Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Something for Nothing

     I’ve heard a lot of talk lately about coupons.  It seems you can’t turn on the TV, pick up a magazine, or walk into a store without hearing something about coupons.  No one can even agree on how to pronounce the word.  I’ve heard “KOO-puns”, “KOO-pawns”, “CUE-pawns”, “CUE-puns”, and one guy with a sweater around his shoulders and pesto in his cart who said, “koo-PAWN-ays”.  I don’t understand the hype.  Yes, it’s amazing to walk out of a store with a trunk full of items that only cost a few dollars, but what exactly are you getting in those bags?

      I watched that show, “Coupon Outlandishness” (or whatever it’s called) and became more confused than ever.  One lady walked out of her local grocery store with 2,000 sports drinks, 200 bottles of lotion, 67 bags of flavored coffee, 34 sticks of antiperspirant, and 109 pouches of substandard-super-salty-this-is-insanely-gross-only-eat-in-case-of-nuclear-apocalypse-sorta-kinda-pork-flavored noodles.  As she squealed that her “grocery bill” was a mere $12, I really had to wonder what she fed her family.  I mean, how many ways can you prepare sports drinks and substandard-super-salty-this-is-insanely-gross-only-eat-in-case-of-nuclear-apocalypse-sorta-kinda-pork-flavored noodles? 

     As the cameras followed this savvy shopper back to her hoard, I was appalled by what I saw.  She had enough pre-packaged foods to start her own war-time staples repository.  She, her family, her extended family, her neighborhood, and every kid at her son’s school will never, ever need to buy lotion thanks to her.  Hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of bottles of lotion filled her shelves as she beamed about her “grocery store” basement.  Sure, everybody you have ever met will be glowing with deeply-moisturized firmness, but what are they going to eat?  I’m serious!  I have seen coupons for substandard-super-salty-this-is-insanely-gross-only-eat-in-case-of-nuclear-apocalypse-sorta-kinda-pork-flavored noodles, toiletry items, diapers, candles, and maybe even the occasional canned vegetable, but I have never seen a coupon for a fresh vegetable, a cut of fresh meat, a piece of raw fruit, or a bag of potatoes.  Never.  Do these people and their fabulous $50 monthly grocery bills ever eat anything that doesn’t require a can opener or a paring knife to “slit plastic over blueberry crumble before microwaving”?

      On top of limited choices, these people dedicate MASSIVE amounts of time to their coupon obsession.  If you can save your family money on groceries, that’s fabulous.  But I would think one would have to ask himself this question: “If I am sending my child to the bottom of a dumpster to save 10 cents on my purchase of 3 or more liver cheese dog snacks, has my money-saving obsession become my master?” 

      Some might say that I’m just jealous that I don’t stock my pantry for pennies a month.  That may be partly true.  I pride myself on having a fully stocked pantry filled with items purchased at a bulk discount, but I do not let it take over my life.  I have never, and will never, give Buttercup the old “heave-ho” over the side of a dumpster to rescue a poor little 20 cent “koo-PAWN-ay” that someone carelessly tossed out.  I’ve never had much luck with coupons anyway.  All of my local stores put strict limits on the type, number, and amount of coupons and they don’t care if you pitch a fit over it.  One store accepts coupons printed with color ink ONLY.  The other store down the street accepts coupons printed with black ink ONLY.  The store in the middle says 20 coupons per customer, per day, and they welcome you to take your business elsewhere if you disagree.  I guess it’s where I live, but the guests on “Coupon Outlandishness” would never survive here.  These stores prefer you use their “in-store” deals, but I’ve never had much luck with those either, and it’s probably because I read the fine print: "Buy One Apple, Get a FREE STEAK!!!" (Apple must be a Granny Smith not more than 4 inches in diameter that has been mistakenly marked with a Banana-King banana sticker. "Free Steak" refers to the manner in which it was raised as cows are free range on an open prairie in Kansas somewhere.  Steak may not exceed 2 oz. in weight and must contain a ridge of fat at least 3 inches deep to qualify.  Apples marked with Banana-Queen banana stickers do not qualify.  Coupons not valid on this offer.  Sorry, no rain checks and pennies cannot be accepted as a valid form of payment.)

     But hey, if coupons are their stock in trade, let them have at it.  They can enjoy all the substandard-super-salty-this-is-insanely-gross-only-eat-in-case-of-nuclear-apocalypse-sorta-kinda-pork-flavored noodles their hearts could ever desire.  I'm having homemade Sausage and Peppers for dinner tonight ... and I didn't use a "koo-PAWN-ay".      

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

Friday, August 26, 2011

Bertha’s Alphabet™: The “ABC’s” of Murphy’s Law

A - After you buy something full price, it will go on sale at 75% off.

B - Borrow something from a neighbor or your in-laws and it will immediately start smoking and blow up. 

C - Cut your last piece of cloth, ribbon, tape, etc., and it will be a quarter-inch too short. 

D - Dip biscotti in coffee and whether or not the end falls off into the cup depends entirely upon the importance of the person sitting across from you.       

E - Expect to step into the only mud puddle in the tri-state region on the one day you decided to step out of the house in silk shoes.   

F - Forget a name and be sure that person will remember you from that job where you got fired.  

