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

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

How's Tricks?

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 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 most frightening outfit I could wear is a halter top and hip huggers. 

The scariest part is coming up with a plan for next year that will top this one. I’m thinking bicycle pants.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Locked Up, Locked Out

I was a little frustruated when I found that my new lock and key combination didn't play well together.  By "a little frustruated," I mean that the surgery to remove the door from my foot was quite successful and they expect that nervous tendency to scream like Tarzan every few minutes will cure itself.  Join me at Stage of Life, where I'm standing in the rain and locked out.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Never Forgotten

A Little Boy Gone on 9/11

by Carole Conner Oldroyd on Saturday, September 11, 2010 at 3:05pm
Reprinted with permission of Carole Olroyd who said this in a way that I never could.

I post this every 9/11.  I made a promise to myself and to this little boy's memory that I would never forget him.

 This is Rodney Dickens. He was only 11 years old when he lost his life on September 11, 2001. He will forever be the face I see when I think of that terrible day.

 When photos started streaming in on TV after the terrorist attack, his little face struck me. I began to wonder about him. As a mother whose kids were close to Rodney's age at that time, so many things ran through my mind.

My first thought was, "Who was with this little boy? Was he traveling alone?" My boys had flown alone several times.

My heart broke when I wondered if he knew what was about to happen; that his life was about to come to an end. Did anyone put their arms around him, or did he face the those final moments as alone as any human being could ever be? Did he cry? Was he afraid? Did anyone hold his hand? Did he pray for God to rescue him? Did he have dreams, goals, plans for his future? Was he even old enough to begin dreaming of what he would do when he was all grown up?

When I began researching to find out who little Rodney was, I learned that he was, indeed, without his parents. He was traveling with classmates. Again, parental instincts crept in and I sobbed thinking about his mother and his father. Were they watching as this all happened? How devastatingly helpless must have been the feeling, knowing that they were powerless to protect their child from the wickedness of these terrorists. I have had nightmares about Rodney crying for his parents in the seconds before his life was brutally stolen away on what should have been a day filled with joy.

 And then my emotions turned to rage. Correlations between this innocent child and my own children filled me with so much anger, knowing that the terrorists would not have cared if my children were on that plane. Regard for precious human life was tossed aside like an unwanted object by those . . . I'm sorry, I cannot use the word "people". In fact, I don't have any other word for them besides terrorists. I feel that nothing appropriate even exists in the English language.

As I write this, my arms are covered in goose bumps. My eyes are filled with tears. This child. This sweet-faced little boy lost his life before he even had a chance to begin living.

Rodney, I never knew you. But I love you. With all of my heart, I love you.

As long as I live, you will never be forgotten.



Sunday, September 9, 2012

All the Right Skills in All the Wrong Places

Guilty as charged. Neither Federal Law, Majority Rule, The Surgeon General's Warning, nor The Instructions on the Back of the Box can stop me. I've been at it again. Every day I'm blundering!  Give me a hand over at An Army of Ermas. I think I'm in over my head.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Top Tense

Thanks, kind of, to the Captain for filling in today. This piece first appeared at An Army of Ermas, where we are both contributors.  "What a fun idea," we thought, "to collaborate on a piece."  All I can say is, it seemed like a good idea at the time. Then again, so did parachute pants.

Amy and I were brainstorming the other day in preparation for collaborating on this piece. There was a point where we stopped what we were doing, looked each other in the eye, and said, “This ain't going to work.” See, for all the love and respect we have for each other and each other’s work, we harbor no delusions about our ability to work together on a writing project. Two divas, that’s what we are. 

So we drew straws to decide who would have the honor of completing the essay. Amy drew the long straw. After soundly beating me with it, she allowed me to proceed.

 To that end, I present the following XX Examples of Artistic Tension:

Top Ten Ways To Get Your Husband To Stop Snoring

1. I don't snore.
2. Yes, you do.
3. No, I don't.
4. I want a divorce.

Top Log(10) Funniest Irrational Numbers
1. Pi
2. Wait. Is this geek humor?
3. Ummm. Yes?
4. I want a divorce.

Top Ten Cleaning Tips From Women’s Magazines
1. Put garlic cloves in the microwave for a few seconds to make them easier to peel.
2. What? How would that help?
3. I don't know. It just does.
4. That's stupid. And it's a stupid magazine to put such a stupid tip in it.
5. I want a divorce.

Top ten Craftsmen Power Tools, By Intrinsic Coolness
1. Craftsman 19.2 Volt 4 pc. C3 Combo Kit
2. Craftsman Professional Stapler/Brad Nailer, Heavy-Duty, EasyFire™ Forward Action™ with Rapid-Fire
3. Stop.
4. What?
5. What's funny about a list of power tools?
6. Nothing. I said they'd be cool, not funny.
7. We're doing humor. That means funny.
8. I want a divorce.

Top ten moments of implied humor in Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and Faulkner
1. Zzzzzzzzz.....
2. I want a divorce.

Top ten flatulence jokes
1. No.
2. What? You wanted funny.
3. What I want now is a divorce.

Top ten reasons Bill is a stinky goo-head

Oh, yeah? Top ten reasons Amy is a....

Watch it, buster!

In short, it wasn't a pretty evening. But we did at least agree on the following list.

