Category Archives: Rantings & Ravings

Summer’s Hot Mess

www.melindawentzel.comNever once have I fantasized about the dead of winter—until the summer became intolerable, that is. Time and again, I found myself yearning for the brutal cold of the Arctic, a frostbitten appendage or, at the very least, vicariously catapulting myself forward to the misery of January in Pennsylvania, snow shovel in hand. Usually such asinine ideas struck me first thing in the morning, when I left my beloved ceiling fan behind and stepped from an air conditioned haven into the soupy atmosphere that described much of June, July and August. To my mind, visiting the great outdoors this summer was like taking an extended vacation to the tropics, minus the margaritas or anything remotely fun.

That said, the suffocating heat that plagued the Northeast for what seemed like an eternity made me seriously consider relocating to the far reaches of Saskatchewan. The fact that I’d be a world away from the current political circus made the idea of moving to Canada even more appealing than avoiding the inevitability of heatstroke.

I could come back to the States when the climate and the country, collectively, returned to its senses. In all likelihood.

Aside from pipe dreams that involved vacating the region, on more than one occasion in the past 100 or more days I actually entertained the notion of crawling inside my freezer, where I could comfortably nestle within the confines of the ice cube bin or perhaps curl up next to the frozen Delmonicos—anything to avoid sweating like a beast 24/7. As I recall, just standing outside doing absolutely nothing (except trying to draw breath) was unbearable, let alone attempting to mow the lawn or lug the trash to the curb. Forget the scorching sun on my skin as I walked around the block with my dogs—their meaty tongues limp, their pitiful feet dragging in protest. Even standing beneath shade trees, venting to the neighbors about the godawful weather, was insufferable. Perhaps even more unnerving was my inability to tell whether I was feeling a wave of heat rising from the asphalt or just another hot flash.

Menopause is GREAT, and so is this summer—said no middle-aged woman in the northern hemisphere.

And the PURE AGONY that crawling inside a hot car at midday brought me—I can’t begin to describe that fresh hell, except to say that baking to my core inside a kiln might have been a more pleasurable experience. Nor can I adequately express how uncomfortable it was to wilt in a church pew or crowded stadium, surrounded by people desperately fanning themselves and doing everything in their power to avoid touching anyone else—because, of course, touching someone else would lead to spontaneous combustion. Probably.

In all honesty, I can’t remember a summer so horrendous. We had bona fide heat waves that lasted for a few weeks when I was a kid. And they were downright brutal—especially without any air conditioning ANYWHERE. It’s true. But month after month of feeling as if I were a mile from the sun—day into night, night into day? Not so much. No stretch of weather back then made me wish I could spend all afternoon making snow angels in the tundra. My brother and I wiled away the hours at the creek or poolside, riding bikes or in the bed of a pickup truck, the sun on our faces and wind in our hair. Or better still, we planted ourselves in front of a raspy box fan, perfectly entranced by its ability to distort our voices into something decidedly alien.

Back then, summer was fun—not something to be endured or wished away. With any luck, next summer will be like those of my youth—one to remember with a smile.

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

Copyright 2016 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Endless Summer, Rantings & Ravings

It’s in the Bag

custom_embroidered_bag-p232878628872203477sltn1_216I have a love-hate relationship with my purse—every purse I’ve ever owned, actually. My current bag-of-choice is ridiculously overloaded, unwieldy on its best day and represents just one more thing in my life that I need to haul around as a glorified grown-up. However, there are times when I can truly appreciate how practical it is. Moreover, its cavernous interior and zippered compartments thrill me beyond compare, and its impossibly soft exterior makes me weak with pleasure. Besides, who has enough pants pockets to accommodate the embarrassment of stuff we routinely jam in our purses? Not me.

Of course, I’m part of the problem. Years ago I fell in love with a tri-fold wallet that is roughly the size and heft of a cheesesteak sandwich. And because I couldn’t possibly say no, it’s something that must be housed within the confines of my crammed-to-capacity pocketbook—along with an inhaler, eleventy-seven Band-Aids and a nail file I can’t find to save myself. Such is life. Naturally, there is an abundance of tripe in there as well—a penlight I never use, snapshots I rarely sift through, wads of paper I’ve scrawled upon that are no longer relevant, gum that lost its elasticity eons ago and a tiny, leather-bound calendar, circa 2013. I’m stumped as to why it’s still in there. It defies all logic and understanding.

