Thermostat Battles


The house is finally warm enough for me to stop shivering. I am wearing a scarf, two shirts and a sweater while wrapped in a blanket and can still feel the chill. And even this is a tolerable relief from the freezing conditions of the morning, but sadly, time limited.

This is just another day in the saga of the Thermostat Battles. It has been quietly fought over the last few years by a few degrees in either direction. If its warm, I’m winning, which isn’t often. Everything else is a loss. Admittedly, we try to fairly negotiate the temperature depending on the season but then we each make secret/not-so-secret adjustments when the terms are not agreeable to both parties.

Unfortunately, the odds recently changed in my temperature-opponent’s favor when we acquired a roommate, who also prefers a constant state of refrigeration. He moved in during the hottest season, when long pants and coats are locked away like criminals and windows can be left open at night for the fresh air and sound of cicadas. The open-windows-at-night thing was never a possibility in any of our past apartments unless we wanted to welcome in more than night noises and a breeze.

Back to the present when mysteriously, the windows ended up shut, the A/C kicked on and dropped to a dangerously, hypothermia-causing, get-ready-to-freeze-to-death low. The summer days took on the temperature of the seasons to come, unnaturally early and indoors. Instead of wearing shorts and t-shirt, I was in jeans with a sweater, shivering and silent.

Now it is Fall and my enemies continue to collaborate against me; they make bold and direct moves to freeze me out.

I am left somewhere between a Pacifist and a guerrilla war soldier. We the cold and puny are outnumbered, two to one. We do not want to fight, we don’t believe in war, but fight we must or die in the middle of the night from cold.

While I work on a new battle strategy, I will continue to use the same tactic, adjusting the temperature, slowly enough to avoid detection, but surely, up to a climate more like Key West or Cuba. Yet, each time I hit the button up a degree, I do it with the full awareness that it is only a matter of time before it plummets back down into the cold, cruel torture zone and the battle continues.

Such is the life of Puney.

The Power of Potatoes


Potatoes are a tuber of particular importance to my family. According to the Bones’ family legend, the Bones left Bone County in Ireland during the potato famine. With nothing to grow and even less to eat, the options were slim pickin’ for their future.

So like so many before and after them, the Bones left in search of a new land to sow and harvest new fields of barely nutritious, starchy vegetables. The funny thing with family history is that although the past is the past, it is guarded by a select few who may or may not be willing to share. This is the extent of early Bones’ history as people of the potatoes.

One way or another, the Bones landed on Alabama’s shores of plentiful opportunity. Filling in the gaps with my imagination, I can only imagine a bunch of grimy faced potato farming relatives packed into a raft, as inspired by the recent images of the Syrian refugees, floating up to a sandy, white beach.

No one stopped the Bones from crawling onto the shore and standing up to claim their new lives as farmers and later sharecroppers. The oppression of the working poor is another post, altogether. The Bones were able to create a new life, one in which their basic needs were met so they could go onto to attain greater success as bootleggers and furniture makers.

This brings me to the point, we were all immigrants at one time or another. Of course, that excludes our real forefathers, the Native Americans, whom I haven’t heard speaking out against our current immigration situation. So live and let live, or go a step further to help others to live better. Immigration should not be a political issue, it should be one of the human right to live free of hunger and hate, to have shoes and housing, and to grow potatoes if you darned well please.

Letter writing blues

I have a box stuffed full of unanswered letters. It sat on my desk for weeks, guiltily reminding me of my responsibility to respond. The weeks turned into a month, two months, and now it is approaching three months without a single response.

Officially, I am the worst pen pal in history.

The letters flew back and forth, at first. A real connection existed, made strong by carefully thought out reflections and responses, a sharing of lives and hopes and dreams. We invested time and postage in our exchanges. I felt a sense of duty to write back, as a courtesy for their trouble but moreover to keep the art of letter writing alive.  

Slowly the connection grew weaker, like a handful of fireflies trapped in a glass jar. Time passed and then too much of it to write an apology and start over or to jump back in and pretend nothing happened. So I did what any person driven by shame might do.

I locked the box into a dark drawer to let the final lights flicker out.

