Monday, October 11, 2010

Mother – Keeper of the Family’s Guilt

Sorry for the blog delays. I was under the gun with a project that just refused to get done...

Have you ever noticed how easy it is for many mom’s to take responsibility for all the problems that occur in their homes, regardless of whether they are actually at fault or not? As if somehow being the all knowing all wise matriarchs implies that we should be able to control the painful influences that affect our families.

Much like the Lady of the Lake in Arthurian legend, we hang onto the Excalibur of guilt, as if by doing so we somehow protect our families from its heartrending sting.

Perhaps it starts off in the early days when as a young mother, we discover that our lips have the magic power to remove the smart from skinned knees and scratched elbows. Or that a chocolate chip cookie and a few well placed tickles can ease the hurt of a playground rejection.

However, as the children grow, so do the complexities of their suffering. A kiss and a cookie don’t cut it when a bully is picking on them after school. And there isn’t a mother alive who’s figured out how to repair a heart broken during the throes of rebuffed first love.

It’s nearly impossible to stand by and watch those we love suffer and not do something to take away the pain, so instead we take on the guilt. We stay up at night worrying, exhausting our brains as we struggle for the solution that will make it all better.

A few weeks ago my husband complained that the numbers on the scale were creeping up at and unexpected and completely unacceptable rate.

“Perhaps if I started buying more healthy foods,” I said, “And if we took walks after dinner, and if I used less oil when I cook maybe…”

“You’re doing it again,” he said with a smile.

“Doing what?”

“You’re feeling guilty for me.”

And he was right. I was taking responsibility for the food and exercise choices he was making. I was feeling guilty, as if somehow I had control.

“You’ve got to stop that,” he said gently. “You’ll drive yourself nuts.”

But how does one stop a feeling, even one as negative and destructive as guilt when it has become equated with motherhood? How does one walk into a parent-teacher conference for the class your high school daughter is failing without the fear that somehow you must be at fault. And how do you stand by and watch as your child suffers the repercussions of their own foolish choices without jumping in with both feet and trying to make it go away?

Then I met a woman whose child lay sick in a hospital bed, suffering from a debilitation disease and I asked her the question, “How do you handle the guilt?”

She was thoughtful for a moment. “I have to fight it every day because, if I don’t, it will consume me and then I won’t be of use to my child.”

I nodded as she continued. “I remind myself that there’s nothing I can do, things happen as they will and my anxiety won’t make a difference. Then I pretend that I’m letting it go.”

“You pretend?” I said in surprise.

She laughed. “And you know what, it isn’t long before the guilt is really gone, and I can be there to enjoy the good hours and be a strength in the bad.”

The old fake it till you make it ploy. I’d never thought of that before, but I guess it makes sense.

So, just as the Lady of the Lake happily relinquished her hold on Excalibur, I’m ready to turn the family guilt back to the family where it belongs. How about you?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

How do Kids Think up These Things?

As parents we can’t, in good faith, condone our children’s devious behavior… no matter how cleverly they pull it off. However once the kids are asleep, and the bedroom door is shut, it’s sometimes tempting to snicker admiringly at their clever, if ill begotten escapades.

Sometimes they’re just little things, like the time my oldest son poured a whole bottle of white glue into his younger brother’s underwear drawer, and I didn’t realize it for three days.

Or when my daughter got on her eleven-year-old brother’s Facebook account and, pretending to be him, started flirting with all the girls on his page. He was so embarrassed he refused to go to school the next day.

But every now and then someone will pull off such a huge, amazing and creative misdeed, it goes down into the annals of family history, to be brought up and recounted for years and years of family reunions and Christmas dinners to come.

Take the clever young man who, in a fit of anger, tore apart his younger brother’s bedroom. Once the crime was committed and the possible repercussions assessed this same genius managed to convince his whole family and the local police, that a burglar had broken into the house and ransacked the place. It was years and years later before he finally confessed, and when he did, the story became an instant classic.

One of my favorites is the case of the mysterious kitchen hole. A teenager was goofing off with his friends one morning in the family kitchen, and as often happens, things got out of hand and a hole the size of a rolling-pin ended up marring the otherwise perfect yellow wall.

Being a quick thinker, the young man grabbed a calendar and tacked it up precisely over the unsightly gap. Fortunately it was April at the time and by the end of December when the calendar was taken down and the hole discovered, no one even thought to suspect him.

An eight-year-old girl will never live down the tale of pushing her even younger brother off the second floor of the backyard play house in a box. She convinced him to participate by assuring him that the box would glide gently to the ground like a kite. They both learned an important lesson in physics that day and created their own permanent place in the chronicles of family legend.

However, if tales could be rated on complexity and sheer chutzpah then the golden banana story would surely be the winner.

Our parents were out-of-town, and my brother was home alone. Despite the strict rules about no social gathering, he planned an elaborate party that included setting up the camping tent in the back yard, an adventure that led completely through the house including the garage and attic and ultimately the digging for buried treasure in the school playground across the street.

When the police pulled up to the school at eleven-thirty that night, they were convinced that the crazy teenagers tunneling through the tan bark must be either high or drunk. And when my brother explained that they were searching for the Golden Banana, they weren’t reassured.

However when he produced an actual banana, spray painted metallic gold and resting in my mother’s chest shaped jewelry box, the police dispersed the group quickly with a severe warning about breaking curfew.

How long this famous event would have remained a secret is unknown if it hadn’t been for the unexpectedly early arrival home of my parents. Telltale clues of dirty dishes in the kitchen, melted candle wax and black crepe paper in the bathroom and the unexpected appearance of the family tent set up on the left side of the house eventually forced a confession.

I believe my brother was grounded for the better part of his fifteenth year, but the story remained well after his own children were grown; a small price to pay for infamy.

So the next time your toddler runs out of the bathroom and into the living room where you are entertaining guests, with Kotex pads stuffed into his diaper, or your second grader rips open a double bean bag chair and sprinkles a billion tiny white pellets throughout her room because she wants to pretend it’s snowing, take a deep breath. Remember that these are the moment’s family memories are made of. Then punish them.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Take Time to Sniff the Underwear and Other Time Savers

As a mother of six active children, I’m always on the lookout for time savings tips, and I’m not above trying a housework cheat or two. There are so many things I’d rather be doing than scrubbing the kitchen floor on my hands and knees like say… anything. And if I can save a few dollars in the process, well I’m euphoric.

Tip Number One – Wash Clothes and Dishes without Soap

A few years back a neighbor was selling these plastic balls that she told me where full of special ionized water. When added to a dishwasher or washing machine, clothing and dishes came out sparkling clean without the use of detergent.

I was skeptical, but agreed to give them a try. On a Saturday morning I set up my own scientific test. I washed three loads of clothing, one with regular detergent, one with the ion balls and one without adding anything at all. Per her instructions I pretreated all stains before washing them, and amazlingly enough all three loads came out pretty much the same. The dishwasher experiment was equally as surprising.

Needless to say I returned the ion balls, but it gave me serious pause to think that plain hot tap water just might be the best cleaning agent of all.

Tip Number Two – If You Can’t See it, It’s Not Dirty

This is a trick I learned from my twelve-year-old son who is a master at hiding the entire contents of a dirty room in such a way as to make them disappear. He’s discovered nooks and crannies in his room that I hadn’t imagined even existed. One time he managed to cram all of his dirty clothes behind the sheetrock through a hole in his wall. We weren’t any wiser until strange smells began to fill his room without any noticeable cause.

Now I don’t recommend hiding dirty clothes for extended periods of time, but I have been known to grab a laundry basket and sweep everything on the surface of a cluttered table inside, before stowing it out of sight. This works well when my mother-in-law calls to say she’s in the neighborhood and wants to drop by.

Tip Number Three – The Occupied Bathroom Ruse

We have three bathrooms, one of which is the exclusive domain of the boys and upon passing through the door, you’d have no doubt about the truthfulness of this statement. It badly needs a new paint job and flooring, especially in the vicinity of the toilet, but we’ve decided to wait until the last guy’s a little older before investing the money to redo it. In the mean time though the guys aren’t bothered, I’m hesitant to have someone walk in there accidentally.

My trick is to simply lock the door before guests arrive, then direct those that ask to one of the two other facilities. Should someone decide to investigate on their own and find their way to the bathroom of terror, the door will be locked and they’ll be left to assume that the restroom is already in use by someone with a serious and possibly smelly bowl condition. For the rest of the visit they’ll be secretively searching the faces of everyone else in the house, looking for the poor victim.

Tip Number Four – Smell the Laundry Before Washing

A few years ago I went on this kick of riding the kids to clean their rooms. I would scrutinize the furniture and floor each night before bed, and if the room wasn’t up to my exacting standards I’d make the negligent inmate arise from the comfort of his or her cot and finish the job. It only took a few of these nightly inspections before the kids got the idea and made sure their rooms would pass muster before retiring.

