On kicking the bucket (of cookies)

or It’s not Fair.

or That’s a lovely bucket of sorrow you have there, MARTHA.


The last three days of my life have been about a bucket of cookies.

This happens every year with the advent of the Minnesota State Fair. It starts with me saying something asinine like “Oh, I’m not doing what I did last year. I need a bucket of Sweet Martha’s like a need a hole in the head.”

Then I have a dream where I’ve grown a special hole in my head just to house more chocolate chip cookies.

Oh, wait.

sweet m

Writer cookie? She’s on the bucket. I ate her … and all her little friends too. (Side note: Why do we make little people out of inanimate objects that we plan to eat? Almost as creepy as Franken-Fan.)

Have you had these little bastards? Let me rewind a moment.

You see, every year, Minnesota has this huge get-together (da Fair, ya), and people come from all corners of our strangely-shaped state by car, RV, and bus.

Some enter crop art or livestock in competitions. Some enter the Beer Garden and don’t leave until Labor Day. (Some also partake in Hotdish on a Stick and Kid Rock. I don’t understand those people. Still others visit the Al Franken booth and fan themselves with cut-outs of his disembodied head. Not as creepy as it sounds, but still creepy.)

I Fair for the cookies.

Specifically: the fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies that taste like chocolate butter orgasms. And, whatever size you get, you are getting a crap-ton of cookies. It makes NO SENSE to get a whole bucket. It’s flat WRONG. A death wish.


1) “Oh, no. I’m not going to get a bucket this year. It’s way too much.”

2) “Oh, so and so is going to want some too? Okay, then I’ll get a bucket. We’ll share.”

3) So and so doesn’t generally exist.

4) I wait in line for as long as it takes. I’m not going to get a bucket, in my head.

5) “I’ll take a bucket, please.” Hey. In for a penny … pass the milk and stand the hell back.

6) The 90-pound college co-ed with the cookie scoop and chocolate-smudged look of apathy scoops me a heaping bucket of chocolate-chip winning lottery tickets.

7) I have a bucket. It’s mine. I never want this moment to end.

I’m irritated, I’ve got the sugar shakes, and my fingers are perma-sticky because for 24 hours, I haven’t eaten anything but butter, refined sugar, and chocolate. And milk, of course.

“You could bring the rest to work,” my roommate tells me, from a distance. I totally could. I have no intention of doing that. I hum My Favorite Mistake as I heat two more cookies up in the microwave in an attempt to recapture the magic of  that first day.

Tuesday: At this point, I’m just eating them out of habit. I don’t even taste the chocolate anymore. There’s a new roll of Fair Flubber on my waistline. I think about making a hotdish using the last six cookies and some cream of mushroom soup.

Wednesday, they’re gone. The thought of them makes me ill. AND … I miss them.

I’ll quit tomorrow.

Or, next year.

Because I won’t go.

Or I’ll go, but I won’t bucket.

Or if I bucket, I’ll take it to work.

Or I’ll mail the leftovers to Kid Rock.

Okay, I’d better go eat a salad or something.

Happy Fair, everybody! Cookie sensibly.

A dispatcher’s ode to hysterical mothers, which is just about all of us

Mothers who call about their children can be challenging. Mothers tend to care way too much, yell way too much, freeze up, or try so hard to control the outcome that they get in the way or make things worse. (I’m not judging; those same words could be used to describe me during my daughter’s entire high school career.)

I’m thinking of a mom who called one day, her choking toddler in her arms, panting and interrupting me as I tried to assess what was going on so I could help.

“Ma’am, what is she choking on?” I ask, knowing she probably didn’t hear it. Is she running with the baby? That’s what it sounds like. I also hear a baby crying, which would be a great sign, breathing-wise, but experience has taught me I can’t assume it’s the right baby.

I ask again, “What is she choking on?”

“I slapped her on the back!” she announces, and now I’m really worried.

Never, never, NEVER slap a choking person on the back. There’s a scene in Field of Dreams that makes me cringe every time I see it, (and I’ve seen it many times because Kevin Costner is dreamy).

A little girl watching a baseball game falls off the stands and begins to choke on a hotdog, but thankfully, there is a “doctor” right there (played by the irrepressible Burt Lancaster)! He pauses as though he’s lining up his next great golf swing, pulls his hand back, and thud, thud, right in the middle of her back. Out comes the hotdog.

“She’ll be turning handsprings before you know it,” he tells Costner’s character, tossing the offending hotdog piece nonchalantly. I don’t really know what a handspring is, but …

No. No, no, no. A thousand times no.

“Do NOT slap her on the back anymore,” I tell her. Then I say it again, because she’s still talking over me.

