Sunday, December 28, 2008

Inflatable Santa Parallels the Christmas Season in 5 Short Chapters

Chapter 1: Black Friday Purchase
Inflatable-Illuminated (6-foot) Santa was purchased flat, boxed and hopeful. Included are two guide wires and light bulb and a magic inflation pump. Santa filled quickly and stood erect and happy with his one “mittened” hand waving and the other hand at his side, standing guard outside our window, facing out—a seasonal sentry, bidding glad tidings to passers by. “Welcome Christmas, bring your cheer.” (Fa-who-Foraze)

Chapter 2: Rockin’ Around the Barberry Bushes
Inflatable-Illuminated Santa sways back and forth in the wind, sideways and across, dancing to an unheard song. Santa does not stand tall anymore, but manages to look jolly. Even with the two guide wires, two rigged guide wires tied to water-filled milk cartons, and Santa himself propped against a half-buried shovel, he can not stand upright. Possibly the anticipation of Christmas Morn is too much for the eager, plastic elf; his enthusiastic dirty dance shameful to those who gaze at him from out our window and from across the street.

Chapter 3: The Night of His Life
Christmas Eve is here. As parents stay up too late wrapping pretty packages and listening to old-by-now Christmas songs, Inflatable-Illuminated Santa buckles, clearly losing "oomf" and air. At 1:00 am, he is seen bent over, his “hello” hand next to his face, bowing and dry-heaving into the bushes.

Chapter 4: Religious Experience
On Christmas Day, Inflatable-Illuminated Santa was seen genuflexing North, rocking back and forth like, enraptured, hand raised as if to receive the spirit. Later, on all “fours” bowing East towards Mecca was Inflatable-Illuminated Santa, barberry-pierced, with red-suited backside in the air.

Chapter 5: Deflation
Christmas is over. Decorations are put away and dusted. Inflatable-illuminated Santa and others are deflated now, following the “high” of the season and inevitable reality-slap of high credit cards bills and the long winter ahead.
He still has a smile on his face--possibly due to the memory of his dirty dance.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

“Head” for the Salon

More and more you’re seeing men in salons. I view this as an intrusion. I don’t look my best with aluminum foil in my hair, and although I’m not there to impress anyone, my girlish vanity feels assaulted with a man sitting next to my foot massage chair, with my cracked feet all exposed. It’s like co-ed gym class all over again.

Where should men go for the equivalent of our feminine days at the salon? A locker room backrub, perhaps? A tranquil, darkened massage school den, maybe? It used to be less confusing. Man salons were called Barber Shops which had the candy cane pole outside the establishment. The pole represented a place where you could get a buzz cut and a nice smooth facial shave. We have no such warning device for men on beauty salons. Even the word “beauty” does not repel some men.

One such man is Fred.

My daughter Krista and I went to have our hair cut and mine colored at our favorite salon. One of the latest perks they’re offering now is a “Head Massage” during the “conditioner” application phase. It’s pleasurable, but doesn’t make my foot thump or anything. Still, it’s better than JUST a shampooing and conditioning, and since it’s included, I wasn’t going to stop her. When it was over, Krista said, “Mom. That was weird.” For me, even though my head was being kneaded, my neck was in an awkward position. I had to put a heating pad on it when I got home. I had a better experience with my latest mammogram.

Fred on the other hand, came home from work with his hair cut. He had stopped at a nearby beauty salon on way home.

“Have you ever had a “Head Massage?” Fred, flushed from the experience, sheepishly asked.

“Yeah, did you like it?
”It was AWESOME. When she finished, I said, “Is it OVER?””

You did not!”

“I did!”

I am mildly jealous that some salon tart has found Fred’s new G-spot. I’ll bet Ernie the Barber doesn’t indulge his clients with tantalizing fingers! Hair only grows so fast, so if Fred starts coming home with a perm or highlights, I’ll know I have Head Massage Junkie on my hands.

Maybe there’s a “patch” for that?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Determined Snow “Blower” ...who couldn’t

Here in Green Bay, Wisconsin, we are experiencing an early onset of winter. It has been snowing for days with no end or warm-up in sight. In past years, we’ve had mild Decembers--so mild that overzealous, confused crocuses have been known to push their petals up and sing, “We’re having a Heat Wave.” This year, they’re safely underground, humming nap-inducing lullabies. This year would be a good year to “make like a bear” or crocus, and hibernate.

Up until our older sons went to college, snow removal was part of their contribution to our family. They were sometimes compensated, especially for giant snow-falls. It was a luxury I didn’t fully appreciate until now, when Fred, Krista and I are at nature’s mercy.

For the past 8 years, the boys and Fred have been “fussing” with our 37-year old snow blower; an orange, steel Stegosaurus, that only works when the safety “do-hickies” are deactivated. You also caused rotator cuff damage each time it needed starting. So, this year we treated ourselves to a new snow blower--just in time for Blizzard “A,” which occurred on the way home from the hardware store. The new “snow buddy” shows promise and even has a red and white striped “snow-chomper shield.”

“Aww. It looks a candy cane.” I said, which immediately made Fred lose respect for it. Fred used the new machine with ease. I was all set for Fred to show me how to use it….when Blizzard “B” occurred while he was away.

What happened next doesn’t happen very often—that is, the urge to do “MAN work.” I rose from my chair, put on my winter gear and headed to the garage, intent on figuring out the new snow blower so I could clear the driveway. You don’t need a driver’s license to use it--how hard could it be?

