopefully we will both survive to meme another day.***

Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:

*Okay, I really hate doing laundry and grocery shopping so it doesn’t take much to distract me from a task…oh look, a SQUIRREL!

**You know that an Underwater reality show is in the works somewhere. Hosts will be Ursula the Sea Witch from The Little Mermaid and Charlie the Tuna from the Star Kist commercials.

***I’ve been meaning to write this one for a while. And to do a much better job of it than this. Sorry.

________________

Feature Image stolen from LocalSurgeMedia.Com

 

Diarrhea Diaries: Volume II

Warning: Graphic and disgusting subject matter. Not for the faint of heart. Reminiscent of my prior post on the topic: The Diarrhea Diaries. Which, as it turns out, was volume one of an unfortunate series.

*

Dear Diarrhea:

The US Food and Drug administration recommends two to four servings of fruit per day.

I don’t think they had this in mind:

BEWARE KILLER MELONS!

 

Killer Watermelon
Borrowed without permissions from drawception.com.

If you visited the CNN article I referenced, you get why I fear produce. If you didn’t trip the above link, the 20-point, bold font title of the article pretty much says it all:

“Multistate salmonella outbreak linked to pre-cut melon”

Now the fact that pre-cut watermelon has been spreading salmonella throughout the midwest wouldn’t ordinarily concern me except for two things:

  1. I ate some pre-cut watermelon Sunday.
  2. Monday began a marathon that makes the prospect of running 26 some miles actually pleasant by comparison. This is not that kind of marathon.*

I did not buy my melon at any of the stores referenced in the CNN piece on salmonella contaminated fruits. This does not stop me from putting a very strong set of coincidences together and coming up with a likely culprit to my week spent regretting everything I’ve ever eaten that I did not personally sterilize in a 1400 degree Fahrenheit kiln.

I spent the last (gets calculator, does math) 168 hours visiting the powder room. HOURLY. Sometimes more frequently. A brief itinerary of my adventures can be summed up this way:

Day 1: 6:00 a.m. – stomach lets out initial howls of protest. By 4:00 p.m., I am so sick, I’m curled up on the floor of my son’s therapy office wishing I didn’t have to drive us back home. 

“Can’t we just live here?”

Day 2: After waking all night long to tango with the toilet, fever strikes and I shake my digital read-out thermometer convinced it has to be wrong.

Temperature Degree Thermometer

Day 3: Have decided that having a will to live kind of sucks. Scrounge through medicine cabinets to find decade’s old Tylenol and take it, hoping it will kill me.

Day 4: Fever finally breaks and I would celebrate, but I’m getting low on toilet paper and there seems to be no end in sight.

Day 5: Am now reconsidering my agnostic stance and will willingly convert to whatever religion will cure me.**

Day 6: There may be light at the end of the tunnel, but I suspect they are the tiny sparks as each of my brain cells implode from dehydration. I gird my loins and guzzle Kefir straight from the carton.***

I wipe curdled cream from my lips and scream:

“Take that, you plague-ridden, bacteria bastards!”

Today is Day 7. It has been a week and, slowly, I am feeling somewhat human. Though, of course, the diarrhea hasn’t given up trying to kill me.  I counter its vicious attacks with a chemical carpet bombing of Gatorade and Live-Culture acidophilus pills.

I’d really like this to be the worst thing that will ever happen to me, but I known I am just not that lucky.

As for whether this was a case of Salmonella or not, who knows? If it wasn’t, I sincerely pity the people who’ve had it worse.

If anybody needs me, I’ll be in the bathroom…freshening up.

Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:

*Hint: it was not a Law & Order Marathon either.

**I’m looking at you, Vishnu, you beautiful blue man. Although, Shiva the Destroyer makes more sense in the circumstances.

***Kefir – the sound you involuntarily make after tasting fermented yogurt drink. Which tastes just as bad as it sounds.

 


Feature image stolen from UK Pinterest site. Please forgive me, I have no energy or desire to get my own watermelon and recreate your excellent work.  Although, Gallagher’s work on expressing rage by smashing fruit with a giant mallet is starting to make a great deal more sense to me now.

Watching Plants Grow and Avoiding Murder

Annual Heirloom Plant Sale

For anyone not neck-deep in the hat-phantasmic hoopla surrounding the royal wedding, allow me to present a less drama-soaked alternative: watching plants grow!

*

It occurs to me, that I have watched too many episodes of Midsomer Murders–a British television show on air since 1997 that refuses to die no matter how many casting changes occur.*

If you know the genre, there typically is a picturesque village holding a Medieval Faire with costumed residents oozing quaintness and exhibiting occasional homicidal tendencies.

