I love deadlines. Especially the whooshing sound they make as they pass by. — Douglas Adams

Coming out of the apartment building one morning last week, my sons and I discovered a medium-sized Huggies box that had been placed upside-down in the center of the sidewalk. On the bottom of the box, someone had written a message in big black letters.

“Do not move this box,” it read.  “Poop beneath.”

I ushered the boys past the box and into the car so I could take them to school, but I couldn’t stop wondering about the person who had left that well-labeled box on my sidewalk. I kept thinking about the effort that must have gone into locating the box, finding a marker, scribbling the message, and then carefully placing the box just so.

It seemed to me that it would have taken less effort to just clean up the poop.

“Maybe it was a practical joke,” my cousin suggested when I told her about it. “Do you think there might have been a hidden camera nearby? Did you pick up the box and look at the poop?”

“Of course I didn’t look at the poop!”

“I would have, just to see what kind of poop it was.”

Oh, well thank you for that.  What kind of poop? My mind hadn’t even begun to dive down into that particular rabbit hole, but it sure went there after that conversation.

Was it perhaps toddler poop? That would explain the Huggies box. Maybe a toddler was in the process of potty-training and just didn’t quite grasp the whole concept of dropping trou and making a deposit in the proper receptacle. The embarrassed mommy could have dashed inside for the box and a marker, planning on returning to clean up the pile after cleaning up the child.

I thought back to the days when I was the parent of toddlers during the potty-training stage, and quickly dismissed the idea. When my kids were toddlers, I was never organized enough to know where to find a box, a marker, and my child all at the same time. Besides, I was so used to cleaning up piles and puddles of baby-mess that I probably would have just grabbed a handful of wipes and scooped up the offending pile.

Well, either that or I might have used the toe of my shoe to nudge it into the nearby flowerbed with the excuse that I was fertilizing the plants.

I hate to admit it, but that probably would have been my chosen path of action in that situation.

So maybe my current box o’ poop came from an animal? There is a herd of feral cats in the woods that surround the building; maybe one of them was just too lazy to do the usual feline dig-poop-bury routine and just decided to leave a gift on the sidewalk. That didn’t seem like too much of a stretch when I thought about the “gifts” my cat used to leave on the steps — dead birds, headless mice, partially-eaten moles, etc. All things considered, poop might have been the preferable present.

But no, a feral cat wouldn’t have left the carefully-worded sign on the Huggies box.

A dog, then. A dog with a conscientious owner. See, here’s the crazy thing about my no-pets building: everyone has a pet. They’ve all gotten their doctors to sign off on a form that says depressed people need pets to help them get through their days. Apparently, we are an incredibly depressed building.`

As the only person without a pet, I can only marvel at the realization that this makes me the only person in the building who is not officially depressed enough to own a cat. Technically, this means that everyone else in my building is more depressed than I am.

Good lord, that’s a depressing thought.

I have so much to do, and so little time to do it, and yet I spent nearly a half-day wondering about the box o’ poop on the sidewalk downstairs. I could have been editing those final chapters of Their Love Rekindled or working on the opening chapters of my new Love & Destiny series; I could have been washing the dishes or unpacking those last few boxes that have been sitting in the middle of my living room since I moved here just over a month a go. I could have even worked on writing a few blog posts ahead of time and getting them scheduled to go live at convenient times.

But no, I had to sit here pondering the origin of poop on the sidewalk downstairs. I’m not sure, but I think that automatically grants me a PhD in Procrastination.

And to make things worse, I decided that I needed to look up the perfect quotes about procrastination to finish off this blog post. That took up a good forty-five minutes that could have been used changing the sheets and scrubbing the bathroom. But if I hadn’t done that, I would never have found this little gem from Nora Roberts:

My top three pieces of writing advice? Stop whining and write. Stop fucking around and write. Stop making excuses and write. — Nora Roberts

Yes, ma’am.

And so the mystery of the box o’ poop shall never be solved because I am getting back to work. When the mighty Nora Roberts tells me to stop fucking around and write, what else am I to do?


Looking Up

It's not nice to blog about Mother Nature!
It’s not nice to blog about Mother Nature!

When I was a kid, there was a popular commercial that proclaimed, “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature!”

Well, apparently it’s also a bad idea to write a blog post entitled “Up Yours, Mother Nature.”

About two hours after I posted that, my kids got home from school and came rushing in the back door nearly bursting with excitement.  “You need to go look at your car, Mom,” said the oldest.  “Your car may be blocked in,” the middle one told me.  “It’s awesome!”  my youngest crowed.

I’m not exactly known for my ability to move quickly, but I think I broke a few personal speed records hauling ass to the driveway.  And there it was:  the slab of ice from the roof had finally come loose and fallen.  At least six feet long, probably three or four feet thick at its deepest point; the “ice-jam” buildup that had been causing our roof to leak.

I don’t even want to try to estimate how much it weighed.  Suffice it to say that the thing was huge.  Massive.  Enormous.  Even when it broke into chunks on impact, the chunks it left probably weighed more than some of the people in my life.

I think we all know where it landed, right?


In our eighteen years in this house, we have never had an ice-jam as large as this one.  In eighteen years, any ice chunks that have fallen have landed easily in the flower bed, nowhere near the driveway.  For eighteen years, I have parked my car in exactly that same spot.

As I stared at the ice and my poor little car, I had a sudden flash of memory.  About twenty-five years ago, I drove my very first brand-new car up to Mount Pleasant to visit my friend Michelle.  I parked my cherry-red Plymouth Horizon (don’t judge me, I was young and stupid) in my friend’s usual spot close to the house, where a sudden gust of wind sent a tree branch through my windshield.  Never mind that the tree had been standing for close to one hundred years, or that Michelle had been parking her vehicle there for nearly a decade.  My car sat there for less than ten minutes, and Mother Nature dropped a tree branch on it.