Apparently (and perhaps sadly) my habits are wearing off on at least one of my daughters. Not long ago, her purse resembled a lumpy throw pillow on the verge of bursting. After weeks of nagging, I finally convinced her of the wisdom behind purging it. Among other things, she discovered her long-lost earbuds, a rock the size of a small potato and a pair of dirty socks that, presumably, belong to someone in the marching band. What’s more, the socks don’t match. Go figure.

Admittedly, instead of lugging my purse around, forever contorting my body to prevent the insufferable slide off my shoulder, I wish it would trail behind me like a small, obedient dog so I wouldn’t have to cart it anymore, invariably winding up with a stiff neck. Nor would I have to keep track of its whereabouts, a burden with which I’ve struggled mightily since the days of adolescence. What’s more, there’s always the dilemma of where to put it when I get to where I’m going. Cautiously I shove it beneath my seat in waiting rooms and movie theaters, hoping against hope that no one spilled soda there or left behind a wad of germy tissues.

That said, public restrooms pose the greatest challenge for me as it relates to stowing my purse. It seems there’s never a hook on the door or a suitable shelf to set it on, and I REFUSE to wear it around my neck like a cussed cowbell. As a last resort, I set it on the floor, although it pains me greatly. Shortly thereafter, I obsess about the microbes of horribleness now fused to the bottom of my bag.

On those rare occasions when I choose to forgo carrying a purse altogether “…because I just can’t deal with the wretched thing today,” I turn to my husband to remedy my dearth-of-pockets problem, beseeching him to cram his pockets with whatever it is that I cannot live without. And because he is a Boy Scout in the truest sense, he obliges. Likewise, he comes to the rescue when I can’t find something in particular within the murky depths of my bag by suggesting that I “…stir it with a stick until it comes to the surface and then grab it before it disappears again.” Smart man.

If all else fails, I dump its contents onto the floor and rummage around until I locate the elusive item. Like a fool, I shove the hideous mass back inside instead of seizing the opportunity to rid my world of all that is unwanted or unnecessary. Without question, it’s in the bag.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live, purse-severing with a purse that brings both misery and joy to my life. Join me there at the corner of Irreverence and Over-Sharing  www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.

Copyright 2016 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Rantings & Ravings, Welcome to My Disordered World

If the Sock Fits, Marry It

IMG_0175I’ve been married some 27 years, 19 of which to the same wonderful man. In that span of time I’ve come to the conclusion that a successful marriage doesn’t have as much to do with an abiding love as it does with an ability to tolerate a disordered sock drawer.

That said, my husband’s socks are in a pitiful state of disarray much of the time. Again and again, I’ve tried to bring a sense of order and uniformity to the unruly heaps in his dresser by employing a variety of tactics (i.e. ditching the socks with holes, pairing those without mates and grouping them according to style or color), to no avail. Somehow the huddled masses return in a less-than-tidy fashion, yearning to breathe free. And because I’ve grown to understand the psyche of the disordered male, egregiously flawed as he might be, I’ve become a more compassionate mate.

By the same token, my husband accepts my flaws, and the fact that my sock drawer is a ridiculously organized space—complete with separate compartments for sweat socks, woolen socks and dress socks, nary a rogue in the bunch. The only thing it lacks is a coordinated cataloguing system inspired by Dewey Decimal. Needless to say, I recognize how difficult this must be for him, coming to grips with the sad reality that he lives with a closet neat freak. Of course, no one knows I’m a neat freak because there are no outward signs, unless you happened to be present on the day I purged our linen closet, hurling a disturbing number of blankets, towels and obscenities into the yard during a brief yet memorable fit of rage. Most of the time, however, I suffer in silence, allowing the tide of paraphernalia that comes with marriage and a family to consume me.

Admittedly, since the advent of children I’ve drifted from my well-ordered life and neatnik tendencies, much like growing apart from the distant relatives we stumble across at a funeral, decades later, squinting hard to try and remember who they are and how they once fit into our lives.

That said, everything in my world used to be neat and tidy. There was a place for everything, and everything was in its place. Even my food was logically aligned, tallest to smallest, labels facing out. To this day a tiny part of me dies whenever I peer inside our supersized refrigerator, the contents of which rest on shelves indiscriminately, as if they had been violently launched from a cannon across the room. But I digress.

Getting married and having kids changed everything. After years in the field, I’ve determined that about 90% of parenthood involves finding lone socks in obscure places. Plus there are even more sock drawers to deal with. Indeed, there is more stuff in general—stuff that is piled in our attic and garage, beneath beds and atop closet shelves, in cedar cabinets and the musty basement. Stuff that has no business being stuffed where it gets stuffed. Apparently appliance garages aren’t just for blenders anymore. They’re for lunchboxes and dog vitamins, too, leftover popcorn and tubs of butter that may or may not be encrusted with the remnants of a week’s worth of toast. And let us not forget the crumbs that gather there en masse. The ones that no one wants to clean.

