This Broke My Heart

“Do you want to play our science game?”

The girl, maybe about 8 or 9, wandered up to my table at the Arizona Science Center. I volunteered to help out at Bioscience Day on behalf of my employer. I’m the marketing director, which uniquely qualifies me to guide a lesson designed for grade-schoolers.

“I … I don’t know … much about science.” She eyed the colored marbles, gathered in the baggies, arrayed across the table.

“It’s a game. You have to figure out which one is different,” I offered, hoping to overcome her shyness. A woman loomed behind her, encouraging her to go on and play.

“I don’t know anything,” the girl said. “I’m not smart.”

The Science Center education manager dove in where my words failed: “We can figure it out together. This is a puzzle, and I know you can do it. I’ll help you.”

Four Ziploc bags, each filled with colored marbles representing different things we’d find in your blood stream: Red for oxygen-delivering red blood cells. White for infection-fighting white blood cells. Blue for C-Reactive Protein (It’s what makes you feel sleepy when you’re sick – I learned something new!) Green for a mysterious biomarker.

Bag 3 had an overabundance of white and blue marbles, with fewer red ones, along with a handful of greens. Bags 1, 2 and 4 had similar numbers of white and red marbles with fewer blues and no greens. Guess which one was sick?

“I can’t do it. I don’t know anything.”

“We’re doing it together. Let’s count the marbles together in each bag.”

The education manager’s white lab coat doubled as a super hero cape. She guided the girl through counting the marbles in each bag.

“Now which one is different than the others?” The girl pointed to Bag 3.

“Why is it different?”

“I don’t know. I don’t know anything.”

“You said it was different, and something about it made you think that. What was it?”

She pointed to the green marbles.

“Good job! Is there anything else that’s different about this bag?”

“I don’t know. I don’t know much.”

“But you figured out the right answer,” we said in unison. “You can figure this out.”

She looked at the bag. She looked at the woman behind her. She looked at the floor. She pointed to the white marbles.

“Good job! You did it!”

I stamped the little girl’s Bioscience passport and handed it to her with a smile. I mentioned we also had a painting project and asked if she liked art.

“I don’t know. I’m not good. I don’t know anything.”

“Well, you can try – just like you did here. Have fun today.”

The woman led her into the bowels of the Center – literally the bowels, they have a giant crawl-through colon – and left me to stew in my thoughts: Be careful what you say to kids.

I suspect the woman who brought her to the Science Center was not the person who told her she didn’t know anything. She tried to encourage the girl, best she could. At 8 years old, if you don’t believe you know anything, where are you at 18, at 28, at 38?

Be careful what you say to kids.

Circle of Life, Bitches

There is nothing cute about mouse shit in your pantry.

There is nothing sweet about the staccato scrape of their hard little feet in your drywall, rousing you from a dreamless sleep. The fuckers may be fuzzy, but they are neither adorable nor benign. There is a reason they are called pests.

And they must be controlled.

“I think I heard a mouse in the house,” I said to Pat as he wiped the sleep from his eyes and made his way to the kitchen.

“Did you see it?”

“No. Just heard the little tap-tap, and I looked for it, but then it stopped.”

“Probably just the ice in the refrigerator.”

I should have known better than to bring it up before coffee, but I’d been sitting with this invisible interloper for two hours, listening to it rummage through the walls as I shook the curtains, crawled beneath the sink and shined my iPhone flashlight along the dust bunnies haunting our baseboards. The next day, I heard it again and uncovered hard evidence.

“There really is a mouse,” I told Pat. “I looked behind the couch. There’s poop.”

He grunted. It was 6:30.

Days later, I returned home from a holiday happy hour with friends. The whine of our shop-vac greeted me at the door. The closet hung open, disgorging heavy coats and fleece jackets on the dining room floor. In the living room, sofa cushions tumbled across the carpet. The TV and its spaghetti of cables and wires hung out of their nook.

The back door gaped open.

“I saw that mouse,” Pat said. “Sumbitch jumped out of the coat closet and ran right between Coolidge’s legs!”

