on the eve of forty-nine

On the eve of forty-nine, I’m moved to pen some rhyming lines

That show, before the year has turned, a few small things that I have learned.


No one needs a hoard of stuff. Life is simpler with enough.

If it doesn’t make you smile, toss it in the garbage pile,

Or give it to a Goodwill store. Someone there will love it more.


Also, chuck your lesser fears and go explore some new frontiers.

Sing in public. Learn to dance. Wear some really ugly pants.

No one cares. They’re more concerned with all those judging them in turn.

Do yourself a giant favor: act like you’re a little braver.


Don’t surround yourself with pain. “Happy” can’t survive the strain.

People who can’t stop complaining just aren’t very entertaining.

Trade them in for those whose brighter outlook makes your soul feel lighter.



So there’s a bit of common sense that something forced me to dispense.

I hope that I will still be here at this time in another year,

Looking fifty up the nose and wearing much, much smaller clothes.



I’ll say goodnight and leave you with some final words of Barb-ly wisdom:

Use your gifts, your heart, your grace to make the world a better place.

Remember that sincere compassion isn’t ever out of fashion.


i really don’t care how many calories are in a margarita.

Especially when I have…several…of them in one evening.  But that was yesterday. This morning I got on a scale and in spite of the influx of tequila, I’ve dropped two pounds. That’s since I got the magic number five days ago.

La dee freakin’ da. Two pounds. Less than a kilo. But thinking about it, I’ve seen kilos of both weed and cocaine (on TV of course, it’s not like I’m wealthy), and they’d be pretty hard to stash in your pants without a noticeable bulge. As would a two-pound box of See’s candy. Or eight sticks of butter.

Mmmmm, butter.

So I’ll just say I’ve lost nearly a kilo of weed and call it good. It is good. And what’s better is that I haven’t done it by getting all draconian on my ass, which is a recipe for disaster with me. As soon as I try to actually deprive myself of something, that whole “you ain’t the boss of me” thang kicks in and my mouth always wins those battles. Always. “Self-destruction before subjugation” seems to be my subconscious battle cry even when it’s good for me. Especially when it’s good for me. Kinda romantic really, but also desperately stupid. Like a Mel Gibson movie once you realize that the dude truly is mentally ill.

So two pounds. If I can keep up this pace I hit the target in 42-and-a-half weeks. Which means early September of next year.

Crap, that’s a long time.

Well, once more into the breach, and all that. Perhaps a poem will inspire me.

A big lady from the Midwest
Had at long last been forced to confess
That her heart would beat better
And death not soon get her
If the size of her ass were addressed.


let the losing begin. or, it’s all about me. ick.

What could possibly be more boring than a blog kept up in the service of a weight-loss journey? Gad, even typing “weight-loss journey” makes me want to hurl at the self-indulgence. A journey is a trek up Everest. Or simply walking into Mordor. Trying to ingest fewer Cheetos is not a freaking journey (thought the overwhelming deliciousness that is Cheeto does make it a difficult task).

But gird your loins, folks, because here we go.

Visited the pulmonologist today, hopefully for the last time, and he gave me the magic number: 85 pounds. Actually, it was 87, but I was wearing my coat, so I figure that’s my head start.

He said my heart is “stiff.” By that, he did not mean stoic. Or stalwart. Or even stubborn. He meant stiffity stiffstiff, as in unyielding and inflexible. On a muscular level. Apparently my heart is the only part of me that is not soft and gushy. And it should be.

So, in an effort to “not make it any worse,” I agreed to drop some significant poundage. I’ve already lost quite a bit, as before-and-after photos will attest, but this is a whole new ballgame.

Ballgame…mmm…hot dogs….

People who know things say that you shouldn’t lose more than a pound a week. This seems woefully inadequate when compared to my pack-it-on superpower of gaining 10 pounds in a week with hardly any effort at all. Thirty in a month if I’m diligent. Anywho, at a measly pound a week this will take more than a year and half. Or roughly 8.5 Kim Kardashian marriages.


