Archive for April, 2010

For the love of Lisa


It’s been awhile since I added to my Blog and I apologize!  Two of my dear friends recently passed away and I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you why I stopped writing for a time.  Both friends were in their 40’s, both had children who are soon to take big steps in their young lives.  Both deaths seemed so shockingly unfair that for a time I couldn’t find anything funny to write about.

One of my friends, Lisa, was in her own way, a comedian.  She would do whatever she could to make me laugh and we frequently belly laughed until we were sick.  Lisa’s cancer won in the end, but the lessons that I learned from her humor will live on!  She wanted me to be funny; in fact, she encouraged me in all forms of misbehavior just so that we would have a good laugh later.  She loved to re-play the stories of all our antics in the later years of our friendship as a type of balm for her cancer.   At the end of her life, Lisa told me that if God were willing she was planning on coming back to haunt me.  I’m going to live with that threat hanging over my head, because if anyone could get away with it, she could!

My friend’s deaths really have caused me to think about what I have learned in my life thus far. So in honor of these 40-something friends I’d like to dedicate a few of my recent experiences:

I’m really enjoying being in my 40’s.  I’m not as clueless as I was in my twenties, I understand people better, I think.  I’ve learned that just because someone tells me something doesn’t make it so, unless of course they tell me that I am hot and that being Rubanesque doesn’t matter.  Then I will believe them.  I need all the help and encouragement I can get.  But here are a few more concrete examples of what I mean…

First of all, when standing in your bra and underwear at the ironing board, you should put off ironing if you are angry.  I learned this lesson just recently.   I was ironing so vigorously because of something that I was thinking about that I ironed my stomach.  Now the burn will stay with me for a while and I can use it as a way to remember not to iron in anger again.  Some people get tattoos.  I got an iron brand as stomach art.  At least I am still with the current fads.

During this last winter I learned that under no circumstance should you ever keep your nasal allergy spray in the car.  It gets really cold during an Iowa winter and if you keep your nasal spray in your car it will be akin to storing it in a cryogenic deep freeze.  When you decide to spritz your nose in mid-January to clear up your allergies, you will receive an instant and sharply pointed brain freeze probably directed right at your Hypothalamus.  This is not beneficial.   It also does nothing to help your allergies since when you are in so much pain your eyes water, your nose drips and you often times see orbs.  This is a recent cold weather lesson that I have learned and wanted to pass on to you, my reader friends.  Word.

I’ve learned that sometimes after a long winter, when you re-examine your long-covered kneecaps, you will be shocked to realize that they look elderly.  One friend swears that if you look at her saggy kneecaps you can see actual faces.  I wonder if the face is Jesus like those folks who find Jesus in a cinnamon roll, a Dorito or a Mrs. Pauls’ Crunchy Fish stick.  Anyway, maybe that’s what people mean when they say that we all have Jesus within us, maybe they mean in our kneecaps.  I never really thought about it before.

I’ve also learned that when you are leaning over to clean your bathtub you should never look at your reflection in the drain or in the spigot.  The drag of gravity as you lean over the tub does not reflect well when magnified in the metal drain.  The fact that gravity is no longer your friend is a painful and difficult lesson that we women all learn after suckling a few kids.  For goodness sakes, don’t look at yourself amplified in a metal drain, that is self-torture!

Speaking of hazards of the bathtub, I have recently learned to be very careful when taking a bath.  Since this Blog is new and you are just getting to know me, you might want to know that almost every night I take a two-hour bath.  During this time I read anything I can get my hands on.  Sometimes I fall asleep in the tub and I have been known to dip a book or two, but mostly I just enjoy the peace and quiet.  Until the kids start knocking on the door, that is.

Anyway, what I’ve learned about my time in the bathtub is to be very careful to let bath crystals dissolve in the water before you sit down on top of them.  Last week I sat down on some bath crystals and those dang shards embedded in my backside.  It really wasn’t all that comfortable and did nothing to add to my enjoyment of the experience.   I didn’t enjoy the doctor extracting them from my butt cheeks either.  Well sure, he was good looking and a talented doctor I might add, but from now on I’m going to stick to bath bubbles.

I’ve learned that I am good in a situation dealing with blood, stitches, or broken bones, but you do not want me around if you are going to toss your cookies.  I can be trusted to maintain control unless there is barfage.  When my children were younger, they waited until their father’s airplane had just taken off before they began to evacuate the content their stomachs.  I don’t know what I have done to merit such abuse.

