Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Zombie Blogger

     I wasn't always this way. Six months ago I didn't have a clue as to how to turn on a computer. Didn't even  know what  Safari or Internet Explorer was. I'd see my kids feverishly typing replies on Facebook and my husband sharing YouTube videos with his friends...and I just didn't get what all the fuss was about. Most evenings after dinner everyone in the family had their noses buried in their computers. Except me. I preferred to spend my nights curled up with a good, old-fashioned, paperback novel.
     My husband decided to ease me into the world of technology slowly. First came the hot pink iPod he bought me for my birthday. After dozens of failed attempts to find and store my favorite songs (I'm so technologically challenged, I couldn't figure out how to scroll through play lists or adjust the volume), I threw the expensive gadget at my husband and told him to take the stupid thing back to the store for a refund.
     A glutton for punishment, the poor man tried once again by giving me a Nook the following Christmas (this time he inched away slowly as I unwrapped the present). I plastered  a smile on my face, thanked him for the lovely gift, and promptly deposited it in my under ware drawer because I had no intention of ever using it. I liked my paperback novels and no fancy gadget was going to replace them.
     A year later, my kids found the Nook, dusted it off and shoved it into my hands. It was time for me to step out of the disco era and learn some technology.
     It took awhile, but I finally got the hang of it and actually looked forward to reading my favorite novels on the Nook at bedtime.
     The true test came last summer when my husband dragged me to a computer class for beginners. My first day there, it was a bit disheartening to see that I was the only person present without hair the color of a Q-tip. As much as I wanted to bolt from the room, I forged on and slowly began to grasp the exhilarating freedom of internet exploration. I had stepped into a brand new world, and there was no way I was going to crawl back into the dark cave I had come from, where finger painting buffalo on the stone walls with berry juice was the norm. It was as if I'd been invited into a secret society of Facebook users, email fanatics and YouTube addicts. Google became my favorite word of the day, and I wanted everyone to know that I was finally hip to using a computer.
      And then I heard about blogging. I was fascinated by the concept of sharing my opinions and personal experiences on the internet, to bare my soul to millions of people around the world and then leaving myself open to their colorful comments on my blog posts.
     Oh, I was hooked. I began reading hundreds of blogs, contacting authors and eventually setting up my own blog site. Pretty soon I was eating all of my meals by the computer and avoiding telephone calls. The bills were paid late and dirty dishes filled the sink. Laundry seemed like an archaic concept, so I just let it pile up like Mount Rushmore. Home cooked dinners became store-bought meals heated in the microwave as my cooking skills took a back seat to my computer skills. Even chocolate could not distract me from my  computer, which would explain how I dropped a few pounds. The scale was smiling at me for the first time in years. Who knew blogging was more effective than diet pills for weight loss?
     What once amused my family now annoyed the heck out of them. They were sick of eating frozen pizza every night and walking around in wrinkled clothes that smelled like a ferret's cage. They would stand beside my desk and wait for me to acknowledge them, but my brain had turned into blogger zombie mush, and all I could do was stare blankly at the computer screen.

     "Who are you people?"
     "We're your children!"
     " I have kids? When did that happen?"

     "Honey, there's a herd of elephants stampeding down the street and they're headed for our house!"
     "Okay...just sprinkle mozzarella cheese on them and bake them at 400 degrees."

      It was no use. They tried plying me away from the computer with wine, chocolate truffles, a Disney vacation, a puppy...I was lost in a zombie land daze, where every blogger survives on large doses of caffeine and a list of followers longer than the phone book.
     And then the unthinkable happened. Out internet went down during a storm, and I was without my beloved computer for the entire weekend. At first, panic set in. Then anger and blame...sort of like Kubler-Ross' five stages of grief. I wandered aimlessly through the house and checked the cable connection every five minutes to see if the power had been restored. Meanwhile, my family was desperately searching for a Bloggers Anonymous support group.
     I was forced to brush the cobwebs off the stove and actually use the appliance to cook a healthy meal for my family. Next, I tackled the overflowing basket of laundry. Some of those pants were so dirty they could have sprouted legs and carried themselves out the door.
     After wiping the film from my eyes, I saw my family clearly for the first time in months.

     "Oh yeah, now I recognize you...you're the son I gave birth to sixteen years ago...and there's the daughter I celebrated a twenty-first birthday with...and hey, isn't that handsome man over there on the couch with a beer in one hand and the television remote control in the other my husband?"

     Welcome back to the land of the living!
     The internet was finally restored and my computer hummed back to life. I circled it a few times, caressed its shiny top and dreamed of all the new blog posts I'd like to write. I knew there were hundreds of  emails just waiting to be opened, but I resisted the urge to touch the keys and focused on my family instead.
     The obsession is still there; I've just learned to harness that energy into more productive things...like organizing my spice rack or cleaning out the dryer lint trap.
     The zombies are still calling to me, and some nights when the house is quiet and the caffeine is singing through my veins, I can't resist opening my laptop and blogging with the rest of the insomniacs of the world...as long as my husband isn't waiting outside the window with the garden shears, ready to snip the cable line!

