Friday, May 31, 2013

I Hold It Inside, In My Tasty Cream Filling

It's official. My well-camouflaged SUPER SWEETNESS has been revealed. I know that's what you all think every time my name comes to mind. "Val wrote the book on sweetness. Well, she's going to. She has an outline. In her head. As soon as her proposed handbasket factory is up and running, she's going to put it down on paper. OK, she's going to put down paper. Paper plates holding yummy cupcakes that require her hands so that she can't type up any ideas just yet. But she's thinking about it. Yep. Our Val wrote the book on sweetness." Now that THAT cat is out of the bag, let's celebrate with a cupcake.

Thank you to blog buddy Lynn for showing the internet world my true colors. Fie on those folks who describe me, behind their hands, in hushed tones, as a regular Sour Patch kid, except that first she's sour...then she stays sour. Yeah. That's not very sweet of you, is it? Shame on you. Take a lesson from Lynn and catch some flies, why don't you? They're not going to flock around that vinegary attitude of yours.

Here's the catch, though. Even though I'm sweeter than a marzipan unicorn dipped in syrup, rolled in granulated C & H, charred with a blowtorch, and dusted with confectioner's sugar...I have a tasteless side. I don't always follow the rules. Rules are made to be picked and chosen by Val. So I am in partial compliance with Lynn's very special award. Three out of five ain't bad. I think that was a big hit for Meat Loaf back in the day, on his Bat Out of Not-Heaven album.

Thank you, Lynn. It's an honor just to be nominated. I am rushing to post this before the first 13 on your baker's dozen list are aware. That makes me a winner!

The Super Sweet Blogging Award is shown above. Tiny fairy and all. She doesn't know how lucky she is that I didn't chomp off a leg or arm in my feeding frenzy. The fairy, that is. Not Lynn. Val may be many things, but a cannibal is not one.

Here are my responses to the interrogation necessary to receive the award:

1. Cookies or Cake? I scream, you scream, we all scream for CAKE! CAKE WITH BUTTER CREAM ICING! Party down! Let's celebrate the birthdays of every single person on every single Sweet Blogger's blogroll. And their family members! CAKE!

2. Chocolate or Vanilla? What kind of a choice is that? CHOCOLATE, there is no substitute. I think Tom Cruise as Joel Goodson said that in Risky Business. That, or Porsche. Which is stupid, really. What kind of flavor is Porsche?

3. Favorite Sweet Treat? That's not fair. Sweet treats are like kids. You can't have a favorite. You must love them all equally. That said, Val's current sweet pet is Little Debbie Swiss Roll. She's so exotic. Yet domestic.

4. When do you crave sweet things the most? Hm...that's a stumper. Not in the morning. At the end of the day. After a savory treat.

5. Sweet Nickname? At the risk of appearing to scam somebody else's sweet nickname: SUZY-Q. And no, it's not because of my sordid history of snack cake consumption. It has to do with a part of my real name, and my indulgent relatives when I was a child, who did not consider being referred to by a snack cake name as demeaning.

Dang! I wasted no time in responding, huh? I suppose that just goes to show that the quickest way to Val's blog post is through her pancreas. I'm sorry to report that I am now crashing after my sugar high, and will not be able to nominate a baker's dozen of other bloggers. It has nothing to do with the fact that I am blog-friendless after seeing Lynn's list, with only my two stand-up guys Stephen and Joe H. available to assume the candy necklace of Super Sweet Blogger. They are welcome to claim this award if their insulin levels are up to snuff.

Now I'm off to have a little recliner nap.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Here's Your Chance to Get in on the Ground Floor

I'm all fired up with a new project tonight. Something I can market on the counter of my proposed handbasket factory. Of course, I'll need a little help from everyone. And I'm sure all of my selfless readers will not mind one bit foregoing the monetary benefits that might be involved, since it's all for a good cause: Val's pocketbook. Not to be confused with Val's handbasket.

Here's how it works. All of you will find a photo of a beloved pet, or even a child, if you're so inclined, in the most awkward and embarrassing situation imaginable. Fabricated embarrassment is not allowed. You can even use yourself if you have some sort of conscience that prevents you from putting your four-legged or two-legged loved one out there on the internet for ridicule. You can post it on your blog for me to enjoy at my leisure, and steal for my project. No watermarks, you hear! I'll not be wasting my valuable project money fighting you in various and sundry lawsuits. No sirree, Bob!

Sioux is exempt from her homework, unless she happens to have a photo of herself with her head stuck in a faculty bathroom sink. That's because I found a gem on her blog today. And no watermark, either! You might say that photo inspired my new project. Knowing what a giver Sioux is, I am sure she will not seek any part of my profit for a finder's fee. She might even kick in with a free title suggestion. Right now my working title is Val's Awkward Loved-One Photos. I'm sure it's never been done before. It will be unique to the market. One of a kind.

Now I'll start it off with the cover photo. Enjoy.

That's our long-haired goat, Nellie. She's looking pretty good for a two-time mother of twins, don't you think? Try not to mention her facial hair. She's not too keen on depilatories. That little goatee (Heh, heh, get it? I used "goatee" to refer to the beard on an actual goat!) does not seem to deter the fathers of her kids. Or else they just took advantage of her unfortunate entrapment in the goat pen fence, and never even looked into her blue, rectangular-pupiled eyes. Since Hick hooked her up with that contraption, she has not put herself in the stocks again. Every now and then, he has to replace it, because her peers like to nibble.

Come to think of it, I might be able to market that block of wood and yellow duct tape as a new form of goat birth control.

My proposed handbasket factory is gonna need a bigger counter.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Now It's a Daughter Blog!

Oh, dear. Yesterday I cut short the morning check-in phone call with my mother because I was driving and needed both hands and most of my wits about me. In doing so, I did not allow Mom to traipse down two sets of stairs and read her shopping list to me. I even cut off her verbal recollection of needing slaw...and whatever else might have been on that list. I called her again last night to make things right. Mom told me about her day.

"Did you know that your sister came out?"


"She brought me your niece's garage door opener. Just in case I need to get in."

"Niecy has a garage? I thought she lived in an apartment over by Sonic."

"Oh, not Niecy's garage. Your sister's garage. Niecy still has a garage door opener for when she goes over. You know they never use the front door. Since I'm checking on the house while they're gone, she wanted me to have the garage door opener. I have a key to the house. I don't know WHY she wants me to have the garage door opener. I guess she thinks I'll set off the alarm. I only did that once. Then that other time the refrigerator went bad and the house stunk. And one time their dog got loose. Something always happens when she goes away. I think she might blame me."

"Yet she still wants you to take care of her stuff."

"Yes. She hasn't quit asking me. I don't mind. It gives me something to do every morning and evening."

Mom went on to tell me about her trip to the store. This time she didn't tell me every person she ran into and caught up with. That's usually good for a half hour. No, this time, the main event of the town trip was...


I take full responsibility. One does not distract my mother from her mission. Now she has to go back to the store tomorrow. For her slaw. Shame on me. I won't be getting $8.00 again any time soon. That's for sure. Mom just called to ask if I was going to call her later tonight. That usually happens between 10:00 and 11:00. However...Mom said she has been working hard all day, and she might just fall asleep early, and sleep right through until morning. You don't have to hit me over the head with a pint of slaw. I could tell what she was getting at.

"Okay. I won't call later."

"Well, you can. It won't bother me if you want to talk. But I just wanted to let you know, in case you DIDN'T call tonight, that I'm getting out early in the morning to get my slaw. Around 7:30, probably. So in case you try to call me, I don't want you to worry that something's wrong. I'll be at the store."

"I probably won't even be up then." Ever since school has been out, I have not made my morning call until at least 9:00. But, you know, sure as Mom is away from her land line, I could call, and then get all worried, and be unable to reach her, because she doesn't hear her cell phone buried down in her purse while driving and in the store, and my sister the ex-mayor's wife is going to Vegas, and I won't be able to reach her to ask if she knows where Mom is, because you know how cell phones can't call each other with all that land between Missouri and Nevada in the way of their signal.

"I just wanted you to know so you wouldn't worry."

"Okay, Mom. I'll check in with you later in the morning. To see if you got your slaw."

"All right. I'll let you go now. I'm sure you're in the middle of something. I hope you have a good night."

The invasion of Normandy did not require as much attention to detail as my mother's five-mile trip to Walmart to buy slaw.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

There, But For the Loquaciousness of My Mother, Go I

I was off my regular schedule this morning. By the time I had showered and made a shopping list, I remembered that I had not called my mother as usual to check in. That was a problem. She hesitates to call during the summer months, lest she wake the sleepyhead Genius. Then she worries that something is wrong if she doesn't hear from me. Yet I was on the way to Walmart for the weekly supplies. To call would delay my trip by perhaps thirty minutes. On a good day.

The Pony and I left as planned. When we got to a manageable section of road, I handed him my phone. "Call Grandma for me." I figured I could check in quickly so she wouldn't worry.

"Hey, we're on our way to town. Just checking in to tell you we're all fine. I only have a minute. Do you need anything from Walmart?"

