Category Archives: Crisis DuJour

50 Shades of Earl Grey Crème…

Wanted: A naughty cup of tea with a bergamot bite.

I’m on my knees.

I’m begging for relief.

Aching for that particular and distinct pleasure that only a true acolyte of the libatious arts can attain. But alas…

My cup is empty.

I am truly lost without my Earl Grey Crème.



The week I learned that Teavana was going to close its doors, I went straight to the mall, plunked down a piece of plastic and ordered an obscene amount of tea–something near 7 pounds–because that was the minimum I could order to get 30% off the total price. I did not even look at the receipt when I signed it. No price was too high a cost to pay.*

You think 7 pounds doesn’t sound like a lot?  Imagine the backpack sized tea parcels they gave me–I’m sure I looked like a tea mule smuggling fine grade, uncut pure leaf addiction–I’d show you…but I drank it all.

In less than a year, my precious was gone.

My Precious
Thanks to: for coming up with a Gollum/Tea meme.


I swore I wouldn’t buy any more tea until I have drunk some of the thousands of other teas in the many, many containers I already possess.

You think I’m kidding?

I’m not.

Tea Time 2
I have issues. Crazy, manic, matcha-based issues.


I’ve stuck by my resolution not to succumb to temptation. Not to bend. Not to splay myself prostrate crying

Why have the tea gods abandoned me? WHY?”

I’ve been sucking down Twinnings Chai to sublimate my desires. I sugar it. I even use the latte foamer that makes me feel like a pampered princess…until I have to clean it.




I am now hunting for a replacement.

How hard can it be to find a fragrant facsimile?

A delicious doppleganger?

A tantalizing taste bud teaser to pleasure the palate? A tea that will make me whimper when it’s gone bottom’s up!**

I’m putting out an ad to the area tea purveyors:

“I’m a sweet young thing looking for the bad boy I’ve been missing…oh where, oh where is my Earl Grey Crème?

Fortunately, the internet is ready to cater to most discerning clientele.

Clickety, click, ka-ching!

So, bring on the Adagio Moonlight loose leaf and the Earl Grey Crème wares of Art of Tea–I can’t wait to sample your charms!***

Hurry to me, my darling. I’m waiting for you!

Asterisk Bedazzled Footnote:

*I lied. I did look at the receipt. The total was shocking, and this was after the discount. And, though I did not faint, it was only because I was afraid I would drop my complimentary cup of tea in the process.

**I want a tea that will own me, make me say “Thank you! May I have another!”

***This post may be a sign that I need an intervention…or a really dominant cup of tea.



On Grey Days…Beware Bedeviling Baked Goods

February is the grayest month of the year and I can prove it;  even my cooking is suffering a major depressive disorder.


I love to throw things into a pot and see what happens. Sometimes I end up with a miraculous, delicious invention that could hold it’s own in a modest kitchen stadium.


And then, there are those unfortunate choices we live to regret.*

Dinner started out as basic boiled root vegetables. I had carrots, potatoes, onions, a red cabbage. I figured, “Ah heck, who cares if everything is vaguely pink?”

…then I remembered I had the makings of a nice green curry. So, I just kept tossing things in: peas, peppers, coriander, lemon grass, fish sauce, chicken, coconut milk…

Red Cabbage Swamp
Unintentional Red Cabbage Massacre


Red cabbage is so good in many things, but not as a visual aid in Green Curry Recipes. And purple curry is just WRONG!

Every time I made the mistake of looking at my meal, I felt like an institutional stew from a psych ward was staring back at me.

At least it tasted okay…as long as you closed your eyes.

Dessert was not so lucky.

It’s been a long week. My son has had more snow days, half-days and doctor’s visits than usual. I’m starting to twitch trying to keep him occupied.

So, I decided to make some cupcakes…from a box mix.

I think to myself, “You can’t go wrong with a box mix.”**

Then I remembered I wanted to try mixing in a box of pudding…so I go to the internet.

I whip everything together. Plunk some festive papers in the cupcake tray and pop those bad boys in the oven for forty-five minutes at 350 degrees, just like the cobbled-together recipe online says.

I’m watching reruns of Supernatural. The Winchesters battle God’s sister for the sake of the universe and the loving scent of vanilla wafts through the house. The oven is so warm that I can feel my toes thawing.

All is well with the world.

Supernatural Cupcakes
I searched for images of ‘Supernatural Cupcakes’ thinking I’d find Sam and Dean draped in suggestive poses covered in pastry. Alas, I did not. But the internet did not disappoint. Admire these hexed treats. I’m in awe of you, Justina Kropp/Pinterest.

Time passes. I’m distracted by a noise, pause my show, and I get up to check it out when I  realize there is still about fifteen minutes left on the oven timer…

And that’s when it hits me.

Cupcakes are not cakes. Not really. They are precocious infants that might someday grow up to be real desserts.

And they don’t take 45 minutes to bake.

Surprisingly, what I took out of the oven wasn’t entirely inedible.***

“I’ll just make a fantastic frosting and hide my crimes.” I say, with desperate bravado, the hallmark of self delusion.

Back to the internet I go…because I am a slow learner.

I wanted to make a ganache…a rich, chocolatey, mouth-gasm of a frosting.

Ganache, for those of you who don’t know, is fecking awesome when done correctly.

That last part is important.

This is what I made instead:

Crappy Cupcake 1
This really needs the sound track to the shower scene from Psycho. That’s how big a tragedy this was.


“How bad were these cupcakes?” You ask.

I’ll show you.

Exhibit A:

Cupcake vs Mango
I gave my teenage son a choice…cupcake or mango.


I myself was curious to learn whether there was any kind of sugary confection my son would turn down.

This was his answer….

Cupcake vs Mango 2
Yeah. That’s pretty damning.


So, I did the only thing a sad baker can do.

(Besides eat two anyway because. Denial!)

Garbage Cakes
Good Bye, nasty garbage cakes!

They clung to the tray as if saying, “We’re not that bad…give us a chance.”

But no. Sometimes, it’s better, healthier, to let go of the things we cannot change.

And that includes damaged baked goods.

Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:

*Recipes, like horses, should never be changed mid-stream.

**I was wrong. Horribly, disastrously wrong. This was the monstrous amalgamation of inattention paired with random recipe Googling–creating a cake-tastrophy.

***But they were totally indelible.

Calendar Mom Drops the Holiday Ball

Crass Consumerism Lite Show




Dear All,

I am spending Christmas Day writing cards to friends because, apparently, I am living the holidays backward. And it started off so promising too…

The cookies were baked and frosted in early December…ready to be handed out to teachers and neighbors instead of requiring exhausting shopping jaunts and wrapping to accomplish. Ta dah!

*She gloated and lo’ the gods of irony did take notice.* 

So, of course, the minute I added the last dragée sprinkle, I came down with the worst bubonic nasal funk, like, EVER. I didn’t dare hand out the frosted ones out to anyone…I liked.

We’ve been eating them all in lieu of chicken soup. (Note: I make something like 100 cookies each season.)


Cookies 2017
Over-sprinkle much?


As a result of the plague, all shopping was done last minute. Like on Saturday, or as I was calling itthe Eve of Christmas.