A few days later I noticed a sudden and unexplainable influx of laundry coming through. At first I thought that it was a backlog from all the weeks of sloppy bedroom upkeep. But after a week when the volume didn’t diminish I began to get suspicious, and it was then I noticed how many folded shirts and pants were showing up in their dirty clothing piles. I washed several swimming suits, even though it was the middle of January and there was at least three feet of snow outside, and socks that hadn’t fit my youngest for at least two years where coming through the dryer with frightening regularity.

The following morning I got up early and hung about the hall watching my children get ready for school. Sure enough as each opened a drawer they would throw five or six outfits onto the floor before located something they liked. Blouses and skirts were knocked off of hangers, and one little boy emptied half the underwear drawer until he found a pair with Spiderman swinging across the back. No doubt by tonight, all these clean cloths would be scooped up and unceremoniously deposited on the laundryroom floor.

Now, I employ the famous sniff test on all questionable clothing, which has saved me hours of time, and probably gallons of detergent free water. It’s simple really. If a piece of clothing looks questionable, I take a quick whiff. If it smells like lavender, orange blossom or spring morning fabric softener, it goes back to the room and if it smells like… well anything else, into the wash it goes.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Emergency Room Journey

A few months ago my daughter had a nasty fall that wrenched her ankle. I was almost positive that it was merely a bad sprain, but she sobbed and screamed that the pain was excruciating and that she was certain she’d heard a bone crunch as she hit the ground. It was a Saturday afternoon (of course) and our normal pediatrician’s office was closed until Monday. Our only option was a visit to the local ER.

Now, I don’t know about you, but for me an ER visit ranks right up there with walking barefooted over hot coals and sleeping on a bed of nails. It’s a long torturous processes often resulting in physical and emotional pain.

“Can’t we wait until Monday,” I beg my hysterical daughter.

“You want me to suffer with a broken foot for two whole days?” She responds in her best abused child voice.

Which is worse, the guilt trip administered by a skilled teenager or the eternal wait and condescending attitude of an ER trip? Hmmm that’s a toughie.

I’ve worked in a hospital, and I know that the ER professionals are a skilled and talented group of men and women trained to deal with gunshot wounds, internal bleeding and the occasional missing finger or toe. In fact, I’m sure they’ve chosen to work in the ER because they like the challenge that comes from never being sure what horrible life threatening emergency will come through their door next.

Maybe that’s why they get so exasperated with guilt ridden mothers or slightly over dramatic young people.

One Sunday evening my younger son clobbered his older brother over the head with a kitchen bar stool made of wood. Fearful of a concussion I checked the young victims pupils, and asked such questions as “Are you dizzy?” and “Are you nauseous.”

He replied in the affirmative to both questions, so I rushed him down to the ER. After waiting nearly forty minutes to get into a waiting room, and another thirty to see a doctor, I was humiliated when this same boy assured the doctor that he felt fine and not the least bit sick.

Once the doctor left, after giving me that “over-protective-mother-wasting-my-time” look that they all have down, I turned to my son who was happily getting dressed to leave and asked him. “Why did you tell me you were nauseous?”

He shrugged his shoulders. “I thought it meant hungry!”

As mothers, we have debated at some length about what goes on at the ER desk while we sit in the examining rooms waiting for hours and hours with Nickelodeon or the Disney channel running incessantly in our ears. We’re pretty sure the doctors and nurses are making fun of us, and wondering why the state doesn’t require some kind of competency test in order to be a parent.

Still whether it’s a bad cold, a failing kidney or as in our case, a bruised ankle that was feeling much better ten minutes after arriving at the ER, the medical personnel get paid either way. And paid well. You can’t go to a doctor’s office or clinic and get the kind of tests that are routinely prescribed by an ER doc.

“Let’s get an x-ray, a CT scan, a spinal tap, and fourteen vials of blood… and I promise you, she won’t bring her kid in here again unless they have one leg dangling by a piece of muscle.”

So if it’s such a pain to visit the ER, and I assure you it is! Why do we mothers keep doing it?

The answer is simple…guilt. Mothers have the unique ability to carry around guilty feelings better than any other creature, human or otherwise, on the planet. What’s more, mothers have the capacity to imagine whole scenarios that include answering questions at the inquest when their son or daughter died, because the seemly innocent headache turned out to be a brain eating parasite. And had they only rushed Junior or Juniorette to the ER when they had the chance, everyone at the wake wouldn’t be staring at them with dismay and judgment in their eyes.

Sure the chance that a child could die from a brain eating parasite is pretty low, probably even less than winning the lottery or being attacked by a gang of angry girl scouts. But if there is any possible chance… do you want to be the mom that wasn’t cautious enough?

What this means it that I will continue to be humiliated when I take my child, who acts like she’s on deaths door, to the ER only to find out that her pony tail holder is on too tight. And the ER docs will continue to vent their frustration by taking two hours to do a fifteen minute test. (And yes guys I do know that you do this!)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Infamous Diaper Bag Dilemma

My daughter and I were shopping for a baby shower gift a few weeks back and had decided to buy the mom-to-be a diaper bag. We stood before a wall literally covered with carry-alls of every style and color, but there was one thing they all had in common. They were huge, practically the size of an ice chest but without the wheels.

“Do you think she’ll want something that big?” I asked as I surveyed the selection before me.

My daughter, the mother of a two-year-old, only laughed. “She’ll probably need two of them at least.”

She went on to explain that today’s diaper bags have to carry so much more than simply diapers. “There are changing pads, and wet wipes and refills for the wet wipes. You have your baby powder so they don’t get diaper rash, and your diaper rash cream for when they do. You have your plastic, non-porous, odor-free plastic bags to hold poopy diapers and the cute little yellow ducky dispenser that hides them discretely out of sight. And if you’re little darling is a boy, well you have to carry little pee-pee tee-pees.”

Apparently the pee-pee tee-pee is a paper cone that fits over the little male’s pee spouter to prevent unfortunate accidents. If you run out, you can also use traditional snow cone cups.

“Then of course,” she continued.”You have to have room for pacifiers, bottles and milk.”

“I thought she was breast feeding,” I said.

“Expressed milk for those times when you need someone else to feed the baby, and a large wire-framed cover up blanket for when you do it yourself.”

I was beginning to get the picture.

“Then of course there are the clothes. I always carry at least three complete outfits from socks and onesies to coats and hats, four if I’ll be gone longer than an hour. You’d be amazed at the multiple ways an infant can find to soil a set of clothing.”

I took a deep breath and tried to concentrate.

“There are the incidentals like baby pain reliever and allergy medicine, a first aid kit, syrup of ipecac, tweezers and a thermometer. A variety of small toys and books, preferably educational in nature, and I always carry a notepad with emergency numbers and medical history for the little guy… just in case.”

My eyes were starting to glaze over.

“Now that he’s bigger, I have to include a box of rice cereal and those bland apple snacks that taste like styrofoam. And unless I like driving down the highway with a screaming toddler, I can’t forget the portable DVD player and a selection of Elmo videos.”

“Wow,” I said. “What a collection. No wonder the bags have to be so big.”

“But you know what’s really frightening,” my daughter asked, her eyes big and her voice dramatic. “She’s having twins.”

I’ve never been so happy to be menopausal in my life.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Is it Really a Lie if No One is Deceived

Liar, liar, pants on fire

The other day I walked into the kitchen and discovered a plastic bottle of chocolate syrup turned upside down on the counter. It was carefully balanced against the toaster its squeeze top immerged in a slowly growing puddle of brown ooze.

I don’t know what the rational was for leaving the sticky sweet stuff in such an unlikely position. To be honest, I stopped asking why a long time ago. Suffice it to say, that an hour before when I’d left the house, the counter was clear, and when I returned some would-be Willy Wonka had been at work.

I turned to my youngest son who was deeply engrossed in a computer game only a few feet away, and I asked the question, “Did you leave the syrup container upside down?”

Without looking up for his game he responded quickly. “No.”

“Are you sure? Cause it looks like your work.”

My husband says this child is naturally destructive, I say he is creative in the damaging sense of the word. One day I found a small black stain on the top corner of his bedroom ceiling. From my vantage point it appeared to be smoke residue. When I called the kid in and confronted him with the mark, he assured me that there had been no fire involved. Black spray paint was at fault.

Why he was standing on a chair in his bedroom, in the corner with a can of black spray paint to begin with, I’ll never know. And what possessed him to dispense a brief spurt to that lonely spot is also a mystery, but not out of character.

“No,” he said again, “I didn’t even touch the chocolate. Why would I?”

“Maybe you wanted to make chocolate milk, but the syrup was all at the bottom,” I suggested

He glanced up, giving me the look that only an arrogant thirteen-year-old male child can pull off. “Oh yeah, right. Like I’d do that.”

This is the same kid that spent over an hour at the kitchen sink, when he was suppose to be doing the dishes, mixing Kool-aid powder and dish soap to create florescent pink bubbles that smelled like lemony-fruit punch. By the time I realized what he was up to, the foam had filled the basin and overflowed onto both counter tops and the floor.