“What do I do?” she says, and I take that as my cue to ask her some questions and perhaps get her going with some compressions. But before I can do that, an officer arrives.

(You’re probably wondering what happened. I can tell you with 99 percent certainty that the baby was fine because I don’t really remember any further details. The handful of baby not fine calls that I have taken stay with me.)

Ingestions are a big deal with mothers; it’s upsetting to imagine that your child has eaten something inedible, and nobody wants to be that mother who just stood by while her child died of (fill in the blank) poisoning.

“My son drank some Windex!”

“My daughter ate a funny-looking berry!”

These calls rarely come from dads. This is not a statement that dads are careless or that moms are overly-cautious, but it’s a true statement nonetheless. If a dad is making this kind of call, it’s usually because the mom is too upset about fill in the black poisoning to make the call herself.

I picture my dad’s reaction to my older brother or me upon having eating any inedible thing: “Oh, it’s nothing to worry about. Puts hair on your chest!” (Which, in his estimation, is a good thing. And whatever this thing is, if you want a healthy chest-fulla hair: keep eating.)

As a mother myself, no matter how benign the object or fluid, I always err on the side of caution with these calls. Per protocol, I get an ambulance rolling, then put mom through to the fine folks at Poison Control. Ingestion is their business.

Dispatch: “Poison Control? I have a mom on the line whose 18-month-old son ate a pencil eraser. I’ll stay on the line.”

“Dispatch, do you have an ambulance going on this?”

“Yes, one is started.”

“Cancel it.”

“Copy, canceling.”

I know what you’re thinking, but I don’t want to be the one dispatcher who didn’t start an ambulance and then the little guy dies of PEP. (Pencil eraser poisoning; I just made that up.) No thanks. “You’ve never heard of PEP? Didn’t you hear about that one case in Florida?”

Let me reiterate, PEP isn’t actually a thing. I Googled it. But we don’t have time to Google stuff in dispatch. And I’m pretty sure confidence in us would decline rapidly if we started dispatching by Google search.

“Sir, go ahead and stick some bubble-gum in that gunshot wound. No, it’s cool. I Googled it. Puts hair on your chest.”

Being a mother and a dispatcher can be a challenging combination as well. I know all the worst possible outcomes of any situation. I’ve never owned, operated or even been a passenger on a snowmobile, but I’ve only had negative experiences with them, by phone. Nobody ever calls me when they have a safe and successful ride on a snowmobile, just when someone’s been thrown from one, driven one into a lake, or something equally calamitous. As a result, I don’t like snowmobiles. It’s a grudge, I guess … an educated prejudice.

I also don’t like:


Or motorcycles,

Or teenage drivers, or

drunk drivers, or icy roads,

or four-way stop signs, or large crowds or

small crowds or entire parts of cities,

or any city in which a sex offender resides (which is all of them),

or rap concerts,

or country music festivals

or anything that can impale something (which is almost everything),

or disembodied heads (for obvious reasons).

I could go on.

Now imagine that I’m your mom. Actually, imagine that both your parents are dispatchers, which was my daughter’s fate for darn near five years. Most of those years as a high school student.

“Hey, can I go to Suzy’s grampa’s cabin with her this weekend?”

“Where is it?”

“I don’t know. Like up by McGregor?”

“I’m going to need an address and what county it’s in. And preferably what agency patrols it.”


“I’m also going to need Suzy’s grampa’s full name and date of birth. Has he always lived in Minnesota?”

“How would I …”

“And what are you going to do at this alleged cabin?”

“Well, her grampa has snowmobiles and stuff …”

“You don’t know how to operate a snowmobile. I’m pretty sure nobody does.”

“I drove one at Jenny’s house!”

“You … what? And didn’t ask me?”

“You would have said no.”

“Damn right. And now you’re grounded.”



One afternoon, three weeks after my daughter got her driver’s license, I get a phone call at home.

I had planned to take a nap with Jim, but instead stayed up to tinker. The number on the caller ID was not one I recognized. When I picked up, he just said, “Are you Mariah’s mom?”


“She’s been in an accident. There’s a little bit of blood, but she’s okay.” She was okay enough to give someone our number to call. Yet … there’s a little bit of blood? I hear my daughter yelling and crying in the background.

As a law enforcement major, Jim has had training in driving like a crazed maniac for emergency purposes. The accident was only four or five blocks away, and even though he had woken from a dead sleep just minutes earlier, it felt like he beamed us there in his Taurus. And when we arrived, we were dumbfounded.

Her car was halfway under a school bus.

It was an accident I probably could have had a hundred times as a teenage driver. A little too much speed on a usually open road, a moment reaching for a water bottle, and she had rear-ended a vehicle with a bumper too high to repel her little car. So she was under it, and trapped.

