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, February 23, 2009

Duck and Wiicover

When it comes to home entertainment systems, the Nintendo Wii is the best bet for indiscriminate head injuries I’ve ever encountered.

Now that there’s a video game that doesn’t require knowledge of the access code for disarming thermonuclear missiles in order to work the controller, millions of people around the globe are dropping their weapons of mass entertainment and turning to the Wii.

Personally, I appreciate the fact that any six year old can map out new nations using the XBox 360 or any of the PlayStation stable, but I’m past the age where bending over to tie my shoes can be accomplished without the aid of a small child and a first responder in an emergency vehicle . Dadgummit, I need help. So under the guise of rewarding good grades and the relief of high school graduation, we bought a Wii.

No longer forced to live life as a virtual spectator, I picked up my plastic controller and dove right into Wii Sports. The first day I came down with tennis elbow, pulled a hamstring, and bruised a bowl of Golden Delicious Apples that were loitering menacingly on the coffee table.

Sure there are some problem areas. I have trouble remembering to push the A button to start ("The big, round button under your thumb, Mom."), and I have trouble focusing on the play instead of watching the cute character on screen cavort around the court in her spiffy duds, but after that I’m home free.

Eventually through trial and broken glass, I discovered that it’s best to use the wrist strap to prevent unwanted projectile activity. It’s altogether unsettling to clock the dog in the head yet again with an errant game controller that flies across the living room as if it were on a nonstop flight to Paris. Then you have to stop the game in the middle of a set to transport the Labrador, who is holding a damp cloth to his forehead with one paw and muttering unkind words about your aim, to the vet. I have to admit to some feelings of guilt that he's given up retrieving because of a bit of bad aim on my part.

I don’t know about you, but there’s nobody like family to spout sarcastic comments and unkind advice when you’re trying your hand at a new activity, although I think the dog is very fetching in the new pith helmet, in spite of the obvious sarcastic implications. It fits a little tight around the ears and he’s somewhat wary of the chin strap, but it fits in just fine when he hides under the coffee table to phone his therapist.

The latest casualty was Bill Dear, but it seems like a grown man with dozens of years experience working with high voltage machinery would be aware of the dangers of an unsecured battery compartment door. Upon unpacking the system, the children had, as required by law, lost the little piece of plastic that keeps batteries neatly in place and, strictly against OSHA standards, secured the batteries in place with an unregulated rubber band.

My enthusiastic backswing launched a volley of battery bullets that took out the ugly lamp from his bachelor days, six wide-eyed Precious Moments figurines, and a Girl Scout delivering cookies at the side door. Bill just managed to avoid the rocket by executing a double somersault with a half twist over the back of the couch, which would have been Olympic gold material if he had left the ceiling fan in working order and managed to keep his feet together on the landing.

All in all, everything has worked out quite nicely. I got a new lamp, Bill Dear is expecting to be able to return to work next week and the dog has become quite attached to the technicians at the vet’s office.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Snack Attack

Due to recent sugar attacks around the country, it is important to familiarize yourself with safety tips designed to protect you and any sugary snack in your possession. The next strike could happen anywhere and at any time of day, although a remarkable amount of activity takes place during the American Idol audition shows. Amazingly, unidentified sources claim that more than 50% of attacks happen in your own home. I personally discovered this through a traumatic incident involving my recliner couch.

One night as I reclined lazily on the couch taking in a rousing game of Wheel of Fortune and making a sport of guessing what sort of fashion abomination Vanna would exploit that particular evening, I casually tore a tiny corner from a snack-size candy bar. Immediately, three starving dogs, two ravenous teenagers, and a fluffy kitten on the Atkins diet took up strategic positions around the den, blocking all exits and creating an impassable moat made of drool. I can’t be sure because of the size involved, but I think the kitten was wearing a SWAT team uniform.

Ordinarily I am not a violent person, but I would not hesitate to de-kidney anyone who tried to steal my Almond Joy. Still, I couldn’t believe snack-theft could happen to me. Don’t wait until you’re a victim. Follow my tips and hang on to your Twinkie when times get tough.