“Why do you always blame everything on me?” he said, the volume in his voice rising with his apparent indignation. “There are lots of other people who live here too.”

“That’s true,” I said, keeping my voice calm, “But no one else was home. Are you suggesting the dog was messing about with the chocolate syrup?”

“Maybe,” he said, unmoved by my show of parental logic. “All I know is it wasn’t me.”

I still made him clean up the mess, despite his constant insistence that he was innocent. and I was being unfair. But it got me to thinking. This young man in smart enough to realize that he’s been caught; the evidence of his guilt is air tight. So why would he continue lying in such a useless defense attempt?

The conclusion I arrived at is this. Perhaps it isn’t so much about deception as independence. Maybe these pointless arguments are a way of stretching his wings and testing his intellectual faculties against a worthy opponent.

Through the years of broken toilets, mangled mini-blinds and chunks of wood super-glued to the carpet, I’ve retained a hope that as my son grows his power of thinking outside the box will turn into a force for good. And his determination to cling to his convictions, regardless of the obstacles in his way, will someday be a strength rather than simply an amusing stubborn streak.

That’s my dream, but in the mean time, if we can just get through today…

Monday, July 26, 2010

eBooks - What a Concept

I don’t know how many of you know this, but I recently decided to publish my second novel, Sleight of Hand, as an eBook. I haven’t had much luck getting an agent for this project, and since it didn’t cost me anything to list, I figured it couldn’t hurt to have it online.

I didn’t know much about eBooks when I started so it’s been an interesting adventure.

The eBook world carries books from all sorts of genre’s, written in a wide range of skill levels and sporting its own spelling system… hence the term eBook not ebook or Ebook or even ebOOk. And unlike traditional publishing where you have to convince some agent or editor that your book is worth their time, in the eBook world all you have to do is cut and paste.

I’ve been spending time over the last few days perusing the books available on Smashwords, one of the sites that carries my book. The books available are an interesting combination of the inane and the ridiculous with a few gems thrown in every now and then.

I’ve discovered a huge market for books about women getting into bondage type relationships and then becoming confused about who they are… really? Go figure? And Tolkien would be shocked to learn the extensive array of soft porn that passes for Fantasy… or maybe he wouldn’t.

While browsing through the summaries of some of the newest releases the other day, I came across a few that tickled my funny bone and I thought I’d share them on today’s blog.

  • One writer describes her newest novel as:

    an action adventure that is rich in vocabulary and real-world adventure.

    Rich in vocabulary - which no doubt means there are a lot of different words in her book, an absolute requirement for any good story.

  • Another nonfiction writer wants to make sure we know how comprehensively his volume covers the subject.

    A teleological view of the human condition is considered from a bio psycho social techno spiritual perspective. Cultural foundations, scientific advancements and practical apps will be explored as concepts from modern physics,energy medicine,theology,philosophy, psychology,nutrition,the arts,the humanities,and conventional medicine are integrated in meaningful,goal oriented ways.

    What more is there to say?

  • A fantasy novel touted as “A Gender Switch Adventure,” starts off with the ambiguous line,

    Her people conquered, Coruna turned to piracy.

    Did Coruna actually conquer her own people and then head off to sea, or in a state of depression after her people where conquered by someone else, did she run off to join the pirates… and then switch genders? I guess you’d have to read the book.

  • The following are a couple of first lines which quite frankly don’t need any commentary what so ever.

    In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth... ...and then he died?

    Coralynn Levine does not like people. In fact, she would rather spend her life doing what she does best, killing them.

    And of course the ever frustrating scenario

    Alena was just like the rest of the crowd until she realizes that deadly creatures from folklore are real and that she is a key player to their existence.

  • Sometimes the authors try to sum up the whole plot in two or three sentences with surprising results.

    Reincarnation ideas spark a child’s coming of age quest for truth about his beloved uncle’s puzzling death, unearthing family secrets that lead to severe consequences…    hu?

    Freddie is robbing the place, Victor has come to kill him, Steve is caught in the middle and Holly is looking for a quiet evening at home.

  • One can only assume that the popular book The Promise was this writer’s inspiration,

    The essence of our existence on this planet is survival. It is therefore a breath of fresh air to discover a method of success that requires only applying specific principles and strategies to one’s life—the principles and strategies of Universal Sense.

    Using universal sense to solve problems… now that is a concept I could get behind.

  • And lastly an author who is probably just as lovely, sweet and verbose as her book…

    Let strength give you wings to fly and if you believe, you can touch the sky. "I Believe I Can Fly," is filled with true inspiration that will help guide you through the journey of life's magic ride. May you be intrigued and enlightened for years to come as you soar above the clouds and follow your hopes and dreams!

FYI - You can follow the link above to download Sleight of Hand onto your computer or digital reader for $3.99 at both Smashwords or

Also, I've started a new blog the follows my experiences listing and trying to market my eBook at

Monday, July 19, 2010

Five Things You Can Only Do If You’re a Ghost

Death and taxes, they happen to everyone, and while taxes happen on a daily basis, death usually happens but once. So I say, if you have to go, then why not enjoy the trip. Not in some morbid zombie like way, and I’m not suggesting an Edward the vampire living-death kind of thing either. No, what I’m talking about it enjoying the whole invisible life after experience.

1. You get to watch all the movies and plays you want without paying a dime.

I’m a big fan of theater but the cost of attending more than a few plays a year can get high. And if you want a view from the first few rows, the price goes up even higher. Not so if you happen to be a disembodied spirit. You can choose the prime locations from which to view every show on Broadway. You want to sit cross legged in the orchestra pit or float lazily above the actors heads? Go for it.

2. You can get the best gossip before anyone else.

No matter how well connected you are on facebook or how lucky your timing is while you’re alive, most of us still have to wait for the juiciest tidbits to make their way to us through the grapevine. But when you’re a see through specter, you can achieve the ultimate in on the spot gossip-getting by literally becoming a fly on the wall. You can actually watch as Perfect Patty, your neighbor from down the street, stuff’s silk scarves in her purse. You’re there when the store security stops her in the parking lot and makes her empty her bag. And when the police arrive to hauling her off to jail, you are close enough to smell her Channel Number 5. All before anyone else has heard a word. And with a whole spirit world of people to share this “secret” with, you could be passing on the shocking details for eternity.

3. You can skinny dip and run around the city naked and no one will ever know.

There’s a sense of freedom that comes from acting out your most embarrassing nightmare in public and not getting caught. It’s kind of like actually telling your boss what you think of him, in any words you choose to use, and then walking back to your desk without losing your job in the process.

4. You can visit places like museums and zoo’s whenever you like and beat the crowds.

Imagine strolling through the Louvre at two in the morning or dancing in the Roman Coliseum in the middle of a private tour. Locked doors, security camera, even laser beams can’t stop a true art loving ghost. And if a sign warns “No Entry Past this Point” they aren’t talking to you. Go ahead, sit on the chair that Thomas Jefferson used when he wrote the constitution, lay on the bed where Cleopatra had her fateful encounter with the poisonous asp or stand on the top of the Washington Monument and sing Jeremiah was a Bull Frog at the top of your voice. You’re dead so you can do what you please.

5. You get to hang out with other dead people.

Think about it. There are actually more dead people around than living people and some of them would have great stories to share. Imagine swapping tall tales with Napoleon Bonaparte or fish stories with Jonah. Solve such pressing mysteries as the whereabouts of Miss Amelia Earhart’s plane, the truth behind the Kennedy assassination and whether the King of Rock and Roll is dead and well or pumping gas in a BP station in Pocatello, Idaho.

Sure being alive is great, and there is the whole breathing the air, eating real food and enjoying the society of your loved ones stuff. But when that day comes, and it’s time to meet the grim reaper, you can clap the old guy on the back and give him a wink cause there’s no fun like ghost fun.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Tale of The Dead Ant

Sometimes when I begin a blog I have to add a few words of warning before proceeding and so let me do so now.

Warning number one: This blog may embarrass my mother. Yes I know I am a grown woman, and have been grown for many more years than I chose to remember, however I am still completely capable of shaming my poor mother, who did in fact try very hard to teach me all the womanly homemaking skills to which she so excels and to which I so expel.

Warning number two: This is a crazy busy summer. I’m in the process of working on three books all of which are in the mid or final phases of writing, editing and all of which have interested third parties who are harassing me on a daily basis for final results. The kids are home which means more of everything except quiet writing time. I had to stay up till one three nights in a row to finish a baby quilt I’d agreed to make for a good friend’s, son’s eagle project. And thought I am trying to change my lifelong image (see warning above) I am not a Hannah Homemaker.

The downstairs bathroom has always been the safe house of toilets when it came to entertaining guests with over filled bladders, and noses in need of wiping. When someone would ask to use the facilities we would point them toward the stairs with the words, “Down and to the left. It’s really the safest one in the house.”

The reason this bathroom was so designated was first, because only my youngest daughter uses it, and secondly, without brothers to mess it up, she usually keeps it pretty clean.

