Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Training Horn...humor...honk if you've got a real horn

Training Horn

We have an absolutely adorable, possibly even sporty car which, other than a blind spot or two contributing to the maintenance of my zippy heart rate, is quite the enjoyable little number to drive.

I must say, though, there’s one smallish car feature and consequential largish issue that seems to have been overlooked by the overpolite manufacturer in creating a robust image of this automobile. The horn.

This Standard Issue item emits an embarrassing braying sound reminiscent of a malfunctioning bike horn in mid-squeak. The incongruous effect is not unlike a situation where, let’s say, one is appreciating the artistic value that is a stunning specimen of a man only to have him ruin the effect by opening his mouth and uttering a few words in a prepubescent voice register higher than any testosterone-fueled human being should possess. It’s off-putting and even unnatural.

Not only is our horn an auditory embarrassment, but the tone renders it ineffectual to the nth degree. Whenever I need to avoid someone backing into me, merging into my lane or getting ready to pull out in front of me, I, as the beeper, tap the horn, emitting a staccato blast that is not so much a warning as a come hither.

People commence to looking around for the Huffy bicycle that’s sure to be in the vicinity and they are aghast to see it’s really a car and not one of those scaled down electric models either. Meanwhile, whatever action the beepee was taking often just goes forward because they’re so thrown off by my incompatible delivery system for the horn.

Worse than that is the state of affairs when the errant driver doesn’t hear my inoffensive toot at all. Whether I invoke a sustained tap on the apparatus or a briefer Morse Code approach, the resultant aural effect leaves much to be desired in the usefulness category.

This has me practicing maneuvers identical to the ones I’ve witnessed on television automobile advertisements with the warning in ant dropping-sized font at the bottom of the screen, “Do not attempt. Professional driver on a closed course.”

In point of fact, I’ve had more luck waving my arms, buzzing down my window and screaming, “Stop!” in avoiding collisions.

I’m not saying when you purchase a car you should test out the horn…okay, you know what? Yes, I am. I don’t know if an awkward honk is a deal breaker, but it certainly is a shock deflector at the very least.

At the time of purchase, for some reason we tested out everything except the horn. We sat in all driver and passenger positions, we flicked on the windshield wipers, we activated the blinkers, regular and emergency, and we listened to the very fine sound system as we engaged every launch sequence the car offered.

Finally, we test drove the car, kicked those tires, toted that barge and at no time in our checking of lists twice did we think to determine if we might be adopting a baby horn or a horn that would be in need of a transplant some time in the near future.

I just assumed our car would come equipped with an adult-sized version of the blasted thing, so I never thought to confirm that fact and there is no upgrade. I asked.

As the polar opposite of an ooga horn our “klaxon,” which is the other moniker it goes by, is a blow of indignity to one of the most important of our five senses. That’s bad enough, but now I’m beginning to dread using it.

Off I go anyway, defensively driving my way safely around town, not so much to keep my suave ride from getting dented, that’s a given.

I’m more careful than the average motorist because I dread close calls when I have to hit the horn, lest people look around for a phlegmy roadrunner with a chest cold. Cough, cough! Beep, beep!

Honk if you’ve got a real horn.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

RE: Holiday Column...of sorts...Ode to the Spatula (Humor)

Ode to the Spatula

The holidays are upon us and, thus, I feel it only appropriate that I write a thematic column. Granted, this cannot exactly be classified as standard yuletide fare, but here ‘tis.

‘Tis also the season to eat our weight in carbohydrates which got me thinking about the topic of baking during this year's impending Noël. (Don't be confused, especially you peripatetic cookie eaters, because Noël is also the name of a Colombian cookie manufacturer.)

Though the topic is not about the goodwill of men, it does involve will; the will to bake rivaling my will to sleep past any time I need to get up for work, play or comet watching Here and now I will offer up discourse about my friend, the spatula, without which, in the baking world, there would be no reason to even pre-heat the oven. Don't bother grabbing that oven mitt with the holly-wearing deer on it, either, if you don't have one of these handy kitchen items in rotation.

My love of this miraculous culinary invention has led me to learn more about it and share my findings, free of charge. I'm doing this because we underestimate the happiness inanimate objects of convenience can provide and they're often no more than a drawer away. Also, I just love my nifty multi-colored spatulas and I'm goofy enough to admit that to you all.

Why is the spatula column-worthy, you ask?

In order to respond to this query we must embark upon a quest not unlike a pursuit of the Holy Grail, aptly named because it was a journey taken by the multitudes through the millennia to locate a dish, plate or cup from the Last Supper. In our case, we're looking for the Holy Spatula, as it were, and in present times our seeking looks a bit different. I Googled spatula.

Google is nothing if not a giving search engine, in line with the season, therefore, it assists you without asking by filling in blanks that you didn't know you had. For instance, I merely typed in “spatula” and a veritable feast of facts bubbled over.

The sheer volume of synonyms for this beautifully crafted, seemingly innocuous stick wearing a saucy-shaped rubberized headdress is rather remarkable. It seems every language has its own word for this treasure of a turner; an egg slice, a flipper if its nomenclature is Canadian English, a yiwen or danny in Fiji (, whereas Americans often call it a bowl scraper.

I did eventually determine that a spatula must have “a broad rounded apex and a narrow base” and is much different than a garden variety turner which I discovered simply possesses the purpose of turning food. That cleared things up dramatically for me. My life is all about gaining knowledge, if not wealth. The problem for me then became focus because I was provided with a bevy of choices that had me following leads on topics that were not REMOTELY related to kitchen utensils.

Here is a non-comprehensive list of items that sprung forward from tapping in “spatula” which turned out to be a root word of sorts; “Ultrasonic Skin Spatula” which touts the ability to put “new waves in your skin care treatment,” “Spatula City,” a parody that Weird Al Yankovic recorded for a fake store, a punk band about which not much is known that goes by the name of “Spatula,” Spatuletail hummingbirds, a species of endangered birds found only in Peru, and Spatulatta, an organization that teaches kids to cook, so there are cookbooks, shows and a juvenile product line of Pepto-Bismol jellybeans. Okay, I'm kidding about that last one, but that could be a product, couldn't it?

A spatula by any other name is just as sweet because it accomplishes everyday miracles, if not turning water into wine, then transforming a little batter into plenty of batter. Have you had this experience? There stand those last two cupcake reservoirs that you need to fill. You whip out your trusty spatula, aerobically work the sides of the bowl and, Wha-la! Then there were two. It's not just a holiday miracle, but an everyday miracle.

Now, granted, it's no “Mary's face on a tortilla,” but it does make for some cheap entertainment, as well as magic-filled baking days.

