Fish Tales from a Princess Perspective

IMG_1036Hi, my name is Stacey and I’m vocationally challenged.

Every 10 years I suck all the marrow from one career and move on, which makes for a roller-coaster ride of a resume. Like Mr. Sinatra crooning, I’ve been an actor, a singer, a dancer, bookkeeper and pediatric nurse. A blogger, an author and newspaper columnist. Administrative assistant was the worst. That’s life — at least mine.

The only interesting job I haven’t done yet is fishing pro. I’d love to relax on a pond or lake all day, slathered in bug spray and sunscreen; however, anyone who has fished with me will say I have a scaly green thumb.

On last year’s fishing trip, my husband and I watched our daughters snag an overflowing line of rainbow trout, using miniature hot pink Barbie poles and worms. My adult-sized, dirt brown pole produced zero fish. So I used the girls’ pole, thinking it was the lucky charm, but my numbers didn’t increase.

“Oh, Barbie. You did me wrong!” Leaving the fully stocked fish hatchery that day empty-handed gave me more drive to learn the secret.

So when planning a recent fishing trip, I remained hopeful but realistic. The only way to catch a fish was if I cast out whopper fish tales, the type of story where after repeating it to everyone within earshot, your fish morphs into a 250-pounder. This type of lie is quite acceptable in fisherman circles.

Our pond was well-stocked with a menagerie of gilled Midwest prospects: catfish, bass, blue gill, marlin and mahi-mahi — at least that’s how I remember it. I set my hopes high and was all about the bass, no tuna. In fact, when one of the guides took me out on the pond with an aerated cooler full of minnows, I had never felt so professional, and out of my comfort zone.

It was a 50-degree morning and I was wrapped up tighter than a cryogenically sealed pack of tilapia. Fighting my windbreaker, jacket and two layers of clothing, while balancing the boat with my legs, was the beginning of my trials. I looked like a deranged toddler wrangling the slippery minnows beneath my feet in a cooler. Every time I opened the cooler, my center of gravity shifted and so did the boat. How in the Sea World do you keep your pole on board while wrestling minnows and posed in the disaster drill position?

Soon visions of princesses danced in my head. According to any 1950s advice columnist, a damsel in distress should find a big, brave man to hook her bait. I would have spent days trying to talk a single minnow into jumping onto my hook.

Embarrassed that I needed help, I reconsidered using hook sushi. Worms I could handle! I’d overcome that fear a few years back and now prayed any fish would get a hankering for my segmented annelid.

I was setting a good example for my girls in the next boat.

IMG_1034No daughter of mine needed to fear bait.

After several attempts, I hooked a fish I was certain would need a hydraulic wench and rig to lift out of the water. I wasn’t far from my estimation because that bass was enormous. Fifty pounds or more!! Did I say 50? I meant 100!

This slick and feisty reward was all mine and I’m sure the folks in the next county over could hear my excitement. At last a real fish that I caught was coming into the boat.


Holy, Carp! There’s no way I’m touching that thing.

Batting my eyes, I begged my guide, “Could you help me get him off the hook? I don’t want to hurt him.” There was another fish tale.

That day with my family, I learned sometimes you must lower your standards. Summoning your inner princess and asking for help isn’t the end of the world. Plus, you can always change the story later.

(previously published in The Kansas City Star on May 28, 2016)



Hyperbole is Killing Me

I have an embarrassing secret to share. My fourth-grade daughter continually puts me in my place in the math department, plus a few other subjects. I still can carry my own in science and grammar, but I need to up my game to prove I can assuredly assist in the homework world.

The retired television show, “Are you Smarter than a Fifth Grader?” suggested kids can intellectually pass up their parents by the age of 10; but let me tell you, my child knocked me off my high horse numerous times in third grade!

“Hold on, honey. Let Mama read the question again… hmm. Oh, well! Dad will be home in an hour. He loves quadratic equations!

Maybe I’m exaggerating a bit. She’s not that advanced, but the new math certainly feels foreign to this mom.

Some of you may be up close and personal with our country’s Common Core standards. I’ll add you to the prayer chain. This beastly teaching model produces hives on every parent who partakes in homework supervision. I realize someone who knows better is attempting to make our children smarter by ramming knowledge into their gray matter, but why must the powers at be make parents feel stupid in the meantime?

