Archive for October, 2012

Post #78 Moments of joy and things I hate…in honor of my mother—

Posted in Family, memoir, nonfiction, relationships, true stories, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 29, 2012 by tenaciousbitch

My apologies for being AWOL. The freelance transcription job that was supposed to be 15-20 hours/week has turned into working from dawn until midnight some days, which doth threaten to kill me, though I do REALLY like the job.


Secondly, today, would’ve been my mother’s 77th birthday. Sadly, she died from cancer in 2007, and I miss her every day. She was one of the sweetest women ever born, who once bought $20 worth of groceries (including a jar of peanut butter and a chocolate bar) for a homeless woman named Jo-Beth, who was living in the restroom at a public park.

When Mom handed Jo-Beth two bags of groceries, she burst into tears and was barely able to whisper, “Thank you.”  How many people do you know who would actually do that? And being a bratty 16-year-old, I was a little short with Mom because her act of charity made her 30 minutes late picking me up from work at Wendy’s that afternoon.

“I’m sorry, Mom,” I said, tearing up, overwhelmed by shame, because my only reason for annoyance was that I hated sitting in that cold dining room (where the AC was always up too high)  in my ugly, scratchy, polyester uniform that reeked of Ranch dressing and French fries. And I was hungry, but I’d never missed a meal ever in my life, unlike Jo-Beth.

Obviously, Mom was a good person, but she was also the most upbeat/positive person I’ve ever met. Even when she was dying, she smiled at everyone who walked into her hospital room.

That said, in honor of Mom and for other reasons I’ll get to in a moment, I’ve decided to chat about what makes me happy and what makes me SEE RED as Mom would say.

Additionally, my friends are always asking me how I deal the misery that is living with Nana, I also decided to enumerate the positives in my life…and to the particulars of that nightmare (of life with Nana), check out this post:

Anywho, the third reason I chose to compile a list was a book I stumbled upon while doing some research for a project I was working on. It’s called—The How of Happiness. When I read the description on Amazon:

I couldn’t stop laughing. SHIT! No wonder I’m so unhappy! I haven’t developed a strategy, and I don’t have the workbook!! Holy fuckballs, batman, I don’t know HOW I’ve managed to enjoy one nanosecond of my life without this BOOK! DAMN…

It’s difficult to imagine anyone plunking down $10.88 of their hard-earned cash, so that someone ELSE can dictate a formula for happiness?!  I was married to a bi-polar alcoholic who treated me like shit. Did I buy a book OR draft a strategy? Yes! I left his sorry ass and didn’t looking back. There. Done. That’ll be $10.88 for all you ladies who might be in similar predicaments! 🙂

Okay, so maybe, I’m being harsh. Maybe, some people really NEED a book like that to figure out why they’re unhappy. However, this how-to manual seems like the literary version of the snake oil salesmen to me, simply a con to convince people their product is THE answer to their problem (hmmm…not unlike the answer to infection??).

My mother always said chocolate would cure whatever ails you, but nowadays, I guess, it’s incumbent upon finding a doctor who’ll over-prescribe your poison of choice until the 5-0 catches him, or over-consuming alcohol or street drugs, or last but not least buying yet another self-help bible.

That said, ahem, take note…in lieu of a strategy and a workbook, I have a list:


1)        Eating dinner with my husband while watching Warehouse 13, The Walking Dead, Doctor Who, etc., without the soundtrack of mega SIGHS of disapproval from the antiquity known as NANA. To-wit, I say, you have a TV in YOUR room. Go watch the FOOD CHANNEL, C-Span, or Dancing with the Stars in THERE because the Tardis just broke down, and the sonic screwdriver isn’t functioning!

2)        Being at the BEACH, ANY beach, anywhere in the world, as long as it’s 80 degrees-ish (Fahrenheit) where I can sit in lounge chair with a good book all DAY long. If I’m with the husband, such is double GOOD 🙂 or a few friends, but alone is fine too.

