Category Archives: Humor

Sweet Sanity

20140410_135757 (1)

Have you been having visions of colorful foil? Have you detected the aroma of coconut in the air? Have you been seeing rabbit tracks everywhere? Have you been drooling for no apparent reason?

No, you are not suffering from a serious mental disorder. Do not take a Xanax. Do not voluntarily commit yourself to the local psychiatric ward for a 90-day stay. Do not form a support group and invite everyone over to watch “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.”

Don’t worry, these seemingly strange symptoms are normal this time of year, because Easter makes us all a little crazy.

Of course, we expect children to spool themselves into an all-out frenzy on Easter. They burst out of church as if they’d just escaped from an asylum, and it’s all we can do to snap a quick photo of them wearing their stiff Easter ties and flouncy Easter dresses, before they start running around like crazed maniacs in search of candy eggs.

Why, then, does this sweetest of holidays cause grown adults to go bonkers too? Believe it or not, our temporary lunacy is triggered by the same stimulus that affects our children — CANDY.

Considering that mature adults have highly developed impulse control, you might not think that sugary treats would make us lose our minds. But then, you’d be wrong.

It all starts when adults deprive themselves during Lent, declaring that they’ve given up chocolate, carbohydrates, or desserts. Forty days of that can turn even the most stable person stark raving mad. Then, we are faced with temptingly colorful displays of individually wrapped miniaturized candy bars in every store, which taunt and torture us in our self-induced sugar-starved state.

To add insult to injury, we have to purchase the candy for our kids, so we hide bags in our houses, under our beds and in our closets. No one can see it, but we know it’s there, calling to us like Sirens, “C’mon…. just open a little corner of the bag and take a few. No one will know. Chocolate tastes so good….”

We respond to these voices in our heads, waffling between resistance and bargaining: “Yea, I could just have one teensy-weensy marshmallow egg [staring into space with small drop of drool forming in corner of mouth] … No! [slapping hands over ears, squeezing eyes shut] … I can make it to Easter, just a few more days [breathing into a paper bag] … and then on Easter Sunday [eyes widening, grin forming] … I can sneak into the kids’ Easter baskets after they go to bed [drooling again]… and go … hog … wild [said in a frighteningly deep gravely voice.]“

As for me, I swore off carbohydrates several weeks ago, surviving on chicken, salads, and hard-boiled eggs. Our kids don’t know about the hidden combo bags of candy I bought from the commissary last week, but I certainly do. The tiny Milky Ways have been whispering to me at night from under our bed. I’m pretty sure the dog hears them too. I can’t stop muttering, “Gimme a break, gimme a break, break me off a piece of that Kit Kat bar,” and I’ve developed an involuntary eye twitch.

Despite my fragile state, I will not give in to my urge to rip the secreted bags open and gobble the candy-coated catalysts, foil wrapping and all. I am an adult, after all.

However, on Easter Sunday, after the kids have opened every plastic egg, after the dog has ingested colored Easter grass, after the leftover ham has been sliced for sandwiches, after I give up washing the scalloped potato dish and let it soak in the sink, and after we snuggle up on the couch to watch Cecile B. DeMille’s “The Ten Commandments,” I will calmly open a bag of pastel peanut butter cups.

And there, in that sweet moment, I will reclaim my sanity.

Spring Break, Eighties Style

Scan“Don’t crush the groceries!” I yelled as my teenage son smashed the car top carrier lid closed. With everything for our family spring break trip packed, we piled into our salt-hazed minivan and hit the road.

I wondered if all this rigmarole was worth it for a few days of so-called vacation. I’d worked myself into a pre-trip frenzy, making lists, doing laundry, kenneling the dog, getting the oil changed, packing, double checking, and packing some more.

All that hassle just to spend military leave time stuffing ourselves like sardines into our minivan for eleven long hours. And once we get there, we’ll be unpacking, making beds, cooking, cleaning and managing the kids just like we always do. Same work, different location.

Is Spring Break really worth all this hassle?

As we passed through the Naval Station Newport base gate and headed south, I recalled an easier time. It was 1986, and I used my new credit card to buy a Spring Break trip with my college roommates. I was broke, but all those Citibank sign up ads around campus promised a $1,000 credit limit, and all I had to do was pay a little bit off each month. “Wow, what a great deal!” I thought in my youthful ignorance.

