Recent Splats according to Miz Yank

MRIs and other good vibrations

I recently wrote about seeking medical treatment for pain in my neck. During the appointment I had last week, the doc took X-rays and explained that dehydrated discs were causing several of the vertebrae in my neck to rub together. He explained that this is not good, using technical language that I translated it as, “Your spine was designed by someone who stinks at Jenga.” He then referred me for an MRI to get a better look at what might be causing the pain.

That post drew an outpouring of heartwarming concern from kind readers, along with an offer from my father to put me out with the trash. I decided to go for the MRI and keep that offer in reserve.

For the uninitiated, MRI stands for Magnetic Resonance Imaging. According to WebMD, it is a “test that uses a magnetic field and pulses of radio wave energy to make pictures of organs and structures inside the body.” It sounds vague, but benign, the precise combination I aim for in my legal writing. In reality, you basically lay on a stretcher inside a gigantic magnet, wearing an antenna contraption that bears some resemblance to the halo your mom attached to your angel Halloween costume when you were four.

Golly, why would this inviting machine make anyone nervous?

MRI exams make some people anxious and claustrophobic, an understandable reaction to an experience akin to a 45-minute test-drive in a coffin with limited stereo options. Don’t worry if you’re one of these people and find yourself fighting the urge to flee; the lovely MRI people have straps to help keep you still. And as we all know, nothing puts an anxious, claustrophobic, coffin-bound person at ease like a nice set of restraints.

Fortunately, I didn’t require those. Having spent a fair amount of time in mascot suits, I am not prone to claustrophobia. And if you want to make me anxious, you’ll have to come up with something a lot scarier than MRI, like marriage. In fact, the MRI I had in 2011 triggered not anxiety or claustrophobia, but narcolepsy. Yes, I fell asleep. The technician hadn’t been happy about it at the time- I guess I didn’t stay entirely still while asleep, and maybe he couldn’t hear the machine over my snoring.

So I went into this MRI determined to stay awake. As the scan got underway, it seemed the coffin’s radio was tuned to the “Sounds of VDoT” station, on which a band comprised entirely of jackhammers was performing a cover of AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell.” A few minutes later, and without my consent, the station changed to “1980’s Arcade Game Noises.” PEW PEW! PEW PEW!

No sooner had my Space Invaders craving been ignited than the coffin switched stations again, this time to “Zoo Instrumental Classics.” For five minutes straight, I listened to what sounded like a monkey banging on a coconut with a ball peen hammer.

For the finale, the coffin landed on “Trapped Underwater,” featuring the dulcet song of a humpback whale in distress. No wonder I fell asleep last time; it was a defense mechanism.

I’ll get the results on Monday afternoon, which is perfect because the trash goes out on Tuesday.



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…





I went for a workout and got more than I bargained for…

When I arrived at the gym at 6:30 this morning and sat down for a long ride on a stationary bike, I had no idea THE AUTHOR’S COPY OF MY BOOK (Good Luck With That Thing You’re Doing – One Woman’s Adventures in Dating, Plumbing and Other Full-Contact Sports) WOULD ARRIVE JUST HOURS LATER (available for sale tomorrow!), otherwise I might not have gotten engrossed in the conversation taking place two bikes away from me.

Who am I kidding? I probably would have gotten engrossed no matter what. All three of the chatters were seniors, and because at least two of them seemed to have hearing impairments, their conversation was audible to aliens five planets away. I really couldn’t ignore it. After the obligatory discussion of ailments and medications, the three—two men and a woman — got to talking about the time change.

The woman said, “I read that it really messes with your circadian rhythms.”

The first older guy (hereafter “OG1”), practically shouted, “Sarcanian rhythm? What’s that, some kind of country line dance?”

The second older guy (“OG2”), was perfectly happy to run with the Sarcanian rhythm non sequitur and said, “I’ll never forget the time I was head over heels in love with a woman who told me she was dying to take ballroom dancing lessons. Dancing wasn’t my thing, but I’d have done anything for her so I signed us up for one of those Arthur Murray things. Would you believe that she fell for the instructor, dumped me, and ran off with him? It broke my heart.”

OG2 said this with such sadness (and volume) that I assumed it happened recently. Based on his age and the Arthur Murray reference, it made perfect sense. Yet when OG1 asked how long it had been, OG2 said, “I might have been 18. But I’ve been married now for 51 years. Celebrated our 51st anniversary yesterday.”

The woman chimed in with, “See? Aren’t you glad you’re done with all of that drama and heartache?”

That comment almost made me  fall off of the stationary bike.

The idea that getting married somehow insulates you from drama and heartache struck me as equal parts quaint and unrealistic. The  heartbreak and drama I experienced during the ten months I was married set the standard by which I have measured all heartbreak and drama both before and since. (Some of my ex-boyfriends have emerged as real heroes as a result of this recalibration, by the way.)

And yet I hoped that somehow this woman’s marriage had spared her all of that, and I found myself wanting to ask her what the secret is. Maybe it has something to do with Sarcanian rhythm.


Oh, and that bit about my book? That’s for real! It comes roaring, or possibly tripping, out of the gate on Tuesday, my favorite day of the week!  And you’d better believe tomorrow’s post is gonna be ALL ABOUT THAT. 

Yep, that’s my book. What, you thought I was gonna post a picture of old people at the gym?!

Let Us Pray, and Heaven Help Us

I used to say my law degree was my greatest professional achievement. Not anymore, folks. The ol’ Juris Doctor lost its vaunted status today, when I became a woman of the cloth.

