Category Archives: Much Ado About Nothing

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

Senior Shopping Showdown

Photo by Rita Mantarro,
National Geographic

I’ve seen some crazy things in my life, been in some scary situations. I’ve been grocery shopping in the Middle East where people were being beheaded across the street from the store, but I’m not kidding when I say my adventure to my rural middle-Michigan grocery store yesterday morning was far more harrowing than that. Honestly, it was the perfect storm: Social security and unemployment checks had hit the banks the night before and it was senior shopping day during a pandemic. In other words: Dante’s Second Circle of Hell.

My only explanation for how I got caught in the Blue Wave – the crush of blue-haired old ladies and old guys praying their prostate would hold up long enough to get through the checkout line – is that I’ve completely lost track of what day it is. Obviously Blursday the Fortyteenth of Maprilay is when seniors get to go to the store first. At some point I’ll be offended that no one stopped and carded me for proof I was old enough to be there. If only someone had!

Seniors are ruthless. They’re taking on the produce department like they’re storming the beaches at Normandy! I got body-checked by an old lady wearing a ski mask and elbow-length Playtex Living Gloves as we were both reaching for the last package of 90% lean ground beef. I now bear the scars of that battle lost. I can only guess that, at that age, there’s not much more to live for than Mexican-blend shredded cheese in a resealable package so screw social distancing if I happen to be in the way of that.

Seniors also have the highly developed survival instincts of alligators which explains why they’ve lived this long. One old guy “accidentally” spilled a carton of fresh blueberries on the floor, I’m sure, thinking that if I slip and fall, it’ll give him extra time to get to the bread aisle before me. The rest of the world is dying of CoVid-19 and I’m dying of blueberry-induced trauma.

On the bright side, God is particularly fond of me so I was able to score an 18-count MEGA roll package of toilet paper. I only bought one, naturally, and to pay my good fortune forward, I loaded one for the grandma next to me. Of course, she could no longer see to drive with it in the basket of her motorized cart but this in no way changed her level of navigational competency.

Needless to say, I will not be back to the store for quite a while. At least not until I’ve recovered from this experience which could take a lifetime!

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My Dad is a Seenager

My Dad: The Senior Teenager

My dad recently announced that he is officially a seenager. A what? This sounds to me like he’s aged into being senile, but, at this point, I’m not going to talk him out of that. Clarifying, he explained he’s now a senior teenager. When I realized what that was, I suddenly have life goals! Basically, he has everything he ever wanted as a teenager only 70 years later. Everything he wanted without any of the hazards!

As a seenager, he doesn’t have to go to school or work and sleeps as late as he wants every day. He takes naps if he wants because, if he feels like it, he can stay up all night watching Netflix. (He doesn’t. He still doesn’t last much past 9pm, if we’re honest).

He’s got his own place where he makes all the rules and no curfew, plus a monthly allowance! My dad still has his driver’s license and his own car. (Yes, it’s a 2009 Camry with 40k original miles and a cassette player, but he still listens to cassettes, so it’s okay.) That driver’s license also gets him into bars and the liquor store. He doesn’t even have to sneak! It’s great.

Seenagers wear whatever they want as they are past needing to impress anyone. Things like shoelaces and belts become a point of pride more than fashion. How many at that age are relegated to Velcro and elastic waistbands? Dad can grow whatever hair he has left down to his butt crack and absolutely no one is going to tell him he can’t. (Don’t do it, Dad.)

I don’t really worry about him running around with a bad crowd of other seenagers. Or walking around with a bad crowd, I don’t think any of them would run even if they were being chased. From what I can tell, the people he hangs out with aren’t going to turn up pregnant, cook meth or fail English 4. Nobody’s getting drafted, enlisting, or worried about college applications. They can all go to R-rated movies together and pay half-price for the matinees. It’s a great group of “kids.”

And at the end of the day, those seenagers aren’t scared of anything. They’ve already faced down the really scary things life can dish out, so why be scared? And, hey, they don’t have acne. So, you go, Dad!

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Ice Cream Engineering

I was painfully struggling to impersonate a human ball of sweat on the verge of fiery combustion at the gym recently while a friend calmly trotted along on the treadmill next to me. After several minutes, I regained consciousness long enough to realize she was having a lengthy conversation with me. About ice cream. Dairy Queen cones, to be exact. Seriously. While I’m silently paying the penalties of even thinking about foods with caloric density greater than iceberg lettuce, she’s extolling the magnificence of Dairy Queen ice cream cones.

