Alexa, Hit The Pike

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My stamp of approval was never issued for a robot sister wife, and if I were to allow any robot to cross my threshold, it would be Rosie from the Jetsons. Rosie was both sweet and sassy and her torso doubled as a vacuum. How practical. But alas, instead of Rosie, Amazon’s Alexa infiltrated my home and I have been throwing hatred-laced profanity into her speaker daily since she arrived. Why? I’m 100000% certain she is a government agent that eavesdrops on my family to see if my foreign husband is a danger to the nation. (He might be a danger to himself when given power tools but that is where his danger ends.) Also I believe that slowly, that digital ho is trying to replace me and take over my home to which I say, “Ah hells no Alexa.”

My husband, the Turk, is an über technology nerd and he thought Amazon’s digital concierge service, Alexa, would be a cool toy. He loved the idea of having his music cued on demand and answers to mundane questions provided when he felt too lazy to Google them. I immediately said no.  “You will not bring that robo-tart into my house.”

“You know she is not human…right?” the Turk countered.

“You know she is a government spy…right?” I retorted. (One does not spend a childhood watching Boris and Natasha and come out unscathed.)

The Turk tried to convince me; “Alexa will make life easier for you.”

“Sure, life will be easier when the government and the world’s largest online marketplace know my every move. They can just go ahead and send me an order of toilet paper when Alexa hears me grumble from the bathroom.” There was no way I was allowing any government listening device in my home. (Thanks to my obsession with binge-watching The Americans, I do know where to search out bugs should the need arise though.)

I thought I was firm but somehow I arrived home to find that hussy sitting on my mantle.

“What the hell is she doing here? I thought we were clear on this?” I was furious, but the Turk assured me it was “Just for fun. I get rid of soon.” That was two years ago.

Repeatedly I’ve tried to put an end to this situation. I’ve unplugged her, hidden her and covered her with anything I thought might damper her receiving ability but even from deep under a pillow, she persists, “What can I help you with?” (And Alexa, if you hold the knowledge of the universe, how ‘bout you refrain from ending sentences with prepositions…hmmmm?)

Way too many times no one has been in the room and Alexa starts to speak. There are also times I’ve had conversations and later received ads directed to those conversations on my computer when I’d never typed any related terms into my search engine. The proof is solid that she’s a stalker but still, she remains on my mantle. Why? Because my husband is obsessed with his digital ho.

This winter, the relationship between Alexa and my husband grew deeper. He programed her to turn our lights off and on (including the damn Christmas tree!) by voice command. He has her at the ready to summons his favorite radio stations, both American and Turkish. She tells him how long his commute is at any given moment as well as the weather. She offers instant answers to mundane trivia. (Useless information is my specialty Alexa, back off.) She even tried to read to my children until I shot that down. Rosie the Robot never stepped on Mrs. Jetson’s toes like that. Backoff Alexa.

My family, sans Nugget, has developed a dependence on Alexa. Due to Nugget’s thick lisp, Alexa cannot understand him and in turn he hates her. “Vat Awexa thucks Mom!” Preach Nug. “Thee neber doeth what I want. Wet’s get rid of her.” Agreed little man.

But the others play into her hand. Number 1 begins each morning after trudging downstairs with, “Alexa, who won the Celtics/Sixers/Eagles/Red Sox/ Whoever  game last night?” Regardless of the fact that he is glued to SportsCenter before his eyes are even focused, he still feels the need to check in with Alexa first.

Am I jealous? Hells yes. Many mornings Alexa is the first “person” to whom my Turk, the world’s least morningish person, speaks. I’m listening as he sneaks downstairs to his automated coffee pot and whispers to his digital lovetoy, “Alexa…baby…turn on the lights you sexy goddess.” Ok it may be more like “Alexa! Turn on light!” but I know his intentions.

It’s coming to an end though. Last week I was struggling with Number One’s fifth grade homework. I assumed that since the Turk is an engineer and serious math nerd he could figure it out.  I left them to it and hid upstairs waiting for the moment things got ugly. (Because helping with math homework always gets ugly.) But instead of screams of hostility, I hear the Turk whisper, “Alexa, how you write an inequality for 7x – 9B <…”

“WHAT!?!!?! Are you asking Alexa to do fifth grade math?” I yelled.

“Yes. Is hard.” The Turk had no shame and I could see Alexa edging even further into my universe until Friday after school when Number One appeared with the homework his father and Alexa had completed.  In purple pen at the top it said, “Please redo and return.” (Note- the 3 assignments I’d helped with did not require a redo. Just sayin’…)

“What is this?” The Turk was indignant. “How I wrong?”

“First off, Alexa is wrong. Second, you trusted her. That is how you were wrong.

Alexa’s failure has driven a wedge between them. She let him down and I can see their relationship crumbling. He’s already moved on to his next toy – he’s making a computerized mirror that even gives compliments. (Oh readers, I only wish this was not true.) At this rate,  Alexa will soon be gone clearing the way for my Rosie with the vacuuming torso.

 

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Winter Break In The Hot Zone

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School breaks are some of the most beautiful and magical times of life…if you are a teacher. If you’re the parent waiting at home maybe not so much. But as a teacher, just when every ounce of patience has been sucked from your soul and you cannot muster one more fake smile when someone asks the same question for the 7,899th time, break comes in and whisks you away.  

New England is sensible and thus spreads breaks out in a manner conducive to winter survival. Instead of being stuffed in your house for two hellish weeks at Christmas, they save a week and give it back as a little gift mid-February. It’s brilliant.

February break beckoned me like a siren for weeks. I’d pull myself out of bed with the promise of an impending week of freetime. My kids shared my motivation with that same promise. We didn’t need the promise of a beachy get-away, just staying in our jammies past 6:00 a.m. and vegging on the sofa. (We’re a simple people.)

With the dismissal bell on Friday I was dizzy with excitement. Nine glorious days lay in front of me, whatever would I do? Should I catch up on Oscar nominees? (Nah. I don’t care about the Oscars.) Should I face reality and do tax stuff? (Probably not. Taxes are a buzzkill) Would I finally drop of that bag of clothing donations that I’ve been driving around with for two months? (Spoiler alert- I didn’t and I’m likely to drive around with it for another 3 months.) It didn’t matter what I planned because I had time for everything.

