Sunday, December 14, 2014

Calendar Tongs


Calendar Tongs
By:  Diane Dean-Epps

The heralded angels are harking and it’s that time of year.  Am I referring to the holidays?  Nope, it’s NEW calendar season.

I won’t bore you with the specifics, but I possess more degrees and certifications than I can count on my fingers and toes, but I am undone every year by one simple task:  Swapping out my old desk calendar pages of date goodness for the new ones.

What is my undoing year after year?  Calendar tongs.  

The need for the featuring of New Year months begins in the fall; however, I usually put the above-mentioned task off until right around January 2nd.  That is when my fear of missing appointments eventually exceeds my fear of tackling this annual challenge. 

Every December I zing around my office all motivated and energetic about applying a little feng shui to my lair.  I tap dance right on up to the edge of the volcano doing everything I can think of (complete with unwrapping the cellophane on my brand new desk calendar) short of the actual task itself.  I even clean out my “things to do in 2014” folder by dumping it all into the trash as I trill, “Moving on!”

But it’s there.  I can feel those beady calendar eyes on me; its hungry presence felt by me so very keenly. 

(“Hello, Over-Personification Clinic?  Sure…I’ll hold.”  Cue music:  Duran Duran’s Hungry Like the Wolf.)

It always comes down to “the” day when it’s just me and that small stack of pre-hole punched 365 days, indexed by handy monthly tabs, and two small black spring-loaded calendar tongs.  

Though I’ve watched a lot of Charlie Brown movies I always remain hopeful that things will be different this time around.  It will be my football year. This time I will get these pieces of parchment loaded up on that small ipad-looking black base of doom without asking anyone for assistance.

I approached my task confidently, appearing to any outsider as if I’ve done this a thousand times.  In point of fact, I have, just not successfully.  I racked up that papery stack of daily possibilities as though I was a seasoned dealer at a Las Vegas casino, making sure the two “hold the pages steady” holes were lined up just right.  And they were.  Perfect.  

Next, I stood up to get some really good leverage.  (It’s for these moments that I work-out.)  Finally, I grasped one of the two calendar tongs in my right dominant hand assertively and plunged it into the first hole with all of the confidence I possess – or at least two-thirds of it.  In my one-two plan of attack I plunged the second tong into the second hole and mumbled, “Let the games begin.”  

Squeezing the tongs tightly as though they were exercise hand grippers I tried to line up my stack representing the future into that custom calendar tong hole that would get me that much closer to marking this task off of my new 2015 “to do” list.  

I made my first approach, second approach, and at least six failed subsequent approaches reminding me, once again, why I avoid anything that remotely resembles this apparatus physically or symbolically.  Two of these reminders are clasping bracelets that cannot be self-snapped and “relationship dresses” rendering me unable to get myself into a buttons-up-the-back dress solo.

As the sweat began to gather under my jacketed shoulders I began to experience some intense “Go to the blackboard and complete this math problem” junior high flashbacks.  

There I was all over again in Mrs. Pacheco’s 8th grade geometry class, wearing my new micro mini dress and Famolare wedges (not to be confused with a wedgie) as she yodeled out my name, beckoning me to step up front and fill in the blanks. Not coincidentally this request always rendered my mind a blank.  You got it.  Tabula rasa.  My recollection is that I made it to the board without flashing any underwear or intelligence, but I never completed the requested task.  Kind of like now with my O.K. corral face-off with the calendar tongs.

Time and time again I squeezed those steely instruments of torment only to have them go flying out of my hand and into the following items repeatedly:  my in-box, my coffee mug (where ironically my coffee break became cleaning up the coffee), and my plant...may it rest in peace.

In the end I had to do what any well-educated professional on a tight schedule with no time to waste, lose, or spend does:  I asked someone younger, faster, and more patient to help me out, which narrows it down to ANYONE else in the office.

Next year I’m putting this task at the top of my “to don’t” list.

To order a classy, unique, and slightly “Oh, my!” calendar featuring the Calendar Girls actresses for the play by the same name opening in the spring, please go to:
(Calendar tongs optional.)

