Wednesday, December 17, 2008


20 years ago today I got lucky. 20 years ago today, I married the husband.

I was 19 and the husband was 22. I was a college student. He was a submarine officer. I knew I wanted to be married. I was sure.

For the next 20 years we lived a life we never could have predicted or planned for in 1988. We’ve lived through randomness and progression, and challenges and changes. We’ve lived through ups and we’ve lived through downs. We’ve lived through really bad things. We’ve lived through really good things. We’ve lived through stuff we’ve told everyone about. We’ve lived through stuff we’ve told no one about. We’ve lived through being 100% sure. We’ve lived through not knowing anything for sure. We’ve lived a normal life.

And somehow, 20 years later, we are lucky enough to still be standing upright. We are lucky enough to still like each other. We are lucky enough that we still know how to laugh. We are lucky enough to still be married.

I don’t know what is going to happen tomorrow or next week or next year. I’m expecting some randomness and progression and challenges and changes. I do know this, however. Today, I want to be married. Today, I am sure. Today, I feel lucky.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Deck the Halls

This is the extent of my Christmas decorating so far.

I’m a little behind.

My wreath will go up today. I promise. Really.

It has to. I’m the last one in the neighborhood to decorate. Most of my neighbors love to decorate and they are really good at it. They are always finding new and fabulous things to decorate their houses with during the holiday season. I love these lights that my neighbor and friend Lisa, the queen of holiday spirit, found this year.

And this Costco wreath on her door is gorgeous. What Santa wouldn’t want to come to this house?

My favorite holiday decoration that I have seen in…perhaps forever…is this Christmas pig. After all, when I think of Christmas, I always think of spirited pink pigs with red scarves. Don’t you?

I love it because it’s different.

So this weekend, I promise, I’ll put up a few decorations. We’ll get a tree. I’ll get out the Christmas dishes.

I have to.

The boy has threatened to run away from home and live with Lisa’s family up the street for the sole reason that they know how to celebrate. So because I wish to keep my children from running away, I will decorate. I promise.

And I might even get myself a Christmas pig.

Check This Out!

One of my favorite, favorite musical styles is a capella. One of my favorite groups who sing a capella is the Nylons. In high school I wore out cassette tapes of theirs listening to songs like this.

However, I now have a new favorite a cappella group called Straight No Chaser. LOVE THEM!! In 1996 this Indiana University men's a capella group wowed audiences at every performance. Most of the original group is back together and is still fabulous. Look for their recent holiday album, Holiday Spirits.

Check out this most amusing "vintage" performance of The 12 Days of Christmas. This clip has had 8.8 million views on You Tube and is responsible for launching the second life of this group. You will love it. Guaranteed.

My favorite clip of them however is the performance of their original theme song. You will love it. Guaranteed.

Monday, December 8, 2008

A VERY Merry Christmas

As I drive though my town this holiday season I am greeting with wonderful and festive greetings on all of the business' reader boards.

"50% off gingerbread lattes! This week only!"

"Santa arrives 12/13 at 7pm! Free coffee and cookies!"

A few daring businesses will post something such as, “He is the reason for the season!” or a even the recently offensive,“Merry Christmas!”

“Happy Holidays!” seems to be the safest and most common reader board greeting in the last few years. It’s all inclusive and minimally offensive.

Some businesses take an even safer route by simply thanking their customers for another successful year. As I drove to the grocery store this morning I saw that the local storage facility had decided to take the safer route. Their reader board was thanking their customers.

And then I turned the corner and saw the definitely not the safe route, back side of the reader board.


Now that’s one holiday greeting I definitely haven’t seen before.

Check This Out!

The Lunch of the Month here at Slightly Exaggerated is most delicious and super easy. Spread some pre-made pesto on top of any type of flatbread. We are partial to tandoori nan, the Indian flatbread. Then top with grated mozzarella and chopped tomatoes. Broil until it looks good. Sometimes I'll fold it in half and put it in the boy's and teenager's lunches.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Captive Bonding

I held him captive for almost a week before he managed to rid himself of me. I had my way with him and for that time, there wasn’t much he was able to do about it. I even thought we were growing closer.

It all started when the husband brought home a new engine for his ’69 Camaro. The engine sat in the garage on an engine stand. Sometimes it was suspended from some sort of mini-crane contraption. Apparently, it is very time consuming to put a new engine in a car. Apparently, it is very complicated. So the garage is where the husband began spending all of his time.

Without me.

I complained using my best insecure, clingy wife impression.

He shrugged without feeling and said, “You’re welcome to join me in the garage.”

So, despite the cold and despite the funny smells, I grabbed a sweatshirt and wandered out to the garage. I sat down on the wooden step.

He tinkered.

I talked.

It didn’t take me long to realize my new power. He wasn’t going anywhere. He was my captive audience. It was my dream.

So talk I did. I told him all about my day. I told him about the neighbors. I told him about the neighbors’ day. I over analyzed the cats and under analyzed the teenager and the boy. I told him what appetizer I was bringing to the party. I talked about my new shoes and Guns and Roses and organic lawn fertilizer and the Middle East and potato salad recipes.

And because he grunted back at mostly appropriate times I knew he was listening. We were bonding. I was overjoyed. I knew we were growing closer to each other.

Soon though, he started to talk while he tinkered. He didn’t take long to realize his new power. He knew I wanted to be with him and that I wasn’t going anywhere. I was his captive audience. It was his gearhead dream.

So talk he did. He told me about rocker arms. He told me about flex plates. He told me about push rods and lifters. He overanalyzed things like gaskets and seals and timing. He under analyzed the many pretty colors I thought he should paint the car. He told me what horsepower he’d be bringing to the track. He talked about tenths of seconds and blowers and valve stem length and bolt patterns and fuel mixture recipes.

And because I grunted back at mostly appropriate times he thought I was listening. He thought we were bonding. And he was overjoyed because the whole time he was getting finishing the car.

He held me captive for quite some time. He had his gearhead way with me and there wasn’t much I could do about it.

I escaped my captivity when I went in the house to make dinner.

And of course, I also had to research paint jobs for a ’69 Camaro.

The next time I found myself sitting on that wooden step I told the husband all about pearls and metallics. I told him about ghost flames and fade aways. I told him about Chameleons and overlays and airbrushing. I overanalyzed the differences between black, galaxy grey, platinum, charcoal and titanium. He grunted back at mostly appropriate times.

And I just knew we were bonding.

Check This Out!

The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid is a well reviewed book full of quietly approaching tensions and questions that arise somewhat unexpectedly. A young Pakistani man educated in America and living the American dream finds his life suddenly overturned in the wake of September 11. I found it to be an uneasy, smart book that might just have raised more questions than it answered.

And finally, after mucho peer suggestion, I have read Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. I had been putting off reading this book for quite some time. I read very little fiction and had no desire to read a book about elephants or the circus or the early 20th century time period. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I could NOT put it down. I neglected the family for this book. I can’t believe I waited so long to read it. Major book withdrawal afterwards….sigh.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Save the Children

There's a daycare and preschool by my house. In front of the daycare, up against the road, is a fenced in retention pond. A week ago they began trapping the children inside the fence and not letting them out. None of them have proper coats on or any food at all. After a few days, some of them, exhausted, starving and dehydrated fell over on the ground. They haven't gotten up since. I fear they are dead.

Ok so maybe those kids aren't real. And maybe they fell over because of the windstorm. I just about drove off the road, however, the first time I saw them forlornly peering out through the chain link. It seemed so real. For some reason those caged "children" bother me a bit. I'm not sure why, but it just seems a little bit wrong.

Check This Out!

If you love a good silly cat video then try this one.

If you are think of yourself as young, open minded about things like house arrest and gun charges, can tolerate a little rap, love a decent message, can't get enough Rihanna and miss the fabulous Numa Numa guy then check out this preview for Live Your Life by T.I.. Look for the full video at Yahoo music, iTunes or many other places.

And if you just miss the Numa Numa guy then go ahead and relive the fun by clicking here.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Starving in the Suburbs

We are starving in the suburbs. We beg of you, someone please help us. Forget the economy. Forget the bailout. Forget the stock market, the layoffs and the presidential election. Out here in the suburbs, we have more important issues. We have nothing to eat.

Our situation became unmanageable recently when we learned that microwaving frozen meals could make us very sick. Apparently microwaves heat food unevenly leaving some areas of the meal undercooked, thereby raising the risk of salmonella poisoning. We are now beside ourselves. The microwave meal was the last safe hope for sustenance that we had in suburbia.

Our crisis began a few years ago when we were notified that the standard suburban evening barbecue had some serious consequences. The barbecue smoke and the charring we so loved on our steaks and chicken and burgers contained harmful, cancer causing polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and hetero cyclic amines-aka-bad stuff. Our carefree nightly barbecues were now a thing of the past.

Soon it began to be pounded into our brains that the beloved convenience of the fast food drive- thru wasn’t the healthiest way to feed our children. There were accusations thrown around of too much fat, too much salt, too many calories, very few nutrients and portion sizes three times the size of those our drive-thru ancestors enjoyed.

Our grocery stores came under attack next. The bakery items were the first casualty. Bagels the size of life preservers were frowned upon. Doughnuts, cakes and pies made primarily with white sugar and white flour were said to cause a dreadful dip in blood sugar levels. And of course, the whole department was littered with evidence of heinous trans fat usage.

