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.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Hall of Blame

To celebrate the first day of my favorite season (Baseball!), I'm reposting a tidbit created a few years ago during the height of the steroid superstories. Seems to me that it should be easy to tell who's on steroids. The Captain took them for a week to rid himself of a mysterious rash, and was meaner than a fire ant the whole time. As a lifelong Yankee fan, any reference to George Steinbrenner is respectfully meant to be taken exactly as intended.

Major league baseball is embroiled in a scandal so big that by comparison Marge Schott looks as sweet and innocent as, say George Steinbrenner, except that old Marge has gone to that great big dugout in the sky, and Steinbrenner is still hanging around trying to make the rest of Joe Torre’s hair fall out. Marge Schott was a very bad lady who gained fame by mistreating minorities, such as baseball players and her coaching staff, as opposed to George Steinbrenner who was never a lady at all.

Apparently, one baseball player, who shall remain nameless except on the cover of his best-selling book and on the front page of all the newspapers that showed the­ Congressional proceedings, ingested enough performance-enhancing medication throughout his baseball career to give him biceps the size of vitamin-enhanced hams. This particular baseball player claims that most of the other baseball players he knows also took performance-enhancing medication and that is why baseball players make the field look like a meat-lovers pizza when they all come out to play ball.

For the most part, the other players involved say they are innocent babes who grew extraneous body parts the size of small wildebeests through good genes. None of them mentioned who the good genes originally belonged to, or if they came in small bottles with instructions that read: Take one every four hours as needed for ginormous growth spurts.

The government took charge of the steroid scandal for two reasons: 1.Because baseball people have a notoriously difficult time discussing anything without a large man in a suit and chest protector squatting over them hollering Hiiiiiieeeeehhh!!! while pointing his finger, and 2.Because government employees don’t have anything else to do until it’s time to campaign for a Federal holiday to honor Shoeless Joe Jackson, another famous baseball player who got in trouble for not doing anything.

In a dazzling display of intelligence, the government brought several large baseball players to Washington where the government people asked them questions to trick them into giving themselves away. “Did you take steroids?” the government people asked. “No,” the baseball players responded. “And anybody who says we did is a stinky goo-head.” Here all the baseball players stared meaningfully at the book-writing baseball player. Well, they stared meaningfully in his direction, but a lot of them have bad eyesight from years of not taking steroids and weren’t sure exactly where he was sitting.

Major League Baseball, an organization so important it is nearly always written with initial caps, banned the used of steroids in the year 2002. Some baseball players thought they said stereos because they had bad hearing from years of not using steroids, and also from listening to loud stereo music with headphones on, so they were unaware that they were supposed to deny steroid use.

Therefore, Major League Baseball, who hopes to someday be written in all caps, instituted testing for steroids two years later and promised that anyone who got caught would have to sit and watch the game before cashing their paycheck. These days they’re getting really tough and the baseball powers that belong to the exclusive Baseball Rules Club considered instituting a penalty of at least $10,000 which is as much to a Major League Baseball Player as a shiny new quarter is to you and me.

This season, the average baseball fan is ready for the Government People and the Major League Baseball People and the Baseball Players with Thighs the Size of Boston Butts, no offense to the Red Sox, to stop arguing so that he can finally go to the ball bark and settle down in his seat with a nutritionally enhanced and nitrate fortified hot dog served in an enriched bun, and for one afternoon forget death, taxes, and whether it’s a crime against nature for Washington D.C to be home to a baseball team.

And if a large man in a suit and chest protector points his finger at anybody, he’d better be sure he knows his balls from his strikes.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The No Brownie Birthday

Today is the Captain’s birthday and he’s not getting a brownie.

I blame it on Mrs. Williams. She was my third grade teacher. Up until third grade, I loved school. I was all about fat crayons and recess and seeing if Dougie Jenkins would really eat the prunes off of everybody’s plate during lunch.

Then in third grade we started learning things. Other things than what happens when you eat 26 prunes at a time, which would technically count as biology and not comprise a major part of my career path, which was Major League Baseball. Either that or ballet. Turns out I never took a dance lesson, but I could hit a line drive that would give Dougie Jenkins an extra navel if he didn’t hotfoot it off the pitcher’s mound in time. Dougie dropped out of school not long after that.

Anyway, I’m not sure if we ever had fractions in Mrs. Williams’s class, but it sounds like something she would get all “it’s a party” about. So, I’m pretty sure it’s her fault.

