Are You Married to a Birthday Moron?

When it comes to birthdays, there are two kinds of husbands. The first type delight in giving fabulous birthday gifts. The amount of thought that goes into these birthday extravaganzas implies planning has taken place months in advance. Gifts include (but are not limited to) treasure hunts, weekend getaways, breakfast in bed followed by a full day at the spa, and surprise parties. These enigma gentlemen must have Pinterest accounts or peruse discarded Real Simple magazines.

Then – then there are the other half. This group falls somewhere in between the categories of, “Wait. Is her birthday the third or the thirteenth?” and, “Crap. Today’s her birthday? Maybe I can get something in the gas station on the way home from work. My tank’s on empty.”

These less than impressive gift givers aren’t bad guys. In fact, many of them are incredible human beings. They just fall short – really short – every 365 days. For whatever reason, when their spouse’s birthday comes creeping around the calendar, something bizarre happens to their brains. Science has yet to explain it, but the evidence is there: these men turn into Birthday Morons.

Listed below are the types of birthday that ladies who are married to Birthday Morons have experienced. This list proves they’re not alone. The next time they hear of some gal’s husband making a special dinner (and doing the dishes) while she takes an uninterrupted bubble bath, they can refer to this list for comfort and solidarity. They can think, “Ahh, she too is married to a Birthday Moron.”

The Absolute Forgotten Birthday – you wait all day, knowing deep down he has forgotten your birthday but hope prevails that maybe, just maybe, he has a surprise planned. You make dinner. You clean up. The sense of dread and disappointment is intensifying. You peek in his closet, then his car trunk. No gift. Not even a card. There will be no surprise. He forgot.

The Last Minute Birthday – These birthday gifts are a tad better than the Absolute Forgotten Birthday, but not by much. They involve a hearty “Happy Birthday” greeting or text (yay!) but that’s about it. Your present is usually a,

“How about I bring you to the mall and you can pick out what you want?”

This lackluster offer to drive you to the mall proves there was no planning, or thought, whatsoever. Some women will jump on the invitation and buy the most expensive thing in the mall out of spite. Others are simply too exhausted, and they just want to get in bed and have a good seething cry. They also vehemently promise to never have sex with their Birthday Moron again.

The Hasty Birthday – Damage control people! The Hasty Birthday is when he looks at his desktop calendar and utters a, “Oh %&#$!. Today’s her birthday?” The Hasty Birthday knows an offer to go shopping at the mall won’t fly, so he stops on his way home from work and buys the easiest thing possible. Flowers from the grocery store with the price sticker adhered to the clear cellophane, and a gift card randomly chosen from a gift card kiosk. You tell yourself, “It’s the thought that counts,” but here’s the thing: THERE WAS NO REAL THOUGHT.

The Backpedal Birthday – There is no card, gift, or celebratory outing. His reason?

“Remember how we went out for dinner and that movie two weeks ago? That was your birthday gift.”

If only you had known! You would have ordered an appetizer and asked the waiter for a free piece of cake.

The Self-Serving Birthday – These birthday gifts are complicated. The guy remembers your birthday, but the gift is more for him than you. You unwrap your present only to find a book on massage and massage oil. Meanwhile, he has removed his shirt and is pointing to his left shoulder.

“Could you get right here? My trapezius? It’s been sore for weeks.”

Other Self-Serving Birthday gifts include lingerie, tickets to watch his favorite sports team, or a power tool. The Self- Serving Birthday Moron has also been known to be sneaky. These gifts involve jewelry, a day at the spa, or dinner at your favorite restaurant. The magic quickly evaporates when you realize your Birthday Moron is expecting sex later that night, or he is hoping you won’t be angry when he announces his fantasy football losses.

The Clueless Birthday – Similar to the Self-Serving Birthday, these birthday gifts are tricky. The Birthday Moron remembers your birthday and made time to purchase a gift, but all consideration (and common sense) left the brain as soon as this Birthday Moron entered the store. Clueless birthday presents have been known to include hand held vacuum cleaners (“but you’re always cleaning!”), salad spinners (“since you make salad every night”), and bedroom slippers two sizes too big. The Clueless Birthday also involves an offer to make dinner, only to be served hot dogs or Kraft macaroni and cheese.

