The 12 Things Fangette Needs For College


If I were the type of mother who tucked handwritten notes into her kid’s lunch box or if my daughter, the delightful Fangette, was the type of kid who would read such a thing, I’d pack the following list into the suitcase that’s sitting on her bed — the one that’s bound, in just a few short days, for her new digs on a college campus six hours away. I’m not that mother, she’s not that kid. As there is a much better chance that she’ll read the list if I post it here than if I stuff it in with her winter socks, I’ve compiled what I’m calling “The 12 Things Fangette Needs For College”. Feel free to substitute any name for “Fangette” if you find that this list appeals to your “Ashley”, your “Sara” or, horror of horrors and shame on you!, your “Gertrude”. Perhaps, if you have the kind of kid that will appreciate such a thing, stick it in with her mittens, let her run across it as she’s heading to class one cold, snowy morning.

And then, go ahead and have a nice cup of coffee and a good cry. I know that’s what I’m going to do.


1. Big Girl Panties
You may need two pairs of these, they tend to get hole-y when they get in a bunch. And they will get in a bunch, possibly as a result of the roommate who doesn’t understand that you need an open window in order to sleep or who does not share your love of the HBO dramedy “Girls”, or the professors who think theirs is the only damn class you’re taking, or even the realization that dining halls do not stock an endless supply of romaine lettuce. Put them on every day and go out into the world and behave like the adult that we have raised you to be. You’ll be fine. Call me if you’re not. I’m always awake.

2. Common Sense
If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. There are no shortcuts in life. You can shave a few minutes off a task here and there, but life, unlike traffic, is about going through, not skirting around. Don’t get frustrated. Enjoy the ride.

3. Wariness
You are very good at sizing people up. You have surrounded yourself with good friends here at home — friends that love you, friends that look out for you (and vice versa) — continue this practice while you are away. It will serve you well.

4. Time Management Skills
There will always be a party. Conversely, there will also always be a test that you should be studying for or a paper you should have gotten cracking on yesterday. Strike a balance here.

5. Sense of Humor
You’ve got a wicked one. Use it. Don’t take everything so seriously. Again, it’s about balance here, kiddo.

6. Selfishness
This one will be difficult, as it is antithetical to who you are. You are always the first person your friends call when they’re in a bind. I’m not saying NOT to help people, but keep in mind that your time and your energies will be important to your success. Keep your guard up for people who will look to squander those things. They won’t have your best interests at heart.

7. Moral Compass
You have on more than one occasion demonstrated that you know right from wrong. Always choose to do right. If doing so has consequences, so be it. Hopefully you’ll be wearing your big girl panties when and if you find yourself in a moral quandary.

8. Emergency $20
In cash. Always, and I mean, ALWAYS have this with you. You never know when or in what circumstances you may need it. If you use it, replace it. Always have it, though. Always. Tow truck drivers and cabbies always appreciate a nice cash tip.

9. Self-Respect
Do not leave home without this. Do not surrender who you are or forget why you are where you are or, more importantly, what got you there because some cute “love ’em and leave ’em” type gives you the old heave-ho or you bomb a big test. Heartbreak happens. Failure is a given. They’re both part of life. Don’t go running after some loser. Study harder next time. Don’t despair. Move along. Someone better will come along. If you work hard, you’ll pass the next exam. Keep your eyes on the prize. Use the Emergency $20 and buy yourself some good quality ice cream.

10. Mental Trampoline
Keep in mind that a chick flick, a good cry, and pint of chocolate chip mint will, in moderation, solve a whole host of problems. Setbacks are bound to occur. You’ll rebound. Your mental trampoline is in good condition. Know that it’s perfectly acceptable, once in a while, to take a couple of hours, retreat from the world, and indulge in this passive, but worthwhile, activity. It may be just what you need to face the world tomorrow. Wild parties, binge drinking, and sexual escapades might sound like a cure for what ails you, but they won’t be. (I’m fairly certain that you know this already.) Stick to the ice cream and the movie. Watch “The Notebook”, I know you love that one. Or, if you’re feeling nostalgic, pop in “The Sound of Music”. We always enjoyed watching that one together. Comfort food and a good movie never left anybody hung over — or worse. You can always run off the ice cream pounds. Pregnancy weight and beer guts are much harder to shed. So, too, is that image you’ll have of yourself standing half-clothed on a frat house table with a lampshade on your head.

