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Thursday, January 20, 2022

 

I’m Not the Corn Rake Victim



You’ve said it. Probably after you’ve been quarantined with a child who whiled away the time pasting together the leg holes of all the underwear in the laundry basket with homemade silly putty.  “I’d write the story of my life, but no one would ever believe it.”

Sure, you’ve had some adventures. Like the one when you were stopped by the police one dark, foggy night while dressed as, well, a woman who wears too much makeup for a living. Okay, maybe that’s just me. But how did the world get to a point where I had to include the following paragraph when applying for an online job: 

It is important to note that I am not the woman in the Corn Rake Murder who allegedly suffered a gruesome death at the hands of her husband, an Iowa pig farmer. Even acquaintances who Google my name, Amy Mullis, are sometimes astonished that I am still alive, especially those who know me well. I am sorry for her fate, but also quite relieved that I am still around to annoy my own husband. But if you Google me, you are likely to find someone who was not so fortunate.

Granted, the Captain of my Love Boat has lived through moments when the thought of throwing me overboard was just the other side of tempting. And while it’s true that if everyone has a button that sends them over the edge and down the waterfall of madness, I tend to nest on his, he has always resisted the urge to aim a farm implement in my direction. Luckily, the closest we have to a farming tool is a pair of rusty hedge clippers that turned our dogwood tree into a weeping willow.

There was the time I crashed to the floor behind him while climbing on an antique—by antique I mean old, rickety, and unreliable—stool that he warned me not to use.

Or when I tried to round up wild dogs.

Or distributed the Easter ham to the neighborhood feral cat population.

Or when I moved all his clothes to the front door coat closet to make him feel at home when we got married.

Or when I hit the railroad tracks at high speed driving him to the hospital when his bladder was on the verge of exploding.

Maybe I’d better get rid of the clippers.

 

Thursday, January 6, 2022

 

SERVED 

Why do recipes with more than three ingredients exist? I’m not counting cheese that you sprinkle on top of things. That’s not an ingredient, that’s just a law of nature.

Invariably I’m trying out an attractive new meatball on the buffet table at the Office-Wide Potluck Holiday Food Festival and Grazing Day when someone says. “This is so easy. You take 16 pounds of free range, home grown 93% lean ground tofu. . .”

Or I’m flipping through last year’s Southern Living at the dentist’s office, and I find an enticing photograph of a plate of beguiling pasta dotted cunningly with out-of-season vegetables and Beluga caviar, only to turn to the part of the recipe that wasn’t stolen in July by a truck driver with an abscess and find a list of 43 ingredients including home-harvested greenhouse oregano that everyone keeps on their pantry shelves.

My pantry is a box I got from the scratch and dent section at Home Depot. It holds an out-of-date can of cream of celery soup, a jar of Tandoori Chicken sauce that I’m scared to try, and a pack of macaroni and cheese powder in case of an Apocalyptic Event. Looking there for help is like having the heroine in a horror movie look for a flashlight in the darkened cellar.

I have a friend who could make a delicious meal with a bag of frozen peas, a can of Spaghettios, and the creative use of fresh herbs.

The only fresh herb at my house is crabgrass. I don’t see that in Martha Stewart’s “must have” items.

But I still have a trick or two up my apron. I have frozen pizza. I have caramel popcorn.

 And I have Applebee’s on speed dial.

Friday, December 24, 2021

This piece first appeared in the Huffington Post blog on December 7, 2015. Merry Christmas to the child in all of us.

ILLUMINATION

 

Who knows how old I was?  It was the age of strings of lights with screw-in bulbs that squeaked with age and once-a-year use when you tightened the ones that worked themselves loose over the seasons. The one in my hand was a dull red, almost dusty rose with age. How could that be pretty on the tree? How could it shine with the light of Christmas on our wonderful tree? I wanted to throw it away.  But you didn’t waste, not even a single lackluster bulb that lived in the hidden cupboard under the stairs all the months of the year save one.

Bring that light, Amy. This one’s broken.

I held back, sure the cloudy bulb would ruin Christmas, would cast an ugly shadow on the beauty and take away the magic of the day. Mama held out her hand. I dropped the bulb in her open palm and thrust both hands behind my back. I wanted no part of this.