There is hope for Birthday Morons. Legend has it that one or two have morphed into those great gift giving husbands – the ones who love to plan, and have no secret agenda hidden in their gift giving. But until then, the wives of Birthday Morons can unite and commiserate. They can hope that next year will be better.

Kale Causes Cancer

Kale causes cancer. Well, not yet. But it will. It’s only a matter of time before a national study reveals that this esteemed leafy green vegetable is wreaking havoc on our bodies. Just look at fish! For decades we have been told to “eat more fish!”, “fish is good for you!”, “fish has healthy oils for your brain!” Then along comes this pesky neurotoxin called mercury – which has apparently infested our fish.

It’ll be no surprise when kale is considered deadly. First, it has a rough, rubbery texture, which is nature’s way of saying, “hands off!” Second, it’s bitter. An acquired taste? Or similar to the bad taste that bugs excrete to keep predators from devouring them? Lastly, it has an ornamental look to it, implying it should surround our steak and potatoes, not be in lieu of them.

People are very proud when they eat kale, as though they have just saved someone from drowning. Smoothie establishments offer drink concoctions that contain kale as a main ingredient. Women – wearing yoga pants – brandish these smoothies in their hands, feeling good about themselves, when in reality it looks like they are drinking the contents of someones’s stomach after an intestinal virus. These smoothies also contain a variety of other fruits and vegetables, which are supposed to add to the smoothies’ nutritional content. But we all know what is really going on: they’re just trying to cover up the taste of the kale.

Facebook and Pinterest are full of kale recipes. Soon there will be kale coffee and kale cupcakes. That is, until it is announced that kale causes cancer. Then everyone will breathe a sigh of relief and admit they never liked the vegetable, that they always found it bitter and disgusting – how they pretended to like it because it was cool. They never should have dressed little Sophia up as a kale leaf for Halloween, or made Simon eat dried kale chips for snack everyday.

Support groups will form, and not because kale has given so many people cancer, but because there is now a vacant spot – a rift – in their lives.

“It’s that feeling I miss … the pride of having something so healthy in my grocery cart. Nothing quite matches the euphoria of another grocery shopper glancing at my groceries and seeing my kale, while they were buying nothing but cheese doodles and soda.”

“Mmmm … I hear what you’re saying. And how about you, Sue? What are you feeling right now?”

“It made me feel smart. Like, I was playing a trick on someone. Why else would I eat something so awful? But I knew it was supposed to be good for me. So I ate it. But without kale, I’m just boring. I’m like everyone else.”

“Those are very strong feelings, Sue. Thank you for sharing them. How about you, Stephanie?”

“I’m really regretting naming my daughter Kale. I should have gone with Emma.”

People will wander around the produce section of grocery stores. Spinach may gain some new attention, like an ex girlfriend who suddenly seems appealing again. Others may briefly try broccolini, only to find it’s been around too long, they’re familiar with its taste, it doesn’t feel like it’s doing anything.

In time, another vegetable will be heralded as the “nutrient packed”, “immune-boosting”, “cancer fighting” food that kale was once considered to be (before it was discovered that it causes cancer). Everyone will breathe a sigh of relief and rush to ingest that plant. Until, of course, it is announced it causes heart disease.

Eddie and Annie

It was a Thanksgiving unlike any other. Joining our family were two people from the soup kitchen where my mom volunteered.

My mother had decorated the table just as she would for any holiday: a linen tablecloth, her best dishes, lit candles and fancy napkins. Soft music played in the background. However, this year extended family did not surround the table. Instead, sitting at the table were Annie and Eddie.

Eddie wasn’t homeless, but I strongly doubted his home had running water. He wreaked of unwashed skin and filthy clothes. His fingernails were caked with dirt. Eddie had cerebral palsy and needed a cane to walk. His speech was slow and slurred, and often his words were so garbled they were unintelligible. Eddie was also fond of collecting items he found on the streets on his way to the soup kitchen. He would proudly display these trinkets. For example, when he visited our home, he wore a belt covered with bottle caps. People always knew when Eddie was approaching because they could hear his knickknacks jingling and jangling from afar.

Annie sat to Eddie’s right. Annie resided in a government subsidized motel. Even though Annie’s motel room had running water, she chose to douse herself with what smelled like gallons of inexpensive perfume – as though she were attempting to mask an unpleasant odor. Annie would also paint layers of makeup on her face, giving herself a clown-like appearance. Annie was also a scowler. If she enjoyed having Thanksgiving at our house, you would never have known.