So about a week ago this same daughter woke me up at four thirty in the morning to tell me that she had lost-her-cookies all over her bedroom floor and into the bathroom. Now when both she and I were much younger I might have dragged myself out of bed, cleaned up the stinky mess and tucked her into bed. But those days are long over.

“I’m sorry sweety,” I mumbled. “Just clean it up and go back to bed.” Then I fell asleep and forgot about the whole incident.

It wasn’t until the following afternoon when the older kids began to complain of a strange odor emanating from the downstairs hall that I recalled my daughter’s sickness from the night before. (Did I mention the memory thing going as I get older?) So I tracked down said child, who was watching chick flicks on her DVD player, and suggested she might want to clean up the bathroom.

She too remembers the days of her childhood when her job was to spew and my job was to mop up, and she isn’t too happy about the change in responsibility. But after some moaning and complaining and a really dirty look, she finally agreed to handle the problem.

I returned to my writing, assuming the issue was taken care of. (Remember note above about memory loss).

Again, she is the only child who uses the bathroom, and I rarely descent into the darker regions of the basement, so it was probably two or three days later when I sent a friend down to use that bathroom.

Fortunately, this was a very good friend, and when she returned with a strange look on her face, she was quick to explain the dilemma.

“Have you been into that bathroom recently?” she asked.

“Uh…. Noooo,” I responded hesitantly. “Why?”

She grimaced, widened eyes and drew her eyebrows up to her hairline. “You might just want to.”

Of course, I headed down there immediately and opened the door with more than a little trepidation.

The floor, normally a white and blue speckled linoleum now had tiny specks of black mixed in. Ants. Dead ants, covered the floor. Hundreds of them, maybe more. It was like those places you hear about in Africa where elephants go to die. My lower bathroom was the doorway to the great ant beyond.

However, looking closer, I discovered what had been the cause of so many insect’s untimely death. Apparently someone (and I won’t name any names here) in an effort to clean up a mess of already digested food, had poured bubble bath all over the floor.

To this day I don’t know what the logic was behind this. Maybe she was hoping to let it soak and then come back and mop it up. Maybe it spilled during the cleaning process and she thought if she spread it around it would just dry and harden like wax. Who knows.

But what it turned out to be was a monumental ant trap. Apparently every black ant in the neighborhood got word of a strawberry scented floor, conveniently located in the basement of a nearby house, and headed over to join in the fun. Little knowing that this room of delight would turn out to be a sticky mess from which they would never come out alive.

I sighed deeply as is best when confronting a humiliating situation, then turned to my friend.

“You might have better luck with the restroom at the Mobile gas station down the street.”

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

A Cat, A Dog, A Bird -- And A Mouse Under the Basket


This is a brief addition to this week’s blog... sort of a late breaking news kind of a thing.

I got up this morning, showered, dressed and walked into the kitchen and for once I could see the floor.

For the past week I have been trying very hard to get the kids to pitch in more around the house and to become more adept at washing out their dirty dishes. It's what? Wednesday? So three days down, the rest of the summer to go.

As I walk into the kitchen I notice a large cylindrical basket, the type where the mesh is large enough that one can easily see into it. It's turned upside down on what looks like a brown fluffy hair ball. I squinted and looked closer and noticed the ball had ears and a tail.

I dropped down on my hands and knees to get a closer peek and sure enough a small rodent sat miserably on the floor under the basket.

It looked like a cross between a mouse and a tiny tiny guinea pig, with long fur, and I furrowed my brow in confusion. I live in a hot dry deserty area, what freak of nature would give a poor mouse a heavy summer coat like that.

On closer inspection, the back legs didn't seem to be functioning and the critter did not look well.

I stood up and announced to the house hold in my loudest voice, one of those phrases I never could have imagined myself saying before I had children. "Alright, who put the basket over the mouse?"

The only child up and awake, my youngest son sauntered into the room. "I did."


"I didn't want it to get away."

I don't think it was going anywhere, but at least it kept the household pets away from it.

This is the same son who accidentally dropped an egg on the floor yesterday morning and then cleaned it up by draping a bath towel over it and walking away.

So now I'll have to wait for one of my older sons to wake up and dispose of what I hope will be a dead mouse at that point.

I'm going to have to lay down the law to my dog and cat that is for sure!!!


Monday, July 5, 2010

A Dog, A Cat and A Bird

 Our dog brought a live bird into the kitchen the other day. She was quite proud of herself, and the cat was equally as impressed. I noticed the canine and feline gathering at the back door and went over to investigate. There on the floor between them lay a very small brown bird with an orange beak.

My first thought was that it might have been one of the pet birds my son has been raising for the past six months. Though the little darlings are locked safely behind the bars of their cage, the cat has been known to jump on the top and knock the whole contraption over. Tiny birds are amazingly difficult to catch, l learned, as I watched my son chase the finches around the room with a bed sheet ballooned over his head.

But no, this small creature was a wild bird.

I hate it when my pets bring in live but injured animals. Sure I can rescue them from their captors, but what does one do with internal injuries or a broken wing? And do you know how fragile bird bones are?

My brother’s family had a canary that suffered a broken leg due to an unfortunate accident involving a canister of flour and a heavy handed child. My brother, being the independent type, decided to help the little fellow along by setting the bone and wrapping it in a narrow ace bandage. They call the bird ‘One-Legged-Jack’ now.

I stared down at the unfortunate creature debating what the best course of action was. By my side, the dog beamed with pride and the cat looked down right jealous.

Staring at the bird before me I was reminded of the incident of the broken winged robin that had happened the year before.

It was evening that day when I walked into the kitchen to find my cat happily playing with a large red breasted robin. It’s left wing hung in such a way as to assure me it was broken, but it’s eyes were bright and incensed.

I rescued it from the indigent cat, while debating what to do with the poor thing. If I threw it back in the yard, it would be forced to wait helplessly to be dinner for some larger carnivore or worse, to suffer a slow death from starvation and pain. On the other hand, I didn’t want an injured bird living in my kitchen eyeing me angrily every time I tried to give it food or water.

“Just kill it quickly and put it out of its misery,” suggested my son, the one without the pet birds.

“And how would I do that?” I asked.

“Just hit it on the head with a hammer.”

We couldn’t find the hammer, of course, and I refused to let my meat cleaver be sacrificed for the heaven bound Robin.

“You could twist its neck like they do with chickens?” that same son suggested.

An idea which, though we all agreed with in principal, no one was actually willing to do.

“Perhaps if we leave it outside in a box it will be dead by morning,” I suggested.

And so, after finding the right size box, fitted with a clean rag and a small pyrex custard cup of water, we place our injured fowl out on the back porch and suggested it rest in peace.

The next morning, the darn thing was not only alive but active, hopping about the box, dragging its broken wing behind it and complaining profusely about the accommodations.

At last, with no other option, I did what all residents of this free country do when faced with an impossible situation. I called City Hall and they dispensed the animal control truck. The brave officer, who handles rabid cougars on walking trails and rattlesnakes that have taken up residence next to back yard swing sets, showed up at my house and took custody of our houseguest, box and all. I left the rag but retrieved the custard cup.

This year I was not willing to go through another painful bird incident and so I determined to scoop the guy up into a dustpan. Once I'd retrieved him from the floor I headed outside.

My two pets watched me in stunned amazement. What was I doing with their toy? Didn’t I realize how hard it was to actually catch a bird? Those dead ones weren’t nearly as much fun to play with.

But I ignored their pleading eyes and went to the edge of the deck, intent on tossing the visitor into the depth of the strawberry plants where it would hopefully heal or die peacefully.

As I raised the dustpan up, low and behold the bird flew out and off into the distance. I guess it just needed the right motivation to push through its shock and fear.

To me this was the perfect ending to a difficult problem. My dog and cat still haven’t quite forgiven me though.


Monday, June 28, 2010

A Funeral to Die For

There’s nothing like attending a funeral to give you pause and direct your thoughts to your own mortality and the state of the world in general. I discovered this while attending a funeral this morning with my oldest son. A young friend of his had died most unexpectedly and he and I attended to honor this boy.

In my day, funerals were considered a fairly formal event, especially those held in churches. One would dress up to show honor and respect for the newly deceased. That doesn’t seem to be the case these days.

The clothing styles sported by the young mourners varied from the casual to the obscene. I’m sure the young man in the Grateful Dead t-shirt and dirty torn jeans thought the rose bedecked skeleton on his chest had something to do with death, much as moldy bread has something to do with science.

Another young man draped an oversized wool blazer on top of his purple t-shirt and plaid Bermuda shorts in an effort to dress up the ensemble.

Many of the young women showed up in skin bearing sun dresses and one in a short ebony colored number with a plunging neckline, proving thus again, that the little black dress isn’t suitable for every occasion.

Perhaps these attempts at fashion rebellion are an effort to keep the atmosphere light and avoid the grim reality that life does not continue forever.

