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The insanity of closed captions

steve_eskewResearch is sketchy on who or what transcribes TV’s closed captions for the hearing impaired. I think I know why: Neither human nor artificial intelligence wants the blame for all of the blunders. My hat’s off to the hearing impaired. I can easily relate to their frustrations, even though no one in my household is deaf. With the possible exception of my inflatable woman.

Therefore, with near perfect hearing, some people would probably think me daft for setting up our TV for a feature reserved expressly for the hearing impaired. Daft? Definitely. But my rationale for setting up the captions reeks legit. It’s because I like to watch TV while waiting for the tech-support guys from India to come back on the phone line. You know? To walk me through whatever computerized gadget I can’t navigate. News flash: I’m not overly literate. I need lots of help operating any offsprings of modern technology.

Because of their evil nature, the tech people love to keep me on hold. Interminably. During those dull intervals, both writing and reading become impossible. Who can concentrate? Every 15 seconds, the tech service insists upon repeating its annoying recorded assurance that it considers my call “very important.” And with all that static blather, who can hear TV dialogue?

So, I got the bright idea of muting the TV and reading the closed captions while I wait. Surprise! Very few of the captions comprise the remotest semblance of sense. I figured out why. One murky morning, I decided to perform an experiment. I left the TV sound turned up while the closed caption feature transcribed the spoken words. My God! What it doesn’t misinterpret, it omits altogether.

Like a Puritan, the closed caption feature sheepishly bleeps out words like “vagina” and “scrotum.” Evidently, those words should be reserved only for those of us who can hear. However, the system gets fooled on occasion and transcribes words like “dildo.” Of course, it spells the word “Bill Toe,” leaving deaf people under the impression that an enigmatic man named Bill Toe could be a horny person’s best buddy.

Once a character was chatting about her multilingual friend. The closed caption read: “Flora travels the world. She’s affluent in several languages.” (I’ll bet she is at that). Later, a news anchor character announced how a bomb scare had prompted authorities to evaporate the Arts and Sinuses Building. (Hate when that happens).

Recently, the contraption stalled on the word “sexual,” letting the word linger in lonely limbo on the screen for several seconds. Then, suddenly, it spat out the rest of the sentence, along with several other paragraphs with such a frantic rapidity that even a world-class speed reader would be lost. By that point, being a certified neurotic who’s deeply in love with a testy inflatable woman, I began screaming: “Sexual what? Sexual who? Sexual where? Sexual how?”

Time after time, after the frustrations of closed captions have driven me to the edge of insanity, finally out of India comes a live voice over my speaker phone, asking how she can help. I start to cry. I can’t remember why I even called tech support. Why didn’t I save a step and simply call my shrink instead? My shrink? Oh, that’s right: he’s stopped taking my calls eons ago.

The real tragedy was discovering that I’m totally unable to shut down the contemptible closed caption feature on my TV. And no one will help. No one. For some reason, most of the tech people have blacklisted me. Thus, hence and therefore, every show I watch includes closed captions cluttering up the screen. Today, I watched a scene occurring in an office setting.

A secretary spoke: “Death is on the way into your office,” the caption read. The door burst open and a short, red-headed young woman sprang into the room and said: “Hi, I’m Beth.”

Silly me. I was expecting to see a tall guy with a cycle.

— Steve Eskew

Retired businessman Steve Eskew received master’s degrees in dramatic arts and communication studies from the University of Nebraska at Omaha after he turned 50. After one of his professors asked him to write a theater column, he began a career as a journalist at The Daily Nonpareil in Council Bluffs, Iowa. This led to hundreds of publications in a number of newspapers, most of which appear on his website, eskewtotherescue.com.

Fear of flying

Rachael KoenigAmong many other personality idiosyncrasies that seem to be worsening with age, I have developed an increasingly frustrating aversion to flying. On a plane, that is.

