Sunday, September 30, 2012

Not For Sissies

Whoever said, “Growing old is not for sissies” knew what they were talking about. Take facial hair, for instance. On men, it’s part of the job description. On ladies, it’s upsetting and unattractive. It definitely doesn’t make a girl feel pretty. I routinely go on chin hair patrol. This can be done while watching TV, reading a book, or driving a car. I am really good about using my Bluetooth hands-free earpiece when I talk on the phone while driving. They haven’t passed a law about searching for unsightly facial hair while driving. Until they do, I will continue to hunt. Once the offending follicle is discovered, it is a battle I am unwilling to lose. It doesn’t matter that the hair can’t be seen. As long as I can feel it, it’s gotta I may start out with a microscopic dot, and end up with a red, scabby crater that can be seen from the Space Shuttle. It doesn’t matter, as long as the hair gets plucked. I keep at it until I win. Once I finally get a death grip on the chin hair, and am able to successfully extract it, I am surprised at its length. What may have seemed like a speck usually turns out to be about eight feet long. Where did that subterranean part hang out? Was it attached to my pancreas? Perhaps that explains why chin hairs take so much effort to pull out. After all that work, they grow back in a couple weeks. My poor scarred chin barely has time to heal before a new onslaught begins. I suppose I could just wait until enough is poking out before I begin the plucking process. I worry about falling down and knocking myself out, though, and waking up 3 weeks later with a full beard. Definitely not for sissies.

Friday, September 28, 2012

War On Pint-Size Women

The existence of gender inequality dawned on me early. In elementary school one drizzly day, I experienced my first "Hey wait a minute!" moment. Someone made the decision that the boys could go out to recess, but the girls had to stay inside. WTF? We stood at the windows watching the boys run around, having a great old time. I could not figure out the logic in this decision. It did not endear the boys to us when they came back from recess damp and stinkier than usual. I was incensed, and never forgot my first brush with injustice. One day a few years later, we had a substitute teacher. Miss Murphy was an elderly spinster who was probably deputized as she walked out of daily Mass. She was at least a thousand years old and probably not a qualified teacher. But hey, it was only for a day. How much damage could she do? Too bad that day was Friday, my favorite school day due to the fact that we got art class. I had to wait all week for my beloved class, which came in the last hour of the school day. I survived history, math, and all the other boring stuff just to get to Friday afternoon. And there stood Miss Murphy, with her crooked index finger, trying to figure out how to teach. For art class, she had the girls draw a vase of flowers and the boys had to draw a kid named Donald throwing a football. I was shocked and appalled. This rocked my world. Not that I wanted to draw Donald and his damn football, but the sexist nature of the assignment outraged me. There was no arguing with Miss Murphy who ruled with an iron fist. I drew the stupid vase of flowers, but didn't like it. Knowing how fate works, we probably got screwed out of time with our Weekly Reader too (another Friday afternoon perk). I hope for her sake, Miss Murphy eventually went to Girly Heaven - A place with lots of flowers, cups of tea, no smelly boys, and of course straight index fingers.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Life Before Spell Check

Does anyone remember the Ayres Spelling Test? I’m not sure if it was used universally in elementary schools in the 1950’s and 1960’s or only in Catholic schools. I was reminded of this test as I was driving home from work the other day. I spotted a truck with a picture of an open flame on the side. It looked very official, like it was carrying flammable material. Which brought my brain to the Ayres Spelling Test. One of the words on this test was “inflammable”, which curiously meant flammable. Go figure. Even at eight years old, I thought that was a dumb way to run a language. I wonder if the word “inflammable” has been fired, shelved, or simply gone extinct. Kind of like St. Christopher, Purgatory, and the planet Pluto. The Ayres Spelling Test came in a yellow rectangular paperback book. The words in the front of the book were easy, getting progressively harder until the last page. I remember on that page was the word “miscellaneous”. It was the grand-daddy of all the hard spelling words. We taught my younger sister that word when she was in kindergarten, just to blow people’s minds. Several times a year the Ayres Spelling Test was administered to the entire elementary school via intercom. Since this was Catholic school, we had to write the words in pen, with no cross-outs or corrections. You had to get it right the first time. No pain no gain, right? I guess I shouldn’t complain - I’m now a kickass speller. We also diagrammed sentences until our eyes crossed. I wonder if that is a lost art as well. I don’t believe my kids were taught spelling in school. They do pretty well, though, even without Spell Check. Maybe a bit of the Ayres Spelling Test is coursing through their pen...right the first time.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Disney's Damn Vault

