Friday, July 29, 2011

Why I'm Not a Dermatologist

      Not too long ago, we were at Mom and Dad’s house visiting with my brother, Moose, and his wife Red, my “baby” brother, Wolverine, and his wife Midge.  The Yankee, being the compulsive type, can’t stand to sit and chat.  He has to be doing something so he is usually the dishwasher.  (Mom has this weirdness about what can and cannot go in the non-human dishwasher.  “Bertha, you know those dishwashers destroy dishes”.  “But Mom, dishpan hands destroys hands and I can buy another set of dollar store juice glasses.”  “That’s so wasteful, Bert.”  “So where do you buy new hands, Mom?”)  Anyway, on top of being compulsive, The Yankee is also a bit of a dope in the kitchen.  He can’t make scrambled eggs worth a darn, he thinks sage is the magic herb that delicately enhances everything from seared ahi tuna to fruit cocktail in heavy syrup, and he cuts himself … on absolutely everything.  Broken glass, knife blades, cabinet corners, oven knobs; you name it, it has taken his blood.  This time, it was the blade of Mom’s food processor.  I hear the patented sucking sound of air through clenched teeth and see dishwater fly across the kitchen floor as he leaps for a paper towel.  Since I’m “Mrs. The Yankee”, I know what’s going on without looking but sweet, sensitive Red can’t help but check on him.  “Are you OK?” she asks.  The Yankee pulls back the paper towel and I see the color drain from Red’s face.  “Oh.  Blood.  Wow.” she barely whispers as she slowly makes her way to the floor so she can sit and force herself not to pass out.  “I … I … I just can’t do blood.”  Inhale.  Exhale.  Inhale.  Exhale.  The Yankee would be getting more pleasure out of this display were it not for the gushing geyser in his crumpled paper towel bandage.  I helped him get his finger bandaged up and Moose helped poor little Red make it to the couch before she completely lost consciousness. 

      If you had been a Peeping Tom peering through the window that day, you would have seen a sight too hilarious for words.  Red is an attorney (often paid in pies and lovingly crocheted afghans) who has no problems helping a poor old lady create a will and not leave her life savings to the “Save the Wealthy” charity group.  But you put a drop of blood in front of her, and she faints.  I don’t understand that.  For the record, I do not love blood.  Or blood and guts.  Or blood and gore.  Or anything else gross and bloody.  I just don’t freak out over it.  You chop your foot off with the chainsaw in the back yard, I will throw the detached appendage into a bowl of ice and drive you to the hospital at speeds that would make Mario Andretti admit defeat.  I will sign your cast.  I will bandage your wounds.  I will help you pull out your last baby tooth.  I will clip your stitches for you.  But if you come near me with skin flakes of any kind, I will vacate the premises post-haste.  Dandruff has to be undoubtedly the most horrendous thing on earth.  Red says, “Bertha!  You’re such a goober.  Dandruff is unfortunate but a bloody stub is … is …”  She sits before she gets any dizzier.  I totally disagree.  “No, Red, you’re the goober.  The bloody stub would be considered most unfortunate.  But flakes are just … just …” Now I’m sitting. 

       The Yankee thinks we’ve both lost it. 

      I think my issue started when I was in the first grade.  My dad mowed the grass shirtless in the middle of the summer and, big shock, ended up with wicked sunburn on his back. (Rednecks?  Us?  Surely not!)  He moaned for days while my mom slathered aloe on his back and I stayed as far away from him as I could.  About a week later, his moaning had stopped and he was able to wear shirts again.  I let my guard down and resumed my life as a busy 6-year old.  After a particularly spirited game of hopscotch, I came in the house to get a drink of water.  Walking through the back door, I rounded the corner just in time to see my mom peeling skin off my dad’s back.  There, utterly frozen, sat a shell shocked mini-Bertha on the verge of losing her lunch.  “What’s wrong Bert?” said my mom.  “Come look at your dad’s back!”  I took off running, my head feeling itchy, my stomach feeling queasy, and my brain permanently, eternally, irrevocably etched with the nauseating display I had just witnessed. 

      I relay my reasoning to Red and as she laughs, my mom rounds the corner.  “All this fuss over a little sunburn?!”  Well, Mother, if Valentine’s Day is “all this fuss over a little heart-shaped chalk”, then yes.  Hit the nail on the head there, Ma!
      So you see?  I have a good reason for my phobia/weirdness/nausea.  Red, on the other hand, is just a wimp.

© Bertha Grizzly 2011.  All Rights Reserved.  No duplication or distribution.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Bertha’s Bakers Dozen ™: Questions for the Ages

     No matter your level of intelligence, you have burning questions you would like to ask God when you die.  We all do, whether we admit it or not, and I am certainly not excluded.  Well, Letterman has his ten; Bertha has her Bakers Dozen … and this time, it’s the Questions for the Ages list.  Whether your questions involve the mysteries of peanut butter or the deeper issues of dryer lint and call waiting, each question is valid.  So, here is my list of things I will never understand no matter how long I live:  

