Laughing Out Loud in Public

Remember how I said I was the worst parent ever? I was wrong. Now I am the worst parent ever. I’m so ashamed. As I type this my child is lying on her bedroom floor, sobbing hysterically and threatening to run away over a missed episode of “Liv and Maddie.” This kind of stuff is pretty much standard these days.

She did not appreciate my offer of assistance in packing.

If I tell you a similar story, you have to promise not to judge me, okay?

I also had a few other experiences worth sharing, so you’re getting those as well. You’re so lucky. There’s no moral to the story other than I am a stupid, stupid human being.


Laughing Out Loud in Public


Experience 1: When I was brushing my hair this morning a small spider came out.

I repeat.

When I was brushing my hair a small spider came out. Of my hair. On my head. Onto the countertop, where it ran and evaded death by squishing.

I’ve washed my hair three times. I’ve gone through every inch of it with a fine tooth comb, literally. I’m pretty sure there’s not a nest in there, but I may need someone to check again for me before I go to bed tonight. Although I may not sleep knowing a tiny little arachnid was having a heyday in there as I slept, unaware.

In case you missed that, a spider came out of my hair.


Experience 2: I exercised excessively poor parenting skills.

You all know that my daughter and I are having a bit of a personality clash these days.

And you all know that I blew up at her a few days ago when I lost a contact in my eye and I drank the fat a few days earlier and I had bleach and soapsuds flowing from my toilet a day or so before that.

I have been incredibly lacking in motivation lately. I’m not sure what’s going on or why. A few short weeks ago I was focused and intent on writing a book. I was exercising quite a bit of self control and adhering to a strict 2,000 word per day regimen. I guess when I decided to start the book over from scratch, I started procrastinating. Understandably so, now that I know how much effort it takes to write on that level.

Unfortunately, I also began procrastinating on housework and quit asking my kids to help out. It just seemed like so much effort. After five or so days, we were stepping over dirty clothes and discarded toys to move between rooms. It was bad.

By the time Saturday rolled around I knew I had to either clean or face a possible visit from a social worker. My kids were instructed to clean their rooms as I worked on the main floor.

Everything seemed to be going fairly well until I went to put a few things in the basement and found my daughter lounging on the couch, watching “Austin and Ally.” It seemed awfully soon for her to be done, but when I asked, she swore she’d cleaned it.

(My child has a serious Disney Channel habit. I wonder if there’s a support group?)

I checked. There was an overturned chair in the middle of the floor, along with dirty clothes and wrappers from Goldfish crackers. Her bed was unmade with a pile of sheets and blankets resting on top. The few items she had picked up had been brushed into a pile in the corner. It wasn’t clean. Not even close.

I called her back up and informed her that the room wasn’t clean and she needed to get back to work. It went something like this:

Me: This isn’t clean, you barely touched anything.
Her: Yes it is, look at what I picked up. (Points to pile in corner)
Me: There is trash on the floor and an overturned chair on top of it.
Her: (Walks over and sets the chair upright) There. Can I go now?
Me: Umm, no. You can’t go. This is not clean. In fact, it’s what most people would consider disgusting.
Her: What if I miss night of premieres?

(Seriously. Support group. Disney Channel habit.)

Me: I guess you should’ve thought about that before you treated your room this way. You have to do it, sorry.

I’m a hypocrite, I know. And even though I’m a ridiculous mess of a screwed-up person, I’m still mom and I should still have some authority, right? Maybe not. I was about halfway downstairs when I heard her belt out the following, in a shrill, pre-teen voice:


Here’s the terrible parenting part. Seriously. Really. I’m actually concerned someone might turn me in.

I turned around, walked back to her room, looked her in the eyes and flicked the top of her head with my middle finger.

I flicked my kid on the head. Could I possibly be less mature?

I sentenced myself to another mom time-out and locked myself in my room. She was WAILING in the background. I promised myself I’d wait until she stopped before I left my room. I knew if I met her in hysterics she’d just try to argue with me. It was a long wait.

When I finally left my room, I encountered her standing in the middle of the hall, holding her head and whimpering. This happened:

Her: (Sob, sniff, grasp head in pain) I think I have a concussion.
Me: (Crickets) No. No, you do not have a concussion.
Her: How do you know?
Me: Because my finger cannot exert enough force to CAUSE A HUMAN BEING A HEAD INJURY!
Her: You never listen to me! (Sob, hides in bedroom)

Experience three: I had another incident at Costco.

Yesterday I took my kids to their occupational therapy appointments. Normally, I am afforded a nice, quiet hour in a waiting room. Thus, giving me the opportunity to write uninterrupted.

Just as both kids disappeared into the gym, I realized I’d left my computer at home. I had no book, no computer and the waiting room had no magazines.

Then I noticed that my least favorite person ever, in the history of people, had sat down across from me. This woman is a monstrous loudmouth and I cannot stand being within a mile of her. She’s one of those people that talks freely and not subtly, about her child’s issues in front of her.

I wish I could flick her in the head.

Without any means of entertainment, knowing that loudmouth lady would surely attempt to engage me in a conversation, I left.

I went to Costco.

Costco makes my heart happy.

I replenished our supply of processed garbage we don’t need. I bought 120 of those laundry tabs people keep mistaking for candy. I bought eighty K-Cups. I bought more of the chocolate covered pomegranate seeds.

And, in the true spirit of Costco-ness, I bought my daughter a random bathing suit. I bought her a different one last week. ($11.99!)

I was walking through the pharmaceutical area and was somehow passing through a place I like to call the “Unfortunate Illness Aisle.” I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. It’s the aisle with the Gas-X and the hemorrhoid cream and basically any other medication designed to sooth an incredibly embarrassing infliction.

And I thought to myself, “Man, if you need a 500 count bottle of Imodium, you need to see a doctor.

Then it happened. The “I’m laughing out loud, alone, in public” moment we all have from time to time. (I know, I possess a maturity level that rivals that of a twelve year old boy.) I wasn’t giggling and smiling a little, I was unsuccessfully attempting to stifle bellowing laughter.

I could not. Stop. Laughing. People were staring.

I actually got my phone out and pretended I was texting someone. I’m sure it didn’t fool anybody.

I left $140 lighter.

People, I have spiders coming out of my hair and a child who may or may not need serious help overcoming an addiction to bad Disney sitcoms. I’ll take the laughs where I can get them.

Mom: Crusher of Dreams, Killer of Souls

I am the worst parent ever.

And the universe hates me.

I’ve had the mother of all stupid weeks. I use the term stupid, because it’s been too funny to be called horrible and yet too awful to be called hilarious. Stupid is a fitting compromise. I knew something was wrong when so many things were right. I could feel in my gut that I was about to be destroyed by an onslaught of ridiculous-life-ish-ness. My gut never fails. I’ll recap, if I may:

I hated my book and I trashed it.
I had a serious toilet situation that ended in soapsuds.
I freaked out about the possibility of getting a tapeworm from pork.
I DRANK THE FAT. Yes, a series of unfortunate events led right up to me drinking fat out of a can. (Accidentally)
I trashed my book again.

And now I present:

Mom: Crusher of Dreams, Killer of Souls

This isn’t a great story, but I’ve convinced myself it is so I can avoid working on the book. I still hate it. Probably because it forces me to write about subjects that require mature, adult thinking. Something I’m clearly incapable of.

Of course I’ve had other things going on this week outside of the book trashing and toilet plunging and tapeworm fearing and fat drinking. One specific issue has been plaguing me and tonight was a splendid crescendo. (Hang onto that word, it comes into play later.)

First off, this is happening:

I got The Letter. This is happening in my life. I’m somehow already a parent of a child who is watching The Video. Wait. What?


Other parents may read this and think, “I should probably call the school and discuss the material.” (Or perhaps the typo that’s driving me insane)

I think, “Score. Somebody else is doing this for me.”

The end.


And secondly, there’s this:

The gifted music program saga.

My daughter has a naturally decent singing voice. She has volume (which is a big problem for a lot of kids) and she can replicate most of what she hears with remarkable accuracy. This week I’ve been blessed with “Do You Wanna Build a Snowman?” non-stop, which has been great, I’m always up for a reminder of how I’ve failed in life. (Long story, just read it here)

Anyhow, we made the decision to enroll her in vocal lessons to gain control and overall knowledge of music. And it became apparent from day one, she can sing, but she cannot follow instructions on how to sing. She has an astounding range, from low, low, low to high C… If she’s on… which she isn’t most of the time.

When technical instruction is involved, her skill disappears.

I’d like to interject here to let you know that whenever she opens her mouth, the whole world gets a view of her snazzy trio of silver teeth. We are apparently white trash and like to brag about it. Just so you have that visual.

My daughter, at age nine, tends to have very grand ideas that lack practicality. From discussions with other mothers of third grade girls, I’ve gathered that this is fairly common. However, my child takes it to the max. Every single time, every single idea. Me having a kid that let things go would just be too fair.

And so my daughter has decided she needs to be enrolled in a school for the musically gifted or at the minimum a school with a gifted music program.

(I may have to take this down in a bit, as to refrain from embarrassing her. That is not my intention whatsoever.)

At first, when she presented me with the idea (I’m pretty sure it came from ‘A.N.T. Farm’ which is my least favorite show ever and was quite certainly created by the devil himself) I did my typical “Oh, that’s an interesting idea,” response. Then I waited for her to get distracted by another idea, like deciding to make her own television show or write an original play and cast the entire neighborhood in appropriate roles. (And harassing me about each and every one- Seriously, how do I get it through her head that I do not know how to make and air a TV show?)