The meal proceeded like any other, except for my trying to chew and swallow while holding my breath. At six years old, I knew Eddie was a kind man and I could tell he was absolutely thrilled to be having dinner in our home, but his body odor was overpowering. Annie’s perfume did nothing to mask Eddie’s smell. Instead, it made a rather nauseating combination.

Dinner conversation consisted of Eddie telling stories at painstakingly long lengths as he struggled to pronounce words. When he reached the the end of a story, Eddie would burst out laughing. My  parents, brother and I would exchange glances that read, “Did you understand that?” “No. I was hoping you did.” We would smile and laugh with Eddie, hoping he would never suspect our ignorance. Annie glowered and poked at her turkey.

After dessert it was time to bring Annie and Eddie back to their homes. I climbed into my parent’s Datsun, squished between Eddie and Annie in the backseat. The smell of Eddie’s unwashed clothes and body and Annie’s perfume was overwhelming, and I couldn’t wait for this Thanksgiving to end. I couldn’t understand why my mother would want Annie and Eddie at our Thanksgiving dinner. As far as I was concerned, the meal had been ruined by Eddie’s stench and dirty fingernails. Annie’s grumpiness hadn’t help much either.

Looking back, I now understand how my mom was able to see past Eddie’s unwashed body and soiled clothes. She saw a kind man who had no one to share Thanksgiving with, and if it weren’t for my mom, he would have spent Thanksgiving alone. For my mom, it was an honor to provide Eddie with a Thanksgiving meal and company.

As for Annie, my mom treated her unhappiness with love and warmth. My mom suspected Annie’s past was not an easy one, so she did not begrudge Annie’s lack of gratefulness. My mom didn’t need Annie to say the food was delicious or that she was thankful to be invited. Watching Annie (who was dressed in costume jewelry and her usual layers of makeup) eat meant more to my mom than any thanks Annie could have given.

We dropped Annie off at her motel room before driving deep into the woods to Eddie’s home. The night sky was brilliant, filled with stars brighter than any I had ever seen. Eddie’s house was at the end of a dirt road. It looked like something I would have seen drawn in a children’s Halloween book. There was no electricity and the front steps were leaning precariously to the side. They were also coated with ice. I sat in the car, watching Eddie slowly climb his front stairs poking the ice with his cane before cautiously taking a step. My father – who was following Eddie – paused to chip some of the ice off the steps before he and my mom made sure Eddie was safely inside.

When my parents returned, we immediately rolled down all of the windows to air out the car. Eddie’s smell and Annie’s perfume seemed to have permeated our noses and the vinyl seats.  We drove home silent and thoughtful – the brisk November air bathing our faces. While I couldn’t wait for that Thanksgiving to end, I still think about it thirty years later.

Your Memoir

If you were to write a memoir, what would it contain? First, let me define “memoir.” The Oxford Dictionary states that a memoir is, “a biography written from personal knowledge.” O“an essay on a learned subject.”

When I think of a memoir, I envision a thick book just filled with pages upon pages of life events written by someone notable. (Think Bill Clinton’s My Life or Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes.) Since I haven’t turned forty yet, it seems premature to write a biographical memoir.

But an essay on a learned subject? Well! Now that is doable.

Yet, there are a multitude of learned subjects I would love to discuss in my memoir. I can’t help but feel limiting it to only one subject would be withholding crucial life lessons that could aid my readers. What if the below tidbits dramatically change your life? So, at risk of breaking all literary convention, I present you with The Underground Writer’s Memoir.

Baking powder and baking soda are two entirely different things. Ask my family. They learned this brutal truth several Sundays ago when I tried to make pancakes from scratch. The recipe called for baking powder. In my hasty, caffeine infused rush, I accidentally used baking soda. Twice. (Since I tossed the first batch after my husband and daughter said the pancakes tasted acidic … and resembled amoebas.)

Don’t be fooled by the song, “Send In The Clowns” by Judy Collins. You may think this is a peppy tune since the word “clown” is in the title. Trust me, it’s not peppy. There is no circus music, as one might expect. In fact, it just might be the most depressing song in the history of music. Whatever you do, DON’T put this song in the music queue for your child’s birthday. Unless you want to curl up into a ball and sob your eyes out, I recommend staying away from the song altogether.