What’s more, it’s been so long since we could park two cars in our garage I’ve forgotten what that even feels like. I suspect it would feel wonderful, much like it would to put china and only china in my china cabinet. Instead it houses prized artwork from my kids’ grade school experience and a decade’s worth of snapshots. Likewise, my refrigerator holds newspaper clippings, report cards and pictures of my favorite people and pets in the world. It holds vacation keepsakes and magnets with phrases I find particularly meaningful, too. Because that’s what families do—they fill their homes with tangible reminders of the love that lives there. And they tolerate the disorder, sock drawers included.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live, with way too many socks. Visit me there at www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.

Copyright 2015 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Captain Quirk, Family Affair, Home for Wayward Toys, In the Trenches of Parentville, Love and Other Drugs, Normal is Relative, Rantings & Ravings, The Chicken Man, We Put the Fun in Dysfunction

Dust Happens

0a23c19c729511e391da0ea7b73f6c45_8I have an aversion to housework—especially dusting. It’s just so completely exhausting, what with all the moving-of-stuff and then with the putting-it-all-back nonsense. What’s more, I can never remember how I had it all arranged before I started to dust and when I’m finished, I have to REASSEMBLE it in a manner that is not only functional, but also pleasing to the eye. Because who wants to look at fake plants, vacation pictures and trinkets et al. if it’s arranged improperly? I don’t.

Admittedly, I’ve been known to photograph my furniture, with its corresponding décor sitting on top of it, so that I don’t have to recall how it was positioned beforehand. Stop laughing. I probably deserve a medal because it’s a technique that is both clever and effective. So is using a vacuum cleaner when the layer of dust on tabletops is so thick it is thought to be offensive to one’s sensibilities.

Of course, my dogs sneer at me whenever that happens, judgmental beasts that they are. Or maybe they’re simply confused. “Vacuum cleaner? What on earth is that? She’s never pulled that from the depths of the closet before.”

So if my dogs are acutely aware of my shortcomings as a housekeeper, it’s no secret to others that my home is far from impeccably clean. Sometimes, however, I live in the Land of Denial—ignoring written messages on the TV screen like DUST ME or the fact that I unearthed a pine needle from last year’s Christmas tree the other day along with enough dog fur to make a rug. Not a toupee. An actual RUG.

There’s nothing quite like an impending visit from guests, however, that stirs within me a very real sense of panic—one that propels me from the couch and inspires me to scrub, and to dust, and to exhume from the aforementioned closet the vacuum cleaner. It’s as if the walls themselves shout at me, YOU LIVE IN A HOVEL AND PEOPLE ARE COMING! CLEAN ALREADY!

I know it’s really bad when my husband picks up a toilet wand and starts scrubbing, usually first thing in the morning—plagued, perhaps, by the thought of our filthy toilets throughout the night. I am rarely plagued by such thoughts unless I know that guests will soon make landfall (see above). Or we’re on the cusp of yet another holiday (see below).

That said, I positively detest the thought of setting festive décor ON TOP OF DUST, although it’s been known to occur on occasion. Halloween was a perfect example. October 31st sort of snuck up on me this year, finding me totally unprepared for the event. At the last minute, it seemed, I was pulling rubbery bats and warty witches from our tub in the attic to display around the house. Dusting was out of the realm of possibility. Reference paragraph #1.

Let us not forget another reason that dusting is such a royal pain, aside from the sneezing frenzy it often rouses. It is the idiocy of dusting the stuff that sits on top of the stuff you’re dusting—a hazard of the trade. Also there’s the awfulizing we do as parents when we ask our children to help out with the housework, dusting in particular, completely convinced they’ll break something in the process—another hazard of the trade. Plus there’s absolutely NO CHANCE they’ll return stuff to its rightful place in the universe—which is patently intolerable. Hence, my hatred of dusting and all that it embodies.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (probably not dusting). Join me there, at the corner of Irreverence and Over-Sharing www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.