Top ten ways for a married couple with widely divergent styles to successfully collaborate on a humor project.

1. Get a divorce.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Budget Cuts and ABC's: A Back-to-School Guide for Parents

 A – Abstain from throwing any wild back to school parties until the kids are actually back in school.  They may form the mistaken impression that this is a celebration for them.  Also refrain from performing the back-to-school bunny hop with your spouse unless the shades are completely drawn.  You wouldn’t want the neighbors to get the right idea.

B – Bookbags.  The simple act of purchasing the proper bookbag for your child helps him or her confirm that the back-to-school process has begun and is irreversible. (“After I shelled out two weeks’ pay for that bookbag, yes you are going back to school!)  Be sure to obtain the latest in colors and/or styles to ensure conformity within peer groups.  Also be aware that this fad will fall away like blue off a Smurf’s back in a week and render the bookbag obsolete.  (See clothes)

C – Clothes.  Clothes are defined as randomly combined garments worn in various styles to produce envy among friends and wide eyed stares among members of the opposite s-e-x.  For girls they should obscure any minor figure flaws (such as chest, waist, and hips) and emphasize positive traits (see examples for flaws, above.)  For boys, clothes should cover all signs of underwear (at least until they leave the house). 

*Note:  Clothes are purchased at shops specifically designed for this purpose.  Leave all apparel selections up to your child, particularly if they are middle school age or above.  This is no place for amatuers.  Just remember that next week when these styles have become obsolete, you won’t be the one sporting black fingernails and fishnet stockings.

D – Detention.  Detention is the exciting time when your child manages to earn a longer than normal stay at school due to excessive social behavior (he talks in class), challenging the oppressive yolk of overwork (doesn’t do his homework), or is time challenged (arrives in homeroom at the crack of noon every day).  Although this procedure keeps the child in school longer and out of undesirable places like your house, the positive aspects are often obscured by having to leave work to drag his sorry excuse for a body home because he missed the bus.  The upside here is that you can vent any stress you’re feeling at the time on the child.  (First, I spilled coffee in my shoes and now this!)

E – Eating.  Eating is an important activity known to produce a general sense of peace and well-being. Teenagers often take this activity to excess everywhere but at school where the lunch is nasty.  (Translation:  they serve meats and vegetables.)

On the first day of school, feel free to celebrate with a few well-placed gallons of gourmet ice cream.  Remember that the ice cream must not be in the refrigerator when your child gets home from school or it will be immediately be sucked into the neverending void known as his stomach.

F – Freedom.  Once school is underway, you have a wonderful sense of freedom.  Your time is your own.  Until he calls to say he forgot his homework or his lunch or the science project he was supposed to be working on and could you bring a picture of a cumulus cloud to the office right this minute?  In this event, return to E and consume copious amounts of chocolate.

G –Z  So what happened to the rest of the alphabet?  Budget cuts.

Friday, August 10, 2012

The Right Tool

“Chocolate bars, snack cakes, devil’s food cookies,” I mumbled to myself, checking things off my list with a firm nod at each one.

“What are you doing?”  the Captain of my Snack Wagon sauntered into the kitchen and leaned against the refrigerator, arms crossed and eyebrows raised.

“It’s August.”

“Thank you for the update.  I’ll check the Mayan calendar to make sure they’re on track.”

“Those Mayans were pretty clever.  They developed a language so they could make notes.” I stood on tiptoe to look in the snack cupboard. Something was missing.

He grinned. “The Mayan culture lasted centuries because they could jot down a grocery list?  I must have missed that in the history books.”

“That’s because you’re not a planner.  You may have 5,000 different kinds of screwdrivers in your toolbox, but you’re not into Emergency Preparedness Training.”

 “And what sort of culture shock is coming up that I need to find a bigger hammer for?”

I rattled around in the pantry shuffling cans and jars, and came out with a bag of powdery  doughnuts and a six-pack of chocolate drinks. “School starts next week.  Have you seen what happens to the kitchen at 3:00 if there’s nothing to eat when the kids come home?”

 “Oh, I get it,” he said, pulling the crinkly paper off a small cake. “Sometimes it takes a Ho Ho to hit the nail on the head.”

Monday, July 30, 2012

Puppy Love

Lucy hits the tail, er, trail to find true love.
 At least she found a man with a steady job.
It just goes to show that the age-old story is true. A good girl will fall for the bad boy every time.  And if the good girl is a Dachshund, she's too stubborn to face the truth.  It's Puppy Love.  Join me at An Army of Ermas for Lucy's tale of a Good Girl Done Wrong.

Monday, July 16, 2012

It's Not Delivery; It's Dentistry!


I’m upside down. Tennis shoes that I really mean to wash some day are pointed toward Oprah crying personably into an immaculate handkerchief on a three inch television attached to bolts in the ceiling. A dentist, a technician, and judging from the smell someone I’m pretty sure is a pizza delivery man, are running gloved hands around my gums. 

I haven’t had this much attention paid to my mouth since I swallowed the paperboy’s change when I was five. Just now I’m concerned that if the attention shifts to the area it did back then, the dentist will pull an $800 dental crown out of my. . .anatomy.

“Just relax.”