Diane Dean-Epps is a comedienne and writer. Contact her at www.diane Diane has written a new book, “I'll Always Be There For You … Unless I'm Somewhere Else?!” Meet the author during a booksigning on Saturday, Dec. 11, 2 to 3:30 p.m., at Tome's Bookstore (Sierra Mountain Coffee Roasters), 671 Maltman Drive #3, Grass Valley.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

RE: (Humor) Drive in, commentary via my own special brand of " logic"

Drive-In Drive-Through

In my pursuit of the American dream of instant gratification, during which time I hit the drive-through 2.4 times a week with my 2.4 children, I’ve noticed some alarming trends I’d like to discuss with you.
The first trend of note is the line of questioning currently being used as we frequent the fine fast food establishments that dot our great American landscape, the primary offender being: Will you be eating that in your car?
As opposed to what? In someone else’s car? In a hotel room? In the bushes that run parallel to the drive-through lane?
In view of this disturbing questioning movement, I think we can all agree that we’ll need to keep an eye on the situation and, not to be a killjoy or anything, but there’s more.
Even more disturbing is the fact that I’m being forced to take the Nestea plunge, quite frankly, many, many more times than I care to. I’ve tried to alleviate this happenstance by asking a seemingly simple question but, as you are aware, drive-through establishments are not known for their Dolby, high-quality sound systems, so my, “Is the iced tea brewed?” question, I am told, sounds just like, “Is there iced tea, dude?”
This is when I receive a positive response, netting me a drink testing positive for instant tea status, leading to an unhappy interlude when I utter unladylike sounds like, “Urgh, blech, pooey,” as well as using ultra unladylike language.
As I’m driving away, sucking down a huge mouthful of what should be icy, caffeinated, teabag-utilizing liquid goodness, I’m instead chewing chunks of powder. I want you to know that I do understand the dichotomy that is my lack of desire for instant tea at a fast food business, but I don’t care. I likes what I likes.
The third thing I’ve witnessed as I’ve traversed this fine country of ours seeking sustenance is when ordering a simple item, such as a beverage, I am queried as to whether I would like a hamburger and fries with that. This, as though I’m so dense I could have forgotten I was hungry, though I remember being thirsty. When is the last time you said to yourself, “I think I’ll go pick-up a diet cola,” and then you get to your favorite fast food purveyor, you smell, say, pizza and decide you’re hungry? Oh, okay, well, you know what. I may have to give that one over.
The fourth one is not so much about the fast food folks, but about those who utilize these mini-roads to quick nourishment. Has anyone else noticed an increase in the alarming trend that is trucks powering into the drive-through with dogs in the back? What’s the problem, you ask?
As I see it, the trouble with taking your dog through the drive-through is that you’re imposing friendliness upon the driver behind you. This poor sap has embarked upon a solitary venture, enjoying some “me” time and then there’s your adorable critter, complete with wagging tail and pleading eyes.
In my case, this is quite a nuisance because I then commence with my, “Oh my heavens, look at how cute that dog is,” waving, smiling and carrying on sequence, as though I’m a pet sitting candidate.
I can’t seem to help myself. I see that precious, perennially hungry, furry creature and it’s all I can do to grab my hand and say, “Down!” I don’t mind telling you this has gotten me into a bit of a sticky wicket a time or two, mainly because the owner thinks I’m telling her dog to get down, leading to some spirited discussions in the drive-through and at the local sheriff’s office.
Ah, well, I must admit, just writing about these troubling social issues has made me feel better. Instantly.

Monday, November 8, 2010

RE: (Humor) Who You Calling a Heifer?...catalogs are a perennial source of amusement...

Who You Calling a Heifer?

Heifers for the Holidays. It sounds like a “Jeopardy” category, doesn't it? “Heifers for the Holidays, for five hundred dollars, Alex.”

Until I became familiar with the organization that offers this program and how valuable it is, I was rather bemused to receive a catalog in the mail illustrated by what looks to be a woolly lamb with the words, Heifer International, emblazoned on the cover. I looked around to see if there were any cameras visible, it was such a laughable moment.

Having recently received the special “Holiday Edition” of this fine publication, I'm viewing an entirely different world than I've ever seen before. I have no reason to doubt their claim that this is, “The Most Important Gift Catalog in The World” is true, but what bothers me is WHY me? I do knit quite a bit, so I'm wondering if it's aimed at providing me with a direct supplier for yarn byproduct.

These days I am rather concerned that my mail has sunk to a new low. While I often grouse about junk mail, direct mail, and unsolicited mail, the latest is that I am receiving a plethora of catalogs which I have no recollection of requesting. It's bad enough that Victoria wants to tell me her secret or that Frederick encourages me to see what's up in Hollywood, but I find the latest animal kingdom offering to be just as much out of my league. Or out of my barnyard.

Upon opening the delightfully festooned red catalog I learned there are, indeed, “four easy ways to place my tax-deductible gift order.” Oh, good, because I hate it when I can't claim my livestock credit on my income taxes. Most entities request money for undisclosed reasons, sent to undisclosed people in undisclosed regions. Not so for Heifer International because for over half a century, HI has provided livestock and training to more than four million families around the world and they show you the “who” and “what” of it right there in the photo album that is their catalog. Won't my family be proud to count itself as number four million and one?

The festive campaign, Heifers for the Holidays, offers some fine choices: You can bestow the gift of an entire heifer for a mere five hundred bucks or you can share a heifer at the reduced rate of fifty bucks. (I want the drumstick! Whoops, nope, wrong beast of non-burden).

There are also the following gift options, featuring a veritable animal variety pack: The gift of a goat, which goes on the open market for $120, but you can share it with your friends for a sawbuck or spring for an entire pig which is a squeal of a deal at the same rate as the goat. On the subject of potential bacon and their needs, “pigs need little land and can eat crop and garden scraps.” This is good to know if pig sustenance is an issue for you.

While sheep are “shear joy” as the literature proclaims, $60 gets you a trio of rabbits which is the best bang for your buck, although bucks are not for sale. We all know it only takes two appropriately gendered rabbits to grow this particular investment. The finest deal is a flock of chicks for a twenty spot. By the way, they are a flock and not a gaggle, like geese.

Heifer International will also throw in bees, llamas, or a water buffalo for the hard-to-buy-for-person who has every creature. I just hope these are separate shipments.There's even a testimonial on the back, which is a fine propaganda tool, by a young woman named Beatrice who is seen feeding her seemingly content goat. She proclaims the day she received her goat, “It was the best day in my life.”

Just like the day I received this catalog.

(Please note: No animals were harmed in the writing of this column.)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

RE: Serenity Now! Humor about the elusive creature that is relaxation...

Serenity Now!

In our “hurry up and relax” culture we search for the elusive commodity that is serenity as though it’s our lost keys. The visual I always get is from Seinfeld when George Costanza’s father, played by Jerry Stiller, screams “Serenity Now!” in that classic episode when he is attempting to achieve a nirvanic state.

One of the last bastions of serenity is yoga. Whether it’s Hatha, Vinyasa, Ashtanga, Iyengar or Kundalini, right from the get-go yoga is a real eye-opener, providing plenty of opportunities to execute physical and mental twists, all leading to personal growth. Yep. It’s all about self-reflection, self-empowerment and self-discovery in positive surroundings, making for a peaceful environment. Until new, stressed out people visit, that is.

Our Generation Y-ME guest seems much too young to have accumulated that much stress and unfettered tension in such a short period of time. It took me at least 15 years of motherhood, unsympathetic credit card companies and an even less sympathetic metabolism to amass the boatload of irritation I brought to my first yoga class.

She snaps out her mat as though it has attempted to exact bodily harm upon her, plopping down with an irritated sigh. We grizzled veterans wear Mona Lisa smiles as we continue breathing in with practiced rhythms, breathing out with good intentions. Our peaceful pond is experiencing a few rough ripples, but we’ve been here before.

As we go through our warm-ups we achieve a glow better than even an energy bill credit can provide. Despite our collective feel-good vibe, our visitor provides spirited commentary during the teachings, which is not all that usual in yoga, but then again, it’s not completely unusual either.

As a class we experience increasing centeredness subsequent to our various postures, poses and positioning, working our way toward my hands down favorite pose, Savasana, also known as corpse pose.

This is when we will be guided through our final breathing segment by our instructor, culminating in nearly eight blessed minutes of deep relaxation. I live for this state of mind. I breathe for this state of mind. I yearn for this state of mind.

There we all are in gentle repose, calmly listening to our teacher’s melodic voice intoning gentle instructions. “Lightly tense your hands, relax, go with the breath, let the floor take the rest of your tension,” when suddenly out of nowhere – okay, actually out of the mouth of the newbie – comes the jack-hammered question: “Can you turn the heater up?”