Copyright 2015 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under "S" is for Shame, Rantings & Ravings, Welcome to My Disordered World

It Takes a Village…to Find My Husband’s iPhone

www.melindawentzel.comMy husband suffers from a debilitating character flaw—namely, that he loses things with disturbing regularity. That is not to say that the items in question remain lost forever. Sometimes, when the universe is agreeable, he finds them. Or at least someone finds them. Such was not the case with his wristwatch, however, or his enV cell phone that went MIA in 2007. I’m sure that by now someone out there is greatly enjoying the ungodly expensive Bulova I bought him. The phone with the nifty little keypad, by contrast, is likely still inside my home, lurking in a faraway corner, gathering dust. Or perhaps it’s situated right in plain sight, also gathering dust. Either way, by the time it’s recovered it’ll be a tired relic and of no use to anyone.

Needless to say, our exhaustive search for the abovementioned items proved fruitless so we broke down and purchased replacements, both of which have been AWOL as recently as today. That said, my husband’s condition is not only insufferable, it is also chronic.

What really stinks about the situation is not only that my husband’s world is upended whenever he misplaces something deemed vital to his everyday functioning, but the whole family is miserable since we’re forced to drop everything to help him hunt for his stuff. Invariably, it’s the iPhone that sparks the most outrage when it disappears from the radar, fueling our collective frustration.

“How on earth can you lose something as large as A PIECE OF TOAST?” I implore him, incredulous and furious as ever, not only because his phone, quite literally, is as large as a piece of toast, but because he not-so-affectionately refers to the device as “a piece of toast.”

The irony isn’t lost on me.

Even the kids are baffled as to how he can remember an astounding number of obscure events in history as well as the names, faces and phone numbers of practically everyone he’s ever met, and yet, he cannot readily recall where he left his phone just moments ago.

“That’s not normal, Dad,” our progenies suggest. “Maybe you should just keep it in your pocket, like everyone else on the planet. Or clip it to your belt.” Of course, in a perfect world, advice like this would have merit. However, my dear husband has informed me he doesn’t do clips. Nor does he place the phone in the same pocket—like a sensible person. Instead, he prefers to switch the phone willy-nilly from pocket to pocket, jacket to jacket and sometimes even plops it inside a shopping bag. “That way I don’t actually have to carry it,” he defends.

My theory is that he secretly detests his smartphone with every ounce of his being and purposefully abandons it whenever and wherever possible. That way, he can practice quiet defiance while appearing as if he truly cares about its recovery by helping us search beneath heaps of mail, under car seats and between couch cushions seemingly forever. A clever ruse, yet not quite clever enough to fool me.

At any rate, when the iPhone in question skips town we repeatedly and desperately call or text his number, hoping we’ll hear its familiar ringtone from the depths of the refrigerator (or some other perfectly logical place to leave a phone). It’s all for naught though, since it’s usually set to “vibrate only.” Naturally, when he mentions this particular detail, we want to scream something about buying tickets to see a train wreck. Or find the phone and soundly flog him with it.

What the man really needs is one of those beeping, flashing gizmos that restaurants use to let patrons know their table is ready. He should then duct tape the stupid thing to his phone—or simply duct tape the phone to his forehead. Either way, it would qualify as an improvement.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live, in search of my husband’s iPhone. Probably. Visit me there at www.melindawentzel.com and www.Facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.

Copyright 2015 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Captain Quirk, Daily Chaos, Rantings & Ravings

How to Ruin a Perfectly Good Neighborhood in Five Easy Steps

www.melindawentzel.comSTEP 1: Adopt a Home Owner’s Association and fill its board primarily with self-important individuals who are more than happy to tell you what’s wrong with your house and the people who live inside it, effectively sucking every ounce of joy from your life. Be sure to choose hardy individuals willing to martyr themselves completely, for they must possess enough stamina to police the neighborhood day and night, clipboards in hand, in search of covenant violations, petty though they might be. Heaven forbid the size, shape or molecular structure of someone’s mailbox is out of compliance with the current standards of excellence or that someone’s garden gnome is two millimeters too tall—never mind that gardens aren’t permitted in the so-called Utopia in question. Nor are tree houses or free-range cats.

STEP 2: Create an atmosphere of mistrust, miscommunication and divisiveness within the populace, pitting neighbor against neighbor all in the name of upholding the precious set of directives originally designed to protect property values and maintain order. It’s more important for people to fear each other and the long arm of the law than to be neighborly.

STEP 3: Rewrite the rules of governance to the benefit of the heavy-handed regime, crushing the souls of the little people in the process, without so much as considering the wishes of those affected by such sweeping changes. Stifle the powerless voice of reason whenever and wherever possible. Democracy be damned.www.melindawentzel.com

STEP 4: Throw common sense out the window and into the front lawn for all to see and ruminate upon (i.e. cite homeowners for painting their front doors, repairing their leaky roofs and ridding their yards of overgrown shrubbery and dead trees, replacing them with perfectly wonderful substitutes). Never under any circumstances trust that proprietors might possess the ability to choose an appropriately hued shutter, let alone an entire roof of shingles. Oh, the horror! Threaten legal action at every turn, even when it’s clear that people are doing all they can to improve and revitalize their properties by adding beautiful decks, patios and pools as well as breathing new life into tired trappings.

