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.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Not Talking Turkey - My Top Ten List

I have a friend who writes a witty letter to send to the far reaches of her family at Christmas time every year. Since I never purposely steal anyone’s idea unless I can do it better or score first blood, I decided to compose an annual Thanksgiving letter instead, so that mine will be done before she gets out her shiny balls and Ho Ho’s. But on further reflection, I don’t want to risk competing with a lady who has enough culture to inquire, “What wine goes with roadkill?”

Therefore, in an act of stubborn cowardice, I have decided instead to present the top ten list of things I’ve learned this year. There’s been a lot of study material.

I learned that Life Lessons are either immensely painful or expensive. And also that one does not exclude the other.

I learned that driving a kidney patient to the hospital requires you to slow down, at least over the railroad tracks.

I learned that kidneys must be emptied more often than pockets at a police station and that the announcement that a patient’s kidneys are about to explode like the planet Alderan under attack from a fully functional Death Star shortens the wait at the Emergency Room immensely.

Transporting the patient home across the same railroad tracks, I learned that men with catheters DO NOT have a sense of humor.

I learned that the insurance company will pay for a bandaid quite cheerfully, but morphine requires an offering of type O positive and Taylor Swift tickets with backstage passes for the daughter of the insurance company’s CEO—and 350 of her closest friends.

I learned that if the kidney patient schedules a physical to see if anything else is wrong; something will be.

I learned that triglycerides are neither a good name for a rock band, nor a circus acrobatic act that revolves around a three-wheeled vehicle.

I learned to appreciate whole grain bread, lean meats, garden vegetables, and fresh fruit.

I learned that “refrigerate after opening” doesn’t necessarily apply to fresh fruit.

I learned that poached, grilled, boiled, and baked fish are still basically fish. Unless corn meal and hot grease are involved, all recipes are the same. Disclaimer: This is just an observation. I like fish. Please do not send me your recipe. I rejected Martha Stewart and I’ll reject you.

I learned that even though Life Lessons are expensive and painful and fraught with adventures that make you late for supper, having a healthy husband makes it all worthwhile. Tomorrow, between the green beans and Splenda-sweetened tea, I'll be putting in a word of thanks for that.

(Of course, that’s 11 things on the list. But when it comes to lessons, I was always an overachiever anyway. Happy Thanksgiving, Honey!)

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Other End of the Telescope

I have it on good authority (Wikipedia or The Smoking Gun, I can’t remember which) that sometimes when people make discoveries or craft clever inventions that could change the face of the world, they irresponsibly share their findings with other people instead of keeping the whole thing to themselves to pass off to huge conglomerates later for outstanding sums of money.

That’s what a man named Galileo did all those dusty years ago and is the reason I am now sorting through headlines that shout peculiar things about the public display of various bits of Galileo’s anatomy, which somehow became separated from the whole of Galileo in general. If you’re interested at all in the science of mathematics, you’ll be excited to hear that these random pieces are known as fractions, and therefore Galileo is still teaching us things long after he was buried, which is when he did the most traveling.

It seems that Galileo Galilei, which would be a smashing name for a romance novelist, came to be known by the Church as a Very Bad Boy. Back then Church was spoken with a capital C and in charge of the way people thought about things. Today Kanye West and Taylor Swift take care of all that.

The Church was mad because after Galileo invented a nifty tool called the telescope, he found out that the earth spun circles around the sun instead of the other way around, which caused me to fail Physical Science and send my Grade Point Average, which is essential for getting allowance, into the dumpster.

The Church put Galileo under arrest in his house where he whiled away the last years of his life playing video games in the basement instead of inventing more stuff like You Tube or Google or things like that which would make life easier for those of us who were grounded for making bad grades in science.

The Church wouldn’t let Galileo, whose name begins to look funny after you write it a lot, be buried any place good like under the Hollywood sign or on Broadway. So a long time after he died, people who secretly liked the telescope because they could use it to spy on their neighbors who should keep the curtains closed anyway, dug up Galileo’s bones and took him to be buried near his best friend Michelangelo. During this important scientific process, known as migration, a person described in local stone tablets as an admirer, lopped off some of Galileo's spare body parts in case there was a market for them on e-Bay. In case it comes up, I’d rather my admirers just send a nice card.

However, since Galileo died before inventing e-Bay, which is really more like something another old guy named Da Vinci would come up with anyway, the random body bits got tucked away in the junk drawer in the kitchen or the box of Christmas decorations in the attic or in a spare teenager’s room, where they wouldn’t be found for many years.

