Heather Christena Schmidt

Mom, first * Writer, second * Misanthrope, always

It’s cold and flu and cough season.

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I have had a cough for three weeks now. Obviously no longer at the point of being contagious, I have resumed regular life; although I still get dirty looks every time I hack or clear my throat in the grocery store.

You see: most normal and reasonable people know how terribly uncouth it is to go out of the house sick. It’s tacky as fuck to show up at a party, or worse – to throw one – ill. Similarly, it is not *taking one for the team* when you show up to work with your barf bag.

And your kids… taking your kids anywhere ill makes you a dick.

There. Someone had to say it. And it’s an absolute truth.

I remember a while ago, somewhere around the beginning of the fall – when the coughs and the colds and the stomach bugs started cropping up around the country – there was an article shared by Scary Mommy about a woman who went to her kid’s play with the Norovirus. I’m certain that the intention of the article was to be about how when moms get sick, they still have to struggle through the muck and yuck of parenting; it was intended to be a valiant tale, but instead it served more as a cautionary exaggeration of what extent some people will go to never take a day off.

It is true that moms still have to do stuff while sick. But they don’t have to do all the stuff.

The woman explicitly described getting off a flight on a business trip with a rumbling in her stomach, which turned into explosive diarrhea – not only in her bathroom, but in multiple and explicitly described incidences in her pants. She then went on, however, not to rest in bed or keep her Norovirus at home; but to go to her kid’s school play. Not because her husband or a friend or neighbor or classmate couldn’t just take the kid. Because she didn’t want to feel the guilt of missing out on the little guy’s part as Tiny Tim (or whateverthefuck the kid was cast as).

She claimed to have vomited in the bush in the school parking lot; and to have shat her pants multiple times while in the theater.

Now the thought of anyone going out that ill seems a bit far fetched to me, but let’s say – for the sake of conversation – she did.

My response to that is simply: you selfish pile of shit.

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There are a few times in which it is genuinely excusable to go in public while ill:

  1. If your boss legitimately tells you that you will be fired if you do not show up;
  2. If you have no sick pay and it won’t just be a tight month if you take that day off, but you will definitely and without a doubt be unable to pay rent;
  3. If you are simply heading to CVS to pick up your prescriptions or over the counter medications for said illness;
  4. If you really and truly and without a doubt are mistaken and believe your child is just faking it, having checked his or her temperature; and,
  5. Never.

I can think of a million and one ways to make it work while you are sick, in a variety of situations that people regularly claim they just can’t make it work. I just did it, myself. If you are a single parent or your spouse is gone all the time, you can still do curbside drop offs of your kids; you can explain to the organizers of the bake sale that you are very ill and will have to just contribute money instead. If you are the organizer of the bake sale, you still have volunteers that will probably appreciate you keeping your germs at bay. Groceries can always be ordered via delivery now. Three days before Christmas? Well you’re in luck, Amazon Prime is there to help you.

We no longer live in an age where conveniences are unavailable to us in our time of need; and to anyone that says that’s just out of their budget, most of the conveniences are cheaper anyway.

The list could go on; people offer excuse after excuse after excuse for reasons they go out sick, and seemingly none of them are justifiable. Many of them are rooted in being worried about what other people will think, or worse, an inability to set boundaries. And – for the most part – it lies somewhere between careless selfishness and un-compassionate narcissism.

I know a woman with several kids, which means they always seem to be battling some sort of illness. She takes her kids everywhere, knowingly ill. They go to restaurants, to birthday parties, to Universal Studios and Disneyland – you name it, they do it. I can’t help but wonder if the kids are pretty miserable, being dragged around ill; and her life becomes something like a roadmap for me of places I should avoid.

And just like the valiant writer of the Scary Mommy article in the beginning of fall, there is absolutely no reason for it. Your kids will not die if they have chicken noodle soup from a can for dinner instead of In N Out while they are battling Influenza A. And I’m sure the mothers of the other children at the birthday party your precious flower was invited to will appreciate you keeping your son’s contagious diarrhea at home.

It’s one thing when people are in that gray area between incubation and symptoms, where you are still contagious but not yet knowing you are ill. It’s another thing to have just vomited an hour prior to leaving your home.

The rules go like this:

  1. 24 hours after the breaking of a fever, for anything that included a fever (including a “teething fever,” which is actually an old wives tale – teething causes pain, that’s it…everything else is a coinciding illness);
  2. 3 full first days of a cold, whether a fever is present or not (viral upper respiratory infection);
  3. 72 hours after the last time you vomited or had diarrhea;
  4. PLUS,
    1. two full weeks of extra hand washing;
    2. two full weeks of minimal exposure to the elderly or immunocompromised;
    3. two full weeks of not preparing food for anyone but yourself and immediate family; and
    4. warning people you’ve been ill but are past the active contagion period if you actually have to do any of those things anyway.

These aren’t my rules, they are the rules of every health- and doctor-related organization and agency in existence.

