Archive for July, 2012

The casino story

July 31, 2012

Tonight at dinner my son’s girlfriend told us her parents went to Morongo casino with $500 and lost it all.

On the way out, her dad found a single dollar in his pocket. He put it in a machine and won $700.

I’m lucky too, kind of.

I have been in a casino once in my life. I was 14.

There was a family reunion in Lake Tahoe. My aunt Elsie, one of my grama’s sisters, was a gambler like nobody’s business. She dragged a bunch of people over the state line to Reno for an afternoon.

She, my grama, my mom and I don’t even know who else were in the casino, and my cousins and I were in an arcade in another part of the mall.

Aunt Elsie was winning, and she kept bringing us tokens.

The arcade games took quarters.

My cousin Stephanie and I went to find her and give them back. We stood in the hall area at the entrance to the action. The slot machines were packed in tight, right up to the edge of the door jamb.

…Where I stood with a pocketful of tokens.

What would you do?

I still technically had my feet outside the casino, which I thought meant something, I guess. I dropped a token in a slot machine and pulled the handle.

It was loud. Lights started flashing, sirens went off and coins poured clanking into a steel bin. Oops.

Security guards were on me before I had a chance to curse. I remember without affection the brick surface my face was pressed against. My hands were behind my back.

The guard got me out of reach of the winnings and demanded, “Where are your parents? Are your parents here?”

“No.” Please don’t let one of my 50 relatives in the room look this way.

“How did you get here?”

“We walked from our hotel.” This was taking a long time. OK, if someone has to see us, please let it be Aunt Elsie. Aunt Elsie would probably keep a straight face and tell the officer I was 21.

He let me go with a hollering at, and my family was none the wiser.

Except Stephie, who laughed all the way back to the arcade. “I wish you could have seen your face. Man you were sh**ting bricks.”

Based on this one-token history of casino gambling, I announce myself to be lucky, kind of.


My husband cracks me up

July 30, 2012

Every night at dinner we go around the table, taking turns sharing something about our day.

Last night Nana had come over. Her dinner news was that a couple of her youngest brother’s daughters and their kids were at MaryAnn’s visiting.

Nana’s brother, the baby of the nine siblings, died unexpectedly of a stroke two New Year’s back. The span of the siblings’ ages was more than 25 years. No one expected Marguerite, the eldest, to outlive the baby, but she did.

When Uncle Donny died, I had that ambivilant feeling of sorrow and anticipation, because a death always means out-of-town family will come, and we will have a big get-together. It means there will be a funeral, and I will get to hear stories about the loved one I’m grieving. I’ll get to sit with cousins and aunts and uncles, with my husband, and clasp hands in comfort.

But there was no service.

This is where the conversation went last night. I started complaining.

“Why do people do that?” Usually, when there’s no service, it’s because there isn’t really any family left. Donny had seven kids and a whole grip of grandkids. “Why would anyone with such a big family say ‘No service’?”

My husband said, “Maybe he had no shirt and no shoes.”

Naming a kid Paul

July 29, 2012

It has always bothered me that someone would name a baby Paul.

I can’t get away from the idea that during birth, the mother is a Paul bearer.

I fought with a nurse

July 27, 2012

This weekend we went to a party to welcome my new baby niece. I love holding newborns, but my birthing stories would scare anyone off getting pregnant, me being at the top of the list.

I gave birth to my son throughout the night. He was stuck.

At 6 in the morning he finally made it out and I wanted to sleep.

‘Look at your new son!’ someone said.

I closed my lids. They were blackish purple all the way to my brows because my pushing had broken all the blood vessels in them. ‘Just plug him on my breast. I’ll see him later.’

They did and I went to sleep. I was sleeping blissfully when a new nurse came on duty.

She shook my arm roughly and yelled, ‘Wake up and pee!’


I didn’t open my eyes, but I murmured, ‘I don’t need to pee.’

‘Yes you do.’

She wouldn’t go away. She said, ‘You have to pee, and if you don’t, you’re going to wet the bed. Then you’ll have to go find someplace to sit while I change your urine sheets. Get up and pee.’

‘I don’t have to pee.’

My husband, who was sleeping next to me, said, ‘Just go. We could have been back to sleep by now.’