Canned food, another of our great conveniences at the grocery store, was the next to go down. The resin lining in many cans contains bisphenal-A (BPA) which can leach into the food in the can. Now most of us have no clue what this is but when we heard that the boy mice exposed to BPA were growing breasts we became quite frightened.
In fact, many of our grocery items have recently been contaminated by salmonella and E.coli. Ground beef, frozen pot pies and frozen pizza have been contaminated as well as cantaloupe, spinach, sprouts, dry cereal and snack foods. Even our beloved pets have recently had their food recalled.

We’ve been so concerned for our suburban food supply that we’ve resorted to buying locally grown food and in some rare instances, growing our own. Quite honestly however, the farmer’s markets often take place on the same day as our children’s soccer and football games. This is not convenient for us. We’ve also found that growing our own food is much more time consuming and difficult than we ever imagined.

We are so desperate for food that we even briefly considered cooking real meals for ourselves in our own ovens. We spend so much time in our vehicles commuting and transporting our children, however, that we have found we aren’t home long enough to make this option work. And frankly, even if we did actually cook something in our own ovens, we would be unable to reheat the leftovers. Unbeknownst to us, the plastic containers we use for this have been leaching chemicals into our food for years.

Sadly, our last hope for survival is takeout and delivery food, which in suburbia, leave much to be desired. Our only real take out option is the teriyaki place down the road. Unfortunately, with the recent rice shortages their prices have skyrocketed. We have also heard that the polystyrene containers they serve their food in are not safe and may “interfere with our normal functions”. This concerns us greatly. Our only delivery option is pizza. We must say that the new delivery fuel surcharge that has been added to our bill is most disappointing. And quite honestly, it is almost impossible to order a healthy pizza.

We are envious of our friends who live in the city and the numerous and varied takeout and delivery options they have. We are also envious of our friends who live in rural areas and seem to have more time to cook their own meals. Out here in the suburbs though, we are in sad shape. We have run out of healthy, fast and safe ways to feed our families. And since our doctors have told us that we should limit ourselves to one glass of wine a day, we can’t even properly comfort ourselves during this difficult time. You can see how dire our situation is. We beg of you to help us. We have nothing to eat.

Check This Out!

I recommend that you try Burt's Bees Lip Shimmer. It's "The World's Best Lip Balm in Sheer Luminescent Color". And, it smells good too. The boy has become addicted to creamed chipped beef. He reports that the Stouffer's frozen version tastes even better than homemade. The teenager has been enjoying oatmeal with maple syrup and brown sugar for breakfast every morning and thinks that everyone should do the same. And the husband just wants you to see some pictures of his new engine.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

'Twas the Day After the Election

‘Twas the day after the election
And all through the states
The people awoke
And pondered their fate.

Some people thanked Jesus
And offered a prayer.
Some people wallowed
In hungover despair.

It was finally over.
Campaigning was done.
A new time in America
Had just begun.

The TV was full
Of political chatter.
They spoke of how voting
Records were shattered.

The people were inspired.
They wept with joy.
Some preached, “It is time!”
Some were annoyed.

Analysts analyzed,
And the votes were reviewed.
Some thought things were great.
Some thought we were screwed.

And while the smart people talked
About transitions and such.
Most people didn’t care
About it that much.

As the pundits dissected
And explained the mysterious.
The people were tired
Of being so serious.

So they switched the channel
And looked for something more steamy.
Enough of the suits!
Bring on Dr. McDreamy!

TV ads for Boniva,
Mountain Dew and Aleve
Were a such a relief from
“Approved” ones that deceived.

The amount of junk mail
Was dramatically slashed.
They only found bills
That demanded their cash.

Thanksgiving was coming
And they must plan ahead.
Someone brings the pie
And someone bakes the bread.

And away to their yards
They flew like a flash.
Some tore out their yard signs
Half were hucked in the trash.

They needed the lawn space
At this time of year
For the huge blow up sleigh
And eight plastic reindeer.

They rushed off to soccer.
They rushed off to ballet.
They rushed through the drive through
At the end of each day.

They didn’t talk
About votes anymore.
They went back to talking
About the crazies next door.

And while the people were glad
To finally move on,
They did have one worry
That still wasn’t gone.

“We’ve lost some money
And we are so shocked!
Could you please fix it soon?”
They asked of Barack.

“Obama we beg you!
Please help us all.
Because we’d really like
To get back to the mall.”

“We haven’t been shopping
In a very long time.
Instead we’ve been reading
Weird poems that rhyme.”

“So if you could actually
Make the economy work
The Republicans will be nice
And not call you a jerk!”

“So Mr. Obama,
We know you’re our man!
Fill our wallets with money!
Yes you can!”

Then the Democrats exclaimed
To the Republicans on the right,
"Don’t worry so much.
We don’t have to fight."

"Things will be great.
This we do know.
In fact we’re quite sure.
...Oprah said so."

Check This Out!

The cheese of the month at Slightly Exaggerated is cotija. Sprinkle crumbled cotija and some black beans on a flour tortilla. Nuke until the cheese is melted. Spoon a ton of really fresh pico de gallo on top. Fold it like a taco and enjoy.

Songs of the week have been Hank Williams', Hey Good Lookin' ( ), The Last Kiss from Pearl Jam(, and Love Ain't No Stranger by Whitesnake (

The Post Election Headache

Check This Out!

Check out my latest work, The Post Election Headache at

Friday, October 31, 2008

'Twas the Night Before the Election

‘Twas the night before the election,
When all through the states,
All the people were stirring,
And were tired of the wait.

The candidates had sung
Their promises with care,
In hopes that the votes
Would somehow be there.

The people had wrestled
With thoughts in their heads,
While visions of doom
Multiplied and spread.

McCain is too stiff!
He’s ready to snap!
He settled for Palin
And she’s full of crap.

Obama rumors then surfaced
Fueled by internet chatter.
The anti-Christ! He’s a Muslim!
Being black might matter!

To the left or the right
People went like a flash.
They tore open their wallets
And sent in their cash.

McCain and Obama
Gathered up their dough.
While Hillary counted
How much money she owed.

McCain started pondering
When Vice Joe should appear.
But the party forced Palin
With her 5 kids standing near.

For old hostage McCain
She was an unusual choice.
For he didn’t know
This Alaskan voice.

“It’s Biden for me!”
Obama proclaimed.
"He’s got experience,
Just like McCain."

However, he worried
What Biden would say.
Those Hillary women
They still needed to sway.

To the top of the polls
The mavericks did crawl.
The Palin effect
Sure did enthrall.

But,then she saw Russia
And gave a steady supply
To Saturday Night Live
With her loony replies.

So up to the poll top
The Democrats flew.
They dumped Jeremiah
And William Ayers too.

And then in a twinkling
There was one major goof.
The foreclosure notices
Provided the proof.

As banks went in the red,
The economy unsound,
Down the stock market tumbled
Then tried to rebound.

Robo-calls started ringing.
Absurd emails were sent.
Junk mail filled each mailbox
With untrue content.

Partisan rhetoric
Was used to attack.
They made fun of George Bush
And how he went to Iraq.

The debates-how they argued!
They were both quite contrary.
Each one told the nation
The other was scary.

Then Biden’s big mouth-
It started to blow.
“Obama will be tested
That I do know!”

Then Palin went shopping.
And then she went rogue.
She said what she wanted.
And her clothes were from Vogue.

And finally Obama
Bought our TV time.
But McCain said, “Wait!
I think victory is mine!”

Now up and down go the polls
And we’re frightened and scared.
What if he wins?
He’s just not prepared!

They’ve both promised change
And we want to believe.
But this election has left us
Polarized and deceived.

We now think in extremes.
We will NEVER retire!
We think it’s “their” fault.
We think people are liars.

We now vote for our future.
But, I fear it’s too late.
Are we forever divided
Into red and blue states?

I am right! You are wrong!
Neighbor against friend.
This is no way to live.
We must start to mend.

So I’m here to exclaim
As the campaigning ends
It can’t come too soon.

Now let’s all be friends.

Check This Out!

The entire Slightly Exaggerated family has enjoyed the recent Saturday Night Live political sketches. We encourage you to check them all out. Start with this one.

Don't forget to also enjoy Oscar Rogers pleading to FIX IT!! Watch this one first.

Watch this one second.

Monday, October 27, 2008

There Just Might Be Something Wrong With That

The teenager found the junk mail. It was an advertisement from a local car dealership. She scratched the silver scratch -off- box with a dime. She yelled out, “We won! We have the matching number! If we bring this advertisement to the dealer we can win a grand prize of a Mitsubishi Eclipse or $20,000 in cash. There’s also a first prize of an Apple iPhone, a $2000 gas card for 2nd prize and a 3rd prize of a gas card up to $250! Wow, Mom! Even if we won 3rd prize that’s still pretty good!” The scratch-off-box on my junk mail says I have won a prize. I’m not sure, but I think there just might be something wrong with that.