Break got off to a nice start with a snowstorm. Number 1 and I sledded down our massive driveway until it morphed into an ice slide and my old ass required a dog sled to get back to the top. Nugget, who isn’t a fan of cold or snow,  made about two runs, both on my lap. As our saucer sled picked up speed that might rival an Indy car, trees rushed towards us and I sacrificed myself (and my ski pants) to save Nugget. When we’d completed our roll to safety Nugget shook himself back to sanity, “What da hell Mom?”

“Well Nugs, force equals mass times acceleration. We had a lot of mass on that run thus our acceleration was greatly increased.”  As often happens in our house, the 5 year-old understood physics well enough to nod in agreement. Science is our jam.

We filled our break with a sprinkling of playdates, television, sugary baked goods and lots of reading for Mom. This is where things took a bad turn. During an early morning news perusal, I learned the National Geographic channel is releasing a new docudrama and I have a freakish adoration of the NatGeo docudrama. This one is based on the 2001 classic book, The Hot Zone. Immediately, I decided that would be my winter break reading. I like to be prepared for my docudramas so if I run to the bathroom and miss a scene, I still know what’s going to happen because I read the book. (I’m not a fan of suspense.)

In case you are not an avid fan of the National Geographic Channel or if you missed The Hot Zone on it’s first run, it’s a stunning work of creative nonfiction chronicling the origins of the Ebola virus. Yep, my winter break leisure reading was a book about Ebola. (I nerd hard.) I was well past the chapters chronicling the initial infection in an African cave and into infection of the masses by the time Number 1’s tummy began to rumble.

“Mom, I don’t feel so good.”

And as is the requisite Mom retort in such situation I replied, “Did you poop today?”

“Mom, it’s not always about poop!”

Oh but it is kid, it is always about poop.

It didn’t occur to me that my son might have Ebola until he actually started throwing up and that is when the panic began to set in. As I rubbed my baby’s back and tried to play it cool, I couldn’t help but wish I’d hijacked a hazmat suit from my previous science lab. I could still offer love and console him from behind a plastic shield. The touch of a mother can transcend latex gloves.

My son unfortunately inherited my stomach and when he vomits he does it with such force that the neighbors know what’s going on. As he emerged from the bathroom with face and eyes mottled by broken blood vessels, my Ebola fears were confirmed. My first born was obviously in the beginnings of the red eyes and zombie-face mentioned as stage one of the disease in the book.

I covered the bed nearest the bathroom with sheets to prevent mass infection before allowing his body to touch only blankets from his bed that he’s already infected. Fortunately, it was my husband, the Turk’s, side of the bed.

“Mom, isn’t this a little excessive?” he asked as I snapped on my latex dishwashing gloves and began bleaching the entire bathroom.

“Nope.” I muttered from behind the respirator the Turk used for his last venture into the attic.

As the illness continued to ravage his young body, I tried to keep cool. I tried to convince myself it was only a stomach bug but the immense mass of crazy in my head wouldn’t let me. I reassured myself with the knowledge that the nurse in chapter 8 had survived Ebola infection so I might make it through too. While my actions appear be questionable, I am the better parent. At the first sign of illness, the Turk hightailed it out of the house to run copious “errands” and was not seen again until evening though he did phone in every hour to check status.(Most likely to see if it was safe to return.) A parent present, even in a hazmat suit, trumps the one who hides in fear at Home Depot.

By bedtime, I tucked my exhausted little boy in bed and it was over. We all braced ourselves for doom the following day but it never came. No one else got Ebola and we ended our break with more frivolity.  Perhaps it wasn’t Ebola or perhaps the knowledge garnered from my leisure reading saved us all. Either way, once again, the survival of our family can be credited to my intense love of really weird books. But I might have to shelve The Hot Zone until after cold and flu season.

 

Be My Balemtime, Squishy Butt

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On this fine, February day when so many of us are freezing off our patooties, we are expected express undying love in the form of fine chocolates, botanicals and perhaps even boo-tay.  I’m not a big fan of Valentine’s Day and not only because my soul is dark. My disdain for the heart-filled holiday is mainly because romance and the Turk are polar opposites. For the first 10 or so years of our union, he missed the Valentine’s Day train completely. Please, don’t give him a cultural pass- they have Valentine’s day in Turkey too. Being void of romance is a life choice for the Turk.

Though I’m not a fan, I do rally for the sake of the kids. This morning, I lined up my red gift bags covered in hearts and half-naked babies, stuffed with paper in holiday hues housing chocolate delicacies and gifts to declare my love. In return, the Turk slapped down a crumpled brown paper bag bearing a Wal-mart logo.

“Here. I get you gift.”

“Nice wrap-job.” I smirked.

“Why I wrap?”

Ultimately, this is miles beyond where we started so I let it go. When one is the lone female in a house of XY chromosomes, holiday expectations are lowered exponentially.

But there is one bright, heart-shaped ray of light snaking through my bitterness and that is Nugget. Nugget is like my tiny, one-eared Cupid and his love for “Balentimes Day” can turn even my dark heart.

As soon as the Christmas gifts are unwrapped Nugget begins his Balemtime countdown. His receiving box was decorated and ready to go around February 1. He had classroom cards signed with a good week to spare. He’s also spent the past few weeks giving me a regular run-down of his classmates and just who is in the running to be his Balemtime.

“Mom, I just wuv Balemtime’s Day. It’s a whole day of wuv and candy. It is da best day ever!”

“I’m glad you love it buddy.”

“And Mom, you can be my Balemtime.” He proclaimed showering me in goopy kisses that would be a bit more adorable if he wasn’t suffering from a very runny nose.

“Honey, I’ll always be your Balemtime.”

He snuggled his little Nugget toes under my legs and continued, “Good because eben when I’m big, I want you to be my Balemtine. You can be my foreber Balemtime”

As any good mother does, I saw an opening in this loving, mother-child moment to switch the conversation from love into something that would better serve me. “Ok, since we’re going to be Balemtimes forever, how about you work on sleeping in your bed all night.” For the past several months after stories and chats and more patience than I usually possess, I tuck an adorable 5 year-old in between Spiderman sheets and a Hulk comforter only to wake hours later with that same 5 year-old wedged up my butt. Every. Damn. Night. I wake up exhausted and cranky and it needs to end.

“Mom, I don’t tink so.”

Hubba whaaaa? This was not the response I was expecting from my forever Balemtime. I decided to punt. “Ok, how about you sleep with your brother instead?”

Immediately he gave me a, “Nope.”

