Monday, January 26, 2009

Look Up and You'll See Ursa Major--In My Kitchen

I was standing in the kitchen with eleven-year-old Baby Bear the other day, when Mr. Lucky, sitting in the family room, looked our way and said, “Karen. That kid is as tall as you. Maybe taller.”

No way. I glanced at Baby Bear in disbelief. Darned if his eyes weren’t level with mine.

There was only one way to make myself feel better about this colossal development. “If he’s as tall as me,” I said to Mr. Lucky, “then he’s also as tall as you.”

“No!” he bellowed.

“Oh yes,” I assured him. “In fact, to quote you . . . maybe taller.”


My husband and I—and now our youngest son—are all 5 feet, 11 inches tall. Our firstborn was only about 5’7” at this age, and today, at age 20, he’s 6’5”. Who knows what heights the Bear will hit. Yes, we are scared yet.

I don’t seem to realize day to day how tall Baby Bear is, even when I see him next to his father. On the other hand, when we attended the holiday program at his school last month and spotted him among a large group of people (who am I kidding, it was hard to miss him), I found myself amazed by how huge he was. Not only was he the tallest student, but he towered over many of the adults.

But once we got home, I couldn’t see the goliath, even though his height matched mine. All I saw was my Baby Bear, who still snuggles up to me, but can no longer sit on my lap.

My Ursa Minor has been promoted to a Major. Maybe I should start calling him the Big Dipper. (You should see him plunge his hand into a bowl to scoop out a fistful of popcorn.)

He no longer looks up at me. It won’t be long before I’ll have to look up at him.


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Um . . . This IS Florida, Isn't It?

I live in Florida, where this morning it was 32 degrees . . . Fahrenheit. And I don't believe that even took into account the wind chill factor.

Last night we had our first freeze warning of the season, so I tried to cover our hibiscus plants. We have one hibiscus tree next to the front walk that blooms ruffled, multi-colored blossoms, and two bushes at the corner of the house with huge, red and yellow flowers. A year ago I used old twin sized sheets with cartoon characters from Baby Bear’s bed to cover these plants, but no matter what I did to secure them, the wind blew them off. Fortunately the bushes came through with those flying colors of red and yellow, but the tree has struggled since last year’s freeze, and Mr. Lucky talks of replacing it with something else, though he hasn’t decided what.

The bushes, in fact, have grown and thrived so well in the past year, that last night I had to pull out the floral print king-sized sheets in hopes of covering them. But that blasted, biting wind blew the sheets off even as I tried to drape them over the hibiscus.

Mr. Lucky told me to forget about it. No doubt he wants to replace those bushes, too, just on general principle. He loves changing and replacing things just on general principle. Heaven help me if he ever thinks of replacing me.

(On the other hand, heaven help the replacement who thinks she can deal with him and Baby Bear!)

The hibiscus bushes survived the night again, none the worse for wear, but what about tonight? The weather guy said something about a “hard freeze” warning, as opposed to the mere freeze warning we had last night.

In the meantime, on MLK day, we took Baby Bear to Apollo Beach, along Tampa Bay. We were all bundled up in long pants and zipped up jackets, and I found myself wishing for one of my old knitted, hooded scarves I wore two decades ago in Germany, to wrap around my head, but they’re buried in a trunk somewhere out in the garage.

There was neither a Speedo nor a thong in sight on that beach. Aliens landing their spacecraft on one of the dunes wouldn’t have guessed it was the balmy Sunshine State, and surmised there was something screwy with their navigational system. I was reminded of the old Bugs Bunny cartoon where he burrows out of the ground in his swimsuit shrieking, “Miami Beach at last!” only to realize moments later he’s above the Arctic Circle, and probably should’ve taken that left turn at Albuquerque. Indeed, everyone at this beach was bundled up as if on a polar expedition.

And they weren’t all locals, either. One lady stood at the water’s edge repeatedly proclaiming to her husband, “That must be St. Petersburg over there. St. Petersburg is the one with the dome. Tampa doesn’t have a dome.”

Definitely from out of town; in fact, I would wager from out of state.

Yes, it was a clear day and sweeping our gaze from right to left, we could see the skyscrapers of Tampa; MacDill Air Force Base where Mr. Lucky served his final years in the military; the city of St. Petersburg with the distinctive dome of Tropicana Field; and farther on the horizon, the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.

Baby Bear loved running the length of the beach. Fortunately, he showed no interest in plunging headlong into the water, which was a concern of mine when Mr. Lucky suggested we visit the beach.

Perhaps even our Bear knows when it’s too cold.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Saga of My Bad Hair Life Continues

Fellow writer Vicki Lane recently blogged about her adventures in hair coloring here and continuing here. I could certainly identify and empathize with her, having blogged about similar mishaps of my own here, just over a year ago.

The hair stylist in that blog entry was so determined to see my hair highlighted, that for the rest of 2008, I didn’t dare go near that particular salon for fear I wouldn’t get out alive—or at least with my hair un-highlighted.

