My Daughter Lives at the Shopping Mall

My daughter lives at the shopping mall. I bring her food sometimes. I’d give her money – they have a food court, after all – but it would become too expensive.

You’d think someone would tell her to leave. But she is so small – barely five feet tall – and they do not notice her.

I don’t know what she does there all day long. She does not tell me much. I try to watch her - from afar, of course, so she will not order me to leave. But she is so quick, flitting from store to store like a butterfly. In moments, she evades me.

I wonder who she meets at the mall. She is such a social creature. Do her friends visit? Do they have teenaged sleepovers at J.C. Penney, in the bedding department, perhaps? After the night watchman has gone and the lights are low.

I never knew it would turn out like this. But then, my child has always gone her own way. She knows what she likes. Apparently, she likes the mall.

One day I will go there and find that she has become a permanent fixture. Carved in stone or perhaps, sculpted in metal. A statue placed in front of Claire’s. I will bring her flowers and talk to her as if she is real. They will think I’m crazy, but I will know better.

You may be thinking that I am a bad mother. I did not put up a fight when she wanted to go. But I am not selfish. I have given my daughter freely. I can’t keep her all to myself.

So the mall she roams. She is happy there. And why not? She does not have to clean her room. There are no dishes to load. Nobody cares if her ear phones are permanently cemented inside her ears – they understand that music is her life now. And what joy – she does not have to bathe! She’s too busy shopping, after all.

I’m not sure if she’s ever coming back. But if she does, I will tell her I love her. I will admire her new skinny jeans, even if they are too tight.

But since she just moved there last week, I think I have awhile. So I will get her a housewarming present. A gift certificate to her favorite store, perhaps, or a sturdy pair of walking shoes. Or maybe I’ll buy her a potted plant to put by her favorite store. Isn’t that what you typically bring people who have moved somewhere else?

Advice from a Professional Walker

Here’s how I like to walk for exercise. I would recommend it wholeheartedly, so that you don’t have to work out too strenuously. This is what I do: I think a reasonable, prudent amount of walking is to walk as long as it takes to have to remove a layer of clothing. When I am sweating sufficiently enough to remove a jacket, for example, that tells me that I have had a good workout. Obviously, I wouldn’t advise it in the winter, if, like me, you live in frigid, icy North Carolina, because it is cold and typically you need to wear each and every layer you own when outdoors. Especially if you’re from Florida and are used to blistering heat around the clock.

Now, my smart readers are probably already putting two and two together on this and have wondered just how many layers one should wear when going for a good cardio-vascular-pumping walk. I usually go with five or six: a t-shirt, a long-sleeved shirt, a light sweater, a light jacket and a heavier jacket. For colder weather, a scarf counts as a layer. Obviously, the warmer it is, the better. I suffer the least amount of time from over-exertion on warm days, as I need to remove a layer rather early on. Sometimes, I am just a few feet away from my driveway when I am forced to take off a jacket and return home for a snack – some good carbs and proteins to replenish my body after its taxing workout, of course – it’s a shame when this happens on a nice, sunny day when the birds are singing. I’d probably like to be outside longer on those days. But rules are rules.

Meanwhile, today, on a chilly February day, it was sunny outside and I made the mistake of thinking it would be a good day to walk. Wrong. I was so cold that I could not remove not one layer of clothing! Not even one of the seven scarves I put on, just to make sure my neck didn’t freeze. So, I had to keep walking for nearly a half an hour. I was forced to miss my mid-afternoon snack, which is very bad because I look forward to each and every one of my snack times during the day. I would still be walking now if I didn’t have to pick up my kids from school. Like I said, rules are rules. But I don’t think they should cause the children to have to suffer, do you?

Jumping In

I stood on the dock, at the edge of the pond, looking down into the dark black water. Poised to jump, but suddenly, I couldn’t. My body was frozen, but why? I had jumped into murkier waters than this. In fact, I had jumped into many a lake in my time. Just jumped in, without a care. Why, suddenly, was I afraid? My friend, bobbing comfortably on her float, assured me it was deep enough. Had I developed a mistrust of the universe?

Time stopped as I waited frozen on the edge, wanting to jump into the water, but unable to move.

My friend’s 12-year-old daughter climbed onto the dock and stood beside me. “Hold my hand,” she ordered, her long hair dripping water. “I’ll jump in with you.”

I held her hand, intending to drop it.

“Ready?” she asked.

“No,” I answered.

“Yes, you are,” she said confidently, with all of her young wisdom.

And as she jumped, in that split second of space where anything is possible, I felt the jolt of her hand holding firmly to mine and I knew I couldn’t fail her. There was nothing I could do but splash into the water with her and I held fast to her hand until we both came up to the surface to take a breath.

“See?” she said. “Easy.

“See?”

Dressing Room Horrors

It had to be done. I had been avoiding it for months, but alas, it could wait no longer. Busting at the seams and poked by a wayward wire, two friends who’ve been with me for years needed a new home.

Yes, it was time once again to go bra shopping.

I took a long, hard swig of whiskey, prayed to the Goddesses for strength, and called my mother.

“Please come with me,” I begged.

“No way in hell,” she said, smartly. Who could blame her? It was an event that would no doubt get ugly.

So, I promised myself that, if I survived, I would allow myself to eat an entire box of drugstore chocolates while watching reruns of The Andy Griffith Show, to calm myself down.

Inside the store, I approached the lingerie section, heart beating fast, and prayed for a miracle. Little did I know I was headed for a 2-day bra shopping fest that would permanently scar me for life.

A friendly saleswoman, young and perky and full of excitement about the world of brassieres, was suddenly standing beside me, eyeing my chest with a professional eye.

“Can I put you into a bra today?” she asked. (I later found out that her true passion – and talent - was in used car sales.)

After trying on approximately 624 and a half (after the 623rd, I had frankly lost interest in the whole business) bras, I resigned myself to three that allowed me to breathe while simultaneously wearing them, and left the store victorious. The saleswoman stood waving as I made my departure, a tear of joy in the corner of her left eye. Maybe her dog had died that day. Maybe she was ridiculously happy that I was finally leaving. Whatever the case, I’d like to say that my bra-shopping adventure ended here, with me walking off into the sunset, firmly clad in one of my new acquisitions.

Think again. After wearing one of the bras for a few hours, I realized that my friendly bra fitter had failed me. The dang thing was sucking my will to live. It was so tight, it made strap marks that would remain for the rest of my life.

So, the next morning, I was back at the store. The last salesperson was gone and in her place was an approximately 118-year-old gal who moved so slow I didn’t think she’d get me re-measured by nightfall.

“Are you shy?” she asked, as she hunkered down to watch me try on some of the bras she’d brought into the dressing room.

Yes, I was, thank you very much, so I waited for about 45 minutes as she made her way out of the dressing room, looking back with every step, disappointed that she would not be enjoying the show. When I finally found a bra that seemed to fit properly, I called her in. She nearly did a jig.

“Let me take a look,” she said, pushing her eyeglasses up to the top of her nose. She practically felt me up as she poked and prodded. I think she was gay.

“You look great,” she said pushing me in front of the mirror. “Look.”

Have mercy, I said. I didn’t want to have to look at those enormous things, sqooshed into submission in one of those terrible, deadly contraptions.

I ended up buying two of the dang things, just to get out of her clutches. I may return them, if I can ever bring myself to walk anywhere near a bra again. But, probably, I will keep them. They’re not perfect, but they’re better than me going bra-less, a sight that tends to scare puppies and young children.

