Ladies and Gentlemen, The Sun!

(Editor's Note: An audio version of this post created by the author is located here. Give it a listen!)

Making fewer appearances than Lady Gaga’s modesty, ladies and gentlemen, the sun!

Since my family and I moved from the Dixie-themed sauna room that is Deep South of the U-S of Howdy Ya’ll to Europe, the sun is seen less than the Unabomber squirreled away in a mountain-side shed.

Before we moved here, we knew there would be hurdles with the weather including days as gray as a Wall Street banker’s suit and temperatures hovering somewhere between “really?” and “you’ve got to be kidding me.” Both have materialized. However, after a recent string of something like 3,161 consecutive days of clouds, rain, and coat-wearing, the sun has shown for two days. It’s like a Lifetime miniseries and Jaclyn Smith is pushing for Emmy both nights!

Any weather report is about as reliable as a BP press conference and carries about as much credibility. Apparently the Bavarian translation for Super Doppler is, “You’re on your own, Schotz.” I’ve often referred to the Weather app on my iPhone as “that useless icon I cannot delete.” That the Summer Solstice passed by without so much as a shoulder shrug says something, and the something is a heaving, depressed sigh.

That sound is heard loudest around my workplace. At work, a clear sky turns employees of all ages into “Can we have school outside today” crazies; sun-deprived proletariats rushing outside and staring up like the alien mothership is about to touchdown and bring us home.

While we’re not kneeling, killing chickens and moaning something incomprehensible to the heavens, my family and I have officially gone into clothing confusion. So unsure are we of what that weather will do that our car is a Winter Wear Wagon Train scattered with puffy jackets, raincoats, mismatched gloves, and umbrellas. Indeed, thrift stores covet my backseat and trunk like a fat kid wanting cake.

My 4-year-old is unfazed by all this. She’d wear a superhero costume every day if she could, despite temperatures only slightly warmer than a Victoria Beckham show of gratitude. Further, she will not let the weather interfere with her naked time between four and five p.m. -- and neither will my daughter.

However, spending most of every day clothed like Antarctic Scientists has its drawbacks. For instance, my wife and I haven’t worn shorts since the last days of the second Bush administration. If our skin gets any whiter, the crew from the Mystery Machine will be hunting us down and turning us over to the cops.

Scooby Doobey Doo, indeed.

People who’ve lived here longer than us say the same thing over and over again: “Don’t let the weather dictate or not dictate your activities.” However, sloshing around and falling in three inches of bright red mud might be an inspired Hooters promotion, but a regular softball game it does not make. In fact, doing anything in pouring rain and hail is on par with having a cat attack your genitals while naked and doing yoga.

Now, this is the part of the story where you expect me to bring it all home, perk things up and wash you in warmth by having Morgan Freeman narrate something here like, “Blah blah blah charm of the area … blah blah blah weather is not what makes the location … blah blah blah happy whimsical anecdote.”

And that was my plan. However, after emailing Morgan Freeman and describing the weather conditions here, he told me, “You’re on your own, Schotz.”

As I finish writing this, Raffi’s “Mister Sun, Sun, Mister Golden Sun …” is playing on my daughter’s CD player. I'm told we’ll get a third day of clear skies tomorrow. However, every good funeral needs a dirge and, from time to time, even the torturer’s bucket goes empty as waterboarding continues.

So, rather than burst into a wide smile and declare this crisis over by joining in Raffi’s chorus of “Please shine down on me,” I’ll toss another jacket in the car and keep my puh-puh-puh-poker face shielded from the raindrops.


Empty nester or just a clingy mom?

I've heard that change is good for the soul. It's said that it helps us grow as an individual. Personally, I believe that's what peanut butter M & M's are for but who am I to criticize if someone wants to make the glorious journey to self-discovery.

Me? I've been too busy agonizing over every possible lost moment of my childrens childhood, cherishing every small memory and making a complete nuisance of myself by phoning and yes texting each of them at least once a day. (I refuse to talk about my Facebook Stalker Mom habits, I plan to deny everything)

So this is me. Clingy mom. Not to be confused with a Klingon mom, though I reckon at times my kids thought they were one in the same.

But here's the thing; I thought--somehow--

I'd be cooler than this. It's down right embarrassing at times but I've accepted the inevitable truth--

It's all their fault.

As best as I can recall, the threats of hating and leaving me started when my oldest was 5 and I caught her stealing from the grocery store. She sobbed all the way home. Once there she sat in time-out with her arms defiantly crossed and glared as she uttered the words, "I hate you."

It wouldn't be the last time I'd hear those three words and of course both of her brothers followed suit at one time or another. By the time my youngest was 18, "I hate you" had transformed into, "When I move out, I'm never speaking to you ever again." (Ah, those blissful teenage years, if only they'd follow through on their threats!)

And while I'd spend the hours after those confrontation telling myself they didn't mean it, I could never quite shake it off. I dreaded the day all of them would be grown and on their own, (that is when I wasn't looking forward to no more jars of moldy Jello in my son's sock drawer).

Little did I know that I'd been given the key to my fears years ago.

Five years ago:

I was married a second time for the briefest moment and he-who-never-was (marriage was annulled so I figure--that's his name now) kept complaining about my kids leaving their water cups on the counter next to the fridge. I tried to explain to him that we had developed the system of reusing a cup instead of dirtying all of them. (It's the reasonable thing to do when you live in the desert. We conserve on water by having less dishes to wash. At least that's my story and I'm sticking to it.)

That argument ended with me telling him, "Oh get over it--one day, soon enough, there won't be any pink cups on the counter to complain about."

My son, who had a habit of standing at the top of the stairs, eavesdropping, overheard the conversation. And in his usual way (mainly cheeky mingled with hilarity), came down, grabbed a pink cup from the cupboard, (glanced at his step-dad) filled it with water, took a sip and left it on the center island but not without a grin aimed my direction.

So back at the ranch:

Moving day for my last child was an emotional one. I watched as the bed, dresser, couch and chair I'd given him, paraded one by one, out the door and onto the truck.

When I wasn't helping, I hid in my office pretending that I had much to do until it was time for him to go. For a clingy mom, you have no idea what it took to accomplish that feat.

I waved to him and closed the front door without a tear. After all, I had a plan. I was set to have a fabulous pity party (yes it involved indulging in chocolate and watching movies till dawn) but not until I walked through the rooms my children had occupied. I readied for the good cry I'd promised myself when I opened the door to the closet in the computer room. (best laid plans, right?)