During the Primetime Emmy Awards show on Sunday night, there were a couple of commercials for a remastered version of Disney’s “Cinderella”. Both commercials seemed to say “You’d better buy me before I go back in the Disney vault or else!”. I felt a bit threatened. “Cinderella” is my favorite of all the Disney animated features. The heroine is spunky and not a goody-two-shoes like Sleeping Beauty or Snow White. There is some depth to her. While watching the commercials, I was reminded of a question I have always had - Why is Cinderella’s headband connected to her earrings? Was this in case she had to dash at the last minute to beat her midnight deadline? This fashion question has been niggling at my brain since I first saw the movie a million years ago. Another such question is regarding the horns “Sleeping Beauty" villainess Malificent wore. Was that just a scary hat? Maybe I was concerned that if I was a bad girl I might start to sprout horns. A girl’s gotta know. Disney animators were masters at creating villains. Most of them have been women, and beautiful. This is such a stroke of genius! Nothing is more sinister than evil hiding in plain sight under a benign facade. I think the thin baddies are also more menacing. They seem hungry, and not in a Gee-I’d-Like-A-Cookie kind of way. There is one more Disney fashion dilemma I’d like to solve. At the end of “Sleeping Beauty” two of the fairies disagree whether Princess Aurora should wear pink or blue. I have spent over 40 years trying to decide which I prefer. As soon as I decide blue, something tells me that pink is prettier. You’d think at some point I would realize this was not really my problem. Hello... ANIMATION... not reality. Still, I wish I could decide. Maybe if all the Disney videos were banished to the vault if I didn’t pick blue or pink, I could make a decision. Until then, though, I’ll take pink... no blue... Sigh...

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Emotional Samsonite

My sister and I were discussing the lifetime of emotional baggage we all lug around with us. She is working hard on getting rid of hers. I, on the other hand, have clung to mine like it’s gold-plated. I told her I’m still steamed about an incident that happened to me in the third grade. A mere 49 years ago, yet it seems like just last week. I really want to release these bad feelings and set them free. The third grade incident seems like a good place to start. The year was 1963, and I had been out sick from school for about a week. We carpooled with Mrs. M. who was very scatterbrained. After school, I was standing outside her car trying to think of something clever to say after being gone for a week. While I had my hand on the car door handle, she peeled out. I assumed she would come right back, so I hung out in the parking lot, waiting. And I waited. And I waited. Nobody came back for me. I was alone on the planet... for TWO f*#*ing hours. I finally had enough, and took matters into my own hands. I walked up to my grandmother’s house, which was about 5 blocks away. As I write this, it seems like a no-brainer that I should have walked there right away. In my defense, though, I was only nine. I had never walked anywhere alone, and really, really thought I’d be rescued at any moment. I stormed into Gram’s house at the same time my mother was calling to see if I was there. I was furious! Not only had Mrs. M. driven off without me, it had taken my mother two hours to notice that I hadn’t come home from school. I had to play nice and accept Mrs. M.’s apology. So now, as my sister put it so sweetly, it’s time to clean the turd out of the swimming pool. Off you go Mrs. M. It’s alright. I turned out OK, nobody molested me in the parking lot, and I didn’t get run over by a car on the way to Gram’s house. I’m sure the walk did me some good. Sigh... I have a very long road ahead of me. Got steamer trunks full of junk to get gone. It will feel pretty good, I imagine, to purge. One down and a gajillion to go...

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Mrs Anderson's Arms

I was in the shower, lathering up my outstretched arm, when I noticed a major bump on my arm. “Dang, girl, you got an impressive bicep on you!” I said to no one in particular. I shook my arm a bit, and the bump began to undulate, vibrate, and make like Jello. The bump wasn’t a bicep at all, but a reverse bicep. OMG! I suddenly had my fifth grade teacher’s under arms. Mrs. Anderson was a portly woman, with the most wonderful, jiggly underarms. They fascinated me. When she pointed to call on someone, those great hams had a life of their own. I would have given an entire year’s salary for five minutes alone in a room with Mrs. Anderson’s underarms (if I’d had a full time job at age 11). I would smoosh them, bobble them, play Slinky with them, and basically have my way with them. She also had a double chin that changed shapes as she moved her head up and down. I didn’t want anything to do with the chins. They intrigued me in a can’t-look-away-from-a-car-accident kind of way. That area of Mrs. Anderson reminded me of a pelican. I used to wonder if a fish would come flying out when she opened her mouth. So now, more than 47 years later, my thoughts turn back to Mrs. Anderson. If she’s looking for her underarms, tell her I got ‘em. Fortunately, the chins haven’t found me... yet.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

