One evening near my fifteenth birthday, I was summoned to stand before the Kitchen Tribunal.  My mother was there;  recently widowed, understandably shell-shocked, and exhausted by the demands of a fragile household and three needy teenagers.  Also in attendance were my two older brothers, their adolescent snickering temporarily pushed aside by the weight and severity of the matter at hand, which was this:  A few days earlier, an acquaintance of  theirs (several years older, a bit snarky, and appropriately enough, named Dick) had driven past me as I crossed the Market Street Bridge, then reported to my big brothers that their little sister walked like she wanted it.   The family was solemn and disapproving;  the kitchen smelled of fried egg sandwiches and scandal.

Well, I was affronted!  I was mortified!  I was. . .intrigued.  So after clearing my good name with Mom and the brothers, I retreated to ponder this new development.  I turned it over in my mind:  She walked like she wanted it.  Those words couldn’t possibly apply to me, a self-described wallflower and slow starter who hadn’t yet learned how to flirt.  I mean, I certainly knew what IT was, but I wasn’t sure I wanted IT anytime soon.  To be honest, IT was a little scary.  Besides, exactly how did I walk like I wanted it?  What was happening back there that I didn’t know about? 

Therefore,  I turned to my cultural icons for clues.  The men on Gilligan’s Island (even the Professor!) were dumbstruck each time Ginger walked by, but I’d have described my walk as more . . . Mary Ann-ish.  And there weren’t enough Underalls in the world to make my back porch swing like Ann-Margret’s.  But in the privacy of my room, I had to admit I kind of liked knowing something about the way I walked caused Dick to take notice.  Is this what made Aerosmith’s Walk This Way such a dirty song?

Conveniently placed bamboo conceals Gilligan’s interest in Ginger’s leopard skin swimsuit.

Until that moment, the only womanly walk I’d ever analyzed was my mother’s.  Her long legs moved with quick, purposeful strides.  “Keep up, Lisa!” she’d insist as we rushed from store to store each Saturday morning, trying to get our shopping done before some deadline (Yes, I grew up in a world with downtown stores but no 

Mom also instructed me on how to walk like a lady.  “Move your legs from the hips, not from the knees, Lisa.”  And because I tended toward pigeon-toes:  “Point your shoes forward, Lisa.  Don’t let your toes turn in when you walk.”  I assure you, Mom was not being critical;  back in the day, it was a mother’s duty to teach her daughter the finer points of being a woman.   How ironic that the very walk my mom worked to cultivate in me would one day attract the attention of boys like Dick.

I never managed to duplicate my mother’s walk, though.  At 4′ 11″ inches tall, I just don’t have the equipment to cover ground in the same fashion.  Now 79, Mom still out distances me step by step.

But as I made my way through the mall recently, I couldn’t shake the eerie feeling of being stalked by my Great Aunt Lois (May she rest in peace.).  Great Aunt Lois was smart and generous, a veteran school teacher with a no-nonsense attitude, a woman esteemed by the family at large during my formative years.  Great Aunt Lois’s walk, however, was nothing like my mother’s. 

The Grand Dame was short, stout, and plagued by arthritis.  She waddled stiff-legged from here to there with knees and hips that moved like rusty gears.  I imagined her carrying an oil can in that oversized handbag on her arm.  And whoever was caught climbing a flight of stairs behind Great Aunt Lois had better not be in a hurry;  coaxing those creaky joints to rotate in such a manner was a process that simply could not be rushed.

And so it was Great Aunt Lois’s walk that followed me  past each store window— in the form of my own reflection.  Nowadays, I walk like I want some ibuprofin and a nice, long, soak.  And since he’s a grandpa now, I’m pretty sure Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler walks this way, as well. 

Dick, too.

And such, friends, is the walk of life. 




At this time of year, I think a lot about boy parts and girl parts–which is not as much fun as it sounds.  You see, it’s during the summer months when three major health-related events converge:  my yearly physical, my pap test, and my mammogram.  I call it The Perfect Storm.

I know that only the physical is an experience shared by both genders; the other two procedures are all about the girls.  So why are boy parts on my mind?  Well, spending my afternoons in a doctor’s waiting room allows me time to ponder this postulate:

Every part of a girl’s body has a job to do and requires a lifetime of upkeep and maintenance.  Every part of a boy’s body is just one more thing for him to play with.