Why do I always say “How hard could it be?” It’s the ultimate task-jinx.

Instead of a simple key start and a “Ready-set-GO” button with a lever to move the “thing-the-snow-comes-out-of” back and forth, as I had envisioned--looking at the controls for this new beast was like looking at the cockpit of a 747. Each side has “holder-on-ers” with 3 different handles. There are 2 “joy” sticks (hear: “anger” sticks.) and numbers up to 9 on the “gear-shifty” thingy-dooie. There are directions on the “dashboard” which made me feel stupid. Can’t they dummy things down for the “mechanically un-inclined?” Somewhere between “complicated snow machinery” and “shovel” would be lovely.

They also don’t make these types of machines “small-hand friendly.” The snow blower handles, when clamped down, require larger/stronger hands. I could have squeezed the handles together for a short time, but certainly not for the duration of a full driveway blow. I’m not just speaking for women here—there are plenty of men out there with smaller hands too.

Although I can hold a curling iron and a phone for hours.

Maybe lawn mower and snow blower manufacturers are trying to tell me something; a not-so-subtle message that I’m not supposed to do “MAN work.” I’m meant to be arm-candy; a domestic “decoration” who should have her snow blown for her. I’m totally fine with that.

Who cares if the snow is cleared anyway, as long as I can get my car out?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

“How can you have any pudding if you “dunt” eat yer meat?”

I had an amazing thing happen. A “line” I’ve been dying to say, in context, actually popped into my head at the right time. Krista was fussing about eating her polish sausage. I had made pumpkin pudding for dessert.

How can you have any pudding if you “dunt” eat yer meat?” I said, proudly.

“Huh?” Krista said, but Fred understood and laughed.

Like me, my children have been picky eaters. My boys were picky when they were little, and presently my daughter is the challenge—she really doesn’t like meat. The dinner table, lately, has been a battleground for 2 willful females in a “You-can’t-make-me-touch-that-crappy-stew” match. She usually wins these matches, but after all---she is MY offspring.

My brother and I truly thought Mom’s meals were evil-potions intended to make us robot-android children. Mom and Dad weren’t alone in parenting us 1960s kids using the “Dr. Spock” (not the Vulcan) recommended remedy for “table fussiness”—make the kids sit until the food is gone. The fact that my mother was a terrible cook never seemed to factor in. I NEVER gave in, and would out-sit any adult. While I sat, untouched plate before me, I devised methods of getting out of eating what I considered garbage. The fear of punishment was nothing compared with eating Mom’s “SOIL” flavored pot-roast.

Methods of Avoiding Eating Food on Plate:

Atomizing- a method used by me to break up food into the tiniest possible particles and spread them around on my plate-- giving the illusion of less.

Cheek/Gum Storage- You can put a lot of food under your tongue and next to your gums--upper and lower jaws. A simple bathroom trip following the meal, and the food is deposited where it belonged in the first place.

Napkin-Cloaking- When the meal is almost over, you cover the offensive salmon croquette with a crumpled up napkin and offer to help Mom clear the table.

So in order to change the wretched, meal-torture tradition, when I became a Mom, I only wanted them to eat a little bit of something (a taste, even). True to their heritage, they invented some new methods I hadn’t thought to try:

Barfing on Plate- Both boys used this method—David, after tasting canned, warm German potato salad he said smelled like gasoline, and Jon after tasting a new brand of fish sticks he said looked and tasted like pencil shavings. They were both right.

Pocket Piles- This method was invented by Jon. He was eventually “outted” but not before he ruined a few pairs of pants. He also stuffed his snowsuit jacket in the school lunchroom with stuff I sent for lunch so he could leave for recess sooner.

I’m still picky, but I’m old enough call the shots. Sometimes, though, I make something new and terrible and have to cover it with my napkin.

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Ideal Wife

Fred is confused.

I have been very complacent and subdued for weeks, recovering from a serious illness. I basically had no opinion. Everything Fred suggested and did sounded o.k. to me. I was grateful. I was in a weakened physical and mental state. I was hooked to an oxygen tank, whacked on Vicodin!

Then I started to feel better…and with improved health came the return of “My Point of View.”

Because of this, Fred honestly thought there was something new wrong with me. He intended to ask the doctor about possible side effects to my drugs. Could they be the reason he has a smart-mouthed troll invading the body of his recently sweet-tempered, docile wife? If so—he wanted something done about it—FAST! Does she need mood altering drugs? A lobotomy?

Fred liked me better complacent--complacent like when we were dating.

Like many women, when I first met my future husband I was in the “Love Fog.” I didn’t care what we did, so long as we were together. I did things he liked to do, just to be around him. He took me camping on “Mosquito Cloud Isle” and I helped pitch the tent. He took me to cold football games—I bundled next to him. He rented “Slap Shot” for us and I didn’t say, “This movie sucks.” I wasn’t being dishonest—I really didn’t care.

After our wedding, and months into our marriage, Fred suggested another trip to “Mosquito Cloud Isle;” a place where the mosquitoes will carry you, “Winged-Monkey-like” across Lake Michigan if you’re not anchored down; a place I think of as Heidi Hell.

“Hmmm. Let’s get a hotel instead of camping.” I suggested.

Fred looked at me like I had a badger on my face.

“But you loved it 3 years ago.”