Right. I haven’t been this relaxed since I heard my obstetrician say “Hand me the knife” just before I drifted off to sleep in the delivery room. If this visit ends up like that one, somebody’s going to have to change my diaper.

“Bite down.”

At last we were venturing into my area of expertise. I complied with gusto.

“Whoa!” the dentist rolled off the mangled glove and a perky assistant snapped on a new one.  “I said bite, not feeding frenzy.”

I drew a breath.

Have you ever noticed that dentists shove something in your mouth when they suspect you’re about to say something clever?

“Bite down carefully.”

I cracked one eye open. The entire staff was crowded behind a section of yellow tape that read, “Police lines. Do not cross.”  The hygienist appeared to be praying, an assistant was carving another notch into her sterile tools tray, and the dentist was Googling “thumb replacements” on the scheduling computer. Two young women in HazMat suits were drawing straws.

It’s not that I’m uncomfortable in the dentist chair. Normally I’m all about letting a man with a power drill crowd in close enough to my face to twirl my lips around the drill bit like spaghetti on a dinner fork.  I’m just stressed by the fact that Oprah is on the tiny TV and I can’t hear how to make a proper Bloody Mary over the cries of the dentist. 

And it’s not that I’m afraid of the dentist, like a small child with a bad dream.  Actually I’m terrified, like an adult fearing the zombie apocalypse, but I thought I was cleverly concealing that fact until I realized the reason the doctor rescheduled my appointment is that he was meeting with his insurance representative to overhaul his death and dismemberment policy.

The whole thing played out like a reality TV show.  Team Bravo charged in and repaired my bridge while Team Coward held back to comb the office for an Immunity Idol.  I triumphed by forming an alliance with the pizza delivery man.

I think we all won. The dentist got to file an attractive claim with my insurance company, the office employees got combat experience, and I spent the rest of the evening munching on a meatlover’s special pizza with my new teeth.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Happy Anniversary, Cupcake, er Captain!

A decade and half back I discovered that if I was going to get two kids through fourth grade math, I was going to have to marry someone who could figure --without a calculator –just how fast the train that left Los Angeles was traveling and when it would overtake the train of thought that derailed when I discovered that as class mom I was in charge of cupcakes. 
These days I just use Google Earth and divide by Facebook, but in those days Social Media amounted to little more than a “Girls Wanted” ad in the personals section of something we called a “newspaper,” math was accomplished on the ten fingers I had available, and neither was any help with the cupcakes.

So fifteen years ago, on July 12, I considered all the options and decided it was the perfect time to marry the Captain.  There was a time I thought sticking my hand in a frightened dog’s mouth was a good idea too, but hopefully this plan won’t come back to bite me. Or require stitches. So far it’s smooth sailing.  But we keep the vet on speed dial.

And we always make time for cupcakes.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Rockets Red Glare

Homeward bound from a Fourth of July picnic, we passed down the main street of our small town. The journey was slowed somewhat due to the unusual traffic, but the tractor soon turned off and we had the road to ourselves.

As we approached the Municipal Complex, the kids, excited by alarming and possibly disastrous situations, noticed a mob outside the fire station who both appeared to be hard at work placing letters on a large sign by the road.

“Look, Firworks!”

Nothing says small town like a budget without enough spare change to buy a vowel.

Boys are natural fans of pyrotechnics, particularly the pyro part, and I’m always on the lookout for fresh air opportunities, so we whipped a U-turn at the abandoned gas station and came back to join the crowd.

The public parking places were occupied by the fire truck and a wheelbarrow, so we parked the car in the Fire Marshal’s yard, and struck up a conversation with the boys’ Scout Leader. It seems the Town Council had a son who got them a good deal on fireworks, so a Fourth of July blowout was in full swing.

At the time, we didn’t realize the importance of the word “blowout.”

The kids, with a genetic instinct for finding free food, headed toward a table dripping with slices of watermelon. An unlimited supply of a fruit that’s 90% liquid. There’s a good thing to have on hand when the yard is full of free-range kids and the bathrooms are locked up.

In the fenced pasture across the road, the fireworks launch squad strode into view. The crew chief carried a cardboard box full of bottle rockets and a disposable lighter. His wife wore blue jeans and a motorcycle bedecked tank top that didn’t leave much room for the handlebars.

Son Two materialized out of the twilight. His cheeks were sticky and there was a misfired watermelon seed stuck to his chin. “I have to go to the bathroom.”

Across the street, the launch chief sorted through the rockets like he was searching for the half inch piece in his socket set, and carefully arranged a bouquet of bottle rockets in a soda bottle.

“It’s about to start. Can you wait?” 

Son One appeared beside his brother, wearing a pained grin and dancing a familiar jig. “You, too?” He nodded just as the first rocket took off with a sizzle of sparks.

Both boys disappeared. Nothing comforts nature’s call like a lit fuse.

The fireworks display proceeded with random showers of red and gold sparks, interrupted now and then by an unmotivated dud rocket that bailed on liftoff and headed back to the picnic table that served as Ground Zero. Once, the launch team was visible through the gloom and gathering smoke, stamping out embers in the tall grass of the pasture.

Son One appeared by my side, clutching another slice of watermelon like it was a football and I was the defensive line of the New York Giants. “They set the bench on fire, but they put it out with a juice box.”