"I'm planning to go to Walmart later this afternoon. I need to get...what was list is downstairs..." Of course I didn't want her to get her list. But that sounded like the plan. She's very thorough, my mom. I knew I had to nip that list trip in the bud, but without hurting her feelings. Especially when she said, "I'm upstairs now." That meant TWO flights of steps to fetch her shopping list.

"Hey! Did you finish those barbecued sausages Genius brought you yesterday?"

"Oh, no! I ate one last night. But I'm saving the other one for tonight."

"Do you know what goes good on them? Slaw."

"What? What goes with them?"


"I can't hear you. You're breaking up."


"Still didn't get it. Say it again."


"Oh, sauce."


"I have some slaw. I've been putting horseradish sauce on them. But I might get some more slaw when I go to town. I think it's on my list..."

"I really have to go now. I'm driving. I'm coming into town with the lights. I need both hands to go through those crooked lanes under the overpass."

"Oh. Okay. I'll let you go."

"All right. Bye."

"Is everyone okay? How about The Pony? How's he doing?"

"He's fine. Right behind me. I've really gotta go."

"Okay. Well...I'll get off of here now. You have a really good day."

"I will. Bye."

"Oh...well, I'll let you go. Bye."

That was close. I was already through the first stoplight, jostling for position with a panel truck for Hardee's. I handed the phone back to The Pony. "Make sure that goes off."

I'll call Mom again tonight. To hear what she got at the store. I'm her eight-dollar daughter, you know.

Monday, May 27, 2013

In Retrospect, I Probably Should Have Planned Ahead

Well, this is embarrassing. I don't seem to have a topic to complain about this evening. I'll just have to toss out some subjects for you to discuss amongst yourselves. Don't worry if you're not up to snuff on current events. Since when have you ever known Val to expound upon cutting-edge devices or hot topics? You there, with your hand was a rhetorical question.

We can't all sit around like Donald Sutherland and Pinto and Boone and Katy, pondering whether our whole solar system could be, like, one tiny atom in the fingernail of some giant being. Check your place cards. I'm having a dinner party. Sioux, you and your fireman friend can sit at the little table over there by the balcony and share a plate. There are a finite number of slices of Veal Prince Orloff, you know.

Here are some icebreakers to get the conversation flowing:

Isn't that Ford Pinto a cute little car?

Which fragrance is more appealing: Jontue, Wind Song, or Vanderbilt

Do earth shoes go with wide flare chambray jeans?

It is okay to go straight from work to the disco in my burnt-orange leisure suit?

Which is more thirst-quenching, TAB or FRESCA?

Who did you bet on, Billie Jean King or Bobby Riggs?

Is Evel Knievel going to make it across the Snake River Canyon?

What's the weather tomorrow--should I wear my boyfriend's CPO, or my maxi coat?

Does your dog prefer Gaines Burgers or Gravy Train?

Anybody want to go outside and play some Jarts?

Are Clackers a good gift for a five-year-old, or should I just get him a Pet Rock?

Can you wear a mood ring while you're streaking?

Hey, has anybody seen The Exorcist, or did you just stay home and watch All in the Family?

Anybody want to come over later for some Boone's Farm Strawberry Hill and Jiffy Pop?

What's a good brand of CB to put in my conversion van?

There. That should keep you busy. I'll just step out to the kitchen and put the finishing touches on the meal. If you need anything, let me know. I SO love to throw a dinner party.

Sunday, May 26, 2013


Hick was in the doghouse yesterday. There was plenty of room, because he lost my sweet dog Juno! I know! I hear your wails joining my own. Sweet, sweet, two-year-old Juno, my canine soulmate, rescued from starvation at the hands of my mother, who saw no reason to feed a tiny puppy dumped in her rural yard. Hazel-eyed, grinning, feathery-tailed Juno. Always there to greet me, morning and night, winter, spring, summer, fall.

At first I was not aware of the seriousness of the situation. Genius and Hick had a little spat over replacing a pipe on the road down to the creek. Genius simply stated that Hick was mad about the way Genius wanted to do it, and also mad because he lost Juno. Silly me. I pictured them on our dirt road, digging out a pipe to put in a bigger pipe, while Juno frolicked down the creek and into the woods. She lives here. In the woods. No big deal. She'd be back when she was ready. That was at 11:00 a.m.

Hick made himself scarce most of the afternoon. He came in to make a sandwich around 12:30. Didn't say much. Was kind of surly. I chalked it up to his disagreement with Genius. He was supposed to commandeer The Pony for pool work later in the afternoon. The Pony heard nothing. Didn't know where Hick was. Didn't care. Because he got out of pool work. At 5:30, Hick came in looking for supper. He had a confession.

"I lost Juno."

"You mean she STILL isn't back? Is she locked in the BARn? Caught in the goat pen?"

"No. That's the first place I checked. She never came back from this morning. I asked Carrots if he'd seen her, and he said no. That when we went up the road this morning, he saw three dogs go over the crest of the hill behind us."

"Wait a minute! Carrots? He lives way down on the blacktop road. You didn't take my Juno down to THAT creek?"

"Yeah. We went down there to get sand. I even went back and asked the people fishing on the bridge if they'd seen a little black dog. They said no. I've been up and down that road four times, knocking on doors, asking people. Nobody has seen her."

"What if she got hit by a car? What if she's laying in the woods, hurt? What if she got her collar stuck on a limb? Did you call her? Did you listen for her to bark?"

"There were only two cars that came over the hill. I've been looking. There's no sign that she got run over. I don't think she was wearing a collar."

"She had one on, and it was too tight. I thought I told you to loosen it."

"If it was too tight, she didn't get it stuck on a limb."

"What if somebody in a car stopped and picked her up? She's the best dog EVER!"

"I know you love that dog. I'll go back and look some more."

"You can wait until after supper. I don't want her to be in the woods and not able to get home. She won't understand why we left her."

After supper, Hick hollered for The Pony to go with him. "You can call her and listen for her. I'll go get the Gator." They were gone for a half hour. I was losing hope. I called my mom, because I knew she would feel my pain.

"And now it's been seven hours, and Juno still isn't home! She wouldn't stay away that long unless something was wrong."

"Oh, honey. That dog loves you. He'll come home when he's ready." Spoken like a woman who, after two years, still does not know the sex of that puppy she gave me after starving it for two days.

I heard the Gator. "I've got to go. They're back." The Pony skipped up the porch steps and flung open the door.

"She's baaaaack!"

"Where did you find her?"

"We were at that house at the top of the hill. On the blacktop road by the mailboxes. Dad knocked, and the guy said he hadn't seen a black dog. He said his dog usually goes wild barking if there's another dog around. Just then, I thought I saw Juno's tail across the road in the woods. Their dog took off running, barking at the woods. Dad and I drove down to the end of their driveway and looked across the road. I called and called to Juno. That dog started back to the guy's house, and Juno ran to us in the Gator!"

"Was she happy to see you?"

"I guess you could say that. She started crazy barking like I've never heard her before. I think she was afraid of that other dog. She jumped in the Gator with us. She was exhausted and panting. We petted her and started home."

"You brought her home in the Gator?"

"Well, kind of. When we turned onto our gravel road, she got out. Actually, she JUMPED out. And followed us home. She's on the porch now."

"Make her come around back to the shady part." I went out the kitchen door. A lovefest ensued. The other dogs gathered around sniffing and whining. Good-for-nothings! They could have gone on those other trips and sniffed her out. When I went back in, I told Hick, "I don't want her to run off!"

"She ain't runnin' nowhere. She's wore out. I guess she was hiding in the woods, afraid to cross the road and come home because of that other dog. She sure was happy to see us."

That's why you don't take my precious dog two miles down the blacktop road! Even Genius was mad this morning. "I tried to tell him to take his truck, because I knew the dogs would follow the Gator. But no. He wouldn't listen to me." I think Hick learned his lesson. I'm sure he would rather have spent his Saturday flea-marketing, Goodwilling, auction-attending, fence-building, pool-freshening, or farm-hopping. But instead, he searched tirelessly for my Juno. And found her! I'm willing to give him a free pass on his next transgression. Not a free pass from the blog, of course. But from my real-life wrath.

I think Juno probably lagged behind sniffing at some critter, then looked up and her pack was gone. She fiddled around, laid down, and then heard or smelled that other dog. Maybe she had a flashback to her tender puppy days when she was abandoned. When Hick drove by each time in the Gator, I'm sure she recognized the sound, and probably ran along through the woods after him. That could explain her exhaustion.

Or maybe she just chased a rabbit for seven hours and was ready to come home.

Good thing I didn't know earlier the true nature of Juno's disappearance. I spent the day thinking she was down by the creek, several hundred yards away. Not out on the county road.

Sometimes, what I don't know doesn't hurt me as much.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Money, Money, Everywhere, and Not a Plank to Walk

Saturday here at the Whineatorium, and have I got a story for you. It's true, of course. Not a dollop of fiction is dished at this establishment.

Yesterday I went to the bank for cash. We operate on a modified cash budget here in Backroads. None of this flipping the debit card all willy-nilly when the mood strikes. No having our identities scammed by the gas pump card-slider. I'm sure it comes as a shock to you that I even utilize a bank, what with this perfectly good backyard and clothes basket full of odd socks willing and able to store our cash reserves.