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Here’s the reason why:

While it may seem like a quick bug for you and your family to get over, or a simple illness that wasn’t even very severe to you; it is a matter of life and death for another person.

There are so many people in this world, all of them with a slightly different health and body circumstance than you. You may think you don’t know someone with a situation that could turn a simple bug into a death sentence, but you do.

You do when you go to In N Out. You do when you go to your kid’s school play. You do when you talk to your neighbor while picking up the mail.

Your kid may run just a fever, but to someone with diabetes or shingles or cancer, they will end up in the hospital for five weeks on a respirator.

You may think it’s just a little upset stomach, but to an elderly man with a recent liver transplant, it’s dehydration and death.

You don’t know the health situations of anyone but your immediate family; you may think you do, but you don’t.

To go out knowingly ill, because you are hungry and want a burger; or because your kids are bored, and yeah they’ve been vomiting for a couple days, but the worst seems to be over and they’re getting stir crazy…this makes you a fucking asshole.

To take your child to their school party or team playoff with a fever or a sore throat makes you a jerk as well. As I read about that woman who went to her kid’s school play with the Norovirus, I thought to myself: my God, what if this is true? What if there was an elderly man in the audience that caught it and died because of this woman’s selfishness? Because she didn’t want to feel GUILTY?!

And this is why I’ve had it. I can handle the crud that comes into my house via my three adorable and snot-filled children; but what I can’t handle is watching people knowingly expose others because they don’t want to miss out.

So your kids are going stir crazy or you just want to get out of the house anyway – too fucking bad. Shockingly, life is not all about you, or your little factory of germs.

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I took down our Christmas decorations on Christmas Day.

I’m not even kidding, you guys. I did. Even before the grandparents were out the door, after watching the kids open an ungodly amount of gifts, I was taking shit down.

I’ve just had it with the clutter and the dust and, well, the holiday.

I know. I’m a scrooge.

We had gorgeous Christmas decorations. Gorgeous. Multiple trees. Beautiful lights. The works.

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But as the weeks wore on, things started to irritate me. The baby was constantly spreading the ornaments around the house, so every night I had to traipse around and find them all, put them back, then start all over the next day. Also, as we drove around looking at other people’s outdoor lights, I realized how uncoordinated and – I don’t know – sloppy ours were.

And then there was that whole fire thing that happened in the weeks that led up to Christmas.

One night, about three weeks ago, my daughter and I were on our way home from the gym and we noticed there was a glare from an apparent fire, still quite a way’s away. Two hours later our power was cut. Our entire county had been cut because the fire was rapidly spreading towards the ocean, and had hit some transformers along the way.

By 11 that night, my mother was on her way to our house, having been evacuated from her apartment. By midnight, several of our friends had been evacuated, many of whom tragically lost their homes in the subsequent days that followed.

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For two weeks, the fires consumed our lives. You may have heard of them – the Thomas Fire, the Skirball Fire… just two of the several that popped up around southern California and ravaged our communities like no fire has ever ravaged them before.

So while all of this was happening, there was no Christmas preparation going on, or holiday activities, because everything was closed. You could see the fires coming over the hills from our window, we were constantly wondering if we should pack things to be ready to evacuate ourselves. (Our town in particular was, fortunately, spared.)

Then there was the air quality that followed; which continues to be on and off now – even though the fires have pushed up to the north. People were stuck in their homes, the city hall and libraries were handing out free respirator masks for people to wear at all times. At times the smoke was so thick you couldn’t see very far at all; the majority of the schools essentially closed for Christmas break two weeks early.

Except no one could do anything but stay inside.

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What this all did to my house was leave a thick layer of dust and ash all over my beautiful Christmas decorations. By Christmas morning, I was just ready for it to be cleaned up.

So I took that shit down on Christmas Day.

While other people were sipping hot cocoa by the fire and helping their kids set up new toys, I was furiously packing up my Christmas music box collection, putting away the ornaments and trees, and dusting and vacuuming.

It felt freeing.

 

It didn’t just feel freeing from the ash and soot of those fires that seemed to cover everything in my house, including my beautiful decorations.

It felt freeing from the gimme gimme gimme of Christmas that it always ends up being about.

It felt freeing from the extensive list of social functions I had to put on a face and wear regular clothes to. The potlucks where everyone wore red, because everyone looks like shit in green; and the work parties where the entire Human Resource department lets loose after one too many cocktails, busting into a grind session on the dance floor in front of the CEO of the company (that. actually. happened. at. my. husband’s. work. party. you. guys. no shits.)

And it felt freeing from the worry that there was someone I forgot to gift to, or a vendor I forgot to tip.

Did you guys know you are supposed to tip your cleaning lady an entire week’s wages for Christmas? You’re also supposed to tip the newspaper guy, the gardener, the mailman, give gifts to all the people that do your hair and your nails; you’re supposed to leave out a bin of snacks and drinks for the UPS and the Fedex guys for the entire month of December too.

