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.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

A Baby By Any Other Name. . .Still Smells

As I was registering children for basketball recently, I encountered a tiny young lady with petite golden curls, large blue eyes, and a name with enough consonants to label an expansive European country. Fortunately she’d forgotten her last name. I was glad because I used the whole alphabet on her first. The registration form looked like the “begat” section of the Bible. To imprint her name on the back of her jersey, we would have to use letters the size of a flea.

“What a clever name,” I beamed, mentally rearranging the letters to create the first three paragraphs of War and Peace. “How do you pronounce it?”

The girl shrugged. “Sissy.”

These days naming a child is like playing Wheel of Fortune. You call out all the letters you can think of, then take suggestions from the audience. Anybody that creates a title that the average schoolteacher can pronounce on the first try has to go to the end of the line and start over with a brand new baby.

When I was born, in the dark days before the “Buy a Vowel” era, people named their children after relatives who might leave them money. Failing a possible inheritance, they fell back on experimental methods and gave the child a name that looked like it might suit the personality of the baby.

There hasn’t been money in my family since the revenooers shut down the family still, I mean, business, so Mom went for the common sense method. The name Amy means “can’t read road maps,” and in some cultures can also be translated “she who hates vacuuming” or “one who fails at long division.” My sister is "Clothes Borrower" and my brother’s name is translated “burns gas like pine on a bonfire.”

I don’t envy celebrities who, even though they ooze enough cash to post bond several times yearly, are under such pressure to invent clever billing for their babies that in the end all the Heavenly Bodies and Fruit Baskets begin to sound the same.

The most clever of these is Apple. Who would have thought to name a baby after a computer that is immune to most major viruses? If the child takes after its namesake, doctor bills won’t become a problem until the teenage years, when crashes are inevitable. And if Steve Jobs was the marketing guru that Bill “Broken Window” Gates has become, every fruit-bearing family would have at least one Apple who would enter the world in a media fanfare, bearing a first aid kit.

When my kids were born, I went the easy route. I called the first one “The Baby” and the second one “The Other Baby” and waited until someone gave them a monogrammed shirt. After that it was easy to remember the oldest boy is AC-DC and the younger one is Slacker.

Now if I could just recall my husband’s name. I don't want to get excited until I'm sure, but it looks like I’m married to either Jimmy Buffett or Eric Clapton. I guess if I hear the blender going in the kitchen, I'll know I'm moving to Margaritaville.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Win the Cap'n's Booty!

Arrrgh! This be The Cap'n talkin'!

In honor o' International Talk Like A Pirate Day, I decided to conduct me own little raid on the Weddin' o' th' Sentry, at some fancy hoity-toity lubber tavern callin' itself the Ritz Carlton. (I gots t' admit, I don't see what the big deal is, jus' cause they named it fer a cracker.) I was lookin' fer to catch the lovely wench AmyDoodle, cause she makes me laugh, and even a pirate cap'n needs t' laugh ever now and agin.

But when I got to the crumby place, I heard that the wench had absconded and was nowheres t' be found! I was a right mite miffed, lemme tell yez! I searched and I searched, and all I found was... her shoes. The purtiest little pair ‘o satin slippers you ever did see.

Well, me and th' lads (Bo and Sam, the first Labradors) was peerin' at th' sitchy-ashun, and we allowed as how the day might still be won. All we had t' do was figger out a way t' use th' shoes t' my own advantage.

But what can a pirate do with a pair o' size 8M Mootsies Tootsies? They don't fit a big manly pirate cap'n like meself....

They don't make much of a hat....

And, puttin' the lie t' Get Smart, yer can't use it like a tellyphone....

Add Image

Me first Mate Bo can't be induced to wear 'em....

And the Beard Enhancement Technology jus' ain't ready yet.

Finally, I tried to eat one. But satin jus' makes me mouth dry....

But wait. A plan began t' be formin' in me head. A devious, cunnin' plan!
I'll give 'em away! Tha's right! We'll lure this Amy Doodle wench by
offerin' up 'er very own shoes -- a $50.00, er, $34.99,er, $29.98 value -- to a
lucky winner whose name will be drawn from my cap'n's hat by a random
lubber we'll pick up off th' beach.

So 'ere's yer chance! Jus' post a comment t' this here missive, or email
the wench herself a', fer a chance to get the
cap'n's booty!*

Note: Souvenir Ritz-Carlton Plastic Cup with Sissy-Girly Drink not included.

