Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Happy Camper

Kiddo and Hubs love camping. They are constantly trying to get me out in a tent. Outdoors. With no bathroom. With no shower. They expect me to dig a hole to do my business, sleep among the bugs and snakes, and eat food charred over an open fire. To add to the insanity, they think I will enjoy it.

This is as rough as I want it to get.

To them I say a resounding NO. I do not camp. For one thing, I have a bladder the size of a thimble. I wake at least once a night for the bathroom. I am not going out in nature to do its bidding. There are things out there, you know. Like the outdoors. 

Another reason is that I am old and decrepit. Sleeping anywhere but on a pillow-top mattress makes my joints hurt. I am a delicate flower that needs lots of soft cushion. I should be wrapped in lots of fluffy blankets, much like a rare Ming vase. Treat me like the fragile thing of beauty that I am, or I will hurt you. 

Finally, coffee...or the lack thereof. I have yet to meet a tent with an outlet that will let me plug in my coffee maker. Have you seen me without coffee in the morning?

This is after my first cup.

No camping for me. I think that’s a good thing. The two manly types in my life can bond in their own primitive, behind-bush-squatting, bug-swatting way. I’ll sit this one out, thank you very much. 

Kiddo and Hubs love camping so much that when weather allows, they sleep in our backyard. Yes, as soon as overnight temps dip into the mid- to low-60s, the boys are out there in the tent each and every night, hunkered down in the wilderness between our house and the trampoline. I send the two off with a smile, goodnight kisses, and bug spray. Then I grab a bottle of wine, some chicken wings, and watch Netflix in all my indoor, prissy girl glory. 

It’s still quite warm for that yet. Summer has not yet quit southeast Georgia, because summer doesn’t pay any attention to my calendar which says it’s time to go. Summer is an inconsiderate guest. It stays long after the white wine and chips have been consumed and we’re dropping hints that football season has started. 

Even my wild and woolly husband has his limits when it comes to being primitive. Summer will be here until November, making him a somewhat civilized, indoor-loving creature right up until Thanksgiving. Camping, and his vain attempts to lure me into it, is still weeks away.

That has not stopped Kiddo in his mania for the experience. This past summer he decided that his new bed, bought just last year, was simply too comfortable.

I went into his room one night this past July to tuck him in. I stopped in surprise to find my youngling with all his linens, blankets, and pillows on the floor. On top of those, he had laid out his sleeping bag, which he was happily snuggled inside of.

“This is my new bed. I am camping,” he informed me.  

Okay. I could handle that, even though it meant bending those decrepit joints quite a bit to deliver goodnight kisses. I figured it was a passing phase that would be over in a few days. 

Yet here we are at the end of September, and Kiddo is still ‘camping’ on the floor. What’s more, he’s got a play tent set up in his bedroom now. Each night I not only have to kneel down to wish the child pleasant dreams, but I have to crawl into a small enclosure to boot. I sound like a water tower full of Rice Krispies with all the snap, crackle, and popping. Meanwhile, a perfectly good bed sits next to this makeshift camp, reminding me of how much money I spent on it just to be ignored. 

“Why don’t you sleep in your bed?” I ask. I look at it wistfully, think how much easier it is to sit on its edge as I send my child into dreamland.

“No. Sleep in the tent,” Kiddo replies. He looks at me as if I’ve lost my mind. Sleep in the bed, indeed. Mommy is apparently a lunatic for suggesting such a thing. He’s probably considering putting me in an institution for my madness. 

That’s fine. Institutions have beds and indoor plumbing. It’s still better than sleeping outdoors.


