It’s All Uphill From Here

On Thursday, I was in the middle of a meeting. While I was listening intently as one does, I shook my shoulders slightly to loosen them up. I realized in that moment that my shoulders weren’t the only thing that was loose because I had forgotten, after almost 40 years of getting dressed in a specific order, to put on a bra. I was shocked but also strangely comfortable. Luckily, I was wearing a flowy top and we’re currently in the middle of a heat wave so it wasn’t apparent to anyone else but me. At least I hope it wasn’t. But still, it was a little confounding that for the first time in living memory, I had unintentionally forgotten to don a foundation garment:

Me (shimmying): I just realized that I forgot to put a bra on this morning.
Ken: Nice. But seriously? It’s not even the weekend.
Me: I know. So weird. I’ve never been so footloose and fancy-free at work.
Ken: See? You announce your retirement and the standards immediately begin to slip.

And yes, it occurred to me that my wardrobe mishap may be a subconscious result of my intention to retire from the secret agency at the end of September, an intention that I made public last week. I love my job, don’t get me wrong, but Ken’s retiring at the end of June, and we have a lot of plans. I have writing to do, he has photographs of trees and clouds to take, and we both have the antique business to maintain. (Just kidding about Ken’s photos—he’s an amazing photographer but he DOES take a lot of tree pictures–see the one below titled Sunrise). If you want to see more examples of his awesome photos, search for him on iStock—his last name isn’t hyphenated and it starts with the W part). Then there’s travelling—eventually. Our anniversary cruise, the one we couldn’t take last year, also got cancelled this year, so here’s hoping for the fall, or at least January.

Sunrise

And then to double down on my subconscious reaction to retirement, on Thursday night I dreamed that I went to a retirement workshop, but it was about FUNERAL PLANNING. I was seated between a really young boy and a very grumpy older woman, and we were given categories to make decisions about like “Materials” and “Location”. I distinctly remember examining a brochure and thinking ‘I’ve never been a fan of dark wood but this Mahogany looks pretty sweet.’ Then the woman next to me said, “For Location, make sure you specify high ground, and watch out for salt levels. High salt content causes you to decompose faster.” When I woke up, I researched this and it’s patently untrue. According to Google, bodies decompose faster in fresh water than salt water, although I get the high ground thing. I don’t want my beautiful mahogany casket to turn into a boat. Plus, since Ken will be building me a mausoleum, I want a room with a view. But all of this is beside the point, which is ‘Why the hell am I equating retirement with death?!’ I mean obviously, the bra thing is a metaphor for freedom but choosing a coffin? Then again, I’ve heard that the Death card in a tarot deck isn’t really an indicator that you’re going to shuffle off the mortal coil, but more about moving from one state of being to the other. So I guess if that’s true, I’m fully invested in the transition from work life to a life of leisure. And on Monday morning, I will stare into my bra drawer, pick out the prettiest one and sigh.

Here also is a picture of the cemetery at the top of a hill that I mentioned in the video I posted last Wednesday. I got a couple of requests so here you go. I bet there’s room up there for a mausoleum…

Creative Wednesday – Titles, Talk and Tipples Part 2

Here’s the second part of my incredibly fun interview with Jude Matulich-Hall. Don’t know why it took me so long to post this, but you can watch me get slightly tipsy as we talk about my upcoming short story collection Feasting Upon The Bones (Potters Grove Press), cassette tapes, and meeting my idol Gary Numan. You can watch it here.

Omen II: Return of the Herons

On Wednesday night, Ken was out walking Atlas and he came home perturbed:

Ken: I was scooping, and when I looked up, there were three blue herons just sitting there, watching me.
Me: That’s not good.
Ken (whispers ominously): I know.

You may or may not remember that I’ve written before about herons and their portentous nature. Oh, they’re beautiful, and graceful, but they are also harbingers of doom. And sure enough, this happened the next morning:

Ken: I can’t find Bob anywhere.
Me: What do you mean, ‘can’t find Bob’? Don’t joke like that.
Ken: I’m not kidding. I can’t find him. I’ve looked and looked.
Me: But that’s impossible. Where would he go?!