G - Go for a walk on a sunny day and a sudden torrential downpour will plaster your hair to your scalp while you’re running like mad for shelter. 

H - Have your spouse’s boss over for dinner and he will be allergic to the dog, the centerpiece, and half the menu.  

I - Impress someone with your abilities, candor, skills, or wit and there will always be someone right behind to tell you about the poppy seeds in your teeth.    

J - Junk: that useless crap you throw away 2 days before you need it.    

K - Knowing the answer does not guarantee that someone won’t change the question. 

L - Look stunningly beautiful in public and you will not see a soul you know.   Look like a frazzled, un-showered mental patient and you will run into your friends, your family, your kid’s tutor, your ex-boyfriend, your third grade teacher…

M - Mention a commercial you thought was funny and not only will no one know what on earth you’re talking about, the darn TV/radio station will never play it again. 

N - Nothing sends you to your deathbed faster than saying, “Who, me?  Nah, I never get the flu.”

O - Open a new jar of mayonnaise and you’ll suddenly find 3 more in the refrigerator.

P - Phone a friend you haven’t seen in a while and whatever the time of day, you will be calling when they’re in the middle of fighting, sex, eating, or planning a funeral. 

Q - Quiet: knowing that your kids are up to something.

R - Running away from your problems only makes you tired with problems. 

S - Show up at work on time and nobody notices.  Show up late once and that’s the day the boss came in early.

T - Tell the world what a great kid you have and five minutes later, he’ll break a window.

U - Umbrella in hand means no rain.  Umbrella behind the couch, under the car seat, or left in the grocery store means rain so legendary the animals marching past you two-by-two will actually laugh at you.

V - Voice your opinion to a five year old and you’ll hear about it from the neighbors.

W - Wear a white shirt and someone will invariably serve spaghetti.

X - Xenophobic in-laws will show up unannounced on the night you planned to serve boeuf en croute. 

Y - Yo-yo: a child’s toy so simple even adults can’t do it.

Z - Zippers will hold your pants/skirt/jacket in perfect neatness … until you have to speak in front of a crowd. 

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

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A Bertha Special: East Coast Earthquake

      It was a normal Tuesday afternoon.  I ate lunch, I wrote a little, I tried to buy postage stamps.  I stood in line at the post office, wondering why 25 people found this particular Tuesday afternoon the best time to visit the post office.  A liver-spotted, gray-haired guy behind me (with a body like Gilligan and a face like Jimmy Durante) had no sense of personal space whatsoever.  He just stood there, inching ever closer to the back of my neck.  His breath smelled of sweet cigars and cheap cigarettes and his sloppy Gilligan hat made him look more like a goofball than the jaunty weekend sailor he was probably hoping to reflect.  Step, wait, inhale stale tobacco.  Step, wait, inhale stale tobacco.  We kept up like this for a good 5 minutes.  I hated his scent, his defiance of unwritten personal space rules, and the way his dry mouth kept making a smacking sound against his gums.  I started writing a letter to him in my head:

      “Dear Marlboro Man, I don’t know why you are insisting on seeing the world through a veil of my hair, but I don’t think I appreciate you breathing down my neck.  That is a practice that is beyond rude and, at your age, your should know better.  It isn’t that I don’t adore the scent of stale discount tobacco, I just find it clashes with my citrus-based perfume, thus throwing my day into a stale, orangey/cigarette-butty tailspin.  If I could take a moment of your time …”

      But there wasn’t time.  The building started to shake.  The windows rattled, the floor quivered, the roof groaned.  My first thought was perhaps a construction vehicle was making its way down the main road, but no vehicle shakes a building that hard for that long.  Just then, a postal worker ran out from behind the counter.  “The back walls are shaking!  Evacuate!  Get out, get out!”  I was proud of my fellow postal patrons.  Gilligan Durante, the frazzled mother of 4, the hippie granola-girl with her hemp skirt and recycled sandals, the college student with acne scars pitting his cheeks … each one quickly, yet calmly left the building.  No one screamed.  No one pushed and shoved.  No one seemed irritated with anyone else.  One woman quietly prayed, “Oh please, dear God, no.” 

      My irritation at Gilligan Durante was all but forgotten.  I didn’t mind the stench anymore because he was safe and I wasn’t having to give him CPR.  My thoughts turned to my life, my family, the future.  How was Buttercup?  Would The Yankee be out helping someone like he always does or would he be oblivious to the tremors and say, “What earthquake?” like he does when he’s deep in thought.  I thought of my brothers, their wives, my parents.  I thought of my writing career and wondered if I was spared so I could keep blogging about old guys who like to invade the personal space of others.  I thought about my house and wondered what shape it was in.  It was a sobering moment, to say the least. 
      I drove home, walked in the door, and stopped cold in my tracks.  My house was a wreck.  The outside structure has sustained minimal damage but the inside was toast.  Broken glass in every room.  Demolished mementos.  Food littering the kitchen floor.  Dislodged shelves, open cabinet doors, and overturned bookcases.  If I hadn’t known better, I would have sworn we had been robbed.  It was a disheartening mess, but I refused to dwell on it.  I changed into ratty work clothes, soothed Buttercup’s tears over the disheveled state of her perfectly aligned world, and showed her how to pick up books.  We worked at it together.  We held each other through the rough and frightening aftershocks that threatened to undo our hard work.  We rejoiced at the sight of each room we successfully unearthed.  We bonded through adversity.
      I suppose that is the true test of the human spirit.  How willing are we to put aside our irritations to make room for concern for our fellow man?  How much strength can we muster to put the shattered remains of a treasured belonging in a box and send it to the trash heap?  How open are we to sharing our resources, our love for others?  How much do our friends and family members mean to us up until that very moment a catastrophe strikes?  How often do we let them know what they mean to us?  It was a true test.  A scary, true, real-life test … and I hope I passed. 