But I didn’t have to pee.

I threw back the sheets with a huff, gentled the baby closer to Daddy and stood up.

And peed all over the floor next to the bed.

Lee Iacocca

July 27, 2012

I just got an e-mail from my neighbor at our other house. He sends me lots of political forwards. He is a conservative Republican.

This e-mail is an excerpt from Lee Iacocca’s book, “Where Have All the Leaders Gone?” It was a rant against the Bush administration, without naming names, but addressing Sept. 11, Hurricane Katrina and the American soldiers in Iraq. Then out of nowhere it says, “Obama is running the biggest deficit in our country’s history.”

Well that was incongruous. I checked it out on Snopes. They said the rant is accurately credited until you get to the Obama part, which someone added and forwarded.

Nothing thrills a copy editor more than a catch, you know.

…And having a Lee-Iacocca story, which I do.

My news editor at the Boulder paper told it to me.

She said when he took over as the head of Chrysler, he gave each employee a lapel pin. The next day, he called a meeting and had the staff line up shoulder to shoulder for some class of drill down. Everybody wore his pin but one guy.

Iacocca looked down his nose at the pinless man, and asked threateningly, “Where is your pin, Sir?”

“It must still be on my pajamas.”


I tried to get married in Mexico

July 26, 2012

Twenty years ago today The Smart Guy and I celebrated his 20th birthday by getting a little nutty.

We were living in Guanajuato, doing a semester at the university there, and getting excited about finding each other.

As we did every night, we hung out at a bar called ¿Donde?, drinking some things I can’t remember the name of. There was an upside-down shot glass full of tequila submerged in a rocks glass of beer. When the shot glass is lifted, the drinks blend and you drink it really fast. These were awful. I had lots.

The Smart Guy and I went wandering — read ‘staggering’ — among the old buildings and found ourselves in an ancient basilica.

“Let’s do it,” we said — read ‘slurred.’

There was a priest in there. At least, there was a man in there we assumed to be a priest. We asked him to marry us.

He refused on two grounds: We weren’t Catholic, and we didn’t have a marriage certificate. Our state of lucidity apparently had no bearing.

We were in love, though, we said. We tried to bribe him. We were a classy, pair, The Smart Guy and I.

The Father seemed to gather we weren’t going to leave, so he said some words in Latin and waved his arms ceremoniously to pacify us. He was translating an Eagles song for all we knew, but we were pleased and the Father was rid of us.

The next day we went out with all our exchange-student friends and fed each other cake.

At the time, none of this struck me as nutty. I’m glad for that.

The cookie contest story

July 25, 2012

My daughter got a kitten for her birthday. The kitten wants to be carried around all the time.

“I have to do everything one-handed,” my daughter said.

“I did everything one-handed for three years,” I told her. “And babies are heavier than kittens, and complain more when you try to set them down.”

When my daughter was a baby I had made some comment to the guys who lived with us about having to do everything one-handed — probably I was bragging about how good I gotten at it. This ended with Uncle Jer and me having a cookie-making contest.

I had to hold the baby and he had to hold a large sack of flour, no setting it down. The Uncles took seats at the kitchen table and gave us an “on your mark, get set, go.”

While I was practiced at things like pouring vanilla into a measuring spoon, Jer just dumped some in the dough willy nilly. And my cookies had the advantage of being eggshell-free.

In the end, I won for skill; Jer won for comedy; and the Uncles won two batches of chocolate-chip cookies.

click here for photo

My grampa’s death

July 24, 2012

My grampa died on this date, 12 years ago.

About three months after we discovered the tumors in my son’s head, my grampa was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer.

This was out of nowhere. He didn’t smoke or live with a smoker. He was a watercolor artist.

The doctor told him he had about a year to live. It was March.

I came by the house sometime that spring and found him repaving the driveway. I sat in my car for a second shaking my head that he would spend his remaining time doing this.

I must have had a face, because he pointed to it when I approached and said there was a crack.

I thought, ‘What did he care?’

It later occurred to me he didn’t want my grama to have to deal with it.

Everybody handled his impending death differently.

He didn’t have the fighting spirit my mom wanted him to have, but he was cooperative. He drank the tea she gave him.