I’d had a slice of watermelon myself and the juice box reference made me think fondly of indoor plumbing. I squinted at him. “Don’t you have to go to the bathroom?”  Across the street the launch crew ducked as another dud rocket zoomed in low over the pyrotechnic staging area.

“I can wait.”

Stephen King never came up with a scarier line.

He dashed away, weaving a path around knees and ankles like an Olympic skier on a timed run.

Suddenly, the grand finale accidentally erupted. The entire area lit up in a patriotic display of billowing smoke and crackling fire. The picnic table and the box of fireworks were ablaze and nearby portions of the pasture showed signs of imminent ignition. The fire truck swept out of the driveway and across the street where it made short work of the ambitious embers.

As the excitement died down and the crowd drifted away through damp ash flakes floating in the air, both sons appeared at my side, eyes alight, wearing Junior Firefighter stickers. They smelled like bacon.

“This is the best Fourth of July ever!”

“So, where’d you get the stickers?”
We heard a blast from the fire truck and turned to see the driver give the boys a wink and a wave.

“What’s that all about?”  

“Well you know how you always tell us to use our natural resources wisely?”

I’ve been a mom long enough to know that when they remind me what I’ve said, I wish I hadn’t said it.

“The firemen said we used our superpowers to put out the fire!”

Determination and a strong bladder. That's what makes this country great.

Captain American would be proud.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Sand Hassle

This first appeared last summer on the popular humor blog, An Army of Ermas.  These days I spend my vacations ordering room service cheeseburgers and watching Shark Week on the Discovery Channel.

“What are you doing?”

The Captain is kind of an embarrassment savant when it comes to sensing when I’m hovering on the brink of humiliation. We’d been frolicking in the ocean all morning and for the past mortification and a half, I’d been attempting what I thought was an unassuming display of aquatic gymnastics in the effort to rid myself of a sand dune lodged in a place that should never be landlocked. 

“The lining of my bathing suit is full of sand. I’m trying to empty it.”

There’s nothing like a little wet sand in the crotch to give you that “close encounter with a live mackerel” feel.

“It looks like some kind of tribal interpretive dance.”

“You might call it that.”

“You need a native costume.”

“I have a costume.  You’ve heard of a cement overcoat? This is cement underwear.”

“I’m just trying to help.” 

“Thanks, but what I need is a helper who can mind his own business.”

“Okay, I’ll wait for you at the hotel.”

A King-sized bed and a $20 room service cheeseburger called for drastic measures.  I would have given up my pay-per-view for a drink of fresh water and a bathing suit that didn’t retain ocean life.

 “Hold still so I can get my balance. I need to squat.”


“I want to lean on you.  I need to squat lower in the water so no one will see me.”

The Captain has a way of raising one eyebrow in a gesture that makes you feel as if you’ve asked for something unreasonable, like pink pompom fringe for the bedroom curtains.

“If I let you lean on me, can we get rid of that nasty pink pompom fringe in the bedroom?”

“Okay, just stand still.”  I took the opportunity to effect a grand jeté with the passing of a major wave.  Grand jeté is a ballet term meaning “your crotch is still full of sand and it’s beginning to chafe.”

I tugged. I wriggled. I did a little side step.  I did the hokey pokey.  Not only did I have enough sand in my personal space to build Cinderella’s sandcastle, I auditioned successfully for Dancing With the Stars.


“I’m not accomplishing anything.”

“Let’s just go on in.  Nobody will notice.”

“Nobody will notice?  It looks like I’m smuggling tropical fruit in my swimsuit.”

Just then a particularly devious wave crashed down from behind, sending me floundering underwater and knocking the straps off both shoulders.  Mothers covered their children’s eyes.  Low-flying seagulls pointed and laughed.  I’m pretty sure the lifeguard quit his job on the spot.

The Captain raised the eyebrow.  “Well, I don’t about your banana, but your grapefruits are getting a little pink.”

As soon as I reached the area of civilization that has indoor showers, I retired that swimsuit. 

But the pompom fringe is staying put.


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Suitable. . .Or Not

It's summer and a young girl's, um, mature chick's thoughts turn to how to get out of trying on bathing suits.  In  honor and support--three cheers for support--of my pals over at The Domestic Fringe and On Wings of Mirth and Worth, I'm rallying behind the cause--if we can blow up the Death Star, surely we can come up with something that doesn't look like it should be dragged back in the ocean to wear at the beach. I'm thinking Invisibility Cloak here.

Buying a new bathing suit is like selecting an alias for the Witness Protection Program.  You want something that fits and has flair, but that will keep all your hidden assets locked away where no one will ever find them.  

In my experience, the main function of a bathing suit is to gather oceanic sand in the lining of the crotch while you’re trying to balance on the retracting grains of an outgoing wave without spilling your drink-filled coconut.  With my typical lack of coordination, my coconuts take a dunking every time.

I went shopping with my sister and my niece, Knockout.  This girl could wear an oven mitt and have guys follow her into deep water.  I was painfully aware that my thighs had expanded to the outer banks and my behind had relocated to the subtropics.

