Tuesday, September 25, 2012


Every September I will repost this tribute I created for my sister-in-law, Loretta who lost her courageous battle with ovarian cancer.  The words in this tribute were written by Loretta's friends and family.  The pictures are pics that I took around the farm and the beach.  The song, Amazing Grace, is played by bagpipes (Loretta's favorite).  Amazing Grace is a fitting song for a woman who was an amazing mother, friend, sister, wife, grandmother...and who showed us all that faith endures forever. Loretta’s legacy will live on in the hearts of her truly remarkable, unbreakable family.  She knew that the purpose of life is a life of purpose and she made it her purpose to love deeply.  During her fight with cancer she looked at every obstacle, every setback as an opportunity to share her enduring faith.  As Ralph Waldo Emerson put it:  It is not length of life, but depth of life.  Loretta lived a life full of happiness and joy and we are all better off for having the privilege to have known her.  Next weekend Loretta's family and friends will be walking to raise money for ovarian cancer research.  Here is the link to make a donation to the Unbreakable Breiners: http://kohnj.myetap.org/fundraiser/2012Walks/team.do?participationRef=3909.0.362513445

Fan Fan

I’ve discovered that I have become a big fan of ceiling fans.  It all started with my first grandchild, Kaylee.  Every time we entered the kitchen, where the ceiling fan was always running, Kaylee would become mesmerized with the fan.  She couldn’t take her eyes off it.  Whenever she was fussy, I’d take her into the kitchen and she’d immediately stop fussing and stare at the fan.  

This fan fascination must be universal among infants.  I now have the privilege of babysitting my newest grandchild, Devyn.  Devyn, at eight weeks old, is a very happy and alert infant.  In the living room, there is a ceiling fan that is on all day.  Devyn and I have learned that it is great fun lying on the living room floor and looking at the fan.  We can do this for thirty minutes or more depending on when it’s time for Devyn’s next bottle.  

This is what I’ve learned from ceiling fans:
Ceiling fans remind me that the simple things in life can still be full of fascination.
Ceiling fans are really cool to look at through squinty eyes.
There is nothing better in life than being able to lie on the floor with your grandchild and stare at a ceiling fan for as long as you want.  
The ceiling fan doesn’t care if you sing an off key silly song at it - and neither do grandchildren.
It’s fun to kick your feet at the ceiling fan.   
Sometimes, when I look over at Devyn, I see her mommy and I go back in time to the days when Jennifer and I watched ceiling fans together.
As the fan goes round and round, it reminds me of the seasons of life and how quickly they pass. and I wonder where the time went...

As I type these words, I look at my hands and I’m reminded of my grandmother’s hands.  Her hands were a little pudgy and wrinkly and they had those brown spots that old people get.  I remember holding her hand and feeling safe.  My hands look like hers now - grandmother hands.  

Today, my grandma hands will hold little Devyn and we’ll lie on the floor in the living room and we’ll stare at the ceiling fan and I’ll thank God for this season of my life.  The season where I can slow down and marvel at the wonders of fans.  

Friday, September 14, 2012


The ruler with the circles in it is the worst.  Its bee sting leaves red welts on the back of her hand as a reminder of how bad she is.  Bad, bad, bad!  No other kids pick up a pencil with the wrong hand.  No other kids have to sit at the tall piano all alone trying so hard to use the other hand that doesn’t work; the stupid stupid hand that doesn’t listen to her screaming brain.  

Stay in the lines!  Her brain screams as the defiant hand scribbles uncontrollably.  

No one is looking now.  The good hand gives the crayon to the bad hand.  Quickly, before anyone sees her, the bad hand starts to write her name even though it is hard to write without turning her arm: Eliza....perfect letters!  So proud!  

Uh-oh, here comes Sister Penguin waddling over to the pathetic kid perched on the piano stool scrawling scribbled nothingness on her untidy paper.  

HIDE!  Her brain screams, MELT into the piano!

Too late. Can’t switch hands now.  Sister Penguin already saw the bad hand working.  Elizabeth knows what is coming.  She can already feel the welts swelling and reddening on her bad bad hand.  Tears start to stain the perfect letters of her name.  

“Give me your hand, Elizabeth!” Sister Penguin yells so that all the children stop and stare.  

