Drawing on a lifetime of experiences, author Julie McCulloch Burton shares a compilation of short stories and vignettes that reflect her self-deprecating sense of humor and her positive outlook on life, turning ordinary moments into meaningful lessons.
Including personal photographs of a wide range of subjects-food, flowers, animals, people, landscapes, seasons, studies in lines, and studies in water movement-Mediocre also presents a varied collection of writings, many of which originated as e-mails to family and friends. Burton offers narratives relaying the realities and absurdities of humorous, everyday situations; accounts of what it's like to live with multiple sclerosis; favorite family recipes; philosophical thoughts; poetry; and reflections on moments in life when you wish you had thought things through just a little bit more.
In Mediocre, Burton provides enlightenment about an ailment that does not define her, entertains with the humor that does, and teaches that the object of this game is not only to do your best on your best day, but also to do your best on your worst day.
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Read an Excerpt
Making Fun of Life
By Julie McCulloch Burton
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2013 Julie McCulloch Burton
All rights reserved.
And now from the book
"A Day in the Life of Julie"
At 5:30 this morning I went out to warm up my car. It snowed six inches yesterday and it was nineteen degrees out.
I tromped through the powder in the driveway and tried to open the door. With a very loud curse word, I discovered that the car door was completely frozen shut. In haste, because I was freezing quickly in the wind, I went around and tried the other three doors. All of them were sealed tight.
This has never happened to me and I survived a blizzard in Massachusetts, but in the last storm it happened to my friend, so I knew it wasn't some urban myth used to strike fear into Those Who Live Where It Doesn't Snow.
After I waded back through the drift and into the warm house, I woke my husband up and asked what the trick was to get frozen car doors open.
He told me to pour water on them.
I asked, "Won't that just glaze them?" and before he drifted off to sleep again he mumbled, "Pour and pull."
So, I grabbed a pitcher and filled it with water thinking, "Pour and pull. Pour and pull."
Out through the snow to my frozen car I went.
Once there, I grabbed the handle and poured the water over the damned jammed door jamb and pulled.
Absolutely nothing happened. And now I had a freshly glazed car. It was quite pretty, actually. It glistened in the distant porch light.
I tried out some new curse words, prayed to some other gods and realized that I had splattered water down my front, so now I was glazed as well.
I tried some karate kicks (it's a plastic car) to the door hoping to break the seal, much like you would bang a jar on the countertop to break the vacuum. I tried pulling the handle with both hands and, in sheer frustration, I tried just staring stupidly at it as well. It wasn't budging.
So now I thought that I would have to call into work for a snow day. I didn't want to do that because I like going to work, and I like getting paid for going to work, but I figured my day was blown.
Maybe I could come out at the top of every hour and try again.
Then, a new idea dawned on me. I reached into my pocket and pulled out my keys. I thought this was a good idea: it might just work. I took a deep breath, closed my eyes and pushed a button on my keychain and – BAM! – all four doors unlocked.
Welcome to a day in the life of Julie.
Tennis season is upon us.
Last Wednesday was our first game. This is the fourth season for my friend Kristy and me, and the second for my husband. He's partnered with Taylor, Kristy's young daughter. Years ago, she could do little more than hit a ball against a fence off in the corner while her mom and I played, but now she's getting serious and is pretty good at returning the ball. Don't feel bad that she's playing with a bunch of adults: we all fear her on the court.
Last season ended with a sports injury. Paulie developed what could only be called tennis toe. The big toe nail-bed on his right foot turned black and unhappy from repeated quick stops and turns.
Midwinter I was horrified to watch him lift his nail up like a car hood and squeeze the last of the tube of Neosporin under it before dropping it back down and re-wrapping it safely up again. After I realized I wasn't going to vomit after all, I shuddered, "Good lord man, how did you do that again?"
Now, this is a guy who never whines about pain, never cries about slamming his thumb in a double-paned sliding glass door, or removing the tip of his finger by one of those kitchen slicers when he ran the vegetable over the v-shaped blade (and didn't use the safety handle), or removing splinters from his hands after they've gone through his work gloves while working a twelve-hour shift at the mill years ago, but apparently he had reached his threshold with this injury because he barked, "Tennis! Tennis damn it! I hurt my toenail playing tennis!"