We’re at Wal-Mart, browsing through the racks.  It’s the only place I can get support hose, Sugar Smacks, and sinus medication without having to change parking lots.  Presently my buggy is loaded with a month’s worth of Friskies and the floral pack of Hanes Her Way Full Coverage.  Nothing says party like a well-fed cat and chubby sized underwear.

While Knockout was slipping on bikini tops over her clothes, I was fumbling through the racks looking for something with sleeves and a bib.  I couldn’t fit a bathing suit over my clothes if I had the Jaws of Life to  help me dress.

“What about something with a little sarong to cover up problem areas?” Knockout suggests, flattening an invisible wrinkle in her belly button.

I couldn’t fit a sarong over my shin with a shoe horn.

“Do they have anything with a hoop skirt instead?”

I’m headed to the seashore for a weekend away from the Labradors.  All I’m going to do is pick up a few seashells, eat some fish without having to share, and play a round of beach putt putt.  I shouldn’t have to use up the gross national output of latex to get a hole in one at Shipwreck Cove.  Actually, the closest thing I ever got to a hole in one at putt putt golf was the time I chipped a shot into the Diet Coke of the Paris Hilton clone in the parking lot, but that’s All Star stuff and I can’t do it every time.  The ensuing altercation is still a topic of conversation among local law enforcement officers.  Who says golf is a boring sport to watch?

I don’t so much have to focus on my strengths so much as try to mulch the problem areas.  I’m at the age when weeds are creeping into greener pastures.  I figure if I keep them in the dark and provide proper drainage, we can keep the damage to a minimum. 

Also I figure if I can’t see it, it’s not a problem.  I’ve played hide and seek with my navel for 35 years.  Once I passed 40 and realized I’d need a topographical map and a satellite signal from NASA to find my waist, I declared myself the victor and began looking for my original chin.  We might have to call in the Mars Rover for that one.

“What about a cover up? You like retro.”  She held up a tye-dyed washcloth, swirling with all the colors of a bowl of breakfast cereal.

“It looks like something you used to clean up a chemical spill.  Besides, I have a doily on the back of my couch that hides more than that thing.  Nobody’s seen the 1973 gravy incident since I got it.”

I wandered across the aisle to a rack of likely-looking house dresses. My idea of coverage is mountains-to-sea. I’m not interested in anything that leaves the foothills or the Great Plains out in the open.  I untangled a handful of spaghetti straps and pulled out a prospect.  “What about this?  It’s almost long enough to cover the coast at high tide.”

“That’s a prom dress.”

“How can you tell?”

“There are sequins on thong.”

“I thought that was an armband to hold my IPod.”

“There’s a clip on the tiara for that. See, there’s a secret compartment behind the disco ball.”

Three dozen prom gowns and I pick the one that needs John Travolta in a white suit to complete the package. 

“Here’s an animal print. You’d be right in style.”  Knockout whipped a bikini bedecked with pink and green peace symbols off the rack and held it up with a flourish.  A trail of leopard prints the color of blush traipsed through the peace fields.

“The leopard is already embarrassed and I haven’t even tried it on.”

She flipped through a few more prospects. “There’s nothing left on the rack but old lady swimsuits.”

To this kid, Paris Hilton is ancient history.

With a sigh, I tossed the sequined thong and tiara selection into my cart.  I may not be Queen of the Prom, but I’ll be the best dressed gal at the Pirate Ship Putt Putt course. 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Enhance This!

Sometimes when you write, the words float from your pen like a perfect curve ball on a summer day.  You feel as if you could pitch a perfect game without ever leaving your desk.  But if you’re like the rest of us, you may have a little trouble from time to time getting the ball to the plate, the pen to the page.  I can help.  Don’t let the secret out—not for free, anyway—but there are ways to help yourself out of a jam when you don’t really have your stuff. 

In light of the Congressional proceedings concerning America’s Pastime, though, I’m beginning to dread the day I’m called in front of some Government Honcho and asked to tell the truth, not miniscule portions of the truth, so help me Erma:

Honcho:  On Monday morning did you intentionally partake of a foreign substance to enhance your writing ability?

Me:  Yes, sir.

Honcho:  And could you tell us the name of this substance? 

Me:  It was. . .coffee.

Honcho:  I see.  Is this coffee the only performance-altering substance that you ingested?

Me:  Well, I added sugar.  A lot of sugar.

Honcho:  What did you hope to accomplish by this act?

Me:  I hoped to remember how to turn on the computer and to be able to spell my name correctly.

Honcho:  And were these actions made possible when you ingested this substance?

Me:  Well, I had to wait a few minutes for the coffee to take effect and the sugar to shift into gear, but yes.  I was even able to find my files and tell the difference between an adjective and an adverb.

Honcho:  I see.  Was this your first experience with this substance? 

Me:  No, sir.  My Dad drank it every day when I was growing up.  My husband drinks it now.  He uses a personal-sized drip coffee maker. 

Honcho:  You have coffee paraphernalia in the house?  Did your husband coerce you into using this substance?

Me: (sensing a scapegoat):  Well he did bring me a cup and tell me it might help.  It looked so warm and rich, I couldn’t resist.

Honcho:  Are you willing to supply any more names in connection with this substance?

Me:  Well there’s Juan Valdez. . .

Honcho:  We’ll make a note.  Now, do you use any more substances that enhance your abilities?

Me:  Well, there’s a substance writers like to call chair glue.

