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.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Santa's Last Chance

Dear Santa,

As I sit here, wrapped in crumpled piles of swaddling tissue, packing away voided warranties and random battery compartment doors, it occurs to me that I didn’t ask you for the right thing this year.

Sure, I loved the foot bath with the detachable comfort pads that can double as missiles in the hands of untrained guerilla warriors, and the electric carving knife you must have used to hack your way out of the jungles of the North Pole.

They were ideal gifts, if not exactly what I specified on the order form, but I understand your strict no-exchange policy is based on a platoon of elves who have given up a season of toy-making extravaganza for a heady round of celebratory drinking on a southbound ice floe.

However, gazing around at the faces of my family members in the soft glow of candlelight, I’m reminded that I am surely part of a group somewhere that knows not to plug three space heaters and a Dragon Master’s ring into the same power strip.

I’ve thought about it a long time and I’m sure that somewhere there is a family wrapped in individual lamb-print Snuggies, perched on a fluffy couch devoid of a protective coating of animal fur, watching Partridge Family reruns and humming “Come On Get Happy” in resonating harmony.

I still have faith that it is possible to watch an entire television show without missing the first ten minutes because you have to get to the next level before you can save your game. Surely even the Black Ops guys can hold their focus while I watch Wheel of Fortune.

My real family doesn’t have video games. They play interactive card games for entertainment on Friday nights and nobody makes the yukky face and pouts when they draw the Old Maid. They can share snacks without shooting uncooked popcorn kernels through a straw to see who can put out the living room light first. And they never slop chocolate pudding onto anyone’s exposed flesh and scream, “Look what the dog did!”

So, dear Santa, I am writing an advance letter for next Christmas. For now, I will keep the family who finds it entertaining to spend three days of an expensive beach vacation in the hotel room watching Shark Week on public television.

I understand that the child who asked for the titanium Spork for Christmas could be under the influence of unnatural substances beyond my control, such as science fiction, but apart from joining forces with Dr. Every Which Way But Loose or Bill Gates or one of those other bizarre alien creatures, there’s really nothing I can do. Besides, I’m sure the Captain's influence is strong in that one.

But next year, Santa, I would like to find my real family, the people who do not consider a group viewing of the Monty Python movie, "Searching for the Holy Grail" to be a religious experience, who do not convulse into hysterics when someone utters the word “nutcracker,” and who does not claim ownership like a terrorist group when there is a blatant disregard for sensitive personal airspace.

So, Santa, I’m writing in advance so that you have time to complete the paperwork. If you could arrange a transfer, I’d be most grateful. I’ll have my purple flannel puppy dog pajamas and my original issue Partridge Family albums all packed and ready to go.

There’s just one thing. The Dachshund only likes the red bits out of the kibble and the ankles of UPS delivery men, but there’s none better for tracking errant rabbits or undelivered parcels full of Christmas cookies. The Labradors take turns helping to load the dishwasher and riding shotgun on the way to the dump. They need a sense of purpose to be happy; a job other than licking stray butter wrappers, unlike the tribe of children who can live happily with a refrigerator full of empty milk jugs, eating cereal with gardening implements when all the spoons are dirty.

So when you find my new family, would you find one for the puppies as well? You might consider a sled dog team instead of reindeer. Bo can jump over two recliners full of sleeping cats with the right encouragement, and while I’m not one to divulge personal secrets, a fast-moving tennis ball at nose height that just stirs the whiskers is a powerful force to resist. I’d keep the cookies hidden, though. He gets a little sluggish after a dozen or so shortbreads.

Thanks for listening, Santa. Sometimes a chance to express my frustrations is all I need for peace and contentment. Not this time though. This time I want action. Don’t even think about not granting my request, or next year your trip will be mighty short.

I’ve told the Dachshund that you’re really from UPS. Resistance is futile.


Monday, December 27, 2010

Resolution Revolution

Now that we're two dress sizes away from having to form our resolutions for the New Year, I'd like to observe a moment of sarcasm for last year's goals. Looking back over this list from last year, I realize that I did accomplish one thing. See Resolution #3. I discovered that Taco Tiara handles the job nicely. (However they're not the A-Team for Leprechauns or buckets of gold)

The Resolution Trend is upon us, and much like the leg-warmer trend of the seventies, it crawls up your leg and leaves you with cold feet. But if Resolving is the thing to do, I may as well jump right in and point out my shortcomings. Lord knows if I don’t do it, the teenagers will.

Feel free to jump right in. The rules are simple: No setting goals that involve Paris Hilton in appearance or scope, no setting goals that involve such a vast amount of weight loss that a colon cleanse is indicated, and no setting goals that will prove detrimental to your overall lifestyle - honestly, it will not make you a better person to bake like Paula Deen. You’ll just spend more time in the kitchen, you’d have to expand to more extensive stretchy pants, and while you’re at it take a look at a recent picture. The woman is obviously a zombie. I haven’t seen eyes like that since Mystery Science Theatre 3000 ruled the airwaves.

So, with our ground rules, if not our sanity, intact, here are my Resolutions for the year:

1. To eat at least one meal without sharing with the dogs. How many bites does it take before the Labrador remembers that he still doesn’t like olives?

2. To go ahead and take the batteries out of the TV remote/game controller/digital camera before the boys beat me to it. Personal satisfaction is the name of the game here.

3. Find one easy-to-prepare meal that everyone in the family will eat. Perhaps I’ll also go in search of Leprechauns and buckets of gold.

4. To come home from any destination (including a trip to the mailbox) at least once without heading immediately to the bathroom. Honestly, predictability is so last year.

5. To go a full day without complaining about the speed of my Internet access, all the while bemoaning the days when people had to rely on the Pony Express or fax machines to deliver information.

6. Not to make more resolutions that I can feasibly accomplish. Which I automatically failed to do in Resolution Number One. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go make the dog a sandwich. Extra pastrami, no olives.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Neighborly Advice

Ten Commandments for My New Neighbor

Living in a duplex, I go through neighbors like a family of cats goes through a five pound bag of litter that freshens with every step, and I have some friendly advice. If you want to make a go of it in this neighborhood, you’ll listen up and not staple this list to the hood of my car like the last guy did. If you want a reference from him, he is residing peacefully at Happy Acres Memorial Gardens. Feel free to use my name.

1. Old tents and ripped cushions in lawn furniture may be acceptably repaired with duct tape. Back windows in old Fords or open wounds on small children may not. Neither is it a substitute for nails and a willingness to locate a hammer when your mailbox has been detached from its post. A mailbox trussed to a wooden spike by thirty rounds of silver adhesive looking like a tin can with a toothache causes undue stress in an already unstable housing market.

2. John Deere makes a wide selection of lawn tractors. That six month old goat you’ve got tethered to a hubcap with three feet of heavy links like he’s the anchor man on a baby goat chain gang is not an acceptable substitute. Let’s send you out on a short leash to get the morning paper and see if you affect a change of heart.

3. In the future, please Just Say No to the idea of mowing the lawn clad only in your underwear. Indulge in a roomy pair of gym shorts and you’ll find yourself zipping up the popularity poll in the neighborhood before you know it.

4. A privacy fence is for, well, privacy. Please don’t launch your youngest child over the top of the fence like a punted football to find out what we’ve got cooking outside. We are not responsible for stray grill marks.

5. If you have a taste for loud music, please play something I know or can understand the words to. Having the tune to a rap song I don’t know stuck in my head will lead to my hanging about in your bushes trying to find out what words sound like “scratch my itch.”

6. A swimming pool is commonly used for swimming. I’m sure your new bass boat will skip over the lake like a flat stone, but trying out your new motor in the above-ground will result in an appearance on Funniest Home Videos. Remember there’s nothing to impede your progress toward the slime pit across the street except that scraggly row of dandelions you call a flower garden.

7. Please don’t sneak over under cover of darkness to partake of the blueberries on my bushes. I’ll be glad to share. Just like you’ll be glad to share that mess of freshly caught trout with me next summer. Also, I don’t mind if your kids climb the tree in my back yard to purloin fruit. But keep in mind the results from a morning filled with little green apples leads to an afternoon filled with personal aerobics of a stressful kind.