The other woman is a washing machine

I have a problem. My husband is in love with our new washing machine.

“It’s so quiet,” he says, rubbing the top gently.

For weeks, he had shopped to find the best deal on this new paragon of clothing cleanliness. He found her one glorious Saturday afternoon, but still, he didn’t rush it. He visited her frequently, to make sure the fit was right. And one day, a big truck appeared in front of our house. Big, strong men carried her in, while my husband watched, a wide grin on his face.

I think he loves the new washing machine better than me.

But I can’t say I blame him. In fact, this state-of-the-art front loader has loads of attributes that I don’t. For example:

1. She sings a song when she’s done with each cycle.
2. All you need to do is gently lean against her sensitive digital power button to turn her on.
3. She doesn’t curse while she’s working.

I can’t compete with that.

Weighty Issues of the Day

Once, when I was at a three-year-old birthday party with my son, I sat down on a plastic kiddy chair and the legs collapsed under me. There I was, sitting on the floor, with four lime-green chair leg stubs poking out from under my rear. That should have been my wake-up call. It wasn’t. I stood up, grateful that no one had noticed, and righted the chair, which thankfully sprung back into its pre-flattened state. Two minutes later, the cake was served and I was third in line (the birthday girl and her speedy, sugar-addicted brother got there first.)

That was five years ago. Now, I’m so chubby that my fingers are almost too fat to type this. Sdee whaty hasppens whjen I typ[ - mny finghers arew sop fatg thjey ofgten hitr trwo keyts at a ftimwe. Quite frankly, this is getting in the way of my lucrative writing career. Also, it’s hard to focus on getting work done when you’re dreaming about the next meal. I’m so perpetually hungry, I can eat a whole chicken practically any time of the day.

And here’s the ironic part. I now have no clothes to wear, so I can’t go to the store to shop for chicken. Even my socks are too tight. Soon, it will be time to buy a new bathing suit. Obviously, I’ll have to order it online. The last time I went bathing suit shopping, my scream of horror was so loud, it scared everyone out of the store. If I was prone to steal, I could have taken all the bathing suits there, but even just one that would fit me would take up nearly all my trunk space – I’d have to plan in advance and rent a U-haul. The same goes for bras. I need one of those, too, because very soon, my breasts will resume their rightful place about an inch above my kneecaps. But I’m worried that I’ll have to be carried out in a stretcher if I try to shop for one of those.

One of my friends recently posted a surreptitiously-taken photo of me and my 16.5 chins on her Facebook page. I’ve realized that if I’m going to be hanging around sneaky people like that and also, if I want to look in a mirror ever again without feeling queasy, I’ve got to do something. I have to find a hobby more exciting than eating, if that’s possible.

But first, it’s time for breakfast.

So funny it hurts...

My new life as a non-crippled person, circa about two months ago, has not gotten off to an auspicious start.

To wit:

I banged up my car AGAIN on my vicious, noxious, sadistic, satanic garage wall (yes, I do really believe it is a living thing. Unfortunately for me, it doesn’t have a SOUL or a CONSCIENCE.) Pulled the shower head out of the wall and broke it. Decided to poach an egg in the microwave and after taking it out and pricking it with a fork, watched it explode all over the kitchen - weeks later, I am still retrieving egg fragments in odd places. Broke the zipper on my beloved jean purse, which is beyond repair. Broke the zipper on my jeans – the last pair that I could comfortably pull up over my knees. Smashed my finger when the washing machine lid fell on it. Woke up one morning to find 36 new pimples on my face, several nearly as large as my head. (Apparently, I am a teenager again.) To date, 27 of them still call my face home. Lost my keys, lost my glasses, lost my ring, lost my sanity. Found my keys, found my glasses, am still lamenting loss of said ring and have given up on ever retrieving my sanity.

The husband would like to think these events happened because he was out of town.
Heads up! I will soon be returning with more of my literary magic! After extreme injuries, resulting in an exciting whirlwind of physical (and mental) rehabilitation, all is now right on the planet again. (Well, as right as can be, in a world constantly teetering on the brink of cosmic disaster.) So, take heart - soon you will have a reprieve from your daily life of plebeian drudgery - entertainment at its finest here on my blog that very few people read....

P.B.K.G.: A Water-Soaked Life Lesson

Pull, breathe, kick, glide. She made it sound so easy.

Here I am, swimming laps at the local Y, minding my own chlorine-soaked business, when I see in my peripheral vision a lifeguard standing at the edge of the pool, waving her arms at me.

I can’t go anywhere without making a splash. So I wasn’t surprised about the sudden attention. I was either doing something unusual or illegal, no doubt.

My heart skipped a beat as I looked up at her – a big, hulking brute with a whistle around her neck and a notepad in her hand. But I wasn’t going to let her intimidate me. I had as much right as anyone else to be in that pool – so what if I looked ridiculous in my flashy purple and green goggles and glowing blue swim cap.

“Would you like some advice about your breast stroke?” she asked, nodding as if the only answer I was allowed was ‘yes.’

(Though quite frankly, I’d really rather some advice about my breasts, which are expanding and sagging as we speak, but that’s another story.)

Meekly, I nodded my head.

But, oh, the irony. She had just interrupted my fantasy that I was a world-champion swimmer, leaving my competitors well behind, swimming my little heart out in perfect form. I was feeling superior, in my element. After all, I spent my childhood in our very own backyard pool and I suffered through about a gazillion swimming lessons every summer.

I was swimming too fast, she said, like I was doing a “doggie paddle” – concentrating all of my efforts on reaching the other side, without paying any attention to form.

I needed to pull wider, slower, harder. I needed to remember to breathe. I had to kick while moving forward. And finally, I had to glide.

I sighed heavily, trying to soak it all in, put it together in my mind.

When, suddenly, a second lifeguard sauntered over. (My swimming style certainly must have stood out.)

“I try to lift my chest out of the water with each stroke,” he said, demonstrating, arms held high over his head like a grizzly bear threatening its prey.

Easy for him, I thought. His chest doesn’t feature a pair of breasts, each weighing about 53 pounds.

But I listened. And I tried. And I made progress, in fact. I wasn’t swimming as fast as before, but I was steadily moving forward, in good form. Maybe one day, I'd go faster.

And in my head, I kept repeating her wise words.

Just pull, breathe, kick, glide.

Dog Blog

My relationship with dogs started when I was a young child, on a sunny day in the dining room of my best friend Susan’s house. Her dog, Sabrina, who was as large as a baby elephant, chased me around Susan’s dining room table, like I was the tastiest doggy treat ever. Luckily, I was a fast runner.

Still, I barely made it out of there alive.

So you can understand why I now choose my best friends based on their dog ownership status. I try not to associate with people who have dogs, especially those who are bigger than me.

Which begs the question: Why did I move to Asheville - a city that has roughly 326 dogs per square inch? A place where you can’t hear the crickets at night over the baying dogs. Where you have to pass by a pooch on your way to the fiction section at your neighborhood book store.

Quite simply, I didn’t do my research. And it’s too late to move – I’ve unpacked all of my important knick knacks.

One of my favorite people in Asheville told me, “You are too removed from nature to appreciate a dog licking you.”

This - coming from a man who enjoys terrorizing the pit bull who lives on his street - is hard to swallow. After all, I love nature. I appreciate the importance of all living things. I can’t even squash a beetle. Do I have to love being licked by dogs, too?

And do I have to watch dogs licking other people? My cousin recently sent the entire universe a video of his baby daughter with their dog. The dog was licking the child all over, even on the lips! Quite frankly, it was unnerving.

