Recent Splats according to Miz Yank

The audit that didn’t make me feel like I’d been taken to the cleaners

Sometimes the best way to deal with a healthy fear is to confront it, which is why I decided to volunteer to be audited a few months ago. The agents who paid me a visit came not from the IRS but from DC Style Factory, and they didn’t care if I had my financial house in order: they’d come to examine the state of my closet.

I’d met Rosana Vollmerhausen, the company’s founder, and Jennifer Barger, one of the stylists and a fashion journalist, months earlier when the two were guests on Women of Uncertain Age. After watching them give gentle, constructive advice to a dude on how to dress for a date, Philippa and I invited them to critique two of my first-date outfits. I learned during those episodes that their approach is not to change your style, but rather to help you present the best version of your style, whatever it might be. During that episode, they dispensed so much great advice (no square-toed flats! Or shrugs that make you look like a matador!), and so gently, that I knew I would be in good hands. The website offers this description of the audit process:

We help weed out items that are outdated, worn out, don’t fit, or simply don’t work in your life anymore. We talk about body type, silhouette and lifestyle, to properly organize your closet so you can put together outfits with more ease. We also compile a list of missing wardrobe essentials, which can be purchased on your own, or with our guidance.

I knew I needed all of that, yet I still dreaded it. Letting someone see everything in your closet can reveal a lot, and in my case I worried it would hint strongly that I’m not actually a sighted person. I also feared having to admit something many have long suspected: my mother still dresses me. (It’s true. Unlike me, Mom enjoys shopping and stays reasonably current with fashion.) I’d have felt less exposed handing these women a decade worth of tax records.

I decided to do a pre-appointment purge. Like a patient trying to erase years of neglect by going on a flossing spree two days before seeing the dentist, I knew I had little chance of fooling a trained eye, but it seemed worth a shot.

When Rosana and Jen came to my home, they kicked things off with a brief interview.

Jen asked what I viewed as my biggest fashion challenge and I said, “Apathy.”

They laughed, but I wasn’t kidding. Though I care about my appearance, I can’t muster up much excitement about clothes. If someone forced me to subject my closet to the Marie Kondo theory of decluttering –get rid of anything that doesn’t “spark joy” — I just might wind up a streaker.

On asking where I shop, Jen and Rosana couldn’t have been surprised to learn that I tend to land at places like TJ Maxx and Marshall’s. I realize those stores are often a year behind, trend-wise, but that’s never bothered me. We legal types are not exactly known for being fashion-forward. The most prominent members of our profession wear robes to work, for heaven’s sake. Black robes, yes, but robes nonetheless.

On wrapping up the interview, it was time to face the moment of truth and get into the closet. Unlike the hosts of What Not To Wear, DC Style Factory doesn’t wage a war on your wardrobe. They take more of a hearts-and-minds approach that involves pulling items from your closet, having you try them on, and asking, “What about this?”

Some of the things they saw in my closet probably made them want to ask, “What were you thinking?”, like the dress yoga pants I bought a few months ago, but they didn’t. (They probably know dress yoga pants are just the gateway garments to black robes.) They truly wanted to know what I liked about the things I wear.

If I said I’d kept an item for its sentimental value, they put it right back in the closet and never once did they seem to be fighting the impulse to say, “Wow! I haven’t seen anyone wear that since ‘Friends’ went into syndication!” They offered candid feedback but did so without snark and with such care that it didn’t feel personal.

I also learned “What about this?” wasn’t a rhetorical question whose only answer was, “It’ll look great at the bottom of a Hefty bag!” Sometimes they wanted me to keep something I was ready to toss, like a textured black suit Mom had bought me many years earlier.

“The skirt can go, but let’s take a look at that jacket,” Jen said. It never occurred to me to evaluate the two elements of a suit separately. Having grown up in the era of Garanimals, I viewed business suits as the fashion equivalent of Siamese twins, a package you can’t separate unless you really know what you’re doing. But sure enough, that jacket looked fantastic with some of the tops in my closet, and it definitely karen1 karen2classed up and modernized my skinny jeans. Never did I imagine my old clothes could somehow produce new outfits.

While Jen focused on the search-and-rescue mission, Rosana was busy re-folding clothes and otherwise organizing my closet, an invaluable service unto itself. Jen took the items I decided to discard and packaged them up for donation to Goodwill. A few days later, I received a memo summarizing my style and my challenges, as well as a shopping list recommending, among other things, that I consider owning more than three pair of non-athletic shoes.

I never thought I’d say this, but I’m glad I turned myself in to the fashion police. Instead of judging me for my misdemeanors, they showed me that a few small changes could add up to meaningful reform. Now let’s see if I can avoid being a repeat offender.

 

 

 

 

 

Finding a way to pitch, even when all you want to do is hurl

Last Saturday, I went to Books Alive!, the Washington Independent Book Review’s annual conference.

The conference featured an impressive lineup of panels with publishers and renowned authors, but what really got my attention was the opportunity to spend five minutes pitching to as many as four agents: the writing equivalent of speed dating. I decided to adopt an analogous mindset by having high hopes, low expectations, and a very thick skin.

Unfortunately, I woke up that Friday with vertigo, a new and incapacitating experience. I spent the day in bed, unable to work on my pitch and questioning whether I’d even be able to attend the conference.

While prone, I busted out the Google long enough to read about a home remedy called the Epley Maneuver.  I called my sister Lynne, who has experienced every nausea trigger known to man at least once and has had vertigo so many times she’s a verti-pro. Of course she knew about the maneuver. It involves lying on a flat surface with your head hanging over the edge and having someone take it, twist it to certain angles, and hold it there in an effort to shake something loose, literally. During our childhood, my sister and I were on the constant lookout for opportunities to do something like this to each other (and we needed no medical provocation whatsoever). But when I asked Lynne to Epley me, she didn’t sound excited in the least. Some would view this as a sign that our relationship has matured, but not me. I knew it meant the Epley must be God-awful.

She came over on Friday afternoon and maneuvered me right in my kitchen. After the five-minute protocol, I felt like a hostage at the Magic Kingdom Mad Tea Party. On regaining my bearings, I felt better, but it was short-lived.

