Friday Fluff (On a Sunday)

Confession. When I was a teen, I used to take quizzes obsessively. I subscribed to Sassy magazine and thrived on its multiple choice options.  I obsessed over the scores and tried to decide if the answers were accurate, or if they even applied to me, since I hadn’t been able to find anything very close to my own experiences in the possibilities.

I do not miss those days.

Which is why, when some of my favorite bloggers like Dawnie and Alyssa started completing quizzes written by teenagers and answering them with grown up sarcasm, I laughed heartily and then moved on. Because, I don’t miss those days.

But the more I read, the more I found myself interjecting my own snarky, sarcastic answers. And when a new blog that I’d only just started reading, Seeking Elevation, had even more funny responses to these misspelled, absurdly worded, bizarre questions, I couldn’t hold back any longer.

It happens once a week. It’s called Friday Fluff. If you want to play, this week’s questions (Jan. 13) came from here. Next week’s questions (Jan 20) will be from here. And when you’re done, you can linkup over at Seeking Elevation, like I’m about to do.

Are you an early riser?

No. But I love the song “Early Morning Riser” by Pure Prairie League.

Do you shower before or after work?

In the middle actually

Do you have a gym mebership?

No, but I am a meMber of the Y.

Do you go to the gym everyday?

Let’s talk grammar. “everyday” Is a compound word. It means commonplace. It should be used in phrases like “an everyday occurrence”. Every [space] day means “each day”. And no.

Do you take unscheduled breaks at work?

You assume I’m “at work” when I’m working. Next question.

Are you tired during the day?

Does a bear shit in the woods?

Do you stop at a grocery store every day?

Not even when I worked at one.

At week ends you stay home all day in your pajamas watching tv?

So much to go with on this one. I’ll have to go with “I hate TV”.

You have a few drinks in the evening?

That sentence was declarative; it should have ended in a period. And some evenings, yes.

If you are retired, are you online most of the day?

Wait. You assumed I was “at work” four questions ago. Now you want to know if I’m retired?  Excusez-moi. Je crois que vous êtes confus.

Do you cook?

Doesn’t everyone?

Do you eat out most of the time?

See here.

Do you spend lots of time on the phone?

No. On rare occasions, I’ll get a call from someone I have not spoken with in too long, and we will spend three or four hours gabbing. But even at that, it doesn’t stretch out to be enough to justify my cell plan most months.

If at work, do you chat online on company’s time or texting?

Now we’re back to assuming I’m at work. What is it with you?!  And by “chat” do you mean “IM” or “talk on the phone”? And what is “texting’s time”?

If there’s a party on Sunday night and you have to work in the morning, do you party anyways?

It’s “anyway” and hell yes, I do. I have years of being a geeky teen who didn’t get invited to parties at all to make up for. Unfortunately, all my friends probably have to work, too, so odds are, we’re all done by 9 o’clock.

Do you take a day off from work just so you can go shopping or fishing?

If I were remotely interested in either activity, I might. As I’m not, I don’t.

Do you feel great when you get up in the morning?

This is a trick question, right? To see if I’ve changed my mind from number one? Let’s put it this way. My sleep shirts all have messages. One says “Punish the Perky”. Another says “I’m awake. What more do you want?”

Do you feel like your daily duties are more like KP duty?

Many of my duties are kitchen patrol duties. Except my saint of a husband does even more of those than I do, so we don’t live in a sty.

Do you go to bed before midnight?


Do you take an afternoon nap?

See above


Bra Wars

It’s not like I enjoy wearing a bra. I refused to put one on until sixth grade when my PE teacher complained to the principal that he could see my boobs jiggling when I ran. They were that big. And he was that much of a stunted perv. (Stunted because he was horrified; perv because he was looking.) So the school made me wear a bra back when I was only a B cup. (And a B cup at age 12 is something noteworthy, I guess.).