Almost three decades later, she dropped an entire tree on my Ford Windstar.  Gotta give her props for that one:  my vehicle was a moving target that time, and she still managed to hit it.

This time, it’s a ton of ice.  Literally.

You know, I’m kind of over this whole “let’s drop things out of the sky on Amy’s car” business.  What’s next, a satellite?  A randomly-falling sperm whale or bowl of petunias from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy?

Yup, that pretty much says it all.
Yup, that pretty much says it all.

But this time, the joke’s on Mother Nature, because she missed.  That’s right; she missed my car this time.  The ice landed less than an inch away from my trusty little Ford Focus, close enough to cover it with snow and ice chips, but didn’t even leave a scratch.

Maybe things are looking up.

Or maybe I should just start looking up more often.

And Now For Something Completely Different

My aunts used to tell a really bad joke about a man who goes to prison. On his first night, several of the other inmates begin shouting numbers.

“Seventy-four!”  one yells, and the others all laugh heartily.

“Eighty-nine!” another bellows, and is rewarded with wild laughter and applause.

The new prisoner is mystified until his cellmate explains that the men have all told the same jokes so many times that they have assigned a number to each joke, and they now simply shout out the numbers instead of taking the time to tell the entire joke.

“I see,” says the new inmate.  He clears his throat and then roars, “Forty-two!”

When his attempt is greeted with silence, his cellmate shrugs and tells him that “some can tell ‘em and some can’t.”

Dumb, right?  But to this day, members of my family will giggle any time we hear the number forty-two.  That’s right, the Hyde family recognized the humorous potential of that number long before Douglas Adams decided that it was the Answer the Ultimate Question of Life, The Universe, and Everything.

I was reminded of the joke the other night when I cracked myself up by making a Monty Python reference.  My kids didn’t catch it, of course.  They stared at me, wide-eyed, and wondered why I had suddenly cried out,  “Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!”

Being a modern mother, I later talked about it on Facebook, only to realize that many of my friends have never heard of Monty Python’s Flying Circus.


Oh, my God.

Somehow, I got old.  Old and out of touch.  And, apparently, a failure when it comes to teaching my kids about humor.

But then a strange thing happened.  Some of my older friends started commiserating, making comments like “Dead Parrot!” and “Crunchy Frog!”  And I realized that my generation has become those prison inmates from my aunts’ joke: we no longer have to tell the entire joke or watch the entire comedy routine.  We just shout out a line or a few words from a Monty Python bit and collapse into giggles.

For those of you too young to remember the Pythons, it is impossible to convey just what was so great about them.  They were hilarious, irreverent, naughty, and oh-so-smart.  But watching the show was more than just watching the show.  It was an experience.  For my generation, being a fan of Monty Python was like being part of an elite, secret club.  Joking about killer rabbits or migratory coconuts made us feel so very smart, so cool.

And daring.  I think I speak for a lot of us when I say that our parents definitely did not approve.  Not of the Pythons or Benny Hill or any of the other British comedians that we watched on fuzzy PBS stations late at night while wrapping foil around a battered set of rabbit ears just to get the channel to come in.  Our parents didn’t get them, man.  They couldn’t understand why we laughed so hard about a pet store clerk refusing to admit that he has just sold a dead parrot; they didn’t see what was so funny about Spam or the word “Abatross!”

It was like a secret code.  The Pythons were ours.  Terry Gilliam’s manic animation and inability to keep a straight face, John Cleese’s constant air of affronted British dignity and Terry Jones’ apparent willingness to do anything for a laugh.  Graham Chapman’s ability to look utterly serious no matter what kind of insanity was spinning out of control around him.  There was Eric Idle’s versatility and gift for accents, and Michael Palin’s rubber-faced, wide-eyed cheekiness.

The Pythons have gotten old, and so have I.  I sit here and shake my head as I lament that there is just nothing today that matches the humor my generation saw in the Pythons.  Okay, I laugh at the Blue Collar Comedy Tour, and Rodney Carrington can make me laugh so hard that I physically ache afterward.  Jeff Dunham has made Diet Coke come out my nose on more than one occasion, and I’ve been known to laugh so hard that I have to pause the show before I end up peeing.

But it’s just not the same thing.

Oh, sure, the kids and I will snicker if one of us ends a sentence with “ . . . on a stick” or “Here’s your sign.”  I love it when the Big Guy sings about “Titties and Beer”.  But we’re enjoying the jokes, not fully reliving the moments.

Children of the 70’s and 80’s do more than just enjoy the jokes.  We relive the moments of watching the Monty Python show and movies.  All we have to do is shout out “It’s just a flesh wound!” or sing “I’m a lumberjack and I’m okay” and the Python fans will let us know who they are by singing along or laughing.

Even Margaret Thatcher got into the act once.

The Pythons taught us that comedy could be smart and stupid at the same time.  They made fun of everyone and everything, from Hitler to Catholicism (oh come on, you know you laughed at “Every Sperm is Sacred”).  They dressed in drag and made garters funny, poked fun at the Olympics and pretention. They could bounce from the most low-brow fart jokes to smart humor about ancient philosophers (sing along with me now: “Immanuel Kant was a real pissant who was very rarely stable.  . . ).

Crunchy Frog.  Dead Parrot.  The Lumberjack Song.  Sit on my Face and Tell Me That You Love Me. Ministry of Silly Walks.  Confuse A Cat.

I’ve got to stop now, before I pee.

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