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Watching the clock

Lisa CarpenterI admit it: I’m a compulsive clock-watcher.

As a freelance writer working from home, I don’t watch the clock in the sense that I eye the hour hand as it makes its egregiously slow move from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. so I can exit my cubicle and enter my real world. No, though I’ve served my time in such positions, my current compulsive clock watching is of a less regular — albeit still compulsive — sort.

A sort that sometimes makes me believe I just might be a little off balance.

Or maybe not. Perhaps other perfectly balanced folks watch the clock in the very same ways.

For instance, when I hear odd noises outside my home, something unusually loud or menacing in my neighborhood, my first instinct is to look at the clock. I confirm the time on the clock just in case I end up being interrogated by some in-your-face detective — or in-your-face reporter — questioning the exact moment I heard the shake, rattle and hum that preceded the irrefutable proof by explosion that my next-door neighbor was playing Walter White.

Ya never know. It’s best to be prepared.

Similarly, when I hear menacing sounds inside my home, the shake, rattle and hum sounds from my — as one friend calls it — Stephen King boiler, I quickly glance at the clock so I know the precise time I knew the house was gonna blow. Yes, I do realize it would be too late if that truly was the case, but again, ya never know and it’s best to be prepared.

I also watch the clock when I awake in the middle of the night. Especially if I’ve awakened because I need to make a quick potty run. If I glance at the digital clock on the dresser and the time is between 3 a.m. and 4 a.m. — the “witching hour,” per too many scary movies and my youngest daughter — that potty run is ran especially fast and usually ends with me pouncing back into bed as quick as can be so anything that might reside under my bed won’t grab me and pull me down there with it or lick my tootsies like in the spooky stories shared by my slumber party gal pals decades ago.

Sometimes the nighttime clock watching occurs when I awake with a funky feeling and am absolutely positive one of my daughters — or grandsons or siblings or parents — is hurt or sick or being visited by a bogeyman of some scary sort. I quickly note the time so I can later say, “I just knew something was up.” (Only rarely has such a feeling prompted me to actually call the one I was feeling funky about thankfully.)

The compulsive clock watching also occurs when one or more of my daughters visits. More accurately, when one of my daughters leaves after having visited. See, I request a text when they’ve made it home — especially because the two who visit regularly are young women living on their own more than an hour from my house and I need to ensure they made it there safely. And soundly. And without any accidents or carjackings or spooks or sexual predators hiding inside once they’d opened their front door. Ya truly never know. So I watch the clock and anxiously await their text or call.

And, of course, I’m a compulsive clock-watcher when I’m with my grandsons. Not the entire time; just the last 48 hours or so before our time together ends. It’s then that I start tallying our remaining hours relative to the remaining activities, games, fun I packed into my Grandma Bag or planned in my head. More important is the tallying of how many hours I have left to add to my collection of hundreds of photos from our visit as well as how many hours I have left to hug and adore and absorb my dear Mac and Bubby in person.

Upon considering this last example, it’s when I watch the clock in dread of my limited time left with my grandsons that seems to be the only reasonable compulsive clock watching I do.

(But then again, the clock watching I do so I know to run like mad when visiting the restroom during the witching hour seems pretty darn reasonable to me, too.)

— Lisa Carpenter

Lisa Carpenter publishes the Grandma’s Briefs website, where she shares bits on life’s second act and strives to smash the outdated “grandma” stereotype. Her “The grandma in a box” post was named the 2013 BlogHer Voices of the Year People’s Choice selection in the humor category. Lisa also is a freelance writer, with credits including Grandparents.com, Boomeon, The Huffington Post and more. Connect with Lisa on TwitterFacebook and Google+ as well as on Grandma’s Briefs.

Thanking the Academy

Janie Emaus“I’d like to thank my first husband for allowing me to find him in bed with the lead singer in his band. It helped me write the dark moment in this screenplay.

And thank you to the doctor who took me off my hormone pills so that I could have all those hot flashes and sleepless nights, giving me time to write while everyone else slept  peacefully in their beds.

