Well, I Never!

Rhino Head and the U-Haul, New Orleans-bound
Rhino Head and the biggest U-Haul truck available, New Orleans-bound

For years now, I’ve had three “non-goals”: things I strive never to do in my life. Since I always forget at least one item on my list of rules, and I’ve lately added two, I finally had to write the list down:

  • Never sue anyone.
  • Never divorce.
  • Never rent a storage locker.
  • Never use a hash tag.
  • Never use a drive-through.

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Ten Influential Books

I have been tagged to list ten books that have influenced me. My knee-jerk reaction was not to do it, because my list would look nothing like others’ lists that are popping up on Facebook. I started to get a complex, reading these erudite lists.

Mine would have no Virginia Woolf or Doris Lessing or Octavia Butler or anything that makes me look or feel wise and smart. In my girlhood, I was touched by the Brontes and Mary Stewart and Daphne duMaurier and Laura Ingalls Wilder…books that had nothing to do with “literaryness” and everything to do with my yearning for a bigger world from my little rock in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, where there were no prairies, no moors, no snow, no castles, no moody atmosphere, no seasons. Where I didn’t look like anyone else at my school. Where I was privileged but felt something was missing. I was different (what young person doesn’t feel different, I now wonder?).

I could have included Woolf’s Room of One’s Own on my list, because it gave me an early high horse upon which to stand when demanding my own sacred space in which to write, whether it was an IBM Selectric that took up a significant amount of space in the corner of our first bedroom, a closet-sized room in our first house, or this lovely room I now have. But putting Room of One’s Own on a list is kind of cheating, isn’t it?

So my list is largely made up of books that became important to me in my 30s and 40s, or books from my youth that I continue to think about as I creep up on spitting distance of 50.

Che Guevara kick-starting a bike and a new way of thinking.
Che Guevara kick-starting his bike and a new way of thinking.

The Motorcyle Diaries, Che Guevara. Because when I finished reading this library book, which I can’t begin to fathom why I picked up in the first place, I said to MIM, “Let’s buy a motorcycle.” And we did. And we rode it. Which probably saved my marriage. And because it showed me how much difference one person in the world can make. What a guy. A young, good-looking, well-to-do guy travelled to visit lepers when few would go near them, and he gained empathy for the native people of his continent as he journeyed. He could have spent his summer going to the beach, frolicking with his fiancée. Whatever your views about what he did later and who he became, it’s a stunning thing to witness a young person’s consciousness expanding on the page.Read More »

Nothing Happened This Year

We brought no foster children into our home. We adopted no kids. So we had no big party. I still have not put away the party dress from last year’s adoption celebration, held one year ago tonight. The gown is still hanging over the back of the bedroom door. Guess it’s not going to the cleaner’s anytime soon. I’m in no rush. On pretty much anything.

The child we already adopted was neither suspended nor expelled. Well, there might have been an in-school suspension or two, but I have suppressed the memory. He is busy growing. He works so hard at this that he is now almost as tall as I am.

We had no social worker visits. We loved our social workers, make no mistake. Warm, wonderful, amazing human beings who supported us above and beyond the call, but, still, there is some relief in having no social worker visits after two per month for over three years. Perhaps this explains why the house was not kept nearly as clean in 2012. Our standards slipped.

We took no five-state road trips. We took a two-hour road trip and cut it down from the planned three nights to two nights. We came back early in order to hook up with an out-of-state aunt and uncle so that they could help us break open a rock. Said aunt had given the Little Monster a big geode. Breaking open the rock was one of the highlights of the year. That’s how exciting we are. Somebody had to go fetch a couple of tools. That about took it out of us.

None of us quit our jobs. This was twice as easy as last year, because one of us had no job to quit.

We continued to enjoy the vasectomy results.

We put down a few square feet of grass seed. We watered it. The grass is growing. Come see our grass.

We didn’t manage Christmas cards. The cards I never sent last year are still on the coffee table. They are dusty.

The Little Monster and I did go to Hawaii. We sat around and ate. We went to the same beach every day. I am still recovering from the energy I had to expend walking to the car and back. Ask me what I’m doing and I’ll tell you I’m still digesting.

We contributed very little to the economy.

