History of Prank Calls

baby girl with a mobile phoneWhen I was growing up, there were two kinds of phones. One had a 500-foot tangled cord and the other spun numbers around like a Sit ’N Spin. The older rotary-style telephone took forever to dial. It was so slow that sometimes, after you dialed all the numbers, you had to quickly hang up because you forgot who you called and why.

In the 1970s, you had two glorious color choices: goldenrod and split pea soup green. They even matched your refrigerator and Tupperware! When the vacuum at our house chewed up a cord, another color spiral would appear from the basement. You were considered rich if your family had the original phone cord.

Standard phone cords were 12 inches and rarely tangled; but if you had a teenager in residence, the 25-foot extended cord was mandatory. Now your kids could giggle in the stairwell two rooms over, and you wouldn’t have to hear any part of their conversation. Helicopter parenting hadn’t been invented yet.

As a child, I dabbled in prank phone calls. I was nowhere near making it an art form; but nonetheless, it was an adequate time killer. Actually, most prepubescent kids believed they were the masters of prank calls. No one older could be that clever or daring.

My friends and I heard if you dialed a number that wasn’t in the phone book, you could call accidentally call China. We could only imagine that it would cost a fortune! So we would search for the funniest last names in the White Pages, throw around some primo dialog, and pray we could hang up before our friends listening on the other line exploded with laughter.

The next generation of prank calls occurred on cellphones the size of a miniature Schnauzer. You plugged the phone into the cigarette lighter holder in your parent’s car and if you held your head still you could keep from losing reception. If the car were running, reception would be lost and since these witty verbal exchanges were with the opposite sex, you didn’t want to chance that. Thank goodness, we didn’t have caller ID!

BlackBerrys were for adults only. It missed adolescent silliness all together.

With flip phones, toddlers added to the pranking world. Clumsily pushing buttons, they imitated parents any time they could get their sticky fingers on it. Nothing is better than taking a shower and discovering the police are leaning on your doorbell and searching your shrubbery for intoxicated oafs. The percentage of young children being able to dial 911 is much higher than one would think.

Smartphones turned up the heat with pranks. Not only could a child text anyone on your contact list, but if you were silly and thought it was a good idea to teach your children to read and write, you might find yourself explaining ridiculous texts to strangers.

“I love bacon an Imeanit!!”

Take my word — it’s not fun explaining why your child is violent about cured pork products.

Thank goodness my young kids never figured out they could do FaceTime. I can only imagine what our accountant would think if a half-dressed toddler showed up on his work computer.

And as technology history shows us, it’s only going to get worse, folks!

Lord, help us all.
(Previously printed in The Kansas City Star on March 26, 2016.)


Sleep Deprivation Blamed on Kids

Woman sleeping
Have you ever been sick and tired of being sick and tired? Parenting has so many moments like this. It usually begins by the second trimester for women and some men learn of it by word of mouth after awaking from a full night’s sleep.

By the time children are sleeping through the night, and both parents and children are sleeping routinely in their assigned beds, everyday stress can keep parents tossing and turning for the next 15 years. Then when your children have all graduated, and have moved out of your basement, the aging process and hormones smack you in the groggy noggin to ensure minimal sleep is obtained.

So why is it that having children is taxing on your health? Shouldn’t eating an apple a day and taking two aspirin at sunrise keep you healthy and vibrant? Instead, it appears kids are the culprits, and they’re slowly hitting the nails on our coffins. That’s why you mustn’t let children play with tools.

Even though we love them with every fiber of our beings, parents are hazily rummaging through daily life; unfortunately, that includes having parents on the roads. According to a 2010 news story, “One in every six deadly car crashes results from a fatigue-impaired driver, estimates the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. That’s compared to about one in three caused by a drunk driver.” Lack of sleep decreases reaction time and impairs awareness and judgment similarly to drugs and alcohol.
The other night when I was tossing and turning in bed, the comedian and self-acclaimed redneck Jeff Foxworthy came to me in a vision. Thankfully, my husband was sound asleep so he didn’t kick him out because Mr. Foxworthy came up with a Breathalyzer scale for sleeplessness.

▪ If you’ve had the driver in front of you flip you the bird because your forehead kept leaning on the horn, you might be too tired to drive.

▪ If you’ve ever imagined a flock of sheep flying single-file over the red light in front of you, you might be too tired to drive.

▪ If you’re merging on the interstate and you find yourself nestling into the headrest while your seat slowly reclines, you might be too tired to drive.

▪ If you’ve had to turn the A/C on high and blast ‘80s music to redirect the polar pull from your chin to your chest, it could be a sign you’re too tired to drive.

▪ If you realize you’re driving the wrong way on a one-way street and decide to just slow down and turn on your hazard lights, you are too tired to drive.

▪ If you’ve ever started turning left at a light and half way into the intersection don’t know how many turn lanes there were, you might be too tired to drive.

▪ If a mile from your home, people drive up beside you pointing out your gas cap is off or your super-sized grande coffee is on your car roof, you too, might be too tired to drive.

