think like a middle schooler

Dad: “Siege towers sound like fun.”
Mom: “He has an after school activity every single day next week and I don’t know when we’ll have time to do the written report OR the model. Hadrian’s Wall or an aqueduct seem easiest to build.”
Child: “Let’s do a bathhouse! They’re not bathrooms. They’re swimming pools.”
Mom whispering to Dad: “If you agree to him googling bathhouses, I WILL add graffiti to the walls of his model.”

He vs She: Sick days

Day One
He: Takes to the bed at the first sign of illness and sleeps for 24 hours.
She: Drags herself to the nearest sitting spot. Stares blankly into the distance. Mumbles that this is bs and she doesn’t have time for it. Gets up and drags herself to the next spot that may or may not actually be a chair. Stares. Mumbles. Repeats this process all day except for half a dozen unplanned catnaps.

Day Two
He: Sleeps the entire day and night, waking only to loudly slurp soup several times.
She: Can’t rest because every dish in the house is dirty and the laundry is becoming sentient. Easily mistaken for a zombie.

Day Three
He: Nap. Eat. Play on Phone. Repeat. Repeat.
She: The crankiest human on Earth until she takes a two hour bath and drinks her body weight in coffee.

hot mess express

The back of my brain tickled at having the time to do a load of laundry and dishes between the children’s taxi deliveries and pickups, but I ignored it. I clinked the stack of plates like some parody of a functional housewife as my phone hummed a familiar melody and I realized my crime. It finally happened. After years of the middle child teasing me for almosts…

I forgot a child. I was blissfully checking things off my to-do list while one of the children stood on a school sidewalk looking for me.

Add “my mom forgot me” to that child’s complaints for her future therapist.

At least it wasn’t the middle child.


“One of the gloves is spinning too fast. I hear it clicking.”
“I don’t understand what you’re saying. I think you’re asleep.”
“I’m not talking. It’s the gloves.”

Either my child is a spy and I don’t understand her secret code or she’s experiencing Color Guard withdrawal.

I’m going with spy. Spying is the new hotness.

The project

He: “I’m turning the water off and draining the old tank now.”
She: “Everybody shower. Quickly! We won’t have water for a week. Fill the water bowls. Move it!”

I love home repairs and improvements when they are complete enough for the tools to go back in the cabinets. Getting to that stage is somewhat less than satisfying. Because we live in an old house, there is no such thing as a simple repair or project. One repair ALWAYS means at least three repairs.

“After I got in there, I found out __ was broken, too.”
“I can’t fix it until I re-work the wiring because…”
“Our pipes are too old for this, so…”

As the problems stack up, the monstrosity known only as the “project” bleeds money. So. Much. Money.

The project area has to be cleared of normal contents, so every room in the house ends up cluttered with extra stuff. Supplies and tools are on every surface in the house. Nothing can be found. Nothing can be put away. Can’t sit in chairs because they are full of displaced things. It’s like drowning in clutter. The clutter is covered in layers of construction dust. The sunbeams sparkle with clouds of it. The humans are covered in grime.

Coughing. Sneezing. Headaches. Nosebleeds.

When the project gets to a point that it is functional, work on the project ceases. The huge amount of time that has been spent on the project means that other things are too far behind schedule. Something else is at the top of the urgency queue. No project is ever fully completed, but I always leave a bite of food on my plate and one of the children always leaves a few drops of milk in the carton instead of emptying it, so that’s basically the same thing. Right?

Iron Fist (spoiler free)

Luke Cage > Daredevil > Jessica Jones > Iron Fist

In a perfect world, all seasons of episodic television would be presented in their entirety on subscription services like Netflix. Watching the full season in one night or spread out over several weeks would be the viewer’s choice. The ultimate reward is knowing that even if there is not another season, there was no cancellation in the middle of the story arc. The end might not be satisfying, but if it’s something you really love, the ending is always bittersweet.

Netflix took several Marvel characters and gave them each their own story. First, they gave us Daredevil. Daredevil was violence as art. It was beautiful, but brutal. Next was the psychological assault that was Jessica Jones. The skin crawling discomfort that makes me rank it below Daredevil is the exact reason other people rank it above Daredevil. I watched Daredevil in marathon chunks, but I had to take mental recovery time after each episode of Jessica Jones.

