Wednesday, March 5, 2014

5 Reasons Why Insanity Doesn't Work (Part 2)

Good sports are hard to come by, especially in my family. I come from a long line of paranoid, defensive, no-names who think that they are important enough for the world to plot against. 

In Part 1 of this Insanity Blog, my mother was a good sport. A really good sport. I told her that I had written about her and that I was sure she didn't want to read it. I said it would just make her upset and that I would write a Part 2 that she could enjoy because it would be Mom-free. Crazily enough, she agreed not to look at it. 
Used With Permission From Google Images

The post was well received, and although she heard that it was so popular that it was syndicated on the Masquerade Crew site, as far as I knew, she still didn't peek.

But then, about a month later, my cell rang and I wasn't around to pick it up.

My mother has a flip phone. She can't text, and she doesn't know how the voicemail works.

So when I didn't answer and the robot lady I've named Meryl came on, our relationship began to slip:

Meryl: "You've reached the voicemail of  CF Winn. Please leave a message after the tone."
Mom (sounding urgently annoyed): "Christina! Christina! Hello! Hello! Are you there? (pause) Are you there? (waits exactly .00002 seconds) Hello? Fine. *TSK* Call me back!" 

Later, after I listened to her message, I was sure of three things:
1. She thinks the voicemail works like an answering machine.      
2. She doesn't sound happy.
3. She must've broken down and read the blog.

My palms were so sweaty that I almost dropped my phone while I dialed her back. 

I called her house because I know:
1. Mom never answers her cell phone. She says she can't hear it ring because it's the phones fault. <And my hearing is just fine, so why don't you all stop bugging me to get it checked out?>
2. If she isn't at work or chauffeuring my Aunt Mary <the Olympic Gold Medal Winner for Couponing> to the supermarket for her weekly <training> shopping, then she's home.

She never answers her home phone either. Sometimes it's because <My hearing is just fine!> she has the radio or the TV volume up loud enough for the entire block to enjoy SURVIVOR or 1010 WINS with her, but mostly because she just doesn't. Is she screening? Is she too tired to get up and answer it? I don't know, but I need to be loud so she can hear me over Sam Champion's weather report.

Mom's Robotic Answering Machine that I have secretly named Fred: "Hello, no one is available to come to the phone right now. Please leave a message at the tone."
Me: "Hey Fred! What's happenin'? Looks like it's you and me again since MOM! doesn't ever want to pick up the phone. Let me ask you something Fred. I'm so used to her not picking up although I KNOW YOU'RE THERE MOM! that I never worry that something is wrong. Would you tell me if MOM! had fallen and couldn't get up? Would you alert me if MOM! needed CPR or if MOM! was choking? Huh Fred? I think after all this time, we've developed a trust and a close enough relationship where..."
Mom (completely frantic as if I was about to hang up and not in the middle of a serious conversation with my VoiceMale): "Hello? Hello?"
Me: "Are you ok? You don't sound too good."
Mom: "I sound perfectly fine. Who is this?"
Me: "Mom, it's your daughter. Why don't you ever pick up? You have caller ID and can see that it's me. Is it that you enjoy eavesdropping on my conversations with Fred?"
Mom: "What? Who's Fred? I did answer. See? I'm talking to you. Sometimes I don't hear it ring. This phone is a piece of garbage."
Me: "Then why don't you get a new one so you can hear it and pick up right away?"
Mom: "What did you say?"
Me (after a deep breath): "You called me. I'm calling you back. You sounded like something was wrong."
Mom: "Wrong? No. I sounded perfectly normal. I just wanted to know what time you were going to pick me up for Bella's soccer game."

Some people suffer with with Bitchy Resting Face, but me? I've got Bitchy Resting Voice terrorizing me at every turn ...        
Used With Permission From Google Images

1. Echo...echo... echo...

We live in a time where information is often distorted; sometimes as a result of manipulation in order to grab an individual's attention, and sometimes via media hysteria - the phenomena that happens when a crazy, misunderstood piece of news takes off and engulfs the internet - much like what started the Salem Witch Trials, but on a larger, more technological scale.

If you've ever played the Telephone game, then you know what happens when you can't hear the message, or if you really aren't listening. It can be tempting to ask, "What?" or repeat the phrase that has just been spit-whispered in your ear, but that would be against the rules. In the real world those guidelines don't apply and some people take advantage. For me, repeating is the new scratching your nails on the chalkboard sound. The kind that if I have to listen to it, I want to punch myself in the neck just to have something else to focus on.

