Thursday, December 30, 2010

Christmas Passed

Christmas Day passed with relatively minor injury – nothing that warranted triage, protective custody or military intervention.  We were bloodied, but now bowed.  And best of all – no one was arrested on assault charges or booked for packin’ heat that had not been officially registered with Toys R Us. Now THAT was a miracle!

That morning, before anyone could approach their mound of decadence, I prepared a breakfast of solid protein, as is my custom.  This is a tradition that can be traced back, no doubt, to Mary herself, when she insisted on food of dense nutritional value to counter the hallucinatory effects of inhaling too much second-hand myrrh from well-intentioned Magi, - the ancient equivalent of today’s sugar high.

We partied to the brink of dementia.  To survive the holidays, dementia is mandatory. The children all received in greater abundance than their annual behavior justified – such are the consequences of justice tempered by mercy…and a plethora of grandparently tolerance and adoration.  Asher is a prodigy of perpetual motion.  In his case, it is easier to repair than rebuke.  The rest of the miniature mafia are like live-action cartoons.  It would be easier to harness a tidal wave than to diminish their energy.  There is nothing measured, graceful, genteel or, at times, civil about the multitude when Santa has visited. They are throbbing and rumbling and pulsing even at rest.  It is a little unnerving to think they carry ancestral DNA.

I personally received a cherished gift.  It is a necklace engraved with each grandchild’s name, date of birth, and appropriate birth stone.  I wear it over my heart, which is just adjacent to my charge card.  This is so that I can recite each kid’s name as I begin the ritualistic over-indulgence purchasing the week after Christmas.  I am certain all grandmas have an element of depravity where their particular posse is concerned.  We are first-responders.  Self-restraint is not our specialty.  I am renown for my entertainment inflation.

But one crime I am absolutely NOT guilty of is declaring that MY child (or grandchild, etc.- fill in the blank) would never do (whatever felony/misdemeanor, etc. – fill in the blank) the (teacher, sheriff, bishop, etc. – fill in the blank) accused them of doing.  I’ve always known they were not only capable of (Name That Mischief), but were quite likely the ringleaders.  Ergo, while there is frequently omelet on my plate, there is never egg on my face!

Ah, but I digress.  We took particular care to review the sacred events that first generated this annual frenzy on Christmas Eve.  It all seems so simple when one is instructing small children.  I’m not really sure why, as adults, we complicate it in the name of “The Holidays.”  Distorted reasoning, due undoubtedly to sleep deprivation brought on by nostalgia and tradition…and too much wassail.

But this year, the children all appeared to get it.  This was most gratifying.  And they, in turn, seemed to teach the adults…as two exhausted generations lay in traction from preparing festivities of such elaborateness it can sometimes divert and obscure that simple story of old.

Every year I claim redemption, a personal epiphany of reclamation – that I will change my ways and not lose sight of what matters most.  But it is so easy to lose my way.

Dennis helps me a lot with my vows of financial celibacy.  He channels his inner Jacob Marley, drapes himself in heavy chains and conjures hard core bank statements in 8X10 glossies from my personal history, as he groans in quivering agony, pale and slack-jawed.  These pictures rise up to haunt my dreams at all hours of the night like a hybrid of all the Fiscal Ghosts of Christmas Presents Past.  Unfortunately, all his oratorical pyrotechnics fall on depleted reserves of energy.  I’m too tired to be persuaded.

So, I remain resolutely unimpressed.  I am not easily frightened…I’m a mother!  Like most Mothers and Grandmas, I’m one part guts and three parts Teflon, and where my little multitude is concerned, rationale and restraint simply don’t stick.  Terrorism is rather impotent when we’re talkin’ grandchildren.

If it’s the thought that counts, my brain is worth its weight in gold!  (Dennis just groaned.)

And speaking of thoughts, the first decade of the new millennium is approaching its conclusion.  I welcome 2011 with open arms.  I am not sure what this year has in store for us.  There are no oracles we can consult.  I am OK with that.  But I do know what will  NOT be littering my calendar.  There will be no colonoscopy, no jury duty, no parathyroidectomy and no appendectomy.  Been there.  Done that.  From now on, all my surgery will be recreational!

I am, however, amenable to body recontouring.  Apparently, according to all the infomercials, (so you know it’s true), this is done by simple “muscle confusion.” Hmmmm.  Muscle confusion.  OooooooKaaaaaay.  I’m a little unclear on the concept.  I wonder if that’s the same as flab disorientation. Or perhaps cellulite deception.  Maybe corpulent fraud?  I confess I’m no molecular biologist, but I do know that what happens in the thighs, stays on the thighs.  It is a brutal consequence of life.  Ratify the Reality!  Own Your Fat!

We welcome the coming year.  Dennis’ blood draw to determine his tumor markers will occur Thursday morning.  We are preoccupied at the moment, not thinking about it.  We will continue to not think about it until we get the results.  Not thinking about things is exhausting. 

And then we will sing “Auld Lang Sein,” and retire to our recliners for the annual collapse.  This is good.

Happy New Year!  And “God bless us, Every One.”

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Winter Solstice

‘Tis the week before Christmas, and all through the house
There is chaos and exhaustion, and I just “offed” a mouse.

Christmas will be here in a few days.  I guess I’m ready, although my house is in utter disarray.  But then, so am I.  I have spent the past six weeks in mindless consumption.  My irrational rationale seems to think that holiday calories should not count with the same malignant, body-expanding impact as the other months of the year.  My irrational metabolism thinks otherwise.
It occurs to me that in this month of mirth, there are melodies to celebrate the birth, but not the girth.  No anthems for the slothful and waddlesome.  No carols for the corpulent.  Pity, really.  I notice this dearth because in the past six weeks, my heart has grown, but so have my other component parts.  I am still anatomically correct…just more so.  Of course, I could display some self-restraint as I put on the feedbag and debase myself at the fleshpot.  But that would require some modicum of behavior modification, and that is in direct opposition to my standards of decorum.

However, I suppose it is up to me to remedy this musical oversight for those of us moderately to morbidly obese.

So here goes.  I only hope the MoTab Choir includes these sentiments in their portfolio.
(Sung very roughly to the tune of “I’ll Be Home For Christmas.”)

I’ll be fat for Christmas.
I won’t count calories.

Please have mo
Sour cream and potato
For poundage round my knees.

I’ll be fat for Christmas.
I’ll be a bigger size.

Please bake pies
To swell my thighs
And ignore me if I cry.

I’ll be fat for Christmas,
Pass the cookies and cream.
I’ll be fat for Christmas,
And bursting at the seams.