If you are unfamiliar, I recommend a movie by Simon Pegg called “Hot Fuzz” that crystallizes the best and worst bits about the deceptively serene English countryside:

The thing that captures my attention more than the body count, is the number of community fêtes thrown. There’s like, what, one every episode? It makes me wonder if it is a national British pastime to dress in Ye Olde itchy togs and con people into playing cheesy parlor games for the sake of the church roof fund!

This brings me to today’s topic: American Block Parties.

Most block parties are an organized potluck gathering on barricaded side streets with no other function than to bring a community together to eat. Saturday gives me the opportunity to attend one that is equal parts British Fête Fundraiser and old-fashioned American street festival.

The occasion calls for a gathering of myriad talents to raise awareness and funds for the aptly named Wellhouse. The day’s event is the 6th Annual Heirloom Plant Sale.

Wellhouse is a community program that buys local houses, renovates dilapidated neighborhoods, and provides housing and skills training for formerly homeless residents. They also promote a ‘growing’ community with an emphasis on sustainable practices and energy conservation along with farm gardening.**

Wellhouse hosts a plant sale each year. You go for the plants. You stay for that little something extra you won’t find at your local greenhouse: community!

At first, I beeline to pick up the greenery I want to fill out the barren landscape choked with crabgrass and despair that is my backyard.

Community Plants
Sadly no one was dressed in a jester’s motley with tinkling bells on their pointy hat. On the upside, no one was murdered either.

Per usual, my teenage son has a trajectory of his own.

I keep dragging the man-child away from one table in particular. (I need to ogle flowers with exotic names like ‘Clemson’ and ‘Hyssop’, don’tcha know.)

Coco Renee Specialty Baking
Even better than they look. Seriously dangerous baked goods by Coco Reneé.

I promise my child a specialty cupcake just so I can plant shop. (Twist my arm.)

I don’t know how good the chocolate cupcake with chocolate whipped frosting was, I just know it took my son less time to inhale said cupcake than it took to remove the wrapper.

I pick the one with the raspberry garnish.

I have no regrets.

If you want more rib-sticking eats, you might hit up the royalty-hued catering provided by Purple Blaze, a hybrid of Southern and Ethiopian cooking.

Purple Blaze

Sadly, I have no time to sample their fare, mostly because the boy-child is pushing me to go, however, even I as a non-meat eater have to say the wafting odor of barbecue is positively mouth watering.

Purple Blaze BBQ
Smelled good enough to make me question my vegetarian leanings.

You wouldn’t think there is be more in store at the festivities, but you’d be wrong. The gray, overcast sky can’t put a damper on the upbeat spirits.

There are white-tented tables with various arts for sale. My arms are mostly full of greenery, but I stop to admire the selections.

There were some truly amazing prints to peruse courtesy of Red Hydrant Press.

Calligraphy Art
Putting the ‘Press’ back into printing.

And fabulous arts of the crafted clay variety provided by WMCAT or the West Michigan Center for Arts & Technology.

Here’s CC showing off her colorful floral-designed Pot:

CC - Clay Pot

Before long, my son is dragging me toward our Prius in a desperate bid for freedom, but I chat and take pictures as if this isn’t killing him slowly.

CC Alayna and Teacher
From left to right: Teacher Jo Nicholson with students, CC and Alayna, kindly posing for no reason or explanation at all. Really, they are lucky I’m not a serial killer.

Moving between lazy droplets of rain, it is possible to find your smile while listening to The Fabulous Vans.

The Fabulous Vans
From left to right: Ryan Gravelle (wearing the cat shirt his girlfriend gave him), Timmy Van on guitar, and daughter, Sierra Van, on ukelele and vocals.

As I am packing up my car to go, I chat with the guitarist who is setting up for a performance. We exchange brief biographies, the way strangers do.***

I point to my kid who is slumping, hang-dog, in the car since mommy isn’t hopping to like he hopes. Timmy points to his daughter, Sierra, still polishing off some ribs at a nearby picnic table. He brags about her musicality and involvement in local choirs.

You wouldn’t be biased about her talents at AlL?” I joke.

Her dad laughs and denies partiality, “Of course not.”

We talk about kids and music for a bit.

I bemoan my teenager’s rebellion against piano and ask whether he has to badger her to follow in her father’s footsteps? He assures me that she’s the one who wants sing.

He can’t say enough great things about her. Apparently, she’s even influenced the music they play.

“We usually play classic rock covers–like Led Zepplin’s “A Whole Lot of Love” but Sierra sings from some of her favorites: Twenty-One Pilots or One Republic.”

