Stop Cluttering My Mind

Shannon Kernaghan Clutter-400 Stop Cluttering My Mind Belongings Challenge Culture Friendship Humor Lifestyle Relationship

There’s a lot of chatter about clutter. The subject is explored on talk shows and dissected in “how-to avoid it” articles.

When I spent the day helping a friend unpack at her new home, she told me she needs to hold a yard sale.

“Now? Why didn’t you do that BEFORE you moved instead of dragging everything to your new place?”

Too busy, she said.

I know what she means because I’m the antithesis of a clutter expert. The only advice I’ll give is to NOT take my advice.

When my husband and I decided to leave the west coast, we purchased boxes, spent days wrapping and packing, and hired movers to put everything in storage for two years.

Throughout those two years, we paid storage fees and insurance. When it was time to settle in Alberta, we once again paid movers to reconnect us with our belongings. After days spent unpacking, I was awash in a sea of cardboard – cutting, folding and hauling the works to the recycling depot.

Then what did we do? We gave away a third of those belongings!

“I don’t need this,” my husband said again and again, tossing the ski poles, thermos and tent-in-a-truck contraption into the give-away pile.

“Honey, why didn’t we do this BEFORE we moved?”

Too busy, he said.

But then he went overboard. Forget clutter cleaning – he was on a minimalist mission and started to purge. If there were two of anything, one had to go.

“Um, those are book ends . . . we do SO need both!” I whined and grabbed one from the pile.

Worse, when he realized we had two blenders, he gave away the cool-looking silver one and kept the stained harvest gold relic that neither of us remembered buying.

On countless occasions I heard myself shriek: “You’re giving away your fishing rods and all your gear? Everything’s like new! And your binoculars? Again, like new!”

“I have another pair I like better,” he argued. “And I’ll probably never use any of the gear.”

“You might.”

“Nah. Out it goes.”

I’d created a clutter-free monster! (I should have unpacked on my own and put him on cardboard duties.)

He does deserve credit for his philanthropy in finding new homes for his belongings because some items went to appreciative new neighbors and others headed to charity.

But then he’d toss out an expensive or useful object and I’d squeal in a high-pitched voice: “With what we’ve wasted on moving and storage for two years, we could have spent a month in Hawaii!”

If I had to leave for any length of time during the culling process, I’d point out my precious gewgaws and give him loving instructions: “Touch any of this pile, and you die. Got it?”

If I were a dog, I’d have territorially peed around my pile.

Once everything was tidy and in its place, and once the fresh sheets were on the assembled bed . . . I still wanted most of that stuff back. Being a minimalist wasn’t high on my list of aspirations.

Wait. I’m no better than the rest with their talk shows and how-to articles. It’s not enough that you might be dealing with your own clutter, but now I’ve made you hear my own rant in the process.

Mea culpa, and happy uncluttering. But don’t touch my stuff!

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Audio story music
“Repeater”
by ELPHNT

Don’t Sniff It on Father’s Day

Shannon Kernaghan Fathers-Day-scent-2017 Don't Sniff It on Father's Day Family Humor Pets and Animals Relationship

My father’s primary loves were his family, his pets and his television store, in varying order. No doubt that love toggled, depending on which source offered the most pleasure, the least annoyance.

Although I was less appreciative as a teenager, now I cherish the Saturdays and summers I worked by his side in “the shop.” There, I had a front-row seat to watch him operate in his favorite his territory.

His sense of humor was wry, often edging on rude. Since he was impossible to insult, he assumed everybody had the same thick skin. His guileless smile and kind heart enabled him to get away with more than the average proprietor.

I blanched when I heard him greet a customer: “Mrs. Finegold, what happened? You got so fat! Did you leave any food for the rest of us?”

“Such a kidder,” the woman said, laughing and hugging him. I don’t think he was kidding.

He was also a fan of practical jokes, whether on the playing or receiving end. One night my parents went for dinner with another couple. Outside the restaurant, someone had been sick on the sidewalk.

“Doesn’t say much for the food here,” Dad said as he gallantly scooped up the mess with his white silk scarf.