In my youth, I remember the idea of taking a trip to some far away exotic place like Buenos Aires or Cleveland as something magical and thrilling. Even having to wake up in the wee hours of the morning before the sun rose and leaving the house in blackness created a sense of mysterious purpose and adventure. I was a hobbit in a Tolkien story, throwing my leather knapsack over my shoulder (or perhaps dragging a vinyl Strawberry Shortcake carry-on case) and starting off on a journey of great importance. To slay a dragon. Or visit grandparents. Whatever.

Part of the thrill was surely the novelty of it; because I can count on one finger how many plane excursions I took between the ages of two and 15. We were a family of automobile passengers; my parents content to contain our escapades within the tri-state area. As such, I remained a less-experienced traveler throughout much of my youth, resulting in a somewhat diminished appreciation for foreign cultures. For instance, as a 7-year-old, on an extremely rare foray to Puerto Rico, I remember the highlight of the trip being the several large bowls of Rice Krispies I was allowed to eat for breakfast in the hotel, a delicacy I was not sanctioned to enjoy at home.

Sadly, just as air travel became more of a necessity in my life, my enthusiasm for it waned as the post-911 airport complexities and entanglements took a firm grip on the industry. Although I realize the absurdity of diminishing the required anti-terrorism tactics by using the phrase “a real killjoy,” I can’t help recalling fondly the last time I made it through a security line without catching a sock in my shoe as I hopped along attempting to remove multiple layers of clothing with one hand while I guided dirty plastic bins containing my belongings through the conveyor belt with the other.

It’s not that I don’t enjoy waiting in lines. Or being herded like cattle through an X-ray machine that will no doubt at any minute be proven to cause cancer. Or being forced to guzzle down the bottle of water I just bought for $5 before I get to the front of the security line. Or sucking up to TSA officials on the off chance they might find me suspicious looking (I’m not sure I have ever resembled my own driver’s license photo). Or being charged an additional $50 for every extra pound over some arbitrary pre-determined mass that my suitcase may weigh. Or keeping all my liquid items under four ounces and sealed in a plastic bag in my purse. Or removing my belt in front of strangers. Or watching other strangers remove their belts in front of me.  Actually, I take it back — I don’t enjoy any of that.

Lately, being forced to spend time in the airport makes me angry. Just considering the possibility, as distant as it may be, that my flight will be delayed or cancelled puts me on high rage alert, as I psyche myself up for an inevitable argument with a customer service representative or flight attendant. The fact that I have no control over how many minutes are spent sitting near a gate waiting to depart or even on the plane before take-off creates in me a perfect storm of anxiety, apprehension and angst. By the time I’m told to ‘sit back, relax and enjoy the flight’, I have a pulsing vein in my temple.

It’s not that I don’t enjoy paying for meals that used to be free. Or paying for headphones that used to be free. Or paying for movies that used to be free. Or being told “cashews are for first class only.”

Besides the internal psychological warfare that accompanies any trip I may take on a plane these days, there is the continuing and exasperating demise of my physical tolerance for turbulence. Whether it’s directly related to some aging symptom of my impending decrepitude or perhaps an indication that my mind-body connection is disconnecting, I find myself increasingly incapable of dealing with air bumps. My head and stomach suffer varying degrees of nausea as the plane tilts and rolls over invisible pockets of air, causing me to grip the arm rests of my tiny seat with sweaty palms as I stare out the window (which a….l…w…a…y…s… has the shade stuck) in vain and count the seconds until we land.

What usually makes the experience all the more painful is the apparent immunity to such suffering that I am forced to witness in my fellow passengers. On a recent plane ride, I was aggravated to have my sense of sickness compounded by the aroma of a tuna fish sandwich, calmly being consumed across the aisle by Jon Lovits’ doppelganger. As the plane leaned to an angle in the sky that implied we were nearly upside down and my stomach lurched appropriately, I was aghast to notice Jon serenely chewing and swallowing his lunch (upside down!), pausing only to notice my pale and clammy stare. He winked, which I took as a direct indication of his lack of humanity.