13) Why do we accept a level of work performance from our computers that we would NEVER accept from our vehicles?  How many times have I heard, “My computer crashed!” or “This computer is so slow today.” or “That stupid computer ate my entire file!”  Would this be even remotely acceptable from a car?  “My SUV crashed and left me on the side of the road for an hour.” or “My car is so slow today.  It took me 9 hours to get to work this morning.”  or “My car ate everything in the glove compartment!  Lip balm, sour balls, registration … GONE!”  I don’t think so. 
12) Why do the outspoken vegan patrons at my local pizza shop refuse to use a hairbrush?  They’ll wait an extra 20 minutes in their recycled tire shoes, fanny packs, and metal water bottles for a soy cheese pizza.  They’ll ignore the other patrons overtaken by the “scent” of useless lavender deodorant mixed with garlic and B.O.  Yet they’ll stomp their sun-freckled feet and demand that a new, clean pizza cutter be used on their pizza as they will not be purchasing any products contaminated with “the blood of our cloven-hoofed brethren sacrificed at the altar of dirty capitalistic consumerism”.  Yet, for some reason, the idea that hair can actually be smoothed from it’s frizzed-out, cotton candy state totally escapes them.  (I’ve come so close to telling some of them that lard makes a great conditioner.)
11) Why do we sniff the expired milk?  The date stamp on the carton fell somewhere between last Christmas and the Clinton administration.  It’s more like cottage cheese than it is actual milk.  It’s talking back and using profanity.  And yet we still feel the need to take a sniff before we heave and watch it slither its chunky self down the garbage disposal.  
10) Why does sitting on a toilet seat cause the phone to ring?  It happens every time.   
9) Why does someone always serve whatever is going to show up on my shirt?  If I am invited to someone’s home for a meal, the menu is psychically determined by what outfit I have chosen to wear.  If I choose a pastel blouse, the menu will involve red wine and something with dripping tomatoes.  If I wear a stunning ensemble in a slimming black, there will be sticky marshmallow fluff and white napkins with enough lint to keep New Jersey warm for the winter.  
8) Why doesn’t life have background music?  It would be so much easier to plan if I could have a little forewarning about what’s around the next corner.       
7) Why do I always get the booth behind the cat lovers?  I’m trying to eat a quiet lunch and I’m bombarded with over-enthusiastic giggles, a loud voice proudly proclaiming, “Fluff-Fluff left me a decapitated little mouse on my welcome mat this morning”, followed by a chorus of high-pitched “Awww!!!” around the table.  Blecchhhh.
6) Why do men lose weight faster than women?  When women want to lose weight, we can drink our body weight in water every day, walk at lunch, eat nothing fried, park far away from stores on purpose, and end up gaining 4 ounces while men just give up their bi-monthly breath mint and drop weight faster than Obama’s approval rating. 
5) Why do the doors on bathroom stalls open INWARD so that the door is a quarter-inch away from slamming into the front of the toilet?  Buttercup and I have perfected the “stall waltz”.  I help her with her buttons, she flushes, I smash myself against the wall to open the door, she dislodges herself from behind the toilet and leaps over the sanitary disposal on the wall, I partially close the door, she smashes herself against the wall, and then we emerge for a curtsy and a thorough hand washing.  It’s awesome really. 
4) Why do radio stations let locals voice their own commercials?  God love the entrepreneurial spirit, but there are good reasons media professionals exist.  When I was growing up, our town had a rather successful attorney who liked to perform in his own commercials despite an obvious speech impediment.  Every New Year, we were all privy to his commercials: “Pwease don’t dwink and dwive.  Call the waw office of Fwed Bwadwey and we’ll buy you a taxi wide home.”  Lovely gesture?  Yes.  Life-saving program?  Absolutely.  Voice for wadio?  Nope.

3) Why can I not eat at a restaurant without being stalked by a guy who honks his nose into a handkerchief like a foghorn?  I really think I’m cursed.  I’ll be mulling over the menu at the nicest restaurant in town, leisurely sipping my wine, and some wrinkled relic of human antiquity will pull out a handkerchief that came over on the Santa Maria and honk like a goose in heat.  There must be an invisible sign on my back that says, “I wish to be seated next to Admiral Sinusitis … no seriously, make my day.”     
2) Why do they make the wording on bumper stickers smaller than the print in the white pages?  I nearly rear-ended some guy trying to read his bumper sticker only to discover it said, “Meat-free since 2001.”   Grrrr. 
1) Why do people get so worked up over social media posts?  Her post was “We can tell much about a man by his treatment of animals.”  All I said was, “Especially by how long he leaves it on the grill and whether or not he uses defamatory steak sauce,” and she un-friended me.  Go figure.  
© Bertha Grizzly 2011.  All Rights Reserved.  No duplication or distribution.

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Next One

     It’s a precarious perch we writers keep.  Taking our thoughts, our observations, our inner feelings and putting them to words on a screen.  I can’t share an eye roll, a snort, a chuckle, an expression with you so I have to use words.  How will you read those words?  How will you construe what I’m writing?  When I write, “My car is red”, how many dozens of ways can that sentence be interpreted?  I can’t hear the snorts, see the eyes roll, or watch the expression on anyone’s face.  What if they hate it?  What if they love it and expect more but I have nothing else to say … ever?  What if I have writer’s block so fierce it makes me pine for the comfort of constipation? 

