Archive for the ‘Tangent’ Category

I’ll Have a Pitcher of Beaver Butt with My Coffee Please

Thursday, February 14th, 2013

Castoreum, you say?I’ve been getting some complaints about my lack of update to my blog. People: I’m writing! Just not my blog. So once you’ve read this blog remember: You. Asked. For. It.

As such, I did run across a couple of things this week that I cannot let go unremarked upon.

First of all: I was transported back to junior high or high school by a sneaky social network marketing ploy. I won’t call out any names but I received notification that I was one of their Top 10% Viewed pages for 2012.

I thought: Awesome! People like me, really, really like me (apologies to Sally Fields).

Then I go out to my “network” and see some people received notification that they were in the “Top 1%.”

Great. I’m a loser again.

Oh well: everyone needs a stretch goal, right??

Seriously: tell me – did everyone get the Top 10% or 1%??

Is this nothing but a dastardly plan to make me feel all warm and fuzzy so I’ll “upgrade” to a premium account….which of course has a monthly fee attached to it?

Jaded much?

But this silliness is nothing compared to my most favorite happening this week.

Did you know that when you read “natural flavors” in food products (meaning non-food, but processed junk to appear to be food) you could be ingesting Beaver anal gland juice?

Oh yes: you read that correctly: Beaver anal gland juice.

I kid you not.

Fact is stranger than fiction. And to prove it I’ll attach two links on the Internet (the teller of all truths).

But don’t fret. Beaver anal gland juice is actually natural…..technically speaking.

Pretty sure the Beaver wasn’t too happy about it either.

The Scariest Things In Your Food

Even before I read the below blog I turned to Mr. J and said, “Who the heck licked the beaver’s butt??”

Castoreum What?

And on that topic: “Why can’t they use Cat anal gland juice?” God knows we have enough of that around our house!

How’s that for a Valentine’s Day Post??

Enjoy your vanilla creamer & raspberry yogurt people!

P.S. Not clever enough to know why the type is in two colors, or how to fix it. Boo.

Posted in Tangent |

Just Write It!!

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012

Why have I been so silent, you might wonder? Clearly writing wasn’t on Lara’s list of New Year’s Resolutions, right?

Not so. I’ve been working on my second novel. While that sounds impressive, it is not. My first one has been relegated to the electronic equivalent of a shoe box tucked under my bed.

But the new novel? I’m currently very engaged. I had the idea for it back in June 2009. But I set it aside as I was focusing on the first novel.

In November 2011 I started “hearing” the voices of the new set of characters in my head.

Watch the wisecracks that I know are circling in your collective heads right now.

It isn’t uncommon for writers to have the characters “speak” to them. It also isn’t uncommon to start dreaming about the characters or to have breakthroughs during those hazy moments before you fall asleep or right after you wake up.

I had 15,000 words when I started writing on this novel, working title: Entangled.

Since the beginning of January I’ve added another 15K to the word total and I’ve been feeling pretty proud of myself.

I went to my Writers Group last night and get rashers of grief because I’m not presenting them a cohesive story. Like: Point A, Point B, Point C….etc.

I don’t write that way. I know some people do. But I don’t. I write in scenes between two characters. Or snatches of dialogue that I suddenly hear while I’m listening to the book’s Playlist. (Yes, my most successful writings have a Playlist.) The scenes or snatches of dialogue may be miles apart in terms of where they’ll ultimately land in my novel, but hey: I’m getting the word count up there!

So last night, I’m super shocked that even though I’ve doubled my word count I’m being chastised for not writing in a linear fashion. What. The. Heck.

“Finish the novel, Lara. Commit and write it. You have a great ‘Chapter 1’. What happens next??”


I have a history of starting things. Then I lose interest. In my work life I’ve learned to hire someone who complements that strength. I am the idea person. I love new stuff. I can brainstorm and generate new ideas for days!

But about halfway through a project I become enamored of a ‘new shiny thing’ and I’m off.

I always make sure I hire what I call, a “Closer:”someone who loves task driven work and gets great job satisfaction out of marking things off their lists. These people are a tailor made for my own brand of Lara-ness.

Given that I can’t afford to hire a “Closer” in my personal life, I suspect my family regularly has money changing hands when I start a new project or a hobby. “How long will this one last?” “The last XYZ thing only lasted 6 months.” “Nah. This one isn’t strong. I wouldn’t give it six weeks!”

But I decided this novel was going to be different. THIS novel I was going to finish.

Someone posted a Steven Covey quote at work: “Don’t prioritize your schedule, schedule your priorities.”

Someone else pointed out a chapter in Monday Morning Choices by David Cottrell which talked about the difference in being “interested” in something and “committed to” something.