It’s not exactly Irving Berlin, but my lyrics don’t bring a tear to the eye…just dimples to the thigh.  I admit I suffer from over-eating remorse.  I regret all the peristalsis required to digest meals of great quantity.  Unfortunately, I become contrite AFTER consuming, and then begin the ritual of shouting impotent threats to impale myself on the nearest candy cane as I make my appointment for bi-directional lipo-suction. I need a crowbar and an oil slick just to get into my clothes. I’m not so sure having a multi-chambered stomach is a good thing. Still, I continue to believe there is always a need to sing an ode to wanton indulgence.  I embrace excess!

I’m not totally convinced that this is the most wonderful time of the year. 
Exhaustion is inherent in every Christmas season.  Merchants and salesmen assault shoppers with unremitting advertisements for the latest sales.  Crime rates seem to increase in direct proportion to extended mall shopping hours.  I actually tried shopping at 5:00 a.m. recently.  Within the space of three minutes I became unaware of my surroundings and began reciting the Pythagorian theorum in hopes of transmitting energy to my frayed nerves.  Dennis gently led me to the car, whispering reassurances to prevent me from tearing off my clothes and running buck nekkid down the aisles.  It was a supreme act of humanitarianism on behalf of the other shoppers. 

However, Tuesday was the winter solstice.  Starting Wednesday, the days will cease dropping precious minutes of daylight.

So despite discordant declarations of morphing into THE UN-SANTA at clashing intervals, I am quite content to allow Christmas to occur.

All six of our little Yetis will gather at our hearth on Christmas Eve.  Their collective decibel level is louder than a carnival barker.  Carter is our perpetual punch-line. The high octane level, (part excitement and part astronomical amounts of blood sugar,) causes the tribe to accelerate in a primitive, angular rhythm requiring high speed stop-motion photography to see each of them clearly. They rumble and tumble through the front door like miniature sumo wrestlers, body-slamming each other in an exuberant smack-down to see who can get to the gifts under the tree first.

   I personally know that Santa has a high threshold for mischief, because we own a debt greater than the national deficit.  I obliterated our budget while single-handedly jump-starting the economy.  If Santa strictly adhered to his “Naughty and Nice” code of conduct, it would be much less expensive.  Santa is benevolent, if a little mentally defective.

And I am ready.  I’ve decorated, baked (that’s a total lie!) wrapped, cleaned, sung Christmas carols, and I’ve called each reindeer by name…(some aliases are best left unrecorded.)  And I’ve listened to Asher sing “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas” more times than Sarah Palin’s appeared on TV…I never get tired of Asher. The house is a scene of domestic bliss straight out of Dickens.

The only thing left to do now is shout “HOOAH!” at the appropriate times and feign shock at Santa’s generosity…and tolerance.  It takes a tremendous amount of time and resources to perpetuate the myth of a paranormal jolly, fat, hairy stranger whose mode of travel defies gravity and contradicts the logic of astrophysicists.  But Grandmas are hard wired for saturation gifting.

I won’t be making too many psychological projections for the coming year.  Nor resolutions, for that matter.  I’ll probably spend the greater portion of the next few months just imposing order from the impending Christmas morning upheaval.  But I will watch for new stars in the heavens, no doubt the result of geo-magnetic phenomenon, and 
be amazed at the light, not the dark.  Black holes are not my thing.

And Dennis will be with me.  Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Turkeys and Christmas Carols

We had Thanksgiving.  It was just one of many stops on the calendar as we become holiday nomads trekking our way through November and December. 

I love Thanksgiving.  It is that nearly-forgotten cross-cultural transition observance inserted between spooks and Santa (the old annual angels and demons conundrum).

So much preparation and planning go into pulling off this one meal, that it is easy to understand why I only cook twice a year, (the other occasion being Christmas Eve.)

We placed bets on how long it would be before a grandkid asked for the one item in the universe which didn’t happen to appear on the table.  This year it was Carter.  After perusing the elaborate banquet laid out in Martha Stewart splendor before everyone’s bedazzled eyes, he demanded sugar gruel and dippy eggs.  3 minutes, 39 seconds.  A new record.

The dinner was a triumph.  There were few left-overs, the most obvious evidence that our family members are apex predators being the hapless turkey carcass residing in the outdoor receptacle.  We stuffed the turkey and the turkey stuffed us.  Symbiosis at its most elemental.

Of course, everyone’s favorite part of the traditional Thanksgiving dinner was the traditional after-dinner “piecing,” in which no preposterous socially mandatory instruments such as spoons or forks are required to continue the feeding frenzy…only fingers.  Rudimentary foraging.  Forget sterile procedure.  We consumed enough densely-packed calories to allow for hibernation in the arctic. The behavior of our family gaggle inspired us to trace our genealogy back to cro-magnon. There was a constant rhythmic percussion of “thup, thup,” as wads of everything from salad to potatoes were compressed between thumb and forefinger and sucked past the epiglottis into the gut.  This continued for hours…perpetual indulgence playing itself out like a culinary mutation of “Groundhog Day.” Eating can be entertaining, if not particularly pretty.

Unfortunately, we have become casualties of our own success, because out of success is born…TRADITION!  Tradition tyrannizes.  Tradition is like a malignant parasite.  Very subtly and almost unnoticed, tradition burrows into one’s holly-filled heart, infests the mistletoe of the mind, and corrupts one’s holiday spirit.  Before one has time to say “HOOAH Fudrucker’s!” one has morphed into a member emeritus of  the comically depraved.

Oh, I start December with the highest ethical standards of merriment. I deck every hall.  I hang each stocking by the chimney with great care.  I roast chestnuts on an open fire.  I hark every herald angel in the choir.  I play my drums whenever I see a nativity, and even toot my own horn.  I actually bought a spinet just to play carols on.  I am the repository of every magnanimous thought, and all the fa la la la la’s emitted from my mouth bring joy to the world.

But somewhere along the way, (usually about December 2nd), something happens.  Things change.  I change. There is a dark side to the holidays. I begin grinning idiotically. Exhaustion, triptophan, and lack of sufficient oxygen to the brain combine to produce a combustible condition that transforms me from Suzy Snowflake to the odious Mrs. Hyde. I LOSE MY FA LA LA LA LA! Dark circles ring my eyes like malignant door wreaths.  The constant swilling of caffeine renders my eyes stark, red, and unable to blink.  Daily affirmation is abandoned.  For 30 consecutive days, I become the unrelenting alter-ego, a mal-lingual, evil speaking embodiment of the anti-uber-celebrant…ashamed, but unrepentant.  

The disintegration from celebration to degeneration develops incrementally.  Ironically, it usually occurs in about twelve steps, rather like a mutation of those required for addiction recovery program, and remarkably similar to the “Twelve Days of Christmas” carol that triggers the instinct to kill after the third time it is sung in its entirety.  I doubt I’d be convicted by a jury of my peers.  (Just what are “lords a’ leaping” anyway??)  