11. Fearlessness
You have a tendency toward reticence. This is a time to try new things. Not all of these things need to involve tequila. Although I’m sure there will be a few margaritas in your future, go easy on the tequila. It’s a hallucinogen, not to mention that it is, by far, the nastiest hangover you will ever experience. That being said, I would encourage you to seek out opportunities for fulfillment. Don’t stand on the sidelines making snarky comments — make the snarky comments while participating in the activities — safe activities like Quidditch or syrup-making come to mind. Or quilting. Quilting can be loads of fun. Quilting circles are known far and wide for their riotous banter.

If these things don’t appeal to you, keep in mind that you’ll be in a place where the cows outnumber the people. (Remember that fun fact?) Do something with animals — and not just the animals that live in the frat houses — real animals, the four-legged kind that you enjoy so very much. Just a word of caution on the cows, though — I read yesterday that there are more people (over 100!) killed every year in unfortunate bovine accidents than there are folks who perish as a result of shark attacks. Lake Champlain is probably free of sharks, but do keep your wits about you where the cows are concerned. Stay in front of them if you can.

12. The Knowledge That Your Parents Love You — No Matter What
I would hope that you have always known this, but it bears repeating. Win or lose, succeed or fail, through thick and through thin — we have survived. We’ve done so partly because that’s just what we do. It is who we, as a family, are. Mainly, though, we’ve managed to tackle life’s challenges together because we love each other. We are, all of us, flawed, imperfect creatures. Still, we’ve never given up on each other. I cannot imagine that we ever will.

Nor can I think of a single thing, not one single thing, that you could ever do that would cause either your father or me to stop loving you. Not one single thing. Not ever. While living with you has not always been a picnic, particularly during these last few years of adolescence, you have never failed to make us proud — of your academic success, of your athletic prowess, and of your social graces. As you’ve gone out into the world we’ve always gotten, as Grammy Rose used to say, “good reports” — about the qualities that make you “you” — your kindness, your intelligence, your generosity, and, of course, your quick wit. I have witnessed the joy that your laughter and your radiant smile brings to others. That’s a rare gift that you have there. Keep using it. Keep smiling. Keep laughing. Keep on being you. You’ll be just fine.

If you’re not fine, tell us. We’ll help you through it. Really. We will. You know we will. Remember, I’m always awake.


A&RphotopolaroidMy mother and I have, for many years, had a running joke — a joke that went something like this: “Careful, Mom, you might want to be nicer to me. Don’t forget that I’ll likely be the one picking out your nursing home!” She would roll her eyes and chuckle — sometimes nervously; I would narrow mine and launch into my best evil laugh.

Finally and, I suppose, inevitably, we actually found ourselves in the position this week to do just that — pick out my mother’s nursing home. There were no evil laughs. No malicious intent.

The reality is that she isn’t in an actual nursing home. Well, not per se. They don’t call them nursing homes anymore, anyway. They call them rehabilitation centers or transitional care facilities now. Fancy nomenclature aside, they are places that aren’t your home where nursing care is provided.

My mother, following a period of strengthening and physical therapy, will return to her own home. For now, though, she is in a safe environment where she can convalesce from two major surgeries, an infection, and a heart attack.

Of course my mother doesn’t see it this way. And, as a result, I seem to be persona non grata at the moment. How do I know this? Because she told me so.

Yes, she did. I called her tonight to see how she was making out. I wanted to know if she was happy that my sister visited today and brought some of the things that she requested — her glasses, her knitting. Those kinds of things. Comforting things. Things from home.

Her response to my line of questioning went something like this: “Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Thanks. Whatever.” Really. She said “Whatever”. There is no doubt in my mind that if she hadn’t been holding the phone with one hand and if she knew how to do it, she would have made a “W-shaped” symbol out of her hands and placed them on her forehead as she said “Whatever”.

She also seemed preoccupied. (Perhaps she was trying to figure out how to make that “W-shaped” symbol?) I got the sense that there was something other than jawing it up on the phone with me that she’d rather be doing — like, for example, enjoying a root canal. I told myself that she must be exhausted, but I sensed there was more to her abruptness than just that. Then, apropos of nothing, she said to me, “Well, Jacqueline, you’ll be happy to know that your Uncle, my own brother, who I am assuming is taking his marching orders from YOU [emphasis hers], will not come down here and break me out of this joint.” Ah! There it was.