Not everyone finds the surgery you had as fascinating as you do. When I was fourteen, my parents invited friends over for dinner. The man brought the video of his recent cataract surgery. He really thought we wanted to watch it. Out of kindness we did, but it was such an awkward moment: sitting in the living room, the taste of dessert still fresh on our tongues, as we watched this guy’s eyeball get stitched back together.

No one can prepare you for how insanely difficult it is to be a parent. I’m not referring to such incidents as your teenager having an attitude, or your eight your old who still refuses to eat anything green. I am talking about that deep, penetrating ache you feel when your child comes home from school and says they spent recess alone, again. Or that suffocating panic when the pediatrician calls with test results they find concerning. As Erma Bombeck so eloquently stated, “Having children is forever deciding to have your heart go walking outside your body.”

While these life lessons aren’t exactly groundbreaking or revelational, if they help a part of your day be a bit easier, then my memoir of lessons learned was an (unpublished) success .

Life’s Unanswered (Little) Questions

Will there ever be a cure for cancer? ___ and ___, why can’t you just get along? How can we stop climate change?

I could toss and turn all night trying to find the answers to these complex problems. But I don’t (mainly because I would never sleep). Instead, I focus on other – albeit, not as important – situations that drive me equally batty, but at least allow me to get some shuteye.

Why do some men spit while in public? Could someone – anyone –  please explain this gross phenomenon. Does a certain percentage of the male population produce more saliva than others? Are they delusional, and think they’re at the dentist? (Suddenly, they hear a voice say, “Rinse!” forcing them to cough up some phlegm and spew it on the sidewalk.)

Another baffling situation is how children are inconsistently cautious. My son and daughter pick through their meals as though they were health inspectors.

“Ewwww! What is that black spot?”

“Pepper. Now eat your dinner.”

“That’s not pepper! It looks like mold.”

“I don’t serve moldy food. It’s pepper. Eat your dinner.”

“Well, if you say so … wait. What’s this? This red dot?”

Yet they will gladly touch anything and everything in a public restroom. When outside, they poke their fingers into suspicious objects without so much of a hesitation. My son has shoved leaves in his mouth quicker than anything given to him for dinner. But food placed in front of them? Bring out the magnifying glass and Petri dishes, please.

What about this whole LOL business? Are people really Laughing Out Loud? If so, I would think everyone would be chuckling and jolly and smiling all of the time. Yet, all one has to do is spend 10.5 seconds in public to see this is certainly not the case. Why can’t there be a more truthful acronym? Such as SAL (Smiling A Little)?

The last issue I ponder is elderly drivers. I know this seems rather cut and dry: they are old and slow, thus they drive slowly. Yet, these slow driving septuagenarians and octogenarians will make the quickest, most reckless turns into oncoming traffic. Are they attempting to make up for lost time since it took them 30 minutes to drive half a mile? “Good heavens! Look at the time! I should hurry!” and she floors the gas pedal, twisting the steering wheel violently to the left.  Oncoming  cars slam on their breaks, blaring their horns as Edna inches painfully into a parking space.

I struggle to find answers to these conundrums as I prepare dinner for my children to dissect. I mull over them, jumping aside as a man spits out of the corner of his mouth, his saliva landing dangerously close to my feet. And I drum my fingers on my steering wheel, pondering these unanswered little questions, while I inch along behind an elderly man who is en route to his internist.

An Urgent Plea

Dear At – Home – Party – Consultants,

In all honesty, I do not need a potato peeler, onion dicer or pizza stone. Nor do I need an overpriced whisk and cheese grater. Buying a $60.00 nine inch bread knife would not make me feel pampered. It would make me feel swindled. Let’s also remember, I hate to cook (click HERE for proof). In other words, please stop inviting me to your Pampered Chef parties. Besides, all of that talk of kitchen gadgets would make me feel guilty – like I should be whipping up something gourmet for my family.

Soy candles are wonderful. I burn one a year. Therefore, I have no need for two or more. I also fear fire, and candles remind me of flames. (I would have made a horrible cave woman.) I also can’t help but feel a bit disgruntled by the inevitable jolly woman who would sit next to me and announce how she must have the $75 wall sconce and $25 votive holder.  While I am grateful you were thoughtful enough to include me on your PartyLite or Scentsy party invitation list, I ask that you no longer add my name.