Unfortunately because of this fresh wound, the new season made him nervous and Kristy and I were getting pushback.
He said, "Just look at my toe. It's almost completely healed and now you want me to go out there and play on it again?"
"Grrr," he growled.
Finally I said, "Clip your toe nails, take a Midol, and let's go!"
He was mystified, "Isn't that the one for cramps?"
I growled, "Yes, and crankiness. Move it man!"
The day and the hour finally arrived.
I dressed out at work and swung by the house to pick up The Man.
I put my hair up in ponytails so it wouldn't stick to my neck when I sweated (no worries there, it was 58 degrees on the court).
We stretched, warmed up and started in on the game. We don't use tennis scores, we play more like table tennis: first one to twenty-one wins. Love really does mean nothing to us.
Then the trash talk started and Kristy glared across the net at her 10-year-old daughter, "Do you want to get grounded?" My 38-yearold stopped mid-swing, dropped his racket and said in a small, worried voice, "No."
Kristy and I lost the season-opener.
"No worries," I said, "I don't care if we don't win the first one; I just want to be sure to win the season finale. Bragging rights for six-months, baby!!!"
Today, another Tennis Wednesday, was not so much a rain-check as a puddle-check. It rained all day so the courts were still wet after work. And it was 52 degrees.
Plenty of time to play. Plenty of time.
Things are still tough for us financially.
I was supposed to retire at forty as a self-made millionaire, but I just turned forty-one this month and after almost a decade of money, hopes, wishes and hard work, I've got nothing to show for my bright idea except for a patent. That's definitely something I'm proud of, but it's still just an expensive piece of paper.
So, things are tight. Paulie's got an excellent job. He's a nurse at a beautiful assisted living facility where the old ladies express their shock and dismay every time I cut his hair, "Oh no, where did all of your curls go?" and I'm in my fifth year at United Parcel Service, a place I am extremely happy to be at, but I would rather it be a place which I'd be extremely happy to retire from. Did that make sense? I rewrote that sentence four times, and the first time was probably the correct one but moving on ...
Things are getting better, but very, very slowly. It's kind of like the economy ... the country is happy that it found a twenty dollar bill in its purse, then, BAM, oil leaks all over the place fouling up beautiful coastline.
For us, though, it's not oil on the beaches, it's the car (this time, next month it'll be something else). The brakes let out a loud squeal when Paulie pulled into the carport.
He looked at me and said, "That should be taken care of."
I replied, "Way ahead of you, Skippy, the second quote I got was still above $300. So, how do the brakes sound now?"
"Perfect," spoketh the wise man.
Anyway, every once in a while, Paulie and I get depressed about our finances. When it gets real bad, we go to a place we call La-La Land. It's a very nice place to escape from reality. I don't think I'd stop volunteering or donating money in La-La Land, it is just a post-lottery or post-patent-gets-licensed-for-millions-of-dollars place where we can buy whatever we want without stressing about paying it off, or going without one thing in order to buy something that we needed even more, like a set of four new tires for the aforementioned car.
All of the things we buy in La-La Land are so special to us, that they get names.
I named his sail boat Tails of the Wind, my houseboat Away From Home, and my Friesian mare Wild Mountain Honey.
I would let him name his horse, but unfortunately he would call it Buck. It would have nothing to do with it being of the equine species though; he's wanted to name one of his pets Buck forever. What a complete lack of imagination: Buck. Ewww. Oh, please don't get me started. I have held off this wish of his for so long, that I am now quite exhausted. I'm so against this that I won't even let him name an imaginary pet Buck. Maybe I should get him a hamster and let him use up the name so when we get around to owning beautiful horses one of them won't be saddled with that unfortunate moniker.
Anyway, the other morning I moped around getting ready for work and ended up drifting off into La-La Land.
After brushing my teeth I jumped in the shower thinking what I was going to name our RV.
It would be a little motor home. Not tiny, but a place we can play cribbage or wrestle without breaking furniture. Again. And I do mean wrestle. A friend mistakenly thought it was a euphemism for sex.