Stuffed knee deep were books, towels, discarded old t-shirts and a three foot sized Pokémon. I swear, I've thrown that giant yellow, (what the heck is Pokémon anyway?) out at least half a dozen times and he just keeps reappearing each time in different closets of the house. Can you imagine the headlines?

"Empty-nester gone mad, due to haunting by the ghost of Pokémon past".

After giving the yellow beast a firm kick to the back of the closet, I grabbed the clothing and headed for the laundry room when I spied a pair his shoes, right in the middle of the floor. "Stephen!" I said through gritted teeth. In the hallway sat two more pairs of shoes and dirty socks adorned the laundry room floor.

Back upstairs I found blankets, notebooks, scrapbooks and various odds and ends in my daughter's closet. My oldest boy had left his box of scouting memorabilia, Hardy Boys and more than a dozen Animorphs books. (Now I understand the Animorph books, no 22 year old is going to be caught dead with them on a bookshelf in his college apartment).

Room after room had little hidden treasures and remnants of the time they spent with me. A printer still sat in my office that was meant to go with my youngest son. My daughter's favorite doll and basket were in a box in the storeroom along with old tutus (what is it with girls and pink netting?) and I found a small Jazz basketball tucked away on a shelf...behind wads of old school notes, gum (both used and unused) and candy wrappers.

The basement room floors where my youngest had his "pad" were cluttered with papers and bits of left over things he couldn't be bothered to pack.

"Dang it. He promised he wouldn't leave a mess." I said, completely forgetting to feel abandoned or clingy and stood glaring

at the mess. "I'm going to call him, right now and tell him to come back and finish."

I stomped up the basement stairs and into the kitchen where I'd left my cell phone on the counter next to the fridge, ready to get after him but was caught up short by the sight that greeted me as I entered the room. There, sitting on the center island was a pink cup, half full.

And like magic, it reappears every Sunday when he comes home...

...to do his laundry.

Empty--nester? Please. As if!

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have three phone calls to make.


Old people are a menace.

by Stacey Graham

There. I said it.

My parents are in their mid-70s, one with advancing Parkinson's Disease but doing well and the other regularly lifted 80 lbs of chicken feed weekly for her crazy brood on her tiny farm. Since last Sunday was my birthday (and Father's Day), I received phone calls and made them as per the holiday.

Me: Happy Father's Day, Dad! What's new in the world of Parkinson's? (seriously, it started out like this)

Dad: I feel great. We're moving forward with a new therapy - the hyperbaric chamber. It will push oxygen into my brain to help it function better.

Me: So you'll essentially blow up like a frog in biology class?

Dad: That would be fun, but no.

Me: Can you text me while they're doing it?

Dad: No. But I'll hum.

Me: Hum?

Dad: Yes, it will keep my mind off of things. You know, like, being pumped full of oxygen. And now I'll be thinking of frogs.

Me: Sorry. Can you take photos while you're in there? I haven't seen a hyperbaric chamber before.

Dad: *sigh* No.

Me: You're no fun. Want to see the new tattoo I got for my birthday? I can text you so you have something to look at in the Chaaaaaaaamber.

Dad: No... Is it a frog?

Me: No. I'm just kidding. I got a nose piercing instead.

Dad: Good. Save the tattoo for when you hit fifty.

Me: Dad, Bev (sister) told me you like peanuts a lot lately.

Dad: Yeeeeess, why?

Me: I heard you should probably request a blue hearing aid next time too. They don't have the same crunch as a peanut but they are a bit more expensive. Just sayin'.

Dad: Shut up.

Me: What? I can't hear you? I'm enjoying a delicious snack of hearing aid peanuts.

Dad: [hangs up]

While on the phone with my Dad, my Mother called and left a voicemail:

Mom: Staaaacey? Can you wish Bryan (husband) a very happy Father's Day? I hope he has a wonderful day with his fabulous daughters - and you too. I don't want to use up all the tape on this message (tape? on a voicemail?) but I just wanted to tell him Happy Father's Day.

I'll be sure to tell him. Right after I call my shrink about how both parents forgot to wish me a happy birthday though they've both essentially spoken to me that day.

Callback to mom:

Me: Hey Mom. I told Bryan he's fabulous.

Mom: Thanks. Did you make him a cake? Men like cakes.

Me: Yes, Mom. Chocolate with strawberries. You know, how I like on my birthday.

Mom: Yes, well, about that...

Me: What?

Mom: I forgot to send your card with $5 in it.

Me: No problem, I'll bill you later.

Mom: Oh, you. And tell Bryan his is coming too.

Me: It's not his birthday.

Mom: I know. But I can't make him a cake and your skills are, well, in another direction.

Mom: Why are you humming?

Me: I'm thinking of frogs.

Mom: My children are weird.

I'm really not that odd in real life. No. Really. Don't mind the zombies, cupcakes and margaritas that make regular appearances in my blog. Speaking of the Undead, pick up today's dating tips and haiku at The Zombie Dating Guide!


