Category Archives: Much Ado About Nothing

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

Over the Barrel

CrackerBarrelPuzzle_lgI had never eaten at a Cracker Barrel restaurant until this past week. But, too, I’m also the person who never watched an episode of “Dallas” – probably for the same reasons. It took less than 34 seconds to realize exactly why I would probably never go back to Cracker Barrel again any time soon: I don’t ever want to be that old. When you suddenly find yourself eating at Cracker Barrel just know you are on a slippery slope to the Luby’s buffet and a full-care nursing home.

Straight up, Cracker Barrel is basically a senior citizen theme park. Those rocking chairs on the porch are just age-appropriate thrill rides. Think rollercoasters for people over 65. Stopping at Cracker Barrel for dinner is not unlike going on a fall foliage bus tour without having to get up the steps of the bus or obtain a doctor’s release from the six medical specialists who currently file on your insurance. At the end of the day, you still get to eat with a huge group of other old folks then exit through the gift shop.

Oh yes, the gift shop. Where else can you get unlimited refills on your ice tea, purchase a cotton/poly blend quilt for $79.99, and pick up a complete collection of Tony Bennett’s greatest hits on CD? Not since the old Stuckey’s sold those weird pecan roll things has there been such a flurry of excitement in the retail world.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that the food wasn’t good at Cracker Barrel. In their defense, there was no blue Jell-O on the menu. You still have to wait to progress into your Luby’s stage of decline to get that. I will warn you, though, that this is not the place to go if having your food touch each other is going to trigger you. I spent most of my meal digging the green beans out from under the mashed potatoes. This wasn’t a problem for me, but I know this can cause PTSD in others.

The greater concern for me was if I was given an automatic membership into AARP with my meal. I’m not sure I’m quite ready for that (regardless of my eligibility). Nor am I willing to purchase shoes with Velcro closures. Sorry, Cracker Barrel, but give me another 20 years and I’ll be back.

         

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Mowing: #1 Parenting Mistake

IMG_0070As I have just recently graduated my last child out of public schools with no interaction with CPS, the court system, or Federal Law Enforcement Officials, I feel I have credibility to pass along advice to parents coming along behind me. While I believe that half the fun of parenting is discovering new and better ways to screw up your kids and ruin their lives, these are tips to keep them from screwing up yours.

Big Parenting Mistake #1: Teaching your children to mow the yard. Do this and you’re setting yourself up for disaster. After a couple of summers, you’ll be fat and lazy, sitting on the porch with an ice cold watching them work like rented mules. Next thing you know, they’ll graduate from high school and go to college, leaving your much older, fatter, lazier self alone to push the mower. Don’t think you’ll pay the neighbor kids to mow because you’re paying college tuition, so you can’t afford those things.

Do not let your children learn to drive. Driver’s training is Big Parenting Mistake #2. Sure, those first few times they run to the store for you on their own is great, but then they start realizing they have freedom. This is a dangerous thing in a child. Suddenly, it will occur to them that they can drive other places besides the store, like out of state. Then one day they get in the car, drive away and don’t come home to mow the yard. That’s going to hit you especially hard if you’ve already screwed up and made Mistake #1. Plus, they took your car.

Have you allowed your children to start becoming free-thinking, independent people? Wow. You’ve just made Big Parenting Mistake #3. This almost completely guarantees that your children are going to screw up your life. Count on them wanting to think for themselves, be independent and not stay home to mow your yard. Probably with your car.

Children with no skills, ambition or transportation are more likely to stick around and take care of you in your old age. They’ll gladly heat frozen pizzas, apply bunion cream and pluck the hairs out of your withered, old chin until you die. And with the money you save not paying college tuition or financing a new car, you can pay someone to mow your yard.

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The Truth About Running

Russia Glamour Stilettos RaceI use to run — and not just because I was being chased. I actually would run for, I don’t know, I can’t remember why I would do that, but I did. Now, for some reason yet unknown by me, I’ve decided to start running again in earnest. I’ve probably managed to kill off the last brain cell in charge of logical decision-making and running is the obvious fallout. Here are a few things, though, that I’ve discovered in my recent return to recreational running.

First of all, anyone who tries to sell you the line of garbage about endorphins and improved physical health blah bluh bluhh is probably addicted to catnip and concealing a criminal record. The truth is that running, if done right, will improve your cardiovascular system if, and only if, you don’t die first. As I was slogging along on my last run (which had the appearance of a forced death march), I kept wondering if I’d stay conscious long enough to tell the paramedics that my heart was in much better shape from running before he administered oxygen and the shock paddles.