I jump up so far that, for a second, I am convinced I have achieved a spiritual state that has gifted me with levitational abilities. I can feel the whole room simultaneously lose our beloved deep relaxation as we now struggle to achieve any sort of non-agitated state that doesn’t even have to begin with the letter “r.”

Ah, the young of heart and heat. It is a weekday morning, so the group is primarily over the age of thirty, forty, (do I hear fifty?) and female. There is general, unspoken consensus that there is no such thing as a room too cool for exercise, even during the cool down phase of our session.

You can bet when the room temperature finally dips below seventy degrees we’re all feeling relieved that we will not have to strip down to our practical Hanes underwear in order to achieve Celsius comfort.

Nevertheless, our teacher calmly walks over to the central heat and boots it up, as though this was part of the routine.

In the last few minutes of our class we manage to gain back dually acceptable levels of serenity and temperature. Everyone is kind and understanding, refraining from comment and we end as always, feeling better than when we came in.

Placing our hands in prayer position over our hearts, sitting in a comfortable lotus position we silently give thanks for the accumulated yogic wisdom we’ve netted since we first skidded in, our bodies fairly screaming, “Serenity now!”

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

(Humor) Signed, Hermetically Sealed, and Delivered

Signed, Hermetically Sealed, and Delivered

Have you noticed things are getting harder to get into and I’m not talking about colleges? I just bought a new lipstick and, for my protection I’m sure, it had no less than two, plastic-encased side adhesive units, rendering the package safe in case of all-out germ warfare or nuclear attack.

And CD’s? Don’t the record companies get that it’s not itunes, Limewire and file sharing that have practically put them out of business? It’s those frustrating, hermetically sealed CD coverings that have thwarted their sales efforts, forcing those of us who previously thought downloading referred to loading the washing machine while bending over, into procuring our music on-line.

I knew my purchasing habits needed to change the day I was attempting to open a new CD I’d acquired – Joss Stone, just for an interesting side note – while I was attempting to also answer the phone, have a thought, and chew gum. For those of you motivated types out there, you call it multi-tasking, using lots of positive tone. Here’s what I call it to overuse an overused Icarus metaphor: Flying too close to the sun.

Here’s the simple version of what I thought I would do; open the CD. Here’s what actually ended up happening.

As I tore into the vacuum-wrapped celebration of aeronautical engineering with my teeth, having failed in the task when using my hands, I jogged over to the phone, tripped on our three dogs, who were sitting at varying height levels according to breed dominance, managed to pick-up the phone shouting, “Hello!” followed quickly by, “Oh, no!”

I then dropped the receiver where it first hit the sideboard, careened off the mop, then lightly bounced off of the three dogs at varying height levels, according to fleetness of feet and their individual ability to sense impending danger. While no animals were hurt in the eventual opening of the CD, (unless you count the massive plastic cut on my hand webbing), I was sweaty and my indignation flared.

Liberating a CD should not be a death-defying experience and it certainly gives a whole new meaning to the term “CD release.” I figured there must be thousands of forums addressing this packaging issue, accounting for a multitude of reported household injuries. I was more than a little surprised when I launched into an Internet search at which time I typed in, “packaging injuries,” and there was no research on the topic of the danger that lurks when opening one of these hazards. Where’s the outrage? The outcry? The hue and cry? Hugh Grant?

And perhaps I wouldn’t have noticed this trend of overly engineered casings so much if, in a purchasing one-two-three punch, I hadn’t immediately acquired a new curling iron as well.

Once again, for the third time in as many days, I found myself searching for all manner of objects that may be utilized by people with two gashed up, but mostly useable opposable thumbs, in order to gain admission into something I wanted to use, hear, or touch.

Therefore, I have a message to all those retailers out there who seem to perennially scratch their heads over diminished sales statistics because they’re absolutely sure they’re providing the type of products we want and they just cannot figure out why we’re not buying what they’re selling.

I don’t need freshness. I don’t need more plastic than the average Hollywood actress possesses. What I need is access, so why not make the products as easy to open as, say, a pop-tart? Now, that’s a solution I can sink my teeth into.

Friday, October 1, 2010

RE: Number 8 is Number 1...A Tribute to My Daughter's Friend, Justin

October 1, 2010

Today is Justin Butler's Memorial which will be a celebration of his life
Friday, October 1, 2010, 5:30 p.m., the Bear River High School football field; Grass Valley, CA

My Daughter’s Friend, Justin

My daughter told me that he was the first one to reach out and connect with her in their English class last year. Anybody who has ever changed schools at any time in any year, let alone the middle of the sophomore year, knows how much that meant to her.

But that was the essence of who Justin was and you can see it in frame after frame of pictures that are posted to his Facebook account which now serves as a memorial to him. Grieving friends have added to a growing list of emotional posts, each more poignant than the one that preceded it.

Whether it’s his beloved football action shots, his sweet prom portrait, or the photos of his devoted family, he radiates liveliness, joy, and friendliness. In fact, if you met Justin you were his friend instantly, so not only is his entire junior class of peers hurting, but everyone who had the pleasure of making his acquaintance is as well. His fans are not confined to any certain age or type.

You see, he represented what youth is really like and, specifically, he represented what the beautiful students at Bear River High School are really like, who are a community like no other. They take care of each other, love each other, connect to each other and at no time will they need those admirable traits more than right now.

It’s a fact that us Mama Bears love everyone who is good to our kids. I would have liked to have the opportunity to chaperone next year’s senior all-night party, cross Justin’s path and create one of those awkward moments us parents are famous for. I would have thanked him for reaching out to my daughter, for helping her with math and for being such a true friend.

There will be memorials, there will be dedications, but there will be no all-night graduation party for Justin. Though our kids are going forward admirably, showing strength and determination to live a life of purpose as a tribute to Justin, nothing will ever be the same.

I watch my daughter walk determinedly out the door this morning, on her way to school, wearing a headband with Justin’s #8 emblazoned boldly on the front, in remembrance of her friend. Hot tears press on my eyelids as I log onto Facebook and find Justin’s page. I look at his beautiful family and silently thank them for Justin and I thank him for being the most excellent friend a mom’s kid could have.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Yes, Please AND Thank You...humor about the lost art of being polite

Yes, Please AND Thank You!

Thank You. Two simple, meaningful words delivered in a tonally correct way. Culturally, we know we’re appreciated if we’re provided with those tandem words of gratitude. It’s our “Atta boy!” for a job well done, or something along those lines.

When I was a kid my brother and I were rigorously schooled by our parents to say, “Please” AND “Thank You.” Foretelling his future success as a high-powered business owner, he was quick to adopt this phrase as the most efficient path to getting what he wanted, particularly on Halloween. In an admirable economy of effort he would verbally barf out, “Trick or Treat! Please and thank you!” as he simultaneously proffered his ghoulishly large bag, at the ready for the requisite candy deposit.

Five years his junior, I can still see in my 6-year-old mind’s eye my brother, an early pioneer in the adventures of time management, and me, his hero worshipping sidekick, flying through the neighborhood. We were each in our own makeshift cartoon costumes, pillowcases clutched in our hands, yodeling out, “Trick or Treat! Please and Thank You!” as we scooped massive quantities of enamel-decaying treats into our multi-use percale sacks.

These days I rather feel that the two seemingly common, very meaningful words, “Thank You,” have been dropped altogether. Perhaps they will be discovered some day by future races as a hieroglyph on a cliff, right next to, “Kilroy Was Here.”

I mourn the missing in action, “Thank you” most keenly when I’m out and about shopping for wares. Now, I wouldn’t say I shop a lot – oh, okay, really? Who am I kidding? It’s not as if my husband is going to read this column. Let’s be real. If there were the equivalent of frequent flyer miles for shopping I’d be wintering in Monaco every year and summering in Cannes. It’s because I’m a giver and I like to do my part by contributing to the Gross National Product.