When I woke up on Saturday morning, the room had stopped spinning but I felt sick to my stomach. I didn’t want to pitch so much as hurl.  Yet I’d spent $250 on registration fees and didn’t want to squander that or my first chance to talk to an agent in person about my writing, so I decided to give it a shot. In an act of kindness, the Universe scheduled three of my pitches in the morning and a fourth after lunch. Before the first group session began, I met up with my friend and writing pal, Kathy, and she convinced me to power through for as long as I could. I made it through an informative panel about publishing, as well as a great session about conspiracy theory by Stephen Hunter. (In case you’re wondering, he speaks the way he writes– with simple, rich language and lots of great words like “imbue”–and he offered an important pointer to all the fiction writers out there: you get one coincidence per book. That’s it. No wonder I write nonfiction: I average at least two coincidences per story.)

For a few minutes out of each session, I left to pitch. I soon learned the speed-dating analogy fit, down to the tiny tables bearing number signs and a “time’s up!” bell.

Some view introducing your writing to an agent and yourself to a speed-dater as very personal encounters, but I’ve come to believe neither is. In both scenarios, the participants get a mere glimpse into the other person before making a go/no-go decision. That’s rarely long enough for anyone to take what happens too personally. And because most people have experienced rejection at some point in their lives, they usually try to be nice, no matter which seat they’re sitting in. Usually.

I pitched to three agents, whom I’ll call A1, A2, and A3, before handing Kathy my fourth slot and going home. I had prepared two separate pitches, one for Good Luck With That Thing You’re Doing, and another for my book-in-progress.  The B-I-P is not in manuscript form yet, so I sought only feedback about whether I was on the right track, whereas I hoped to land Good Luck with an agent who’d want to re-launch it. I planned to choose my pitch based on the agent’s specialty.

I pitched the B-I-P to A1 and A3. They listened attentively, asked questions, and delivered honest, constructive feedback with kindness. It felt like a halfway decent speed-date, the writing equivalent of “I’ll call you.” If they thought I had wasted their time, they didn’t let it show.

The same could not be said of A2, to whom I intended to pitch Good Luck.

A2 dismissed that pitch with contempt and speed, asking after six seconds why I would waste our time together with that. I nearly asked A2 to pause so I could order a can of varnish, but I decided just to forge ahead with the B-I-P pitch. After all, I’d paid for this detonated bomb of a speed-date, so I wasn’t about to let anybody crawl out from under the wreckage until we’d both suffered for the full five minutes.

For four more minutes, A2 torched the B-I-P pitch, to which I responded with effusive, possibly aggressive, expressions of gratitude, like, “That’s fantastic feedback!” and “I can’t tell you how much I appreciate this!”

I actually did appreciate it, even if the brand of rejection A2 served up was as appetizing as a dish my mother once made called “shipwreck.” I treated this heap of uninviting contents the way I did shipwreck: I mined it search of the good bits I knew lurked inside it. I’ve gathered those, added them to the other feedback I’ve accumulated, and am using it to improve my writing.

So, I’m glad I went to the conference and tossed out a few pitches. The experience reinforced my conviction that you can’t go into it, or speed-dating, with a fragile sense of self or in pursuit of validation. If you approach it instead with confidence in who you are and the humility that comes from knowing not everyone will love you, then a bit of rejection won’t send you staggering. That’s what your vertigo is for.

Wish I could've had Dad pinch-hit for me in the afternoon. He'd have loved this lineup!

Wish I could’ve had Dad pinch-hit for me in the afternoon. He’d have loved this lineup!

 

 

 

 

 

RIP, Prince: In this life, we’re on our own

Prince was right: life is just a party and parties weren’t meant to last. But he had hosted one of the most impressive, inspiring, weird, imaginative, wonderful, come-as-you-are parties this world will ever see, and it should have lasted far longer than 57 years. 

On Thursday afternoon, I had given a talk about careers to my nephews’ marketing class at Glen Allen High School (now there’s a tough room). The looks on the kids’ faces, the questions they asked, the undercurrents that ran between them, all of it left me reflecting on how difficult the high school years can be and how I’d never want to repeat them. That thought was at the front of my mind when I glanced at my phone and saw that a friend had tweeted the news of Prince’s passing. I couldn’t bring myself to absorb the words, no matter how many times I read them.

Like millions of people, I was a Prince fan. I appreciated him as a true musical genius, a prodigy, a prolific and never-derivative creator, a gifted songwriter, a bender of genres, a guitar virtuoso who mastered literally dozens of other instruments, and a possessor of one of the highest talent-per-pound ratios of all time.

Music lost a titan when Prince died. And I lost someone who wrote in indelible ink on the pages of my adolescence.

My first concrete Prince memory was formed in 1984, when I was a terribly un-cool seventh grader at Lake Braddock Secondary School. A school dance loomed large, and though I wanted to go (or at least wanted to want to go), the knowledge that I didn’t know how to dance terrified me. It wasn’t the kind of thing I could admit to my mother, and she couldn’t have done a thing about it anyway. Mom was, and is, a fantastic dancer, but she knew dances like the Twist and the Mashed Potato. I couldn’t see the Mashed Potato playing a role in my first middle school dance unless I happened to trample an errant tater tot on the cafeteria floor.

My then-best friend, Liz, must have had similar fears because we somehow wound up deciding to confront them by practicing some dance moves with her sister and her mom in their living room. Despite the safety of the environment, I hesitated to move. And then “Let’s Go Crazy” –a dance commandment if ever there were one –came on and I was heeding it before I even knew what I was doing. For four glorious minutes, I rose above my self-consciousness and felt cool. That’s what Prince’s music was: a force strong enough to make even the most awkward teenager let go of the walls to which she clung and let loose on a dance floor. And that’s who Prince was: someone who could make anyone feel cool, even if only for four minutes at a time. He wore his weird on the outside, issuing the world an invitation to treat uniqueness as a source of pride rather than shame. Long before he wrote a lyric that’s now comically dated about not needing to watch “Dynasty” to have an attitude, his music, his unclassifiable and ever-changing aesthetic, and his very purpleness had made that point with eloquence. 

After reading the news, I got into my car last Thursday, turned on the radio and was greeted by a barrage of Prince songs. I wasn’t ready for it. Complex, emotional, evocative, and passionate, Prince’s music was all about life and living, and in that moment, I couldn’t access any of that. All I had was numbness. I lasted only seconds before I turned it off. I needed comfort, so I turned to Shel, an incomparable friend, the biggest Prince fan I’ve ever met, and the person who made it possible for me to see him live three electrifying times. (She also gave me this fantastic door decoration.)

prince

Shel was taking it harder than I was and understood perfectly my unwillingness to approach Prince’s music in a state of emotional paralysis. That music is so remarkable, funky, and resplendent that I didn’t want to hear it until I could bring it some of the joy it deserved.

