That’s when the wheels fell off the road trip

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My husband, Roy, is generally considered to be the most patient and the mildest of men. He has to be, or I would have been pushed off a bridge by him years ago. He does have limits, though, and it is never a pretty picture when he is pushed past them.

This week, we played host to our grandsons, hereafter identified as Grandson A, who is ten years old and Grandson B, who is 8. We put these two little boys in the car for an extended road trip on Wednesday, knowing full well that neither of them was excited about a long drive, having endured a six-hour travel time just to get to our house.

Nevertheless, we had business to take care of in Sioux Falls that we didn’t want to put off and then, we planned to drive to the Missouri River near Pierre to enjoy some swimming. Roy had taken the boys before and they had enjoyed it a great deal, so he began this road trip in great anticipation that everyone would fall in line with his plans.

He reckoned without a number of things: First, the business in Sioux Falls involved a medical appointment for me. It was for a treatment which, while it was important, involved having a sore back. It took away a lot of my enthusiasm to do anything afterward besides go home.

Second: The weather. Wednesday was predicted to be a day of over 100 degrees. I am not a fan of hot weather in any case and since I was also not enjoying great health, I began expressing my wish to not stand on the river banks and cook while being eaten alive by little bugs made lively by the heat. When I say I was expressing myself, I mean that for the entire trip from Sioux Falls to Pierre, I gave the weather report every two minutes. “Now it’s 101, good grief, we’ll cook.” “Well, forget it, now it’s 105. We are all going to have heat stroke.” “It’s 103 now. I will not be responsible for the sunburns…I just hope we have enough aloe.”

Third: Grandson A was unimpressed by the road trip and refused to be cajoled over the fun times we would have when we got to the river. In an increasingly loud and plaintive voice, he demanded that we go home, that we not go to the river today, demanding to know whose dumb idea this was, how much longer we had to go, etc. It might not have been quite so bad if we had not forgotten the car chargers for the boys’ tablets. Once they ran out of charge and the only entertainment was to look at a blank screen. Things went downhill from there.

Fourth: Grandson B is now brought into the cacophony of noise in the car when Grandson A, discovering that his protests were not helping, began annoying his younger brother, who reciprocated by hollering and whining for him to “stop that!”

Fifth: The wife employed sarcasm when she remarked (over the noise coming from the backseat), “Oh, now we’re having fun.” This brought increased wails from the back seat where Grandson B cried, “I want to go to the river and have fun!” while Grandson A joined in with a loud lament, “This is NOT fun at all!”

And it is at this point, with a trio of dissenters singing the blues, that the wheels came off of this particular road trip. Fed up to his eyes with the hours-long lack of gratitude for his plan, Roy exploded. He gave that familiar “dad speech” in which he threatened that unless everyone shaped up and had fun immediately, there would be dire consequences. It was the sight of their otherwise patient grandfather and my calm husband, shouting at the top of his lungs and declaring that we were going to have fun if it was the last thing we did, while his face turned scarlet and spittle sprayed everywhere that finally silenced the rest of us.

We traveled the rest of that hideous trip from hell in silence and finally made it to the river with no bloodshed. Once everyone had swimsuits on or like me, sat in the shade with a cool breeze blowing off the water, we all discovered that it was a pretty good plan on such a hot day after all. Thanks to sun screen, water shirts, and late afternoon temperatures, everyone enjoyed the trip to the river a great deal…even if we had been threatened with a good time.

And Grandson A, Grandson B and their grandmother may have learned that there is a point at which Grandpa can lose his famous cool and the wheels can fly off the cart!

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The sad case of Cruella

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It’s true that movies are starting to make a comeback, but they do have a little way to go. The selection has been slim and that is to be expected as the pandemic begins (we hope) to recede. We are avid movie-goers at my house. My husband and I have seriously gone to movies that were so bad that we prayed we wouldn’t meet anyone we knew on the way out. We have also attended movies that we returned to enjoy again. It is always an unknown. But it is our main Friday night entertainment–we accept that for every brilliantly done movie there are another five that could have stayed on the script-writing floor.

We also have accepted over the years that we may go to a movie and think, “That is the worst movie we have ever seen!” And certainly someone will come along and tell us that was the greatest piece of cinema ever created. This process works in reverse as well. The one thing I believe a movie-goer has to accept is that a movie is normally just a movie and everyone will have their own opinion. Most of the time it is not worth getting the proverbial panties in a bunch over.