I am still adjusting to my summer schedule. Which, in all actuality, is like putting a ragtag regiment of two-year-olds, teenagers, and feral cats on a schedule. Nothing really gets done on time. Nothing really gets done. Imagine my shock upon arising at 9:00 a.m. to find a note written on a paper plate declaring that SOMEBODY really needed his Thursday allowance on Friday night, along with bowling money.

The Pony and I hopped into T-Hoe and headed for the ATM. The ATM at our bank, which is a couple of towns over, due to where we lived when we first opened the account, closer ATMs be darned, what with their usage fees of fifty cents or a couple of dollars. To me it makes so much more sense to burn up gas going to my bank ATM. It's the principle of the matter. Even though I should be leery of showing my face there, after that unfortunate incident several years ago when I backed into that crazy meth-beard man with a bulldog on a chain.

We pulled into the lot and noticed a line coming around the corner from the ATM. Well. It WAS Friday. The Friday of a holiday weekend. I waited. The car in front of me pulled out of line and went to the drive-thru lanes. That's when I noticed a truck parked in line with no driver. Huh. Go figure. Must have been some weirdo with a phobia about driving up to ATMs. My own father refused to order at fast-food drive-ups, and made my mom lean across and holler their selections. I couldn't see if anybody was standing at the ATM.

I told The Pony I was driving around through the alley, and to get a glimpse of what that handwritten sign said, taped to a portable stand-up bank traffic sign. He replied that it said, "Walk up ATM only." I glanced over to the back of the building and saw a 3-FOOT DEEP TRENCH from the corner of the bank to a few feet past the ATM. And there was a man in jeans and a faded orange t-shirt sitting on the edge, right beside the ATM, dangling his legs over the side of the trench. There was a piece of plywood in the pile of dirt directly opposite the ATM, like a plank to nowhere. I whipped through the drive-thru lane, made a sharp right to the alley, turned right again through the church parking lot where bank employees park, and back to the front of the bank. Looked like I would be going inside for a withdrawal.

The only open teller asked how she could help me. "I need to make a withdrawal, since I can't use the ATM."

"Oh, you can use the ATM. You just have to walk up."

"No. I can't do that. There's a three-foot trench."

"You walk across the plywood."

"There's no plywood going to the ATM. It's a trench."

"No. The plywood covers the trench."

"Well, I must have looked at it wrong. I need to make a withdrawal, and I don't have any withdrawal slips. I have a deposit slip."

"All I need is your account number." She counted out my money, a bit loudly for my liking, with people behind me waiting to knock me in the head like a thug on a casino parking lot following a winner.

"I'm guessing the ATM will be fixed by next weekend?"

"I hope so. It's been going on for three days. This weekend is not a good weekend for it to be like this."

I stuffed my money in my pocket. No need to carry an envelope advertising a withdrawal. Safely back in T-Hoe, I explained my experience to The Pony. "She told me all I had to do was walk up to the ATM."

"Through that trench?"

"Yeah. That's what I said. She told me across the plywood."

"Um. The plywood did NOT go over the trench."

"That's what I said. But she said it did."

"No. It stopped."

"Yeah. And that guy was sitting right under the ATM, swinging his legs. I'm so sure I was going to lean three feet over a trench and take out money with him sitting there watching me."

We drove around back through the alley to get out. The orange shirt dude was bent over with his butt pointing at us, shoving the plywood across the trench. As if I would stand on a piece of plywood over a three-foot span. Maybe I should have laid down in that trench, pulled the plywood over me, and hollered for help.

There's more than one way to get money out of a bank.

Friday, May 24, 2013

The Proof is in the Retail

Val strives to avoid controversial subjects such as politics, religion, corporal punishment, the death penalty, gay marriage, legalization of marijuana, and the bathed/cloaked in chocolate twin Twix factories. Looking for a timely, newsworthy story to be dissected into its component parts? Not gonna find it here. Until now!


TGI Fridays and several other restaurants were caught passing off fake top shelf alcohol. Some scotch was replaced with rubbing alcohol and caramel coloring! But at least that was alcohol. Even though the kind that might give you the jake leg, or make you blind, or downright kill you. Some folks only got dirty water for their big bucks. What's up with that, New Jersey? Here in Missouri, we would say SHOW ME the bottle! And we'd probably sniff it and take a swig. Just to make sure we weren't being bamboozled. Nobody gives a Missourian Mississippi River water and passes it off as alcohol, by cracky!

I am not a drinking woman. But if I was, I guarantee you I would notice that my Maker's Mark did not taste the same. Pippi Longstockings riding a unicorn with her hair blown out! A child could tell that her drink was dirty water and not top shelf bourbon. Not that I recommend giving a child dirty water OR top shelf bourbon. They can drink the tears they spout over not getting dirty water or top shelf bourbon. It's cheaper.

So what's the deal, New Jersey? I have not heard a rumor that your citizens are timid wallflowers, so meek they will pay out the patootie for substandard alcohol. Have they ruined their palates from a misspent youth of watering down the parents' liquor cabinets? Are they so wealthy they can throw money around being big shots, not caring about substandard beverages as long as they look like high rollers? Are they already so drunk when they go out that they don't notice their drink is not giving them a buzz? Let's get to the bottom of this mystery. Perhaps my cranky buddy Joe H. has some insight to share as an insider from the Garden State.

The investigation went on for a year. It was started because SOME people complained. Seriously? A multitude of customers were drinking substandard alcohol for an entire year, and these restaurants remained in business? How does that happen? Why did they keep going back for more?

Something is rotten in the state of New Jersey.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Critter Trifecta

I hit the critter trifecta yesterday. Scored a hat trick. A triple play. Don't take the HIT part literally. No critters were harmed at the hand or wheels of Val.

We are used to seeing wildlife every day. The squirrels, bunnies, hawks, turtles, turkeys, skunks, and occasional deer. But yesterday was special in the Backroads fauna department. The less-traveled-by animals made an appearance.

The least surprising encounter was with a slim dark snake sporting long yellow stripes. He was sunning on the blacktop, about two feet long. I suspect he was an Eastern garter snake, or some common garter. I was careful to pilot T-Hoe over his warming space to leave him undisturbed. I cannot stand it when I see a car veer to smash a snake, then back up and slam on the brakes in an effort to pulverize him. You're not going to rid the woods of snakes by vehicular reptileslaughter. He was in perfect health when last I saw him.

Not an everyday sight, but perhaps a monthly one, was the broken armadillo. I swear, these unsuccessful road-crossers are nothing more than possums with exoskeletons. Sure,  I know they are a different genus and species. But all marsupiality aside, they seem to travel the same circles and push their luck on the same routes. They are no match for swift strong UniRoyal.

The most breathtaking of my creature dalliances was a HUGE beetle the size of two golf balls hooked together. His iridescent green back shone like mother-of-pearl. He reminded me of a scarab that might be used for decorative purposes on a wealthy woman's chest. Research upon arriving home revealed that he was a Green June Beetle. More remarkable than the sighting itself was the location.


That's right. There just inside the door of Voice of the Village was this scurrying beauty. I was stunned. My breath was taken. I wanted to call out to the clerk, "Hey! You've got a giant bug in here!" I refrained. That might have been akin to hollering FIRE in a crowded theater. By the time I filled my cup with my magical elixir, my new green friend had disappeared. A woman and a preschooler were lurking around there, looking down. But they didn't seem to be excited, so I think they were just seeking a snack of the cake variety.

DANG! I never did gather the courage to whisper my find to the clerk. I left a bit shaken, associating that insect beast with the first food source that came to mind: dung. For beetles, of course. Not my food source. Imagine my pleasant surprise upon discovering that Green June Beetles eat fruit. Peaches, preferably.

This encounter will NOT keep me from frequenting this shop. I will, however, be looking down quite often. Wouldn't want one of those things to run up my leg.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

From the "When It Rains, It Pours" File

Last night, minding my own business wasting a summer vacation evening perusing the internet, I was beset with a communique from an anthology editor. Seems my writing is not so perfect as I imagine, and a segue and a clarification were needed. I dashed them off toot sweet, as my teaching buddy Mabel might term a speedy action. She's of a different era, that Mabel, whose claims to fame include the shaking of the hand of one Wernher von Braun of rocket scientist fame. That may not mean much to you literature-heads, but this sciency gal was quite impressed. Sorry for calling you literature-heads. We analytical folks are not known for our people skills.

My corrections were welcomed with open arms, and a photo was requested. Not of me, silly. Who in their right mind would ask for such a thing from anonymous Val? A photo of the subject of my submission was needed. Because this sciency gal is no good with technology, all photos found in that computer file called pictures are of substandard resolution. So the heave-ho of Genius is needed to boost me over this hurdle. Of course, he has been out all afternoon on the premise of building a hovercraft, so I await his return.

Wouldn't you know, this morning the first thing I saw upon dragging myself out of bed at the inhuman hour of 8:45 was a suggestion that another of my breathtaking works of staggering mediocrity might be suitable for a different volume of the same anthology. I am currently refining a raggedy slice-of-life to bring it up to standards. Okay. I am currently wasting time typing up two blog posts. But I PLAN to refine that slice soon.

