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.

Friday, December 30, 2011

An Open Letter to My FaceBook Friend-To-Be

Dear Friendless,

I see by my little pop up timer that you want to be my friend. That’s thoughtful of you and I’m sure you have a great personality; a people person that draws other folks to you like barbecue draws rednecks. But upon searching my memory banks, my old address books, and the pictures from my high school yearbook, I find I have no clue to your identity. I’m afraid to check the mug shots on the county jail website.

I asked my children if they had teachers that might be motivated to make my acquaintance on the sly. I wondered if my coworkers had friends with motives for revenge. Aside from folks touched by that episode with the chocolate diaper in the microwave, I can’t think of any work-related citizens who might bear ill will toward me.

I’d like to think you’re a fan, too shy to say anything out loud, but wanting to duplicate my every move so that you can be more like me every day.

Sort of like a stalker with poor life choices.

Sort of like the shy girl who sits in the corner by the cheese dip waiting for the chance to say “No problem” when someone drops a jalapeño in her shoe.

Sort of like the fellow that knew how to work the slide rule in math class back before everybody had calculators that could figure the change in your body fat ratio before you ate the chocolate chip cookie.

I married that guy.

I was going to ignore your friend request. I was going to go gleefully on my way accepting gifts for my virtual megafarm. I was going to go toss a pie at one of my less needy friends.

But then I looked closer. That’s not a stalker. It’s not even a fan. It’s a picture of me at a recent Christmas party.

I’m sitting by the cheese dip.

And eating out of the bowl.

And picking a jalapeno out of my shoe.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

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 15, 2011

Snap, Crackle, Christmas

It's Snap and Crackle and Pop! Oh my! Things are getting sticky over at An Army of Ermas where I tried to mix up a little holiday cheer until things went horribly wrong.

Who knew the HazMat people made housecalls? I hope Santa calls back.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Merry Christmas, Eeyore

I’m a little bit of a late bloomer when it comes to getting ready for Christmas. I'm kind of like those bulbs you have to plant in your flower garden in the dead of winter to turn into flowers come spring. Or maybe it’s the seeds you plant. However it goes, Father Christmas won't be seeing my bloomers til half past Valentine's Day.

But for the first time since the Power Ranger incident of '02, I started shopping before Christmas this year. I was going to wait, but the operators were standing by and I had to call right away to get the Ginsu knives.

Although I don’t go full out in the decorating area, you can tell it’s Christmas around my house by subtle changes in the décor. Just keep an eye out for mutations in the dust patterns on the coffee table.

I’ve moved the nativity scene that I forgot to put away last Christmas from the shelf in the laundry room to the top of the entertainment center, dusted off the baby Jesus, and removed the dryer sheet from the shepherd’s staff. The shepherd isn't quite as festive without his lint-free banner, but now it smells a little more like a stable and less like the Snuggle bear.

What appears to be stray tree limbs connected by lumps of fur in one corner of the living room is actually a small Frasier fir holding up under the strain of the investigative processes of two Labradors, three cats, and an inquisitive Dachshund sporting a Christmas tree skirt. Occasionally the tree gives a shudder and deposits various small animals on the floor. If it lived in the Hundred Acre Wood, my tree would be Eeyore.

There are 1,497 gift bags of assorted sizes and heritage covering every available flat surface, along with several containers of used bows that are perfectly suitable for family gifts if you affix them to packages with a loop of Scotch tape. There is no Scotch tape anywhere in the house. There are several dozen wood screws of assorted sizes in the junk drawer, but repeated attempts at giftwrap show that the wood screw is not a device that is effective for this purpose.

The kitchen table is covered with bits of burned sugar cookies and ingredients for partially assembled gelatin salads and casseroles that will bear offerings of melted cheese and Ritz crackers come Christmas day. This is not considered untidiness in the kitchen, but rather food preparation with holiday flair.

There is a wreath on the outside of the closet door instead of the inside of the closet door. The wreath boasts a giddy Snowman who is on the verge of bursting into the songs of the season just as soon as the Captain tells me where he hid the batteries.

There is a car in the driveway awaiting new tires, a replacement windshield wiper, and a brake job. Nothing says Merry Christmas at our house quite like "there's a front end alignment with your name on it just around the corner."

So for all of you folks who have every Martha Stewartesque napkin folded into snowflakes, don’t judge me on my lack of handmade ornaments and scented candles. Christmas at my house might have a different flavor and a smell that tends more toward PineSol than pine branches, but the spirit is the same.

I might deck my halls with takeout boxes instead of tinsel, but I still have the hope that good will is not just a store where you can get half off every Tuesday.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Hip Hop

I’m like Shakira--my hips don’t lie.

Even when threatened.

However, without much coaxing they’re willing to reveal every bite of doughnut I’ve had in the past ten years. Try to stuff them inyo a pair of pantyhose and they’ll also let on what happened to the last box of Thin Mints, the banana bread the neighbor brought over, and the six dozen Rudolph cupcakes intended for the third grade Christmas party.

My hips and I have never had a very good relationship. All I long for is to see daylight between my thighs one time before I die. On the other hand my hips fantasize of a day when we can coexist on the buffet deck of the Love Boat without me snarling every time a skinny chick sucks down a milkshake without scraping off the whipped cream.

These days they’re spreading the dream to my chins, who have rebelled and resorted to disguising cookie crumbs in their folds for a late night snack. I’m so nearsighted, I thought it was just stray whiskers. If I ever locate my bifocals, I intend to act sternly in regards to my personal appearance. I may have to read up on excavation techniques.

When I was fifteen, I was all shin bones and shoulder blades. Now I’m fifty and I’ve discovered that love handles are the new hipbones. I used to sing “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes,” but now I have to admit that my head and toes lost touch long before size 10 became the new obese. My knees are still active, though. They take every opportunity to go out. So these days, I’m more likely to sing “Shake, Rattle, and Roll” and hope I don’t lose anything important when I stand up.

Last week I wanted to buy a pair of hip hugger jeans, but I had two get three estimates on the location of my navel to determine the right size. I was going to wear them with a halter top, just like the old days, but my kids hit me with a restraining order, the entire population of the tri-state area staged an intervention, and the government declared my entire Head to Toe area unsafe. I’m expecting FEMA to approve my application for natural disaster assistance any day now.

In the meantime, I’m investing heavily in Krispy Kreme. Because hips don’t lie, but maybe they can be bribed to keep the sugar coated truth to themselves.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Rear View

Dear Santa,

It all started when I married the Captain. I had known him for a long time, Santa; the excellent table manners and casual, maddening tidbits of knowledge on everything from Darwin to Dadaism. I expected to lose at Trivial Pursuit, get skunked at Jeopardy, and have copies of completed New York Times crossword puzzles strewn about the parlor.

The Time Lord thing, though, was a bit of a shock.

I didn’t realize I was marrying a Doctor.



Little did I know that an intergalactic smuggler with an itchy blaster finger, a starship captain with an overachiever complex, and a 900 year old doctor with a sonic space tazer came along with the deal. (Don’t leave me comments. I’ve lived this life for 20 years and nothing you can say hasn’t already been attempted by Vulcan mind meld. Resistance is fertile.)

I’m not holding all this against you Santa; I just wish you had given me a hint before I walked down the aisle surrounded by 30 phasers set on sugar shock.

But as long as we’re talking sci-fi, there is one thing I would like to have for Christmas. Keeping in mind that whole “bigger on the inside than on the outside” theme, all I’m asking for this year is. . .TARDIS PANTS!

Eat your heart out Kim Kardashian. You might have a butt that won’t quit, but I’ll have stretch pants that fit.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

All In A Name

As I was registering children for basketball recently, I encountered a tiny young lady with petite golden curls, large blue eyes, and a name with enough consonants to label an expansive European country. Fortunately she’d forgotten her last name. I was glad because I used the whole alphabet on her first one. The registration form looked like the “begat” section of the Bible. To imprint her name on the back of her jersey, we would have to use letters the size of a flea.