STEP 5: Just for fun, and on occasion, send out patronizing letters that fuel collective paranoia, outlining the specifics regarding disciplinary action that will potentially take place in the event of noncompliance, reminding everyone how awful it feels to live under such tyranny. In this way, the Negativity Machine will remain well oiled, ensuring the ruination of a perfectly good neighborhood.

Copyright 2015 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Rantings & Ravings, The Natives are Decidedly Restless

A Sacrilege of Sorts

TheMiraculousJourneyofEdwardTulaneThere are but two kinds of people in this world—those who brazenly read the endings of books before the endings are actually reached and those who would never dream of a crime so heinous. I myself fall with the masses into the latter category, always mindful of the tenets we must uphold: Thou shalt not spoil the endings of good books no matter how dire the circumstance or how great the temptation.

Of course I’ve been so bold as to glance at the last page while contemplating a purchase in the aisle of a bookstore, allowing my eyes to sweep across the fuzziness of passages, to graze but not actually rest on hallowed words, erasing all hope of ever being rewarded for my ability to resist said allure. If nothing else, I can be proud of that.

However it wasn’t until I was deeply immersed in The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane (Chapter Seven of this scrumptious read-aloud, more specifically) that I became painfully aware of a terrible truth: my children would (and, in fact, had) flipped ahead 20 chapters in said prized piece of literature, to the very last page (gasp!) “…because I wanted to know what would happen to Edward, Mom. I was worried about him. He lives, you know.”

Of course, I was horrified. And profoundly disappointed. I had higher hopes for my progenies—hopes that they would grow to become upstanding citizens, embodying all-that-is-righteous-and-good. Principled people who knew better than to commit sacrilege. Instead, it appears, my wayward bunch has embraced the dark side of life. Even my oldest daughter has admitted to that which is a sheer disgrace—she reads the very last sentence of every novel—as a rule. Needless to say, such a divulgence rendered me dumbfounded.

“Why?! Why would you do such a thing?!” I had to ask finally, eyes fixed upon the creature I thought I knew.

“I don’t know. To pique my interest I guess.”

To pique your interest?!” I shrieked, shaking my head in disbelief. “Good grief! Where’s the mystery in that?! Where’s the long-awaited pleasure that a grand culmination promises?! The delicious sense of satisfaction derived from having journeyed far and wide across the vast and uncertain terrain of a narrative gem?!” I demanded to know.

She shrugged her shoulders as if to say, “What’s the big deal, Mom? It’s just a book.”

Of course, this was wrong on so many levels that I couldn’t begin to wrap my mind around the unspeakable atrociousness of which it reeked. Nor could I forgive the other two ratfinks for having stolen my joy. I wanted to discover for myself Edward Tulane’s fate—to continue devouring the book, page after succulent page, and eventually, to drink in the magnificence of the grand finale that surely awaited me.

But it was not to be. Those unmerciful beasts continued to fill my ears with details of the story, doling out bite sized blurbages just to watch me writhe in pain. “No! NO! Don’t tell me a syllable more!” I pleaded, wondering fromwww.melindawentzel.com whence this penchant had come. I don’t remember anyone bursting at the seams to tell me about Goldilocks or Little Red Riding Hood. Back then it was a non-issue. The end was something that would be revealed in due time upon turning the last page. As it should be.

I’d almost rather my heathens wantonly fling caterpillars across the living room and stuff them inside their backpacks (oh wait, they’ve done that!), saturate thirsty bath rugs at will (done that, too!), or festoon the dog with lipstick “…because we wanted to give him purple-ish lips, Mom!” than to rob themselves of the parting gift of a fine book.

Sadly, this represents yet one more area of life I cannot control. I must come to grips with the fact that my children will choose friends, careers and eventually mates—almost entirely devoid of my (infinitely sagacious) input. And ultimately they will decide whether to continue as card-carrying members of the Flip-Ahead-to-the-Last-Page Club. Oy.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (beside myself with indignation). Visit me there at www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom. The article, as it appears here, was previously published by The Khaleej Times, Dubai, UAE.

Copyright 2012 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Bookish Stuff, Rantings & Ravings, The Natives are Decidedly Restless