INNOCENT UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY

Back when it was a huge buyers market, I would have put our house up for sale fully furnished with all my siblings. Of course any real estate agent would have looked at me funny, since I was twelve. The story you are about to read is true. Only the names have been withheld to protect me from being forced in front of a firing squad at the next family gathering.

The presumption of innocence is a legal right in this country. I was always torn with wanting to live the guiltless life or spend quality time with my bedroom. What ever compelled my parents to persecute after hearing “it wasn’t my fault” was baffling. I didn’t wrap the hair dryer with double sided tape, pour glue in the crème rinse containers, or replace the grape juice with Merlot. On a school day, one of our more intelligent geniuses turned the clocks back three hours. Dad, Sherlock of our home, was still investigating who kept putting the milk carton back in the fridge empty. Obviously there was a real need to chill plastic.

One night mom and dad were gone somewhere. Where they went escapes me. In any event, they often escaped. That’s when the word “advantage” came into play and a party was being planned. Before long, the whole high school got wind of it and convoyed over to our house, land of the free and home of the hell raising welcoming committee. I tried telling certain brothers that it probably wasn’t a good idea to have Mom and Dad come home to the stench of a brewery. I toyed with another idea. If you can’t beat em, join em.

There weren’t ample amounts of pretzels to feed us, let alone the rest of the juvenile population of suburbia. But there were enough teens trafficking through our home to leave dents in the tile. Contributions of popped beer tops ornamented the bushes during the high-spirited shindig. Never mind the long term consequences we were facing from the rest of the littered lawn. Paper cups were dispersed within half a mile from where the keg was hidden. And you couldn’t see the carpet through the Frito crumbs. Since we thought life handed us lemons, we tried making special lemonade with the help of those who brought bottles of anything spiked. Hasbro was certainly wrong. Weebles wobble and they do fall down. One girlie left early after the fence bordering our yard couldn’t hold her up. Her parting words were a bit slurred, but sounded like “Nice party! You guys sure got sum dandy lions in your grass.” She was sotally tober.

I suppose my parents wondered why dandelions were stacked on the grill. And why the vacuum cleaner was in the middle of the living room, unless they thought we learned that they are surprisingly easy to use. If June Cleaver could wear high heels and pearls when vacuuming, one sister figured she could wear mom’s favorite pumps and curtain tie backs for necklaces while she used the sweeper hose as a suction cup to give hickies. I also watched colorful pretend peacocks spread their arms ready to fly off the roof. I tried shooing them away from becoming potential paraplegics. I wince now when I see the pheasant on NBC. A pellet gun would have been more effective. So would a motorcade of police cars, but I wasn’t a snitch. I cringed after seeing mom’s matted annuals and trampled perennials. I kept one eye open for my parent’s arrival, and remained on suicide watch in case their hands got within close proximity of my jugular veins for not protecting their plantation. They would soon misjudge me as a highly rated care giving candidate. My plea of innocence was received about as well as my eventual registration to Harvard.

After animal house calmed down and every last beer can was supposedly scooped up from the lawn, Mom and Pop came home to Fort Bliss. Except they didn’t walk through the door without holding that one crushed can of evidence that got overlooked once Dad drove over the metal container wondering what the crunch was. And since future parties were a probability, I’m sure they thought about investing in a Geiger counter. We were under a lot of beer but mostly peer pressure. For the sake of appearances, I wore sunglasses and gargled with a ton of Listerine. Mom went to bathe the baby the next morning and found a stranger sleeping in the bathtub. The rest of the house was likely fingerprinted for furniture foul play. Mom’s nylons that were draped over the shower were now covering the fan blades. And our pooch looked like the Pillsbury dough dog after somebody dusted him with flour. The normally un-intoxicated person would feel rather uncomfortable going through someone else’s kitchen searching for the flour sifter.