“What a clever name,” I beamed, mentally rearranging the letters to create the first three paragraphs of War and Peace. “How do you pronounce it?”

The girl shrugged. “Sissy.”

These days naming a child is like playing Wheel of Fortune. You call out all the letters you can think of, then take suggestions from the audience. Anybody that creates a title that the average schoolteacher can pronounce on the first try has to go to the end of the line and start over with a brand new baby.

When I was born, in the dark days before the “Buy a Vowel” era, people named their children after relatives who might leave them money. Failing a possible inheritance, they fell back on experimental methods and gave the child a name that looked like it might suit the personality of the baby.

There hasn’t been money in my family since the revenooers shut down the family business, so Mom went for the common sense method. The name Amy means “can’t read road maps,” and in some cultures can also be translated “she who hates vacuuming” or “one who fails at long division.” My sister is "Clothes Borrower" and my brother’s name is translated “burns gas like pine on a bonfire.”

I don’t envy celebrities who, even though they ooze enough cash to post bond several times yearly, are under such pressure to invent clever billing for their babies that in the end all the Heavenly Bodies and Fruit Baskets begin to sound the same.

The most clever of these is Apple. Who would have thought to name a baby after a computer that is immune to most major viruses? If the child takes after its namesake, doctor bills won’t become a problem until the teenage years, when crashes are inevitable

When my kids were born, I went the easy route. I called the first one “The Baby” and the second one “The Other Baby” and waited until someone gave them a monogrammed shirt. After that it was easy to remember the oldest boy is AC-DC and the younger one is Lynard Skynard.

Now if I could just recall my husband’s name. I don't want to get excited until I'm sure, but it looks like I’m married to either Jimmy Buffett or Eric Clapton. I guess if I hear the blender going in the kitchen, I'll know I'm moving to Margaritaville. Sounds like a good idea to me. It's almost lunchtime and I'm looking forward to a Cheeseburger In Paradise.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Cough Drop - A Thanksgiving Miracle

Bill and I were sitting in that special kind of traffic jam that comes just before the holidays and is the result of a small town growing like an overdose victim of Jack’s magic beans, leaving mundane things like convenience and city planning behind.

The roads were packed like the straw in a peach milkshake. Fruit gets stuck in the end, all movement stops, and nobody gets any relief. With a milkshake you can pull out the straw and suck out the peach pulp. With overburdened roads, the obvious answer is to block off one lane with orange cones and commit to a ten-year construction project.

We'd dropped our kids off at a mega-bookstore at what seemed like a short time earlier, doling out the last bite-sized candy bars from Halloween left in the bottom of my pocketbook to hold them until we got back and could hit a nearby buffet extravaganza. Sometimes eating out, even with two teenaged mouths to feed, is a better idea than a sound investment plan.

In the meantime, the Highway Patrol issued an all-points-bulletin to every mall-bound traveler in the area, describing our location, destination, and current state of irritability. That’s the only reasonable explanation for the fact that our car began to attract morons like a pan of biscuits attracts men named Bubba.

Traffic stalled and Christmas shoppers begin to share the joy of the season with their fellow travelers one finger at a time. I attempted to retain my normal good nature even though Bill was getting testy. He always gets that way when he misses snack time.

Bill: Do you have any more candy in your pocketbook?

Me: Why? Are you hungry?

Bill: No, I thought I would toss some out the window to lure people out of our lane.

Me: You’re being sarcastic because you’re too hungry. (Pointing across six lanes of stationary traffic.) There’s a Wendy’s. And a Chinese buffet. And a pizza place. I'll bet that gas station has candy bars.

Bill: Are you hungry?

Me: (Fumbling through my pocketbook.) No. Why do you keep bringing it up? Look--there’s that place with the wonderful barbecue ribs. I could walk there and back before you got to the red light.

(I find a cellophane-wrapped object which I pull surreptitiously from my bag. I wince as a tiny crinkling sound gives me away.)

Bill: What’s that?

Me: Nothing.

Bill: What is it?

Me: Nothing. Leave me alone, willya?

Bill: You have food.

Me: No I don’t. It’s a cough drop. (Here I wave the cough drop with a flourish. It’s of a nondescript color somewhere in between magenta and pink eye.)

Bill: I want half.

Me: It’s mine. I found it. (I fondle the cough drop like it was the One Ring.)

Bill: We can take turns licking it.

Me: (Pensively) I don’t think I’ve bought any cough drops this season. . .not since I had the flu that year we had the big snow.

Bill: You can have it.

Me: No you. I can wait.

Bill: I can wait, too.

We laughed together, the warm laughter of two people coming together over misfortune.

Under cover of laughter, I shucked the paper off the cough drop like it was a peel and eat shrimp and popped it in my mouth.

Just then, in a holiday miracle moment, traffic parted like the men’s restroom line for a father-daughter combination. Nothing clears the tracks like a man doing daddy-duty with a lace-clad toddler in tow. We picked up the boys, and wheeled into a nearby restaurant.

Bill: See, it all turned out okay because we made sacrifices and worked together. That’s what Thanksgiving is all about.

We all smiled at each other like the Brady Bunch on the 29th minute of a 30 minute show. Secretly, I gave thanks for a cough drop appetizer that kept me from acting like a turkey.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving Spread

Basking under the lights, skin as brown and buttery as a ginger snap, the star of the layout sprawled across the centerfold like she had stock in staples.



“That’s the one I’ve always dreamed of.”

“Don’t drool on the recipe.”

It’s girls night out and we’re gathered around the table checking to see what the beautiful people are having for Thanksgiving dinner. Glossy pages are open to a shimmering feast. There’s not a fried onion ring or can of mushroom soup in sight. The turkey is as flirtatious as a '40’s pinup girl, wearing nothing but a brown sugar and paprika rub. It’s enough to make me want to be a Spice Girl.

Every diet that has ever been tested and tossed aside is represented by our group. Elizabeth is low carb. Kaitlyn is high protein. I represent the “high sugar raises your metabolism so you can eat Ho Ho’s for breakfast” school of thought. If the road to hell is paved with whole wheat good intentions, the highway to heaven is coated with brown sugar.

“I’m tempted to give this one a go,” I said, scanning the ingredients for potentially recognizable items. “I have a guy bringing me a fresh turkey and I want a fancy new recipe.”

The room got quieter than the fifth grade gym during ballroom dance week.

“You’re going to cook a fresh turkey?”

“Sure. How hard can it be?”

“Ever tried to put pantyhose on a squid?”

I pondered my history for possible matches. “I dressed a toddler as a noodle one Halloween.”

“Close enough.”

The day before Thanksgiving I stood in front of the sink. The turkey, whom I’ve named J.R. Ewing because it has the largest spread I’ve ever seen, is sprawled in the kitchen sink like a centerfold model. One drumstick is propped coyly on the hot water faucet, and the toe of the other is stuck in the spray nozzle. There are so many pin feathers left, it looks like it needs a shave.

A fresh turkey is different from a supermarket sale bird that has had its legs trussed together and frozen into shape. Left to its own devices, the bird in my sink could probably out cancan any Rockette at Radio City.

I was trying to wrestle the thing into position to tie the legs together when the Captain and his faithful companion, Bo a sleek, by which I mean obese, black dog, half Labrador and half Dalmatian sauntered into the kitchen.

“What’s up Master Chief? Can’t you get the bad guy under control?”

“I don’t know if I’m cooking this bird or doing the cha-cha with it. It could take the prize on Dancing With the Stars, drumsticks down.”

“Need a hand?”

“Sure. I’ll hogtie it and you smear on the rub.”

After a few minutes we paused for breath.

“You were supposed to smear it on the turkey.” I flicked brown sugar from an eyebrow.

“This thing fights back. Are you sure it’s a turkey and not a kangaroo with a grudge?”

We dove back into the fray, and emerged, basted in sweat, a half hour later.

