Click any letter for a look at my prize-winning essay from the 2010 Erma Bombeck Writing Competition. You don't even have to buy a vowel.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Organic Matters

Last night Sons One and Two were piled up on each end of the recliner couch, conserving energy in preparation for Earth Day.

I headed toward their room with a bucket and a broom, an activity that generally raises their alertness level to at least DefCon 1.

Son One peered suspiciously at me through his elevated Reeboks, an alarming feat considering the size of the feet.  “What are you doing?”

“I thought I’d liberate some earth in preparation for tomorrow.  You guys have enough free range topsoil in there to grow an acre of organic asparagus.”

He made the icky face. “I don’t like asparagus. Can you grow cake?”

I took a peek through their doorway.  “Maybe Devil’s Food.”
“Funny, Mom. What’s with the bucket?”

Not wanting to compromise the integrity of my mission, I shot a wary glance at Son Two.  He was staring intently at a tiny screen in front of him that he appeared to be mashing with his thumbs. Wires sprouted from the pockets of his hoodie and disappeared into his hair in the vicinity of where ears should be located.  We haven’t seen his ears since 2003, so I’m a little apprehensive about confirming their whereabouts.

“Shhhh. I’m going to return his rock collection to the wild.”

The recliner at the end of the couch popped open like a mouse trap with reverse action.  Music disappeared down flying headphones like water down a drain.  The only thing dearer to Son Two than his rock collection is whatever he happens to have in the six million pockets of his camo jacket. Or a pizza. Or a six-pack of YooHoos.  This kid rotates his priorities like a farmer rotates crop.

“It took all my life to collect that highly specialized representation of rock types. Throw out your own stuff.”

“I can’t.  The only stuff you guys haven’t commandeered for personal use is my make up and my dangly earrings.  I’ll give up my CoverGirl complexion before I part with my highly specialized collection of bright and shinies.  Besides, my stuff isn’t environmentally friendly.”

“What about those silver earrings with your birthstone?”

“Sorry. Ashes to ashes.  Amethysts to earlobes.”

I was blazing a trail across the carpet when I was stopped in my tracks by a line of crusty laundry that would probably resemble that long wall in China if seen from space. 

I went back, popped some popcorn and joined the boys on the couch.

I know when I’m beaten.  I can shovel my way through shag, but I can’t fight the Great Wall of Chinos.


Sunday, April 20, 2014

Doggone Easter

By myself I couldn’t find an Easter egg with a state of the art Global Positioning System and a Sherpa guide bearing a topographical map of the back yard.  I spent every Easter morning of my childhood trotting along beside my dad while he stared pointedly at pink and purple speckled clumps of grass and sighed, “Are you sure you looked in that one?”
The only egg I ever found by myself was the one that caught on fire one blustery Easter when the grill blew over.  At the end of the hunt I proudly displayed a basket filled with burned charcoal briquettes and one hard-smoked egg. My joy was boundless.
This year I planned ahead.  I trained the Dachshund on a scratch and sniff Easter Egg book and promised her half of the take.  Easter will be scent-sational!


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Checking Out

This morning, as my head was sinking toward my desk with a no-sleep hangover and I was trying to figure out a way to booby trap the door to discourage walk-in traffic, I thought back to the weekend.  After a 3-day conference, my husband and I checked out of the hotel and, driven to the brink of angst, Captain Courteous stopped to register a complaint at the desk.

“I need to talk to someone.”

“Yes, sir?”  Winning smile.  “Can I help you?”

“Yes.  It has come to our attention that everyone here is nice.”

The two desk clerks exchanged a look. “Yes, sir?”

“I want to know what you plan to do about it.”


“Yes. Every person in every shop, in every restaurant, even the bus drivers and the TSA at the airport for God’s sake. They were all nice.  I’d like to file a report.”

“You want me to report the entire city?”

“Yes. Do I need to fill out a form?”

Furtive glances to see if we were packing inappropriate weaponry such as soft drinks with high levels of sugar and caffeine. “Why don’t you give me your room number?” 


“Got it.”  If they also had protective services on speed dial, they weren’t letting on.

“Let’s get this straight. You are upsetting all my stereotypes. We’re from the South. We’re supposed to be the nice ones.  Yet everyone here has been positively cordial. ” At this point he was plastered to the counter like a rash on a weekend camper and his voice began to crack.

“Yes, sir. You seem. . .intense yourself.”