As I examined my pile of unfinished projects (personal life, remember) I could see the difference: I’d been interested in lots of things. Committed to almost none.

Both of these messages struck a chord in me and as the old year drew to a close and a new year was fresh on the horizon, I decided I was committed to writing this novel and I was going to schedule my priorities.

Sleep and I aren’t the best of friends. I do my best sleeping between 3am and 10am, which of course , doesn’t work with most corporate jobs that begin around 8am.

It was really digging deep to arise an extra hour early to write. But I made the commitment and so far, I’ve followed through.

My word count is up. I feel very accomplished, like I’m pursuing my dream. Overall I’m just happier! All is wonderful in my world.

Until I arrived at Writing Group last night.

Really? Really? You want me to what? FINISH something? I don’t know HOW to finish a novel. If I knew how to finish a novel do you think the first one would be gathering dust on my hard drive???

I stomped out of that group last night, huffing and puffing like a mad 5 year old stomping her foot. I don’t get it. Why wasn’t what I’d been doing enough?

How dare they?

I drove home, muttering under my breath…okay, cursing loudly.

Slamming into the house, Mr. J’s eyes widened and the cats cowered a little.

“It went that well?” he asked.

Glowering at him, I relayed the evening’s events. The betrayal I felt.

“I don’t know how to finish anything!” I ranted. “It’s not like I know how to write a beginning, a middle, and an end. I mean who does that??”

“Toastmasters,” he said. “I think you’ve given a few speeches in your time.”

Not the point.

“What about some short stories? I know you’ve finished a few of those.”

Not the point.

“What about your blog? Now you can’t really argue with me on this Lara,” he said. “You put them out on the Internet. Like cockroaches and Cher: they’ll always be there.”

Okay. He might have a point.

But it isn’t like beginnings, middles and ends come naturally to me. I have struggled with endings. I’ve struggled with middles. Arrghhh.

I have suffered for my art!

Or at least (recently) I’ve yawned a lot.

“Who did these people in my writing group think they are, anyway???” I wailed, not ready to give it up.

Silence rings in our household (only because I made Mr. J mute the TV).

“Yes,” he parroted back: “Who do they think they are?” His right eyebrow raised like Mr. Spock’s and I narrowed my own eyes. We both knew the answer:

“They” would be the chick who has been PUBLISHED. THREE TIMES.

“They” would be the guy whose plays are about to be produced in one of the artistic meccas of the Midwest.


This morning I dragged out of bed. Booted up the PC. And began the following document:

“Chapter 2”

Wish me well.

Posted in LJ's Story, Tangent |

Out with a BANG (AKA: The Ghetto-fication of the Jones Household)

Friday, January 6th, 2012

As I review the last 4 weeks of 2011 I gotta tell you: I’m not sorry to see it go.

You might recall from my last update that I’ve been in 24/7 pain since the end of September. When I make it to my chiropractor about the pain he says, “Your sacral-whatcha-ma-call-it is all locked up. You’ve been sitting too much. Too many plane rides, car rides, sitting all day. Stop sitting so much.”

Well that is a fantastic idea. Shame about the desk job. It kind of requires SITTING.

Shame about that scrapbooking promise. It kind of requires SITTING.

Nothing helped: not pain killers: over the counter or prescription.

Exercise was out of the question…..too painful.

I finally understood, I mean really, really understood emotional eating. The only time I wasn’t in pain was after one too many glasses of wine or when I was eating. Obviously being hung over on a school night isn’t a good plan, so I dove straight into a carton of Haagen Dazs’ dulce de leche Or a vat of all natural almond butter. Spoon anyone?

As long as I was eating: the creamy caramel-vanilla sweetness of ice cream melting on my tongue and then sliding down my throat, or the smell of roasted almond butter, creamy as well, but with a completely different mouth feel, I didn’t feel the pain.

It’s no secret that my relationship with food is troubled. I share it openly…..and unfortunately, the pain, the inability to exercise, and the only ‘painkiller’ that eased the brutal pain in my lower back and hip caused me to pack on so many pounds I found myself back in the Plus Size section of the local department store. Seriously not my favorite.

Fast forward to mid December….because it’s gotta get better, right?

One of the chilliest weeks we’ve had all season rolls around and for the first time since early Spring I feel a real bite in the air in the mornings and evenings as I walk to and from the parking lot into my work.

But luck is smiling on me.

One of the executives having a reserved underground parking spot at work was working remotely that week. He emailed me and offered up his parking spot.

“Now it’s a little tight,” he warns.

I think to myself, “Mister, I was born in a tight spot! I can wiggle my way of out anything.”