Having only first-hand experience at being a girl, I am limited to making observations.  But it is my observation that from the time a boy learns how to pee standing up, his remaining years are one long quest to discover what else it can do.  While the female body seems determined to develop suspicious lumps, secretions, and glitches, the male body romps through life carefree and giddy with its own impressive repertoire of party tricks.

Yes, guys, I know you have that whole prostate thing lurking in the shadows.  But until you’ve experienced the sensation of cold speculum against warm flesh, unless you’ve feigned indifference while another human being palpates your cervix as though choosing a ripe avocado, I just don’t want to hear it.

In a few weeks I’ll report for my yearly mammogram, and I know exactly how it will be.  The mammography room of our local hospital is designed to make  a woman feel comfortable and comforted.  The decor is muted tones, all peachy and rosy.   A delicate floral border and attractive art prints serve to draw one’s attention  away from the scary machine that dominates the room’s center.  The attending technician will smile pleasantly and speak softly as she asks a series of personal quesions:  Are you, or could you be, pregnant?  Do you have breast implants?  Have you been performing monthly self exams?  She will calmly explain every single step of the procedure, apologize for the coldness of her hands as she arranges me in unnatural positions against hard glass plates.  I will be reassured and complimented on the amount of discomfort I can stand–because as we both know,  mammograms are a “no pain, no gain” kind of a deal.  And thirty minutes later I’ll leave for home feeling as though I’m smuggling matzah in my brassiere, but satisfied that I’ve taken an important step in safeguarding my health.

In my mind’s eye I can see the male counterpart–let’s call it a testography.  The testography lab is sparse and set up for both a quick entrance and a quick exit.  No time for formalities or delicacies–after all, the testographer doesn’t want to be there any more than his patient does.  Instead of  artwork, there is a single sign on the wall announcing that happens in the testography lab stays in the testography lab.  Eye contact is avoided, as is physical contact of any kind.  No need to apologize for cold hands here–the patient will position his own misters between the plates of glass, thank you very much.  And when the procedure ends, he can soothe himself in an anteroom where hot wings are served and gigantic tv monitors alternate Great Moments in Sports and classic Three Stooges reels.

Or perhaps the thought of spending my summer being poked, flattened, and scraped within an inch of my life has me just a bit touchy.  Man might have been created in God’s own image, but at least Mother Nature was wise enough to tuck my girly parts safely inside my body.  And that might be an even trade for not being able to do that cool standing up to pee thing.


The other day I was zipping along I-80 when I realized my gum had lost all its flavor, and I was essentially chewing a piece of rubbery nothingness.   It was crucial that I get the rubbery nothingness out of my mouth RIGHT THEN, so I put the window down and prepared to spit the gum out.  Then I remembered that I can’t spit, and I’m not kidding.  God planted some land mines in my character to keep me humble, and for the rest of the drive home I chewed on rubbery nothingness and made a mental list of stuff I can’t do

No problem.

1.  Spit Fail  That’s right; I cannot spit.  There’s an oft-told family story about the time I tried to spit a mouthful of bronchial nastiness out my car window, only to have the product of my effort dribble down my chin and onto the inside of the car door.  The result was a carload of passengers who didn’t know whether to laugh or gag as I tried to mop up the mess with my sleeve.  When I meet my Maker, I just know the movie of my life will conclude with a blooper reel featuring my greatest spit fails. The Good Lord has a wicked sense of humor.

Way better at tennis than me.

2.  Tennis Fail   True story:  In college, I took tennis for a PE credit.  I’d tried without success to learn tennis in high school, but I was still determined to master the game.  One day, all of us were required to prove our proficiency at serving, so we lined up and, one by one, attempted to dazzle Coach Gunderman with a single, graceful, serve deep into the opponent’s court.   When my turn came, I tossed the ball into the air and took a swing.  I missed the ball completely, lost my grip on the racket—which went clattering across the pavement—then stood looking helpless while the ball came down and hit me on the head.  Coach Gunderman fell to the ground in a pants-wetting fit of laughter, and then passed me out of sheer pity.  Ironically, I can play badminton.  I think it’s the speed of tennis that throws me, whereas in badminton the shuttlecock floats slowly and gracefully, allowing my brain, eyes, and hands to huddle up and form a game plan before being required to respond. 

I am Hermione.