I set a writing goal for this summer, and I am already three steps behind. Ah...the pressure of summer vacation!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Last Summer

It all started with trash dumpster neglect. While Genius snoozed his life away after an evening of carousing at a party for a recent Missouri S&T graduate, a Harvard man, several future engineers, a few county-wide valedictorians, and the son of a furniture czar...The Pony was called upon to rush the dumpster to the end of the driveway in an effort to catch the Waste Management truck on its way out of our little Backroads compound.

The minute he saw through his front bedroom window that the deed was done, Genius arose from his slumber and began his shenanigans. "Whew! I looked out my window and said, 'YES!'" He rolled his sheet-wrinkled body over the back of the couch. "Now I need a nap!"

"This is no napping matter. It costs me $15 dollars for nothing every week you forget to take up the trash." I slashed at him with a pointy mom-fingernail. "Get up. I'll fang you."

"That's not a fang. It's not in your mouth."

"I'll show you a fang! How do you like that?"

"STOP!" He tried to fend off my fingernails by flailing his palms in a girlish manner. So much for morning naptime. He jumped off the couch and started pacing. Mostly in front of the mirror.

"You're parading like that last turkey in front of the truck bumper, admiring yourself. You're going to wear a path in the carpet in your baby blue boxer briefs."

"It's cornflower blue."

"Oooh! Let me take notes. 'It's cornflower blue.'"

"He exclaimed."

"No. We should show, not tell."

"He exclaimed! Write it!"

"'...he exclaimed, indignantly.' Might as well throw in an unnecessary adverb. This could SO be a blog post."

"Don't write about that."

"You don't want me to?"

"No, do it. It will feed my narcissism."

"Stop! I can't keep up."

"Are you telling me not to be so quotable? Because you kept saying 'stop' as I was being so quotable. Fine. Write it. Make it hilarious."

"They usually write themselves."

"Why don't you turn this into a mommy blog so you can write about me all the time?"

"I already write about you all the time. I have to apologize for making it a mommy blog. I'll put it on my other blog."

"NO! Nobody reads that one."

"Yes they do. The same amount of people read it, according to the stats. They just don't comment."

"You put it on THE GOOD ONE! Not the other one."

"We'll see. What did you do last night that was interesting, at the most nerdy party ever thrown for a college graduate? Did you all gather around the piano and sing college fight songs? Because when that kid came out here last time, you guys were standing around the piano singing."

"No. We were roaming the streets like a street gang. The nerdiest street gang ever. Talking about how we were the nerdiest street gang ever."

"Did dogs bark at you?"

"Yes. C-man got in a shouting match with a duck. It was sounding the alarm that we were there. He started yelling at it in duck."

"That's kind of nerdy."

"Back at the house, we played Bananagrams, Super Smash Brothers on Wii, chess, Balderdash, Risk, and sat around the table outside talking about matrices, integrals, and other simple math until they got too advanced for me. Then we walked the path around the lake, and that was it."

"Did you have nerdy refreshments?"

"Yes. We had lemonade and tea and water, ooey gooey butter cookies, chunks of watermelon, Cheez-Its, and round Ritz oval crackers, brownies..."

"Slow down. I can't type that fast! Hey! I just hit T instead of R."

"...TITZ. Heh, heh."

"You don't have to say it out loud. I fixed it."

 "And pizza. We had six pizzas. At the time, only six of us were there. Harvard Man went into the kitchen and saw them, and hollered, 'We got SIX pizzas! We all got a pizza!' It reminded me of that scene in The Hunger Games where Katniss gives Rue the groosling leg, and Rue says, 'I've never had a whole one to myself before!'"

"Huh. Harvard Man is a college student. He knows the value of a pizza. You'll find out soon enough when Mommy isn't paying."

"Turn this into a mommy blog."

Funny how that conversation went full circle.

Monday, May 20, 2013

A Startling Anthropological Discovery

Applicants, applicants everywhere, and not a job to work. Unless you try Walmart. They seem to have plenty of employees these days. And by these days, I mean Monday mornings.

Now that school is out, I can do my shopping whenever I please. Though I don't particularly recommend Walmart on a Monday morning. To start with, half the parking lot was gone. Yes. Gone. The whole blacktop surface was missing. It had just been scraped away by some heavy machinery. Yellow fake crime scene tape blocked off half of the parking lot. The half where we usually park. Not a space was to be had at the grocery end, so we put T-Hoe into a space almost at the Pizza Hut across the street.

On Monday mornings, it seems, every Walmart associate is required to grab a ladder or a cart, or in some cases a ladder AND a cart, in order to block as many aisles as humanly/ladderly/cartly possible. The blood in those associates' veins runs cold as ice. That chubby one on the third step of the ladder did not even flinch when I reached past her butt to snag a large pink bottle of Color Me Happy shampoo. The gal blocking the Charmin Ultra Strong with HER ladder turned to give me the eye like a hornet revving his buzzer just before ordering his buddies to attack. No mercy there. I was fortunate that a colleague hailed her to help with a case of unknown cleaning items just as I was deciding that leaves from the back yard would probably tide us over until next week. A short dude shoved a bread cart at me on the frozen food bin/bacon shelf aisle. Yeah. Looked me in the eye, then let it rip. He was as skilled at his job as I am at kicking my doorstop four feet over the threshold, leaving it jammed under the door just opened by an entering student. That cart of buns careened my way, made a quarter-turn, and set itself right by the frozen chicken strips, across from the Hillshire Farms sausage section. Go meat!

It was on the candy/snack aisle that I encountered the new hire. As The Pony went to fetch a Symphony candy bar requested by Genius, Newbie almost got out of his way! The Pony put the chocolate in the cart, and was then sent to complete his mission to find Velveeta cheese. I don't normally buy Velveeta cheese. I buy Marvella cheese from Save-A-Lot. It's the same thing. Genius and Hick like it melted with salsa for nachos. Of course Walmart does not put Velveeta with the other cheeses. Maybe that's because it's not really cheese. We've had this problem before. The Pony thought he saw it, and made three trips in search. While he was gone, Newbie came down the aisle to where I was looking at the Quaker Quakes Rice Snacks. Of course she pulled her cart, the better to block me. She was obviously a star at the training session. But THEN she proved her newbieness.

It was not the sleek haircut, and slacks, sweater, and flats. The wardrobe was a sure sign. She was dressed like a former executive. Okay, that might be stretching it. Let's make that a Backroads former executive. In any case, she was better groomed than a teacher. The coiffure alone ruled out that profession. Another clue was her svelte, compact, lithe physique. If Walmart associates were shelf-stocking gymnasts, Newbie would have been a gold medal contender. But it was her customer service that revealed her short Walmart tenure.

"Excuse me. Do you know where the Velveeta is?"

"Yes. It's on the aisle with the pasta and pizza crusts. About halfway down. On the bottom shelf."

I knew exactly what she was talking about. I remembered finding it there by accident a while back. But Newbie went beyond the call of duty. She started jumping like a leaping Masai warrior.

"It's on...aisle...FOURTEEN! Aisle fourteen."

I give her a month. We'll return and find her with a stained sweatshirt covering her dowager's hump, baggy mom jeans (acid wash) coming within six inches of her run-down New Balance, leaning on her cart full of empty cardboard boxes, huffing out a sigh that lifts her shaggy, graying bangs, frowning at anybody who comes near, biting her tongue to keep from cursing.

A good job is hard to find.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Feelin' Hot, Hot, Hot

Val is no tender hothouse flower. Val wants nothing to do with any kind of hothouse. Like prescription medicine, fine chocolate, and human brain cells, Val operates best in a narrow temperature range. One that is cooler than eighty degrees.

Graduation was Friday night. As a member of the Backroads high school faculty, part of the "other duties as needed" clause in my contract requires me to march through the graduation ceremony in a long black robe and sit behind the podium until the last cap is flung rafterward and the Silly String starts to flow. Anybody who's a public school insider knows that times are tough. Pennies are being pinched in all manner of grips. Locked thermostats set to seventy-eight degrees after 3:00 p.m. are the bane of Val's existence. The locked thermostats did not know that Friday was the graduation ceremony. That thousands of people emitting thousands of BTUs would pack the gymnasium. The locked thermostats do not start cooling to seventy-eight degrees until the room temperature is eighty degrees.

Val felt like a Salvador Dali clock.

I refused to put on my thick black finery until five minutes before line-up time. At one point, I was not sure I would make it through the ceremony without IV fluids. I felt like that commercial M&M being shoved into the oven in a cookie. My drops of perspiration were sweating. My cheeks were flushed like those of an adolescent boy caught in the computer lab with a pr0n pop-up. Had anybody desired to roast a pig for a graduation luau, there was no need to bury the porker in a pit lined with coals. I could have simply thrown that pig over my shoulder like little person Charla from Amazing Race 11 carrying a side of beef while her cousin Mirna hounded her to walk faster. Al Gore declared that I alone am responsible for global warming. People can now hate with the heat of 10,000 Vals. Heat emanated from me like shimmering mirage waves rising from fresh asphalt on a Mississippi highway at the end of July. We were lucky that I did not singlehandedly spontaneously combust the entire faculty, school board, choir, graduates in the first row, and valedictorian mid-speech. Bored and peckish children in the audience could have roasted s'mores in the bleachers without danger of smoke inhalation. Adults seeking a more savory treat could have used my skin as a Japanese stone to sear thin strips of beef. I feared that my sweat droplets would melt through the polished wood of the gym floor like alien blood through steel. My skin was redder than that of a Nordic toddler left in the sun for twelve hours.

