Click any letter for a look at my prize-winning essay from the Erma Bombeck Writing Competition. You don't even have to buy a vowel.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Jammin' with Jimi

I’m standing ankle deep in the living room shag, legs spread apart, guitar hanging from a strap that crosses my chest like a shoulder bag I’m stowing away from purse thieves. I feel like a Freedom Shopper.

Santa in his jolly elven wisdom brought the children a video game that uses miniature plastic guitars as controllers. That’s like bringing Stephen Hawking a Playskool computer. Personally, I'm having trouble working up to technology that advanced.

Five colored buttons on the guitar correspond to notes on the televison screen. I can type 85 words a minute without so much as a peek at the space bar. So why can’t I play Slow Ride in easy mode without holding the guitar up to my bifocals to help me distinguish the red button from the green?

As the colored numbers disappear down the yellow brick road onscreen, I’m wildly pressing buttons at random, humming “If I only had a brain,” at chipmunk speed in my head.

I press the yellow button in time to score a point and figure I’m in the zone. “Jimi Hendrix, eat your heart out!” I squeal, sinking to one knee and head banging with enough gusto to take the curl out of my perm.

“You know Jimi Hendrix?”

Apparently I’m earning Mom points with my specialized history knowledge.

“Who doesn’t know Jimi?” I’m in the zone. I feel the music.

I also feel pain in my old roller skating injury. “Help me up. My knees are locked.”

I’m just getting into the rhythm of the thing when the song ends. The virtual rock star onscreen shoots me a disgusted look and the audience jeers.

“Gee Mom,” says Son One, ever the encourager. “You got booed by a fake crowd.”

Son Two, heaven’s answer to Eric Clapton, picks up the guitar. “Like this, Mom.”

By the time he’s through playing Freebird, we’ve all linked arms and are swaying back and forth. The dog is holding a lighter aloft and wiping a tear from one eye.

Oh sure, kids today have video games that have more moves than the real people we actually knew. But my generation had Jimi before he was an electronic rendition. We had the Beatles live. We had Elvis in his prime. You can’t duplicate that. Not with a plastic guitar and a six inch cartoon figure whose pixels won’t swivel.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

From Hot Dogs to Handcuffs

Once upon a time, as the newspaper accounts tell it, there was a whole pile of parents with nothing better to do than sit in the school pick-up line and talk about life and love and what to wear to Wal-Mart. As time went by, they came to school earlier and earlier until they started getting there before their grits were even cold, and since it’s just natural to get hungry doing all that waiting and talking, they began bringing snacks. Everybody knows a sausage dog is no good unless it’s been sizzling on the George Foreman for a little bit between the Pledge of Allegiance and Recess. So these folks lined up in the elementary school pick-up line four hours early, popped open the campers, set up the grill, and tailgated til the cows came home. Or until school let out, whichever came first.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m all about tailgating. I’m not above getting out grandmama’s stainless and grocery store china and grilling corn dogs from the back of the Toyota whenever there’s a high school football game worth going out in the cold for. Nothing says “party” like Hi-C punch in a Dixie cup. But there’s a time and place for everything, and it’s just downright tacky to pull out your cocktail weinies while you’re waiting on your first grader to get out of show and tell.

For some reason, the principal of the elementary school felt it wasn’t conducive to good study habits to have the students’ parents giving each other high fives and downing SteakUms in the parking lot all morning. Maybe if the parents had invited the principal to join them, the police wouldn’t have got involved. A little tact and adherence to good manners might possibly have headed off the jail time, or at least cut down on the assault charges. When school let out and the principal headed off to shoo the partiers away, one of the Mamas took it personally. Threats regarding the principal’s future health plans filled the air, phrases full of colorful adjectives and a more than a few unseemly nouns were exchanged, police came to visit, and a whole pile of bright-eyed grade-schoolers just getting out for the day learned some new words. And all the while there was the naughty woman’s husband, rubbing his face and shaking his head, saying, “I TOLD her to get in the camper.”