Luckily for us, we live in a generation where we’ve discovered things of our own, like how bad it is to use water bottles more than once and that the decomposed body bits of our friend Galileo were hidden secretly in a box with a big statue of him on the top. Unfortunately this discovery came along too late for me to write a report and save my science grade, but maybe they’ll do somebody some good.

I don’t think Galileo will be using them any time soon.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Bar None

Man was fearfully and wonderfully made. And God looked at man, rubbed his chin, and said, “Man is lonesome. He needs someone who can remember to put a new bar of soap in the shower.”

So God made woman. A helpmate for the man; someone who could find the mustard behind the milk in the refrigerator. And who could produce two clean, matching socks from dust mites in the air at 6:30 a.m.

And who would emerge from the shower with a $20 hot oil frizz-reduction hair conditioning treatment streaming down her shoulders to locate and unwrap a new bar of soap so that the next person would not have to shower using the last bit of dandruff shampoo as a body scrub.

Only God knows why a man, who can remember the quarterly scores from every Super Bowl from the dawn of civilization to present day replays, cannot remember to replace the soap when he leaves the shower. Somewhere between reaching for the towel and stirring creamer into his coffee, his priorities shift.

But while God is chuckling over the soap sliver bit, woman is in the kitchen raising her hands to heaven and crying, “Lord, never mind the soap. Why can’t man learn to put the twist tie back on the bread? Why does he have to do that twirl and tuck thing with the bread wrapper? You know I hate that.”

And God smiled. “He’s innovative.”

Then woman heads to the laundry room to bring new life to dingy whites and to zap spaghetti spots with her miracle stain remover stick. And she cries to heaven again, “Lord, why can’t he simply place his dirty underwear in the laundry basket? Why must he do that foot-flip snatch and grab act with his boxers? You know I’m expected to applaud every single time he catches them.”

And God nodded knowingly. “He’s creative.”

“Okay, God, I get it. Those little things that make me crazier than a salesclerk on Black Friday are the things he uses to make a better way in life. But just between you and me, God, what about that thing with the remote? Why can’t he leave the TV on one channel for longer than it takes to focus on David Letterman’s tooth gap?”

“Oh, that’s easy, God replied. That’s to keep you from having to watch three straight hours of How to Make Your Own Bait on the Fishing Channel.”

“You ARE wise,” Woman whispered. “Tell me, though. In heaven will he wake up every morning scratching his backside?”

“I’m working on that one,” answered God pensively. “The trouble is we have a problem with everybody staying clean.”

“In heaven?” The woman was astounded. “How can that be?”

“Well,” sighed God. “Everybody’s so busy watching television and looking for the mustard in the refrigerator, that nobody ever remembers to put new soap in the shower.”

Monday, November 16, 2009

Pole Position

I understand that a Las Vegas strip club hauled around a load of strippers dancing on a pole in the back of a pick-up truck as an advertisement for their business. I’m from the Southern United States where the major crop is orange construction cones and the state speed limit is “SLOW--MEN WORKING.” It’s hard for me to imagine anything but an ice cream truck, the roto-rooter man, or a wheat farmer on a combine harvester making a profit at these speeds.

I don’t know exactly what these folks were advertising, but the only business with a pole around here is Charlie’s Barber Shop and mostly it’s the pole that goes round and round and not the employees, unless Shirlene is trying to even up Tiny Jones’s crew cut again. Carting around a bunch of girls in the back of truck is something we do for the Christmas parade and generally they keep their uniforms on and shake their pom poms.

Other than that usually it’s a hound dog or an Almost Labrador in the back of the truck and they’re mostly advertising that you’d be better off not trying to take anything from the truck. Some people think the deer rifle in the back window is the most dangerous automotive accessory, but I know a Chihuahua that will go Cujo on anybody that gets near enough to touch his stuffed lambie toy.

I’ve never been to Las Vegas and I don’t think I want to go. If there are as many one-armed bandits there as I’ve heard, they’re liable to get into it with all those pick-up girls and it would be impossible to have any luck at the slots. I'll stay down here and risk lambing time with Cujo.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Alfredo Agony

*Yep, I've joined another blog carnival. If I have to suffer, I want to share it with you. Today's humor topic is Injustice. Let's watch the fun.*

Injustice is a lot like a cat. Its path is unplanned and chaotic, but when it settles in your lap, it's there long enough to turn your legs into pincushions unless someone starts up the electric can opener and whirs your way to freedom.