After curling our bangs, my roommates and I boarded a bus, chartered by Sigma Epsilon Fraternity, headed from chilly Ohio to sunny Daytona Beach, Florida. The frat brothers thoughtfully included a six-pack of Little Kings Cream Ale in the trip package price, just in case the passengers got thirsty on the fourteen-hour ride south.

“Ohmigod,” my roommate exclaimed halfway through Tennessee, “like, I totally can’t find Lisa anywhere!” “No way!” “Way!” They didn’t know that I’d crawled up in the overhead luggage compartment to sleep off those Little Kings.

On the day of our arrival, I promptly burned myself to a crisp laying out on the beach. Later at a Bud Light Belly Flop contest at the motel pool, I tried to hide the pain, sipping wine coolers with my roommates while dancing to “I’ll stop the world and melt with you” – a la Molly Ringwald in “The Breakfast Club” — in our stone washed denim and Wayfarers. We took note of one particular college boy moonwalking in checkered Vans, red Birdwell Beach Britches, and a blonde mullet. He was the kind of cool guy who probably drove a Camero.

The loudspeaker blared as he climbed the high dive, “Next we have Mad [expletive deleted] Mike from University of Maryland!” We cheered with the crowd, but in the end, his svelte torso was no match for the linebacker from Mississippi State with a gut tinged pink from multiple flawless flops.

By the time we boarded the bus for our return to Ohio a week later, I had sloughed off the first three layers of my skin, lost my Jellies shoes, survived on happy hour nachos, been totally ignored by Mad [expletive deleted] Mike, and maxed out my $1,000 credit limit, totally unaware that I would be paying off the debt for the next eight years.

And it was totally worth it.

There was something special about the Eighties. Was it the big hair? Orange Julius? Hackey Sacks? Mr. T? New Wave music? Shoulder pads? Hawaiian pizza? The Cosby Show? McDLTs? The Sprinkler Dance? Tri-color pasta salad? Parachute pants? Boom boxes? Frosted eye shadow? Deely-bobbers? Alf? Fried potato skins? A carefree state of mind?

Whatever it was, the Eighties was fun. A lot of fun.

“Honey,” I asked my husband as we entered the New Jersey Turnpike, “find that Eighties radio station, would you?” The kids groaned, and began arguing over whether we were getting lunch at Wendy’s or Chick-fil-A, but I leaned back in my seat, put on my sunglasses and said, “I think this might turn out to be our best Spring Break trip ever.”

Like, totally.

Scan 2

I found these in my basement. Note the girl in the red two-piece, or is it a one-piece? And that’s Mad [Expletive Deleted] Mike in the long red trunks with the mullet. That’s me in the cool faux Vuarnet shades – you can see my skin sloughing around my neck. Turns out, guys are not into that kind of thing. The last photo is a party on our motel balcony — Good times!

Scan 1

These are my Miami of Ohio college chums, looks like they’re doing the Van Halen Jump! That’s me piled on the bed with my roomies and their boyfriends – notice my stone washed jeans and shoulder pads! Ah, to be young and stupid again!

Kiss me! I’m Irish today!

DSCN1581

 

St. Patrick’s Day is one of those ambiguous special occasions that can be quite confusing for non-Irish adults like me.

As a kid, the purpose of St. Patrick’s Day seemed clear to me: wear something green to school and get my mom to take me to McDonalds for one of my all time favorite treats – The Shamrock Shake. Mildly green, with a hint of mint, I savored that delectable annual delight and looked forward to this little tradition every year.

As a college student, having Irish heritage was still pretty much irrelevant. No one I knew was interested in getting in touch with their roots. To the contrary, St. Patrick’s Day was nothing but an excuse to drink green beer at the local bars until we made complete idiots out of ourselves.

But when I turned into a middle-aged adult, St. Patrick’s Day’s relevance in my life became muddled. My taste buds had lost their longing for fast food shakes, and it was inappropriate for a 47-year-old mother of three to be drinking pitchers of green beer at the bars, so I had a hard time figuring out what I should do.

It’s easier for people with Irish blood. Even if your only connection is that your great uncle thrice removed was one-seventh Irish.  Even if the closest thing you ever had to Irish culture was a bowl of Lucky Charms. Even if you were born and raised on a chili pepper farm outside of Albuquerque. As long as you are technically Irish, you have clear rights and privileges on St. Patrick’s Day.