Only she didn’t. She continued to ask me over and over and over and over. Obviously, “that sounds neat” or “we’ll look into it someday” weren’t going to suffice as answers. I had to move on to “Well, first you’ll need to practice more” and/or “Those programs are for people who have put time into mastering the technical aspects of music.” – Mom-speak for “You need to learn what you’re doing.”

To which she responded by saying she “already knew” how to sing and she “already knew” how to read music.

And we went back and forth.

Me: Knowing how to identify which line corresponds with which note is not the same as knowing how to read music.
Her: I know that, I know how to read music.
Me: No, you don’t.

Me: Having skill isn’t enough; you have to know everything about music.
Her: I know everything about music.
Me: What does crescendo mean?
Her: I don’t know.
Me: That’s right, you don’t.

Me: Programs like those are for people who are profoundly gifted and have put a lot of time and effort into it.
Her: I have.
Me: No, you haven’t.

Every night since last Wednesday has ended with me putting my foot down and insisting we had to shelve the topic and talk about it later. Followed by me hoping at some point it would all magically go away before I had to tell my child, you can’t be in a program like that because you’re not talented enough.

Yes, I said that out loud. My child isn’t talented enough to be in a special program. She could be, with work, the natural skill exists. But it would take years to perfect.

Telling your child she needs to work harder and learn more before she’s talented at something sounds easy, but I can assure you, it’s not. Few issues are more difficult to tackle as a parent than having to tell your kid they’re not good at something without crossing the line into crushing a dream.

In other words, this is one of those things no one told you about before you had kids.

No amount of passive dialog was going to get through to her. On Saturday she started asking me to do research and find a program for her. I stalled through the weekend, which was quite a feat. But… by Monday I couldn’t put it off any longer.

Instead of just being up front with her, I did a two-minute Google search and told her nothing was available until she was in seventh grade (and by then she’ll have long since forgotten about this whole thing).

Yes, I’m a terrible parent. In fact, a large portion of my “parenting” consists of waiting for stuff to disappear. If I had to take everything seriously and have drawn-out conversations about my kids’ ideas, we’d all starve to death for lack of time to do anything else. And nobody wants to snuff out dreams. We’ve all had it done to us and it’s not easily forgotten.

It gets worse.

I stalled until bedtime and promised I’d do more research after she fell asleep. (research = praying for it to go away).

Didn’t work.

It was the first thing she asked about this morning. It was the first thing she asked me about after I picked her up from her after-school 5K training (also a short lived dream after she realized there’s more to it than just running, like actual exercise. But one she won’t get out of since I paid for it) and after I picked her up yet again from the Youth Center (another way she is slowly killing me, begging to be dropped off to hang out with her friends every day).

Here’s the deal. I’m tired. I’ve had the same headache for four days. I’m stalled on the book. I’m feeling pretty down on myself. I just want a normal evening. Just a normal evening.

I never get a normal evening. Normal is the standard of measurement as to how messed-up you are. Normal isn’t a real thing.

I was painfully blunt. I said everything I didn’t want to say. I told her she didn’t have enough skill, I told her she wouldn’t be accepted, I told her the program she imagined didn’t even exist anyway. (Seriously, I HATE A.N.T. Farm with the fury of ten thousand splendid Phoenixes rising from the ashes.) I told her she needed to stop worrying about finding a program and start practicing; I’d find her a program when she was ready. I wasn’t even very nice about it.

I get an A+ in “instilling self-esteem in children.” Guess what? She didn’t care. She just kept following me around with various portable media, iPads, iPhones, laptops… all up in my face!!! ALL NIGHT LONG.

I was becoming increasingly agitated, holding my breath until bedtime so I’d have a short reprieve from my child’s incessant pestering about something totally impossible.

My eyes were tired and dry, so I went into the bathroom to remove my contacts. I’m not sure about anyone else, but I can feel the moment when my disposables are ready retire and it’s usually just before kid bedtime. I removed the left lens. I was in the process of removing the right lens when, of course, my daughter popped in to ask me a few more questions about her perceived musical genius. I let go of the lens and as is common, I needed a second try to get it out.

I could not get the lens out. I’m not exactly sure what happened when I let go, but it suctioned to my eye in a way I can’t describe. I’ve never had something like this happen. No matter what I did, I wasn’t able to grip it; it just kept slipping back in.

Let me paint a picture of the ensuing half-hour.

Me: Can you see it?
Her: Yes, it’s up there. (pokes me in the eye) What’s a magnet school? This one says they have a music program.
Me: I can feel it, is it on the bottom, can you see it?
Her: No, it’s over there (pokes me in the eye, holds computer to my face) what about this one?
Me: (Looking with one eye) Look at that, it says “KY” what does that stand for?
Her: Kentucky. Oh. We’re in Bellevue, Nebraska.
Me: Yes. Can you please point to where it went again?
Her: I don’t know, your eye is too red now. Can you see in the mirror? Where is Omaha Christian Academy?

At this point I actually stopped everything I was doing and called my other child downstairs to explain irony to him. He’d asked me about it a week or so ago and I couldn’t think of a very good example. Needing use of your non-functioning eye to see the thing in your eye that’s supposed to help you see, that was causing you to have poor vision seemed appropriate.

This is my life.

It gets even worse.

Instead of me leaving it all alone and taking a mom time out, I put drops in my eye, I looked at it through a high-powered mirror, I let my nine year old poke my retina three or four more times. The pain was excruciating, my eye was (and still is) visibly swollen and not in a position to be bothered anymore.

I sat down on my stairs with my hand over my right eye, in agony. The lens had obviously been “bunched up,” for lack of a better term. It wasn’t coming out.

I quit. I decided to have my name legally changed to “The Governor” in the morning and let my eye die a slow and painful death. Remember Michonne and the glass shard? It was like that. (Zombie enthusiast reference)

And my daughter set down next to me with a computer in hand.

And I burst into tears. I was amidst the highest level of mom-falling-apart-ness. In my most proficient martyr voice I said, “Please. Please leave me alone. Why are you doing this to me? I’m tired, I’m in pain, I haven’t eaten a single bite of food today. Please, please leave me alone.”

And she said, “Okay. But just one more thing…”

And I went from mom-falling-apart-ness to mom-needing-to-be-arrested-ness. I ripped the laptop out of her hand, began angrily typing, looked her dead in the eye (with my one) and said, (I’m not lying, I’m the worst parent ever) “You know when I was a kid we used to have to LOOK THIS SHIT UP USING THE DEWEY DECIMAL SYSTEM!”

I said that. To a nine year old.

Then my son, who I hadn’t seen in twenty minutes or so, chimed in from above, “You’re not supposed to say that!” It took serious self-restraint not to yell it back up to him a hundred times and say “I dare you to try and stop me!”

My daughter started talking again. I responded,




I locked myself in my bedroom until I was sure Child Protective Services had passed by.

No idea. No clue. The contact may or may not be in my eye. Or in my skull. Or lodged in my brain. I can’t see and I’m pretty sure the infection I’ve surely given myself will be far more detrimental to my health than the lost lens.

Please tell me I’m not the only one who’s had to deal with this type of thing. And for the love of all that is holy, please tell me how you made it go away.






The Most Disgusting Thing You Could Ever Imagine

I know, I know, I know. I’m posting a ridiculous number of times this week.

I’ve done a lot of stupid stuff this week.

I have to admit, I’ve been in a bit of a rut lately, which means I’m not doing much, which means I haven’t been messing things up, which means the universe has been saving things up for me to mess up. The rut, I believe, was caused by book writing stress. Nothing was coming out right; it lacked all of the elements I’m praised for. Bottom line: I can’t follow the rules. And that’s why you all love me, right?

Please disregard my previous post regarding my attempt to compress my work into someone else’s mold. I’m a liar.

I threw it out. Every last word. And I deleted it from my hard drive and my backup drive. I imagined starting over would be horrible, instead it’s been fabulous. I understand that in writing, we have to push ourselves to work when we don’t want to, but I had that confused with working on what we don’t want to.

I wrote a new ‘Forward’ for my book. It’s not part of the story, it’s something optional that may or may not be included. Many authors do this. Think of it as offering up a bit of explanation in advance. AND… I’m letting you read it!!! But not before you read about my unbelievably disgusting experience.


The Most Disgusting Thing You Could Ever Imagine


We all know how much I love to find overly difficult recipes and attempt to make them and wind up with a mess on my hands. I liken myself to Bridget Jones’s blue soup fiasco. Only without the part about getting together with Colin Firth.

I am a planned grocery shopper. I don’t have a meal plan per se, but every two weeks or so, I put together a list of five or six meals I’d like to cook for dinner in the near future. By cook for dinner I mean spend hours dirtying my kitchen on something my kids are going to whine about and not eat that will eventually wind up in the garbage disposal.

Some of these meals I could make with my eyes closed e.g. spaghetti. The others are new, I tend to shop around cooking sites. Anyhow, few weeks ago I was on and one of the featured meals was a panko coated “Japanese” pork chop. It looked good enough, but more importantly it wasn’t something I’d made a hundred times before.