“Leon, what are you doing?” his friend gasped. “Not your nice scarf!” Dad eventually ‘fessed up to his prank: he’d brought along his own novelty store rubber vomit.

Trust was another strength my dad possessed. He’d hand over big-ticket items based on a handshake. Only once did a customer give him a bad check. After repeated and patient attempts to settle the bill, Dad drove to the customer’s home and took back his new TV. Solved! Um, he might have climbed through an unlocked rear window to retrieve it, but why sully this sweet tale with borderline B&E.

That same trust went for payment plans. Customers could have their new TV if they verbally promised to make regular payments. He accepted a few dollars each month until the bill was paid.

These scenarios were ordinary events during my childhood and teens. As an adult, I have a renewed admiration for my father’s view of humanity. A person’s age, culture, gender and income was irrelevant; my dad had respect for everyone. By the time he retired, he’d sold TVs to several generations of customers. I never grew weary of hearing their praise for him through the years.

Besides humans, he treasured animals. When my mother phoned our nearby pet store to find a remedy for our pet turtle’s filmy shell, the store owner said, “And by the way, Donna, your skunk’s ready.”

“That’s funny, I thought you just said skunk.”

“I did, the one your husband ordered? Flower has been de-scented and can come home now.”

“Over my dead body!” Mom said and quickly hung up the phone. Who surprises his wife with a skunk? We’d already sheltered and rescued a plethora of critters under our suburban roof, from dogs and cats, chickens and pigeons, to rabbits and rodents.

This weekend, do something special to celebrate your father. But don’t surprise him with a skunk. Brunch and a new gag gift should do the trick.

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Audio version music track
“Little Drunk Quiet Floats”
by Puddle of Infinity

Push-Up Bra under a Spruce Goose

Shannon Kernaghan Shannon-flying-with-Howard Push-Up Bra under a Spruce Goose Friendship Lifestyle Relationship Travel

Missions. We all have them. Some of us are driven to distraction by them.

Howard Hughes is a perfect example of a man with missions. When you inherit your father’s tool company and become a millionaire at age 18, those missions go from dreams to done deals.

One of his missions was to become a movie mogul, where he enjoyed the perks of dating Hollywood stars. He was also known for inventing the first push-up bra, specially designed to lift and separate the frontal assets of Jane Russell in The Outlaw.

Movie mogul and “star support” aside, his mission during the Second World War was to create a plane that could transport troops to Britain. Since allied shipping in the Atlantic Ocean was suffering heavy losses to U-boats, an aircraft was needed to safely cross the ocean.

Although Hughes wanted to build such an aircraft, there were wartime restrictions on metals. Hughes wasn’t deterred – he owned the Hughes Aircraft company.

To skirt the metal issue, he invented a laminated wood product called Duramold that was both light-weight and strong.

His wooden plane – nicknamed the Spruce Goose – took five years and millions of dollars to complete. Finally, it lifted off from the waters of Long Beach in 1947 to make its one-minute flight for one mile. Period. We’re not talking a great return on investment.

The last ignominious scoop on Hughes was that he holed up on the top floor of a hotel. There, he bottled and saved his urine, and supposedly let his toenails grow long enough to curl under his feet until the end of his fascinating life.

Paul had his own mission: to find that Spruce Goose. A Google search pinpointed our mission to the Evergreen Aviation museum in McMinnville, Oregon. Forty-eight hours later, we hit the road.

We envisioned a scenic tour of Washington and Oregon. Instead, we were trapped on the I-5, white-knuckling our way through non-stop merging traffic. We almost rear-ended a semi-trailer that slammed on its brakes and smoked its tires.

And while the I-5 was a direct route, it was a rootin tootin rough and rutted ride. We bumped along for hours. Paul said, “I used to be a boob man . . . until I grew my own.”

“Huh?” I looked over and immediately understood. “Sorry for your jiggle, but there’s always the push-up bra.”

We arrived in McMinnville to a wonderful museum filled with planes and memorabilia, in addition to the Spruce Goose. Better yet, all of the docents were retired military people who’d flown the makes of planes within this sprawling museum.