If generations follow the Thanksgiving tradition we set that day, there will be Rockwellesque paintings hanging on future walls with a man, woman, and big black dog covered in brown sugar, eating snack cakes dripping with artificial flavoring.

Everybody is thankful for something. I’m grateful for a husband who doesn’t mind Ho Ho’s for holiday lunch.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Green Grows the. . .Compost?

I get e-mails from The Home Depot Garden Club which is kind of like Jack the Ripper subscribing to Hooters R Us.

The newest edition to hit my inbox is offering suggestions that will enable me to annihilate plants during the winter months as well as during the balmy days of summer. I don’t need much help sending plants down the garden path anytime, but it seems like the colder months would serve as beginner level floracide. However, the experts suggest I plant winter greens at this time. Since I didn’t plant anything that stayed green in June, I’m excited to give November a try.

My Gardening Guru suggests I plant a nice patch of arugula, which sounds to me like either a choice vacation destination somewhere that serves drinks with a variety of tropical fruit garnishes, or an indication of nasal drainage.

I’m also supposed to seize the opportunity to divide my perennials. I’m not entirely sure what perennials are, but there’s talk about a root ball that I wouldn’t bring up in mixed company.

One of the sections described proper care for my power equipment. I’m not allowed to use a hair dryer without a license. I cannot imagine a situation where I would be set loose with a leaf blower without an Emergency Responder standing by for immediate action in case my Bermuda grass goes South. I did use a string trimmer once to even up the grassy fringe along the driveway. Now there’s a stone nestled beside a stand of oxymorons that resembles a first grade macramé project.

The Garden Club is adamant that now is the time to begin composting. I’ve finally found an area where I can excel. If piling trash is an avenue to luscious landscaping, I’ve been a master gardener for years.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Back Door Blessings

It's Thanksgiving time. And of course, we're thankful for Sam. Bless his heart. Come share the warmth of the season--and of Sam--at Stage of Life.

Sunday, November 13, 2011


Just when you thought it was safe to go down the cereal aisle.

*Cue Jaws music*

Little Debbie may never be the same again. Come on over to An Army of Ermas and let me tell you how my "8 Simple Rules of Grocery Shopping" can change your life. . .just like it did for Uncle Ben.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Thanks, Dad

In recognition of Veteran's Day I would like to send oceans full of thanks to the men and women who have served their country with courage and dedication, and a huge hug to my dad who chose a WWII submarine as the ideal way to ride out the war; sometimes from the top of the water, often times from the bottom, and many times with the enemy raining terror down from above. I remember every day just how fortunate I am to be here. And to have you here with me. Thanks to God above and the USS Greenling for bringing you home safely. And many, many thanks to you.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Off The Top of My Head

Today while I was in the shower, I heard a noise, which with bathroom acoustics being what they are, I took either for sixteen cats purring in the bathroom or Seal Team Six landing a squadron of helicopters on the roof.

Having dealt closely with cats before, I was hoping for a Seal Team Meet and Greet, when I realized the sound was coming from what I call the Captain’s “Public Appearance Basket.” This is the caddy that holds his assorted shavers and is as organized as Arnold Palmer's golf bag.

Why is it that men need a separate electric device to groom each individual body part? Give me a plastic Bic disposable and I can be Barbie-doll smooth in ten minutes. I’ve shaved my legs in a moving car, with one leg in the bathroom sink, and flamingo-style in a wading pool surrounded by toddlers who were probably compromising water purity the entire time.

The Captain has an electric razor with more whirling blades than the Marquis de Sade’s torture chamber, a streamlined razor-type thingy to handle smaller land masses such as peninsulas and the ever-popular soul patch area, and a tiny precision shaver that I’m pretty sure is for his belly button.

Why one man, even one who is covered in fur from stem to stern, needs more grooming tools than a prizewinning Poodle is beyond me. Luckily he keeps his winter coat, because if we had to plug in a device to shave that chest, it would short out every television on the block and have Black Ops fans pounding our door with video game controllers.

In the old days, before the kids were teenagers, the Captain had something we called “hair” which he styled with with an intricate device known to adults as a "comb." Now he has “ears” which are to a shaved head what pebbles are to a sand garden.

He has a shaver that is the grooming equivalent of a Zamboni that I use to prepare his head for public viewing. After the bloodletting incident of ’09, we developed a plan called “Good God, What Have You Done!” and he handles the delicate ear area with a tiny weedeater designed especially for the purpose.

At least in my new role as “ The Barber of Severe,” I’m learning a whole new approach to language. To me, “Buzz Off” means “Keep Out of My Airspace.” To the Captain, it’s just another haircut.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

This Little Light of Mine

Today, with the lofty idea that as a secretary I should successfully complete office-type stuff at least occasionally, I dabbled in Accounts Payable, Receipt Filing, and Computer-Assisted Suicide. Maybe it was homicide. I just know that by the time I was through dealing with the electric company’s website, I had decided that the Patron Saint of web design is Dr. Kevorkian.

I wanted to report a burned out light in the parking lot. How hard can it be?

Insert picture of black cloud here.

I typed in the electric company’s website. I did the same thing a month or so ago, reported the problem and got an immediate call saying they would fix the problem. Since that time, the company has hired a professional to give their website a whole new look. It’s the look of a strongbox that no safecracker can open. If there is a real person left in that company, they’re hiding like white shoes in winter.

I pulled my keyboard closer to initiate negotiations, and made false promises that I’d read and understood the terms of agreement, the use and care instructions, and the U. S. Constitution. In actuality I’m a little sketchy on the Constitution although I’m fairly certain Prohibition has been repealed, and also that I have the right to stand in line for three hours to vote for somebody I don’t really like.

Computer: For your convenience we have redesigned our website for ease of use.

(What I know now: The term “For your convenience” is code for “Snooki will give makeup tips to the Ladies Bible Class before you will find a real person to help you.”)

Computer: Enter password.

Me: Last time I didn’t need a password.

Computer: (Monotonously) Enter password.

Me: Okay, but I’m making it up.

Computer: If you forgot your password press here. If you forgot your user name press here.

Me: (Typing furiously.) I have a name for you.

Computer: Invalid user name.

Me: (In boldface type.) How about this one?

Computer: If you forgot your. . .

Me: Shut up!

Computer: . . .password, press. . .

Me: (Pressing the big black button and watching the screen go black.) Bazinga!

The light just dawned. I'm going to be in the dark for a long time.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Dear Sir:

An Open Letter to the Chainsaw-Wielding Homicidal Maniac at the Haunted Trail,

You’ve just leaped unexpectedly from behind a hay bale, revving your chainsaw motor like a monster truck engine and dripping blood like a soaker hose. And admittedly, I was startled enough to swallow the last half of my fun-sized Snicker bar without chewing.

But I’ve raised two boys to adulthood and have played the “Close Your Eyes and Hold Out Your Hands” game so many times I’m never really surprised by anything. Over the years children have jumped out from behind closed doors, hidden under piles of laundry, and shadowed me down the hall on my midnight trips to the bathroom just for the chance to scream “Boo” and test my bladder control.

I have two kids with cars of their own; one of them, Speed Racer, could make you drop your weapon and go all white around your bloody eye sockets just by offering to chauffer you to the corner for milk. He learned to drive on Crazy Taxi.

My Labrador is the only one in the house who can open the childproof top on the aspirin bottle, and my cat could star in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest” if he hadn’t already stalked and eaten the cuckoo. I’ve had a stray ferret follow me home, and a there’s a spider the color of hungry who likes to stop by for a bite when the weather gets cold.

So, I’m sorry if the sight of you didn’t send me into a screaming frenzy, frantically searching for another way out. I’m trying to decide how your mother is going to get those rusty bloodstains out of your best jeans and whether you asked your dad for permission to wear that shirt before you cut the bottom off in the trendy ragged design.