Then there’s the whole fake news stuff about how you’ll look better because of running. After a run of any distance, I look like I’ve been picked out of the moving fan blades of a jet engine. I smell bad. I look bad. And I have an attitude that doesn’t even register anymore on the bad spectrum. There are encounters with rabid dingoes that are more pleasant than being around me after a run. So unless you really like the wild-eyed, red faced, oxygen-starved look, then no, I don’t look better because of running.

Sure, you’ll sleep better (if your calves don’t cramp in the night and cause you to scream obscenities). You’ll meet great people (like the formerly incarcerated catnip dealers). You’ll feel better (when you stop hurting, the toenails grow back and the blisters heal). And think of all the cool fun runs you can join (that cost as much to register for as a case of decent wine, so what really is the better choice?)

So, until this flight of fantastical thinking passes, I’ll be out there setting personal records that can be measured on the same scale as glacier movement. Feel free to tie on your shoes and join me!

(Note: That’s not me in the photo. Although it could be on most days.)

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Bananas: the One, True Threat

evil_bananaI can’t verify this, but if things continue as they are, I may be driven to the point that I have the opportunity to find out first-hand. But, I’m pretty sure that the road to Hell is trimmed in banana plants, those big, floppy-leafed scourges of the yard. The only thing that could possibly make banana plants more hatefully heinous would be cross-breeding them with poison oak. At which point, we need to tap out and surrender the planet because we’ve lost the war on agri-terrorism.

If you’re considering planting one of these pests in your yard, just go home because you’re drunk. You’d be better off – and definitely happier in the long run – if you simply backed up a cement truck and paved over your entire property. Although, this may be the only way to get rid of the chlorophyll creatures from the pits of someplace unspeakable once you’ve got them.

Despite my homeowners association frowning on such thing, I’m talking napalm, flame-throwers, small nuclear devices detonated from a safe distance across the street. Voodoo and practitioners of the dark arts are also not off the table in my battle against the bananas. Here’s the problem: you can hack them to the roots, dig them out and salt the earth and they’ll still find a way to come back. They’re vegetational herpes. This is truly the price we’ve paid for the whole mishap in the Garden of Eden: God said, “Get out and go live in shame with the banana plants.”

So after two long, bloody years of hand-to-leaf combat, I finally felt I had eradicated the green plague. Then as I’m licking my wounds and trying to recover from the resulting PTSD, the banana plant in my neighbor’s yard has sent up a scout on my side of the fence. Naturally, I’m triggered. The machete has long since been put in a locked location to keep me from hurting myself or others (like my neighbor who obviously shops in the garden center at ISIS Depot).

Unless your family name is Dole and you live in a jungle in Nicaragua, there’s no reason to have banana plants. Propagating this problem should be considered a crime against all humanity and punished accordingly. For the sake of all that’s holy, If you want a banana, go to Kroger.

(Tip of the hat to Mabination for the graphic)

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And Then There Were None

Jean___Thomas2Mom and Tom2In just a few days, my tenure as a grade-school parent ends. Despite those times when we just weren’t sure if it would really happen, my youngest son will graduate from high school – We hope. Although, there is still time. Not until I actually hear his name called and the diploma put in his hand, will I breathe. That’s the same time his counselor will stop eating Valium like LifeSavers, the principal will stop considering a career change, and his first period teacher will look up and think, “Oh! That’s who that kid is. His face isn’t familiar.”

I’ve always said he is the child my parents wished upon me. This is the kid that would have qualified us for the elite Navy Seals special ops supreme command of Parenthood if such a thing existed. He has made us battle ready for any level of mischief, mishap, or outrageous improbability. While they say it takes a village to raise a child, I disagree. In this case, it takes a village, a fully functioning medical/surgical facility, an offshore bank, several high level negotiators, a contact at the United Nations, a building permit, and friends with “connections.”

Then just about the time I think I’m on the top of my parenthood game, he’s leaving. He never listened when I told him to clean the bathroom, wash denim separately, or mow the lawn. But when I told him to dream big and chase after it, he listened to that! I pushed him to take harder classes and do his homework on time. Of course, he never did that. But when I push him to be independent, smart and self-sufficient, he’s all over it. What the heck?!