I tra-la-la amongst the purveyors of purchase-worthy goods, flinging cash hither and thither, like some sort of middle-aged flower girl, lobbing coinage instead of petals. I often find myself in awkward situations, waiting for that non-gratuitous, “Thank You,” believing that it will happen, much as Charlie Brown always believes Lucy will hold that football and not pull it away at the last second.

CLERK: “So, here’s your rust-resistant phalanges extenuator,” she chirps, handing me the bag with the aforementioned nestled safely inside.

ME: “Oh, good, I can finally get a grip now that I’ve got these puppies,” I crack as I raise the bag, lest we forget what item we’re talking about.


CLERK: “Okay, so see you later,” she says as she restocks the bags, lest I not take the hint that we’re done here.

ME: Relentlessly determined to provide a fertile ground which will bear fruit in the form of my two-word reward; phalanges extenuator gripped firmly in my phalanges, I confirm. “Yes, so see you later.”


CLERK: “Yeah, so you’ve got your purchase,” she barks in a rapid-fire cadence.

ME: “I sure do,” I agree, matching her verbally agile delivery.


Clerk: “Well, then…” she trails off, genuinely baffled as to my continued presence. She turns away in the proven, “we’re through here” method of ending an interaction.

ME: “Exactly,” I mutter, exiting with my head down, foiled again and hoisted on my own petard. Once more, I’ve lost the battle in what is the retail equivalent of a staring contest.

To borrow from the poet, Alexander Pope, “hope springs eternal” and I believe that all of us, including Mr. Pope, Charlie Brown and me are looking for the same thing; a kind word, a welcoming gesture, an appreciative attitude. As long as there is a pen with which to write, a football at which to kick and a kind word from which to espouse, the quest will go forward.

Luckily I can do something about this trend, implementing my own, perhaps grant-meriting, “Please and Thank You” program right here and now.

THANK YOU for reading this column and PLEASE do read all of my future columns.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

RE: Humor Column...How I Spent My Summer Vacation...

How I Spent My Summer Vacation
[Please note this picture does not depict how my yard looks, nor how it will ever look. In fact, I don't think I can even look at this picture.]

Do you remember spending those first few days of the new school year, sweating in scratchy school clothes, utilizing a brand, spanking new Ticonderoga No. 2 pencil, making an anxious effort at writing an essay to the tired prompt, “How I Spent My Summer Vacation?”
In celebration of the many happy hours we spent attempting to make three months of our lives seem much more interesting than the nine that preceded them, I’d like to offer up my rendition of the very same.

I began the summer’s festivities with a celebratory outdoor beautification project that was guaranteed to enhance our lives. The first order of business was buying a fine lawn fertilizing and seeding product. I wasn’t going to cut corners here, buying that tired, already sprouted lawn seed that I normally purchased at the discount store. Nope, this year I shopped at a nursery where I acquired the recognizably-logoed good stuff.

The first week of June found me positively humming with excitement as I poured beautiful blue granules of fertile hope over my sparse, though recently seeded, front lawn. Come to think of it those granules did look a lot like Clorox II bleach and my lawn now has more brown spots than an overripe banana. In fact, the only areas that DO look nice on my grassy knoll are the areas that did not receive my loving attention or, dare I say, the loving attention of the neighborhood dogs. Next stop: Flowers.

In the past, I’ve at least been marginally successful with posies because there are so many kinds from which to choose, requiring varying levels of care. If I just take a sec to peek ever so briefly at those picket-fence-shaped markers that come with the flowers I have a prayer of not killing them. Well, they’ll survive through the summer, at which time they generally commit hari-kari, anyway, due to lack of attention.

I earnestly began my task, paying attention to tags telling me to plant in “partial sun or impartial shade,” to make sure and “water on the Tuesday following the first spring equinox.” I respected boundary issues, spacing the flowers evenly in order that they be afforded an opportunity to reach their maximum growth potential.

As it turns out my petunias, impatiens, marigolds and plumerias were breathtaking. And apparently the deer agreed because they had breakfast, lunch, dinner and multiple snacks in amongst this colorful array, after which they slaked their thirst in my cute little stone birdbath with a good-for-nothing cement squirrel sitting right there.

In fact, one day when I caught a member of the Cervidae family drinking thirstily from the birdbath, I’m not sure who was more frightened, me or Mrs. Deer who, I kid you not, was so startled by the sight of me that she began coughing, forgetting entirely to finish off the last few impatiens that were located underneath the Benedict squirrel’s hardened little nose. So, flowers may be considered successful in a limited run sort of way.

It wasn’t long after this that my husband whisked me away for a family-bonding vacation at the beach where we spent many happy hours watching our children texting, getting sunburned and asking when we were going to return home because they missed their friends.
However, the time away had given me time to think, so I was returning with a new plan of action. I decided I would move on to the interior of the house, feeling that those eggshell-white interior walls were begging for attention.

During our holiday, in an emotionally weak, semi-conscious, relaxed state of being my husband had offered to paint the entry way any color I wanted. I like the sun and I find it invigorating, so how about something in a golden hue? Unfortunately, the wonderful marigold color we had envisioned turned out a shade somewhere between mustard yellow and poo-poo Poupon brown.

You know you’re in trouble when you keep saying to each other, “This isn’t so bad. I think we can get used to this,” as you skulk away quickly with a Shar Pei-wrinkled brow and deflated demeanor.

Speaking of dogs, she used to flop in the entryway spending many happy hours snoring and blowing like a contented porpoise, but she’s even taken to resting her furry head elsewhere. It’s a rather disheartening color the tint that is wanna-be-sunshine, though it certainly possesses possibilities as a conversation piece when folks enter the home.
“Oh! You chose this color? Voluntarily? Without the presence of a commission-only paint salesperson brandishing a fully-loaded firearm?”

You know how you drive by those houses with ghastly Easter egg-colored exteriors and you wonder what they were thinking? I’ll tell you what they were thinking. “Wouldn’t it be stunning if the lawn matched the house?” It always looks better in the can.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Re: Humor Column About Facebook...Tag! You're It!

September 5, 2010

Tag! You’re It!
So, I’ve stepped in it again and this time what I mean by “it” is the ubiquitous package we call technology. Namely, the “technology” of which I speak – and I have spoken on this topic once before – is Facebook.

I possess just enough knowledge to be dangerous about a variety of things, social networking being one of these. While I’m not particularly knowledgeable about Facebook, generally, I am even less knowledgeable, specifically, about the related etiquette. Evidently.

Having said that, Facebook does make some things easier; like uploading photographs. You can upload pictures and tag them over to your friends in less time than it takes to mop the kitchen floor. While I do understand the concept that is the photographic equivalent of yelling, “You’re It!” when tagging pictures of people who are IN the images, I figured why couldn’t you expand upon that feature and transfer snapshots to interested third parties? (Don’t get ahead of me now.)

For instance, if I took a particularly stunning picture of a gal pal of mine, why wouldn’t her significant other not enjoy seeing that picture, let alone own this treasure by virtue of his Facebook account? Well, let me tell you why.

I’m sitting at my computer one morning, creating a new album and tagging away, as I slurp down my French blend cup of joe. Suddenly, my daughter materializes in my office demanding, “Did you post a picture of me on Facebook?” to which I replied, “I just did it. How in the world did you know?” as I simultaneously notice she has her cell phone in her hand.

(As an aside, another thing I learned is that you can set-up your Facebook account, so that when anyone does tag you, you will receive an immediate cell phone notification. That is some handy information to have.)

I did not sense danger and, in fact, proudly proclaimed my actions by burbling, “I did! I took these great pictures of your dad and I thought you’d get a kick out of them.” Her horrified look told the story, but it’s really only the beginning of the story because what I had entitled the album was, “Photos of My Hot Male Model.”