Since finding new friends who are more willing to share my suffering would have to wait until a time after I’d showered, I decided to at least try to be interested. I haven’t actually been to Dairy Queen since about 1999 when I had an unexpected layover of several hours in Eden, Texas to get a flat tire repaired. I’m estimating that nearly half the 2800 population of Eden, Texas was at Dairy Queen that particular day. Since the other half of the population are inmates incarcerated at the Eden Detention Center, that’s an impressive turnout. Unfortunately, the ice cream machine at the Eden Dairy Queen was broken.

Fast forward two decades and my local Dairy Queen is pumping out ice cream cones that, according to my so-called friend, are an architectural feat of wonder created by food service workers with superhuman skills! A mixture of magic, engineering and frozen yumminess that is nearly inconceivable on a cake cone.

She swears her cone was expertly swirled and piled to a height measuring greater than her elbow to fingertip. Then to add an element of blessed miraculousness to it, she had it encased in an envelope of whisper-thin chocolate. She truly had no explanation for this creation. Which, for no other reason than utter respect, she then ate in its entirety. Because of course she did.

Meanwhile, I’ve pulled the emergency stop chord on my treadmill and am standing there dripping and staring with my mouth open in sheer amazement. I took a few polite moments to casually chit-chat a parting then bolted for my car. Unsure whether this woman was spouting incantations of sugared evil or preaching the actual truth, I’ve decided to instigate a thorough personal investigation. If you need me, you know where to find me.

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21 Because I Didn’t Kill Him

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is tom2.png

My youngest son just turned 21 this past week. He’s officially and legally an adult because of me. Because I didn’t sell him to a tribe of travelling gypsies when he was a toddler; because I didn’t let that pack of wolves raise him through the early years; because when he was a teenager I’d already missed the point that I could just drop him off at the fire station no questions asked; because he is the child my own parents wished upon me and I already know all his tricks so, yes, he has survived to adulthood. You’re welcome.

Now at last, the child who has, for all these years, driven me to drink is old enough to buy me that drink. Except he’d probably have to borrow a few bucks from me to cover the bar tab but whatever. He is the factual proof of the enduring grace of a merciful God, because without that, I would have probably killed him a long time ago. He has always been that kid who would jump off the roof in Superman pajamas, who never passed up an opportunity to explode something, tested the coverage on my health insurance, and to this day believes that rules are not directives to be followed but dictates to be challenged and broken.

Without this child, I would have undoubtedly and irresponsibly squandered away the money I’ve spent on broken phones, broken bones, broken eye glasses, broken cars and broken windows on ridiculous things like tropical vacations or furniture without broken springs, backs and legs. I would never have developed a close, cooperative relationship (think 12-Step Support Group) with grade school teachers who had to deeply examine their career choice after a year with my son. His third grade teacher never returned to the classroom and his fourth grade teacher has my vote for canonization.

I can only think that 21 years ago I must have prayed for patience, because

God has given me endless opportunity to learn it with this kid – now a young man. And this very impressive young man has also taught me through his example to love abundantly, deeply and with every fiber; to charge forward fearlessly; to show tolerance unquestioningly but to question everything else; and to live life passionately.

It has been an honor and a blessing to be his mom. Happy Birthday, Tom!

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Nearly New Year

It’s cold; it’s dark; and you’re probably still hungover from that New Year’s Eve party. There is absolutely no better time to swear on what’s left of your good name to be a better human. That’s right, children, it’s that magical time to make those resolutions that will carry you at least three or four days into the new year before you completely forget about them. Okay, I’ll start.

I resolve to stop bad-mouthing cilantro. It’s just a helpless weed that can’t help it if it tastes like fermented roadkill. I can be distasteful myself, and that’s on my good days. So, I’m going to ease up on cilantro and accept that it deserves a place on the spice rack just like others that actually taste good and add something to whatever you’re eating.   

This year, I’m going to stop judging people harshly who use a plastic bag to carry their one box of Jell-O Instant Pudding Mix from the store to their car. For all I know, there’s a dark addiction and resulting shame attached to that box of pudding mix. So, hey, I can enable with the best of them. Keep that under wraps, Closet Pudding Eater Person. Besides, it’s not like I know an endanger whale personally who will die with that bag stuck in their stomach.

I’m resolving to at least attempt to understand the attraction to coffee, Disneyworld, “The Bachelorette” tv show, eyelash extensions, car shows, and golf. Because, honestly, up until now, I just don’t get any of it. There must be something to all of them as they seem to be wildly popular.