There. Let’s plug them in and see how it looks. Run turn off the lights.

Toe-lifted, I reached up and turned off the lights.  I stared at the wall, not wanting to turn around.

Ohhh! Look! Assorted sounds of admiration floated like fairies around the room.

I squeezed my eyes shut and turned around on a moment that hung in time, then chanced a peek through one eye.

It WAS beautiful. All of it was beautiful! And the loveliest light of all was the red one that shone with a deep, lustrous beam when lit from inside.

And so do we all.

Merry Christmas.

 

Monday, December 20, 2021

 SNAPPED, SPACKLED, AND POOPED


When the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come starts spreading its merry magic around, anything can happen. One year, the spirit of Snap, Crackle, and Pop possessed me, and with a joyful heart I set about making Rice Krispie treats.

I might not bake like Betty Crocker, but I mix like a lidless blender.  Ingredients disappeared into the bowl like bathtub toys down the drain.  Seeing what I was up to, my husband volunteered to do a store run to buy emergency rations of vanilla extract.  I’m not normally a baker, but when the situation calls for it I can preheat like Paula Deen.  It was Christmas, and if the kids wanted Rice Krispie treats to take to school, why I was going to snap and crackle if it killed me.

I was elbow-deep in white fluff and crunchy bits when the phone rang. This was prehistoric times, before the days when a cell phone would make it easy to check a shiny screen for pertinent information.

I looked at the phone on the shelf.

I looked at the mass of seasonal sweetness glistening in the mixing bowl.

Ring Ring

Surely it was a late night salesman calling with an offer on reindeer rides or antler cleaners.

Ring Ring

Or it could be. . .

Ring Ring

Santa.

I lunged for the phone.

Across the dog napping by my chair.  Across the table.  Across the mixing bowl full of sticky, marshmallow goodness.

Which immediately grabbed my sweater like a Hoover on a hairball.

I squealed and grabbed at the sticky mass stuck to my sweater. My hands stuck tight.

The phone rang forlornly. Would Santa wait?  I couldn’t take that chance.

I wedged a rubber spatula somewhere very inconvenient for a spatula to go and tried to pry myself loose from the goo.  No luck.  Finally, through the use of my gourmet kitchen superpowers, I pulled a hand free and grabbed the phone.  Crispy Christmas spirit clung to my clothes like a solidified lava flow.

 “Hello, Santa?!” 

Dial tone.

I sat back to ponder the situation, one hand stuck to my shirt in a modified Pledge of Allegiance salute, the other hand held fast to the telephone, wondering if there was a known antidote for marshmallow crème super glue.

About that time the man who promised to love, cherish, and pick up milk on the way home from work came in the back door.  “Why didn’t you answer the phone?  I wanted to ask you about the ingredients for the . . .” 

I looked up at him, festive clumps of cereal globs hanging from my sweater like Christmas tree ornaments and marshmallow crème tipping my eyelashes like disco balls. The black Labrador dozing at my feet dreaming of sugarplums looked like a Candyland Appaloosa.

That night I discovered the true meaning of Christmas. Sure, now I know that the combination of crispy rice cereal and marshmallow crème must have some sort of unstable effect on the individual ingredients, some sort of recipe for disaster than an entry-level biology student has memorized. Or maybe, as my kids suggest, the unstable effect dealt mainly with the cook. 

I’m not sure where I went wrong, but the next day my family strung electrified razor wire around the kitchen door.  Now I have to sign a consent form to check out a spatula and I only have access to marshmallow creme when accompanied by a guardian under the age of 12. 

But I learned a good lesson the hard way. When the chips are down and your snap and crackle have lost their pop, a man who will chisel petrified puffed rice off of your Partridge in a Pear tree sweater is worth more than a herd of flying reindeer. He headed right back to the store for a sleigh-load of store bought Rice Krispie treats.

And these days?  I eat oatmeal.