For reasons I won’t go into here, I can’t wear one with underwires. That means that even now that I’ve been conditioned into feeling naked when my boobs are flopping along near my midriff, I get almost no support from what I do put on. Maybe they make them that work for people of my dimensions. But I haven’t found one yet. And I’m not looking that hard, because I’ve found a brand that offers a reasonable balance between comfort and support. They’ve even come down in price recently so I don’t have to pawn out my children anymore to buy one.

That said, I own a sufficient number of bras that I shouldn’t ever lose them all. Even if I can’t find a particular one at any given time, I ought to be able to grab a bra whenever I need one. But I can’t. It’s a given that if I want to go somewhere, I can’t lay hands on even one upper body foundation garment.

I’m sure it’s Freudian. I hate my bras. I don’t really want to find one. They’re scratchy in one place and pinchy in another, and as soon as I put one on, my breasts beg for release.  “Comfort” is a relative term. But, aside from the ‘people are staring’ issue, the over-the-shoulder-boulder-holders do help distribute the weight, so that I’m breaking my shoulders, neck, AND back, not just my back alone, with my G cups.

While I have reached a point in my life where I own six or so that fit, I still yearn to find the perfect blend of price, comfort, and yes beauty. There, I said it. I want cute bras. I cannot find adorable bras in my size at all. Even the ones with a little lace are pretty industrial grade.

It goes without saying that I’m planning surgery. I’m only twenty pounds from my goal weight, and then my missiles are going back to the factory. And when I’m back to a perfectly normal C cup, I plan to buy Wal-Mart out of cheap, flowery, pastel, soft cotton braces. I’ll also raid the naughty section for matched sets of bright red, hot pink, lacy, gauzy, tawdry undergarments. When my bosom is less luxurious, I’ll be able to wear my bras strapless and banded. I’ll have sports bras and formal bras, casual bras for around the house, sleeping bras for going to bed, and I might even branch out into pasties. (Well, no. I won’t go that far. I’m not into taping sensitive skin.)

I know that women with small breasts yearn for large ones and vice versa, but my boobs and I are at war. Within the next year, I’m going down in size. And then, I know, I will find the perfect bra.


I’m linking this post up with the folks at Story Dam who asked for a story of under 600 words that fits with the theme of “Where is it”, in which a character has lost something important.

Fiction: Weep


No clouds at all. The soft waves masked a riptide, and there were no swimmers. Even the morning’s shell seekers had retreated from the midday heat,  and white sand ran into green ocean ran into blue sky in uninterrupted succession.

On the balcony, James sipped his iced tea. The ceiling fan whipped in circles without stirring the air down by the table.  “I haven’t seen it this tranquil in a long time.”

Melinda nodded, but she didn’t speak. She watched the condensation weep down the side of her glass.

“There will be others,” James said.

Again, she nodded without saying anything, still watching the droplets zigzag down to eventually collect in a puddle  around the base. In the distance, a white speck pierced the horizon, grew into the shape of a fishing boat, then drifted out of view, heading in the direction of the docks.

Melinda picked up her glass, but not to drink. She wiped the water off the table and put the tea back down untouched. She looked at the place where the ship had vanished, but nothing else emerged from the cove.

James looked there too, for a little while, but then returned his eyes to the tea. He used one finger to stir the ice around, and the clinking cubes cut into the balcony’s silence. He stopped stirring.

“I suppose everything ends, doesn’t it?” he said.

“I suppose so,” Melinda answered, and at last she took a drink from her glass.


This is the first time I’ve put fiction on my blog, and I’m linking up with the folks over at Trifecta who use the rule of 3. Stories must be between 33 and 333 words and must be based on Merriam Webster’s third definition of a chosen word. Sound pretty obscure? That’s just exactly why I like it.

Anyway, when commenting on my fiction, please know that I welcome constructive criticism. I’ve got a thick skin. I like the chance to resolve things that aren’t working.

Train train

The weekend after I got back from my solo Ohio trip, I had scheduled a surprise for our family. (This was a bad idea; I’m even worse at planning surprises than I am at keeping them.) I wrote the melodramatic message “Make no plans. Board the dog” across the calendar weekend of December 10th and waited for Scott to notice.