That brings us to last week when we, for the first time since the pandemic, set foot in a movie theater to watch a movie. We took our masks, we didn’t have food and for me, a movie without popcorn is hard enough. The fact that the best choice on the marquee was Cruella only added to my apprehensions. We went, however, and in spite of the fact that I occasionally moved my hand from my lap to my mouth in a vain attempt to imagine I was eating popcorn, it wasn’t too bad. We hadn’t expected much from a movie with the premise of this one, so anything they could do to make it theatrically presentable was a surprise.

We didn’t quite feel we needed bags on our heads so no one would see us leaving the theater, but we didn’t think it was Academy Award level theater either. What I didn’t expect was that one of the critiques of it (and there were plenty) accused it of desecrating the Disney “classic” 101 Dalmatians by make Cruella a figure of evil designed to drag children down a demonic path.

I respect that everyone has the right to their point of view, but I had trouble understanding this one. For one thing, the movie is literally titled, Cruella. The word “cruel” is right there. We kind of get the hint it isn’t going to be good. Then, I have to wonder why anyone would go to this movie believing it was a good message for the kiddies. Keep in mind that the Disney classic it is based on is the story of this woman–Cruella–trying to kidnap 101 cute puppies to skin them out to make a coat for herself. I never thought that message was particularly light and kid-like.

While I think the show is a bit dark and “un-kid-like”, I have trouble with viewing it as much more than someone’s rather unusual view of what makes for a good movie premise. I do agree with those who said the acting was good, but I think the message was more thoughtless than devil-wrought. The beauty of this, of course, is that I have every right to my opinion, just like everyone else has the right to theirs.

It seems to me, however, that if we are going to worry about things that may need addressing, I’d go with politicians who lie and cheat and worry more about their own lives than about the lives of the people they are supposed to serve. Let’s worry about people starving in the world while others can’t figure out enough ways to foolishly squander their millions. And while we are at it, let’s give one or two thoughts to the elderly, the disabled and those who are otherwise in need of our assistance. Let Cruella take care of herself and those who choose to watch it be aware of their own lives.

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Reasons why I’m the Queen of Bland

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It has been a long, insidious winter. It lasted two years because you can’t count a summer in a pandemic as a summer. I know, some people used this time to work out and diet and get themselves in shape. I was sure I was at least holding my own, but recently, my clothes held an intervention with me in which they threatened to rip, shred or just plain explode if I didn’t ease up on the table exercises.

And that is where the real trouble begins. I like potatoes and bread. Just potatoes and bread, with perhaps a little meat very well done to go with it. According to all the women’s magazines I have read, this is the absolute worst diet for the person attempting to lose weight. So, if I want the ideal body, I must give up mashed potatoes and freshly baked bread…along with my morning roll and my midnight snack of potato chips.

None of this would be as difficult if I liked spices and spicy foods. It seems the national craze these days is titled “the hotter the better.” This is very hard for a woman who considers salt the only spice out there. On restaurant menus there is a kids section, a dietary section and a senior section, in addition to the regular selections. From my experience there should also be a section for those of us who don’t wish to burn our mouths to the point it boils up to our eyeballs and then singes the brain!

I freely embrace the title of Queen of Bland. I consider food sprinkled with pepper to be spicy food. I like chicken without any cumin or jalapenos and if you are eating anything with cayenne pepper or garlic, I don’t want to so much as kiss you, let alone share your meal! I can’t believe the number of people who want hot pickles or onion varieties that water the eyes and burn the tongue. Leave my potato salad alone, because those potatoes and eggs will do just fine without your paprika nonsense!

But I digress from my dieting issues. I subscribe to a couple of magazines which are loosely termed “women’s magazines,” but which would be just as useful to men. However, each week, they seem to feature another person who went on a fabulous, delicious diet and lost a hundred pounds without “denying themselves” at all! And every week, I’m suckered into reading their story which always includes a recommended menu, complete with pictures. This week featured the “Pounds Off Yogurt Bowl”. This looked like a bowl of curdled soup topped with berries and nuts–oh that makes it all better, of course. If you eat the berries and nuts, you won’t notice the yogurt slop that comes up with the spoon! It was followed by fat-burn vinaigrette (I don’t even want to try) and “Kicked-up barbecue”–you know what “Kicked-up” means: five minutes after you consume it, your mouth will want to kick you and your eyeballs are flaming up!