All of this to say: 2012 was a fantastic year in which nothing much happened. Aw, sure, there was the ceiling collapsing from a falling toilet, the shingles, the 40-to-60 foot flame (depending on who you ask) lit by The Man I Married.

But mostly we were too busy simply being a forever family to do much else.

EWH front coverThe Erotica Writer’s Husband & Other Stories by Jennifer D. Munro
Kindle Edition at Amazon

12.5 humorous stories about sex and the sexes. These sensual yet comic stories offer a fresh take on literary erotic fiction, as if Anaïs Nin and Erma Bombeck met at the library to spin tales of laughter and the libido. Collected from the pages of Best American Erotica, Mammoth Book of Best New Erotica, Best Women’s Erotica, Best of Literary Mama, Clean Sheets, Zyzzyva, and others.

Guest Blog Post by My Dad about My Mom, w/ Rebuttal

Following is an email from my father, proving that one can never fully know one’s spouse. Also that my Dad is hilarious. He and my mother have been married for 51 years.

> From: Dad
> To: Jennifer
> Subject: weird Mom (Tutu)
> cc: Mom

> After all these years, I have found out that your mother doesn’t eat Oreo cookies in the way that normal people do.
> First, it takes 2 Oreo cookies at a time, not one (one is insufficient). The particular variety of Oreo cookie (there are several varieties) is not important.
> Next, give each of the 2 Oreo cookies a good firm squeeze.
> Then, carefully peel the top (outer) layer off each of the 2 cookies. Put the 2 top pieces aside.
> Now carefully peel the filling layer off one of the cookies and place it on top of the other filling layer.
> Put one of the outer pieces on top and squeeze hard a second time.
> Now remove the top layer cookie (it can be eaten now).
> Peel off the double layer of filling and carefully put aside (it MUST be eaten LAST).
> Eat the remaining outer layer cookies one by one.
> NOW and ONLY NOW, the squished filling can be eaten with gusto.
> I couldn’t believe it when I saw this demonstrated last night.
> Love to all !!!

Mom swiftly sent her corrections. I don’t think it matters that I don’t really understand the oreo cookie eating process she herein describes:

> Subject: Re: weird Mom (Tutu)
> From: Mom
> To: Dad
> cc: Jennifer

> Okay, that’s not right.  I take one cookie off each of the two cookies, then put the two centers together, squeeze GENTLY, remove a third cookie, and then remove the merged centers.  I then eat the four cookies, one at a time, and then eat the two centers.

> Actually, I can simply separate only one cookie and eat the cookies and then the center.
> He saw me at the end of the process, with the filling and cookies separate, and just can’t get his head around my explanation of what I do.
> One thing it shows is that there is a communication gap when one tries to explain what one has done.
> And after 51 years of marriage, he still has things to learn about me.  I only get to hear the occasional story of his youth that he has neglected to tell me.

Today is my mother’s 71st birthday. I think a package of Oreos instead of a cake this year?

The Erotica Writer’s Husband & Other Stories by Jennifer D. Munro
Kindle Edition at Amazon

12 humorous stories about sex and the sexes. These sensual yet comic stories offer a fresh take on literary erotic fiction, as if Anaïs Nin and Erma Bombeck met at the library to spin tales of laughter and the libido. Collected from the pages of Best American Erotica, Mammoth Book of Best New Erotica, Best Women’s Erotica, Best of Literary Mama, Clean Sheets, Zyzzyva, and others.

Mule, Not Mewl

The Man I Married taps his toothbrush three items on the edge of the sink when he’s done brushing his teeth.

So does my son, the Little Monster.

Score one for nurture.

The Man I Married often repeats things, especially punchlines, three times. So did his grandmother.

The Little Monster? I wish he stopped at three times.

The Man I Married’s mother often said that when MIM was a baby he was inoculated with a phonograph needle. When he was outside playing with a group of kids, she never had to check on him, because she just listened for the constant sound of his voice that was louder than any of the others.

A psychiatrist we once visited said that the Little Monster basically has an iPod attached to his brain, broadcasting every single thought (typical of the ADHD child). LM wakes up every morning in mid-sentence, his eyes and mouth wide open at the same time to cheerfully and energetically greet the day. His vocal cords are like Popeye’s biceps on spinach.

Score one for nature.

The Man I Married’s father said that he had to hit MIM over the head with a 2×4 to get his attention. And that he was like a mule.