I gritted my teeth and plowed through the tinsel strewn madness in a frantic bid not to throttle my fellow man–just so I’d have presents to hand out at the family gathering.*

I stayed up all night Saturday wrapping the last-minute what-nots decorated with frills and furbelows and wondering why BBC America wasn’t showing the much-awaited Dr. Who Christmas special.

*A clue, she has not.*

Dizzy with a stuffy head, thrown by the fact I work from home and days are marked by whether I have to shove my kid on a bus or not, things are spectacularly wonky. Festivities happen in spastic fits and starts if they happen at all. To be perfectly blunt, I’m off! In fact, I am so off in my order of traditional holiday crapola, that we celebrated early.

LIKE…a DAY early.

I woke Sunday thinking that it was Monday because I saw a mail van delivering to the house next door. So, Santa came early. I made the traditional pop-n-fresh, cinnamon rolls from a Pillsbury can baked into the shape of a lumpy Christmas tree the way my mom always made for us when we were kids. My son happily opened his giant tube of popcorn and his Orville Redenbacher fun-fun air popper.

It is only after the morning is gone and all the presents are opened that I realize…oh, wait. It’s only the 24th.

Christmas Comes Early - Cinnamon Roll Tree
No…his shirt says “PUCK”…though I understand why you might be confused.


So, here we are, December 25th with nothing to celebrate. The snowy day precludes the emergency ‘road trip’ that I blankly promised my son yesterday with the caveat “If the weather is good.”**

And we woke to this…

Old Man Winter
Neon depiction of actual weather event – The Old Man Winter Blow-Out White Sale!


This wouldn’t be so all-fired tragic if it weren’t for the irony of it all.

My kid, the Calendar King, said NOT ONE WORD about the fact mommy was off by a day.***  I guess all kids dreams of Christmas coming early. This does explain the kind of puzzled looks he kept giving me when I told him to keep opening his presents though…

So, Happy Holidays to everyone… and I might as well wish you Happy New Year. I’ll be with you in spirit/s next Saturday as we toast farewell to 2017!  Because who in their right mind would put New Years on a Sunday of all things! Am I right?

Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:

*I was shocked to find other people shopping and leaving me with no place to park but the butt-end of the parking lot. Seriously, why weren’t they all home with their families and snug in their beds?

**Note: all weather is good weather for travel according to my son. The roads could be melting with lava, hail could be denting the roof and Pteradactyls might be making a bid to return from the primordial ooze from which they sprung and he’d still say, “Car ride?”

***Yeah yeah. I know. Non-verbal autistic. But he could have pointed to a calendar or something!


My soul is tHe sound of brEakIng glaSs.

When MY son goes mad.

The sight of a bread macHinE thrown to the floor is Almost funny when it bounces.

Pounding fists, biting, scReaming.

HysTeria is catching.

ScreaMing is too.


“What is your emergencY?”

The police are not the ones who can HElp…but they stAnd by, as helpless as I

HeaRTbeat crashIng, craShing, crashing.


“Take this pill. Now this. And this.”

The doctor is a distant voice: “…he needs an inpatient mental health admission”

A long time coming

Following the amBulance thRough the rain…

Or maybe they are tEArs?

Hours waiting.


Questions without answers

“He’s just too strong for me now.”

Five people hold down my son for blood tests that reveal nothing wrong.

Vecta trance descends as digital projections swirl and spool

“We have no place for your son. He doesn’t fit the requirement of need.”

Home again, drugged complacence.

What will we do tomorrow…and the next tomorrow…and the next?

Every day is an undetonated hand grenade

You never Know when It will go off

You are grateful wheN it doesn’t.

Until it does.

I scrub blood from my sleeve and watch it swirl down the drain…

Along with the happiness the rest of the day promised.

The clock reads midniGht

It is a new day.


The author is recovering. So her is son. Please be kind. I may not have the strength to answer any questions. Read between the lines above. It says it all.

For now, my son is home and doing as best as can be expected. He suffered no major physical injury. Nor did I. But I need time to recover anyway.

November is National Novel Writers Month. I typically participate and am trying to find the enthusiasm to do so. I may not have energy to respond, but that does not mean I do not appreciate encouragement and understanding.

I will bounce back from this…I am like my bread machine that way.

But not yet.


Storm Warning: Falling Hammers Predicted

My son is going through puberty, either that, or its some kind of neuro-toxic brain frenzy that can only be communicated via decimating household fixtures. He is a raging tempest of mass destruction. Not to mock anyone in Texas or Puerto Rico going through their own recovery efforts, but, I swear my son is a force 5 hurricane leaving ruin in his wake. I am suffering my own tropical depression as a result.

In the past few weeks, my son ripped the hand towel loop from the wall, broke the stairwell banister rail by kicking it senseless and lastly, this weekend, tore the shower curtain rod from the bathroom.

My hulking teen has declared war and there is no Geneva Convention to protect me from his intermittent rages. The house is the ultimate casualty. Due to financial constraints, I can no longer throw good money away hiring someone to undo the damage on the home front. So, instead, I try to tackle repairs myself.

Cue Maniacal Laughter…

As a result, I swear, my house is laughing at me. It’s a soundtrack that erupts in evil snickering whenever I hunt for elusive tools.*

I managed to get through reinstalling the towel rack—placing it just far enough away from the patch to expose my inept sanding job—I have blindingly bright towels to keep people from noticing.**

Well-Hung Towel
It is hoped that the next homeowner will never look under the bracket cap to discover the third hole…

The bannister was actually the easiest fix of all. Though, dragging a reluctant teenager on a Dora Explorer hunt for the replacement part wasn’t fun. We wandered the lonely, orange-bedecked Home Depot aisles hunting the rare and mysterious hook thingy that connects the bannister to the wall. I really wished a talking map would pop out of nowhere to sing me some directions.


Handrail Bracket and Flanges
This is called a handrail bracket, in case you ever need to find one. I’d advise you hire an experienced sherpa to guide you.


Wisely, I took the broken parts with me when I went to replace it. My ability to identify obscure fixtures by name is not a key skill set. Hell, I can’t even remember most people’s names, none less the crazy vernacular home repair people give to their doohickies and whatnots!

Me at a hardware store: “I need a thingamajiggy for the whosie-whatsit that holds the toilet floaty ball rooster in place!”

After tackling these minor household projects, I had unrealistic expectations that I could fix whatever came next.

Hanging Brackets - Take Two
Note: these can be installed in several directions…but only one of them is correct!


When the shower curtain came crashing down, leaving the bent remains of the bracket drunkenly stuck to the side of the wall, I was given an opportunity—to fail. It was a most ego-mashing, hubris-drenched experience. I would like to point out, my ultimate goal in this project was to do the replacement as easily as possible—to reduce my stress.

If you would like to take a moment and let that sink in…my goal was “Easy” and “No Stress.”

Okay, you may continue reading…

The War of the Shower Curtain Reenacted In Agonizing Detail.

I highly recommend you turn this into a drinking game and do shots whenever I do something boneheaded or death-defying that makes you laugh snot bubbles.

Dear Diary: It’s been five days I haven’t had a shower; things are beginning to smell.

I have purchased no less than four…COUNT THEM…FOUR shower curtain rods—two on the same day. Goldilocks wasn’t this frickin indecisive.

First Curtain Rod--Some Assembling Incomprehensible
Warning: Comes With Steep Learning Curve.