Except for the Spruce Goose. No one could lay claim to that behemoth. It was enormous and towered over everything. Inside the aircraft, I was in the belly of a whale.

After we toured and then did our damage in the gift store, we needed re-fueling. At the café, mere feet from the Spruce Goose, I slurped my bowl of soup. There I was, within cracker-throwing distance of a plane that put Hughes on the map. It also put him in front of a US senate committee for wasting so much government money.

While the Hughes missions are over, the lust for an open road never leaves Paul.

“What’s that, honey?” I say. “We have a new mission to plan? Sure, but first take off your shoes? I wanna quick peek at your toenails.”

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Audio story music track
“We Never Lose”
by Saidbysed

Beware the Grammar Slammer

Shannon Kernaghan Grammar-Slammer-400 Beware the Grammar Slammer Culture Deception Humor Lifestyle Relationship

Here’s a frightening thought – grammar is a window into your soul. It’s not what you say as much as how you say it. And it’s not only what you utter, but what you type into your computer. Yikes!

After reviewing the patterns of politicians, court witnesses and bloggers, linguistic experts can identify a person’s sex and age by the words they choose. Your choice of words is revealed by the pronouns, articles and prepositions you use as well as how you end your sentences because it’s oh-so tempting to end on “to.”

Apparently liars don’t throw around the “I” word. And they’re equally stingy with “but,” “without” and “except.” Those words make the lie more difficult to keep straight, according to linguists.

The analysis extended to the wacky world of dating. After studying 1,600 personal ads on a dating website, some definite trends have surfaced. Turns out women use the words “no” and “never” the most. My husband Paul heartily agrees with that summation.

“Honey, wanna buy a [fill in any type of expensive watercraft/tool/ toy]?” he’ll ask with childlike innocence.

“No, not now.”

“When?”

“How ‘bout never.”

Back to dating. Gay men use long words in their ads. Lesbians tend to use shorter words and write the shortest ads. Straight men use long sentences and swear more often. No wonder their sentences are longer – those expletives take up space. Based on the study’s 80% accuracy rate, this is useful info if you’re looking for love through the personals, unless you’re lying about yourself or your sexual orientation.

One of my friends opted for online dating and is now married to the man she met through the web. Since she had success, she sent me her Woman’s Dictionary for Personal Ads:

  • attractive = pathological liar
  • 40ish = 49
  • easygoing = desperate
  • contagious smile = does a lot of pills
  • New Age = body hair issues
  • sociable = loud and obnoxious
  • fit = flat chested
  • hot-blooded = sloppy drunk
  • needs soul mate = stalker

Obviously this dictionary is more about reading between the lines than analyzing the actual words.

Phew, I’m getting tired, and a little depressed by all of this revealing analysis. Soon I’ll be afraid to write anything for fear of being confused with a liar or a politician. Wait, that didn’t come out as intended . . . or did it?

I’d better go and carefully dangle a few participles before I get into serious trouble.

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Audio story music
“ERSATZ BOSSA”
by John Deley and the 41 Players.

My Beer is Child-Lite

Shannon Kernaghan Spy-on-Girl-4 My Beer is Child-Lite Beer Childhood Culture Family Lifestyle Pets and Animals Relationship

I don’t want children. My decision is not for physical or political reasons, or because I had a rotten childhood. It’s simply a personal decision.

I refer to myself as child-free. If I call myself child-less, it suggests I’m missing something, like a limb. On the contrary, I feel quite intact.

Well-meaning people have made what I consider dumb comments in regards to my choice. One woman said, “Don’t you want to leave behind a little piece of yourself?” She asked this while struggling to hold a red-faced squealing toddler in her arms.

“Not really,” I said as her son kicked her in the shins. Her face melded to a mix of grin and grimace.

I’m not geared for this kind of commitment. When Paul and I are out for coffee, I order a to-go cup, even if we plan to stay. What if I want to finish it later, or what if I want to leave? It’s obvious I’m not a fan of long-term leases or events that map out my future.

My biological clock must be set on perpetual snooze because countless women have told me there’s no turning off that shrill buzzer. But I’ve never heard mine. If I were a brand of beer, I’d be Child-Lite.

