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43 posts from May 2007

May 31, 2007

Women Rule

Women Rule

by Nancy

We've done Man Law already, so lately I've been thinking about Woman Rules Regarding Stubborn Men, which has nothing to do with what went down at my house or anywhere else over the weekend. Really.

How about:  Don't tell a man he can't go on his honeymoon, even if he has TB. (We're going to hear more on that story, aren't we?  I suspect there's a Bridezilla lurking behind the CDC statements. Either that, or a cautionary tale in favor of buying trip insurance.)

Here's a Rule that's a classic in my family:

When in a big box store, never get in the checkout line with a male cashier.  No matter what his age, the checking out process will take longer than it should because he's too stubborn to ask for help when the receipt paper jams or the bar code doesn't work or he's run out of plastic bags.  (If possible, choose the checkout line run by a hardbitten woman over the age of thirty with a smoker's cough who knows from checkout lines, hon, and will get you out of the store in two shakes.)

Likewise, do not send a man to the grocery store unless you won't need that carton of milk or dozen eggs for at least two hours. Because that's how long it will take him to find the milk or the eggs, but probably not both, because men do not ask for help in the grocery store.

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Am I wrong about this? Or maybe I adopted the wrong strategy at the beginning of my marriage when it seemed easier to go to the grocery myself rather than send my husband, who, if he couldn't find the Heinz catsup would come home with no catsup at all in the theory that the wrong brand meant the wrong product altogether?

Now, with the aid of the cell phone, he will call me from the grocery store--if for some life-threatening reason he has been coerced to go--to confirm that any f**king brand of catsup will do, for crying out loud.

But for the most part, I'd be nuts to ask my husband to run to the grocery for anything. (Yes, I recognize his inept performance of this task has been a not-so-subtle, passive-aggressive technique to prevent me from asking him to perform any grocery-related errand.) It's simply easier to drop whatever I'm doing--like trying to make deviled eggs for the picnic he accepted an invitation to despite me slaving like a madwoman to complete revisions on a novel over the holiday weekend--and go to the store myself.

In a recent survey, 71% of men admit they have shopped in a grocery store in the last three months. Now, maybe at your house this kind of statistic doesn't prompt gales of maniacal laughter.  But I've been to the grocery store three times in the last three days, and trying to count up the number of times I've made the trek in the last three months is ridiculous.  (The gasoline I consume going to Whole Foods for a gallon of skim milk alone might run all the gas-powered string trimmers on all the golf courses in North America for decades.) Meanwhile, my husband has been to the store exactly one time since Christmas, and that was when I had a back spasm and couldn't leave the heating pad or drive because of the drugs.

The survey lady thinks that because men are getting married at an older average age, and also because more women are working (instead of schlepping to the supermarket for the sheer pleasure of spending their leisure time pricing pickles, I suppose) "the stage is set for men to assume more grocery shopping."

But, she adds, "it's going to be a much more convenient and efficient trip than a woman's approach."

Kinda like how Viagra-like drugs became a top priority for the pharmaceutical industry, I guess, grocers are now thinking maybe it's time to make the whole food shopping experience more efficient and less---what?  Recreational?  You call going to the Piggy Wiggly a good time, lady?  What else do you do for fun?  Hitch yourself to a minivan full of eight-year-old soccer players and pull it down I-95 on Memorial Day weekend??

One way to look at this situation: Men want an entire industry to change so they don't have to. And they're probably going to get their way.

I consulted my husband about this survey, and he got steamed right away. "What I want is a computer at the front of the store.  I want to be able to type in a product, and the computer needs to tell me what aisle and what shelf I can find it on."

If I'm hearing him right, he's overwhelmed by the choices most grocery stores have. Maybe it's a kind of food-related hysteria? I already know he has that, because when he opens the refrigerator, he'll often ask, "Where's the jelly?" Like it's invisible. Or maybe his field of vision is confused by the beer selection arrayed in front of him.  If the jelly were a snake, it would bite him, but that's not good enough. The jelly needs to jump into his hand, or I must go over and point it out to him. It's visual multi-tasking, and he can't do it. Asking him to find one item in the pantry is like asking him to go to South Africa to dig up a diamond, cut and polish it to perfection and present it to me for our anniversary.  Not gonna happen.