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Stubborn Stock

I’m from stubborn stock.  No one in our family has ever met a challenging situation from which we’ll back down. Well, not easily anyway.  We consider difficult situations as a call to action, whereby we don our respective big boy and big girl britches and get “in it to win it.”  Most of the time this is a good thing. Every so often it all goes to hell in a quickly unwoven handbasket which really stocks up the story cupboard.  Here’s one that landed on the shelf sometime in the late seventies.  

At the tender age of 17 I drove across the country with my parents in a Winnebago headed for Texas in the middle of July.  I know.  You thought you had a challenging childhood.  Oh, did I mention I was a teenager?  Yep.  I thought so.  It is important to underscore the fact that I was an underage teenager fully supported by my parents, thus, when they yelled, “Giddyup!” I was forced to reply with “Hi-ho Silver.”  

(Okay, you’re right.  I replied in no such way.  Rather I dejectedly hung my head, counted the days until my eighteenth birthday, and wondered for about the millionth time why I was the only person in my high school not to do mind-altering drugs.  It seemed like a good time to rethink my philosophy.)

Let’s go ahead and assemble the multitude of elements in this travel package of doom.

There I was riding tall, enveloped in a smoke cloud that made the interior of the motorhome look like something out of a “Cheech and Chong” movie. Both of my parents chain-smoked until their doctor personally confiscated all nicotine-laden products querying them with, “Really?  You don’t know why you have a cough?  How is that emphysema coming along?”  (Here is an aside:  This same doctor had a cigarette hanging out of his mouth the entire time I knew him until his doctor confiscated his cigarettes querying him with, “Really?  You don’t know why you have a cough?  How is that emphysema coming along?”)
We were headed toward Freeport, Texas which is no one’s idea of a vacation destination, but rather a place to get away from when you live there and are lucky enough to get a vacation.  It was hot, the air conditioner was a blowing, my parents were a blowing, and being a travel sickness sufferer since birth, I was trying to keep from a blowing chunks.  

Now granted, the Winnebago was a better travel option that the myriad of travel trailers we had taken for a spin over the years because I wasn’t wedged in between my parents in the cab of a truck, but it was a Pyrrhic victory. I was already 60 kinds of miserable before we finished backing out of our driveway with my mother stationed outside the motorhome helpfully screaming “Clear! Clear! Clear!” to let my dad know there wasn’t any traffic coming. It sounded like she was administering medical aid with defibrillator paddles.

It gets better.  This was my second time I had taken this trip with my parents.  We had family friends who lived in Freeport and, much as I wished it not to be so, they continued to live there year after year.  Thus, trip number two was scheduled after I swore on everyone else’s dead body that I would never return to Freeport, Texas, OR travel with my parents.  

So I was on my way to Freeport and, Interestingly enough, we made it out to visit our friends without incident.  It was the “on the way back” that got us good.
When my dad bought this rig he insisted that it be outfitted with a double fuel tank set-up, so that when he was low on petrol and traveling in some godforsaken area we would not be stuck.  We thought he was quite wise to think in terms of the “what if’s,” particularly given his propensity to travel to anyplace where you could only get there with no less than five death-defying hairpin turns which had us looking at the back of our own travel trailer as we (please god) made those turns.  

Let us return to the return trip.  

There we were traveling at a high rate of speed on I-5 near Bakersfield.  My father noted that the first gasoline tank was almost empty.  My mother lit up a new cigarette with the butt of the one still in her mouth as she inquired as to whether it would perhaps be wise to seek out a gas station at this point. Maybe we could return to the small town whence we just passed.  

We were assured by my stubborn father that all was well and he would make it to Bakersfield for a refueling.  After my mother finished her second cigarette in record speed as she simultaneously unwrapped a piece of gum and grabbed her next one she asked him about the second tank  we had for emergencies.  He informed us this was not an emergency.  And then it happened.  

We saw that warning light go on notifying us that we were only going to make it to Bakersfield in time if we were already there.  My father had miscalculated and I guess he panicked, which is something my war veteran, cop-turned-attorney never did.  He yanked the wheel hard in an attempt to traverse the grassy knoll of a median divide in order to return to that last town.  And then it happened.  

He got stuck.  Big-time.  Up to the axles in lawn and mud.  We made our own mud flaps.  Everything was mom, the Winnebago, my dad’s ears (figuratively like one of those cartoon characters).  He got out to see how bad it was and, being the brave man he was, he disappeared under the Winnebago to get a close look-see.  