And if you run at me again like you’re gonna give me a permanent bad hair day, let me tell you one thing. The only tidbit I remember from my Senior Women’s Self Defense class is how to stop an attacker from taking my virtue, my purse, or my shopping bags from Discount Day at the mall. So if you’re not wearing an athletic supporter, the only thing you have to protect yourself with is that impotent chainsaw.

But don’t worry. Speed Racer will be glad to take you to the hospital. Be sure to buckle up and keep your bloody hands and feet inside the vehicle until it comes to a screeching halt. And take notes.

You’ll get some great ideas for next year’s Haunted Trail.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Take a Letter

G Whiz.

That’s the word from the World Scrabble Championships in Warsaw where a player accused of hiding a tile with the letter G was on the edge of exposure. His opponent demanded he be taken to the bathroom and strip searched.

I’ve flirted with the dark side before. The side where rules are suggestions and the difference between theft and borrowing is the time it takes to consume the last chocolate chip cookie before somebody notices.

But the day I send somebody in for the TSA treatment over a missing consonant, may Vanna White herself hang up her last slinky evening gown and retire in protest. Maybe the Scrabble folks should take a tip from ole Vanna and keep their letters out in the open where there’s no place to hide. And if somebody wants to buy a vowel, the prize money can cover it.

Somehow a strip search over one G seems a little extreme. Sometimes I can’t remember whole words, and there are times when the name of my oldest child slips off the radar of my mind. One consonant isn’t going to jumpstart the memory banks all alone. These days I can’t sign a check without a hint.

Then I found out the prize for the winner of the World Championship is £12,700. I’m told there are places where people strip for a lot less than what amounts to $20,000, give or take a G String. So if 99% of the population is shucking their clothes for a heap less than that one winner gets, maybe it’s time to Occupy Game Night.

Until then, keep your shirt on.

Friday, October 21, 2011

A Watched Dog

My husband cut off three fingers and gave his arms a close shave one day while mowing the grass.

“See, I told you we needed a riding lawn mower.”

Our lawn is the size of a golf ball dimple.

“What we need,” I muttered, reattaching his fingers with Gorilla Glue, “is a yard man smart enough to keep his hands out of the whirling blades of the lawn mower. Doesn’t the term ‘moving parts’ mean anything to you?”

“All I know is that it’s a good thing I was wearing my lucky hat.”

There’s always something to be thankful for.

“We could have lost Bo’s squeaky ball for good.”

Bo is the Labrador. He’s the closest thing the Captain has to a disciple. He sprawled in the grass and whiled away the time waiting for the bleeding to let up by chewing an old rag. If one man can double the time it takes to do a single chore, a man and his dog can create a time vortex that modern science can’t explain.

I can replace the dog’s squeaky ball for ninety-nine cents at the pet store. Human fingers, on the other hand, go for quite a bit more. And you can’t find them in the express lane at the Piggly Wiggly.

I don’t know what it is that make men think they’re invincible. About the time in their lives that they need to check in with headquarters to make sure their prostate isn’t the size of an orbiting planet, they’re hanging from the eaves looking for blockages in the drainage system. His own pipes are exploding from four decades of chili cheeseburgers, and the man is swinging from the roof like a chimpanzee.

Call me crazy, but this time I’m tempting fate and sending him out to finish the job.

Let’s hope he doesn’t find out what Bo did to his lucky hat.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Fascinating Facts

While taking a summer break from blogging, I picked up a few new followers, which tells me something, although I'd rather not think about it. Instead, I'll credit the talent of Lisa Allen for giving folks a tidbit or two to tune in for. Thanks Lisa!

In retribution, I mean thanks, to the new folks, I decided to force you to, er TREAT you to, some tidbits about moi. (As Miss Piggy, no relation, would say.) I decided to call them "Fascinating Facts" because "Facts That Put Us To Sleep" just doesn't have that mysterious quality that draws in new readers. So set your alarm and read on.

Fascinating facts:

1. I share a birthday with Abraham Lincoln. My kids think we’re twins. (Abe and Amy. It fits, right?) I told them our mother could only tell us apart because Abe parts his hat on the opposite side from me. And wears his beard is shorter.

2. I’m not good with crafts. My niece gave me a glue gun for Christmas and I glued the bag closed before I could get the gun out. Now I’m required by law to keep the ammunition in a separate location.

4. I like to drive red cars. It’s a mother of two’s way of telling the world there’s more to me than apple juice and gym socks.

5. I like to wear blue jeans everywhere. It’s the white trash version of The Little Black Dress. Reeboks are my pumps. I have a matching wrap. It’s made by Levi Strauss.

6. If my mother weren’t already gone, she would dig her own grave with a grapefruit spoon if she heard me say white trash.

7. I drink Mountain Dew for the taste. That’s like saying I read Playboy for the articles. It’s really all about the rush.

8. I wish I could play the piano. I’d like to hit the ivories at high speed with Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy and leave steam rising from the keys once before I die.

9. I was inside a church that caught on fire. No one was hurt, but to this day, I can’t roast marshmallows without singing Nearer My God to Thee.

10. My kids think they know everything because they can program the TV, the computer, and the cell phone. But they don’t know that I named the dog the primary beneficiary on my life insurance policy or that he’s in charge of their trust fund.

11. My husband, the Captain of our Love Boat, secretly thinks that I’m bossy, that I like to do everything my own way, and that I’m adverse to change. I think adverse means the opposite of reverse and is one of the gifts and graces mentioned in the Bible.

12. I’ve been married twice. So far.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Ghost of the White Masque

Some things are too scary to talk about. At those times a scream will do. Join me over at An Army of Ermas to see what's worse than peeking in to the teenager's room.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Talking Turkey

Two years ago, facing a diagnosis of “your internal organs are going to explode,” the Captain lost enough weight that he could send some to underdeveloped countries, such as Japan, where no one is ever overweight except Sumo wrestlers, the people who wear the least clothes.

Come to think of it, it’s that way at the beach, too. And, of course, Wal-Mart. Why is it that people with the most to show wear the least to cover it up? I’m certainly not the poster child for the “Feed the Runway Models” campaign, but I sure don’t want to have the seat behind the Sumo guy when he does his warm-up stretches.

Anyway, Cap also practically emptied his blood stream of triglycerides, a medical term that means “the fuse to the bomb that will make your internal organs explode.”

He did this all by himself. While he was very busy with the sort of advanced mathematics that deals with less than, greater than, and the sort of cholesterol level that voids whole sets of fat grams, I busied myself roasting turkeys, steaming vegetables, and skimming fat from by-products.

Eventually the Captain’s math resulted in the need for a belt to hold his pants up, and life returned to normal on the poop deck.

Until yesterday. One simple stretch and the button popped off his pants with enough force to put another hole in the ozone layer. Either his pancreas exploded or his body is rejecting artificial fasteners.

That little button also blew a hole in my holiday planning calendar for the next few months. I’m back to skimming, steaming, and roasting.

Luckily, my house is full of turkeys.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Deal or No Deal

Mexico is considering instituting a two-year marriage contract. After two years if everything’s not peaceful in the Garden of Eden, everybody walks away free and clear.

I’ve had cell phone contracts that were tougher. And with them I could upgrade to a newer model.

Somehow I can’t see trying to trade the Captain for more advanced service.

“So it’s been almost two years. How ‘bout I get an Admiral with handyman functions?”

“You want to trade?”

“Yep. I’d like to request somebody that puts soiled laundry in the hamper instead of piling it up in the bedroom like the dirty underwear Eiffel Tower. Somebody who doesn’t go all white around the mouth when I kiss the dog on the lips. Somebody who doesn’t think the term “Balance the Checkbook” means the weight of the receipts he’s saved in his wallet matches the weight of the groceries.”

“That’s quite a list. Anything else?”

“Sure. I want somebody that can put things in the grocery cart without a three-point shot from half court.”

“But he always gets it in.”

“The problem is that he expects everyone in the store to applaud. When he hit the honeybun shot from frozen foods, he wanted me to retire his jersey.”

