Saturday, April 30, 2005

Mother Nature

Okay, am I the only one wondering if Mother Nature has possibly turned menopausal in the past ten months? We've had hurricanes, flooding, hail, and the worst round of severe thunderstorms I can ever remember. Whether in Tennessee or Florida, I'm constantly getting slammed with freakish weather.

I went camping with my college roommate and her family once (years ago) when her mom was going through menopause. Believe me, that pissy mood is something you'll never forget and I recognize the symptoms in Mother Nature.

Quite frankly, I'm getting tired of brushing my teeth with Neutrogena Hand Cream and putting Colgate Simply White on my hands during power outages at night. In the dark, I can't figure out which is which. I once tried to discern what was in my hand by smelling the tube, but ended up with a blob of toothpaste up my nose. So much for depth perception.

The only upside to the situation is that my credit card purchases to have gone down considerably in the last couple of months. I can't get through the book currently on my nightstand!

Pee Pup will have to go on Prozac if all these thunderboomers don't cease and desist soon. We were huddling under the covers until 1:00 a.m. last night and 3:00 a.m. the night before. Believe me, at 3:00 a.m., I didn't like his breath and he didn't like mine, but every time we came up for fresh air another bolt of lightning would strike somewhere close enough to make our hair crackle. I'm worn out, I tell ya!

Even during the morning hours, I'm getting so skittish that I've burned my forehead with a curling iron twice in as many days. I think/hope I have plenty of hair to cover up the damage. Heaven knows, I don't want anyone to mistake the burn marks for ringworm or something. They hurt like heck and I feel like a fool for being such a scairdy cat. {{{sigh}}}

I'm going to spend the morning putting ice on my forehead and looking in the attic for my grandmother's oil lamp. I'll spend the afternoon taking a nap and separating the toothpaste from the hand creme. Maybe tonight I'll go out on a limb and reset all the clocks, the alarm, the microwave, the oven, the VCR and DVD, and the coffeemaker...again.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Can the Spam!

I opened up my e-mail today and spent the first five minutes deleting all the spam it contained.

First on the list was e-mail from – over two million condoms snipped. Interesting, I thought. Why would anyone want a “snipped” condom, even if it is free?

As I did a double take, and looked for my glasses, I realized the advertisement had used poor judgment in fonts. It actually read, “Over two million condoms shipped.” I suppose it is more comforting to know they were shipped instead of snipped.

Next came two e-mails from different sources guaranteeing to enlarge my penis by 2 ½ inches. That is certainly quite a trick considering I don’t have one. Despite the fact that we’re in the age of “Sex & The City,” my girlfriends and I never even privately discuss enlargement options for our significant other, much less solicit information about it on the Internet. (Although we do occasionally bring up topics that pertain to a future nip, tuck or suck. -- hey, hey, we were talking liposuction!)

I have never in my life visited a pornographic website and I’ve definitely never requested information on how to enlarge an appendage I don’t have. In fact, I don’t personally know anyone who needs penis enlargement, but then I’ve led a sheltered life.

Even as I write this article I hear my computer signaling with the frequency of a Las Vegas slot machine that new mail is arriving.

Ding! I may have won a trip to Canyon Ranch Spa.
Ding! Buy a house while rates are still low.
Ding! Receive a free Glucose Meter.
Ding! Get relief from heartburn
Ding! Five chances to win up to $25 million dollars!
Ding! Click to see pictures of beautiful singles in my area that are looking for Love & Romance?
Ding! Receive free respiratory medication
Ding! Honest Home Business FREE!
Ding! Debt pushing you into a corner? Don’t run! We’ll help.
Ding! Oh look! More free condoms!

Penis enlargement and free condoms are not exactly the subject material I ever considered for an article, but this is getting crazy! In another couple of years I will be able to get a french manicure and a bikini wax in the amount of time it will take me to delete and block all the spam in my in-box. The problem is that no matter how many I block, they seem to reproduce like bunnies, and my in-box runneth over.

Considering my non-confrontational personality and my desire to be more aggressive, at this point I might be compelled to respond to an e-mail that provides a money-back guarantee to help me develop some balls. Especially if it gives me the courage to become an activist in the fight against spam.

I’m certain the only way I’ll ever have balls, however, is if a friend of mine, Credit Manager for the company where I once worked, wills hers to me. She displayed a beautiful brass pair on her desk before things like that became politically incorrect. By the time she removed them, it didn’t matter anyway. Customers with bad credit were convinced she had real ones.

How is it that with today’s technology they have developed a bath scale designed to store, recall, and display weight history and body fat for up to four users during any selected date or time period up to 2 years, while displaying time, date, and room temperature, BUT they still can’t keep all the spam out of my in-box?

Okay, maybe that wasn’t a good comparison. But, an article in Digital Living Today recently discussed home automation schemes that use the electrical wiring in your house as a ready-made communications network. Our appliances could talk to each other!

Here are a few examples they cited: “the alarm clock in your bedroom can alert the coffee maker in the kitchen that you've finally stopped whacking the snooze button and are actually ready for your morning caffeine IV drip to start. Or the bread machine can pop up an alert on the computer in the den to tell you that your Onion Cheese bread is ready and waiting to be slathered with butter while it's still hot. Or the bathroom scale can feed its data into your health and exercise software on your PC (and perhaps pop up notices telling you to lay off all the homemade bread).”

My point is, if we are at a stage where technology allows our appliances to talk to each other, why can’t they teach my computer to halt spammers at the portal entry with a polite notification, “My owner doesn’t have a penis/heartburn/respiratory problems/diabetes/credit problems. Now go away!” Is that too much to ask?

I understand that there are programs available to block spam, but I am indignant to think I should have to pay out the wazoo for such service. I pay enough each year just for virus protection…shipped, not snipped.

While I sometimes think our government is over-legislating, this is one time I am ready for them to step in like Marshall Dillon for a showdown. My favorite proposal before Congress is "Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act,” introduced in the Senate in April by Senators Conrad Burns (R-MT) and Ron Wyden (D-OR). It hopes to regulate unsolicited commercial e-mail or spam and is fondly known as the CAN-SPAM bill. Don’t you just love those witty acronyms?

In the meantime I will continue blocking all the spam that comes my way, one e-mail after another. Oh! Wait! I have an e-mail just in from Luciano Beach! He wants to “add an average couple of inches” to that thing I don’t have! He “guarantees genuine lasting results”! Really, Luciano?

I wistfully think back to a time when the only SPAM I tried to avoid was served up for lunch by my Aunt Martha Lou and came out of a blue metal container. Sometimes she’d let me keep the little metal key that came attached to the bottom of the can, used to facilitate opening it. At least she didn’t pile up two dozen servings at a time on my plate, unlike the amount of spam I see each time I visit my in-box.

I have two fears in writing this article. First, I’m terrified that in years to come anyone who types penis enlargement into their search engine will come up with an article bearing my name. Second, and even worse now that I think of it, is the fear my mother discovers I’ve written an article containing the word “penis.” I’m too old to have my mouth washed out with soap, right?