The first day in the warm, heated, cozy….yes, it was a small parking spot, my car slid into the stall and then out of at the end of my work day. No Problem.

The second day, as I’m backing out to head home, I hear a strange, grating sound. I hit the brakes! Sure enough: I’ve misjudged the 3 foot in diameter column and have just scraped my driver’s side mirror. Dangit!

The third day, I contemplated not parking in the spot. But a bevy of tired, slightly patronizing motivational quotes rolled through my head:

“Feel the fear and do it anyway”
“Get back in the saddle”
“You must do the thing you think you cannot”
“Never never never quit”

So I did. Or didn’t, as the case might be.

Within seconds I’m wedged into the stall quasi-sideways. Somehow wrapped catawampus around the concrete pole with no way in. Or out.

How could this happen, you might be wondering. “What do you mean you can’t get out? You did yesterday? I mean you got in, right?? You must be able to get out!”

Well dear readers, I was thinking all of this and much, much more.

Even better: It is 8am.

Picture this: here I am, wedged into a parking spot with no room to maneuver. Every inch I try to move: back up – scrape. Pull forward – scrape. Back up – plastic crunching. Once again the column extracts its pound of flesh from my car. (I will step away from the easy smart a$$ comment re: wishing the pound of flesh had come from elsewhere, like my behind. Okay. Okay. I just couldn’t leave it alone!).

I am in such a pickle I can’t even physically get out of the car: not on the driver’s side or the passenger’s side. Front or back.

Did I mention this was the EXECUTIVE parking lot? At 8am?? And for the plebe’s (like me) to get into the building you have to walk through the – wait for it – executive parking lot. The elevator is right next to my crammed in sideways car!

I try to remain calm. I say all the things I’m sure you’re thinking. I consider calling someone, but whom? And besides, I’m basically in a concrete bunker so I don’t even have cell coverage.

At this point I can see only two options: ram the car into the front wall and shatter the bumper, affording me enough space to maneuver. Or scrape the living hell out of the driver’s side as I back out, taking my best shot at the 3-foot concrete pole.

A few years ago I was hit in the bumper and it cost over $1,000 to fix the damage. Taking that into consideration I decide perhaps the most economical thing to do is scrape the paint off of the driver’s side. I mean how much can a little paint cost??

Here are a couple of shots of the damage.

Mr. J called it the ghetto-mobile and said he wasn’t going to be seen in it. (Okay, that wasn’t him. It was me. I drove his car until I could get mine in the shop.)

Just so you know: I chose the wrong option. The damage to the driver’s side cost $2,000. The bumper would have been $750-$1000.

Luckily for me, I was traveling out of state for the rest of the week. I was able to get the car into the shop to be repaired while I was gone. Fantastic! Now I can lie like a dog if someone asks me at work, “Hey, did you hurt your car when you were stuck?” I’ll point toward my better than new car and say, “Heck no!”

Pride and pocketbook: they both hurt. A lot.

The following morning, because I was flying out, and cowering like a…well, cowering thing, I decided to work from home. I get ready to jump in the shower and boom: there is no water!


“Mr. J!” I yell, “I was about to get in the shower but there is no water.”

“There is too. I just brushed my teeth.”

“In the shower?” I ask, confused.

“No. In the sink.”

I turn the faucet in the tub again. Nothing. “I can’t take a shower in the sink, darling!”

“Do I look like a plumber?”

The conversation devolved from there.

For the first time in the 10 years we’ve been in our home our pipes were frozen.

We don’t know what to do. We’re not from this far North.

And why the heck have they never frozen before? What the heck changed? And it is the beginning of the season: so trust me when I say: they will freeze A LOT.

We call a plumber. He recommends we open all doors in the house ‘for circulation’ and turn up the thermostat. He’ll be along as soon as he can get there. After turning up the heat so high that we strip down to shorts and t-shirts (hastily dug out from being packed away in September), we figure out the frozen culprit are the pipes around the jet/Jacuzzi tub we have in the master bathroom.

Mr. Plumber gets there, strips off his coveralls, wipes the sweat from his brow, looks around, and charges us $150 after telling us we have a construction problem, not a plumbing problem. “And oh by the way: you should leave the intake door open around those pipes while it is still arctic outside.”

Did I mention we have cats? Let’s leave the intake door open and encourage the cats to crawl under the floor in our house?? Uhm. No. From the moment we had opened the intake door for the plumber we’d had to lock up two cats who were bound and determined to get inside the new cool place they’ve never been before.

What were our options?

Leave the door closed and risk burst pipes until we can get someone out about the apparently vanished insulation? Or risk losing a cat to the underbelly of our house?

