August 1st, 2014

Brain Cancer Killed This Blog

When I started back in 2003, my son was a toddler and my husband was an active duty soldier in the U.S. Army who was gone a lot. A lot. Then we relocated to a rural area in Hawaii — which isn’t nearly as pleasant as you’d think — and he was gone even more. There were times when two, sometimes three weeks would pass and I hadn’t spoken with anyone over the age of three.

I’ve often said this blog saved my life back then, because it put me in contact with people all over the world and gave me a reason to think. Now, I’m hoping this blog can help save my husband’s life, or at least make what’s left of it a little bit better.

You see, about a month after my last post — on July 12, 2012 to be specific — we learned that my husband has brain cancer. At the time, his tumor was considered slow-growing and following surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, and he was expected to have a very good shot at living a normal lifespan.

Earlier this week, we learned that his tumors (he has two now) have progressed to glioblastoma, which has a median survival rate 14 or so months. Since he’d had an MRI in May which showed the tumors being in check, the growth between then and his July MRI indicates the clock started ticking in the past month or two.

The Venomous Hubby

Frankly, we’re terrified. We’re also in need of your help. Although Mike has been working throughout his various treatments, he is no longer able to do so. His cognitive and speech skills are rapidly declining, and he is physically exhausted from nearly 18 straight months of daily chemotherapy.

Although his boss did everything he could to keep Mike on, his condition is such that he just can’t keep working. As I type this, Mike’s resignation letter is sitting on in his office, awaiting his signature.

But Mike is worried about retiring. It’s not just that he’s a workaholic, though he is (and that fact is responsible for about 70% of this blog’s content, come to think of it). He’s also afraid of what’s going to happen to our family financially once he’s no longer bringing home a paycheck.

See, Social Security Disability will take a few months to kick in, as will his Federal medical retirement pay. Until then, we’re broke. Flat. Broke. (Having a daughter who only just graduated college and a now-teenaged son who’s in braces and band will do that to a family.)

So we’re raising funds to help Mike complete his Bucket List in the time he has remaining, and to hopefully cover some of the gap between his last day of work and his first day of disability payments.

If you can, please contribute. It doesn’t have to be big — even $3 would be great! And, if you can’t contribute, then please know as we do that prayer is the most valuable form of currency there is. We could sure use some.

•To read more of Mike’s story, or to contribute to his fundraiser, please visit his campaign here.

•To follow Mike’s progress, please “Like” his Facebook page: Mike Berry’s Brain Cancer Battle.

Thank you,
Not so “Venomous” anymore Kate


June 10th, 2012

Kids These Days

Like everyone else in the country, we’ve been watching our pennies a lot more closely than ever before. And, like children everywhere, the Big-Eyed Boy just does not understand that nothing in this world is truly free — not food, running water, or electricity.

Here we are, only two weeks into summer vacation, and I swear I’ve spent most of my days going around the house turning off lights in rooms that he hasn’t been in for hours, telling him that he does NOT need the TV going in the background if he’s busy playing Quake on the computer, and shutting off water faucets left running because he forgot he’d turned them on to wash his hands.

So today when I found him sitting on the deck with the door to the kitchen wide open, I just about lost it.

Me: “We can’t afford to air condition the whole outdoors. Who do you think Dad is, Nelson Rockefeller?”

Big-Eyed Boy: “Who?”

Me: “Warren Buffet?”

BEB: “Who???”

Me: “Bill Gates?”

BEB: “WHO????”

Me (sighing): “Mark Zuckerberg?”

BEB: “Of course you’re not him. He’s old but not your old kinda OLD.”

Somehow, I managed to resist the urge to lock that child out of my house.

May 24th, 2012

Announcing: My New Blog

You’ve heard about the “softer side of Sears”? Come see the cleaner side of (not-so-Venomous-anymore) Kate at my new blog, Housewife How To’s. It’s just what it sounds like: how to cook, clean, do laundry, get organized and save money… with a sense of humor!

April 24th, 2012

A Poem* For My Husband

I have eaten
the cooked bacon
that was in
the fridge

and which
you were probably
saving for our kid’s

Forgive me
it was delicious
so bacony
and there.

*With apologies to William Carlos Williams.


