04 November 2009

Today, My Toaster Spoke To Me

Today My Toaster Talked To Me

Today my toaster spoke to me,

Of all of the things that she could see --

A spoon-rest, the stove

The microwave,

the mixer, she says, who

Does not behave.

I listened, I learned, I stood there and trembled,

Frightened to find my mind disassembled.

What in the world? Oh,

How could this be --

Inanimate objects were talking to me!

Would I now write

like a monkey on crack?

Produce nothing but drivel,

Turn into a hack?

Then the spatula shouted, "Don't believe all that tripe!

When you are in doubt, write a stereotype!

Paint a broad, foolish stroke -- use clichés and

Weak tricks; and when people notice

You can call them all pricks."

The coffee pot chuckled and grinned fiendishly,

But I know his affliction -- bipolarity.

And I cannot remember a thing that he said,

Milquetoast ramblings rarely stay in my head.

The toaster then whined,

"Pay attention RIGHT HERE!

You know that my talents kick yours in their rear.

I've pointed that out, more often than not,

But you are the one

undeservedly hot. "

I glanced at the toaster and

Swallowed my pity,

Reminded myself that

The toaster writes shitty.

The kitchen then slowed into something like stillness,

I knew, for a fact,

this was some mental illness.

I could have said something, I could have been cruel,

But I do not deign to respond to a fool.

There may be some hatred, and

A whole lot of tension,

At least I lay claim to

Reading comprehension.

And when you are leaving, I cannot say more

Than good luck to you, sweetheart --

Watch your ass with that door.

03 November 2009

Even MORE Pants Letters

Dear Gigantic Electronics Retailer:

Good afternoon. How's every little thing since I left your Overland Park location? I'll bet things were humming along just fine after my visit this morning. Well, as fine as any gigantic retail cavern can hum while the employees are aspirating corporate puke, that is. What a fine time I had earlier with Jeff and your other helpful employee, my ex-boyfriend, whom I normally refer to as Satan's retarded little brother, but we'll call "Pickled," for our time together today.

You know, I debated myself this morning. Your OP location is close enough that I could, basically, put my car in gear and drift there (except for two traffic lights, you are directly across the street and down a slight "grade," which, in Kansas, qualifies as a "hill.") But Pickled works there, doing the sort of OCD-driven tasks that make him your MVP just about every month. Yes, he truly is able to excel in a position with your company that speaks to just about every fucked up and sociopathic neuron in his skull. You've hit pay-dirt there -- Pickled walks in and gives free reign to his bi-polarity and control issues. It's a marvelous trade off: He gets a decently-sized pile of money with which to buy pint bottles of Hobo Vodka, and you get the technical brilliance of Heinrich Himmler.

So, I debated whether or not to drive less than a quarter of a mile or bite the bullet and take a good twenty minutes out of my day to go to your Olathe location. In the end, my sloth, lethargy and cheapness won out, so in a way, I suppose I asked for it, made my own bed and burned a blister on my own ass. I accept that. But seriously, Alliterative Electronics Giant, I've got to know: what the fuck is with your hiring standards? You had me by the proverbial balls, I'll give you that. But I get the feeling you enjoyed it... a little too much. At least, Pickled did; of that, I am certain. And I guess I do sort of owe you a bit of an apology for my nasty language earlier; I still think it was my due, though.

Last night, as I was sitting here, minding my own business and looking at email porn, I suddenly smelled something that was, at the very least, "not cool." It smelled kind of ozone-y and crisp, if you get what I'm saying. When I first moved here to the Mighty Midwest, I lived in a different, brand-spanking new apartment complex, in a freshly constructed apartment. One night, while watching a Friends rerun with my daughter, I smelled a similar scent. It turned out that my furnace was on fire; the sort of fire that made me wonder if Steve McQueen was crouched behind the water heater. I grabbed for the fire extinguisher and blasted away. I can assure you that experience falls so firmly under the heading of "Totally Not Awesome," that remembering it brings a tear to my eye and I can recall the odor perfectly.

So you might understand why I almost had an apoplectic fit last night when I smelled it, again. Of course, I ran to my furnace (which is no longer in a room, but is, in this complex, imbedded in the wall, and, ergo, harder to get at. ) I can't decide if I was more horrified or delighted when I realized it was not my furnace and two things simultaneously happened: My son yelled, "What the fuck is going on with the internet?" from behind his closed door, and my daughter screamed like someone had yanked her hair out by the roots.

Thinking quickly, I decided my daughter was probably either the source of the smell or damned near to it, so I ran in her direction. When I reached her, standing in the center of my bedroom, she was pale and pointing at my LynkSys router, which was sparking and hissing -- yes, "hissing." You know how, in the Road Runner cartoons, the fuse on the dynamite gets louder the shorter it gets? Same thing. So I ran for a fire extinguisher again...

Except the cat saw me coming, and she's convinced that any time I enter the kitchen area, it's time for her to eat, so she darted off of the couch and directly between my feet.

Which meant I went sailing head-long into the bookcase. Then the dog, assuming the cat had finally set in motion her evil, Bolshevik-like plan, came to my rescue, which is quite sweet and makes me proud, except his timing sucked and just as I was righting myself, he tripped me and I ended up sprawled across the kitchen table with no real memory of what the hell I was supposed to be doing.

Thankfully, my daughter's strangled cry of, "MOM!" refreshed my memory and I was able to grab the fire extinguisher.

After forcibly yanking the router from every connection that moored it in place (all the while making bargains with Jesus,) I blasted the damned thing. Trust me when I tell you our former LynkSys is cooked. It's a melted, puddly pool of what used to be wireless connectivity and goodness. The little green lights that I found so comforting when they blinked at me with a shyly spastic familiarity are history.

And we are not the sort of people who are able to live in the primitive conditions of our anscestors who used telephones and the US Mail to keep in contact with the outside world. This situation would need to be addressed ASAP, but it was post-closing time of any electronics retailer, so I knew "ASAP" meant "AM." After getting some affairs in order, I settled in, thinking I'd get to sleep early. But the smell of dead LynkSys was thick in my nostrils and I worried about whether or not inhaling it might cause cancer. I smoked a good five cigarettes while I tried to figure that out. Finally, I decided that I'd sleep in the living room, which isn't a bad proposition. As I like to say, "There's a lot of sleep stored in my couch." And, normally, there is, if war has not broken out between a now contrite (or at least "scared of starvation") cat and an overprotective Yorkshire Terrier who's grape-sized brain is running on 500 ml of hatred and aggression. It was the animal kingdom's equivalent to the Bosnian situation a few years back.

This explains why I was so cranky when I initially walked into your establishment this morning. I had a total of maybe two hours sleep, all of it broken, and I seriously do not think I managed to brush all of the cat hair out of my teeth. I don't know what sort of mood you, Gigantic Electronics Retailer, would be in if you awakened repeatedly, to either a cat on your head or a dog on your face, trying to remove that cat. I would be interested to know, if you felt like sharing.

Surly, too; I was quite surly. Since you initially sold me the LynkSys, I sort of blame you for all of this, tangentially. But I was willing to let bygones be bygones and just replace the damned thing. And then, I was confronted with Jeff.

Jeff was ruthlessly and relentlessly happy this morning, in a way that makes me think handfuls of amphetamines and a few swigs off of E. Bruno's Hobo Flask are involved in some way. Jeff kept telling me to "Cheer up!" and insisting that I'd be "good to go" in no time at all. I was willing to overlook the blathering of this obvious idiot until he said a phrase that struck fear and terror in my heart. I'll tell you what -- I couldn't have been any more afraid at that moment if he'd said, "Let's go in the back and you can watch me have unlawful carnal relations with your dead mother and a baby I stole from the mall!"

Jeff said, "Hey! Aren't you Pickled's girlfriend? Let me get him over here."

You might want to have Jeff's hearing and comprehension skills checked immediately because I could not make him understand that no, I most certainly did not want Pickled to come over and assist in my purchase. But Jeff, a weird surfer-boy transplant to Kansas, insisted it was no problem, even shouting me down at one point which is impressive, because I screamed "DO NOT DO THAT!" at the the decibel level my daughter taught me last night. But Jeff didn't care.

So in the five minutes that it took Pickled, the gimping fucktard, to ooze his way from appliances to Computer Accessories, Jeff and I had a staring contest. In a way, I feel kind of bad, because Jeff was all fresh-faced and pleased with himself, kind of like a puppy that pees on your rug because he doesn't know any better. I, on the other hand, was imagining opening Jeff's head with a ball peen hammer and then eating his brains and bits of crushed skull like yogurt & granola.

I told you I was cranky.

And yes -- I could have left right then, but I was there, you know? I was where I needed to be and the things I needed to buy were right there, too. The idea of picking up and leaving and maybe encountering a whole new Jeff made me almost weep and stayed my feet. The next Jeff might have breasts or something, and "Perky" + "Breasts" = "Pants in a Black-out Rage." The Devil I know is better than the one I don't, so I stood there, wishing an STD on Jeff and waiting to see someone I'd hoped was dead in a ditch.

Pickled showed up and told me I was looking well. Jeff looked confused. I snarled. Oh, we were one big group of Happy Dys-Fun-ction, there in Computer Accessories. Pickled wanted to know what happened to the old router. I repeated to him my assertion that he fucks his mother. Jeff looked afraid. Pickled put a forced smile on his face and told me how truly sorry he is. I once again, redundantly told him he fucks his mother, tossing in "You limp-dicked son of a whore," just to spice it up a bit. Jeff started to edge away, with a look on his face that clearly said, "I don't know if this is the prelude to a murder or a sex game, but I should probably go get some help."

Pickled gestured for Jeff to come back. Jeff looked confused and wary. Again, like a dog, he edged his way back toward us. When I reminded him I just wanted to buy a "fucking router," he looked confused, like we'd been playing fetch and I'd fake-thrown the stick. He grabbed a router and mindlessly started yammering about ports and gigs and something that sounded like "anus," to me and that's when I realized I needed Pickled there, at least for this part. Pickled set up the initial network while I made cream puffs. I remember that afternoon very well; the normally well-received yumminess of pastry + pudding was largely ignored because FaceBook could be accessed any where in the apartment. Oh, happy teenaged day!

Because I am an opportunistic, cold and calculating bitch, I allowed Pickled to select my router and I even graciously availed myself of his generous employee discount. I probably shouldn't have quite loudly tossed the comment, "Thanks a fucking lot, you abusive fucking fuck and I hope they find your remains in multiple dumpters, Asshole," over my shoulder at your mentally unstable management shithead, but we have a history.

So, I guess I am kind of sorry for airing my dirty laundry in public. But honestly, Gigantic Electronics Retailer, you should really check some people out before you hire them.