It involved a giant topiary moose

I actually did a very good job of waiting, since I bought the tickets towards the end of November, and he didn’t notice until the day before I left for Cincinnati. He was adding a kid therapy to the calendar and asked “What plans aren’t we making next weekend? Why are we boarding the dog?” And, the kicker, “Doesn’t Caroline have Nutcracker practice?”

And that, my friends, is why I know better than to go off and plan something without consulting my better half. Of course Caroline had Nutcracker practice. It wasn’t a dress rehearsal, but the show was only a week away, so it was a full cast run-through, and she really wasn’t supposed to miss.

This old caboose is actually the ticket office

I had to delay coping with this until I got back from my trip. Then, the following Monday, I asked Caroline, “next weekend, would you rather have a sleepover with a friend if I can arrange it or…”


“Don’t you want to know what you’ll be missing?”

“I want a sleepover!”

“OK, but only if I can figure one out for you!” So I scrambled around and located a saint of a grandparent who was willing (nay, enthusiastic!) to have Caroline come spend the night with her granddaughter (who is one of Caroline’s best friends) AND take her back and forth to Nutcracker practice. And Caroline wasn’t even moderately disappointed when she found out what she would be missing.

By then, Scott and Caroline knew what was coming, and I knew I wasn’t going to get Sam on a four hour long car ride without some serious bait, so let him in on the fun as well.  I asked him, “Do you want to come on a Santa train ride?”

“Oh YES!”

No coatAnd so, on December 10th, we dropped Caroline with her friend at the mall and drove four hours to north Georgia to ride the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway. We were in an open air car, it was around 30 degrees, and Sam did not want to wear his coat.

We didn’t fight it. We were running late by the time we got to the station, we almost missed getting onboard, and we were still better prepared than one mother, whose children didn’t even bring coats. To her credit, she had been told the same thing I had. The website clearly states that the cars are open air. But when we called the ticketing booth to reserve, the lady on the other end of the phone said, “Oh no, they have roofs and everything. It’s the middle of winter!”

If ever a more literal minded person I meet, I will be astounded. Yes, the cars DID have roofs. And walls. But there were no windows meaning they were absolutely as ‘open air’ as they had been advertised to be. We had dragged our coats from the car, even if Sam was refusing to wear his, because this particular railway actually goes somewhere. It takes a scenic tour from one town to another, lets passengers disembark in a little town for an hour and then takes them back.

We snuggled him between us and he didn't get really cold.I had already been looking forward to taking train pictures. But then, when I got my awesome camera while up in Cincinnati, my very first thought, before even the baptism and wedding I was attending up there, was “Oh my GOD the train pictures just got incredible”. And that was before I snapped photo one.

Mommy has HER coat on Sam, don't you want YOUR coat?

The open air car only increased the picture quality. I captured shots that I had been dreaming of since our Amtrak honeymoon. If I could have gotten just ONE photo like these ten years ago, I could have saved myself rolls and ROLLS of film.

Everybody loves the sound of a train in the distanceI’m pretty sure that when we went over a narrow bridge and the conductor announced on the loudspeaker “everyone please remain completely in the car until we have completely passed over the bridge” it was entirely for the benefit of myself and a couple of restless kids who kept sticking various body parts out the window.

And then, the world’s coolest Santa Claus came down the aisle. It takes a LOT to cool me out over Santa, and this guy totally did the trick:

Less Santa more Golden Compass, yes?I love the victorian vest and ruffled shirt. And that thing in his hand is a silver sleigh bell. (Yes, we got one for Caroline, too.) Of course, those things made it that much harder to watch the bastardized version of the Polar Express that Disney puts on. (And yes, it was that night after we got back to the hotel from the train that it showed up on our room TV.)

And he posed for pictures!Anyway, once we reached our destination and got off the train, Sam FINALLY realized it was cold and let himself be stuffed in his jacket. We wandered around the little town, got a hideous meal at a local pizza place (So what if it sucked! We were in love!), and bought me a hat, because the temperature was rapidly dropping and my coat lacked a hood.

