It’s been a long summer. It’s kind of continuing to be a long summer, for a billion reasons, and some of those reasons are boring and mundane, and others are heartbreaking and too hard to talk about, and still others just leave me feeling like a broken record. (Someday when we look back, will we refer to 2018 as The Year America Became A Flaming Dumpster Fire, or does that designation rightfully belong to 2016, with 2018 being more like The Year It Became Clear That Actually Women’s Rights CAN Go Backwards or The Year We All Really Realized We Were Not Overreacting, Everything Truly Is Awful? There are just so many choices.)

Now, listen, don’t panic. (I AM PANICKING ENOUGH FOR EVERYONE! YOU RELAX! HAVE A SNACK! WHAT DO YOU MEAN I’M YELLING? HAVE ANOTHER SNACK!) I’m fine. Everyone’s fine. My family is ridiculously privileged to have each other and enough money to cover the things we need and the color of skin deemed pleasing by fascists and all of that. I am just feeling… sad. I’m sad about a lot of things, big and small and in-between. Sometimes that sadness careens into anger or does a wheelie and veers off into despair, but mostly it’s just a big, enveloping Sad.

That’s not what I wanted to write about, though. That’s just a little preamble. I wanted to write about the *bong* that woke me up last night, because the last thing I thought once I was finally dropping back off to sleep was “This would be an excellent, non-offensive, universally-relatable thing I could write about probably if I wanted to.” So. Here we are!

I am not sleeping particularly well these days (QUELLE SURPRISE). So when my sleep is interrupted, I am cranky. (Lies. I am always cranky.) And then I got woken up. By some sort of weird *bong* noise.

[First sidebar: Chickadee just walked into my office, finished a phone call, wandered around a bit, then gasped and demanded to know if I was ACTUALLY BLOGGING. I said I was. She asked if I was okay, and I said probably I’m not. She then said, “But you’re blogging and Grandpa will be SO PROUD OF YOU!” However, my dad and stepmom are about to leave on a big trip, so I responded that, “Well, Grandpa is going to be in Norway, so I’m not sure he’s going to see this? But okay!” My darling daughter, bright shiny star of hard-won personal growth and burgeoning adulthood, retorted with exasperation, “Why isn’t Grandpa taking ME to Norway??” I slowly allowed my hands to rest flat on the keyboard, then—just as slowly—swiveled my desk chair to behold her beauty, sprawled on the couch in my office, petting a dog. She saw me looking at her and continued, “… I mean, besides the fact that I’m a MASSIVE PAIN IN THE ASS and not part of his marriage, why NOT?” And then I had to laugh and this is why this kid has made it 20 years. (P.S. Hey Dad, your granddaughter wants to go to Norway if you feel like packing her up, but I strongly suggest you just get out of the country as fast as you can before she can grab onto your leg.)]

Back to last night. Once upon a time, Otto and I both went to bed around 10:30-11:00ish together every night, but lately he has had a ton of morning meetings and I have stopped falling asleep in any manner even vaguely resembling a normal sleep pattern, so now it’s more like he heads off to bed at 10:00 and I continue hanging out with the kids or doing whatever it is I do until midnight or so before joining him. Last night I probably turned in around 12:15, and then I have to lie awake in bed listening to Duncan snore and Otto snore and think about all of the ways in which everything is terrible and we are all doomed, so I last glanced at the clock around… oh, at least 1:15 or so. Maybe later.

And then I heard a *bong* noise. At least, I thought I did. I found myself swimming up to consciousness, sure I’d heard something, but maybe I’d imagined it. I looked at the clock: 2:33. Well. That was a nice refreshing sleep! Of about an hour! Surely it was a weird dream. I would just close my eyes and go back to…


WHAAAAAT IS THAT?? I looked around. The sound was familiar but I couldn’t place it. My eyes searched the room, moving over every shadowy curve, straining to see if I could see evidence of a light on elsewhere by studying the crack under our door. The red light on the house alarm console told me the alarm was still armed, but that sound, it sounded like… wait, it sounded like…


… it sounded like the noise the alarm makes when you turn it off in the morning.

“HUSBAND,” I said, quite loudly. Otto didn’t move, so I poked him. Okay, fine. I smacked him. He sat up immediately. “Otto, why is the house alarm going bong? Did you hear that?”

Otto did not hear that. Otto had been sleeping. Peacefully! And I’d just smacked him awake about three hours before he needed to get up, because that’s the kind of asshole I am. (He promised to love, honor, kill bugs and root out weird beeping for me for as long as we both shall live, so I don’t honestly know what he expected.) We sat there in bed, the two of us, poised, listening.