So I put it on the list, despite (as I’ve established many times over) my unreasonable fear of undercooked meat. Pork, unless ground or ham, isn’t something I make often because I saw an episode of “House” where someone got tapeworms from it. This means it’s more difficult for me to prepare than chicken.

It was the last recipe remaining on my list, which meant it was also the only meal I still had sufficient ingredients to prepare. (Can tapeworms survive being frozen?)

The preparation wasn’t terrible, but it took two hours since every time I so much as grazed the meat I stopped to wash my hands. Once they were breaded appropriately (and given time to “rest”) I proceeded to fry them, as the recipe said, for five minutes per side. I’m trying. Really, really trying to trust recipes, I don’t like throwing away food and I don’t like eating food that’s been cooked to “jerky” status.

But it’s me, so this happened in my head.

I’m sure this is done, leave it be.
Okay, I’ll just cut into one of them, the thickest one. If it’s done, they’re all done.
Is this pink? (I hold it up to the light)
I can’t tell if it’s pink (I squeeze it)
Are these juices pink?
I’m just going to cut open another.
Wait. Which side of the pan were these on?
I think one side might have been hotter than the other.
I need to check the ones from the other side of the pan.

Needless to say, I served the pork chops in cubes. My daughter took one look and said, “I’m not hungry.” (She made me taste her yogurt three times today to make sure it was safe)

My son (the one who wouldn’t take a pill I’d touched with my hands) took one look and said, “Is that pork? I’m not eating that.”

I took one bite. I couldn’t do it. I threw them away and prepared tomato soup, which (of course) my children readily ate.

It took me an hour to clean up the kitchen, because I desperately needed to go over every last surface with a Clorox wipe, at least twice. Three times if it had been exposed to pork. I also had grease/fat left in the skillet and that rarely happens to me. After debating between outside or directly in the trashcan, I realized I could use the empty soup can. Then I didn’t know what to do with the can so I just left it.

I’m so thoughtful and considerate I even stopped to take a picture of my wasted meal. I also threw out a bag of salad after I discovered a few moderately wilted leaves and I’m pretty sure if I’d eaten it, I would’ve died of listeriosis. (or whatever it’s called)

On an aside: I live at the top of a hill and the sliding glass doors in my kitchen do not have curtains or blinds and they’re above another set of sliding glass doors, effectively making the back half of my first floor a second floor. I know for a fact (I’ve seen it driving home) most of the neighborhood below can see, quite clearly, into my home. I thought to myself “I bet these people really enjoy watching me take pictures of my garbage.” (I’ve opted not to post, you know what trash looks like)

Thrilling, I know.

After my kids were in bed, as I was enjoying my two hours of Facebook/viral video time, I decided I’d make a recipe someone posted – Carrot cake blondies – in the morning.

The baking process was relatively smooth, with one exception. Grating the carrots, of which I needed two cups. I debated for several minutes on whether I should grate them by hand and risk cutting myself on a grater for the ten millionth time or go through the trouble of using the Kitchenaid shredder attachment. I chose the attachment.

I chose poorly.

As much as I love my mixer, the attachments are awful. And they’re really expensive. On some level, I thought if I at least got some use out of it, I could rationalize having spent so much on it (I think $50?). Awful isn’t a good descriptor. FREAKING OBNOXIOUS AND USELESS is more accurate.

Carrots all over. Carrots coming out appropriately shredded. Carrots in huge chunks. The attachment pretty much shoots them everywhere but the bowl. Carrots in my hair. Carrots on my feet. Carrots on the counters. Carrots on the floor… Carrots, carrots, carrots.

I could’ve hand shredded a thousand of them in the time it took me to run four through the “shredder.” If you’re thinking I’m using the attachment incorrectly, I am not. I watched the tutorial- the one Kitchenaid made.

I was so incredibly angry I hurriedly gathered them up and proceeded to chuck them into the sink by the handful. Immediately after throwing my last few in, I reached to my right and took a swig of my Diet Coke. Except that it wasn’t. It was the soup can. I DRANK THE FAT.

I know you’re all thinking about the episode of “Friends” where they drank the fat.

It’s a real thing. It can happen.



photo 2

Easily confused? Right?

Now that you all have a mental image of me taking a swig of fat out of a soup can… Here’s my new forward. ENJOY. (P.S. I didn’t actually swallow any of it, I swear)


I just scrapped this book. All 22,000 words went through the shredder. Not the figurative shredder, the literal shredder. Every last page.

I was thumbing through it, trying to plot a course of action when I realized I hated it. I’d spent weeks convincing myself to push forward. Get your story on paper! Fix it later! All first drafts are terrible! After all, that’s what the professionals do. I’d even posted an online article about the challenges of meeting the needs of the “Chicago Manual of Style.” I was doing everything right.

I still hated it. It wasn’t the worst thing ever written. It was technically accurate. It was me, taking my voice and translating it into a style that would pass through an editor’s hands with minimal correction. There wasn’t anything wrong with it so much as there wasn’t anything right about it. It wasn’t mine. Everything unique and special about my writing had been omitted in an effort to placate the gods of literature.

There’s no amount of technical accuracy that can account for lack of voice. I’d rather fail with something I’m proud of than succeed with something I wouldn’t want another person to read. I know, how very “starving artist” of me to make such a claim. I stand by it. My writing has garnered a few compliments. Far more than expected. Not a single one of them has been in regards to grammar, word selection or adherence to A.P.A. guidelines.

I have a story to tell. It’s my story. It belongs to me. Why should I be required to say, “The incident was tragic and had a profound effect on my life,” when what I’m truly thinking is, “That sucked and it screwed me up for a long time.” I’d like to believe that’s what readers would prefer. Honesty, that is. It’s certainly my most praised trait. I take more pride in the preceding four paragraphs than my entire 22,000 word, nine-chapter shredder feed.

I’m not saying I’m going to abandon the thesaurus and all degrees of grammatical accuracy. I’m just saying I reserve the right to say “toward” instead of “towards,” for no reason other than personal preference.

In other words, I’m the boss of this book.

Ways You Don’t Want to Spend Your Post-Bedtime Hours

This is a less than exciting story. However, I feel the need to share it in the spirit of World Autism Awareness Day. It’s actually a rant about my children…

But in a way, I’m paying homage to mothers everywhere who were waiting on pins and needles for those few precious after-bedtime quiet hours only to lose them to a humiliating catastrophe.

Ways You Don’t Want to Spend Your Post-Bedtime Hours

Writing is sort of a funny thing. I recently read that those of us who are writers never quit writing. When we’re not in front of a keyboard or notepad, we’re plotting and planning in our heads. I often find myself jotting notes on envelopes, spelling lists and sometimes even paper towels. I don’t want to lose those thoughts.

Or at least that’s what I do.

There isn’t a parent in the world who doesn’t identify with the thrill that comes from having finally wrangled your children into bed and brought back a glass of water and answered to fifty ‘Wait… Just one more thing” requests. Last night I almost got there.

Some background information: There is a wastebasket roughly six inches from the toilet in my children’s bathroom. But for reasons unknown, they prefer (despite having been scolded at least ten times) to flush things down the toilet. I’m not sure if it’s the excitement of watching it disappear or that they somehow think they won’t have to clean as much, but they do it all the time. And I get on them for it all the time.

Eight thirty is the official F. family bedtime. At eight twenty-five I heard the dreaded words “I need the plunger!” emanate from their bathroom. To which I responded by getting it out of another bathroom and handing it to my daughter to fix herself. This is usually a successful course of action.

Naturally, when I heard the toilet flush a second time, I believed the issue was resolved. Wrong. My daughter ran screaming out of the bathroom, followed by a gush of water. That was my queue to take charge. Still it wasn’t that big of a deal, because unclogging a toilet typically takes what? Thirty seconds.


The good news is that the water was clean. The bad news is that it still came out of a receptacle of human waste.

I shut the water supply off and had the following conversation with my daughter:

Me: What did you put in the toilet?
Her: Nothing.
Me: This water is clean, why would you flush a toilet for no reason.
Her: I don’t know. I just felt like it.

The toilet was so full that every single time I attempted to use the plunger, water went everywhere. It cascaded over the sides, splashed onto the countertops and naturally, my face and arms. It would not clear. I’ve plunged a damn lot of toilets in my day and I’ve never had one refuse to cooperate.

Me: The toilet won’t clear. I need to know what you put in it.
Her: Nothing.
Me: There’s a wet bandaid wrapper floating in there, please just tell me.
Her: I don’t know.

Being that I’m clearly a MENSA candidate, I decided that bleach would probably clear it up. There was a bit of room to pour it in, since half of the water was on the floor. So I dumped a couple cups of bleach in there. I let it set for a bit, nothing happened.

It was right about the time I stuck the plunger back in the toilet that I realized bleach in a sloshing toilet might not have been the greatest idea. Now all of the water that was splashing on my face and eyes and clothes was slightly dangerous and capable of discoloring my clothing.

I changed into clothes I didn’t care about staining and did some research. I have to say, there’s just something about Googling “How to unclog a toilet” that makes you feel extra-classy. Per a number of trustworthy sites like Wikipedia, Yahoo Answers, and a Drano message board, dish soap was the solution.

People, there are message boards on the Drano website. Message boards! What??? There were approximately a hundred threads and pretty much all of them said “Is it safe to use Drano in a toilet?” No. No it is not.

