When your seat is upright and your tray table is closed, take a look at this….

I Should be Writing!

I will preface this blog by saying that I really hate to fly. All right, just so long as we’re clear on that, I’ll get started…

Recently, my husband and I went to see my son in Pennsylvania for Parents Weekend. We had already completed the first leg of our trip by leaving the house at 4:30 am and taking the 6:30 flight to Dallas. Luckily, I was still half asleep on that journey and it was a short hour-long flight. After a two and half hour layover, we boarded a flight from Dallas to Chicago. After we’d all settled in and the flight attendant finished his safety briefing, the Captain told the attendants to “Prepare for Takeoff.” I was glad to hear that because the sooner we started, the sooner I could get off the flying-capsule-of-germs-dirt-and-diseased air. But…

We sat at the gate for what felt like an eternity…

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The Detour

photo by Neil Lockhart From Dreamstime.com

photo by Neil Lockhart from Dreamstime.com

In the spirit of Halloween and all things dark and creepy, I give you a 1000-word story. Ya’ll know I’m all about Halloween and I’m loving Alabama, too. So, nothing personal here. Now sit back and imagine the dueling banjos from Deliverance….


Laurie Woodlaw was ready to begin a new life after a recent divorce. She’d explained her need to start over somewhere without the fear of running into her cheating ex-husband. Her coworkers and neighbors understood. After all, Laurie was a recent transplant and had no relatives in the area. The young couple hadn’t been in town long enough to make any close friends. So, she waved goodbye to her neighbors as she pulled out of the driveway. “God speed!” they yelled before returning their attention to the garden.

She drove through the green, hilly, mountains of the Deep South. Thunder rumbled in the distance and dark clouds gathered overhead. Laurie had hoped the rainstorm would hold off until she found her motel, but she’d managed to miss a turn and found herself winding through a forested, desolate highway.

Giant rain drops began to strike her windshield, slowly at first and then in sheets. Her wipers could not keep up with the downpour. I need to stop and wait for the storm to pass. Is that a gas station up ahead? She leaned forward and peered between quick smears of the wiper. Two gas pumps stood in front of a country store. The structure was set back in a grove between a couple of ancient trees draped with Spanish Moss.

Laurie directed her car towards the dilapidated station. The windows were dark; the front door had been boarded up. Luckily, I don’t need gas. Her tires sloshed through the muddy gravel as she pulled to the side of the  abandoned building.

The radio station faded in and out unable to find a proper frequency so far into the backwoods. Faint chords of a pop song intermingled with increasing static. Manually adjusting the tuner, the only thing that came in clearer was a zealot preacher expounding on eternal damnation for those who refuse to heed all the signs announcing the end of times. Laurie rolled her eyes and snapped off the radio before slumping in her seat to wait for better weather.

The wind picked up and the trees shook with vigor. Gusts thrashed hanging vines and moss, but they stubbornly clung to the trees they strangled. Laurie zipped her sweatshirt due to the rapid drop in temperature.


Laurie jumped; her mouth went dry and pulse sped up. Something had hit the back of her car. She whipped around, but couldn’t see through her foggy back window. A sense of apprehension weighed down her shoulders. I need to get out of here. She whipped around to start the ignition.

Laurie’s heart flung itself at her chest. Fear immobilized her as she stared, mouth agape. A little girl stood at the driver’s side door. Laurie swallowed and used her sleeve to remove the vapor from her window.

Soaking wet, the horribly pale child didn’t move or open her mouth to speak. She glowered, chin downward and eyes unblinking. Where are her parents? Is she lost? The girl’s dark-rimmed eyes bored through her.

Nauseated and shaking, she rolled down the window. “Are you all right? Are you out here all alone?”

The child focused on the rear the car. The fogged window prevented Laurie from seeing if someone stood near the trunk. A crack of thunder preceded a shock of lightning. Laurie’s stomach pitched, bile built up in the back of her throat? “Are you lost? Where are your parents?”

The child pointed behind her car.

Laurie stuck her head out the window to get a better look. “Hello? Is someone there?” she yelled over the storm. Her peripheral vision caught something creeping near her front bumper. Just as she turned to check, a large figure stood upright and rushed at her.


A piercing headache jolted Laurie from sleep. Her eyes snapped open. A trio of people peered down at her. She’d heard of Hill Dwellers before, but had never seen any. No one ever did. They lived deep in the woods and existed without contact from the outside world. She rubbed her eyes trying to wake up from a disturbingly realistic dream. Was I in an accident?

The two men and young girl didn’t vanish when she opened her eyes again. They only came into sharper focus. Laurie’s muddled mind let go of its doubt.

They were real.

She sat upright on a straw pallet. The three onlookers moved back with her sudden movement, but their eyes never left her.

“Pappy…the lady dudn’t talk.”

An older man with a bushy beard scowled. His long, matted hair dripped rain onto his emaciated chest. He pushed the child back using a giant calloused hand. “Shut up, Dissy. Kin’t ya see. She’s not dumb. She’s ascared.”

“She’s sure purdy, aint she pa?”

A younger man wearing coveralls and a stained ball cap smiled revealing a gap between discolored teeth. He wiped his nose with the sleeve of a grungy, checkered flannel shirt.

Laurie scooted back until hitting a rough log wall. Crimson splotches covered the front of her blouse. When she cupped her throbbing forehead, her fingers came away sticky from a bloody gash. “Where am I? Was I in an accident?”

“She talks, pa!” The young girl with crossed eyes touched Laurie’s cheek. “She’s real soft, too.”

“Get outta her, Dissy. You’s always in the way!” The younger man shoved the girl aside so hard she landed on her backside onto the debris-covered dirt floor.

“Who are you?” Laurie swallowed a lump as a vague memory surfaced. “Did you hit me?”

“Now, Miss, don’t git riled-up,” the old man said.

Laurie stood on wobbly legs and took two steps toward the door before he gripped her arm.

“Ain’t no sense in runnin’, Missy. You’ll never get out of the holler by yerself. And yer car’s ‘proly good’n mired in mud at the bottom of Raven Creek by now.” The men chortled.

“Please, let me go.” Laurie’s voice cracked.

The elder spit a stream of tobacco on the floor. “It ain’t all bad. We ain’t plannin’ on hurtin’ nobody—if you’s a clever learner.”

The younger man leaned closer. Laurie drew back and turned her head, but his hot breath still reached her. He cupped her chin, turning her face towards him before pushing a strand of her hair back with his dirty hands. “Yep. You’ll do fine.” He turned to the older man. “I done picked a good ‘un this time.”

“Hope so, Junior.” The old man scratched his head. “You never know.”

Laurie’s heartbeat throbbed in her ears. “I…I…need to go. Please.”

Dissy danced on tiptoes; her sackcloth dress stuck to her bony frame. Her feet were black from the ankle down. She sang, “You’s gonna be my new ma! You’s gonna be my new ma!”

“Now look here, Junior,” the old one said. “Don’t you wear this ‘un out like them others. They’s getting’ a lot harder to hunt fer.”

Laurie’s stomach lurched. “Others?”

“My wives.” Junior smiled.

“There!” Dissy pointed. Between two ten-point antlers, three female human heads were stuffed and mounted.

“They wasn’t up to snuff…but maybe you’ll work out better’n them.”

There’s No Place Like Home


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This isn’t my normal blog, so forgive any typos or grammatical errors. I don’t have time to edit. I just want to tell you a quick little story. A ghost story. A real ghost story.

We live in a beautiful, historic house and I love it. It’s got character and more than a few strange quirks…like doors that don’t stay shut, blinds that flutter for no reason and lights that come on downstairs after we go to bed. Once, our bedroom lights turned on at 1:15 in the morning. It woke us up. The lights stayed on for a moment, flickered, turned off, turned on again and then remained off.

Now, I’m a very light sleeper. If the kids get up to use the bathroom, I wake up. If the dog starts chewing a bone in her crate, I wake up. If Gerald gets up to get a drink of water, I wake up. Trust me. I hear everything.

We’d been in bed for a couple of hours when Gerald bolted upright and woke me from a dead-sleep. When something jolts me awake, I am completely and immediately wide-awake and alert.

“Who’s there? Who’s there?” Gerald asked.

I immediately thought one of the kids must’ve come into the room and instantly went into mommy-mode. I thought, “Someone must be sick.” But, before I moved, Gerald said even more emphatically, “Who’s there?!”

At that point, I remembered we’d closed and locked our bedroom door, so I knew it was not one of the boys. Before I could remind him the door was locked, he shouts, “What the hell? Answer me!” He switched on the bedside lamp.
“Gerald! What’s wrong?”
“Someone was here.”
“No one was here.”
“Yes, there was!”
“No. You were dreaming. Go back to sleep.”
“I am not dreaming. Someone was just…walking around in here. Walked in front of the bed a couple of times. You didn’t hear footsteps?”
“What? No. You’re dreaming. I would’ve heard footsteps. I hear everything.”
“I was not dreaming. Someone was here. Someone walked back and forth in front of the bed.

“The door is locked, Gerald. No one was in here.” His eyes grew wide; he realized how weird everything had just become. He cleared his throat and tried to act normal. “Umm…I guess…maybe I was dreaming.”

I was totally freaked out, but I convinced myself if there had been any noise whatsoever, I would’ve heard it since I am such an ultra-light sleeper. He had to have been dreaming.
Eventually we went back to sleep.

An hour later, I jumped up and threw back the covers. A jolt of adrenaline shocked my system like a bolt of lightning. “What the hell was that?”
Gerald sat up next to me and groggily asked, “What’s happening?”

“Didn’t you hear that? Something just shattered.”
He switched on the light again and we looked around the room. Nothing was wrong. Nothing had moved or fallen. Door was still closed and locked.
“I didn’t hear anything, Kristine. Now you were dreaming.”
“How could you not hear that? Something shattered in this room.”

 “Everything is fine, Kristine. You’re just scaring yourself.”
“No, I’m not. I heard it. I swear. It was real.”
“You had to be dreaming. Let’s just go back to sleep.”
“Okay. Fine.” Maybe I dreamt the noise.

After my shower the next morning, I sat down at the vanity table in my bedroom to put on my make-up. The one-inch-thick custom-made glass that covered the antique vanity table had been broken. Not just cracked —half of it had been shattered into several pieces. If you have had those glass protectors made for your furniture, you know they are extremely thick and durable. This particular glass protector made it through four moves across country without a scratch–it’s that sturdy.

After Gerald came home from work that evening, I asked him, “So…still think you heard someone walking in front of our bed?”
My fearless warrior, super-confident, not-afraid-of-that-kind-of-thing, doesn’t-believe-in-any-of-that-stuff, husband mumbled, “Well…I heard something.”
“Yeah? Like what? Still think it sounded like someone walking in our room?”
He wouldn’t even make eye contact with me. He just shook his head indicating he didn’t want to talk about it.

