November 1, 2015
by Annie

Flipper Thing?

flipper thingI have three girls…which means three times I’ve had to give the old Sex and Puberty talk. I always assumed my delivery would get progressively better as the last one rounded the bend into womanhood, but no such luck.

I still remember the first time. It was fifteen years ago. My oldest walked into the kitchen where I was slaughtering a recipe for Beef Stroganoff. Upon quick analysis, I could see that her legs were bowed and it looked as if she had ridden Old Nell bareback from Fort Bragg at an uncomfortable trot.

“What’s wrong with you?” I asked.

“You know!” she gasped, her eyebrows raised…index finger pointing to her privates.

“No, I don’t,” I said.

“Come on, you KNOWWWW!”

I suddenly understood…and blamed myself for not reading the brochure the school had sent home a few years prior. Immediately I prayed to any menstrual God there was…Creator of the Curse…Lord of the Heavy Flow…The High Priestess of Pads and Pons…in the hopes that from some far-reaching heavenly direction wise words would appear.

Procrastinating, I turned a few knobs on the stove, wiped my hands on a towel, dipped my finger in the sauce…and waited. Eventually I realized I had to wing it, but not before my daughter told me that she thought she’d put “IT” in the wrong hole.

“What?” I said.

“Those things…I don’t think I put it in the right place.”

“A tampon?” I asked.

“MOM! You don’t have to say it!”

For whatever reason, my thoughts took a nervous flight to an old joke involving female genitalia and a bowling ball. The smirk on my face as I remembered the punchline sent her waddling out of the room like an old cowpoke.

“Wait! Oh God, this is it, isn’t it?…The day you want me to explain things. I thought there would be more time…and now I’m supposed to be clinical, yet motherly.”

My daughter rolled her eyes. I was losing her.

“Someday you will understand how difficult this is. My success or failure at explaining this could mean the difference between you embracing womanhood…or being doomed to years of therapy. It’s a lot of pressure. Just give me a minute.”


“Okay…I can do this. A tampon? Well, it’s fairly rudimentary. It goes in front…no, actually behind…that flipper thing.”

“Flipper thing?” She said, looking confused. “You mean the clitoris?”

Then a few years later, the second daughter splash landed into her womanly wake. Like her sibling, she cornered me in the kitchen where the conversation started out much the same until I stopped her in mid-sentence recalling my previous “bird and bee” debacle. Regrouping from a pregnant pause, I blurted something about going to fetch the “Let It Flow” school pamphlet.

“Forget it Mom…I’ll just ask my sister.”

Years passed, and I was all alone with number three… “the baby.” One evening she approached me, holding a tampon up to the light like a mouse caught in a trap.

“Yo Mo, where does this bad boy go?”

I will give you the good news first…by that point I had forgotten the bowling ball joke. I was even fairly factual, but nowadays, this new batch of kids are much more open and in touch with their bodies. Very little embarrass them.

One day I walked into the bathroom and she had plastered a new Kotex to the wall as if it were a piece of art. I looked at it for a long time.

“What is this doing here?” I asked.

“I’m preparing,” She said.

“Preparing? Honey, people prepare for a hurricane, a tsunami or an earthquake…but a Kotex is nothing like a can of Spam in a bomb shelter.”

I remember when I was growing up. No one clued me in. I guess we were instinctively supposed to know what was going on, like birds flying south in the winter. One day I overheard some girls on the playground. When I walked up to them, they fell silent.

“What are you talking about?” I asked.

“Female things,” one sneered. Then they turned their backs on me.

“I know all about that,” I said. Both girls abruptly did an about-face.

“Have you started bleeding?” One of them asked.

“Bleeding?…Who hasn’t?” I laughed.

When I got home from school I asked my neighbor, Virginia. She was two years older.

I said, “Ginny, how does that blood get out of you anyways?”

She said that it just sort of gushed out of a hole.

“A hole?” I said.

“Damn,” she screamed. “Don’t you know anything?”

I began having dreams…frightening dreams, that made me wake in a cold sweat. I saw myself sitting in a classroom when all of a sudden a gigantic tidal wave of blood exploded from this abyss down there, knocking over desks and children, carrying them out the door and into the hallway. There were kids trying to keep their heads afloat, desperately grabbing for lockers and mounted fire extinguishers for support. Miss Delbert, the school nurse, lunged toward me through the rapids of blood swinging a sanitary pad and belt over her head. The vital fluids of life erupted from me like red hot lava, oozing with such force that it was all I could do to hold onto my desk and watch my best friend Margie Klinkerbush get swept away.

Okay, so the Kotex wall art never caught on with the critics and remained part of a private collection. In some Andy Warhol circles, I’m sure it could have been cutting edge…probably ahead of its time. All I know is…I have finally finished my last bloody speech on menstrual cycles! Now I’m fine-tuning my spiel on pregnancy and the joys of childbirth.