The Mullises display Southern charm

“Well, yes. We try to keep a positive attitude.”

“Yes, sir. It shows.”

“So. What do you do if you have a bad day? Hold the door open for an old lady?”

“Not exactly.”

“So what then?”

The clerk leaned forward with a conspiratorial air.  We leaned in to discover their secret.

“We find somebody having a worse day and try to make it better.”

“Well, if you don’t want to tell us, just say so.” He turned away.
"Have a safe trip!"
"Now you're just rubbing it in." 

I followed him to the door and looked back just in time to see the two clerks bump fists and make an imaginary tally mark in the air.

Well played, Ohio. Well played.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Make My Day

I first posted this column in November of 2007 when I embarked on an ill-fated mission to buy a pair of blue pants at the mall. This weekend, against admonishments from the fashion police, I tried it again. . .with similar results. From now on, I'm wearing sweatpants everywhere.

Due to a recent flurry of incidental gunplay at the mall, there’s a new policy calling for youth under 18 to be chaperoned on the weekends while conducting the teenage business of flirting and attempted murder. The idea is to cut down on youthful shenanigans and gangland activity. I’m sure the mall management people mean well and have every intention of securing the safety and happiness of the great community of man, early Christmas shoppers, and vacationing tourists with large amounts of traveler’s checks. The trouble is that they’re policing the wrong group.

They need to keep their electronic eye on people like me.

If I have to try on one more pair of black latex hip hugger pants, they’re gonna have a lot more than warring gang members to contend with. I didn’t bear the regulation two children to be confronted with sixteen racks of clothes designed to show not only my stretch marks, but my emergency C-Section, and the scar from the unfortunate hot burrito incident.

And since when are hipbones considered fashion accessories? I’d like a little warmth around the navel base now that winter is on the way. When there’s a frost warning, I want to worry about my plants, not my pants. And at this point in life, my love handles are far too similar to bungee cords to be considered cute.

I know they make clothes for mature women, clothes where coordinating trousers (with clever under-the-armpit fit) and tops hang together conveniently to allow for ease of selection. When the women in my community visit the mall, they come home with shopping bags full of the same outfits. When they get together, it looks like league bowling night at the Star Lanes. I’m not quite ready for polyester pull-ups. All I ask for is a pair of pants that doesn’t make my behind look like a levee.

So the bright minds at the mall had better think a little more about the ammunition they’re selling instead of the fire power that’s coming in the door, because the next time I’m confronted with 72 tiny pairs of jeans with pockets the size of age spots, I just might lose my control panel.

And Mallers, unless you want trouble, don’t even think about starting swimsuit season early. I don’t want to see an ocean-going outfit until I get the pumpkin pie off my thighs. But if you’re feeling lucky, go ahead. Make my day.


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Gonna Fly Now (The Tickets are Nonrefundable)

*This first ran when I contemplated hopping across a few states to drop in to the Erma Bombeck Writer's Workshop.  But now, as the saying goes, the tickets are nonrefundable.)

I’m contemplating taking a trip.  It doesn’t look that far on the map.  A few states up, maybe a little to the left, give or take a few fast food restaurants and a national monument or two, but stopping short of making a pass over scary bodies of water if you don’t count the restrooms on the Interstate.

But I’d have to fly.  I’m not afraid of flying; I did it in quite a carefree manner before I got married.

In 1982.

Thirty years ago we didn’t have to take our shoes off to get permission to board the plane.  As a matter of fact, we didn’t have to take ANYTHING off to board the plane.  We checked our luggage for free and got clever little bags of peanuts for a snack at naptime.  It was better than kindergarten.

The nice people at the gate set my pocketbook on a little conveyor that ran through a box that looked like a tiny carwash without the water or me screaming where nobody could hear me, and sent me on my way.  They figured out I had no money or authentic signed Elvis photographs and wished me well.  We parted as friends.

These days I’ve heard so many horror stories, I’m afraid to approach the airport without hiring Chuck Norris to serve as my personal bodyguard.  If I can’t get Chuck, I could make do with my husband before he's had his morning coffee. But that seems cruel, although not unusual.

I’m not afraid of flying, I’m afraid of TSA.

I’ve heard ugly stories about patdowns, and I don’t want to get my Spanx in a wad over how much Preparation H I’m bringing on board. Beauty pageant contestants use it to tighten the skin on their assets and I might need more than the allowed amount to look my best.