*Translation for non-booty speakers. You’ve read about them here on Mind Over Mullis. Now you can win the very shoes that attended, but did not get worn at the deluxe Ritz Carlton wedding. Worn for an hour, carried for an evening of dining and dancing! Just add a comment to this post or e-mail Hope you can walk a mile in my shoes—because I couldn’t walk at all!

Deadline: 11:59PM, September 30, 2010. Void where prohibited.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Traveling Shoes

For a trip to Wal-Mart last weekend, I wore dress pants and heels. For a wedding at the Ritz last month, I wore pantyhose with no feet and carried my shoes. I use my copy of Dress for Success to even up the slope under the litter box where the builder got a little crazy with his leveling tool.

Granted my trip to WalMart came just after church, a place I generally visit wearing matching clothes, or at least the ones from the end-of-the bed pile that I’m fairly certain are clean.

I bought new shoes to wear to the Ritz. On the “Cinderella needs new shoes for the ball” theory, I used the grocery money to purchase a pair of black satin peep toe pumps in size “Does Not Fit” as require by the Fashion Statute of ’08.

Getting dressed for an elegant party in a hotel room three hours from home is not a good time to find out your shoes are the same size as the infield at Yankee stadium. When I walked across the room, the shoes flew off like rainy day road slush off truck tires.

It didn’t help that I had three other pairs of black shoes in the bedroom closet 200 miles and a red dirt driveway down the Interstate.

It didn’t help that we’d just made an emergency shoe run for the Captain who had apparently chucked his dress shoes out the car window while cruising down the highway at 70 miles an hour. At least I couldn’t think of any other reason why he had taken care to bring a charcoal gray pinstripe suit, gray silk tie, and two year old grass-stained Reeboks.

The scenic, historic town that held the Ritz was much too quaint to offer anything so mundane as a shoe store, so we dashed to Shoes R Us in the next village to pick up a pair of dress shoes. We were even now donning our fancy duds to attend an elegant party with folks who did not purchase their clothes at the Zippy Mart.

“Why did you buy shoes that don’t fit?” The Captain of my Love Boat has a happy talent for driving my stress meter into uncharted territory. He was oblivious to the Jaws music that began in low tones in the background.

“They fit in the store.”

“I see. Why didn’t you ask for out-of-store shoes?” Sure, the man with the plastic dress loafers thinks he’s a comedian. Let’s see if he’ll find any clean underwear in the drawer the next time he’s headed for Lunch with the Boss Day.

“I tried them on without hose. With hose, my feet slip down like they’re on a swimming pool slide. My toes are trying to crash out the end into deep water.”

“What should I do? Throw you a life preserver?”

I strolled across the room to kill him, gripping the inside of my shoes with my toes like a cardinal clutching the branch of an icy winter pine. After about twenty minutes I stopped to rest before finishing the trip.

“Just let me hang on to your arm. We’ll walk slowly. We’ll look more elegant like that anyway.”

“Ohhh, like Jed Clampett easing down the spiral staircase to visit the see-ment pond.”

If I could aim it properly, I would have stabbed him in the instep with a stiletto. Unfortunately control was a problem and the shoe flew off sideways like it was lost in space.

At the Ritz, we were met by a smiling valet who clearly intended to park our car. Our car that was so full of wadded tissues that I attempted to use as shoe padding on the trip over that it looked like a Puffs outlet store.

The valet extended a well-manicured hand. My husband dropped the car keys into it-- just before Cinderella’s slipper knocked him out of commission with a pop fly to mid-centerfield. I never saw a valet fold into accordion pleats before. His reflexes were quite spectacular.

Not long after the wounded valet incident, the shoes took the road less traveled, and I skied down the hill barefoot to the lovely lakeside wedding. About the time I hit the sidewalk switchback halfway down the black diamond slope, the feet ripped out of my classic black hosiery, held in place by a single strand of between-the-toe nylon.

I arrived at the bottom of the mountain with a spray of grass and a flourish, and with all the grace of an Olympic champion accepted the arm of the usher, black satin pumps in hand, and the Captain trotting up behind.

The wedding was picturesque and stunning in its simple beauty. But I’m sure glad I didn’t promise to keep those pesky pumps Til Death Us Do Part. I’d hate to have to commit a crime of passion on my sole mate with a monogrammed napkin.

Monday, September 13, 2010

From Ritz to Spits and Back Again

Me: Stop growling at the waiter.

Captain: Tell him to get his hands out of my lap.

Me: He was just arranging your napkin for you.

Captain: If he arranges anything else in my lap, he’ll be serving salads at the rehab center.