My daughter ran to her computer, in full damage control mode, as I struggled to keep the bile from rising as a result of what I now realized may not have been one of my swiftest moves. My offspring’s rhetorical scream of, “How could you do this to me?!” showed me the folly of my ways.

There, in glaring font, illustrated with posed pictures of her father, but appearing on her home page – and later the public newsfeed – was the album entitled, “Photos of My Hot Male Model.” Oh, no! Even I got the awkward factor on that one.

In case you don’t know this, when someone has tagged you in this way, there’s not much you can really do about it because goodness knows we tried. It’s worse than a typo in some obscure Internet posting that keeps popping up like an embarrassingly persistent former boyfriend. She posted a note of clarification on her wall, along with a public comment to me saying, “Really Mom?!” and I shamefacedly posted back that I would put myself in a corner.

The lesson on tagging someone who isn’t in the picture also applies to pointing and staring. Don’t do it, not only because it’s impolite, but these types of pursuits tend to invite the kind of attention you just can’t Face(book).

Monday, August 16, 2010

RE: (NPR) This I Believe, Love Oasis...

Love Oasis
Diane - Grass Valley, California
Entered on January 29, 2010

She looks at me shyly, from under her arm, making long swipes with the squeegee as she cleans the windshield. The middle-aged man wearing a white chef uniform is intent upon his mission of getting gas and so he doesn’t notice what she is doing. Sitting in the car, one gas pump behind them, I notice.

After a minute or two he seems to snap into the moment, taking in her and his surroundings simultaneously, registering a brief moment of surprise. As he goes in to pay she makes one last, clean swipe with a flourish and I spot the “76” station logo on her shirt, bringing to mind that welcoming, whirling orange ball in the sky, beckoning to travelers driving thirsty cars fueled by the American dream and an endless supply of fossil fuel.

Frequently traversing a variety-pack of states on summer vacations I viewed fueling stations as touchstones of humanity in isolated places. I’ve always been fond of that “76” logo, though my favorite, hands down, is still Mobil’s Pegasus, the winged horse. What’s not to love about a horse that can fly?

Me, who hasn’t been able to cry since my father died, this deed makes me cry. The simple gift of cleaning windshields, something everyone used to take for granted, represents an unparalleled rite of giving.

She makes her way over to our car and I’m grinning and crying at the same time, for all the world to see and, of course, she sees. I hear my husband’s melodic voice kiddingly say she can clean our window if she has nothing better to do. She laughs, coughs, and looks through the windshield at me. Now we are both at closer range. My tears pick up speed, coursing down my cheeks as the water does the same, running down the glass.

My husband gets in, turns to me and notices I’m crying, but he isn’t surprised. He says he thinks she wants money and I shake my head vehemently, no, pointing to her logoed shirt as an employee of the gas station.

As I watch her finish up our car ministrations I am suffused with feelings that I can’t quite fathom, but they run along the lines of humbling gratitude. I hop out of the car and we share a moment of silence before she wishes me a Happy New Year and says, “I think this is going to be a good year.”

“Me too,” I reply. Before I tell myself all the reasons why it’s foolish, I throw my arms around her, hugging her as though we’ll never see each other again and, of course, we won’t.

As we drive away, we leave her standing in the middle of the cement gas station island, waving at us as though we’ve just spent the holidays with her and I guess we have because it’s a New Year of hopeful promise. I believe in the power of these seemingly inconsequential encounters and their ability to connect us.


Thursday, August 12, 2010

RE: A Six-Word Memoir Celebrating Life...

August 12, 2010

I submitted a six-word memoir to the on-line version of Smith magazine and I highly recommend it! It's fun, immediate and affirming. Mine from today is:


Sunday, August 8, 2010

Strapped...Purse Comedy...


I’m a bit addicted to purses. Not to just any kind of purses, mind you. Showy and flashy ones. Plus, they have to be able to transport necessities and me to a happier place.

I especially love the purses with all of the scenes, cities and thematic extravaganzas on the front of them. I call these collectibles, “art on a strap,” perhaps coming soon to an art gallery near you.

I once overheard my eldest daughter telling her father, “It’s medicinal,” in response to his grousing query, “Why in the world did your mother buy a purse with a poodle on it?” I thought that was an apt and timely assessment of my purse attainment since I had just gotten done telling my husband to consider the purchase cheap therapy. Now we were on the same page, or is it purse? You get what I mean.

And my daughter’s right. I have only to gaze at one of my purses and I am no longer susceptible to any negativity. Even if I’m already in a positive frame of mind, then the concept works because each purse is an artistic extension and celebration of that “high on life,” thing. The only problem seems to be that my desire for these wondrous works of handbag ingeniousness is insatiable. Well, not the only problem.

On occasion, as I enter stores selling pocketbooks, I have had to hold my hands up as blinders in order to traverse the aisles upon aisles of exquisite specimens. Every so often, in a weak moment, I add to my collection.

One such acquisition being a 2004, auction-acquired, tan canvas number with cowgirls and horses all over it, festooned with tasteful sequins, beads and curlicued words that say, “Cowgirls have more fun.”

All right, actually, my mom bought this piece for me, so this didn’t represent a monetary challenge, but rather a social one. These purses get me into all kinds of trouble due to the conversational gambits that ensue.

I excitedly chose to drag this particular reticule with me to an awards ceremony during which time my daughter would be receiving an award.

I was at this event grappling with my high tech, nineteen-nineties, vintage video camera as I teetered on high heels and attempted to focus in on a child that at least had the same hair color as my daughter.

It was at this point that a gentleman near me decided to strike up a conversation. What he said was, “Are you a rider?” What I heard was, “Are you a writer?” To which I replied, “How did you know?” as though he was the “Amazing Kreskin,” so astounding was his ability to divine my career path.

As I took in his puzzled look, downward glance, and wife’s clasping of his arm to prevent him from speaking with me further, I figured out that he had been looking at my cowgirl clutch.
“Oh, rider,” I repeated, bobbing my head up and down in vigorous understanding. “As in riding horses,” I said, accentuating the alternate auditory meaning by pantomiming the riding of a horse. No mean feat with a video camera in one hand and a tissue in the other. He just nodded his head and succumbed to his wife’s grasping redirection.

Much more racy and less innocuous are the conversations that ensue when I carry my bag that features Las Vegas. We’ll go with a clean, though tired example of one of these interchanges which is usually delivered with a leer, “So what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas, right? Am I right? Am I right? Anything that’s there?”

To which I respond, “Oh, yes, you are absolutely right. Are you planning on visiting Vegas in the very near future?
Link to THE UNION:

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Do You Speak Map?...humor with a direction...or lack thereof

Do You Speak Map?

The lost art of cartography may be responsible for the fact that an entire quadrant of the population seems to be literally lost. I’m convinced that there must be a whole fleet of pilots flying for ‘Anytime Airlines’ relying upon the minimal skills provided in their babyboomer-era education which turns them into Christopher Columbus in the air as they discover new worlds. “What do you mean I’m in Israel instead of Japan? Hang on. Where‘s that thing? Yeah. You know. That…map. Nope. This doesn’t look like any country I’ve ever seen.”

And now I have a confession to make. I am one of the map illiterates. We are the kids who were schooled some time in the 1960’s, 1970’s, late-1400’s who did not have to painstakingly label and memorize a map for every blessed province, country and area code in the world. At the time we thought it was a good thing that geography was all but abolished due to the ever-changing philosophies of public school system powers-that-be, but then that whole “world market, global citizen” thing stuck and, lo and behold, the powers that be were powers that be wrong. As it turns out, we use map skills as frequently as math.