     I was working on a post last week when The Yankee walks in the room.  “Working on your column?” he asks.  I wanted to answer with something like, “Well, if I had an editor and this were 1969, yes.”  But I didn’t.  I said, “What do you think of this?”  He patiently waited as I read my post to him, looking more for free proofreading than approval.  As I finished, he paused.  “Soooo … you made a whole column out of our lawn?”  Again, I wanted to say, “If this were 1969, yes.”  But I didn’t.  I just stared at him.  Yes, I made an entire “column” out of our lawn. 

     This is why I hate it when someone says, “So what do you do?”  I have no idea what I do.  If I say, “I’m a writer”, then people want to know where they can buy my books.  If I say, “I have a website”, then people stare at my hips and wonder who on God’s green earth would want to see that on a webcam.  If I say, “I talk about life”, then they assume I’m a motivational speaker and want to know if I’ll donate my time to their next support group meeting in the back room of Lodge #351.  So, you can see how hard it is to really nail down what I do.  I’ve been tempted on a few occasions to say, “I write a column”, but that would seem like I was making fun of The Yankee ... which I do frequently enough as it is. 

     So back to what he was saying before, yes, I made an entire “column” out of our lawn.  And I thought it was pretty good until he made that statement.  It made me pause, re-read it, and realize that no one else would get the same thrill out of wondering aloud if our gosh-awful lawn gnome that I just can’t bear to throw out is responsible for the fact that the darn bulbs we planted never did root.  So, I hit “delete”.  Pretty cool, huh? how I can delete a “column”?!?  (OK, I’ll stop.)  I sighed and said, “Well, I guess I’ll start over.”  Then what he said next really made me stop and think: “There’s always the next one.” 

     The next one?  Does he think I order these posts from a catalog?  No!  They are the fruits of my labor.  The children of my variety show brain.  The reason I bought a laptop in the first place.  What does he mean, “the next one”?  And then it hit me: just like the meatballs I made that one time that didn’t turn out so well.  Just like that movie he picked up out of the bargain bin that made “Out of Africa” look like an Alfred Hitchcock thriller.  Sometimes, you hit and sometimes you miss and this, (insert cringe here), was a miss.  There’s always the next one.  Maybe the next one will get someone thinking.  Maybe the next one will make someone laugh.  Maybe the next one will help some frazzled wife think, “Wow, if The Yankee does that annoying thing and Bertha still loves him, maybe I can make this work.”  Maybe the next one will make the mother of an autistic child forget her stress for a few moments and think, “That felt good to chuckle for a minute”.  You never know because there’s always the next one.  With a few misses comes a few hits.  And that is what I look forward to.  That is what I do. 

     Great.  Now when someone asks me what I do and I say, “I throw hits and misses”, they’ll look at my hips and say, “Bowler, right?”  Oh well.  There’s always the next one.

© Bertha Grizzly 2011.  All Rights Reserved.  No duplication or distribution.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Why I'm Not a Psychiatrist

     It’s an age-old question, but I’ve heard it many times: “Where do you get your material?”  How do you answer something like that without a phony-sounding “aww shucks” on one extreme, or a flippant-sounding “duh” on the other extreme.  Since I’m still hearing the same question, I suppose the best answer to give you is, “I let my eyes and ears find it for me”.  And that’s the honest truth.   