Tupperware parties tend to get a bit too rowdy for my taste. All of that screaming over 8 oz containers and three piece plastic mixing bowl sets. The demonstration on the Zest and Press gadget always makes a few ladies faint. Forgive my weakness, but I simply do not have the fortitude to purchase a $33 plastic water pitcher to only have it break several days later (true story). Perhaps the decline in Tupperware quality is because Tupperware items are no longer manufactured in the United States. In any event, if you are thinking of inviting me to your next Tupperware gathering, please don’t.

Scrapbooking is downright intimidating. I do not have the patience or gumption to sort through my drawer full of photographs. This is why I never attend Creative Memories parties. Creative Memories consultants, please do not take this personally. Should I wake up one morning with the burning desire to crop pictures and write captions for them, I will contact you. I promise. Besides, I have heard rumors of brawls breaking out at scrapbooking parties – usually when high school photographs are unveiled. (“Wait! I thought you looked familiar! You were the one who I sat next to in Mr. Gibson’s math class. You used to make fun of my perm!”)

Homemade cards are wonderful. I admire the talent and creativity whenever I receive one. Yet, I  do not stamp and would rather spend time reading Hallmark cards in the store than making my own. If I am to stamp anything, it is a Bingo sheet with a dauber. Bingo is interactive and fun. Sometimes you win things. In fact, the next time I receive a Stampin’ Up party invitation, I may visit my nearest Catholic church hall for a competitive game of Bingo instead.  My sincerest apologies Stampin’ Up ladies.

Your cooperation in ceasing to invite me to these types of parties is much appreciated. I wish you well in your at-home party endeavors!

Warmest Regards,

The Underground Writer

Special thanks to Adam J. Holland of the Unorthodox Epicure (click HERE to check out his humorous and often touching essays) for assisting with this piece. And always – my beloved husband (Mr. Underground Writer) for his editing suggestions.

And The Award Goes To…

Thomas Edison, Alexander Fleming, George Washington Carver and Eli Whitney are people who are regularly credited for their inventions. Rarely does an adult say, “Who was that guy who invented electricity?” or “This peanut butter sandwich is so darn good! Who invented this stuff?” It seems that we have always known.

Yet, what about the lesser known people who invented things we use everyday? How often do we use an item without having the faintest idea who thought it up? Of course electricity and penicillin are extraordinary creations and I would hate to think of life without them. I would, however, also hate to think of life without my vacuum cleaner and toilet paper. So, without further ado, I present:

The Underground Writer’s Recognition of Little Cared for Inventors

The Pull Tab – You know, that little thingy on top of soda cans (and more recently – soup cans) that we hook our finger through and pull to open? According to the LA Times obituaries from October,1989, Ermal Cleon Fraze of Muncie, Indiana invented these. Ermal, for all of us who have arthritis or a disdain for the can opener – I thank you.

Spatula – Remember licking the bowl after your mom made brownies? That experience would have been far less productive had it not been for Horace Spatula (per an exhaustive 3 minute google search). According to an unreliable web page, Horace originally developed the spatula for use as a fly swatter. The history of the spatula invention is spotty at best, so I am assuming one day Mrs. Spatula was making a double layer chocolate cake when a fly landed on the counter. As she went to smack the fly with Horace’s invention, she paused, looked at it, and said, “Land’s sake! Why am I killing bugs with this thing?” and she promptly started to scrape cake batter out of her mixing bowl. Horace Spatula (and Mrs. Spatula), we salute you!

Doorknobs – Can you imagine life before doorknobs? How did one open a door? With a hearty kick? Very little is known about the inventor of the current day doorknob – except that his name was Osbourn Dorsey, he patented the doorknob in 1878, and he was an African-American. Locksmiths give you a shout out, Osbourn, as well as the rest of us who use your invention constantly throughout the day without giving you any credit. Well done.

Eraser – As someone who struggled through math class, you would think I would have taken the time to thank the inventor of the eraser before now. Pencil erasers and I were well acquainted with one another throughout high school and the mandated math courses I had to take in college. Per another questionable webpage (again, the whole point of this recognition is that we are acknowledging little known inventors), the eraser was developed in 1770 by a scientist named Joseph Priestly. Mr. Priestly, I thank you! (As do my former math teachers.)