COntritely Yours,

Joy M. Cranky-Pants, Still surly But At Least Satisfied

CC: Time-Warner Cable

BCC: Gather-At-Large


Dear Time-Warner Cable:

Attached, please find a letter that will fill in some backstory for you about how I came into yet more contact with your "delightful" and "friendly" customer service representatives, even though I vowed that I would never, ever, ever put myself in that position, again.

Today's Viet-Cong-like enforcer was named, "Abdeel," but we're going to continue along that Soviet-theme Fyodor started a few months back and call him "Rasputin." Humor me, okay? Read the other letter. It's been a bad day.

Hooking up a wireless router should be pretty damned easy, when you think about it. You'd probably just read the directions and proceed accordingly. Except that, as the attached letter confirms, I had no choice but to rip my former router forcibly from the wall when it recently became an electronic deathtrap. In doing so, I recognize that I am at fault in tearing a portion of the cable and some hardware inherent to same from the wall. I get that -- but put yourself in my shoes for a second. Something is smoking and threatening impending explosion and/or conflagration and what do you do? Gingerly unplug everything? Gently loosen the connections? I think not. Knowing you people, as I do, I suspect you'd get the employees together for a month-end weenie roast as a congratulatory reception for hitting their quota of customers that will never call and "bother" you on the 800 number again. I think it's a strange way to view the responsibilites of servicing customers, but this ain't my first rodeo. I'm pretty hip to your score.

When I called Rasputin and told him I needed to schedule a prompt service call, I think his chuckling was a tad bit unprofessional. I overlooked that, though. My mom used to tell me all the time that thing about catching more flies with "honey" and not "vinegar." I've never seen a real, true need for a large amount of flies at any one given time, but I get the message. So, I politely repeated my request.

Rasputin, well... I don't want to say Rasputin guffawed, but it was pretty damned close. And if you'll refer back to that attached letter, you'll see I didn't have a lot of sleep last night. What little patience I have tends to evaporate quickly in instances when I am sleep deprived -- and faced with a smarmy moron who has less of a command of the English language than your average housecat. I now officially take back my congratulations and previous warm wishes at your refusal to outsource.

You know, I don't mean to be insensitive here because I truly do not typify or class my fellow man, but Rasputin sounded so curiously like the character, Apu, from The Simpsons, that I almost said (twice,) "Okay, Hank Azaria! Quit fucking with me!" But I couldn't, because TWC isn't going to punk me on the phone. No, you save that sort of behavior for your billing which is based, I suspect, on planetary positions and drunk monkey-races. It is the only logical explanation to me as to why my "Pay This Amount" varies so wildly.

But, back to Rasputin. He informed me (I think,) that the soonest I could get an actual flesh and blood service technician into my home was on May... 23. To which I quite incredulously responded, "Get the fuck out of here!" I couldn't have been more surprised if Rasputin had told me he was wearing poor Fyodor's skin like a cape. I immediately apologized for my potty-mouth, and I reiterate that apology here, but really -- the 23rd of May?!

Rasputin, who I will give credit to for being extremely good-humored in the face of other peoples' problems, then giggled. As each of my calls into your customer service center has a theme of sorts, this one is best described as, "The Pants are Condescended To and Laughed At." That's a pretty interesting gimmick you've got going, and I'll bet training sessions are a blast, but from a customer standpoint, it kind of, um... SUCKS, and I can't rightly tell you if I prefer talking to someone who is so profoundly mentally retarded that I am stunned into silence, or someone who finds himself so vastly superior to those he is allegedly helping as to be clinically narcissitic.

Rasputin informed me that because I was a non-emergency service call, I wasn't a priority. I wanted to know what. exactly, is the definition of a "cable emergency." I know that you people have added some interesting features, like Caller ID on my TV screen, but you haven't managed to splice into anybody's respirator or anything, have you? For the first time, Rasputin failed to find the funny and he actually told me, in quite the stern, big-boy, lilting voice, that "Cable is a serious business."

Amazed as I was, I almost apologized. And since I was developing a headache that would merely laugh at and steal Advil's lunch money, I decided to cut my losses, agree to the ridiculously long wait for service and go eat one of my "root canal" pills that I only take on special occassions, like when I'm convinced I have a tumor or I just need to be unconscious and unaware of my life for a bit. They provide me with a six hour, near-coma like slice of peace that beer can only aspire to attain.

But I had to walk the dog first. I'm pretty sure that the sight of a woman, walking a dog and muttering to herself is pretty disturbing. That's my normal routine. The vision of a woman, walking a dog and actually audibly arguing with herself about former boyfriends and asshole cable company employees, however, probably looks damned crazy with a special dash of dangerous, which is how I got the attention of my favorite maintenance guy, Duane. Duane, in his slightly Lenny from Of Mice and Men way, immediately came to my apartment and fixed the cable connection. Then, in an orgasmic moment of "Where the fuck did this come from?!" Surprise, he proceeded to hook up my new router and get all three laptops online. He dusted his hands off with a deserved pride and spun around in my office chair, looking very much pleased with himself.

I am not ashamed to say that I was so happy and relieved, I almost promptly fell to my knees and gave hm a blowjob. I didn't, but I thought about it. Duane told me that he worked for you guys back in the day, but that his supervisor and the higher ups were real douchebags, so he quit. Now, he gets a break on his rent and this maintenance gig is a lot less of a hassle. He even gave me his cell phone number and told me to call him if I ever had cable problems again. I offered him the $35 bucks I would have paid your technician for a service call, but he waved it away. He said it just felt good, sticking it to TWC and helping me, all at once.

Duane even hung around as I called your wonderfully helpful 800 number back and spoke with "Kaleel." I cancelled my service call. Guess who's laughing now, motherfuckers?! That's right -- me and Duane.

Gleefully Yours,

Joy M. Cranky-Pants, Current Customer and Former Ass-Puppet.


Dear Manager of the Apartment Complex Where I Reside:

I am dropping you this short note today to compliment you and your employee, Duane in Maintenance, on being such a wonderfully helpful and fabulous presence in our community. Enclosed please find a belt which I would like for Duane to have as a token of my appreciation and gratitude for helping me with a non-Complex related issue early today.

As I spent a good a five minutes with Duane crouched under my desk, I am certain this gift will benefit him (and my fellow residents,) immensely.


Joy M. Cranky-Pants, Happy Resident

Casa D'Pants, Episode II: Them!

My friend, the inimitable Uncle Al, is an attractive little alcoholic gimp, who now lives but a driver and a pitching wedge away from me. While we are in two different subdivisions, we have discovered that there is a shortcut between houses that takes most of the guesswork out of becoming shitfaced reprobates (our only shared useful talent.) I have known Al since shortly after moving to Kansas, and he is a terrific friend, mostly because Al moved into his condo from a legitimate house, so he has plenty of lawn and garden implements that I tend to need to borrow, as I own none of my own. He also has a Sam's Club membership and a refirgerator full of free beer. Now, before you get the idea that I am using Al, let me tell you this:

I am. While Al drives almost anywhere, does minor home repair, and has a particular talent for looking at an issue or problem and pronouncing, in his slow, rural Missouri drawl, "Yep. Yer fucked," it does fall on my shoulders to handle the housewifely things, like cleaning his toilets and making sure he has vegetation in a non-hoppy, non-liquid form. Let's call us "mutually parasitic." That's the best way to go with it (less guilt for me.) But Al and I are nothing more than friends, and most people find it almost biblically terrifying to know that we now live so close to each other and drink together, frequently. Those "people," of course, include the FOWs.

Al and I struck a bargain on Friday night: If he would drive to Sunday Tavernacle Services, for all the beer I could drink (brave man,) I would feed him Sunday dinner. Al is in his mid fifties, but manages to hang with the 20-Something set, frequently, because he has daughters in that age group who like to party with dad, and really -- I don't blame them. I question Al's sanity, but... So when Al called me on Sunday at 11:30 AM, I wasn't exactly surprised to find out he hadn't gotten to sleep until 6:30 AM.
Then again, I wasn't paying all that much attention to him because I was scratching my legs hard enough to break skin and bleed, so it was a little difficult to pay attention to anything.

One of my newest little pet peeves about Suburbia is the prevalence of critters. They're everywhere -- squirrels, skunks, opossums, cardinals, chiggers and wasps (remember the wasps?!) I'm not really comfortable with this much "Nature." In fact, I much prefer concrete and tall buildings, but... So far, I've killed the aforementioned wasps, as well as centipedes and daddy longlegs. I am assuming that one of the wasps (thuggish and cruel little bastards,) used his last, dying breath to contact the Spider Mafia and take a contract out on me. Because something, and I am certain that something is of the family arachnae, bit the living, bloody SHIT out of me while I slept Saturday night. I woke up looking like I'd been beaten with a switch on my lower extremities and scratching myself constantly, and without shame.

The last thing I wanted to do was make dinner, but the one thing I did want to do was have some beer. So I was sort of stuck, you know? I'd also promised the FOWs I would make a Hershey's Cake with Mayonaise (sounds gross, but it's not,) so I slathered what appeared to be an equatorial disease with rubbing alcohol -- which did squat to relieve the itching -- and got to work. I made a pan of Inside-Outside Ravioli while the cake baked, knowing full well that I'd be in no condition to actually do anything more than slap something in the oven later. This would be a false premonition, but we'll get to that in a bit.

So off Uncle Al and I set to The Tavernacle, merrily singing along with Linda Rondstadt and Jimmy Buffet all the way. And once there, people started thrusting money in my hands for the jukebox so that, perhaps, we older folk would not have to sit through a marathon session of "I Kissed a Girl," insterspersed with songs about Shawty getting low and -- I had to make this stop -- Poison.

There came a certain point of drunk where my friend, Sammy and his friend, Doc, handed me fifty dollars and insisted we hear nothing but Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash. Fearing for my own personal safety, I split the difference and only played $25 worth. My legs were itching something fierce beneath what had been dubbed my "clown pants" and the idea of having to divert any attention from making the itching agony stop to get involved in a parking lot beat down was not something I embraced.

At some point while I was at the jokebox, Chris, our resident Green Thumbed Alcoholic came in and began distributing cucumbers from his garden. These were giant, fragrant and amazing cucumbers and FOW#2 was going to be a happy, happy girl, knowing that Uncle Chris had remembered her. Al and I, combined our bags, thinking that remembering a single parcel would be more likely to occur than two. I continued to drink until the itch went away.

Then we came home and I made FOW#1 work the oven because, in my All-You-Can-Drink State, things like numbers and push buttons were beyond me. We ate dinner, the four of us, and had a fine time. We even tore into the cake, afterwards. But for the strong odor of alcohol, it was just like the happy, "all's well" end scene of some heartwarming family drama. I damned Norman Rockwell again for being dead and unable to capture us in oil paint so that future generations might be inspired by our quaint, homey meal.

