Category Archives: Much Ado About Nothing

Reprinting the column that appears in The Source Weekly, a Brazoria County, Texas newspaper every Thursday.

Meh, It Could Be Worse

Bless Your HeartIt’s only my opinion, but the world seems to be just one bad hair day away from a complete meltdown. Mix together the pack of rabid hurricanes, earthquakes in Mexico, fires in the Northwest, volcanos in Bali with stupid, senseless shootings and bickering over religion (which includes football because that kind of is a religion) and we’re a hot mess. Maybe if we all agree to quit saying, “It could be worse,” then the universe would quit saying “Hold my beer.” It’s a small step, but it could be a start.

Besides, telling someone it could be worse is really just another way of saying “stop your belly aching.” Not that this isn’t a valid directive. In the Whiner Olympics, we’ve got real gold medal promise in the individual and team events. But, too, it is a bit insensitive and not very nice to invalidate whatever challenges someone is facing. Since we’re a society of no one having their feelings hurt, let’s not say that anymore.

Try saying “Bless your heart” instead. A solid southern principle which is basically the same idea, but it sounds better. And nobody can add hurt feelings to their mound of problems if you’ve blessed their heart.

To be honest, suffering is actually not a competitive sport despite how a lot of people seem to approach it. Yes, there are people who are worse off and there are those in much better shape. It’s not about the glass being half full or half empty; it’s about what’s actually in the glass. A glass completely full to running over with contaminated storm water is not better than a glass barely half full of spendable cash, Jamaican rum, or Godiva dark chocolate chips.

I think, too, we’d have a much better world if we could all collectively agree to stop praying for patience. Maybe then God will stop answering that prayer with opportunities to learn patience. Honestly, I don’t have to pray for those lessons, because they just keep presenting themselves completely unbidden. Despite the fact that prayers for patience, tolerance and diplomacy never leave my lips, I am overrun with chances to practice them and most often fail miserably – especially on the diplomacy part. Which is why I’m the first one to say “It could be worse” to someone so they’ll stop their belly aching, bless their heart.

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Sheets Happen

Dorm roomAfter nearly two months of living in his college dorm room, my youngest son proudly sent me a text message (because you know college kids can’t actually dial a phone and talk on it, they text), and he proudly declared that he had actually washed his sheets … for the first time. As a mother with at least a marginal sense of parental responsibility, I wasn’t sure if I should be overwhelmed with a sense of “Where oh where did I go wrong” or actually proud that I got this text at the end of September and not March.

I try to place it on a scale of what are normal ranges for college freshman. On one end of the spectrum, I know his roommate is still living out of the suitcase he showed up with. At least my kid has his clothes on hangers. Okay, they were on hangars when I left him at the beginning of the semester, so in my mind, they’re on hangers. Just give me this delusion, will you? On the other end, there are the dorm dwellers with beds that would make a military drill sergeant misty-eyed. Of course, those are the kids who also have mothers driving to campus regularly to pick up laundry and drop off lunch. (I can’t even type that idea without cringing.) I guess that makes him pretty normal.

I’m reasonably certain that he has done laundry since he’s been gone despite the failure to include the bed sheets… reasonably certain, but not wholly positive. Which is why, a few weeks in, I sent a care package with socks and underwear, just in case. He’s probably too old for CPS to take him into custody for parental neglect, but, at the same time, I try to keep up appearances of being a good mother.

So I sent a reply to his text asking if he’d also gotten the sheets back onto the bed. And he had. I mean, to clarify, they were piled up on the bed with the rest of the laundry, so that sort of counts. I’m not sure if the bed was ever actually made again, and, honestly, I didn’t pursue it past there. As a parent, you have to chalk the wins when you can and let go of the rest. He has clean sheets – I’m a happy mom.

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Buster: A Good Friend Gone

Chronicle cropped“Whoever said that diamonds are a girl’s best friend, didn’t have a dog.” I’m terribly sad to say that, after over 14 years, my best friend has gone to roll in greener grass. Buster, the rare African Spotted Yard Wolf, who has, on occasion, been the guest writer here, trotted across the Rainbow Bridge this week. (Don’t bother Googling African Spotted Yard Wolves. He was so rare, he was the only one. Actually, he was some kind of polka dotted mixed breed, but we never wanted to hurt his self-esteem by calling him a mutt.)