8. I understand if your Uncle Earl had an evening of social entertaining that leads to a hearty headache the next morning. But if any more of his “nieces” ring my doorbell at three in the morning clad in leopard-print hip boots and a leather halter top and ask to use my litter box, I’m calling Animal Control.

9. This is the South. We surpass just about everyone in the number of per capita lawn ornaments. But those plywood cutouts of Granny bending over to show her polka dot bloomers have been done to death. At least get something classy like one of those windmills that look like the roadrunner’s legs are going in a circle. Roadrunners are like pearls. They’re always appropriate.

10. Close your curtains. The neighbors don’t need to know that it was necessary to summon the Jaws of Life to your home for the sole purpose of retrieving your wife from the Jacuzzi.

11. Here's an extra commandment, just because I'm feeling festive. If your idea of decorating for Christmas is tying a sprig of mistletoe to the beltloop in the back of your pants, walk slowly past my driveway. I have a large dog who has issues with anything sporting a bushy tail. And by the way, unless your name is Jeff Foxworthy, we don't require proof that you're a redneck.

Attached you’ll find a request for samples from your garden for quality assurance purposes, a form for proof of vaccinations, and a sterile baggie for DNA testing. Merry Christmas and welcome to the neighborhood.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Mulch and Mayhem

Whined to the Tune of Jingle Bells

Withered leaves, curled and dead

Falling from on high.

Poinsettias come in my door

Hang their heads and die!

Come on over and join me at An Army of Ermas where the hostess with the compostest is armpit deep in live Labradors and dead leaves. Oh, and hot glue. Don't forget the hot glue.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Festive Fish Stories

I can’t think why I gain weight during the holidays. I’m sure to eat a balanced diet from every food group: food made with cream soup, food made with Cool Whip, food that combines fruit with marshmallows in a creative way, and food that distant relatives make. And I’m always careful to use garnishes, such as triple chocolate cake in hot fudge sauce, with discretion.

But here I am again, straining the seams of my purple puppy dog pajamas and forcing the elastic in my stretchy pants to call for reinforcements. To take the stress off my seams, I generally go easy in the “food that distant relatives make” category.

What is it about seeing people only once a year that makes them think they can try out their experimental recipes without fear of retribution? Everybody has an aunt on a health food kick that makes everything with soy milk or an uncle who specialty is peanut butter casserole, but my family members have a special place in the Food Terrors Hall of Fame. (Their motto is “Smell This!”)

In honor of family unity, I have always suffered through the asparagus jello of a forgotten time, but from now on, I’m taking a stand on the Spinach and Raisin MangoTomato Balls.

I find that I can resist:

1. Any dish that combines candied cherries, chipped beef, and spices I can't pronounce.

2. Any dish that blends chocolate chips with any type of canned fish product.

3. Any finger food that leaves a residue on my hands that requires turpentine to remove.

The Captain always tries to find a way to avoid the experimental food festivities. Last year a friend asked him to go fly-fishing over the holidays, but instead he spent time in the local emergency room where they applied a topical medication that smelled like trout.

But now I’ve concocted a secret weapon. So next time I’m faced with Sauerkraut and Strawberry Casserole or Better Than Roadkill Chili, I’ll whip the top off the mason jar I’m keeping for such an occasion.

“What’s that?” the Captain asked me when the mixture etched a skull and crossbones on the inside of the jar.

I grinned and waved the jar tantalizingly under his nose. He jumped back. It takes less than that to make hardened criminals spill the details of their secret stash.

“Whoa. What IS that? Your great-grandaddy’s moonshine?”

“Better than that. My brother’s carp bait. He got the secret from Uncle Bud.”

“What’s in it?”

“I can't tell you,” I said, resealing the lid and cushioning the jar in a box lined with packing peanuts to insure the integrity of the solution.

“It’s an Old Family Recipe.”


“As a matter of fact, that’s what killed Uncle Bud.”

“What did he do, eat it?”

“No, he went fishing on Christmas and Aunt Edna found out.”

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Baby, It's Cold Inside!

Remember the song that said, "Button Up Your Overcoat?"
No, of course you don't; it's way before your time. It's not something that Justin Beiber is going to cover any time soon, anway. And speaking of cover. . .
Pull on your hoodie and slip on your flannel jammies, because it's frost and freeze time. . .in the powder room. I don't see why I have to suffer freezer burn on my rump roast just because our power bill is
bigger than the stack of presents under grandma's Christmas tree.
Join me at Stage of Life where we check on the Captain's tendency to post armed guards around the thermostat.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Santa's Special Forces

I don’t know if all the recent news feeds about America raising a nation of obese children is true, but from the looks of things at the mall this past weekend, Santa’s gonna be opting for knee replacement surgery after Christmas.

One kid in line looked like an egg in a snowsuit. It took three elves and two recruits from Mall Security Special Forces to hoist him on to Santa’s lap. If that Humpty Dumpty had fallen off the wall, there’s not a frying pan in the kitchen at IHOP big enough to make an omelette with the remains.

And I don’t know what kind of insurance the Elves’ Union has, but I hope it’s not an HMO. It’s hard enough to get a letter of referral in the North Pole, much less finding an orthopedist with access to load bearing replacement joints.

Of course, Santa isn’t exactly a graduate of the Jillian Anderson school of fitness either. I don’t know what he does during the off season, but he might need to consider having one of the elves whip him up a Wii Fit for the North Pole break room. Before long he’s not going to need magic reindeer. He’s going to need a magic forklift with a widescreen GPS and axles that handle extra jolly loads.

And let’s get real. Who among us believes that any animal with a name like Dancer or Prancer is going to make the cut for a team of high-performance reindeer that has to fly around the world in one night? Those guys might make the top three on Dancing with the Stars, but they aren’t the go-to alpha males for endurance muscle.

I’ve checked all over to find the real story of Santa’s team, but the closest I found was Reindeer Games for Dummies featuring Rocky and Bullwinkle, which sounds a lot better than Prancer and Dancer. In the South, those are the sort of names that get you beat up every day at recess. Sooner or later these guys are going to have to bulk up or risk losing their Sponge Bob lunchboxes to disgruntled reindeer outcasts.

I’d like to peek into Reindeer School to see what sort of screening process is in place. Somewhere there’s a two-ton reindeer named Tiny belting back Budweisers and watching the Olympic Reindeer Games saying, “I could have been a contender.” That’s the sort of animal I want watching Santa’s back.

So you might want to stay in on Christmas Eve. When Biggie Claus mounts that sleigh like Paul Bunyan at the helm of his big blue ox and starts calling reindeer names at takeoff, you might be better off not knowing who they are. Guido might think you’re looking a little too longingly at the Hannah Montana doll in Santa’s bag. One peek at the moon on the breast of the new fallen snow and you could very well wind up in the Polar Protection Program.

Rest assured that come Christmas morning, all will be well. Because as sure as there’s not a mouse stirring in the land of Nod, there’s nobody better making sure a sleigh full of packages get to their destination overnight.

But make it easy on Santa and leave him a spot in the driveway. Those chimney landings are tough on the knees. And Prancer's already wearing a wrist brace for carpal tunnel.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Crime Scene Christmas

I thought it be would tough Christmas shopping for the boys once they got past the Toys R Us stage. I used to be able to mark the days until Christmas by how many pages were left in the big toy catalog. Most of the pictures had long been shipped to the North Pole for use as instructional material by elves specializing in sophisticated foam weaponry.

The boys are now in their second decade of intense and dedicated toy shopping. These days they want electronic games that feature goal-oriented ninjas, indiscriminate assassins, and more than a few species of vengeful undead.

Nothing says Happy Holidays like a man in black greeting passersby with a six inch throwing knife and a hearty handgun.

When I was a kid, we’d strap on holsters with six shooters and clap cowboy hats made of felt on our heads. You’d have to chase the bad guy clear down to his front porch before he’d admit that he was dead. These days you’re a virtual assassin who can wipe out a planet with a rapid fire Remington and a hamster wheel of death.

As the guys rent newer and more sophisticated video games to see which ones they want for Christmas, the sounds of the season fill my house: swords ring out in duels, gunshots ricochet through quiet villages, gleeful laughter meets the brother who triumphs in the zombie apocalypse.