Hmmm...I wonder if mother still uses Ivory?

Monday, April 18, 2005

The Handyman

When I was a child, my parents called on John’Emry for just about any project that required tools. Little did we know that John’Emry was like an old dinosaur, one of the last of a dying breed. He could fix a squeaky floor, a leaky faucet or a leaky roof. He could figure out what was wrong with your car and bring you a load of firewood on his way over to tinker with the engine. He could clean out your flue, bush-hog the empty lot next door, and get the garbage disposal working. If your mantle clock stopped, he would take it home and have it back the next week keeping perfect time.

The only problem with John’Emry was that he talked a lot and he talked real slow. You didn’t want to ask him too many questions because frost would be in the forecast before he finished answering. But if John’Emry told you he was going to show up to do something, by doggies, he’d be there when he said he was going to be and he would figure out a solution to the problem at hand.

I vaguely remember my mother mentioning that John’Emry was a second cousin once removed, or something like that. At the grown-up age of ten, puzzling over a second cousin who had been removed made my head hurt. Even now I’m not really sure what it means.

Nowadays, you can pick up a local newspaper and find ads for a variety of handymen. Or, you can generally find a bulletin board at the local hardware or home improvement store covered with business cards of those willing to invest a few dollars to have their name, number and a thirty year old photo of themselves printed on card stock. But, like choosing candy from a Whitman Sampler, as Forrest Gump’s momma told him, “You never know what you’re gonna git.”

It didn’t take long after I grew up and moved away from my small hometown and John’Emry to realize being related may have been the secret to finding a handyman who would stick with the job. If an uncle or a cousin doesn’t show up, you know where to find them and if they do a bad job, your daddy knows where to find them. Now, twenty years and a dozen homes later, I’m still looking for a good handyman. The last few months have produced the worst results of all.

One of my first lessons was never to hire a handyman who shows up wearing a tee shirt or a hat that proclaims “I’d rather be fishing.” He’s telling you the truth. Jim Bob sounded half-asleep when I called him one rainy afternoon, but he showed up bright and early the next morning to see what all I wanted done. Behind his red Ford pick-up truck he was towing a snappy looking 17 1/2’ long Pro-Craft bass boat and a Mercury outboard motor.

I’ve never seen a man look at his watch as much as Jim Bob did that morning while we went over my to-do list. I should have known that he’d be out the door to the bait shop before the ink was dry on the check I gave him for supplies. Worse, I soon realized, he would not return until he ran out of worms or crickets or fishing tournaments or …my money.

It was a week before Jim Bob reappeared to drop off the supplies in my driveway. He had an errand to run, but swore he’d be right back to get started after lunch. The last I saw of Jim Bob was the tail end of that bass boat and a slightly dinged-up prop.

Bye-bye, Jim Bob.

The next handyman I hired was Bubba Templeton…a UT football fan if ever there was one. There ought to be an ordinance against anyone wearing that much orange on a daily basis. Bitsy, the sister of the subdivision’s developer, had recommended Bubba highly. Unfortunately, Miss Bitsy, who sidelined as an interior decorator, neglected to tell me that she and Bubba liked to play a little tackle on the side.

Every evening, just about the time Bubba was finally working up a good sweat on one of my projects, his cell phone would ring. Never mind that he was generally in mid-task and there was a hole in my wall, a household emergency invariably beckoned him. It didn’t take a brain surgeon to figure out that Bubba was pulling his truck around the corner and sneaking in Miss Bitsy’s back door. All that darned orange, plus a trail of Marlboro brown-filter cigarette butts, was a dead giveaway.

Bye-bye, Bubba.

Since Bubba left behind several holes in the drywall and a substantial hole in the kitchen ceiling where a size 13 shoe had plunged through, I was hard-pressed to find another handyman as soon as possible. Luckily, I discovered a newspaper ad that day which sounded promising: Little Joe’s Home and Plumbing Repairs.

“Leaks, Creaks, Ceiling Fans & Painting Too!
There’s almost nothing Little Joe can’t do.
He’ll save you money & change your cares,
By fixing whatever with Home & Plumbing Repairs.”

The photo in the paper showed a blonde, curly-haired, forty-something man with a lopsided grin and a twinkle in his right eye – literally. It’s amazing what they can do with PhotoShop these days. I only hoped his work was better than that of his copywriter.

Little Joe turned out not to be so little and he’d ridden a lot of miles since a forty-something birthday. When he knocked on my door it took all my manners to stifle a case of the giggles and a suggestion that he switch his name to Hoss. Little Joe quickly explained that he’d been stuck with the nickname when he was born prematurely, weighing in at only 2 lbs. Obviously he had been eating ever since.

I really thought I was on the right track with Little Joe for a while. He had a touch of Irish in him and was generous with laughter. His mustache was just long enough to hide a few missing teeth and he listed to the right when he walked, due to knee replacement surgery the year before. The best things about Little Joe was that he seemed to be good-hearted, dependable, honest, and he never minded when Pee Pup jumped all over him for attention.

That week we progressed through my list of projects at a reasonable rate despite the fact that Little Joe moved slowly. He hung pictures and my cue stick holder in the bonus room, installed an extra phone line in the garage, and laid additional plywood in the walk-out attic.

One afternoon I was unpacking a few boxes in the kitchen when I heard Little Joe slowly shifting his weight down the stairs on his good leg. He called out, “It’s mighty hot up in that attic, Miss DJ. Can I get a glass of cold water from you?”

“Why, sure, Little Joe,” I yelled back up at him and grabbed a glass out of the cabinet.

When I turned around, I did a double take at the sight of Little Joe. In place of the flannel shirt he’d been wearing that morning, he now wore a faded teal green muscle shirt, a size too small. With a gleam in his eye and a snaggletoothed grin, he reached for the glass of water in my outstretched hand, which froze in mid-air.

My resistant eyes were drawn as if to a train wreck toward tufts of graying hair playing peek-a-boo around the tiny tight tee. Little Joe rested one elbow on the kitchen bar and proceeded to casually flex portions of his upper body while he sipped on his glass of ice water. The results of his flexing, however, were probably not what his mind’s eye envisioned. Instead of pecs and ‘ceps popping, the skin on his arms and upper chest gathered up and down like the Bali shades in my dining room.

I have no memory of what we discussed in the next five minutes – the longest five minutes of my life. All I could think was that Little Joe must have been watching late night reruns of Bonanza. And now, here in front of me, stood one old stud that needed to be put out to pasture on the Ponderosa.

Bye-bye, Little Joe.

I ran across a wonderful thing on the Internet last night. There’s a community college offering a series of courses this Spring called Ms. Fix-it: Basic Home Repair for Women.

“Do you feel helpless when confronted with a home repair? Each session teaches you how to fix common household problems, easily and safely.”

