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ACW Episode 51 – Cleaning up and an announcement

To be honest, the kids did not throw Baby Jesus.

They threw the Virgin Mary. And they didn’t throw her so much as they smacked her around then threw her across the room during a game of “Pirates, Ninjas and Zombies,” wherein the girls use all their Fischer Price Little People, including the Nativity set, to act out some sort of bizarre post-apocalyptic scenario on the living room floor.

Now I know it seems strange that I, the family Buddhist/atheist, would be the one to complain about tossing Bible figures around the house, but you must understand. While I am not a practitioner of any religion (and Buddhism is not religion, since it makes no mention of a deity), I do feel it’s only polite to show respect for those who do believe, and to not desecrate the symbols of their religion. A lot of wars could be averted if only we all showed each other a bit of respect, regardless of each other’s race, creed, gender, sexual preference, political persuasion and religion.

Besides, getting hit in the back of the head by a flying Fischer Price Virgin Mary really hurts.

Starting this Thursday, I will begin posting episodes in a new series. Well, actually it’s an old series, something I drew waaaaaay back in the day before there were such things as “web” comics. Keep your eyes peeled, watch this space, and stay tuned. On Thursday, Rats! begins.


About Cynical Woman

Helen E. H. Madden is an artist who quit her lucrative day job years ago with no idea what she might do next.  Currently she works as a Girl Scout troop leader and full-time volunteer. She gets paid in hugs and cookies. Helen’s works include her web comics, “The Adventures of Cynical Woman” and “Rats!” and she is very much in love with zombies right now, but that’s probably because she is one, and could someone please explain the concept of “sleep” to her?  Because she’s never experienced it herself.

Portrait of the writer as a devious fiend

Portrait of the writer as a devious fiend

Beetlejuice, 1991-2009

It has taken me two weeks to get around to writing this. I can’t say if it’s because I have grown to hate writing these eulogies for my pets or if it’s because I’m so damned tired and worn out these days. Maybe both.

Beetlejuice, the oldest of the three cats who lived with me during the last 17 years, passed away two weeks ago in the beginning of March. I knew his time was coming soon. He was old, older than any other cat I can recall hearing of, and he had begun to slow down so much the last few weeks. This time wasn’t like it was with Lydia or Fritti. There didn’t seem to be any suffering until the very end, and even that seemed more like fatigue than actual pain or misery.

I was actually there when BJ was born. He’s from the first litter of my mother’s cat, Bonnie. Bonnie is a registered Himalayan, still prowling around my folk’s place at the grand age of 18 or 19. Mom had her breed when she was around a year and a half old, and BJ was one of the results of that. He was born with five other kittens on a day I’ll never forget. I was attending Officer Basic Course at Fort Eustis that year, and staying with my parents rather than staying on post. I had been out all night working as staff duty officer. I was beat and ready to collapse in bed when I walked through the door and saw Bonnie walking around the den meowing and dragging something behind her. That something turned out to be a new born kitten still connected to her by the umbilical cord. I woke up my mom and she and I delivered the next couple of kitten. Then my dad came home to help out. He and mom pulled out the last two kittens because they were breech and Bonnie was too exhausted to push any more while I toweled off the others, thinking to myself, “God these things look ugly!”

They did look ugly, like little yellow rats, but that phase only lasted a few days and pretty soon they were fluffy blind moles squeaking and scuffling to get at their mother’s milk. It became my job to rotate the kittens, making sure each tiny ball of fluff got a chance at the back nipples where the milk was better. We had a couple of nipple hogs in that group who actively fought my attempts to move them away from the prime feeding spots, but somehow I managed to keep all the babies fed.

I stayed a few more months at my folk’s, rotating kittens and finishing up OBC. We made one trip over the Christmas holidays to my grandmother and took the kittens and my then-fiance Michael with us. The kittens adored Michael and turned him into a giant jungle gym, climbing all over him and pouncing on him. He seemed to adore them as well, which was good since I knew eventually one of the little fuzz butts was going to be mine. I didn’t know which one though until my mother gave him to me. He was a male blue point Himalayan with the biggest blue eyes I’d ever seen. I was addicted to the cartoon ‘Beetlejuice’ then, so I named him Beetlejuice, and even had him registered as ‘Beetlejuice, Prince of Neitherworld.’

