Advice on Surviving Opening Day of Football Season

by Jason Tudor

Attention warm wonderful wives, patient partners, cuddly companions and gracious girlfriends – you are officially on a 336-hour clock. For when the hour strikes, you will be a widow; a sports spinster kicked to the curb by an opening-day kickoff; a stark reality in a freewheeling fantasy game.

That’s because football season starts Sept. 12. Now, you’ll be told that it actually begins three days prior. It does. However, you begin your descent into Dante’s Sports Inferno that Sunday and your only hope is to slide on your asbestos Capri pants and enjoy the ride.

Many of you remember when this fervor only meant sitting through a single football game, a one-shot, three hour cone of silence that eventually yielded a drunk, happy guy who fell asleep on the couch.

Well, that’s gone because there’s fantasy football, ESPN, DirecTV and the Internet. So, not only is he following his Steelers, Giants or Cowboys closer than a stripping Hooters waitress, he’s keeping up with the other 29 teams in the league just as closely. Why? His fantasy football roster is made up of players from almost all the other teams in the league, so now every football game has become important. It's a little like this: instead of shifting eyes to glance at one girl on the street, now, every girl walking by has SOME kind of upside, even the one with the bad perm.

Now, there are men who do not like sports. They do not watch football. A baseball game bores them. Competition means seeing how quickly they can check-in at Starbucks via FourSquare. They prefer wine over beer; cardigans to card games. They enjoy discussing the more expansive works of Chaucer and Dostoevsky over a quick game of hoops at the gym.

Most sports-loving men call those guys “women.” If this is your husband, fiancĂ©, boyfriend or Boy Friday, you can stop reading now. All the best. However, if he's not toting a messenger bag filled with vulnerability, then please ... read on.

What you need to understand is that this is our day; a day when testosterone waves crash upon rocks of masculinity; a day when guys will make a belch long enough to sound like a Metallica tune; when under arm fart noises and the discussion of the hottest “Charmed” sister means something. It’s a celebration of guns and boobs and cussing and liquor and gambling, a 24-hour men’s day spa and the 32 NFL teams across the country are the hands pressing into our skin.

Of course, we realize there are women who love football. They’ll wear the jersey, watch the game and scream at referees right along side their husbands. They know the players and may even have expertise on the formations, plays and strategies. Some even participate in the same fantasy football leagues, party at the same tailgate parties and live with much the same passion for their teams as men.

And we thank all seven of you. However, that is not the norm.

So, to help stave off a swarm of nationwide male homicides and ensure we all make it through this sunrise-to-well-after-sunset gridiron orgy, I’m offering these eight bits of counsel:

1. Plan ahead. Use this article to realize that your expectations and his expectations are going to collide more than once this football season, but especially on opening day. We ask you to manage your expectations because we will not manage ours. Men managing their own expectations is a little like junkies managing their own supply of crack, or wishing that pile of dirty clothes we build each week beside the bed will magically go away. It won’t happen without a little help from you.

Should the planning-ahead contingency fail, then …

2. Tell him to leave. Really. Shove him, his flannel shirt, his beat-up Bass Pro Shops ball cap and the shower he did not take out the door. Push him toward a sports bar or another friend’s flat screen television. If he doesn’t like it, remind him how much he hated sleeping in the Prius for three nights the last time he pulled something like this. His still-aching back and the crick in his neck will motivate him to zoom out the door with Twitter-like speed. (Note: other friends’ wives and girlfriends may pursue the same strategy and a gaggle of husbands could wind up confused, cold and lonely in the middle of the cul-de-sac with nothing but their smart phones and television remotes feening for the Fox pre-game show. Use caution).

If he can’t or won’t leave, then …

3. You leave. Really. Just get out of the house. Find a way to make yourself and anything else that might obscure the television screen (or, in many cases, televisions) scarce. You're persona non grata anyway. Go to Mom’s for the day. Maybe even spend the night. The first game starts at 1 p.m. and the last one won’t end until around midnight Eastern Standard Time. We love you, the children (if we have them) and everything about our relationships, but this day is about bloody, sweaty, fat men in dirty tight spandex pants passionately smashing their torsos against one another over and over again.

If neither you nor he can be convinced to leave then …

4. Don't enter the room with the football noises and men in it. If he doesn’t have a mancave (heresy!), then the congregation will probably happen in your living room. Consider this a “no fly” zone for the next 10 hours. Your presence signals danger. Also, remember that room is going to end up smelling like nacho cheese, cheap beer, hot wings, co-mingled flatulence, motor oil and sausage. If his friends are over, multiply that by 10. Don’t discount your new couch being christened with beer stains. Crumbs will dot your hardwood floors until you sell the house.

Along the same lines …

5. Don’t bust the mojo. There will be several moments throughout the day where he’ll need to pee, stretch, feed, and scratch. Those are called commercials, halftime and “those moments between the first, second and third game.” In between, while games are actually on, his focus on football is so pinpoint, he could burn ants. Those breaks are your opportunities to check in and update him on things like “I’m going to run to the store,” “The nursery is on fire” and “Our pool boy Fernando will be keeping me company for the rest of the day.” You’ll get something like a quick wave, a grunt and the satisfaction of being able to hire someone named Fernando to do almost anything for you. Ole!

