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, 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.  

Friday, May 18, 2012

Things That Make You Go. . .Do What?!

I’m afraid if it rains much more, BP will send a representative to dump a quart of 10W40 in the mud puddle by my driveway.

They don’t play Pomp and Circumstance when you graduate from the school of hard knocks.  They play Another One Bites the Dust.

Is half a mind a zombie snack?

For Mother’s Day, I was at a restaurant where a stranger was handing out roses to all the women. I wonder if he’s going to give out power tools for Father’s Day.

I’m at the age where my packaging label reads “Some Settling May Occur.”  On the back it says, “Things in the mirror are larger than they appear.”

Now that I’ve turned 50, offering to slip into something more comfortable isn’t really a promise.  It’s a threat.

Why is it that a kid who can memorize a 37 key code to wipe out a zombie apocalypse on a video game is puzzled by the Start button on the washer?

Different age people like different kinds of cars. My boys like the kind that get from zero to sixty in a nanosecond. I like the ones that can remember where I was going.

My teenage son asked me, “How long does it take for a tree to become petrified?”
I answered, “As long as it takes it to teach the twigs how to drive.”

The last time I tried on swimsuits in front of a dressing room mirror, I realized something.  I’d have to use Google Earth to get a picture of my butt.

Never wear a dangly charm bracelet when you have diarrhea.

If I can shop for everyone in my family without taking them along to try on clothes, why do I never come home with the right size underwear for me?

My dentist put my last crown in place with a nail.  I didn’t know whether to write him a check or charge it to my Home Depot account.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

My Late Wife

Recovering from wedding trauma. . .fifteen years later.

What we were up to fifteen years ago?  Join me at An Army of Ermas where the Captain waxes romantic about our wedding day.  Come to think of it, I'm not completely sure if this is a love poem. . .or a threat.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Legacy

As far as legacies go, my tastes lie with something simple, like a check. Or stock. Or heirloom china. Unfortunately Mama wasn’t the heirloom china type. What I got when she departed for the peaceful place where mothers don’t have to cook, clean, or say, “If I told you once, I told you a million times,” was not the inheritance I assumed was my birthright. What she left me was the very thing I was the least qualified to handle. Wisdom.

Giving me a lapful of life lessons is like tossing me a copy of the Atkins diet and a size six sheath dress and telling me the party starts at seven. You may as well shove the plans for building a biplane into my arms and tell me to be in Paris by midnight. When it comes to legacies, it’s best to just go ahead and hand me a gold bar.

Now that I’m in the stage of life where good advice usually involves a recipe loaded with fiber, I realize that what Mama left me was a handbook for life. Thanks to the seeds my mom planted in the rocky garden of my mind over the years, I’ve sailed through many of the stormy seas of life without having to evacuate to life boats. Turns out Mom knew best all along. Here are Mama’s Rules to Live By—along with some of my own observations for those who, like me, have trouble following directions.

1. There is something to love in every person. However, there are some people who hide that something really well. Actually, Mama just said that first part. I learned the second part from my sister.

2. If you rip a page out of your brother’s comic book, he can rip a page out of yours. This is a mother of four’s version of The Golden Rule. I learned to treat friends, family, and their possessions with respect. And I’ll never know what happened to Archie and Jughead that day at Riverdale High.

3. Give a child two cookies; one for each hand. This is a smart idea because it keeps the child busy for twice as long, diverts him from "helping" with your biscuit dough and prevents you from having to walk every morning for a week to work off two cookies that you would have eaten to relieve stress if your child had two hands free to plunge into the dog's food.

4. Don’t honk your horn at anybody. At first I assumed this was Mama’s version of traveling etiquette, but now I realize that she understood road rage long before anyone held up traffic trying to read road signs through the wrong part of skinny designer bifocals.

5. Always have a skill you can fall back on. By this, I know now that she meant a skill that will continue to be of service to the Community of Man. Unfortunately the skill I chose was typing, which caused typewriters to immediately become extinct.

6. If you’re not tall enough to see out the car window, sit on a pillow. Improvise. Adapt. Overcome. Even the Marines agree with her.

7. If something particularly unpleasant is happening to you, there’s probably a lesson involved. Wade through a puddle or two on the linoleum and you’ll remember to let the new puppy out. You’ll also remember to buy a mop.

