Click any letter for a look at my prize-winning essay from the Erma Bombeck Writing Competition. You don't even have to buy a vowel.

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Army Wants You! (But They're Not Sure Why)

It never hurts to be open to job opportunities that have the potential to raise your monthly earnings enough to cover luxury items, like Girl Scout cookies. Or the rent.

Unless the job is with the Army.

Recently I ran across an advertisement for a civilian position at a local Army base. I tried to read the job description, but these guys did things with the alphabet that Sesame Street never dreamed of. It took a Navajo Code Talker just to understand the Job Title.

Fortunately, I’m multilingual. I’m fluent in Southern Baptist, High School Football, and, since Dad served on a submarine in WWII, I have a feel for Navy lingo (port is left, starboard is right, don’t let on that you don’t know which way is north, and NEVER call it a boat). None of this helped with Army dialect, but I took a chance and filled out the application anyway. From what I could tell, I was pretty sure I was flirting with a spy mission to Honduras.

I did okay until I got to the part about claiming Military Spouse Preference. While I appreciate the increase in benefits, I’m partial to the spouse I already have. If he would just kick his underwear directly into the laundry basket instead of straight up in the air like a lunar-bound space shuttle, I wouldn’t even consider a trade. And to be honest, I couldn’t upgrade my present spouse to military status. A milking stool has better knees than he does, and if a hawk had eyes like his, it would starve.

By the time my resume was submitted and approved, I felt like I had been granted Officer status and promoted to Director of Homeland Security. (I don’t know how you feel about the color coded crisis system they came up with, but I can never figure out if orange means to hide under the house or that there’s road construction on Pennsylvania Avenue. The first thing this Mom is going to do in the Official Security Office is install a Threat Level System based on emoticon stickers. If you get more than two Mr. Yuks in the same week, you’re on the no fly list.)

All the same, I let the opportunity go. I never did find out what the job was for. I know now why the army had to give up on that “Be All That You Can Be” slogan.

Nobody could figure out what the "Be" stood for.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Have Gun Will Ravel

I make up for my lack of gardening skills with an amazing ability to annihilate craft projects. You would think the Author of the Universe in his unbounded wisdom would have given me the glue gun talents of a sharpshooter. This is not the case.

One sister tried to teach me to crochet. She said she never saw anybody crochet backwards.

My other sister tried to help me make a banner for Son One’s soccer team. I sewed the thing to the leg of my pants. Gold craft felt stitched into the inseam of extra-large stretchy pants in a series of festive darts and puckers is not a desirable fashion statement.

When I was in high school, my mother took pity on me (GOOD LORD, WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?!) and finished my home economics project. Who would have thought zippers would be so hard to install? I had more trouble than a presidential candidate trying to get the thing to stay closed.

My niece has a businesses creating hand-painted jewelry that people pay actual money for. I painted the South Carolina crescent and palmetto tree on a pendant. It looked like a banana bush.

My relatives began to meet secretly to have crafting parties. I happened to visit one Friday evening, and at my knock heard muffled voices and the sound of heavy furniture being shoved in front of the door.


The blinds shifted slightly. Whispering followed.

“I know you’re in there!”

The door opened a crack. “We can’t come out. We’re quarantined.”

“I’m so sorry. Can I get you anything?”

“Could you leave a pizza by the door?”

“What sort of disease do you have that you’re quarantined but want pizza?”

Silence. Then, “Acrophobia?”

“You’re in quarantine because you’re afraid of heights?”

“Leave the pizza down low.”

“You people are making crafts in there, aren’t you? Let me in or I’m coming back armed with tacky glue and pinking shears!”

Furtive dialing.

“And no calling 9-1-1!”

I went around to the back door, entered through the kitchen and came up behind a group of my closest friends and relatives wielding cotton balls and tiny paintbrushes like they were heavy artillery.

“Can I at least water your plants?”

A mad scramble ensued leading to a tangle of arms, legs, and cotton balls. It looked like an Easter Bunny gangland rumble. A glitter haze filled the air and a paintbrush stuck through my sister's pony tail like a hairpin.

The good news is that the plants are going to be fine. But the crafting group cemented themselves into a freeform sculpture. They’ll be okay once we find an antidote for Gorilla Glue.

Meanwhile I’ve taken up scrapbooking. Has anybody got a nail gun I can borrow?