The other dumb comment I hear is, “Won’t you regret not having children when you’re old?” I liken this to being born with one eye and then asked if you miss the second. How do I know? Since I’ve never had the urge to reproduce, it’s tough to regret what I’ve yet to miss.

This subject of children comes down to choice and circumstances. Perhaps if Paul and I could put down deeper roots instead of always wanting to move or travel, I might have been more enthusiastic. And I’d probably be a decent mother, if the wonderful relationship I’ve shared with my own mom is any indication.

For example, I’d pass on sage advice to a son: “Don’t run with that stick. What are you trying to do, poke out your eye? You’ll miss that eye when you’re old!”

Or to a teenage daughter, “You need a bra under that top. It’s so transparent I can see what you’re thinking!” Um . . . perhaps I’m channeling my own mother here.

It’s easier to compare apples to apples. Or babies to cats. We had cats for years and I was absurdly maternal in regards to their well-being. I lost sleep, wept buckets and altered trip plans over our four-legged friends. Paul once chose a house “because the cats will love the screened-in porch and balcony!” But not everyone wants cats.

His comment is the most realistic yet: “If we have a kid, it’ll be the baby, the cat, and then me. I’ll come third!”

Is that an alarm clock I hear in the distance? Nope, it’s only the buzzer on my dryer. I might not have children, but I still have plenty of laundry.

So go forth and multiply. Or not.

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Audio story music
“The Emperors Army”
by Jeremy Blake

Mother’s Day Guns & Ammo

Shannon Kernaghan Moms-gun-4 Mother’s Day Guns & Ammo Childhood Humor Relationship

With Mother’s Day this Sunday, all of you children – and you know who you are – should honor your mothers. If you don’t want to praise her with fancy dinners or gifts of perfume and jewelry, try a refreshing angle. Use the opportunity as a day of confession to bring you closer.

I’ve named this year the Mother’s Day Air Clearing Event. The process is simple and I’ll demonstrate with a practice run.

Start by phoning your mother. Better to unload your conscience from a distance than in person because your mom’s dropping jaw and arching eyebrows will become too distracting. If you must be in the same room, remove all guns, ammo, and projectiles from her reach.

Here goes. Mom? Remember when I was a teenager and told you those purple marks on my neck were burns from my curling iron? They weren’t. Oh, you already knew? Then this confession doesn’t count. Yes, mother, same reason I wore a turtleneck during that July heat wave. If it’s any consolation, he was a really cute lifeguard.

Mom? Remember when you found a dent in your car and I played dumb? Turns out my friend, Julie, accidentally bumped your door when she drove me home one night. She was too embarrassed to tell you and swore me to secrecy. You figured that much? True, Julie didn’t come around for a few weeks. You’re good! Apparently you DO have eyes in the back of your head.

Mom? Remember years ago how I said the dog made that stain on your white recliner? Well, it was me. I spilled a glass of grape juice and blamed Mini’s weak bladder. I might have blamed her bladder on a few spills, now that I think of it. I know, you’d just had it recovered. What was irresponsible, telling a lie or drinking grape juice on a white recliner? You’re right, both.

Isn’t this air clearing a fun way to spend Mother’s Day . . . Mom? Are you still there? Sounds like she hung up. I haven’t even made it to the part about the kitchen fire or the sunken canoe. The news of her stained chair must have been too much for her heart.

Maybe I’ll save the confessions and dazzle her with a handmade card and throw in some verse. Dear Mother: Roses are red, Violets are brown, For putting up with me as a teenager, You deserve a night on the town.

My gardening isn’t any better than my poetry, which is why my violets are brown.

I hope the stores are open tonight. In an emergency, it’s acceptable to buy a card packed with canned sentiments. Hallmark and Carlton are my heroes.

Along with my card, I’ll play it safe and give her a day-at-the-spa gift certificate. Or money. I still owe her for that dent in her car. Love you, Mom.

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Audio story music
“Sand Castles”
by The Green Orbs

Caved In

Shannon Kernaghan Caved-In-4 Caved In Family Health Lifestyle Relationship

“He’s not waking, should we get him to Emerg?” a nurse asked.