“Yes, but that was during my “Love Fog” era. I was out of my mind. I’d much rather have carpeting and a porcelain toilet.”

Fred began mourning the loss of the woman he married--the “Whatever-You-Want, Honey” girl. I’m sure, like many men, he felt deceived. Now, faced with yet another “Good Heidi” vs. “Bad Heidi” he has to reconcile---he is confused. Just when the freedom to do exactly as he wanted was within his reach--with no one asking questions or make helpful suggestions--wifey recovers… and regains a voice, opinions and preferences all over again.

“Don’t you want me to feel feisty again? That means I’m healing.” I offered.

Fred did not answer. He’s still thinking it over.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Turkey Trepidation

Just the idea of a juicy, succulent, roast turkey on Thanksgiving afternoon makes me want to get up and dance. Roast turkey is on my “Top 20 List of Happy Things.” Prior to its entrance into my oven, however, and subsequent applause-worthy exit; all dressed up and tan, the necessary steps to achieve True Turkey Perfection are the cause of many a turkey-related case of hives.

I’m not very adventurous anymore on Thanksgiving. I choose my holiday “standard” so I don’t have to deal with a NEW bird and have something go miserably wrong…again. I want my enormous breasted Butterball in his plain, white plastic coat.

I don’t care how he got so big either.

The first of many “Turkey-Go-Wrong” years began when, once, my Mom cooked a turkey in a “Nesco” in our garage (Mom didn’t like the smell of turkey (!)) What we ate that night not only smelled like “car” and grass clippings, somehow the turkey exploded, leaving the ravaged bird in a bony pile. At least it was juicy.

Another year I bought a less expensive, generic brand of turkey. I prepared him as I would any other bird. “Tom” must have been injected…with AIR, because the bird I put in was not the TREMENDOUS-legged, flat-chested one that emerged. The white-meat eaters stared, mouths agape. I must have bought a Road Runner by mistake.

Finally, I was told that the “Oven Bag” was fool-proof. I challenge that. Evidently the MOST important step in roasting a bird in a gigantic plastic bag, is flouring the inside, so it doesn’t blow-up. I swear I remember doing that, but after a few hours…KAPLOWW! My oven has never been the same.

That did it!! No more risky, “foul” shenanigans! Now, with my nice Butterball—the preparations can begin.

I have never been completely comfortable with the necessary “HAND in BIRD” step required to fully ready the turkey. I reach in, and as fast as I can, “mine” for the package of “GOD KNOWS WHAT” that’s buried deep in the bird’s inner-sanctum. Oh, and don’t forget the flaccid flap of skin that covers yet another cavity on the top of bird-- there’s some goodies in there too.
Achieving the Juicy vs. Dry bird is the next stressful endeavor. The Turkey Packaging Union wants us to depend on that little red-sticky-uppy thing to tell us when the bird is done. I’ve relied on that … along with feverish prayer, with mixed results. Now, out of the kitchens of the “Food Network” comes news that the bird continues to cook outside the oven!! We can now bring the bird out at “Ptomaine” degrees, confident that it has enough energy to climb up the thermometer to reach true poultry "doneness."

I wish it were more scientific.

They need to market Predictable Turkeys for those of us low turkey-stress thresholds. But I always know if things get TOO stressful, I can call the Butterball toll-free number and some rational volunteer… will talk me off the roof.

Gobble, gobble.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Elements of a Successful Hunt

This time of year, thousands of men (and women), driving pick-up trucks, leave their families. They are on a pilgrimage north, to the woods where the white-tailed deer live. My husband, Fred, is one of those thousands. He and his friends herald Deer Season as a holiday, filled with good camp food, peace and quiet, and camaraderie.

This year Fred has some new (and old) methods of attaining the “Many-Point” buck. I, as a sprawling-metropolis-raised girl, was na├»ve to the large variety of hunting paraphernalia out there, until I was introduced to it last night (pre-hunt). In my opinion, armed with his bag of tricks---the deer will be putty in his hands.

Fred brought with him:

1. Doe “Piss” :

“Piss” is Fred’s word, not mine. Doe Piss is supposed to attract the bucks, who, at this time of year are HOT to mate. I actually saw the bottle and the description of its ingredients. That’s a dirty job!! Someone has to find a deer, make sure it’s a doe, make it drink a lot of water (you can bring a doe to water but…) then hold some type of container underneath (or behind it) to collect the urine. E-GADS! Fred says they have deer farms for this, so they don’t have to nab a wild deer, but that still doesn’t explain the “How Tos.” Fred intends to surround his deer blind with the concoction. I forgot to ask him what would happen if he spills some on himself.

I can only imagine dozens of the antlered animals falling over themselves for a piece of Fred!

2. Antler Crashes:

Fred said that sometimes they take antlers and smack them together to replicate the sound of a “deer fighting” over a doe. This is supposed to attract the bucks. Maybe the “Great Prince of the Forest,” the FATHER of all bucks, will come, as leader of the deer, to break up the fight. That’s just what Fred is hoping for. Then Ka-POW!

3. Food from the sky:

When Fred told me about this term, I laughed out loud. This is “hunter-talk” for bait. All the gas stations around Green Bay, and most northern cities, I suspect, are stocked with deer apples, carrots and stuff to set in the woods. The deer will come out of hiding and investigate the “offering” of foreign fruit. They get used to it, then KER-FLUOOEY.