Vulnerable Positions

In a strange city and state, I had to get across town to my hotel. Instead of hoofing it to the metro or hailing a cab, I called for an Uber. There is comfort and perhaps an undeserving sense of trust placed in that which is familiar. Uber worked flawlessly at home, and it would work here in this foreign land of six lane roads and sidewalks full of well dressed professionals.

My countrified sensibilities remained in a state of awe as I waited for my ride. Even the people of the streets, pushing a shopping cart of bags or shaking a cup of change at tourists, looked like dressed down professionals in hand-me-down designer jeans and scuffed brand name tennis shoes. They eyed me suspiciously, recognizing an imposter in their city.

When a car with a U in the back window pulled up, I jumped in without hesitation. A sharp smell of body odor mingled with Mexican food. It shocked my senses but I was so relieved to be rescued from the street, it didn’t matter.

Bad smells can be a warning of trouble to come. Like smoke before a fire, an odor that offends or repels can be a wordless message of danger, especially if accompanied with an uneasy gut feeling. However, as a person conditioned not to be rude or inconvenience others, I closed the door behind me and it locked with a click.

I was alone, locked into the backseat of a stranger’s car with a dying cell phone. The man drove silently into traffic and I considered my options. He was either going to take me back to my hotel and drop me off, as requested, or off to a secluded location to kill me. Those were the only possible two scenarios: death or delivery.

A few miles miles later, the man drove past my hotel, and I grew hysterical.

“Let me out!” I demanded.

I took off my seatbelt and prepared to jump and roll at the next stop light. We were on a busy road, but I didn’t care. I desperately regretted my lack of discretion as it led to my current state of kidnap/abduction. My worst fears were in the process of happening.

The man fumbled with the gps on his phone and blanked out the screen. Now, no one knew where we were and my phone was seconds from dying. I hoped it would send out a final signal with our coordinates that the FBI could recover when retracing my steps.

Then the man pulled a u-turn, speaking for the first time to apologize, and dropped me off right in front of the hotel. And that was it, the end of what I thought was to be my last ride. It ended as quickly and unceremoniously as it began.

Could the little voice in my head have been wrong?

I have since returned to the Midwest and had time to reflect. My intuition was not wrong, it warned me that something was wrong. It helped to raise my adrenaline and put me on high alert. Perhaps, the outcome would have been different if I didn’t notice our missed turn or been ready to duck and roll. Road rash was to be a minor sacrifice for the continuation of my life.

The time to be assertive and brave is when that voice speaks. Put trust in that little voice, trust the feeling in your gut, most of all, trust yourself.

Fire doesn’t always have to follow smoke.

A day of resignation

She woke up early, excited and nervous to make it official. 

Her husband, on the other hand, was less excited and hoped that she had changed her mind overnight.

Yet, he knew, as fickle as she was, that she was set.

He scrounged around in the closet for a pair of socks. Hangers jangled against each other as he maneuvered his wide shoulders through the small space.  Clothes swished back and forth and the rod creaked. He settled for two singles, one blue and one black.

He didn’t complain, he was glad to have socks. A quick sniff, clean socks, even better.

A pair of dark eyes watched as he emerged, switching the light off behind him with the socks flopped over his hand.

“You give up the fight in there?”

“There never was a fight. It just is what it is,” he replied with a shrug. 

And so it goes…

Oldest guy on the crew

Wiry, white hair pokes out from underneath of his hardhat, like straw from a scarecrow. He walks with a limp and a stooped back, a half-step behind his coworkers.

Young people, he thinks about the forty-something-year-olds next to him, always in such a damned hurry.

They each wear bright yellow vests, unifying the team in safety.

The creases in his ironed khakis look sharp enough to cut through the soft and baggy jeans of his vested companions.

“Got a long day ahead of us, Bill.”

“Eh? What’s that?”

Bill is deep in thought and hard of hearing. He pulls out a tape measure from his pocket and starts taking measurements of something in the air.

His co-workers laugh, quietly and with as much respect as possible.

He is, after all, the oldest guy on the crew.


Lunchtime Madness

It’s 12:30pm. Lunchtime. My brother is camping out on the couch watching football highlights. It appears he has just consumed an entire bag of fancy nuts.

“What? It’s my lunch,” he explains and crumples the plastic bag in his hand.

He leans back and closes his eyes, “I’m on break now.”