Sunday, September 28, 2014

Sunday’s Serving – The Willow and the Stone

                As if to underscore his words, a loud buzz shattered the background singing of insects and frogs. Renee and Adam separated in a heartbeat and shot to their feet, heedless of their nudity in the cold air.
                “Where?” she whispered, straining to see in the gloom.
                “Outside, I think. Stay here.” She heard Adam search his sleeping bag. Then came the click of a gun cocked.
                Renee thought of Carli asleep in the recesses of the warehouse. “No way. I'm going with you.” She frantically rummaged about until she felt the cold metal of her own weapon.
                Adam’s silhouette appeared by the door as he slid toward the opening. His whisper barely carried back to her. “All right, but stick close. Got your gun?”
                “Yeah.” She crept to his side. Together they drifted like spirits to the door, and as one they hesitated at the square of moonlight that illuminated the entrance. Renee stopped breathing as her ears searched for the telltale chitter of an alien. Only the chirping of ordinary bugs and the pounding of her own heart sounded in the stillness.
                They remained frozen for an eternity. Then Adam glided to the edge of the doorway. He jerked his head. Renee moved to the opposite side of the opening. Peering out as far as she could without leaving the comparative safety of the warehouse, she scanned the moonlit landscape. Nothing stirred.
                Adam nodded to her and lunged outside. She followed suit, her gun straight-armed and sweeping in an arc, ready to blast the first thing that moved.
                The moonlight illuminated a gravel road that led up to the door of the warehouse. A few splintered wooden pallets littered the sandy ground. Nothing stirred. Renee glanced back toward Adam. Except for the rusted skeletal remains of a forklift, his side of the warehouse remained still.
                “Check around that corner,” he whispered. He moved toward the other end of the building.
                Renee darted to the corner of the warehouse. She scanned her surroundings. A few weeds swayed in the breeze. Her heart hammered in her ears. She peered around the corner. Nothing. The pale light illuminated a few rusting steel drums and another forgotten forklift. She breathed out with a whoosh.
                “See anything?” Adam’s voice came from right behind her. Renee stifled a scream.
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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Clothing-Optional Home


The above pictured sticker is posted on my front door. It’s there to alert emergency responders that, heaven-forbid, might someday have enter my house to save lives. My son, like many eight-year-olds, does not care for voices of authority. In his case, panic makes it extreme. Hence, the sticker. 

There should probably be another sticker on my front door for the uninformed visitors. It would say something along the lines of, ‘Warning. Child that is not a toddler is running around in only his underwear. If he likes you, he may want a hug. If you sit down, he may wallow all over you. Uncomfortable closeness can and will ensue.’ 

People on the spectrum can have incredible sensitivity to sight, sound, taste, smells, and feeling. Kiddo is a perfect example of that case. Clothes are uncomfortable for him. He does not like to wear them. So, in the privacy of our home, he is not expected to be clad in anything but the finest in clean Angry Bird undies. 

Besides, it’s fun to watch the reactions he gets from the uninformed. The exterminator eyes my curious and friendly son with a nervousness he doesn’t display for wasps or spiders. Guests who may otherwise stay too long soon find a reason to go home at a decent hour. Jehovah’s Witnesses who invariably show up at my door during dinner time –and are not put off by the food between my teeth and fork in my paw – stay just long enough to thrust a copy of ‘Watchtower’ in my son’s hand before making for the next house. There’s just something about  seeing a boy over the age of 5 trotting about in his drawers that makes the neuro-typicals beat a hasty retreat. 

I make no apologies for my kid and his nudist proclivities, mostly because I’m laughing too hard to do so. Besides, this is his house. He should be comfortable here. He manages to keep his clothes on at school and the grocery store now. Yes, there have been naked episodes in public, due to fabric discomfort. “Naked child in Produce” is always hilarious to hear over the speakers at Winn Dixie. Looking for his clothes in the frozen section is a treasure hunt like no other. 

Kiddo has never liked being covered up. Even as a newborn, he was making like Houdini in chains and escaping blankets and onesies. Not 24 hours had elapsed after he got free of my womb before he was lying about in bare-butt glory. Even in the coldest weather, I could not keep clothes on the child. He hates the feel of them, a common complaint among those on the autism spectrum. In one of her books about living with autism, Temple Grandin asserted she only buys clothes from the thrift store. She needs the softness that only many washings can offer. Otherwise, she’s in sensory hell. I bet she sits around her house in her undies too. 

So if you come to my home, be aware. A boy long of limb and bereft of fabric is lurking about. He will stand right next to you. He might decide to climb you like a tree. Console yourself that at least he’s not a teenager doing the underpants thing. 

Not yet, heh-heh-heh.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Sunday’s Serving – Lilith’s Return


Lena’s shriek rang through the room, and Alex almost grabbed Father Jackson, ready to fling him far away from her daughter.  Instead, she gripped her crucifix so hard it cut the palm of her hand.  The pain steadied her, as if inflicting damage on herself could somehow bleed it away from Lena.

The younger Lasham’s face twisted, as if to distort itself into a parody of her child.  Then the hazel eyes flew open.  Her gaze found Alex and stared at her with an expression the mother had never seen on her daughter’s face before:  utter hatred.

Through gritted teeth, Lilith snarled, “You would destroy your own child to get to me, Segreto?”

Alex’s jaw clenched tight enough to hurt.  She had to, to stop the scream welling up from her guts to fill her throat.  My baby, my little girl, don’t hurt my Lena! 