      But Gilligan really should buy some gum.

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

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


     By now, you know that I take the time to write these little stories about things that have happened in my life, weird people I see in public, experiences, lessons, so on and so forth, etc. etc. blah blah.  It’s what I do.  I’ve told stories about my husband (The Yankee), my daughter (Buttercup), my best friend (Pocahontas), my cousin (Fran), and a plethora of strangers whose names I’ve never heard.   I’ve reported the good, the bad, and the indiscriminately stupid.  I’ve reported on everything and everyone … except myself.   

      I realized the other day that I haven’t told you about some of my own “weirdnesses”, and trust me there are plenty.  So, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, here are some of the things I have caught myself doing that I would have already turned into a blog post if it were anyone else.

      I talk to inanimate objects like they can actually respond to me.  Vacuum cleaner clogged?  No worries.  A well-placed insult will do the trick.  Television not behaving?  Leave it to me.  We’ve had this talk before.  I was reading my e-mail one day and received a particularly snarky (and wholly unwarranted) response from someone named Terry.  “What?!”, I shouted at the screen.  “Are you kidding me?!?  What made you think you could talk to me like that and call yourself being helpful, huh?”  Just then, The Yankee walks in the room and said, “Who are you yelling at?”  I snarled my lip as I grumbled, “I’m not yelling.  I’m having a productive, cathartic conversation with Terry.”  Without batting an eye he said, “Oh, is that what you’ve named our computer screen now?”  He patted the screen, “Hang in there, Terry.”  Jerk. 

      My cell phone has a voice activation feature that allows me to yell a name into the speaker and have the number dialed for me.  Not a bad idea for someone like me who is always on the move AND has fat fingers that hit 2 buttons at a time.  The only problem with this marvel of modern technology is that it is more sensitive than a henpecked florist.  So, a few weeks ago, I threw my purse in the passenger seat of my car and started the engine.  That’s when I heard it: “Please say a command”.  I was slightly taken aback by this computerized voice coming from somewhere inside my car when I heard it again, “Please say a command.”  I realized in my haste to throw my purse to the other side, the force of the mild impact had triggered the voice activation mode.  I pulled the phone out and hit “cancel”.  I threw the purse to the passenger seat so I could back out of my parking space when I heard it again, “Please say a command”.  Irritated, I picked up my purse, opened the top, poked my head in, and screamed “CANCEL!  CANCEL YOU IDIOT!”  Relieved my purse had finally stopped talking to me, I looked up just in time to catch my own reflection in the store window. 

       I.  Looked.  Stupid. 

      What other woman on earth would have her head crammed in her purse, screaming at it?  No one, and that’s just it.  It’s one of my “weirdnesses” I mentioned earlier.  You might have had a conversation or two with your appliances, but I dare say you haven’t had your screaming head buried in your purse. 

     We all do ridiculous things when no one is looking.  Have you ever cranked some song you’re embarrassed to admit you like, boogied with the vacuum cleaner, and hoped upon hope no one could see in your windows?  Have you ever “walked like an Egyptian” in front of the mirror after you get out of the shower?  Have you ever picked your nose because you were too lazy to get up for a tissue?  Have you ever tried out a new accent on strangers at the gas station?  Of course you have.  And if I see you do it, I’m going to write about it. 

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

Friday, August 19, 2011

I Is Knot Dum

     I had the TV on the other night as I reorganized my recipe notebook  (Admit it: you are sooooo jealous of my jetsetter life.)  Commercial after commercial, advertisement after advertisement cluttered the screen, desperately trying to convince me how badly I need mildew sprays, dating websites, eternally uplifting bras, absorbent diapers, attorneys who will fight to get me the settlement I deserve.  There seem to be more and more commercials all the while and I couldn’t help but notice … it’s not what is being advertised so much as it is how.  Over and over, advertisers were clamoring to get my attention with humor, sex, flashing lights, cutesy kids, and announcers paid to sound compassionate.  And that’s when something else hit me:

      Advertisers think American citizens are idiots. 