I resolve to not squeal in delight every single time I see Baby Yoda. I’ll go into the baseball season with my eyes wide open and not be shocked when the Astros break my heart (again). I’m going to embrace cold weather and enjoy wearing five layers of wool clothing. This year, I’ll get a tattoo and wear pajama pants to church. Oh, yes, I will.

… Hahaha yeah right. I’m not going to do any of these things. At all. Ever. Be real. But I will, with great conviction, reduce my single-use plastic consumption; drink more water and waste less of it; and stop blatantly lying that I’ll ever say anything good about cilantro. That’s not happening this year or any year. Happy 2020!

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Real Mom Look at Christmas

Image isn’t actually Nancy. Or Julie. But it could be.

 They say Christmas is for children. This was not said by my good friend who has five of them. Her holiday wish list probably includes copious amounts of wine, an undisturbed nap, someone else to decide what’s for dinner, and some space to just vent. So I’m handing her a glass of wine and this space. Go ahead, Nancy (the name has been changed to protect Julie’s identity), this is your opportunity to speak to the Christmas manager.

“I don’t want to see another saccharine-sweet movie about this ‘most wonderful time of year’ where it shows the post-Oprah makeover picture of Martha Stewart decorations and food prepared by Julia Child. Instead, I’d like to see a movie about how dinner is poured from a Campbell’s can or a fancy boxed pizza is thrown in the oven at 8 o’clock. I’d like to see a kitchen that looks like a tornado went through it.

“I’d like to see movie with a room littered with 15 bins of Christmas decorations spilled on the floor just waiting for someone to be motivated or a movie about how a mom is struggling to repair a vacuum that has just sucked up the equivalent of a forest-full of artificial trees. I’d like to see a movie showing how cats are taking advantage of this chaos and making a toy out of giant tumbleweed balls of Christmas lights. I’d like to see a movie about how some parents forget to pick up kids from their activities or maybe one about how a mom learns to navigate all her commitments without losing her mind.

“What I NEED is an all-hands-on-deck approach to helping me even START preparing for Christmas. I’m having a sleigh-full of problems getting in the spirit and focusing on the real Reason for this Season. So while I cry in disbelief at all the decorations I have collected or received with open arms, I’m going to take a few minutes and listen to my Feel Good Not Christmas Music and try to remember that I’m doing all this for the kids (on top of all my regular whirlwind of chores, chauffeuring, scheduling, shopping, oh, does it ever end?).”  

Thank you, Julie … err, Nancy. For all you do. Let’s remember that even the very first Christmas wouldn’t have happened without a special mother. Hug one this season.

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Apostrophe Police

There is a disturbance in the grammatical force! Punctuation Jedi John Richards, a 96-year-old former copy editor who has dedicated his life to the protection of the endangered apostrophe, is giving up the fight and going to the Dark Side. The announcement that he is abandoning his Apostrophe Protection Society and albeit Quixote quest to save the world from written stupidity should strike fear in the hearts of every wordsmith and language lover everywhere. NOTE: If you use words like “theyselves,” skip this whole thing as it will be meaningless.

In a society that struggles with the complexities of the proper use of a turn signal, punctuation, as a whole, has become superfluous. Cellular providers do not charge by the character, and yet most text messages lack the dignity of a single, well-placed comma or even a period. Exclamation points, however, seem to multiply like Viagra-infused field rabbits behind sentences typed in all capital letters. And this, in and of itself, may be why aliens continue to fly on past our planet.

Admittedly a peaceful protestor, Mr. Richards fought the good fight to have the apostrophe’s rightful representation in things like “Ladies’ Apparel” and “Harrod’s Department Store.” While Richards respects a company’s right to delete their own apostrophe, he is baffled at how McDonald’s can get it right but Harrods can’t. If you’re taking notes, “can’t” and “don’t” can and do have an apostrophe.

Richards was also affronted, and rightfully so, by the willy-nilly insertion of apostrophes where they did not belong, like in dates: adding an apostrophe to the 1960s only diminishes its psychedelic impact. CDs on your desk and all Fs on your report card do not require apostrophes – no ifs, ands or buts about it!

erhaps it was Texans who pushed Mr. Richards over the edge with their possessive form of a plural number of groups: y’all’s’s. Used correctly in a sentence, “All y’all’s’s boots still have mud on them.” Texas may very well be where good apostrophes go to die.

Although he did not directly reference Texans, Mr. Richards wrote on the Apostrophe Protection Society’s website before it was overwhelmed by properly punctuated protest posts, “The ignorance and laziness present in modern times have won!” And he is not wrong. Although all y’all still need to leave y’all’s muddy boots outside.  

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