If you feel hurt or suddenly feel the urge to be one of the guys and just hang out …

6. Don't. Every guy understands this is a false flag operation intended to erode at the half-life of their opening-day football viewing experience. Sure. You’ll show interest in the gameand how it’s played. You’ll say something about how hard the players hit one another. Then, inevitably, you’ll mention how nice Tom Brady’s ass looks in a pair of football pants which eventually leads to picking the winner of a game based on the color of its uniform. As Elton John once said, “I’ve seen that movie, too.” We get it. You don’t like sports. We do. This is our DMZ. Honor it.

You’ll probably feel rejected, a little hurt and spurned but do NOT …

7. Break out the honeydew list. The trash, laundry and mopping can wait. The burned-out closet light bulb, the broken knob on the chest of drawers and anything else that can be thought up while you’re under duress can be placated until a day after Peyton Manning rifles his first touchdown pass to Reggie Wayne. Also …

7a. Bonus! Don't start a task you cannot complete on your own that day like, say, moving the California king-sized bed from one side of the master bedroom to another. “Can you take a break and help me with this?” will fall upon Joe Buck-Troy Aikman clogged ears and only lead to the sort of passive aggressive behavior that broke up Pink Floyd. And dammit -- I don't want Pink Floyd broken up again.

Finally, if you’ve seen the light of compromise and get what’s happening, then this is a good time to …

8. Go buy anything you want. Jewelry. New china. More cats. A Ford Excursion. Given the bratwurst-and-cheese induced haze he's in, he won't notice it until the next bank statement rolls in. And if you do the bills, he may never notice. He’ll just plop down in the driver’s seat of the new SUV, wrinkle his brow for a second and then put it into gear. Give him beef jerky before handing him the keys, and it’s like nothing ever happened.

Remember, Dante’s Inferno dropped only nine levels. Yours lasts 20 weeks through winter. You’ve got 336 hours to prepare and a lifetime left of these things to look forward to.

Ready … break!

(Jason is a freelance writer and illustrator and a regular contributor to An Army of Ermas. You can read more from Jason on his website at http://www.jasontudor.com/ or by visiting his Facebook fan page at http://www.facebook.com/JasonTudor)


An Army of One

by Terri Coop

I live in a small town and I love it.  Big trees, big yards, quaint architecture, you name it, my town has it.  You have to love a place where your husband can string up a dead deer in the backyard and the only comment will be a neighbor dropping by to congratulate you.  The lack of pretense and lack of traffic is an irresistible combination.

However, a little house in a little town on the prairie also means living close to nature.  Pretty much, if it flies, runs, crawls, creeps, or slithers, I’ve encountered it in the back yard.  Normally, I don’t mind . . . however . . .

That morning started like every other, with me hustling the dogs outside to answer the call of nature.  They were skittish and nosing around the door to the mud room. 

The what?

As I learned when I moved to the Midwest, your front door rarely opens into the living spaces of your house.  There is almost always a small enclosed area that acts as a buffer to keep the blistering wind (hot or cold) outside where it belongs.  If you’re fancy folk, you call it the vestibule or entryway.  If you’re not, it’s the porch or the mud room.  I’m not.  My mud room is about seven feet square with a door on either end.  It’s a nice place to hang coats, stamp snow off your boots, and keep the trash cans away from the outdoor critters.

Well, this fine morning, I scooped up the youngest dog (he’s not bright enough to make it across the yard without running off) and opened the inner door into a scene from . . . um . . . imagine William Shatner starring in a Jerry Bruckheimer made-for-TV SyFy channel disaster movie.


The tacky tile floor, the from-the-70s paneled walls, the new front door, and the oh-so-cleverly placed trash cans were black with a writhing mass of insectivism.  This was not a scouting party.  This was a full-scale invasion on the magnitude of D-Day.   To add insult to the injury, a dozen or so garden spiders were dropping down from the ceiling to enjoy some easy hunting.  All in my mud room.  All before my first cup of coffee.

Okay.  I’ve got three dogs with urgent business, a job to get to, and a freaking natural disaster on my hands.  No problem.  I’m a modern woman!  I’m a prairie pioneer!  I’m a lawyer!  Hear me roar! 

Whatever.  I dealt with it by standing and staring goggle-eyed.  Frozen in place, until a doggie whine reminded me that, unless I acted, I’d have another mess to clean up.

I scooped up the threesome (thank goodness for Chihuahuas), ducked my head, uttered a string of obscenities that did my lumberjack father proud, and ran outside.  After I brushed off the dogs and danced around the backyard to dislodge the hitchhiking ants, I got mad.  A plan formulated in my head and I decided to get even.  This was personal.

Grabbing the garden hose, I ran the gauntlet back into the house.  Nozzle in hand, facing down the invading horde, I knew what had to be done.

This was madness.

This was blasphemy.


    If you’ve never turned on a garden hose in your living room and washed about a million ants out the front door in a high pressure flood of water, you’ve missed quite an experience.  “Cathartic” is too mild a word.  So is “messy.”

I was late for work that day.  Luckily, I’m self-employed and my boss is pretty cool.

I unceremoniously kicked and dragged the offending trash cans outside.  We have a tenant who swaps yard and outdoor work for rent.  Later, I’d have to explain to him why the cans and trash bags were full of water.  The ragged survivors crawled away from the devastation, only to be washed into the storm drain by my hose of vengeance.  My broom valiantly sacrificed itself to remove the swirling puddles of six-legged goo.  A bucket of hot water and bleach scoured the battleground clean.

