Dirty Little Secrets

I got a package a few days before Mothers Day. The box said Whole Foods.  I couldn’t wait to taste whatever was inside. The best part was that no one was home so I didn’t have to share. I ripped the box open and there, nestled inside, was a bag of dirt. I got dirt for Mother’s Day. The package said it was full of nutrients but I certainly wasn’t going to taste it.

Someone is really cleaning up in the dirt department. Selling small packages of dirt must be the new trend. I wonder how much my garden dirt would cost by the cup. 

Target was the first store to dig into the dirt profits. Half a cup of packaged dirt for three dollars. Is Whole Foods is trying to scoop them? When I first saw Target selling dirt I wondered, who on earth would be dumb enough to buy dirt. Now I know—my youngest son.

I wasn’t sure how I felt about getting dirt for Mother’s Day. It was embarrassing. It is hard to brag to your friends that you got dirt for Mother’s Day. Normally Mom’s get flowers in their dirt. 

Believe it or not there was a bright side to this whole story. Two days later the box I opened was full of succulents to plant inside the dirt.  However, I was left to wonder. WHY WOULD HE SEND DIRT! Does he not remember that I have seven gardens plots overflowing with dirt.  I could actually hike the 30 feet and dig up free dirt for the plants.

My son prides himself on his intelligence and his frugality. This is the boy who would not spend a dime on anything, not even new clothes, when he was growing up.  He wore his pants until they were shredded and then he would gather up the shreds and tie them up below his knees.  Now he’s throwing his money away to send dirt through the mail.

I hope you all had a wonderful Mothers Day with no dirty little secrets.


How To Microwave A 25 Pound Turkey
I received this alarming text from my daughter Briana the other day. " Mom how do you microwave a twenty five pound turkey? "

"Briana you DO NOT microwave a turkey?"

"Why not?"               

"What is wrong with your head?"

"Gerald got a turkey for free and defrosted it and wants me to cook it.  We want to eat it right away."

"Briana, Thanksgiving is only a week away. You will be sick of turkey?"

"Mom, it’s Gerald, I’m cooking it now."

"Briana, you are in charge of bringing pickles  for dinner. DO NOT microwave them."

Turns out I was the real turkey here. The butt of a joke my children think is hilarious. Apparently if you don’t already know, innocent, unsuspecting mothers all over America are receiving this alarming text.  Allow me give you a little history that made this seem like a perfectly reasonable question from my youngest daughter.

Briana is a culinary illiterate.  She was i6 the first time she made a cake. It was from a cake mix.  In less than five minutes she was calling me into the kitchen for help.  I could not imagine her problem. The instructions were clearly written and illustrated, on the back of the box.  But I am the lucky mother of a truly exceptional child.  She put all the ingredients into the box and could not figure out how to fit the egg beater into the box mix it up.

If Briana has peculiar cooking habits but Gerald's concept of eating is equally strange. They cook one thing and eat it until it is completly gone.  He brought home a 45 pound ham for just the two of them. I don’t know how many weeks they ate on that thing but I’m pretty sure it included ham smoothies for breakfast and ham infused hot chocolate for snacks.

However strange all this may be, I am happy that my sweet grandson will not be dining on a pasty, microwaved turkey for his first Thanksgiving.


Tonight I told my daughter Kristjana that I might write a blog from her perspective.

"How are you going to do that?" She asked.  "You don't know my point of view." 

I gave her my half smile and a look that says, "You foolish, foolish foolish girl. I am your mother, after all."

Kristjana is a standup comedian. She signed with Comedy Central last year but she has not decided how serious she is about this new venture. To her it is something she just likes to do for fun and to meet guys. She is secretive about her performances because she does not want us there, and I know why. She uses our family as fodder. Let's take a perfectly innocent, normal, real life situation and view it now from Kristjana's point of view.

A few weeks ago I was looking and calling for Kristjana. I walked downstairs, knocked on the bathroom door then walked in. Kristjana had a towel wrapped around her and was just stepping out of the shower.

"Oh there you are, Kristjana. What are you doing?"