For example, my last trip to Target went something like this:
Customer: "Excuse me? Where are the dog treats?"
Employee (pointing): "In that aisle, past the cat toys."
Customer: "In that aisle?"
Employee: "Yes."
Customer: "Past the cat toys?"
Employee: "Yes."

Customer begins walking.

Employee: "No not that one. The next aisle."
Customer: "Not this one?"
Employee: "Right. The next aisle."
Customer: "The next aisle?"
Employee: "Yes."

By then I had collapsed by the air fresheners and was in full seizure mode. It was like a strobe light of the verbal kind and I had watched a little too long.

My aunt loves to reminisce. She'll tell you stories of cats she's owned, birds she's given refuge to, and our family's history... right down to how she saved us all from disfiguring birth defects brought about by inbreeding because she did not give in to her cousin's flirtatious advances at my great-grandfather's funeral. 

The problem is that we never know which facts are true, exaggerated, or made up. She's just not a good listener. When my mother calls to speak with her, Aunt Mary gives vague "Uh huh" answers that are usually muffled by the soap opera that's on <because the volume is at a million decibels>. It's no wonder that when my mom says, "Christina is coming to visit" it gets twisted into, "Christina would rather eat dirt than have lunch with you". 

Maybe if she'd repeat things back, we'd all know that she 's listening, and I could be sure that it's true that several people in her neighbor's grief group want to read my book, SUKI. Could I tolerate her saying things again and again? I'll get back to you on that one. Yes, back to you. 

2. Go Green?

My family is full of collectors: My aunt collects Tupperware, my uncle collects mugs, and my mom collects anything that is on sale or free. For a while, I unknowingly collected plastic bags. The ones you'd put your groceries in at the supermarket. 

When stores started giving away the fabric shopping bags, I was all over it. Although I would reuse the plastic versions in my smaller garbage cans, I, even with three kids, could not generate enough trash to justify my stockpile, and have now not only broken the plastic habit, but have developed an allergy to them.

The only time I will use plastic is when I buy meat. They put out those tissue thin produce bags around the meat cooler so that, in theory, you pick your cut, easily slide it in, and walk out without blood dripping from your arms as if you decided that Waldbaums was the perfect place to slit your wrists.

Do not even get me started on how hard it is to figure out which side of the bags open. But once I've cracked the code and begin to ease my lamb chop in, it usually rips. Right down the seam. And the same thing happens for the next three or four tries. Finally, looking like I was just attacked behind the toilet tissue, it's time to check out, and every time, yes, every time, the cashier will ask, "Do you want me to put your meat in a plastic bag?"

While I realize that the bag I just wrestled with doesn't look like much, after the struggle it just put up, I believe very strongly that we should acknowledge its existence.

The other day, my son and I went grocery shopping and picked up a dozen eggs and a few other things. As we loaded them up on the belt, I informed the cashier that I had my own bags. She grabbed for my eggs right away without responding and began pulling out a plastic Stop and Shop sack.
I figured she didn't hear me and repeated myself:

Me: "I have my own bags."
Cashier: "I know. I just always put the eggs in plastic so that they won't get crushed...

She sort of trailed off as if she caught on to how stupid her statement was, making it completely unnecessary for me to ask the important questions:

How does that work exactly?
1. Is the bag super padded...or padded at all?
2. Does the bag come with its own bodyguard?

Hmm...maybe I jumped the gun on this super-bag idea. There might be more to this protection thing than I originally thought. My self esteem has been crushed enough times to warrant giving it a try. And my dignity? That and a beautiful set of wine glasses were destroyed by my alcoholic ex-husband. Maybe I can get her to let me have a bunch of them. My kids will be on their way to college soon and could use the extra armor...


3. Time Travel

Bell bottoms, fanny packs, and fluorescent socks. They were once very popular, but like microbes and mass extinction, they are a mystery and better off left in the past. For some, leaving things behind is hard and just when the rest of us least expect it, we are confronted with a Tyrannosaurus Rex that is not only ugly, but that we had hoped would remain buried. 

One of the moms at school is like the mullet Billy Ray Cyrus should never have had sported in the first place. She wears high-waisted jeans that gather tightly at the ankle and her hair is a hybrid - Farrah Fawcett lost a rumble with hair spray and high eighties hair. She's painful to look at, especially when she takes off her jacket and reveals a t-shirt with shoulder pads.