     In their defense, I must admit that our country is overrun with more than our fair share of the intellectually challenged, but some of what I saw went far beyond a handful of blithering buffoons.  For example, a commercial for Leading Brand dishwasher detergent showed a dirty lasagna pan in a dishwasher rack.  The camera zoomed in on the soap dispenser and showed a life-sized “command center” with holographic maps of said dirty lasagna pan.  A serious-faced official in a snow white outfit/space suit started barking orders to attack the offending residue with full power.  The peons scrambled to fulfill his bidding and micro-warriors blasted the cheesy tomato gunk away from the pan.  Over the top commercial?  Yeah, a little.  Silly parody of sci-fi flicks?  Sure, why not.  But does anyone really think a miniature command center is located in the internal workings of his dishwasher?  Apparently so because Leading Brand felt it necessary to inform us that this was, and I quote, a “dramatization”.  Really?!  I’m so very glad they told me because I was about to run out and purchase boxes and boxes of Leading Brand just for the sheer entertainment value.  Can you imagine how many hours Buttercup and I could wile away on a Saturday afternoon just staring at the micro-warriors scrubbing week-old biscuit dough off our dishes? 

      Just as I was beginning to cope with my utter disappointment in Leading Brand dishwasher detergent, I saw a commercial for breakfast cereal.  The camera showed an average boy sitting at his breakfast table enjoying a bowl of Sugar Attack-O’s.  As the boy took a bite of his cereal, his eyes widened and suddenly he was sucked into the box in a colorful whirlwind where he was taken on a magical 20-second journey of wonderment into a world of edible sidewalks, trees made of Sugar Attack-O’s, talking animated animals, and a river of milk.  The boy danced and laughed at the sheer ecstasy of a day started by nutritious, wholesome Sugar Attack-O’s until another rainbow whirlwind sucked him back into reality.  He shrugged his shoulders and kept eating.  I sat in amazement.  How could this kid just shrug his shoulders like that?!  I’d be crawling back in that box!  As a matter of fact, I think I’ll run out and buy a case of Sugar Attack-O’s right now!  Wait … what’s that?  It’s a “dramatization” and I should not try this at home?  That’s it.  I’m switching to Shredded Mulch Squares right now.  It’s boring but at least they don’t get my hopes up about a free vacation to an animated paradise. 

      My discoveries about the commercials continued.  My heart sank as I realized the kindly man with the stethoscope around his neck was merely a “doctor portrayal”.  I felt pangs of bitter disappointment as I learned that if I called 1-600-YUCKY-MEDS, my call would be answered by an operator and not that nice attorney who was standing in front of that shelf of important-looking law books.  I was barely able to stand after I discovered the 1.9% auto loan was only for “well-qualified buyers” after a thorough financial examination, $6,000 down, a pint of blood, and the deed to my firstborn.  The pain was unbearable.  I had been duped.  That doctor looked so trusting and, COME ON, he had a stethoscope!  And that lawyer?  He was so compassionate.  I just KNOW he’s going to fight for my rights … he said he would!  How could they deceive me?  HOW?!!

      Yes, there are some idiots in the world.  There are plenty right here in America.  But does anyone really think a slather of Magic Butterfat Sparkle Lotion is going to send handsome men pounding at the front door?  Does anyone really expect Super X Dog Food can make your dog fly?  Does anyone believe those sandwiches pictured on the screen are that thick and meaty in real life?  I do!  That nice man with the stethoscope told me so.

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

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Bertha’s Bakers Dozen ™: Tips for the Laundry-Impaired

     The Yankee is notorious for being helpful, stubborn, and downright terrible at laundry.  The more I talk about it, the more I’m finding other people have the same problem.  As evidenced by the “dyed” ankle socks (thanks, Dad), dingy shirts, and shrunken sweaters I’ve suffered at the hands of the inexperienced (and did I mention stubborn, hard-headed, willful …), it would appear there exists a need for some laundry advice.

     Well, Letterman has his ten; Bertha has her Bakers Dozen … and this time, it’s the Tips for the Laundry-Impaired list.  Whether you think of yourself as the ultimate laundry master or you have trouble distinguishing between the washer and dryer, here is my list of laundry tips that will help you become a better person and possibly salvage your relationships:

13) Just because something is white, it does not automatically require hot water.  I would recount the horrors of discovering my white silk blouse had been submerged in near-boiling water for the mere fact it was a perfect snowy hue, but these tears are blurring my vision right now.  

12) When it comes to laundry loads, “too much of a good thing” really is too much.  It’s admirable (I guess) that you’re trying to “save water” (nice excuse), but cramming 3 hampers-worth of clothes into 1 washing machine is: a) too much, b) a manifestation of intense laziness, c) a sure-fire way to ensure your clothes are just as stinky coming out of the wash as they were going in.

11) There’s also “too little”.  Now that we’ve addressed overloading a washer to the point of choking, I will also point out that there is a problem called “undersized loads”.  Even if all you need is one pair of socks, have the courtesy to throw in a few other similar items.  Washing 2 socks in a single load is like buying an extra large pizza for 2 pieces of pepperoni. 

10) A “shelf life” isn’t just for bananas anymore.  If you leave wet clothes in a washing machine long enough, they will eventually smell like gym socks and old cheese with just a hint of belly button.  These must be re-washed before they are wearable.  And NO, throwing them in the dryer with a squirt of air freshener does NOT count.    

9) Just because a pastel yellow shirt has a tiny black flower embroidered on the collar, it DOES NOT qualify as a “dark”.  And if you wash this delicate pastel yellow shirt with black jeans, it will be as mucky gray as wet ashes.   