I’m just glad it wasn’t me. If the police were leading me away from the scene in a set of fancy bracelets, all the members of my family, from Dad to Dachshund, would queue up in a nice receiving line by the squad car to witness the festivities. As I drew near, Son Number One, who at 19 has his priorities firmly in order, would lean out to me and whisper softly in my ear, “Mom if you’re not cooking, we’re going out for pizza. Where do you keep the coupon's for meat lover’s?”

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Disorganized Sports

In my experience, team sports were best when the kids were little and played for the grand experience of the whole thing. Son Number One burst onto the soccer scene at age six, wearing cleats the size and shape of the business end of a toothbrush. He’d never heard of “offsides” nor had he, in all his years of outdoor recreation, come across a soccer goal or pair of shin guards, but we missed baseball signups and he wanted to play something, anything. The first time most of the kids on his team ever saw a soccer field was when they played their first game.

I ran down to stand behind the goal so they would know which way to run to score points. Not only unnecessary, this strategy was ineffective. 18 little boys chasing a runaway ball operate on basically the same principal as a swarm of fruit flies chasing a rotten orange. The ball is in charge and, without question or deviation, they follow wherever it leads. Often I looked up in time to see a herd of gleeful little boys in baggy shorts chase a ball down a hill of muddy red clay and into the woods. These particular woods were part of a protected wetland area, and resident snakes and other wildlife were only part of the reason that a No Trespassing rule was in place. The boys would emerge, some sooner and some later, covered in sticks and smiles. None were ever in possession of the ball. Or thankfully, inappropriate flora or fauna specimens.

Another area of fascination is the uniform. Soccer clothes are a curiosity to small children. As a general rule, the shirt billows like the sails of a tall ship in high winds, and the shorts are often large enough for everyone on the team to fit in the same pair, with a drawstring to cinch them tight enough to prevent embarrassment. There was a bit of excitement once when a small, blonde boy was absorbed with an emergency situation involving an untied shoe during peak action. At that age shoe-tying is still a risky proposition at best, requiring total concentration. Dealing with voluminous clothing while he bent to tie the errant shoelace added an extra challenge. He managed to tie the drawstring of his shorts in with the bow of his shoe and when he arose, a dramatic scene unfolded. It took three referees, two coaches, and a Team Mom to restore order.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Ho Ho HMO!

I don’t know if all the recent news feeds about us raising a nation of obese children are true, but from the looks of things at the mall this past weekend, Santa’s gonna be opting for knee replacement surgery during the off season. If Santa Claus rates as jolly because of his size, we have some kids out there who are close to hysterical euphoria. I don’t know what kind of insurance the Elves’ Union has, but I hope it’s not an HMO. Santa will have to get permission to go out of network, and it’s hard enough finding an elven orthopedist without having to get one within sleigh-ride distance of a team of flying reindeer. And while Rudolph seems nice enough, I don't think he would be trustworthy with a scalpel and a bottle of pain medication.

So for Christmas this year, when you hear the familiar jingle of bells and hoof beats on the rooftop, leave Santa a little something to cover his medical bills. From the look on his face when I waddled up to sit on his knee yesterday, the man is seriously in need of some help.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Man Hunt

I'm hunting men this Christmas
The one I want the most
Is really most elusive
Down here so near the coast

The weatherman says eighty
So again this year you'll find
Me at the kitchen window
Building snowmen in my mind.

Best wishes for a very merry Christmas and a blessed and peaceful New Year!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