The general consensus was to pour a cup of dish soap in and follow it with near-boiling water. So I did. Still nothing, only now there was about a foot of suds on top of my bleach-filled toilet. I plunged and plunged and it wouldn’t give a millimeter, although I probably wouldn’t have noticed anyway, given that I could no longer see into the toilet through all of the suds, because guess what? Every time you plunge, it makes more bubbles.

And so I consulted Google again.

If you’re currently thinking to yourself “This story can’t end without Amy having done something impulsive and stupid” you are correct. I had failed to thoroughly read the dish soap instructions. Apparently, you’re supposed to let it be for five minutes then pour the water in. Otherwise it wouldn’t settle and you’d make suds.

As a last resort I dumped another cup of Dawn in and took a breather. (This is where drinking would really come in handy)

And… drumroll… when I went back it had drained! I still couldn’t see in it through the suds, but it was obvious the toilet was filled with suds, rather than suds floating on top of water. I had to flush it and use the plunger about ten more times. Until 1. I knew the issue had been resolved. And 2. I got rid of the suds (not the ones on the floor of course, I had to get to those later).

But wait! There’s one more little bit I think you’ll enjoy.

I scrubbed every inch of that bathroom with antibacterial cleaner. Then I literally dipped my hands in bleach. That’s probably not recommended, but it eased my mind. Then I washed my hands up to my elbows, scrubbing quite hard, five times.

Due to the bathroom drama, my son wasn’t able to access the medication he takes before bed. (It was almost ten and both of my kids were still wide awake) So being the wonderful mother I am, I brought him a pill and a glass of water. Then this happened:

Him: I’m not taking that after you touched it.
Me: My hands are clean I dipped them in bleach and washed them five times.
Him: I’m not putting anything you’ve touched in my mouth.
Me: Seriously, I could perform surgery my hands are so clean.
Him: Go bring me the bottle and I’ll pull one out.
Me: Fine, whatever. My hands are cleaner than when I went in there in the first place.(I walk out)
Him: (Calling from bed) Do not put that pill back in the bottle!
Me: I won’t! (I return to his room with bottle in hand)
Him: You put it back, didn’t you?
Me: I swear I didn’t. (I did)

My son’s increasing levels of germaphobia are becoming really inconvenient.

It was too late for writing. My brilliant, Pulitzer-worthy words had already escaped.


Circling back around to the World Autism Awareness Day: I’m usually not a huge participator in these types of events, because every day is Autism Awareness Day for me. And quite frankly, I don’t like sappy/lovey/emotional stuff. Or crying. Or feelings.

However, I have (via the wonders of Facebook) been able to read a little more about it today. I particularly liked an article comprised of parent statements about what Autism is and isn’t. I found one  that struck a chord with me. AND (GASP!) I am going to share it! Yes, me! I’m sharing something meaningful that might result in me having feelings!

Autism is loving your child for exactly who they are instead of who you thought they would be. An opportunity for those who live with these extraordinary people to view the world through an entirely different paradigm.” 

If my kid being a germaphobe is my biggest problem, I’m doing quite well.

Costco and Zombies

I always have writing on the brain. I’m forever coming up with cleverly worded stories and profound thoughts to share. Unfortunately, most of them come to me while I’m driving and by the time I reach my destination, they’re gone. Such is the case today. I’m positive I came up with something great.

Given that the profound and meaningful thoughts have vacated my head, I’ve decided (in the spirit of forcing myself to keep the blog up and running) to share a less than thrilling shopping experience that might sound familiar to my fellow alcoholics. Don’t worry, I promise I won’t forget to complain about my life.

I’d also like to mention that I realized my blog acronym is YSWAT. It’s pronounced Y-SWAT. That was my executive decision.

Costco and Zombies

I went to Costco today. Normally, that’s not a blog-worthy event, but today was special. I’ve made no secret of the fact that Costco is my chosen safe-haven in the event of a zombie apocalypse. Last night was “The Walking Dead” season four finale. I had zombies on the brain. I still have zombies on the brain.

My mom and sister recently suggested that Disneyland would be their chosen post apocalyptic safe-haven. They make a good case. (You can read about it in detail on my other blog) I was almost on their side. But going to Costco and having zombies on the brain meant I was paying special attention to detail. I am reaffirming my stance. Costco is a self-contained fortress and today, I noticed skylights everywhere. Thus providing a solution to my greatest concern, lack of natural light.

Costco, for the win.

Though I’ve never filled a prescription there, I remembered, or rather was reminded by the enormous PHARMACY sign, that my son was out of medication and I had a script in my purse. That’s convenience if ever it existed. I dropped it off and we began our shopping.

Normally, my kids hate shopping of all kinds, but there’s just something magical about a larger than life warehouse store. They love it there. They love it even more on sample day, which it just so happened to be. That’s mom-speak for “my kids are getting free snacks and their shopping tolerance has increased tenfold.”

We were somewhere in between free granola bars and yogurt when my phone rang. It was the pharmacy informing me that they were unable to fill my prescription. In case you weren’t aware, schedule II controlled substances are not refillable. A paper script must be presented at each and every fill. As is common practice in the industry, the prescribing physician had written us two scripts to save us a trip. When this is done, the words “Do not fill until” followed by the next month are scrolled across the bottom.

Here’s a fun word problem, in case you feel like doing some math:

Amy had two pills left. She filled a thirty-day script on March 1st. Amy’s son knocked a bottle over and stepped on three pills. Her written script said “DO NOT FILL UNTIL APRIL” across the bottom. How many pills remained and how many was Amy able to get on March 31st?


No matter how many times I said, “Not a big deal, I’ll just get it filled in the morning,” they insisted on calling my son’s doctor and working it all out. We agreed that I’d do my shopping and when I was done I’d stop by the pharmacy and either pick up the prescription or take the script back.

It was a huge headache and I actually had a huge headache. I appreciated the effort, but despite my request being completely valid, something about being a known substance abuser, standing at a pharmacy counter saying “I swear, he stepped on them,” feels really, really scary.

FYI- if you have a problem with me medicating my child, you’re reading the wrong blog. When you have a few free days, come on over to my house and spend some quality unmedicated time with him. When you’re done we’ll have a discussion about how lazy I am and how I’m using medication as a substitute for parenting.

Maybe while we’re at it you can critique my financial management and lack of college degree. No, really. It’ll be fun. I can never get enough of feeling like a totally worthless waste of a human being. No matter how much I berate myself, I just can’t quite reach the level of effectiveness as hearing it from another person.

I know I’ve wandered somewhat off topic. Honestly, I had a rough weekend. You’d think having months of success and sobriety under my belt would feel fabulous. I’m sure it does for some people. I’m still struggling with feeling like something has been taken from me or that I’m being left out. The whole world is having a great time and I’m not invited. I mourn the loss of lifestyle far more than the alcohol itself. (But trust me, I miss the alcohol itself a whole lot too)

It sounds so ridiculous and easy spelled out in front of me. I’ve been willing to destroy my life over a beverage. Trust me, I don’t need you to call me a loser. I’ve already figured it out.

Back to more important matters. We shopped. I bought overpriced stuff in quantities we’ll never be able to consume. (Remember how I bought 30lbs of sugar at the end of November? I ran out. Is that bad?) My kids ate their weight in free samples and talked me into buying some extravagant chocolate-covered pomegranate seeds. Costco shopping rule: Never leave without something you don’t want or need.

Surprisingly, my friends at the pharmacy had managed to reach the doctor and had filled the prescription. It was mine to take. After I signed two forms. And they scanned my driver license. And made a copy of my military ID.

I’m fairly certain the tech thought I was insane. I couldn’t help laughing a little. It took some restraint to refrain from saying, “Look lady, if I was going to ruin my life, I’d be back in your monstrous liquor departments, doing it legally.” I have conflicting feelings about controlled substances. That’s a topic we’ll have to shelve for another day.

The best part of the trip was when my kids asked me how much the snack bar food cost when I was a kid and I realized it was exactly the same. Costco has not raised their prices in thirty years.

And… wait for it… the weird pomegranate stuff is good. Like, really good. Remind me to tell you my funny ER story. I was going to post it now, but I’m tired and emotionally exhausted from hating my book.


Not a lie.

Profanity (Acceptable When Used in Context or as an Appropriately Placed Adjective if No Other Word Will Suffice)

Friends, I am having a difficult time here. Switching formats is messing with my head.

I just accidentally indented this paragraph. What is this, eighth grade English? In 1987? Next thing you know I’ll be hitting the space bar twice after every period.

If you can, hang in there while you’re reading this post. It starts out with non-exciting, non-funny stuff about writing, but I promise there’s a little bit of funny at the end. (But only a tiny bit because my life is sad)


(Acceptable When Used in Context or as an Appropriately Placed Adjective

if No Other Word Will Suffice)

You have no idea how thrilled I am to be working in a format where I am free to abuse punctuation and overuse terms like “really, a lot, pretty much, very, because and of course, like” and probably more that I’m forgetting. I was supposed to put quotation marks on each of those words individually, but I didn’t and that’s okay. It’s liberating.

I know I’ve mentioned some of this already, but I’m repeating. Because I can.

This whole “serious” writing thing is not for the weak. “Well, I’m getting good feedback on my blog, so surely I can pull off a novel.”

Not so much.

In a blog I am free to write in my own voice. I can log in and write, “So I’m really freaking out about this book thing a lot. It’s pretty much killing me. Seriously.”