Nana took him for a weeklong camp with Deepak Chopra.

Then one morning in July my grama got up and went to the bathroom. She hurried, as always, to get back to the bedroom before my grampa beat her to making the bed.

She found the bed unmade. With a peek into the family room she could see he had fallen back to sleep in his recliner. She smiled at that. She made the bed.

Then she did her face and hair.

When she went to him, he had his hand on his chest, and he wasn’t breathing.

He was warm.

She calmly called 911, and then my mom. She says his spirit embraced her. I believe this. She’s never done anything calmly.

She knew it was over.

We realized in the aftermath they hadn’t believed the doctor. There were no plans, except to go on a cruise. They had tickets on a ship that left the day of his funeral.

Nana even discovered afterward there was a mix up with their life insurance, and they weren’t covered.

We all jumped in and helped with arrangements for the body, the service, Nana on her own.

I wrote and delivered the eulogy.

People asked, how could I do that?

How could I not? I had too much to say.

The birthday cake story

July 23, 2012

I just got back from Costco with my son.

There were photos under the glass at the photo center showing the different sizes you could order. My son was pointing to one of a baby with a handful of crumbly goodness, which was also all over his face.

My son said, “I wanna know what this kid is eating.”

I looked over. “It’s birthday cake. He’s turning 1,” I said.

It doesn’t surprise me he couldn’t figure this out. He, himself, did it all wrong. I told him as much, and reminded him of this story.

From birth, my kid couldn’t stand to be dirty. If something was on his hands, he held them away from his body and went “Ah ah ah ah ah” until somebody got him to a sink. He howled as soon as his diaper was wet.

Anything sticky was right out. I wish I had videotaped the day I tried to give him peanut butter and jelly on crackers.

Jump to his first birthday party. I had ordered a cake from the local bakery. Globs of colored frosting made Sesame Street characters on top. Grama placed it excitedly in front of him while we sang “Happy Birthday.”

We gathered around with our cameras for the ceremonial grabbing of frosting.

What were we thinking?

He looked at the cake. He looked at us.

We smiled. We nodded. One of my aunts yelled, “Go for it!”

We waited.

Finally he looked at me helplessly and said, “Fork, please.”

The florist debate

July 21, 2012

There was a news story that sparked a discussion at my dinner table.

A man who had flowers sent to his girlfriend sued a florist for exposing his affair to his wife. He claimed the company’s privacy policy was violated when they sent a thank-you-for-your-business note to his home.

The spouses were divorcing, and the alimony was set, but when the missus learned of the other woman, she doubled her exit fee.

It seemed to me commentators on the news agreed that the cheater had no right to whine about getting caught.

I disagreed. People shouldn’t be excused from their promises whenever the promisee is revealed to have done something naughty. If the florists have a clause that they will not abet infidelity, they may have some ethical standing, but this florist specifically says “you may instruct that other personal information about you or your message or gift recipients’ that you have provided to us not be shared with third parties.” They know some of their clients are doing the nasty with forbidden fruit. I think they’re suggesting they’ll help keep their customers’ secrets.

I presented the story at the dinner table to get my family’s opinion. My husband had the same reaction I had. My daughter wanted to know if the guy had a legal contract with the flower company specifiying they wouldn’t send anything to his house.

My son had an interesting perspective: The cad’s suit would mean he believed victims of contract breakers were entitled to money. Marriage is a contract, my son said. Suing the florist is an admission he owes his wife the extra alimony.

“Pick one,” my son said.

I like that.

My daughter’s birth

July 20, 2012

My daughter’s homework tonight is to ask me specific questions about her birth — how long was it, where was it, did I have medication, blah, blah, blah.

The final thing she asked was, “Do you have any anecdotes about my birth?”

Who are you talking to? Of course I have an anecdote.

She was a week overdue, and my certified nurse midwife said I had to come hook up to beeping things that make sure the baby is thriving. My husband and I made a date night of it.

Our birthing room in the hospital had a couch, a VCR, a stereo and a Jacuzzi. What with our having an almost-2-year-old at home, we were looking at this overnight as a belated honeymoon.

We sent out for Italian food and watched “Hook” on cable. I pulled the monitors off and we got in the Jacuzzi. Hey someone, put a do-not-disturb sign on the door.