X-treme Reindeer Games--A Holiday Rant

Okay, let’s get real. Who among us believes that any animal with a name like Dasher or Dancer is going to make the cut for a team of high-performance reindeer that has to fly around the world in one night? Those guys might make the top three on Dancing with the Stars, but they aren’t the go-to alpha males for endurance muscle. I’ve checked all over to find the real story of Santa’s team, but the closest I found was Reindeer Games for Dummies featuring Rocky and Bullwinkle. In all honesty, Rocky would be a little more in character than a flying reindeer named Prancer. In the South, that’s the sort of name that gets you beat up every day at recess. By first graders. Who take your lunch money. And give you wedgies.
I’d like to peek into Reindeer School to see what sort of screening process is in place. Somewhere there’s a two-ton reindeer named Tiny belting back Budweisers and watching the Olympic Reindeer Games saying, “I could have been a contender.” That’s the sort of animal I want watching Santa’s back. When three wolverines and a hyena try to hijack Santa somewhere over the Great Plains, I want a reindeer that is not afraid to put his hoof down. So what if he needs a little hoof enhancement to get the job done? I haven’t resisted forwarding sappy e-mails and shoving my mouse through the blue screen of death on my computer all year just to see all my goodies go down some prairie dog’s hole. There’s a pound of chocolate covered cherries out there with my name on it, and I don’t want some sissy reindeer that doesn’t know his antler from his elbow trotting up to me with an empty box and a silly smile.
Let’s get some of these reindeer who are “big for their age” off of the sidelines and into the game. Rumors of spiced hay buffets ruined the careers of too many talented coursers. It doesn’t matter to me why Bruiser’s antlers can pick up television signals from three time zones away or that Buster has the biggest jingle bells in international sleigh team competition. I don’t even care that Barney has a rump roast you could play the Pro Bowl on. As long as there’s an A-Team that can get the old guy in red to my house, I don’t care if they’re swapping sips of carrot juice from a hip flask, although that does explain why Rudolph's nose lights up.
You might want to stay in on Christmas Eve. When S. Claus mounts that sleigh like Paul Bunyan at the helm of his big blue ox and starts calling reindeer names at takeoff, you might be better off not knowing who they are. Guido might think you’re looking a little too longingly at Santa’s bag. One peek at the moon on the breast of the new fallen snow and you could very well wind up in the Polar Protection Program. But at least Santa's annual ride will be protected by bodyguards with enough muscle to thwart sleighjacking attempts by children who are hopped up on dancing sugarplums. Just remember that when these guys say "Dash away all," they mean "in a twinkling" and not a moment later. And don't go laying a finger aside of your nose. Vinnie the Reindeer might get the wrong idea.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Clean Sheets and Cat Hair

Perusing my favorite blogs around the web, I came across a topic that gave me paws, um pause, which is Old English for an idea for a post of my own when stuffy sinuses have blocked any new ideas from entering my brain. Therefore I shamelessly stole this prompt about clean sheets from the December 12th salute to Clean Sheet Day on Seven Babes A-Blogging, although I'm offering a link to their site to make amends for my theft and so they won't beat me up or stomp me with their stilletos. (Check them out at

I have more of a chance of watching Brad Pitt saunter down my driveway in a polka dot Speedo than I do of sleeping on clean sheets. In a country where almost anything is possible, why can’t I hop straight from the shower onto sheets so sparkly fresh that the Martha Stewart on the tag looks like Shirley Temple? Oh, sure I’m familiar with tales of snuggling into a freshly made bed and enjoying that indescribably luxurious feeling of high-count cotton against bare skin. But I have a trio of cats and a double dip of doggie paws patrolling my bedroom like it’s Wild Kingdom. Ringling Brothers can construct three rings and a big top in the time it takes me to change pillow cases. Nothing says, “Here, kitty kitty” like snapping on a bottom fitted sheet in a delicate floral print design.

I almost got away with it last week. I tiptoed down the hall to the linen cupboard and sprayed the door hinges with a puff of lubricant to avoid any telltale squeaks, soundlessly removed a set of clean sheets from the shelf and crept as stealthily as a ninja past curfew into the bedroom--where I tripped over Justin the Rambo cat who was lying in wait, wide-eyed and tail-twitching, camo headband tied jauntily about his ears. Like thoroughbreds at bugle-call, we raced each other to the bed. As I rounded the headboard and headed down the homestretch, I made a desperate attempt to flip open the sheet and send it floating toward the waiting mattress. Down, down the billowing folds settled, landing on the diving form of a springing cat, who had launched himself into the swirling cloud of cotton like a skydiver jumping into the waiting arms of heaven. I scrambled after him in a puff of dryer fresh scent and a cloud of tabby cat hair. By the time I retrieved Camo Cat, the covers resembled a bolt of fake fur on the clearance rack at Walmart. I snapped on the fitted sheet ignoring the fact that my bed had sprouted a cat-shaped lump and a gray tail that protruded from one corner of the sheet and twitched so fast it looked like the mattress was rotary powered.