After we were all stuffed and sleepy, Al left... abandoning his cucumbers and his curiously fuchsia lighter. Al is not the sort to let free things get away from him, any more than he is the sort to let things he paid for go. On Monday morning, Uncle Al called and told me he'd be stopping by for his cukes and his lighter. I readily agreed, as long as there was nothing involving hops on the horizon.

I did not hear from him all day Monday. Yesterday, I called him and asked, when he answered his business line, "Should I consider these cucumbers wards of the state, now?" He laughed and told me he'd stop by after a business meeting later in the day. I off-handedly mentioned it to the kids, you know, "Uncle Al will be stopping by for his cukes, later." I did this for two reasons:

  1. If, for some reason, I was not here or was unable to answer the door, I wanted them to be on call to hand out the cukes and the lighter; and
  2. I did not want FOW#2 to eat every cucumber in the house, and thus rob Al of his free food.
I took my lumps from them. I took the wolf whistles and the eyebrow wiggles and the chanted, "Mom & Al, sittin' in a tree..." bullshit and reminded them again that while that is not true, they also are not funny.

At all.

Then, I set about catching up on some work-work and some housework. And while I was on the first floor, cleaning my children's bathroom, they were upstairs, on my leather couch... having an Orville Reddenbacher Extra Butter Popcorn war...

Which pissed me off.

A lot.

This was when I turned into Raving Mommy, complete with glowing eyes and the power of Satan. They, wisely, decided to take a ride to see the completed renovations at their high school and leave me alone to chew through some of my irrationality.

In my anger, I was stomping around, and I'm not going to lie -- I was sort of digging my irateness; so much so, that I got into a little rhythmic 'Tard-Stomp. There are seven steps that lead from my third floor to my second, which is where my living room is. The plan had been to stomp down the stairs, throw myself into my Archie Bunker Chair, turn on some TV Land and have myself a nice little Pissed Off Party complete with visions of revenge upon my two ingrates.

Except I miscounted the stairs, and while I have, in the past, forgotten a step, I have never added an extra step, and Friends -- let me tell you something: It is an extremely painful, extremely jarring sensation when that occurs. DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME!

Suddenly, the living room carpet was up in my face and there I was, lying in a confused and befuddled puddle, trying to figure out just what the fuck had happened to me. I realized that I'd torn my jeans and that both of my knees felt like they'd been ignited. I tested myself and staggered back up the stairs to my bathroom to assess the damage.
I removed my pants. This is a very important fact. Please note it accordingly.

I had two enormous, weepy, angry and red rug burns on my knees. I also had a touch of rug burn on my face, which stretched from my chin to mid-cheek. And the bites were itching like a sonofabitch again. In pain and not thinking clearly, I grabbed for what I believed to be the rubbing alcohol.

The first dribble of nail polish remover made me howl toward the heavens. It also dribbled down onto one of the spider bites, which immediately stopped itching. I stopped my lupine vocalizations and smiled. I then furiously covered all 13 bites in cheap-ass, dollar store polish remover and breathed a sigh of relief that after almost 48 hours of non-stop itching, I felt normal again. And I was about to tend to my rug burns, when the doorbell rang.

Assuming the kids had forgotten their keys, I ran to the door in just my teeshirt. It was Al, who was pretty delighted to see me in this state, being a boy, and all. I punched him and then wandered upstairs to try to stop the insanity-inducing throbbing on my knees. Al followed, offering to help.

In order to not make Al kneel in front of me, which seemed weird (although, in retrospect, this whole thing seems weird,) I grabbed all the first aid stuff needed and headed down to the living room, where it was determined that "hydrogen peroxide + leather couch" is as bad as "popcorn + leather couch."

Back up to the bathroom, where I sat my flabby ass on the vanity and let Al swab my knees out. And probably because an open wound already roiling with nail polish remover is pretty painful on it's own, the introduction of peroxide adds a pain that is almost other worldly, so I began to moan, "No! Don't! That hurts stop!"

And that is probably why I didn't hear the kids come in... and up the stairs... and around the corner in time to see their mother perched on the counter without pants and massive rug burns on her knees, and the guy that takes them to Royals games and slips them $20s when he thinks I'm not looking crouched between those extremely rug burned knees, in what can only be best described as an "extremely compromising -- yet innocent! -- position."

So now you know why I got double cucumbers and a pretty fuchsia lighter. It also explains why I now have drive my own self to the grocery store...

Casa D'Pants, Episode IV: Why I Remain Single

After many years of apartment living, the little things about being in a house are what delight me. I almost wept the first time I heard the "dong" of my doorbell (the "ding" is either on strike or dead; I can't be sure.) Since I am easily confused when it comes to 7th grade Science-based crap, parking in a garage means I never have to figure out how to defrost the windows on the car and risk the killing myself, my progeny and any hapless bastard that is unlucky enough to cross paths with me on a foggy morning again. But one of my greatest, um...joys of living here at Casa D'Pants is having both a front porch, and a deck. If you wanted to rob me of the meager allotment of stuff I've accumulated in my life, you'd have your choice of doors through which to do so.

My front porch has an elegant -- well, elegant by 1982 standards -- wrought iron railing. Said railing is purely there for aesthetics alone. While it is sort of anchored into the cement, it's not attached to the house in any way, and since it's at waist height, a person could, theoretically, get extremely drunk and brain themselves by falling over it. This is another reason why I try to always enter and exit through the garage; I know my limitations.

A few weeks ago, I noticed my wrought iron railing (hereinafter, WIR,) was looking a tad shabby. There were scratches and chinks in its black armor and it kind of bothered me. A lot. Something in my personality tends to zero in on the flaws, and once I noticed them... well, you can't "un-see" something. And I can't ignore anything. So when I received a coupon for a can of free (up to $10.99 retail) any-flavor paint, I saw it as a sign from God who, apparently, has nothing better to do than help me paint my fence and find parking spaces close to the entrance of the grocery store. I talked it over with Landlord Dick and he gave me the go-ahead to paint WIR, with the caveat that I could only paint it flat black (I guess I seem like the sort that wants "shiny" or "disco-ball sunlight" blinding me. I dunno...)

I toddled off to my local hardware store and spent a good two minutes in conference with the monkey who was wearing the red smock that day. He seemed bored, and honestly -- he treated me like I was a touch retarded -- which I am; I've never painted anything in my life, except for a by-numbers unicorn when I was in first grade, and even that turned out looking like something a differently-abled child off their meds might have done. I am neither "artistic" nor "crafty," but WIR was firmly in my sights, and what I lack in "skill," I make up for in tenacity. But Hardware Monkey didn't want to answer all my stupid questions about brushes or paints. In fact, the extent of his advice boils down to these little gems:

  • Rustoleum and "No-Rust House Brand Name Here" are the exact same things; and
  • "Flat" means "not shiny."
I was on my own when it came to brushes and accoutrements, but I am a big fan of both HGTV and TLC, so I figured I had this thing kicked in the ass.

I began painting on Friday, and I have to tell you -- I was Zen-like. I was in some peaceful, easy happy zone, where lambs frolicked and Zamphir played his magical Pan Flute, just for me. I painted the hell out of WIR, and there was no one on earth more surprised than I, when I discovered that it had taken me better than TWO hours to paint exactly one quarter of it. I determined that I'd gotten a little too Zen in my pursuit of not spilling a drop and I vowed to work faster on Saturday.

And, I did. Yesterday, I painted like a machine, I'll tell you. I was a whirling dervish of flat black. This was partly because, overnight, something had happened to where I no longer felt like the Happy Resident Beautifying Her Space, but more like the Disgruntled Hungover Woman Who Wanted A Long Hot Bath and A Lifetime Television For Women Movie, and partly because it was raining -- not enough to stop painting, but enough to make me uncomfortable and wonder, in my not-quite-100%-state, just why in the hell I ever thought this was "necessary" or a good idea.

But, I put my little nose to the (albeit) wet grindstone and I almost finished, too. Save the top of the lower railing, I'm done. And it looks fabulous, if I do say so myself. And after cleaning my equipment and putting everything away, nicely, in the garage, I came into the house-proper and started to brag to the FOWs.

Except both of them were looking at me, repulsed and horrified, which I found odd. Sure, I was a little wet and rumpled, but... FOW #2, official FOW Spokesperson, finally said, "Um, Mom? It looks like the entire left side of your face is covered with ticks."

There are very few things I fear more than "ticks." Chief among that list is being "not pretty," which I certainly would be if I were to have a colony of ticks embedded in my cheek. So, I ran for the mirror. And that's when I discovered that "hurrying" when painting means, "droplets flying through the air," and in my case, "sticking to your face."

See, I had plans last night. I had met a rather lovely man who'd asked to take me to dinner Saturday, and I fully intended to enjoy his company and some free food. But, while gazing at myself in the mirror yesterday afternoon, I realized I easily qualified as a TLC show of my own; the kind that people watch in revulsion and talk about animatedly with just a hint of "Holy SHIT!" in their voices.

I tried Ivory Soap. Let me tell you something about Rustoleum: Rustoleum laughs at Ivory Soap. If this were high school, Rustoleum would be giving Ivory Soap a swirly and stealing its lunch money. And with my level of foresight and brilliance, the next logical step was to sit on the bathroom floor and cry.

FOW #2, an empathetic and helpful child, asked me what I was cleaning the brushes with. I told her, "Naphtha," and then told her I was not, as a smoker, comfortable putting Naphtha on my face. The next "logical" step was -- and I am NOT proud of my anti-grasp of "logic" -- using my fingernails to scrape the stuff off ... which, really, only served to make me look like I'd gone a round or two with a bobcat. Fingernail polish remover came to my rescue yet again, and when my eyes finally stopped watering, I surveyed the damage. Yes, I had angry, red scratches (not bloody, thankfully,) on my left cheek, but I could cover those with make-up, I figured, and the restaurant we were going to was suitably romantic, sexy and dark. I figured I might skate...

So, I washed my hands carefully before putting my contacts in. And when the right contact hit my cornea, the world stopped entirely. The sensation was what I assume a lightning bolt would feel like if it was hurled directly into your eye from a distance of three inches away. The right side of my face was copiously wet. Not since the Jalapeno IN My Nose Incident earlier this year have I suffered such agony. I clawed at my right cheek, my eye, anything to just stop the pain. And when I finally got my contact out and examined it, I determined a few things: It was covered with the little bumps of Rustoleum that I'd scraped from my face and onto my hands, that Rustoleum is not something that will rinse off of a contact ever, and it's not something you want in your eye. I also now appeared to be rocking a major case of conjunctivitis.