But it’s for a good cause. So if you stick around, in between the random rants that I’ve fallen behind on, you’ll be seeing poundage updates and hopefully a newfound love of exercise that has evaded me my entire adult life.


my dander took a viagra.

We took a four-hour drive to Cedar Rapids today for a comedy club performance to benefit a cause I like. It’s really only three hours away, but when you couple our desire to take less-travelled roads with our inability to determine east from west, you can add a little.

When we got into town, the comedy club (Penguins, if you’re keeping score) was nowhere near where Google Maps said it would be. We went around and around, but found only warehouses and hotel parking lots.

So we found downtown, and went up and down each street. Which you know, if you’ve ever been to Cedar Rapids, takes some doing: the combination of ever-present construction and random one-way signs makes downtown a labyrinth. After the third trip around, I pulled into the art museum parking lot and called.

Yeah, the guy who answered the phone said, it’s hard to find. Google Maps is all wrong, and there’s construction right in front of the door. But we were less than two blocks away. We were also more than an hour early, so we toured around Cedar Rapids (BTW, what the heck is up with Coe College? A single one-way street going through the center of campus and no other roads? No parking by the auditorium or theatre? But I digress), found a place to park, took a walk to the river, meandered, walked through construction tunnels and finally got to the front door.

It said “The Vault” in chalk writing on the sign, not “Penguin’s” so I was confused. But the nice hipster bartender grabbing a smoke in the street said it was the same place, and to go ahead and go in. Sweet. We went in, and down a pretty steep set of stairs to an empty podium. The place was not remotely busy. Maybe six people at one bar, not a single person at the other.

Right behind the podium were a manager guy and some other guy sitting and eating. So we stood and waited.

And waited.

Manager guy then said, “Wait right here and I’ll get the hostess.”

We waited. Right there. And we waited.

And we waited some more.

Hipster hostess came out, took one look at us and turned around and went back.

And we waited.

Manager guy came back out, and avoided eye contact.

And we waited.

And we waited.

There I was, desperately waiting to be chosen for P.E. basketball while the popular kids were retreating to the “who’s absent?” list. I jumped through a temporal wormhole to ladies’ nights twenty-some years ago in Santa Barbara where I was either refused entry, or denied the drink discount, because I wasn’t the type of lady the bars wanted.

I was a coward fidgeting in a corner, eager to hand my good money to people who could not be bothered to treat me as a fellow human being, at least worthy of a “hi, it will be just a minute.”

Eleanor Roosevelt said, “no one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” She was right. My dander took a Viagra and up it went. No one has the right to put BB in the corner and ignore me, or my husband. Or me-and-my-husband, who are really quite visible together. I could feel him steaming right alongside me.

And as much as we wanted to support the cause, and see the long-missed friends who would be there, we bailed. My dander stayed up all three hours home. (I will not need to call a physician.)

I’ll donate more money to the cause. But The Vault and Penguin’s will see none of our $30 entry fee, or two-drink minimums.

Idiots. I’m a hell of a tipper.


You can’t avoid Father’s Day. (Or Mother’s Day, Grandparents’ Day, Boss’s Day or any other day brought to you by American Greetings, Hallmark and the fine retailers in your region.) But especially today, Father’s Day. From the abundance of retail offers flooding my mailbox and cluttering my Facebook page, it is clear that 100% of all fathers grill. It’s a wonder that we are not the United States of Kingsford, living in Weber County in the great state of Matchlight.

To be honest, I don’t remember my dad grilling that much. To be more honest, I don’t remember my dad that much.

He’s been gone for more than 20 years now, after losing a pretty wretched battle with cancer. I try not to remember those last days, when the 6’5” tower of power had been reduced to a skeleton in a fluffy blue bathrobe. I still feel pretty awful that I couldn’t give him the last thing he asked me for: a bottle of watermelon juice. I searched every store in Harrison, Arkansas, and couldn’t find any. I don’t even know if anyone made any. But when the dying guy asks for something, you go get it.