So, naturally, I kept talking about it.
“Well, come take a look at the vanity.”
He stared at it, his brow wrinkled. He scratched his head.
“I told you I heard something shatter.”
“Wow.” He looked up at the ceiling. “Is it under the vent or something? Maybe it got too cold? Too hot?”
I rolled my eyes. “Yeah, right. A mighty blast of a heater set at 69 degrees can do that kind of damage. Admit it. That’s some scary stuff right there.”
He scoffed. “Probably had a chip in it we didn’t notice. House settled…”
“You know as well as I do, there was no chip in that glass yesterday.”

We still do not have any explanation for the events that transpired that night.
Below is a picture of the vanity top. I did not move the glass before I took this picture. The one piece on top of another is exactly like I found it. Not only was it broken…but the big piece ‘landed’ in that strange position.

If you can explain how this happened in the middle of the night–on the same night my husband swore someone was walking in front of our bed, I’d like to hear it. I’m sure he’d like to hear it, too.


Always Take A Wingwoman or The Things He Doesn’t Say Are Important


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Last September one of my best friends and I went to a department store because she needed to buy a dress for a formal occasion.  It just so happened I would not be attending that particular function due to an out-of-town trip, but it was one of the few I missed in the last several years.  Consequently, I’ve amassed a pretty good collection of formal dresses.

I’m a girlie-girl-rhinestone-loving-bling-freak, so I love these dress-up military-ball-type occasions.  However, for this shopping excursion, I only went for moral support.  I was my friend Liz’s wingwoman.  We both agreed that trying on eveningwear and swimsuits should NEVER be done alone.  Always take someone with you who will tell you the cold, hard truth.  Another friend once said you need someone who will tell you that the bikini with the itty-bitty flowers isn’t a good choice because “the tiny periwinkles elongated into full-bloom hibiscus when stretched across your backside.”  Now that is a good wingwoman!

Liz and I picked out some dresses for her to try-on and we were on our way to the dressing room with our arms full.  Since I wasn’t there to buy anything, helping her was like playing dress-up.  Shopping for formalwear is always fun when you’re not under the gun to find a dress.

And then I saw it.


The dress of my dreams.  My soul-dress.  I was drawn to its magnificence like magnet to steal.

“Where are you going?” Liz asked as I took a sharp right turn instead of walking straight into the dressing rooms.  I continued onward as though pulled by a trajectory beam.

Liz followed me.  “Are you okay?”

I might’ve drooled just a bit.

“Is…is…look.”  I couldn’t speak coherently so I whimpered and pointed before continuing to where the gown hung against the wall displaying all its glorious fabulousness.  I touched its sensual, deep-purple satin.  I ran my fingertips across the tiny sequins on the collar.  The ebony rhinestones around the edges dazzled my eyes.

Only one word came out of my mouth at that moment. “Mine.”

Liz laughed.  “You’re right.  That totally looks like you.”

And then, she said the words.

“You should try that on.”

I shivered.  “No, I can’t.  I don’t need another dress.  I’m not going to this ball, so I can’t.”  My eyes gazed longingly at the dress.  I couldn’t turn away.  The gown sparkled like a forbidden treasure gleaming under the pot-lights of the formalwear department in Dillards.  “No.  I better not.  I’m not looking for a dress.  I don’t need another one.”  I clutched the hanger to my chest, curled the long, soft hem over my arm and started walking toward the dressing room.  “No.  I shouldn’t.  I’m just here to help you find something to wear.  I’ll just sit in a chair and wait for you.  I can’t try anything on.”

I closed the dressing room door behind me.  “I really don’t have an excuse to buy a new dress.  I shouldn’t even look at it. Yeah, I’m going to put it back.”  I undressed.  The gown slid over my head and conformed to my body like a glove.  “Oh, Liz!  The fabric is so soft!  You should feel it!  Ohhhh!”

“Come out.  Let me see.”

“No.  I really shouldn’t.  Where would I wear it?”

“The Robert Burns dinner!”

Harps played, cherubs sang, a rainbow led me out of the dressing room stall.  She was right!

I stood in front of a three-way mirror surrounded by racks of never-going-to-be-as-good-as-the-thing-I-have-on-dresses. Fairy-dust cascaded around in multicolored showers, a spot-light warmed me from above.  Bluebirds flew overhead.

My beautiful gown purred with satisfaction as its purple silk curves gave me a gentle hug.  “I have found you at last.  We belong together,” the dress whispered in my ear.

Both Liz and the sales lady stood behind me making noises which drive women to buy things they don’t need.  “Ohh.” “Ahhh.”

“It fits you perfectly,” my friend said as cute woodland creatures surrounded her; a dove landed on her shoulder and cooed softly.

“Like it was made for you,” the saleslady added.  The forest animals’ eyes widened with wonder at the dress.

“I am.  I am made for you, Kristine.  Only you,” the dress whispered.

My eyes watered; heart pounded.  We loved each other, this dress and I.  “Yes, but I don’t have anywhere to wear you.  You’d hang in my closet and be so sad.”

“No, no, I would never be sad as long as we have each other.  Buy me.  Take me away from here before someone else buys me.  Do not abandon me to someone else’s closet.  You and I…we must be together.”

Did I mention my dress had a sexy French accent?  And a male voice?

The jeweled collar winked at me provocatively.  “Buy me.  You must.  Turn around.  See!  I make your butt look good.  How many other dresses can say that?  None, but me.  I am a magic dress.”

A stranger pushing a stroller did a double-take.  “Looks great on you.”  A random customer said, “Gorgeous.”

That’s all I needed.  Some unknown shopper pushed me past the point-of-no-return.  And because there is a no-return policy on evening gowns, it really was the point-of-no-return.  If I took the dress home and accidentally removed the tag, the dress was un-returnable!  In other words…mine, forever!

“I really shouldn’t…”

I took my prize home and hung it in my closet with a heavy sigh.  “I’ll see you again in March,” I said as I zipped up the garment bag.  “Only six months and we’ll be reunited.”  I pushed the plastic bag to the back of my closet.

Six months was forever.  It was like waiting for Christmas!

March finally arrived and I wore my soul-dress to the formal Robert Burns Day dinner.  The timing couldn’t be better for a writer to wear a magic butt-enhancing dress since Burns was a poet-extraordinaire and a huge womanizer.  I’m sure he would’ve written ‘Ode to Kristine’s Dress’ if he were still alive.

Taking off the dress made me sad.  I held off as long as I could, but eventually zipped it back into its protective covering.  “Goodbye, Dress.”

My husband stood behind me.  “Don’t worry, Berg, you’ll wear it again.”


“Maybe next September at the Air Force Ball.”

I smiled.  “Yes, of course!  We’ll be at a different base by then and no one will have seen it.  You’re right!  My dress will be like new!”  I took off all the accessories and carefully stored them away.  Only six more months until me and my soul-dress could be reunited in all our purple, silky glory.

So, now it is September.  Time for The Air Force Ball.  The Biggie.  The most formal event of the year.  All new people.  A brand new base.  It’s Texas, so the pressure to bling-it-up is high.  Oh, sweet joy!  I can put on my enchanted dress and feel like a princess, a princess with a good butt…


For reasons I won’t go into here…my beloved garment is hidden away in some mysterious military storage facility under lock and key. (Along with everything else I own.)  No purple loveliness, no amethyst earrings, no rhinestone bracelet, no silver shoes with the little bit of bling on the strap.  No purple velvet clutch bag with the rhinestone clasp.  All of it.  Far from the safety of my closet, my dress lays in captivity within a cardboard ‘wardrobe box’ marked unceremoniously ‘Master Bedroom’ within a wooden crate, within a storage room, within a giant storage facility…somewhere, not here.


I set the invitation to the Air Force Ball down on the kitchen table and sighed.  I shrugged into a seat across from my husband and crossed my arms.  He read the invitation and placed the card back down on the placemat.  No expression.

“I thought we’d be in our house by now.  All my formals are in storage.”

“You didn’t pack a formal?”

I stared at him, mouth agape.  “What?”

“Didn’t you bring a formal dress with you?”

“How shortsighted of me.  I’ll remember to pack one from now on every time we move…just in case.  Never mind how we’ve moved fifteen times and I’ve never once needed a ball gown.  Fear not!  From now on, formalwear will be on my essentials list.”

“You brought a thousand dresses.  Won’t any of those do?”

My breath hitched.  It unnerved me when he knew I was about to have a meltdown and he stayed so annoyingly calm.  My cheeks turned warm, but I controlled myself.  “Umm…dearest…I brought sundresses and church dresses, things to wear to ‘official’ daytime functions.  Why on earth would I bring a formal gown?  I packed for this move in mid-May.”


I clenched my jaw, gritted my teeth.  “There are no formals in May, June, July or August!  Why would I even think to bring one?”

“To be on the safe side?”

“Tell me you are joking! There’s a safe-side to packing a ball gown in May because I might need it at the end of September?”

His eyes narrowed as he tried to figure out why my voice was getting all pitchy and why his simple question set me on edge.  “So, what you’re saying is none of those dresses in your closet will work?”

“No! No! No!  Those are not formal dresses.  There’s a difference.  A formal dress is like my purple dress, the Robert Burns dress!”

He nodded, sat back in his chair and picked up his coffee cup.  “Ahh, I get it now.  This is about you not having your favorite dress.”

“No!…well, yes…but, no.  The fact is still the same.  I have nothing to wear.”

I uttered the phrase.  The one phrase which will make my husband’s eyes roll back in his head so fast it looks like he’s having a seizure.  I admit it’s one of those easy-to-push buttons a wife learns not to push unless her husband is sitting across from her analyzing her panic and assuming it’s over a favorite dress and she’s so angry because he’s right, it is over not having her favorite dress and therefore, he’s so wrong to point that out to her.

“I have nothing to wear,” I repeated.

So, yeah.  I brought out the nukes.  I leaned back and sipped my coffee waiting for his inevitable combustion.  I counted down in my mind and waited for his eyes to come back from the back of his skull.  10, 9, 8,…

“You have a whole closet full of dresses!  How can you possibly have nothing to wear?  You packed the car with 200 pounds of clothes!  You have more dresses than any woman on the planet!”

Now it was my turn to sit back, stay calm and watch his reaction.  “Now how would you know that?  Have you met every woman on the planet and peeked into her closet?”  I smiled, remaining perfectly logical in the midst of his hyperbole storm.

