Dinner’s gonna be late.

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Standing in the galley kitchen facing the back porch, my daughter and I were preparing dinner, chit-chatting about both of our uneventful days. Chicken noodle soup and cornbread were on the menu. As she chopped the carrots and celery, I mixed up the cornbread while the oven was preheating.

We heard an unfamiliar noise at the same time and turned to look at each other with a scrunched “what the hell was that?” face. I thought maybe it was the neighbor engaged in some weird activity and peered out the window. I found nothing and no one was in his driveway. Then I had the thought that it was probably the pot boiling and turned around to confirm. It was not. As I began to shift my attention back to the cornbread, out of the corner of my eye I caught a glimpse of the glass of the oven door, from which a bright golden light emanated.

“Holy shit, the oven’s on fire,” I announced, as if I had just discovered we had no chicken for the chicken noodle soup. Realizing now that THE OVEN IS ON FIRE, I spun around and quickly opened the oven door, but realizing the fire was bigger than me, I slammed it shut, turned the oven off, and went to the cabinet to search for the box of salt. Do we even have a box of salt?

“Call 911! Now!” I shouted to my teenage daughter, who stood in the middle of our very small kitchen, eyes wide and apparently paralyzed.

She immediately called and gave our address to the dispatcher. Literally, a mere minute had passed. We both began coughing and choking. “Get out of the house!” Abandoning the foolish notion of putting out the fire myself, I ushered her to the door and we went outside to wait. I poked my head back inside to check the status. I couldn’t tell if there were still flames in the oven, but black smoke filled the kitchen and made its way through our tiny house. I hoped it didn’t reach the front of the house where our dwarf rabbit lived, or the back of the house, where our cat, Star, typically ran to hide when any sort of chaos happened (which is pretty much on a regular basis). I went back outside to wait.

We could hear the sirens get louder as the fire trucks got closer. Yes, fire trucks. Plural. I imagined all of the neighbors peering out of the slats of their closed blinds, wondering, “Oh, what now??”

Three firemen in full gear (including an ax, which, even in this situation, I somehow found amusing) marched up the driveway, where we stood breathing in the clean air. I thanked god that, for whatever reason, I hadn’t yet taken off my bra tonight.

“What’s going on?” asked Hugh Jackman the leader of the three swoon-worthy rescuers. Holy crap, I thought to myself. I glazed over and almost forgot why we were there.

A former co-worker used to get all excited when the fire trucks, prompted by some college student prankster pulling the fire alarm, would show up across the street from the office on a semi-regular basis. She would literally beam when the firemen would pile out of the truck. I found it disturbing that she would be giddy at the sight of a fire truck. Until tonight, that is.

“Uhm, there was a fire in the oven,” I stammered, letting out a small laugh of embarrassment. “We actually get that quite a lot,” he responded. I felt no less an idiot, but was grateful that Hugh was trying to make me feel better about it.

Two days ago, I had made a coffeecake to take to work. Butter spilled out of the dish and pooled in the bottom of the oven, but I didn’t have time to wait for it to cool off to clean it up that morning. And of course I completely forgot about it as soon as I stepped out of the door to head to the office. So now, as luck would have it, 7:00 Friday night, here I was having a moment with the local fire department.

While standing outside in the light rain, waiting for Hugh and the crew to update me on the damage, I gazed over to read my daughter’s latest tweet: “yanno, makin dinner,” which included a picture of the two fire trucks, red lights a-swirl, and the Fire Marshall’s SUV parked on the street in front of our house. “Nice,” I said, giving her the sideways glance with headshake.

Thankfully, the fire was suffocated when I closed the oven door and it went no further. “You did the right thing by leaving the oven door closed,” Hugh said. I felt proud of myself for about 3 seconds, until reality reminded me that I had caused the fire in the first place. I vowed to clean the oven the next day.

Another fireman brought an industrial fan the size of Venus to the back door to help suck the smoke out. I went into the kitchen to assess the situation. Hugh had just pulled the oven out, away from the wall. I said a silent prayer that I didn’t have the gas Viking stove I had been lusting over for years. Looking into the empty space, I gasped with horror. “Oh my god! How disgusting!” as I sized up the filth that had been living beneath the oven. I wanted to slither away in shame out the back door. There was clearly nowhere for me to hide from it. “Can I clean that up before you put it back?” I asked. He smiled. “They pretty much all look like that,” again trying to comfort me. I loved Hugh.

I swept up the mess and he cleaned out some of the grossness inside the oven as best he could. “You’ll need to wait until it cools down completely to finish wiping it out, but it should be okay to use in a bit. There wasn’t any physical damage.”

My humor took a back seat for a minute as I considered just how fortunate we were. I was truly grateful that we were all safe and that our house was fully intact. I thought about how catastrophic the situation could have been. My daughter often cooks, sometimes rather elaborately, including when I’m away at work or running errands. My mind raced thinking of what could have happened had I not been home, had she turned on the oven to preheat and gone into the other room for awhile. Although she is very mature and responsible, the fire broke out in a matter of minutes after turning on the oven and smoke filled the room quickly. My heart went out to victims of tragic fires as I now clearly understood how smoke inhalation alone could incapacitate a person. I shuddered to think of an uncontained house fire.

As the three musketeers filed out of our house, Hugh stopped with a clipboard, pen poised. “I need to complete my report. Can you give me your name and phone number?” I tried to stifle a smile but was unsuccessful. I rattled off my information, then followed with, “But dinner’s gonna be late tonight. Maybe we should schedule for tomorrow.”

He was late for dinner Saturday. So late, in fact, that I’m still waiting. On the bright side, my oven is clean.

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Tardy to the Party

There should be 42 hours in a day rather than 24. Maybe then I wouldn’t be late to everything. Maybe then I wouldn’t have to cram in “just this one more little task” before I fly out the door on my way to…anywhere. Maybe I wouldn’t have to fly at all. If there were (or is it “was”?) 18 more hours in the day, I could even actually relax. Maybe. If there were 18 more hours in the day, maybe I would have posted this two days ago when prompted.

via Daily Prompt: Tardy

Damn that clock

In my rented house, sitting on borrowed furniture, I holed myself up one cold winter night, reading. “It’s a girl,” said the little voice in my head. I stopped mid-sentence and laid the book against my chest, gazing ahead of me, as if I expected to find someone sitting at the opposite end of the couch. But no one was there. It was perfectly quiet. Patiently, I waited for more. I was delivered more silence.

The next morning, I made an appointment to see a doctor. A doctor. Because I didn’t have one. I never got sick. And since my current living arrangement may or may not be temporary, I never bothered to plant roots by selecting a “primary care” physician. There was no need. Until now. Apparently, there was a need. I had no idea.

A pregnancy test was run. I sat in the room, for what seemed like an eternity, waiting for the nurse to return. “Yes, you’re pregnant,” she said with just a hint of a smile. She couldn’t decipher my expression to determine whether this was good news. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Pregnant? I had battled endometriosis for years and had decided that I wouldn’t be able to get pregnant even if I tried. I hadn’t tried. But I hadn’t not tried.

A man I once dated asked me if I wanted to have kids some day. I said I hadn’t really made a deliberate decision about it. If I was meant to have kids, it would just happen. And if I wasn’t, then it wouldn’t. I was okay with it, either way.

Well, now was the moment of truth. Was I okay?

“Because of your age, we’ll want to do an ultrasound.” “Oh, right. 35 is pushing the envelope,” I quipped in my head. She handed me a gown and opened the door to usher me down the hall. “You mean right now?” I asked. She looked back at me as if to say, “What, you have something better to do with your time right now?” She kept walking, her unspoken order for me to follow her.

Lying on the table, my mind raced. A kid. A baby. Me, a mother. A mom. Was I prepared? Could I do it? How did I really feel about this? I was unsure. The technician squirted the glob of cold goo on my belly and began her search, slowly and methodically moving the wand, eyes fixed on the monitor. My eyes followed hers. Her hand stopped and she smiled. “There. Right there. See it? That’s the heart beating.” She adjusted a knob, turning on the volume. The quick rhythm, beating in time to the pulse on the screen, was loud and clear. A Top 10 hit. A one-hit wonder. My heart melted and I was reduced to a puddle of tears.

Yes. Yes indeed, this was good news. I was more than just okay. I was overwhelmed. In the very best possible way.

I chose a boy’s name, you know, just in case. Just in case my intuition was wrong this time. But I knew that it wasn’t. It never is. It is always there, and it is always right. Seven months later, in the middle of one of the most horrific lightning storms I could remember, as promised, the Universe delivered. Laid on my chest was a perfect, beautiful bundle of warm flesh. She was full of life, love, and lessons.

She was a baby for about 10 years, during which time I got about four hours of sleep in total. And then, the day she went to kindergarten, everything changed. She began to grow and learn and ask all kinds of life questions. The following week, when she started her senior year of high school, she was still asking questions about life. What was my life like in college? What did I like least about living in an apartment when I moved to Chicago? What exactly happens when the government shuts down?

I swear, it was just this morning that I was sitting in our rocking recliner for a few minutes of peace when she crept oh-so-quietly halfway down the stairs at 5:30 a.m. Peering at me through the banisters, wearing that mischievous little grin, she was bright-eyed and bushy tailed, even at o’dark thirty. It was yesterday, I believe, that she was running through the sprinkler wearing her hot pink bikini, squealing with pure, innocent glee at the icy cold water blasting her little belly. A few weeks ago, she was admonishing me for not being with her at the dining room table, supervising her finger-painting. Last month when she was in middle school and we were talking about how kids can be so thoughtless and hurtful, I was struck by her wisdom. As I watched her back out of the driveway for the very first time all by herself last week, I’m sure I caught a glimpse of her clutching her favorite stuffed animal, the pink elephant whose little velour tail served as a pacifier.

The clock tick-tocks in the background as I sit waiting. Waiting for her to get up. Waiting for her to get ready. Waiting for her to finish eating. Waiting for her to come home.

For right now, just for today, I will appreciate every minute. I will take an internal snapshot of every smile, every laugh, every missed assignment, dirty dish, wet towel on the floor, unmade bed, eye roll, and every long hair wiped on the shower wall. I will secretly record for my memory to play back at will every giggle as she watches the latest viral video and each gasp as clips of her friends jump at her from her phone screen. I’ll admire her tenacity when she argues her curfew with me, and smile at her taking a nap rather than unloading the dishwasher. I’ll savor every half-finished meal, silently step over every pair of shoes in the middle of the floor, and ignore every room that remains unkempt after numerous requests to clean it. I’ll be grateful for every request for takeout, the late night chats on my bed, and each time she begs to have her feet rubbed after getting home at 10:30 p.m. from a long shift at the restaurant, even though I’m exhausted from my own long day at the office. I’ll wrap my warm fingers around those smelly little toes and massage them, enjoying every minute.

Because in eight months, which is tomorrow, I’ll be holed up in our house, gazing at the opposite end of the couch over the top of a book, half-expecting to find someone there. But she’ll be sitting on borrowed furniture in a rented room, hundreds of miles away at college.

And although it will not be perfect, it will be perfectly quiet.

via Daily Prompt: Blink

Why I detoxed and opted for clean living in 2018. (It’s probably not what you think.)

Long title? Yes. Long story? No. Well, maybe.

2017, and to be honest, for a couple years leading up to it… okay, to be real honest, for several years leading up to it… was kind of a clutterf*ck. Clutter was around me literally everywhere. The kitchen, living room, dining room (hello, #diningroomtabledumpingground), entryway, bathroom, bedroom, my work office… You get the idea. Pretty much every space I inhabited was enmeshed with stuff. Much of it was just shit that needed to get pitched or donated.

Over the holidays, I was off work for a little over two weeks. It was glorious. After about 10 days, I looked around – really seeing this time – and became (even more) disgusted with myself about how my living space had gotten out of control with clutter. My “lifestyle” had become paralyzing. Anyone been there? It’s too much. Too much to do, too much to think about, too much to deal with. Too time-consuming. Too mindboggling. Too depressing. It feels like there is so much to do that you don’t know where to begin. So you don’t. And you don’t. And you don’t. And before you know it, you’re on the Jerry Springer episode of I’m an Accidental Hoarder. I don’t even like the Jerry Springer Show. Is he even still around? I didn’t want to find out.

I would walk into my house and instantly be drained of all good vibes. One step through the doorway had the power to strip me of not only a good mood, but my spiritual well-being. A cluttered space leads to a cluttered mind. And a cluttered mind makes it hard for you to connect with the Universe. And when you can’t get connected with the Universe, you get stuck in this heavy, static state of spiritual toxicity. I was heading into about page 36 of my Give a Mouse a Cookie sort of life. I didn’t want to get to page 40 and watch the cycle repeat itself.

So little by little, I began the arduous task of detoxing my living space. Yes, it was overwhelming. Yes, it was exhausting. I stayed up until 2 or 3 a.m. most nights. And yes, it was embarrassing, even if I only shared pictures with a close friend. Verrrry close friend. But I did share pictures because I needed to come clean. Literally and figuratively. At times I felt like I was just moving shit from one room to another and I wondered if I was actually making it worse. But as I began to see progress, one room at a time, I picked up momentum. Every day became more productive than the last. And guess what? Every day I was in a better mood than the day before. Looking around was no longer as overwhelming. It wasn’t depressing. It wasn’t even disgusting. I took bags and boxes of unused stuff to local charity, and as each room became clean and tidy, not only did my home begin to feel lighter, but my spirit did as well.

I got into daily habits of making my bed, cleaning the kitchen, doing laundry, and actually opening and doing something with every single piece of mail. Novel concept. Granted, it has only been two weeks (ha!), but walking into a room that is clean, organized, and clutter-free is so gratifying and peaceful. Before detoxing my bedroom space, I avoided going there except to sleep. It was oppressive. I didn’t sleep well and woke up exhausted. Now I look forward to going to bed early so that I can climb under the crisp covers to read before heading into dreamland. I sleep well and I wake up in a good mood. And when I venture into the kitchen for that first cup of coffee, I actually look forward to it rather than dreading the sink full of dishes or the clutter on the counter. And I can actually serve dinner on the dining room table because the only thing on it is the centerpiece.

Since coming clean, a few times I’ve started to absent-mindedly travel down the thoughtpath of how my living space had turned into what felt like a toxic landfill. But chaos can be a chatty bitch, so each time she’s wandered into my mental space, I tune out the static by turning to the Universe. And each time, it complies, washing over me in a soothing cleanse of mind and spirit. Along with my daily cleaning habits, I’m back into my daily spiritual practice that includes meditation, and have carved out bits of “me” time throughout the day. I feel connected again. I’m realigned.

End of story? I hope so. But chaos is not just a chatty bitch. She’s a persistent one, too.

Static
 

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