On instinct, I reached out to my brother next. I didn’t remember ever talking to him about Prince–L.J. is four years my junior so his adolescence probably featured a different soundtrack — but music affects the two of us in such similar ways and to such a deep extent that I felt certain he would get it. I sent a one-line text: “I’m heartbroken about Prince.”

“Me too…This hits me harder than it should,” he wrote.

For the next two days, I kneaded this sense of loss I didn’t entirely understand. I traded texts with Shel and L.J., and that helped. My brother put it well when, after watching Prince’s star turn with the Muppets, he noted that only Prince could write a song about breakfast that would top the charts musically. Though otherworldly in so many ways, Prince somehow belonged everywhere he went, whether it was the set of the Muppets, a rain-soaked stage at the Super Bowl, or the interviewee chair on “Larry King Live.”

While riding the stationary bike at the gym on Saturday and still unable to immerse myself in Prince’s music, I re-watched that Larry King interview from 1999. Prince made a comment that he didn’t like to look back or reminisce, and that really stuck with me. Though I enjoy thinking about the future and have a healthy sense of optimism, I love to reminisce and re-live. How could someone who’s produced such musical brilliance as “1999” not want to gaze back on it in wonderment? The answer hit me while I was out walking the next day: for a creative genius of Prince’s magnitude, maybe the idea of an apex didn’t even exist. Maybe he, unlike most of us, never felt tempted to scan the past and freeze it on achievements and moments of perfection because he knew he had plenty ahead of him. Prince was nowhere near done and he wasn’t ever going to be done. Death simply stopped him, and I’m still having trouble accepting that. 

I think I need to feel sorry for myself for a few more days. And maybe then I’ll be able to act my age, not my shoe size.

Celebrating 50 Years of Team Yank with a 21-Fun Salute

My parents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary on April 16.

Fifty years of marriage —600 months –is a big deal. A very big deal. I can’t begin to comprehend such a feat, especially considering my marriage to the Lawnmower lasted two percent as long. My siblings and I were determined to make a very big deal of this very big deal. We booked a private room at Fireworks, a cool pizza and craft brew joint in Arlington, for a celebratory Team Yank dinner and invited Mom and Dad’s siblings to join us.

I woke up on the morning of the party feeling an odd mix of emotions: unadulterated joy for my parents on reaching this milestone, gratitude to them for showing us that people and love matter most of all, nostalgia for our years together as a family, and an unrealistic but understandable desire to hold on to all of this, and them, forever. As I drove to my parents’ house to spend some pre-party time with my brother and his family, those emotions formed a swell of sentiment that threatened to crest. To stay ahead of the wave, I cranked up a few of my favorite Earth Wind and Fire songs, and that got me to my parents’ house. The Roommates happened to be there too, a sight that never fails to improve my mood.

An hour and a half later, I was wrapping up my visit and getting ready to run some party-related errands and Emily, who may have detected that swell of emotions rising up in her aunt, said, “Can I come with you?”

As we got in the car, I told her she’d made my day. The minute we backed out of the driveway, we lowered the windows, opened the sunroof, and fired up our favorite tunes in preparation for a rolling dance party. We hit our stride twenty minutes later when she cued up “Walkin’ on Sunshine,” complete with air guitars and arms-through-the-open-roof dance moves. I was feeling so sunny I almost didn’t mind having to go to Michael’s: we needed a frame for one of the gifts we’d gotten my parents. Emily, who is Arts and Crafts people, was elated about this pit stop, so I didn’t feel guilty about using her as a human shield as we entered the store.  We knocked out our task in short order and had a little extra time, so I told her to pick something out for herself.

In a move that just might land her a spot on our Peeps squad next year, she asked, “Can I get a glue gun?”

Off we went, me carrying a frame and Emily concealed-carrying some Elmer’s. When we got to my house, we assembled the gift, grabbed the fancy gold wrapping paper I’d bought and some tape, threw it all in a bag, and Uber’d over to the restaurant. We got everything set up and needed only to wrap the gift. That job required the perfection of my sister Suzi, but I knew when she arrived she’d be busy setting up a cake she had decorated (flawlessly, no doubt). I decided to give it my best shot. I put Emily in charge of handing me pieces of tape, a job she performed admirably. The super-fancy paper I’d bought, however, seemed repulsed by a pedestrian adhesive like scotch tape. We couldn’t get it to stick, no matter what we did.

Emily’s eyes met mine and I said what she had to be thinking, “Get the glue gun.” As the two of us hot-glued wrapping paper seams together, I noted that such a thing would never happen to Aunt Suzi.

“I know, right?” Em said. “I just wish she’d make a mistake sometime.” We finished the job just as Suzi was coming in with her perfect cake. Shortly thereafter, the aunt/uncle contingent arrived, followed by the rest of my siblings and their families, and then, to round out our 21-person gang, my parents.

My Aunt Kate, who is no slouch in the Fun Aunt department, sent my parents out of the room and closed the door so she could give them a proper wedding-style introduction like they got 50 years ago. Mom and Dad pranced in, arm-in-arm, and took a few twirls around our tiny dance floor. The party had begun.

After we’d all stuffed ourselves with delicious Italian fare, my siblings and I got the official program underway. We had decided that each person would share a favorite memory or story, and that my brother would give a toast at the end. We planned to go in order from oldest kid to youngest, but we didn’t coordinate our remarks with each other at all. I looked forward to my siblings’ stories. Though we have close relationships with each other and our parents, each of those relationships is a little bit different, and I love getting a glimpse into what they look like.

Suzi reminisced about the years in high school during which she had to sell citrus fruit as part of a fundraiser. Because Suzi’s always had a real knack for sales, for a few weeks every fall our home looked like a Tropicana warehouse. My father would spend hours driving her around, helping her deliver pound upon pound of fruit. Then Suzi mentioned my mother’s willingness to do absolutely anything for her kids and grandkids, including dropping everything a decade ago to help my sister out on a spur-of-the-moment trip to Philly and New York with Suzi’s three boys.