4. Snort Replication:

This is a device that replicates the sound of a buck snorting. If you use this, the buck will come running to see what’s up---or…they’ll all stand together, in a far off meadow somewhere--and laugh.

5. Camouflaged Gun Steadier with strap:

No deer has a chance against this. They’ll take one look at the stand (which is pounded into the ground), and wave the white flag.

With all these clever methods of attracting male deer—there should be a parade of white-tails following Fred home. I just hope they’re not following him home because he smells like doe!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Alley Felineawitz

I just joined a “social networking site” at the prompting of my cousin, to play online-scrabble and to hook up with old friends. I found a few long-lost college buddies, renewed some relationships with neighbors from my hometown and have enjoyed seeing photos they shared on their home-page of themselves and their families.

From my sons, I learned a bit about this site in the past few years. At one point, I confess to “disguising” myself (that is, assuming an alter-ego) to see what my son Jon was up to when he was in high school, and what the site was really about. With one “Request to be Friends” sent to him, I was IN.

(O.K—I’m not proud of that, but if he was dumb enough to “friend” me without any questions asked, me, with a fake name, no friends or networks, and a profile photo of a cat… I deserved access to his world.)

But I didn’t have a “peek window” open to me long. It took him less than a day to figure out “Alley Felineawitz” was me. He started a discussion group about “not liking to eat alone” and I gave him helpful advice on how to cope, typed in full words, full sentences, punctuation and no IM jargon like:

“OMG, Ur so right!”

I said, ““Honey, why don’t you just bring your iPod and read a book---then you won’t feel so lonely.”

He promptly UN-Friended me and sent a text message that read: "Nice try, Mom."

So, naturally, I’m cautious about who I allow access to my world via the "verbized" term “Friend-ing.” I saw a high school classmate was also a member. Since it has been 25 years since high school, I was curious what she was up to, if she was still in the area where we grew up, kids, etc., so I submitted a “Request to be Friends.” Nothing happened at all. I asked my son about that and he said:

“She probably doesn’t know who “Alley Felineawitz” is.”

“I used my real name, Jon.”

“Well, if you don’t hear anything, it means you’ve been rejected.”

Snap! Maybe I SHOULD have used the alias—it probably would have at least intrigued her. Now, I’m left hanging, wondering if I did something wrong these past 25 years. Is it poetic justice for my dishonest antic last year? I may never know.

The longer I use this site, though, the cooler I think it is, and the more addicting it becomes. You could spend HOURS joining “virtual groups” and attaching little distinguishing things to your page about yourself and your interests. Every time you do anything to your “stuff”, all your “Friends” get notified in some way. It’s a full time job being cyber-social!

I troll for new/old friends occasionally, now that it seems like more people my age are on there. OR ARE THEY??? Could be the kids are checking up on what their PARENTS are up to.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Voting… Heidi’s Way

I voted today, but I shook my head when I saw the table flanked with white-haired people. I certainly don’t want any octogenarians to lose their jobs….but isn’t time we had some updates in our voting procedures?

In my district, we don’t use the glorious “Voting Machines” I longed to use as a kid in the 1970s. Instead of those old real booths with REAL curtains and little levers and a sliding handle that registered your vote AND opened your privacy curtain—the kind of machine that is fun to use…we have paper ballots and an ink pen to connect the arrow of the candidate of choice. Ho-Hum. I’m not saying voting should be like a pinball machine or Mario Kart…just MODERNIZE for Pete’s Sake!

I’m typing this on a modern machine. I spoke with several friends on this subject on a modern cell phone. Yet the ancient tradition of elderly women and men, writing voters names in cursive, double checking with their companions, and writing ballot numbers next to names is alive and IN USE in the Heartland in the year 2008!

Not that they don’t do a good job. People of that generation have exceptional cursive skills--probably beat into them. I’ve also been chewed out by one of the “Elderly Guardians of the Sworn Oath of the Vote” before. Once, years ago, at the prospect of standing in line for HOURS with my two small boys with me, I thought it made perfect sense, since the ballots were numbered anyway, to take my numbered ballot slip and come back later to cast my vote (thus lessening my time in 2 lines.) I thought I had a brilliant notion—one that would be taken note of. So I asked if it was possible...

One woman recoiled. One of them chuckled. The third one questioned my sanity and gave me such an evil-eye that I went back to the end of the line.


At the risk of angering the “Old Volunteer Army of Sacred Voting Procedures”….

…Why don’t we??:.

1. Make it a week long process? This would give EVERYONE a chance to vote? The lines would be smaller and there would be more flexibility.

2. Declare Election Day a national holiday so working people with kids can manage to get there—with pay would be even better.

3. Make absentee ballots easier to obtain. They should be as easy to get as IRS tax forms.

4. Vote electronically. We bank electronically, buy stuff electronically, and even file our taxes electronically. Why can’t vote from our homes?

Best of all, “Voting…Heidi’s Way”, old people can still remain employed and in power positions.

Just don’t make any strange requests of them---they really don’t like that.

Saturday, November 1, 2008


Clothes shopping used to be fun...when I was struggling with 5 or 10 lbs. Shopping is painful when you have "more than 10 lbs. to lose" (shall I say), and are stricken with the anxiety that you'll have to move on to a store that carries your size.

