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.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Every Day

Looks like I was one depth charge away from never being born. Join me at Stage of Life and find out how life on a WWII submarine wasn't just an adventure. Thanks to the men and women who sacrificed their lives in the line of duty. From me. And my Dad.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Oh Rapture!

I don't pretend to know the mind of God, although I'm pretty sure He gets His laughs watching the Weather Channel. So while I watched the announced Rapture proceedings with a raised eyebrow this weekend, I couldn't help noticing that a few items around my house have gone missing. Even though I may be tempted to look suspiciously at possible suspects in my living room, I'd like to point out. . .

Ten Things at My House That May Have Been Raptured This Weekend:

1. My car keys.

2. The last two chocolate chip cookies. Also, the equivalent of a glass of milk.

3. My other shoe.

4. The dollar bill that was hidden in the junk drawer under the nail clippers.

5. The points of all my pencils.

6. The lid to the grape jelly.

7. My deposit slips.

8. My original Alvin and the Chipmunks Christmas album.

9. The pliers I use to turn off the hot water.

10. The dog’s food—the bag is empty!

On second thought, cross number ten off the list. There is a suspicious trail of crumbs leading to someone's sleepy pillow beside the couch.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Pirates, Prom Gowns, and Putt Putt

Buying a new bathing suit is like selecting an alias for the Witness Protection Program. You want something that fits and has flair, but that will keep all your hidden assets locked away where no one will ever find them.

In my experience, the main function of a bathing suit is to gather oceanic sand in the lining of the crotch while you’re trying to balance on the retracting grains of an outgoing wave without spilling your drink-filled coconut. With my typical lack of coordination, my coconuts take a dunking every time.

I went shopping with my sister and my niece, Knockout. This girl could wear an oven mitt and have guys follow her into deep water. I was painfully aware that my thighs had expanded to the Outer Banks and my behind had relocated to the subtropics. No wonder my temperature light keeps flashing.

We’re at Wal-Mart, browsing through the racks. It’s the only place I can get support hose, Sugar Smacks, and sinus medication without having to change parking lots. Presently my buggy is loaded with a month’s worth of Friskies and the floral pack of Hanes Her Way Full Coverage. Nothing says party like a well-fed cat and chubby sized underwear.

While Knockout was slipping on bikini tops over her clothes, I was fumbling through the racks looking for something with sleeves and a bib. I couldn’t fit a bathing suit over my clothes if I had the Jaws of Life to help me dress.

“What about something with a little sarong to cover up problem areas?” Knockout suggests, flattening an invisible wrinkle in her belly button.

I couldn’t fit a sarong over my shin with a shoe horn.

“Do they have anything with a hoop skirt instead?”

I’m headed to the seashore for a weekend away from the Labradors. All I’m going to do is pick up a few seashells, eat some fish without having to share, and play a round of beach putt putt. I shouldn’t have to use up the gross national output of latex to get a hole in one at Shipwreck Cove. Actually, the closest thing I ever got to a hole in one at putt putt golf was the time I chipped a shot into the Diet Coke of the Paris Hilton clone in the parking lot, but that’s All Star stuff and I can’t do it every time. The ensuing altercation is still a topic of conversation among local law enforcement officers. Whoever said golf is boring never saw my follow-through.

Besides, I figure if I can’t see it, it’s not a problem. I’ve played hide and seek with my navel for 35 years. Once I passed 40 and realized I’d need a topographical map and a satellite signal from NASA to find my waist, I declared myself the victor and began looking for my original chin. We might have to call in the Mars Rover for that one.

“What about a cover up? You like retro.” She held up a tye-dyed washcloth, swirling with all the colors of a bowl of breakfast cereal.

“It looks like something you used to clean up a chemical spill. Besides, I have a doily on the back of my couch that hides more than that thing.”

I wandered across the aisle to a rack of likely-looking house dresses. My idea of coverage is mountains-to-sea. I’m not interested in anything that leaves the foothills or the Great Plains out in the open. I untangled a handful of spaghetti straps and pulled out a prospect. “What about this? It’s almost long enough to cover the coast at high tide.”

“That’s a prom dress.”

“How can you tell?”

“There are sequins on the thong.”

“I thought that was an armband to hold my IPod.”

“There’s a clip on the tiara for that. See, there’s a secret compartment behind the disco ball.”