“Are you sure you want to trade? I’ve heard he cooks, does dishes, and folds towels like a champ.”

“Well, yes. But he’s slowing down. Before long I’ll have to spend a fortune in replacement parts. You can’t get spare knees on e-Bay, you know.”

“You still have ten days to go. We’ll see how you feel then.”

I put on my tri-focals and marked the calendar. My memory’s not what it used to be. It would be just my luck to lose track of time, get stuck with the original model, and realize the power supply is shot two days after the warranty expires.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Little Cat Feat

While I was waiting for celebrity gossip to load over my dial-up internet connection, I whiled away the time licking the crumbs off the breakfast plates and perusing the headlines in our local paper.

It seems that our City Council, having exhausted their legislative efforts in a road maintenance fundraising extravaganza known locally as the Pothole Tax, recently decided to proceed with an innovative stroke of legislation involving leash laws for cats.

This idea is known locally as Stupid.

Leashing a cat is nearly as effective as lassoing escaped methane from a pasture full of Longhorns.

I know from experience how unproductive this sort of excursion can be. (The catwalking, not the methane lassoing. I have teenaged sons, but I find that a quick shot of Chanel Number Lysol takes care of them.) I attempted the leash walking feat before, and I have a new respect for anti-bacterial cream, sterile bandages, and super glue.

I was younger at the time, and when a light bulb came on in my head, I didn’t have the wisdom to shoot out the light before it could cause major damage. What a good idea it would be to use the Dachshund’s puppy collar and leash to take our ten-year-old tabby for a stroll. Lucy’s puppy collar was designed for comfort and was quite sporty. What objections could Justin have?

Turns out that “What a good idea!” and “What objections could Justin have” are the words that drive a cat over the Cliffs of Insanity. Who knew a 10-year-old ball of mottled fur that sleeps in the sun all day had a Ninja-mode over-ride?

Justin put out my little light bulb with a power surge.

I staggered into the house with the leash wrapped around my legs like I’d been shortsheeted with mummy wrappings.

“Son, run in and get me a Band-Aid.”

“Just one?”

“Well, make it a big one.”

“Anything else?”

“Got any spare Type O?”

After all I’ve done for that kid, he still won’t part with a pint of the good stuff for his mother.

Today I have so many scars, I have striped skin. With my faux-tiger motif, I'm all the rage at jungle-themed costume parties.

So next time the lawmakers get together, I’d rather they do something harmless like levy a per child tax on buffet restaurants.

And leave the Kitty Bill of Rights alone.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A Letter for the Labradors

Dear Dogs,

I realize you have a reputation to uphold. After all, you don’t sleep 15 hours a day just because you’ve got nothing to do. (Oh, wait; yes you do.) The spastic hyperactive crazed dog fit that comes in the twenty minutes it takes me to drive to the store for kibble, hamburger, and Pine Sol is the perfect opportunity to use all that energy you’ve stored up sleeping on my grandmother’s hand-sewn comforter.

The sound of the deadbolt slamming into place in the back door and the pathetic wheeze of my ten-year-old oil-burner valiantly attempting another run at the hill at the end of our driveway is exactly the incentive you need to leave your cozy nest and mount an assault on the trash can that leaves my kitchen resembling the remains of the Bin Laden compound after Seal Team Six came through. The only thing missing is the news team recording misinformation for the masses.

I understand that the Iditarod is run by teams of sled dogs that work with such precision that a single wrong step can throw the whole team off, but those puppies are sock puppets compared to the destruction a pair of Labradors can instigate during a fifteen minute absentee-owner break. If there are mass destruction world records to break, you can’t live with yourselves another second without sliding down the hall on your blubber-filled butts and shattering them like Lalique crystal on a brick floor.

I also realize you are trying to make a point. To the best of your tiny sesame seed-sized recollection, you’ve been nothing but good and true ever since the incident with the television remote. Since you have no sense of time, it’s hard to explain to you that the vet trip for that little snackfest ended just last night. And the one for the pantyhose ingestion drama is still front page news. So even though you’re rallying against oppression, I have to insist that you stay out of the coffee grounds, drop the banana peel, and back away from the scented soap.

And while you’re at it, stay out of the kitty litter. There’s some things that give you breath that even Irish Spring can’t erase.

Besides, a goatee made out of Fresh Step just looks silly.


Friday, September 23, 2011

Cross My Heart and Hope To Buy

In a fit of social conformity and because a quick glimpse of myself in a department store mirror reminded me of the Matterhorn during spring thaw, I went bra shopping today. On the whole I’d rather have first dibs in the selection of nooses the hangman is going to use to finish me off. Or at least pick which angry nail technician is going to file my little toe down to niblet size at Naughty Nails.

First off, there’s the personality clash. Bras today are undeniably perky, padded, and prime-time ready. If the bras I saw in the lingerie section were the Tiggers on Pooh’s corner, my chest is covered in wall-to-wall Eeyores. Unless I raise my arms, you couldn’t pick me out of a lineup of Christopher Robins. Out-of-date eggs are more likely to be sunny side up.

It’s not bad enough that bras are displayed according to styles instead of arranged by sizes like hammers, condoms, and other handy household items. Overcrowded conditions cause the things jump to their deaths like lemmings whenever you approach the rack. The floor is covered with scraps of lace and spandex like the result of a bridal party-streetwalker collision. To streamline the whole process, I selected a wheelbarrow full of likely candidates and threw them on the floor.

I blame the whole thing on over-aggressive sales clerks who know that once you enter the barren land known as foundations, you’ve forsaken pleasure shopping and are not going home without an underwire that doesn’t snap in half like a fortune cookie whenever you bend over to tie your shoe.

Not only was I discouraged that everything seemed to be the wrong size, I was dismayed to find they were also the wrong shape. To me, pushups are something I had to do in gym when I refused to wear the regulation gender-neutral guerrilla togs. In Lingerie Central, it’s something that plugs your boobs into your nostrils like nose plugs. A swimmer with a push-up bra will never have to worry about water on the brain. And at my age, I’m in real danger of losing at least one over my shoulder.

I wanted something a little kinder to my body than the underwire air mattresses hanging in rows. Something feminine made from fibers that did not originate in the Space Program. I finally found a cotton and lace number that made sand castles out of parts I thought had been lost at sea long ago. Never again will I have to check my armpits to see which direction I’m facing.

I celebrated my successful shopping trip with dinner at The Egg Roll King where I finished up with a fortune cookie that was right on the money. It said, “Things are looking up.”

But just to be safe, I’m going to get someone else to tie my shoes.

This column first appeared at An Army of Ermas. Scoot over there for more than the government daily allowance of fun.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The WOW! Factor. Or Not.

Many thanks to Lisa Allen for taking up my slack once again, and incidentally showing us that Europe actually does have something bigger than Bieber. 

"It just didn't wow me like I expect Eurovision to."

The above was said by one of my friends that I've introduced Eurovision to. We were gathered around to watch the latest one, with everyone happily munching on snacks, while I recorded their scores for each song.

The Devil Went Down to Oslo
We had been doing Eurovision parties for a few years now, introducing them after our first time, the 2008 competition which I talked about previously. Unfortunately, 2009 was a boring year - we didn't even remember any of the entries, and there weren't any fun or silly ones.  The exception was the winner, an exuburant young fiddler from Norway who bounced around the stage like a happy, enthusiatic otter.

One of these is not like the others...
 The next year made up for the dullness of the previous one, and showcased one of the strengths of the show. The songs for 2010 were overall good (though very ballad-heavy), and there was even a bit of excitement when poor Spain got punked by a young man who slipped onto the stage with background singers before the security guards chased him off. Lena, Germany's winning entry, really deserved it, but it was the interim show done while the votes were being tallied that warmed the heart.