I love the idea that I have a choice between Sec. 201 - Power Tools; Sec. 202 - Carpentry; Sec. 203 - Plumbing; and Sec. 204 –Electricity, instead of a choice between Jim Bob, Bubba or Little Joe. I might have to start out slow, but the possibilities are endless.

Heck, I might even spring for a muscle shirt.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

A Day in Paradise

Ahhhh...Spring in Paradise! The sound of flip-flops fill the air and Cobia boats run up and down the coastline. The smell of strong coffee and coconut oil drift by on an early morning breeze by the pool. How did I get so lucky???

Friday, April 15, 2005

Beauty and the Beach

It really is discouraging to meet someone only slightly younger than you, who looks twice as good. Arrgghh.

Shortly after moving into Portofino, I met the lady who lives in the condo directly below me. (Uh oh…there goes the late night parties and flamenco dancing.) Nancy and I have a host of things in common and she’s the sweetest thing since shortbread. There’s just one tiny problem. She has the firm body of a thirty-something and looks fantastic. Trust me, on a bad-hair, bloated-body day, that issue can put a slightly envious crimp in friendship between women.

I mean, who wants to go to the beach with Ms. Cutie Pie when you look like the Pillsbury Doughgirl next to her. It’s not that I’m quite that bad, but combine a little extra padding with my Scots-Irish complexion, throw in a swimsuit for good measure, and I’m overwhelmed with the fear of looking like rising bread dough wrapped in twine.

It didn’t take long for me to discover Nancy’s secret for looking toned and fit. The concept was so unique that I was stunned at the simplicity of it. The secret: she works out!

One morning I called Nancy just as she was headed out the door to the Lifestyle Center at Portofino for a workout called “Ab Attack.” Hmmm…I was just heading over to Sailor’s Grill in Navarre Beach for a luscious Sticky Bun.

The next morning Nancy was headed for the “Muscle Works” program. Okay, I thought, perhaps I should go to The Market for some apples and bananas.

Then, I learned Nancy had gone to the Spinning class!

Let me tell you, Spinning has nothing to with grandma’s old wheel in the attic or late night disc jockeys. Spinning is an indoor cycling program that separates the girls from the women, pushing you to pedal 100 mph, causing your legs to turn into rubber, leaving your tush so sore that you can’t sit down, and eventually working up calluses where I’m convinced no woman should have them.

Oh, did I mention that right before you pass out from exhaustion at the end of the class you will have burned off approximately one zillion calories or so during the session? It pays off, but it’s such hard work. Describing it alone burns off a couple hundred calories.

I truly admire my neighbor’s dedication to all the workouts. It’s just that…well…I keep hoping for beauty and fitness through osmosis. My problem is that every time I see something advertised that I really like, I totally project myself into it and can imagine, albeit incorrectly, just how wonderful that style, that color, that swimsuit, that haircut would look on me.

Well, puhlease, it’s time to get real. It is time to admit that acquiring a product will not magically transform me into the next Miss Universe, no matter now much I’d love to believe it.

If only I had a dollar for every workout video or fitness magazine I’ve bought, thinking my body could look like that of the girl on the cover. It might actually happen, of course, if I tried USING the tapes and magazines instead of moving them around when I dust.

If only I had a dollar for every outfit I bought thinking how sophisticated or how perfectly resort casual I’d appear in it.

If only I had a dollar for every compact, tube or bottle of makeup or hair product I bought with a dream that my skin could be dewy and flawless as Isabella Rossellini’s; my hair full and shiny as Cindy Crawford’s; my eyes as gorgeous as those of Rebecca Rojmin.

If only I had a dollar for every traumatic attempt to find the perfect bathing suit (an oxymoron for sure) which would transform me into a goddess running in slow motion along the surf, a la Bo Derek. Yeah, right.

And finally, if only I had a dollar – make that $100 -- for every disastrous hairstyle I’ve adopted after watching a new movie or reading the latest issue of W magazine. The Julia Roberts haircut I tried years ago left me looking more like Howard Stern; the Meg Ryan cut left me looking like Tina Turner after a rough night at the Thunderdome. And then there was the cute pixie cut that left me looking like a cross between Little Orphan Annie and a reddish-blonde Brillo pad once the island breeze had its way with me.

There are people who believe in UFOs, those who believe Elvis is still alive, and some who believe pets go to heaven -- they do, don’t they? I personally cling to the hope that someday technology will get us to a point where I can purchase Buns of Titanium and come out of the store with a tush like that of J.Lo.

Unfortunately, at this point in time Edgar Cayce is the only person I recall who claimed he acquired anything by osmosis. He fell asleep on his schoolbooks and woke up knowing all his spelling words. Well, yippee for him. I’m waiting for the day I can fall asleep on one of my 54 workout tapes and wake up with the body of Kathy Ireland.

Every girl has the right to dream of walking along the sugar white sands of Pensacola Beach, confident and radiant in her beauty. Some remote part of our female brain comes complete with an internal fantasy screen in which short girls envision themselves with long lean legs that go all the way to heaven. Girls with thin, limp hair see themselves with long, lush locks that make the world stop in awe for a nanosecond each time the ocean breeze blows soft tendrils of hair around her face like soft kisses. We see our skin sun-kissed and moist from sea spray while we hear soundbites of the Girl from Ipanema playing in our head, “tall and tan and young and lovely, the girl from Ipanema goes walking and when she passes, each guy she passes goes…ahhhhhh.”

And then someone invariably toots their horn behind us, a signal that the light turned green halfway through our fantasy which was triggered, of course, by a great little bikini in the window at Alvin’s Island. In the real world, I left bikinis behind shortly after I got out of diapers – a long, long, long time ago.

So, I vow right now to change my ways and diligently work toward my goal of inner and outward beauty.

I shall ignore those glossy magazine ads full of beauty products and false promises. YES!

I shall walk straight by the sales pitch coming from the girl at the Lancome counter at Dillard’s. YES!

I shall reject infommercials that claim I’ll drop 10 lbs in twenty minutes if I am the first caller. YES!

I shall put my ABBA disk in the CD player and clean house to the tune of Dancing Queen! YES!

I shall turn my back on the hope of beauty by osmosis, working hard to follow Nancy’s example, class after class, as she cheers me on to become toned and buff! YES! YES!

Oh yeah, I’m psyched! I’m ready to go! I’m heading right out to that Spinning class, darn it … right after I drive 13 miles east and turn left for a big ol’ Sticky Bun. YES!

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Southern Dyscomfort

I am an only child, but I have sixty-one first cousins.

I’ve made that statement so many times in my life that I recently started wondering, “Gee, is that really true or have I said it so often I now think it’s true?”

Ordinarily I wouldn’t be pressed to double-check the numbers, but after closing on the condo in Pensacola Beach a couple of years ago, I had a flurry of calls from relatives I haven’t seen or heard from in years. It must be due to the ancient, but highly efficient Trilogy Communication System: telephone, telegraph, tell-a-cuz. Word can spread like wildfire through the bunch of ‘em. But when second and third cousins twice removed started calling, I figured it was time to make a list of the family tree.