And finally, thank you God, for the aging process. For turning my firm, young body into one with wrinkles and spots. You’ve given me the incentive to keep working at my craft with the hopes of earning a living at it in order to purchase all those expensive anti-aging creams.”

I can’t tell you how many times, I’ve pretended to stand at the podium in front of the audience giving a speech such as this.

Well, of course, I wouldn’t really say it quite like the above. But I probably would thank everyone I’ve known in my life. Coming a close second if not surpassing Sally Field in her famous 1985 speech, “You like me.  Right now, you like me.”

I’d have to wear flat shoes because these days I can’t walk too well in heels anymore.  Which means I’ll have to get the right dress to complete my look.

I’ll need a high neckline because sometime last year, my “real” neck disappeared and I haven’t been able to find it.

I’ll have to have a long talk with my hair because like a spirited teenager, it has a mind of its own. And I don’t want it acting too wild on my big night.

And someone other than myself will have to apply my makeup because although I can see quite well up close, I’d hate to scare my fans in the balcony.

Right now, you might be thinking: Is she serious? She really thinks might win an Academy Award?

My answer — you never know.

But I do know one thing. If I stop working toward that goal, if I stop dreaming, I’ll never give my well-rehearsed acceptance speech.

— Janie Emaus

Janie Emaus believes that when the world is falling apart, we’re just one laugh away from putting it together again. She is the author of the time travel romance, Before the After, and the young adult novel, Mercury in Retro Love. She has an essay in the best-selling humor anthology, You Have Lipstick On Your Teeth and is proud have been named a 2013 BlogHer Voice of the Year. To read more of Janie’s humor, you can find her every week In The Powder Room. To learn more about her crazy life, visit her website www.JanieEmaus.com.

Spillology

Doug CloughLike rings of a tree tell its age, the appearance of a spill on laminate or carpet give clues to its lifespan.

Still moist? Less than a half-day old.

Tacky? Somewhat less than a day.

Dark in appearance and dry to the touch? Up to two days old.

A dark ring and light-colored in the center? Approaching fossilization.

Mike Rowe is negotiating a spot with me to appear on Dirty Jobs. The topic? Spillology.

My knowledge-journey began when our youngest poured a glass of grape juice and proceeded downstairs to the family room. There was more purple-stained carpet between the kitchen and his destination than beige.  Now that he’s 12, he can juggle a drink with his feet, a bag of Cheetos in the one hand and his laptop in the other; visitors gawk in awe when they step into our foyer and witness the aftermath.

His 16-year-old sibling is a hunter and trapper and, in the art of carpet-staining, is not to be outdone. After checking numerous traps over 20 miles of creek bed, he heads back to town wearing boot soles like the underside of his truck — covered with a half-inch of mud; to his credit, he occasionally — when I am watching — takes them off before entering the house, maybe.

Nonetheless, the efficient lad chooses to put them on in his room the next morning, donning them from his room to the kitchen to the living room and out the front door again. I’ve never actually seen this happen; like the young hunter himself, I’ve acquired the ability to track based on the hardened mud-prints of this male mammal’s camouflaged boots.

I once asked the trapper to clean the mud off of his boots prior to wearing them in the house; he used a towel from the downstairs’ bathroom to erase the top layer of the encrusted mess. The white hand towel is now a tie-dyed light and dark brown perma-design after six, bleach-filled washings; I live under the illusion that it is not lingering raccoon poop.

Just this morning, the same woman who bought new white bathroom towels, left her coffee on top of the laundry hamper. At lunch, evidence of coffee spillage — most certainly less than a half-day old — pooled on the open-air slats, dripping on a new and formerly lily-white towel. She claims I am the culprit; furthermore, she is wrong — her children did not get this behavior from anyone strange.

My bride hasn’t asked for new carpet since we brought our families together in 2011. But it only makes sense that she’s given up on that wish. After all, why would she want to replace the evidence daftly displaying our family’s talent, up to and including how long that partially eaten slice of pizza has resided under the sofa?

For my sanity if nothing else, I have decided to embrace this mild imperfection of family life. After all, our situation exposes all I have to be grateful for in my life: a Labradoodle who has a nose for three-day-old pizza and my newly acquired tracking skills.