BJ came to live with me in Blacksburg when he was old enough, first in the Terrace View apartment I shared with two roommates, and then in the apartment on Washington Street that I had to myself. I didn’t want him to be alone all day while I was at classes, so I adopted a scrawny orange tabby to keep him company. That crazy critter was Fritti, who grew up to be a big lug of orange not-quite-tom-cat (I had all my cats fixed as soon as they were old enough). And then of course a few weeks later, someone asked me if I would adopt a third cat that they couldn’t keep themselves and that’s how I got a cuddly black and brown tabby I named Lydia.

Life with three cats was always an adventure. BJ was probably the calmest of the three, although you couldn’t tell it from the picture above. He liked to play, but tended to let the other two cats take the lead. He would sometimes chase Lydia around the house, forcing her to vault to the top of the china cabinet in our dining room where she would then puke up a bunch of cat treats and leave them there for me to discover weeks later. But I think the strangest behavior BJ ever exhibited was his interest in human sexual relations. Michael and I could not have sex without him watching, unless we shut him out of the room. In fact, BJ liked to sit on our feet when we were making love, and would complain a bit if he got shoved about. When we were done with our activities, he liked to walk all over us, sniffing. Michael called him ‘the Sex Inspector,’ saying BJ obviously had to check and see if we had done things right, and of course we were never done with sex unless we had his seal of approval.

BJ acquired a lot of nicknames over the years. There was BJ, of course, and Beej. Also BeeGee, Boojoo, Booper, Mr. Booper, Mr. Buddy, Mr. Bloomers (because of the way his rear end looked with all that fluffy fur), and Fuzz Butt. He adored Michael and could not stand to be locked out of the office when Michael was working. In fact, if I opened the door to the office while Michael was working, BJ would take the opportunity to dart up the stairs and launch himself into Michael’s lap, where he would demand to be petted.

There were other cute/odd behaviors. He liked to walk around the house in the middle of the night yowling at the top of his lungs, always waking me up. This happened more and more after Fritti died. Fritti was our original opera cat, who loved to yodel at all hours. BJ also loved to lie in the tub during the summer, to cool off. I took him to the vet some summers to have him groomed, and the other cats always stared and snickered whenever BJ came back. I have to admit, he did look funny with all his fur clipped, though they never shaved his tail. That was always full, grey and gorgeous.

I always thought that BJ would be the first to pass away, because we’d had more health problems with him than the other two. He nearly died while I was pregnant with Sam. In fact, all three cats were hit with some sort of illness that year that involved me spending lots of time nursing them and giving them subcutaneous fluids until they got well enough to fight me off. But Fritti went first, and then Lydia a year later. I knew with BJ it was only a matter of time.

After Fritti died, BJ seemed to enter a sort of renaissance, suddenly strutting around the house, playing like he hadn’t in years, and acting like the cock of the walk. Though I know he and Fritti loved each other (they constantly groomed each other and acted like lovers), I always thought that BJ was a bit intimidated by Fritti. Without the alpha cat in the house, I guess BJ felt he was now large and in charge. It was nice to see him act so lively and healthy. His slow down at the end was so gradual, I really didn’t notice what was going on until the last month.

His eating tapered off first. He was always a picky eater, most likely to snub his meals in favor of treats, and likely to suddenly snub them too when the mood hit. But we reached a point where neither treats nor any sort of wet food would do. Then he stopped drinking water. I was able to coax him to take a few sips if I refilled the bowl in his site, but after a while even that stopped. Eventually we reached a point where all BJ would do was stare at his food and water bowls and then meander off somewhere to sleep.