I have not yet begun to cool. I need to get my hands on a York Peppermint Patty.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Listening Should Be a Two-Way Thoroughfare

I always made a point of listening to my mother. I refrained from rolling my eyes, lest they freeze that way. I limited the number of times I stuck my tongue out at my sister, because that was the childhood equivalent of flipping the bird. I did not swear, or even think of saying the words fart or poop inside the family abode. I put on clean underwear every day in case I was in an accident. For a lifetime of this compliant behavior, I expected my mother to reciprocate.

Mom attended Genius's graduation Friday night. He was only allowed two tickets for seats on the floor of the gym. Since I had my regular reserved seat as part of the faculty, Mom and Hick were taking the floor seats. Hick got there extremely early to lay claim to prime folding-chair real estate. Mom arrived soon after with The Pony and my sister, the former-mayor's wife. Sis had to sit in the bleachers. Not a problem in itself. But she was saddled with the task of saving seats for her daughter and her boyfriend. Not Sis's boyfriend. That would be just wrong. The former mayor would frown on that. The boyfriend of my niece was being dropped off with her, by the former mayor, in fact.

Mom wanted to save Sis some sharp elbowing. and keep her from losing her voice shouting, "Taken. Taken. These seats are TAKEN!" She planned to sit a while with Sis, and let The Pony take up the floor chair with Hick until he had to prepare for his Pomp and Circumstancing with the band.

Mom has been to the Backroads gym many times. She knows the set-up. I told her that since she would be on the floor, she needed to take the concrete steps. There are two sets of them at opposite corners. Catty-corner to each other. Walking down the metal bleachers is not recommended. They are the fold-up kind. That means they are not set in stone. Not bolted down. They sway like a Japanese high-rise on a shake platform. In addition, the handrails pop into the base. Handrails can't fold up, you know. The handrails are not continuous. You have to make a grab for the next one while you go down one or two steps. I did not want Mom anywhere near those septuagenarian-hip-thirsty monsters.

I wandered about the halls, waiting for my faculty buddies to to arrive so we could swap various and sundry hard candies to slip down our Master's-sleeved black robes. I popped into the gym to see where Hick had set up his Genius-valedictory-speech-recording studio. I spied Sis sliding onto a bleacher over halfway down from the mezzanine. AND THERE WAS MOM TRAILING DOWN THE STEPS BEHIND HER!

MOM! Hanging on to the wobbly handrail on the swaying bleacher steps, descending like an acrophobic, soon-to-be-eliminated Amazing Race contestant rappelling face-first down the side of Dubai Tower. With her septuagenarian hips!

She didn't know I saw her. I must have told her fifteen times not to go down those orthopedic-surgeon's-dream steps. To use the sturdy solid concrete metal railed steps.

Sometimes, I think I'm just wasting my breath.

Friday, May 17, 2013

The Tom-Blocker

Did you ever stumble into a romantic rendezvous, putting the kibosh on hanky-panky, leaving the would-be lovers unfulfilled and a tad resentful?

Yesterday, The Pony and I left school soon after the forced hanging-around-the-room time had passed. We stopped to pick up some prescriptions, and a 44 oz. Diet Coke. Not at the same place, of course. But wouldn't that be totally AWESOME? Like a laundromat where you can drink beer while your clothes wash themselves. Only it would be a pharmacy where you can drink a 44 oz. Diet Coke while they call your insurance, put your 30-day meds in a 90-day bottle, discover the mistake, make you wait while they switch it out, put in a generic that you can't take, and make you wait while they switch it out.

The pharmacy gang had their act together this time. They could have been a pit crew for Rowdy Burns, Cole Trickle's nemesis in Days of Thunder, so efficient was their choreographed drug-doling ballet. A trip to victory lane is surely in their future.

The Pony and I arrived home a bit earlier than normal. Coming up the driveway, we spotted various fowl scratching and pecking. Hick's newest fine feathered friend, a very vocal turkey, was about twenty feet ahead, between the concrete slab behind the garage, and the fence that makes good neighbors. Cue the screeching phonograph record.


My brain just assumed it was Hick's gobbler. But no. This was a tall browny-gray wild turkey striding toward the house. On the other side, in the side yard by the chicken pen and BARn, was Hick's turkey. The wild one turned to look at us when The Pony squeezed the garage door opener and set off the grindy automatic door. Wild Turkey ran a couple of awkward steps and took flight. She heaved herself inches above the treetops, and disappeared down toward the creek.

"Great. Now you've made Dad's turkey mad. You scared away his lady."

"That's unfortunate. She'll be back."

"There he was, calling her, and she was headed right toward him. Now she's gone."

"He'll have to get over it."

"Look. He's still all puffed up."


Hick was not happy to hear that I had ruined a first date. "She may come back. And if she's alone, she may stay here with him." Now he is operating an off-line mating service.

Not if I can help it.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Swag Bragging Rights

What swag can a high school senior get if he goes begging at each classroom door on the next-to-last day of school? This:

Don't go thinking that I encourage my son to be a little beggar. One of his teachers took her class on a trick-or-treat expedition. They were supervised at all times. With faculty readying their rooms for the summer, sometimes good deals can be had for a song. Better yet, for NOT singing.

Here is a list of items in this picture, starting at the bottom left corner:

a bag of Valentine hearts
a plastic cup
a Tootsie Roll midgee
a fun size Butterfinger
a penny
three Starbursts
a Halls mentholyptus cough drop
a tiny stack of Post-It note that look like an eraser
a mini Tootsie Pop
a cough drop
a peanut cluster that looks like a turd
two Starlight mints
a lunch money envelope
an attendance slip
a discipline form
a piece of sheet music for Gangnam Style
a hardback Catching Fire
a tissue

Genius was most impressed with Catching Fire. He said the librarian was giving out books. No way. I said that would never happen. "No, Mom! She had a whole box of books to give away, and I picked this one!"

"It looks surprisingly like the one from our house, the one I pre-ordered when it first came out, before there was such a big to-do about The Hunger Games series. The one you loaned to several people, and we never got back."

"Yeah. The main reason I wanted it was because I can't find the one at home."

After preserving this moment for posterity, Genius raked in even more loot. I think I heard him mention a paper clip. I'm trying to conceal my envy.

Tom Sawyer never had it so good.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Grumpy Old Val Says, "And that's the way it was, and we LIKED it!"

Some days, I feel like a wise old elder, spinning yarns around the campfire about the ways of our people in ancient times. Okay, maybe you should strike the wise part. And aren't all elders old, thus the name elders? I'm starting to sound like my mother talking about somebody having a new baby.

Every year, I get older, and the students get younger. I feel like Charlton Heston as Astronaut Taylor in the original Planet of the Apes, explaining to Dr. Zaius why a human doll found in the rubble has a voice box that says, "Mama."

Today I had to explain the concept of drawing straws.

It was during a scene in the sciency reward movie Deep Impact, when Tea Leoni gives up her seat on the rescue helicopter so Laura Innes and her movie daughter can live. Laura Innes, her ER Dr. Kerry Weaver karma catching up to her, draws the short straw. But selfless long-straw holder Tea, her cutthroat rival cable news anchor, lets Laura whisk her daughter away on the helicopter, rather than sitting on the sixteenth floor in the daycare room awaiting her doom, because her daughter, "...was always happy here."

I suppose nowadays kids do rock/paper/scissors. I've seen them at lunch, determining who takes back a stack of eight trays. And it's not like there would be any straws in a cafeteria. Are you kidding me? It's not like when you and I were in kindergarten, and they gave us those white paper straws to sip our half-pint of Foremost milk in the orange and white carton. Yeah. I know you're kidding me. Because now we don't have Foremost milk. We don't even have white milk. We have 1 percent chocolate or 1 percent strawberry milk. I doubt kids even know that milk comes out of a cow unflavored. I doubt kids even know that milk comes out of a cow.

Excuse me. I need to find more logs to stoke my fire.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Day When All Students Are Not Treated Equally

Today was Reward Day along the hallowed halls of Backroads High.

It's good to reward students for following rules and showing up and passing their classes. Don't think I'm complaining one bit. No. Not Val. Far be it from VAL to voice her displeasure. Some of the kids are a bit more vocal every year. Not in a throw-themselves-on-the-tile-kicking-and-screaming kind of way. More in a general-grumbling-and-mumbling kind of way. Keep in mind that the criteria to be met for Reward Day is listed in the student handbook. It's in folder form, handed out to each student when schedules are picked up. Still, some of them must remember those hazy lazy days of lower elementary, when everybody got an award, and nobody's tender self-esteem was marred by unpleasantness.

"I can't believe I'm not on the list! I only went to in-school suspension ONE time!"

"I was told it's only for second semester. That what you did first semester doesn't count."