And there was a lot of blood.

Already, there were several squad cars and firefighters on the scene. A civilian, who we later learned was an off-duty paramedic, had immediately placed himself in the backseat of the demolished car, and despite the broken glass, blood and chaos, was keeping Mariah’s neck stable with just his two hands. My daughter was panicked, screaming and stunned all at once.

If there’s a hysterical mother spectrum, 1 being apathetic and 10 being hysterical, I was at 11 on the inside.

I watched in a daze as men and women I mostly only knew from the other end of a radio worked to free my daughter from her crushed vehicle. Firefighters scurried here and there, pulling out equipment, talking about ETAs, extrication, landing zones …

Landing zone? My stomach lurched. They had ordered a helicopter. Logically, I knew a helicopter was appropriate for this situation. But it completely freaked me out that a helicopter was appropriate for this situation.

“They’re going to have her out of there soon,” says an officer from just behind me. I am trembling and crying. I turn to see John Rohow, a cop I had worked with at White Bear Lake PD.

“All that yelling is good. But you know that.”

As I watched, stunned, the men and women of White Bear Lake Fire Department used the Jaws of Life to crack open Mariah’s car like a tuna can. They carefully delivered her onto a stretcher, placed her into an ambulance (the helicopter was canceled), Jim hopped in with her, and they drove away, lights flashing, sirens blaring.

I couldn’t feel my feet.

If I had been in any kind of shape for it, this would have been a terrific learning experience. Here was just about every form of help I could ever need to dispatch, all on the same scene. It didn’t occur to me until much later, how quickly everyone had arrived.

And how many people on how many cell phones had called that one-person dispatch center to report the accident? My head hurt to think of it.

Later, in the ICU (Intensive Care Unit), as Jim and I watched our sedated, bruised, but miraculously whole and healthy daughter sleep, I swore I was going to personally thank the dispatcher who was working that day. I wanted to tell her she was not forgotten, and that her hard work saved my daughter.

I never did, and I really have no excuse for that.

So, if you’re reading this, you freaking dispatch goddess rock star: Thank you. Thank you for sending all the people who did all the things, because today my daughter is a living, breathing, special-ed major with a bright future and a bus pass.

Anyway, this is me sending you an awkwardly long hug. Thank you.

-Just another hysterical mom






On how donating blood totally didn’t kill me. Not even a little.

(Or it’s my plasma, I can swoon if I want to.)
(Or, there HAS to be an easier way to get free cran-apple juice.)
(Or, I guess I DO got time to bleed.)

This year, I resolved to donate blood for the first time. I’ve wanted to for a very long time, for the following reasons:

1)  I am super healthy. And that’s awesome.
2)  Other people are not healthy, and need all of the blood!
3)  I’m a grownup.
4)  Personal Growth ‘n Stuff.
5)  I am an emergency MEDICAL dispatcher who gets ooged out by blood? That’s just wrong.

But let me give you a brief history of my general aversion to my blood, your blood, most other things having to do with biology, and this one time I almost fainted in an embalming room.

1)  This one time in nursing school, I almost fainted during a lecture in an embalming room. WHY DO WE PICKLE EACH OTHER WHEN WE DIE?? Just … yuck.
2)  This other time in nursing school, I almost fainted watching a simple blood draw in the ER. (I did not finish nursing school, in case this needs to be said.)
3)  I almost fainted when my doctor tried to tell me about Norplant. No no NO, I do not want some little plastic thingy sitting under my skin for two years. And oh please please please stop talking about it.
4)  Let’s also add almost fainting any time I’ve ever had a blood draw my entire life, any time my daughter has had a blood-draw, or any time too much ketchup is spilled in one spot.
5)  And oh yeah — wounds. I’m not a big wound person either. Ditto: impailments.

When matters of blood, the body, and foreign objects being placed into the body are being discussed, depicted, re-enacted, or interpretively-danced, I get woozy. It starts with an uncomfortable heat on the top of my head and under my arms. My stomach gets tight. My head gets fuzzy. Blue Oyster Cult starts singing about a reaper, and I’m pretty sure if whatever is going on doesn’t stop I’m going to …

Faint? Die? Look to my abdomen in horror while a small alien rips its way out? Not sure what my damage is, actually. But I do know it’s just in my head.

So, I wanted to donate blood to prove, in some small way, that I can overcome, overpower, over-logic, the silly, unfounded fears that keep me from donating my perfectly healthy, happy blood, or anything else I want to do for that matter.

My 21-year-old daughter, Mariah, has donated MANY times, and volunteered to come with me on my Mission of Person Growth n Stuff. And when the appointed day came, I promptly tried to get out of it.