Pregnancy and Other Irrational Behavior

Being pregnant isn’t for sissies. It brings a lot of interesting things, not the least of which is hormonal mood swings. Some handle it better than others; I handled it by bawling.
It seemed that almost anything would bring me to tears when I was pregnant:
“How far along are you?”
“Oh look. Your nose is swelling up like mine did when I was pregnant.”
“Oh, you poor thing. Pregnant in July? That must be awful.”
“Is it a boy or a girl?”
You get the idea.
Opinions Are Like . . . Bellybuttons
I couldn’t go out my front door without a helpful hint from a complete stranger when I was in the family way. One day, when I was exceptionally pregnant with my first son, my mom and I were walking around her yard when a neighbor lady came outside. “Lordy, Mary, she’s about to pop! Does she have a doctor?” she called across the clothes lines between Mom’s yard and hers.
Did I mention that pregnant women also experience the phenomenon of being talked about as if they are not there? I welled up with tears at the behemoth reference. They grinned knowingly at the hormonal watermelon smuggler standing there in stretchy pants and a polka dot tent shirt with a giant red bow at the neck. Do I have a doctor? No. I planned on delivering the baby myself. And whoever designed maternity clothes in the late 80s should be forced to wear them every day for nine months straight.
One of my aunts gave me a great piece of advice: “Make sure you don’t name it, even though the doctor told you it’s a boy. You never know what might happen. You could lose it.”
Are you kidding me? I cried for a week over that one.
Another friend of mom’s made sure to get the message to me that I should never raise my arms above my head or else the cord would tangle around his neck and he would be born dead.
What were these women smoking? I felt like I was in an Alfred Hitchcock movie. Safe to say, none of these women would ever babysit.
Road Trips -- Just Say No
My ex used to love amusement parks, so of course it made perfect sense to take his 8 1/2 month pregnant wife to Kings Island. In July. Between my visits to the medic station for cornstarch to apply to the burning flesh of my chapped thighs, I encountered groups of pre-adolescent boys who pointed and laughed as I waddled past with all the grace of a bouncing football. Joy. I was another attraction.
I wandered around most of the day dabbing my eyes with wads of amusement park toilet paper once the medic station ran out of Kleenex.
Another perfect destination for a claustrophobic, pregnant girl? A Cincinnati Reds baseball game! Pregnant women have to pee. A lot. No, it can’t wait until the 7th inning stretch or until the game is over. I’m claustrophobic under the best of circumstances. A claustrophobic, pregnant person trapped in a stinky bathroom stall while hundreds of women try to push their way in is the stuff of nightmares. I snarled my way out with one arm wrapped around my belly and claws and fangs bared. Of course the rest of the family was gone from their seats in the stadium when I made it back. I had no idea where they went.
That was not a good day. I spent much of it sobbing into hot dog napkins that vendors handed to me as I duck-walked past them, searching for the family that abandoned me (They were actually waiting at the exit).
Once I found them, they decided it would be fun to go into town. A Taste of Cincinnati was going on, and I hadn’t met my daily quota of heartburn inducing hot dogs and chili at the stadium. I doddered around tables of food until it started to rain. We took shelter under an overpass. Joining us: Half the population of Cincinnati.
No, Seriously -- Claustrophobia!
Something curious happens to a person who is claustrophobic and heavily pregnant when she is forced to share space with a thousand elbows, huge purses and lit cigarettes of drunk baseball fans. Pregnant lady begins to panic. It’s not pretty. As more and more people took shelter with us, I was pushed deeper into the center of the mass huddle. I couldn’t breathe. Hands and elbows and purses and lit cigarettes threatened by belly, while distorted, beer-smelling, laughing faces stole my breath. I sniffled and then bawled into my soggy gyro napkin.
My mother in law was a good egg, though. She directed the family to form a barrier around me and my watermelon belly. We moved like synchronized duck-walkers out of the mass of sweaty, stinky bodies. And then the air came. I didn’t even mind the rain.
It’s Always Time to Pee
On the drive home, I needed to pee. Imagine that. I brought it up and was ignored. I brought it up again. Ignored again. “Listen. If we don’t stop, I am going to pee in the car.” Screech, and off at the next exit. They did love that car.
Walking into the service station, I encountered a group of men who complimented my condition with nice words like, “Pretty lady” and “I hope the baby is as pretty as its mommy.” I walked back out of the station with a new box of Kleenex.
When questioned about what was wrong now, I could only reply through sobs, “They *snif* said *snif snif* I was *snif* pretty. Waa!” Everyone always seemed to laugh when I cried. Sadists.
Pregnancy just about tapped my lifetime reserves on waterworks, although I still never leave home without Kleenex (A girl can't be too safe). I eventually got over crying about shampoo, Kodak commercials, pot roasts and new socks, but to this day I can’t see a Reds game on TV without bursting into tears.


Pass the Guilt Please

I had just returned from a wonderful time at the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop held in Dayton, Ohio. After visiting with fellow writers for a couple of days, I surmised that most of them there were humor columnists, many of them weighing in Erma-style on the challenges of motherhood and providing slice-of-life humor. Among the many events, we had a chance to meet Erma’s husband Bill, and her three children. After the showing of a documentary about Erma’s life, they had graciously consented to field some questions from the attendees. After a few questions, a mini-theme emerged. “How much are we messing up our kids by writing about them?”

We were encouraged, however, by noting that the Bombeck offspring all seemed to be normal functioning adults with jobs and families. Erma’s son, Andy, reached for the mike. Taking a few moments to scan the crowd, he sized us up. “There’s a lot of guilt in this room, isn’t there?”

I have been telling “Scott stories” since the day he was born and peed on the doctor. (Perhaps that is why we lifted his name from the toilet paper dispenser in the hospital bathroom after the birth certificate lady was on her third time through.) As we writers began to relate these stories gleaned from the antics of our young children, it never occurred to us to consider that the day would come when these same children who have been, and will continue to be, fodder for our writings would be able to read. (Okay, it was the paper towel dispenser, but we have always told him it was the toilet paper. Poetic license.)

I solved the problem by doing what any good writer does when sharing an experience that belongs to someone else—asking permission and paying royalties.

“Can I use the ‘Kermit the Frog’ in my talk in church today?”

“Will you buy me a new Ninja Turtle?”

For a ten-year-old he was pretty smart. He always granted me one-time North American rights, knowing I would have to renegotiate the next time I wanted to use it.

“How much for ‘Get Your Arm Away from the Door?’”

“Star Wars Legos. The one with Yoda and Darth Vader.”

“Okay, the mini set though, not the big one.”

“I guess the mini set is okay. That one is not too embarrassing.”

As a teen-ager, he was an even shrewder negotiator.

“I’m working on a book with a chapter about personal responsibility, and I want to use ‘What have you done, Mom?’”

“That’s gonna cost you! Geez Mom, I’ve been toilet-trained for 15 years. Can’t you find some new material?”

“A classic is a classic. A Bloomin’ Onion from Outback?”

“A Bloomin’ Onion and a deck of Magic Cards.”


“I’m also using ‘Gas Money’ and the Easter Egg story, but I figure those are mine because I’m the one that looks stupid in them.”

“They’re not worth anything without my punchlines.”

“The Mustang or the Camaro?”

The kid’s cleaning up. Of course, what do you expect of someone who is named after a roll of paper towels?


Yoga Bare

It’s not that the folks in one part of the country eat healthier than the others, but I come from a place in the South where if you slow down for a yellow light, we will deep fry your car. We’ve done everything from Oreos to pickles. A slow-moving Volkswagen is not going to give us any trouble.

So when the family doctor mentioned that the levels in the Captain’s blood indicated that various but important internal organs could freeze up like Bill Gates’ Windows, we were faced with the choice of updating his will or changing his diet.