The practice of flying, like many other aspects of my life, has revealed itself to be disillusioning as I have grown older. However, currently my travel options are limited. Although I’ll bet if I live long enough to see it, teleportation will get old, too. I mean, all that molecule rearranging just sounds messy.

— Rachael Koenig

Rachael Koenig is a writer and humorist deriving most of her inspiration from her two sons, aged nine and five, and step-daughter, aged 13.  Her site Maxisms contains personal stories and a collection of precocious, snarky and hilarious conversations between herself and her children. Her work has recently appeared on scarymommy.com, rolereboot.org, whattheflicka.com and The New York Times parenting blog Motherlode. She thinks of herself as more of an essayist than a blogger, because she is old-fashioned and grumpy and out of touch with modern social media vernacular. Also, “blogger” still sounds like something one would pull out of a left nostril. She can be reached on Facebook.

A leaky situation

T. Faye GriffinI guess the reality is that there is no getting around getting old. Yes, I said “old.” I don’t care how many so-called “age defying” cosmetics Walgreen’s sells, or how many times somebody says “50 is the new 40,” I know what old is. I’ve got creaky knees, gray hair and can no longer read small print without a pair of cheaters that are recycled Coke bottle bottoms. In my book, that equals old.

And, to top it off, I now leak!

Back in the day when I would sneeze, someone would offer a polite “God bless you” and that would be the end of it. Now when I sneeze animals start to line up two-by-two. What commercials call as “light bladder control problem,” I call a flood. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not quite ready for Depends (knock wood); still, it’s disconcerting to know that I may never be able to have unprotected belly laughs again. The good news is that the mystery of Mama’s insistence on having plastic slipcovers has been solved at last.

But there are some undeniable benefits of growing older. For me, one in particular comes to mind. At nine months, my angel granddaughter Lillian Mae, a.k.a “Lily,” and I have a lot in common. She leaks, too.

Before she was born, I proclaimed to any who would listen that I would never become one of those mushy-gushy grandmothers who can talk of nothing other than their precious progeny. Yeah well, so much for that idea. Can I help it if my Lily-Pop is the most beautiful and brilliant baby ever born? Never could I have imagined a love this divine. To say the least, she has certainly made this growing older business an easier pill to swallow.

Truth be told, however, I don’t remember very much about caring for a baby, especially since my babies are now young adults. My first time up-to-bat at babysitting duty was a bit challenging. She was cranky and wouldn’t sleep. I remembered that a warm bottle and a warm bath is like Kryptonite to babies. Trouble is with my bad knees I couldn’t bend down to the tub. My double kitchen sink was too small, and she’s not exactly ready for the shower.  Then I got an idea — the Wok.

You remember the wok don’t you? We all had them in the ‘80s. Well, I dug out the old wok, wiped the rust off it, filled it with warm water and voila! It was rounded on the bottom so I could give her a bath, warm the bottle and rock her to sleep at the same time. Work smarter, not harder, I always say.

Excuse me? You have a problem with me putting her in the wok? This is not your grandbaby! Everything was perfect except I had a little trouble explaining to her mother why she smelled like soy sauce.

I don’t think I would have appreciated being a grandmother half as much had she been born while I was in my 40s—or God forbid my 30s. (Hey, it happens.) I was much too busy trying to get her father out of the house. But that’s another story for another day. Like millions of grandparents past and present, my first-born grandchild is the joy of my heart and the grace of my years. In her young eyes I see hope for a tomorrow that very well may be a bit moist, but a whole lot brighter, and that does this old heart some good.

— T. Faye Griffin

T. Faye Griffin is an award-winning humorist who’s put words into the mouths of Academy Award winners, comedians, politicians and everyday folk alike. From A&E to PBS, she has amassed an impressive list of writing credits that include the landmark comedy series “In Living Color” and The Los Angeles Times. A respected motivational and inspirational speaker, T. Faye has been a featured instructor at the prestigious Chautauqua Institution and the Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Center for Comedy. She is the author of the best-selling devotional, Morning Manna: Wisdom Served With Humor and Heart. The Los Angeles native has appeared on FOX, COZI-TV and BET.