I gave my cleaning ladies each an extra $20 and a tin of cookies, and the gardeners got cookies as well (they smoke pot before they get here, so I’m pretty sure they enjoyed those more anyway). But the guy who ruins my newspaper every day, or the lady who delivers my mail opened up and damaged …they weren’t getting anything.

And a bin of snacks and drinks for the UPS and Fedex guys? Fuck that noise.

I think this is all really why I am over Christmas. And, in part, why I took down my decorations so quickly.

Taking them down was not only moving on from the tragedy and difficulty of the fires that had befallen my community in the weeks before the holiday; it was a big middle finger to the obligations and expectations I find myself presented with every year, and yet am finding harder and harder to continue engaging in.

After all, it’s about the meaning of Christmas. I’m pretty sure it doesn’t say anything about exact tip amounts or fucking bins of snacks for service employees that are already getting paid. Neither is it about getting shit faced at the work party or dirty dancing in ugly Christmas sweaters.

I’m over Christmas. Are you?

Ugh.

I am so sick and tired of people and their popular shit to be upset about on the Internet.

Like really.

As many of you know, Halloween was just a couple of days ago. I, personally, had a great Halloween. As in, I didn’t do shit. My kids dressed up in their annual themed costumes the week prior for a Halloween party at the tennis club (see below), and didn’t even decide to go trick or treating until pretty much the day prior.

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But my older kids are old enough to just go out with friends on their own, and the baby was way too young…I mean he probably would have had fun looking at all the kids out and about (he loves kids), but the last thing I wanted to do was run the risk of hearing some local asshole tell me “he’s too young for candy, it’s obviously for you.”

So I stayed home with the baby. We had not one trick or treater.

Sure enough though, the very next day I logged on to the good ol’ Facebook and every asshole was bitching and complaining about people jumping straight over Thanksgiving to Christmas.

I present to you just a few examples of the oh-so-clever memes I saw that morning:

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First thing, I get it. I. Get. It. A lot of people feel overwhelmed with Christmas, what with all the merry and joy and shit going around. I also understand completely that here in America, we love our Thanksgiving.

But there are a few things to consider.

1. America is not the only goddamned country on this stupid planet; really now when will you people get that?

The Thanksgiving celebrated at the end of November is an American holiday.

American.

Which means that if people over in France or Great Britain or Uganda or China or Iceland or – I don’t know – any country or province other than fucking America wants to start getting all jazzed and shit about the holiday season, why must we begrudge them?

The thing about the Internet is that it’s not an American-only thing, which means the constant griping and bitching about people skipping American Thanksgiving and heading on to Christmas on the Internet is seen by everyone, universally. Why should they have to listen to that shit? Why, I ask?

2. Did it ever occur to you people that the holidays are stressful, in part, because of how quickly they go by?

Especially when you are a parent, it is so hard to cram everything in.

There are the holiday events, the school plays (we homeschool, so thankfully don’t have those), the holiday shopping…oh wait, more holiday shopping, the outdoor lights, the indoor decorations, the Christmas parties with friends, Christmas parties for work, Christmas parties with family, nightly Elf on the Shelf nonsense, the cookie baking, the candy making…not to mention every day life and the onset of cold and flu season.

Life is fucking busy enough as is. Then you add the pressure and stress of getting all that other crap done for the holidays, it seems only reasonable that it would – or potentially could – be more enjoyable and much less stressful if we were given more than a few fucking weeks to get it all done.

3. Your reasons aren’t everyone else’s reasons. Narcissists.

There are people celebrating Christmas in the middle of June because they’ve been given one week to live and wanted nothing more than one more Christmas with their family.

That’s an extreme one, but can any of you get out of your own piddly lives for -like- one minute and consider that other people have different lives, and therefore different reasons for doing things?

Including getting geared up for Christmas early.

For us, our house has been a little glum lately. My husband’s grandfather – the kids’ great grandfather – died about a month ago, his funeral was just last weekend. It’s gloomy in our house. Beyond that, the busy season is in full gear at Nick’s job, meaning he’s gone or asleep for almost 18-20 hour periods, every day and night of the week.

We need some fucking cheering up around here, which was why I decided to let the kids pull out the Christmas stuff the day after Halloween, and why I cranked up the Christmas jams playlist on Spotify today while we worked on crafts for the baby’s birthday party.

And plus, my kid fucking enjoy Christmas. It’s OK for me to extend that a few weeks before Thanksgiving. Like really, their extra merriment is not a detriment to society. I promise.

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I guess I’m just getting sick and goddamned tired of everyone in this world thinking they can tell other people how to live their lives.

Or, if someone does something another person or two doesn’t approve of, that everyone and their mother has a right to question the legitimacy of that person’s decisions. Then it goes viral on the Internet and suddenly it’s like a culturally taboo thing to do whatever it was a couple people from the get go didn’t like.