The first one had the wrong holes—they wouldn’t line up with the ones originally drilled into the wall. The second one (see above) had the right holes…but to hang it, they had to be drilled vertically, not horizontally. Did not figure this out until I got it home though. Back to the store I went.

On my third trip to Home Depot, I found the exact same pole as the original one my son wrecked. Brace yourself for the victory song of the misguided:

“Ah ha.” I said to myself, “This will be easy. This will take seconds and it costs next to nothing compared to the more elaborate options. Bingo, Bango, Bongo. Kiri for the Win!”

Then I got it home and this happened:

Third Curtain Rod
No, this is not a tension rod. I’m a moron, not an idiot.

I could have tackled this using my hack saw. I could have measured and asked the store to cut it down. I could have listened to several wise friends who point-blank told me, “Get a tension sprung rod and stop b*tching about this.”

I could have saved myself…but I didn’t.

Faced with the unconquered space of drilling and hanging something that absolutely required precise measurement—on opposite walls, no less—with an uncertain hand-and-myopic-eye coordination, I feared installing a curtain rod the way some untrained people might have qualms about performing open-heart surgery or tackling Mount Everest in a blizzard.

But I was on a suicide mission and no amount of reason or serendipity was going to save me. I was going to tackle this monster project if it killed me. It almost did.

I gave myself a home improvement pep talk:

“You are a curtain coward. You have hated that poorly hung rod for over a year. That awkward draping fabric that clings, molding to your naked torso in a taunting embrace, whenever you shower. F*ck that clammy liner sideways! You can drill that bastard a new one! You will level that line. Your plumbs will hang straight down!”

[I have mentioned I don’t have a clue what I am doing in this arena, right?]

So, unwarranted optimism in tow, I purchase a fourth curtain rod in three days and drag it home, like a dead, brushed-nickel deer, an impending trophy to be hung.


Of my talents as a home project installer, the less said, probably the better. However, I shall impart some things I learned from my major effort of that fateful Tuesday:

    1. Before leaving the parking lot, check to make sure you already own all the tools you will need to install said product. When in doubt, buy that 3/16th drill bit just in case.
    2. After a second run to Home Depot to buy the missing bit, you will then discover that the reason your previous curtain rod hung funny is because it was installed crookedly. One of your shower walls is ½ an inch shallower than the other. It will take you 2 hours of repeat measuring to figure this out however.
    3. No online video will warn you of the ‘exceptions’ to installation. I at least did not attempt to videotape myself while drilling the walls. I’m not a complete moron. (I.E.–There is no proof that can be held against me in a lawsuit—or to undermine one if I decided to seek damages.)
    4. However, I was dumb enough to balance a hammer on a towel rack, set a tape measure, dry erase marker, and several other miscellaneous items on various soap-covered surfaces in the tub while I danced drunkenly along the ceramic balance beam twirling this way and that trying to find the center point where I would start drilling. I’m lucky I didn’t break my neck. No, I am not exaggerating
    5. If you get the bright idea to:

a.) use left-over window cling film to try and create a drilling template, be warned that,

b.) the blue hairspray you were saving for your Halloween Costume will bleed through said holes, leaving an indistinct mess on the film, and it will strip the color from the hardware that it touches, so, please, for the love of all that is holy. DON’T!

c.) don’t try this because it will turn out that, while ‘fake frosted window film’ does cling to surfaces, no amount of static electricity will keep that rubber disk from spinning out of alignment when the drill bit whirrs to life. (I am totally not making this up. This was my genius solution to the problems of installing level holes.)

6. If you leave the extension cord draped from the wall socket over to the bathtub and back, you will trip over the orange rip cord and bring the drill crashing down perilously close to impaling your foot and/or knocking a chunk of ceramic out of said tub. Flailing to avoid said impalement, you will knock the hammer off the precarious perch as homage to your Rube Goldberg reasoning skills.

7. If, against all odds, you do manage to get the mother-fracking $&@*! holes drilled correctly, you will discover upon mashing the screw anchors, and taking yet another trip to Home Depot, that they don’t sell the exact same size, frickin, anchors.


8. Once the entire ensemble is installed, and you are crowing that you managed to defy expectations and get it done right, you will find the last step—the simplest step–of snapping the mount cover in place does this instead:


I wonder what the recycling guy will make of the empty vodka and wine bottles in the trash?

Oh well…I can always buy more wine when I take the THRESHOLD 2-WAY MOUNT CURVED SHOWER ROD BRUSHED NICKEL FINISH back to the bedamned store where I bought it.***

Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:

*Let the Great Phillips Head Snipe Hunt commence! Is there some rule of home repair that says whatever drill bit you need, that’s the one that is missing? ‘Cause sure as shinola stinks, even if you do own one, it won’t be in your tool box when you need it.

**Leading people to say, “That is one well-hung towel!”

***I’m thinking the ‘Bull’s Eye’ logo on the building is a clue that someone is about to get hurt shopping there.

Down For The Count

Life is funny. And tragic. Sometimes it’s both. But mostly, it’s a fight to the finish.


Bathos Theater in Conjunction with the Below-the-Belt Boxing Federation Presents:

“A Low Blow”


Announcer: “In this corner, weighing it at 8000 pounds pressure per square inch, the reigning champion: LIFE!*

[LIFE bounces around in the corner wearing hardened leather gloves. Shiny, red satin shorts jiggle as the mammoth boxer warms up.]

Announcer: And in this corner, weighing it at… (looks down at card)… None-Of-Your-G.D.-Business, and facing the wrong way: The Czarrrrina of Pain!*

[Czarina looks down at pink Hello Kitty boxing gloves with perplexed bewilderment.]

Kiri-Czar: “Hey… there’s been some kind of mistake here.”

[Announcer walks to center ring, dragging reluctant Czarina along with him and holding a hand up to stop LIFE from plowing right over her before the bell rings.]

Announcer: (grabs dangling mic) “This fight will go ten rounds until one of the fighters is knocked out or their manager throws in a towel.”

Kiri-Czar: (looks frantically around) “Where’s a towel? Wait…where’s my manager? Somebody get me a manager…or a towel!”

Announcer: “Are you ready to RumbbbbbbbbBBBBBLLLLlleee?”

Kiri-Czar: “NO!”

LIFE: (snorts like bull, nostrils flare) “AaaROOOOOoooooOOOOOO!”

[Bell Rings *DING*]

Kiri-Czar: (holds up Hello Kitty clad hands) “Wait! You wouldn’t hit a girl with glasses, would you?”

LIFE: (swings) “Snarl!”

Kiri-Czar: (ducks frantically) “I guess you would.”

[The next five minutes are a slap-stick routine where the Czarina runs around the ring trying to hide behind an annoyed announcer while LIFE tries to pin her to the ropes. Brace yourself, sports analogies are not her forte.]

LIFE: (growls, dances back and forth) “Stop running away!”

Kiri-Czar: “Stop chasing me!”

[The Czarina grabs an oar from an audience member and WHACKS! LIFE over the head with it! LIFE shakes head as tiny yellow birds tweet in a circle around LIFE’s head.**]

Canoe 1
One hour into a 4 1/2 hour Canoe Trip. Still had energy to lift cell phone to take a picture.


LIFE: “Oh, so that’s how you wanna play it?” (grabs tweety bird, throws it at Czarina) “I whip the bird at you then!”

