Refrigerator Art: The Sequel

Well the inevitable has happened. I’ve gone to the dark side of home décor once more and I can’t begin to express my deep regret over my failings. In sum, I’ve sullied the surface of my newish refrigerator with more pictures than I can reliably count and made it a veritable shrine to my favorite people and pets in the world. Granted, it’s taken me five long years to amass such an assortment and I’ve only added said pictures to one side of the fridge, but some would estimate that because of my actions, I am roughly six magnets short of reversing the polarity of the earth.

Truth be told, I can’t help myself. The urge to display inspiring quotes and adorable photos (especially of my new granddaughter) upon the aforementioned surface is simply too powerful. It’s more of a compulsion actually, a sickness for which there is no remedy—except maybe to add more pictures and magnets to the spaces where there are none.

I’m sure my family thought I was fairly deranged when I promised to remove every solitary photo as well as my kids’ fledgling artwork from our old fridge and put them into permanent storage as soon as we remodeled our kitchen and replaced that fridge with a sexier, stainless steel model—one that resists scratches and hides fingerprints. They knew how I loved what could only be described as a glorious 28 cubic foot canvas—a 3-D masterpiece that was undeniably the focal point of our kitchen for years. I remember when visitors stood in front of it in awe, marveling at our artistic flair—or maybe they were perfectly horrified. I can’t be sure.

At any rate, it was a sight to behold and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t proud of what I had created, one memorable image at a time. Each time I walked into our kitchen, I was reminded of favorite vacations, beloved pets and people—ordinary moments frozen in time. Of course, there was also a giant calendar, photo booth zaniness, a handful of words that my kids had spelled with magnetic letters when they were preschoolers and pictures that depicted important milestones, tangibly marking the passage of time. In every sense of the phrase, it was a snapshot of our journey as a family.

Somehow I wanted to hold onto the special moments, if only until the images faded and curled at the edges. I liked looking back at my children cruising around the house in nothing but diapers, the early days of kindergarten, making snowballs with Grandma in the backyard, carving pumpkins on the deck, sitting on a swing with their big sister. In that way, I suppose I could relive history. Almost.

Not surprisingly, before I removed everything, I took several pictures of the old fridge in all its glory to preserve the memory for posterity’s sake. I then prominently displayed one of those photos on the new fridge, perhaps in an effort to tether the old to the new, bridging the gap between what was then and what is now. Some might say I have issues with letting go. When it comes to pictures, I suppose that’s true. I‘ve got a garage full of family photos to prove it—generations worth.

Maybe we should invest in more refrigerators so I have someplace to put them.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live, probably admiring my fridge. Visit me there at www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.

Copyright 2018 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under "S" is for Shame, Normal is Relative, Refrigerator Art, We Put the Fun in Dysfunction

Voices in My Head

I’m a writer, which implies that I spend a sizeable chunk of my day staring off into space or glowering at my laptop, stabbing at its keys in hopes of crafting coherent sentences on occasion. For me, the process of putting words on the page, virtual or otherwise, is never easy—which, of course, fills me with dread much of the time and leads me to believe that the universe hates me. What’s more, the allure of social media shows no mercy, consuming me like the ruthless beast that it is. And despite the fact that I know it to be a ruthless beast, I find it impossible to resist its wily charms.

Out of sheer necessity, I’ve devised a handful of strategies to help me be more productive—to concentrate more and dawdle less. Further, I’ve learned to silence the rumblings of doubt, if only for one sentence at a time—which, I remind myself daily, is all it really takes to move forward.

Needless to say, the tedium of parking myself in a wooden chair for hours on end is enough to kill anyone’s muse. As a result, I find that a little fresh air and exercise help me generate new ideas and make connections that I might not otherwise make. Further, I try to limit my time on the Internet, often using it as a reward for progress. Translation: I am a kindergartener, only less disciplined, and I rely on positive reinforcement in order to accomplish anything noteworthy. Instead of receiving glittery stickers, I get to generate irreverent tweets and post pictures of my dogs on Facebook.