“I’m sorry,” I interrupt him. “Did you say Twenty-one Republics?”

He corrects me without laughing, much. By now, the rest of the band has loped over, and agrees to stage a picture for me. I hear them play as I drive away. Their enthusiasm isn’t in the least dampened by the drizzly venue.

*

I spent the rest of the day trying to plant things while simultaneously killing as many weeds as I can.

In the spirit that embodies fine British murder mystery programming, there’s been a summer fête, someone has to die!

Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:

*Regarding Midsomer’s Suspicious Death Rate: I do wonder how a fictional hamlet apparently no bigger than Rhode Island can survive quadruple homicides on a weekly basis without running out of people?

**I totally stole the Wellhouse information from a flyer available at the front table.

***Even though we all know about serial killers, no one expects them. They are like the Spanish Inquisition this way.

 

Keeping it Arboreal for Mother’s Day

If mothers were trees…would they be like these?

A speculative look at the similarity between maternal instinct and cultivated bonsai architecture.* 

Seeing the forest for the trees.

Forest for the Trees
Five. Five is the perfect number. No more. No Less. Unless you are speaking of children, and then five is just an insane amount. Any more than five is asking to be committed. (Ahem…Cousin C–I’m looking at you!)

Birch trees, with their snow-white bark always make me think of the Robert Frost poem–Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening–the last lines of which could be an anthem for motherhood:

“The woods are lovely, dark and deep,   
But I have promises to keep,   
And miles to go before I sleep,   
And miles to go before I sleep.”
I invite you to explore with me some leafy-themes of being a mom.
Into the woods we go…

Some mothers are worth-less.

Shaky Legs
“I feel like they’ve put me on a pedestal. But I’m one broken-string away from a complete collapse.”

It is very hard to know your own worth even when people are kind and reassuring.

Mom 1: “Of course jelly beans can fit up the nose–the manufacturers designed them that way. “

Mom 2: “Oh yeah. It’s a nose-picking conspiracy all right. The sugar syndicates are in cahoots with the emergency after-hours clinics, I’m sure of it.

Even with an abundance of fertilizer, it can be hard to feel like a properly formed fir.

It helps to surround yourself with like-minded trees.

Join a collective–be unique in a crowd

Collective 2
The kids may be driving us toward deciduous anarchy but we are firs. We stay green!  (Except for the one one in the yellow pot. But, don’t worry. She’ll be back, ready to tackle the seedlings in spring.)

Real friends let you know it’s okay to be a small tree in a big garden.

We grow at our own pace and, yeah, some of us have perky petals, but most of us are just clinging to our own mossy kingdom trying not to kick out the dirt holding us together.

 

Other mothers are hard to miss–always the belle of the ball.

Razzamataz
Look at me! See, I’m special and unique and you must admire me!

It’s hard not to compare yourself to the mom who looks like she’s got it all under control.

But maybe, she only let’s you see her when she is at her best.

I like to think this bonsai goes home to put on a pair of sweat pants and binge watch Dancing with the Stars while eating Chunky Monkey straight from the carton.

Lean into parenting sharp edges

Uncomfortable Balance
“Just one more load of laundry and then I can sleep….”

Sure, lean into the wind.

Face your battles.

But also, be willing to admit when you are unbalanced.

All work and no play makes mommy a crab apple.

Dwarfed by expectations

 

 

David and Goliath_Inked
“I am mighty…” said the tiny bonsai tree. 

I measure myself against an impossible standard: the mom I want to be versus the mom I am.

Sometimes, it’s okay to just be the cute-little-mom-that-could.

Be at peace with your adorable limitations.

Postage Stamp Bonsai
“I am Groot.”

The tiniest seed still blooms if you give it enough attention.

That rule applies to you as much as your children.

Fake it until the glazed pot fits!

Blue Bowl and Bonsai with Rock

You may feel like you are coming apart at the seams.

You need a solid foundation and a rock to lean upon.

That’s okay. Go do something nice for yourself.

Buy a glazed ceramic pot to squat in.

Sometimes, all it takes is a pretty package.

Never give up!

Never Give Up Never Surrender
“Is it chilly in here, or is it me?’

Just when you are suffering root rot…

That’s when it’s your time to find that inner strength to keep blooming.

Even when you feel dead from the crown down.

 

Moms meltdown too.

Burnt Bonsai
After a fire, the forest is reborn in the ashes.

It happens.

We all lose our cool.

Try not to burn any bridges while you blaze away.

Remember: Spring returns each year.

Floral and Rooted
Even when your roots are showing–there is still beauty there. Share the joy.