A certain amount of Handi-wrapping did faze my younger siblings, and those who shall remain unnamed did some keep-your-mouth-shut bartering. Others called it bribery. The real confusion began when all of us yelled, “It wasn’t me!” We were left wondering how we were going to cope with the same floor to ceiling view of our bedrooms once we got grounded for a month. That, along with other imprisonment issues such as not being able to use the phone. I took a shine to the bathrooms, literally. The parents made me scrub floors, which is why I’m mentally cleanser challenged today. And if they found anything broken, that’s when their generosity flourished and gave us an extra week in solitaire. We didn’t dare gripe about it. They said silence is golden. Otherwise duct tape would do the job.

Someone told me to enjoy my teen years as much as I can. Because there will never again be a time in my life when I can spend that much time learning that there are soooo many petals to flowers in the wallpaper that covered my bedroom walls.

(Posts found in the weekend editions of The Parson’s Sun newspaper in Kansas)

WORD OF MOUTH

I ran across a new word. Portentous. Curiously, I looked up the meaning. It said ominous, threatening, menacing, giving a sign that something unpleasant is going to happen. I’m two percent positive it also said of, or relating to, telemarketing.

There are more messengers in this country than there are trees, trying to use their relentless tormenting techniques. And that DO NOT CALL registry is rather ficklish. Some people don’t take no for an answer and need a hug around the neck with a phone cord. I guess I was always too kind in not wanting to take the easy way out by just hanging up. So I prepared myself for more days of foraging. Only it wouldn’t be me feasting, but those on the other end who are likely descendents of cannibals reaching out trying to devour people regularly. They rarely make my day, since I’m still waiting for those things that have been promised to me for decades.

I never want to interrupt any caller who is in the middle of some serious entrapment. On one hand, everyone would love to win an all expense paid trip to Liechtenstein, one of the least visited countries in the world. But I really don’t want to give out pertinent personal information to strangers. That’s the way to start building fret and frustration on the far end of the phone. I want to say, “My address? Sure. My Doberman and I live at the corner of Main and you’d better watch out.” They must go through several containers of Speed Stick and hours upon hours of lessons on loosening up a customer. Too bad they can’t pass a mango martini through the ringer. They’d probably have me at hello. But there’s not one person in the civilized phone world that can understand my stance on being swindled. It would be easier to extract a tooth from a tiger than get me to submit.

I’ve done everything from stuttering to telling my whole life story making it as pathetic as possible to staging a stroke. Once I was guided by Elvis when I felt my temperature rising. But since I sounded nothing like the iconic singer, I opted for just laying down the receiver with the sweet sound of my blender in the background. On high speed. Meanwhile, I ran to the market, hosed down the patio, and did the laundry. Occasionally I’d pick it back up saying, “Let me transfer you to the home supervisor.” The phone stayed off the hook most of that day.

Another time a sales lady called, AGAIN, on behalf of the yellow pages wanting me to list my business. I said, “No speaka da englis.” She replied, “I’ll switch you to one of our Spanish speaking personnel.” I said, “No speaka da Spanis.” She wasn’t about to give up. That’s when I said, “This little phone of mine? I’m gonna let it shine.” I unplugged it and threw it into the dishwater. It was a putrid green color and I wanted a white one anyway.

In the past, if someone in my household already filled out the crossword puzzle, I had to find some other fun. Years back I got this call.
“Hello Maam! How’s your day going?”
“Lovely.”
“Terrific. Now I’m going to make it lovelier with my no money down, interest free, lifetime warranty replacement windows.” He started with a quote of $4,500. By the end of the pitch he was down to $8,695.
There was a real parallel between this guy and Stalin. He too was condemned on numerous occasions. Now that I’m thinking about it, Hitler was the same way. And he never smiled when he was trying to coerce people. But I’ll bet the real source of his not smiling was because he couldn’t grow a better moustache. The point being, we have to delve deeper into telemarketer’s lives. Maybe they really don’t enjoy calling me while I’m enjoying a midnight snack or a vacation. Maybe they have arguments with their spouses and in turn they have to badger others. Maybe they have hair growth below their nose that they just can’t proportion properly, so they are unhappy humans with the need to take it out on someone else. It made me realize that telemarketers are people too. By the end of the conversation and after refusing mister window seller, I asked him for HIS address so I could send a condolence card.

