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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Broom Beneath My Wings

Night was a memory, but shadows still lurked in the corners of the kitchen. Silence blanketed the house like, well, a blanket. I blinked in the direction of the newspaper and aimed a watery imitation of coffee toward my mouth.

Through the brain haze, I pondered the best way to use the name Justin Bieber in a blog post to insure maximum search engine potential. Two months ago, nobody had ever heard of this kid. Yesterday my newborn niece was born sporting an “I Love Justin Bieber” tattoo right on her binkie.

Son Two appeared at my side like a spirit. “So, what are your plans for the moth in the bathroom?”

He and I share a common bond. We may disagree on nonessentials like the frequency of bathing or the advantages of using a fork to eat, but when it comes to the inalienable need for a homeland security system to warn against rogue insects, we’ve got our priorities right in line.

I’m fairly certain that in a bid to secure the benefits of a hefty life insurance policy, my husband left the assassin moth behind in the shower this morning. It’s a clever ploy, but my warning system is far ahead of him. Daylight was still a stranger and I was not yet awake enough to know that I had eyes, but my internal sensors had already informed me there was a moth in the bathroom.

I rolled the sports section and nudged Son Two toward the door. “I thought you’d take care of it.”

Right. He’d decorate his first car with pompom fringe and rooftop reindeer before he’d take on an insect assassin with wings of death.

“I’m not going in there. The thing has fangs dripping blood.”

This kid is 19. If he ever marries, I hope it’s to entomologist with a proven catch and release program, or a ninja warrior woman wielding a No Pest Strip in each hand like nunchuks.

Besides, I knew his story was true. Blood-drenched fangs are a natural accessory of rogue moths. It also had the wingspan of a dragon and clutched the wall with spiked talons. Nature’s death machine. And it was probably hungry.

“Well, we could get the broom, wave it around, and see if he’ll fly.”

Son Two looked at me as if I’d suggested we don pink-tasseled thongs and volunteer to lead the cheers at the next Republican rally. To him it was more vampire bat than harmless visitor. “There’s no other door. Where do you think he’s going to fly?”

“The only other choice is to wake up your brother.”

Son One, Rip Van Winkle, hit the snooze button back at the half century mark and still has a five decade siesta to take care of before his eyelids see action. Waking him up before he’s ready is like summoning the Kraken. He rises from the depths, consumes all the groceries, and then resubmerges until suppertime.

Clutching the door frame, Son Two peered around at me. “You go first.”

Who says a child will do anything for a mother that loves him? Well I’m not excited about going all Harry Potter for him, either.

“Okay, give me the broom.”

He hands me the weapon and I embark as stealthily as Rambo on my version of Psycho II: Moth Balls R Us.

As I approached the creature, I realized two things. My son is slamming the bathroom door repeatedly on the heel of my shoe in an attempt to trap me with the monster. Also, if I lose control of bladder functions in the heat of battle, I’ll likely lose the element of surprise, slip through the puddle, and slide into the litterbox like it was home plate.

With one arm in the air like a seasoned fencer, I brandished my broom in the direction of the Moth Monster. “Hello, My name is Inigo. . .” Just then the moth took flight, circling the light fixture and landing on the handle of my broom.

I'm pretty sure it will be easier to remodel the bathroom than just repair the damage. The litter box looks like a strainer and there are spots on the tile that no longer match the rest of the decor.

I decided to name the moth Justin Bieber. It appeared overnight and was kind of cute, but all it did was flutter a little and create pandemonium everywhere it went.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

An Inspirational Birthday Message

10 Reasons Why I Hate My Sister

1. You always got all the boyfriends. On second thought, after unsuccessfully training two husbands, I’m not really envious of extra men in your life.

2. You got all the craft talent. But I’ve got enough hand-beaded jewelry to last me until I’m 375 years old, and you helped Ryan make a shoebox float for Carnivale that won first place in German class.

