Let's get one thing straight

I love Erma Bombeck. But I ain't her. Unfortunately. OMG. That's the first time I ever wrote "ain't."

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The dog's butt towel

If you look very closely at my logo, you will see common items from my daily tedium noted on a long list. And no, your eyes are not deceiving you. The first item really does say "Wash dog's butt towel."

Let me explain.

It's pretty simple, really. I'm a mom and washing butt towels is what a mom does, right? So, I guess the bigger story is in explaining exactly what a butt towel is.

Fifteen years ago, my husband (now my ex) bought me a dog for my birthday. I fell in love with the tiny, shaky, big-eared little guy (dog, not ex) when I first saw him. He was the runt. He needed me (a theme which also explains that particular marriage).  This little dog is the only good thing that's ever come out of my former co-dependence.

He's a min-pin. For those who don't know the breed, he's a yappy lap dog but looks like a bad, mean doberman.

I'm stating the obvious when I say that the dog far outlasted the relationship with the ex.

Regardless, I now have a 15 year old dog. He's bumpy and lumpy and smells like a nursing home. No matter what I do. Even after treatment and teeth cleaning, the little guy still has a condition that we in the Pennington household refer to as "butt mouth."

We've adjusted to butt mouth, but another old dog affliction recently surfaced. Apparently, he's lost a little control of his body functions. It's not bad, but we've noticed that on his way to the door to go out, we might find a small puddle near the door where he just didn't quite make it in time.

It's the same with bowel movements. In human terms, we'd refer to this as "skid marks." But since my dog doesn't wear whitey-tighties, we have to do something to protect our laps when he sits with us.

And that's where the butt towel comes in.

So, in a way, a butt towel is a whitey-tighty alternative for dogs.

And now you know the first chore on my daily to do list.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

No, I don't write adult content...not that there's anything wrong with that

I'm a freelance writer and I'm working toward a master's degree.

There's some thought among my instructors that if you get paid for writing, what you're doing is far less important than the books of poetry they are paying to have published. They write for art. I write for...(spit at my feet) money. They write for the appreciation of the word. I write for that horrible green stuff.

So, they've prostitutionalized what I do. (How's that for word art? I created that one myself!)

I've always got this in the back of my mind, especially since so much of my work is ghost writing. Already, I'm a secret -- like a cheap rendezvous. But, whenever I pay my bills, I smile and scoff at the instructors who insist we buy their books so they can get royalties or those who pay just so they can have a book.

But a potential client crossed the line the other day. And it brought the whole idea of prostitutionalization to a new level.

The number on caller ID said, "Blocked." My husband's job is in law enforcement. A lot of times calls from him or from former coworkers looking for him say "blocked," so I answered expecting to talk to a familiar voice.

Instead, the voice was New Yorkish. I watch TV. I know a New York accent when I hear it.

"Yes, I got your name from your resume online at Guru," he said. Guru.com is a great place to find work if you want to get started as a freelance writer.

"Do you write adult content?" he asked.

I immediately started laughing. Not only do I NOT write adult content, I can't even have a conversation about adult content. Not without using terms like "um, the booty's neighbor" or "you know, that." I finally two years ago forced myself to read a Harlequin romance novel. I was convinced if I ever read one, I could churn them out easily. What I didn't factor in was my modesty factor and embarrassment level.

But as I'm laughing at a stranger, I realize that this man may own an adult website, but he may also own the best parenting website in the world that I might love to work for. So I regroup and apologize and explain my embarrassment level. 

I Seinfelded my response: "No, I don't write adult content...not that there's anything wrong with that." Then I tell him that I understand there is a market for his niche website, but I'm just not the writer he needs. That sounded diplomatic.

Then he whispers, "I don't have a website." He began talking faster, "This is just for me to live out my fantasy. You're the only one I've talked to today that hasn't hung up on me. I just want someone to write my story so I can relive my fantasy over and over, through literature."

Yay. With one blocked call, I've become a weirdo magnet. I laughed again and decided to make a move.

"Sir, may I ask you a personal question before you go on?"


"Are you married?"

"Yes, I am married." 

"Do you love your wife?"

"Yes, I love my wife."

"Then I suggest you talk to her. She needs to be the only person you discuss this fantasy with. And before you hit her up to become part of something you've created in your mind ask yourself if it's worth risking losing the reality that you have. And if you choose the fantasy over reality, do your wife a favor and leave her so she can find a decent husband, one who will love her and cling to her alone, not some weird fetish you've got going."

