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, December 17, 2013

Danger Cat's Christmas Adventures

Sure, we’ve always had an assortment of wise cats and German Shepherds scattered across the rug at Christmas time.  We’d add a strategically placed bell or two on the tree so the merry tinkling sound would alert us to redirect the actions of any miscreant who displayed an excessive amount of curiosity toward the decorations.  Five decades, a few toppled Frasier Firs, and some believe-it-or-not stories later, everything was going fine.

This year we have Danger Cat.

This is the cat who, six weeks old and blind from infection, trekked across two fenced backyards, traversed a couple of pony-sized Labradors, and scaled a tower of architectural bricks to announce to my son that it was time for kitty adoption.

The long and winding roll.
Soon after, an expensive magical healing was effected, and she launched into the Trail of Toilet Paper Adventure, Summer 2013, a day of carnage when she laid waste to a Jumbo Pack of Scott Tissue’s finest.  We may not squeeze the Charmin, but we shred whole cartloads of Scott. I’m still finding single-ply tucked into shoes in the closet.

Our eight foot evergreen doesn’t stand a chance.

Innocent Bystander
We added more bells to the tree; different sizes and shapes so that we could track her exact location like Norad tracks Santa Claus.  Last night she used the tree bells to play the trumpet fanfare from the Kentucky Derby.  I imagine the theme from Rocky will be next.

It’s no more dangerous to walk into our living room than it was to take a stroll along the Normandy coast on D-Day.  This morning I bent to rescue a battle-scarred reindeer with two legs, only to sustain a massive hit from a red satin snowflake ornament shot like a missile from somewhere near the center of the tree.  I’m still picking glitter shrapnel from my lipstick, and have the festive air of someone who’s been kissing the Times Square New Year’s ball.  I can identify with Mary and Joseph’s dismay at finding three ice skating penguins and half a sugar cookie nestled next to baby Jesus in the tabletop nativity.

Our tree looks more like the result of an explosive blender episode than a holiday decoration.  Meanwhile, there’s a black and white fuzzball swinging from limb to limb like Nadia Commenechi gearing up for the backwards high-bar flip on her Olympic quest for the perfect 10.

"And now, grinned the Grinch, I will stuff up the tree."
So, what’s the answer for the cat who has everything when Christmas comes to town?

A sixpack of Scott Tissue under the tree.  Danger Cat, roll out!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Cough Drop - A Thanksgiving Miracle

This is for my longtime friend Beth who lost her home in a fire this Thanksgiving.  Sometimes when times are tough you need a reminder that miracles still  happen. If you have a warm home and full table this Thanksgiving, consider helping my friend find out how bright the future can be.  There is a fund set up by her community to help her family reclaim their future: 
First Community Bank, ATTN: Karen Halper, PO Box 231, Eureka Springs AR  72362.

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.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Ho Ho's for the Holidays

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 “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 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. I wasn’t a fan of Dallas during its TV run, but I’ve named the turkey J.R. Ewing because it has the largest spread I’ve ever seen.  J.R. 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, I feel like I should shave it instead of roast it.

A fresh turkey is different from a supermarket 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 lash 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 mirror ball 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, a half hour later, basted in sweat.

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 stuffed with artificial flavoring.

Everybody is thankful for something. I’m grateful for a husband who doesn’t mind Ho Ho’s for holiday lunch.


Monday, November 11, 2013

Singing in the Drain . . with Erma!

A gaggle of us raised our families with Erma Bombeck, and we wore our Girl Scout socks to the grocery store with pride.  We didn’t sweat family vacations when the kids packed a duffle full of comic books and no clothes.  And found out life would go on when we had Angel food and no angels to feed it to.  My thanks to Terri Rizvi and the folks at the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop for letting me share a moment on their blog. I should have known it would all go down the drain. . .
Come join me on the Titanic. What could it hurt?  It's Monday anyway.

