How to Succeed in a Life of Crime

First, some disclaimers:

  • I am not a criminal nor do I aspire to become a criminal.
  • Committing a crime is, by definition, wrong and should be avoided.
  • I do not encourage, advocate or support anyone’s pursuit of a life of crime.

Last week there was a news story about 3 men who were arrested somewhere in North Carolina on various drug charges, including producing methamphetamines. This, in and of itself, is a frequent occurrence and rather unremarkable, but the devil is in the details.

It seems that late one night, one of the men, “Sonny,” called police from his cell phone because he was lost in the woods. Police located him using the signal from his cell phone. Sonny told police that he and 2 friends were out in the woods investigating paranormal activity. The friends made their way back to their apartment, but somehow Sonny had gotten lost.

The police were suspicious of Sonny’s explanation and upon further investigation they quickly learned that the 3 men had been in the woods producing meth, not ghost hunting. (Kudos to Sonny and his buddies for having the good sense not to be cooking up meth in their apartment.)

I’m hardly an expert on crime and criminals, but I think we can draw a few conclusions from this cautionary tale. If you wish to be a criminal, then:

  • Try not to be too stupid.
  • If you will be committing crimes in the woods in the dead of night, it helps if you are a former Boy Scout or Girl Scout who has earned merit badges for wilderness survival and compass skills.
  • If you will be committing crimes with others, choose people who will not leave you behind to fend for yourself. If you need help during the commission of your crime, try calling your crime buddies instead of the police.
  • Sometimes things don’t go as planned. When coming up with alibis and/or excuses, plausible explanations are generally best. For example, “Officer, I went into the woods to relieve myself because there were no restrooms available,” is a more plausible explanation for your whereabouts than “Yo, dude, Bigfoot chased me into the woods.”  (Politeness counts.)
  • If you believe that investigating paranormal activity is a plausible explanation for anything, consider the possibility that your judgment may be impaired by the meth you are producing.
One of the many exciting alternatives to a life of crime.

One of the many exciting alternatives to a life of crime.

Always remember that crime is a very stressful occupation with a high risk of negative consequences, including incarceration (few people look their best in orange jumpsuits), poor health, lack of stable income, limited opportunities for advancement, negative personal relationships, injury and death.

Finally, consider alternatives to crime — go back to school and learn a marketable skill; make unique craft items and sell them on Etsy; become a real paranormal investigator and get your own reality TV show; become a park ranger so you can enjoy the woods in a more positive manner – really, the possibilities are limited only by your imagination and the degree to which the meth has eaten away your brain.

Be good.

Mama’s Lost Her Mind (please pass the chocolate chips)

My friend, “M,” is a crafter, a serious crafter. A spare bedroom in her house serves as her craft room with an inventory that easily rivals any Michael’s craft store. As you might expect, M follows a lot of crafting websites and blogs.  While perusing one of these blogs recently, M came across something she just had to share with me.

Now, technically, this is not really a craft project. It’s more of a mama’s-lost-her-mind sort of project. What is it? It’s a special treat for the toddler who has successfully achieved the potty training milestone of pooping in the toilet. As I understand it, you simply slice a banana into a toilet shape and toss some chocolate chips in the middle. Yeah.

potty chairLet’s be honest. Your 2 year old will not give a crap (pun intended) if you sculpt a banana into a porcelain throne replica – he or she will simply grab the chocolate chips from the middle and be on his or her merry way.  Maybe the other mommies in the play group will be amused by your creativity, but there’s an equally good chance that they will ooh and ahh to your face, while tsk tsking about your emotional well-being behind your back.

As I recall potty training days (thankfully, they were long ago), I tried using M&M’s to reward successes. They were completely ineffective as a motivational tool, though I enjoyed making sure that they didn’t go to waste by consoling myself with a generous handful of M&M’s for each and every unsuccessful try with the potty. In any event, my children somehow managed to master the skill anyway.

Of course, if you find that this sort of special treat works for your kids, I’m happy for you, ecstatic! My fear, however, is that this will become just another opportunity for over-zealous parents to try and one-up the neighbors. Remember that years ago, kids’ birthday parties featured the basics — pin the tail on the donkey, musical chairs, balloons and a homemade cake. Now, it’s bouncy houses, pony rides, make-overs, custom cakes and blinged out party favors.