As a final insult Doc threw in the kicker, “You’ll want to get some exercise every day. And I don’t mean the kind you get pulling the release lever on the recliner.”

The Captain sighed mournfully, hovering on the brink of starvation and eyeing Famous Amos like they were twins parted at birth. “I’ll leave my knife collection to the boys in case they’re right about that graveyard up the street.”

What can I say? Once you’ve had Southern food, a zombie apocalypse seems palatable next to the thought of giving up biscuits and gravy forever.

But I checked the man’s life insurance policy and decided that he’s worth more in flesh than in funds. True love and a nice dose of greed conquers all things.

So in the name of health and paying it forward, I loaded up the Yoga program on the family game system and demonstrated the various poses. I looked like a napping Labrador in the Downward Dog position. That is, if the Labrador had consumed more breakfasts than his own more often than not, which is a reasonable assumption if you know a Labrador.

Soon the Captain of my Dream Boat decided that since he is under doctor’s orders to reduce his ballast, he can use exercise for an excuse to hold on to the remote, and he latched onto the Feng Shui of yoga and jumped on my workout bandwagon with both love handles.

The difference is that I wear clothes.

I don’t want to be indelicate, but this man gives a whole new meaning to the term “sun salutation.” It’s enough to make you pray for an eclipse.

I rounded the corner into the living room just as he started another pose. There’s not a swimsuit model alive that’s assumed that position and made it to pay day.


“I’m supposed to touch my toes.”

“With what?”

The dog put one paw over his eyes and limped out of the room on three legs.

“Yoga is the ancient Eastern art of obtaining balance. To ensure your Yin and Yang compliment each other.”

“Well don’t look now but you’re about to get rug burn on your Yang.”

“You don’t appreciate the peace that comes with reaching the inner you.”

About that time, Son 2 came through the back door, happy in the knowledge that a math teacher with the flu gave him an extra video game hour in his day. This kid is 19, and he’s so cool he sweats perma frost. At that moment he had achieved Nirvana and was one with a Klondike bar.

As usual, the cat came in with him, purring around his legs like they were from the same litter. I don’t know if it has anything to do with the semi-regularity of his hygiene routine, but felines follow him around like he wears catnip skivvies.

There are times when it seems possible to stretch an instant like an overstuffed garbage bag, and more action than seems possible happens at once.

The Captain snapped into a position that caused his Yin and Yang to become one just as the Klondike bar in turn became one with the floor. My maternal superpowers kicked in and I flung the nearest article of covering, a tasseled blanket from the couch, over the offending object. (Not the ice cream bar.) This move was interpreted as an invitation by the kitty who, as the instinct of a thousand generations kicked in, sprang into action, claws in attack position, intent on consuming the dancing tassels.

In high school, I wasn’t the type that dabbled in theoretics or quantam physicals. All I remember from my science class is the little ditty that says, “For every action there is an opposite and equal reaction.” It seemed like it might apply to big brother somehow, so I tucked it in the snack cupboard of my mind to apply later.

I didn’t realize it gave felines the power to fly.

Everything that happened after that is a blur. But the phrase "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" keeps scrolling past my mind's eye. I guess sometimes it’s better for Yin and Yang to have separate dressing rooms.

Hubby made a vow never to do sun salutations without pants ever again. And now we all have inner peace.

Except the cat, who still puffs like an electric pompom whenever we turn on the Yoga video.

Visit me at Mind Over Mullis and help me cut a swathe through the jungle--the one below my knees.


Writer assesses qualications, considers joining circus

It’s called being proactive. This year, I’m going to be ready for ‘em when they hit. You know what I’m talking about, don’t you? Yes, the midwinter jickers (to use a Seuss-ism) that descend along about February.

These tend to show up and hammer a person after the warmth and glow of the holidays have passed. At that point, you’re about 18 months into winter with another 9 to go. You’re bored and restless, just ripe for some excitement, so you think, “Hey, a new job might be just the ticket.” Which is exactly why last winter found me Googling “zoo keeping,” and I found, to my chagrin, that I was one.

With that idea going bust, I’m looking elsewhere. This time, I’m getting my inspiration from the characters in our great American literature who, we are told, “ran off and joined the circus.” I have a sneaking suspicion there just may be something here for me. Hence, in order to update my resume, I’m taking a closer look at my qualifications.

First of all, a circus needs a ringmaster. This is the person who makes announcements, directs traffic, and keeps the show running on schedule, all with a certain dramatic flair.

Well, now. That sounds like our kitchen on a school morning. I’m great at making announcements like, “Bus in ten!” The flair gets really dramatic when I actually hear the bus and see that one of the performers is still sockless. Ringmaster – check.

Naturally, every circus has clowns. You either have to be one or know how to work with them. I’m completely unfamiliar with the former, but am entirely familiar with the latter. I know their kind. In fact, I assist in supervising a very credible version of the old “53 clowns spilling out of a VW” trick. It happens every Sunday in the church parking lot. So, clown handler – check.

Now, how about the lion tamer position? This requires nerves of steel and the ability to tame savage beasts. Just because I don’t use a whip, a chair, or a pistol that shoots blanks doesn’t mean I can’t get the job done. My secret weapon goes like this, “If you don’t stop right now, you will get no dessert.” Works every single time. Lion tamer – check.

Moving on, I see that any circus worth its salt includes exciting stunts and tricks. I have a working knowledge of that side of the business, believe me. In fact, earlier this summer, a big stunt went down over here when those goofy toy handcuffs reappeared, wreaking havoc for a day.

Honestly. When one performer is busy cuffing his brother to the bed post, the door knob, the stove handle, the fridge door, and the steering wheel of the parked mower, then none of my work is getting done, is it, now? This prompted some wailing to their father along the lines of, “Do you know what stunt your kids pulled today?” Which, of course, was followed by confiscation of the cuffs.

Stunts? Big check.

Every circus, if it’s a good one, has some growly bears. I know a bit about those, too. When you have a couple of them under your roof every morning, you learn how to handle them. You learn, for instance, that they need their space. It’s best to just push their breakfast over to them with a long pole.

You don’t try to engage them in conversation, either. They’re not awake yet. Further, any attempts to coax them into a little pink skirt so they can trot along on top of a ball is a disaster. Lesson learned.

Yup, bear wrangler – check.

Another job opening I see is for a cotton candy/peanut seller. These are the brave souls that roam the stands, hawking their wares. From what I can see, you need the agility of an antelope and the fierceness of a wild boar to keep from being flattened by a hungry little mob.