"Mother, I am having breakfast at a sidewalk cafe in Paris. What do you think I am doing?" I am getting out of the shower.  When you walk, uninvited, into the bathroom and you see some one dripping wet, wrapped in a towel, stepping out of the shower, you should not have to ask them what they are doing."

If someone had waltzed in on me comedy would not be what flowed from my mouth.  I knew that comedic material was just oozing out of her. I could just hear her on stage...

....In most families showering is a private affair. It takes place behind closed doors. The person taking the shower generally gets naked. They feel comfortable getting naked because this is the one place they don't expect visitors to come calling.  Apparently this is news to my mother. Nothing is sacred to her. After all she saw me naked as a baby. She gave me my first bath.  News flash mother. A few things have changed over the last 30 years.  My mother walked in  the bathroom the other day while I was dripping wet and obviously just stepping out of the shower.  Does she apologize? Does she say excuse me, or even pretend that it was a mistake? Nope. She looks me square in the eye and asks, "what are you doing?"  Apparently, someone dripping wet and naked is not a big enough hint for her.


I don't know who's idea it was but someone finally realized that since fathers had a very active part in conception, they should be allowed in the delivery room for the big moment and the agonizing hours leading up to it.  Fathers being allowed in the delivery room opened the flood gate for a lot of changes over the years.

When I had my first baby things were simple and my questions were simple. Where is the nearest hospital? Is the baby finally going to come out? What will it be? What will I name it if it does finally arrive. Finally, if it's a boy will I circumcise?  

My two daughters-in law, Kelly and Danae,  and my youngest daughter, Briana each recently had their first baby.  Their choices were endless. How many doctors should I interview? Which hospital should I go to? How soon can I find out what sex it is?  Should I immunize?  Danae and Kelly chose to immunize. Briana--no immunization.  Danae and Kelly chose a doctor.  Briana--a midwife and water birth.  Danae and Kelly chose to let the hospital dispose of the placenta. Briana--she had her own ideas on that subject.

Let's take a moment to discuss placenta disposal.  In my day, we did not eagerly ask the nurse if she would keep our placenta on ice so we could take it home and eat it. If my nurse had politely offered it as an option I may have very impolitely asked Rick to pick it up, throw it in her direction and let her wear it home.  Today  however, it is the new vogue. Briana considered it a rare delicacy that would be yummy and very healthy in a breakfast shake..

Gerald, her husband while happy to be allowed in the delivery room was not so thrilled with the whole placenta parfait. Since he wasn't the one going to eat it however, he reluctantly obliged and toted it to my house where Briana would recuperate.  While I was more than willing to let Briana and my darling little grandson into the house  I was not at all eager to welcome anything else in that had dropped out of her body.

Of course, no one had considered who the artful caver of this delicacy would be. After much loud and vigorous discussion that went like, "GROSS... DON'T LOOK AT ME, ...I AM NOT A SURGEON", Briana finally said she would do it.  Just as she was about to take the plunge Gerald reluctantly manned up. Briana had manned up and had the baby after all. It was the least he could do.

He didn't exactly have any labor  pains during the  chopping process but his nearly digested dinner made several serious attempts at an encore appearance.  Finally, the nastiness was over and all the ice cube trays were in the freezer so they could be conveniently popped into Brianas morning smoothies for several weeks to come. 

Now we come to the one question more important than all the others.

Some time later Kaden, my oldest grandson, asked me if he could use our frozen berries and make a smoothie.  Moments later he called with a question a 17 year old should never have to ask. "Grandma, is this frozen raspberries or is this Auntie Bries placenta?" 


I don’t know another person on the planet as bad at remembering names as me. I can’t use my age as an excuse either.  My first recollection of my incompetency occurred in college. I was so excited for this particular first date.  When I introduced us to my my roommates date, I gushed.  Hi, I’m Mike Moses and this is my date, Jane Still. Total loss of cool. 

Years later I taught a large Sunday School class which included my son and his friends.  Each week I'd  forget some names and would write them on the board so I could  remember them.  One Sunday, after teaching this class for a year, I walked into the classroom and my mind went completely  blank.  I couldn’t recall one name—including that of my son.
Who knows where my mind goes when I meet people and why, two seconds after an introduction, I cannot recall their names.  I am so busy smiling, and thinking of something I like about them, that their name enters some black hole in my brain and disappears.  