Anyway, yesterday at work a very nice man, who isn’t nice just because he can cook or because he tells me jokes that I understand, but because he's just an all-around good guy that likes chocolate, brought a brownie to me at work. It was fairly extensive as brownies go, and made from something called scratch. I’m not exactly sure what is in scratch, but it makes terrific brownies.

So, looking at the whole thing logically, I knew I should eat that brownie before someone else came along and I had to share. But I also knew it would be good to share the brownie with the Captain, because today is his birthday. (That's where the term brownie points comes from.)

I decided to eat half and take home half. Hopefully he wouldn’t want his half, so I should probably go ahead and eat part of his half and he wouldn’t mind, and it would keep the scratch that was in it from going bad.

So I took a bite.

And another bite.

And one more bite.

And a series of nibbles.

Eventually his half was a good deal smaller than my half (the technical term "smidgeon" might apply) except there wasn’t any of my half left to compare. So if there was only one half, there was really only one brownie and shouldn’t I get half? I tried to work out the mathematical equation on my napkin, but new math can get really complicated when you have to carry a one in the fudge column. So I ate the rest of the brownie.

Mrs. Williams, I hope you’re happy, wherever you are. Now I have to find out where to get some scratch to make brownies with before the Captain’s birthday is over.

I’m fairly sure you can't find it in third grade. Maybe I'll just get prunes.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Cleaning out the Rottery

I can hide behind the snow cream until first thaw. After that, it's every Hungry Man for himself. I'm going to have to check out what's growing on the cheddar and surging from the sour cream. It's spring--time to (insert scary music here) clean out the refrigerator. Join me at Stage of Life as I strap on protective gear. I'm going in!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Burrito by Bullets

My problem is that I’m too nice. When I was on my honeymoon and the pizza waitress served up a big ole pepperoni pizza instead of the mushroom one I ordered, and my brand new husband said, “Can’t you just eat it?” I dined on greasy pepperoni and smiled graciously.

When the movie rental place suggested I pony up $50 in late fines for movies I knew I returned on time, I smiled, handed the clerk my membership card, and walked away forever.

When the fat lady in the tight (sheer) bathing suit wanted to be friends at the local amusement park. . .well, I ran and hid behind my kids on that one, but now I AM the fat lady in the tight (not sheer) bathing suit, so you see how it works.

The movie rental place went out of business. The pizza place has become a shop for cheap souvenirs. The husband is now known as The Defendant and has been replaced with a dashing pirate captain.

So I never saw the need to go all Rambo in the face of suburban unrest.

Until now.

Out in Texas, where the bad times are bigger, Taco Bell jacked up the price on the crunchy beef burritos an additional fifty cents. And if burritos are crunchy here in South Carolina, I can just imagine the crackle they carry deep in the heart of Texas.

And the man ordered seven. SEVEN BURRITOS. I don’t let my kids eat a taco without a license, and this man wanted to wolf down seven burritos surrounded by innocent byproducts.

The price gouging would add an extra three and a half bucks to his total. Highway robbery on a grand scale! So it’s perfectly understandable that this man—we’ll call him the Burrito Bandito just because it sounds big enough for Texas—brought out the firepower when he found out about the price increase.

Now I can work up a perfectly good pout over the price of gasoline, but this is gas of another color. When he headed out to his trusty energy-efficient ride and laid out his assault rifle on the sunroof, the Taco Bell manager, who probably has never played the role of bullseye, even on TV, locked up and called the police.

After a three-hour standoff at a nearby motel that did not provide room service, not even chips and salsa, to our amigo, the affair was settled.

The tacos still cost the same, but now there’s a bigger price. And the Burrito Bandito never did get his authentic American Mexican food. Which is probably a good thing.

Because, really, seven burritos? Now that’s assault with a deadly weapon.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Monkey See, Mommy Doesn't

Cuffing socks is a challenging job. Finding two that match in the mass of writhing cotton strips is not always easy. There’s always the possibility that the one you’re looking for is lost in the lint trap. Or under someone’s bed. Or on one of my feet spending the day with a mismatched partner.

I’m not sure who got sock duty this week. I’m sure it was someone who complained that they were bored and had nothing to do. Or someone who was taunting his brother. Or someone who was displaying violent behavioral turbulence when confronted with a video game he could not beat.

Not long ago we went to the county fair. There we met a little monkey, all dressed up in a fancy suit and a little hat with an elastic band that went under his chin. If you presented the monkey with a quarter, he was trained to tip his little hat and shake your hand with his tiny fingers.

