The Brain Thief and Other Stories for the Middle Aged Woman

Warning: Spoiler alert ahead.

What in the love of God is this? Things have changed. Overnight. Out of nowhere. And uninvited. You know, on my body, in my body, all over my body. There was no warning either. Why wasn’t there a warning?

For starters, I feel like I’m losing my mind. If you lifted the top of my head off you will find little blips of memory from when I was twelve, thoughts of food, a squirrel, and the proverbial cobweb or two.

Then there is the loss of words. Simple words. Words I know. You see that word “proverbial” in the paragraph above? It took me exactly seven minutes to recall it. Usually I would turn to my trusty online thesaurus, but I couldn’t think of the word “thesaurus.”

I think and say really dumb things. Remember that riddle, “what color is George Washington’s white horse?” If I hadn’t already heard it a million times, I’m not confident I would answer correctly.

Then we have the hot flashes. They come unexpectedly and often. It’s like someone installed a furnace inside me and there is a tiny man shoveling coal into the thing like his life depends on it. I wish the guy would drop dead of a heart attack or something. No offense, tiny man.

My evenings are filled with three changes of pajamas, covers that end up on the floor until I start freezing again. And sweat. Pools of it. If only I could bottle and sell it. I’d make millions. You know, if sweat was trending.

And let me introduce to you the Mood Swing. It can turn on a dime. Like a Lamborghini. Maybe not as sexy, but most definitely as fast.

I don’t care who you are — except 1973 Robert Redford — if you do or say the wrong thing at the wrong time, you are crucified.

Like, get me some nails and a hammer and you are done for. You know, metaphorically speaking, of course.

I am predictably unpredictable. My family walks on egg shells. They know I’m gonna blow. They just aren’t sure when.

My mom has an uncanny ability to actually smell my hormonal shift and she lives 600 miles away. My husband usually wishes he was dead. My daughter tries to get another family to adopt her. And my co-workers look around wondering if they made a wrong turn and wound up at the circus freak show instead of the office.

Also, I have weird dreams. Case in point: This past week I dreamt William Baldwin was released from house arrest and I couldn’t wait to write a blog post about it. Imagine my disappointment when I woke up and realized I made the whole thing up.

Randomly waking up in the middle of the night and then not being able to fall back to sleep is a real thrill. Staring at the ceiling waiting for the Sand Man to pay me a visit is about as entertaining as listening to Taylor Swift stuck on repeat.

The facial and neck hair that seems to sprout like wildfire during the Santa Ana winds is super fun. Because I can’t see close up without my readers, I don’t always see it. Until someone else does.

And my all-time personal favorite? Muscle atrophy. I exercise almost every single day. If I did that when I was in my twenties, thirties — hell, even my forties — my body would look like Jane Fonda from her 1970s workout videos. Instead I look more like Gumby with boobs.

That just about covers it. I wish I could end this post on a witty note, but I can’t find the words for it.


A Lost Art?

The profile picture I use for my blog, Instagram, and Facebook page is of me when I was five years old. Although this particular outfit is not made by hand, the bows to tie my hair up in pigtails are.

My dad was always better at hair. He must have been busy that day.

She didn’t spin the wool herself, but my mom cut off foot-long pieces of yarn from a skein of red wool she had hanging around the house, and tied them using her best basic double knot.

She liked to knit. She never made anything extravagant, but we had enough afghans and winter scarves to last a lifetime. It was good to know we wouldn’t freeze to death.

She also liked to sew. But more on that in a minute.

When I was growing up, my parents didn’t have a lot of money. It wasn’t like we were an anomaly. This is the way it was for everyone we knew. We were an Army family. We hung out with other Army families. We lived amongst Army families.

In retrospect, the signs were clear. Typically, Santa’s toys don’t smell like bleach. And our weekly jaunts picking up other people’s discarded items along the curb on garbage day most likely wasn’t just an “adventure.”

Then there were the handmade clothes.

I can still remember going into the local fabric store and purchasing patterns with my mom. I remember the tan colored paper McCall’s patterns laid out across the kitchen table. The shears that were meant for nothing but fabric. And the straight pins that would inevitably stab us if we moved too much while being fitted for the perfect polyester red and blue plaid bell bottoms that we were all going to be forced to wear.

My mom actually made me that little number on the left. This was during what I like to lovingly refer to as my “Mary Ingalls” phase

After my dad retired from the Army, we moved to a small town about an hour north of New York City. As if being the new kid at school wasn’t bad enough, wearing “Mom’s Special” was the icing on the cake. For me it was a pair of stiff denim gauchos — made stiffer with a can of extra crisp Niagara starch spray, or so it seemed — and a checkered shirt that came equipped with its own elastic neckline. You know, so I could hang myself with it if it got bad.

On my first day of school, Mr. Levi called my name to stand at the head of the class. I must have looked like a dark blue Acute Triangle to my fellow students. These were followed up by a pair of white knee socks and black and white saddle shoes which, unbelievably, did not catch on. Apparently, saddle shoes should have been left behind in 1956. Trying to bring them into 1979 just wasn’t going to happen.

A trend setter I was not.

Although I don’t have an actual photograph, I can still close my eyes and see myself standing there. With barrettes to hold back my long blonde hair, and a wide-toothed half smile that I’m sure said “please don’t throw anything larger than a whiffle ball at me” all over it.

I must have been a sight. I’m certain I was the only kid in my class to don clothes that were stitched by her own mother’s hands.

And you know what? I didn’t realize it until years later, but I was also the luckiest kid. Because my mother took the time to make clothes for me. Who needed Jordache jeans anyway? Well actually, I did. But I don’t want to talk about it.

I don’t know if I ever wore that outfit again. Even though I adored those gauchos. Peer pressure gets the better of you even at the tender age of twelve. My mother made them with love and I will forever be grateful for that.

But an elastic neckline, mom? Just so you know, there’s the crew neck, the boat neck, the scoop neck, the V-neck…shall I go on?