Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Best 'truth in advertising' phrases

Just now, in my junk email, I found this:

R0lex Repl!cas: Gorgeous looking craftsmanship

I decided that this is one of the finest, truest titles on a junk email ever. Our anonymous copywriter is not claiming that the product is made with great skill. Could it fall apart as you take it our of the box? Absolutely. But it looks gorgeously made, and somewhere, somebody is going to want that. I guess. Or perhaps they are trying to distract me with a few code words that appeal to me as a consumer, as discussed in this book on rhetoric.

This got me wondering - what other wonderful bits of truth have you encountered in advertising? Any favorites?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Manger deLuxe

I was going to do a jokey bit of writing, because my house is far from festive right now. I was going to claim trendsetter status for the 'authentic Christmas' set: just let the kids go wild, bedrooms can grow into even more of a pit, trash may remain strewn about ... I was going to say that I'd put a cease and desist on all vacuuming, stop the flow of propane and let the temperature drop in remembrance of my barn-born King.

Manger Chic, I was going to call it, until I discovered that phrase had been taken, in honor of parents in Great Britain who feel that their children must excel in every aspect of life, including their Nativity play costumes.

That's right, $200+ bucks spent on a child's costume for a school play about God being born in a stable. And before I get all uppity, I've got to ask myself, are my choices much better than that?

Saturday, December 5, 2009

But It's on Clearance!

I just love finding special products like this one, for dogs too good to drink from the hose, dogs bored with mud puddles, dogs with a discriminating palate ... I wonder if there's special doggie stemware for this - and if you have to switch glasses for the parsley flavor.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Up and up

Lately, one of my latent skills has been called up to the surface. I can juggle.

I am not using juggling as a metaphor. I can't, for instance, juggle laundry and dishes and home-cooked meals and writing. If I could get one of those things done a day, I'd be doing well. Or better than today, anyway. I am speaking of literal, simple juggling.

I'm not sure exactly how the word got out about my days as a mime (will you still be my friend?), but I found myself helping a friend with his technique the day after Thanksgiving. Perhaps it reflects a national mood: while I was out examining the cyber-landscape (thanks,, I found this blog entry on why normal people should juggle.

Yes, it is one part shameless promotion, but it is two parts true. Especially the parts that discuss being excited about the potential of others and avoiding being mistaken for a fascist dictator.

Check out the link. If a class in Hollywood is out of reach, try the library.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Maiden voyage ends in disaster

This delightful truffle of fiction was written by my friend Jennie, the winner of the Blog Attic contest. "Oh, oh," you may complain, sounding like a Sweathog, "we were supposed to vote and she went over the word count." Boo-hoo all you want, Horshack, she's the sole entry. Plus, it's funny. So quit whining and get reading. And next time, enter the contest.

Neither of us wanted to invite Edgar. Our plan was six months in the making and Edgar is always a fly in the ointment, but the axle went out on my trailer and he’s the only other guy around who had one.

The story really starts last fall when we were out frogging on the river. Dave’s son got his first air rifle, so we wanted to help him break it in. It turns out that the kid is a terrible shot, and we had to get right on top of the frog before he could hit it. We were up in a grassy shallow when we saw it. It was completely submerged and in good condition. I’d heard my dad telling stories about the loggers riding scows up and down the river along with the logs, but I’d never seen one before. A scow is a flat-bottomed long boat. It almost looks like an upside down fishing dock, and as a matter of fact, that’s what I thought I was looking at when I first discovered it. It took me another couple of weeks before I could fish it out of the river and get it into my garage.

She’s about 16 feet long and three feet wide. That’s just wide enough for a lawn chair. Dave and I worked on it for most of the winter months. I didn’t see any holes, so we figured the old girl must have gotten waterlogged and gone to the bottom.

We outfitted her with a secondhand Johnson outboard and painted her new name on the front. The name is a point of contention, not because we couldn’t agree, but because Dave is an idiot. He’s got some talent with a paintbrush and decided he could do a fine job freehand, and I have to admit, what’s there looks good. Unfortunately, he didn’t leave enough room for the whole name. We called her The Dock, but since Dave is an idiot, he didn’t have room for the “k.”

Our goal was to get her on the water by Memorial Day.

When Egg showed up (that’s what everyone’s called Edgar since he was a kid), we learned that he had a few ideas of his own. Instead of trying The Doc out on the river, he wanted to head over to the lake. I wasn’t in love with that idea, since every vacationer and his brother would have a boat in the water, but Egg was adamant and he had the trailer. Egg found a wine fridge on someone’s curb and felt it would class up our operation. Dave said that we should leave the fridge and take the cooler instead, because the fridge wouldn’t keep the beer cold. But old Egg was a step ahead of him. He brought a 25 HP generator. Still a skeptic, Dave complained until he saw that Egg had already stocked the fridge. None of us is above drinking free beer. Egg threw in a couple bottles of wine, but he told us that we didn’t have to drink them, since he just put them in there for show.

We loaded up and prepared for the ride in Egg’s truck. The lake was only five minutes away, but 30 seconds in Egg’s truck is too long. Egg has a coon hound/German Shorthair mutt that goes everywhere with him. Like other men of his geography and social class, Egg has developed a taste for squirrel. Now Skinner is one helluva squirrel dog and that keeps Egg in squirrel sandwiches and his truck smelling like a doghouse.