No pens, pencils, knives or scissors!

Hillary IbarraMy father gave his children many things, but his greatest gift to his children was time.

He spent hours playing with us outside and having many conversations about God, our dreams, choices, relationships. …Well, he covered so many topics.

He also had a habit of being ultra-protective, inventing rules which indelibly stood from our toddler years to adolescence, despite the fact that our allotment of common sense had increased dramatically during this time. One rule especially lives in the memories of his four children. For years every time my parents left the house, my father turned to us kids and, with a deep tone of warning, said, “No pens, pencils, knives or scissors!”

These four utensils were banned on principle. According to Dad, any one of them could, with a lack of proper supervision, put an eye out. This created a dilemma when my parents worked late, and we kids had homework to do. The time came when we could no longer do it in crayon without inviting the derision of our classmates and teachers. So Dad let us use a pencil, but only if we sat a good distance from each other, preventing the possibility of it flying from our hands in a moment of mathematical fervor and lodging itself in a sibling’s eye. As we studied in four separate corners of the living room, we often speculated on what bizarre accident in Dad’s past kept us from being normal.

Whatever it was, it must have been horrendous because I don’t remember ever seeing a steak knife in my childhood home. I suppose Mom had to trim the fat off our dinner meat by gnawing on it with her strong, bare teeth or by playing tug-of-war with it and our Lab. And we kids became quite adept at carving our food with a mere fork. Thank heavens we had those nifty utensils with their four metal prongs! I suppose it was an oversight on Dad’s part, or perhaps he didn’t want to invest in chopsticks, because he thought that those, too, could put an eye out with a few enthusiastic attempts.

As for table knives with their blunt, smooth-as-a-baby’s-bum blades, they were not excluded from the rule by any means. My eldest sister Vinca had Dad’s exclusive permission to wield a table knife when my parents were out. My other two siblings and I were utterly dependent on her for our peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Annie, Nate and I tried to stage a coup once, creeping up behind her as she made our lunch. But when she turned on us, drunk with her own power, and said, “Don’t make me use this!”, we went squealing into the living room.

Ironically, in light of all these prohibitions, my brother, Nate, and I were still allowed to play with homemade bows and arrows constructed from rubber bands, green sticks and sharpened twigs. Maybe Dad relied on the breeze to disrupt Nate’s aim as my brother told me to run in the field and be “a deer.” Or maybe Dad only had a problem with professionally made “weapons” and didn’t want to stifle our ingenuity in devising our own in case we ever had to join a poorly funded militia.

Eventually, the rule became more of a joke than a rule in our home, and Dad pronounced it with a twinkle in his eye and a smirk on his face — like when he said it out of habit in the presence of my sister’s fiancée, a Marine. Nevertheless, I do sometimes think on Dad’s old rule as I yell at my kids to stop playing drums with sharpened colored pencils, throwing pens at each other in a “friendly” game, cutting paper into tiny shapes all over my table or constructing ninja stars out of K’NEX. Like Ralphie’s mom in A Christmas Story, maybe Dad was on to something.

As for the rule’s long-standing effect on my relationship with basic utensils? Though I spent many childhood years waiting for the day when I could make my own sandwich using any sharp object I chose — a knife, letter opener, diamond cutter, table saw — as a grown woman, I still attempt to slice through various cuts of meat armed only with a fork and sheer determination. This spectacle provides my husband with entertainment at the dinner table — until a hunk of meat flies off my plate to hit him in the face. But, as I remind him, no one ever heard of putting an eye out with a T-bone steak.

— Hillary Ibarra

Hillary Ibarra has had several humor pieces published on Aiming Low and humorwriters.org. She is a mother of four who dreams of playing the banjo, living in Jane Austen’s childhood home and writing for more than spam artists and fifty loyal readers but can’t seem to find them in the laundry. She is the mysterious blogger at No Pens, Pencils, Knives or Scissors. In her spare time she likes to threaten to sell her children to the zoo, and their little dog, too.