3. Tongue Fail  You know that thing some people can do where they roll their tongue into a little tube?  Yeah, I can’t do that.  My son can do that, and he can also twist his tongue into a cool clover shape.  But my son is a freak, so let’s get back to me.  It’s not that I haven’t tried— oh, how I’ve tried.  According to my family, it’s quite amusing when I stick my tongue out and ask, cluelessly, “Am I doing it? Am I doing it?”  Only the threat of being cut from my will prevents them from filming the whole debacle and uploading it to youTube.  I do get a little credit for having an especially ugly tongue, but that’s another story.

Knows my awful secret.

4. Video Game Fail   Speaking of ways my failures bring  joy to the whole family, you should witness my attempts to play video games.  Zelda, Guitar Hero, Wii. . .give me an electronic controller, and my hands—the same hands which can type easily, craft some pretty respectable artwork, and play several musical instruments—become worthless slabs of meat dangling at the ends of noodly, unwieldy, limblike appendages.  “Hey,” say my relatives after a delectable Thanksgiving dinner prepared lovingly by my own two above-mentioned hands, “let’s go to the living room and play some video games!”  Which is code for “Let’s give Lisa the handset, then sit back with our desserts and laugh until our drinks shoot out our noses!”  

Only you understand me, little giraffe.

5.  Choreography Fail   There’s a dancer inside me, I know there is.  But she’s being held captive by a troll with four left feet and no sense of rhythm whatsoever.  I used to dance, back in high school, before dancing became foreplay committed by grinding suggestively against a partner of either gender.  To the collective relief of humankind, I refuse to participate in this kind of modern dance.   You’re welcome.  What I’m talking about here is actually choreographed dancing—you know, the kind that begins with five, six, seven, eight, and ends up with coordinated, agile people executing a series of planned and well-timed movements.  The only exceptions to my inability to learn choreographed dances are the hokie pokie, the chicken dance, and the polka, which all Pennsylvanians instinctively know from birth so as to enjoy a lifetime of fire hall wedding receptions.

Believe me when I tell you there are many, many, other things I cannot do.  But my fragile self-esteem can only take so much ridicule, you know?  Maybe next time I’ll write about stuff I can do—that shouldn’t take too long!


It might have been the watermelon margaritas talking.  It might have been the fact that my son was celebrating his 21st birthday without me.  But whatever the reason, our table conversation at Ruby Tuesday‘s turned to childbirth, and I was the resident expert.  Of the four, I was the only person who had actually given birth.  Two of my companions—a man and a woman—had at least witnessed babies coming into the world, and the third—another woman—made little effort to conceal her distaste for the whole process.  Over our drinks, we all agreed that the miracle of childbirth is one disgusting miracle.

Lately my blog has become the go-to website for people who want their bubbles burst, their rainbows drained of color, and their warm fuzzies strung up by their warm fuzzies.  This I know.  Just a few weeks ago I reduced the charm of my 29-year, happy marriage to nothing but good luck, good timing, and good science  (click to read).  So why not shovel around my observations on having babies?

Before I’d ever considered having a child, I’d watched the Ridley Scott film Alien, with its terrifying, unforgettable alien-exploding-from-a-man’s-body scene.  If you’ve never seen it (Perhaps you were raised by wolves?), or if you just want to refresh your memory, go here:

Yessir, that's just fun for everyone, right there.

Anyway, when I imagined childbirth, I imagined it being rather like this.  At least I liked to think this is what it would be like if men gave birth.  Because let’s admit it:  in the battle of the sexes, childbirth is the trump card.  No amount of knees in the nuts will ever top the experience of shooting an entire human being out your boy howdy.  But I digress. . .

Turns out real life childbirth isn’t so much different from the scene in Alien.  Of course the person writhing on the gurney would be a woman, and the baby’s off ramp wouldn’t be her stomach.  And very rarely does the newborn actually bare its teeth and go skittering off the delivery table.  But other than that. . .

Now, before you click  on that response chastising me for sullying the most wonderful day of your life, let me just acknowledge how your own child’s birth was dreamlike and magical, with the clouds above parting for angels to herald little Junior’s arrival into a perfect world and the completion of you as a person.  All I’m saying is my children’s births were loud, painful, and messy.* 

It’s not like I wasn’t prepared.  I’d read every single book I could get my hands on, watched all the childbirth videos, and interviewed every mother I could find.  My wallet still holds the card proving my successful completion of childbirth classes just in case someone attempts to repossess my kids. 