“No, he hasn’t seized,” said another. “Give him a minute.”

Emerg? Seized? I tasted my morning coffee, now bitter.

He suddenly opened his eyes and yawned once, twice. “I was dreaming.”

“Welcome back, Mr. –” he’s out again, unconscious.

I took hold of his hand and they worked around my kneeling form.

****

From the beginning of Paul’s dance with doctors, I’ve sat next to him and squeezed his hand through the pronouncement of hemochromatosis. The first doctor said his high iron level – if left untreated – will make him sicker than he already felt, possibly kill him. Her laundry list started with cirrhosis and diabetes, moved to cancer, and ended with heart failure.

Heart failure like his mother at age 54? Bingo.

Until recently, she explained, the test for serum ferritin, the protein that stores iron, wasn’t routinely done. Worse, the complaints of fatigue and joint pain were misdiagnosed.

Listening became a struggle under her florescent office lights. I thought about how life can change in a blink. Our turn.

“Is there any medication to get rid of the excess iron?” Paul asked.

“No, only weekly bloodletting for the next six to nine months–”

“Wait,” I interrupted, “bloodletting as in removing blood?” She nodded and explained the phlebotomy procedure. Visions of a medieval barber with a sharp knife and collecting bowl were close to her description: take one 16-gauge needle, pierce into crook of arm and withdraw 500-mls of crimson. Every week, a Sweeney Todd donation.

When you give blood, you’re advised to wait a couple of months between donations yet Paul would undergo two phlebotomies in six days.

****

Because his iron levels were dangerously high, the doctor ordered another round of tests. We returned to the hospital where I sat in the lab’s waiting room. The murmur of Paul’s voice was replaced with a woman’s call for help. I jumped up and followed a second nurse through the lab door. Paul was propped on a chair, motionless, his eyelids shut and head tilted to the side. My only question: “Did he fall and hit his head?”

“No,” the nurse said as she draped a wet cloth across his forehead and pressed another with ice cubes on the back of his neck. His usual ruddy skin was translucent.

She pointed to perspiration that beaded his knuckles. I wiped them dry with my hoody sleeve. After several decades together, I’ve never seen him so vulnerable.

****

When I guide myself onto the rink, hand-over-hand along the boards, I balance on razor blades, not ice skates. Paul sits behind Plexiglas and videos my inaugural skate.

Skate to center ice, I see his mouth move as I totter past, my head fighting the urge to tip backwards. He waves his free hand, wanting me to give him something video-worthy.

No way, I mouth back. Instead, I reach for a nearby skate aid that resembles a walker, a gizmo used by many of the children. Quickly, I soar between pockets of people, even if my “training wheels” are responsible for this renewed confidence. I’m careful to avoid small bodies that race past, practiced and fearless during Family Skate afternoon at our local arena.

A toddler who grips his own skate aid slides near and extends his arm. Braden is stenciled in black across the front of his white helmet. He’s trying to help me. Then I sigh and accept his mitten-covered hand. With locked hands, Braden and I make a slow loop around the rink, his father following behind.

****

I rue the iron that overloads his system, the “Celtic Curse” genes bequeathed by ancestors on distant battlefields of lavender darkened by bloodshed, bodies hoarding iron to live another crusade. Today Paul rides into battle with a Honda Civic, not a trusty steed. His arsenal consists of leathers and a welding stinger, not a shield and sword.

He had to sign forms that allowed our health care providers to release test results and instructions to me. Otherwise, in this movement of perceived privacy, people on the other end of the phone won’t even let me set up his appointments.

It’s not that he can’t take care of these details, but I want to be supportive. The seeds of my advocacy were planted through more bouts of unconsciousness and a weekly series of painful needles, needles that poke and mine for iron-rich treasure. Needles that can’t always withdraw enough blood but leave muddy bruises, painful for days.

I have become lead researcher, studying labels to avoid buying iron-enriched products. No easy task as every staple I reach for is heavily fortified, from cereal to bread and pasta. Sayonara to the red meat he loves, and ciao to shellfish. I read bulletin boards written by my new community of iron-overload victims.