During the last month, he came to see me while I was taking a bath. I don’t know what inspired him to do this, but he jumped up onto the side of the tub and then tried to leap across. He missed and landed in the water and on top of me. He didn’t fly into a full blown panic like I would have expected, but he did scratch up my foot pretty good. I still have a mark there. But that was the first indication to me that he was starting to go. If he couldn’t leap from one side of the tub to the other, his days were numbered. Eventually, I began to hear occasional thumps and thuds and crashes throughout the house – all attempted and failed leaps that BJ was making. On the last day, these sounds were the worst. He wanted into the bath tubs, so he could lie on a cool surface, but he couldn’t seem to get into the tubs without falling over the side and landing in a heap. He hurt his leg trying, and limped through the last day of his life, but he wouldn’t let me help him get into or out of any place. He limped from one spot to another – my tub, the kids’ tub, the floor in front of my bathroom sink, a spot behind the toilet. I did managed to get him onto my bed at one point, and I thought he would die there. He fell asleep, and his breathing grew so slow. But then every now and then he’d wake up and yowl. Eventually, he tried to leave the bed when I wasn’t looking, and there was another crash and a thump. I ran into the room to see him limp away to another spot.

All that day, it snowed. The kids played outside with Michael, making a snowman, while I folded laundry and tried to pack for my trip to Vegas. I called the vet around 2PM, determined to see BJ taken care of before I left. I was not going to let him linger and suffer while I flew off to a conference, and I was not going to shift that responsibility onto Michael. However, around 9PM, after the kids had gone to bed, taking care of BJ became a moot point. He tottered into the girls’ bathroom one last time and slumped on the floor. His breathing was so labored at that point, each intake was a gasp followed by a lengthy silence. I knew he was in his final hour, and yet once again, I found myself torn between trying to tend to him and prepare for the conference I was attending in two days. I decided to leave BJ alone. He had wandered away from all my other attempts to take care of him, and I think he just didn’t want to be bothered anymore. Sometime while I was putting the finishing touches on some notes and sending out e-mails in the bedroom down the hall, he passed away. Michael and I had to spend several minutes to make sure he was gone; it was so hard to tell toward the end. But he had finally passed away, and I’m not even sure if I heard his last gasp as I left to finish my packing or if he had lasted a few minutes longer.

We took BJ in to be cremated the next day. Cassie hadn’t quite understood the day before what was going on. She knew BJ was dying, but to her that meant we’d be getting a new cat soon, and that was all she could think of. It wasn’t until I tried to explain to her, and then blew up when she refused to stop talking about a new cat, that she finally realized BJ was not going to be around any more. I don’t make any excuses for losing my temper, nor do I offer any regrets. I tried my best to explain that a cat I loved was dying but it took a time out and some yelling to get the point to sink into the Princess’ brain. As for Pixie, she only knows that BJ died, but not what that means. I think it confused her that we took his body into the vet’s the next day, but when we came back the next week, we only walked out with a small white box. I tried to explain that BJ’s ashes were in the box, but it made no sense to her.

So my three cats are now all gone. They were good, loving, loyal companions for many years. Now they all share the same shelf in my bed room, three little white boxes lined up in front of my favorite books. At times it feels so horrifically unfair, but what other end did I expect? They were old. This is what happens. And life goes on.

We will not be getting another cat any time soon. Michael and I plan to try for a third baby this summer, and as Michael points out, a new cat presents certain health concerns for a pregnant mother. And even after the baby is born, we’ll still wait a few months. It wouldn’t be fair to any animal to come into a house with an infant. I’d be so sleep deprived and cranky, I know I wouldn’t be in any shape to care for two new additions to the family.

Until the times comes for a new cat, I will have my memories of these three – Fritti, Lydia and BJ. Good cats all, crazy as hell, and the best companions I could ever have asked for. You guys will be sorely missed.

Fritti – 1992-2007

Lydia – 1992-2008

Beetlejuice, 1991-2009


A Non-fan’s Review of a Bruce Springsteen Concert

I went to see Bruce Springsteen in concert last night at the Richmond Coliseum in Virginia. Let me state up front that I am not a raging Bruce Springsteen fan. That would be my darling husband, he who bought the tickets and still has the t-shirt he got from a Bruce Springsteen concert TWENTY YEARS AGO. Oy. Anyway, here are my reviews of ‘the Boss’ in concert.