I have color coded lies. A white lie is likely going to protect someone. A yellow lie means you’re on the brink of a full blown lie. A purple lie says you’re a pathological and compulsive liar. A red lie means you lie so much that you believe in yourself. And a mustard color lie is when you just bend the truth a bit. You know, that covert and reflexive way of responding to certain questions. Let me share some of my mustard lies. “Aye aye captain, I will report for duty in zero six hundred hours.” “I’m psychic. Let me tell you if you’ll be alive in June.” “Gotta go, my water just broke.” “Let me read you my colonoscopy results first.” “Skype me. I need you to tell me if my skin rash is camouflaged by this sweater.” “I’ll help you if you’ll help me. I just killed someone, so can you possibly drive here pronto with a big bag lined box? It’ll be our little secret. Will UPS ship to the bottom of the Baltic Sea?”

Long live my imagination.

I have to praise Kazuo Hashimoto. He invented caller ID. When I see that 1-800 number coming through now, I answer it with, “This is call center consulting, the easiest way to find out WD-40’s fifty some odd uses. Did you know that it lubricates, keeps flies off cows, and takes bug guts off cars?”

(Click from the other end).

“Didn’t think so.”

(Posts can be seen in the weekend editions of The Parson’s Sun newspaper in Kansas)

THE GIGGLING GURU

We were told to lie down on our backs, heads together, and be silent. Then proceed to start laughing uncontrollably until we could feel it in our gut and process our emotions. It was my most ha ha ten minutes ever.

I attended this hour long get together called Laughter & Meditation. I was already acquainted with forms of yoga, but the laughter part intrigued me and I figured I can never get enough of releasing endorphins, deepening laugh lines, and wetting my pants. Since it was free and five minutes from my house, it was way better than spending sixty fascinating minutes in line at Walmart buying Q-tips. Because that’s about as much fun as when a nurse draws blood and she can’t find my veins. We all have our own conception of what constitutes joy. Mine is wearing belly control shapewear for supreme sexiness, belly dancing (in the dark), and belly laughing.

So I savored this “Joy Cocktail” as they call it. And given that I was already a giggler, I knew I would fit right in. But since the group consisted of strangers and an unknown method of meditation, I had to wonder what I was walking into, hoping they weren’t dropped from some spaceship ready to take over my mind and my body. When I first moved to the coast not knowing anyone, the social connection of Meetup has taken me hiking, kayaking, happy hour socializing, business networking, and to concerts in parks. Except bands don’t find it funny when somebody grabs the microphone and tries turning it into karaoke or an amateur comedy hour.

Some people just don’t realize the benefits of cackling. There aren’t many advantages from my singing though. Just ask my sister who told me to stop harmonizing when I was ten. She said I sounded like a wounded Pomeranian. Or my daughter who said my singing was laughable. Maybe somebody somewhere has gotten a few chuckles out of it. I had to remind my offspring that she could have Maria Callas for a mother. She never would have smiled if she had to listen to opera music.

Indian Doctor Madan Kataria started this joyful retreat. I can totally agree that laughing is the best medicine for wellness, and his global movement is the simplest most powerful exercise ever. Our instructor Ina’s great big smile and calming words were contagious. She said that laughter is the shortest bridge between two people. But if the two people are enemies, the bridge may be a moot point if they fight and fall over the railing.

