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, June 27, 2010

Movin' On. . .In?

“Buying a house is like choosing which dog in the pack you want to bite you. You can pick the big one that takes one big hunk of meat at wallet level or select the little one that grabs hold of anything that dangles and hangs on til a better tidbit comes along. Either way, you’re broke.”

“So you’re not in favor of the idea.”

“Well, we’re dangerously close to having extra money this month. I was afraid we might be forced to do something rash, like buy gas or have meat with dinner this week.”

I’m trying to persuade the Captain to buy a house. A cozy little home of our own where we can raise kittens and cucumbers and drill holes in the wall any time we like. Actually it’s not buying a house that he’s against. It’s the description of the particular house I’ve discovered on my latest foray. And I probably should have saved that kitten idea for a surprise later on.

“Handyman’s Dream” it said in the guide book. When I called, the realtor sounded giddy. Then again, perhaps she was just really lonely, because she offered to put off dialysis just to meet me. She even gave me a charming aerial photo of the the house to show off when I got back home.

“I’d rather cover my seats with Viennese lace.” The Captain didn’t really say that, but his actual comment, although rich in imagery, had the same odds.

“Think of the money we’ll save,” I said, ducking down and to the left as I turned on the faucet. An icy blast of water shot out of the sprayer attachment and nailed Precious, the cat, with pinpoint accuracy. I saw Precious make a mental note to poop in my Reeboks later in the evening. He’s held a grudge ever since the surgery, anyway.

“You mean in plumber’s bills?” he asked, wiping up water with the picture of my dream hovel.

“In rent.” We could be making payments on a house we owned so we could retire.” I reached under the sink and turned on the hot water. A gush of steam erupted from the faucet like Old Faithful. Bill pushed the landlord’s speed dial button on his cell phone.

“We’ll need to save money so we can pay for our own repairs.”

“We’ll do everything ourselves.”

“You mean like when you hung that doily over the hole in the living room wall?”

“That was short term. You’re a great repairman.”

“I fix computers. There’s a big difference between replacing a sound card and snaking a toilet. Computer maintenance doesn’t require the use of a wrench big enough to wrap your upper plate around your tonsils.”

“No, but you have to deal with people who think a user’s manual is a book that teaches you how to take drugs. With this project, you’d be totally in charge. It would be exhilarating.”

“It would be exhausting.”

“I’ll help you.” I grinned invitingly.

“There’s no need to threaten me.”

“You can go to the hardware store any time you like.”

If there’s one thing men crave more than quiet at fourth down and goal to go, it’s sifting through tenpenny nails without a reason. That and strolling through automotive departments to sniff the tires, but you have to draw the line somewhere.

For now I still have some convincing to do. I realize there are more obstacles on the way to buying a house than there are splinters on the stairway to Paradise. But I think I’ll win.

I showed Precious where to find the Captain's shoes.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Mowing the Legs

As a good Southern girl, I pretend to shave my legs regularly. I don’t mean I’m pretending to do it. I mean I don’t do it and then lie about it. It’s a little rule I have to improve the quality of my life. I don’t eat oysters, wash and wax my floors, or shave my legs in months that contain an R.

Times are changing, though. Instead of doing the floors, I just refinance and move when they get dirty. And forget about the R--these days I don’t eat oysters in any month that has a BP in it.

As far as legs go—and at 5’2” tall, mine don’t go very far—I find that a nice pantsuit is acceptable just about anywhere these days. If I need to wear a dress, I come down with the flu—the best fashion find since stretchy pants.

I tried alternatives to shaving and I’ve learned some helpful tips that will make it easier the next time I wax. This year we used my legs for Christmas candles the whole month of December. I’m not waxing again until I’m a cadaver. The temperature of my body should cool that stuff right down and cut down on the waxy buildup that gave my legs that dull finish during the holidays.

I find that sometimes shaving my legs is like mowing the lawn. These shins have been under cover since November and all manner of vegetation has sprung up in the intervening months. Who knew Virginia Creeper could move that fast? I don’t need a razor. I need a weedeater and the industrial strength size RoundUp. With a spray hose attachment.

That first time you try and take out the Bermuda grass can be an enlightening experience. And how did that thistle sneak in there, anyway? If the Captain wants a First Mate with smooth legs, he’s going to have to bring in the heavy construction equipment. I’ve got a wilderness area that’s likely to be covered by the Environmental Protection Act.

Until then, his razor is my razor. Women don’t get equipment like this. I need something for hacking through the underbrush; say a machete attachment. It’s not fair that the people who need the mulcher the most don’t have the option.

I emptied the grass catching attachment and swept a hand down one shin to see if any bloodletting spikes were apparent.