Norwegians. Really.
Believe it or not, Norway has black hip hop artists called Madcon, and they are good.  They led the large audience thru a dance routine, and then through the wonders of the internet and flash mobs, all of Europe joined in. Viewers saw groups in cities across the EU gather and dance the same dance. Webcams had been mounted in homes of each of the participating countries, so you also got to see families joyfully dancing on their furniture or with their dogs.

Lithuania rocks....
    There was even a lone  guy standing out on a rock in the North Sea, getting his groove on. The song really energized the audience (both in the arena and around Europe) and became what my husband calls "a moment of pure joy", a snapshot in life where you can see a person, or group, doing something that makes the event the happiest moment of their lives, up to that point. Such moments are infectious to watch, and draw you into the moment to share the joy.

...and so does the population of this island.
My friend's comment about the  2011 winning  song not "wowing" her was about the pretty, but banal entry from Azerbaijan. My husband reminded her that she had only seen four out of fifty-five contests, so she was kind of new to the scene for that kind of statement. But such is the impact of Eurovision, good and bad, it makes a BIG impression.

"Excuse me, darling. When does the flash mob start?"
 Historical note: The first Eurovision song contest had been started back in 1956 partly to promote the  wonders of television, partly as a poke in the eye to the Eastern bloc nations, kind of a way to say, "Hey! Look at all the fun we're having!". Over the years the contest has weathered denunciation from the Pope, competition from the Soviet Bloc, controversy every  year over the scoring (the worst was the year Franco practically bought the win for Spain), launched a few careers (the most famous and successful being ABBA in 1974), and even started a revolution. 

Perhaps the most useful knowledge the contest imparted was the desire to learn geography,like where Slovenia and Slovakia are.

Next year should be interesting, since holding Eurovision in Azerbaijan is going to be like holding the Olympics in the Sandwich Islands.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

A Little Boy Gone on 9/11

Sending my heartfelt thanks to Carole Conner Oldroyd for permission to reprint her post.  And to little Rodney Dickens for so much more.

A Little Boy Gone on 9/11

by Carole Conner Oldroyd on Saturday, September 11, 2010 at 3:05pm

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.

Monday, August 29, 2011


What happens when you let the Captain loose on the Ermas blog? Join us at An Army of Ermas for a great, big earth-shattering KA-BOOM!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Yoga Bare

Don't look now, but the Captain's at it again. Check out my post at An Army of Ermas for a guy's version of what should be a peaceful combination of exercise and meditation. Take a peek and see what all the excitement's about. If you dare.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Battle Hymn of the Ermas

An Army of Ermas: Making you spew coffee on your monitor since 2009 2010 what seems like a long time ago. The Ermas salute Stacey Graham, Friend, Founder, and Fearsome Leader.

The Battle Hymn of the Ermas

(Who let the doggerel out?!)

(With customary solemnity by the Captain & Mrs. Captain Mullis)

The call went forth from mountain-top
To take the mighty pen
And wield against the sadditudes
To make them laugh again

The answer came from far and wide
Across this terra firma
"We come! We come! With flashing gags!
The Army of the Erma!"

And so they came, from every land
The innocent and racy,
To answer Zombie Nature's call
Obeying General Stacey

With limericks and doggerel,
With punchlines and with giggles.
In bold italic Arial
And small handwritten squiggles.

She sent them out against the Dour
To fill the world with laughter
And out they went good willingly
Although they didn't hafter.

With jokes and japes and cheesy puns
Hilarity ensued
While much of it was family-style
Some was blushed with lewd.

So every year on August ninth
Our wine in sippy cup
We raise a toast to General Stace
And put our bottoms up!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Better than American Idol and you learn Geography Too!

Why, yes, contrary to the propaganda spread by my offspring, I do have friends! Talented ones! Humongous thanks to Lisa Allen, who has taken time away from training for the Scottish games to entertain you while I’m away. What? Not training for the Scottish games? Would you believe the Olympic Games?

Would you believe a lightning round of World of Warcraft when she’s supposed to be making dinner?

Please welcome Lisa, who is patient enough to put up with my ramblings AND the Captain’s AND David’s and still manages to have a life.

When I was a horse-crazy little girl, I would always get excited when the month of May rolled around, because that was Kentucky Derby month. Now that I'm older and more sophisicated, a two-minute horse race just doesn't do it for me (no matter how pretty the horses or hats). I want something with even more color, outlandish garb, and excitement - I want Eurovision!

What is Eurovision, you say? My half-Irish husband introduced me to this continental wonder, which began as a Cold War propaganda tool. Imagine an American Idol with countries instead of hopeful wannabes, with wildly varying original songs performed over a weekend instead of a season, and rules of judging which change from year to year.

The idea is that all the countries of Europe (which they have a very broad definition of what constitutes Europe) send their best singer(s) and songs to compete on a spectacular technological marvel of a stage in whatever country won the contest the year before. The clothes would make Bob Mackie salivate, the Bjork swan outfit from the Oscars look positively pedestrian, and gays swoon across the world. The songs and singers themselves run the gamut from Eurotechno, to power ballads, to ethnic folk with rap on the side - you name it, they've got it.

The BEST way to watch Eurovision is to watch via the BBC. They usually have a snarky, funny host to put things in perspective. Think someone on the level of a British Johnny Carson, liberally apply lots of liquor. Terry Wogan had been doing hosting duties too long, as you could tell as the show went on.

The first year yours truly saw it (2008), the contest was in Belgrade, Serbia. The show always opens with the previous year's winning entry - in this case a plus-size Maria Serifovic dressed in male attire with a drop-dead voice and song, which brings up another nifty thing about Eurovision. Your weight, your age, your hair abundance, and your sexual orientation - they don't care about it! Can you sing? Do you have a good act? You're in! (OK, there might be some discussion about the “can you sing part”, meaning you may be subject to some unique song stylings and the occasional turkey. No, seriously, we mean a guy in a turkey suit.)

2008 saw a 75-year-old crotchey old man scratching a Victrola, a devil and an angel battling in
song, a Spanish Weird Al Yankovic, a Greek Britney Spears, what looked like Lucy and Desi singing by a clothsline with knitting bride backup singers, and best of all, a gaggle of Lativan pirates with rubber swords who were having more fun than it should be legal, especially as no intoxicants were invloved (on stage at least, can’t vouch for the audience).

Silly, you say? Yes, but darned if those songs don't just stick in your head, like a cheery brain slug. The Lativan pirate song, Wolves of the Sea received an enthusiatic thumbs up from the 12 and under crowd, and also every pub in England and Ireland. And while a slightly sappy Russian ballad called Believe won that year, which song do you think I most find myself humming?

(Historical aside, there is an irony to Russia winning, as until the early 80‘s a person in the USSR, and many other Eastern Block countries could go to jail just for watching Eurovision.)

Next time, I'll talk about how Eurovision does and does NOT wow some people.

Lisa Allen

Monday, July 25, 2011

If Wishes Were Horses

What's the difference between a horse and a motorcycle? Maybe it's the hangtime before you land in the bushes. Join the Captain of my Corral over at An Army of Ermas as he saddles up his Harley for the ride of his life.

Monday, July 11, 2011

A Pirate's Life for Me

I’m under attack! Turns out that just when my ship was coming in, it was hijacked by pirates. So in spite of my best intentions to sail this blog straight and true through the summer, I find myself swept out to sea by a band of hearty brigands.

I’ve been promising this particular pirate captain that I would take some time off and devote whatever spare brain cells I have left to a longer project. I’m not promising anything, mind you, but when the Captain says he wants to see a book, I’m pretty sure he’s not thinking “Green Eggs and Ham.” And “Mutiny on the Bounty” seems kind of self defeating in this case.

So I’m going to let Mind Over Mullis drift for a month or so, while I take off on a brand new voyage. Feel free to drop by every now and then and hoist up a word of encouragement.

THANK YOU to every one of you who stop by to share life’s little “Don’t Let This Happen to You” moments.” It seems like somebody always seems to drop in just when I’ll be needing an alibi.