“Nobody called me back to schedule an appointment,” I told her.

“I’m sure we can just walk in,” she countered.

“Like a hair cut? What kind of fly-by-night outfit is that??”

“I’ve always just gone right in.”

“Tell me more about the cookies.”

“There will be LOTS of cookies.”


Just walking through the doors, I feel the heat rising to the top of my head. And what’s with all these questions about blood n stuff?  By the time the tech administers the blood sugar test, my ears are ringing, I’m sweating, and I’m thinking I should have just resolved to give up cookies.

I can’t even stand a pin prick to my finger. What the hell was I thinking??

But, NO. I want to do this so badly. Plus, my daughter, who sometimes looks up to me, is just five feet away. Also, Personal Growth! I use some yoga breathing techniques I’ve learned. I think about a movie I saw the night before, I try to go to my happy place, hell, ANY happy place. Breathe breathe breathe.

By the time I’m halfway through my Benicio del Toro delivering pizza (and I have no money) fantasy, I realize with glee: My freak-out/hot flash has passed.

I’d love to tell you the rest of the visit was nothin’ but net.

Not exactly. During the actual donating of the blood, there was quite a bit more queasiness, sweating, lots of hand-holding, cranberry juice, Lorna Doones, and yoga breathing. However, there was no running, screaming, punching, fainting or quitting! Score!

“You saved three lives today!” one of the techs beamed as he expertly tended to my arm.

I’m going to Disneyland!

The whole thing took maybe ten or fifteen minutes. My arm got very tingly, but it certainly didn’t hurt beyond the placing of the needle. And everyone involved was incredibly slick and professional.

Presently, I felt a hand stroking my head reassuringly. Benicio? Even better. I looked up and realized it was my sweet, grown-up, college girl telling me I was doing a great job.

At that point, even if an alien had actually begun ripping its way out of my abdomen, the whole experience would still have been totally worth it.

But let me just be clear that did NOT happen. The alien part, I mean.

Anyway: peace and love … and try donating blood!




Well, ermagerd. This is my 11th holiday season as an emergency dispatcher.

Someone asked me recently how I like dispatching during the holidays. It’s not bad. There’s usually plenty of junk to eat, lots of “we’re all in the same boat” camaraderie, and at least I know I’m missing out on family time for something essential. (Ringing up flat-screen TVs and sparkly reindeer sweaters would be considered non-essential in my book. Target employees, you have my deepest sympathies.)

So, to ring in the silly season, here is a list of ten THE HOLIDAY CALLS!!

(Consider this an early stocking stuffer, and please keep your turkey basters where we can see them. Because …)

10. One year some guy called us with a turkey baster stuck in his … I mean where the sun doesn’t … anyway, GROSS. Next year, put that guy in charge of the green beans instead.

9. We get all manner of Black Friday mayhem: Man assaulted by the 10-dollar rice cookers. Code 3 for a woman in seizure at Toys R Us. Black Friday brings the hurt, people. That’s why you’ll never find me shopping the day after Thanksgiving. I don’t ever want to collapse from a stress-induced cardiac event while clutching a Blue Ray player. It’s just not dignified.

8. Every year, lots and lots of people think about suicide. There are so many very not-merry people this time of year. Thankfully, most people just talk about it, which is fine with us. Please call! Operators are standing by. We are happy to talk to you about why the holidays suck for as long as you need.

7. Three years ago, I got my very first “stork award“ for delivering a baby on New Year’s Eve. I was missing a great New Year’s party due to work, and was really annoyed. But then this lovely couple in Minneapolis was nice enough to go into labor during my shift and totally push the little guy out while on the phone WITH ME! It was incredibly thoughtful, and better than any party. Happy holidays, dear family, wherever you are.

6. Crashes, crashes, and more crashes. Slick roads plus preoccupied drivers plus more cars equals twenty people on their cell phones calling in about the same accident. Fa la la la la …

5. Lights and sirens to the mall for a Santa Claus with chest pain. Ho … ho … hopefully just indigestion from all those ankle-biters poking at his bowl-full-of-jelly.

4. Snowmobiles. As far as I can tell, snowmobiles just exist so that motorcyclists will have opportunities to suffer major trauma year-round. Seriously. These things are just death-carts with fun paint-jobs and bright headlights so they can be found easily at the bottom of a lake. And, yes. I’m this much fun ALL THE TIME.

3. Along those lines: Cars on thin ice. Actually – don’t drive cars on ANY ice. And super pretty-please don’t call 911 and ask if it’s safe for you to drive your car on Blah Blah Lake. I will tell you it’s a bad idea. Always. As if I want to be the one you blame when your brand new Tahoe goes through the ice (pulling your snowmobile). COME ON!

