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Saturday, May 31, 2014

A Couple of Things

Now that Conscious Uncoupling is a bigger trend than quirky quizzes on FaceBook,  I can’t help but compare the ongoing battle of the stars to the one the Captain and I would have if we ever called it quits.  We're both easygoing folks, and nobody's going to go all white around the kitchen cabinets over who gets custody of the microwave. But sooner or later somebody's going to lay claim to the last jar of fig preserves in the cupboard, and the fruit will hit the fan.  Contentious points in our settlement would include:
  1. Custody of the dictionaries. We’re word people.  This makes for a tough battle.  The air will be thick with nouns, and adjectives will cover the walls. There's not a stain remover on the market that will remove ground-in adverbs.
  2. Responsibility for cleaning the kitty box corner of the marital mill house.  I’d rather take out fire insurance and torch the place. Danger Cat alone is the reason our coat closet is filled with HazMat gear.
  3. Subscription to Mental Floss magazine.  This one is in Bill’s name. It doesn’t look good for Albert Einstein finding a place in my new pad.
  4. Custody of the recipe for Apple Bread.  Bill makes bread that Sunbeam would open a new division for, so I wouldn’t demand physical possession of the recipe.  I just want visitation of the results.
  5. Responsibility of the marital Computer Tech to repair and update all estranged computers for free.  Because the blue screen of death makes me sad.
  6. Ownership of the Disney videos.  I brought 101 Dalmatians into the marriage and I’m not leaving with less.
  7. Continued relationship with the extended marital family.  Captain Keyboard has fixed my family’s computers, arranged for repairs on everything from telephone lines to plumbing, and initiated emergency garbage runs to the dump during the great fruit fly outbreak of 2001.  My sisters would pack my belongings in a steamer trunk and set me adrift off the coast of Charleston with a bucket of shark bait before they would let him get away.
  8. Proprietorship of the family fortune--a three liter plastic jar once bursting with cheese popcorn, now awash in pennies collected painstakingly over an eighteen month period.  There would be more, but we keep digging into the stash for important life-enhancing substances like candy corn and Easter peeps.
  9. Three McDonald’s Monopoly game pieces, two of which were good for a free order of medium fries in 1998.
  10. The cast iron frying pan.  Seasoned by years of campfire cooking and bacon grease massages, it makes the best gravy in the continental United States, outlying territories, and Arctic ice floes.  In the Southern United States, the family’s cast iron frying pan is passed from generation to generation with the same care as the family silver.  I’d sooner part with the children than the frying pan. The frying pan requires less maintenance and doesn’t ask for allowance.

But after careful deliberation, we've decided to stay together.  Neither one of us is willing to take custody of the cats. 
Danger Cat Communicates with the Mother Ship.


Monday, May 26, 2014

Every Day

Hats off to Dad! Miss you!

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 who 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.


Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Dead On

Nothing makes a statement like a tasteful topper in a becoming color.
Perhaps this one makes an exclamation.
When it comes to fashion, I’m no so much clothes horse as I am a pommel horse. You can hang anything on me from Walmart specials to haute couture and I still look like something you’d want to step over.

“Hmm, what season are you?” asked the salesgirl’s nose, hovering six inches above my head, even the spot where my hair sticks up.

“Near as I can tell I’m somewhere between Cruel, Cruel Summer and Winter of My Discontent,” I answered. “Nothing looks good on me except the color of purple that you bury people in.”

Naselrod held a sample of cloth next to my face like she was matching carpet swatches to the creature the cat dragged in. 

“I see black is not our color.”

“Well, nobody can wear it like Batman, can they?”

She plucked something swishy off the rack like a hawk plunge-diving fifty feet for lunch.  “What about midnight blue. Ev-ree-body can wear midnight blue.”

We stared at each other over the quivering gossamer strip.  I got the impression that the first one to blink gets to go into the Coliseum to play with the big kitties.