1. Find an easily defensible location for snacking. The bathroom may appear to be safe, but chocolate-deprived bandits may well charge the door, forcing you to flush the goods. Instead, pick a low-traffic location such as the laundry room. The predator’s natural fear of enforced sock-cuffing or towel-folding will provide natural protection.

2. Should a family member or other assailant approach you for a bite of your Kit Kat bar, do not give it to him. Distract him by throwing the wrapper over his head. While he is checking the paper for melted chocolate and toffee bits, escape over the couch. Run in a zig zag pattern to avoid tripping over the dog who is undoubtedly lingering in the area and will begin a lateral defense in an attempt to snag free-falling crumbs.

3. Try not to eat in a populated, well-lit area, such as the kitchen where, more than likely, stray family members, assorted door-to-door salesmen, and a nice selection of neighbor’s kids are hanging onto the refrigerator door staring balefully into the freezer chanting “Klondike Bar. Klondike Bar.”

4. Women have a tendency to sit in their recliners and open a Snickers bar while they chat on the phone or balance their checkbook. Never do this. Distraction is the open window of opportunity for a chocolate thief. Trudge into the dining room mumbling random comments about polishing the silver. As soon as the door swings shut, pop that candy bar into your mouth like it was a chocolate covered Chiclet.

5. Sometimes, even with proper precautions, your territory may be breached by the enemy. If the predator has a weapon, please be cautious. A baby with a wet diaper should be taken seriously. Take time to tuck the candy bar into your underwear drawer in order to avoid a stressful situation at the changing table. In some instances, chocolate has been known to serve as an unwitting player in a game of biological warfare.

Even after all of these precautions it may, in some instances, be easier to share. Unless it involves Girl Scout cookies. Then it’s every man for himself.

Especially if he’s a girl.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

50 Is Not A Speed Trap (It's My Birthday!)

Some of my friends are slowing down for 50. Not me. I'm hitting the gas and leaving three feet of tire marks and twenty dollars worth of fumes behind me. I'm not complaining about my life so far--I'm married to the man of my dreams who hardly ever looks at me like I've taken leave of my senses, and I have two sons who can play Guitar Hero like they were born with Stratocasters in their hands. I just don't want the next 50 years to be the second lap of the same race.

Sure, I'm slower. I'm slower to get angry. And I'm heavier. I’m carrying some wonderful memories along with me. But they don't have a parking space near the Pearly Gates reserved for those that are pokey and fat. So, God willing, I’m gathering myself up to forge ahead, full throttle, without thinking whether this 5-0 bump in the road will send me soaring into the blue or skidding into a ditch.

I'm going flat out, full speed, wide open and see where it takes me. Whether it’s around the next left-hand turn or into the pit, there’s a story waiting to unfold. I’ll have plenty of time later when I'm done with the race and waiting to see who comes in second to check out the rear view and see what I left behind. If I'm still interested.

I'm going to make as many people laugh as I can today, I’ll put off crying until tomorrow, and I’ll learn to dance the can can without throwing out a hip.

I can hunt my walking stick and liniment later. WalMart stays open all night.

Wonder if they’ll rotate my tires.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Anything But Tuna (AW Blogroll for February)

The February Blogroll on Love vs. Romance is reflecting more opinions than a poll for the best Superbowl commercial (I’m a softie for the Clydesdales). But for the most part, Love is ahead in the count. If this were a tennis match, Love would be at Game Point and Romance would have Love. Funny, that’s how it’s worked out for me, too.

We’ve heard from Ralph Pines, Razib Ahmed, Kat Frass, and Benjamin Solah. I’d like to turn from Benjamin’s political perspective toward more personal politics. Then we’ll be off to Scribbletown to see what’s happening there.

Anything But Tuna

“It doesn’t bother you?”

“Nope. I think it’s fine if you choose to shave your legs only in months containing an ‘R.’ Pull up your socks and nobody will notice.”