At about 2:30 pains began to periodically wake me up, but after a few seconds they always stopped, so I kept going back to sleep.

I did not identify this as labor, because my son’s birth was just one long — and much worse — pain. You’ll read about that on Christmas Eve.

Then a contraction hit that made me make an inhuman noise. My midwife’s partner was happening by in the hall. She knew me fine, and slipped a glove on to check my cervix.

She looked lovely in a fuzzy angora sweater and red lipstick. She must have been out. “Call Kate,” she ordered. “She’s at 4 centimeters.”

I cried out to wake the dead and spider-walked up the headboard and wall behind me. I was trying to escape my body. It didn’t work.

Kate’s partner frowned, grabbed my feet and pulled me back down. She thrust her glove back in for another check and gave a holler into the hallway.

“Tell Kate to go back to bed. Mama’s jumped straight to 10 centimeters.” She directed her serious expression at me, “This baby’s coming out right now. Push.”

The head came out.

Here’s the anecdote part. The midwife said my water hadn’t broken, and that she would have to pop it. I have it in my head this was after the head came out, but that seems impossible to me. Maybe I’ve the order screwy.

She reached in with an awl or something, and my water shot around the baby’s head like a geyser, all over my poor, impromptu midwife’s beautiful, fuzzy angora sweater. I had tragically perfect aim.

One more push and the baby slid out.

The whole production took about 10 minutes, but I’ve spent 14 years being upset about that sweater.

Happiness defined

July 18, 2012

A family friend recently became widowed, and just as we were talking about our concern for her in that big house all alone, there were a couple of break-ins in her nice neighborhood.
Last week over girls talk I asked her if she had a dog.
“No, and I don’t want one.”
We all looked at her blankly.
“My husband used to say happiness was when the kids moved out and the dog died.”
Oh I can so see that.

My great-grandfather’s murder

July 18, 2012

My children asked me the other night about all my grama’s siblings. They were trying to name all nine kids in order by age.

I was surprised that they were surprised when, after six of them, I said, “Those were all from the first dad; then you have the last three from after the murder.”

They did a cartoon-style double take.

How could they not know the murder story? This is a big family tale, not because of the murder, so much as because of the supernatural lore that comes with it.

I will tell it from the beginning.

My great-grandmother was orphaned in Mexico at age 5, and came to live with an aunt in the Southern Californian town I live in now.

When she was a teen her aunt arranged a marriage with a Korean boy. They mistakenly thought his family owned a laundromat, and that he was consequently rich.

Neither of them spoke English, or each other’s language.

“Mom,” as everyone refers to her, told her children later this arrangement broke her heart, because she was desperately in love with someone else.

“Papa” and his best friend (or cousin, depending on whose version you get) had come to the States during the Japanese occupation of Korea. 

At some point in the marriage, he began to work covertly for the Korean Underground — a secret war against the Japanese. He told his wife he had to keep his activities secret from her, for her own safety.

All she knew was that he was giving speeches, and inciting politcal unrest.

When my grama, the sixth child, was six months old, he told Mom that if anything happened to him, he wanted her to marry his friend from Korea. He gave her his watch and told her to keep it safe.

The next day my grama’s two oldest sisters were walking home from school. Mom was on the porch with a neighbor and my infant grama when the girls approached the house.

From another direction they saw Papa riding his bicycle — his only form of transportation. They all saw a car come from out of nowhere and run him down. It appeared deliberate.

Marguerite and MaryAnn, 12 and 10, dropped their books and ran to him. Mom handed the baby over to the neighbor and joined the rush.

When they got to him, everything vanished. The car, the bike and the body dissipated like an apparition, right there on the edge of the orange grove.

That night Papa didn’t come home from work. The police came.

They found his body in the grove. He had been beaten to death with brass knuckles.

The family line is that MaryAnn is psychic, and everyone was riding her psychic energy as she picked up on his death. She had the time right, but not the method.

Mom did as she was told. She married the friend/cousin and saw to the watch. One of my uncles has the watch now. I’d love to take it apart, and see if there’s something hidden it.

Eighty-five years later, MaryAnn still talks to Papa all the time.

Augie cracked me up

July 17, 2012

My boss at the paper used to get irritated with one of my coworkers.