Exhausted, I sat down with some iced tea to survey the scene and revel in my triumph.  Until a flash of gray streaked across the baseboard into the kitchen.
A mouse.

The Battle for Bucolia was not over, it had just begun.  I knew what I had to do.  I faced a new adversary.  This one was cunning and strong.


To be continued . . .


There are neighbors -- and then there are neighbors.

Photo credit: John Wagner/Hallmark

by Stacey Graham

For eight years, we lived in a townhouse community. I watched as young families moved in, popped out a few kids then moved onto bigger and better living arrangements. We were building our own house but were content to stay on our tiny block in a rural northern Virginia village as my husband traveled to construct the house himself after work and on weekends as the neighborhood always provided a constant source of kids and gossip.

I met my neighbor, Betsy, in my nightie and clutching a bat.

I like to make a good first impression.

One warm summer night while my husband was out of town, I awoke around midnight to the sound of fluttering in my bedroom. Not being too alarmed as large bugs in Virginia are more common than teeth in some regions I rolled over and went back to sleep until it tried to get my attention by attacking my face. Remember the scene in the Wrath of Khan where they stick a bug in a man's ear? Yes. Like that. Did I mention I was seven months pregnant with my fifth child? My mattress was never the same, just sayin'. Smacking myself around the head and shoulder region repeatedly, I valiantly fought off the horrid thing and rolled off the bed making my way on the floor to the bedroom door. Turning on the light switch, I grabbed my child's baseball bat from the hallway and faced the beast. All seven feet of him. Okay, maybe it just had seven feet. Whatever. It revved its engine and I knew it was coming for me again so ran out of the room and locked the door behind me. Stop looking at me like that. You know you would have done the same.

With my husband out of town and my only other option was to wake my eleven-year-old daughter to kill the bug, I determined that bothering my new neighbor, Ben, was the answer. Waddling next door, still clutching the bat, I knocked as quietly as I could while trying to cover my fanny in the night breeze. The door opened to Ben's wife, Betsy, who looked only mildly concerned. Apparently she's seen all this before. Sheesh, Virginians...

"There's a BUG in my ROOM and it's HUGE and will eat my braaaaaaaaaaaaain!" I pointed to my disheveled hair as a visual aid. "I'm your neighbor, Stacey, where is Ben?!"

"He's asleep." Grabbing the bat from my hands, Betsy crossed my lawn and went straight upstairs into my room without another word. I followed, staying a healthy distance away from the woman with a weapon, her other hand now holding a towel from the bathroom.

"Stay here and don't wake the kay-ids." Her southern drawl only made me feel more stupid. A belle was going to beat my bug. Closing the door, she readied herself for battle. I pressed my ear against the wood, waiting for screams of terror - a thump of a body hitting the floor after the bug had attacked - anything to give me a reason to call 911. Nothing. Not a peep.

Minutes passed. I had to pee.

More minutes passed. I finished peeing. I was pregnant. Wha?

Out of the stillness, a crack of the bat came from my bedroom. At last! Victory?

The door opened, revealing Betsy holding something wrapped in a towel - but not wiggling. "I'll just take this out; don't you worry yourself anymore, okay?" I walked her downstairs and opened the front door. "You're not afraid of mice, are you? Cause then you're on your own." I nodded, there are some things a woman should never be expected to handle alone, fuzzy creatures that eat your eyeballs apparently at the top of both of our lists.

As the years passed and many many margaritas, gallons of milk and birthday cakes changed hands over the deck separated by only a whisper of air, Betsy and I never talked about our bug adventure. When we finally moved away to our new house, my thoughts were not of the memories we shared nor the promises of future bar-be-ques, I wondered who would have my back in a zombie apocalypse? Betsy's on my team, they'd better man up before starting anything with that belle.

Stacey has quite a collection going of children and zombies at her house. To find out which is which, please visit her blog and The Zombie Dating Guide (dang it, I gave it away, didn't I?).


24 Is More Than Enough

by Sarah Garb

I was not at all jealous of the frazzled-looking dad next to me at the airport as he tried to control and entertain three children while at the same time prevent a fourth from eating something sticky found on the floor.  “Ahhh.  Life without children” I thought, turning up the volume on my iPod to drown out the harried sounds of parenting.  At least temporarily.

I don’t have any children of my own—I’m just entrusted with a set for seven hours a day to teach them how to read.  You might think that being an elementary school teacher would be a super-sized version of the “Don’t Eat That and Get Down Before You Break Your Arm” airport scene.  Sure, I do a bit of reminding kids to wash hands, tie shoes before they trip, and eat the school lunch green beans, but the majority of my day is spent looking out for their academic well-being--editing writing, facilitating experiments, building division concepts

No--what Frazzled Airport Dad with his hands full, making repeated bathroom and water fountain stops really foreshadows is our first class field trip. 

The act of leaving the protective cocoon of the school building immediately transforms me from teacher into the full-on parent of 24 children, making sure they are all clean, fed, safe, and not consuming items from the ground.  Venturing out into the wide and scary world brings my focus first and foremost to survival and safety.  It’s basically Maslow’s Hierarchy of Field Trip Needs—first make sure everybody arrives in one piece and with adequate access to clean-ish bathroom facilities, and we’ll worry about their mathematical reasoning, creativity, and overall self-actualization later.

