The invasion of the ankle biters

I don’t want grandchildren. I know, I’ll probably get my ass kicked by every woman with a wallet full of photos of Aiden (one of the 10 most popular names for boys: really people, get a grip) making mud pies. My resolve was reinforced yesterday, when I was put in charge of a two year-old boy for 15 minutes of hell.

We were in a public building, and Mom and Dad were busy filling out paperwork. They put me in charge of their sweet little bundle of attention deficit determination. Within seconds, I lost track of him and turned around just in time to see him pulling letters off the board that read, “Please keep children supervised at all times.”

I used every parenting trick I could remember to keep him from flinging himself down a grassy slope and into the duck pond. What does the bee say? What does the cow say? What is the square root of 139? (Trick question: it’s a prime number.) All the while, he trustingly took my hand and dragged me through bushes, up and down stairs, and into the men’s bathroom. The kid has a good grip.

Don’t get me wrong. He’s a good kid, and no more hyperactive than the average two year-old … who’s just consumed three candy bars and a double espresso. I have no illusion of my ability to catch him if he made a break for it. No problem. Lately, small children seem to be attracted to me like flies to poop. They have an innate ability to corner the only adult in a crowded room who doesn’t want to pick boogers off their noses.

I hesitate to even write this blog. Parents and grandparents get rather miffed if you’re not delighted with little “Aiden.” I still enjoy visiting my friends who are up to their herniated disks in grandchildren, but even if you rescued me from a burning building, don’t expect me to repay the favor by babysitting.

My daughters have been kind enough to let their biological clocks keep ticking. Even though there’s no longer any need to clean cloth diapers in boiling bleach, the only bottom I want to wipe is my own. Am I a bad person because I don’t want to be around little ankle biters? Just rescue me from a burning building and find out for yourselves.

Farts and crafts

Most young people would rather stick their tongues to a frozen pole than learn to knit, so it came as no surprise that most of the women who showed up yesterday for our knitting group were wearing support hose. I was happy to help the newbie knitters learn this time-honored torture, since I had suffered at the hands of a master, and wanted to pay it forward.

From the time I was out of diapers, I was shipped off for two weeks each summer to Grandma’s arts and crafts sweat shop. Grandma lived in rural Washington state, where there was little chance of escape, and no time off for good behavior. I fell into line quickly, since there was no TV, and her book selection included a Field Guide to Song Birds, American National Monuments, and the Bible (your choice of King James or Finnish translations).

Grandma bought the cheapest yarn and fabric she could find, so we generally had to work with colors so garish that they hurt the eyes. All knit slippers had to have double yarn in unbelievable color combinations, pom-poms, and ribbing on the toes. Before her death, Grandma sent me a lifetime supply of slippers, to which I say, “not in this lifetime.”

I was talked into joining this knitting group by my friend, who only uses the most expensive yarns to create amazing quality sweaters and afghans. I showed up with my yarn spun from the finest industrial grade burlap. My needles were long enough that I had to sit on the floor in the center of the room to insure that I would not incur a lawsuit after putting somebody’s eye out.

Normally, this would not be a problem, but it was laundry day, so I had on my only clean pair of pants, left over from the Nixon administration. They were low-rise, insuring that everyone behind me would be getting up close and personal with my lily-white butt crack. The women behind me had the good grace not to comment, titter, or vomit into their knitting bags.

I suppose I will continue to attend the group. For better or worse, there is a nostalgia factor, and next week we’re knitting sweaters for toilet paper rolls.

How to talk “grown-up”

First, those of you who haven’t yet read Box of Rocks can go to Smashwords and download it for free for the next few days. The book can be downloaded for any version eReader. Just look at the top right corner of the webpage to get the coupon code when you order. The blog for today includes an excerpt from my upcoming humor book, I Never Drove a Bulldozer. It’s due for release in early April, at which time there will be a great fooferah, and cookies. Rest assured that I’ll be thinking of all of you as I eat the cookies.

The following includes a short excerpt from I Never Drove a Bulldozer.

Last night, I decided to surprise my husband for dinner. Let’s see, I could serve him dinner naked, or for once I could fix something he likes and I don’t. We’re trying to save money on heating, so I decided that “naked” is not attractive when your teeth are chattering and your skin is a stunning shade of blue.