And above all, I’m tired of this idea that we can all just make fun of and shame people into doing exactly what we want them to do.

So someone decides to decorate their own home before Thanksgiving. How in the actual fuck does this affect you? Really. How?

Does it force you to decorate your own home?

Does it cancel all of your Thanksgiving plans?

I cannot see any single scenario in which another person’s choices on Christmas shopping or decoration or Christmas movie-watching or Christmas music-listening or Christmas anything for that matter affects your, or anyone else’s, life. I just don’t see it.

Worry about your own shit. For real guys.

Repeat after me: it’s OK if people want to do Christmas early.

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I haven’t had much time to write for the last few months. I’ve written, just not on my blog.

Still, I hadn’t realized how long it’s been since I checked in with you guys until a couple weeks ago.

My daughter was playing a for-fun tennis match with a friend, and the friend’s dad asked me: “so, have you been doing much writing lately?” My response was plainly “no,” and then I remembered I had written the obituary for my husband’s grandfather (who recently passed away at the age of 90). So kind of.

But I couldn’t remember the last time I had written on this blog, so I checked and it’s been …well, a while.

I started making my usual excuses, the ones I always make when it’s been a while. If you read through some old posts, you’ll see them. I’ve been busy. I have three kids. My life is crazy. Blah blah blah.

Those things are all true, but in the past no matter how busy I have been, I have always found the time to write. It has been a few years since that was the case, though. For years now you could scroll through my blog posts and see little spurts of zany, fun, self-deprecating Heather, broken up by large swaths of absence.

The real truth is that I haven’t written in those voids because I’ve been living someone else’s life.

That someone else was so worried about what everyone else thought about her, she’d make herself sick over little things like what someone thought of her eyeshadow color, or whether she wore make up at all for that matter.

She handmade every Christmas gift for all immediate and distant family several years in a row, because  she didn’t have a real job, so what else did she have to do?

She made her family go for an entire 18 months without eating a single meal out of the house. Because mom’s cooking is better, and better for you (spoiler: it’s actually not, on both counts).

For a brief period of time, every free moment she had was spent volunteering in the community for organizations she didn’t give a care about, doing volunteer work that she had no interest in; fully immersing herself into the belly of the beast of each organization as if any of it had any bearing on her own life whatsofuckingever.

Every party was a blow-out Pinterest party. Every corner of the house was spotless.

Everything about life was exactly the way other people wanted it to be. I was living a life that was not one for me; rather someone else carrying out her life, which was entirely for other people, in my body.

What a bunch of shit.

This person that worried about what everyone else thought about her was the biggest shit of the shit. I’m certain that this came about as a result of years, now, of being berated and bullied by people in my community and immediate surrounding (that’s a nice way of saying “family”), but it also is the complete antitheses of who I am to always worry about what others think of me.

Especially over some of the trivial shit I worried the most about.

I’ve actually been so concerned with what other people thought that I’ve intentionally written blogs containing no swear words. I censored myself to be more palatable to people that don’t like words like “hell” and “damn.”

Then all of a sudden, I heard myself say aloud about a week ago “language please” to my dad, and I didn’t even recognize my voice.

Handmade Christmas gifts are shit too. Like literally and figuratively.

Really, who wants some crappy, homemade DIY gift when I could just as easily give them a gift card to Hooters?

And I’m not even good at making things either, like I would knit a scarf and it would unravel while I wrapped the piece of crap in a DIY Christmas gift bag, whose trimmings also fell off before Christmas came.

Seriously, fuck that DIY Christmas crap. It’s like ten times more expensive to make things you could just as easily buy anyway.

I won’t even get into the thing about the 18 month eating out hiatus.

Okay, yes I will. This one I am proud to say faded fast when I got pregnant with Andrew. Between being too lazy to peel carrots, and way too nauseous to consider eating any of my crap cooking, the eating out hiatus got turned on its head quickly.

That doesn’t erase the memory of those terrible, and costly, 18 months, though. I got this idea that it would save money to make things at home, but that’s a total and complete lie. It’s only cheaper to eat at home if you have one kid and eat Hungry Man TV dinners every night. Fruits? Vegetables? Lean proteins? That shit’s expensive, and newsflash a salad at your local salad spot tastes a million times better, and is considerably cheaper, than throwing it together at home.

Moreover, my cooking is about as predictable as Trump’s Tweets. You know they’ll be there, but how good/bad/volatile the reaction is always a gamble. One of my kids one night looked at the meal I made, shook her head, said “mommy no, mommy no” and straight up threw her dinner – plate, silverware, and all – in the trash.

It’s shit.

The volunteering was pretty bad too, because it spoke to that larger issue I have had over the past few years, that need to justify my existence to other people by doing things and impressing people. As if raising two kids, or just being Heather, isn’t enough.

Unlike the 18 month eating out hiatus, I actually don’t want to get into this one, because – frankly – I’m ashamed of myself for going there.