On any given field trip, a team of chaperones and I endeavor to keep everyone out of the path of raindrops and oncoming subway cars, and to ensure that everyone sits in a seat on any and all moving vehicles.  I physically throw myself in front of the students at intersections, holler to them to not get run over, and attempt to stave off hypothermia through extensive coat-zipping.

Seeing that everyone remains within acceptable levels of health is another joy of field trip responsibility. “We are in nature, children.  It is unpredictable and possibly disease-carrying.  Is anyone currently being stung by a bee?”  Once we’ve all had a chance to touch the nature center’s snake, I toss miniature bottles of hand sanitizer to the chaperones and we de-germ the “family” in under a minute.  I need to keep track of Jasmine’s bus-sickness pills, and need to be ready at a moment’s notice to whip out Marlon’s inhaler.  We’re out of our normal environment, where the tissues are readily accessible, so I stuff my bag with Kleenex just in case.

In stark contrast to our ultra-structured school day and its exceedingly consistent lunch schedule, a large portion of a field trip is spent wondering when our next meal will come.  “We’ve been waiting in this line for hours!  Quick, chaperones—shove a granola bar in everyone’s mouth before the play starts so nobody starves to death during act II!” “This could be the last chance to moisten your mouth for a long time, children, so drink up!”  Which brings me to the inevitably far-away and hard-to-find museum bathrooms and the occasional life-or-death sprint that every parent knows all too well.

Assuming that the chaperones and I have managed to ensure for the children freedom from hunger and freedom from gross spills on subway seats, I can then turn my attention towards a very important, adult-centered Field Trip Need—freedom from being embarrassed by your kids.  I’m usually wearing a uniform shirt that matches those of the kids and holding someone’s hand.  We’re clearly together.  I can’t pretend to simply not know those children and therefore must make sure that nothing catastrophically humiliating comes to pass.  “Don’t get us kicked out of the US Capitol!”  “Do not climb on the sculptures--other museum-goers are glaring at me!”

Inevitably, though, no matter how stuffed my field trip bag is with “just-in-case” tissues, hand-sanitizer, and spare mittens, no matter how frequently we stop for bathroom breaks, something always conspires to prevent one of the Field Trip Needs from being met.

One year my class toured the D.C. mayor’s office.  The mayor’s director of legislative affairs came to speak with us and took some of the kids’ questions while I mentally took stock of how the trip was going.  “Everyone has recently eaten,” I thought.  “There is no imminent threat of germs.  Please nobody say anything to embarrass me!”  Just then, Shawn raised his hand and asked this member of the mayor’s cabinet (whom we were surely keeping from important business in the nation’s capitol), “You got a tissue?”

I pulled a box of tissues from my brimming bag of emergency supplies and hurriedly passed it over to Shawn, then shrank down in my seat, hoping that the mayor’s staff would overlook the fact of my matching shirt and not mistake me for this child’s parent.

No matter how draining it might be to parent a class full of students out in the world, though, I can always return them at the end of the day to their actual parents.  Tag—you’re it.  You make sure they don’t break an arm or go malnourished until we next venture beyond the school’s walls.  And that might just be a while.

To read more about Sarah’s students and their nose picking, love notes, and adventures in nature, visit her blog, Dead Class Pets.


Death by pantyhose? I think that's fair

This week I am introducing you to a game called “Who Invented That?” You won’t see it on the shelves of your local Wal-Mart. That’s because my patent is still pending. It should debut in the next six months or so. A redneck version aptly named “Who Thunk Up That Thar Deal?” will be released shortly thereafter.

The idea for this game has been percolating for years. Whether it’s simply the product of an overactive imagination or a fixation on assigning blame, I will let you be the judge. Whatever its genesis, folks of any age can participate, either individually or in a group.

Here’s how it goes. In phase one, you draw a card on which is listed an invention and you try to decide who created it, a man or a woman. See how easy it is? Let me just throw one out there to get you warmed up.

Panty hose. It’s my own personal experience with this invention that spawned this whole exciting game. Marry the heat and humidity of an Indiana summer with a tiny pair of nylons, and there’s no doubt in your mind. A man somewhere is to blame.

You women know what I mean. By the time you’re finished with your own special version of the “Twist and Shout,” your heart is hammering and you’re dripping with perspiration. The knowledge that your calisthenics have just burned 1000 calories in a futile attempt to ensure untwisted coverage of all involved surfaces is cold comfort.

Every single summer we have this conversation. “The man who invented these things should be drug out in the street and shot,” I mutter darkly, peering at Mr. Schrock.

“How do you know it was a man?” he replies, clicking the remote.

“Do you think a woman would invent something that cuts of all blood flow to her bottom half, gives her prickly heat rash, and rides up her…” I begin.

“Stop!” he cries, turning up the volume.

“And how about the wiggle factor?” I say irritably.

“Wiggle what?” he mumbles.

“Do you have any idea how much wiggling and shimmying it takes to get the darn things on?” I reply heatedly.

At this point, the poor man is clapping his hands over his ears and shouting, “La-la-la-la,” at the TV.

It happens every year.

Another dark brain child of what must be a masculine mind is the girdle, which will be one of the categories in my game. No woman would ever design a restraint that displaces roughly half of her body weight and deposits it up into her neck, making her face swell like a puffer fish and pushing her ear lobes out at right angles. We have the GBA (Girdle Burners of America) to thank for making this instrument of torture obsolete. Ladies, we salute you.