I walked into the living room to find Stanley ambitiously cavorting in her underwear. He had his head through one leg of her panties and both paws were tangled in a bra. Shocked, I asked the cat what he was doing with the teenager’s underwear. He responded by meowing a low, deep meow, rolling onto his back and licking the underwear. My cat is inappropriately frolicking in underwear. I’m not sure, but I think there just might be something wrong with that.

I walked out into the garage and found the husband mesmerized and staring at it. His eyes were glazed over, as if they had been locked on it for quite some time. I asked him if he was ever going to come in for dinner. He told me he would be in when he was done. When I left him he was still standing in the garage staring at his brand new, very shiny, custom built drag racing engine. The husband looks at his engine the way he used to look at me. I’m not sure, but I think there just might be something wrong with that.

Searching for a pre-programmed radio station to listen to on my computer, I found myself bypassing the adult alternative station, the coffeehouse station and the country music station in favor of the Hair Band Heaven station. And it was heaven. I DID feel the noise with Quiet Riot and rocked like a hurricane with the Scorpions. I definitely wanted Jon Bon Jovi to lay his hands on me and the men of Poison to talk dirty to me. And, I’ve decided I really should wear more eyeliner, get a leather jacket and grow myself some really big hair. I am almost 40 years old and am obsessed with the fabulous 80’s. I’m not sure, but I think there just might be something wrong with that.

The teenager couldn’t walk on Monday. She sprained her ankle and tore a ligament in her shin. By Saturday she was playing in her soccer game having convinced her mother that “she was fine”. The teenager was hurt and I let her play. I’m not sure, but I think there just might be something wrong with that.

The boy was supposed to set the table. “I can’t set the table!” he insisted. “Max is lying on the table Mom and he’s doing something funny with that gourd you bought for decoration……ewwww!! MOM!!! You better come look at this!” I found the cat embracing the gourd, licking it all over, biting the end of it and rubbing various parts of his body on the nubby surface. The boy had to leave the room. I swear I saw the cat grin. My cat really, really likes to play with a gourd. I’m not sure, but I think there just might be something wrong with that.

With one week to go until the election, my television, radio, computer, newspaper and mailbox have been taken over with all things prevaricated, accusatory and negatively political. If my kids behaved the way these politicians, special interest groups, political parties and other interested parties are behaving, they would be punished and I would feel like a failure as a parent. Those who are responsible for the tone and quality and integrity of all things political should be ashamed of how they have acted but instead will be rewarded with votes. And I’m pretty darn sure that there’s something wrong with that.

Check This Out!

Pink’s new video So What will make you laugh a bit and reflect a bit. It’s worth a look. Check out these other songs not from the
1980's -Breakdown by Tantric and The Gift from Seether. Of course, if you prefer the coffeehouse radio stations, then definitely disregard the above recommendations.

Everyone should check this out though.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Fat Pants

The first line of this riddle
Begins in the middle
When you find you must fiddle
With the waistband of your pants.

Something isn’t quite right.
The waistband is too tight.
You must pull, stretch and fight
Just to get them on.

Well I say by golly and by gosh!
They have gone and shrunk in the wash!
And seriously, this is no time to josh
When you find your pants too tight.

Of course, it never is your fault.
Perhaps you’ve eaten too much salt.
Surely it can’t be that hard to halt
The shrinking of your pants.

Or perhaps it’s a tiny bit of bloat.
So you stop and make a mental note
To go and find your long black coat
That will hide your tightening pants.

And then one day at the table
Your waistband button is unstable
And you are finally no longer able
To control your muffin top.

You unbutton the button for much relief.
But your newfound joy is oh so brief.
You look down at your gut in dazed disbelief
And stare at the fat hanging out.

Holy cow! You’re in shock.
You think this is a crock.
So you promise yourself that you will walk
A couple of miles tomorrow.

Despite some walking,
You still find it shocking.
So then you start talking
To all of the friends that you have.

They all give you tips.
“Just lay off the chips
And you’ll find that your hips
Will soon fit back in your pants.”

“Don’t go to the bar.”
“Don’t take your car.”
“Try walking real far
And that should do the trick.”

Despite your best efforts your pants do stay shrunk.
And your mood stays in a real awful funk.
And then you find that the junk in your trunk
Starts growing a bit larger too.

Then one friend who’s a dope,
Goes and gives you no hope,
And tells you to just cope
With the signs of menopause.

Oh, that’s NOT what you need!
You refuse to concede!
Your gut WILL recede
And someday fit back in your pants!

So time passes by
And you ask yourself, “Why?”
Heck, you might even cry
A few tears for your chunky self.

But despite such dear friends
And all things you intend
You can no longer pretend
To fit into the pants you have.

So with your head held down low
And your weight at a plateau
You reluctantly go
To shop for a pair of fat pants.

You head into the store.
You walk past and ignore
The cute clothes you adore
And you look for the dumpy section.

After 2 hours of pain
You sit down and complain
About how this is insane
And you aren’t having any fun.

Nothing fits right.
You’re too fat for your height.
So you decide you just might
Buy some nice sweatpants instead.

They always will fit.
And you must admit,
That then you could quit
This shopping trip you hate.

Elastic waists here we come!
And although you’re a bit glum
You are glad you’ve succumbed
To wearing clothes that allow you to breathe!

After all it won’t really be for that long.
You are determined and know that you will be strong.
And soon you’ll be wearing a little black thong
Underneath your skinny pants!

But six months later you’re still in your sweats.
You decide this must be as bad as it gets.
You look back and have so many regrets
About your journey to bigger pants.

You look in the mirror and search for the girl,
The one who was proud, the one that wore pearls,
The one who would smile and give a big twirl
When she looks at herself in the mirror.

And then you see her, just a flicker at first.
And you know that you have come through the worst.
Your misguided bubble of denial has burst.
You accept that you need some fat pants.

You realize that your worst fear is true.
You’ll get those fat pants. It’s what you must do.
If not, you will make your naked debut
Because you’ll have no pants that fit.

You head back to the store with a different plan.
You will do your best and do all that you can
To find some fat pants that will make your man
Take a second long look at you.

And finally you find them-the pair that’s for you.
They’re definitely bigger than what you’re used to.
But in a funny way you feel all anew
And are wanting to flaunt your stuff.

You look in the mirror and look at the girl,
The one who is proud, the one that wears pearls,
The girl gives a smile and gives a big twirl
When she looks at herself in the mirror.

You’re wearing fat pants and they look ok.
They’re a step or two up from those sweats that were grey.
But you’re just going to buy the one pair today
Because that’s all you’re going to need.

After all it won’t really be for that long.
You are determined and know that you will be strong.
And soon you will be wearing a little black thong
Underneath your skinny pants!

Check This Out!

Trader Joe's Carne Asada. Go get some.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Write In

I am fully disheartened, somewhat disbelieving and well on my way to feeling disenfranchised. This has led me to make a decision I never thought I would make. I am not voting for either of my gubernatorial candidates on Election Day. I have decided to write in a candidate. I was originally going to write in Mickey Mouse, a very popular write in candidate I have learned. However, this choice is a statement of protest for me and a notification of my extreme dissatisfaction with the behavior of the Democratic and Republican candidates for governor in my state. Wanting my write in choice to express the full weight of my feelings, I have taken this decision quite seriously. I have considered the qualifications of many of my friends, family members and prominent members of my community. After much serious consideration, I have decided to write in the principal of my son’s elementary school.

It was the candidates’ television and radio commercials that put me over the edge. And I pronounce both sides guilty. Their misleading advertising, designed to provide the highest shock value possible, is full of truth stretching, fact manipulation and often downright lies. I don’t consider myself to be politically involved or even a politically astute citizen. I prefer to not immerse myself in the never ending debate of correctness, superior positioning, and precise chastising so prevalent in politics. However, despite my limited interest in the process and game of politics, I am not ignorant of the issues or uncaring as to their outcome.

These deceptive commercials have been useless in providing me any valuable or accurate information that I find necessary to make an informed voting decision. The fabrications presented and tactics used in these commercials have done nothing but turn me off to both candidates. They have failed at proving the ineptitude of their opponents and have failed at convincing me to negate their adversary. They have both been successful in alienating me and they have both lost any chance at getting my vote this year. They have wasted their money. Is it really so much to ask for a little decency, a little honesty and a little integrity?

And that is why I’m voting for our elementary school principal. She’s got it-decency, honesty and integrity. She’s smart, capable and well respected. She’s approachable, insightful and attacks problems with a positive and infectious can-do attitude. Her results speak for themselves. The children are thriving, the parents are happy and other teachers only wish they could get hired by her. The learning process at our school is forward thinking, innovative and full of opportunity. The principal is competent and confident and always responsive to the many needs of our school. And…she’s never, ever run a negative campaign ad.

The principal will make a fabulous governor. And who knows? Perhaps I should consider her for president as well. I’ll be paying very close attention to how Mr. Obama and Mr. McCain behave in the last few weeks of the election. If they don’t live up to my expectations I am fully prepared to nominate our school principal for president as well. And of course, her vice presidential candidate would be the school’s dean of students. I’m equally fond of her, equally confident in her abilities, and certainly comfortable with her being a heartbeat away from the presidency. So watch out Mr. Obama and Mr. McCain. The principal is under serious consideration for your job too. After all, if this election has proven one thing, it’s that years of political experience aren’t at all necessary to be president and vice president of this country.

Check This Out!