I couldn’t help myself. I burst out laughing. Burst. Out. Laughing. The image of my Uncle “breaking” my mother “out of [that] joint” tickled me.

When I recovered my equilibrium, I greeted her stony silence by saying, “Oh, my God, Mom! You act as if you’ve been relegated to the dungeon of a medieval castle with no means of escape!” I went on to remind her that her stay would, dependent upon her progress, be short.

Not to be outdone, my mother countered with, “Um, speaking of dungeons. I was tortured by some very nice physical therapists today. Just so you know, they worked me over for forty-five minutes. It was ridiculous.”

While I’m sure it was tiring, I’m fairly certain that it was in no way “ridiculous”; no one, I’m sure, gave her anything even resembling a “working over”. She had not, as she so eloquently put it, been “tortured”. Talk about dramatic!

The physical therapy, I reminded my mother, was the very reason that we felt it necessary to place her in a rehabilitation facility in the first place. I made certain that I used the pronoun “we” a lot. Because, whether she wanted to believe me or not, the decision to put her into an environment where, we hope, she will make progress — measurable progress — and come home in a better position to, oh, I don’t know, walk twenty-five feet without going into cardiac arrest, was not mine alone.

Still, I was getting the feeling that I had been cast as the blue meanie. Fine. I’m willing to take one for the team.

This decision, which is absolutely in my mother’s best interest, was discussed, debated, and, ultimately, decided upon by all of her children and other members of her family. Even our spouses got involved. It was, in fact, my brother-in-law who finally convinced her to go to the rehab center. While I don’t want to sell my brother-in-law short — he’s a smart, calm, and persuasive guy — but his input may have simply been the final straw. By the time we decided to send in the big guns, she may have heard just about enough from her children, her husband, her doctors, and the support staff at the hospital. Knowing my mother as well as I do, I’m pretty sure that she agreed to “transition”, as they call it, just so that we would all shut up about it already.

It appears, however, that my mother is not going to shut up about it any time soon. It also appears that she, at least for the moment, harbors no small amount of ill will toward me. While I wish she were happier with the decision that was, collectively, made to insure her safety and that will ultimately make her stronger and able to care for herself, I can’t allow myself to be overly concerned about it at the moment.

If it helps her to blame someone for her current predicament, if that someone has to be me, that’s just fine and dandy. Whatever.

Music A to Z: F is for…

F is for...

F is for…

We had a bit of a weekend here at the hovel. My mother had to have emergency surgery — it went well and she is, I’m happy to report, on the mend. Still, it was unexpected. That’s always difficult. Her recovery may present a few challenges, but I’m confident that she’ll be back to losing at bingo in no time!

Rather than working on my A to Z post yesterday I chose, instead, to watch some baseball with my husband. I’ll admit that I couldn’t really keep my head in the game. As I was falling asleep last night it hit me that “F is for… family”. I wasn’t altogether certain how to work that into a post about music, but decided to give it a try anyway. Maybe “F” will also be for failure. That will be for you to decide.

If you want to play along, this is a link-up. Comment when you have written your post. Provide a link in the comments. I will update the post to reflect participants. I will promote via social media. The rules are fairly simple: Using the letter provided, choose a topic or a category that fits. Or, choose artists/groups whose names start with the letter “F” (Fogelberg, Foghat, for example). Choose five songs and share them with the group. You may also promote your post on this Facebook page:

Growing up I was exposed to a rather eclectic blend of music. Everyone had their favorites. You had to be quick if you wanted to hear what you wanted to hear — at family gatherings it was often a race to the turntable or the stack of 8-tracks. These are some of the songs that I remember being popular at pool parties and picnics.

My grandmother loved CONNIE FRANCIS. When Connie belted out Where the Boys Are, the party had officially begun. I’ll tell you what, though, that dame could sing! (I’m talking about Connie, NOT about my grandmother, she couldn’t carry a tune if it had a handle on it — actually no one in my family was what you would call “musically gifted”. Sadly, that’s never kept any of us from singing along.)

Possibly because our parties tended to occur on Saturday’s, CAT STEVENS’ Another Saturday Night was always popular — sometimes it made it to the mix more than once. All of us, young and old, knew the words to this one. The more times it was played, the more successful the party.