"I was told it's for first semester. That what you did SECOND semester doesn't count."

"I'm passing all of my classes but one!"

"I'm passing everything but P.E."

"You guys. Think about it. It's not really worth coming to school every day just to have Reward Day. You can miss way more that three days a semester, and those days you take off can be your own Reward Days."

Sometimes Reward Day is a trip to a theater for a new release movie, with free small soda and popcorn. Sometimes it's a trip to a mall in the city. Sometimes it's a visit to City Museum, or a bowling fun center, or skating. Sometimes it's a barbecue at the park, or open gym, or DVD movies and snacks in the cafeteria. You never know. Today, it was an outdoor sports day with a barbecue to enjoy the 90-degree sunshine. The point is, students get a somewhat unstructured day with their friends to text each other and goof around. Don't think the destination is what makes the day.

Some schools have reward days in which the students who don't qualify must take finals or do busy-work skills worksheets all day to remind them that THEY DIDN'T QUALIFY FOR REWARD DAY. I disagree with this reasoning. First of all, if a final exam is truly to be counted as a final exam, all students need to take it. Nobody should be excused for good behavior. Secondly, students who don't have good enough grades for reward day are punished by possibly lowering their grades even more with a final exam. And that busy work? It's cruel and unusual punishment. Because it doesn't matter if you give the unrewarded kids a pony and cotton candy, THEY STILL KNOW THEY ARE MISSING FUN TIME WITH THEIR FRIENDS. No matter how they try to rationalize it.

"It's so hot out there. I'm glad I'm inside."

"Yeah. It's nice and cool in here. We're not getting a sunburn."

"And they're getting all dirty on the softball field. Yuck."

"The wind would mess up my hair."

Yes, those left behind know they are not being rewarded. Our policy is to treat the day in the way you deem appropriate. Short of taking your class outside to watch Reward Day, that is.

Still. They know. The unrewarded. Better luck next year. Everybody has the same chance.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Eggs, Eggs, Everywhere...and Not a Yolk to Eat

Hick has a problem. It's as evident as the beard on his face. Not that he knows he has a beard on his face, apparently.

I opened the refrigerator Friday to put away the week's groceries. My Frigidaire has overcrowding issues. Most of the bottom shelf was occupied by eggs. Eggs in blue cartons, never reaching the end. Hoards that Hick's saving, never meaning to send. I observed three 18-count cartons and three 12-count cartons. THAT'S 90 EGGS! Nobody needs 90 eggs lolling about the refrigerator.

Yes, Hick SAYS he's selling those eggs at work. Yet they continue to build up. "Oh, he wasn't there today," is the answer when quizzed on the never-ending worry. Like an anorexic telling how much she eats, or an alcoholic telling how little he drinks...Hick described the egg infestation in detail. "Those three are going to the auction Friday night. That dozen on the top shelf are the little eggs for your mom for Mother's Day. She loves the little eggs. And those two cartons of 12 on the bottom are store-bought eggs that you've had in there for a while."

Au contraire. The last eggs I purchased were for Easter. All but three of the two dozen were boiled and turned into deviled eggs and potato salad. The other three went into an Oreo cake. Let's not forget that Hick recycles the cartons. My mother does not love the little eggs. She does not even like them on a platonic level. She has told me before, "I just don't know what to use them for. I don't know how many make a real egg in recipes. They're okay for boiling, I guess. Don't tell him that. He wants to give them to me, and I'll take them."

The market must be glutted with farm fresh eggs. Hick sold them for $3.00 an 18-pack at the auction Saturday night. The refrigerator is filling up again.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Sometimes, They Don't Come Back

You know that tantalizing smell of steaks grilling, the charcoal aroma, the caramelized BBQ sauce starting to blacken on the sausages? I don't. That's because I have not smelled since Monday. Yes. I realize that's hard to believe. But it's true. Much to my dismay. It did not, however, put the kibosh on Hick's plan to throw me a Mother's Day BBQ. Just the family, of course.

I was resigned to missing out on the free, community-church-provided chocolate sheet cake with vanilla buttercream icing on Tuesday for Teacher Appreciation Day. Didn't even risk losing an arm in the frothing, plastic-knife-infested circle of colleagues while reaching in for my share. I muddled through the Pasta House catered noodle lunch on Wednesday. Chugged some tasteless Hot & Sour soup on Thursday. Choked down a piece of gas station chicken on Friday. Bit into a bland taco salad on Saturday. And this morning, I took a bite of a McDonald's sausage biscuit that might just as well have been a Gaines Burger plopped between two slabs of cotton batting.

Yes, I think this head cold has overstayed its welcome. Normally, smell and taste return within two or three days. But not this time. My senses are still stifled. Saturday, I tried an experiment. In the past, I've had success in opening my nose with salsa. Eating it, of course. Not pouring it into my sinus cavities with a Neti Pot. Mild salsa, even. But this cloggage called for the big guns. I took several J. Higgs brand buffalo wing potato chips from the package Genius had been feeding on. Then I poured a shot glass equivalent of Frank's Original RedHot Wing Sauce, and dipped the chips and ate them! Nothing. No taste. Incredible. I'd already tried consuming mass quantities of water to thin the mucus. Sucking on Hall's Mentholyptus cough drops until my tongue burned. Putting a vibrating thingy from a travel neck pillow on my sinuses to loosen the blockage. Tilting my head various ways. Standing in a hot shower and breathing the mist. Nothing worked. Until...

Vicks VapoRub! Not rubbed on the chest like recommended. That only loosens the lung mucus so you wheeze and cough up liquid all night instead of sleeping. No, I'm talking about the hard-core remedy for a stuffed head and no smell or taste. PUT THE VICKS INSIDE YOUR NOSE!

Oh, yeah! That clears a path! Of course, you will feel like your nose is disintegrating from the burning chemicals. And all of your food will smell and taste like you have dipped it in Vicks VapoRub. But at least you'll have smell and taste!

What a delicious, if somewhat odorous, banquet my dear sweet Hick prepared for me this Mother's Day.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

They Hunger For Knowledge

The Pony usually plods through the school day like a little workhorse. He keeps a tight rein on his emotions. Turns in his assignments and pulls out a book to pass the time. But yesterday, he pranced into my classroom in high spirits. His algebra class had been given a project that allowed him to kick up his heels.

I'd already gotten wind of this project from a class after lunch. A little gal told me that she was partnered with The Pony for this endeavor. "I had the best time! He is so funny! And I really like his voice." I'm thinking she's more excited about getting a partner who will actually share in the work. They are both little smarties, and neither will be covering for a slacker whose grade will benefit.

It seems that the lesson is on probability. The students drew lots and were assigned districts for their very own Hunger Games. Oh, don't worry. I don't think they will be murdering each other in a fight to the death. But they WILL be creating costumes befitting the specialization of their district. The Pony was absolutely jumping over the moon in his excitement to have drawn District 1, which produces luxury items. He and his partner have already made themselves golden crowns. In fact, some girl whose name he does not know (THIS IS THE NEXT-TO-LAST WEEK OF SCHOOL!) commented that with his crown on, The Pony looked like a Greek god. Yeah. His mane has finally grown out from that sheep-shearing haircut I made him get, and is starting to curl.

The Pony's partner is getting the gems they need for Monday. We stopped by the Dollar Tree to see if we could find some silver ribbon. We did. And some gold and silver beads. And some kind of silver strand with stars on it. And gold crepe paper. The Pony had been texting his partner all morning.

"What should I tell her we got?"

"Put that stuff on the seat and text her a picture."

"No. My phone is messed up and doesn't send pictures very well."

"Then look in the bag and list it."

"She wants to know what CREEP PAPER is."

"CRAPE. It's pronounced CRAPE. For future reference. Who'd want to buy something called CREEP PAPER?"

"I know. It sounds creepy."

The demise of each contestant will be determined randomly. Like the roll of the dice. Or, since we're all proper and don't want to promote gambling in the public schools, NUMBER CUBES.

May the odds be ever in his favor.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Climbing the Charts

Never let a good infirmity go to waste. That's my new personal motto, edging out ever-so-slightly the old favorite: people piss me off.

Yes, each day dawns with the promise of yet another fly in the ointment of Val's physical well-being. Not only am I dealing with a common cold and a purple flapping pinky-toe, I am harboring a joint mouse, a throbbing tooth, and a raging case of insomnia. I think they are all related in some twisted kind of The House That Jack Built way.

If I didn't have the Typhoid Hick cold virus, I wouldn't have stumbled about the bathroom closet, bashing my pinky-toe on the door frame. And if I didn't have a sore pinky-toe, I would have walked normally up the slight incline of the school parking lot, rather than favoring the flopping pinky-toe and bending my knee unnaturally so that an innocuous flake of loose cartilage wedged itself into my right knee joint. If I hadn't obsessed over that tricked-out knee joint locking at random moments in my walks down the hall, I wouldn't have clenched my jaw from the stress of remaining upright and ambulatory, irritating the tooth nerve already tweaked by the sinus congestion of the cold. If my tooth hadn't been throbbing every time I applied my head to my pillow, I would have been able to wheeze and cough up mucus like a champ, then drift off to dreamland in an exhausted stupor. If I hadn't been so sleep-deprived that I nodded off at the keyboard, I could have taken more time to craft a witty laundry list of my symptoms.