Buster joined our family the summer before my youngest son started Kindergarten, the same son who left just a few weeks ago to start college. Back then, I had boldly taken old towels and rugs to donate to the Brazoria County SPCA. But instead of coming back home with a nice tax receipt, I came back with the same old towels and rugs plus a puppy. You seriously have to wonder if they don’t teach those SPCA volunteers some kind of subliminal mind control techniques that convince you that you need a pet, a spay/neuter package, and a bag of Puppy Chow. More likely, I’m just a sucker for a fuzzy face and a waggley tail.

He taught my young sons important lessons about care-giving, unconditional love, responsibility, respect, and the importance of picking up dog poop before you push the mower. Lessons they will carry with them always.

Buster led a full life, more so after he recovered from his squirrel mania. For a period, he was so neurotic over the squirrels in our yard, we couldn’t even say the word. Unfortunately, the dyslexic son couldn’t spell it, so they just became S-Q-U-earls. He traveled internationally, lived in Saudi Arabia, and regularly got more fan mail for his posts than I have in the entire 8 years I’ve written it. To be honest, I think if we had a funeral service for him, he’d have more people show up than would turn out for mine. He will be sorely missed.

Will Rogers said, “If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went.”  My goal now is to try to be the person Buster always thought I was, so that maybe they’ll let me in there, too.

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Extreme Midget Wrestling

MidgetsWhen Extreme Midget Wrestling shows up near you, I’m sorry, but you just drop everything, change your plans, miss your parents’ anniversary dinner, and give away your tickets to whatever is on the stage at Houston Grand Opera so you can go. How many times in your life are you presented with the exciting opportunity to be ringside for midgets in masks wrestling each other? From personal experience, I’m going to say maybe one, if you’re lucky, and that really may be plenty.

Before anyone gets frosty about the word “midgets,” just don’t. There’s enough hate in the world right now, and I am not going to add to it with this. I’m going strictly off their publicity: Extreme Midget Wrestling. It did not say Extreme Little People Wrestling or Extreme Person of Short Stature Wrestling. Or I would have used that. So just stop before you start.

Recently, I’m pleased to say, I was able to cross this off my bucket list without actually knowing that it was ever on my bucket list. In a poorly air conditioned space in a mostly empty mall in Texas City, I stood in line with one of my best buds hoping and praying that we could still get a standing room only ticket for the event for $25. If there were concerns about the stability of my mental state for jumping on this crazy idea, then paying $25 for it pretty much clears up those doubts.

I’m not even going into what they were charging for beer. Trust me, though, beer is pretty much a requirement with midget wrestling. You could almost get by without actually having the midgets or the wrestling, but if you don’t have the beer, you’ll lose 98% of the audience for an event like this.

So it had what one would expect from Extreme Midget Wrestling. Midgets launching off the ropes to land on other midgets on the mat. Midgets smacking each other in the face with trash can lids and yellow “Caution: Wet Floor” signs that I think they found at the mall. There were midgets in tights and capes and one wore a chicken mask thing. The midget referee would count the “knock-out” to about two before there was a miraculous recovery and Cinderella victory.

Those who went ahead to the opera (and in some families, those who opted for their parent’s anniversary dinner) probably had the exact same experience without the beer.

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NASA: Help Wanted

NasaNASA has a “Help Wanted” ad out there looking for a Planetary Protection Officer. I’m guessing the potential candidate will have 3-5 years applicable experience and be willing to relocate. With a salary that tops out around $187K, there’s naturally been a flood of applicants. I’m honestly thinking of applying myself, because if Bruce Willis or Will Smith don’t get the job, I’m the perfect candidate and a natural shoo-in for the position.

I’m actually updating my resume now to indicate my experience with alien beings that speak an indecipherable language, are prone to unexpected fits of destruction, emit strange odors, and exhibit unpredictable behavior. Oh yes, I’ve raised teenagers. Honestly, any mother who has carried a baby for nine months can relate at some level to the whole alien possession thing ala Sigourney Weaver in “Alien” and, honestly, the “Attack of the Body Snatchers” series has a whole different meaning. Others need not apply.

According to Dr. James L. Green, Director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division, the job is all about protecting Earth from nasty little foreign microbes that come back on space samples and keeping the Solar System from getting Earth cooties. Breaking it down into laymen’s terms: cleaning woman. Again, who is better qualified than a mom of boys? No one that’s who.

