Recent Splats according to Miz Yank

My funny Valentines

I regard Valentine’s Day with a bemused detachment that borders on apathy.

It doesn’t make me feel any differently about my relationship status –like most days, it has moments when I wish I had a partner and moments when I’m glad I don’t. It doesn’t make me wish someone would buy me flowers; I buy them for myself every week because I like having them around. And it doesn’t impact my chocolate consumption, because I make heroic efforts to keep that consistently high. But there is one thing I look forward to every Valentine’s Day: the writing of the annual poem for the Roommates.

As regular readers know, when I was getting divorced in July of 2011, I moved in to my sister Lynne’s house and spent nine months living with my her, my brother-in-law, and their two kids, whom I affectionately dubbed the Roommates. Emily and Timothy, who were eight and six when I moved in, not only didn’t mind having their aunt as a boarder but saw it as a familial upgrade.

As an expression of my gratitude, I tried to lend a hand with the kids when I could, meeting them at the bus stop, helping with homework, or chauffeuring them to their activities, but no amount of pitching in for Emily and Timothy could come close to the support those two gave me. They helped me unpack and decorate my room, ran errands with me, and always kept me fully stocked with hugs and laughs. When I was at my lowest, they made me feel important and loved.

So when Valentine’s Day rolled around in 2012, I decided to show them some love: I wrote a goofy poem –an inside joke-laden riff on “Roses are red, violets are blue” –and taped it to the mirror in their bathroom so their day would start off with a happy surprise. A year later, I had moved into my own house but kept the tradition going, and it continues to this day.

Over time, the poems have seen a slight increase in structural, if not thematic, sophistication, migrating from “Roses are red” to limericks, to this example from 2015:

Ode to the Roommates

Roses are red (although some come in yellow),

But Cupid, he’s always a fat little fellow.

He flies through the air wearing wings, but no sneakers

Nor pants, shirts or socks, like some weird pint-sized streaker!

He shoots, a crime that would get both of you grounded

But not him. And his bow? Not so much as impounded.

Hearts are the things that he’s trying to hit

But I’m here to report that his aim, well, it’s ….(not the best).

He’s shot me a dozen times right in the gut

And arrows have left scars all over my butt.

But you’re not in his crosshairs, and I know the reason.

You are loved every day, every month, every season.

So while Cupid is out acting all totes cray-cray

Just relax, have a wonderful Valentine’s Day!

I decided to up my game this year and introduce the kids to a classic by writing a version of “Paul Revere’s Ride,” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. It was a great idea until I realized that poem really puts the “long” in Longfellow, so for my and the Roommates’ sanity, I abridged it. The kids know I’m a few stanzas shy of a full poem, anyway. So without further ado, and with apologies to Longfellow, I bring you “Cupid’s Ride,” featuring a guest appearance by Buddy, the family dog. Oh, and if you find parts of it sophomoric, that means I overachieved, because the kids are in middle school.

Cupid’s Ride

Listen up, Roommates, and you shall hear

Of the antics of love’s puppeteer.

On February 14th of oh-seventeen

From north to south and in between

Cupid planned to careen, zip, and veer.

 

He said to his friend, “If lonely hearts stay

At home or go on the lam tonight,

Or snapchat or just fight against tooth decay,

Shooting my arrows will set it all right:

One in the can, or two in the knee,

Then I, high above in the soft clouds will be,

Ready to strike with a dose of my charm,

Through every street all about Franklin Farm,

Breaking in to those houses that have no alarm.”

 

“Now I’m off!,” he said, his iPhone in grip,

Ready to fly and to just let it rip.

With clouds creating a bit of a haze,

He decided to leave all the mapping to Waze.

To Wildmere he went, seeking Em Bem and Tim-o

(It might have been faster to hire a limo.)

His arrows were marked: one “her” and one “him-o,”

He prayed for light traffic – love dislikes delays!