Apparently somebody planted a cactus garden when I wasn’t looking.

I reached for the phone and dialed an emergency number. What can I say? One of the most important things in lawn care is knowing when to call in a professional.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Summer Shorts

It's thunderstorm season in the South. I’m afraid if it rains much more, BP will send a representative to dump a quart of 10W40 in my yard.

They don’t play Pomp and Circumstance when you graduate from the school of hard knocks. But they don't play Another One Bites the Dust, either.

Is half a mind a zombie snack?

For Mother’s Day, I was at a restaurant where a stranger was handing out roses to all the women. I wonder if he’s going to give out power tools for Father’s Day.

I’m at the age where my packaging label should read, “Some Settling May Occur.” On the back it would say, “Things in the mirror are larger than they appear.”

Now that I’ve turned 50, offering to slip into something more comfortable isn’t really a promise. It’s a threat.

Why is it that a kid who can memorize a 37 key code to wipe out a zombie apocalypse on a video game is puzzled by the Start button on the washer?

Different age people like different kinds of cars. My boys like the kind that get from zero to sixty in a nanosecond. I like the ones that can remember where I was going.

My teenage son asked me, “How long does it take for wood to become petrified?” I answered, “As long as it takes it to teach the twigs how to drive.”

The last time I tried on swimsuits in front of a dressing room mirror, I realized something. I’d have to use Google Earth to get a panoramic picture of my butt.

Never wear a dangly charm bracelet when you have diarrhea.

If I can shop for everyone in my family without taking them along to try on clothes, why do I never come home with the right size underwear for me?

My dentist put my last crown in place with a nail. I didn’t know whether to write him a check or charge it to my Home Depot account.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Gemstones for Grumpy

There is something about me that would still find discontent living with a princess and working in a diamond mine.

That and the fact that I’m at the stage of life when my mood jumps from irritable to "dinner party for twelve" crazy and back again without pausing to register a change in barometric pressure, gave my husband the inspiration to buy me a set of hot pink summer lounging pajamas emblazoned with Grumpy the Dwarf the last time he was at Wal-Mart on a quest for the perfect window fan.

Grumpy is staring out from the shirtfront as if someone just lined the bed of his pickup truck with dotted Swiss and edged it in tinsel and pom pom fringe. Imagine that same dwarf with hot flashes, swollen ankles, and hair like raw spaghetti, and you’ll have some idea why the Captain is sending up distress signals.

“Other wives get Victoria’s Secret. I get Wal-Mart separates.” I’m sitting on the deck at Raelynn’s house guzzling lemonade and hatching red blotches. My goal is to join the blotches together to give the impression of a sunburn. There’s no vacation in the checkbook this year and I want people to think I’ve been to the beach.

“At least he paid full price.” Raelynn has a bargain finder instinct that’s better than a Global Positioning System set on Sale. She sometimes gets heartstopper deals at the Good Will store, and one time snatched a formal gown out of the jaws of white trash, but she never goes cut rate on gifts. She says real friends deserve retail price.

I don’t agree. If I thought a rash would get me a sympathy discount, I’d manage a wheat allergy that would wipe out the store. I emptied out a restaurant once, but that turned out to be the flu instead of food poisoning. There’s a fine line between bargain hunting and contagious diseases.

“Full price came to $12.00.” I stretched one leg, pointing my toe to check for progress. Looked like freckles up my shin was the best I could do toward achieving a full body glow. “Plus tax.”

“Didn’t he get you that opal necklace you wanted for your birthday?”

“Yeah,” I peered at a likely spot on my arm, then flicked away a lady bug. “I broke the chain.”

“And the opal earrings to match for your anniversary?”

“The posts hurt my ears. I thought I’d get some on French hooks.”

Raelynn looked at me like I’d just snatched the last Prada bag off the clearance shelf. Men give her presents every week of her life, but she’d trade every trinket for a man who fills her sails like the Captain does mine. “Girl, it might say Grumpy across your chest, but it says Dopey in your eyes.”

I grinned and gathered up my towel, empty glass, and trashy magazines.

“Where you going?” Raelynn raised an eyebrow with an arch that was better manicured than the one in St Louis.

I padded into her empty house to put my glass in the dishwasher.

“Home,” I called back over my shoulder. “To show off how nice Grumpy looks in opals.”

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Core Care

This year I finally decided to try yoga as form of excercise to replace my previous routine of "No Exercise at All." Lately I can’t perform the “Trying to Tie My Shoe” dance in the privacy of my own grocery store without a friend pointing out snippily that yoga would strengthen my core muscles and give me balance.