“How do you feel?” I ask after each hospital session.

“My chest feels caved in and my back has a weird ache. It’s hard to explain.” He no longer works on phleb days. After the hospital, he eyes our couch like a welcoming pair of arms.

****

In the dark of night I weep into my pillow, careful not to wake Paul. I worry about him, his future health and freedoms uncertain. Other nights I feel sorry for myself, forced to shelve our plans for a warm desert getaway. In place of travel, we brace ourselves for a grey-white winter of Alberta cold and snow. “Until we get this sorted out,” I say aloud, my mantra.

After lowering his serum ferritin level, Paul should need less frequent “maintenance” sessions and lab work. More selfish thoughts circle, buzzards: no more leisurely evenings dreaming together over a bottle of red wine as the disorder makes him susceptible to cirrhosis.

Paul is more stoic. “Whadya gonna do,” and he’ll shrug. “At least I won’t die like my mom.”

****

Paul waves me over; we have to leave for the hospital before the lab closes. He needs blood work done again, something about a significant drop in his hemoglobin.

“Dammit, I’m just starting to get the hang of this.”

“So stay, have fun. I’ll pick you up later.”

I face him through the glass. “Are you sure?” He nods. This will be the first time he’ll go on his own, whether for blood work, bloodletting or trips to specialists of hematology and gastroenterology. For ultrasounds and FibroScans.

I’ve imagined him going solo, in the event of scheduling conflicts. Cool compresses and warm blankets will envelop his fears – of needles, blood, hospitals – and a familiar face will greet him, call out, “I’m ready for you, my blood brother.” Tall and strong, he’ll walk towards that voice, that needle presented in open palms, an offering.

He leaves me on the ice, waving, and I feel unexpectedly happy, not only that I’m skating, sort of, but that he’s confident to go without me. I watch him walk through the arena door, sloughing off his own training wheels.

Spring 2017  Flare  – The Flagler Review

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For Marshmallows, White or Red Wine? 

Shannon Kernaghan wine-display-e1493578377399 For Marshmallows, White or Red Wine?  Drinking Food Humor Relationship

You know your partner has a long road to travel in the field of personal development when you hear, “What kind of wine goes best with marshmallows?”

I thought I heard wrong, but then watched my husband walk past carrying a glass of red and a bag of Jet-Puffed marshmallows.

I’m no more developed. “What kind are they, plain or flavored?”

He read from the package: “Six favorite flavors.”

“Then you can probably go with any kind. For plain, I’d recommend white wine.”

This is what I get for letting him shop without me. Instead of returning with bread, milk and toilet paper, he arrives smiling with ice cream bars, a box of Froot Loops and a bag of marshmallows.

“Didn’t you get the bread? Where’s the toilet paper? What about my list?” While plowing through bags, I realize that a ten-year-old would have made more prudent choices. Apparently treats packed with coloring agents and emulsifiers are now part of the Food Guide.

“What list?” he answered. “Here, have an ice cream bar.”

I’ve been with the same man long enough that we finish each other’s sentences. Sometimes I finish his songs. When he stood at the counter stirring a mug of coffee, I heard him sing, “Honey in my coffee, sugar in my tea….” He paused.

“Amalgam in your molars!” I called out. He doesn’t need voice lessons; he needs Splenda.

While still in the kitchen and before I stop picking on Paul, what’s the deal with him and my dish towels? Although dust can settle until I need a leaf blower to find the TV remote, I do need order when it comes to my kitchen towels.

I have towels for two purposes: the cute ones neatly folded on the oven door are for drying dishes while the faded ones under the sink are for wiping the floor.

I need to draw a better map because I consistently find my cute hand towels balled and abandoned in a corner of the kitchen after being used to wipe up wet slops and greasy spills. Or, I’ll find the pots he decides to scrub every Groundhog Day and crop circle sighting piled high on my cute hand towels. He could simply leave them to dry in the dishwasher.

My eyes invariably dart to the naked oven door. Dammit! I’m one Froot Loop away from attaching a short chain, like those pens at the bank.