It reminds me of lunch with the relatives.

It’s never safe to venture into Uncle Joe’s airspace after he’s had his fill of giblet gravy. Even the Labradors avoid crossing into enemy territory at half past pumpkin pie.

So this Christmas we’ll deck the halls with a turkey leg fired high tight toward a platoon of retreating relatives. And if anybody tries to get away with the pumpkin pie, they’d better watch out. I’m a killer with an assault drumstick.

And I’m sitting next to Uncle Joe.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Splitting Hairs

At craft night I am issued an "audience only" permit to enter. Over the years I have proven myself untrustworthy with adult scissors, craft glue, construction paper, and the ever-popular multi-colored glitter.

The family hushed up an incident with the hole punch that resulted in a cunningly shaped scar in the webbing between my thumb and index finger, and once, before the authorities caught me and issued the proper warrants, I sewed a soccer banner to the leg of my pants.

So why, in a blast of optimism and excitement, did my husband, who has not previously shown signs of dementia, say, "Why don't you cut my hair?"

Excuse me? What part of "head trauma" does he not understand? Has he been watching 25 years of medical shows and hasn't learned anything about blunt instruments or pointy objects or crime scene tape? Didn't he learned anything from George Clooney on ER? If I am legally obligated to refrain from cutting out paper snowflakes, why is he giving me a license to plant a new part where his cow lick used to be?

But if he's willing, who am I to refuse his final request? I fired up the weed eater and revved the motor.

"Okay. How about in the kitchen with Professor Plum and the lead pipe?"

"Don't be silly. All you have to do is run the electric clippers over it. How hard can it be?"

"How hard can it be" is the second leading cause of death and disfiguring injuries in the United States.

"The first is "Hey, man. Look what I can do," which generally follows, "One night, we were drinking beer." The Surgeon General suggests that no one under the age of 18 be allowed to utter these words unless accompanied by a responsible adult who gave birth to them or by a First Responder authorized to wield the Jaws of Life.

I was considering my options as a single widow, rounding off possible life insurance benefits to the decimal point, and deciding whether I would have to initiate the grapefruit diet before I could win the affections of the wealthy bachelor at church, when the Captain of the kitchen shears cast the deciding vote.

"I'll give you the twenty bucks I would have spent on a haircut."

I dropped the weedeater. "Show me the money."

He proffered a wrinkled picture of Andrew Jackson on a bill. I don't know where he got the thing, but he and Andy must have been schoolmates in the little one room schoolhouse at Possum Trot. I snatched the money before he realized that I would be wielding what amounted to whirling electric razors aimed at his head.

He settled into the chair and, since it would be a first offense and I would likely get off with a stern warning and have my clippers booted, I agreed to give it a whirl.

He grinned. "Take it off Sweeney Todd."

From the looks of things, he was ready to go to the big barber pole in the sky.

I set the shears to stun and felt the power of 50,00 volts run down my arm. I raised the clippers high in the air and laughed maniacally as lightning bolts pierced the night air.

"Stop giggling, would you? It's creepy. And turn on the lights so you can see what you're doing. You almost Van Goghed my ear."

The haircut proceeded uneventfully, even if I did have a little trouble with control around the neckline. He'll have a brand new patch of sunburn when August rolls around.

Glad to avoid a trip to the barber, he gave me a kiss and headed for the shower.

From the front, he can't really appreciate the fact that his new neckline resembles what erosion does to beachfront property. I don't think the stylist police will hand out any jail time, though. With the amount of hair we're dealing with, it's not like the crime of the century.

But I'll cop to a misdemeanor.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Answers to life's great musical questions

Yes, it's that time again. Either I crank out something for this blog or Dr. Loveless has me fed to the Jar Jar Binks fans he keeps locked up in the basement (for the good of humanity, I assure you).

I have always wanted to be a philosopher.

It seems like a really easy gig. Spout off the occasional "deep thought" or question, throw in words like "nihilistic", "existential", or "tetrachromatic", look smug and superior ( I really have this part down), and the next thing you know, you are hip deep in coeds.

The only problem is that, as a paying profession, it ranks about ten spaces below "art history major", or, in remunerative terms: minimum wage plus a dime for working third shift on the Fry-o-Lator.

There is also the problem of topics. The great philosophers of human history, from Socrates to Sartre, have labored over what they considered to be the important questions of human existence. You know: Why are we here?, What is the nature of evil?, Is there a God?, Does free will exist?, and Who is Robert Ludlum and why does he keep writing the same book over and over again?

Billions of trees have been ground to pulp addressing these and other equally tedious questions.

I submit to you, it is time for a new set of questions. And better yet, for actual answers to those questions that don't require plowing through 800 pages of ossified text that make reading a software license agreement seem spellbinding.

But who can give us these questions?

Why, songwriters, of course. These folk have made an industry out of asking deep, philosophical questions, and BLOODY WELL GETTING PAID FOR IT!!

It stands to reason that if they can get paid for simply asking questions, I should be able to rake it in by the fistful for providing the answers.

So, for your enlightenment and edification (by the way, I should get five bucks from each of you just for using edification and tetrachromatic in this article), I give you Answers to the great musical questions of our age.

Do you know the way to San Jose?

No, but I can look it up for you on

Do you know where you’re going to?

I just told you, San Jose, and I need directions.

What’s your name? Who’s your daddy?

Fred. You’ll have to ask my mom.

Does your mother know?

Maybe not. She did drink quite a bit in her younger days.

Why don’t we do it on the road?

Because that possum over there didn’t flatten itself.

Does your chewing gum lose its flavor on the bed post overnight?

Chewing gum? On your bed post? And you wonder why you can’t get girls to go out with you?

Do you love me?

Not bloody likely! Anyone who keeps his chewing gum on his bed post gets crossed right off my list of potential objects of romance.

Hello lamp post, whatcha knowin’?

Dude! Where do you get your drugs and can I have some?

Why do fools fall in love?

Same reason as everyone else, barring some congenital defect in the endocrine system.

How do you mend a broken heart?

I find that a good heart surgeon will usually do the trick. The REAL question is “will your insurance company cover it?”

Where have all the flowers gone?

Uh, it’s Fall. They’ll be back in the Spring, so chill.

Why do birds suddenly appear, every time you are near?

Because you’re Tippi Hedren in an Alfred Hitchcock movie?

Who’s crying now?

The baby right behind me on EVERY FREAKIN’ PLANE I FLY ON!!!!

Whatever happened to Saturday night?

It’s right there after Friday, and before Sunday, where you left it. And would it really kill you to clean up once in a while?

Who put the sham in the shama lama ding dong?

Look, I’m just following the recipe in the Paula Dean cook book, though I suppose it could be a typo.

When will I be loved?

My guess is as soon as your special inflatable friend arrives from Frederick’s of Hollywood.

Will you still love me tomorrow?

Probably not after I’ve sobered up.

Do you really want to hurt me?

Well DUH! What part of “I am a sadist” do you not understand?

Who’s that girl running around with you?

Uh, upon advice of counsel, I wish to exercise my rights under the Fifth Amendment.

How much is that doggie in the window?

$692.14 plus tax. But wouldn’t it be cheaper AND more responsible to adopt one from a pound?

Who’ll stop the rain?

Isn’t it better to buy an umbrella, than curse the rain?

David Allen and this blog post are brought to you by the childishly simple passwords Bill and Amy keep using for this site.

PS: If you want YOUR musical questions answered by a trained professional, post them in comments, and you, yes YOU, may be selected to have your question answered.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Let Me Eat Cake!

Hold me back from chocolate cakes,
Brownies, cookies, nuts, and shakes.
Help me know that if I eat
My waist will soon obscure my feet.

It shames me some to have to tell
That I weigh on the Richter scale.
So pork chops, have no fear of me
Roasts and cutlets can run free

NO! I do not have the will to try it,
I would rather die than diet.
You can sit there if you please
Eating fruit and cottage cheese
A celery stalk, a carrot stick
The vision fairly makes me sick

As for me I’ll roast and fry
And feast on pizza, cake, and pie
I’ll gorge until my zippers bust
And then remove them if I must
But til that dreadful day shall be
I’ll spend my time with Sara Lee.