If you have any sort of crafty inclination whatsoever, then you absolutely must check out . The beautiful cards, amazing stamping techniques and innovative designs will leave you inspired, in awe and definitely itching to start your own project.

If you have any sort of heavy metal inclination whatsoever, then you absolutely must check out Metallica’s new video for the song, The Day That Never Comes. Regardless of your stance on the war, I dare you to watch this and not feel for our soldiers and the difficult moments they must deal with on a daily basis.

If you have any sort of jazz inclination whatsoever, then you absolutely must check out Big Bad Voodoo Daddy’s album, This Beautiful Life. Here at Slightly Exaggerated, we are loving the trumpets, loving the saxophones and loving the beat. We are particularly enthralled with the track, 2000 Volts and are particularly amused by the lyrics in, Ol’ MacDonald.

Monday, October 6, 2008


My mother died one year ago today.

I guess I feel it should be acknowledged somehow.

I just don’t think I know how to do that, though.

I’ve been trying to find a way to package the last year into a tidy blog full of lessons that I have learned. I want to tell you stories of how I have been profoundly affected by the death of my mother. I want to share the newfound wisdom that arrives when one emerges on the other side of a life changing event.

I just don’t think I can do that, though.

I could tell you that life does go on. People adjust. Good things still happen. I could tell you that it’s still possible to be happy and laugh and find tremendous joy in life. I could tell you that my memories of my mother’s uniqueness and way of navigating through life are priceless. I could tell you that I am grateful for the time I had. I could tell you how aware I am that things far worse happen to people every day. I could tell you how lucky I feel that they haven’t happened to me. I could tell you that things eventually do get back to normal.

I just don’t think I would be telling the entire truth, though.

I could tell you that, every single day, the phone is still maddeningly silent. I could tell you about tears, negativity, anger, unfairness, feeling cheated and grief pounds. I could tell you about sleepless nights, crazy dreams, well intentioned advice and the standard steps for a journey of grief. I could tell you about my obsessions with obituaries, pineapple pizza, 3 Musketeers Mint candy bars, super soft blankets, a box of decoupaged soap and one cheap white vase. I could tell you about how nothing will ever be normal again.

I just don’t think you’d really understand, though.

I could tell you about the 85 year old lady at the soccer field who was so agile in both mind and body and had a mouth like a sailor. I could tell you how much I loved her at first and then how quickly I found myself resenting her vitality. I could tell you about the thousands of energetic and hopeful women I saw on TV who were walking to cure cancer. I could tell you how I yelled out in disgust, “Oh please, like that will make a difference! People are still going to die!” I could tell you about the lady in the grocery store who needed my help finding bran in the bulk foods department. I could tell you how shockingly livid I became when she told me a young girl like myself probably didn’t know a thing about “being stopped up”.

I just don’t think I really want to talk about those uncomfortable moments, though.

If I tried really hard I could come up with a representative parable full of deep meaning. I could reiterate how all of the standard lessons of life are completely true. I could implore you to connect with your loved ones while they are still alive. I could tell you to hug your kids and to call your mother. I could tell you that life is too short to be ruled by pettiness. I could tell you to count your blessings and appreciate all that you have today. I could tell you how much meaning these lessons take on after it’s too late to do anything about it. I could tell you to live each day as if it were your last and to not waste a moment.

I just don’t think it would really make that much difference, though.

When it comes down to it, I really don’t have a clue what to say about what happened a year ago today. Nothing about it can fit into a tidy little blog. I don’t have any good advice, or valuable lessons or touching revelations to share. When it comes down to it, I guess I feel just a little bit numb today.

Check This Out!

In honor of my mother, head on down to your local drugstore today and buy some nice lotion that smells like freesia or lilac, a couple of extra pair of black ankle socks, a National Enquirer newspaper, and a 2 liter bottle of cola. On your way home, pick up a biography of an old movie star and some Architectural Digest’s from the library. For dinner, you may choose a pineapple pizza from Domino’s Pizza, fish and chips or fettuccine alfredo without that spicy parsley on top. And don’t forget to activate the Bat Phone by calling your daughter and telling her what her brothers and father have been doing.

Friday, October 3, 2008

It Gets Much Worse

I went to the mailbox with thoughts of the economic crisis and our national downfall swirling around in my head. The stock market was plunging, the average consumer could no longer get loans or credit of any kind and the entire nation was waiting to see if Sarah Palin would implode during the Vice Presidential debate. This awful economic and political crisis, the accompanying credit crunch and shocking bank failures and the dramatic failed bailout plan and subsequent recovery plan have worried our entire nation.

But, I must tell you this, my friends. I have really bad news. For you see, it gets much worse. I have been offered a credit card.

In the midst of this unstable, disturbing, national turmoil a bank has offered me a credit card with a limit of $30,000, in my choice of five fashionable colors. The bank was kind enough to include my new convenience checks so that I could begin saving the economy immediately. I was in shock when I opened the mailbox and found the letter, for you see, I barely have a job. Some people would even consider me unemployed. My yearly income can be measured only in the hundreds of dollars. And I can assure you, it’s not a joke, or a conditional deal or some sort of questionable proposition. I’ve read the fine print. If I sign on the bottom line, this deal is a done deal.

And what shocked me more, was that the letter came from Washington Mutual Bank. Correct me if I’m wrong, but haven’t they been having a bit of trouble lately? Technically, do they even exist anymore? While America is losing faith in the entire banking system, it seems that Washington Mutual has placed $30,000 worth of misplaced trust in this almost unemployed, over budget, overwhelmed by her grocery bill, suburban mother of two.

Is it possible we are in far more serious shape than the average American realizes? Do we have this major credit crunch because people like me have been offered such large amounts of undeserved credit? Do we have bank failures because they think almost jobless people like me are credit worthy and should be offered an easy chance to live beyond their means? Does anyone out there have a brain anymore?

I send this notice to you my friends to tell you that something is wrong with this country. I shouldn’t have been offered that credit card. Even if you include the husband’s income, we still shouldn’t have been offered that credit card. A now defunct American bank, in the midst of the most serious national economic situation since the Great Depression, has offered a severely underemployed person $30,000 worth of credit.

This is either very humorous or very disturbing.

Check This Out!

The person that made us laugh the most this week at Slightly Exaggerated was comedienne Chonda Pierce. I can’t tell you how refreshing her honest, vulnerable, southern Christian gal kind of humor has touched us. We laughed until we had to pee. Check her out on You Tube, or at Netflix or at your local library.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Aisle 5B

I had been standing there for over 5 minutes staring at the shelves in aisle 5B. All of the options sounded delicious and very appealing. I didn’t realize however, how hard it would be to narrow the wide variety of alternatives down to just a few. I knew that this decision was turning out to be much more difficult than it really should be. And it was certainly taking up an unreasonable amount of my time. After all, there must have been over 50 different flavors of canned cat food in front of me and I stood there, staring at them all, befuddled and paralyzed with indecision.

I’ve noticed in the past, from their desperate howls and incessant pestering that begins two hours before mealtime, that my 3 cats are quite fond of eating. Eating, after all, is in their top 3 favorite things to do, after sleeping all day in inappropriate and bunglesome locations, and finding annoying and destructive ways to wake me up at night. I thought picking out their favorite canned cat food would be a good way to show my love for those 3 precious kitty fluff balls and at the same time, hopefully, bribe them to stop ripping apart the fabric on the underside of my box spring.

The trouble was, I really had no idea if my cats preferred cat food with gravy or without gravy. Did they feel like eating food that was grilled or sliced? Marinated or minced? Morsels or flakes? Was it a chunky kind of day or a smooth kind of day? A roasted day or a simmered day? Regular or gourmet? And of course, somehow I had to guess what flavors they preferred, given the many options of beef, chicken, liver, giblets, turkey, whitefish, shrimp, crab, tuna, chicken hearts, salmon, cod, sole, mackerel, trout or the mystery flavors of “seafood feast” and “chopped grill”. Of course, if I really loved my cats I would forgo all of the regular choices and go straight to the super expensive restaurant inspired recipes that included long grain rice, garden veggies and greens. I wondered if the cats would like one of the soufflés made with aged cheddar. The meat also sounded more delicious in these pricier meals. The tuna was yellowfin, the salmon was wild, the turkey was tender and the chicken was all white.

With all of these amazing choices how was it possible for anyone to choose? It would take almost two months just to try them all once!

The descriptions on the sides of the cans didn’t make it any easier. Did I want my cats to have “a seductive dining experience” or did I want to “make my cats purr with delight”? Should I chose the “mouthwatering and delectable” or the “succulent and artfully prepared”? I wondered if the “Tuscan inspired, tantalizing and luxurious” meal was tastier than the “chef created recipe of slow cooked beef lavishly basted in gravy”. Should I go for the “delightful, delicate feast” or the “scrumptious, delicious collaboration”? It all sounded so good. My stomach growled. If my cats could talk, what would they tell me to buy?