If You Give a Val a Virus. Watch for it on the new release charts.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Man's Best Friends Exact a Price

Yesterday evening I was engaging in my daily lovefest on the porch breezeway with my faithful dog Juno when the UPS truck rolled up the driveway. Imagine my surprise when sweet Juno wrested herself free from my soothing embrace and ran to meet the truck. Tank the beagle followed, close on Juno's black feathered heels. How fickle are the canines of the manor!

The big brown truck came to a halt on the other side of the garage. By the time I walked around, Tank was sitting with his nose in the open doorway of that delivery van, and Juno had her front feet on the first step! Somebody really needs to whisper the concept of boundaries to these pooches.

The driver was nowhere to be seen. I knew that the dogs could not have devoured a whole human in that short time span. Besides, they prefer the dog biscuits the regular driver tosses them each time she hops out with a package. I stood there like a child waiting for the ice cream man to show his face. Only more patiently. Huh! It was a new driver, a portly fellow, holding a gossamer envelope that appeared empty of even air.

I apologized for my delivery-truck-etiquette-challenged best friends. "I think they're looking for biscuits. They don't bite."

"I'm out of biscuits. I know Marvel always carries them with her."

"Yeah, I think they were expecting her."

I called the dogs away with me so he could leave. Thank goodness he wasn't the dude who is deathly afraid of dogs. And the eyes he saw in the garage. We don't want to get that reputation of the house with hounds who jump into the truck. That would cut down on the two or three packages that Genius receives every week. This one was some kind of clear cover stuff for his new phone.

Our dogs would welcome robbers as long as dog biscuits were the payoff. They'd probably lend themselves as pack mules to carry our valuables out to the getaway car.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

All Revved Up and No Place to Write

I have a backlog of ideas duking it out to appear in this space. "Oh, really?" you say, raising one eyebrow and furtively making the spiral crazy gesture with your finger near your ear when my attention wanders. "Then why do you keep showing us material every night?"

Well, collective smarty-pantses, I simply don't have the means to get it ready when time permits. I have been gallivanting around Backroads attending parades, concerts, academic awards nights, insurance meetings, faculty meetings, drug store wild goose chases, Missouri 100 banquets, possible fraudulent lawsuit scams at Walmart, and, well, even though there's dead time for writing, the environment is not conducive.

I have jotted a plethora of notes, practically salivating at the thought of the finished product. I'll get to them one of these days. Maybe tomorrow. At least on the weekend.

I mean it.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

I'm Not Worthy

I may be her eight-dollar daughter, and sometimes her five-cent daughter, but my mom is worth a million bucks.

Every morning I call her before school, and most nights I call her before going to bed. It's not that we have anything to say. She likes to hear what went on at work, because truth is stranger than fiction. When it's Mom's turn to talk, I'm never sure what I'm going to learn. Because she rarely arrives at the destination she sets out for with her story. Except that time she was sure those partners in crime women writers were secretly murdering people in order to have book plots.

Last night I called around 10:30. Mom stays up late and watches David Letterman. I'm a TMZ kind of gal myself. I didn't really feel like talking, what with my advanced case of HickGermItis robbing me of most of my voice. Mom was worried. I told her about the pharmacy not having my cough medicine. She said she was going to the doctor for lab work the next morning, and that she would be happy to ask if that prescription had been called in. I told her that was okay, I'd deal with it from school on my plan time. Then she asked if she could pick up the medicine and bring it to me at school if it was ready. I told her that was okay, that I probably shouldn't take that medicine at school, because it has a tendency to put me to sleep two hours later. Then she offered to come out and spend the night at my house, because Hick was going to be on a business trip, and I would be left with only strapping young Genius, a licensed driver, and the helpful little Pony to tend to me should I grow ill in the night. I told her that was okay, that I didn't want her to spend an uncomfortable night away from home for my benefit, and that I knew she was just a phone call away.

As we hung up, Mom said she would be thinking about me all night, and that she would do anything she could to help me the next day.

I have not yet told her about my purple misshapen pinky-toe.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Val is Not So Chipper

Just when you thought it was safe to go back to Val's blog, the JAWS music starts pumping. Another calamity has befallen our author, and left her trying to garner more sympathy than a mere partially-severed pinky-toe can elicit. A pinky-toe with a black stripe in the middle, threatening to turn completely blue if I stuff it into a shoe again tomorrow.

I have a virus spread by Typhoid Hick and his breather. It's been pummeling me from the inside since Friday, and chose today to bring me to my knees. I feel like I have an elephant sitting on my chest. Not a so-ugly-it's-cute baby elephant, like the newest pachyderm at the St. Louis Zoo. Nope. A big ol' pregnant elephant in her 22nd month. Making me wheeze like a fireplace bellows blowing into a bagpipe.

So under-the-mercurial weather did I feel that I called the doctor's office between classes. That's right. My morning plan time had come and gone. My condition deteriorated. No peace for Val. Amidst the hustle and bustle of class changes, I punched the outside line and begged for drugs. The girl who answered was most likely giving me a subtle clue to the eventual outcome when she mocked, "You want some cough medicine called in?" Yeah. I spelled my name. Last. And first. Mocky named my pharmacy. Except she used the old name, the one before it was taken over. Hostilely. She assured me that they knew which one, but that this is how they kept it straight. I believed her.

It was already 2:00, so I assumed I wouldn't get my breath-giving elixir until Tuesday. But no. Mocky said, "Oh, that will be easy for us to do." As in, it would be called in TODAY. I had a meeting after school. Then I called the pharmacy. No record of a new prescription. Okay. I did some work. Stopped for gas. Went by the pharmacy. No record of a new prescription. I should have known something was up when Mocky didn't ask me for my date of birth so I could reveal it for students trickling into the room. Those medical folks ALWAYS ask for date of birth.

Funny how the pharmacy tech did not ask for date of birth, either. They ALWAYS ask for date of birth. So here I am up cough creek without a paddle to whack this hacking into submission. My voice was already starting to go this afternoon. So sick was I that a student with whom I normally wage spirited battle looked at me and said, "You're SICK!"

Somebody has some 'splainin' to do tomorrow. I predict the fault lies with the pharmacy. Hick dashed in there Saturday to grab a jar of Vicks VapoRub for me. He pronounced the counter girl rude and insolent, and declared that he would never, EVER go into that establishment again.

I hope they understand mime. Because I'm going to scream my hands off. I may even don a beret and a black-and-white striped mime shirt. If I remember, in my sleep-deprived, fevered delirium.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

And THIS Little Piggy Cried, "Wee, wee, wee!" When Beset With a Debilitating Injury

I have a bit of a head cold shared with me by Hick and his breather. The resulting headache and sinus pain has made me a bit woozy and unsteady on my feet. Kind of like a happy drunk, but without the fun, and without the alcohol.

This afternoon I entered the master bathroom to change clothes for The Pony's spring band concert. Hick and I have a big walk-in closet in the john. As I turned to enter, a wave of vertigo struck me clumsy. A step with my right foot that I had planned to put into the closet instead struck the inward-opening door. Precisely, that inch of wood from which the door is made, hung between two hinges. My pinky-toe bent in an unnatural angle. A ninety-degree angle, for the geometry scholars and carpenters among you.

You know how, when you hit your extremities on something, the length of your axons (some as long as three feet!) means that you know you're hurt, but you don't feel it for a second or two? It was like that. I knew Pinky had swiveled too far. But I couldn't look. Besides, I was not in any position to look. I was cartwheeling between the hanging clothes, blouses to the left of me, work pants to the right, and there I was stuck in the middle with a view. Of the gray metal circuit-breaker box, that is. Or service entrance, as Hick the facility maintenance supervisor refers to it. Whatever its nomenclature, it was rushing towards my head until I stuck out my right arm and stopped that wall from closing in.

Then the pain arrived. Kind of sharp. I still couldn't look. What good would THAT do? Nothing can be done for a broken pinky-toe except for taping it to the piggy that had no roast beef. Who is probably already bitter about the roast beef snubbing. Anyway, I don't think Pinky has enough bone in her to break. She's one of those freaky deaky pinky-toes that is all triangular and meaty and pudgy, with an itty bitty crescent nail. The kind of pinky-toe that sort of turns under the next toe when you walk. Not a pretty little pinky-toe, all manicured and painted up like a hussy, begging to expose herself in flip-flops and fancy sandals.

Pinky ached all through the concert. Quietly, because, while not pretty, she does have class. The sides of the shoe were constricting her like a boa around a bunny. But she maintained. That little toe jammed along with the music, throbbing to beat the band.

I am thankful that Pinky did not pop off. That would have been as bad as a street sweeper running over her, and having some hipster doofus pick her up, plop her in a Cracker Jack box full of ice, hijack a bus, and drive me to the emergency room, while making all the stops.

I may gather enough courage to take a peek tomorrow morning. At least it took my mind off my cold.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Different Tastes for Different Waists

My fascination with reality TV often takes me places I don't want to go. For instance, My Crazy Obsession or My Strange Addiction. I am not a regular viewer. Some addictions are too freaky, even for me. Like that guy in love with his car, who consummated the relationship in the driveway. Or the woman who drinks human blood. Or the gal who ate the stuffing out of all her pillows. Not to mention the lady who chowed down on her deceased husbands ashes.