Duncan continued to snore. And for 20 seconds or so, that’s all we heard. But then: *bong*

He got up and went to look at the alarm console. Our house alarm isn’t super fancy (are there super fancy house alarms?) but it will generally “tell” you what zone it’s freaking out about. In this case, apparently, it said something about the fire detector by the stairs. He went to investigate. I lay back down…

… only to immediately be jerked awake by an actual alarm-bell *DINGDINGDINGDINGDINGDING* warning because the house alarm apparently will tell you that your fire detector is upset but you have not SEEN upset until you TOUCH the fire detector! HOOOBOY! Don’t touch that thing. It gets mad. REAL MAD. I leapt out of bed and mashed some buttons until it stopped.

Duncan continued to snore. Don’t let anyone tell you that being deaf is a problem. It doesn’t seem to bother Duncan much.

[Second sidebar: Remember when I told you that I had to learn how to give Licorice shots because she is an itchy princess? I gave her the first shot at the vet dermatologist while they coached me. Then I gave her the second shot here at home, about 6 weeks later, easy-peasy. No problems. Last week she started scratching again and I went to give her the third shot and somehow put the needle all the way through the skin I’d pulled up at her nape and squirted the (very expensive) anti-itch medicine all over the couch. But it was okay, because I had one more dose on hand! And it’s only money! I gave her the shot (correctly, this time) and she… is still scratching, some, for the first time since we started giving her the Magic Anti-Itch Medicine. But Also Duncan has these weird scaly patches on his skin, and yes, I’ve had the vet look, and it’s all very weird. I have concluded I just have perma-itchy dogs. And they are still ridiculously spoiled so I’m trying not to worry about it. Much.]

ANYWAY. Where was I? Oh, right. So. The smoke detector hooked into our alarm system takes a fancypants battery, because OF COURSE IT DOES, and we could see no way to make the alarm stop going *bong* every 30 seconds, even after Otto turned on the light and flipped through the user’s manual. Basically, we just needed to turn the alarm off and vow to deal with it in the morning. Fine. We disarmed the alarm, Otto put the manual away and turned off the lights, and we got back into bed. Otto began snoring immediately. I looked at the clock: 2:47. Well, another hour to fall asleep and then I’d have a couple hours left to actually sleep, right?

And then the phone rang. At 2:47 am. But the Caller ID said it was the alarm company, and for a fleeting moment before I answered I thought to myself, “This is why no one has a landline anymore,” because that was helpful.

I answered the phone. “Hello?” I am nothing if not polite, even in the middle of the night.

“Hello, yes, this is Big Alarm Monitoring Company, and we are seeing a fire trouble signal coming from Otto Lastname.” The woman on the other end of the line had to be in Nebraska or Minnesota, donchaknow now, based on her accent. She didn’t sound sleepy or frustrated at all. She handled calling me about the “fire trouble signal” and telling me it had come DIRECTLY from my husband as if it was a midday call to let me know my subscription to Family Circle was about to expire, and surely I didn’t want to miss out on next month’s appetizer recipes, now did I?

“Yes, well, the house is not actually on fire,” I said. “Neither is Otto. It seems we have a low battery? In the detector? But it’s some weird battery we don’t have, so we can’t change it. Yet. I’ll go buy a battery tomorrow. I mean, later today. But we don’t know how to make it not be mad. But the house is not on fire.” This was probably too much information.

“Well, ah, I could connect you to the main customer service, ma’am, if you’re needing further assistance,” she said, clearly confused by my inability to be coherent.

“No, we’re fine. It’s fine. I’m going back to sleep. We’ll deal with it tomorrow. LATER TODAY. Whatever.”

“Okay then, very good. I’ll make a note. And who am I speaking with, ma’am?”

It suddenly occurred to me that whenever they call they’re supposed to ask for our safe word or whatever the hell they call it before they proceed with the call, and I was nearly overwhelmed with an urge to tell her my name was Charlie McGhee, but because I am a grownup I gave her my actual name and our actual top-secret word and thanked her for checking on us.

Eventually I fell back asleep.

Otto overslept this morning, which meant my goodbye kiss was punctuated with a rushed apology about not having made coffee, which I waved away because he saved me from the *bong* and had to get dressed and head out early and I love him. (One time when Chickie was a baby and I was pregnant with Monkey and my ex was out of town, a regular ol’ smoke alarm with a conventional battery started doing the low-battery beep in the middle of the night and I didn’t even hear it, but our dog at the time went completely apeshit and woke me up, at which point I discovered that the cover of the detector was jammed and I couldn’t get it open. Long story short, I ended up having to back my car out of the garage and DOWN TO THE STREET and leaving the entire smoke detector inside of it before that damn dog would let me go back to sleep. I was irrationally angry with my then-husband about that incident for YEARS.) It is, however, nearly lunchtime and I have not yet procured the replacement battery. This should not be a surprise to anyone who knows me. Also, Duncan has since gotten up and eaten twice and been outside and is happily snoring, again. Licorice, however, is freaking out because we’re having a storm.

The moral of this story is… HAHAHA, just kidding, there’s no moral. I just wanted to tell it, for some reason. It can sit here instead of all the stories I can’t tell anymore, and it even has a happy ending, because (one assumes) I’ll buy a battery today and we’ll forget the whole thing. Neat!