The other day, I was in my local grocery store (which I now have to consider a strike against), innocently on my way to some cheese, when I happened to glance at a frozen food display case holding French fries, chicken cutlets and….ice cream for dogs. Ice cream for DOGS? Did I read that correctly (or is it just another sign telling me I need to suck it up and buy those reading glasses I’ve been avoiding?) Are we soon going to see these furry beasts lounging on park benches, licking ice cream cones?

The only good thing about dogs is that they can be a topic of fairly animated discussion when you’ve run out of things to talk about on a lunch date, particularly if you’re dining with fellow dog-averse people. I was recently at a restaurant with some friends and we were discussing how people who own dogs treat their dogs like people. They take them everywhere and talk to them like they have a clue. We were conjecturing about where dogs would live if they weren’t pets and when (and why, of course) people started keeping dogs as pets. Then, we spent the next hour listing all of the bad things about dogs and I have to say, it was quite cathartic.

Dogs have special powers that frighten me. They are, most of the lot, mind-readers. They know that I think they smell and they’re insulted. Like my neighbor’s dog, who for a time, would run towards my car, barking in a frenzy and hurling himself against the trunk, as I drove by his house. I nearly ran over the dang critter a few times – by accident, of course.

Last month I was suffering at the YMCA, trying to contort my body into all sorts of unnatural positions in an exercise class, when I looked up to find a rather large dog staring right at me. Dogs at the gym now, too? Turns out it was a service dog, being trained and “learning how to be comfortable among people.” I’m opposed to that. I don’t want dogs comfortable around people. I want them to be scared silly when I'm around. Mostly so that they will choose not to bite me, despite their natural instinct.

Meanwhile, the bitter irony is that I can’t seem to keep dogs out of my otherwise serene life. Two dog-loving editors have forced me at gunpoint to write stories about dogs. My book club has selected a book about dogs (if I’d have known, I would have protested, believe me.) Then, I get the June issue of Oprah magazine in my mailbox (I’m, now, of course, not going to renew) and on the front cover, the woman is holding a bunch of dogs in her lap! Is someone trying to tell me something here?

Yesterday, I was driving behind someone whose license plate read, “YAP.” She’s probably a dog lover. I'm surprised she didn't have one of those "God is Dog Spelled Backwards" stickers on her bumper. I'd like to meet the people who make those stickers and tell them a thing or two. I’d like to chase that woman's car and hurl myself into her trunk in protest.

I might just do it, if I were a dog.

I’m Not Really Green – I’m Just Being Lazy

I’m working on a story about being eco-friendly to save money. Yes, it is possible to live economically and be green at the same time. But I don’t do these eco-friendly things to be green or even save money. I do them because I’m lazy.

For example, I haven't cut down on doing the laundry to save energy. I’m bedecked in dirty duds to cut down on laundry time and effort. Sure, my clothes aren’t perfectly clean – I'll admit it. But who notices a little dirt anyway?

And I don’t buy some of my food organic because I want to save the planet – I do it because I’m an anxiety-ridden paranoid where my kids are concerned – I don’t want the pesticides to kill them young – because they might, you know. And who knows – the animal hormones could cause one of them to grow a third breast! Wouldn’t want that.

I'm also sad to say that I don’t keep the house a mess to be eco-friendly – I don’t clean too often because I’m lazy. Why clean the floor if it’s just going to be caked in mud from us tromping in through the garden anyway?

And speaking of gardening: I don’t garden because I want to help the environment or save money on food (most of my plants will probably die anyway because I am likely to become too lazy and abandon them.) I garden because it’s fun to see things grow. And who cares if my clothes are dripping with dirt – I’m not doing the laundry anyway.

Yes, I'm in my happy place on a forest trail and I could have a crazy love affair with almost any tree. In fact, for some reason, it seems vital to me to pass on this earth adoration to my kids.

Can't I be protective of our precious planet and lazy as a floating leaf as well?

Right to bare arms causes near-disaster

I was driving along the Blue Ridge Parkway this morning, peaceful and relaxed. It was so quiet and beautiful. Everything was green and lush. Pink and white rhododendrons were peeking out from behind the pine trees. Dappled sunlight fell, making twisted shadow patterns onto the road ahead. Ahhh, so nice.

But I almost got into an accident because I looked down for a split second to see if my arms looked fat. In fact, I almost drove off the edge of the road. Because I just had to know. Was it true that after a few months, my arms had multiplied in size? Or was it just a nightmare? Sadly, it was all too true - my arms were indeed ridiculously large.

You could practically wrap a man-sized belt around one of my arms…only one time around. To be perfectly frank, I don’t think the nurse will be able to get a blood pressure band around either of these two monstrosities – my arms - at my next physical.

Why did nobody warn me that 42 is the year during which one develops fat arms and that such a phenomenon could happen in just a few months?

And where, for the love of God, am I going to find a bathing suit with long sleeves?

I don’t want to be a house

She said her name was Alaya, a name given to her by her “teacher” because it sounded like something “beautiful and flowing.” The sound of the name her parents gave her, Iris, didn’t suit her, she said.

Which makes me rethink my own name: Pam. Because come to think of it, my name sounds like a big, old rock, an unmoving lump. Pam. My name isn’t flowing, like Alaya’s. It’s not fair. I think I will change it to “Stream.”

I met Alaya at a “meditative dance” class. I was dragged, I mean, invited, by a new, and already, dear friend (who I now think may be half out of her mind, like the rest of the people in that class.)

Meditative dance – to me, that’s an oxymoron. I can’t concentrate on my dance moves if I’m busy meditating. Who could? (Of course, for me, meditation means it’s time to think about what I’ll be having for lunch and whether or not it’ll involve chocolate.)

Another problem with meditative dance is that you have to dance in a circle, holding hands. Maybe it’s just me, but it seems that when you’re holding hands with someone for longer than 10 minutes, hands tend to sweat profusely. This makes me start fantasizing about the moment I can, finally, wash my hands.

Then, just as I was thinking I’d make a break for it or maybe sever the cord to the CD player, the sprightly, white-haired gentleman on my right turned to me and said, “I’m so glad you are here.”

“Enjoy it while you can, old man,” I thought to myself.

So, of course, when the two-hour torture session, ahem, dance class, broke for a break halfway through, I ran outside for dear life, screaming something like, “Take me into the light. This is most god-awful class I’ve ever had to suffer through. Oh, the humanity.”

And because this was incredibly irreverent on my part, since after all, we were dancing in a “sacred space,” the Goddesses decided to have me trip over a rock and fall onto my shoulder, possibly dislocating it for the rest of my life.

But that can’t be as painful as meditative dance.

Because it got worse.

I was forced to be a “house,” arms held high so I could open up my “roof” to the new season of spring. Then, some of us were instructed to dance into the middle of the circle (without tripping over the lit candles, of course) to our “source” and “sprinkle water” over our bodies to be “renewed.” Then, the others gently placed their hands on our backs.

Afterwards, one woman said she felt “comforted by the supporting hands on her back.” Funny – what I’d been thinking was, “get your sweaty hands off me.”

Guess maybe I deserve the name, Pam. My spirit is not beautiful and flowing, like Alaya’s. But maybe that’s o.k. We all have our strengths. Mine don’t include pretending to be a house.

Surviving the latest vampire attack

I am here at the vampire’s office, waiting to have the life sucked out of me, drop, by drop, in a slow, agonizing bloodletting extravaganza.

I was there to have my blood tested for all sorts of maladies, most of which I’m likely to have.