Also, I ensure that my environment isn’t too quiet. For whatever reason, listening to Neil Young helps me churn out more words, as does the early music of Candlebox, Collective Soul and the Black Crowes—at a barely perceptible decibel level, I might add. I’m guessing it’s because their lyrics melt seamlessly into instrumental riffs, failing to compete or interfere with the jumbled mass of words inside my head—the ones that struggle to escape in some semblance of order and clarity.

Oddly enough, I often don’t know how I feel about a topic until I actually sit down and type the words. So to invite other words inside my brain AT THE SAME TIME almost always ends poorly. Case in point: The yammering that emanates from a television set drives me fairly insane, as it’s somehow funneled to my ears no matter how many walls separate us. If it happens to be tuned to Fox News during an election year, it’s patently debilitating.

Likewise, being within earshot of my husband spells disaster for my writing, too. This, of course, is because the man has no filter and he talks incessantly—to me, to himself, to people on the phone, to our idiotic dogs and even to the houseplants, I assume. More specifically, he has an irksome habit of reading aloud Facebook posts, select emails, newspaper headlines as well as outrageous excerpts from letters to the editor. While it’s true, I am often entertained by the aforementioned, it seems reasonable to request that it could wait.

Similarly, if, in the course of his crazy-busy day, he happened to have stumbled into 17 people he knows, I can count on receiving a synopsis regarding each of the chance encounters the instant he walks in the door. If he is about to change the cat box, has trimmed his toenails recently or has walked to the street to retrieve the mail, I’ll assuredly receive a report. What’s more, if he has taxied our brood anywhere throughout the day, I’ll get a detailed accounting of the logistical nightmare involved, along with a verbal transcript of the teen-inspired diatribe to which he was undoubtedly subjected.

In all fairness, I’m quite sure he has no idea HOW BERSERK this makes me as I hunt-and-peck at the keyboard, attempting to string sentences together. Naturally, I stew in silence until I can’t stand it anymore—at which point I shout STOP PUTTING WORDS IN MY HEAD. It’s as if he has crawled inside my cranium with a megaphone in order to more effectively deliver the soundtrack of my life—which would be fine if I weren’t wrestling with my own warped commentary. It’s crowded enough in there without his ramblings.

Then again, the man endures my ramblings, so I guess it balances out in the end.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live, trying (and often failing) to silence the voices in my head. Visit me there at www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.

Copyright 2016 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Bookish Stuff, Captain Quirk, Rantings & Ravings, The Write Stuff

All Hallows Eve…The End is Near

I’ve been informed it’s over—my brood’s love of trick-or-treating, that is. I knew it would happen eventually. I just wasn’t expecting it now, seemingly minutes before Halloween. It’s possible I’ll need weeks of therapy to cope with such tragic news. Please send candy.

I guess I was kidding myself to think my kids’ enthusiasm for harvesting gobs of chocolate and fistfuls of candy corn would last forever. I probably missed some important signs last October when they disguised themselves to the hilt, but dragged their feet when it came to traipsing over the neighborhood, treat bags in hand. Admittedly, I pushed it out of my mind.

Denial, as it were.

As the stages of grief are classically defined, I haven’t progressed much. I still reject the idea that the fun is over, defending that “…even adults like to dress up in ridiculous outfits and solicit candy. Who wouldn’t?”

Needless to say, I was enlightened as to how “done with that” they were.

“We just want to stay home, answer the door and scare little kids to death.”

Egads. I wasn’t prepared for that response. I just want to hold on to the past a little longer. I liked it when my twin daughters were babies—mostly. They were pumpkins their first Halloween, kittens their second, and burly lumberjacks their third year. I remember dotting their cheeks with dark eyeliner, giving their faces the suggestion of stubble. Good times.