Three dozen prom gowns and I pick the one that needs John Travolta in a white suit to complete the package.

“Here’s an animal print. You’d be right in style.” Knockout whipped a bikini bedecked with pink and green peace symbols off the rack and held it up with a flourish. A trail of leopard prints the color of blush traipsed through the peace fields.

“The leopard is already embarrassed and I haven’t even tried it on.”

She flipped through a few more prospects. “There’s nothing left on the rack but old lady swimsuits.”

To this kid, Paris Hilton is ancient history.

With a sigh, I tossed the sequined thong and tiara selection into my cart. I may not be Queen of the Prom, but I’ll be the best dressed gal at the Pirate Ship Putt Putt course.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Jams and Jelly Glasses

With two healthy boys in the family, the plumber and I got to be quite good friends over the years. Still, the best story of all features Fred Flintstone. Join me at Stage of Life where our plumber friend is enjoying a flush of easy money. Yabba Dabba Do!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Can You Hear Me Now?

My friend Raelynn has a phone she swears will do her hair and nails, tell her what shoes to wear with all her outfits, and lie about her age.

I don’t need a little electronic box to tell me what to wear, how to organize my CDs, or when to flip the steaks over. To me, a smart phone is one that knows not to ring when I’m in the shower. And never accepts messages from discarded spouses.

Also, I don’t need a phone with a name of its own. I can’t remember the names of my children. I don’t need to try and conjure up an extra one for a device I can’t figure out how to use.

My phone has so many buttons, I feel like I’m initiating a launch code whenever I check my messages. The last time I tried to take a picture, I accidentally turned on the voice controls. I was out shopping, and I’m pretty sure Mall Security picked up my trail before I got as far as Victoria’s Secret.

“Say a command,” the phone snapped smartly.

“Shut up!” I squealed, digging in my pocket to retrieve the thing.

“Say a command,” the device insisted.

“Fold the laundry!” Humor is my defense mechanism. As with most of the other mechanisms in my life, the warranty expired the day I needed it most.

“Dialing 5-3-3”

“No, not five, FOLD, you crazy thing.”

“Calling the Captain.”

“Not Captain. Crazy!”

Other shoppers shot uneasy glances in my direction. “Talk about Captain Crazy,” an elderly woman muttered and whipped an Emergency Bat Turn with her walker right in the food court.

“Look,” I muttered discreetly to the palm of my hand. “Behave. No one will hear you scream.”

“Dialing 9-1-1”

“I said NO ONE. Not 9-1-1.”

“Emergency services” came a refreshingly human voice from my phone.

“HELLO!” I screamed frantically. “My phone has taken over. Please help me!”


Small children hid behind the clothes racks in Lane Bryant. Passersby detoured around the hemp tattoo kiosk to avoid me.

I spoke into the phone. “You think I’m psycho, don’t you?”

“Lady,” the Emergency Responder answered. “You had me at hello.”

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Writing On the Wall

Yes, I did it, and I'm sure there is a good reason why. But at four years old, I wasn't quite prepared to formulate my defense. So the writing was on the wall. It was on my arms and legs, too, if that counts for extra credit. All in bold, rich, lucsious red. . . .lipstick.

Join me at An Army of Ermas for the police report.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

The Legacy

Happy Mother's Day to my mom who is busy weeding Heaven's vegetable garden. Time hasn't helped much. I still miss you, Mom.

As far as legacies go, my tastes lie with something simple, like a check. Or stock. Or heirloom china. Unfortunately Mama wasn’t the heirloom china type. What I got when she departed for the peaceful place where mothers don’t have to cook, clean, or say, “If I told you once, I told you a million times,” was not the inheritance I assumed was my birthright. What she left me was the very thing I was the least qualified to handle. Wisdom.

Giving me a lapful of life lessons is like tossing me a copy of the Atkins diet and a size six sheath dress and telling me the party starts at seven. You may as well shove the plans for building a biplane into my arms and tell me to be in Paris by midnight. When it comes to legacies, it’s best to just go ahead and hand me a gold bar.

Now that I’m in the stage of life where good advice usually involves a recipe loaded with fiber, I realize that what Mama left me was a handbook for life. Thanks to the seeds my mom planted in the rocky garden of my mind over the years, I’ve sailed through many of the stormy seas of life without having to evacuate to life boats. Turns out Mom knew best all along. Here are Mama’s Rules to Live By—along with some of my own observations for those who, like me, have trouble following directions.