Lynne took a slightly different tack. Known as the “feisty” one when we were kids, she told a hilarious story about a doubles tennis match with my father gone seriously awry. Though she and Dad didn’t win that day, at least she, unlike me, managed not to bean her parental tennis partner in the back of the head. Lynne also talked about how my parents never lose sight of the little things that make us feel loved. In Lynne’s case, one of those little things is liverwurst, which my parents always keep in the fridge for her. (Maybe it’s just me, but if liverwurst is an act of love, I’d hate to see a show of hostility.) She also reminded us that, fifteen years ago, when Lynne had broken her arm and I had come down with bronchitis, Mom launched her own Meals On Wheels program, loading Dad up with tortellini soup for delivery to me and Lynne.

The stories my sisters told led precisely to the point I intended to make: even though Mom and Dad were a “them” long before the rest of us showed up, my parents have never, ever been about them. As I was making that point, that wave of emotions, which had continued to gather momentum all afternoon, got fully organized and swamped me. I pieced myself back together sufficiently to talk about how we get only tiny reminders of Mom and Dad as a “them,” such as when I watched them dance at my cousin’s wedding two summers ago. Or when they decided to go to Alaska in the summer of 2014 and I joined them, wanting to take in the “them” and their enjoyment. I will never forget the experience of riding in a small plane with them, landing on a glacier (on purpose, don’t worry), and actually setting foot on it. I watched the two of them stare in slack-jawed awe and I listened as they reveled in nature’s magnificence. They were right, it was astonishing, but to me the real natural wonders were the two of them and what they built together. As I was finishing my story, that infernal wave pummeled me again so I handed things over to L.J.

My brother began by sketching out memories in broad strokes, like the gift-laden Christmas mornings that began so early they were really still Christmas Eves, and our annual week-long vacations in the Outer Banks. Then L.J. talked about his baseball career, which my father nurtured at all points, first by hitting countless flies after work and on Sunday mornings after church, and then, when my brother went to Georgia Tech on a full athletic scholarship, telling my brother to leave him a ticket for games “in case I can make it.” I wasn’t surprised to hear that my father made it, every single time, sometimes even with Mom and always with her help. When L.J. reached the minor leagues – a place where dreams are big and salaries small –Dad handed him a literal blank check, something I never knew. And my brother had kept it all these years. As L.J. held it up, it seemed the same wave that hit me might have splashed onto him just a little bit too.

At last it was time for the toast, which reminded all of us that my brother handles words even more expertly than he does a baseball. He mentioned that Team Yank, which may not have won every game over the past 50 years but has a very solid record, has the attributes of the all-time great teams, like chemistry, strong fundamentals, and passion. He quoted Babe Ruth, who said, “The way a team plays as a whole determines its success. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don’t play together, the club won’t be worth a dime.” That’s Team Yank in a nutshell: we love to play together, and when we do, we’re at our collective and individual best. Then we raised a glass to the greatest team any of us could ever hope to play on.

The party ended there but the story does not. Suzi and her family were staying with me, so we loaded up their car with all the leftovers. My brother-in-law drove so Suzi could sit in the passenger seat and hold the remaining half of that perfectly decorated cake on the ride home. We pulled into my driveway and I opened the car door just in time to hear a sound that looked just like this:

busted cake

The Cake Splat: No, of course it couldn’t have landed on the box, silly!

I couldn’t decide whether to call Emily or to get a piece of chalk so I could draw an outline around the cake where it died. It is perhaps fitting that four of us spent the waning moments of April 16 doing what Team Yank does best: laughing hysterically while batting cleanup.

team Yank parmesan

All 21 of us, in varying states of saying “Parmesan!” Sometimes plain ol’ “cheese” works best…

 

 

 

 

Not everybody can be somebunny

Following the likes of Adele and other great talents who take the occasional break from the limelight, I let someone else be the neighborhood Easter Bunny last year. Whereas Adele spent her time writing songs for an album that would go on to sell millions, I’d spent mine at Page After Page bookstore in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, hoping Good Luck With That Thing You’re Doing would go on to sell hundreds. Okay, fine, tens.

Before going out on mascot sabbatical last year, I at least did the neighborhood the favor of upgrading the suit. At the risk of insulting the old costume, it definitely explains why we sometimes refer to clothes as “duds.” When I agreed to return to rabbit form for the annual egg hunt this past Saturday, I was looking forward to wearing a suit that didn’t have a demented face and eyeballs that might go airborne at the first hint of a breeze.

As Saturday approached, my excitement was tempered with a touch of nerves. Change is difficult for a mascot of my stature, and I knew this would be a transition year for reasons beyond the new suit: my previous handler and chauffeur, Sue, had taken herself out of the lineup this year. The departure of this talented veteran left me with vacancies at two key positions. I conducted an extensive search that consisted of combing my family’s ranks for members who are especially susceptible to bribes. The Roommates would have been my top choice, if only either of them had a driver’s license. I had to settle for my parents instead, and I bought them off with an early morning trip to see the Cherry Blossoms and then breakfast afterwards. What Mom and Dad lacked in tenure, they made up for with enthusiasm, probably because I’d pumped them full of caffeine during breakfast.

The event organizers and I had agreed that I would appear at the annual egg hunt at 10:10 a.m, so at 9:55, I put on the new suit. I noticed a major difference in quality immediately. Suit 2.0 was made of much sturdier stuff than the original, which increased its heft, along with my chances of suffocating inside of it. Not only was it hotter than the first suit, but the air holes, if there were any, did not come close to aligning with my mouth or nose.

As I frantically adjusted the head, Mom said, “There’s something wrong with the mouth.”

“You mean because there’s no air passing through it?” I said, gasping for breath as I yanked it off.

“No,” she said. “It looks funny.”

I was about to chastise her for prioritizing aesthetics over the threat of asphyxiation, but when I turned the head around to study the face, I had to agree: that rabbit looked truly down in the mouth, particularly on one side. He sported an expression I knew only too well, one that says, “I just had a root canal and won’t be able to feel the right half of my face for a week.” I began to worry about being the first mascot ever to drool.

Mom and I tried to turn that half-frown upside-down, but we couldn’t even coax it to lay flat. On realizing we were running out of time, Mom re-capitated me, and then she and Dad loaded me into the car. We’d been so caught up in fixing my face that I’d forgotten to tell my mother what to do. Since we had only a 90-second drive to the park, I gave her two simple instructions: 1. Keep me from maiming myself; and 2. Keep me from maiming small children. The last thing I needed was to trample a kid and touch off a Pamplona-style toddler stampede.

As she guided me into the park, Mom told me the egg hunt was in full swing. Because of the suit’s limited visibility, I usually rely on the sound of screams to tell me we’ve reached the spot where most of the kids are congregated. But this year I heard no evidence of children in distress. Instead, I heard only my mother’s ground report, which relayed the improbable news that kids were actually trying to get closer to me.

