Kitchens, bathrooms, and other health hazards

I have company coming over for Christmas dinner. Since I’m basically antisocial, and rarely get company, this is cause for flying into action. Unfortunately, I tend to avoid housework in favor of just about any other activity, including TV, jigsaw puzzles, and chewing my nails. This means that a) I can barely see my table for all the junk mail and unread magazines, and b) I’m more of a crawl into action kind of girl.

Company requires a bare minimum of clearing the table, mopping the floors, and knocking loose crumbs out of the toaster. At no time do I feel obligated to vacuum the baseboards. My friend feels like this is a dire necessity, and will wrestle with my $2,000 vacuum cleaner (don’t ask) in order to accomplish her objective.

First off, she fears the vacuum, which is powerful enough to suck huge chunks of carpet, electrical cords, and cats off the floor. Undaunted, she set to work on the bathroom baseboards. As she did so, suddenly the toilet paper roll started spinning madly.

Some people don’t do well in emergency situations. While this didn’t hold the drama of a fiery 10 car pile up on the interstate, my friend lost it and couldn’t remember how to turn the vacuum off. She watched helplessly as the roll continued to disappear. One lonely sheet was left clinging to the cardboard like a tattered flag when the vacuum had finally consumed its fill of cellulose.

With my loathing of cleaning, combined with her fear of the diabolical machine from hell, I expect that my house will soon be ranked alongside Chernobyl as toxic biohazards go. While most people would just board up the house and move to a new time zone, my solution is to invite more company over.

At least, my floors will get mopped, but you might want to stick to toast at mealtime.

To stuff or not to stuff

Gentle readers:

Another year has gone by in a blur, and has left us with the age old question: should stuffing be cooked separately, or in the bird? More on that later.

The year started peacefully enough, with me working on my book, and my husband working on trucks big enough to squash a fully loaded mini-van (preferably, not occupied). He had to turn down a cabinet post, because Washington D.C. is just too damn cold in the winter, and frankly, Secretary of Waste Management is just a nice way of saying “full of shit.”

As usual, we had to put up with ninjas this year. These guys must have been hired from Bernie’s school of ninjas and auto repair. True story: my kids and I were enjoying burritos on the patio of a cheap Mexican restaurant, when we spotted two men across the parking lot. They were staring intently at us while trying to act casual. They were wearing suits and just standing around for an hour. Occasionally they would give each other a man hug, just to break the tension.

They leapt into their car as we left, but I managed to lose them at the drive-through ATM. Obviously, they had forgotten their pin number.

In March, an online friend of mine proposed that we compile a humor anthology (My Funny Valentine makes a great Valentine’s Day gift, and is now available at Amazon for $9.95 plus shipping and handling. Just sayin’.) We wanted to showcase some really talented humor writers from around the country, and we’ve received some excellent reviews, thanks to our amazing contributors.

I published my own first book this year with Box of Rocks, a humorous mystery (see sidebar for multiple ways to click and spend money add this book to your collection.)

Now, back to the truly important matter. Christmas dinner is fast approaching, and my friend is lobbying hard to cook the stuffing in the bird. First of all, why don’t they call stuffing what it is, gooey bread surprise. People have taken this to the extreme of stuffing a bird with more birds – hence, the turduckhen. I’m not particularly emotionally invested in soggy bread, so I caved and gave my blessing on allowing her to stick unidentifiable semi-foodlike substances inside a turkey carcass. Also, she threatened to kick me.

I’d like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous New Year. Thanks to all of you for putting up with my foolishness for the year, and God Bless us All, Everyone!

Feed the burn

I have a pair of spandex biker shorts in my closet. The two times I’ve attempted to wear them, I got them up as far as my thighs before I started to hear the desperate threads groaning under the strain. I have to conclude that there is not enough spandex in the world to cover my butt.

At the time I bought them, there was a cute young thing on TV stepping, and stretching, and encouraging me to do the same. My focus was naturally on Denise’s leotard. Every day she wore a new outfit, even though she never broke a sweat, and I suspect that she never leaked any bodily fluids when she kicked. I naturally thought that if I bought the outfit, I would exercise every day. That was two years and twenty pounds ago.