For the first several years, my husband and I lugged them around the neighborhood in their red wagon, using blankets to prop them up and cushion the bumpy ride. Hats and mittens were a must, cleverly incorporated into the ensemble. At each house we visited, friends would crowd around to see how adorable our children looked, each year’s costume topping the last.

As they grew older they were able to walk with us, tightly gripping our hands and clutching their coveted treat bag. Each year we journeyed further, eventually canvassing the entire neighborhood in one night—which was no small feat.

More recently, they’ve met up with friends on All Hallows Eve, eager to wander the streets of our close-knit community, a herd of mask-toting teens and tweens in the dark of night, some carrying flashlights, some entirely too cool to carry a flashlight, their raucous laughter filling the autumn air. By evening’s end, they return home, sweaty and spent, usually hauling their costumes—either because they were too hot or they broke along the way. Treat bags bursting with candy. Smiles all around.

This year will be different. No more ambling from house to house. No more bags of loot to dump on the floor. No more little red wagon or mittens. At least they’ll still wear costumes, however. So there’s that. I guess I’ll have to embrace a new and different Halloween tradition—scary as that might be.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live, lamenting the end of All Hallows Eve. Visit me there at www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.

Copyright 2015 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under "N" is for Nostalgia, Growing Pains, motherhood

20 Things I Never Imagined I’d Say to My Dog

  1. It’s really cold outside and it’s not time for a walk yet. I just want to spoon you and watch Netflix. All day.
  2. I know the FedEx truck looks tasty, but YOU CAN’T EAT IT. Stop barking as if you’re possessed. Please try to act like a normal dog.
  3. Must you INHALE your food? CHEW already, you maniacal little beast.
  4. Yes, the doorbell is ringing. On television. That doesn’t mean you need to freak out or work your stupid self into a barking frenzy.
  5. Stop licking yourself…your 7 million plush toys…the stuff I spilled on the floor…the strange dog you just met…the leather couch…the carpet…the dishwasher…my feet…the road kill you love more than life itself… JUST. STOP. LICKING.
  6. Why do you feel compelled to eviscerate your stuffed animal toys? Isn’t it enough to pluck out their eyes and dismember them 15 minutes after I present you with a new one? FYI, the squeaky thing inside IS NOT the devil.
  7. Stop dragging dirty socks and underwear into the living room like a frat boy on a panty raid. You disgust me. Also, please note that the foul matter in the trash can IS NOT FOOD. Please stop gnawing on it and strewing it all over the house.
  8. DO NOT pee on your brother’s head. No, it’s not at all like marking territory. He’s another dog. Just a shorter version. And by the way, marking territory INSIDE the house is a VERY, VERY BAD thing to do. I will stop loving you if you do it again. No I won’t. I love you unconditionally, against all logic and understanding.
  9. Why did you eat AN ENTIRE LOAF OF BREAD (and/or leftover pizza, Halloween candy, et al.) while we were gone? You glutton.
  10. The crows and defenseless squirrels we see on our walks are not secretly mocking you; therefore, you needn’t chase or lunge at them like some sort of savage, effectively dislocating my shoulder in the process.
  11. Must you torment the cat? I realize that he is mocking you every minute of every day, but is it necessary to hunt him down like a dog? I understand that you are, in fact, a dog. It’s a rhetorical question.
  12. You don’t own the couch. Please share the space in this house with the humans who live here—as much as it pains you.
  1. For the love of God, STOP EATING POO, or anything that resembles poo. Deer droppings are not Skittles. Neither is bear dung or rabbit pellets. Have we not taught you anything?
  2. If you walk directly in front of me or trail me closer than my shadow, we WILL collide. It’s basic physics. Two objects cannot occupy the same space at the same time. Google it.
  3. Please refrain from doing your business in the neighbor’s beautifully manicured lawn if you can help it. If you could circle back and instead utilize the vast expanse of woods and weeds we just passed I’d be eternally grateful, you never-ending poop factory.
  4. Back up, please, so I can actually open the door for you. I know you’re beyond excited to go for a walk, but it won’t be possible unless and until you back up.
  5. You most certainly CANNOT EAT THE JOGGER, the kid on the scooter, the woman pushing the stroller, or the adorable toddler inside the stroller who desperately wants to pet you because you look like a cute little dog, only deranged. Oh, and here’s a newsflash: YOU’RE MAKING YOURSELF HACK AND CHOKE by pulling on the leash. Not me.
  6. Did you seriously startle yourself with your own fart? You crack me up, you weird little dog.
  7. What’s with the poop ritual—the one where you practically screw yourself into the ground before you actually go? Should I hire an excrement coach?
  8. Must you shame me into giving you food during dinner? Don’t give me those eyes. I simply can’t handle it.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live, uttering the most ridiculous things to my dogs. Visit me there at www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.