Father Jackson waved his crucifix before Lilith’s eyes.  “I order you to depart this child of God, Lilith.  You have no claim on her body, and you must relinquish your influence now.”

Lilith winced but gave no ground.  “Child of God?  She is of my blood, watered down as it may be.  She is not human.  She belongs to the sisterhood of first woman, descended not of Eve!”

Alex couldn’t hold back.  “She is descended from Eve through me, and it is the greater part of her.  You have no claim on her.  You will let her go!”

The priest drew the sign of the cross over Lena’s forehead.  “You are commanded to return to whence you came, Lilith.  God commands you.  Christ commands you.  The Holy Spirit commands you.”

Lena’s body writhed, held in place by her bonds.  Her eyes rolled back until only the whites showed.  Lilith’s voice still sounded strong as it issued from her lips, however.  “Fuck you.  She will die.  The Segreto will die.  All children of the black-hearted Adam and the usurper Eve will die, and I will take what was rightfully to be mine!”

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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Mornings Come Too Early

School day mornings are the worst in my household. With the yell of the alarm, the protests begin. “I don’t want to get up! I’m sleepy! Just five more minutes! It’s too early for this!” But the school bus is coming, and it’s time to get moving. With fierce grumblings and much stomping of feet, the morning toilet run commences. With eyes still bleary and face squinched in a snarl, clothes are fumbled on. Of course, the shirt has been put on backwards. More scowls and grumbles. At last, the dressing has been accomplished after the discovery the socks don’t match and the sneakers’ laces were left tied in a knot the night before. The angst is thick enough to cut with a knife.

And then I wake up my son to get him ready. 

Only during one part of my life have I ever been a morning person. It was a brief period, from 1972-1978, and it only happened on Saturdays and Christmas morning. On the Saturdays of my youth, I would rise at 6 a.m., eager to start the all-too-brief weekend. There was cereal fortified with a gallon of sugar to be consumed and cartoons to watch. We didn’t have Disney Channel, Cartoon Network, or any of that stuff in my day, whippersnappers. We had two channels of fuzzy reception and we were glad to have them. Now get off my lawn, you hoodlums. 

I am past those exciting days when one morning out of the week wasn’t a horrid nightmare to face. Nowadays, mornings are all about grimly facing a long slog and gulping an ocean of coffee. I hate mornings. They come too damned early. 

Even the weekends when I am allowed to sleep in a little because Hubs gets up with Kiddo, I hate mornings. My eyes peel back blearily, usually to the sound of the child literally bouncing off the walls. Sometimes he dashes into my room to bounce off my walls too. “Mommy! I’m a crashing train!” 

“Of course you are,” I mutter. I’ve remembered in the nick of time that a youngster’s imagination must be encouraged. One does not daunt her happy son’s play with screams of horror that another day has begun at the ungodly hour of 7:30 a.m. Instead I tell him, “You’re the most amazing crashing train ever.” 

Mornings. They are wrong on so many levels. This is the time when I face the knowledge that there is so much to get done in a day and not enough day to get it done within. Plus none of it can be done from my warm, soft bed. With my eyes shut. Dreaming of the cast of ‘Magic Mike’ cleaning the house, running the errands, and writing my books for me. Naked.  
Mornings crush my soul with that knowledge.  

Afternoons are better. My bloodstream flows with monumental levels of caffeine. I’m in the thick of the day’s battle, too busy to think how little I’ve accomplished. Evenings are when I realize the day’s fight has been lost, and I no longer give a rat’s butt. Plus I can look forward to going to bed. I can live with those times of the day.  

But mornings ... no. A thousand times, no. If Congress ever wanted to do something truly worthwhile (insert hysterical laughter here), they would abolish mornings. And Mondays. By all that’s holy, there’s the most evil creation ever: Monday mornings. 

But that’s a whole other level of horror, and not one I’m willing to face until I have no choice.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Sunday’s Serving – Lilith