As you might suspect, I haven’t bounced, or flounced, or kicked in the interim. If there’s an exercise that involves crossing and uncrossing your legs while working jigsaw puzzles on the computer, I’ve been in training for some time.

I’m getting a head start on the post-holiday regrets. This involves contemplating dieting and exercise. I’m taking stock of my current activities to see if I can possibly claim calories burned in a normal day. The weekly fooling around involves little activity on my part, unless you consider avoiding the wet spot as exercise.

That leaves me with crushing soda cans for recycling, trudging the ice cream and novelties aisle of the local super-mart, and digging peanut butter out of the jar (extra crunchy). The obvious conclusion is that exercise is fattening. I wish I’d known that when I bought the little leotard.

Of course, I could join a gym, where the only refreshment to be found is a juice bar. The last thing I want after one of their instruments of torture is a carrot and broccoli frappe. There’s no amount of whipped cream and cherries on top that will make that go down easier than chewing on a tire (which is, by the way, the main ingredient in protein bars).

I guess I’ll just have to bounce around with Denise, where nobody can see my stretched out leotard, and where my refrigerator has never seen broccoli juice. Personally, I’d rather be avoiding the wet spot.

The Quest for the Holy Quail

2011 A.D.

Shortly after breakfast

et me get this straight,” I said. “You want to go to a town you’ve never been to, to find a guy you’ve never met, in hopes that he’s frying turkeys this year?” I tried for just the right note of ridicule. You know the one – when your eyes bulge and you laugh so hard that coffee squirts out your nose.

My friend was beyond adamant. She hadn’t had turkey in three years, and only a fried turkey would do. I can understand obsession. I’ve combed the candy aisles looking for my favorite Christmas taffies, leaping on the unsuspecting bags like a lion on a gazelle when I found them.

Still, I was not anxious to play private poultry detective. I tried distraction “The tea house is having a special Christmas Tea. We could go all out and get the Ave Maria.” Even the temptation of finger sandwiches and mini-quiches could not sway her. It was as if the heavens had opened up and God had given her a holy quest. (Cue angels blowing trumpets out their asses.)

When she started talking about getting her own turkey fryer, visions of arson investigators were dancing in my head. I would forever be labeled a polyunsaturated pyromaniac. “What are you in for?” “Molotov turkey.”

On our trip to Alvin, South Carolina, we met no black knights, and no witches were burned in the making of this quest. By some divine intervention, we found somebody who knew Travis’ mother, and were able to track down the purveyor of fried fowl.

Unfortunately, my quest was to watch the Army-Navy game. After five minutes of gluttonous debauchery, I leapt up from the table and scurried to the living room, leaving my friend with her mouth hanging open. I know I owe her tea to atone for my rudeness, but I’ll trade an Ave Maria for a Hail Mary any day.

Tidings of lactose and soy

In preparation for a brilliant late-life writing career, I spent 30 years writing the annual Christmas letter. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of making your life sound more interesting than it is. Unless you invented a cure for herpes last year, you’ll need to find something compelling to grab your readers’ attention. Your friends and family are just going to skip over the story of how you found a dead lizard in your shoe.

This year, I have two strikes against me in my effort to entertain and inform. 1) My kids have moved out and are making up their own misleading letters; 2) I have no cute grandchildren doing cute grandchildreny things. This calls for drastic action, in the form of extensive lying. Face it, nobody wants to hear about how you developed lactose intolerance and had to switch to soy milk.

I’ve listed some do’s and don’ts for getting your Christmas letter to the top of the rubbish pile of cherished holiday missives.

Do: Include a photoshopped picture of you with Carrot Top. This is a classic ice-breaker, which will peak the reader’s curiosity. No one can look away from a train wreck.

Don’t: Talk about your dog, unless he rescued midgets from a burning building. Your friends will not be impressed with his ability to eat stuffed animals and then knit sweaters in his rectum.

Do: Use spell check. It’s just plain embarrassing when you misspell Ponzi, or leave the silent “C” out of “indictment.”