October 30, 2015
by Annie

The Tricked and the Treatless

shutterstock_314268092I’m not a big fan of Halloween. It lies in wait…ready to ambush the easily tricked and treatless. A holiday where  SpongeBobs and Sonic Hedgehogs lurk behind plastic pumpkin buckets while pretty little Snow Whites and trashy Miley-lookalikes assault front porches with such aggression that it makes one appreciate the simple knock and conservative costumes of the Latter Day Saints.

Without fail, I always seem to move into a neighborhood full of kids whose mothers begin designing and assembling their costumes in August. As warm summer days disappear into blustery fall, I can almost hear the hum of sewing machines in suburban surround sound, and I know they are at it again…on a mission to make me look bad. Every little stitch that holds those elaborate costumes together feels like a staple-gun into my motherly shortcomings.

You see, I am not domestic…nor do I have high hopes of that gene lying dormant somewhere waiting to escape. I have never learned to cook, sew, needlepoint, or even crochet a damn doily. I don’t enjoy holiday decorating, spinning a color wheel, or browsing through Architectural Digest for ways to redesign my 900-square foot living space into a “Flashdance” loft. BUT, with peer pressure building, I decided to counter the attack, especially since my kids were lobbying for the uber-achieving local housewives.

I started a Mommy Dearest Diary on our computer and told my kids to freely add grievances they had about me.

It turned into a surprisingly popular site…first bookmarked, then graduating to the Homepage, complete with fast links and a frantic full-rant photo of me. Their fingertips flew across the keyboard like accomplished pianist at Carnegie Hall.

Although years have passed since the running tally of my flaws hit the database, we now talk about the journal with surprising candor.

“Mom, remember when you dressed us as sheets for Halloween two years in a row?”

“You were ghosts.”

“No mom…WE were sheets.”

“Or how about the time you wrote an IOU from the Tooth Fairy?”

“Hey, that’s unfair! You can’t expect me to have cash on hand every time one of you drops a fang.”

“What about sex? Remember how you explained it?”

“Not really, but I’m sure you’ll refresh my memory.”

“You said two people lock horns and afterward they develop a painful body rash, followed by open sores, eventually going blind and crazy.”

“I can’t believe I left out leprosy.”

“What about the time I told you I was going to run away?” This coming from the youngest who obviously took the brunt of my subpar parenting.

“I don’t remember,” I said.

“You packed me a peanut butter sandwich, stuffed it into my backpack, and waved.”

“It was tuna…and I blew you a kiss,” I corrected.

“Or when you put the heat lamp too close to my lizard and his body melted all over the rock?”

“I wanted him to feel at home so I recreated the Mojave desert. If he was hot, he should have moved out of the way.”

“Remember how we lived on Cheez-its, Redi-whip, and diet cokes until we were ten…and all our Christmas ornaments came from McDonald’s Happy Meals?”

The whole conversation spiraled into a dark abyss of dysfunctional damaged goods. How can four people who lived in the same house for all those years have such a different recollection of the same events? I saw myself as a sweet but challenged, single mother of three girls. They saw me as Cruella De Ville on steroids.

Oh God, there’s the doorbell. The siege of trick-or-treaters has begun. But this year, in a last ditch attempt to rehabilitate my less than stellar status as a responsible, health-conscious mother, I’m making some changes. Instead of the King-size Snickers, Reeses, M&M’s, and Tootsie Rolls that the approaching Mongol hoards crave…I’m doling out individually wrapped tofu cubes. Hopefully this will reestablish my good karma in the neighborhood! (And if you think THIS is a sneaky way to diminish my front porch traffic on Halloween…you’re on to me!)

August 27, 2015
by Annie

Locked and Loaded In Our Techno Trough

gunI wrote this post a few years ago, and find it fascinating that very little has changed. If anything, we seem to accept gun violence as a normal consequence of life.

Yesterday two television reporters were gunned down while doing a live broadcast. If history repeats, I suspect we will see horrific murder headlines and testimonials from those touched by the victims in their brief time on earth. We will analyze how the killer used a GoPro to film the carnage …how he was able to upload  footage onto social media within minutes of the crime…and speculate what might go through the minds of other mentally deranged killers as they see the number of views grow online. Once more we will balance the heartache with a shrine of wilting flowers and weathered messages and move on. When will we stop being silenced by misery and say we’ve had enough?

Gun control is never far from any conversation these days. Everyone has an opinion concerning their right to bear arms. It seems we have become a country hell-bent on protecting our Second Amendment rights, even at the possible expense of infringing upon other equally important ones. The ginned up fear of a massive government takeover prevents a practical dialogue from really getting started. Even with the unspeakable dismemberment of school children, a fog hovers over what a majority supports.

I’d admit I come from a gun slinging family. My father made no secret that he was packing heat. It was an old pistol from the Civil War my great-grandfather pulled off a dead soldier. My dad kept it in his underwear drawer. Psychologically he felt better pointing an unloaded relic at a robber than threatening a fistfight. Frankly, I thought we’d have a better chance loading his briefs like a slingshot than pointing that antique pistol at a crazed crook.