At some point, I’m not sure when, Another Saturday Night got pushed aside to make room for THE ROLLING STONES classic, Start Me Up. I still think of my cousins singing into their makeshift beer bottle microphones whenever I hear this song.

As the evening began to draw to a close, it was a pretty safe bet that my mother would dig out her wedding song. What was my parent’s wedding song? A Million To One (JIMMY CHARLES). She’d play it and make my father dance with her. It was her way of saying, “HA! We made it!” (And they had — they are, regardless of the odds they were given, still together. Still dancing.)

In my family, no party was over until we heard SINATRA. No matter the lateness of the hour. No matter how many highballs had been consumed (or, possibly, because of the number of highballs that had been consumed) no gathering ever ended without New York, New York. Often the adults would get together and form a line. Leg kicks and jazz hands were the order of the day when this song was on the stereo. It was a last gasp effort to keep the party going. Alas, though, it was, more often than not, the song that closed the book on our family parties.

Fang: The Inventor!

My husband fancies himself an inventor. Really, he’s more of a gerry-rigger, but we’ve discovered that it’s best not to argue with him. Tomato/Tomatoe, Potato/Potatoe and all that. We are all better served if we just nod our heads in an affirmative (and enthusiastic) way while he’s attempting to sort out the latest conundrum that has presented itself here at the hovel. He finds it helpful to have Fangette and I around to fetch him the scissors, the tape, a shoe lace, or a button — whatever it is he needs — when he gets into full “mad scientist” mode.

 Thomas Edison: Tinkerer extraordinaire.

Thomas Edison: Tinkerer extraordinaire.

Unlike me, who prefers to be left to my own devices when working out household problems of great magnitude — things like how to keep the pot lids from sliding out of the cabinet every flipping time I attempt to free up a skillet — Fang always seems to require the presence of others when he sets out to “fix” something.

I also tend to rely upon items that already exist to solve my problems. For example, I used a metal filing tray to keep my pot lids in order. I bought one at Staples. Simple.

Fang prefers to fashion his own devices. And, he enjoys company while doing so. Like a stand-up comic working out his timing, Fang needs an audience.

He likes to tell you what he’s doing while he’s doing it, too. Mostly this consists of saying things like, “I’m cutting circles out of cardboard now.” You know, just in case we couldn’t discern this by watching him work, as if our powers of observation were not up to snuff. It reminds me of the play-by-play guy during sports telecasts — the one who insists on pointing out, as the players are taking the field, that “the players are taking the field”.

As everyone knows, the play-by-play guy needs a good color commentator. That’s where Fangette and I come in.

I figure if I have to be present, I may as well have some fun. To this end I ask questions like, “how big are the circles?” — because I know he will not only answer my inane question, but also because he will tell me why the circles are of a certain diameter. He will do this in great detail. This line of questioning and the ensuing explanation surely makes the process of “invention” take longer, but I find it fun. I subscribe to the theory that if I have to be there, I might as well make the best of it.

As an added bonus, our shenanigans drive Fangette crazy. Like most adolescents, she would rather get back to watching grass grow than be forced to spend any amount of time engaging in family-related activities with her parents. No matter how often we tell her that “inventing is fun”, she just doesn’t seem to enjoy it as much as we do. Her presence is important, though. Historically, she has been the one in charge of Velcro.

In addition to her responsibilities involving Velcro, we have come to rely upon her — or, at least, I have — for the making of snarky comments. This used to be my area, but, over time, she took up the mantle — she’s good at it, too. She’ll make some poor, unsuspecting guy a fine wife some day.

During Fang’s most recent foray into the wonderful world of inventing, Fangette pointed out that this whole thing could have been avoided had he simply purchased a travel mug that fit into the cup holder with which his car is equipped. She told him that he could have returned the mug, minutes after buying it, when he realized it wasn’t going to fit properly into the cup holder, thereby avoiding all of this “inventing nonsense”.

Well, sure.

I took this opportunity to point out the number of travel mugs we already own — travel mugs that Fang has been buying and tossing aside after one or two uses — the ones that he has deemed unacceptable for one reason or another — over the last fifteen years. Yes. That is correct. Fang has spent fifteen years purchasing undesirable travel mugs. (Don’t even get me started on the number of years Fang has spent attempting to find the “perfect” sunglasses!)