Don’t: Talk about medical issues. Let me be brutally honest: your friends don’t care if your bones can snap in a strong wind. They will perceive your ____________ (insert random –ectomy here) as a shameless bid for attention.

Do: Trot out your accomplishments. Maybe you didn’t get a personal invitation to go to the space station (I got mine yesterday). You can still impress your friends with your mastery of Swahili, ballroom dancing, and taxidermy.

Don’t: Gossip. You don’t want Uncle Trevor’s affair to eclipse your own news, unless you were the other woman in question.

Remember that Christmas letters are a marathon, not a sprint. You can brag about your new baby seal fur coat next year. So get your creative juices flowing, and remember that I have dibs on solving world hunger this year.

Revenge of epidemic proportions

This is a public service announcement from the Center for Disease Control.

To the cranky looking representative at the DMV:

You know, yesterday, when I felt like crap: I didn’t drag my bronchitis-  riddled self to your establishment just so you could lose my paperwork somewhere between counter seven and the camera. I’m hoping that the woman with the walker sitting next to me had her flu shot, because I hacked up enough sputum in your establishment to have the CDC descending on the place with boiling bleach and haz-mat suits.

To the teller who insisted on putting a three-day hold on my check:

You probably don’t want to know how many snotty Kleenexes I was handling with the same paws that handed you the check and my driver’s license. It was a lot.

Unfortunately, the world does not stand still when you’re sick. The good thing about working from home is that I no longer have co-workers walking by my desk and macing me with Lysol as they pass. At home, I can chug down enough codeine so that I don’t remember whether it’s standard time or daylight savings time (help me out here, folks) and nobody will be the wiser.

I have about a two day limit of patience for listening to people whine when they’re sick, myself included, so I try to space it out. Yesterday, I indulged in a full day funk. I was pouty, impatient, and petulant: the trifecta of annoying. If they had put the damn whipped cream and a cherry on top of my chocolate milkshake, I probably would have spontaneously combusted right there in McDonald’s.

So my apologies to Ms. Cranky-pants at the DMV. I wasn’t in the best of moods myself while I was snorting phlegm at your counter. Today I don’t have to drive, so I can stay at home, chug my codeine, and avoid exposing others to contagion and misery. Although, Ms. Bank Teller, you put a hold on my check: you kinda had it comin’.

Going Postal

“I used to decorate every room in my home for Christmas,” she said as she weighed my package. “That was before I started working for the post office.” I looked around the empty lobby and imagined it in a few weeks, packed with impatient people, wanting to mail their Chia Pets, and mulling over their choices on Christmas stamps. Let’s see, tiny reindeer, or manger and Madonna? JUST PICK A STAMP AND MOVE ON!!!

I don’t like the smell of cardboard in the morning. Packing tape gives me the shivers, and let’s not even talk about styrofoam peanuts. When it comes to packages, it is more blessed to receive than to give. My publishing empire is warehoused in my walk-in closet. This leaves it to me to ship books to reviewers, readers, and rich uncles who haven’t made out their wills yet. Shout out to Uncle Edward.

Packing involves finding the right box in my cardboard jungle: a process no less daunting than cresting the summit of Mt. Everest with a forty pound backpack and a case of diarrhea. Fortunately, I have a friend who has been helping me through the birthing of my new company. She recently made the foolish mistake of volunteering for a more active role in supporting my entrepreneurial venture.

She’s now in charge of correspondence, PR, and the shipping department. To that end, I did something so totally out of character that my family suspects that I’m some demented doppleganger. I bought boxes. Let me be perfectly clear, I paid money for preformed chunks of cardboard. My grandmother, who tied recycled milk cartons around our necks with clothesline so we’d have both hands free to pick berries would be rolling over in her grave.

I’ve developed a new respect for the “handling” part of shipping and handling. I will certainly mourn the day when I exhaust my supply of used bubble wrap. When we went to see the Crown Jewels in London, somebody put down their backpack—and the guards went ballistic. I’m sure he found himself on the receiving end of a full body cavity search. That’s how I feel about my bubble wrap.