First, the short review:


Now the long review:

Okay, so we had just gotten back from a trip to Pennsylvania to see my cousin’s daughter get married. Honestly, I need to get up there more often, and it’s a shame I don’t because my aunt Adele is like the sweetest person in the world and she always has something ready for folks to eat whenever they come over, although we stayed in a hotel, not at her house, so we didn’t get to gnosh like we would have had we actually been the–

What? Oh right, the concert. So anyway, we got back from Pennsylvania the night before, and that was a nine-hour drive with two screaming kids in the back seat, and both Michael and I were sick with some sort of weird flu bug (yes, I know, you want to hear about the concert. Hold your horses, I’m telling a story here!) that had us hacking up our lungs like a couple of old geezers, and we didn’t get home until after 10 PM. So we were not in the best shape the next morning when we got up, and we just draaaaaaaaagged through the day until the babysitter showed up and it was time for us to leave. Now, the Richmond Coliseum is about an hour away from where we live, so that meant another road trip (joy) after the one we’d done the day before. Fortunately, we had a babysitter for the evening, which meant NO SCREAMING KIDS in the back seat. Even more fortunately, this was only an hour drive, which was good because Michael wanted to play Bruce Springsteen all the way to the concert and I did not because hey, weren’t we going to be hearing this guy in a few hours anyway? But Michael insisted so I pulled out my iPod and listened to Phil Rossi’s “Notes from the Vault” which is an awesome collection of horror stories and quite frankly Phil Rossi could read a grocery list and I’d get goose bumps. Seriously!

So where was I? Oh yeah, the Bruce Springsteen concert. Anyway, we got to Richmond and found a place to park that didn’t cost us an arm and a leg and yet still looked like we would find our car with all four wheels still attached when the concert was over. We parked and walked over the Richmond Coliseum and saw lots of people with wrist bands on milling around the place. The wrist bands apparently meant you had bought a seat on the floor. Only there were no seats on the floor. I know this for a hard cold fact, because that’s what Michael bought us — two not-seats on the floor, for the bargain price of $99 a ticket, not including those ridiculous fees that darling hubby got charged for the **convenience** of buying our tickets online. The **convenience** of buying online? What kind of assbackward idea is that? Of course it’s more convenient to buy online! Who the hell would want to stand inline for hours on end to buy a ticket from some snot-nosed rude little punk at the cashier’s window when they could simply buy the damn thing online? And yet, because we’re smart enough to buy online, we’re going to be charged **extra**? Have these people not heard of Amazon or iTunes or the rest of the frikkin’ digital age? Sheesh!

So anyway, if you had a grey armband, you paid for the privilege of standing for three hours on a hard cement floor while listening to ‘the Boss’ and his band play. And if you had a pink armband, that meant you were dumb enough to show up five or six hours earlier to stand in line so you could stand for another three hours even closer to ‘the Boss’ on the same hard cement floor. Thank god the babysitter couldn’t show up until 4PM at our place, ’cause if Michael had insisted on showing up that early to get a pink band, you’d be reading his obituary instead of this really cool review.

Which has not even gotten to the actual concert yet. I know. But I want you to fully understand what I went through last night, and if I had to suffer through all that crap, so do you. Okay, where were we?

Oh yeah, the concert. So anyway, even though we had floor non-seats, we had apparently arrived too late to get our grey wristbands, so we just sashayed over to the nearest door that did not have a line a mile long in front of it and there we waited. And waited. And waited. And waited. And then a couple of people who were definitely not anybody important showed up and pushed their way to the front of the line that had formed behind us and tapped on the door and some jack-ass inside let them in, and man, you could feel the air conditioning coming out of that place, but WE who were also not important but apparently didn’t know the secret knock on the door, could not get in so we just had to stand outside and make faces at the jerks who got in ahead of us and stood there ignoring us while they enjoyed the AC.

And then one of those jerks, a woman, came in and out a few times to smoke a cigarette right in front of us and oh that was precious. Look, a bottled blonde who’s so addicted to nicotine she has to come outside every fifteen minutes to blow smoke in our faces. Or up our asses. Or whichever direction the wind blew.

And this went on for half an hour until some of the event staff came out and everybody cheered. Only the event staff didn’t come out to let us in. No, they came out to hand out grey wristbands to those poor fools who had paid $99 for a non-seat on the floor. Oh wait, that was us. Yea, I got a wristband. It was grey. How lovely. And then the event staff went back inside and locked the doors again, except to keep letting out that stupid bottled blonde who just had to have another half a cigarette every five minutes. Geez! Not even a whole cigarette, just half a cigarette and she left the rest of it smeared on the pavement!