I will, however, say that to make up for those couple years of doing so many things I had no interest in doing, I plan to spend the next few doing absolutely nothing. Not. A. Got. Damned. Thing.

What’s left?

Pinterest parties are shit. Seriously, you spend like tons of money on food labels and dessert tables, for what? People to make comments about how fancy it is, or to not even notice any of your hard work. I’ll never forget the time we had my uncle over for dinner, and I made some fancy table layout, and he kept going “what’s this?” like oh my fuck why did I spend so much time personalizing napkin rings when I could have just ordered pizza and everyone could have eaten off of paper towels?

I get having a cute little layout, whatever; but at least buy things you can use again.

Keeping the house cleanish is still a sticking point for me, but this idea that when people come over I have to remove every speckle of dust from my shutters upstairs, in rooms no one will even go into, is for the bees. My home is the condition it’s going to be in. If you came to see it and not me, well then you are welcome to leave.

If you are in to all of this stuff: into the volunteering and the Pinterest parties and the house cleaning and the impressions and all – that’s totally cool. It’s just not my jam. No matter how much I tried to force it to be, I just couldn’t.

As the saying goes: you do you. From now on, I’ll be over here, though, doing me.

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Well. Where to begin?

I am now (apparently) a petty thief. That is if you ask the manager at the La Quinta Inn and Suites a few towns away from where I live.

I got a notice from the electric company about two weeks ago that our power was going to be turned out for a planned outage on May 30th. Naturally, being a mom of three and not having time for that shit, I ignored it.

A week later, I got a letter. Ignored that too.

It wasn’t until Monday, in morning of the 29th, when I got an email reminder that the power would be turned out on the 30th, that I actually started to think I should look into it.

Of course, I forgot about it until that night, so laying in bed on Monday – Memorial Day – I finally read the email to learn that our power was going to be turned off Tuesday night around 10 pm, and it wouldn’t be restored until the next morning.

In the normal course of affairs, this wouldn’t be a big deal. But with a baby and an elderly father living in the house, and with my dad’s bedroom and bathroom being at the top of a long staircase…I grew concerned. My older two kids, I wasn’t so worried about. They would be fine as long as I let them watch Netflix with cellular data on their cellphones. But what if my dad tripped and fell down the stairs and my phone had died and I couldn’t call 9-1-1? What if the baby woke up sick and I couldn’t find the thermometer in the closet or see the proper dosage of Tylenol on the package because we literally had one Yankee candle with – maybe – an hour’s worth of wick?

So I started scavenging around the house to look for lanterns, flashlights, emergency candles…anything…only to come up empty handed and pretty freaked out. (I know, I know…I need to become a survivalist and stock up on that shit. Seismologists say The Big One is going to hit Southern California any day now – be it an earthquake or a nuclear bomb from North Korea, so certainly I should be more prepared…)

I went around and came up with a conservative estimate on what we could get by with on candles and flashlights, and added it all up in this epic grocery list that added extra errands to my day …and about two hours into this whole endeavor, I realized this was all bullshit anyway, so I said screw it – I’m booking us a hotel room for the night.

Now my aunt and uncle occasionally come to visit us, and when they do they always bring their dog. Since we have no extra rooms, they have to find a dog-friendly hotel, and for years they’ve been raving that the La Quinta Inn and Suites two towns over is not only reasonable in price, but dog friendly and a pretty nice hotel.

I – on the contrary – would not normally stay in a La Quinta Inn and Suites. That’s just me, I have a preference for where I stay (Marriotts or Hyatts, sure fine – I’m a snob); and I’d wager to say that I have traveled enough and had so many bad experiences in hotels to know to stick to my go-tos. However, with this circumstance, we needed to bring the dog, and because of the shortness of time to get it all together, I figured – why not? How bad could something other than a Marriott or Hyatt be. HOW BAD?! – I reasoned as I drove over there, checked in to a room, and unloaded our things.

HOW AWFUL COULD THIS GET?! IT’S ONLY ONE NIGHT!

Well.

I drove back home after checking us in, because my kids had tennis and other miscellaneous crap going on around town. Finally, around 8 pm my dad, the baby, the two kids and the dog, all got loaded in the car and we barreled 13 miles down the highway to the La Quinta Inn and Suites. Two towns over from my amazing, protected, safe and secure home.

My kids were like “yah! it’s like a mini vacation!!” And my dad – who had just gotten back from being out of town for the weekend at a conference – was like “sweet – another night in a comfortable bed!” And I was just like “well, it isn’t a Marriott or Hyatt…but really, it’s one night…HOW BAD COULD IT BE?!”

As we parked, we were stalled in getting to our room because there was a drug arrest happening on the walkway.

Nevertheless, we got into our room, with two beds and a bathroom (all they had available – so each kid slept with an adult, while the baby slept in his rocker-sleeper…my husband was, of course, at work on overnight shift). We took photos of the baby at his first hotel stay, and posted them to his Instagram page. We popped popcorn and got into pajamas. Watched Hulu on my computer. It was, for all intents and purposes our usual evening routine.