But I don’t care; nothing prepares you for a parade of strangers going in elbow deep to check things like dilation and effacement and denudement and potability.  My own doctor sneezed while he was performing just such an intimate internal exam—now, there’s a moment neither of us will ever forget.  Nothing prepares you for the second when some yahoo holds a mirror between your legs so you can see a crowning head the size of a bowling ball (Aw, HELL, no! were my exact words).  And NOTHING prepares you for the doctor raising a scalpel and announcing that it’s time for the episiotomy (clickety click)

Then there’s the spurting goo, all that cheesy stuff that covers the new baby until someone hoses him down, and the likelihood that he’ll be all cone-headed and scrunched up when he finally makes his appearance.  And don’t even get me started on the afterbirth.

Then, suddenly, it’s all over and everything’s like this:


 Come on, now, did you really think this was going to have a bad ending?  

Not only did I have the baby girl in the picture above, but three years later I went back for seconds and ended up with a baby boy.  So it’s all good—all good in a loud, painful, messy, alien-explosion kind of way. But don’t take my word for it:  click here for more info from our friends at  You’re welcome.

This one I couldn't resist. 🙂

 *Plain, ordinary, hospital birth with no pain meds or epidural.  That’s right, I’m an amazon, and I kick ass.


Birds are my friends.  Really.  It’s purely coincidental how my only two attempts at saving the little feathered fellows ended in utter heartbreak.

For awhile I lived in a second-floor apartment that overlooked a flat roof.  Tar Beach, as it was called, was just perfect for star-gazing, grilling, and cold beers at sunset.  The resident cats, Tigger, Yoda, and Valentine Michael Smith,  were fond of Tar Beach as well.  When the front window was opened, the three kitties could spent hours outside sunbathing and watching the world go by from above. 

My Russian Blue Yoda was the devil in a grey fur coat.  Left to her own devices, Yoda would catch and bring home any creature that walked, crawled, or flew within paw’s reach.  One day, she climbed back into the apartment through the front window carrying a little brown bird in her mouth.  Yoda was justifiably pleased with herself, but the little brown bird was in a panic.  There had been plenty of impromtu funerals for Yoda’s less fortunate prey, but this tiny creature was still very much alive, and very frightened.  A recue was in order.

It took some coaxing to get the bird out of Yoda’s mouth.  But once I did and the offended cat went off to sulk, I held the bird in my palms and assessed the situation.   It was obviously young, but with no apparent blood or wounds.  Relieved, I cradled the little bird in one hand and crawled out through the window onto Tar Beach.  But what to do now?  No trees grew near enough to place the bird safely on a branch, and if it were simply left  there on the flat roof Yoda would snag it again as soon as my back was turned.  But wait!  Birds can fly!  To the very edge of the flat roof I carried the little brown bird, where I gave it a gentle toss toward freedom.

Which turned out to be a really, really stupid idea.

Remember that scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window,  in which Jimmy Stewart falls from his window in slow motion while looking at the camera all helpless and terrified?   Yep.  Poor little bird fell like a rock, and its last Earthly sight before the pearly gates of Bird Heaven opened was my clueless, yet horrified face.  May it rest in peace.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


Several years later, my husband and I were driving home from work when we spied a robin quivering near the center line in the road up ahead.  When the bird didn’t flee at our approach, I pronounced it  in need of help.  That ominous music you’re no doubt hearing right now is the sound of foreshadowing.

My dear husband knows what a force of nature his wife can be, so when I requested that he pull off the road next to the bird, he sighed deeply and did it.  “And what do you propose we do?” he asked.   Well, wasn’t it perfectly obvious?  My proposal was that he get out of the car and shoo the poor robin off the road before it was hit by a car and killed.   With an even deeper sigh, the sweet man put the car in park, turned on the flashers, and went to do my bidding.  And that, of course, was a really, really stupid idea.

When he got within two steps of it, the robin suddenly realized my husband was there,  and in a flurry of wings it took off—right into the path of an oncoming pickup truck.

Nothing but feathers.  May it also rest in peace.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


I’ve lived with the guilt of those two dead creatures for years now.  And although I know that birds are incapable of higher communication skills and feelings such as spite, it seems more than a coincidence how every single morning my car is covered with white splotches of bird crap even though I park nowhere near a tree.  

I am the reason these birds are angry.



Ah, the 70’s.  The decade of disco.  Life before AIDS.  Internationally, we were concerned with terrorist activity by the IRA (Irish Republican Army), while here at home we were waging war against a far more frightening foe:  the VPL,  or Visible Panty Line.

Some guy got rich in the 1970's by selling magical panties to women with more money than brains.