After another half hour of waiting, just about the time when the mob behind us started getting really ugly and talking about things like breaking down the doors and crushing everybody in front of them (like me and Michael), the event staff opened up the doors and let everybody come screaming in. Michael and I hurried inside and found our way to the non-seats on the floor and discovered that we would be spending the rest of the evening lined up behind enough people to fill a small country in Eastern Europe. And all these people were taller than us. And that meant we couldn’t even see the frikkin’ stage. So it was a good thing that there were these HUMONGOUS TV screens overhead, because otherwise we would never have seen the concert.

And Michael paid $99 a person for those tickets.


So anyway. We found an unoccupied spot on the floor and Michael claimed it and I went back out to find a potty (and yes, I call it a **potty** — I have two kids five and under and we’re still dealing with potty training so that’s what we call it, now go soak your head) and something to eat because we left for the concert at 4 PMish and it was now going on 7 PM and I was hungry. And while getting into the potty was no big deal — the Richmond Coliseum actually has enough stalls to deal with a mob of women all doing the potty dance — finding food was not so easy. Everything offered for consumption had a huge line going out the doors, except for…

Pretzels and Dippin’ Dots. And since I cannot eat Dippin’ Dots for religious reasons (and no, I will not explain that because if I did, we’d never get around to talking about the actual concert) I bought two pretzels and two bottles of water. The price was actually half-way decent, but for some odd reason (religious perhaps) the cashier would not let me have the tops to the water bottles. So I had to veeeeeery carefully pick my way back down to our spot on the floor without spilling two open bottles of water, which made me realize that it was not for religious reasons that they had kept the bottle tops; it was a marketing plan. Because if I dropped my water bottles, I had to go back and buy new ones. Very sneaky.

Anyway, I got back to our spot and Michael took off for the potty (yeah, he calls it a potty too), and then he came back and we ate our pretzels and drank our water and we…


And waited.

And waited some more.

Apparently the concert was supposed to start at 7:30 PM. Not. 7:30 came and went and there was no sign of life on the stage, or at least I think there wasn’t any, because you know we couldn’t actually see the stage from our non-seats. So we kept waiting and the floor kept filling up and slooooooooowly the actual seats started to fill up. Then around 8PM I heard a guitar riff and a wild roar went up from the audience and I jumped up and down with everybody else struggling to see the stage and guess what?

I saw a roadie tuning a guitar.

And this happened about eight or nine million times. Some guy would come out, fiddle with one of the guitars, the crowd would go into a feeding frenzy, and then the guy would leave the stage.

After about two million years of waiting, I decided to make another break for the potty. I got in and out in under five minutes, which made me think that if I could move that quickly, why couldn’t Bruce? But just as I was thinking that, guess what happened?

Yep. Another roadie tuned a guitar.

Eventually, the crowd got so big I could pick up both my feet and not fall down. We were wedged that tight. And wouldn’t you know it, some jackass still found a way to shove himself through the crowd to stand right in front of us. Not “right at the very front of the part of the pit where if you only got a grey wristband but not a special pink one that was as close as you were allowed to get to Bruce,” but right there in front of us. He was big, and he was religious, and he kept making jokes about “wouldn’t it be great if he held up a sign about some weird Bible verse,” and wouldn’t you know it he brought his PARENTS with him and so he shoved around some more until he made enough room for them to stand in front of us too! Wasn’t that special. Oh, but what really made it all special was that he ended up standing right next to me and that was when I discovered that I had a new, least favorite smell and it was…

Big guy who shoves people around and smells like rotting baloney.

Oh. My. God. The odor was just strong enough that if I turned my head in this guy’s direction, I could catch a nasty whiff, but not strong enough to make me vomit on the spot which actually would have been good because maybe then this jackass would have moved someplace else! But no, the best I could do was turn my head away and ask Michael (who has NO sense of smell) to switch places with me So I turned my head turned away from him, only just as I was about to do that someone cut the lights, and I thought, “Oh my god!! We’re all gonna die, packed like rats in this place!”

And yep, there was a bit of crowd surge as finally, FINALLY, the Boss himself, Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band, FINALLY showed up on stage.

And I would love to describe what the music was like at this point, but after the first opening chord, I was stone deaf and bleeding from both ears.