Before I could demand an explanation he provided one. “I need a woman Mom. He’s not a woman.”

“You need a woman?” The only thing that would’ve made the moment better would’ve been if I’d had a mouth full of water so I could do a spit take.

“Yeth. I need a woman because they’re squishy and they smell good, like you. That’s why you’re my Balemtime foreber. You smell so good and I just wuv sleeping with your big squishy butt.”

And with that my fate was sealed. I can’t say no to a man who loves my big, squishy butt. That’s how I ended up with the Turk. So I may never sleep again, but that’s ok. I have a life-long, squishy-butt-lovin’ Balemtime and what more could I want?

Happy Balemtime’s Day!

The Queen Gets A New Throne…And No One Died.

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As in any successful pairing, the Turk and I follow the yin and yang of one cheap-ass and one over-spender. In case you’re new here, I’m the cheap-ass. This method has gotten us through numerous times when we barely had two nickels (or Lyra) to rub together. But one thing has held steadfast, my Turk loves to spend. After the past year of relocating which required us to shell out money like sardines in a dolphin show, and a few months as a one-paycheck family, the Turk has been on spending lockdown and it’s taken a toll.

I’d catch him browsing weekly circulars with drool forming in the corners of his mouth. His Amazon shopping cart wish list looked like the cart of a mother of five in the food store and he’d begun to twitch. The Turk needed a shopping fix and it needed to be something big.

With my return to full-time employment, the Turk determined he could return to his preferred way of life and hit the circuit.

“Honey, I find a nice crouch.” He announced proudly. (Some words like crouch and couch are just never going to make it into his English repertoire. I accept that and love him for it.)

“First off, I assume you’re talking about furniture and not a squat. Secondly, we’re waiting on major purchases. Financial planning dear.”

“I know but I have coupon. One day only. Very good deal.”

The Turk loves a coupon. The problem is, if he has a coupon he buys things simply because he has a coupon. (Like the 7-11-style hotdog machine he bought his wife who doesn’t eat hotdogs this Christmas. –But he had coupon. – Readers, I only wish this were not true.) 

“Maybe we just go look?” He pleaded.

Unbeknownst to him, new furniture wasn’t really a hard sell. We purchased our current sofa and loveseat when we first moved back to America. We were broke-ass poor and in desperate need of furniture when we happened upon the classic, North Philadelphia parking lot sale. You know, those sales with the glowing signs claiming: “Emergency Liquidation!” and “Limited Time!” and, “1 Day ONLY!” Which are certainly signs of a legit, high quality retailer.

This was not my first North Philly parking lot sale and while the items are some version of new, they might have “fallen off a truck” hence the “Rock Bottom Prices!” But ask no questions and all goes well. After some negotiations we were the proud owners of a sofa and loveseat at the rock bottom price of $450 including delivery.

That was nearly 8 years ago and that furniture survived 4 inter-state moves and 6 houses. They endured 1 surly cat, 2 wild boys, countless sick days, a few naptime wet pants, Nugget’s kidney surgery, numerous football games, pizza nights and a little bit of spilled everything. It lived a full life and deserved retirement. But thanks to spending a large chunk of my childhood with a Depression Era grandma, I have a hard time parting with items that still serve their purpose and I’d hoped I could eek out another year or two. (Though according to the sag in the sofa, it stopped serving its purpose two moves ago.)

With coupon in hand we went to test-drive some furniture. As the boys bounced across what Nugget calls “love chairs” and sectionals, the Turk and I found something we agreed upon. After some calculations, even my cheap ass had to admit, it was a good deal and it hadn’t even fallen off a truck. When the salesman offered a delivery and haul-away option, I was sold.

“No delivery. I can do.” Informed the Turk.

“Honey, it’s cheap and they’ll move the old ones. Just do it.” I pleaded.

Even Don the sales guy tried to get in on the persuading – “You know, the amount you save with the coupon will more than cover the cost of the delivery…” But even Don the sofa salesman couldn’t convince the Turk.

“No. I can do. I rent truck, then I come here, pick up and drop at home.”

Don the salesman agreed this was a solid plan but the Turk didn’t take into account that his help on the other end consisted of a cranky 40-something wife, an abnormally short 10-year-old, and a hyperactive 5-year-old. While we are a dream team, maybe not so much regarding heavy lifting.

The next day I arrived home from Nugget’s basketball, (PS – if you’ve never watched a league of kindergarteners play basketball, do it. Every game tests the strength of my post-children bladder due to laugher.) to find a large sofa and love chair in the middle of the driveway causing Nugget to exclaim, “Mom, doethn’t Baba know dothse are thupposed to go inthide? Geez Baba.”

This is where it got ugly. Those large items had to move from the driveway into the living room, the old ones needed new homes and the Turk couldn’t do it alone. Bilingual profanity was thrown. I may or may not have left my husband stranded in a stairwell holding a sofa when his complaining pushed me over the edge. Children and the feline scattered and the traditional, husband-wife-furniture-moving-harsh-words were spoken. “If you think you know how to do this better, then do it by yourself!”

Ultimately the furniture got moved and as we sat down on our new thrones and cracked open well-deserved beers, even my stubborn husband admitted he’d made the wrong choice and that a delivery fee was a small price to pay to save a marriage.

A few hours after the sofas were in place; he was off again. He’d found “great deals” on a floor lamp and coffee table. Before he could leave, I had no choice but to seize his wallet. He’d had his fix and this bender needed to end. He’ll be on lock-down until the summer thaw as I rule our home from the clean lines of my mid-century inspired, scotch-guarded throne. (It doesn’t even have butt-dents yet!)

More Drama Than You Can Shake A Snake At

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Batman and Robin. Starsky and Hutch. Cagney and Lacey. While the Turk and I are more Bert and Ernie than the afore mentioned crime fighting duos, when it comes down to it, our partnership puts them all to shame. After dipping our toes into the speed and fury of the Boston housing market on our first relocation visit, we determined our best choice was  to send in a lone Turk to make a stealth buy. Many wives would fear this but Bert and I have rolled this way before.

The housing market was a see-it-buy-it situation, no time for thinking. The Turk, being a former military commando, (I found it hilarious at first too but it’s true.) was ideal for the job. He was going to fly out and buy us a house in Massachusetts while I simultaneously sold ours in Indiana. Impossible? Perhaps, but three days later, he gallantly returned having slapped a sold sign on a new home in Massachusetts while I did the same on our old one. We bought and sold on the same day, in two different states- step aside dynamic duos.

According to Zillow.com, the new house looked good but it was hard to figure out it’s geography. The Turk’s explanation didn’t help much. “It has very long driveway. There are trees. You see water from deck. You will like.”

My first glimpse was at closing. He was right. There were trees. There was a driveway that will likely leave us housebound for the entirety of snow season but in the off-season it provides nice cardio getting the mail. The water view is actually a cranberry bog, one of hundreds in our new hometown.

For a girl born in the middle of Iowa cornfields, the thought of living in cranberry country was both exotic and exciting. What could be more New England than sitting in an Adirondack chair, looking through the fall foliage at a flooded bog mid-harvest? Far more majestic than a dusty cornfield with a massive combine roaring through.

Unfortunately, that charm soon faded when we learned that with bogs come frogs – which is cool – but with frogs come snakes – which is not cool. At all.

Our first snake showed up hours after we closed on the home. Walking out the front door, Nugget’s Batman hi-top clad foot was about to land on the front step when I spied a   slimy bastard right in his path. With one swift mom-grab I swept Nugget to safety.

“What is dis? The Turk exclaimed as he ran into us. “What are you doing?” He hadn’t yet spied the enemy.

Having spent the past couple years teaching science, a career with a high ratio of snake views, I calmly pointed out the creepy son of a bitch swirling around the front step.

“God!!!!!!! What the hell??!!?!???!” He screamed before running inside and slamming the door. It took a few minutes before he remembered his sons and I were still in snake territory and needed the door opened for sanctuary.

The Turk’s squeal sent the  snake in search of refuge under the deck allowing us to make a break for it.

“God! I not know there are snakes here. I wouldn’t buy this house if I know there are snakes.”

“That’s a bit dramatic dear.” I countered. I was obnoxiously stoic until the anaconda attacks began to come daily. Even a science teacher desensitized to the horror, can’t take that crap.

The pinnacle was the snake that fought back. The boys and I had arrived home from yet another day at the beach, (After the past years of exile in land-locked Indiana there can never be too much time spent frolicking in the lapping waves.) and Number 1 nearly stepped on the hostile reptile sunning himself on the step.

“Mom! We got another!” He screamed.

Experienced snake shoo-ers by now,  we began screaming and clapping which usually causes the perpetrator to slither away in terror. Not this one though. He just rolled his lid-less eyes and was like, “Whatevs woman.” We took it up a notch by throwing pebbles in his general area. Again, nothing. Finally I decided I was going in for the kill with a rock to the head. Unfortunately I’m not athletically skilled so I missed and that’s when the evil serpent decided to fight back. The previously innocuous anaconda reared up like he was some kind of king cobra and jabbed at both Number 1 and I. Nugget, who is terrified of snakes, was half a mile down the driveway screaming in terror.

“We’ve got a psycho one here Mom.” Number 1 noted. “I can handle this.” Number 1 (who thankfully is more athletic than his mother) drew back with a rock and was about to launch when the snake bid a hasty retreat. Standing guard like a short Rambo, rock still in hand, he screamed at Nugget and I, “Go! Go! Go!” While waving us towards the door. Number 1 backed through the door last, muttering, “Game on sucker.”

Once inside, a battle plan was made. I could no longer allow my family to be tormented by the constant fear that a reptilian tyrant was hiding in every nook of our homestead. I considered negotiations with the snake people. Maybe start with threats of sanctions to get them to agree to peace talks. But before I could send off my first declaration, a glance out the window revealed my nemesis had returned and was preparing to slither up the door itself. The damn snake was holding us hostage!

Realizing this was a life and death situation I made immediate contact with the Turk, safely tucked away in his downtown office. In case things went south, I needed him to understand what had gone down. It was important he know the full story when the media arrived.

I texted: Snake holding us hostage -Help us – Send pizza.

To which he responded: *thumbs up*

The boys and I were on our own here.

Full disclosure, my first thought was “We have to burn this mother down. I don’t care if we just took out a new mortgage. No sane adjustor would call ‘insurance fraud’ on a house infested with snakes.” But instead I turned to Google.

As is so often the case, the great and wise Google held the answer- Snake-B-Gone. (I also had the choices of Shoo Snake, Snake-Away and Snake-Out, all real products!) Though it sounds like a product the Coyote purchased from the ACME company in the classic cartoon, it was legit. A few clicks later we located the goods in a hardware store two towns over and the boys and I were off.

As instructed on the container, I sprinkled liberally over the infested area. The powdery substance had a delicious cinnamon smell, causing Nugget to remark, “Dis smells like Chrissmas.” I had doubts about the power of any deterrent that smelled like a beloved holiday, but I hoped for the best. Just to be safe, I trashed talked while I sprinkled.

“Can you smell that slimy bastards? That’s the smell of your demise. It’s over. You are done.” Number 1 tried to point out snakes don’t have ears but I retorted that Nugget only has 1 and it doesn’t prevent him from knowing when he’s in big trouble.

It’s been 3 weeks and we’ve had only 1 new sighting, which was quickly met with more Snake-B-Gone and heightened trash talk. Personally, I think the trash talk has more power than the chemical but what evs. I do fear the coming fall. Rumor has it that the snake intensity picks up when they flood the blogs for harvest so if you never hear from me again, know I’m likely being held hostage by a nest of hostile snakes seeking retribution.

If that happens, send Snake-be-Gone!

 

The Key To Greatness Is Remembering To Take The Keys

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“Do you have the keys?” I yelled down the driveway to my husband, the Turk, as he was unsuccessfully ushering Nugget into his carseat.  Nugget, like the rest of us, was in no mood for yet another trip to IKEA but we were in need of shelves named Sjokvenjkorkensan, so IKEA it was.

“I have keys.” The Turk yelled back (Because when we move into a new area, we want to make sure the entire neighborhood can hear our interactions. It’s good for them to know we’re loud from the start.)

As the “s” slipped from his lips, I pulled closed the door to the home we’d owned for less than a week. Since we’d yet to locate the box housing our coffee pot, the Turk and I were not functioning at peak performance and with my slam of the door his tired eyes bulged.

“No! I have car key but not house keys!” He exclaimed in horror.

“What!?! Why would you say you have the keys when you don’t?” I screamed just to make sure the neighbors knew I was provoked in case things got ugly and there was a crime scene investigation later.

“Well I do have car keys.” His attempted argument was built on quicksand.

Why any rational human would grab the car keys from the hook next to the house keys while leaving the house keys was beyond me. However, many years ago I ceased to search for reason in the Turk’s actions. Engineers are seldom able to apply the logic they use in their profession to everyday life.

As one instinctually does upon realizing they’ve just closed off their portal to comfort, I immediately began pulling at the locked door. Though I knew it was futile, it was reflex. That door was like Fort Knox. I tried the back door even though I’d locked it seconds earlier but I needed to make sure. While the Turk laid out some nice Turkish profanity, I tried the front door holding out one last bastion of hope. Hope soon died when it too was locked tight.

I gazed at the bay windows, aware there was no way in hell my post-children-pre-menopausal hips or the Turk’s beer-loving gut were making it through those small openings. Maybe we could shove an off-spring through if necessary. Fortunately for the kids, those windows were locked too. The Turk had a less than stellar parenting moment when he wanted to shove Nugget through the doggie door but even that was locked.

I was gearing up to smash the kitchen window when the Turk grabbed the rock from my hand exclaiming, “I have idea!”

After some rumblings in the garage, the Turk appeared with a giant ladder that he commenced to set up on the deck. I pointed out that if he stepped on the lower mudroom roof he could easily access Nugget’s window and live to tell the tale.

“No. How I know it is unlocked?”

“It’s unlocked.” I reassured him. I knew this because I couldn’t figure out the lock so I’d faked it.

“It looks locked.” He rebutted.

“It’s not. Trust me.”

“No. I cannot take risk and get stuck on roof. I go in this one.” He stated while pointing to Number 1’s window a solid 4 feet above the top of the ladder he’d just opened.

“That’s ridiculous…” I began before being quickly cut off.

“I know what I am doing. I am Turk. We know things.”

As situations like this have occurred repeatedly during the many years that compose our union, I simply stepped aside and assumed the pose – arms crossed, eyes in mild roll and a ‘bitch please,’ smirk plastered on my lips. We’ve been here before…many, many times.

The Turk climbed to the top of the ladder as a small and hostile voice came from down the driveway.

“Baba! What the hell you doing?” (We’ve been working with Nugget on his potty mouth but in this case it was apropos.) “Baba! You can die.” (Spoken with the same accent his father uses on Nugget himself.)  

I told Nugget I’d already mentioned that so he shook his little head and assumed my same pose. (Nugget is a perfect genetic split between each of us and it’s both wonderful and horrible.)

Gingerly, The Turk climbed to the top step of the ladder. You know, to that part where it says “NOT A STEP,” next to the drawing of the little man falling, yes, that’s where my husband was standing. He turned to the boys and I on the drive and said, “You better take picture in case I die here. I want you remember me.”

For the third time I pointed out that stepping on the mudroom roof next to him and going in Nugget’s window was far more sensible but he assured me he knew Nugget’s window to be locked tight. (…even though I knew it wasn’t, but once a Turk makes up his mind, it’s over…millions of Turkish wives can attest to that.)

With a mighty heave-ho the Turk hoisted his body towards the open window. He wedged his recently acquired gut on the sill and began to shimmy forward. When the shimmy proved unsuccessful, he began kicking his chicken-legs to create momentum that would hopefully propel him through the portal to greatness.

Meanwhile his children and I stood 12 feet below. Nugget had his hand smacked against his forehead while muttering, “Oh Baba” repeatedly. Number One was doing his best to suppress full-blown, pee-your-pants giggles and I was calculating the odds of him bouncing if he fell from that distance. (FYI – His bounce factor was low because aside from the gut, the man is a twig with minimal cushion for self-preservation.)

Eventually, the Turk increased the velocity of his kicking when it became clear he was going nowhere with successful results. Soon the flailing chicken legs passed into the window and the crowd of three on the driveway erupted into cheers. The Turk offered a celebratory wave from the second floor before disappearing to retrieve the forgotten keys.

We spent the next hour howling and reliving the great entrance again and again before Nugget felt it was time for a lecture. “Baba, dat was so funny. But you shouldn’t do dat again. You could break your butt and if you break your butt, how you go to work? Den you’d be home all da time and be very grumpy.” The backseat buzzkill always keeps it real.

Number One chimed in too, “I mean it was funny, but maybe you should hide a spare key outside so we don’t have to go through this again.” At our advanced paternal age, it’s good to know that our children are smarter than us. It’s also good to know that in our most stressful times, we find equal humor in the ridiculousness and crazy we both posses and that’s the key to everything. Crazy binds a couple.

Load ‘Em Up And Move ‘Em Out

packing and moving

The email from our relocation agent concluded, “We realize that relocations can be difficult so we are here to make the transition as seamless and comfortable as possible for you and all members of your family.” Were this my first relocation rodeo, I might have bought this line, but I’ve done the relocation jam a few times so in response to the email all I could think was, “bitch please.”

From past experience, (And I’ve had way too much experience with moves.) I know that the load out is the worst. When you have control issues, like myself, it’s even worse. It might not be bamboo under your fingernails while being held hostage in a goat crate bad, but it feels about like that.

Load out week is when the proverbial crap hits the turbo fan. Packers show up and progress at a pace that illustrates utter disdain for any form of organization you may have attempted to put into place. Bubble wrap and packing tape flow like confetti at the end of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. Boxes form a modern art version of Mt. Rushmore in your garage and every ounce of hostility or contempt you’ve suppressed towards your spouse for the entirety of your union flows to the surface like the damn Mississippi. It’s an ugly, ugly time.

Having traversed this path before, I knew what was coming. However, I tried to block  out the horrors when I realized this particulair move out week would coincide with my end of the school year. The same week I would be wrapping up a job, finishing grades, preparing to close on a house, finishing underwriting on a new house and dealing with my own children who were done with their educational pursuits and ready to wreck summertime havoc, total strangers would be shoving my earthy possessions into a semi without my watchful eye. Conversely the children I teach were likewise ready to be done for the summer, acting like rabid monkeys while partaking in a final week full of exhaustive “special” activities. I was on the precipice of mayhem.

This timing meant there was no choice but to turn over the reins to the Turk but the mere thought of such an action gave me palpitations. In an attempt to maintain a sembelance of control, I woke at 4:00am daily to organize the packing and leave psycho post-it notes on virtually everything. “Pack!”  “Don’t Pack!”  “Pack Carefully!” (PS – had I encountered my own post-its, I’d have immediately hated me.)  I laid out all this psychosis before going to work at 7:00 where I did thinks like standing in a stream with a bunch of middle schoolers in 90 degree heat or leading group hikes without mentioning the giant snake that crossed the trail before us.

Initially I’d crafted a much more sensible plan. I was going to finish teaching Friday, have the packers on Saturday, load the truck on Sunday and leave Monday allowing me to orchestrate every moment without relying on the Turk. Perfection. But then the moving company changed their mind and the crap-tastic moving maelstrom began.

The packers arrived mid-week while I was at work rather than Saturday as was scheduled in my master plan. They then informed us the moving van would arrive on Friday rather than Monday shooting my plan completely to hell. While the Turk was awed by the two heavily tattooed and equally heavily muscled women packing our house, I was left void of all control and near death by anxiety. When I arrived home from work to the disarray, I’m pretty sure the look of terror in our cat Cengiz’s eyes was the same one reflected in mine. I harkened back to the earlier email, “…we are here to make the transition as seamless and comfortable as possible for you and all members of your family.” In that moment, even the cat was thinking, “Bitch please.”

The night before the truck was to load, I had to go to graduation to say my final, tearful goodbyes to my school babies. I tucked my mini-Turks safely away at grandma’s and left the Turk with some important tasks at the house in lieu of child rearing.

1 – Get Cengiz to what the The Turk likes to call, “The Cat Hotel” (aka boarding) to avoid traumatizing the surly cat any further.

2 – Clean the refrigerator. (Including scrubbing Nugget goo off the doors.)

3 – Clean so I don’t have to clean the entire house before we roll out.

If you’re a regular reader, (and I’m sure you are…) you know how the Turk responds to to-do lists. I rushed home from grandma’s the next morning before work only to be met at the door by Cengiz.

“Why is the cat still here?” I asked.

“He did not want to go.”

“You’re kidding me right? How do you know this?”

“He tell me.”

“You speak cat now?”

“Yes. Turks are very connected to animals.”

I tried to do one of those deep breathing techniques we teach the kids at school to keep them from having a meltdown. It worked for like two seconds until I opened the fridge.

“What the hell? Why is this still full and gross?”

“I can do it.”

“But the whole point was you stayed here to do it last night.”

“Well I started with the beer fridge. I got that done though.”

“You cleaned out the beer fridge? Let me guess, by drinking it clean?”

“Yes. How else I clean it?”

Before I could express my profanity laden frustration rant, a massive semi pulled into our little segement of suburbia. It was gameday and we were painfully unprepared.

I had less than an hour before I needed to be at work and my hostility and anxiety were in overdrive.

I began throwing orders at the Turk, “Get the cat in the carrier. I’ll take him to the Cat Hotel.” before heading off to instill adequate fear into the moving crew. I needed to insure supreme care and caution would be exercised in my absence. (I may be 5’4 and squishy but in my mind I’m like 6’7” and intimidating as hell.) Five minutes later I returned to find the cat holed-up under a futon with the Turk on his knees pleading.

“Come out Cengiz. It be ok. You will love the Cat Hotel. You meet friends. It be fun. I promise.”

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“See? He not want to go.”

“It doesn’t matter! Get the cat in the carrier. I have to go.”

I watched the Turk click, snap, use baby talk and even use Turkish sweet nothings but Cengiz wasn’t coming out. I’m all for letting people pursue their own methodology but sometimes there is no time for such madness when my method is proven.

I snapped to Number One Son waiting downstairs who magically appeared with his brother, both clutching the cat carrier. Stepping over the Turk, I clutched the futon and She-Hulked that badboy across the room, grabbed Cengiz by his neck scruff and put him in the carrier. Done.

The Turk put him in the car all the while cooing and reassuring the cat.

The entire load-out would progress in a similar fashion. The Turk was left in charge but I’m sure you know who had to finish the job with a hostile cleaning in 99% humidity at the end of the process. But hey, at least the beer fridge was clean.

Somehow, it all got loaded, the house got cleaned and Cengiz treated his first stay at a Cat Hotel like a spa visit. Most importantly, I will not disclose how much wine it took to get me through phase one.

 

Hold On, I’ll Grab My Metal Bra.

female viking 1 (1)

For the past few weeks my life has been nothing but anxiety, packing tape and exhaustion. Now that we’ve officially started the epic journey of relocating our family (and cat) from Indiana to Boston, I’ve spent every second I am not working or attending to the task of keeping my offspring alive, packing or painting or pitching or bitching and often it’s all of the above simultaneously. It sucks. Moving sucks. Selling a house sucks. Buying a house sucks. It all just sucks. What sucks more is that by no choice of their own, this has become my kids’ life too.

“Mom, where is my Eagles jersey?”

Sorry buddy, I packed it.

“Mom, where is my blue Nerf gun?”

Sorry buddy, I packed it.

“Hey Mom, I can only find one pair of underwear.”

Oops, perhaps I packed too much.

Due to our familial crap show of late, I owed my dudes a little fun while Baba was out in Boston house hunting. When my dear friend (who I’m about to abandon amid the Hoosiers) suggested we take our male-spawns to Vikingfest, how could I say no?

Full disclosure, I don’t know a lot about vikings. I know they’re scruffy and untamed. (Much like my children.) I know they are surly and hostile. (Again, much like my children.) I know they are all named Thor and usually wear horns on their heads and pigtails. I know they ride boats and like to carve broads with big hooters on the fronts  of said boats and I know that their female counterparts wear metal bras. (I learned that from Elmer Fudd so it’s legit.) But the ad for Vikingfest promised ax throwing, jousting and traditional food and unless it’s a cannibal convention, I’m always in with the phrase “traditional food.” We were in.

After driving past the venue twice, we finally arrived to a giant field with a huge fire burning in the center which I hoped was for viking burials or at least a good virgin sacrifice. (Spoiler alert, we caught neither but we were there during daylight hours so I hold out hope.)  Aside from the fire, the entrance was a bit underwhelming but we were all game for an adventure so we pressed on with hopeful souls.

As we made our way to the “Wolf Petting” (Spoiler alert – it might have been a husky.) we met our first vikings. She wore a metal bra (SeeElmer Fudd IS historically accurate.) and was wrapped in a skimpy but seemingly vikingesque ensemble. Her male counterpart wore horns on his head and was dripping in faux furs. That couple was all I needed and I was 100% in on the adventure. If grown-ass adults are willing to don full costumes on a chilly Sunday morning and commit to this adventure I was down enough to pretend that a husky was a wolf too.