Given our current weight class, you should be thinking Sumo rather than Greco-Roman wrestling, with an occasional WWF maneuver as I get one off the top rope screaming my rebel yell on the way down.
The most he usually has time for, when I do this leaping-from-the-rope, is to duck and cover. It looks kind of like the earthquake drills I had in elementary school in southern California: curl up into a ball, close your eyes tight, beware of breaking glass and don't come out until you hear the all-clear.
He's so adorable when I land on him after he forgot to curl up. That doesn't seem to happen very much anymore though.
Gosh, where was I?
Ok, naming the motorhome: I thought I would call it Jack, as in (Let's) Hit the Road Jack. Ray Charles wrote a few songs about being "Busted", but this one does it for me.
Hit the road bad debt. Hit the road bad feelings. Hit the road bad weather. Hit the road bad day.
Then, unbeknownst to me, I started singing that song.
I didn't realize it until I saw my fifteen-year-old kitty cat who was sunning herself under the heat lamp on top of the fuzzy toilet seat cover suddenly sit up.
I grabbed the shampoo bottle and bellowed "Whatchu say?!?" and by the time I looked back down at her through the shower door she was gone.
But I kept singing, "..."
And that's how I did the 180 on my mood about money.
"Holiday Music & Leftovers"
Last night I was trying to wake Paulie up to watch Monday Night Football with me. He was burrowed under the covers with the cats on the bed and he just wouldn't get up. I'm tugging and pulling and landing on him (cats are gone by now), but he refused to budge.
He kept mumbling about how warm and cozy it was under the covers, so I offered him, uh, marital relations instead of getting out of bed to go downstairs to watch MNF.
He said no.
"Are you insane? Do you have any idea how many men would love to be offered the choice of football or relations from their wives, and you have the gall to turn them both down?!? Oh, no way! That does it mister!"
So, I put in a Christmas CD. I didn't even have to turn up the volume before the man launched himself out of the covers. It worked faster than opening the blinds and turning all of the lights on. Just as soon as Rosemary Clooney started warbling about the happy holidays, he felt much worse, and I felt much better.
All was right in the world.
Three weeks later ...
A few minutes after Paulie went up to bed, I went into the bedroom and made sure the blinds were closed tight because he can't sleep when it's light out (he works nights), turned the fan on because he can't sleep hot, and kicked on the CD player because he needs a bit of music to drift off, and then I went back downstairs.
Hours later he came downstairs, sat on the couch to put his shoes on and then stopped and glared up at me.
"Ok," he said, "What the hell did I do wrong now?"
Apparently, there was still a Christmas CD in our five-CD stereo, and that's what I accidentally clicked on right before I left the room.
I thought I was playing Pink Floyd.
I seriously doubt he got any sleep because he was, most likely, scrolling through his actions of the last week or so, trying to figure out what he'd done that was so bad that I had to play Christmas music when he was trying to get to sleep for work.
"Oh, no! I am so sorry! Where, by the way, is that disc now?"
He gruffed, "It's probably lodged in the wall on the far side of the bedroom."
Note to self: Be sure to remove all holiday music from players after the season is over.
Paulie and I argue a lot, but not like most couples (no surprise there, right?).
Mostly it's "No, you take the last cookie" type of stuff that has made at least one friend say, "Jeez, you two are disgusting."
We seem to be a jolly pair looking out for each other and sharing the best in life with each other, but that's not how it always goes, because we are fairly certain that we would fight to the proverbial death over a pair of binoculars.
After a struggle that took us to the floor, we would both come up and start dancing around winded and gleeful in our victory over the other, only to discover that we each were the proud new owner of a monocular.
Scientifically, it would probably be as exactly split as a wishbone we snapped a few years ago that, to our utter amazement, was exactly (probably molecularly) divided down the middle of the damn thing. We absolutely could not determine a winner. It was divided exactly in half like cellular mitosis.
So, as good as we are to each other, we can't seem to share everything.
Incidentally, don't loan us your binoculars.
Paulie came home from work this morning and told me that a resident unexpectedly died last night.
The frantic caregiver for that floor called him (he's a nurse in an assisted living facility) up to the room and he discovered the resident face down on the floor. When he rolled him over he saw that the resident had already passed, but he proceeded to give CPR and ordered the caregiver to call 911 immediately.
