The Way to my Heart

It’s no secret that I am not one who believes in the whole fairy tale version of love and romance.

It’s great in a novel – heck, I was even a guest author in a romance collection recently.

But in real life, it just never happens the way we expect it to.

Maybe, just maybe it is because my husband is not romantic at all.

His idea of a birthday gift once was “not riding his bike” so he could spend the day with me.

I rolled my eyes so hard I am surprised they aren’t still in the back of my head.

He has always struggled with getting cards that were meaningful until our child was able to read. Cole has been picking out cards for years now.

Someone complimented me on my anniversary gift – a necklace — recently and I told them it was a vast improvement over the years.

“He has bought me some really bad jewelry in the past,” I said.

“Is there such a thing?” the lady asked half-joking.

“Oh, trust me. There is.”

In addition to not being one of those puffy heart romantic girls, I am also not one who is enamored with diamonds or expensive jewels.
Nope. Give me silver and turquoise or costume jewelry any day over diamond. Or some rocks that were just mined out of a bucket – even better.

And definitely not any pawn shop jewelry, like Lamar tried when he was looking for my engagement ring.

“I can get you more diamond for less money in here,” he said as he was leading me in the store.

“You think you are going to get me some used borrowed love? Seriously?”

I didn’t care about his logic. He tried to justify he could get me a bigger ring at a pawn store. I argued I did not care about carats or clarity; I would rather have something I could use than a piece of jewelry. But he thought he needed to get me a “big hunk of diamond,” as he called it.
“Oh, that’s so sweet,” the lady said. “You must have known he was the one when he said that!”

Not exactly.

“No, I tried to break up with him not long after that,” I said.

“What? Why?”
Well, remember the whole “I didn’t go bike riding” gift he gave me? That was after we were married.

When we were dating, he spent one whole Sunday riding his bike.

And it was a rare Sunday I had off.

I usually worked every Sunday and had looked forward to a day when we both were off and could spend time together.

After I had dressed for the day, I had called him and got his voice mail.
“Hey…just giving you a call. Wanted to see what you wanted to do today. Didn’t know if you wanted me to cook or if you wanted to go out to eat. Call me when you get this.”

I left that at around 10 a.m.

A few hours went by. He had not called. Maybe he was taking care of the dogs.

I left another message around 2:30.
“Just wanted to check in and see what we were going to do today. Call me.”

I had food thawing I could cook but hadn’t ate all day because I wasn’t sure what he wanted to do.

A few more hours passed with no call.
“I am worried about you…please call me.”

This is why I come across as someone who doesn’t care; my anxiety and worry can make me look like I need a Lifetime movie based on my actions.  I immediately thought the worst-case scenario and started panicking.

Then, I realized, he was probably riding his bike.

His bike. On the rare day we both had a day off.

My last message was, “Hey. I don’t think is going to work. At all. So don’t worry about calling me back. In fact, just delete my number out of your phone. I don’t want to hear from you ever again.”

An hour later, he called. “What?”

“I have nothing to say!” I said and hung up the phone.
I’m telling y’all; the drama was so thick, I needed my own Lifetime movie.

Fifteen minutes later, he showed up at my apartment.

“Why are you here?” I asked.

“We’re going to talk this out. I don’t want us to break up so we are going to work through this.”
This is probably the most this man has ever said in one-time frame in 14 years.

“There’s nothing to talk about.”

He walked in my office and sat down on the couch. To make it even worse, Pepper, my evil beagle, hopped up beside him as if taking sides. Little traitor.

“I just don’t think this is going to work out. I think we want different things in life; we have different goals, we don’t see things the same way…” I rattled off a lengthy list of proof as to why we needed to go ahead and pull the relationship plug.

He looked at me for a second before asking, “Are you hungry?”

“What?”

“Are you hungry? What have you eaten today?”

I frowned. “I had coffee this morning but didn’t eat because I was waiting on you.”
“So all you have had is coffee?”

I nodded.

“How about we go get some food and then you can break up with me.”
“What kind of food….”

“You want Pizza Hut? They have that cheese stuffed crust now. I will even take you to Dairy Queen for dessert.”
Over Blizzards sitting on the tailgate of his truck, he asked me if I was still going to break up with him.

I told him I had tabled the idea for the time being.