Now, since the first two were easy questions, I’m going to give you one that will really take some thinking. Here goes. Epidural injections. Oh, I know. You think it’s a slam-dunk female invention. But is it?

Having given birth four times – thrice with epidurals and once without – I am well aware of the almost superhuman strength that comes over a woman in the throes of labor. So is Mr. Schrock, who is only now regaining feeling in his hands from that last go-round.

What if some husband in Tuscaloosa wasn’t as fortunate as Mr. Schrock and to this day walks around with two limp hands? You can see how this could inspire a fellow’s creativity. If you really want to know the answer, though, you’ll have to buy the game.

Here’s one last sample question for you. Who invented seat warmers in SUVs?

Bingo. It was unquestionably a woman. When I informed You Know Who that I wanted heated seats in my next vehicle, he harrumphed. He snorted. He whiffled and huffed. Why, he wanted to know, was that necessary?

Unknowingly, he only confirmed what I’ve long suspected – women have more delicate heinies, and they don’t want them frostbitten. If he doesn’t need hot cross buns of his own to be a happy camper, well then, more power and all that. God love that girl, whoever she is, with the ingenuity to devise a way to get heat to not only my seat, but to thousands of women everywhere.

In the second phase of the game, the participants have fun speculating about appropriate punishments or commendations for the creators of the inventions in question. The guy who invented nylons? Death by hanging – with pantyhose. Mr. Epidural? You could name your first child after him. And Ms. Seat Heater? Ah, now she deserves a Nobel Prize.

Now, two years after this column's publication, the author is enjoying the heated seats in her mommy van.  She is throwing prizes, Nobel and otherwise, with both hands at the woman who invented them.  There's far more fun and frivolity on her blog, The Natives are Getting RestlessPop in and see for yourself.


This Old Car

I was the youngest in my family to graduate from college. This should have been met with cheers and a celebratory handing over of the loan. Well, my parents did pat me on the back and told me the loan payments were now all mine. But what I didn't expect was the crestfallen look on my dad's face. Maybe he was sad that I was moving back in? Or maybe he realized I was all grown up now.

I soon found out. My parents handed me the keys to a classic car--my father's 1966 Ford Mustang, midnight blue and gorgeous. He kept it garaged and tuned up and polished. I was in heaven.

But as the years marched on, the car needed more and more TLC that I couldn't afford. Then came marriage and baby number one. With no air conditioning, front seatbacks that didn't lock in place, and ancient lapbelts that barely held an infant seat securely, I had to let her go. Now it was my turn to cry.

My days were to be spent hauling kids and bikes around in a van. Practical and sturdy, it did its job. Until the past year. When it rains, water pools in the third row, and after a few damp days, boys' stinky socks don't hold a candle to the smell.

Little by little, things begin to go wrong, and now I'm on a first name basis with the car center repair people. I even have a favorite spot in the waiting room, next to the table with the wilting plant and dog-eared magazines, like Bow 'N Arrow and Fish 'N Chum. It's also a good seat to watch their TV, but the Weather Channel doesn't cut it after two hours. So I bring my own 1,000 page book to read. I could be there for days.

One time I was so engrossed in my reading, that I sensed rather than saw everyone in the waiting room stopping whatever they were doing. I looked up into ten pairs of eyes staring at me. The eleventh pair belonged to a man standing at the front, clipboard in hand.

"Mrs.Skaleetza?" he boomed, probably for the fifth time.

"Uh, Skalitza," I corrected, hoping they'd think I just didn't understand his pronunciation of my name.

"Car's ready."

I packed up and raced out of there, paying the bill and grabbing my keys. My van was right by the door. I opened it, climbed in, and noticed that my gray cloth seats had magically turned into pristine black leather. Not a bit of ketchup adorned the dashboard. Sheepishly I got out, and one of the repair men came toward me, laughing. He pointed to my van, in all its dented wonder, one aisle over.

There's a classic car show coming to my area soon. You know where I'll be. :)

*For more about Anne and to read her ramblings, go to www.anneskal.wordpress.com


Keeping Your Cool

by Susan Warren Utley

I burned my boobs shooting a .45 caliber Glock pistol the other day. Not your typical shooting injury I know, but excruciatingly painful none-the-less. After firing several rounds and hitting my bad guy target square in the forehead, a brass casing ejected and headed straight for the cleavage. Gun safety is always my first and foremost priority in any given situation. So even as I danced around holding the pistol in one hand and desperately trying to wrap my fingers around the hot shell casing searing into my flesh, I kept my finger off the trigger and the firearm pointed downrange. My husband stood by watching, unwilling to approach the crazy screaming woman with one hand shoved down her shirt and the other holding a loaded Glock. Later when he realized what had happened, he applauded me for my superb gun safety skills and for “keeping cool in a heated situation.” That was after he stopped laughing of course.

One thing I can say about this whole experience is that while my husband has never been a one to find tattoos attractive, the shape of a .45 caliber shell casing between my breasts doesn’t seem to bother him so much.

Wife, mother, writer, procrastinator. Find more from Susan at Creative Procrastination.