Kiri-Czar: (ducks bird) “That’s not how you whip someone the bird…” (tries to whip bird…stares at boxing glove) “Oh…right.”

[The Czarina raises the oar once again as LIFE stomps toward her. She swings. Misses. LIFE snatches oar with dismissive snort.]

LIFE: (breaks oar over knee) “You can run…but you can’t hide!”

Kiri-Czar: (slips behind Announcer) “Oh yeah!? Watch me!”

LIFE: “I’ll find you in the end. You should just give up now.”

Kiri-Czar: “Screw that.”

LIFE: “Oh, I plan to!”

[LIFE doubles back, pushing the announcer aside, and advances on the Czarina. Czarina grabs a tent and camp stove—holding them in front of her.]

Camping Tent
Before The End Came


LIFE: “Where do you think you’re going?”

Kiri-Czar: “Camping. What does it look like?”

LIFE: (rears, one arm back) “Hah. I don’t think so…”


Announcer: (Counting) “One Mississippi…”

[Czarina lies on floor, dazed, babbling about recent events.]

Kiri-Czar: “All I wanted to do was take him camping… he likes camping… ”

Announcer: (Counting) “Two Mississippi…”

Kiri-Czar: “Two nights, we made it two nights…and then…BAM! We are off to the emergency room at midnight.”

Pooped at the Hospital
Turns out he was just badly…uh…compacted. Took 3 hours and x-rays to confirm the problem. Sigh.


Announcer: (Counting) “Two-and-a-half Mississippi…”

Kiri-Czar (eyes announcer): “What happened to Three Mississippi?”

Announcer: “If I don’t count…LIFE gets to come over and stomp you until you get up again…”

Kiri-Czar: “What kind of crooked game is this?”

Announcer: “It’s the game of LIFE. Two-and-three-quarters Mississippi.”

Kiri-Czar: (scrambles upright) “Does that mean LIFE always wins?”

Announcer: “It means, no matter how you play, sometimes, you gotta lose.”

Kiri-Czar: “Well that’s just great.”


[Czarina drops to her knees and crawls through LIFE’s legs.]

LIFE: “Get back here punny human!”

Kiri-Czar: (stops to correct LIFE’s spelling): “I think you mean ‘Puny!’ ‘Punny’ would be like if I said I would called you a banana…except you have no appeal!”

Boxing Bananas
Found in Google search of ‘boxing puns’. Stolen from long-ass webpage link.



[LIFE lands a sharp jab—a sweet kiss to the Czarina’s glass jaw.]

Kiri-Czar: (staggers back, one drunken blue bird whizzing before her eyes) “Now, that’s a bird of a different color!”***

LIFE: (Feints left, crosses right) “That was a play on words. Not a pun!”


[Announcer looms over Czarina, counting while LIFE gloats.]

LIFE: “Just for that, your son gets chronic constipation and an addiction to popcorn.”

Kiri-Czar: (aghast) “Noooooo!”

LIFE: “Plus you have to give him this medicine for three days until he goes ‘Pop!’”

Kiri-Czar: “Don’t you mean poop?”

LIFE: (*evil smile*): “You’ll see.”

Announcer: (wheezing) “Two and ninety-nine-one hundredths Mississippi…”

Kiri-Czar: (staggers to feet) “That’s it. Go ahead. Pick on the little guy!”

[Wildly swinging, the Czarina advances throwing haymakers as she goes. She lands a glancing blow to LIFE’s bread basket.]

Kiri-Czar: “How do you like that, you…you big bazooka?”

LIFE: “Do you mean ‘Palooka?’”

[Czarina continues to piffle away at LIFE throwing more dope than rope. LIFE holds her off with one leather glove pushing against her sweaty forehead.]

Kiri-Czar: (winds up and swings): “Whatever! I’ve had it. I go canoeing. I go camping. And wherever I go, I get no peace. There is always this counter attack waiting to knock me down, every damned time I step in the ring. I’m beginning to feel like a punching bag. When am I gonna get a break?”

LIFE: “You want a break?”

Kiri-Czar: (Hello Kitty balled fists on hips) “Yes. Yes I do!”

LIFE: (shrugs) “Okay. If you say so.”

Announcer: (bellows into mic) “LIFE feints left and then crosses with a right hook to the head. Czarina’s glasses go flying. She’s blind now, ducking a barrage of punches. Hello Kitty gloves are no defense against LIFE. LIFE isn’t pulling it’s punches anymore. LIFE delivers a damaging blow to the kidneys. The injustice! There’s no Marquess of Queensberry here, folks! Next, the Czarina dodges a jab only to walk straight into an uppercut. Oooh, the Czarina’s on the ropes. The blows are pounding her like hail on a Kansas wheat field. LIFE is raining down. Rain is raining down. LIFE switches to KickBoxing and the Czarina takes a roundhouse to the noggin. The Czarina’s on the ground. She’s taken a beating, ladies and gentlemen. I don’t think she’ll be back up again for quite some time. I’m calling this fight. The Winner by KO and Ultimate Fight Champion of the World is…LIFE.”

[LIFE dances around the ring, both arms raised, pumping the air in victory. Stops to stand over the inert form of the Czarina sprawled on the floor. In the distance, the final bell *DINGS*.]

LIFE: (shouts) “Get the cutman…we’ve got a bleeder!”

[The crowd departs, LIFE raised on its shoulders. The loser is left in a pile on the floor, the white towel of surrender shrouding her face.]


*time passes*

Cutman: “C’mon, let’s get you patched up.”

Kiri-Czar: (wakes confused) “What…what happened?”

Cutman: “It’s 3:00 A.M. LIFE dropped a tree on your house and took out your electricity. Your kid is on the power laxatives for two more days. You get to stay home and wait for the shit to stop pouring in.”

Tree on Roof
My poor house and formerly new roof.


Kiri-Czar: (jaw drops) “WHAAAAAT? You’ve gotta be kidding me!”

Cutman: “You asked for a break from the routine chaos, right? You were tired of everything you’ve been dealing with, yeah?”

Kiri-Czar: “Uh…yeah. But, I didn’t ask for…” (looks around, gestures to the dark and utter chaos)… “THIS!”

Cutman: “LIFE’s tricky that way. You asked for a ‘break’…it gives you a ‘break.’” (points to tree on roof, shakes head) “You just gotta be grateful it wasn’t your leg! Or worse.”

Kiri-Czar: (holds ice to black eye) “Right…just, ask LIFE…no more breaks for me for a while, okay? Please?”

Cutman: (packing up gauze, tosses loose pinecone to the Czarina) “I can’t make any promises. But let’s agree…we won’t be complaining about ordinary LIFE so much after this, right? That’s what LIFE gives you…perspective. It can always be worse.”

Pinecone FInger
Yep. That pretty much sums it up.


Kiri-Czar: (raises pinecone in disbelief) “If life gives you lemons…you make lemonade. What’re you supposed to make with pinecones?”

Cutman: (looks around and the devastation/deforestation) “I don’t know…Pińa Coladas, maybe?”

Kiri-Czar: (wincing) “Ugh…what a terrible pun.”

[With a flourish, the Cutman whips off the surgical mask revealing the grinning face of LIFE.]