8) Just because your pants, my coat, the patio welcome mat, and the dog bed cover are all the same color brown DOES NOT mean they can be washed together.  “Sorting’ is a process that involves more than just color - it also involves type of material and degree of soilage.  (Yes, I made up that word, but it really should have been in the dictionary all along.)    

7) Extra soap does not equal “extra clean”.  There is a reason soap cups have lines on them.  They are to help you measure the appropriate amount of soap for your laundry.  Overflowing the cup is not only wasteful, it creates a sudsy, slimy film on your clothes that makes wearing them and miserably itchy experience.  And who wants to be sudsy in a sudden rainstorm or sprinkler mishap?       

6) Take a chance.  The machine washes the clothes.  The other machine dries the clothes.  Folding them won’t kill you.  And if you make the extra effort to fold in a way that doesn’t resemble a ball of knots, you’ll earn major pointage (another word that should have already been in the dictionary).

5) The washing machine washes, true, but it washes better when you help it out a little first.  If you wash dog blankets, the washing machine has to take care of the dirt and twelve pounds of dog hair.  Do it a favor and shake the hair off outside first.   

4) Share.  Most people have one washer per household.  If this is true in your family, here is a good rule of thumb: be considerate.  If you wash grease rags from the garage, have the courtesy to clean out the machine after using it.  Better yet, take the darn things to the Laundromat.  My cutesy-poo cousin Fran offered to make the Laundromat trip for her seven-foot husband, Stan (who likes to tell people how he wrote “Alice’s Restaurant” while Arlo Guthrie was doing time for littering), but he turned her down flat.  She did give him fair warning that if she pulled her dainty laceys (I should write my own dictionary) out of the washer and found a single dot of grease or a single dead bug, she would cause him great physical agony.  He was walking upright last time I saw him, so he must have taken her seriously.  Just to be sure, I gave him some rolls of quarters for Christmas.

3) Read the labels.  Not to sound like a deranged dietician, but reading labels is very important … especially when those labels happen to be attached to a favorite clothing article.  Yes, that shirt may look dryer worthy, but that does not mean it belongs in there.  Those pants might look like the countless other ones you haphazardly throw in the washing machine but, again, that doesn’t mean they belong there.  And for heaven’s sake don’t even LOOK at the bleach bottle until you’ve fully read and understood the aforementioned labels. 
2) There’s a reason “lint” rhymes with “flint”.  Lint is flammable, in case you didn’t know, so clean out the dryer’s lint trap once in a while.  The dryer works better and dries clothes faster if it has more room for airflow.  If you think it’s no big deal, I would challenge you to pull lint out of your dryer, crumple it into a big spongy ball, hold firmly to your mouth and nose, and then run up and down the stairs as fast as you can 16 times in a row.  When you come to, perhaps you’ll remember to clean out the lint trap every now and then. 
1) When in doubt, ASK!  If you see a swimsuit in the laundry room, don’t assume it belongs at the dry cleaners.  If you see a white bra with a tiny red bow, don’t assume it needs to be boiled or thrown in with the red towels.  If you see a crazed woman with a hand puppet made out of her shrunken favorite shirt galloping towards you, now would be the time to run.
© Bertha Grizzly 2011.  All Rights Reserved.  No duplication or distribution.

Friday, August 12, 2011


     Mom and I have very little in common.  I’m an imposing figure who can reach the top of the top shelf.  Children like her because they think she’s one of them.  I like Rocky Road, flaming purple, big earrings, and bourbon. She likes French Vanilla, a neutral palette, simple pearl studs, and a nice ice water.  People expect me to kill their bugs for them.  People pat her on the head and protect her from the bugs.  You get it … we’re different.  I just accepted the fact that we would never see eye to eye (literally) when I was in middle school and I lived with this acceptance until long after I married The Yankee.  That is, until one fateful day my comfy world came crashing down on me.   

My mother and I collect jars. 
I don’t know why.  I don’t know how it got started.  I don’t know what purpose they serve.  All I know is I was trying to put groceries away one day and was having trouble finding a place for the sports drinks The Yankee consumes by the bathtub-full.  I left them in a bag by the back door.  He comes in a says, “What’s this for?”  I said, “Oh, it’s your sports drink fix for the week.  I can’t fit it in the kitchen so I thought you could store them in the garage.”  He gives me that annoying, “Leave it to the men” look I’d love to chisel off his face, and takes off for the kitchen.  “BERRRRRRT!” he screams, “What’s with all the frickin’ jars?”  I tried to fight in self-defense, “There aren’t that many, really.”  He raises an eyebrow at me and flings the pantry door wide open.  “Not that many?” he shrieks, “You have an entire collection of jars!  We could open a museum.  We could call it ‘Bertha’s Jar-seum’ and sell tickets.”  I was offended.  “I can’t throw away something that is perfectly useful.  I can use them to get rid of old fryer oil or to give away salad dressing or use it as a candy jar.”  He rolled his eyes, “Get real.  The only person you ever give stuff to is your mother because you know she’ll give the dang jar back to you.  It’s a vicious cycle and it always ends up with US having more JARS!”  I held my chest in a mock coronary attack, “I can’t believe you’ve forgotten all about the countless craft projects I’ve made for you!”  “Oh, you mean the ‘pencil holder’ you wrapped in foil?  I forgot to thank you for that, didn’t I,” he said with a sneer.  I bit my knuckles in indignant agony.  “That was a silver-plated husband of the year award,” I said, nearly hyperventilating, “How can you be in the running for next year’s award if you keep having this attitude and I have no jars?!”  “I’ll risk it,” he answers, totally unfeeling.  As he heaves my precious collection into a box, I mourn the loss of my tomato sauce jars that still smell of tomatoes.  The baby food jars from when Buttercup was learning to eat strained prunes.  And the funny little marshmallow fluff jar that I sent to Mom filled with chicken soup, which she returned to me filled with a rooted sample of a Christmas cactus, which I returned to her filled with some paperclips I found, which she returned to me filled with creamed corn.  I’m still waiting for that burst of inspiration I need to make my own apple butter so I can send it to her again.  Despite my mournful daydreaming, The Yankee kept tossing.  

