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Friday, October 31, 2014

Defcon Halloween: Zombies, Scarecrows, and Attack Kittens

It’s not that Son One is a perfectionist, but he spent an entire afternoon Googling the proper way to tie a noose for our front porch Halloween skeleton.  Anything less than a gallows-approved knot was unacceptable.  You’d think a big guy with an axe was scoring the pop quiz.

“Mom, we don’t want to be a bad example. We have to show little kids that we do things right.” 

I’m sure the skeleton appreciated his attention to detail.

On the other hand, this is the same guy that will collect pet hair tumbleweeds in his room until he has enough fur to reconstruct the Chewbacca, the Wookie from Star Wars.  He’s probably planning a full-out attack on his brother’s room, The Death Star.  I’ve seen pizza boxes pulled in that place liked they were caught in a stuffed crust tractor beam.  I’ve never seen one leave.

But now I’m beginning to rethink letting the guys decorate the house for Halloween.  I imagined a few fake spider webs, a smiling Jack-O-Lantern, and a stuffed scarecrow on the front porch bench would do the trick.  Right now the front yard is strung with police tape and they’re discussing where to hide the body.

There’s something about hearing a voice from the bushes yell, “Mom, where do we keep the spare propane tanks?” that makes you appreciate tissue paper ghosts.

It took me a while to realize: these kids learned about life from video games.  Call of Duty was their instruction manual for life.  They’re not decorating the yard; they’re fortifying it against marauding invaders disguised as gypsies, thieves, and Miley Cyrus.

I called a meeting of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and scaled back the Home Security alert.

“You mean you’re going to let the tiny humans walk right in and confiscate our candy?” Son one brandished a Nerf Gatling gun that would shoot more rounds than Shirley Temple has ringlets.

“We’re going to give it to them.”

A cheer went up.  “Now you’re talking!”

“I mean we’re going to give them the candy.”

“Without a major skirmish?”

“And without a police report.”

“What if the Zombies invade?”

 “We’ll give them extra Snickers bars.”

They locked eyes. “Better put away our secret weapon.”

Son Two unleashed Danger Cat, the attack kitten from his backpack.

Good thing. The Zombies wouldn’t stand a chance.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Craftless

I make up for my lack of gardening skills with an amazing ability to annihilate craft projects.  You would think the Author of the Universe in his unbounded wisdom would have given me the glue gun talents of a sharpshooter.  This is not the case.

One sister tried to teach me to crochet. She said she never saw anybody crochet backwards.

My other sister tried to help me make a banner for Son One’s soccer team.  I sewed the thing to the leg of my pants.  Gold craft felt stitched into the inseam of extra-large stretchy pants in a series of festive darts and puckers is not a desirable fashion statement.

When I was in high school, my mother took pity on me (GOOD LORD, WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?!) and finished my home economics project.  Who would have thought zippers would be so hard to install?  I had more trouble than a presidential candidate trying to get the thing to stay closed.

My niece has a business creating hand-painted jewelry that people pay actual money for.  I painted the South Carolina crescent and palmetto tree on a pendant. It looked like a banana bush.



My relatives began to meet secretly to have crafting parties.  I happened to visit one Friday evening, and at my knock heard muffled voices and the sound of heavy furniture being shoved in front of the door.

“Hello?!”

The blinds shifted slightly. Whispering followed.

“I know you’re in there!”

The door opened a crack.  “We can’t come out.  We’re quarantined.”

“I’m so sorry. Can I get you anything?”

“Could you leave a pizza by the door?”

“What sort of disease do you have that you’re quarantined but want pizza?”

Silence.  Then, “Acrophobia?”

“You’re in quarantine because you’re afraid of heights?”

“Leave the pizza down low.”

“You people are making crafts in there, aren’t you? Let me in or I’m coming back armed with tacky glue and pinking shears!”

Furtive dialing.

“And no calling 9-1-1!”

I went around to the back door, entered through the kitchen and came up behind a group of my closest friends and relatives wielding cotton balls and tiny paintbrushes like they were heavy artillery.

“Can I at least water your plants?”

A mad scramble ensued, leading to a tangle of arms, legs, and cotton balls.  It looked like an Easter Bunny gangland rumble.  A glitter haze filled the air.  A paintbrush stuck through my sister's pony tail like a hairpin.