At 42, I’m a day away from needing arthritis medication, and I know, absolutely, that I have a brain tumor. I had mentioned to my doctor at a routine checkup that I was feeling perpetually tired, along with an interesting assortment of other bodily annoyances, too embarrassing to mention.

Meanwhile, as directed by the nurse, I am drinking vast quantities of water, so that she will be able to easily find my veins. I am ready to pee in my pants as soon as it’s my turn. My veins are as thick as tootsie rolls. I try not to look at them.

“Thank you,” the victim right before me says, as he leaves.

“You’re thanking someone for torturing you?” I ask, eyes wide. Personally, I was planning to kick the nurse in the a- - when she was through with me, and extra hard if I think she enjoyed it.

When it was over, three hours later (the nurse insisted it only took 40 seconds, but of course, she was lying), I was grateful to be alive and surprisingly, still conscious.

Guess my luck is changing. It's entirely possible that I may not have a tumor, after all.

Everything’s okay. After all, I’ve got an angel.

I have an angel watching over me. Or so I’ve been told. But don’t be envious – you probably have one, too. As a matter of fact, as a professional angel reader told me the other day, most of us have several of them looking out for us.

Funny, my angels have been on hiatus since my second grade year, I told the angel reader. Apparently, they are now back on the job.

She laughed, knowingly, as anyone in her position would.

“They come to us when we need them and if we pay attention, we’ll know they’re there,” she explained.

Sounds good to me.

My angel's name is Delilah – a suitable name for an angel, I suppose. The angel reader told me that her hand was on my shoulder. That she would help me find my way to where I was supposed to be.

Can she get me a job? I asked. In these days, after all, it behooves us to be practical.

“You will speak in front of a group of people, who will ask for your services and pay you well for your talent,” she said.

Is the circus coming to town?

Stand-off with a geriatric

I almost got into a fist fight at the gym the other day.

There I was, pedaling furiously on my torture machine - I mean, exercise bike - when a senior gentleman to my right tried a pick a fight with me.

Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed him staring my way and figured that he had designs on my svelte, 40-something physique.

So I turned to offer him a gratuitous smile, when he said, "You don't HAVE to sing," with a smirk on his wrinkled countenance.

I apologized, but several seconds later, I was overcome with the stark inhumanity of his request. Since when is it a crime to hum at low decibels in a noisy gym? After all, one must somehow distract oneself from the cruel, unpleasantness of exercise.

Did I deserve such disrespect of tone, of innuendo, of blatant disregard for free speech (and song?) Is it my fault that I may simply need - as an impish friend later pointed out - singing lessons? (I trust that you are vigorously shaking your head, “no.”)

So, in the name of every other enthusiastic, slightly off-key aspiring rock star gal out there who has been wrongly stifled, I took a stand.

I didn’t pull any punches.

I just sang louder.

Flying Yarn

Don't needle me! Yes, I've become a knitting addict! I'm sorry we can't chat - I'm too busy knitting! But would you be interested in buying a custom, handmade scarf or purse? E-mail me at pamjh8@gmail.com!




Getting your pre-teen to talk. Be patient, but remember, bribery works faster.

The last conversation with my preteen daughter consisted of the following:

Me: How’s it going, Sweetie?
Preteen: Sup.
Me: Hey, I like your outfit.
Preteen (looks away from her comic book, frowning): Mom, did you know you’re developing a unibrow?

How sweet – the child cares about the state of my eyebrows. At that moment, I think we really bonded.

Pitiful, you say? I’ve lost my grip on reality? I disagree. What’s happening is that I’m learning to read between the preteen lines. You should take my advice – for your sanity - and do the same.

Here are a few more tips on keeping the lines of communication open during the nasty, ahem, tender pre-teen (and teen) years.

Be willing to ante up.

So what if it takes a little cash to make her spill her guts? It works.

Preteen: Can I have $5 to buy some stickers?
Me: No, unless you earn it.
Preteen: Mommy, I have a problem with my best friend because she doesn’t like my other best friend. What should I do?
Me: Here’s $10 for those stickers.

Capitalize on moments of weakness

My preteen will do almost anything to avoid going to sleep or doing her homework. She’ll even – GASP – talk.

So is it wrong if I let her put off doing her homework for a friendly chat? Am I a bad parent because we have our best conversations at 10 p.m., when the child should be asleep? These are desperate times – I do what I have to do. Where my kid’s psyche is concerned, I need to be in the know.

Learn the lingo

“That show was jank, yo.”

You need to know what that means.

In fact, call me if you want to come along to a 5-day “kids-speak” language seminar in the Bahamas next month – it’s an immersion program, which really is the best way to learn an intimidating, new language. The instructors are ages 10 – 14, and because they’re working for extremely good wages, they are quite friendly. If nothing else, we’ll get a tan at the beach and hang out with young people who will actually talk to us.

Stay positive

I don’t know about yours, but if I say the wrong thing to my preteen, she’ll clam up. So, when it’s time for a friendly reminder for her to clean her deathtrap – I mean, bedroom – my phrasing is delicate. I may say, “Sweat pea, that artistic arrangement of dirty socks is truly inspired. But perhaps you could clear a path so that the rats can make it over to your desk for one of the tasty food items you’ve left behind.”

Worship the written word

When they were little, we told them, “Use your words.” Remember that? Now, some of us are grateful if they at least write some of them down.

From the time she could scribble a few letters, my daughter and I have written notes to each other. Now, that’s often how I get the best 411. (Little did I know that I was training her for the annoying world of cell phone texting.)

Writing comes in especially handy when we’re having a disagreement or if I’ve done something wrong (which happens about every six or seven minutes.) I will write, ““I’m sorry I told everyone in my book club that you sing show tunes in your sleep, but I’m just so proud of your talent!”

I also leave notes to do a chore – like cleaning globs of green toothpaste off the counter - instead of telling her because I know the conversation will not be pretty.

Don’t expect to communicate outside of the home

It’s nearly impossible to have a fullfilling conversation in public with my daughter because she usually orders me to whisper. Soon, I’ll be banned from talking altogether. But she won’t get rid of me that easy – I intend to text her silly.

And work on that unibrow.

Whatever I do, I have to do it before ravenous hunger prevents me from getting to the gym…

Here is how my day as a woman of leisure starts out - the short list:
1. Eat breakfast, being sure to include all of the food groups, including chocolate, so that I can go on at least an hour or two before becoming ravenously hungry again.
2. Drop the kid off at school and miss him already. At the same time, try not to cheer too loudly or make skid marks on the asphalt while peeling away.
3. Head to the gym, praying that I don’t get hungry before arriving, which, as noted earlier, may deter me from the task at hand. Then, ride the stationary bike until my stomach starts growling.
4. Go home for lunch. Stop off at Chik-fil-a if my stomach growl is louder than the car engine and I can’t make it home.
5. Write in my journal about all sorts of unimportant things that don’t matter to anyone and which no one would ever want to read.
6. Check the most-dire, red-starred items on my to-do list, some of which could bring a couple of dollars into the household. Complete the three easiest things on said list, which, due to procrastination, now numbers to 162.
7. Go to the grocery store so that I can put food on my family’s table.(Note to self: Try to stop burning dinner.) Wonder why “Boston pork butt” is constantly being hawked by the Ingles grocery chain, with specials on this item nearly every day of the year. Survey random shoppers and deduce that no one has ever tried pork butt, hence the glut and constant sales. Suggest to the manager that they call it “derriere” instead of “butt,” so that it will sound French and will perhaps, finally, sell.
8. Return home, throw the frozen items in the pantry, the fruit in the freezer and get back to that to-do list. Get online, send out some more resumes, and break for some melted chocolate ice cream.