And so in particular and exquisitely precise order, here is my own peculiar advent calendar of December days as they occur in reality, without the distortion of the nostalgic lenses of Currier and Ives and Thomas Kincaid.  This is the precipitous metamorphosis from rationality to debauchery in a matter of a mere six weeks.  Caution: The following  contains graphic and raw images that may be disturbing to those who have not yet begun their Christmas shopping. It is not for the faint of heart. Viewer discretion is advised.

1.    Eat.  Pray.  Love.
2.    Eat.  Pray.  Clean.
3.    Eat.  Clean.  Shop.
4.    Shop.  Rush.  Decorate. Clean again.
5.    Eat.  Eat.  Eat.
6.    Eat.  Decorate more to keep up with the neighbors.  Cry.  Curse.
7.    Buy.  Wrap.  Buy more to surpass the neighbors. Collapse.
8.    Overspend.  Break budget on annual gift blizzard.  Go to debt counseling.
9.    Buy yet more.  Take out loan.  Attend weekly sessions of Over-spenders Anonymous.
10.    Eat.  Weigh.  Cry.
11.    Weigh.  Diet.  Curse.  Binge.  Splurge.  Purge.
12.    Look in the mirror.  Become clinically depressed.  Call plastic surgeon.
13.    Destroy all of Bing Crosby’s CD’s for the crime of auditory overload. Blast TV with shotgun after 10th re-run of “It’s A Wonderful Life” while planting explosives in all the underwear of every resident in Whoville, forcing them to yield to the moral superiority of brute force.  Make random threats to no one in particular while muttering incoherently.
14.    Dismember anyone who utters the diabolical duo:  Zhu Zhu.  Neutor Rudolph and single-handedly commit gender reassignment on Santa’s entire herd of reindeer.  Resist the urge to waterboard all the residents of the North Pole.  (Commonly known as blurring ethical lines for a higher cause.)
15.    Curse the names of Normal Rockwell and Irving Berlin.  Start a rumor that every chestnut on every open fire and every sugar plum that dances in every head is contaminated with H1N1.  Begin singing duets with Brian David Mitchell.
16.    Break the drum of every little drummer boy on the planet.  Maniacally proclaim Bristol Palin the World’s greatest dancer ever.  Run naked down the street shouting, “Santa is a fleshy fraud and we’re all going to die!”
17.    Eat.  Cry.  Beg Santa to up my Zoloft.
18.    Swear.  Swear.  Swear – while eating.
19.    Deck more halls. Deck fellow shoppers.  Go home with migraine.
20.    Seek forgiveness.  Join 12-step program for harsh language addiction.  Enter rehab for the criminally profane. 

I can’t wait for January and the return of drab, monotonous rationality, when our only concerns are wars, crime, politics and scandal.  Of course, in the Ashton household, “WikiLeaks” are just failed attempts at toilet training little boys. 

Before I surrender my dignity to the seasonal rant-and-collapse recurring cycle, like an endless video loop, I will try to remember it’s not about the frenzy, it’s about the purpose.  As December 2nd approaches, and I am one ho ho ho away from being institutionalized for felonious merriment, I will send this sage advice along with my Christmas greetings:  Eat.  Pray.  Love.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


posted by Joan Ashton

Last week we went to see Dracula…live (so to speak)…on stage.  Holy Phlebotomy!  Talk about blood drive.  This guy could single-fangedly bankrupt all the blood reserves in the country.  He’s one scary dude!  Our seats are in the third row back…dead center.  I found myself wishing for triage and a spatter shield.

Really, I never understood the public’s current infatuation with vampires.  I tried valiantly and finally triumphed in reading “Twilight,” but was singularly unenamoured. There is a glaring lack of literary sense.  But somehow it has caught the imagination of hopeless romantics, so I suppose that validates the tale in spite of erudite arguments to the contrary. 

Actually, vampires are intriguing. Their history pre-dates even Bram Stoker’s iconic tale.  Folklore from the ancient world among Hebrews, Greeks, Romans and Indians, as well as Greek mythology tell of vampires who drank the blood of those foolish enough to go to sleep when the moon was full. 

I hope I’m not misunderstood.  I don’t want to appear to be racist or ghoulishly profiling “the children of the night,” or suggest that I have a cultural bias against the feeding habits of the undead who haunt graveyards in search of meals as if it were some sort of grisly Chuckarama!

But there is something slightly macabre about the suggestion that one could fall in love with a creature, suave and charming I agree, who looks at you as his next meal.  Of course, a vampire with a conscience is still a vampire, even if he really, REALLY regrets violating your jugular.

So I decided to compile my top ten reasons why I’m not in love with Dracula…we’re just friends.

10.    Dracula seems to have a certain animal magnetism for flatliner women who wander vacant-eyed around some creepy mansion in gauzy gowns and whiny voices.  A fifteen-year-old thread-bare Minnie Mouse nightshirt is singularly unqualified as a garment of seduction.

9.    I’ve never found someone whose gaunt pallor is as pasty as pizza dough a particular turn-on.  A lighter shade of pale is fine as a color on a paint chip, but not as a lover.

8.    It’s hard enough to tell a fellow his fly is open, but there is no socially acceptable way to tell him there’s a blood clot between his teeth.
7.  If I cut myself shaving, it would be like ringing the dinner bell.
6.  I’ve never been attracted by anyone whose fingernails resemble a full set of Ron Popeel’s paring knives.

5.  How alluring is a guy who measures his caloric intake in corpuscles?

4.  You know a man is of questionable character when his alter ego is a corpse.

3.  I was never any good at geology.  Where is Carpathia anyway?  Aren’t Carpathians mostly farmers?  Tillers of the soil?  I could never fall in love with someone whose sanctum sanctorum is a wooden box filled with native dirt…a composite of detritus and yak dung.  Ooooh, think of the dandruff!

2.   For me to be attracted to a guy, he has to have more going for him than a well-developed set of incisors.  People that flash their canines as their eyes are glazing over cannot be considered orthodox persons of interest.

1.  Dracula doesn’t romance.  He forages.

Of course, there is a certain efficiency to dining with a vampire.  No dishes.  But it does put one off one’s appetite to have a quiet dinner with someone who impales his guests after dessert.  Besides, breath that is over 400 years old gives the term, “fetid” a bad name.

Which all brings me to this one point.  Brodi has written a book in which the main character is human.  His name is Jack.  He has no interest in desiccating his fellow classmates.  He is not reduced to dust particles upon solar exposure.  He’s just had braces, so no inordinate pointed teeth protrude for puncturing, ripping and tearing apart one’s friends and acquaintances.  His menu is varied enough to allow for fruits and vegetables.  He can guzzle anything from energy drinks to soda pop without triggering the gag reflex.  He travels by car, bike or foot.  No need to metamorphose into a disgusting night creature that flies around the gargoyles of haunted mansions.  And he never arrives or exits in the midst of mist.  I guess it’s a by-product of growing up along the Wasatch Front, but I have a terrible aversion to inversions. 