     I’ve always been quietly observant and have had a keen interest in the behaviors of humankind since I was in pre-school.  I remember seeing a little boy acting just horrible about something very simple and my 4-year old mind wondered “Why is Scottie being so hateful?  I bet it’s more than just the broken paintbrush, but what?”  Over the years I’ve had many well-meaning people suggest that I should be a psychiatrist, but I find the prospects far from desirable.  How long can you give a third-party, observant, “Mmm hmm” to a selfish person playing dying cockroach while the world passes by?  How long can you watch the trite, mundane, and downright ridiculous without saying something?  In lieu of seeing patients, I write what I see and hear.  Of course, what I see and hear is filtered through the “Bertha lenses” through which I see the world and the “Bertha ear muffs” through which I hear the world, but it’s certainly easier writing about it than trying to talk to The Yankee about it. 
      But seriously, I started thinking about this a little more closely and wondered how I would manage as an actual psychiatrist.  How would I deal with the deep psychological issues of the patients who came seeking my help when many of the solutions would be so simple?  I know there are some people who have lived through absolute horrors.  Abuse, torture, neglect - they all exist and have lasting, scarring effects that can take a lifetime to overcome.  These are not the issues of which I speak.  I am talking about the people who seek therapy for the fact that they can’t sleep.  “Mmm hmmm”, I would say, “Go on”.  “Well doc”, my hypothetical patient would say, “I can’t sleep.  I just lay there and lay there, watching the clock tick away, hoping I’ll fall asleep and I just can’t”.  *sob, sniff*  “Mmm hmm”, I say again, “And what time do you get up in the mornings?”  “Well’, *sniff, sob*, “I usually sleep until about noon because I’m so tired.”  My eyebrow raises and I say, “And what is your bedtime routine?”  *sniff, nose honk into hankie*  “Well, I don’t really have a set routine.  I read the news on my laptop, catch up on some work, make some phone calls, and then eat dinner.  I’m so tired, Doc, I just can’t cook so last night, for instance, I chopped up some Twinkies into a bowl of whipped cream and ate that with a bag of chips and a beer.”  My poor acting skills start showing as I can’t help the fact that my one eyebrow is raising higher and higher while the other is sinking lower and lower.  “And what time did you enjoy this gourmet feast?” *sob* “Oh, probably around 11pm.  But that’s not the worst of it.  I’ll fold laundry in front of an investigative true crime documentary to relax.  Then I head to bed and turn the TV on just to drown out the whirling thoughts in my head.  I need to call my client in the morning, I need to take the cat to the vet, I need to make sure I get earthquake insurance, I need to water the plants in the guest room, I need to make sure I locked the front door, I need to check in to getting a perm for my eyelashes, I have to have to have to remember to take my vitamins in the morning or my whole day is shot, then I scold myself for telling that platypus joke in the meeting this morning and go through every possible scenario of how I will lose my job tomorrow if my boss didn’t think it was funny, and then I wonder if maybe he really did think it was funny since he laughed but sometimes laughs can mean different things so I replay his laugh over and over and over and over and over in my head trying to remember if it was patronizing, maniacal, or just plain laughing because he thought it was funny.  And then it reminds me that I broke my funny bone in high school which is why it aches every time it’s going to rain and it’s been aching like the devil lately so I remember that I never did check into getting galvanized rain gutters or flood insurance, and then I start wondering what on earth I would grab first if a flood was coming and before I know it, the alarm is going off and I have to get up and hope I remember to take my vitamins or my whole day is shot.  You see why I can’t sleep, Doc?”  *sniff, gulp, sob*
      At this point, my one eyebrow would be entering my hairline while the other one would be threatening to abandon ship if it comes any closer to my lips and I just sit there, stunned.  And then when I prescribe a 2-week period of rest and abstinence from all electronics, my hypothetical insomniac patient storms out of my office and screams, “You pompous quack!  How is putting away my blender going to help me sleep?!!” 
      And as I relay this story to The Yankee, he says, “Poor guy.  All those problems and now he’s hypothetical, too.” 
     And that, boys and girls, is why I write … because otherwise, I would drink.
© Bertha Grizzly 2011.  All Rights Reserved.  No duplication or distribution.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Bertha’s Bakers Dozen ™: Things I Would Love to Say But Really Shouldn’t and, Therefore, Never Will

     I have been called bold.  I have been called fearless.  I have even been accused of saying what comes to mind without pausing to filter.  Truth be told, I have a remarkably well-fitted filter that is constantly at work.  Well, Letterman has his ten; Bertha has her Bakers Dozen … and this time, it’s the Things I Would Love to Say But Really Shouldn’t and, therefore, Never Will list.  You might be offended, you might not.  You might laugh, you might not.  You might recognize your own silenced subconscious, you might not.  But in any case, you have been warned.  That being said, here is the Bakers Dozen list of those things trapped in my filter:

13) “I have this look on my face and yet you keep talking.”  I don’t want to talk about politics.  No, I am not a fan of modern art.  Yes, I’ve heard of that author.  Actually, extreme activism generally gets on my nerves.  So why are your political, artsy, activist gums still flapping?!
12) “No, you are not a ‘marvelous cook’, as you like to put it.”  Perhaps I am a grouch.  Perhaps I am a snob.  Perhaps I am the reincarnation of a European gastronome from a bygone era, but if your “marvelous cooking” involves a milligram of margarine or the excessive use of a can opener, I must raise an eyebrow.     
11) “If you knew how you looked in that dress, you’d burn it.”  I know, I know.  Clothing is a very personal, subjective purchase but I still have to see you in it.  When the hem of your dress is at your knees in the front and teasing your ankles in the back, I find it difficult to believe you put that on and thought, “Oh yeah!  I look good!  Uh huh, you know you want ‘dis!” 
10) “Umm, ever hear of this new craze called ‘daily bathing’?  It’s all the rage!”  In a country like America with millions and billions of bars of soap, bottles of body wash, and sticks of antiperspirant produced every year, why do so many people seem to feel the need to abstain from hygiene practices?  This is disgusting and I come across it everywhere I go.  I’ll be standing in line at the grocery store and before I know it, I am blindsided by the pervasive stench of someone’s unwashed body.  It’s like a skunk and an outhouse created a signature scent and decided to surprise me with it.  I’m surprised alright; surprised I haven’t said anything before now.  My watering eyes and nauseated tummy have suffered in silence for a very long time.    
9) “If you truly find it necessary to smack your food like an uncultured baboon, could you just go eat in your car?”  Is my mother the only one in history who said, “Chew with your mouth closed.  No one wants to hear or see your dinner”?  If you get a spot of sauce on your fingertip and discretely, silently touch said fingertip to your lips, I will not say a word.  But if I can hear you sucking the life out of rib bones from across the restaurant or you are in the booth right behind me and your chewing reminds me of something I saw on Uncle Froggy’s hog farm, I start to get irritated.  I’ve never actually asked anyone to take their food to the car, but it has crossed my mind many, many times.    
8) “Yes, I’m a big chick, but I fit in this booth just fine.  Yes, I ordered dessert, but I also ate my steamed vegetables.  Raise your skinny eyebrows at me again and your tip will magically disappear.”  It amazes me that starving college students masquerading as servers suddenly become the resident dieticians.  I don’t order dessert every time but once in a while, I think a nice fruit sorbet or chocolate dessert sounds tasty so I indulge.  I don’t feel guilty about it and, honestly, as long as I pay the bill it’s my business what I order.  Unless you think I’m buying cocktails for a 16 year old, leave me the heck alone.      
7) “I think it’s great that you watch your calories and spend 14 hours a week at the gym; I just don't want to hear you talk about it.”  If you did a thousand quad reps, if you ran 20 miles, if you figured out how to eat exactly 941 and three-fifths calories in one day, if you think I would benefit from this wonderful new program … please share it with someone else.  “I went to the gym” will suffice.  
6) “Why, yes, I do mind if you cut in front of me.”  The store is crowded.  We’re all tired from working all day.  We all want to get home to our families, our kids, and our laundry.  The fact that you deem your hurry more important than mine is not an excuse to throw your frozen dinners on the belt and then half-heartedly shrug, “Hope you don’t mind if I cut in front of you.”  The next time that happens, I’m adding my purchases to your order.  If you pay for my groceries, you can cut in front of me as often as you like.   