— Doug Clough

Doug Clough writes a column for the Ida County Courier in Ida Grove, Iowa, called “From our backyard…”  His work has appeared in Farm News, The Iowan and Boating World, and he served as a travel scout for Midwest Living. “I am a father of a salad bowl family (aka ‘blended’), a customer service manager, the possession of my Labradoodle and — in a former life — an English teacher. Someone has to enjoy that mix; it may as well be me,” he says.

If loving him is wrong,
I don’t want to be right

Lisa NewlinI’m in an abusive relationship. No, I’m not abusing my husband, at least not physically.

The relationship I’m talking about is a love affair — a forbidden affair, but one I can’t terminate no matter how much I try.

The object of my affections? Fro Yo.

For those of you not familiar with this fine establishment, it serves various flavors of frozen yogurt along with a toppings bar of every thing from gummy bears to crushed-up candy bars.

You serve yourself as much frozen yogurt as you want, and then load it up with as many toppings as you want as well.

It’s basically diabetes in a cup.

It’s perfection.

How is Fro Yo abusive, you ask? He seems so sophisticated with his trendy concept and welcoming rewards card. Don’t be fooled. That’s how he gets you.

You see, Fro Yo is abusive because he knows I need him. He knows I can’t live without him. Who can, really? Well, I supposed lactose-intolerant people could totally live without him. Whatever.

He’s so smooth and cool and he knows it.  Not only is he aloof and confident, he’s also literally smooth and cool.  He’s cold, actually.  He’s kind of a bad boy, and I like it.

I know what you’re thinking. Is it just mind games?  How is he physically abusive to you?

Um, it’s called a brain freeze.  Ever had one?  Pure.  Pain.

And yet, I want more.  I want more of the brain freeze.  I want more of the headache.  I want more, more, more!

It’s not all whipped cream and crushed candy bars, though.  There’s a dark side to Fro Yo.  He requires constant attention or he pouts and has a meltdown.

He also makes me feel bad about myself.  Sure, there’s the ecstasy of the time we spend together, but when it’s over, I drive home with my head hung in shame, kicking myself for being so gullible and giving in to his seductive ways.

As if I don’t feel bad enough about my overindulgence, there are the stains he leaves on my shirt, and the indigestion he leaves in my chest that remind me of our dirty deed.

I try to hide our relationship with my husband, but I think he knows.  He can smell Fro Yo when I walk in the door, and I know he can see remnants of our night together in the corner of my mouth.

My husband looks away. He doesn’t want to know.

However, despite all of the turmoil Fro Yo brings to my life, every time he calls my name, I come running.  Well, not so much running because I’m physically not capable of running.

This is yet another example of the permanent effects Fro Yo has on me.  He has such a hold that he affects my joints and my (in)ability to engage in cardiovascular activities.

Why can’t I stop?  Maybe Robert Palmer is right, and I’m addicted to love. I probably am.  Or maybe, just maybe, I’m addicted to lactose.

Either way, I don’t care. If loving him is wrong, I don’t want to be right.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a hot date with a cool guy….

— Lisa Newlin

Lisa Newlin is a humor blogger who plays an unconvincing lawyer in real life. She shouldn’t be allowed around sharp objects, anything breakable or anything with carbohydrates. She prefers dogs over most people, and food over most everything. Her blog, http://lisanewlin.com, will make you feel better about your own life. It will also remind you that vodka is the answer to everything, except if the question is “What should I throw on this fire?” Then the answer is definitely NOT vodka. She’s also one of the co-authors of the bestselling new humor anthology, You Have Lipstick on Your Teeth.

Days of whine and snotty noses

Sherri KuhnI saw you in the grocery store just yesterday. Yoga pants stained with something white, a not-so- perky ponytail riding a bit sideways on your head, and quite possibly wearing the same shirt you wore the previous day.

Our paths converged somewhere between the cold cuts and the feminine-hygiene aisle. Not so different from each other, really. A time-warp was all that separated us; two mothers from the same universe, living in different times.