Joan Rivers scans the red carpet looking for fashion offenders but she should really just hit up a suburban playground. It's a party of nostalgics, frozen in time and waiting for the next cycle of crop tops and parachute pants to grab the nation by storm. 
Used With Permission From Google Images
But here's the thing. These trends weren't cute when they were popular, so they've been banned from ever returning. As I look out across the sandbox, I feel like I'm watching The Time Traveler's Wife, except that the period hoppers are allowed to keep their clothes on between decades... and I have to wish that it just wasn't so.

4. Got Juice??

When my Uncle Paddy was young, he was a tough guy. He was big, he was always in trouble, and as smart as he was, along the way, he lost a few marbles. And so it goes, youth fades and aging happens. Uncle Paddy now breathes with an oxygen tank, gets around with a walker, lives in a nursing home - and it's a little too late to start searching for those marbles. 
Used With Permission From Google Images

Every couple of months, Aunt Mary - his ambassador of crying wolf and his personal banker - gets a mayday call. Once, he wasn't feeling well and was moved to the nursing home's sick quarters. Aunt Mary reported this to us all as, "Uncle Paddy is taking his last breaths. You need to say goodbye to him." I and my three kids raced over to the home and had my cousin, his daughter, on speed dial, so she could hear him utter his final thoughts. When we got there, he was in a tiny curtained cubicle complete with three square feet for us to squeeze into and a roommate; an elderly man who kept moaning in pain and speaking to his dead wife. Uncle Paddy, as feisty and sensitive as ever, told the man to "Shut up" and three days later was well enough to move back into his regular room.

The last time he called, he was really suffering. Aunt Mary could tell. 

Her version: "Those stupid nurses are refusing to give Pat his juice. He needs it to live. He found someone to go out to the store and get him some, but they said it's $35 a gallon!... Of course I sent him the money. He needs the juice!"

Reality: Uncle Paddy does not like the food they serve and has stopped eating. He is insisting that the only thing that keeps him alive is this juice - Hawaiian Punch. In an effort to get him to start eating again so that he doesn't die, the nurses told him they'd get the juice for him, but that there is a surcharge for delivery. They figured he wouldn't be able to afford it and that he'd give up and eat the cold lasagna and rubber hot dogs the state deems fit for human consumption. And by the way, someone get a hold of his daughter. Of course Aunt Mary happily laid out $105 to save her brother's life. Anything for family...but she wants it back.
Used With Permission From Google Images

On my last visit, I noticed that he had a mini-fridge from his youngest son, fully stocked with juice that his daughter had bought for $2.99 at Walmart and hand delivered to him herself...AND thanks to the "surcharges", the nursing home had a new wing.

5. Gay Is The New Black

Equal rights for African Americans used to be all the rage. In fact, just saying African Americans instead of Blacks was considered progress. Interracial couples are so common now that it's hard to believe that a family member once asked me if I was doing it for shock value instead of asking if my boyfriend made me happy. Laws have been created and changed over the years regarding everything from slavery to integrating schools, in an effort to recognize us all as equals.

With an African American sitting in the White House, and the novelty of him being the first to do so having worn off, some of the outspoken have moved on and finally see him as just another sitting president, and as is our MO, those who do not preside, instead criticize - his politics...and homosexuals. 
Used With Permission From Google Images

And so a new trend was born. Lawmakers could've moved on to child abuse and neglect in order to protect our children, the ultimate innocents, but instead Gays became the new Black.

First, the issue was Same-Sex Marriage, but as more and more states are changing their laws to recognize these unions, just like the legalization of pot, it's only a matter of time till life, liberty, and the pursuit of alternative lifestyles rule our great nation as our fab 4/20 fathers had predicted.

Used With Permission From Google Images
Used With Permission From Google Images

With blazing and praising looming on the horizon, there are those who see that their worst nightmares are becoming a reality and so they grasp for some type of control. They come up with ridiculous laws without thinking of the ramifications of their actions.

Most recently, a few states have proposed empowering businesses with the right to turn away gay customers based on religious grounds. If their religion is one that believes in giving up all worldly possessions in favor of living in poverty, then not only do they have a case, but why restrict just the gays? Why stop at the nine million people in this country that are open about who they are? Why not just close up shop and ban everyone? 

I'm not here to change minds or to convince one group or the other to reconsider their choices. All I'm saying is if you're going to have an agenda, make it an intelligent one.

