Monday, August 8, 2016

Questions and Answers

I used to ask my grandmother a lot of questions. I never really got very good answers from her but I continued to ask. I did not, however, ask any follow-up questions, in spite of the fact that I never understood her responses. Many of the answers, frankly, just didn't make sense.
After counting the number of chairs around the table and the number of people waiting to eat, doing some quick calculations to determine we were down a chair, I asked Grandma, "Where am I going to sit?" (Funny that I assumed I would be the odd man out!)
"Where am I going to sit?" I asked. "Well, you could always sit on my thumb", she replied.
Huh?
On a particularly boring afternoon I asked, "What can I do today?" She said, "Well, you could go to the garden and eat a worm."
Again, what?! (I don't think we actually had a garden and she knew I would never touch a worm let alone eat it! In fairness, though, I did drink from a mud puddle once on the assumption it would taste like chocolate milk.)(It didn't.)
"Grandma, why don't you like bananas?" "Oh, I like bananas", she said, "Bananas don't like me!"
How was that possible? How could bananas not like my grandma?!?! I mean, she said weird sh*t from time to time, but why would bananas care about that? It was no reason not to like her!! Overall I thought she was pretty awesome.
Stupid bananas.
Most of the "Why?" questions were answered with, "I'll tell you when you're Lori's age." Lori was our neighbor whom I assumed was about 10 or 12 but was apparently thirty-something because I never did get those particular answers. I'm sure Lori is full of excellent information, now that I think about it.
My mother always told me to stop scowling - my face was going to get stuck that way. I didn't think I was actually scowling, I was just confused all the time. If she and my grandmother would start making some sense, I wouldn't have to scowl. And, by the way, my face didn't actually get stuck that way, although it does slip into that position on an embarrassingly regular basis.
So, of all the questions I did ask my grandma, all the bizarre answers she provided, and all the answers she evaded, I never asked the most important question of all, "What the hell are you talking about?!?!"
I'm going to go find Lori.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

In A Tight Spot



When I was a kid, I took everything quite literally. Well, "quite literally" isn't exactly accurate. I took everything extremely literally. Brutally literally. Is that possible?
I've been thinking about my life, lately, and when I talk to people and try to describe my situations, I find myself using terms from my childhood. And that, inevitably, gives me flashbacks.
The other day, while talking with a friend, I described feeling like I had painted myself into a corner.
And.
Yes.
I was in fifth or sixth grade when my parents decided to move to an old home on the lake outside our small South Dakota town. It was a fixer-upper, to say the least. My sister and I got to help decorate our rooms, though, and I remember going to a store in town to pick out wallpaper. I got to choose the colors and accessories for my room, under my mother's discriminating advisement, of course. My parents had the idea that we should paint the wood floors in our rooms and I was "allowed" to paint my own.
I chose green.
And I was tickled at the opportunity to pour new paint into a pan and dip the roller. I was on Cloud 9 (probably another memory) smearing green paint on the clean wood floor of my new room.
Now, I enjoy tasks like painting, ironing and mowing the lawn. These are tasks that give me a sense of accomplishment. My mind tends to wander while performing such tasks and I enjoy getting lost in myself. I can go a million miles away in my mind only to turn around and see the fruits of my labor.
That's what happened the day I painted my bedroom floor. I got lost in my head. I went to the moon and back. The world was still ahead of me at that point and I enjoyed imaging the possibilities. I wrote a song. I composed fantastic poetry. I fashioned a beautiful outfit and acceptance speech for the many awards I was sure to win.
I painted the hell out of that floor!
And when I turned around to appreciate all my hard work?
Yep.
I had literally painted myself into a corner!
And I had to sit there for, like, eight hours literally watching paint dry.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Pockets

 
 