To try and save on his blood pressure, (which is a geyser on permanent standby, I might add), I stepped in, removed some of the offending jars and put them in a box by the back door. 

Why do I have so many jars? 

This is a question for my mother, so I call her up.  “Mom?  Why do we keep jars?”  There is a long silence on the other end of the phone.  “Why wouldn’t we keep jars?  They’re glass, they’re sturdy, and they’re useful for something,” she says.  “True,” I continue, “But we just give each other stuff back and forth so our number of jars never actually decreases.  I’m just wondering if you can shed some light on this before The Yankee starts yelling.”  “I use mine for craft projects, Bertha.  You loved that little silver plated daughter-of-the-year award I gave you.”  I panic for a moment while I think of a way to move around that subject.  “Well, I sent you home with a jar of chicken soup and it’s back in my pantry now.  They seem to be multiplying at an alarming rate.  Last time I looked, you had more than I do!”  I hear an exasperated huff on the other end of the phone.  “I don’t have that man-nee,” she says in that halting tone she gets when she’s irritated and it makes her feel better to add an extra, emphatic syllable at the end of each phrase.  “If you have too many jar-zuh, that’s not my problem-muh.”  

I could tell I was hitting close to a nerve so I changed the subject.  Nobody gets that upset over jars.  I certainly don’t. 

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

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

It's Hardly the Resurrection

     I was standing in line at the grocery store last week when a woman and her 3 sons walked by.  It was late in the afternoon and I could tell each kid was dreaming of food and a venue far removed from the boring grocery store he had been forced to endure.  As she struggled to push her overloaded cart past the crowd waiting for a turn at the cash register, one of the boys said, “Mommyyyyy!  I’m hungryyyyy!”  She sighed and said, “We’re going home, honey.  Just wait a little longer and we’ll eat soon.”  Another boy chimed in, “What are we having?”  The mother raised her eyebrows to her hairline, pursed her lips in an effort to look excited, inhaled sharply and said, “Leftovers!  YUMMM!” 


     It’s one of those words I hate like “cluster”, “skin tag”, and “ironing”.  The mere word “leftovers” conjures images of foods that have outlived their usefulness, worn out their welcome: wrinkled green beans, mushy pasta, hopelessly separated sauces, rubbery meat with a bizarre aftertaste.  A mere shadow of its former glory, a leftover reminds me of a singer from a bygone era, still belting out antique tunes on a stage in Branson.  It’s just sad and I can’t bear the thoughts.  I don’t see pasty, soggy fried chicken … I see 80-year-old Elvis, still strutting his saggy stuff across a glossy stage, his quivery voice cracking as he bumps and grinds his walker to a “party at the county jail”.

      I began to wonder if I was completely alone in my disdain.  I’ve known people who cooked three days’ worth of food on a Friday and then re-warmed it the whole weekend long.  (*wave of nausea*)  A woman standing at the deli counter once told me that she bought herself a rotisserie chicken and would then “eat on it all week”.  (*gulp*)  Nanny used to boil leftover meat and make stir-fry out of it.  (*heave*)  Apparently, just like s’mores, green bean casserole, and onion straws, leftovers are very popular … and I’ve never exactly had an affinity for what is popular. 

     This may explain my hatred for frozen entrees, which are little more than commercially prepared leftovers with a half-teaspoon of blueberry crumble for dessert.  It’s a frozen doggy bag for crying out loud, and people spend millions every year buying this stuff.  I don’t get it.  What pains me are the colorful terms people use for their leftovers: “seconds”, “dinner revisited”, “encore”, “Lazarus” … really?  You’re naming your chewy roast beef and withered carrots after a “revisited” dead guy?  (And on a side note, if carrots are so full of wrinkle-fighting antioxidants, why do the “resurrected” ones look like my great, great grandma?) 