While I’m engaged in tiger taming, in parades Lucy, the Dachshund Queen, to take up her usual resting place, nestled into the center of my grandmother’s comforter. This girl considers it an actionable offense to move three inches to the right so I can get in to bed at night. Coercing her to relocate long enough to introduce new linens requires a majority vote in the house—and I’m outnumbered paws down. It’s not long before I’m surrounded by more wildlife than you find at an outdoor picnic, the sheets look like they need to be sent to a specialty groomer, and I need another shower.

So tonight I’m sleeping in the dog’s bed. It’s the cleanest spot in the house.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

One Foot-Long to Go

What is that?” Bill was incredulous. He lifted a tiny ear and held out a tail the size of a Q-Tip.
“It’s a puppy. Her mama was a purebred Dachshund.” I stroked her velvet muzzle.
“What was her Daddy? A Slinky?”
Bill thinks he's the class clown of the animal world. In reality he wouldn't take first place in a school of fish.
Longer than she was tall, when Lucy arrived at our house she had approximately the height to ground ratio of a caterpillar on Cocoon Eve. I wanted a charming house dog, a pleasant companion, an unconditional friend for my son. I got a sponge with legs. How was I to know that tiny package was full of dog concentrate? Just add water. Clean up water. Repeat.
“Looks like something Dr. Seuss would draw,” Bill snorted.
Lucy's rear feet are small and dainty. Way up in front of an impressive cargo section, her front feet are webbed with long hairy fingers. One foot points forward, the other at angle reminiscent of a starlet showing off new shoes on the red carpet. Paris could take some style tips from this girl.
Lucy’s shorter and heftier than most Dachshunds, but longer and more streamlined than other dogs. Sort of like a sausage on steroids. She's not a big fan of physical activity unless there is a reward involving sauteed chicken or Kung Pao beef. Sometimes when the weather is bad, i.e. not 68 degrees Farenheit with a northwesterly breeze at 5-7 knots, I scoop her over my shoulder for a stroll down the driveway, alert at all times for predators in the form of butterflies, ladybugs, and low-flying gnats.
Lucy considers playing fetch something in the realm of performing a personal favor. She will consent to go and retrieve the ball if you insist, but thinks it unwise to return it to you since you proved irresponsible from the beginning. She will race back to within a few feet of the waiting tosser and collapse with great exhaustion, holding the ball like a prize between her paws and regarding you with a wise look to see if you have learned to maintain control of your possessions.
She holds similar views concerning other inexplicable demands. She sits when asked politely, but expects compensation for it and doesn’t like to be ordered around just for fun. She’s never seen the point of being asked to “Stay,” her opinion being that if you want her out of the way for an extended length of time, she would rather go nap on your pillow which solves the problem of entanglement for both parties.
She is picky in regards to diet, limiting herself to whatever any of us happen to be eating at the time. She is not prejudiced toward the food of any nationality and consumes fajitas or stir fry with the same gusto as burgers and French fries. Through trial and error, the children have discovered that Lucy also enjoys many vegetables, including fresh corn and potatoes, as well as seasonal fresh fruits such as blackberries (although she doesn’t care for the seeds between her teeth). She prefers ice cream for dessert, but will accept Jell-O, especially if Cool Whip is involved.
Bill has long since given up shaking his head at Lucy’s privileged life. He no longer spouts sarcastic remarks when he finds her curled up in the covers on our bed or waiting expectantly for a ride in the front seat of the car.
“But if she wants something from the drive through,” he growled as we pulled into the restaurant parking lot. “She can order it herself.”