Just send a plumber and tell him NOT
 to bend over!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

An Open Letter to the Undead Among Us

Dear Zombie Nation,

There’s something about living around the corner and down the street from St. Nowhere to make you appreciate the Zombie Apocalypse. Throw a two-doors-down cemetery into the mix and come dusk, the idea of meeting the undead on an evening stroll is not something to discount out of hand.  All in all I decided over the last couple of years that an exercise program involving the fresh air of Zombie twilight was a deal breaker.  No evening strolls around the freshly dug graves for me.

Now that new evidence has come to light, I am convinced that we are receiving mixed messages from the Zombie population. Before the Neighborhood Association Committee starts posting zoning rules, I’d like to get the facts straight so that I don’t slight the undead. When it comes time to pick teams, it seems unwise to offend somebody who can win the tortoise and hare race hands down. So let me just check a few things.

What is the main staple of your diet?  I don’t want to show up at a Zombie potluck with a potato chip-topped brain casserole only to find out I’m with a group who can’t believe they ate the whole thing.  I recently viewed a documentary, “Night of the Living Dead,” only to see zombies munching on arms and legs like they had a combo dinner from Kentucky Fried Children.  If it’s spare parts you want, we can work out a deal with some unwanted telemarketers, cable TV repairmen who are never on time, or the folks in charge of the Affordable Health Care website.

Are you strong enough to break a car window, or do your arms fall off in a stiff breeze?  Because, really, you can’t have it both ways, and I don’t want you leaving limbs around the doorway if you try breaking into my pantry after I’ve just mopped.  And the first time I step on an eyeball, your sorry behind is headed straight back to the graveyard.  Show some respect for other peoples’ homes.  We decorate your living space with plastic poinsettias and this is the thanks we get.

Do you accept animals?  I’m just asking for the neighbor, who sometimes pools listlessly in the driveway until the fog has lifted.  I’m not one to take advantage of God’s creatures, but when it comes to brains, the Labrador at that house runs the show. That man’s fog hasn’t lifted in forty years.  I’m betting any brain cells he has left don’t even add up to fun size.

Once a zombie, always a zombie, right?  Movies that show a lovestruck girl and a rehabilitated zombie boy are surely the stuff dreams are made of.  True love can only do so much.

Just ask Dracula.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Made From Scratch

Gentlemen should know how to tie a proper knot. This guy has a half Windsor.
It’s not that Son One is a perfectionist, but he spent an entire afternoon Googling the proper way to tie a noose for our front porch Halloween skeleton.  Anything less than a gallows-approved knot was unacceptable.  You’d think a big guy with a sharp axe was scoring the pop quiz.

“Mom, we don’t want to be a bad example. We have to show little kids that we do things right.” 
I’m sure the skeleton appreciates his attention to detail.

On the other hand, this is the same guy that collects pet hair tumbleweeds in his room until he has enough fur to reconstruct the Chewbacca, the Wookie from Star Wars.  He’s probably planning a full-out attack on his brother’s room, The Death Star.  I’ve seen pizza boxes pulled in that place liked they were caught in a stuffed-crust tractor beam.  I’ve never seen one leave.  The only thing that's ever escaped was Son Two's baby kitty who he rescued from the edge of That Great Sandbox in the Sky just months ago. Baby Kitty has spent the intervening time scratching out a name for herself in world domination.

But now I’m beginning to rethink letting the guys decorate the house for Halloween.  I imagined a few fake spider webs, a smiling Jack-O-Lantern, and a stuffed scarecrow on the front porch bench would do the trick.  Right now the front yard is strung with police tape and they’re discussing where to hide the body.

There’s something about hearing a voice from the bushes yell, “Mom, where do we keep the spare propane tanks?” that makes you appreciate tissue paper ghosts.

It took me a while to realize: these kids learned about life from video games.  Call of Duty was their instruction manual for life.  They’re not decorating the yard; they’re fortifying it against marauding invaders disguised as gypsies, thieves, and Miley Cyrus.
Decorator touches make a house a home.
I called a meeting of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and scaled back the Home Security alert.

“You mean you’re going to let the tiny humans walk right in and confiscate our candy?” Son one brandished a Nerf Gatling gun that would unload more rounds than Shirley Temple has ringlets.