3. You got married and moved away. But you had a pack of kids that have been like sunshine on my flower garden for most of my days. (Okay, maybe flower garden is a bad analogy because all mine are dead, but you get the point.) Also, you have a daughter that gave me a glue gun. On purpose.

4. You got the rogue common sense gene in the family. As soon as I figure out why that’s important, I’m going to fire off a letter of complaint to the Management.

5. You started the tradition of taking Mr. Beason’s classes for high school English. But because you did, I already knew that half the class would fail when I walked in his door. Also I used what I learned there to ace the Advanced Placement test and exempt college freshman English.

6. You’re the sweet one. But then I had to be the funny one, and I sailed through school on the strength of humorous English compositions, and have collected a nice bit of pocket change from the same sort of thing telling about the trauma I suffered at the hands of my siblings. Also, my kids want to come live with you. Could I drop them off tomorrow morning?

7. You have grandchildren. Of course, when my kids are gone, I’ll still have two Labradors, a diva Dachshund, three cats and Captain Bill to take care of. Could I drop Bill off tomorrow morning, too?

8. You can do math in your head and I can’t. Come to think of it, I don’t really have a problem with this one.

9. You always win at monopoly. (See number 8.) But I'd rather shave my legs with a potato peeler than play Monopoly and because of unsportsmanlike conduct I've been served with a lifelong Monopoly Ban by the kids, so it goes to show that things always work out for the best.

10. You were born first. But Mama & Daddy were so tired by the time I came along, I got away with everything. And you talked mama into letting me wear hose when I was the only barelegged girl left in fifth grade. And you’ll always be older than me. Come to think of it, I don’t really mind having you around at all. (And I have a pair of pants that need hemming, and I broke my pink earrings, and I lost my new bracelet and . . .we need to have a craft night real soon!)


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Hold It!

Some days you have to fight to hold on, even as you’re on hold. The scene: a small office, an injured worker, a secretary. Pleased to meet you. I’m the secretary.

Me *dialing the Insurance Company (referred to in the future as The Defendant) listed in large print on our official Insurance Policy, and assuming a pleasant, yet professional Secretary Barbie voice*: Hi! I have a Worker’s Comp case here. What do I need to do?

Insurance Professional: We don’t handle that. You’ll need to call our claims administrator. They can tell you everything.

Me: Okay. How do I reach them?

Insurance Professional: Call this number, ask for Brandon. *Amy ponders the fact that this sounds a bit like a clandestine drug drop, but decides to play along for the sake of the employee, who is beginning to swell. * "Oh, and you’ll need an Injury Report Form," the Insurance Professional whispers confidentially.

Me: How do I get one?

Insurance Professional *Amy imagines her waving a hand vaguely into the air in the approximation direction of Brazil* They have a website. . .

*Amy Dials New Insurance Professional*

Me: Hi! I have a Worker’s Comp case here. This is a very small office and we’ve never had to file a claim before. I’m supposed to ask for Brandon.

New Insurance Professional: It doesn’t matter who you talk to. You just need to file a claim.

Me: Okay, How do I do that?

New Insurance Professional: I’ll find someone in claims. *Amy makes mental note to apply for job in insurance industry.* You need a claim number. *Puts Amy on hold. No music. No cheerful voice. The sound of a phone echoing in the distance continues until Amy considers retirement and begins to create an online advertisement for her replacement.*

New Insurance Professional comes back on line: You need to verify your policy number. *Amy does this and is rewarded by the ringing phone of doom for another few hours. My fingernails now need trimming and I could use a hair cut and leg wax.*

Another New Insurance Professional comes on line: Hello. (No cheerful voice. No “How can I help you? She sounds as if she’s on an IV Valium drip.)

Me: I have never had to file a Worker’s Comp Claim. I need a claim number.

Another New Insurance Professional: We don’t give out claim numbers.

Me: That’s fine. I just need to send our employee to the doctor. What do I need to do? (Amy is thankful the patient is not spouting the spurty kind of blood. So is the patient.)

Another New Insurance Professional: I don’t think we give out claim numbers. I’ll ask my supervisor.