I accidentally wore an outfit without pockets today.  I hate that.  No matter how cute I think I am at home, I am always miserable when I get out in the world without pockets.  What am I supposed to do with my keys?  My phone?  The random treasures I find on the ground?  I need pockets!
I think the whole pocket thing goes way back for me.
When I was in kindergarten, I spent a lot of time with my grandmother who lived across the street from the school.  She once sent me to school in a snazzy little pocketless ensemble.  I didn't have much to carry in those days, however, on this particular day something special was going on in Mrs. Pluff's afternoon kindergarten class and we needed to bring - I don't know - a nickel or something to pay for a special treat.
Where was I going to put it?
Now, my grandmother was a little left of center, to be sure, and she came up with some bizarre ideas from time to time.  On this particular day of no pockets, she decided to tie my nickel into the corner of an embroidered handkerchief so I wouldn't lose it.
Ugh.
I walked to school with the hanky wadded up in my little fist to avoid embarrassment. Most of the tight spots I have gotten myself into in life have stemmed from me trying to avoid embarrassment, come to think of it. 
That day, Mrs. Pluff had an action-packed adventure all set up for us in the school's gymnasium!  She even had several assistants on loan from the nearby Vo-Tech.  And we marched into that gym with nervous excitement, absolutely thrilled to find gigantic, brightly colored parachutes and millions upon millions of red rubber balls!! 
This was going to be amazing!!!
Wait!  What was I going to do with my grandpa's snot rag tied around a nickel?!?!  Drat!  Being the quick-thinker that I was in kindergarten, I shoved the whole darn thing down my pants.  I was a weird little kid, but I was no dummy, and I didn't want that nickel to fall out the bebellbottomed legs of my elastic-wasted pants, so I put the money-filled hanky in my big girls for safe keeping! 
After hours of playing awesome games with those parachutes and rubber balls, they had us line our sweaty little selves up in front of the assistants.  We were all still laughing and feeling very high from such great excitement, and I forgot all about the situation in my drawers!  Still buzzing, I reached the assistant manning the treat table.  "Where's your money, Sweetie?", she asked.
I froze.
Something happens to me when I freeze like that.  I never did buy into the whole right-off-like-a-BandAid theory.  Never was one to just jump in the cold water.  No, no.  I always liked to drag out an uncomfortable moment.  So, instead of just pulling out that cursed hanky, I ever so agonizingly slowly reached down into my no pocket pants, into my big girls, and reached the very tiny corner of my grandmother's handkerchief.  All the while, I was looking at this nice young teacher's assistant with the sad, sad eyes of a basset hound.  And slowly, slowly tugged on the handkerchief.  And she looked on in absolute horror as this crazed, perverted little clown pulled a string of colorful silk scarves out of her crotch.
(Insert calliope circus music here.)
 
And that's why I prefer pockets.

Friday, March 27, 2015

The Answer is _________________ ?