Three little ones escorted you on your journey, each lending a hand by grabbing random objects from the lower shelves and tossing them into the cart, slapping each other when you weren’t looking, and begging for stuff you refused to give them. In a failed attempt to separate them you placed one in the cart, which immediately created a King of the Cart feud.

Major sticking-out of their tongues ensued, along with a few more slaps (from the King of the Cart) and a few sneaky kicks. The whining came back full force, along with some tears for good measure. The King was removed from the cart and made to walk amongst the peasants (formerly known as his brother and sister) again.

Noses were runny, crankiness was high, and undoubtedly everyone was hungry.

It was, after all, the witching hour for grocery shopping. Four forty-five on a Monday evening.

Oh, you brave soul.

I was shopping alone, picking up a few things for a meal to be cooked using an actual recipe. In my cart? A nice bottle of wine, some flowers for a friend, and some dinner ingredients your little helpers would most certainly spit out onto their plates.

Your cart was piled high. It held the very essentials of life for the under-5-year-old crowd: graham crackers, GoGurt, fruit rollups, milk, fish sticks, Lunchables, Cheerios, juice boxes, applesauce and cookies. No wine, no bouquets of flowers; not an artisan cheese or gourmet cupcake in sight.

And at that moment when our eyes met and we nodded each other’s existence?

I wanted to take you by the shoulders and tell you that it would be OK. To yell over the hysterics and whining of your little helpers so you could hear my message loud and clear.

To tell you that these days of whine and snotty noses won’t last. Really, I promise they won’t.

One day you will shop alone, without helpers. You will buy real food again; possibly even some flowers for the table, and nobody will beg you for candy or gum. You will make a meal and eat it in one sitting, without cutting anyone’s food or making a second meal for the picky one. You may even have pleasant dinner conversation with your spouse.

I saw you glance at my cart and look back at me a second time. I think you even smiled a bit bigger.

Maybe you realized that I was you, not so very long ago.

You moved on to finish your shopping before one of the children ate one of the others.

I hope there was a bit more spring in your step.

But I suddenly found myself wistful for Cheerios, a snotty nose to wipe, a helper to ride in my cart, maybe even a fish stick.

Because I was you, not so very long ago.

— Sherri Kuhn

Sherri Kuhn is a freelance writer, copy editor, blogger, grammar junkie and social media addict. She loves playing with words, editing and writing articles about everything from nail polish to parenting topics. On her blog Old Tweener she writes from the heart — with an occasional side of sarcasm and humor. With a son in college and a daughter in high school, she always has something to write about. Her writing has been featured at Huffington Post, SheKnows, AllParenting, Moonfrye, Mamalode and BlogHer.  She was chosen as a cast member for the 2012 Listen to Your Mother show in San Francisco. Sherri lives in Northern California with her family and crazy yellow lab.

How about a cookie instead?

Alisa SchindlerMy 4-year-old son has this weird little obsession — with my boobs.

No, I’m not like that New Yorker magazine mom. The only thing my boobs do these days is hang, and I mean hang, around. But for Julius, it’s one of his many infatuations, right up there with gummy bears and Pokemon cards.

All my boys are full of mommy love, which I unabashedly encourage and soak up, but Julius shows his love a bit more ‘tangibly’ than the others.

Every night after the bedtime books and tickle-back is completed, there’s another ritual of events that must transpire before I can leave his room.

“Kiss, mommy,” he demands, pursing his little, chunk lips for me to kiss.

“Hug, mommy,” is the next request, and he wraps his little arms around me, squeezing tight.  I love it, but I know what’s coming. He’s been doing it for well over a year now, and I brace myself.

Somewhere in the middle of his innocent little hug, there’s a boob grab. He does it quick, knowing exactly what he’s doing. When I gently reprimand, he looks at me with those big brown eyes and says, “I can’t help it mommy. I just love your boobies!”

What to do. What to do.

I’ve tried to distract him from his infatuation. At two and three, it was still cute and could be waved away as toddler silliness; but once Julius crept over the four-year mark and his hugs began to have a groping feel to them, I’ve tried, unsuccessfully, to get him to stop.