Me: And you’ll be eating them in cell block 9. Here comes the first course. Remember to use your cocktail fork.

Captain: If that dude puts his hands in my lap again, he’s gonna find out what my cocktail fork is for.

Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, everybody at the party is going know you’re from a place where the dogs wear tags instead of tiaras. Nobody will ever confuse me with Paris Hilton. I pick clothes by the “will it show food” method, and my Labrador could eat a herd of her Chihuahuas and still have room for a Poodle snack later on. But I like to think that when it comes to manners I know enough not to blow my nose on the dinner napkin unless it’s paper and comes in an economy pack. Or at least a low thread count.

Sometimes, though, no matter how you try to disguise the poppy seeds wedged in your Saturday night smile, you may as well pack it in and head off to make a living as a camel farmer in Dubai because everybody can tell you come from a place where smoke detectors take the place of kitchen timers and you use 911 to call the family to dinner.

I’ve read up on the subject and even though camels have a reputation for expressing their opinions in unsanitary and vehemently saliva-filled ways, there are times I would opt for my hand at camel-milking and brave the spit rather than have another head waiter discover that I took my au gratin for granted.

Recently, I had occasion to visit the Ritz. And when I say Ritz, I don’t mean the cracker.

There are some places where a small town Southern girl is as comfortable as a garden tomato on white bread; center stage at the Miss Fried Okra Festival, the discount makeup stand at the corner flea market, the cushioned rocker in the church nursery holding a lap full of a baby made of wet and drippy.

Note that the Ritz-Carlton hotel during cocktail hour is not on this list.

I’m the girl who honeyed her crumpet upside down when invited to tea. The girl who shot a grape across the floor like fruit flavored buckshot at an outdoor cafĂ©. The girl who thinks that any dessert plate within her orbit is an open invitation for food tasting.

I discovered that life at the Ritz isn’t the same as it is at Motel 6. At the Ritz, they’ll leave the light on for you, but they tally the wattage and charge it to your bill. I’ve paid less that than that for a permanent bridge to anchor my molars against Tootsie Roll devastation. The good folks at the Ritz will run your bathwater too, but for that price, the Captain says they should christen the QE II in it and scrub the bathtub ring with a live mink.

In my world, college and antibiotics comes in courses. At the Ritz, dinner does. All in all, we came through the maze of salad forks and bread plates unscathed. A line of waiters strode out with each course and circled our table like General Santa Ana closing in on the die-hard Texans at the Alamo. Those waiters put up a good fight, what with extra spoons and not a Bowie knife in the lot, but we showed those guys we knew what a finger bowl was good for.

Captain: We didn’t have finger bowls. You kept rinsing your hands in my Scotch and soda. Didn’t you see it on the video they made during dinner?

Me: Do you know the area code for Dubai? I hear there are some great opportunities in camel farming there.

Captain: There may not be any job openings. That’s where that waiter said he was headed the last time he tried to put that napkin in my lap.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A Chicken in Every Pot

It’s not that my son is a picky eater, but he would starve to death before the noon rush at any grocery store in America.

He once perused the morning buffet at a luxury hotel restaurant (We have teenage boys. To us luxury means any hotel that doesn’t make us pay a security deposit when we check in.)for three quarters of an hour before demanding to be taken to McDonald’s. Nothing says Breakfast of Champions like a McBiscuit with the outside crust peeled away.

His specifications are exact. He does not eat ugly food.

Ugly food is defined as any food that comes in contact with any other food or food-like item during its processing or preparation. Therefore my kitchen is under constant supervision. It’s like living with a member of the Board of Health who doesn’t clean his room or brush his teeth until threatened with government action.

“Mom,” Son #2 peered in the pot of steaming, frothing liquid and wrinkled his nose. “Are you boiling chickens again?”

“Sure am.”

“Didn’t you just boil a chicken at aunt KJ’s house this weekend?”

“Yes, I was helping her out in the kitchen.”

Son 2, in disgust, “Do you have some sort of addiction to chicken boiling?”

“Jeffrey, I’m going to make chicken salad.”

“Are you sure this isn’t some kind of cult ritual or something?”

“I’m sure. Back away from the chicken. It needs to boil another hour.”

“Do we need to have an intervention?”

“No. This is not a bizarre ceremonial rite. You have to stew it before you can make other things with it.”

“Like what? Some sort of nasty chicken potion to smear on your victims? Does it eat their flesh? You know, like zombie chickens.”

“Son, if you don’t like chicken salad, you don’t have to eat it.”