            Colwyn sped down the streets. They reached Henderson Avenue within five minutes.
            “Oh shit,” Jacob said, letting him know he’d spotted the truck two blocks down. The older demi-demon said nothing as he parked behind Alex’s Ford. His chest felt tight. The Mercedes’ rearview mirror reflected his grim face back at him.
            Jacob looked at the house they’d parked in front of. A ‘For Sale’ sign whipped back and forth in the gale. “This isn’t it. That house is empty.”
            Colwyn peered through the driving rain at the house number. “It must be the house up there.”
            As soon as they got out of the car, a tremendous jolt of demon energy pulsed against him. His mouth went dry. Jacob’s face whitened to alabaster.
            “I think we’ve found what we’re looking for. This is very bad,” the younger Planter said over the torrent. “I hope Alex hasn’t done anything stupid.”
            Colwyn pushed aside his own terror. “We’ll go to the back door and surprise Lilith. Hurry!”
            They raced across the yard and around to the rear of the house. The rain beat against them like hundreds of tiny fists, as if desperate to make them turn around. They reached the back door. Colwyn peered into its window. The interior of the house was dark but for one room lit at the end of the hall. He saw no movement. He tried to open the door.
            “It’s locked.”
            “Do we break it down?” Jacob suggested.
            “It looks quiet in there. If Alex is still alive, we’d be better off sneaking in. Let’s check and see if any windows are unlocked. If we can get in quietly—” Colwyn broke off.
            His brother’s eyes widened. “What the hell?”
            A second incredible surge of demon power startled both men. A coldly amused voice spoke from behind them. “Well now, what do we have here?”
            They whipped around. A woman, her black hair plastered down by the rain, stood at the bottom of the steps. She looked them up and down and licked her lips.
            “My, my,” she whispered, her voice husky. “Two big, strong halflings sneaking around the back door. Breaking and entering is a crime, boys. You’ll have to be punished.”
            The brothers recoiled from the succubus as she closed the distance. Their hands flew up too late to ward her off. She touched them. 

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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

That Ain’t My Kid

Let me preface what is undoubtedly going to sound like a whine-fest with this disclaimer: I love my son. He is the greatest joy of my life. I would give up everything for him, including my $3000 Judith Lieber clutch that I found for only $50(!!!!!!!). I actually would. My world revolves around his sweet smile and beautiful laugh. 

Okay, that’s out of the way. Let’s talk about the little beast. 

Kiddo is an eight-year-old destruction machine. He breaks everything, and most of the time it’s on purpose. He screams in defiance of almost everything I request of him. He screams even louder when I TELL him to do something. It’s no surprise, really. His social age is about three years old. Thanks, autism. 

And yet, this is the same child that teachers give me glowing reports on. “He’s so smart! He’s so well behaved! He’s so quiet! He has such good manners!” 

Wait. We are talking about my son, right? The spindly-legged wrecking ball? The live-action human version of Looney Tunes’ Tasmanian Devil? Hurricane J? 

My kid? 

Apparently so. My son is the elementary version of David Banner, all meek and mild and studious. Then he comes home and turns into the Hulk, a being of pure fury and destruction.


“Watcha gonna do, Mother?”
Wait, wrong Hulk. My bad.

I would love to meet School Kiddo. I want to know this child who doesn’t believe sharing leads to the end of days, that bathwater is not the same as acid, that homework is not to be greeted like a horde of brain-eating zombies. I want to catch a glimpse of this fabled creature of good hygiene and quiet voice. I’ve even heard wild tales of the word ‘please’ passing through his lips. 

Instead, I get Home Kiddo. The one that can relax and be as crazed as he wants and know he’s still loved beyond all sense. The price of loving unconditionally sometimes means extreme conditions will be introduced. So my appliances are dented, my patience is stretched, and I’m counting down the seconds until bedtime once more. But I love that kid, and I have hopes that one day I’ll meet the twin that was apparently kidnapped at birth.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Sunday’s Serving – Willow in the Desert


 Jon shook hands all around, as grave as any soldier.  Carli felt a rush of sadness.  Kids in the post-Pyramid era didn’t know how to act like kids.  Everyone grew up fast under the Old Ones’ reign.

Jon asked, “Are you from Freetown?”

Carli said, “Yes.  Someone from your town came to warn us you had trouble.  We came to see if we could help.”

The boy shook his head.  “No ma’am.  All you’ll get here is dead,” he said with no emotion at all, save matter-of-factness.

Arner sat on the floor.  “Tell us what happened.  We’ve seen the attackers, so you don’t have to describe them.”

Everyone else sat too.  The boy took another swig of water before answering.  “They came out of the west first thing one morning.  They came fast, so fast they kicked up a sandstorm that hid most of them from sight.  I still don’t know how many attacked.  It had to be at least fifty.  Even more came later.”

Arner said thoughtfully, “The first group must have been a scout detail to test the town’s defenses.  They’re organized.”

Leo nodded.  “That could be.  Jon, where were you when this started?”

“School.  Our teachers and the other kids went to the hidey hole in the basement, but I was scared for my folks, so I lit out to find them.”

Carli spoke carefully.  “I take it you didn’t.”

“No ma’am.  I couldn’t get anywhere near where they were supposed to be.  My mom was at the greenhouse, right there off the west gate where the monsters came in.  My dad was in the middle of town, working on the water system.  All that was already overrun.”