Of course, I finally came to my senses. I realized that it didn’t make one bit of difference. If my cats could talk they would tell me to grab the closest can, throw it in the basket, check out in the express lane and get home as fast as I could. They would tell me to rip open the top of that can, dump the food in their dish, leave the spoon and can on the floor so they could lick them dry later and then get the heck out of their way. They would then proceed to attack the food with such voracity that anyone who witnessed the spectacle of carnivorous aggression would wonder if they had eaten at all in the last week. It didn’t matter at all what flavor I chose, they would devour it instantaneously. They wouldn’t have a clue what flavor the food even was as they feasted in fast forward. The food would be inhaled so quickly that it would most likely bypass their taste buds entirely and go directly to their stomachs.

And even if somehow my cats were able to discern what flavor the food was, I realized that they wouldn’t care. If they could talk, they wouldn’t in a million years turn to me and say “Aww, salmon again?” Nor would they whine to me, “But I hate chicken!” They would never try to hide their Sliced Ocean Fish Feast underneath their bowls. They would never pick the fresh garden greens out of their Tender Turkey Tuscany meal and try to throw them away in a wadded up paper napkin. I can’t ever see my cats trying to sneak some Marinated Morsels Beef Feast in Gravy to the dog when I wasn’t looking. Nope, I knew my cats and I knew…they would eat anything.

After spending so much time in aisle 5B, I was running a bit late. So on the way home I hit the fast food drive through for dinner. In about 49 seconds had ordered a number 3, paid for it and was fishing for the french fries at the bottom of the bag while I waited for the stoplight to turn green. When I got home I started to eat my hamburger at the dining room table. As usual, one of the cats jumped up to sniff my food and attempt to steal a bite or lick my plate. But after one sniff, the cat jumped right back down again. He didn’t try to steal my food or lick my paper wrapper once. Apparently, my cardboard hamburger wasn’t tantalizing or luxurious enough for my cat. I guess he didn’t think the special sauce was artfully prepared. My grease laden fries definitely didn’t make my cat purr with delight. Apparently, my cats won’t eat just anything.

The cat walked arrogantly away from the table, his nose held high, and sat down next to his food bowl. He then started his obnoxious pre-mealtime howl. Soon, the other two joined in and the howling chorus began. After I wolfed down my forgettable number 3 meal, I took the cat food cans out of the grocery bag and lined them up on the counter. I stood and stared at them for quite some time while the cats continued to howl in desperate despair. All of the options sounded delicious and very appealing. I didn’t realize how hard it would be to narrow it down to just one.

Check This Out!

At Slightly Exaggerated this week we have been enjoying lunches of rice and peas and parmesan cheese with a tiny bit of butter and salt. We eat this lunch while watching old Brady Bunch episodes and have recently realized just how young Greg seems and just how handsome that blue eyed Mr. Brady really was. We also have our favorite Queen song I Want It All on repeat, and have become quite taken with another Queen song, the haunting, Mother Love. Mother Love was recorded just prior to the unmatched Freddy Mercury’s death and wasn’t released until 4 years later on the album, Made In Heaven. And finally, as election day approaches we encourage you to view the following link

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Confessions of a Suburban Slacker

Check This Out!

Check out my latest work, Confessions of a Suburban Slacker at the website

Friday, September 5, 2008

The Fun Parent

I was in a Hallmark store when I was forced to accept the truth. It was many years ago and we were living in an “I” state at the time….Idaho or Indiana…I can’t quite remember which one. The teenager was either in the womb or was a tiny baby. I can’t quite remember which one. I do, however, remember the exact moment in that Hallmark store when the cartoon rooster Foghorn Leghorn made an indelible impression upon me.

I was searching for the perfect greeting card. The husband was not interested in analyzing each one with me. He wandered off. A few aisles away an unsupervised child ran amok. This unattended child had unfortunately found the display of novelty alarm clocks. He then proceeded to try out the unique alarms on each of these clocks. One alarm was a chirping bird. Another was a barking dog. Another alarm sounded like a car alarm going off. I learned it was possible to be awoken by a mooing cow, a honking New York City taxi or a ship full of angry pirates. Apparently, one could also wake up to the sounds of a fire engine, a lawn mower or Barney the dinosaur announcing that it was, “Time to get up, for all my friends!” As the unsupervised child continued to sample each alarm clock, I grew more and more annoyed. Each alarm was more obnoxious than the last one and I was having a difficult time concentrating on my perfect card search. And where was that child’s mother? It was then that Foghorn Leghorn spoke to the entire Hallmark store louder than any of the other alarms had. His booming southern accent echoed throughout the store, “WELL I SAY, I SAY BOY! IT IS TIME TO GET UP! IT IS TIME TO GET UP!”

I could stand it no longer. I had to see what kind of ill-mannered, impolite child could be so ignorant of the unwelcome and continuing commotion he was causing in a public place. I marched myself to the end of the card section and turned the corner to walk up the alarm clock aisle. I saw him immediately. He was standing there with a plastic Foghorn Leghorn in his hands the size of a football and a grin on his face the size of hoagie sandwich.

It was the husband. It was the husband who was standing there enamored with the plastic chicken. It was the husband who was unsupervised. It was the husband who had been testing out every single alarm clock the store had. He saw me and yelled, “Come here! You’ve got to hear this. It’s hilarious!”

And at that moment, right there in that Hallmark store, the truth became crystal clear to me. I knew, that in our family, I was not going to be the fun parent.

Over the years the husband has done many things to uphold his status as the fun parent. He pushed our kids higher on the swings and faster on the merry go round than I would have. At the water park he bypassed the slow winding waterslide in favor of the speed slide from hell. He was the one that rode the roller coasters that flirted with death the minute the kids reached the allowable minimum height. He was the parent who sent the boy, who was only 4, careening on his bike down a huge hill only to watch him crash violently at the bottom. The husband is the one in all the family pictures with the children. I am the one who took the pictures of them while screaming”be careful!” The husband is the one who walks into a store with wet shoes and tries to make a squeaking noise on the linoleum floor as loud and long as he possibly can. While most parents worry about their teenager driving too fast, the husband is encouraging ours to take up drag racing.

Recently, our family visited the science museum. The kids and the husband were thrilled to find out there was a large reptile and amphibian show there that weekend. I however, can’t list a single reptile or amphibian in my top 10 list of favorite animals. I left the husband in charge of the children while I went to buy IMAX movie tickets. When I returned I found my children in the company of an extremely large “biker dude” dressed all in denim and leather and metallic studs. His hair was swept back in a loose pony tail revealing his matching stud earrings and colorful neck tattoo. His name was Slim. The teenager was sitting on his right knee and the boy was perched up against his left knee. His hands were resting on the shoulders of each child. On top of and wound around my precious babies, there was a 21 foot long, 310 pound anaconda boa constrictor snake. The beaming boy couldn’t contain himself. “Mom! Mom! Can you believe this? Slim let us hold his snake Fluffy!” Slim looked pleased, the children looked as happy as I had ever seen them and that awful snake looked very hungry. I don’t know who frightened me more-Slim or Fluffy.

I turned in horror to the husband and gave him “the look”. He grinned and shrugged his shoulders and said, “What? They’re fine. Slim said Fluffy wouldn’t hurt a fly.” And at that moment I knew that the lesson I had learned in that Hallmark store 14 or 15 years ago was still true. I was still not the fun parent.

I have accepted the fact that I am the more cautious parent. I have accepted the fact that I am more likely to say no, think things are a bad idea and be the parent that worries about safety. I am the parent who thinks we should walk into a store and not have the whole store know we’ve arrived. I am the parent who will turn around to discipline the children and find it was the husband causing all the trouble. I am the parent who says, “You don’t have to like it, you just have to do it/eat it/clean it.” I know that I will always be the parent who makes sure the kids are vaccinated in a timely manner, reads “What Your 3rd Grader Should Know” to them and makes sure they get a vitamin once in a while. And I know that the husband will be the parent who makes sure they see Monty Python movies in a timely manner, reads the Lord of the Rings series to them and let’s them drink a little Mountain Dew once in a while.

And thank goodness the teenager and the boy have both of us.

Check This Out!

The science fiction book Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card comes highly recommended by the boy because you never know what is going to happen next. The teenager recommends the classic TV series Emergency! because Roy and Johnny are soooo brave…..sigh. The husband recommends the new Dodge Challenger because it looks cool and goes really fast. And I recommend leaving your child in a booster seat until they are 4ft 9 inches tall because it’s just safer that way.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Strawberry Lessons

The rising sun was peeking around the house. The birds were singing their morning greetings. The dew was glistening off of the grass. There was a bright golden haze on my strawberry patch. I had come outside that morning to pick a few strawberries for breakfast from that backyard patch. Of course, as I picked, I began to sample a few berries. I had to taste just a few to make sure they were “good”.

It was the teenager who eventually found me. By then, the sun was all the way around the corner of the house. My half full strawberry bowl had long since been abandoned on that dewy grass. I hadn’t had a shower, I was wearing ripped shorts and a bleach-and now berry-stained shirt and my hair hadn’t been combed. I had berries in both hands, a few in my mouth and an accidental dribble of juice running down my chin.

I looked up at the teenager and grinned.

She was shaking her head in my direction. “Mom!” she barked from the back patio with one hand on her hip. “Look at you! Your lips are completely red, you have seeds in your teeth and you have a squished strawberry stuck to your knee!” I was beginning to think she was judging me. I think she thought I was weak.

