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.

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.