Vacuum Cleaner – Many people were involved with the invention of the vacuum cleaner, so I had to take it upon myself to narrow it down. The Underground Writer’s Recognition of Little Cared for Inventors goes to a James Spangler of 1907. Mr. Spangler was a custodian who realized the carpet sweeper he operated as part of his profession was giving him a nagging cough. Using a pillow case to collect dust and the motor from a sewing machine, Mr. Spangler concocted the first portable vacuum cleaner. A round of applause for Mr. Spangler, please!

Toilet Paper – Prior to Joseph Gayetty, various items were used to, well, you know. I will spare you the details of what these apparatuses and methods were, but let’s just say we should all be grateful for Mr. Gayetty who introduced commercial toilet paper in 1857. As if the invention of toilet paper alone wasn’t wonderful enough, each sheet also beared a watermark of his name. While I am sure there were many before Mr. Gayetty who attempted to replace the weird things that were being used in lieu of toilet paper at that time, I think we should all recognize Mr. Gayetty as being the one who brought us our current day Charmin.

 Toggle Light Switch – While Thomas Edison invented electricity, let us not forget the people who made this electrical phenomenon user friendly. Before William Newton and Morris Goldberg, people were stumbling around in the dark trying to find the cord that they had to yank in order to turn the light on. In 1884, the two aforementioned men created the light switch that now adorns the walls of every home. Because of Mr. Newton and Mr. Goldberg, we can say, “Hey! Would you mind flipping the light on for me?” The next time you enter a room and turn on the light (unless, of course, you own a Clapper; then you should thank Lee Boschen), think of these two men. Mr. Newton and Mr. Morris, thanks!

Granted, The Underground Writer’s Recognition of Little Cared for Inventors cannot be equated to the Academy Awards or the Nobel Prize. But given that so very little is known about these inventors to begin with, this recognition will simply have to do.

The Typhoid Marys Among Us

Typhoid Mary is still among us. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this disturbing woman, allow me to give you a brief overview: Mary Mallon worked as a cook for wealthy families in the early 1900s. As she went about her cooking business, she was reeking havoc in the form of high fever, slow heartbeat, rash, painful diarrhea, and delirium. Mind you, this was all unintentional. She was an asymptomatic carrier of the bacteria Salmonella typhi. Meaning: she had no symptoms of the contagious disease she was carrying and spreading. There she was, frying up bacon and eggs, but also adding a little dollop of virulent bacteria on the side.

Either denial, obstinance or extreme stupidity kept Typhoid Mary from giving up her career as a cook. She was quarantined several times, only to return to the kitchen upon release. At one point she changed her name to an unoriginal “Mary Brown”, hoping to fool the health department. Subsequently sickening the very people she was feeding gave her away and authorities found her yet again. Eventually she was quarantined against her will until her death. Fifty-one people became infected with typhoid from the food she prepared. Three died.

Typhoid Mary never understood what the problem was. She didn’t feel sick so how on earth could she be making others sick? It completely baffled her. (Remember, this was before webmd or the ability to google “I feel fine but apparently I’m killing others.”)

Mary Mallon could be likened to someone who goes through life creating chaos but walks away untouched. These people are the Typhoid Marys among us.

My first experience with a modern day Typhoid Mary was in college. There was a girl who left campus the same time I did every Tuesday and Thursday. She stood out not only because she was attractive, but because she drove like Mr. Magoo. She drifted into other lanes, causing drivers to slam on their brakes while laying on the horn. She blew through red lights and changed lanes without ever checking her review mirror or glancing over her shoulder. If she hadn’t been such a menace, she was fascinating to watch. I kept telling myself it was only a matter of time before she caused a five car pile-up. But it never happened. While the rest of us were practically plowing into each other to avoid her, she sped off in her own little world.

Another modern day Typhoid Mary was recently at the grocery store. While picking out romaine lettuce, an octogenarian pushing a grocery cart at full speed almost ran me over. Had I not jumped out of the way there would have been a collision. The elderly man blew past me – a flash of high-waisted khaki and plaid- without even so much as a glance. He then careened around the corner and went barreling down the aisle. While he made remarkable speed for someone so hunched over, his gusto for shopping was potentially hazardous for everyone else. Yet he was completely unaware of the havoc he was creating.