We got the scow on the water with all of its gear, including the lawn chairs, fridge, and generator. Egg forgot to gas up the generator, so we had to siphon some gas out of the outboard. Dave lost the draw on that one, so he siphoned the gas. I should have done it myself, because he made a complete mess of it. He spit it all over the back of the scow and let it leak everywhere.

The outboard fired up after a couple of pulls and The Doc was moving across the water. The lake was busy with expensive pontoon boats, speedboats, and skiers. We made our way through a mess of jet-skis and idled her back to a nice cruising speed. I guess the trouble started when Egg plugged in the fridge. The plug end of the fridge was gone, so he took the exposed wires and fed them into the plug on the generator. That wasn’t a bright idea. The thing started snapping and sparking, so Egg dropped it pronto—right into the gas puddle that Dave made.

Now I’m not sure if it was the flames or the yelling and jumping around Egg was doing that drew attention, but one of those tricked out pontoons headed over in our direction to lend a hand. I didn’t put a fire extinguisher on the scow, so the fella from the pontoon gave us his.

He pulled up along side and was holding out the fire extinguisher when Skinner took a shining to the dog they had on their boat. I found out later that it was called a Pomeranian, but Skinner thought it was a squirrel. He made an impressive leap onto their boat and started shaking that Pomeranian with a passion. Fur was flying and women were screaming. Dave was the closest one to their boat, so he jumped on and flung Skinner into the drink. Unfortunately, he hadn’t considered that Skinner might not let go of the dog. Realizing his mistake, he jumped in after Skinner, but when he surfaced he was yelling, “my ear, my ear!”

I don’t want to say Dave is a vain man, but he lost the top half of his ear a few years ago in a badger accident. Not long after that, he took the money his wife had saved up for a family vacation and bought a prosthetic ear. That day we learned that prosthetic ears do not float.

Skinner was halfway to shore before the pontoon caught up with him. Luckily they recovered the Pomeranian and Egg avoided another round of community service. The Doc was still smoldering after Egg doused it with the fire extinguisher, but she was seaworthy. We picked up Dave who was trying to figure out how to tell his wife that he lost his vacation ear in the lake. We found Skinner waiting for us on shore, loaded up and headed home.

Our first outing was a disappointment, but Dave and I have agreed to hold off launching her again until my trailer is fixed. Our new goal is the Fourth of July. Dave and his brother went south and bought a whole mess of fireworks and I got a brand new fire extinguisher, so we’ll be ready for anything.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Blog Post Contest

Way back in October, through the magic of Google's Webmaster Tools, I discovered that my blog has an attic. Upon that day, I went to work, creating a crack team of highly analytical robo-monkeys to reveal the implications of this find.

For the record, that is why I have been unable to post for 16 days. Robo-monkeys. Not making excuses, but it was tougher than it sounds. I spent nearly four of those days trying to find an agri-business willing to sell me genetically modified,  non-corrosive bananas. But, modern science prevailed, and here's what my metallic minions have revealed:

"If, someday, tinycatpants becomes a multi-million hit site, you don't want to frustrate those poor souls perusing the comments with a link to nowhere. It only takes a moment of imaginative energy to understand that this could be the downfall of your credibility. 'I mean,' goes the cry of the people, 'if she can't deliver on a simple blog post, what else is she incapable of doing?' And there goes your opportunity at a writing career, or health care reform."

So action must be taken. These titles need content. While I would enjoy answering the call, I believe in sharing my treasure; thus, I invite you, good people, to participate.

How? So glad you asked. Two ways. First, you could a create a post for one of the two titles:

We Are Pariah of Dog Park, May 2005
Maiden Voyage Ends in Disaster, May 2005

Write your 800-words-or-less post, and include your pen name as you would like it to appear in this blog. Put all that in the body of an email, NO ATTACHMENTS and NO LINKS, and send it to [in]my{little}town@(gmail).com.  Delete all of the parentheses and brackets in that address, the r-m's have advised this method as a way to thwart spammers.

The programmable primates and I will pick our favorites, and then I'll post the semi-finalists here on my blog for the people's vote - readers can click the 'Winner' or 'Nice Try' response button. The entry with the most 'Winner' clicks will be, well, the winner.

Submission window closes on November 22nd (that's two weeks, people). Semi-finalists will be posted soon thereafter. Voting will close November 30th.

Winner receives a 'guest blogger' credit on the new, official post, as well as a featured spot on my sidebar.  The runner-up (winner of the other title) will receive 'guest blogger' credit on his or her link as well. All semi-finalist posts will include your nom de plume and individual links, making it easy for you to direct folks here to vote.

Helpful hints from the robo-monkeys:
1) They like to laugh.
2) They like details that tie-in to the title and other information available in the original post.
3) They were prototyped during a romantic comedy gorgefest and thus ask that you refrain from anything that smacks of Meg Ryan.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Blog Attic

My blog has an attic.