How about a compromise?

We do what any redneck would do: we MacGyver an apparatus designed to:
1. Let warm air flow to the pipes
2. Keep the cats from disappearing forever down the rabbit hole beneath our house

The Ghetto-fication of our household is complete:


Please, please, please, 2012 – do me better than this!


What Is Your Holy Grail?

Sunday, October 16th, 2011

“I learned the truth at seventeen
That love was meant for beauty queens
And high school girls with clear skinned smiles”

~ Janis Ian

The only thing I have to say to this song lyric is: what the heck took her so long??

I‘d figured this out by age 14.

As I’ve shared earlier, by the age of five or six I was already overweight. I had corrective shoes and glasses, set off by mousy brown hair. Could my worldview have gotten any bleaker?

Children are little sh!ts. They are merciless in their brutality in elementary and middle school. I was always the last one picked for anything in any sort of relay race, soccer or even tether ball.

The kind comments I heard from well meaning adults were: “You’re so smart.” “You’re so funny.”

It wasn’t long until I figured out those were consolation prizes for never being a great beauty.

Fast forward to adulthood. When I turned 40 years of age I called my sister and said, “There is now never any chance that anyone is ever going to look at me and want me.”

“What do you care?” she asked. “You’re happily married.”

“Not the point,” I responded. “No stranger on the street ever wanted me. Now they never will.”

“I understand,” she said.

But how could she? She wasn’t 40.

Luckily for me, on the maternal side of my family the women really don’t come into their own until their 40s.

Somewhere after my 40th birthday I collected a bevy of 35 year olds who seemed to be attracted to me.

I credit their (potentially) misplaced adulation for allowing me to re-write my thoughts on beauty.

Could a plus-size woman be attractive?

What about a mid-forties woman?

At my sister’s wedding last month, after being made up by a professional hair and makeup stylist I was shocked at how amazing I looked. (And of course, the bride, also a 40+, was just glowing.)

Several glasses of wine into the reception I had a moment alone with my father and I kept saying, “You have such beautiful daughters…..we look amazing!”

His response was: “And you’re so smart too!”

Like the screeching scratch of a record player arm ruining your favorite album in an Allie McBeal episode, my euphoria at my own reflection in the mirror shattered.

I stared at my father like he was nuts: “What? Why the hell would I want to be smart? It is a consolation prize!! Don’t you understand??? All I’ve ever wanted is to be attractive!”

Where the heck has intelligence ever taken me?

What about being witty?? I ask you – where? Why would I ever “settle” for being these consolation prizes?

Screw intelligence! Screw a great sense of humor! Screw a kind heart! I don’t care if you ‘can’t fix stupid’ I just want my Holy Grail: I want to be beautiful!

So, with less than 5 years left on my ‘decade of gorgeousness’ (without lots of plastic surgery….if you’d like to contribute I’ll be happy to supply you with my PayPal account information) I am glad to have finally (w/only two hours of help by professionals) reached my Holy Grail: I’m finally attractive!

I ask you: what is your Holy Grail? What would it mean if you could actually achieve it?

Posted in LJ's Story, Tangent |

All Things Sparkling

Sunday, October 2nd, 2011

Recently a friend of mine mentioned there is actually an “International Wear a Tiara Day.”


Before I go off on a riff, I’d like to see a show of hands from my readers: how many of you think I’m going to decry IWATD as the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard?

Go on: raise your hand.

Well, if you thought I’m going to flip out about ridiculous anti-feminist fashions rooted in times when women were nothing more than mere possessions (unless of course you happened to be THE woman, i.e. Elizabeth I, Victoria, Mary Queen of Scots or Marie Antoinette….and obviously it worked out better for the former two than the latter two) then you’d be very, very wrong.

I love tiaras. I think we should wear them because it is Tuesday. Or Thursday.

I mean, what is not to love? A little shimmer, a little sparkle, a girl walks around feeling like a princess for a day. It is perfect.

The friend who mentioned the IWATD said that in her office they’ve decided to have an unofficial IWATD during the month of October. She went so far as to mail me and a co-worker two beautiful tiaras!


As it turns out, Tiara’s aren’t just for chicks. You can get one for your favorite pooch too! (See below)


I have my own little story about the power of the tiara.

My sister recently married and for her surprise bridal shower I brought a few accoutrements with me.

My sister relocated across the country so most of the people attending her shower have only known her 5-10 years.

I felt like her new friends needed a little perspective and a peek into her psyche as she grew up that only a loving sister could provide.

I sat her in the middle of the room and began my tale:

“Growing up, like many of us, my sister wanted to be a Princess.” I pulled out a pink party hat, trimmed in pink ribbons and placed it on her head.