It was when I was pregnant with my first child that I actually became fat. It was during that time too, that I realized what horrible, mean, places dressing rooms are. I knew I’d gained a LOT of baby weight and wanted to avoid my reflection in the mirror. I had occasion to go to a Hudson’s dressing room after work to try on bras. Hudson’s dressing rooms were notorious for badly lit, unflattering mirrors. I unzipped my dress-- to my waistline only and started to put on the bra… when my dress fell down to the ground and I accidentally looked in the mirror. Behind me I saw… an Enormous, Puckery Backside and jumped out of the dressing room! As it turned out…it was not some stranger in the room with me (which is why I jumped)… it was MY own backside!

A certain plus-sized store tried make things easier by creating “Virtual Models” which were available on their website. The idea was, you entered in all your statistics--height, weight, body shape, etc—and you could see what their clothes might ACTUALLY look like on you. What you ended up with, however, was an gigantic version of yourself that looks a lot like Eddie Murphy as “Norbit’s “wife. You could almost picture the Virtual Model winking and saying:

“Damn Baby! You lookin’ phat in that outfit!”

They don’t have the virtual model option anymore—probably because once women see what they ACTUALLY look like in their clothes, they’re not going to buy them.

Lately, I’ve been giving mail-order a try-- they usually have my size. I also really, really like it when my order arrives--it’s like a Christmas present delivered by Santa—only this time, Santa is dressed in a brown shirt and shorts! The problem with a catalog is that the same item looks one way on the picture and entirely different on my body, in the light of my bedroom, in front of my mirror. Consequently, I have to call back the “Santa Dressed in Brown” to retrieve his present.

Recently, I went to a plus-sized store and found a Color Coded Body-Type section. You have three choices—you are either a Red, a Blue, or a Yellow. Each color stands for a different body shape, and so-- in theory-- you’ll find your perfect fit. Apparently, though, if you’re not one of these three body shapes, you are a Khaki, which is in the “tent section” of the neighboring sporting goods store.

What I really want is a futuristic take on clothes shopping--something like the “Jetsons.” While Rosie the Robot stood guard, the conveyor belt would take me behind a screen and when I came out on the other side *POOF*! I’d be dressed in an outfit that fit me perfectly.

But wait a minute---Jane Jetson was SKINNY, wasn’t she??

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Cleaning for the Cleaning People

I have been sick, so Fred and I decided to get me some help cleaning for a couple of months. We started scouting the house, looking through rooms, deciding which ones needed it the most. Although the boys’ rooms are the worst, this round, we decided to just close their doors. Every other room/area, however, was a GO.

We have a neighbor who owns a home cleaning business, and Fred and I mulled over the idea of hiring her.

“I don’t want her seeing our house looking like this.” Fred said in the preliminary discussion.

“Uh-uh—me neither!”

I’m sure she’d be discreet, but there would always be the “I know your dirty-little house secrets” relationship between us. The unspoken:

“I had to scrape the dust off on your television with a spatula!”

or worse…

“I thought there was a sea anemone on your counter. It turned out to be a potato!”

With much guilt, we decided to hire an anonymous company with no ties to us whatsoever. I even wanted to give them a fake name.

On the day before our cleaning angels of were due to arrive:

“I have to clean that bathtub before they come.” Fred stated. Our “kid bathroom” has a slow drain. That, combined with our son Jon’s manufacturing-summer-job filth, “scummed” up the bottom. Plus, I think we washed our dog in it once –“pre-scumming” of course.

“Isn’t the point of hiring someone to clean, actually having them clean?” I asked. After all, our house was not “Fraternity House” dirty. Nor was it “Public Restroom after an AC/DC Concert” dirty, either. It’s just not that clean. Certainly our home in its present 1-2 months worth of neglect condition would not scare our new tidy-uppers.

But…later that day, I found myself cleaning up the kitchen, making sure the dishes were put away, removing the top layer of grunge to reveal bare surfaces. By the time the maids came, a good half of the work was already done.

Still, having someone scrub my showers, toilets and floors was a luxurious, happy, smiley, rainbow with cinnamon sugar type feeling. I happened to be home while they were here, and as I peeked out from my bedroom (where I had been hiding out, keeping out of their way), I saw one of the women on her hands and knees washing my hardwood floors. MY GOD!

My virgin floors have never been kneeled on before!

After they left, I gave the house a “White Sock Test.” I was, unbelievably, able to walk across my floors without getting my socks dark and hairy! Ahhh!

Now I can stop buying dark, hairy socks.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Fun with Lungs

Note:  I am absolutely fine now, 2 yrs. later and after 6 mos. of treatment.

I have a disease. It is a serious lung infection called Blastomycosis, which is caused by inhaling microscopic fungus spores found outdoors, which are occasionally linked with bat guano.


O.k.—it’s not that funny. But I am getting better and in time should be fine. Some of the circumstances surrounding my diagnosis were funny—in a dark, humorous way.

The first funny fact is that I, Hermit-Heidi, caught ANYTHING by being outside. Fred is trying formulate a way I could have gotten it INSIDE--so as not to spoil his appreciation of the outdoors--but evidence to prove his theory is non-existent. Sorry, honey.

Once it was discovered something was wrong with me, I needed a Broncoscopy to diagnose it. The idea of someone sticking a tube down your throat into your lungs and yanking a sample is not pleasant, but BELIEVE me, it was no big deal. At the point it was prescribed--unbridled curiosity and a “GET IT THE HELL OUT OF ME!” mentality over-rode most of my irrational tube-fears.