Me: I just need to know *Amy interrupted by her arrival once again on the Insurance Hold System which equates with Dante’s Seventh Level, the one populated by people who could not pass the Wal-Mart Greeter test. This time, however, she is serenaded with music from Casper the Friendly Ghost. Okay maybe it’s not Casper, but it’s not Mozart either.*

*Amy organizes pencil drawer, stacks post-it notes according to color, and alphabetizes contents of candy dish. Just as she tears page off calendar and resets clocks to daylight savings time, her old friend comes back on the line.*

Another New Insurance Professional: Yeah, we don’t give out claim numbers.

Me: That’s fine. What do I need to do to get this employee seen by a doctor?

Another New Insurance Professional: You can call in the report.

Me: Should I do that now or later?

Another New Insurance Professional: Yes.

Me: So I need to call you later?

Another New Insurance Professional: You can. Or you can do it now. * Amy holds phone away from ear. This kind of stupid might just seep through the phone line. Just my luck, to avoid swine flu and get struck down by this. *

Me: So I can do it now?

Another New Insurance Professional: If you want to. Whenever. At your convenience.

Me: So I can send our employee to the doctor and then call you?

ANIP: If you like.

Me: Do I need to ask for you? *Please, God, no* What’s your name?

ANIP: Beelzebub *This is not entirely accurate. I changed names to more accurately describe the situation.*

Me: So she can just go on to the doctor.

ANIP: Well she needs to go to an Urgent Care Facility.

Me: So she doesn’t go to her own doctor? How clever of you to mention it.

ANIP: Yeah.

Me: I don’t have a claim form.

ANIP: Well you can just call. . .

Me: Got it. Thanks so much for your assistance.

* Amy terminates the call and considers terminating the Insurance Professional but is leery of being placed on hold indefinitely and doesn’t think she can hold out much longer. *

Employee: So what do I do?

Me: Hold on.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Jammin' With Jimi

I’m standing ankle deep in the living room shag, legs spread apart, guitar hanging from a strap that crosses my chest like a shoulder bag I’m stowing away from purse thieves. I feel like a Freedom Shopper.

Santa in his jolly elven wisdom brought the children a video game that uses miniature plastic guitars as controllers. That’s like bringing Stephen Hawking a Playskool computer.

Personally, I'm having trouble working up to technology that advanced. Five colored buttons on the guitar correspond to notes on the televison screen. I can type 85 words a minute without so much as a peek at the space bar. So why can’t I play Slow Ride in easy mode without holding the guitar up to my bifocals to help me distinguish the red button from the green?

As the colored numbers disappear down the yellow brick road onscreen, I’m wildly pressing buttons at random, humming “If I only had a brain,” at chipmunk speed in my head. I press the yellow button in time to score a point and figure I’m in the zone. “Jimi Hendrix, eat your heart out!” I squeal, sinking to one knee and head banging with enough gusto to take the curl out of my perm.

“You know Jimi Hendrix?” Apparently I’m earning Mom points with my specialized history knowledge.

“Who doesn’t know Jimi?” I’m in the zone. I feel the music. I also feel pain in my old roller skating injury. “Help me up. My knees are locked.”

I’m just getting into the rhythm of the thing when the song ends. The virtual rock star onscreen shoots me a disgusted look and the audience jeers.

“Gee Mom,” says Son One, ever the encourager. “You got booed by a fake crowd.”

Son Two, heaven’s answer to Eric Clapton, picks up the guitar. “Like this, Mom.” By the time he’s through playing Freebird, we’ve all linked arms and are swaying back and forth. The dog is holding a lighter aloft and wiping a tear from one eye.