Why men stop driving

myron.kuklaHave you ever noticed that as married couples get older the women do most of the driving?

When young men and women meet and start dating, it’s typical that the guy drives the car and the young lady sits in the passenger seat. When they get married and have children, they share driving responsibilities.

Then when they hit their 60s, women drive the car and the man sits quietly in the passenger seat.

The reason is after many years of driving together, the man in the relationship has gone crazy from being badgered about his driving.

Here is a typical conversation when I go out driving with my wife Madeline.

MADELINE: You’re driving too fast. Slow down.

I slow down.

MADELINE: Turn your blinker off.

I turn the blinker off.

MADELINE: Turn your signal on if you’re going to turn.

I turn my signal on.

MADELINE: Why are you driving so slow?

Me: You told me to.

MADELINE: Well, speed up. Or we’re going to be late.

Here’s a true story. I was driving down the road a few weeks ago and suddenly Madeline shouted. I mean SHOUTED.

MADELINE: WATCH OUT.

There’s no one in front of our car, and I quickly look in the rear view mirror and both side mirrors and … there are  no cars anywhere near us.

Me: What am I watching out for? (I ask mildly)

MADELINE: The guy up at the bus stop.

I look up ahead and 40 yards away, 30 feet off the road is a guy sitting at a bus stop.

Me: You mean that guy at the bus stop way off on the side of the road?

MADELINE: Yes.

Me: Did you honestly think I was going to lose control of the car, go off the road and hit him?

MADELINE: Yes.

Here’s another true driving story my friend Richard related to me about him driving the car with his wife, Barbara, in the passenger seat. Richard had just pulled out of the driveway of his condo and was slowly driving up the road. Ahead of the car 50 feet away a flock of ducks started crossing the street.

BARBARA: Do you see the ducks up ahead?

RICHARD: Yes.

BARBARA: Well, don’t kill the ducks.

RICHARD: Do you really think I’m going to step on the gas and try to run over those ducks?

BARBARA: Yes.

Eventually, men reach a point where they’ve just had enough advice from their wives and they go, “Why don’t you drive?”

I hit that point on a road trip to the south recently. I was driving and we were headed to Elizabethtown, Ky. It was night. and I accidently got off at the wrong exit.

MADELINE: Why are you getting off here?

ME: I thought this was our exit.

MADELINE: Our exit doesn’t come up for 25 miles. Are you hallucinating?

ME: Well, why don’t you drive?

MADELINE: I will.

So we changed spots and Madeline took over driving and the first thing she did was pull out into oncoming traffic the wrong way on a divided highway.

I mildly shouted, “Get back, get back. We’re all going to die.”

Madeline put the car in reverse and got us back to safety.

“So, I made a little mistake. At least I didn’t get off at the wrong exit,” she said.

And that is why when you see older couples in a car, the women drive while the men sit quietly in the passenger seat, scared for their lives.

— Myron Kukla

Myron Kukla is a professional journalist, writer and owner of the West Michigan-based marketing company WriteStuff.  Kukla is the author of two books of humor, Confessions of a Baby Boomer: Memories of Things I Haven’t Forgotten Yet and Guide to Surviving Life. He has also just published two ebooks on Amazon.com, Chomp and Something in the Blood.

Creepier and creepier

Cindi LabadieIt really can’t get much better than this.

On days like these I am even more happy than usual to have a blog about the seemingly ordinary happenings of life. Especially when those happenings are filled with intrigue and mischief, laughter and randomness.

This morning I picked up my cell where it was charging and saw that I had received a picture by text. It was a picture of my house with a police car in front. It looked like an older picture from Google Maps or something.

The police car is not as odd as you may think. My neighbor is an officer of the law. I did not recognize the number from whom the text came and there were no words in the message. It did not come from someone in my phone’s address book.