And this is why I spent my Saturday night huddled in my Archie Bunker Chair, watching Holmes on Homes and weeping while he made painting look like child's play.

Casa D'Pants, Episode Garbage Day!

In the Land of The Pants, there have been many exciting and wondrous changes of late -- not the least of which is that I recently began a new, full-time, work-job that takes me out of my home and into a small room with computers and co-workers. Yes, friends -- I'm a big girl now, with a steady paycheck and the quagmire of an office dynamic to wade through, forty hours a week (I work four, ten-hour days -- by choice -- instead of the more standard and common five, eight to nine hour days.) It can be grueling, especially at Hour Four of a day that began at 7 AM (with a wake-up time of 4:55 AM,) but I like the schedule; I need only "endure" two days in perpetuity to get to a day off.

Because of this schedule, Monday has become my "Friday," which means Tuesday, is my "Saturday" -- but it's also Garbage Day, here at Casa D'Pants, where our motto is, "What sort of spectacular fuck up looms on the horizon, now?!" It's really hard to stitch that onto the Family Crest (which is comprised of a confused Lemur setting itself on fire, a can of Diet Dr. Pepper and a cheeseburger -- all the things we love and cherish,) but it's better we accept that really bizarre, embarrassing and/or painful things are coming at us, rather than pretending (more like, lying to ourselves,) that we're "normal."

Last night, for various reasons, I was in no mood to wrangle the trash into the wheeled (please remember that bolded detail in the coming paragraphs,) garbage can but decided, instead, that since the Trash Dudes never show up prior to 11:30 AM, to deal with it in the morning. If this were a visual, instead of written, medium, like, say -- a movie, you would see (tastefully shot, of course, and sans nudity,) a scene of me slipping into my Tabasco Hot Sauce emblazoned boxer shorts and a largish, orange tee shirt that kind of matches same and falling into bed, with a swell of ominous music as we faded to black.

Let me take a moment here to fully describe and explain my Tabasco boxer shorts. They horrify the FOWs and shame them to tears. I am under strict orders to NEVER wear them if either FOW has a friend over. When I tell you they are "orange," I am only scratching the surface of orange. FOW #2, the more outspoken of the lot, describes them as "retina searing," while FOW #1 merely shakes his head and puts on sunglasses. On the front of them, prominently, there is an artist's rendering of a bottle of Tabasco sauce. The color and the frontal graphics aside, what the FOWs find most objectionable about these (super) comfy boxer shorts that I usually ONLY sleep in, can be found to the rear; emblazoned, across the ass, in too-large-for-the-area, flaming type, are the words, "It's getting hot in here!"

So, yeah... of course I fell in love with them when I saw them at Wal-Mart.

Let's do a quick review of pertinent details: Garbage day, wheeled garbage can, questionable taste in clothing. Got all of that?


This morning dawned bright and early, just like it always does when you are me and believe that anything occurring prior to noon is uncivilized. The brightness of day slanting through the blinds above my bed made it impossible to sleep beyond 8:15 AM, so I -- in my oversized tee shirt and boxers -- decided to make a pot of coffee and see what was shaking in the real world. The dog glanced lazily up at me from his bed when I walked past him and I would be hard-pressed to tell you whether I was more grateful to his walnut-sized brain or his grape-sized bladder, because -- remember! I would have to get dressed in something different, in order to take him outside for his morning constitutional since The Rules clearly state that I cannot be seen in public in my Tabasco boxer shorts.

Like everyone else, I don't function at 100% when I am first awake. I need at LEAST two cups of coffee (which I make in a way that a dear friend of mine calls, "a jet fuel enema,") and two or three cigarettes before I'm fully cognizant and aware of things around me. And halfway through my first cup of coffee, and midway through my second cigarette, a little thought wandered through my brain that I needed to do something about the garbage. But I glanced at the clock and told myself that I had plenty of time -- which I did, all things being equal (which, friends, they are not.)

And then Uncle Al called, so we talked for a while on the phone... and I went to Facebook... and then Skeletor wandered out and nosed at my ankle and I told him to eat and then I would take him outside, and I stood up, intent upon changing. This would be a typical morning -- nothing odd or out-of-the-ordinary -- and this should always be my first clue that something is going to go horribly, freakishly and terrifyingly awry.

As I crossed the threshold into my bedroom ("The Den of Mayhem, Madness and Apathy,") I heard it -- the unmistakable rumblings of a large truck with sweaty men swinging off of it like single-minded trash monkeys. And my only thought was this:


Like a tornado, once you hear the garbage man coming, it's too late. But since the jury is still out as to whether I am an "optimist" or an "idiot," I did a quick calculation and figured, "What's the big deal if I drag the trash out quickly, even if I am wearing boxer shorts of the same color as road construction signs?!" But here's where I really sealed my fate:

I thought, "It will be okay."

IF you are ever in the same, shared-oxygen space with me, and you hear me utter that phrase, or you even suspect I've thought it, nail one of my god-damned feet to the floor so I cannot proceed into whatever bound-to-end-in-hot-tears-of-angry-recrimination plan I've hatched. Please -- I beg of you!

I ran into the kitchen and grabbed the sack of trash from our main garbage can. I practically pulled the refrigerator door off of its hinges and somehow managed to punch one of the shelves in an effort to grab the bucket of long-gone-to-waste KFC out. I was immune to the pain, however, as I continued furiously stuffing both spoiled -- and perfectly good, I've since discovered -- food into the gaping mouth of the Hefty-Hefty Cinch Sack, which was beginning to sag and bloat from my unthinking frenzy of, "I've got to get this to the curb -- NOW!"

That bag, along with wheels, a questionable taste in clothing and my epic procrastination, is also a major player in this drama, so remember it too, okay? That garbage bag -- and this is really not an exaggeration -- was weighing in close to my own body weight.

So, I had the hyper-full Hefty-Hefty Cinch Sack in one hand, I grabbed the pizza boxes with the other one, and yelled, "FOW #1! Take the dog out, please!" and made a mad dash toward the stairs to the first floor. Momentum (or maybe inertia, I don't know from science,) meant I took the steps a little more quickly than a 40 year old, pack a day smoker should, but I've never been one to let facts and gravity get in my way. I made it down the next flight of stairs, barely stopping to react when I crashed into the wall outside of FOW#2's bedroom, and threw open the door to the garage. I, well... hefted the Hefty-Hefty Cinch Sack into the wheeled garbage can, and pressed the button to engage the garage door proper almost simultaneously. The pizza boxes remained in my right hand, and I grabbed the rim of the wheeled trash can with my left and took off full-tilt boogie toward the slowly opening garage door, wondering if I was going to need to counter and duck or not... and just as I realized, no -- I would be able to clear the door and not decapitate myself into a bloody mess of questionable sleeping attire, it happened.

The lip of my garage played hell on a gum-fiddle with the wheels of my garbage can and time seemed to stretch out infinitely as I had the strongest, "OH SHIT!" Premonition of my life. But, remember! I'm not one to let irrefutable and immutable laws of nature stand in my way; oh, no -- not I!

I honestly figured I could counter the rocking and pitching movements of the can which was now nipping at my heels and "stepping" on the back of my flip-flops (add those to the Pertinent Details List too, please.) As to why I figured that, having lived inside this body for all these years and knowing my luck, is a mystery, but again -- I have a strangely sunny outlook sometimes. I glanced to see where the garbage truck was at on my street, and truly, I think that was really where it all went to hell.

Because at the exact moment that I was about to savor the triumph of having beaten the clock, the god damned wheeled garbage slammed into my "It's Getting Hot In Here" ass and the force of it caused me to let go of both the can and the pizza boxes and do this amazingly graceful (which is completely uncharacteristic of me,) jumping-flip thing, wherein my tee shirt was blocking my view... but the garbage men were treated to a boob flash extraordinaire.

And as I was miraculously landing on my actual, own two feet, and my tee shirt was settling back into a PG-position, out of the corner of my eye, I saw the trash can airborne, and all of the garbage bags exploding open as they hit the surface of the driveway.

Then the garbage truck slowed to a stop and the "swinging garbage dudes" descended from their perches and gave me a round of applause (the driver actually whistled, waved and gave me a thumbs up,) and helped me clean up the garbage, which was a very nice gesture. I, of course, thanked them profusely (because I'm hyper polite when I'm humiliated,) and I started to walk back, up my driveway, and into my house... which is when I saw FOW #1 and the dog on the sidewalk in front of the house, both of them glaring at me.

I will never hear the end of this.

Casa D'Pants, Episode Orange Robes and Crazy Cheaters

My weekday mornings are solidly routine. I am up at 6:20 AM, making certain that everyone is moving about in a productive fashion. Back in the day (read: prior to FOW #2 getting a boyfriend with both a driver's license and a car,) I was expected to ferry kids to and from school. Now, because of their advanced age, Mom driving them to school would be as cool as... uh, I could make a really great allusion to some trend well beyond its prime here, but I think I'm illustrating the point I'm trying to make in not making it. Mom just ain't cool any longer, Daddy-O -- and that's okay. I remember not wanting my mom to drive me to school, but I had different reasons than they do. I hope.

On days that either my friend Maria (yes, of the basketball bag story,) or I didn't drive ourselves to school, our respective mothers would drive us. Mother O' Maria, who did not hate her daughter, would drive Maria to school without incident. My own mother? Well...

Seriously, I've been reviewing this for almost 25 years in my head, trying to make sense of it all, and I'm pretty sure my mom planned this stuff out with pie charts and algorithms( and this is entirely possible because my mother was a Math Goddess.) I know she started perfecting her "look" from the time I was in sixth grade and finally hit humiliating pay-dirt by the time I was a junior in high school. "How bad could it have been?" you might ask.

I used to beg to ride the bus if I couldn't get a ride from Maria or drive myself.

Let me paint the picture for you, and anything beyond this first phrase is just going to be overkill. Trust me. Are you ready?

Pink curlers.

My mom set her hair every night and slept in those damned things, which goes a long way to explaining why she was so angry all the time. Of course she was pissed at the world -- she never had a decent night's sleep. Every night at 8 PM, my mom would wash her hair, and then put it up in those curlers, and not the spongy ones with the clip that folded over. No, she used the two-part ones, made of hard plastic, that were cotton-candy colored. The former, while not pleasant to sleep upon by any means, were a damned sight better than the pinching pain of the latter. I really do know of whence I speak on this because, up until I was 10, my mom insisted on setting my hair every other night, too. The sleep deprivation I endured goes a long way toward explaining why I have no clear memories of my life until the age of 12.