In less than five minutes what he saw were two sets of shiny black shoes as worn by the the two nice Highway Patrolmen who stopped to find out what kind of idiot tries to flip a Winnebago around on a landscaped center divide.  They asked him to come out from under that Winnebago, sir..slowly.

It all worked out once my father had a chance to explain the situation and tell them he was also a law enforcement guy. However, our Bakersfield sojourn allowed us to tease him with this question for years to come:

“Dad, exactly what DO you consider an emergency?”  He would laugh and laugh...eventually.   

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

LinkedIn Why Hast Thou Forsaken Me?

Oh, LinkedIn why hast thou forsaken me?
Forsooth, it has been a fortnight since my two-year work anniversary dawned brightly and I have heard naught (not) from you. Thusly, I have heard naught from anyone in my LinkedIn Kingdom.
Filled with more melancholy than Hamlet I have watched as each of my 1,037 1,038 well-connected LinkedIn friends have been commended for keeping their jobs, refining their jobs, and changing their jobs and, generally, doing all of the things I do on an annual – verily – bi-weekly basis.
Yea, the congratulatory floodgates have opened for these LinkedIn citizens while I sit stranded on the other side of my acknowledgment-deficient moat of despair pondering life’s injustices. Woe is me because there are no good tidings for me.
This calendar year’s employment anniversary was singularly exquisite in that I – the Queen of Change – have pledged my work troth to my employer for yea these two years. Two years! That’s longer than two of Henry VIII’s wives got to keep their heads – combined!
For me this is the sort of commitment for which there should be a feast that merrily and verily would include the slaughtering of a pig or, at the very least, the slaughtering of some fine arugula for a fine, celebratory salad fit for at least a princess.
But, no, I continued to read daily “Hear Ye’s!” about other vassals’ accomplishments which Sir LinkedIn made it possible for us all to know. The downside of this knowing occurs when you are knowing, but no one knows about you because then you are in the know, but not known, you know? ‘Tis painful.
Aye, I had a passing thought, like so many of my thoughts, that it would just take a month of Sundays before I received my employment anniversary banns. Nay that was not to be.
Anon I even went so far as to double-check my own anniversary date of September 24 2012 in my profile. Mayhaps I had left something out. But no, all was well in that particular battlement.
Perhaps my liege LinkedIn is miffed at me because I didn’t accept “Elizabethan Scholar Dude Just Chilling” as a connection and this was a rite de passage rather than a right foul spammage? No, that cannot be it.
There must be a reason. “Out, damn reason!” I sputtered as I hand sanitized my palms in readiness for using my sword of destruction (which is, in point of fact, my super cool wireless keyboard).
Just as I was getting ready to tap out a robust round of “a pox on your houses” and threaten to bid a final “Fare thee well to you, sir!” soft came the answer as surely as Banquo’s ghost appeared to Macbeth.
Methinks LinkedIn is just too busy. After all, LinkedIn rules a vast kingdom of over 200 million subjects in 200 lands. Wherefore, it didn’t take a leech applied by an overzealous barber to make me feel better as I realized this isn’t the foulest of deeds. I am not forsaken. I am simply forgotten.
Oh. Huh.
God Save LinkedIn!

Author, Diane Dean-Epps has worked in television and radio, performed in commercials and plays, as well as performing her own stand-up comedy routines that she has written. She has written several books, including Maternal Meanderings, KILL-TV, Last Call, and I’ll Always Be There For You…Unless I’m Somewhere Else?! As a popular humor columnist and essayist her writing has appeared regularly for the last millennium in numerous periodicals, most notably NPR’s This I Believe, MORE magazine (on-line), Bigger Law Firm magazine, The Sacramento Business Journal, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Union newspaper and Sacramento magazine. 

Friday, October 17, 2014


Demi Famous

I was a stand-in for Demi Moore. It’s true. Back in the 80’s I was picked out of a group of grazing actors in a cattle call for movie extras. I guess I looked enough like Demi even though our body types never have been an exact match, particularly with her penchant for working out 18 hours a day.

I vaguely remember the pleasurable shock I felt when one of the production assistants pulled me out of the “sure to be famous” line-up, placing me into what would guarantee my eight minutes of fame.  In point of fact, those eight minutes ticked by in my own mind as it dawned upon me this would be a real glass is half-full/half-empty moment.  

Why?  As a stand-in there would be absolutely no proof I had ever set foot on that movie set. Claiming this acting credit would be quite the sticky wicket. Talk about your good news, bad news. I wouldn’t utter a recorded word, my face would not be part of any “Cut! Print it!” celluloid, and there would be no record of my having appeared in the movie, other than a pay stub.

My dubious distinction as a stand-in must be what it’s like when you serve in the secret service.  There are no living witnesses, you can’t talk about it, and no one believes you when you do share this fun fact. Demi absolutely would not remember my shadowy presence and brush with near greatness in my debut as a human placeholder.

The movie I worked on was called Wisdom, ironically enough, because it tanked at the box office, instead opening in video big-box stores.  It starred Demi and Emilio and was produced by these popular brat packers back when they were an item.

The glamorous life of a stand-in meant I sat in cars that were almost blown up, scheduled to be blown up, and eventually blown up. Lest that sounds derivative I also appeared in street scenes where the actress was almost blown up, never scheduled to be blown up, and wasn’t eventually blown up. In this way the star didn’t have to waste her time sitting.  She had better things to do.  Like sitting in her trailer waiting to be called to the set.

It is an odd experience to share a tenuous connection with another human being when you are asked to act like them and then when things are going fabulously well you’re told to “get out of the car and shot” or “step off that curb and get out of the shot.”  It’s not the strongest of connections.  

Demi never even really looked at me -- more toward me.  However, I did share a meaningful moment with Emilio when he glanced my way, although it’s possible it was because I was standing in front of the catering truck and he was checking out the specials.

Along with power ballads of the 80’s this power couple of the 80’s disappeared, the latter having broken up shortly after the movie opened/closed.

Through the years Demi’s acting career has steadily grown to the point where she needed to move to somewhere in Idaho to raise her kids and to get away from the paparazzi.  In my own acting career I just cut out the middle (the becoming a well-known actress part) and moved to a place in the country where I was only hounded by my own children asking me why I couldn’t drive them to the mall which was now an hour away.  The similarities remain.  Somewhere.

Then I forgot about her which in visa-versa is where she’s been all along when it comes to me. Until recently.  When I saw a story I found offensive on Yahoo News because it fairly oozed ageism. I know, can I be a bit more specific?

It was the tidbit that made Demi Moore out as a psychopath and sociopath who was dangerous and -- gasp! -- holding her ex, Ashton Kutcher’s, baby.  How could these super cool, well-matched-in-age new parents allow this creepy, over-the-hill divorcee to do that?   All day this story played like the high-mileage Honda of the entertainment world.

I mean, the media sunk their sharp little Terrier teeth into this non-story and shook it like a squeaky toy.  (You get the picture.) I utilize the Internet for my job all day performing searches and marketing magic, so I could not seem to get that dog-doo story off of my shoes all day.

Had Ashton Kutcher’s previous wife been Scarlett Johansson the blurb would have played for about half an hour as a meet-cute-again. But take the “tragedy” that is a break-up with a woman who was -- gasp! -- much older than her husband and it’s Yahoo! time.

Ageism rears its hydra head not only in Hollywood, but in the media, in the job marketplace, and at the danged health food store every time some whippersnapper asks me if I’d like to take advantage of the senior discount.  

Let’s call this story and others like it for what they are: A stand-in for a real story... a demi-story devoid of any wisdom.  

Sunday, October 5, 2014



That’s the name of the mascara. It’s sheer marketing brilliance targeting women who identify closely with the song “Brick House” and feel the attributes of the product will be bestowed upon them with a wave of the (mascara) wand. We cannot not buy it, truth be told.

So, I did.  Buy it.  Because ladies and gentlemen I like my eyelashes big and bold and I strive for 40’s pin-up girl wide open eyes.  In ten words or less I aspire to be a bombshell, so this noun was speaking directly to me.  

With my dim make-up lighting, nearsighted peepers, new plumping mascara, and magical array of beauty potions all laid out on my vanity that first morning it almost seemed possible to live the life of a bombshell...until it wasn’t.

Day number one found me positively breathless with the final results that were lashes so lush that whenever I blinked I stirred up a breeze lifting my hair playfully as though it was a photo shoot.

And I looked so awake.  It wasn’t until I was in the midst of conducting a meeting at work that my uh-oh possibilities began to unfold, the first one being when one eyelash hooked onto an entire eyelash grouping.  It stuck there forcing me into a full-on wink.  

As I continued to lay out the agenda I valiantly blinked with intention to get that individualistic but aggressive eyelash to back off of its attack upon the rest of the well-coated troops. To no avail.  

Now I was winking, blinking, sweating, and saying gawd knows what.  I’m the marketing director for a law firm and this was a budget meeting so you can get a sense of how big this problem really was getting:  “Certainly, I can quantify that $3,500 expenditure.”  (Wink!)  “As you can see here by this flowchart we realized a 65% increase in new client queries within a six-month period. (Blink!)  “Absolutely, I would welcome any further questions about our 2014 budget.” (Looonnnggggg wink!)
I managed to end the meeting quickly gathering up papers I could barely see because my eyelashes were in such disarray I felt as though I was trying to see through a thousand Tarantula legs.  And how was I going to explain this to the marketing committee?  I had a mascara malfunction?  Now there’s a way to really distinguish yourself as a powerful woman in Professional World.    

Back in my office I managed to tweezer organize my eyelashes back into some semblance of order and I finished the day out without utilizing any sick leave.

Quick on the uptake for some things, not so much on others after my first day’s travails I went into day number two with mascara wand firmly gripped in my teal-nailed hand ready to think things could be different.

I wasn’t ready to give up my bombshell pursuit and I soooo had this. It was my day off; no meetings.  What could possibly go wrong?  

I toddled off to my work-out and little did I know that I would be kicking it up a notch that day with a personal eyeball work-out add-on. When my heartrate kicked up I began sweating and my lashes clumped together so hard I actually had one eyelash on each eye.  And they were heavy!  It’s a group fitness class incorporating boxing with bobs, weaves, and punches which was handy when I weaved my way over to the sidelines, punched my finger into my eye, and bobbed down in pain trying to rectify my situation with my little white towel.

You know what that got me?  Dozens of white fuzzy balls on my very black, wet, long, two (singular) eyelashes.  Dismay does not speak to this situation strongly enough.  I did the best I could to clear my line of visibility so I could finish my class and act as though nothing was wrong at all costs.  (Unlike in my meeting the day before winking actually helped me out on this one.)   

I’m back to my old Great Lash mascara which leaves me looking less like a bombshell and more like a raccoon, but at least I’ve regained my eyesight and ability to blink like a normal human being.  

There’s a new product I’d like to try, but I’m somewhat embarrassed to make the purchase because I’ll need a brown paper bag in order to transport it to the checkstand. It’s called Falsies. What could possibly go wrong?

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Small Hands, Warm Heart

  I have small hands.  Now, granted, if I were a male of the species this admission might mean so much more than it does.  In fact as I type this I shudder to think of how many more dating atrocities might have befallen me if men were looking at me as a potential play partner based upon the size of my mitts.  
   Would I have gotten less action than I got in my early 20’s?  It’s hard to imagine and, really, this becomes another installment in one of those new math books that highlight negative numbers.  I know it may be difficult to believe, but I was desperately shy in the dating department and have been known to literally run away from a conversation from a potential suitor.  (Perhaps the use of the word “suitor” is also a tip-off as to my Victorian proclivities.)
   Let us rejoin my observation about my small hands.  People never believe me...that I have small hands because, you see, I am not a small woman.  While I may not be classified as “big and beautiful” for so many reasons I am 5’7” and I weigh anywhere from the 140’s to the 150’s.  (Like my age, I now provide a realistic range because my stats change dependent upon who’s asking and why.)  
   These small hands create moments of hilarity when not only are people amazed when they put their mano up to my mano and mine is oh-so-small, but I have trouble grasping regular-sized containers having to “two hand” it like I was always cautioning my kids to do when they were toddlers.
   You might wonder how it even comes up that people notice I have small hands?  Are you envisioning me standing at a fast food counter somewhere unable to pick-up my just-ordered beverage and someone comes along and says “Can I help you with that large drink little lady?” You may not have been seeing that, but now I’ve given you the visual.  You’re welcome.
   Nope, that’s not how it happens. Sometimes it’s because I am doing some sort of task like shuffling cards (Okay, I was desperate because I’m not editing these things.  
   In point of fact I shuffle cards about once every 10 years.)  Someone says, “Oh my gawd, your hands are so small. I compare my hand to their hand in the time honored tradition of holding them up patty cake style and we chuckle about how “cute” they are and I ALWAYS have to say, “I have small feet too.” (Which is another column because, yes, I have small feet and people really do notice those all on their own for some reason, further confirming my suspicion that no one is looking at my prior to middle age distinguishable above the shoe line body characteristics.)  
   But usually I bellow it out all on my own as though I’ve got some sort of body part Tourette’s Syndrome as I shout, “I have small hands!”  I’m not sure why I do this.  Maybe it’s a distinction I’m proud of and in this world of everyone being famous for 15 minutes or more and proving it on youtube I’m struggling to find my place in this world.  
   The funny thing is that my hands look JUST like my father’s, so I take after him with  regard to both my hands AND my chest. This may explain why people notice me more for the former than the latter.  


Saturday, August 16, 2014

TuTu NoNo

TuTu No No

I’m not a giver-upper.  At no time in my life has that become more apparent than since I attained true societal maturity in my “over 40 and working out to look good in clothes” period of my life. 

This summer I decided to try something I said I would never do:  Buy a one-piece bathing suit.  This came about because we are setting forth on a one-eth by land vacation that will end two-eth by sea.  (In this instance the sea is a lake.) 

In less than a week we will be boating, frolicking, and hanging around the aforementioned lake with people who do not wear glasses.  Therefore, I can only assume they have perfect vision that sees all, including cellulite unlike my near-sighted family members who do not think I’ve changed a bit.  (And now that I think about it, that comment might be somewhat offensive taken a different way.) 

I’m not looking for anything near bikini-ready status in life, but sheesh can I at least cavort around in a water-friendly garment that does not make me look as though I am trying to find the rest of my rhinoceros tribe?  (Appropriately enough a group of them are called a “crash.”  I could write a whole column on just that fact.) 

My thinking was marginally reasonable and running along the lines thinking if I didn't cheap out I might have a prayer of finding a one-piece that won’t scream, “Look away!  My body isn’t perfect and I’m not even trying!  I’m hot-in-a--purely-temperature way!”   

Thus, I set a course for Macy’s which often serves as my destination for almost any garment, one-piece bathing suits now being included. 

Oh, the humanity. I do not know what designers think baby boomer women are looking for in a one-piece bathing suit, but I can assure you it is not a regression to our toddler years.  Case in point?  Tutu skirts on bathing suits.

Is anybody fooled by what these tributes to bygone ballerina dream-fueled years are hiding, e.g., meaty thighs and birthing bellies? Tutus usually conjure up images of lithe creatures defying gravity as they leap through the air landing gracefully in a vertical and numerical position.   

The second option?  Skater skirts! Take it from me Project Runway-in-training-designers.   Skater skirts are not a successful diversionary tactic.  They don’t even come close to creating an optical illusion either.  I mean, really. While I do enjoy watching ice skating, I've never hankered to don the costume.  I didn’t ice skate in my youth and I don’t want to look as though I’ve taken up the sport later in life in an effort to utilize my health insurance to its fullest capacity.  

And the other dastardly designs?  They include the beach burka which boasts yards of jersey body clinging material  swooping this way and that.

As I flipped through these rack-dwelling monstrosities I discovered the sailor suits set to fashion stun?  What cruel fashion matron thought it would be a good idea to create that number in adult woman sizes that make it look as though I'm doing a fashion shoot for the Atlantic City Boardwalk circa 1910.  And the prices.  Almost a hundred dollars...on sale! 

I have decided I will do exactly what I did as a self-conscious teenager back when I HAD that gorgeous body that I was too shy to flaunt; I will wear my jean shorts and a tee-shirt.  

Isn’t life just one big driving donut whirling us all the way around into a dizzying 360?  One way or another we end up right back where we started.