Giggles and Grins

…because life is a riot.

September 4, 2012
by Cindy O Herman
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Burning Rubber

The other day while backing out of the driveway I made the mistake of having my husband in the car.

Our driveway has a little turnaround so you don’t have to back onto the road. Just back into the turnaround, pull forward, and drive right on out of the driveway. But after I backed up and turned the wheels before moving forward, Keith said, “You know, you should turn the wheel while you’re moving. It burns a lot of rubber off the tires the way you do it.”

I just looked at him.

In North Korea, crazy Kim Jong Il is always playing with matches and being a bad neighbor. Some places in Africa are a little scary, and I believe there are a few scuffles going on in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Stateside we’ve got a minor problem with the economy, which many people describe as “tanked.” Our schools are struggling, health care is an oxymoron, and there’s that little oil spill problem in the Gulf.

In our own rural area, milk prices are holding a knife to the throats of dairy farmers, once-thriving small towns are trying to revitalize themselves, and factories keep outsourcing our jobs.

We won’t even mention poor Lindsay Lohan’s rehab woes, or the ten-month silence from the Mars rover Spirit, or Penn State’s disappointing loss to Florida in the Outback Bowl, but, come on. Even if you like to look at the sunny side of things – and I do – you have to admit there are some worrisome situations in the world, and a little scrape of rubber off a nice, thick black tire really doesn’t seem to be of national concern.

Oh, sure, I imagine that a couple trillion turns-while-stopped will hack away at those tires like a barber’s razor over a stubbly chin, but you know what I’m wondering? I’m wondering if something else, like an odometer reading of 500,000 miles or a 100-year-old transmission, some other minor detail, will go wrong first, waaay before those itty-bitty rubber burns will accumulate enough to create bumpy tires.

So I just looked at ol’ Keith sitting there all concerned over a speck of rubber and I said, “Why, you’re absolutely right. I never thought of it that way. Thank you.” Then I peeled out of the driveway and away we flew.

Some people worry about the darnedest things.

August 16, 2011
by Cindy O Herman
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Water Rides aren’t all Giggles and Grins

Water park rides reveal our personalities as we swoosh, spin, and plunge through water-fed tubes, our very lives seemingly dependent upon the whims of a bored, young park attendant.

There’s the strong, silent type. Put this fellow under intense interrogation and deprive him of pillows on his bed for a week – he will not crack. Nor will he so much as grin as he’s tossed like an autumn leaf in a rain gutter down slides with names like the Toilet Bowl or the Triple Entwined Eels. Stoic, the only emotion he might allow as his raft races toward a ravine is a raised eyebrow. Don’t mess with him.

Then there’s the athlete. He rides the waves like a porpoise, reveling in the water’s assault on his rippling muscles. He leans forward, seemingly urging his inner tube to faster effort through the churning rapids. If he’s bruised at the end of the day, he’s happy.

A close kin to the athlete, the adrenaline junkie can’t get enough danger. Not content to cling to a raft and be pelted through an enclosed tube, he tries instead to flip his raft, loving nothing more than to tumble head-first out at the bottom, followed by the empty raft and a stern glare from the life guards.

The adrenaline junkies and I have something in common: screaming. They for fun, I for dear life.

My category can be called, “I shouldn’t have done this,” voiced in increasing volume and tremor so that by the time you get to “this,” you’re belting out a shrill, shaky yodel. You have perhaps heard of people attempting to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel – to people in my category, every ride feels like that. And like those unfortunate souls, we realize, too late, our stupidity.

At the end of the ride, the stoic glides smoothly to the exit gate. The athlete rises effortlessly from the inner tube. The adrenaline junkie whoops and hollers and swims back for his empty raft.

And the “I shouldn’t haves” – drained of all strength and spirit, hair plastered to our heads, bathing suits slightly askew – flop awkwardly over the side of the raft, causing it to bonk us on the head as we trudge, exhausted and disoriented, to the exit, hand on our heart, gasping for air, agreeing with everyone else (as we realize we are alive), “That was fun!”