The best way that I have learned to deal with barf is to take a brand new bar of soap, preferably a deodorant soap like Zest or Irish Spring, and affix it to your face with a snow scarf or some sort of a headband.  It must be placed directly under the nose but not not covering it.  Hello!  You still have to breathe!  Then, make your eyes into slits so that you really don’t have to see anything.  This is actually very good advice for those of you who are barf- averse.  It only took me a few years to learn this lesson, but as I said, by my mid-40’s I have it mostly under control.

I feel good in my mid-40’s.  I still can do all the things that I did in my 20’s, it maybe just takes me a little longer.  In all the varied things that I do and have experienced at age 44, probably the greatest thing that I have learned is that I am glad for today; it certainly is not promised to us.  I’m also glad that Lisa hasn’t come back to haunt me…yet.  Stay tuned.

Blissfully Down the Bunny Trail


In Iowa today the sun is shining; I hear the purr of lawn mowers in my neighbors’ newly green yards and my allergies tell me, and my dripping nose, that the trees are budding.  Temperatures are on their way to a number I like and thunderstorms are not far off!  Easter and all it represents is coming on the weekend. All of these things herald the arrival of Spring, my favorite time of the year!

Spring is a new promise, a fresh start, and a renewal of sorts, isn’t it?  I always organize my house and my life this time of year; in doing so I reflect on when my kids were little and all the things that we have enjoyed and experienced together.  Today while I was digging in the basement for the kid’s Easter baskets, I remembered that time long ago when my daughter Abby asked,  “Why do we have Easter?”  The answer to that question seems so straight forward to adults, but it surely must be a confusing time of year for children.

It’s confusing because how do you make the jump from the Easter message of Jesus and the Resurrection story to the six-foot tall rabid Easter bunny that sits in our mall and instills fear in small children everywhere?  Let’s not forget that the Easter bunny is a varmint, people!  (For an explanation about how I feel about various rodents, please turn your attention to my Blog Archives of December 1999 and also December 2009- both are my Christmas letters dealing with my adventures with unruly critters).

Why do we encourage our children to talk to and to sit on the lap of an overgrown hare while they request candy that he should bring them on Easter Sunday morning?  Is this really sane behavior?  I’ve seen some kids kick, scream and bite to get away from that scary bunny.  After pictures are taken the kid usually gets a coloring book and some jelly beans.  Why do Easter bunnies always seem to give coloring books?  And should you take anything given to you by a large rodent, especially black jelly beans?  What in the name of goodness do they represent in this mixed up Paschal story?

Usually mothers have to take one or two spins around the mall away from the Easter Bunny before the child calms down enough to take him home.  Invariably they leave the mall just in time to hit the bunny’s break time – how do you explain to your small child that the Easter bunny has taken his head off and is now enjoying a Marlboro in the parking lot?  Frankly, that would scare the jelly beans out of me, too!

Where do these people come from who are willing to sit with small, bawling children on their laps?  (Please don’t write me about your Uncle Lloyd who was the best ever for patiently dressing as the Easter Bunny/Santa Claus/the Tooth Fairy for many years).   I’m sure that your uncle was an upstanding citizen, but how do we know since can you adequately run a background check on a fictional character?   Who really would choose to endure that screaming, kicking, crying torture for a mere $7.25/hour?  What I am saying is that you really need to think about the lap in which you place your child.

I wasn’t thinking about the lap in which I placed my four month old son in December 1991.   We were new parents and since he was fresh off the production line we thought that it would be just precious to have his picture taken with Santa Claus to commemorate his first Christmas.  He was wearing baby overalls; nearly as soon as I put him in Santa’s lap, he proceeded to fill his pants with the worst possible mess known to man.   Actually, it must have been something that he had been saving up for the first several months of his life.

Not only that, but as a novice mother I had placed him in diapers that were too small; that horrific offering shot up his back and nearly over the top of his baby collared shirt.  Let me just tell you that I was using diaper wipes between his infant shoulder blades when I discovered what he had done.  It was a holiday miracle that he didn’t soil Santa.