Hood and reflectionThe next time we go, Caroline has made us promise to take her, too. I don’t think she’s going to have to wait for next Christmas, either, because all of us were completely enchanted, and I don’t think we got to see even half of what was available.

Fast Food

Bread – that this house may never know hunger
Salt – that life may always have flavor.
Wine – that joy and prosperity may reign forever.
—  It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

Let’s talk food. Specifically fast food. Though I typically don’t, I’ve been eating a lot of it lately. Holiday travel necessitates relaxation of all rules. (Not to mention, I knew when I started that I’d be taking December off from my diet to make it possible for others to live with me).

There’s a great deal of bread and salt (two of my favorite ingredients) in the typical fast food meal. Not enough wine, I suppose, and I would need to go to Europe to find a Micky D’s with beer, but, I digress. The truth is that I hate the stuff. All the salt in the world won’t help if there is no flavor to bring out.

The hamburger patties come in two basic varieties: thin-dry and greasy-thick. There are variations and amalgamations, such as greasy-thin and crumbly-thick. But I like my burgers flavorful. Neither grease nor sauce can substitute for appropriately used seasonings.

When at all possible, I order grilled chicken. But these restaurants usually serve rubber chicken that might as well be in a teapot and a skit. Besides, even more than burgers, fast food chicken has no flavor. Again, grease and sauce are not substitutes.

When we were in Cincinnati, we ate at Skyline Chili, a family favorite. We even got Caroline to have a three way. (It’s different in Cincinnati.) It tasted divine; I love cinnamon laced Cincy-Chili. But oh the nausea! It must have been two parts garlic to one part grease!

And don’t get me started on the pizzas. I’ve had them too thick, too thin, with too little sauce, with too much sauce, not enough cheese, burned cheese, disgusting toppings (that should have tasted just fine). Enough!

Scott and I have the solution. We want to start our own restaurant. It will be a sit down chain, with wait staff and food fit for adults and kids alike. And right in the middle of the room, there will be a glassed in play area. I don’t see us really doing that. But the day somebody does will be the one we remember how to have a pleasant meal on the road.


Red Writing HoodI’m linking this one up with the Write on Edge Red Writing Hood Flavor prompt.

Best Birthday Present Ever

Last month, when I went up to Cincinnati, I got to see my Dad. It’s the first time I’ve seen him without my kids since Caroline was born. We had an awesome lunch, and he gave me my birthday present. Now, Dad and I don’t typically exchange gifts. Only when we’ve found something worth giving, really.

He had been hinting about this present for months. He kept saying  “You are gonna blister me when you see this thing”. I couldn’t imagine.  Because Dad has pulled some very strange gifts out of thin air in the past. He got our family a Toboggan for four when we lived in Lexington, KY. We didn’t exactly have opportunities to use it. But he’s also given me some really cool useful things. He got me an ergonomic shaped purse one year that I carried for something like a decade until right after we moved down here. (A moving day accident involving Sam, WD-40, a can of paint, and the garage rendered the purse and most of its contents insalvageable.)

So it would be an understatement to say my curiosity was piqued. A big understatement. Dad insisted that as long as I packed right, I’d be able to tuck this thing into a carry-on bag for the plane, which pretty much eliminated ‘replacement toboggan’. But other than that, I knew it could be a-n-y-t-h-i-n-g.

When I met Dad for lunch, he had a gleam of excited mischief on his face, and a big box beside him on the table. I took his picture with my phone to commemorate the meeting.

my Dad

We ate, and we visited for something like an hour before the subject of the gift came around. Suddenly he was nervous. He had, after all, been working himself up since October with this thing.

a box

The present came out of the box in parts. First, there was a compartmentalized bag. (And I was waayyy too impatient to photograph the bits as I removed them.) I said, “Nice bag.” And even as I said it, I was thinking huh, looks like… and before the thought fully formed, I looked back in the box and saw what had been beside the bag in transit.

this astonishing camera.

…a camera bag. “It is a camera bag!” I said.

And is it ever a camera bag. My Dad got me a Canon T3 Rebel. I have been BEGGING Scott to consider investing in an expensive SLR camera, and this is what I’ve had my eye on. Dad and Scott had not been in contact. Dad had no idea. He just went out on a limb and got it.  Also, he got me a fantastic lens. At the wedding I was in town to attend that very night, I got tons of compliments from my Auntie Em and even the professional photographer.

The photographer (who taught me how in the hell to use the thing, by the way – really awesome guy) said many kit cameras are just glorified, heavier, handhelds. But the Rebel (as this thing appears to be nicknamed) is classy.
I have barely put it down since December. I’ve taken wedding pictures, baptism pictures, train pictures, kid pictures, everything. Dad followed up at Christmas with a long range zoom lens.
My crazy niece

When I took this picture, I was standing across the room from my niece, who had demanded proof that a lens like that would only photograph her eyeball if I used it indoors.

Can I just say that I think I’m taken care of for the next decade or so? I don’t think I can ever remember a birthday present this awesome in my entire life. Not one. It’s something I wanted SO badly but probably wouldn’t have gotten on my own. It’s something I’ll enjoy for a very long time. It’s a gift and  memory that I’ll always treasure. Thanks, Dad. 

And so I write

I knew what I wanted.

I’ve been a writer since age ten. Initially, I just wanted a career (yes, I was thinking seriously of my future career then) where I could use the old Remington Rand manual typewriter. I loved the way it felt under my fingers, and I savored the letter-arm’s whack against the paper. Even now when I’m feeling completely empty, I type just to hear the clickity-clack of my keyboard.

My parents supported me. My dad is a musician, so they kind of had to by default. “Write,” they told me. “But have a backup.”

That advice has haunted me, still haunts me. It is the thread that floats through my dreams and nightmares. It has brought some of the best things in my life, but also some of the worst. Thanks to two masters degrees, I can now earn gainful ‘backup’ employment as a librarian or college English teacher. I met my husband in grad school, and we have two wonderful children. But grad school brought out the worst of my bipolar, stole my writing for nearly four dull, hideous years, and pushed me into jobs that are not writing.

Before I was five, we used to scrape by on what my Dad sent home from the road, which wasn’t much. After he came off the road and both my parents went to work, our income level reached middle class status. But we were always the scraping-by sort.

Dad job-hopped. His life’s refrain was “I play guitar. I write music. It’s what I do.” I hated those words. And I swore to God I ‘d never be that.

Only I am that.

Exactly that.

Although I have a job, a good one, I am becoming increasingly unemployable. I work online, or I probably would have been fired eons ago. The more contact I have with my employers, the less sure I am what’s going to fly out of my mouth at any given time. I tell the truth, often to my own detriment.

Increasingly, all I can do is write. I’m frantic because I know the odds in this business. But this is what I do. I write. My writing has been deferred deferred deferred until my chest clenches, and my throat closes. Until my face burns and my angry soul rebels, demanding its own time.

And so I write.

Because I know what I want.


remembeRedButtonI’m linking up with this week’s RemembeRed post, Unfulfilled, which asks about an unfulfilled moment in our lives.

I’m also sharing this Awesome with Momma Made it Look Easy


Spring BubblesWinter Bubbles

Can you believe the 2 1/2 year old in the top picture is the exact same child as the 8 year old in the bottom picture? They don’t even look alike.


Memories CapturedI’m hooking this entry up once more with the Memories Captured project over on These Little Waves and Mama Wants This with effects and text added using Picnik‘s free online software.


In which we do not get sprayed by a skunk

Back in November, we decided to give Geocaching another whirl. Our first adventure, documented here, was a total failure, but a fun one. Also, we wanted to give Caroline a long ride on that two wheeler before the cold weather made access sporadic. As a final incentive, we could explore one of the few Rails to Trails sites in Alabama.