5) “Stop laughing.  It’s not that funny.  Really, stop laughing.”  I’m all for a hearty laugh but when I’m in a restaurant or a store and I hear someone loudly forcing a “laugh” that is obviously as fake as Pamela Anderson’s boobs, I cringe.  If you are trying to flirt, stop it.  If you’re nervous, learn to twiddle your thumbs.  If you have nothing to say, then don’t say anything; the silence alone will alert the boring individual how very un-interesting they really are.  And for the love of Pete, stop ending every texted or e-mailed sentence with LOL.  “I’m eating lunch LOL!!!!”  Really?  Is your lunch that amusing?  Just stop it.  
4) “I know you don’t care how I am doing today.  You’re just trying to sell me something.”  I hate it when I’m walking through the mall or answering my phone and I hear this unfamiliar, overly-enthusiastic voice shrieking, “Hi!!!!!!  How are you today!!!!!!!!!”  I’m not stupid.  We are not friends.  I have never met you before.  You are trying to sell me something that I don’t want, can’t afford, and have no interest in learning about.  Save it. 
3) “If you cannot properly pronounce a word, pick a different one or stop talking.”  Pronunciation is very important to me.  Maybe it’s all the years I spent desperately trying to tone down my southern drawl or maybe it has something to do with the fact that mispronounced words sound like fingernails on a chalkboard to my bleeding ears.  Whatever the reason, I must get this off my chest: the word is “deal”.  It rhymes with “meal”, “steel”, “feel”, and “teal”.  It is not pronounced “dill”.  “Dill” is an herb.  “Dill” is a pickle.  “Deal” is a bargain or a contractual agreement between two parties.  The two are not interchangeable in any way.  The same goes for “feel” and “fill”.  And if you got a fabulous price on your dinner for 2, please oh please, do not tell me about your “mill dill”.    
2) “You asked me a question, I’m trying to answer you, and now you’re interrupting me.  Next time, just write me a letter, you pompous nincompoop.”  It’s not just the total lack of manners that annoys me.  It’s the fact that you have the nerve to act as if I’m wasting your time. 
1) “No ma’am.  Your child does not have a precocious sense of adventure.  Your child is an unruly titmouse.”  If little Matthew has ripped the tags off of 12 dresses, thrown a ball into the candy display, bit his baby sister, spit in your face, screamed at the top of his lungs, and punched an old lady in the stomach, that is no longer a mischievous little tyke.  He has become a despicable little monster and the problem is yours to correct.  But I will warn you: if he comes near me with his grubby little fist poised for a punch and he accidently trips over my foot, I have no idea how it got there.  Honest. 
© Bertha Grizzly 2011.  All Rights Reserved.  No duplication or distribution.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Somebody Bring Me My Running Shoes

     I checked my mailbox recently and found I had been chosen as the lucky recipient of a complimentary issue of a “healthy lifestyle” magazine aptly titled, “Gaunt With the Wind”.  The model on the front cover was a well-known actress in $1,200 designer shoes with an angular smile so bright I’m sure she could read by the glow.  As I flipped through this wholly unsolicited publication, I suddenly found myself engrossed in its content. 

      Apparently, 106 pounds is the cut off for appearing “healthy”.  If you are unlucky enough to carry a weight beyond that of a slender Whippet, the elite members of “Club Gaunt With the Wind” begin to offer forth all manner of advice on how to join their ranks.  I’m all for being healthy, but the advice proffered is so stupid, I had to write about it.  It’s what I do.

      One of the contributing writers for “Gaunt With the Wind” had written an article about different restaurant dishes that contain “SHOCKING HIDDEN CALORIES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”, or so the title claimed.  The flagrant abuse of the exclamation point caught my attention so I decided to read this “shocking” expose’.  Are calories really hidden?  I mean, is there a diabolical agenda of the super-sized underworld to pump us full of “hidden” calories so we will eventually be forced to succumb to their slick advertisements for seatbelt extenders and toilet paper wands?  Can’t people look at the ingredients in some of these menu items and just tell they have lots of calories?