The Luck of the Irish

I am fortunate enough to claim a great deal of Irish heritage. Over 80%, some say. Most folks believe that The Luck of the Irish is a wonderful thing. But recently I learned, while watching a Discovery Channel special, that the old saying is facetious. Ironic, even. Apparently, the term originated in the United States when Irish immigrants arrived on these promising shores to find discrimination, no jobs, no food and a lot of bad luck. The Luck of the Irish has nothing to do with finding a pot of gold. This explains a lot.

I spent much of my life trying to capitalize on my misinterpreted Irish luck. What I didn’t realize all my early years was that I never needed to find it; I carry it with me everywhere I go. For example, this summer I found four four-leaf clovers in my yard. I plucked and pressed each one carefully, thinking that this summer, above all others, I would have Irish luck beyond measure. I was right.

In June, Mr. Vagabond bought me a hot little red sporty car. I have never owned a new car that was mine-all-mine. This was my first. Halfway home from the dealership, which was two states away, the computer in my one-day-old car glitched. It was the middle of the night, of course. There I sat on the side of the road, bawling like a big, fat baby, in Somewhere, Kentucky. Somewhere, Kentucky is a spooky place at night. I did manage to limp it to a motel. The next morning, I was towed to a dealership in Lexington. Two computer programmers in Canada spent all day writing totally new code for my car. A mere 7 hours later, after spending the day in the parking lot in a broken lounge chair, I was back on the road.

That was only the beginning of my summer fun. How many times have you been bitten by a mosquito? How many times have you developed a viral brain infection from it? Two weeks spent on the sofa, trying to remember what day it was, and I vowed never to go outside again without first bathing in a vat of DEET.

During my disease-ridden brain’s struggle to recover from West Nile’s cousin, I received a call from my darling Mr. Vagabond. He explained that a rare astrological phenomenon called the Cardinal Grand Cross is occurring this summer and warned that it could be the best or the worst of times, depending on the path a person takes. Path? I don’t even own a map (and planning is for sissies).

I am not great with astrology. However, I am smart enough to know that, because I am lucky, my sun sign and my rising sign are both--say it with me--Cardinal signs. Cardinal signs. Cardinal Grand Cross. Are you following me? (The sticker says to stay back at least 200 feet. I wouldn’t follow too close). So, the astrological world is careening toward Cardinal Sign potential disaster this summer. Meanwhile, I am riding in the front seat clinging to my four leaf clovers without the good sense to raise my tray table to the locked and upright position and fasten my seat belt. Rumor has it that one could maneuver and manage this event to her own benefit if she were clever enough to put conscious thought into the ordeal. Since I couldn’t even recall where I misplaced my own bathroom, I decided to bungee cord myself to the celestial dashboard and hope for the best.

After I recovered from brain funk, I got another call from Mr. Vagabond: “Get a ticket, sweetie. You’re coming to see me in Moab, Utah!” Yay! I’d been waiting all summer for this opportun
ity, so I was obviously over the moon. I bought the ticket, packed like mad and hopped on a plane two days later. We drove around canyons, looked at amazing things and planned what we would do for the rest of my stay. The fun and games continued until Friday. What’s so special about Friday? Mr. Vagabond’s company forgot to make their payroll direct deposit. They also forgot to pay the company fuel card bill. Now, don’t get me wrong. Utah is nice. I would even go as far as to say it’s beautiful here. The coffee in the lobby is pretty good, and nothing beats a cherry danish in the morning. But we’re about to claw out each other’s throats for lack of being able to go anywhere. The company sends daily updates, though. They absolutely guarantee . . . that they’ll see what they can do. ASAP, even.

I’ve often thought my last name should be Murphy, of Murphy’s Law fame, but apparently my Irish maiden designation, Conner, works just fine. Since I am aware of my ancestral relationship with Mr. Murphy, I have stopped at every Target and Walmart within a 100 mile radius picking up snake bite packs, bandages, severed arm repair kits (those things are expensive!), and a flare gun. And rope. Lots of rope. Once the fuel card is back in working order, we will be back to the exploration. These things will undoubtedly come in handy.

I should be safe finding an arrowhead or maybe a shard of pottery. But if your local news station breaks in with a disaster alert that there has been a flash flood in Moab, the canyons caved in, flares are flying around in the sky, the National Guard has been deployed and FEMA has dispatched a convoy to the desert, it’s a pretty safe bet that I did, in fact, find my lucky pot of gold.


From I Do's to Underoos

The Captain and I planned an anniversary outing to the zoo, which, while not as productive as the outing we took to Wal-Mart to purchase a knee brace the year before, still ranks as one of stupidest ideas we’ve ever come up with as a team.

Taking a trip on a typical Southern summer day is like booking a jaunt through a teenager’s armpit. The elephants had on their swimming trunks and the rattlesnakes kept running through the misters. Luckily they left the misses alone or they’d have gotten more than they bargained for.

A thunderstorm popped up in the last minutes, sending us running to the parking lot. Hampered by soggy clothes, we were soaked by the time we made it to higher ground in the family Kia. Nothing says “Proceed with Caution” like a pair of cotton bikinis tatted into a doily like grandma used to make, and wedged onto your end table.

Changing clothes in the car when you’re 18 is like changing lipstick. One layer melts off and another goes on with a minimum of fuss or moving parts and stays in place until close contact with a particularly aggressive burrito warrants a change.