Here comes another lesson on misbehaving in kindergarten - WHACK!  The ruler comes down hard on the bad bad hand and Elizabeth feels the pain way deep in her soul - So deep, that she follows it and hides there while the children laugh and mock the pathetic little girl on the piano stool.

“Line up children.”  It’s time for the Easter parade.  

Elizabeth starts to slide off the stool when a cold claw grabs her shoulder.  “Not you, Elizabeth!” Sister Penguin’s squawking voice pierces her soul hiding place.  “You stay here and practice writing your name with your right hand!”

All is quiet.  She wonders what the Easter parade is like?  All the girls had Easter bonnets.  She brought one too.  It had pretty blue and pink flowers on it.  She couldn’t wait to wear it in the Easter parade.  She wondered if the Easter Bunny would be there.  Will everyone get candy?  She’ll never know because her stupid hand will never learn how to write her name.  

So, she sits on the stool staring at her ugly paper hating her stupid hand.  Hating herself.  Hating her miserable kindergarten life.  She picks up the pencil with the right hand and starts writing her name: 

No matter how hard she tries, no perfect letters appear on the straight line.  Soon, she hears the laughing of her classmates as they enter the room holding Easter baskets loaded down with spongy yellow chicks, chocolate eggs and rainbows of jelly beans.  Elizabeth looks up from her sloppy paper as Sister Penguin waddles over holding the holy ruler.  Slowly and deliberately Elizabeth holds out her hand.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Grab, Drop and Roll

Okay, I admit it, the underwear story is pretty damn funny.  I’ve gotten numerous requests to tell it.  So, I’m going to try to do it justice.  

I have a bad habit of leaving my stripped off clothes on the floor next to my bed at night.  I justify this in the event that I might have to jump out of bed in the middle of the night to shoot a prowler or something. I envision myself throwing on my clothes while grabbing my gun...I mean I don’t want to shoot a prowler while I’m naked.  Maybe the truth is, I’m just lazy or tired or all of the above.  Anyway, I always seem to have a pile of yesterday’s clothes readily available in case of emergencies.

I guess I have to give a little bit of background in order to properly tell this story.  

During my youthful rebellious days, I moved to West Virginia, married a mountain man and became a bona fide hillbilly.  I lived in a tar paper shack and learned how to shoot my AR-15 and my Ruger Mini-14 with amazing accuracy.  I was happy for a while until I realized that I wanted more out of life than an attached outhouse.  It was especially hard in the winter months when I had to go under the shack with a blowtorch to unfreeze the pipes in order to have running water in the kitchen.  I eventually left the hillbilly life, but before I did, I left my underwear behind in the school.

It all started when the alarm did not go off in our tar paper shack.  My husband was supposed to be at a job interview that morning and I guess I was driving him.  I don’t remember all the particulars, but I went with him to the school where the interview was taking place.  Since the alarm didn’t go off, we were running really really late.  So, naturally, I jumped out of bed and threw on the jeans I had been wearing the day before.

Fast forward to the school:  We arrived at the school with seconds to spare.  As we were walking/running down the hall to the office, I felt something in my pants leg.  It was really bothering me, so I kept shaking my leg hoping that whatever it was, I could shake it loose or at least reposition it.  

Coming toward us from the other end of the hallway was a gentleman that looked like he might be the principal - he just had that air about him.  He was approaching us clearly intent on learning our business at the school.  Bob, my husband, was dressed in his suit and looked presentable.  I, on the other hand, looked disheveled and perhaps a bit unstrung due to the bothersome thing in my pants.  I gave my leg one last shake and, low and behold, the thing that was bothering me freed itself just as the principal came to a halt in front of us.  

I swear everything went into slow motion right at that very moment.  I watched in horror as yesterday’s underwear became a projectile and then hovered in the air like a parachute right in front of the principal.  I don’t know if I screamed or not.  

All I remember is taking immediate action.  

I grabbed the underwear like an NFL receiver, and pulled it to my chest as my feet went out from under me. Luckily, I avoided tackling the principal on my way down.

I landed headfirst on the floor shielding the underwear with my now numb body as if it were a bomb or hand grenade ready to explode.   I might have blacked out momentarily because some of the details of what happened next are still fuzzy.  I don’t even know if Bob or the principal had any idea what just went down.  All they knew is that I hurled myself headfirst onto the floor for no apparent reason.