      Whatever the reasoning for writing it, the author offered some helpful “substitutions” for fattening menu options.  As I sat reading this article and its ever-so-helpful suggestions, I started snickering to myself.  Don’t order the triple cheese chili cheese fries with cheese … order a small side serving of steamed broccoli, no butter or salt, and split it with 5 other people.  Don’t order the Fajita Salad with lettuce, two deep fried chicken breasts, tortilla chips, creamy chipotle dressing, cheese, sour cream, and guacamole-lard-mayonnaise … ask the chef to ladle a bit of fat-free, sodium-free chicken broth into a condiment cup.  Did you know there are enough calories in a super-extra-holy-crap-mega large order of fried cheese sticks smothered in a roasted tomato pizza sauce and a 2-inch layer of secret 12-cheese-blend to feed an entire country for an afternoon?!?  Isn’t that SHOCKING?  You should just order the child’s side salad with a light squirt of fresh lemon juice, no dressing for pete’s sake, ask the server to put 2/3 of it in a box for later, and then take a brisk 90-minute run around the perimeter of the local metro area instead.   

      Do people really listen to this crap?  By the time I got to the “brisk 90-minute run”, I was laughing so hard, there was mascara running down my face that I hadn’t even applied yet.  This article was “exposing” one insane extreme and replacing it with another.  The dishes and portion sizes being used as examples were nauseating in their grease-laden richness while the healthy options were bland, unappetizing, and nearly microscopic.  No one, with the exception of an ailing infant grasshopper, could subsist on the foods being suggested as reasonable alternatives to this flab-fest.  Whatever happened to balance?  Whatever happened to a middle-of-the-road approach?  It was irritating to know that some poor soul desperately trying to drop a few pounds could read this and believe the only road to health is paved with salt-free, fat-free, calorie-free, carb-free, sugar-free, egg-free, wheat-free, dairy-free, meat-free, preservative-free, hormone-free, alcohol-free, soy-free, allergen-free, fragrance-free, tree nut-free, taste-free foods. 

      After I wiped the tears from my eyes and stopped snorting and laughing every time I would think of the words “brisk 90-minute run”, I resumed flipping through the magazine.  Another article grabbed my attention.  Entitled, “Yes, YOU Have Time to Exercise!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” (more exclamation point abuse), the model pictured in the helpful “how-to” photos was a woman approximately 25 years old, with approximately 1% body fat, approximately zero children, and was wearing a $700 bikini approximately the size of a postage stamp.  Her name was “Tyffani” (raise your hand if you’re shocked) and she strongly advocated walking to work, skipping lunch in favor of simultaneously walking and snacking on pre-portioned raw vegetables, and using one’s purse and briefcase as bilateral dumbbells.  Perhaps, she reckoned, it would be helpful to take “the long way” home in the afternoons to sneak in a brisk 90-minute run.  (Why do all these magazines think everyone in America lives in New York City?  I live so far out in the sticks, the pizza man put me on speaker phone for a laugh when I called about delivery.)  Tyffani even suggested a few moves that could easily be done to promote balance and “core strength”.  I turned the page and started shrieking in laughing hysterics as she modeled how to balance oneself on a street-corner postal drop box.  I pictured myself in that position and the thoughts of a postal drop box with a dent in the top made me guffaw even harder.

      I burned more calories laughing at “Gaunt With the Wind” than I would have burned on that brisk 90-minute run mentioned on every page.  I had laughed myself into a coughing fit when The Yankee walked into the house, eyebrow raised.  “What’s wrong with you?”, he asked.  “Oh nothing,” I said, my eyes still watery from the laughing, “I’m just going for a brisk 90-minute run!”

© Bertha Grizzly 2011.  All Rights Reserved.  No duplication or distribution.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Bertha’s Bakers Dozen ™: Pre-Marital Wisdom

    Aahhh, weddings.  The tear-jerking romance every princess dreams of.  You float down the aisle in a killer dress.  Everyone watches as your prince pledges his undying love for you.  You leave for a whirlwind honeymoon to some exotic location and get home just in time to open mountains of gifts. It’s the beginning of a dream.

Then you wake up the next day and “life” starts. 

     Well, Letterman has his ten; Bertha has her Bakers Dozen … and this time, it’s a Pre-Marital Wisdom list.  We’ve all heard horror stories about people getting married and discovering some shocking secret, but what if his secret is something no one else would find as upsetting as you do?  Here is the Bakers Dozen list of those things I wish I had known before I walked down the aisle:

13) If it annoys you now, it will turn you into Caligula later.  “That way he clears his throat is so irritating.”  Give it a few years and it morphs into, “If he clears his throat like that one more time, I’m going to rip his throat out and clear it for him.” 

12) Just because he goes antique shopping with you now does NOT mean that will continue.  He was trying to spend time with you, trying to show you that he cared about you, trying to prove how much he values you.  Now, you live in the same house.  His room is your room.  The antique shopping now becomes a "girl thing" he can’t wait to escape. 

11) When he said he “kinda likes Science Fiction movies”, what he really meant was, “After we get married, I will not ever, ever, no matter how much you cry or grumble, EVER watch a movie that takes place on planet Earth”.  This was an early attempt to show you what he is like when no one else is looking.  “I kinda like Science Fiction movies” is tantamount to when we said, “PMS makes me a little cranky”.  We failed to mention the screaming, the crying, and the butcher knife. 