Whatever your parenting challenges…

If you just can’t pack one more lunch or pick up one more pair of underwear…

Those tangled roots that are tying you in knots and weigh you down?

They are also the ones that lift you up and make you an absolutely beautiful mom.

 

Asterisk Bedazzled Footnote:

*Bonsai Parenting Archetypes–an excruciatingly root-bound analogy.

 

Bonsai Moms
To my very own Bonsai Mom. 

My mom agreed to join me at my favorite place on earth for mother’s day.

The bonsai show was such a nice surprise!

Mom admired the petite jardins–even if she was drawn to the biggest brutes on the lot!

Majestic Pine
Mom’s favorite dominated the competition. I wonder what that suggests about her bonsai traits?

 

__________________________________________________________________

Thank you for joining me for a retrospective of the Mother’s Day bonsai bonanza at Meijer Gardens. I highly recommend you attend the special exhibits like these, or, failing that, stopping by to enjoy my obsessive photography habit.

Skinny-Jeans, Heart Attacks and Crayon Calamities

 

“Hello, this is the VA triage line, how may I help you?” The female voice on the other end of the line is calm and reassuring.

“I think I’m having a heart attack.” Me, not at all calm or reassured.

“What symptoms are you having?” The triage nurse asks.

“It felt like someone stabbed me in the heart with an ice pick.” I say, holding a hand to my chest as if I could somehow prevent a relapse. “Can I go to the VA for this?”

“Ma’am, if you think you are having a heart attack, you should go to an emergency room.”

And so starts a most bizarre week with not one but two emergency room visits for what have to be the dumbest reasons ever.

I wish I were making this up.

*

Art - Angry Crayons
Thank you to the first grader, Phoenix K. who drew my sentiments so aptly.

Despite it being a snow day in April, Monday, which is also Tax Day in America, has been mostly uneventful. After a weekend trapped in the house due to an ice storm, you’d think the kid would be climbing the walls. But no, the boy child is thrilled being home and is keeping himself entertained. I’m firmly ensconced in sloth, enjoying Supernatural reruns on this lazy afternoon. So, I am totally unprepared for the Grim Reaper to make a house call.

I am a borderline hypochondriac. Even I have a hard time taking myself seriously. One of the surest signs that I’m not that sick? I talk about it. I kvetch. I whine. I exaggerate the nature of my near-death experiences. (Spoiler alert.)

I suspect that, somewhere deep down in my soul, I believe I can stave off something really bad happening if everything is a joke—an opera of misadventure and suspense resolved with a laugh or two. But when something rears its cackling death skull, I get quiet. Really quiet.  That is, until I can laugh about it again.

When the pick ax struck, I wasn’t laughing.

Here I am, mid heart-attack, maybe, and I’m staring at my autistic teenager who I can in no way take with me to an emergency room. What can I do? I don’t call an ambulance. No, I call my mom.

“Hi, you caught me in the middle of something.”* Mom tells me.

“I’m sorry to bother you, and I wouldn’t, except I have a problem. I might be having a heart attack.” I insert quickly.

“What are your symptoms?”

I tell her the details in brief and end with, “I spoke with the VA nurse and they suggested I go to the emergency room.”

“You know it’ll cost you a thousand dollars to go to an E.R.!” That’s my mom, ever the frugal one.

“Yeah, but I suspect ignoring a heart attack will cost me more.” I say.

She doesn’t argue with this. Like the trooper she is, mom drops everything to come watch my boy.

Fifteen minutes after that, I pull up to the nearest after-hours emergency center. I park and am through the door as fast as someone who thinks they are dying can manage.

Let me just boil down the results into one exchange:

“Were you doing anything strenuous or feeling particularly anxious when the pain occurred?”

“No…not really. I was sitting on the couch watching tv. I didn’t feel anxiety about anything.” I say, but then a thought occurs to me. “Uh…I was wearing a pair of skinny jeans though, and they are kinda tight. I might have been taking shallow breaths—maybe I was hyperventilating without knowing it? Could that cause heart problems?”

“Skinny jeans do not cause heart attacks.” The doctor reassures me. “The E.K.G. shows no signs of problems. You have no edema. No signs of a clot. We’re going to label this non-cardiac chest pain.  We’re releasing you, but make sure to follow up with your physician”

On the way to the med center, I was making all sorts of promises to do better. To get more exercise. To eat right. To take care of myself and my son the way I should.

On the way home, I bought celebratory donuts and, once mom had departed, lounged in my yoga pants, taking deep, even breaths, while licking frosting.