I’ve battled flu germs, strep germs, and germs that cause rashes, fevers, hives, snot, intestinal explosions and whining. There is no microbe that will escape the mother who cannot have the whole house go down and certainly doesn’t have time to be sick herself. I’ve beat down head lice, chiggers, poison ivy, heat chafe and whatever it is that makes boys stink. So let’s just start with “All astronauts wash your hands before coming in the kitchen and use a tissue to wipe your nose!” From there, I think, we can manage the rest.

So right after I finish crafting my cover letter, I’ll pull together my references which include two young men who, under my protection, survived all kinds of microbes and those alien years that lasted through most of junior high and high school. They’ll vouch for the fact that you’re better to think twice than tangle with a mom on a mission. I don’t care what planet you come from.

(Thank you NASA for the graphic!)

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Reward Dead or Alive?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFilling in for Jean Ciampi who thinks it’s too stinkin’ hot to work is Guest Blogger and Columnist Buster the Wonder Dog. A distinguished and grateful alumni of the Brazoria County SPCA, Buster currently advocates for animal rights (with the exclusion of squirrels because he believes they get exactly what they deserve).

Recently, I was out patrolling the neighborhood as any good and respectable dog does, sniffing mailboxes, trees, bushes. You know, checking the pee mail. That’s when I saw that someone had stuck a paper on a pole with the picture of a lost cat and the ridiculous claim of a $500 reward. My first thought was that this cat must have swallowed an expensive pair of diamond earrings before it ran away. Because unless the cat is actually a dog, there’s no cat worth that!

LostWho would pay $500 to have a cat given back? Just speaking from the dog’s perspective, I’d pay twice that for someone to load up a whole litter of cats and haul them off. But that’s just me and I’m a dog. Besides, why would you want a cat that, at best, has zero sense of loyalty and, at worst, has a miserable sense of direction? I’m thinking this cat got fed up with that family and moved in with someone on the other side of the neighborhood that has a bigger food bowl. Face it, that’s how cats are.

Of course, there’s a family that’s obviously upset. No one wants to see a helpless animal suffer – even if that helpless animal is a human. Unfortunately, there are just misguided people who actually prefer cats to having a dog. Yes, that’s stupid and those people should have their trash dumped over and strewn across their front yard to mark them as stupid. But regardless of that, this family, sadly, has an attachment to the cat that probably hasn’t thought about them even once. Because, well, that’s how cats are.

The kindest thing to do in this situation, in my humble dog opinion, would be to gently let these caring though confused people know that, for a mere fraction of that reward, they could adopt a really nice, loyal dog who would be smart enough not to run away and be their lifelong best friend. It may just be time to puppy up!

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Dinner Problem Solved

dinerI have brilliant friends. I mean the kind of friends who can solve for X, read Mandarin Chinese, who invent the internet, and can refreeze the polar ice caps with only the power of their minds. But blah blah all that. Who cares about any of that, because my most brilliant friend is the one who told me she’s opening a restaurant and calling it “I Don’t Care. You Pick.” Brilliant, I tell you! Where do you want to go eat? “I Don’t Care. You Pick.” Okay! Let’s go there! It happens a million times a day all over the world. She’ll be rich on the franchise rights alone.

Her new endeavor will likely put a few competitors out of business. The We Always Go There Diner probably won’t last long. I don’t hold out much hope for the We Ate There Last Time Cafe, the That One’s Too Far Grill, or the We Always Go There Taco Shack and Burger Barn. But that’s free enterprise in action, right?

Oh wait, though! Her brilliance doesn’t stop there. Oh no! Then she started telling me about her menu. House specials will include the What’s-In-That Platter, made fresh daily with every possible known food allergen. Substitutions on that one will, of course, be extra. Steaks will always be served twice. The first one will be a dummy steak that will immediately be returned to the kitchen to be recooked “the right way.” Then every meal can be finished off with the Just-a-Small-Piece pie that is the highlight of her Bring Two Forks dessert list.

Kids can choose from the “You Liked It Last Time,” the popular “You Can Pick It Off,” and the “At Least Try It.” The most finicky junior diner, however, might enjoy a large helping of the “It Is Not Yucky.” Each entrée will either be served on plates large enough to push the food around or just thrown directly onto the floor.

Sure there are plenty of problems that plague mankind, but none so grievous as the
“What’s for dinner” and “Where do you want to eat” question combo. It’s that one-two sucker punch at the end of the day that puts you on the mat every time. Now finally, someone has found the answer and it just seems so obvious. Why didn’t someone think of it before?

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