I discovered it after I set-up Google's Webmaster Tools. It promised insight into my blog, statistical data and objective information galore. I love objective data - and being a web master. It made me feel like Donkey from Shrek (I'm a web master, I mastered the web), and who wouldn't want that?

It didn't mention the attic, but there it was, a secret panel in the 'links to your site' section:                                              1
2005/05/maiden-voyage-ends-in-disaster.html                   1

This struck me as odd, as I started blogging in August. 2009. I don't recall any sort of maiden voyage in May 2005. But perhaps I blocked it out, it was about 'disaster' after all, so I clicked on the link, which took me to There I discovered this little comment:

Whatever you and Mrs. Wigglebottom do, don’t do this:

A few check-ins later, this appeared:

2005/05/we-are-pariah-of-dog-park.html                   1
This link gave my computer hissyfits, so I won't give it the same honor and glory rendered to the above feline apparel site. From what I could gather, the former IMLT proprietor had some trouble with humans after "Henry" committed an alleged attack on a fellow canine at the dog park.
I did not know I was getting a pre-owned blog. I guess I should've kicked the tires a little harder. But now I have a dilemma. Since this blog is step one in a series of nine toward world domination, I feel I must either eradicate the links, or make good on their promise.

Eradicating the links would involve technical research. That is so not going to happen - despite Google's opinion on my internet expertise, I am not, nor have I ever been, any sort of computer genius. So, I guess I'm going to have to deliver on these links somehow ... any suggestions?

Thursday, October 15, 2009



Of late, crappy has become a favorite word of mine, as in, “I’m crappy at housework.” Or, “That piece for the newspaper turned out really crappy.”

The former, of course, is a truism. Being crappy at laundry, and dishes, and other regular tasks of womandom has been a defining characteristic since I was old enough to wade through the clothes on the floor in order to sleep with a pile of books.

The latter is specific, and depressing. Happened to me one Tuesday in June. Felt like the green eggs and ham guy. I do not like it, Sam-I –Am.

I called my husband, Paul. “It’s just not good, “ I said, wandering around the deck, thirty minutes before my deadline with a local newspaper. “But I have to turn it in anyway, because I said I would, and I don’t think you can not do what you say you’re going to do just because you did it badly.”

I was reminded, in that moment, of a favorite G. K. Chesterton quote: “Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly.”

That is small consolation when your poor doing is public knowledge.

Paul tried, but was no match for this elixir of self-loathing. I headed inside, sent the crap down the chute to my unseen editor, and hopped on Facebook. Earlier in the day I had taken a quiz to discover what crazy writer I am most like. I returned to the quiz, trying to console myself in facts, drown my sorrows in the details of my assigned compadre, Hunter S. Thompson.

Thompson, Hunter S. said Wikipedia. The father of Gonzo journalism. Someone had capitalized Gonzo. Is that right, I wondered? And then the phone rang: my neighbor, Ren.

“Whatcha doing?” she asked.


“Oh, well,” she said. “You should be working on one of your great articles.”

“Yeah, it’s deadline day,” I said.

“Yep,” she said.

Everyone I know knows which day is my deadline day. It must be something I blather about incessantly, like an elderly aunt with her sciatica. Crap. When will I learn to shut up?

“Finished, but it’s not great. Crappy,” I said.

“Oh, I’m sure it’s not . . . “

So nice. So wrong. “No, it’s crappy. Trust me. I was just telling Paul. I know everyone has bad days at work, but mine go into the paper.”

“Okay, well,” she said. “I guess you’re the writer.”

This is weird. I am the writer. Yikes.

“Do you have a minute?” she said.


“I’ve done something,” she said. “And I want to show you what I’ve done.”

For a minute, I wondered if it was something evil.

“Can you meet me outside?” she said.

Who could resist? I shut off the computer and headed out the door.

The door is up on the second story above the garage. It leads out to our deck, which wraps around to stairs that spill out onto our driveway, where Ren was already standing, hand on hip, grinning at me.

She warmed up with the quote of the day from T-, our littlest.

“I so enjoy your kids,” she said. She meant it. “Do you know what your daughter said to me today?”

“Oh no, “ I said. T- is almost 4, and comes up with some stuff.

“She said, ‘Aunt Nay, I’m never gonna get undressed in front of the cops.’”

Ren waited. I lost it.

“Letting her watch a little too much CSI, Laura?” she smirked.

I couldn’t stop laughing.

“Out of the blue she said it,” Ren repeated the line. “I’m going to keep that one forever.”

Ren moved toward my dirty Ford Taurus and leaned up against it. She looked like some teenage hoodlum, a common loiterer.

What is not to love about this woman?

She started in with the real story.

“Now, you know,” she said, with the conspiratorial tone used by only the best gadabouts, “that when I turned 52, Mimi took me out to get me a tattoo.”

I nodded. Mimi’s her daughter.

“Well, it was supposed to be a daisy, but it looked like, well, it looked like an anemic dandelion. So yesterday, I decided to get it fixed up.”

She stood up and flashed the new ink. I came over for a closer look. Strong lines, and more color than I remembered. She kicked the tat leg forward and propped her other foot against the door. Leaning. Leaning seemed like the only way to have whatever conversation we were having, so I joined her.