He knew he’d been played.  He shook his head.  And then his Kennedy called my Khrushchev’s bluff.  He grinned his crooked grin at me.  “Whatever.  If you need a dress, go buy one.”

“I don’t have shoes either.”  Okay, I admit it.  I launched a mean ‘I-don’t-have-any-shoes’ grenade during peace negotiations, but sometimes a girl just can’t help herself in heat of the battle and she doesn’t have her purple dress.

My strategy didn’t work.  Obviously, I’ve never taught Military Strategy or held seminars on Critical Thinking.  Playing mind-chess with my husband is unfair.  He has a slight advantage over me.  I rather play checkers.

A smile lit up his face.  “I’m not going to take your bait…”  He peered into my eyes.  “…about the shoe situation.”

I hate his logic and resent his clear thinking when I’m trying to make a point.

“Will you go with me this weekend?”  Surprise Attack!


“To buy a dress?  Pleeease.”

And this is how I know my husband loves me example #1:  He said, “Sure.  I’ll take you to buy a dress.”  He did not say, “Have you lost your mind?  I despise shopping.  No way.”

“You will go with me?”

They sell those at Target, right?”  I did not take the bait.


Things I Learned While Shopping for a Formal with my Husband:

There are four types of formal dresses.  They are as follows:

1        This dress says:   I’m a beauty queen going to prom with my quarterback boyfriend.  I love pink!  I love baby blue!  I love lace and ruffles and shiny things.  Big, huge crinolines are back!  Hurray!

2        This dress says:  I’m young, vibrant!  I’m a confident woman.  I like my cleavage.  I like 24-inch slits on the side of my skirt like Angelina Jolie.  I can wear eight inch stilettos with ease.  And any color goes great with my tan, fit body.  Everything is just perky and tight.  What are foundation garments for anyway?

3        This dress says:  I must attract some attention.  Some male attention!  I love tight spandex and glitter from shoulder to hem.  Hot pink, geometric print, sequins and straps with buckles.  The shorter the better–as long as it covers most of my lumps, it’s all good.

4       This dress says:  I am the Mother of the Bride.  I want to be covered from head to toe in mauve or gray or perhaps navy or black.  I love bolero jackets with rhinestone closures.  I have no cleavage anymore.  I want no attention drawn to my butt.  In fact, I don’t want anyone to know I have one.  I must have long sleeves—long, shiny sleeves, perhaps with ruffled cuffs.

So where does that leave me?  And most of my friends?  In the black hole of we’re-not-going-to-the-prom, but not-ready-for-the-rocker, either.  A fashion abyss.  One is lucky to find a magical dress under such conditions.  Very lucky.


My husband and I walked into the first dress shop.  I began sliding dresses across the rack to see if I might find anything suitable.  Hubby did the unthinkable.  He started looking through the dresses, with me.

“What about this one?”  My wonderful, ever-helpful husband held his large Chik-fil-A lemonade in one hand and a very unique dress in the other.  Clearly, the garment was in the #3 category.

“Um…”  How shall I say this without hurting his feelings?  “I’m really not liking the whole feathers-and-animal-print-together-in-one-dress-thing.  It’s like there was a weird hook up at the zoo between the cheetah and the ostrich and you’re holding the pelt of their offspring.”  My subtly needs work.

He took a long sip of lemonade and shrugged his shoulders before he hung up the leopard-chicken hybrid dress.

I pushed another reject past me on the bar.  “There is no way any woman could wear spanx under that with all those cutouts.”

“What’s Spanx?”

I shook my head.  “That dress is…um…not right.”

I slid a few more dresses down the rack as he watched over my shoulder.  He stopped my hand mid-swipe, clutched the hanger and pulled out a puffy dress.  “What about this?”

He’d found one from the #1 category.  I didn’t want to crush his indomitable spirit.  He was actually trying to help me.  Bless that man.

“Well, it is pretty, but I think I may be a bit…too…old for it.”

“You’re not old!”  Example #2 of why I love this man.  He didn’t say, “Yeah. Okay.”

“Thanks, Berg. But, what I mean is, well, it’s…a bit…‘young’ for me.  It’s for a high school girl.”

He checked the label.  “There’s ages on these things?”  He hung up the prom princess gown.

“I like this one.”  I held a navy blue dress against me.  “What do you think?”


“You don’t like it?”

“I like it okay.”

That means he hates it.

I hung the reject back on the rack.  A few minutes, later he pulled out a dusty-rose dress with a square neck, three quarter sleeves and a lace collar straight out of group #4.  “This is nice.”

“Uh huh.  Years from now, if you are looking to bury me in something horrific to get even with me for dragging you shopping on a holiday weekend, remember that one.”

“It’s too old lady?”

“Yep.  Now you understand.”

Next, he pulled out an elegant royal blue dress.  I was very impressed.

“This is a good one, right?” he asked.

“It is.”

He smiled, quite pleased with himself.  Until I burst his bubble.  “But, it’s a cocktail dress.”

“Isn’t that what we’re looking for?”  He held the dress at arm’s length and then checked the tag as if it might be marked, “Cocktail, ages 30-50.”

“I need a long dress.  Not a short cocktail dress.”

“Are you kidding?”

He hung the dress back on the rack.  “All right.  You pick one.  You’ve never worn a dress I don’t like.  You don’t need my help.  Just try something on and I’ll give you my opinion.”  Reason #3 for loving this man.  He didn’t say, “Are we ever going to get out of here?  Pick something already!”

Several stores later, I realized I was drawn to every single purple dress I saw.  It wasn’t very hard to figure out why.  I wasn’t going to find anything that compared.  I’m very loyal.  Now that I had found my soul-dress, everything else would always be  just a substitute.

I pulled a ‘uniform’ from the rack.  You know, the dress everyone either has or has seen or will buy one day. It’s a black chiffon sheath dress with spaghetti straps.  Nothing wrong with it.  It’s a formal. It’s long. It’s black.

“Oh, that’s sexy.”  I heard from behind me.  Reason #4 for loving that man.  He didn’t say, “I’m tired.  Let’s go.”  A few seconds later he said, “And you’re going to be the best looking one there anyway.  Who cares what you wear?”

With those sweet words, I quit torturing him with my doomed shopping trip.  He’d earned his stripes.  Or his eagles.  But, what’d I do to earn him?  I’ll never know.

“You think it’s sexy?  Really?”  I held it against my body.

“Sure.  It looks like a sexy, black nightgown.”

Ugh.  Back to not having a dress.

P.S. I’ll be adding pictures later.

The Intricacies of Establishing and Maintaining Well-Being or You May As Well Join Them and Laugh At Yourself


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I met a friend at Starbucks today and enjoyed a wonderful morning visiting with her while partaking in my caffeine addiction.  Ahh, life can be good.  Yesterday, I met a different friend for lunch and we sat outside another java-haven in town while I indulged in my caffeine habit.  I love my friends who ‘feed my need.’

I’ve been trying to meet up with friends as much as possible because our time here is winding down.  We are on the verge of yet another move.  Two years ago we moved to Abilene.  I made some remarkable friends and reunited with good friends from the past.  Texas is friendly.  It’s also dusty and windy and I’m sure my patio furniture and BBQ will never recover.  Anyway…

We are going to miss this assignment far too much to express.  We were blessed by getting to do some awesome things.  Just the other day I actually “marshaled in” a giant C-130 with those orange-cone-flashlight things.  Yep, I stood outside on the flightline and told the pilot where to “park” the plane in front of a crowd of onlookers.  I’ll never forget it.  Of course, the airman standing next to me “helping” probably won’t forget it either.

The young airman instructed me how to get the plane to turn left on the runway.  “Make an “L” with your arms.”

I did.

“No, Ma’am.  The other way.  You’re telling him to turn straight into the crowd.  Make an ‘L’.”

“Oh, you mean a backward L?”

“No, Ma’am, an L.”  He showed me.

I switched my arms.  Now, don’t judge me.  Seriously, think about it.  If you were standing in front of me, it would be a normal “L”  but I’m NOT standing in front of me, so therefore, from my perspective, it’s a backward L.

I decided not to espouse my “L” logic to the young man at that point.  Also, on a side note, don’t ever ask me which side of the bed I sleep on, as it, too, is a trick question.  I mean, are you talking about my right if I’m on my back lying on the bed?  Or are you talking about my right as if I were standing at the foot of the bed looking at it?  And because I sleep on my stomach, do you mean my ‘sleeping’ right?  Or my ‘sitting in bed watching TV’ right because they are different.  Oh forget it.  It’s all so confusing for me since I rarely know right from left without thinking about it—or as in the case of the “L” over-thinking it.

I tried to cover.  “I thought you meant the pilot’s left. Heh. Heh.”

“Really?”  He looked at me, tilted his head and wrinkled his brow, not buying it.  Maybe the “cover” was worse than the mistake.

The plane turned left and headed down the strip towards us.  It was surreal standing there with this humongous plane coming straight at me.  I was shaking in my shoes with excitement.  Soon, I could see the pilots; they were that close!  How cool is that?  At this point, I would like to take you on a little journey through the workings of my caffeinated/ADD mind as I marshaled that plane in:

I thought, “Wow!  That’s interesting.  I’ve never seen a plane from this angle.  I always see them in profile or on a ramp connected to those stairs-on-wheels things at the airport, but never on the ground looking straight onto its nose.  This sort of reminds me of the guy standing in front of the tank in Tiananmen Square…which reminds me, I need to go to Walmart to buy soy sauce if I make stir-fry tonight…Greg loves Chinese.  Stephen loves Thai.  I miss my boys.  Which reminds me, I still need to make airline reservations for Greg to…Oh, crap!  I’m supposed to be doing something.”

“Wave them in.  Wave them in,” the airmen said emphatically.

As I’ve just recreated my normal thought-process for your edification, you now understand that my mind was rather pre-occupied.  So when he said, ‘wave them in’ my first thought was:  How do I wave at them with these flashlight devices in my hands?  But, before I put one of them down to wave, he demonstrated what he meant.

I moved my arms back and forth like he showed me.  Somehow I managed (with the help of a slightly jumpy airman) to get the wheels near the target.

So, as I stood with my arms straight up above my head and waving the lights to and fro exactly like he told me, the airman says, “Okay, stop!”

I obeyed.  I stopped.  I did not wave them in anymore.  I kept my arms perfectly still in the air.

His voice got louder. “Stop!”

What’s he want?  I am stopped.  I’m not moving at all.

“No, no, stop!”  Now he sounded alarmed.

The plane continued to roll right over the square wheel indicator box painted on the runway.