I suspect that little monkey cuffed our socks this week. The little monkey had a fine suit of clothes, but, as a mother, I noticed he had no shoes. Possibly his little monkey feet were cold and he followed us home. There he found a whole room full of socks to keep his little monkey feet warm. It was like sock heaven for him and he began to cuff socks.

But there are some rules to this little game that the monkey probably doesn’t know.

Things like:

Size matters. Girls socks and boys socks are not designed to fit the same size feet. Also, boys are sometimes noticeably stressed when their friends are the first to note that they are wearing socks with Disney princesses embroidered on the side.

Color also matters. Captain Spiffy has quite the sense of humor, but even he is somewhat chagrined to find himself in a meeting with the snappily dressed people representing different departments of the largest defense contractor in the world and notice that they are peering over the company logo printed in three color art on their ceramic coffee cups at his socks, revealed when he crosses one knee over the other.

One sock is green and sports a cuddly Care Bear. The other bears a pink pony and sparkles. If we have swapped merchandise, then undoubtedly my my niece’s kids, who spent the weekend not long ago, are the hit of daycare in black nylon stretch socks.

As I sit here at my desk contemplating my one midnight blue sock and a slightly faded brown one, something is stirring in the recesses of my brain. I recall an evening spent cuffing socks behind the louvered doors of the laundry room. Who needs lights? I thought. Who needs glasses? I thought.

The monkey might not. But I do.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Charlie's Out There

“What’s with the hat?”

The Captain doesn’t always trust my motives. If I were a ship, he’d stock plenty of life boats before leaving port.

“I want to run away from my job, wallow in uncontrolled substances, and wear ugly clothes.”

“Did you get the Nyquil mixed up with the mouthwash again or have you been watching Charlie Sheen on TV?”

“Charlie Sheen. He’s a zillionaire and he’s always wearing some crazy hat. I thought I’d give it a try and see if I could come up with the big bucks.”

“I don’t think a clown hat from Ringling Brothers is going to do the job. Why don’t you try a pretty floral bonnet?”

I peered out from under the brim. “It’s perfect. There’s not a better clown on TV. And he’s living the high life.”

"You want to rebel from work? Didn’t they just have Employee Appreciation Day there?"

“Yes, and a covered dish dinner. It was lovely.”

“Then why don’t you rebel from housework instead?”

I leaned back in my chair to consider. The clown hat swept the shelf behind me and sent a dusty copy of Stain Removal for Dummies crashing to the floor.

“That’s not a bad idea. There’s vacuuming. I hate to vacuum.”

“You haven’t vacuumed in 13 years. Do you know where we keep the Hoover?”

"In the Colorado River?"

“That’s a dam.”

“That’s about right.”

“And I hate to cook.”

“The closest you’ve come to cooking in the last week is pouring milk on your breakfast cereal. We have enough takeout boxes in the refrigerator to have a potluck supper for the cast of Slumdog Millionaire.”

“There’s always uncontrolled substances.”

“Uncontrolled? You mean like over-the-counter breath mints? Or nonprescription drugs? You can’t even take painkillers without walking like a circus clown. That must be why you need the hat.”

“Drugs? Who said anything about drugs? I meant Girl Scout cookies. Those Thin Mints are addictive.”

“All that’s left is ugly clothes. I’ve always been partial to your purple flannel puppy dog pajamas.”

“They don’t count. They’re my good luck pajamas.”

“Excuse me?”

“Yeah. Whenever I wear them I dream about George Clooney.”

“You'd better stick with the hat. You look like a freakin’ rock star.”

“From Mars?”

“From Pluto.”

“That doesn’t sound quite as epic.”

“Well, you’re way out in space and everybody loves you, but you don’t have what it takes to make top billing.”

"I can't believe you said that. That's cold."

"Now you're finding out what life is really like on Mars."

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


Today is Ash Wednesday, the period of 40 days of reflection and sacrifice leading up to Easter.

This morning I went to the bathroom and brushed my teeth—an admirable action if it weren’t for a couple of small details. The first detail was that I had yet to eat breakfast. The second, and perhaps more urgent detail was that I was supposed to be taking a shower.

Perhaps it was the lack of a shower that reminded me that I was out of anti-perspirant. Sharing is a worthwhile quality to develop, so I borrowed some from the boys; my teenaged sons who are given to trusting clever commercials to influence their buying habits. Now I smelled like toothpaste and the Old Spice Guy. I’ll admit that at the time I wasn’t really interested on reflecting on the whole thing, but I’m pretty sure there was sacrifice involved.