Ditto the Little Monster.

Nature again.

Now wait a gosh darned minute. We skated around the ole biology connection here, so I thought I’d been handed a Get Out of Inherited Annoying Traits From Your Spouse Free card.

Nope. I don’t know how it happened, but they are two peas in a pod. Both singing (not so bad) and passing gas (not so good) the livelong day.

And although the annoyance factor has been multiplied by two, it’s the most adorable thing in the world.

What did the Little Monster “inherit” from me, I suppose?

If the mule thing wasn’t already taken, I’d cop to that one. My father often insists that my mother’s side of the family is stubborn.

The Little Monster is SO stubborn that I can believe that it’s a trait that’s been squared in him on the nurture side on top of nature’s deep roots.

And that’s why we made it as a family, I suppose, just a trio of mules who dug our hooves in and refused to call it quits on each other even when the going got tough.  

We met the Little Monster exactly four years ago today, when he was just shy of his sixth birthday. When DSHS convened a meeting to decide whether MIM and I would be a good fit as the Little Monster’s forever family, LM’s social worker voiced her concern that I didn’t talk enough. Right. Maybe it’s because I couldn’t get a word in edgewise while MIM b.s.’d the room full of nurturing women. He’d done the same thing with our first landlord when trying to convince him to rent a house to us, though we were both unemployed and many other people were competing for the bungalow. MIM waxed poetic about being an injured veteran and pretended interest in water valve shutoffs and lawn care; we got the house. As we did the Little Monster. I’ve learned when to shut up and let MIM work the room.

As if my not talking enough would be a problem in this braying family.

MIM kept from rolling his eyes at the social worker’s suggestion that I was more of a mewler than a mule. (My father cannot roll his eyes. I hope the Little Monster takes after my side of the family on that one.)

MIM knows that when the cat’s got my tongue, I have other ways of communicating, such as throwing a potato at him (that was 24 years ago, and now I am wiser and would throw something soft like a tomato, which would effectively yet silently express my displeasure yet not break the dining room window like the potato did when MIM ducked and it sailed over his head—he concedes that the potato throw was warranted by what he said to provoke it).

I can’t say that I make as much noise—or as much mess—as my two guys, but I can get up a pretty good hee haw when those two get me laughing. Or when I’m yelling at them to pipe down. Or when I’m proving to them with gusto that I know all of the words to O Canada (and Canadians don’t put the “h” in their “oh” because they are anti-“silent h” as well as anti-gun?). Or when I’m saying today, thunderous as an atomic bomb, “Happy Anniversary to my little nuclear family!”

To us and to you, our friends and family who helped us to become a forever family, please join me for a hearty Mazeltov!, loud as a Malotov cocktail.

The Strangler Fig: Stories by Jennifer D. Munro
Now on Kindle at Amazon.com

Six sensual, darkly fantastic tales that reimagine classics such as Dorian Gray, Helen of Troy, and The Yellow Wallpaper. The Erotica Writer’s Husband & Other Stories author turns to a darker eros with her new collection of haunting and magical tales, which have appeared in various fantasy, horror, and literary anthologies.

Cover image courtesy of Rhonda “Shellbelle” Renee © 2009, ShellbellesTikiHut.com

The Lament of the Cider Maker’s Wife

I have three goals in life, but they are all negatively phrased. They are things I want to get through life without doing.

Lately I’ve added a fourth goal, which is to remember my three goals. On a recent visit, my dad found my three negative life goals intriguing. He phoned me later to discuss them, but I couldn’t at the time remember for the life of me what the third goal was.

Now that I’ve remembered them, I’m writing them down:

  1. Never sue anyone.
  2. Never rent a storage locker.
  3. Never get a divorce.

These seem simple, but I realize that they are tied to big-picture philosophies that can be phrased positively, yet not quite as succinctly as the yang to their yin:

  1. Try to get along with people, and don’t hold resentments or try to get even (not even with that ahole who honked at me in Ballard, where it is illegal to honk, and who didn’t even look at me when I rolled down my window to shout bleep at him when he ran the red and damn I hope that guy gets his nuts sued off someday when he hits a bicyclist or pedestrian).
  2. Don’t get tied to material stuff and don’t own more than I need.
  3. Marriage is hard work but worthy work, and my long-term marriage is one of my proudest accomplishments, especially in this day and age.