I still have reminders of my dad everywhere. His hobby was woodworking (or as he put it, making sawdust), and I have a jewelry box, spice racks, and several pieces of furniture he made. His hands touched those things. With AM radio, baseball games or Mario Lanza playing in the background, he crafted them, pausing to take long drags from a Pall Mall Gold. I remember the garage ashtrays – beanbags with metal trays on top, once bright plaid but by then just dark and vaguely stripey.

I remember my dad’s cough better than his voice. Occasionally I’ve heard his cough in a crowd, and can’t help myself: I have to see who’s coughing, to see if they look like him, if maybe they are him. But what do you say when you spot them? Can you cough again? You reminded me of someone, someone dead. Someone who’s been dead a long time.

Other sounds bring him back as well: the scratch and clink of a Zippo lighter opening. The tapping of a cigarette against a watch face to settle the tobacco. The WAAAahhhh…WAAAahhhh…WAAAaaaahh of the Indy 500. A table saw screaming in a garage. The creak of a stiff gun belt.

I think most of my visual memories of my dad are actually memories of photographs. Maybe it’s easier to remember a moment once it’s been pre-frozen. But there he is, wearing a chef’s hat. Showing off a big fish. In his uniform, complete with guns, in a ridiculous Barney Fife pose. All, quite literally, snapshots in albums.

I remember that my dad hardly ever got mad at me, but once was when he was teaching me to parallel park. In a Ford Courier pick-up. With a stick shift. Over and over I’d get so close to getting it right, and then snap into dyslexic panic and screw it up. Finally, even my dad was annoyed. “Drive home,” he said, “Let’s just…go home.” We got to the bottom of the driveway, and I sat there, Courier still idling, looking at him, knowing he was an inch away from anger. “Kill it,” he said.

So I popped the clutch. And his head smacked into the windshield. In my defense, “kill it” and “turn the car off” are legitimately two different things. In his defense, his daughter shouldn’t have been such a literalist.

Whenever I parallel park, or pop the clutch, I think of my dad.

When  I was 16, I was in a motorcycle accident. A freak hailstorm helped, as did the guy in front of me not using his signal to turn. I woke up in a gutter, with a fair amount of blood and glass around. Fortunately, people immediately stopped to help, and the police and ambulance weren’t far behind. I held it together pretty well (and I had been wearing a helmet), assuring the good Samaritans that I was okay, presenting my paperwork to the policeman, admiring the angelic beauty of the paramedics and joking with the ambulance guys. I didn’t cry, I didn’t whine, I didn’t even complain.

Pulling into the Palomar Hospital Emergency room, I saw my dad through the window. All six feet and five inches of him, in his full forest green marshal’s uniform. He was imposing. The ambulance guy said, “man, are you in trouble or something?” and I said, no, that’s just my dad.

And when that big guy with the gunbelt came over to me, took my hand and said “It’s all right, B-Kay, everything will be all right,” I dissolved into a sobbing puddle of relieved tears. Because I knew with him there, it would be.

Happy Father’s Day. Miss you.

the way of things. or, the more things change, the more they depressingly stay the same.

When I was a little kid watching television, we only had a handful of channels to choose from, and the ads were the same for all of them. Except PBS, which had auctions and pledge drives instead.

But in every ad for household products on the big three networks, the roles were always the same: women doing the laundry, women doing the dishes, women cleaning the carpets, women cooking the meals, women raising the children. Women in advertisements were relegated to maids, moms, waitresses, the occasional nurse, maybe a teacher, and a manicurist or two. Advice for all things, from the toughness of a Brawny towel to the power of Mr. Clean, came from men. A man captained the Ti-D-Bowl boat, for Pete’s sake.

Even the Battleship box bore out the typical image: Dad and son playing fun games at the kitchen table while mom and daughter do the dishes at the sink, sending appreciative smiles through the doorway for the choice of “G4” and subsequent sinking of said battleship.

I’ve been watching a crapload of TV lately in a desperate attempt to not finish my master’s thesis or a variety of work reports. (I’m good at procrastinating. You’re watching me now.) And I’m very dismayed that things haven’t changed.

Even though women are now at least partially represented in nearly every field of endeavor, most ads still hearken back to those halcyon days when women knew their place, and it was in a small box, indeed.

