the smell of my desperation has become a stench

Channeling Kansas

Last Wednesday night I was in the kitchen preparing dinner when my mom called the home phone, and can I just run my car off of a bridge for a second? The only reason we have a home phone is because we live in some sort of cellular black hole. If you call my cell phone you will be sucked into space and never seen again. Sorry, I know you wanted to chat. I’ll tell your kids you were a good person.

The greatest thing about cell phones is that there is an implicit understanding that answering is optional. You could be in a meeting when someone calls, or changing a diaper, or breaking into your neighbor’s car. You can just ignore the ring and get back to them later. Or never. And when you see them in person and they ask why you didn’t return the call? Blame it on the phone! It was acting up. Had you known they were calling you would have taken off the ski mask, dropped the stolen stereo and said, “Stanley speaking.”

But with a land line, GOD. It’s this blaring intrusion. RING. RING. RING. Maybe it’s because I grew up without a cell phone, but the pressure to answer a land line is just awful. Something terrible could have happened, and if I don’t answer it then that terrible something will turn tragic. And then I’ll die homeless and alone with no money for a casket or a tombstone or that tribute from Whitney Houston I had written into my will.

Often I glare at the ringing land line and try to will it to stop with the brawn of my seething resentment: HOW DARE YOU CALL ME WITHOUT ANY WARNING.

This is the point in the post where you mumble something under your breath about how I really need to get laid.

Mom, this isn’t about you. I just need to clean off my desk and steal some of Jon’s Adderall.

She called to talk about the impending storm. Had I heard? They were predicting hurricane force winds. Here’s where Jon’s Adderall would have helped because I would have been alert enough not to say “hurricane” out loud in front of my seven-year-old. But that’s what I did, I said, “Hurricane?” And then spent the next half hour showing Leta where Hurricane, Utah is on a map.

You don’t believe me? BELIEVE THIS.

We needed to bring inside all the crap we had outside, like cushions and hanging lanterns and various balls. Yes, various balls. I just typed that. My work here is done.

Leta looked at the pile of cushions sitting in the foyer and asked what we were doing. Instead of telling her the truth, that the wind might pick up the house, turn it upside down and drop it in Idaho, I said we needed materials for a fort. That’s not lying. That’s expert parenting. Write it down.

Good thing we made those preparations because the storm exceeded expectations. The wind picked up 100-yr-old trees and tossed them in the air like confetti. I mentioned last week that Tyrant’s car got stuck in a garage partially crushed by a fallen tree. A large chunk of our fence blew down and is probably making new friends in Park City because we can’t find the wood that used to be there anywhere. Yesterday the Utah National Guard had to help Davis County clean up the debris:

Utah National Guard activated to assist Davis County with debris clean-up

Utah National Guard activated to assist Davis County with debris clean-up

Utah National Guard activated to assist Davis County with debris clean-up

Leta heard the wind pounding against the house and ran into our room early Thursday morning, breathless, shaking. We’ve had countless discussions with her about natural disasters and their respective geographical occurrences. Hurricanes and tsunamis don’t happen in Utah. Tornadoes are very rare. Earthquakes? Blizzards? Um. Hmm. Go ask your father. He told you to ask me? Well then, next question.

She probably didn’t understand this gesture, but as she lay next to me in bed I stroked her hair and whispered, “I know. I know.” There’s pretty much fuck all you can do in the face of a natural disaster except prepare for one, but worrying about them is one of my superpowers. And she inherited that cape.

She better iron it and keep it clean because that thing will rack up the mileage.

  • tokenblogger

    2011/12/05 at 1:50 pm

    I do love it when pholks point out “expert parenting.”

  • Fifi Coon

    2011/12/05 at 2:08 pm

    You need to move out here to Draper – we didn’t even get a breeze.

  • reneewvu

    2011/12/05 at 2:09 pm

    West Virginia has one too…

  • filmlady11

    2011/12/05 at 2:12 pm

    Whaddya know… Hurricane has a city pool where you can take Aqua Zumba classes. Kill me first, please.

  • Daddy Scratches

    2011/12/05 at 2:20 pm

    Yeah, we had an earthquake in Pennsylvania a while back. I don’t recall how we explained that one away, but I’m guessing we said it had something to do with Fun and Magic and Nothing Even Remotely Related to Natural Disasters. Bad enough my daughter already thinks every sound she hears (automobile exhaust, nearby train, mouse farts) is thunder, and that a lightning strike will soon follow — this being the result of a lightning strike she witnessed, which blew a hole in our driveway just as I was telling her thunder is a loud noise but nothing to be afraid of. Thanks, Mother Nature. Bitch.

    Glad your casa didn’t get effed up.

  • ADDGirl

    2011/12/05 at 2:22 pm

    I recommend getting her some red glitter shoes and watching the Wizard of Oz. For years my greatest ambition was to be in a tornado, so it would take me to OZ. Plus red glitter shoes give you all sorts of magical powers.

  • Monkey

    2011/12/05 at 2:32 pm

    They like to sound the alarms here on the first Wednesday to test them out (which has been going on as long as I can remember, but EVERY DAMN 1st Wed of the month, someone inevitably asks what’s going on). They also like to sound them during severe thunderstorms. Several months ago, the sirens went off and I assumed it was just the usual t-storm. Oh no, THIS time was an honest to goodness tornado warning, so I had to collect the kids and all the pets to go hang out in the basement, and I may have done that at the last minute cause I thought the system was making shit up to me again.

  • crivens

    2011/12/05 at 2:33 pm

    See, if you lived in Detroit, you’d have already taken those giant piles of wood and used them to fix your fence and possibly for an optional heat source as well.

    Plus! Art!

  • smithie1996

    2011/12/05 at 2:58 pm

    I assume you are saving the actual pronunciation of Hurricane, Utah for another post entitled “No, it’s not Hurricane, it’s Her-a-cuhn and other Utan oddities”

    I would have curled up next to Leta too. That wind was so scary.

  • Moomser

    2011/12/05 at 3:38 pm

    One day Leta and Marlo will read this post and ask: “Mom what’s a land line again?” and you get to explain it to them, along with the cassette tape, vhs and 80’s perms. Because I know you had one! And then they’ll scoff at you with something like “Mom, you are sooooo last millennium!”.

  • BuenoBabyGirl

    2011/12/05 at 3:39 pm

    No one I know or like calls me on our landline. So when the phone occasionally rings, it sounds more like a warning siren than a jingle.

  • slappyintheface

    2011/12/05 at 3:48 pm

    .. and we had earthquakes in Oklahoma …. it’s been a helluva year for weather … yes, I just said “helluva”


  • Lauren3

    2011/12/05 at 6:15 pm

    When I was in 4th or 5th grade, my parents started letting me stay home alone after school until they got home.

    That year I went through my “deathly afraid of tornadoes” phase, and so of course that spring we had a lot of reeeeeeally volatile storms.

    My parents had a list of neighbors’ phone numbers for me, and every time there was a bad storm I would call ALLLLLLL OF THEM to get their opinions on the likeliness that this storm would be the one that produced a deathnado.

    A few times they came home to find me in the basement, under the stairs, huddling with our dog.

  • gretchie

    2011/12/05 at 6:28 pm

    Up until 3rd grade, I lived in Puerto Rico. Every year, at hurricane season, the TV news did its darndest to scare the shit out of everyone, and they did a fine job of it. By the time I was six years old, the image of palm trees being inverted by high winds was so emotionally connected with hurricane warnings, that when I would see it happen in real life – even if it was just a storm – not necessarily a “tropical event,” I would throw up.

    When I was 18, a few weeks shy of starting college, Hurricane Andrew FUCKED UP our house in SoFla. We were in it during the storm. I will never be the same. PTSD is not bullshit, people. Every hurricane season since then, I spent three – four months of my life feeling very tense. Since I moved away from Hurricane-land, I am so much happier, calmer.