My GOD it was loud. Bruce came in and he hit hard. I mean, that music just felt like a fist to the face, and it drove me right back into Rotting Baloney Guy. Eeeeeew. And this went on for about 20 minutes straight. I can’t decide if it was just one really long song or a bunch of songs run together. The Boss just kept hammering at that guitar, and then Clarence Clemmens (or was it Clarence Thomas? I always get those two confused) kept screeching on his saxophone and some chick with big blonde hair kept shaking her maracas like there was no tomorrow, and Bruce had not one but TWO skinny bald guys on either end of the stage playing piano and keyboard, and those guys sort of reminded me of George Hrab, who is an excellent musician and songwriter and has never made my ears bleed, and you know what? I’d pay $99 for a seat, or maybe even for a non-seat, to see George Hrab (and Phil Rossi too for that matter) because I know I’d enjoy that show. But then just as I was thinking about how awesome a combined George Hrab/Phil Rossi concert would be, Bruce started doing high kicks!

Oh my god, no Bruce, don’t do it! Don’t kick! It was terrible! It was like watching my dad trying to stomp on a possum that got into his barn and ate all the horse feed. It was like watching George Bush trying to be funny! It was painful, it was agony, he’ll never make it into the Rockettes so my god why does he keep kicking, and oh my lord did the Rotting Baloney Guy just FART?! Oh! It’s disgusting, my eyes! My nose! My ears!! Why is Bruce Springsteen trying to beat the audience to death with his music?! Oh the humanity…

But. BUT! After the first twenty minutes of all of this torture, Mr. Springsteen actually did something that I thought was rather cool.

He stopped.

And took requests.

Yep. He waded into the audience (well not actually into them, more like above them on a catwalk, and I don’t blame him because quite frankly I think those people would have eaten him alive) and picked signs from people, and each sign had a request for a song on it, usually accompanied either by the reason why that person wanted to hear that song or some weird freaky decoration to get the Boss-man’s attention. And after picking up a bunch of signs and chatting with the audience (and he really was kind of funny when he was chatting, I have to admit), he picked the first song from the pile of signs he collected, set it up in front of his mic stand, and he and his band played that song.

And it was the first song I heard that night that I actually liked, and I will probably go out and buy it if my Springsteen-obsessed husband doesn’t already own it. It was called Stand On It, and it was a really good rock-a-billy song that I could have danced to if I had had room to dance. As it was, I was still squashed up against Rotting Baloney Guy and I didn’t even have room to breath.

And so the concert went. It was a lively show, and I heard some stuff I liked and the Boss did give a very enthusiastic performance (but my god, those flat-footed high kicks! **shudder**) and the crowd absolutely loved him, and I did manage to save some of my hearing by pressing my left ear against Michael’s shoulder. I would have taken turns with my ears, putting the left one down for a song and then the right one, but anytime I put the right one down on Michael’s shoulder, I caught another whiff of Rotting Baloney Guy and that sort of killed that idea so now you know why I’m completely deaf in my right ear.

Oh, and Rotting Baloney Guy farted at least six times during the concert and I think it’s a wonder that you aren’t all reading about how everyone who attended the Bruce Springsteen concert in Richmond last night died from asphyxiation or carbon monoxide poisoning or something. Really, something crawled up inside this guy’s ass and died. But not before making a nest under his armpits, which I saw every time he raised his arms as he sang along with Bruce. Ugh.

The show lasted three hours, and by the time it was over, including the encore which was a really rollicking version of “Twist and Shout”, it was closing in on midnight. We got out of the coliseum pretty quickly, found our car with all four tires still attached, and headed home. Miracle of miracles, we did not spend hours in traffic waiting to get onto the interstate. Someone was smart enough to bring out the traffic cops to direct the exodus and so we managed to make it home by 1:30AM to wake up the babysitter and send her home.

So, in conclusion, I spent a lot of time on my feet in overpriced non-seats standing next to a guy who smelled like rotting baloney and farted a lot. And if you see me yelling at my kids this week, it’s because I AM STILL DEAF from the horrendously loud but otherwise enjoyable music. It was a good show, even for a non-fan in a non-seat, and I would do it again but only if my husband pays for real seats and I have ear plugs and nose plugs for the concert.

The End.