Now, if I were a character in my novel at this point in my life, I could say those things, but it would still be restricted to dialog. The bottom line is, writing for publication is just that, incredibly restrictive.

My blog voice is comfortable, from the heart and quite frankly, I’ve had a lot of success with it. I received this message from my sister a few days ago:

Almost everyone I talked to at (family function) gushed about your writing and how amazingly talented they thought you were.  Seriously.  Tons of people.

Yes, that was unabashed, shameless bragging, but obviously I want to take that style and carry it over. I believe at some point that will come out, but at the moment, I’m writing from a child’s perspective, which is not natural for me. Children have limited vocabularies and that means I’m forced to overuse simple adjectives. And that means I’m freaking out that it will come across more that I’m a bad writer than the voice of a child.

I just need to figure out how to keep people hooked long enough to bring out my grown-up voice and big, fancy words.

I know some of you are thinking, “Yeah, but I read so-and-so’s book and he wrote all of his dialog top to bottom with no quotation marks.” Yes, some writers do that. Creative license is a beautiful thing if you are consistent and it is clear you’ve made stylized decisions intentionally and they enhance the story, rather than diminish it. And of course people have to be able to follow it.

Punctuation is more than just a set of arbitrary rules that exist just so teachers can pick at us. Commas tell us where to take a breath, quotation marks separate dialog from narration, starting a new paragraph every time a different person speaks helps us follow a conversation. You probably never notice those things when you’re reading. Your brain is trained to follow that format.

Either you take creative license and run with it or you follow the rules. Mixing and matching makes you look like you don’t know what you’re doing. I choose to follow the rules because it is in keeping with the tone of my story. Sadly, that means I am forced to set aside my beloved Oxford comma and use “towards” versus “toward”. They are non-standard per APA and they’re going to get changed anyway.

I had a conversation with a professional editor (specializing in non-fiction but I’m sure her advice is valid) and she stressed at least fifty times that I should just write it all and get the story on paper. Then go back and edit on paper… I know, I know I mentioned this in my last post. Lots of amazing books started as garbage.

So I’ve committed myself to writing only the story, using dialog and description as it comes to me but not worrying if I’ve given enough of those things. They can be added later, right? But there’s a big problem with that:

What if I die and someone finds it and thinks it’s what I consider good writing? This is of serious concern to me. Really, it is. I think I’d re-die. I couldn’t sleep last night worrying about it. I kept trying to devise ways to integrate “ROUGH DRAFT ADD DETAIL LATER” onto my pages.

It’s bad. I mean really bad. At present my “novel” contains phrases such as “He liked the movie because it was good.” You’d re-die too if someone found your writing at that stage.

Title page

I am now accepting suggestions for a working title.

Okay, I’ll move on to other topics.

(I lied this is about writing too) I’m reveling in having found enough courage inside myself to use profanity, even though I know my parents will see it. I’m not the type to utilize these words and phrases unless they contribute to the story. The English language contains far too many adjectives that in most cases, are more fitting.

Why it bothers me to put it in print, I don’t know. I have no problem discussing my love of giving people the finger (Really, I do it all the time and it embarrasses my kids to no end) or admitting that these words go through my mind roughly 3979784749835749537 times a day. I’m using them in a very appropriate manner, e.g., a child is overhearing those words and is horrified about it, but I can’t help shake the feeling that I’m somehow going to get in trouble.

New topics:

My children self-regulate in an unusual manner. Most kids would kill to have parents who are free with content. Not mine, I couldn’t pay them to watch an R rated movie. (I’m not saying I’d let them, I’m just saying if I offered it they wouldn’t. Relax.)

A few weeks ago at my daughter’s birthday party all of the kids started participating in an activity that was an additional cost, but I hadn’t purchased. They were all having such a good time, I let them continue with the intention of paying for it on my way out.

My son freaked out about it. He wouldn’t join in, instead he followed me around until I swore on my life I would pay for it. Every time he went through, he came back out to ask if I’d paid yet. After the third time I figured it would be easier to just go pay for it rather than stand there promising him I would every two minutes.

When he came out and asked a fourth time and I told him I’d paid, he asked to see my receipt. When I provided it, he proceeded to scrutinize it to make sure the date matched and I’d paid for every last child (to include the non-invited but brought along siblings). What kind of person does he think I am? If he makes this much of a fuss over a twenty dollar add-on, I can’t imagine what he’ll do when I have a more serious moral dilemma.

My knees are killing me. From sitting cross-legged and typing four hours upon end. It doesn’t matter if I’m at a desk or on the couch (In my spot, which I take as seriously as Sheldon Cooper). I have a work-related knee injury.

I got my contacts fixed. I know you were on pins and needles about this one. I’m back to old lady multi-focal lenses! (Applause).

I had a crazy dream that The Walking Dead season finale was awful. I’m so glad I woke up. It had to do with Rick and Michonne planting cabbage. (You should probably visit my Super Zombie Apocalypse Blog)

I almost never shower or leave my house anymore. I’ve become a hermit. I rarely go out. I’m invited to a party with all of my friends this weekend. It’s next door. Literally, it’s ten feet away and I keep thinking of how much work it’s going to be.

I just realized how first world my problems are. A lot. Very. Pretty much. Think about it.

Oh please feel sorry for me because my reasonably decent eyesight isn’t perfect anymore.

My kid wanted me to be honest about paying for a luxury I could afford. (Sob)

I’m afraid my favorite paid-cable, multi-million dollar television show might disappoint me. (The horror!)

The first draft of the book I’m writing on my $1000 laptop isn’t perfect. It’s almost as if I might have to work hard at it or something.

I’m not getting out enough and my knees hurt from having TOO MUCH TIME to pursue my dreams.


If I may, I’d like to end with a quote.

“You think anyone in Rwanda is lactose intolerant?” – Chris Rock



Why I’m Freaking Out Right Now

I’m in a bind. I promised myself I’d write two thousand words a day, even if it meant staying up all night. I also promised I’d post on both of my blogs at least once a week. Blogs, book writing, anything counts as long as I hit the two thousand word mark.

The good news is that I’ve been sticking with the plan. The bad news is that I’m running out of blog material. I hardly ever leave my house anymore and that means I’m not afforded the opportunity to make a huge fool of myself and that means I can’t pass my fabulous stories down to my readers, all fifty-two of you.

This morning I took a shower for the first time since Friday. I need help. Serious help.

Why I’m Freaking Out Right Now 

I’ve been debating about the format of this post. I’m usually inclined to write a story, A to Z with a few laughs thrown in, in chronological order. I started that way and it wasn’t working. The events/issues I’m sharing are not so much a story as a collection of freaking-out-over stuff. Therefore, you’re getting a list. In the interim please pray that I do something stupid so my blog will be good again.

1. I can’t stop eating.
Despite taking a trillion medications that list “loss of appetite” as a side effect, I’m starving at all times, hence I am eating at all times. Last night I ate an entire pint of Haagen Das. An entire pint is four servings and each serving is two hundred and fifty calories. That’s eighty percent of what I should be consuming over the course of an entire day. So not only am I unhealthily obsessing over the number on my bathroom scale, I’m also feeling sluggish and sick from the overly-sweet dietary choices I’ve been making. I know what you’re going to say: Eat healthy foods instead. Here’s the thing, healthy food doesn’t taste as good and it’s more work to prepare and despite the fact that I’m basically housebound and have hour upon hour free every single day, I’m too lazy to eat right. And the fact that I’m too lazy to eat right is making me stressed out and that makes me eat more unhealthy foods. See, I told you I need serious help.

2. I forgot to buy “Frozen” while I was at the store.
Now I’m faced with two options: Get dressed again (I’m back in my pajamas) and go all the way back to the store or deal with hearing “But you promised!” all night long. I dislike both scenarios.

3. I’m obsessing over small details in my book.
Despite having attended a course on book writing last weekend (didn’t even shower for it) and having been told specifically not to edit my first draft. I’m unable to quit worrying about comas and periods and staring at a list of synonyms trying to figure out which word I should use. I spent three hours on Saturday working on a single paragraph. Three hours on one paragraph. At this rate my grandchildren will have to finish for me.

I just worried so much about a run-on sentence, I rewrote that paragraph twice.

4. I’m avoiding writing my book.
See issue 3. for more detailed information as to my reasons.

5. I’m a slacker parent.
I’d like to claim I allowed my child to get a thirty one percent on his spelling test as a result of a deliberate parenting choice to encourage self-sufficiency. But it’s pretty much that I forget to work with him every night. I’d also like to claim I have a good excuse for not participating in fundraisers or the PTA, but the truth is I don’t like them and therefore I don’t participate. Maybe that’s actually not so bad.

The last PTA meeting I attended centered on fundraising and nothing else and I didn’t much care for it. In my opinion, there’s something to be said for just asking for donations instead of using the hours our tax dollars fund for education to drag my kids into an auditorium and get them riled up about unobtainable prizes. My idea: Send home a donation sheet that reads “We need X number of dollars to do the following: insert activity. If each family donates $20 we will reach that goal without having to hock cookie dough to your neighbors.”

We all know that a large percentage of families wouldn’t contribute and that’s fine. It’s still one less enormous undertaking a year. And I could take solace in the fact that one hundred percent of my money went to the school versus twenty percent of whatever I bring in from door-to-door pressuring people into buying stuff they don’t want. In other words, your kid has to sell about a hundred dollars worth of goods to earn the school twenty. Who’s getting the better deal here?