I was never a big smoker. I bummed a cigarette or two back in the day, but never bought a pack. Regardless, once in a while, having a smoke just sounds good. Blame my past, the stress, the power of Facebook and Hunter S. Thompson, but this was one of those moments.

Ren doesn’t smoke.

“Don’t think less of me because of this.”

I turned my head, and glanced at her like we were exchanging state secrets.

“Remember that I am a good neighbor,” she pleaded, pursing her lips.

I was waiting for it. She was letting me hang.

“I . . . Now you know my maiden name is Kuebler, right?”

That’s pronounced ‘Key-blur’, for the record.

“Oh no no no,” I said, walking away from the car.

She stood upright and came in for the kill.

“I got another tattoo.”

Shaking my head, laughing, coming over, I’ll be danged if it isn’t the finest likeness of Ernie the Keebler Elf ever tattooed on a leg.

“Did you get yourself liquored up and go to town?”

“Liquored up. No I did not get liquored up, but I’ll tell you what, when he was doing the outlining, I thought, boy I wish I had a Bud Light before I came.”

I pulled my cell phone out of my pocket. “Would you mind if I took a picture?”

Not at all, she said. Mimi did.

“Look at the detail,” she said as I focused, “his little shirt, and pants.”

I snapped the picture. “Good thing.”

She laughed, “Yeah, it would be a little weird without the pants.”

Then she said, “I asked G- (our oldest) if he recognized it. He said, ‘Yeah, that’s the cookie dude, right?’”

And she told me the whole story, how she went down there, and an old teammate of her son was there, and how he was so glad to see Coach Steve, her husband, who went with her to check the place out. Ren was going to get the tree, but Mimi thought this was more of a conversation starter, so . . .

Sounded like a lovely family outing at the tattoo parlor.

“Yep,” she said, “Scotty’s got the big sun on his arm, like the basketball player, and Carly’s got this horse scene, I mean it is beautiful, and Mimi, well, Mimi’s got,” she looked up, “five, now, but most of those you can’t see on her, and this,” she looked down at Ernie, “makes . . . four.”

She looked back up at me, her eyes bright. I was the obliging bluegill. She put her hands to her face and pushed back her bangs.

“Cause I got my eyebrows done,” she reminded me, lifting those light brown lines for emphasis. “So that’s four, the daisy, the elf, and these two.” She wiggled them again. “And these hurt, I’ll tell ya. But you know . . .”

She pursed her curled up lips, closed her eyes and nodded.

 “ . . . I always wanted eyebrows.”

Then she got going on the cautionary tale of her friend who unwisely went with dark lines, not thinking about her age, when her sliding door opened and Steve appeared.

Steve has thinning hair, a grey beard: he could be Burl Ives’ grouchy brother. He rides a motorcycle, likes heavy metal, and is the only one in his immediate family without a tat. Ask him how he is, and, every time, he’ll tell you: ‘Terrible’.

I love this guy.

He hollered, “You are in big trouble.”

“Me?” I said, but I knew it wasn’t me, because he would have said, ‘Red, you’re in big trouble.’ He gets a kick out of calling me Red.

He started talking all cute to Ren about her skeeter bugs. This clearly meant it was time to take the bike out, so Ren wrapped up by saying she hoped that the boys wouldn’t start asking for tattoos.

“I swear,” she said. “I never once used the word.”

I told her not to worry, Paul and I don’t care, right now the boys probably assume that she got her ink by soaking a piece of paper in water and applying pressure. Once they’re adults, they can do what they want.

I looked to Steve and he agreed, that’s how he always did it, and then once they moved out of his house . . .

“But she, “ he pointed and wagged his finger at Ren, “I still need to give her a talking-to. She still lives here.”

“Yeah, I saw it, “ I said.

“Oh, I told her - I don’t care, “ he said. “But she better keep it covered up. Some kid’s gonna think she has a cookie and gnaw off her ankle.”

With that, Ren went back to change. I called across the yard as she stepped onto her deck.

“Ren.” She looked back. I smiled. “You made my day.”

Pity Hunter S. Thompson. Had to do drugs - because he didn’t live here.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

WT5: upsides to a power outage

Here in my little town, we lose power when the wind changes direction. Any wind. Any change. Last November, they predicted that we'd be out for at least three weeks if Obama became president.

Imaginary scare tactics aside, living here means dealing with bugs, and critters, and hours or days without electricity. Here are my Top 5 upsides to a power outage:

1) Disguises the dust. Candlelight and battery-operated lanterns are better than Pledge.

2) Reduces hunting season chafe. No power=no television. No television=no having to watch the 16th million whitetail deer stalked through binoculars from a blind by a guy breathing heavy as dramatic music swells. Will he shoot the deer? Will he track the deer? Will they try to sell you Doe In Estrus before they give you the money shot? Land sakes, menfolk, is it your plan to drive us all batty with these shows so we'll beg you to leave? Haha - you've been thwarted by poor infrastructure of DTE.

3) Forces you to focus. Not that I have a problem with this, but let's say 'a friend' is a freelance writer who obsesses over work and haunts her email and social networking sites desperate for her next story idea. She knows that she needs underwear, but gets sidetracked every time she heads toward the washing machine with the aforementioned unmentionables. During an outage, she would have to set aside both tasks and clean out her car. Or something.