If you didn’t grow up during the days of Star Wars, let me school you a bit.   The 1970’s were challenging times, underwear-wise.  There were no wonderbras, and there were no thongs.  The bra situation was kind of a wash though, since confident, liberated, young women felt free to jiggle away their days in bra-less glory.  But it was an unforgiveable fashion faux pas to allow the outline of your panties to be seen through your clothing.    Yes, I know it made absolutely no sense for girls to worry more about their panty lines showing than their nipples showing.  Neverthless, the VPL crisis was so critical that an entire line of undergarments, Underalls, was created just to preserve the image of a perfectly seamless behind. 

Or if you were me back in high school, you might have chosen occasionally to bypass the whole VPL threat simply by going commando. . . if you know what I mean.  And while letting nothing come between me and my favorite jeans never presented a problem, on the day I chose instead to wear my black suede pants it was a really, really stupid idea.

Rubens knew what was good.

Back in the day—before I blossomed into a Rubenesque mother-of-two—I had one of those cute, little rear ends that looked good in pants. Good enough, anyway, for me to buy a stylin’ 1970’s jumpsuit made of a beautifully soft, black, brushed suede.  I certainly wasn’t going to ruin the look of that bottom-hugging brushed suede jumpsuit by (gasp) letting the seams of my panties show through.  So. . .hello, commando.

It was still early in the school day when I noticed the chair at my desk feeling especially .  .  . chilly.  At some point in the morning, I had snagged the back of my pants just enough to rip open a two-inch section of seam, and my ass was, well—bare.  My blood ran cold. With a computer-like mind, I assessed the gravity of the situation.  As long as I sat there on my chair, no one would know anything was wrong.  But the minute I stood to walk to my next class, I would moon all of Clearfield High School.  And while I admit the idea of mooning my school was tempting, this wasn’t the way I wanted to do it.

My eyes darted around the room frantically.  Behind me sat Diana, a girl I’d known since childhood but with whom I hadn’t been close since were were in elementary school together.  Diana was wearing a long, wraparound sweater.  That would do perfectly!  Surely, she would help me for old times’ sake!  Hastily, I scribbled her a note: 

 Hi, Diana.  I really like your hair today.  By the way, I ripped out the back of my pants.  Could I borrow your sweater before class is over?  Thanx, Lisa

Diana turned out to be a real pal.  Not only did she slip me her sweater, but she blocked me from view as I wrapped the sweater around my body.  After class, Diana offered to walk with me to the home economics room, where there were lots of sewing machines and needles and thread.  It seemed like as good a plan as any, so I gratefully accepted Diana’s kindness. 

The home ec room was buzzing with students when we got there, students who were suspicious the minute Diana and I walked in sheepishly and talked to the teacher in grave, hushed tones.  Anxious to help, the teacher directed me to an area in the back of the room where there was a bit of privacy.  There, she said, I could remove my torn clothing and wait until she’d mended it.  Diana’s sweater was long enough to cover anything important, so bingo bango, problem solved.  Or so she thought.

See, I couldn’t just drop trou. . .it was a genuine 1970’s jumpsuit, after all, and to take it off I’d have to strip down completely.   And I was, as previously mentioned, going commando.  No way was I sitting there all pantiless with two dozen other high school students within arm’s reach—not even the modesty of Diana’s sweater could fix that. 

Shitshitshitshitshitshit, I thought helplessly as I walked past all those curious eyes toward the back of the room where I was expected to disrobe.  At the last minute, I spied a storage closet.  Sanctuary!  I flung open the door to the closet and climbed inside.  In the dark safety of the little closet, I shed Diana’s sweater just long enough to strip out of the pantsuit and hand it out to the teacher through the tiniest crack.  And there I sat, wearing nothing but that blessed sweater and repeating my mantra (shitshitshitshitshitshit) until the door creaked open again just enough for the newly mended garment to be handed back.

Redressed, I took a deep breath, held my head high, and stepped out of the storage closet to meet the gaze of an entire class.  To their credit, no one said a word; not the teacher, not Diana, not the other students.  If any of them suspected my reasons for hiding in the closet, they kept it to themselves.  Thank God there were no camera phones and no facebook back in the 70’s. 

So what did I learn that day?  Did my really, really stupid idea for avoiding VPL’s by abstaining from underwear result in a cathartic moment and behavior changed for my own good?

Not so much.  But are you really surprised?

This is me and my friend George outside the high school. Wasn't I cute as a button? Wasn't he? You're wondering if I was going commando, aren't you?