Last week I came across the new season of My Crazy Obsession. Imagine my surprise when my DISH Network on-screen guide told me the show was about a guy who ate bugs, and a woman who got food out of dumpsters. I clicked on it and thought, "So what? A dude eats bugs. We all eat bugs. We just don't know it because we're asleep when they crawl in our mouths. Or their legs are in our cereal." Just because this dude ordered a big poisonous Vietnamese centipede and took it to a gourmet cook to surprise his wife does not make him all that special.

The second half of the show was even less impressive. A gal got food out of dumpsters and saved a lot of money on her food budget. Okay, she went a little overboard by wearing an apron and cap from each supermarket chain where she invaded the dumpsters. And she DID take a bite out of a peach that might have been fly-blown after a day in the sunny confines of a metal trash bin. Then there was the matter of her FREEZING her expired food to eat later. So she was approaching the crazy benchmark even before she whipped up a meal and invited her friends to join her without telling them they were eating dumpster treats. That's kind of wrong.

Which reminds me of another place and another time, when I and my fellow faculty hosted a potluck in the little upstairs cubbyhole of a teacher's lounge, in a school where paraprofessionals did the lunch duty. Wait! Here! Sniff these smelling salts! I TOLD you it was another time. Back when we used mimeograph machines with their sweet purple lettering and pungent aroma.

I think the occasion was Thanksgiving. We all crowded around our wooden table after harvesting goodies from the perimeter. One of our group was noted for bringing the same lunch every day. A can of Slim-Fast. She would sip and critique our meals on a daily basis. I'm sure she brought something for the potluck. She was not mean-spirited or cheap, just a tiny bit of a know-it-all. Perhaps she brought rolls, or a salad. I remember that I brought a crock pot full of deer meat simmered in BBQ sauce. This school was near the Huzzah Valley. A rural setting. Venison was not all that exotic. In fact, when our feast was in the planning stages, I proposed my dish and received positive feedback. Apparently, Slim was not at the menu meeting.

Slim brought her can of Slim-Fast to our banquet. She popped the top and took a few sips. Then she announced that she thought she'd try a little taste of everything. We did not begrudge her the tidbits, even though each of us had to stand and push in our chair as she went by. Slim quizzed us all on what we brought. Not in a manner that one wishes to avoid the fur-filled cupcakes from the crazy cat lady, but in a conversational way. "What did YOU bring, Val?" Slim sometimes treated me like a mail-order bride from an east coast city, perhaps because I'd been married less than a year, and she thought I was not yet seasoned in housewifely duties.

"Oh, I brought the BBQ in the crock pot."

"That is SO good! I'm going to have just a little bit more."

Every pair of eyes at that table met mine. Hey! Slim didn't ask what kind of meat was in there. And she liked it. She really liked it. I did not feel obligated to announce its species. If Slim had said, "Oh, the cow meat?" Or, "You mean the BBQ beef?" I would have set her straight. But she didn't.

After we all shifted to allow Slim seconds on my dish and some others, she returned to her chair and began to feed. "Mmm. You got this just right. Is it beef?"

"No. It's deer meat."

Well. You'd have thought I'd blindfolded her and served her a casserole of great big gobs of greasy grimy gopher guts sprinkled with D-Con rat pellets. Slim shoved her plate away and hollered, "I can't believe you did that to me!" Like I was Ashton Kutcher without a camera crew. Seriously. Everyone knew what was in that pot. We didn't even think she was partaking of our spread. Besides, her own husband went deer-hunting every year. Slim stormed out. After her side of the table stood up to let her by. Perhaps she did some refunding like George Costanza's date.

We were once again on speaking terms after the break. I even emailed her a few years ago about Career Ladder. I did not mention venison.

Friday, May 3, 2013

I Am Josephine's Coccyx

The Pony and I witnessed a lawsuit in the making today. And by witnessed, I mean our backs were to the situation, but we filled in the details with our keen skills of fabrication.

There I was at the Walmart deli counter, not buying, just looking, for a baked chicken. They had none. Okay, that's not quite true. Old Mother Hubbard's poor dog could have had a hypertensive episode courtesy of lemon pepper chicken bones. But, like Old Mother Hubbard, I value the circulatory health of my companion. I did not buy the chicken with saline breasts.

I heard a cry. At first, I thought it was a laugh. I looked across the deli counter, but my view was obstructed by macaroni salad, Amish potato salad, three-bean salad, and cole slaw. The plastic hairnetted emplyee behind the counter did not miss a beat. She didn't even turn to look toward the cakes and donuts. "What's that?" I asked The Pony. "Did somebody fall?" He got all fidgety and peered around the deli case.

"Uh huh. There's a lady on the floor."

"Go see if you can help. You're a strong young man." A cake-baker had strolled out of her designated area to peer at Gravity's Victim.

"I'm not really all that strong." So much for making a Good Samaritan out of him. A man ran past us from the direction of the in-store Subway around the corner by the doors.

"My mom fell down." Wait a minute. How did he know that? It just happened. Was he watching on closed-circuit TV? Did he have her wired with a mom-cam? Nobody had gone past us the other way to tell him. Was this a scam in the making? He was a gray-hooded-sweatshirted, middle-aged guy, balding, kind of like Randy on My Name is Earl. He looked like he still could be living at home.

"Look again. Is she okay?" A few people had encircled her, and my new vantage point beside the footlong sandwiches did not enhance my view. I gave The Pony a little shove.

"I think she's okay. She's sitting up now. And moving. Her head isn't on the floor." We proceeded to the checkout. I was there so long that the Gravity's Victim entourage caught up to me. Got in line right behind. A man hovered over GV, asking if she was sure she was alright. GV nodded her white head.

I did not see what happened. Gravity's Victim could have been seriously hurt. She was no spring chicken. She whimpered for a while after her up-ending.

Here's the deal. Backroads has been under a downpour all day. Walmart had numerous buckets set out in the aisles, catching drippings from the ceiling. It is possible that Gravity's Victim slipped on some water that had not yet been observed and bucketed. Her clothing could have soaked up the moisture. It is also possible that GV and her son noticed the buckets and worked out a plan to squeeze money from the tight fists of Sam Walton's heirs. Unlikely. But possible.

I think Gravity's Victim, by not having a leg to stand on...has a leg to stand on.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

He Ain't Savvy He's My Brother

I really meant to title this "The Ditty of Brotherly Love." However...I am too lazy to whip up some song lyrics. So I'll be a withered elder, passing down this tale by firelight, squinting against the smoke.

This is not a mommy blog. Really. Not that there's anything wrong with mommy blogs. That said, there are times when I must don my mommy hat, that one with a chewed brim, encrusted with wiggly toys that a cat might enjoy batting, or suitable prey-lures befitting a deep-sea predator. If you do not wish to endure accolades received by my not-so-little Thevictorians last night, you may skip to the ending paragraphs.

Last night we attended the academic honors awards dinner. Both Genius and The Pony received awards for ranking in the top ten percent of their respective classes. In fact, both currently sit atop the #1 position. That makes Genius Thevictorian a true valedictorian. Both boys also lettered for their academic team performance.

Today, one of the faculty referred to last night's event as The Genius Thevictorian Show. I think she was kidding. I don't talk about my boys at school like I do here. Their performance speaks for them. Anyhoo...Genius was called up to the podium several times for various bragging rights. He was given a valedictorian medal to wear at graduation, an award for honorable mention in the Herff Jones Believe in You national scholarship competition, and recognition for all-conference and all-district academic team honors. As team captain, he held the wooden state of Missouri plaque denoting our school as district champions. That means they were one of the sixteen best academic teams in the state of Missouri. Not too shabby for a little Backroads high school with an enrollment of less than 300 students.

Awards were also handed out to our district middle school students. The Pony was disappointed to hear that the middle school academic team earned a banner as conference champions, having an undefeated season of nine wins. Not that he begrudged them their success. He hung his head. "We didn't get a banner last year." That was the year he was the leading scorer on the middle school. team. They were defeated twice.

Genius leaned across me over the white plastic tablecloth to get The Pony's attention. "We didn't hang a banner my eighth grade year, either."

That is quite possibly the nicest thing Genius has ever done for The Pony.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Somewhat Monthly Affirmation, With Val Thevictorian

I am rushed for time today, and have no idea what I'm going to write about. I make it a policy not to skip a day of blogging, no matter what I might tease out of my fingertips onto the screen. In lieu of a hearty, meat-and-potatoes post that will stick to your ribs, I offer a single spoonful of frothy broth. My somewhat monthly writer's affirmation.

Here's how it goes. I sit down in front of the computer, wipe away the layer of dust on the monitor, admire my faint reflection, and recite my motivation to keep churning out word pollution every single day.

"I'm workmanlike enough, I'm reasonably smart enough, what with my valedictorianship from a small Missouri high school, and doggone it, people tolerate me."

If that's not enough to get a writer's blood flowing like damaged cartridge of ink, I don't know what is.