B-B-B-B-B-Bennie & The Jets

Of all the pop songs out there, I find Elton John’s to be the hardest lyrics to understand. I love the song “Bennie & The Jets”. Partly because my son’s name is Ben, and partly because I like the beat and melody. As I was waiting in the operating room for knee surgery years ago, I heard music playing. “Bennie & The Jets” came on, and a little Filipino nurse cruised by me singing “B-B-B-B-B-Bennie...”. That’s the last thing I remembered until I woke up in the recovery room. You’d think that would be a bad memory but it wasn’t. I find it kind of funny and still think of her every time I hear the song. Yesterday the song came on my car radio and I tried to sing along. It was then that I realized I have no clue what the words really are. Here’s what I was singing:

“Hey kids shake the news together 

It’s all the na na na na na na na na na na weather

Something something something something stick around

You’re gonna hear electric music side the falls the sounds

Say Candy and Ronnie have you seen them yet? 

Ooh but they’re so spaced out

B-B-B-B-B-B-B Bennie & the Jets

Oh but the woman is wonderful, Oh Bennie she’s really keen

She’s got electric boots, a mohair suit. You know I read it in a magazine

Oh ho ho B-B-B-Bennie & the Jets.”

Something tells me I got it wrong. If not, though, maybe I could be a songwriter myself. Na na na something something hey now na na na..

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Perv Next Door

Our first house together was located on a charming, old tree-lined street. It was there Rick and I experienced a street cleaning event. Once a year, you could put anything out on the street in front of your house. On your appointed day, large dump trucks would come down the street, followed by an army of people equipped with shovels and brooms. To get ready for the big day, Rick and I tackled the garage. He climbed up in the the rafters and threw junk down to me. While up there, Rick yelled “Hey, what kind of doctor was the guy we bought the house from? Was he a gynecologist?”. Then, he dropped his find down to me - a padded, flesh-colored torso that could be bolted onto a wall. It had no arms, and partial thighs. It was truly horrific, and definitely pervy. I couldn’t put this item out on the street until the last minute, due to the fact that people in pickup trucks would peruse the street cleaning items as soon as they were deposited. Our neighbor, a not-too-bright woman we called The Airhead, regularly checked out everyone’s junk piles. She had at least two toilets sitting on her front porch, in addition to other street cleaning treasures. The last thing she needed was a life-sized sex toy. By the morning of the street cleaning event, I was anxious to get rid of The Torso. At the crack of dawn, I took it out to the street, and buried it under some ugly decorative rocks and other assorted junk. Then, I scurried back to my house to await the dump trucks. At one point, I saw The Airhead poking around our pile. Fortunately, The Torso was buried deep enough to avoid ending up on her front porch. After an eternity, there was a rumbling, announcing the arrival of the trucks and sanitation workers. I was lurking in the shadows of my living room, awaiting the unveiling of The Torso. Finally, the shovel on the front of a dump truck picked it up. I was horrified when I saw The Torso dangling from the corner of the scooper. In my mind, or possibly in reality, all the shovel handlers turned and looked at my house. I saw the silent scream of “Pervs Live There!” emanating from their lips. Then, they were gone. I never did find out what kind of doctor sold us our house. No doubt a sexy one... or maybe just a really, really lonely one.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Born To Breed

Today is my son Ben’s 27th birthday. I can’t believe how fast the time has flown. Still seems like yesterday... OK a few years ago, that I gave birth to him. When I was pregnant that first time, I decided to go the natural route and enrolled in Lamaze classes. I have a phobia of needles, and the one used to manage childbirth pain is pretty much harpoon-sized. I would rather bite on a bullet or maybe eat a bug. Lamaze is basically a diversion tactic. You concentrate on a focal point, and perform breathing exercises. Hopefully, you don’t notice the football-sized object you are trying to expel from your nether regions. I grew more terrified after each Lamaze class. The whole childbirth experience became more daunting instead of less. As the last class ended, I had decided the baby should stay put. No way in hell was I going through ALL THAT. By then, though, there was only one way out. I performed admirably when the time came. I never once called anyone names or screamed for drugs. I concentrated on my focal point like I was trained to do. Except for a banana-shaped head, Ben came out perfect. I was convinced I was born to breed. My second childbirth experience wasn’t quite as smooth. Perhaps I had beginner’s luck the first time. I figured I could do it again, no sweat. Once the pain started in earnest, though, my first childbirth experience came flooding back. I started to consider an epidural. Having a harpoon shoved into my back was actually starting to sound not so bad. I had waited too long to scream for drugs, though, and had to do the natural thing again. This time, it was the baby’s idea to stay put. My daughter apparently had a death grip on my tonsils, and wouldn’t come out. Or at least that was the scene playing in my head. Had I known then what I know now, I would have had my doctor wave a Coach bag, fabulous pair of shoes, or state-of-the-art cell phone to lure Molly out. Retail therapy beats drugs any day.