Random thoughts from the most incredibly lazy and unread blogger (and quite frankly, human being) out there:

• Calling all the gals out there who wear PJs to the store. I want to be your friend.

• I once had a friend who exercised even when she was sick as a dog. She claimed that the sweating removed all of the “toxins” from her body. I, on the other hand, prefer to wallow in bed and whine. I find that this course of action works best for me. If you’re the sort who will exercise at any cost, please don’t call me, unless you are planning to reform. I try not to associate with your kind.

• While at the drugstore this morning (in those PJs, remember?) the credit card machine asked me, as always, if the amount being charged was o.k. “No, it is NOT o.k.,” I scream, shaking the little, innocent machine with all my might. “It is NOT o.k. and I will NOT pay that ridiculous amount,” I holler even louder, scaring a small child nearby. “I would rather get my Valium for $1.99 – better yet, I’d like it for FREE.” Having said my peace, I pay for my stuff and stomp out of the store. It felt good.

• A friend of mine has joined the gray hair bandwagon. Yes, she’s ditching the dye. And if you’ve seen me lately, you’ve probably come to the conclusion that once again, so am I. (And why wouldn’t I? Gray matches my wardrobe of 96% black clothing, after all.) Silence that thought – it’s BLASPHEMY! So, yes, it’s time to get off my sorry old a-s and hobble over to my favorite organic grocery store for the finest all-natural hair color. Next, I will proceed to dye my brown-gray hair black as night and lament about it while washing it about 17 times to try to get some of the color out. It will soon have the consistency of straw, which will inspire me to put the stringy mess into a ponytail and wonder if maybe it would be more glamorous to go BALD. Then there will be the inevitable hair dye spots on the walls and ceiling, which I will have to scrub off.

Beats being gray.

The cold wars

Well, the heat is back on. But still, it’s cold.

Just last night, I was trying to make dinner while wearing gloves, which isn’t so easy. I’m accident prone and not too dexterous to begin with, so you can imagine what ensued. Yes, the gloves are now charred and splattered with tomato sauce.

So why, you may ask, am I forced to endure these frigid conditions? Here’s why (she says, with an undercurrent of quiet rage in her voice): the husband insists on keeping our house a chilly 70 degrees.

Being forced to live in arctic conditions does not suit me at all. I am not an Eskimo.

So here is how this situation is being addressed. Let me illuminate with a summary of our nightly ritual. We go to sleep, space heater in the bedroom, blasting its comforting warm air and humming white noise. I fall asleep, with a smile on my face. At first evidence of my peaceful slumber, the husband furtively slips out of bed to turn the heater off. I wake up a couple hours later, shivering, and turn it back on.

This goes on for hours, which does not lead to a good night’s sleep.

I figure I have four choices here:
a. wear him down by standing my ground and repeatedly raising the thermostat to a cozier temperature, b. install a sensor device on the space heater to prevent the impudent fiend from turning it off, c. spring for an electric blanket or d. move out.

I’ll eventually figure it out, but right now, I’m too COLD to think.

The underestimated strength of a mushroom

Yes, there are mushrooms growing in my driveway.

She didn’t believe me – she had to see for herself, my friend Susan, who lives in an Atlanta neighborhood where most everything is nice and tidy, with no mushrooms growing in anyone’s driveway.

When I brought her out to see them – brown, fleshy buttons, pushing through the black asphalt like crowning infant heads – she pushed down on the soft top of one with her finger, exclaiming, “It IS a mushroom – how can a mushroom be strong enough to do this?”

She looked around at all of the holes surrounded by black chunks of broken driveway – a real mess in her eyes.

“Pour vinegar on them,” she said. “That’ll stop them from growing.”

But I don’t want to stop them from growing – does that make me crazy? (And if so, who cares?)

The fact is, those mushrooms give me strength and hope each day I drive past them. Because if a mushroom can push through concrete, by golly, any one of us is capable of unbounded strength and greatness.

Chilly circumstances inspire

I am living inside of a 3,000-square-foot ice cube. Icicles hang from my dining room chandelier. I can’t feel my toes.

The heat’s off. It’s chosen to malfunction on the coldest day this fall.

The good news is that I have come up with yet another invention to add to my long list: an electric keyboard warmer. Being the dedicated scribe that I am, I am still typing away, despite the fact that my fingers have turned blue. And unfortunately, I am not nimble enough to do that while wearing gloves, which leads me to my second invention: electric heated gloves, specially made for use while typing.

Any financial backers out there? I need to hear from you before frostbite sets in.

The Case of the Missing Shoe

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be stupid? I don’t mean forgetful, ignorant or slow. I mean just plain stupid. Unintelligent. Lacking the necessary brain cells to determine solutions to the most mundane of things.

I am here to tell you that being stupid can be quite unpleasant. Not only that – it is annoying and can impair the lives of others, causing them unnecessary angst and grief.

Here is a case in point: A mother picks her son up early (i.e. nearly midnight, after being roused from a pleasant dream-like state due to there being one less child in the house) from a sleep-over birthday party at a friend’s house. After gathering the child’s belongings, it becomes quite clear that there is a missing shoe. After searching a darkened living room, where six or seven young lads are contentedly snoring in a tent, the mother leaves the house with the mystery unsolved.

The next day, the mother who held the sleepover party (which is the topic of a future essay on mothers who once had minds but have lost them) called to say that, after hours of hunting, she cannot find the missing shoe. She is heartbroken and apologetic, insisting that she will continue the investigation until either she drops dead from exhaustion, or the shoe is found.

The shoeless mother tells her to take a 10-minute break before resuming the back-breaking work of combing the house for the shoe. She adds, “Don’t worry, if you don’t find it, we’ll just use our grocery money to buy a new pair of shoes – we can skip a few meals this month.”

A few more hours pass and still, after phone calls to all of the suspects, i.e. parents of the other boys at the party, no shoe.

Suddenly, a phone call. The mother who is still without one shoe, answers. It is the birthday boy’s mother, who, after tearing her house apart to no avail, is so severely distraught over the situation that she has spent the night in church, praying for the missing shoe to reappear. She has vowed to work and sacrifice to make things right. But first, she asks a question. A simple question – so brilliant in its simplicity that it causes the world - for one brief moment - to stop.

“Did you look in your son’s suitcase?”

So, again, the initial question begs to be answered: Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be stupid?

I haven’t.

Help! My pants have caught on fire!

Have you ever looked down, upon feeling a bit of warmth on your legs, to find that your pants were on fire? If not, you are missing out on something quite special.

Not only is it quite humbling - to be forced to pull your pants down in front of a mass of strangers so that you will not burn to death - it is an invigorating and educational experience as well.

You are probably asking yourself right now, as you are trying to decide whether or not it is acceptable behavior to laugh out loud about this matter, how did it happen? And if you are in any way familiar with my track record as a ridiculously accident-prone human being, you are probably also muttering under your breath, “It figures!”

Well, this time I am not to blame, I assure you. It happened because for once in my life, I was wearing a piece of clothing that was too big. My pant legs were billowing in the wind, as I was chatting with a friendly gal nearby, and I was standing next to a lit, gas-flame burner which was resting on the ground. So you can guess what happened next.

So where was I and for what good cause did I endanger my life? I was working the matzoh ball soup booth at the Hard Lox Festival – Asheville’s annual event spotlighting all things Jewish. Out of the goodness of my heart, I volunteered to dole out soup to the masses, who desperately needed it as it was terribly chilly outside. Who knew that fire could rage so quickly on such a cold day?