If his latest “invention” works, I fear that our overnight guests will be sorely disappointed, in that they will miss their parting gifts. In an attempt to rid my life of the “perfectly fine, but not good enough for my husband” assortment of cast-offs collecting dust in a cabinet or lying fallow in a drawer, I have been known to send these poor, unsuspecting lodgers on their merry way with a travel mug filled with a hot cup of Joe in one hand and a pair of sunglasses in the other.

The Mouse Hotel

nablo_13dayonemouseIn an attempt to rid my kitchen of the mouse that seems to have taken up residence — the one that my cat has befriended, broken bread with, even — I decided that I needed to procure some mouse traps. To this end, I did what anyone in my position would do — I went on the internet to research “humane” traps.

Either I was misled or simply confused. Whichever the case, I sent my husband a link to one of your more “inhumane” traps, which he dutifully followed, as a mouse to the cheese, and he it brought home last night. The minute I opened the package I knew that I had made a mistake, but at that point, I really just wanted to be able to open my under-the-sink cabinet without trepidation. So, I baited it and set it up. I convinced myself that death would be quick and relatively painless for our little intruder.

My daughter, the compassionate Fangette, took one look at the trap and FLIPPED OUT! She carried on about what a terrible person I was. “Mom, how could you even think about using THAT THING? Do you know what that will do to his little mouse body? I see that you bought the kind where you don’t have to see the damage you’ll cause. (I had) I’ll tell you something, if you use that trap, if you catch the mouse in it, I’m going to open it up and leave it out on the counter for you. You know, so that you can see the consequences of your actions! Really, Mom, you know I’ll do it. I’m not squeamish about these things!” (She would. She’s not.)

Truthfully, I wasn’t happy about killing anything myself — I “shoo” bees out the window whenever possible. I relocate spiders to moister environs under the tree outside. Admittedly, those centipedes are a little too quick for me, usually I have no choice but to squash them. But, I try not to go on killing sprees, even where insects are concerned. Really, I do.

Once, I had a cricket in my house for quite some time. I knew it was there, I could hear the damn thing cricketing or whatever you call it. Try as I might, I just couldn’t find it. Until, one day, I did find it — in my purse while I was at the grocery store. Yup. Damn thing JUMPED out of my bag as I went to retrieve my wallet. Oh, well. Now he was the grocery store’s problem as far as I was concerned. I took some comfort in the fact that at least I wouldn’t have to spend any more time trying to catch it nor would I be the instrument of its death. Plus, I had taken him on a little trip. It may have been his last trip ever, but it was probably further than he’d ever been in his life. So, that was something.

I removed the death trap. I asked Fangette if she would check the internet for “humane” traps. I explained to her that I did not want any of those traps that claim to be humane — the ones where the mouse gets stuck on some sticky good that’s attached to the bottom of the trap — because those are NOT in any way humane. I know this from experience.

Once, my mother-in-law had a mouse problem in her garage. She lived alone and, frankly, while she was a wonderful and kind-hearted person in almost every way, her compassion did NOT extend to mice (or to spiders, ants, bees, or anything that did NOT belong in the house). She was a Christian. She did not believe in karma. She believed that she was sending them to a better place — mouse heaven or wherever they could find salvation.

She bought “humane” traps and asked Fang and I to set them up in the garage. Having little to no experience with mice or traps ourselves, we obliged. Well, let me just tell you, it was one of the more horrible experiences of my life. At some point in the middle of the night, I awakened to find my mother-in-law standing over me. She asked me if I could hear “that noise”. I hadn’t, up until then, been hearing anything outside of my husband snoring beside me. I was asleep, for crying out loud!

Normally my mother-in-law was the type of woman to suffer in silence. But, not this time. This time she wanted a comrade. She also needed someone to do something about “that noise”. That someone, apparently, was supposed to be me. “That noise”, as it turned out, was a mouse squealing to get out of the “humane” traps that we had set.

I attempted to wake my husband gently, but he sleeps like the dead. I finally had to resort to shaking him and shouting something crazy like, “Get the hell up, that mouse is trapped and it’s the saddest thing I’ve ever heard. You have to do something about it!” He just mumbled something like, “Okay.” before he turned over and continued on with what he had been doing — trying to get his ten hours in.