Luke Cage was the next gift from Netflix and it included a soundtrack of perfection. In every scene of Luke Cage, there was one moment that was the frame from a comic book. The characters in Luke Cage were more real and familiar than Daredevil and more likeable than in Jessica Jones. Politicians as the villains that persist was icing on the cupcake of Luke Cage.

What all three series had in common was a comic book aesthetic that made it fun to watch. Iron Fist forgets that it is a comic book. The street festival and a karaoke scene stood out as missed opportunities instead of the use of colors, sounds and camera angles that they should have been. Iron Fist moves so slow that it is episode eight before there is a fight scene that is worthy of praise. We can’t even use Iron Fist as the launching point for an adult conversation about the cultural fetishism in comic book culture and the general population because most people will have stopped watching Iron Fist after the first episode.

Ultimately, Iron Fist is filler to tide us over until The Defenders. It’s fun, but it could and should have been so much more than the series that lowers the bar for The Defenders to be a success.


If you are buying used books in Knoxville, you go to McKay’s. I’m sure there are other options. I don’t know them. I’m not looking for them either. I’ve been a McKay’s fan since my oldest child was a toddler and that is too many decades ago to break a routine. McKay’s used to be an old house with squeaky, tilted floors. The bookcases were packed in so tightly that you literally rubbed shoulders and backs with the other shoppers. The children’s section was just outside of the old home’s tiny bathroom. If you had a child who sang while they sat, every parent in the children’s area giggled during the solo performances that could be heard in half the store. It was home for book people.

Many years ago, McKay’s moved to a huge two story warehouse. It smelled like metal and glass instead of wood and paper. It’s well lit, the shelves are almost organized and the aisles are wider. Small children play on the elevator instead of clustering together on the floor. After the shock of the change wore off, book people seemed to silently agree to pretend this was the way things had always been. The free books in the bin outside the new warehouse probably don’t reek of cat urine, but as I’ve already mentioned that I am a creature of habit, I’ve been trained to avoid that bin.

All of the other shoppers in McKay’s go to the section they want, pick books off the shelf and look at the jackets until their hand basket or arms are full of books to buy.

I’m a PITA shopper who spends so long standing stationary on aisles in the half dozen sections I like, that I hear “excuse me” in every possible tone of annoyance and irritation. I start off looking for the authors on my watchlist. This includes the eternal search for better hard covers of loved paperbacks that are already on my shelves. After that, I look at random book covers of titles that grab my attention. There’s a mood shopping element to this that makes every trip to McKay’s slightly unique. Then, I open the book and look at all the titles in the series. If I’m still interested at this point, I scan the bar code with Goodreads and do a skimmy kind of read to see ratings and the first few words of reviews while trying to avoid spoilers. After this, I compare the cost of the used book to the price of it new. Then, I flip it like a deck of cards to make sure it isn’t excessively scribbled, highlighted or hiding something gross, like an old cookie that’s been squished flat by time. That’s not a random example, btw.

Other than that, I’m a perfectly normal shopper…

except when I realize that I’m singing along with the store’s mood music.

So, who wants to go with me to McKay’s?

southern gothic

“I want a bamboo forest behind the house that blocks out all light and heat.”
“You want a dark forest in our backyard?”
“Will it have the usual inhabitants?”
“Yes, but they’ll keep to the forest. Actually, I want to live in a castle.”
“I’ll get right on that.”

One Year

The one year anniversary of my father dying is the end of the year of ‘first time without’ milestones. The veil between reality and memories is threadbare right now. This time last year, he was standing right here. This time last year, we were all watching a movie. This time last year, mom called me. It’s an inescapable torrent of emotions that we all endure in our own ways.

A few days ago, I prepped my planner for the coming week.

Next week

A photo posted by Cathy McCaughan (@cathymccaughan) on

Saturday, I spent the day at a WGI event. The entire family was there at the beginning of the day. After A performed, everyone took off to do other activities and my mother stayed to keep me company. Out of the blue, one of the performances had Jonathan Pryce reading Dylan Thomas as their performance music.

I came unglued.

I’m sure their routine was lovely, but I was too busy trying to maintain a false facade to notice it. While we’re all haunted by my father’s ghost, my mother is definitely not on ‘put an extra plate at the table’ terms with the ghost. She’s still constantly sweeping up the shards of her shattered heart. “It never stops hurting.”

So, with my planner as some kind of absurd art therapy, I will get past this week. It will be like walking in two timelines simultaneously, but this too shall pass.