Mommy Needs Personal Time

Let me ask you something, moms. How far would you go to get a little time to yourself? Just a little peace and quiet, some time to sit alone, drink a cup of coffee and do something just for you. Would you kill to get some time for yourself? Because I think that’s what I’m about to do.

This past week has been nothing short of a disaster for me. I’m still struggling with the synopsis of my novel, trying to write it so I can send the novel out the door to a publisher and hopefully get it sold before the end of the year. I’m getting nowhere with this however, because I’m not getting any time to write. My writing and my artwork are secondary to everything else going on in this house. And I’m starting to resent it big time.

I can’t recall most of Saturday, mainly because I ended up being so sleep deprived. I was up all night with Sam, I remember that. She woke up to nurse at around 2AM. By 2:30, she was still wide awake and fussy. Since I’d been up late and was dead tired, I woke Michael up and asked him to take her so I could get some sleep. At about 3:15 I woke to the sound of hacking and sputtering and crying. Seems my genius husband decided Sam needed to fuss it out so he put her in the bassinette on her back, completely forgetting she was still congested from the virus she’d contracted earlier last week. He, of course, was sound asleep in bed, so I got up and tried to nurse Sam back to sleep again. By that point though, she was too congested and so at 3:45AM I ended up standing in the shower with her in my arms, trying to steam the snot out of her. She eventually started breathing easier but still wouldn’t go to sleep, so at 4AM I took her downstairs, put her in her swing, and then I started cleaning.

I cleaned until 5:30AM, when I ran out of things to clean. Sam still wasn’t asleep. So I sat down with my drawing pad and pencil and started to sketch (and here I’ve been complaining about how I never have time to draw anymore. Silly me!). Sam was dozing, but kept waking back up every time she nodded off. By 6:30AM, I couldn’t keep my eyes open anymore so I took Sam, who was still fighting sleep, upstairs and tried nursing her again.

At some point, she and I both fell asleep in the bed. Michael got up around 8 AM, I think. Cassie got up shortly after. Then around 8:30, Michael headed out to karate class, leaving Cassie alone downstairs watching TV. I don’t like Cassie being left alone like that, so I crawled out of bed with Sam and went downstairs. Cassie watched Sesame Street. Sam snoozed in her bouncy chair. I lay on the couch nursing a pot of coffee. Not a cup, mind you. A pot.

When Sesame Street was over, I somehow got off the couch and started cleaning house again (because kind person that I am, I only cleaned the downstairs of the house at 4 AM so as not to wake up anybody sleeping upstairs). Michael waltzed in around 10:30 AM and announced he was going upstairs to take a shower. I told him to take a frikkin’ number, because now that he was home, he was going to watch the kids while I took a hot bath.

I vaguely remember the bath. I also vaguely remember dozing in bed for a brief period. I had lunch when I got up. Then Michael took Cassie to the playground so I could work on my synopsis for an hour or so. Only I fell asleep at the computer and dreamed about Elmo instead.

And that’s the punch line to the joke, folks. My darling husband graciously gave me an hour or so to write, but I was so damned tired I couldn’t do it. I think by the time he came home, I had managed to write two or three lines. That was it.

The rest of Saturday was a blur of breastfeeding Sam and managing temper tantrums from Cassie. Underneath it all was an almost overwhelming feeling of resentment. That feeling carried over into Sunday, when I got up early to clean house once again. However, I took my frustrations out on the dusting and when I was done an hour and a half later, I decided things weren’t going so bad after all. Michael took Cassie with him to church, then to the playground and the hardware store. I used the free time to sketch, take a much needed walk, and take care of Sam. It was a nice day, and I was almost starting to feel human again. Cassie was sound asleep when Michael returned from the hardware store, so he put her into her bed and headed out to do more errands. I sat down to work on the synopsis, and then everything went to hell in a hand basket again.

Sam woke up first, fussing and snorting and demanding to be fed. I sat down with her in the glider and continued writing while she attacked my left breast. It was a little distracting since she wouldn’t settle down, but I was determined to work. Then fifteen minutes later Cassie walked in and announced she was done taking a nap. Frustrated, I took both kids downstairs and brought my laptop along. I spent the next two hours trying to write between sessions of bouncing a gassy infant and distracting a cranky preschooler. I think I completed a grand total of three sentences.