Of course, portion control is very important in these recipes. You should make it, and then, watch it slowly mold as you can only eat a small bite a day. Oh please, if I made “Good for you Brownie Bites,” the last bite of them would be consumed within the hour of baking! As the commercial suggests, I can’t open a bag of potato chips and “only have one.” The only food that is likely to be controllable for me is sushi, because if you put a plate of sushi down in front of me, I will not eat any of it. This may be the only food that works that way…except for the ones with cayenne pepper and jalapenos.

I’m also not too big on the so-called “meatless burgers.” Maybe it’s because I was raised in cattle country, but I like to have a solid ground beef patty between my bread–oops, got to get rid of the bread. Now, I know, I know, cows are a huge danger to the environment, unlike factories and vehicles which literally belch smog. However, I would to keep a few of them around so I don’t have to eat the Baja Black Bean burgers for which I saw a recipe. Black beans are not a favorite of mine in any form, but on the plus side, they added a chunky green stuff (doubtless spicy) to the top of it, thus ensuring that I won’t eat any of it.

With all of these things that I won’t eat, you’d think the Queen of Bland would lose weight by the sheer volume of spice out there waiting to ruin her appetite. Not so, if you put a real burger on that bun, and you don’t add Greek yogurt and Tzatziki sauce (what the heck is Tzatziki sauce anyway), I’ll eat five to ten of the burgers and wash them down with a quart of soda and a few bags of chips. And of course, this is where I started and how I got into this mess in the first place.

Perhaps, after all, the best dietary plan for me is to top all my food (including the brownies) with a serious dose of cayenne pepper, jalapeno juice and maybe some Tzatziki sauce for good measure. That way, we could ensure that the “Queen of Bland” could stop carrying the second title of the “Queen of Major Expand.” Happy eating everyone and if anyone is interested, I can give you a recipe for turkey burgers–I’m sure not using it!

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When to be funny

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Okay, if you’ve ever made a joke at an inappropriate moment, raise your hand. Actually, I think everyone has probably had this happen, but for me, it’s pretty much a way of life. If I’m nervous, I make a joke, if I’m scared, I make a joke, if I’m feeling awkward, I make an awkward joke. In most cases, I’ve discovered that this is not the best time to make a joke.

I chose this picture, because it reminds me of one of the first times I tried to be funny. A friend was walking so carefully on the snowy surface, so to relax her (I think that’s what I was thinking) I threw a snowball and hollered, “Heads Up!” The snowball, true to my skills, missed her completely, but her head did come up, she slipped, her feet came up and she landed on her spine. It was at this point that I began to re-think my sense of humor!

I am the queen of the mistimed joke. TSA people love me, because when I’m standing in an airport line, waiting for them to go through the bag I’m carrying containing the toothbrush, extra underwear and current book I’m reading, I am bored and nervous about getting on a plane, so I tend to make inappropriate remarks. “I’m planning to use that underwear to build a prototype of a new bullet-proof tent,” was one remark that probably caused them to start putting up those signs about not joking about bombs.

Another time, my briefcase full of souvenir cups set off the alarms at JFK in New York City, which caused a number of people to gather and all of them had guns. While they rested their hands on their guns, I attempted to remember the combination of the briefcase and after several abortive tries, finally got it open, so they could see my mugs from the Statue of Liberty and Times Square and the used ticket and program from Phantom of the Opera. They relaxed when they saw my tourist trash and walked away. The clerk left in charge, seeing how unnerved I was, tried to calm me down. “It’s okay, they just have to be careful.”

“No, that’s fine,” I quipped, “I just wasn’t expecting SWAT to show up to take out my magnet from the Museum of Natural History.” Now, I thought this was a fine joke; the clerk never even cracked a smile as she waved me through and probably flagged me as a flight risk to everyone ahead of me.

Medical situations also bring out the inappropriate humor in me. I have long been terrified of dentists, but I’m also annoyed by the attempts they make to hold conversations with me while they have my mouth stuffed full of metal objects, plastic restrainers and their fingers. Once, after the dentist had asked mundane questions all through the exam, forcing me to try to garble answers, he ended the exam, removed the equipment and asked me, “Now, do you have any questions?”