There were 15 children on my mother’s side of the family; seven on daddy’s. It took half an hour to get all their names (with spouses) on paper and spaced out adequately to start listing cousins. Considering some of my parents' siblings married more than once and started second families, I was thankful to have a long hallway and a full roll of parchment paper to complete my task.

At the end of the day, daunted by a scribbled mess down the hallway before me, I threw in the towel and called my mother for assistance. Though I had to wade through way too much info, I listened to mother’s recitation of family trees and a few family shrubs, jotted down names and made significant progress. Suddenly, however, everything disintegrated into a family version of Abbott and Costello’s “Who’s On First.” And it was all because of Uncle Gordon.

Uncle Gordon, mother’s brother, was also called Al by the family. I always called him “Uncle Gordon” as a child, but he went north for a few years and came back as Al. I’m not sure if this was a matter of putting his past behind him and trying for a fresh start or simply a southern thing he had going on. Anything is possible, and in families like ours it is sometimes best not to ask too many questions. I know that Grandma got tired of naming babies at some point and, after a string of boys, started doling out initials for a while. The story I heard was that she figured they could come up with something on their own when they got old enough. Hence, there was Uncle J.D., who chose James David, and Uncle G.T., who chose George Thomas. Stands to reason that Uncle Gordon/Al could have begun as G.A.

Uncle Gordon/Al was quite a ladies’ man and a real piece of work. Every time his name was mentioned, I heard the term “wild oats” or “black sheep” close behind. He was a handsome man with an easy laugh and a wink that made you a conspirator in no time flat. No one stayed mad at him for long.

One day Uncle Gordon/Al came home and surprised everyone with a bride named Thelma. Soon they started a family, beginning with a healthy son they named Larry. Next came a daughter they named Judy. Unfortunately, however, this union didn’t last past Cousin Judy and Uncle Gordon/Al moved on to greener pastures.

It was no surprise that this ladies’ man quickly found another woman to be his wife, but how on earth he found another Thelma is beyond me. The day we realized things might be a little odd was the day Thelma II gave birth to their first son and they named him {{{drum roll}}}… Larry!

Uncle Gordon/Al had a bit of a drinking problem, so I secretly had a hunch his duplication of names helped keep him out of trouble somehow. I kept quiet and acted like everything was normal, just like everyone one else did. But things got downright bizarre when Thelma II had a baby girl and they named her … {{{drum roll}}}…Thelma Lee! [Gotcha! You thought I was going to say Judy, didn’t you?]

Uncle Gordon/Al continued to keep things strange, but simple, as he went through life. Although he couldn't keep his marriage with Thelma II together either, he was able to find a wife #3 named {{{drum roll}}} ... JUDY!

Are you are now confused as I was growing up? Family reunions were, in the words of Yogi Berra, "déjà vu, all over again."

Unfortunately, I was sick and unable to attend Uncle Gordon/Al's funeral a few years ago, but I heard the family receiving line at his gravesite was memorable. Thelma... Thelma... Thelma Lee... Larry... Larry... Judy... Judy. Mel Tillis would have been there all night.

A few years ago I had an epiphany when I realized we are normal if we have a dysfunctional family. At various times, my friends and I have gone through depression or heartache due to family squabbles, financial, legal, and medical problems, and even a few minor scandals thrown in for good measure. Sometimes it was a problem with children, sometimes a parent, occasionally a brother or sister, and, of course, the ever-popular in-laws. Each of us took a turn at the pity pool and each of us felt our embarrassing situation du jour was unique, certain we were viewed by the world as failures in our melodramatic moments.

The day it all became clear was when one friend, sobbing about her particular family crisis, was interrupted by another friend declaring, “Oh, honey, that’s nothing! Listen to THIS!” and started her own tale of woe. Suddenly the weight of the world lifted from my shoulders as I realized little but the names changed in each situation throughout the years. And there we sat, crying, comforting, commiserating, and laughing as we tried to top each other with our family eccentricities. Their families were just as dysfunctional as mine! We weren’t abnormal…we were the norm.

But back to family, my mother is very excited because four of her sisters are coming down to spend a few days at the beach with her next month. They've never spent a week in such close quarters since their childhood when five or more would sleep horizontally in each bed. I've expressed my concern whether they will all come home with a full head of hair. Being an only child, I’m frequently bewildered at the way they interact. Some fight, some are peacemakers, some get their feelings hurt and sulk, some are loud and opinionated, others become quiet martyrs, some fuss about the way others are reacting and end up starting collateral arguments.... WHEW! There are definite benefits to being an only child.

By the way, it’s official; I really do have sixty-one first cousins. One thing for certain, if they ever find out I’ve written about them, I will be dead meat. My name will definitely be mud…or maybe Thelma!

Remnants of Ivan Posted by Hello

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

To wax or not to wax: that is the question.

My apologies to Shakespeare, but life has changed dramatically since Hamlet’s famous Soliloquy. In today’s society, waxing is a big decision for some. Several months ago, when Arnold Schwarzenegger announced he was going to run for Governor of California, he said it was the biggest decision he had made since getting a bikini wax in 1978. A bikini wax, Arnold? Say it ain’t so! Am I that far behind the times?

Having hair removed from sensitive parts of my body--torn out by the roots, actually--did not appeal to me. Just thinking about the process sent me running for an Advil. Yet, despite the pain involved, I noticed a growing trend among co-workers, friends, and cousins to wax on a regular basis.

The first time I realized how effective waxing could be was when my cousin Phyllis showed up for Christmas dinner with two distinct eyebrows. The whole family sat mesmerized throughout the evening as her left eyebrow arched up and down gracefully as if manipulated by a master puppeteer. Almost as intriguing was the fact that her right eyebrow, though unanchored for the first time since puberty, remained frozen in place.

Phyllis’s eyebrows were the most dramatic change I had seen since Uncle Jewell got dentures several years ago. Children ran screaming to their mothers each time he pushed the oversized teeth out of his mouth, past his lips, clacking them together loudly each time a youngster came near. Awed by the brow transformation, however, my female cousins forgot about teeth of Christmas past and huddled to discuss the merits of waxing.

After Christmas that year I began to take notice of co-workers scheduling eyebrow waxes during their lunch hour. My ears perked up as friends discussed appointments at upscale salons where they had peach fuzz removed from their upper lip between highlights and deep conditioning or scheduling a bikini wax before heading to the beach.

“Well, yeah. It hurts,” they all said, “but it’s a quick pain.”

“Oh great,” I replied, “that’s only a glowing recommendation if you’re Marquis de Sade.”

Consequently, fear of the unknown and a low pain threshold kept me from exploring the issue of waxing any further until recently.

While struggling to stay awake through a Chessmaster tutorial late one evening, my attention wandered to a television advertisement for the Ding King Car Dent Remover. Giving my brain a break from Chess Tactics and Positions 101, I watched and listened to the pitch man go through a dent removal process that sounded remarkably like waxing. First, he applied glue to a dent-pulling tab and quickly applied it to the center of a dent, letting it cool briefly. Then, with a quick tug of a special device, he pulled a small dent out of his car door.