Coolidge, our 117-pound Rhodesian Ridgeback, was nonplussed. His sidekick Winslow, the vicious pitbull, cowered in the kitchen. The game was afoot: Pat wanted to use the sonic cannon of the shop-vac and the gentle nudging of a broom to encourage the mouse to surrender peacefully and leave through the back door. I wanted to get a shovel.

Instead, we chased it out from under one set of sofa cushions into the pantry then under the refrigerator then across to the dishwasher and behind the stove.

The dogs had long gone to bed.

“I want to call an exterminator.”

“It’s just one mouse.”

“How do you know? There was shit every where we looked. It could be an infestation. I want to bring down a toxic cloud of death on this fucker and all his four-legged friends. I want him and all his kind to think twice before they ever cross our threshold again.”

“I’ll get some humane traps and take care of it.”

The humane traps were set underneath the sink. The next day, a daisy-chain of turds surrounded it. Pat asked me to give it a little more time before I called in air support.

A week later, my birthday arrived, and Pat gave me the greatest gift of all.

The motherfucking circle of life, bitches.

The bird is a kestrel falcon and it rains holy terror from the skies in the most joyous and beautiful illustration of predation I’ve ever witnessed. Take that, mouse, and enjoy your delicious treat, falcon. You and your kind are welcome at our house any time.

The Gift that Keeps on Giving: The Sugar Sak


Who knows what evil lurks inside this Sak of Sugar?
Who knows what evil lurks inside this Sak of Sugar?

Last Sunday morning, Winslow interrupted our leisurely walk by following her nose into a black, satiny mass that was hiding under a bush.

“What the hell?” Pat said, straining to keep Coolidge from lifting his leg on the mystery object.

“Looks like someone’s panties,” I said, pulling Winslow aside to gingerly pick up the litter. “No, wait. It looks more like a wine bag – like you’d give as a gift.”

I pulled the black satin bag from the prickles and thorns. The interior was a jaunty black-and-white leopard print. Fastened with a satin drawstring with bejeweled ends, its tag read, Sugar Sak™: Protected with Bioshield 75®.

“Bioshield 75®? What would you put in there that needs Bioshield 75®?” Pat asked.

“Maybe it’s a bag to carry your panties? Like on the walk of shame?”

Then I wondered why the bottom of one’s purse wasn’t a suitable vessel? I mean, it’s not like you’re gonna wear them again before putting them in the laundry.

“Wait, there’s something inside,” he said. “Oh… it’s actual panties. There are panties inside.”

Continue reading The Gift that Keeps on Giving: The Sugar Sak

SNAP Judgment – Week in Review

Peanut butter foldover. Banana. Boiled egg. It's what's for dinner... and lunch... and breakfast.
Peanut butter foldover. Banana. Boiled egg. It’s what’s for dinner… and lunch… and breakfast… and snacks.

On Sunday, October 12, my SNAP Challenge came to an end. For the folks scoring at home, I had $27 to feed myself for the entire week: The same amount a single adult receives for a weekly food budget on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (also known as food stamps). That’s about $1.28 per cibum or $3.86 per diem.

Continue reading SNAP Judgment – Week in Review

The Five Stages of SNAP Challenge

1) Denial and Isolation: On Saturday when I unloaded my $27 worth of groceries, I smugly wondered: How am I going to eat all of this food? By myself? Seriously: A POUND of black beans, a whole head of cabbage, a 5-pound sack of potatoes, two boxes of spaghetti, eight chicken-thighs and 18 eggs. Eighteen! I didn’t even know what I’d eat first – the chicken or the eggs? I filled my crockpot to the brim with hearty, homemade black-bean soup. Parting it out into six massive servings, I figured I should just go ahead and freeze some since I’d probably be eating it for the next three weeks. Sure, I was light on the fresh fruits and vegetables, but still: $27 can buy a lot of food, especially with coupons. I got this in the bag (Actually it was three reusable bags).

According to Elizabeth Kubler-Ross who identified the original Five Stages of Loss and Grief, denial is “a temporary response that carries us through the first wave of pain.”

Make that pangs. Hunger pangs.

Continue reading The Five Stages of SNAP Challenge