The next hurtle of the day: getting dressed. The pants I wanted to wear were covered in animal hair, which also counts as sacrifice because I’ve given bed and breakfast to many animals wandering about in the wild searching for a Bed and Breakfast Inn that allows shedding as a form of payment.

I threw the pants in the dryer to see if that would help the problem. Turns out the dryer was full of towels. Now my pants were covered in animal hair and lint. I reflected that I was lucky because this is the season of Lent, although most people don’t spell it with an “i” or celebrate it by wearing dirty pants covered in hairballs to work.

For breakfast, I generally dish up a bowl of soggy cereal because long ago I sacrificed the teeth I need to deal with any foods of real character. However, the whole “what to wear” episode put the cereal plan right out of my head and I forgot to prepare the stuff in time to soften sufficiently. I don’t see why the Cream of Wheat people don’t institute a Meals on Wheels program for the dentally impaired.

Casting about in the kitchen for something to eat, I discovered a faded box of soft vanilla wafers that had long ago rallied past their life expectancy. Not exactly the Breakfast of Champions, but if I added a little peanut butter to the equation, all should go well.

As I replaced all the boxes of unused cereal back in the cupboard and added peanut butter to the shopping list, I reflected that hummus on cookies is probably a delicacy in some Mediterranean countries. Mediterranean countries full of aborigines with bad teeth. Perhaps that would make a suitable vacation destination some day.

Time to take the Labradors for a romp to sacrifice several ounces of surprises that I did not want to find on my carpet when I came home from work. As I watched them play, I was surprised at how self-reflective dogs can be. I was also surprised to see them greet the neighbor, who was nattily dressed for the office and was now nattily dressed in muddy paw prints. You’d think people would be more forgiving during Lent, no matter how they spelled it. The neighbor spells it S-T-U-P-I-D. There were more letters involved, but I sacrificed listening after that.

The Captain called and asked what we were having for supper. I reflected that we were going out. He likes home-cooked meals, but after all, this is the period of sacrifice. I’ve already given up my shower, my Shredded Wheat, and my sanity.

It’s his turn to suffer. He'll be a better person for it.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Virtually Unfit

"You haven’t exercised in ten years," My sister, seated on the couch behind me, cracked open another chocolate bar. "A couple of downward dogs aren’t going to help you now. Besides, it looks like those puppies are on the loose. Dogfighting is illegal, immoral, and—especially in this case—exceedingly unattractive.”

Some things, such as swimming against an undertow, require a buddy. And if I’m ever in that situation, Sis is the one I want with me. She’d feel right at home with the sharks.

Today, I wish she’d find a feeding frenzy somewhere else. I gaze down where my toes should be. Perhaps Yoga isn’t the right form of exercise for me. The only thing about me that stretches is the gum stuck to the bottom of my shoe.

With visions of myself in a flirty white skirt, I decide to try the virtual tennis competition on the boys’ video game. I attempt a saucy backhand, send the controller flying, and nail my sister so hard in the face that she has a Pause button imprinted on her forehead. I resist the urge to press the thing to see if it works.

Nobody warned me about the dangers of virtual sports. Before the day is over, I’ve got tennis elbow, swimmer’s ear, and I’m signed up for a guest shot on House as a candidate for mysterious complications from Tommy John surgery.

“Why don’t you make a video of yourself trying to zip your jeans and hold out for a part in WrestleMania?” she smirked.

I grinned, “And I’ve got a show for you too.”

“And that is. . .”

“The Biggest Loser. You're a natural.”

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Supper Stalker

Tonight when I went into the kitchen to start supper, my teenaged son followed me. I’m so far into menopause, hot flashes have quick-fried my brain; I thought he was there to help.

“What a nice change,” I beamed. “You can help by putting away the dishes in the dishwasher.”

“I’m here for a snack,” he answered, collarbone deep in frozen foods. Can I have a milkshake?”

“I’m starting supper right now.”

“I know,” he answered,” testing a frozen breadstick with his teeth. “I just need a little something to hold me.”

“What constitutes a little something?”

“Got any roast beef?”

“If you can hold on a second, I’ll throw a pig on the spit.”

“Gee, Mom, that’d be great. Would you make fries?”

“I was kidding. If you need a snack while I’m cooking supper, you have to make it yourself.”

You would have thought I’d said GameBoys give you cooties. That kid left the kitchen so fast, the vacuum sucked three popsicles and a corn dog with freezer burn out of cold storage.

There may be better ways to handle the situation, but this plan cleans out the refrigerator, defrosts the freezer, and rids the kitchen of unwanted pests.