Funny. This is pretty much what happens when the chocolate chip cookies come out of the oven. Peanut seller? Check.

Unfortunately, I have no future as a bearded lady, but I think I’d make a pretty good roustabout. According to one website I found, a roustabout does the behind-the-scenes work like putting up tents, driving buses, and feeding the performers. I have a hunch they’re also the pooper scoopers, which is some real “behind the scenes” work, if you know what I mean. After being responsible for four little colons in my lifetime, I believe I’m qualified for this job.

In fact, I may be over qualified. I can juggle and jump through hoops, and six days out of seven, I’m a human cannonball when the alarm clock goes. Surely there’s a spot for me under the big top.

If not, I’ve got Plan C in place. After I lamented the unnerving discovery of a mustard-drenched beach towel and dishcloth in the laundry pile to my Facebook friends, one of them commented, “Why your life hasn’t been made into a sitcom is one of the great mysteries of the world.”

There you have it. Move over, Brady Bunch. Hollywood, here we come.

Note:  This column was first published in September 2009.  The author reports that the action still continues beneath the Big Top and that she's still over qualified and under paid.


I'm an Erma, she's an Erma, he's an Erma. Wouldn't you like to be an Erma too?

An Army of Ermas Summer Contest!

We're looking for a few good Ermas to join our family but here's the catch. Can you grab us in a paragraph? Keep it short, keep it snappy, make the Ermas fans laugh and you're in like Flynn. Send your (up to) 250 word column to anarmyofermas@gmail.com and I'll post them on the facebook fan board under the Discussions tab.

Fans will be able to vote for their favorites on July 6th at the poll on this website. The top two will be invited to join An Army of Ermas with all the high fallutin'ness that comes with it. We're looking for female/male writers with a focus on family (they do not need to be married nor parents), life, goofy stuff in general. Questions? Please write to the email address above. An Army of Ermas is a non-paying market.

I Go Out Walkin'

I’d taken to walking by myself, but that day I had an exercise buddy.

Her small stature and short legs, compared to mine, didn’t matter; she gave it full energy, boosting up past me with ease. She brought encouragement, too. “This is lap six!” she shouted over her shoulder, elbows tucked at her sides. Classic walker’s position.

I knew how lucky I was to have her, one of my favorite people, as company. It was beautiful out, too, with warm sun on my skin, a slight breeze at my back. And spring had sprung. I soaked it up, caught in the afternoon perfection.

Suddenly something made her slow. Had she pulled a muscle? Seen a snake or spider cross the path? I’d been concerned she might twist her ankle, given she was navigating the rocky path in flip-flops.

Little hands cupped little cheeks. “I hafta toot!”

Furrtt. Pfff.

But it didn’t slow her long. “Lap seven, Mommy!” And she took off again, leaving me in her four-year-old dust.

I've never enjoyed a walk so much.

Visit Janna's blog, where she captures life through writing, at Something She Wrote.


Jewelry: Friend or Foe

I love jewelry. The first thing I locked my gaze on when I was born were probably my mother's earrings. Forget being fed. I needed bling. Well today brought home the wonders of wearing a diamond ring. This particular ring is my engagement ring, purchased many years ago when Joe and I were just out of college. Money was tight but we didn't need a high-powered microscope to see it. Only a magnifying glass.

Today I started my yearly spring clean-up-the-ol'-body routine and did ten crunches. Or tried to. Before the first crunch could even dent my tummy, my diamond ring cut into my hand that was under my head on the floor. It drew blood. That drop of red stopped me cold and I had to sit on the recliner for an hour, watching TV. With a large chocolate chip cookie for comfort.

That little encounter with my jewelry had me thinking: all those years and I had not a clue that every day I wielded the equivalent of brass knuckles. Watch out, anyone who wants my purse! My diamond might not knock your socks off, but it will knock out a tooth. Or at least put a permanent dimple in your chin.

Yet, as I said, there's the down side. I cut my hand with my own jewelry. And did you ever open a hot oven, bending down to admire the roast turkey, and your metal earrings got so hot they burned your ears? My ears are done before the meat is even brown.

I still love jewelry. But after today, I have a new respect for the toughness of diamonds, and now see how it really could be a girl's best friend.


It's all fun and games until...

by Susan Utley

A few weeks ago, my husband and I sat by the river talking about the good old days when we were kids. It was one of those “remember when” conversations that old people have. Here’s how it went:

“Remember when we never wore shoes in the summertime?”
“Not one of us stepped on a rusty nail.”
“Ever wear a bicycle helmet when you were a kid?”
“Did they even sell helmets back then?”
“Remember lawn darts?”
“Oh my gosh! Lawn darts! I loved that game!”
“They’re illegal now.”
“Yeah, just because some kids couldn’t play by the rules and got impaled by a lawn dart.”
“I never knew anyone who got impaled by a lawn dart.”
“We should get some.”

So that’s how it all began. This is the journal documenting the procurement and demise of one set of vintage lawn darts.

Day One
The search for lawn darts is on! My first google search reveals vintage set on Craigslist for $175.00. That’s a little more than I wanted to spend. Seems lawn darts are scarce.

Day Two
Today I modified my search terms and discovered plans to make my own set of lawn darts using a potato and a penny nail. Emailed plans to my clever and talented father, who also happens to own welding tools, to see if he can make me a set of lawn darts, minus the potato of course.

Day Three
Father replied in the affirmative but will require plastic fins. A new google search reveals website selling replacement parts for lawn darts. While it is illegal to sell assembled lawn darts, one can purchase all parts necessary to build their own set. Cost to build set of four: $400 plus shipping. Cost of little plastic fins: $50 each. Back to Google.

Day Four
Received email from father. He found set of vintage lawn darts on Craigslist for twenty bucks and rushed over to meet the man for the “exchange.” Noticed nasty scar on forehead. When father asked why he was selling so cheap, the man said he found them while cleaning out the attic. They were meeting in a trailer park. Ah well, father says lawn darts in the mail tomorrow. Only $12 for shipping! So excited!

Day Seven
Still waiting for lawn darts to arrive in mail. Getting anxious as I am certain mail lady has discovered valuable contents and swiped my package. Calling father to see if he insured illegal lawn darts.

Day Nine
Lawn darts have arrived complete with original “Jarts” brand packaging and Official Rules! Raining today. Can’t wait for the sun to come out!