That evening, we talked around the dinner table about funerals in general. One son insisted that he wanted his funeral to be held at a local dance club after which he wanted to be cremated and his ashes spread throughout the shopping mall. Another wanted a party, with all the nieces and nephews walking around with platters of appetizers and perhaps a bubble machine. My daughter insisted that all her shoes be stuck inside the coffin with her, just in case she figured out a way to take them with her.

We laughed, and changed the subject. But it got me to thinking about how short life is, and how once it’s done, well it’s done. No do overs, no second chances.

Behind me at the funeral, two young girls who were still in their teens sobbed uncontrollably. For them death was a horrible monster who had stolen their friend from their very arms. I understood how they felt. I was young once too.

For me the idea of death is not so frightening. I believe my spirit will go on and that there are many more adventures yet to discover and mysteries to behold. But I also know that life happens fast, and we need to savor every moment.

Of course by tomorrow I'll have forgotten these profound thoughts, and I'll go back to worrying about the dishes and what color to paint the living room. And that's the way it should be. We will all die sometime but we can't live worrying about that eventuality. But maybe between the hustling here and the rushing there, I'll stop and enjoy the now, at least for a moment.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Glass Breaks

It’s summer time and the dishwasher is running almost non-stop so I asked my youngest son to empty a load for me while I finished working on a writing project. Mid sentence the familiar sound of breaking glass assaulted my ears. Without rising from my chair I called out, “Did something break?”

A momentary pause. “Uh… no.”

“But I just heard it.”

Another pause. “Well, maybe. I’m not sure.”

“How can you not be sure. Did something break or did it not?”

Long sigh. “Sort of I guess.”

“Just make sure you sweep it up before someone walks in with bare feet and looses a foot.”

It was just a glass, so I don’t know why he was so worried. He’s broken things much more valuable in the past and still lives to tell the tale. But I guess we all have a hard time when something we value gets broken.

But that’s how life is. Things break, cars get dents, carpets get stained and people screw up. And you know what? It’s not the end of the world.

When my husband and I were first married, I remember spilling a glass of milk. It ran across our new tablecloth and dripped down the front of my husband’s dress pants. He was furious and I felt terrible. That was back in the day when we believed that if we were really careful all our stuff would stay nice and new forever. Then we had kids.

It’s amazing how children change your whole perspective on the world and teach you what is really important. We use to refer to our son as the human fire-hose. That kid could spit-up a stream of half digested breast milk and hit his father five feet away. For months we couldn’t get that lingering odor of sour milk out of our house. The carpet, walls and even our clothing were soaked with it.

But now that same son has just become engaged. He’s about ready to start a new life with a darling girl and he just bought his first car. Yesterday someone left a jacket on the top of his trunk and you’d have thought that life as we know it was ending. I just smiled. He has no idea what’s coming.

Sunday was Fathers day and it was my husband’s turned to get guilted out at church. I think it’s only fair after what they put women through on Mother’s Day. And sure enough, he was guilted out, although he did get to bring home two giant chocolate chip cookies afterwards.

“Sometimes I feel like I haven’t been a very good father,” he said later in the day. “There are so many things I could have done and didn’t. So many things I should be doing now and don’t.”

I know the feeling. As I said, Mother’s Day was just a month ago.

“Glass breaks,” I said.

He turned and looked at me with some confusion.

“Do you ever remember throwing out a set of glasses or mugs because we bought a new set and they didn’t match?” I asked.


“That’s because we never did. You don’t throw away glasses. They break, every single last one. That’s how it works. And you don’t cry or mourn or even worry. You toss the shattered pieces, and you buy something new and start over.”

“And this applies how?” he asked. My husband often doubts the true depth of my wisdom.

“We all mess up. Glasses get broken, harsh words get said, misjudgments are made, and time is wasted. But that doesn’t mean we can’t start over. Our parents weren’t perfect moms and dads, we aren’t perfect and our kids won’t be perfect parents – but that’s okay. We don’t need to be perfect. We just need to keep trying.”

He smiled at me and I think he felt better, and he should. My husband is a good man. He loves his children, worries about them, and is always there when they need him.

Talking to my husband got me to thinking about my own father.

A lot of my cousins have lost their fathers over the last few years, and I feel lucky to still have my dad in my life. He’s been married to my mother for over fifty years. During those years he has been a hard worker and a good provider. I never knew a moment of fear or need growing up under his roof. As an adult I find that I have many habits and traits that I picked up from him. Many of the values I most treasure and the beliefs that have guided my life were instilled in me by the lifelong example of the man who loved and raised me. I’m sure he wasn’t always perfect but it’s funny how I can’t really remember anything but the good.

And as an imperfect mother myself… this gives me hope.

Happy Fathers Day to the two most important men in my life… my father and my husband.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Summer Time and the Living is Crazy

Every year about this time I do a blog on how nuts I’m going with the kids at home for the summer. That is probably because during the school year I forget what it’s like. I imagine summer to be lazy days sleeping in till ten or eleven in the morning. A patio chair under a shaded tree, with hours to spend catching up on my reading or day dreaming as fantastically shaped clouds glide peacefully over head.

It is similar to my Christmas fantasy where I’m serving hot wassail and homemade cookies to my neighbors and friends who’ve dropped in for a visit. My house is sparkling clean and twinkles with lights and tinsel and Christmas music is playing in the background as I bask in the joy and peace of the season.

Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we imagine such impossible scenarios for the three months after spring and then beat ourselves up when they don’t happen? Perhaps because we refuse to deal with the realities of summer life. Who wants to think about piles and piles of plates and dishes growing in the sink thanks to a herd of hungry teenagers with access to the kitchen twenty-four seven? And where is the magic in lying on a bed on a hot summer night, stripped down to the most minimal of clothing and wishing a nice blizzard would come rushing through so one could cool off and go to sleep?

Personally, I think it’s nicer just to imagine how fun it would be to pack up all the kids and take them to a California beach vacation for a week then to actually do it. The dream is delightful, while the reality is grumpy kids that can’t decide on one activity they all want to participate in or one food they are all willing to eat.

My mom tells me to enjoy these days. She says that the kids will grow up far too soon and move on with their own lives. She says the things that annoy me about a house full of summer bored kids will become the stuff of fond memories in the future. She says this and then she and my dad hop a plane to Hawaii or take their trailer-for-two and cruise around the country, stopping at gift shops and restaurants that don’t offer ‘kids-eat-free’ deals. Hmmm

So what’s a middle aged girl like me gonna do? Only one thing. Lock the bedroom door, turn up the stereo really really loud and dream of the first day of school, the only daydream in my life that always turns out as good as I’d imagined.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Awakening Avery Book Review.... well almost

About a year ago, I created a website. The main reason behind this website was to practice my ever growing skills at using Adobe Dreamweaver, and partly to play around with my love of books. I had this idea that I could make a place, almost like a real live bookstore, where visitors could leisurely explore a wide variety of books, maybe read some excerpts all from the comfort of their own computer chair. See

It was one of those projects that ended up being a lot tougher than I thought it would be, but has also proved very satisfying. I’ve gotten to know a lot of authors, and my html skills are increasing all the time.

I was asked to do a review recently for part of a blog tour. The book, Awakening Avery by Laurie Lewis arrived in the mail a short time later. I read the book, wrote my review and then discovered that the link that was being provided for my part in the tour was this blog, my personal blog, the one that has nothing to do with my website, and everything to do with expressing my own unique brand of humor.

So I wrote what I humbly consider to be an insightful review, which you can find my clicking on the following link, Annie’s Book Blog.

I have to admit I find it flattering and more than a little amusing to be asked to review a book. Not that I don’t have experience in it. I’ve been reading and then privately reviewing books for years. We all do right? Take J.K. Rowling. We didn’t just read Harry Potter, but we discussed it in detail. Did Harry whine too much in book number five or was it six? And just how long could book number seven possibly be?

I’ve read books I’ve hated. Books I thought had no business even being published, and then I find other readers just like myself who think they are the greatest invention since tracking devises on children.

Sometimes I like to explore Amazon just to see how many strange and varied plot lines I can find.

Take mysteries. I love mysteries, as do many other people. So the challenge for a writer is to find new ways to present a genre that is already overflowing with hundreds if not thousands of book ideas and find something fresh. There are books with main characters who are old, young, fat, thin, actors, writers, garbage men, and even cats. There are mysteries that include recipes, knitting instructions and free prizes inside. Some are written from the point of view of the detective, some from the point of view of the killer and a few from the point of view of the victim. One has to get really creative to come up with something new.

I’ve been playing around with an idea myself, and I thought I’d shoot it out there to all of you, see what you think. I’m putting together a mystery series with an older widow like Jessica Fletcher from Murder She Wrote. Then I’d combine it with the success of the Twilight series, so she would have to be an ageless vampire. That would be tricky because it appears most vampires prefer to remain in their late teens through late twenties, but surely there is room for an aged but winsome vampire woman.