Either the caregiver was too rattled to explain the situation, or her accent was too strong under these circumstances, but she ended up having to hand the phone off to Paulie.
During chest compressions he yelled into the phone, "85-year-old male, non-responsive, no heartbeat or breathing and he is cyanotic."
The 911 operator asked if he needed to be guided through how to do CPR and he said he was already doing it. Then he threw the phone up on the bed and told the still-unglued caregiver to go find help.
When others showed up he pointed and said, "You, go outside and wait for the ambulance and make sure they can get in through the doors. You, go sit with his wife and just tell her he's collapsed, nothing more."
He continued attempting cardiopulmonary resuscitation until emergency services arrived and unpacked. He finally stepped back when they took over and, for another thirty minutes, tried to revive him. They, too, were unsuccessful.
While they were in the room working on him, Paulie went to get the resident's medication list for the medics, and then visited the wife of 57 years who lived there too (she has Parkinson's), and told her that it didn't look like her husband would make it, so she needed to prepare herself for the worst.
Through his years as a nurse Paulie's pronounced about a dozen people dead, but they were all because they didn't wake up in the morning.
He said that this was the first time he'd ever given CPR to a real person.
It was all unexpected (it's believed the resident had a massive heart attack and died within minutes), and Paulie believed he handled it well.
Then my hero said, "You know, the funny thing is I forgot to spit my gum out. I just automatically parked it behind my lip seconds before I started giving him mouth-to-mouth."
Jokingly, I replied, "You had it when you were done though, right?"
Seriously, I asked, "And it's not the same piece you're chewing now, right?"
"Oh, Paulie! You did such a good job. I'm so proud of you! Now, go wash your face and brush your teeth and use plenty of mouth wash, and then come give me kisses."
Yesterday, Paulie discovered that his new (old) car is a rusted out piece of junk that could fall apart at any time. The engine light came on the day after he brought it home, so Paulie took it in to a local place (he bought the car in Seattle) to see what might be wrong.
The mechanic was going to unscrew something to look at the front-end drive and decided not to because he was afraid he would be unable to put it all back together again because of the massive corrosion.
Paulie didn't have it checked by a mechanic before he bought it because he was pressed for time. He also didn't have many choices because he couldn't spend a lot of money. The salesman knew this.
The car hasn't fallen apart yet, so he'll just use it as a to-and-from work car and mine for everything else. It's a very tough blow for him.
He said he almost bought a bottle on the way home.
Now, my first husband was an AA-type of alcoholic. We didn't keep alcohol in the house and one slip would send him into a huge turmoil (he only slipped once in the years that I knew him). He always carried his Alcoholics Anonymous chip in his pocket and his sponsor was his best man at our wedding.
Paulie is different. We get silly with shots or drink microbrews on sandwich night. I've got an aging bottle of rum in the freezer and an equally old bottle of Patron Silver on the countertop (it'll probably evaporate through the cork before I finish it off). He's got Kokanee beer in the fridge and Jameson in the freezer. On very rare occasions, we belly up to the bar and run up a tab or have three margaritas with a two hour dinner.
Paulie used to drink a lot and, through the years, I've asked him to go for quality not quantity. But, when things get rough, he reverts to behaviors he learned in childhood to deal with the beatings and the verbal abuse and escapes to the safe place of an alcoholic stupor.
Hourly, daily, weekly, monthly, he's fine with alcohol, but when Kelsey's birthday or the anniversary of his grandfather's death used to roll around I'd come home to find him literally and figuratively bottled-up.
Excerpted from Mediocre by Julie McCulloch Burton. Copyright © 2013 by Julie McCulloch Burton. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
And now from the book "A Day in the Life of Julie".................... 1
And now a few stories from "The Book of Dammit".................... 79
And now from the book "MS'd Up: Adventures in Multiple Sclerosis".......... 91
And now for some erotica.................... 129
And now for a biography & an autobiography.................... 133
And now for some brainstorming (and wandering).................... 141
And now from the "Spiral Cookbook".................... 153
And now a branch from a tree.................... 161
And now from the book "Shutterbug".................... 167
And one final dedication.................... 187