Day Ten
Sun is shining! Took Jarts to river and sat down to read the rules. Safety, blah, blah, blah, warning, blah, blah, blah, okay here we go: Place plastic rings 25’ apart. That seems kind of close. Threw first lawn dart and overshot by about fifteen feet. Placed rings further apart in order to get more height. Made up own scoring system as official rules too complicated. Husband won first round of lawn darts! 21 to 6! I love this game!

Day Eleven
Targets are a bit small when placed further apart so went to Walmart and bought two hula hoops for $12. Played second round of lawn darts at river. Husband won again 21 to 10. I’m getting better! Husband says I need to work on my stance.

Day Twelve
Husband says I’m leading with the wrong foot and need to adjust my grip. Husband won again 21 to 16. I’m showing signs of improvement!

Day Thirteen
Getting tired of walking back and forth to pick up lawn darts. Suggested rule change: each player stands at opposite end of lawn dart playing field (in safe zone of course!) Husband skeptical so went to Walmart to buy bicycle helmets. $24.99 each. Mine has pink flames.

Day Fourteen
Following my opening toss, husband refused to play with new rule change. Back to walking. Dropped lawn dart on husband’s foot. Took husband to emergency room and claimed accident with rake. Husband received tetanus booster and paid $50 co-pay. No stitches! Note to self: the wearing of shoes is probably a good idea when playing games with pointy tipped objects. By the way, husband winning 16 to 5 at time of accident.

Day Fifteen
Decided to practice while husband at work. Nosey neighbor kid came over to tell me lawn darts are illegal. Gave him ten bucks to keep his mouth shut then challenged him to a round. I won! I won! I won! Plus, I got my ten bucks back! Invited him back to play again tomorrow. He said he didn’t have any money so I told him I would consider all wagers.

Day Sixteen
Husband won again 21 to 4. If he tells me one more time how to grip the dart…I’m starting to hate this game.

Day Seventeen
While practicing the finer points of “the grip,” accidentally released lawn dart in backwards direction hitting husband in shin. Spent another afternoon in the emergency room. When doctor inquired as to cause of accident, I said he tripped over hose and fell on the rake again. Husband said, “She hit me with a lawn dart.” Doctor not amused. Got three stitches and paid $50 co-pay. Tried to make husband feel better by saying at least he didn’t have to get a tetanus shot. Husband not up for playing today.

Day Eighteen
Looked out window to see husband in driveway talking to neighbor boy and neighbor boy’s father. Boy he looks mad. Husband gave the little snitch his $10 back plus vintage Star Wars Boba Fett action figure. Husband looks annoyed but stitches healing nicely. Maybe he’ll want to go play a round of darts?

Day Nineteen
Husband posted ad on Craiglist:
“Found vintage set of lawn darts while cleaning out attic. $20.00”


The Guy Cookbook

by Richard Satterlie

Guys and kitchens make uneasy friends, and friends uneasy. But despite the challenges of handling hot and cold things, one can learn to be a merely competent cook about as easily as learning how to recognize when mold can’t be trimmed away and to realize the months on expiration dates don’t really matter, but the years do. This is the first and most basic of lesson for guys who find themselves facing the need to prepare food in a room that has been largely off-limits. I haven’t thought of any more lessons yet since I’m usually not asked back.

What you’ll need:

Two cookie sheets. For the first, it doesn’t have to be a good one. It can be dented, wrinkled, stained, as long as the stains are baked in. You’re not going to cook cookies on it, unless they’re the kind that come in the tubes, ready to slice and bake—they can always use the extra flavor. Of course, this only holds if you don’t eat the raw dough first. The second one should be top quality—primarily for cooking the chocolate chip-less chocolate chip cookies. Enough said.

Sugar, salt, pepper


Italian Spices – you can get the individual spices if you don’t like to get those rosemary spikes caught in your gums, but you usually can get a fairly large bottle of the mixture at the dollar store. The mix includes thyme, oregano, marjoram, basil and sage, in addition to the rosemary, so if you have the opportunity to impress you-know-who with a recipe, give her the full, individual list.

Garlic salt

Garlic powder

Garlic cloves

Garlic bubble gum

Garlic scented toilet paper (sorry, got carried away to make a point)

Peanut butter – melted on toast, its flavor changes to four out of five stars (five stars being equal to the taste of bacon). In a pinch, eat a big dollop right from a tablespoon.


Toaster – Pop-Tarts actually taste better if you toast them. Don’t butter anything BEFORE you put it in the toaster.

Aluminum foil - to cover every sheet or pan that goes in the oven. If it holds, you’ve just saved yourself a messy washing job. Don’t put it in the microwave unless you’re at your friend’s house and the party sucks (claim ignorance if the beer hasn’t kicked in).

Paper plates (the cheap ones, not the kind with compartments). Get ‘em by the hundred and double them up if the grease starts soaking through. There isn’t a more versatile kitchen necessity than the paper plate. It’s dinner china, microwave cookware, cutting board and ladle/spatula rest all rolled into one. And we’re not talking about the innovative uses that occasionally strike us, and not just in the kitchen.

Butter! Screw margarine. And, get it in the sticks. The wrapper has measure marks so you know exactly where to slice it to get twice what the recipe calls for.

Onions. If you cry when you chop one, you’re not fast enough. An apron is in your future.

Measuring cups that can go in the microwave.

A good knife – one that doesn’t bend when slicing through a whopping onion.

A good saute pan so you can saute your onions in butter for nearly every main dish.

A large Teflon-coated frying pan, large enough to prepare a full box of Hamburger Helper. If the Teflon is peeling, throw it away. If the Teflon is scratched, use more butter.

A Teflon-friendly spatula. They don’t leave marks on Her butt—when you give her that “get out of the kitchen” swat (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it).

Lettuce – You don’t need any of that fancy stuff. Just break up iceberg, thrown in cut up onions, shake on sunflower seeds and bacon bits, and top with mozzarella or cheddar shreds and dressing (screw the Lite stuff—it isn’t spelled right). The rule of thumb: If you like the other kinds of greens, go for it. If you’re using them because you want to impress someone, get that apron. And don’t let anyone sneak spinach in there. I hate the stuff. My Ex put some in and informed me later, with a victorious wink, “See, you ate spinach.” My response—well, the outcome shouts. Slipping in spinach is equivalent to me slipping my . . .um . . . never mind.