2. “911?”

“I’m about to punch this guy in the face.”

“Okay … I would like you not to do that.”

“See, we’ve had some eggnog, and he insulted my girlfriend, and he needs to leave before I lose my frickin’ holiday cheer.”

*Sounds of scuffling*

“Where is he now?”

“Right the &%$ here. Have a Coke and a smile, mother$%&er!”


“Okay, I’ll send someone to talk to him. Hello? Sir?”

“I punched him.”

“Pretty sure I asked you not to.”


“The officers are on the way.”

“Okay. Merry Christmas.”

“And to you, sir.”

1. This is not a “call,” but it deserves to be number 1 anyway. Every year, one of our paramedics pretty much singlehandedly provides Thanksgiving dinner for the whole department — for all the medics, dispatchers, and anyone else stuck working. Turkey, taters, pie … she brings everything. She is a holiday goddess. She has class up the … well … refer back to number 10. Anyway, she’s awesome.

Note: Anyone wishing to be mentioned in my next blog is more than welcome to bring a festive holiday spread to my dispatch center on Christmas Day, where I will be for 12 hours of merry fun times. I’m thinking some lasagna. Maybe a nice cheesecake …

Have a safe and happy season, everyone! Peace and love.



When I say you’re beautiful, I mean it in ALL CAPS

Recently a friend of mine had  200 or so pictures taken of her in a lush, green, outdoor setting, her long wavy hair framing her deep set eyes and her flushed cheeks, the sun setting through the trees all around her.

She looked amazing. In something like 150 of 200 photos, she looked so beautiful I felt teary, and not out of jealousy for once. Just adoration. She radiated joy.

She didn’t like them. At first I was floored to hear that, but then I remembered: She’s a chick. We do that.

When someone I see as beautiful doesn’t see it, it hurts my heart. No … it feels like five hundred Peruvian soccer players have torn my heart out and are practicing long kicks with it.

Yet I’m not surprised she didn’t like the photos. Most of us don’t know our own beauty. My own self-loathing feels perfectly justified until I see other women I love do that to themselves, then I realize we’re all just encouraging each other to self-hate.

By self-hating ourselves.

“What are you up to today, Buffy?”

“I’m going to an 8 o’clock Zumba, then I’m going to self-hate myself for a while.”

“Good idea! I mean about the self-hating. Zumba is too bouncy.”

Enough, already.

If I tell you you’re beautiful, believe me. Here’s why. Because I am going to define it for you, and you will see that my logic is IMPENETRABLE. (This goes for the men in my life, too.)

First off, if I say you’re beautiful, it does NOT mean the following:

  • You look like you’ve finally gotten down to your goal weight of 86 pounds.
  • You don’t have a single blemish on your face.
  • You bought the exact right pair of designer jeans.
  • You borrowed me money.

If I say you’re beautiful, THIS IS WHAT I MEAN. (Don’t even try to argue with all caps.)

  • You walk in, and the Von Trapp children start singing in my head.
  • You smile at me, and I feel like I’m ten years old and somebody just picked me to skate during the Snowball.
  • You make my eyes happy, which are connected to my brain, which is connected to my heart.
  • You make me feel beautiful.
  • You allow me to feel beautiful without guilt.
  • The sight of you reminds me of all the times you’ve hugged me, made me laugh, or listened to the contents of my sometimes daft brain.
  • You brought me something sweet or sugary at some point.
  • You’re gorgeous. In all the ways. In the classic ways, in the new ways, in all the ways that draw people to people.
  • You are you.

Right now anyone who knows me very well is crying “bullshit,” because this rant probably makes me sound like someone who knows she’s beautiful. I don’t. Not in any permanent, reliable way. Generally for about for five or ten minutes at a time, and then it’s gone again.

So, this is for me, too.

(Maybe I can stretch it out to half an hour some day! Baby steps.)

My friend with the pictures did eventually come around, by the way, and found several that she wanted to keep. But she should keep them all. Because she fits all of my criteria, plus a few I haven’t thought of yet. She’s beautiful. And some logic just can’t be argued with.

Swimsuit season for the enlightened! (And the rest of us.)

Last week, plus-sized model, blogger, and all-around temptress Tess Munster told the world that she is looking forward to swimsuit season. Why? Because she rocks everything she puts on her big, yummy bum, and it is big, and she is not ashamed of that, and if you don’t like it, you can kiss it.

Tess Munster gets a shit-ton of hate-mail. Now let’s all just stop acting surprised and indignant about that before we even start. That kind of thing happens all the time, even with most of us walking around pretending to be all enlightened. Tess Munster makes people uncomfortable. She is a threat to how we’ve always done things. She must be stopped. Because …

Hells yeah.