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Until we woke up in the middle of the night to doors upstairs slamming and people in the corridors screaming.

This morning, we got up, got dressed, packed up the car…kindly said hello to the couple making out against their red pick up truck right outside our room…checked out of the room at exactly 8:15 am…and headed off to breakfast.

It was over. We survived. It was no Marriott or Hyatt, but no one died. And our power outage problems had, in fact, been averted.

Around noon, my phone started ringing from a number in that town, two towns over that housed the La Quinta Inn and Suites and happens to also be a town my daughter is playing a tennis tournament in this weekend. So I answered, assuming that it was the tennis club to give me her start time.

Them: “Heather?”

Me: “Yes?”

Them: “How are you?”

Me: “Fine…may I ask who this is…?”

Them: “This is {garbled name} from the La Quinta Inn and Suites. Why did you leave your hotel room door open upon check out?”

Me: “Um…I didn’t.”

Them: “No, that’s not true. Housekeeping just called and said the room is wide open.”

Me: “Nope, solidly closed it before we checked it out.”

Them: “Okay…we’ll call you back.”

Thinking nothing of this at all, I went back to my day. I actually took a nap, for about 30 minutes or so. Then I woke up and was about to get up to make lunch when I looked at my cellphone and there were tons of notifications from the bank – La Quinta Inn and Suites had charged me for hundreds of dollars in separate transactions, and they (the bank) wanted to know what was going on.

Good question.

So I called La Quinta Inn and Suites back and the gist of it is this: those people that I politely said “good morning” to, that were making out against the back of their red pick up truck, were actually thieves casing the place. They were there, waiting for someone to leave their room, so they could head in and steal a bunch of shit. A quick Google search by my husband found that it could easily be done with a copied key, possibly by an employee.

A microwave, a mini fridge, a coffee pot, and a big screen TV were stolen, to be exact.

La Quinta Inn and Suites, though, decided to charge me and when I went into it with them over the phone, the woman said – point blank – “we are charging you for the things you stole from the room…”

Um…

“…and we’ve called the police.”

If you know anything about me, you know that I am the last person you would ever imagine to a) be arrested for anything, ever, and b) break the law.

I was the coordinator for the entire neighborhood watch group for the 3,000-unit subdivision we just moved out of last fall. I still moderate their Facebook group.

Nonetheless, I started practicing my Tiger Woods-esque mug shot face as I waited for the cops to show up. And when they didn’t after about an hour, I decided to call them, and we went over the whole thing.

In the end, I did not get arrested, even though the police officer laughed as he told me the lady at the La Quinta Inn and Suites said I stole all the stuff.

My 13 year old daughter had to provide character witness for the people hanging out outside the room.

And I am now dead set that I will never stay in anything but a Marriott or Hyatt. Ever. Again.

To make matters worse, all the time this took me has delayed getting my Book Trailer uploaded…which means our BIG REVEAL has to be postponed until this weekend.

That is, unless, I get arrested for something else. Because you know, I’m now (apparently) a petty thief.

 

 

So I bought a Groupon last week for a local photographer.

Let me start by saying that finding a photographer worth the money around here is tough. The good ones are all working in Los Angeles, taking headshots of Justin Bieber. Out here in the ‘burbs, we have a conglomerate of people either licensed and way overpriced, licensed and trying to break into the Justin Bieber headshot business, or not licensed but owning a nice camera and doing this for fun but making themselves look like a legitimate photography business.

Nevertheless, I bought the Groupon. The reviews of the guy were great – five stars, in fact. I needed someone to take photos of the kids before they get any bigger. A deal seemed the right way to go.

So I bought the Groupon, opened the voucher, and contacted the guy by email, which was the only way the voucher offered.

The email kicked back as not being a valid email address.

I tried again.

Kicked back.

I emailed Groupon and asked what they’d recommend I do, stating clearly that getting ahold of the guy or getting a refund to my account would both be acceptable. I just wanted to get my photos taken I’d paid for.

They asked me to give them a day to investigate…

…let me pause here and say that several years ago we had a problem with a Groupon, and immediately they issued me a refund in funds to my account that would be good for a year. So them saying they wanted to investigate gave me pause.

Still, I responded: sure, keep me posted.

They then responded and offered me Groupon Trade In Bucks. The bucks would be applied to my account, and after I receive the email that the money was applied I would have 24 hours to use it.

This was – in a word – bullshit. I paid good, hard earned money for something they could not guarantee or deliver. Why, then, am I being forced to buy something else I may not be interested in within 24 hours to get my money back?! I had no problem with store credit with Groupon…but 24 hours to use it?!

Sounds like a scam.