“So it is no surprise that as she decided to marry she chose to wear a tiara on her wedding day.” With a bit of flair I pulled out a plastic tiara to replace the Princess hat.

My sister grabbed for the Princess hat and protested loudly. “I want them both.”

Of course she does.

Improvising, I slipped the tiara down quite nicely around the replaced Princess hat.

My story continued, “When I asked her if I could wear a tiara too, she quickly said, ‘Heck no!’”

One last time I reached into my bag, pulling out my final prop, a tiny Witch’s Hat with a silver bow. I slipped it on my head and turned to face the room of 20 people. “But she said I could wear this one instead.”

There was much laughter and clapping in the room until my sister cried out: “I want that one too!”

Ladies and gentlemen, there you have it: my baby sister. She wants what she has and she wants what I have too!

So endeth the lesson.


In the interest of full disclosure, I have to admit that when I arrived for the final dress fitting at the bridal shop, my sister presented me with my very own tiara to wear in her wedding. It is absolutely beautiful and fit my dress perfectly.

Of course, that doesn’t mean now that the wedding is over my new awesome tiara will never see the light of day. In fact, I may wear it whenever. Like when it is sunny. Or snowing. Or Tuesday.

Posted in LJ's Story, Tangent |

Random Questions

Wednesday, September 14th, 2011

Admittedly, I often look at things differently but here are some of the odd things I wonder about:

In an office where you have the luxury of multiple toilet stalls, say four, as an example, once you’ve ‘chosen’ a toilet for the day do you stay true to it? How committed are you to your chosen stall? Use it only if it is free? Stand there and wait for it to be free? Go back to your desk and cross your legs hoping the next time you venture down the hall ‘your’ toilet will be free?

Here’s another: Why is it that when it is September and I’m in California 70 degrees it is a beautiful day? When it is September and I’m in Minnesota and it is 70 degrees I shiver in fear of what I know must follow.

And at the risk of offending someone it must be asked: what’s up with the drive up ATMs w/Braille?

But I’ve saved my favorite for last: who thought this through?

Who Wrote This?

Now. There are so many things wrong with this picture….not the least of which is where it is positioned. See below.

Whose Eye Level?

See the tiny red sign? See where it is? Above the eye level of the child too short to read it. And just because it must be said: he is quite possibly too young to read as well.

Who is this sign aimed at? Who is the target audience?

I mean, I’m kind of short. Should I have gotten my mommy on the phone to help me dip out the amazing ice cream toppings? Hot fudge, Caramel, chocolate chips and colorful sprinkles?

While I’m thinking about it: with that kind of smorgasbord dancing in front of my eyes what do you think is going to capture my attention? The ewy-gooey yummy goodness? Or a red sign (presumably to signify “Stop”) which either I’m: A: I’m too short to read or B: too illiterate to read.

Candy toppings will win every time….except obviously they didn’t as I’m now sharing this inept signage with you. Seriously – who sits around thinking this crap up? Do you suppose they asked anyone for input before they proceeded? Lord I hope not!

So now you have some insight into what monkey-mind thoughts roll around in my head when I’m not focused on work, Mr. J, my kittens or my family…..not necessarily (but maybe) in that order.

Random enough for you?

Posted in LJ's Story, Tangent |

Umbrella Anyone?

Thursday, July 28th, 2011

Why is it that when I travel on my own dime, i.e. not for work, every possible thing goes wrong? And maybe because it is my own money it drives me even crazier than normal. For brevity sake I will keep this to the most unbelievable leg of four of my journey: the very last one.

This picture my friends, shows what we were confronted with when we stepped onto the plane, which of course, was over an hour late.



“What the heck?!” You might be asking yourself. “Are they really flying on Ghetto-Flights-Are-Us?”

Actually, I don’t like to name names, (::cough:: AirTran) but as we boarded we couldn’t quite figure out why the airplane cabin had what looked like toilet paper stuffed in every conceivable crevice.

But it didn’t take us long to find out.

As we taxied out and took off, water ran down from the ceiling and into our faces. Our faces!

Now I get condensation, really I do. But I’ve never had water spitting into my eyes from an airline bulkhead before!

Have you?!!

While I know it might shock you (or not), as soon as I had a spare five minutes I sent a complaint in to the aforementioned airline asking them to confirm what the heck it was running into MY EYES. And how was I to know if it was a health risk or not??

The answer was: Here is $25 for your trouble. Condensation is normal. Sorry you got wet.

$25 barely, barely, barely covers my baggage fee….and while I’m on that topic, I was asked to put my laptop bag under the seat in front of me in order to accommodate more roller bags.