Creepy.

I looked up the area code and saw it was a general area where family members use to live about 10 years ago. Looked up their number, just in case. Nope. Wasn’t the number I had for them.

Creepier and creepier.

I showed it to my daughter, called MOMD and then called the oldest hooligan. He said he has received texts obviously sent to him in error. If they keep texting him, he said he just starts sending them random pictures or texts back and then they stop.

He suggested I just send a random picture to see what happens.  You just have to know I have random pictures on my phone, for just this type of occasion.

Well, actually this was a pic I sent to MOMD a while back showing him I bought him the wrong flavor of almond milk.  (See what I mean? Random.)

almond breeze

A few minutes later I get the following response:

What?

That’s it?  I had hoped for more.  So I sent another picture.

bulb

A few weeks back I asked youngest hooligan to pick up a replacement light bulb and wanted to make sure she got the right one.  Why not snap a picture?  (And THIS is why I need a smart phone, people).

This time I get: ????

I am keeping oldest hooligan in the loop of pictures I’m sending with a little dialogue so we have this little text conversation…mine is in blue.

text

 

It is at this point he calls me and says, “Mom, you can’t ask me questions when I am asking you questions.”  I quickly straightened him out that the ???? was what I received from mystery texter.  Yet another good laugh.

Of course I had to respond to ???? so I sent:

cardsA fairly good Hearts hand except for the dumb 2, 3 and 5 of hearts, of course.

Hours later I receive:

text

I finally ask who it is and guess what? It is the sister-in-law I originally thought it was. The one who moved years ago. To another state.

I still don’t know why I didn’t have her number stored. And, boy, am I in trouble because she is going to be visiting us in just a few short weeks.  I have the feeling I haven’t heard the last of this.

I just hope the police car is in front when they get here so they can find the house.

If you decide to text me a random picture with no warning, please let me know ahead of time so I can replenish my random phone pictures.  After all, you’ve already seen these.

Thank you for reading! I hope this has given you a chuckle…

If you think it is scary to know me, you can only imagine how scary it is to BE me.

— Cindi Labadie

Cindi Labadie, mom to five and wife to one, blogs at “Seemingly Ordinary.”

Three March Madness tips

Charles HartleyThe March Madness college basketball tournament is on the brink of exploding on Americans. Strap yourselves up. Zero in. And take to heart these three tips:

Tip One: For those of you who are employed, figure out a way to watch all the games while at work and not get caught by your boss. This will be especially important for the 12 first Round games that start on a Thursday at noon EST.

You must — this is a command not a request — pipe the games into your office computer and watch them including the thousands of commercials. If you have any work to do that day, get it done in the morning. If you don’t have any work to do that day, that’s even better. Stay out of the office fray. Lay low. Don’t ask any questions. Don’t offer any suggestions. Don’t respond to emails even those marked “urgent.” Don’t add value. Don’t help the business.

Focus on your main objective: watching the games on your computer the entire afternoon. This won’t boost America’s gross domestic product, which is the total output of goods and services. But nothing else can or will. You are not to blame for America’s economic malaise. That’s on them.

Tip Two: For those of you who don’t work, you’re golden. Absorb all 12 games without fear of losing your job because you don’t have one. This is the biggest upside to being unemployed. On the first day of March Madness, you get to hang out and watch all the games in peace. No need to be coy and dishonest. As you watch, don’t search job boards. Take the day off. Kick your feet up. Munch Funyons. Drink Cream Soda. Think about your basketball career if you had one. Imagine one if you if you didn’t. Ask yourself why you never got to play in the March Madness tournament. It probably was because you didn’t want it bad enough. This is always the reason people don’t succeed. They are not willing to pay the price. They reveal their weakness. In your case, you were not willing to go outside in the cold and practice one thousand foul shots every day 365 days a year from the ages of 12 through 17. That’s on you. Girls distracted you. They ate away at too much of your basketball practice time. You let it happen. You were weak. Meek people deserve what they get.