I don’t get it. Was the man of my dreams born missing the Kitchen gene? If he ever had the elusive K-gene, it’s become defunct, much like the appendix.

Genes aside, I’ve a more pressing question: what does the Kraft Kitchen mean by “Jet-Puffed” when they market their marshmallows? Better pass me a green one and a glass of red. I need a hit of energy after all of this deep thinking.

And hands off my hand towels.

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Audio story music
“Sweeney”
by Mike Relm

Great Escape, Skimpy Dress Code 

Shannon Kernaghan bare-butt-cook-e1493311398574 Great Escape, Skimpy Dress Code  Humor Memories Relationship Sex Sex and Food Travel

A few years ago I read how a chimpanzee named Judy escaped from her cage at the Little Rock Zoo in Arkansas. She had her chance when a keeper left the door of her sleeping quarters open. Judy’s flight to freedom wasn’t all that dramatic, considering she did little more than raid the zoo’s kitchen cupboards.

But she disappointed me during her few sweet moments of liberty. Instead of hightailing it for the open road, she picked up a toilet brush and cleaned the bowl. Then she wrung out a sponge and wiped down the front of her keeper’s fridge. Turns out Judy had been a house pet before the zoo acquired her in 1988, so scenes of housekeeping must have been the norm. If I’m ever caged and have the chance to escape, sure, I might grab a handful of cookies en route to the front door, but I won’t hang around to finish any domestic duties.

I equate travel to escaping the self-made cages of everyday life. When traveling, I’m forced to leave my comfort zones, those familiar places that feel safe yet don’t offer much variety. When my trip is over and I’m back to the usual schedules and humdrum routines, at least I can enjoy the videos I’ve taken, the photos I’ve snapped.

My husband’s favorite shot from a road trip isn’t captured on an SD card but chiseled in his memory. The image he savors is from Arizona. The location is nothing as impressive as the red rocks of Sedona or the golf courses of Scottsdale.

Instead, it’s one where he waits for me in a grocery store parking lot. We’ve stopped at a little town and I’ve run in to pick up some snacks before we park our trailer for the night. When I exit the store he watches me grin as I walk across the lot towards our truck. I grin because the check-out line is mercifully short and the beverages are pleasingly cold.

He grins at the sight of my new cowboy hat and boots, tight jeans, and the 12-pack of Miller Lite I carry under each arm. I also carry a few bags of snacks. My husband won’t recall the snacks. Not when a woman featuring tight jeans and 24 cans of cold beer is bearing down on him.

As I spot his happy expression, what goes through my mind is, “Travel is really healthy for a relationship.”

Turns out my husband is thinking the same thing, in his own male format: “Shannon should forget to wear her bra more often!” There it was. We were on slightly different sides of the psychological fence, yet we were both happy. For him, all it took was a dusty parking lot and the sight of me holding beer. And the no-bra factor.

I have my own favorite snapshot, make that two, from the photo album. The first is one of my husband standing in the desert between two gnarly cacti.  He’s also wearing his new cowboy hat and boots. A few props are added to the arsenal – a frying pan he wields above his head like a weapon and a green chef’s apron. The next picture shows him in the identical pose, except I’ve walked around to the back of the cacti to take a rear shot.

Did I mention my husband wasn’t wearing anything besides his hat, boots and apron?

Unlike Judy the chimp who was returned to her cage after a dose of sedatives, I don’t need caging or sedatives for an excuse to avoid housework. Testimony is the inside of our microwave. It resembles an execution-style crime scene. And when I reached for the TV remote from our bed’s headboard last night, my hand came away gray with dust.

I wonder what Judy’s doing this weekend. Our place could use a good cleaning. I’ll even throw in some lite beer and snacks.

Find Shannon’s books on AmazonShannon Kernaghan books-row-display-800 Great Escape, Skimpy Dress Code  Humor Memories Relationship Sex Sex and Food Travel

Audio story music
“Search and Rescue”
by Dan Lebowitz

Good Vibrations

Shannon Kernaghan Sushi-model-400 Good Vibrations Humor Relationship Sex and Food

After the shopping is finished, Paul steers our car in the direction of home. My stomach grumbles.