He took hold of my wrists and made a giant X with my flashy-sticks.  Ahhh…that means stopOf course, I’ve seen that in movies before.  Speaking of movies…I really want to see one this weekend…the one with the guy from that TV show we always watch…which reminds me, we need microwave popcorn, so when I go to Walmart for soy sauce…but…maybe I don’t want stir-fry…Oh wait…

I shook my head.  All right.  Now, I’m totally focused.

The wheels were not exactly on the black square anymore, but they were generally in the right vicinity.  Hmmm…I wonder if airplanes have a reverse gear. Motorcycles don’t.  I remember once when we went to Sturgis motorcycle rally and the guy told us that he…


I turned to the airman.  “They stopped.  Now what?” Relief spread over the young serviceman’s face.

“We’re done.  Thanks, Ma’am.”  Perspiration lined his forehead and top lip.  He quickly took the flashlight-coney-things away from me and led me off the flightline to join the rest of the group.  I’m sure he couldn’t wait to tell the other ‘guide-with-the-cones’ guys the story of one really dorky wife.

I would have never been able to do something so awesome if not for the blessing of our assignment here.  Shout out to the Mighty 317th.

We will miss this place!

One of the ‘rites of passage’ for aviators in the military is something known as a fini-flight.  This is the last flight on a plane before the person goes to a job that doesn’t involve flying or (as in this case) will no longer be flying that particular plane.  (The incredibly powerful, sexy B-1.)

Customarily, the pilot or weapon systems operator gets greeted on the runway after his flight by a crowd of family, friends and colleagues.

The ‘aviator of honor’ is welcomed back by the spray of a fire hose.  He is then ceremoniously doused with champagne followed by a toast with a chug of booze.  The beauty of a fini-flight is that usually the spouse gets to hold the fire hose.  Now how many spouses have wanted to spray their beloved with a blast of water like that?  Here’s to always leaving your black socks next to the hamper!

My man had his last flight the Sunday before last.  A group of us gathered outside Base Ops  on a beautiful (but windy) West Texas day.  A tiny black dot in the brilliant blue sky suddenly appeared.  A moment later it took the shape of a B-1 and then VROOOM!  It zoomed right over our heads in a spine-tingling thunder of power.  It’s that fast!  It’s impressive no matter how many times you see it.  Trust me.  (You can Google B1 flyover and see for yourself.)  They circled around and touched down with a perfect ‘wheels to concrete’ landing.  It was amazing.

The firemen are always on the runway for landings.  On this special occasion they summoned me closer and I got to stand right next to the fire truck.  And really close to the plane.  Yay!  A young fireman (with muscles of steel and a Superman chest) handed me the giant hose.  (I swear that wasn’t meant as a euphemism!)  Literally—he handed me the hose.

The cockpit door opened and a white metal ladder came down from the belly of the plane.  This is it.

The Wing King (the big boss) stood a few feet from me with a bottle of champaign ready to shake and uncork it all over his next-in-command.  A group of honoraries (dignitaries from town) and friends stood behind the two of us as we waited for our quarry.

Yes, I see the tips of his boots.  We were all in place, knew our parts and awaited the recipient to descend the steps.

Young Airman Muscles says, “Okay, Mrs. Goodfellow, make sure his feet are planted before you get him.  Just pull this lever back and let him have it.”

“Sure,” I say.  Heh heh heh.  I’m so going to get him good.  What could possibly go wrong, right?

Wait for his feet to hit the pavementGot it.  Oh, yeah, I’m so ready.

Pretty soon, I see the familiar combat boots descend, then the green legs of a flight suit. Oh yeah!  It’s him.  I thought the clever man might send one of the captains down first.  I was ready for anything, even some trickery.  It became obvious that it was my man because he was coming down slowly, haltingly, knowing exactly what was about to take place.  My heart sped up and I smiled from ear to ear.

I had never seen him come down a ladder so slowly.   Next, I see his hands on the handrails, then his chest, complete with harness.  Realizing he’s going to have to face the music, he rushes down the rest of the way.  Both boots on the ground.  You’re mine!

I pulled the lever as instructed hitting him square in the chest as if there was a target painted on his uniform.  BLAM!  Before I had time to comprehend what happened, I jolted back about two feet from the water pressure; my legs came out from under me and being that I gripped the hose, I didn’t have time to put my hands down to cushion the fall.  I landed solidly on my backside, legs splayed out in front of me.

The hose was still firing water, but I lost my grip on it.  The thing stood up like a cobra and sprayed into the crowd behind me.  Now there were plenty of strong, healthy, buff (including Airman Muscles) military personnel, several young, nimble spouses and able-bodied friends in this crowd. They moved the hell out of the way quick as a flash.

The water took a direct trajectory and hit the only person not able to move at the speed of water.  Also, the only person wearing an expensive, three piece suit and his favorite fedora.  A man old enough to be my grandfather.  That’s right.  Out of all those people, it drenched one of the community honoraries who’d come out to witness my husband getting sprayed with a fire hose.  He witnessed it all right.

As I sat on the tarmac, dazed and not quite sure exactly what just happened, Airman Muscles cuts the water and the hose goes slack in my hands.  (Again, no euphemism here.) Behind me, the motley group of our closest military friends is guffawing like a pack of hyenas.

Poor, old, Jack stood, shocked (and wet)—he may have been the only one not laughing.  So, what did this wily bunch of patriotic, loyal, dependable, trustworthy, steadfast friends do?  They captured the whole incident on film, of course.

I looked around from my spot on the asphalt and saw nothing but cell phones pointing in my direction; laughter all around me.  I sat sprawled out on hot concrete and realized no one helped me up because no one’s hands were free of iPhones. There is a partial video of the event.  If you watch it, please note:  everyone scattered so they didn’t get wet and someone actually rushes behind me to pick up the bottle of booze lest I knock it over. Wouldn’t want anything to happen to the booze!  But, the boss’s wife knocked on her butt?  Yeah, that’s funny, where’s my phone?

The official photographer DID NOT snap any pictures of said incident, or if he did, he DID NOT include them on the CD he sent me.  Either way…smart man.

I looked up still stunned, and caught the eye of my wet knight in shining armor.  Surely, he’ll come to my rescue.  Well, maybe when he stops laughing.  He was practically doubled over.

And so, thanks to the wonder of technology there exists a video and numerous cell phone captures of my embarrassing moment.   To be honest, I was laughing, too.  What can one do in a moment of utter humiliation besides join the fun?  One thing is for sure.  We won’t ever forget that fini-flight.  In fact, I’m sure the firemen went back to the station and relived it over and over, probably in slow motion on their phones.

After I was back on my feet, one of the other colonels told me, “I thought they usually had a fireman holding it behind you.”  You think?  Really?  She meant well when she informed me of this.

For days afterward, people made remarks about me taking a “ride” on the fire hose.  (Okay, enough with the non-euphemisms!  What is it about this story that drips with sexuality?)

I purposefully did not tell my sons what happened.  They’d never let me forget it.  We raised them to have great senses of humor.  Sometimes that can backfire.

My oldest son, a sophomore in college, said this to me yesterday.  “Mom, I was officially inaugurated President of the RGA for 2012-2013.”

“Really?  That’s fantastic!”

“Yeah.  And my first act as president will be to change the title.”

“The title?  To what?”

“To Supreme Overlord and Ultimate High Commander.”  He laughed an evil ‘villain’ laugh. “Bwaahaahaa.”

I chuckled, but for a split second, I wondered if he might do it.

“Stephen? You’re just kidding, right?”  I had a visual flashback.

Stephen stood in the playroom with rows of his and his brother’s Beanie Babies in front of him.  I stopped and watched for a moment before I quietly headed back upstairs to get the video camera.  When I returned unnoticed, he shook his fist in the air and looked into the ranks of stuffed animals.   “To me only, you shall remain true, and we shall put an end to the rebellion.”  He slammed his fist into his palm.

Not to date myself, but the ginormous video camera contained a big huge light in the front to use as a flash.  I turned it on and it caught his attention.  He stopped.

“Go ahead, Stephen.  Keep going.”

I only captured a snippet of what he said.  It went something like this.

“Together we can regain our objective and reign supreme.”  He paced in front of his captive audience with his hands behind his back.  He gave those little critters a stern glare, turned on his heel and paced the other way, hands still clasped behind him.   “Storm troopers you shall be.  Together we shall rule the universe!”  At this point he glanced up and pointed at me.  “Look!  A spy!  Seize her!  Don’t just sit there!  Your ruler has given you an order.”

He rushed toward me wearing a scowl, but then smiled sweetly into the camera, all big eyes and innocence.  He gestured to his troops with a toss of his head.  “What do you expect?  They are full of beans!”

My son is hilarious.  And brilliant.  Or scary.  I choose hilarious and brilliant.

Once on a road trip, my husband asked Stephen, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

Like he was prone to do, he gave it some thought before he answered.  “I don’t think there is a title for it.”  He shrugged.

“Well, tell me what it is that person does and I’ll tell you what the title is.”

Stephen was silent for a moment.

“All right.  I want to…”

For the next few minutes he explained exactly what he wanted to do when he grew up.  After his monologue ended he said, “Dad?  Does this have a title?”

Hubby glanced at me, raised his eyebrows and gave me his crooked, incredulous smile.  He then looked in the rearview mirror to catch our son’s eyes.  “Yes, Stephen.  It does have a title.  From what you just described…I’d say it’s called The Emperor of China.  I’m thinking that job is already taken.”

His father and I chuckled.

Stephen, completely undeterred replied, “No, I think you’re wrong, dad. I do not want to be the Emperor of China.”

“Well, that’s a relief, son.”

“No.”  He bit his lip.  “The Chinese are communists.  I am a firm proponent of capitalism.  I’d rather be The Emporer of The Western World.”

Did I mention he was nine?

He’ll be twenty-one years old in a few weeks.  Wow.  Probably the same age as the kid helping me marshal in the C-130.

You know, somewhere in the base dorms I’m thinking this conversation might’ve taken place.

“Hey, you guys…you will not believe the wife I had with me on the flightline the other day.”  He’ll proceed to tell the story.  The others will laugh and slap him on the back.  “You poor dude.”  Someone else will pull out his iPhone and say, “Oh, yeah?  You think that’s bad?  Check out this genius spraying her husband on his fini-flight.”

How A Wicked Marshmallow Chick Reduced Me to Thievery or How I Became A Slave to Peeps

As you know, it is Peeps Season and that just happens to be my favorite time of the year.  Although they now make the sugar-coated marshmallows for every holiday, there is something about those bright yellow chicks that makes me smile.

I’m a student of psychology and often try to figure out what makes other people tick so I can understand that tricky thing called “motivation” to use in my writing.  I decided to point my psychological spotlight onto myself to see if I might figure out why I have this weird compulsion to eat marshmallow chickens until my stomach hurts.  It didn’t take long before I discovered the root of my sugar-fixation and Peep Obsession.