So while bananas and chocolate chips seem innocent enough, I will leave it to your imagination to worry about where this could lead. Suffice it to say that if my neighbors install a lemonade spouting fountain in their yard, I’m moving.

Many thanks to M for alerting me to this disturbing trend.

Pass the Sledgehammer

During the past 24 years, we’ve lived in 5 different houses in 4 different states. Cumulatively, I have probably painted several acres worth of rooms, including painting the master bathroom of our present home twice.

Cursed with an awkward layout, wildly floral wallpaper, an abundance of mirrors, and corroding faux brass fixtures, the bathroom/closet area has been screaming for a major renovation since the day we moved in more than 6 years ago.  Sadly, major renovations come with large price tags and considerable disruption, so we’ve opted for the bandaid approach for now.

The first line of attack involved prying off 3 large mirror panels, which had been glued directly to the wall above the bathtub. Along with the mirrors, off came large chunks of drywall. Likewise, the wallpaper had been applied directly to the drywall and it was not going to come off without a fight. (FYI: if you must wallpaper, please, never wallpaper directly over the drywall, unless you have some sort of vendetta against the future owners of your home.)

I’m not much of a fighter nor am I a perfectionist, so I went with the path of least resistance and chose to paint over the wallpaper. After 2 coats of primer, the floral profusion was still visible so I used a dark blue to cover it. Done. No longer would that wild floral pattern, reflected off a multitude of mirrors, make me feel that I was peeing in utter chaos.

Fast forward 5 years – the dark blue walls show every imperfection, are covered with a substantial layer of dust, and make the bathroom feel even smaller than it is. Time for painting bandaid, part 2.  I wanted a warmer, lighter color, but nothing too bright. After careful consideration, I went with a color called “bleached sand.”  Yes, it’s just another name for boring beige, but it seemed about right – not too muddy, not too yellow, not to pinkish.

Last Sunday was painting day. Right from the beginning, the process did not go well. Upon the advice of the helpful woman at the paint counter at our local home improvement store, I bought a brand of paint I had never used before. I had, in fact, bought the worst quality paint I’ve ever used in my life. Faced with crappy paint, I had 2 choices — clean up, put everything away, change my clothes and go back to the store to exchange it, or continue on. I continued on.

Eight hours and two coats of crappy paint later, I was done. I hate it.  The color has a peachy tone to it that I had not detected in the little 2 inch by 2 inch color sample. Coupled with the faux brass fixtures, the bathroom now has the distinct feel of a circa 1982 Florida senior citizen’s condo. It’s a bathroom in which The Golden Girls would feel right at home.  All it needs are aqua hand towels and pastel colored soaps shaped like seashells.

"Hey, who used the last seashell soap?"

“Hey, who used the last seashell soap?”

I’m afraid that one morning I’m going to open my closet and find nothing but an assortment of housecoats and metallic bedroom slippers, along with a set of dentures soaking in a glass full of Polident sitting by the sink; that I’ll run out and have my very brunette hair frosted with platinum highlights; and that I’ll begin teasing it into a poufy helmet of curls that I will cement in place with a cloud of Aqua Net hairspray.

On the plus side, the store gave me a full refund for the crappy paint and I’ve learned my lesson. Sometimes, a bandaid just isn’t enough. Next time, I’ll skip the paintbrush and go right for the sledgehammer.

On the Grid

I’ve always assumed that the major power companies that supply most of us with electricity have impressive high-tech command centers where they monitor the whole power system; where specially trained experts keep careful watch on a huge wall full of digital screens that map out the power grid and alert them when there’s a problem so they can quickly dispatch people to fix it.

I was wrong.

The command center that our power company does not have.

The command center that our power company does not have.

When our power went out yesterday around noon, I wasn’t too concerned. Our occasional power outages rarely last long. When we called and the automated response estimated our power would be back on by 4 p.m., I still wasn’t concerned because they almost always pad those estimates by an hour or two.

When 4 p.m. came and went and we still had no power, I was a little annoyed. I had read the Sunday newspaper, finished a novel and cleaned 2 bathrooms in the dark. The house was getting warmer and I was experiencing uncomfortable cable and internet withdrawal symptoms.

