Getting Dirty. Coming Clean.

With spring officially in the air, it simply cannot be avoided and as middle-class home owners there is no one around to do it but you. If it doesn’t get done, the neighbors will inevitably complain and start to hate you. The arduous, unavoidable task to which I am referring is springtime yard work. Pulling weeds, raking flower beds, planting, mowing and mulching. And no, I didn’t actually DO all of those things. I just helped out. A little. But somehow I find merely thinking and writing about it to be exhausting.

It is back-breaking, blister-inducing manual labor and if you don’t count housework like washing, scrubbing, sweeping, straightening and polishing — then I don’t do manual labor. It’s not that I think I’m above it. I’m just naturally lazy. Lazy and particularly fond of staying clean, pressed and relatively well-dressed. Yet even as I type this, a red, watery blister is pushing it’s way up through my irritated, over-worked thumb. Undisputable, irrefutable evidence of actual, physical work.

My dad has run his own landscaping business since I was young. Naturally, when my sister and I were big enough to operate push or riding mowers and other types of lawn equipment, Dad tried to put us able-bodied youths to work for him. My sister took to it right away and did this sort of work willingly… mowing, trimming, planting, weeding and the like. But to me, all of it seemed like a lot of hard work. Hard. Dirty. Work. I watched them come home day after hot, steamy, summer day drenched in sweat and coated with bits of grass, mulch, mud and the occasional outbreak of poison ivy. And I decided—rather quickly—Ummm… No. I don’t think so. Not for me.

I could usually be found at one of two places during the months of June, July and August. They were the Dairy Queen and the community pool. Therefore, upon turning 15, it made total and complete sense that I should—by any and all means necessary—work to secure summertime employment at these two fine establishments. So… while attending lifeguard training at the Y, I was getting paid to perfect the signature DQ curl atop cones, sundaes and banana splits. And I couldn’t have been happier.

Apparently, my ambition to perpetuate pleasure and never really break a sweat actually paid off! I was earning real money while working on my tan, sneeking bites from occasional Oreo Blizzard “mistakes” and talking to my friends. Everything worked out wonderfully as long as no one drowned and everyone received the correct amount of change with their Peanut Buster Parfait. Near as I could tell it was a win-win situation.

Sadly, I couldn’t stay a teenager forever. I managed to dodge the “dirty bullet” for awhile with my creative and fun-in-the-sun-vacational vocations but eventually the real world beckoned and I had to answer the call. I may have chosen a career that keeps me clean and seated behind a desk all day but that no longer negates the fact that NOW the yard is THERE. Waiting. And growing. Silently. Planning my Sunday afternoons for me for the rest of my foreseeable, capable existence. And my sister—with the green thumb she apparently inherited—certainly is not going to come and mow it, rake it, spray it, seed it or weed it for me.

Elf on the Shelf

For as long as I can remember I have been afraid of clowns, puppets, marionettes, ventriloquist dummies and even claymation. I’m not sure why. Nothing traumatic happened when I was a child that caused this unusual phobia (that I know of). But nevertheless it is there. If I see any of those things on TV or out in the world… I freak out, avert my eyes or flee the scene as soon as possible. I am also unreasonably fearful of nutcrackers. I think they are the creepiest things on the planet next to spiders and Donald Trump. So as one might imagine, Christmas can be a little unsettling for me what with all those larger-than-life wooden figurines standing around the stores, people’s homes and showing up unannounced in Target commercials, etc, etc. just waiting to spring to life when everyone is asleep.

Enter “Elf on the Shelf”… created for parents to use as a “fun” tool to curb the naughty behavior of their offspring this time of year when the kiddos are running rampant all hopped up on candy canes and such.

To see the official “Elf on the Shelf” commercial, click here. 

The idea is that Santa has sent his very special, magical elf to the child’s house to watch their every move and report back each night when the children are asleep (you know, with the visions of the sugar plums and all that crap) to the North Pole whether the child has been naughty or nice. And every night the parents “move” the Elf to another location in the house so that the notion of him being real persists in the child’s imagination.

Is it just me (and my unnatural fear of inanimate-objects-come-to-life projected onto this “toy elf” sitting on a shelf in the house… watching your every move) or does this totally creep the hell out of anyone else? I mean, I shudder even as I type these words.