Honcho:  You inhaled glue?

Me:  No sir.  Chair glue is what writers use to stay in their chair long enough to accomplish their goals. It’s not something anyone else knows is there.

Honcho:  So it’s odorless and tasteless?

Me:  It’s more a state of mind.  It helps you make your dreams come true.

Honcho:  So it’s hallucinogenic.

Me:  Well, it makes all things seem possible.

Honcho:  I see--it’s mind altering.  Why do you apply it to your chair?

Me:  You don’t really apply it.  It sort of comes from within.

Honcho:  I see. We’ll list that as an undesirable side effect.  Do you feel that these substances advanced your abilities in any way?

Me:  Well, I’ve had several essays published.

Honcho:  You’re a published writer.

Me:  Yes, sir.

Honcho:  Well, let me tell you about this novel I’ve been working on.  Perhaps you could take a look at it.  There’s this one part where the hero just doesn’t have any motivation, and. . .

Me:  You might try some of that coffee sir.  And the chair glue.

Honcho:  Where do you procure these substances?

Me:  Well, I can hook you up with some coffee, no problem.  As for the other thing, see me after the hearings and I’ll point you toward some websites with good tips.

Honcho:  You’re free to go. 

Me:  Thank you, sir.  I’ll meet you at Starbucks in half an hour.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Dropping In

I had an unexpected visitor for lunch today. By unexpected I mean, totally out of the blue.  He landed on my head. Join me and my friend at Stage of Life to see how things turned out.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

For Bill - Stepping Up

You married in a family
Of kids all cries and whinies
Became an ace at wiping tears
And cleaning little hinies.

You helped them read and
Tutored math, both adding and dividing
And later on to drive a car
When I went into hiding.

Knots, and rhymes and music notes
All came along the way.
Then college, jobs, financial aid
Made them men today.

One little thing I’ve got to say
I’ll jump in without prep.
Happy Father’s Day my dear
I’m leaving out a Step.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Princess and The Papa

For Courtney, who is now quite a grown up lady, but somehow, somewhere will always be a five-year-old bundle of freckles.

           My Dad is a real man.  He wears Black and Decker underwear and buys pallets of toilet paper from Sears.  He watches sports on television every Sunday afternoon, even if it’s only putt-putt season, and turns the sound all the way down so that the sportscasting ninnies don’t ruin a beautiful play with color drivel.  He can estimate distance to an eighteenth of an inch and can tell whether a picture is half a bubble off plumb just by squeezing one eye shut and looking through his thumb.  He survived the Depression on beans and biscuits; World War II on courage and luck; and 48 years of marriage on Divine Providence and guesswork.  He taught four children to drive without suffering permanent neurological damage, made us wear more clothes when we were cold, and refused to let us hang on the refrigerator with the door open until we air conditioned the whole neighborhood.

So how can a five-year-old bundle of brown eyes and rosy cheeks crawl up in his lap at fourth down and goal to go and persuade him to read The Cat In The Hat for the four thousandth time without suffering severe blood loss?

This man, who refused to allow scented soap in the shower during my childhood years, now has a cupboard stocked with curly noodle soup, sports animal stickers on his bedroom door, and a maintains a stable of Barbies who loiter in his favorite recliner. When I dropped by Dad’s house last Sunday to comfort the old man in his lonesome existence and retrieve his great-grandaughter, I tripped over three teddy bears and a stuffed cat having a tea party, stumbled on a pair of pink plastic high heeled shoes and a glittery feather boa tossed carelessly in front of a full length mirror, and turned my ankle sliding across a nest of scattered crayons and coloring books piled in the hallway.

“Dad!”  I called, afraid to endanger myself by advancing further.  A trip to my father’s house should not involve my health insurance.  “Have you been finding new ways to entertain yourself or is there a little girl hiding in there?”

Giggles erupted from around the corner.  “We’re in the kitchen,” a small, freckled voice said.  I followed a line of Winnie-the-Pooh stickers posted along the wall at five-year-old eye level and entered the kitchen.  Over a teetering mountain of mall-type bags, a pair of large brown eyes twinkled in my direction. 

“Can you tell we’ve been shopping?” the bag-mountain asked.

Duh. Does the queen wear matching accessories?

“Papa bought me a sticker book, two kinds of bubble gum, and a Shirley Temple video.”

“Shirley Temple?”

“Yeah, she’s a new kid that can dance.”

“If Shirley Temple’s a new kid, we’d better be prepared to dodge wandering bands of Tyrannosaurs on the way home.”

“Papa made me a new kind of cheese sandwich.  You cook it right in the oven.”

            “Sweetie, it’s time to go.  Gather up your 50 most prized possessions and I’ll take you home.”

She hopped down and ran to me, clutching a battered baby doll that looked like it would be at home in Little Orphan Annie’s boarding house.  “I’m ready.”

“What about all your treasures?”

“Oh, Papa bought that stuff for me to play with here.  He already took my other stuff home for me.”

I glanced over at my dad, who was nestled in his recliner recovering from the shopping expedition by snoring loudly through the ballgame.  He cracked one eye open and peered up at me.  “Don’t forget her food.  She has Little Debbie brownies, Beauty and the Beast cookies, and Barbie cupcakes.  With sprinkles.”