You pseudo-Irish Americans have carte blanche to suddenly speak with the rolling “Rs” and over-enunciated “Ts” of Irish brogue. You’re permitted to utter phrases like “Top O’ the mornin’ t’ya!” and “She’s a fine young lassie!” You can unattractively fist pump to U2’s “Sunday Bloody Sunday” even though all you know is the chorus. Without the slightest bit of credibility, you can suddenly develop a hankering for the blandest Irish Soda Bread, and Crockpots full of fatty corned beef and mushy cooked cabbage.

On the other hand, we non-Irish, despite our identical American upbringing, are not afforded the same indulgences and liberties as our pseudo-Irish friends. We must stand back, dazed and confused, repeatedly listening to that insensitive saying about the only two kinds of people in the world – “the Irish and those who wish they were.”

The only way for the non-Irish to avoid this annual humiliation is to concede defeat, no matter how unjust it seems. And don’t try to reason with them because it simply won’t work. I once drew a comparison between my Welsh heritage, with its Celtic language and similar way of life, to the Irish culture. My analogy was met with indignant outrage, “Who cares? You’re not Irish!”

I have learned that, in order for we non-Irish to enjoy St. Patrick’s Day, we need to tell a little white lie – or green as it were – and exclaim that we wish we were Irish too. Like amnesty for illegal aliens, simple surrender will authorize us to wear tacky green beads and silly plastic hats, to guzzle Guinness and slop stew, to adorn ourselves with buttons that obnoxiously demand “Kiss me, I’m Irish!” and to shamelessly dangle shamrocks from our ears and rear view mirrors.

In other words, when dealing with the “fighting Irish” on St. Patty’s Day, it’s always best to roll with the punches.

Skiing on Hot Air

ski3“Do I ski? Well, of course,” I’ve dismissed such questions with a pretentious chuckle. “I grew up skiing,” I’d say, hoping my haughty response conjured up images of me slaloming between moguls, skidding to snow-spraying stops, and mingling in Nordic sweaters around cozy lodge fireplaces.

They don’t need to know that my first skiing experiences were behind the YMCA in my rural Pennsylvania hometown. Two dollars provided my brother and I with mercilessly gouged rental equipment and unlimited rides on the slope’s only lift — a rudimentary rope tow with a sputtering motor that sounded as if it had been pirated from a lawn mower.

My 100% acrylic mittens not only failed to keep out the cold, but they made it nearly impossible to grip the ice-glazed rope tow. When I managed to clamp down hard enough, my body lurched forward unexpectedly, sometimes loosening my precarious grip and causing annoyed kids to stack up behind me like dominoes.

Eventually, our parents took my brother and I to the various local ski resorts: Hidden Valley, Seven Springs, Blue Knob, Laurel Valley. Having never heard of brand names such as Rossignol and K2, our family of four rented equipment and wore whatever we had in our closets, much of which was fluorescent orange or emblazoned with Pittsburgh Steelers insignia.

If we made it out of the slushy, clattering equipment rental rigmarole intact, we still had to get our skis on without making complete fools out of ourselves. Despite witnessing the experienced skiers pop their boots into bindings with minimal effort, I always seemed to find myself doing the splits right there in front of all the cool people.

It wasn’t pretty, but I persevered, getting up and falling down over and over again – putting on skis, getting on and off lifts, snow plowing, and sometimes, just standing there doing nothing. Besides knocking strangers over and forcing lift operators to stop the motors to clear my sprawled body off the exits and entrances, all that falling served to desensitize me to embarrassment over time.

One Christmas, my father outfitted our entire family in new ski paraphernalia. At first I couldn’t wait to finally be “legit,” but with the proper equipment and apparel came something I hadn’t anticipated: expectations.

In my brother’s old parka, no one batted an eye when I plowed into someone in the T-bar line. However, in my white Obermeyer jacket with the powder blue chevron and new Atomic Skis, people would actually expect me to know what I was doing.

In high school, my best friend, Patti, and I joined the Ski Club, boarding a coach bus to the ski resorts every Friday night. Other than rumors of who was making out with whom on the bus, Patti and I concerned ourselves only with the fake personas we would use to meet cute boys on the slopes. Even then, we understood the snobbery to which skiing lent itself. I became Brooke Taylor from a snooty town in Connecticut, and she, Claire Townsend, my rich cousin visiting from some stuck up prep school.

We never got to use our alter egos, but in the process of trying to reinvent ourselves, we finally learned to ski.

Recently, a friend asked me to go skiing with her in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. A middle-aged Navy wife who has moved nine times in 20 years, I had gotten rid of my ski equipment many moves ago, and had not skied in years. “Do you ski?” she asked. Swallowing my panic, I chuckled my pat response, “But of course, I grew up skiing.”