The good news is that the plants are going to be fine.  But the crafting group cemented themselves into a freeform sculpture.  They’ll be okay once we find an antidote for Gorilla Glue.

Meanwhile I’ve taken up scrapbooking.  Has anybody got a nail gun I can borrow? 

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Super Sister

I held up a patriotic picture across the clearance racks. "You could be Wonder Woman."

"Have you seen that outfit? The Lasso of Truth couldn’t hold up that top. I’d have to wear the strapless part around my butt."

My sister and I are Halloween shopping. She’s just before retirement age and I’m right behind her, pushing her over the hump.  Dolled up in superhero costumes, we’re like a cross between the Golden Girls and the Justice League. It’s enough to curl Captain America’s shield.

"Why don’t you be The Flash?"

"That’s a good idea.  Every time I bend over, the elastic in my pants stretches out. Good thing I’m wearing clean underwear."

"No, it’s THE Flash. It’s a title, not a description."

"Oh. What does the Flash do?"

"He runs real fast."

"I would too if everybody saw my altogether every time I bent over. But I can move pretty quick after one of those fiber drinks. Who are you going to be?"

"How about Grammar Girl?"

"Okay, but watch out for your run-ons. And that colon can be tricky."

"Tell me about it. I’ve had one of those fiber drinks, too." 

"Grammar Girl isn’t very exciting, is she?"

"Well, she’s no Aqua Man, but she can fix up a comma splice like nobody’s business."

"What does she wear?"

"A pencil skirt and a ponytail."

"That leaves me out. The last time I wore a pencil skirt, the Fashion Police presented me with an honorary eraser."

"What about the Green Lantern?"

"He’s a wimp.  I remember him when he was just a candlestick and a box of matches."
 
I pause and consider. We could go as ourselves.  Between us we’ve raised six children, seen three girls go through the pouty stage, and had a hand in a murder of boys learning to drive.  We’ve baked cupcakes, chased homework, and collapsed in relief at six high school graduations. Sounds like superhero stuff to me.

I’m swept up in emotion when suddenly Sis pounces on the perfect outfit.

"Wolverine! It’s just the thing!"
 
"Why is that?"

"You don’t have to shave your legs, and the nails are to die for!"

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Alfredo Away!


My husband thinks fully cooked meals spring ready-made from the oven like Venus rising from the foam, but with gravy.  I don’t know how he survived eight years of bachelorhood before he met me, but I do know why he wore pants that would be relaxed-fit on Paris Hilton, and why his eyes glaze over with that faraway look when we drive past Burger King. 

These days he’s making up for all the meals he missed by hanging out in the kitchen, waiting to see if the Pillsbury Dough Boy appears from the swirling mists in the freezer.  It’s like watching a toddler get ready for a visit from Santa. Everybody thinks they’ve been good enough to get a prize.

“What did you eat before we got married?” I quizzed one day as he stared into the empty tea pitcher like a motherless calf.

“Tuna casserole,” he answered, prodding a package of frozen hamburger in hopes it might turn magically into meatloaf.

“You ate tuna casserole for eight years?”

“No, I had the same tuna casserole in the freezer for eight years.  I got custody in the divorce.  Every night I had to figure out what to do so I wouldn’t have to eat it.  I know the nutrition information for every item on the fast food market.”

At least I don’t have to worry about any fond feelings left toward his first wife.  The woman did things to tuna that I couldn’t do to scrap metal without heavy-duty equipment.  She didn’t use serving spoons.  It took the jaws of life to separate the one that didn’t get away from the casserole dish.

It makes my life easy.  If I defrost cinnamon buns in the microwave, he thinks they’re homemade.  I hate to tell him, but if I can’t rake something out of a jar with a Rubbermaid spatula, I’m not going to be serving it for supper.  It could be a 55-gallon drum full of creamed spinach, if somebody else made it, I'm ringing the dinner bell with my best happy homemaker smile in place.
 
To me, it's not a recipe if it doesn't say Heat and Eat.

When I discovered Alfredo sauce in a jar, I was more excited than a Brownie Scout on cookie delivery day.  While I understand that I’m not going to find fettuccine Alfredo tacked up on the doctor’s bulletin board as one of your top ten heart healthy foods, it’s part of a meal that everyone in my family will eat, which goes a long way towards making it a food priority in my house.  Add some grilled chicken and everybody’s happy.  