With a flourish, I brought out the fresh asparagus and channeled Vanna White showing off the new car you just won on Wheel of Fortune. He grunted. I’ll just put that in the “win” column.

I haven’t really had much experience cooking asparagus, so when it came out of the steamer basket and was still green, I figured that was good enough. My husband made little happy noises while he ate it, and I even tried a piece. “Eww, how can you eat this stuff? It doesn’t even have any taste.”

My husband looked at me sheepishly and said, “Actually, I don’t really like it.” He was glad to be able to drop the pretense that it was orgasmicly good.

My husband can solve the New York Times crossword puzzle, but he has never been big on verbal communication. Over the years, I’ve learned to differentiate between a “yes” grunt and a “no” grunt. Once your kids are grown, it’s kind of hard to morph from discussions on curfew, to debate over the affects of global warming. If you insist on talking to one another, my advice is to start small:

“Which brand of chicken soup is the best?” My husband asked.

“How should I know?” I suddenly realized he was trying to start a conversation. Since this might lead to a deeper connection on a spiritual level, I didn’t want to blow the opportunity. “I guess it depends on what kind of chicken soup you mean. Are we talking chicken noodle, chicken and rice, chicken gumbo, or cream of chicken?”

“There’s a coupon in the paper, but there’s no point in using it if we don’t like the brand.”

Aha! Now we were getting somewhere. Quick, think of something he can relate to. “Brand loyalty is like a football game. If the offense is lining up in the shotgun, the defense shouldn’t go five in the secondary.”

“I don’t see the connection between the two; and since when do you know anything about defense?”

(Cricket, cricket, cricket …)

“Women have a more complicated bathroom routine than men, so there should be more Ladies rooms in stadiums!” 1

My husband stood and walked out of the room without another word. What could I do? When the big moment had come—I’d choked.

Opening with any more substantial topic than soup (for example, asparagus) would be like working without a net your first time on the trapeze. If you find working the trapeze less intimidating than trying to make clever conversation, you and your spouse could later talk about the rising cost of health care … while you’re in the emergency room.

1. Men, if you want to avoid this subject, never say, “What kept you?”

Hobble a mile in my shoes

Wednesday I went to the doctor’s for excruciating pain in my knee. In the commercials, a woman grabs her knee in pain as she’s going upstairs. She pops a couple aspirin and the next frame shows her taking the stairs three at a time while doing long division. I took Vicodin and still looked like I was recovering from a stroke while climbing stairs. Mathematical operators were the last thing on my mind.

X-rays revealed that I have osteo-arthritis. Now here’s my problem. Rheumatoid arthritis gets all the commercials and all the sympathy. Osteo-arthritis is like the poor second cousin who comes to sleep on your couch and eat all your cheese balls.

When I told my husband, “I can’t be on my feet long enough to make you dinner tonight,” his reaction was, “Oh boo-hoo.” He had the nerve to be annoyed. He showed his displeasure by bringing home hot wings. He knows I hate wings—they’re just skin and gristle on a stick. His passive aggressive dietary habits did not go unnoticed.

That’s when my survival instincts kicked in. Arthritis be damned, I dove on the potato salad like a vulture on road kill. The cheese balls were soon to follow. This wouldn’t have bothered me if I hadn’t recently rung the bell on the doctor’s scale.

The doctor gave me a tube of ibuprofin gel. What will they think of next? I don’t like to turn on the bathroom light and disturb my sweetie when he’s sleeping, so this morning, as I gelled up my knee, something didn’t feel right. I turned on the light and discovered that I had spread toothpaste on my knee. The fluoride and whitening power were little comfort, but my knee is now minty fresh.

Tonight I will try for a little normalcy. I’ll shave the front of my leg (nobody looks at the back anyway), hobble to the phone, and order a pizza. It may not make a difference on the doctor’s scale, but I’m getting tired of eating cheese balls.

Remembering your username FOR DUMMIES

It was like looking for a needle in a haystack. I just want to learn the basics of HTML so I can <h1> Be less dumber on the subject </h1>. That meant cruising the thousands of Dummies books to find just the right one. There among the idiot books was one titled, “Computers for Seniors FOR DUMMIES”. I’m trying to imagine what this would look like.

Chapter one: Your computer

If you are still using a Commodore, it’s time to trade up.