That’s how I feel about the Alfredo sauce. Not the cat part; there’s no cure for that short of finding someone with a more comfortable lap or a bit of string stuck to their shoe. But from years of experience as the youngest of four children, and therefore susceptible to various methods of sibling torture, I have intimate knowledge that injustice is tolerable only when it is ruining the lives of people I don’t know.

When it hits me squarely in the grocery store shelf, it’s unbearable.

The trouble is that I’m not the type that spends a lot of time in the kitchen for fun. For me cooking doesn’t have the allure that, say, cruising down the Autobahn at a number divisible by 150 or stalking Johnny Depp on Twitter might have.

So in the interest of compromise, which is acceptable whenever it benefits me personally, I like to visit the “bottled for your convenience by the loving hands of somebody else” section of the store for a couple of jars of Alfredo sauce for a quick, pre-Twitter meal.

I’ll even go as far as opening the jars myself when I get home instead of asking the “What’s For Dinner” twins to do it for me. Teenage boys are nice to have around the house when you’ve got leftover pizza on hand or there’s some obvious body humor jokes that have been seriously overlooked, but when it comes to kitchen labor, they’re about as useful as a bonnet on a tom cat.

My doctor tells me that eating the stuff is kind of like caulking your arteries, but I don’t know much about caulk, either, except that it’s not near as good as the white sauce when you add it to noodles. It’s just one of nature’s little jokes that something so good to eat fills the body’s passageways with the stuff that Elmer’s is made of. But that’s injustice for you. Once you get a little patch, it spreads like tacky clothes in Ashley Olson’s closet.

If it’s that bad for me, I want to get it on sale. The savings offset the petrified artery situation. But it’s when the little glass jars of goodness go on sale that I have a problem.

I suspect my family is holding the newspaper hostage. Or perhaps once the newsprint hits the breakfast table, Scottie beams the whole thing down to a planet filled children who rip out the comic sections and stuff the rest behind the couch. So before I find out the stuff is on sale, it’s all sold out.

You’d think you could count on your family when time is short and price reductions are on the line. But the priorities in my house vary widely according to random factors such as the amount of gasoline in the car or the availability of high-speed Internet access. When it comes to something as mundane as the grocery store circulars, interest polls reach a new low, and the newspaper ends up as kitty litter.

So when I aim my little grocery cart toward the pasta aisle, there’s nothing there but an empty shelf and an echo.

I guess it’s take-out for supper again. But there’s an Italian restaurant right down the street. I think I can live with the injustice.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Free Falling

Last Sunday I celebrated the peak weekend of the glorious colors of autumn by performing a full gainer with a half twist off the bottom step, across the driveway, and ending with a picturesque slide through a dainty covering of fallen leaves into the family’s economy car.

While I achieved great strides in velocity and form, I’m afraid I miscalculated the landing and celebrated readjusting my spinal column and churning my bicep into goose liver pate, which is a fancy name for squashy stuff.

There wasn’t a row of discerning judges to grade my progress, but I’m pretty sure the two Labradors watching were more impressed by a fleeing squirrel. Maybe next time I’ll stuff my cheeks with acorns and scale a nearby oak.

This time, however, I chose skiing through mud, which is almost as cheerfully effective as skiing with my feet strapped to chipmunks, as a mode of transportation. The good news is that I made it to the car in record time, which was impressive even though my chosen destination was the newspaper box across the street.

As a bonus, I managed to flatten out the tall, wiry weeds sprouting ambitiously down the hill beside the steps, so that we don’t really need to do that last bit of edging around the steps before winter. The doctor says the weed burns should wear off by next Thursday and that there's a fancy name for the kind of shave that resulted.

In the movies, loving and concerned family pets curl around stranded snowbound travelers, keeping them warm and secure until help arrives. Peering down the driveway I spotted a Labrador glancing back over one shoulder with a puzzled look. He shrugged and the pair disappeared around the bend in search of stray tennis balls. Lassie would have run for help. These two wouldn’t come to my aid if my skeleton were made of Milk Bones.

Luckily Bill, my Prince in White Reeboks, came to the rescue and committed an act of First Aid. He can do more with a single Ace Bandage than most people can do with a fully stocked Emergency Responder Kit, a bottle of Bactine spray, and the Jaws of Life. By the time he was done with the ice packs and bandages I looked like a Michelin Man version of the White Witch from the Chronicles of Narnia.

It just goes to show you. Dog may be man’s best friend, but when it comes to marking the onset of Autumn with a Great Fall, nothing beats the King’s men for putting Humpty Dumpty together again.