As they came up, most kids gave me a hug (including the stalker from my first year. I’m flattered that she’s still carrying a torch.). Several handed me their plastic eggs and one kid gave me a Hershey’s kiss. I showed my heartfelt appreciation for these gifts by grinning uselessly inside the suit and then either missing the delivery or dropping every item that was placed in my mitts.

Chillin' with my chauffeur

Chillin’ with my chauffeur

I was so surprised by this outpouring of affection that I didn’t realize anything was amiss with my costume until Mom said, “Wheat, you gotta get your head screwed on straight.” She’d probably been waiting 40 years for the perfect opening to give me that piece of advice. As usual, she was right: the Easter Bunny had the kind of head/body alignment problem no chiropractor could fix.

“I felt like I was in ‘The Exorcist,'” Mom said afterwards.

Thirty minutes and several gallons of sweat later, my handler guided me back to the car. She and my chauffeur agreed the appearance had been a huge success. I reflected on what caused this year’s unexpected surge in little kid affection and decided it was not my superior skills so much as sympathy. If mascot magnetism depends not on flashing a megawatt smile but in looking like you’ve survived dental trauma, I’ll be glad to host the pity party again next year.

 

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I might be a little down in the mouth, but the kids are all right.

 

 

 

It’s not Easter without my Peeps.

I describe the child-free aunt experience as “all the joy of grand-parenting without the hassle of parenthood.” I don’t punish the niece and nephews, I’ve never had to conduct potty training, and none of my siblings has been foolish enough to put me in charge of a “Birds and Bees” talk. Yet. But every now and then, I get sucked into performing a distinctly parental function.

In 2013, for example, I took my niece to her cheerleading competition in Virginia Beach when her mother and father claimed to be on a trip in the Dominican Republic (I suspected they were really just in Fairfax, wandering the aisles of Wegmans, but I never could prove it). In 2014, I gave my eldest nephew lessons in driving stick shift. And just a few weekends ago, I wound up deep in the arts and crafts trenches with my nephew Timothy, suffering an acute attack of Science Fair Project Syndrome (“SFPS”).

I could blame my sister Lynne for inflicting SFPS on me, but in truth, it was my mother’s fault. I had gone to my parents’ house to cook dinner one Saturday night. I knew Timothy didn’t have plans, so I’d told Lynne to bring him over if he wanted to come. Not only did he want to, but he showed up with an overnight bag so he could come back to my house for a sleepover afterwards. I was thrilled, even though there hadn’t been time to plan the sort of special activity that’s the hallmark of my niece/nephew Date Nights.

When I mentioned this to Timothy, he said, “Too bad we can’t make another gingerbread house.”

Our last gingerbread house had gone entirely too well, so I’d have loved a chance to redeem myself and was about to say so when my mother said, “Hey, what about the Peeps?”

I knew Mom meant the Washington Post’s annual Peeps diorama contest. Timothy, a connoisseur of both sugary treats and slapstick, was all over it. Mom, Timothy and I brainstormed while we washed dishes. By the time Timothy and I settled on the idea of depicting a typical D.C. black-tie gala and calling it “Dancing Peep to Peep,” it was already 7:30 p.m. I had plans to leave town by 9 the next morning and the contest deadline was Monday. The realization that we had less than 14 hours in total to complete the project brought on the first stirrings of SFPS, an intense panic caused by extreme deficiencies in time, materials, and expertise.

Mom recognized the signs right away, having survived dozens of bouts with SFPS herself, and tried to help. She ran to the basement and returned with a Nordstrom box. Its fold-up lid offered the makings of a ballroom floor and a back wall. Timothy and I grabbed the box, hightailed it out of my parents’ house, and headed to Target, making a mental shopping list as we went.

I should note here that Timothy and I are not arts and crafts people. We derive no joy from working with glue at any temperature. Months ago I wrote that if you were to create a Fantasy Christmas Decorating League and draft players from my family, I would get picked last. This is true, but only if we limit the team to adults. If we expand it to include minors, I would get drafted just ahead of Timothy, and neither of us would put our team in any danger of hitting a salary cap.

Timothy and I arrived at Target half an hour before the 9 p.m. closing, knowing we needed Peeps, materials to cover the dance floor, and glue. Timothy solved the dance floor problem when he spotted rolls of patterned tape in the school supplies aisle.

Pointing to a roll of 1/2″-wide blue tape that featured a very busy white pattern, he said, “That looks like the carpet at cotillion.” Timothy isn’t cotillion people, either, and his remark confirmed what I’ve long suspected: he spends most of his time looking at the rug. But it was a brilliant choice as dance floor coverings go.

Being long on vision and short on realism, Timothy and I thought we could jazz up the ballroom by adding columns and making a ceiling from which to hang a disco ball. (Your better art revolves around a disco ball. Or maybe it’s the other way around. Regardless, a disco ball is always involved.) We found no suitable column materials at Target. I promised him we’d find something at my house, though I had my doubts. My home is full of things that come in handy when you want to hit the Pinot Grigio, not the Pinterest. 

By 9:15 p.m., diorama construction had begun. I handed the dance floor tape to Timothy and he went to work. I watched as he lavished on the diorama a level of attention his math homework will never see. But even with his heightened focus, the “carpet” had been laid down in a way that might make you question the sobriety of the installer.  Timo

Those who’ve suffered from SFPS know this is precisely when one of its most vexing symptoms –a powerful urge to take over the project–manifests, emanating from a deep desire to win and/or get at least 2 hours of sleep. I tried to keep it at bay by going off in search of column materials. I opened a closet, spotted several wire dry cleaner hangers and realized the white cardboard cylinders around the base of the hangers would work perfectly.

I returned to the kitchen, hangers in hand.  Moments later, one of those hangers was really in hand: I sustained a flesh wound while separating the cardboard cylinders from the hangers. As I bled copiously on our project and scanned the kitchen for tourniquet materials, I abandoned the idea of columns. 

Just then, Timothy said, “How will we split the prize, Aunt Wheat?” I had no answer, focused as I was on having split my thumb. 

I got Timothy’s consent to revise our architectural plans. We agreed to concentrate on the details that would make the project special, or at least funny. I made a mini disco ball from a wad of tinfoil and we suspended it from a string of tiny LED lights we’d found at Target. We added a DJ Peep who wore  headphones, which we made by cutting two small circles out of my Jambox case and connecting them with the loopy wire from a wine glass charm. (I had plenty of those to spare.) 