Meanwhile, when the tragedy struck, a very nice man saved my life by slapping my legs silly while I pulled my pants down. Never mind that there was a fire extinguisher, which I’m sure was in good working order, just inches away from the scene. Who needs an actual fire-reducing piece of equipment when presented with the opportunity to de-robe or assault someone’s legs? Come on.

And, believe me, I was there at Steinmart the very next day to replace the tattered, charred sweatpants. (And incidentally, I urge you all to boycott this store – no one took pity on me by replacing my pants for free, even after watching me limp to the cash register with a pained look in my eyes.)

The moral of the story: Try not to wear loose sweatpants, if you can avoid it, but if you must do so and there’s a pretty good chance that the pants will end up down around your ankles on any given day, make sure you’re wearing a spiffy pair of underwear. But, remember, don’t buy them at Steinmart.

Evil Mother Strikes Again!

It’s been one week since the cruel tyrant in our house inflicted an electronics ban on the children. The wailing and hysterics of yore have been replaced with, lo, the sounds of children talking about books, running in the yard and playing ping pong in the basement.

Giggles, high-pitched squeals of delight and low murmurs of conversation have replaced the dull hum of the TV, the loud rumble of video games and the beeps and bellows emitted by the computer.

The children are picking up the guitars that lie around the house. They’re offering to make meals. They’re rock hunting, leaf collecting and bug catching and on their breaks, going through stacks of books like they’re treasures from a faraway, alien planet.

It’s insanity.

Ah, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha! Evil mother strikes, causing major household mayhem and taking no prisoners. They’ll never catch me alive. NEVER.

A snake and some gems

If it had been a snake, it would have bit me.

Digging for gems with my two kids on a sunny Saturday afternoon, we longed to find a sparkling amethyst or rose quartz – one of those big-as-a-fist beauties that we’d been told were there, hiding somewhere among the less intriguing specimens.

We sat, knee-deep in dirt, periodically brushing off dozens of tiny red ladybugs that lit upon our arms, legs and noses. It was hard work, shoveling and sifting, gazing at the rocks we’d find, held high in the sun, trying to see, underneath the coating of dirt, a hint of a gleam.

We’d traveled through the town of Leicester, North Carolina, just outside of our Asheville home, bouncing uphill on dirt roads, past rolling hills and shaded streams. My 6-year-old son’s long-time fascination with rocks and recent school study of the subject, prompted the trip.

We weren’t disappointed. We got to the gem mine – piles of rocky dirt beneath a tin roof behind a gurgling stream and roaming geese, goats and sheep – and were handed shovels and large buckets to fill.

And although we didn’t find those mammoth-sized gems we were hoping for, we did discover a few small rubies, rose quartz, sapphire, and amethyst, among others.

But most important was the thrill of the hunt. That’s what kept me and my 11-year-old daughter going, long into the hot, dusty afternoon. Long after my son, the rock hound, abandoned the task to play in the stream.

And actually, there was a snake. And it would have bit me. It slithered out from behind a large rock and crawled up my back as I was digging. A fellow digger working nearby let me know - in the form of a scream - that it was there.

And maybe one of those huge, magnificent gems lay right under our noses, waiting to be found. Probably that snake knows where it is.

I almost ran over my kid today.

I almost ran over my kid today. In the blink of an eye, his life flashed before me. I saw my little six-year-old, flung upward and then down, hitting the cold, cruel asphalt with a thud.

He had been riding on top of the hood of my car, with his sister, as I inched up the driveway. Suddenly, I sped up a bit faster, wanting to give the two an even greater thrill. A bit of bad judgment on my part – a momentary lapse of reason. A sudden desire to be the “fun” parent.

I’ve never indulged my precious angels with this type of “piggy back” ride. That’s a treat they get from their dad. After arriving home from work, he stops his car at our mailbox at the bottom of the hill and the kids run down and hop on. Of course, he creeps at about 1 mph with them onboard - the sensible way, if you can call allowing your kids to ride on top of your car, sensible.

Meanwhile, today, when my child hit the ground, I stopped. When I heard the screams, I feared that I didn’t stop in time. In the three seconds it must have taken me to put the car in park and rush out to him, I envisioned him lying unconscious, the life knocked out of him.

But instead, I found him sitting up, holding his arm, which had just a few new scratches on it. My first thought: I didn't hit him. My second thought: Thank
G-d he’s o.k. And then: I wonder what the neighbors are thinking, listening to my son howling at the top of his lungs.

And now, as I sit here, replaying the incident in my head, my heart still beating a little bit faster, feeling more grateful than ever that my boy, and girl, are happy and well, I marvel at the fragility of everything. In a second, everything can change. Or not.

I almost ran over my kid today. But I didn’t.

Don't Panic. Published Work to Come...

If, after nosing through my page, you have decided to check out my published work, take heed. I need to attend to my ailing scanner (i.e, heave it out the window and buy a new one,) so that I can scan in my work. But first, I've got some more writing work to do that will bring additional big bucks into our household, so please be patient. I know you're dying to see all of the brilliance that I've contributed to the world and I promise that soon, all of your dreams in that direction will come true. (As you can see, after moving to Asheville, North Carolina, I have become just a wee more full of myself. It's not me - it's the mountain air.)

Purse Woes

A dear friend of mine needed a new purse – her old standard was looking ratty and more importantly, it was on the verge of being dreadfully out of fashion. After all, she’d been lugging it around for a good three or four weeks since buying it.

So she took her hippest friend with her to hunt for a new one and ended up with a faux cowhide number. Unfortunately, though, upon returning home after a hard day of shopping, she realized to her chagrin that her stuff didn’t fit into it. So, she was back to the store the next day to snag the larger version. And though it had somewhat less personality than its smaller counterpart, it contained all of her stuff. Even more importantly, as her very stylish friend informed her, big purses are in.

So, now she’s lugging around a purse that’s nearly as large as her 7-year-old son and she’s talking about visiting a chiropractor – her back is starting to ache.

Perhaps a visit to a therapist would be more in order, to find out why she’s lugging around everything from a three-pound jug of hand sanitizer to 16 pairs of designer sunglasses in an assortment of colors. Not to mention a wallet the size of a full-grown squirrel, with credit cards that, when placed end-to-end, would span the length of her favorite shopping mall.

But who am I to talk? I’ve got my own purse issues. I’m still carrying around that little jean purse I bought two years ago at Walmart (I was there getting the deal of a century on tie-dye supplies for my Girl Scout troop, when the purse caught my eye), but I dream of burning the dang thing in a blazing bonfire. I constantly have to forage around for my things inside the 114 or so pockets of my purse and therefore am subject to cursing in front of my impressionable children. Still, I refuse to buy a new one. Jean material goes with everything, after all. Who can beat that?

What’s worse is that I am also subject to hanging up purses on walls, as d├ęcor. So, although I may have loved that psychedelic hot pink and lime bargain bought at a nearby flea market, I can’t ever use it. After all, I can’t leave a gaping space in my wall arrangement.

And my kids will eventually learn those bad words anyway.

From Lithe & Limber Ballet Dancer to...Immobile

La, la, la, la, la…what a beautiful day it was last Tuesday. The sun was shining, and as I busily straightened the house, I thought: ‘How wonderful it is to be living in one of the most beautiful places on earth, and also, to still have all of my own teeth.’