Do you remember your first piece of candy?  I don’t, but I distinctly remember the first time I bit into a yellow chick.  It was Easter and we were at my grandmother’s house.  I recall it with crystal clear clarity.  I’m not kidding you.  I have witnesses.  And photographs.


The three eldest grandchildren, my sister Tamara, my cousin Nadine and I had just finished hunting for dyed eggs in my grandmother’s backyard.  I’m not sure why, but we used brown bags instead of baskets, but whatever.  The adults waited on the porch with cameras–the “Instamatic” kind that used those giant stacks of flashcubes.  Remember those?  So, I have pictures of this event somewhere and if I can find them, I’ll post them.

Eventually, we exhausted the colorful egg supply.  The flat, fenced-in backyard was free of the very-obviously-placed eggs, so we walked back toward our parents.  My cousin Nadine is like a sister to me; we’re the same age and grew up as best friends.  She’s a wonderful, kind-hearted person with a fabulous sense of humor, but she’s always had a bit of an issue with everything being completely unfair—especially unfair to her.

On our way back to the house, we all opened our bags and compared what was inside.  Nadine noticed the huge disparity in what her bag held and what mine and my sister’s contained.  Her eyes widened and met mine.  It was quiet for a second until—

Her mouth opened and out came a blood-curdling cry that stopped both my sister and me in our tracks.  I’m sure birds abandoned trees and took flight; the glass in the sliding door shook.

Nadine bawled, tears ran down her red cheeks as language became just an unintelligible string of vowels between a few words of…not fair…they ….eggs…more…me.”

My parents, aunts, uncles and my grandmother gathered around and tried to remedy the situation and stop any permanent damage to eardrums everywhere.

“What is it? What’s wrong?” my Aunt Carmen crouched down near her daughter.  Nadine, now in the height of hysteria, merely pointed at my bag.  Everyone realized her bag contained a whopping three eggs.  I have no idea how she didn’t find more.  The yard was a square patch of grass with no bushes or shrubs, surrounded by a wooden privacy fence.  The eggs were just scattered randomly on the grass, but in true Nadine-form, she had managed not to fill her bag.

The situation completely unraveled when my father reached down and took one of my eggs and plopped it into Nadine’s near-empty bag.  “There!  Krissy will share with you.”

Excuse me?  Krissy will?  I think not! 

I dramatically threw myself into my mother’s arms as Nadine and I battled for the loudest tantrum award.  Since she and I competed for just about everything, this became a huge cry-fest.

My mom, the eternal peacemaker, took an egg out of my sister’s heavy, egg-laden bag and put it in mine.  “There.  Tamara will share.”

It was a green egg.

I did not want a freakin’ green egg.  Green egg?  I did not want it in a box.  I did not want it with a fox.  I did not want it here or there.  I did not want it anywhere.  No, Ma’am!

Nadine had pilfered my pretty, shiny, purple egg—the one that rightfully belonged to the one who found it.  Me.  Upon losing one of her eggs to her snot-nosed little sister, Tamara didn’t cry like Nadine and me.  No, my sister simply dropped her bag and said, “They can have them all!” and stormed inside.  Somehow the men had crept back into the house unnoticed.

My mother went after my sister and Nadine’s mother gathered the toddlers back into the house leaving my grandmother to calm Nadine who was on the point of hyperventilating.  I had stopped crying and backed out of my grandmother’s eyeshot.  I had a plan.

Nadine started to calm down and my grandmother wiped away her tears.  Putting out her bottom lip, she rubbed her eyes with fists.   I took advantage of the most opportune time and her obvious distraction and took my purple egg out of her bag.  I tossed Tamara’s lame green one in.  It dropped to the bottom.  I heard it crack when it hit the cement porch.  Take that, Sam-I-Am!

Apparently, I didn’t do this very smoothly.  Or she was not as distracted as I thought because she howled like a banshee and my poor clueless grandmother had no idea why the waterworks started again with new vigor.

My mother stepped through the patio door with my sister in tow.  Tamara pouted, arms crossed over her chest and scowling, but she picked up her bag—which by the way, held twice as many eggs as mine and vastly more than Nadine’s three—now four if you counted the lame green one.

“All right.  That’s enough.”  My aunt stepped through the sliding door.  “Everyone needs to stop fighting.  If you don’t, the Easter Bunny won’t leave you candy and toys.”  All three of us shut up.

In our family, the Easter Bunny hid the eggs outside while we were at church and then while we hunted for them, he would hide plastic, candy-filled eggs inside the house.  We’d come in from our egg hunt and the grown-ups would say, “You guys just missed him.”

“You girls need to stay outside until you make up with each other and there are no more fights,” my grandmother said leaving the three of us to work it out on our own.  C’mon.  Really?  Methinks someone had watched too many episodes of the Walton’s or Little House on the Prairie because anyone knows that’s not going to work, right?

Here’s the kicker.  The stupid eggs we fought over were hard boiled and none of us particularly liked boiled eggs, but that is hardly the point.  I wanted my purple egg, damnit!

So, we sat on the porch.  And sat.  And sat.  Eventually, Tamara placated both Nadine and me by sharing her eggs.

OMG!  I just put together something that never occurred to me until right now.  I know exactly why they left us there in the blazing New Mexico sun, wearing our stiff Sunday dresses and patent leather Mary Jane shoes.  It wasn’t because they’d lost their minds or were victims of hokey, family-friendly TV show plots.  No!

It took me forty-some years to realize the real reason they let us stew outside for so long. It went like this:

After what felt like forever, my grandmother came out.  “Is everyone friends again?”

We nodded.  “Okay, give each other a hug and you can come back inside.  You just missed the Easter Bunny!”

Everyone complied and we raced inside to start the candy hunt.  But wait…

The Easter bunny decided not to hide the eggs in the house that year.  Instead, he’d saved us the trouble and placed on the dining room table three cellophane-wrapped Easter baskets with three distinct piles of plastic eggs in front of them.

I can’t believe I just had an ‘a-ha’ moment as I wrote this.  Those clever parents realized that the scene outside was about to repeat itself within the confines of my grandmother’s tidy abode, so they’d taken care of it diplomatically while we baked on the porch in our scratchy Easter finery.

Ah!  I see it all now.  It cracks me up to visualize.  Those adults had to scurry around collecting all the eggs they’d already hidden and then divide them by three.  They’d thought of everything.  Except—

Nadine had more purple eggs than me.  Tears sprang to my eyes.  My mother opened a box of Peeps (yellow chicks—I remember it like it was yesterday).  She gave each of us two, setting them in front of us.  Before I let out a squawk about the uneven distribution of purple eggs that would’ve rattled the light fixtures, she put a Peep in my mouth.  I am not kidding you.  My mother stopped my tantrum by jamming a chick in my gaping scream-hole.  Smart woman, my mother.

This is how I remember that first taste:

The clouds parted, the sun streamed through the windows and angels sang the Hallelujah Chorus over my head.  There might have even been a rainbow involved.  My mouth had just experienced the best thing it had ever tasted.  Gastronomic, sweet, gelatinous heaven!
At that moment everyone was happy.  Nadine gathered up her plastic eggs in her dress and carried them to the floor where she counted them to make sure she had exactly the same amount as me and my sister.  I swallowed the Peep and stared at the other neon yellow chick right in front of me.  We met gazes.  His chocolate speckled eyes stared straight into mine.

I put my chin on the table mesmerized by little marshmallow fowl.

“Eat me!” he demanded.

I narrowed my eyes.  “No, I must save you for later.”

“No, eat me right now.  I am pure sugar.  You want me.”

“I can’t.  I want to wait until later.”

“No!  You want me now.  Stop resisting.  You cannot win.  I will own you for the rest of your life.”

He was right.  I was his slave.

I popped that Easter chick in my mouth.  I enjoyed it, savored it, worshipped it.  I closed my eyes and put my forehead on the table, perhaps to keep all my other senses dulled so I could virtually live in the flavor experience that was happening in my mouth.

“Are you all right, Mija?” My mom rushed over.

“Is she choking?” someone asked.

My mom cupped my chin and lifted my head.  I smiled at her, yellow mess coming out of the sides of my mouth.  She laughed.  “No, she’s fine.  I think she likes it.”  If ever there was an understatement…that would be it.

When I finished my Peep, I looked over at the empty place at the table that Nadine had previously occupied.  Her two chicks sat there unsupervised.  My eyes scanned the area.  Now, you must understand, I was a rule-follower extraordinaire.  I was a black-is-black-and-white-is-white sort of child.  Rules were rules.

But, Peeps are Peeps!

The adults stood around talking while our toddler cousins ran around playing with their new stuffed rabbits.  My sister emptied her plastic eggs of their jelly beans and lined them up on the table.

And Nadine’s Peep called my name.

Damn!  It was even staring in my direction.  We eyed each other.

It was my first crime.  It was wrong and I knew it, but I decided to take the consequences.

I snatched that chick and popped it in my mouth.  I experienced sweet Nirvana when suddenly my sister said, “Mom!  Krissy just took one of Nad—” A hand clamped over her mouth.  “Shhhhh…it’s okay.”  She gave us one of her cautionary looks through a forced smile.  You know the one—where the eyes get wider and then narrow in mommy-warning fashion.   Yep, my mother had averted another tantrum of monumental proportions.  And me?  I had survived my criminal act.  I chewed in rapt ecstasy and smiled at my mom who’d saved my life.

“That wasn’t very nice, was it?”  She tossed some guilt my way.

I shook my head, still chewing and tasting that delicious gooey goodness.  No, it wasn’t very nice.  But it was damned delicious.  “Shwowee.” I managed to mumble.

Tamara, with her keen sense of justice, said, “Krissy should give Nadine one of her candy eggs.”  Nadine’s head popped up and she looked over at the table where we sat.

My heart began to pound; my eyes grew huge as she scanned the tabletop.  I quickly swallowed the evidence.  Peep?  What Peep?  Has anyone seen any Peeps?  I smiled guiltily.  My mind quickly came up with several scenarios.  Maybe she’ll think she ate it.  Of course!  Maybe I can convince her that she ate it and just doesn’t remember.  No wait!  Maybe I’ll blame my sister.  The grown-ups might believe me, but then…Tamara will kill me.  Ahhh!  The babies!  I’ll blame one of the toddlers (that were roaming around with their own treats).

“Where’s my…?”  Nadine focused on that lonely Peep still sitting on the table.  I couldn’t take it anymore.  I was about to crack and confess.  I couldn’t lie to her–ever.