Bottom line:  Drac sucks.  Jack doesn’t! 

So look out Edward, et al.  Chick Alert!  Jack will be arriving in January, 2012.  And he has charisma without halitosis.  Boo Ya! 

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Turkey Season

It’s November.  We emerged from October bloodied, but not bowed.  All the kids’ costumes are back in storage, and the ghosts and phantoms of Halloweens past have been laid to rest – for now. 

Choosing just the right costume is not easy.  These things must be done delicately.  Brodi’s husband, Sam, claimed to be a metrosexual. However unclear I am on THAT concept, nevertheless, diplomacy above all - as Mother-in-Law Superior, I decided not to ask, and not to tell. 

I have discovered that I suffer from that rare and medically unsubstantiated condition known as “ghoulrophobia,” a fear of cadaverous and scary things.  That’s a fact. So I simply donned my fake fat butt and went around making snarky comments.  Being snarky is an acquired skill, requiring practice and a propensity for self abasement. Well, the stress eventually caused me to break out in shiny vitreous crystals and shed flaky biotate mica.  I worried about eroding away to nothingness, leaving only a thin layer of scar tissue and body fat encased in a Depends in a greasy puddle on the floor. I finally decided to drop the snarky, and just keep the fake fat butt. Sadly, nobody seemed to notice I was in costume.

This is the time of year when I become lost in small thoughts – random acts of mindless - so I won’t be swallowed by large thoughts.  On October 1st, we had our Christmas lights installed.  This made me a little cross, but the installers offer a discount for early hanging, and I just wanted that task off my mind. (An early-season snowstorm had frosted my tundra, which only served to up my irritability quotient.) However, there’s something hard-core unnatural about cross-decorating.  It’s irksome. I felt like my whole house was in drag with orange pumpkins, black cats and white ghosts on the porch and red and green lights on the roof.  “Scary” and “merry” are a bizarre cocktail…a little like multiple personalities occupying the same psyche.  This is SO wrong!  But it’s the season for the criminally confused. 

October was also the month for Dennis to have his blood tested.  There are so many important statistics that must be monitored.  But the most crucial of vital signs, is the CA 19-9, a tumor marker whose rising value can signal a trend that could indicate recurrence.  We approach that blood draw with reticent respect for the power of conscienceless numbers. 

We were disappointed to learn that Dennis’ numbers were elevated just out of the range of normal.  It’s hard not to be paranoid. But Dr. Jones scheduled a re-draw three weeks later.  We spent 21 agonizing days in strident and often erratic distraction.  Not obsessing about something consumes a massive amount of energy.  Useless activity burns a lot of calories.  After the allotted time, we returned to the blood lab…a little mangled and unhinged.  And then we began the wait for the results, and the highly anticipated and equally dreaded phone call that would determine our future.

There is a computer in China, the Tianhe-1 machine, that is capable of sustained computing of 2.507 petaflops, the equivalent of 2,507 TRILLION calculations, per second.  Sadly, the lab at the Huntsman does not have access to technology of such velocity.  So we had to pace out the next 24 hours desperately searching for comic relief.  Thankfully, we have grandkids!

After an agonizing, interminable time, the results came back.  While the CA 19-9 is still slightly elevated, it has dropped six points, from 48 to 42.  Most important, the trend is down, not up.

Needless to say, we are all euphoric and raised our voices in ebullient shouts of “BOOYEAH!”  In an effort to find a unique way to celebrate, Erin, Brodi and I took the grandkids to Dennis’ office for flu inoculations.  (We’re nothing if not innovative.)  Some got the mist, and two got the shot.  Those who got the mist were flinging snot like the rankest bulls in the PBR.  Those who got the shot screamed louder than Jamie Lee Curtis in “Halloween.”  We didn’t care….shot or snot.  We simply mopped up all the viscous projectiles and apologized to the other patients and noise enforcement Nazis.  As we were leaving the waiting room, Carter shrieked in his finest demonic voice, “SHOTS KILL KIDS!”  Celebration is in the eye of the beholder.

There is a protocol in soccer that is observed when a player is down or injured on the field.  Both teams go down on one knee until that player recovers.  It is a gesture of sportsmanship and support.  Throughout the month of October, there have been a multitude of friends and loved ones on one knee.  Our family is now on both knees in gratitude – most appropriate for the month of November. 

However, I am already planning my costume for October of 2011.  Next year for Halloween, I’m dressing up as a PETAFLOP!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

All Hallow's Eve

It’s October, that singular month solely dedicated to haunted houses, ghosties, ghoulies, and things that go bump in the night.  Growing up, my friends and I would have sleep-overs at each other’s house, and stay up late into the night to watch the Friday night scary movie. Then we’d try to sleep without becoming incontinent. (No easy task. It’s still a challenge.)

There was a whole compendium of Hollywood 1940’s B movies of terror, from Frankenstein to the Werewolf to the Mummy…and, of course…Dracula. They all gave us grand mal bejeebers.  But the greatest challenge to bladder control was always Vlad Dracul.  What a spooky invention he is.

Bram Stoker created a disturbing mythological creature whose horror is so potent in part because he is a count…Count Dracula to be exact.  By the way, did you know that Bram Stoker slept with a sarcophagus in his bedroom? Dennis said he could top that, but I advised him to think it through very carefully. The name “Dracula” actually comes from a Transylvanian word meaning “dragon.” He isn’t hairy.  He doesn’t snarl or drag his leg because his bandages are sagging. His manners are impeccable. He is charming and articulate. He is always dressed in his finest cloak and slicked back hair.  And his fangs lie covert under his lips.  That is, until he needs them.  And then he rips back those lips to reveal the incisive suckers that will ultimately puncture two perfect holes in the neck of some hapless, penoir-clad, really stupid woman’s jugular. Most of his victims are neuron-non-functioning females with a penchant for pajama couture.

Dracula is a very sloppy diner, however. He tends to slurp and slobber and do socially unacceptable things with his food. But I suppose that’s because he must hastily eat and run in order to prevent clotting…another argument for going vegan. I can’t believe there are so many females with the intellectual agility of a fruit fly that have managed to provide the Nosferatu with sufficient nourishment to perpetuate the species of undead mutants throughout the centuries.  Of course, I also could never understand how the mummy was able to catch a fleeing girl while wrapped in gauze and dragging a gimpy leg…except that she was always tripping over her long, flowing nightgown, (constructed of transparent material that was little more than lace over nude).  Witless women who are always falling are the ultimate nocturnal horror.