I reached down to pick up a bottle of fabric cleaner off the rug, when CRACK – a shooting pain coursed through my body, rendering me in a ballet pose that looked much more graceful than it felt. One arm behind me in midair, the other towards the ground. My right leg raised up, with toes pointed to the ceiling.

I tipped over to rest my body, twisted, on the couch, and screamed. I hadn’t felt this kind of agony since the birthing of my progeny.

Several doses of muscle relaxer and pain killers later, (and, if I could have made my way over to the kitchen, vast quantities of hard liquor), I’m now back on my feet. My back still hurts, but at least I can move. What’s worse is a blistering 3rd degree burn on my back from the plastic heating pad (which lost its cloth cover when my urination attempts into a makeshift bedpan failed miserably (now I really DO need that fabric cleaner, and also, it’s a shame that we have to throw away a perfectly good cereal bowl.)

But, I can’t complain. People are bringing me things like chocolate and magazines, and I’m particularly enjoying the dates my friend, Lumpy, (who, in her infinite wisdom, guessed that I could probably use the fiber), brought me, along with her two cheery princesses.

But do you think I got any sympathy from my loved ones during my dark hours?

Son (on phone to telemarketer): My mommy broke her back. Now she can’t make me chocolate milk.

Daughter: Does this mean we can’t go on our vacation now? I’m going to go play on the computer.

Prince Charming, the Husband (who is forgiven, for he was the one who issued forth the blessed narcotics): I’m just going to cancel the whole trip (with a look of chagrin.) We probably can’t go now.

Parents (who are also forgiven because they took time out from their busy, post-retirement party schedule, to help out with the cold-hearted kids): You didn’t bend with your knees. Didn’t we teach you how to bend down properly?

Friend Lisa (who is forgiven, always, because she is perpetually entertaining in her mirth): Why on earth were you CLEANING?!

My Baby's Got Holes in Her!

My baby girl will soon be leaving me! I can see it now: Flying free, she’ll be out of the house, off to college, as far away as the moon.

She’s growing up and in a blink of an eye, it’ll be see ya, hasta luego, ta ta, don’t call me – I’ll call you…I will cry as if my heart is breaking and she will be laughing and perhaps, having a beer.

So why do I suddenly feel as if my little, pre-teen pixie will suddenly age seven to 10 years and commence her earth-shattering, heartbreaking prison bust?

Two things: 1. she’ll be starting middle school in the fall and time is going to F. L. Y. – I just know it. And, 2. she just got her ears pierced.

Oh, the agony. My baby now has two holes in her ears and so, she’s almost a woman.

Simmer down, you say, it’s just earrings, for cryin’ out loud, not her high school graduation. But for some reason, I am feeling like this is a turning point.

And I wasn’t even the one who took the child for the piercing.

It was darling daddy, the Prince Charming of our kingdom, who took her. Twice.

The first time they went to Claire’s, in the mall, she picked out some earrings and the friendly ear piercing expert assembled all of the necessary tools for the stabbing. She marked the child’s ears and was about to gun the first when the child screamed, “No, don’t do it.”

So the two came home, the child sobbing loudly and Prince Charming defeated by the disappointment.

The next night, the two mysteriously left the house. When they returned, the girl was standing tall, hair pulled behind her ears, with a tiny, gleaming green crystal in each.

Daddy explained, proudly: “She said, ‘this time I’m going to do it,’ marched straight into the chair, and barely flinched.”

I gawked over her ears and praised her bravery.

The newly-pierced child then skipped into the bathroom to display all of her pierced ear accoutrements: cotton balls, antiseptic liquid, an information pamphlet about how to prevent infection.

I asked her if she needed help cleaning and turning her earrings, which she would need to do three times a day for the next 12 weeks. She said, ‘no thanks,’ and, quite adeptly, did it herself.

Unneeded, I locked myself in my own bathroom, to cry. I came out to write this blog, but I’m not sure yet that I’m fully recovered.

For me, getting earrings are right up there with wanting a bra. My girl’s got a one-way ticket to womanhood and for me, it’s moving way too fast.

The Rigors of Aging

My friend Lisa’s got a problem. She can’t stop slathering lotion on her hands. I’d say it was OCD, but in her case, it appears to be MIDDLE AGE. She, like me, looks down at her own two hands and doesn’t recognize them. What once was smooth, is now dry and wrinkly. As for my two hands, they look like a street map of Manhattan – all roads marked in green veins.

Meanwhile, Lisa’s family is becoming annoyed with her new rub routine. They’re rebelling against a perpetually greasy TV remote control. She’s dropping dishes on the floor – they’re falling out of her slippery hands. The other day, her 7-year-old son slipped on a pile of goo on the floor and broke his arm. They had to call an ambulance because she couldn’t drive him to the hospital: her steering wheel was too slimy to grip! And even worse: Recently, she loaned me a book laced with lavender, which wouldn’t have been terrible if it wasn’t also layered in linseed oil, shea butter and goat's milk. To put it bluntly, it was disgusting.

Now, some of my contemporaries are talking about chemical peels and, gasp, face lifts. My chubby chums fantasize about tummy tucks and my flat friends are obsessed with broadening their bosoms. And can you believe it, I’ve recently been a party to limp eyelid lamenting!

On the whole, though, I have had the good fortune to have been born a goddess, with absolutely no imperfections whatsoever. How lucky is that! In fact, I’ve been turned down for countless beauty pageants because I am too beautiful. If I were a contestant, there would be no contest and the point would be moot.

Meanwhile, a childhood friend of mine obviously didn’t agree with all of the others about my almost blinding exquisiteness. People once said we looked like sisters, although the only features we shared were our noses and breasts so large that they practically hit the ground. She, unlike me, opted for the chopping block and now looks nothing like me. Her breasts are now perky and her nose is significantly smaller and more rounded (unlike the long, beak-like protuberance we once shared.) In fact, I probably wouldn’t recognize her on the street. At her 40th birthday party, it took me a while to find her (luckily, there was a life-size portrait of her with her name written on it, for reference.)

Now, I do have to admit, that the spider veins, cellulite and stretch marks I see when I look down do indeed make me queasy. I am almost convinced that, for the comfort of others who have to look my way, I should get myself under the bright lights of my local in-patient surgery room. And I probably ought to consider panniculectomy (a word I can’t pronounce, but which can resolve “post-pregnancy issues with inordinate fat localized below the belly button.”) But truthfully, my rotund silhouette is probably due to the 14 bowls of ice cream that I typically consume on a daily basis, not the two beautiful children I have birthed. And it’s a good idea if I avoid any surgery, unless it’s a life or death issue. I’m not a good patient and am known to cry, scream and faint during a 20-second, routine blood test.

So I think I will just live with the ugliness and perhaps, cut back on the ice cream.

Dodging Bullets

Since moving to Western North Carolina, one of the most important things we’ve learned to do is to dodge bullets.

No, the law isn’t after us and we don’t have the fun and excitement of drive-by shootings in our neighborhood. What we’re talking about are good, country folks who’ve given their brood the gift of gunfire.

Upon returning home from a full day of Asheville adventures and ready to take a nap, we noticed some of our neighborhood kids playing what looked like a war game in their front yard. They were running around and hiding behind trees, wearing scary-looking goggles and toting menacing rifles. Now, I’m all for kids blowing off steam and having some outdoor fun, but that doesn’t mean we didn’t high-tail it into our house so that we wouldn’t get shot.

So we’re spending a lot of time indoors, where it’s safe. It’s actually been a nice opportunity to bond as a family, take up knitting, and find out what’s on cable TV.