Oh sure, kids today have video games that have more moves than the real people we actually knew. But my generation had Jimi before he was an electronic rendition. We had the Beatles live. We had Elvis in his prime. You can’t duplicate that. Not with a plastic guitar and a six inch cartoon figure whose pixels won’t swivel.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

GI Just Say No

Frankly, I’m a bit concerned about the strategic national defense of a country who openly solicits assistance from my son. I’m not saying that he’s not capable of fulfilling his patriotic duty, but I just can’t believe that an eighteen year old that goes all white around the mouth and makes the pouty face when his applesauce touches his pork chop is going to be reliable with rations packed into an indestructible Hefty bag.

As soon as my son entered his senior year in high school, the United States Army began a postal crusade to win his affections. Our mailbox was bombarded with pamphlets extorting the virtues of Army life that boasted so many bonuses and benefits it resembled a campaign for a timeshare in an exotic land. One where you could experience the world, earn an education, and operate heavy artillery. All this with a meal plan and government issued fashion accessories.

This kid has remarkable experience with real-life tactical weapons. He masterminded the construction of a working tabletop trebuchet for his younger brother’s science project, and provided ammunition in the form of toy farm animals to launch at the family dog. (Bo survived several near-misses and a plastic cow in his water bowl.) His present stockpile of munitions includes a marshmallow gun made from plastic pipe, three foam rubber swords, and a heavy duty water gun that leaks.

If it’s his video game skills that has the Army all atwitter, I can understand their excitement. To his credit, he has defeated enemy armies and crushed mighty weaponry on practically every game system on the market. He is a virtual expert in guerilla warfare with camo-clad GI Joe types and a definitive power in open battle with earthbound aliens or free-range zombies. But I just can’t believe that worldwide thermonuclear war will pause for him to get a snack and watch reruns of “That Seventies Show.”

Fortunately for those of us who depend on the Armed Forces to maintain peace at the borders and keep terrorists out of the potato salad, Son Number One opted for college life instead of a military existence. Reportedly, Uncle Sam likes soldiers who can take out the enemy without having to stop and reload their controller with AA batteries.

However his brother’s coming along, and he’s a triple threat: He has superior ratings with water balloons, rubber bands, and air guitar.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Easy On The Green

Personally, I don’t care for golf because I don’t approve of animal cruelty in any form. From what my sons tell me of golf outings with their father (Husband Number 1 for those who keep score), a worm army, several chipmunks, and at least one slow-moving blue jay were placed in enough danger to qualify for government-sponsored relocation. Of course this is a man who considers tube socks haute couture, so his golf cart has been running on fumes for a long time.

Considering that fact, it seems like a good idea to encourage men to watch the Masters. It’s one of the only sporting events where they view an article of clothing as a prize. Not that the green jacket will go with anything they have on. When I think of what plaid has had to suffer for the sake of sport, I want to run down to Wal-Mart and buy up all the material scraps from the clearance table before they strike again.

Over the years, the talk on the course has not been, strictly speaking, about what to wear on the course. At least once the hot topic of discussion was “uniform balls” by which, if they mean what I think they mean, I’m completely embarrassed for their wives and mothers. What they say it means, according to a random sampling of an article in the newspaper delivered fresh to my pine tree each morning, is that they all use the same ball. Not the very same one, but little golf ball clones of the original. That way nobody is using, let’s say, a ball so juiced that the words “Fresh Squeezed” should be stamped into the dimples.

Golfers tend to go all white around the spikes when uniform balls are mentioned, but they agree that if such a thing were to happen, it could only happen at the Masters.

Apparently, the laws of space and time bend according to the Masters whim. Where else could you get 365 acres of flowers to bloom at the same time without having some neighbor kid pick them all?

Also, the Masters has its own vocabulary. Fans at the Masters are called patrons. Of course, that's what they call customers at The Chicken Ranch too, but when the price for a ticket surpasses that of a high-end Rolex, fans can be called Grand Putting Poobahs and wear tube socks with different colored stripes for every day of the week if they like.

This year, the golfing world is abuzz and everyone is Twittering about the return of Tiger Woods, who has spent most of his time putting out of the rough off the green as well as on. A recent article hit the newstands describing Tiger’s activities over the past year. You have to show two forms of identification and undergo full body decontamination just to read the headline. All I know is that any man who has made as many holes in one as he has is bound to be indulging in performance enhancement of some kind.