3)       Doing Yoga or exercising (at home) for an hour without Nana squawking over her monitor about what Paula Deen is making on TV and/or complaining about what Mrs. Obama is wearing at some political function (WHO THE f#ck cares?) and/or without odd looks from passersby (like Max’s friends) who gawk at me in horror as if waiting for my spine to snap, or LEER at me in a way that—um, well, ain’t even going there.

4)        Sitting in our hot tub with a cold beer or a luscious glass of Merlot alone or with Charlie in the dark! We’ve been together 15 years, so sex would be a great perk but not required (just so you know…).

5)         When my husband does the dishes when it’s actually MY TURN because he knows that my plate of chores is ready to topple over.

6)         Thunderstorms—enough said, unless said storm is occurring while I’m in the hot tub~TRIPLE plus good.

7)         Reading a good book that isn’t predictable, has original characters and keeps me up at night, regardless of the genre or author – OR watching the Sequel to a GREAT movie that doesn’t suck like the second TERMINATOR…:)

8)          Winning another Writing Award, but I don’t have much control over that one, guess that’s because I don’t have the workbook!

9)           When I’m having a bad day and unexpectedly find an adorable photo of my kids when they were little.

10)         Going shopping alone or with anyone but Nana and her endless,  complaining about how no one carries GOOD shoes or clothes that she likes, etc., etc., anymore…and the unrelenting insults about “fat” people, which she MUST utter within their earshot. Just what overweight people need, some 95-year-old stranger making derogatory remarks about their weight.

11)        Spending Christmas/birthdays with my family–particularly sneaking off to hang out with my cousins in Indiana.

12)       GIRL’S NIGHT OUT!

13)       Eating an ice cream sandwich with a glass of Merlot with my cousin Shauna (and her sister and our cousin Sharona if they happen to be about)…just because.

13)      Sitting alone on my coma couch late at night reading or watching MY SHOWS that my husband doesn’t like, i.e. The Good Wife.

14)      Playing with my cats!

15)     Putting on a pair of jeans/sweater/whatever from LAST YEAR that are now too big! 🙂

And THAT, my friends is the happy list. Stay tuned for the WHAT THE I HATE LIST…

Thanks for visiting my STOP AND SMELL THE CRAZY life…

~TenaciousBitch and her band of truth-spouting hippies…

P.S. Happy birthday, MOM!

** For an amusing post regarding a certain clash with the police when Shauna and I were in high school, check out:


Post #77 – My Funeral Fiasco, of sorts…

Posted in Family, nonfiction, relationships, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 2, 2012 by tenaciousbitch

As mentioned previously, my husband’s grandmother died last month. The funeral was at 11 AM near Cleveland, which is a 2-hour drive (with no traffic). I tried to find someone to stay with Nana to spare her such a long trip in one day.

After calling several neighbors and agencies who provide companions to assist older people, I resigned myself to the fact that Nana would be tagging along because no one was available on such short notice.

My husband and his family were naturally distraught over losing Grandma (Katie) Cala, so I also preferred leaving Ms. Cranky Pants and God knows what comments she might make, at home…

For an example of Nana’s sparkling opinions, check out: 

Additionally, it “rushes her [Nana] to death” to arrive at the beauty shop by noon at a neighborhood salon. At 95, just changing clothes exhausts her.

The night before the funeral, I heard Nana on the phone, telling her friend, Nancy, that she was getting up at 5:00 in the morning. I almost laughed at this classic sign of tailspin behavior caused by her intense phobia of being late EVER.

However, despite this neurotic fear of tardiness, we almost missed my mother’s funeral in 2007 because Nana drug me all over town shopping for knee-highs to match her off-white suit. Never mind, no one could really see her hosiery under her PANTS, but I digress.

“There’s no reason to get up at 5:00. I’ll bring your breakfast at 6:30. That’ll give you 30 minutes to eat and an hour and a HALF to get dressed, so don’t get up until I call you, okay?” I asked.