Art - King Evil Gingerbread Man
I am sad that Presley made King Gingerbread Man the evil villain. Personally, I think Gingerbread should be king for how much fun it is–what other cookies can be made into houses? I ask you!

This would be the end of my tale, taking a moment to laugh at the fleeting promises we make to be better people when we think our life is on the line, except that it’s not the only faux emergency I’m going to have this week. It’s not even the weirdest one.

No, this happens Friday.

My mom, the boy child, and I are scheduled to go to the local Art and Chocolate Walk which is an exhibit of local school children’s artwork at area businesses. It’s a favorite event of mine—not so much my son though. So partly, I blame him for what happens next and, in hindsight, it’s pretty damned ironic.**

We are in the parking lot beside the local mom and pop restaurant, mom gets out of her car, chatting on the phone with my brother. I’m trying to lure my child with the promise of chocolates and a walk.

He is having none of it and plops down on the sidewalk, sulking like a big dog who’s lost his favorite chew toy.

I run to grab his headphones, hoping that with one sensory battle tackled, he might tolerate the crowded venues. When I get back, I come up against Grandma On The Rampage.

“Have you seen his eyes?” Mom asks me.

[Note: she’s able to look into her grandson’s eyes right now only because he is sitting practically on the ground. He towers over both of us.]

“He’s autistic. Do you know how hard it is to look him in the eyes?” I say not a bit defensively.

“You need to be more careful and pay attention.” Mom adds, as if she never left me at my grandparents for days when I was a kid with a raging sore throat that ended up being a streptococcus virus my grandmother treated by swabbing my tonsils with Merthiolate on a Q-Tip.

So, plans canceled, I drag my kid at 5:00 o’clock on a Friday to the same exact emergency after-hours med center for treatment of what might be an eye infection or blocked tear duct.Eyeball

 

I do not ask my child if he needs a doctor—he rarely tells me when he does need one—so I just skip straight to the E.R. visit. I now wonder what he might have said…or may have been trying to tell me.

We are at the front desk and I’m handing over the medical cards and explaining our purpose of our visit and my son picks through his perpetual tin of crayons and markers to extract a red stub of an oily pastel he has no doubt stolen from the school art supplies.

I snatch it and its subsequent twin from his hand and wrap them up in tissues I nab from the front desk.

“Sorry, these can make a terrible mess if I let him have them.” I apologize.***

We are shuttled to a quiet room which my son inspects with the skills of a burglar—testing all the cabinets and drawers for contraband.

Art - Spectrum Health
I had to use Cecily’s work once I saw that she’d drawn a Spectrum Health medical professional. They all deserve monuments for what I put them through this week

The nurse who inspects my son and gets his vitals is noncommittal. She sends in an intern…or a trainee nurse practitioner of some kind. Maybe the first nurse suspects and wants to see if the newbie can figure it out.

Anyhow, it takes this young lady less than two minutes to identify the problem. She’s eyeballing his hands and I dismiss her concern that it’s any kind of blood.

“No, that’s just the pastel crayons he likes to play with.” I say…and that’s when it hits me. “Oh no. You don’t think…?”

She says nothing, instead, she wets a tissue and washes a smear of red off of my son’s hands. She gets another square wet, asking cautiously, “You don’t think he’ll mind if I dab his eye?” With assurances, she gently taps at the inside corner of his eye—which before this moment, looked like an inflamed nightmare—and, of course the red comes off after a few brushes with the napkin.

“Do you have a medical code for crayons? Something that doesn’t cost too much?” I ask, lamely.

“I’ll pick the cheapest code I can find.” She promises me.

I suppose, I’ll have to take comfort from that. If not from the fact that my son, who has since caught a virus and is home sick, suffered only from an overexposure to art crayons if not actual art exhibits. (Though you’ll note I did manage to go see a few displays which I promptly stole for this blog post.)

As for my chest pain, you’ll be happy to know it isn’t fatal. The stabbing sensation wasn’t in my heart—or in my head—at all. With a few pointed jabs of her finger to my sternum, Dr. B at the VA diagnosed it as costochondritis—or an inflammation of the cartilage area near the breastbone. You’d think I would be grateful.

I believe I put it a little less tactfully.

“Sonofabitch! Maybe you shouldn’t poke that hard!”

There’s no pleasing some people.

Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:

*This is a euphemistic was of saying, she was on the potty. I hope both you and she appreciate my sensitivity in this delicate matter.

**Really, it’s like he was saying: “So, you like art, do you? How do you feel about self expressionism or the artist as the medium?”

***For those of you who have already put two-and-two together, wait for people as slow as me to do the math. Let’s not spoil the adventure, shall we?