 I was still hiding the evidence under my body frantically trying the figure out what to do with it before they picked me up off the floor.  So, I did the only thing I could think of - I stuffed the underwear back in my pants.  The men, clearly concerned about my mental stability, helped me to my feet.  I assured them I was fine and we made our way together to the office.  

When Bob inquired about the job interview, it just so happened that the man in the hallway was in fact the principal and the very same man he had the interview with.  It was the shortest interview of his life.  I no sooner inquired about the restroom when Bob emerged from the office looking a bit dejected.  Needless to say, he didn’t get the job.  

On the way out of the school, I felt the now familiar underwear making its way down my pants leg.  I gave my leg one big shake and, low and behold, out came the underwear.  As I looked on, my underwear flew up in the air and landed on top of a pillar right by the front of the school.  I could have alerted Bob, who was walking in front of me, to this unfortunate turn of events, but I soon thought better of it.  All I could think of was trying to explain to the principal why Bob was trying to climb the pillar in front of the school. So, I never even broke my stride.  I couldn't get out of that school fast enough.  As far as I know, the underwear might still be there today!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Funny Drought

I haven’t been able to write anything funny lately.  It’s like my funny bone has been removed.  Not even Walmart shoppers have inspired me!  I feel like my rose colored glasses have turned putrid green - like I’m in the bottom of some murky pond trying to find a shinny object that has long since molded over.  I keep looking for inspiration and I just can’t see it.

Last night, however, I went over to my friend Karen’s house and noticed that the photos on her wall were still the same.  To the casual observer, they look like any other pictures you’d find hanging on a family wall; mom and dad holding hands with their young son at the beach and two young lovers stargazing.  The only thing wrong with these pictures is that they are not Karen’s family.  The pictures hanging on the wall are the photos that came with the frame!  They’ve been there now for as long as I can remember - at least five years.  This mystery family has become as much a part of the landscape at Karen’s house as her real family.  They even refer to the photos as the California relatives.

This got me thinking about the everyday things in our lives that really are rather funny, but, try as I might, I cannot make them into a funny story.  I always inquire about Karen’s make believe California family that never seems to age.  Karen always has some glib remark about the glossy family and how they spend all their days at the beach, yet the humor in the story remains stuck in my brain. 

One of my favorite comedians, Gilda Radner as Roseanne Roseannadanna, had a way of making you laugh at the truly mundane things in life like a sweat ball on the end of your nose that won’t fall off, a toenail that turns purple, falls off and never grows back, green spinach stuck in your teeth or finding something hard in hamburger meat.  I grew up watching Gilda Radner, Lucy Ball, Carol Burnet and Phyllis Diller.  My favorite author is humorist Erma Bombeck.

So, being no match for any of these women, I decided to let them sprinkle their humor on my funny drought:

My mother-in-law had a pain beneath her left breast. Turned out to be a trick knee.
Phyllis Diller

“Marriage has no guarantees. If that's what you're looking for, go live with a car battery.”
Erma Bombeck

“Once you get a spice in your home, you have it forever. Women never throw out spices. The Egyptians were buried with their spices. I know which one I'm taking with me when I go. ”
Erma Bombeck

The only time I ever enjoyed ironing was the day I accidentally got gin in the steam iron.
Phyllis Diller

The secret of staying young is to live honestly, eat slowly, and lie about your age.
Lucille Ball

“Giving birth is like taking your lower lip and forcing it over your head.”
Carol Burnet

I base most of my fashion taste on what doesn't itch.
Gilda Radner

Perhaps one day, I’ll be able to write about the time our tractor caught on fire and Katie pulled the PVC pipe off the side of the barn while running to put the fire out.  Or, maybe I’ll find the words to tell the story about wetting my pants during a particularly funny game of Apples to Apples.  Then there was the day that I dragged one of my friends across the table in a brutal game of spoons (and broke the table).  Maybe I’ll tell the story about the time that a pair of my underwear got stuck in my pants leg and...well THAT is a story!  But for now, I’ll just take Erma Bombeck’s advice:

“He who laughs.....lasts.”
Erma Bombeck