But we’ve found that we have to keep the windows shut tight, to protect ourselves from infiltration.

The other day, a “soldier” was pressed up against my home office window, hiding from the enemy, rifle in position. It was quite jolting, to say the least. So, I promptly flung some child-friendly anti-gun leaflets out the window and donned my own pair of non-allergenic, hot pink goggles, which I had bought on sale at Wal-Mart for the discount price of $569 (a bargain, considering the fact that I was protecting my eyes for years to come.)

Meanwhile, we’re a little strapped for cash at the moment, because I spend my time engaged in frivolous activities like writing and eating chocolate and thus, I’m not contributing a huge amount to our bank account. Consequently, all four of us have to share the one pair of goggles, which can get ugly, especially on a beautiful, sunny day, when we’d all like to play outside.

But sometimes, on a cool, breezy late afternoon, while the neighborhood guns lie dormant and the miniature gun enthusiasts are being fed an early supper, we take long walks together, eyes naked in the wind, enjoying our new hobby: bullet collecting.

You may not know this, but BB gun bullets are very beautiful. We’ve collected an assortment in a rainbow of colors and truly enjoy the thrill of the hunt.

And as sure as shooting, I’m going to think positively: Maybe Wal-Mart carries discount bullet proof vests.

A Hair-Raising Experience

I’ve gone back to college! Well, not exactly as a student. Instead, you might say I’m a human guinea pig. At much personal risk to life and limb (and hair,) I have had my locks zestfully, if not expertly, hacked off at the Carolina College of Hair Design, in Asheville. It was a scary experience, but I feel proud that I made it through physically (and mentally) unharmed.
Here are some unexpected positives of the experience:
· I didn’t have to make an appointment ahead of time. Instead, I just casually strolled in and was immediately surrounded by a flock of gleeful, girly hair stylists, just itching to be the one picked to experiment on my head. Each performed a cheer and 1-minute speech on the merits of hair gel, so that I would have a sound basis upon which to make an educated stylist selection.
· I had my ears cleaned for free! During the hair-washing portion of my torture session - I mean haircut appointment – most of the water used to wash my hair made its way into my ears. (Another soaking wet windfall: When I stood up, the water dripped out from my ears onto my shoulders, which actually was quite cool and refreshing, as I was having an anxiety-induced pre-menopausal hot flash.)
· I didn’t have to make small-talk while Ms. Scissorhands was at work because she was too busy to chat. She apparently was concentrating on how NOT to cut off one of my ears.
· The experience was a real self-esteem booster. As I was leaving, I received a standing ovation and some complimentary hair extensions, should my hair not grow back.
• And best of all, because it was such a bargain rate, I have extra money burning a hole in my pocket, which I’m planning to spend on chocolate. Because it looks like I won’t need it for that post-haircut emergency wig, after all.

Brief Blogging Hiatus

I regret to inform you that my blog will remain silent for the next few days, because I'm working on two stories for Rapid River Magazine and a story for the Asheville Citizen Times. This work is very important, because if I screw it up, I will likely be without writing work in this town for decades to come. Of course, my mother will say, "It's not you - you're a journalistic genius. It's them - they wouldn't know a good story if it bit them on the bottom!" (Well, my mother would use a different word here, but I'm trying to keep the blog rated "G" for my proper, southern readers.) So carry on without me and check back in after April 21. O.k.? Please? (I'm aware that there may be absolutely no one out there reading this. I'm at peace with that.)

Do the Can Can!

An admired columnist in town recently said to me about publishing a book, “If I can do it, anyone can.” Her humility aside, the comment was an inspiration and has already improved my life in a myriad of ways. You, too, can benefit from this wise sage’s advice. Just turn it around and use it this way: If anyone can _______, I can. Just fill in the blank with stuff that will make you happier – it works better than any drug I’ve ever tried. For instance, you can insert things like, “eat chocolate all day.” Here’s what you’ll say to yourself: "If anyone can eat chocolate all day, I can." Try: go shoe shopping whenever possible, sleep till noon on a Tuesday, etc. Be creative! Of course, not everyone CAN do the things on your list, but just keep in mind all of the people who CAN!

My Daughter's Better Than Yours (At Slovenliness)

I was at a friend’s house yesterday and she showed me her daughter’s bedroom, hoping to elicit a wide-eyed look of shock and audible gasp of terror from me. I glanced at the books and clothes strewn about the room and asked her a few humbling questions: Have you found dirty socks behind the books on her bookshelf? Underwear hanging from a lamp? A family of woodchucks living beneath the pile of notebook paper and pencil shavings under the desk? No, what we had here was small time.
MY daughter’s room, I’m proud to say, is the most gruesome trash heap around. At least it WAS, until the day we called the fire department to report a suspicious billow of smoke, coming from the flashlight we’d been using to navigate through the rubble to her bed every night (how fun is THAT for a relaxing bedtime ritual.) So now, there’s basically nothing left in her room but a bed, a couple of books, 64 of her journals (the child has a nasty habit of writing and drawing all the time) and one rather forlorn woodchuck. It wasn’t too bad of a fire – the bookshelves are gone, but a bunch of her really cool socks survived. And there’s the woodchuck.

"Sock-piling" - What you’re doing when you hurl your socks in the general direction of the hamper so that they end up in a heap on the floor, which you can later hunt through when you need a pair of socks.

Somebody Get a Doctor! My Ear is Stuck in a Bathroom Stall Purse Hook!

There. I’ve got your attention. (And it’s a true story that I’m sure I’ll write about here one day – it’ll be the final step of my 10-year recovery plan.) Meanwhile, after much trepidation, I’ve figured out how to start this blog, which, quite frankly, is a long time coming. Finally, I seem to have that proverbial fire lit under my rear. (Somebody get the fire extinguisher! I have shoe shopping to do!)
Now, I’ve got to come up with a clever name and, perhaps, persona. But alas, to choose! I’ve got so many! I’m “Stinky Mommy” (being the chief “bad guy” rule enforcer at home.) I’m “Ferret” because a very cute and impish boy once told me I looked like one (and I have to say, he had a point there.) I’m “Peter Pam” because my extremely talented and clever nephew, whose adorable being caused me to crave motherhood, once started calling me that. I’m “Spaz” when I’m running into a room, arms flailing, knocking over a plant, stubbing my toe on a chair leg (all of which usually happens to me about once a day) and calling out “Rock Star! That’s what my blog name should be!” But until that day comes – the day I’m finally recognized for my unique vocal-range-of-a-flea, life’s-too-short-to-master-bar-chords musical talent – which I have to admit, probably will not be anytime soon - I’ll just have to go with my given name: Pam J. Hecht. The “J” is for jest because what else is fitting in this crazy world of perpetual comedy? (Please don’t tell anyone, but it really stands for Joan. I had to add the J because I googled myself and found three other Pam Hechts, and no, I’m not into rocks, horses or hair extensions.)
So who else am I? (As if you care! But bear with me, I’m trying to work it out and need to verbalize…) I’m an artsy mama who loves to make new stuff out of old stuff and who sometimes turns into the alter ego “Ms. Brookshoe” – the decidedly brusque and quite bulbous art director - with my kids. I’m a drama queen who likes to dance in parking lots with my friend, Lumpy, and anyone else who’ll join me. I’m a tree hugger who finds spiritual solace on a hiking trail. But above all, I’m a writer.
And, because, given my passion for words and penchant for editing all things in life – from sentences to sock drawer contents – I probably will delete this whole blog soon and start another one, so enjoy it while you can and thanks for reading!