1. There is something to love in every person. However, there are some people who hide that something really well. Actually, Mama just said that first part. I learned the second part from my sister.

2. If you rip a page out of your brother’s comic book, he can rip a page out of yours. This is a mother of four’s version of The Golden Rule. I learned to treat friends, family, and their possessions with respect. And I’ll never know what happened to Archie and Jughead that day at Riverdale High.

3. Give a child two cookies; one for each hand. This is a smart idea because it keeps the child busy for twice as long, diverts him from "helping" with your biscuit dough and prevents you from having to walk every morning for a week to work off two cookies that you would have eaten to relieve stress if your child had two hands free to plunge into the dog's food.

4. Don’t honk your horn at anybody. At first I assumed this was Mama’s version of traveling etiquette, but now I realize that she understood road rage long before anyone held up traffic trying to read road signs through the wrong part of skinny designer bifocals.

5. Always have a skill you can fall back on. By this, I know now that she meant a skill that will continue to be of service to the Community of Man. Unfortunately the skill I chose was typing, which caused typewriters to immediately become extinct.

6. If you’re not tall enough to see out the car window, sit on a pillow. Improvise. Adapt. Overcome. Even the Marines agree with her.

7. If something particularly unpleasant is happening to you, there’s probably a lesson involved. Wade through a puddle or two on the linoleum and you’ll remember to let the new puppy out. You’ll also remember to buy a mop.

8. Don’t sell things you can give away. That might not make sense in an e-Bay world, but knowing that someone who needs it will have a warm coat for the winter goes a long way toward offsetting the thrill of bagging $1.50 for your old hula lamp in an online auction.

9. Play to win. Unless that gets in the way of playing for fun. When playing Scrabble with an elderly woman who can’t see past her elbow, give her a break if she thinks she drew five blanks. Come to think of it, that’s how Mom always won at Scrabble, so there’s probably an extra lesson tucked in there.

10. Always take time to watch the birds at the birdfeeder. Time spent with nature is a peace of mind investment. And last winter, a tiny chickadee who muscled his way through a crowd of rowdy cardinals to have lunch gave me some great ideas for handling the next family reunion. And the big project due at work.

11. Don’t worry, it’ll get worse. This was my mom’s slogan. When I was three and ran to her with a skinned knee, she said it. She was right. I broke my arm. When I was thirty-three and getting divorced, she said it again. And soon my kids became teenagers. But by then, I had it figured out. If things can get worse, the problems that seem overpowering right now aren’t the end of the world. Things can also get better. So if teaching two teenaged boys to drive and adding them to my insurance is the worst life has to offer, I can handle it.

But I sure wouldn’t turn down a check.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Fire In The Hole

Venture over to the Ermas blog (if you dare) where The Captain gives a whole new meaning to the term "Light My Fire."

By the way, about that lighter, Cap'n. Smokey the Bear is NOT amused.

Thursday, May 5, 2011


I cannot stress enough the importance of good customer service skills. Recently a man in North Charleston, South Carolina, the state where the name Dick Harpootlian is synonymous with the term “Lock and Load” for the state Democratic Party, called 911 to report he was not given correct change when purchasing crack cocaine. The Democratic Party has nothing to do with the use of crack cocaine other than the persistent idea that Dick Harpootlian's parents must have used the substance just before naming their infant.

A monetary disagreement is an understandably frustrating situation between vendor and vendee. I had an experience similar to this once when I gave the cashier a twenty dollar bill and she gave me change for a ten. In this instance I simply appealed to the store manager, who promptly and courteously recorded my name and phone number and called me to come pick up my cash when the cashier’s drawer rang up with an overage that evening. I was a satisfied customer and have continued my business relationship with that particular pawn, er, dress shop ever since.

If the drug dealer; we’ll call him Mr. Crack, was serious about his business, he would have considered his customer, Mr. Smoke, as a potential future profit margin. By reacting selfishly, he dashed his hopes for repeat business and customer loyalty. In these days of economic hardships, he effectively slammed an out-of-business sign on the fingers of his future. His avenues for expansion are forever closed.

His only hope is to take up politics. I hear Mr. Harpootlian is looking for a running mate.