My mother-in-law and I were left to become familiar with the sound a mouse makes when it is trapped by sticky goo. It’s a disturbing sound. It’s all the more disturbing when you know that you are the people responsible for trapping it in sticky goo to begin with.

At some point, when we were no longer able to listen to the poor thing, I rallied my husband from his slumber. We made him take it outside. We encouraged him to try and free it. He said that he couldn’t do it, that the mouse was both uncooperative and just too embedded in the glue. Clearly my husband had done his level best to release the mouse, but was unsuccessful. He definitely did NOT want to talk about it. The only thing he did say, upon returning from his errand of death, was “Yeah. Those traps are really ‘humane’.” He said this as he slammed the bedroom door.

To say that I had learned my lesson regarding “humane” traps that included sticky substances would be an understatement. This time around I was determined to either find something truly humane or to just go ahead and use the snappy ones — instant death had to be better than prolonged suffering.

I’m happy to report that Fangette did her research and we are now in possession of what looks a little bit like a “mouse hotel”. I’m thinking of using champagne as bait. Perhaps I’ll throw in a party hat, too. It’s a shame it isn’t big enough to fit the cat, too. I think he’d enjoy doing the cha-cha and tossing back some bubbly with his newfound rodent friends.

photo credit: mouse

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Cute, but useless!

Cute, but useless!

There are often many strange things to see here at the hovel. I would, however, contend that what I witnessed today is, by far, the strangest thing I’ve seen here to date.

I should begin by saying that a few weeks ago I saw what I thought was a shadow under the baseboard in the kitchen. After seeing this shadow several times over the course of the next few days I began to think that, perhaps, it was some kind of critter — probably a mouse. It was, I reasoned, either that or a very small ghost. My money was on the mouse.

Last week my daughter awoke me at the ungodly hour of 6:00 AM to alert me that The Great Fanganini had killed a mouse in her room. She was also carrying on about how cute “it” was — “it” being the dead mouse, the proud cat, and the tableu that they formed. My daughter, God bless her, is quite the animal lover.

I immediately awakened Fang to deal with its removal. He reported that The Great Fanganini was just laying aside of the thing in Cleopatra-like fashion. Fang, too, agreed that “it” was very cute. I asked Fang whether or not there was any blood and guts— evidence of mouse murder — or whether the mouse had simply perished as a result of fright — because I really could not imagine for a minute that my cat had the capacity for the blood lust associated with killing anything. Fang agreed that it was far more likely that the mouse had been a victim of a little mouse heart attack than a victim of The Great Fanganini. Fang also commented that the cat seemed to be protecting the mouse, rather than proudly demonstrating his feline ferocity.

That didn’t surprise me. In the past, The Great Fanganini’s response to vermin has been to run like the wind in the face of these tiny invaders. The cat, in other words, is useless at the one thing he should be able to be relied upon for having the basic instinct to do — killing mice. Running like a bat out of hell is more his style than biting their heads off.

I was satisfied that our mouse problem had been eradicated. I hadn’t seen any shadows nor was there any evidence of a mouse invasion — no droppings, no chewed up boxes, etc. Until last night, that is. Last night, as I was cooking dinner I not only saw a shadow, I saw an actual mouse. Of course I did what most people do when they find themselves in this situation, I screamed. Bloody murder. I flipped the hell out. And, I got my husband. Because, what good are husbands — or cats, for that matter — if they can’t carry out the simple task of killing mice?

Don’t even get me started on the fact that my husband has as much difficulty killing anything as the cat does. I could regale you with the story about the bee that buzzed around my bedroom light fixtures for HOURS one evening. The giant bee that finally died of asphyxiation in my underwear drawer because my husband couldn’t kill it. Somehow he was able to trap it in the drawer though. It eventually met its end, but I was reduced to working out of the laundry basket for clean skivvies until I stopped hearing the buzzing noise in the drawer. Okay, well, now I’ve told you THAT story, too.

After seeing the mouse, after screaming like a little girl (I would have jumped up on a chair, like a stereotypical woman, if one had been handy), amidst my mini-nervous breakdown, Fang did think it wise to mosey on into the kitchen, ya know, to see what might be amiss. I was, after all, only making flatbread pizza — not a task that one normally associates with a good, old-fashioned case of hysterics.