Every year I debate about whether or not to wear a costume.  Assuming another identity or a third personality might be a pleasant pastime. Perhaps this wouldn’t be such a dilemma if it were not for the rigorous routine I go through on a daily basis just getting dressed and preparing myself to enter polite society.

First of all, the fashion barracuda proclaim that one must not only be dressed, but presentable.  Being a raving cutie is mandatory.  Well, that’s just fine, except that through the years, Nature has caused everything adorable to spiral downward so drastically, it actually shifts one’s center of gravity.  This constitutes felonious assault.

It has been said that anatomy is destiny.  I believe in destiny.  I also believe in anatomy.   So to combat such unmitigated anatomical, graphic sag, I bought a rather unique invention that goes by the brand name “Spanx.” It is this century’s version of the Victorian corset. It is a shape shifter with a vice squeeze of such vengeance, that it requires a hydraulic engineer just to elevate it above the thighs, that is, if you once get both feet in the opening. 

One is then obliged to grunt, groan, push, pull, stuff, lubricate, curse, contort, and utter polyglot expletives to maneuver the device upward into its targeted position.  Breathing is not an option. You know you got it right if there is serendipitous collateral cleavage enhancement due to thigh fat that has popped into your bra by blunt force trauma.

 Once you are clad, and the apparatus is in its final resting place, you experience something akin to the vague calm you get after puking. You’re ready for your close-up.

The first time I succeeded donning this “jaws of life” undergarment, I resembled a yak in spandex.  The look is finished off with a whole tube of mascara and stilletoes.  Of course, attired thus, I couldn’t possibly outrun even the most pokey mummy.  But then, looking like this, Dennis assures me I’m not in danger…unless there’s a demented mummy somewhere out there looking to drown me as a humanitarian gesture.

Unfortunately, nothing short of a toxic oil slick or agent orange and latex gloves can dislocate the Spanx from the torso, and the idea of wearing the outfit for a week should be considered.  One must really think it all the way through

It’s no secret that I don’t like Halloween.  It marks an anniversary that’s scarier than anything the mind of Bram Stoker could invent.  Dennis’ most recent foray to the phlebotomist revealed a slight elevation in his CA 19-9 tumor marker.  (Those Huntsman blood-suckers can conjure some serious nightmares.)

So in order to ward off evil, I got out my trusty vampire-killer kit.  I have put a garland of garlic in the windows, over the doors, in my cauldron, and around my neck. (I also ate some raw cloves to throttle up the potency, but so far I’ve inadvertently offed strangers, stray cats and small children.)  I’ve placed mirrors on all the walls, so I can detect if someone does not cast a reflection.  Sadly, my own reflection would scare Beelzebub out of Hades.  And I have a stake and a hammer.  I’m ready. Extreme cage fight! Bring it on!

 Dennis said this was all well and good, but he thought Dr. Mulvihill’s recommendation more efficacious than my “Van Helsing” remedy.  He will have his blood re-drawn on Friday to re-check the values. Hmmmmm.  How utterly devoid of flair.

I know all will be well.  But I will be glad to get out of October altogether, when the only thing that goes bump in the night are my thighs as I make the midnight run to the latrine.   I love the season, but not the holiday.  I can’t wait until November, the month of pilgrims and gratitude.  As always, we have so much more to be thankful for than afraid of. 

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

One of These Days

“One of these days” arrived last week.  Dennis and I went to Vermont.  For years, we have promised ourselves that one of these days we would do our “Robert Frost/east coast in the autumn” dream excursion.  But things just kept getting in the way.

First of all, we had babies.  And, because they were particularly cute, we opted not to eat our young, but feed them instead. Of course, there were days when we questioned that decision, but on the whole, there has not been much beget regret.

Then there was the little matter of Dennis’ practice.  He was either at the hospital, in the exam room, or on call.  So many patients.  So little time. This could have been irritating had it not been for the fact that we could pay our bills and feed our offspring. The girls were getting older, and had come to expect food, clothes and a roof as a right of their existence. 

Our world seemed to orbit around the girls’ mouths.  We filled them with food and drilled them for cavities.  And we single-handedly provided the financial wherewithall for their orthodontist to take an early retirement.  (He retired to the east coast one autumn.)

As the years came and went, Erin and Brodi went to high school with all its proms, football games, social interaction, and drama…a time of life that would strain even the financial empire of Bill Gates himself. 

And then came college.  Apparently both girls had actually internalized our recitation of  the catechism of higher education.  And the registrar demanded financial remuneration.  Apparently they didn’t consider the fact that the girls had teeth straighter than palace guards as tuition payment.  Pity.

Just when we thought we saw some possibility of heading east over the Rockies, both girls fell in love.  And we had weddings.  Boy Howdy! Did we have weddings!  And in the natural cycle of things, babies came.  More adorable babies.  And like the generation preceding, they, too, demanded to be fed regularly.

Traveling would be so much more convenient if life didn’t keep intruding on our GPS. 

However, we are now at a point in our lives where we probably have more yesterdays than tomorrows. So this fall, when two roads diverged in a yellow wood, we took the one less traveled by, and that really has made all the difference.

I’m not sure why we chose Vermont in particular.  Perhaps it was all those idyllic images from “White Christmas” of Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney singing about snow and dancing as “the kids put on a show.” So, why not?

I love Vermont.  It is so quaint.  “Quaint” is not just visual.  “Quaint” is a mind-set.  It beckons you to gather around a hearth-fire and huddle under a quilt pieced by someone’s grandmother as she sat in her rocker.  “Quaint” has an aroma.  It’s warm, mellow apple cider and soup of barley and beef.  It’s the loamy smell of soil in autumn’s chill. It’s the perfect still-life.  Of course, the older people pictured in these Normal Rockwell tableaux never seem to be plagued by an aging bladder.  (After the third cup of sweet cider, not to mention several supplementary diet Cokes to throttle up the energy level with caffeine, Mother Nature gets ugly, and humiliation in polite society is one untimely sneeze away.) Thus, there are never any artist’s renditions of an up-ended cup of cider in mid-air suspended animation as a gray-haired granny is depicted as a mere blur  bookin’ it to the bathroom.  Pity.  There is no room in “quaint” for potty breaks.

Every corner on every street has a white clapboard church.  And every denomination ever conceived was represented in Vermont.  There was even one whose sign read “First Church of Something Something, Scientist.”  We passed too fast to read it exactly, but I did wonder if there was a certain IQ required for membership. Just down the road a ways was St. Somebody’s 2nd Church of Something Or Other.  I figured that was probably for the mentally deficient, or those who hadn’t done well enough on the entrance exam to be a “scientist.”  Ironically, the parking lot of THAT church was packed. 