It seems as though businesses are more and more getting away with this kind of crap – putting their hands in your pocket and showing no remorse when they screw you over. You go to the nail salon, they act like they are doing you a favor to give you ingrown toenails. You buy fruit at a farm stand, they hide moldy fruit under the good fruit in hopes you won’t check. This newest event with Groupon is no surprise, but being unsurprised does not make it right. In fact it’s as if people are so numbed by this kind of crap happening – money being thrown at services that are never properly rendered – that we’ve been numbed into complacency.

We just expect to be screwed over.

Several months ago, my husband and I ordered a baby changing table online at Babies R Us. It came broken, so we returned it to the local store as the instructions said to do. They ordered us a new one, and low and behold: that one came broken as well. This time when we followed the instructions, though, I said – enough! We’d been waiting for over a month for the table, and we just wanted our money back.

They refused to give us our money back, instead issuing store credit for the clearance price the table was currently marked at. When I questioned that, because I clearly had the receipt, they said it was their discretion. That was it! No more explanation, just their discretion.

I took the store credit and called their 1-800 number, and they gave me the same line but said they’d refund me to my card the difference and the cost of shipping we had wasted.

We never received anything.

Back to Groupon. Still, seeing no other options, I replied and said that I would take the Trade In Bucks. I know you will all be unsurprised to hear: I never got the Trade In Bucks.

Not only that, I emailed them today and they did not respond.

I went to live chat with their customer support, as the site said that was the recommended mode of contact…when I put in the description of what was going on and clicked to chat I got the response: “Sorry none of our agents are available to chat at this time.”

I clicked to receive a phone call, my phone rang once and they hung up (I only knew it was Groupon because I Googled the number).

They then emailed me this:

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Calling me and hanging up after the first ring, then emailing me to let me know you called IS NOT A RESOLUTION TO THE ISSUE.

I emailed again. No response.

So I finally took to Google and found tons of people with the same experience. Groupon is now nothing more than a money grabbing scam site. Millions of people in the last few months, alone, have reported them to the Better Business Bureau and Consumer Affairs.

Then again, I feel like I have only myself to blame – I should have just clicked on the photographer’s website and seen how much this one wreaked of illegitimacy.

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Lesson learned.

This seems to be a greater issue, though. Not only that people just basically expect to be screwed over for things they pay for now, and companies (*cough cough* airlines *cough cough*) thinking they have a right to deny you the things you pay for, while still keeping your money…but there is another question about the legitimacy and transparency when it comes to online funding and selling sites, like Groupon.

Or GoFundMe, which is meant for charities or crowdfunding of a local cause or people in need; and yet people constantly head to it for things like vacations they can’t afford.

Or what about Kickstarter? A site that is marketed as being for innovative companies, and yet is often used for the antitheses of innovation – which people buy into, like the kid that launched a Kickstarter for potato salad. The kid did it as a joke and something like quadrupled his fundraising goal.

There. Is. Nothing. Innovative. About. Potato Salad.

Or the newest Kickstarter-abomination: RompHims. Rompers. For. Men. RompHims not only met, but largely surpassed their fundraising goal, and – like many Kickstarters – wasn’t to start a business, but to simply sell their product.

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Like the people that go on Shark Tank just to get on TV.

I don’t know what’s worse: the absurdity of what legitimately good ideas like crowdfunding and charity sites have fallen to, the scam that deal sites like Groupon have turned into, or the people that handily give over their money to all of it, no questions asked.

Probably the people, but I don’t know. I just want my Groupon refunded. And my family photos done.

3rkbux

I consider myself to be a generally flat person. I don’t mean that I am one of those robot people with no feelings. I just mean that I usually have one mode, unless I’m at home and no one is looking at me: laughing at everything.

Maybe flat isn’t what I mean to say. Inappropriate?

I laugh at really inappropriate times. “Oh yeah it was like the most dysfunctional family dinner ever, I cried for a week – HAHAHAHAHAHAH!” Times like that. I think it’s likely because I’m either awkward or an idiot. Or both. (Probably both.)

So I promised a release of the book cover for my fourth book, and here it is. Now it’s giving me feelings I can’t quite qualify, because of that whole flat-one-mode-laugh-inappropriately-even-when-laughing-isn’t-appropriate thing. I’ll just leave it at “feelings,” because the cover is a picture of the house I grew up in.

Which will give you all an idea of the content.

Also, the back matter makes me feel like a real horse’s ass (do you see what I did there with the horse and the title of my book…), because people have said nice things about my writing and – where are my manners? – I’ve sent no ‘thank you cards.’

So here’s the cover, and if you keep scrolling, you get the other thing I promised… a small excerpt.

Emphasis on small, I don’t want to show my whole hand just yet.

One more thing before the cover, though: another promise and an invite… join me on Thursday, June 1st at 6:00 pm PST (that’s 8:00 pm in the Central Zone, and 9:00 ET) for a Twitter Party Book Trailer release. You can RSVP on Facebook here https://www.facebook.com/events/211182979374387/ or just check in that night using the hashtag #datblindhorsetho …make sure to Tweet your responses to it that night too!