But it wasn’t really my fault. The strawberries from my backyard patch weren’t normal strawberries. You couldn’t buy these berries. These berries couldn’t be shipped hundreds of miles. These berries wouldn’t last a week stored in a plastic clamshell or cardboard box. These berries had been fertilized only by the rain and the sun. These berries were soft and small and delicate. These berries were as red in the center as they were on the outside. These strawberries smelled like strawberries and shocked you with their sweetness as they melted in your mouth. These berries were the quickest way to summertime nirvana.

My love affair with the strawberry began in my early childhood. In fact, I grew up in an area that was home to acres and acres of strawberry farms. I remember enjoying the local strawberry festival year after year. I remember eating sugared berries over homemade angel food cake for birthday celebrations. I remember making enough homemade strawberry jam to line two shelves of my grandma’s pantry. It was the summer of 1979 though, when the strawberry became so much more to me. I was 10 years old when the strawberry became one of my life’s greatest teachers. The child labor laws must have been non-existent. The Mexican immigrant labor had yet to arrive. I have the paycheck stub to prove it. It was the summer of ’79 when I went to work…picking strawberries.

The berry bus picked me up on the corner before 7 and dropped me off late in the afternoon. I spent my days on my hands and knees in the dirt. The AM radio was blasting Blondie and Donna Summer. The older girls flirted as much as they picked. The boys threw as many berries as they picked. On hot days, the owners of the field would bring popsicles. The picker of the day would get a special t shirt. I was young and shy and small and afraid. I was afraid I picked too slowly. I was afraid the checker would notice how many berries I had missed. I was afraid the big girls would make fun of me. I was afraid the boys would hit me with a berry. I was afraid the owner would lay me off at the end of each day, my lunch would get stolen and I would lose my punch card-the only proof I had of how much I had picked. But most of all, I was afraid of the outhouses. I refused to use them. And one day, on the bus ride home I just couldn’t hold it any longer. And then, of course, I was afraid someone would find out that I was a 10 year old who had peed my pants on the berry bus.

Despite my fears and despite my lack of all day bladder control, I am grateful for that first summer picking strawberries. I made $93.00 that summer. It was enough to buy a couple of pairs of wide legged San Francisco Brand jeans and my first pair of Nike shoes. And somehow, those jeans and shoes meant more to me than they normally would have. I had bought them with money I had earned myself.

In the summers that followed, I moved from the strawberry fields to other kinds of field work. I spent 8 hours a day digging flower bulbs out of rows of dried up dirt that ripped apart the skin on my fingers and drilled in under my finger nails. I walked, bent over, along rows of spinach for hours on end, determining if the plants were male or female, while my back screamed out in pain. Other kids in my community also worked raspberries, blueberries, peas, hay, potatoes, cucumbers and a few other miscellaneous crops. It was hard, physical, back breaking labor. We worked in the rain and we worked in the heat. And at the end of the day, we went home tired, but proud, of the small amount of money we had made that day. At the end of the day, we went home having learned, first hand, what hard work really was.

Working in the fields was a rite of passage for most of the kids in my community. It shaped our childhood and helped mold us into the adults we would become. We remember summer crushes formed amidst strawberry plants. We remember the kid whose rule was “pick one, throw one, eat one”. We remember being too short for the raspberry picking crew. (Ok, maybe that is just me.) We remember daydreaming in the summer sun and working on getting a good tan, back when that was a good thing. We remember rain gear and mud covered rubber boots and dirt stained knees we thought would never come clean. We remember car pools and crew bosses and the field that used to be where the motorcycle shop is now. We remember turning around to find someone had stolen the flat of strawberries we had spent all morning picking. We remember hating iris season in the bulb fields because those tiny bulbs were so difficult to find buried deep in the 200 foot rows of overturned dirt. We remember the girl who bought a Camaro when she turned 16 with 7 years of saved up field work money…and a bit of parental matching money. We remember the time the spinach bus slid off the muddy road into a ditch throwing us all to one side of the overturned bus. We remember crawling out of the emergency exit door, walking the rest of the way to field and getting right to work. Such good times….

When the teenager found me in my own strawberry patch that morning those memories all came back to me. I felt those early summer mornings all over again. I sensed the unearned potential. I saw the dew and the dirt and the plants. I saw that awful outhouse. I smelled the rain and the heat and the sweat. I smelled the cocoa butter suntan lotion and heard the music playing in the background. And I remembered the people-the people I grew up with, the people I worked with, the people who went through the same experience as I did. The strawberries in my backyard patch are the best I have ever tasted. But they also represent so much more than that. They remind me of the many memories and valuable lessons learned during those long summer days of my childhood spent working in the fields.

“Come on out here!” I finally yelled to the teenager on the patio who had slept in late, missing completely the feel of the early summer morning. “We’ve got some work to do. There are tons of strawberries to be picked. Oh, and could you bring me a stool too? I think some of the raspberries are ready!”

Check This Out!

The Last Chinese Chef by Nicole Mones is a novel that was hard to put down. Full of fabulous descriptions of Chinese food and history and traditions and landscape along with a tiny bit of mystery and romance, The Last Chinese Chef was one of those solid books that are read in just few days because you must know how it turns out.

The husband is also insisting on a recommendation for Halsey’s Typhoon: The True Story of a Fighting Admiral, an Epic Storm and an Untold Rescue. Written by Bob Drury and Tom Clavin, this is a great book for those who like shockingly true history, military, war, ocean storm and hero stories all rolled into one fabulous adventure.

Christian singer Natalie Grant is our latest musical obsession here at Slightly Exaggerated. We are particularly enthralled with her songs Held and I Will Not Be Moved.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

A Pleasure to Have in Class

“And now it is time to announce the winner of the Golden Bear award!” the coach yelled from the front of the room. The 7th and 8th graders on the track team began to whisper to each other. The nervous parents sat up a little straighter in their plastic chairs. The Golden Bear award was the last award given out at the end of the year track banquet. The prior awards had been a reflection of superior athletic ability and talent, reflected in only a handful of the team’s superstars. The Golden Bear award, however, was chosen by the coaches and didn’t necessarily have anything to do with athletic ability. It was an award for the “good” kids. Everyone had a chance.

The track kids stopped whispering to each other as the coach began to list off the qualities the Golden Bear award winner possessed. The parents looked ahead with their heads held high, their smiles full of hopeful confidence and anticipation. It was an unspoken assumption among the parents that the Golden Bear award must somehow be a reflection of superior parenting. Good kids were always a product of good parenting. Challenging children were, of course, a result of an unlucky genetic draw…right?

“This award is going to someone who is just the nicest kid, who was always pleasant to be around and who always had a smile on their face.” the coach announced.

A few of the parents immediately looked uncomfortable.

“This kid was helpful every single day. This kid helped put away the hurdles every day after practice without being asked to.”

A few more parents began to look down at the floor. Their smiles were quickly fading.

“This kid did what was asked of them without complaining or talking back.”

Quite a few parents had now looked away from the coach and many more were fidgeting in their seats.

“This kid was respectful of the coaches every single day.”

The majority of the parents were now wiggling uncomfortably as they looked randomly around the room and pretended to drink from their empty cup.

Who was this phantom child the coach was speaking of? It must be a foreign exchange student. Or maybe a Mormon child. Perhaps even an Amish child. Most of the parents knew the coach couldn’t possibly be talking about the very real, typical, emotional, unpredictable , challenging and defiant teenager they struggled with at home. Their child did not regularly exhibit the qualities the coach was listing off--at least not at home.

It’s often been said that kids will save their best behavior for school and then fall apart at home where they feel comfortable and safe. Just like at the track awards ceremony, this behavior can also be seen on the dreaded report card. It may or may not be a surprise that Junior received a B in math class or a C in science class, but parents might be surprised at some of the positive remarks in the comment section of the report card. Regardless of the grades, parents can be stunned to learn their teenager “is a pleasure to have in class” or “is a good role model”. A parent might be shocked to find that their teen “demonstrates superior achievement in class” or was “highly motivated” or “possesses good self discipline”. Many astonished parents have asked, “Who the heck are they talking about? Are you sure this is your report card? Why can’t you be more like this at home?”

If parents were to issue report card comments reflective of a child’s home behavior, they might come out a tad more negatively. Comments like, “a pleasure to have around only when sleeping quietly in her bedroom” or “a good role model for all aspiring video gamers” would be included. Parents wouldn’t be at all shocked to see that their teen “demonstrates superior achievement in dirty laundry accumulation” or was “highly cranky before noon” or “possesses a selfish, ungrateful attitude”.

When the Golden Bear award winner was finally announced at the track banquet that night, the winning parents seemed to exhibit an immense and surprised sigh of relief more than a prideful, boasting smile. The Golden Bear award was confirmation that their child functioned a bit better in society than they sometimes did at home. They might feel like parental failures on a daily basis, they might wonder where they went wrong with their kid and they might seriously wonder how their kid will ever become a responsible adult. But one thing was for sure. If their kid could somehow be worthy of the Golden Bear award, well…..maybe there was hope. Hope, not just for their kid, but for themselves as parents as well. Because, after all, winning the Golden Bear award, or reading positive report card comments such as, “is a good role model” or “is a pleasure to have in class” isn’t just about the child. When translated into parenting language these comments really mean-- “Hey, hang in there! Parenting is tough but you seem to be doing a decent job. Keep it up!”