Hungry?” Paul asks. “Where do you want to eat?

“I don’t care, you?” This is the ping pong we play on weekends, tired of the chains and the non-chains that taste like every other chain. Despite our lack of success (maybe we’re picky) I remain optimistic, certain the next restaurant will have potential. Stopped at a red light, I point to a sign in a corner strip mall. Coco Deep Fried Chicken. The restaurant is nestled incongruously between a violin store and a Source Adult Video.

We place our order at the counter and find a table to wait for our food. Both the flimsy plastic forks and the chopsticks are unmanageable so we eat with our hands. Soon, our fingers and mouths are smeared red with sticky sweet and sour sauce.

“Do you like this?”

“It’s different,” I say, pondering. “Actually I do like it.”

Paul holds up a half-gnawed chicken leg and uses it as a baton to motion next door.

“Wanna buy a dildo?”

“No!” I say, choking on my last swallow. Before he has the chance to look deflated, I add, “Maybe a vibrator.” And then I scrunch my shoulders and make a funny noise. Paul looks at me quizzically. This is an unfamiliar sound, one I haven’t heard since my friend Susie and I were twelve: it’s a full-on giggle. “Can I finish my chicken first?” and Paul nods.

The last time I was in an “adult” store was with a group of women. We were in search of irreverent gifts for a bridal shower. We’d toss anything feathery or penis shaped into our party basket.

The theme hasn’t changed much over the years. I spot several lone men wandering the aisles and reading DVD covers; a young couple scans a table of gadgets, items with silver studs and flourishes of pink marabou. Perhaps they’re creating their own party pack.

I find the vibrator wall and am mesmerized by the array, many of the toys as small as lipstick tubes and blinged out with colorful designs. I pull one from a hook – one of the “lipsticks” – and take it to the cashier.

Before we can react, the cashier pops my vibrator from its container and inserts the included battery.

“What are you doing?” I ask, not pleased that this perspiring stranger, one who’d just run her fingers through her hair and taken our money, is handling my new purchase. The vibrator buzzes and she give satisfied nod.

“I have to make sure these work ‘cause there aren’t any returns.”

“Good thing,” I say and hear that silly giggle again, now sounding more like the bleat of a sheep.

Paul whispers, “It’s not like I’m going to drive back if the battery’s dead.”

“Don’t worry,” I whisper back, touching my lips to his ear as the woman bags my purchase. “I have 99% isopropyl under the sink.”

“That won’t erase her image from my brain.”

Again the giggle. I like this fresh side of our relationship.

Back in the car, I relax against the head rest. A decade-old memory appears: my mom and I sit together on a balcony in Honolulu and my dad is taking a siesta inside the condo. I’m there to visit for a week, leaving Paul behind in Canada. Mom and I chat, and then she is quiet. I turn to her; she’s looking at her fingernails and grinning.

“What are you thinking?”

“I was going to ask if you wanted to play Scrabble and then remembered a funny story from last year.”

I wait.

“I wanted your Dad to play but he wasn’t interested so I said, ‘I’ll trade you two games for sex’.”

“Mom!” I shriek. This admission gobsmacks me. An occasional raunchy joke is the most I’d ever heard from my mother. Until Scrabble. “Don’t explain, no more, or I’ll never be able to face another tile!”

She tilts back her head and lets out a belly laugh, revealing a row of strong white teeth. From her eyebrow-raised expression, I’m quite sure they carried out this sex-for-board-game barter.

“Why are you telling me this?” She shrugs and then I start to laugh. My father shuffles outside, awakened by our noise, and asks what’s up. I can’t look him in the eyes so point to my chair for him to take it, and I disappear inside. I felt oddly hopeful for my parents.

Paul glances over. “What are you grinning about, your Coco Chicken or your new vibrator?” I shrug like my mom and smile. “Can we stop at Canadian Tire for a minute?” he continues. “They have a sale on drills.”

“Sure.” We both want our toys.

I’m pickin’ up good vibrations, he’s giving me excitations. For some reason I feel like listening to the Beach Boys

Audio story music
“Bounce House”
by Silent Partner