The lovely and ever-curious Fangette, not one to miss out on anything resembling excitement, followed on his heels. When the two of them put two and two together and realized that it spelled M-O-U-S-E, they reacted with their normal aplomb. They, unlike me, decided to take a more reasonable approach to the problem. They decided to ignore my recommendation for ridding our home of the nasty creature, which was to beat it over the head with a broom. They decided to take a more humanitarian approach. To that end they constructed a makeshift trap out of plastic cups.

My construction managers!

My construction managers!

It was at this point that I grabbed the pizzas out of the oven, threw them on a plate, and held an impromptu meeting of the construction committee. I felt the need to point out to them that while I was appreciative of their efforts, I was fairly certain that any mouse worth his or her salt could push aside a plastic tumbler. As if to prove my point or to toy with me, I’m not sure which — I actually heard the mouse moving the plastic tumbler while I was in the middle of having this discussion with my construction managers.

They jerry-rigged the trap and assured me that it was safe to go into the kitchen. I didn’t believe them for a minute and headed for the relative security of my bedroom. I was finished fooling with pea-brained creatures and with mice.

I’m sure you are asking yourselves where The Great Fanganini was throughout this ordeal. So was I. I discovered him cowering under my daughter’s bed, doing what he does best in these situations, being useless.

When I awoke this morning, I realized that I was going to have to go into the cabinet underneath the sink — the cabinet where The Great Fanganini’s food is housed (in a plastic container) — the cabinet where our little friend would have been forced to while away his evening if the traps that Fang and Fangette had constructed had, indeed, worked. I had visions of being met by a mouse eagerly awaiting his chance to escape. The cat had to eat, though, and there was no one else home to assist me. So, I soldiered on. I conquered my fear and opened up the cabinet door, grabbed the food, and slammed the door shut — I estimate that I did this in under one second flat.

I fed and watered the cat. I decided to leave well enough alone and not tempt fate by making another foray into the cabinet — The Great Fanganini’s food could just remain on the counter until I could procure some type of commercially available mouse traps. I’m brave, but I’m not that brave.

As I was making my morning coffee and The Great Fanganini was enjoying his breakfast, I heard a scraping sound. It sounded a lot like the sound a plastic cup would make if it was being moved across kitchen tile. As I turned around to investigate, I saw what I hope will be the strangest thing I ever have to witness here at the hovel or, for that matter, anywhere else. I saw the mouse AND the cat both eating out of the cat’s bowl. Apparently, they’re buddies.

Among the many regrets I have in life, the one thing that I will never forgive myself for is not being fast enough to get a picture of that scene. When I went to reach for my phone, I realized that I had left it in my bedroom. By the time I was able to retrieve it — I needed a few seconds to recover from the shock of what I was witnessing — both the mouse and the cat had retreated to their separate corners.

To recap, I still have a mouse somewhere in my house. My cat is not only useless, but also lacks the basic instincts normally associated with felines. And, to top it all off, I missed out on my opportunity to become an internet sensation. I think a picture of a 25 lb. cat sharing his food with a teeny, tiny mouse would have been priceless, don’t you?

We’re From “THE Metropolitan Area” — So There!

NOT my grandmother, but it'll have to do until I find a pic of her!

NOT my grandmother, but it’ll have to do until I find a pic of her!

The other day I found myself engaged in a lively discussion on a subject that I know very little about. Having no idea what I’m talking about has never kept me — or, for that matter, anyone else in my family — from expressing an opinion. I come from a long line of blowhards confident people. We are very adept at making shit up as we go along. You might say that we have a genetic predisposition for stridency and bullshit. We also have, thanks to my maternal grandmother, a great conversation ender — which comes in very handy for those times when we know that we’re in over our heads.

My grandmother, Eileen, when confronted with indisputable facts contrary to one of her many long held and —sorry Eileen — often misguided opinions, would, when she was backed into a corner, invoke something that we’ve come to think of as “The Metropolitan Area Rule”. Basically, she would respond to well-reasoned arguments and facts by saying, “We live in ‘THE Metropolitan Area’! We know a thing or two about THAT!”

“THAT” could be the proper way to trap a bear, which, let’s face it, folks in “metropolitan” areas likely know little to nothing about. No matter the subject, if you weren’t one of us — a fellow denizen of “the metropolitan area” — and you disagreed with Eileen, you were wrong. You could be a twenty-year veteran of the National Parks Service and an accredited forest ranger, but if your methods of bear trapping were not in keeping with Eileen’s idea of what bear-trapping entailed, you were in for a fight. In the end, you were going to throw your hands up in surrender, which to some might indicate a draw, but not to my grandmother. To my grandmother, surrender was a win.