Chapter Two: Choosing a user name

Your name should be more than two letters, but less than the Oxford English Dictionary, Volume 11.

Tip: Try the virtual “pin your name to your shirt” app for senior moments.

Chapter Three: Adjusting the volume

Unfortunately, most computer speakers are not powerful enough to adjust the volume so you can hear it across the room.

Warning: Your neighbors will still hear it, but at least their ears won’t be bleeding.

I wonder if young people even buy the DUMMIES books. I imagine the majority of idiot book readers already eat bran and take naps between chapters, so creating a special book for the youth challenged discriminates against the two seniors who actually know what a bitmap is.

Technical stuff: “Plug and play” does not refer to Viagra, a box of Wheaties, and a cheap motel.

I won’t bother with the “Part of Tens” on my HTML book, since by the time I reach six, I’ll have already forgotten one through three. But I look forward to expanding my technological horizons. If I’d known the technical stuff above, we could have avoided that whole embarrassing incident at Best Buy.

Turkey tax

My husband is the family tax preparer, by which I mean that he does the taxes for our children, friends, neighbors, and one unfortunate homeless man who made more on the street corner last year than he could conveniently hide in his offshore accounts.

Last night was my daughter’s turn to go under the careful scrutiny of Captain Turbo Tax.

“Babe,” he called from the den, “what was your charitable giving this year?”

“I don’t know. My dog ate the printout.”

“I’ll just put $5,000. That should cover your used underwear donation to Goodwill.”

First, let me assure any IRS agents reading this, that he did a thorough and accurate job on her taxes. The underwear was actually $22 dollars and change. Considering that it was from Victoria’s Secret, I think that’s a very generous rate of depreciation.

In exchange for doing her taxes, my husband wanted her to bring a turkey for dinner, complete with mushroom dressing. Since she couldn’t claim the turkey as a business expense, he got a roast chicken from Wal-Mart, complete with a quart of potato salad and a quart of beans.

While he worked on her taxes, she read my book. One expects a certain amount of feedback from a beta reader. When she didn’t enthuse and gush about it and therefore crushed my spirit as a writer, he deducted $50 from her refund. She also gave him a free haircut, so that seems a little harsh.

Still, our family deeply appreciates his valuable services.

Google images

Wherever there is injustice in the Internal Revenue Code, whenever there is a cry for help from the oppressed middle income working class, he will be there. Captain Turbo Tax will save the day with his software of righteousness. The cape and tights are optional, as long as you understand that you can’t deduct the dry cleaning cost on your expenses.

There are always gray areas

Seldom are the answers to life’s difficult questions black or white. We’ve come to know that “in between” as gray areas. We could go into important stuff like social issues, but if you’ve read my blogs for any length of time, you’ll have already guessed that I’m talking about my hair.

I’ve been coloring my roots for years now, but recently, the number of brown hairs in the grow-out zone are vastly outnumbered by the gray hairs. Add to this the tendency of women in my family to go bald after menopause, and you can understand why concern for my hair eclipses … say, government subsidized health care, or stem cell research.

My grandma had a styrofoam head on her dresser. At night, when she put her hair away, the head took on the look of a chia pet from hell. I’ve tried to avoid the fake hair route by using minoxidil. A funny thing happens when you use Rogaine before going to bed. I spend a lot of the night sleeping on my left side. When you bury the left side of your face in a pillow case coated in Rogaine, you tend to develop mutton chops on one cheek.

This leaves you with two choices: spend equal time sleeping on your right side so you can enjoy exchanging morning breath with your spouse, and at least have a bilateral beard; or give up on the Rogaine and regularly snake out the drain in your bathtub. It’s never a pretty sight when the plumber’s snake pulls approximately four wet hamsters out of your pipes. Oh, the humanity!

My hair has been various shades of brown and auburn over the years. Once, when my daughter was taking her State Boards for beauty school, I was her “subject” and my hair came out very lustrous, and shiny, and bubble gum pink. She didn’t get marked down for this, because my hair looked like strawberry frosted donuts, and apparently the Examiner was hungry.

Now without enough brown hair in the grow-out zone, I’ve forgotten the original color. I could always go bleached blonde to help hide the grow out, but that would obviously clash with my sideburns.

I suppose I should just let the gray grow out and be done with it. Then I would be free to blog about more important things, like my middle-age mustache.