Recently, my anxiety surged a smidgen when my daughter asked me to define the word “hyperbole.” She’s 10! Why does she need to know that definition, let alone spell it right and use it correctly in a sentence?

How can I expect her to use this advanced word correctly, when I’m not sure of the answer myself? So I did what every other parent in the world does — I lied. Telling her she should do her own research in the dictionary.

Since the nut doesn’t fall far from the genetics tree, my parents also pretended they knew answers when asked the origin, definition or spelling of a word. My mother was notorious for having me get up from the dinner table to find the right answer. Doesn’t every family in America have a dictionary several feet from the kitchen table? It was wedged next to our 1960s complete set of Encyclopedia Britannica. No one was leaving the table until we knew the ins and outs of an earthworm’s reproductive system.

Because I obviously love to over-share, here is what I learned. “Hyperbole” is defined by Webster’s dictionary as “an exaggeration by effect and not meant to be taken literally.” Really? I seriously thought it was a story with a wild ending. Now if my daughter had asked what “onomatopoeia” meant, I would’ve exclaimed, “Wow! I know that!” but once again my fifth-grader-to-be caught me unprepared.

There are countless memorable stages as a parent. The first smile, that first step, when she’s finally potty-trained! But right now I’m living the assisting-with-your-child’s-homework stage. It’s more challenging than I would have thought. This phase could easily drive a parent insane, lead to premature aging, or trigger excessive drinking — not that I’m recommending any of these. Carrying those “ones” in a multiplication number sentence should be cautiously completed by a high-functioning, sober mind.

But if you get stuck, might I suggest secretly sneaking a tablet or cellphone to ask Siri? That gal has more right answers than any encyclopedia I came across.

(previously published in the Kansas City Star newspaper on April 23, 2016)


Motherhood or Just Another Groundhog Day

NURSE MOMMY NOTE: It’s 6:00am and the alarm clock goes off. Sonny and Cher’s voices are singing out “I Got You, Babe” from my alarm clock. I drag myself out of bed, grab my coffee and the paper and then realize my VERY specific “groundhog column” is MIA – to be run a week AFTER Groundhog Day. Life always keeps ya hopping, like a furry rodent; but keeps me quite flexible and popular!

Welcome to my Groundhog Day movie in real time…ENJOY!

Happy Groundhog Day...AGAIN!!!

Happy Groundhog Day…AGAIN!!!

Just another Groundhog Day
February 9, 2013
The Kansas City Star

I suppose it would be polite to say I hope everyone had a happy Groundhog’s Day since some Pennsylvania Dutch prankster back in the 1800s considered it a gas to have a league of men decked in top hats and bowties ask a chubby rodent to predict their upcoming weather every February.

Who would have thought that kind of hijinks would have caught on?

Now I’ve never attended one of these Punxsutawney, Pa., shindigs so I probably should keep my friendly trapper shut, but why should I start now? Prognosticating Pennsylvanian pudgy squirrels treated like royalty? Sounds like a dream job for my friend’s Aunt Eunie, the retired meteorologist from Pittsburgh. However, I heard she is now selling used cars, so it might not be her gig.

Since the groundhog Punxsutawney Phil didn’t see his shadow when he left his hidy-hole last weekend, there’s a fair chance spring will come early. According to the Stormfax Weather Almanac, “Phil’s winter prognostications have been correct only 39 percent of the time” since 1887, with nine years of no recordings.

Boy, for a future-telling groundhog, he’s pretty good! I like to think that 39 percent of my parenting advice is valid. If my kids catch at least that much, and it happens to be positive role-modeling, they have a fair shot at the world. Really if my kids listened 39 percent of the time ever, it would be splendid, but a parent can dream, right?

Parenting often reminds me of the Bill Murray movie “Groundhog Day,” especially if you’re a stay-at-home parent. Each day tends to resemble the last, and then you go for hours without having an adult conversation before you realize you’ve talked to yourself incessantly and no one has answered you.

But not to worry, for when you put the children to sleep, you scratch your head and wonder if you accomplished anything in its entirety that day. Have I finished a project? Even one? I must have checked off something on my to-do list.