Happy Thanksgiving to All and to All a Good Bite!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Smuggler's Blues Clues

By the Cap'n, as told to Bill Mullis

Ssshhh! Don't tell anyone, but the old Cap'n has a secret: he smuggles candy into movie theatres.

See, it's like this. I got nothing against anybody making a profit by selling anything at whatever price the market will bear. And by the Ghost of Blackbeard, when I'm rolling in the doubloons I think nothing of whomping down a sizeable chunk of my hard-earned jack to impress my First Wench by my largesse in the matter of a king-sized box of Junior Mints.

But times have been rough around the old Love Boat this year, what with a couple knaves in the higher educational system, and my pieces of eight have lately been downgraded to pieces of three and a half. Very embarrassing to a Pirate Captain of my stature, as you may be able to understand.

It started in allergy season, with a few hard candies in my pocket. (Cinnamon discs. Burns through the drainage and leaves a smoking crater on your tongue to boot!) I half expected the candy detectors to go off as I entered the theatre, and prepared to brandish my cutlass menacingly at any scallywhacker who tried to stop me.

Nothing happened. I was impressed. I thought I had accidentally hit upon a secret method to get contraband inside the Sanctum itself.

Then my First Wench, AmyDoodle, told me the real secret: "You gunk-head," she said. "There's no such thing as a candy detector! That has got to be the silliest idea I have ever heard in my life!"

What can I say? I rely on her support in all my endeavors.

So I've begun to load my pockets with fun-sized Snickers and Butterfingers. I've figured out that the key is to not act like you're carrying illegal foodstuffs. So I took it one step further: I generally forget I've even got it with me. If I don't know it's there, I can't act suspicious!

Of course, you've got to keep your wits about you. There was the time I reached in my pocket for a Kleenex (Not that I cried through Secretariat. Nope, not me.) and found a half-melted Milky Way. My cry of surprise and alarm ("Augh! What the -- ! Brown stuff ahoy!") did not go unnoticed, and it was only by dint of my lightning-quick pirate reflexes that I was able to avoid the consequences by hiding behind the First Wench.

Not the Cap'n's best moment.

Now I'm working on a way to smuggle fresh popcorn in. The little bags of Otis Reddenbacker fit comfortably my pocket. The trick is going to be the microwave. And I reckon I'll have to run a power cord out to the lobby. Should be doable. I'll just have to disguise it as something non-food-preparational.

But what about those times when popcorn just isn't enough? I figure the truly piratey thing to do would be to set up a grill down front for a little tailgating. I'd even be willing sell a hot dog or two. And take the proceeds out to the lobby for a great big honking box of Raisinettes.

Because Raisinettes are what a pirate loves best.

The Cap'n is your basic pirate with delusions of fandeur. He has served in various capacities and institutions over the years, but has since settled down to a life of (except for that whole candy thing) placid law-abiding domesticity, under the calming influence of his First Wench AmyDoodle, who has actually come closer to domesticating him than anybody else.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Chuting for the Win

Chutes and Ladders is a children’s game constructed so that even the smallest child can participate in the breakdown of society. Whoever designed this game must have fostered a deep-seated hatred for humanity and have the sordid past of a recovering alcoholic with manic tendendcies.

When a nasty turn of nature shut down the power grid in our area, and the only ones in the house with access to electronic entertainment was a teenaged boy with a supercharged video game and a Labrador with an electronic catnip mouse, we trotted out the kerosene lanterns and jumped right in to a family bonding experience.

“Why do we have to do this?” Son One, aged 22, is ever the encourager.

“Milton Bradley says Family Game Night will bring us closer together.”

“The dog’s asleep on my foot. How much closer can we get?”

A warm wet tongue washed a pizza stain from my pants.

“You’d be surprised.”

He peered at the rules in the dim light. “It says the youngest goes first. That would be me.”

“They have that rule so little kids won’t pout. Let’s roll to see who goes first.”

“Okay, if you want to cheat a little kid out of a turn.”

“You haven’t been a little kid since Barney the Purple Dinosaur faded into lavender.”

“I’m younger than you.”

It’s amazing how people act when they don’t get their way.

“Okay Mom, let go of my ear. You can go first.”

The game proceeded. It suddenly came to me how unfair it is to teach children how their young lives can end with a roll of the die.

“Mom, you got the big slide. You have to go back.”

“The slide is out of order due to road construction.”

“Road construction?”

“There’s always road construction.”

Just as Son One was about to display a lack of self control, the power came back on and the room was flooded with light. Someone accidentally knocked the board off the table during the excitement.

“You were supposed to go down the big chute. You cheated!” Son One was wounded by the hand of injustice.

“Of course she did,” the Captain caught my eye and leaned in with a tone dripping with “she owes me a favor.”

“But this time we’ll let her slide."

Monday, November 15, 2010

From the Heart

Join me over at Stage of Life, where we're decorating for the holidays in a very special way.

This Thanksgiving, I'm giving extra thanks for my extended family. Happy Holidays, Sam.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

NaNoo November

The conversation you are about to read is true. The names have not been changed so that everyone can feel my pain. The time was shortly before the onset of November, or 21,245 words ago. I think I've used some of them twice.

"I think you should do NaNo."


It’s not that I can’t keep up, but whenever the Captain wants to win an argument, he uses words I don’t understand. I think he gets them from random advertisements in Popular Science magazine. This one sounded vaguely like one of those yoga poses that causes your hamstring to snap.

“Yep, it’s that. . .”

“Oh, I know. That’s what that alien said on that hokey show back in the 70’s. Remember Robin Williams played him.”

“He didn’t say Nano. He said Nanoo. It means hello. I think.”

“No, I think it meant goodbye. Sort of like Over and Out.”

“Maybe it was one of those all purpose words that means something else. Like Aloha.”

“Aloha? Like in Hawaii? If a research trip to Waikiki is involved, count me in.” Finally, an idea I could get behind to try my spray-on tan.

“Waikiki is way too expensive.”

“Maui? I can pronounce them all, but I can only spell the main ones. I’ve been practicing my vocabulary for extravagant vacation destinations.”

“We’re not going there either.”

“It figures. Like when you say we’ll go to a romantic movie only we never do.”

“I took you to see Inception.”

“What was romantic about Inception?”

“People were asleep.”

I pause. It’s true that when you reach 50, a full night’s sleep is about as rare as a trip to an exotic island. But a movie where the girl dies doesn’t strike me as romantic. “I don’t think that counts.”

“Fine. I’ll take you to a romantic movie.”

“I don’t know what’s playing in Hawaii.”

“We’re not going to Hawaii.”

“See. I told you. You hold out the roast pig then you yank it away.”

“Roast pig?”

“Isn’t that what they eat in Hawaii? When they have those luaus and girls in grass skirts do the hula while you eat?”

The Captain pauses a moment to reflect on girls in grass skirts. “I don’t know. I’ve never been to Hawaii.”

“Looks like you’re not going now, either.”

“I was just trying to talk you into participating in NaNo.”

“Is that one of your SciFi alien words?”

“No. It’s short for NaNoWriMo.”

“Oh, well that makes it better. No trip to Hawaii and now you’re speaking in tongues.”

“It’s short for National Novel Writing Month.”


“You sign up to write a 50,000 word novel during the month of November.”

“Is one of those words Hawaii?”


“Then you can go sleep by yourself. I’m going to the movies.”

“What’s playing?”

“A romance.”

“Which one?”

“It’s a oldie, playing at the cultural center downtown.”

“But which one?”

“Blue Hawaii. But don't worry. It's a discount show.”

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Tales from Military School

In the practical joke system, there are two separate yet equally important groups: the perpetrators of practical jokes and the victims of those jokes. This is one of their stories.

I am not one for practical jokes, but when you attend military school with 150-200 other adolescent males, practical jokes are a way of life. Having a practical joker (PJ) for a room mate meant never being able to let your guard down, always coming back to your room as though you were entering a mine field or a small Viet-Cong-controlled village. After a while, this can wear a bit on the nerves, and homicide is contemplated.

If you want to avoid spending your formative years banged up in a juvenile corrections facility, you must deter the PJ, either by being eternally vigilant until he gets bored and searches elsewhere for victims, or by giving as good as you get.