Adorned with hopelessly scratched equipment I rented from the base’s Outdoor Recreation Center, I tried to quell my performance anxiety as the quad lift reached the summit. I felt out of place amongst the well-to-do resort families decked to the nines, even though I knew that, based on my appearance, onlookers were surprised to see that I could ski at all.

Later at the lodge, while nonchalantly sipping a plastic cup of hefeweizen and trying to look like a regular, I had a minor epiphany. Down deep beneath my faux-Nordic sweater, I knew that none of it — YMCA rope tow humiliations, borrowed parkas, high school insecurities, rental equipment — really mattered.

Just like everyone else in the lodge telling tall tales and walking like idiots in ski boots, I could ski. Snobbery was optional.

How many idiots does it take to fill out a 1040?

“Oh crud, we need to do our taxes,” I recently told my husband as I do every year around this time.

After exhausting every reason to procrastinate – cleaning out the vegetable drawer, perusing old Hickory Farms catalogues left over from Christmas, clipping toenails, surfing E-bay for vintage bar signs, napping – we finally had to face the music.

Coffee and a folder haphazardly filled with paperwork in hand, my husband and I reluctantly plopped down in front of our computer to complete the dreaded annual tax forms.

We haven’t had the best luck preparing our tax forms over the years, and are conditioned to avoid the experience. Despite my law degree and my husband’s master’s degree in financial management, neither of us ever grasped the simple concepts relevant to our personal income tax forms.

In law school, I took a Tax Law course and could write a scholarly paper on whether the federal income tax is a direct tax or an excise tax based on the Sixteenth Amendment and the Supreme Court’s opinion in the Pollock case, but I struggled with my 1040EZ.

My husband’s master’s thesis was entitled “Congress, Defense, and the Deficit: An Analysis of the FY 1996 Budget Process in the 1O4th Congress,” but he couldn’t tell the difference between short and long term capital gains if his retirement depended on it.

But every year, we begrudgingly spread out our paperwork and somehow fulfill our obligations as taxpayers.

One year, we wanted to act like grown ups, so we hired an accountant while living in Virginia Beach. He was a charming southern gentleman with blue eyes, silver white hair and a matching tidy moustache. He called me “ma’am” and politely sat with us one balmy evening in the early days of spring. Over the season’s first lemonades, we casually chatted about our finances, and he gathered all the information he needed to prepare and file our returns. It was so easy, we wondered why we hadn’t been doing it this way all along.

The next year, we tried to contact our charming accountant to do our taxes again, but strangely, he never returned our calls.

We soon found out that he couldn’t call us back because he was locked up in the big house. Turns out, our southern gentleman was politely holding himself out as a CPA without a license, embezzling from clients, and obtaining money under false pretenses. Oops. Back to the drawing board.

Since then, we have been using Turbo Tax, a seemingly idiot-proof program which leads the user through a simplified series of questions designed to accurately calculate all income and deductions.  Somehow, my husband and I still have no idea what is going on.

“Do we qualify for the child tax credit?” I asked, as my husband slurped his coffee. “Hell if I know . . . just do whatever we did last year, that seemed to work,” he said nonchalantly.

“I forget, do we have Roth IRAs or regular IRAs?” I said a few minutes later. Riffling through a pile of papers, my husband found our statements, which might as well have been written in Chinese. “Roth, but what the heck is a recharacterized contribution?”

My eyes started to cross as I tried to decipher our mutual fund papers. “Is cost basis the same as purchase price?” I said, searching my faded memory bank. “I don’t know, just punch in $200 and see what happens,” my husband suggested.

After four hours, two pots of coffee, three calls to our financial manager, and at least a dozen choice expletives, we finally got it all figured out and dutifully sent our forms off to Uncle Sam.

We won’t get our return check for several weeks, but rest assured, we’ve already spent it, and lost the receipt. When our bank statements arrive, we won’t know how to balance the checkbook. And next spring, we’ll be back in front of our computer, dazed and confused all over again.  Apparently, a few more things in life are certain aside from death and taxes.

Pricing Paradise

Photo courtesy of redneckpixels.com.

Photo courtesy of redneckpixels.com.

Be it a sub-tropical seaside villa in Florida, a rugged mountain chalet in Montana, an Upper East Side condominium, or a Duck-Dynasty-esque Louisiana creekside doublewide — everyone has their own idea of the perfect paradise. And everyone hopes that someday they’ll end up retiring there.