The first step to the Broncoscopy is in the “Procedure Waiting Room for the Aged.” Recently, I had been lamenting about feeling old. If you ever want to feel like a KID again, go schedule a “procedure” for yourself. While Fred and I sat, readying ourselves for my name to be called, people were being wheeled in one at a time. The first woman appeared 99 years old. She had an entourage and was covered with a blanket. She didn’t look sick—just OLD. She might have been having a toenail clipped for all I know. Then a 120-year-old guy came, who looked just like Grandpa Walton. The last guy they wheeled in was the Emperor from the final “Star Wars” movie (the guy who tried to electrocute Luke and was tossed into the abyss by Darth Vader?). He was not a day younger than 200.

I was called and moved to my own pre-procedure room and offered a nice shot of Demerol. Unfortunately, the last time I took Demerol—while in labor with Krista, I got this weird tic which made me involuntarily jut my tongue out and retract it like a serpent. Apparently, this is definitely an unwanted ALLERGIC reaction. Poor Fred! The stress of having his wife in the procedure room could only be topped by the "Return of Lizard Woman." 

In the Broncoscopy room (still sounds like something to do with a horse), the surgical aide handed me what can only be described as a long, blue, psychedelic Bong. I have never DONE a “Bong”, but have been in “head shops” in the 80s and seen them on store shelves.

"Inhale this until the liquid is gone” I was instructed.

As I breathed, smoke from what seemed like dry ice came out the end. It was a strange kind of peace-pipe, I thought. The psychedelic Bong numbed my throat. Next the aide brought out something resembling the Oil Can from “Wizard of Oz” and sprayed my vocal chords to numb them too. Soon they gave me an “I-don’t-care-WHAT-you-do-to-me” shot and I vaguely remember the rest.

Moral of the Story: Never go outside. But if you do and happen to breathe in rare mold fungus spores, get thee to a Broncoscopy and enjoy the buzz!

Monday, September 22, 2008

All I want for Christmas is a Foam Turkey

This from a Barbie-wielding, Bratz-loving GIRL! My girl.

Fred has a friend who has land, who hosts a “Bow-Shoot” every year for youths. Fred took Krista practice shooting a few days ago in a hunting store. Krista came back stating she loved it, had shot a turkey, a bear and a caribou--all foam of course.

As a Mom, in theory, I want her to do what makes her happy. As a woman, I feel her drive to do something boys “typically” do—I applaud that. As Heidi, I am brooding.

Fred and Krista came back from the “Bow-Shoot” Saturday night. Krista traipsed in with new clunky, brown hiking boots, slinging her quiver and holding out the binocular strap she won as a prize. When I saw my little princess in those bulky man boots, my heart sank. After they unpacked, Krista said:

“Mom. Can you buy me a foam turkey for practice shooting?”

“I think that is your Dad’s department.”
”He said I should ask you. He’s not sure how you’re going to handle it. He didn’t think you’d let him buy it.”

“Could you please go in your room? Daddy and Mommy need to talk.”

If words could cause movement, mine would have. I would have been the cartoon you see when someone is yelling, blowing hair and cheeks back like a G-force. Fred meant well, but turning my daughter into a bow-toting, huntress with big, bulky, hiking boots was the equivalent of shaving all her beautiful hair off and saying, ’Don’t you LIKE it?”

“NO. I don’t think a foam turkey is a good idea.” I pushed out my lips, later, through gnashed teeth.


“Because it implies that she’s going to shoot an ANIMAL.”

“What’s wrong with that?”

Hyped on “Yooper,” and the deer meat his mother served them for dinner that night, Fred was unwittingly conjuring a Mad City Woman.

“Because MY daughter loves animals and if she kills one she will never be able to forgive herself.” I hissed.

And so began the night of “right vs. wrong”, “instinct vs. upbringing”; a never ending culture and territory dispute. It is under these conditions, that I can feel the passion and sentiment behind war and feuding. Passion can be irrational, at times, and with irrationality comes a plethora of colorful, sometimes surprising words.

“$%^#&*! &*(&^%$!” Fred said

“Well, ^%#&,&*(#* to you too” said I, conniption subsiding to a dull harpy mode.

Back to our corners, I spent the time between bells formulating a very wise, indisputable comparison to blow him out of the water, which would:

- render him stymied, bowing before me

- groveling for forgiveness

- begging for another chance

- promising to wrong-me no more

- even agreeing to return the hunting boots in a blink of my RIGHTEOUS eye

I spoke it:

“It’s as if I took the boys to Make-up Artist Camp and they came back talking about eye-shadow and wanting their own brush sets.”

I spread the word banquet out for Fred to feast on. He would have no choice but to see my point of view.

Stay tuned.

Farsighted and Hairy (this is not a personal ad)

With each passing year, new and different challenges jump in the way of my day-to-day life. More complicated computer programs, “new-fangled” gadgets for my cell phone (which force me to ask my children for assistance and translations), negotiating tax returns, getting my kids to email me… all those. Life can’t just wait until I catch up with it—it has to keep leapfrogging ahead. I find it very exhausting---must just be part of getting older.

My latest new challenge is plucking my eyebrows. I’m finding that standing my customary distance from the mirror is no longer sufficient for a clear view. In order to see my face, I have to stand nose-to-nose with the mirror in our dining room (where the light is better) and, without my glasses on, stick a pointy metal pincer millimeters from my eyeball and hope I yank a hair and not my iris. At this point, I’ve pulled the same hairs about 100,000 times. Why do they persist? Can’t I plug up the hair-hole?