My friend Jan is using the “Elf” and has been kind enough to send me some pictures of him in her house. I will let you judge the creepiness-factor for yourself…

The "Elf" warming his little frostbitten buns on the toaster.

And while I happen to think that any toy of this nature could be considered cruel and unusual punishment for a child, apparently the kids don’t seem to mind it too much. Some of them actually enjoy it… like Brady, Jan’s son.

There is another breed of the “Elf on the Shelf” idea in a cuter, cuddlier character named Christopher Pop-in-kins. I learned of him when our marketing director, Gina, talked about her and her husband’s nightly adventures placing Christopher around the house. And yet, for every story she shared about the creative places Christopher had “popped up”… there was a hilarious story to match of her children, Dominick and Giavonna, being more than a little freaked about him and his magic, come-to-life abilities.

Christopher Pop-in-kins

To each his own, I suppose. I just know that had the “Elf on the Shelf” existed during my childhood years… I’d probably be on a therapy couch somewhere, muttering about magical elves… and obsessing over whether or not I’d been naughty or nice.

C'mon... this IS creepy, right?

Fun with Words: Cafegymatorium

It seems that a new cost and space-saving trend has developed in school buildings, and it is called the “Multi-Purpose Room.” This space is usually part auditorium, part cafeteria. It is used for gatherings such as concerts and plays, as well as serving as the lunch room for the kids during the day. The “proper” name for such a room is “Auditeria” or “Cafetorium.” And my former middle school and high school now have one of these rooms in each building.

So popular is this trend in modern scholastic-architecture that it was recently mentioned on an episode of The Simpsons. Lisa Simpson was differentiating a “good” school and a “bad” school, by whether or not the facility had separate auditoriums and cafeterias. She excitedly exclaimed of her new (better) school: “… And the cafeteria and auditorium are actually in separate rooms!!!”

With a mother and father both employed by the schools and six nieces and nephews in the system, I love to tease them about this current Cafegymatorium-Craze. (Technically cafegymatorium is not the correct terminology, but I like to call it “cafegymatorium” because it sounds funnier to me and it annoys them).

In an exchange with my mom this past summer, I had some fun with word-play that prompted a few more potential names for such Multi-Purpose Rooms. How about: Cafegymatoriumeria? Or Cafegymetoriasium? Or Audigymaterianasium?

When my mother finally got fed up with my non-stop harrassment she said: “STOP the madness! I agree that this has gotten totally out of hand! We do have a cafetorium. OR an auditeria, depending on which you think is more important: eating or performing. I know some kids who definitely perform while they are eating. It is amazing to behold.”

My mom’s plea for me to stop led me to wonder (aloud of course): What do you call a kid who performs while he or she is eating? Would they be considered an Eator? Or maybe a Thesbavore? Or perhaps, my personal favorite: a Fooctor?

As of this writing, I have received no official answer on the matter.

Laminating Sarah

Like a lioness waiting in the tall grass for her prey, I swear they could smell the fear. I walked through the door and 10 pairs of eyes stared up at me from their seats. How bad can this be? I thought to myself. They look harmless enough.

Sitting there quietly around a circular table playing with Play-Doh, the 10, two and three year olds seemed content and well behaved. I’m not sure what I expected… I think something resembling pure pandemonium, but much to my surprise, they were sitting still. I spoke with one of the other teachers. She gave me some instructions on what worked and what didn’t. She told me some ways in which to prevent all hell from breaking loose—which I really appreciated. And then, she closed the door behind her and headed toward the sanctuary.

OK. I’m alone with 10 kiddlets. TEN. That’s… A LOT. I take a deep breath. And I am alone with them for over an hour. An even deeper breath. Exhale. “Hi kids! My name is Joanna and we are going to have some fun! We’re gonna play, listen to some music, then hear a bible story, and play some more! Doesn’t that sound like fun!?!” They’re just blinking at me. WHY are they just BLINKING at me? Isn’t anyone excited?

Frantically, I rummage through the papers I’ve been given. I am supposed to tell these little ones the story of Abraham and Sarah. “Who wants to hear a bible story?” I say with as much excitement as I can muster while thrusting my hand up into the air, hoping desperately that they’ll catch my enthusiasm and do the same. More blinking. Not a single hand goes in the air. OK, now I’m positive they can sense my terror.