Some people practice techniques that are supposed to help. Like this.  Think of the name of the person you just met. Assign that name to something you can relate it to and put it in a silly sentence. Now, does it seem rational to tell someone who can't remember a single name, to change the name you can't remember anyway and then make up and memorize an entire sentence about it?

What if I met someone named Liz and associated her as, Liz the lizard likes leopard leotards. I would probably forget lizard and think,  salamander.   They both soak in the sun. Sammy salamander soaks in the sun, hence Samantha. Even if I did remember the name Liz I would always picture her in leopard leotards. 

If I was required to think all that silly stuff when I met someone for the first time, I would stand there stupidly trying to think of something to think about instead of smiling and saying hello. 

One method I do find effective, when I can't remember a name and don't want to say, "hey you," I come up with a substitute nickname.

"Hey Babe, Cutie, Darlin', or Sweetie.  Hey Stud, or hey Guy are a little more awkward but still better than, hey Whatcherename."  

When I became an author, calling people Babe, Stud, or Cutie just wouldn't cut it when friends asked me to sign their book. I was forced to memorize a different strategy. One that would not make me look like a socially inept freak. 

One day my husband's cousin, I can’t remember his name, approached me with a book that he wanted me to sign. He gave me a big hug and asked me to sign his book.  I smiled and went for my strategy.

“Who do you want me to write it too?”
He gave me an odd look and said. “My wife.”

I gave him a radiant smile.  “How do you spell that?  I want to be sure to get it right." 

He looked at me like my head had turned into a turnip and sprouted horns, and slowly spelled.  S…A…M…
It was one of those, oh where is a 9 point 0 earthquake when you need it.



 I had one simple goal when I woke up Saturday morning; get my eyebrows waxed. To the  average person who gets their grooming done once or twice a month this might seem like a trivial task.  

Personally, however, I don't seem to think about grooming until my annual spring cleaning.  Clean your house, wax your face.  Prune those grasses, shrubs and bushy brows. My problem is that I can never go the same place twice because my neighborhood shops go out of business.  Perhaps the yearly de-forestation of my face is a deal breaker.

Saturday, I was working so I thought about asking some friends where, and if, they get their brows done. "How often to you get your eyebrows waxed?"  “Are you going to get your eyebrows waxed soon?" "Do you wax your eyebrows yourself or have it done?" 

Maybe I was just sensitive because of my own unibrow, but it  didn't matter how I worded it, it sounded bad.  I may as well come out and say. “Hey, you should really think about cleaning up all that scraggly stuff growing where your eyebrows used to be." 

I had an hour before I figured shops would be closing so I decided to drive down the strip on my way home and see if I could find a hair salon. Apparently, the new trend is to ditch the waxing and hone in on the fingernails because every other shop was touting manicures.  Then I remembered  the little shop that had just opened up a few blocks from home, Miranda's

I pulled into the parking lot. They were still open.  I hurried, hoping they would have time to clean me up.  I read the sign on the door.  That's unusual. Why would they need my ID?  I opened my purse to pull out my wallet,  pushed the door open, and stepped inside.

Little boxes of green leafy plants covered the counters.  I didn't ask about eyebrows. I didn't give them a chance to say what I knew they would say.  I simply gave a sick little smile, backed out the door and asked myself.  "What was I smoking."   


I don’t know if my husband starts to feel neglected when I haven’t written anything about him for awhile or if he just gives me good material unintentionally. Thanksgiving is almost here so asked him to pick up a few groceries for me. My list was short and I went over it with him carefully before I sent him out the door, list in hand.

It wasn’t long until I got the expected call. “Jane, you had the list last. You forgot to give it to me. You need to go over it again to make sure I have everything.”

I am certain he left it in the car but until he goes back and finds it, it’s obviously my fault. I rummaged through the garbage where I had thrown my scratch copy—the long list that I had to pare down so he wouldn’t be overwhelmed.

“Parchment paper.” I read.

“I got that.”