4) Eliminates the video game wars. For whatever reason, video games inspire the child players in my house to behave like l’il world powers. Each decrees what the others must do. If said proclamations are not heeded in an accurate, thorough and timely manner, there are consequences: threats, toy-sharing embargoes. The situation quickly escalates into pain. UNO does not stir the same response. 

5) Increases gratitude upon its return. The lights come on, and there is a triumphant cheer. It's like a parade, a cavalcade; the refrigerator ought to shoot confetti and balloons. Electricity, oh how we've missed you and the running water you bring forth from our well. A gift! A miracle! That which was once curséd as the harbinger of Versus Cable Television and PS2 is now recast as hero. 

Yes, indeed, there is much rejoicing. And bathing.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Goodness gracious great jars of jelly

A busy weekend here in my little town. Crammed in between 'Whip It' and the Motor City Boogie Woogie Festival, my friend and I took full advantage of some free, gorgeous Concord grapes and made some jelly.

The experience reminded me that process matters. It changes your actual usable harvest. Before you can make jelly, you've got to get your grapes to give up their juice. This involves much mashing and heating. I split the harvest into two nearly identical groups. I mashed and heated the first batch, gaining about 3 quarts of juice. I wasn't satisfied with that, so I did a little research. I realized that I needed to cook the second batch at a higher heat for a longer duration, and that small change nearly doubled the yield.

Before I could get too frustrated, I was also reminded that you've got to start somewhere. Processes are perfected as we go, we learn from our experiences.

Finally, I was guided by the experience of another. My friend came and shared her knowledge with me. She pointed out ways to tell when the jelly was ready beyond the temperature - how the edges should gain texture, how the bubbles change, how you can feel the texture change as you stir. She demonstrated the little things that make the task easier and more efficient.

Jelly making - it's a lot like life.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

WT5 – Ways to Survive a Family Photo Shoot

The thought of doing a family portrait fills my husband with anti-joy. It’s not exactly my bag either. The posing, the bad jokes, the sales pitch – all of it operates against our much more candid style. Something must be done to keep us entertained, unless we want to appear forever in the church directory as people who just ate sour persimmons.

These were our top 5 survival strategies:

5) Using our child’s propensity to imitate for our own amusement. My dear husband taught our little girl that the most appropriate pose for pictures is the Cat’s Eye dance from Pulp Fiction. Now don’t call CPS – we didn’t let her watch Pulp Fiction. Paul just did it once or twice for her before we left, and then let her go.

4) Adopting bizarre terms as new monikers (part 1). Based on the term repeatedly used to direct our oldest son, we have assigned him a new nickname: ‘Back Row’.

3) New monikers (part 2). We applied the same principal to our younger son. Sadly for him, he is now labeled ‘Sister’. We are hoping therapy will be cheaper than an Italian acrylic finish on our portrait. Perhaps he’ll write a tell-all book, with the Great Photo Shoot of 2009 as the inciting incident, and make enough money to pay for it himself.

2) Shooting the ‘what did he just say’ look at each other. The photographer continually strived for our attention by shaking a teddy bear and repeating the phrase ‘look at my pickle’. I shot Paul the look. He returned serve and mentally noted the squeaky toy in our photographer’s pants pocket. I took a deep breath, suppressing both my outer creeped-out parent and inner eighth-grader. With some effort, I decided ‘Pickle’ must be the name of the stuffed animal. Then I realized he was pointing at his nose. Whew.

1) Pondering the guarantee. The sales pitch included a 100-year guarantee against fading, and we wondered: when our great-grandchildren come a-complainin’ in year eighty-seven, what will happen? Will they perform a voodoo ritual involving the bear, the squeaky toy and a pickle, reanimate us for retakes and then make us sit through the sales pitch again? Maybe it’s all part of a bold marketing strategy.

“Remember to upsell: retouching is a felt need for most zombies.”

Monday, September 28, 2009

true anniversary

Today my husband and I are celebrating 18 years of marriage. In honor of that, I've declared Paul as co-author of this blog post. The idea came to me after he called this morning:

"I just called to wish you a happy anniversary," he said.
"Aww," I said. "Happy anniversary to you."
"Thanks," he said. "Can I have my spine back?"

Here are our favorite comebacks:

"I ground it to a fine powder and made it into bread. Enjoy your pb&j."

"I've never seen it. Call your mother."

"That old thing? Useless. I threw it out with your baseball cards, moron."

This truly reflects the nature of our wedding day. In brief, 18 years ago, the handoff from parents to groom resulted in my floor length veil, hanging from a crown of flowers, sailing off of my head. I picked it up and Paul slapped it back on like he was slam-dunking a basketball. The pastor called Paul my wife, the groomsmen hung a Michigan banner in the back of the church and later, at the head table, watched their beloved Wolverines lose (ha, ha - I've been a 'noles fan ever since). Pizza was delivered, the garter was caught by a 12-year old, and the afternoon ended with Paul and I, still in wedding finery, riding a Model A fire truck around town.

We laughed and laughed and somehow, even through challenges, kept it together and kept laughing. Skip the porcelain: make me laugh.