Same in the grocery store.  He's so stunned by the sensory impact of that long aisle lined with sixteen versions of Doritos that he can't mentally sort through all the cereal choices to find the Total.

(Me, I want Fresh Direct to come to my city. If you promised me I never see the inside of another grocery store again, I'd probably kiss you and everyone else within eighteen city blocks.)

Yes, men can be stubborn.  Maybe that trait contributes to the survival of the species, but I don't see how.

(And don't get me started about the man dressed in the suit and tie with a basket of Hungry Man meals who sighs and mutters behind you in the grocery line because the wait is unendurable.)

I've got to finish these revisions.  Can you tell how delighted I am to be doing them?

Talk amongst yourselves.

May 30, 2007

How do you explain recall to a cat?


Elaine Viets

You are looking at the picture of sorrow. It has just dawned on my cat Harry that his beloved stinky fish has been recalled. He will never again eat that smelly mess.

"Stinky fish" is the family name for Harry’s favorite food: Hill's Science Diet ocean fish for kittens.

Most pet food seems designed for cat owners. It’s made to look like something you’d put on a party cracker.

Stinky fish stunk. It was redolent of a Dumpster on a summer day. Harry adored it. He craved his treat the way I enjoy Lindt dark chocolate.

How would I look if the world’s chocolate supply had been recalled?

Check out Harry.

At first the recall was only for dry food. Harry’s favorite treat was safe. But then Harry’s Science Diet brand was added to the banned list. We had four cans in the cabinet, none with bad numbers. We scoured the pet food stores for more, but there wasn’t any.

Each night, we fed Harry another spoonful, knowing his world would soon change for the worse.

"Six more nights, buddy," we told him. He had no idea what we meant.

"What are we going to do?" I asked Don.

We aren’t the sort of pet people who brag about spoiling their animals – "My Pookie won’t eat anything but beef tenderloin." Harry was a cat. He ate cat food that cost 98 cents a can.

That can of cat food saved us major money.

Harry had a slight problem. Not too long ago, we took him to the vet because the cat was moping. The vet explained that Harry was . . . er, constipated. "He needs an enema," she said. "Can you leave him here?"

Better you than me, I thought, and added the warning. "If you have problems, please call."

The vet called a few hours later. "Harry is holding on to everything. I’m afraid you’ll have to take him home and let him use his litter box."

"Oh, no," I said. "We have leather car seats." The Florida roads were clogged with traffic. Our chances of getting Harry home were not good.

"He shouldn’t be on a dry food diet only," the vet said. "I can give you some medicine, or you can try introducing a little canned food twice a day. Otherwise, your cat will need frequent enemas."

"How much are those?" Don asked.

"Two hundred dollars," the vet said.

"Do you wear a Victorian costume for that price?" he said.

We could see the family finances going down the drain, gone for high colonics to the cat.

As we rushed home, we debated how to get the cat to eat canned food. Harry, like most felines, doesn’t like change. He turned down six brands before he would eat ocean fish for kittens. Then he rolled on the floor in ecstacy.

Now Science Diet was taking away the food he loved most.

We went back to the pet supermarket for a selection of canned foods in different brands. Harry didn’t like any of them. We saw vet bills looming.

For days, Don tried to coax Harry with new kinds of cat food. The stubborn cat stared glumly at his untouched dish. Mystery, our con artist in a cat suit, would rush in, distract Harry, and gobble down the new dish before he could try it. Harry was learning about survival of the fattest.

The cat food trials continued behind closed doors. Mystery was locked out during the fish auditions. Harry rejected more treats in private. Between meals, he sat in the kitchen and howled his displeasure: Where was his favorite fish?

One day Don brought home a can of Science Diet Indoor Cat Seafood Entree. We presented it to Harry, then shut the door. Soon we heard the happy banging of a spoon on cat crockery.


"The little bastard loves it," Don said.

Harry eats his new food twice a day. He’s happy. We’re happy. Harry is a regular guy.

How Do You Explain Recall to a Cat?

May 29, 2007

Pushing Sixty in a Twinset

By Sarah

Yeah! It's unofficially summer which with Global Warming could mean anything from tropical Fireworkds conditions on Labor Day to snow on your Fourth of July fireworks. Still, there are some basic rules to follow concerning what to do and what not to do for summer fun.


Go swimming in a nearby lake with your family. Try canoing, kayaking, maybe even water skiing.

Hike a mountain.

Catch fireflies.

Plant a garden. Raise giant pumpkins. Enter them in the county fair.

Roast vegetables and pick blueberries. Learn how to whistle with grass leaves and make dandelion chains.



Hello, am I the only one who thinks the story of the New Jersey psychologist who gave birth to twins at age sixty is entirely nuts? Okay, I might have understood if she hadn't had any other children. I think I might - and I say might - have understood if all her life she had tried and tried or maybe she'd been single and at age 58 or so found the man of her dreams but NO! She already had three children ages 33, 29 and, gulp, 6.

I mean, that's pretty impressive right there considering Frieda Birnbaum got pregnant at 53. Yes, that redefines middle age for me. (Frieda's contention is that 60 is the new 40 so let's redefine what's old.) End of story. Done. You win, Frieda. But getting knocked up at 59? Talk about over the head with a frying pan.

Look. I have nothing against redefining middle age. Do you know that Lou Grant on the Mary Tyler Moore show was supposed to be 48? THAT'S what I thought middle age was - round gutted and balding - before I hit my 40s and discovered people my age at the gym more in shape and active than when I was 25. There's really no doubt in my mind that culturally and socially and, let's hope, physically, the old saws about retiring at 65 and being a grandmother at 50 are so passe. This is a new era, baby, and I don't plan to spend my twilight years in a walker.

Z4 Still....I'm not sure bringing innocent children into your mid-life crisis is the ultimate proof of renewed youth. Frieda - buy a red BMW Z4. That should take care of your mid-life crisis. And if it's babies you want, well consider grandchildren. Twice the fun and half the responsibility. Plus, it won't matter if you're 78 on prom night and in bed before the twins even pick up their corsages.

I believe it was in the wonderful Fay Weldon's THE LIFE AND LOVES OF A SHE DEVIL where the radical protagonist developed the idea that no child should be brought into the world without committee approval. Like a co-op. Granted, anyone who's been on a committee can see the fallacy of this suggestion. (A committee productive? Please.) But in light of women birthing babies at age 60, I'm beginning to see the appeal.

Kiddie birthday parties at 65. All-night barf fests (which I happen to be going through tonight with our eleven-year-old) at 71. Teen angst at 74. Teaching your twins to drive when you're 76.


On CNN Frieda encouraged women suffering empty cradle syndrome (which, yes, I might be going through) to pass on buying a puppy and consider in vitro fertilization instead. Frieda also made note that her sacrifice could even the playing field for women who've long been irked by the ability of men to father children - with societal permission, if not smirking - well into their eighties.

Sure. I get that. And, to some extent, I agree. It is nice that women have the option to postpone motherhood until they are financially secure and settled in their careers, like men. But I don't know too many fathers over fifty who are willing to stay up all night pasting doilies to their kids Valentines.

Me? I'm going for the puppy.Basset_hound_puppie

Happy summer everyone!


May 28, 2007

A Soldier's Memorial Day Message

A Soldier's Memorial Day Message

By Guest Blogger Sgt Leah Charles

Ed Note from Rebecca the Bookseller: Leah is a 28-year-old woman from our neighborhood. She enlisted in the Army after 9/11. She is preparing to return to Iraq during her second tour of duty. She sent this message to her friends, and as soon as I read it, I asked her if we could share it here. These are her words, untouched. along with the photos she included. On behalf of the Book Tarts, I ask that you take the time to read it, and to honor her request, which is a very simple one. And please keep Leah and her Unit, the 502nd Military Intelligence Battalion, in your thoughts and prayers, along with all our other warriors - men and women at risk on behalf of this nation.

Well if you can stand some more of my ramblings, I wanted to use this opportunity to ask a favor of you this upcoming Memorial Day. I ask that at some point during the day, you truly think about the fallen soldiers of this nation. Whether it's while you're manning the grill, driving to a cookout, or enjoying a beer, anything really, I just ask that you remember the meaning of Memorial Day.

I attended a memorial service a few weeks ago for the 6 fallen soldiers from Fort Lewis. It has weighed heavily on my heart since. It brought up more emotions than I even knew were within me. I'm sure that my fellow soldiers can understand this, especially those from my first deployment. When in a combat zone, you don't have time to truly mourn. You may shed some tears through the pain, but you can't stop, you don't stop. You have a job to do and if you pause, if you slow down, if you miss a beat, you may end up with yet another fallen. Therefore you are required to push on, to keep moving forward, and there is no time to shed tears by looking back.

Where does that leave us?

I'll tell you where. It leaves us with a barrel full of emotions that have been bottled up inside for so long, that when something triggers a memory, a smell, an image, a sound, a feeling, those emotions start fighting within us to be set free.

Blog_bootsI sat there, in the Soldiers Field House. I stared at the stage, looking at the 6 rifles, muzzles down, the 6 helmets smartly setting on each butt-stock, the 6 dog tags, 6 pairs of boots, and the 6 photos of the fallen. The service was somber, this was the first one that I have attended in the states. The others I have been to have taken place in Iraq. For the most part they are the same. Joseph Galloway said it best, "There is pain and pride and pageantry when you say farewell to a fallen soldier, and rightly so."

The only difference in Iraq is that generally the memorial service does not last as long because it is dangerous to have a large group of soldiers gathered in one place. Other than that everything else is the same.

Amazing Grace was played on bagpipes by local firemen. By the time final roll call was taken, the knot in my throat felt like it was going to leap out. Tears had been streaming down my face the entire service, but this is the part when you truly realize, they won't be back. It was all I could to to keep myself from sobbing aloud.

During Final Role call, 1SG calls the names of those he leads. The other soldiers of the unit reply swiftly, one by one until the names of the fallen are called. They are called several times, each time with an addition, and each time with silence, until 1SG finally calls the the soldier's rank, first, middle, and last name. And still, no answer. It's one of those things that I can't find the words to describe, but it does something to you. The last roll call signifies that all unit members will be accounted for, and none will ever be forgotten.

I started to think about Byran. When he died, I so badly wanted to be at his memorial service. I was stuck out guarding the tower for 5 days, we ate and slept out there, and was devastated that I wouldn't be able to pay my respects to my friend and the other 3 that died with him.

I think about the night that I held a young man while he wept outside in the darkness. He was covered in blood. It wasn't his own. I had no words to comfort him. My thoughts began to run rampant, one after another memories began pulling themselves to the forefront of my mind. Some had been kept away for so long, that they didn't even seem like mine. J-Bo, am I crazy? Of anyone, during those times you understood me best. Am I nuts? Do you have these flashes? I remember after you guys got hit, we didn't' know anything. Who was hurt, what the hell was going on. I just knew you were with them. I knew I would feel better once I saw that you were okay. But although physically you were fine, as soon as I saw you I knew it wasn't okay, and I didn't feel better.

Blog_soldier_funeralShots were fired and taps was played. I watched the families walk up to the photos of their loved ones and whisper words of love to their pictures. I watched the mourners in uniform file out, pausing to stand at attention and salute each fallen soldier's memorial, one by one, and I continued to cry.

And as I sit here and continue to write, the tears start to stream down my cheeks again and I know it won't be the last time. My original intent was to share with you my thoughts about Memorial Day. I don't even know if I will send this anymore.

I wanted to ask all of you to remember. Don't make this Monday a day to criticize our government over how many this war has taken. This day isn't about that. It's a day to remember OUR FALLEN, not just from the middle east, but our Vietnam Vets and all the way back to the Revolutionary War. "National Moment of Remembrance" is at 3 p.m. please take some time to pause and think upon the true meaning of the day.

Memorial Day is a day of remembrance for those who have died in OUR NATION'S service. These men and women have given the ultimate sacrifice.

Regardless of what you think about the current situation that OUR military is in, please remember this...

Blog_casket08 "It doesn't take a hero to order men into battle. It takes a hero to be one of those men who goes into battle." -
Norman Schwarzkopf

Well, if you actually read my ramblings from start to finish, you have my thanks. Sometimes, I go off on a tangent and forget what I was talking about in the first place. Have a wonderful and safe Memorial Day. Enjoy your cookout, and take some time to remember our fallen.

Love always, Leah

May 27, 2007

TLC Advice-a-Thon: Ramona's Tips on the Bottomless Pit of Whining

TLC Advice-a-Thon: Ramona's Tips on the Bottomless Pit of Whining

By Ramona

Sometimes you have to go There. You know the place: The center of self-pity. The home of how-could-I-get-myself-into-this. The land of let-me-wallow-about-this-rejection-letter. I call it the Bottomless Pit of Whining,. If you're a writer for more than four minutes straight, at some point, you'll end up there, so you might as well be prepared.

Three Things You Need in the Bottomless Pit of Whining:

1. Emo CDs (I recommend Dashboard Confessional), DVD of Steel Magnolias or Beaches, anything written by Wally Lamb, and a Boys Don't Cry poster (album, not movie.)

2. Food. Preferably Chocolate, Mimosas, and for protein, turkey.

3. The phone number and/or e-mail of a sympathetic friend. To keep the Pit from becoming your permanent address.

Three Things You Need When You Emerge from the Bottomless Pit of Whining:

1. Beatles 1 CD, DVD of Radio Days or Galaxy Quest, anything written by a Book Tart, and a Boys Don't Cry poster. (Album, not movie.)

2. New walking shoes to work off #2 above, and because it's always cheering to go shoe shopping.

3.. The phone number and/or e-mail of your friend, so you can call and say thanks, Honey.

TLC Advice-a-Thon: Maryann's Travel Tips

TLC Advice-a-Thon: Maryann's Travel Tips

By Maryann


1. Always take one extra of essentials, including cosmetics
2. Pack at least one uncrushable outfit (Citiknits or Travelsmith have some great, and stylish, mix and match)
3. Pack a pair of shoes in each bag (half my luggage got lost once and I had no dress shoes)
4. Pack a mini-first aid kit...hotel rooms don't have band-aids
5. Get some Hollywood Fashion Tape. Great for patching hems and sticking bra straps to the shoulder
6.Travel-size sunscreen and repellent come in handy.
7. Get a small rolling tote...great carry-ons but not so hard on the shoulders.


1. Do not drink any liquid for three days before you get on the plane.
1a. Do not trust any airline food covered by foil.
2. Know the location of all lavatories on every airline.
3. Try to get aisle seat closest to one of the above.
4. Bring exact change for in-air purchases. The attendants will love you. And they don't take VISA.
5. Do NOT scowl at anyone remoting resembling a TSA or other security officer. They are allowed to make fun of your purse, your luggage, and your shoes.
6. Practice several ways of flagging down a taxi (or city transit bus). Sometimes a hearty wave (like guiding in aircraft) is the only thing that works.
7. Overtip...especially if you're in Scotland. It works wonders!
8. When in the UK, stay to the left...always the left. Arggh.
9. Look both ways before taking one step into any intersection... and then look again.
10. Visit a bookstore...and mention loudly how great the latest book by (say Elaine Viets) is.

TLC Advice-a-thon: Michele's Advice From The Drug Wars

Advice From the Drug Wars

by Michele

For those of you who somehow missed this (and that would be tough), I was a narcotics prosecutor for eight years.  You may think you know everything there is to know about narcotics.  You may feel you don't need any advice.  If that's true, I'm guessing you learned what you know on, shall we say, the other side of the street.  In which case, listen up, because you're about to get some valuable advice from the law enforcement perspective, and you never know when it might come in handy. 

(All of this advice is taken from real-life cases, by the way.)

Where Not to Hide Contraband

  • In the baby's diapers (too obvious -- everybody does that)
  • In your bra (who needs the pat-down?)
  • In your stomach  (people die that way)
  • In the trash can you're standing in front of (duh!)
  • In a suitcase with a newly-installed false bottom that still reeks of glue (the Customs guys, at least in New York, have large noses)
  • In your mother's purse (is that really fair??)

Smarter Options

  • In a custom $20,000 "trap" or "hide" built seamlessly into the floor of your car
  • In a custom-constructed "trap" or "hide" built into the floor of your apartment
  • In your girlfriend's house (as long as you have another girlfriend who you like better)

What to do if you get arrested

  • Pull out the card of the DEA guy who arrested you last time and say you're his informant (this usually takes a while to sort out).
  • Say you thought you were carrying diamonds.
  • If you're female, say your scary boyfriend made you do it (works every time).

Miscellaneous Good Advice

  • These guys will kill you.  Seriously.

TLC Advice-a-Thon: Kerry's Advice for When Your Kid Starts College

TLC Advice-a-Thon: Kerry's Advice for When Your Kid Starts College

By Kerry, The Martial Tart

Things you need to know when your child starts college . . .

1. You and your child have very different ideas about the purpose of his/her college education. You think it’s a way to either Relive Your Glory Days or, by proxy, to Realize Your Unrealized Dreams. Your child understands that it’s about Finally Getting Away From Home. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

2. Someone in the Federal Government developed a sense of humor once upon a time and dreamed up a little law called FERPA (The Family Education and Right to Privacy Act). According to FERPA guidelines, your son/daughter is to be treated as a responsible adult (this would be the “humor” part). Even if you’re paying the bills, you will be denied access to information about course progress, final grades, reasons for suspension, etc. without your child’s written permission. Unless, of course, you know how to hack into the college’s computer, in which case minor issues like the law probably don’t much matter.

3. A new word has been invented for parents who refuse to enjoy the fact that their children are, if not out of mind, then at least out of sight and who persist in meddling, er, "staying meaningfully involved" in their college students’ daily lives. They are called Helicopter Parents (as in, always hovering). This is a Bad Thing.
Do not let it happen to you.

4. Apropos of number 3 above, if you can’t figure out what it is you’re supposed to be doing as an “empty nester”, please see Margie. She’ll get you all kinds of straightened out. In fact, you may wind up trying to dissuade your college student from coming home, even for holidays . . .

Note from Margie - I love Kerry. And she is so good at this kind of thing that she has her own website! Check it out at Dr. Mom's Guide To College

TLC Advice-a-Thon: Mary Lynn's Rules

TLC Advice-a-Thon: Mary Lynn's Rules

By Mary Lynn


Never touch your computer if you’ve been drinking (or are similarly impaired)

Everybody needs a ‘Pet Geek’ to call in emergencies

The 9th Beatitude: Blessed are the pessimistic, for they hath made multiple backups. Yea, verily, they shall fear no ill.


Never try to drive AND drink coffee on the way to your interview - unless you’re wearing black.


When buying socks, purchase one or two dozen pairs, all alike.

If it’s important that someone else be able to tell who’s who—color-code the twins’ clothing. Reed was Red and Bill was Blue.

When teaching twins to drive, take them one at a time—do NOT allow the other twin to be in the car

TLC Advice-a-Thon: How To Talk To Your Kids About Sex

TLC Advice-a-Thon: Nancy on How To Talk To Your Kids About Sex.

by Nancy

1.  Start young.  When asked, "Where do babies come from?"  You say, "The mom's tummy."  But more detail than that, you're just going to screw up your kid or worse----cause them to spend hours camped out in front of your bedroom door with a drinking glass clamped to their ear. Until they are eight or ten, when the subject of "Yeah, but how did the baby get in there in the first place?" comes up, your answer is always,  "Hey!  Why don't we go to the zoo this weekend?!"  Which postpones the inevitable, but at least long enough until they can picture Mom and Dad making babies without screaming or weeping or going catatonic.

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2.  When the time comes to really have The Talk, do it from behind the wheel of your minivan.  Make sure your kid has a road map on her lap, and force her to give you directions to wherever you're going, so she has something complicated to focus on.  Right brain, left brain, you know?

3.  Yes, describe the physical stuff, but also the "sex is a meaningful act shared between two people who really care for each other and---"  if you're talking to teenagers---"ARE WILLING TO ACCEPT THE RESPONIBILITY OF RAISING A HAPPY CHILD TOGETHER." Which should get you talking about more important stuff, like what makes people happy such as two mature parents.  Feel free to toss in examples of their dysfunctional friends and their wacky parents. 

4.  Be prepared to find your kids camped out in front of your bedroom door anyway.

Got any better ideas?