The first strategy can be time-consuming. In a military school with few options for entertainment, the PJ has lots of incentive to to keep himself entertained at your expense. The second option carries the threat of escalation to the point of “mutually assured destruction," meaning you both wind up in the commandant’s office, followed by 30-50 hours of marching and a couple of hundred demerits a piece.

The only way to win using the second option is to retaliate at the first practical joke with massive overkill. Metaphorically speaking, this means responding to cross-border name calling with a squadron of ICBMs, leaving nothing but a smoking crater where your PJ was standing. This thwarts the desire of the PJ to escalate the war, since he really doesn’t want to find out what the next step up on the retaliation scale will be. Better yet, done in front of witnesses, this strategy makes other PJs think twice before engaging you, sending them in search of easier targets.

This was the strategy I adopted. I never went after anyone first, but I bloody well left terror and despair in my wake if fired upon.

I was a patient opportunist when applying this strategy. The PJ was always on his guard following any assault upon your dignity, and immediate counterattacks were contraindicated. I never made an elaborate plan for the response. I was simply patient and waited for the an opening, then improvised.

A friend of mine learned this first hand after subjecting me to a prank which, I must admit, was simple but effective.

I changed my underwear and waited my turn.

The year was 1976, and it was a cold November Saturday night. I was at the movie theatre.

Being a “day student” at my school meant I got to go home in the evenings and on weekends, whereas everyone else in school was constrained to the barracks, unless they got “town leave”. This was easy to obtain, providing one had not broken any of the myriad rules and regulations that are the epitome of military school life.

The movie was Carrie, and I loved horror movies.

I got this fondness for the macabre at an early age from my mother, who loved nothing more than a good scary movie. Easy on the gore, but buckets of blood was fine. From the age of literacy I had a steady diet of House of Mystery, The Phantom Stranger, Ghostly Tales, The Many Ghosts of Doctor Graves, etc. TV was filled with episodes of The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, Sci-Fi Theatre, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and my all time favorite, The Night Stalker.

A few parents were horrified (sorry) by my tastes, especially when I told them I only got to read the comics after my Mom was through reading them. Other parents took their kids to Disney movies, but if there was an all-night horror fest at the drive-in, Mom and I were there.

Alas, Mom wasn’t with me that night, as she had to work that weekend. She was annoyed that she was going to miss Carrie, but movies in our town ran for only a week (this was in the days before “multi-plexes”). We had one theatre, and it showed a different movie every week. Occasionally, a really popular movie would run two weeks, but that was rare.

Mom gave me three dollars (I said it was 1976. A movie ticket was $1.50, drinks and candy $0.75, or three times the going rate outside the theatre. Some things DON’T change).

Where was I?

Oh, yes, at the 7:00 show, watching Carrie by myself.

Now, if you have never seen Carrie, you should go and rent it (or stream it), before reading the rest of this tale.

Go ahead, I’ll wait.

. . .

This was the first Stephen King novel to be adapted as a movie, and I (and my Mom) had somehow missed reading any of his books up to this point. But when Carrie was released, people were excited. Stephen King was scary, really intense, and this movie was supposed to be a faithful translation of the King novel.

And it was.

Especially the final scene. A last-second “gotcha” scared the wee wee out of you (this was before such things became cliche), by lulling you into inattention with a bright and cheery scene, then literally leaping at you from the grave.

If we delve into the Stephen King oeuvre, we see that King’s stylistic use of imagery. . .

Wait a minute! You! Yes, you on the left, behind the Control Panel icon. You didn’t go watch the movie, did you? You just went to YouTube and watched this clip:

Sigh! Folks today are SPOILED by the Internet.

What that clip doesn’t convey is that the movie segues from Carrie’s burning house, following a night of some pretty vicious people getting their due (any movie which kills John Travolta is OK with me), to a very bright scene with soothing music. Sue (played by Amy Irving) is the only person to survive Carrie’s vengeance, as she was the only person who treated her kindly. She walks to the site of Carrie’s burnt-out house, carrying flowers to lay in front of a “For Sale” sign shaped like a cross. But even in death, someone has mocked Carrie, scrawling “Carrie White burns in Hell” across the sign. Sue ignores this, then bends down to place the flowers.

That’s when Carrie’s bloody hand reaches out of the ground and grabs her. We cut to a hospital room, and Sue is screaming in her bed, while nurses try to restrain her.

Like I said earlier, this scene was really scary at the time, because no one else had done it before. These days every third horror flick pulls this stunt, and it only scares the teenyboppers who haven’t broken the parental controls on the cable box.

But back then, we didn’t see it coming.

Bright cheery scene, soft focus, lilting music...


People in the audience, men and women, screamed in abject terror. When the lights came up, people were pale, nervously trying to laugh off the fright.

More than one pair of bloomers were soiled that night, my friend.

Movie over, nothing left to do, but head out into the frigid November night and start for home.

Then, as I entered the lobby, I saw my friend (we'll call him Dave) at the ticket counter with his girlfriend.

Opportunity had knocked.

I faded from the lobby, retreating to the bathroom, and bided my time until the 9:00 show had started. I then returned to the theatre, sitting in the back, looking for my friend. The 9:00 movie played to an audience that took up a third of the available seating. Since people weren't forced to sit next to each other, they had formed little clumps of humanity, interspersed amongst the black Juju Fruit speckled seats.

Dave was down in front, three rows back, and in the center.

As the movie progressed, I noticed his girlfriend holding tighter to his arm, as the plot became darker and spookier. This was good, the perfect setting.

The movie reels spun on, and I watched the movie up to the point where I estimated I had ten minutes left. I slipped back to the bathroom, turned on the cold water tap, and let it run.

As I mentioned, it was a very cold night, and snow was still on the ground from a storm on Thursday. The bathroom pipes must not have been well insulated, as the water was COLD -- so cold, in fact, that my hand became painfully numb after a minute under the tap.

I gritted my teeth and kept the hand under the icy flow for a good five minutes, then stole back to the theatre.

I moved quickly down the aisle, slipped into the row just behind Dave, dropped to the sticky floor, and crawled to a spot just behind him.

And I waited.

As the last 45 seconds of the film started, the theatre shifted from darkness to near daylight, and Amy Irving walked across the yard to place her flowers. She bends down, and I wait for the sound I know is coming: The mass inhalation of an audience about to shriek in fright.

And then I grabbed Dave's leg.

I had snaked my way as far under the seat as I could and, as cautiously as possible, moved my hand up his pant leg without touching him. I wanted the area just above his sock, for my glacial, vice-like grip.

From my vantage point, I did not get to see how he moved, but I certainly heard him.

I have never to this day, ever, heard the sound he made come from another human being. It was more ululation than scream, kind of like Xena's war cry, but it went on for about seven seconds. Simultaneously, I heard the sound of something I also have not heard since: An audience taking a break from one shriek of terror, to start another, completely different one.

I am told by witnesses (his girlfriend) that his leg shot forward and he launched from his seat, vaulting over three rows, before careening onto the floor, trying to get away from his own leg. No slouch at moving from point A, to point B, while not actually transiting the space in between, the girlfriend moved perpendicular to her now departing boyfriend and wound up across the aisle and sprawled over three seats.

My friend is screaming.

The girlfriend is screaming.

The vox populi find their vox, with feeling.

Amy Irving is screaming, but I don't think anyone notices.

The audience has cleared a blast zone around my friend that is 15 rows deep with folks on the left and right section hugging the wall and each other.

Pandemonium erupts as people try to figure out what is happening.

I arise from my cramped position and behold my handiwork. My friend has not an ounce of color in his face. He looks up at me and the tumblers tumble into place. He raises a hand and points at me.

"YOU!" he hisses, with some considerable heat.

I chose this time to start laughing.

It was a full-throated, howling laughter. The type where your sides hurt, your eyes water, and you actually get a headache (though that may have been from my friend trying to kick the Oreos out of me when I collapsed to the floor in hysterics).

The audience reaction to the matter was confused and disorganized. Some folks figured out what was happening, and started laughing. Others were somewhat, shall we say, vexed. Actually, most were vexed, to be honest.