 

Meanwhile, Buddy, through backyards and street,

Wanders and watches with eager ear

Till in the silence he can’t help but hear

A blunder –someone at the garage door,

The sound of cursing, the trip of feet,

And the sound of a cap, pried free of a beer

Ready to ease down a throat, with a pour.

 

Buddy climbed up the sofa, took his perch

On its nice cushions, made of soft thread,

To the top, on which he could rest his head;

He felt ready to snooze, then to lurch,

As the sounds around that nervous him made,

Who’s there? Dad? Mom? The cleaning brigade?

Atop those luxe pillows, all fleecy and fluff,

He thought, “Uh-oh, I’ve gone far enough.”

There he paused to listen and look down

Wait, has that pillow always been brown?

Oh look! Moonlight flowing over stuff!

 

Outside, in the garage, lurked the sprite,

Cupid, that is, not the stuff you drink;

Wrapped in silence and a bad stink,

Regretting that burrito last night.

With a most ill wind, off he went,

Creeping as if from Hades sent,

Not pausing to whisper, “Mind the smell!”

Next moment, Buddy, he felt the spell

Of the place and the hour- it wasn’t right;

Would he be blamed? Just maybe he might.

Then suddenly all his thoughts were bent

On a chubby angel inches away

In the spot where Buddy liked to play,

Wearing white, bow and arrow in hand-

Did he have some sort of nude attack planned?

 

Meanwhile, impatient to take aim and shoot,

Cupid had had it with this galoot.

Right in the door then walked Tim-o and Em:

The true targets of the pudgy brute,

Who gazed on the kids and said, “Ahem.”

Then, for flair, he stamped the earth

And turned to suck in his extra girth;

They watched him whip, then watched him nae-nae,

But when he grabbed his bow, Em said, “Hey, hey,

Could you put that down? You’re making me sweat.”

He said, “OMG, this ain’t nothin’ yet.”

And lo! Near the angel and off to his right

Came a fur flash blacker than the night!

Buddy sprang to action, without snarls or grins

And grabbed the arrow, then ran out of sight

With his new toy, thinking, “Hooray, love wins!”

Host a pop-up art show and you’ll get heart, soul, and maybe even a tug-of-war

On February 13, 2014, I hosted a pop-up art exhibit to showcase the work of my friend Bud. Bud and I met through our mutual pal, Philippa. We happen to live around the corner from each other, so we got in the habit of taking long walks on the weekends.

Bud and I talk about anything and everything during those walks, which is why I love them. During a particularly cold stroll in January, Bud mentioned that he’d been working on a series of pieces that all related in some way to the heart. He hoped to have an exhibit around Valentine’s Day, but because he works full-time and squeezes his personal art into his limited non-work hours, Bud hadn’t had time to contact galleries or rent an exhibit space.

My little house more closely resembles a tool shed than an art gallery, yet that did not stop me from saying, “Why don’t you do it at my place?” Aside from being a cherished friend, Bud has lent huge support to me and the entire Yank tribe, so I wanted to return the favor.

“Are you sure you know what you’re getting yourself into?” he asked.

“Of course!” I said, even though I had no idea what I was getting myself into. But I wasn’t all that worried. If I’d managed to join two people in something resembling holy matrimony, surely I could figure out how to host a pop-up art show.

I know a few artists and have observed some common tendencies among them, by which I mean they have creative genius to which I can’t even begin to aspire, yet they can’t plan their next trip to the restroom. With that in mind, I took charge of food and beverage and left exhibit design to Bud, giving him relatively free rein over the first floor of my home. I cleared bookshelves and stashed photos and then got out of the way so he could hammer and hang. After years of joking that houses aren’t meant to be museums, I was watching him turn mine into one. And I mainly loved it.

In the days just before the exhibit, I, being a corporate type, said, “Are you going to have a price list or something?” Bud, being an artist, made a face like a squirrel trying to understand iambic pentameter. “You know, in case people want to buy your art?” I said.