Nana nodded, but I could see the decaying marbles careening around her brain as she attempted to follow my timetable.

“What time do we have to leave, again?” she asked.

I explained it all three more times that night. But when I got up at 6:15, her television was booming off the walls, and I sighed. I strolled into her room a few minutes later with her grub. Her hair was still a short, floppy mess, and she was sans makeup, but she was completely dressed, shoes and all.

I scolded her, and she said, “Why? What time was I supposed to get up?”

Insert mental sigh…but, NO, she doesn’t have Alzheimers or Dementia…

“Six thirty.”

She responded with a puzzled look.

“You’re going to be worn out before we get near Cleveland.”

“I’ll be fine.”

My eyes almost crossed from the restraint required to avoid an eye roll.

At 8:40, I was all set to leave. A little late, but not catastrophically behind. I headed for the door to the garage with the baked spaghetti I’d made to take to Grandma Cala’s after the service when Sasha, my cat, zipped toward me. I lunged for the door, trying to slip into the garage before Sasha did.  We live very close to a 4-lane highway, and I’d rather my beloved feline not become roadkill if she managed to escape. I lost my balance and dropped the spaghetti – in its GLASS casserole dish!

The dish landed on a rather sturdy throw rug, and, thank God, the glass didn’t break. But some of the contents bounced onto the rug and the hardwood floor. The sauce splashed everywhere.

I looked down at my skirt in total anguish. “Oh, my God!” I yelled, just as Max walked in.

The sauce-blighted skirt in question.

“Shit!” I sputtered, dashing toward the kitchen.

“What happened?” Nana called out from the living room where she was waiting for me to help her down the front steps.

“I dropped the spaghetti, and the sauce splattered all  over my brand new skirt I bought in Vegas. I’ve never even worn it,” I sputtered while grabbing a clean towel and running it under the faucet.Though the skirt is dark blue, the red blobs of sauce were quite obvious.

“Can’t you get it out with a wet cloth?” Nana asked.

I tried to blot out the sauce with the towel, but I knew instantly, it was a futile endeavor.

“Goddammit,” I bellowed, stomping back into the dining room. “I just wanted to take SOMETHING. I rarely ever do.”

I couldn’t see Nana, but I’m certain she reacted to my swearing with a crinkly mouth buttoned into an ugly frown and a flat-eyed glare in my direction. I don’t give a rat’s ass about her idea of propriety. I am who I am. When I’m upset, four letter words fly out of my trap faster than lies tripping from the yaps of politicians! 🙂 And I’m thinking, neither man nor beast can alter either one…

“I have to change,” I hollered to Nana while looking helplessly at Max, who was scooping up handfuls of the meat and cheese from the rug and plopping them into a dirty towel.

Sasha*, and her daughter, Samantha, were happily wolfing down bits of Italian fare on the hardwood floor.

“Leave that alone,” I hissed to the cats. But they didn’t budge.

Sasha, the innocent-looking pasta thief…:)

Samantha, Sasha’s daughter and thief in training… 🙂

I started to help Max, but he said, “You go up and change. I got this.”

“Thanks, Max,” I said, greatly relieved but still angry with myself for my clumsiness.

Of course, I was wearing a flowered blouse that clashed with everything in my closet except a wrinkled pair of navy blue pants or white dress pants, which were AWOL. In a total panic, I grabbed another skirt and blouse, and made the wardrobe substitution ASAP.

The substitute skirt…

We finally departed around 8:53. Max texted Charlie that we might be late, but he didn’t seem overly concerned – though I was. Charlie

and Grandma Cala were extremely close.

I hated not being there for him BEFORE the service, but there was nothing I could do but hustle northward at breakneck speed. However, traffic was sluggish through downtown, but luckily, not the rush hour parking lot it can be.

Nana chattered away the whole time. About midway, she began prattling on about the Miller family cemetery in West Virginia. “It was way up yonder on a hill, didn’t even have a road for decades.”