She can have guests over, feed them lobster bisque (recipe included), then once they are full and sleeping in her guest room, she can drink their blood. Thus energized she can go out, solve mysteries and provide down home advice to the locals. I think it could work…in some alternate reality.

Unlike my book idea, Awakening Avery is good, really good, so please read my review at Annie’s Book Blog and then go buy the book.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Thoughts on Mother’s Day

On the second Sunday of May each month we, as a nation, stop and pay homage to the mother or mothers in our life. It’s a great idea and like so many great ideas, it leaves itself wide open for guilt ridden humor and irony. Let me explain.

As I child, I loved Mother’s Day. It was the one Sunday that we didn’t have to have a bible lesson in Sunday School but instead got to work on our homemade Mother’s Day cards. A piece of colored construction paper and a few crayons and poof, we had the perfect gift. These childish efforts brought tears to my mother’s eyes, something I rarely saw unless my brothers had been really really bad.

And then I became the mother… and things changed.

Mother’s Day is the one morning of the year when my children are allowed to run rampant in the kitchen and I have to stay tucked in bed listening to the sound of broken glass and pots being banged together, while that strangely eerie scent of burnt eggs wafts gently in the air.

Just as tradition dictates that the groom is not allowed to see the bride on their wedding day before the ceremony, so I am not allowed out of my room until the traditional ‘breakfast in bed’ sequence is complete. Though, truth be told, it’s probably good for me to get the extra rest, as I will need it when I am finally allowed out of my room and back into the shambles that was once a clean kitchen.

After the hour and a half it takes to clean up breakfast, we usually attend church together as a family. It’s quite an accomplishment to get everyone out of bed, showered and dressed in time to attend services, especially for the one who is determined that God will strike him with a lightening bold if he so much as steps through the doorway. But after many tears and pleading on my part, and guilt trips on the part of their father, I manage to get my whole brood sitting somewhat quietly together on a church pew.

As other mother’s arrive at church one notices immediately that many are sporting brightly colored Mother’s Day corsages. By far the most popular model is the single orchid, boxed and sold by the thousands at most retail outlets the Saturday before Mother’s Day. These are the ones that come with two huge white headed pins, guaranteed to draw blood, and a small vial of water attached to the flower stem.

There is some debate as to what that small vial is for. When removed, the stem seem to go wild, often tangling itself up in the ribbon or just sticking out in some annoying angle. On the other hand, if you leave the vial on, you are guaranteed to find water leaking onto the chest portion of your Mother’s Day outfit. Though this may bring back memories of your first over engorged Mother’s Day, it isn’t really a pretty sight.

Among the myriad of single orchids are some double variety. They cost a little more, but they make you husband feel special when he gives them to you and in effect says, “You my dear are a two orchids wife!”

A few women show up with corsages of flowers other than orchids, the type that you order from a florist in advance. I tried to order myself a corsage of baby roses once and claim that it was a gift from my three year old, but I couldn’t do it. It felt like purchasing your own Christmas gift, then placing it under the tree and saying it was from some made up friend.

In our church, various members of the congregation are invited to stand and share memories of their own mothers. This is by far the most difficult part of the day. Last year, eighty-five year old Roy Mossbrow rambled on for thirty minutes about his sainted mother who passed away nearly forty years before, while all the mothers in the audience, including myself, cringed at his description.

“Never do I recall that woman raising her voice,” Roy drones on. “Or saying a sharp word.”

I look down the row to see all six of my children looking in my direction, eyebrows raised. I shrug. What can I say, I’m an awful mother.

“She was up before the dawn and often wasn’t in bed till midnight.”

I don’t get up that early, but often I watch Letterman till well after twelve a.m. Does that count?

“I am the man I am today because of that sweet angelic woman.”

I swear, if any of my children ever stand up and make all the living mothers feel guilty by embellishing my memory after I’m dead, I will come down and hit them over the head with my halo or pitch fork, depending on where I end up.

As we leave the chapel, the young men hand out carnations with yard long stems and I do my best not to beat myself up with mine. Being a mom is hard work, and the fact that my kids are involved makes it even tougher.

Then my teenage son slips his arm around me and whispers in my ear. “I love you mom.”

I guess having to suffer through one Mother’s Day a year isn’t too bad. I mean I do have pretty great kids. And besides, maybe someday, when they all grow up and move out, I can be perfect just like my mom.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

My Mysterious and Romantic Life

To most outside observers, I may appear the typical stay at home mom. I cook, clean (when absolutely necessary), run my kids to and from basketball games and friends houses, and keep the family dog and cats fed. But unbeknownst to even my closest friends I’m actually living a double life as a secret agent.

I’m sure you’ve all seen the James Bond movies; well my life makes his look like an afternoon at the mall. You want to talk about suspense, top secret information, mysterious happenings and romance on a daily basis, then my friends, you have come to the right place.

My world is full of suspense. Let’s me tell you what happened just yesterday. I decided to bake some homemade whole wheat bread. I followed the instructions, allowed the dough to rise in the pan and then turned on the oven. After the allotted time, I peeked in and found that the bread was golden on the top and looked ready to come out.

I carefully removed the first loaf from the oven, slid a knife around the outside and turned the pan upside down. For about ten seconds it looked absolutely perfect. Then it happened. The bread began to slowly implode along a center crack caving in like an asphalt road during an earth quake. Quickly, I transferred the mangled mess back into the pan and returned it to the oven for another twenty minutes. Later my daughter stated that the loaf tasted good but looked demented.

Now who would have guessed THAT was going to happen?

As a secret agent I am entrusted with many bits of top secret information only to be released on a ‘Need to Know’ basis. Like, why my fourteen year old daughter no longer likes N but thinks that A is really cute. And that her best friend T has a crush on L, M, J and F. I would tell you what name each of these letters represent, but then I would be forced to kill you….

Also I am sworn to secrecy about that unfortunate tuna sandwich incident at school, what my husband really thinks about that guy down the hall with the obnoxious laugh, and who is responsible for the new dent in the back rear fender of the BMW. (that would be me.)

I spend my days solving mysteries that would stump a detective of lesser valor. Like, why is a set of speakers sitting in the hall plugged into an outlet but not attached to any music producing device? Or how come the pens in my room keep disappearing no matter how often I buy new ones?

How about this. Our black lab is sitting at my side, staring up at me and whining. Is she trying to tell me A) one of the kids has fallen down the well, B) our house is being invaded by a swarm of killer cats or C) she wants to go outside but no one will open the door? It could be any one of the three and that’s the challenge.

Perhaps my favorite part of being a secret agent is the romance that comes with it. I am adored and get kissed or hugged by at least four handsome men every single day, and sometimes more. I get called sweetheart, honey and beautiful constantly and I get to wear skimpy sexy clothing… ok, well what I mean is that I gained a little weight and my clothes are all too tight and revealing now, but hey I can see it how I want.

Yes, between trying to deduct what to make for dinner, interrogate a teenager about her evening plans, make sure the new box of cookies doesn’t fall into enemy hands and spy on my son and his new girlfriend in the family room, I have a pretty exciting life. But just remember… it’s a secret - shhh - so don’t tell anyone.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Relationships Are Difficult or Why I’m So Hard To Live With

The subject of marriage came up the other day while I was talking with some women friends of mine. Marriage often comes up in such conversations followed by children’s exploits and of course Oprah. The consensus was that creating a successful marriage was not nearly as easy as the romance novels lead us to believe. It takes committed long term work.

Try putting any two people together for an extended period of time and no matter how good of friends they were to begin with or how compatible they seem to be, problems will occur. It happens. Someone gets hurt, or misunderstood and someone else gets tired or down and bang… you have a blow up.

And it’s not just other people. I get frustrated or angry with myself all the time, so you can imagine how hard it is for my poor husband to put up with me. Now I’m not saying that I kill animals or have gambling issues with the local 7elevan mobsters. But I will admit to having a few eccentricities that occasionally get on my sweethearts nerves.

I hate to clean house. I’ll admit it right here, I really do. I would almost rather do anything than clean house. Now don’t misunderstand me, I do clean… I just do it as little as possible. For instance we have a bathroom that seems to get dirty faster than any other room in the house. When company comes over, we lock the door from the inside so if someone tries to use it, they will think it’s already occupied. I had a friend comment to me the other day that she was really anxious to see the inside of that room. “It must be amazing because every time I come over it’s in use.” … Oh yeah it’s really amazing.

My husband is a very sociable person and I’m kind of a loner. He’s a successful salesman and I love sitting alone with my computer writing creative prose. When we go out, he likes to mix and mingle while I prefer to lurk and leave. From the moment we walk into a party, I’m watching the clock, trying to figure how long I have before I can gracefully slip out unnoticed.

I love chick flicks… the more sappy romance the better and my hubby goes with me, even if he would prefer an action adventure or a historical drama more.

I’m what I call a crap shoot cook (using the gambling definition not the potty definition). I can make the exact same meal, following the exact same recipe and the exact same ingredients twice and never get the same outcome. One meal is perfection and everyone loves it, the next, it flops miserably. I like to think that it adds a sense of adventure to my husband’s life.