LIFE: (taps Czarina gently on the chin] “Nuh Uh! It’s a play on words, not a pun! I think someone’s had just enough PUN-ishment for one day.”

Kiri-Czar: “Ugh.”

Asterisk Bedazzled Footnote:

*Or, as my friend put it when she heard the news: “You’re some kind of shit magnet, you know that?”

**LIFE looks a bit like the HULK and MR. CLEAN had an angry, bilious baby.

***Look, coming up with sports-related puns was definitely not in my wheelhouse. And, even if it were, someone would probably drop a tree on it.

You’ve read the whole thing bonus:

I will be selling Roof Killer Pinecones at a reasonable price of $25.00. Drop me a line if you too want to plant this decimating conifer in your backyard.

And if anyone wants me, I’ll be at a cabin this weekend watching the campfire with a disturbing amount of pleasure as I watch the kindling burn.  Burn baby, burn!

The Smallest Cuts…

GlassesWe had another…incident. That’s how it feels, reporting these moments of autism-inspired flare-ups—like filing a police report. You can almost see the mirrored sunglasses glinting as the fictional officer approaches…

IO (imaginary officer): “What seems to be the trouble here?”

ME (me): “I…I…He…and then…”

IO: “Slow down, ma’am. Is anybody hurt?”

ME: (snuffles) “No. Well, just a little.” (rubs hand) “It’s nothing. I’m just crying.”

IO: (looks around) “By the side of the road?”

ME: (wails open-mouthed) “Yessss.”

IO: “Tell me what happened, ma’am.”

ME: (wipes snot) “I tried to take my son to the restaurant.”

IO: (gestures) “This one?”

ME: “Yes.”

IO: “And then what happened.”

ME: “Little Man refused to go in…but I made him. And then…” (tears well up again.)

IO: “Yes?”

ME: “He lost it. He started screaming and biting himself and fighting me. I tried to stop him. A woman helped me get him to a table and I tried to give him his emergency medicine. While I was getting the pills, he sank his teeth in and I dropped them all over the floor. I was wrestling him, trying to get him calm and he finally started to settle down when…” (starts crying again)

IO: “Go on.”

ME: “…the manager asked us to leave.”

IO: “I see.” (clicks pen, scribbles a few notes) “Was anyone else hurt?”

ME: “No…just my hand. I’m gonna be fine. Just need a Bandaid.”

IO: “Are you going to be okay to drive?”

ME: “In a minute. I’m just waiting until I’m sure Little Man is okay.”

IO: “Sounds like a plan. Take all the time you need.”

ME: (sniffs) “Thanks.”

IO: “Don’t mention it, ma’am. Just get home safe…and take care of that bite.”

With the click of a pen, the imaginary officer walks back to the car and calls it in, then fades away and is gone. I’m left, wondering why days like these are happening more and more often? After forty minutes, we move back onto the highway and get stuck in molasses for what seems like hours in the Memorial Day weekend traffic. My hand stings the whole drive home.

I was tempted to post a video to Facebook. You know the kind. Angry, outraged mother, slams establishment that doesn’t understand her child.* Everyone shares and declares the company the Spawn of Satan. But really, I didn’t blame the management of the restaurant, which I won’t name, but will say, what hurt the most today was not the bite. It was being asked to leave.

In the softest voice imaginable, a young man approached our table where I was standing holding my son in a head lock/hug, and said, “I don’t want to have to ask…you know that.”

He didn’t say the words. He didn’t have to. My son was being more than disruptive, he was having a stellar autism meltdown of galactic proportions. I was just trying to get him calm enough to take him out without an incident and, in a whisper, I told him that.

“How can I help?” He said.

Getting my son to the car was a small trial, but after a Vesuvius explosion of vented rage and frustration, we sat in the car. He fumed. I wept.

People came. People went.

As the meds I’d managed to stuff into my child finally worked, I contrasted this afternoon with the successful-ish visit to school earlier in the day. It was field day and all four of the students in my son’s class participated, or not, as they could. No game went as it was intended—though, the rolling tires up an incline only to chase them back down causing everyone to scatter like ten pins came pretty close. It was a physical metaphor of the emotional rollercoaster of autism parenting. What goes up will definitely come down. Probably with teeth marks embedded in it.

It’s all fun and games until someone let’s go of the wheel.

This is the refrain of my life. For every good moment where I manage a picnic lunch in the grass with my son and pictures are captured as proof, there is a corresponding, undocumented, black-hearted despair waiting in the wings to walk to center stage and take a giant, steamy dump.** Guess which memories last the longest?

I have reserved a small, smug nugget in my heart for the moms who struggle with their broad spectrum children. My son has had his moments, but I’ve been able to take him places and do things other families just didn’t. This makes you cocky. You want to think that you have the secret! You know something those other families don’t!

“Just push your child. Find his boundaries and respect them, but keep trying to push them.” I would think to myself.

The boundaries are now pushing back. And, at thirteen, they have the weight of an almost adult behind them. A proto-man who has his own mind and directions and preferences that I am now required to respect. Either that, or be prepared to count my fingers and come up with an odd number.***

I didn’t videotape the experience. I didn’t post it to Facebook. But for a bitter, self-indulgent, desperately tired moment I wanted to. I wanted the pity of nations and the poor-me sympathy of automatic outrage served up on a platter for autism families everywhere. It would feel so good, so soothing to be told I was right. That they were wrong. That people should be more understanding.


But knowing I was the one who pushed my child through the doors when he’d already said, “No!” I knew who to blame.

And yet…

Being told to leave hurts. Every time. It hurts so very deep, in a place you can’t see and don’t want anyone to know is there. And every injury scars deeper than the last. Keloid patches leather your soul, making the effort to try again that much harder. It’s the smallest cuts that hurt the most; and a life with autism is death by a thousand cuts. With lemon juice squirted in for good measure. And a dash of salt.

So, while the rest of the world expands its horizons this weekend, I am weathering the storm at home, licking my wounds and trying not to be pitiful. Much.

Hopefully by next Friday, I’ll be ready to meet my childhood alter ego on the silver screen. I’ll have my silver arm bands ready and my lasso of truth set for introspection and self-revelation. And forgiveness. And I’ll be Wonder Woman once more.

Wonder Woman
What I always wondered, as a child, was how she kept her top up!?

Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:

*Internet Rage Fest–It’s the modern-day equivalent of Andy Warhol’s 15 minutes of fame except that it lasts forever and is shared until it reaches obscure corners of Outer Mongolia and beyond.

**Go ahead, try and scrapbook that image!

***Which my son would no doubt find oddly pleasing. He prefers odd numbers to even. He thinks numbers divisible by two are the devil.

A Day In The Life…A Special Needs Breakdown

I remind myself that this too shall pass.


Missing Easter eggs–taken from fridge–still not found?

This too shall pass.

Two teardrop shaped containers of food coloring found in son’s bedroom. Two still unaccounted for. Mattress now looks like Jackson Pollock vomited there.

This too shall pass.

No clean clothes today…most of child’s pants cut up by scissors or missing. Must remember to check the heat ducts later…

This too shall pass.

Looks in fridge. *Stares blankly* Where’d the chicken go?

This too shall pass.

If you are a happy parent, please stop reading here. If you find fulfillment of life in nurturing and raising your beautiful, perfect little yous. Go away. This is not the blog you are looking for and I won’t be nice about it.