     This is the one area where my best friend, Pocahontas, and I don’t see eye-to-eye.  She will order an extra-large picnic meal from the local Chicken Frying Experts down the street and then refrigerate it.  Over the next few nights, she and her family will heat up the leftovers for dinner, and the put them back in the fridge again.  The mere thoughts of this makes me shudder.  Only in my nightmares could I invent anything more unbelievably horrendous.  Like every rule, there are a few exceptions.  I have no trouble reheating spaghetti sauce (sans pasta), chili, black bean soup, or Chinese takeout fried rice.  And that’s about it.  Yes, it means I have to cook every night.  Yes, it means I have to carefully consider how much I am preparing to prevent waste.  Yes, it means I am treated to a fresh creation every time.  And that, to me, is worth every ounce of effort.  It’s how I show love to my family and how I feel like I have done my best for them.  Pocahontas, on the other hand, has no issues with leftovers.  Her issue lies in the painstaking effort of cooking.  She hates it.  She absolutely hates it.  She would much rather reorganize her organized closet organizational system or polish her polished table until it is spotlessly polished with furniture polish.  That’s what floats her boat.  That’s what makes her feel like her home is, well, homey.  She refrains from singing “White Christmas” to my dusty picture frames, and I manage to stop myself from singing “Cold, Cold Heart” to the Chicken Frying Experts box in her fridge.  Our differences make us who we are, and that’s OK. 

     But I still hate leftovers.

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

Friday, August 5, 2011

Bertha’s Bakers Dozen ™: Fashion Blunders I Wish Would Die

     Trends come and go like the tides and each generation has its own standard for what is acceptable and what is just embarrassing.  Well, Letterman has his ten; Bertha has her Bakers Dozen … and this time, it’s the Fashion Blunders I Wish Would Die list.  Whatever your position on bell-bottoms, parachute pants, clam-diggers, Capri pants, scooter skirts, or powder blue “dun-g’rees”, there are some things that will always be wrong.  So, here is my list of sneer-inducing, heart-stopping, jaw-dropping fashion choices I hope I never see again:   

13) Suspenders.  The only people who ever looked good in suspenders were Debbie Gibson and Charles Ingalls.  Everyone else just looks like a fat fur trader in pants purchased from Mrs. Olsen’s mercantile.   

12)  Socks with sandals.  Unless you’re a six-year-old girl with white ankle socks and little white sandals with bows on them, just say no.  I don’t care how cute the socks are.  I don’t care how cold your feet are.  I don’t care who told you it looked good.  I don’t care what your reasoning is, you look ridiculous.  And no matter what you think, there is no way you can escape looking like a middle-aged tourist.  Seriously … say no.

11) Tights with Capri pants.  Capri pants afford the modest coverage of a pant while offering the breezy coolness of shorts.  The purpose of Capri pants is to hit mid-calf thereby exposing the lower portion of one’s leg.  Wearing tights does not: a) “dress them up” in any way, b) fool anyone into thinking you are wearing slacks, c) look remotely attractive. 

10) Sneakers/tennis shoes with a dress and pantyhose.  If your feet are in such excruciating pain that you cannot wear cushioned flats, ballet slippers, or even sturdy “nurse shoes”, get thee to a podiatrist and ride like the wind.     

9) Fanny packs.  Yes, they are a hands-free accessory.  Yes, they are a one-size option for everyone from the bean pole to the polar bear.  Yes, they are the ugliest, goofiest, most embarrassing thing to come out of America since spray-on hair in a can.    

8) Booty shorts.  We’re all so happy for you that you have a luscious booty.  We just don’t want to see it hanging out the back of your shorts.  It’s gross.       

7) Booty cleavage.  It’s a polite way to say “butt crack”.  Nobody wants to see your butt crack.  And if your butt crack is wrinkled, hairy, jiggly, or exhibiting excessive moles … have some self-respect, people!

6) The “Braless Sway”.  I understand your belief that “Freedom of Movement” should be included in the Bill of Rights, but the rest of us who have to see you have a different opinion.  This is not an attractive look for anyone, especially for those of you who seem to be proud of the fact that your … ahem … “Braless Sway” can serve as a lap quilt upon sitting. 

5) Claw fingernails.  Manicures?  Love ’em.  Acrylic nails?  Awesome.  Nails so long you need a weapons permit?  Absolutely not.  They’re ugly, impractical, unsanitary, and just how on earth are you supposed to  … never mind.   

4) The sideways visor.  First you raided Grandpa’s closet.  Then you wore his favorite golf accessory in public.  Now you’ve turned it sideways so nothing but your left ear is shaded from the sunlight.  Sweet, bro.  (not)

3) White-guy dreads.  It’s the “smellavision” of hairstyles: it just wasn’t meant to be.  White-guy dreads always look dirty, always look messy, and always make me wonder about lice.  I’m just saying ...     

2) “Gangsta” pants.  Americans aren’t getting fatter.  The clothing manufacturers are having to produce men’s jeans in a size 64/34 in mass quantities thanks to misguided teenagers who think they look good.  I’m sorry to break it to you, but if you have to squat, lean backwards, and reach deep behind your knees to locate your wallet, ain’t nobody thinkin’ u fly, homedog.   

1) Knee-hi stockings with shorts.  Attention all ladies born before 1960.  I realize your knee-hi stockings are a convenience.  I realize when you look down, all you see is the hem of your shorts/culottes and smooth, tanned legs.  I realize this younger generation needs to take more pride in dressing themselves.  But please, I beg you, I implore you in the name of all that is sacred: Do.  Not.  Wear.  Knee-hi stockings.  With.  Shorts.    

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

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Mr. and Mrs.