Another reason I’m so hard to live with is that I hate to be wrong. I’ll argue for hours that Thomas Jefferson was the first US president rather than admit I made a mistake. “I didn’t actually say he was the first real president,” I say with conviction, “I said he was the first US president to have a name that sounds like two last names.” I did mention my inventive imagination right? Anything to avoid being in error.

I like to stay up late in bed and read, I’ve been known to eat the last piece of cake without offering to share, and I sometimes “accidentally” delete a prescheduled recording on the television to watch something I’m more interested in.

But despite all these idiosyncrasies and quirk’s my husband is still with me. I hope that it’s because of my many redeeming qualities, and not because it would be too much trouble to start over with a different model. But I guess that’s what makes our marriage so good. It’s a relationship in progress and as we work it out togetherour love grows and our hearts unify.

Monday, April 5, 2010

It All Comes Out in the Wash


I know better than to go to the grocery store between four and six on a week day afternoon, because that's when everyone else goes. The food aisles are clogged with carts, shoppers and oblivious small children running in every direction. Turning left from canned goods into the meat and deli aisle is an act of courage. More than once I’ve nearly crashed into another cart. Those darn Fruit Loops end units make visibility impossible.

Even worse than trying to move about the store is the long wait in the checkout line. It seems that everyone has carts filled to overflowing, and patience zapped from the bumper-car-like challenges it took to get them this far.

I try to avoid such shopping situations, but that isn’t always possible so when I find myself at the end of a long line of tired shoppers with a lot of purchases, I grab a magazine and read till it’s my turn. Of course, I always purchase the magazine because who wants to buy a periodical all read and used.

It was during one such shopping trip that I stumbled across an article on the “proper way” to wash clothes. This article went on for four full-colored pages. I was intrigued. How much could there possibly be to washing clothes?

Step one, according to the writer, was sorting. We were to read the labels on each item, then separate them by hand-wash, dry clean, dry clean only and machine wash. I had no idea there were two dry clean options. Apparently the first is just a suggestion, while the second carries jail time.

Next you go through your machine wash clothing and sort it according to the cycle. Normal, permanent press or gentle. I’ve never used any cycle but normal. I figure if a normal cycle is good enough for my jeans, it’s good enough for everything.

At last, the article says, I must separate my dirty clothes by color starting with dark and gradually moving to light, with real true whites reserved in thier own category.

If I was following these instructions, I would find myself with fifteen piles of two or three items of clothing a piece. Please… who has time for that? I have six children who, for every pair of pants I wash, are getting two dirty.

Step two makes such useful suggestion as checking pockets before loading clothes into the washer – where’s the adventure in that? Most of my spending money comes from stuff that comes out with the clean clothes.

The writer says that you are supposed to zip up zippers, button buttons, tie strings, buckle buckles and snap snaps before ever putting them in to be washed. I’m envisioning a sweet tempered homemaker sitting in a rocking chair and watching afternoon soap operas as she works tirelessly preparing her family’s clothes for their exciting laundering experience.

My loading method is to grab a arm-load of clothes in similar colors, stuff them into the machine, toss in some soap and fabric softener and get back up to the kitchen before the soup boiling on the stove over flows.

The next page suggests ways to make your laundry cleaning experience even better. You can add vinegar or table salt to the rinse cycle to keep colors bright and dye from running onto other clothes. This works great if you happen to be walking by the laundry room, with vinegar and salt when the machine hits this point in its cycle. I’m lucky to get back to the laundry room within a few hours of when the wash finishes.

Their suggestion to dry light loads first and then follow up with heavier materials like terry cloth and denim while the drum is still warm sounds good on paper, but in real life, at least for me, it’s just not happening.

I close the magazine with a smile. Maybe someday in my empty nester future I will buy clothes with instructions like “don’t allow water to ever touch this fabric” or “This sweater will do best if it is given its own room”. But right now, my priority is not the brightness of my kid’s colored t-shirts, but how much time I have to spend with the little bodies that I’m washing them for.


Saturday, March 27, 2010

Twenty-Five Years of Spending

Do you ever experience those cringe moments when you look back into your past and remember some of the crazy things you did, say at nineteen, before you learned better? Oh I do. If you look up the word “stalker” in the dictionary, definition number 6 merely reads Deanne in college…, but that’s another story. Today I’d like to share a few cringe moments from my first years of marriage.

My husband and I will be celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary in a few days (and for those of you doing the math, I was married at twelve and a half). It’s hard to imagine that our little family of two has since grown into a family of ten with possibly two more joining in before the end of the year.

One of the things that still makes me cringe as I look back over the past quarter century is how many stupid things my husband and I spent our money on. We were an easy mark for salesmen, and if I had a nickel for all the dumb purchases we made, I’d probably have enough too…. Well buy something else.

With a mother and a sister in his family, one would have thought my husband would be a little more prepared for the expenses associated with a woman when we got married. But I remember his unhappy shock during our first major shopping trip together after we’d tied the knot. Shampoo, conditioner, razors, tampons AND pads, nylons, nail polish remover, mascara, moisturizer, lotion, body soup and face soap. He’d never guessed how much money went into achieving the look he’d fallen in love with.

What we also didn’t realize at the time was how much the price to maintain that look would go up the older I got.

Another memory is of a summer afternoon, when a guy with his car trunk full of frozen meat cruised through our neighborhood. The price per pound of the beef was too good to resist and since it happened to be a pay-day we thought this would be a great deal.

Unfortunately once we brought our new purchases into the house, we realized that our little refrigerator freezer just wasn’t big enough to store all the meat, so we opened the newspaper’s classified section and found a great price on a used upright freezer. A few days later we discovered that the reason the freeze had been so cheap was because it had a broken seal and wouldn’t stay cold long enough to keep the meat frozen. In the end we had to throw away most of the meat and the seal-less freezer. Talk about a deal.

Then there was the two thousand dollar set of leather bound Encyclopedia Britannica that every family with children was required to have. By the time our kids were old enough to read, the internet was in full swing, and we ended up using the expensive volumes to support one corner of our family room couch.

According to the salesman, the Silver King Vacuum had a body made out of the same metal as fighter jets, and a motor that could power a large go-cart. It cost twelve hundred dollars but it was an investment because it was the last vacuum we’d ever need. Turns out expensive vacuums don’t last any longer than the seventy dollar cheap-os from Wal-Mart even if they can withstand the air pressure at 40,000 feet.

And how could I forget the free dinner at Denny’s if we would listen to the sales pitch of the wonder high-chair salesman. Yes I said high-chair, but this was no ordinary child’s seat. It could be converted to a small table or a booster seat and used for eating, crafts and time out. It was a large square contraption with adjustable legs and wheels so that you could easily move it around the kitchen or take it out back onto the  patio and hose down when needed.

Unfortunately what it was not designed to do was support the weight of three children who were using it to race down the sidewalk. In the process they hit an uneven patch of concrete that threw them all, including the wonder high-chair into the neighbor’s evergreen bushes. The kids were scratched up, crying and I hope a little wiser… but the high-chair didn’t fare as well and would not, as promised, last us until we had grandchildren.

At least our marriage has withstood the test of time, and perhaps the lesson here is that money will come and go… mostly go, but finding the right guy who loves you last forever.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

My Life is Like a Water Balloon - no matter how hard I try to get a hold of it, something always bulges out


I am sitting down at the computer preparing to write this week’s blog, and as I finish the title, I hear the timer go off in the kitchen, signifying that the dish washer is done with its cycle.

I get up to open the door so that the dishes will be cool when I go to unload them, and notice that the kitchen table is 90% cleared off, and so I stop and gather up a pair of scissors, a glue stick and a crumpled napkin from its surface. With the scissors, glue stick and crumpled napkin gone, I can now see how dirty the table cloth is, so I remove it. Under the table cloth is a trail of muddy cat paw prints. How they got under there I can’t imagine, but I immediately head to the sink to get a sponge.

At the sink, I remember that the dishwasher has finished its cycle so I pull open the door. I notice the sink is filled with dirty dishes. It won’t take me more than a few minutes to unload the dishwasher and get the dirty dishes inside.

A fork falls to the floor, and as I bend down to retrieve it I see my son’s basketball shoes that are, for no good reason, sitting in the middle of the kitchen. It isn’t like he’d have any reason to shed them right there. He doesn’t even cook. But low and behold that’s where they are. So while I’m down there picking up the fork, I grab the shoes as well and head for his bedroom.

I find the light on and the stereo blasting even though he’s been in school for two and a half hours, and in one corner, behind the door, there must be twenty-five empty yogurt cartons. The kid is going through a growth spurt because he is eating me out of house and home.

I gather up the empty cartons and head back to the kitchen where I notice that the garbage can is beyond full. A pizza container is balanced on the top of an empty milk jug, with another six inches of garbage on top of that. So, I stomp it all down with my food, pull out the plastic garbage bag and head out the back door.