If, however, you have had dark thoughts on miserable, cold days. If you haven’t showered in forever and aren’t entirely sure whether it’s Tuesday or the apocalypse. Join me, comrade. And welcome.


While studying to get a degree in Russian Studies*, we were assigned the work One Day In The Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn. Its simplistic, yet brutal reflection of the miseries of life for prisoners in a Russian gulag are played out in a single day for the title character Ivan Denisovich. What I did not know then, while reading about the struggles of someone trapped in a cold, cheerless existence, is that it could just as well be a metaphor for what it is like to parent a special needs child.

This too shall pass.

This has become my mantra. This reassurance every time my son finds a new and inventive way to make me regret the wonders of fertility treatments: the bad moments pass. It is a lifeline when you feel you are drowning and desperate options rear their suggestive, ugly heads.

This too shall pass.

Sometimes you find yourself sitting by the side of the road weighing bad to worse choices. Because bad are the only choices you can see.

This too shall pass.

I took my son to a birthday party Friday for the son of a longtime friend in the Autism Community. Little Man refused to enter the building. When finally forced to enter, threw a massive tantrum, beating himself and biting his arms, until he realized he wasn’t getting his way and we were going to stay. He sat rigid, refusing to join in—in a place where other children played jumping on trampolines and swinging from giant swaths of spandex dangling from the airplane-hangar-sized ceiling beams. He tolerated it until I would let him go home again.

This too shall pass.

We traveled to the delightfully grey and 40-degree weather in Traverse City, Michigan. I drove for three hours. Got fifteen minutes in the hot tub of the hotel before my son screeched his regrets and left the pool; I took him for his requested walk to the nearby lake where he promptly wanted to leave; returned to the Comfort Inn to sleep to dream of wifi only to be woken at 6:00 a.m. because someone next door took a shower. This was a good day. No major meltdowns.

This too shall pass.

Then yesterday happened.

I took my son to an event sponsored by the school celebrating a program that is intended to engage children like mine with the neurotypical kids. The ones who can play the games and take part in ordinary life. The children not like my son.**

I run into his teachers and classroom aides.

“Little Man had a really good day today.” One person tells me.

“Really, he was very happy.” Another stops to greet my son.

This too shall pass.

They don’t hear it. They don’t hear the bell ringing, the tolling, sonorous carillon signaling the shift from happy child to frantic, exhausted, terrorized hulk.

Neither do I.

This too shall pass.

We win the most patriot looking red-white-and-blue cupcakes at the cake walk—on only our sixth or seventh time around. *Thank goodness.*

I coax my son into a bizarre game where marshmallows—a food my son loves—are tossed back and forth to be caught in cups. None of the marshmallows are supposed to be eaten, however, because they keep hitting the floor. My son sneaks one anyway, confused that he couldn’t eat them in the first place. Has no one heard of cotton balls?

Guess who snuck these into his room while mommy wasn’t watching?


This too shall pass.

I drag my reluctant child to a photo room where mustaches on sticks and leis are strewn to give families props to stage silly portraits. I manage a few with my unsmiling teen and he drags me out after thirty seconds.

This too shall pass.

He attempts to leave the building by several exits. We have only been there a half hour, but he wants out.

I ‘encourage’ my son to participate in a game in the library and he balks.

“One game. Candy Land…or Yahtzee. Then we can go.” I plead.

It is too much for him.

He is desperate and begins hitting himself violently.

Thwack. Thwack. Thwack.

It is the sound of someone testing a melon for ripeness. It is the distant sound of an axe biting into wood. It is my son’s fists cracking against his skull.

He is crying from angst or anger or frustration or stress or some combination of all of these emotions. Or none. Perhaps he is drained and all that is left is the hollow drum upon which he beats an empty tattoo.

This too shall pass.

I push him into a cozy nook for readers to sit by a pretend fire where a painted tree grows to spread its branches overhead. Or so my vague memory suggests. I was too busy dosing my child with a sedative so I could get him out of the building without scaring or hurting anyone.

This too shall pass.

As I am driving him home, I am blinded. Blinded by regrets that my son cannot take part in fun activities. That I don’t get to be the parent encouraging him to stretch his limits, but instead failing to recognize them in time to prevent catastrophe.

It is as if his emotions have spilled over from where he sits in the back seat tearing strips of paper to calm himself.*** He winds the paper around his fingers and I think, “At least he’s finally using all those summer workbooks I purchased.”

I am crying now for the pain he feels but cannot express. For the fact he can never, ever make any real friends because he has such devastating limitations.

That he is so broken and so am I.

This too shall pass.

I pull off the road because, really, I can’t see now. I can’t see the point in continuing.

I park in an empty florist’s lot. The strip of grass that divides my car from the busy traffic is a green wedge of nature slipped between asphalt boundaries and a Panera coffee shop.

I am tired. I am listening to the recording of my parenting failures skipping and repeating in my head. And before anyone thinks to tell me what I great mom I am. Stop. Just stop.

Because you don’t know the thoughts I had.

This too shall pass.

You don’t hear the insidious little fucking voices in your head telling you that there has got to be an easier way than this. That life shouldn’t be this hard. That life shouldn’t be this…

This too shall pass.

You all think there are programs to help families in need. You all think we are getting help to make it through the every-fucking-day struggle of making yourself get up when black thoughts drag you down.

Maybe there are. But you know what? I don’t qualify for them; barely anyone does. You apply through miles of red tape, applications, certifications, interviews, and, if you are lucky, you are put on a wait list to try and get one of the 450 some slots the entire fucking state has to help people with severely handicapped children who don’t qualify for Medicaid.

You heard me. 450 slots. For a state with a population approaching 10 million.

You all think that there must be someone out there helping families like mine make good choices and to step in when things get bleak or despairing. You would be dead wrong.

This too shall pass.

This is the problem with real life. Ugly thoughts are like rancid cheerleaders rooting for destruction. There are no angels to balance you out. Sometimes the monsters win.

But not today.

This too shall pass.

I watch the robins bobbing on the slender manicured lawn that is trapped on all sides by concrete barriers and the threat of chemical castration or decapitation by lawn mower for any daring weeds. The little red-breasted birds are rejoicing in the abundance of rain-forced worms.

This too shall pass.

I turn on the book on tape I’ve borrowed from the library.

The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto rolls out the welcome mat to sanity and invites me to listen. It takes some kind of talent to write a comedy set around a funeral.

Fifteen minutes later, I’m safe to go on.

If anyone knows Mitch Albom. Tell him, thanks.

This too shall pass.

In writing this, I was reminded that in college, I found One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich to be uplifting. Despite all of the misery, Ivan Denisovich finds moments of grace—not religious—but humanizing that help him to eek joy from the life he does have.

Ivan Denisovich got fish eyes in his soup.

I got robins bobbing for worms and the lyrical beginnings of a musician who might be a magician. Or vice versa. I’m not sure yet. The story has only begun.

I’ll have to listen for another day.

Asterisk Bedazzled Footnote:

*Because I’m all about collecting useless degrees. Ask me about my aborted career as a teacher. Go ahead, *cocks imaginary pistol* ASK.

**The normals (aka The Little Fuckers.)

***The real reason why I donated my son’s books to the school—because watching him destroy something I love and had hoped would connect us is too painful.