“AH eerre meeayagjee,” I responded, spitting and drooling as I went. He never said another word and walked out of the room. Within a short time, he left that establishment and went to work elsewhere and that’s probably best, since I didn’t really think he’d want to work on my teeth again anyway, given my weird sense of humor.

This week, I had my latest run-in with an inappropriate lapse of humor. The nurse was asking about the pain I was having, which parts of my body hurt and I said, “The shoulder, the arm, the neck, they ALL come to the party.” She laughed and commented how funny that was, so I figured this was a place where they might appreciate my nerve-inspired humor.

The doctor came in and as he was hitting me with that little hammer and bending my toes in strange ways, he attempted to keep me relaxed with off-hand questions. “What hobbies do you have?”

“I like to write. I write a little blog just for my own amusement,” I answered, adding as he began twisting my arms and head in his exam, “You’ll probably make the cut this week.”

He hesitated, and then said, “Positive, I hope.”

“Oh, of course, I’m sure everyone would find an examination of spinal functions to be hysterical,” was my oh-so-witty answer. I have to go back to that clinic next week for some treatment…I’m kind of hoping he’s not the one who will do it. I don’t think he has a good enough sense of humor!

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The art of “speechifying”

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Yesterday morning, I arose, excited to be able to give the speech at my school’s commencement. I was prepared, eager and even on time. Yesterday evening, it was over and all my nightmares about showing up late, improperly dressed, or otherwise unprepared were proved unfounded.

Except the one where you don’t have all of your speech…that one I made come true. It’s ridiculous, really. I have taught English, speech and drama for years. I have lectured students on the things they must do and among them is, always check to see that you have all of your speech. And then yesterday, I turned smoothly from my second-to-last page to my last page and discovered a bare podium instead. I failed to make certain I picked up all the pages!

I like to think that I am a very good innovator, that I think well on my feet, but no matter how many times I practice something, if I turn the page and it’s not there, my mouth dries up and my tongue adheres to the roof of my mouth and when I do get it disconnected, something not good usually comes out. Fortunately, in the case of Saturday’s speech, I only had a few lines on the last page, so my speech stumble was a short one.

At least I knew it was the last page because I number the pages with large, obnoxious markers to be sure they are easily readable. I once did a presentation on the history of British kings and of course, when I got up in front of everyone, I dropped the notecards I had all over the floor. Because they weren’t numbered and I had to guess at their correct order, I had Henry VIII followed by William the Conqueror and their ancestor was, of course, Elizabeth II! Always number the cards, check!

I used to try to adlib when I was giving a speech. Maybe write down a few general thoughts and then just “wing-it”. However, I discovered that if I just “winged it” I had a tendency to lose my flight plan in the middle and fly right off the cliff. I forgot names, events, dates and worst of all, I frequently looked at my shorthand and forgot completely what I meant when I said things like, “make eye contact when you discuss intensity.” Eye contact with whom and what was I planning to say about intensity? I ended up talking intensely about eye contact…not that this had anything to do with the subject!

I always tried to be prepared with my appearance. I remember a story Carol Burnett told about dressing for a performance in the dark and getting on stage to discover that the seams in her stockings were running up the front of her legs. I thought, How ridiculous! At least my appearance is always good. Soon after that, I delivered the eulogy at the funeral of a favored aunt. It went well, I held it together and got through the speech fine. I sat down, well-pleased with myself, dropped my hands into my lap…and discovered that my trousers were un-zipped. I took comfort in the fact that the person who would be most amused by this, was the aunt I was honoring.

Possibly the most awkward move I ever made in front of a large audience was definitely done as I was laying the law down as a substitute teacher. I was young, and had trouble managing teenagers, so the study hall I was supervising that afternoon was pretty chatty. After telling them several times to settle down, I finally had enough. “I expect it to be silent in here,” I huffed in my biggest no-nonsense voice, “I don’t want to hear one more sound for any reason!” Crossing my arms and glaring, I began to back towards the desk…and promptly stepped into a metal trash can. For the next several minutes the students in the room were the most silent they had been all hour as they struggled not to laugh while they watched me clunk around with a trash can on my foot. Sometimes you just can’t come back from an infamous performance!

So I enjoyed Saturday’s speech and only had to mumble through a minor glitch in an otherwise fun speech. Maybe someday I’ll get the hang of this “speechifying” thing. In the meantime, I’m going to be a little more careful what I take with me and what I have zipped up, when I get in front of an audience!