“Geez,” I thought, “if the Ding King Car Dent Remover can remove dents from my car, I wonder if waxing could pop cellulite dents out of my thighs”?

It was one thing to try waxing for hair removal, but if there was an added benefit of dent removal from my thighs…well, that called for major re-evaluation. And that is when I decided to try waxing.

The next day I summoned up courage to call a local (and reputable) day spa. I didn’t want to sound totally naïve, but I had a long list of questions:

Is waxing done in a soundproof room in case I scream?

On a scale of 1 to 10, how bad is the pain?

Do you offer anesthesia, pain medication, liquor, or a nail to bite on?

What parts of the body do you wax?

Do you wax my body part from the same pot you waxed the last person’s body part?

How long does hair have to be for good results? Will I look like an anthropological study before my hair is long enough to wax?

Are there any side effects of waxing? [I was hoping for cellulite reduction]

When the owner of the salon finally had enough of my questioning, she graciously told me to come on in and give it a try. If, after the first strip of wax was ripped from my skin, I felt the pain was too intense, we would stop the process and credit the fee toward another salon procedure. That sounded reasonable to me and I booked an appointment for a full leg waxing.

I spent a few unpleasant weeks while the hair on my legs grew long enough to wax. It was especially uncomfortable when a special night out called for panty hose. With one-quarter inch razor stubble on my legs, it felt like I was pulling them on over a pubescent porcupine. I definitely understood why cats don’t like their fur rubbed backwards.

Three weeks later, following instructions to limit my caffeine that morning (it heightens sensitivity) and to take an Ibuprofen half an hour before arrival (staying “ahead of the pain”), I made my hairy-legged arrival at the spa. There, Angela, my aesthetician, showed me through a door, down a long hallway, and past a suite of rooms. In hushed tones, she pointed out that each was designed for a unique spa purpose, with an accompanying motif and decorated appropriately with hand-painted murals, fountains, lit candles, and soft, soothing music.

As we stopped at a door marked “Waxing,” Angela stood back for me to enter. None of the Grecian, Caribbean or Egyptian themes for me; the mural ahead depicted a wide expanse of desert, punctuated with patches of prickly cactus that bore a remarkable resemblance to my legs. Someone certainly had a sense of humor.

Angela left the room while I got undressed, handing me a petite cellophane package containing a disposable bikini on her way out and instructing me to get under the sheet she’d left on the table.

“Oh, Lord,” I thought as I hiked up the one-size-fits-most, paper bikini and situated myself on the table, “I look like a Sumo wrestler reject!”

When Angela returned and began stirring a sleek crockpot of greenish goo, I immediately started another barrage of questions and nervous chatter to distract myself. In no time, however, I became so caught up in the wild and raucous stories she confidentially shared (translated: no names) that I totally forgot to yell when she began ripping rows of 200 or 300 hairs off my legs.

The half-hour or so on the waxing table was not nearly as bad as I feared. “Well, yeah,” I smiled sweetly when Angela inquired, “it hurt, but it was a quick pain.”

I thought for sure that I would look like a version of Edvard Munch’s painting, The Scream, when I left the waxing room. Not so, but my legs looked like those of a child with a full-blown case of the measles. They had neglected to tell me that each spot where a hair was ripped out would be identified by a tiny scarlet pinpoint...miniature badges of courage.

I was cautioned not to take a hot shower within the next few hours and definitely no sun exposure that day; no Bath & Body Works perfumed salts, no exfoliation, not even Bitter Apple to keep Pee Pup from licking my legs. By tomorrow, following instructions, I was assured the “measles” would be gone…and they were. In fact, despite their denial that waxing reduces cellulite, I’d swear the cottage cheese on my thighs looked briefly like ricotta.

The next morning, my legs were sleek and smooth, nary a red spot in sight. I was very pleased with the results of my first waxing; though it still seems a bit odd not to reach for my fabulous triple-bladed Venus razor each morning. I even booked another waxing in six weeks, though I think I’ll forego the underarm, Brazilian, or Hollywood waxes.

Oh, but the stories I could tell you.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Hear No Weevil

The other morning I sat at the breakfast table, eating my eggs and toast, reading the morning paper, while the television provided its ever-present background noise. Suddenly I was startled as a snippet of dialogue from an ad on TV wiggled its way to the front of my brain. A gentleman was confessing to the world that he and his wife maintain their health by taking a leak every day. Say WHAT?

I quickly looked up to see if perhaps it was a commercial sponsored by the American Urological Association. Instead, I watched a handsome older man lovingly drape his arm around his wife while they promoted a product called Garlique, which they take every day to maintain a healthy life and healthy heart.

At first I was relieved that daytime television had not become quite so crude as I feared, but then, even more worrisome, I began to wonder, when did my ears get so old?

Although island living is bringing about some changes in my life, I can’t blame all my misheard conversations on the sounds of surf, construction noises, and island breezes that turn my ears into mini wind tunnels. I have, however, learned to keep my mouth shut unless I’m absolutely certain about what was said to me.

I was recently embarrassed to discover I had mistaken a friend’s plan to visit Jiffy Lube one afternoon for an “enhancement” trip to a plastic surgeon. When I ran into her the following week, I noted to myself that she certainly didn’t get her money’s worth, in my opinion, despite the fact she said she had a coupon. It wasn’t until I tactfully asked about her surgery, and she returned from changing her underwear after 5 minutes of uncontrollable laughing, that she explained she’d had a lube job, not a boob job.

On the bright side, though it leads to quite a bit of confusion, mishearing makes life much more amusing. Between my father and I, we can go back and forth on a subject for twenty minutes or more before we finally give up, neither of us sure what the other was trying to say.

A prime example was daddy’s first trip to Peg Leg Pete’s a few months ago for his birthday.

“Would you like to try Peg Leg Pete’s tonight, daddy?”

“Peg Leg Pigs?”

“No, daddy, Peg Leg Pete’s. It’s a good restaurant.”

“Peg Leg Peeps?”

“No, daddy, I said PEG LEG PETE’S.”

“Well, I don’t know, I’ve never seen one.”


In Tennessee any menu that offers fish generally gives you a choice of fried catfish or fried catfish, unless, however, you find a restaurant that imports fish from the Bucksnort Trout Ranch in West Tennessee. Peg Leg Pete’s, on the other hand, offered fish specials that immediately made daddy suspicious.

“One of our specials tonight is grilled Wahoo,” the friendly waitress offered.

“Yah Hoo?” asked daddy, looking totally confused because he knew darn well that Yahoo was mother’s Internet home page.

“And we have Mahi Mahi,” the waitress continued.

“Mighty, mighty?”

As daddy got more frustrated, I sadly glimpsed a life full of Yahoo and Mighty-Mighty waiting just around the corner for me considering the state of my own hearing.