As a military family, we have lived north, south, east and west. We’ve lived in the heat and we’ve lived in the cold, we’ve lived where it’s wet and lived where it’s dry. After more than 20 years of marriage, we still haven’t decided where we want to end up someday. But we have learned that, no matter where we find paradise, it always comes at a price.

The purple mountain majesty and fresh-caught wild salmon of Alaska will cost prolonged darkness and gargantuan mosquitoes. The Painted Desert dawns and star-studded dusks in the Southwestern states will cost egg-frying temperatures and poisonous critters that like to hide in the garage. The flip-flop friendly retirement mecca of Florida with its endless palm-studded sandy beaches and cornucopias of coconut shrimp will cost seven months a year of stifling swampy humidity, not to mention throngs of turkey-leg munching theme park tourists.

The anatomically flawless people, golf-perfect climate, and Spicoli-surfer vibe of California will cost damaging earthquakes, cray-cray politics, and jaw-dropping cost of living. The salt-of-the-earth folksiness and charming farming towns of the Mid-West will cost land-locked monotony and trailer-tossing tornadoes.  The quaintly clapboarded Northeast with its Technicolor seasons will cost frigid, salt-encrusted, pale, chapped, winters that seem to go on forever.

We’ve lived in New England for six months now, and strangely, I love it here. Even though, as I write this column, a Nor’easter is howling through our base housing neighborhood in Newport, Rhode Island, caking our windows with blown snow, depositing four-foot drifts in our yard, and causing the trees to strain ominously against the gusting winds.

Ensconced in umpteen layers of clothing and copious applications of Chapstick, I stare out our frosted window and wonder how I could consider this place paradise. Why don’t I think, as many do, that long winters are too high a price to pay for this lobster-fed, leafy New England lifestyle?

Apparently, somewhere in my snowy Western Pennsylvania childhood, I was brainwashed.

I loved winter. The sledding, the skiing, the skating, the icicles, the hot chocolate, the itchy wool sweaters, the waffle-woven long underwear, the runny noses, the cold toes, the roaring fires. To me, winter was nothing short of a total blast.

In fact, one of the worst things that ever happened to me was when I broke my femur tobogganing one night in fifth grade. Sure, the broken leg was extremely painful, but what really hurt me was missing out on the entire 1977 blizzard because I was laid up in the hospital in traction for six weeks.

While all my friends were having the time of their lives slipping and sliding down every slope, embankment and drift in town while schools were closed for two weeks, I was watching “The Don Ho Show”, avoiding another Salisbury steak on a pink Melmac hospital tray, and trying to learn how to balance on a bedpan.

After all that childhood conditioning, I now react to cold weather like Pavlov’s pooch when a bell rings. When those first flakes fall from the sky, a certain nostalgia wells up in me, and I get excited about everything winter brings.

Like pots of hot soup and mittens drying on the radiator. Like rosy cheeks and paw prints in the snow. Like black leafless branches silhouetted against clear blue skies.

For many, winter’s dirty chunks of ice, slick roadways, salt-hazed cars, and unrelenting chill are too much of a price to pay to live in northern climates. Sure, I’ll admit, when March rolls around I’ll be envying our Navy friends who are nursing their first sunburns in Hawaii and Florida.

But the bright saffron and violet crocus heads will dot the northern landscape soon enough, heralding the much-anticipated arrival of spring. And besides, winter is a small price to pay, when you consider that finding your own perfect paradise is priceless.

Snowyhouse

Tortured Tenderness

st valentineI really don’t mean to be a bummer, but I just googled Saint Valentine and learned that, not only was he not the patron saint of lovers, February 14th marks the date that he was imprisoned, tortured and beheaded in Rome in 269 A.D.

Real romantic, hu?

Apparently, the Feast of St. Valentine (a.k.a. Valentine’s Day) was not intended to celebrate romantic love until some crusty old fourteenth century English historians began propagating the legend that Saint Valentine was martyred because he was caught secretly marrying persecuted Christians behind Emperor Claudius’ back.

So, as much as we want to point the finger at Hallmark, Brachs, Whitman’s Samplers, The Melting Pot, FTD and the rest of the blood-sucking consumer industry, apparently they are not to blame for inventing Valentine’s Day.

Regardless, there’s certainly nothing wrong with reserving one day a year to recognize love, right?