"THAT'S NOT FUNNY!", one fellow shouted several times. His companion, thought otherwise and wheezed out, "Yes, it is," as tears ran down his cheek and he held his side.

A couple of less-than-sporting types thought the police should be summoned, and I took that as my cue to depart via the exit door, stage right, Dave still beating on me into the night.

I think it was some time after the Christmas vacation before Dave saw the humor in the situation. From that day forward, he always looked for me when he entered a room, making sure I never sat behind him.

And for some reason, he took an irrational dislike to Stephen King.

David Allen is the Chief Minion of Dr. Miguelito Loveless, and is writing this stuff under duress. He is a professor emeritus of Computer Debuggery, and chair of the Department of Broken Home Economics at Miskatonic University (Go fighting cephalopods!). He holds a Masters in Computer Anger Management, and a Bachelors in Applied Computer Telephone Tech Support, with a minor in "Have you tried turning it off and on again?"

Monday, November 8, 2010

Meanwhile, Back At The Lab....

Good day, ladies and the odd gentleman reader (and from the pictures I have seen on this site, very odd indeed).

Allow me to introduce myself, I am Dr. Miguelito Loveless, world famous mad scientist, professional nemesis and 74th level shaman in World of Warcraft.

Some of you may be familiar with my early work in the in the 1870s as the arch-nemesis of Secret Service agents James West and Artemis Gordon, perpetual obstacles to my plans for global domination. (If you are wondering how I could still be in the villain business 130 years later, I kindly ask you what part of “mad scientist” are you failing to understand?)

After West and Gordon retired, I was at a loss for worthy opponents (Professor Moriarty and I had a “no poaching” agreement, so Sherlock Holmes was off the table), and went into semi-retirement, puttering around in my lab, and occasionally mentoring the next generation’s leaders in the field of world domination.

I turned to furthering my education for a bit in the 1920s attending Miskatonic University and acquiring degrees in Advanced Mad Science, Things Man Was Not Meant to Know, and Quantum Metaphysics. I then went from student to teacher, taking posts at such distinguished academic institutions as Scooby Doo U. (where I taught Intermediate and Advance Meddling For Kids), and the Microsoft Institute of Crappy Technology (where I taught Telephone Support 560: Ignoring the Ringing Phone).

In the early 60s I went to work for S.P.E.C.T.R.E. as the senior researcher responsible for building devices to kill British secret agents in creative and grisly fashions. In the mid 70s I was the Senior Mind Control Specialist for the Muzak Corporation, but resigned after a month because even I was not that evil. After that I did a stint as the Director Emeritus for the Legion of Doom, but got fed up listening to Lex Luthor and Braniac bicker, and so it was back to freelance villainy and teaching. (I currently hold the Frankenstein Chair of Mad Science at Hooterville Community College.)

Okay, so by now you are wondering what a distinguished, sinister rogue such as myself is doing on a blog like Mind Over Mullis, which normally features the humorous musings and witty anecdotes of a mature (yet still very fetching) mother, wife, and devoutly nice person such as Amy Mullis?

Funny story:

Ms. Mullis, realizing that she had to take some time off from her normal blogging duties to participate in National Novel Writing Month, decided to find a worthy substitute to keep the punters entertained in her absence.

Thus she gave a call to her support group, Mothers Against Delinquent Sons.

Unfortunately, Amy recalled the phone number somewhat imperfectly (commercial cleanser fumes play merry Heck with long term memory functions) and dialed (800) 555-MADS, instead of (888) 555-MADS.

This is when my phone rang, in my office at the Malevolent Association of Demented Scientists and I found myself talking to this soft spoken and charming young woman (Did I say “mature”? Bah! Who am I to call anyone “mature”, I am 149 years old!), who offered me this job.

My initial impulse, enchanting though she was, was to decline the offer. After all, I did have a Zombie Apocalypse brewing in the crock pot, but, as we say in the mad science biz, “evil minions don’t grow on trees.” (Actually, they grow in very expensive cloning tanks, and now they have a union and want dental and profit sharing!!)

So, here I am.

Of course, I have no intention of doing this all by myself. I shall palm off most of the hard work to one of my minions who is bucking for Toady First Class. He will do it and like it, since his only other choice is a nasty death at the hands of a wiseacre British secret agent who will make it all the more undignified by cracking some vile pun as he dispatches him.

I will also be able to secure the services of the fellow that Amy refers to as “The Captain”, since little does she know that he has a dark and secret past as a colleague of mine, known as Kindly Old Doctor Bill!!!

Uh, did I just say that out loud?


One of the problems of being a mad scientist/arch-villain is the genetic defect that causes us to reveal our plans to people before we kill them, which lets them figure a way out of our death trap and allows them to thwart us.

Just forget I said anything. Please?

Oh, and before I go, does anyone have a cup of anti-matter I could borrow? I am fresh out.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Beast Within

Aunt Nette is like a busybody savant. She can tell the last time you called your mother, how you treat your children, and can rate your love life on a scale of one to ten just by listening to you order hash browns at the Waffle House.

“Scattered and smothered,” I told the waitress, slipping the menu into the metal holder behind the napkin dispenser.

Looking across the table, I’m tempted to apply the same order to Aunt Nette. She is scraping egg off the laminated menu with a polished nail on a finger laden with hand-me-down diamonds, and lecturing me on my child-raising abilities.

“You should call more often. I never hear important news until it’s too late.”

“You’re exaggerating.”

She flicked away a piece of petrified yolk. “I hear the baby is walking now.”

The baby is 20 years old. “Okay so maybe I’m slow with updates. Follow me on Twitter and you can read everything in sentences short enough to slap right on the gossip chain.”

“What those boys need is more parental involvement.” She dipped her paper napkin in her water glass and began to polish her fork.

“The last time I had parental involvement with these kids, I lost three lives."

"You should use caution in dealing with children."

"All I did was pick up a video game controller. Then I blew myself somewhere over the rainbow in a blinding blue flash."

The only reason my children aren’t listed as serial killers in police records country-wide is that there are still those officials who refuse to admit the impossibility of a zombie apocalypse.

"You do know they’ve been studying the best method for slaughtering the undead.”

“They were Boy Scouts. They want to be prepared.”

“They’re prepared for a swarm of mercenaries, an invasion by aliens, and a world-ending zombie attack. What they’re not ready for is an English test or a quiz on fundamental dinner etiquette.”

“You could probably learn some things from them. Remember when I stayed the weekend at your house? The boys and I found a new respect for each other.”

“Oh, really? And how are you a better person since that weekend?”

She sipped coffee from a stoneware cup leaving Pink Poodle lipstick on the rim, crossed her beige stockinged ankles under the table, and leaned forward with a prim smile to perform an airborne example on a pretend video game controller.

"I beast at Borderlands.”

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Muddy Waters

“The water’s brown.”

“It’s supposed to be brown. I’ve been cleaning stuff.”

“Wouldn’t it be easier to just smear mud on the clean spots?”

“It’s November. There’s enough mudslinging without me joining in.”

Cleaning the bathroom is a lot like electing a President. You need to wipe away all traces of anything nasty and create a sparkling platform that will stand up to all the dirt that will come to light later on.

This weekend, as I sprawled on the bathroom floor peering into corners that don’t always (um, ever) receive the full scope of my attention, I couldn’t help but think of the upcoming elections. There’s not a presidential candidate at stake, but given the choices on the ballot I found myself wishing I could scoop back through the litter box for some better alternatives.

I’m from South Carolina, an area where throwing your hat into the ring involves more hat tricks than rings and there’s not anybody in the limelight I’d want to tip my cap to without keeping a firm hand on my wallet.

“Trouble?” The Captain of my Scrub Boat lounged in the doorway, sipping coffee and checking his watch. He likes a clean bathroom as much as anybody, but once the scrubbing bubbles crowd lunchtime, he’s done with the dirty work. Besides, it’s his job to contain the mess I make when cleaning, and this time it could take a village just to get me off the floor.

“Toss me that sponge. I can’t get rid of this mystery spot.”

“That’s no mystery. It’s barbecue sauce.”

“Do I want to know the whole story?”

“It involves chicken nuggets.”


“And the dog.”

“Never mind.”

“You don’t see any stray french fries down there, do you?”