So far, these are the techniques I’ve employed.

Threatening – I say, almost daily. “Julius, if you try to touch my boobs, I’m not going to snuggle in bed with you anymore.” The little rat always promises. Do not trust a rat.

Negotiation – “If you can go a week without trying to touch my boobs, I’ll take you to the toy store.” Apparently, Julius does not need more toys, or chocolate or extra Wii time. He’s got plenty, thank you.

Transference – Every time Julius goes for the boobs, I place his hands around my waist. He kind of likes it and will squeeze happily for a bit, saying, “Oh, it’s squishy, like your boobies.” Thanks kid.

Reason – We had the discussion about private parts. How he has his and I have mine. Julius’s response? “You can touch mine, if I can touch yours.” Sheesh. I’m in trouble with this one.

Although, his fascination to touch my boobs is annoying and will soon border on really inappropriate, right now, it still makes me smile. I know he’s almost five, but as my youngest, he still seems like such a baby; and even though my 7- and 10-year-old are very loving, I can see the day in the not-too-far future, where I am no longer the center of their affections. There will be girlfriends, then wives, (poo poo) and I feel the pain of that already, years into the future. I can only hope that they’ll still want to give their mom a squeeze, although a hug will do just fine.

Just last night, Julius, the teenager in a 5-year-old body, gloated, “Mommy, I know how to touch boobs.  You go in for a kiss, and then you get ‘em!” He smiled mischievously, like a boy who knows a big secret. And I guess he does.

— Alisa Schindler

Alisa Schindler is freelance writer who chronicles the sweet and bittersweet of life in the suburbs on her highly entertaining blog www.icescreammama.com. Her essays have been featured on Mamapedia.com and Bonbonbreak.com as well as in the book, Life Well Blogged. She is a member of “Yeah Write,” an online community for writers, where she has won the Jury Prize multiple times in the group’s weekly essay writing contest.  She has just completed her first novel that she feels comfortable showing to someone other than her mother.

Single wanderers in the grocery desert

Nancy LaFeverLately, I’ve started to pay more attention to my kin at the grocery store — those of us who wander in single-shopping mode, often perplexed by things like the overwhelming choices in the orange juice section. Pulp? Some Pulp? No Pulp with Calcium? Good Lord.

We don’t often make eye contact, we solo shoppers. We’re on a mission. In my case, it’s get it done and get out fast. But a recent mailing of $1 off coupons from Giant Eagle had me all over the damn store. I normally buy store brands, but w/ a buck off, I bought Kellogg’s Mini Wheats in Cinnamon Roll flavor. Seriously. But I’m digressing. (Hey, I saved nine bucks.)

There is a certain camaraderie between the singles when confronted w/ couples who are not only arguing about some unresolved issue and taking it out on innocent produce, but also blocking any passage in their self-absorbed oblivion. I’ve caught many an eye-roll and exasperated sigh from fellow singletons when trying to negotiate around these folks. I’m fairly certain I recently had a silent communion w/ a guy as we said in our thought bubbles, “Thank God I don’t have to deal w/ that cra* anymore!”

We do peek in each other’s carts. I’ve learned to bite my tongue when about to comment on another single person’s items. Early on in fresh post-divorce mode, I talked to anyone and didn’t have much of a filter. I’d point out my 20 cans of Fancy Feast and case of wine and laugh while gazing at their head of lettuce, light bulb and cheese singles. It usually didn’t go over well.

I continue to chat w/ people in the wine department, advising them on a good red or nice Chenin Blanc. Most people like to talk about wine and some look petrified they’ll make a wrong choice, elevating a wine purchase to that of a new vehicle. So perhaps I offer them some comfort. I certainly enjoy myself.

Maybe we should have a secret handshake or club? Single People’s Grocery List Outpost #35. Come and share your grocery list and pet peeves. I’ll pour you a glass of wine.

— Nancy LaFever

Nancy LaFever pens a blog, “Single People’s Grocery Lists.” Why? Because she “discovered the crap we buy is actually pretty funny when you look at your list.”