I (mostly) politely told the stewardess that I’d be happy to put my small laptop bag under my feet so someone else could put up their HUGE roller bag in the overhead bin….as soon as they handed me my $25 back….in cash, no checks. But if they wanted to give me their credit card number and mother’s maiden name maybe we could make a deal.

But I digress.

Where was I? Oh yes: the ridiculous: ”Condensation = normal. Sucks to be you.” email.

Hmmmm…..I generally fly once a month. I have never had water in my eyes. And did they answer my concerns about un-sterile condensation falling in my eyes??

Heck no.

I almost wish I’d have gotten pink eye so I could have sued them! Then I could have changed the airline name to AirRain!


Apropos of Nothing

Thursday, May 20th, 2010

Have you ever gone to the grocery store and the checkout clerk is looking at you strangely as she rings up your purchases? I was at my local Trader Joe’s (love them: except the snotty check out girl) stocking up on a few of my favorite things:
• Six containers of hummus, various flavors
• 1 large “party size” salsa, mild
• 2 packages of black beluga lentils
• 1 bag of Thai Lime Pilaf.
• EnviroKidz Organic Peanut Butter Panda Puffs (give me a break: it was the only gluten free cereal they had and I was craving cereal)
• Almond milk, unsweetened chocolate

Now I admit I have a hummus fetish. And TJ’s has some of the best store bought hummus I’ve ever had. My new favorites include: Cilantro Jalapeño and Roasted Red Pepper. The Cilantro Jalepeno has just enough of a kick to make you want to have a 32 oz bottle of water handy. The Roasted Red Pepper is very mild but the color and taste remind me of Pimento Cheese which was one of my mother’s favorite spreads as I was growing up.

So the check out girl says, “You like hummus?”

Duh. I’m not buying it for the cats.

“How do you eat it?”

So many smart aleck comments came to mind. I settled for my standard answer, “With a spoon.”

“No,” she continued. “I mean what do you eat it on?”

I stared at her, not blinking. “A spoon. Why do you think I need six containers of it??”

Honestly. I mean: I get that it is an odd list of groceries. But it isn’t like she followed me to the liquor store (my next stop) and watched me pick up a bottle of Cask & Cream Caramel then followed me home and spied on me as I actually ate dinner from the fixings of my two stops.

If she’d seen me mixing Cask & Cream into my unsweetened chocolate milk and then pour it over the EnviroKidz Organic Peanut Butter Panda Puffs after spooning hummus up with broccoli florets – see I’m eating healthy here – maybe then she’d have been justified to look at me strange.

Know what I’m mean??


The Many Modes of Magical Mulch

Monday, May 3rd, 2010

Spring has come early(relatively speaking) for my neck of the woods and that means the most happening places in town are garden centers.

We have awesome garden centers full of amazing plants – mostly trucked in from warmer places, no doubt. Lush coral and crimson colored begonias, calla lilies in ranging in hue from traditional white tipped in green to a deep burgundy, and varieties of roses in every shade imaginable from the palest ivory to the velvetiest ruby.

Having said all of that I’m actually too cheap to go back to the amazing nursery up the road. I mean: I only need mulch. How different can mulch from the hoity-toity upper scale gardening “nursery” be from the mulch you can buy at one of the big box stores?

Of course, there was that one the year that I did frequent the awesome nursery and found that you could purchase mulch made from the shells of cocoa beans. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, that meant that every time it rained my garden smelled like a chocolate sundae. It was bliss.

However, after gaining five pounds while applying the chocolate mulch I decided that not only could I no longer afford the $5.99 for a 1.5 Cu Ft of chocolate mulch but per my last post, I’m really not looking to gain any more weight. Seriously people: the smell. Five pounds…..or it could have been the half-pound of Dove milk chocolate I felt compelled to eat when I went inside. No matter.

This year I decided to turn to the Big Box Home Improvement Store which carries everything you could possibly want except clothes….and sometimes they carry those too. Surely they must have mulch.

Strolling through their seasonal gardening area I rounded a corner and come face to face with pallets and pallets of mulch. There are varieties of cedar, cypress and pine in varying colors and chip sizes. It is truly a sight to behold. I step closer: there are a variety of price points as well: $2.99, $3.83, $4.85….clearly I was being taken to the cleaners by the choco-love mulch. Even more proof: the mulch here comes in 2 Cu Ft.


Then I notice something peculiar. There are four people standing around staring at the $2.99 Cypress mulch.

I glance around, not sure what they find so fascinating and I continue my price checking, inspecting the various colors of the mulch: trying to remember what I have left over on the flower beds from last year.

I scratch my head and begin to mentally calculate how many bags of mulch I’ll need.