Cooking Oil – it doesn’t have to be olive oil (extra virgin sounds like jail bait). And just get the small bottle. You only need a little. No matter how good a sport she is, she probably won’t let you bring the bottle of oil into the bathtub for a little slippery rasslin’. If you have one of those deep fryers, bless your heart, you’d better buy the five-gallon drum at Sam’s Club. And don’t forget the oil change disposal tub they sell at the NAPA Auto Parts store. They don’t check to see what kind of oil is in them. Just don’t mix in bacon grease. That’s a smell a man can detect down to a few parts per billion, from a mile downwind… No, wait. That’s a male moth smelling the female’s pheromone. Make that a few parts per trillion from two miles downwind for bacon grease.

Bacon, and calm yourself on this one. If women learn the power of bacon, they’ll never again do that thing their mothers told them only bad girls do, to get you to do things you don’t want to do, or to get you to let her buy things you can’t afford. Pity the man who doesn’t have bacon and a solvent credit card.

How to dispose of bacon grease.
· Let it harden and use it as a deodorant stick
· Mix it with Elmer’s glue and use it as a dog chew
· Use it as a reward for teaching the dog to fetch brassieres off of clothes lines, or swim suit tops at the beach.
· Smear it on your wife’s cat and turn your dog loose
· Dip your lime wedge in it before inserting the wedge into the bottle of Mexican beer (and it goes in a lot easier)
· The morning after a night of heavy drinking in which your buddy hit on your girlfriend, soak a piece of toast in bacon grease and put it on a double paper plate. Warm it in the microwave. Place the plate on his pillow, as close to his nose as possible. Lock, then close the bathroom door from the outside and move the little key thing on the door molding to another door (randomize if you do this more than once). Leave the house.
· Vaseline? Please…

Pork Rinds. They don’t need guacamole or French onion dip, and don’t even whisper the words spinach and dip around a big bowl of rinds.

Finally, the most important rule of bandaged thumb—unless otherwise stated, everything and anything should be cooked at 350 degrees. I don’t know why the knobs have all of those numbers. Three-fifty and four-twenty-five take care of ninety-nine percent of the baking needs.

Above all, remember that pasta slathered with ketchup or catsup or whatever you want to call it, is just as worthy of the checkered table cloth on the TV tray and any other gourmet fare or faire or fair. At least I think I spelled gourmet right. Right?


Marvel of Modern Bathroom Design

The downstairs bath at my house is not functional right now, for reasons better left unsaid, so we have to use the upper bath. Walking up the stairs to the spare might sound like a decent solution to having the main bath out of order, but it is not. The upstairs bath is almost big enough to store a couple of brooms and maybe a roll of paper towels.
When a person has use the facilities in a normal bathroom, all that is required afterward is a little flip of the silver handle. But here, if one wants to flush, they must first fill a bucket with water from the shower and pour it into the toilet at the precise moment of the flush. Timing is critical. Too early, and we have a flood. Too late, and we have to repeat the process. We have to use the shower to fill the bucket because it won’t fit under the sink faucet. Let me tell you, filling a bucket from a shower head is not easy. Those suckers get heavy, my arms always get wet and I drip water across the floor. After that, I spill it all over the toilet while trying to maneuver the bucket dump / handle flush combo. At least the bathroom floor is always clean.
Showering in the upper bathroom is no vacation, either. It’s another reason to miss the downstairs bath. Downstairs, we have the Shower of Glory. It’s large and roomy. It has a curved shower curtain bar which makes it even more spacious, and the entire surround is covered in beautiful grey slate tile. Showering downstairs is wonderful. But we can’t use the Shower of Glory, and the upstairs shower is not pleasant. I imagine being hosed off inside a broom closet would be just about the same experience.
Speaking of experiences, shaving in that shower is not for the weak of spirit (or the uncoordinated). There are two choices. I can brace my back against the wall and stand on one leg with the other leg bent and my foot resting on the soap ledge. Alternatively, I can sit on the shower floor with my legs over my head against the wall. Neither are good options. I am considering becoming a Wookie.
Washing my hair upstairs requires a lot of skill and coordination that I do not possess. It is literally impossible to place both hands on my head in that shower unless I poke one elbow out of the shower and into the bathroom. I am not a tall or long-limbed person, but unless I turn sideways, my elbows hit the wall and I reach terminal horizontal possibility just about at the point where I can reach my shoulders. One handed hair washing is something I am learning. I don’t like it.
When I poke that elbow out into the room, the shower curtain falls. I have yet to find a miniature shower curtain rod, so I use a spring-tension window curtain rod. It’s almost sturdy enough to withstand the heft of the 99 cent plastic shower curtain it holds up. When the shower curtain falls, I am left with another dilemma. I do not own a curtain long enough to cover the whole bathroom window. When the shower curtain falls, the neighborhood gets a peep show. I have stopped showering after dark.
The soap ledge/foot rest I mentioned is another marvel of modern design. I imagine it seemed like a good idea on paper several decades ago, but a sloping soap ledge fails to perform in one very important way: It will not hold a bar of soap. I have tried being tricky. I let the soap get wet and sticky on the bottom and then I smoosh it down on the ledge. It usually stays put until just about the time I knock down the shower curtain with my elbow. And then I scramble to catch the curtain, slip on the bar of soap, sail past the exposed window and land in a plastic-wrapped heap front of the sink.
Of course there is no place to set a bottle of shampoo in there either, so everything sits on the 2’ x 2’ square shower floor. On any given day, it holds a soggy bar of soap, assorted bottles of human crud removers and a razor. A razor on the floor of this shower is just about the best thing to happen to my accident prone self since I cut through an electrical wire in my wall. It was still connected to the old fuse box.
I miss the Shower of Glory. Sometimes I dream about it. I think about spreading my arms wide, unable to touch the walls and shower curtain at the same time no matter how I try. I envision shampoo bottles, razors and soap sitting neatly on their own special non-sloping shelves. I fantasize about stepping out of the shower into a room with a fully covered window. It’s becoming an unhealthy obsession.
It’s still downstairs waiting for me, that lovely, 21st century bathroom. It giggles when I pass it on my way to the kitchen. But one day I will return. One day, the plumbing will work and I will never have to use the upstairs bathroom again.

I think it will make a nice broom closet.


Analyst seeks spot in federal witness protection program

Now we know. After days of speculation, the results are in. The New Orleans Saints decisively munched the Colts’ lunch and handed back their little brown bag, empty.

With all the hype that accompanies the largest single sporting event in the world, you will think I’m positively un-American when I make my confession. That is, I could live with out it.