10) What you value about him now will morph into pet peeves so deep it would take an exorcism to help you get over it.  That “boyish sense of humor” you love so much will become the immaturity that makes you want to crawl under the carpet at office parties.  Your dreamy sighs of “I so admire that he won’t be pushed around” will overnight fall to “I don’t think the man would bend an inch if God dropped a million dollars at his feet”.  “He really knows what he believes” very quickly turns into “Good lord if that pompous jerk gets on one of his political soap boxes at this dinner tonight, I’m going to dump the soup tureen in his lap accidently on purpose”. 

9) When you said, “I like Buffalo Wings”, he heard, “Buffalo Wings taste better than anything on the planet and I want to eat dozens and dozens of them every Friday night for the rest of our lives”.  And this is not limited to Buffalo Wings. It can include everything from car races, to football, to computer hunting games, and so on. 

8) His idea of “necessities” and yours will differ more than you ever thought possible.  I did not realize until I got married that a $79.99 “tool” that looks like a hollowed out tin can and is guaranteed to make your car fly, jump, or get 90 miles to the gallon is a necessity.  Who needs diapers, tampons, toothpaste, bleach, or potatoes when there’s THIS little beauty, huh?!!?

7) When he has a bad day, he will scream at you over something stupid like, “You folded my pants WRONG!!”  This is the time I wish I had known that screaming, “I’ll alert the French maid next time I see her” is not as helpful as it sounds.  Neither is unfolding every piece of clothing he owns and creating a wrinkled pile on the back deck.

6) He is a man, therefore everything he has ever done was faster, stronger, more dangerous, and infinitely more difficult than anything you have ever attempted, therefore your input is secondary.  “You grew up dirt poor? Big deal! I was in the Army.”  “Your periods were so heavy you fainted from anemia?  Oh, boo hoo.  I had a sliver of glass in this hand from rescuing my buddy’s dog/girlfriend/Babe Ruth autograph from a burning car.”  Payback comes in due time.  The secret smug grin you can parade in front of your girlfriends when you hear, “Well I guess you were right: that computer ad was a virus after all because my hard drive is history,“ is soooo worth the wait.

5) His “Mr. Fix-It” gene will shine like a polished doorknob when all you want is a listening ear.  “This baby has cried and cried and cried for the past 9 days in a row. I’m going nuts!” and he says, “Tell her to stop”.  Your first inclination will be to fly into a maniacal rage followed by a sarcastic, “Well gee, why didn’t I think of that”.  Just don’t do it.  Neither is helpful … I know because I’ve tried.  But if I hear some stupid “remedy” followed by a flippant, “There. Problem solved” one more time, I might have to do something drastic.

4) He will never, ever understand why you find his clothes offensive.  He doesn’t care one microgram what anyone thinks of his wrinkled T-shirt that is 2 sizes too big or his Napoleon Dynamite jeans that went out with joystick video games or his ratty hooded sweatshirt he throws on over the shirt and tie you finally convinced him to wear.  He really, really doesn't care what anyone thinks.  And, I hate to break it to you, but YOU qualify as “anyone”.

3) He truly doesn’t care what you look like.  If I had a million dollars of plastic surgery, shaved my head, lost 30 pounds, and wrapped myself in a flaming red bath towel, it would take him 5 hours to mutter, “Ummmm … newwww shoessss? maybe?”

2) What you call “being ignored” he calls “quality time”.  Yes, if allowed to hibernate for 6 months at a time, he would not hesitate for a half-second.  While he snores in his recliner for the 7th hour in a row, you have done 5 loads of laundry, cleaned the kitchen, made bread, made a cake, wiped up a half gallon of juice the kids spilled, quieted the dogs a dozen times, drooled over the cake, ate a piece of the cake, ate the rest of the cake, cried into the cake crumbs wondering why your marriage is over, washed the cake plate, started dinner, realized you have nothing for dessert and made another cake, and finally woke him up to make sure he was still breathing.  As he comes to, groggy and smelling like sweat socks, he grins up at you and says, “I love spending my weekends with you”.  Resist the urge to cram cake up his nose.

1) His sex drive drops dead but laundry is forever.  That one is self-explanatory. 

© Bertha Grizzly 2011. All Rights Reserved. No duplication or distribution.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Tick-Tock, Please Be a Bomb