We made “records” out of furniture pads. DJ Dr PeepAnd, because women always outnumber men in DC, we added a wallflower peep, hanging out next to a planter o’ jellybeans.

We quit at 11 p.m. and returned to the job site 8 hours later. 

I had felt we should clothe the Peeps, though a literal interpretation of “strictly black tie” had its appeal. With no time to get fabric, we devised outfits from some heavy-duty, patterned construction paper I happened to have. The patterns added some pizazz but the paper was rather rigid, making the female Peeps look like they’re wearing fashion cowbells. 

We did what we could and then I headed out of town. As I prepared to submit our entry after work the next day, I was seized by a powerful perfectionistic urge, the most painful symptom of SFPS by far. I tried to subdue it but could not resist adding back panels to two Peep dresses that lacked them. (Never mind that most black-tie events would benefit from a good, old-fashioned mooning.) I snapped photos of our work, uploaded them to the Post site, and clicked “submit.”Peep to Peep

The winners were announced this week. If only the Post had included a “sprint” category, we might have made it onto the podium. But Timothy and I had so much fun, I bet we’ll do it again next year, assuming I’ve recovered from my SFPS by then. 

 

 

 

A picture that’s worth at least 700 words

I just finished another Aunt In Residence stint with my Atlanta nephews, B and C, while my brother and his wife took a brief and well-deserved breather. B is nearly four and has an insatiable appetite for stories and humor, a combination that makes him one of my favorite victims. One evening, B and I got to chatting about his recent adventures snow-tubing at Stone Mountain. This led me to tell him the story of my sister Lynne’s and my fateful trip down a slope known in family folklore as “Fox Hill.” The words and hand gestures I used to tell the tale (which I posted here last year) weren’t enough for B to get the picture, so I decided to draw it.

As befits a classic, I’m re-releasing it, this time featuring an exciting, new illustration!

Mother Nature went easy on D.C. when she sprinkled some confectioners sugar-weight snow on us yesterday. The accumulation totaled 5-8″, enough to trigger our collective Panic And Close reflex, but not so much that we couldn’t enjoy it, especially once the sun came out and temperatures rose into the 30s.

My friend Bud and I met up and took a late afternoon stroll along the Washington & Old Dominion trail. We pit-stopped at various points to take photos, make snow angels, and live vicariously as dozens of kids sledded down a hill of moderate steepness that ends in a park.

Though a respectable hill by any measure, it pales in comparison to Fox Hill, a three-tiered beauty of a slope near my late grandmother’s home in West Pittston, Pennsylvania. My father grew up sledding on Fox Hill and made sure my siblings and I got to enjoy the fun any time it snowed while we were visiting Nana. I have Fox Hill to thank for the most memorable sledding experience of my life, which occurred when I was eleven or twelve.

At the time, my family had four pieces of sledding equipment: two Flexible Flyers, one plastic saucer, and a waxy, blue, plastic rug of a thing that retailers would have called a “toboggan.”  Our family never used that term, perhaps because it implied structural soundness and amenities such as steering. In our house, the waxy, plastic rug thing was known simply as the “Sheet,” which is also a word for the linen that would cover your corpse after the Sheet was done with you. The Sheet was a ruthless disciple of the “every man for himself” school of thought. It frequently ejected its cargo without notice so it could continue its merry journey down the hill unburdened. This made it the vehicle of last resort for the four Yankosky sledders, except when the need for an adrenaline rush seized one of us.

On the day in question, such a need took hold of me and my sister Lynne simultaneously. Hours of sledding had caused the little plateaus between each of Fox Hill’s tiers to become icy ramps. After attempting some quick physics calculations, Lynne and I suspected that, if we rode together, we might be able to hit those ramps with enough speed to catch air. It would also require us to ride the thing that gave us the largest, slickest surface area: the Sheet. Being even less skilled at performing cost-benefit analysis than physics calculations, we concluded it was worth the risk and we boarded.

Our descent had barely begun when the Sheet turned us one hundred and eighty degrees. We approached the first ramp backwards, which is also the direction we were facing when we went airborne. The Sheet probably thought that act would be enough to get rid of us. I, however, had grown wise to the Sheet’s ejection tactics over the years and had its plastic handle in a death grip that I reflexively maintained. I held on even after we landed with such violence that it felt like we’d been dropped out of a tenth story window and onto a sidewalk.

My stubbornness angered the Sheet. As we crested the next ramp, still accelerating, the Sheet sent us sideways. We found ourselves careening away from the sledding course  and straight towards a clump of enormous wooden spools that sat at the border between Fox Hill and the adjacent property.

Our only hope for avoiding a crash was to let go of the Sheet, which I promptly did. This altered the Sheet’s trajectory, but not mine and Lynne’s. We ran straight into a spool, caromed off of it, and landed in a dazed heap. The Sheet, meanwhile, continued down Fox Hill without a care in the world, whistling the “Andy Griffith” theme song as it went.

As I lay on the ground, I saw birds circling above. Whether they were cartoon sparrows or vultures preparing to claim their carrion I will never know, because my father appeared and dragged us off.

Watching those sledders yesterday brought back the memory of that day on Fox Hill, in all its concussive glory. No wonder I attempted nothing more dangerous than a snow angel.

This picture is worth at least 700 words, right??

This picture is worth at least 700 words, right??

What ‘good grief’ really means

Like most people, I loathe funerals. And as regular readers know, I’m not very good at them.

It’s not that I don’t know what to do or say: I give great hugs and I usually know the right words (sometimes I even sing them). But I just can’t make my upper lip stiffen, no matter how how hard I’m trying to avoid putting my grieving loved one in a position of having to comfort me. I blow it every time, and Saturday was no exception.

My friend T’s younger sister Gina passed away suddenly, just over a week ago, and her funeral took place on Saturday.

I became friends with T several years ago through work, where she’s as strong, successful, and poised as sales executives come. T’s one of four sisters with whom she’s close, and she’s not much older than I am. That makes her far too young to lose a cherished sibling, in my book. The pages of my book, in fact, depict a dreamy fairytale landscape where siblings are always around. I need those pages to look like that because my brother and sisters are my best friends. They make me laugh so hard my face hurts, they stand ready to hug me at my happiest and saddest times, and they love me no matter how badly I screw up (something I have tested, alas). I simply can’t imagine life without them. Until Saturday, I had refused even to let such an awful thought enter my brain. Saturday morning, however, that thought saw no need to ask for permission; it just barged its way to the front of my mind and heart as I approached T at the funeral home.