Vermont has a plethora of unique warning signs for all the things that could possibly cross the highway as you’re traveling the byways.  There were silhouettes of cowboys on horses, moose, mountains with rocks crumbling down the slopes, and the universal image for the chronically confused – who probably should have been attending their church meetings instead of wandering out on the freeway.

There was even a sign specifically targeting bikers:  “Scarified pavement.  Motorcycles Exercise Caution.”  So those of us not on motorcycles continued driving carelessly. 

At one point, traffic was merged into one lane, and, as luck would have it, we happened to get behind a truck with a sign on the back that read:  “Construction Vehicle.  DO NOT FOLLOW.”  Well, we had no choice. There was simply nowhere to go. So we just averted our gaze as we trailed along behind, and tried not to make eye contact.

Vermont doesn’t have cities.  The whole state is comprised of hamlets, villages, boroughs, and towns with names like Bellows Falls, Westminster, and Dover.  Besides the traditional clapboard church, each village has a cemetery, usually located in a prominent place adjacent to the churchyard.  However, one cemetery was located at the end of a road marked “Dead End.”  We tried not to identify ourselves as tourists with our moronic laughter, but that was way hard.  Of course, exclaiming “Oh, my heck!” blew my cover as a rube from the West in the witness protection program.

Even the street names are charming:  Hummingbird Hill, Apple Valley, Birdsong Way, Gingerbread Corner.  One sign read, “Village Peddler:  Next Right.”  I wondered what the peddler would peddle. Utah is sadly lacking in village peddlers. I think our state needs to “Mayberry Up!”

The speed limit is 50 mph at its fastest.  But most roads do not exceed 30.  The pace is languid, not sluggish.  I like languid.  We saw signs warning of reduced speed ahead.  But reduced speed simply meant coming to a complete stop. 

Vermont is in a whole different time zone.  I was never sure just what time it was.  It’s pleasant to lose track of time.  Heck, with everything being so quaint, I even lost track of the century.  We mingled with people whose hair had never been chemically enhanced, and who would stand in clusters with their hands in their pockets and visit.  Rushing would violate their standard of behavior.

Houses are constructed with wrap-around porches whose inhabitants colonize rockers and Adirondack chairs so generously proportioned, they swallow the sitter from shoulder to knees.  Once you nestle into one of those babies, you’re in for the whole conversation.  Porch-sitting is a lost art.

We were able to visit Robert Frost’s home where he penned “Stopping By A Woods On A Snowy Evening.”  It was enchanting, located in the heart of fields and pastures.  I can see why he would be inspired by Nature.

As luck would have it, I, too, was “inspired by Nature,” and searched for a restroom.  Apparently, Robert Frost did not feel inclined to build such conveniences for tourists.  He seemed to prefer to ponder and write poems.  The proprietor indicated where to go, and it was actually Robert Frost’s own bathroom.  I sat and waited for inspiration.  Nothing happened.  However, there is a tradition among those so persuaded to write a parody of Frost’s famous poem.  So I, like others before me, decided to try my hand at it. 

Here goes.

Whose john this is I think I know.
But Robert Frost ain’t here no ‘mo.
He will not see me stopping here
To take a seat and rest my rear.

Dennis gave the keys a shake
To signal the end of potty break.
I threatened to take those keys and deposit
Them in the depths of the water closet.
So I hollered through the bathroom door
He was toast if he shook those keys once more.

The outhouse was lovely, dark and deep,
But we had itineraries to keep.
And miles to go before we’d peep.
And miles to go before we’d peep.

It was with great reluctance that we left Vermont.  We knew we had passed beyond the borders of “quaint” when we entered New York and motored through places named “Pittstown” and “Hoosick.”  They just didn’t have the same charm.

When we finally arrived home, and we were unpacking our bags, I saw a notice from the baggage handlers that announced they had randomly chosen my luggage for inspection.  What???  I couldn’t believe it.  I felt violated.  I dreaded what some stranger with rubber gloves and nefarious motives discovered about me as he rifled through my belongings.  What we pack reveals a lot about ourselves.

No doubt there is a guy working for Delta Airlines that now knows:
I have a fettish for empty calories with all the “Runts” and “Goobers” I had stashed in the side pockets just under the laundry.
I carry “dummy” lingerie on top of my shredded Minnie Mouse nightshirt just in case my suitcase accidentally falls open in public.
And then there are all the things (inserts, etc.) that constitute my shape shifters I use to alter my appearance I don’t even want to think about.

Oh, the humiliation.

It’s akin to death by a thousand duck nibbles.

One of these days, I’m going to write a scathing letter of protest to the TSA. 
But not for a while.  Right now we are celebrating.  Brodi always said that one of these days she would write a book.  And she did.  And someone wants to publish it. “One of these days” is actually January, 2012, when the book will be in the bookstores.  At the moment, we are all grinning and looking goofy, and exclaiming in unison, “OH MY HECK!”  We are in Utah, after all.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


More than any other season, autumn is steeped in tradition.  Perhaps that’s because it’s an amalgam of all the other seasons.

There are the end of summer clearance sales, the back-to-school sales, the Labor Day sales, and the pre-season ski sales.  There are a plethora of baseball games, football games, sports tournaments, and Rafa Nadal. 

Autumn has a rhythm all its own, but fall officially arrives on the first day back to school.  The date on the calendar is irrelevant, really.  When children with sun-bleached hair and feet that are summer-barefoot brown dawn a backpack and new clothes…it is autumn.

Something changes.  Everything changes.  The air seems crisp, regardless of the dictates of the thermometer.  And the refrigerator is still colonized with its late-summer picnic remnants, as red and gold delicious apples encroach upon the territory.

Taking our kids, and now our grandkids, to their new classrooms to meet their new teachers is an autumnal rite of passage.  But it never gets easier. I wonder why. There is an air of excitement, but there’s also a tug at the heart.  The annual ritual, with its smells of pencils, chalk, blackboards and books should go off without a hiccup after all these years of “first days.”

And it does…for the most part.   The kids do just fine.  It’s me.  I get the hiccups.  I don’t understand why, as I say good-bye and walk away, relinquishing custody to their new teacher, why they suddenly seem taller, a little older,  bigger, somehow, than they were just the day before at our final picnic of the summer.  But this is as it should be.  Life has a certain ebb and flow that imposes appropriate order. 

Time passes in increments so small they’re barely noticeable…until they accumulate and cluster around my heart when school starts.  Seats that seemed to swallow the child just a year ago have lost some of their large.  I like to think they’re making furniture smaller these days.  It’s the ultimate down-sizing. 

I wouldn’t change things, even if I could.  I’d just slow it down long enough for the hiccups to pass.