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Those humbling moments

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I rely heavily on my calendar for all appointments in life. It generally works pretty well: I make appointments, I write them in the calendar and that way, I never miss things, right? There is one more step that would make this procedure run smoothly…checking the calendar each day! That is where I fall down!

I was thinking that very thing this week when I got home from a re-scheduled therapy appointment (because I forgot the original) and had a message on my telephone from my hairdresser, because while I was at the re-scheduled therapy appointment, I in fact, had a hair appointment! It’s very humbling when you realize just how many things you have forgotten, but when you can actually remember to write it down in the calendar, then it’s a good idea to go ahead and check that calendar and read it every day!

Now, I know what you are thinking: “Oh, the old girl is just losing it. The brain pan has sprung a leak.” Unfortunately, this is not an old age development. I have had difficulty maintaining my social calendar for years. I will make an appointment to have lunch with someone and then get so engrossed in a book or some writing or just an old episode of “Murder, She Wrote,” and the leave the poor person wondering if I didn’t show because I was in a car wreck or had a heart attack or something!

I have left dentists with no teeth to rap their instruments on and vets with no animals to vaccinate. The eye doctors have been left with no one to read their charts and coffee dates with no one to share their caffeine clouds. I always mean well and it seems so often that while I have the day right, I have the time wrong. And if I have the time right, I’m either a week early or a week late.

I like the businesses which ring you up the day before to give you a heads-up that you have an appointment. They do this because of people like me who have left them hanging too often in the past. If they can’t get a hold of me personally, they leave a message, “This is the dentist’s office, calling to remind you that you have an appointment at 10:30 TOMORROW. Now, that’s 10:30…in the morning…tomorrow morning. That’s the day after today and the time is just an hour and a half before lunch. Got it?”

My leaving the therapist hanging and then standing up the hairdresser was not the end of this week of humbling moments and irritated people. I managed to stand up my grandsons as well.

My daughter, knowing her mother’s failing, said to me, “Now, tomorrow you will be reading with the boys at 1:00, right?” “You bet,” I answered, and gave it no more thought as I went on a short road trip for the day instead. No more thought, that is, until she sent me a text message the next day at 1:00, to ask if I was planning to go on Facetime to read with the boys.

I did finally catch up with my grandsons later in the evening and while the younger one was inclined to overlook my lapse in appointment keeping, his older brother, ready for bed and crabby, was less beneficent. They accepted my apology, but clearly, they don’t trust the old girl to remember too well.

“I’m so sorry,” I told them. “Next week, I’ll be on for sure on Sunday, and we’ll be able to read.”

“Okay,” responded the older one, “just remember, that’s at 1:00!”

Now, all I need is someone to call me on Sunday at 12:45 to make sure I’m ready to go. I can get a different dentist is my current one drops me for nonappearance. It would be a lot harder to replace the grandsons!

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In the maw of the monster


For those of you who think my title is a little too dramatic, I apologize, but I assure you, having an MRI (don’t ask me exactly what that stands for), was a bizarre experience. I now have some idea how Jonah may have felt in the belly of that whale!

Several months of having an arm, shoulder and neck present me with night after night of no sleep, it was finally decided that I needed to have an MRI, which is a fancy way for medical people to get a look at the inside of your muscles without actually cutting you open. I am definitely for that procedure, but that was before I got a look at one of those MRI machines.

I suffer from claustrophobia. I mean, BAD claustrophobia. I am so claustrophobic that I can only shut the bathroom door in a crowded house. I shower with one of the sliding glass doors slightly open. I annoy my co-teachers because I have a loud mouth and I am unable to shut my classroom door without becoming twitchy. I took one look at that machine, large and round, containing one small opening where they proposed to shovel me in like a baker inserting a loaf of bread in the oven and I hyperventilated from the picture!

On the questionnaire, they ask: Are you claustrophobic? I answered, “I invented claustrophobia and I have been perfecting it for years.” They assured me that they could give me medication to help me relax. I assured them that in order to get me relaxed enough to go in there, it would be necessary for them to apply a sledgehammer forcibly to the back of my head!

In the end, they decided it might be easiest to put me in what they refer to as an “open” MRI machine. Now I am here to tell you that this machine was preferable to the closed one, but when I walked in the room, it still kind of resembled a giant whale with its mouth wide open, and with a convenient chair for me to sit in while it swallowed me!