Wednesday, December 8, 2021

 

THE DOCTOR IS IN

For those of you who gaze wistfully in the distance when I mention being retired, please understand that this life is fraught with difficulty, but is waiting nonetheless for you, too, to arrive at the day you can take your morning shower at three in the afternoon if you so desire.

For instance, my action-packed schedule today left no time for reading my overdue library book or baking banana muffins.

Today I ate breakfast in bed. (Thanks #2 Son who is not afraid to employ technological advances, such as Door Dash, for our mutual benefit.)

I had a post-breakfast nap.

And I had a doctor visit.

 I did all this without venturing outside in the cold or taking off my bunny slippers. Well, I didn’t put my bunny slippers on until after the nap, so technically I just had them on for the doctor, who wasn’t aware of having a conversation with a woman wearing, among other things, pink Christmas tree earrings and biscuit crumbs.

Normally I’m not a big fan of the telephone, having answered it professionally (and in some instances very unprofessionally. I once slipped and called the doctor who employed me Hon) for forty years, but when the doctor’s office left me a lovely voicemail (see, no phone love here) suggesting I speak to the doctor by telephone instead of trooping down the stairs in the cold to the car and engaging in an updated version of Frogger on the highway to get there, I voted in favor of the phone.

Because I hate cold worse than telecommunication.

So instead of leafing through old magazines in a waiting room, I whiled away my time shopping online for a desk. Instead of complaining about the doctor running behind schedule, I played computer games. Instead of wearing my Leave the House outfit, I donned sweatpants and an old sweater.

And bunny slippers.

The doctor is in. And so am I.

Thursday, December 2, 2021

 

An Open Letter to the Man Chasing Chickens With a Leaf Blower

I worked in public service for many years, so it’s pretty tough to throw me a scenario that leaves me speechless.

I worked in a psychiatrist’s office when answering the phone was a lot like playing Hollywood squares. You never knew if the answer would have anything to do with the question. 

I worked in manufacturing where anything could happen when the machinery was having a bad hair day, and in a church where everybody on the outside thinks its peaceful on the inside.  

I have a lot of experience in dealing with the situations that pop up in everyday life.

But I never saw a man chase chickens with a leaf blower. 

Until today. 

The chickens were racing toward the road like your driveway was the final stretch at Churchill Downs. You had to think fast. You reacted with the speed of a mama who hears her toddler answer her phone.

There are well-paid individuals who make a hearty living teaching other people to think outside the box. They have seminars and interact in role playing exercises so that people will find new ways to solve problems.

I’ll bet those guys never thought of herding chickens with a leaf blower. I don’t really think they could handle the concept, because they would want to form a committee to find the best solution. They would create a Chicken Chasing Team.

They can think outside the box.

But YOU can think outside the coop.

Thursday, November 18, 2021

 LET'S GO TO THE DOCTOR - MORE RETIREMENT FUN!

One benefit of retirement is that you have extra time for medical tests. You may believe that there will be extra time for sleeping longer in the mornings or lingering over cheesecake at lunchtime, but this is not true. You have to be up early to get to your medical tests before the doctor has time to fall two hours behind in his schedule, thereby throwing off your afternoon nap plans.


One thing doctors are concerned with is measuring things, such as your blood pressure, which goes up because you have to drive on the highway to get to the doctor’s office, and your weight, which goes up because you reward yourself with doughnuts for taking such good care of your health that you go to the doctor All. The. Time.

Before you retired you probably made many fun plans to travel and to have lunch with your friends. This will not happen because the warranty will expire on your body a week after retirement and you will spend all your time at the doctor learning about replacement parts as if you’re an old Chevy. Also, your friends are at work and get inexplicably cranky if you ask them to go to lunch at ten so you can get home for your nap.

Sleeping is important in retirement because you have to make up for 40 years of waking up at ten minutes until dawn and thinking, “Is it Friday yet?” and pining for retirement because you don’t know yet about the doctor visits and medical tests. The one time you can’t sleep in retirement is when the doctor sends you for a sleep test and your eyes stay wide open for eight hours because you’re in a strange bed, hooked up to 100,000 wires, and are busy wondering what sort of noises they’ll hear when you’re asleep.

Then they tell you to relax.

That’s a good time to take your blood pressure.