Also, I have trouble with shoes.  Sure, it’s no problem to kick off my orthopedic oxfords in the spirit of goodwill to protect our national safety, but at my age it could take the entire Olympic gymnastics team and a couple of off duty Air Marshals to get them on again.  Here agility is the key.  Even terrorists can’t increase flexibility in something that hasn’t exceeded a twenty-five degree angle in 35 years.  These hips don’t lie.

All in all I’m a trooper about anything that will keep folks safe.  But the fluid limitation is going to be a problem. Everyone is allowed a quart-sized carry-on baggie to hold personal items totaling no more than 3.4 ounces of fluid. I’m 54 years old.  I retain more water than that when I brush my teeth.

And if I’m going to have to bend over to tie my shoes, somebody needs to be holding something larger than a quart-sized baggie.

Those Interstate restrooms are looking better all the time.


Sunday, March 30, 2014


Pets are good for a heart-warming snuggle when you want to thread all the world through the backyard chipper, for sharing their body heat when you stay in to watch a movie on a cold winter’s night, and for the destruction of your Great-aunt Betsy’s heirloom comforter. 

If you make your selection carefully and pick a dog or cat with say, claws and fur, you’ll find they are capable of widespread mayhem and do not limit themselves to the linens.

Take my Karastan, for instance, and you are welcome to take it if you have a vacuum with enough force to suck Superman from flight.  This rug, when blue, coordinates all the colors in my living room with the quiet confidence of a designer’s touch.  However, it is only blue on alternate full moons after the third Tuesday following the equinox.  Any other time it is a cunning mixture of yellow Labrador and calico housecat, which, in my experience, coordinates with nothing at all. 
On the positive side, I can track anyone in the house by their footprints through the fur.

Lately, I’ve given up on grooming the carpet in favor of an all-out effort on the couch.  It’s a sleeper couch in the true sense of the word. I secured it for the unlikely price of “I can afford it” from a local consignment shop.  It doesn’t fold out into a clever but uncomfortable shape that’s supposed to be a bed, but is the sort of couch that pulls you into the depths of its cushions like grandmother snuggling you in her arms and lulling you to sleep even when you’re supposed to be occupied with something important like watching Oprah.

Add one Diva Dachshund.

As a member of the privileged set, Lady Lucy views the couch as her personal domain.  She polices the boundaries and attendant pillows with vigor and errant claws, producing pulls and loops in the loose weave suitable for making Velcro or hanging myself. In a flash of brilliance, I solved the problem by cutting the loose strings.  And discovered an important fact.

Looseweave fibers are not much for teamwork.  Now the couch is unraveling at the rate of speed usually reserved for mating porpoises. 

In this case, I’m afraid we’re faced with long division instead of multiplication.

I hate to see the after-math.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Designer Dud

“What color is that – toxic waste?”

My Son, who shall remain numberless because I promised not to tell people I was wearing his clothes, was not happy with his prize, a T-Shirt earned in a promotion at work. On the other hand, Son Number Two wouldn’t notice the shade of his shirt if you attached dollar values to the color wheel.

I held up the offending cotton blend.  “I kind of like it.  That neon green color is in style.”

I got the Eyeroll Plus Package in return.  A complete 360 with accompanying snorts and retching sounds. I also got the shirt.

“You’re sure you don’t want it?”  This is not a guy who wears designer clothes. His fashion choices vary with what’s at the top of the pile that day.  Meanwhile, I was planning to hit my Zumba workout where it hurts with new workout duds.

“It’s horrible.”

“So you’re offering me this shirt? With no conditions? Is this the same kid who wanted to change schools because I came to the office wearing his old gym shorts?”

“That was different. I wore those shorts.”

“I had to park three blocks away to pick you up the rest of the year because I wore used clothes?”  I looked down at my jeans.  I operate on the theory that washing jeans too often breaks down their unnatural fibers.

“Do you want the shirt or not? I don’t have all day.”  

What’s so urgent?  Is he planning for early retirement? Negotiating a stock trade?  I know from experience he’s gonna spend the next twelve hours with a video game controller in his hand saving mankind from zombies.  It’s his mission and he takes it seriously.

Also, he’s discovered he can still eat snack cakes with one hand while he’s saving the world.  The executives at the Ho Ho factory were relieved to find that out.

I claimed the shirt, retreated to my room with my prize, and started searching dresser drawers.

Wonder where I packed away those gym shorts.