P.S. Paul is, right now, making a porcelain bus joke.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Foodie Friday - Hot Fudge Cake

Sometimes, as we transition from the busyness of the day to the quiet of night, I feel a yearning, a stirring, a longing, a need. It is the siren song of my  ancestors, crying out from the marrow of my bones.

"We need ice cream. And chocolate."

Tonight, I choose to honor the traditions of my people - the people who cast their cholesterol cares to the wind and eat ice cream before bed. And what better to accompany my delicious scoop of dreamy dairy goodness than this old time classic, which makes its own sauce, right in the pan:

Hot Fudge Cake

3/4 cup white sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup butter, melted
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
4 oz. dark chocolate (coarsely chopped, or use semi-sweet chocolate chips)
1 1/4 cups hot water

Preheat oven to 350º F. Be sure and have some ice cream in the freezer. Combine white sugar, 1/4 cup cocoa, baking powder and salt. Stir in milk, butter and vanilla; beat until smooth. Pour batter into ungreased 9" square baking pan. Crumble brown sugar over the top of the batter. Sprinkle remaining 1/4 cup cocoa over that. Top with the chocolate, then pour the hot water over the top. Do not stir. Bake 35-40 minutes, or until center is almost set. Let stand 15 minutes. Spoon into serving dishes and taste. Aren't you glad you have ice cream to go with this?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Wednesday Top 5: Most self-centered songs

Just read a recent article on the our worsening narcissism and decided to post this again, originally from September 2009. Enjoy!

I've been thinking about some of the concerns with the Twitter and the Facebook. Is this self-centeredness unique to this generation, or are they just new ways to express an old truth?

For your consideration, here are my top 5 self-centered songs of all time:

5) Easy to be Hard by Three Dog Night (1969): Things seem alright at the beginning. 'How can people be so heartless?' the singer asks. 'How can people be so cruel?' But when we get into the 'splainin part, we realize that the heartless and cruel activities include caring about strangers and evil and social injustice. Maybe in context (the song is from the musical Hair), the lament makes more sense. In the context of Three Dog Night, it comes off like a guy trying to manipulate his date from the front of the protest line to the back of his van.
4) What About Me? by Moving Pictures (1982): Again, the song starts out reasonably, with the songwriter pointing to the needs of others. The big old chorus is the cry of the boy waiting at the corner shop, or the girl working there. The bridge asks us to consider the little people. But the neediness gets personal in verse three, and it is the singer himself crying out for more than he's got: 'What about me? It isn't fair. I've had enough now I want my share. Can't you see? I want to live, but you just take more than you give.' So much for the little people.
3) I Wanna Talk About Me! by Toby Keith (2001): My husband taught my kids this chorus when I went away for a week. That is a special present - kids proclaiming their need to be the center of the universe to their mother. But even if that awful scene had never happened, this song about a self-centered woman and her irritated, self-centered man would've made the list. To the characters involved: you two deserve each other.
2) Looking Out for Number 1 by BTO (1975): The song appears to predate the book of the same name by 2-3 years (but coming after the delightfully titled Winning Through Intimidation). Regardless of who came first, the sentiment was embraced by the period, an important thing to note as we wring our hands and worry about our children being raised in this time. I was in elementary school when this song came out, and it mixed an interesting musical style with these awful lyrics about success centering on self-preservation, John Sebastian conquered by Robert Ringer. Don't remember it? Lucky you.
1) Lightnin’ Strikes by Lou Christie (a #1 hit from 1966): Check the facts, all you cause-and-effect types - the National Organization for Women was founded in the same year. So, blame or credit Lou Christie as your politics dictate. This song is so much more than selfish, it is a pervasive evil. Every time it's played, a misogynist gets his wings - and an STD.

To be fair and balanced, a 'Hot Stuff' honorable mention t-shirt for Charlene, the purveyor of the 1977/1982 travesty, (I’ve Been to Paradise, but I’ve) Never Been to MeAnd a '#1' belt buckle goes out to Mac Davis. Naww, not for It's Hard to Be Humble - we're not going to hold tongue in cheek bravado against him. The 1970 hit Baby, Don't Get Hooked On Me, on the other hand ...

Monday, September 21, 2009

Multitasking 6500

Me and multitasking have an unholy relationship.

Late at night, multitasking enters into my room through some unknown window, dark wings aflutter. It hovers at the foot of my bed and waits. When I open my eyes, it takes semi-human form and speaks.

It promises full articles and a clean house and well rounded children and food put up for the winter and executable marketing strategy and a balanced budget and improved relationships with people old and new.

"Yeeew cahn ave it ahll," it says, in its creepy Transylvanian accent. It comes closer. Closer. Its cape begins to engulf me, surround me, I can’t breathe … In an instant, it sucks the energy right out of me, and instead of one thing, I have a bunch of nothings. It laughs, returns to bat form, and flies away.

It's time I admit it. Take away my woman card: I can't do multitasking. I’m tracking down that window and putting up a screen, I’m done with it. And if it tries to come back to me, making promises it can't keep, I’m going all Bugs Bunny on it.

Abracapocus, baby.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Foodie Friday - Joe's Gizzard City

After 18 months of discussion, my husband and our friend Dean finally got their wish and dined at Joe's Gizzard City in Potterville, MI.

