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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ash Wednesday and Beyond!

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 action both admirable and encouraged except 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 a bed and breakfast to many animals wandering about in the wild searching for a Bed and Breakfast Inn that allowed 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” and 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 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 was 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.  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.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Left. Right?

I can tell by the jungle of homemade signs germinating in my front yard that election time is just around the breaking news story. Either that or somebody at my house is having a yard sale. Since by some quirk of government both my sons are eligible to vote, I’ve taken it upon myself to teach them the basic jargon of our political system.

Conservative: Washing your hands in the restroom even when nobody’s looking. Listing your correct weight on your driver’s license.

Liberal: Wearing lipstick and nail polish that doesn’t match. Or white shoes after Labor Day.

Voting booth: The little room with the half curtain where you make your choices for leaders of the most powerful nation in the world. Not to be confused with the dressing room at the mall where the curtain is short enough to determine who wore clean underwear on the first day of bathing suit shopping season, at which time you also determine who will have their pool privileges restricted.

Electoral College: A special college that holds classes only once every four years and offers no grants, scholarships, or Bowl-worthy football team. Its mascot is the Mayfly.

Lobbyists: A group of people who hang around the lobby of government buildings handing out free samples and telling lawmakers what to do. Not to be confused with terrorists, but I’m not sure why.

Vice-President: The Vice-President is kind of like a kid brother for the president. He always hangs around listening to things that aren’t his business and threatening to tell. You’d think that would make him the Speaker of the House, but they hire somebody with special skills for that job. The special skills are a secret.

President: The individual who is the head of the executive branch of government who works in an Oval Office so that he or she can’t get backed into a corner.

My sons didn’t seem to appreciate my help. They wandered off, mumbling something about conscience and issues. But that’s okay. I’ve tagged all their video games. I’ll make enough at the yard sale to buy their vote.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Hammer Time!

The "After" picture
Add a closet, subtract a finger or two.  As long as I get to use the term "nail gun" in an essay, I'm happy.  Join me at Stage of Life to see what sort of  Don't let this happen to me" moment I'm into now.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Point and Shoot

I was born in February and I’m a little concerned that the symbol for my birthday month is a fat, naked stalker baby with underdeveloped wings and a bow and arrow. I don’t know about you, but I go some places a baby should be afraid to follow, even armed with projectiles.

Somehow the thought of an undiapered toddler, especially one packing a weapon designed to shoot warm fuzzies, accompanying me to the mall clearance sales and auto-flushers seems horribly inappropriate. I still bear a French manicure-shaped scar from reaching for a cunning pair of Capri pants on the red dot clearance rack. If that naked baby grabs the last pair of Prada pumps on the sale table, he’s likely to lose something more important than a finger.

I can see why he’s armed. Anybody named Cupid who goes parading around in his birthday suit is likely to suffer grievous knuckle prints from guys named Pork Chop or Tiny here in the red mud section of South Carolina. And if he ventures out to watch the Nascar drivers go fast and turn left, he just may get tire marks someplace where parking is prohibited.

So just to be sure we’re on the same track, I checked with Cupid to see how he felt about his job.

Me: So, Cupid, how does it feel to go to work naked every day?

Cupid, the God of Love: Well, I save a lot on dry cleaning and there’s no dress code, so it’s kind of empowering. I use an awful lot of Chap-Stick, though. I’m trying for a corporate sponsorship. My endorsement deals keep me living in the life style of my dreams.

Me: You dream of flying naked for the rest of eternity?

Cupid: Don’t knock it. Even in the weather that frosts my feathers, it beats a business suit and 80-hour work weeks. And I don't have any place to carry a cell phone, so the boss can't ever call me on my lunch hour.

Me: But do you think it’s safe for a baby to fly around by himself?

Cupid: It’s not like I’m unarmed. (He tested the point on a heart-tipped arrow.) Hey, I’m the one that made Kanye apologize to Taylor Swift. It didn’t matter where I hit him. I just grazed him to let all the hot air out.

Me: If you’re such a sure shot, why are there so many divorces? You know, I’ve been married before and I’d rather shave my legs with a potato peeler than go through that again.

Cupid: Hey, everybody makes mistakes. Actually I was aiming for someone else, but, when you bent over it was like a heat seeking missile and a barn fire.