She wrinkled her nose, which is something like shortsheeting Michael Jordan’s bed.  “Well, almost everybody.”

“Honey, you could spin the color wheel like it was payday on Wheel of Fortune and not find a season for me.

I wouldn’t be standing at the mercy of the Sales Nose from Hell, but I needed a dress to wear to my son’s graduation.  In my family if one of our gang hangs with the same course of study long enough to get a sheepskin, we’re going to dress up and go grab the diploma before somebody changes their mind.

About that time a portly lady in a lavender suit entered the shop, sending the little bell on the door into a tinkling explosion.

“I’ll take that suit,” I squealed, pointing at her.

“But it’s not for sale.”

“A suit the color people are buried in is always for sale,” I said, waving a wad of crumpled cash under Suit Lady’s nose.

That night, getting dressed for the graduation ceremony, I smoothed my lavender skirt and admired the clever cut of the jacket.

It was a perfect night.  My son was graduating and I had a dress that was to die for.

Friday, May 16, 2014

The Language of Love

I love the Captain and can't imagine sailing into the sunset without him.  But there comes a time in a woman's life when romance is best when you don't know what they're saying.  Join me at the Huffington Post and take a cruise down the river of forgotten toenail clippings.
Dream a little dream with me.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

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.

No Crown Jewels for me. Thanks a lot Mom!
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 4, 2014

The Sisterhood of the Stretchy Pants

We're not growing older, we're just stretching the elastic in the fabric of our lives.  Join me at the Huffington Post where I find out who I'm not!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Boop Boop Hula Hoop

We have had our Wii system for over a year and in that time I have failed spectacularly at table tennis, bowling, baseball, and golf.

Next, by simply shelling out the amount of cash normally required for extensive plastic surgery, I was able to purchase another game pack that gave me the chance to fail at jogging, bicycling, yoga, and an island treasure hunt.

I also bombed at piloting an airplane around the resort island, but that’s championship stuff and I don’t like to brag. Who would have thought airplanes were resistant to extreme heights?  Or the ocean.

Judging from the number of comments on a certain FaceBook page, this display of inadequacy brought happiness and joy to my children. It's the least I can do as a mother.

Recently, in the midst of cleaning a glacier of grape jelly off the game controller, I came across a new threat. An accidental click of a button brought up the dreaded. . .hula hoop. It shimmered onscreen like a beefcake vampire and waggled enticingly in my direction.

I remember the toy fondly. As a ten year old with the incredible figure of a vertical blind, I could keep a hula hoop in action long enough to juggle a pair of peanut butter sandwiches, a strawberry milkshake, and two fun-sized Snicker bars into their desired position inside my bottomless belly.

I gazed at the onscreen figure twirling the hula hoop on her virtual hips with a motion as fluid as gravy over mashed potatoes.

How hard could it be?

“How hard could it be” are the words most likely to result in an untimely You Tube video; the kind that becomes traditional viewing at family reunions and is shown as a training video at the Ringling Brothers School for Clowns.

I was about to commit an act of physical fitness. I swore the dog to secrecy, hitched up my Betty Boop sweat pants and gave it a whirl.

Turns out gravity works.

I’m not sure what Betty Boop’s original talent was, but I’m pretty sure it didn’t involve flapping around the pudgy knees of an aerobics class dropout like a pirate flag in a hurricane. For me, bending over is a full body sport. Trying to stop was like asking a Nascar driver to turn right. I attempted an emergency exit and ended up in a position that caused the dog to blush and put the goldfish in peril. The lovely Betty popped her garters and the curl came out of her hair.

When the Captain came through the door, I was undulating like a caught catfish, clutching at Betty Boop with one hand as she slid down my leg like an eight ounce soda in a six ounce glass, and singing Proud Mary at the top of my range, which is unfortunately one that humans can hear.

That was the day Betty Boop retired to an assisted living center in Miami.

And the Captain tied up his dinghy for good.