Then I hung up.

I went to my Guru profile and reviewed it again and again. Finally I found the phrase that I think triggered the call. "I can put your thoughts into words and images." My intent was to promote my writing and graphic design skills. Ooops.

Anyway, the call proved to me that I'm not a word prostitute. Earning a living and selling out are two very different things.

Don't they make fairies and mythies for us 40-somethings?

The Easter Bunny will be dropping by to fill my daughter's basket this year. Judging by our conversation tonight, it will probably be the last year.

"Mama, in a way the Easter Bunny is better than Santa because kids don't have to stress about how good they've been. I mean he doesn't bring Nintendos or anything. It's just candy."

Hm. She's right.

Then she asked if Santa spies on kids all year long with hidden cameras. The Erin Andrews peephole video came to mind. I shuddered. I quickly regained composure and found what every homeschooling parent is constantly on the lookout for -- an opportunity to teach.

So I explained to her that the Fourth Amendment protects us from unreasonable search and seizure. That simply updating a naught or nice list wouldn't give Santa probable cause to spy on kids and that judges would not allow a search warrant to be issued to allow for hidden cameras, etc.

"I'm not sure how the Patriot Act affects things." I added. "I don't think it would come into play unless the kid or his parents were suspected terrorists." I was pretty proud of myself. I could feel myself beaming.

Until I noticed her eyes had glassed over.

"Let's change the subject," she said, stretching and yawning.

After tucking her into bed, I stayed up late and thought about it. I found out from a helpful neighborhood kid about Santa when I was only 5. Now that I'm nearly almost technically exactly in my mid-40s, I'd like to recapture some of those youthful myths, with an adult twist of course.

Leprechaun -- Instead of leading you to a pot of gold, how about to a pot of argan oil to tame those wild gray hairs that always stand up on top of your head?

The Easter Bunny --The bunny from our childhood needs to be replaced by a more mature hare that leaves sugar free candies with a responsible note warning that if you eat too many, you're subject to experience booty blowout.

Santa Claus -- Meno Paus leaves bad women on hormonal tirades hot bags of coals in their bed covers to make them sweat excessively at night. BUT, a good woman gets an ice bag and Spanx stuffed with estrogen cream.

How does Meno Paus know who has been naughty? Duh. Some jerk filmed you and uploaded it to YouTube. He also monitors your Facebook status.

Maybe Rankin-Bass Productions would use their 1970s stop animation techniques to make a Meno Paus cartoon to air on the new Oprah Winfrey Network. (I hope they use Mickey Rooney as the voice of Meno!)

The Tooth Fairy -- At this stage, I could really go for a Wrinkle Fairy. Upon examination of a sleeping face, the Wrinkle Fairy would realize that the fine lines and indentations there don't coincide with any on the pillowcase and she'd get to work nipping, tucking and stretching to restore smooth, wrinkle free skin. And in case there's any doubt the real Wrinkle Fairy has been there, she should leave a jar of eye cream under my pillow.

I'm okay with being older. I'm glad to have learned some valuable life lessons. But it sure wouldn't hurt to kick back and enjoy a new twist on some old myths either!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

I don't want to feel stabby. I just want a ceiling fan.

Maturity is leaving when you start to feel stabby, not waiting to be escorted out for acting that way.

I know. Quality thoughts like that must be Confucius, but I actually get credit for it. Well, it wasn't all me. The sales jerk clerk at a nationally-known home improvement store inspired the revelation.

Summer is coming and my daughter's room stays warmer than any other room in the house. She's got a cute, girly ceiling fan in a room that is massive. She needs a bigger fan.

The one in my room is perfect. It's got large "palm leaf" blades and on the slowest setting, you don't even feel a breeze -- just nice, cold air. So, I went to buy another one.

They have the fan with polished pewter finish and the light kit in rubbed bronze. If you haven't looked at finishes yet, that means the fan has shiny silverish metal trims and the light kit looks like dark rusty stuff. Call me crazy, but for $200 I want my light kit and fan to match.

The associate is easy to find. He's helping a high-maintenance middle aged woman who demands that they disassemble a displayed fan for her to take to her new home site right now. Because "the guy who installs fans is only going to be there today." Around my house, we call that guy Daddy or Jim. And he does it for free because it will cut the cost of our electric bill and keep the kiddo and me happy.