———————————final thoughts——————————————-

I am fine. It was just a bad moment. We all have them. Do not contact the authorities or  the Department of Human Services. I shared this to let the world know we have a problem with our resources and mental health care assistance to families in need and maybe to let other parents of special needs children know they are not alone. We just need support.

If you want to act, check out our local Autism Support of Kent County (A.S.K) agency They have helped my family as well as others in various outreach programs and financial aid for summer camps and therapies. Their Annual Walk for Autism is Sunday, May 7, 12:00 noon– at John Ball Zoo, 1300 Fulton W, Grand Rapids, MI 49504. If he’ll go, I’ll be the one leading my son around with a bag of marshmallows.

The Return of the Puzzle Prince and Possibly the Magic Box


Part II of a fairytale nightmare follows the harrowing saga of promise and betrayal in the health insurance industry. If you missed last week’s episode, you might want to catch up here. For everyone else, join us now as our intrepid heroine embarks on a battle royal…searching for a deserving backside to stick something sharp and pointy into.


A widowed mother and her son enjoy a Wish Come True in the form of a very expensive magic box that talks. They scamper to the Free Bed of Mary for training.

The speech therapy Wizard warns them:

“This device is written in a new kind of language—it is not just pictographic but also location based. Terms are organized so that the mind will find them by remembering the pathways of communication.”

“Huhn?” Says the widowed mother.

“You have to learn how the box talks before you can use it. Start with simple words and repeat finding their location. Core words will never move.” The wizard points out the many wonderful features.

“What does this button do?” The widowed mother points to a square on the programming page.

The wizard looks for a long second at the screen.

“That one erases the system.” The wizard says at last.

“Why would anyone put a button like that on the board? Why?” The widowed mother cries, shaking her head.

“Let’s just lock the prince out of that part, shall we?” Says the wizard.

The widowed mother and her puzzle prince go home dragging the heavy magic box with them.


Slowly the words come. Many requests are heard:

“I want balloons…” The magic box demands.

“What’s the magic word?” The widowed mother prompts.

The puzzle prince deftly plunks on the keys and the magic box answers…


And so life continues, until the fateful, blustery day in March a drone from the Print-Me Promise magic box factory phones. Unfortunately, the widowed mother was steering the royal blue coach on a busy highway when the call came in.

The widowed mother fumbles for her phone:

“Hi, uh, I’m driving. Can I call you back in about ten?” She says.

“It’s the Print-Me Promise hive calling,” says a drone on the other end. “The WoodNorth Elves are denying your claim.”


*blue coach narrowly avoids merging traffic to take an exit*

The widowed mother uses some inappropriate language before saying,

“Hang on. I’m pulling off the road.”

The widowed mother scrambles to take notes on the back of an envelope while the drone, named *Jin,* rattles off information as if in a race to get to the end of a sentence.

“According to the WoodNorth elves, your son’s policy was retro-terminated November 30, 2016 back to February 29, 2016 and a new policy was made effective March 1, 2016 through December 31, 2016.”

Jin stops to take a breath and the widowed mother seizes her opportunity:

“I’m sorry, Retro-whatted?”

“Retro-terminated.” Replies the busily buzzing drone.

“What does that even mean?” The widowed mother scribbles indecipherable notes.

“I don’t know. I’ve never seen that language before myself!” Admits Jin-the-long-suffering-drone.

“Sounds like an attempt to weasel out of paying for the speech device.” The widowed mother says.

Meanwhile, the puzzle prince, aggravated by the loss of his promised car ride, gets cranky.

“Kerride! Kerride! 3232!” Shouts the puzzle prince.*

Jin the Drone is undeterred.

“According to our records, we have a ‘single-case agreement’ and a ‘binding contract’ approving the speech device.” Jin asserts—no doubt with a decided chin nod. “I think they are stating that, at the time the requests for the device were made, a new group number was in place and the benefits had changed.”

“Kerride! Ball Ons! 3232.” The puzzle prince is getting louder by the second.

“Let me call you back.” Says the widowed mother. “I have to stop and buy a kingdom’s worth of bribes.”


20 balloons later…the widowed mother calls the hive back and learns that her son’s magic box may not be so string-free as believed.

Jin scrolls back in time to review notes—hunting for the elusive insurance snipe to explain what went wrong where and when. After several minutes she concludes:

“…We resubmitted the request for payment on March 21, 2016. The insurance company indicates that the plan your son is currently under requires that you meet the maximum out-of-pocket before pay-out. You owe $843.00.”

“Hang on.” The widowed mother interrupts. “We had met our deductible last year. The magic box should be covered 100%!”

Before the widowed mother can totally lose it, Jin the drone hurries on. “Let me see if I can talk to the head elf over at WoodNorth and call you back!” Jin rings off.

*crickets chirping interlude music*

As the story is flagging, a plot twist must be introduced. This seems a good time for the Puzzle Prince to fall ill with plague…so he does. The puzzle prince hits the floor with a thud and stops moving. Surprisingly, the widowed mother notices.

“Come on honey. Let’s get you to a med center.” Croons the widowed mother, nudging the mound of blankets with her toe.

The Fairy God-Doctor’s office does not have any openings, but they recommend another fairy practice in a neighboring village.

“The Wye Moaning office has openings at their branch!” Chirps the Fairy God-Doctor’s staff. “Will that be okay?”

“Yeah. That’ll do.” The widowed mother grabs her key and drags cajoles her collapsed child to the coach.

It is at the counter of the clinic that the widowed mother discovers that she has five difference insurance cards in her wallet. Apparently the insurance company had sent updated cards at some point!

“Well, well, well…” The widowed mother finally hears the retro-proactive shoe that dropped, somewhere in February, or May, or possibly November of 2016. “I guess they did change the plan…and never told me.”

“Ack. Hack. Cough.” The puzzle prince curls in a ball and mimes dying.

A Fairy God-Doctor in a long white robe is summoned. Samples are taken. A $30-dollar co-pay later and the results of the spit test are in.

“He has a virus.” Says the white-coated one.

“A mutant super-virus that has turned him into a sputum-spitting scourge?” Asks the widowed mother with a fearful glance at her green-faced child.

The Fairy God-Doctor restrains an eye roll.

“Give him Benadryl if he gets wheezy.”

The Fairy God-Doctor backs out hastily as the coughing prince attempts to leave a phlegmy gratuity on the doc’s shoes.


Several mucous-filled days pass. The puzzle prince recovers just enough to demand constant attention. Life is getting back to as close to normal as it ever does when the widowed mother decides she’d better attack the growing problem of the magic box head on! If she had known how vigorously she was going to be charging the beast, though, she surely would have peed first.**

Donning her battle armor and carrying only her cell phone and clipboard to defend her, the widowed mother tackles the WoodNorth elves first.

Confronting the Elf2

Dialing with digital precision, the widowed mother marches symbolically up to the red tape factory and pounds on the iron-studded door.

An elf appears carrying a particularly fat scroll. She doesn’t even look up from scratching notes to say ‘Hi.’ Instead, she busily scrawls a note and barks,

“Yeah? Whatcha need?”

So accustomed to angry callers, the elf doesn’t even flinch with the spittle starts to fly.