He would say, “Mikkel, one of these days I’m going to put you out of my misery.”

Redwood Summer

July 16, 2012

A human-rights activist has been kidnapped and killed.

This brings back a terrible memory.

Two weeks after I moved to Boulder to live near my boyfriend, a group from the University of Colorado Environmental Center rented a bus and went to California to be a part of Redwood Summer.

This was a gathering, primarily of college students, in Northern California. The kids were staging protests against the logging industry.

It was a peaceful effort. Ben & Jerry would be there, and the ice cream would be free. I grabbed two cameras and my reporter’s notebook and jumped aboard.

On the way out our busful engaged in nonviolence training.

When we arrived in Humbolt County, we were met with the somber news that the events’ organizers, Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney, had been hospitalized. A bomb exploded under Bari when she sat in the driver’s seat of her car. Her pelvis was blown apart, among other things.

This was the first indication that I was in harm’s way.

We sat cross-legged in a ring on the floor while our leader guy did an emotion check. I was freaking out. I am not brave.

This news had the protesters angry and ready to charge. Our exercise that afternoon was role playing, to prepare ourselves for confrontations with loggers.

First I played a protester. My ersatz logger was shoving me and yelling obsenities. I practiced not fighting back.

Then it was my turn to be the logger. Perhaps it was because of my journalism training, or because I was not a protester, but I was surpised by the myopia these kids had.

My logger response in this game was “I hear you, but I have a family that depends on me. I don’t cut and haul what I’m told; I don’t get paid.”

My drill partner said, “I never thought of that.” Those zealous college kids were putting themselves in danger without even considering the other side. I agreed with them, mind, but thought they couldn’t have a good strategy without they saw the forest through the trees.

The plan for the next day was something called ‘Cat and Mouse.’ This was not a drill. Half of the protesters sneaked into the forest at 4 a.m. to hide, the second half at 6. The idea was that the loggers couldn’t fell trees knowing there was a bunch of people in there.

I was with a group in a gully as dawn broke. I can’t describe how frightened I was. Mingled with the sounds of the forest was the voice in my head, replaying ‘This is a bad idea.’ I couldn’t make it stop.

A large, strong man appeared at some point on higher ground. He had seen my group, and was heaving softball-size boulders at us. If one had made contact with someone’s head it could have been fatal. People started running, but I’m slow and got separated. I called for my boyfriend, and forgot to use the code name he was assigned. I didn’t know what to do. I struggled up the side of the gully, but there was no trail, and it was steep. It was also dark, and I was afraid. This was out of the cover of the trees, but I just wanted to get out of there.

I couldn’t hear the quiet anymore, just screaming from the protesters, yelling from the loggers, and thuds from the rocks they threw. That’s what my husband says he remembers the most — the thuds.

As I crested the forest I saw a sherrif’s car. I ran to it and embraced the officer. Shortly after, my boyfriend found me. We were done with this craziness.

The officer gave my boyfriend and me a ride to our camp. I used that time to get his perspective for my story, but he also asked us a lot of questions. By the end of the ride, I had a great article, and the officer had decided he agreed with the environmentalists’ cause.

By nightfall one of our number hadn’t returned. We learned he had been caught by a group of loggers and beaten with an axe handle and abandoned.

That was the end of the action for the Coloradans. We got our free ice cream and headed back.

I grabbed a stack of local newspapers before we hit the road. Someone had done a story on my boyfriend, me and our officer friend, who was a Mendocino County sheriff sergeant. He had credited us by name with educating him on the issue and inspiring him to work toward protecting old-growth forests.

Shoot, if I’d known I would make my biggest impact sitting in a car, I never would have gone into that forest.

And to top it off, someone else had written my story.

The diner story

July 15, 2012

My high school best friend is in town for a visit. She’s leaving tomorrow, but really wants to eat at Kay’s, a breakfast diner that was downtown and legendary when we were growing up.

It has since moved to a nearby town. It’s around the corner from the medical center.

One afternoon I had taken my son to the medical center for hearing tests — he has to have his hearing monitored; there are issues because of the tumors. The tests were taking a long time and we were starving.

Finally, someone came into the waiting room and told us he failed the hearing test in one ear, and we had an appointment with a different doctor in 90 minutes.