Let me just take a moment here to interject that I am not very good with kids. I don’t have kids. I don’t watch other people’s kids. I’m never around kids, save for nieces and nephews. And they don’t count because they have to love you no matter what… that or you can usually just buy their affection with candy & video games and stuff. So when I was asked to teach the 2s and 3s class during the church service every 3rd Sunday of the month and actually agreed to it… I really had no idea what I was in for. OK… back to the story…

“So NO ONE wants to hear a bible story!?” I try for a second time to get them excited about this. However, one by one I watch the children get up from the table and just… wander off. Where are they going? I ask myself. What are they doing? I am dumbfounded at the fact that they are TOTALLY IGNORING me. Initially I try gathering them back to the table but soon realize that this, like herding cats, is a totally useless endeavor.

I DON’T WANT TO HEAR A BIBLE STORY! I hear one girl whine from a far corner of the room. She is pulling blocks off of the shelves. Another child starts putting plastic grapes on a toy plate and waddles over to a… MICROWAVE? Surely it isn’t plugged in. Surely it is there for preparing snacks or food during the regular school week. Surely he can’t reach… Oh @#$%! It IS real, it IS plugged in and he CAN reach it because he is now microwaving plastic grapes!

“OK, Jeffrey, we aren’t going to PLAY with the microwave. That isn’t safe.” I hear myself say as I take him by the shoulders, remove the plastic grapes from the appliance (thank God they aren’t on fire) and redirect his attention elsewhere.

Mercifully, my sister enters the room then. She is in charge of the church nursery, plus is raising 7 children of her own, so any advice I can get from her at this point would be welcome and appreciated.
“How’s it going?” she asks. “Ummm… good… ummm… (my eyes are darting around the room peeled for inevitable disaster) they… uh… don’t seem to want to listen to me…” My voice trails off as I take MORE things away from Jeffrey who seems to only be interested in contraband.

My sister recommends that I try counting down from 10 minutes to Bible Story Time. Let them know that in 10 minutes we are going to put the toys away, come back to the table and listen to a story, and then go to 5 minutes, 3 minutes, etc. until it is time. This, she says, prepares them for what is to come and therefore it doesn’t become a big “issue” when it’s time for the story. I don’t see how that is going to work any better, but I’ve got nothing to lose. Meanwhile, she offers to bring down some snacks for the kids to have later. And she leaves.

I do the countdown thing, announcing every few minutes how much time we have left just as she suggested. I have no idea if it is working, but we’ll find out. I also turn on some music hoping it will calm me down and lighten the mood.

I DON’T WANT TO HEAR A BIBLE STORY! I hear the same girl cry out from a different corner of the room. What do these kids have rockets on their butts? How are they moving around so quickly without my noticing?

I WANNA HEAR A BIBLE STORY! Another girl yells out. What a sweet little angel. 



“6 minutes! In 6 minutes we’re going to pick up our toys and listen to a bible story!” I announce again. By now, my teenage nephew has joined me… much to my relief. My sister, sensing my panic, has sent in reinforcements! God Bless her!! It is another set of eyes, ears and hands to help me corral these little ones for story time.

I DON’T WANT TO HEAR A BIBLE STORY! She cries out again from the toy kitchen.

I WANNA HEAR A BIBLE STORY! My precious little angel answers back.


“4 minutes! In 4 minutes we’re going to pick up our toys and listen to a bible story!” I announce again. My nephew informs me that it has been much longer than 2 minutes since the last time I reminded them of the countdown. “What does it matter Cameron… they don’t know the difference! Just so long as the number keeps getting smaller!” I hissed at him through a plastic smile. And Cameron just shrugs while helping 2 little guys make baseballs out of Play-Doh.

“Nuh-uh!” A boy says to me… “I know it’s been longer than that!” And I think to myself: Since when does a 3 year old know how to SUBTRACT!?!

I DON’T WANT TO HEAR A BIBLE STORY! She cries out from inside of a bookshelf.

I WANNA HEAR A BIBLE STORY! My darling, adorable, peaceful angel answers back.