“We’re going to give it to them.”

A cheer went up.  “Now you’re talking!”

“I mean we’re going to give them the candy.”

“Without a major skirmish?”

“And without a police report.”

“What if the Zombies invade?”

“We’ll give them extra Snickers bars.”

They locked eyes. “Better put away our secret weapon.”

Son Two unleashed Danger Cat, the attack kitten, from his backpack.

Good thing. The Zombies wouldn’t stand a chance. 

There's no such thing as extra lives in Candy Land.


Monday, October 21, 2013

Layla & Levi's

Now that the kids are old enough to leave at home without having to shell out the bucks for a SLED check on a babysitter, we’re able to go out more often. A year or two ago, the man who promised to love, honor, and make sure the dishwasher never quit sprang for tickets to an Eric Clapton concert.

You could tell by the crowd outside that it was going to be an interesting evening. A businesswoman in black heels and hose jostled for position next to a sixty year old hippie in a gauze tie-dyed shirt that looked like it had been stitched together from a box of Fruit Loops. I think he was her date. Worn Levi’s with the red tag far outnumbered designer jeans.

At the concert, I learned three things. Baby Boomers have wide and varied, by which I mean bad, taste in clothes, Baby Boomers think they can dance, and Baby Boomers automatically stand for Layla like a seven-ten split for a cross-eyed bowler.

But when the lights go down, we have one thing in common. We have the music in us. I saw three old men with tattoos where their biceps used to be, cover something in the vicinity of their Rock ’n Roll hearts with sun-basted hands when the opening chords of Layla split the speakers. And when “Wonderful Tonight” blasted romantically across the crowd, there wasn’t a woman among us that didn’t zip back through the Time Tunnel of Youth to the most romantic night of our lives. Couples locked eyes, lip-synched the lyrics, and fell in love all over again.

We may drive minivans, SUV's, and hybrids by day, but we still “get off on ’57 Chevies” at night.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Fashion Scents

Occasionally one of the guys will accidentally wear something that matches.  If I’m very careful and don’t mention it out loud, there’s a chance they will wear it out in public, and people will think I’ve had a positive influence.

The guys in my house don’t do their colors.  They go by seasonal camo.  The proper camouflage for summer in the South is red mud, which coordinates well with catsup.

I grew up in a house full of girls.  Coordinating clothes were not on the list of the Seven Deadly Sins.  That list was reserved for lipstick that didn’t match your nail polish, and bra straps that showed.  These days nail polish matches your favorite food, and bras are worn like overcoats. Any day now, I expect Playtex to come out with a waterproof, hooded model with zip out lining.  Or a Totes model that opens with the touch of a button.

Fashion is easier for guys.  The only clothes-related conversations I’m allowed to have with my sons are

1) Smell this.

2) Is this a color or meatloaf?

I understand now why Duck Dynasty is such a hit.  In a world where Heidi Klum and Giselle Bundchen make a million dollars for one romp down the runway, my household follows Uncle Si for fashion.  The only accessory they need is a Tupperware glass of iced tea.  And since today’s Southern women collect Tupperware the way our ancestors hoarded the family silver, and if it lasted long enough to pump before Bubba cleaned out the supply, our hose pipes would run sweet tea, we could rule the lower Mason-Dixon Line Fashion Week.
Wonder if Calvin Klein comes in camo?

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Shut Up and Shut Down

“Mom, there’s a “Death before Dinner” sign on the kitchen door.”

“I know.  We’re having a shutdown to show you how government works.”

Son One pulled a bag of leftover Easter Candy from his underwear drawer and snapped the ears off a crusty rabbit.  “Cool. I never thought I’d really need my Zombie Apocalypse stash.  Good thing I’m prepared.” 

My stomach launched a shutdown of its own.

The plan was to let the family experience the Government Shutdown on a small scale so they could identify with the major problems.  I didn’t realize I was dealing with Duck Dynasty:  Armed for Armageddon.  I was surrounded by an army of Uncle Si.