8. Don’t sell things you can give away. That might not make sense in an e-Bay world, but knowing that someone who needs it will have a warm coat for the winter goes a long way toward offsetting the thrill of bagging $1.50 for your old hula lamp in an online auction.

9. Play to win. Unless that gets in the way of playing for fun. When playing Scrabble with an elderly woman who can’t see past her elbow, give her a break if she thinks she drew five blanks. Come to think of it, that’s how Mom always won at Scrabble, so there’s probably an extra lesson tucked in there.

10. Always take time to watch the birds at the birdfeeder. Time spent with nature is a peace of mind investment. And last winter, a tiny chickadee who muscled his way through a crowd of rowdy cardinals to have lunch gave me some great ideas for handling the next family reunion. And the big project due at work.

11. Don’t worry, it’ll get worse. This was my mom’s slogan. When I was three and ran to her with a skinned knee, she said it. She was right. I broke my arm. When I was thirty-three and getting divorced, she said it again. And soon my kids became teenagers. But by then, I had it figured out. If things can get worse, the problems that seem overpowering right now aren’t the end of the world. Things can also get better. So if teaching two teenaged boys to drive and adding them to my insurance is the worst life has to offer, I can handle it.

But I sure wouldn’t turn down a check.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Dress Code

I realize there is a time in every young man’s life when he is seeking to distance himself from a life of tucked-in shirttails, but my kids grew up during the “T-Shirts With Witty Sayings” era and never suffered like the kids in my generation who had to walk uphill in the snow both ways just to tuck in their shirttails.

But why is it that the days we’re supposed to be proudest of them are the days they makes us want to check their birth certificates to make sure the hospital didn’t mix our baby up with a random baby-raised-in-a-barn?  I'm not even sure why we bothered to pick out a name. He operates under a code name, and we acknowledge each other in public with a series of hand signals most third base coaches would agree means, "Steal Home. Go in low."

We discovered that Son Two made the Dean’s List every semester in college when the Records Office grew tired of storing his certificates and mailed them to the house in a large, brown, unmarked envelope.  Now the neighbors think we’re the Southeastern Drop Zone for Frederick’s of Hollywood.

Last week was the topper.  He roamed through the living room on his way to the kitchen, furrowed his brow as if he recognized me from somewhere he couldn’t quite place, and finally dredged up a Very Important Tidbit from the midst of video game code zones in his brain.

Son Two: Um, I’m supposed to go to this thing.

Me: What is it?

Him: Um, Awards Day.

Me:  When is it?

Him:  I think it’s this month. Or next month. Unless it was last month.  I’m pretty sure it’s this year.

Me:  Could we narrow it down? Is it a month with an R in it?

Him: (Consulting three electronic devices, including a GPS with an Australian accent.) Tomorrow.

Me:  (Freaking out) Do you have anything to wear?

Him: (Totally cool) You’re gonna get all dress code on me, aren’t you?


And that’s when I decided that Cinqo de Mayo is not the only occasion that calls for a round of tequila.

Congratulations V-Man! We're proud of you!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Keeping A Secret

I’m thinking of starting an experimental new exercise program:  The Sports Bra Allover Workout.  

With the startling acumen that usually alerts me to uneaten pie crust on the plates of nearby diners, I noticed that I often bust buttons off of blouses in spontaneous bursts of rapid fire.  The last time I took a deep breath at The Waffle House, the grill cook and three truckers at the counter hit the floor.

Therefore I instituted a rigorous physical training program.  I plan to keep fit with a weekly trip to Wal-Mart to try on sports bras.  Granted that this is a pastime fraught with danger, I’m going to approach my new exercise program with a certain degree of caution and respect for spandex.

Yesterday when I attempted my first fitting, I tried to pull the treacherous garment on over my head.  Turns out I exercised not only myself, but two elderly saleswomen and a security guard who thought I was trying to rob the lingerie department when the wretched thing snapped smartly around my face like a Spandex ski mask leech and wouldn’t let go.  My ears stuck through the armholes and I had to chew an air passage in the doubleknit to breathe.

Next time I’m going to Victoria’s Secret. I may still lose consciousness, but at least I'll go out in style.