Unless of course, the report card comments are negative. Then we all know that is just a bit of bad genetic luck. And there’s nothing any parent can do about

Check This Out!
Then teenager and I recently read Night by Elie Wiesel together. Night is Wiesel’s account of his survival of the horrors of the Holocaust. The teenager and I were both quite hesitant to read this book for fear of it making us feel uncomfortable. Within the first few pages, however, we were hooked and couldn’t manage to put it down. This small but gripping book should be required reading for every person on this planet.

Another book that raises a few questions is The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan. Pollan traces the origins of the food we eat today including food from industrial farms, large scale organic farms, small family farms and even hunting and gathering your own food. Do you really know where your food comes from, how it gets to your table and the ramifications of deciding what you will eat for dinner tonight? It's a fascinating book that really makes you think.

The teenager and the boy are also highly recommending the movie Wall-E. Our family has made our half yearly trip to the movie theater and I can report that all members of the family laughed, cried and were moved by Wall-E. 4 stars and two thumbs up.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Dental Revenge

“Have a seat, honey” the dental hygienist said to me. “We’ll get that old childhood filling replaced for you, and then you’ll be on your way. Can I get you anything else?”

I nervously paused and then buried my pride. I blurted out my request. “Can I have the gas today?”

I could feel a cool chill immediately rush through the room which was surprising, given my flushed, warm and embarrassed face. My status in the dental world had plummeted. I couldn’t look her in the eye but I could feel her scanning me. She searched for a clue that would tell her if I was more likely to be a super dental wimp or a well disguised, pill popping, suburban mom looking for a free high.

The hygenist must have decided I had the dental bravery of a 4 year old weenie boy. I was ok with that. She gave me a look of pity and patted me on the shoulder. “Oh, yes, of course. Certainly sweetie. We’ll get that started right away for you. Don’t you worry about a thing. Now, would you like to watch some TV?” She turned the TV to my requested channel, the Food Network, and lowered the ugly, space age looking, rubber nose, gas delivery system onto my face.

I always get a bit of a chuckle when my dental appointments occur right before mealtimes, as this one did. While the hungry and captive dentist and his assistant pound away at my mouth, making my life miserable, I get to have a bit of dental revenge by forcing them to listen to “mouthwatering and unbelieveable” food being made on the Food Network. Eventually the dentist’s stomach will growl and he’ll say, “Oh, that looks so good. I’m sooo hungry.” And I feel just a little bit better knowing he’s a little bit miserable, like me.

As I was attempting to quietly inhale as much relaxing gas as I could, the dentist began shooting my tooth with a needle full of “pressure”. This uncomfortable “pressure” hurt a lot. The hygienist saw my toes curl. She offered to turn up the gas. I was ok with that. “Now don’t you worry about one little thing here, ok?” the dentist calmly cooed to me. “You are doing just super great. You are being soooo brave. We are going to take very good care of you today. You just stay nice and relaxed in this chair and things will be just fine. There is not one little thing for you to worry about.”

Clearly, the dentist had seen the gas and my curling toes and had decided I was a big dental weenie risk, possibly prone to unpredictable and most problematic dental chair outbursts. I was ok with that. The gas had kicked in, I was quite relaxed now and the hungry dentist was forced to listen to the Food Network while I lolled about in my happy place. Things were as good as they were going to get.

And then the dentist went to work, both on my tooth and on my stomach. He leaned my chair back so far that I couldn’t see the TV anymore. And his drill was so loud that I couldn’t hear the TV anymore. But apparently he could still see and hear the TV. “Oh, that Food Network is making me so hungry!” he said. My mouth opened a tiny bit wider and the edges turned upward as I chuckled silently to myself. My Food Network revenge had worked. It seemed, however, that by opening my mouth a bit wider I had angered the hungry dentist. He proceeded to jam what felt like a large rubber shoe into my mouth, “just to make sure your mouth stays open”. I was not ok with that.

The hungry dentist then continued to make life worse for me. “All that good food on TV reminds me of the most amazing pizza I had last night.” He then proceeded to describe his last pizza in a way that had the tiniest bit of impish suggestiveness thrown in. Or maybe it was the gas that made me think that. Apparently, his pizza crust had just the right amount of crispy and just the right amount of chewy. It was not too thick and not too thin. The toppings he described were all of my favorites. And the hot and melted and gooey cheese not only consisted of mozzarella but a bit of fontina and smoked provolone as well, which, according to the dentist, put his pizza over the top. And of course, it had been baked in a hot, very hot, brick pizza oven. The hungry dentist then finished his story with an adjective dripping description of the creamiest, most extraordinary, full fat, imported ice cream that was his dessert that same night. In total, it was the most phenomenal and delicious meal he had ever had.

When he was done, I half expected him to pull out a cigarette and ask me if it was good for me to.

Or maybe it was just the gas that made me think that.

I squirmed in the chair and took a super deep breath, inhaling the gas as deeply as I could with a rubber shoe in my mouth.

I was now starving. Or at least that was what I kept thinking to myself. I felt my stomach rumble a bit. Quite a bit. I was not ok with that. I hadn’t eaten since breakfast. I wondered, a bit desperately, if my gas was still working. I wasn’t feeling very relaxed anymore. I wasn’t feeling the airy, careless satisfaction of my usual dental revenge. I was feeling hungry. I may have been unable to see or hear the Food Network, but my dentist’s food torture was coming through loud and clear. My stomach then let out one of those huge, embarrassing “I can’t believe that came from my stomach! (I hope that came from your stomach.)” kind of roars. The dentist chuckled a bit which was quite easy for him to do, not having any “pressure” injected into his teeth or any large rubber shoe stuck in his mouth. “Oh, I’m sorry”, he laughed. “Is my pizza and ice cream story making you hungry?”

You’re darned right it is, you evil man, I screamed in my head. What kind of person talks about food, like that, in a dentist's office, right before lunch when a kind, innocent, insurance covered patient like me is drugged, trapped in this chair and forced to listen to whatever he says? It’s just not right. Who would do such a cruel thing?

As soon as that evil dentist was finished with me I rushed out to my car, still a bit lightheaded. I needed to get some pizza, and fast. I gave no thought to the fact that I might be driving while still slightly gassed. I had more pressing pizza issues to attend to. A Lean Cuisine from the grocery store would be my quick fix. As I backed my car out of the parking spot, I caught my reflection in the rear view mirror. My entire, red and blotchy face was covered in deep crevices from the ugly, space age looking, rubber nose, gas delivery system that had sat molded to my face for the last hour. My messy, laying down hair, looked like an unkempt bird’s nest. One side of my face was swollen and drooping. And I was not ok with that. I couldn’t be seen in public looking like this. There would be no pizza for me.

Half an hour later, I sat at my dining room table eating overcooked pasta with butter and salt. I was a bit lightheaded, a fair bit swollen and still covered in deep gas mask wrinkles. I could only chew on one side of my mouth. I think I kept biting my half numb tongue. I turned on the TV to PBS.

“Today, on America’s Test Kitchen,…the best pizza you’ve ever had!”

I was not ok with that.

Check This Out!

I’ve just finished reading the book Honeymoon With My Brother by Franz Wisner. Dumped by his fiancé and left with an unrefundable honeymoon to Costa Rica, Franz decided to take his brother on the trip, minus the carrying over the threshold stuff. Soon Franz and his brother Kurt abandon their successful United States lives and embark on a two year, around the world adventure that changes both their lives and just might change yours. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

I must also recommend the video Hard Rock Treasures: A Behind the Scenes Look at Rock-n-Roll Royalty and Their Most Prized Possessions. Don Bernstein’s job is to hang out with the greatest rock legends of all time….and then convince them to let him take their stuff back to the Hard Rock Café restaurants and hotels. Tough job. Great music and memories.

Oh, also…the obsessive songs of the week are Devour by Shinedown and Something Beautiful by the Newsboys. Check it out.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

He Had a Story

Victor was annoying. Every time I thought I was free of him the phone would ring and he would return. He was the monkey on my back that I just couldn’t shake.

The kindly, soft spoken voice on the other end of the phone line announced that she was from the local senior center. “We’re just checking to see if Victor would be joining us for our senior citizens’ Wednesday Lunch Bunch today. We can send the van to pick him up. We’d so love to see him. Josephine is looking forward to hearing more of his stories.” In the past 4 years I’d received a couple dozen of these calls. I told the lady the same thing I did every time.

“You have the wrong number. Victor doesn’t live here.”

She always apologized for bothering me and assured me it wouldn’t happen again.

But it did. A lot. When we finally got caller ID for our home phone, I was able to see on the display ahead of time when it was the senior center calling. Shaking my head, I let the phone ring. Later on I would check my messages.

“We’re just checking to see if Victor would be joining us for our senior citizens’ Wednesday Lunch Bunch today. We can send the van to pick him up. Please let us know if he would like to come. We’d so love to see him."

I never called her back. In fact, more than a few annoying Victor messages went by unreturned.

One night at dinner I told the family my frustrating story. I didn’t receive the calls every week so I ventured a guess that someone was an occasional misdialer. Or perhaps Victor’s number was correct on one list but not another.

“It is so annoying to me that they keep calling and can’t get his number right!” I complained to the family.