“You’re trying to trick me. You’re going to feed me some kind of boiled chicken serum to make me do your will.”

“That’s ridiculous. I create the potion for making you do my will out of the parts I take out of the chicken.”


“Like the heart.”

“Are you lying?”

“Yes, I am. I’m not going to waste a perfectly good bird just to make you obey me. Besides, it doesn’t work.”

He pondered this tidbit. “That’s because I’m not eating it. I shouldn’t even be breathing in the fumes. They’re probably poisonous. Or hallucinogenic.”

I didn’t know words with that many syllables until I was in college. “There are pizzas in the freezer. I don’t care if you eat chicken salad or not.”

Where’s the feet? Are you wearing a chicken claw around your neck?”

“For goodness sakes. That’s the Mother’s Day necklace you and your brother gave me. The pictures are a little fuzzy, that’s all.”

“Sure, Mom, if that’s your real name. I’ll be wanting to see some identification at dinner.”

“Get out of the kitchen.”

“Oh, now you’re worried, aren’t you? You’ll probably try and disguise the chicken in my food.”

All the boy eats is frozen pizza and Captain Crunch. It’s hard to disguise chicken parts as rogue Crunch Berries.

“That’s right. Beware of anything you eat or drink. It may be contaminated with chicken broth.”

“That’s it. I’m making a pizza.”

It’s amazing how people who won’t eat freshly thawed meat by-products will roast a frozen, artificially colored and flavored disc to a golden brown and slam it down like filet mignon just because it says pizza on the box.

I think I’ll make some chicken soup. They say it cures what ails you. And in this case what ails me is a free-range teenager who’s chicken to try new food.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Special Delivery

For a while, the Captain of our Kennel discovered he could waylay any latent longings for new experiences in motherhood I might display with the addition of a new pet. Pets aren’t less expensive than children, but in rare cases their obedience training is actually effective. I am now the Angelina Jolie of the animal world. Presently I have six animals representing various cultures lounging on the living room furniture, ringing for takeout.

The cats are no trouble. They thrive on indifference. And aloe plants. Aloe plants that you’ve pampered and promised roomy new pots to if only they will “Live, please, live just one more day!” Shortly after a feline gourmet vegetarian meal, you will discover that fillet of aloe plant makes them puke fancy green spearmint gum-type designs on the new living room plush.

I can also keep up with the Labradors. Chunk a ball down the driveway and they will knit themselves into a scarf trying to be the first to grab it up and chew it like Double Bubble. Big dogs are easy. They know they’re dogs (okay, they also know they’re people and feel entitled to at least half of your sandwich, but that’s another thing entirely.) The thing is, they EXPECT to chase a ball and to be invited outside of the house for personal chores, such as watering topiaries and chasing squirrels. They come in the house to sleep or to help with the vacuuming or to beg for potato chips.

It’s the Dachshund that gives me trouble.

So far she has successfully trained me to retrieve a toy, give her a treat, and dress appropriately for carrying her outside under the umbrella in inclement weather. I’m striving for more complex achievements, but if she thinks I’m good for agility training, she’s going to be disappointed. I’m 51 years old. I don’t always make it safely through the hallway obstacle course on my 2:00 a.m. bathroom expedition. For me, agility is the ability not to trip over shadows and to open the bottle of pain reliever without calling for the Jaws of Life.

Occasionally, I will look down by my chair to find the little darling gazing up at me with the kind of eyes that would make Ebenezer Scrooge sign up as a Salvation Army bell ringer, attempting to assimilate me into her thought processes. Usually I’m not adept at picking up other languages, but now I recognize Dachshund for “play,” “treat,” and “let’s send the big dogs to live with your brother.”

As an added embarrassment, she doesn’t care for clothes like the movie stars' dogs do. Oh, she’s up for sleeping on your new sweater or dragging your soiled underwear through the dining room to pad her bed when company is passing the sugar bowl for tea. But she turns surly if you present her with a set of twinkling reindeer antlers at Christmastime, and no matter how nicely you ask, she won't let you tie the chinstrap in a fetching bow.

She once shunned a beautiful sweater, knitted entirely by the hands of her loving auntie, to shield her from the winter wind. She pulled her head and paws in like a turtle so that trying to dress her was like stuffing a sausage. And I’m quite certain that the thoughts parading through her stubborn Dachshund brain were particularly unladylike. I informed her straightaway that I knew a little Pug that would love to have that sweater, and with one look she invited me to pack it up and send it along special delivery. And the Labradors along with it.

I think I’ll need a bigger box.