While dumping the bag into the outside garbage can I notice two pairs of socks and a t-shirt sitting on the edge of the basketball standard. One can only wonder if stripping while one shoots baskets will improve accuracy. I gather up the dirty clothing, go back into the house and down the stairs to the laundry room.

In the laundry room I notice that the clothes from the dryer need to come out, the clothes from the washer need to be switched and there are plenty of dirty clothes for a new load. Once I’ve shifted the clothing and started all the machines, I grab a basket of my husband’s work clothes and head up the stairs to the bedroom.

I plan to set the basket on top of the comforter, but the bed hasn’t been made yet, so I drop the basket into the computer chair and proceed to make my bed. Half way through I notice that my feet are feeling kind of cold. I’d been wearing my slippers earlier, but had kicked them off under the computer desk.

So, I take the laundry off the computer chair and set it on the ground, sit down, slide my feet under the desk and into my warm slippers and then notice I’ve only written the title of my blog... now where was I going with this?

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Three Eagle Mom

My good friend Jan just had her third and last son achieve the rank of Eagle in the Boy Scouts of America program. Last weekend she planned and pulled off an Eagle Court of Honor that made planning a wedding look like a stroll in the park. She then collapsed and slept for three days in a row.

Now I realize that most of you are familiar with the requirements that a young scout must pass in order to achieve the coveted rank of Eagle. And once those requirements are met, the scout receives a great deal of attention and recognition for that achievement.

However… few people (other than Eagle Mom’s themselves) realize how much work is required of the poor scouting mother. There is no scouting mother’s web page, thick paperback program guide explaining the duties of the mom of an Eagle to be, and no presidential letter thanking dear old mama for getting her kid to make the grade.

So, in an effort to correct this scouting oversight… let me share with you the six requirements to becoming an Eagle Mom. (Note: This is simply the opinion of the writer and not of the BSA, because as we know, the writer thinks she is very funny… and the BSA does not.)

Requirement 1 – Your scout must be actively involved in the scouting program for a minimum of six months. This means that you must use whatever means at your disposal to separate said scout from his video games/TV/computer/girlfriend and make sure he shows up to his scouting activities. It is best to keep a large supply of neckerchiefs and holders on hand as these can disappear at a moment’s notice thus giving said scout a reason to complain and waste time getting ready. Also important to note is that dances, hay rides and pretty much anything involving the opposite sex does not constitute required scout meetings.

Requirement 2 - Your scout must demonstrate he lives by the Scout Oath and Law, and find people willing to write letters saying that he does. For Eagle Mom’s this means nagging, lots and lots of nagging. “Did you get those letters written? Did you find that address? Envelopes and stamps are in the same drawer they have been for the past ten years! People need more time than one afternoon to write a recommendation!

Requirement 3 - Your scout must earn a total of 21 merit badges. Moms, that means that you must become experts in 21 different subjects, and guess what… they aren’t stuff we already know how to do, like juggling a crying baby, a frying pan full of hot oil and a telemarketer all at the same time. It’s stuff like coin collecting, ham radios and my favorite… personal management. You know that kid that you can’t get to bring his dirty clothes from his bedroom to the laundry room without following him with a whip? Yup, that’s the one that’s supposed to learn personal management.

Requirement 4 – Your scout needs to hold and carry out a position of responsibility for a minimum of six months. And again, it’s not the type of responsibility that we mom’s would find really useful like say being in charge of the laundry for six months or simply taking Fido on a walk every night like your scout promised when you got the dog in the first place. It means more driving them to meetings, more reminding them to make phone calls and more last minute trips to the store (cause you can’t have a weenie roast when no one was assigned to bring the hot dogs).

Requirement 5 – Your scout must complete the infamous Eagle Project. A fun little activity where for every one hour your scout puts into it; our Eagle Mom must put in five. First she must help her scout come up with a reasonable project. Something a little less dramatic than a star-studded charity concert to benefit the Haitian relief effort , and a little bigger than clearing the table after an especially large Sunday family dinner. This can be a challenging task for the mom of a boy who takes twenty minutes just to pick out a candy bar at the store.

After providing an extensive list of possible project ideas, and then threatening to turn off all electrical devises in the house if they don’t hurry and choose something, an Eagle Mom must “help” her son plan this event, “remind” him to call all those who will assist in the project, “drive” him to the various locations to pick up supplies and make arrangements and then “provide” four dozen pizzas during the day of the project.

Then when the work is completed, the project is done and the video game beckons, she must push again so that her son will complete his paper work and get credit for all her… oops I mean his work.

Requirement 6 – We are almost there. Now that the project is done, the merit badges are sewn neatly down the sash and the paper work is assembled; your little scout must add a statement of his ambition and life purpose. Just a note… they are looking for BIG things like saving the ozone layer or creating world peace. So getting to level 19 on Virtual Quest, saving Princess Alala and conquering the wicked wizard Bladamad will not work, even if in fact that is your scout’s main ambition in life at the moment.

If after completing all six requirements, you and your scout are still speaking to each other, there is one last final requirement, and mom it’s all yours. You get to plan the huge multi-media event honoring your son for all his work and effort in earning the rank of Eagle Scout.

Then and only then can you collapse and sleep for three days straight! You deserve it. And to all the Eagle Mom’s out there reading this blog, YOU are my heroes.

Monday, February 8, 2010

My Basketball Bliss

I’ve been hanging out at a lot of basketball games lately. I have a teenage son who’s good… make that really good at basketball and he’s a member of three different teams. What this means for me, is that I attend as many as six games a week.

Now I have to say that of all the sports I might possibly be required to sit through in the name of motherly love, basketball would be my game of choice for several reasons.

First, it’s played in doors.

This boy is my youngest, but not by far the first to express an interest in sports. For two years we spent many a freezing Saturday morning wrapped in blankets watching a bunch of little kids in brightly colored jersey’s and matching knee high socks run up and down the field chasing a black and white ball.

I am not a soccer fan. I don’t understand the game and I find it boring. Yes I know, half the world thinks the sun rises and sets on soccer and to them I apologize. The only pleasant experience I ever had with the game was during my senior year in high school when a good looking blond with well defined quadriceps inspired me to spend a few afternoons on the bleachers with my girlfriends watching his attractive physic run up and down the field.

After soccer it was karate. Which, if you don’t mind my saying so, is about as exciting as watching a room full of middle age women taking an aerobics class. Although we did get a nice selection of colored belts out of the experience. Colored karate belts have a multitude of uses, we discovered. You can tie a baby-sitter up so tight her parents have to come over to undo the knots. With a little imagination, you can rig your sister’s door so that it can’t be opened from the inside. (This is especially effective if she is already inside the room at the time.) And you can create a visually stimulating if somewhat destructive form of art when the belts are combined with a ceiling fan, and tennis shoes.

But I do like basketball. I think its fun to watch the boy’s race up and down the court, jumping and leaping around one another in an effort to get a ball into an overhead basket.

Second, I like the facts that the points add up fast.

As a young girl I grew up in Oakland, California home of the world famous Oakland A’s baseball team. My great-grandfather was a huge fan, and I remember being taken to one or two games when I was little. It was by far the most boring sport ever invented. (Even worse than karate). It seemed to take forever for either team to make a point and by the time they did, I had lost interest entirely.

Now of course, if you played your cards right you could pass the time eating peanuts, hot dogs and other junky baseball fare… that wasn’t too bad. And the organ was always entertaining to listen to. But the nuances of the game passed right over my head. They still do.

Third, I like having the opportunity to make lots of noise in support of my team without people looking at me like I’m a wierdo.

Before the basketball season began, my son chose to play volleyball. Another sport I’m not too fond of. I was actually beaten up in junior high for missing a ball lobbed in my general direction during a rousing game of volleyball in PE.

But what I really hate about the game is how one team has to screw up in order for the other team to make a point. So here are all these cute little junior high kids, focused and determined. Our team serves and the other side stands stone still watching the ball hit the court, waiting for someone to jump in and try to hit it back. Pure humiliation. I can’t very well start clapping and yelling “Way to Go” without feeling like I’m rubbing the failure into the other team like lemon juice on a paper cut.

Not so with basketball. I can yell and scream to my heart’s content and never feel bad about offending the other team.

The one thing about basketball I don’t understand it the fascination many of the coaches and parents have in badgering the referees. I’m no expert, but in the twenty or thirty games I’ve witnesses over the past few months, I have never seen a referee change a call. Not once. Even if the coach pulls him aside and accuses him of being half blind and with a personal vendetta against blue jersey’s. They make the call, they stick by it. Still there seems to be some impossible hope that if one yells loudly and obnoxiously enough, those guys in the black and white stripes will turn around and admit, “You are so right. What was I thinking? It wasn’t really a foul after-all. Thanks for pointing that out to me.”

So all in all, I gotta say, I love watching my son play basketball. And I thank my stars every day that he found his talent in dribbling and shooting. Just imagine if he’d wanted to do something horrible like crocodile wrestling…. or ice hockey. Yikes!

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