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)


Memories Make Wine and Tears Flow

Reflecting on holidays past, present and right around the corner, I’m reminded of all I’m thankful for. My family is here and accounted for, all are fairly healthy and my friends and minivan are paid off. What? How else can I keep my crazy antics a secret until I announce them on the World Wide Web?

So without further ado, it’s time for another confession by yours truly, aptly brought to you by Kleenex Brand tissues and Excedrin Migraine.

I used to hold grudges. Heavy-duty ones that could have made comedian Lewis Black bow before me. The silliest things made me livid, fly off the handle or stew until my blood pressure boiled — or sometimes I’d go the other route and sob like a toddler in timeout. Hormones are not to be taken lightly.

It didn’t matter if I caused my inner volcano or if the grocery store sacker was my tormenter. I handled it the same ineffective way, by holding my breath, tucking away all raw feelings and pathetically dreading their return.

After I became a parent, I noticed when my kids had accidents, reacting like a wild woman was unproductive, plus a touch embarrassing. Everyone makes mistakes. Kids, adults, even Dutch cheese makers do it. Slip-ups make us human and more interesting.

Since it’s a child’s job in life to have accidents, make mistakes and messes, parents shouldn’t punish them for what comes naturally. I try not to be snappish when my daughter drops a full glass of milk on the rug, or when she and her sister hypothetically paint their bodies and the closet door with Very Berry Revlon lipstick.

Unfortunately, many parents’ first instinct is to shout out their young one’s mistake.

“You flushed my hand towel down the toilet!” screams the mother, ankle deep in non-potable water. How can one blame a child who doesn’t have a clue how she created the mess? They are only trying to figure how things work, or in this bathroom scenario, how they don’t work.

When one of my daughters was heavy into tod dler destruction mode, she found a beloved cassette tape of mine. How fun it was for her to pull out the brown strand of ribbon! It just kept coming and coming.

By the time I discovered it, she was cocooned in the last remaining studio recording of a pitch-perfect singing group I had proudly joined in college. All those tight harmonies and irreplaceable sounds we crooned in festivals across Europe were now twisted under a pair of Dora the Explorer Pull-ups.

I frantically tried to right the wrong, but it became clear this part of my glory days had just curled up and died. My heartbeat quickened, my breathing became uneven, and as my eyes welled up, I could feel my old rage trying to escape. But this time I didn’t lose my cool. I couldn’t blame my daughter for accidentally destroying something I held dear. So instead of imploding, I yelled for my husband to take over cleanup, so I could hibernate in peace, tears and a cheap box of Chardonnay.

Deep down, I knew my daughter didn’t try to hurt me. She was 3 and made a mistake. Believe me, she’ll have plenty of opportunities to stab me with her words during adolescence.

Memories of this only send a slight twinge of regret now. That chapter of my youth is officially over and I’m OK with it. But like that fine box of wine, life will continue to get better or at least more interesting.

I’m truly blessed because my family is still intact, we have our health, and I wouldn’t trade any one of them for a replacement of that cassette.

Although you might check back with me when my girls become teenagers. Hormones are not to be taken lightly.

previously published in The Kansas City Star on December 10, 2015



Free Dinner for Those Buying Cemetery Plots

Recently I received the most peculiar invitation in the mail. This gem contained complimentary admission tickets “good for two” persons for FREE FOOD! Now with the hunger crisis widespread throughout our country, why on earth were they trying to give ME and my plus one a free meal?

At first I was keyed up by the prospect of someone wanting to award me something, especially if that something might include perhaps ice cream; but then I remembered a prophet’s advice, “No one gives out ice cream for free, unless they want something in return.”

So I called my mother, who is the oldest person I talk to on a regular basis, so that puts her closest to prophet status. I asked her, “Do you think this free meal is some kind of a scheme?” Being that she is a savvy retired elementary school educator, she asked, “Who sent these tickets to you, my child?”

I turned back to the not-so-fine print (actually it was in bold, italicized and about a 32-point font). This might be a first warning  to slow down a bit in life, or else bump up to the next level on my cheap drugstore reader glasses.