“How big of a turkey?”


“How big?”

We have only been buying turkey for about 35 years. We never buy one less than 18 -20 pounds. “Big, hon.”

“I got an 18 pounder. Is that big enough?”

“Yes hon. Now, did you get vanilla ice cream?”

“Oh yeah. The gallon or the good kind?”

I had already told him what kind at least three times when I made the list. “The good kind, hon.”

“Well, I’m not in that aisle yet.”

“Carrots, potatoes, lettuce, apples.” I sighed.

Wait, I got all that except the apples. What kind of apples?”

”The cheapest.”

“I’m in the baking aisle. What did you want there?”

He couldn’t have told me that in the first place! “Icing sugar.”

“Oh, that’s right. You wanted a lot. How much again?”

Hello, we had that conversation too. The man couldn’t remember anything. "Twenty bags. It’s going to go up in price and I want some for storage. Make sure you get the two pound size.”

“They don’t come in two pounds. Lets see…Hytop, oh, here’s the two pound.”

“While you’re in that aisle get five boxes of devil’s food cake mix.”

“There is no devil food. There’s angel food.”

“There is devil’s food. If not, any chocolate cake will do. Just make sure it’s not brownies.”

“Jane, I don’t like chocolate cake. Do you want yellow cake mix?”

NO! I don’t want yellow. I want chocolate!”

“But I don’t like chocolate. Here’s some more angel food.”

“I don’t care if you don’t like chocolate. I have yellow and white and angel. I want chocolate.”

“Oh here it is. Devils food. How many do you want?”

I am now gritting my teeth trying to be patient. “Five.”

“OK, now what do you want?”

“Apples, potatoes, sweet potatoes, cranberries and walnuts.”

“I have the potatoes. How many sweet potatoes do you want?”

“Just one, medium size.”

“How come you want sweet potatoes? I can’t find them. Oh, here’s yam’s. Do you want yams or sweet potatoes.”

“Yams will be fine. Get yams.”

“Do you want two? Oh this ones’ broken I’ll get another one. So two yams?"

I grunt. “Yes.” Then shove a pencil in my mouth and bite down hard.

“Now, what kind of apples did you want? What do you want them for, to eat or to cook?”

I pry the pencil out of my teeth. “We are going to eat them. Get an assortment.”

“What kind?”

“Whatever is cheapest! Did you get the cranberries?”

“Where are the cranberries?”

“Walk to where the lettuce is. They are to the right of the lettuce.”

“What kind? There’s three kinds.”

“The one’s in the bag, Rick.”

“How many do you want? One bag?”

“Yes dear, one bag. Don’t forget the walnuts. Get them in the bulk food section.”

“Do you have any idea how annoying you are to shop for?” Rick said.

It was a good thing I had taken the pencil out of my mouth or I would have choked to death.

“What kind of walnuts do you want—spiced, salted, canned?”

Canned! Canned! Who buys canned walnuts. There are no canned walnuts in the bulk foods. It’s bulk! I’m annoying! I was biting huge chunks of flesh out of my cheeks. “Raw walnuts, about one pound.! Don’t forget the ice cream.”

“The gallon or the good stuff? Oh yeah, the good stuff. Anything else? Janie, are you there?"

“That’s all.” I manage to choke out. I was stuffing Kleenex into my mouth to staunch the flow of blood.

The next day Rick and I had another little conversation. Turns out the list was on the seat of the car, just like I knew it would be. I decided to read my blog to him before I posted it, to see if he could redeem himself in some small way. It was not to be.

“So, now do you see how annoying you were?” I asked after reading my story.

“Jane, you are not specific, you just tell me to pick up a few things.”

Hmmm, perhaps I could have included a map of each aisle in relationship to all the exits.

“Rick, how much more specific can I get than telling you to buy five boxes devils food cake mix.”

“Well, is devils food always chocolate? Can’t it be white like angel food?”
No! Devils food is always chocolate.

I suppose he means me. I am the ridiculous one for not explaining to him that devils food cake mix is chocolate not white. One would think he just got off the boat from China and this was his first trip to an American grocery store.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone and don’t forget--do your own shopping.


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