Monday, September 10, 2012


I was stranded at home once for two days while my car was in the shop. As my husband was leaving for work on the second day, he gave me an assignment - to find the source of the bad smell in the refrigerator. It was bad enough to waste two vacation days sitting at home waiting to get my car back. Now I had to empty my fridge, hopefully NOT finding anything too gross. My goal was to discover the bad something before it had grown fur or changed color. I started out by making a pile of anything that could be expired. The pile got pretty big before I hit pay dirt. Lurking on the bottom shelf, way in the back, was a bag of sausages that had expired six months ago. I did not look very close, or open the bag for a smell test, but was relatively sure that six month-old meat was not a good thing. In my perusal of the refrigerator door, I found seven bottles of salad dressing and barbecue sauce that had also outlived their freshness date. One bottle was three years past its expiration. A new world’s record? Not by a long shot. I believe my own personal best (or worst) record is a nineteen year-old package of yeast, discovered last Thanksgiving. Technically that was hanging out in the cupboard, not the fridge, but it’s an awesome record just the same. I was in high hopes that the smell would go away with the sausages, but that didn’t happen. I tackled the freezer next, whereupon I discovered a new personal fridge best - a 7 year old roast. If it was in school, the Mystery Meat would be a first grader. I filled up four tall kitchen garbage bags with frozen meat. The next day was garbage day and I was lucky that my neighbors had room for two of the bags in their can. The bags o’ meat were extremely heavy. I worried the whole next day that the garbage men would think a dead body was in my can. What if the meat had thawed out overnight, and disgusting liquid leaked out from that little hole in the bottom of the can? I wouldn’t have been surprised if Seattle Homicide showed up at my door. The bad odor still wasn’t gone, but I probably wouldn’t be able to smell it from jail. Maybe things were looking up.

Saturday, September 8, 2012


I am definitely not confident in my mothering skills. I have two great kids who have grown into interesting adults. Boring was not an option. Still, I doubt my abilities. Even when I watch TV ads, I compare myself to the actors. Case in point - I saw a TV commercial showing a mother, three kids and a dog baking together (Seriously, who does that?). One of the children was holding an electric mixer up in the air, and turned it on. Chocolate cake batter went flying everywhere. Then they all laughed... even the mother. OMG! What was wrong with her? Was she seriously demented??? Had she been smacked on the head, prompting her to bake with the kiddies? I can’t imagine someone’s first reaction to a monumental mess being laughter. Anger, yes. Disbelief, sure. But not giggles, guffaws, or even snickers. No way! A similar commercial had two adorable little girls in school uniforms (white blouses) bringing a tray into their parent’s bedroom (white decor). The parents were propped up in bed (wearing white jammies, in front of a white headboard). Oh, and did I mention there was a little white dog? Can you predict what happened next? A glass with purple liquid on the tray spilled onto the white dog, who then shook his fur. This hurled purple dots onto EVERYTHING white. And then... everybody smiled. Even the purple dog. Later, the mother was seen putting the stained clothes into her washing machine... still smiling. What could explain these people calmly yucking it up while the world around them turns into cake batter and purple liquid? I believe these commercials were for high-efficiency washing machines, but would have been better suited selling tranquilizers, or perhaps tasers. I’m nor sure if the average citizen can purchase a taser, but I’d recommend one for baking with the kids. Now THAT makes me smile! (Note: In spite of what I just said, my kids really are OK.)