Sometimes I think I annoy people.  Well, let me be more specific.  I know I annoy people.  But, specifically, sometimes I think it annoys people that it takes me a very long time to process information.  It takes me much longer than it should to answer basic questions, but I think that may be the problem.  Sometimes "basic" questions send my brain on a wild goose chase. 
For example, a person may ask me something like, "Do these pants come in size 8?"  And my mind goes through an entire rundown of possible answers.  First I have to weed through and decline approximately 38 smart ass answers.  Then I have to weed through and decline just as many passive/aggressive answers that would politely let the person know their question was stupid.  Then I have to think about what they really meant to ask, which is, of course, do we have them in size 8.  Then I have to think about whether or not I have seen those pants in a size 8 in any other location.  Then I have to think about how I could possibly get them for her, or what I do have in a size 8 that might be comparable .... etc, etc, etc.  Meanwhile, she's irritated with me. 
Ugh.
I know I do this and I want to stop.  In my attempt to say the right thing and not offend, I am annoying people with my delayed reaction.
So, I know the problem. What never occurred to me until recently was what my face might look like while all this is happening.  I didn't even think about it until I was listening to the Talking Heads the other day and a lightbulb went on over my head.  (Apparently, there is a lot going on over my head!  Ha!)
Years ago I found myself (behind the wheel of a large automobile ... no) at an art center in Omaha watching David Byrne in a small theatre.  It was a really cool show in a rather strange venue and I felt weird about sitting there politely in my seat while David Byrne went nuts on stage.  I decided to get out of my seat and head to the stage.  Now, I don't know if I was the first fool to start dancing in front of the low stage, or the second fool joining the first fool (thus starting a movement), but I ended up front and center and a crowd quickly gathered. 
And there, right above my head, was David Byrne in his little kilt.  He put one foot on a speaker or light or something and swung his hips in such a way that the kilt whipped out over my head and I found myself face-to-________ with David Byrne's tighty whities!
Only they weren't very white.  They were actually rather grey.  So I thought, hmmmm, that's weird.  I wonder who does his laundry for him.  He's David Byrne.  Why are his undies grungy?  Can't he afford to just put on a fresh pair for every show?  Does he do his own laundry?  Does he throw his big, pink fur suit, flesh and muscle leotard, giant shoulder padded jacket and kilt all in his gym bag  with his sweaty underpants after the show and later shove them together in one washer at the nearest Duds-n-Suds?  David Byrne jumping off the tour bus at a Laundromat.  And, speaking of his big, pink fur suit, is that a mohair suit?  Is that what Elton John was singing about?!?!  He's got electric boots, a mohair suit, you know I read it in a magazyyheeeeeeeeen ohhhhh ho.  I don't think mohair looks like that.  And certainly you wouldn't throw that in a washing machine, would you?  And wouldn't that turn your panties pink not grey?  Do you think Elton John wears tighty whities?  I wonder who does EJ's laundry .....
OK.
So, all of this went on while I was staring at the man's crotch.  And he was swinging that kilt over my head so I would have a great view because obviously I was intrigued.  I remember looking away from his underpants and guiltily up to his face where he was looking at me with a great deal of mirth in his eyes ... and I truly felt like we had a moment.
A really embarrassing moment.
And now that I've identified the problem .... I still don't know what to do about it.  I suppose it is just nice to know.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Not My Father's Son by Alan Cumming

The very charming and delightful Alan Cumming wrote a heart-felt, honest memoir detailing the parallels of his own life and the life of his maternal grandfather as he - during the filming of a BBC television series called Who Do You Think You Are - unraveled the mysteries surrounding his grandfather's death.  And while Mr. Cumming melted down while telling his story, I melted down with him as I discovered my own parallels. 
It is difficult to turn horrific memories and brutal - truly brutal - honesties into a story people would want to read.  To turn your pain into something beautiful.  To turn raw emotion into beautiful art.
It is difficult.
This was a very sad story and my heart went out to Alan Cumming.  And to a little girl I used to know. 
Not My Father's Son will leave you feeling somber, to say the least, but I would still recommend reading it as Cumming is such an alluring character and his honesty, while raw and painful, is refreshing and delightful.  There are times when I feel I am too vague about my own suffering and because of that I am appreciative of those who can take their pain and turn it into something positive.
Alan Cumming remains a favorite for me .... and I wish I could give him a hug.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Do You Hear What I Hear?


I was listening to Christmas music in the car and felt all warm inside as the oh-so-familiar voice of John Denver filled my car with fond memories.  It made me happy!  It took me back to my childhood Christmases.  But who is that singing with him?  I know that voice, too.  Who is that?!?!
I love Christmas music.  All of it!  It actually makes me feel sad when people say they hate Christmas music.  How can you say that? Hate is such a strong word and "Christmas music" is such a broad topic ... it just makes no sense to me for someone to say they hate it all.  I mean, really, the only person I would expect to say that is Bob Humbug.  Or the Grinch. Seriously.
I love it all.  I love the oldies and the new stuff.  The serious and the silly.  I love Nat and Bing and Andy Williams.  I love how Dean Martin sounds more than a little tipsy (and a bit like a leprechaun) when he sings about Rudy the Red Nosed Reindeer.  I even love to dislike poor little not-so-naughty Eartha who got nothing for Christmas because she wouldn't put out. 
I just need to figure out who is singing with John Denver .... ?
I love it when they take me to church.  I'll drive down every gravel road in the tri-state area trying to sing Silent Night like Stevie Nicks.  When Whitney wants to know if I hear what she hears .... I hear it, girl, I hear it.  When Mariah Carey tells me to fall on my knees, I truly feel compelled to do so.  And when Rod and Mary J. start crooning about the three kings, Lawd, I'll raise my hands right up to Heaven whenever I hear that beauty.  Which may not be a good thing since I usually hear it while I'm driving.
But who is singing with John Denver?
I love the silly songs, the meaningful songs, I even love the slightly disturbing songs ... "Say?  What's in this drink?"  I love that they make me laugh, and cry, and smile. Sometimes I feel pangs of nostalgia.  Whenever I hear "It's Christmastime in the City" I remember the Christmases I spent in Madrid where a local shop owner tried to convince me that in Spain, there is no Santa Claus.  What?!  He said, "No.  In Spain it is really the Dad."  When I hear Aspenglow I always think of snowy car rides getting to and from "Christmas" in South Dakota.  And no matter who sings The Little Drummer Boy, I remember moving the needle on an old record over and over until I knew all the words by heart.
I don't care if they sing about Santa, or the Little Baby Jesus, or presents or snow or lights or shoes or teeth .... I love them all. 
I just need to know who is singing with John Denver!!!
Wait!!!
I totally know that voice.
I know it!!
It's Kermit the Frog!!!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Friday, September 5, 2014

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Oodles and Oodles


Forty some odd years ago I made up a song about mayonnaise.  It was a Broadway worthy production complete with huge arm gestures and some fancy footwork. 
"Oodles and oodles and oodles and oodles of maaaaayyyyyy ohhhhhh nnaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyzzzzzzze!"  Perhaps a little growl in my voice and a tip of the hat.
Lucky for you, I can't sing it right now.  But I do sing it each and every time I make a sandwich. 

For forty years.
 
Not always the fully choreographed version, but I do sing it whenever I make something calling for maaaaaaaaaayyyy ohhhhhhhh nnnnaaaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyyyyyzzzzzzzze.
And now, thanks to Weird Al Yankovic, I have to wrap those sandwiches in aluminum foil. And I cannot wrap a sandwich in aluminum foil without singing it exactly like Lorde sings her hit "Royals".
Every single day of my life ..... every single meal that I pack ..... each bite that I take on a park bench or at my desk ..... is an absolute theatrical masterpiece by The Voices in My Head featuring Hellmann's and Reynolds Wrap.

Thank you, thank you very much!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Proud to be an American



I just saw Lee Greenwood at Target!  Well, I actually don't think it was Lee Greenwood.  I think it was just some guy who looks like Lee Greenwood.  And I would know because I've met Lee Greenwood.  Yup!  It was in Spain in the mid-eighties when he was touring with a USO show. 
I was stationed at Torrejon AB Spain and my office was in the same building as the office where people got identification passes and badges.  Both offices were on the second floor of an old two-story building. 
Now, those of you who have served in the military know that sometimes the higher ups have you do crazy things for no apparent reason.  Some things that, strangely, can only be done under the cover of night.  We've all had to perfect our landscaping skills, trash collecting skills, painting skills - we even had to paint a parking lot once.  No, we didn't paint a gravel parking lot with asphalt colored paint.  We painted lines on the lot with beautiful red, white and gold paint.  Paint that made some awesome, reflective artwork on my old black cowboy boots, by the way! 
Once, while stationed in Wyoming, I was rousted from my bed, stuck on a bus and transported out into the middle of nowhere to scoop slush away from the entries of several missile sites.  Now, I grew up in South Dakota and I certainly remember shoveling snow in the light of day so I am not sure why this mission was any different, but I ended up having a decent boxed lunch and a pretty good time with my fellow inmates, I mean Airmen.
There was a time back in Spain when I had to guard the front gate of the base with my .... presence.  I'm sure all buck-o-five of my 1986 self was quite threatening, too!  As an American, I wasn't allowed to carry a weapon since it was actually a Spanish base so I just had to stand there.  I tried talking to the dog, but he didn't seem to understand me.  I was not sure if it was because my Spanish was so bad or because he was a German shepherd (the only things I can say in German are not meant for the innocent ears of dogs), but we didn't really connect the way I would have liked.  I did learn the phrase: No Poner Los Pies En La Pared.  Good stuff.  I'm forever putting my feet on the wall and I had no idea it was such a problem.
At one point I had to escort a female prisoner to chow for a few weeks.  She threatened to run and I promised to shoot (I was allowed a gun for lunch, just not at the front gate).   As a Personnel Specialist, I'm surprised I got this gig, but it was pretty fun.
So, on the night before I met Lee Greenwood, I had been dragged from my slumber and placed in a ditch somewhere for some reason (I'd like to say it was raining but that might just be The Voices in My Head wanting to embellish the story).  I don't remember actually digging or burying or ... well, I just can't talk about it, but I wasn't happy, that's for sure.  As the sun came up, I was dropped back in front of my office building so I could check in before returning to bed.  I was tired and muddy and wet.  And miserable, don't forget miserable.
I checked in with my office and was just approaching the stairs to go down and out the front door when  I heard someone say, "Lee Greenwood is in the building!", and he was, in fact, just approaching the stairs to go up and to the identification office.  I know this because when I heard someone say, "Lee Greenwood is in the building!", I responded over my shoulder with, "Oh yeah?  Well if he's so proud to be an American, why didn't I see his ass out in that ditch last night?!"  (There may have been an F-bomb before the word "proud".)
I turned my head back around and said with a nod, "Oh, good morning Mr. Greenwood."
Needless to say, when I saw him at Target just now, I kept my mouth shut.  Older and wiser, I am.  Older and wiser.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Concession


Sometimes when I have a lot on my mind or am extremely busy, busy, busy,  my brain will play a little trick on me by taking me away from all that is in front of me and giving me something more fun and creative to think about.  Yesterday, while trying to do a hundred preparatory things before a visit from my boss, I remembered a seven sentence story I wrote in high school:





Laura sat neatly on the very edge of Mr.Tiller's shabby green sofa.  She watched in silence as he poured a few crunchy nuggets into an old blue dish.
"I just love to watch him play in the yard", he said with a nostalgic smile on his face.
Laura followed the old man's gaze to the back door but there was no yard, only the brick wall of a building next door and some trash blowing in a light summer breeze.  She looked back at him, questioningly.
"I know", he said sadly and placed the dish on a faded placemat on the floor.  "Bojangles", he called, "Dinner!"

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Diary of a Stage Mother's Daughter by Melissa Francis

 




This book was a gift.  I know why it was chosen for me, but sadly, I didn't like it.  It was not particularly well-written.  In fact, I actually found it extremely emotionless.  I am sure Melissa Francis is a lovely person, but it didn't come through in her writing. It left me feeling sad and cold.  After weeding through a lot of typos, name-dropping and, frankly, boring accounts of her life as a child actor, I wasn't able to relate to the author at all.  I, too, was raised by a toxic mother.  I fully understand what this does to a child.  It's heartbreaking and tragic.  My heart goes out to Melissa and her sister, believe me.  But she simply doesn't paint a very pretty picture of herself and I don't even think she gets that.  While reading, I got the impression that she believes she was "the good one" and that she handled everything the best way she possibly could, but to me, she came off as rather uncaring.  I felt that she chose, on certain occasions, to NOT do the right thing because it would have been the more difficult choice.  Make no mistake, I am not blaming the author for two deaths discussed in the book, but I am shocked she didn't do more to try to prevent them.  I totally get wanting to remove yourself from a situation.  Absolutely.  But if my sister needed me, nothing (NOTHING) could keep me from her.  I am glad Ms. Francis got her happy ending and her husband and sons seem like such a blessing to her.  But I still feel sad.


 

Friday, May 9, 2014

Super Heroes

You know what I like?  I like when little boys go out to the mall wearing super hero capes.  I'm not talking about a store bought remnant of last year's Halloween costume. I'm talking about a ratty old towel or perhaps a table cloth with some strings he convinced Gramma to attach.  Because those capes truly hold the super powers!  I like when little girls wear tutus for no reason.  Ideally, tutus paired with big rubber boots and some messy, original hair dos!  If she has glasses .... even better!  I like little kids who jam out to Muzak!  I like when babies' feet start tapping to the beat and toddlers have full on rock concerts with the cool kid in the mirror.  I like kids who don't seem to mind if everyone stares.  I like skinned knees and ice cream stains on the fronts of shirts.  I like to hear kids laughing.  You know, the throw-your-head-back guttural kinds of laughter!
I like when kids ask questions. 
Yeah, that's what I like.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Wishful Thinking