Helpful hints if you decide to visit this, umm, joint featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives:

1) Go with a gaggle of people. You're going to want to try a whole bunch of things, but this ain't no haute cuisine place. The portions are substantial, and the choices are vast. Why choose between deep-fried pickles and a plate of gizzards when you can have both?
2) If you don't see it deep-fried on the menu, ask. One of our pals had a vision - deep fried potato skins. The staff was happy to oblige, and we were happy to eat this ultimate bar food creation.
3) If you're not sure what to eat for dinner, skip it. Seriously. There's plenty of appetizers, and you need to save room for desserts (yep, plural - see below). But remember - you'll be missing out on the Guy Fieri-created Triple D burger, the only burger I've ever seen deep-fried in its entirety. That's right. Bun and all.
4) Did I mention you should go with a bunch of people? Desserts rule at this place - and trying deep-fried twinkies, nutter-butters, oreos, chocolate chip cookie dough and ice cream sandwiches was the best part of the whole trip, for me.
5) The best drink to go with dessert? Ice-cold milk.
6) Pack your antacid for the ride home. You don't want to know how much the Flying J charges for Maalox.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Wednesday Top 5

Check out my first Wednesday Top 5 - ways to express extreme disdain that start with the letter 'A'.

  • abysmal
  • appalling
  • asinine
  • atrocity
  • awesome

Do you have a word to add (that I'd let my kids use)?

Monday, September 14, 2009

A Mom's Burden - fictional dialogue

 “I can’t take a shower,” she said.
“Why not?” said her husband, from the other room.
“Something might happen to him,” she replied. She meant the baby.
“But it’s been 3 months,” said her husband.
“I know, and he’s still here, right. He’s still alive, right? So,” she said rationally, “it’s working.”
Her husband took a deep breath. “Honey, you need to take care of yourself.”
“What? No. My children come first.”
The look on her face told him that this should have been obvious.
“We just have the one,” he said.
“Well, I hope to have more,” she replied. Her expression didn’t change.
He grinned. “Not going to happen if you smell like that.”
Nothing. He tried another tactic.
“I’ll tell you what, I’ll watch him, you go get cleaned up.”
She stared deep in his eyes with a bemused contempt.
“What?” he said.
“Well,” she began, “how often will you hold him?”
“How often?” She paused, then answered herself. “17 minutes. That’s what the book says. 17 minutes is the optimal gap in between holdings. I pick up the baby every 17 minutes.”
“What if you have something else to do?”
Her hair shook. “I set it aside for the good of my baby.”
A timer on her watch went off. She pushed the button, and gave her husband a little nod. She picked up the baby, counted to 20 and set the baby back down.
 “Next time, I have to say the alphabet. The time after that I will sing Twinkle Twinkle. Good for geometry skills later.”
He was speechless.
“Because that’s Mozart, you know." She picked up THE parenting book and waved it. "There’s a way to do things John.” 
“Let me see that.”
“Sure. If you’d like, I could buy you a copy, and you could start reading it. Like I asked. Six months ago.”
“I just saw this, but with a different cover,” he said
“Marketing ploy.”
“I’m not so sure,” he said.
“Yeah, whatever.”
He pulled out his iPhone. “Oh, look, there’s a new edition of the book. Hmm – ‘one of the more surprising changes is the new optimal time for babies to be held. It has gone from 17 minutes to 13 minutes.’”
“I guess the world’s moving faster now, so …”
She began to pace, nearly tripping over the baby. She didn't even notice. John picked him up. “Oh no, John, what am I going to do? I’m behind! Now he’s going to be a serial killer, I just know it. He’s going to be the bully, and pull wings off of flies and fry ants with magnifying glasses and -"
He rolled his eyes. “I did that.”
“Great – now he’ll be genetically AND environmentally predisposed to psychopathy …”
His eyes got bigger. “Honey, I was just …”
There was no stopping her. “Or worse, he’ll become a socialist!”
“You’re being ridiculous.”
She started rubbing her hands together to keep from twirling her hair. “Oh, I’m not being ridiculous, John, we can’t let him become a socialist." She looked down, and the baby was gone. "See - it's already started! He's gone." 
“What? He's right here."
“Ahh! What are you doing? Give him to me. NOW!”
“What? Why?”
“I’m going to make up for lost time . . . let’s see, he’s three months and 6 days, and every seventeen minutes compared to every thirteen minutes in a 12 hour period would be . . . Oh John, help me.”
“You’re on your own, sister.”
The timer went off.
“I’ve fallen short again. Will I ever get anything right? I’m doomed,” she cried.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