Changing clothes in the car when you’re over fifty is like playing a rousing game of Twister when you’re encased in a full body cast. Nothing moves like it should and if something suddenly pops out of place, the whole project is in jeopardy. And just before your right hand reaches the blue circle, you’re liable to encounter a roadblock scarier than anything Stephen King could dream up. Add a gallon of water from a sudden downpour and your underpants turn into a temporary tattoo.

With one foot stuck in the glove box and my neck wedged under the headrest like dental floss, I felt kind of like the skewer that holds the fruit surprise in a mixed drink. My shorts wrapped around my legs and my face was thrust through one sleeve of my Tshirt.

“Okay, here come some folks. Sit up!” If the Captain had been nearer to the window I’d have given him a wedgie of his own to think about. A young couple strolling past with a small boy glanced in our direction. The mother took her child’s hand and affectionately dragged him across the gravel toward their minivan. I’m pretty sure I spotted him calling 911 on his Playskool phone.

Unfortunately, the sudden jerk into politically correct posture created a certain amount of tension between my posterior and the blinker switch, which caused the hazard lights to spring into action and installed an air conditioning vent in my unmentionables. Since our next stop was an Italian restaurant that didn’t boast low enough lighting to disguise my window seat, a quick stop by the mall was in order.

A nearby mall had a fancy lingerie boutique and, quite the gentleman, the Captain dashed inside and was soon back with a safe pair of step-ins to see me through dinner.

“Victoria’s Secret?” I asked slyly.

“Oh better than that. They had a sign in the dollar store that told me all I needed to know.”

That's my boy. It might have been "Something old, something blue" when we got married, but I've got "Brand New, Never Used" on my anniversary.

Come laugh with me at Mind Over Mullis. You can watch me do lots more stupid stuff!


nOObs and Boobs

I’ve never been good with video games. To me, a guitar hero is someone who stops a 17-year-old from playing “Stairway to Heaven” in a music store. My limited expertise with electronic entertainment ended right after they quit making the Commodore 64 and the Infocom text games. How I loved those! No graphics, no buttons, just a long night of attempting to figure out puzzles and type in the right sentences so you can advance. You could have conversations with the computer that made absolutely no sense, and enjoy doing it for hours on end. It was a lot like Twitter, actually.

Computer: You see a man on a floor buffer in the hallway.

Me: I do? Am I drunk?

Computer: He’s getting closer.

Me: Is he married? How much does he make a year? How’s my breath?

Computer: He was a follower of Cthulhu. He just killed you.

Me: Rats. And he seemed like ‘the one.’

When Mario Kart came along, my friend Mike assured me it was an easy game to learn.

“You can’t mess this up,” he said with a confident smile. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that my powers of messing up are truly cataclysmic in nature. There are rumors that the Tunguska Event happened because I tried to toast some marshmallows on a campfire.

Nevertheless, he turned the game on and handed me a controller, after slowly explaining how it worked. After I picked Mario to be my driver, we were off. It only took him a few seconds to realize that something was amiss.

“Where are you going?” he asked. “I’ve never even seen that part of the course.”

“Don’t ask me,” I shouted, twisting and grabbing the controller like I was trying to bathe a cat. “It’s not me, I think it’s Mario. Did anyone check to see if he had a valid driver’s license in this game?”

My kart zipped across the track and off into the dirt.

“You’re going backwards! Turn around!”

“I did turn around!”

“No, the other way!”

I passed the START flag, did a little four-wheeling through the desert, crashed into a monkey, and landed in a tunnel facing the wall.

“What’s that hand signal Mario’s flashing at me?”

Mike stared at the TV screen. “Huh, I didn’t know he had fingers. Guess he only needed one, really.”

I had played Dungeons & Dragons a few times in high school. I was a chaotic good elf, and when my unicorn was killed in battle (darn troll) I wrote a touching poem in its memory. The other players, all guys, listened intently. I suspect no one complained because I had boobs. At least, I was the only one who was supposed to have boobs. So when EverQuest came out, I felt right at home up until the minute I logged in. I was hopelessly lost, and typing in all caps “I HAVE BOOBS” gained no attention, unless I wanted to play To Catch A Predator: The Home Game.

It seemed that games were simply out of my reach; recently I watched kids playing the Playstation 3 demo unit at Walmart, and wondered when the new generation started mutating and growing extra thumbs. I’m pretty sure I saw one kid using a tail, too. But then I moved on to the Wii console. Simple. Elegant. I could imagine myself playing tennis or golf, gracefully swinging into high scores and better fitness. Before I plunked down several hundred dollars, I borrowed a unit from a friend. The grace factor went out the window in approximately the same time it took to piss off Mario.

I was working up a good sweat with Wii tennis when Mom called, and I was still breathing hard when I picked up.

“Hey Mom. I was just trying to Wii.”

“Honey, you shouldn’t strain yourself. Get some cranberry juice.”

I sighed and hung up. I thought the Wii would save me a gym membership, but after replacing two lamps and a vase plus donating to PETA because the cat was traumatized, I realized that the Wii wasn’t that big a value. Besides, if I’m going to sweat that much, I want someone to see me doing it so I can get some workout cred.

Ah well. I did see an old C64 for sale on eBay. Anyone got a copy of “Leather Goddesses of Phobos?”