Let’s take Progressive, as an example. I think everyone knows Flo. The bumpit and cherry lipstick are ubiquitous, if not iconic. And also impossible to take seriously. You know the two guys in blue suits in those ads? Those are AGENTS from a competing company. Flo is a CASHIER. She wears an APRON, not a suit. When Santa visits, she asks for cashmere socks – not a promotion or even an executive nametag. When a couple comes to shop, the man is pitied for carrying a bag, his wife ridiculed (through communal rolling of eyes) for emasculating him so. How dare she.

Move over to Geico. The lizard is a guy. So is his boss. The only female that figures in is one who mistakes the lizard for another a reptile who had his way with her and abandoned her.

The General is a dude. The Allstate dude is a dude. The Allstate mayhem dude is a dude.

State Farm at least has a female agent, but the male customer is so infantilized that she’s more of a mom than a professional. And the former E-surance spokescartoon was even more anatomically unlikely than Barbie.

In the advertising world, women in fluffy skirts dance with joy when their houses smell good. A serious-looking male scientist captures “the essence of the national parks” for a new Airwick home scent line that sends a woman into rapture when she takes a deep whiff. (National parks? Really? Does it smell like buffalo poo, diesel RVs and bong hits from three campsites over?)

In the advertising world, women still freak out over dirty carpets, leaving friends out in the rain, wigging out over visiting in-laws, or renting machines that practically destroy their homes. Thank heavens they can always call on the male professionals at ServPro and Stanley Steamer to repair the damage. The worth of a woman is clearly wrapped up tightly into each fiber of her hi-low pile.

In the advertising world, only women do laundry and scrub grout (though we’re shown how by shouting men in infomercials). Only women shop for groceries, pack lunches for their kids and cook dinner (the Hamburger Helper hand is a guy, but he doesn’t actually cook anything).

And have you ever noticed the spousal attractiveness ratio in ads? Slow your DVR down and take a look now and then. Even the dumpiest, most idiotic guy is going to have an impossibly hot wife. He may be sloppy , overweight and nondescript, but she is gorgeous, whether they’re shopping at Lowe’s, Volkswagen or WalMart.

All that worrying about carpet cleanliness must keep them thin. Or maybe all those home scent products really do transport them into a world of unutterable beauty and joy.


Damn. My thesis isn’t writing itself. Gotta go.

new beginnings. old grudges.

It’s commencement time. All over the country kids are wearing cheap robes in garish colors and square tasseled hats that won’t stay on. Millions of photos commemorate the occasion on Facebook alone, with kabillions more in shoeboxes and albums. But graduation is just one day, just one moment, really. The nine months leading up to it are the real meat, where the real stuff happened and the non-photo ops took place.

And I’m going to take this moment to reflect, to reminisce…and to out my teachers. Not in the traditional Oscar-speech sense (I don’t know if they are/were gay, and I don’t care) but more of a kid’s perspective on their awesomeness or lack of same.

Let’s start with kindergarten. I can go back further, but I don’t remember much more of Mrs. Ryder’s pre-school than Friday being the best day because it was tunafish sandwich and tomato soup day. (Wednesdays were PBJs, but the soup was beef vegetable, so a distant second.) And that the Golden Book of Zorro was my favorite read.

In kindergarten I had Mrs. Oster, who was lovely. She had a sweet, soft voice, and caring hands. We didn’t get slapped for eating the paste, which we all heard happened in the other classroom. She smelled good, and wore pastel polyester doubleknit dresses. The only time I remember her flustered was when Kathleen came to class with chicken pox: her mom had put her in a turtleneck sweater so no one could see (and it was hot that day) and then went to work where she could not be reached. That was a difficult day for Mrs. Oster.