As a little kid, Valentine’s Day was a fun affair filled with construction paper hearts, lace doilies, cards imprinted with Ziggy, and red heart lollipops with white edible paint.

In high school, the mere chance of getting a $1 Valentine carnation from a secret admirer was thrilling. Just in case, my best friend and I always sent each other a “secret” carnation, which was smart, considering our dating track records. It wasn’t until my senior year that I received a Valentine flower from an actual boy, but unfortunately, it was from a kid nicknamed “Goober.”

Mercifully, I was finally able to experience Valentine’s Day bliss after meeting my Navy husband. There is nothing quite like the feeling of true love, and in the early years, we spent hours picking out cards for each other, covering every square millimeter with hand written words professing how doggone happy we were to have found our soul mates.

And we meant every sappy word of it. Still do.

However, after twenty years of marriage, the mandatory traditions of this manufactured holiday can seem like the torture endured by St. Valentine back in Rome. I know, I know, buying a card and planning a romantic evening with a loved one shouldn’t be compared to being stoned and beheaded. But when you’ve got the afternoon carpool, the minivan is caked with black snow, you have to get a stool sample for the vet, and the water heater is on the fritz again; Valentine’s Day can seem more like a day in hell.

Unfortunately, middle aged couples get so bogged down with the relentless demands of life — teen angst, mortgage payments, slowing metabolisms, routine oil changes, lost retainers, low water pressure, stray chin hairs — extraneous holidays become just another item on our already unmanageable To Do lists.

These days, despite our best intentions, we do a lousy job of taking a day out to celebrate love on Valentine’s Day. My husband hurriedly runs into the 7-11 to grab any old card on his way home from work. Before getting out of the car, he finds a pen between the seats and scribbles a generic sentiment such as “Love ya bunches, Honey! XOXO” in large writing to take up space.

He finds me in the kitchen, frantically trying to feed the kids and dog, while folding the laundry and helping our daughter study for her Chemistry test. We exchange a quick kiss and our hastily scribbled cards inside envelopes with still-wet glue. He rushes to change out of his military uniform, and I spritz on perfume to hide the scent of frozen tater tots.

We dole out the requisite bedtime threats to the kids, climb into our dirty minivan, and fight the traffic to make our reservation. At the restaurant, we make our best effort at romance, ordering wine, canoodling and sharing dessert. But thanks to middle-aged fluctuations in blood sugar, we start yawning before the clock strikes nine.

I don’t think that this “hurry-up-and-be-romantic-before-I-fall-asleep” routine is what the Pope had in mind when he crowned poor St. Valentine the patron saint of love, but it’s the best we can muster on a weeknight. Besides, even the most tortured schedule should include a little time for tenderness.

Bowl Day: A Play by Play

My favorite spot.

My favorite spot.

Football-shaped bowl of nuts is on the coffee table. Starter log is sputtering in the fireplace. Dog has been walked. Wings are in the oven. Official play begins.

My husband, ensconced in his tattered college sweatshirt, cargo pants he bought himself off the sale rack at Target, and ratty old sheepskin slippers, surveys the field, attempting to locate the best seating formation for maximum game-viewing comfort. Capped beer in hand, he glances around to be sure that I am not in the room, then positions himself in front of my favorite spot on the couch.

My husband doesn’t utilize his quadriceps to gradually lower his weight into a seat like most human beings; instead, the instant he feels his knees break their upright locked position, he disengages all muscles, allowing his entire torso to free-fall toward his desired location. Interestingly, my husband, all three of his brothers, and their father are infamous chair wreckers, leaving snapped legs, warped springs, and crooked recliners in their wakes.

As if seized with temporary paralysis of his lower extremities, my husband’s knees buckle, sending his girth plummeting toward our aging couch with violent impact. *GUH-GLUNK*

Entering the room, I see my son sitting on the floor munching a bag of tortilla chips, and my husband in my seat. Hoping a bit of nagging will roust him, I harp, “Hey Hon, if you insist on watching the game from my favorite spot, could you at least sit down gently? Every time you sit there, I hear that spring clunk under you like it’s broken or something.”

“God help me,” he grumbles under his breath.

I settle temporarily for the other end of our couch, and realize that my husband’s offensive move required a smarter defense. “You know, I think you’d better poke that fire Honey, you know how unpredictable those starter logs can be.”