Since the one little boy is onto my “fudging the numbers” with the countdown thing, I point to my watch and say: “When the BIG hand is on the 12, we’re going to pick up our toys and listen to a bible story!” And he comes over and grabs my wrist, examining my watch to see just how long it is going to be.

I DON’T WANT TO HEAR A BIBLE STORY. She says a little quieter now while standing right beside me.

I WANNA HEAR A BIBLE STORY! My giving-me-hope-and-keeping-me-sane angel answers back.

“OK! It’s time! Cleanup, cleanup everybody do your share…” I sing the song as I gather up Play-Doh and blocks and plastic food. Cameron makes quick work of the cleanup too and surprisingly the children are joining in! It’s working!!! “Time to come sit down at the table now everybody! We’re going to hear a story about Abraham and his wife Sarah!” I practically sing as the children are miraculously doing what I’ve asked! The countdown worked!! It actually worked! And even my little Bible-Story-Protestor is magically seated at the table. I turn off the music.

I’ve been given a packet of materials for story time which includes the story (of course), some worksheets and several large, paper cut-outs of the biblical characters and their props in order to “act out” the story for them with visual aids. I begin telling the story by showing Abraham first. I talk about Abraham and then give him to one of the children to hold. I figure this will keep them interested if they get to interact with the teaching tools rather than just sitting there empty-handed. 



They seem to like holding the paper characters and they even raise their hands to be the next child to receive one to hold. However, they won’t simply HOLD the paper cut-outs like I’ve shown them. Instead, as I work my way through the telling of the story, I see that Abraham is standing on his head, the shepherds and their sheep have gone missing and Sarah is crumpled into a ball. So much for that idea.

Something I want to mention here that I have observed over the years is that young children who have been exposed to church and Sunday school have 2 standard answers that they will give NO MATTER WHAT THE QUESTION IS. They are (in this order): “God” and “Jesus.” Every time. No matter the question. So if I ask them: “Kids, what does it mean to make a promise?” The answer will always be: God! And when I hesitate and say: “Noooo… try again…” Then the answer will be: “Jesus!” And they seem NOT to answer with anything else until they get a bit older.

Of course this case is no exception. Every question I asked them during the story, the answers they gave were always: God and Jesus. And that, folks, concludes the question and answer portion of our time together. After what has seemed like an hour (though I know by my watch it has only been 10 minutes) I reach the end of the story. I think we are all relieved. I pass out the worksheets and TRY to help them fill them out. I figure I have GOT to send these kids home with something to show for their time spent in here. We haul out the crayons and no sooner do I attempt to tackle the first illustrated question… I notice that they have ALL scribbled ALL OVER THEIR PAPERS.

It’s time for potty-breaks and snacks.

Potty-breaks and snack time go over rather smoothly save for the boy who is “helping” pass out the animal crackers by giving everyone else 3 a piece while stuffing 6 more into his mouth each time. That and there was the little girl who wanted so badly to be helpful by giving everyone a paper towel for their crackers… that she eventually pulled ALL of the paper towels out of the dispenser and onto the floor one at a time.

So with one crumpled Sarah… a paper-towel, crayon, worksheet and Play-Doh scrap strewn floor… A boy running around with a death-grip on the animal cracker box… A table covered in crayon marks and cookie crumbs… And three kids arguing over a plate of microwaved plastic grapes… The first parents arrive to retrieve their children. I have no idea what the expression on my face must have been, but it could not have been one of a confident, competent and comfortable child-care provider.

And as each parent left with their child in hand, one by one they asked me: “So how did it go? How was <insert name of child here> today?” their anxious faces desperately searching mine for the truth. And straightening my sweater, I answered each parent by replying: “Oh. It went just great. <said child> was such a good little helper and a good little listener. They played nicely with the others and they picked up their toys when I asked.” In other words… I totally lied. Yeah. I broke one of the commandments. BUT, the relieved parents then smiled and happily walked out the door with their children.

And it was then that I thought to myself: You know… actually… it went just great. The kids were pretty good little helpers and good little listeners (for a few minutes anyway). They played nicely with each other and they picked up their toys when I asked. And a month from now, when I do this again… I probably won’t change a single thing… except for maybe laminating Sarah.