Bob is an African dwarf frog. He lives in a small tank in Ken’s office. We’ve had Bob for thirteen years, since he was given to Kate for her 10th birthday. Bob originally came with Doug and the two of them were presented to Kate in a tiny plastic cube barely big enough for a cup of water, so we quickly moved them into a small fishtank with fake plants and buildings so that they felt important, like small gods. We also assumed they were brothers because they fought A LOT. Then one day I looked up “why are my dwarf frogs fighting so much” and it turned out a) they weren’t fighting and b) Doug was Dougette. I was hopeful but we never did get any baby frogs. Dougette passed away a few years ago but it took a while for us to realize that because dwarf frogs don’t do much and just hang in the water rather lifelessly most of the time anyway. If I had a dollar for every time I had to tap on the tank and poke Bob to make sure he was still with us, I could have bought him a bigger tank. But now, not only is he not hanging languidly by his miniature Parthenon, he’s nowhere to be found. He isn’t in the tank, he isn’t on the bookcase the tank sits on, and if he somehow got out of the tank and fell OFF the bookcase, he’s not on the floor anywhere in the room. And it’s upsetting because even though he didn’t do much, he was a fixture in our lives and I hope no matter what happened to him that he didn’t suffer. F*cking herons.

And it was just the sour cherry on top of the stale cake that was this week, because normally, this week is THE MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF THE YEAR, which is to say it’s Big Garbage Pickup Week or, as I like to call it, Big Junk Day. Last year, you may remember that we struck gold, bringing home stained-glass lampshades, antique sleds, and vintage leather suitcases. So last Sunday, as we were putting the finishing touches on my new outdoor office/garden house, we realized that the ceiling fixture wasn’t working properly. And since we’re locked down and can’t go to any stores to replace it, Ken said something that made me love him even more—“Let’s go drive around the back roads and see if anyone put a ceiling light out for Big Junk Day.” I’m sure you’re thinking, “Right. What are the odds?” But don’t scoff—sure enough, we DID find one, a very nice chandelier, as well as a 1920s Mission Oak armchair in beautiful condition that I’m now using as a desk chair in the garden house office. It was an auspicious beginning. The next night before dinner, I was raring to go. But an hour later, I was sadly disappointed:

Me: What’s with all the tarps?! Why does everyone have so many tarps? This junk is crap!
Ken: Ironic.

Concession after concession, gravel road after gravel road, it was just tarps, old mattresses, and empty plant pots. Finally, we came to a junk pile that looked promising and I hopped out. Sure enough, there was a bag with a small Persian rug inside. I pulled it out, to Ken’s dismay (“You don’t need another rug to straighten!”), and put it in the truck. I was elated, but my triumph was short-lived:

Me: What’s that smell?
Ken: It smells like pee.
Me: It’s not the rug.
Ken: It’s the rug.
Me: Goddammit!

The bright spot of the week came when Ken got the mail on Thursday. There was an envelope addressed to me from Capital One with a refund cheque inside. It was for 10 cents. Here’s the background. A year ago or so, I was making a phone order from The Bay, a department store here, and my store credit card was declined. I was befuddled so I called Capital One and they told me that my account was $1.36 overdue.

Me: You seriously suspended my account because I owe you a buck thirty-six?
Capital One Person: Yes.
Me: Why didn’t you let me know?
COP: I don’t know.
Me: Cancel my account.

So she did, and told me she would clear out the $1.36. But the next time I got a bill, instead of it saying I had a zero balance, it said I owed them 8 cents. And I was like, Really, Capital One? You want 8 cents? FINE! So I took a nickel, found three old pennies, taped them all to the bill and sent it back. That was the last I heard for almost a year until yesterday when I got the cheque for 10 cents (which I assume is my 8 cents plus interest) with the stern warning that I must deposit it immediately. Maybe I’ll really screw with them and send it back with “No longer at this address”. Then again, if the herons keep showing up, I might just have to move.

Update: Well, several updates. I decided to give up on the old Singer sewing machine, and as I moved it out of the alcove where I’d left it, I looked down and Eureka! I found the battery we thought Atlas ate. We also found Bob, lifeless under the rocks in his tank. Poor Bob. We buried him next to Titus and said a few words about what a good frog he was. And considering that the average life expectancy of an African dwarf frog is 5 years, and he lived to be 13, he was a pretty lucky little amphibian, despite the herons.