My status of being geographically-challenged became glaringly clear to me when I had a recent discussion with one of my family members living in a different state. We have quite an age difference between one another, so his education had something that mine didn’t – map skills. He’s a brave man, so one day he took it upon himself to explain to me where the state of Alaska is located (his locale) in relation to California (my hood). This achievement would require over-the-counter medication, a colorful globe and an unlimited long distance calling plan.

We began the impromptu lesson when he mentioned the city of Fairbanks and I said something clever like, “Oh, well that’s to the right of the state, isn’t it?” After he quit laughing he told me to go fetch that beautiful, lighted globe that was currently adding ambiance and direction to my living room, so he could explain to me just exactly how this whole map thing works.

As we began the tutorial I noticed that Alaska is “down under,” if you will, and that, of course, led to a lesson on exactly what “down under” means geographically and, as you might expect, the country of Australia came up – or was it down? Well, at any rate, we talked about it.

Quite frankly, until Nicole Kidman came on the scene that country hadn’t even appeared on my radar. No small wonder. If you don’t have map skills, you’re probably not dealing in radar either. I volunteered this aside to my relative who patiently guided me back to the task at hand; using a map.

After that little segue took place I got all animated about how colorful the globe was and then I built myself into an excited frenzy as I began to understand geography and where Alaska is located, in particular.

“So Alaska is the pink state?!” I screamed excitedly, summing up my dawning understanding as I looked at multi-colored states, colorfully shaded bodies of water, all decorated by boldly outlined meridians. I heard a sigh from my military-trained, cartography-minded, solidly left-brained relative and I couldn’t help but torment him with a final question to ponder: “Do you suppose Alaska is the pink state on every globe?”

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Beauty on the Cheap...How to be a Beauty on a Non-Beastly Budget

Beauty on the Cheap

Women’s magazines offer up plenty of advice about how to retain your youth and I’ve noticed that, recently, there has been a new spin on this one, incorporating the endless media mantra of, “challenging economic times.” As I was perusing one such periodical I noticed an article called, “Look Younger on a Budget” that intrigued me.

As I read about items you find in your fridge and cupboard that will enhance your looks; for instance, milk, to reduce facial redness and double dipping your teabags into your cup and then onto your eyes for puffiness, I thought up a few tips of my own. I thought I’d share them with you.

Diane’s 10 Ways to Achieve Beauty on a Non-Beastly Budget and/or Look Younger
(I’m still working on the title.)

1. Lighting, lighting, lighting.
Make sure there is little to none and you will find you are able to subtract a good decade or two just by virtue of lack of wattage.

2. Hang out with people who are much older than you and not so well-preserved.
This serves as a nice comparison tool that can offer the added bonus of casting you in the role of “spring chicken.”

3. Borrow a friend’s toddler and run errands.
I find that when we are keeping company with the “wee ones” (and, no, I’m not talking about leprechauns) people might figure we must be younger than we are because we are still able to procreate. I will caution you that this can really backfire as people may say, “Oh, how cute, you’re spending time with your GRANDbaby, but, again, go to number one, and for god’s sake, stay out of the sunlight. Hang out in low-lit stores.

4. While you’re cooking and utilizing the olive oil that’s supposed to be so great
for your health, literally spread the wealth.
Why not use that extra dab on your face, killing the proverbial two birds with one stone? Now, granted, you may look as though your kitchen ministrations are making you sweat excessively, but we’re talking budgetary constraints here.

5. Throw away your magnifying mirror.
Let’s be honest. Who needs that kind of perfection? You’ll add valuable time to your morning schedule, just by virtue of subtracting out the close “plucking” work that comes with owning one of these instruments of the devil and you’ll feel younger because our self-image memories are stuck somewhere around the time that “Mork and Mindy” was in its sitcom heyday.

6. Have a blender day where you throw in everything organic you can think of in order to come up with concoctions for your hair, eyes and face.
The standard fare would, of course, be cucumbers, avocadoes and strawberries, but those fruit acids are great at burning off what ails you, so be creative! A word of caution though. Be careful that you don’t grab the fish bowl. Move it out of the proximity…just in case. Frenzied blending leads to more kitchen accidents than are reported.

7. DON’T cut your hair, even though the nagging hairdresser keeps saying you should because you’re “older.”
Grow it long, baby, and shout out the lyrics to that fine, au naturel musical “Hair,” while you’re at it. “Gimme a head with hair. Long beautiful hair. Shining, gleaming. Streaming, flaxen, waxen.”

8. Use ice for your cocktails and your face.
Begin by pouring yourself a medicinal spirit. Then, press an ice cube onto your face for as long as you can stand it because it provides a temporary Botox affect, in addition to affording you with a gateway experience into your afterlife cryogenic program.

9. Eat less.
There’s nothing like a lean, mean and crabby person to create the illusion of a youthful edge like we possessed back when we were raging the machine and feeling as though we couldn’t trust anyone YOUNGER than thirty.

10. Brush your teeth with baking soda for its natural whitening abilities.
Why not also mix some up in a glass and suck it down in order to take care of the indigestion that comes with thinking about ageing while you’re at it?

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Re: Humor Column -- The Not So Okay Corral...hazards of the wild...

The Not So Okay Corral

Even if I don’t go looking for excitement it comes a lookin’ for me. Case in point is my recent, “When Skunks Go Wild(ly Rabid)” experience.

It seemed like a normal enough day, what with me spending the budget of a small underdeveloped country on groceries, chasing the dogs around shouting, “Go outside when you have to go to the bathroom!” and trying to schedule some spontaneity with my husband…until the phone call…duhn, duhn, duhn.

I was in the back of my mansion taking care of some business (translation: I was folding clothes in the back bedroom of my modest home) when I thought I heard the phone ring and the word, “skunk” being spoken by my neighbor during the course of her message. Now we have a great relationship, so I was pretty sure this wasn’t some sort of namecalling opening salvo, so I ran to hear the end of the message. (Okay, you got me on that one. I walked briskly.)

Evidently, there was a sick skunk wandering around my property with its tail up and at the ready, as well as its jaws, and our neighbor wanted to let me know that she was trying to find the appropriate county, state, INTERPOL agency that takes care of this sort of thing. We met out in front of my estate (translation: we chatted in front of my deck that is the size of a roomy gang plank) to talk about the grievously ill animal she was now viewing through her binoculars. The skunk’s future didn’t look so bright, seemingly destined for Skunk Heaven and the appropriate agency was on their way.

When the agent showed up to take a look at the animal she determined that a) the animal was suffering b) the animal was rabid and c) I should go inside the house. I determined that a) she seemed to have the situation under control b) the animal was beyond help; and c) I should go inside the house.

Meanwhile, some sort of Wildlife Refuge entity had been contacted as well which, unbeknownst to us, had a polar opposite sort of differing viewpoint about the handling of diseased wildlife than our at-the-ready agency. My neighbor noted this when she was on the phone with the former and the shots heard around the block rang out as the aghast animal rescuer shouted, “What was that? Was that a gun? We could have saved that animal!” The succession of four blasts that followed didn’t enhance their communication and I guess the call didn’t end in the most positive of ways.It took five shots to transition that poor, sick animal into the skunk hereafter, after which the area looked as though we’d had a shoot-out at the Okay Corral.

The cordite and animal stench wafted through the air, vying for pungent equality. “What must the neighbors think?” crossed my mind, but we live in amongst wildlife, so it’s not all that unusual to hear gunshots. No one came to inquire about what time the “Neighborhood Watch Target Practice” meeting had started.

The agent bagged and tagged the skunk, advising me that she wouldn’t be taking our mammal lawn ornament with her, as our homeowner’s association would take care of picking up the animal free of charge. The problem was – and isn’t it interesting that I only see a problem at this juncture – that when I called my association I found out they only pick-up deer and it’s not free. “Even if I strapped on a pair of antlers to the skunk’s head?” I joked. It seemed as though this was a health hazard that someone with more credentials than myself should be dealing with. Wasn’t there an entity like the “Wildlife Safety and Attention to the Details of the Passing on of Animals Association?” I asked, which became a rhetorical question at that juncture.