“My son’s magic box claim was denied even though we had authorization! The Printme Promise hive, who makes the speech device, says that, because his insurance policy was retro-terminated, I owe hard-earned gold for re-application in 2017 when the magic device was already authorized in 2016 when the out-of-pocket had been met.” Seethes the widowed mother.

The elf holds up a hand when the widowed mother pauses to take a breath. Spinning the scroll of paper and humming under her breath, the elf asks for the policy number.

“Ah ha. Yes. I see. Mmm Hmm.” The elf mutters.

The spinning of the scroll is hypnotic; its magic is intended to lull the unsuspecting attacker into a catatonic state. The widowed mother recognizes the magical tactic and cracks the seal on a diet cherry Coke to keep her wits about her. She’s mid-swallow when the elf stops the wheel of paper.

The elf pokes a spot on the page and a Gordian knot of red tape springs from the roll. Flapping segments slither out and form a corona of hissing serpents which coil around the elf’s perky green hat. The elf now looks like a red-headed Medusa on a particularly bad hair day.

“I can see the denial and the two account numbers you mentioned. The WoodNorth Elves Union 484 thank you for your patience as we untie the red tape binding your documents! But everything you’ve said does appear to be what happened.”

“Dishonor! Calumny! Malfeasance! And…and…uh…poppycock!” The widowed mother tries to hiss fire, but all she can manage is heavy breathing into her phone.

The widowed mother sums her outrage up in three words: “I demand justice!”

“Okay.” The elf is all agreeableness. Glancing up from the never-ending scroll, she asks, “Whatcha want me to do?”

“Um.” The widowed mother is nonplussed; she hadn’t expected cooperation. “Could you send me copies of the paperwork?”

“What’s your fax number?”

Tucking an errant snake of red tape behind her ear, the elf taps a few places along the scroll before looking up and saying. “Done!”

Reams of paper whiz out from behind the elf. Unspooling cataracts of incomprehensible insurance bibble babble disgorge in a surging mound in front of the bewildered, widowed mother.

The elf quickly backs away, dragging her scroll and the red-tape snakes toward the factory door.

“Uh, thanks for your…help?” The widowed mother shouts to the retreating figure now mostly hidden by the mountain of paperwork.

The elf offers a sly grin that seems to say “Be careful what you wish for!” before ducking into the factory and slamming the door.

Hanging up. The widowed mother is daunted but not discouraged by the task before her. With a sigh, she raises her pen and clipboard and wades in to tackle the massive amounts of data.

She slashes at facts that try to take a bite out of her ankles. Stomping down the irrelevant notes from the speech language wizard’s epic spellwork, she climbs until her arms are tired and she is cross-eyed from reading acronyms and codes in microscopic print.

“It would take an army to wade through this mess!” Sighs the widowed mother.

Hey.  There’s an idea! She thinks

“Not an army…but a hive!” The widowed mother crows triumphantly.

She dials the drones at Printme Promise. Cutting to the chase, the widowed mother makes the same request of the undersecretary to the Queen Bee.

“Paperwork?” The buzz from the other end of the line hums in interest. “Heck yeah. We’ve got paperwork.”

Shortly thereafter, a buzzing squadron of bees descend from a cloud dropping sheets of wasp-wing-thin, honey-gold paper. Before long, gossamer layers wrap the very top of the mound until a point forms. Alternately stabbing with her pen and carving away with her clipboard, the widowed mother makes it to the top of the pile.

Attack the Hive 1

The uppermost crust of the now-hive-shaped structure peels off in her hands. Neatly scratched into the sheaf is a line-by-line detail of what happened and when in easy-to-read annotation.

The widowed mother shouts up to the buzzing horde who constructed the data for her.

“Oh, thank you sooo much! This makes so much more sense! I could just kiss you!”

The bee closest to her stutters mid-wing and nearly drops out of the flight pattern.

“Uh, no thanks are necessary. Especially not that! We’re allergic to humans!”

With a dip of their wings, the drones return to the hive post-haste.

Fortified by data, the widowed mother is much rejuvenated. Now she will be able to confront the Blue Insurance Fairy!

But first…a royal privy break!

After a refreshing pit stop, the widowed mother tightens her armor and dials the enchanted castle. BIF picks up on the third ring.

“Hello, welcome to the Blue Insurance Fairy call center. How can we make your dreams…?”

“I want to speak to the fairy in charge of appeals and grievances.”

The widowed mother cuts off BIF mid-enchantment. Hah! The widowed mother thinks. That’s showing ‘em who’s boss!

“In order to fulfill your dreams we will have to review your dream policy and check your dream out-of-pocket and that requires a boring recitation of every dream call you’ve made in the history of your dream policy! Hold please while I bring up your account!”

“Nooooooooooooooooooooo!” The widowed mother cries, but she is too late.

She bangs her head on the nearest hard surface to the beat of the Muzak now belting in her ears.

♫“… When I’m drivin’ in my car, and the man come on the radio

He’s tellin’ me more and more about some useless information

Supposed to fire my imagination

I can’t get no, oh, no, no, no, hey, hey, hey

That’s what I say

I can’t get no satisfaction, I can’t get no satisfaction

‘Cause I try and I try and I try and I try

I can’t get no, I can’t get no”♬

After weeks of trying to understand what happened, calling and badgering to little avail, the widowed mother snaps.

“That does it!”

The widowed mother storms the Blue Insurance Fairy’s castle, shaking her cell phone at the gates, shouting,

“I am not getting off this phone until I get some satisfaction!”***

Suddenly, BIF appears along the crenellated battlement. She is now wearing the battle helm of a grievance fairy—it’s extra pointy. BIF faces the widowed mother who brandishes a clipboard shield in one hand and her pen poised to stab in the other.

BIF wings fiercely along the ramparts as she explains the mysteries of insurance. After a long conversation which repeats much of what the widowed mother already knew, BIF concludes by pointing at the base of the turret—there a green beast snores, its snout whistling, curls of smoke waft with every exhale.

“Blame the Market Place Dragon. They changed your policy.” BIF hisses in a stage whisper—as if she too is afraid of waking the sleeping giant.

“So the dragon changed my son’s policy and didn’t tell me. The application that went in under the wrong policy number somehow got approved…and the error isn’t discovered until March of this year?” It’s enough to make a widowed mother cry. “Is there anything I can do?”

“You could wake the dragon.” BIF says with a doubtful look at the enormous reptile. “Or you could wait until the second claim goes through and we can file an appeal after it is denied or approved and payment is requested.”

The widowed mother doesn’t think twice. She waves her cell phone at the fairy—a pink flag of surrender.

“Talk to you again in a few months.”

And so our adventure ends on an anti-climax. For now. Nothing is resolved. Nothing is certain. The magic box may be theirs free and clear–or like many fairytale promises–it may come with a hidden price to pay. All we know for sure is, there will be many more car rides before our heroes see an end to this tale. And balloons. Lots and lots of balloons

Asterisk Bedazzled Footnote:

*The puzzle prince is not allowed the magic box while in the coach. It weighs over three pounds and is framed by reinforced steel—the box, not the coach. It may be indestructible, but the widowed mother’s head isn’t.

**I’m about to boil down approximately nine hours of phone conversation into a semi-coherent and as-entertaining-as-possible-without-pharmaceutical-aids metaphorical journey. You might want to take a potty break too.

***She might have been singing that last bit.