“Nadine!  Diane is taking your eggs!”  My sister pointed behind my cousin.  Nadine whipped around and flew to her little plastic egg pile.  Quickly, she gathered them up in her dress again.  (I’m not sure why she didn’t use her Easter basket for this, but for some reason we kept the cellophane wraps on them while we used bags–go figure. )  After all her eggs were safe and away from her baby sister’s chubby little hands, Nadine returned to the table and scooped up that last chick.

I turned to look at my sister, but she left the table without another word.  I always wondered if she distracted her on purpose to save me or if she really was just pointing out that Nadine was about to be minus one egg filled with jelly beans.

Nadine bit into the remaining chick, made a face and spit it out into her hand.  “Yeeech!”

That is how Peeps became an obsession.  I am weakened by their evil goodness.  Always have been.  Always will be.

The picture below is the FAMOUS Easter Egg Hunt.  Notice the genius that I am (over to the left) looking for Easter eggs at eye-level.  Apparently, I was looking for any levitating eggs.  Nadine is starting to panic–you can see it in her face.  Tamara is rushing in with her stash.  You see how heavy her bag is?  The picture below that shows us standing with my grandmother.  It was taken post egg-finding-trauma.  Can you tell?  And what is that on the couch?  Is it that damned green egg?  Oh, the memories!  And by the way, Nadine…I love you.  I owe you one.

The Meandering Path of A Writing Journey


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As if anyone needed concrete evidence that I’m just slightly right of weird, here’s more proof, I guess.

My wonderful husband should have, “Are you kidding me?” tattooed across his forehead since I seem to bring that sentence to his lips on nearly a daily basis. It might save him some time if when I opened my mouth he just pointed to the tatoo with a raise of his eyebrows and a tilt of his head.

Most of the time something completely rational-sounding in my head escapes my lips and loses something in translation—that is the woman-to-man, husband-to-wife translation.  This weekend was the latest installment of what I like to call, “Things that sound normal to me, but cause small strokes in my husband’s down-to-earth-logical- linear-thinking brain.”

Saturday morning as the aroma of freshly brewed coffee wafted through our sun-bathed kitchen, we talked about our upcoming move to San Antonio, Texas.  We had been so busy lately, we hardly had any time to sit down and actually talk about little, inconsequential things like…oh, I dunno…where the heck we’re going to live once we get there.  It’s not as dire as it sounds.  We’ll be assigned a house according to my husband’s position.  A week previous, we had made an educated guess about which house would be ours by figuring out where the guy whom my hubby will replace lives.  These are beautiful, historic homes.  A little bit of internet stalking and I had an address and a Google Earth satellite picture.

My husband stood by the coffee pot leaning on the counter while I poured two cups.

“I will feel better once I have some pictures of the interior,” I said.  “I’m dying to know what the house is like on the inside.”

“Oh, yeah.  I meant to tell you.  I talked to Smith (not his real name) about his house.  They aren’t sure of their moving dates and they may be there until late summer.  But, he said there was a house down the street that will come open before his will so we shouldn’t worr–”

“What?” I turned to look at my man.  I handed him a cup of coffee.  “No!  No! No!”

“What’s the matter?” He took the hot beverage out of my hand like I was nervous Private Pyle with a hand grenade.  His expression told me he was girding his loins against a possible pre-move meltdown.  (I’m entitled to one of those every single move—and we’re facing our 13th meltdown.)  He usually talks me down from the ledge in his calm, reassuring manner by reminding me that ‘it all works out’ and I need not stress six months in advance.

That’s generally how it goes anyway.

But, this wasn’t one of those ‘they’re going to ruin our furniture/lose my rugs/break my china’  moments for me.  No, this time, his words about the housing situation set my heart pounding.

“Another house?  We don’t want another house.  We want the Smith’s house!”  I stared at him wide-eyed.

We moved to the table and sat down across from one another.  “Oh, is that what’s wrong?  Well, Bergie, don’t worry about it.  All the houses are basically the same size on that street.  It doesn’t matter which one we get.”

“No, you’re wrong!”

“No, I’m not.  Pull up the floor plans online.  They vary so slightly you would never–”

“Floor plans?  I don’t care about square footage and bedroom placement.  I want the Smith’s house!”

“Why?  Because it’s across from the club pool?  Any one of the houses we’d get assigned surround the pool. It doesn’t really matter.”

“No!  We have to have that one because I think it is the one that comes with a ghost!”

He looked at me blank-faced as if he wasn’t sure he’d heard me right.  Or maybe he hoped he hadn’t heard right.  Or maybe he hoped that I was kidding, but subconsciously knew that I wasn’t.  Yeah, that was the look.

“What did you say?”  He smiled his doubtful, slightly crooked, smile at me.

“I want the Smith’s house because it comes with a ghost!”

He chuckled and took a sip of his coffee.  “Yeah, right.”


I stared at him dead in the eye.

He tilted his head to the right.  That meant the next thing out of his mouth would be a statement.  “You aren’t serious…”  But, it always turns into a question.  “…are you?”

I smiled.

“Omigod!  You’re not joking.”

“Well, whenever I tell anyone about our new assignment, they say, ‘Oh!  You’ll love it there.  Except, don’t get the Smith’s house.  It’s haunted’.”

“And of course, when you heard that you didn’t take it as a warning, did you?”

“Heck no!  I’ve heard it from three different people who heard it from three different former occupants.  Honey!  We must get that house.”

He scoffed.  “That’s ridiculous.”

“No,” I challenged.  “That’s a story!”

A look of slight fear crossed his face.  It had little to do with the ghost and more to do with the fact that he knows he lives with a pycho.  “Couldn’t you get a story about the ghost without having to actually be roommates with it?”

I shook my head.  “Can you get the taste of strawberry shortcake without having experienced it on your tongue?”

“And I’m guessing you want to taste this ghost.”

“Sure.  Think about it.  Actually living in a haunted house.  Why, the story ideas are endless!”  The words left my mouth fast and full of excitement–and the caffeine hadn’t even kicked in yet.  “I mean, it’s not like it’s killed anybody yet.”  I smiled.

Yet.”  He sipped his coffee, studying me.  “Let me get this straight.  You’d rather wait to move into that house because of some ridiculous rumor?”


“And if it turns out to be untrue?”

I smiled. “It won’t.”

“Not with your imagination it won’t.”

“Don’t look at me like that.”  A blush heated my cheeks.

“If I mention the reasons for your wanting that house, Bergie, I might not be the only one to look at you a little strange.”

“And like I would notice?”

“Good point.  You’d have to get out of your own little world to do that.”

“That’s why I like it up here.”  I tapped my head.

“And I guess that’s the end of that discussion.”  He shrugged.  “Whatever.”  Suddenly his eyes got wide.  “You aren’t going to write another one of those novels that makes me sleep with one eye open, are you?”

One of the greatest compliments my man has ever given me involved a horror novel I wrote two years ago. After he finished reading that book, my sweet, darling husband looked at me before I turned off the lamp to go to sleep.  He set the manuscript on the nightstand and said, “You scare me.”

And he meant it.



The Corruption of Innocent Christmas Cookies


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Here it is.  The last couple of hours of 2011.

I just couldn’t let the year end without thanking my readers—both readers of my blog and my novel, Phantom:  Edge of the Flame.  I am beyond grateful and appreciative.

This has been an extraordinary year and I have been on an amazing journey.  If you would’ve told me last New Year’s Eve that I’d have a blog ‘out there’ where people who know me in real life could take a peek into my twisted writer’s mind, I would have thought you had been sniffing glue from the supply closet.  What kind of a nutjob puts her thoughts where anyone can read them?  But, honestly, I love having a blog.  It forces me to have a tiny bit of accountability and makes me write something other than fiction.  Occasionally readers send me Private Messages on Facebook asking if I’m ever going to post another blog.  I love thatSomeone out there actually likes what I write?  That is an astounding realization for any writer.  Again, thank you for your support.

Having a novel published is an unbelievable rush.  I get reports that show from which country people have purchased the book.  Along with the good ‘ol USA, there are people in France, Italy and the UK who have actually read words that I wrote.  They’ve pondered my ideas and bonded with characters that I created—ideas and characters that I pounded out on my keyboard while sitting at my second-hand desk in rural Pennsylvania eating candy corn and blocking out the sounds of the Penn State football game with my headphones blaring a schizophrenic mixture of rock, movie soundtracks, show tunes and classical music.  My words have traveled over oceans to places I have never seen.  Cool!  I’m afraid I will wake up and it’ll be a dream.  But, all this isn’t the sleeping-under-a-blanket-of-stars type of dream.  It’s for real.  This is the beginning of a lifelong dream coming to fruition.  It still boggles my mind.  So, again, thank you!

I’m hoping to get my next novel ready for publication by March.  I’m also working on another one that is close to being done with editing and I hope to have it published by the early fall of 2012.  It will be a busy year, but I cannot wait!

I also plan to get back to my normal blogging routine in 2012, but for now I have a very short blog that I wanted to share with you just for fun.

When my mother and I were shopping this week, we found a “writing tool” (of sorts) which I found hysterical.  My writer friends may actually think this is funnier than non-writers, but I don’t know how anyone can not laugh at these over-written, sappy sentences.  The “tool” is called The Romance Writer’s Kit.  Inside the box were all kinds of suggestive phrases on magnets.  The object being you can pull them out and arrange them into some sexy corset-busting sentences.  Oh! Of course, I had to have it!

I brought my prize in the house today and opened the box as if it were a box of marshmallow Peeps—you know, with vigor, my eyes slightly glazed and my mouth watering.  (Yes, by the way, I know there are now Valentine Peeps out there!  Yum…but I digress…)

I opened the box and spilled the magnets on the counter.

I’m sort of used to an empty nest, so when the hatchlings come home for the holidays, I forget that I need to be a little more discreet with this kind of thing in front of my seventeen and twenty-year-old sons.

“Mom, what’s for dinner?” the oldest one whined as he turned the corner into the kitchen.  His brother followed close behind him.  It had been three hours since lunch and they were in desperate need of sustenance.  My firstborn opened the refrigerator, but then glanced at the pile of white tiles on the counter.

“What the heck, mom?  What is that?” he asked.  Quick as a flash the younger one stood next to his brother and ogled the phrases.  Their eyes grew wide and each one stuck their hands into the pile and pulled out a phrase that made me blush.

“Give me those!” I tried to wrench the things from their man-sized fists.  They laughed at my attempt.  Who was I fooling?  Like I could out-maneuver or strong-arm either one of them.

“Mom!  What are you doing with these? Ugh!”  Son Number One scowled at me.

“Oh, come on, you guys.  They are just phrases, uh, that you, I mean me, um, that writers, well some writers…”  Their eyes continued to read the mound of risqué phraseology heaped on my counter in front of the innocent-looking Christmas cookies.