     With all the talk about the institution of marriage floating around the internet, the office water cooler, and the court systems, I believe I shall dip my quill into the inkwell and insert my two cents. 
      Talk to any girl under the age of 22 about marriage, and the first thing out of her mouth is, “Well, I’d love to have a ______ wedding.” WE INTERRUPT THIS BLOG POST FOR AN IMPORTANT NEWS BULLETIN: THE WEDDING IS ONE-ONE HUNDRED THOUSANTH OF A PERCENT OF THE MARRIAGE. It’s a ceremony. It’s a party. It’s a 3, 4, maybe even 8 or 9 hour event that pales in comparison to the thoughts of “every-single-day-for-the-next-sixty-years”. And those next sixty years are going to be full of surprises. You do know that, right?

      I think people have the wrong idea about marriage. It is not a partnership of equals. It is a cohesion of opposites that brings about intensive self-evaluation, personal maturity, and a hint of crazy. It is a union of two twelve-year-olds who still want their own room, their own individual cupcake, their own way, and the last laugh. The fa├žade of two mature adults blending their lives into a perfect union of trust and equality is really funny to me. I knew a couple who appeared to be the epitome of grace and maturity; a true communion of souls in a 4-bedroom house. But, truth be told (over a pitcher of margaritas one night), they were anything but graceful and mature. He liked to skip bathing on the weekends: a) because he’s lazy, and b) because she found it repulsive. She, on the other hand, stopped shaving when the pools closed and didn’t take up the habit again until Easter. I sat there staring at The Yankee while our friends regaled with stories so shocking we couldn’t stop thinking about it. That night, we were laying in bed staring into the blackness and discussing what we had heard. “We’re pretty normal, aren’t we, Bert?”, he said. I thought about that one for a moment. “If you mean ‘normal’ as in you don’t let yourself smell like an outhouse all weekend and I don’t spend my winters with legs and armpits like Donkey Kong, then I guess so.”

      But the real truth is we all have weirdness: stuff that disqualifies us from winning the award for “Most Normal”. Just think about it. My best friend, Pocahontas, can’t watch any show about pack rats because she spends the next six hours throwing away everything that isn’t nailed down. My sister-in-law, Red, faints at the sight of any blood that isn’t her own. My dad grew up in abject poverty and is so scared of running out of toilet paper, he has kept a 12-pack of squeezable 2-ply in his closet for as long as I’ve known him. When it really comes down to brass tacks, I suppose weirdness is the new normal … and if couples can learn to adjust to each other’s weirdness, the world just might be a happier place. I’ve had plenty of practice getting used to The Yankee’s weirdness. He has a love affair with sleep that no basketball game, favorite food, or delicately perfumed wrist can trump.

      It was a Saturday and I’d been up with Buttercup since 8 o’clock. I scrubbed floors, washed clothes, dusted ceiling fans, changed sheets, and baked bread while The Yankee stayed curled up until well after Noon. Then, as he dragged his Yankee butt into the living room, he flopped in the recliner and fell asleep for another hour. I would have a splitting headache if I slept that long, but I’m a girl and girls rule. (Sorry … just a little hint of the 12 year old in me dying to get out and post his drooling picture on Twitter.) As I pull Buttercup’s comforter out of the dryer and head up to her room, I can hear The Yankee stirring. He’s reading one of my “useless trivia” books that I enjoy at the end of a long day and, even though he is not a reader, he enjoys the tidbits of information. As I struggle to re-make the bed, I hear him laughing, the foot of the recliner being lowered, and then his voice reverberating through the house. “Bertha!” he calls, still laughing, “You gotta hear this!” He finds me, props himself against Buttercup’s door frame, and starts reading some pointless fact I would have otherwise found amusing were it not for me standing on my head adjusting a contrary dust ruffle. Part of me was irritated. I’ve been going at this housework for hours and where has he been? Snoozing, that’s where. Taking up space, serving no purpose, contributing nothing to the universe or the household. And now, when I’m continuing my quest for a nice, clean home, he’s tracking me down for useless trivia? Really?!!? Then suddenly, it hits me. He … tracked ME down. Of all his e-mail buddies, of all his weird friends, of all our family members he could have contacted to share this tidbit that made him laugh, he went looking for me. I was the first one on his mind when he wanted to share something. I could have ignored him. I could have huffed, puffed, and made a BIG DEAL out of the fact that I’m the one doing all the housework while he and his blankie spend some quality time together. I could have said something snarky. But I didn’t. I laughed with him, told him how funny it was, and asked him what he wanted for dinner. He inhaled deeply and said, “I smell fresh bread and lemony-fresh cleanser. You’ve been watching that show about people’s dirty houses again, haven’t you.” It was a statement, not a question, and I couldn’t deny it. Yes, I’d been watching it. What? You’ve never seen someone else’s dirt and been inspired to clean up your own? The look on my face was evidently funny to him because he laughed, put the book down, and gave me a kiss on the cheek.

      “You’re a dork. How about I go get takeout for dinner tonight, huh? And here, let me help you with that stupid dust ruffle.” Yes, he’s weird, but he’s my Mister. I can handle his brand of weirdness. I wouldn’t trade him for anything, but I could live without that recliner.

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