July 28, 2011
by Cindy O Herman
2 Comments

Giggles and Grins and Sweet Nothings

Married couples with teenage kids are all giggles and grins when out in public because they don’t talk about the desperate little secret they’re all facing: finding intimacy without the kids finding out.

In my first “real” job I worked in an office with five married men. Lovable souls, all, and they delighted in teasing me about my boyfriend. And I remember some of them, the ones with teens in the house, bemoaning the lack of married intimacy.

One had gone so far as to remodel a basement room into cool new digs for his high-schooler because  his wife was uncomfortable getting romantic when teenage ears were close enough to hear even muted sweet nothings.

At the time, rock singer Tiffany had just come out with her hit song, “I Think We’re Alone Now,” which my boyfriend and I could relate to:

“Children behave.”

That’s what they say when we’re together.

“And watch how you play….”

Ah, young love, trying to find that time away from concerned parental eyes. I laughed when the men in my office complained about romantic privacy. They owned houses! Bedrooms! Beds! They didn’t know a thing about searching for privacy.

And then that boyfriend and I married. And had kids. Who grew into teenagers. And I was lucky enough, through it all, to stay in love with him enough to still enjoy being alone with him, as the song says. And you would think, having heard the guys in the office harping about the challenge of sneaking in some alone time, I would have been all prepared for it. But, no.

Let’s face it, we all get creeped out by thinking about our parents doing more than holding hands. Ew! But teens in particular are traumatized by this “ick” factor, so we try to sneak around their schedules, looking for alone time, and lately ol’ Tiffany’s song has been coming back to me. Focusing, oddly enough, on verse two:

Look at the way

We gotta hide what we’re doing

‘Cause what would they say…. [“Ew! Ah, Mom, Dad! Gross!”]

We watch for our chances and send each other meaningful glances, and wait for those precious moments when we can fall into each other’s arms and sigh happily, “I think we’re alone now. There doesn’t seem to be anyone around.”

And enjoy some blissful sweet nothings.

June 28, 2011
by Cindy O Herman
1 Comment

That blasted DJ wiped away my giggles and grins

Elation to dejection in a matter of minutes.

I was driving along on a sun-splashed day when “High On You,” by Survivor, pranced out of the radio, and I joined right in.

“There you stood, that’ll teach ya to look so good and feel so right. Let me tell you ‘bout the girl I met last night….”

Oh, the yearning of young love. Took me back to when my husband and I started dating. “High On You” was climbing the charts. We heard it everywhere we went, and Keith gallantly said it reminded him of me.

“I can’t stop thinkin’ ‘bout you, girl. I must be living in a fantasy world.”

Singing the old words, hearing the old smashing drums and guitars…Oh, man, I felt like I was in my twenties again!

“I searched the whole world over, to find a heart so true. Such complete intoxication. I’m high on you!”

Then the DJ came on and blathered some condescending thing about “classic rock from the ‘80s.”

Classic. I know what that means. I used to tease my parents about classic. Code for o-l-d.

Just like that I went from feeling like I was in my twenties…to feeling like someone who hasn’t seen her twenties in a good twenty years.

You learn many things as you go through life – all right, as you a-g-e. And one of them is that whatever you thought of people in their 40s and 50s, you never dreamed that they don’t feel like they’re in their 40s and 50s. At least, not until some radio DJ rubs it in.

You see a sweet, old – I’m talking 90-something – lady, and you think she must be at peace with her age, but I’m beginning to doubt it. Certain memories must rush her back through  decades to days when shapely limbs and silky hair caused men’s hearts to skip a beat, so that it comes as a surprise to realize again how old she really is.

We’re like walking closets, stuffed full of clothes from childhood on up, and the racks keep getting jammed with more outfits we are loathe to throw away – we might want to wear one again someday. Never mind if it’s a bit dated. When we wear it again, for a little while at least, we are y-o-u-n-g enough to believe we’ll never really feel old.

Until that blasted DJ opens his mouth.

June 6, 2011
by Cindy O Herman
2 Comments

Babies with Diplomas

How we did it I’ll never know, but my husband and I grew a baby into a high school graduate. She knew nothing. I’m telling you, nothing. But now, you ought to see what she can do.