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Camping's Out

Several years ago, Bill and I agreed to take our two boys on a camping trip. The boys, who owned more electronic equipment by the age of two than I have in my entire life, felt that they had been rudely neglected and possibly abused because they had never been camping. They’ve never skinned a chicken either, but that’s beside the point.
“And don’t argue the whole way.”
Bill and I exchanged a knowing look. “Okay,” we agreed. The last time they caught us in a discussion of escalating proportions, they locked us in the bathroom together overnight.
Early one summer morning, we arose in peace and harmony, swallowed our body weight in coffee, threw ourselves into the car and drove in silence and numbed goodwill for several minutes.
“Hand me the map,” my husband said, extending one open hand while juggling his travel mug, aspirin bottle, and steering wheel in the other.
“Map?” I asked, eyeing him quizzically.
“You didn’t pack a map?”
“If I wanted to pack something I couldn’t read, I would have just brought along War and Peace in the original Russian.”
He looked at me as if I had just suggested lining the bed of his truck with dotted swiss, jammed his foot down on the brake, and squealed into a gas station.
“Never mind. I’ll be right back.”
“Mom, is this an argument?” A puffy face blinked sleepily at me over the back seat. His mouth was ringed with chocolate milk and PopTart crumbs, and his hair looked like a weeping willow in a windstorm.
“Of course not, sweetheart. Pop just needs a map to find difficult locations like Asia or our mailbox.”
The boys exchanged knowing looks. “It’s a fight.”
Coffee in hand and map accordianed across the dashboard, we resumed our trip. “How much farther?” he asked, guiding the car steadily around a mountain curve. Some people just can’t be taught. I consulted the map and lifted my gaze.
“According to this, about a quarter of an inch.”
“Never mind,” he answered steadily, his knuckles whitening on the steering wheel. “Where do we go at the junction?”
“The Shady Rest Hotel?”
Snarling, he lunged abruptly for the map, drowning any final shreds of civility in a flood of hot coffee.
“Don’t overreact,” I said soothingly, blotting up caffeine with the Northeast section of Macon County. “I was kidding.”
My husband regarded me with the same intense stare I’ve observed on the faces of cheetahs watching sickly gazelle stragglers on Wild Kingdom. If he had one, I would swear I could see his tail twitching.
“Look,” I purred, wringing out the map. This chocolate drip is the campground. That potato chip grease is where we are now. All we have to do is follow this dotted line across those squiggles and we’re there!”
I don’t understand how some people can live with themselves the way they speak to other people who are trying to help.
“How was I supposed to know those squiggles were the Blue Ridge Mountains?”
“As long as you have the entire map of the United States unfolded in the front seat, try reading the legend.”
“Okay, but you know I get sick if I read in the car.”
“One quick peek won’t hurt anything.”
“Okay, if you’re sure.”
“I’m sure.”
Later, when we finally found a service station with equipment to clean the upholstery, I heard the boys talking behind the gas pumps.
“Do you think we’ll get there alive?” one voice asked.
“I don’t know, but if we do, we’re gonna lock ‘em in the bath-house.”

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

You're It!

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t lack the competition gene. If it were up to me, not only would the National Football League still allow excessive displays of emotion after every goal scored, the victory dance would stand on its own as a separate event, complete with judges murmuring together over technique and holding up cardboard placards with the scores. Interpretations of the Chicken Dance would rate extra credit.

I don’t mind coyly pointing out that I’ve been known to perform my own ritualistic dance of victory, choreographed with vigor and soul to a stirring rendition of Aretha Franklin’s version of R-E-S-P-E-C-T. I used to trot it out after family games of Parcheesi, Scrabble, and Monopoly until that unfortunate incident with the dog got me banned from participating in Family Game Night. That turned out all right because I ate all the leftover roast and blamed it on him, so his name is still on the naughty list right beneath mine and he’s not trusted alone with a roast. Anyway, a victory dance, although still satisfying to the soul, is not completely effective after a rousing game of computer solitaire.

It is my opinion, and therefore accurate, that appreciation of competition need not go hand in hand with rigorous physical exercise. Therefore, when I got tagged by the ever-gregarious Wordsmith, I immediately checked the rules on her insightful and well-written (Erika, you owe me extra for the infomercial) blog (Musings From the Mitten) to see if any actual physical exertion is involved. While an enthusiastic proponent of competition, I’m not a fan of sweat, and have often considered dressing the dog in baby clothes so that I can avoid the physical exertion of a long walk by grabbing the parking spot at the front door of the market marked for mothers with small children. However, the dog is still harboring a grudge from the roast beef incident and refuses to cooperate.

Thankfully, the only aerobics involved in this game of tag are fingers flying low over the keyboard. I’m clear for take-off.