Which brings us to the last matter. Why are women allowed to play with the masters but not at the Masters? A woman can keep both hands on the club and her eye on the long ball without leaving anything unsavory in the sand trap.

It’s probably a good thing for the guys not to have the extra competition though. There’s not a woman alive who wouldn’t walk off with the top prize. It’s a blazer and purse to match—and they come in our favorite color. Green.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Party Animal

Because I am a kind person, a loyal helpmate, and a good wife--and because I’m not presently holding any husband guilt points in abeyance--I waved merrily as the Captain of our Dreamboat sailed off on an adventure that will take him out of local legal jurisdiction, across the state line, and eat up the weekend like Pac-Man eats little white dots. His transportation is a pollen-encrusted Saturn that is older than our cat, Sabertooth, and his fuel is the energy that comes from a weekend away from trash duty.

Lord knows I have plenty to do around the house to keep me busy, what with oiling the grout and shaving the sticky parts off the carpet. This afternoon I’ll probably hike out to the porch and check the mail. And that WalMart excursion isn’t going to take care of itself. There’s PineSol to be bought. So, with a grocery list that’s worth more than most treasure maps and an eye toward the endless amusement that comes from watching customers in pursuit of low prices and cheap thrills, it’s WalMart Ho! (Which is one of those peculiar expressions fraught with hidden meanings, all of which are curiously correct.)

I’m glad he’s making this trip. I’ll grab the opportunity to rearrange his underwear drawer to provide comic relief when he tries to get dressed in the dark come Monday morning. But still, I’ll admit to a little bit of stress-relief envy. It’s not the fact that he’ll probably go more than 24 hours without uttering the words, “I don’t care who started it, I’m going to finish it!” The main difficulty for me is the knowledge that by now he has had entire conversations with people who don’t consider an eye roll, shoulder shrug, and porcine grunt to be standard methods of communication. People who hold responsible positions in society and are not presently enrolled in the ten year college plan, payable in blood, sweat, and a decade of eating from McDonald’s dollar menu.

But at least I can finally have all the girls over for that lingerie party we’ve talked about for so long. Now I’ve just got to make sure nobody does anything crazy, like posting all the information on the Internet where everybody in the world can see, and alert him to the fact that I’m not quite ready for him to come back. The kids are gone, though, and the only one home is that crazy Labrador of his who he’s been trying to train to use the computer. Yeah, right.


Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Pole Position

That old “touch your toes” thing isn’t working for me anymore, so I thought I’d find a new exercise program.

It isn’t that I’m rejecting my toes; it’s just that I rarely see them. We don’t hang out in the same neighborhood any more and we don't have many visible body parts in common. So in the interest of personal conditioning and self improvement, I decided to swing with the new fitness craze: Pole Dancing. My family was excited for me.

“Absolutely not.” Sons One and Two answered in harmony. They haven’t agreed on anything since the great “Whose hiney put the hole in the living room wall?” debate of ’05 and they pick now to show solidarity.

“But everybody’s doing it.”

“Everybody’s having hip replacements, too. Tell that to your insurance company. Can you say deductible?”

That settled the matter for me. If the boys didn’t approve, it was just what I needed. I searched the Internet to find some local lessons.

However, I didn’t want to take a class without trying it out privately first. I’m not exactly Dasher or Dancer when it comes to the ladies aerobics class at the local YMCA; I figured I’d better work on some moves before I shinnied up a metal pole in a room full of Vixens. I slipped on my laundry day gym shorts, a clear violation of the rules of fashion etiquette for public exposure, and sauntered down to the elementary school playground where an old volleyball pole cemented into a tire stood guard over some dandelions in a sunny corner.

The videos I saw on You Tube showed sleek, gazelle-like women, frolicking delicately around a shining pole like a lady’s dress of filmy chiffon blowing around her legs in a gentle breeze.