Tip Three: To bone up on the March Madness teams, read essays from me here until the title game on Monday night in April. I pledge to deliver to you a bastion of sports paraphernalia that will give you all the March Madness you need, don’t need and don’t care to know, such as player profiles, psychological dilemmas, historical context, links to academic concepts, interpersonal conflicts between players and coaches, weather reports, and inappropriate personal asides.

I will distill all you need to know about the tournament into chicken nuggets of content that is as digestible as butterscotch pudding and/or chicken nuggets. Ignore the millions of other writers covering the tournament. They will give you what you already know and expect and are comfortable with: who won, who lost, a prediction that Kansas will go to the Sweet 16. Those people will be sensible, insightful, logical and good at what they do.

You don’t need that. Break from your comfort zone. Live a little. Marinate with me in some real March Madness.

— Charles Hartley

Charles Hartley is a freelance writer who has had more than 1,000 articles published in a wide range of media outlets focused on humor, sports, business, technology and consumers. He has earned master’s degrees in journalism and business administration and a bachelor’s degree in English and communications.

Buckets

Rachel BarlowThe sweat from a few hours of cleaning was beginning to cool as they collapsed on the green recliner sofa.

“All I want to do,” said Dad, “is keep my feet up for the rest of the night. What’s on?” Mom handed him the remote and put her own foot rest up.

“Nothing sounds good. How about a few episode of ‘That Trite Sitcom’ for background noise, ” she suggested.

Dad reclined all the way back, grunting his approval. Mom clicked to the play-it-now channel and closed her eye as the opening credits played. She pulled a nearby superhero-themed fleece blanket over her legs, vaguely registering that a heavier, living blanket was wrapping around her remote-control arm.

“Oh, I love this show,” chirped 8-year-old  Thing-Two. He adjusted his red satin cape so that it covered Mom and himself. He then spent most of the progrm squirming as he tried to find the ultimate snuggle position. Mom decided it was nice that her youngest child was still young enough to have not put away childish things like cuddling. Thing-Two was still trying every hug technique known to science as Mom began to drift off.

“Awe,” Thing-Two sighed. “Mom, mom! Look at that baby.” He patted Mom’s arm gently and then firmly until she  opened her eyes. “Isn’t he cute?” Thing-Two gestured at the TV.

“Very cute,” Mom mumbled and closed her eyes again.

“I want to be a dad someday,” Thing-Two said, wrapping Mom’s arm around himself.

“Someday,” said Mom, “you’ll be a great dad, Buddy.”

illustration“Yeah, I can’t wait,” said Thing-Two. “It’s number 4 on my bucket list.” Mom’s eyes opened wide. She twisted her head to look at Thing-Two’s face and saw Dad had focused his attention on their son.

“You have a bucket list?” Mom asked.

“Of course,” answered Thing-Two.  “I’ve been working on it for years.  I want to grow up and marry a sweet girl and be a dad and dance and have a…”

“How do you now what a bucket list is?” Mom interrupted.

“I’ve always known about them,” he answered. “Don’t you have a bucket list, Mom?”

Dad was listening quietly and smiled at Mom.

“Well, I’ve heard of them, and I could start one,” she stammered. “But we’ve done a lot of bucket stuff.” She looked at Dad and shrugged, hoping he would have something to add.

Thing-Two looked into Mom’s eyes. He was silent for a few minutes, inspecting her  face.

“Mommy, you really ought to have a bucket list,” he said. He squirmed to face the TV and see the baby again.

“Otherwise you might spend the rest of your life doing nothing but cleaning and siting on the couch.”

— Rachel Barlow

Blogger Rachel Barlow describes herself as “a midlife crisis waiting to happen, closet nomad and middle-aged work-at-home-mother of two.” Her life is “wrapped up in peanut butter sandwiches, fat (sometimes losing it), bills and blogging (her way) to sanity.”

Reflections of Erma