Even so, I sat in the chair and they strapped me in. Then, they instructed me to place my arms in such a way that my shoulders were as narrow as they could be made. This is because that chair is on a motorized track and it moved into the heart of the machine and sandwiched me neatly between two giant walls. And when I say sandwiched, I mean a TIGHT sandwich. There wasn’t even room for lettuce and tomato! My head was placed in a brace and held into place by some pegs against my forehead.

If I looked anything as panicky as I felt, I am sure they expected me to bolt any second. The attendant, attempting to make my experience as easy as possible, said, “I’ll turn on the television. You will be able to see it from here.” He did so, and I could look out of the whale’s mouth and see the television. Then he said, “I’ll need to have you take off your glasses and any oral partials.” It didn’t matter that I didn’t have all my teeth, but without the glasses, the television was a confused blur! So much for distraction.

Never fear, though. He had another idea. “I’ll just put on some music for you.” He did so, but midway into the Beatles crooning, “It’s been a hard day’s night,” they fired up the machine. Anyone who has ever had an MRI knows that that is the loudest noise in the world and it greatly resembles the noise a jackhammer makes while breaking up cement! No television, no music, all I could do was sit there and listen to the dulcet tones of a machine that sounded like it would begin breaking me up at any minute.

In addition to the headache that this engenders, I had to deal with the no movement issues. And when they say no movement, they mean, NO movement! Before he began, he said, “Do not swallow, cough, sneeze or breath too deeply.” Once someone tells you not to do these things, it’s amazing how badly you want to.

While I was trying not to swallow, sneeze, cough or hyperventilate (causing me to breath too deeply) I also struggled with my feet. I may have neglected to mention that in addition to moving you backwards into the whale’s mouth, they also raise you up and tilt you back. It’s okay, though, they give you a little footrest, so your feet don’t dangle. Except the footrest was too short for my legs, so I was left with the choice of letting my feet dangle anyway, or pushing my knees up into an uncomfortable position which eventually, caused my legs to shake with the strain, and–you guessed it–made me MOVE!

Of course, I survived the “Jonah and the Whale Ride”, as I like to call it and the images they got when I wasn’t swallowing, coughing, sneezing or breathing too deeply have shown what has been causing my misery for the last few months. I will be glad to begin correcting the problems and I look forward to the day when I no longer have these issues, so it may be that being in the “maw of the monster,” was the luckiest thing I could have done!

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I don’t “got this”

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I really hope this woman will excuse the fact that I borrowed her picture for my column on motherhood. Yes, yes, I know it’s a little soon for a Mother’s Day post, but I was reminded this morning of my own attempts at motherhood and I felt moved to write about it now.

This woman, beautifully appointed, her face lovely, and shining with calm and composure, with a loving child clinging to her, has always been my ideal of motherhood. I always envisioned that I would be a calm saint–perhaps with flowers in my hair–a perfectly appointed outfit on, sweet music filling the air, while happy children frolicked at my feet, wearing expressions of pure joy. The real thing is not so much.

I mean, think about the whole thing for a moment. We are responsible for bringing replacement humans into the world and somehow, without instructions or a guide, we are expected to get the whole motherhood thing down and in the meantime, not mess up the little darlings that we are raising. I thoroughly enjoyed my children (and still do) but I’m the first to say that motherhood is a mystery of the universe and I am fairly certain that no one does it perfectly! But, inevitably, someone will come along, while your child is having a tantrum, or creating a scene or even just puking up the candy they overate and say something bracing like, “You got this.” Well, I’m here to tell you that not only do I not “got this”, but also, that expression has always driven me crazy by its vague reference and extremely bad grammar!

It isn’t that we don’t have people willing to help with this project, you know. Everyone has a theory on how you can better raise your children. “You should not let them watch so much television,”–please, I would have let them watch murder mysteries just to get five minutes of peace locked in a bathroom. “Too much sugar will make them grow up to be crabby people,”–I figure that they have a head-start on crabby watching my attempts at motherhood, they may as well have the sugar too!

Instead of setting women up for some idealized version of parenthood, it might be better to just admit that motherhood is a swamp full of quicksand and if we managed to navigate any of it successfully, it was sheer dumb luck or God taking pity on us! It is unlikely, however, that we will make it out of the mire without at least some of the mud clinging to our shoes. In my opinion, it is a miracle that my children are sane and functional people, because they went through quite a bit of quicksand with me as a mother and there was never a moment where we danced through the meadows, weaving daisies into a chain and experiencing perfect harmony.