  1. Jen A

    MIR!!! You are back and we have missed you :) Last Christmas, my husband’s sister gave him this delightful shirt illustrating our feelings about both 2016 and 2017: http://6dollarshirts.com/dumpster-truck-fire-2017

    Now I’m wondering if a new shirt will be in order this Christmas, perhaps with that entire image backing up to an entire dump that’s on fire? And that dump is just..the USA?

  2. Caroline

    I suggest nap today, Otto picks up said battery, pizza, and you all watch a movie tonight. Maybe Cheech & Chong’s Up in Smoke would be appropriate after the long bong night? Big hugs to you! I hope tonight is bong free and you sleep all night long!! <3

  3. Fabs

    Thanks for the story and making me laugh, I’ve missed your writing. Hugs.

  4. Karen Milano

    I’m as horrified as you are.. I keep saying .. HOW DID WE GET HERE???? How… did we .. get here. I also have a whole lot less respect for some people I considered to be friends, because I just cannot believe they can support any tiny little bit of this, let alone the whole clusterf*ck.

    ANYHOW… you were missed! Please write again! I need the humor, the angst, the commiserating! …

    and glad to hear all is relatively well. Besides the Orange Scream that has taken over the universe.

  5. Stephanie

    I’ll happily read anything you want to write. You have been missed!

  6. beth

    Gosh, Mir. I love your writing. <3

  7. Amy

    Also missed you! As a displaced Canadian in Texas, I’m even more horrified because politics back home is very laid back, is this some kind of bizarre nightmare? I watch John Oliver and am amused at his delivery but aghast at his info/summations of Stupid Watergate. I can’t watch the news otherwise because of the Sad.

    Are the scaly patches nice and round? Maybe ringworm?

  8. Mom24

    Those are the EXACT same vows we took! :D

    Thinking of you lots.

    Glad the smoke alarm at least will soon be silent.

  9. Rachael

    You, Mir, have done superbly well at making me hate your alarm system. And I don’t even live there. And what is with your house and all these weird skin conditions with kids and dogs?

  10. Kim

    Hey, here’s my I-miss-Mir story : a few years back I wrote you because my Chickadee has ADHD (and yea! Me too) and you offered me lovely advice. And now my Monkey has been to a few different doctors who were all “nope, not on the spectrum” and one who is , “yep, spectrum all right” and I’ve been reading you ling enough that I remember the post about the doctor who told you. Except I’m less surprised and more validated. And appreciative that you shared that experience so I know I’m not alone.
    And grateful that you had a bad battery so I could visit just a bit.

  11. Becky

    Good, old alarm detectors, foiled by the urgent needs of their batteries. My carbon monoxide detector went off the second week in my new apartment (the same night I discovered my oven wasn’t properly connected and HELLO GASSY SMELL). Turned out to be a dying battery alert, but my 3:00 am brain was not prepared. (HELP. I LIVE ALONE AND TRIED TO COOK AND WILL APPARENTLY DIE FROM MY EFFORTS. OPEN THE WINDOWS IN THE DEAD OF WINTER!!)

    The super replaced the battery later that day after fixing up the oven. (He also connected the heat because, haha, they hadn’t actually reconnected the pipes in my place either.) All was well until the battery alert went off again a month later at 5:00 am. WHO USES A NEARLY DEAD BATTERY? I ordered my own BRAND-NEW batteries later that day and popped one in instead of risking another middle of the night scare via the super.

    …isn’t it also comforting to know that the detectors will, in fact, rouse you in the dead of night?

    Wow, that really was therapeutic.

  12. Mary K. in Rockport

    One word re our country: OY

  13. Suzanne

    Your whole second paragraph: yes.

    Why are the battery issues of Important Alarms so difficult to rectify??? I swear anything that has a piercing shriek or a bone shattering clang WILL run out of batteries and refuse to be calmed by anything normal.

  14. Daisy

    I am often sad about the direction our country is going. I help myself feel a wee bit better by taking action: participating in local demonstrations, writing my reps and senators often (I send postcards, written in cursive, almost hoping the interns can’t read them and have to pass them on to their bosses), and supporting candidates to take over the jobs of those I no longer (and maybe never) support. supported. Yeah, whatever, donchano. :)

  15. Jeanie

    It’s so good to hear from you, in spite of the “bong!”

  16. Chuck

    My old smoke alarms were going off periodically in the middle of the night for a while…then they decided to go off when I was on vacation last year and I had to tell my condo president how to get inside my spectacularly messy condo. Got some new alarms and the problem seems to be fixed now but it was loads of fun.

  17. StephLove

    It seems funny to say it’s been a long summer when it’s only been summer for less than two weeks, but yeah…I know just what you mean.

  18. Chris

    And even though I know he is on vacation, I am still looking forward to Mir’s Dad’s comment !!(Think i have done something grammatically wrong there but still going for it :) )

    I have missed you all and agree it is a hard summer.

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