Thursday, March 1, 2012


     What is it about men and fire?  Is there an instinctive need for heat rooted deep inside their troglodyte souls?  When I was a little girl, I feared that my house would burn down because my brother's favorite hobby at the time was lighting matches and flicking them behind the headboard of his bed.
     During my teen years, my best gal pal and I were often badgered by a nutty gas station attendant with a deranged grin who gleefully referred to himself as a firebug.  "Really, dude? Why don't you pitch a tent on Mercury and enjoy your summer there?"
     I guess it should be no surprise that years later I find myself with not one but two firebugs in my house.  My son discovered at an early age the thrill of melting a plastic, toy soldier over a hot stove and was notorious for sticking sharp objects into electrical outlets just to see the sparks fly!
     My husband never displayed any firebug tendencies----he preferred getting his illumination outdoors with an LED flashlight.  But all that changed three years ago during an unusually long "cold spell" in Florida (we hit a whopping 60 degrees...brrr....).  My neighbor convinced us that an outdoor fire pit would be the perfect entertainment feature for our backyard garden.  We agreed, and within the course of a weekend, the masterpiece fire pit was built.  Just the sight of it brought warm, fuzzy visions of friends and neighbors gathering around the fire to roast marshmallows and sip hot coffee laced with brandy.
     Once the fire pit was completed, my husband looked for any excuse to build a fire ( "Honey, it's Bastille Day in France, time to celebrate with a fire"..."Honey, the dog didn't throw up his dinner, let's celebrate with a fire!" ).  He became obsessed with daily weather reports and checked the outdoor thermometer every ten minutes to see if the mercury level dipped lower than 70 degrees.  Perhaps that explains all the puddles beneath the thermometer and the sudden disappearance of ice cubes from our refrigerator.
     Those first few months by our fire pit  were everything I had hoped for, but winter soon gave way to spring, and by June I reminded my husband that it was time to dismantle the fire pit and replace the area with bright flowers.  He solemnly agreed, and off he went to the nearby garden shop for a fresh batch of spring flowers.  An hour later he returned home with only one item---an industrial size, ugly brown misting fan that rotated and spit water while you roasted in hell.
     Unwilling to give up his new found obsession with fire, my husband insisted we gather around the flames every weekend to share stories and roast marshmallows until they resembled lumps of coal on a stick.  He dubbed these evenings "Funday Sundays, and plied his guests with plenty of beer and wine so that they'd sweat and learn to enjoy the heat as much as he did.
     The smell of smoke brought the neighbors to our backyard just as my husband had hoped, but they were only there to make sure that our house had not burned down in the July heat.  What he doesn't know is that I had secretly waved our bedroom blanket over the flames to send up a smoke signal for help.
     You think hot flashes are bad?  Try having one while you're sitting by a towering wall of fire in August.  They are known as double hot flashes, and they are not nearly as much fun as a double hot fudge sundae.  These are truly the hot flashes from hell that leave you feeling like that marshmallow on a stick that's about to be squished between two graham crackers.  Even with the misting fan blowing at the highest speed, our friends sat perspiring in a circle like people meditating in a sweat lodge.  I had hoped that one of the benefits from all the sweating would be the loss of some excess weight, but licking all the melted marshmallows off the sticks counteracted any chance of weight loss.
     The problem with fires in Florida during the summer months means that there is no firewood available, so you have to get creative.  My husband would burn anything to keep the fire going---twigs, pine cones, a roll of toilet paper, his credit card statements...and once out of desperation he raided a box of feminine products from under my daughter's sink.  Pretty soon my neighbors were scratching their heads in bewilderment because they couldn't figure out what happened to all their lovely shade trees.
     Whenever firewood is sparse, my husband calls our nephew, R.J. (a.k.a. Mountain Man), who could easily beat the competition on Survivor.  R.J. has the uncanny ability to find wood anywhere---he sniffs it out like a bloodhound.  I swear this guy carries an ax in one pocket ( and a beer in the other ) because he learned at an early age to always BE PREPARED.  Both he and my husband become a little giddy after the holidays are over because of the abundance of discarded Christmas trees just waiting to be burned.
     It isn't just the amount of fires my husband is burning that bothers me as much as the size and intensity of the flame.  My tallest trees now have singed tops and there's ash all over the patios.  NASA called because they wondered what that white spot was on the map of Florida.
     There's something soothing and intimate about sitting in the darkness with the crackle and pop of a fire. It brings out the best  (and sometimes worst) in people.  They huddle close and confess their worst secrets ("Hey Bro, remember that expensive mountain bike you thought was stolen in 1995?  I accidentally crushed it with my station wagon one night after too many beers and buried it in a dumpster...but we're still friends, right?"). Some people get a little too amorous by the fire and need to either go back to their own bedroom or go to a hotel.  They also burp and fart and toss their beer bottles into the pit.  Give my husband a few glasses of wine by the fire and the next  thing you know  he'll revert to his roots and start doing ceremonial dances around the flames to the tune of Beyonce's "All The Single Ladies."  I don't think he learned those moves in the Cub Scouts.
     We do have some new rules about fire pit etiquette:
     #1.  There will be no consumption of beans one hour before sitting around the fire.  If you've seen the movie, "Blazing Saddles", then you know why this rule must be strictly enforced.
     #2.  You may not burn foreign objects in the fire, such as last night's leftover "Fiesta Surprise" casserole,  all those receipts from Donut World, Chocolate World and Wine Around The World, the baby's dirty diapers after a bout of dysentery, or the kitchen garbage that you were too lazy to drag out to the curb. Large pieces of cardboard should be outlawed as well because they lift up in a draft and hover like fiery bats from hell before flapping their way toward your hair.  Just put the guest you like least near the area of the fire where the draft is the strongest.  They'll soon get the hint and leave.
     #3.  My favorite and most important rule of all is the one R.J. came up with, and for obvious reasons...WHAT HAPPENS AT THE FIRE PIT, STAYS AT THE FIRE PIT!


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