“And we also have oysters,” said the waitress who finally decided to back off the fish menu and try another tact.

The mention of oysters immediately banished all of daddy’s doubt and confusion. “No, no. I don’t want no oysters. The last time I had them I vahmucked for three days!”

“Daddy! Too much information,” I whispered across the table as the waitress decided to give us time to think about our order and quickly headed to the opposite end of the restaurant looking slightly nauseated herself.

“Well, I did! This old boy and me were over in Raleigh, North Carolina several years back and he said I had to try them raw oysters. I didn’t want to, but I’d had ‘em deep fried and golden up at the old Dinty Moore’s restaurant back home and liked ‘em, so I said okay. I’d try me some”

“What happened,” I asked. “Did you get bad oysters?”

“Noooooo. He ordered up a big ol’ platter and sucked ‘em down and ordered some for me. I didn’t like ‘em too well, but I was eatin’ ‘em to be nice. Then this ol’ girl came over and brought him another plate of those things. I happened to look up and saw her and she had this bad eye that looked like it was turned around backwards and all filmed over. I looked at that eye and looked back at them oysters. Hoooooooeeee. I leaned over and asked him real quiet like if he saw her eye. He said “Yeah,” and kept on slurping down them oysters.

“Well, let me tell you, I got so sick that I vahmucked for three days and I ain’t had an oyster since.”

By the end of daddy’s tale, tears were rolling down my cheeks from laughing so hard. Ironically, and I swear on any waiter working at Peg Leg Pete’s that night, two tables behind us sat a lady with an eye patch over her left eye, grinning up a storm as she slurped down her oysters.

Daddy eventually ordered the fried grouper and I had the grilled Mighty-Mighty…I mean Mahi Mahi. And we talked about his birthday present to himself that day, a Golden Age Passport that he bought at Ft. Pickens for ten dollars, which gives him a lifetime entrance pass to national parks, and all the fishing he can handle.

It was a good day.

“So, daddy, do you want to stop by Sidelines and see what they’ve got for dessert?”

“Sign vines?”

“No, SIDELINES, daddy. It’s a sports bar.”

“Well I don’t want to go to no bar.”


Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Mystic Tan

I am a melanin-challenged, Scots-Irish girl. Of my 61 first cousins, approximately 95% of us were able to amuse ourselves on rainy days by playing connect-the-dot with our freckles. In winter we would watch with delight as our freckles faded, only to have our spirits dashed when they returned with a vengeance in spring. Summer vacations in Florida brought us dreams of coming home looking like a Malibu Barbie, when in reality we’d come back looking like Howdy Doody’s little sister or brother. Instead of filling in the blanks with a glorious suntan, our freckles simply multiplied like Tribbles on the Starship Enterprise. Grandma would shake her head and say, "Girl, you can’t change a leopard’s spots, and you can’t get rid of them freckles." {sigh}

But oh, how times have changed.

On a cold, dreary day in Tennessee last March, I stood in front of the mirror sipping my coffee, gearing up for the day, still switched to autopilot as I applied makeup and indulged in daydreams of an upcoming trip to Pensacola Beach. The television was tuned in to Good Morning America, but it provided little more than background noise for my Florida reveries until something the reporter said snagged a corner of my subconscious. Had I heard correctly? Had technology finally caught up with my Malibu Barbie dreams?

My attention was immediately riveted to the television as I watched a new self-tanning technique called Mystic Tan, that works like a carwash and transforms the most lily-white bodies to a golden brown in less than two minutes. This was amazing! This could be life altering! Hello Grandma, this girl’s changing her spots!

The Yellow Pages and I became best friends that day as my fingers walked mile after mile in search of a tanning salon offering Mystic Tan, touted as the official tan of the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders. I was delighted to find a salon nearby which could deliver my dream just in time for a trip to the beach.

I wasn’t surprised upon arriving for my appointment to discover two girls behind the counter with glorious manes of sun-streaked hair and the most perfect golden skin imaginable, nary a freckle in sight. I was impressed when they seated me in a well-decorated side room to watch a brief video that showed the necessary steps to attain my "highest level of satisfaction." Just five minutes later, I signed up for a three-visit package and headed off for my turn in the "carwash."

Inside a closet-size room, I disrobed, donned a disposable shower cap, and smoothed what was labeled "barrier cream" on my feet and palms. Then I stepped into a private booth, pushed a red button, and waited for the procedure to begin.

A cold brown mist abruptly began spewing from every direction and I momentarily felt like the proverbial deer in the headlights, totally forgetting instructions to close my eyes and hold my breath. Polarized particles of solution took on the characteristics of tiny magnets, attaching themselves to my skin. Unfortunately, they also attached like tiny magnets to the contacts in my widened eyes leaving me temporarily, and quite literally, in a fog. Regaining my composure, I squeezed my eyes shut and held my breath just in time for the spraying to stop as suddenly as it began.

Thinking the process was over, I started to open the door of my booth when I remembered that it was time to turn around for side two. I barely had time to assume the position – and shut my eyes – when the spraying resumed. Thankfully the whole thing was over within a matter of seconds and I hastily exited the booth, damp and shivering, but confident my dream had been realized.

I toweled off and dressed, then headed for home, after being cautioned not to shower for 6 – 8 hours in order for the solution to completely work its magic. Each traffic light gave me a chance to admire my beautiful new tan, which had been promised to darken as the day progressed.

The first hint I had that my Mystic Tan expectations may have been set too high was the cautious reception of my 3 year old Shih Tzu as I walked into the house. His tiny nose went into overdrive as he circled me warily, which started me thinking that I too had smelled something a little funky on the way home. It was rather disheartening to consider that the source could be me.

Getting out the Mystic Tan brochure and scanning through it, I came upon a note that stated, "…some customers have commented that they noticed a "starchy" smell on their skin for a brief period right after tanning, but it is usually not noticeable to others around them." Hmmmm…tell that to the dog. Although it has been a long time since I used starch in my clothes, I don’t remember it ever smelled like I did at that moment.

I busied myself with housework until shower time arrived. I noticed it helped to keep moving and stay upwind, so to speak. Poor pooch seemed to agree and watched me from afar. Then, as I walked past a bathroom mirror, something unusual caught my eye. I edged closer to the mirror, checking the back of my legs and wondering what on earth I’d leaned up against. There were thin, dark brown stripes running down the back of each leg from my knees to my ankles. From the back of my mind echoed those inauspicious words, "Houston, we have a problem."

Ignoring the admonition not to get wet for 6 – 8 hours, I dampened a cloth and scrubbed at a stripe. Although the cloth came away looking rather dirty, the stripe showed little sign of fading. The brochure had said nothing about stripes!

I put in an emergency call to my Mystic Tan salon and discovered that I had obviously failed to properly dry the back of my legs. "No problem," the girl said, "just soak a Q-tip in bleach and run it carefully down the stripe. It will come right off." BLEACH???

After an evening of detailing my legs with bleach-soaked Q-tips, I fell into a restless sleep filled with dreams of leopards and zebras being ridden by enormous freckles that sprouted arms and legs.