Me: So you’re saying the whole fiasco was my fault?

Cupid: Well every action has an opposite and equal unexpected consequence. That’s math you know. Or science. Whatever. I was a Liberal Arts major.

Me: I can identify with that. I graduated with honors, but they don’t take GPA in the Express Lane at the Piggly Wiggly.

Cupid: Well, don’t be eyeing my job. I had to knock off a guy with winged feet to get this gig.

Me: So once Valentine’s Day is past, it’s the off season for you. What keeps you busy the rest of the year?

Cupid: Oh, there’s lots to do. I like to spend part of the summer posing as a sculpture in a wishing well fountain. All that loose change comes in handy for the bathroom vending machines.

Me: Is that all you do? Make people think their wishes will come true, then steal their money?

Cupid: Of course not. Somebody’s got to keep up with the Kardashian sisters. Those gals make Snooki look like Hannah Montana. I think I’m gonna need a bigger box of arrows.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Good Friends and Ghiradelli

There are friends and there are friends. There are friends who will pull you out of the burning wreckage of your car and stay with you until emergency assistance arrives. There are friends who will loan you money when the sure thing pulled up lame at the race track.

And then there are friends who will invite you to their beach house and feed you chocolate, which in theory could turn out to be a stalker scenario, but is definitely worth the risk. I don't know about you, but
when the chips are down and you've defrosted the last pack of freezer burned hamburger in fridge and you don't know if your dinner plate will be empty the next time the clock strikes half past supper time, I know which friends I want to have rally around my hunger pangs.

Chocolate wins every time.

So while other folks took their seats at a table full of the trimmings of a dreary turkey dinner basted in tradition one Thanksgiving, my companions and I tucked into bowls full of designer chocolates. The only catch? We were supposed to guess which chocolatier originated each confection. That's like choosing which animal has the spots. The one with the cheap dry cleaner. No problem.

Okay, so I scored low on the test. The consolation prize was still sweet.

But to choose which one I like best? That's like choosing Shakespeare over Tennyson. Renoir over Van Gogh. Marvel over DC. I have a multi-level palette. When the chips are down it doesn’t really doesn’t matter if it’s Spiderman or Superman that keeps your cookies crisp. I can appreciate them all.

So if trying out chocolate samples to see if Godiva can beat Ghiradelli off the line while I’m peering out through a bank of windows that reveal sunlight sparkling on the sea is the ultimate challenge, I have to think that I'm willing to pay the price for friendship.

Chocolate. For the win!

Happy Birthday, David.

Thursday, February 2, 2012


Of all Mother Nature’s gentle and endearing creatures, I most identify with the groundhog. He waits patiently underground all year, feasting on delicacies and delights, only to appear in the gloom of a February morning while all the world waits to discover his secret. Then, in a burst of media attention, his single accomplishment of the year is over in the flash of a newsman’s camera.

For the groundhog, fate balances on the turn of a sundial. If the way is clear, we will throw open the windows and welcome in the twinkling sunbeams of spring. But if the groundhog sees his shadow, he runs to hide his face and we trudge into a tunnel of deep, dark, depressing days, trailing our winter boots and woolen scarves behind us.

I feel the same way when I try on bathing suits.

During the winter months, I while away the demi-days of the season gorging myself on cream-filled snack cakes and marking off blocks on the calendar with a tube of decorator icing. Something happens to me in between the time when the autumn leaves start falling and the spring seedlings begin to sprout. Cold weather brings the opportunity to stir up sweet snow cream and savory soups. Winter holidays that taste of cornbread dressing and pumpkin pie whip past, and before I know it I’m two Ho-Ho’s and a Ding Dong away from fitting into my stretchy pants.

And so, I dig in my closet to the bottom of the pile of Things Left to Die, past the leggings, past the belly shirts, past the sports bra, and pull out—gasp—last year’s swimsuit. It took three paramedics and the Jaws of Life to remove the thing last year, and it will probably take my weight in bacon grease to get thing wretched thing to slide on now.

And suddenly Puxatawney Phil pops up to remind me that the days of carrots and calorie counters are waiting just around the cold front.

And here I am without a recipe for groundhog pie.