I expect I’ll round up a lifeboat and be back by the end of August. If not I’ll stick a note—or a lime--in a bottle, so you’ll know what I’m up to.

Until then. . .I’m gone fishin’. Lord only knows what I’ll catch.


Thursday, July 7, 2011

From Hair to Humidity

It's been fourteen years of martial blasted, I mean Marital Bliss. Join me at An Army of Ermas for a Southern summer wedding where the accessory of the day is sweat, and reminisce with me as I relive the day the Captain took me as first mate--provided I cook biscuits and don't touch the guitar.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Red, White, & Whoops!

Independence Day is here, and as expected, celebrations of picnics, cookouts, and truckloads of rednecks fueled by the Big Boy size of canned beer setting fire to things that will blow up are in full force

Nothing says Freedom like an intoxicated man named Bubba Earl flicking the long lighter and trying to set fire to a fuse the size of a tapeworm. Come dusk, hoards of folks will gather in the shadows of school parking lots to Oooh! Aaaah! and splash a pitcher of, let’s say, lemonade on the proceedings should the pyrotechnics or Bubba Earl get out of hand.

That’s what’s great about the South. It is legal to purchase fireworks in the state of South Carolina without presenting so much as an IQ score to the authorities. The people of South Carolina are perfectly within their rights to light themselves up like the space shuttle leaving home, and other people have to content themselves with following safety standards and obeying the laws of common sense.

There’s something about not know whether the next bottle rocket will explode in the night sky in a sparkling array of gemstone colored glitz or skim down the pavement toward the spectators like a heat seeking ferret on steroids to make you appreciate what went on at the battle of Bunker Hill.

My apprehension might be due to a small mishap last year when a sidewalk-skidding bottle rocket that came close to crossing my Reeboks at a steady clip and lighting up my inseam like a birthday candle. But after all, what is Independence Day for if not for celebrating with an impromptu break dance in the handicapped parking section of the local elementary school? I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say the Boston Harbor gang has nothing on me when it comes to open air tea parties.

Uncle Joe is revered around these parts as sort of an expert on the subject of fireworks, having set his leg on fire on at least one occasion in the time honored tradition and is well-respected in the backyard pyrotechnic community. If this year goes according to tradition, we’ll have quite a few stories and a modicum of minor injuries.

Not too many years ago we shunned his backyard display for small town extravaganza taking place just past the intersection in town. Luckily it was held at the fire department because when the pasture caught on fire and all the fireworks went off at once, we didn’t even get 911 dialed before Tiny and Pork Chop responded to the blaze.

So this year we’ll probably go back to Uncle Joe’s. At least he restricts the damage to his own self, as a gentleman should.

I’ll take along an extra pair of pants. And some bandaids.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

50 is Not a Speed Trap - For Lisa

This is the post I ran on my 50th birthday. Since then I've done some crazy things (ditched the family Thanksgiving dinner for a weekend at the beach-fabulous!), experienced some unusual events (so glad I didn't have to use that catheter on the Captain), and took off on some spur-of-the-moment adventures (Ghassan's for lunch, anyone?). This time around this post is for Lisa. There's still time to change the world. Fifty isn't fatal. It's a fantastic voyage. HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

Some of my friends are slowing down for 50. Not me. I'm hitting the gas and leaving three feet of tire marks and twenty dollars worth of fumes behind me. I'm not complaining about my life so far--I'm married to the man of my dreams who hardly ever looks at me like I've taken leave of my senses, and I have two sons who can play Guitar Hero like they were born with Stratocasters in their hands. I just don't want the next 50 years to be the second lap of the same race.

Sure, I'm slower. I'm slower to get angry. And I'm heavier. I’m carrying some wonderful memories along with me. But they don't have a parking space near the Pearly Gates reserved for those that are pokey and fat. So, God willing, I’m gathering myself up to forge ahead, full throttle, without thinking whether this 5-0 bump in the road will send me soaring into the blue or skidding into a ditch.

I'm going flat out, full speed, wide open and see where it takes me. Whether it’s around the next left-hand turn or into the pit, there’s a story waiting to unfold. I’ll have plenty of time later when I'm done with the race and waiting to see who comes in second to check out the rear view and see what I left behind. If I'm still interested.

I'm going to make as many people laugh as I can today, I’ll put off crying until tomorrow, and I’ll learn to dance the can-can without throwing out a hip.

I can hunt the liniment and bandages later. And maybe I'll color my hair. WalMart stays open all night.

Wonder if they’ll rotate my tires.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

9-1-1 Zumba!

This weekend, just because I was tired of the ordinary trauma that makes up my Saturday mornings, I decided to test the waters of the exercise craze called Zumba. Somehow in comparison, changing the litter boxes is no longer the extended torture that I thought. It was a good experience. After all, those lungs won’t explode themselves.

Zumba, which means “cardiac arrest,” in a language spoken in wheezing noises, is no more difficult than tap dancing through a crowd of snarling Weight Watchers dropouts wearing a bologna thong, scaling a mountain made of glass shards at high speed, or convincing a bride’s mother that hip-hop beer pong is the go-to game for shower parties in the church parlor.

It’s kind of a cross between auditioning as a rodeo clown and dancing a two-step over hot coals. But according to available demonstration videos, you do it wearing a midriff top, hiphugger pants, and a smile, and you do it to the charismatic beat of Latin music, which adds the same special flavor as a kick me sign taped to your crotch.

Since baring my belly would be akin to inviting navel whiplash and subjecting bystanders to sudden thrashing movements of my stomachs, I chose to wear a large T-Shirt. This also served as a container for sixteen gallons of sweat that collected in my cleavage and rained down on my bellies like a cloudburst in a rainforest.

The Zumba people urged me to “feel the beat and let loose.” I think I felt the beat, although that could have been the beginnings of spleen implosion, and upon thoughtful consideration, I felt that letting loose could result in a hefty cleaning bill for the upholstery, the living room Oriental, and possibly also for the dog.

Just as I got the hang of the thing, the draft caused by the up-tempo undulations of my love handles flailing against each other like a truck full of chickens on a downhill grade sent furballs and dustbunnies swirling together in a sort of mystic indoor whirlwind, and with with the sweat-laced currents from my thighs flapping together like an Ace of Spades in Lance Armstrong’s Tour de France bicycle spokes, I couldn’t help wonder if the weather alert people were going to slap a severe weather warning for my neighborhood on the Emergency Channel.

To be honest (I’m a coward), I started with a half hour of my usual workout, which involves rigorously snapping my fingers to the beat of my favorite Barry Manilow tunes. Then I finished up with fifteen minutes of Zumba from a video I found on You Tube.

I know now that fifteen minutes in Zumba time is equivalent to whichever era in world history killed all the dinosaurs. I’m reasonably sure that the dinosaurs died following an actual Zumba workout.

This one almost did.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Surf's Up!

A five-hour car trip to the beach is tough enough to accomplish if you’re Superman and have the gift of looking great in tights and that showy flair for flight.

If you’re a family of four with at least one kid who can’t sit still long enough to blink, it’s a little more difficult. Especially if the kid inherited the fidgety gene from his mother, who is piled up in the front seat braiding the road map.

We packed the car, wedged in a couple of kids who have seen enough in the way of growth spurts to resemble the Incredible Hulk after a Breakfast of Champions, raced to the end of the driveway, and braked to a gravel-spewing stop at the mailbox.

Kid Two rose from the backseat like the Creature from the Black Lagoon. He has the eerie blue glow that comes from extended exposure to computer light. This kid’s idea of unplugged is a wireless Internet connection that is so fast it has déjà vu when he turns it on.

“How much longer?”

“Five hours,” the Captain responded gleefully as he put the car in gear and plowed through two rows of daylilies by the curb. “We’re on the way!”

“Five hours! My battery pack will never last that long. I can’t believe you made me go on vacation. ”

“We’re going to the beach. It’ll be worth it.”

“The beach is three hours away.”