If the atrocity committed by the curlers weren't enough to seal my fate, my mom also had this robe (you'll understand the emphasis on that in a minute,) that she liked to don for those special occasions when embarrassing me to tears was the preferred end result. It was terrycloth and it was from 1965.

I graduated high school in 1987.

Not that the robe was shabby or anything; no, quite the opposite. My mom took good care of her things. Her less, um... vibrant robes were tattooed with hair color and henna stains, but this one was, apparently, her "Sunday Go To Meetin'" Robe, because it remained pristine and Miss Clairol-free. I don't know if I can provide an adequate description so that you get the gist of just how heinously ugly it was, but I'm going to try.

The primary color that you noticed, when you gazed up this robe was what I'd call, "Retina Searing Orange," if I worked at Crayola and got to name the crayons. My mom could have gone hunting in this robe. She could have landed airplanes. She could have directed traffic. She could have done all of those things in that robe... at night.

There was a black lattice pattern crisscrossing the vibrancy of the orange and -- this is where it gets really good -- thereupon were flowers arranged "artfully." Said flowers were depicted in various hues unseen in nature, such as, "Wow! That's Giving Me A Headache Blue," "Opened-Vein Red" and "Angry Florescent Purple Bruise." This thing would have looked amazing in a black-lit environment if you'd eaten a handful of psychedelic substances. Or, you would have feared for your life. I can't rightly say. I can tell you that being driven to school by someone wearing it probably explains how I can still successfully tuck and roll out of a car going up to 15 MPH, a skill you might not think is all that important, unless you've lived my life.

So, curlers... robe... anything else I'm forgetting? Oh, yes. She'd wear the blue slipper-booties my grandmother had crocheted for her in the winter of 1973. The slippers, on their own, probably would have been the show stopper, but since they had to compete with the robe, they seemed shockingly benign in comparison.

Honestly, that robe was something.

The effect of everything, all together, was awe-inspiring. For real. But not the same flavor of "awe-inspiring" as, say -- a beautiful sunset or the birth of a child. More like, "Oh, that poor woman must be blind or too poor to afford a mirror. But look at the courage she shows by plugging along, in spite of those limitations. That, there, is true courage."

And, like I said: it would honestly not surprise me to discover that my mother had planned that outfit out to maximize the humiliation quotient of it for me. She had her whole life scheduled and organized out in such a way as to have plenty of time to work on the minutiae of destroying any wispy bits of self-esteem that I might have picked up somewhere. It was, like, her thing.

And because of her thing, I've always made a conscious effort to make certain that my own children can't argue with my appearance in the drop off line, no matter what their ages. I may not be totally made up and smoking hot, but I do not look like something Walt Disney threw up. When my daughter, in 8th grade at the time, told me that my Cartman tee shirt had to go, I took that to heart. When her brother said my sweatpants were passé, I relegated them to housework-only duds, because I love my children and I don't want them to have to explain what's wrong with me. Not that they could, mind you; just that I figure there are enough strikes against any kid in this day and age of Self Esteem At Any Cost, and mine are at a decided DNA disadvantage, straight outta the gate. Why add to that?

But, as I mentioned, I'm pretty much off the hook on driving them most mornings, which I'm sure they are happy about, even though I've taken great pains to not be an embarrassment. On Wednesdays and Thursdays, though, their school district does a block schedule change and school starts later for just about every student in the school... except for FOW #1, who is enrolled in a program of study that requires him to be in the building at 7:45 AM, no matter what day of the week it is. I thought maybe I could wheedle the Boyfriend into going in early on Wednesdays and Thursdays by citing how there's also academic support time offered before classes start and I know how he worries about his grades. No dice. My veiled threats about how I probably wouldn't want anyone dating my daughter who was lazy enough to want an extra hour of sleep also fell flat.

Thus, mid-week, every week, I get up and power chug two cups of coffee in preparation for vehicular interactions with the residents of Crazy Town and make sure I don't look like a doink. Then I load FOW #1 into the car and let the games begin. It's a 3.4 mile drive from door-to-door or, as FOW #1 likes to call it, "10 Minutes on a Magic Carpet Ride of Road Rage." People who can't drive (i.e., everyone but me,) piss me off; we've been over this already.

Unlike my mother before me, the dulcet tones of adult contemporary music do not spill out of my car when I drop FOW #1 off in the morning. I primarily listen to the local alternative station and every Wednesday morning, KRBZ (The Buzz) does something called, "War of The Roses." FOW #1 and I are totally into this, because it's a voyeuristic wet dream.

The premise is pretty simple: Every Wednesday morning, a woman (and, really -- it's hardly ever a guy who initiates these things,) calls in and gives all the gory little details about the amateur PI work she's done in determining whether or not her boyfriend is cheating. The stories range from the hard-core, white trash to the merely insipid, but they're fascinating in a Jerry Springer-Lite sort of way. The KC Metro seemingly abounds with Baby Daddies and horny boys who just can't keep it in their pants.

Once the woman has made her case, the deejay then phones the Rat-In-Question, posing as a florist who has recently opened a store in the area and is giving away a free dozen roses to drum up interest and business. She explains how there's no charge, they don't have to give any credit card or personal information and that the recipient will never know they didn't pay a red cent for these roses. This is the first thing that astounds me every week, without fail: These douche bags fall for it, every freakin' time. I've been listening to this show for five years now, and you would THINK that this scheme would be better known. One of these guys who's been caught should have said to his buddies over a beer, "Hey, just so you know -- if anybody calls you and offers you free roses, make sure you send them to your girlfriend, otherwise... woo, boy! There's gonna be a shit storm."

But, no... week after week, one of the seemingly never-ending supply of dumb asses agrees to accept some free flowers. Invariably, it's the part where the deejay mentions that the recipient will have no inkling that the roses are free that makes them bite the hardest at the bait. I'm truly astonished at how many guys in Kansas City are more than willing to be greedy and dishonest in that fashion. At this point, it's time to fill out the card that will accompany the roses, and that's when the fun really gets cranking.

Some guys actually do send the flowers to their girlfriends, because -- let's face it -- women can be incredibly paranoid creatures, even when they're in the most stable of relationships. BUT, and that's a HUGE "but," there is something to be said for Women's Intuition, because nine times out of ten, our hapless fella picks the wrong recipient.

And then everybody's life falls apart on the air.

It's sickening and wrong, and I feel like a filthy, dirty, shallow piece of shit when I listen to it. Because of the timing of the ride to school, the way they play a song or two between the "accusation" portion and the reveal, FOW #1 has no idea how these things turn out, and for some reason -- he really seems to care. In the same fashion that I would not wear an optical illusion disguised as a "robe," because I love him and I want to make him happy, my maternal charge is listening to the conclusion of these freak shows and then giving him a synopsis when he gets home in the afternoon; unless it's really juicy, and then I'm supposed to text "Yea" or "Nay," as to whether or not the guy was a complete tool.

As a sentient being, I generally listen up to the point where we've got the definitive answer and then I wander around the dial in search of something that doesn't make me feel like I'm hiding in the bushes, peeping into someone's window. This morning, though -- my god! This one was a doozy, let me tell you! The woman's working two jobs because the baby daddy/boyfriend lost his, and their six year old child started telling her, "Laurie's nice," and "Laurie came to play today."

I mean, really! Can you imagine? The whole thing was just horrifyingly sad and crazy. Not only did the P.O.S. she's with Fail (with a capital "F," too,) he also had a complete meltdown on the radio, in which there was a blitzkrieg of F-bombs directed at the deejay who, according to Mr. Winner, "ruined his life."

Now, maybe it's just me, but I'm of an opinion that being caught doing something isn't really what "ruins" a life; the ruination lies in committing the actual wrong, and responsibility should rest solely upon the shoulders of the fucktard who has the mother of his children working two jobs, while he sits at home on his lazy ass all day, when he's not doing it with some trampy whore named, "Laurie." Well, maybe she's named "Laurie." It's entirely possible she's named, "Lori," because this dumb shit wasn't even certain how to spell her name. I can honestly say, I have never slept with anyone whose name I could not spell (first and last.) I hold that same standard when introducing people to my offspring, as well.

I'm pretty sure we call that, "having morals," something my mother instilled in me, sometimes on those same car rides to school when I was trying to figure out how to melt into the seat, lest someone more popular than me got a load of my mom's "taste." And maybe it isn't as important that she sort of looked like an explosion of fashion diarrhea as it is that she took those moments in the car to talk to me about what was going on in my life and in the world, an intrusion I clearly remember resenting after a certain age. But I'm grateful to my mom, hideous, orange-robed rageaholic that she was, for demanding I have at least the sense God gave a goose. I realized that this morning -- my gratitude. Mind you, that doesn't mean I'm going to start looking like I got dressed in the dark on Wednesday and Thursday mornings, but I am going to be a little more grateful that I was raised to know Crazy when I see it.

Casa D'Pants, Episode III

I winked out of here for approximately 25 minutes or so. You may not have even noticed. If you did, you might have just thought I had been busy with small, real-life, mundane things, like maybe answering the ringing telephone or, even doing laundry or dishes; you know, normal, household chores that everybody does.

You would be wrong.

Friends, I just spent the last 15 minutes locked in my own bathroom, with no way of freeing myself, and completely at the mercy of a three-year old and some smart ass teenagers. Why?

Because I'm just fucking lucky that way.

Oh, it started out innocently enough; a simple jaunt to void my bladder. It turned into HELL quite quickly, and simply because of one of the little Casa D'Pants quirks I've come to insist are "charming" and "quaint." I'm adding "dangerous to the cardio-pulminary system," as well.

The lock mechanism, a small button, is, for whatever reason, on the outside of the master bathroom door. Hence, it is possible to lock someone in the bathroom, who is then at your other-side-of-the-door mercy. You can't lock the door yourself for privacy; only for sadistic glee. It's something I knew about, and may or may not have employed to... perhaps... freak an FOW or two out with. And I've always intended to mention it to my handyman extraordinaire, John.

But I kept forgetting.

When, like a dumbass, I foolishly believed I deserved to be able to pee alone and without someone else's child staring at me, I shut the door behind me. I immediately heard, "Auntie JOY! Where did you go?!" Followed by the happy, scampering footsteps of one 3 Year Old charge for the day.

"I'm in the potty, Hon! Give me a second!" I trilled out. It bears mention here that I am a notoriously slow pee-er. I have peeing envy in restrooms all the time. Other women pee like rockets. I pee like a soap box derby racer on a level street. Even if I try to force myself to pee faster, it's nothing more than embarrassing. So I definitely knew that I was there for the duration. 3 Year Old, however, got kind of impatient and in her desire to actually see me, she accidentally depressed the button that locks the door. I heard it, pretty loudly; a sickening Click! that made me want to do a little more than urinate.