I popped a couple of jars of the white stuff into my buggy at Wal-Mart and wheeled innocently down the aisle, full of the peaceful conviction that comes from providing a good meal for a loving and happy family. 

Later that evening, while my back was turned, the beast, heady with the freedom that comes from release from captivity, shattered the air with a mighty blast and attacked.  I screamed.

The children ran to the kitchen like the population of Tokyo pouring in to see Godzilla.

“Did you start another fire?”

Alfredo covered the front on the stove like a dust ruffle.  I had spatters up my sleeve and a striking Picasso-esque design on my Snoopy sweatshirt.

Kid One: “Is supper ready?”

Kid Two: “Supper can’t be ready.  The smoke detector’s not going off.”

Kid One:  “The batteries wore out.”

Just then the beast attacked again, rising from the depths of the superheated Alfredo like a milky Kraken rising from the ocean floor.  This time I was prepared.  No towering wall of Alfredo is going to threaten my family without me beating it into submission with a serving spoon and the lid to a two-quart boiler.  “Run, kids, run!”

Heating supper from a jar should not require escalation of the National Defense Warning System.

My husband sauntered around the corner, hands in pockets.  “Need some help?”

“Sure.  Do we have the Chef Emeril or the Marines on speed dial?”

The lid on the pot behind him rattled like a teenager’s knees at quarter past curfew.  He whisked the pot off the stove, poured the contents into a bowl and added a paper plate lid, then tucked the whole thing into the microwave.  Slamming the door with a flourish, he performed the beep-boop medley on the keypad that told the microwave to cook Alfredo sauce.

He grinned.  “Once you’ve been face to face with an eight year old tuna casserole, you’re not afraid of anything.”

Thursday, September 11, 2014

A Little Boy Gone on 9/11

By Carole Conner Oldroyd on Saturday, September 11, 2010 at 3:05pm.  Reposted with permission



I post this every 9/11.  I made a promise to myself and to this little boy's memory that I would never forget him.

This is Rodney Dickens. He was only 11 years old when he lost his life on September 11, 2001. He will forever be the face I see when I think of that terrible day.

When photos started streaming in on TV after the terrorist attack, his little face struck me. I began to wonder about him. As a mother whose kids were close to Rodney's age at that time, so many things ran through my mind.

My first thought was, "Who was with this little boy? Was he traveling alone?" My boys had flown alone several times.

My heart broke when I wondered if he knew what was about to happen; that his life was about to come to an end. Did anyone put their arms around him, or did he face the those final moments as alone as any human being could ever be? Did he cry? Was he afraid? Did anyone hold his hand? Did he pray for God to rescue him? Did he have dreams, goals, plans for his future? Was he even old enough to begin dreaming of what he would do when he was all grown up?

When I began researching to find out who little Rodney was, I learned that he was, indeed, without his parents. He was traveling with classmates. Again, parental instincts crept in and I sobbed thinking about his mother and his father. Were they watching as this all happened? How devastatingly helpless must have been the feeling, knowing that they were powerless to protect their child from the wickedness of these terrorists. I have had nightmares about Rodney crying for his parents in the seconds before his life was brutally stolen away on what should have been a day filled with joy.

And then my emotions turned to rage. Correlations between this innocent child and my own children filled me with so much anger, knowing that the terrorists would not have cared if my children were on that plane. Regard for precious human life was tossed aside like an unwanted object by those . . . I'm sorry, I cannot use the word "people". In fact, I don't have any other word for them besides terrorists. I feel that nothing appropriate even exists in the English language.

As I write this, my arms are covered in goose bumps. My eyes are filled with tears. This child. This sweet-faced little boy lost his life before he even had a chance to begin living.

Rodney, I never knew you. But I love you. With all of my heart, I love you.

As long as I live, you will never be forgotten.

 

 

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Welcome to Heidi - From Psychics to Skinny Chicks

Because I can’t leave anything alone if there’s a chance I can poke it with a stick and come up with another punchline, I’ve been pondering the Koo Koo for Cocoa Puffs chapter in Welcome to Heidi, the new Heidi Clements fictional (Sure, there’s a few embellishments. Nobody wants their life story to read like a peel-off coupon) memoir. 