“Just give them to me.”  I held out my palm.  “Or I won’t make dinner.”  They dumped the ones they held into my hand, but then proceeded to root through the pile pulling out a few that involved “loins” and “caverns of lust.”

The youngest one turned red and then tossed the tile on the counter like it was burning his skin.  “Ewww.  Mom!  What are you doing with these things?  Moms should not have this stuff!”  He couldn’t meet my eyes.

My oldest, however, pulled out four more phrases and engaged in putting together the very first sentence, which he proudly displayed on the refrigerator.  It read:

Her glistening body…stroked…his…gleaming sword.

It was me who turned beet red.

The boys snorted and laughed like devious little demons in the eighth grade.

“Go on.  Get out of here, you two.”  I pulled the sentence down and tossed it into the heap.

They each grabbed something out of the refrigerator and left me to my pile of dirty magnet phrases feeling as if I needed to go directly to Confession.

“I don’t write stuff like this, I swear!” I yelled at them as they retreated down the hallway.

However, I must admit, I was tickled with the idea that you can pull out any four or five phrases and VOILA!  You have one embarrassing romance sentence!  Nevermind that these are poorly written sentences.  If I put something like what was in this box on the internet for my critique circle to look at, they would rip me to shreds for adverb abuse, euphemism exploitation and purple-prose worthy of Amanda McKittrick Ros.  Who is she, you ask?  Poor Amanda!  She was a best-selling author who was the subject of mockery by a group called The Inklings in the 1930’s and ‘40s.  The group wasn’t just any old critique group either.  The Inklings was an Oxford-based group that included C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien among other well-respected writers.  They would sit around at a pub and read this woman’s work aloud to see who could read it with a straight face the longest or who could read an entire page without cracking up over its unreasonable badness.

If I may be so bold to give an example of similar circumstance in our own time…well…let’s take the Twilight series.  Please don’t come after me with pitchforks and torches or tell me how you LOVED Twilight and I should be hung from my toes because I found it full of elementary writing mistakes and thought the prose was beyond terrible.  Whereas most writers I know cannot stomach even the first chapter with its glaring “mistakes”, the public seems to love it.  Meyers and McKittrick Ros prove that writers and readers have different eyes.  I will say this about Stephenie Meyers though.  She got a bunch of preteen and teen girls reading and not just reading, but devouring her books.  That makes me happy.  Kudos to her.  I will also say I love her idea of vampires out in world, attending school, becoming doctors etc.  However, that’s where I end my admiration for the work.  Yeah, I know.  She’s sitting on her fat wallet or rolling naked in mounds of millions and millions of dollars laughing at my unsolicited opinion, I’m sure.

Anyway, back to my little writing “kit”….

I looked behind me to make sure the hatchlings had not unglued their backsides from the couch in the TV room.  Coast was clear—they wouldn’t be back until the next commercial.  I rubbed my hands together delighting in my new toy.

I pulled out random phrases without looking at them and then arranged them so they made sense—well sort of.  Here’s what I came up with:

She…ripped his pants…until…she screamed…you beast.

I giggled and then tried it again:

He touched…it…with his lips.  His loincloth…aching with…sweet love…helpless to resist…the…pulsating… pirate ship…of…her tongue.

Okay, at that point, I realized that I needed to organize the phrases accordingly so they made more sense.  But, heck, that was as cool as anything I’ve read in a “corset busting” romance with Fabio on the cover.  Yeah, I admit it.  I’ve read those things before.  It’s been years, but as a teenager, I found those Harlequin romances incredibly passionate.  What did I know?  I thought my purple leggings looked great under my ginormous Pepto Bismol pink sweater with shoulder pads fit for a linebacker.  Yes, my tastes for clothing and for “literature” have changed.  (Thank God!)

Giving into my obsessive-compulsive nature, I separated all the words and phrases into parts of sentences (i.e., noun, verb, adjective, linking verbs, prepositions etc.) and put them in their own little compartments of an empty plastic craft box.  I hoped it would make the construction of the wildly inappropriate sentences that much easier.  Here is the result:

She whispered…to him…with…her…heaving bosom…wanting…his body…while…she…softly touched…her…secret cavern…chamber.

OMG!  That made me blush.  Yep, folks that came from randomly picking from my secret stash (not secret cavern) of naughty phraseology.  I smiled with my accomplishment.  It was good in its badness.

I was about to pull it down from the refrigerator before the two eating machines I call sons came back to forge in the cupboards looking for snacks that they obviously expected to have magically appeared after the last trip to the kitchen.

I did not take the magnets down fast enough because my husband walked in and stood behind me.  He read the sentence and turned to me with wide eyes.  “Wow!  Did you write that?”  His eyes sparkled, he grinned from ear to ear.  Before I could answer he said, “Is that something you’re working on?  Can I read it?  That’s really, really good!”

Oh boy.

When your seat is upright and your tray table is closed, take a look at this….


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I will preface this blog by saying that I really hate to fly. All right, just so long as we’re clear on that, I’ll get started…

Recently, my husband and I went to see my son in Pennsylvania for Parents Weekend. We had already completed the first leg of our trip by leaving the house at 4:30 am and taking the 6:30 flight to Dallas. Luckily, I was still half asleep on that journey and it was a short hour-long flight. After a two and half hour layover, we boarded a flight from Dallas to Chicago. After we’d all settled in and the flight attendant finished his safety briefing, the Captain told the attendants to “Prepare for Takeoff.” I was glad to hear that because the sooner we started, the sooner I could get off the flying-capsule-of-germs-dirt-and-diseased air. But…

We sat at the gate for what felt like an eternity. After a while, the Captain came on the intercom and said we weren’t going anywhere at the moment. He stated that the hostages, er, passengers, needed to stay seated and with all electronics off in case we got the word that the winged-pod-of-infection would finally get in the air. Ugh.

They wouldn’t let us de-plane nor would they let us unbuckle to answer nature’s call. But worst of all, they wouldn’t let us use our electronics on the off chance that they figured out what the problem was and we’d have to take off immediately and without warning…or something.

Well, not having my electronics is a nightmare for me. No iPod? No iPhone? No laptop? No Kindle? I had nothing to do. As if that wasn’t bad enough, they had a ‘looping’ musical score playing in the plane. I am not joking. It wasn’t a song either. It was a piece of “music” about forty seconds long. It was an eerie tune, too. It played like the beginning of a soundtrack from a scary sci-fi flick—all techno and gloomy. I am sure someone in the airline’s corporate headquarters made it policy that they play that music in times of ‘crisis’ to calm the nerves of the savage beasts being held captive. I think it was supposed to be a ‘soothing, soft’ melody. Yeah, well that corporate idiot never had to listen to it for thirty-nine minutes. It began to bore through our brains until it was painful. After a while, the people around me started grumbling about the annoying music.

However, we had to remain in our seats, belted and restrained, so no one could even ask the flight attendant to free us from our mind-numbing prison of sound. Sonny, the effervescent flight attendant, was already strapped into his three-point harness ready for the instantaneous take off that was inevitably going to happen without any notice at all.

So there I was.  The ADHD poster-child without my electronic crack. To top it all off? I was having serious regret over my Venti double-shot Carmel Macchiato that I downed before we boarded. My fingers started drumming on the arm rest; my legs started bouncing up and down and I developed a persistent eye twitch. My patience began to wear thin and the music carved a ravine of pain into the nerve center of my brain. My non-plussed husband fell asleep and left me to my own devices.

I needed something. I needed sugar. Yes! The thing that never failed to make me happy. That thought pacified me until I remembered I had left my candy in the carry-on bag that my blissfully-sleeping-other-half had shoved in the overhead bin. What was he thinking? It crossed my mind to quickly unbuckle myself, hop over his long legs, snap open the overhead and grab my bag before anyone could stop me. Maybe I could throw a fistful of M&M’s in my mouth before the Sky Marshalls knocked me down and restrained me for not following the clearly visible, glowing seatbelt sign. I wondered if I could plead insanity caused by that damn obnoxious music.

I decided against it.

Instead, I pulled the Sky Mall magazine out of the seat pocket. I’d never looked at one before because I am convinced the periodical is covered with Ebola and Swine Flu. I was desperate though. I picked it up with my finger and thumb, careful not to get too many of the foul germs that were at that very moment multiplying by the thousands per second on the flashy cover—a cover depicting a woman listening to her iPod with a look of ecstasy on her face. The airline torture complete—they’re showing the very thing I had been denied—a way to drown out their techno-music. Anyway, I carefully turned the first page using just the tip of my fingers—the tippy tip. Yeah that’s it. And for godsakes whatever you do, don’t lick your finger before you turn the page, I told myself. Just the thought made me want to hurl.

When I opened that magazine I quickly discovered that we as a society are in a downward spiral that can only be stopped by my blogging about how we are in a downward spiral. Or something like that…

I started perusing the magazine and one question persisted the entire time. Who buys this stuff? No, really. I want to know. Obviously, they must have lots of money and if they have that much money…why the hell are they on this godforsaken airline and not on a private jet where they can use whatever electronics they want and someone just might clean the cabin with Lysol once in a while?

Here’s an example of consumer insanity I pulled at random just for edification. I’m not kidding you. I opened it up and put my finger on the page without looking just to see what product about which I should blog.


(Product Orbit-1PF67). This little device is listed as a cross between a skateboard and inline skates, but “with more freedom and simplicity than either.” Huh? How is that even possible? I looked at the picture of a young man with two red wheels strapped to his feet. I kid you not. He has two round pieces of plastic and rubber encircling his shoes. Whaa? That is easier than skating or skateboarding…and it has more freedom? The young model in question looks like he’s wobbling and about to fall onto his khaki-covered ass. I mean it really looks like he’s ready to fall down, but he’s got a smile on his face. It was probably the best shot they got before he was rushed to the emergency room. How much for these beauties? Only $99.99. So, of course…these are listed as “Gifts under $100.” Some parent out there is thinking, “Yeah. Okay. As long as I don’t go one penny over $100 to break my kid’s tailbone and make him the laughing stock of the neighborhood, I’m good with that. Where do I pay?”