I called the power company again and this time spoke to a live human being. She said they were now estimating that our power would be back on by 8 p.m. I asked her what the problem was. She replied, “A primary line failed and they’re trying to find it.”

Trying to find it? Seriously? There’s no blinking red line on the screen at the command center that indicates where it is? This information did not make me happy.

Still, I was hopeful when the big truck from the power company pulled into our driveway just a short time later. I went out on the porch and inanely asked the power guy, “Are you here to turn my power back on?” He said, “We’re trying!”  I thought I’d suck up by bringing out a couple of bottles of water, despite the fact that all we had were warm bottles of water since the fridge had been without power all afternoon, but before I even made it into the kitchen, the truck was driving away and we were still powerless. That’s their idea of trying?

Perhaps I judged them too quickly though, because 2 more trucks then arrived. This time I was quick with the water bottles, giving me an excuse to find out what was going on. The guy said that an underground line had failed and the only way to locate it was to physically trace through the entire grid, but he assured me that he’d restore power to our house momentarily, and he did. I thanked him and watched as the trucks proceeded up the street to restore power one house at a time.

The command center our power company actually uses.

The command center our power company actually uses.

To all those power guys who spent their entire Sunday, Father’s Day, no less, restoring power throughout our neighborhood, your efforts are greatly appreciated. To the power company, which obviously does not have the command center that I had imagined, is that really the best you can do?


Surely you’ve seen them – those perfectly decorated rooms revealed during the last minute and a half of nearly every HGTV program. Stripped of decades of accumulated ugliness, these rooms have been reconfigured into flowing open layouts, updated with modern lighting and fixtures, painted just the right shade of just the right color, furnished in custom-upholstered splendor, and finished off with an inspired collection of accessories.

It’s those accessories that stand between me and an otherwise perfectly decorated home (well, aside from some major renovations, furniture I don’t hate and a fresh paint job).  I suppose the easy solution is the traditional approach — you know, candles, vases, pottery, stacks of books, photos, pieces of art. On the other hand, you could go with a theme, like a beach theme with starfish, seashells and sand dollars. Or, perhaps you’re inspired by the whimsical, featuring things like brightly painted plaster replicas of deer head and moose antlers.

Ho hum. I am not inspired by any of that and let’s face it, by the time millions of HGTV viewers have latched on to the latest accessory trend and emulated it in their living rooms, it’s already passé.

At long last, however, I have stumbled upon something unique, something I am sure you do not have adorning your mantle or coffee table, something you have not seen displayed on the bookshelves of your neighbors. Thanks to the kind folks at Restoration Hardware, who, several times a year, send me a collection of catalogs bigger than a New York City phone book, even though the only things I’ve ever purchased from them were a set of bath towels and two light fixtures for my front porch, I have discovered an accessory guaranteed to make your home memorable. Behold, the Noses (Set of 7):

“Skillfully reproduced from turn-of-the-century German carnival molds, these theatrical noses are playful expressions of character and are mounted on wood-and-metal museum stands for conversation-starting display.”

Yes, and the full set of Noses can be yours for just $295.

I know what you’re thinking – “man, I’d love to have that set of creepy sort of phallic nose molds in my home, but the price is pretty steep.”

pig snout maskTrue, but you can still use them as inspiration. For instance, create your very own cheap set of noses by digging those old animal nose masks out of the box of Halloween costumes (come on, you know you have a pig snout and that bunny nose with the whiskers SOMEWHERE), hot gluing each mask to a popsicle stick and placing each popsicle stick upright in a blob of clay.

Not a crafter? Have your heart set on the real thing?  Well, consider how useful the Noses could be.  Not only are they a lovely home accessory, you can also place them in key locations around the house, as needed, as subtle reminders of odiferous issues that need to be addressed, e.g., “Johnny, those gym clothes are 6 noses strong – it’s time to do your laundry!” or “Honey, the litter box has hit 5 noses – would you please clean it out already?”

Finally, if you’ve been searching for the perfect gift for that cosmetic surgeon who botched your rhinoplasty, this is it and it’s worth every penny.

Snapshots of a Road Trip

This is NOT my family. We're not blonde and we're not that happy.

This is NOT my family. We’re not blonde and we’re not that happy.