After checking out the relationship with her psychic (“who may or may not kill things in order to make my dreams come true”), I can’t help thinking there are probably times in all of our lives when we would take a chance with somebody who could steer us to Prince Charming. . .or away from that investment in kitten ear muffs.  Or who could silence that coworker who orders personal products on her cell phone. In the cubicle next to you. During your lunchtime tuna salad break.

So here are a few times I could use a psychic to move things along. Don’t lie; you can think of a few times, too.  Remember when you were extra-pregnant and your brother-in-law said you looked like an overloaded washtub. . .

1.      I really need to pass the test to secure my major in Business Ethics and I’ve just discovered that downing tequila shots the night before is not a viable study aid.

2.      When I really need a raise to buy the dress that will make me look like Kate Upton on her best day and it would help speed things along if I knew the true relationship between my boss and the Vending Machine Supervisor.

3.      When my lifelong adversary is receiving the achievement award I’ve already written my acceptance speech for and I want to wear the same dress in a size smaller to the recognition dinner.

4.      When my ex-husband, The Defendant, is escorting the 24 year old beautician with the Taylor Swift hair to dinner at “our” restaurant and I want to know where he parked because I still have the spare key to his car.

5.      When the lottery is topping out at 500 million and I’m trying to decide whether to go for groceries or spring for the extra buck to Power Up the ticket I just snagged at the Zippy Mart.

6.      My niece/nephew/other impressionable child just heard my opinion of the driver who careened into my lane and put on brakes and I need to make sure he doesn’t share my views during tea with the Ladies’ Bible class.

7.      I’m on Let’s Make a Deal and don’t want to miss out on the Big Deal of the Day because I am in desperate need of a trip to Tahiti and a bass boat.

8.      I’m at my class reunion and can’t figure out who the skinny chick is who keeps harping on “that great time we had at Nag’s Head.”

9.      I can’t tell which clothes are in the “semi-soiled but still fits” pile and which is the “clean, but Twiggy couldn’t get in to it” stack and I don’t want to risk a deal-breaker by putting on a dress that could double as a personal massager.

10.  I want a chicken for supper and need somebody with experience in making that happen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Welcome to Heidi!

If books were attractions at DisneyLand, Heidi Clement’s book, Welcome to Heidi” would be Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. Her experiences are hand-picked from the kind of blog posts that make us realize how exciting, exuberant, and downright entertaining life can be – if you gaze at it through kaleidoscope-colored glasses.  Let’s focus today on Chapter Three, the one I like to call the “Koo-Koo for Cocoa Puffs” Chapter.

 
There are times in everyone’s life when they need a psychic. 

Okay, maybe it’s just me and it’s not need in the same way that you need to have a drippy chocolate doughnut or someone’s going to lose an arm, but you’d really like to know how events around the corner are going to play out, and could sure use the wisdom of someone who can peek into the future and tell you if leggings will go out of style before you lose 50 pounds.

Or if the shoes that are the perfect match for that “I Got a Promotion and You Didn’t” day are going to go on sale before platform pumps become passé.

Life challenges are just part of the fun with Heidi Clements in her hilarious book, Welcome to Heidi, when she takes us along on her long-term relationship with Letty, the psychic.  At thirty-seven bucks a pop, that’s a relationship even I could afford.  

Heidi also checks out her life prospects with Tomo, a Trance Channeler. With all the indecisiveness spread around these days, it’s helpful to know someone who can tell when me when the control-bot I’m dating will try to accessorize my outfit with a gun to my head or that my dream date was once my brother. 

At times like that, hitting the yellow pages for someone like Tomo makes perfect sense. That’s better than confiding in my Aunt Edna who tells me, “Marry a picky eater. You’ll never have to cook.”

Turns out Letty the Psychic hits the bullseye on all the major topics:  Happiness, Money, and Mean People. 

Want to put that old flame who broke your heart in his place? Bam! Need to press the mute button on your neighbor who put the the “psych” in “psycho” and who takes out her hostilities on your  dog who’s a buddy, not a biter? Heel, please. Or else!
 
Need Letty’s help with a career change?  Heidi’s got the right idea.  “If a chicken has to die in order for me to get the job of a lifetime or the man of my future, then so be it.” 

A breast and a thigh is a small price to pay for peace of mind.

I once had a drunken neighbor who used to sleep in the driveway and kept a goat chained to his heat pump so he wouldn’t have to mow the lawn.

Wonder if I can get Letty’s number.