The following morning I optimistically bounced from bed and hurried to the mirror to see the final results of my store-bought tan. I can truthfully say they far surpassed my expectations. While my face was indeed as golden brown as a fresh batch of taffy, a headband width of pale skin with a reverse widow’s peak was lopsidedly displayed below my hairline. I’d obviously positioned my shower cap improperly during the tanning process.

My hand flew to my open mouth, stifling a gasp at my samurai-wannabe appearance, immediately exposing lovely brown cuticles that framed each fingernail on my hand. Nervously, I looked down at my legs, discovering thin white stripes running knee to ankle. The bleach had obviously worked. My shoulders sagged as my gaze came to rest on my feet. Stunned at a sight for which there are no words, I slowly sat down and began to reevaluate my position on evolution.

It would take more than a bad tan to put a damper on my trip to the beach, so with a positive attitude and a lot of exfoliation I headed south that weekend, a sun hat pulled low on my brow and tall hiking boots covering my feet. Only my brown-knuckled hands, which clutched the steering wheel, exposed me as a Malibu Barbie that definitely would have been consigned to a discount store shelf.

Somewhere around Birmingham I finally admitted that Grandma was probably right. Leopards can’t change their spots and though I covered my freckles, I picked up a few stripes along the way.

If, one day, you notice a melanin-challenged, Scots-Irish girl cheerfully walking the Gulf Islands National Seashore wearing a sun hat and tall hiking boots, sporting brown (or white) stripes on her calves, please be kind. While I may look odd, it’s as close as I’ll ever come to being a Malibu Barbie … and I have two visits left for a Mystic Tan.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Swimsuit Blues

While icy weather descended over the South recently, another cold reality seeped deep into my bones, making me shiver with dread. As I marked off each day on my new calendar, I began to notice how quickly we are marching toward Spring and a time that strikes fear in the heart of most women. Swimsuit season!

Now you know why Janet Leigh was really screaming in that shower scene. She only had a few months to get back in shape before hitting the beach.

In my case, it is time to pay penance for the quality control taste testing of my homemade Christmas candies last year. During the holidays I felt my waistband constrict ever more tightly with each Martha Washington crème, Peanut Butter ball, Rum ball, Almond Joy, and Bailey’s Irish Crème fudge that sneaked its way into my mouth. When I came close to sugar overdose, I switched to test my spicy toasted pecans, champagne pecans, and cinnamon sugar pecans. Nothing but the best in quality control for my kitchen.

The situation wasn’t helped when one friend forbade me to lead her down the path of temptation with my scrumptious, but calorie-laden goodies. Consequently, each night I would slowly drift toward her solitary Christmas tin left sitting on the kitchen counter. It beckoned me like a lost ship to a lighthouse.

As I struggled for will power, night after night, the ending was never rewritten. My fingers became Pandora’s as they plied open the lid of that tin. As the smell of sweet dark chocolate escaped and surrounded me, I was hopelessly lost to my own private addiction. A Lo Mein noodle showed more spine than I did in those moments.

The day of reckoning arrived when I finally picked up my holiday photos at Wal-Mart. It was a true come-to-Jesus-wake-up-call. I thumbed through the prints and saw jowls forming on my chipmunk cheeks, noting the classic "I’ll hide my midriff bulge with folded arms" pose. As if on cue, I heard the Eagles break into their classic song on the radio, "You can’t hide your widening thighs and your coat’s a thin disguise."

It was time to lock myself in the bathroom and force myself to step on the scales. It should also be the time to pull out the measuring tape, but a girl can only take so much punishment. It was humiliating enough trying on a couple of my summer dresses last week and have to admit it would take Scarlett O’Hara’s mammy pulling corset strings to squeeze me into them.
I have even forgone lingerie for thermal underwear at night lately. While I told myself it was the frigid temperature, in truth it was the fear of looking like rising bread dough wrapped in twine that dissuaded me.

So here we are, a home-run slide past the first day of Spring, and in the corner of my closet I see three one-piece swimsuits cowering behind the sweaters. The first is black, the second is black, and the third is navy blue. "It’s okay," I commiserated with them as I hitched my slacks to get a bit more breathing room, "I scare myself too."

Let me confess that my ideal swimsuit would be a flesh colored wet suit, superimposed with one of those knock-out bodies shown in the Islander’s Beach Babe of the Week feature. Only maybe not showing quite so much flesh, if you get my drift.

Aeronautical engineers, privy to space age technology, should be helping us out of this swimsuit dilemma. Surely they know how to shore up the sagging, suck in the pooching, round out the ridges, and smooth out the bumps and bulges. Instead, we are offered designs that highlight our weaknesses in neon colors. Some swimsuits plunge so low or ride so high that the only way to keep private things private would be a healthy portion of toupee tape.
Our salvation from the discomfiture of swimsuits is the Pareo, that beautiful Tahitian cover up. The irritating part is that I can never get it tied around myself to look like it does in the drawings that come attached. Then again, maybe that’s why they show the styles via drawings instead of on models. Perhaps the models couldn’t get them tied properly either.

Generally, any attempt on my part to look sophisticated fails and I resort to simply tying the Pareo around my neck like a saronged island girl, letting it flow gracefully around my ankles. Be warned, however, that this may cause a graceless, Chevy Chase type pratfall if a sudden wind shift whips a yard or more of material in and around your thighs. It certainly inhibits any attempt to stride confidently around the pool. But, by doggies, you will be covered on your way down.

Ah, but when I stretch out on a chaise lounge with my Pareo, how lovely. Whether silk or polyester, fringed or plain, animal print or matched to the color of a Caribbean sunset, I know my flaws can be covered and I can let it all out hang out underneath.

I’ve promised myself to call Bodies Under Construction next week and start my workouts again. The comforting thing is that although I can’t fit into last year’s cute little gym suit, I’ll be camouflaged like dozens of other ladies just like me in their own cover-ups or over-sized tee shirts and sweatpants, waiting in line for the treadmill.

I wonder if that Pareo would work?

Saturday, April 02, 2005

A Dog's Life on Pensacola Beach Posted by Hello

Pee Pup goes Condo

The light of my life is affectionately known as Pee Pup. Five pounds of Shih Tzu and five pounds of hair, he’s an adorable three-year old canine dust mop.

Until now, Pee Pup and I have enjoyed private, leisurely walks around our home in Tennessee whenever he gets “that look” in his eye and starts staring at the door. Now that we’ve closed on our condo and are soon packing up to head south, I realize things are about to change for both of us.

But how do you go about converting a country dog into a condo dog?

When recently explaining some of the rather embarrassing, but necessary new potty practices we must adopt in Pensacola Beach, Pee Pup solemnly listened, cocked his tiny head and responded, “Ruf!” Considering I will be called upon for poop patrol at least two or three times a day under the keen and watchful eyes of neighbors, it will be rough indeed. Pee Pup’s going public!