No, I did not join a convent (though given my love life, it’s not all that far-fetched a scenario). I got ordained as a minister in the Universal Life Church so I could perform the wedding of my dear friends Michelle and Ken. The ULC’s motto is “We are all children of the same universe,” because “pay us and we’ll make you a minister” sounds too tacky.

I joke, but the ULC has standards. It’s not one of those faux churches that thinks nothing of ordaining, for example, a housecat. To become a ULC minister, you must at the very least have opposable thumbs and a Visa, because otherwise you’ll never make it through the rigorous online application process.

Michelle and Ken didn’t expect to ask me to marry them any more than I expected to be asked.  Their wedding has been scheduled for months and they had our friend Tim all lined up, ordained and ready to preside. Unfortunately, Tim got called away for a family emergency today, and Ken and Michelle hadn’t thought to designate an understudy.

I was a natural choice to fill in due to my vast wedding experience.  I’ve been in sixteen weddings and played all sorts of different roles. (I’m not even going to count the one where I was a bride.) I’ve served as a bridesmaid, played the piano and organ, read biblical passages, and juggled fire.  Of course, the fire juggling wasn’t so much an official duty as the natural consequence of being unwilling to let go of my drink when the sleeve of my polyester bridesmaid dress got too close to a lit candle.

Anyway, I jumped at the chance to officiate for my friends. Because Michelle and Ken’s wedding is this Saturday in Seattle, I had to act fast. I submitted my application to the ULC at 4:23 p.m. and held my breath.  After a nanosecond of agonizing deliberation, a committee comprised entirely of zeroes and ones informed me that I was official.

I needed to get my credentials immediately, so I purchased the “Emergency Minister’s Package,” whose unfortunate name makes it sound like I bought a set of backup clergy privates.  Had I not been pressed for time, I might have continued shopping at the ULC Minister Store, which sells, among other things, the popular “Ministry-in-a-Box,” along with “Doctor of Metaphysics” certificates.

Anyway, I’m official. As a result of my new status, I am also now qualified to perform baptisms, and funerals, and I can even start my own congregation. So from here on out, please feel free to call me “Irreverend,” and yes, I do take American Express.

I wonder if it costs extra to change it from “Susan Smith”?


The results are in for the Splat of The Year!

Happy New Year! While we look forward to a whole new year of splats, it’s time to take a moment to celebrate the one that just ended.

A few days ago I posted a “Splats of the Week” round-up, narrowed it down to three finalists based on Facebook likes (Marriage in the Golden Years, D.C. Voters and Cafe del Soul), and asked readers to cast their ballots.

Going into the run-off, Marriage in the Golden Years led by a mile.  It kept the lead for a bit but then, appropriately enough, petered out at the finish line.

The other two contenders overtook it and in the end, the D.C. Voters edged out the German cockroaches of Cafe del Soul by a nose. (And since the votes were counted in Virginia instead of, say, Florida, I report the results with confidence.)

What drove the come-from-behind triumph of politics over love and vermin (which I think we can agree are all somewhat related)? It’s impossible to say but I think Congress’s decision to take us all bungee-jumping over the Fiscal Cliff might have had something to do with it.

So in case you missed it, here’s the original D.C. Voters post, in all its splatty glory (published on July 15, 2012).

It can be tough to elect a leader who’s untainted by corruption.  Just ask the citizens of our nation’s capital, who have struggled with this problem since the Home Rule Act of the mid-1970s gave them the right to choose their own mayor.

Marion Barry held this top city post from 1979-1991, until he had a pesky encounter with federal agents over his alleged use of some flammable narcotics.  His lawyers raised the “Beeotch Set Me Up” defense, which sounded catchy but was more persuasive as a bumper sticker than a legal theory.

But it wasn’t his lawyers’ fault, really.  The Monica Lewinsky scandal had not yet occurred, so they didn’t realize an entire defense could be developed around the meaning of the two-word intransitive verb “is.” So Marion Barry fell victim not only to the beeotch but to some very bad timing, legally speaking.

The citizens of DC tried to rebound from this embarrassing electoral splat and promptly elected Sharon Pratt Kelly, who ran on the compelling “I Haven’t Done Time (Yet)” platform.  But the voters gave Barry his job back in 1995, recognizing that Pratt Kelly’s resume lacked the kind of real-world experience you can only get in prison.

Barry “The Sequel” proved to be an underwhelming one-season spinoff.   Barry didn’t seek re-election, citing a desire to focus all of his attention on not filing federal tax returns.
He was succeeded by Tony “Bow Tie” Williams, followed by Adrian “Proudly Courting the Triathlete Vote” Fenty.  Though Fenty’s term did involve an investigation or two into potential contracting improprieties, it had appeared DC was recovering fairly well from the Barry splat.
In 2010, Fenty was ousted by Vincent Gray, who had voters convinced he was less concerned with swimming pools and more interested in connecting with citizens. Recent allegations indicate that, unfortunately, some of the people Gray connected with quite closely weren’t so skilled at following the rules about public accounting of campaign funds.
It appears that these folks somehow forgot to disclose more than $650,000 expended to help Gray gain the mayoral seat. Gray claims he had no knowledge of this shadow campaign, even though it blocked out more sun than the Empire State Building.
Here we go again.  DC voters, come on over and grab your golden pancake!

The not-so-coveted Golden Pancake: An international symbol of splatting excellence