Like so many artists, Bud makes art for the sheer love of it. The idea of recovering his costs didn’t even occur to him, even though the invitation he’d posted on Facebook had generated an immediate and enthusiastic response from both his friends and mine. He promised to make a list of the works and their prices if he had time.

And perhaps that’s what he was doing at 6 p.m. on Friday, February 13, as guests began to stream into my home. Based on my prior experience with artists, I should have known to give Bud a decoy start time to improve the chances that he might be present when his show began. But free food and booze generally fosters a healthy amount of patience in most guests, so his delay didn’t seem to faze anyone.

Bud arrived about 20 minutes later, and soon the house was packed with people. It thrilled me to see the reception my friend was getting. I was even happier when another of my friends told me he came to the party specifically to buy a particular painting and had let Bud know. Love was in the air, or so I thought.

I later realized the more appropriate idiom was “all’s fair in love and war,” because two other friends of mine wanted the same painting. Unaware that it had already been spoken for in a sense, they offered cash on the spot and Bud accepted. The first friend left in a huff, though I was so busy replenishing food and drinks that I was oblivious to the circumstances surrounding his departure until he sent me an apologetic text moments later. Recognizing that I had a crisis on my hands, I took immediate steps to resolve it by pouring myself a glass of wine.

The show went on and proved an enormous success, but the conflict between artist and thwarted purchaser, friends whom I adore, remained. I’d have preferred to pull a Switzerland and stay neutral, but I was the link between the two and wound up ferrying communications between them, like a modern day homing pigeon.

I wasn’t willing to keep that up for too long, though, and fortunately I didn’t have to. They soon cut me out and decided the best solution was for Bud to make more art for my friend to buy. It worked out perfectly in the end, and all it took was a little heart.

The piece that left a mark...

The piece at the heart of the controversy…

Kiss and Tell

As many of you know, my friend Philippa and I host an internet radio show-turned podcast that used to be called “The Van Gogh Sessions.”

The name sprang from an inside joke involving an ex-boyfriend of mine, but it caused most people to assume the show had something to do with art.  Since anyone who’s listened to our show knows that it has about as much to do with art as “Dogs Playing Poker” does, we knew we needed a new name.

This piece can be yours if you go to www.asimplertime.com. I bet they can meet your Velvet Elvis needs, too.

In the interim, we referred to our podcast as “The Show Formerly Known As The Van Gogh Sessions,” but it’s hard to pull off the whole “formerly known as” thing unless you’re Prince.

After months of deliberation, we finally have a new name! We changed up our format, too. We had to do an hour-long show when we recorded in a studio, but now that we’re podcasting, we’ll be presenting much shorter segments, making it easier for you to eavesdrop on us.

Without further ado, and just in time for Valentine’s Day, Philippa and I are proud to bring you “Women of Uncertain Age.”

We think it sums us up nicely: two chicks who are technically in our forties but still pretty much just making it up as we go along, talking about our life experiences and inviting you to listen in on the whole thing.

In keeping with the whole Valentine’s Day theme, we recorded a show on the topic of kissing (listen to it right here.).

As single women, Philippa and I take this issue very seriously.  The public does, too, we soon learned.

We spent a Sunday afternoon walking up and down 14th Street in DC, stopping people who didn’t look like they’d take out a restraining order on us, and asking them the following questions:

  1. What makes someone a good kisser?
  2. Do you think you know beforehand whether someone’s going to be a good kisser?
  3. If the person turns out to be a bad kisser, can you teach him/her to be a good one?