Even when motherhood reaches the point that mine has, there are still pitfalls that can trip you up. I must constantly remind myself that their choices in life must meet their vision, instead of mine. Just because I think they would be an awesome prime minister of New Zealand, they may have something entirely different than political fame in mind. (Although, it’d be great if one of them would be President and I could stay at the White House). It’s also hard for me to see those mimes about how they should drop in anytime (I like to sit around in my underwear and they might object to that), check out my refrigerator and cupboard at will (the little darlings might eat all of my Ho Hos) and stay as long as they like (if they make me miss Blue Bloods, I’ll be mad). I love to spend time with them, but honestly, shouldn’t they be allowed to do other things that they like?

There is one thing I think all children owe their parents, however. They should listen, over and over, to all the stories their parents want to tell. I don’t care if I’ve told the story about my older daughter cutting her own hair at the age of four or the younger one stirring the toilet and soaking her good clothes with it at the age of two, my children should wipe that blank, deer-in-the-headlights look from their faces and listen again!

So, while I love the picture of the mother and daughter that I selected for this column, I am suspicious of the calm and in-sync picture they present here. I am willing to bet that Mom has done as many things wrong as I did and that the daughter may feel like strangling her mother rather than hugging–at least once in a while. And while we are at it–I will bet she “don’t got it” all of the time, either!


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Mattress Madness

Photo by Max Vakhtbovych on

Before anyone asks, no, this is not a picture of my bedroom. If we had a picture of my bedroom, you would be able to tell by the clothes scattered on the floor near the hamper (which I can never hit) and the bedside table littered with cups, bowls, etc. from my midnight snack runs. This is merely a picture to get you into the mood for my subject today–mattresses.

Mine has been a long and checkered history when it comes to mattresses. I have to admit that I have not given them a lot of thought over the years. I started married life with a contraption known as a waterbed. It will date me considerably when I tell you that this mattress was the “in” thing when I got married. It consisted of a large, fairly durable rubber bag, filled to whatever was your comfort level, with water…which was also heated. So, basically, you were sleeping on a giant, heated water bottle which had all the support of a hammock. But, we were younger and tougher then.

The added joy of a waterbed included the phone calls I received at work from my children informing me that “there is water leaking on the floor under your bed.” This always meant a mad dash for home and a rapid draining of the bed so I could repair the hole (which always appeared mysteriously when my children were “nowhere near it”). The repair kit reminded me of those old kits they used to repair car tires, but it wasn’t nearly as efficient.

When we had finally had enough water disasters to suit us, we bought a conventional mattress and we replaced it from time to time when we could no longer turn over at night because of the “body holes” we had worn into the mattress. Buying a new mattress was never difficult: you went to the furniture store, they pointed to the two types they had: soft and hard and, feeling much like Goldilocks at the Three Bears’ house, we made our pick.

Times have changed. During the past year or so, both Roy and I have developed back issues and shoulder complaints and the old “close your eyes and pick one” method of buying a mattress no longer works. Apparently the entire mattress industry has discovered that we are getting pickier in our advancing age and we need something to compensate for the glorified water balloon we ruined our backs on in the first place.

That means going to the mattress store provides you with more choices than the cereal aisle at the grocery store! You can get soft comfort, foam middle and cushion outside, memory foam, firm and supportive, twin, queen, king or a division of the same. Beds can be adjustable, without box springs, softness-varied and massaging. If I had looked hard enough, I might have found one that delivers breakfast in the morning and in all truth, if there was one of those, that’s the one I’d pick!

My husband is the family shopper, but he dragged me along for the mattress hunt. We went to the furniture store and he laid down on the store sample mattresses, carefully keeping his feet on the pads made for that purpose. He wanted me to try them out as well, but I have trouble getting up from any mattress. I have developed a well-executed roll off the side of the bed to a standing position, but in a store it would too closely resemble a barrel rolling off the loading dock for my comfort, so I contented myself with testing their softness with a leaning push of my hand.

Roy then came home and began researching mattresses on the Internet and through his Consumer Reports magazine. Each site he visited had a different idea and, of course, we are now being inundated with advertising, pictures, testimonials, you name it, from every mattress store from here to Kalamazoo, wherever that is! Each one has just the mattress we’re looking for and we are welcome to try them out for 100 days to see if we like them. I know this is a great sales pitch, but I’m finicky in that I don’t want a mattress someone else had for 100 days and sent back. And for that matter, you might not enjoy the one I tried out while eating graham crackers in it for 100 days!