So, armed with some new equipment to make cache hunting more effective, we drove an hour to Valley, Alabama. It’s an old mill town located along the  Chattahoochee river.

Part of the mill along our trail

Right at the outset, we discovered not one, but two old bridges to explore. One was a covered bridge, a covered railroad bridge, which meant it was bonus on the route. The other was the town’s old driving bridge, a metal structure that climbed above the roadway. It was the perfect spot from which to photograph its covered counterpart.

Picturesque doesn't even begin to describe it

Although paved, the track was poorly marked, so we were lucky Scott had already scouted ahead online. Otherwise, it would have seemed like the most pointless adventure ever, since a major road cut through the path about a quarter of a mile in and it was impossible to see where it continued. The Geocaching GPS insisted our find was over a mile away, so we would have been mightily annoyed to stop so soon.

Let me pause here to say that Geocaching and Rails to Trails are not united things. The trails are handy spots to place Geocaches, and the two are certainly capable of coexisting. But they are separate entities, without very much technical in common. Keep that in mind.

The trail wound around past city hall, where we met this fellow. He’s a wise man, part of a nativity.

Plastic Camel Rides two dollars for charity (not)

I’m afraid my primary thought was “Too bad Sam’s already got a mount, because that camel is in serious need of a rider”. (Because Sam was abike, too. He still has his training wheels, but it was a perfect course for both kids.)

See Caroline? The bright pink dot on the path?

Can you see the little card to the right of the door? If you click the picture, you can enlarge it on its own page to see.

We’re pretty sure these were occupied as houses in spite of their run-down condition and the blank ‘store-hours’ card in the front of one. It was just one symptom of the very real poverty in this town. We passed numerous dilapidated homes, some in states of outright decay. And all of them were occupied. I took the above pictures when we thought it was just the town’s old business district. Beyond that, tourism photography seemed disrespectful.

After that, we followed the path away from town. It kept crossing roads, which was convenient for keeping Caroline in check. She could ride ahead to the next stop sign, which was only out of our sight a couple of times. Then, she had to either wait for us to catch up or ride back and forth to us in the interim. When we started the afternoon, she still needed a push off to get going. By the time we were finished, she could kick start herself. Cheers to boredom.

A mile and a half in, the geomachine said we were almost there. At a mile and three quarters, exactly at a trail end, the machine suggested we dive off into the underbrush. As I said, Geocaching is not directly related to the Rails to Trails project. Also, this kind of direction isn’t uncommon with Geocaches. They are typically located a little off the beaten path. So we ditched the bikes and headed into the woods. There was a little walking path to follow, and the machine agreed we were headed aright.

But when we got within three feet of our destination, things went a little haywire. The GPS software couldn’t quiiite get a bead on us, so it would jump from saying we were 9 feet away, to saying we were 15 feet away, to saying we were right on top of it without our ever moving a step. But we knew we were close. So we started looking for logical spots. Behind stumps and around bushes. We were so engaged with looking that I didn’t think to take pictures.

Then I saw it. The perfect little burrow in the ground.  Geocaches are often hidden inside hollow logs and down in holes in the ground. This had a bit of both going for it, but right away we knew something was wrong. There was, surrounding the hole, a very very faint odor.

It was so faint, in fact, that I was the only one who initially noticed it. I said, “We may have found it, guys, but I think a skunk moved in.”

Scott took my word right away and said, “OK, let’s go then.”

But the smell was so faint. I said, “Well, maybe not. Let me poke around a bit.”

So I took a stick, and I jabbed it in the hole. Nothing happened. I shifted around some leaves, and nothing continued happening. So I got bold and grabbed a longer stick. I had just started rooting around with that when the odor level increased (not much, but everybody could smell it) and a sudden movement in the pit snagged my gut.

A black and white head with beady eyes popped out and looked around at us as if to say “What the hell are you doing in my house? You want to come in? You want that we should meet more closely?”

With matching visions of having to burn our clothes and shave our heads, Scott and I seized the children by the hand and took off back down the path. For the rest of the way back to the car, Sam kept saying, “The skunk stole our Geode”.