Classy And Sassy

Okay, so here’s the cover and the excerpt…enjoy!

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And now the excerpt:

…I come from a very long line of emotional eaters. On the surface, you wouldn’t know it. Obesity isn’t necessarily rampant in my family lineage. Some people are heavier than others, sure – but that’s more a statement of their general love of Prime Time TV than anything else. 

Nonetheless, I was raised on the premise that food solves everything.

I like to think that my family was the original source of the foodie movement. From the very beginning of my earliest childhood memories to now, all life revolved around what we were going to eat, who we were going to eat it with, and when we were going to get it in our mouths. Every food was coupled with a nauseatingly detailed description. The gastro pubs in Santa Monica today that describe a burger and fries with no less than twenty adjectives of ingredients and notes of infused flavor have got nothing on how my mother used to be able to describe her most basic chicken and rice dish. Daily life was filling, and if it wasn’t everyone was depressed or angry. Or both.

That isn’t to say that the food has always, or ever, been particularly noteworthy. In fact most of the time it was either mediocre or something akin to roadkill. 

There was always plenty of it. Way too much, actually; so much so that to think of all the animals sacrificed for the sake of all of those friend and family gatherings of years past makes me feel so terrible sometimes I think I should go vegan for the rest of my life just to make up for it.

When we lived in the suburbs of Chicago, we would occasionally visit this family that I never quite understood our connection to. Either they were distant family, like cousins, or friends of the family so close they may as well be family. Nonetheless, it was more than a want, but rather a social obligation, that we visit them frequently. 

Because a lot of people would come to their gatherings, and they lived in a relatively small place, they’d always serve the food in the basement. By the dim, fluorescent lights, flickering on the verge of burning out, we’d line up in front of the table and fill our Dollar Store paper plates to the brim with the same nine dishes. Every time, each of these nine dishes were essential to the meal:

1. Something that looked like a turkey casserole and I’m fairly certain had peas in it. Not sure it really had any meat in it at all, but it tasted like turkey;

2. Baked ziti. I know this sounds wonderful – because really, who doesn’t love baked ziti? Well if you ever tried this baked ziti you’d know that it is possible to dislike the dish, and it’s simply because it was made with jars of Ragu;

3. Bologna sandwiches slathered in mayonnaise and American cheese spread;

4. Fruit slush. I never really understood this one. Supposedly a fruit salad, this was canned fruit mashed and mixed with ginger ale, then frozen and slightly defrosted. A jar of Maraschino cherries was added to the mix and this is what we ate for the fruit and vegetable portion of the meal;

5. Pistachio Jell-o salad. Because at this point, the meal just felt entirely incomplete without it;

6. Baked beans, always – and without fail – served in a crockpot. Special attention was paid each time to making sure the crockpot could remain plugged in after it had been transferred from the kitchen to the basement. Baked beans just ain’t right if not pipin’ hot;

7. Tortilla chips with dip. The dip was an 8 ounce block of regular Philadelphia cream cheese with a jar of Pace Picante sauce poured over the top of it;

8. Store brand sandwich cookies;

9. None of you will believe this, because it just seems so cliche, but the final and perhaps most important part of the meal was a mixed piece bucket of KFC original recipe chicken. 

By contrast, I recently was in the unfortunate position of having to attend my sister in law’s baby shower and the food was only a side note. I was totally – and completely – out of my element. Not that I cared much, I don’t usually eat much at these types of gatherings anyway. Maybe it was the years of crockpots full of baked beans and fruit slush that did me in, I just learned to pick at the offerings sparingly and eat a salad once I got home.

But at this baby shower, where typically I would have seen an entire spread of foods from deviled eggs to more deviled eggs, to some other types of eggs that appeared deviled but also looked sort of green; plus the other array of foods like the ones listed above – instead there was a small plate of sandwiches and another small plate with carrots. That was it. All in all there were about fifty people in attendance, with maybe ten sandwiches on the plate.

At that baby shower, people were hungry. Here they had sacrificed their Sundays to come, pay homage to the to-be mother; spent a minimum of fifty dollars per person on a gift, and all they got was a goddamned carrot. Maybe. Maybe only a sandwich – if they were lucky. Some people got a piece of cake, but that was insufficient in size as well. (And oh man what people would have said if they knew that they almost weren’t going to have a cake.)

For myself, I sucked back the Cooks champagne and patted myself on the back for having eaten beforehand, assuming it would be the usual assortment of KFC mixed buckets and baked beans by the crockpot.

I had never seen anything like it, and apparently no one else there had either.

Attitudes started to turn within the first hour, and it was again made clear to me that people eat away all their frustrations and social anxieties at these things. Maybe beyond that, into their daily lives. It keeps people happy. It calms down the dramatics. Helps you forgive people for excluding you from a wedding, or for not keeping in contact all the years. 

It was that day that I finally accepted that ultimate truth into my heart, once and for all: eating really does solve everything.