Wednesday, September 5, 2012


As I drove past a Lutheran church in my neighborhood, I saw a banner reading “Blessing of the Backpacks”. It’s still unclear to me whether one’s backpack will be blessed against bad things, or so good things will happen to its contents. I’m considering showing up at the backpack blessing ceremony with my wallet (my debit card needs all the help it can get). It’s worth a shot, however I don’t know if you need to be a Lutheran for it to work. As a recovering Catholic, I’d have to lie, which probably wouldn’t be a good thing to do inside a church. I am intrigued by all these blessing ceremonies and am anxious to see what’s on the next banner. My childhood was chock full of Catholic rituals. Mass every Sunday and on Holy Days, Confession on Fridays, and various ceremonies throughout the year took up a major chunk of my life. “High” Mass included incense, which always made my first grade friend Allison faint. Thunk... It added a little mystery and suspense to the whole thing. During a really special Mass, the bishop would walk down the center aisle and fling holy water from a little bucket. Sometimes, we tried to get hit and other times we ducked. It was like an encounter with a Holy super-soaker. After a while, the bishop’s tall pointy hat and ornate vestments seemed ordinary. Dude in a dress... so what? Sometime in February came the feast of St. Blaise. On that day, you could get your throat blessed. The priest would put crossed candles against your throat while chanting a blessing. Perhaps this ritual was bogus, or maybe Someone Important knew I was skeptical. Needless to say, I had many a sore throat for much of my childhood. Nowadays I could really get into a a ritual to stave off obesity and arthritis. If that would mean attending church again, though, I may have to just limp off into the sunset.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Trying For A Green Thumb

I spent part of my Labor Day pruning a pink dogwood tree in my front yard. I planted this tree about 10 years ago, and still haven’t seen even one of the fabulous pink flowers it’s supposed to have. Its leaves were starting to look spotted and dried out, so I took a cutting to the nearest nursery. The experts told me my tree probably had a fungus. To help the tree’s recovery, I was told to prune it and clean any leaves beneath it. I was also told to clean my tools afterwards, in order not to spread the fungus to another plant. Great... this was NOT going to be fun. I got all my tools out, including the giant clippers-on-a-really-really-long-pole. This pole came to my attention when I was in line at Home Depot several years ago. Someone was buying one, and I was fascinated. I decided right then I needed to own one. The first time I used the pole, I was pruning a 30’ cedar tree. I hadn’t realized when I bought the pole, that it had clippers at the end. I had just thought it was an extremely long hook. I climbed my crappy 5’ aluminum ladder, and used the big hook to pull branches within reach. Then I tied the long rope from the pole to my ladder, whereupon I would use my clippers to trim the branches. Looking back on it now, this procedure was awkward and silly. At the time, though, I thought I was a genius gardener. At one point, as I was standing on the top of the ladder, I lost my balance. I grabbed the pole and rope, and guess what happened? The hook actually cut the branch it was hanging on. Who knew? (besides everyone else in the gardening world) I felt like the biggest damn doofus, and hoped nobody had been watching my gardening acrobatics. Today, I used the clipper pole properly. I did giggle to myself the entire time, though. Good thing nobody knows about my mistaken use of the big giant clipper pole... until now.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

What's In A Name?

Last month we changed our safe deposit box to a different bank. As I looked through all our treasures, I came across my birth certificate and a document from when I had my name legally changed at age 13. All my sisters had “Ann” for their middle name. I was christened “Martha Kim”. While I was named after my great-grandmother, my sisters weren’t named after anyone. They were just given names my parents liked. I had always felt like I was different and didn’t fit in. This name thing was concrete proof that my fears were true. How else do you explain it? It didn’t matter that I was always called Kim. I had let it slip to some classmates what my given name was. Bad idea! I came home every day whining that the mean boys were calling me Martha. They usually called me “Board” because my chest was as flat as one. You’d think Martha would have been a nice change from that. Unfortunately, there was a girl in our class named Martha and she was not my favorite person. She was tall, quiet, and kind of dorky. When the nun would leave the class unattended, Martha would pull out a book and read. Without being told to. Just read on her own. OMG! Something about the way Martha walked was strange too. She kind of walked without moving any part of her body except her feet. For some inexplicable reason, she reminded me of Natasha from the Bullwinkle cartoons. I can’t figure out why. Martha definitely didn’t wear a strapless blue dress or heels. She didn’t have a Russian accent either. In my brain, though, she was the spitting image of an evil cartoon character. My parents eventually relented and had my name legally changed to Kimberly Ann. Sigh... What a relief. Funny thing though, I lost the name I detested but still didn’t feel like I fit in. Oh well, I appreciated that my parents had tried. As I was looking over the papers in my safe deposit box, I noticed an interesting item on the legal document. The clerk who signed the document was named Martha. What are the odds? I truly hope I didn’t spout off about how much I hated that name. Knowing me, though, I probably did. Sorry to all the Marthas out there. All you cartoon characters too.