Send in the clowns

Bob Niles“You do know you’re talking to yourself, right?”

“I’m talking to the guy in front of me!” I counter, justifying my sanity. “He’s poking along at 50 in a 50km zone,” I annoyingly state, with one hand on the wheel and the other tapping the horn. “Come on, grandpa, let’s move it!”

“Good job, grandpa,” says the wife, as she reminds me that I have reproduced children. “That’s telling him. But if you really want him to hear you, you should turn off the radio, roll down the window, drive up alongside, stick your head out and mention to the — and here I use your definition — circus-performing Bozo that you would like him to break the law by speeding so that you can get home to watch the news. Otherwise, you’re just talking to yourself, old man!”

As much as I’d like to disagree with her, she’s absolutely right. I do a lot of talking to the unhearing forces that determine traffic. Cars and the clowns who are suppose to be driving them. I talk to all makes of cars and trucks, imports and domestic, black or white, luxury or compact. If they happen to be on either side of me, in front of me or behind me, I strike up a one-sided conversation. I guide them along in the tone of an  annoyed parent of a 4-year-old. I use words of direction like, “Come on, let’s get moving!” or “Get off your brake and try the gas pedal!” or “Turn! Turn! Don’t wait for the light to turn red before you go!” And with every direction,  I interject “Ya, clown!” Male or female, black or white, tall or short, everyone I submit my heated direction to is a circus adventurer of humor.

It’s an annoyed tone, not a mad one.  Mad people do things. We who are annoyed just go home and bore the family with yet another tirade, one that somehow keeps them from committing me to a home for the socially insane. People seem to accept others being annoyed, or upset with inanimate objects. I don’t like the toaster reminding me it’s electric when I use my jam knife to free the toast. If people or objects cause problems, we’re going to let them know about it. There are more people than just me out there raising their fists to the sky and screaming at the heavens, “Thank you very much!’ when their cars break down at the side of the road or the jam knife becomes welded to the inside of the toaster.clown cartoon

If you ever talked lovingly to a car or toaster about how good they are and you’re so proud of them for what they’re doing, then it’s off to the home with you. If your car’s running great, I say treat it like an upset spouse and keep your mouth shut. If traffic is moving along and all the clowns are right with the universe, whistle. Don’t say encouraging things to the clowns beside you, whatever you do. Cause that’s when authorities start visiting the family and doctor’s appointments happen. Seems we can’t be happy in traffic.

Old guys didn’t get old by driving along distracted. We figured out long ago what all the traffic around us was doing and how we could do it better.

You should try it. Take my one-week challenge and talk to the cars around you. If you’re worried people might think you’re nuts, stuff a black piece of Play-Doh in your ear and let them think it’s part of your iPhone thingy. (It’s what I do). Tell that car in front of you when to turn. The one behind you to get off your bumper. Warn the clown in front there’s a pedestrian in the crosswalk. You’ll be a better driver. You’ll be annoyed, but you’ll be a better driver.

And you’d better get used to being annoyed because it’s a free gift that comes with age. Driving is just one way it manifests itself. How? Well let’s start with, everything hurts! Doing shoulder checks while sitting in some crappy 25-year-old Buick for more than five minutes produces squeaking and leaking from both parties.

It’s annoying. About as annoying as Richmond giving out more tickets for clowns illegally parking in the handicapped space than any other city in the lower mainland! “When did the handicap symbol become the very expensive parking near the door symbol?”

“Are you talking to me?” the wife questions as she sticks her head from the kitchen.

“No, I’m talking to the TV! I can’t believe the story on the news about all the parking tickets. Clowns parking illegally!”

“You do know you’re talking to yourself, right?”

—  Bob Niles

Bob Niles, who answers to Robert, Bobby, Dad, Grandpa, Unit No.2 (his Dad could never remember all the children’s names) honey and super hero, is new to writing but not to storytelling. “I like to make people laugh and to think, with a secret desire make them dance and send me untraceable $100 bills in the mail,” says the happily married, retired father and grandpa from Richmond in British Columbia, Canada. He blogs at superiordribble.blogspot.com.

Reflections of Erma