The only core I care about is at the center of my candy apple. At my age, self improvement is just another name for “Deductible."

For the Shoe Dance, I just stretch down toward my foot and simultaneously raise my Reebok while hopping on one foot and trying to catch my shoe strings. I don’t need yoga, I need higher shoes.

However, in the spirit of avoiding the “I told you so” song performed by a choir of the sagest of my friends and family, I decided to learn some yoga. I figured it wouldn’t take a bloomin’ Lotus to convince them to take their downward dog faces somewhere else. Besides, given my motto of "no excess movement unless there is a fast-moving spider involved," it beats World Cup soccer as a form of exercise.

“You need to work on your asanas,” my sister perked.

“Well yours isn’t getting any smaller, either,” I snapped.

“No, I mean your poses. Start with some Sun Salutations for warmup and work your way through.”

“Through what? Do I have to greet everything in the sky? There’s a bird up there that I am NOT speaking to until he cleans up my car."

I decided that as a modern woman who once engaged the delivery room nurse in hand-to-hand combat over the rights to the Demerol, I could at least create my own yoga positions. Poses that would fit in with my graceful and elegant, if slightly advanced, lifestyle. I’m including them here because my goal in life is to help other people. That, and I also have a video camera and a lifelong wish to win the big money on America’s Funniest Home Videos.

Down with the Dog Position: Stretch as far as possible across the bed until you can at least touch the dog, who is presently indulging in a flagrant violation of house rules by reclining dreamily and just out of reach on the bed as if he’d received an invitation from Lassie for Dogs Rule Day. Smack at his paws with the tips of your fingers until he rolls his eyes, sighs heavily, and jumps down in exasperation.

Tiny Print Eyeball Squint: This is an exercise for the muscles of the face. Try to read the answers to yesterday’s crossword puzzle in the newspaper without wearing your glasses. Squint eyes tightly, wrinkle your nose, and draw the upper lip toward the wild hairs sprouting from your eyebrows. Pull newspaper so close to your face that you could inhale the letters off the page, and repeat the exercise. Extend arms to full length, leaning to one side to allow more light onto paper. Repeat exercise. Give up and roll up paper to use later during Down With the Dog position.

Crossed Legs Sneezing Position: As a mother of two children, I am at the time of my life where a single sneeze can cause an embarrassing fashion disaster. (During cold and flu season I leave a change of clothes in every room, two in the trunk of my car, and one in the glove compartment.) I find that the following exercise eradicates the dangers of a water hazard should respiratory systems erupt during a heated discussion at a PTA meeting. When a sneeze threatens to attack, quickly cross one foot carefully over the other and squeeze the thighs together like lemons at juicing time. This exercise may draw comments from the crowd, but allows you to put off the purchase of designer adult diapers for a little while longer.

Late for Curfew Aerobics: What good is an exercise program that doesn’t elevate your heart rate? When the teenager is out past curfew, sprint to the window every five minutes to check for their car. Sprint to the telephone and snatch up the receiver to see if there’s still a dial tone. Sprint to your purse and dig for your cell phone to see if there’s a message from the Sheriff. When the errant teen finally wonders in, indulge in a rapid toe tap while crossing the arms over the chest. Breathe in and out quickly to stimulate blood flow to the heart. Produce an atom-splitting tirade on House Rules to cleanse the body of impurities.

Corpse Pose: This is an actual yoga position designed for total relaxation at the end of a workout. The body is stretched out on the floor much like a murder victim on CSI. It doesn’t work the core muscles, but it sure beats trying to get up until an Emergency Responder carrying oxygen and a tow rope happens by to give you a hand. So if you happen across a woman with untied shoes stretched across the Weight Watchers aisle in the grocery store, step over her. It's me. I'm either finding inner peace or waiting for the tow truck to arrive.

Monday, June 7, 2010

One Love, Two Beers

Now that the kids are old enough to tie my shoes and buy their own, we’re looking for family fun that doesn’t involve giant rodents serving pizza.

So one night when nothing was on TV but reality show reruns, the family headed to the auditorium for a country music show. All I can say is that things have changed since the Coalminer’s Daughter wore banana curls and evening gowns and stirred hearts with a sweet look and a warm smile.

The little chickie that bounced out on stage was dressed in jeans tighter than Glad wrap on gravy and had something besides coal coming down her chute. The music was so loud my ears popped, but I figured the Captain of my Love Boat was reading lips because his eyes never left the stage.

The next act was a young man about the same age as my knee brace, wearing a cowboy hat and a belt buckle. Everything else was airbrushed on and shook like the space shuttle on re-entry. If everything under that boy's hood hadn't been fastened down, he'd have thrown a rod.