“Yeah, I remember walking up that mountain after Geraldine’s funeral, and I got poisoned ivy.”

Geraldine is Nana’s oldest sister who died in 1970.

“You remember that? You were only, what? Four?”

I shrugged.

# # #

We arrived at the funeral home, miraculously, at 10:55. BUT – I drove RIGHT past it. I’d only been there once in ’09, after all. After turning around, we arrived two minutes after the minister began his odd eulogy. He told some story about four horses at a county fair in the 40s that hauled 1200-pounds together – though individually they could only tow 200-pounds.

I got the strength in numbers idea, but the connection to Grandma Cala was a little weak – in equating this to her feelings about the importance of family unity.  I kept waiting for a personal story about Grandma Cala, but none was offered in his slightly sterile tribute to a sweet and wonderful woman.

Afterward, we joined the funeral possession. Ten minutes later, Nana was squawking about the drive. “How much farther is it?”

I tried to explaint it wasn’t far, but we were only going 19 MPH, so we weren’t exactly running off the rails, but she continued complaining.

“Why are we going to the cemetery anyway?” Nana moaned.

“Nana, we just talked about walking up the hill to the Millers’ cemetery after Geraldine’s funeral.”

I sighed, noticing Max giving me an eye roll in the rearview mirror. He put his headphones back on and shook his head. Wish I could tune her out with my I-Pod, I thought wistfully, but it’s illegal while driving in Ohio. Go figure.

Obviously perplexed, Nana said, “But we don’t do that any more.”

“Yes, we do. When Mom died, we stood over her grave while the Priest read bible verses.”

“I don’t remember that.”

I tabled this bizarre conversation by exiting my Escalade. I grabbed Nana’s walker from the back of my car and opened the passenger door, but she didn’t move.

“Aren’t you going to pay your respects?” I asked because Nana and Katie Cala had been good friends.

“I’m too weak,” Nana answered. “I can’t,” she whispered, her eyes cast straight ahead, knowing what was coming.

“See, I told you not to get up so early, but did you listen? No. You’re as bad as a five-year old.”

Her only reaction was a rather defiant snort. I shook my head, shut the door and sashayed over to Max and my husband, standing by the casket.

Finally, we arrived at Grandma Cala’s. When I set down the baked spaghetti (most of which had survived the crash), I noticed the strange assortment of food: Tater Tots, corn dogs, fried mozzarella and meatballs surrounded by a large array of cookies, cake and and a plate of donut holes. No potato salad. No tuna casserole like most people bring for the bereaved. There wasn’t even any bread!

“Good thing I decided to bake that spaghetti at the last minute – even if I lost some of it to the cats,” I muttered to Charlie.

“Well, we hadn’t planned on making anything,” he replied. Equally STRANGE. Why would HE, an immediate member of the decedent’s family, cook anything?”

I learned later that since Grandma Cala died on a Wednesday, her neighbors had brought a meatloaf/other food on Thursday/Friday, but the funeral was Monday…so, they didn’t bring anything. Then, Grandpa Cala’s sisters (all four of them) told my mother-in-law, Sarah, they were bringing desserts, which would be “just fine”…HELLO, the funeral was at 11:00 AM, so cookies were okay for lunch these days? Yeesh…can you say CHEAP, or just lazy? Idk…

That said, Sarah and Charlie bought what would feed the most people, I guess. Regardless, he and Sarah should NOT have been taxed with shopping/cooking, and if I’d known, I would’ve brought chili and potato salad and anything else I could think of.

Sadly, I wasn’t privy to the shopping conundrum.

Otherwise, the funeral chaos was limited to the acrobatic spaghetti, and we were all very grateful for that… :)…

Over and out from the MIDDLE EARTH of insanity, and then some –

~TENACIOUS BITCH and her truth-spouting posse… 🙂

* Sasha’s comical history about how she came to be a member of the family/household is detailed in Post #60 at: