Sunday, January 29, 2012

If Giraffes Show Up Tomorrow

No matter how much I love my dog, I just can’t think of myself as her ‘parent’. That’s what I heard pet owners called last night during a cat food commercial. But I’m pretty sure I would have remembered giving birth to something with four legs and a tail. Stuff like that sticks with you.

Our pooch is part of the family, but on our terms. As long as she remembers where her personal bathroom is and where it isn’t, I don’t mind renewing her dog license once a year. But I’m not her parent. I decided long ago to reserve that title for addressing my human progeny.

Uh, oh. I’m already offending somebody--I can tell. Hang on--it might get better. Remember, this is just my introspective indulgence here.

Let me lay some groundwork. When I was a kid, we lived in a trailer park. And, like every other kid on the planet, I desperately wanted a pet. Having a little sister didn’t count. But where do you put a pet in an eight by forty foot mobile home and still sleep two adults and two kids? In a fish tank. To this day, I can spot betas and mollies and angel fish from across Petsmart without even trying. But fish aren’t good playmates for kids. One good game of Catch! and the next thing you know, they’re floating upside down in the aquarium. That’s followed by a short funeral and a fun ride through a porcelain water slide.

It turned out the fish were more of a hobby for my parents anyway, so one summer they gave us a turtle. ‘Cuz turtles live in small spaces and it’s okay to hold them. Or at least, in the sixties, everyone thought it was all right. Now we know you can get salmonella from those little green things with the splash of red on their head. But this one didn’t last long enough to get a name or risk our health. We took him and his turtle bowl outside for some healthy sunshine one afternoon and forgot to take him back in. He was turtle soup by supper time. Salmonella sushi.

So on my ninth birthday, I got my very own hamster. You can pet those and let them play hide and seek in your shirt. But they have a very short attention span. One minute they remember how to breathe, and the next they’re doing an imitation of the floating fish, but with fur. I guess we got an old one. Of course, even as a kid I had a guilt complex so I thought Tika died because I didn’t play with her enough. Or maybe that’s what my parents told me, hoping I wouldn’t ask for any more pets. At any rate, I lovingly buried her in the back yard. For a week. Then I dug her up and threw her in the trash can so her ghost wouldn’t haunt me. Well, I was nine.

The next year we moved into a small house with a big yard. And we got a couple of dogs. It was fabulous—for a minute. When I found out you couldn’t just feed them once a week or trust them to find their own water, the thrill was gone. Suddenly, they were just noisy and demanding. And dirty. To this day, I think dogs should be self-cleaning, but they hate getting in the shower. And they’re destructive. I’ll never forget coming home after school one day to find my favorite blouse ripped off the clothesline and torn to shreds by the Labrador we misnamed “Princess”. Royalty shouldn’t act like that.

Do you see why I am ambivalent about animals? And knowing this, wouldn’t you think animals would steer clear of me? Nope. They search me out. I think it’s some kind of a vendetta. I’ve been cornered by mice, stalked by cats, and buzzed by seagulls. I’ve been trampled by horses, rattled by snakes, surprised by zebras. I’ve been teased by gerbils, taunted by tarantulas, and tweeted by love birds. And I’ve had enough. If I wanted to live in a zoo, I’d have stopped shaving my legs years ago. Of course, it’s possible this is some kind of reverse karma for throwing Tika in the trash when I was a kid. I heard hamsters hold grudges forever.

It all came to a head for me a few years ago, about a week after we moved into a new house. I kept hearing scratching sounds above me in the master bath. For days. No one else heard them, and I was about to chalk it up to a hamster haunting when Rob finally heard them, too. Immediately out came the ladder, up he went into the attic, and when he came down he was holding two tiny kittens. Turns out insulation makes a comfy nest for newborns.

“Well, that was fun,” I thought to myself. Convinced it was just an anomaly, I laughed it off and resumed unpacking. But the next morning chaos broke loose as the dog began barking like a . . . dog and running around the cool deck surrounding the backyard pool. I went outside to see what the commotion was all about and saw two ducks floating arrogantly in the chlorinated water, stubborn and determined to lay claim to our cement pond. It wasn’t until our beagle dove in beside them that they decided to check out the resort next door instead and flew off.

I went into the house feeling quite shaken. I had ducks in my pool, cats in the attic, bats in my belfry. There must be a target painted on the roof of our house! Animal couples of fur and feather were arriving without reservations but plenty of luggage. I decided if giraffes showed up the next day, I was leaving. The last time animals gathered in one place like this, a flood followed. And as much as I hate to clean up after a dog, I sure wasn’t hanging around to do it for a floating menagerie.

Then it hit me. There was no impending disaster. This was payback. All the floating fish and sautéed turtles and expired rodents and traumatized tarantulas had met up on The Other Side. This was The Revenge of Tika.

Talk about having a chip on your shoulder. I guess I shouldn’t have thrown her in that dumpster.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


Plants annoy me. They’re so . . . needy.

If I don’t water them, they won’t live. I think that’s blackmail. And manipulation. And don’t forget codependency.

Plus, they’re liars. They are, too. You buy them in the grocery store, full of blooms and promise—like those cute little miniature roses in clay pots. You take them home, put ‘em in the kitchen window where the sun shines, and the next thing you know, all the flowers fall off, the leaves let loose and you’ve got yourself an eight dollar pot of sticks.

My husband recently inherited some orchids that he bought for me without my permission. Maybe he thought they’d inspire me to get off Facebook and take up cultivation. But plants are smarter than that. They never would have gone home with him if they’d known he meant to give them to me. They’re afraid of me. They saw my picture on the wanted poster behind the florist’s counter.

These three came loaded with blooms, and hung onto them way longer than any premature roses ever did. But ever since the first crop of blossoms fell off, all we’ve been raising are orchid leaves. I even bought an artificial orchid that looked like they once did—giant purple bloom spike and everything--and put it on the shelf next to them.

“Aspire!” I told them. Maybe they thought I said “expire”. At least the fake one still looks good.

I just don’t have the gardening gene. This inorganic thumb of mine has been around all my life. Though I always wanted to live on a farm, God—in His infinite wisdom—planted me in the city where I couldn’t hurt any of His crops of corn. It’s not that I don’t like plants. It’s just that I don’t care. I want them to suck it up and take care of themselves. Bloom where they’re planted. Stop looking pathetic and get a life. Is that asking too much?

Some of my friends hate to receive fresh flowers. They’ve told their husbands not to waste money on dead plants. They ask for live ones, thinking they’ll last longer. But I think that’s a waste of time. Just cut out the middle man and bring me the dead ones while they still look good. We’re not kidding ourselves here – cut roses in a vase get you kisses in my house. Bring me a live plant complete with expectations and guilt, and I may not talk to you for a week.

The only potted plant I’ve ever received that I appreciated was given to me by a friend in Florida. It had deep green velvety leaves and was called a Phonaceous Ignoricus Phophilodendrious. She made it herself from leftover velvet sewn onto wire stems and lovingly placed each stalk into a beautiful little clay pot filled with styrofoam. The special instructions on the homemade label read, “Do not water. Do not place in direct light. Thrives on neglect.”

Man, I loved that plant. I still weep just thinking about it. The Phony Ignorable Fauxphilodendrum.

I sure wish I hadn’t dropped it.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Tag, You're It!

I don’t know what came over me.

I fell in love with my husband because he's so patient. But don't let that kind face fool you. He's always telling me he doesn’t get mad, he gets even. He calls it Israeli Commando Tactics. In case you don’t know, it goes like this: You pinch me, I slap you. You slap me, I shoot you. You shoot me, I nuke you.

You can’t win in a contest like that. But I keep trying.

A few years ago, I got this great idea. I was cleaning up after a carnival at our church when I found it. It reminded me of a Christmas surprise Rob gave me when we were first married, so I knew he’d appreciate the sentiment. It was the right size, and obviously a fake. . . but in low light, maybe . . . Chances were pretty slim he would fall for it, but if all’s fair in love and war, this belonged in my arsenal. I stuck it in my pocket and took it home. That night I tucked it into a spot where I knew he’d see it.

But the next morning he got up early, kissed me goodbye and left for work without comment. I was pretty disappointed, but you win some, you lose some. I rolled over in the dark and went back to sleep.

An hour later I woke up and suddenly remembered who I was dealing with. After doing one of those big, yawning stretches you do every morning, I turned over and made eye contact with something lying next to me on the pillow. It was the snake I left in Rob’s underwear drawer the night before. I knew it was fake and I still freaked out.

Boy do I hate going into a battle of wits unarmed.

Now, the score stood at Rob-two, me-zero. Counting that morning’s scream and the rubber fishing worms he put in the toes of my Christmas socks twenty years earlier, he was winning this undeclared war. I had to step up my game. I picked the snake up off the floor where I’d thrown it and went into the closet to find a pair of his shoes.

Over time that snake became the shuttlecock in our version of badminton. Finding it crammed in a stack of folded towels was Rob’s way of saying, ‘Tag! You’re it!’ Then I’d put it in his briefcase, only to find it waiting for me under my pillow the next morning. That’ll keep the tooth fairy away.

Sometimes weeks go by and the reptile will seem to go into hibernation—usually on Rob’s watch, and just long enough for me to forget about him—until I reach into my makeup drawer and have a mini-stroke as my fingers wrap around the snake instead of my mascara.

One morning I went into the kitchen to get a coffee cup. I opened the cupboard door and came eyeball to eyeball with the sneaky little serpent, just chilling on the shelf. I didn’t even need caffeine after that.

Rob admits he’s been startled a couple of times after I’ve hidden the snake. . . but I’ve never seen it. It always happens while he’s getting ready for work and I’m still asleep. Once, he jerked his foot out of a work boot where the little guy was curled up in the toe, but I didn’t hear him yell. It’s just no fun to play a practical joke and miss your own punch line!

I had to get my act together.

So I secretly retired the old snake and bought a new one. This one fools the dog. It’s a lot more authentic looking and has a meaner face. I don’t even like to touch the thing, but a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do. I hid the newcomer in Rob’s coat pocket one night and scored a hit when he stuck his hand in it the next morning. Now the count stood at Eula-three and Rob . . . ten.

I was so far behind. If I had any sense, I’d have just conceded this contest. But I’m no quitter.

Then, a few Decembers ago, we were headed out to Kentucky to see our son graduate. I’d come down with a terrible cold and, while we waited to board our plane, I walked over to a Starbucks counter to get some hot tea for my throat. I needed something that was caffeine free, but those airport baristas are nothing like the real thing. The girl just handed me a ring of teabags and told me to read all the ingredients myself.

But I wasn’t wearing my glasses. I started rifling through my purse among all the cough drops and Tylenol and nose spray. It looked like a ticker tape parade with all the Kleenex flying everywhere. Finally, there they were. My glasses. I pulled them out in frustration, trying to open the case and all the while thinking to myself, “They shouldn’t even call themselves Starbucks if they don’t know their merchandise better than that.”

Suddenly I screamed, nearly knocking over the person behind me as I jumped away from the counter.

“Idiot!” I exclaimed as I tried to regain my composure. The barista looked at me like I’d just insulted her mother.

“Not you,” I said, “him!” And I pointed across the room at my husband—the guy with the red face, falling out of his chair, laughing so hard he couldn’t breathe. Him. My better half. Who just scored another point as I pulled the snake out of my glasses case at the Starbucks counter.

Sold out by my own fake snake.

It’s over. I give up. It’s time for me to throw in the towel and declare Rob the winner of the sneaky snake game.

But don’t you worry. I’m gonna give him the recognition he’s got coming to him. Just once. It will totally be worth his Israeli Retaliation Tactics. This time I’ll be there to hear him yell.

I’m gonna go back to throwing cold water on him in the shower.

Sunday, January 8, 2012


Why do mummies die twice? They were dead, but then a whole army of them comes back to life, fights a huge battle from their various stages of decomposition and then expire again. I think we need a new definition for the word “die.”

Is this some kind of Lazarus complex?

Am I to understand there aren’t enough bad guys in the world already, so we need more of them to show up again? How frustrating. Imagine how complicated the whole judicial system becomes if you can’t give someone what they deserve because death sets them free to show up and harass people again . . . and again . . .

This must be stopped.

There is an advantage to mummy immortality, I guess. If they come back to life they might have to serve all of that 120 year sentence they were given in their first life. I just don’t know how you could keep ‘em behind bars to do it. It doesn’t seem to bug them if they lose an appendage while fighting with people, so they could probably sacrifice one and squeeze through the bars.