“No, but there’s something in the litter box that I don’t plan to investigate.”

After a while I found that I’d scrubbed my way into a space up against the wall and it was either make a dramatic exit through the window or track dirty footprints back the way I’d come. Life is full of those times when neither choice sounds beneficial.


Cap appeared again in the doorway. “It's lunchtime. Need a life preserver?”

“I’ve backed myself into a corner.”

“Step on these newspapers and then grab my hand.” He laid the front page and the comics to make a pathway to the door. I never thought about it before, but they seemed to work well together and I followed the newsprint road to the door.

Free at last, I look backed to admire the morning’s work. The floor was spotless except for the tiny corner where I’d been stranded.

“Not bad for a morning’s work,” I grinned. Everything’s clean except one place that’s hidden behind the closet door, and I have somebody who can give me a hand when I’m in a tight spot.

I can’t think of a better way to celebrate Election Day.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Bowl Bound or Busted

If you thought exercising in front of the kids when they were little was a Stephen King movie waiting to happen, you'll find that working out in front of teenagers is like hanging your handwashables out to dry across the information superhighway. If there’s not a video of your behind crouched in a downward dog position on YouTube before you’re done with the stretches, these kids think they’re not doing their job.

At least when the children were six, they would make entertaining attempts to do the exercises with me. Today they take pictures with their cell phones and compose humorous captions before texting them to distant relatives and global news sites.

And they’re not afraid to broadcast interesting body fat tidbits. When the kids were little they said things like, “Who is that lady on the video?” (That’s Richard Simmons, Sweetie.) Where did your belly button go? (It disappeared about the time I sent out the birth announcements.)

These days they say things like, “Is that a hula hoop or a belt?” Since I’m wedged into the thing like preteens in the front row of a Taylor Swift concert, I don’t have a clever answer ready. I’m more concerned with getting the plastic wedgie out from under my lung so I can breathe. Having a playground toy jammed through my ribcage like a pierced earring is not a good look for me. I know. I saw the "After" shots on the FAIL blog.

The last time I let my band of ruffians, er teenage citizens, in the house while I was doing my bellydance workout, I checked my FaceBook page later only to find out I’d been sponsored by Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig had ignored my friend request, and an anonymous poster left ten tips to a bikini-ready body written in a sarcastic font.

Then one day a host of fleshy cherubs in workout gear appeared before me on my 48 inch plasma screen. I thought it was The Biggest Loser, Angel Edition. “We saw you on You Tube and decided you needed some help. Seek out the promised land!”

That’s the day I packed up my workout gear and headed to my own turf. These days it’s kind of hard to do squats without flushing the toilet, or perform proper lunges without knocking the shower massage into nail-driver position, but I can exercise without the benefit of back seat drivers.

Now if I could just get the Tidy Bowl man to stop heckling me from the cheap seats.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

And The Winner Is... ME!

Hiding My Bread on an
Autumn Morning

Whose loaves these are I think I know

They are not made of bakery dough

I won them on the Internet

A goal was reached; I’m not there yet.

The children think I’m greedy too

I will not share, and so would you

Keep them to yourself to eat

If you had such a yummy treat

I stashed the box with certain care

In the drawer with underwear

Because the boys would never look

To see them snuggled in that nook.

So now I feast on honey bread

Swirled with cinnamon instead

Of sharing it with kids and Cap

Full and happy, off to nap!

Thanks to Lost Girl from whose


Came ideas for this scrumptious bread

She cooks with healthy recipes.

On her blog find more like these!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Easy Bake

This is an oldie, but the frosting is still fresh. Son Two is twenty now, and he still confuses the mixer with the power sander, thinks frozen pizza in the big box is gourmet food, and lives for the day when you can get a mom that doesn't talk back out of a vending machine. For less than a dollar.

The Kid came through the back door like Secretariat out of the chute at Churchill Downs. We call him the agitator. He does to my nervous system what the spin cycle does to my delicates.

“Mom, you have to make a German Chocolate cake for my social studies project.”

“Excuse me little boy, but I’m neutral. I do not sew, neither do I bake.”

I am a firm believer in teaching children to make their own way in the world. Survival skills are necessary for kids who live in a world that evolves so rapidly the prize in the cereal is obsolete by the time they open the box. The day will come when my son will have to frost his own cupcakes. With this concept in mind, I decided it was time to teach him to cook.

Extensive negotiations found me and the Baker’s Apprentice at the kitchen table surrounded by supplies. We have eggs, vegetable oil, box of cake mix, and can of frosting. I do not want an “A” badly enough to make this cake from scratch, but neither do I want to miss out on seeing this kid face the consequences of volunteering. Don’t bang the can on the counter unless you’re willing to bake the biscuits.

The Kid is 12. He is cooler than spearmint gum. At present, he is wearing his cooking clothes, which are pretty much the same clothes he wears for everything else: socks with holes and without shoes, blue jeans with the top button missing, red silky boxer shorts visible above his jeans like a belt of fire ants, and no shirt.

“Why wear a shirt?” he shrugged. “If I get anything on my skin, I can just lick it off.” He runs his tongue around his mouth for practice. This kid will never need a compass to draw circles in math class.

Once things get underway in the kitchen, the kid discovers that he loves to cook. It’s like working in a secret underground laboratory only without the eye of newt. His favorite part is cracking eggs. He’s been practicing his cracking while I don protective gear. Removing a Kevlar glove, I scrape all the spare egg slime into a bowl and plan an omelet for supper.

“Okay,” I call out in my best Martha Stewart voice. “What’s the first thing we do?”

“Eat the icing!” he chimes.

I stop and consider. It’s not too late to solo on this project. Although I might not bake like Betty Crocker, I can mix like a cement truck. But the principle of the thing still dangles like a participle above my head.

“Read the directions.” The doctor says the kid gets his ADD from me, so we both have a little trouble staying focused. Sometimes it takes the two of us, a psychologist with an advanced degree, and an egg-timer on a fast-track just to read to the end of an instruction sheet. For us, it takes a village just to boil water. We know from experience that water doesn’t get any more done when you boil it an hour that when you boil it five minutes. We’ve got so many electronic timers in our house to remind us of things, it sounds like mission control at launch time when they start going off.

“Preheat the oven,” he says slowly, underlining the words with egg yolk.

“Wrong. Wash your hands.” I cringe as he wipes egg yolk stripes down the legs of his jeans. Soap is on his list of personally banned substances.

Eventually a cake rises haltingly from the crumbs of dry ingredients.

“No, No, No! You do not beat the cake batter like it’s the last horse around the bend at Churchill Downs.”

He gazes up at me with puppy dog eyes. His face and chest is dotted with chocolate splashes. He looks like a Dalmatian. “It said to mix well.”

“Mix. Not flog. We want to blend the ingredients, not torture them.”

After taking out our inner hostilities on the mixture, we pour the batter into the pan.

“Do we have to put it all in?” The kid’s cake mix targeting computer has been activated as I can see by the tongue that is already swimming in circles around his mouth.

“We have to put enough in to make a cake. You barely covered the bottom of the pan.”

He licked the spoon. “You said it was a sheet cake.”

“Well you short-sheeted it. Pour the rest in.” He poured in another teaspoon of batter.


“We want a layer cake, not a pancake.” He eyed the batter, judging just how much would be left at bowl-licking time. I sensed mutiny hovering on the horizon.

“I have an idea. Why don’t you make cupcakes and eat one early?”

Later, I watched The Kid lounging in front of the television, licking the icing off of a tattered cupcake liner. He grinned, wiped chocolate off his chin with a grimy forearm, and gave me an enthusiastic thumbs up.

Sometimes the most important lesson is establishing priorities. I’m a slow learner, but this kid is a great teacher. Especially when the lesson involves chocolate cake.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

This Old House

Come join me at Stage of Life where I'm one of the new Editors. Now that Halloween is just around the candy corn, it's time to gather about the crinkley candy wrappers and peer into the haunted house where I grew up, long before I met the Captain and sailed away on the good ship Scuttlebutt. But watch your step.
There be cats about.
And witches in long black robes.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Fire Ant

Returning from the Store on a Summer Evening

Got some canned goods for the shelf
And some cookies for myself
Kosher dills stuffed in a jar
Packed the goodies in the car

Drove back home to roof and gable
Placed the groceries on the table.
Felt a bite where none should be
In self defense I turned to flee.

