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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

A Book and its Cover

I never knew how difficult and complicated getting a book published could be. I thought I would land a publisher and wha-la have If Mama Don't Laugh, It Ain't Funny out in print. But there's so much more to it. Like getting a decent book cover, for example.

The other day I met with the cover artist, Stan Mullins (, to wrap up the details of the cover art. As vanity would have it, I'm on the cover of my own book. So we had to discuss things like facial expressions, clothing selections, hand gestures, and very important technicalities like making sure he rendered me without any wrinkles - artistic license, you know.

Anyway, while we hashed things out, periodically he would leave and come back with an example of other work to help me understand the process and visualize the final product. In his absences I found my eyes wandering around his studio, the walls of which featured huge oil-painted canvases. One particular theme struck me as nearly universal - women's breasts.

There were probably paintings of lots of other things, but since I have a unique, but unintentional, habit of finding reasons to feel uncomfortable, all I saw were breasts. So when he eventually got around to asking me about that particular aspect of my persona on paper, embarrassingly, all the blood rushed to my face. I have no idea what he thought I was thinking, but he remained professional and plugged along at the task.

"Do you want them to be full, large, petite, what?"

Inadvertently my gaze shifted to the walls, sifting through the options like thumbing through a catalogue in a plastic surgeon's office, and I found myself thinking, "Well, hers are nice. Or those over there could be good."

In the end, I stupidly stammered, "No artistic license. As is." Flat as the paper they're on.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

What Really Irks Me

Okay, so I'm pushing my buggy through Wal-mart, aggravated that everybody in my house ate all the food from my last grocery run, two (possibly three) weeks ago. They go through it like I plan to go shopping every week. They're insatiable locusts. If it were up to me, every person would have his own IV hooked onto a little stand with wheels.

But it's not up to me, so there I was in Wal-mart, pushing my cart, minding my own business, except for stopping to talk with Charlotte about her eyebrows, waving to my daughter's old pre-K teacher, explaining to someone how to generate a master shopping list from his computer, and saying, "Yes, I know my cart is overfull. I haven't been here in a while." (And my husband always wonders why it takes me so long.)

I could have finished much sooner, except he called me four separate times on my cell. Once to remind me to get the AA batteries, once to tell me never mind about the 2" paintbrush, once to try to sell me on checking out the Manager's Specials aisle, and once to engage me in a half public conversation about our son's little problem.

But what you want to know is the thing that really, really, really, really irks me.

What gets me riled, burns me up, sets me off, boils my blood, is seeing shelves packed to the hilt with school supplies, in JULY! JULY! It's diabolical. Evil. Completely unacceptable to remind us of the inevitable before we're good and ready to consider it again.

My gosh, at least wait until my ears quit ringing from the fireworks.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Grits Cookies

Cooking is not my forte. My kids call my kitchen "Mama's Smokin' Restaurant." And although a real, actual fire (not one I will admit to, anyway) has ever broken out, I have on many occasions stood over the kitchen sink with a butter knife scraping the surface of blackened toast. My husband blames it on ADD (Aimlessly Dawdling Disorder), so he cooks a good deal. Just goes to show how well things work out, in the end.

Nevertheless, I sometimes, against the better judgement of others, make up my mind to whip up an amazing culinary delight. It always excites my ever optimistic children to see what I will desecrate next. Yesterday, it was the all-American chocolate chip cookie; because of course I can make a good thing better.

I decided I could elevate the chocolate chip cookie to a whole new level by giving it a southern twist - grits. In my mind, where everything is as blissful as a Christmas Carol, the fresh baked cookies steamed with the aroma of homemade oatmeal desserts, minus the befoulment by raisins. Completely sucked into my self-delusional fantasy, I stood in the grocery aisle faced with a momentous decision - exactly what type of grits should I use?

Instant or regular? Whole or cracked? White or yellow? Impulsively, I bought every kind displayed. The cashier eyeballed me with a sideways glance, but seeing the feverish focus in my face, made a wise choice not to comment.

At home, whipping up my secret recipe sure to win me the blue ribbon at the state fair, I had a new dilemma. In what form should I add the grits? Cooked or dry? Runny and hot or cold and clumped? I can't tell you exactly what I did, mostly because it was sort of a combo of all of the above and I didn't write it down.

Finally, I pulled a batch from the oven, scraped the black edges off and fed them to my four lab rats, who, oddly enough, feigned joy at receiving my gift. Standing back so as not to pressure the critics, I watched them chew. And chew. And chew. And chew.

At last, the six year old's lips parted. I waited with bated breath. She bent her head into her palm held close to her mouth. Oh no, I thought and grabbed the trashcan. But then she lifted her head, grinned, and held out her hand. "They're a little bit crunchy, Mama," she said, handing me her front tooth.

Back to the mixing bowl.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Germ Repellent

I think babies come with germ repellent built in, like those shirts in mail order catalogues that repel mosquitoes. It's part of the birth package. How else can we explain how they can go around putting everything in their mouths, from rancid Cheerios that rolled under the refrigerator in 1999 to unsanitized shopping cart handles that have been in play for the better part of the last five years. If I put my mouth on the shopping cart handle three things would happen: 1) I would get thrown out of the grocery store, 2) I would contract a horrible disease like hepatitis or tuberculosis, and 3) The store manager would immediately sanitize the cart handle.

My daughter, during the potty training years, loved public restrooms; still does. At age 2, nothing said, make my mother convulse, quite like running her fingers along the edge of the porcelain toilet bowl or getting on the floor on all fours to peer under stall doors. Running with a cascaded strip of toilet paper, looping out of the trashcan, made her giggle like a banshee, while I, on the other hand, sounded the alarm: Eewww, stop that. That's gross. Put it back in there. Wash your hands, again; to which more elation erupts.

Thankfully (or maybe not), like those mosquito repellent shirts, the germ shield, after so many baths, washes off. My daughter, now six, and a complete success of my masterful conditioning through exaggerated repulsion and squeals of disgust, is finally getting it that public restrooms are no place for learning braille.