One look at my friend proved that absorbing a staggering loss on a balance sheet is one thing and in life another altogether. No kind of training prepares you for the latter, not even intellectual awareness that big love sometimes means big pain. The sorrow on T’s face telegraphed the enormity of her grief. I hated what it meant for her, and what it might mean for me someday. Overwhelmed, I was in tears long before I reached her. So much for putting my friend’s needs ahead of my own.

Then the ceremony got underway and I learned about Gina, a woman I’d never met but soon wished I had. Everyone who spoke mentioned her generosity of heart, the way she loved unconditionally and her capacity to love people through flaws most of us couldn’t abide. Her family members poked gentle fun at some of her quirks –evidently she loved to plan events, which meant you’d better head for the hills when she started writing the to-do lists–but to a person they painted a portrait of someone who was a nurturer by nature, a superwoman who took care of anyone who needed it. Gina didn’t let her loved ones get away with any crap, but they knew she always had their backs.

In describing Gina’s steadfast loyalty, no matter the circumstances, T’s son said, “I could be dead wrong, and I knew she’d be standing right there, being dead wrong too.” I laughed with the crowd while thinking that’s exactly the kind of aunt I aspire to be (minus the event-planning part). So whether she ever set out to or not, T’s sister set an example, even for a total stranger like myself.

(Speaking of setting great examples, I give very high marks to the way the family structured the service. A few relatives and friends had been selected to speak about Ts sister, and according to the program, had been allotted two minutes apiece. But we all know emotions can make it easy to lose track of time. So in a nod to one of the more redeeming feature of the Oscars, the minister notified the speakers that, if they were still talking at two minutes, the organist would begin to play. If they kept going, well, so would the organist, and he was gonna crank up the volume. I can only hope T starts to run meetings this way.)

No matter how hard you try to smile through the tears, it hurts like hell to say goodbye to someone who set an example like Gina clearly did. It’s like losing the coach who not only knew how it was done but taught you everything you ever knew, the one you counted on to keep you motivated when you faltered. The minister acknowledged that pain while exhorting all present to use Gina’s example to examine our lives and repair any dysfunctional relationships we might have.

I liked that call to action. I heard it as a reminder to live well not because life could end at any moment –we all know it could –but rather to honor the beautiful example someone left us by doing similar good works.

I left the funeral home in tears, but glad to have been there. Though I absolutely stink at funerals, I go because I believe it’s important to show up for your loved ones whenever you can. Never once have I regretted going, and every single time I walk away having learned something important. In getting up close to a loss that terrifies me, I realized T’s sister will live on not just in memory –a fickle and increasingly unreliable thing as the years pass –but in the actions of those whose lives she touched.

May we all live, and leave, so well.

When I saw my sister Lynne last night, I told her about the funeral. In an impressive display of sibling rivalry, she assured me she's going to go first.

When I saw my sister Lynne last night, I told her about the funeral. In an impressive display of sibling rivalry, she assured me she’s going to go first.

 

 

 

Forget living la vida loca, I’ll take pura vida every time

I rarely need to set an alarm for important morning meetings, because my racing mind usually wakes me up hours early. But last Thursday was different. I had a really big appointment first thing, and I was pretty sure I was going to get a raise out of it, so I set an alarm to be on the safe side. Good thing I did, because it roused me from a deep slumber when it went off at 5:30.

I got ready by putting on not a business suit but a bathing suit. And instead of a notepad and paper, I grabbed a pair of goggles as I rushed out the door. By 5:45, I was standing on a south-facing beach and preparing to swim toward the sun as it began its ascent over the horizon, which happened to be the Pacific Ocean. The water and air temps both hovered in the mid-80s, resulting in a seamless transition from land to ocean. I got past the first set of breakers and settled in for a longish swim. I alternated my breathing every few strokes, turning my head to the left to monitor my distance from the shore and to the right to watch for swells behind me. During one of those right-side breaths, a line of pelicans –my favorite birds — flew right next to me, wings spread wide as they buzzed the top of the water. As I went on, I dove and bobbed when I needed to, reveling in the waves but mindful that the ocean could clobber me pretty much any time it chose.

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The camera couldn’t capture the glorious shades of pink and purple that I swam towards every morning.

Every now and then I lifted my head out of the water to keep tabs on the sun. I watched in awe as the sky mixed shades of orange, red, purple and pink to produce color schemes I thought existed only on airbrushed T-shirts. About fifteen minutes into my swim, I stopped and began to tread water so I could savor those last few moments as the sun climbed above the horizon. Then, I swam into shore and walked back to the hotel, feeling the warmth of the sun on my back. This had become my routine during my week-long stay in a little surf town on the west coast of Costa Rica, and though it didn’t give me the kind of raise that fattened my wallet, it made my spirits soar every single time.

When I got in the water for my final swim there on Thursday morning, a wave of emotions washed over me. I felt the simple, perfect exhilaration of immersing in nature. I was in reverence of my surroundings and aware of my teeny, tiny, fleeting role in the grand scheme of things. I experienced a potent longing, verging on greed, to freeze this scene and the sensations it produced so I could access them on demand. But most of all, I felt profound gratitude. The people of Costa Rica would fold all of these emotions into one simple phrase: pura vida. The literal translation is “pure life,” but it conveys far more than that. It’s a greeting, a philosophy, an invitation to seek joy in simple things, and a reminder to appreciate whatever you have.

I’d been sorely in need of a big dose of pura vida when I decided weeks ago to join my friend Philippa and three of her pals on their annual surf trip to Costa Rica. The human psyche, like a garage, just seems to collect junk, so it behooves you to clean it out every now and then. But no one looks forward to that job, especially if you’ve got the equivalent of a Bowflex collecting dust in a corner. Since my divorce in 2012–arguably the last time I really cleaned the joint –I’ve collected plenty of useless emotional clutter that impedes my path to things I need and want in my life, like making space for my writing, or for a partner. It was time for a purge.

I’ve always done my best mental housecleaning at the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Something about the rustic surroundings and ties to my fondest family memories always makes me feel centered and grounded. But I was in no mood to wait for warm weather to roll around, so I seized the Costa Rica opportunity instead. As proof of how badly I needed to get away, I bought a plane ticket without even knowing exactly where we were going. Philippa had always referred to their surf town as a “special place,” which I hoped would be close enough to what I needed.