▪ If you are pressing buttons on your car radio, trying to find the “snooze” button, it’s a good sign you are too tired to drive.

▪ And if you have a case of 5-Minute Energy bottles in your glove box just for emergencies, parents, you might be too tired to drive.

Even though people may not make the best decisions when they are exhausted, it’s not a laughing matter. The research proves it and you don’t want to be another statistic. There are better ways to get in the papers.

So when the baby sleeps, don’t think it’s finally time clean the house. Go ahead and sleep. A nap might save your life and seriously, the house will be a mess until the kids move out anyway.

Previously published in The Kansas City Star on March 12, 2016.


Older Parents versus Young Ones

I never gave much thought to being part of the  older parent’s club. Parenting wasn’t in the cards for me when I was in my twenties. I couldn’t care for mini humans, while downing cheap beer and noshing on 7-Eleven frozen burritos at 2:00 am.

In my early thirties my outlook drastically changed. My biological clock began striking like Big Ben, but finding a striking partner wasn’t working as well. My friends called me the “Queen of First Dates.” But why buy the cow, when he’s boring and full of himself?

By my mid-thirties, I married a wonderful man, who wanted to start a family right away. I concurred. You would think by thirty-five, I’d be well equipped for what was coming; but the Great Baby Hurricane of 2005 rocked us off our foundation.

Like most new parents, I quickly learned my wild years were behind me. Sure my babies were cute while they screamed like feral animals, but since my girls were only 14 months apart, my past needed to be hung up to dry out. Add some running shoes and a large vat of Ben Gay, and this old gal was prepped to train for the parenthood marathon.

Would I have had more stamina or patience as a younger mom? If I had started a family right out of college, would I have been able to provide for my kids financially as well, or give them the emotional support that only time can afford? There’s an enormous difference between 35 and 21. Just ask my stretch marks.

I would like to think the young me would have nurtured my children into adulthood; but I’ve always thought I made the right decision waiting. Until a few years ago…

While making my weekly Target trip for the family, I moseyed over to the glasses kiosk. Glancing over my shoulder to ensure no one I knew was watching me, I moved toward the type of glasses which many ladies have attached to a chain dangling around their neck, while maneuvering tiles during their weekly Mahjong game.

Yes, the time had come for me to start wearing readers. I managed to convince myself it was because my arms had grown too short. Blissful ignorance and avoiding reality is what keeps me young.

If you’ve ever tried on “cheaters,” there’s an entire production before you purchase the correct pair. I thought I’d find the pretty ones, check if I could see out of them and be done. Wrong.

First, if you are lucky enough to see the prescription numbers on the label, you are ahead of the game. Since I had small children, and rarely had time to myself to try on 32 pairs in one trip, I waited longer than I should have.

As the directions state, first you must stand 14 inches away from the mirror.

Did they mean from the tip of my nose or were my toes to be that far from the shelving?

Since the instructions weren’t clear enough for me, I automatically assumed the manufacturers didn’t know what they were talking about.

I perched the pretty pair on my nose and began searching for small print. What I needed was a can of tomato paste. The lettering on those tiny cans is so small, I’ve had to change dinner plans mid meal preparation. But there in my cart was the font I needed, on the back of the Huggies’ Pull-Ups.

Readers and diapers – the irony is priceless and ridiculous. There are few moments in my life where I heartily laugh at myself. The kind of laugh where you can’t breathe, your face reddens and tears stream down your cheeks.

Good thing I didn’t have my daughters with me because I’m sure someone would have ruined my laughing cleanse by telling me how cute my granddaughters were.

That hypothetical person is very lucky I didn’t hurl a jumbo pack of Huggies at her.

And with my new trendy specs, I would have nailed her.



Google Fiber First Thing in the Morning

IMG_6849I try to be a “cup is half full” type of person, despite routinely being buried in the bottom third of my coffee grounds. Whoever said being positive about everything in life has done a whack job on my emotions. It’s a polar pull of happy and mad magnets playing a tug of war game on my brow, and I have to admit it’s exhausting!

If a family member breaks my favorite irreplaceable dish, bestowed to me by my deceased grandmother…

It was an accident. Get over it!

If someone left a cotton ball soaked in acetone nail polish remover on the new coffee table, causing the finish and stain to permanently disappear…

It had to have been a temporary lapse of good judgment. Don’t yell!

If I almost run over the Google Fiber workman in my driveway one morning because I’m arguing with my girls about why they’re always running late…

I’m sure those workmen are used to it. Just smile and nod!

Google Fiber sure tests my happy magnet. It’s taking over the scenery of our town. Do they assume I prefer listening to their constant machinery cacophony? It’s the perfect audible blend of discord that makes my stomach border on nausea and my head bang to the beat.

Have you seen these workmen, with floating heads lining the curbs of our streets? Their bobbing, white safety helmets remind me of a natural history museum panorama, where the prairie dog’s head raises up and down from his hidey-hole.