Hells yeah.

How dare she love herself in a swimsuit.

How dare she love herself, period.

How dare she be immodest (vain, even!) when she’s clearly … fat.

Shouldn’t she hide under a muumuu and just read self-help books until she loses a hundred pounds?

Shouldn’t she be apologizing for something? Anything?

How dare she give other heavy women permission to love themselves in a swimsuit, or in anything else?

How dare she suggest that she is healthy and happy in her body. Right now. Not a hundred pounds from now. Not ten or twenty. Right now.

I’m not fat. But sometimes, all I see in my mirror is someone who is not ready to be seen. Someone who falls ten or twenty pounds short of worthy.

Tess Munster thinks you shouldn’t have to wait to be beautiful. Wear what you feel like, with confidence, on your body. Now, not later. Including and especially a swimsuit. Or a pair of tight yoga pants. Or a hat. Or anything that says “I’m not going to hide under a rock so you don’t have to notice that I’m here, and not perfect.”

Swimsuits are especially interesting, because women are always waiting to be worthy to wear them. “It’s almost swimsuit season!” said every fitness instructor, everywhere, every spring of my whole life. “Are you worthy of enjoying a day at the beach, (perhaps ten more Zumba classes from now)?”

We have all kinds of interesting attitudes about women who dare to bare lots of skin at the beach (which we never say out loud).

These attitudes vary depending on body size, and they go a little like this:

1) If a woman is reed thin with tiny breasts, we think she is a poet-hippie-dreamer and we long to spend long hours staring at her perfect clavicles and talking about creative nonfiction. The less she wears, the better. She is just expressing her creativity!

2) If she is large-breasted and thin, we think she is flaky and fascinating, but also a bit slutty. And while we wrestle with our conflicting emotions about her, we can’t stop staring at her sternum. The less she wears, the better! (Though she shouldn’t be surprised that everyone is staring at her sternum. Serves her right for dressing all slutty.)

3) If she is kinda heavy, we think she has a right to be at the beach (with her kids, anyway), but wish she had the appropriate Land’s End cover-up so we don’t have to see any cellulite. Except cleavage. Cleavage is totally acceptable.

4) If a woman is really heavy in a swim suit, we think she should run home, hide under something earth-toned, and eat only broccoli until the rest of the world can abide her impossibly smug and irritating lack of self-loathing.

Me-freaking-yow, bitches.

Me-freaking-yow, darlin’.

Tess Munster knows people feel that way, and she doesn’t care. She is just all leopard-printed, lip-glossed and fabulous on a beach towel somewhere — waiting for the world to catch the hell up to her. Knowing we probably never will.

So, I’d tell you to go find Tess Munster’s site and give her some love, but she doesn’t actually need it. Not as bad as the rest of us.

Do it anyway, of course, and look at her. Look at that gorgeous face. Can you hear her? Those big dreamy eyes beseech: “Wear the swim suit. The hat. Wear nothing. Stop fussing. Be beautiful.”

I’m working on it, Tess. Truly, I am.


Crazy Cat Lady Disease. It’s a thing.

A couple of weeks ago, I found myself at that Greatland we call Target buying pop and paper towels, and happened across this:


Hello, Krazy.

It’s a “Hello Kitty” sweatshirt. For kitties. It’s a kitty-themed shirt for your kitty to wear. Sweet mother of Garfield. And of course, I really wanted to buy it for my dead cat. As you do.

My precious curmudgeonly orange tabby, Sesame, crossed over (and likely burned and then pissed on) the Rainbow Bridge last August, but I still think about him every day. What is this hold he has on me? Even now? Why do I still have two cats and consistently yearn for a new one?

Crazy Cat Lady Disease. It’s a thing.

Science-y people call it Toxo Plasma Gondii (not Gandhi). I call it the most likely reason I have a feline face tattooed on my right shoulder. And possibly why Sesame’s charred toaster leavings are still sitting in a box in my office and not buried next to Harry the Hampster by the shed, where they belong.

After extensive Internet research that involved several five-dollar words and a few worth at least ten dollars, I’m pretty sure I have it. Jim has it too. (Fact: Any disease researched on the wubs will slowly become a disease you are convinced that you have. And your spouse.)

Here’s why I believe I have Toxo Plasma Blah Blah, aka T. Gondii (Let’s call it that from here on out because it sounds like a rapper instead of a disgusting bug that lives in cat colons.):

1) Because cats are its favorite hosts. It can only make baby T. Gondiis inside cat bowels, and therefore … poo. In more than thirty years of cat-tending, I’ve handled what is I’m sure an insane amount of cat product. Get it?? Insane. See, because …

2) Because T. Gondii messes with your head. Research suggests that the parasite causes rats to feel attracted to cats, despite the fact that cats wish to eat them. This may also apply to larger, less intelligent mammals. Such as … Jim. And totally … me.