Sure, the queen may have matching hat and shoes and the wealth of an entire nation, but the princess has designer snacks and a Papa that can’t say no.

Friday, June 8, 2012

In Cahoots

Collaborating on a novel with your spouse is like sharing a piece of bread that only one of you wants toasted.  When one is heartbent for modern romance and the other is set to strike out down the stony path toward gothic horror, it seems like the easiest thing to do would be to meet congenially in fantasy or science fiction. But by the time the opening sentence finds its place on the electronic media screen, things are already personal.  If redecorating a house together leads down the long and winding road to relationship stress, collaborating on a novel is the short, straight path to dividing your assets.

My husband, Damien Spielberg, took a perfectly lovely and sincere story about the relationship between a maiden apprentice and her mentor and turned it from a lively, endearing romance into a Renaissance Wizarding Extravagana complete with recreational lightning bolt action.  And he made it a screenplay, to boot.

“If we’re going to be in cahoots on this thing, you’ve got to learn to give a little bit,” he said, striking through an entire page of my rich, descriptive prose with a wide-point permanent marker.

I snatched my beloved pages from his jagged claws.  “Cahoots?  You make it sound like a bad western.  We’re collaborating.”  I bit the eraser off my pencil.

“What happened to my colorful description of Abby meeting Bob for the first time?” I asked, wrinkling my brow as I flipped through the pages.

“Here it is,” he said, wiping out another paragraph as he gestured nonchalantly with his Sharpie.  “Scene I.  Abby meets Bob.”

“That’s all?  The humor of the scene comes from Abby, a modern businesswoman accustomed to a sterile and structured environment, coming to terms with the fact that she is competing for a promotion with a man whom she’s just discovered is a 500 year old member of wizarding royalty who is grandfathered into her company’s pension plan.”

“I put wizard in the script notes.  See here in the margin?  Bob wears a pointy hat.”

“A pointy hat? Bob is not a dunce. Bob is a staff-wielding mage who served in some of the most influential governments in history.  He talks to fish!”

“Calm down.  I mentioned the fish.  See here in Scene III.  There’s a nice bit here in the willows by the pond.”

“So how do we know he talks to the fish?”

“Easy.  Dialogue.”

“Dialogue?  You mean a conversation?  This is coming from the man who told me he was in a wreck two hours after he totaled his new car and the rescue team delivered him to the emergency room?  You didn’t call me until the nurse dialed the number for you.”

“And after they gave me enough painkillers to make me count to ten in three languages and sing the Lumberjack song to a burly intern.  But this is different.  It’s Bob talking. Not me.” 

“That’s a good thing.  Otherwise it would be the world’s shortest book.”

“We’re supposed to be working on this together.  Be nice.”

“I’d rather be the dental hygienist in the tiger cage at Ringling Brothers.”

“Need references?”

“Never mind.  Tell me more about our wizard’s wonderful world of words.”

“The only way you can see into the man is to hear him talk.”

“I’ve got to hear to see?  What about my searing description of their awkward encounter in the elevator?”

“I covered that.  In the second scene you see the looks on their faces when she realizes he can read her thoughts and she splashes peanut butter milkshake all over his topcoat, tries to scrape it off with his cane, and accidentally pokes him in the n---.”


“I was going to say nose. When you see that, you can hear their hearts.”

“Okay, now I have to see to hear.”  I turn a page in my narrative version and mark out several paragraphs describing Abby’s clothes. “So how do you come up with all this clever conversation?”

“I listen to people talk.  Then I write it down.”

Easy enough.  “By the way, back at the pond, what are Bob and the catfish discussing?”

“Whether he should take the job.”

“What do they decide?”

“The catfish advises against it.”

“And why is that?”

He says that Abby is a bad influence and Bob should leave the company entirely.”

“I’ve given her a beautiful home, a killer intellect, and a sparkling wit.  Why doesn’t he like her?”

He sighed and scratched his head.  “She talks too much.”

Friday, June 1, 2012

Read, Write, Have a Bite!

Life is sweet! It's filled with Readin', Writin', and. . .Doughnuts. While that isn't the usual sequence, you've got to agree that everything is better with raspberry filling. Or glaze. Or chocolate on top. With sprinkles.  Join me at Single People's Grocery Lists where Nancy LaFever gave up trying to have a serious conversation with me about writing and instituted the Krispy Kreme rule.  She's one smart cookie. Who likes doughnuts.  Thanks, Nancy!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Dog Daze

What I Did On My Summer Vacation

Fought a losing battle with the ocean.

Got turned to toast points by the sun.

Consumed my weight in sugar. Consumed my new weight in pizza.

Discovered (again) that fish have no concept of personal boundaries. You’d have thought I remembered that one from last time.

Fell in love.

Sure, I know what they say. Summer love is fleeting. It vanishes like the last strip of sand underneath your left cheek when the tide comes in.  It disappears like the last Honey Bun in a beach house full of ocean-bound teenagers.  It loses its charge like a cheap battery.

But this is real.  The sort of love that warms you to your toes even when the air conditioner kicks on.

We stayed up late. We shared breakfast. We took naps. We ran in circles, filled with the joy of life, and the excitement of going outside. But in the end we had to say goodbye.