The way I understand the rules of the game, bearing in mind that rules are often subject to my own colorful interpretation, is this:

Link to the tagger and post these rules on your blog. Share five facts about yourself on your blog, some random, some weird. (Although random and weird are often synonyms in my case.) Tag five people at the end of your post by leaving their names as well as links to their blogs. Let them know they are tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

Alrighty then. Sit back and prepare to be entertained. Amused. Well, just sit still long enough to count to five.
1. I’ve been in a building that was on fire. It was a church. I came out okay. Well, not with anything I could bill the insurance for, anyway.
2. I wear my husband’s socks. Girl socks just won’t stay up.
3. I broke my arm in high school. I fell three inches. I don’t feel that this incident is in any way indicative of my physical coordination. (Perhaps I should disable the blog comments at this time.)
4. The blog entry I wrote about the results of my son’s personality test showing he has the same traits as Hannibal Lecter was true. Except for the part where I mowed down the stop sign. I barely touched it.
5. My husband took the same test. Same results. I’m afraid to open meat tenderizer in the kitchen.

Okie dokie, for the fun part: I’m tagging. . . let’s see a show of hands now. . .KODB at TheDoggerelKing, Wynter at FlibbityGibbet, Ltd. at Mama Needs A Book Contract, Janna at Something She Wrote, and Sdarb at From Rebel Deb to Doublewide.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Survivor: College Loans

“I’m desperate,” Laudy insisted, knocking back black coffee the way a Cadillac guzzles premium unleaded. “I’ve got one kid in college and one scattering and smothering at the Waffle House to pay back student loans. I have two more who think the Tuition Fairy is going to pick up the tab for collegiate aerobics classes. It’s time for drastic measures.”
Laudy took a close-up look at the American dream and found out the silver lining is made of promissory notes. A savvy mother of four, she surveyed the situation, consulted her checkbook, and collapsed in a state of cardiac arrest. Recovering quickly, she realized the obvious. She would either have to come across a pair of spare Hannah Montana tickets to sell on e-Bay or win some quick money. Since our family’s luck doesn’t tend toward surprise acquisitions of valuable property, Sis decided she would grab some easy money from one of the reality shows on T.V.
“You would have to eat something live and squiggly,” I winced.
“Have you ever eaten french fries off a toddler’s plate?” she patted my hand. “Caterpillars are nothing after that.”
She had a point. I have two boys. I’ve palmed chewed gum in church and plunged my fingers into slimy mouths to chase semi-digested cigarette butts.
“You have to form secret partnerships to outwit the others playing the game,” I reminded her.
“Easy enough. I’ve orchestrated surprise birthday parties that actually turned out to be surprises, and supervised four children on Christmas shopping trips where nobody found out what the others bought.”
I whistled. “How did you manage that? I can’t buy control top pantyhose without my two revealing the size and color to everybody on the Eastern seaboard. Usually if they’re talking to strangers, they throw in my age and weight for free.”
Laudy nodded and patted my hand. “All I know is that after raising one child that ate only baked beans and pizza, one that ate potato skins and ranch dip, one that ate the chicken out of her sandwich and rolled the bread into dough balls, and one that survived for ten years on a diet of macaroni and cheese and Fruit Loops, Survivor would have to be as easy as scraping egg off the ceiling.”
“That easy, huh?”
“It’s all in knowing how to do things the simplest way. Like spraying the ceiling with no stick-spray. Besides, I’ve been practicing.”
“How do you practice surviving on a deserted island?” My idea of roughing it is buying salad by the head.
“I’ve been foraging for food. Just yesterday I cut up a chicken. I bought corn with the hair still on. And I’ve been cooking on the grill instead of in the microwave. It’s just like cooking over an open fire.”
“How did it go?”
“Great. I didn’t realize what a quick response time we had with the fire department around here. Did you know that you don’t need lighter fluid if you use propane?”
“Okay, you’ve got mealtime covered. What about laundry? Ready to beat your clothes clean on river rocks?”
“Well, I’m still using that old washing machine Mama gave me when I got married. It doesn’t spin by itself any more. You have to grab the tub and whirl it around like one of those little merry-go-rounds at the park. I lose weight every time I do the wash.”
“Sounds like you’ve got what it takes all right,” I said, edging toward the door. There’s just one thing that could get in the way of success.”
“What’s that?”
It was cruel, but I’m her sister. I had to let her know. “On Survivor, they don’t have toilets.”
She looked at me with innocent doe eyes. “You’re kidding.”
“Nope. It’s just you in the outback becoming one with nature.”
“You know, there’s something honest and noble about working for a living.”
“Well, that’s a lesson these kids will just have to learn.”