Eventually, we will make our selection of a new mattress and hopefully, our backs and shoulders will find that it is to their satisfaction. In the meantime, I have begun dreaming about our search. Last night, I dreamt that we had to take our 100 day trial while sleeping on the mattress at the store. The salesman woke us up every hour to ask if we wanted to buy it and I kept setting off the store’s burglar alarm system with my snoring. So much for a peaceful night’s sleep!

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Regarding the “Fauci Ouchie”

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on

Note to anyone reading this: This is NOT a political post concerning the Covid-19 vaccine. Whether you get it or not is up to you, but since I chose to get it, I have a few thoughts….

I love that they call it the “Fauci Ouchie.” I have been impressed by the aura surrounding Dr. Fauci for some time. I frequently don’t like what he says, but he can always be counted on to shoot it to you straight…usually between the eyes. I’ve often thought how it would be to have Fauci as my family physician. “Now, I believe the numbers don’t look good, it might be best if you cut back on the carbohydrates and maintained a distance of six feet, and for pete’s sake, wear the darn mask.” With that kind of a straight-shooting medical history, the fact that people are referring to the vaccine under his name seems appropriate.

I knew that I would be getting the vaccine, even though I am not a fan of needles in any respect. The first dose came as a bit of a surprise and I was not dressed for the occasion. It is not often that I am willing to take off my shirt in a Walmart pharmacy, but this is just exactly what happened. There was a flimsy little divider around me, but I still think there were probably people (including the technician) who wanted to gouge their eyes out, but I did a very willing little striptease to get that shot.

I expected repercussion from it, but truly, it has a lot to do with your mind as opposed to your body. For some unlucky souls, shots like this make them genuinely ill. For me, if I’m told my arm will be sore, it is. If I’m told I’ll feel a little queasy, I generally do. The first shot was reasonably uneventful and despite having to remove my shirt, I got through easily.

Unfortunately, that first shot isn’t the end. Dr. Fauci warns us not to get cocky. I agree with him, but that hasn’t prevented me from getting a little careless with my mask. Both the fact that I would forget and go strolling down the hall of my school without it (I actually had an elementary student gasp and draw back from horror, which was my first clue that I was walking down the hall with a naked face.) The other carelessness has come from the biggest issue I’ve had all year: now, when I can’t hear the kids through their masks, I’m apt to say “Pull your mask down and say it again. It’s alright, I’m 58 percent protected….Dr. Fauci says so!”

I was scheduled for my second shot the middle of this week. I held onto that card to the point I practically slept with it because I didn’t want anybody turning me away because I couldn’t produce it for the second shot. Considering that I have actually lost my husband, children, and grandchildren on shopping expeditions, I was pretty proud of the fact that I still had that card at the second innoculation…it looked like it had been through a war cause I mostly kept it in my bra strap, but nobody complained.

The second shot was different from the first. For one thing, the technician was a smart alec. I said, “I’m going to look away because I hate watching shots.” He said, “That’s fine, I’m the same way, so we’ll both look away.” He was pretty pleased with himself, shrugging and adding, “Just joking.” He knew not who he dealt with.

I waited until he was in the middle of the shot before I asked, “So, how much weed can I smoke after having had this shot?” He actually looked startled and probably pulled the needle out less smoothly, but the look on his face when I said, “Just joking,” makes my sore arm more than worth it. And I don’t even care that he gets to tell people that he gave the final shot of the day to an old hippie with a pot problem!

Now, I’ve heard all the warnings about the vaccine and some of them are legitimate. The two I chose to ignore were first, that the shot would make me infertile – I gotta tell you, this is not that frightening for a woman in her mid-sixties; and second, that there is some microchip in there so the government can track me. My thoughts on that are that I should be flattered that the government would put some high-tech, doubtless expensive piece of computer equipment in my shot just so they could track the number of times I go to the bathroom and have midnight snacks. Riveting information!

No, I think I’m okay with my two doses of the Fauci ouchie, and I’m looking forward to the day when the good doctor tells me that masks and social distancing are not as important. I will miss that part some, though, since this is first year in quite a few that I didn’t have even so much as a cold. Well done, Dr. Fauci!

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