After lying head to head with this group, I wondered how the contagion would be received. I didn’t leave with a weird rash of any kind. But I visualized men in white coats standing at the door ready to take us away. Or the neighbors showing up to see what all the har-de-har har was about. If I carried on this tradition, how would people react in Nordstrom’s when I burst out laughing for no reason? Some people may think I would be laughing at the prices, which I would be. But I’d probably hear, “Security!!!” And yet, what a trickling effect it would be to see the store walls swelling with sounds of snorting. I’m sure someone on the outside would call in the National Guard. And yet if we got the National Guard got involved in the cachinnation, it could very well permeate throughout the planet. It’s already reached sixty countries. That means ocean life must be cracking up as well.

I already laugh for a living. I laugh with my kids and friends. I laugh with my boss. I laugh at myself regularly. Now I laugh when I stub my toe and when the toilet overflows. If I cried about it, there would even more water to deal with. I realize it’s just not worth another credit card bill. Although now, I have bill laughter. Laughing may not get them paid, but I can laugh all the way to the bank. It’s when I go inside and see my balance that I frown about. There’s an extra special need for laughter in restaurant kitchens. Because people who cut up onions cry for a living.

This practice of guffawing is largely associated with feelings of warmth, bonding, tolerance, forgiveness, and compassion. So if you see me hugging gophers, or telling pine trees how much I love them, you’ll know why. I have more compassion now, and can tolerate ticks. I’m not 100% sure I can bond with badgers. I might have to keep some laughing gas on hand in case I cross their nest.

I wish I laughed more when I was raising kids. It would have been good to incorporate way more hilarity into their havoc. Except that I did giggle when one daughter bed-azzled her sleeping area with glitter glue. You should have seen the sparkling gum on her bedpost overnight. And I think they should have streets lined with laugh stops, just like they have check points for drunk drivers. Laughter also precludes the production of hormones that correspond with such aggressions as hatred, fear, and violence. So how about we band together and go show Manson this stress relieving activity. Because I’m surely not going to go show him all by myself!

So you’re having a horrid day. You sold your small stake in a large corporation that is now worth 48 billion. You have a massive flood in your neighborhood and you forgot to buy scuba gear. Iraqi terrorist Fahim Haakim didn’t put enough postage on the packaged time bomb he mailed to your town and it was returned to sender. He certainly won’t be laughing.

I found out that a hearty chuckle burns more calories than a still peep. So if I’m a gigglepuss, I might burn enough calories to transform me into a slim supermodel. How about a slim senior supermodel? Okay, what about a slim senior?

(Posts can be found in the weekend edition of The Parson’s Sun newspaper in Kansas)

IS THERE A DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE?

A clean commode is a new concept to me, considering the absence of kids. I stand over mine most mornings remembering the days of reading Dr. Suess to potty training toddlers. It was like trying to negotiate with an apple juice manufacturer that you really want a hot dog. But give small people prune juice and two Oreos and they can pop out anything. Then I proceeded with purification rituals of burning scented candles during the aftermath of bean and cheese burritos. Before I know it, it’s noon. I know. I should get a life.

Getting a life I’m doing. Or at least trying, while explaining this empty nest syndrome of vacant cutie pie parts that produced Thing One and Thing Two. One minute I’m watching nothing getting dirty, and the next I’m feeling that pinch of pain when it’s almost too quiet in the house. I can hear katydids within two miles mating. So this is what mothers go through when their birdies are off flying freely. Moments of MARVIN K. MOONEY are long gone, along with the rascals that literally rocked my world. I don’t miss the vocal distribution of crankiness that nearly eroded my nervous system. Or cleaning the bathroom…four times a day. But I do miss my munchkins. Even though they ate me out of house, and put a hold on my travel plans.

Since Suess isn’t around anymore, sometimes I think I need the help of another doctor, or more specifically, a morphine drip. But I would still have to learn how to reposition myself in life without the urge to dress and feed other people. It’s like asking Aunt Jemima to switch from flapjacks to forensic accounting. I’ll bet she had enough bank deposits though to take off for her well earned world traveling. I still travel the globe by high-lighting lines on a map from New Guinea to Brazil.