For the record, and in my grandmother’s intractable opinion, THE metropolitan area was New York City and its adjacent communities. Nowhere else on Earth counted. Not London. Not Paris. Not Chicago. And certainly NOT L.A. My grandmother held The City of Los Angeles AND all of its inhabitants directly responsible for the defection of The Brooklyn Dodgers. To her way of thinking, they’d also “stolen” Sinatra. God help the Los Angeleno that crossed HER path.

I remember her engaging in a lively debate with an ITALIAN on the proper way to make spaghetti sauce. The fact that my grandmother made the world’s worst spaghetti sauce, made this particular exchange more than just mildly entertaining. The ridiculousness of it wasn’t lost on her, either, but, God love her, she soldiered on — invoking, in the end, not only her long history of rubbing elbows with Italian-Americans — a history that was news to anyone who truly knew her — but also reminding this person — a person who may or may not have hailed from the metropolitan area of Rome or Naples or Genoa — that she was from “THE metropolitan area” and, therefore, could not possibly be wrong about, well, pretty much anything.

Her spaghetti sauce — and really I’m playing fast and loose by calling it that — but it was a viscous liquid that she served over spaghetti, so I don’t know what else to call it — was terrible. It is difficult to describe, but I’ll try to give you some idea of what it looked like — I’d prefer not to discuss what it tasted like. It looked more like brown gravy with some tomato flavoring and specks of what I assume were dried oregano flakes floating on the top. In addition to the smattering of something tomato-y (I suspect it was ketchup), this culinary masterpiece also contained a very healthy amount of oil. She must have added the oil because the sauce did not contain anything — like sausage or ground beef — that would have generated any fat in the cooking process. It literally ran over the pasta — leaving a pool of brownish-red stuff around the edges — the only part of this sauce that was left clinging to the macaroni were the little beads of oil.

Eating it was an adventure in and of itself — one that required some careful planning and no small amount of skill. Over the years I discovered that the best method was to stab at the vermicelli, twist it around my fork, and steady it with another utensil (or my finger) so that I could dip it around the edges of my dish — where the sauce had migrated — and then, eventually, bring it up to my mouth. Some of us — the ones with damaged palettes, but intrepid natures — abandoned the double utensil method altogether. He or she (and usually it was my grandfather who employed this method) would just grab a slice of Wonder bread from the stack (Wonder bread was served as an accompaniment to almost every meal back in the ’70s), load it up with spaghetti, fold it over, mop up some sauce with the makeshift sandwich, and eat it that way — disgusting, yet brilliant. And, I daresay, far less messy than my method.

You just could not manage to eat this stuff without splattering bits of oil all over your peasant blouse. It was almost impossible, strategic napkin placement notwithstanding, to get through a plate of it without at least one forkful landing on your dungarees. You’d have needed to eat covered in a butcher’s apron to avoid at least one oil stain on your clothing. We were lucky we had paper napkins, let alone a butcher’s apron.

I tell you all of this not to defame her character, but so that you might have a better understanding of how ridiculous it was for my grandmother to enter into any discussion with anyone — ever — on the topic of spaghetti sauce preparation. But, she did. Of course she did. I’m just as ridiculous sometimes. This penchant we have — me and my family members — for talking out of our asses is genetic. Like being brown-eyed or blue-eyed, blonde or brunette — we have little to no control over what comes out of our mouths.

It’s a gift, really, this ability to remain true to our convictions — even when those convictions fly in the face of little things called facts — facts that may well be presented to us by those with far more expertise in one area or another — bear-trapping and spaghetti sauce preparation, for example. Also, there is really no better way to put an end to an argument that you are clearly losing than by invoking Eileen’s “Metropolitan Area Rule”. People are, and rightly so, completely dumbfounded by it. Completely. Dumbfounded.

I think you’d have to agree that uttering such a ludicrous statement really is the best way to put people off of their game and to end any conversation —ever. There is no doubt in my mind that I’m right about this. How could I possibly be wrong? After all, I’m from THE metropolitan area.

photo credit: someone else’s grandmother