We were out the door and Kay’s-bound before you could say blueberry pie.

Then we were so hungry we couldn’t decide what to order.

It went like this: I’ll have the chicken-fried steak and eggs, no wait, the cinnamon roll, except, oooh, maybe I want a waffle….

The waitress kept glancing toward the door, but we were intent on our menus.

Then she leaned in and whispered, “I need you order quickly, because the health department is shutting us down right now.”

We looked over to see a guy in a uniform putting a huge chain and padlock on the front door — dramatic, but unnecessary, I thought — and a sign saying the restaurant was indefinitely out of business by order of the government.

My son and I were so hungry, all we could think of was that we ought to order as much as possible before they closed the kitchen.

We took one of everything.

My husband talked in his sleep

July 14, 2012

The smallest bit of light or noise torments my husband when he’s sleeping. If I put my book light on, he puts a pillow over his face, then crosses his arms over it to press it into his eyes.

When we were dating, I once stood outside his house in the middle of the night and whispered his name. He answered in a full, clear voice, “What?”

He woke up like a snap. The man is cursed.

This is the time period my story takes place in. Sometimes he would ask me to come stay with him, even if I worked late or had a report to write. There were no locks on his doors, so I would creep into his dark, quiet house and climb in bed. He would wake up, drape his arm over me and be asleep again within a second.

One night I curled into him, and he said in a strong voice, “Ah! You must be the maker of the contacts.”


“Huh?” He was asleep.

Apparently, he either dreams of being a secret agent, or an optomotrist.

The tube top story

July 13, 2012

My morning radio guys were talking about fads the other day, and one of them said he wished the tube top would come back in style. He loved to see a woman in a white one with a pair of jeans.

My grama’s older sister learned a lesson about tube-top wearing. About 25 years ago Auntie Martha was wearing one in a Lake Tahoe casino. She was about 70, but she had famously great rack.

She sat with her cup of quarters at the slot machine most of the afternoon, inserting a quarter, pulling the lever.

At early evening a man tapped her on the shoulder. Her tube top was around her waist.

Ding ding ding ding ding.

Uncle Jer’s perspective

July 12, 2012

Jer and I were the only ones in the house who didn’t go to bed early, back when we had a houseful.

We would stay up on the couch and channel surf until Beavis and Butthead came on.

Whenever we caught a news item about someone, bandaged and bruised, who survived a crash or heinous injury, an anchor or neighbor always said, “You were really lucky.”

This turned Jer red. He would shout at the TV, “He wasn’t lucky! He was in a major accident. Luck is when the other car misses you.”

Uncle Jer sees things much more clearly than the rest of us.

My son cracks me up again

July 10, 2012

I learned some yicky statistics about how many spiders the average person swallows annually while sleeping and such.

Among these fun facts was that Americans eat an average of 12 pubic hairs a year in fast food.

I shared this with my kids.

My son said, “Boy, I feel sorry for the guy who only eats fast food once a year.”

I met Saddam’s capturer

July 9, 2012

The rumor that Michael Jackson was buried before his funeral, which was two years ago today, was widely reported on reputable news stations. They suggested that gold-plated casket was empty as it rolled from Forest Lawn Cemetery to the memorial service. No one seems to know where it is now.

What? People lie to the media?

That is so wrong. Journalists are generously serving the public’s right to know, and some people are using them to spread lies. I can’t stand it.

It’s bad enough our government does it. (Did I just shock you?) A guy at a bar told me this happens.

My husband and I were in line at B.B. King’s on Universal City Walk, where we were waiting to see The Chris Thayer Band.

The boy in front of us had a Navy SEALs jacket on. I thanked him for his service, and asked him if he’d been overseas or seen combat. He looked young — with blond hair and a baby face — but he also looked bad ass.

He told us he had been in Iraq until just now. This was his first day back in the States. In fact, he hadn’t been home yet, he said. He couldn’t wait to take his best girl out on the town.

We nodded at the girl. She nudged him with her elbow, “Tell them.”

He said his team was sent home as a reward for capturing Saddam Hussein. He, personally, was the guy to put his hands on the man and pull him out of the spider hole.