Turns out I hadn’t gotten my hopes up nearly high enough.

Our beachfront hotel (if that’s even the right word for a place that feels as friendly and welcoming as my own home) sat amid lush greenery that’s tended but not overly manicured. Hammocks nestled between palm and almond trees practically begged us to leave the beach and take a nap. My room featured a wraparound porch I called “the office,” but no phones rang there. I heard only the soothing roar of waves pounding the beach, the squawk of scarlet macaws in the boughs above, and the occasional startling “bonk” of an almond dropping from a tree onto the tin roof of my bungalow. My thoughts could roam wherever they wanted, uninterrupted.

The office, where I never minded keeping long hours.

The office, where I never minded keeping long hours.

Clearly the surroundings were conducive to achieving inner calm, but that wasn’t enough: I needed the right company, too. I wanted the same kind of easy companionship my family used to provide, and I found it in Philippa’s friends. I’d spent some time with two of the three amigos during Philippa’s breast cancer ordeal. The way they nurtured my friend’s spirits had long ago earned them my abiding affection and gratitude. I took an instant like to the third, a writer from Philly who seems to find as much joy in coming up with the right words as the right wave.

All three of the amigos made me, the lone non-surfer, feel like part of the tribe. As my family used to do, they kept an eye out for me but never hovered. They seemed to enjoy watching me take off for a swim, and I loved coming in to shore to watch them surf. No one cared whether we all played in the water at the same time or went off to do our own thing: we knew we’d catch up to compare our days eventually. When we did, the three amigos never failed to crack me up, give me food for thought, and make me smile. And thanks to them, I now understand what it means to be “goofy footed.” I left Costa Rica Thursday morning feeling lighter in every way imaginable.

I’m not unhappy to be home, but I already miss the place where my days moved to the beat of nature, where I swam my way to the sun, and where stars coated the night sky like a dusting of powdered sugar and glitter. Most of all, I miss being there with Philippa and the three amigos. Here’s hoping I brought some of that pura vida back with me.

Bread (and milk and toilet paper) and Circus

Last night I met my friend “Eric” for happy hour in Chinatown. Our friendship, which goes all the way back to my Orange Hunt Elementary and Lake Braddock Secondary School days, had been dormant for a decade or more, so I was looking forward to waking it up. 

To avoid the hassle of trying to find parking in that area, I decided to Uber and arrived at the restaurant at 5:30. When Eric and I emerged at 8, a dusting of snow coated the ground. I wasn’t entirely surprised to see it. A radio forecast I’d heard that afternoon mentioned the possibility in passing, and then, like a football team that mentally moves on to the next game while before winning the game currently in progress, encouraged residents to go ahead and pre-panic for this weekend’s Potentially Monumental Snowfall. Because no one wants to be caught off-guard when PMS hits.

I requested an Uber for my trip home and the app informed me there would be a surge charge of 3.8 times the normal fare. It asked if I still wanted a ride. With my home a mere 6 miles away from the restaurant, five words that sealed my doom scrolled through my brain: How bad could it be?

The Uber arrived and I got in. 

One hour, one mile and $50 later, I ditched Uber. Clad in fashion boots, a skirt and tights –I had at least worn a reasonably weather-worthy coat and a pair of gloves– I began the three-quarters of a mile walk to the Metro stop at Farragut West. I forced myself not to think about how I could have saved an hour, $50, and an unplanned stroll had I just gotten on the Metro in Chinatown, a block from the restaurant.

At Farragut West, I was greeted by an uncooperative fare machine, which meant I missed the next train and had to spend $20 on a Smartcard I don’t need. In fact, based on the way things were going, I shouldn’t have been in possession of anything bearing the label “Smart.”

I caught a Silver Line train twenty minutes later and soon had reached my stop at East Falls Church, just over a mile from my home. I had been operating under the mistaken belief that cabs would be lined up at the station, eager to benefit from people like me. I saw not a single cab. I began the 1.1 mile walk home, which actually was uphill, in the snow, in my boots. When I was a quarter-mile from home, I began to celebrate my good fortune in being reasonably close to public transportation and healthy enough to walk the few miles to it in my work clothes. I even patted myself on the back for having bought boots constructed of all man-made materials that don’t breathe at all. They were keeping my toes warm, so who cares if they make my feet sweat 90% of the time? 

I reveled in these thoughts and my proximity to home, oblivious to the fact that The Universe might be listening. The Universe reveres humility. It does not reward those who engage in congratulatory self-talk, especially when such talk celebrates an inadvertently astute footwear purchase. So I shouldn’t have been surprised when The Universe knocked my legs out from under me, causing me to do a complete and total butt-plant. Actually, it was more like a butt-plant/wrist-jam combo because, once I lost my balance, I reached out in a failed attempt to brace myself. Speaking of which, I’d like to have a word with whoever is responsible for human evolution. If humans in the act of falling universally and instinctively reach out to brace themselves, could you please give us something sturdier to use than the wrist? It’s like trying to prop up a refrigerator with a toothpick. 

I stood up, checked to see if The Universe had held up a score card, and limped home. As I changed out of my work-turned-workout clothes, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and noticed one of the hoop earrings I’d been wearing–my very favorite pair, given to me by a dear friend–was missing. So not only had The Universe knocked me flat, but it sent me home looking like a pirate. 

When I woke up this morning, my toothpick hurt like hell and I thought I might have fractured it. I went to urgent care, got X-rays, and was diagnosed with a severe sprain, though I learned a fracture may not show up for a few days. So I’d also like a word with the people who are always telling you to seek prompt medical attention. Evidently sometimes you should be fashionably late. 

From the urgent care I went to the grocery store, which, based on inventory levels, had last been stocked in 1923. Every vegetable or legume ever canned and/or bagged had been purchased. Even the beets were gone. I think we can all agree that nothing heralds the Apocalypse like a run on beets. And when I say the place had gone bananas, I mean it, because the only variety of bananas they had were the gone kind.

And common sense, the one commodity we all really need to stock up on when it snows around here? Long gone.

We probably won’t see it again for at least a week, so here’s hoping everyone rides out the PMS in warmth and safety!

The Universe probably didn't like it when I snapped this pic of a 6-car pileup on a side street, either.

The Universe probably didn’t like it when I snapped this pic of a 6-car pileup on a side street, either.