Now I don’t have to get it exactly right: To find the area of a square or rectangle… length x width = square feet (area). The area of a circle equals pie r squared or 3.14 x the radius of the circle x the radius of the circle again (the radius is the distance from the center of the circle to the edge)

Now my beds are a cross between a rectangle and a circle. So all I have to do is….

HAH! Just kidding. I have NO idea what 2 Cu Ft means! None. Who makes this stuff up?? What I’m really trying to do is remember how many bags we bought last year and if we had excess or not enough.

I look back at the gathering at the $2.99 area. What ARE they staring at? I wander over.

Ah. I see. There are no single bags of mulch there to purchase. All that is left are bags that are broken open or multiple pallets that have been shrink wrapped to within an inch of their lives.

I look back at the $3.83 bags. Do I really want to wait until someone comes to open up the $2.99 pallets of mulch? I mean the alternative isn’t even a dollar higher.

I look back at the group staring at the pallets and check my watch. They’ve been there for at least five minutes. How long ago did they send someone to get box cutters?

Finally I ask, “Is someone coming with a knife or scissors to open those up?”


“I’m sorry, what?”

Everyone shakes their head, confirming what the first guy said.

Really? You’re standing here why? Why? Why? Why?

There are FOUR people standing here gazing at the mulch waiting expectantly. One was an elderly lady so I’m going to give her a pass.

The other three were men. The men were in their mid to late 40’s so not so old as to be feeble nor were they 15 and indecisive. Yet there they stood.

Once I again I thought about grabbing my bags of $3.83 mulch but it just amazed me that these adults were standing here waiting for the Messiah or something.

What? Were? They? Waiting? For?


Someone to chew their food for them too?

What was the deal with mulch?

Was it special mulch?

Was it Transformer Mulch and going to turn itself into some kick-butt crime fighter?

Was Harry Potter going to suddenly show up, wave a wand and the pallet of mulch was going to magically jump into their carts??


Oh for the love of –

Taking my keys out of my pocket I stepped forward, past the passive people and starting ripping cellophane off. Folks: I’ve had body wraps less tight than this stuff was wrapped around these individual bags of mulch.

After a moment the spell broke and two of the men who had stood there in limbo came to assist me.

“I guess this is what you call ‘self service,’” one of them said to me.

“I don’t need no stinkin’ service,” I replied.

Actually I’d just call it “taking action.”

Mr. J. called me as I was leaving the Home Improvement Center. I relayed to him the oddity of the situation. He said one of those men would probably go home and say to his wife, “Dang. I wish that woman had come along sooner. It would have saved me from standing there for 30 minutes!”

Once home I piled the bags of mulch onto my front porch and considered. Maybe I jumped the gun. Maybe I broke the spell of the “special” mulch too soon. I spent the rest of the afternoon keeping careful watch on the Bags ‘o’ Mulch. I mean: if they’re going to do something worthy of getting me on Oprah! then I’m happy to sit here drinking a cold one (just kidding: beer has gluten in it. Who knew?) watching those bags of $2.99 mulch until the cows come home.

Sadly, not only did they not turn into breathtaking renditions of Michelangelo’s Pieta or David, they also didn’t spread themselves on my roses and day lilies. Nope: they were still sitting there this morning.

Heavy sigh. I guess I’d better get to work.

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Posted in LJ's Story, Tangent |

Hush Little Baby, Don’t You Cry….Gym Arc 3 of 3

Monday, March 15th, 2010

I walked into the locker room of Unbridled Nakedness (see previous posts if you need further explanation) and stopped short when I piled into a gaggle of young girls stacked seven deep in a line. They had stopped suddenly as a woman who was in at least in her 60s, walked in front of them. The woman they were waiting on to pass had nothing on (that I could see) except a towel around her WAIST.

I’ve already owned up to being a prude so not only did I run smack into girls, I also resembled the girls insofar as I was standing there my mouth dropped open, looking like a guppy.

Without getting too graphic let me just say this woman (in her 60s, did I say that already? Well it bears repeating.) had the largest set of ‘er, well, breasts, I’ve ever seen with the naked eye. The visage of a (clothed) Dolly Parton popped into my head, actually. And while gravity hadn’t been too kind to the naked sexagenarian, I quickly felt down to my size B- cups to make sure my saggy, baggy boobs (I lied about not getting too graphic) were strapped up inside my sports bra: a place where they cannot go anywhere regardless of how much I might need to take a deep breath and decided that age had been kinder to her, in myriad of ways apparently, than it had ever been to me.

