Click any letter for a look at my prize-winning essay from the Erma Bombeck Writing Competition. You don't even have to buy a vowel.

Sunday, 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.