Well, no honey. Not exactly. But the effect was the same. As with our last failure, the adventure was so much fun that we knew we would give Geocaching another shot. The very next day, in fact, we made our first finds. Four of them, once we got the hang of how to look. But none of those were so fun as the one we didn’t find, the one that got “stolen”.

Gratuitous adorability


a flicker of inspiration at Lightning BugWith apologies, I’m linking up with The Lightning and The Lightning Bug’s Flicker of Inspiration post. I must say, I didn’t understand the prompt right. When the prompt said to ‘fix’ something that went wrong, I assumed ‘fix’ meant ‘write about’. I now realize we were supposed to do a fictional re-work of the scene. Oops. My gaffe. Just to be clear, we were absolutely never sprayed by the skunk.


There’s this story in my mother’s family about my great-great uncle. He and his wife once forgot their passports and nearly missed a plane rushing home to get them. Thereafter, each demanded of the other several times before any long journey, “Did you get the passports?” It became a running joke, a family-wide reference to anything small, important and forgotten. Tickets to a play? “Honey, don’t forget the passports.” Social Security Card? “Honey, don’t forget your passport.” Turning off the appliances before my grandparents’ annual pilgrimage to Floria? “Passports!” In fact, neither of my grandparents nor my Mom had a passport, serving to further confuse friends who happened to overhear the reference.

In my Dad’s family, in contrast, it’s considered sinful to lack a passport. I guess they want to be prepared to flee the country. Mom flipped when Dad got me my first one at the age of ten. She thought he was going to kidnap me across national boundaries or something. I used it exactly once, going to Canada with my paternal grandfather long before a kid needed a passport for such a crossing.

In spite of this lack of use, the absence of a passport in my life has nagged me ever since the old one expired when I was fifteen or so. (Sometimes, it takes a lot of nagging to get action out of me.) This year, Scott and I bit the bullet (and the expense) and got our whole family passports. We have no international travel planned in the immediate future, but we would like to be ready should an opportunity arise. (Please, opportunity, find me!)

So we dragged the kids out on a day we were already taking family pictures (or maybe it was the other way around) and got our passport photos at the same time. The woman taking our photos at the post office could only be described as a harridan. She was shorter than I was, meaning she had to look up at practically everybody, making already unflattering photos even worse. She stalled and shooshed, scathed and snarled, and she consistently refused to do retakes, even in the case of the woman whose head got chopped off above the eyes, until her supervisor intervened.

“No smiling!” That was her biggest edict. And have you ever tried to not smile when somebody is screeching at you about it? It’s like white polar bears. As soon as somebody says “no”, it’s all I can do. She finally got three of us straight-faced long enough to take her shot. But Sam, who she had to perch up on a stool anyway, was too nervous to stop cackling. She had to retake him twice without argument because he kept flipping forward to grab interesting things under the stool and vanishing from the photograph. So when his final picture came up with a half-smirk, she let it ride.

We sent out the forms and such, and the passport folks eventually returned the completed applications (along with our birth certificates, thank you very much). They also gave back the ‘extra’ pictures, since you have to submit two, but the office only uses one.

Oops, I scanned Sam upside down

Oops. I scanned Sam upside down

They’re horrible. Even Caroline looks bad. Sam’s is saved by the half smile, but all of us still look like felons.

The felons confess

 Family Convicted of Something Really Bad

Deputy T.W. Trogdolyte didn’t bother with a trial when he picked up this group. “Between the famer’s tan on the man, the frown line and double chin on the woman, and those pale, pale children, I knew I’d found my rat.”

This reporter was lucky enough to gain access to the prison to ask the group about their horrific deeds. The man said, “I can’t believe they caught us.” His wife added “Don’t shoot until you see the whites of my eyes!” The daughter said, “I accept responsibility for my actions and look now to the future, the future.”

But the son’s reaction was the most astonishing of all. He smiled directly at the camera and told me, “I’d do it again for a bag of Skittles.”