After the spectacle, the girls moved along and I escaped to a locker where I divested myself of my coat and car keys. As I was locking up, trying to get the image of that woman’s breasts out of my mind, I found myself wondering what was up with the group of girls. There are rarely more than 1-2 girls in the locker room at any given time. Heading out of the locker room (and trying to keep my eyes on the floor) I once again stopped short.

There were the girls. Now, however, I noticed they all had on t-shirts that said, “I Came to Play” sprawled across their backs. They were standing, still in a line, with a perky 20-something gym employee-cum-camp-counselor with them. The ‘camp counselor’ was – you guessed it – blonde. They are always blonde. They are always perky.

The chipper 20-something was weighing each girl on the scale kept in the locker room. This is not your normal bathroom scale. It is a stainless steel box that when you get on it, your weight is displayed on the wall in a nice red digital format, rather large font. I glanced at the line of girls and wondered what on earth would possess anyone to weigh young girls in a public setting where they each get to see each others’ weight.

Aren’t our young girls already too focused on their weight and have body image issues? Why start them at eight or nine or ten?

Then I caught myself and thought, “Lara – not everyone has weight whack-a-do-ness like you do.”

I quickly scanned the line of girls. They were all about the same weight, probably around 60 pounds. All of the girls were laughing and looking on curiously as the girl in front of them was weighed. They didn’t seem stressed out.

Then I saw the girl at the back of the line. She was not joining in the friendly chatter; she was not smiling. She was heavier than the rest of the girls. And when she looked up and I saw the unhappiness in her eyes I wanted to scream at the 20-something: “Stop it! Right now! Do you have any idea what you’re about to do to this child?”

In the next few minutes, if it hasn’t happened before, that young, heavy set little girl is going to be stigmatized and it might take her 30+ years to get over it.

I know of which I speak.

Suddenly I was transported back to my first grade classroom: Classes for first and second graders were taken in what used to be called, “Pre-Fabs.” The buildings were wooden, and the floors noisy when young children ran across them. I can still smell the chalk, and hear the loud excited voices as we all line up, grateful for any chance to get out of our desks.

Mrs. Walls, in her infinite wisdom, had decided to draw a long line on the chalk board where we would learn about numbers plotted on a number line. As part of the lesson she was going to weigh us and then we would plot our weight along the line. She had already told us that she would be point farthest away.

Like the little girl in the gym locker room, as we all filed down to the side of the classroom to form a straight line, I too, hung toward the end of the line.

Why wouldn’t I? I was the fat kid.

I watched as each child ahead of me was weighed and then successfully plotted their respective weights on the number line.

When it came my turn, red hot shame suffused my face and I refused to get on the scale.

There was nothing Mrs. Walls could have done would have coerced me onto that hateful piece of metal. “But, dear,” she said, her voice kind, not to mention clueless. “If you don’t want to be weighed can you tell me how much you weigh?”

Having no idea how much I actually weighed but almost in tears I blurted out the biggest number I knew, “125!”

Even Mrs. Walls gasped.

My humiliation was complete when I walked to the black chalkboard and with trembling hands plotted the hateful number in front of my abruptly silent classmates.

Mrs. Walls duly weighed herself and recorded her weight as 128.

Snapping myself back to the Locker Room of Unbridled Nakedness and to the young girl at the back of the line who was fidgeting nervously as she grew closer and closer to the scale, I longed to take her into my arms and tell her it would be okay: that her weight isn’t an indicative of her value as a person. Unfortunately I had to turn 40 before I realized that….and occasionally it is still a struggle.

I wish I could tell her that she would not be judged by her size or her looks, but that would be a lie unless something drastic changes in our society.

I wish I could tell her that this moment in time doesn’t matter but chances are she will remember that day in the locker room as one of the worst days of her young life.

Standing in one spot long enough that I was beginning to draw looks from the girls, I weighed my options. What could I do? What could I say either to the little girl or to the 20-something camp counselor? Any interference on my part would only draw attention to the little girl and I’m fairly sure that is the last thing she’d have wanted.

I swallowed hard and forced myself to leave the locker room and head toward my car. I felt like a failure. I felt as if I’d watched a train wreck and then turned my back, walking away from the victims.

It has been two weeks since I ran into the group of girls in the locker room and still I am haunted by the face of the little girl at the end of the line as well as haunted by my own painful past in similar shoes.

This was the story I set out to tell when I started my gym arc of these three posts. I hope you enjoyed them all. It was fun to write to a theme….and fortunately for me, there is a lot of fodder at my gym!

A question to you now: what could I have done differently? What words of wisdom might you have offered to that little girl or even this old-little girl? What own torturous stories of childhood do you have to share with me? We all know misery loves company! I hope to hear from you here or on FB or via email.