The guy called a manager who insisted they could find one at a nearby store about 20 minutes away, but that wasn't good enough. High-maintenance Lady would rather wait for them to take the fan down there. The manager was apparently trying to determine their policy on such matters.

I'd listened to enough, but stood patiently waiting for my turn to ask my simple question. As the associate and the woman stood silently waiting for the manager to return, I approached the clerk to ask my quick question. He held up a finger and said, "One minute. I'm with someone else right now."

Forget that he was standing beside her not saying a word. Forget that I'd waited for about 10 minutes without so much as an acknowledgment. Forget that I wanted to show him a finger but didn't because I didn't want to explain its meaning to my kid. So, I waited.

Finally, the manager returns and the clerk walks over to me and says, "Now, what do you need?"

I could have been rude, but I was just happy to get some help. I was going to have everything at home when Jim returned this weekend so he could get it installed. In my own little way, I was doing home improvement even though it meant someone else had to do the actual work.

"Do you have the fan and a light kit in the same finish?" I asked. He looked appalled. Or disgusted. Thinking that something must have come across wrong,  I quickly explained. "The fan's finish is polished pewter but the light kit's finish is rubbed bronze. I'd just like them to match."

He says to me, "You have to have THIIIS (points to light kit) to go HEEEERE (points to fan box)."


Apparently me standing there silent meant I didn't understand, so he helped me out with further details. "THIIIS (points to the light kit) goes HEEEERE (points to exact location on the fan box).

So I figure maybe he'll understand my question if I speak his language: "I just want one of THIIIS (point to light kit) with a finish that matches this HEEEERE (point to fan box). Do you have that?"

I figured I'd get an apology. Surely he would realize how condescending he'd sounded and want to make nicey. Instead, he looked at me and said...

"If I had that on sale, I'd tell you."

And that's when I realized I had my revelation. AND that's why I'm driving 50 miles more today to buy the exact fan somewhere else.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Why don't you write like Erma Bombeck? Yeah. I'll add that to my list of things to do.

Most of the conversations I have outside my house go like this:

"So, what kind of work do you do?"

"I'm a writer."

"What do you write?"

"I'm a ghost writer for the craft industry. I write blogs and web content."

No matter who I'm talking to, by this time their eyes have glazed over. It was worse when I wrote lesson plans for an education company.

People under 40 tend to change the subject. Those 40 and over come back with the same thing:

"You're kinda funny. You should write like Erma Bombeck."

Hmm. Now why didn't I think of that? I mean, she's the only author I read by choice in junior high and high school. Yeah, I was middle aged and suburban way before my time. Her book If Life is a Bowl of Cherries, What am I Doing in the Pits? was a lot funnier than Ethan Frome. And she used punctuation -- unlike a certain Faulkner I know.

Then I think about how the web content writing pays my bills. No one has ever hired me to write like Erma Bombeck, although there was this one lady who let me write silly stuff about a serious subject. It's always a good day when you get paid to write a poem plus get to use the phrase "cow pooties" in it. So when people tell me that I should write like Erma, I usually think to myself, "Yeah. I'll put that on my list of things to do in my free time."

My mom said it the other day. "You should write like Erma Bombeck."

"Write what?" I asked.

"Funny books. Funny books would be good. You used to write those funny columns for the newspaper and the mayor even told you how much he liked them."

But she had forgotten the rest of that story. I was talking to the mayor one day who told me how much he loved to read my weekly humor column. Then he mentioned how tired he was of reading another local columnist who often wrote about his family. "I'm so tired of reading about his kid's milestones. Like no other kid has ever done the same thing," he said. Just then, that writer walked up and the mayor shook his hand and said, "I was just telling this young lady how much I look forward to hearing about that kid of yours. I sure do love those columns you write."

Yeah. So the mayor thing is not a compliment.

My mom refuses to be computer literate. I tried to explain to her that these days many bloggers write like Erma did. And that people can read their blogs online for free all day long. What would make them buy a book?

"Well, I don't have all the answers," she snapped back. "I just think you should write like Erma Bombeck. She was even on Good Morning America."

Here's my out: "You know, the camera adds 10 pounds. I can't be on GMA. I'm already overweight as it is."

"About that, you need to get off that computer and get outside. And quit snacking so much. You've got to cut out the junk food."  Just as I'm about to bust into my "I never snack" routine, I hear a beep. "Oh, the brownies are done. How about a hot brownie with butter on it?" she beams.