The first thing I thought of was a ban on The Facilities. There’s nothing like a plumbing shutdown to make people see how things flow. Or, more importantly, what happens when they don’t.  But somehow I could see everything flowing back my way, so I abandoned Operation Waste Management.  Because those of us on the grass roots level comprehend the thought behind getting caught with your pants down.

Next, I tried a laundry room shutdown, mostly because I don’t like to sort.  Also, I’m fairly sure that nasty things await me at the bottom of the laundry basket.  But my household is made up of all guys, and the thought of a household full of men with access to a week’s worth of dirty underwear smacks of Nuclear Holocaust.

And so I proceeded with my final idea, a Kitchen Shutdown, which involved tossing out the half-full boxes of stale Fruit Loops which people only eat in times of desperation and allowing the reserves of snack cakes and coffee to dwindle.  It’s a hard lesson, but if you’re going to do something, you have stand your grounds.  It seemed like a good idea at the time.

I forgot about the Labradors.  And the Dachshund.  And the kitten.  And the coffee-deprived buccaneer brandishing his empty cup and mumbling something about “planks” and “booty.”

Perhaps if Congress had to contend with drooling Labradors guarding the kitchen door and an attack kitten ready to swoop down on unattended chicken salad, they would be a lot more attentive to the chicken coop before the feathers started to fly.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Band Books

The Captain who, for reasons I can’t fathom, insists on checking to see what I’m doing at any given time, strolled through the living room when I was mouse deep in research.  I’m not sure why he checks on me.  He says experience is a great teacher.  I say don’t worry about it, the hair grew back.

“What are you doing?”

 “I’m picking out some snazzy music.”

 “You don’t play an instrument.”

“No, but I can still be supportive.”

“Of who?”

“The band.  It’s band books week.”

“Um, no it’s not.”

“Nothing like a stirring march by John Philip Sousa to wake up all the dogs at once.”

“But it’s not.”

‘Maybe I’ll wear red, white, and blue tomorrow.’

‘You can wear what you like, but it won’t make a difference to Mark Twain.”

“I didn’t know he had a band!”

“He wrote Huckleberry Finn.”

“Um, you may not like this, but Huck and I took the friendship oath long before you swashbuckled along.”

“Then you know it’s banned books week.  B-A-N-N-E-D.  Not band.”

“Oh.  You mean like To Kill a Mockingbird, Catcher in the Rye, and Fahrenheit 451?”

“Yep. Just like them.”

“And Harry Potter and his Hogwarts buddies?”

“The very same.”

"No marches? No fanfares? No pants with stripes down the side?"

“Nope. Banned books. The ones they kick out of schools and libraries.’

“Isn’t that kind of like the lifeguard draining the pool?’


“How are people supposed to learn to swim?”

“I guess they’ll get a book about it.”

“That sounds great. Strike up the band!”





Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Brain Food for the Zombie's Soul

While I appreciate a stack of homemade hoecakes as much as the next Southern Belle, I just can’t bring myself to get past the pictures of a teeth-gritting Paula Deen grinning up at me in a flirtatious, deadpan way from the covers of magazines at the checkout.

“She looks like a zombie.”  Son Two and I are at a bookstore large enough to merit its own bobsled team.  Paula Deen is gazing at us with a gleam in her eye and a glazed-tooth grin. It may come from a butter-induced stupor, but I can’t help but think she’s sizing up our brains to see how many deep dish pies she could get out of the pair of us.

“She’s just posing for the camera,” I said, shivering and checking over my shoulder for random undead figures lurking in the nonfiction aisle.

“It looks like she’s staring at me.”  He shifted on one leg to lean behind me.  The creature’s eyes seemed to follow him.  A trick of light on the glossy cover made her appear to drool. If she licked her lips, I was going to peel out past the half-price calendars like a Nascar driver on the last left turn.

“Let’s go to the coffee shop,” I whispered, backing away from the bookshelf.  We’ll get something with caffeine to keep us alert.”