Where before my neighbor had been taking care of everything I assured her it really was my responsibility, particularly now that the animal was secured and sedentary in my bargain garbage bag. But then I began to get nervous. What if that other agency in my life, the Sanitation Department, reported me for having a bullet-riddled skunk?

This thought spurred me on to call the original agency, asking them if they would pretty-please-with-sugar-on-top retrieve this creature as I was now feeling like the witness to an unreported crime. The events were all catching up to me and I like skunks, so I rather emotionally said I just wanted it all to be over, over, over to which they replied they would be right over. And they were. Thank you.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Pearly Wisdom...the wisdom remains as does the longing for the past...

Pearly Wisdom

As a kid, before I knew better, I tried to converse with my father about a variety of topics important to me: school, friends, bad test scores, bony knees, kid stuff – the kind of things that really need to be talked out in order to make sense of them. I remember the first time I tried to establish verbal contact with my dad.

He was reading a book at the dinner table. Unfortunately, I hadn't noticed my mother's waving arms, signaling that what I was going to attempt to do – communicate with my father – was not advisable and, in fact, had never before been attempted at the dinner hour by any living family member.

I recall thinking that my mother resembled Martha Graham in her fluidity of movement, obviously missing the point of her well-choreographed warning.I pulled up a chair, briefly gave my mother one last puzzled glance and cleared my throat to get the patriarch's attention.

Slowly he looked up at me, and I was met with the intense look that felons have often encountered as my lawyer father prosecuted them for the crimes they had committed but never admitted. For moments on end I held on to the belief that I had this hero's undivided attention and that we would soon engage in meaningful dialogue. Our eyes locked. I held my breath, waiting for the cue to share my life. I was willing to take whatever sage advice he was ready to dispense. He seemed to know my every thought, my every feeling. We were bonded through our shared heritage. This was a memorable moment, and his words would be formed in the Etch-A-Sketch that was my mind. I'll never forget what my dear papa said to me: “Have you brushed your teeth today?”

Now I know that fathers and daughters have a tough time conversing, and I suppose my father wasn't usually in close enough physical proximity to get a dental report from me. But, be that as it may, he seemed to be avoiding the issue, as they say in psychology classes. I wanted communication, for Pete's sake, not an Ultra Brite commercial!

Now, speaking of logic, or not having any, I continued to approach my father with a variety of concerns throughout my youth, and I got the same response time after time. Pretty soon when I wanted to talk to my father, I just went ahead and cut out the middleman, as it were, and brushed my teeth instead. Meditating in the foamy oblivion that is the tooth-cleaning process can actually provide one with an ample amount of time for mulling over problems and concerns, as well as making substantial headway in the never-ending fight against demon dental decay.

By the time I had rinsed, spit and tapped my toothbrush on the sink twice, I generally had come up with some sort of conclusion – usually that I was almost out of toothpaste and that I really needed to get a hobby. I never told my father that he is wholly responsible for my tantalizing smile and that it is the first thing that folks notice about me when we meet.

When I was a kid, I just wanted my dad to allow my teeth their fuzziness so my mind could be a little less so. I know that four out of five dentists probably recommend the “Did you brush your teeth?” approach to parenting and therapy and that their kids more than likely never get a straight answer either, but the approach defies logic.

My dad has been gone for almost four years now, having died on my mom's birthday after the family had been together for one last, poignantly memorable celebration with him.I no longer have him around to remind me to brush my teeth or, for that matter, to remind me that I'm someone's little girl. I miss those things.

He may not have dispensed the sage advice that I sought, but to this day, when I miss my father, I can almost taste the fluoride.

Diane Dean-Epps is a comedienne and writer. Contact her at www.dianedean

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Fatherhood Lens...the consistent father you rarely hear about...

June 20, 2010

He didn't tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it.
-- Clarence Budington Kelland

The Fatherhood Lens

The first thing you notice is that he’s pointing a camera at you, but you don’t feel the least bit uncomfortable. As a 15-year news photographer veteran working at KCRA-TV, Channel 3, it’s no surprise that viewing the world through a telephoto lens is second nature to him, the fatherhood lens being no exception.

Jorge Velasquez is all about family and his 3:00 a.m. start time for work provides testimony to that fact. (Yes, you absolutely read that one right. Three o’ clock in the morning.) He voluntarily works the 3:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. early morning news shift at the Sacramento NBC affiliate television station, so that he can spend time with his offspring in the afternoons. Whether he’s coaching them, helping them with their homework or just being home every night for dinner, he wants to be around and not just a little bit.

Jorge’s paternal devotion was made possible by what he deems the “best decision I ever made,” marrying his beautiful wife of 25 years, Rose Capaccioli, who he met at the College of San Mateo. (It would take a few more schools, years and meetings before he actually got to seal the deal.)

They settled in Nevada County, moving away briefly when a San Luis Obispo television job beckoned, but they returned to the place they love to start their family. It wouldn’t be long before the dining room table sat four kids; Elle, Clare, Abbey and Chris, bringing the Velasquez clan to a bounty of six. In fact, Jorge considers his kids “dessert” in the full-flavored meal that is his life.

As you would imagine, Jorge doesn’t have a whole lot of time for hobbies, but you might say his family is his hobby. He spends his treasured time with them, offering useful advice like, “everything in moderation,” served up in a meaningful way. Daughter, Abbey, said her priceless memories include, “waking up the first day of school, everyday since kindergarten, with a note written from my dad about how proud he is of me and something about growing into a beautiful young woman.”

He is a visual kind of guy who makes everyone else look good, effortlessly providing the backdrop they need to shine. Being a dedicated father, he chronicles his personal life as scrupulously as he does the subjects in his professional life, generating mountains of joyous, celebratory family pictures.

Jorge’s favorite thing about being a father is how much his brood has enriched his life. He said, “I’m an observer by nature and I’ve been observing what my kids have become. You get to experience all this different side of your life; different emotions and decisions. You get to see it in a light right in front of you, from the beginning.”

True to form, Jorge feels “every day is Father’s Day” and that his greatest achievement is the composition represented by his kids captured in a close-up shot, the focal point in their parents’ lives. They know that he leads by example, giving back to the community as he has done over the years, by donating countless hours to youth, both in teaching them about television and sports. His children also know that his unconditional love will guide them, through the school years and beyond, during the journey that is their lives.

Jorge agrees with the well-known quote, “The first man a little girl falls in love with is her Dad,” saying, “The most magical thing about being a dad to three girls is I’m their first male love.” This is not to say that raising his son, Chris, is any less magical and, in fact, it is Chris who stepped into the frame last, completing the family picture they had always wanted.

This is a father for whom patience is elevated to an art form. Clare’s favorite recent memory details one of the many moves her father has assisted her with. “I had to move quickly to be back in time for my sister's senior ball. He told me to be ready to load the car at 11 a.m., and when he arrived at 11 a.m. to help me pack up and move out I had neglected to pack any boxes or any of my stuff at all. (I slept through my alarm.) Without complaining at all, he climbed up and down the three flights of stairs to my apartment over 30 times, bringing all my stuff to the car, while I frantically tried to grab my things and pack and afterwards he took me out to chipotle for lunch.”

If Jorge represents an ordinary father, we would all benefit from a little more ordinary in our lives. Like all great fathers he doesn’t define being a father, being a father defines him.

Clare expressed this succinctly when she said, “My dad makes our family strong because he is able to be calm, consistent and grounded while encouraging us all to try new things and be better people. I try every day to be more like him.”