Thursday, December 6, 2007

The Personality Test - A True Story

When the kids were wee, innocent producers of diaper-filling by-products, I remember gazing into their tiny faces and thinking with motherly love, “If I don’t get these guys potty trained soon, I’m taking a one-way cruise to Tahiti.” They giggled and cooed and made those adorable crinkly-nosed baby faces that God gave them so that mothers wouldn’t try to return them to the factory before the warranty expired. If I had only known then that they were actually saying, “Just wait until I’m sixteen. Then we’ll see who can achieve flight in a Chrysler,” I’d be sunning myself in a Tahitian lounge chair right now.

These days the oldest child is tucked safely away at college on the ten year plan. The youngest is a high school senior, hovering on the brink of independence. He’s been hovering on the brink of independence since he was one year old and refused to eat anything that had seeds, roots, or crust. Now at seventeen, he doesn’t just march to a different drummer, he counts cadence.

For reasons beyond my fathoming ability, the local high school deemed Son Two fit for college courses and tucked him into a program that allows for an earned semester at the local community college during the high school year. It’s my job to be late for work while I chauffer him from one institution of higher learning to the other. As a mother of teenagers, institutions fall within my area of expertise. This morning, Son Two hopped into the car after class, filled with glee and the joy of life. That’s a bad sign.

“Guess what?” This is a generic term that means something has happened that makes his planets align like three bars on a Las Vegas slot machine. He has an odd sense of humor. Gets it from my ex-husband, The Defendant.

I gave him my best Mommy’s Listening to Your Needs look and wheeled up to the Stop sign at the exit of the college parking lot. “What?”

“We took a personality test in Psychology today.”

So far, no speed bumps on the road to higher education. How did I miss the road sign that read Caution: Do Not Enter?

“It listed famous people whose qualities we share.”

I breathed a sigh of relief.

“Who’s Hannibal Lecter?”

They tell me the city will replace the stop sign and insurance will pay for the damage to the car. But I’m probably going to put my therapist’s child through college. I hope he’s not taking psychology. That was Hannibal's major, too.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Life in the Fast Lane

I spent 40 years pinning my bra straps to my undershirt, and here comes a whole new generation that never tried to put on pantyhose in a moving vehicle who they think they can rewrite the Ten Commandments of style. Fashion rules these days are scratched on sticky notes instead of carved in stone.
Today, my niece wears Tommy across her chest, Abercrombie down her arm, and Liz on her behind.
“Who is Tommy and why are you wearing his clothes?” I asked her one afternoon as she pranced in to show off new duds.
“They’re MY clothes, they just have his name on them.” She stared imploringly at the ceiling as if hoping enlightenment would come from above and strike me with a smart bomb. She pointed to a label I shouldn’t be able to see. “He’s a designer.”
“Let him wear his own clothes. Any boy that’s plastered across your body like that should give you a ring. Or share his nights and weekend minutes.”
“You’re out of date. Tommy is tight.”
“I can see that. Didn’t he have anything your size?”
“No, TIGHT.” She drew the word out like she was playing the sound game on Sesame Street. “You would probably say Tommy is cool.”
“I would say Tommy is living high on the hog with your college savings. What did you pay for the rights to that dustcloth?”
She shrugged. “It was on sale. I cashed a couple of bonds.”
“You spent your future on a rubber band with one strap and a few sparkles? Couldn’t you just cut armholes in a shower cap?”
“You’re too funny. Shower caps aren’t made of breathable fabrics.”
“And what natural fiber gave its life for that plastic skirt you’re wearing?”
“It’s called leatherene.”
About that time my mother oozed into the kitchen clad in a leatherene miniskirt tighter than an onion’s skin. She was melted into a crop top that read “Princess” in metallic letters, and sported a jeweled tattoo beside her navel that boasted a word I was once grounded for writing in my diary. Could this be the same woman who went white around the mouth when my nail polish and lipstick didn’t match? She crossed her legs and I winced. I haven’t seen that much of Mama since the day I was born.
“I see your appendix scar hasn’t faded.”
She snapped a strap and winked. “That’s not a scar. That’s my thong.”
I choked on my wheat toast and shot decaffeinated coffee out my nose. Just my luck. I spend my whole life trying to stay out of the fast lane and my Mom passes me on the curve.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Cart Wheeling