“Mom.  If I got any more alert I’d be an exclamation point.”  Son Two is as tall as an industrial refrigerator, but only as wide as an icicle in the freezer compartment.  He can take in food all day, but somehow the shelves stay empty.
“Back up slowly and don’t make eye contact.  She’ll try to lure you in with homemade doughnuts and full fat cream cheese.”  But it was like I was talking to Angel Food.  Son Two was gone and there was nothing but air. 

I tried to run, but out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a cover picture of made-from-scratch banana pudding that would make my granny ask for more.

Dinner that night was especially tasty, finished off with a delicious dessert. 
Zombies may want brain food, but banana pudding is food for the soul.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Gonna Fly Now

I’m contemplating taking a trip.  It doesn’t look that far on the map.  A few states up, maybe a little to the left, give or take a few fast food restaurants and a national monument or two, but stopping short of making a pass over scary bodies of water if you don’t count the restrooms on the Interstate.

But I’d have to fly.  I’m not afraid of flying; I did it in quite a carefree manner before I got married.

In 1982.   

Thirty years ago we didn’t have to take our shoes off to get permission to board the plane.  As a matter of fact, we didn’t have to take ANYTHING off to board the plane.  We checked our luggage for free and got clever little bags of peanuts for a snack at naptime.  It was better than kindergarten.

The nice people at the gate set my pocketbook on a little conveyor that ran through a box that looked like a tiny carwash without the water or me screaming where nobody could hear me, and sent me on my way.  They figured out I had no money or authentic signed Elvis photographs and wished me well.  We parted as friends.

These days I’ve heard so many horror stories, I’m afraid to approach the airport without hiring Chuck Norris to serve as my personal bodyguard.  If I can’t get Chuck, I could make do with my husband before he's had his morning coffee. But that seems cruel, although not unusual.

I’m not afraid of flying, I’m afraid of TSA.

I’ve heard ugly stories about patdowns, and I don’t want to get my Spanx in a wad over how much Preparation H I’m bringing on board. Beauty pageant contestants use it to tighten the skin on their assets, and I might need more than the allowed amount to look my best.

Also, I have trouble with shoes.  Sure, it’s no problem to kick off my orthopedic oxfords in the spirit of goodwill to protect our national safety, but at my age it could take the entire Olympic gymnastics team and a couple of off duty Air Marshals to get them on again.  Here agility is the key.  Even terrorists can’t increase flexibility in something that hasn’t exceeded a twenty-five degree angle in 35 years.  These hips don’t lie.

All in all I’m a trooper about anything that will keep folks safe.  But the fluid limitation is going to be a problem. Everyone is allowed a quart-sized carry-on baggie to hold personal items totaling no more than 3.4 ounces of fluid. I’m 54 years old.  I retain more water than that when I brush my teeth.

And if I’m going to have to bend over to tie my shoes, somebody needs to be holding something larger than a quart-sized baggie.

Those Interstate restrooms are looking better all the time.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013


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.



Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Danger Cat: Roll Out!

It’s not that I don’t like surprises.  I just like to know what they’re going to be before they happen, in case I need to phone 9-1-1 where they keep a disaster specialist dedicated to me on hand.

I like to know that the birthday cake is covered in trick candles that won’t blow out before I waste a wish.  Just wait, Mom. I’ve waited 45 years for revenge.  I’m pretending to forgive you so they’ll let me in heaven.

I like to know that the place we’re going for dinner has a dress code so I won’t wear the pants with the heart-shaped ink stain in the middle of the rear view.

I like to know before the haircut that I’m not going to look like I have the Miley Cyrus teddy bear do.  That’s why I’ve kept the same stylist for 30 years.  She knows how to disguise any uh-oh moments I’ve created.  My superpower is creating uh-oh moments.

But we can’t always know what’s waiting for us.

When I got home for lunch today, there was a long and winding trail.

Of toilet paper. 

It stretched from a toilet paper puddle on the bathroom floor, down the hall, and into the room of the Second Son.  Like a yellow brick road.  Except made of toilet paper.

I forgot what it’s like to have a baby in the house.

At quarter past menopause that is a surprise indeed.

But my kids were raised by a mom who took in so many strays that her signature scent is Labrador accented with topnotes of tabby.