“That’s a different beach.”

“There’s more than one beach?”

“Yep. Check with Google. You learn something new every day.”

“I learned my parents are forcing me to go to a five-hour beach. Nobody else’s parents are that mean.”

“Keep it up and we’ll make you go out to eat, too.”

This kid thinks any restaurant that doesn’t offer chicken nuggets or pizza is a terrorist racket designed to kill us with vegetables.

“At least I can use the high speed Internet access when we get there.”

“Sorry. Vacation means we’re there to enjoy ourselves. There’s no Internet access.”

“Not even dialup?”

“No, but there are herds of wandering Triceratops out back.”

“And bar soap and rotary dial phones, too. Right. This is a museum trip, isn’t it?”

Five hours later, we unfolded ourselves and tumbled out of the car, performing the happy dance to the beat of ocean waves on the shoreline.

Kid Two stopped, sniffed the air and climbed back in the car.

“What’s the matter, Bud?”

“According to Google Maps, we’re five miles from the nearest McDonald’s. They have food and free Internet access. The way you people drive, we’d better start now if we want to get there before I lose power.”

What can I say? We might be in for sun fun at the beach, but this kid still yearns for the smell of salt on French fries and has the overpowering urge to surf the Web.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Hearth Broken - Gifting for the Ungifted

I make weeping willows sob and wring their hands, so I can't imagine why I thought I could make it all the way to the party with a live geranium. Join me at Stage of Life for the worst housewarming gifts you can give. Then click the link and let Dawn Allcot show you the "7 Best Housewarming Gifts." Hmm, wonder why she's invited to more parties than I am?

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Skipping a Step

You married in a family
Of kids all cries and whinies
Became an ace at wiping tears
And cleaning little hinies.

You helped them read and
Tutored math, both adding and dividing
And later on to drive a car
When I went into hiding.

Knots, and rhymes, and music notes
All came along the way.
Then college, jobs, adventure quests,
Made them men today.

One little thing I’ve got to say
I’ll jump in without prep.
Happy Father’s Day my dear
It's time to skip the Step.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Princess and the Papa

The five year old in this story is now a beautiful young lady who will soon leave her teen years behind. But she still has her Papa wrapped around her little finger. It's just better manicured now.

My Dad is a tough guy. He wears Black and Decker underwear and buys pallets of toilet paper from the Army-Navy store. He watches sports on television every Sunday afternoon, even if it’s only putt-putt season, and turns the sound all the way down so that the sportscasting guys don’t ruin a beautiful play with color drivel.

He can estimate distance to an eighteenth of an inch and can tell whether a picture is half a bubble off plumb just by squeezing one eye shut and looking through his thumb. He survived the Depression on beans and biscuits; World War II on courage and luck; and 48 years of marriage on Divine Providence and guesswork. He taught four children to drive without suffering permanent neurological damage, made us wear more clothes when we were cold, and refused to let us hang on the refrigerator with the door open until we air conditioned the whole neighborhood.

So how can a five-year-old bundle of brown eyes and rosy cheeks crawl up in his lap at fourth down and goal to go and persuade him to read The Cat In The Hat for the four thousandth time, without suffering severe blood loss?

This man, who refused to allow scented soap in the shower during my childhood years, now has a cupboard stocked with curly noodle soup, sports animal stickers on his back door, and a maintains a gaggle of Barbies who loiter in his favorite recliner.

When I dropped by Dad’s house last Sunday to comfort the old man in his lonesome existence and retrieve his great-grandaughter, I tripped over three teddy bears and a stuffed cat having a tea party, stumbled on a pair of pink plastic high heeled shoes and a glittery feather boa tossed carelessly in front of a full length mirror, and turned my ankle sliding across a nest of scattered crayons and coloring books piled in the hallway.

“Dad!” I called, afraid to endanger myself by advancing further. A trip to my father’s house should not involve my health insurance. “Have you been finding new ways to entertain yourself or is there a little girl hiding in there?”

Giggles erupted from around the corner. “We’re in the kitchen,” a small, freckled voice said. I followed a line of Winnie-the-Pooh stickers posted along the wall at five-year-old eye level and entered the kitchen. Over a teetering mountain of mall-type bags, a pair of large brown eyes twinkled in my direction.

“Can you tell we’ve been shopping?” the bag-mountain asked.

Does the queen wear matching accessories?

“Papa bought me a sticker book, two kinds of bubble gum, and a Shirley Temple video.”

“Shirley Temple?”

“Yeah, she’s a new kid that can dance.”

“If Shirley Temple’s a new kid, Britney's not even in hip huggers yet.”

“Papa made me a new kind of cheese sandwich. You cook it right in the oven.”

“Sweetie, it’s time to go. Gather up your 50 most prized possessions and I’ll take you home.”

She hopped down and ran to me, clutching a battered baby doll that looked like it would be at home in Little Orphan Annie’s boarding house. “I’m ready.”

“What about all your treasures?”

“Oh, Papa bought that stuff for me to play with here. He already took my other stuff home for me.”

I glanced over at my dad, who was nestled in his recliner recovering from the shopping expedition by snoring loudly through the ballgame. He cracked one eye open and peered up at me. “Don’t forget her food. She has Little Debbie brownies, Beauty and the Beast cookies, and Barbie cupcakes. With sprinkles.”

Sure, the queen may have matching hat and shoes and the wealth of an entire nation, but the princess has designer snacks and a Papa who can’t say no.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

From the Ground Up

Sure I was spoiled. The youngest is supposed to be. But when Daddy tried to teach me to garden, he didn't realize that one day my picture would be up on the wall of shame in Home & Garden Stores everywhere. He gave up teaching me to garden. But he never gave up on me.
Join me at Stage of Life to see how his garden grows.
Happy Father's Day, Dad!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Broadband or Bust

Because life isn’t exciting enough living with a pair of lively Labradors and their minions, the cast of the Jungle Book, the Captain and I decided to crawl into the Pony Express Age and install cable television and high speed Internet access in the house.

Actually the idea for the high-speed Internet came from the boys. When they offered to share the password-protected lock they installed on the bathroom door, we agreed immediately. We’re reasonable people after all.

Just now, the Captain and I are sitting in the living room. Alone, a suspicious circumstance because it's never happened before. “It’s quiet.” I can’t help remembering the “Let’s dress the Dachshund in a tutu” fiasco of ’98. “Too quiet.”

“Enjoy it.” The Captain of my Hobby Shop is a computer technician by trade. He could hack into Bill Gates Christmas decorations and install an Apple tree topper without tarnishing the angel’s halo. He has just put in a wireless router so that we can all share the broadband. This works about as well as the North and South Koreans share airspace, but he’s done his part.

Tonight for the first time since building blocks gave way to bandwidth, I haven’t had to ask permission to use my computer. The conversation usually goes something like this:

Me: “My turn to use the computer.”

Random Youth: “What’s for supper?”

Me: “Nothing if I don’t get a turn on the computer.”

Random Youth: Sigh. “Fine. Let me kill this guy first.”

Twenty minutes later, the guy is still alive and I’m wondering who’s going to make the sacrifice in his place. Maybe I can talk the dog into taking one for the team.

But tonight the house is so quiet I can hear dust mites tatting lace in the living room drapes.

I couldn’t stand it any longer. Nothing gets to a Mom faster than “that infernal racket” or absolute silence. “What do you suppose they’re doing?”

“Holding hands and humming I’d Like To Teach the World to Sing?”

I followed the day-glo light of laptap monitors down the hall. To my bedroom. The only room in the house with matching sheets.

The boys, who can’t share the back seat of a beachbound minivan for more than a two-minute warning are piled up in neutral corners of the sleigh bed turned Internet Café, watching THE SAME You Tube videos and instant messaging one other. I tiptoed back to the living room.

I might not be happy with the details, but I’m content that all those news reports about families growing apart are wrong. As long as my guys are wireless, I don’t have to come unglued.