This is when I should have hung up the phone or claimed I had the wrong number; but I had already announced to my mother who I was, called her by name, and discussed who was coming to a family get-together. So I’m pretty sure she recognized my voice.

I tried to cough, sneeze and mumble at the same time, “A funeral home.”

Although, since she is my mother and can understand every word of mine even if I had all my teeth knocked out and my lips sewn shut, she blurted, “How did you get on THEIR list?”

“Weight Watchers, I can only assume,” I sighed as if receiving an unsatisfactory mark on my report card.

Then to add salt & vinegar potato chips to my wounds, she laughed, “I haven’t even had a funeral home send me invitations yet!” Nice. Coming from a woman who happens to be substantially older than me.

Our conversation morphed into what we thought should be on the menu for such an event to discuss “final-arrangement planning.” Whole grapes? Big chunks of hotdogs? Or would they go the cholesterol-laden route … triple cheeseburgers and a side’s bar of anything fried? We both assumed a fruit and veggie tray wasn’t going to be part of this artery clogging affair.
Since we were on the subject of dying, I thought it an appropriate transition to inform her I had accidentally killed the Cecropia caterpillars she had recently given my children. The science project for the summer was over after one week. Fuzzy and Wuzzy wuz no more.

Too bad the funeral homes don’t take caterpillars. My daughters would have loved a nice service for their beloved 7-day inch-long friends. How to pick your final resting place for caterpillars isn’t a common request, apparently.

However, I do have these two complimentary tickets from experts who “want to ease my family’s emotional burden.” Maybe I will give them a call…

previously published on July 8, 2012 in The Kansas City Star  

Embracing Your Weirdness is What Makes You Awesome

Mama, I can’t do that! I don’t want the kids to think I’m weird.

My daughter’s words struck my abdomen, like a knife plunging into my soul.

“Weird!” She said the “W” word.

The first time I heard my child fearing others’ opinions, similar memories of mine were stirred up. Childhood fights on the playground, bickering in the girl’s room, or even worse … debating whether “Babe” cologne or “Love’s Baby Soft” was the best fragrance. It could get nasty.

Recently, I read a quote by Meryl Streep, which struck a nerve.

“What makes you different or weird — that’s your strength.”

Seriously, if I’d heard that advice when I was young, I might have avoided 25 percent of my childhood angst. I was a professional weird kid. If they had turned our fifth-grade spelling bee into a standing Weird-Off, I would have gone to Nationals. I was that proficient. In college, I tried to major in weird, but was denied. Theater and Film was an adequate backup.

With Halloween around the corner and people’s gory, graphic yard art popping up, one starts to ponder weirdness. (Oh, and thanks for my kids’ nightmares. I really enjoy a tiny foot in my face in the middle of the night.)

My journey of weird started at an early age. Lip-synching to Donny Osmond, into my purple hairbrush, with a red sequined tutu on my head. This was standard fare at my house. The kids in the neighborhood came to expect it, as did my parents.

Although the only day I could parade my weirdness was Halloween. Costumes mandatory? How glorious!

My costumes started off innocently. A bunny, a witch with a big rubber nose, and a picturebook-perfect Raggedy Ann, complete with a full wig constructed of red yarn. But those costumes don’t sound so weird, do they? It wasn’t until I had the choice of what to be, instead of my parents choosing, that my flair flew.

In the fourth grade, I was Phyllis Diller. Yes, I teased my hair high, put on obnoxious makeup and hot pink-framed glasses. I was a dead ringer for the comedienne. The best part was the reaction I would get at neighbors’ doors.


(gasp) Oh, my. What are you, honey?

Phyllis Diller.

The answer was either followed by laughter or absolute confusion as to why a young girl would choose this over a cute pumpkin or ghost outfit. A boring ghost uniform would have been booed from my bleachers.

Junior high was a time for many kids to bow out of costumes in my town — but not for me. I still wanted to take my younger brother around to houses, so I could steal his candy later. What was his costume? A werewolf, of course. And living up to high standard “weirdo” expectations, I was a full-term pregnant ballerina.