Obviously, life can throw curveballs, and I also need to remain flexible.

  1. If someone through meanness or carelessness incapacitates me or one of my loved ones and I subsequently need money to care for myself or them, of course I would sue for it. One does what one has to do. There are good reasons for lawsuits.
  2. If I had the chance to live somewhere exciting for a year, of course I’d get a storage locker for irreplaceable objects, like that wedding dress that I’ll never fit into again.
  3. And I would urge anyone with an abusive partner to get their butts out of that situation. Not all marriage is worth saving. It’s only a sacred bond if both parties respect each other and that bond. I got lucky. My guy is quirky (maddening! aggravating! there’s a cow horn in my dishwasher! we drove to a winery yesterday for a tasting and we left with an empty 55-gallon drum tied to the car roof!) but trustworthy (when I asked, he told me exactly what the 55-drum on the car roof and the two in the vehicle cost…at which point I upped my order to include the vintner’s private reserve and a few others, instead of the one token bottle of Chardonnay I’d planned on, indicating that the Man I Married should pull out his wallet to pay for it). However, I’m lucky I live in a society where divorce is an option when someone is miserable in a marriage.

I am largely content in my marriage, though there are sometimes minutes or hours or days when I’m miserable in it, such as that car ride home with the 55-gallon drum lashed to the car roof.

Worth the price if FULL of wine

It wasn’t so much the cost I minded as the noise. Anything over 43 mph and we had a 55-gallon bagpipe droning an excruciating dirge, which I shall entitle Lament of the Cider Maker’s Wife. I’m not sure if the noise was caused by the friction of wind through the tie-down straps, or wind through the small opening in the drum to which MIM had cleverly affixed the strap hooks, or whether it was the unholy manifestation of the screaming in my brain. Around the block would be one thing, but we had 66.12 miles to travel—us, the mobile embodiment of a soccer stadium swarming with vuvuzelas.

I turd you not, this is exactly what we sounded like [click here], but louder.

“This sounds just like the load of wood we carried home on the car roof last weekend,” the Little Monster piped up from the backseat. I couldn’t see him, blocked as he was by the steel keg wedged in the seat next to him.

The Little Monster and I should be grateful that MIM left room for us in the car; he had planned to purchase more than three drums. Before you give MIM credit for not stuffing one of us into a drum, I must point out that the drums don’t open (except for a 2” hole), which is why the clever vintner was selling them. “They’re difficult to clean,” he noted. You might be wondering: if a professional vintner has difficulty in cleaning these kegs, how in the world is the Man I Married going to manage? Ah, Grasshopper, trouble not your meditative thoughts with this conundrum, because he will probably never get around to it, and, if he does, it will keep him busy enough to prevent him from purchasing other equipment, except for special cleaning supplies.

But even the noise I could take. What I couldn’t take was when I turned to the Man I Married and asked, “Is it safe?” It’s second nature for me to visualize disaster scenarios like the drum tearing loose and crashing through the windshield of the car behind us, resulting in 1) us being sued because we’ve killed, paralyzed, and/or disfigured the extended family traveling happily to Great Grandpa’s 101st birthday party, and 2) losing everything in the lawsuit except worthless sentimental crap that we’d have to shove in a storage locker while we lived on the street, until 3) we divided up all of the useless crap after the divorce because I would never forgive him for the unsafe 55-gallon drum on our car roof that wrecked our lives. But I have an active imagination that is very adept at Technicolor visions of worst-case drama, to which he usually gives me the “thigh pat,” which is the nonverbal condescending communication that translates as, “Of course it’s safe, honey. Stop your constant worrying, which, although amusing and endearing, is also tiresome. The world is not about to end, and I would not endanger my family so recklessly. The load on the roof is secure, I assure you. Trust me. I have huge amounts of experience with buying large, expensive objects which I will spend the next few years carting from place to place while I figure out what the hell to do with them.” Yes, all of that can be communicated with one touch.

But he did not give me the thigh pat. He shrugged and shouted over the noise, “I have no idea!”

If looks could kill, I need never worry about #3 on my list, because I would be a widow instead of a divorcée.