Rumor has it that there are those of you who eagerly anticipate the summer months, that idyllic time of year when you can pile the kids into the car and set off on the open road.

I am not among you.  I like the comforts of home, sleeping in my own bed, controlling my own thermostat, generously squirting my shampoo out of a full size bottle.

I do not enjoy being confined in the car for long periods of time. Perhaps this is because my childhood road trips always involved a large bottle of prescription strength Dramamine and the infamous red bowl that my mother STILL likes to remind me about. Perhaps it’s because on especially long trips (you know, anything longer than an hour and a half), my older sister had the privilege of stretching out across the back seat, while I was relegated to stretching out across the floor of the backseat – back in the ‘60’s, the floor of the back seat had a large hump in the middle, a hump for which no stack of pillows could adequately compensate.

My husband would likely tell you that I hate road trips because I am a very, very bad passenger. I stomp on my imaginary brakes, clutch the door handle with a death grip, and brace myself against the dash for impending collisions even when the nearest vehicle is no bigger than a pencil point a mile up ahead.

My best strategy for road trips, aside from total avoidance, is to do the driving myself, thus minimizing any potential motion sickness and eliminating my heart attack-inducing bad passenger behavior, which brings me to our recent road trip up north to visit family. It’s about a ten hour trek (and yes, I drove it all), from North Carolina through Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and finally, into New Jersey, a journey that you road trip veterans probably breeze through, never even stopping to pee.

Well, we did stop to pee. We stopped often and I’m cool with that. In fact, based on our stops, I wholeheartedly recommend the rest stops along I-81 in Virginia. They were spotlessly clean.  On the other hand, the one New Jersey rest stop we pulled into didn’t even have any bathrooms! Come on, Chris Christie, a rest stop without bathrooms?

Anyway, I wanted to share some highlights of our trip, so here you go:

Most Awkward Moment: It was at one of the lovely Virginia rest stops that my daughter and I entered the restroom, along with an older woman. We were the only 3 people in there and we each entered a stall and went about our business. In mid-stream, the older woman decided to strike up a conversation. “So, where are you headed? Where are you coming from? We’re coming up from Florida, it’s day 2 and we have 600 miles to go…” I didn’t want to be rude, but I didn’t want to encourage further conversation while we were all, uh, occupied.  Awkward.

Stinkiest State: Congratulations, Pennsylvania! Thanks to your miles and miles of farm land, upon which tens of thousands of farms animals graze and poop, you were by far the stinkiest state on our trip.

Most Roadkill: Congratulations again, Pennsylvania! There must’ve been 30 or so dead deer along the highways of Pennsylvania. Yikes!  Bambi should seriously consider relocating.

So Close Yet So Far: After 10 long hours in the car, we were so close. We had made it to New Jersey and were only a few miles from our destination. Only it was rush hour. In New Jersey. Bumper to bumper, we crawled past the last few exits, so close yet so far. I don’t know how people navigate that vehicular nightmare every single day, if not twice a day. I suppose people would flee the state, if only they weren’t stuck in gridlock.

Welcome to the Garden State.

Welcome to the Garden State.

The good news is that we traveled safely, with only intermittent traveler crankiness and no major meltdowns.  We basked in familial love for a couple of days and left before the warm glow could morph into an inferno of tiny irritations. All in all, a good trip.

I’ve Been Pegged

freshlypeggedbadgeI was thrilled when, just a few short weeks after I began blogging in 2011, one of my posts was chosen by the WordPress Powers-that-Be to be featured on the coveted Freshly Pressed page. I was stunned by the hundreds of comments that followed, humbled yet so very proud of my new (fleeting) fame.

When the dust cleared and my head (and my blogging stats) shrank back down to size, I found that among my new followers were some extraordinary bloggers, including the renowned Peg-o-Leg. Among her most notable work is the quintessential post, Walmart, the Musical, a personal favorite of mine.

You can imagine how verklempt (it’s Yiddish, look it up) I was when Peg bestowed upon me the honor of being Freshly Pegged!  Please, head on over and join me at Peg’s place today. Read, mingle, laugh a little – I’ll bring muffins.

To you, Peg, I extend my deepest gratitude and a freshly baked croissant for this honor. You rock.