I should be in charge of fundraising. And most of the school. And Obamacare. I’d fix that crap in five minutes.

(I do appreciate the PTA and understand the need for fundraising. I just hate it.)

6. My new contact lenses aren’t strong enough.
I was very displeased with the optometrist I saw this morning. I assumed when I made an appointment, it would be with the same doctor I always see instead of whoever was available. Apparently I was wrong. This woman told me what my prescription would be before even looking at my eyes. I explained to her that my vision has worsened so much over the past few months I can’t read the guide on a fifty-inch television from twelve feet away. She lessened my prescription. Significantly. Like from a trifocal (or “multi-focal” as they say to lessen the blow) that I can’t even see out of anymore to a weak single vision lens. I’m sure someone’s going to tell me there’s some special reason she did that, but all that matters to me is that I’m currently reading a Word document at a hundred and fifty percent because I can’t make out the letters at anything less and I’m wearing the contacts. That my friends, is not a +1.00. Do you ever get the feeling somebody’s on a mission to prove everyone else wrong?

7. I keep forgetting to give my daughter her medication.
Speaking of eyes… My daughter was blessed with a corneal scratch last week and I’ve only managed to put the ointment in her eye a handful of times. I probably should’ve filed this under “slacker parenting.”

8. My future is vague and I’m almost positive I’m going to wind up living in a box on the streets.
Anyone and everyone who’s lived in a military family will tell you it’s not easy. At times it’s downright horrible. But there’s a flipside to this equation in the form of job security, health insurance, and discounted goods and services.

It’s easy for us to become a little disconnected from the real world. To be honest with you, I don’t even know what “healthcare exchange” means. And that’s because I have medical insurance that costs next to nothing and has no copays and as of this moment, it isn’t changing (yet). I once had emergency surgery, spent close to two weeks in the hospital, and was presented with a one hundred and fifty thousand dollar bill. I paid zero. Nothing. Not a single cent.

When I hear unemployment statistics, I don’t consider them very seriously. We’re under contract. Even if we did end up victims of early separation, we’d still have several months to get our affairs in order unlike so many who get a couple of weeks. If they’re lucky.

Yes, I’m a terrible person.

Now we’re nearing the finish line. The husband is getting dangerously close to reaching higher tenure, which in layman’s terms is the point where you’re no longer allowed to be in the service. We’ve spent more than a decade telling ourselves, “When that happens” we’ll deal with whatever we need to deal with. Well, that’s happening now. How will my health insurance work? What will it cost? Where will we live? Can we earn enough money to bridge the gap between retirement income and our current wages?  Will we find jobs at all? The idea of living a life on the outside, where we have choices and variables and might not end up living in a neighborhood made up of military and ex-military people who speak our language… Well, it scares me to death.

9. My computer is intermittently typing in all caps.
I’m a Mac loyalist. Why? Because I bought a MacBook Air two years ago and it’s been dropped, kicked and flooded with an entire bottle of wine and it still works. A few days ago it froze up and I realized I didn’t know the Mac equivalent of Ctrl+Alt+Del. I’ve never needed to. That being said, the caps lock was stuck in the on position for a few days after the pinot grigio incident, but it eventually quit and all was well. It’s doing it again. A frozen caps lock is a pretty huge deal if you’re trying to write a book. I’d like to curse the computer itself, but this one’s kind of on me.

10. I’m out of things to blog about.
Which is why just read what you did. Sorry.

Rehab Scandal

It was never my intention to center this blog on alcoholism. In fact, my plan was to mention it sparingly. Yet somehow it seems to be the only thing I’m capable of writing about these days.

When I entered treatment, I expected to shed a few tears, have some kind of epiphany, then come home and pick up where I left off, minus alcohol. I imagined my life would revert to its original state and the crisis would be over. I was certainly aware of the “once an addict, always and addict,” philosophy, but I equated it more with not drinking again, rather than continually coping.

People use words like “recovering” and “healing” to describe the process of living a sober life. They’re great words, but they imply an end, as in “recovered” and “healed.” I’m sure most people in my shoes would say that the most difficult part of the recovery process is accepting that it never ends. I will have to do this for the rest of my life and it’s not an easy thing to do. It’s challenging for me to talk about much else because that process really is the center of my life.

I can’t have a powerful or meaningful experience every day, so today’s post is basically a description of life in a treatment center (which for some reason people find interesting) and some gossip that probably won’t interest anyone but me.


Rehab Scandal 

If you were to survey the general public, asking what they imagine a residential drug and alcohol treatment center is like, you’d probably find that most of your responses would fall into one of two categories:

The first is a lockdown facility, somewhat like a psychiatric ward. In this place, the windows have mesh wire running through them and every door is opened by a keycard. Residents are brought in by wheelchair, some in handcuffs. They have matted hair and they’re screaming and yelling, desperate to escape. Everyone is a prisoner and no one gets out. It’s loud, crowded, and full of degenerates who are court ordered to be there. It’s a mirror imagine of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” Independent thought is punishable by detainment and possibly a return trip to prison.

The second is a luxury facility, somewhat like a Club Med resort. There are no bars or fences and very few doors. There are groups practicing yoga on the lawn, one of several courses residents may or may not attend, based on personal preference. Every last minute of every day is spent focusing on feelings and targeting the deeper issues lying below the surface of your addiction. If you’re too tense for therapy sessions, you can opt to spend your afternoon at the spa. It’s a regular “Passages, Malibu.” (Don’t get me started)

I spent twenty-eight days in a treatment center in Lincoln, Nebraska; about forty miles west of my home. It didn’t much resemble either of the two facilities imagined above.  If you’re interested in hearing a bit more about my experience, keep reading. If you’re not interested, well, I guess this isn’t the post for you.

I didn’t choose the place, but I wasn’t sent there involuntarily. The process was less than exciting. I agreed to go, my doctor called them, they called me, I answered their questions, and we set an admission date for a few days later. I was to start in detox until I was deemed healthy enough to join the program. I thought that was completely ridiculous, but apparently when they ask how much you consume and your answer is eighty drinks a week, you go to detox or you don’t go at all.

Per my instructions, I checked in via emergency room. I was weighed, measured, poked, prodded, and pumped full of Ativan. I tried to focus on the task at hand, but I couldn’t resist peeking at the scale. My 5’2” self weighed a hundred and sixty-eight pounds. Once deemed fit enough, I was escorted to an old, three-story, dormitory-like brick building that would serve as my home for the next month.

I must’ve looked terrible, because the minute the on-call doctor took one look at me, I was given more Ativan. I fell asleep. Not your average tired-at-the-end-of-the-day sleep, more like tired-from-killing-my-body sleep. I slept from Monday evening until Wednesday morning, waking only for ten minutes or so at a time to use the restroom, vomit, and smoke. In that order. It turned out the detox stay wasn’t such a bad idea after all.

Everyone smokes in treatment. Everyone. If you went in a non-smoker, you left on the two pack a day plan.

I could go on with detail, but I won’t. I’ll give you some highlights, if you haven’t left already, that is.

I joined the group on Friday, but it was at least Tuesday before I was coherent enough to do much of anything other than listen. Don’t even ask how long it took me to get my memory in working order. It’s appalling.

Contrary to popular belief, treatment was wholly enjoyable. Spending time with others, people who completely understood what I was going through, was perhaps more therapeutic than any other facet of the program. There were only ten to twelve of us at any given time. We had no choice but to get used to each other.

I became particularly close to a woman, who we’ll call J1. She was about fifteen years older than me and about fifty pounds lighter and possibly the most energetic and allegiant person I’ve ever known.

There were many others I became close with. Addiction is equal opportunity. We ranged from black to white to young to old (70+) to thin to heavy to wealthy to poor.

And there was of course, a rumor mill. It was rumored that J2 (who was my age and a mother of four who weighed about a hundred and fifteen pounds and was perfect in every way) was having an affair with R. Everybody thought C might be pregnant (she actually was). N’s wife was leaving him. And so on…

There were classes. Classes about grief. Classes about the science of addiction. Classes about our personal history, one such class required us to write down every penny our addiction had ever cost us. We were required to include medical bills, squandered funds, legal fees, incompletely schooling, lost wages, and lost potential income. My figure was over seven hundred and fifty thousand dollars.

I pulled out my workbooks with the intention of posting a few pictures of my answers to questions like “Name one time when you drank or used so much you were out of control,” “Have you ever injured yourself as a result of being high or drunk?” But when I read through it, it was far too personal. It’s funny, if you asked me those questions, I’d gladly answer. There’s just something about the workbook itself I don’t feel like sharing.

Helpful tip for avoiding drunken burn injury: Don’t like a sparkler with a mini lighter.

There were AA meetings, sometimes two or three a day. We either walked or drove to every one of them. Everyone had their favorite and most hated meetings. My least favorite meeting was held in the evenings in the adjacent hospital. The group leader was entirely too thrilled to be present. After one of the guys mentioned how much he resembled a game show host, I could never keep a straight face there. Really, this guy had a microphone and cheered out “so, who’s new tonight? Do we have any new alcoholics in the house?” It was awful, truly horrific.

It took me a week or so to say the words “I’m an alcoholic.” It came so easily to everyone else, but I couldn’t bring myself to say it.