There were countless kooky costumes, too many to list. But those were the years I embraced my weirdness. However, at some point I began to worry what others would think of me. I’m certain this is a developmental stage that all humans face. It’s how you react to it and learn from that uncertainty that defines your character.

So when my munchkin said she was afraid of what the other kids would think, I pulled her over to my computer to teach her about Meryl Streep. I wanted my daughter to see someone who is famous — a great role model — and learn that a woman of that caliber knows being “weird and different” is awesome!

I never imagined Ms. Streep would help me with my parenting skills. Makeup and acting tips, maybe. But her lesson is being practiced in my house now.

Mama, I don’t mind being weird, if when I grow up, I like myself.

Standing ovation, my munchkin. Standing ovation!

previously printed in The Kansas City Star October 29, 2014


The Lip Synching Talent was Balmy at Best

The Kansas City Star
September 6

Special to The Star

This past week as I’ve prepared for my eldest daughter’s birthday, my senses at all shopping facilities were heightened in search of anything girlish, sparkly or pink. Preferably all of the above.

Normally, I am not the type of woman who dives into shopping sprees. I am the make-list-shop-and-scram kind of gal. So when I noticed every checkout stand filled with a blast from my past, I took it as a sign these joyous novelty items were to resurge at her upcoming party.

It was 1976: a presidential election year and the 200th anniversary of our country’s independence from Great Britain. Every local newspaper, politician and teacher was discussing the bicentennial, the Carter/Ford election and Judy Garland’s dress from “The Wizard of Oz,” which was touring on the American Freedom Train.

However, as a third grader from Kansas, I had more important issues to tackle:

What flavor of Bonne Bell Lip Smacker would I be for the talent show, and could I talk my flavorful friends into singing with me?

Did I lose you on that last one?

Back in Mrs. Abrahamson’s home room, my close group of 15 girlfriends and I collected lip balms called Lip Smackers. They came in a myriad of scents and flavors — mostly fruity and candy types — but some with tantalizing soft drink flavors. Each of us had claimed our favorite, so we decided it would be clever to call each other by the name of our lip gloss.

“How’s it going, Bubblegum Bonne Bell Lip Smacker?”

“Great, Root Beer Bonne Bell Lip Smacker.” Yes, we would say the entire phrase each time. No need to shorten a good thing!

I’m sure this wasn’t annoying for any of our teachers, Girl Scout leaders or parents. And as most irritating school-aged phases go, this game lasted most of the school year. Bless you, Mrs. A.

The Lip Smackers back then came in a plastic tube that was 4 inches long and the diameter of a roll of film. Attached to the cap was a rope you placed around your neck like a bolo tie for easy and quick application.

For weeks on the playground, my friends and I would rehearse singing and dancing to Olivia Newton-John’s, “Have You Never Been Mellow?” We knew we were beyond talented. The only thing we were missing was an interested audience.

Oh, Liv I've been mellow before. I've been mellow.

Oh, Liv I’ve been mellow before. I’ve been mellow.

I clearly remember the feeling when Mrs. Abrahamson asked if we would like to perform our number in front of the class. This song and dance production was something I had vividly envisioned and I already knew we were ready for a national tour.

I suppose one performance for our classmates before we hit the road would be acceptable.

Making sure the back row of desks could see our every move and every flavor girl, I directed my friends to stand on their chairs, which I lined up in a single row. I had great artistic vision for my age.

Then we grasped our Lip Smackers fervently and sang acappella, determined to have a hit record by the time the school bell rang. It was the brightest moment of my third grade career. Needless to say, the tour didn’t pan out for us.

Last week my eldest daughter informed me that she and her friends had started a rock band. They had written one song and already their teacher was praising them.

It’s a pity though. The Bonne Bell Lip Smackers of today are tiny and incapable of becoming a lifelike microphone. Perhaps I’ll have to swap them for multi-colored hairbrushes in the birthday party goody bags.

You can’t go wrong with a pink hairbrush microphone.

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