Adventures in Exercising

by Lisa Dovichi

I’ve recently started going to the “gym” in my apartment complex. I put quotes around gym because I have a hard time thinking of a tiny (it’s downright claustrophobic if more than three people are in there), humid, poorly lit room with one treadmill, one elliptical, one upright stationary bike, one recline stationary bike, and two weight machines practically stacked on top of one another as a gym. But, given the very nature of this horrid little room’s contents and the full wall mirrors on EVERY wall that’s what it’d have to be called.

Last night, I unlocked the “gym” door and opened it, and the lights were off. It was almost completely dark as it was around 8:30 at night. I thought EPIC SCORE, I get the whole place to myself. I’ll totally get the good upright bike -- the recline bike is old and squeaks really loud when you pedal. Then there’s the bonus of no one else seeing me panting, sweating, and jiggling in all FOUR of the wall length mirrors.

I walked in, took two steps toward the bikes, expected to see myself reflected in the mirrors, and let out a blood curdling scream (you know, the kind that rivals nails on a chalkboard) and scared the crap out of the sweaty guy, wearing headphones, riding the upright stationary bike. I say it served him right. He was hiding…er… I mean riding in the dark.

Let me explain. See, I had my headphones on. It’s about a five minute walk to the “gym” because, naturally, I live on the completely opposite side of the complex from it. So, I had my headphones on already and they were blasting for the walk over. I didn’t hear him riding when I walked in. I didn’t expect to see him because, hello, the lights were off so it’s pretty dark and he’s lurking around the corner behind the door (yeah the little room is set up really weird). Therefore the blood curdling scream as I had ten years scared off the end of my life.
The guy grabbed his chest and laughed, insisting I nearly gave him a heart attack. He said he hadn’t heard the door because his headphones were blasting and didn’t even know I was there ‘til I screamed. I stood there, heart pounding, clutching my chest, and tried to catch my breath. I nearly gave him a heart attack? Please.

He apologized for it being dark and told me the room didn’t get as hot with the lights out but I could turn them on if I wanted. Seemed like sound logic when my brain kicked back in. The room does get incredibly hot and humid -- especially with more than one person working out. After I swallowed my heart back down, so it'd be in my chest where it belongs and not in my throat, I told him nah, it was cool. I figured, he was there first if he wanted to be in the dark so be it. So, I stumbled over to the yucky bike and slammed my shin into it. That’s what I get for being nice.

However, I began to question my decision to let him keep his dark. I got on the horribly squeaky bike and started pedaling and to my embarrassment I could hear the rapid rhythmic, metal scraping metal, "eee eee eee eee" over the Offspring blasting in my ears. It didn’t matter how I tried to position myself or if I grabbed onto the pin that held the seat in place, the loud squeaking wouldn’t stop. I kept glancing in the mirror to see if his hulking shadowy form was looking over at me because he could hear it too. Then I noticed the windows were open, so I had to wonder if anyone walking by outside could hear it. Then I wondered if anyone would be thinking what I was.

I have a gutter brain and it was wallowing in the filth. How could it not when I was in the dark humid little room listening to that rhythmic squeaking, our heavy breathing, and the sound of our sweaty limbs slapping together -- well you can see where I'm going with this (if you have a gutter brain like myself). So not only did I have ten years scared off the end of my life (thank you very much, sweaty guy), but I was stuck on the crappy bike doing the soundtrack for a low budget porn movie for a half an hour. Bow chicka bow bow.


Lisa Dovichi terrorizes enriches the lives of her husband and two sons, 3Ft of Fun and Mr. Grumpybutt, with the help of a killer Boston Fern named Audrey. By day, she’s a freelance writer, blogger, web and graphics designer, artist, children’s book author and illustrator, and a budding novelist. By night, she’s an exercising fiend. In her spare time -- wait she doesn't have any.

Want more of Lisa’s healthy lifestyle adventures? Join her on her wild ride at Melting Before Your Eyes.


Secret Snacker

by Janna Qualman

Mine is a family of four, and we are snackers.

My husband likes the baked goods: Cookies, breads, muffins. My oldest, who's seven, likes chips and fruit and stuff with peanut butter. The baby, she's five, she (really really) likes cold cereal.

Me? I like junk food. But I don't like to share. This is why I've become... the secret snacker.

Oh sure, I'll let my kids have a S'more. I don't deny them. But then I'll send 'em off to play, hunker with my back to the door, ears trained beyond, so that I can have two.

Occasionally I'll stock up on candy, my favorites. Dark chocolate, a Kit Kat, maybe a Skor toffee bar or Riesen chocolate caramels. They get hidden away into a pencil box in my office, a place no one would ever think to look. *evil laugh*

I've been known to hold Nutter Butters or salt-and-vinegar Pringles behind my back, shifting the goods when I turn corners, as I make my way through the house.

Just the other night, I dumped a large bag of M&M's into a Country Crock butter bowl. Snapped the lid on tight, and transferred it to the space beneath my desk. Oh, yes. Because no kindergartner's going to think twice about that...

And then there are the nights I tuck my kids into bed, hover until I know they're sleeping, and hurdle to the kitchen for a single-serve microwaveable Betty Crocker Warm Delights brownie. (Those suckers are good.)

Mine. All mine.

Because I am the secret snacker. The swiss cake roll I've got right here, that I'm going to eat the second you look away from this post, proves it.

Janna is a freelance and women's fiction writer. You can see more of her at Something She Wrote.