So when a pitiful mewing sound drifted through his window not long ago, Son the Second presented me with a bedraggled grandkitten who promptly overthrew the Labrador regime and established domination over her minions.  And nothing was safe.

Especially the toilet paper. 

This sink is protected by Danger Cat.
And in a home that’s seen two boys, a cache of cousins, a brace of neighborhood kids, and enough stray animals to create our own animal planet, it wasn’t really a surprise after all.





Friday, August 30, 2013

Beware the TimeShare

Today's the day! The line in the sandbar. The last Strawberry Field Forever.

Have you ever had a thorn that didn't just stick in your side, it went all the way through like a gut feeling shish kebob? That guy that always takes your parking place, the troll that manages to take credit for your job well done, the fat chick who takes the last piece of chocolate cake on the buffet?  Okay, that chick is me, so we'll overlook that one. Forgiveness is good for the soul - and your waistline if not  mine. 

We're heading into a holiday weekend and it's no time to let bygones be bygones. Time to get the collective karma off our chests and into somebody else's lounge chair where it belongs.  This is my beach blanket full of broken dreams and bitterness.  Add your baggage to the bucket brigade and have a wonderful weekend. 

Carpe Diem Dadgummit!

Dear Self-Inflated Condo People,

Per your multi-color, glossy newsletter, I am aware that your location is the place where beautiful people go to glory in the kiss of the sun.  Specialty shops and elegant restaurants abound on your exclusive island resort getaway.
As far as I'm concerned, the sun can kiss my beach bag.

We’re not a match made in Hilton Head.  My idea of a fun beach trip is a plate piled with crab legs, a splash of drawn butter on my Jimmy Buffet T-Shirt, and a bag full of sand-encrusted sea shells to take home in the trunk of my beater.

I realize we began our relationship as kind of a vacation resort blind date.  You were a gift from a departing “friend,” and I was anxious to feel ocean wavelets smacking against my ankles and broken shells piercing my feet once again. You never forget the good times.

It had been a long time.  That thing about absence and the heart is true when it comes to sea breezes, although I’ve experienced just the opposite with ex-husbands and overdue bills.

So, without taking time for logical thought, I took a gamble, I hopped the outbound train, I grabbed the golden ring; I accepted the gift of two condominiums at your resort.

It was my last resort.

The odds were stacked against me, the train derailed, the price of gold plummeted.

Sure, for someone who routinely spends $500 on a week’s vacation accommodations, your offer was a portfolio of suntanned memories, a patio dinner overlooking an ocean sunset, shrimping and crabbing in the creeks.
And I get the opportunity to pay double that every year.

Plus upgrades.  Because we don’t want the beautiful people struggling with outdated beach blankets. Sand in the suit detracts from the vacation experience.  Even crab legs can’t scratch that itch.

The last time I spent over $500, I kicked in extra for flowers to go by the headstone.  I have the memories for that one.  And they’re not all bad.

So now we’re at an impasse.  I have two of your condominiums and you want money from me.  I’ve tried to give you away, but that sentimental catechism that says, “if it’s yours it will come back to you” is wrong. 

It will come back to haunt you.

So I’ll sit here far away from sandy beaches, broken shells, and ocean breezes.

And you can stay there.

With the crabs.


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Dropped Calls

Dear Defunct Cell Phone People,

I got your end-of-service reminder text at breakfast. And at noon. And at dinnertime.

Every day for two weeks.

Maybe you’re not getting the message.

We’re through.

You might be surprised to find out that I don’t need a phone that Facebooks, Twitters, or plots the shortest route to the doughnut shop.  I got my phone so the kids could call if they ran out of gas or had an accident.

Or if I did.

Or in case I needed to retaliate when someone I was having an in-person conversation with put me on hold to answer their phone.

My apologies to my cardiologist.  And to old man Brenner.  I didn’t realize it was an emergency.