March 10th, 2012

Happy Birthday to my Boy and my Blog!

Twelve years ago today, my beautiful Big-Eyed Boy was born. Weighing 9 lbs and 11 oz, he seemed ginormous at the time. (Hey, I’m a short woman!) And then came his first poop. Oh, how we ooohed and ahhhhed over it. Weird, isn’t it, how new parents can find crap so adorable? I remember grabbing a baby wipe and realizing that, despite how it felt like I’d shot out a watermelon, that wipe was HUGE compared to his little butt.

And now, as we close out his Tween years, I no longer find his poop adorable. In fact, laundry day pretty much squicks me out. But him? Oh, yeah. I still sigh sometimes when I look at him… when he’s not talking… which is, basically, only when he’s asleep. Oh, and the baby wipes? Yeah, I’m the one using them now on my own ass. It’s the circle of life, y’all!

Oh, and it’s also my blog’s 9th birthday. Yes, that’s right: I started Electric Venom on my son’s third birthday, a time when most other mommies would probably lie through their teeth have been doing something all nurturing and stuff. Me? I’d spent the previous six weeks single-parenting a child who would not. shut. up. (Some things never change.)

Here’s hoping that, a year from now, I post another entry celebrating both birthdays again.


March 1st, 2012

And Now, A Moment Of Midlife Crisis

Looking back, I think I’ve been going through a mid-life crisis since I was 36, when I realized I’d never be a rock star. Or the host of my own television talk-show. Or taller.

For the most part, I’ve handled those realizations by drinking vast quantities of liquor as well as the next woman, pushing them out of my mind so I could go about my day-to-day life as a housewife without screaming in abject horror over having fulfilled the soul-crushing prediction of my fourth grade teacher, Miss Niles, who’d scrawled on my report card: “HAS THE I.Q. OF A GENIUS BUT THE SELF-MOTIVATION OF A SLOTH.” (Thanks, bitch.)

And, for the most part, my tactic has worked. I can look in the mirror every morning without seeing the fine lines around my eyes, or noticing that my gray hairs are coming in curly, whereas the rest of my hair is straight. That’s because I don’t put my glasses on until sometime after my coffee has kicked in, by which time I’m far too behind in my daily chores to bother tending such things. Also, I’ve reached an age where I no longer dither about what I’m going to wear for the day. The only decision I have to make is whether I’ll be wearing the black sweatpants, or the blue ones, and that choice is made simple by checking the color of my cleanest t-shirt.

Up until recently, I was so busy drinking being a housewife that it was easy for me to ignore the fact that my oldest child, my beautiful daughter, will be turning 21 this summer (and, thus, no longer a reliable designated driver) and that my baby boy, who’ll turn 12 next weekend, is unmistakably in the first throes of puberty…and almost as tall as me. Besides, every birthday they celebrate is another chance to call my mother and point out that, contrary to what she’d once told me, I didn’t starve, strangle, disown or misplace my kids. Yay, me!

Then today, while cutting out coupons, I ran across one for a baby pacifier twin-pack — or, as we used to call them, binkies! They were absolutely adorable: one was painted to look like big, red kissy-lips while the other looked like a bunny nose. Cute little binkies, with a one dollar off coupon, y’all! But I didn’t need to clip it, because MY KIDS ARE TOO OLD FOR BINKIES AND THEY’LL NEVER BE BABIES AGAIN!!!

As irrational as that realization sounds, it’s nothing compared to the sound that came out of me right at that moment — a weird half-sob, half-laugh which, if anyone had been around to hear it, they’d have thought was a pretty awesome burp. But I knew better, just as I knew why I clipped that coupon, anyway, despite my kids being to old for binkies: GRANDBABIES.

Sure, my eggs are too pickled to produce more offspring, even if I wanted to. Which I don’t. And, no, my daughter isn’t pregnant (that I know of) and she’s not married (or even, according to her Facebook status, dating anyone). But you never know. After all, she is turning 21 this summer and, as a good percentage of us know from experience, booze is often the first ingredient in baby-making. Not that I’m trying to rush her, mind you.