Glory Days

Lately I’ve become rather entranced by a popular song on the radio. I can’t seem to get enough of it. And no, contrary to the title, it is not a Springsteen song. On my drive to and from the office I frantically search the stations hoping to catch it right at the beginning or that it will be coming on any second.

If I switch to a station and find that it is already playing I am immediately thrilled unless it is at the very end. In which case I inevitably pound my fists on the steering wheel and let loose a blue streak of R-rated language. I begin the desperate search all over again and miraculously, on occasion, I catch it just as it starts.

It is completely possible that in the span of less than one mile my mood will go from bitter disgust to absolute delight. I know… I have some moderate to severe mood issues… but whatever.

Wondering what the song is?

It is Someone Like You by Adele. And although I love the entire song musically, there is really only one verse that grabs me personally by the gut and doesn’t let go until long after the final notes have resolved and faded…

You know, how the time flies.

Only yesterday, was the time of our lives.

We were born and raised in a summer haze.

Bound by the surprise of our glory days.

What a perfect way to capture the sentiment of the passage of time and the disappearance of childhood hopes and dreams. The concept that our youth is as fleeting as a summer is so true. I remember vividly the infinite hope and excitement that filled my younger years as I waited with bated breath for what was to come. In those years… I was sure it would be nothing short of spectacular!

For me, the verse conjures up images of crystal clear water rushing over young feet and legs — browned by the sun… Lazy summer afternoons lying in the grass, the sound of a friend’s laughter mixing with my own and filling the air… Long drives to the middle of nowhere surrounded by the flashing of fire flies… Endless talks about boys and what “HE” would be like… Hearts full of the knowledge that whoever he was, wherever he was… he would be perfect.

The older I get, the more aware I become of the brevity of youth. But I know in my heart that although life is short like a mere summer haze—in what remains of my song—I hope there are still plenty more glory days.

Old Friends – Part II

My parents wanted me to take a smaller cardboard box of my stuff with me but I resisted. My reason for resisting wasn’t because I didn’t want an extra box sitting around the house. I resisted because I was fearful of the emotion being stirred within me.

Why on earth was I getting so emotional over some old box of stuffed toys!?

But they insisted and I picked it up and carried it across the street to my house joking that I was quote: “Taking my dollies and going home.” But as I made my way up the sidewalk and into my grown-up house where I pay all of the bills, I couldn’t help but feel like I was holding the past in my hands. A past never to be visited again… A time now relegated to the confines of a cardboard home.

I set the box in the living room and stared at it for a while. Drawn to Stephanie’s blue eyes, wide stitched smile and yarn ponytail, I felt uneasy. I couldn’t bring myself to take them to the basement or seal the box and pack it into the closet with the others. So I just stared at it… completely awestruck not only by the amount of time that had passed and how much had changed, but also by the giant presence that the tiny box had in the middle of my floor.

After a couple of hours I was tired of staring at it and walking around it as I went about my business. So I hoisted it onto my hip and decided to carry it up to the loft in my bedroom. I couldn’t put them away, yet I refused to be that girl… the one who still keeps stuffed animals lying around her bedroom… in her thirties.

Once in the loft I had two choices, put the box in the cabinet up there — which is much more accessible than my storage area in the basement thus allowing me to feel less guilty as I had not actually PACKED them away. Or I could remove them from the box entirely and place them on one of the loft’s shelves.

I deliberated for a moment, considering my options. Sitting cross-legged on the floor, I picked up each one and studied it, gently wiping away a light layer of dust that had accumulated on their faces, clothing or fur. It was then that I decided to go for the latter. I am the only one who goes up there save for my nieces and nephews on occasion so it’s not like everyone who comes into my home would think I WAS “that girl”… the one who still keeps stuffed animals lying around her bedroom… in her thirties.

Seeing them out of the box and propped up on the shelf made me feel a little better. They were no longer boxed up and hidden like a past to be forgotten. They now had a place in the present. A place to be remembered when I wanted or needed to remember these great, old friends and probably more importantly… the person I was when I held them so dear.

Look-a-Like Towns

I grew up in Minerva, Ohio. It is a small town (technically a village) and is situated on US Route 30. Along Rt. 30 there are many other little towns that look quite similar. They typically have a Dairy Queen or dairy bar, a few banks, some churches, a park or two, perhaps a red brick school with a playground and of course, houses that resemble those in and around Minerva. To a small child who lives there, these other little “burgs” probably look very much like home to them.