At this time I would like to thank you for your interest in my communicational well-being.  I appreciate your concern that I will soon lose the telephone number I have kept through so many wrong numbers.  I’m not sure who people will call for delivery service now that I’m gone, but I will undoubtedly be replaced at this number within the next fifteen minutes.  I imagine there is some poor guy out there who will soon get a call for a dozen Extra Cheese Pepperoni and Jalapeno Pan Pizzas, Heavy on the Red, and will try to explain to seventeen people with nicknames like Kojak, Tiny, and Pork Chop that he doesn’t deliver.

There is a family reunion full of people who are even now eyeing one another’s pocketbooks, thinking a purse-bottom peppermint might save them from starvation while they wait for thirteen orders of bread sticks that I’m never going to bring to their feast.  I’m not Dominoes.

I’m not even DiGiorno’s.

There’s also the bill collector that has called faithfully every week. His tenacity is inspiring, even though I have never opened, nor do I expect to, an account at Fringe and Frolics.

Can you see where this is going, Cell Phone People?  I’ve let your phone service lapse on purpose because I’ve found another phone. One that can help me with my goal to communicate without requiring the use of a foreign language translator, two English to Portuguese reference books, and a link to the Urban Dictionary.

As an example (this is true), my last text on your edgy, new-age touch screen read:

Desr Captaim,
I’ll be eivng back. Xp’yoke wa’t go biu this?
I love yoj.

My husband thought he received a vulgar text from a Klingon.

Which is kind of redundant if you know Klingons.

But, dear Cell Phone People, times haven’t always been bad.  Whoever the stranger was that wished me Happy Mother’s Day with an extensive musical message brought a tear to my eye.

Because they used up my last six minutes.

So we’re through. Let’s part without bad feelings, or reminder texts that continue for six months and include jolly holiday messages touting Santa Savings. There’s a new phone in town that knows how to speak my language. 

If I can figure out how to turn it on.





Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Bugging Out

School started this week.  I didn’t go.  I have a framed piece of paper hanging on my wall (sitting on the floor behind the door) that says I already went.

So why am I getting graded?

My email brings me lots of things. Some of them are surprises. Like coupons for someone named Bridget.

Or a progress report for someone else. Studying bugs. In Missouri.

Like we don’t have enough random insects to hide behind the visor and jump out at red lights here in South Carolina.

You can study bugs in college?  That sounds like one of those new-age majors, like The History of Star Trek or Implications of My Little Pony on World Weather Patterns.

I was an English major, so really it works out about the same.

I thought of writing back and offering to study Spider-Man, but apparently spiders don’t count.

Too many legs.  I thought it was just enough.

The body of the email looks like a midterm progress report, which is the sort of thing I’m likely to fail if we happen to get for life. 

And there’s a Pollinator Research Video, which sounds altogether too personal to show in school, even in an honors class. 

I’d probably fail anyway.  Once you get past 50, your Pollinator is not an On Demand service.

Another one of the things we’re being graded on is an insect collecting video.

I freaked out when an ant ran across my keyboard. 

I’m not expecting any progress.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

School Days - Fists and Furies

I need a lunchbox for the Captain, but I’m afraid to go to Wal-Mart.

For local kids, it’s the last week of summer.  Moms across the county have been crossing off the days since June.  They’ve been having Craft Fun with Kids for three months.

If Mom has to glitter glue one more popsicle stick, everyone will die.

The week before school starts, ordinary Moms use their superpowers to supply their kids with every item necessary to get them out of the living room and into the classroom where they can’t spread peanut butter on the dog.

Reach for the wrong thing at WalMart and it’s Clash of the Titans.  Perseus tries to wrestle the last My Little Pony lunchbox with Streamers and Rainbows from the minions of the underworld.

Things aren’t looking good for Perseus.

My boys are long past the Dog Days of Nothing To Do, but I still can’t think of ninety days of Pokemon reruns without shivering a little.  Then there was craft day. Son One made Son Two into a cardboard box robot.  I caught him just before he punched out the eye holes.

With his fist.

The Furies couldn’t have kept me from that last pack of notebook paper.

So even though the Captain needs a new lunchbox, he can wait another week or two.  But I may still go to Wal-Mart.

And pick up some protective gear for the teacher.