I’ll never forget the charming way she protected me from kayakers passing in the distance.  How she cleverly she tried to eat pizza through the bottom of the glass-topped table.  How she pretended not to notice me when they carried her away.

But I know that in her heart she will always love me.

Or anyone with a warm tummy to nap on.

Or a spare piece of pizza crust to share.

Now I know what they mean by the Dog Days of Summer.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Filk You!

He looks harmless enough, right?!
Hurray for our Parter in Sublime who is featuring the friendly music of filk on today's Pure Geek.  Filking happens to be a speciality of our beloved Captain who is dedicated to a life of irreverance. Follow us to Pure Geek and see how the whole business of substituting the ho-hum words of classics (our apologies to Bob Dylan, but Knockin' On Heaven's Door had to go) leads to good times and off-color, I mean, off-the-wall fun.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Every Day

Daddy served in the Pacific theatre during World War II on a submarine that was more like a prize in a cereal box than the sleek, nuclear vessels of today.  When I was a kid I thought he was a great adventurer, having seen both oceans during his travels.  It never occurred to me there might be more to see; more water than two oceans could hold.  My boundaries were limited by the amount of space I could imagine, and I was already pushing the envelope.  Dad would laugh and shake his head at my excitement when he talked about being stationed on Hawaii or seeing Mount Fuji through the periscope.

“Did you ever see the Hollywood sign?” I asked once, my voice filled with wide-eyed wonder.

He grinned.  “If I had, I’d have been going the wrong direction.”

When I was older, he sent for a copy of a Reader’s Digest book that showed all sorts of wonderful places to visit.  That book visited more exotic getaways on the way to my mailbox, than I have to this day.  I’m not sure I believed it was real.

One year after I was grown and somewhat of an Authority on The Way Things Are, Son One conducted an interview with his Papa for a school report.  He didn’t ask the same questions I’d gone on about as a kid, “Where did you go?” “Did you bring anything back in case you ever had a little girl that needed a surprise?”

He asked about torpedo tubes, leaky oxygen bottles, depth charges and other things that made the war seem uncomfortably close and noisy.  It finally seeped into my me-generation brain that if the folks causing the unpleasantness on top of the water had taken a page from Luke “Stay on Target” Skywalker’s book, I wouldn’t be around today to tell clever stories about other people’s adventures.

For the first time I realized that tour of duty didn’t mean tour of luxury vacation spots.  It meant that he did indeed bring something back from his travels.  Memories.

My memories come from sitting in the comfort of Daddy’s lap and listening to tales of a faraway war.  His memories come from standing in the face of danger and showing his heart.

His memories are of men who gave their lives so that I could look at pictures in a book and have hopes of traveling to them one day.  Men and women that knew what it meant to serve with mind and body and make whatever sacrifice it took to preserve the minds and bodies back home.

My thanks go out to all of these men and women. And to you, Dad.

On Memorial Day and every day.

Friday, May 25, 2012


A five-hour car trip to the beach is tough enough to accomplish if you’re Superman and have the gift of looking great in tights, and well, that showy flair for flight.  If you’re a family of four with at least one kid who can’t sit still long enough to blink, it’s a little more difficult. Especially if the kid inherited the fidgety gene from his mother, who is piled up in the front seat braiding the road map.

We packed the car, wedged in a couple of kids who have seen enough in the way of growth spurts to resemble the Incredible Hulk after his breakfast of champions, pulled to the end of the driveway, and braked to a gravel-spewing stop at the mailbox. 

Kid Two rose from the backseat like the Creature from the Black Lagoon.  He has the eerie blue glow that comes from extended exposure to computer light.  This kid’s idea of unplugged is a wireless Internet connection that is so fast it has déjà vu when he turns it on.

“How much longer?”

“Five hours,” the Captain shouted gleefully as he put the car in gear and plowed through two rows of daylilies by the curb.  “We’re on the way!”

“Five hours!  I can’t believe you made me go on vacation.  My battery pack will never last that long.”

“We’re going to the beach. It’ll be worth it.”

“The beach is three hours away.”

“That’s a different beach.”

“There’s more than one beach?”

“Yep.  You learn something new every day.”

“I learned my parents are forcing me to go to a five-hour beach.  Nobody else’s parents are that mean.”

“Keep it up and we’ll make you go out to eat, too.”

This kid thinks any restaurant that doesn’t offer chicken nuggets or pizza is a terrorist racket designed to kill us with vegetables.

“At least I can use the high speed Internet access when we get there.”

“Sorry. Vacation means we’re there to enjoy ourselves. There’s no Internet access.”

“Not even dialup?”

“No, but there are herds of wandering Triceratops out back.”

“And bar soap and rotary dial phones, too. Right. This is a museum trip, isn’t it?”

Five hours later, we unfolded ourselves and tumbled out of the car, performing the happy dance to the beat of ocean waves on the shoreline.

Kid Two stopped, sniffed the air and climbs back in the car.

“What’s the matter, Bud?”

“According to Google Maps, we’re five miles from the nearest McDonald’s.  They have food and free Internet access. The way you people drive, we’d better start now if we want to get there before I lose power.”

What can I say?  We might be in for sun fun at the beach, but this kid still yearns for the smell of salt on French fries and wants to surf the Web.