"AUNTIE JOOOOOOY!!!" I heard from outside my now prison. I immediately knew she was wandering into my bedroom... with its white comforter and selection of nail polishes on the dresser. Actually, the comforter is only completely white on one side, courtesy of 3 Year Old and those same nail polishes.

I panicked a little more. I finished all pertinent tasks and pressed my face against the door as possible.

"Honey! Honey! HONEY! Come back!" I yelled.
"I coming," I heard.
"Honey, turn the knob for Auntie Joy."
[various sounds of doorknob rattling, but not turning.]

"I can't, Auntie Joy. My hand don't work."
"Okay, Honey. Calm down [this was said more for me, than her, but...]. Go downstairs and bang on [Either Kids'] door. Tell them their mommy needs them. Okay?"

Then I listened to the silence of her not walking away.

"Baby?" I called out.
I dropped to my knees and peered through the crack between the bottom of the door and the floor. I saw her legs as she sat, leaning against the vanity outside of the door. I audibly groaned and said a bunch of not-quite-three-year-old friendly words.


"Pleas go get one of the kids, okay? It's really important."

This time, I heard her tottle off... and then I heard her in the living room, singing along with Nick Jr. I started to sweat a little more. I damned myself for not bringing my cell phone in with me. Then I laughed aloud at myself because, really -- why would I have done such a thing? Then I realized that both FOWs have a habit of sleeping into the wee hours of the afternoon and I faced the very real possibility that I could be trapped in my bathroom for hours. I started to sniffle, imaging the destruction that a three year old can wreak in a mere 30 minutes of unsupervised play and then multiplying that exponentially.

That's when I realized, I could either sit there and cry about stuff or I could get busy thinking of a way out.

There is a window in my bathroom. It's only slightly larger than an industrial-sized box of Potato Buds (Don't ask. Please.) It's also TWO freakin' stories from the ground, and I think we've determined I am not graceful. So, climbing out was checked off of the list.

Three minutes of fruitlessly rattling the door proved, well... fruitless. It did, however, return the 3 year old to her sentry position near the door.

"Auntie Joy! Auntie Joy! Auntie Joy! Are you okay?"
"No, Sweetie. I'm actually not. Could you please go wake up [Children's names]?"

This time, I actually heard her make it beyond the living room, happily singing the Franklin song the whole way down both sets of stairs. I heard what I think was her trying to knock on the doors. Apparently, her "hand don't work" for that, either. And I knew, with an accute certainty, that if she couldn't turn this knob, she couldn't turn those knobs, either.

So I had myself a Brat-fest, the likes of which I haven't had since I was about six. I stomped my feet and I pounded my fists on the floor. I screamed in frustration (because, really -- time passes very slowly in a locked-from-the-wrong-side bathroom.) And while I was freaking out, my dog started freaking out. Yes -- the same dog who elicits a string of cuss words from me because he barks when the doorbell or the phone rings and I threaten to kill him because it pisses me off so much.

In this instance, however, all I can say is, "Praise JESUS on high!" Skeletor thought someone was knocking on the door and that is not allowed to happen on his watch. Bless his little walnut-sized brain! I felt the faint stirring of hope in my heart. And sure enough, the dog's barking revived FOW #2 who woke up just long enough to walk over to her brother's room, throw open the door and growl, "The goddamned dog is going nuts. DO SOMETHING!"

I heard all of that, along with the sound of her door closing. But hope is a dangerous drug for me; I, in Brokeback Mountain Style, just can't quit it. I heard FOW #1's footsteps on the first set of stairs.

I heard him ask 3 Year Old, "Where's Auntie Joy, hon?"
I heard 3 Year Old respond, "I don't know."

I renewed my stomping frenzy. The dog barked louder. Then, at long last, there was a knock on the door.

"FOW #1! Thank God! 3 Year Old locked me in here! Turn the knob and get me the hell out of here!"
"Uh... hang on a second."

WHAT?! "Hang on a second?!" What the fuck?! Did he not understand?

"No, wait, FOW#1! You have to..." The words died in my throat as I listened to his retreat.

Seconds later, I heard both brother and sister, Fruits of my Womb, giggling outside of the door. Then, the taunting began.

"So, Mom. How much will you pay me to let you out?" I'd said this to FOW #2 a week before.
"Yeah -- it's pretty small in there, isn't it?" Damn me and my big mouth when talking to FOW #1.

After a few more minutes of torture, in which the 3 Year Old parrotted whatever her two older conspirators said, "Mercy" and "Kindness" returned to Casa D' Pants and I was released. I breathed in the sweet, sweet air of Freedom and promised myself two things: I will never pee without my cell phone again, and John is going to fix that damned knob tonight, and I will hold his child hostage until he does.

Even if she has a follow up doctor visit for her Scarlet Fever and vven if it means I'm late for Friday Masses at The Tavernacle... which I sorely need.

Suddenly Jesus Loves Me -- And I HATE It!

As I begin this, it is a little after 6 AM on a Monday morning. My favorite weatherman, Lying Shit, promised me yesterday that I'd enjoy sunny skies with highs today in the 40s. Sometime, in the middle of the night, he changed his mind (not unlike a couple of former boyfriends of mine,) and now I can't hope for better than highs in the 20s. He hurriedly tacked on the half-hearted possibility of maybe making it into the low 30s but, to continue with the allusion to people I've formerly misplaced trust with, he didn't seem sincere. He was definitely shifty about it, like he knew he was lying and he knew I knew he was lying and he didn't want me to carefully cut an entire closet of his suits into tiny little pieces while he was out of town. And I would totally do that, because I take cheating on me and weather promises very seriously.

Does any of that qualify as a, "bad day?" Probably not; but I am at a disadvantage here. I usually -- hell, immediately -- type up all my bad days as they happen, as though I am keeping my own, personal Journal of Dumb Assery (that I let Gather-at-Large read.) I haven't had what qualifies as a "bad" day in a week or so. I've had crappy little incidents, but nothing I can spectacularly exploit for the humor of it and I've milked all of my former fuck-ups for all they were worth. What to do?

The thing about finding the "Funny" in the Really Not Funny, is that you have to be careful how you pull it off, lest you end up looking like an insensitive asshole. Worse, still, some things that are "bad" are just inherently Not Funny (depending on the degree of them,) no matter how hard you try to find some amusement in them. Take, for instance, Fire.

Fire can be funny, but only in certain circumstances. If someone's house burns to the ground and they lose everything they own, well... that is definitely not funny. And trying to make it funny will only serve to get the State extremely interested in how you spend your free time. But, let's say, for instance, that my barbeque grill explodes because I, as a dumbass, decide to open up the gas vents, take a phone call and ten minutes later, press the igniter switches, thereby necessitating the penciling in of an Ethel Merman-esque right eyebrow... that I can work with. If my toaster were to suddenly burst into flames, and I had a mad-cap, Keystone Kops adventure extinguishing it, I could make you laugh about that -- unless the resulting blaze burned my entire kitchen down. Then we're back to the tenet, "Fire is not funny," no matter how much I humiliated myself. As in nature, there are certain laws of comedy you have to respect. Roasting marshmallows on the crackling, glowing corpse of a blind orphan? NOT FUNNY. Setting, say... those FreeCreditReport.Com guys on fire? As far as I'm concerned, that's gold and you should milk that for all it's worth.

But since minor "celebrities" haven't spontaneously combusted at my house this morning, I am still looking for something bad in my day to exploit. Currently, I got nothin', and that makes me sad. I am, generally speaking, one of the unluckiest people you will ever meet and whether it's falling down my own stairs or some jackass fertilizing my front yard, I can usually turn my unfortunate lot in life on its ear and make you laugh at me. I even went so far as to leave my house yesterday, hoping to that a piano would fall on me in the middle of the Hen House or somebody might say something desperately retarded to me. No dice. One of those "Sample Hucksters" that you find at the end of the aisle did foist a "fish taco" on me, and I foolishly believed things were looking up. Sadly, it was surprisingly tasty (although it was served on a Tostito Scoop -- which was weird -- and a strange aftertaste lingered on my breath that the cat found intriguing,) and I was once again robbed of my chance to turn a Meh Molehill into a Ha-Ha Mountain.

I was also hoping to hit pay dirt yesterday when I discovered the neighborhood children having what I will claim was a Scientology Meeting under my deck (even thugh it was nothing of the sort, but I'm reaching here, people. Work with me!) I yelled at them, in my best Spinster-In-Training Tone of Voice, "Hey, you kids! Get outta my yard!" and... they did. Immediately. The little bastards even apologized. There's no funny in that! Like "fire," polite and contrite children are a humor suck.

When my doorbell "donged" (it's missing it's "ding.") ten minutes later and I realized there was a parent at my front door, I got excited again. Surely, there would be an Idiot Exchange between us. But no! Once again, a polite apology was offered, accepted and we parted, cordially. I don't see us hanging out at block parties or getting drunk together so, all in all, it was a whole lotta nothing... again.

I suppose I could invent something to tickle you. I could make something up, press the barriers of Ridiculous and make you laugh, but I don't think I'd be very good at that and I think you would suspect I was lying to you. It's lamentable, really; the one time I need the FOWs to pull a stunt, or some jackass to fuck with me -- I get bupkis. Even my trips to Wal-Mart have been surprisingly low-key, lately. How is that fair and what am I doing wrong, I wonder? Sadly, I do not know, so I can't fix it.

The best "bad" I've had today was waking up at 5:45 AM. Birds aren't even awake at 5:45 AM. You know why?! Because birds have the sense God gave a goose... or, uh, something like that. But there I was, in The Den of Mayhem and Apathy (A/K/A: My Bedroom,) staring forlornly at the ceiling, thinking about how quiet things have been and having to pee. Since my bladder is no George Carlin, there's nothing really to tell. In spite of my advanced years, I don't have any sorts of conditions that would lend themselves to humor; I neither "leak," nor do I "gotta go, gotta go, gotta go right now." Everything in that general vicinity is, as far as I know, functioning as it should be. Should my day go to pieces in a funny sort of way, I'll be sure to let you know, but for now, just know that everything is fine.

Damn it.

Casa D'Pants, That Which is Believed to be Episode VI

I do not fall asleep easily but, instead, channel surf for an hour or two, in order attain a point of "Sufficiently Sleepy Enough" to doze off. This is mostly because I am poor and I'm in a state of near constant panic, the only creature I can find to share my bed is a sociopathic Maine Coon Cat, and my across the street neighbor is dating a bass player who likes to rock out, but ONLY after 10:30 PM. As an aside, he has done more to divide this neighborhood than small, Hindi children with Zippos and Entitlement Complexes. Make no mistake - no one in the neighborhood is actually excited by or desirous of these impromptu, Cat-With-A-Paw-Stuck-In-A-Waffle-Iron Concerts (dude sings, too.) No, we're mostly divided on how best to express our displeasure. See, the girl part of the equation is actually a good neighbor. She shovels our snowy sidewalks for us, sometimes, and passes out banana bread... just because she made "extra."