The kid was a terrible, smelly mess.  After the photographer took the picture I went to retrieve my baby and I discovered that he had shat himself. The baby that is, not Santa.  No, instead I was shocked to realize that Santa was crocked.  Pickled.  Soused.  Little bit too much egg nog perhaps.  No wonder he didn’t seem to care that my kid had turned his colon inside out.  See what you get when you have a minimum wage Santa?  That was the last dang time that I trusted Santa with my offspring again!  I had turned my precious infant over to a drunken, over-grown gnome in a furry red suit.  What the heck was I thinking?

Years later, one of my other children was deathly afraid of the Tooth Fairy.  Losing a tooth for her was a terrible experience because that sinister fairy was going to fly around her room at night when we were all sleeping.  Somehow, I agree with that fear; if something flies around my room at night I am going to smack it dead (unless of course it is me- please read last week’s Blog post).  How big is the Tooth Fairy anyway?  I’ve never actually seen her at the mall.  Does she compare in height to a life-sized drunk Santa Claus or maybe could she be as large and menacing as a six foot tall nicotine-addicted bunny?  I’m almost afraid myself to have the answer to this question.

I think that our culture has a funny way relating to our kids.  How do Ring Around the Rosie (the Bubonic plague), Jack Sprat (a quaint little ditty about a tax scheme), and Three Blind Mice (which really represented men crossing the Queen and being burned at the stake) help our children to grow and understand?  No wonder we are bringing up a completely messed up generation of kids!  Throw in an evil Bunny Rabbit with big, sharp teeth, a drunk old guy in a hopelessly out-of-style red suit coming down a potentially lit fireplace, and a creepy house fairy and you have the best recipe to mess up our children.  At the very least they are going to find themselves confused at some point.

As if all of the above information is not overwhelming and confusing enough to small children, please add to it Easter traditions.  Why do we eat ham as a way to celebrate the Resurrection?  I mean, the last I knew Jesus was Jewish and I thought if you were Jewish you really frowned on ham.  What changed?  So, then what do the dreaded colored Easter eggs have to do with Jesus?  Coincidently, just how many small children do you know love and adore hard-boiled eggs?  Let me get this straight… you, as a child, are supposed to decorate them in honor of Easter (and Jesus), but you throw a fit if your mother actually makes you eat them?

So then grown-ups give you chocolate eggs, which last I knew did not occur in nature, and you place them in a woven basket filled with pink or blue plastic grass?   By the way, how do malted mini chocolate eggs and Orange Sherbet Jelly Bellys also fit into this whole Resurrection story?  What about those sugary pink, yellow and purple Peeps that some folks like to let go stale and later gnaw on like a wolf?  (The wolf is apparently the only animal not portrayed in this Easter drama).

In a related note, I was always jealous of those lucky children whose parents gave them live baby chicks for Easter.  What are these real chicks for anyway?  So you can raise a chicken in your garage to give you eggs to decorate for next year…eggs that you’re not going to eat anyway?  Unfortunately, it seems like most Easter chicks, and a pile of little chick jelly beans, are found dead under the couch cushions late Easter day.

My husband’s first grade teacher showed the children how chicks pip out of their egg home.  Then one lucky child was drawn in a lottery and allowed to take home the surviving chick that made it through the egg warmer.  Guess who won?  After Mike brought the chick home they gently placed it on a newspaper with a circular clothes basket over the chick to keep it fenced in.  I guess the chick thought that this type of jail was no life for him; he was found the next morning, a case of chick suicide by plastic laundry basket to the neck.  Is there rebirth and resurrection in the chick story as well?  It’s funny, I don’t remember hearing that there were chicks and bunnies coming out from the tomb with Jesus.

Okay, I am an adult; I know why (well, only because I read about it in prep for this Blog) we have Easter chicks and decorated eggs, Easter ham and nicotine-addicted bunnies – they are all remnants of Pagan rituals and/or marketing run amok.   Eventually my youngest daughter admitted to me that she no longer believed in Santa or the Easter Bunny.  She said, “Seriously, Mom?  C’mon!  A six-foot tall bunny that you would allow to jump around in our house and bring us candy?  I don’t think so!”  She knows that there is no doubt; I would be calling the exterminator over that one.

So as I enjoy this beautiful spring day I’ll continue to think about bunny rabbits and fairy tales, Santa Claus and Jesus.  Hopefully my children will survive and thrive after all the goofy things that I’ve filled their heads with.  They can think about it while they dig in their pink plastic grass for those Peeps, eggs, and chewy marshmallow, chocolate bunnies.