I mean, it was Pizza Hut and Dairy Queen. How could anyone turn that down?
More importantly, how was I skinny back then if that is what I ate?

Jewelry and diamonds do not win me over. Apparently, the best way to my heart is to feed me.

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The annual return transit of the Pumpkin Spice Latte

My favorite season is fall. In fact, I wish it could be fall all year.

Bonfires, cooler weather, the leaves changing to burgundy, rust, and gold, and -even though I could care less – college football.

Despite all the fall things that bring me great joy, there is one thing that has wormed its way the seasonal landscape that makes me cringe: pumpkin spice lattes.

And everything flavored pumpkin spice.

Normally, I like fall flavored things.

Cinnamon, cardamom, clove and nutmeg are some of my favorite flavors.

When it comes to scents, my house smells like fall year round.

But when it comes to my taste buds and particularly my coffee, I just can’t do the orange colored concoction.

No, just no.

I tried one once, after one of my favorite baristas suggested it instead of my standard breve.
It was years ago but my taste buds have not yet recovered.

For me to say something is too sweet is rare – but this was too sweet.

I made the mistake of taking the lid off and seeing the orange color. The only acceptable colors for coffee are black and a cream-lightened version of that.

The atrocities of pumpkin spice have spread to other things like a flavored virus.

Candy, cereals, yogurt -everything now has a pumpkin spice spin to it.

Even ice cream.

Mama got the ice cream last year.

The thought of it made me cringe.

The texture alone coupled with the taste would make me gag.

“It’s good!” Mama declared.

I told her there was absolutely no way PSL ice cream could be good.

“It’s the best stuff ever,” she argued.

I reminded myself her taste buds were old and she is a terrible cook so this may taste good to her.
This is also the woman who thinks bologna should be its own food group.

Months later, we went to see her. Mama was pushing her inedible fixings on us yet again.

She ran down her list: boiled eggs, some kind of half-cooked frozen chicken wings, tenders, or nuggets with various types of breading, lettuce she shredded and put in a bowl, thusly calling it a salad (nothing else with it – just lettuce), and something burnt.

She rounded out the list with, “And, I’ve got pumpkin spice ice cream for dessert.”

“You got another thing of that?” I asked.

Mama tensed slightly. “No, it’s the same one.”

“The same one?”

She nodded.

“Don’t you think it may be freezer burned by now?”

“Oh, good,” she said. “That will hopefully kill the flavor.”

“Why didn’t you eat it? You loved it when I first talked to you.”

Mama thought carefully. She had sung the praises of pumpkin spice far too loud and a wee bit too early it had seemed.

“Have you ever had something that at first seemed really good? Like the first time you had it, it was delicious?”

I had. But the first pumpkin spice anything was not it.

“The first bowl tasted so good. The second one, was not as good. And the third one…was gross. I think I hit the mother load of pumpkin.”

I couldn’t imagine how much a mother load of pumpkin would be.

“Why haven’t you thrown it away if you aren’t going to eat it?” I asked.

“That tub was a small fortune! I am not throwing it away!” she replied. “Are you sure you don’t want to try it?”

“Well, after that appealing pitch, I can’t see why I wouldn’t but I am still gonna take a hard pass,” I told her.

She tried to get Cole to try but his mama didn’t raise no fool.

And here we are fast approaching pumpkin spice season. Not fall, not football season but pumpkin spice season.

I keep hoping there will be a pumpkin spice shortage but alas, there has not been. At least not yet. I’m sure if there was, it would be the end of civilization as we know it.

We’d have to go back to eating other seasonal things like caramel apples and S’mores like a bunch of savages.

And even so, Mama would still have that tub of ice cream.

The Chocolate Concealment (6/8/2016)

Some of you may judge me for this. I know that ahead of time.

But, a few of you will understand.

And maybe you do this yourself from time to time.

It started a few years ago, when Cole was around 4.

I locked myself in the bathroom, hoping for privacy.

Cole, being part cat, tried to paw me out from under the door.

“What are you doing?” he wanted to know.

“Nothing!” I cried.

“I can see your feet! What are you doing?!”

He frantically started hitting the door. ‘Let me in!”

His howls were now becoming far too loud and would soon draw attention.

I had to do the unthinkable.