I appreciate the older lady who smiled at me yesterday as we watched my four-year old in the dairy aisle, sporting a crooked flower in her hair, a dirty pink sweatshirt, denim skorts and raggedy cowboy boots.
Her own daughter, she remembered, had a pair of red boots. Donned them with everything. The woman’s very own sister gave her a hard time about it, the old, ‘if that were my kid, she wouldn’t be doing that’.
I laughed. Then the lady told me that the boots were nothing. Her daughter also wanted long hair, but it wouldn’t grow in right. So this woman made her little girl yarn hair, and her daughter wore  the wig everywhere - to the store, wherever. The daughter had even acquired the habit of nonchalantly flipping the strands out of her face as she shopped.
There’s so much more to worry about in the world, the grandma-type said. People are dying.
It reminded me of what my very own sister, a nurse, always says. To paraphrase, if it’s life or death, then there ought to be protocol. The rest of the time, relax.
Lately, I’ve been talking with lots of friends about what we can glean about God from our experience as parents.
One of the things we shouldn’t put on a kid is our own worth. An important boundary, I think. It puts an inappropriate pressure on the child to perform. I’ve seen children crumble under the weight of their parents, under a parent’s need. Kids need to understand that we have expectations, but our value is not wrapped up in their meeting of our expectations.
So it is with God – God’s value and worth is not wrapped up in me, or my ability to do what’s right. He IS. I think that is another facet of the story of the Canaanite woman who comes to Jesus on behalf of her demon-possessed daughter (Matthew 15:21-28 – a part of the sermon I heard this Sunday). Jesus uses words that might lead people to believe that the woman is nothing, a dog. Why does she take the term and embrace it, using it to continue to ask for help?
She believes that Jesus can and will save her child – He declares her faith great. But alongside this faith, I can’t help but think about her love. Being called a name was apparently of no consequence compared to freedom for her child.
The value of every person in this world is set at the same price: worth dying for. To grab my worth from anything else cheapens me, burdens others and worst, defrauds God.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Happy Labor Day

Mike Rowe (of Dirty Jobs) TEDtalk

Coming soon - a chance to dialogue regarding our cultural view of work, and ask: what might God's view be?

Hope you are one of the many who are enjoying a day off - if not, may you be satisfied with your work today.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Mike Farris at The Ark

This is a happy happy day. Last night I saw Mike Farris with the Roseland Rhythm Revue and the McCrary Sisters perform at The Ark.

I bought Farris' CD Salvation in Lights almost two years ago at the end of an anniversary getaway weekend. We had the luxury of time, and we went to a music store for my honey and a bookstore for me. Somebody at the bookstore had the good sense to feature this disc at one of their listening stations. I put the headphones on, and was grabbed by Farris' voice from the moment he started singing 'oh no no no no'. The back up singers answered, 'sit down' and I thought, oh boy. When the band came in after that, I cast off my cheapness and grabbed back - snatched the last disc off of the shelf. When we took a listen in the truck, Paul looked at me and said, whoa, this is you.

It's blues and old time soul and New Orleans and spirituals and singer-songwriter with power vocals and right-on backup singers. I've had this disc for nearly two years and have not grown tired of it. I've been waiting to see him live all this time.

That is a lot of pressure to put on a performance.

All week I tried to keep my enthusiasm in check, but I couldn't help it and it didn't matter. The man and the band delivered to a small, loud and rollickingly happy house. At about the halfway point, I had the urge to go out onto the street and drag people out of their al fresco dining experiences and into the show. I love food, but this was better. Big sound, intimate space, great arrangements. I did not think 'Devil Don't Sleep Tonight' could be better than it is on the disc. Wrong. And how's about 'Soon I Will Be Done' as a part of the encore set showing off the great voices of the McCrary sisters? Oh oh oh. Incredible versions of 'A Change is Gonna Come' and 'I'll Take You There'.

A full-on, hand clappin', stompin'-swingin'-singin' good time. Mike Farris. Check him out!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Check Please

A couple of days ago, after a long day of falling short and failure, I had one of those funny moments of self-doubt. The 'what are you thinking, go get a real job' moments. The 'just who do you think you are' voice.

So I started to think that what I needed to do is get me a reality check. Give one of my honest friends a call, and beg them to lay off the nicey-niceness and be very hard on me and my current delusion of being a writer. Who, I wondered, could be mean enough?

While I did ask Paul (story to follow), I realized this: it doesn't matter. By this I don't mean that I want to be crappy at writing. I want to improve, I want to grow, I want criticism. But ultimately, no matter what someone says to me about my skills or my voice or whatever, I am a writer. Writing has done more than stopped by for a visit. It's moved in, taken over my couch, started asking for snacks and keeps trying to hide the remote.

Yep. Yikes.

The story - while we were making dinner, I asked Paul about my writing. He said he wouldn't answer that. I got all mock grammatical and said, you *can't* or you *won't* - which of course led to a little acting out of my transformation into the Dragon Lady Who Destroyed the Butter Yellow Kitchen with Her Need for Approval.

I didn't actually morph into the above character from a domestic 'B' movie. The acting out was done by the inimitable Paul. Oh he got me laughing. I am particularly susceptible to his ways when I am laughing.

He stopped and he said, 'Let me ask you this. Do you think I'm a poor reader?'

I am a horrible wife. 'Yep,' I said. Then I did a little backpedal dance, complete with a hem and haw beat, but Paul didn't care. I'd fallen right into his special trap, a terrible mechanism constructed of humility, truth and wisdom, set to end a no-win conversation.

'So do you really think I'm qualified to judge writing? Cuz I don't.'

He is good. I am not. I guess that's what they mean when they say opposites attract.