She can write 30-page research papers with well-developed topic sentences and insightful use of metaphor, but we remember when her vocabulary was just starting: “Light!” “Kitty!” “Ball!”

She can do multiple matrices and calculus problems, and if you’re arguing and try to persuade her with a statistical study she demands to know its probability of error. Sharp as a tack. But we can remember counting the dots on the dice in a game of Chutes and Ladders. “One, two, fwee, four…”

She can name the bones in the human body, explain the lab process to make aspirin, and how a change in the mass or speed of an object will affect its force, and I like to think it all stems from the times we showed her a fuzzy caterpillar or taught her to find the moon in the sky.

Oh, I wish you could’ve seen when she learned to dip a paintbrush in a little paint tray and create pink dinosaurs and purple horses. She concentrated so hard when tying her shoelaces or rolling out Play Doh. When she helped bake cookies I’d stand her on a chair by the counter, and cracking an egg was a big deal.

She can ride a bike now, drive a car, and surf the Internet. She’s the one who set up our new TV set and cable box. She can play tennis, and she has a job where people pay her to make sundaes, and she can handle money and spell “banana,” and say “Thank you” without being reminded, and she couldn’t do any of that when she first came to us.

She did know how to do one thing, though, right when she was born, and that was to melt us. As ridiculous as it sounds, all she had to do was uncurl a fistful of fingers, or yawn or smile, and we stood smiling helplessly at her like some lovelorn cartoon character.

Tomorrow she’ll glide gracefully across the stage like the thousands of other young graduates this year, and we’ll be smiling and as helplessly smitten as all the other parents there, watching our babies move on.

June 2, 2011
by Cindy O Herman
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Giggles and Grins in Giving Blood

How scary is it, really, to give blood? A “pinch and a burn,” a little fainting, some cool “Red Cross Red” nail polish – that’s about as scary as it gets, as two Selinsgrove High School (Pa.) juniors learned with a dizzying combination of humility and pride.

Buddies Claire and Ellie joined fellow students for their first-ever blood donation last spring, and yes, they were nervous. Especially as their appointment neared.

“But we saw other people returning from it,” Claire said.

“Yes. Proudly carrying little bottles of “Red Cross Red” nail polish and wearing impressive red tape on their arms. Still standing on two feet,” Ellie said, then, thinking over their experience, added, “That wasn’t us.”

Three of every 100 people give blood regularly, according to the Red Cross website. Summer is an especially challenging time for busy donors. The actual donation takes about 8-10 minutes and is virtually pain-free.

“They said it would be a pinch and a burn, and that’s exactly what it was,” Claire said.

But even after you realize how painless it is, you’re not home free. There’s still a slight possibility of fainting, as Claire, then Ellie, then Claire again, discovered.

After giving blood, you’re led to the canteen, or snack table, by an escort.

“Because they think that’s when you’re going to pass out,” Ellie said.

“Yeah, it was more like mid-Oreo,” Claire said.

Munching on cookies at the canteen, she started seeing swirling spots. “Put your head down, honey,” the volunteer said. “Can you hear me? Can you hear me?”

She was scooped into a wheelchair and whisked behind the screen, where an ice pack and Gatorade revived her enough to return to the canteen. And face the music.

“Ellie was already at the table when I came back. Laughing,” Claire said. But the laughter faded along with Ellie’s own vision. “She said, ‘What-do-I-do-if-I-feel-faint,’ really fast,” Claire recalled. And she had the answer. “I told her to put her head down. The snack lady got the other people to come back with the wheelchair. They have a really prompt response team.”

Just as Ellie started feeling better, they wheeled Claire behind the screen again, and the girls shook with laughter. “It was probably really good,” Ellie said. “It, like, woke up my senses.”

“Laughter’s the best medicine,” Claire quipped.

So, yeah, it’s a little scary to give blood. But it feels good to save lives. And to know your blood type, the girls said.

And what happens in the nurses’ station, stays in the nurses’ station. And no one has to know how many trips you needed to make there.

May 24, 2011
by Cindy O Herman
2 Comments

Giggles and grins with…grammar

Americans want to use good grammar, but the King’s English is so tricky.