One afternoon we were required to watch an ancient video about personality types. It was Gary Smalley, talking to an audience. It looked like an eighties episode of Oprah. There were four of such personality types: Golden retriever, lion, otter, and beaver. He talked us through all of them. Unfortunately, when he got to “beaver,” it was clear he lacked knowledge of the double entrende.  He went on and on about this beaver and that beaver and the more he talked, the more my inner fourteen year old crept up. I kept that fourteen year old me at bay until he made a statement that went something like this “I my wife is a massive beaver.” (or acts like one or something) I completely lost it. I burst out laughing, which made everyone around me burst out laughing. It went on until the instructor looked me in the eye, quite angrily and said “alright, Amy.”

I’m sitting on my couch, alone, laughing hysterically.

I didn’t take what I needed from the program. I wasn’t there yet. I cried only once after being put on the spot about an incredibly touchy subject. I pulled myself together within a minute and never let myself go there again. I should’ve. It’s only been in the past four or five months that my tears have started falling freely. It was over a year from the day I left before I soaked any of it in.

I knew it was time to go when the lessons began repeating themselves. Even though there were no bars or fences and I knew I could’ve left at any time, leaving felt wrong. It was the proverbial “now what?” moment.

That’s my experience in abbreviated fashion. After I left J1, J2, and I were AA meeting partners. J1 was incredibly proactive about keeping in touch. We spoke on the phone for hours every day. Six weeks later I resumed my long-standing practice of ignoring calls. I was drinking again. J1 left three voice messages for me that week:

Hey Amy, it’s J1 I was just calling to let you know that I love you and you are a wonderful person and you add so much value to this world. Again, I love you and I hope to see you tomorrow night. Bye.

Hey Amy, it’s J1, just calling to touch base with you. Kind of worried about you, would like to hear from you. Again, J2’s in bad shape, she hasn’t gotten out of bed since Saturday afternoon, just long enough to get to the bathroom, if she can make it there. Anyway, I’m scared. I’m just scared something bad’s going to happen. I’d really like to talk to you. Bye.

(Audibly intoxicated) Hey Amy, it’s J1, it’s like the sky is falling in on me, I can’t get ahold of anybody anymore. Anyway, give me a buzz. Bye.

And she died in her sleep that night, from a combination of opiates and a preexisting medical condition that caused low blood pressure. I learned this a few days later when I received a message from one of the guys, saying he’d heard she died or something terrible had happened. I completely dismissed it and sent her a text, apologizing for being such a horrible friend and letting her know I was okay. When my phone rang an hour later, displaying her name on my screen, I felt immediate relief. The caller turned out to be her husband; he talked me through everything that had happened.

I’ll tell you why all of this suddenly came flooding back to me.

My daughter’s cornea was scratched by debris, picked up by the (ridiculous) Nebraska wind and I found myself once again at the same emergency room and once again leaving with a prescription. While sitting at Starbucks, waiting on the pharmacy, I heard a familiar voice ordering coffee behind me. It was J2 and she was with R. The rumor was true! I gasped and immediately picked up the phone to call J1. I do that every so often, despite her being gone longer than she was in my life to begin with.

I didn’t talk to them, though I did have a strong desire to casually display my now competing one hundred and fifteen pound body.  I was in sweats, without makeup, and sporting some incredibly unattractive unwashed hair. I’m not sure I would’ve talked to her even looking my best. I didn’t feel right. Besides, it’s not a competition. She’s far too perfect.

The Most Boring Post Ever: Writing a Book

Yesterday I posted the following status on Facebook:

Okay people. I have officially penned a chapter in what may or may not be that book you’re all harassing me about. If I find out you were only praising my writing to make me feel better about myself, I’m going to hunt you down and punch you in the throat.

I suppose I’ll go from there.

The Most Boring Post Ever: Writing a Book

Writing a book is hard. I mean really, really hard.

When I woke up yesterday, I knew it was time to begin the long and scary process of putting the pieces of my life together to form the book I’ve always wanted to write. I can’t say why exactly I came to that conclusion, but I can tell you that’s exactly how this blog came to be. I knew I wanted to start writing, but I was never able to summon up the courage. One day I found myself in a ridiculous predicament and I thought it might be a good place to start. It felt right. And so began my journey.

I know I’ve said this before, but putting yourself out there is tremendously difficult. I wasn’t so much afraid of people criticizing my writing, I was afraid of people criticizing me.

I knew though, that quality writing requires honesty. I decided to give it the all or nothing approach. I’m amazed at the response I’ve received so far. I never dreamed that my decision to share my failures and vulnerabilities, as well as my experiences, in such an open fashion would be so well received. That’s not to say I’ve become an overnight sensation by any means. This blog gets about two hundred and fifty hits on my best days. Successful blogs need several hundred thousand clicks a day to generate revenue. I can’t see this one as ever commanding that type of interest.

I can, however, see my Super Zombie Apocalypse Blog becoming somewhat popular. I say this because it receives traffic from search engines like Yahoo!, Bing, and Google. And because it’s based on one of the most popular shows on television. I’m hoping to generate cross-traffic.

In writing the book, I’ve already encountered the following issues:

  1. I’m bad at dialog
  2. I’m bad at introducing characters
  3. I’m struggling to keep the story fluid
  4. I’m terrified to share the things I’m about to share

It will hurt many people, what I’m about to write. Not in the sense that they’ll be angry with me, but it’s possible they may feel guilt or sadness. And actually some people probably will be unhappy when I discuss our relationships.

And I’m going to have to drop the “F-word,” a bunch; it’s part of the story. And I’m going to have to talk about the three letter “S-word,” a bunch; it’s part of the story as well.

Sorry, mom and dad.

I’ve decided to move forward not because I imagine my book will become a best seller, but because it’s something I need to do for myself. I spend so much time beating myself up over the way my life has played-out thus far and I’ve finally reached a point where I’m ready to examine how it came to be. I’m trying everything in my power to acknowledge that some of the unfortunate events in my life haven’t been my fault. I just can’t figure out where the line between acknowledgement and making excuses lies.

The other major decision I had to make was whether I wanted to compose a straight, non-fiction biography or a fictional novel. I went with fiction. Fiction allows me to invent a story based on my life, but change names, dates, experiences and so on. It allows me “wiggle room.” And if I’m being honest, I feel better knowing that my friends and family will not know exactly what is fiction and what isn’t. I have absolutely zero intention of hurting or humiliating others, and my choice will minimize that risk. I plan to combine the experiences I’ve had with two or three individuals to comprise single characters. But I know it won’t be risk free and I’m sure someone will think I’m talking about them when I’m not.

I come back to James Fray’s “A Million Little Pieces,” again and again. Fabulous novel. Sold as non-fiction. Later discovered to have been highly embellished. Made a whole lot of people (including Oprah) angry. It didn’t have to be that way.

I’m flailing a bit. I keep reading passages from some of my favorite books for reference, but it’s going to take a while for my own style to develop. I may make a rough outline, though I didn’t plan to, just to keep me on track. We’ll see.

I’m pretty sure what I’ve just shared is the most boring and least interesting thing I’ve ever written. In light of that, I’m going to take a few moments to answer two questions I’ve been asked repeatedly.

1. Have you ever received a DUI or been pulled over under the influence?

No and yes.

I’ve received two traffic citations since I became a licensed driver in 1994. The first was Valentine’s Day, 2001. I was driving twenty miles an hour in a fifteen zone. Unfortunately, the fifteen zone also happened to be a school zone.

The second was in 2001 as well. It was the first week of September, I was moving, interning, working, and starting my (second) senior year in college.

Anyhow, I was stretched to the limits and physically exhausted. I rear-ended someone going about ten miles an hour. Traffic was at a standstill, she moved a little, I moved a little. She slammed on her brakes, I slammed on mine. Just not fast enough. I was cited for “failing to avoid an accident,” she was cited for failing to wear a seatbelt. Her ticket was more than mine.

I’ve been stopped just once since that incident. The officer noted the shrieking infant in the backseat, took one look at my panic-stricken face, and let me go.

As far as the intoxicated traffic stop goes: that, I will save for the book. It’s an unbelievable story. Absolutely insane. I don’t want to spoil the surprise. You’re dying of anticipation, aren’t you?

2. When did you know you had a problem?

On some level, I’ve always known. When did I realize I needed serious help? is the more important question.

The answer is January 1st, 2012. I woke up from the most excessive drinking binge of my entire life. How much others saw me consume and how much I actually consumed are two very different figures. It’s pretty disgusting.

I’m saving that one for the book too. Sorry my friends, you’ll just have to wait.


I found something amazing today. I was rummaging through my closet in search of a photo I thought I could use in a future post. I had gone through every last box of pictures and was about to give up when it occurred to me that the photo might be in a box of keepsakes I hadn’t opened in years. I was pretty sure it was mostly crammed full of graduation cards and old pay stubs I hadn’t bothered to dispose of. I questioned if it would even be worth my time to go through the hassle of getting it down, which would require a chair, a box on top of the chair, and me standing on top of the box, on the tips of my toes.

I talked myself into it.

I was partly correct in my assumptions, it did contain a ton of graduation cards and old pay stubs. But it also turned out to be housing just about every letter I’d received between the ages of twelve and twenty-two(ish), along with some other random stuff (like a wooden cowboy boot Christmas ornament??) and the photo I was looking for.

So I sat on the floor and worked my way through the box in hopes of coming across something else I might be interested in writing about. I found enough material to write a thousand articles. And a few pieces that almost literally took my breath away. I may or may not share them.