I had to let him in.

“What are you doing?” he asked again.

I swallowed. “Nothing.”

He sniffed the air then shot an accusatory glance at me. “I smell chocolate,” he declared.

I couldn’t hide it any longer.

I had hid in the one room with a lock to eat a candy bar.

A precious, precious candy bar.

Without sharing it with anyone else.

Cole readied himself to wail – what kind of horrible person hid to eat a candy bar and didn’t share with her child?

It wasn’t that I was necessarily hiding to keep it from Cole.

But maybe I was trying to hide it from someone else.

Like his father.

I quickly promised the child his own candy bar, or maybe a trip to Dairy Queen if he would keep it on the down low. He lowered his eyes and agreed, already plotting to get both.

Over the years, I found other hiding places but they have not been nearly as effective.

I thought my office would be ideal, in all of its cluttered confusion.

I successfully hid bags of Dove for a while, until my hiding spot was one day discovered.

When I reached under the carefully placed envelopes and magazines in the basket, the bag was empty.

Except for a few wrappers, evidence of the transgression that had occurred.

I gasped.

He had found my candy. And ate it.

How did he find my hiding space? How did he even know I had candy?

I asked all these questions aloud to the empty bag of Dove milk chocolate.

“I think he noticed you kept coming in here,” a voice answered.

It was Cole; not the bag.

“You kept getting up and walking in here for a few minutes. I think he wondered what you were doing.”

And, I foolishly didn’t hide the wrappers I put in the trash.

Had I really gotten so lackadaisical I didn’t cover up my tracks?

“I will have to find another hiding spot,” I said, sinking into my chair.

“He will keep looking until he finds it,” Cole whispered.

Much like Liam Neeson hunting down his daughter’s kidnappers in Taken, Lamar would sniff out every square of chocolate I had until it was no more. And he would eat it, shamelessly.

I have known for over 13 years now that I have to strategically hide chocolate from him. Lamar doesn’t know it but we almost broke up once over a Girl Scout cookie. Well, two actually. He came over one night – to eat leftover pizza—even though I told him I was near death and shivering on the couch. “I am just coming by to eat the pizza and watch some TV,” he promised. How romantic, I thought dryly as I hung up the phone. I snoozed on the couch while he ate the leftovers and watched some bicycling documentary on cable. Before he left, he had kissed my head and told me had already taken the evil beagle out and for me to lock my deadbolt.

The next morning, all I could think of was Thin Mints and Samosas – the fresh boxes I had bought on my way home and had been too sick to eat.

Surely, cookies and coffee would make me better.

There was one each left in the box.

Lamar was dangerously close to be permanently single that day.

After we married, he ate my birthday chocolate bar that our neighbor brought me.

I had hid it, too, mind you, tucked behind some condensed soup and other stuff that I knew he wouldn’t even give a second glance to. But he knew there was a chocolate bar in the house and he had to eat it.

Now, he was not only finding the stuff in the cabinets or pantry, he was brazenly coming into my office, rifling through the papers and stuff to find the chocolate.

I didn’t know what to do. Should I hide it in plain sight? Or maybe get one of those hollow books that people hide their valuables in?

“Mama!” Cole cried one day as he looked over the shelves in the pantry. His box of Little Debbies was gone, or rather, the empty box was sitting on the shelf.

“I put my name on them,” he said forlornly.

“Your daddy doesn’t pay attention to that,” I said, empathizing. “I don’t think he cares, either.” If he would eat a king size chocolate bar in a bright pink wrapper that read, “For you, Birthday Girl!” I don’t think a sticky note with the name “Cole” in permanent marker was going to stop him.

“You’ve got to start hiding food,” I said simply. “You need a hiding spot – one better than mine – and you need to hide your treats. Your daddy is worse than a bear.”

Little Debbies, root beer – anything Cole put back to enjoy later, like during one of his favorite shows, his father would find and eat.

A few weeks later, Cole found a small Coleman cooler at the store. It was just big enough for a six pack of Barq’s and some Strawberry Shortcake rolls.

It worked, too, for about two weeks. “Hey, this is a neat little cooler! What’s in it?” we heard his father say.

The other day I found a wrapper in the bathroom trash. I didn’t say a word, I just helped hide the evidence.