So it seems I have worked myself out of a job — a job with rotten pay, long hours and amazing benefits. It’s a job I have loved more than anything else and one I must have done right. The last little bird in the nest is spreading huge, strong, powerful wings that will let him soar to places beyond what either of us could have dreamed.

And just as he did when he marched off to Kindergarten, he’s not looking back. If he did, he’d see the endless pride on my face and my heart in my hands. He’s going to be great! And I’ll be okay, too.

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World Naked Gardening Day

WNGDWorld Naked Gardening Day is the first Saturday in May. So, gosh darn it, we’ve missed it. I’m guessing, though, this is a bigger celebration in areas that don’t have mounds of fire ants. As someone who has had a miserable tangle with poison oak after pulling weeds in my flowerbed while fully clothed, I’m not sure I grasp how this is a good idea. Thank goodness, World Naked Gardening Day has a website (www.wngd.org) to answer that and so many other questions!

Don’t go to this website, however, unless you are prepared to be exposed to naked gardening. Unfortunately, no one warned me in advance. I admit I initially had trouble absorbing their information because I kept thinking: How are these people not getting seriously sunburned?!

While their website does explain why you should garden naked, more importantly, they tell you how! “Find an opportunity to get naked.” Okay, that seems a bit obvious, but then you can naked garden with your friends, family, even your gardening club. Whoa Nelly! I’m not sure what the demographics are of your gardening club, but I’m nearly positive I could kiss goodbye any chance I had at “Yard of the Month” if I showed up naked to the next meeting of my club.

They also suggest you “Do it inside your house, in your backyard, on a hiking trail, at a city park, or on the streets.” Really?! In Texas? Now I see how I win “Yard of the Month.” We’re talking about a prison yard! I hope, too, they didn’t mean Estes Park in Colorado when they said park, because there was two and a half inches of snow that Saturday which gives a whole new perspective to freezing your buns off!

Celebrate World Naked Gardening Day next year on May 5, 2018. Maybe start slow by just watering your houseplants in your underwear. The website does suggest when you naked garden, be sure to “tell someone about your experience… email it to your local newspaper.” Yeah, do that. I double dog dare you to do that! Include your address and phone number, so the local newspaper can send out a photographer (to take your mug shot for the local police department!).

Seriously, if you garden naked, garden smart. Wear sunscreen. Avoid poison oak. That’s all I have to say on that. 

(Photo credit: #wngd)    

 

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I Toed You So!

IMG_1483After several weeks of back packing through France, my feet were beat. Therefore, the first thing on the agenda after clearing US Customs was to kick off the trekking shoes and get a pedicure. The fact that I could pull a fish out of a lake with these toes was likely the prime indicator my feet had gotten out of hand!

I had seen several places during our travels that advertised French manicures. What the heck?! I’m in France! What other kind of manicure was I going to get? Therefore, I immediately didn’t trust them. This was obviously a sketchy front for the sex slave trade, and you know there’s probably a big market for middle-aged white moms with bunions. People do strange things in France plus the whole ISIS presence, so you can’t be too careful. Just one more reason to go another day without changing my socks because my miserable neglect of my feet was probably all that was keeping me safe.

Back home, I’m in one of those pedicure chairs with the creepy “massage” function — the one that always make me feel like I’m on a bad buckboard ride in a horrible Wild West theme park. Anyway, I notice the woman next to me. She must be about to leave for France because she’s having her toenails painted this weird Kermit the Frog shade of green. She must think if her feet resemble a poisonous snake, she’ll be safer. I’m not saying she’s wrong.

Meanwhile, to punish me for my neglect, my pedicure girl has stuck my feet into pans of boiling hot wax. I can only imagine this is how Hans Solo felt in that Star Wars episode where he’s trapped in molten lead. Like Hans, I also know that resistance is futile. Nothing to do but suck it up and hope she didn’t get that cheese grater tool thing out again. I understand the calluses were bad, but surely there are laws to protect me from that thing.

I’m happy to say I survived the ordeal, paid my bill, and tip the pedicure girl enough that next time I come in she wont be triggered  all over again. Then on the way out, I stop to throw away those little pieces of foam they stick between your toes, except I didn’t have my glasses on and I was in a hurry to escape the den of pedi-torture. Unfortunately, I was already out the door when I realized I’d “thrown them away” in some lady’s big purse. Alright, so now you don’t wonder why I find it easier to just wear socks!

(Note: Those are not my toes in the photo. I picked out a nice pink color, thank you. Those are the toad-colored toes next to me.)

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