Take the I/me conundrum. We know we shouldn’t say, “Him and me are hiding our giggles and grins.” But we’ve become so scared of using “me” that we treat it like a four-letter word… or like we should treat four-letter words.

“They invited he and I,” we say, thinking we’ve avoided improper usage of “me” when we’ve fallen right into improper usage of “I.” It all has to do with subjects and direct objects, but look at it this way: You wouldn’t say, “They invited I,” would you? So don’t say, “They invited he and I.” 

They invited me.

They invited him and me.

I am going.

He and I are going.

Likewise, lie and lay. This one trips up the best of us, especially in speaking, because the past tense of lie is lay, which is also the present tense of lay. Who can think fast enough to figure that one out?

Okay, so it will take serious study to get it right all the time, but in the simple present tense, it’s not too tough: lie down, lay something down.

We lay a baby in the crib. But after that, the baby lies there all by herself.

The baby lies in her crib. I lie on the sofa. Lie down, Fido!

I lay the baby in the crib. I lay my head on the pillow. We’ll lay Fido on his dog bed, but we can’t make him lie still.

That’s why we say, “Let sleeping dogs lie.” If we said, “Let sleeping dogs lay,” some smart-alecky grammar guru would say, “Lay what?”

Here’s one I’m struggling with: hopefully. As explained in “The Elements of Style,” it means “with hope.” So, “The wife waited hopefully for her husband in the storm” is correct.  But not, “Hopefully, he’ll be safe.”

We wouldn’t say, “With hope, he’ll be safe.” What we should say is, “I hope he’ll be safe.”

Good grammar takes vigilance and tolerance as we struggle to improve. I hope you and I can help each other speak properly, lay aside our differences, and help her and me. And let grammatical errors lie.

May 16, 2011
by Cindy O Herman
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No Giggles and Grins with Stinkin’ Bugs

I woke up the other morning to see a stink bug crawling along the edge of my dresser. Thousands of miles of perfectly good land mass in the world, and that stink bug had to crawl into my house, fly into my bedroom, and make his way across the edge of my dresser.

I just don’t understand the thought process.

Reliable websites state that the marmorated little guy (Halyomorpha halys) feasts on fruit and can do a number on apple and peach growers’ profits. So…stink bugs come into our houses and crawl on our walls and lampshades and dressers because they mistake these things for a ripe peach? Like substituting carob for a chocolate bar, does the Lemon Pledge I spray on my furniture satisfy the stink bug’s sweet tooth? Wow. Talk about adapting to a change in habitat.

Everyone I talk to seems to be an unwilling host to these harmless, prehistoric-looking bugs. Where did they come from, all of a sudden? And when are they planning to go back?

According to the websites, they probably hitchhiked here from Asia on plants and pallets. They don’t bite humans, thank goodness, because they don’t have the mouth for it. They get their kicks from piercing fruit and, apparently, sliding into teensy cracks in our siding and around our windows.

The websites recommend the best way to get them out of the house is to make sure all cracks are sealed. Websites and pest control manuals always suggest sealing off all cracks, as if this is somehow possible.

Have you seen the crevices that bugs find inviting? They squeeze into the dark, forbidding places that I’m sure their mothers once warned them about, and they laugh a defiant, little bug laugh. Ha! Ha! Because unless – we can only hope – there’s a colony of hornets or a deadly spider already nesting there, they have found access to our home.

“We’re in!” they snarl gleefully and they just crawl, slither, and fly inside and start ordering us around, flying at us as we try to read the newspaper, tramping across the TV screen, and high-stepping across the dresser when we’re trying to sleep.

Oh, they’ve got us and they’ve got us good, and all we can do is fight back with fly swatters and rolled-up newspapers. One stinkin’ bug at a time.