Old age is Hell.

While on the subject of hair…what’s with the mustache region? I never had a problem when I was younger. So far I’m waxing, coloring, plucking, “Nair-ing” and shaving unwanted hairs on my body. Is it finally true what we they say about owners looking like their dogs? What if I just let it all grow in? I’d have a whole new career--“The Bearded, Farsighted Sasquatch Woman.” [I come from South African circus-folk—could be a recessive circus-folk gene]

It all makes sense now

I watched “Oprah” the other day and Dr. Oz was on presenting a startling magnification of skin that was sun-damaged. It looked like Mars with little beach-blankets of pigment buried deep in the sand. Apparently, as far as permanent skin damage goes--most of it occurs before you’re 21! THAT’S JUST GREAT! Stick it to Heidi again. All these years of maintaining my pasty, chicken-meat skin all summer long, donning “Mrs. Howell/Mrs. Roeper” type hats, wearing “prevent you from sweating” sunscreen/shellac and WHAT I’M HEARING is all that careful protection is useless because my “Irresponsible-baking in a blow-up-pool-basted with Hawaiian Tropic Frying Oil” days gave me the skin I’ll have…forever.

Old age is hell.

I went into a photo-booth with Krista at a local mall here recently. We took 4 photos. If she hadn’t been there, I would have torn them to shreds. Photo booths have this uncanny resolve to point out and accentuate liver spots on your face, which you never realized were there. Liver spots, which are so named because their color resembles liver, are also called sun spots or Lentigos (which somehow makes me hungry for Mexican food.) Having, previously unknown to me, Lentigos on my FACE in those photos makes me look like my Grandma. Now, if I want to see my Grandma again, all I have to do is go to a photo booth, force my eyebrows down with my hands and scrunch my cheeks together and Whoop-- there she is!

Today, I’m going to take advantage of my position in life and get myself a mood-altering pedicure. Maybe I’ll even ask for the senior discount. I’ll have to shave my toes first, of course.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Seagulls are Circling

“Watch out for the birds, Mom.” Krista said on the porch, as I locked the door behind us on our way out.

“What birds?” I wasn’t listening carefully, fumbling with my sunglasses.

“THOSE birds.” Krista said, pointing up.

Above us and down over a few streets were hundreds and hundreds of swirling seagulls. They weren’t swooping at us “The Birds”-like, or waiting on electrical lines and roof-tops, but they were circling, definitely, behaving as they do over an open landfill.

I was absolutely dumbstruck. What would cause those birds, uncommon to our area, to act like that?? By the time I got us in the car, the “bird circles” were migrating north. Krista suggested they might be feeding on bugs.

I did the only thing I could think of…I called David-Mavid.

“David-Mavid, David-Mavid, the birds are circling, the birds are circling! Are they circling where you are?” David-Mavid said, “Mom, how could I see them, I’m in Milwaukee?”

“So you DON’T see any circling seagulls?” ”Uh-no.” “Oh, that’s o.k., talk to you later.”

Next I called Jonny-Lonny.

“ Jonny-Lonny, Jonny-Lonny, the birds are circling, the birds are circling! Are they circling where you are?” “Uh. No. Why?” asked Jonny-Lonny, annoyed. “You don’t see any circling seagulls?” “No.”

This must be what it feels like to be whacked with a piece of falling sky.

Somehow, knowing that the circling birds were JUST in my neighborhood meant that it wasn’t some “7th Sign” or an animal-frenzied prediction of pending doom. It must be a dead animal attracting them, or bugs, like Krista suggested. Whew!

I’d like to tell you that this was the only time I pulled my “Chicken Little” act…but it wasn’t. The first time was just after 9-11 in 2001. I was alone in Wisconsin with my 3 children on a Sunday afternoon and I saw fighter jets flying over my house. FREAKED out that we were being attacked, I called the non-emergency police phone number and said:

“Is something going on? I just saw military planes flying overhead!”

“Lady, it’s the Packer Season Opener. They do fly-bys.”

I said what Chicken Little had, when she found out it was only an apple that had fallen on her poor little head:


Monday, September 15, 2008

Take our snake, please!

Wanted: Loving home for our beloved ball-python, Sabrielle:

She helps around the house and makes a wicked pan of lasagna. She is cuddly and remembers her manners. She is tidy and odor free. She speaks 4 different languages. She lays golden eggs.

Not buying it, are you? How about if I throw in a 19 year old?

Our son Jon wanted a snake for many years, but our answer was always “NO.” As a boy, he idolized Steve Irwin and wanted to be a snake expert. So… when my oldest son, David, went to college, leaving Jon without his lifelong buddy, we felt a suitable replacement would be the snake he’s always wanted. Fred came home with a young ball python in August of 2005 as a 16th birthday gift for Jon.

Initially, “Sabrielle” was pretty cool. I got brave enough to feel her black and white skin when Jon was holding her. Jon handled her frequently, so she got used to him. Jon was buying food and reptile bark---all was well.

Eventually though, disgusting things that have to do with owning snakes started to rear their ugly, reptilian, “scaley” heads. Snakes spend every free moment trying to get free. They don’t relax the vigil. They test the perimeters, “Jurassic Park” style, constantly looking for weaknesses.