I pictured the sleeves of that SEAL jacket dipping into the styrofoam hideout. Probably my image wasn’t accurate.

We were dying for details, and started firing out questions. My last one was, ‘What went through your head the moment you realized what you had?’

The SEAL looked at his best girl, then at us. He shrugged. “It didn’t happen that way.

“Some other unit located Hussein. We got to be the ones to ‘find’ him, because the president owed my commander a favor. Hussein’s hole was guarded until we could get there and pull him out.”

I used to do this with my kids and Easter eggs.

It was that revelation that made me believe the guy. To that point, starstruck as I was, I had a niggling it might have been a tall tale. I have more fun when I ignore my nigglings, and was doing just that.

But the casket thing, no. I was a niggling-free believer.

The circus death story

July 8, 2012

The big top has gone up in Southern California. When I was a girl, my grandparents took me to see the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, which had come to Anaheim.

To my little-girl mind, it truly was The Greatest Show on Earth. Cotton candy in hand, I saw tigers, clowns and a trapeze artist that dangled off a motorcycle on a high wire.

Grampa bought me a glittering light-up thing that whirred when you pulled the strings. I was happy all the way.

We had gone to the morning performance. I later learned that during that day’s afternoon show, the motorcycle driver — doing a handstand on the handlebars — went off the highwire and crushed his accompanying acrobat.

I wanted to link to the news story.

Will you believe I haven’t been able to find but one mention of a Ringling-and-company death online? Five years ago, a woman twirling from a scarf fell to her death. The show went on.

Curiously, none of the pieces about that 2004 fall mentions a history of circus mishaps, or, specifically, the Ringling Bros.’ fatality record. As news articles go, this is a glaring omission. They say only, “Brock said it was the first death of a circus performer during a show for the 134-year-old company in at least 10 years.”

The only other mention that anything has ever gone amiss at a circus was a story of the historic Hartford fire of 1944.

The supression of damning news, combined with tales and YouTube footage of animals’ being mistreated, is creeping me out.

I’m finding a new place to eat cotton candy.

The Candy Lady

July 7, 2012

The school year started today for the area’s year-round schools. This means I could be called in to sub again.

Somehow my stories have given Uncle Mike the impression that I like subbing. I’d like to take this opportunity to disabuse my reading audience of that ridiculous notion.

There’s irony in this story, so I’m starting with a seemingly unrelated scandal.

One of my girlfriends was the PTA president for my daughter’s middle school. We were sitting around at the school one afternoon when I mentioned I didn’t participate in the membership drive because of the reward.

Kids who sold memberships were given candy by the PTA.

By coincidence, the day after my grousing, I got an e-mail from one of the teachers, who also happens to be an old friend.

She reported that somebody called the principal to complain about teachers’ giving candy.

I wasn’t he, but I agreed with the complainer. When I tried to take my son off food coloring, I painstakingly read labels at the store, only to have him come home with pockets full of Jolly Ranchers. Teachers doled them out for correct answers.

The principal told the caller she wasn’t about deprive her teachers of this effective incentive. The parent cited the education code violation and threatened action.

The principal was forced to issue the moratorium, and was bound by policy to protect the caller’s identity. This was bad news for me.

According to my friend’s e-mail, the faculty believed I was the offender. She said she didn’t believe it.

If this is confusing, I’ll clarify some distinctions: The PTA and the school are separate entities. A complaint about the school was a can of worms I did not want to open. What I made was an unofficial mom-to-mom comment about what the PTA was doing, by way of explanation as to why such an involved parent did not buy a PTA membership. Sadly, this was in front of a witness.

I was trapped. The person who knew I was not the guilty party was mum. The person who suspected I was the culprit was telling everybody. The teachers hated me. I was The Anti-Candy Lady.

At the same time, this was going on:

I worked my second day as a substitute teacher — which, please remember, I hate.

The teacher left instructions. ‘There is candy in my desk. Give it to the kids who are helpful.’ I kept this to myself, meaning not to do it.

These second-graders were perfect. They were helpful, sweet, enthusiastic and full of personality, the lot of them. At the end of the day they asked where was their candy.

I was running the reading table, and the autistic boy’s aide got the little candy bars out for the class.

A week later I was on that campus again to drop something at the office. It was recess time.