Sons One and Two loved the show. They couldn’t hear a word I said to them the entire night. Nothing promotes family bonding like an enforced lack of communication between generations.

The next concert we attended was an outdoor concert in a cow pasture far, far away. It was easy enough to find using Google maps--we went straight down the Highway to Nowhere and turned left at Old McDonald’s farm. When the smell fogged the windows and the exhaust system starting spewing cow pie pellets like machine gun fire, we knew we’d arrived.

To many people, the idea of an outdoor concert involves finely crafted classical instruments blending together in layers of harmony, while platters of cubed cheese skewered on confetti-wrapped toothpicks perch on prepared platters waiting for a lady in a perfect black dress and hair as smooth as the mayonnaise on a tomato sandwich to take a tiny bite.

Welcome to Manure Fest 2010. This was the venue for Country/Rock at its best.

In 1969, concert-goers at Woodstock made it through overcrowded conditions, inadequate toilet facilities, and intermittent rain showers for three days of peace, love, and music at a dairy farm. After wading through puddles that smelled like the dumpster behind the Diaper Kids Day Care, watching grown men engage in a beer-soaked slapfest in the line for the Big Boys Room, and observing scantily-clad socialites stuck stiletto deep in Carolina clay, I have a lot more respect for the love-in generation. There was something flowing through this crowd, but it had less to do with love than with liquor.

Now while I’m the first one to admit that watching a beer-soaked neo-cowboy trying to balance his designer spurs on a flimsy folding chair is better entertainment than a Saturday night sitcom, I couldn’t help but notice that the entire office staff of the firm Bimbo, Floozy, and Skank was crowding the stage like it was an open audition for Hooters Goes Honky Tonk. I’m pretty sure one had pants designed by Snap On Tools.

But when the Zac Brown band came out and laid down tracks to America the Beautiful that were as smooth and sweet as icing on a sheet cake, backed up by expansive screens bearing footage taken on the band’s recent visit to entertain our overseas troops, the sweet smell of loyalty and faithfulness and pride washed away the smell of bitterness and contention and cow manure and what was in our hearts made us forget what was on our shoes.

I could never understand how Woodstock’s three days in a rainsoaked pasture could lead to warm feelings for anything but soap. But when a crowd of folks as diverse as a grab bag of grocery store candy rose together, hands in the air, and swayed like amber fields of grain to honor our country’s finest, my heart exploded like the Grinch’s Christmas morning cardiac growth spurt.

Zac and the boys played more songs, all of them as smooth and deep as the grass at the Masters. We sang along and clapped our hands and danced under the stars. And when the band broke into Bob Marley’s One Love, this crowd of cowboy contenders and Saturday night socialites cheered together for a world where peace was more than a refrain on the evening air.

The people cheered, hands stretched toward the stars like they could capture the harmony and bring it to Earth.

And the band played on.

Thursday, June 3, 2010


I’m puzzled by the studies that show that the way to hang on to the last frayed threads of my mind when they threaten to weave themselves into something resembling the dream sequence on Dallas is to diligently solve the daily crossword. I’ve heard so many stories about synapses saved by a steady diet of crossword puzzles that I’m convinced that the only way to hold on to what’s left of my sanity is to discover the answer to 22 across.

The trouble is that I never finish crossword puzzles. I’m the sort of gal that remembers the name of the person I was supposed to introduce approximately 15 minutes (or six weeks depending on the degree of difficulty) after everyone has left the party anonymously. My guests are known to one another as “that girl in the tacky red dress” or “you know, the man who didn’t shave below his chin,” or “that woman who called me Hortense.” It’s easier for me to fit into last year’s swimsuit than to come up with a word at the right time.

So as I stumble over clue after clue on my daily crossword, I’m troubled by the fact that I’m unable to stave off the inevitable destruction of my little gray cells. Every minute my brow is furrowed, I’m certain that I’m heading downhill faster than a mutt after a meatball, only to find that one night after I’ve peeled open the fast food bags for dinner I remember the four letter word for bacteria. At this rate, I should become senile in another six months. I’d better type faster.

Luckily, there is a new school of thought to bring serenity to the chaos between my ears. Studies show that a simple change in my routine, such as taking a different route home from work, will save more of my mind than puzzles ever did. This is especially good for me because while I’m prone to living in a deeper rut than Hummer tires leave in red mud, it is not at all unusual for me to get lost. On especially good days, it might take three tries to make it to the mailbox. Without too much trouble, I can arrange to find a new way to get to the kitchen every week.

So now I can throw away my GPS, stride confidently from the house, and happily continue to take my wrong turns. And I won’t have to worry about any more cross words.