Between bites, the husband piped up, “You think you’re annoyed? Imagine how annoyed poor Victor is to not be picked up for the Wednesday Lunch Bunch. That Lunch Bunch could be the highlight of his week. The senior center lady thinks she’s left a message at the right home. When you don’t answer or call her back she just assumes Victor isn’t coming. Meanwhile, poor, lonely, and most likely hungry Victor is sitting at home wondering why nobody called him for Wednesday Lunch Bunch this week.”

I felt a bit guilty. I had never thought of Victor as a real person. To me, Victor was an annoying phone call.

The next time the senior center called, I answered. As firmly as I possibly could, I told them that this was not Victor’s phone number and they needed to find the right number because poor Victor probably DID want to come to Wednesday Lunch Bunch. But while I was pleading Victor’s case my main motivation was still to rid myself of my annoying Victor phone calls.

And then miraculously…the phone calls stopped. I was finally free of Victor…

…until a few weeks ago when I opened the local newspaper and my stomach turned. I saw that name. Victor. I just knew it was him. I was holding his obituary in my hands.

This time Victor wasn’t an annoying phone call. Victor was a real person. He had a story.

Victor was 92 when he died after a “series of medical conditions”. Victor had been married to the same woman for 56 years. He served in the Army in World War II. He went to college. He was a member of the Boy Scouts of America for 55 years serving for many decades as a Scoutmaster. Victor had 5 children, 16 grandchildren, 22 great grandchildren and 2 great great grandchildren. He outlived his wife and two of his sons. Victor loved crossword puzzles, Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy. In 1995 Victor was even named Citizen of the Year for my city.

Hmmm. I felt myself having to take a deep breath.

Victor had a family. He had a full life. He probably had an old Army uniform in the back of his closet. He had people who loved him. He probably had a 5 generation photo taken of him and his offspring. He had interests. He probably had a stack of crossword puzzle books next to his chair. He helped people. For goodness sake, Victor was Citizen of the Year. He probably still had the plaque on the wall.

Victor wasn’t annoying. Victor was a real person. He had a story.

The final part of the obituary stated that “Victor particularly loved the activities at the local senior center and always enjoyed all of his friends from the Wednesday Lunch Bunch. In lieu of flowers, Victor would be pleased if all donations were made to the local senior center.”

I sat there in silence staring at his photo accompanying the obituary. Then I began to read Victor’s obituary for a second time. This time though, I didn’t make it past the first line before I started to cry. I had missed it the first time.

“Victor passed away quietly on Wednesday, April 30th………”

It was a Wednesday. He died on a Wednesday. It really bothered me that he died on a Wednesday. I wondered how many Wednesday Lunch Bunches he missed because I ignored the senior center’s phone calls.

It was very easy for me to write Victor off. He was annoying. I didn’t know him. He wasn’t my problem.

I will always feel guilty, however, for not returning those senior center messages. Victor deserved to be treated better. Most people do.

It never dawned on me that Victor was a real person.

He had a story.

Check This Out!

The Slightly Exaggerated staff has recently been seen dancing like a fool and singing to the mirror the new Madonna/Justin Timberlake song, 4 Minutes. We've also devoured every book that author Augusten Burroughs has written. While not for the easily offended, his sometimes rated R(or worse) books and collections of stories will make you realize that your childhood and your life isn't that bad after all.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Dear Mr. President

To: Mr. President (George Bush)

CC: Mr. Gore, Ms. Clinton, Mr. Obama, Mr. McCain

Dear Mr. President, I, your average American citizen, have done my part. At least I’ve tried. And I know you’ll be proud of me. I’ve contributed a much needed boost to this sagging economy. You see, I’ve spent my special tax refund. I have purchased a treadmill that was made in America. I am hoping that by buying this treadmill I will not only help pull America out of this recession but also transform my body as well. In addition to helping the economy and becoming supremely fit, I am counting on this treadmill to help me reduce my stress level. You see Mr. President, it’s not only the economy that has me worried. Have you watched the news lately? It seems that we have an awful lot of things to be worried about and I’ve been finding myself just a bit overwhelmed. I’m trying to be a good global citizen but I’m finding it quite challenging. Mr. President, I have a few areas of concern that I’d like to bring to your attention.

First of all, these high gas prices are a huge pain in my behind. I’m having to plan ahead and be way more organized than, frankly, I’m capable of. I have to make a grocery list for the entire week so that I only drive there once. I now have to consolidate my errands and only shop at the stores that are the closest to me. Frankly, Mr. President, the nearest Taco Del Mar is 8 miles away and the nearest Trader Joe’s is 15 miles away and I don’t think I can afford to drive there anymore. Life without an occasional Mondo Burrito and some Trader Joe’s carne asada will most definitely be a hardship! In fact, gas prices are so high that the gearhead husband is even talking about making our next car a dorky looking hybrid. I am approaching the age of 40, Mr. President, and I was really hoping to give the appearance of being a bit shallower and a whole lot cooler with my next vehicle. I’m not sure the hybrid will help me do that in my upscale suburban community.

And speaking of grocery shopping, can you possibly explain why my cage free eggs from the happy “free to wander” chickens and my imported Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese are costing so much these days? If prices continue to go up Mr. President, I will be forced to buy eggs from those poor cramped chickens and parmesan that comes from, of all places, Wisconsin. And on top of that, I am feeling quite bombarded with all of this “eat locally and eat organic” propaganda. I’m not sure that’s going to work out too well for me. It would be most difficult to give up “fresh” pineapple from Hawaii. Organic ginger root is much more expensive than the regular kind. And I’m pretty sure that Fruity Cheerios don’t qualify as eating locally. I have planted a garden out back but the odds on anything growing well enough that my family could actually eat it are somewhat slim. Oh, also, I have proposed to the neighborhood homeowner’s association that we could help ease this global rice shortage by turning our retention pond into a rice paddy, but they seemed to think I was kidding and have yet to vote on my proposition. I’ll keep you posted.

I have always tried my best to do the right things, Mr. President, even before our recent increase in things to worry about. I make the husband hand weed every weed out of our lawn instead of using poisonous weed killer. I occasionally walk to the store instead of driving if I’m only getting a few items. I did not have more than two children knowing it would make a real difference in controlling global population growth. I recycle or reuse most everything I can except sandwich baggies, which take far too much time to rinse out. I adopted my animals from shelters instead of breeders, I wash my fruits and veggies before I eat them, and I vote in every single election that doesn’t require me to declare a party affiliation. (Sorry.) I try and get enough sleep, I volunteer at the schools and I even voted yes on the last school levy. I exercise semi regularly, always keep the volume low when I have my MP3 earplugs in and almost always avoid standing downwind when the neighbor smokes. I only put full loads of laundry in my washing machine and dishwasher, I always use my bath towels over many times before I wash them and I gave a can of garbanzo beans to the boy scouts food drive last Saturday. I even watched Mr. Gore’s global warming video. Granted, it was snowing in April when I watched it, but he definitely convinced me that the end is quite near…especially for those poor polar bears.

I must tell you however, Mr. President, that with so many things to keep track of these days in order to be a good global citizen I admit that I’ve started falling behind in a few areas. Just the other day I got sick of my extra plastic grocery bags falling out of my pantry and I just threw them away. I didn’t take them back to the store or try and store them. I just hucked them. I also bought wasteful plastic water bottles and didn’t even check to see that they were the right recycle number that won’t poison my body with leached chemicals. At least twice a week I take a shower longer than 5 minutes and I never conserve water by turning it off while I’m soaping up. I’m not adequately prepared for the impending earthquake or flood or terrorist attack that I just know is right around the corner. None of my appliances have received the most recent “energy star” certification nor are they a pretty blue color like the ones I saw in Sears the other day. Sometimes I turn the heat up when I’m too lazy to put on a sweater, I usually let the water run down the drain until it’s warm when I wash my face, and much to the husband’s chagrin, I frequently leave the refrigerator door wide open if I know I will be coming back to it within the next couple of minutes. I've left the TV on when I wasn't watching it, I've left the lights on when I wasn't in the room and I leave the computer on when I'm not even home. I’m ashamed to admit it but I have willingly purchased clothing made by 3rd world 5 year old girls, copied a CD on to my computer that I checked out from the library and have given up on composting my food scraps.

So you see, Mr. President, I am in sad shape. I implore you to help me and help our country. It has just become too overwhelming to try and do everything the way it’s supposed to be done. After all, this is America, the land of opportunity and the land of excess. I am finding it hard to believe that I live in the richest country in the world and yet am constantly feeling bad about myself for not measuring up to the ideal global citizen. I am tired of always having to change my ways and cut back on something. I am tired of having to think about others and the environment and those stinkin’ polar bears. Mr. President, could you please find a way to take us back to the good ol’ days when I could live my life without so much thought, without feeling guilty and without calculating how much the gas costs to do it?

Respectfully yours,
An average American citizen

Check This Out!

If you are interested in being a better global citizen and eating a bit more locally, check out Barbara Kingsolver's book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. Kingsolver and her family lived for one year eating only locally grown food. You may not want to do the same but she just might inspire you to plant a tomato plant or two.

I was introduced to this book by a high school friend of mine who has her own fabulous and well written blog reviewing books. Check out Escape to Books at