Yes, it sounds like a subplot from a Seinfeld episode. Yes, I’m still too easily intimidated by people and need to work some more on asserting myself. And yes, I’m being ridiculous.

Especially when a couple of months ago, I went to another hair salon to get my bangs trimmed. I like my bangs straight and the rest of my hair one length. All that feathering and layering doesn’t work for me. I have absolutely no aptitude for fixing up my hair, so the simpler the style, the better. As I write this, my hairstyle is very much the same as it is in my official portrait here.

Not everyone likes my "Anne Baxter as Nefretiri in The Ten Commandments" look. Fine. But I like it, and Mr. Lucky (almost as bald as Yul Brynner, who played Rameses in the same movie) likes it.

Getting back to that other hair salon two months ago. Without asking if it was all right with me, the stylist trimmed those bangs in half a dozen (maybe more) different lengths “to get you away from that schoolgirl look.”

I didn’t have the guts to say, “But I like that schoolgirl look. Why can’t I have my bangs the way I want them?” Better yet, WHY COULDN’T I TELL THE STYLIST EXACTLY WHAT I WANTED? I would’ve done so had she not launched her pre-emptive strike by belittling the look I already had. Did it not occur to her that I had that look for a reason—because I liked it? For that matter, did it ever occur to me that she wasn’t a mind reader, but a human steamroller to my asphalt?

No, because that day I was an ass—and it was my fault.

When I walked out of there, my bangs didn’t look as if they’d been trimmed at all.

By the holidays, they were not only hanging in my eyes again, but because of the varied lengths they were even hanging over my nose, so last week I went back to the same salon I visited last January. Surely that same stylist wasn’t there anymore?

She was.

All right. Surely she’d be busy with another client?

She wasn’t. In fact, she was the only stylist available.

Very well. Maybe she wouldn’t remember me from last year, and hold me hostage to highlights.

Alas, she did remember me, and she did indeed ply me with all their current specials on highlights. On the plus side, she did trim my bangs the way I wanted them, so I’m back to my Nefretiri/schoolgirl look and all is right with the world.

She thinks “caramel” highlights would look great on me. I was able to put her off with truthful pleas about a tight budget, which Mr. Lucky appreciated. Resourceful soul that he is, he’s offered to buy a bag of caramel candies, then melt them down and put them in my hair.

I think I’ll wait for the economy to improve. So let it be written . . .

Monday, January 5, 2009

There's a Scream in My Breakfast Cereal!

After pouring cereal into a bowl for Baby Bear this morning, I noticed one of the pieces silently screaming at me in gaping terror:

"No! No! Not the milk! It's LOW FAT!"

After shooting the above photo, I wanted to get a closeup of our freaky little Edvard Munch. But just as I was about to click, Baby Bear--he of the non-existent patience, voracious appetite, and deadly impeccable timing--dipped his paw into the bowl and scooped up a handful of cereal, cramming The Scream into his mouth.

Fortunately, Mr. Lucky was able to fool around with the one photo and get the desired closeup:

Make that one more reason to stay married to him.

Friday, January 2, 2009

New Year's Resolutions

January is the time of year when Mr. Lucky goes out to walk the dogs as usual, only to find he barely has room to maneuver because of all the hordes of humanity out there jogging, walking, cycling and rollerblading.

Then he goes to the gym for his daily workout, only to discover membership has suddenly quadrupled, and now he has to wait in line to use any of the equipment.

But he remains patient, for he knows by the end of January, those crowds will have thinned out and come February, everything will be back to normal. The streets will be desolate and the gym so deserted, he can go there and dance in his underwear, lip-syncing to Bob Seger’s “Old Time Rock and Roll” while using one of the barbells as a pretend microphone, and no one will ever know.

When will people learn what he and I have long since figured out—that it takes more than hanging up a brand new calendar and opening one’s annual greetings from the IRS to keep resolutions?

For my part, I need rewards, threats, and blackmail.

Like the time a few years ago when I had trouble getting started on a new book. Julie Leto said if I didn’t write the first three chapters by a certain date, that I would have to apply for a job at Wal-Mart. I wrote those chapters by the specified deadline, and to this day I remain off Mr. Walton’s payroll.

On the other hand, when I was in my twenties I smoked, and every January I made the same futile resolution to quit, but to no avail. Only after Mr. Lucky, an avowed non-smoker, indicated an interest in marrying me, did I finally have the needed impetus to quit. And I didn’t need patches or Chantix or twelve-step programs, or to be strapped into a chair and my eyelids forced open like Alex DeLarge in A Clockwork Orange while I was subjected to a slideshow of blackened, cancer-ravaged lungs.

All I needed was the promise of True Love and Happily Ever After.

New Year’s Resolutions? Ppfft! If I relied only on that new calendar and greetings from the IRS, then I’d still be single, smoking, and working at Wal-Mart.

And I would still be just as snarky as I am here, if only because it would take more than a mere resolution to cure me of that.