Children came running to throw their arms around my knees and proclaim their love. They had a sub that day. They told me they begged their teacher to request me instead.

Their teacher told them I would never sub at that school again, because I gave them candy. She labeled me “The Candy Lady.”

At least I’m balanced.

Driver license

July 6, 2012

My son is getting his driver license today.

When he started driver ed a year ago, we each gave him our biggest piece of advice.

Here’s the collection:

  • Uncle Jer says, “My dad always said ‘At a yellow light, if you can stop, do.’
  • I say, “Be predictable. Expect everyone else to be unpredictable.”
  • My husband says, “Be aware of your surroundings.”
  • My dad says, “Don’t be the fastest car on the freeway.”
  • My Oldest Friend’s husband says, “Always use your indicator.” After some investigating, I learned this is a turn signal.
  • I say, “Don’t drive like Uncle Mike.”
  • What I wish I could say is “Never go anywhere. Stay home with your mama.”

The dress story

July 4, 2012

I made my daughter a million little sundresses. I made infant ones, toddler ones and elementary-sized ones.

She had them with frogs, flowers, easter eggs, fireworks, shamrocks and Sesame Street characters.

I also shopped at second-hand stores.

One Fourth of July she was sitting next to me on the curb waiting for the parade. She wore a red-and-white handmade sundress I had bought at my mom’s church’s rummage sale.

A family friend, who later became the middle-school band director for both my kids, sat down with her daughters on her other side, and made conversation.

“How are you today? That’s a pretty little dress. Did your mommy make it?”

My daughter looked to me. “Did you make this, Mommy?”

I felt like taking the easy way and just saying yes. It was just like the ones I made, and her wearing one I didn’t make defied the odds. Also, I figured she was just making preschooler conversation, and it didn’t really matter.

But I said no.

Then our friend said, “Mm-hmm. I made it.”

I live in such a small town.

To each his own

July 3, 2012

Avocado Coffee Fudge Sundae for Dessert

Anyone ever gone rogue at the dinner table?

I had to share this photo of a guy in Canada’s favorite dessert: an avocado coffee fudge sundae.

If you try this, please let me know what you thought.

Whenever I get a sore throat, I like to drink Coke and orange juice. Yes, mixed together.

My grandad used to put peanut butter on his eggs, I’ve heard tell.

What do you eat? Shock me.

The horse riding story

July 2, 2012

My Junior High Best Friend just got back from a family vacation in Mammoth.

Fun fact that isn’t particularly fun: Her boys are the same ages as my kids, and her oldest boy has dealt with tumors in his head, too. This makes me wonder if we were exposed to something together during our teens. The other two girls we hung out with never had children.

I’ve been to Mammoth this time of year. It’s beautiful. My dad rented a condo there for the week after I finished high school. We took My High School Best Friend.

We spent the first couple of days lying by the pool, but I woke up one morning with a chest, and my bathing suit didn’t fit anymore.

So we went horseback riding.

We had never been on horseback, any of us, yet we had the nerve to be disappointed we would be led nose to tail slowly on a narrow path. Now that I’ve actually ridden free, I can see the beauty of our Mammoth ride. Who did we think we were, Hoss and Little Joe?

There we were, meandering painfully slowly through the forested mountains, and all I could hear was my mother behind me anxiously sucking her teeth.


“There are loose rocks on the trail. I’m afraid your horse is going to trip.” This is my mother in a nutshell.

I tried to get someone to trade horses with me. No luck.

Then the gasping started.

“Mo-om! This horse walks this trail everyday. Its whole life is walking this trail. Plus, it’s a horse. It’s not going to trip on a rock. Someone please switch places with me!”

And then my stupid horse tripped on a rock.

His front leg slipped and buckled. I almost fell off.

I think she’s forgotten about this, though I will never know, because to ask would be to remind. I hope she has, because I hate to see her nervousness rewarded.

I’m pretty sure if you ask her what she remembers about our trip to Mammoth, she’ll tell you about my visit from the booby fairy.

Waxing philosophical

July 1, 2012

My junior-high English teacher used to say, “If you’re bored, you’re a boring person.”

Of course, this was before the Internet, where many boring people kill time.

Not you, though.