“Then you came here to hide?”

“I snuck out the east gate.  That was before they closed it up to keep everybody trapped.  I came back after dark and pulled up a bit of the fence to slip in.”

Carli realized they had used Jon’s entrance to get into the town.  “Why didn’t you come to Freetown for help?”

He looked at her with surprise.  “My mom and dad are still here.  If I can find them, maybe I can show them how to get out.”

Jon was still child enough to hold out hope for parents most assuredly dead.  Bitterness that this brave boy should be left orphaned bit at Carli.


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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Is It Hot in Here or Is It Just Me?

It’s August in southeast Georgia, which means 95+ degree weather and 90% plus humidity. This is, of course, when the air conditioning drops dead in my home. 

You’d think a sinkhole had just opened up under us. “The A/C is out! The A/C is out! I produced a drop of sweat!” Hubs and I run around in a panic. Kiddo just looks at us for a moment before returning to his trains. 

Okay, so we didn’t freak out right away. Minute one of noticing the temperature was rising and it wasn’t me having a hot flash was met with confusion. I stand directly beneath the vent and stare at it. Is it blowing cold or not? I’m not quite sure. 

“I think just the fan is blowing,” I tell my husband. I troop off to do what one does in this enlightened age of technological intelligence that we’ve all achieved: I turn off the air conditioner and turn it back on. I also squint quizzically at the thermostat. Is it really 75 degrees in here? Wow, it’s a veritable sauna already. 

Back to the vent. No, I’m quite sure it’s not blowing cool. I duly report, “It’s not blowing cool.” 

“Give it a minute,” Hubs says. Which means, I’m doing something right now. Leave me alone. 

I’m not happy about this. I go from mildly concerned to really concerned. I know my air conditioner. I know it doesn’t take it a minute to start blowing cold. I go to the breaker box. 

“I’m going to reset it,” I yell to my thus-far disinterested husband. 


I turn the breaker on and off. Back to the vent. It’s still not cool. Now I’m worried. The thermostat has climbed an entire degree. Things are starting to look bad. 

Two minutes later, my husband emerges from his Hubby Hole. “Is it hot in here?” he asks. 

I give him the Wife Look. You know the one. “What do you think I’ve been dealing with out here? It’s not blowing cold!” 

“Let me see what I can do.” So Hubs goes off to see what he can do. He turns the air conditioner off and turns it back on again. That’s the extent of what he can do.  

We’re up another degree. Alarm bells are now going off in my head. Panic and chaos ensue as we face Life With No Air Conditioning. 

I’ve thought a lot over the last couple of years about what a wuss I’ve become. When I was a kid, it didn’t matter how high the mercury rose in the summer. My butt was out in it, playing softball, jumping on the trampoline, tearing around the neighborhood...just being anywhere but inside. Heat was not a factor.  

Nowadays, I wilt the instant it gets above 72 degrees. I’m panting and soaked in sweat for all the wrong reasons. How did this happen? 

No matter how it happened. With the A/C kaput, all that concerns me right now is that it’s happening. My home is reaching the unheard-of temperature of 80, and the adults of the house are in mortal terror. 

My husband is nearly sobbing when he gets off the phone with the repair man. “He’s booked for two days. He says he’ll try to make it out tomorrow, but no promises.” 

I’m already on the floor, gasping for air. “Two – two days?  We have to live like this for TWO DAYS?” 

“Be strong, my love,” he moans, his eyes already rolling back in his head. “Hold on.  We must hold on.” 

Meanwhile our son, who never wears anything but underwear around the house anyway, wanders to the refrigerator, stepping lightly over my prone body with barely a glance. He grabs a popsicle and returns to his trains. The kid is not even sweating. 

Then the phone rings. My husband answers it. His voice, weakened by the climbing heat, gains a little strength as he talks to whomever has contacted us...someone, who no doubt, has air conditioning. 

“Ask them if we can spend the night at their place,” I cry, not caring who he’s talking to. 

He ignores me. “You can? You are? Oh, merciful God, thank you!” He hangs up and turns to me. “It’s the repair man. He had a cancellation. He’s on his way over now!” 

We are saved from the fiery jaws of southeast Georgia, which is only two degrees hotter than Hades. Our angel discovers the problem only seconds after arriving. 

“You had a hornet get caught in the coupling,” he says just before cleaning out our life’s savings along with the bug. “Have a nice day.” 

Thanks to him, I will have a nice day. A nice, cool, non-sweating day. Right below the vent.