Here's a bit of reality:

In my local high school, there is no stigma attached to being gay. In fact, homosexuality is so popular that my kids are in the minority because they don't consider themselves at least bi. I don't know if this is the trend across the nation, but I can tell you that our high school is full of some movers and shakers. They follow current events and have strong opinions about what they are hearing and seeing. It doesn't matter if they are gay or straight, because in our school, all walks of life are respected and embraced. It'll just take one of those students to grow up and become an elected official one day and enact laws that could affect some of our more outspoken retirees:

It's the year 2028 and an obese woman enters a local pizzeria. She lumbers toward the counter slowly; the wear and tear of her controversial life supported by only a walker and a gold crucifix swinging judgmentally against her bosom with each heavy step. Because of her size, the younger adults that have come in cannot pass, and a line begins to form behind her. By now, discrimination against Gays and African Americans is a thing of the past, and the customers chatter about their lives, some of which involve same sex relationships. With her hearing aid turned up to the max, the overweight, old-school woman can hear their conversations and is not impressed. But her *TSK's* are drowned out by her laborious panting as she finally reaches the counter.

Woman: (Holds up a manicured pointer finger while she catches her breath): "One *gasp* sec..."
Pizza Guy: "Dude! I know you! Hey everybody! There's a celebrity in the house! This is that lady that thought that the right to ban gays from shopping was cool with God! Whoa! I think you're the first famous person we've ever had come in. Can I take your pic for the wall?"

She nods, smiling and posing, and almost able to speak.

Pizza Guy: "Thanks! That's so cool of you to let me do that." He's silent now and looks at her expectantly.
Woman: "You're welcome. I'll take a slice of Sicilian and a half dozen garlic knots."
Pizza Guy: "Wait. What? Dude, ha ha, let me explain. I know some of you old folks are out of touch. The law you tried to get passed got vetoed, but the one about not serving ancient, fat, bigots didn't. And believe me, I get it. Aging happens, life happens, and it sucks to have things you can't control or choices you make discriminated against, but the law is the law. Sorry."

Used With Permission From Google Images

Karma is a perpetual bitch folks. In the midst of youth and power, sometimes we forget to look ahead at the consequences. Our words, actions, and the insanity that we create but does not work can haunt us...for even Pizza Guy will be old and possibly overweight... if his product is quality.

Now if we want to target a group of people, I propose we zoom in on the moody, self absorbed crowd that is contributing to world hunger by eating everything in sight - even the Coffee Cakes that were clearly labeled MOM, but managed to disappear anyway. I call these terrorists...TEENS. 

 CF Winn is the award-winning author of The COFFEE BREAK SERIES, a hilarious group of short stories meant to be read while on break or in the waiting room of the doctor's office. Her first novella, SUKI, has been grabbing hearts and hugging souls all over the United States.

You can now order SUKI in paperback at BOOK REVUE, one of the nation’s largest independent bookstores, by email at or by calling (631) 271-1442.
Learn more about SUKI at BOOK REVUE

More posts like these can be found at Humor Outcasts and The Patch where she is a regular contributor.
CF Winn is the founder of Winning! Publications, a firm specializing in editing and promotion services for authors. Her latest project is the just released Trailer Trash, With a Girl’s Name, a hilarious and heartwarming story of a boy saddled with a girl’s name and forced into a nomadic existence. Order it now:


Anonymous said...

I stumbled across this blog and found it very elementary writing and not very provocative. It seems that your using clichies as the basis for your thoughts e.g "gay is the new black". I am not sure where the "got juice" synopsis fits except to show that your family sounds really shitty to an elderly man who is suffering from dementia.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
CF Winn said...

Thank you for suffering through my post although you didn't agree with it. I'm not sure what "clichies" are, but I try to be punny and lighthearted and most of the time it is well received. My uncle is very loved and most certainly does not have dementia. He's as nuts as the rest of us, but that's what makes life so much fun. It's a shame you didn't recognize how much we care when my children and I went to see him when he was sick, or when his kids made sure he had the juice he wanted. I think it's best that we part ways here. You don't care for my "elementary" writing, and I don't care for your negativity.

CF Winn said...

Any derogatory comments made about children or groups of people will be removed without explanation.

Annie Edmonds Author said...

Ok CF, I never knew you were this funny. I love your stories. Way to go with the Coffee breakers series. Keep writing and I will keep reading. Hugs..

CF Winn said...

Hugs back at you Annie. I never knew I was funny either because my kids tell me I'm not, and of course they know absolutely everything, so why would I question them? Thanks for reading. I hope I can continue to wow you. Stay tuned...