Even so, statistically speaking, I’m likely to become a grandmother in the next four years, which still puts me under 50 when it happens. You know what that means: I went from being a tired, slightly disheveled, frumpy middle-aged housewife to (future) HOT GRANDMA in a matter of seconds, all thanks to clipping that coupon.

Suddenly, my midlife crisis is over.


February 27th, 2012

You’ll Never Believe What I Found In My Garden

Fourteen months ago — on December 30, 2010 to be precise — I went to a decidedly boozy birthday celebration. So boozy, in fact, that long before the other celebrants were ready to call it a night, I asked the bartender to call a cab for me so I could go home. The next morning, I woke up with one of the worst hangovers I’ve ever had… in addition to a goose egg-sized bump on my forehead from when I’d had to bend over and squint so I could get my key into the lock on our front door, at which point I’d overbalanced, whacked my head on the front door, over-corrected from that, and landed smack on my backside, which is how I was still sprawled when my smirking husband finally took pity on me and let me into the house.

It was not my finest moment.

Anyway, after spending several hours trying not to throw up napping on the sofa, I remembered that I’d taken several photos with my iPhone 3GS and had promised to send them to the rest of the gang. One problem: my iPhone was missing.

Now, had I been a smart woman I would’ve had Find my iPhone installed, and tracking it down would’ve been easy as pie. Then again, had I been a smart woman I would have realized — as I since have, I assure you — that a woman of my age and responsibilities has NO business going out and drinking like that.

My first thought was that maybe it had fallen out of my purse when I’d ricocheted from knocking my forehead against the front door to plopping on my ample posterior. But, in all honesty, I was in no condition to step outside looking for my phone, so I asked my husband if he’d conduct the search for me. He huffed a bit, then stepped out front and stomped around. Not two minutes later, he was back inside grumbling about how cold it was and that, even assuming my phone had fallen outside, it would either have cracked as it hit the ground or would have died in the frigid overnight temperatures. In sum, he said, I was screwed.

“You weren’t out there for very long,” I said. “How could you have looked all over the front yard in such a short time?”

“It’s in a pink case, okay, against white snow. It wouldn’t be that hard to see, okay?” he replied.

“But what if fell into a drift? You wouldn’t see it then,” I said.

“I looked for it, okay? It is NOT there. No doubt, you left it at the bar or in the cab or someone stole it from your purse, but IT IS NOT OUTSIDE, all right?”

Have I mentioned that my husband gets very, very touchy when we have to spend money on anything, and doubly so when we have to spend money replacing something one of us has lost?

Yeah, so I spent the rest of the morning using our land line to call everyone in the group, each of whom was as hungover as I was, and none of whom had seen my phone. To a man (or woman), they all pointed out that the bar we’d been at was — how to put this — a nasty little dive filled with such unsavory characters that none of us felt safe going to the bathroom unless: (a) someone would come with us; and (b) someone else was actively guarding our drinks. In other words, someone might have nicked my iPhone out of my purse when I wasn’t looking.

Because I use my iPhone intensively, I had a lot of sensitive data stored on it. Waiting and hoping it would turn up just wasn’t an option, so we called AT&T that day to deactivate the thing. Wouldn’t you know, they had a special going if I wanted to upgrade to the iPhone 4? Yes, please, I told them, and two days later my pretty new gadget, and new case, arrived in the mail. After getting my data transferred to the new unit, I never gave my old iPhone another thought.

Until yesterday.

See, yesterday we had absolutely gorgeous weather. Since this winter has been so mild, and our local weather gurus all agree we’re unlikely to get any significant snow or even another hard freeze before things warm up for the Spring, I decided to do some gardening. I weeded, raked, and pruned stuff, then planted four dozen frilly pansies in the front garden to give the house some much-needed curb appeal. Then I reached behind the foundation plantings next to the front step so I could turn on the sprinkler and water my perky new plantings.

Lo and behold, there was my iPhone, half-buried in mud and looking so similar to my current iPhone (I do like those pink cases) that for a moment I thought I’d just dropped it. But no, my iPhone 4 was in my pocket. What I was looking at was the iPhone 3GS that I’d lost not this past December, but the one before that.

As in, fourteen months ago.