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Potted Payback

A full moon is nothing compared to the first full day of sunshine after a winter full of sullen snowflakes to make people act crazy. The first day I looked to the heavens and felt the sunshine warm my face with magic fingers, I knew it was time to murder more houseplants.

If Christmastime is the season of Poinsettia Slaughter, then March brings Geranium Massacre Madness. Garden shops are teeming with folks loading up their carts with future victims. Satellites overhead are busy transmitting my picture to plant nurseries across the country: Armed and dangerous. Spotted with peat moss and a trowel. Before nightfall my mug shot will be hanging over the succulents at Home Depot stores everywhere.

I still have three house plant survivors from the Flora Trail of Tears that so many African Violets and Swedish Ivy cuttings have taken over the years, across my kitchen counter to the waste bin outside my back door. The road is difficult and tortuously long, but I have faith enough to keep widening the road and beginning beautification projects along its borders.

Just now I’m rubbing my hands together and gazing lovingly at two jade plants and an aloe, ripe for repotting. I think my neighbors phoned in a tip to CSI. Helicopters hover over my house. SWAT teams are rappelling down the chimney. Hostage negotiators are ringing my cell phone. “Back away from the potting soil and nobody will get hurt.”

With sunshine streaming in between the blinds, I lock the door and carefully spread newspapers across the table. Is it a bad omen that I have selected the obituary page for this project? I turn the paper over to government news. Somehow that seems more fitting for the spreading of manure.

My sons, both avid participants in Role Playing games, roll their dice to determine my luck. Hmm, Critical Fail. Yeah, but naysayers told Christopher Columbus to turn left at Nova Scotia, too. If he had listened, we wouldn’t be sucking the cream filling out of cannolis today. Sometimes you just have to stick to the North Star and make sure you have the right ratio of dirt to fertilizer.

Thirty minutes later the deed is done. I fling open the back door and announce, “The transplant was a success!”

Then I trip over the old pots on the back step and land with an overly large crash in the trash can by the door. Picking peat moss out of my hair and feeling a bruise the size of a dieffenbachia on my backside, I realize something important.

The Trail of Tears has claimed another victim.

Monday, March 15, 2010

I'll Take "No Clue" for $100, Alex

Because it’s human nature to forget pain, and also because I have the memory retention of an aquarium-based goldfish, I gather the family together in front of the TV every night to feed my Jeopardy addiction.

I may not rinse and spin with any degree of regularity, and if it's going to take me past starting time, the roast may just come out of the oven at half past rare, but at 7:30 Alex Trebek is going to find me poised on the edge of the recliner screaming, “Dust Bunnies for $100!”

I’m a perennial loser at Trivial Pursuit, I don’t store random facts about movie titles away in my cheeks for the winter, and I’m at the point in life when I have to slap a sticky note on my forehead to remind me why I’m looking in the mirror, but I’m going to get the video clue to finish out the category or die.

Meanwhile, my husband and two sons, human memory dumps in baseball caps, are spouting off the answers to history, science, and technology questions like it’s the entrance exam to Romper Room. By the time I get to answer a question, the Jeopardy music is giving way to a commercial featuring a bear in the woods.

I was an English Major. I can compare and contrast diction and theme in Shakespeare and Chaucer with one poet tied behind my back, but give me three seconds to come up with the name of Tex Ritter’s horse and I crash and burn.

The show ends, high fives are awarded all around and the living room empties. I feel like the last kid on the school bus.

“Oh sure, everybody leaves now,” I snarl. “I was about to stage a come from behind victory.”

“The show’s over, Mom.”

“Why don’t they have essay questions?”

“Because Alex Trebek is getting older. He doesn’t have enough time left to grade papers.”

That hurts. Alex was my first love. If it were up to him, I’d probably be the Vanna White of the light up board.

I pop back in the recliner, grab a handy copy of War and Peace and prepare to do some light reading.

I’ll get ’em tomorrow. Double Jeopardy or nothing.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Mom in the Mirror--Is My Son

When I was younger, the code for an unacceptable outfit was Mom clutching her chest and shrieking, “Are you going to WEAR that?”

No, Mom, this was to throw off the paparazzi.

Now that I’m older, I’m just thankful if my clothes cover any body parts that might be offensive to passers by. I appeared at breakfast dressed for work yesterday morning. I sported green stretchy pants that failed to extend to my ankles due to a detour over my midsection, a faded maroon top with waterspots across the peaks. As long as I leaned forward a little, nobody could tell I’d had a C-section.