    Nothing compares to a natural disaster in terms of making you feel small and helpless. I’m glad you guys are okay. You and Leta aren’t worrywarts, when that shit knocks on your door – or worse – down your door, your just a helpless ant and you just hope your wits and physical strength will come through for you. It is scary. Very very scary.

    Then there’s all the stupid crap and looting and price gouging and insurance companies running out of money that comes after. The smell, the sounds, ugh.

    I didn’t mean to make you feel more frightened, I just want you to know that it is perfectly normal and understandable.

  • BellyGirl

    2011/12/05 at 6:31 pm

    About that landline….try screening your calls through an answering machine. I never answer my landline calls…just ask my brother and sister.

    p.s. I found and threw out a Sony Sports Walkman today. It weighed about 7 1/2 pounds. How did I ever think it was convenient to run with that monster? Next, I’m going to toss my Jane Fonda workout tapes. I’m a roll here.

  • linnysol

    2011/12/05 at 6:49 pm

    We had tornadoes here in Raleigh April 16. My mother in law was babysitting and decided to take cover with the kids in the UPSTAIRS master bedroom closet—yeah, go figure. Duh. Apparently she was very distraught during the whole event. She turned the volume in the master bedroom TV high enough so they could hear it through the closed closet closet door and about 15 pillows. My daughter has slept in her brother’s room every single night since.

  • Gemmyner

    2011/12/05 at 8:03 pm

    I’ve never experienced a tornado or any other natural disaster in Canada. When we went to Disneyland in 2009 there was an earthquake when we were at the liquor store and bottles were breaking. We had some wicked winds here a few years ago that took down a few small trees and some power lines, but nothing like you get.

    As for the landline, well ours barely rings. ever. We are considering disconnecting it once we get the kid a cell phone.

    @bellygirl – we have one of those Sony walkmans. It’s ancient but my kid likes listening to Robert Munsch on it.

  • Mel D

    2011/12/05 at 8:07 pm

    I am from Florida, so I am used to hurricanes and occasional tornadoes. Earthquakes scare the daylights out of me because there is so little warning before they occur!

  • The Woman Formerly Known as Beautiful

    2011/12/05 at 9:01 pm

    I keep thinking if I can just get my kids to 10 without experiencing a hurricane, tsunami, earthquake, tornado or the Wrath of Kahn they won’t become drug addicts.

  • kat

    2011/12/05 at 11:59 pm

    The winds you got started here in SoCal a short distance away from me. Luckily the only damage we received was a toppled reindeer decoration. I recently moved back to SoCal from oklahoma to get away from the winds. I am literally physically ill during tornado season. So having a wind storm like this my first year back kinda pisses me off!

  • onedesigner

    2011/12/06 at 4:08 pm

    With the wind and the horrible family cold, it sounds like you and I are living parallel lives, only I am in LA and you are in SLC. Two weeks into this horrible cold and we’re finally getting better.

  • jennisdrinking

    2011/12/06 at 4:20 pm

    Elsa (our 8 year old) is the same way. Here in Ohio, we get tornados. Every damn time someone says tornado in front of that kid, I have to keep the puke bowl ready b/c of her nervous stomach.

    It’s surreal that I’ve been reading your blog so long that I remember when you REFUSED to have a cell phone and didn’t know how to operate one that was sent to you in a sock.

  • vaefitz

    2011/12/06 at 6:22 pm

    I saw the title of this post and immediately thought of Carry on my Wayward Son. I am SO old.

  • apostate

    2011/12/07 at 1:44 am

    So would you like to weigh in on the debate of whether it’s pronounced “hurr-i-cane” or “her-kin”? (Maybe we need to get Senator Hatch to draft up something official.)
    I watched a television special once on Arthur Bennett and the reporter kept calling it “Hurricane Utah” (instead of “herkin”). I sat on the sofa and mocked him mercilessly. Fool! Do your research. That’s called responsibility in reporting. Write it down.
    Now I’m not so sure.
    Could I have been wrong?

Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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