My husband looks at me suspiciously, but I feign ignorance, “Have the Seahawks colors changed? Didn’t they have royal blue jerseys a few years ago?” As my husband steps toward the fireplace, I inconspicuously employ a slide-lift-blitz maneuver to regain territory. But just as I reach the center cushion, our dog appears, licking my face. Nice block.

*GUH-GLUNK* “Alright guys, c’mon, let’s get some real points on the board!” my husband yells after swiftly retaking my rightful seat. To add insult to injury, he lobs his ratty sheepskin-slippered foot into my lap and slurps the last of his beer. Unsportsmanlike conduct.

“Hey Mom.”

“Yes,” I mutter, trying to hide my gritting teeth.

“Are those wings done yet?”

“Not yet,” I look over just as my son tips the bag of chips over his open mouth, triggering a mini-avalanche of corner crumbs which cascades into his mouth, eyes, shirt, and the freshly-vacuumed family room carpet, “but I’m fairly certain you’ll survive.”

Just then, the cells of my brain call a huddle, and a new play is formed. Time out.

While my husband and son laugh at silly beer commercials like simpletons, I disappear to the kitchen, returning a few minutes later with a heaping tray of hot wings.  Like some kind of modern day June Cleaver, I smilingly dole out platefuls to my unsuspecting husband and son.

And then I wait, nibbling patiently on a stalk of celery.

As expected, they dig right in, my son meticulously dissecting each tiny radius, ulna and humerus, then sucking each finger from base to tip. My husband on the other hand, plops whole wings into his open mouth, and after manipulation with teeth and tongue, pulls the bones out from his pursed lips, stripped clean of meat, fat, skin and cartilage.

“Whew!” my husband exclaims, wiping his brow with a saucy napkin, “Spicy, hu?!”

My son is the first casualty, running for a soda, while my husband tenaciously sweats through another wing or two before abandoning his position in search of cold beer to sooth his burning lips.

Thanks to a few extra shakes of hot sauce, my play worked. With the coast finally clear, I muster what’s left of my middle aged agility. Hail Mary.

Reentering the room, my husband sees me, firmly seated in my favorite spot on our couch. I pump my upturned hands in the air while wiggling my knees back and forth, in a pompous victory dance.

Score.

Super Bowl Preparedness

beprepared

Panic has set in.

Soon, folks everywhere will be mobbing the grocery stores for necessary supplies and stockpiling items in their cabinets, pantries and refrigerators. Is there another Herculean Arctic superstorm headed our way? Is a typhoon spinning its way eastward across the Pacific? Is a deadly combination of high and low-pressure systems colliding in an apocalyptic whirlwind over our nation?

Well, no.

But seeing as the Super Bowl is the second largest day for US food consumption after Thanksgiving, there is a perfectly good reason why people are shoving old ladies out of the way to grab the last jar of queso dip. After all, a Bowl Day without the traditional football-watching foods would be downright catastrophic.

So, as the mother of an Eagle Scout, I feel obligated to warn everyone to: “Be prepared.”

Before you take on the pre-Bowl crowds at the grocery stores, be sure to ready the home front. Clear the refrigerator of useless items such as milk, eggs, fruits and vegetables. Other than a few sticks of celery to accompany the wings, toss any unprocessed foodstuffs that are taking up precious space needed for Bowl day essentials.

Once the kitchen has been purged of all healthy, vitamin-fortified, low-fat, fiber-rich foods, it’s time to mentally prepare for what you might encounter at the grocery stores.

Like a Roman Gladiator ascending the catacombs of the Coliseum, like Muhammed Ali entering the ring to take on Joe Frazier, like the Greek soldiers climbing out of the wooden horse inside the gates of Troy, like the Duke of Wellington about to face Napoleon’s army at Waterloo, like The Real Housewives of New Jersey sitting down to dinner — you must be ready to wage a battle of epic proportions.

As you jot down the arsenal of foods needed for Super Bowl sustenance, breathe deeply and meditate on the past. Gone are the archaic Bowl days of yesteryear, when football fans survived on outdated canned-meat party sandwiches, pimento cheese spreads, and gelatin salads. Thanks to modern advances in processed cheese technology, the invention of Buffalo wings (origins are “hotly” debated), and the mass-production of tortilla chips in 1994, we are fortunate to have a proliferation of delicious modern Bowl day snack foods at our disposal.

Presuming you can find an available shopping cart without committing aggravated assault, enter the grocery store with a strategy. Don’t just join the stream shoppers like some kind of amusement park pony, strike out on your own and hunt down your targets.