Copyright 2015 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Doggie Diamonds, Home is Where the Weirdness Lives, Normal is Relative, Rantings & Ravings

Wild Thing

My dog has a problem and, by extension, I have a problem. Basically he’s too high-strung and could probably benefit from psychotherapy of some sort. Don’t laugh; our vet suggested that could be arranged. I realize that small, yappy dogs are characteristically excitable and, at times, unpredictable, but Jack is ridiculously so. Anyone who has met him knows the awful truth—he’s either Jekyll or Hyde. There is no in-between. Granted, he is loveable to us not to mention adorable—especially after he’s been groomed, his hair cottony soft and white as snow. Although he is a mere 14-pound ball of fluff our family has adored (and even spooned) for more than a decade, he has another side—one that is decidedly unhinged.

The trouble is, we never know which side of him will manifest when he meets someone out and about—thereby making me beyond the point of anxious when we go for walks. Naturally when he starts growling, barking and clawing at the pavement like a fool, I reel him in as if he were an oversized marlin, apologizing profusely to the passerby. Of course, he or she can’t possibly hear my apology over the incessant barking, snarling and gagging. So I just smile with embarrassment and attempt to drag the beast away as quickly as possible, knowing full well that we will encounter this very same person and have the very same experience in roughly three minutes when we meet on the other side of the neighborhood circle. Some days I simply don’t have the strength or patience to deal with his foolishness, so we skip our walk altogether which saddens me greatly.

It doesn’t seem to matter if my stupid dog encounters someone walking, jogging or whizzing by on a bike or scooter. Even baby strollers freak him out to some extent. Other dogs, too—except the ones he is fond of. He nuzzles those and in no time our leashes end up a tangled mess, which I’m sure he thinks is terrific because he gets to spend even more quality time with those dogs and the people attached to them—usually the ones bearing treats. Against all logic and understanding, there are certain people (with or without dogs) for whom he will immediately drop to the ground and roll over, demanding a belly rub. And I am astonished EVERY SINGLE TIME this happens.

I suspect part of my dog’s neurotic behavior may stem from being overly protective or perhaps territorial. By those standards, I suppose he is an overachiever, making perfectly composed dogs look like slackers. Even indoors he goes berserk, barking like a madman whenever someone knocks at the door or steps inside. Oddly enough, people who visit must pass some kind of strange muster. He sniffs them and looks them over as if determining whether they are “dog people,” thereby worthy of his admiration and affection. Once they have met with his approval, they are free to move about the house. If not, I have to scoop him up and carry him under my arm like a large and unwieldy purse—because the universe hates me.

Not surprisingly, he even acts insane when he gets a glimpse of people through a window—people who have the audacity to walk on HIS STREET—the one he must defend to the death. Needless to say, the barking makes my head throb, and I sometimes worry that he’ll topple off the back of the couch during one of his frenzied barking sessions.

I really wonder what goes on inside that pea brain of his. Clearly he is delusional in that he thinks he weighs 200 pounds and could eat a Rottweiler for lunch. But I suspect that down deep he may suffer from an inferiority complex—if a dog could, in fact, suffer from such a thing. It’s not as if we haven’t praised him for appropriate behavior. Lord knows I talk to him as if he were a tiny person, reassuring him that whatever happens to be freaking him out at the moment won’t result in the Apocalypse.

Who knows—maybe we just need to spoon more often.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live, with a tiny, furry beast. Visit me there at www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.

Copyright 2018 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under "S" is for Shame, Doggie Diamonds, Normal is Relative, We Put the Fun in Dysfunction

Words Matter

I didn’t even know the woman, but I bristled when she spoke. Of course, her words weren’t even intended for me and I’m sure she had no idea how capably they would seize my joy and take me back in time to a day I’d rather not remember.

I was standing in the card aisle of a local department store of all places, wrestling with indecision famously. As I read and reread each of the selections I was considering (encouragement for a woman battling cancer and a birthday wish for a dear friend who had moved a world away), I weighed the words contained within each heartfelt message carefully, recognizing their power to connect souls in good times and in bad.

“CARDS DON’T MATTER,” I heard her grouse through clenched teeth, chiding her children who were likely picking out a birthday greeting for a friend or a favorite cousin. “We’ve already gotten a gift, now choose a 99-cent card and let’s get out of here,” she spat, indignation spilling from her lips. “He’ll just throw it out anyway,” she reasoned.

Though a towering wall of Hallmark’s finest separated us and I could see exactly none of what had transpired in the adjacent aisle, the exasperation that wafted over the transom was palpable and left little room for misinterpretation. Without question, it had been a long day and patience was nowhere to be found. Clearly the novelty of traipsing around K-Mart with kids in tow had long since worn off.

Granted, I had been there and done that as a parent, patently consumed by a simple yet impossible wish to be somewhere else in this life besides searching for the perfect gift for yet another Hello Kitty-themed birthday party. That said, I have frequented the brink of insanity while shopping with my brood more often than I’d care to admit, shamelessly enraged by something as ridiculous as a rogue wheel on a cart from hell coupled with my children’s irksome demands: “But we have to smell the smelly markers before we buy them, Mom. We have to make sure they smell juuuust right. And then we have to look for a birthday card with a little dog on it. Wearing a pink tutu. Maddy likes little dogs. And tutus.”

Frustration, I understood.

What rankled me to the core was the premise of this woman’s argument. That “cards don’t matter.” Because sometimes they do.

Like most people who learn of things that are unspeakably difficult to handle, I unearthed this little pearl of wisdom mired in grief and plagued by guilt. As if it were yesterday, I remember rummaging around my brother’s house in the days that followed his suicide, searching for answers or perhaps a tiny glimpse into his troubled world. Granted, I didn’t know him nearly as well as I could have…and probably should have. As I sifted through his CDs and thumbed through his books, eager to gain even a modicum of insight, I stumbled upon a drawer with a handful of cards neatly stacked within. Cards he had saved. Cards that likely meant something to him. Cards filled with words that apparently mattered.

It was at this point, I’m quite certain, that I felt a deep sense of regret and shame, for none of my cards were among those he had harvested. Surely, I had sent him a birthday greeting (or twenty), a congratulatory note regarding his beautiful home or his wonderful job, an irreverent get-well card to brighten an otherwise unenjoyable hospital stay, a wish-you-were-here postcard from Myrtle Beach or the Hoover Dam. Hadn’t I?

Incomprehensibly, I couldn’t remember. All I could wrap my mind around were the missed opportunities and the paltry thank-you note I had written that lay on his kitchen counter. Unopened. The one my four-year-old daughters had drawn pictures on as a way of offering thanks for his incredible generosity at Christmastime. The one that mocked my ineptitude and chided me for failing to mail it sooner…so that he might have read it…and felt in some small way more valued than perhaps he had before. The one that reminded me that words left unspoken are indeed the worst sort of words.