Labor Day is the true harbinger of autumn…and the Christmas season.  Holiday catalogs with pictures of angels on the front, herald the glad tidings that there are only four more months until the Big Day arrives, and I’d better get crackin’ because I’m already behind in rackin’ up my over-indulgence credit card debt so crucial to capturing the “true meaning of Christmas.”  I wonder how Mary and Joseph ever had time for birth and taxes when there was so much to do to prepare for the holidays.

Apparently Nieman Marcus didn’t get the memo about the current recession.  Boy Howdy!  Buy a couple of items from that little establishment, and I could single-handedly cause the DOW to leap a couple of points.

By Labor Day, Halloween-themed items that have been on display since the Pioneer Day Parade must be moved aside to make room for the Christmas decorations.  So much for the old adage that “to everything there is a season.”

But by far my favorite Labor Day tradition is the International Sheep Dog Championship.  This is the competition in which border collies and their handlers work as two people with a single brain to pen a group of incredibly unpredictable ( not to mention dumb) range sheep off the mountain, through a series of upright panels, over the river and through the woods and into an 8X9 pen.  Not as easy as it sounds, because shouting obscenities is not allowed.  The border collie cannot excite the sheep, but must control them with just his presence…and intense gaze.  This technique is known as “the eye.”  The dogs seem to hypnotize the sheep into following their demands.  A skilled border collie can deliver the herd within the allotted time without having to touch or confront a single ewe. 

With a series of tweets and whistles, the handler, never leaving his post, communicates the commands necessary for the dog to drive the animals through the course successfully.  The handlers rarely use audibles, but one woman had a voice like a Wagnerian bull horn.  When she hollered, “LIE DOWN!”,  all six thousand spectators hit the ground!

Well, needless to say, I was inspired.  So much so that I thought it would be a good idea to set up a similar communication system for me and Dennis.  That way I wouldn’t have to nag and plead with a constant hum and drone as annoying as the vuvuzelas at the World Cup Soccer games.  Brilliant!

So here is my simple tweet command system to ensure efficiency and harmony in our household:
1.    Whee-Who:  pick up your towels.
2.    Whee-Wheee-o:  pick up your towels…or die.
3.    One Prolonged Whistle Blast (compound signal - command with implied threat):  pick up the towels – there’s a sale at Nordstrom, I have your credit card, and I know how to use it!
4.    Whee-Whee:  PUT THE TOILET LID DOWN!

I’ve been working on “the eye,” but my technique needs practice.  I must be doing something wrong – the only one I seemed to hypnotize was myself.  I spent the entire morning picking up towels and closing toilet lids.

Maybe it’s because autumn is a time of nostalgia.  Maybe it’s because so many birthdays are clustered in September – a natural biological consequence of cold winters.  But I tried once more, and failed miserably, to throw away my baby swing.

Every fall I am seized by primordial instinct to clean out closets and discard old and obsolete items – to make room for more stuff that I will clean out next September, because they, too, will be old and obsolete.

And every year I am determined to dispose of the swing that we used to lull our daughters to sleep when they were babies.  The gentle rocking and swaying would calm and compose them.  It was a sweet receptacle that enticed fussy babies to slumber.

Obviously, it’s been decades since I nestled their diapered nether regions into that seat.  The swing has occupied a corner of our storage room forever, and gathers dust for months until I make time for its quarterly cleaning.

But things that no longer have a purpose should be disposed of.  It’s the law of practical consequence. Besides, I need the room. So I asked Dennis to remove it from its place in the corner, haul it down the stairs, and place it in the trash bin.  Soon it would be garbage day.  (I’d have done it myself, but I had just washed my hair.) 

Each day thereafter, I looked at that swing with its little toys tied across the front, peering forlornly out of the garbage can.  But I was resolute. Forget the memories. I would not be deterred.  I simply could not justify the expenditure of space simply to house sentiment.  It had to go.  End of discussion. 

Well, Tuesday finally arrived.  Dennis lugged the can to the curb for the weekly pick-up.  And then we waited.  Earlier than usual, we heard the roar and the belch of the garbage truck, with its distinctive beep and squeal. 

Dennis and I looked at each other.  With an understanding that exceeded the communication between border collie and handler, we sprinted to the street in a sentimental smack-down, just in time to rescue the swing with its baby toys on the string, guide it through the upright panels, and return it safely to the 8X9 pen,…in its accustomed corner of the storage room.  And we sighed in relief.

Some things whose primary purpose has expired, are still of great worth.  I just hope everyone remembers that when I’m really old.

I’ll clean out the storage room next year.

Autumn is hidden within every leaf – even when they first bud in the spring.  It’s Nature’s disguise – like the arboretist’s witness protection program.  Not so many hummingbirds at the nectar feeders these days.  But that’s OK.  There isn’t much time for bird watching right now.  I’ve got Christmas shopping to do!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Colonoscopies and Twinkies

Prepping for a colonoscopy is an exercise in the surreal.  What other medical procedure requires you to starve, guzzle industrial-strength laxatives and drink colorless, tasteless, slightly disgusting liquids in order to purge the system to the point of dessication?

The whole process must have been devised in the deranged mind of someone raised on a strict diet of Twinkies seeking to reek revenge on the whole of humanity, because he could not extract every ounce of cream filling from within the confines of that spongy, cylindrical, tubular, rubbery non-cake.

For the uninitiated, or those who have not yet reached the half-century mark – that golden age of the wazoo watch – the ultimate goal of the prep is “no caca left behind.”  This is accomplished by a protocol of three brutal steps resulting in a slightly disgusting rectal smack-down.
1.    total food deprivation
2.    laxatives
3.    more laxatives

Regarding starvation, no solids are permitted thirty-six hours prior to procedure.  You may drink clear liquids, however.  According to the butt Nazis, clear liquids are defined as anything you can see through.  I inquired if that included pureed buffalo burger.  I was sure I could liquefy it to total transparency.  The tech pooh-poohed the suggestion, so to speak, declaring that if it once roamed the great American prairie and deposited cow pies in the wilderness, it could not qualify as a clear liquid.  The same goes for French fries, chocolate cake, popcorn and salsa.  Dang.  They really take the fun out of a cleanse.

But they did say that tea and coffee without cream were just fine.  Being Mormon, albeit weak and very prone to sin, this was problematic. Although the hungrier I got, the more appealing the “Born-again Bacchanalian Church” became.

However, mainlining Mountain Dew passed the smell test, and was proclaimed acceptable.

I don’t know why I always seem to begin a fast when the rest of the civilized world is either grilling steaks or baking bread.  Slobbering and salivating until there was a perpetual foam pillowed around my lips all day made people tend to regard me as appearing somewhat genetically challenged.

At noon, I was to take four (count ‘em – FOUR!) Dulcolax pills – caplets so tiny they could sit on the head of a pin, and yet so powerful, they could elicit a spill that would make the BP oil disaster look like an insignificant leak.