Link to the article in THE UNION:

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Home on the Range...appliance humor...becoming a Range Rover

Home On the Range

There’s so much to know in life. Sometimes this knowing extends into the ordinary, as in the ordinary, albeit quite handy, stove-oven combo we all enjoy known as the “range,” where we turn home cooked, frozen meals into fork-worthy taste treats. Recently I decided I would replace our ailing stove-top with a new one, thinking it would be easy. (See what happens when you grow up with Easy-Bake Ovens?) So I embarked upon a Range Rover mission, if you will.

Upon arrival at the first store and my inquiry into all things “range,” a salesman walked me over to the most expensive oven in the showroom. He proceeded to give me a quick “top 10” list as to why this range, within the entire price range was the best bargain he could uh-range, which seemed strange given the sheer range bounty the establishment offered.

He carried on, rhapsodizing about the wonderment I’d been missing that is the convection oven and I realized, belatedly, that I had misunderstood when I told him I’m not a candymaker, whereupon he guffawed. Convection, not confection. Oh. He looked at me as though I didn’t have the slightest clue as to what I was doing. I smiled as though I did have a clue. We both knew who was bluffing in this game of retail poker.

Hope springs eternal and even moderate commissions buy nice things, so he was still sniffing the scent of sale on me while I calmly steered him over to what I eagerly referred to as the “low end” ranges. He sighed once, twice, and then a final propulsive time, as though I was personally disappointing him because I could afford the range, but I was insisting on not affording the range. On to store number two.

This guy seemed open to suggestions, but it rapidly became apparent that quick stepping the customer over to the most expensive appliance on display is listed in the appliance selling training handbook somewhere. Whether it’s because the consumer will buy the priciest item after immediately falling in love with it or, by comparison, all other appliances will look cheaper, which will also lead to a purchase, I’ll never know. The nuances don’t matter, so much as the nickels it would take to buy any of these models. How many nickels are there in sixteen-hundred-dollars anyway?

The next store found me looking at ranges with grills, my personal favorite. Who knew that I didn’t possess a fraction of the budget needed to healthfully grill my family’s food? I advised the salesperson that this had devolved into merely a fact-finding mission at which point he jammed the requisite business card into my hand after launching into a detailed – and I do mean detailed – procedural account of how to install a drop-in stove. I confirmed that humor doesn’t garner a deal when I suggested perhaps he could “drop-in” a discount which is when he ran to answer a call on his non-ringing cell phone. This was rapidly turning into Goldilocks and the Three Bears with a twist.

Next, I went to a more moderately priced appliance shop, offering access to the masses, where the clerk immediately thought I was in the market for an industrial oven. This is when I realized I should never dress in all white when shopping for kitchen appliances, lest I be mistaken for a chef or butcher, neither of which landed me a cut rate.

When I said I just wanted a “regular” oven for the common people his sales commission expectations and flair for the dramatic became simultaneously apparent because he was literally floored, plunking down on the floor right after my notification. Once again, a business card was thrust into my hands. This time I was told that I wouldn’t find a better deal on a new range anywhere in town. And you know what? He was right.

The Easy-Fix-It appliance repairman will be here today at 4:00 o’ clock.

Link to The Union:

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Not My Stories...poetry of remembrance...words of hope

June 5, 2010
Not My Stories

In honor of "Memorial Day," the magazine, Eye on Life, published one of my poems entitled, "Not My Stories." While I often write in a somewhat humorous (at least that's the intent) vein, the yin to that yang is my dark, always emotion-filled poetry.

Just such a poem was born as I walked the rather torturous path that was my journey to understanding my father who was a World War II veteran and former prisoner of war. He’s been gone for almost 4 years, but it was always Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day that meant more to him than any other holiday or his own birthday.
He never wanted us to forget him and we haven't. I miss him now. I will miss him always. I see him in every family success, in books filled with knowledge, in my kids' strong Dean chins, in my small, feminized version of his hands, in my need to know everything -- now!

May 18, 2010

Not My Stories

The stories of the grandfather are not the father’s
For the generations have been kinder as memories falter.
The stories of the father are not the daughter’s
For the generations have been not in kind and memories soften
The stories of the daughter are not the granddaughter’s
For the generations have been their kindest and the memories are reborn.

Diane Dean-Epps

Link to the (publication and) poem:

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A-Tisket, A-Tasket, (Humor) Easter Detritus Lingering Longer Than the Chocolate Afterglow...

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A-Tisket, A-Tasket

It doesn’t matter that I’m the mom of young adults, or that it’s May, or that I’ve vacuumed the floor and cleaned the house at least 150 times since Easter, I am STILL finding Easter basket remnants, including that plasticky grass stuff floating around the floor.

We have a plethora of family traditions one of which is Easter baskets, which I’ve been bestowing upon my offspring their entire lives, evoking the sing-songy melody accompanying the nursery rhyme, “A-tisket a-tasket, A green-and-yellow basket.”

As an aside, did you know that Ella Fitzgerald recorded “A-tisket, A Tasket,” in 1938 and it was an extremely successful signature song for her? Can you believe it? (See lyrics and link below for fun. And it’s ALL fun, isn’t it?)

Okay, I’m not sure which of the aforementioned items are unbelievable: That I’m still finding Easter detritus around the ‘ole homestead, that Ella Fitzgerald recorded this nursery rhyme as a successful song or the fact that I knew Ella Fitzgerald recorded “A-tisket, A-tasket.” (I went on to discover that Ella's song, "A-Tisket, A-Tasket," was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1986.)

Now, how to transition smoothly from famous nursery rhymes turned into even more famous songs back to finding decorative Easter items around the house on the “off” season.”
Hum…sooooo…these items just keep turning up.


At our house we have a junk drawer, a junk closet and what is rapidly shaping up to be a junk room. Darned if every time I try to get into any of those, the plastic Easter eggs don’t come popping out as though some steroid-hopped up hen is pelting me with them.

Over the years I have accumulated so many Easter baskets, it looks as though I could open one of those specialty stores where you always wonder what possessed the owner to wake up one morning and say, “THIS is the day that I make my dream happen by opening up a store that sells only Christmas decorations.”

I’ll tell you how that happens. What you don’t see is the day before and all that preceded the realization. The Christmas decoration enthusiast had a family that grew up, left home and all she got were the stinking Christmas decorations. One day she was standing in front of her junk drawer, closet, room, looking at ALL of those leftover decorations, knowing she needed to get rid of them, realizing she couldn’t just bag them all up, so what’s the alternative? Open a store and sell the stuff!

One of my jokes with my kids is that we’ll probably all be in the rest home together and every March/April I’ll have my aide deliver their baskets to them at “the home.” Only, even as I say that, this year feels different.

I know that my basket giving days may be at an end because my excitement level with the basket-giving has eclipsed the excitement level of my little darlings. Rather than hope for early grandparenthood or the opening of a retail store selling all things Easter, I’ll probably just do what any red-blooded, soon-to-be-empty-nester, mom yearning for days of yore, write-what-you-know scribe would do:

I’m writing a column as I eat old Easter candy I found at the bottom of one of the bunny baskets as I hum, A-tisket, A-tasket, A green-and-yellow basket, wiping my eyes periodically because I have “allergies.”


A-tisket a-tasket
A green-and-yellow basket
I bought a basket for my mommie
On the way I dropped it
I dropped it, I dropped it
Yes, on the way
I dropped it
A little girlie picked it up
And took it to the market
She was truckin' on down the avenue
Without a single thing to do
She was peck, peck, peckin' all around
When she spied it on the ground
A-tisket a-tasket
She took my yellow basket
And if she doesn't bring it back
I think that I shall die
(Was it red?)
No, no, no, no
(Was it brown?)
No, no, no, no
(Was it blue?)
No, no, no, no
Just a little yellow basket