It didn’t take long to realize that neither Ms. Manners, Martha Stewart, nor Hints from Heloise cover such indelicate issues as poop patrol etiquette, though I’m sure there are dog owners among them. Consequently, I went to the Internet to research how other dog owners living in high-rises handle the situation of cleaning up after their beloved pets while retaining a few threads of dignity in the process.

Instead of “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Making Friends while Shoveling Poop,” my search engine resulted in a variety of advertisements for the clean-up equipment. There are Pooper Scoopers and Super Duper Pooper Scoopers, Grabber Dooley Doo Scoops and something called a Scissors Scoop.

For those less squeamish, I found fragranced Pooch Poo Pick-up Bags. Just slip your hand in the bag and …well, you get the drift. It’s difficult envisioning myself making friends when my new neighbors realize the real reason I am, how shall I say, brown-bagging it in the mornings.

I found Pooper Scoopers proclaimed to be “specifically designed” for concrete or grass or lawns, though I’m still trying to figure out the difference between grass and lawn. Unfortunately, I didn’t notice any tools specifically designed for sand.

Speaking of tools, one advertisement rather boldly promised to provide “the right tool for the stool.”

I also discovered, rather shockingly, that there are some city folk living in high-rises who skip walks in the park and the indignity of public cleanup after Fido, opting instead to litterbox train their canine family member. Yes, you heard me right, litterbox train your dogs! Perhaps it might work for a dog like Pee Pup, but it certainly wouldn’t work for a Labrador Retriever or a Great Dane unless you’re willing to turn a bathtub over to the process.

Can you just imagine the look on Pee Pup’s face the first time I returned from the store and instead of offering him a cute doggie toy, I offered up a box of dusty, gray-granuled kitty litter? Puhlease!

At least my neighbors will be pleased to know I will never take Pee Pup to the beach. Aside from the fact there is a $500 fine for having a dog on the beach, I would never let those little paws be scorched by the heat of summer sand; I’d never let him be shark bait while running in the surf or stung by a stranded jellyfish; and I don’t even want to think of what saltwater would do to those five pounds of hair! By gosh, though, he’d be a doll in a tiny pair of sunglasses, wearing a Jimmy Buffet baby tee and strolling the shoreline with attitude.

Speaking of hair, the thought of being seen with tousled hair and no make-up at 6:00 a.m. frightens me only slightly less than it will frighten the people who see me in such a state. Yet how long can poor Pee Pup keep his tiny legs crossed while I drag myself out of bed in the wee hours of the morning and get down 20 floors to the closest dog walk? Hint: I’ll be the lady in the elevator wearing sunglasses, a trench coat and a slouchy-brimmed hat at 5:30 a.m. Hopefully someone will mistake me for Garbo, instead of a bag lady.

The first thing that has to change is Pee Pup’s nickname. After all, what would the neighbors think if they heard me referring to him as “Pee Pup”? And what would we call him when he’s older? Pee Dawg? No, Pee Pup is formally “PJ” now. That’s fairly close to what he’s been hearing and much less embarrassing for us both. DJ… PJ… even Daddy can remember that one.

Pee Pup…oops… PJ and I leave for Pensacola Beach soon in a truck filled to the brim with floral arrangements, books, tapes, paintings, comforters, pillows and various other accessories for the condo. Seven hours in a vehicle with a man who listens to me. What more could a girl ask?

I imagine somewhere between Birmingham and Montgomery I’ll admit that PJ gives nary a hoot about who’s watching him during his most private moments. He lives moment to moment, one doggie biscuit to the next, content with tummy scratches at night and a bit of ball-fetching during the day. He has no worries about his appearance and each new person he meets is only a hand-lick away from becoming a friend. That’s more than most of us can say.

So perhaps more accurately my question becomes, “How do you go about converting a country dog owner into a condo dog owner”?


Friday, April 01, 2005

Walkway to paradise Posted by Hello

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

I am SO ready to be a barrier island girl. I’m ready to plant sea oats and save sea turtles. I’m ready to sacrifice myself to brain freeze in search of the best Bushwacker on the island and check the accuracy of statisticians who say we have 343 days of sunny weather annually. I am ready to stake out my personal space within the privacy of the Gulf Islands National Seashore and let the sugar white sands do their exfoliating magic while I watch the market share of Bath & Body Works drop in my absence. I am ready with my Porter Paints Color Selector Chart and its 1199 different colors to help me identify the ever-changing ribbons of water winding through the Gulf, Bay and Sound. Oh yeah, I’m ready.

I recently told a friend that I believe some people are simply born in the wrong place geographically, growing up in hometowns across America where they never quite fit in. Having been born into a rather large extended family of sixty-one first cousins whom, for the most part, never felt an urge to leave the state in which they were born, no one understood my eagerness to move out and on and away. I felt certain, however, that there were other searchers like me, compelled to travel, looking for places their hearts called home.

On a warm December day in 2001, I crossed a bridge and my life changed forever. One moment I was focused on the drive, anxious to reach my destination less than 10 miles away, when suddenly the landscape parted like a curtain and I caught my breath as a panoramic view of Pensacola Bay stretched out before me. Nothing could have prepared me for the beauty of the sun sparkling like diamonds on the Bay that day. As I drove on, approaching the tallest point of the Bay Bridge, I had a sense of being Dorothy as she approached the Emerald City, each moment bringing me closer to something wonderful. It felt like fireworks were getting ready to explode in my chest and for once I knew it wasn’t the Whopper Junior I ate for lunch. As I drove forward across one last peninsula, across one more bridge, I felt my destination becoming my destiny. And then, it happened. As the last bridge fell behind me and an endless horizon stretched before me, an internal homing device long buried in my heart finally triggered all of my senses to whisper in unison, “You’re home.”

There are still obstacles to overcome in relocating to my new home, but each day brings me closer. After years of hearing others talk about the joys of going home, I finally understand what they meant. It’s just that they think of home and smell freshly baked bread and apple pies; but I think of home and smell salt spray in the air. They think of rolling hills and pasture lands; I think of windswept dunes topped with golden sea oats waving in an island breeze. Poor daddy just can’t understand why I would move so far away. He warned me of sharks and jellyfish and sand fleas and hurricanes. And he warned me just how bad the storm surge must be to wash that Volkswagen Beetle on top of a roof in the Quietwater Beach complex. {sigh}

But I am SO ready to be a barrier island girl. I’m ready to scout out any extra buttons Geronimo may have left behind for me at Ft. Pickens. I’m ready to check out which of Peg Leg Pete’s legs are wooden and expose to the world how he lost it. I’m ready to become a builder of sandcastles. I’m ready to sit on the pier and listen to fishing stories. I’m ready to gaze in wonder for hours at those agile and beautiful young surfers who eagerly watch for a perfect wave at daybreak and twilight, day after day. But unlike Dorothy, this girl’s ready to trade in her ruby slippers for sandals and say goodbye to her yellow brick road. I’ve found home at last and I am SO ready!