Messy children can also be classified as modern day Typhoid Marys. Legos, Barbie parts, Hot Wheels, game pieces, beads. These are all things children “forget” to pick up and we parents have the pleasure of stepping on in the middle of the night. Sometimes the result is nothing more than a hurting foot. Other times our feet go flying in the air and we fall on the floor. Meanwhile, our little children are sound asleep in bed, blissfully unaware that their parents almost killed themselves by stepping on their Thomas the Tank Engine train.

Several historians have labeled Typhoid Mary as the most dangerous woman in American history. Maybe we should consider removing that stigma from her. After all, there is now a vaccine for typhoid. But unfortunately, we can’t vaccinate against bad drivers, aggressive old men who go grocery shopping, or children who don’t pick up their toys.

The Kitchen

It looms before me every day.  I cannot avoid it, despite how much I try.  Whenever I am forced to enter its presence, I feel a hopelessness bordering on despair. I attempt to fight my aversion with every ounce of my being.  I try to make the best of it, even when it mocks me.  I hear it whisper; sensing my inadequacies.  “Nice try, faker,” it hisses, “You know you can’t do it.”

I am talking about my kitchen.

Those who know me can attest to the fact that I hate to cook.  Funny thing is, I love to eat.  Allow me to rephrase that: I love to eat what other people have made. Peg Bracken wrote in her book, The I Hate to Cook Cookbook, “We who hate to cook have respect bordering on awe for the Good Cooks Who Like to Cook …we have little to say to them, really, except ‘Invite us over often, please.’ And stay away from our husbands” (pg 3).

One can’t fault me for not trying.  I do attempt to make my family delicious (and if not delicious, edible) meals.  Though, these meals are often served with a bit of drama on the side. The time I could not roll out the store-made pizza dough was one incident.  Subsequently, the dough was thrown on the floor where I proceeded to stamp on it.  “Flatten out, you stupid dough!” I yelled, “why don’t you just flatten out!”

Forgetting to put that little seasoning packet from the taco kit into the meat is a common occurrence; also forgetting that dinner is in the oven.  (Thank Heavens for my kitchen fire alarm is all I can say.)  One Easter, I wanted to make a baked french toast dish. The recipe called for challa bread.  I used ciabatta instead. They both begin with the same letter, right?  What could the big difference be? (A LOT, I can now tell you.)

My family has learned coping skills to deal with my cooking.  “Interesting,” my 9 year old daughter said upon trying my white chili, “Could you just NEVER make this again?”

“How about take-out?” is my husband’s gentle (and always accepted) response.

My 3 year old son simply pushes his plate away and begins to pick his nose (inferring that he prefers the contents of his nostrils over my cooking).

Several years ago a miracle happened.  The Lord, who is rich in mercy and pitied my family, gave us a neighbor who loved to cook.  And not only did this little, spunky southern girl love to cook: she was excellent at it.  But the poor thing had no idea what she was creating when she said, “Would ya’ll like to come over for dinner sometime?”

Sometime? We ate at her house like scavengers several times a week. (Okay, fine. Almost EVERY night of the week.)  The food she cooked was like crack to our tacos-with-the-seasoning-packet- left-out stomachs.  She served us things like grilled asparagus, garlic mashed potatoes, seared pieces of beef I cannot even pronounce the names of.  It was like heaven.  My husband gained weight, I became relaxed, and my kitchen fire alarm took a rest.

But all good things come to an end.  Our neighbor moved and we were devastated.  And hungry.  Suddenly, I was thrust back into the kitchen but now with the memories of our neighbor’s stuffed sole lingering in my mind. I tried to replicate her dishes, but with miserable results.  I returned to my old faithful recipes and my kitchen fire alarm went back on duty.

I have mastered a few dishes, but I must be careful to not make them too often lest they lose their appeal. (“This again? Didn’t we just have this for dinner?” Is usually a sign I need to break it up.)  I try to maneuver a few other meals into the rotation, but I put out a disclaimer that everyone should eat at their own risk.

And so I forge ahead.  My kitchen and I have formed somewhat of a truce. It won’t taunt me as long as I don’t burn it down while heating up my kids’ waffles in the toaster oven.