Here’s one of my favorites. It’s called the Swoop-n-Scoop cereal bowl (Product OBL191J). This is for real folks. Someone has designed from plastic and pure imagination…a new way to eat your Fruit Loops. This thing is patented so don’t you dare try making one at home in your spare time and in your endless pursuit of non-soggy cereal. This little device has a ledge for your cereal that is a couple of inches higher in the bowl than the milk. See…you pour the milk in the lower portion and take your spoon full of cereal and dip it into the milk below. Ta da! No soaking in all that calcium and vitamin D at all. Just enough milk to wet your Lucky Charms lest they stick to the roof of your mouth and rip up the sensitive skin there. Which also begs me to ask…why in the hell are Captain Crunch squares so damn rough? They can shred your mouth to bits and yet, I eat them all the time. Hmmm…But, I digress. Now with this invention, I can destroy the roof of my mouth with damp cereal instead of wet crunchies–making Captain Crunch the deadliest it’s ever been. How much for this device, you ask? Well, $19.99, of course. What’s fascinating to me is the photograph in the ad. A mother and daughter delight in their new cereal-eating experience. You can just see it in the mother’s face. She’s overjoyed. Just in case you can’t figure out how to use this oh-so-technical device, the picture includes instructions. Cereal here (arrow) and Milk here (another arrow) and just in case you’re still confused how to use it, there is another arrow—a swooping arrow showing you how to move your spoon from one part of the bowl to the other. Yep. “First gather your cereal in your spoon and then”….hold on folks…wait for it… “dip it into the milk.” Wow! I’m sure I would’ve stared at the bowl for hours before I figured out how to use it. Good thing they showed me with arrows AND words! Oh yeah…if you want to save money, you can buy four of these beauties for the marked down price of $59.99. Oh joy! But…what happens if you dip your spoon into the milk first and then go for the cereal? I shudder to think of the results. It baffles the imagination.

The very next page of the wonderful Sky Mall catalogue is made to both horrify and mollify an OCD sufferer like myself. It feeds the cycle, I tell you. If you know someone like me, here’s a Christmas gift to consider. It’s guaranteed to completely blow your favorite germ-phobic’s mind. I think I might have shivered in anticipation when I read the description the first time. I thought about waking up my sleeping husband and pointing at the ad. “Honey! Look!  You have to see this!”  I stopped myself before I elbowed him since a few minutes previous, in my exhuberance to share the experience,  I’d jabbed his ribs to show him the cereal bowl.  He wasn’t amused.

Here it is folks…the answer to all our prayers:

Item ZDH101J is a little miracle do-dad called a Nano-UV Wand. What is that, you ask? What magic does this little beauty perform? It is a miracle! I quote, “The Nano-UV stops the spread of infectious diseases.” WHAT? Are you flippin’ kiddng me? There is a wand that does this and no one told me?

All these years we as a race of humans have been kept in the dark by the wicked Sky Mall vendors? The end to all disease! Right between the thing that ages new wine in just seconds (product ORD101J) and the vibrating neck massager (Product CDA101AJ). Do doctors know about this? Has someone informed the Surgeon General? Why aren’t we all carrying this thing with us at all times? I’m reading it in black and white. It’s in print, so it must be true. It says it prevents everything from “…the common cold to flu viruses to deadly E. Coli and Asian bird flu.” REALLY? I want one! I want one! I’m bouncing in my seat. YESSSS! It’s a steal, too. I can get the pocket scanner for $59.99 or (if he really loves me) I can get the bigger non-portable version for $159.99! Wow. This product is truly amazing. It says I can use it on mattresses, pillows and carpets in home OR in hotel rooms! What the frack? It’s like it’s giving me permission to be insane! How cool is that? How is it I have never heard of such a thing? Or better yet…why don’t they just put these things in the ceiling of every building in America right next to the fluorescent light fixtures and between sprinkler heads?  Why is there not one above me on this plane between the dirty-air blower and the Call button?   Or, or, or…maybe I should read the small printNah, I rather just live in my head where some magic wand kills all the germs.

The picture in the ad contains an UP CLOSE (magnified a gazillion times) picture of dust mites, lice and flea eggs. This is visual bullying, dammit! This is not what I need to see while sitting on an airplane. These flying Petri dishes are airborne breeding grounds. I bet there are lice,  dust mites and flea eggs on this very seat. Suddenly, I thought I felt the critters underneath me multiplying—or having a party, playing tiny steel drums, doing the Macarena or toasting each other before they procreate…or something even more sinister involving dividing themselves into two.  I suddenly had an irrepressible need to douse my hands with Purrell.

Oh Sh*t! My (less than 3 oz, airline approved) hand sanitizer is in the same carry-on bag with my M&M’s. Have I told you that I really hate to fly? I glare at my husband who’s snoozing without a care in the world. I accidentally knock his arm off the armrest.   He startles and looks around.  I look thoughtfully at my magazine never lifting my eyes.  How can he sleep in a moment like this anyway?

To distract myself from the tiny horrors fornicating and producing offspring all over my seat, I turn the page.

Here’s another item that I must admit I thought was really cool–until I saw the price for ‘cool’ and then I thought of ten other ways I could spend that money. Item MMR102 J is called The Pure Fun Magic Showerhead. Ahhh…got your attention now, didn’t I? Well, put your libidos in check, ‘cuz it’s not that kind of fun—or at least I didn’t think so at first. This little device uses lights to illuminate your showerhead by producing a variety of changing colors through the magic that is LED technology. Here’s a line from the actual description. I am not making this stuff up. “New Disco versions create a club like experience with four flashy colors.” That line made me shiver as I pictured myself naked in a Disco full of flashy colors. It was not the kind of experience I’d like to try. But, still…wouldn’t it be cool to have your water change colors while you showered? Okay, maybe if it were $5.00 or something, yes. However, this little device can run you between $59.99-$99.99. The difference between the price appears to be whether you want the ‘fixed showerhead’ or the ‘handheld party’ version. Just let your imaginations take you where that forty dollar difference lies. I’ll leave it at that.

ONE MORE…On page 45, there is something I needed before my sons left the nest and I was the only female in a house full of males. Product ITL170J is “a toilet seat that automatically raises and lowers the seat.” Wow! The product description alone is worth some money. “Some men have a hard time remembering to put the toilet seat down after use. Now the Touchless Sensor Toilet Seat is good news for your household. It raises the lid automatically as you approach the toilet.” (This makes me giggle and I don’t know why.) “Wave a hand over it one more time and the seat rises. Then both the lid and seat close automatically 30 seconds after you step away.” OMG! That’s priceless. Some brilliant woman engineer designed this in her basement at 3:00 am. I just know it. I could see her in her nightgown after she fell in one night when she didn’t want to turn on the light. I’m sure she stomped down to the basement with a wet bottom and angry face where she was determined to find a way to keep her marriage from crumbling and from killing her offspring. And the best part of this whole ad is the red box that exclaims “WATCH THE VIDEO!!” (Notice the exclamation points.) Of course. A video! Duh. I can’t even imagine what it means when it says raises and lowers automatically, can you? Do you need some sort of visual? Someone obviously thought you did! I wonder how long video is? I wonder if they show it in slow motion? Are there actors involved? I wonder if they show it several times or if they expect the viewer to keep rewinding it in order to watch the magic of a lid going up and down. If only I had my laptop, I could find out…crap! It’s with the M&M’s and hand sanitizer. Have I told you that I really hate to fly?

Humanity In Poetry Contest Entry


In March 1993, photographer Kevin Carter made a trip to southern Sudan, where he took the now iconic photo of a vulture preying upon an emaciated Sudanese toddler near the village of Ayod. Carter said he waited twenty minutes, hoping that the vulture would spread its wings. It didn’t. Carter snapped the haunting photograph and chased the vulture away.

Carter eventually won the Pulitzer Prize for this photo, but he couldn’t enjoy it. “I’m really, really sorry I didn’t pick the child up,” he confided to a friend.

Consumed with the violence he’d witnessed and haunted by the questions as to the little girl’s fate, he committed suicide three months later.

One photograph can literally change the way you see the world. One photograph can bring you to tears, cause you to gasp with the sheer meaning of what the photograph represents. To enter this contest, submit a free verse (non-rhyming) poem under 1000 words reflecting the events in Kevin Carter’s photograph. Stay true to your self when writing your poem, and stay true to the event in the photograph.

My poem below was disqualified for rhyming and not free-verse.  Below it is the actual free-verse entry I wrote.  (There are two poems with this picture.)

FALLEN AND CURLED by Kristine Goodfellow

An icon of a fading and lonely child,

Fallen and curled,

Touches the heart of the well-fed world

Don’t cringe but let the image beguile.

We need to know whom to revile.

The skeletal hand of drought or war?

The image remains, the child no more.

Upon his soft cheek, death did caress–

An Innocent of perfect tenderness.

The end of a life for that little one–

We shake our heads, but what have we done?

Ten thousand more after this one’s demise—

Look away to avoid the fate in their eyes.

Don’t listen to the weak cries through the dust and debris;

Look away, change the channel and pretend not to see.

An icon of a fading and lonely child,

Fallen and curled.

Once you’re forced to observe–

You see, but what have you heard?

Therein dies a voice and your Maker’s decree.

“This is no icon or statement of strife.

What you see is not art, but the loss of a life.”

FALLEN AND CURLED byKristine Goodfellow (Non-rhyming version)

An icon of a fading, lonely child,

Fallen and curled,

For a brief moment pierced the western heart

A world away

With a brazen jolt of sickening truth.

Do not shudder or recoil, but let the image ask

To whom does the guilt of a voyeur belong?

Blame the skeletal hand of drought or hard fist of war.

Does it really matter to the subject here?

The useless debate continues among those who still breathe.

The child perished without a pause from our work.

Upon her dry cheek death gave a first kiss.

And it left a dismal stain of human failure

Forced upon a powerless Innocent–

Leaving sharp angles and points, no softness to cradle.

A broad veil fell as silent as a whisper–

Wrapping the child in its shroud without care.

For her, the last moment might have been loudly felt.

Yet, the moment for us so quietly came.

Our text we continued and schedules we kept.

Three were present and observed the final breath.

The one with the lens waits for the show to commence.

Two wait in hunger, innate need to survive.

The strongest had patience and they sat idly by.

Spectators at a wretched game with no rules.

Destiny without future for that little one.

Yet, what have we learned from our mistakes?

Nothing we can do to save her or the others?

Now seeing the image, we shake our heads.

So we write our poems with our headphones in place.

Ten thousand more after this little one’s demise.

Look away to avoid the ugly truth.

Don’t hear the weak cries through human debris and dust.

Pretend not to see and change the channel–

Remove the grief from our screens by clicking a key.

No more reminders of a fading and lonely child,

Fallen and curled.

Forced to glimpse a crude view,

You see the girl, but what did you hear?

A sigh of surrender.

A click of the shutter.

A rustle of feathers?

A tiny voice died on blistering desert sand.

Maybe guilt will make you listen now–

Should you decide to become attentive right here.

Heed your Maker’s impassioned decree.

“This is no icon or statement of discord.

What you see is not art, but the loss of a child.”