Such was the case with my youngest niece, Juliann, my sister’s daughter. She is now 13 and would probably hate that I’m telling stories about her as she is at “that age” — you know, the age where you can get the death stare AND a bear hug all within the span of 5 minutes. Anyway, I’m willing to take the risk.

One glorious, fall afternoon my parents decided to take little Juliann with them for a ride in the country. She was about 4 or 5 at the time. They have a Jeep Wrangler and it was the perfect kind of day for leaving the top off, loading up their granddaughter and Sadie (their golden retriever) and heading out.

As is popular to do in this region of the country that time of year, they planned on doing some “leaf peeping.” They drove around for hours on country roads gazing at the stunning fall foliage and soaking up us much of the color and warm sunshine that they could before winter crept in. And although I can’t say for certain, I’ll bet they stopped at one of those dairy bars and had a hotdog and an ice-cream cone or sundae on their autumn adventure.

Coming home, they drove through several small towns near and along Rt. 30 and as they passed through each one, my dad would hear a tiny little voice from directly behind him in the backseat utter the question: “Are we in Minerva NOW, grandpa?” Dad would answer: “No, not yet Juliann, this is… <insert name of aforementioned look-a-like burg here>… but we will be soon.”

Somewhere along the way, as kids do after a day in the sun and wind and with a tummy full of ice cream, Juliann fell asleep. When she awoke they were FINALLY driving through Minerva. My dad, assuming that she would be very excited to be home at last, asked her: “Where are you NOW, Juliann?” 
And her answer was priceless…

“I’m right BEHIND you, grandpa!”

Kicking Up the Leaves

In a little red raincoat, jeans and sneakers her blonde hair bounced as she ran. The sun was glistening on her golden locks and there was a look of pure joy on her face when she plopped down in a pile of crispy, brown leaves. With both arms outstretched she gathered as many leaves as she could and scooped them toward her lap. She then proceeded in kicking her legs back and forth and back and forth watching and listening as the dried leaves flew about and crunched while she did this.

Total abandon. Total happiness. Totally in the moment.

I both delighted in and envied her. Why couldn’t I feel that way anymore? Why couldn’t I be free from worry and concern as she was? I wanted so badly to be able to flop right down beside her on the ground and mimic her actions. To me, this precious child who couldn’t have been more than 4 or 5 years old, looked like she was having the time of her life! And all I could do was sit by and watch and worry about my bills or my deadlines, my laundry or my dirty house, my weight, my relationships, my health or the orange flashing light on my dashboard indicating the car’s dangerously-low level of windshield-wiper fluid.

So many worries… so little time. It seemed like only yesterday I was playing in the leaves like her. Watching her I remembered a photo in our family album of me at just about the same age, jumping in a pile of freshly raked leaves and tossing them in the air without a care in the world. And I wondered: Where did all that time go? And more importantly… Where did all these worries come from? Then I couldn’t help but consider, if the woman I am today could meet the little girl that I once was… what would they say to one another? Would the older me warn the younger me of the pitfalls that lie ahead and how to avoid them? Would the older me counsel the younger me about future mistakes or poor decisions?

Of course not.

How could I burden that little one, so full of hope and promise and zest for life, with the concerns of adulthood? That wouldn’t be fair to say the least. But I also gave some thought as to what the younger me would say to the older me… and that, my friends, was an entirely different story. With her inability to even relate to the future and such things as “mistakes” or “poor decisions,” she would tell me that today… right now was all that mattered. That right now the weather is nice and there is a big pile of leaves just calling my name. That right now she has everything she needs to get from this moment to the next. That right now there is nothing more important than running at full speed and diving head first into the heap before its all gone for the winter.

There is a favorite verse of mine that reads: Who of us, by worrying, can add a single hour to our life? So I ask myself then: What am I sitting around here worrying for? Why am I NOT out there gathering and kicking up the leaves?

Child’s Play

Red-Rover, Red-Rover let Julie come over! Julie lets go of my hand and rushes to the other side. Excitedly they snag her. Now she is a part of their team.