When I was a kid disputes were settled on the playground. Then after the dust settled, hard feelings were mostly dropped. But times have changed. Now differences can turn into deadly feuds as people stockpile ammunition and semi-automatic rifles capable of firing 100 rounds per minute. With an outlandishly easy pull of an index finger, a disgruntled lost soul can unleash devastating lethality from a disengaged distance. Blurring the line between real life and video games, they compete for the highest scores and a shot at notoriety.

To be sure our deteriorating social and moral fabric is being challenged. We are abandoning the simplicity of human interaction and losing a connection with ourselves…our kids…our planet…in the name of progress. Of course it is great to have all the newest gadgets to communicate with one another without being face-to-face, but at the end of the day our human instinctual side needs contact…physical, spiritual and mental. We are starting to see consequences of abandoning the soul-feeding personal touch…in favor of a tweet, a text, or an email. It’s no wonder there is a growing percentage of kids who feel rudderless and ostracized. The resulting alienation is being treated with an array of pharmaceuticals whose side effects often include the very problem they are prescribed to alleviate. Technology is leaving our human physical side in the dust, and the connectedness that was for thousands of years a staple of our existence is being pawned cheaply for glitz, internet speed, and firepower.

If this is truly a democracy by and for the people, and is the model we hold up for the world to admire as we spread it peacefully, and otherwise…we’d better take a good look at where this little 200 year old experiment is heading. I’m not so sure that a nation driven by fear, divided by the powers that be, and semi-automatically armed to the teeth sounds like the one we hear so often touted as, “The greatest country in the history of the world.”

August 5, 2015
by Annie

Roll The Dice and Take A Wife

ElvisI’m in Vegas celebrating my parent’s 50th wedding anniversary. They’re reaffirming vows in one of those corny chapels. An Elvis impersonator dressed in a skintight polyester jumpsuit parades my mother down the aisle before a gauntlet of guests wearing fake noses and glasses. There is an entire set of miniature railroad cars sewn down the back of the dress, mother’s idea of a bridal train. I follow, hips thrusting and “a whole lot of shakin’ going on,” while tossing rose petals at their feet.

One thing you have to know about my parents is that they are showbiz people. They love a party and a laugh, sometimes at my expense.

After we celebrate their five-decade marriage, I leave them and head for the casino. I take a seat beside Carol, a woman bejeweled in a sequin tube-top and faux leather pants. She’s hunched over a slot machine.

Carol is a fixture here, spending every day at the same one-arm bandit, fishing into her vinyl clutch for dead presidents. A few years back, she won $1100 with one pull, but since that fateful day the house has eaten her lunch.

“Have you thought of trying another slot machine…maybe Wheel of Fortune?” I ask.

“Hell, no,” Carol says. “This is MY machine. Besides, it wouldn’t matter. I’ve been on a losing streak since I got married.” She pulls the lever and watches as two cherries and a lemon roll to a stop. Each time the machine sucks down her money, she takes a sip of vodka, a hearty 80 proof swig, the very medicine for her misfortune.

“I used to be a high-roller,” says Carol “the Queen of free buffets and booze.” She downs her drink and lights a cigarette, blowing smoke at the fruit machine. “Then I met Jimmy, right in this exact spot, and the next thing I know we’re tying the knot. He was building another dice joint when a crane fell on him. Now he just lies on the couch watching NASCAR.”

I have every intention of telling Carol how sorry I feel about her troubles, except her mouth is waiting for no one.

Carol motors on. “The night we met I won big, everything going right, until we pulled up to the Tunnel of Love Drive Thru and got hitched. All I ever wanted was to get out of this glitzy sandbox. Now I’m stuck…until one of us cashes our chips in.”

Maybe it’s the champagne from the Golden Anniversary toasts, but hearing Carol’s story leaves me melancholy. She looks like someone who could have gone somewhere, but now only a faint glimmer remains of that glad rags gal.

Sometimes people confuse marriage with endurance. It’s easy to do. Endurance makes you feel productive…it’s that space where you spend a great deal of time doing what you can’t imagine not doing, because you don’t have the guts to do anything else.

I’m $20 down at the end of the evening, but Carol’s out a small fortune including a sizeable bar bill for a dozen vodkas and a carton of cigarettes.

I want to leave her with some promise of better times ahead, but frankly I’m at a loss for words. What do you say to someone who looks to a rigged machine for a way out of a shitty life?

Then the voice in my head shakes me like a dog with a chew toy. After all, I am a product of show folk.

“Carol, did you hear the joke about the Vegas panhandler who asks a passerby for change?”

She stares at me as if I’m one card short of a full deck.

“Well, there is this guy,” I say “sitting on the sidewalk, real down on his luck. So he asks a tourist for money, but the tourist answers, “Wait a minute, how do I know you won’t use it for gambling?” And the panhandler says, “Oh, I got gambling money!””

Carol’s face lights up. “Haha, that’s what I love about this town!” And with a wave of her hand she’s gone, like a paycheck.