3) Sesame always seemed like he wanted to eat me. (And kill Jim.)

4) I would have let him. (The eat me part. I would have missed Jim. I really think I’m getting the hang of this science stuff, by the way.)

5) I have lived with cats for more than thirty years; my brain has felt messed-with the entire time.

But hey, don’t believe me. Take it from this really stable-looking scientist who claims that T. Gondii IS ALIVE IN HIM and causing him to make reckless decisions (other than the hair).

T Gondii guy

Biologist Jaroslav Flegr. If Sesame had been a dude, he might look a lot like this guy. Including (especially) the sweater.

Jaroslav Flegr believes that a) he has T. Gondii, b) lots of people have it and don’t know it and, c) the same parasite that can make a rat forget not to get eaten can cause humans to act in self-destructive ways.

OMG, If you’ve read either of my books, you will know why I SO VERY HAVE THIS.

“Indeed, recent findings … suggest that the parasite is capable of extraordinary shenanigans.”

Flegr’s research also suggests that T. Gondii causes men to be more reclusive, while women become more social. Now, when I drag Jim kicking and screaming to gatherings, I will happily announce, “He’s not anti-social, friends. He just has crazy cat lady disease.” He will super LOVE that.

So, parasitic mind control. It’s a thing.

And right meow,  it’s making me want to drive really recklessly back to Target and buy that Hello Kitty sweatshirt for one of my living cats. Heck. Both of them. Maybe one for the dog, too. I HAVE NO CONTROL OVER THIS.

In closing, here are several pics of my cat Squeak trying very hard not to model my swell new cat pendant, which I ordered just a couple of weeks before learning of my crippling mental disability. Have a T. Gondii day!

photo (4)photo (11)photo (7)

photo (2)

(Only a person in my condition would take so much time to terrorize her cat in this way, then spend like twenty minutes uploading and selecting photos for such an array. Maybe Squeak should have thought of this before she made me a crazy cat lady.)



They let me swear on Elephant Journal.

Check it, peeps! A little rant on one of my fave yoga sites.

Happy Friday!


On addiction, being vulnerable, and writing about it.

Recently, a friend confided to me that she might have a drinking problem. It made sense for her to tell me because I’ve been sober from drugs and alcohol for 21 years (and very public about it) and I may be able to help.

But as she told me what was going on, I found myself resisting the idea of her being an alcoholic. I wanted to argue.

I realized … I really don’t want this for her.

You’d think I’d be glad to have another pal out in the world who’s all about the sober living, the 12 steps, daily affirmations, blah, etc., but I honestly wasn’t. Because I don’t want her to life to be hard – and sometimes sober living just … sucks ass.

If I let it.

Which sometimes I totally do.

Acceptance is difficult, even after this long. Some days it seems like the whole world revolves around a never-ending countdown to happy hour. And while it’s perfectly acceptable to tell your co-workers how drunk you got last weekend, sometimes the worst thing you can do is tell them that you NEVER get drunk.

A couple weeks ago, a newly-hired dispatcher in my center found out I had written a book about dispatch, so she eagerly jumped on Amazon to read about Answering 911, started checking out the reviews, and realized with a startle that I am a recovering cocaine addict.

I watched her struggle to be politically correct about it. She’s also a paramedic, so she’s seen plenty of active addicts in their worst moments: overdosed, drug-seeking, drains on society who don’t give a crap about anything but their next score.

So, now she gets to wrestle with the idea that she works next to one of them — an addict who claims to be clean and sober. After those initial moments of adjustment, she was totally gracious and kind. She told me she was excited to read my book. She was awesome. Really.

But I was still uncomfortable. It hasn’t always gone that well.

(“The author was a crack addict,” I read in a review on Goodreads once. “There isn’t much worse you can say about a book after that.” Dude.)

It’s nobody’s fault. If I’m being honest, I still have shame about being an addict. It was a terrible time. I did, said and, well, smoked a few things I am not very proud of, and … ugh. It’s all very Lifetime Movie of the Week starring Jennifer Love Hewitt.

“So, why did you include that in the book?” I have been asked.

Because secrecy and silence just help shame grow.*

And because there is plenty about being in recovery that I am really proud of. My family knows I am there for them now. As do my friends. In the last 21 years, I’ve raised a daughter, earned a degree, maintained a loving marriage, written two books, saved a couple of lives and delivered a couple of babies (over the phone), and it’s all there in my history because I got sober and stayed sober. And some days, that is no walk in the park, people.