Fourteen months, during which I’ve severed contact with everyone who’d been at that party, for what I think should be an obvious reason. Fourteen freaking months, during which time the Venomous Hubby has reminded me, every single time I’ve left the house, to be careful that I don’t lose my iPhone. Fourteen months during which we’d had over 70 inches rain/snow including one all-out blizzard, during which we shivered through the third coldest winter on record, then sweated through weeks of temperatures above 90F. Fourteen long months during which bugs, spiders and that damned woodchuck have scampered around behind the foundation plants doing whatever it is yucky creatures do outside.

What does an iPhone look like after it’s been exposed to all of that? Like this:


Needless to say, I did a happy dance which involved waving my old iPhone in my husband’s face while telling him, in a singsong voice, “I found it! I found it! It’s not lost anymore, ‘cuz I found it!” which was my way of telling him to shut the hell up about the incident already, m’kay?

His response: “So, you found it, big deal. And now you’re the proud owner of an overpriced paper weight.”

There are few things that I enjoy more than being right, so I slipped the thing out of its case and gave it a good rubbing with a barely damp cloth. I was surprised how few scratches the screen had, and how easily it cleaned up. No doubt, the case had a lot to do with that.

But then came the big question: would it work? I really didn’t have high hopes, considering the kind of weather we’d had since I lost the dang thing, but then again, it had been sheltered by both the foundation shrubs and a foot or so of roof overhang. Even so, you could have knocked me over with a feather when I plugged it in and the thing powered on right away.

And, just in case there are doubters out there, here’s a snap of my new and old iPhones side-by-side:


Well done, Apple. Well done, indeed! Not only did you help me shock my husband into speechlessness (yay!), but you’ve made an Apple convert out of him, too. Most importantly to me, now he’ll have his OWN iPhone to use when he wants to find tomorrow’s weather forecast, check the game scores, or maybe even call the florist and order a bouquet for his wife.


February 14th, 2012

I Scream, You Scream

A not-so-secret secret: I don’t like children, unless they’re my own, both of whom are better looking, smarter, funnier and all-around more loveable than anyone else’s kids. Just ask me. Or them.

Unfortunately, the kids in our neighborhood (and various small animals) gravitate toward me. I suspect this is because I’m so short they simply cannot believe I’m a full-fledged adult. Or maybe it’s because I’m not above whipping up a batch of cookies and offering them as many as they’d like if they’ll GO HOME and eat them. Hard to say. Also unfortunate: some of the kids in our neighborhood are just downright stupid. No, I mean it. They’ll come over and ask my son to play outside with them, then swarm my yard until the sheer noise of the throng drives me nuts.

Now, when I say “throng”, I mean it. There’s one family in the neighborhood that consists of six siblings and an endless rotation of cousins (at least two on any given weekend), all of whom are required to play outside as a group, despite the vast difference in their ages, and add two other pairs of siblings — who also seem to come as a unit, like “Invite one! Get two!” — plus my son. Now, I suck at math but that’s a coven a shitload of children. All playing in my yard.

(Come to think of it, I bet their parents send them with instructions to play in my yard just so they can get a break from their noisy little brats. Oh man. THAT is going to come up at the next block party, I assure you.)

Anyway, after a while I just can’t take it anymore. By that point, they’ve played ‘Ding Dong Ditch’ a half-dozen times even though I never, ever bother answering when the bell rings. (All of the neighborhood parents, having been similarly victimized by this stupid game, know to knock .) They’ve each had a turn being It in Hide-and-Seek, which means I’ve heard “One…two…three…um, six…twelve…five…” at least a dozen a shitload of times. And, more often than not, I’ve passed out numerous Band-Aids or ice packs, depending on whether they were riding bikes or playing tag that day.

Then I snap.

That’s when I’ll go outside to pass around cookies — “Take one for each hand and GO HOME, kids!” — and they’ll stand there, grasping their cookies, completely oblivious to the GO HOME part, until I say for the fourth or fifth time, “No, really. It’s time to GO HOME!” That’s usually sufficient enough to set them on their way, although I’m not above pointing out to the stragglers that if they continue hanging around they have to give me back their cookies. After all, we had a deal.

But it never fails: some kid always forgets something at my house — gloves, a hat, their Pokemon cards. (Once, I even found a rather nice lacy bra, which is weird since none of the kids are old enough to wear one. I didn’t know which kid to confront, so I put it away for safekeeping. That, too, will come up at our next block party. Count on it.) Fortunately, the kids never realize they’ve forgotten something, so I don’t have to worry about the doorbell ringing again just when I’m finally getting my drunk on to settle my nerves things are calming down around here.

Now, on one recent evening after VH, the Big-Eyed Boy and I had finished our dinner and gone downstairs to watch TV together, I kept hearing things. At first, I thought I heard a bump in the garage but figured it was just our cat, who sometimes likes to go out there to smell what’s new. A few minutes later, though, I was certain I heard someone talking, but by the time I’d nagged VH into tearing his hypnotized gaze from the TV to find the remote and mute the volume, the noise had stopped.

“You’re hearing things,” he told me.

“Well, duh,” I said. “Isn’t that implied when someone asks ‘Did you hear that?‘”

A few more minutes went by, and this time I was certain: someone was knocking on the door. And that, of course, means one of the neighborhood parents was standing on my doorstep. And THAT means some kid did something stupid while they were here, so I glanced at mine to see if he looked particularly guilty, but he was obviously as confused as I was. Which is why I sent him to answer the door. Who (besides me) is going to go off on a kid, right?

He came back to the basement shrugging. “No one was there. Guess someone’s playing Knock, Knock Ditch?” He thought this was particularly funny until we heard yet another knock, this time louder. Only, this time I could tell it wasn’t coming from the front door, but from the garage, instead. As in, the door inside the garage that opens into the kitchen. So I raced up the stairs worried that we’d left the big, outer garage door up and some thief was now trying to get in our house. (I know, I know: like thieves would knock, right?) So I grabbed the baseball bat we keep in the coat closet and flung open the door to confront the intruder.

The instant I flung open the door, I saw that the large, outer door was closed and realized we must’ve trapped a wild animal inside. And just as I was realizing this, that very animal emitted an ear-piercing scream. Naturally, I screamed, too, and it went on like that for several long heartbeats: the beast screaming, me screaming, both of our screams making the other one scream.

That’s when I pulled it together and took a good look at the rabid thing and saw… it was a three-year-old little boy who’d tagged along with an older sibling to play with my son earlier. And, from what I could decipher between his chest-shaking sobs and snot bubbles, he’d crawled into my minivan in the garage and fallen asleep while everyone else was playing, only they’d forgotten all about him when it was time to go home. (Naturally, they’d taken their cookies anyway.)

He was obviously terrified, and who wouldn’t be, waking up in someone else’s dark garage and not remembering how the hell they’d got there. It’s scared the crap out of ME every time it’s happened. Poor little guy. So, holding him at arm length while I wiped the snot off of his face with a wad of disposable tissue, I assured him I’d walk him home and, yes, he could have his two cookies.

Now get this: when his mother finally came to the door, she had the audacity to ask why I didn’t know her son was still at my house, much less that he’d crawled into my van and fallen asleep. It was such an unexpected, blame-shifting question that I just stood there and stared, blinking slowly, my left eyebrow raised in that disdainful, Spock-like way that I’d practiced in front of the mirror for hours when I was a kid.

Eventually, she’d replayed her own words in her head. She has one of those faces that pretty much telegraphs every thought in her head as it happens. One minute, she was scowling at me, her eyebrows lowered into an angry V over her nose and jaw jutting forward beneath puckered lips. The next, her face went blank and slack, like she was listening to some far-off tune. Then — BOOM! — it hit her: why didn’t she know her son was still at my house? And that’s when I turned on my heel and left her standing on her front porch, contemplating her own stupidity and calculating how long it’d take the story to make its rounds of the neighborhood.

The next afternoon, the same neighbor came knocking on my door bearing a plate of homemade cookies and an apology for having gone all unreasonable on me the night before. As she explained — and she was very nice and contrite about it — with so many kids in the house, sometimes it’s easy to lose track of them, which is why they’re supposed to keep an eye on each other, too. I totally get that. Really, I do. I can’t imagine having more than my own two, who keep me at my wit’s end. So we made nice and everything, and we were all smiles and stuff, as I closed my front door.

But just in case, I tossed the cookies into the trash. Who knows what snot-nosed kid of hers had touched them.