The Erotica Writer’s Husband & Other Stories by Jennifer D. Munro
Kindle Edition at Amazon

12 humorous stories about sex and the sexes. These sensual yet comic stories offer a fresh take on literary erotic fiction, as if Anaïs Nin and Erma Bombeck met at the library to spin tales of laughter and the libido. Collected from the pages of Best American Erotica, Mammoth Book of Best New Erotica, Best Women’s Erotica, Best of Literary Mama, Clean Sheets, Zyzzyva, and others.

He (Not) Said / She (Not) Said

I don’t think that the Man I Married and I are the only folks in long-term relationships who often misinterpret what the other one is saying. We have 25 years of conversations and assumptions running beneath whatever we’re saying, rather like the current that continues to trickle along the bottom of a frozen stream.

Like the other day.

I came downstairs to find one of those huge collapsing ladders sitting in our entryway hall. It had been sitting on our porch for months, so I’d gotten used to sweeping leaves around it all autumn and learning not to see it despite it blocking my view outside every morning, the way we ignore telephone wires and airplane noise. Oddly enough, I had not mentioned the ladder on the porch even once, a highly unusual tactic on my part, since any comment just might be the Breakthrough Moment When He Actually Gets It, preventing all future strife and disharmony, so why risk blowing that opportunity? Take the cow horn in my dish rack, for instance. Yes, cow horn: dish rack. That is one of those ratio or whatever they are word problems that will never compute.

Do you think I kept mum about the moo? But my comments have been a moot point, because there the cow horn remains. MIM and the Little Monster see only the positive side, since they both noted triumphantly, “Hey, it doesn’t smell so animal-y, anymore!”

Though I’d ignored the ladder on the porch, now the big ladder: small entryway was hard to miss.

I asked the Man I Married, “Are you taking this up to the pear orchard today?” He goes up to a friend’s acreage every weekend, and I knew he would be leaving shortly.

What he heard me ask was, “How long is this ladder going to be sitting in the hall? I don’t like it in the hall, it’s irritating me, and I’m hoping you’re removing it pronto.”

What I meant was, “I hope that you are not taking the ladder with you to the pear orchard, where you will climb it all alone in the middle of a bunch of trees where no one can see you, without having told anyone that you’re climbing a ladder, and you will fall, hurt yourself, and slowly die in agony, and you won’t be found for hours, until the Little Monster gets hungry and comes looking for you, and then he will be even further traumatized than he already is, and I can’t handle a re-traumatized nine-year-old if you are dead and not able to help me raise him.”

What he said was, with a note of irritation in his voice that I was (in his mind) pestering him about moving the ladder, “It’s not staying here for long. I don’t have time to move it now, but I’ll move it when I get home. Don’t worry.”

What I said was, “What I’m worried about is you climbing it today without telling anybody, like you just did upstairs.” I didn’t remind him that he’d climbed it halfway before realizing that he hadn’t properly locked it open, and I’d come running upstairs at the big thumping sound of a body falling off of a ladder. I did say, “Don’t get irritated. I don’t care if you leave it in the hall for awhile.” Just please don’t die, I didn’t add.

To which he said, “I’m not irritated.”

Long-term marriage is streamlined and efficient. You can have a 2000-word discussion in only 20 words, then you can get irritated about things that your partner hasn’t said, and then you can argue about a tone your partner hasn’t used, and then you can get a lot done because you and your partner are no longer speaking and you have a lot of misplaced energy. For instance, you can now sweep the clear porch, whisking away the leaves that cluster around the ladder-shaped outline in the mold. Then you can scrub the deck chair, sit back with a nice martini, and enjoy the miraculous view.

And when he comes out to join you, you can hold hands and say nothing, absolutely nothing at all, and know in this moment that you both understand each other perfectly. 

The Erotica Writer’s Husband & Other Stories by Jennifer D. Munro
Kindle Edition Now $0.99 at Amazon

12 humorous stories about sex and the sexes. These sensual yet comic stories offer a fresh take on literary erotic fiction, as if Anaïs Nin and Erma Bombeck met at the library to spin tales of laughter and the libido. Collected from the pages of Best American Erotica, Mammoth Book of Best New Erotica, Best Women’s Erotica, Best of Literary Mama, Clean Sheets, Zyzzyva, and others.

Now on Kindle