For awhile there, I was in favor of a separation from kids so badly that I wanted to check into Motel 6 just to have the company of perfect peace and quiet. But they leave their lights on too, so I wouldn’t have gotten any sleep there either. IF I RAN THE ZOO…..well actually, I did. I wondered if HORTON heard who started the fights when the kids were hissing at each other. We had ONE FISH, then TWO FISH, a RED FISH after one child poured red food coloring in the fish bowl, then the BLUE FISH floating showed irreversible signs of rigor mortis and I had to fish them out and flush them. I whispered to the teensie things OH, THE PLACES YOU’LL GO. People used to say the same thing to me after a few blowouts with my teens. Because the day would soon come when they weren’t around anymore and I could go wherever and do whatever I pleased. Even though my children were dependent on me, I don’t want to be dependent on them. I’m already dependent on foreign oil.

I can’t stand in a store anymore reading greeting cards without swaying back and forth as if I’m still rocking a newborn. It does look rather funny to people. I had one guy pass me asking, “Do you have to go to the bathroom darlin?” There are better ways to flirt. Anyway, my next husband is going to be a fish, for old time’s sake. I can never pass infants without looking at their booties and opening my tear ducts. Then those tears turn into a flood watch since I spent tons on trips to Walt Disney World, and I don’t have even one snapshot of me with Mickey. But no one delivered the kind of happiness kids crave like THE CAT IN THE HAT, or Goofy. One could wonder if it was worth it. You bet the Fun-damental Disney store bazillion dollar souvenirs it was. But hey, everyone must have twenty Tinkerbell’s. I’m sorry that I didn’t splurge on Disneyland Paris. But Walt had all of my retirement. My kids had to settle for THE CAT IN THE HAT COMES BACK.

I have given thoughts to sharing my home again. But I’d have to weigh things out. Sharing my air, or sharing my air with someone who has brought home germs. What if they only like GREEN EGGS AND HAM when I like waffles? They certainly couldn’t be lactose or pastry intolerant, which may be mutually satisfying since we could agree on sundaes and scones for entrees. But if they like clean clothes, yet don’t like using appliances, it could present a problem. Especially if a pile is left in the path of the washer for say, several days, and its wearers have the highest hopes that their garments will magically make its way back to their bedrooms clean and folded. Because that’s not going to happen, anywhere, anytime, ever again. Unless I offer. Which could very well be in my next life when I’m reincarnated as Mother laundry is loads of fun Theresa.
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My youngest daughter has been out of the house now for one year, nine months, thirteen days, and four hours. Not that I’m counting. Now that I have time on my hands, I can never decide which I want to do. Eat, pray, love…eat, play, sleep…eat, sashay, tweet, take ballet, buy a dove…or have a complete hey day and do all of the above. I could eat, go for a run praying the sundaes don’t go to my thighs, nap, eat again, then think about doing another art project. Except I’ve already done all the pipe cleaner crafts I can possibly do in a lifetime. Now if I could just keep the neighboring pets that COME OVER TO MY HOUSE from startling me and dirtying the patio furniture. I’d rather have my kids surprise me and even make a mess. I should go buy HOORAY FOR DIFFENDOOFER DAY in case they show up.

(Posts can also be found in the weekend edition of The Parson’s Sun newspaper in Kansas)

DREAM WEAVER

It happened one night….

I was holed up in a strange place. Tribal people came in with spears speaking some Austronesian language. Near as I could make out they were ancient Filipino’s, and I wondered how on earth I got from my bedroom to being chained to a mortar wall in a deep dark dungeon. I was sorry I hadn’t taken my standard guide for translation Dictionary, and bolt cutters. I did conclude one thing though. Up until that dream, I didn’t know that Tagalog meant more than just a Girl Scout cookie.