I’d like to think he occasionally sat on his couch and sifted through that cache of cards on a lazy afternoon, warmed by the messages scrawled within—a collection of remembrances worthy of holding close. Likewise, I hope he knows of the countless times since his death that I’ve been overcome with emotion in the card aisle of many a store, pausing in the section marked “brother” to read and reflect on what might have been—an odd yet cathartic sort of behavior.

So as one might expect, the horribleness of that day flooded my mind the very instant I heard CARDS DON’T MATTER. But instead of letting it swallow me whole, I turned my thoughts to why I had come—to find the most ideally suited messages for two special people, knowing they would feel special in turn.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live. Visit me there at www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.

Copyright 2012 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under "G" is for Guilt, "S" is for Shame, Love and Loss

The Family Curse

Some families are afflicted with flat feet, male pattern baldness or an inability to dance. Our family curse, apparently, involves getting stuck in public restrooms. It all began when I was three years old, according to a story my mom liked to tell so that I might recall a time in my life when I was very small yet capable of causing a great deal of inconvenience—much to her amusement, at least in this instance.

Evidently I wasn’t fond of visiting the doctor’s office and upon my arrival I let it be known that I didn’t want to be there by promptly locking myself inside a tiny bathroom and refusing to come out. The office was actually an old house, so the bathroom in question had a wooden door with a metal lock that even a three-year-old could easily turn. Looking back, I suppose my situation could have wavered somewhat between being a deliberate act and an unintended circumstance—at once a defiant child and a prisoner of my own making.

At any rate, after a great deal of coaxing and a fair amount of instructing, my mother and the doctor together decided the only viable solution was to remove the door from its hinges. While I have no idea how much of an annoyance this must have been for all parties concerned, I can certainly imagine.

Although I can’t possibly quantify the number of times my twin daughters have been stuck inside a bathroom stall (and happily crawled beneath the door to escape), it’s clear they have continued the tradition of being jinxed. One of the pair, who was quite young at the time, managed to trap herself in yet another public restroom, this time at a hotel swimming pool where the heavy, metal door had become jammed. With all the commotion and noise that emanated from the pool (i.e. dozens of kids screaming and splashing), no one heard her shouting for help or banging on the door in an attempt to get someone’s attention. Eventually, my husband and I noticed a dull thud coming from across the room, one that had become louder and more frantic as time went on. So we got up to investigate and upon discovering that she had been stuck inside for God-knows-how-long, we were ashamed to have been so oblivious. I think she has since forgiven us, but probably still harbors a degree of resentment regarding the bathroom issues that have plagued our family forever.

True to form and later in life, I once again demonstrated my ineptitude as it relates to using public facilities. This time, however, I managed not to imprison myself within the confines of a lavatory stall, but rather I somehow dropped my cell phone in the toilet. Almost immediately I thought of how stupid I had to be in order for my phone to wind up there, immersed in all manner of filth. To make matters worse, I have a tendency to freak out about germs so this particular faux pas was considerably more than I could handle. Of course, I dashed to the sink and doused it with soap and water, hoping against hope that the blasted thing would work again. Amazingly enough, it did.

Public restrooms have apparently been the bane of my husband’s existence as well. Just recently while we were touring a university he called me from the men’s room to inform me that he was stuck inside a stall and needed me to fetch someone from maintenance to get him out. I wish I were kidding.

Not surprisingly, he spent an embarrassment of time jiggling the latch and banging on the door, to no avail. He then shook the entire metal frame that housed the door, but stopped for fear of tearing it off the wall. He also tried muscling the lock itself until it spun freely (never a good sign). Not once did he consider crawling beneath the door. That was out of the question.

As luck would have it, eventually the door simply fell open, mocking his efforts to escape. At least he didn’t suffer the added humiliation of having someone show up with a toolbox to save the day.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (probably rescuing someone from a bathroom stall). Visit me there at www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.

Copyright 2018 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Family Affair, Normal is Relative, We Put the Fun in Dysfunction