It seems that he will be on break for the rest of the day.

As for me, it’s a peanut butter and honey sandwich kind of day, a variation from the normal PB and J. Maybe I will add in a apple and a cookie for good measure.

12:30 means the oldies are sipping their soup, taking their afternoon pills, and preparing for a nap. They might answer the phone but they won’t be happy at the interruption in their schedule.

It means the rest of the world is taking a break to woof down whatever they packed or grabbed from a nearby restaurant, catch up on banking or read a few pages from a book, walk around the block, and get back to work, that is what 12:30pm means.

A computer screen with names and numbers, diagnoses and concerns stares at me while a phone buzzes on the desk. There are notes scattered about, a coffee cup with old tea, and a stack of books. This is life now as a working adult.

I remember waiting for lunch in grade school. My stomach rumbling and gurgling as I stood in line. The lunch ladies really cooked then, patties and veggies, brownies and rolls.

There were so many options. White or chocolate milk. One slice of pizza or two.

The future was wide open then and it still is, sort of.

The chances of becoming a professional athlete or brain surgeon have narrowed at this point, but I can still have a different sandwich for lunch everyday if I want.

How is that for keeping the spice of life? 


letting go

Does throwing out the empty boxes my husband stores with the intention of using someday make me a bad wife? Or donating his old t shirts, video games and unmatched socks? In my mind, it’s being tidy. At least, that is what I tell myself as I flip open the lid to the trash can.

Hoarding should come naturally to me. After all, I come from a long line of stackers, packers, fill the closet/cabinet/garage and shut the door tight. Plus, I think I was a squirrel or a mouse in a past life.

However, now I am the courageous defier of clutter, sworn to fight hoarding or die trying.

Woe to the fool who dares to meddle with the order of disorder.

Of course, Messy Boy thought it fitting to bring up my solemn vow when sorting through the contents of the closet. I held a black purse in my hand and a fanny pack in the other. Coats were strewn across the back of the couch. The cats were sneaking into position on the coats, targeting the black, wool one on which to shed their fur.

“It’s still a good purse,” I fretted.

He raised an eyebrow, with a questioning look that said, Really?

What if I need a mid-sized black purse? What if I lose my normal purse and need a backup right away? What if I go another year without using it?

I don’t want to end up in a house with stacks of boxes leaning against the walls, shelves of tiny teacups and a horde of porcelain cat statues, but I also don’t want to be a minimalist. By that, I mean I want to keep my husband and just a few cat statues.

So I am working on controlling my impulse to pitch what looks useless or dust covered especially if its not mine. Instead, I slowly move those of-concern things towards the door, little by little. Sometimes, they move into the trunk of my car for another chance to be noticed and rescued.

Then I think about how Messy Boy would miss his old baseball helmet or the extra cutting board, and how much he loves his old sweater. Maybe I could use that black purse?

And the junk/treasure moves back inside, and I realize that you can’t always fight what’s in your nature.

Wasting Time 

Listening to a training on a new computer system that breaks people down into statistical data

Reading an email asking for stories proving otherwise to make the company a tastier treat for a bigger, hungrier fish

Considering what to do with my life in a world driven by motivations that aren’t mine

Wondering how to get a job feeding orphan sloths in Costa Rica?

Sloth Fact Sheet:

Professional Avoider 

The phone lights up and vibrates next to you, taking on a life of its own. You knew it would at some point today, but didn’t expect it this soon. Or maybe it wasn’t soon enough. You wonder about the delay. Really, what took so long?

You have to face the music, or do you?

Don’t be a chicken-shit, you try to bully yourself into answering.

As much as you want to do the right thing, accept responsibility and talk things out mature adult style, you can’t bring yourself to hit the “accept” button. It’s not even a button, it’s just a glowing green circle on a screen.

Swallow hard and take a deep breath. The crisis dies with the unanswered call.

Now, you have time to form a game plan, a better game plan than you came up with thus far. However,you must admit, the whole don’t-give-any-answer-and-avoid-all-potential-conflict strategy worked perfectly at securing another few consequence free hours.

Another buzz disturbs your relieved thoughts.

You have a voicemail.

Nausea overwhelms your senses and you consider the possibility that you aren’t really a people person, after all.

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