Bill threw a wool jacket over one arm to have ready in case my hot flashes wore off before we got home. A man who overlooks legs that would choke a weedeater and remembers to bring along an overcoat when the temperature is topping 70. Who says romance is dead? All the same, for my fiftieth birthday, I’m hoping someone will give me a working thermostat.

Romance when I was 20 meant heels, hose, a revealing dress, and a delicious dinner with a date fueled by hormones. These days I keep my hormones in a bottle, and wearing heels means a good chance of spending the evening in the not-so-cheap seats in the Emergency Room draped in a hospital gown that reveals more than any dress I ever owned. I don’t consider it a date if I have to pay the deductible on my health insurance.

I’ve known Bill Dear since he was married to the Tuna Casserole Maker and I was married to the Salesman. That was back before home computers, but right after hand-held calculators became such a hit. Having already surfed the Marital Blissless superhighway with a sweet talker, I was suspicious of Romance, a slippery devil I couldn’t count on when the going got tough or long division was involved.

But these days I recognize Romance for what it is when it grows up: Love in action. So Bill doesn’t try to sell me on the idea of an electric razor for the Mohawk on my shins. And I feed him pot roast. Or barbecued ribs.

Anything but tuna.

Remaining Blogroll:
Cathy C

Saturday, February 7, 2009

25 for 50 More

I’ve been tagged by a mob of folks (3) to share 25 things about myself that will astound my friends. I’m supposed to do this on Facebook, but I haven’t figured out how to do that even though Carolyn told me. Also, since I a) don’t have any friends and b) already astound those who know me, but not necessarily in a desirable way, it took me some time to consider this proposition. But in the light of c) I need a blog post for my birthday month, I thought I could join in the spirit of the thing and spew some information. Much like projectile vomiting of vital statistics. Enthralled? Aghast with anticipation? You’d rather exfoliate your face with a hedgehog? Great! Let’s see how big a mess we can make.

1. I graduated college in the days when computerization for the common person seemed almost as possible as the invention of fat-free cheese. And look at us now.
2. I majored in English. And graduated with honors. That and the senior citizen’s discount at Jack in the Box will put you in debt for a cup of coffee.
3. I hate coffee.
4. I didn’t pursue a degree that would result in a job because 1) I am passionate about literature and b) I planned to marry a rich entrepreneur who would supply me with chocolate covered cherries and books for the rest of my carefree life.
5. I love chocolate covered cherries.
6. I love books.
7. Life is not a novel by one of the Bronte sisters. Or one the kind featuring Fabio with flowing hair and a ripped bodice on the cover. God often finds your plans for life amusing. Which may not seem to go with the other statements, but really does.
8. My parents agreed to pay for my education as long as I was not married, because after that I would be officially On My Own.
9. I hold a Bachelor’s Degree instead of a Doctorate. If I’d remained a bachelor, I’d be a Doctor today.
10. I got married because I found a man that, at the age of 19, seemed destined for a future that would supply my needs. (See number 4.)
11. I discovered that truths you hold at 19 don’t necessarily write checks on the account of Mature Thinking payable in chocolates and book club memberships.
12. I gave birth to two sons.
13. I discovered that you cannot change the gender of an unborn child by buying frilly baby dresses. You can, however, create stories that your friends and family will tell at your expense for generations to come.
14. I got divorced because he jumped out of the way when I threw the jewelry box, thereby damaging a perfectly good jewelry box, a six-inch square section of the bedroom wall, and sixteen beaded bracelets that I got at a yard sale. Prosecution rests.
15. I spent two years as a single Mom.
16. I discovered that sometimes it’s all right to give the kids cereal for supper, and that if it takes all your energy to do that, it’s okay to call for early bedtimes all around.
17. I married Bill, a dear man who decided it was easier to get married than to make a six-hour round trip every weekend to empty my trash and cut my grass.
18. I learned that sometimes a newly-emptied trash can says “I love you” better than a dozen roses ever could.
19. I got a cat. And a cat. And a cat.
20. I got a dog or three.
21. I attract stray animals like black pants attract extraneous lint and animal hair.
22. I learned that some men really do have that jaw muscle that twitches in their cheek when they are furiously angry. Just like in the romance novels
23. I learned that a wife that can’t say no to stray animals is a major cause of marital stress.
24. I promised not to take in any more animals. Not even the ferret who wandered down my driveway. I fed it, but I did not keep it.
25. I learned that my first 50 years was not just practice; it was really life. I plan to remember that during my next 50 years. Which will start Thursday, February 12. Feel free to encourage me on my journey with good wishes. And gifts.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Confederate Cooking