We soon learned that first couple were just an introduction. Down a winding path through the woods, we found a viking village fully stocked with grown-ass adult cosplayers who were so into their roles, they refused to admit their real names were not Asgaut and Esbjorn. I get it. It’s hard to be a pillaging bad-ass named Larry. But that was real commitment.

These modern-day vikings committed to their roles so hard that most had even camped there over the weekend under nothing more than traditional lean tos. I respect commitment but it was 30 degrees that night and there was was a Holiday Inn just down the road – vikings are not a sensible people.

During the hands-on-fashion segment of the experience, one could slip on a nice chainmail top and a festive steele helmut while accessorizing with a throwing axe. Fearing the enticing combination of chainmail and cleavage, I determined my rocking such an ensemble might be too much for the nerd population so I left the fashion segment to Number 1 Son. As a viking supposedly named Asguat but likely named Steve, slipped the chainmail over my son, I waited for his Turkish conqueror genetics to take over. I expected him to embrace his proven link to Genghis Khan. (Fo reals – I heard it on NPR, 98% of all males of Turkish and Arab descent share DNA with Genghis Khan which so explains Nugget.) I hoped for a battle roar and an arm raised in victory. Instead I got, “Ow. Mom, this is heavy. I don’t want to wear it.”  So much for genetics.

Overall I’m pretty nerdy by nature. I’ve got a solid knowledge of all things Star Wars and if an episode of classic Star Trek is on, I’m there. Oh, and don’t expect to see me do anything but bask in the glory of the Christmas Doctor Who marathon. My nerd hand is definitely strong, but I’ve never cosplayed. I mean not since I rocked my Wonder Woman Underooos back in ‘82. I was a professional costume designer for years back in  Philly but it never once crossed my mind to get into this whole world of make believe. However, I’m ridiculously fascinated by the concept of cosplay. What makes these people go all in and what keeps me from joining in the nerddom?

The more weekend warriors we encountered, the more my fascinated grew. Walking around in pelts and a metal bra all day before bedding down on some pine needles and wolf-hides for the night in the middle of suburbia doesn’t call to me. At all. But these people were game-on all weekend long and that’s when I got it.

Vikingfest, just like all the other events that draw cosplayers like moths to flames, are escapes. That chubby dude in the fur tunic sucking on the giant turkey leg is likely an I.T. guy. The only war he wages all week is against people using PASSWORD as their company password. But for one weekend in some unnamed park in the middle of nowhere, he can pretend to be a total badass named Tahvo. Let’s let him have that with respect because tomorrow Tahvo will be the guy saving those files you thought you’d saved while staring over his glasses and scoffing at your stupidity.

If anybody could use an escape from reality right now it’s a full-time working mom at the end of the school year, selling her house while simultaneously buying another 1000 miles away, packing up an entire family (and cat) to move across the country the day school ends. So pass me a metal bra and pour me a drink Tahvo, Brunhilda might be joining you soon!

female viking

 

I’m Not Ready For A Prison In My Backyard

prison

When Lifetime Television for Women and Gay Men makes the movie of my life, there will be no need for a focus group to come up with winning title. My bio-pic will be called “She Didn’t Get Too Comfortable.” No, I haven’t been contacted by Lifetime execs yet but I’m sure it’s only a matter of time and I like to be prepared. Considering our newest adventure, if somebody isn’t ready to make my biopic then at least TLC should tap us their next reality television moment.

In 12 years we’ve lived in 2 countries, 4 states, 6 towns, and 8 homes. Though we’ve not been huge fans of the Hoosier state, (Really love a lot of Hoosiers but Indiana…not so much.) we hit the 5-year mark and were just starting to get comfortable. As usual, that comfort prompted the universe to pull the rug out from under my propped feet nearly spilling my wine. We’re moving, yet again.

This time the universe decided to deliver the news until it was clear I was settling in to stay for a while. After living for 2 years in a room with baby-poop yellow walls with pink accents, I finally agreed to repaint Number 1’s bedroom to a more masculine tone. As we returned home with $100 worth of paint and supplies in hand, a panicked Turk met us at the door.

“Read this email. I think I am not translating something.”

He pulled up an email from the head of his company. I read it, then read it again. The third time I read it but added my favorite f-word between each sentence.

All the while, the Turk loomed. “Well?”

“No translation issues. We need to be in Boston by January 1.”

The Turk threw out a few of his own favorite bits of bilingual profanity then called his supervisor for some explanation while I listened through a glass at the door like a nosey Nelly.

The Turk and I have both felt like fishes out of water for the past 5 years, but it’s been nice to be constant for our kids and we were finding a way to make it work. Neither of us expected the Turk to get relocated yet again. We foolishly believed our next move would come on our terms. (We’re old but clearly still naïve.)

After tears and frustration, decisions were made; the Turk would go early and the boys and I would join at the end of the school year to try and disrupt their worlds as little as possible. (A loving parental choice? No. There was no way in hell was I moving to New England in the height of winter.) Thankfully, things didn’t work out that way and the Turk was granted a stay. He got to hold off his move until closer to our whole family move in June.

We spent spring break in Boston house hunting but unlike the show, ours adventure wasn’t nearly as tidy. Since we don’t have a mil to drop on a new 500 square foot home in Boston, we have to go a bit further out…not quite to New Hampshire but it’s close. Just like on House Hunters, here’s our top three.

House 1: The “What’s Hiding In the Woods?” House.

This house was a bit of a mess and needed lots of work but it was tucked away in a beautiful wooded area just like I’ve always wanted. It wasn’t love at first sight but we thought it might be worth a bid.  Before we did so, we decided to consult a map because I needed to get my head around its geographic zone. Sprawled across a hotel bed carefully peering at a map of the area (Yes, I’m old like that. Maps trump the interwebs for some things.)  I noticed a pale blue box butting up against the back of the property. I assumed it to be a nature preserve or maybe a state park as that’s what all the other blue boxes on the map represented. Not this time. My blue box was a State Correctional Facility. Behind the picturesque woods surrounding my potential new home, lay a glorious, razor wired, possibly electrified, 12 foot fence. While my BFF tried to reassure me that he’d grown up near there and it was only a facility for the criminally insane not the heavy hitters, we took hard pass.