Suddenly I did a dance,
Screamed for help and dropped my pants.
Children paled and ran for cover.
I am NOT a fire ant lover.

Little ant, while climbing higher
Seeking targets for your fire
Found tender flesh left unattended
Took a bite; your life’s suspended.

Little ant, what made you think
A good idea would be to slink
Up past my knees and onward soar
Will you bite me? Nevermore.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Tidbits for Tuesday - Potty-litical Correctness

On a good day, potty training is a little bit like defusing a bomb. Things must progress in exactly the proper order or specialists have to be called in to clean up the situation.

When I was potty training the kids, back in the days when bribery was an acceptable childcare tool, I kept a bag of peanut butter cups in my purse to diffuse the situation. Usually it only took one or two handfuls before I felt better about explaining to the store manager why his toilet display was full of. . .display. The kids caught on right away—but I gained twenty three pounds. And I was always thirsty,

During these days of political correctness, I listen to mothers crouched in the women’s room at the mall, explaining the pros and cons of remaining neat and tidy to tiny little legs swinging just below the door.

This was funny until I got to the stage of my life when one hearty sneeze could necessitate a wardrobe change, and the onset of hay fever might not only require new slipcovers for the sofa, but call for the purchase of a new car. There are some places even Stanley Steemer fears to tread.

I’m looking forward to the days when the parent becomes the child again and the kids are responsible for my publicly accepted hygiene. Hopefully when they escort me out in public they’ll remember to bring along a change of clothes.

And some peanut butter cups.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Extreme Halloween

Join me and the other Halloweeners over at An Army of Ermas. I have a new post up. It involves ferrets. And underwear.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Trick. . .or Else

The tough thing about Halloween when the kids get bigger is finding things for them to do. Once they get past the age when you can pop a set of fuzzy ears on their heads, draw on some whiskers, and attach a duster to their behind for a tail, things get tricky.

Like I told my oldest, “If you’re old enough to sue someone in small claims court for not giving you enough candy, you're too old to trick or treat.”

“But Mom, fun size isn’t fun for everybody.”

“Once you have to shave, people don’t want you coming up on their porch at night with a bag. They won’t give you candy. They’ll give you the business end of a scarecrow.”

“Okay, we’ll find something else to do. Say, do we have any toilet paper?”

It was either find them something to do or watch my grocery budget hanging from the Wilson’s tulip poplar.

The first year we went on a ghost walk. For a fee, you can wander around downtown with an extraearthly escort who points out all the places the “in” ghost crowd hangs out. We all had a great time, especially the kids who made bets among themselves as to who could scare me enough to make me wet my underpants in public. They considered the evening a success. I considered the evening on par with receiving an atomic wedgie and running a soaker hose up my pants leg.

The next year we took them to a nearby touristy spot for a downtown block party. The highlight was a trip to the General Store where they each got to fill a bucket with candy which we paid for by the pound. You can’t go by price, but I think Son One filled his bucket with diamonds and Son Two scooped up a bargain on petroleum futures. We lived on Vienna sausages and Ramen noodles for the next six weeks.

This year I have a great idea. I’m going to suggest a Halloween house party and show the kids my costume in advance. As a 50 year old woman raised on biscuits and gravy, the scariest outfit I could wear is a halter top and hip huggers.

The hardest part is coming up with a plan for next year that will top this one.

I’m thinking bicycle pants.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Hippy is Not a Guy with Long Hair

I’m like Shakira--my hips don’t lie; even when threatened. Don't ask me how I know.

However, without much coaxing they’re willing to reveal every bite of doughnut I’ve had in the past ten years. Try to stuff them into a pair of pantyhose and they’ll also let on what happened to the last box of Thin Mints, the banana bread the neighbor brought when the Captain was flu-bound, and the six dozen zombie cupcakes intended for the third grade Halloween party.

My hips and I have never had a very good relationship. All I long for is to see daylight between my thighs one time before I die. On the other hand my hips fantasize of a day when we can coexist on the buffet deck of the Love Boat without me snarling every time a skinny chick sucks down a piece of cheesecake.

These days they’re spreading the dream to my chins, who have rebelled and resorted to disguising cupcake crumbs in their folds for a late night snack. I’m so nearsighted, I thought it was just stray whiskers. If I ever locate my bifocals, I intend to act sternly in regards to my personal appearance even if I have to read up on excavation techniques to dislodge a certain Hostess Twinkie that's been missing in action for several days.

When I was fifteen, I was all shin bones and shoulder blades. Now I’m fifty and I’ve discovered that love handles are the new hipbones. I used to sing “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes,” but now I have to admit that my head and toes lost touch long before I discovered the beauty of a long distance relationship. My knees are still active, though. They take every possible opportunity to go out. So these days, I’m more likely to sing “Shake, Rattle, and Roll” and hope I don’t lose anything important when I stand up.

Last week I wanted to buy a pair of hip hugger jeans, but I had to get three estimates on the location of my navel to determine the right size. I was going to wear them with a halter top just like the old days, but my kids hit me with a restraining order, the comic strip character Cathy came out of retirement to stage an intervention, and the government declared the entire Head to Toe area unsafe. I’m expecting FEMA to approve my application for natural disaster assistance any day now and Naval engineers to construct an overflow device to be worn around my waist.

In the meantime, I’m investing heavily in Krispy Kreme; specifically Cruellers, Raspberry Filled and Chocolate Glazed. Because even though hips don’t lie, maybe they can be bribed to keep the sugar coated truth to themselves.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

What Child Is This?

Welcome to the Absolute Write October Blog Chain. This month's theme is Masquerade. And I can't help wondering. . .Who is this kid?

Talk about blended families. Our family tree has more ex’s than a Tic Tac Toe tournament. At 2:00 in the afternoon on holiday weekends all the children automatically rotate parents from force of habit. This weekend, I found myself seated at dinner next to an entertaining young man who was engaged in a fork joust in an effort to to keep his creamed corn from touching his potato salad.

“Well, hello.” I’m nothing if not a sparkling conversationalist.

The fork executed a remarkable thrust and parry to save yet another food item from corn domination. “Yo.”

Limited verbal motivation. Uncombed hair. Aversion to cohabitation of vegetables. I hate that nagging feeling that you’ve seen someone before and can’t remember where.

“And who do you belong to?” I really should write this stuff down.

“You. I’m your first-born male child. I inherit your kingdom, such as it is.”

“What’s your name?”

“You told me not to tell anybody that doesn’t say the code word.”

“What’s the code word?”

“Nice trick. You warned me you might try that.”

I liked him better when he was poking holes in the entrée.

I squinted critically and turned his face side to side with my palm. “You don’t look like me.”

“Yet one more thing to be thankful for.”

I paused to consider. Wit coupled with a side order of sarcasm. A single sterling family trait does not make him an heir to my fortune in frozen Girl Scout cookies and unrecycled grocery bags.

“So what’s your name?”

“Nice try, Mom.”

“If I’m your Mom, tell me something personal that only I would know.”

“You hide leftover Easter candy in your underwear drawer, you can’t reach the Tupperware bowls on the second shelf, and you cry during the end of Secondhand Lions whether you see the first half of the movie or not.”

A few lucky guesses does not equal a DNA match.

“And what happened on Friday,” I queried, conjuring up memories of Family Scrabble Night.

He swallowed the last bite of uncontaminated potato salad and guzzled a half gallon of iced tea without stopping for breath. “Friday was allowance day. You owe me five dollars.”

Anybody with that kind of money memory has my blood in his veins.

Now how can I get him to tell me the family password? Maybe I can buy a vowel.

Follow the blog chain. There is no weakest link!

Auburn Assassin and direct link to her post

Hillary Jacques and direct link to her post

Aimee Laine and direct link to her post

Ralph Pines and direct link to his post

Veinglory and direct link to her post

Laffarsmith and direct link to her post

PASeaholtz and direct link to his post

Madelein Eirwen and direct link to her post

Amy Doodle <== YOU ARE HERE



Dolores Haze