Unlike every other grocery store trip, it is actually a good idea to bring the kids. As your secret weapons, they will enable you to divide and conquer. Send each one on a mission: “Lilly, you’re going in for three jars of salsa. Anna, you’re in charge of peanuts. Hayden, you’re almost a man now, so I’m trusting you to find those little smoked sausages for pigs in a blanket. Can you do it?!” “Yes, ma’am!” “Now, GO, GO, GO!!”

With your grocery cart filled to the brim with every snack food known to modern man, head to the check out lanes, but do not waste precious time standing in line. Simply feign some kind of cardiac episode – a la Fred Sanford’s “It’s the big one, Elizabeth!”- and fellow shoppers will surely let you cut in line so you can get to the glycerin pills you “left in the car.” It might sound far fetched, but when they see all the pork products and processed cheeses in your cart, they’ll be convinced that your arteries are harder than a coffin nail and guide you straight to the head of the line.

Finally at home with your snack foods stockpiled and beverages chilling, you can finally breathe easy, knowing that you can eat your face off come Sunday, February 4th.

Disaster averted.

Finding swagger in my wagon

IMG_2960If I have to spend one more day in this filthy, salt-crusted, paint-chipped, rusted, dog-hair-filled, good-for-nothing tuna can of a minivan, I’m gonna lose it….

This is the thought that brings me to a near mom meltdown each morning during my daily school drop offs. I swear, I used to really love my minivan, but nowadays, I can’t stop dreaming of trading her in.

I remember the first time I drove her. It was 2006, and we were stationed in Norfolk, Virginia. Our old stale-french-fry-and-Goldfish-cracker-filled, spit-up scented, dented, scratched, rusted, three-hub-capped, hunter green Plymouth Voyager was ready to give up the ghost. Having three young kids and our first mortgage, we knew that buying used was the only way to go.

Other than an almost imperceptible dent in the hatch back door and a mere 8,000 miles on the odometer, our “new” Toyota Sienna was perfect, and even had a lingering bit of new car smell. We drove away feeling like we were riding in the upholstered lap of pure luxury.

But like every new car we’ve had, it doesn’t take long for the novelty to wear off. Inevitably, Happy Meals get dropped, dogs are wet, kids get carsick, rocks crack windshields, grocery carts ding doors, and before we know it, our minivan has become nothing more than a rolling ghetto.

In all fairness, our minivan has served us well, traveling with us on an overseas military tour in Germany and sheltering us from the baking sun during a two-year tour of duty in Florida.

Now, stationed in Newport, Rhode Island, our minivan is really showing her age. After 130,000 miles, her glossy paint has faded to a dull dirty white, which is most often hazed with salt and grime. Her alloy wheels are corroded and permanently stained with brake dust. Her hood is dented and pitted with spots of rust. Much to my middle school daughter’s embarrassment, the sliding doors freeze shut at the slightest chill, requiring her to climb out the trunk in the morning car pool line. And worst of all, the interior is almost unbearable, with God-knows-what ground into the upholstery, carpeting, vents and faux naugahyde grain.

Seriously, it’s gross.

But with three teenagers in private schools and college tuition bills on the horizon, buying a new car right now is about as likely as me keeping my New Year’s resolution to stop eating seconds.

So, rather than focusing on the filth, I’ve got to think positively.

In my youth, I drove a 1975 Volkswagen Beetle for eleven years. Despite her torn horsehair-stuffed upholstery, useless windshield wipers, and finicky alternator, we developed a symbiotic relationship. I could expertly hover in that sweet spot between the clutch and gas on a steep hill in first gear without using the break. When her battery went dead, I could pop the clutch without assistance, jumping in to put her in gear after pushing her myself from the open driver’s side door. I could tune in the most obscure radio station, because I knew all the points on her radio-tape deck dial.

Despite her age, I was sad to see my old Beetle go when marriage and child rearing made her impractical. Now, when marriage and child rearing make my old minivan the only practical vehicle for our family, I need to channel that same symbiotic feeling.

I guess I have always liked the way she holds my coffee cup in her center console. I must admit, she has always kept all my favorite radio stations stored where I can reach them with the punch of a button. I guess it is kind of nice to not worry when the dog jumps in, wet and dirty after a swim in the bay. And if we traded her in, I’d have to buy more school stickers for the back window, which would be a real pain, right?

Just like me, my old minivan might be showing her age, but I guess there’s still a little swagger left in my wagon.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,761 other followers

%d bloggers like this: