Friday, November 27, 2009


Goodness. I am not sure how to respond to that last post.

I guess I should just say: Thanks, Epsilon!

I'm not certain how that tale proves there is a tunnel running underneath the Ohio River, but I am assuming you have a few more tricks up your sleeve. So, will just be patient.

I hope you and your family enjoyed a nice Thanksgiving. I, too, did not have to cook this year and was quite relieved. My task was to bring a nice bottle of Riesling and some appetizers. Spent a quiet evening with my mom and some good family friends.

A cold front has indeed descended upon us; I even saw snowflakes flittering spastically through the air this afternoon!

Took a long walk in the cold to clear my mind. Now I feel like I was traipsing across the moors with Heathcliff and am trying to warm up with a mug of coffee. Although I see something a bit stronger in my future....

Am listening to Russian Nights, working on the computer, and generally just kind of hanging out. Not something I get to do very often!

Heard a segment on NPR the other night about the complete(newly translated)letters of Vincent Van Gogh( Incredibly fascinating stuff! I love the way he thought -- and wrote -- about poetry and music and art and spirituality and how they were all interconnected. Was considering getting his collected letters for my artist sister for Christmas until they said they were available in a six volume set containing 902 translated letters -- for only $600! But you can also access them online at, and I think that would make a fun way to spend some quiet time this long, blustery holiday weekend.

Thursday, November 26, 2009


Sorry! I know it has been EONS since I have written, and you have all probably given up hope for poor Penny.

Or, heck, simply forgotten who she is.

I have some time right now to sit down and catch you up.

Our family rotates hosting Thanksgiving Dinner every year, and this year the dinner is at my mother in law’s. All I have to do is bring the wine, my famous Emeril’s Cranberry Orange Sassy Sauce (well, I don’t think that’s what it is really called, but whatever), and my Aunt Julia’s pumpkin bread that my daughter graciously volunteered to bake, as I loathe baking. We don’t have to be there until 4:00, so I have some free time between the Macy’s Day Parade and Turkey Gronk Fest.

In case you have forgotten where our fearless spelunkers were when I left off, I will take you back to the final scene of my last installment….

* * * *
All of a sudden my flashlight started to waver and then dim. I shook it and banged it on my free hand. It got brighter for a moment, and then it started wavering again.

And then, boom, just like that, it went out.

And Penny let out one of the most blood curling screams I have ever heard.

It scared the crap out of me and made me jump about a foot in the air. The hair on the back of my neck stood on end.

“Penny! Stop it!” I glared at her in the darkness.

“It’s dark! I can’t see anything!” Penny wailed. “We’re all gonna dieeeeeeeeee….”

“We are NOT going to die,” I said. “Ben, where are you?”

“Right here,” he said.

“Are you near Penny?” I asked.

“Uh, yeah.”

“Well, can’t you find her and slap some sense into her?”

“You are SOOOOO mean!” Penny wailed.

“Well, you are SOOOO loud!” I retorted. “Jesus, your screaming is not going to solve anything. In fact, it will probably cause a cave in or something and then we will really be trapped.”


“Penny. Here. Stop yelling,” Ben said. “Just hold my hand. It will be all right.”

“Yeah, hold Ben’s hand. So, we don’t lose you in the dark and leave you here by mistake.”

“Oh, my God! Please don’t LEAVE me heeeeeerrrre!!!”

“Shhhh… she’s not serious. We would never leave you here. But you need to stop screaming.” Ben was annoyingly reassuring.

“Yeah, you might wake up the bats or something.”


“Stop making her upset!” Ben sounded angry.

“Yeah, yeah. All right. All right. I’m just trying to get my bearings so we can feel our way out of here.”

“What do you mean ‘feel our way out of here’?”

“Well, if we just find the wall of the cave, we can follow it to the entrance. The only problem is….”


“Well, when the flashlight died and Penny started screaming, I was startled and turned around a few times and now I’m not really sure which way is in and which way is out.”

“Ohhhh, nooooooo….” Penny started whimpering.

“Well, I haven’t turned around at all,” Ben said. “I was right behind Penny and she’s still in front of me. So, we just need to keep going in that direction.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes.” Ben sounded sure. I wasn’t really sure if he was sure or if he was just sounding sure so Penny wouldn’t freak out again.

“I don’t think we are very far from the entrance. So, we should start to see light coming from there pretty soon.”

I didn’t add that if we went a while and we didn’t see daylight, then that would mean we were going the wrong way and would have to turn around and head the other way.

(The only thing I was really worried about was that it would be night time pretty soon and we wouldn’t see light no matter which way we went in the tunnel. But I didn’t want to get the others worried about that possibility.)

I found Ben and Penny in the darkness and then reached out my right arm to find the side of the tunnel. My hand brushed up against the cold, damp stone wall, and I took a deep breath.

“OK, guys. This is it. Let’s go!”

“See, Penny,” Ben said. “Stay with me and follow her, and we’ll be outta here in no time.”



I really had no idea which direction we were going, to tell you the truth. But it seemed like a good idea to do something.

To keep moving.

We were moving very slowly, because it was inky darkness, and I was afraid of tripping over something or bumping into… something. I wasn’t sure what. And tried not to let my imagination go wild.

“Hey!” Penny said. “What’s that?”


“Shhhh! That sound. In the distance. Don’t you hear it?”

All I could hear was my own breathing and the faint dripping of water from the ceiling.

“That!” said Penny. “Didn’t you hear it?”

“Hear what?” Ben asked.

“It sounds like… like… yelling from really far, far away.”

And then I heard it, too. Muffled yells. I couldn’t tell what the words were, but it sounded human at least.

“We’re in here!” Penny shouted at the top of her lungs.

“WE’RE IN HERE!!!” All three of us shouted at the tops of our lungs.

And then we saw a dim light bobbing in the distance.

We moved as quickly as we could towards the faint light.

And then I saw a huge, dark shadow looming behind the dim light.

Oh, God, it was a bear! I just knew it.

Never mind that there weren’t supposed to be bears in this area. Or that bears don’t generally use artificial lights.

“Nick!” Penny shouted with glee.

“Penny!” the dark form shouted back. “Where are you guys? It’s so dark in here.”

And then I could make out his frame and saw the white stripes on his shirt. He was carrying a penlight, the kind people keep on their key chains to help them find the door lock when it is dark outside.

I felt a tremendous surge of relief.

We were not going to die afterall!

“What are you guys doing in here in the dark?” Nick said.

“What are you doing here, period?” Ben asked. “I thought your parents said you weren’t allowed to go into any caves.”

“I’m not. But I got bored and came out here to look for you guys. And then I found your stuff out by the entrance to the cave. I just sat down on a log and was going to wait for you guys to come back out. But then I waited and I waited. And you weren’t coming.”

“Our flashlights all died!” Penny said.

“Yeah, we were in total darkness, man,” Ben said.

“But what made you come in?” I asked. “Even though you weren’t supposed to?”

“I heard a really high-pitched noise from inside the cave. And I realized it was somebody screaming. I shouted and shouted but nobody answered back. But I knew it was… was….”

“A call of distress?” I asked.

“Yes! I knew you guys still had to be inside, and it had to be one of you. I was afraid somebody got hurt or something.”

“So, you just came looking for us?”


‘Well, thank God you did!” Penny hugged Nick. “You saved us!”


“You’re a hero, dude.” Ben agreed.

“Yes, I have to say that it was really lucky that you had that pocket flashlight on you,” I admitted.

“Yeah, well, I had our spare house keys, and it just happened to be on there. And actually still work. But it is pretty tiny.”

“Big enough to find us!” Penny said.

“You know, it's lucky I came all the way out here,” Nick said. “I mean, you know….”

“We would have found our way out. Eventually,” I said. “But thanks.”

“Yeah, I don’t think it was such a good idea that you guys went in there without better flashlights or extra batteries or a ball of string or something.”

“Yeah.” I nodded. “But next time –“

“NEXT TIME?!? Are you NUTS???” Penny glared at me. “I’m not ever, ever, ever going in that stupid cave ever again!”

“Well, you won’t have to,” I said.

But I knew I would be.

And I knew, with even more conviction, that this tunnel was the one that would take us all the way under the river.

Don’t ask me why or how I knew, but I just did. I felt it in my bones.

The three of us were all muddy and wet from being in the cave. We looked kind of like drowned rats. Or contestants in a Tide commercial.

We gathered all our stuff together and started to head back home. I was already planning how we would sneak into our basement so I could wash all our muddy clothes without my mom knowing.

Penny walked up to Nick and yanked on his arm. “Here,” she said.

“What?” Nick turned around.

Penny slipped something into Nick’s hand.

“What is it?” Ben asked.

Nick opened up his hand to reveal a shiny, copper-colored coin.

“What’s this for?” he asked.

“Silly,” Penny blushed. “It’s your reward.”

“You don’t have to give me a reward.”

“Yeah, I do.”

“A penny’s not very much of a reward,” Ben said.

“Yeah, well, it’s my lucky penny. I carry it with me everywhere. And now it’s Nick’s.”

And so we come to the moral of our story:

A Penny saved is a penny earned.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Confessions of a Middle Aged Mom

My ears are burning.

Not because someone is talking about me.

Well, someone may well be talking about me, but that is not why my ears are burning.

My ears are burning because my 83-year old mother told me to put Swim Ear in them. She was digging through the hall medicine closet (it doubles as a linen closet, but medicinal products from as far back as the 1950s fill up much of the space), and she could not find the ear oil. Or the oil for one’s ears. That, apparently, one is supposed to warm up and drizzle into the innards of one’s ears whilst experiencing pain and discomfort.

Me. I am happy with several Advil and a shot of whiskey.

But, no, that is not medicinal enough for my mother. You need to use the special ear oil and THEN take the pain killers and the whiskey.

Myself, I am just hoping said pain will go away. Disappear. Bother me no more.

If I just ignore it for long enough.

I am not a baby or a toddler. I do not have time in my life for ear infections. Where the HELL did I ever get an ear infection anyway????

And I am most certainly NOT going to go sit in some over-crowded, germ-infested emergency room waiting room for 8 hours waiting to be seen by a doctor because my ill health did not present itself until the weekend.

So, I am hoping it just goes away.

But… I do have to say that I have IMMENSE sympathy for babies and toddlers who experience ear infections, because ear infections are extremely painful and really suck.

And if you are not old enough to express your level of discomfort in complete sentences – or even words! – then I totally get why you get so whiny and irritable and cry non stop.

My ear troubles remind me – too painfully! – of the time my younger son, who was about 13 months old, got an ear infection while we were on a family vacation at Club Med in the Bahamas. He was crying and fussy, and I took him to the Club Med Medical Clinic. They then sent him to see a doctor – THE doctor – the ONLY doctor on the island, I guess, and we had to take a taxi off the Club Med premises to this doctor’s office which was at the end of a long and winding dirt road. The doctor was very nice and prescribed antibiotics for my son. That night, back at Club Med, the evening’s entertainment was a Magic Show, and the magician was… the island doctor!!! I kid you not. I am looking at this guy up on the stage and wondering why he looked so familiar, when it dawned on me: “Oh. My. God. That is the DOCTOR!!!”

Anyway, we flew home several days later. The first leg of the trip, from the island to Florida, went fine. Perhaps because the plane did not ascend all that far up? However, when we got on the big, huge jet that was to take us from Florida back to DC, my poor young son could NOT be consoled! It was painfully obvious (to ALL on that flight) that he was in a lot of pain and I was an evil mom from hell. The worst part of all was that my baby was in so much pain and there really was NOTHING I could do to console him. It was agony.

Once we landed, he was OK again. And quickly fell asleep. But I was forever traumatized.

And I am sure this is why I am getting an ear infection some 15 years later.

As pay back or something.

Lest I forget.

Cell Phone Dickering

Coincidentally – or not! – that same son is now in dire need of a “better” cell phone plan. When he and his older brother were about 11 and 13 (or 12 and 14) – I can’t remember – I got them cell phones for Christmas. While my kids were thrilled to be cool and hip, my main concern was that they be able to reach me and me them whenever it was necessary. They got simple phones and a Pay As You Go prepaid plan. My reasoning: if they lost their phones, not such a tragedy. Plus, they would not be able to ring up astronomical phone bills. If they ran through their allotments, they would be done, until I decided to put more money on their phones.

This worked like a charm for many years. Neither son was particularly chatty, and they often forgot to take their phones with them. My older son only turns on his phone when he wants to call YOU, and then immediately turns it off again. My younger son would use his phone, but not all that much.


High school.


And text messaging.

It is a bizarre fact of truth that if you own a cell phone you are charged for each time that someone calls or texts YOU! I fail to understand this phenomenon. It does not work that way for regular phones. You make the call, you pay. OK, fine and good, but not the other way around!

If I had to pay for each and every time some moron solicitor called my home phone, I would have been sent to debtor’s prison long ago!

Anyway… teens these days apparently only communicate via text message.

I myself have an older style flip phone and while I have the ability (on my phone) to text message, it takes me about four hours to send a simple text from my old school dialing apparatus. I do not have a QWERTY keyboard on my phone. So, it takes me a long, long, long while to figure out how to type the simplest of responses to all of my friends who seem to have QWERTY and valet texting on their phones.

My son, the one who had the horrible ear infection on our Club Med trip 15 years ago, told me that he NEEDS a new phone. When I asked him how he was planning on paying for this new phone, he gave me the look from hell that said: “YOU were the evil mother who allowed me to suffer, irrevocably, on that airline flight back from the islands!”

I told my son that he could research cell phone family plans and get back with me. That if he was really serious about getting a new phone and phone plan, he could take the time to look up what would be the best option.

I am still waiting.

He told me, plaintively, “It is not MY fault that people text message me so much.”

OK, fine. Whatever.

Do the research. Put together your presentation. And convince me.

Otherwise, I will not be overly sympathetic.

His plan?

Borrow his older brother’s phone (you know the one who only turns on his phone when he is calling YOU!) without asking him and just use that.


Not acceptable.

Try again.


Social Life

Did I forget to mention that my younger son NEEDS a new phone and plan where he can text message and receive text messages ad nauseam BECAUSE he has a social life?

“Is it MY fault I have a social life?” he asks me with derision.

“Do you WANT me to be unpopular?”


No, I just want you to pay for your extravagant lifestyle.


Social life is not the equivalent of dating.

But… my younger son who wants the new cell phone and cell phone plan with unlimited texting is also into the whole dating scene.

I do not approve of his dating techniques. Me, I would get to know someone first and decide I like them and THEN ask them out.

Him? He sees someone he likes or thinks he likes and asks them out and THEN gets to know them and decides, gee, maybe he doesn’t really like them afterall because they have nothing in common.


There is no sense my telling him why this approach is not sound. Afterall, I am the evil bitch mom from hell who will not buy him an iPhone with unlimited text messaging to China.

So, I guess he will figure out after one or two or three or four times that his method is really just not working for him.

My other son, you know, the one who never turns on his phone unless he is going to call you and then turns it back off again, has plenty of friends who are girls but he does not date. He says he would love to date, but there really are no girls he would want to date at the moment. He likes them as friends, but they are already dating someone else or just not his type.

I am tempted to buy HIM an iPhone with unlimited text messaging to China, but that might be a tad irrational.

Driving Privileges

Just because you CAN drive a car and because you have your junior license does not mean you MUST drive a car.

My older son, who does not have the cell phone woes, does have his driver’s license. He also has an aversion to any kind of physical activity whatsoever. So, he is always wanting to drive somewhere. Even if it is just down the road to the local grocery store to buy chips!

That is just so anathematical (not a word, I know, but I like it) it makes me break out in hives!!!

Number one: he does NOT have a car of his own.

Number two: he is NOT paying for his car insurance.

Number three: his need to use a car does not fall into the realm of realistically reasonable.

What WOULD be reasonable?

“Son, I need you to go pick up your younger brother from driver’s ed.”

“Could you please drive down and pick up the pizzas I ordered for dinner?”

“If you want to use my car to go to work and back, that is fine.”

College Application Season

The applications are already in, so I feel I can comment on this now without jinxing anything.

But this was like pulling teeth!!!

Not, mind you, that I have ever in my life pulled anyone else’s – or my own! – teeth.

The process is so labyrinthine and mind-boggling, even though the online Common Application is supposed to simplify things ten-fold.

There is nothing common about the Common Application, other than the fact, I guess, that you can (sometimes) send applications to multiple schools through this one online venue.

Not all schools use or allow the Common Application and even of those that do, some require extra, additional hoops to jump through.

My feeling is that if they made the college application process more like an RPG (role-playing game) video game, kids like my older son would just never get enough of it.

“What do you mean I have already successfully applied to all of the schools I want to apply to and I need to get off the computer and go play video games????”

Now, wouldn’t THAT be the kind of thing parents wanna be hearing…?

Drill Sergeant of the Year Award

I’m not sure what weekday mornings at your house are like, but at my house, it sounds like a boot camp scene from Full Metal Jacket or An Officer and A Gentleman.

“What do you want on your sandwich? MAYOnnaise? Or mustard?”

“It’s 7:10. If you want breakfast, you better shake a leg! The train to the bus stop leaves the station in six minutes. Six minutes! Six minutes!”

“It’s 7:20. Move it! Move it! Move it! That’s an out the door kinda move it!”

You see… sigh.

I have to hustle my two sluggish teenagers into the car so I can drive them the quarter mile to the bus stop.

I know, I know, you are thinking, “Why the HELL can’t they walk to the bus stop?!?”

I used to think that, too.

But when your kids miss the bus a few times and you have to drive them the three miles to the high school and back during rush hour school traffic, it takes a huge chunk out of your own precious morning time when you are supposed to be doing things like working out at the gym, swimming laps, taking a shower, doing laundry, getting dinner ready, folding clothes, making dentist and doctor and car service appointments, and getting ready for work, all at the same time.

And if you just let them walk, by the time they got to the high school, they would be really late and have already missed a class or two. And you would be receiving a phone call from Child and Youth Services telling you that your insensitive actions are, in fact, child abuse.

Trust me, it is so not worth it.

Consequently, I just channel my inner Louis Gossett, Jr. and do what a mom's gotta do.


I was lying in bed on a recent night, unwinding after a long hard day of work, minding my own business, reading Olive Kitteridge (this year’s Pulitzer Prize winner for fiction) before bed, when in walked my younger son to say goodnight.

He tilted his head and squinted at the cover of the book I was reading.

“Olive Kitteridge,” he said. “Is she any relation to Kit Kittridge, An American Girl?”

He said it so drily. So seriously. So nonchalantly.

Now, how can you NOT burst out laughing at that? I mean, it was funny.

True, it did take me a moment to realize who Kit Kittridge was as I only have boy children and I missed that whole American Girl scene.

Of course, this was from the same kid who, when he was about seven and we were dragging him and his brother around the golf course, trying to have a “family fun” day on the links and teach physical fitness and a lifelong love of aggravating sports, addressed the ball on the ninth tee with a long, drawn out sigh and the words, “I feel like Tired Woods.”

My older son is just as bad.

I had recently attended a College Information night at the high school where they had talked about how stressful senior year could be and how much pressure students could be feeling as they tried to decide which colleges to apply to and how to complete their applications and write their college essays. Yada, yada, yada….

My high school senior was sitting at the computer, ostensibly doing homework or writing his college essay, but more likely updating his Facebook status or checking something on GameFaqs, or maybe some permutation of all of the above. I stood there looking at him for a moment, wondering how on earth the little blonde-haired boy who used to create spacecraft out of Legos was now a six foot tall giant with facial hair about ready to graduate from high school.

He looked up at me.

“What?” he said.

I sighed.

“Wha-a-a-at?” he repeated.

“Do you feel like you are… under a lot of pressure?” I finally asked.

Without missing a beat, he started playing percussion on the desktop with his hands and humming, “Duh – duh- duh-duh-duh-duh-duh” (the opening of Queen and David Bowie’s “Under Pressure”).

Need I say more?

Need I say more?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Mea Culpa

I would like to apologize for my prolonged absence.

Two of my kids had the H1N1 virus, and then I got it.


I have been totally out of the net for days.

I promise to get with the program in the very near future!

-- Epsilon

Saturday, November 07, 2009

A friendly nudge



I have been waiting for you to continue your cliff hanger story before posting my own musings.

I had this really great post on Autumn all planned, but did not want to steal your thunder.

Now I am getting emails from people who want to know what happens to Penny!?!


I have no idea what is going to happen to poor Penny, so, like, could you please take a few moments to let us know?

Thank you,

The Management