Each question yielded a variety of answers, almost all of which were comical.  Some common themes emerged.  You’ll hear those if you listen to the podcast, and I’ll summarize them here as well:

  • Don’t be a “darter.”  While responders had all kinds of touchy-feely answers about what makes someone a good kisser—an instinct for the right moment, good timing, being on the same page –they were nearly universal, and rather violent, in their hatred of smoochers who made them feel like they were kissing a lizard.  As one woman put it, tongue “should be a player in the mix, but not necessarily the quarterback.”
  • Don’t judge a book by its lips.  Most people we polled said they can’t tell someone’s kissing potential just by looking at him or her.  According to one guy, it doesn’t hurt to have a great set of smackers, but another woman told us that doesn’t necessarily mean a thing.  The guy with skinny lips and an underbite wowed her.  So even if your lips are thinner than two spaghetti strands, you’re on equal footing with the pouty mouths out there.
  •  Bad kissing can’t be fixed. Or can it? The jury’s out.  The first two guys we spoke to were adamant that good kissing can’t be taught.  But then another guy claimed you can teach just about any aspect of a relationship.  We loved that answer, along with the guy.  Or we did, right up until he told me and Philippa that we’re not in his demographic.  He’s dead to us now.  That aside, plenty of people shared his optimistic view of bad kissers, including his pal who claimed to have made kissing “serviceable” in some situations.  And all of the women we spoke to were willing to try to overcome less than stellar smooching.

Care to weigh in? Share your thoughts here, or on the new “Women of Uncertain Age” Facebook page.  We hope you’ll tune in!

Gifted and Talent-less

When I lived with my sister and her family last year, doing fun stuff for my niece and nephew (aka the “roommates”) on holidays was a piece of cake.  Now it requires a little more thought and planning.  I’m good at the first but less competent at the second.

While driving to my sister’s house for bus duty last week, which I do every other Thursday, I realized I would miss Valentine’s Day with the kids this year.  If I wanted to do something fun for them in person, I had to act fast.

I stopped at the grocery store (as I do always do to pick up the ritual Skinny Cow ice cream treats and pizza fixins) and decided to look for inspiration there, even though I knew it was an unlikely source.

The seasonal aisle, packed floor to ceiling with red boxes of chocolatey, sugary goodness, was a dentist’s dream and a parent’s nightmare. While I believe it’s my job as an aunt to educate the kids in the classics, my sister might not have forgiven me if I’d picked this year to introduce them to the wonder of the Whitman’s Sampler.

My eyes continued to scan the shelves for something that wouldn’t require a Ritalin antidote and landed on these.

The stuffed animals met my lofty standards– “within arm’s reach and under $10”–  so I grabbed them and drove to the bus stop.

I set the dog in the front seat, where my ten year-old niece sits, and the bear in the back for my eight year-old nephew. I could hardly wait for my roommates to find their Valentine’s Day surprises, so much so that I told them some goodies awaited as we walked the short distance from the bus stop to my car.

They were surprised, all right.

“You got us these last year,” Timothy said.

I smacked my forehead, finding no solace in the fact that my taste in Valentine’s Day gifts was at least consistent.

Emily tried to make me feel better.  “It’s okay, Wheatie Bo, Timothy and I can trade.” I was starting to perk up until she added, “Besides, Mommy made us pack up the ones from last year anyway.”

Apparently consistency does not guarantee quality when it comes to gift taste.

Emily’s comment struck a blow to my pride but I recovered the instant I realized the stuffed animals could still be put to good use.

“Guys, I have an idea,” I said. They were all eyes and ears.  “Let’s give ‘em to Mommy and Daddy.”  The kids thought this was a grand plan.  As soon as we got home, we displayed the gifts on the kitchen counter, where they would be seen as soon as Lynne walked through the door.  And then we waited in eager anticipation of my sister’s reaction to our double dog re-gift.

Lynne showed up just after five.  The look on her face as she laid eyes on the stuffed animals was priceless, as was her awkward, “Oh…wow… That was really nice of you, Wheatie Bo.”

Timothy cracked right away. “No it wasn’t, Mom.  She gave ‘em to us first, but we already had ‘em.”  Clearly the kid still has a thing or two to learn about proper execution of a practical joke.

But I know he’s in very good hands, because my sister responded without missing a beat, “Let’s wrap ‘em up and give ‘em to Nano and Granddad.”

My sister and I are two fruits who didn’t fall far from the family tree.  If I know my parents, before the week is out these five dollar tchotchkes will have made it all the way to my brother in Atlanta.