You can imagine the rest of the evening. Dinner came and went, accompanied by the now-routine sets of tantrums and fussiness. Then the bedtime routine started, with extra whining and pouting thrown in to top off the day. Somehow, Michael and I managed to get the kids into bed without one of us winding up in jail. Then as he went off to watch the nightly news, I sat down at the dining room table and planned a way to get my work hours back.

Remember my initial question? How far would you go to get a little time to yourself? I made a decision that I’d go pretty damned far. I decided I’d get up at 5 AM if I had to, well before anyone else in the house was awake, and spend the early morning hours either drawing or writing. I plotted my whole day around that idea, and then made a plan to keep Cassie up and moving as much as I could during the day so she’d be worn out come nap time and therefore would actually take a nap instead of pop out of bed to drive me crazy.

I had a plan. I set it in motion. The next morning, I woke up at 5 AM. I showered, got dressed and was downstairs by 5:45. I was running a little late, and I still had to pump breast milk and get the coffee going, but even so, I figured I’d still get in 40 minutes of “me” time. Ha ha. Twenty minutes later, I was still swearing at the coffee maker and the breast pump, both of which had decided to piss me off by refusing to function. The coffee maker was giving me brown-tinted water rather than full-blown java juice, and the breast pump wasn’t giving me any suction. I reran the coffee and futzed with the pump. By 6:15, I had milk and joe, but only fifteen minutes left to work. I sat down with a pad and pencil, determined to use what little time I had left. Then Cassie came bouncing downstairs demanding a sippy cup of milk. A minute later, Sam woke up howling to be nursed.

The rest of the day went pretty much the same way. All my plans and hopes for stealing time to work were constantly fouled up by one child or the other. Nap time, which I had reserved for working on the novel synopsis, was a complete disaster. Cassie had fallen asleep earlier in the car, but as soon as we got home she woke up and wasn’t tired any more. Attempts to get her to lie down devolved into a screaming match. Then Sam woke up from her nap and that was it for work time.

That’s about when I finally hit the end of my rope. I just couldn’t take it anymore. I called Michael up and let him know that the moment he came home, I was packing up my laptop and leaving. Not for good, mind you, but I had to work. He could take the kids for the evening. I was going to the library to write.

I made my escape at 6 PM, the moment Michael walked in the door. I have never felt so free and so guilty at the same time. It was amazing how quickly I could get out the door when I wasn’t saddled with two kids, but I also felt terrible because I’d just abandoned my post and left my darling husband at the mercy of two screaming brats. Good thing my guilt only lasted about five seconds, otherwise I never would have made it to the library where I spent two and a half hours doing some blissfully child-free writing. I managed to complete two pages of my synopsis before the library closed.

I headed home around 8:45 PM. Cassie was screaming in the bath tub. Sam was draped over Michael’s shoulder, spitting up for all she was worth. Michael was struggling to keep calm. I almost choked trying not to laugh at him. I set my laptop up by its rightful place beside the glider, reclaimed Sam and sat back down to nurse. Half an hour later, both kids were in bed. Michael and I sat collapsed on the couch. When he asked me about my evening, I had to admit how good it felt to just leave the house. “Maybe that’s something you should do twice a week,” he suggested. I never loved that man more than I did at that moment. “Once a week,” I replied. “I want at least one evening during the week home with you and the kids.”

I’d like to say things took a dramatic change for the better after that. They haven’t. Over the past couple of days, I’ve continued to struggle with tantrums, diapers overflowing with runny green poop, malfunctioning coffee pots, and a serious lack of work time. None of this is going to change anytime soon. But I’ve made arrangements with Michael to escape to the library again tonight. I figure it’s only fair. Next week he leaves for Colorado on a business trip and I’ll have both kids to myself for six days straight. I want to complete the synopsis before then so I don’t end up going all week with this unfinished project hanging around my neck like a stone. That would just make me want to kill Michael the moment he walks in the door, and I certainly don’t want to do that.

I got up this morning before 5 AM again just to steal a little more work time. But now it’s 7 AM. The kids are up. The grind continues. I’m just holding out until this evening when I can make my escape from the asylum again. I keep telling myself I’ll survive.