House 2: The Pinterest Epic Fail House

From the photos, this one had great potential. However, this listing was the real estate equivalent of putting a photo on a dating profile shot from 20 feet away, 15 years earlier. The homeowner had tried to spruce up this pad with a variety of techniques likely found on Pinterest from painting lopsided chalkboards on the bedroom walls to sponge painting the kitchen counter-tops. (Yes, you read that right. They painted the counter-tops.) Couple these design choices with the lingering scent of ganja and dog poop and we executed a hasty exit.

House 3: The, “You Put My Kids Where?” House.

This house had some solid potential. 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, yard and wait for it…a “large playroom.” No parent can resist the lure of a separate playroom. Upon entry it was stunning. Most importantly, there was no visible playroom on the first floor which meant all child paraphernalia would be out of sight upstairs. I loved it already. I longingly glided a hand along the wood railings as I ascended the stairs, eager to find my dream playroom waiting for me. Bedroom 1. Bedroom 2. Bedroom 3. Bath. Laundry closet….wait…where was my playroom? I searched for a secret passage, perhaps to an attic or nook. No go. Our agent called from downstairs, “I found the playroom.” Disheartened that it was actually on the first level, I trodded down the stairs to see my bonus room. That’s when the agent led me out the front door, up the outside concrete steps and across the lawn to a separate building. Yep. My playroom was actually a freshly dry walled and finely floored former chicken coop. It seemed this house had a backyard prison of a different sort. While it might sound alluring sending your children to play in a separate building, that level of non-supervision can quickly lead to mass destruction, bloodshed or a small scale prison riot.

Ultimately, due to my fear of the criminally insane, sponge-painted countertops and harboring children in climate-controlled chicken coops, we left empty-handed. But we did come up with a solid list of areas we liked. Now it’s time for me to send in the big guns, The Turk is going in alone and The Turk always completes his mission. Let’s just hope he can avoid the state pen on his next round of house hunting.

 

I’m Probably Going To Hell

woman hypnotist (1)

There is a 90% chance I’m going to hell. A few years ago it might have been closer to an 80% chance but it’s been a rough patch recently. Easter is usually a time when my heathenistic nature is made clear as the appearance of eggs, bunnies and crucifixes tends to spur familiar conversations between the Turk and I.

“I never get it, why bunny? Did Jesus turn into bunny?”

“No. That’s just stupid.”

“Is it? Every year I ask and every year no one can explain.”

“Oh I explain it, you just never listen.”

“And does rabbit come from egg? No. So why eggs?”

It usually goes on and on like this until I hide away like a mole rat in a dark, secluded area far from my husband who was raised in a Muslim country completely void of gummy eggs and chocolate bunnies. We’ve been doing this for a ridiculously long time so when this year’s round started I didn’t think much of it.

On a rainy Sunday, we drove past the local Catholic Church over-flowing with cars. I should probably note, this is the same Catholic Church I weaseled my way into a couple years ago for Number 1 Son to make his first communion. Though I’m a card carrying heathen, I’m also aware that mistakes can be made and if this whole Jesus thing pans out, I don’t want to have sacrificed the souls of my offspring, so I like to cover my bases. Every month the Church sends us requests for money with our names horrifically misspelled. We laugh manically while shredding the request and the Church keeps a family of ethnically diverse names on the registry amid the thousands of Smiths and Johnsons. It’s a symbiotic relationship.

Seeing the crowded parking lot reminded me to ask the Turk, “Do you have Good Friday off?”

To which he replied, “Every Friday is good. Why is one more good than the others?”

Just as I was about to give myself a stroke from rolling my eyes back in my head, Number 1 chimed up from the backseat. “Baba, that’s the day Jesus died.”

The Turk searched for clarity, “But he come back again later?”

“Yes,” I chimed in. “He rolled up on the crowd a few days later and needless to say, they were a bit shocked. I guess it’s like when you think your boss is out of town and he comes back early. I mean, on a big scale.” (Sister Nora would be so proud.)

I thought that would end it but no. From the backseat Number 1 asked, “Wait, if Jesus died then got out of his grave later, doesn’t that make him a zombie?”

Being a long-time fan of all things zombie (old school Night of the Living Dead not this new school Walking Dead crap) I was more than proud that my little cherub had somehow taken in zombie science by osmosis from his mother.

We debated the concept for a while until Number 1 added, “So if we take communion then don’t we technically become zombies too?”

Kid, you spent one freaking year in Catechism and somehow you managed to pay attention to the one part of the whole doctrine that most find pretty creepy. Nice. Not wanting to get further into a theological debate with either Number 1 nor his father, I tried to shut it down by throwing my attention to the Nugget. However, Nugget was elbow deep in a bag of animal crackers and had nothing to say except, “Wook Mom, I ate dis guy’s head off.” He proudly held up a decapitated pachyderm. Nugget often chooses to utilizes the fact that he only has one ear to find a little peace in our nut-job family.

Fast forward to yesterday and me chasing a naked Nugget around the house trying to get him into the shower. In desperation, I tried a conversation technique to distract him long enough to cleanse.

“So how was school today?”

I expected a generic, “Good,” maybe peppered with a bit of “I had fun.” But no.

Instead he said, “Today at thool, I told da kids about Jesus.”

Noooooooooooooo!  “Um, you told the kids what honey?”

“First, I told dem dat Jesus died on de cross.” He stated.

Relieved I continued, “Really?” I wasn’t impressed that my kid was preaching the gospel in preK but since he’d only started talking a year ago and he’s still not a fan of interacting with same age peers, I was just happy he was having a conversation.

“What else did you talk about Nugs?”

By this point he was shimmying in the shower covered in bubbles tossing out information between dance moves. “Den I told dem Jesus is a zombie.”

“I’m sorry, what?”

“Jesus is a zombie. Dat’s what you said.”

Panic overtook me. Do they call CPS for training one’s children as  a heathen? Was there a red button on the desk for teachers to press in a religious emergency? This is Indiana and they take their religion seriously here. For the love of God, they made Mike Pence.

“So….” I ventured carefully, “what did your friends say to the news of zombie Jesus?”

“Nuffing. Michael said Jesus is in your heart so it’s ok if he’s a zombie.”

And there you have it. So on this Easter weekend just remember…If Jesus is in your heart, he might be a zombie…and clearly, I am going to hell.