April 29, 2011
by Cindy O Herman
5 Comments

Giggles with parsley, sage, Morrison and Sweet

There I was, listening to the radio, when “Horse With No Name” came on. I grinned and joined right in: “On the first part of the journey, I was looking at all the life…”

Oh, the memories! Singing on our porch swing with my sisters, proud that we’d learned every word and belting them out at the top of our lungs: “In the desert you can remember your name, ‘Cause there ain’t no one for to give you no pain. La, la, la la la la…”

I was still proud for remembering years later but then, nailing the refrain, a traitorous thought hit me. What on earth is this song about? Plants and birds and rocks and things. Sand and hills and rings. The ocean is a desert with its life underground and a perfect disguise above.

Huh?

I mean, how many of us understand: “Under the city lies a heart made of ground, but the humans will give no love”? And more importantly, even without understanding it, why do we love singing it?

There are so many songs like that. Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme, anyone? What a beautiful, haunting, and utterly nonsensical song. Have you ever looked at the words? It’s all about a guy setting epic quests for his true love.

“Have her make me a cambric shirt.” “Have her wash it in yonder dry well.” “Have her find me an acre of land.” “Plow the land with the horn of a lamb.”

With the horn of a lamb? That proves love? It’s all sung so sweetly and seductively, interspersed with that gently rolling, sagacious-sounding list of garden spices, you swear there’s deep, folklorish wisdom there, but really, were they just going for easy rhymes?

I have no idea what “Riders on the Storm” is about, but after I finish singing it – “Into this house we’re born, into this world we’re thrown” – I feel mean and righteous and dangerously sexy. “Take him by the hand, make him understand.” Oh, yeah, Jim Morrison. I can do it.

One of my favorite songs is “Fox on the Run,” by Sweet. “I don’t want to know your name. ‘Cause you don’t look the same.” “You looked all right before.”

Why are they mad that someone doesn’t look the same? Everybody changes. And why do I love snarling, “OK, you think you got a pretty face. But the rest of you is out of place”?

Take that, you nameless, faceless…someone!

You know, today’s music, with the anger and swearing and emotion, is okay. But it’s all so, I don’t know, meaningful. I just can’t relate.

April 10, 2011
by Cindy O Herman
2 Comments

“Giggles and Grins” is Made in USA (but many other things are not)

It can be exasperating to shop with my mother. She has this thing about buying products made in the USA.

I remember, late one Christmas season, shopping for a dress shirt for my dad. My mom, sisters, and I had been at it all day, and we were getting a little…giddy.

With much giggles and grins and sarcasm and smack talk, we went through stack after stack of shirts, looking for the right neck/sleeve-length combination. We pulled out different colors and patterns and held them up for Mom to see, saying, “This one?” “This one?”

But ol’ Mom, she was like a lion on the hunt. She wasn’t going to settle for just any striped zebra or spotted leopard. She knew what she was looking for, and by golly, she wouldn’t stop until she found it!

I can’t tell you what relief it was to finally hold one up and hear her say, “Well, yes, that’s nice.” Whew!

Then, just as we were returning the rejects to the shelf, Mom called out, “Wait a minute.” She was reading the label. “Made in China.”

Ignoring our groans, she put the shirt back and we tried a few more. “Made in Nicaragua.” “Made in Pakistan.”

“No,” Mom said, and we were off to another store.

Of course, that was nearly 20 years ago, when you actually had a chance of finding a shirt that was made in the USA. We thought Mom was being ridiculous: Christmas is coming. Just buy the shirt! Cross a name off your list and move on.

But now I see what she was trying to do. Now that American factories are closed, American workers are laid off, and the national debt is beyond comprehension.

It’s hard to buy American. I’ve been looking for a hand-held can opener for the past year. Mine’s wearing out. It cuts about a third of the way around the rim of the can, then takes a little vacation and skims some metal, then does the same thing a third of the way around again so you end up with two or three places that have to be cut with scissors.

Well, it’s a pain in the neck. I’d a love a nice, steely-sharp one but they all seem to be made in China and I can’t bring myself to do it.

Recent news stories have shown that more people are asking for American-made products, and are willing to pay a little more for them, understanding that we need the jobs these products create.

As for me, I’d be sporting all kinds of grins if I could just fine one measly, little, hand-held can opener. I’d buy it on the spot. In fact, I might even pick up two, give one to my mom.

She’d appreciate that.