But that brings me back to my friend. Because she knows I’m sober, she asked me to help her. If I had never told her, or anyone, I would never have that honor. And I need that to stay sober … even if I sometimes resist it.

About seven years ago, my boss at the city police department I used to dispatch for shot himself in the head. He and I had spoken a hundred times over morning coffee about our kids, our cars, the weather … everything but the fact that I was in recovery or that he was actively drinking too much and terribly depressed. The point is not that I alone could have prevented him from killing himself. But how does anyone ever heal if he or she can never be vulnerable? I wish he had been vulnerable with me or I with him. The next time I’m faced with that situation, I will risk it.

That’s why it’s in the book.

Because it sucks less to just put it out there. Even if it makes people squirm. And I know it does. Don’t worry. We can talk about something funny next time. Like maybe my husband. Or our cats. Or some of the bizarre things my husband says to our cats.

I promise.

Peace and love.


*(Paraphrased from this awesome TED talk you should watch by Brene Brown.)

This dispatcher’s take on “The Call”

I finally made it to my local cinema to check out The Call and find out if Halle Berry is fit to wear the headset.

The short answer is yes. The long answer is … this whole blog.

Jordan, an insanely lithe and pert-nosed LAPD dispatcher (played by Berry) is a 911 veteran who can dispatch a husband/wife shooting call with the same calm indifference as she would announce a noise complaint. At least that is the case until she picks up the prowler in progress call that catapults her into the rising action and thrilling plot! This is the call that changes Jordan’s whole … well gets her super upset. Fast.


Halle can haz stress ball. Abigail (inset) in a rare moment when she’s not screaming.

(Berry’s shift from large and in charge to frenzied and clinging to her stress ball for dear life is almost comically dramatic. She’s smooth. She’s chill. She’s freaking the fuck out!)

She is so upset, she makes a mistake that leads the prowler to his prey. After learning that the teenage victim was not just kidnapped but also killed, Jordan retreats from the pressure of calltaking and hides out for six months in the training department. We meet her again on the night of ANOTHER FATEFUL SHIFT when a similar prowler call sucks her back in like Al Pacino into the third Godfather movie.

And she is back at it. This time, the victim is “Casey” played by a bleach-blonded Abigail Breslin. (Breslin would most certainly win the Oscar for “longest continuous frantic shrieking” if such an award existed.) Casey is trapped in her kidnapper’s trunk and headed for his Silence-of-the-Lambs-esque lair. Scary, kids. (Member? “It puts the lotion on its skin…”)

I bet you think at this point that I didn’t like the movie. Negative. I actually do. Because, for all its cheesiness, The Call gets the most important thing right (to me). It gets the job.

Which leads us to my favorite-est part of The Call, the holy-shit, nail-chewing several-minute sequence in which Jordan masterfully keeps Casey calm and helps her find new and awesome ways to help attract attention to the kidnapper’s car so police can locate it. The kidnapper scenario is mercifully rare, but in varying degrees, this is the kind of thing that can land in a real-life dispatcher’s lap at any moment. I’ve seen it. And I’ve seen dispatchers ROCK those calls. And they rarely get the fanfare they deserve.

So, I don’t generally like thrillers, but it turns out that I do like dispatcher thrillers. Especially when they make us look like the bad-ass em-effers that we sometimes have to be.

I should also note that the setting, known as “the hive” (LAPD’s own NORAD-like 911 communications center, named for its constant, insistent buzzing) is spot-on. The varying dispatcher personalities and the types of calls (from the suicidal with the gun to the bored old man who only calls when drunk — which is every night) also ring true.

In fact there were many “hell yes” moments in this movie, from Jordan’s bathroom breakdown to her 90s hair and those night-shift bags under her eyes, to the nervous rookie, who explains to a group of naïve students that one of the hardest parts of the job is simply not knowing what happens to callers after they disconnect. Amen.

Of course because Hollywood has no impulse control, The Call gets all wonky and impossible and “she did NOT just do that” toward the very end. We watch, mouths-agape as Jordan and Casey do some seriously crazy shit while wearing only a tank top and a training bra, respectively.

The Call (2013) Jordan Turner (Halle Berry)

Dispatcher goes vigilante, Breslin goes topless, and “The Call” goes completely off the rails.

Still …

Thank you, Hollywood, for setting foot in a dispatch center to see what one really looks like. Thank you for at least trying to ugly Halle Berry down a little bit. Thank you for putting a cape on us and giving us super-powers!

“You’re just an operator,” our villain tells Jordan during their insanely implausible final encounter, “You can’t do this!”

Well in Hollywood, we can. And it’s uber fun to watch.



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