     So I’m trying to eat lunch at a local restaurant a few months ago.  Daylight Saving Time had just come to an end and I was feeling the cranky grog that overcomes night owls like me when forced to rise and shine before the sun thinks it’s a good idea to follow suit.  I ordered a spicy lunch and settled down with a beverage and a book.  Just as I was getting into the first chapter, the hostess walked by with two women in tow.  The first woman I’ll call “Gloria” looked like a leftover relic from the seventies.  Looking far older than her 55-60 years, her gray hair hung in long, limp layers that had been haphazardly rolled around a curling iron.  Her gray suit jacket matched her hair and did nothing to help the drab brown blouse she had paired with mousy green pants.  Her face was free of makeup and her reading glasses hung around her neck by a tarnished “gold” chain.  The second woman I’ll call “Jean” was the antithesis of Gloria.  Jean’s navy pantsuit was beautifully matched to a delicate white blouse, sapphire ring, and modern eyeglasses.  Her makeup was perfectly applied and her soft face belied the age I supposed to be around 65 years.  The hostess seated Gloria and Jean at a table right behind me.  With these two characters within earshot, I knew reading was going to be an exercise in futility. 
     As they mulled their menus, I could hear one of them chattering for quite a while about nothing in particular.  The voice was excited and happy, but not obnoxious in any way.  I assumed this voice was Jean’s.  I was able to get the entire first chapter read and welcomed my lunch in this amount of time.  As the server left for the kitchen with Gloria and Jean’s order, I was already heartily enjoying the uplifting spice of my chicken dish.  I thought, “How nice to have a friend like Jean who can sit with someone as dour as Gloria and talk about everything and nothing all at the same time”.  I smiled to myself and kept reading.             

     Then, it happened.

     I heard a long sigh followed by a snort: “Don’t you just hate the time change?  I mean, can’t they leave it alone for once?”  I assumed Gloria was complaining with a mundane voice as drab as her wardrobe.  “I have so many clocks in my house and I had to change them all.  First there was the clock right by my bed.  George bought that thing and I always struggle with changing the time on it.  Whatever happened to a good old-fashioned wind up clock?”  I stopped my attempts at reading and thought to myself, “Perhaps that ticking drove some people crazy to the point the digital clock caught on, hmmm?”  Gloria kept going while I ate my chicken, “Then I had to change the clock on George’s side of the bed which is as hard to change as mine is.  Then I had to change the clock on the back of the toilet.” 

     This made me pause and almost snicker out loud.  Who has a clock on the back of the toilet?  Apparently, George and Gloria do.  By this time, the server brought the small appetizer they had decided to share as their meal and Gloria was not phased in the slightest, “Thank you.  That looks a little smaller in real life than it does on the menu.  Anyway, then I had to change the one in the laundry room with the birds on it.  You know that one George gave me that makes a different bird sound every hour?  And then I had to change the one in the kitchen that is right by the pantry.  Well, it’s not right by the pantry but it’s pretty close.  You know that picture I have of the apples?  It’s hanging very nearby with different kinds of fruit on it.  So that took a few minutes and then I had to wash it off because it was starting to get dusty.  Then I had to change the one on the living room mantle which always scares me because it’s so old.” 

     By this time, I had finished my chicken and was silently begging my server to come back so I could pay and leave.  Gloria’s droning about her clocks was giving me that feeling I get when I hold my breath too long under water … slightly fuzzy with a headache and lung burn that threatens to push me into acts of desperation.

     “Then I had to change the one in the formal living room that I say is a grandmother clock but George swears is a grandfather clock.  Whatever it’s gender, I hate changing it.  Then I had to change the one by the front door that has the pictures of flowers painted on the frame.  I mean the clock has the painted flowers, not the front door, but you know what I mean.  Then I had to change the one in the hallway outside the room where the girls used to sleep.  Then I had to change the one dining room …”

     Now I had written a threatening note with some lip liner on the back of a takeout menu and dared the server to take another second bringing me my check. 

     “Then I had to change the one on the back porch that matches the barometer next to it.  I wish it wasn’t green, but you know how much George loves green.  And then I had to change the one in my car.  And then I had to change the one in the garage.”

     The server got the message and brought me my check.  I told him there would be a big tip involved if he hurried the heck up. 

     “Then I had to change the one in the kitchen window because I got so busy cleaning the dust off the fruit clock that I forgot about the one in the window.  Then I had to change the one on the microwave.”

     Why does this broad have so many freakin’ clocks!  Get me out of here!  I kinda wanted dessert today but forget it now. 

      “Then I had to change the one in the guest bedroom, not that we ever have any company.  Then I had to change the one in the guest bathroom.”

     Two bathroom clocks?  Who times their poo poos?  Every second you delay this check is another dime off your tip there, Server Dude. 

     “Then I had to change the one in George’s car because he’s perfectly happy to drive around town with the wrong time on the clock and I just can’t stand that.  Then I had to change the one basement near the furnace room.  Then I had to change the one …”

     Now the server had brought me my change.  I flung a few bucks on the table and proceeded to sprint as fast as I could without looking like a woman possessed.  I turned to take one last look at the table of doom before raced to my car when I was struck by something amazing.  Madame Boredom was not the drab, boring Gloria.  It was Jean.  Behind that perfectly coiffed hair and $800 eyeglasses was the most dry, pitiful, whining specimen ever imagined.  The first voice I had heard, the happy fun-loving voice I had so admired, had belonged to Gloria, muddy colored clothes and all. 

     I learned three valuable lessons from this lunch of terror:
1) Just because I try to match my clothes to my personality does not mean I can use that as a measuring stick for everyone else.
2) It is OK, not to mention merciful, to interject comments and change the subject if necessary.
3) When I am of retirement age, I will sign up for a salsa dancing class, a self-defense class, a vagina-pride rally … ANYTHING shocking or weird just to remind me that there is life outside of my petty complaints. 

And I will NOT have that many clocks, I don’t care how old I get.

© Bertha Grizzly 2011.  All Rights Reserved.  No duplication or distribution.