Well, at least you are still quick minded and haven’t lost it yet. You still remember how old you are, right? Or do you? Because about half the year in, you started thinking, “I’m going to be turning 38 soon.” And since you talk to yourself so much, you hear this voice repeating the age often, so by the time your birthday shows up, you can’t remember if you’re 38 or 39.

Every day is Groundhog Day at my house. The alarm goes off, I get dressed, find the coffee and find the children. Dress the children. A mass feeding occurs, coats go on, backpacks are stuffed, I raise my voice for the eighth time, put van in reverse and slowly back out of drive, making sure children are safely fastened in their seats. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Not that I would trade it for the world. I love being able to provide a stable routine for my children. This gives them comfort and a sense of constancy, which according to experts shows them I love them. Probably the raising my voice thing needs to be worked on, but we all have flaws.

To celebrate Groundhog Day, I checked off something on my to-do list, turned on my Seasonal Affective Disorder mood light, upped my dose of vitamin C and popped in the “Groundhog Day” DVD because chances of dreary were pretty high no matter what that rodent with a top hat claimed.

I also started a new Kansas City Ground-hog Day tradition: barbeque pork burgers! I even added a bowtie pasta side salad in Phil’s honor.


Heading into 2012 Literally Speaking

previously published on January 7, 2012 in The Kansas City Star

The final weeks of 2011 were to be calm, pleasant and focused on family, all the while devoid of stress.
The presents were all nestled under the tree and holiday cards were dashed away by government employees muttering prayers of keeping their underappreciated jobs. Hopes of relaxing among kinfolk and roasting marshmallows by the hearth were next on my to-do list. But as all holidays and dreams go, it didn’t quite go as planned.
Instead 2011 closed with a bang forever engraved in this mother’s memory. Not by grandiose fireworks or with the eternally anticlimactic “Christmas crackers” — those blasted end-of-dinner-foil-wrapped-pull-toys opened by great-grandmas. (And after consuming one too many glasses of Riesling, then donning the paper hat from her cracker, she replaces her dentures with orange rinds and sings Auld Lang Syne. Is that just my family?)
Oh no, if my relations are to ring out the old year, we’re going to ring that bell! Therefore, in honor of decked halls, my youngest decided to clang the back of her cranium with such force on a franchise restaurant’s steel bench that I, a pediatric nurse, will never be the same. She’s fine now. Me…not so much.
If you have ever experienced a cut to the head — minuscule or large — you are well aware it can gross out well-seasoned medical staff and create superb plots for Hollywood thrillers, South Park episodes and video games (rated “M” for mature audiences).
Thankfully, my daughter did not lose consciousness, orientation or innards, so I was able to jerry-rig a contraption that got her noggin to temporarily cease bleeding and avoid more screaming by calling an ambulance. Boys may think ambulances are cool. Girls, not really.
So with a little scotch tape, a fry chef hat and a bean bag toy, (not really, but that would have been a cool fix), my youngest was stable and we headed to the ER. Then I attempted the most difficult task of all: contacting my husband.
Apparently when I’m in an emergency situation, I can only effectively handle the role of nurse. Not mom, wife, or transportation gal. Example: I speed-dialed my neighbor three times trying to reach my husband. She finally said she would take over and call my husband since I was incapacitated. Thank you, neighbor No. 1.
My next problem was getting my oldest picked up from school in 30 minutes, but alas, I wasn’t capable of doing that, either, or even figuring out how to get someone to pick her up. So I called responsible neighbor No. 2. She was going to pick up my child, so I needed to call the school to arrange it stat. Love her! For this lack of parenting 101 skills, I’m sure to get Mom of the Year.
Three staples in my precious cherub’s head later, a hug that lasted until she said, “Mom, are you done yet?” and ice cream and toys a-plenty, we all managed to survive my child’s first concussion.
I say “first” because if you notice the size of her mother’s head this is to not be the last of her head bonks. With our genetically enlarged craniums (due to the extra brain portion which is explicitly used for sarcasm), gravity will surely play another nasty role in the ringing of her bells.
Until our next adventure, I hope you and yours have a safe and conscious 2012!
Stacey Hatton is a pediatric registered nurse, writer and public speaker. Her humor blog can be found at