Wow. This is a problem. Mummies should have overrun the world by now. Add to that the problem of their second cousins, zombies, and local law enforcement is guilty of ignoring an entire creepy subculture. And I don’t mean the TSA. Although they come close.

So I’m watching the end of “Mummies Three” with Rob. Or maybe it was called “Tomb of the Dragon Emperor”. I mean, why do they even call them tombs if the undead were dead but can’t be kept dead? What’s the point of funerals if these morons refuse to stay put? And how do they even get that kind of power? Does medical science know about this? I know it would put most of the pharmaceuticals out of business, but judging from the complexion problems of the undead, Johnson & Johnson could just turn its attention to the cosmetic industry. Retinol could do wonders for these guys.

I don’t think I’ve ever watched a mummy movie before. That’s probably because Jimmy Stewart never starred in any of them. I didn’t see the first part of this one, so I admit I’m coming in a little late. But it looks like the boy falls in love with a three thousand year old girl whose mother came back to fight all the other comeback kids who still hate each other and are convinced, even now, they can take over the world. The mom, in her second time around—through the mystery of mummydom—gives up her own immortality so her slightly younger daughter can fall in love with the first time around hero (son of Brandon Frazier) and go out on a date with him. In the last scene the two are shown dancing together, head over heels in love, while he whispers in her ear the words every girl longs to hear, “You look pretty good for a woman your age.” Takes the term “cougar” to a whole new level, doesn’t it?

Well, enough of that. We’re on to the next reality show offered by Hollywood. And it looks like a doozy. A strange creature is seen off the coast of Scotland. The U.S. Army adopts him and names him 'Hellboy'.

This one’s a Christmas story!

Stay tuned. I’ll let you know if it’s destined to become a classic or not.

For Love Of Chocolate

Twelve twelve. In the morning. After midnight. Sitting here in my jammies with a breathe right strip on my nose and the electric blanket asking where I am and the dog snoring at my feet instead of in her crate where he belongs. All because of chocolate.

I was all ready to go to sleep. I even practiced first in my recliner in front of the TV to see if I was up to it. Yep, I was good at it. I opened one eye, got out of the chair, and wandered back to our bedroom. But when I turned on the bathroom light to brush my teeth, I woke up. Rats. So I hung up some of the clothes still exploded out of our suitcases after our trip last week. Then I washed a few dishes so the kitchen would be clean when I get up . . . in a few hours. And then I got hungry. For chocolate.

What is it about chocolate that makes me grab a spoon in one hand and an ice cream dish in the other, knowing I’ll have to go brush my teeth again? My husband doesn’t crave it—he likes it, but he’d rather eat a banana most of the time. And I know bananas sound healthier, but chocolate has recently admitted to being a super food. Any day now, I think it will get its own triangle in the Food Pyramid.

Don’t believe me? Well, grab some M&M’s and follow along, ‘cuz this is the best news since the creation of Pinterest.

Chocolate is good for your heart. Even the one that beats in your chest.

Chocolate is an anti-oxidant. It can’t clean your clothes, but it can clean out the free radical riff raff loitering in your body.

Chocolate is comforting. Ever heard of serotonin? It was invented by chocolate.

Chocolate is a stimulant. Which is why it’s twelve thirty-one now and I’m awake and still coherent.

Chocolate can lower your blood pressure. I keep some right by the phone just in case certain relatives call.

Chocolate’s flavonoids balance hormones. Which is why my husband carries them in his pocket at all times—self protection.

Chocolate is made up of two parts good fat to one part not so good fat. Which says to me that one third of the good fat cancels out the one third of the bad fat leaving a final third of good fat which means: chocolate is good for you.

Chocolate makes me happy. It stimulates endorphin production. I can get a runner’s high without getting sweaty just by enjoying a Dove chocolate bar.

And finally, chocolate tastes good. And even though I’m addicted to it, the main reason I eat it now is because it’s so good for me. And my marriage. And my relatives. And society at large. Everyone is safer if I eat chocolate.

It really is a super food. It deserves its own superhero comic strip. It already has a whole town in Pennsylvania named after it. I’m petitioning for a holiday in its honor. I think it could even be President.

So now you know my two addictions: chocolate and blogging about chocolate. One eleven. In the a.m. You’re not even up reading this. So why am I up writing this?

Sigh. Because of chocolate.