Yet, if you’re yearning for faster computer loading time, then your heart might skip a joyous beat gazing at the destruction of yards. I realize it’s the city’s turf from the sidewalk to curb, but if the city is claiming that part of my yard, I think they should mow it.

If you care less about speed, use a dial-up modem, or are wary of modern advancements due to the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” theory, then I can appreciate your irritation. However, my unsolicited advice is it might be time to head down to your winter home in Scottsdale, Ariz., or add yoga or meditation to your daily routine.

My family is cautiously hopeful about Google Fiber. I guess that makes us middle aged? No need for yoga or Arizona real estate yet, but we won’t be first in line for the switchover.

So that same morning, after dropping off my daughters at school, I turned onto my street to see my new head-nod buddies. Every time I passed them that first day, I’d give the Midwest head nod or the dirt road farmer’s finger wave. You know the one — where you lift your index finger straight up off the steering wheel, keeping eyes forward, and no trace of a smile.

Those Google Fiber men were still hard at work, now buried to their knees in my cul-de-sac. Once again, my inner tug-of-war battle begins.

I know the final product will be convenient and someday I’ll wonder how I ever lived without it; but how is my yard going to look after they put it all back together?

Will they plow through our sprinkler system and mess with our perfected angles of yard saturation?

And what if we decide to put our house on the market that day? The photos would be atrocious!

As it turned out, I needed to be patient and dial down the worry monitor. At the end of the day, the workers put the yard back together beautifully, and life went on as it always does.

But earlier that afternoon, when the men had dug themselves neck high, it hit me. This day was just a petty complaint. I could turn my frown upside down by pranking my kids on the ride home with tales of floating heads by our driveway.

It turns out my dose of fiber was served with a cup full of laughs that day, and thankfully my ears have finally stopped ringing.

(previously published in The Kansas City Star newspaper on Saturday, February 13, 2016)


Spelling Bee Memories Can Sting


Spelling Bee Sweethearts

The other day, I phoned my attourney to see if she could get me out of a traffic ticket. If the misspelled “attorney” jumped off the page in that untrue sentence, you too might have been a spelling bee contestant.

“Attorney.” The stinking word I botched in the fifth-grade spelling bee. Three of us went round after round, trying to be the master of our dictionary, but after what felt like eternity, I was out. I’m quite certain mild PTSD stemming from the experience ruined any chance of my becoming a lawyer — that and my aversion to arguing.

What people don’t know is I studied diligently. D-I-L-I-G… In fact, my fifth-grade teacher had a warped need for a student national winner. My brilliant best friend was a shoo-in, and her lifelong gray matter competitor finished our trio; hence, the three Musketeers advanced to parry in the hallway.

I remember endless hours seated on the hard linoleum. We weren’t prepping for a tornado drill, but memorizing the dictionary. Every day we’d quiz each other, then return to the classroom, to join friends in constructing dollhouses crafted out of cardboard and wallpaper samples. This teacher also wanted some architects.

(Other than growing moldy lima beans in the windowsill, art terminology and spelling, that was fifth grade. A tenured public school teacher can be terminated, and she was.)

So when my eldest daughter came home beaming that she’d made the school’s final level of the National Scripps Spelling Bee, I was proud as Punch. I’ve always felt people are born good spellers or not, and this daughter hadn’t missed any spelling words in second grade. Genes can be a blessing, but for some — unfavorable.

My youngest and extremely bright child, who lacks that spelling gene, announced she was also chosen to represent her grade in the same bee. I almost passed out. If she weren’t 9, I might have suggested buying a lottery ticket because the girl got real lucky with the words she was given.

Over winter break, both girls had much opportunity to memorize the provided word list. But since history guided my hand, my girls were to be self-motivated or roll the dice praying for three-lettered words.

Their collective studying motivation was absent. I suppose if your teacher said you’re the best speller in your class, you could interpret that you know all the words in the English language. Some kids are naturally competitive for top academic honors; mine enthusiastically competed in Wii Mario Brothers on their vacation.

The Spelling Bee was nerve-wracking, no petrifying, for some parents. P-E-T-R…I’m sure the kids were nervous too, but I was too busy praying my girls wouldn’t miss their first word. Other than tripping on the way up to the microphone, being the first person out is the worst. Of course, I didn’t tell them that.

My oldest daughter was up first. She didn’t trip — and she got it right! A loud exhalation from me penetrated the crowd. Oops!

Now it was time for my baby.

Oh, Lordy! Let her get “cat.”

She got it right! And it was a four-letter word! (The good kind, mind you.) Even better.

Now I was in it for the win. Luckily my daughters weren’t as excited as I was. After the fourth round, my third-grader joined her classmates in the audience, followed by her big sister in the fifth round.

However, after my oldest daughter missed her word, she made a choice that warmed my heart. She saddled up next to her little sister who appeared deflated, put her arms around her and gave her a long hug.

As a parent, it was better than winning any national title.

My kids were the winners that day, and I couldn’t be prouder of who they are becoming.


(Previously published in The Kansas City Star on January 22, 2016)