I don’t mean to speak ill of the deep fried, but sometimes in the South we get carried away. I’ll admit that there’s nothing like a pot full of oil crackling on the front burner to bring a tear to my eye, but it’s a fact that anything that will lay still long enough for us to roll in flour is likely to end up fried in enough fat to clone a cow.

Also, it’s important to know that there are just some things that were never intended to produce gravy. I had a friend who swore he could whip up a fine gravy from flounder drippings, but I just can’t imagine ladling fish juice over a hot biscuit on a cold winter’s night. Of course, I was doubtful about shrimp and grits, too, until I tried them, and now I’m an absolute addict, but it just doesn’t seem plausible to believe you can get a thick, rich gravy from a creature that lies as flat as a shingle on the ocean floor and has to have both eyes on one side to see.

On the other side of the cornbread, there are some items that turn up at the table with gravy that couldn’t have been come by naturally. Despite the boastings of “homestyle” gravy on every menu item from pot roast to potatoes, only some of these are the chosen few; those selections ordained to produce broth which is the fount from which scrumptious brown gravy flows.

As a dear friend from an undiscosed geographical location says as she lifts five pounds of ground chuck in the natural form of a free-range meatloaf (an 11 x 13 rectangle) from her oven, “grease isn’t broth.”

Monday, February 2, 2009

Super Powers

Every time the kids go see a movie where some grown man is pulling on a mask and a pair of stretch pants to head out to the streets for an evening of crime fighting, they come home discussing how great it would be to have super powers. I’ve been on the pulling side of stretch pants many times in my life and I can tell you right now that if you can get the deceitful things on without blowing out a seam or rupturing a kidney, you already have superpowers. If you can do it without ruining a new manicure, you can be leader of the team.

The last time I tried to put on a pair of stretch jeans, I lost two press-on nails, a layer of fake tan, and three pounds in sweat currency. When I stood up, I realized I hadn’t put on my shoes. Basic science and a hearty dose of common sense told me that if I bent over, the ensuing explosion would result in a pair of shredded pants hanging from an elastic waistband. Don’t tell me I don’t know how the Hulk feels. I went barefoot that day.

I do have a certain reverence for Superman, though. Anybody who can change into blue tights and a red Speedo in 2.5 seconds in a telephone booth possesses some natural skills. However due to changes in technology, there are precious few telephone booths in existence, and I just can’t see the whole scenario having the same effect if Superman dashed into a Sprint kiosk at the mall. Superman is apt to emerge from the booth with six rows of sparkly phone bling, a Velcro carrying case with snap-tight closure, and a weekend of free anytime minutes.

Dressing myself is a remarkable talent, but not my only claim to extraneous powers. I can tell by the ring of my cell phone if Son Number 1 had an unfortunate encounter with the steamer at work, Son 2 needs money for gas, or the cat just produced a bouncing baby hairball in an undisclosed but widely traveled location in my newly carpeted hallway. My Mom-sense gives me a jolt when, somewhere in my living room, a child is feeding toxic-gas-producing hot dogs to the Dachshund. And I feel an overwhelming disturbance in the Force when anyone related to me by blood, marriage, or pet adoption dries their sneakers in the toaster.

All in all, I find that movie-type superpowers are over-rated. I never saw a single member of the Fantasic Four who could remove a jelly glass from the flushomatic on the first try. For that, you need a lot more than a cape and coloredy support hose.

You need a Mom with the plumber on speed dial.