You heard me. I could live without the game of football. And now that I’ve blurted out that little inconvenient truth à la Al Gore, I will be seeking a spot in the federal witness protection program immediately.

If my confession has you ready to overturn the water cooler before banging your collective heads on your desks, I’m sorry. I just don’t get the obsession with this particular sport. From what I can see, it’s simply a bunch of big, musclebound guys that could kill you with one eyelid who can’t make up their minds about what they want to play.

One minute, they’re playing Keep Away. A player will rear back and throw the ball clear down the field to a guy in a matching suit. Meanwhile, the other team is jumping up and down in the middle, waving their arms around, trying to get that ball.

This, by the way, is nothing like the game of Keep Away we used to play at recess. These guys play rough. They actually go after the guy with the ball, and they try to make him eat dirt. Dirt, mind you!

We would’ve never gotten by with that at Elreka Elementary. No way.

They certainly get bored quick, because next thing you know, they switch over to a serious game of tag. They really put themselves into it. Even the fellows on the sidelines get caught up in the excitement, running in place as though that will help their teammates on the field. It reminds me of a certain mister who bobs and weaves when he’s playing video games as if lunging with the controller will help him vaporize the bad guy.

Anyway, just as I’m getting into the game of tag they’ve got going, they pull another switcheroo and start playing Kick the Can.

Frankly, I don’t know how their moms do it. Sit still, that is, while all this is going on. It’s one thing, you see, if your kid is the one doing. It’s quite another if your kid is the one being done unto. If that’s my son getting his can kicked on that field, this mama’s going down and kicking some can herself.

That’s why it’s good none of the cubs are football players. I would spend the entire game with my eyeballs pasted between their father’s shoulder blades because he’d be sitting on me to keep me from embarrassing the family name.

Oh, and speaking of kicking, that’s the other game they play. Only their version of kickball looks different from what we used to play at my elementary school of record. There, everyone got a turn to kick. Here, if you’re not the man with the golden leg, you won’t put a toe on that ball. You’re chopped liver. (Which, incidentally, is another thing I could live without. But I digress.)

Another big drawback to this game is where it’s played. As in outdoors. In the elements. This means that in the summer when the season begins, you and a few thousand of your closest friends are squished, cheek by jowl, in a packed stadium, sweating like stuck pigs.

If you had more than three square inches of wooden bench to sit on, this wouldn’t be such a hardship. But when quarters are that tight, you’re bound to end up wearing drink stains and getting popcorn down your neck because your neighbor forgot to put his snacks down before leaping up to do the wave.

On Foam Finger Day, it’s nearly impossible to eat your hot dog because you keep getting beat about the head and neck with the goofy things. The enthusiastic fan next to you is wearing most of your ketchup on his anyway. Then, just as you’re about to make one more attempt, the kid on the other side has to go potty, so you have to get up and let him out. Again.

Eventually it turns cold. The wind blows. It rains. Your foam finger gets soggy, and you still have stains on your shirt and popcorn down your neck. It’s just that now the stains are cold and the popcorn is wet. If it weren’t for all the fun you’re having, you would vow to stay home next season and watch the life cycle of the walrus on the Discovery Channel.

And that’s my analysis of the national pastime. If I’ve alienated half of my readership, I apologize and throw myself on the mercy of the court. I simply ask that if you’re traveling through Biloxi or Tupelo or Canton someday and you have a curly-headed waitress by the name of Jane Smith, please be kind. Leave her a generous tip.

This column ran mere days after the local favorite, the Colts, suffered an ignominious defeat (i.e., went down in flames) at the hands of the Saints.  Thankfully, "Jane Smith" reports that she's not been accosted by angry fans or stiffed on any tips.  Yet.


Little Daisies and Big Bloomers

Diet may be a four-letter word, but there are other more obscene phrases that even Gordon Ramsay himself wouldn’t utter, such as “plus size swim suit."

Fortunately, I had worn a one-size-fits-all delusion for years. In my head, I was wearing a daisy-bedecked bikini on a lithe eighteen-year-old body. In reality, those innocent daisies had overgrown into a size 26 polyester jungle with booty-wide begonias and forty-year-old droopy stems. It was time to thin the garden or the only way I’d get some attention at the beach would be to shave crop circles in my leg hair.

After reading all the best advice and most sensible strategies on losing weight, I promptly ignored it and set off with a course of don’t-try-this-at-home techniques like not drinking enough water and dehydrating myself to the point of dizziness and light-headedness. This condition had an odd side effect: with diminished brain cells, all hip-hop videos and AM radio talk shows suddenly made perfect sense. That scared me straight into rehydration and the South Beach diet, a very popular eating plan which seemed like the perfect way to lose weight with the foods I knew and loved. After all, it had the word “South” right in the title; biscuits, gravy, fried chicken and cole slaw couldn’t be far behind. To my dismay, there was nothing deep fried in this diet, not even the pickles. (Ever had a deep-fried dill pickle? It makes the angels weep and reach for ketchup.)

I stuck with South Beach and its foreign concepts of asparagus and salmon until I snapped on Day Six while nibbling a carrot stick and regained consciousness in the lobby of McDonald’s threatening to rip the nuggets off Grimace while the SWAT team lobbed French fries and apple pies at my head. (The charges were dropped fifteen minutes later after I ate all the evidence-- the manager said it was the cleanest he had ever seen that floor.)

After skipping a friend’s suggestion of the Cabbage Soup Diet (because I have some standards and a sense of smell) I formed a truce with broccoli, spinach and grilled chicken. I also pulled out my walking shoes and started hoofing it around the downtown historic loop.By the time I dropped twenty pounds, I’d done more laps than Paris Hilton during a weekend in Vegas. To mark that first goal, I bought myself a thong. True, it had enough fabric and elastic in it to launch a cow over a castle’s siege wall, but it was my reward and also motivation. Forget about wearing clean underwear in case you’re in an accident; wearing XXL wedgie undies will make you the safest driver on the road, because you’re praying that no EMT will ever have to see it.

When forty pounds came off, people said, “Hey, looking good!” At sixty pounds, a grocery clerk asked me, “Are you sick?” (Maybe she spotted the thong.) After seventy pounds, my neighbors didn’t recognize me as I walked down the street. At eighty, my mother-in-law said, “Have you lost a few pounds?” I did touch that golden 100-lb. mark ever so briefly, and while my daisy days may be long gone, at least I can step out to the pool in some respectable carnations, as long as I remember to trim the ground cover.