Thinking chiffon, I circled the pole feeling a zephyr waving wisps of hair across my upturned face, and grasped the circumference of the pole in one hand as I swung my legs up into the Fireman’s Position.

It was then I realized that the pole had been baking in the Southern summer sun long enough to cook a turkey, two dozen yeast rolls, and a sweet potato casserole. It toasted my marshmallows in seconds.

My thighs stuttered across the pole, popping like an old clutch under the foot of a novice driving student. A line of blisters the size and shape of a Tibetan mountain range sprung to life on my twirling hand and my behind bore the grill marks of a well-turned sirloin. Now I know why firemen wear pants that Smokey the Bear couldn't claw his way through.

Releasing the pole is called the dismount, even if it’s accidental. On the whole, it’s not
a good idea to let go suddenly, even in case of trauma, particularly when wearing the type of shorts that maintain their position on the body with a drawstring. If you have elected to practice on an old volleyball pole that sports a hook whose purpose it is to hold up volleyball net, the idea is especially unfortunate.

Now I know what gymnasts feel like in the middle of the summersault-handspring section of their floor routine. If the Olympic committee had been on hand at that moment, I would have secured a spot as a favorite on the team. When I landed, I looked through my knees at the pole, spinning in that old tire in circles, and grinned.

At least if I got a workout, I gave that wretched thing one, too. It wouldn’t be so bad, though, if the blasted thing didn’t look better in those old gym shorts than I did.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Seek and Enjoy

Spring is a glorious time of days filled with sparkling sunshine, blooming flowers, and flooded basements. I can tell it’s spring at my house when the sewer backs up and the toilet overflows like a baby with a double mouthful of strained peas. The plumber marks his annual trip out to my house on his calendar right next to “Order New Mercedes.”

About the only thing I hate worse than the first flush of spring is the annual Easter egg hunt at Dad’s farm. This year, Easter comes at the first of April, so it’s possible that the two events may coincide like a slingshot-launched rock and a plate glass window, only in this case the thing that gets launched is a good deal less desirable as a projectile than a rock.

I’m just as helpless at the egg hunt as I am in cases of explosive plumbing malfunctions. And to make matters worse, now that Easter is rolling around like the last jelly bean in the bowl, I’m running out of ways to disguise my nonconformity. It’s like trying to disguise one of the white keys on a jazz piano. I’m seek-challenged. I couldn’t find the spots on a ladybug without a field guide and labeled specimen. If it were up to me, all the hidden eggs would find a home in the wild.

I can hide eggs with no trouble. I’m the one that thought of putting the cracked one under the seat of the car when we were kids. It’s still there. I’m anticipating an ugly phone call from Dad any day. Reminder to self: Sign up for caller ID.

But when it comes to finding eggs, I can scramble all day and come up with nothing but an empty basket. Especially now that I’m at the stage of life where every morning starts off with a hunt. As I get older—I won’t say mature as that can lead to lawsuits from the false advertising people—I couldn’t find a lost thought with an All Points Bulletin and a Vulcan mind meld. I haven’t been able to locate my belly button since the baby was born, and I wouldn’t recognize my own knees in a police lineup. Note to self: Order college graduation announcements for the baby.

When I was a kid, the Easter Bunny used to hide “pity eggs” out in plain sight to make sure I could find them. He could have dyed them neon colors, dotted them with iridescent sequins, and implanted them with a tracking device that emitted a sound that would shatter Plexiglass, and I would still wander from shrub to shrub saying, “Am I hot? Give me a hint.”

Last weekend, while rearranging furniture in an attempt to find my glasses, I discovered a plastic candy-filled egg in one of the nooks in my desk. Inside was a tiny candy bar huddled in a faded wrapper.

The kids acted like it was a moon rock. “Look! It’s one of last year’s Easter Eggs that we never found!”

That does it. I’m through with egg hunts. It won’t bother me if I never see my navel again, but if my chocolate detector is lost, I’ve got nothing left to dye for.