Son One’s cereal spoon stopped in midair like a Southern mosquito trying to surf a heat wave. He regarded me gravely, “Mom are you gonna wear that?”

“Since when do you take an interest in my clothes?”

“Since you decided to wear my sweatpants.”

It figures. I haven’t turned into my parents.

My kids have.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Fascinating? Believe It or Not!

It seems like I’m at the top of everybody’s list these days. I figure it’s either because my name starts with “A” (that scored me a lot of unwanted front row seats in school), or it’s everybody’s naughty list, and when it comes to People You Don’t Allow Your Children To Play With, I’m the first one that comes to mind. (Okay, so I consider ice cream an entree and sprinkles the vegetable of the day. It's all about choices.)

Either way, I’ve been given awards by two really neat, cool people. Each award requires the reader to endure fascinating facts about me, and while I don’t mind ensnaring readers under false pretenses as a general rule, I feel obliged to come up with some interesting reading here. So bear in mind that these facts may tend more to the fascinating side than to the fact side, and that I am not invoking the “Satisfaction or Your Money Back Guarantee” on this one. Sit back and prepare to be amazed.

The Superior Scribbler Award from Stacey:
* Each Superior Scribbler must in turn pass The Award on to 5 most-deserving Bloggy Friends.
*Each Superior Scribbler must link to the author & the name of the blog from whom he/she has received The Award.
*Each Superior Scribbler must display The Award on his/her blog, and link to This Post, which explains The Award.
*Each Blogger who wins The Superior Scribbler Award must visit this post and add his/her name to the Mr. Linky List. That way, we'll be able to keep up-to-date on everyone who receives This Prestigious Honor!
*Each Superior Scribbler must post these rules on his/her blog.
(Instead of passing the award torch, I invite you to read the blogs of any of the talented participants in the Army of Ermas blog. They're terrific and I feel like the new girl whose clothes don't match but ended up in the sorority only because of family ties. I do have that one popular sister. I hate her.)

The Beautiful Blogger Award from Becster. As a requirement for accepting the award I am to share seven things about myself that my readers might not know, and then I'm to pass on the award to ten other Beautiful Bloggers! Ten? I don't have ten friends/family members/pets who would give me their telephone number. Don't get your hopes up here.

Fascinating facts:

1. I share a birthday with Abraham Lincoln. My kids think we’re twins. (Abe and Amy. It fits, right?) I told them our mother could only tell us apart because Abe parts his hat on the opposite side from me. And wears his beard shorter.

2. I’m not good with crafts. My niece gave me a glue gun for Christmas and I glued the bag closed before I could get the gun out. Now I’m required by law to keep the ammunition in a separate location.

3. I like to drive red cars. It’s a mother of two’s way of telling the world there’s more to me than apple juice and gym socks.

4. I like to wear blue jeans everywhere. It’s the white trash version of The Little Black Dress. Reeboks are my pumps. I have a matching wrap. It’s made by Levi Strauss.

5. If my mother weren’t already gone, she would dig her own grave with a grapefruit spoon if she heard me say white trash.

6. I drink Mountain Dew for the taste. That’s like saying I read Playboy for the articles. It’s really all about the rush.

7. I wish I could play the piano. I’d like to hit the ivories at high speed with Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy and leave steam rising from the keys once before I die.

8. Or I’d like to play the trumpet. Or the saxophone. Or the kazoo. Or name the letters for the notes of the staff without having to buy a vowel.

9. My kids think they know everything because they can program the TV, the computer, and the cell phone. But they don’t know that I named the dog the primary beneficiary on my life insurance policy or that he’s in charge of their trust fund.

10. My husband, the Captain of our Love Boat, secretly thinks that I’m bossy, that I like to do everything my own way, and that I’m adverse to change. I think adverse means the opposite of reverse and is one of the gifts and graces mentioned in the Bible.

11. I’ve been married twice. So far.

12. I live in a duplex with a husband, two grown boys, three dogs, and three cats. One of the dogs thinks she’s a cat, but that really doesn’t help the numbers any.

13. On Friday nights my kitchen hosts an assembly of trolls, thieves, and warriors. I don’t mind their games as much as the fact that a troll goes through groceries like Brer Rabbit through the briar patch.

14. I was inside a church that caught on fire. No one was hurt, but to this day, I can’t roast marshmallows without singing Nearer My God to Thee.

15. I don’t follow directions well.