[AUTHOR'S NOTE: I have never had even a tiny SCRAP of "extra" baked goods anything. I honestly believed she was either trying to poison me or slip me a Roofie the first time she showed up on my doorstep. But that shit smelled good, so I made my peace with Jesus and ate it, anyway. Since I'm not dead and I don't remember being violated - even in a dream-like fashion - I guess she's harmless.]

There's been some debate at the mailbox. It's been unilaterally agreed upon that we don't, necessarily, want to burn her house down (we're saving that for the parents of the aforementioned children, who only speak English when they aren't being bitched out about their progeny,) but we wouldn't mind kidnapping her boyfriend. And THIS is where the division is most apparent; My camp and I think he should be jammed in a sack (because we're colloquial, like that,) and then dropped off somewhere in rural Missouri, wearing ladies' panties and some lipstick. The opposing camp thinks he should be out-right, straight-up, de-handed.

Which just seems kind of - I don't know - permanent to me.

That's not my point; that's neither here nor there. I'm merely trying to set a stage to tell you about last night. Last night, while my bedroom windows were thrumming, and I was waiting for Two and a Half Men to come on (Charlie Sheen is one delicious hunk of man-meat, and the fact that he's kinky only adds to his allure,) I decided to abandon the local news and switch over to The Food Network. Unwrapped was on - you know; the one with Marc "Nickelodeon's Double Dare" Summers, where he uncovers manufacturing "secrets" (but not really,) to various foodstuffs? This is not my favorite show on The Food Network (that would be, Chopped,) but for the five minutes I had to kill, and since I could only hear about every three words spoken, I figured it would do.

I have NO idea what the actual theme of the episode was, but I'm going to guess "Sugar Coma," because he was wrapping up a segment on cookies with the faces of Oscar nominees captured forever (well, at least until you eat them,) via paper made out of sugar. Did anybody else know about this stuff?! PAPER made out of SUGAR?! Amazing! I started thinking about all the practical uses I could find for paper made out of sugar but, again -- that's not the point.

The point is, right after Marc clued me in to edible paper that would probably be awesome dissolved in some Mountain Dew, he took me to a Nestles' Bon Bon factory somewhere in California and introduced me to a - dig THIS! - "Bon Bon Specialist."


I don't know about the rest of you, but "Bon Bon Specialist" was NEVER an option on any of those standardized tests that I took back when dinosaurs roamed the molten surface of the earth and I was in school. I always scored into, "Frustrated & Angry Sales Person" or "Janitorial Staff." I was also encouraged to look into spelunking as a hobby, as well, but that's probably because I was never shy about admitting to my love of small, dark places suitable for hiding.

But, think about it: a Bon Bon Specialist! That would have been right up my alley, because I can eat chocolate covered balls of ice cream whether Judge Judy is on or not. I can get almost Seussian thinking about it.

I could eat them on a dare! I could eat them in a chair!*

Sadly, Otis-Lennon and their damned profiling denied me that all those years ago! Why, cruel Fate?!


It got me thinking, Well, what else could I have been that The Universe saw fit to fuck me out of?! Are there other cool jobs out there that nobody bothered to tell me about? Could I have been a wildly successful Nap Tester in a couch factory?! Official Ugly American in France?! I'd actually DO those jobs, and I'd do them really well. I doubt I'd gold-brick or slack off and I know I wouldn't invent bouts of explosive, bloody diarrhea and/or "Female Issues" once a month to avoid staff meetings.

Instead of being an impoverished, angry unemployed chick in Kansas, IF there had been some full disclosure back in the mid-80s, I might well have been the preeminent expert on Jacuzzis or Peanut M&Ms. But, noooo! Because of some vast conspiracy, the highlight of my day is hoping to catch a King of Queens rerun I haven't seen fifteen times before, while some ass from Payola, Mother-Fucking Kansas murders "Smoke on the Water" at a volume that makes my dog's eyes water.

Where is the justice in that, I ask you?! If these things had been properly disclosed to me, maybe I wouldn't be well on my way to adopting 17 more cats or adding, "Mean Old Lady" to my last name when I sign checks.

Life ain't fair.

* -- Further testament to why I don't write poetry.

More Pants Letters

Dear Taco Bell:

Good day. I just wanted to drop you a note and let you know about my most recent experience with your products and services. I have lots of observations to share and questions to ask, so let's jump right in, shall we?

I have just finished enjoying my two Baja Chalupas, sans the promised pepper jack sauce. The only reason I even get anything called, "Baja" on your menu is for the luscious spicy warmth that is that sauce. That was pretty much a huge disappointment. At least I'm no longer hungry. I won't be, for at least another 30 minutes or so, since your products are not so much "food" as they are "packing material." I do appreciate your help in leveling out my blood sugar, though.

Additionally, and I hate to nitpick, but what the hell, Taco Bell? How do you mistake something called a "Carmel Apple Empanada" for "Cheesy Tater Tots"? If I wanted a deep-fried diabetic coma, I would have ordered one. Man, that was disgusting! All gooey and weirdly textured. I admit to having a sensitive gag-reflex aggravated by the textures of certain foods, but those empanadas were Sweet JESUS Unholy. When you market tested them, did you have difficulty finding an adequate number of participants who had damaged their taste buds in unfortunate industrial accidents that involved licking a hot-press line? Did you merely round up the local hobos around your corporate headquarters? Was the focus group comprised mainly of members of The Hemlock Society? I'm really curious as to how those things ended up on your menu. Nasty -- those things are nas-tee! I may never get the taste of the plastic tasting apple swimming in chemically-enhanced "caramel" sauce out of my mouth.

And I really just wanted my Cheesy Fucking Tater Tots. Those are crispy, greasy, golden goodness and they work so well with the Chalupas. It's a marriage of Yum, and I get very sad when a wedding is called off; especially when I was so looking forward to it.

I realize it is probably difficult to get people who want to work at the Ken-Taco-Hut here in Kansas. I understand that it's not necessarily a glamorous or well paying job. However, every time I visit your establishment (whether dine-in, drive-thru or carry out,) it's a culinary crapshoot. I will say, it does keep me on my toes. Will I get anything even vaguely similar to what I ordered? Is there anything here that can be improved by a drowning in Fire Sauce? How do "tater tots" fit into Mexican cuisine, anyway?

So, there you have it, Taco Bell. I'd threaten to never darken your door again, but you know me and my drinking habits. Often, you're the only place open by the time that I've finished punishing my liver for its mere existence. Well, there's IHOP, but that involves a lot more pomp and circumstance than I can often summon up at 2 AM.


Joy M. Cranky-Pants, Disgruntled and Defeated Consumer


Dear Target Corporation:

I am not one of those people who insists on tarting your stores up by pronouncing them in a pseudo-French way. That is an honor and a privilege I save for JC Penney, but no matter. I'm just trying to illustrate that I am not one of those wack-jobs. I wanted to let you know about my most recent shopping experience at one of your locations in Kansas. I think you'll find it most informative.

Let me begin by saying that I appreciate the convenience and proximity of your Super-Target to me. I also delight that I can buy tampons at the same place I have my passport picture taken, and then can pick up some ridiculously cheap Spaghetti-Os and a purse. Genius! You also do something I admire almost too much when you mark your merchandise down for clearance: you use these bright, flourescent red tags that draw my eye in quicker than I can say, "royalty check," and I end up buying things I had no idea I even needed. But I'm sure, someday, that I will have occassion to wear a pair of not-quite-beige boots with four-inch heels and a zebra pattern on the top cuff that are really a half-size too small to be comfortable. I will invent an occassion if necessary because, for $4.98, they were too good of a bargain to pass up.

Last week, when my daughter and I realized we were running low on both socks and Oreos, we decided to visit your fine store. Oh, we were having jolly fun trying on hats when we couldn't help but notice the new spring line of tramp earrings. We didn't have an issue so much with the size of said earrings; we were just a tad disconcerted by the shininess of them. And the presence of fruit. Was this a trend we should be aware of? We raced over to magazines and checked both Seventeen and Cosmopolitian. We could find no mention of enormous strawberries-as-fashion in either one. We would have checked Vogue, but as Stanley, the helpful employee we flagged down explained, "If it's not there, we don't have it." I think hiring Stanley was probably one of the smarter moves your company ever made; he's a credit to his little red smock.

So, in closing, I just thought I'd tell you, "Good Job, Target-with-a-hard-G." You truly have it all -- from frozen seafood products to Halo:III. I appreciate letting you have an obscene amount of my money. Keep up the good work.


Joy M. Cranky-Pants, Satisfied Customer


Dear Kansas City Star:

You are a fine newspaper. I know this, because your constant emails and masthead remind me of this. I am a former subscriber, only because Ghalik, my former paperboy, developed an odd little idiosyncrasy of hiding my newspaper on my patio. I had a couple of issues with this, namely why he thought it was perfectly acceptable to crawl over the wall surrounding my patio in order to play this little game of his. I think we've been over this, and I see no reason to rehash the incident, but I would like to remind you that I am the same Joy M. Cranky-Pants that once left your Delivery Department an hysterical voicemail explaining why I found it creepy and probably actionable that one of your employees was inviting himself onto my porch every morning at 6:45 AM. I was truly grateful that we got all of that cleared up -- especially as it explained the sudden appearance of half-smoked cigars in my outdoor ashtray, and I no longer worried that I was being stalked by Columbo.

The reason for my letter to you today is just as touchy. According to the regulations governing telemarketing, because you and I have a "former relationship," you can call me and attempt to re-establish our "relationship." I understand that and while I'm not "okay" with it, I'm okay with it. However -- and that is, indeed, a loaded "however" -- I'd just like to say this:

I've begged.

I've pleaded.

I've threatened.

This is my last ditch effort to get you to please put me on your "Do Not Call" List.

I honestly don't get it. Do you think I'm kidding when I tell you I do not want to re-subscribe? Do you think I'm playing hard to get? Being coquette-ish? Or, do you think you'll just wear me down, sort of like how my date kept bringing up sex on Prom night, hoping I'd put out? Is the bitter and acrid taste of my rejection too much for you to bear, thus your refusal to take "no" for an answer?

Really, harrassment is never an answer or an effective means of getting your way. Calling me faithfully, daily, at 2:30 PM and 6:15 PM will get you no where. My mind is made up. We aren't good for each other, and this sort of whiny pestering only works for really adorable four year olds. Even then, it rarely works with me. I'm hard-ass that way.