The feeding procedures are not for those with weak stomachs. They eat frozen mice that you thaw and “offer” by wiggling, so the snake thinks it’s killing a live mouse. Fred and Jon rigged a “feeding” bin with a slot and a cardboard paddle like a spatula. It was genius…and grotesque.

Interesting fact: When snakes eat, they GROW…and shed their skin, which does not come off in one, right-side-out tube like on T.V.; it comes off in flakes that cover the bottom of the cage. The last flap of skin to shed is always over its eyes, rendering it blind. When it’s blind, it doesn’t know the different between a yummy mouse and your hand.

For months I swore Sabrielle smelled. I insisted Jon keep his door shut at all times (now, what the smell was doing to Jon and his lungs in the room together with “Putrid the Snake” was of no consequence to me). However, when he went to college, we noticed the room, minus Jon, did not stink at all. We now blame his shoes.

With Jon away at college, and a promise he’d find a home or person to care for it for her, Fred offered to take care of Sabrielle for a while.

Things I said I’d never do:

1. Touch a bag of frozen mouse. Did it. Asked for a two-pack. A woman in line asked me what I had, and when I said they were frozen mice for a snake, she asked me if, when they were thawed, they came back to life (I’m not kidding).

2. Keep “said frozen mouse” in our laundry room freezer. Did that too. That’s one way to starve me off of ice cream.

3. Prance around the house with it wrapped about me like Brittney Spears. Nope. Still wouldn’t do that--not unless it made me look thinner.

It’s been a full year of snake-sitting now. Jon returned home last weekend, just in time to feed Sabrielle. He left the mouse out to thaw, but had to leave in a hurry. He reminded Fred to feed her and then left.

Hours later…

I said, “Fred, did you ever feed Jon’s snake?” “No. I didn’t. I’ll do it now.” Fred got up.

We walked into the “Jon/Sabrielle Suite” and found that, unlike his usual thawing method of leaving it on top of the grate above the snake terrarium with a light on, he tried to hurry things along by putting the mouse, on top of its rodent dinner bag, on the room heater…ON FULL BLAST! The fur-singed smell of mouse fricassee wafted through the room, driving the snake into a frenzy. Half-crazy by the smell of baking mouse, Sabrielle was jutting her head up at the top of the grate, nearly pushing it up and off.

Are you sure you won’t take the 19 year old?

Bidet in My House

The story of why there was a Bidet in my childhood home goes like this. My Dad, upon hearing my Mom talk about Europe and the Swiss “facilities,” insisted the architect designing our new home in the mid-1960s add it to the plans. It was an average sized, modest home with a great-room, big fireplace and the unusual apparatus in the only full bathroom. Our Bidet was lemon yellow, to match our other porcelain utilities, with a hot/cold control on the wall, and a douche lever, which controlled the height of the up-spraying water. You’d sit reverse-toilet style, and…..well, douche.

Mom would parade guests on tours of the house and proudly point it out. Most adult visitors in the ‘60s and ‘70s had never seen or heard of one before. They asked if it was a urinal, a very low drinking fountain or, I actually heard someone guess, a bird bath. To Mom, it was a status symbol; a useful and grand addition. To me, it was a source of embarrassment

Because we had one and a half baths, anyone using the larger bathroom noticed the mysterious trough. When I was little, my friends would ask me, “What does it do?” “I think it’s a foot bath,” I’d answer, not really knowing. One day I asked:

“It’s for washing your backside,” my Mom said, plainly. “Crocodile Dundee” stole that line from my mother.

We had equipment for butt-washing…with a douche lever on it!!!

I hated that Bidet.

No kid wants to be famous for having the only butt-washer in the township. I took a lot of flack for that Bidet. Somehow, someone on my street found out, and told someone, who told someone, who told someone. Having a Bidet in my house was the equivalent of having an “accident” in your pants; more embarrassing than having your dress tucked up into your panty hose in a glass elevator, descending into an atrium full of people; more humiliating than sprinting for a tossed bridal bouquet, then tripping…and missing.

It’s impossible to blend in when the whole neighborhood knows you have a butt-washer.

“You must have really dirty butts to have a BUTT-washer in your house.”

“Haven’t you ever heard of toilet paper?”

“I bet your MOM uses it.”

All those comments made sense to me, so I never made a move to defend the “offending” porcelain "doucher."

“Mom, why do we HAVE to have a Bidet?”

“It’s the perfect way to get clean.” Mom said. “Everyone should have one.”

When I was older and had friends over, I’d try to cover it up or make sure the door was closed. “Don’t go in there. We have a vicious dog.” I’d lie.

Oh—did I mention our Bidet was loud?? The bathroom was right next to my bedroom. At night, and in the morning, we’d hear first the water running, then a whining of the pipes, then a noisy whoosh-bubbling, full-on hose sound. That sound could only mean one thing…someone was washing their butt!

I NEVER used it. Even if I wanted to—I wouldn’t have given “it,” or my Mom, the satisfaction. The only time I can ever remember thinking it made sense was right after I gave birth to my kids, and by that time, I had already moved out. It would have been a little awkward at that point:

“Mom, I’d like to use your bathroom.”

“What’s wrong with yours?”

“Nothing. Can I?”
”Uh—O.K., dear.”

Whooooshhhhh…. Bubble, bubble

Upon hearing those sounds emit from the bathroom—Mom would have been well satisfied.