First grade I had Miss Fishback, who ruled with an iron fist, and well-earned fear. She had this Vulcan-death-grip maneuver where her thumb and middle finger would hold the base of your skull, and she could actually lift you by the head and propel you across the room. Larger infractions meant more time in the grip, and she would sometimes parade miscreants back and forth in front of the class as they sobbed in agony and humiliation. I don’t remember what Miss Fishback wore, but she did have curly hair and glasses, and liked us to draw pictures of her for art projects. She also suggested “I love Miss Fishback” as a caption, especially for Open House displays, but I don’t think I could ever bring myself to do that. My most vivid memory of first grade is when Kax Norcia barfed all over her desk and we were all too afraid of Miss Fishback to speak out in class. So we tentatively raised our hands as puke gushed onto the floor, our instinct to get the hell out warring with the certainty of pain if we were blamed. Ahhh, the carefree days of youth.

Second grade brought Miss Kant, who was so much nicer and gentler than Miss Fishback. She wore mini skirts and a shag haircut and she was young and cool. She also let us watch movies almost every single day after lunch. Once, when the projector broke, we found out that Miss Kant left for the teachers’ lounge as soon as the lights were out. Apparently we were a challenging class.

In third grade I had the lovely Mrs. Wolf, who I remember as an elderly woman, though she was probably not much older than I am now. She had white hair and glasses, and wore grandma dresses. The biggest excitement of third grade was when Mrs. Thornsberry (another teacher) broke a garter. This had caused great consternation in her class, and required Mrs. Thornsberry to go home and repair said garter. None of us had any idea of what a garter even was, but we had all heard of garter snakes, and soon the rumor was that Mrs. Thornsberry had snakes under her skirt that were somehow trained to hold up her stockings. Mrs. Wolf tried to explain what a garter actually was, but her story wasn’t nearly so interesting as trained snakes.

In fourth grade I descended into the pits of hell. I was excited to get the young and beautiful Miss Roston as my teacher, as Miss Center was neither young nor beautiful, nor quite sane. But Miss Roston was the Evil Queen in Snow White. Being the most beautiful in all the land was central to her existence. She was a La Costa socialite who bragged about playing tennis with Barbra Streisand and bitterly complained about the lack of decent men in our smallish town. (She might even have been divorced, but that was such a shameful state in 1972 that children only heard about it in whispers.) She was lovely, with a very pretty face, loads of beautiful dark hair, fashionable clothes and a mean streak a mile wide. She was cruelest to the most tender students: migrant worker kids who lived in camps without running water were required to show the class the dirt their sponge baths had missed; a boy who had been removed from his alcoholic mother’s torture-filled care was constantly berated for any hint of “attitude”; and Miss Roston tenderly referred to me as “the elephant” and “the wildebeest.” Which is certain to instill confidence in a child and guarantee popularity among her peers.

And then it was on to Mrs. White for fifth grade. The most important thing to know about Mrs. White was that she was Miss Roston’s best friend, in the sense of the prettiest girl in the bar’s dumpy entourage. She adopted Miss Roston’s classroom management methods, where the students were divided into seating pods based on a monthly popularity contest (imagine the worst day of choosing sides for basketball and then live with the repercussions every day for a school year). Points were won or lost based on arbitrary methods I could never figure out. You didn’t seem to get any for having the best scores on tests or for writing good book reports. The same kids always got the highest points, which earned them treats like staying inside the classroom during recess on really hot days, and getting to shop in the “prize box.” And questioning the point system was the quickest way to lose points.

Miss Roston and Mrs. White sometimes “team taught” which meant they’d both take off for Frescas in the teachers’ lounge in the middle of the afternoon.


So elementary school wasn’t the greatest. When I hear people complain about how bad schools are now, I always wonder if they’re forgetting how truly wretched schools were then. When teachers could hit you. When the district saved money by poisoning all the grass and you had to go play in the poison. When no one complained about racist or sexist comments. When the “hyper kids” had their names called over the loudspeaker to come and get their Ritalin. When the teachers were worse bullies than the kids could ever be.

You think you put all this stuff behind you (and convince yourself you were overreacting to begin with) and then something happens that makes you gulp. Just a few years ago I googled Miss Fishback. And when I first saw her photo, I literally sweated with fear. It’s been forty years. I’m a successful professional. I am a foot taller than she is. She’s an elderly woman, and I could take her. But I was immediately transformed back into a little girl that would rather sit in vomit than take the risk of incurring the teacher’s wrath.