Wouldn't it be better to just be civil to each other? Couldn't we just say, "Hey, we tried but it didn't work out" and let it go at that? You know, you do your thing, I'll do mine. No contact between us, a "cooling off period" of sorts. We'll be civil if we happen to run into each other. We might even wistfully think of what might have been. But, for now, could you please just leave me alone?


Joy M. Cranky-Pants, Literate Yet Lying ABout It.

Casa D'Pants, Episode I

Like the Brave Little Tailor before me, I have done battle with many and emerged victorious. Unlike the Brave Little Tailor (a sincere pussy, in my book,) who only fought flies stuck in jelly, I had to stare down the barrel of a generic can of RAID and engage in some hand-to-hand combat with some of nature's most vile and nasty creatures: wasps. I am, of course, referring to the insects and not the White Anglo-Saxon Protestants, a distinction I feel needs to be made, given the bright and shiny area of the country in which I live.

A few weeks earlier, we received erroneous information that we had a wasps' nest growing 'neath our rather lovely deck, here at Casa D'Pants. Upon investigation, the only thing we found beneath the deck was a rather large and intricately crafted cardinal's nest (sans cardinal and thank you for that, Jesus, at the time we looked at it.) We were confused as to why there was no buzzing mud nest of stinging agony to be found, but chalked it up to... um, whatever. I think it might have been dinner time, and we were hungry. We forget and ignore lots of stuff when we're hungry.

On Thursday night, FOW #1 had BFF of FOW #1 over for a marathon session of XBox 360 and whatever else it is that 17 year old boys do when they aren't slaying zombies or assassinating peasants and serfs. One of those "other activities" is something called, "I'll Kick Your Ass." The rules are pretty simple, and if it hadn't been for the dreadful outcome, I probably wouldn't have encouraged anyone to stop playing it.

Basically, in the game of, "I'll Kick Your Ass," two 17 year old boys who, laid end to end, are better than twelve feet tall, get sticks. These "sticks" could be brooms. They could be a half-ass rotted Louisville Slugger BFF of FOW #1 found under the porch whilst searching for the imaginary wasp nest down there. Whatever -- just so it's wooden and stick-like, that's all that is required.

Once the sticks are procured, there's a shout of, "I will KICK YOUR ASS!" and each boy circles the other. The end goal, as near as I can tell is to whale on your friend as much as possible. In doing this, two distinct things are accomplished: You learn how much pain your friend can withstand, and you learn how much pain your friend can dish out.

Now, before you go "tsking" about, "What kind of mother lets her child engage in this kind of activity?" Let me cut you off at the pass.

ME, ME! I am the crazy, overly permissive mother tha lets her kid and his friends beat the living snot out of each other in the back yard. They aren't on drugs, they wouldn't hurt each other for real for money and it's actually pretty funny to watch. So, suck it up and deal with it, because "I'll Kick Your Ass" is not the point of this article; the wasps are.

BFF of FOW#1 came flying into the kitchen a scant five minutes into, "I'll Kick Your Ass" Thursday night, as close to tears as a hard-ass 17 year old boy with a rotting Louisville Slugger and a Rep can be without actually crying. While blindly swinging at FOW #1, he'd jarred the deck and suddenly he was in a cloud of darkeness and pain. After helping him clean himself up, I went out to investigate.

My preliminary findings were not awesome, Friends. There was, indeed, a wasps' nest, and it was between two pieces of lattice and way up in the tippy-top of the corner of the frame holding said lattice... on the same side as the steps. Hey -- I'm The Pants! You were expecting this to be easy or simple somehow?

I sized this situation up. Because of a run-in I experienced eight years ago with some yellow jackets, I know some stuff when it comes to our stinging friends. One, the little fuckers will hurt you without regret or remorse. Two, you don't want to aproach a hive or a nest until after the sun has pretty much set. There's no High Noon in fighting stinging insects, there's no Wyatt Earp/O.K Corral call out, and that disturbs me, too. As an almost middle-aged, and definitely myopic woman, my vision isn't so hot. Heavenly shades of night may fall at twilight time, but I kept imaging me falling... down the steps... as I was dived-bombed by wasp squadrons of agony.

I needed a plan. And a giganto, industrial-sized can of Melt-a-Wasp & Hornet Killer, which is something you can easily pick up at your local Wal-Mart. Since I hate Wal-Mart more than life itself, this was the first snag I ran into. Now, you can buy a can of toxic and lethal to wasps chemicals at your local grocery store, but it's mad expensive. Or, maybe, I'm mad-cheap. Let's call this a "Six of One, A Half Dozen" Conundrum and embrace my brilliance, for as much as I hate The Wal-Mart, my sister inversely loves it there. I think I'm a foundling for many reasons, but this little factoid is some of my strongest supporting proof.

My sister agreed that she would pop by the Wal-Mart on her way out of her office. I visibly relaxed, thinking the nightmare would be over before it could even begin in earnest, but -- again! I am The Pants. Nothing ever goes easily for me.

Well, my sister "forgot" to go to Wal-Mart which is, again, further testament to my idea that I am adopted. If Wal-Mart was anywhere on my radar, you can be Goddamned sure it would be as likely to slip my mind as forgetting I was scheduled for an execution or a pap smear. But, I digress... she forgot, so I simply mended this teeny little hole in my plan thusly: No one, and I mean no one, was allowed anywhere near the sliding door to the deck. The dog was not allowed to lie near there and watch for other dogs to -- gasp! -- leave their homes and perhaps pee in their own yards. The cat was not permitted to sit and wait with bloodlust for the cardinal. The kids were not so much as to LOOK at the sliding door, lest they give off psychic vibrations that would anger and arouse the wasps into some sort of stinging frenzy.

This plan worked really, really well Thursday night. Friday morning, however, it was once again proven that we all have the attention spans of Minute Rice and I took the dog out onto the deck, down the steps and into the yard for his morning toilette. My daughter stood, leaning on the railing of the deck, telling me about her plans for the evening.

And then I made a horrible miscalculation of epic proportions. The frisbee that the boys had been playing with prior to the rousing match of "I'll Kick Your Ass," was resting forlornly on the lawn. So, I yelled, "Heads' UP!" and tossed it in the general direction of my daughter, except...

My daughter is a lovely young woman. She is very nimble, very lithe and 13 years of ballet, jazz, tap and gymnastics have made her athletic, as well as graceful. I am the spaz. Know that as well as you know your own name. My daughter = grace. Me? Not so much.

I am the spaz who threw a frisbee directly at a wasps' nest, and when they swarmed out, they went for the first warm body available; in this case, my daughter.

FOW #2 shrieked, did some fancy-schmancy ballet leap that allowed her to cover the three feet of distance between her and the door in less time than I could realize what exactly was happening. I heard the door slam... and the unmistakeable click of being locked out of the house. And it still took me a second to put it all together:

I was locked out.

With angry wasps.

And a tranq'ed yorkshire terrier with a bruised trachea who also has a horrific, terrifying history with yellow jackets so buzzing insects freak his shit to pieces.

In my bare feet.

And boxer shorts.

The dog and I decided to play possum, and stand as still as possible. It seemed to work because, while one or two zoomed angrily past us, none of the wasps paid us any attention. We then wandered into the front yard, looking dazed and frightened and rang the doorbell. No one answered. We rang again.

Nothing. We could hear some sort of commotion on the other side of the door, but for all intents and purposes, we were as welcome on that doorstep as if we were handing out Watchtowers. Of course, it was around this time that most of the neighbors with real work-jobs decided to leave, so I spent a lot of time alternately waving half-heartedly and doing my best Mumbling Crazy Person impression, gesturing wildly and trying to convey that I don't dress like this to leave the house normally. Finally, after 97% of the neighbors had checked me out in my neon green, striped boxers and my "Grab a Heiney!" shirt (complete with realistic butt,) FOW #1 opened the door.

FOW #2 sat on the couch, looking sad and miserable. She also appeared to have had a Grade A, extra large egg surgically implanted in her forehead... right underneath what looked to be a Third Eye. And while all of that is interesting, the most egaging part of the whole scene was how, despite being clearly in pain, she was able to completely ass-ream my sister on the telephone about getting Melt-A-Wasp over here and getting it over here now.

Further proof my sister and I may not share blood: She dropped everything and delivered.

Now, I could lie to you and tell you that I forgot to spray the nest last night. I could utterly bullshit you into believing that it was raining and I was unable to do battle. The truth is, though, I was too scared and terrified to actually pull the trigger, as it were. I kept imagining an angry swarm coming out and me, my panic, my tumbling ass over appetite down the stairs... breaking my neck, my legs, my spine. I saw me in the Wal-Mart, handing out stickers and drooling on myself. That is not the life I want for myself, so I chickened out. There; I admit it.

And I caught a ton of grief from every living creature in this house -- both skin children and both fur children found a myriad of ways to express their displeasure at being banned from the door to the deck. So tonight was D-day, and FOW #1 even volunteered to go outside with me while I upped my kill count.

I positioned myself on the second step, and aimed. I pushed the trigger. Nothing.

I glanced at FOW #1, and he nodded encouragement at me. I took a deep breath and noticed the children who live next door were all standing, stock still in their yard, watching me.

I aimed again and pressed down. A stream of killer chemical feebly squirted forth as though the can had an en enlarged prostate. Two wasp sentries (I assume,) came out to investigate.

I, as promised, panicked. And my panic embarrassed and saved me, in equal measure. First, my panic gave me just enough of a shot of adrenaline that I was then able to firmly depress the trigger mechanism on the can. Along with what really was not superhuman strength, was a string of cusswords, "motherfuckers" being prominent among them.

I saturated the nest. I shot escaping insects out of the air. I, in effect, super-soaked my deck with something that probably could take the paint off of a space shuttle, but I didn't care. I was a squirting, swearing machine and three-quarters of the way through the can, I stopped and declared my victory, standing amongst the crunchy corpses littering my deck. And that's when I heard this, the following exchange from next door:

5 Year Old Boy: Mooo-ooom! The new neighbor lady's neat! She's killing stuff! It's like a movie out here!

Mom [from inside the house, but obviously approaching the door]: Really? What kind of movie? [Laughter]

5 Year Old Boy: You know, the kind that you and dad watch after we go to bed... she said, "Motherf --"

He never got to finish. The next stage direction would look something like this:

[Child disappears; Door slams.]

So, three weeks into living here and I am already the sharp-dressed, foul-mouthed, neighborhood murderess. I was actually sort of trying to fit in, too. Maybe I can explain at next week's block party; I'm taking nachos.

With jalapenos.