Not long ago, I had a near-death experience in the grocery store. I was bending over to check out Mrs. Fields’ fat grams when a woman wielding a grocery cart like it was a runaway bumper car rounded the corner on two wheels. If it weren’t for quick thinking on my part, I might have required a trip to the Crisco aisle to disengage that buggy from my body. For a second I thought I saw a bright light, but it turned out to be Register Six calling for assistance. Later, when I got lapped in frozen foods by a gray-haired granny with a number 5 pasted on the side of her grocery cart, I could see the need for a list of safety rules posted in a conspicuous place, perhaps tattooed on Little Debbie’s left cheek. With that thought in mind, I offer 8 Simple Rules for a Successful Supermarket Experience.
Show proper care for your vehicle. For the safety of everyone on the floor, do not select a buggy with uncooperative steering that can be guided only by a team of Iditarod sled dogs. Also, be on the lookout for features that may interrupt the aerodynamics of the cart such as toddlers left over from a previous shopper.
When perusing different item choices on the supermarket floor, please be sure to park only in traditionally acceptable parking areas. Nobody cares if you set up camp in front of internal organs in the meat department, but if you pause to check the fat content in the cookie aisle, we will forcibly transport you to the dairy case and secure you to the yogurt section with string cheese.
Please observe crowd-friendly speed limits. I know you’re in a hurry to rush home and get those tacos on the table, but don’t careen around the corners so fast that you initiate a forceful meeting between Betty Crocker and Orville Redenbacher.
Practice defensive shopping. Try to remember that there are people with immediate dietary concerns that may require them to effect a sudden stop in front of you to compare chocolate chip content on the cookie aisle. Likewise, you must understand that if you stop in the middle of the aisle while trying to decide between creamy and crunchy, you are likely to become a temporary member of the fresh fruit display. Take heart in the fact that kumquats should not do any permanent damage to your complexion.
Please show concern for the safety of other shoppers. Do not execute a sudden lane change without at least warning the gentleman who is presently rolling his cart over the heels of your Reeboks that he may suddenly find himself neck deep in summer squash. Likewise, don’t speed up suddenly, causing the six-year-old boy who is riding below the cart in front of you like a mudflap on an tractor-trailer to wrap around your front wheel like freshly chewed bubblegum.
Do not accelerate like Richard Petty on the straightaway at Talledega to beat me to the Express Lane, especially if your buggy is loaded like a Conastoga and you’re counting all 24 cans of Little Friskies as one item to make the 10-item limit, and all I’m carrying is a gallon of milk, two packs of Ho Ho’s, and a box of Ben & Jerry’s that has created a layer of freezer burn up to my elbow. I have killed for less than that.
Remember to return your buggy to the cart corral after you load your car. You may feel justified in aiming it toward the gate and assuming it will roll downhill to the target by itself, but let me assure you that grocery carts are not domesticated animals and will take every opportunity to separate from the pack and make a break for freedom. Lassie is not available to pull the buggy from quicksand, a well, or the tailpipe of a new Jaguar that happens to be in its path. The aftermath of the ensuing chaos will involve your insurance, and this is one case when the term “deductible” might be unsetttling.
Most importantly, steer clear of the lady dressed in a New York Yankees T-Shirt, stretch pants, and flip flops, who is wringing her hands and doing laps with a cart that contains two boxes of Ding Dongs and a frozen pizza. It’s me and I can’t decide what to have for supper.