The items contained in the box go back as far as my earliest days. You’ll be happy to know that I received my DTP and Polio vaccinations in 1979 (in case you were holding your breath). I found record of a tetanus shot too, from 1997. I remember that one vividly because it involved me shoving a butter knife so far down in between my pinkie and ring finger it warranted an ER visit.

If you’ve read any of my last few posts, you’re probably noticing a trend. I’ve spent a lot of time in emergency rooms. I’m told my initial visits involved me swallowing an entire box of candlewicks and getting my foot wedged in a 1970’s era Little People house.

lp house

I don’t remember the incident, but I definitely remember playing with it. The lever to the left of the door rings a bell.

I can also recall a food-poisoning trip and one involving some other sort of killer flu/virus. I believe my dad may have been included in the killer flu/virus situation. And I’m pretty sure it was Christmas Eve or Christmas day. Although I’m sure someone will tell me I’m wrong. He broke his leg too. And crushed his fingers with something incredibly heavy, in my mind it’s an anvil, but that’s probably incorrect as well.

The poor man was even once run over by a semi truck (before I was born). My mom has a picture of him in the hospital, hooked up to a dozen wires and I.V.s (is that how I’m supposed to be abbreviating it? I tried lower case, but it just looked like ivs and that seemed wrong) with two cartons of Kools stacked next to him on the bedside table. I’ll try to get my hands on it. It’s worth viewing.

Luck must be hereditary.

Beyond some school pictures and artwork, there wasn’t anything that really stood out about my first few years. But then I uncovered this gem.

me 2

Wait? Me? Rushing through something? That’s preposterous.

This thing has A-M-Y stamped all over it in ginormous block letters. It says: The girl’s a good reader, but she’s not really interested in achieving anything.  She’s sloppy as hell and doesn’t seem to care much about time tests and deadlines. She’s shamefully uncoordinated and unskilled at sports. We’ll give her a C, because hey, she showed up.

I remember that grade. It was boring. I can recall sneaking glances at a copy of “Island of the Blue Dolphins,” under my desk during a timed multiplication test. I never did finish that one; it was also super boring. One of my kids recently checked it out at the library. My opinion stands.

I cannot begin to tell you the number of elementary school hours I spent feeling like I was going to physically die if they didn’t move on to something else. Once, in a kindergarten reading circle I was sitting across from a girl who was struggling with the word “Said.” I remember thinking, “It says said. Said. Said. Said. Said. Said. Come on… Pleeeeease just let me do it.” The feeling was similar to what I feel now in the checkout line at Target.

I do think it’s pretty amusing that I ended up having decent grammar and a poor attitude. And you’re damn right I brighten up the room. I’m doing it right now. You just can’t see me.

That was the last elementary-aged memento I found. All I really remember after that was the huge X-Wing fighter mural on the wall between the boys and girls bathrooms. And the morning announcements. I was asked to read them several times a week. It was my special talent. I’m very loud.

I could easily write ten articles about my middle school era findings. But I imagine that might get boring so I’ll just share this snippet with you.

When I was about twelve, I began to prefer the company of my middle sister over my peers. I was socially awkward and had trouble figuring out how to fit in. She was trapped in the past-high-school-but-not-quite-an-adult phase.

I’ll give you some more background info. In my youth we traveled quite a bit. To Idaho. Spring vacation? Idaho. Summer vacation? Idaho. Four-day weekend? Idaho. For no reason at all? Idaho. I could drive from Portland, Oregon to my dad’s childhood home blindfolded, backwards, upside down, in earplugs, while being repeatedly hit in the face with a stick. We made that eight- hour (each way) trek a lot.

Instead of marveling at the amazing backdrop of five story gorge walls and mountain passes, we invented all kinds of bizarre time-passing activities. One of them was giving each other ten random words that the other had to incorporate into a short story. I’m telling you all of this because I came across our two most notorious stories. The first is titled “The Brother of Elvis,” the other remains untitled. It was about a few encounters of a woman named Claudia.

Back in the days when grocery stores closed at night and only convenience stores stayed open twenty-four hours, we frequented the corner 7-11. Claudia was the p.m. cashier. If you needed a gallon of milk at midnight, you had to deal with her. She was the most un-smiling, grouchy, unpleasant person I’d ever come across. And the unwitting subject of most of our inside jokes. The story opened with “My name is Claudia. I carry a Big Gulp.” (Thank my sister for this one)

I’m not going to share them; they’re somewhat illegible and very, very embarrassing. But they did occupy countless hours on the long, long trip.

If you were lucky enough to spend your Fourth of July in the eight hundred resident destination, you were treated to pancake feeds and porcupine races.

I will, however, share with you a few other items:

I received this during my sister’s brief stint as a Maryland resident.
(Her birthday is January 20th)
lisa 6 1 lisa 7
Coming up with ridiculous business names was also an efficient time-killer.

tickets 1 lisa 2

Now that I think about it, I may have received the valentine in high school. I only found three things from that time period. I was apparently too busy being selfish and obnoxious, as most teenagers are.

The first was a note from a friend, inquiring as to the whereabouts of Walkman I’d borrowed, with a (ridiculously funny) sketch on the back. Unfortunately, I’m not going to share it with you. It will offend someone and I’m not in the mood for hate mail.

The second was this:

Melanie 2 1

This is the name card you put in your graduation announcements. Mine arrived with a gorgeous, but superfluous L right in between my first and middle names. There is no L in my name. I received mail addressed this way for years thereafter. My friends are hilarious.

Speaking of misprints and nicknames, I have a few more.

“Napkins” – One day at lunch, a friend asked me to grab her some napkins. Only while asking, she stumbled and took an unnecessary pause. It came out “grab me some, Napkins.” As if that was my name and I was requesting that she grope me. I’m still hearing this from time to time.

“Amy Mane” – Not only was there a misprint in my name cards, there was one in the program at my graduation ceremony. Someone decided I needed to be renamed Amy Mane versus Amy Marie. It stuck. My oldest sister still uses this one often.

The last item was an envelope full of ticket stubs. Most from high school, but a few are from my first or second year in college. Don’t worry; we’re going there next.


I. Am. Awesome.


So, so awesome.

The end.

While examining the box contents I had set aside all of the letters from my first few college years. I figured I could read them in sequence and have a few laughs. I did. Rehashing old inside jokes is more than entertaining. I guess you had to be there.

I held off on reading them because I knew that one of them made mention of drinking and I was curious to find it. It was one of the few I remember receiving. To the best of my recollection, I had read it, shrugged my shoulders and tossed it aside with the rest of them.  I was looking for what I thought was few sentences in the midst of a long letter, maybe about designated drivers or not going off with strange guys or something like that.

There were dozens of letters. I half read, half scanned every last one of them. The illusive “warning about alcohol” paragraph was nowhere to be found. I figured I’d thrown it away. No big deal.

I don’t know why, but just as I was packing everything up, I had the urge to go through the box one last time. And sure enough, I found one last smaller, invitation-sized enveloped shoved to the very bottom, sandwiched in the middle of two oversized greeting cards. Isn’t it convenient that the events actually played out like that? Like a movie script. The kind where the wife thinks the husband is cheating and goes through all of his things, not finding proof. Then at the last second, something catches her eye…

You know how I said I found something that took my breath away? This was it. Really. It was hard to breathe.

CLVG 1 1

It reads:

                                                                                                            Mon Aug 25 1997


My Amy! I just got your letter and I was so happy. May I say that I love your stationery? It’s very nice. Why do you say it’s funny that I’ve liked you through all your phases? How could I possibly not like you? And anyway, I’ve had my phases too- Just not as noticeably. You are however, a large concern. Poor … and I worry about you. I don’t want this to sound like a confrontational letter as opposed to a friendly hello letter but if I may go off on a tangent: I’ve noticed that you have a very addictive personality and I want you to be careful… Alcohol… is bad when taken in excess, so I want you to moderate yourself because I love you and don’t want you to get hurt. And if you think you have a problem or just want to see if you might (I’m not saying you do) there is much help available. And me! I’m always here. Besides the aforementioned alcohol I am here for any troubles you may have, small as they may be – It bothers me more not to hear about troubles so please share w/ me…

It goes on from there to discuss the time one of our teacher’s fly was open and her choking at a restaurant and me not helping because I thought she was kidding. And how she received a letter containing only a milk ad with Hanson on it that read, “What do we drink when we write our songs? Mmmilk.”

Monday, August 25th, 1997.

I sat on the floor, reading it over and over and over.

It’s made its way into my purse. I find myself pulling it out in places like waiting rooms and grocery store parking lots. I’m sure I’ve read it a hundred times. There’s a little part of me that’s still insisting I could control it if I really wanted to. That I just had a rough couple of years. It was a fluke. It’s over. I’m fine. Resume normal life.

The letter makes believing that a whole lot more difficult. I can’t explain what I’m going through at the moment. Who knew a letter like this would be so hard on me? It makes everything very real and I’m not sure I like that. But I’m still glad I found it.

I’m glad I found all of it.

To the author and co-conspirator (aka …): Writing this letter was an incredibly courageous act. That you wrote it at age eighteen is absolutely amazing. I am so very, very thankful for two decades of friendship. It took a little longer than expected, but your letter made a difference in my life.

Even though you don’t remember writing it.