I downed those bad boys like it was a 7-course banquet, they being the only solid thing I’d swallowed for days. At first I wondered just how much effect such itsy-bitsy medication would have.  I only had to wonder 37 ½ seconds.

At 5:00 p.m., the next step in the sequence from Hades was to mix the entire 238 (two  freakin’ hundred thirty-eight!) gram bottle of MiraLax with 64 ounces of Gatorade.  WOW!  What a cocktail!  I was to swill the entire tanker while muttering a benediction over the entire Salt Lake sewer system.  The potion was the equivalent of 14 doses of laxative – at once…in an entire sitting…within one hour.

Not being used to taking laxatives, I began to understand the power of the purge.  Suffice it to say, I came clean. 
Memo to self:  DO NOT  schedule an appointment with the hairdresser directly after imbibing 14 doses of MiraLax!

The directions advised going to bed at my usual time. Hmmmm. Let’s just say that laxatives and Mr. Sandman make strange bedfellows. 

So many times I had been sorely tempted to fudge on the cleanse.  I almost unlawfully broke my fast with, of all things, a red bubble gum ball.  But no matter how deeply I looked, I simply could not see through it.  My entire body was liquefied.  Even my nose was runny. 

But I was glad I resisted the temptation.  The colon does not lie.  It has to be a total colon cleanse: a semi-colon won’t do; 

The morning of the procedure, I arrived at the hospital one hour early, bedraggled, parched and despondent, clawing my way on to the gurney.  Colonoscopies give new meaning to the term, “advance to the rear,” – which is exactly what Dr. Daly did.  She came into the procedure room looking laudably perky and adorably coiffed. In any other venue, I would have been jealous. She and I are friends (it’s wise to be on good terms with one’s proctologist!)  We chatted amiably.  She was noticeably more cogent than I was at that point.  I was reduced to muttering unintelligibly.

Then she began preparing the equipment as I was administered some kind of “I don’t care” drug.  The last thing I remember seeing was a hose the diameter of the Alaskan Pipe Line, but I didn’t care.  Dr. Daly made reference to where the sun didn’t shine, and then, mercifully, everything faded to black.

Apparently, all was fine because, by mutual agreement, I won’t be returning for another 5 years.  But I awoke with an insatiable craving for Twinkies.

Laxatives are harsh but effective for what they are designed to do.  However, a general review of the conditions of colon cancer is enough to scare the crap out of you.  Given the alternative, MiraLax wasn’t so bad after all.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

FIFA with a chance of Meatballs

I confess I haven’t always understood nor appreciated soccer.  The game can be confusing and convoluted to the novice. 

It is the athletic equivalent of River Dancing – rapid-fire lower appendage agility that defies the eye’s ability to track the action, while the upper body is supposed to NOT touch the ball, nor the opponent, nor the officials.  But, when the camera shows a clip in slow motion, there seems to be a lot of extreme cage-fighting going on under those shin guards.  This isn’t exactly a non-contact sport.

The rules are not very clear, like they are in, say, football or basketball.  In those contests, it doesn’t require much IQ to spot the flagrant foul…that’s because the foulee usually requires hospitalization and an orthopedic surgeon.  And the perpetrator is awarded his own reality show.

And just what is “off sides?”  Many people have offered explanations, but I have better success understanding Einstein’s string theory and parallel universes.

Exactly what infractions prompt yellow cards?  Whenever a ref flashes one, six guys hold up their hands in a collective gesture of innocence and claim they never laid a glove of da guy.  But a review of the action in slo-mo confirms the foulee will be lucky to walk upright.  These are all-out aerial assaults.  The offenders could be charged with felonious cleat impalement.

The logic of any pastime is suspect when the players must line up in front of a drooling pack of Philistines, hands over crotches, while some Goliath prepares to launch a penalty kick into the net located just behind them.  It’s preposterous!

And what’s with those horns???  The incessant drone is enough to warrant involuntary institutionalization of every fan in the stadium.  These weapons of total ear drum annihilation are called vuvuzelas…VUVUZELAS!  Honkers owe a big apology to the honkees.

Erin gets soccer…which in itself makes us question her genetic integrity.  She speaks names like Kyle Beckerman, Nick Rimando, Javier Morales and Jamison Olave in hallowed tones of reverence and awe.  She does not take “Spain” in vain.  I sometimes wonder if her judgment isn’t a little impaired from inhaling too much second-hand jock sweat. 

She shouts to her sons to, ”Mark up”! and “Beat him to the ball!”  Except for the decibels, she could be the FIFA whisperer.

But then we went to Abram’s recent soccer tournament.  He is almost 12, and he gets the game.  In the second half, with the score 0-0, against a team of carnivorous apex predators, Abram eyed the goal, sized up his opponent, lined up his right foot, and with the precision timing of a Swiss watch, and all the planets in the galaxy in perfect alignment, he bent that ball squarely into the center of the net.  VICTORY! 

I went berserk!  I cheered louder than all the vuvuzelas on the entire African continent.  I got a red card from the ref for excessive decibels in the end zone.  Suuhhhweet!!


On an entirely different note, I have decided that it is bad karma to by-pass any lemonade stand on a summer morning.  Our family considers that tradition inviolable.  Besides, there is nothing more pleasant than to raise a cup of semi-cool refreshment (I like my lemonade weak and warm) and discuss the sour economy mano a mano with these diminutive CEO’s of citrus.

There is no end of opportunities to quench the solar thirst.  Every corner of every street of every neighborhood bears a lemonade stand…a fact not lost on our grandson, Carter.  Being an astute observer that the prevailing market was saturated, so to speak, Carter chose to diversify. Exercising his entrepreneurial options, he decided HIS lemonade stand would sell – what else – meatballs!

Now, there are several advantages to selling meatballs.  First of all, a glaring lack of competition.  It’s the only game in town.  Second, meatballs can be eaten by themselves OR with lemonade.  I don’t know how many times I’ve been sipping the sour nectar and found myself craving meatballs.

I purchased six of these little delicacies.  They were so spicy, that it required a multi-chambered stomach just to digest them.  Thankfully, I’m well endowed.

Phenomenal success has fueled Carter’s plans to expand the enterprise.  Tomorrow he plans to sell steaks!  I’ll be first in line.

Besides goals and meatballs, we got even more good news last week.  Dennis’ lab draws came back showing his tumor markers to be normal.  We rejoice.

So our plans for the remainder of the summer include sitting on the deck sipping lemonade till my lips fold themselves into a perpetual pucker, eating spicy meatballs, tooting my vuvuzela, periodically shouting “Mark up!” to no one in particular…and hoping my neighbors don’t yellow card me for being disturbed.

I Love Summer.