So if you get a package from me, please appreciate the mental exhaustion that went into it. And if you come to visit, stay well away from my bubble wrap. I have a pair of rubber gloves and I’m not afraid to use them.

Take my breath away

“Everybody’s good at something,” my mom told me. “You just have to figure out what that something is.” Little did she know at the time that her daughter would excel at potty humor. Her counselor assures her that it was nothing she did wrong.

The small town of Gilroy in California (due south of other small towns that nobody’s heard of) is good at garlic. People flock to Gilroy to participate in their yearly tribute to bad breath. In my misbegotten youth, when I lived in the San Francisco Bay area, the Gilroy Garlic Festival was not on my short list of things to do before I died.

I chose to flock north, to the Sonoma County Harvest Festival. I could have been slurping down garlic ice cream, but decided instead to swirl and swish free samples of fine wines with gourmet magazine columnists. Heathen that I was, I never spat.

Problem is, now that I live on the opposite side of the country from Gilroy, I’ve discovered my love of garlic, and the detrimental effects of alcohol on my police record.

At the best of times, medication I take for the sanity-challenged has the side effect of dry mouth. Add a clove of garlic, and you now have a full-blown halitosis fallout zone with a radioactive half-life of at least six minutes. After I have a meal of garlic chicken, even the dog doesn’t want mouth kisses, and he licks his own butt.

Where does that leave romance? In the movies, each time the actors are having wake-up sex, my first thoughts are a) why isn’t her mascara smudged down to her cheekbones, and b) how can they do it without breath mints, gum, or Clorox shots? (Medical disclaimer: the author does not recommend the consumption of chlorine bleach, paint thinner, or drain cleaner except under a doctor’s supervision).

On my second dinner date with husband number two, we went to a fine seafood establishment. We both had the swordfish, heavily seasoned with garlic. We almost didn’t make it to date number three.

If you and your loved one must make a pilgrimage to Gilroy, allow me to recommend the garlic ice cream, and separate motel rooms.

Running the gauntlet

Recently I acquired a new dog, 3 baby gates, 1 large economy size dog crate, and a routine that would rival any special forces military operation. Since I generally rank in the 70 percentile range on problem solving skills, a trip to the garage requires a lot of thought.

Maverick is a Great Dane, who is good with new people, my cat, the neighbor’s dogs, the mailman, and the odd axe murderer. He rarely barks, he doesn’t chew, and he has the largest bladder capacity I’ve ever seen on an animal. What he doesn’t have is any love for my existing dog, Colt.

We’ve had to set up a maze of gates and blockades to keep the dogs separated, we’ve shelled out big bucks for a trainer to come and evaluate the problem, and we’ve said several novenas on their behalf. Still, Mav will go crazy when he sees Colt.

“What were you thinking,” you might ask, “bringing a dog that requires a 300 pound linebacker to control into your home?” Let’s review. Three years ago, I attempted to turn Colt into a therapy dog, until I realized that he didn’t like wheelchairs, walkers, or the smell of old people. Two years ago, I suffered multiple fractures to my shoulder while walking an English Mastiff who yanked me off my feet and dragged me across the pavement. One year ago, I had my heel ripped to shreds by walking into the middle of a dog fight. Obviously, reality and I aren’t on the same page where dogs are concerned. Fortunately, the trainer assured me that the dogs can be socialized.

No possible remedy was overlooked. In preparation for Mav’s arrival, I put new batteries in my friend’s shock collar and tried it out on my thigh. I then removed the batteries, hid away the shock collar, and vowed never to give the police cause to taze me.

I don’t have small children or grandchildren, but my house is baby-proofed enough to keep an army of toddlers at bay. There’s no danger of Legos being flushed down my toilet. If I’m in the kitchen and want to go to the garage, it involves an accordion gate, a sheet of plywood, a metal gate, two doors, and a GPS. I’m surprised the dogs can even smell each other.

As a society, we are willing to go to ridiculous lengths for our pets. I look forward to the day when the dogs can be in the same room together. Meanwhile, I’ll have to photoshop the annual family Christmas picture and plan my trips to the bathroom in advance.