A feeling of not being in control is something we battle with daily, which could carry into our unconsciousness. Only in my dream state am I usually at ease with the air I breathe. The rest of the time I’m inhaling pollution. Or the breeze that pops from a potato chip bag. After opening, I wonder why I spent hard earned cash for all that salty air that blew out leaving me with only half the contents I hoped for. I have gone to bed dreaming about how they should package potatoes properly so they don’t turn to crumbs through the handling process. At least if I’m dreaming about spuds, I don’t wake in a cold sweat.

There were days before I moved west when I did a lot of California dreamin’. And when my children were young, I had this recurring and horrifying nightmare that my car went off a bridge plunging into turbulent water and I didn’t know which child to save. I woke in that soaking sweat hyperventilating. Someone said I should worry way more about my waking hours than my dreams. Never mind the other phobia I have for train wrecks. Which is why I fill out ballots with smiley faces. I’ll take voting seriously when Tina Fey runs for presidency.

Someone wanted to give me a dream catcher and I questioned their motives. However, I would accept one if it could replay some of the better dreams. What are these perturbances the brain produces when there’s already a need for an orderly universe when we’re awake? I could always turn my life over to those dream expert oneirologists. Or dreamscape, by giving myself a severe slap on the cheeks. I took the time to analyze this certain stage of slumber and found that when I eat pork, I dream. If I eat chicken or fish or cherry tarts, for some odd reason I either don’t dream, or I barely remember going through grief support while mourning the loss of the Anderson Cooper show when I’ve never even met the man. I wonder if dreaming about dancing in the rain represents a hidden hankering to hold an umbrella with Gene Kelly.

I’m always dreaming about food. I dreamt that in a previous life I was the go-to girl in a fast food restaurant frying hamburgers. Because many times I have found myself in a kitchen putting beef on a bun adding something cheesy and pulling condiments from the fridge. So I’m either going to have a franchise called Burger Goddess when I’m reincarnated, or I just get hungry for grease in the middle of the night.

I’m sure everyone has had the dream of being bestowed with a geyser of greenbacks making us infinitely happier. Once I had this dream that I was a Bond girl. A poor Bond girl. But nevertheless, a bodacious Bond girl. That was replaced with the incubus dream of being married to Claus von Bulow. Only the roles were reversed when Frits wouldn’t come rescue me. Another time I dreamt that I was walking around the TomKat compound looking for the two famous figures for days. Since the house was hinged on elaborateness, I talked myself into moving in, thinking they wouldn’t mind if I paid some of the expenses and bathed in their holy water since they were off movie making most of the time. So I hunkered down and took possession of the place. That was a lot of dusting. But I had to relocate when I got the gardener’s bill.

Sometimes I’m even startled out of a dream. I’m snoozing nicely then suddenly perk up in bed. When all that’s important at that instant is the wool sweater that’s still sitting in the dryer that went from a size eight to the size of a microchip simply because I forgot to switch the dial to fluff mode. I want to fall back into the deep daze, especially if there’s a good story and possibly even a good looking author involved. Then I never want to wake up. It gets a little confusing though when I wake and can’t recall if I wanted to be an author or flirt with one. I do know that my passionate dreams about panda’s means that I should go get a zoo membership.

A bed is made for sleeping, dreaming about babies, making babies, snuggling with babies. Then when they’re children, you send them to the garage to sort wrenches while you make more babies. Sooner or later you won’t be dreaming about babies anymore. Of course beds can also be used for frolicking. I dreamt that I left my sliding door open in the living room and the next thing I knew a mouse, four raccoons, and a few squirrels were jumping on my bed, with me in it. The next night I dreamt that I gave birth to a raccoon. And when I’m trying to nap, there’s usually someone outside revving up a chainsaw preparing to trim tree tops. A sound that significantly puts a damper on my dreaming.

I can’t forget the Bigfoot type dagger wielding head like Lurch chasing me through a graveyard with a disembodied hand dream. I’ve been told that these dreams are perfectly normal and interpretive. Which could easily mean I crave craziness in my life.

(Also posted in the weekend editions of The Parson’s Sun newspaper in Kansas)