You know the game, Red Rover. It is the kid’s game where you form two opposing lines across an open field, facing one another. Everyone in each line locks arms and takes turns inviting a member of the other team to come over. And the strategy is to catch that person so they will then join your team and your line grows longer and longer while the other team’s line gets shorter and shorter until there is only one person left on that team. Game over.

I’ve been playing my own little game of Red Rover for years now. Only my team consists of all women… women with no children. The other team is a far, far larger team consisting entirely of mommies. Several of the members of my team are single and that’s the only reason they are still on the team. But then there are other players who, like me, have tried to have children. Prayed and begged and pleaded to have children. Some of us have even sought radical medical assistance to have children. Yet we still stand on THIS side of the field.

Over the years my line has gotten dramatically shorter. One by one I have watched as team members get called to the opposite side. Last year I lost another member and the line became shorter again. The really painful part about losing Julie to the other team was that she was a lot like me. She had been trying for years and seeking medical assistance. She too was familiar with the unique combination of hope and heartbreak that repeats over and over in carefully measured 28-day cycles. Because of our shared suffering, Julie was a little bit more valuable to the team as far as I was concerned.

“Red-Rover, Red-Rover let Julie come over!” They chanted. I guess it is her turn. She’s been chosen. Her hand slips from my grasp and I can do nothing but watch the back of her as she races toward the other side with total abandon. They snatch her up in their network of tightly-linked arms, thrilled to have gotten another member. She is welcomed onto the team.

My arm hangs limp at my side, my palm empty until I find another hand to hold. I see her across the width of the field… which oddly becomes wider with each passing year. She has locked arms with them now, and when our eyes meet… she is beaming. I am happy for her, but I will miss my teammate.

I slide over to compensate for the gap that her absence has created and I reluctantly take the hand of the woman now beside me. My line becomes one more person shorter.

10 Reasons Why Its Funner To Be a Kid at the Zoo

For an animal lover and avid people-watcher, a visit to the zoo never gets old, no matter your age. However at times I find it far more entertaining to watch the children at the zoo, rather than the animals…

For example: I once witnessed a little girl throw an AMAZING tantrum (screaming, wailing, arms flailing… the whole bit) all the way from the Northern Trek down to the African Savanna… and no one even blinked. I have to say, I envied her a little. I mean, let’s be honest people… sometimes it WOULD be nice for it to be OK if you had a total and complete MELT-DOWN like that in front of everyone. No questions asked.

But this little red-faced, siren-sounding, tantrum-throwing child-coming-down-from-an-extreme-sugar-high not only entertained me, she inspired me. My envy of her led me to think of some other reasons why it is WAY better to be a kid at the zoo than it is to be an adult. So here goes…

1. You get to be chauffeured around everywhere in a plush, shaded stroller or fun little red wagon.

2. You can dress up like the animals and people think it’s cute. No one thinks it is “weird” or “just-trying-to-get-attention” or “wacky” or “deranged.”

3. Everyone moves out of YOUR way so that you can have the best view of the monkeys throwing poo at one another.

4. You will not be made fun of or teased for spilling ketchup and mustard down the front of your shirt and walking around all day sportin’ a stain on your chest.

5. When you talk to the animals no one thinks it is “strange” or “just-trying-to-get-attention” or “questionable” or “sad.”

6. It’s totally acceptable and not “dirty” to ask questions like: “What is that kangaroo doing to that OTHER kangaroo?”

7. No one yells: “Hey!” or “Get down from there!” or “You’re too heavy!” or “You’ll break it!” if you climb up and sit on the railing to get a better look at the tortoises.

8. If you make random animal noises while standing in line for the bathroom or concessions no one thinks it is “odd” or “just-trying-to-get-attention” or “curious” or “psycho.”

9. You can be covered in cotton-candy, having the bestest, stickiest, finger-lickingest time of your life and no one looks at you funny. You do NOT have to carry your cotton-candy home in a concealed plastic bag and secretly devour it at 10 p.m. on the couch in your living room, sitting next to your cat while watching re-runs of Seinfeld… with the blinds drawn.

10. And finally… as previously mentioned… You can throw an elephant-sized fit whenever, wherever and whyever you want to and no one thinks it is “scary” or “just-trying-to-get-attention” or “immature” or “narcissistic.”