People who know me are rarely surprised to find out that I believed in Santa Claus until I was, I don't know, seventeen, perhaps.  What they may not know, however, is that I also believed in Wishful Thinking.
Wishful Thinking was a glittery little fairy who hung out on my pillow at night taking dictation of my deepest desires and whimsical fantasies.  She would relay this information to the proper recipient .... God, Santa, Cher .... whoever needed to know, Wishful Thinking gave them the message.  I trusted her with all my important information.
I did not write a lot of letters directly to Santa because I did not, on the other hand, trust my mother.  Not because I thought she was Santa, but because I knew she would read my very detailed letters and make fun of me.  And I doubted she would even mail them if I did actually put pen to paper.  If we couldn't afford a Band-Aid, I doubted we could afford a stamp.  If I ever did write a letter, it was a phony.  Yeah, right.  I want a dolly.  Sure, Santa, bring me that.  Wishful Thinking had the real list!
I cannot fully explain the disconnect, however.  Wishful Thinking had the list along with supporting evidence but Santa never did bring me what I wanted.
I don't blame Wishful Thinking, though.  I mean, I know she's a dingbat.  People can't even say her name without rolling their eyes, "Oh, that's just Wishful Thinking!"  They say it all sarcastic like the Tin Man to the Scarecrow, "Oh, that's you all over!"
Wishful Thinking!  You really gotta roll your eyes right up to Heaven when you say it.
But I still trust her.  It's not her fault stupid, fake Santa wouldn't listen!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Christmas Vacation


In December of 1989, I was broke.  Broker than broke.  I was working at NutriSystem and living, literally, on prepackaged diet food.  This made for a svelte figure and a lot of canker sores, but I was too penniless to enjoy those benefits. Occasionally, my roommate and I would happen upon a coupon for Taco John's.  Two Taco Bravos for $1.29.  We would dig through pockets, sofa cushions .... gutters ..... until we had enough to get the Taco Bravos.  Those were the best days!
One cold evening, my roommie got his hands on a couple of free movie passes.  He invited me to join him and his buddies and I was thrilled to accept!!
We saw National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.  I had never seen the other Vacation movies and had absolutely no idea what to expect.  And it was awesome!!
I have never laughed so hard in my whole life.  I think I desperately needed to laugh and was craving it so deeply.  This movie was custom made for me!  I believe it!  They say laughter is the best medicine and I completely agree!
I guffawed at the increasingly insane situations Clark encountered and teared with him as he remembered Christmases Past.  I fully understood his intense desire to create the perfect Christmas for his family and sympathized that it never turned out quite right for him.
I know every line in the film.  I adore every character.  I watch it at least once every year and enjoy it just as much each and every time.  For me, it brings back memories of when this movie was the greatest gift a skinny little broke girl could have ever received.  The gift of A Griswold Family Christmas.
The gift of laughter.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Elf on the Shelf












For the past couple of years, I've been seeing this little Elf on the Shelf turning up in folks' homes.  I mean, I'm not in their homes, but I see the pictures they post on Facebook and that's almost the same thing.  The funny thing is that I had that elf when I was little!  And, unbelievably, I have photographic evidence for once!!  See him in the upper left corner?  Perched on our contact papered faux mantlepiece?  My elf had horse hair and wires sticking out of his appendages and a Becca-induced bobble head, but he was always there.  Every Christmas for as long as I can remember.  I liked him.  He didn't hide all over our house.  He just came out during the holidays to play with me and sometimes scratch or cut me.  I didn't mind, though.  It was Christmas and it's all good at Christmas!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Sunday, August 11, 2013

THREE!!



It's the third anniversary of Puzzle's Homecoming!  Three years ago we brought home a little scaredy dog who spent most of her time in hiding.  Today she is the boss of our whole family .... and we wouldn't have it any other way!  So happy she found her forever home with us!!
My beautiful happy girl!!